"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.

"Make the Ordinary Come Alive" by William Martin + Apple Crumb Cake

Apple Coffee Cake | Eat This Poem

After many years of food blogging (seven if we're counting), I've noticed a trend. Whenever someone takes an extended absence, it often means one thing. I certainly haven't let the blog slip away entirely, but my entries have been more spread out since the year began. Perhaps you've noticed. And since I'm not one to bury the lead three paragraphs in, here you go: I’m having a baby! A boy! In October!

Although I'm not ready to share the details of our journey to parenthood (and I’m not convinced that my food blog is the best platform for this discussion), it's comforting to know that while the experience is different for everyone, the more people I speak with, the more I realize we're never alone and there are many roads to travel. Because for all the unplanned pregnancies and lucky first tries out there, there are far, far more of us who had to overcome something, large or small, to become a mother. I hope we keep talking about it.

Apple Cake Topping

In the mean time, there is food. Naturally, I’ve had some thoughts on the topic since becoming pregnant. It’s been interesting. And humbling. And empowering. And if I’m being honest, frustrating on more than one occasion.

For example, it was absolutely horrendous to be disgusted by my own kitchen for weeks. Weeks. Some days I could barely open the refrigerator to clamor for the water filter before smells escaped. My husband smelled none of them, of course.

I'll spare the details, but suffice to say I spent approximately six to eight weeks unable to cook as usual. Despite the temporary discomforts, I did learn something very important about cooking, namely how absolutely essential it is to me.

During two of the worst weeks we supplemented with boxed or semi-prepared ingredients, items that I haven't relied on since I was in college, and really only consider emergency food. But when I had no energy or drive to cook at the end of a long work day, soup with grilled cheese was our only option after take out pizza and Indian food, which a person can only eat so much of.

It took less than a week of boxed soup, crackers, and jarred pasta sauce for me to start reeling. So much of it was inedible. Although I saw these staples as beacons to guide me through a temporary setback, I quickly turned against them. And in the midst of everything, a profound gratitude settled over me. I have tools. I have hungers. I have a reasonable amount of capability and creativity to make meals from scratch most days of the week. And I don't compromise on ingredients. This is sometimes a more expensive choice, but it's important to both me and my husband, and never has it been more clear than when I couldn’t embrace food in my usual capacity.

One night I felt up for making something simple, and threw together a pureed tomato soup with the following six ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes, carrots, garlic, crushed red pepper, basil, and vegetable stock. It was sublime, and infinitely more layered than the boxed tomato basil soup we disappointedly ingested a few days before. That's the power of real ingredients and real cooking.

I’m happy to report that well into the second trimester, I’m feeling so much better. Well enough to bake a simple cake and share a little poem appropriate for the occasion.

Apple Coffee Cake | Eat This Poem

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

by William Martin

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

From The Parent’s Tao Te Ching: Ancient Advice for Modern Parents

I love the sentiment in this poem because it doesn’t shy away from simple pleasures or difficult conversations. That’s life, isn’t it? We can’t protect our children from everything. We can barely protect ourselves.

I've always believed that we're better off living from a place of honesty. Embrace the juice of a peach, the sweetness of fresh tomato sauce in August, but don't turn away when our dog passes away, when grandparents die, or when a disappointment comes our way. These are the moments that make up our days, and like the poem reminds us, the extraordinary "comes alive" from the ordinary.

Everything we think doesn't matter truly does.

I know I'll have good days and bad days, but I'm looking forward to teaching my son about all of it.

Apple Coffee Cake | Eat This Poem


Adapted from Ellie Krieger

In reflecting on the recipes we remember, I often made these apple muffins from Ellie Krieger once I started eating healthier and incorporating whole grain flours into my baking. This time around, I was feeling like a coffee cake was in order. 

For the topping:
1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup oats
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake:
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup brown sugar or raw turbinado sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (I like Granny Smith)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish and set it on a sheet tray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the sugar and oil. Stir on low speed until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating after each addition. Next, add the applesauce and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the buttermilk, and stir until just combined. Gently stir in the apples.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and sprinkle with the topping. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. 

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.