As awesome as it is to bake loads of holiday cookies, boil up sticky sugar syrups for Christmas candies, and otherwise revel in the creation of seasonal desserts and edible gifts for the entire month of December, I have a particular soft spot for Christmas morning baking. Just the thought of frosted windows, a glowing tree atop a mound of glossy wrapped presents, Bing Crosby on the stereo, the pitter-patter of cozy jammied feet scurrying down the stairs, and the smell of spicy-sweet breakfast treats wafting from the kitchen make all the holiday rush worth it. Oh, the joy of Christmas morning!
Granted, that moment lasts all of about six minutes until someone pulls someone else’s hair, or trips over said cozy jammied feet landing square on the poor dog, or knocks a mug of coffee onto the carpet while tearing at wrapping paper like a clown on fire. But that’s why God gave us coffee in the first place, and the allowance to eat all the pastries we want for breakfast on Christmas day. The promise of homemade baked goods, preferably something yeast-risen, will buoy us all through the madness.
When you’ve decided to move out of the house that you’ve lived in for six-plus years and are surrounded by boxes and crunchy packing paper and millions of pounds of tiny plastic toys and two kids’ worth of baby clothes and ugly maternity clothes and unread magazines (and God only knows what’s lurking under that forgotten area under the basement steps), what’s the most obvious thing to do? Spend three days trying to make a freaking scone recipe work, of course! HAHAHA OH GOD PLEASE SEND XANAX UNTIL MID-OCTOBER.
Needless to say, I’ve been tired these past couple weeks. Tired and anxious and overwhelmed, and trying not to lose my mind. What I’ve learned is that even people who think they don’t save anything (like me) can still hoard unused and/or unusable junk in every imaginable corner. (Apparently my approach to maintaining order in my house while starting to write my third book when the baby was just three months old was to just keep shoving everything in the garage to avoid making decisions–brilliant!) I’ve also learned that once you have more than one kid, quarterly purges are necessary. I’ve decided this is my new life plan. At least until my kids get their own houses to fill up with their own useless junk. In the meantime, I’m the one that has to do the household purging, and so I used the testing of a scone recipe as the distraction to keep from throwing myself off the overstuffed roof.
Fellow moms out there–holla if y’all hear me?–this is our weekend. Our legit ticket to be pampered and flowered and gifted upon and generally do whatever the heck we want without apology or guilt. I encourage you to embrace it, whatever that means to you at your given stage of motherhood. It could be as extravagant as a spa day, or just some extra sleep and plenty of wine, or for some of you with toddlers and younger, this simply might mean peeing alone. For me, it will mean a little family getaway, and maybe, if I’m lucky, this necklace, a lemon meringue cake from Tartine, and a t-shirt that says I SHAMELESSLY ASK MY HUSBAND FOR GIFTS BY BROADCASTING MY WISHES ON THE INTERNET. A girl can dream.
The point is this–you do you, ladies. Whatever it takes to remember that we all deserve a little breather and a major high five for keeping our offspring alive and cracking open our souls for them every single day, and living with the sort of constant, low-lying anxiety (what do they need/where are they/how are they/who will they become) that buzzes deep within us at all times because we are mothers. We should treat ourselves with a little something homemade and sweet and simple, or at least give our partners and kids a simple, awesome recipe that they can make for us (and for crying out loud, clean up afterwards). And if you’re not a mother yourself, consider this recipe the perfect way to treat the mothers in your life in a breakfast-y way.
In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there’s nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn’t…a boxed cake mix.
There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it’s as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that’s the good stuff, right there. They’re the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.
At the risk of sounding like a citrus-loving Joan Rivers, can we talk about clementines? I feel like they’re everywhere right now–great, big cardboard flats of them for, like, five dollars a box or something crazy, calling from across the produce section with the promise of sweetness and light and sunshine, even though as I understand it, most of the country has been in a never-ending winter.
(I say “as I understand it”, because here in California, an occasional rainstorm is as close to we get to anything resembling winter weather, and we mostly just, you know, ride our bikes around in t-shirts to go eat kale salad outside and “LOL” and “OMG” over all the banaaanaaazzz weather we’ve been hearing about online.)
(As it happened, I was actually stranded in New York for a week because of a snowstorm last month, so I guess Mother Nature sensed my meterological la-la-la-ness and decided to show me how soft I’ve become during my 10 years on the West Coast. Touché, fair lady.)
But even in a mild-weathered place like California, we really do appreciate citrus during our “winter”. It’s a burst of happy food no matter where you live, all these clementines in bulk. Every year I succumb to buying at least one flat, intent on being all virtuous and snacking on them instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter or cookies, tucking them into lunchboxes and all that jazz. But even after countless little orbs eaten out of hand and a dozen packed lunches, the pile of clementines never seems to shrink. Not one bit. How many clementines does a person have to eat to make a dent in one of those boxes, for real? My fingertips are permanently stained from all the e-z peeling. Forget this noise. Let’s make doughnuts. (And share a little news with you, while we’re at it.)
Maybe it’s because I’m a late February baby, but I’ve always had a thing for Valentine’s Day. Abundance of twee notwithstanding, I just sort of love the idea of a Love Day. Granted, there have been years when I was Valentine-less, but even then I guess it was the hope that one day I would have a Permanent Valentine that buoyed me, along with a legit excuse to get chocolate wasted. These days, I still get chocolate wasted on Valentine’s Day, and this year in particular I’m pretty excited about celebrating some Big Love with our Little Family. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past several months, plenty of ups and downs and stressing until I think I might lose it (and on a couple of occasions I totally have). But we might (maybe? Please, universe?) be entering a bit of sweet spot right now, a little calm before the next inevitable storm. And so I say, bust out the chocolate. Turn dessert into breakfast, or vice versa. And good grief, don’t forget the Champagne.
People, my cabinets are an unholy disaster. And I don’t mean that in a humblebraggy, Pinterest-y “Oh, my kitchen is so MESSY! Look at how crooked my Weck jars are on my sparkling clean refrigerator shelves!” kind of way. I’m talking about half-opened boxes and bags of every ingredient imaginable, shoved haphazardly into any available square inch of real estate. Pulling anything out is like a game of Cellophane Wraps and Cardboard Box Jenga. It’s not cute. I mean, I do actually own Weck jars, purchased long ago with the intention of having a Pinterest-worthy pantry situation going on, but now they’re shoved into the back of the hoarder’s lair, probably surrounded by some spilled jasmine rice from that week in 2011 when I was very into trying to cook more exotic dinners, and then realized I had a kid who wouldn’t eat anything but buttered noodles. Gah.
The situation kind of reached a new level of insanity after the holidays, though. With all the new recipe development I’ve had going on, plus holiday baking, the amount of edible odds and ends has multiplied at an alarming rate. Every time I step into the kitchen I get very Joan Crawford, flapping my arms and shouting things like, “I simply cannot WORK under these conditions!!” and then pouring myself a Weck jar full of vodka before retiring to my chaise lounge.
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