the best berry crisp and a birthday giveaway

At this very moment last year I was scrambling to upload pictures on image hosting sites, embed links into codes, and live chatting with GoDaddy Help Center nearly every night. I kept saying words like widget and favicon like I knew what I was talking about. The techy components of creating 44 & Oxford were killing me; my pout face was in high gear, and I quit no less than a dozen times. All I really wanted was a pretty place to write; I didn't realize I was signing my life away to HTML codes and Java Script gadgets. (For the record, I still don't know what I'm talking about.)

All glory to God, each glitch was worked through, I found my pretty place to write, and 44 & Oxford is celebrating its 1st birthday this month! I said in my manifesto that it is my goal to encourage, amuse, and challenge readers. I hope I have succeeded. I am grateful for the dear people who have read, commented, and contacted me. How I wish I could have you all over for dinner and drinks to celebrate. Or brunch. I love brunch.

But instead we'll celebrate world-wide-web style with a good recipe and a birthday giveaway. But you know I can't get to the recipe without a story. Every good recipe has a story.


For years people kept talking to me about this book, Bread & Wine. I had three different friends, from three different circles, contact me to say they kept thinking of me while reading this book. When it finally ended up in my hands, Christmas 2014, I understood why. I was reading my life, thoughts I had never put into words but connected with so deeply.

he author, Shauna Niequist, loves food and loves writing. Wait. I love food and writing. She believes the best moments of life happen around a table. Wait. I believe the best moments of life happen around a table. She feels God's presence when she opens her table, taking time to slow down and be with others. You can imagine how I feel about that.

This book affirmed passions I'd considered secondary. I'm not a chef, and I'm certainly not a Pinterest worthy party thrower; I haven't dedicated my life to the art of entertaining, and you will never see my tablescape on the front of a magazine. How ridiculous to be passionate about having friends over for dinner, yet I've always been keenly aware of how the junk of life filters out and the goodness of God fills my soul when good food, good wine, and good people gather at our table. I guess I didn't know other people felt the same.

Am I being overly dramatic when I say this book redirected my life, challenging me to grab onto my love for food and just run with it? To embrace my love of fancy dinners, casuals brunches, pizzas in the family room, too many cooks in the kitchen, crowded dining room tables, second bottles of wine, and guests that stay too long? 

Days after I finished Bread & Wine, I declared my intent to cook through all 29 recipes in 2015. I got started right away and made this berry crisp, the first recipe in the book, for our New Year's Day breakfast. Since then, I have made it for reunions, a slumber party, a retirement brunch, casual Tuesday morning pancake dates, beach vacations, and just last weekend I brought it to a new mama.

I could eat this every day.

Berry crisp is often considered dessert, and I would never say no to warm berries with vanilla ice cream oozing down and around every nook and cranny. But if you replace that ice cream with a scoop of plain Greek yogurt, you can feel virtuous about eating this for breakfast, every day.

Don't let the almond flour intimidate you; it adds such great flour that all-purpose flour lacks. The olive oil instead of butter is genius, and the maple syrup gives the perfect subtle sweetness.  Fresh or frozen berries work equally well, so swap in any berries (or apples) and eat this twelve months a year.

The Best Berry Crisp from Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

  • 4 cups berries of your choice

 Crisp Topping:

  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats

  • 1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecans, halved of chopped

  • 1/2 cup almond meal

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat over to 350° F.

Mix the ingredients for the crisp topping.

Pour the berries in an 8x8 pan (or something similar in volume), and layer the crisp topping over it.

Bake 35-40 minutes, maybe a bit longer if you're using frozen berries.

Serves 4-6 (Less if I'm eating it.)

And now...

What a lovely coincidence that Shauna's new book, Present Over Perfect was released just yesterday, perfect timing for 44 & Oxford's first giveaway! She probably timed it that way.


Starting next Monday, August 15-Thursday, August 18, you can enter to win the following prize package:

  • Hardback copy of Present Over Perfect

  • Present Over Perfect Devotional Journal Download

  • eBook copies of Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, Bread & Wine, Savor

More details about how to enter will be rolled out Monday!


eat this for breakfast, soon

Stephen has one of those jobs where about three times a year he just has to go to some "work conference" in some boring location like Portland, Baltimore, or Scotland.  His direct flight is paid for, and he usually has to stay in a swanky hotel with giant bathrooms or beaches on the roof.  Lame.  And if that weren't enough, he eats at all these local hot spots all in the name of "networking." What a drag.

Teachers go to conferences, too.  The past two summers I attended the All Write Conference at Warsaw High School in Warsaw, Indiana.  My favorite session was the one in the band room.  I also went to the Indiana First Grade Teachers' Conference a few times.  That one is usually at the Holiday Inn Express.  Nice continental breakfast.  The best part is that we get a whole hour for lunch, AND we get to leave "campus" to enjoy a local hot spot like Cracker Barrel or Applebee's.  A whole hour!!!  No students to drop off, no parents to call, papers to copy, and no line at the teacher's bathroom.  Oh, and the school does pays gas mileage, but only for one car, so we all have to cram in.

I like my conferences, but they are a little different than Stephen's.

Every once in awhile, the stars align in my favor and life just works out that I get to tag along.  (I wonder why Stephen has never tagged along to any of my conferences.)  Two years ago, we called on the grandparents for babysitting duty and spent Memorial Day weekend in San Fransisco.  Stephen spent the better part of the day at his conference while I'll explored the city, and then we met up in the evening for amazing food.  Not too shabby.

Our last morning there, we walked through Little Italy and had breakfast outside at Caffe DeLucchi.  Stephen ordered a polenta, gorgonzola, and egg breakfast that was so simple but so delicious we've been talking about it for two years.  It was so easy to recreate, I wonder why it took us so long!

San Fran.jpg

He's so cool.

Let me first talk about polenta. 

Polenta is ground cornmeal, and can be served creamy, like a porridge, or can solidify and be baked or fried.  It is a staple in Italian cooking, and as general rule of thumb in our house - if the Italians eat it, we're gonna eat it, too.  Similar to most grains, the cornmeal cooks low and slow until the texture is creamy and the grains are tender.  

Good news - this is a simple recipe.  Make polenta, an egg, and bacon.  Pile it in a bowl with blue cheese and honey.  Done.  (And that is why I'll never write a cook book.)

If that is too vague, here are a few more details.  

Serves 4

  • 4 cups water

  • teaspoon of salt

  • 1 cup polenta

  • 4 eggs

  • 8 strips of really good bacon

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola is perfect)

  • a drizzle or two of honey

Fill a medium size pot with the 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.

While you wait for it to boil, start cooking your bacon in a frying pan.  Set bacon aside to drain on a paper towel-covered plate, but don't get rid of all the bacon grease yet!

Once the water boils, add salt.  Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and there are no lumps, 1-2 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and continue cooking the polenta about 20-30 minutes.  Stir often.  If the polenta becomes too thick to stir, add a small amount of water. 

While the polenta is cooking, empty most of the bacon grease from your pan but leave just enough to cook your eggs.  I like a runny, sunny-side up egg, so I usually cook it for 3-4 minutes and throw a lid on the pan for the last minute.  Poached eggs would be lovely as well (and in looking back at Caffe DeLucchi's menu, that's how they prepare their eggs).

Just about this time, the polenta should be creamy.  Take it off the heat and stir in butter until melted.   Season with salt and pepper, and be ready to serve the immediately.

Assemble your plate with a good size scoop of polenta, your egg and crumbled blue cheese.  Top it off with a good drizzle of honey, salt, pepper, and bacon.

Yum!  You will not be disappointed.

Have a great weekend! 


speaking of pancakes....

In my last blog post, I mentioned pancakes.

his made me want to eat pancakes.

So I made these.

You should make them, too.

I was originally just going for pumpkin pancakes.  Major props to three-year-old Charlotte for suggesting we add chocolate chips. Granted, she suggests adding chocolate chips to just about everything - granola, cupcakes, soup, pizza, tacos,  but this time she was right on.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes with Vanilla Maple Syrup

  • 1 1/4 cup flour

  • 2 TB. brown sugar

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

  • good pinch of salt

  • 1 cup milk

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree

  • 1 egg

  • 2 TB melted butter, plus extra for the skillet

  • A good handful of chocolate chips

Vanilla Maple Syrup

  • About 1/2 cup maple syrup

  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, spice, and salt.

Mix together the milk, pumpkin puree, egg and melted butter in another bowl or liquid measuring cup.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combined. Use a rubber spatula to fold in chocolate chips.  Do not over mix.  A lumpy pancake batter is a yummy pancake batter.

Preheat the oven to 200° F.  Have an oven safe plate or serving dish ready.

Heat skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Melt some small pads of butter right on the skillet. 

Once the skillet it hot and the butter is melted, add a 1/3 cup scoop of batter to the pan.

Cook until bubbles begin to form on the top surface.  Carefully flip with a spatula, and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.

Transfer the cooked pancake to the oven safe dish, and place in the oven to keep warm. 

To make the vanilla maple syrup, just add vanilla to warm syrup.

So simple.  So yummy.