Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Still No Baby...

Since becoming pregnant oh, so many moons ago...I can remember hearing lots about this "nesting instinct" that is supposed to kick in at the end. Recently, lots of people have been asking if I have started this at all (along with about a million other questions!)  Honestly, I think I am ALWAYS nesting.  I am one of those people who will vacuum every day and wipe the dog-nose prints off of the storm door repeatedly, knowing full well the marks will just be back in a matter of minutes.

After looking back at my photo log for the week though, I am thinking that maybe I have kicked it into high gear lately.  Maybe it's just summer vay-cay...but I've been cooking and cleaning up a storm around here!

First of all, THESE.
These, right here.  Probably the easiest butter cookies I have ever made and absolutely the most delicious!!! They are so light and fluffy and just adorable.  I found the recipe here and wound up following all of this nice lady's Pinterest boards. The only tweak I made was to roll the dough balls completely in powdered sugar.  It gave them a sweet and slightly crispy crust.

Dan asked what the "secret ingredient" was here.  I told him it had to have been the cake mix.  It kept these so pillowy soft.  The blog that I link to for the recipe shows that the possibilities with these are absolutely endless. I can't wait to make them a million different ways!!

Next, I tried something a little more savory:
These are caramelized onion bagels that I saw on Kelsey's Essentials on Food Network.  I never made bagels before!! They sound like a lot of work...but it really wasn't.  The dough could not have been more simple and the rest fell together no prob.  My tweaks here are that I used turkey bacon (not a pork eater!) and I skipped out on the recommended cream cheese chive drizzle (for the simple reason my 39 week pregnant body was ready for a break). 

The flavors here were perfection.  The smoky gouda with the sweet, slightly chewy onions was to die

Now that I know how EASY bagel dough is I can totally see myself getting real experimental!

Last was tonight's din~

I Panini (yes, Panini can be a verb) on the regular. Being preggo, you're really not supposed to eat lunch meats, unless they are heated to a temperature that causes them to be steaming.  So, Panini.  This one has just one little extra that makes it special.  Here's what's on the inside:

-cracked pepper turkey breast
-butter lettuce
-gouda (that I had left over from the bagels, of course.  Let no cheese go unused. Ever.)
-fried egg

This was pretty much how the assembly went. No biggie. But it was what I did to the outside that made these over the top.

I had out my trusty griddle and 2 slices of bread (buttered on one side each) at the ready.  Then, I took a handful of grated parmesan and piled it on the hot griddle surface.  I added the slice of bread (butter side down) and let the slice fry up underneath as I stacked on the rest of the ingredients on top.  I did the same thing with the topper piece of bread.  Flipping such a massive creation was tricky but, as they say, it's all in the wrist.
I was left with this crispy, crunchy, golden crust that just really made the sam stand out.  It was kind of like an inside out grilled cheese sandwich.  It was kind of amazing.  It left me wondering... Will I ever make a Panini without this outer cheese crust again? I have to imagine the answer is no.

And now, it is back to "nesting." I am 5 days away from my due date and moving all the more slowly with each passing hour.
C'mon baby!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Banana Nut Muffins

Being an adult is hard. It's not fun. It's full of not fun stuff that you HAVE to do whether you want to or not.

I am just getting used to this (at 27!).  The past year and a half, adulthood has hit me like a ton of bricks. Ever since Dan and I got married.  We immediately bought a house (that needed some work), got a puppy (who wound up being crazy), and I got pregnant (an absolute blessing, but also a terrifying, uncertain whirlwind).  I joked with my mom just this morning that the only time during this pregnancy that I am going to get to relax is when I check in to the hospital.
Life has been full of renovations, puppy training, insurance, cars, paperwork, phone calls (with voice services who REFUSE to let you talk to actual humans), and just a bunch of "stuff" that does not include relaxation in any way/shape/form.

This afternoon, it stopped. After being in tears (I half blame "pregnancy crazy" for that) with the BMV this morning, I said no more. I sat on the couch and turned on the Food Network and let the dog bark at nothing while I watched my 2 and a half hour block of Giada (forget reality or soaps...Food Network is my guilty pleasure).
Almost in tears again, (the happy kind) I texted my husband letting him know that I felt HUMAN again! Just that little bit of "me" time really did a number on me.  I feel rejuvenated. Refreshed. It is glorious!
I sat and pinned bagel recipes, researched the best way to pot herbs and even subscribed to Better Homes and Gardens.
The difference one afternoon makes.

Now, instead of throwing something together for a weeknight dinner...I'm back on point and excited and wanting to create something fabulous.  Cooking is not a chore for me. It's a fun hobby that I really enjoy.  But somewhere in this adulthood, that got lost.
Life is wild and fast.  We all knew this going in. But that absolutely does not mean that your sanity needs to go out the window.  Sometimes you just need an authentic deep breath on your couch to be reminded of that. A deep breath, and banana nut muffins.

Uhm...can everything in life come streusel-topped? I think I'm going to make that a requirement for my life...

I got this recipe from this blog (which I, of course, pinned).  This lady seems to be something of a muffin wizard. 
The only alterations I made was using almond milk rather than any other kind.  No particular reason besides the fact that almond milk is what I had on hand. Also, I only had 2 bananas on hand that were used in the making of these muffins.  The recipe calls for more to add to the streusel.  Today, my streusel is banana-less.
Also, she suggests this magic trick of cranking your oven to 475 for 5 measly minutes before reducing to 375.  I followed this step and couldn't believe the HEIGHT my muffins had after those 5 minutes! Definitely a step worth taking.
The recipe says bake for 25+ minutes. These guys were in for 20 and were PLENTY done. The streusel actually began to caramelize and drip and burn. So keep an eye on them!
 I happen to have 2 men here installing windows and even they couldn't help but comment on the amazing cinnamon-y banana smell.  They each made out with a muffin (plus a hefty check for windows).


Monday, June 9, 2014

Hospital Bag(s)

I am FINALLY nearing my due date!! Today marks 38 weeks.  This entire pregnancy, my one piece of intuition is that I will delivery early.  Now, I could easily chalk that up to wishful thinking, given how incredibly uncomfortable I have been the past few weeks...but since those early days way back in October, "June 23" just didn't sound like the day.

So, according to all of the books and pins that I have been reading up on (and recent doctor's orders) I need to have a bag packed.  I have researched this extensively (thanks, Pinterest) and still, with my suitcase zipped and ready, I do not feel like I could possibly have everything I need.

Regardless, here's what I have:
Bath robe, hair dryer, nursing bras (2), granny panties (pack of 6... I cringed when I bought these...but apparently you want some "throw aways"...I get it), my baby K'Tan, good contact solution, hair ties, "refreshing" body wipes, make up remover wipes, big ol' overnight pads, 2 pair of thick socks, slippers, travel sized body lotion and wash, and a pack containing shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, more lotion, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
I got ALL of these goodies (minus the K'Tan and Betsey Johnson bathrobe) at Target. I loved that they had such an awesome selection of travel sized stuff.  The pack containing the shampoo and conditioner is even my fave kind of Herbal Essences.
Things not pictured that I am waiting to pack:
Comfy clothes for me and snacks.  
My ambitious side would love to make some awesome trail mix and granola for the stay...but we will see. :-)

Now for the baby bag:
Much more adorable, if you ask me.
This one I am feeling even MORE clueless about. Sure, I scoured the internet to figure out just what I need to pack....but still, never having had to pack a bag for a brand new's a little daunting.

Grooming kit (another Target find! I actually have 2. One for her diaper bag and one for home's full of so many awesome, tiny goodies), 2 plain onesies (one NB sized and one 0-3...doc is predicting she is going to tip the scales at at LEAST 8 pounds), 2 caps, 2 pairs of socks (will she REALLY need socks in June??), little scratch mittens, 2 binkies, 2 burp cloths, 2 swaddler, her "Just Born" sticker (we will see if that photo op happens at the hospital or at home), and her Take Home outfit (ruffle butt diaper cover, Where the Wild Things Are onesie, shades and flower headband).

No where on the Lists of Things to Bring for Baby does it mention bringing diapers or things like that. Also, I am tempted to bring my breast pump and accessories (which they specifically state NOT to bring) because I feel sure that I am going to want some pointers on how to use it (even turn it on for starters!!).

I will post after D-Day and letcha know what I was totally wishing I had brought! 
Thinking Baby Thoughts...

Monday, June 2, 2014

Happy Birthday, Lainey!

On June 7, 2013, our first baby was born...but I didn't meet her until a few weeks later.

Our chocolate lab, Lainey, is turning 1 on Saturday! 

Here she is at 3 weeks, with her sister, Nestle.  We can't say for sure, but the fact that the one on the right is trying to escape and blurred...we guess that one is Lainey.
The hubs and I are huge dog lovers.  He has grown up with labs and I am the type to cry at the ASPCA commercials.  Once our relationship got serious, many moons ago, we knew Lainey would be a part of our future.
So, last summer, after getting settled in our first home...Dan and I, along with Dan's sister and her family, decided we were going to adopt sister labs.  We were thrilled when they were born.  We picked them up from a farm 7 weeks later and "oooh'd" and "ahh'd" the whole way home.  She was so small and sweet and sleepy.
Not. For. Long. 
Lainey gives Marley (yes, that Marley) a run for his money.  She started out with chronic bladder infections, which in turn, will cost us quite a bit more to get her spayed.  Then it was puppy city.  She has chewed up countless area rugs, scratched repeatedly at our (no longer) new couches and furniture, knocked over and broke plenty a' vases, and more.
Once we covered our pool last fall, she didn't get the memo.  She gave us heart attack upon heart attack when she would continuously leap over the many barricades we would create and run around on the pool cover. Thank goodness we caught her in time before she disappeared into one of the (many) holes she put in that thing.
Eventually, she found her voice... and hasn't been able to keep quiet since.  Waking me up at 5:30 on the dot every Saturday and Sunday.  Barking at every leaf or bird that flutters by our window.  She prefers toilet water over any other
I have threatened to take her "back to the farm" a thousand and one times.  She is the definition of a terror.  But yet, here I am feeling sentimental about her upcoming birthday. Sigh.
Despite her craziness, irrational behavior and sometimes downright stubbornness...we still love her. She really has come a long way and is finally starting to be a loving dog.  We knew going in...labs are tough.  They're puppies way longer than other breeds and they tend to be three times as mischievous.
Lainey, we are loving watching you grow and learn.  Even though sometimes it might not seem like it, we love you and you will always be our first baby.

And now, for a pasta salad recipe.
I made this for my mother-in-law's birthday party this past weekend and it was delish!  I love pasta salads because they are so versatile.  You can use whatever you have on hand.  Also, they have a tendency to get even better the longer they sit.  Here's this one:
1 pound tortellini (I try to always use fresh!)
cherry tomatoes
1 can black olives
1 wedge of Romano cheese
1 cup ricotta
2 T basil
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
extra virgin olive oil*
balsamic vinegar*
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot of salted boiling water, add the tortellini.  Like I said, I always use fresh. It REALLY makes a difference!  Buitoni is a common and easy to find brand.  Since it's fresh, it only takes a few minutes to cook.
Chop up cherry tomatoes, black olives, and Romano cheese into similarly, bite sized pieces.  The amount of each really depends on what you like (see? versatility!)  Chop up basil and add.  Add ricotta.  In a small, dry pan toast pine nuts.  Add to salad when cooled.  Add salt and pepper to taste (I used about 2 teaspoons of each).  Give it a big mix.
The consistency at this point is pretty dry.  Now you will need to add your EVOO. I didn't measure, but I probably wound up using almost a half cup.  As for the balsamic, I didn't measure that either...but I would say I used several tablespoons (that is vague, I know...but I basically sprinkled it around the bowl 3 times.  Again, big mix.
Next, let it sit in the fridge and let those flavors mix for at least an hour.  Taste it then and you can make the decision of what it might need.  I tend to like things I added more balsamic.  But you may find you want to add more ricotta to mellow the flavors.  It's important to let it sit for a bit just to really bring out it's true flavor.
Happy Cookout Season!