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Oh heyyyyyy.  Has it seriously been over a month since we last talked?! Yipes.  And my little seasonal favorites section is still all about spring favorites – oops, must fix that!

Anyway, since I was last here I’ve been up to a few little things.  I was on Minnesota Public Radio a couple times, for example, first talking about porridge and then talking pie crusts (they even made a video of me for that one!  That was weird, having a guy come in and video me for a couple hours while I made a pie crust.  I practiced for two weeks to make sure I could roll under pressure, and then I tried to just pretend I was talking to a friend in the kitchen about how I go about making pie crust.  I think it mostly worked.  Except that it lead me to babble about some fairly silly things.  Thank goodness for video editing and the fact that they took two hours and turned it into two minutes.).  That’s been cool.  I like radio recording equipment even better in person than I did in concept.  It makes you feel very official to wear giant headphones and talk into a microphone attached to a long arm.

apple pie

We took Espen trick or treating for the first time (well, sort of. Really we visited two neighbors and then we were done) – he was a stegosaurus.  And he’s now had his first Thanksgiving meal, which he loved.  He went to town on the turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes, and then took his plate of pie and whipped cream and smashed it into his face to lick it clean with the vigor and enthusiasm that I always secretly want to apply to my pumpkin pie eating but am too concerned about table manners to do so.

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pumpkin raisin scones 1

I knoowww, pumpkin scones are everywhere right now.  But seriously now, is that really a bad thing?  No.  We all want pumpkin scones right now anyway, so their ubiquity is just helpful, right?

I also feel a little bad I’ve been sharing so many baked goods recently.  I don’t actually bake that often (I swear!), but the truth of the matter is that when I’m cooking dinner these days the light is bad and the time is short and we’re super hungry and tired at the end of the day, so I keep finding myself not wanting to be bothered with a) trying to make the bowl of soup or the fish pie or whatever I’ve made look pretty and b) pulling out my camera and trying to fix the lighting situation in order to capture the food in a way that isn’t completely off-putting.

On the other hand, baked goods have the advantage of looking cute and appetizing almost no matter what you do to them, and you usually have some randoms that don’t get eaten right away that you can photograph in the daylight.  Not to mention, if I’m baking, it usually means somebody is helping out with the kiddo and I’m avoiding other work, and therefore I have the wherewithal and energy to take a few photographs of whatever it is I’ve baked.

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lamb meatballs 1

There are some chefs who have a knack for taking apparently simple dishes, ones you think you know, and making them, well, fussy.  There are days when this causes nothing but blustering, snorting, and throwing up of the hands because, what the heck you don’t have time to reduce that then add water then blend part of it then reduce again!!!!!!  Pffffffffft.  But on those lovely days when you aren’t in a rush, that’s when you discover, or perhaps rediscover for the umpteenth time, that this very fussiness is better described as technique, and while it asks you for more effort, it is in fact in the service of nudging a simple dish toward transcendence.

Two chefs that I think are great in this way are Suzanne Goin and April Bloomfield.  I’m awfully partial to those two ladies, at least as far as I can make out from their fantastic cookbooks.  And they’re endearingly frank about the fussy aspect, Suzanne Goin joking that the job of a chef is to take something and then ask themselves, “stop. wait. how can I make this more complicated?” while April Bloomfield actually refers to her recipes as “my fussy recipes.”  Fussy, but so, so good.

There was actually one week awhile back where I cooked all of our dinners from either Sunday Suppers at Lucques or A Girl and Her Pig.  I say awhile back, but now as I think of it I realize that it must have been several years ago! (erp.)  It was definitely pre-baby.  Back in those days when I didn’t even know what busy or tired really were, ha (busy and tired is sure most days now, hence the quick snaps of leftovers for lunch because it was the only chance I had to photograph these meatballs).  Anyway, I guess it’s still fresh in my mind because we truly ate like kings.  It was a great week.  Not one that’s going to be repeated any time soon, sadly.

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espen bday cake slice overhead

Last week fall descended overnight.  We went from sunny days in the 70’s to breezy, invigorating 50-degree highs.  Every day I step outside and the smell in the air reminds me of orienteering when I was little, standing with map and compass in hand and breathing in the distinctive smell of wild grass that has spent the summer soaking up sun and is now coated with cold morning dew.

Last Friday Espen turned one.(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)  And I discovered that it is completely true that it “goes by so fast,” and your memories do all become a hazy fog.  This year has been very long and very full, and yet it feels like it was only two or three days ago that we had just met Espen for the first time, and he was a 6-pound peanut who rarely opened his eyes and almost disappeared when we put him into the Ergo to take him walking through the woods so I could watch the leaves turning gold and he would sleep (blissful sleep).  And now he doesn’t want to go into a front pack at all because he can walk!!!!  He walks a bit like a drunken sailor, but he definitely walks.  And his favorite things are lights (“dight!”), dogs (“da!), trucks (“cruck!”), flowers (“ooooh”), and hoses (no word for hose yet).  How did that happen?  Wow. Wow wow wow.

espen bday cake whole overheadespen bday cake whole

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raspberry yogurt tart 4

We made it over to Bayfield to go raspberry picking a couple weeks ago (I can’t believe that was already a couple weeks ago.  Oi.).  The fruit farms along the south shore of Lake Superior produce spectacular berries and apples – it’s a completely different climate than here on the north shore – and this year seems to be particularly good for berries.  The raspberry and blueberry bushes were dripping with fruit.  I often say (maybe a little too often; I’m developing a habit of repeating myself) that I must have a strong gatherer gene.  No hunter, all gatherer here!  I can’t walk or run (or even bike or very nearly even drive for that matter) past a berry bush laden with ripe berries and not pause to grab a few.  Plunked into the middle of a berry patch, I find it hard to stop picking.  There’s always just one more beautiful berry, just one more arm’s length away that absolutely has to be picked.

Now as I think about it though, I wonder how much of it is gathering instinct and how much of it is quite simply that I love to stuff my face – unceremoniously, vigorously, messily, juicily, unrelentingly, as fast as possible barely stopping to breath – with perfectly fresh berries.  I just love berries.

raspberry yogurt tart 1

Espen seems to have the same predilection.  It was impossible to get anything picked with him there because he was on patrol, crawling freakishly fast (he’s like a little monkey child!) up and down the rows of raspberry bushes just waiting, waiting for you to set down the container you were putting berries into, and then he’d pounce.  Red-berry-stained-mouth-lightening-baby! and grab all the berries in the container by the fistful and shove them into his mouth, eyes gleaming.  So, you had to pick without ever setting down your container.

Normally, I’d be jamming berries into my mouth just as fast as my baby-child, except this was a work trip, and we were picking raspberries to go into an experimental gin infusion.  I wanted to eat the flats of berries so badly (raspberries are my FAVORITE berry).  And, I did steal a heaping cupful to bake a mini schlumpf.  But, most of them went into gin. BIG BUMMER!  (Until said gin is ready, and then I have a feeling it will be the opposite of a big bummer.)  Fear not, however, for after that berry picking excursion, I made a point of buying many, many pints of raspberries for personal use.  Espen and I have been fighting over them.  If I try to sneak a few as a snack, he starts bouncing up and down and waving, and then points emphatically at the berry I’m trying to hide in my hand and yells, “Dat!  Dat!” until I give him some of his own.  We make for a gluttonous pair.  Poor Joel has only gotten to eat, like, 5 raspberries.

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avocado and marinated kale sandwich

In an effort to share more of our very most every day meals, the ones I throw together with whatever’s left in the fridge, or the staples I can make with my eyes half closed at the end of a long day, I’ve started posting occasional short, simple posts just about these meals.  I call it vær så god, Norwegian for “bon appetit.”

Hey hey!  How are you all doing?  We’re doing well around here, flailing our way through running a new business and trying to go to the beach to play in the sand and splash in the water with the baby every chance we get.  It’s keeping us busy and happy.  I woke up this morning (or to be more specific, I was awoken this morning by a baby standing in his crib talking loudly to his mobile and acting very ready to start the day) and it was still dark out and the air felt like fall.  And that is mildly panic inducing.  I haven’t been very good of keeping track of what day of the week it is, or even what month it is, lately, but I thought I had at least managed to stay on top of what season it was.  Fall has a way of creeping in and surprising me every year though.  Especially because it has a tendency to pay a few brief visits in August, but then leave again to give us a few more hot lazy weeks of Indian Summer before finally returning to stay.

But anyway, I’ve entered my yearly August ritual of clinging to summer and gorging on berries and peaches (peach-bourbon slushies people!!!  You must give it a try!).  And I have a fantastic raspberry tart recipe (gluten free!) and raspberry cocktail recipe I fully intended to share with you today.  Except, I just keep craving this sandwich so much, I want to eat it every day.  And I thought, hmm, maybe that’s a sign it’s worth sharing.  So, I’ll be back soon with a tart and a cocktail, but for now I’m going to share an easy, fast, healthy sandwich recipe that’s based on a salad that’s become a favorite of mine (and in fact, you can make the kale salad, toss it with avocado, and then top it with a fried egg, instead of stuffing it into a sandwich and you’ll have another great meal option).  It’s equal parts chewy, and leafy, and tangy, and creamy and all around surprisingly wonderful.  So, there you have it, and here you go!

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haricots nicoise with pasta 1

My friend Kate (hi Kate!) lent me a great book while I was pregnant, called Momma Zen.  As you might suspect, it’s kind of about the Zen lessons embedded within motherhood.  It’s the sort of thing that can be completely cheesy and seem obvious, but that’s only when you approach it intellectually.  When it finally hits you at the visceral, or even spiritual, level, then you suddenly realize how very profound a collection of mundane observations can be.

I just dug it out of one of the boxes of books we haven’t yet unpacked – there’s a good pile of those; they’re hiding in our bedroom and in a closet in our little office room so the outside world doesn’t know that we kind of burned out with the unpacking midstream – to give back to her so she can reread it.  As I took it out, I started flipping back through it.  I read it while I was pregnant, not actually quite a momma yet, and so many of the messages weren’t able to reach me viscerally.  Now they did, each one that I glanced at as I flipped through an assortment of pages.

One really jumped out, one that I needed right at that moment.  The author was writing about being at a spiritual meditation retreat.  There, she was working her butt off at the various duties assigned to her, ringing the prayer bell, chanting, meditating, and so on, but towards the end of the retreat one of the masters came to her and told her, “you have one of the worst work ethics I’ve ever seen.”  She was completely taken aback, knowing that she’s actually a very hard worker and certain that she’d been putting a huge effort into the work of the retreat.  But, the master continues, “you have one of the worst work ethics I’ve ever seen – you turn everything into work.”

haricot nicoise with pasta 2

Ah.

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rhubarb cobbler 1

So, I’m actually your old aunt or uncle.  You know, the one who repeats herself several times in a row without realizing it, and who tells the same three stories every time you see her.  Yup, that’s me.  And that is why I’m going to say what I’m pretty sure I say every time rhubarb enters the conversation.  Two things I always say, actually.  First, I love rhubarb.  So much. I LOVE IT!  Second, growing up in Minnesota gives you the impression that every house comes with a rhubarb plant (or several) growing in the yard.  It’s like it’s included in any homebuyer’s agreement worth signing, like a house inspection could be derailed if there is no rhubarb plant in the backyard. It grows like a weed around here.  And having always had rhubarb, the first spring outside of Minnesota I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do when June rolled around and I wanted to bake a rhubarb cake, but there was no rhubarb outside my backdoor.  And it was soooo annoying to have to buy rhubarb at the grocery store.

But, I’m back in Minnesota!  And there’s a veritable rhubarb farm growing along the edge of our garage, and I’m finally one of those people of whom I’ve always been secretly (or not so secretly) jealous!  One of those people who actually has more rhubarb than they quite know what to do with.  Well, almost more.  I think, when it comes down to it, I’ll manage.

rhubarb cobbler 2

Fun fact about rhubarb that I just learned last year: if you pull up any rhubarb flowers as soon as they come up, you can keep your rhubarb producing all summer long.  Which means that all sorts of ‘and rhubarb’ combinations (raspberry and rhubarb (my favorite), blueberries and rhubarb, peaches and rhubarb, apple and rhubarb…) are more seasonal than I used to think they were when I thought of rhubarb as purely an early summer plant.

In spite of all of these grand combinations, there’s something to be said for straight up rhubarb in baked goods.  Fabulously tart rhubarb without the cloak of other fruits or berries to muddy up its character (though it still needs a good cloak of sugar if you don’t want your mouth to pucker up as tight as a miserly fist). I’ve always been a big fan of plain rhubarb pie – no strawberries. I also adore buttery cake with pieces of rhubarb strewn throughout.  Rhubarb crisp is, of course, a classic.  But never once before had it occurred to me to make rhubarb cobbler.

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salmon couscous 1

In an effort to share more of our very most every day meals, the ones I throw together with whatever’s left in the fridge, or the staples I can make with my eyes half closed at the end of a long day, I’ve started posting occasional short, simple posts just about these meals.  I call it vær så god, Norwegian for “bon appetit.”

There’s something about adding plenty of fresh herbs to a dish that makes it seem a) summery and b) fancy.  Whether you go barefoot and sundress-clad out into the backyard and grab herbs by the handful or you buy them at the supermarket while you’re out running errands, either way they still give you that sense that you are eating your meal out in a garden, or maybe in the middle of a farm field, and the sun is at that perfect golden angle, and the table is decorated with wildflowers, and it’s all just so.  And all it took was some herbs!  No schlep to the farm field, where there would most likely be tons of flies and mosquitos swarming and a faint (or not so faint) smell of barnyard, ahem, activity in the air anyway, because that’s what it’s actually like on farms.  It’s great, but the sun isn’t always at the perfect golden angle.

Anyway, that is not really the point, other than to say that I do love having herbs growing in the backyard as prolifically as weeds.  Especially when the chive plants flower because you can throw the flowers in to whatever you’ve just cooked, and suddenly it will make it look like you’re very pulled together and classy, when really all you did was snip some chives.

chives with blossoms

salmon and herbs for couscous

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carrot soda bread 1

This is another recipe that I have already shared in my breakfast column, but it is so ridiculously fantastic, I feel like I need to share it in every corner of the internets that I have any sort of vague jurisdiction over.  It must be sounded from the rooftops like a yawp.  Make this soda bread, you won’t regret it!!!!!

Soda bread, to me, is a promise.  It’s the promise of warm, crusty, home baked bread ready in no time flat.  When you decide to smudge together a soup or salad for dinner from the remainders in your fridge and you need a hunk of bread to round it out, or when friends drop by unexpectedly for midmorning coffee and you would like to offer a snack, soda bread can be tossed together and in the oven before your soup is warm, before your friends have taken off their shoes, and it will be practically done baking by the time you’ve canvassed the subject of the weather.

carrot soda bread 2

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