Monday, March 12, 2012

Comfort Food

It hasn't all been coconut water-and-kale smoothies.

This pregnancy has been all about carbs. I sneak in all of the good stuff, too -- berries, bananas, water, walnuts, sardines, salmon, spinach, beans, grassfed beef, dried apricots, daily prenatal vitamins, etc. -- but at every turn, I crave the least necessary section of the food pyramid. Well, it's not a pyramid these days, but I digress.

Here are just a few examples of my carb consumption these last few weeks. I've highlighted the health benefits of each to prove that, despite the indulgences, I remain a conscientious expectant mother:

Surprisingly, my pizza intake has been moderate, despite a weekly craving for the stuff. One of the few I've had during the past 9 months is featured here with pepperoni and mushrooms. (Mushrooms = vegetable, tomato sauce = fruit. And cheese. Good for baby. Calcium, etc.)

Then there's Mike's amazing, 10-minute pressure-cooker risotto, shown here with oven-roasted asparagus and generous amounts of parm. (Veggie and cheese.)

Dark chocolate is also good for you, so I took this cast iron skillet brownies recipe and used dark chips instead of milk chocolate chips. And then there's 3% milk, DHA eggs, and natural sugars.) I highly recommend this recipe, but ignore the suggested cook time and check your brownies early. Mine were done (a little dryer than I would have liked) in about 22 minutes, even though the recipe called for 35 minutes.)

You can't neglect the classics. Especially in your third trimester. A PG&J at 36+ weeks pregnant tastes like a Monte Cristo. Besides, check out all the good stuff here. Bread: organic. PB: organic and chockful of protein. J: fruit. (Not shown: glass of cold 2% milk.)

And finally ... whole grain toast. So good for you. Even when you dip it into homemade beer cheese soup, I suspect. Our soup was laden with celery, onions and 2% milk instead of half-and-half. Practically Weight-Watchers friendly.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Coco Kale smoothie

"It looks like split pea soup."

That's what I overheard one woman telling her friend when the guy behind the Whole Foods juice bar yelled out my name and set down my smoothie.

The Coco Kale is the perfect compromise for those of us who want the nutrients of a wheatgrass shot but the flavor of a fruit smoothie. The base is coconut water and fresh apple juice, and the only other ingredients are mango, strawberry, kale and ginger.

This is a weekly treat for me, and for the baby -- though I was enjoying this long before he came along. It tastes good, it makes me feel good, and I don't mind spending the $6 as it's usually a complete lunch (if I pair with a slice of whole grain toast and some peanut butter that are always on hand at hte office). I hope my little peanut likes this smoothie in the womb as much as I like it outside.

(As a bonus, it makes me feel a little better about what I had for breakfast.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pepperoni soup + peanut butter Rice Krispie treats

I joined Melanie for lunch a couple of Fridays ago, doing my small part to 'assist' with her latest food review project for the local weekly: a round-up of Austin soups. (Coming out soon! Will post a link here.)

We met at the swank, still-new-to-me Second Bar + Kitchen for their pepperoni soup, which touts San Marzano tomatoes, along with mozzarella and garlic croutons. (The "croutons" were extremely generous in size, and the perfect vehicle for hoisting spoonfuls of this chunky splendidness into my mouth.)

I don't know what I was expecting from a $6 pepperoni soup -- some watery tomato goop with sliced rounds of oily pepperoni floating about -- but this "Why has no one done this before?" treat tastes just like pizza in a bowl, good pizza, right down to the lovely cap of melted, oozing cheese. The pepperoni pieces were cube-shaped, and while they were tasty, I'd suggest the folks at Second call up the folks at Enoteca and ask what kind of pork product they're putting on their Calabrese pizza. *That* stuff is the best version of pepperoni I've ever had. (Pictures of that pizza coming in future post.)

Melanie and I decided to skip an actual lunch portion (we'd shared an order of blistered shishito peppers prior to the soup), and we went straight to dessert. We split the chocolate brioche bread pudding and the peanut butter rice krispie treats, topped with a smooth layer of semi-salted peanut brittle.

The bread pudding was solid. But the peanut butter rice krispie bites? Those were Last Meal material. At $2.50 for two "bites", I'd happily buy 5 orders, take them home, and eat them all alone when no one else was looking. I'm sad we didn't take a picture of these little treats, but this just means I'll have to go back. And soon.

2012: The Year of the Cheesecake?

We stayed in Austin for our last childless New Year's Eve together, and for perhaps the first time in my life, I rang in the new year with only one other person (my husband). A couple of minutes til midnight, we paused our movie to step outside, check out the neighborhood fireworks and kiss on our front porch. I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Earlier in the evening, we'd gone to two separate NYE parties, and we prepared to have a couple of friends over as midnight approached. Sick kids and busy schedules got in the way, and only Melanie stopped by for a bit to say hello and share some of the cheesecake I'd made that afternoon.

The cheesecake was inspired by Mike's friend Jen, who posted on Facebook before the new year that she was making her annual eggnog cheesecake.* Intrigued, I went to Google and found a few recipes. I picked this one -- probably because it was less involved than others, and I had nearly every ingredient at home, save the two whopping pounds of cream cheese, gingersnap cookies and eggnog. (I nabbed the last bag of gingersnap cookies at our neighborhood Target, a sure sign that I was meant to make this cake.)

This was my first cheesecake ever, not counting the no-bake crap I made in my twenties and perhaps one or two fuzzy attempts (also in my twenties) with a springform pan that I accidentally left in the home of an ex.

So I'm counting this as my first, and I'm happy to say I was pleased with the results. A couple of minor lessons were learned, but overall, there's little I'd change. I hope to make another one in the coming weeks ... before the baby comes, or maybe while on maternity leave as I try finding ways to kill time during my three months off. I'm sure to have tons of energy and endless hours to just putter around the house, bake cheesecakes, and watch The Wire from start to finish.**

The best thing about this cheesecake was that it lasted three days and was shared with exactly one dozen friends over the course of those three days. (I was so delighted when Jodi asked me where we'd purchased it! And even after she tasted it, she seemed impressed it was homemade.)

It was so much fun to share this massive hunk o' cake with so many. It felt like a Hannukah miracle, this giant cheesecake that lasted for days. But it's probably because you really don't need much of this at all. It's sweet and creamy ... but oh so dense.

After Mike and I sent Melanie home with a slice for her hubby on New Year's Eve, we had two more rounds of friends visit us for cheesecake and coffee in the first two days of the new year.

Sitting around our dining table in the middle of the day as friends came in and out, making fresh batches of coffee in the French Press, not looking at the clock or playing with my iPhone or thinking about to-do lists ... well, it was the absolute perfect start to our 2012. If we're lucky, the rest of the year will feel just as cozy and sweet.

*I can see why this cheesecake is an annual tradition for Jen!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

I had a half-can's worth of pumpkin puree to use up after making muffins last week, so I googled pumpkin pancakes and came across this recipe from one of my favorite sites (as you can see by the blog roll on the left).

I loved being able to use whole wheat flour and was able to make my own little blend of pumpkin spice mix - cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg - to throw into the mix. I didn't have cake flour on hand, but AP flour seemed to work just fine for the other 1/3 of the flour mix. I also had no buttermilk but made my own substitute - a handy little trick I learned from my brilliant sister-in-law when she and her kiddos came to stay with us for our wedding.

These pancakes were the perfect dinner for one -- hubby had a boys' night out, and I was craving sweets after a spinach-kale-apple juice smoothie earlier in the day from my favorite juice bar.

I highly recommend this recipe. (And I recommend a cast iron skillet and real butter!) Next time, I'm going to throw some chopped pecans into the batter -- if I can afford them!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'm Still Here ...! Makin' Muffins

It's been a busy few weeks, and I realize I didn't post at all in October.

I could blame our honeymoon in Argentina (expect a post on that trip soon!), but mostly, I just haven't been the mood to cook, grill, bake.

I have, however, been in the mood to eat.

When we got back from 10 days in the southern hemisphere, it took a few days to get over our colds and get my groove back ... and even longer to get to the store for some groceries. (Though the day we arrived, my sister picked us up at the aiport, deposited us at home, and promptly went to the nearest grocery store. She purchased the ingredients for -- and then cooked us -- a lentil-spinach soup, and filled our fruit bowl with fresh fruits after hearing our cries, that went something like this: "No more meat! No more pasta! Detox! Detox!")

I've finally been to the store, I've cooked a few meals (nothing noteworthy) and I've caught up on emails, caught up with friends, caught up at work, and caught up on the shows I missed while we were away (namely, the premiere of The Walking Dead, Season 2, which I've been eagerly anticipating for about 11 months).

Two days ago, when the calendar struck November, it occurred to me that fall had arrived -- hey, I'm in Texas; fall takes its time -- and I was ready to smell the smells of the season. In my own kitchen, not via the interwebs.

I'd stumbled across this recipe, and immediately bookmarked it. For the rest of the day, no matter how many other seasonal recipes I came across, it was this one that I kept going back to. It looked so easy.

And it was.

I've got very little to add ... though I'll note that I made regular-sized muffins and not minis, and my cook time was about 16-17 minutes at 350 degrees.

Next time, I want to try a cream cheese icing, or perhaps a glaze with orange zest and juice (and zest in the muffin mix, too).

For my first attempt, I followed the recipe closely but tried to up the health factor just a little. I swapped some white sugar for brown, some AP flour for whole wheat ... and I didn't have pumpkin spice, so I threw in a couple of pinches of allspice and nutmeg along with the cinnamon).

Overall, I was very pleased with the dense, moist muffin it yielded in return.

1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin
1 cup granulated sugar (I used 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated white)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I didn't have, so I added two pinches of nutmeg and two pinches of allspice)
1/4 tsp ground ginger (I skipped this)
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I did this)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 1 cup AP and 1/2 cup whole wheat)
About 1 tbsp turbinado sugar for sprinkling on top (I did this)
About 1/2 tsp extra cinnamon for sprinkling on top (I skipped this)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and generously grease up your muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk everything but the flour. Then slowly incorporate the flour.

Sprinkle tops of batter with a bit of turbinado sugar (and/or cinnamon, or add a glaze later) and bake in a preheated oven for about 14-18 minutes, or until a fork or toothpick comes out clean.

(Did I mention my favorite thing about this recipe? ONE BOWL, BABY.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Limited Palette

It's not that I'm having all of these crazy aversions to food, with the exception of chicken (ick!) and fresh herbs (too ... fresh).

It's just that things don't really SOUND very good. (Thai is perhaps the one type of food I can stomach - and actually crave - and I'm having Thai twice per week.)

For lunch today, I went to our local H-E-B grocery chain to shop for a Meals On Wheels client and took advantage of the trip, as I often do, to pick a few things for myself. But I wandered the aisles in vain, unable to come up with anything that sounded remotely appealing.

Except the carb-y stuff. I wanted it all ... the biscuits, tortillas, buttermilk pancakes (the microwavable kind for the office--yikes!), toaster waffles, toaster struedel, donuts, croissants and just plain white bread to slather with butter.

I settled on whole wheat raisin bread, low-fat cream cheese and a few kinds of fruit.

Lunch has never been less sexy.