apple puffy pancake


Sadie and I have been talking about how we get in our own way.

It came about after another night of tucking into bed and wiping away tears after she had blown her time to read the current out loud with Daddy book (Breadcrumbs) by spacing out in her room while she put on one leg at a time of her pajamas really really slowly, and then made faces at herself in the mirror for a good 10 or 15 minutes before she finally got around to squeezing toothpaste on her toothbrush. There was a bit of needless shouting at her sister mixed in too, and by the time of tuck in, no one had gotten what they wanted. And so I sat there, pulling her covers up, and giving her dream magic, and I said some version of the sentence that I say so often.

Honey? You’re going to have to do the things that make you feel good and happy. You have to choose them. And you you know what you need to do to get there (in this case, quick getting ready for bed=lots of time for reading with Daddy), but the motivation to do the work has to come from you. We all have the power to choose.

“But Mom,” Sadie told me then. “I’m trying. I want the good thing, but I get mad and frustrated, and I don’t even know what I’m doing. Or I get distracted, and I forget that I want it. I wish I was better.”

Here’s the moment. This is the moment that I’ve been sitting with for days as I sit down to write the first words of this beautiful new new year.

We know what we want and we know how to get there, but so often, we don’t do it. We don’t follow the path to our goal. And in these first days of the year, the path solidifies again, and we can see it. With a new beginning, there seems to be a chance to say, “this time, I will choose it. I will follow the path to my goals with ease and inspiration. And this year I will (fill in the blank)…lose 10 pounds, meditate every day, spend less time on the computer,  be more social, be less social, plant that garden, write everyday, eat more vegetables, spend more time with my children, finish that novel, breath more, drink less, quit my job, get a job, read more… (feel free to continue the list with the resolutions that are flying through the air these days).

I’m not sure I know anyone who’s really solved this one. Or if they say they have, get a few drinks in them, and they’ll reveal the ways that they still stand in their own way. And I think that’s good! Otherwise, there would be nowhere to go, and no room for growth.

Rosie crawled into bed with me this morning, and she asked if I was still growing. God, I hope so. My pants might not be getting too short like hers, but hopefully still growing, too.

We had so many friends here for New Year’s eve and New Year’s day, and coming from the sullen cocoon of the week before, I felt so thankful to have my house filled with friends. We have a party every year where the kids take over, and the volume reaches a level where it’s hard to reflect on much of anything. But later in the night around the table (refilling mugs from the samovar filled with the grudge) and in the morning over eggs and walks to the river, a few ideas started coming into focus like little constellations in my thoughts. I realized that these ideas are my resolutions, and that really more than anything, I want to keep them with me, even as I stand in my own way and move forward in tiny steps, little by little.

The first is this: that we are all figuring these things out in our own time. That the process of making these tiny steps through it all is what makes us rich and wonderful. That even those who seem farther along still need support and love (not, dare I say, jealousy or judgement). And that the more we can contribute to the process of our friends (and even our children), the richer our own process becomes.

And the second? It’s a word that came up in many of my New Year’s eve conversations: grace. I’m no Christian, so it’s not that kind, and my ballet days are over, so that’s not it, either. It is, I think, a way of expanding around the highs and lows, so that it can all be part of me without yanking me around. Does that make sense? It’s a willingness to be spontaneous, to change the plan without grumbling, and to make the best of what comes, too.

That’s what I have right now.  A little bit of a new beginning, mixed in, I’d say, with an appreciation of the process. Am I standing in my own way? Absolutely. But I think I’ll sit down and have a drink with the me that’s doing it, and we’ll figure out how to do this year together.

Let’s start the year with breakfast. I’ve got a good one for you, an old recipe that I wrote about years ago, but I wanted to bring it up again. It’s one of my favorite special breakfasts, too- lovely to make and lovely to eat. And I’d be so happy to hear the ideas for the year that might be kicking around your head, too, if you’d be willing to share.

Happy New Year, friends. I’m looking forward to working on this one together.

Apple Puffy Pancake

adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

serves 6

For the batter:

6 eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus additional for greasing the pan

1/2 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

For the fruit topping:

2 tablespoons butter

4 cups sliced granny smith apples (3 to 4 apples)

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

For the syrup:

2 cups apple cider

3-inch cinnamon stick

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the eggs, milk, melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk together (or beat with a stand mixer) until frothy.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, and salt. Gently stir flour mixture into the egg mixture just to combine. The batter will be lumpy. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other oven proof frying pan). Add the apple slices, cinnamon, brown sugar and nutmeg. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the apple softens, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from heat.

Take the apples out of the skillet, but do not clean the pan. Use a paper towel to spread additional butter on the sides of the pan. (The pan will be hot, so be careful.) Pour the batter into the skillet- then pour the apple mixture over top of the batter. Bake for about 30 minutes without opening the stove. When the pancake is puffed, golden, and solid in the center, it’s ready.

While the pancake bakes, combine the cider and the cinnamon stick in a small saucepan. Bring to a low boil, and let the cider reduce to a syrup until it is thick and sweet, about 25 minutes.

Serve in big steaming wedges, topped with the apple syrup.






  1. says

    YES. So beautiful, Alana. I’m raising a couple of kids like Sadie, and this is such a good reminder of the lessons we all need.
    And, as always, incredible recipe. Wish I had more apples on hand. I’m not so good (yet?) with delaying gratification! 😉

  2. Alison Mills says

    Thank you! Just what I needed to hear, so lovely ( and you make me not so scared to have kids someday)

  3. Dianne says

    I feel like you read my mind or snuck into my house at bedtime!! Thank you so much for sharing in such an eloquent manner what is truly the challenge for all of us. Happy New Year and much luck with your plans/thoughts/process.


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