Last weekend I noticed snow had collected in the dried remains of the fruit on this Tulipwood Tree. I was struck by how much they looked like tiny snow cones and attempted to capture their adorableness with my old-but-new-to-me 75-300mm zoom lens.
Liriodendron tulipifera aka Tulip Tree, Tulipwood Tree or Yellow Poplar produces a cone shaped fruit comprised of many samaras – dry, single cell fruit which are dispersed by the wind.
My beloved, albeit painfully needy rescue pup woke me up at 3 o’clock Sunday morning to investigate a mysterious sound, again. I’m an all-or-nothing sleeper so once I’m up–that’s it for me. I try to be sympathetic in these moments. How do I teach her which sounds are inconsequential – the clicking of the ice maker in the kitchen – and which sounds might be raccoons rummaging through the kitchen, or aliens beaming up the whole damn house?
I got dressed, washed my face, and brewed myself a hot mug of spiced apple cider. I wrapped up in a blanket and plopped down on the couch in the dark. My mind wandered to the quart of buttermilk idling in the fridge. “Why yes, Stevie,” I said to the dog now contentedly snoring beside me, “buttermilk pancakes do sound good.”
I googled “buttermilk pancakes” and the first recipe to pop up was Perfect Buttermilk Pancakes. I had all the ingredients on hand so I went with it. NYT Cooking recipes tend to be consistently O.K. with a couple of modifications – in this case I added a tablespoon of vanilla and a 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, incorporated the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls before combining everything together in one large bowl, I let the batter rest at room temperature for nearly an hour, and I opted for avocado oil in a cast iron skillet for perfectly golden pancakes.
While watching the sunrise over frozen hills from my kitchen window, I ate a single perfect pancake, complete with a cartoon quality pat of melting butter and a hefty glug of real maple syrup. I cleaned up while the leftover pancakes cooled, used a cookie cutter to cut them into several small circles, and dusted them with powdered sugar before tossing them into a travel container. I then brewed two thermoses of coffee and patiently waited for K to wake up.
We try to get out for a hike or at least a long walk every weekend.
Sunday was crisp and gray, and I layered up in fluorescent knits against the chill.
I’m a creature of the PNW and the smell of wet, rotting leaves soothes me. If I look at this picture, then close my eyes, I can smell them now.
Once we reached the peak of our outing, we stopped to sit and enjoy some tiny buttermilk pancakes and hot coffee.
I added hot cocoa powder to the coffees; a poor man’s mocha. We quietly ate more pancakes and I audaciously wiped my sticky fingers on the cuff of my pants. Stevie sat inches from my face attempting to showcase her self-mastery and obedience in exchange for a tiny pancake of her very own.
Of course I obliged, I’m not a monster.
I’m an equal opportunity hiking guide – everyone gets a pancake at the summit, no questions asked.
I felt so grounded here by this gushing stream, I took a selfie to commemorate the moment.
Escaping to nature is the best antidote against the “too muchness” of contemporary life.
Despite a brief period of cold, creeping self-doubt around the third touch and go, dicey repeat of “roll dough out into a 8″x12″ rectangle and fold into thirds like a business letter” I feel this bake went extremely well.
I started the dough on Friday afternoon which required overnight refrigeration. I worked the dough throughout the morning Saturday, alternating between rolling, folding, and chilling again and again. Next came cutting rolling, forming, then leaving to rise until doubled in size. Lastly this recipe called for brushing the top of each croissant with a wash of whole milk and egg yolk just before baking, resulting in the distinctively shiny, golden exterior classic croissants are known for.
I baked the croissants late Saturday afternoon and woke up this morning, Sunday, excited to make myself a small breakfast and tuck into a new book for a couple of hours.
I’ve just started reading the book Real Life, a novel by Brandon Taylor which was a finalist for the 2020 Booker Prize and is so far bright, relatable, and poetically descriptive.
This is my ideal Sunday morning: bundled against the chill in a warm blanket, feet decked in colorful hand-knit wool socks, good candles burning, jazz records playing softly in the background, pecking at a tasty spread while reading a good book–unaffected by the snow falling gently outside.
I hope you are currently spending your Sunday nestled someplace equally cozy xx Bette
Continuing our household effort to dine more healthfully, ethically, and sustainably while attempting to reduce the number of trips we make into town to shop during the Covid-19 pandemic, I have been researching and exploring the big wide world of grocery delivery services.
The most notable delivery last week was our inaugural order from The Honest Bison.
The Honest Bison was founded on one very simple truth: we believe everyone deserves access to food they can trust. When we realized just how hard it was to find unprocessed, humanely raised, quality meats in today’s markets, The Honest Bison was born.
We started out with just 100% grassfed bison but have since branched out to include a curated selection of other high-quality meats as well. As we continue to expand, our mission still remains the same – to bring trust back into today’s food system.
From The Honest Bison’s “about” page
I picked out a variety of cuts of grassfed bison, elk and venison, in addition to bison snack sticks, jerky, oxtails, ground meat and soup bones.
Bison meat is leaner and significantly lower in calories than a comparable serving of beef, and is a good source of protein, B vitamins, selenium, zinc and iron.
*** Please note: this order was purchase entirely out of pocket and this post is not an ad, I’m just a pleasantly surprised first time customer ***
Bison and Butternut Squash Stew– truncated recipe at the bottom of this post
I started this stew as I would any other, steeping some herbs in fat…
In this case I opted for rendered bacon fat and rosemary.
For a lean meat like bison, adding a rich fat to the pot helps keep things supple and moist during browning.
Warming woody herbs gently in fat first releases the aromatic oils for maximum flavor.
I removed the rosemary and added a one pound package of bison stew meat (thawed, patted dry and seasoned with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper) to the pot and cooked it for a few minutes over medium-low heat until gently browned.
I then removed the meat from the pot and added a diced medium-sized yellow onion and two finely sliced cloves of garlic to the fat, plus a tablespoon of good quality extra virgin olive oil and two tablespoons of water.
I simmered this all together while stirring occasionally over medium-low heat until softened and golden.
I returned the meat to the pot and added 14oz of crushed tomatoes, a bay leaf, cumin, red pepper flakes, and a tablespoon of good quality balsamic vinegar to mimic the red wine traditionally used in hearty red meat stews.
When stewing meats I like to add acidic elements like tomatoes and balsamic which can help tenderize meat and break down connective tissue.
I also added a tablespoon of red miso paste for maximum umami and enhanced complexity.
I then added approximately 16oz gelatinous, homemade, collagen-rich chicken bone broth concentrate made earlier in the week, in addition to enough water to allow everything to float around freely within the pot.
Next, I peeled and cubed half of a large butternut squash, roughly 2 cups total, and simmered everything together over medium-low heat for two hours, stirring occasionally until the liquid was significantly reduced and the contents of the pot were moderately homogeneous, seasoned to taste with more sea salt and more pepper once finished.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite ingredients to add to winter stews because it is inexpensive, abundant, nutritious, and when cooked slowly, surrenders beautifully to create a full-flavored, impossibly sumptuous gravy.
Served humbly over steamed rice, this bison stew was wonderfully rich and satisfying. The bison meat itself was so hearty and deeply comforting; we went to bed with full bellies and woke up with an urgent hankering to eat leftover stew for breakfast.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoons water
Bone broth, stock, and/or water as needed
14 ounces (half of the 28oz can pictured above) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (in place of red wine)
1 bay leaf
1 scant teaspoon cumin
1 heaped teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon red miso paste
sea salt to taste
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
approx. 2 cups cubed butternut squash
In a large pot, combine bacon fat and rosemary and warm together over medium heat until fragrant. Remove the rosemary and add one pound of 1″ cubed bison stew meat. Cook 8 minutes or until gently browned. Remove meat from the pot and set aside on a spare plate. Add diced onion, finely sliced garlic, EVOO and water to the pot and simmer until golden and soft. Add meat back into the pot as well as any juices that collected on the plate.
Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, cumin, red pepper flakes, and balsamic vinegar, and stir. Add red miso paste and stir well to dissolve. Add bone broth and water to the pot to suit your own taste, or until there is enough liquid in the pot for things to move around freely. Add cubed squash and stir. Bring the contents of the pot up to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally until the liquid is significantly reduced, meat is fork-tender, and contents of the pot are moderately homogeneous.
Serve over steamed rice, potatoes or boiled noodles.
One pot makes 4-6 servings depending on appetites and once cooled, the leftovers refrigerate, freeze and reheat well.
Sashiko is the traditional Japanese method of decoratively mending or reinforcing textiles with cotton fabric and white or indigo-dyed thread. Sashiko is an expression of the traditional Japanese aesthetic Wabi-sabi, which is characterized by the appreciation of “imperfect beauty” and impermanence.
I plan to sew each patch down by hand in a grid pattern of small stitches using linen thread in a few different natural tones that remind me of wildflowers… the resulting mend should reinforce the knees and lower legs for at least another year of abruptly kneeling in dirt to spot cool bugs, and scooting across the living room rug while “playing dogs” with… the dog. Don’t ask, I’m an adult and this is just how I live my life.
I’ve had this same pair of dungarees since the early days of Lucy and Yak, and I have worn them more times than I could possibly count. I envision them 10 years from now, held together entirely by clever little hand-stitches and assorted patches cut from long-since-retired-yester-clothes.
In current food news ‘round these parts: I baked a lemon loaf cake today using this recipe and it turned out great, really great. My only deviation from Maria’s recipe was that I opted for a quick vanilla bean icing to douse the top instead of the suggested lemon glaze. Smash hit. Well done on the recipe, Maria. 🙂
I’ll continue to share the process of mending the knees of my dungarees as I go.
What was the last piece of clothing you brought back to life with a thoughtful mend? I’d love to continue the discussion in the comments below.
Shortbread cookies are hands-down my favorite kind of cookie when I’m feeling cozy and nostalgic, namely Walkers shortbread which I used to scrimp and pinch my pennies as a child to buy from World Market.
I’ve never been to Scotland – I can’t speak to the authenticity of this shortbread recipe but the resulting cookies are tasty and beautiful, and tick all of the necessary boxes for me so I will call them “shortbread cookies” and sleep just fine tonight.
Lemon and lavender cut through the richness of the butter (use the highest quality butter you can find for this recipe because you will taste it) and waltz the tastebuds effortlessly between tart and floral, tart and floral, tart and floral… mmm… butter… *Homer Simpson voice* mmm donuts… I mean cookies! I mean biscuits!?
1 cup (208g) good quality salted butter, softened/room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar, spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a butter knife
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cups (180g) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon food grade lavender buds, finely ground in a spice grinder or by hand with mortar and pestle (my method of choice)
zest from one lemon that has been soaked in a 1:1 water to white vinegar solution to remove surface residues, rinsed, and dried
Some tips to consider before starting
I find that weighing my butter and flour first yeilds a more predictable outcome as opposed to scooping or eyeballing my way along and wondering why they don’t turn out quite right. You will find the weighed ingredients in the recipe prescribed in cups and grams – if you don’t yet have a food scale for baking, now is a fine time to get one!
It is critical to let the butter come all the way up to room temperature to soften, which will take some time – maybe even several hours depending on the temperature of your home. Be patient and know that the butter and sugar will cream together much more uniformly resulting in a better cookie overall. If I know I’m going to bake cookies on say, a chilly Saturday afternoon in late October, I’ll weigh out my butter when I first wake up and leave it on the counter with plenty of time to soften up, then make my dough after lunch.
If you don’t have powdered sugar on hand, it is easy enough to make with regular granulated sugar and a blender or food processor. I usually make a batch in my blender using organic cane sugar granules so I always have a bit around on hand for recipes like this.
Feel free to omit the ground lavender and lemon zest if you don’t have them or if you’re going for that classic buttery shortbread taste, or experiment with adding other dry flavorings. Chai powder is delicious, and finely ground rose petal are just plain ol’ lovely.
In a stand mixer affixed with paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl with sturdy spoon or hand mixer, add butter and powdered sugar (sift in the sugar to prevent lumps) and cream together until uniform.
Gently incorporate the vanilla and lemon zest into the creamed butter/sugar mixture until combined. Sift ground lavender into bowl and discard the few reedy bits that were too large to sift through (these will add an unpleasant texture to the cookie and too much floral flavoring).
Sift flour into bowl to prevent lumps in dough and work together with stand mixer on low speed, scraping the sides down occasionally as you go, or mixing by hand with a stiff spoon or hand mixer until combined.
Dough should be fragrant and uniform in texture, sticking to itself at this point.
Shape into a tidy ball in the center of the bowl and cover. Refrigerate covered dough in bowl for an hour.
Roll dough out roughly 1/4″ thick on to a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured 2″ round cookie/biscuit cutter, proceed to carefully cut cookies, placing them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet or large plate as you go, and re-rolling remaining dough as needed until you have 24 total cookies.
Shape any remaining dough scraps into free form shapes of roughly the same size as the cut cookies (so they take roughly the same amount of time to bake) or feel free to eat remaining cookie dough scraps raw as it is eggless.
I have also been known to chop up the scraps into cookie dough “bits”, freeze them in a single layer on parchment paper, then fold them into homemade vanilla ice cream with heaps of finely grated dark chocolate for a slow food interpretation of cookie dough ice cream. Yuh… it’s goooooood.
Refrigerate unbaked cookies uncovered for an additional hour.
Preheat oven to 350º.
Working in batches of no more than 12 cookies at a time, transfer chilled, unbaked cookies to a room temperature baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Top each cookie carefully with a few whole lavender buds for color and a small sprinkling of granulated sugar. Proceed to bake for 8-12 minutes, until the bottoms are just starting to turna light golden brown – visible when the edge of the parchment paper is gently lifted up from the baking sheet for a quick peek.
Cookies will seem fragile and are likely to crumble if picked up at this point. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow cookies to rest on the hot baking sheet an additional 5 minutes, then transfer them very carefully using a flat spatula to a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.
Once cooled, the cookies with firm up nicely with a gentle crunch and hold up impressively against repeated dunks in hot coffee. Store in an airtight container in a single layer or stacked in layers and separated by pieces of parchment paper. These cookies will keep on the kitchen counter for several days, in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for a month.
Yarn is good old affordable (US grown, Canadian spun) Lily Sugar’n Cream in the color Tangerine.
Dish cloth? Wash cloth? Face cloth? Cotton scrubby? Trivet? Doily? These decorative, machine washable workhorses go by many names and serve a thousand various functions in my house.
I say “dishcloth of the day” in jest – although they are quick projects and the idea of knitting 365 cotton dishcloths in a year isn’t totally unrealistic for me, I won’t be posting a new hand knit dishcloth daily. Let’s shoot for weekly? we’ll see…
I woke up this morning 1. determined to finish this knitted denim top so I can wear it out tonight and 2. CRAVING granola for some mysterious reason.
I whipped up this quick batch of Easy 5 Ingredient Granola with what I had on hand and it turned out great, so I thought I’d share the recipe. Gluten-free and lower in sugar than most granola, if you think about those things. Substitutions to veganize are in parentheses. Consider this recipe a base and feel free to add nuts or dried fruit.
1/4 C Ghee (or coconut oil)
4 tbsp maple syrup, honey or a combo of both
2 tbsp nut butter, I used peanut
2 C rolled oats
a dash of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 and grease a large baking sheet with a small amount of ghee (or coconut oil) or line with parchment paper.
In a small sauce pot combine everything but the rolled oats and cinnamon and stir over low heat until melted.
Add melted ingredients to 2 cups of rolled oats in a medium sized bowl and stir until the oats are coated.
Spoon coated oats onto the baking sheet and spread into a relatively even layer.
sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 325 for 15 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully stir with a wooden spoon.
Return to the oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool. Transfer to a large jar or Tupperware.
I’m picky when it comes to bananas. Aside from the fact that I try to only buy bananas when I can find Fair Trade bananas, I love snacking on a good, medium-sized banana with no green or bruises, and an even smattering of small brown freckles. Like I said, I’m picky.
I have a tendency to buy a couple of bunches of underripe bananas with the intention of giving them a few days to ripen up at home. I think, “Man. I’m gonna eat so many bananas this week… I feel healthier and more vibrant already. Look out, world!”
Let me be extra dramatic and tell you that the only thing I hate more than an underripe banana is an overripe banana. I guess you could say I have a bit of a masochistic streak because without fail, I’ll forget about them for a week, panic because I really hate to waste food, then force myself to choke down as many overly ripe bananas as I can in 24 hours. A living hell!
This week I put an end to this torturous cycle and threw together a simple banana bread using a mishmash of the seemingly random ingredients I had on hand. And I’ll be damned, it was accidentally the best loaf I’ve banana bread I’ve ever made.
Sweet and full-flavored–this is not a healthy superfood but rather a pleasant fruit and nut cake with a few superfluous substitution to make me feel a little bit better about eating half a loaf in one sitting. Please please please feel free to take this recipe as a suggestion and use whatever you have on hand. Don’t stress, I promise I won’t be mad. Continue reading “Recipe: Banana Bread with Walnuts”→