Monday, January 15, 2018

the quotidian (1.15.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Why he prefers skiing.


Small person, big animals.

Another (borrowed) smoker, another (delicious) brisket.



All mine.

After church, the debriefing.

This same time, years previous: cranberry bread, the quotidian (1.13.14), GUATEMALA!!!, crumbs, vanilla cream cheese braids, rum raisin shortbread, inner voices.

Friday, January 12, 2018

scandinavian sweet buns

Are you gearing up for some weekend baking? If so, might I suggest these simple, yet elegant, buns?

Kanelbullar, they’re called. But since I can’t pronounce it very well — and even if I could, no one would know what I was talking about — I just call them sweet buns. Or maybe cardamom twists? Sugar knots? I don’t know. Maybe, come to think of it, I don’t call them anything. I just eat them (licks lips).

I’m kind of infatuated with them, really. They are like cinnamon buns but more sophisticated and constrained: Instead of a finger-licking icing, just a few crunchy sugar crystals. Instead of the singular taste of cinnamon and sugar-sugar-sugar, the more nuanced flavors of orange zest, cardamom, and vanilla. Instead of a sticky mess that requires either a multitude of napkins or else a fork and plate (or running water and a sink), a tidy, self-contained treat.

If we were comparing bread to people, then regular cinnamon buns would be your blowsy, big-bosomed mum with a bad perm (whom you love dearly) while these buns would be your slender, long-legged ex-ballerina aunt with high cheekbones and a tight bun at the nape of her neck.

Or something like that.

I’ve made these three times. I experimented with a chocolate babka-like variation, but that didn’t go over so well — too dry — and decided that I much preferred the traditional flavors.

Scandinavian Sweet Buns
(Otherwise known as Kanelbullar)
Adapted from Dinner With Julie.

Julie says these could also go savory, with pesto as the filling, perhaps, or simply garlic and parmesan, to make a sort of garlic knot.

These are quite similar to the Cardamom Orange Buns that I’ve already written about. (I didn’t realize it until just now, oops.) Those buns are from Finland, and the recipe calls for two tablespoons of cardamom. In these buns, the cardamom is rather mild, so feel free to double, even triple, the amount.

for the dough:
1 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons yeast
3 - 3½ cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup butter, softened slightly
⅓ cup sugar
1 egg
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 recipe of filling (see below)

for the topping: 
1 beaten egg
Swedish pearl sugar

Put the warm milk into the bowl of a kitchen aid mixer and sprinkle with the yeast. Once the yeast has bloomed, add three cups of flour and the remaining ingredients. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on medium-low speed until tacky and soft. Add the remaining half cup of flour and mix briefly.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and lightly knead, taking care not to use any more flour than necessary. The dough should be manageable, but just barely. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise until double.

Cut the dough in half. For each half: roll the dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle.

for the filling:
1 stick of butter at room temperature
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Using a fork, mash the butter with the sugar and cinnamon to create a thick paste. Divide the filling between the two rectangles of dough and spread evenly.

Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and gently roll it back out until it’s about 8x12 inches. This sounds confusing, I know, so think of it this way: You are going to be cutting the dough into long strips, as you would cut pastry for a pie lattice. There will be eight strips, more or less, each one about 12 inches long.

Now, cut the dough into strips. Twist them into long curly-cues, and then wind each twisted strip over your fingers as though you’re coiling electrical wires. (Here's a little video.) Tuck the end of the strip through the middle and set the bun on a parchment-lined baking tray with the ends on the bottom. It’s way easier to do than it is to explain, and the buns are forgiving, baking up beautifully no matter how sloppy the twist. Brush the buns with the beaten egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Let the buns rest at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before baking at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Serve warm.

Leftover buns can be frozen and then thawed and briefly reheated.

P.S. After yet another wearisome day filled with our president's filth and hate, this message of kindness, respect, and hope is a much-needed balm.

This same time, years previous: homemade lard, the quotidian (1.11.16), the quotidian (1.12.15), roll and twist, sticky toffee pudding, spinach lemon orzo soup, kiddling shenanigans, starting today..., spots of pretty.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

boys in beds

Shortly before eight o’clock this morning, before leaving to take my daughter to a (routine) doctor’s appointment, I ran up to the boys’ room to give them a few instructions. I sailed into the middle of the room — earlier, trotting up and down the hall, I'd noticed the lamp light shining out from under the door so I knew they were awake — surveyed the chaos and both boys, cozy in their beds, and said, “Don't move. I’m getting my camera.”

Their room makes me want to pull my hair out. With the hardwood floors and three big windows, it has so much potential, but the boys could care less. Just a few weeks ago, my older son removed the area carpet — I forget why — so now there isn’t even a rug to soften the space. I’ve mostly given up on getting them to keep it tidy, though every couple days, like today, I’ll lay down the law: NO LUNCH UNTIL YOU PUT YOUR CLOTHES AWAY. And then they do, but it hardly makes a dent. Clearly, this room won't be appearing on a Pinterest board any time soon.

Oh, well. At least the space is getting used. And if the boys don't mind the mess — on the contrary, they practically revel in it — then why get my panties in (too much of) a twist?

This morning when I stormed in, my older son was watching a lecture in preparation for his Anatomy and Physiology class that started today. (He called me afterward to tell me he loved the professor. She's so enthusiastic, he said, that at one point she jumped up on a lab table while lecturing.)

My younger son was working on the control panel from his remote control car. He's dismantled it to see how it works. Last night he showed me the three motors, one for the steering, one to spin the back wheels and one to spin the front wheels — I appreciated his excitement, but the subject matter made my eyes glaze over — and later this morning I found him at my computer watching a how-to video on installing solar panels. (And yes, that is a glue gun in his bed. Why do you ask?)

This same time, years previous: our little dustbunnies, one year and one day, the quotidian (1.9.12), earthquake cake.

Monday, January 8, 2018

the quotidian (1.8.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Take your pick.

Christmas, on its way out.

Lingering family suppers: not as frequent but more fun.

Bathtime moral support.

Pennsylvania bound.

Farmhouse sunrise.

Smart chicken. 

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.9.17), kicking off 2016, sourdough crackers, date nut bread, between two worlds, buckwheat apple pancakes, so worth it, salted dulce de leche ice cream with candied peanuts, hog butchering!, turkey noodle soup, baked hashbrown potatoes.

Friday, January 5, 2018


Savoring: my afternoon coffee and the lingering taste of Dutch apple pie and whipped cream. I had the pie for my breakfast, too. The kids reacted to the addition of raisins, but I liked them — they gave the pie a virtuous boost of fruity wholesomeness.

Appreciating: the cheerful nurse at this morning’s doctor appointment (vaccines for two kids) who was sincerely apologetic about our extensive wait, due to an office snafu, and then gave us a grocery store gift card as a consolation prize for our troubles. ‘Twas a ray of sunshine... 

Listing: sideways on the living room sofa because it has got a horrific case of old-sofa sag. Maybe this is why my back always hurts?

Contemplating: purchasing a new sofa … but I’m not sure I can justify spending all that money. Ugh, I hate buying furniture. (Anyone have a comfy — and attractive and not too old and supremely comfy — couch you want taken off your hands?)

Anticipating: this weekend's family gathering in Pennsylvania and all the good food and conversation to go with!

Packing: extra warm socks and slippers since our hostess warned us that her house — a huge old farmhouse — doesn’t get above 63 degrees … and that’s in the warmest places.

Making: two pies — a grape and an apple — for Saturday night’s pie bar at my cousin’s house. 

Considering: stopping at a Target (or some such store) on the way up to PA and purchasing some winter clothes for the child who has nothing warm and has been (oddly enough) whimpering about the state of his wardrobe for quite some time.

Listening: to the wind thumping the metal roof, the high-pitched whine of my husband’s old and very slow computer, the whir of the noise machine in the upstairs hall, the ticking of the clock, the old dog’s heavy breathing while she sleeps, the tapping of my fingers against the computer keys... 

Twitching my nose: at the weird, cold-weather house smells that float up through the floor from the basement. When it gets super cold, the heat draws the air up from the crawl space under the living room, and for some unknown reason, it smells exactly like dog farts. My husband says it’s just a matter of lining the crawl space with plastic (again), and that it shouldn’t take more than a couple hours, but has he done it yet? Nope.

Gearing up: to do some more smoking once this cold spell lets up a little. We borrowed a smaller smoker from a different friend, and I just picked up a new smoking book from the library. Along with another brisket and a pork butt, I’d like to try burgers and hotdogs….

Craving: soup, the brothier and hotter, the better. I have one more meal’s worth of Italian Wedding soup in the freezer, but I’ve been hoarding it. Gives me great comfort, knowing that soup is in my culinary arsenal.

Watching: Godless, with my husband (not right now now), and oh my word, Jeff Daniels makes an outstanding villain. I can’t watch the show right before bed, though, else I can’t sleep.

Marveling: that my husband works outside, all day long, in this brutally cold weather. He doesn’t even fuss (at least not about that, he doesn’t).

Have a good weekend, friends. Stay warm!

This same time, years previous: marching, high on the hog, what it means, the quotidian (1.6.14), headless chickens, of an evening (and a morning), candied peanuts, winter chickens, what I did.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

just for sparkles

Have you seen these little rhinestone spirals for hair?

Oh dear, looks like someone needs lotion….

My younger daughter found them in her Christmas stocking. I had actually considered buying them for myself, but I wasn't sure how they worked, and I thought they might be better suited to her short curls anyway.

The child has the most gorgeous hair: thick and curly. It will do anything. It used to be that she wouldn't let me touch it except to pull it back in a braid or ponytail, but she’s been slowly (very slowly) getting braver.

Turns out, the spirals (I call them hair studs) are super easy to work with: simply screw them in wherever you want. What fun!

I'm hoping she'll let me borrow them sometime.

This same time, years previous: Christmas cheese, how to make a fireball, breaking the fruitcake barrier, classic cranberry sauce, baguettes, sweet and spicy popcorn.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

high-stakes hiking

Making chit-chat with one of my friends at church Sunday morning, I inquired as to how she was going to spend the rest of her New Year’s Eve day. “We’re going on a hike,” she said. “Want to co—?”

“NO!” I bellowed, and then added apologetically, “I mean, thank you but no. It’s way too cold.”

But then we kept talking about the hike — other friends were going, it was only two miles in and two miles out, the start time wasn’t until mid-afternoon so I could still have my after-lunch rest time and coffee, etc — and the idea began to grow on me. I was on the brink of cabin fever, after all. The combination of no longer running in the morning (thanks to the bitter cold — 20 degrees? fine; 10 degrees? not so much), more rich food than normal, and a whole string of leisurely, stay-at-home days was beginning to grate on me. Perhaps a hike was just the thing I needed?

By the time we got home from church, I'd decided I wanted to go, but trying to convince my husband — the poor guy spends every day, all day outside in the freezing temps and really, really, really just wants to read books by the fire in his spare time — was no small matter. 

“Really, Jennifer?” he sighed. “Do we have to?”

But I kept after him, sticking out my lip and mumbling things about my mental health being on the line until he eventually said, Okay, fine. Whatever.

I've never found hikes to be all that thrilling, but, it turns out, sub-(celsius)-zero temps rather elevate the experience. Pausing, even briefly to, say, remove the lens cap from the camera or to pee in the snow or to study the tracks of other hikers, and suddenly — Oh no, there's no feeling in my fingers and toes!

And then I realized that this nice little cardio workout was practically a life-or-death experience. The stakes had been raised: IF I STOPPED MOVING I WOULD DIE.* What fun!

The hike turned simple things, like not getting frostbitten (yay!) and making it back to the van without losing the keys (again, yay!), into real accomplishments. I am successfully surviving death, go me!

But the best part, by far, came after I was back home when I was standing in front of the blazing fire, my teeth chattering uncontrollably (and this, after a 45-minute van ride), and realized that my cabin fever had disappeared completely. That high-stakes hike had shivered it right out of my body!

*My husband read this and promptly reminded me of the guy in the Everest movie who was left for dead (so he was clearly not moving) and then, hours later, came stumbling into camp.

"It'd take a little more than simply not moving for a few minutes to kill you, Jen," he said.

"That's what you'd like to think!"

"Also," he added, "You sound pathetic."

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (1.2.17), 5-grain porridge with apples, when cars dance, the quotidian (1.2.12), lentil sausage soup.

Monday, January 1, 2018

the quotidian (1.1.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Chocolate pavlova: way too sweet.

Quinoa with pomegranate seeds, parsley, and balsamic vinegar: meh.

After making the annual quadruple batch of Italian Wedding Soup, the bestest ever wintertime soup. 

Whenever she has a lazy morning, she likes to make fancy French toast for her breakfast.

This girl has a thing for body art and color.


Homemade crostini in preparation for the Christmas Eve supper. 
(Verdict: fresh is best.)

He led Away In A Manger at our church's Christmas Eve service
and then again, at home, for our mealtime prayer.

After weeks of work, he surprised his papa with this waterwheel made from popsicle sticks and glue.

And then he surprised me with a most splendid Merry Christmas Ship.

Christmas breakfast.

It's been a battle.

Happy New Year!

This same time, years previous: 2017, Christmas, quite frankly, constant motion, cranberry crumble bars, loose ends.