26 February 2008

big belly, a dancing baby and baking with Jack

My belly feels H-U-G-E today. Not fat, not overly big, everything just feels stretched tight and crammed in there. It gets in the way now when I bend over to pick up a pen, try certain poses in yoga or just lean forward in my chair. And then I took this picture and I had to laugh out loud, because, yes, it's big, but it definitely doesn't look as big as it feels.

This pregnancy has gone so fast and I just now feel like I am starting to catch my breath. The baby is moving all of the time now and it is a strange but fabulous feeling. I keep thinking, "If you are moving this much now, what is going to happen when you get bigger." I keep joking that it is doing some crazy latin dance in there, but James is sure they are practicing their Taekwondo kicks. I am so excited to meet them and to see what they are like. It is really fun to anticipate.

Tonight we went to hang out with our friend Jack. He is the 3 year old son of some of our best friends and one of the coolest kids I know. He has a great imagination and is so funny and active. I needed to make some cookies for work, and he was so excited to help. We were doing no bake cookies, so he could help with all of it. We just pulled his tall stool up to the counter by the stove and he would add each ingredient, stirring slowly in between. We took turns with the stirring because his slow, gentle stirs were safe, but not really effective. Then, we spooned big dollops of mix onto wax paper covered cookie sheets. He kept wanting to trade spoons with me, trying to find the one that worked the best.

It was a little bit messier, but much more fun then it would have been if I had done it by myself. And it made me even more excited to meet this little bean in my belly and to play and learn and run and pretend and everything together...

Edited to add: Everyone in the world wanted to know the gender of the baby, except my dad. So, because he is an avid reader of this blog, I am trying to use terms that don't give it away. So when I used "them" or "they" I am not implying that there are multiple babies in there. If you don't already know and you want to know, email me directly.

23 February 2008


The nesting hormones have attacked with a fury. The only problem is we are in "spotless house showing mode", not "big project mode", so I am a momma bird without a proper nest. I can't repaint something, put in raised garden beds, retile the kitchen. Nothing. I can just clean and cook.

I have always loved cooking, trying new things. I volunteered to cook one night a week when I was probably in 8th or 9th grade, much to the dismay of my meat and potatoes eating dad. I made stir frys and pasta dishes, elaborate salads, but no matter what, I always had to bake a potato for dad.

Now I have a picky, meat and potato eatin' man of my own and a lot less time, so I have been trying to find some new motivation to get creative again with the cooking. So I have turned to the blogs, Smitten Kitchen (my favorite), 101 Cookbooks, Matt Bites, domicile, the Sassy Radish and more. There are so many great recipes out there and so many beautiful food blogs. Following a link trail on dulce de leche that started at Smitten Kitchen, I found a recipe for Alfajores, caramel sandwich cookies, at Matt Bites. I love caramel and I needed a treat to share at book club last night, oh, and I had all of the ingredients in the house. So, I dove in. The cookies were pretty easy to make and I was humming along. The only glitch was that I was trying to make delicate, little cookies and they kept puffing up more then I planned while baking. Oh well.

Then I went to start the dulce de leche... What? No recipe!?! Matt, how can you post a recipe for caramel sandwich cookies and omit the caramel filling recipe? Luckily a quick internet search yielded a plethora of options. I went with this one over at CHOW (which I loved as a print magazine) that was thorough and seemingly authentic. Of course because I failed to actually plan ahead, I didn't have the 2-3 hours needed to make the dulce de leche on the stove or in the can, which kind of freaks me out anyway. So I used the microwave version. Honestly I had little faith it was actually going to work, but I plowed ahead. I put it in for two minute intervals, stirring in between and slowly, it began to caramelize, just like that. The directions are fairly nebulous on when to stop this process so I ended up doing an extra cooking session that I regretted immediately. It still had that wonderful caramel smell and taste, but it had the consistency of caramel candies, not spreadable caramel sauce. I had a brief moment of panic, then i decided to add some milk and heat it again. Whew! After some more heating and stirring, it was ready.

I spread it on and sandwiched the cookies, grabbed the extra sauce for dipping (it was too good to waste) and ran out the door to book club. And they were a huge hit, following up a potluck spread of homemade mac and cheese, green beans with gorgonzola, salad and other nibbles. Hmmm, what am I going to make next?

19 February 2008

Non-toxic Microwave Popcorn

So, I was surfing around on the net the other day looking for some fun new recipes. I had been following a link trail and I came across a recipe for the World's Best Popcorn (which I can't seem to find right now). In his post he mentions the horrible health concerns with microwave popcorn. WHAT?!? I had no idea. We eat tons of microwave popcorn, and while I knew that it probably wasn't the best for my cholesterol or waist line, I never considered more sinister side effects. So, needless to say, I have sworn it off. But, I was already missing the convenience of it. I tend to get distracted and burn popcorn on the stove, and we don't have an air popper or anything. I was pricing some of those options today when I came across this post. My mom makes really good carmel corn like this and I instantly started to crave it, but that was not the thing that really got my attention. Near the bottom of the post, she links to this recipe for DIY microwave popcorn. What a great find. And in the comments someone suggested adding a little sugar to the mix to make some homemade kettle corn. Brilliant! So, I ran to the store after work tonight to pick up a bag of popcorn.

The results weren't bad. I forgot to add the salt before I popped it, so I added some butter and salt afterwards. I want to try the sugar next. I will let you know how goes!

03 February 2008

My favorite things - scores from the past

This is definitely not garage sale season in Montana and our local thrift stores leave much to be desired sometimes. I have been missing my weekly "This Weekend's Score" postings, so I decided to share with you all some of my favorite things that I picked up in past thrifting expeditions or gathered from my parents or friends. From now until the garage sale season is in full swing, maybe this theme will satiate my appetite for a good deal. So, for week one, I wanted to show you some of my "old" favorites.

I love chickens. but I am pretty picky about the fowl that make it into my kitchen decor. This chicken was probably once a cream or milk pitcher in a country kitchen.

In the house I grew up in, it held various kitchen tools, spatulas, spoons and ladles, next to the stove. My mom knew I loved it and passed it on to me when we bought our first house a few years ago. It is still one of my favorite pieces.

I have had this little ceramic piece for a really long time. I think it may have come from a family member, but it may have just been a garage sale find. I'm not sure. I just remember it sitting on a shelf in my room along with some other knick knacks and dolls, when I was really young.

As I got older it held hair bands and barrettes, and later, a small plant. After being packed away for several years, I pulled it out when we moved into this house. I had been trying to find a good use for it in the kitchen and finally settled on using it as a sugar bowl. With a thrifted baby spoon, it is the perfect companion to Sunday morning coffee.

So, here are a few of my favorite things. Stay tuned for more!