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Archive for December, 2009

Toro’s First Christmas

We’re having a great time all together at my parent’s house in Idaho.  We felt really lucky that everyone’s travel plans came through on schedule, despite a bit storm throughout the Midwest, and we were able to celebrate Christmas on the 25th.  So far Christmas has involved a lot of really filling and delicious meals, game time with Grandma, cozy reading by the fireplace, and some fun outings.  We’ve been really bad about taking pictures of any of these.

What Nate did take a picture of was a commemoration of our first celebration of Christmas that included Toro.  It was really sweet of my mom to make him a special stocking with nuks and a rubber ducky.  It will be the only year he uses this particular stocking.  And he was surprised to get Christmas presents such as airplane hoodies and adidas socks, despite having no track record yet with Santa.

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Promise me when you make these pancakes, because you ARE going to make these pancakes, you will not skip out on making the vanilla custard sauce as well.  Take or leave the cinnamon sugar butter, but not the vanilla custard sauce.  Well, okay, maybe the cinnamon sugar butter is amazing but I wouldn’t know.  It seemed like a lot of fuss when I could just as easily spread butter on each hot pancake and then simply sprinkle cinnamon sugar over this.  But maybe I’m being simplistic.

I’m getting off of my main point and that is that these are delicious.  Just delicious!  Like “I’d make them on Christmas morning”, delicious.  If you love pancakes and you love bread pudding these couldn’t possibly be wrong.  I’m still confused as to how it even works but somehow the outside tastes like pancake and the inside stays perfect bread pudding consistency.

And then when you drizzle (or drench) it in vanilla custard sauce it becomes like a beautifully wrapped gift or the perfect breakfast dessert.

Bread Pudding Pancakes with Vanilla Custard Sauce and Cinnamon Sugar Butter
From Southport Grocery and Café
Serves 6

Bread Pudding Pancakes
14 slices of firm white bread, crusts removed and cut into 1 inch squares*
2 ½ cups milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 ¼  cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter

Place bread in a large bowl.  Add milk.  Let bread soak for about 10 minutes until softened.  While bread is soaking, mix together in a small bowl the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add flour mixture to the bread and gently fold until just about half incorporated.  Add eggs and vegetable oil.  Mix gently.

Melt butter in skillet.  Drop batter in 1/3 cup fulls.  Cook 3-4 minutes on each side.  Pancakes will have a moist bread pudding-like inside.

Serve pancakes topped with cinnamon sugar butter with a ramekin of vanilla custard sauce on the side.

* I hate nebulous bread measurements … were these sandwich-sized slices, were they sliced thick or thin?  Who knows.  I used a French baguette and cut 16 pieces sliced about an inch thick.  Then I peeled the crust off each, which was a little time-consuming but to cut around a small, round baguette seemed a good way to throw out half the bread with the crusts.

Cinnamon Sugar Butter
½ pound unsalted butter, cold
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Melt ¼ pound of butter in a small saucepan; add salt, cinnamon and sugar.  Cook until the sugar is dissolved.   Add remaining ¼ pound of cold butter. Whisk with hand mixer until creamy and fluffy.

Vanilla Custard Sauce
1 pint heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out
4 egg yolks, whisked
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Put heavy cream in a sauce pan.  Add the vanilla bean pod and seeds.  Bring to a simmer.  Add sugar to egg yolks and whisk until all there is no clumps.  Add ¼ cup of warm heavy cream mixture to egg yolk mixture and whisk immediately; this is called ‘tempering’.  Add the egg yolk mixture to the warm heavy cream.  Simmer while mixing with wooden spoon until thickened and coats the back of the spoon.

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Promised Photo

One day shy of 26 weeks:

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Pregnancy Post

I haven’t written much on this blog about our pregnancy. Well at least I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much but it’s possible I’m becoming one of those people who is oblivious to any conversation that doesn’t involve pregnancy. I hope not, but the bigger my stomach gets and the harder and more frequent Toro’s kicks get, the more it becomes the focus.

Truly, at times I feel that we haven’t been able to concentrate on this pregnancy enough. Nate and I have thrown ourselves into so many changes, unknowns, and lots of extra work that most days we don’t get to sit and spend a minute talking about baby names or dreaming about a year from now or watching him kick. The fact that I’ve had a relatively easy pregnancy has been a God-send with all the other balls we are juggling, yet sometimes I feel a little bad that we aren’t able to focus on this unique time as much as I’d like.

So far pregnancy has included many of the clichés: at just two weeks pregnant I started waking up 4-5 times a night to go to the bathroom (didn’t even know the cause!). At about 7 weeks I started to wake up with a funny feeling in my tummy and feel the need to eat a continual stream of bland carbohydrates until noon. Chicken and other meat became highly unpalatable except on rare occasions and if I pulled pork chops out of the freezer in the morning to make Rosemary Brined Pork Chops for dinner, that was a sure-fire guarantee that by nightfall I wouldn’t be able to even think about pork chops for a month. At the beginning all I could think about was spicy, Mexican food. I couldn’t get enough of it and Nate was in heaven with all of the tacos, gorditas, and chimichangas coming out of our kitchen.

One weekend I discovered that the Slurpee was the ultimate solution to an upset stomach. We quickly identified two 7-11s within 3 blocks of our house for frequent Slurpee runs. Fortunately for all of the people against Red Dye Number 40 or whatever it is, I didn’t discover this until shortly before my stomach settled down for the most part. At somewhere around 14 weeks I spent 5 days thinking about nothing but Lay’s barbeque potato chips … despite my life-long hatred of anything barbeque flavored. After five days I finally gave in and ate the whole big bag of chips in two days. Now the idea of barbeque chips as delicious seems like it came from someone else’s brain.

I’ve always had a sensitive nose, and being pregnant didn’t help that at all. Entering my work building felt like torture as I have to walk through the line of smokers right outside the door without vomiting from the smell. I couldn’t use the A/C in my car because it just smelled wrong to me. And my poor husband, who I have always given positive reinforcement for good breath and dental hygiene, was suddenly pushed away at the slightest hint of toothpaste smell. It turns out that mint does NOT cure every type of upset stomach. Fortunately my first trimester symptoms were light. I experienced some of what pregnant women go through without being on the horrifying end of the spectrum, and for that I am very glad!

Now I’m in the second trimester (nearing the beginning of the third) and that comes with a whole other set of symptoms. Figuring out what to wear to work has some days become a 15-minute process of putting a shirt or pair of pants on, throwing it off, and scrambling through 5 more wardrobe changes for something that works on this changing body. Leggings became my new best friend before the maternity pants started fitting. For the longest time the most frequent comment I got was, “You’re not showing at all. You’re really small.” That has now subsided. I believe it was right at the halfway mark, week 20, when Nate officially announced that my stomach was sticking out further than anything else, ahem, on my profile.

Standing and walking for long periods has been the biggest challenge of this trimester … and that’s just set to get worse. I’ve had the energy to just keep going, pushing, getting as much done as possible in a day but my body isn’t cooperating. A stiff pelvis and achy legs and back are always the result of a full day. My sister got to experience this firsthand when she came for Thanksgiving and by the end of the weekend I was hobbling around like an old woman. She also got to experience the decreased bladder of her sister who was once famous for “holding it” for 3 days on a trip to the jungle. There was one painful walk from the restaurant where a stop off at McDonalds for the bathroom was a necessity and made me find my pregnant friend completely normal when she told me she had peed in a cup a few days prior because it had gotten “that bad.”

My newest symptom as of the last two weeks is that I’ve become a “snorer.” Yes, apparently this happens to 25% of pregnant women as all of the tendons and ligaments in their body relax. It’s been bad enough that Nate has bought me breathe right strips and spent a number of nights in the other bedroom. Please someone tell me that this goes away when I give birth. Oh and please someone also tell me that the slight waddle in my walk that I am beginning to develop will also go away after I give birth. I mean, do I need to relearn to walk when this is over?

Other than my own symptomatology, there are the responses of people around you. I have been asked if I’m getting fat and told that I’m glowing. I’ve been chastised for wearing heels and for walking too fast or carrying a box. No one cares that I’ve looked this stuff up and I’m supposed to be wearing 1.5 -2 inch heels as opposed to flats or high heels … or that I’m allowed to lift up to 30 lbs. I’ve been told I’m carrying a boy by everyone and their mother for reasons such as craving salt instead of sweets or what my stomach looks like or the fact that I’m looking good and therefore I do not have a little girl inside sucking out all my beauty. Turns out they were all right as Baby Toro is decidedly male, but I’m still not giving credence to the reasoning.

Possibly one of the more surprising aspects of pregnancy has been my husband. Who knew that he would become an absolute fount of knowledge about what is going on with my body? I’m constantly saying, “Why is this happening …” or “Can I do this …” and he most often has the answer that he just read in his “Dad” book or heard on a Pea in the Podcast. Oh yes, this podcast exists and it is perfect for my husband who loves podcasts of any kind. And it’s perfect for me because he has saved me a lot of time doing my own research. That hasn’t come without side effects, such as a sense of overprotectiveness that we’ve had to negotiate. Everything from being banned from bleu cheese to insisting I hold his arm while walking to constant admonitions to get up slowly or sit down and relax. I appreciate his willingness to be as involved as he can.

I meant to take a monthly picture to catalogue my growing body but it turns out I haven’t taken one since 20 weeks and I’m not just shy of 26 weeks. I’ll try to add one soon to this post. Watching my body grow and change has been a constant challenge. Last night I dreamed I had gained 11 pounds in one night. I woke with this thought in my head several times throughout the night, telling myself it was just a dream and I couldn’t possibly have gained 11 pounds … only to fall back into sleep and jump back awake thinking , “I gained 11 pounds last night.” When I finally woke, I weighed myself to ease my mind and found out I’d lost a pound since yesterday. Clearly packing on pounds has been one of the harder adjustments!

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Now remember those delectable little pumpkin rolls?  You know, the recipe that yielded 36 whole rolls?  Well, I promised you that they could come in handy later on.

Like later on when you are getting ready for a Saturday morning brunch and you realize you have EVERY ingredient on hand to try out a new Upside-Down Orange French Toast recipe … except the french bread that is called for.  Well, I’ve never met an orange flavor that couldn’t handle a little bit of pumpkin so the solution was simple and the results just tasty.  As most overnight french toast recipes are, it was simple to put together, flavorful and filling going down.  And using up freezer fare and eliminating a trip to the grocery store makes me just downright giddy.

Upside-Down Orange French Toast
From Taste of Home, December/January 2010, p. 78
Servings: 6

1/2 c. butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. chopped pecans
2 T. grated orange peel
2 t. ground cinnamon
12 slices French bread (3/4 inch thick) OR 12, torn pumpkin rolls
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
8 eggs
1 c. orange juice
1 T. orange licqueur, optional
1/2 t. butter flavoring

Place butter in 9×13 baking dish.  Combine sugar, pecans, orange peel and cinnamon.  Sprinkle over butter.  Arrange bread in the dish.  Dot with cream cheese.  In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, oj, liqueur, and butter flavoring; pour over bread.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.  Bake, uncovered, at 325 for 25-30 min. or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  To serve, invert slices onto plates.

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Christmas Festivities

This weekend was filled with Christmas-related celebrations.

Friday night I spent a short hour dropping in on a Christmas get-together with my old co-workers from the ad agency.  Many of us hadn’t seen each other in 3-4 years.  From there I went straight to the Runyans for our Christmas dinner and gift exchange.  Just as with Thanksgiving, I love that a Christmas tradition has been created to celebrate with friends as well as family.   Em and Eric did a good job of creating a cozy atmosphere and the group did a good job of greatly increasing the noise level!

(Sorry Em, no good pics this time)

On Sunday afternoon Nate and I hosted our first-ever Christmas Cookie Open House.  In the past, we’ve made dozens of Christmas cookies (often with friends) and then spent time delivering platefuls to friends and family.  But the perfectionistic side of me always ends up frustrated when the cookies shift and crumble on the plates or the flavors of eggnog, chocolate, and sugar cookie start to meld.  The Open House was my solution for this, as people could come and enjoy intact, fresh cookies …. and we’d all get more of a chance to chat this way too.  It was a fun afternoon without a lot of extra prep and rushing around before hand.  And we set our own record for number of babies and kids we’ve ever had in this house at one time!

I took pictures of some of the cookie selections

(Dark Chocolate Truffles and Mocha Fudge)

(Lemon Angel Wings … but they are just like little “orejitas” from my childhood with a lemon twist)

(Gotta have some classic sugar cookies at Christmas)

(The Coffee Bon Bons packed the perfect amount of coffee punch)

(Chocolate Mint Cookies and Gingersnaps)

(Part of the living room crowd)

Monday night was our last Christmas event … of the week at least!  Because most of the “Taube kids” end up split up for Christmas, we generally end up holding an early celebration together.  This year Laura & Matt are headed to Argentina, Mark & Kora have Kora’s family coming in, and Nate & I are headed to Idaho.  As in past years, we draw names and do a gift exchange.  Matt had picked me and I was very impressed at his creative artwork and packaging.  He ordered me two sets of boots online so he had boot cut outs that he pasted to the back of a Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal box.  Very classy and I loved it!  We celebrated at Mark & Kora’s with Pad Thai and Christmas Cookies.

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Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

I almost forgot to photograph these yeasty crescents of goodness.  Almost.  Fortunately, not all 36 rolls were eaten on Thanksgiving and thus I was able to photograph a few ones I had frozen.  Just picture them even better fresh.  Because they are.

The pumpkin flavor is very light.  You might even get them past a pumpkin-hater.  But the textural difference that the pumpkin adds makes these a perfect Thanksgiving pleaser.  Dotted simply with a bit of honey butter they are a side.  And just wait until you see what the leftovers can become! (Because who eats 36 rolls at once?)

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls
From tasteofhome.com
Yield: 36 rolls

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 cups warm water (110° to 115°)
1-1/4 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4-1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the pumpkin, butter, sugar, eggs, salt and whole wheat flour; beat until smooth. Stir in enough all-purpose flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into three portions. Roll each portion into a 12-in. circle; cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up wedges from the wide end and place pointed side down 2 in. apart on greased baking sheets. Curve ends to form crescents.

Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 400° for 12-15 minutes. Remove to wire racks.

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