Monthly Archives: August 2015

Noteworthy this week – 8/28

I’m going to try doing a weekly post of little things. Things I cooked or things that happened with the kids or in life that I want to tell you about but that might not be worthy of a whole post of their own. We’ll see if it sticks. Here is this week’s list:

  • I chopped an onion at my kitchen counter while crouching under an umbrella being held by a two year old. Go ahead and try to picture that.
  • Nothing makes you feel old like purchasing a training bra for your daughter. Don’t tell her I wrote that, she’ll never forgive me.
  • Plums. I’ve frozen 10 pounds of Italian plums and 18 pounds of Satsuma plums thanks to generous people I know. I’ve also eaten about 75 plums while standing over the sink and I made a yummy plum crisp for breakfast this morning.IMG_1211
  • I can put on mascara while being given “shots” in the butt with an empty bottle of 409.
  • We’re going to build a spec house! Robert’s new business, Cedarwing Builders, will be up and running soon and this is going to be our first big project. I have agreed to do the design side of things, which I know nothing about aside from when we built our own house. Wish me luck.
  • Fig upside down cake. I didn’t love the recipe I used for the cake part but it was pretty and has potential so I might try it again.IMG_1200
  • I came upon Felix playing with a stuffed fox and singing to himself, “In my scrotum, in my scrotum, in my penis, in my scrooooooootuuuuuuum.”
  • I stress-ate 3/4 of a bag of sweet potato chips in the car. My pants don’t fit. Are these things related? Possibly.
  • This salad. Curly endive, guinea hen legs, figs and grapes roasted with port and sherry vinegar, and goat cheese toasts with fresh thyme. The dressing was some of the roasted figs and the juices from the pan, more sherry vinegar, shallots and olive oil.IMG_1157

 

The Pits, Part Deux

I’ve realized that one of the reasons I’m so drawn to noyaux right now is because I’m starved for nuts. Felix had a scary allergic reaction last fall and as I was driving like a maniac to get my swollen, scratching, screaming boy to the doctor I was thinking “No way, I can’t be a nut allergy mom, I’ll be a terrible nut allergy mom!” After three trips to the allergist and torturing our child with blood draws and skin pricks we now know that I am, in fact, a label reading, $400 epi-pen carrying, nut allergy mom. And because I am still breastfeeding it means that I don’t get to eat nuts either. This was one of those things that was not in the plan, you know? But I’m eternally grateful that the allergy is nuts, and not dairy, eggs, or horror of horrors, wheat. Gulp.

My consumption of nuts over the past year has been minimal. I say minimal, not nonexistent, because it turns out that I do actually know myself pretty well and being a nut allergy mom is not my forte. So far my deviances haven’t resulted in any major incidents but as a rule I don’t eat nuts right now. And those blessed noyaux have such a lovely nuttiness about them, yet they aren’t nuts.

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I have to tell you that I wrote that and then started to wonder, ‘What if they are nuts? They look like nuts, you crack them open like nuts. What the hell are they?’ I was feeling a little panicky. After an hours worth of internet research I still don’t have as much information as I’d like but I feel slightly more informed. Here is what I know: They aren’t nuts, they are seeds. That is good news for me because so far Felix hasn’t had any reaction to seeds. BUT, peaches and apricots are related to almonds so there are some people who have an almond allergy and are also allergic to those fruits (and pits). I have decided that it’s unlikely that they will be a problem for us since we have had no issues with fruit. Still, I haven’t fed them to Felix and now I’m not sure if I should or not. All the decisions, all the potential risks, it’s enough to make me nuts.

So, now you have the rambling backstory on my noyaux obsession and I can move on to what I’ve been making.

A few weeks ago I dragged my family to a u-pick berry farm to stock up on raspberries for the winter. Lola and I picked gleefully, like the berry gluttons that we are, and Robert and Felix picked less gleefully and waited until we could go get lunch. IMG_0992

We ended up with 20 pounds of berries to take home, which I was pretty happy about, considering the unpredictable company I was in. I froze most of them, but we had enough to really pig out on for a few days.

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Three days and five pounds of berries later, the novelty had worn off a bit so I whipped up a batch of noyaux flavored crème fraîche to dress them up. If you aren’t already making your own crème fraîche, you really should start. Today. It’s so easy that it doesn’t even count as cooking and people think you’re fancy if you make it. Flavoring it with noyaux adds a minimal amount of work and takes the fanciness up another notch. You can whip it if you want, but I just sweetened mine with a little sugar and drizzled it on the berries.

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What got me going on this kick in the first place was an old pastry school friend mentioning noyaux ice cream. She is a homeschool mom who blogs about cooking with kids (she has infinitely more patience than I do). Her recipe is perfect; you can find it here. I was thinking the ice cream would be even perfect-er with a swirl of caramel, but then had an epiphany and made a noyaux brittle to crush up and sprinkle on top. It may not compare to, you know, the invention of the lightbulb, but it was definitely one of my more genius moments. The almost burned flavor of the caramel with the bitter almond of the noyaux and the silky richness of the ice cream is really something special. Plus it’s beautiful because the crushed brittle is sparkly, like fairy dust. It’s a dessert worthy of your favorite people.

This isn’t a great picture, but you can get the idea:

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Crème Fraîche/Noyaux Crème Fraîche

For basic crème fraîche all you do is stir a cup of cream and a tablespoon or so of buttermilk together in a some kind of container with a lid, let it sit in a warm place for 24 hours, and then refrigerate it until it’s cold. To flavor it with noyaux, heat the cream to a simmer with about 10 apricot kernels, cover and let steep until the flavor comes through (about an hour). Strain out the kernels and let it cool it to room temperature. Add the buttermilk and proceed as above. See, it’s way easy and you can easily double the recipe if you have need for a larger amount.

Noyaux Brittle Fairy Dust

15 apricot kernels

5 Tablespoons of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

First, peel the skins off the apricot kernels. This takes a little fingernail work but it’s satisfying if you are a picker/peeler kind of person.

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IMG_1165Lightly toast the kernels in the oven and then chop them finely.

In a small skillet (I like nonstick here but anything will work) melt the sugar over medium heat a tablespoon at a time, shaking the pan to mix it rather than stirring. Cook until the caramel is a medium amber color and then add the chopped noyaux and salt. Now you can stir. Lower the heat and cook until the caramel is dark amber and the bubbling has slowed somewhat.IMG_1178

Pour onto a sheet of parchment paper. Quickly, before to cools, cover with another sheet of parchment and roll it thin with a rolling pin. Let cool and break into chunks, then re-cover with parchment and roll until it’s a sparkly powder.

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I used this for topping the noyaux ice cream but I can think of all kinds of other uses for it. Flavor buttercream with it, broil some peach or pear halves and serve them with cream (or crème fraîche!) and a sprinkle of this, or use it like you would candied nuts on a salad, maybe one with roasted figs and goat cheese…and feel free to invite me over.

Both Ends of the Chain

I was not at my best yesterday. Not even at my so-soest. I woke up groggy after a bad night of sleep in which Felix nursed and scratched me with his too-long toenails for what seemed like hours on end. We snuggled a bit in the bed and I thought to myself, “What if today is my last day? What if I knew that tomorrow I would be dead, how would I use this last bit of time?” It brought tears to my eyes and I kissed Felix’s dirty hair and felt the tenderness rise up in me.

Two hours later I was losing my shit. There was arguing, there were raspberries spilled all over the floor, there was adolescent ugliness. We were out of milk. Of course the kids wanted cereal so I let them have cream on it to keep the peace but I bet you can guess that it didn’t work. I was summoned halfway through my bath to get out and help Felix on the toilet. He went downstairs to be with Lola after that and I thought I might be able to rinse the soap off in a leisurely fashion, but they lasted about two minutes before they were fighting and yelling at each other and screaming for me to save them. I HATE trying to talk with someone on a different floor of the house, and two someones is even worse. (I mean seriously, come to me if you need to talk to me, right?) Having to go downstairs in a towel to break up a sibling fight (between my kids who are 9 1/2 years apart, mind you) makes me feel a little, uh, short tempered you might say. Felix was throwing Bananagrams at Lola. She was having the kind of overreactive flip out that only an eleven year old girl can have and he thought it was super fantastic to have such power. And so the morning went. We had plans to go somewhere to play, but could. not. get. out. the. door. So I gave up. And even so, there continued to be complaining and wailing and tantrums about popsicles.

Things looked like this:

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I was not liking my job. I turned snappy and crabby and felt not the tenderness but the martyrdom rise up. A headache built steadily and I nagged at Lola, pointing out a whole slew of things she had forgotten to do. I did some quiet begging with desperation in my voice. I shoved the laundry into the washer while yelling for the eighteenth time, “If you want to talk to me, come to the room where I am for God’s sake!”

We had lunch. We read about sharks. I got Felix ready for his nap. Brushing his teeth sucks 90% of the time and today it sucked. He wouldn’t open his mouth and I didn’t have much patient cajoling left in me. When he bit the toothbrush yet again I yelled, “Felix! Knock it off!” and finished the rest of the toothbrushing in a quick, rough way.

Then I remembered. What if I’m not here tomorrow? What if my children are motherless after today? Or, and it hurts to even type the words, what if I am left without them? And that’s when I felt that pull on both ends of the mothering chain. Simultaneously frustrated enough to worry for my sanity, and entirely vulnerable because of my love for them. It’s the hardest, hardest part about being a mom for me, that juxtaposition. There’s the intensity of putting your own needs on hold and the intensity of being available, and willing, most all the time, but neither of those compare to the intensity of being laid bare by love. It’s not something you can escape from or harden yourself to. The only respite is distraction.

The rest of the day continued to be defeating. I’d like to say that I turned things around and we had a great afternoon where I appreciated the hell out of my kids, but the nap was short, the fighting and whining continued, the headache worked it’s way into my jaw and we didn’t even set foot outside the house until 3:00. But we did finally have the coveted popsicles together in the yard and I looked on my children with alternating annoyance and affection. The humanness of it all is humbling.