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Archive for January, 2010

1.30.2010

Dear Quino,

(That’s your daddy’s newest nickname for you and I think it’s one that might actually follow you out of my uterus.  So far all his nicknames for you are in Spanish, as I’m pretty sure he hasn’t quite yet reasoned out that you won’t actually be 50% latin.  It’s becoming quite clear that he was paying even LESS attention than I was in Ms. Mueller’s 8th grade biology class because I have at least pieced together that one part English/Check + one part German/Welsh/Scottish does not equal Latin genes.  I guess we’ll let him wait til you arrive to figure it out.)

With your impending arrival around the corner, things have started to change a little around our house.  First, it’s messier and dirtier but that’s just because your momma is getting more and more lazy and wiped out the bigger you grow.  Hopefully that is not a permanent change.  Conversations are changing and words like “stroller frame” and “hotslings” and brands like “Chicco” have made an entrance into their vocabulary.  There is the addition of a little bassinet in their second bedroom that looks strangely out of place so far.  There is also this new collection of books starting to stack up, the likes of which this home has never had any prior use for:

(Of course your mom and dad haven’t quite got around to reading any of them just yet.  They’re not that prepared.  But they figure the books are there, ready for the first emergency.)

Though your mom and dad haven’t spent a ton of time figuring out what to do with you once you enter this world, they are spending a fair amount of time getting ready to help you enter as smoothly and easily as possible.  They just got back from an orientation meeting for parents who plan to use the Alternative Birthing Center.  They just might have been standing in the very room you will first breathe air in.  They looked at the bed and the tub and the birthing balls … and the room where we’ll spend our first few hours together as a family.

On Sundays they spend time at birthing class with a really great instructor/doula who impresses them with having way more information about birth than they ever thought possible.  So far they’ve learned a lot of things that they want to avoid: back labor, pro domo labor, labor that lasts from Thursday until Monday (there was someone experiencing this just last week), episiotomy, and more.  But they’ve also learned some really great techniques for helping you change position and ways that your dad plans to help your mom get through this.  (A lot of the ways your dad can help involve lots of arm strength so those nightly push-ups he started on in December are going to come in handy!)  Mostly they are hoping that your birth is a fun experience, but are starting to be ready for you to come either way!

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Eggs!  Eggs have become one of my new best friends since I started eating for two.  While frozen chicken breasts and pork chops languish undisturbed in my freezer for months, I’m getting my protein fill from breakfast foods.  And seeing as how I’ve been in love with Mexican food my whole life and now even more than EVER, Mexican eggs sounded like a scrumptious dinner treat.

They were.  They are.  We ate it.  It’s gone.  It was delicious.

And.  I poached my very first egg for this recipe, having just witnessed the triumph of this same scene from the movie Julie and Julia.  I’ve poached and conquered.  I’ll likely poach again.

Masa Corn Cakes with Poached Eggs
Originally from Food Network Magazine
Cook Time: 30 minutes, Yield: 4 Servings

For the Salsa:
2 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), finely diced
1/4 small white or red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt

For the Corn Cakes and Eggs:
2 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, sliced
2 cups masa harina corn flour
Kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup crumbled queso fresco or feta cheese, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 large eggs
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 Hass avocado, chopped, for garnish

Make the salsa: Combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno, cilantro and 1 teaspoon salt in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Make the corn cakes: Warm the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat just until the butter melts. Combine the masa harina, 1 teaspoon salt, the sugar and queso fresco in a large bowl. Stir in the milk mixture to make a soft dough. Scoop the dough into 8 portions (about 1/4 cup each) and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover with another sheet of parchment; press a pan on top to flatten into disks.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the corn cakes until crisp and golden on the bottom, about 3 1/2 minutes; flip, press lightly with a spatula and cook until golden on the other side. Continue with the remaining cakes, adding more oil as needed. Season the cakes with salt; place on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you poach the eggs.

Bring a deep pan of water to a simmer over medium-low heat; add the vinegar. Poach the eggs.

Divide the corn cakes among 4 plates; top each cake with a poached egg, salsa and cheese; serve with avocado.

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A Simple Spread

As much as I love rolling up my sleeves and digging my hands into a sticky yeast dough or bringing out the rolling pin to turn butter and flour into a delicate pastry, I don’t always have time for these things.  These days it’s not only time but energy that is keeping me from some of my favorites.  Luckily, I’ve always been an “eater” who can find pleasure in many different styles of cuisine.

So here’s where I found myself Sunday night: on the couch with my husband, my feet up, and a salivatory spread in front of us.  Sigh.  It’s been a too long since this scene has entered our house.  The best part was that we were able to create this scene within minutes of walking in the door from birthing class with just a few basics.  The most “cooking” involved in this dinner/snack/dessert involved turning on the oven and shoving a pan of sliced baguettes into it just long enough to let them become crispy and warm.

This is all you need: a rustic baguette, a good quality, soft cheese (we used a pasteurized brie), and some nutella.  Oh and okay, some salami for those non-pregnant, meat-eating people out there.  Then you just cut and assemble any of the ingredients that sound good together.  My favorite was the original intention: a toasted baguette slathered with nutella and topped with a bite of creamy brie.  Mmmh.

See?  Sometimes the good things in life really can take no effort at all.

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Margarita Chicken Skewers

Just in case you were needing an excuse to throw together those homemade Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits, there are these chicken skewers.  They are what I used to justify the need for biscuits as part of my meal.

This chicken has good flavor, but it didn’t wow the socks off anyone.  They’re tangy and limey, and frankly mostly fun to look like at all scattered on the platter.  But ultimately, I saw, “Pass the biscuits, please.”

Margarita Chicken Skewers
Originally from foodnetwork.com, (Sandra Lee)
Cook Time: 4 minutes

1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 12 strips
1 10-ounce can frozen margarita mix, thawed
2/3 cup tequila
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chicken seasoning
Vegetable oil, for the grill
Baby arugula and lime halves, for serving

Place the chicken, margarita mix, tequila, cilantro and chicken seasoning in a large resealable plastic bag; squeeze out the air and seal. Massage the bag to combine the ingredients. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, soak 12 wooden skewers in water.

Preheat a grill to medium. Remove the chicken from the marinade; thread each piece onto a skewer. Oil the grill grate; grill the chicken skewers for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until the meat is cooked through. Serve on a platter with arugula and lime.

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29 Weeks

Here’s looking at 29 weeks, one day (last Thursday).  And for those who haven’t yet learned pregnancy-week speak, which was always very confusing to me and involved too much math before I gave up, this means 7 months, 1 week down and just 11 weeks to go.  Well, truly who knows because Toro could decide to appear 7 days early or 10 days late or anywhere in between.  But it sure would be fun to land his due date and be an April Fool’s Day Baby.  Somehow I think it will end up fitting his personality just fine.

Besides meaning that I have officially entered my third trimester, this means that doctor’s visits are now coming up every two weeks.  Gotta make sure this little guy stays healthy the quicker he grows and the more he pulls at my body.  I had my last visit on Thursday of this week and talked to the doctor about concerns from everything to not making it to the hospital in time once I go into labor (given my mom’s birthing history) to that “normal,” first-time 18 hour labor.  I feel very unprepared for either end of the spectrum at this point.

Third trimester means that Nate and I have added birthing classes to the weekly schedule.  We’re doing an 8 or 9 week course with about 7 other couples that focuses on providing us information on all different types of laboring techniques.  Our due date is right in the middle range of all the couples there.  I found the first week semi-fascinating as we learned about the history of birth in the U.S. and all the crazy, scary things that people used to do as a part of routine birth treatment.  Makes me wonder if we are completely off in left field still, but mostly I’m glad that I at least missed the phase in birthing history where “Twilight Sleep” was considered the norm.

Listening to the other couples left me semi-overwhelmed with all we have to do, research, and think about.  I think these couples must do nothing but work and baby research.  But they did get Nate & I thinking about diapering options (seriously, who has time for a “Cloth Diapering Options” class??) enough to decide what route we want to take with that.  And last week we invested in our first piece of baby furniture: a $35 Eddie Bauer rocking bassinet from craigslist.

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New Year’s Food Tour

Currently, I’m behind on … everything.  Yes, that’s right.  Everything.  So I  know I’m never going to put together perfectly descriptive, individual food posts with accompanying recipes for all the delightful things I ate on New Years Eve.  But since I like to document what I eat regardless, I decided a quick food tour of some of the delights of the night will have to suffice.

Grilled Fruit Skewers marinated in brown sugar and riesling … a request made by Dad who was willing to fire up the grill in the middle of a snowy, blustery night to make them happen.

Raspberry and Brie Puff Pastry Bites.  Um, I can’t find a bad word in that sentence, can you?

Nope.  The only bad thing about them might be how far too easy they are to pop into your mouth in one bite … and then pop five more in really quickly right after.

Mediterranean Tomato Bites.  My dad’s description of these as “pizza thingies” should be considered semi-offensive considering how far off of prefabbed pizza sauce and pepperoni they are.

But the combination of tomato, olive, feta and fresh oregano does lend itself to a rather … pizza-like … flavor.  But delicious.  Pizza is delicious, these are delicious.  But they are two very different things.

Oh and hmmm apparently that’s all I took photos of before I abandoned the camera in favor of my own close-up with the finger food.  I seem to recall hamburger sliders with homemade dilly rolls, caramelized onions and mushrooms, and a garlic aioli.  And a few hours later after the pain of round one left me a few minutes with a churro and a very thick mug of chocolate too.  Happy New Year!

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Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits

This is not the first time I’ve worked with a copy-cat recipe for Red Lobster’s famous biscuits.  Having had only two Red Lobster experiences, with about 11 years in between, I never had much of an impression one way or another about their biscuits.  But I’m up for trying almost anything that the general public raves about (um, except meat slathered in gravy, green bean casserole or most potluck foods.  Okay).

My first attempt at a copy-cat recipe came from allrecipes.com and left us both less than impressed.  So unimpressed that I didn’t try again for about three years. This new recipe from Food Network was far more successful than the first.  In the end, both Nate and I agreed that these biscuits are, in fact, a bit better than the originals.  They are far less greasy feeling and tasting.  They had a few complaints about being “not as garlicky as the original” but we found them to have just enough garlic flavor.

Probably my favorite part about these biscuits was that you can drop, splat them onto the pan in any fashion and throw your rolling pin out the window while you’re at it (which I just might do since my sister just bought me a super, duper beautiful rolling pin to replace my old, leaky one.)

Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits
Originally from foodnetwork.com
Serving size: 12-14 biscuits

For the biscuits:

Cooking spray
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 ounces grated yellow cheddar cheese (about 1 1/4 cups)
3/4 cup whole milk

For the garlic butter:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Lightly mist a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Make the biscuits: Pulse the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a food processor. Add the shortening and pulse until combined. Add the butter; pulse 4 or 5 times, or until the butter is in pea-size pieces. Add the cheese and pulse 2 or 3 times. Pour in the milk and pulse just until the mixture is moistened and forms a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a clean surface and gently knead until the dough comes together.  (Mine came together through just stirring so I felt no need to knead.) Do not overwork the dough or the biscuits will be tough.

Drop the dough onto the baking sheet in scant 1/4-cup portions, 2 inches apart, and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the garlic butter: Melt the butter with the garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat; cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley. Brush the biscuits with the garlic butter and serve warm.

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