September Food Haiku Winner + Steel Cut Oats with Fig Sauce

Steel Cut Oats with Orange-Stewed Figs

My recommendation for fig season is a simple one: don't hesitate. As in, if you see a basket of figs while you stroll through your weekend market, buy them. If you say to yourself, I'll get some next week, they might be gone. I speak from personal experience, it's worth noting. 

Steel Cut Oats with Orange-Stewed Figs

So, now that you have your basket of figs, you can make this comforting fall breakfast. It's a warm bowl of steel cut oats with syrupy figs, made sweet from fresh orange juice and a touch of maple syrup. But first, congratulations to Vivian Tu, this month's food haiku contest winner! 

steel cut oats with orange-stewed figs

for the oats
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
1 cup whole milk or almond milk

for the figs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 basket figs (about 3/4 pound), tops cut off and sliced lengthwise
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

To make the oatmeal, add the oats, water, and milk to a 4-quart sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. I like to add a splash of milk at the end, to make it a bit more soupy.

To make the figs, melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sliced figs, orange juice, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. When the liquid is bubbling, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the figs are tender and most of the orange juice has evaporated, leaving behind a sweet and thickened sauce. 

Pour spoonfuls of fig sauce over the bowls of oats before serving. 

Steel Cut Oats with Orange-Stewed Figs
Steel Cut Oats with Orange-Stewed Figs

"Highlights and Interstices" by Jack Gilbert + Whole Grain Vanilla Pancakes

Whole Grain Vanilla Pancakes

Henry and I were in his room, where a few bookshelves still live, looking at the spines. The Great Fires by Jack Gilbert was in my sightline, so I pulled it down and flipped through a few pages. I landed on the poem below.

I've been thinking about the ordinary moments that make up our days. Like the times I spend sitting on the couch with Henry tucked into my lap.

He reaches for pages in a book or pushes buttons on his toy dump truck while I rest my chin on his head, smell his hair.

He smiles at himself when we walk by the mirror in the dining room. I'll look straight into the eyes he most certainly inherited from my husband, still surprised he was once inside my body.

He is currently entranced by the silver mixing bowl attached to my KitchenAid.

He nibbles on broccoli and cucumber, delighted by the texture in his mouth, and is trying his very hardest to crawl.

These are the kinds of moments today's poem wants you to hold on to.

Oats in the Blender
Pancake Batter

Highlights and Interstices

By Jack Gilbert

We think of lifetimes as mostly the exceptional
and sorrows. Marriage we remember as the children,
vacations, and emergencies. The uncommon parts.
But the best is often when nothing is happening.
The way a mother picks up the child almost without
noticing and carries her across Waller Street
while talking with the other woman. What if she
could keep all of that? Our lives happen between
the memorable. I have lost two thousand habitual
breakfasts with Michiko. What I miss most about
her is that commonplace I can no longer remember.

from The Great Fires (Knopf, 1996)

So many of the poems in this collection are about his late wife. There are tender moments of beauty and love, and also a twinge of fear that all the "commonplace" memories he once held are slipping away.

If "our lives happen between the memorable," I suppose it would benefit us to refocus our efforts. The most obvious memorable moments will surely come as the months and years go by, but it's in our daily routines when our lives are truly lived, moment to moment. 

Whole Grain Vanilla Pancakes

Saturday is a memory-making kind of day, when we have a ritual of making pancakes. It's done so often now that whisking flour and eggs and buttermilk has become second nature. Just last weekend I told Henry I'd teach him the basic recipe one day so he can have it when he goes away to college.

It might be a little early to start passing along kitchen skills, but what I was trying to say just then is we will be making pancakes for a long time. We will eat them often enough to make uncommon memories.


A bit of vanilla extract perfumes the pancakes just enough without being overpowering. I often mix several flours together for pancakes. It adds variety, and is a great way to utilize all the bags I amass in the pantry. 

Makes about 9 pancakes

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for serving
Coconut oil, for cooking

Whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the buttermilk, maple syrup, vanilla, and egg. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; gently stir until combined and only a few traces of flour remain. Drizzle in the melted butter and mix until incorporated. If the batter seems thick, add up to 2 tablespoons more buttermilk. 

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat for several minutes. Melt a small knob of coconut oil in the pan. When the oil is glistening, add a scant ¼ cup of batter; press the pancake lightly with the bottom of the measuring cup to help it spread slightly. Cook until the surface begins to bubble and the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Serve with butter and maple syrup.

Welcoming 2015 + Sweet Potato Muffins

Sweet Potato Muffins | Eat This Poem

I'm a week late to the intentions/goals/resolutions discussion that ensues this time of year, but my word for 2015 is open

I arrived at this word after several weeks of mostly casual pondering, then when I started reflecting on everything that occurred in 2014, halfway through December I decided. Open was the word. 2014 was a big year in ways that might seem small from the outside, but now I'm ready to go deeper and bring the concept of openness into my daily life. Open to opportunities, possibilities, joy, peace, people, conversations, grace, etc. It's not always easy for me, so I take this as the very best kind of challenge.

To welcome the year, I made muffins. I also made eggs, toast, and bacon, but it's really the muffins that most captured my attention. When I first received Good to the Grain for Christmas several years ago, I devoured it in one sitting. I had been itching to expand into whole grain baking, and Kim Boyce's cookbook was a wealth of knowledge about how to make tasty treats more wholesome.

Before the first pass at this recipe, I noticed a small note that mentioned it could easily be turned into a coffee cake. I love this batter as a coffee cake. Love it. But this year I was feeling the muffins. It might have had something to do with the fact that I FINALLY remembered to buy baking cups at the market, and I needed a reason to use them. Or perhaps I needed to be open to the idea of trying the recipe in its original state. I can't be certain. 

What I am certain of, however, is that if it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. Without question these nine words defined 2014 for me. I know I'm better for it. I prefer the person I am today than the person I was a year ago, and the growing pains were worth coming out the other side with more clarity and conviction. 

One of those convictions was the importance of writing and poetry in my life. As absence tends to make the heart grow fonder, the times when I most wanted to write and read last year but didn't have the time or energy only served to remind me how valuable these gifts are. I continue to be overwhelmingly grateful for all of you who share part of your day with me whenever you stop by. 

I hope Eat This Poem and my letters continue to provide inspiration as the new year unfolds.



Slightly adapted from Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain

Embrace the bowls here. There are several components involved in bringing this batter together, and you'll be in wonderful shape if you're thoughtful enough to whisk the dry ingredients together the night before and bake the potatoes well in advance. 

I've made a few changes over the years, like using spelt flour and turbinado sugar, and can't resist a nutty, crunchy topping, either.

2 small sweet potatoes (about 3/4 pound)

Dry Mix
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Wet Mix
2 ounces fat (I used half butter and half coconut oil)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup raw turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
1/2 cup greek yogurt
6 large Medjool dates, pitted and finely chopped

1/3 cup turbinado sugar
1/3 cup mixed nuts, chopped (pecans, walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and prick the sweet potatoes all over with a fork. Roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until tender when pierced with a fork. When they've cooled, peel and leave them whole.

Lower the oven to 350 degrees and put 12 paper liners in a muffin tin. 

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and yogurt.

Add the butter and sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer. Attach the paddle and mix on high speed until the butter and sugars are light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then add the egg and half of the sweet potatoes. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute more, until thoroughly combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

On low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until partly combined. Add the buttermilk and yogurt and mix until combined. Next, toss in the chopped dates and the remaining sweet potato; mix until barely combined and pockets of sweet potato can be seen in the batter.

Scoop into muffin cups, then make the topping. combine the sugar and mixed nuts, then sprinkle evenly over the muffins. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Serve warm with jam or butter, if desired.