I'm going to try to write this without audibly sobbing - or laughing for that matter - since an exhausted young lady is currently sleeping on my lap.
I know this blog is a lot about food, but it's also a bit about life. My life. And the lives of three people who eat regularly at our table, along with the friends and family that gather with some frequency.
And as such, it is my duty to inform you that today is a special day. A day that, as cliche as it is, changed the course of my life but one year ago. The Bean is one. One. One whole year. One of what I pray to be many - maybe even a hundred.
She came. She took my breath away and also took every ounce of energy I had. She took my sleep, and sometimes my sanity. But she gave, too. She gave me smiles, giggles, snuggles. She gave me her trust. She gave me the opportunity to reach into the very depths of my being, my soul, and discover who I am.
I've often heard the phrase "having a child changes you", though I'm not quite sure that that's right. Having a child reveals you. It reveals your strengths and weaknesses. It reveals your vanity, jealousy, and selfishness. It reveals your kindness, patience, and love.
This child, in her first year of life, has learned to hold her head up, sit up, crawl, and walk. She eats, sleeps, and makes audible noises that have meaning. Perhaps not at the same pace as her peers - or as the mommy blogs said. And definitely regardless of any vain-pride, disappointment, or inadequacy that I felt. And boy, did I have those feelings.
I questioned myself and my God more in the first year of her life than in the previous 28. But in doing so I learned so much about all three of us. My God is there - when my milk never came in and I spent months feeling depressed and inadequate that I had to feed my baby formula. My God is there - in the quiet moments when life was so full. My God is there - when my husband was far away for work and my child vomited (for the fifth time that day) on my last clean shirt, soaking me all the way though. My God is there. Of this I am sure.
I am strong. With His strength. She is strong. With His strength. We, as a family, are strong. By His grace. And it's taken me pretty much this whole year to figure that out.
So on this day, I celebrate her. And I celebrate all that she is in my life. It has only been a year. I am so looking forward to all the rest of them.
Summer flew past faster than the birds that ate all of our figs.
When The Bean was born, Mr. S and I made the decision to prioritize family. All our family. Even the ones that didn't live near us - which is practically every single relative we have.
This meant trading our typical summer activities of short-term missions to the far reaches of the earth for the familiar places and beloved people that we have for far too long neglected.
Mr. S has his familial gathering spot in a cabin in Maine - more on that in the previous post. But my family roots are firmly grounded in a farm house with white gingerbread trim, deep in corn country.
More specifically, in the kitchen of that house. It's where meals were cooked, conversation shared, and hearts filled.
I have so many memories that take place in this room. Card games late into the night, making (and ruining) meringue for the first time, Chirstmas breakfasts, sneaking treats.... I could go on.
But now we're all a little older, and things aren't quite exactly like what they were. Including this pudding. This recipe came out of Grandma's recipe box, but it's different from what I remember. It's still delicious though - in fact most of us agreed that we liked it better than the original. It's a British pudding, in that it's a cross between a cake and what we think of as pudding. And it tastes a little like gingerbread. It's delicious.
Grandma has several American Persimmon trees growing between the two white barns near the house. These are a far cry from the Fuyu or other varieties you typically come across. They are smaller, and you have to wait until they are super mushy and fall from the tree before they are ripe.
This year's batch is just starting to ripen, so I used pulp Grandma had frozen from last year for the pudding. Just helping make space for this year's crop. I'm so considerate.
Persimmon pudding is truly the taste of autumn. Once you eat it, you're in the mood to wear flannel shirts and walk briskly. Trust me. I know.
First up, persimmon pulp goes into a large bowl. How do you get pulp? Put the persimmons through a food mill. Or get it from grandma's freezer.
In a sifter, add the sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the milk and pour in the melted butter.
In three additions each, alternate mixing the wet and dry ingredients into the persimmon pulp.
Pour into an extremely well-buttered 9x13 pan. The recipe calls for an 8x12, but adding an inch doesn't hurt it one bit.
Yes, I know it doesn't look appetizing, but just wait until it's done!
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center puffs up and it jiggles like jello. Serve slices, warm or cool, with good vanilla ice cream.
Pretty soon the only things left on the table will be these:
2 c persimmon pulp
3 eggs, beaten
2 1/4 c whole or 2% milk
1/2 c melted butter
1 1/4 c sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Dump persimmon pulp in a large bowl. Add all dry ingredients to a sifter. In a medium bowl beat together eggs, milk, and butter. In about three parts, alternately add and beat in the wet and dry ingredients to the persimmon pulp.
Pour into well-buttered 9x13 pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until jiggly and not wet.
At the end of July, our little clan took a long plane ride across the country. We ended up on Ripley Neck, a tiny little peninsula that juts out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. It was glorious.
The peninsula is technically part of the state of Maine. Which means I ate more lobster over the 7 days we were there than I'd ever eaten before. It was glorious.
We stopped for our first lobster roll about 30 minutes after we climbed into the rental car. Mr. S was so excited. He knew exactly which shack he wanted to patronize. We even let The Bean have a bite of the crustacean goodness (don't worry, she's not allergic to shellfish). And this was her first response. It was hilarious.
About a half second later she had her mouth wide open for another bite. Then, because I'm selfish with my shellfish, I switched her to French fries. She didn't mind.
The reason behind the trip is that Mr. S's grandpa, Art, and his wife Charlotte summer in the family house on Ripley every year. And in the nearly 5 years I've been married to him, Mr. S has managed to not schedule in a trip to Maine. He's totally been holding out on me!
Needless to say, we're definitely going back next year if I have any say in the matter.
I mean, lobster! Blueberries! Lobster!
Did I mention the lobster?
Mr. S's family came along for the fun too. The Bean's Grandma and Grandpa, plus the Monk and the Poet. (We have the most interesting extended family ever)
(The Poet is taking the photo)
Great grandpa Art and great grandma Charlotte were wonderful hosts, even providing Bean-watching services while she napped on the daybed.
Charlotte, a visual artist in her own right, also dabbled in the culinary arts while we were there. Including the lemon bread this recipe is based off of. Hers has walnuts, but no blueberries. Which I consider nearly a sacrilege, seeing as there are blueberries EVERYWHERE up there. I'm not kidding. They grow like weeds.
So, with great apologies to Charlotte, here is a Blueberry Lemon Bread. The way it always should be when one is in Maine.
Add all the ingredients to the bowl, reserving 1/4 c sugar, 3 tbsp lemon juice and the blueberries.
Whisk vigorously until smooth.
Add blueberries. Stir gently.
Pour into greased loaf pan and bake.
Mix sugar and lemon juice, pour on finished bread.
Remove from pan after glaze soaks in.
Just TRY not to eat it all in one sitting!
Blueberry Lemon Bread
Adapted from Charlotte's recipe
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 c & 1/4 c sugar, separated
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 tbsp & 3 tbsp lemon juice, separated
1 1/2 c flour
1 c milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 c Maine blueberries (canned, frozen or fresh)
Preheat your oven to 325. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except the blueberries, 1/4 c sugar and the 3 tbsp lemon juice. Add in blueberries (drain if using canned) and stir gently. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and cook for 70 mins, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Mix together remaining 1/4 c sugar and 3 tbsp lemon juice and pour over warm bread while still in pan. Wait until bread cools to remove from pan.
Staying at home with The Bean is the hardest, most exhausting, most rewarding thing I think I have ever done.
By the time Mr. S got home tonight, not only were we all alive, but I knew what we were having for dinner, had fed and cleaned up Little C, had swept the floor, and run errands. I felt like Super Woman after a hard day's saving the world.
Let's talk about that dinner. It was tasty. Just pan fried a pork chop, some zucchini and shallots, and heated up black beans. Tossed them all in the cook-and-serve flour tortillas, and bam. Delicious nutritious dinner. And there was even a few spoonfuls of beans left over for a little person's lunch the next day.
But what's for dessert? We're out of ice cream and there's no boxes of brownie mix left.... Let's get creative with leftovers!
You can make this two ways. One is South Asian inspired (read coconut and cardamom), the other is a little more similar to what your mom made. But the both start the same way:
Take that leftover rice from the other night. You know, when you forgot how rice quintuples in quantity when cooked.
Add a can of coconut milk (or evaporated milk for those that go the traditional route).
Pour in a cup of regular milk.
Add a can of sweetened condensed milk.
Heat over medium flame.
Scramble egg with a whisk in a bowl. Take a cup of the warm milks and drizzle into the egg while whisking furiously (it's called "tempering").
Take that warm eggy milk and whisk it into the pot of rice and milk.
Whisk/stir until thickened.
Remove from heat and add vanilla if desired.
Serve warm or cold, sprinkled with ground cardamom (South Asian version) or cinnamon (traditional version). And fruit.
Or whatever you want. Do your thing.
Simply Rich Rice Pudding
1 c of uncooked rice, cooked according to package directions
1 can coconut milk or evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 c milk
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Ground cardamom or ground cinnamon for sprinkling on top
In a medium saucepan, stir together cooked rice and the 3 milks. Put on medium heat. Whisk the egg in a small bowl. Take 3/4 c of the warm milk mixture and drizzle into the egg, whisking furiously. Then pour the eggy milk into the pot, whisking furiously. Continue to stir as pudding will begin to boil and thicken. Remove from heat when thick. Add in vanilla if using.
How was your holiday weekend? We had a fantastic and cherry-filled 4th of July, 5th of July, and even 6th of July!
Mr. S loves cherries. Please refer to this post to see how cherries render my otherwise incredibly intelligent husband to caveman status. It's hilarious.
To his sheer delight, cherry season aligned perfectly with the holiday this year. They went on sale for $1.49 a pound on the Wednesday before the 4th. I dutifully loaded up The Bean and we adventured to a grocery store chain we'd never been to in a quest for cheap cherries. $12 worth of cherries later, I'd say we were successful.
So I spent most of the morning on the 4th elbow deep in cherries.
Thank goodness I own a cherry pitter. Found on sale at the end of the summer a few years ago, I'm certain that I paid about $5 for it. But now I'd probably pay a king's ransom. If you've ever spent time pitting cherries with a knife, you know what I'm talking about.
"I think I'll make a cherry pie." Three cherries pitted mangled later... "I think I'll make a little cherry tart." Another two cherries pitted... "To heck with this! I'll serve ice cream and set out a bowl of cherries!"
But the magical pitter will have 4 cups of cherries pitted in no time flat. Oh great and wonderful mono-tasker! I shall never doubt your worth again.
And then I made a cherry trifle. Cause nothing says 4th of July like fruit and cake and whipped cream all layered up. Mmmm!
It's a pretty easy process-
Make chocolate cake from a box mix (or you can bake it from scratch, but box is perfectly acceptable). Cut into little squares.
Cut up some peaches and slice the cherries in half. Beat up some whipped cream. Be sure to remember the vanilla.
Have everything out and ready to layer!
I start with a layer of chocolate cake, then some cherries, a layer of peaches, then a layer of whipped cream. Repeat.
Not the most beautiful side shot, but you get the idea. You can decorate the top with a little piece of everything that went in it. That way folks can see what goodness lurks beneath the whipped cream.
We brought the trifle to a party on the 4th up at a dear friend's ranch. It was beautiful. We didn't stay till it was dark enough for fireworks, but left just as the sun was setting. What an amazing view of the valley.
Oh, and the trifle was a hit. We only had one small cereal bowl's worth of leftovers. (Which Mr. S finished off promptly the next morning)
Chocolate Cherry Trifle
(Makes 1 gigantic bowl of trifle)
~2.5 lbs cherries, pitted and sliced in half
3 peaches, chopped into bite size pieces
1 from-a-box chocolate cake, made as instructed and sliced into 1 inch chunks
1 pint heavy cream
1/3 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Mint to garnish (optional)
Whip the heavy cream with a beater until peaks just start to form. Gently add the sugar while beating. Add vanilla and beat until you achieve soft peaks. Don't over beat! (The cream separates and it's messy).
Layer a good amount of chocolate cake bits in the bottom of a large clear serving bowl. Layer in half the cherries. Next top with half the peaches. Then smooth on half the whipped cream. More cake, cherries, peaches, and cream. Decorate the top as you please (mint garnish here if desired).
Let sit in the fridge for several hours. Or take straight to the party. Either way works just fine.
(And if you eat the leftovers for breakfast the next morning, I promise not to tell)