Oatmeal Pancakes

OK, I’ll just put it out there. I’ve had a  hard month, the culmination of which, after three years of couples cooking, has me cooking for just one. There’s no hate, no anger, just a lot of sadness, and hopefully a friendship again in the future somewhere. Thank goodness I have amazing friends and family both here in Indianapolis and over the phone. I also have these sweet girls.

And Matt Nathanson, whose music has an uncanny ability to fit the lovey-dovey beginning of relationships and the heartbreaking end of them, too. And then there’s food. Saturday afternoon I stood over a mixing bowl, beating together butter and brown sugar for cookies, crying, and I literally muttered through those tears, “At least no matter how little sense everything else makes right now, butter and sugar will always make something delicious and magical.” It’s nice to know that I can combine ingredients in a certain way and know that they’ll be tasty. It is not nice to know that every time my cat visits the litter box, she’ll emerge stinking and desperately wanting to cuddle. These things are certainties.

OK, so enough about me and my wah wah wah life. THIS WEEK IS THANKSGIVING WEEK! I love this holiday. It’s the Pie Holiday. It’s the Food Holiday. It’s the Hang Out with Family and Just Eat and Be Happy Holiday. I’m sure you’re all planning menus, grocery shopping, and getting ready to start cooking up a storm. I’m going to try to document all the wonderful things my family and I cook and eat. I am not going to give you the few sweets recipes I have in my queue right now. Instead I give you: breakfast. Because you will need a good breakfast to prepare you for a day of cooking and family time.

Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day. I love brunching with my lady friends. I love, love eggs with runny yolks that ooze in a buttery fashion all over toast and potatoes and greens. And I love fluffy, sweet pancakes and waffles. My dad makes the best waffles, but alas I have no waffle maker. My mom always made the best pancakes growing up, these quick and tasty ones from Betty Crocker I believe. I have sweet memories of standing on a chair by the counter, helping to mix ingredients for waffles or pancakes on weekend mornings.

So these pancakes are not the ones my mom made for us growing up. They’re full of oatmeal goodness that fills you up properly. I’ve been making them since the summer, when I topped them with strawberries, powdered sugar, and syrup, and I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to share them with you. Seriously, these are the best pancakes ever. I’ve been mixing cut up apples into them lately and smothering them in honey. Or mixing in some pumpkin puree.

So, OK, you should make these during your holiday weekend. In your robe. Lazily. With a cup of coffee.

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Thankful # I’m not sure

Haven’t done a thankful in awhile. But I have a lot to be thankful for right now. Namely my amazing friends and family. I would be lost without you guys. Seriously. Thank you for being there for me when I need you the most!

Everyone should take a second to think about the amazing support systems they have. I hope you guys all have amazing support systems. I think we tend to take them for granted when things are good. Anyway, I’m incredibly lucky.

Sh*t My Mother Says

My brother is in some kind fancy pants club with school. My brother isn’t really the fancy pants type. Last night my brother came to dinner in a brand new suit. His fancy pants club was initiating new members at 8:30. It’s apparently all very formal. Like I said, my brother isn’t really the formal, serious initiation type. He wasn’t thrilled to be leaving dinner early. My brother wanted to describe his fellow club members to my grandfather in order clarify his lack of excitement.

“I don’t know, they’re kind of…,” he said. He looked at his girlfriend for help for a grandfather-appropriate word. “Tools?” he said under his breath to her, my mother, and me.

And then my mother rose to the occasion. In her slight Dutch accent, with a very innocent look on her face, she loudly suggested “DOUCHEBAGS?”

My mother does not cuss. She would not let us say shut up or hate when we were little. Instead we had to opt for strongly dislike. As in I spent my high school years strongly disliking my father. (I’ve since overcome that feeling.)

But, right there in Ambrosia during the Thursday night dinner rush, my mother proclaimed the type of people in my brother’s club to be DOUCHEBAGS. You guys, I wish I had recorded it for you.

And I can now die a happy woman because I’ve heard it all.

Almond Cake with Raspberry-Lemon Whipped Cream

Well this is a huge embarrassment. I made this wonderful cake for my wonderful mother’s birthday and I forgot to post it.

And now that summer is over, you may be all sad when you see the beautiful berries piled on top of the cake. But, don’t worry! This cake will be equally tasty minus the berries, add some other kind of fruit on top of the whipped cream, no fruit and just whipped cream, different flavored whipped cream (think vanilla, amaretto…), chocolate frosting or caramel on top…are you starting to understand the wonderfulness of this cake yet?

Birthday Momma and Pappy

OK, so back in August, my mom had a birthday. My mom likes berries, tortes, pies, coffee, things like that. Last year I made her this espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. Out of this world. This year I went with almond and David Lebovitz. Does FTW apply here?

So like I said, top this cake with anything really. It can even be sliced into two layers if you want to get fancy. Really the cake is the star. It’s got a rich but not overpowering almond flavor and an incredibly moist (sorry, sorry!!) crumb. Honestly, it’d probably be good all on it’s own. Just hop on past the jump and check out the recipe!

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Song of the Week

My parents appreciate good music. They love the classics and are open to the new stuff, my dad especially. I get him music almost every holiday/birthday. Kid Rock, Old Crow Medicine Show, the Beatles, and She & Him to name just a few. Growing up, my mom would put on the Beatles or Simon and Garfunkle, and she and my brother and I would dance together in the family room. Sometimes she even taught us dances steps from her aerobic dance class. I’ve known the words to Strawberry Fields, Penny Lane, and Mrs. Robinson my whole life. In the car we listened to the oldies station almost exclusively. I think 60s and 70s pop brought back childhood memories for my mom. She once told me that American songs would come out in Holland, and she and her friends would sing along not knowing what the words really meant. She had a Neil Diamond poster hanging in her room. As a result, I was the kid in middle school who awkwardly (please, everything I did in middle school was awkward) avoided the question of favorite music because oldies weren’t “cool.” I was so insecure. (Ha, was? Who are we kidding, I will always be the epitome of awkward and insecure.)

We didn’t only listen to classic rock though. My parents were avid symphony goers, even if my dad sometimes fell asleep in the theater after long work days. Classical made appearances in our stereo, too. Every Christmas, even now, my dad picked a classical CD to play while we cooked and opened gifts. The rising and falling of strings and horns mixed easily with family chatter. My dad actually owns and really enjoys a copy of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. I think we must have listened to classical shows on NPR because I remember my parents always writing down the names of composers and symphonies.

So anyway, I have this soft spot in my music heart for anything classical or classical-esque. Today’s song of the week reflects that. James Blackshaw is a guitarist and pianist. NPR calls his music “transcendental chamber music.” I don’t know. I’d go with like riding a slightly angsty and dark but somehow inspiring wave. This is a track from his new album All is Falling Apart. I can’t seem to find the full length version of it that I can embed here, but I can find a seven minute version.

Julia, Adam, and Ian Go Golfing

Before I met Adam I never thought about golf unless I was making fun of it. I didn’t get it and thought it was incredibly boring. Since I’ve met Adam, I still think golf is pretty boring and I try not to think about it too much, but that’s difficult. Adam is a very big golfer and he’s pretty good too. He’s been playing his whole life. I dread warm weather because it means I lose him to golf on the weekends. But he enjoys playing, so I’m OK with it in the end. I’ve even learned what a birdie, bogey, and eagle are and I kind of understand how scoring works. I sometimes catch myself watching golf at the gym.

v. sexy

So anyway, in the almost three years we’ve been together, I’ve never seen Adam play. Last night was finally the night. Last night was also the night I saw my brother play golf for the first time.

frustrated brother

This was also the first time he’d played a real round of golf during which he was not wasted. He tried hard, listened to Adam, and I think did OK.

Adam coaches brother

And I even got to putt once! But I mostly took off my shoes, wiggled my feet in the nice grass, and worried about the salted chocolate and caramel ganache cupcake from The Flying Cupcake that may or may not have been melting in our cooler.

no shoes and cupcakes

In case you were wondering, the cupcake made it home safely and tasted damn good after two hours on the golf course. Ooooh I sound like a golfer. If golfers ate cupcakes….

In the Details

Reasons I loved Adam this weekend (don’t worry, I haven’t gone over to the sickly romantic side, this involves farting):

  • He’s reached the point where he laughs about my grandfather’s storytelling and obsessions with certain things (i.e. Some Like It Hot and My Cousin Vinny) and imitates him
  • He eats my pie
  • He introduces me by saying “This is my Julia”
  • He’s weirdly proud of what I do…though I think he likes to tell people I’m the editor of a magazine just so he can tell them he’s been published in my magazine. Twice.
  • He won’t let me eat fast food in the car, but makes me wait until we get home. Wait, I hate him for that…
  • He scoots up next to me, butt on my leg, and says excitedly, “Guess what?!” and then lets out a huge fart. Right on my leg. (I do love him for that, honest to God.)

It’s the little things that make me smile. And the fart-y and laugh-together-about-Papa things that make me realize we may have slipped into a very comfortable place. How I’ve waited to be in that place!

This weekend my mom dropped off a few old photos she’d found at Papa’s house. I think I was probably five or six-ish and must have been at a birthday party.

That’s me in the blue polka-dotted dress. The girl to my left in the pink dress is my friend Alix. We probably met when we were babies. To my right is Eric. I went to school with him through high school.

There we are again.

And that’s my little brother Ian (who’s tall and not chubby anymore!), and me and Alix with Mimi, my grandmother and Papa’s wife. She died when I was in seventh grade. I miss her so much. She was this kind of intimidating, really giving lady that held our family together in a matriarch sort of a way. She kept the kitchen stocked with Milanos and Veronas, and the candy jar in the den was always full of Jelly Bellies. Wasn’t she so beautiful?

Papa’s brownies

About a month or two ago my grandfather spent some time in the hospital. First of all, Papa is 94 years old, but a kickin’ 94. He drives, goes out to dinner often (twice a week to a restaurant in town called Taste where he always sits in favorite waitress Anna’s section), remembers waaay back to his childhood, and still tells the longest and most incredible stories (some of which we’ve heard 20 times). He’s also had heart and blood pressure issues off and on, so seeing him in the hospital isn’t a terribly strange thing. And he always bounces back.

Papa and me lighting candles for his 94th birthday

This time he was in for lump reasons, which turned into tumor reasons. So, for a while when he first got home, understandably, he was bummed out. A lot. He’s bounced back, yet again, and is doing well now. My first reaction when Mom told me he could use some cheering up was “let’s bake him something!” Obviously, right? I’d recently made these incredible brownies, Rick Katz’s Brownies for Julia, from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours, and they were out of this world.

In fact, they tasted almost identical to the brownies Papa’s cook Mattie always made. Those were the brownies of my childhood. Gooey, chocolatey, and dusted with powdered sugar. They’re probably Papa’s favorite brownies. He loves Mattie’s cooking. LOVES it. So, I made him a batch. And he fell for them. So hard in fact that the next week he was asking me when I was going to bring more over to his house.

So here’s the recipe, slightly tweaked, and renamed Papa’s Brownies.

Papa's birthday cake: Mattie's chocolate cake, as made by me

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Of robes and pastas

I remember one Christmas Ian and I asked my mom what she wanted from us, what was on her wish list. She told us she would love a new robe. A new robe? As a kid I could hardly comprehend wanting that kind of a gift. It sounded so freaking sensible! I always thought of Christmas, Chanukah, and birthday gifts as things you wanted not needed, and a robe sounded suspiciously like something you’d need. You wanted things like a new Barbie, a dress for your American Girl doll, a Breyer horse, a barn for your herd of already 30 Breyer horses to live in, a new dress, or the newest books in the Thoroughbred series. Not a robe.

Tonight I stood in the bathroom putting freshly washed towels into the linen closet (wow, I already sound way older, don’t I? Putting laundry away in the linen closet on a Sunday night?) and, as I hung up my faded, pink terry cloth robe, I thought, Wow, I would love nothing more than a new robe. But we all know I’m not about to splurge on buying myself one! And that’s when I realized that the things I used to see as necessities have moved over to the “want” column. I’m getting dangerously close to halfway to 27-years-old guys.

The horse and the barn are still in the want column, by the way. They’re just a little bigger now.

I have a recipe for you, too! OK, I actually have three. Two of them involve baking as the only way I think of to cheer someone up, so I hold those til tomorrow maybe.

This one is a bright spring pasta dish, pasta with tomatoes, shrimp, and favas. I made it tonight for my parents, who came over for dinner for Father’s Day It’s not the kind of pasta that you can throw together in 15 minutes. (Those are my favorite kind. Saute some veggies with some spices, boil some pasta, toss ’em together, BAM, a meal.) This one does take a bit more time, but it’s not overwhelming by any means. And it’s so good! I think you could easily switch out the fava beans for peas. Fava beans are a little time consuming to shell and whatnot, but I like them because they’re different. The recipe as it is on Smitten Kitchen where I found it uses sausage instead of shrimp, but I find the sausage makes the whole dish too greasy. I always end up with a stomach ache after. If you want to go vegetarian, maybe substitute some mushrooms for the shrimp. Also, the original recipe says to cook the meat in the sauce. I opted for grilling the shrimp and setting them on top of the pasta. I’ll note where you add them to the sauce though.

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The Winds They Did Blow

Blah blah blah, weather small talk, blah, blah. But seriously, we’ve been having some crazy intense storms here in Indiana lately. Seventy mile per hour winds, yellow-gray-green skies, torrential downpours, tornadoes.

As a quick side note, my mother is a lush when it comes to drinking. She has one glass of wine, her face turns red, and she starts giggling like a tween while making dirty jokes. No, wait, she makes dirty jokes without the help of a glass of wine.

Back to these stormy nights. Earlier this week I sat down on the couch with my dinner and flipped on the t.v., hoping to catch Jeopardy. Instead all I got were local news teams standing in front of green, red, and yellow-splotched weather radars, warning me of the aforementioned winds and tornadoes. I then received this text from my dad, “Mom had 1 half glass of wine & is on the couch.” I immediately pictured my mom laying on the couch, cracking up at the weather reports as the winds swirled outside the glass sliding doors. Shortly after my dad called me. “Julia did you hear? There’s a winter storm advisory out.” “I heard!” I replied. “Hail and everything! I predict 5 feet of snow by morning.” “I can’t get Mom off the couch,” he joked. “Oh stay inside! Here comes the snow!”

“Drunk” mothers and winter storm warnings in June are definitely laughing matters.