Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
So, given that this is the last weekend, I went for a pedicure (Peru a Ruby - OPI is awesome if you're pale like I am), stopped by the grocery store and tried another brownie recipe (Maida Heatter's "Palm Beach Brownies"). I'll try to post a review of them and the recipe tomorrow. I think we're going to lay low this weekend. I'm trying to order a cherry pie for N's birthday next Friday and to wrap up his presents. We'll go to some open houses and watch playoff basketball. Any suggestions of other fun things to do in a last weekend before parenting?
My mum is scheduling her trip, and will be with Baby Icing and I for a good 3 weeks (thank goodness, because scarier than having the baby is taking her home and taking good care of her!). So, I hope you have a lovely weekend, and I think I can safely say that early next week, I should be able to introduce my little one! Happy Weekend!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I mentioned last Friday that I had made a very easy butterscotch pudding, and while I was too lazy to photograph it, I did want to share the recipe. Pudding used to be a little scary for me, because egg custards make me nervous. You're always walking a fine line between curdled nastiness and delicious pudding. But, egg custards are delicious. However, sometimes you want pudding without worrying about eggs. This pudding is from Gourmet Magazine's February 2009 edition, and it is easy and delicious. It's a perfect hot weather dinner dessert, because you could make it earlier in the day, chill in individual dishes and then just take out to come to room temperature as you are serving the main course.
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (you really need the flavor)
2 TBS plus 2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 TBS unsalted butter, cut into little bits
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan. Then whisk in the milk and cream over medium heat.
- Allow mixture to come to a boil over the medium heat, stirring/whisking constantly. After the mixture comes to a boil, whisking constantly for one minute.
- Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Pour into bowl or bowls, and cover the top of the puddings with buttered wax or parchment paper. Chill until cold, at least 1.5 hours.
- You could garnish with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate, or fresh berries.
As you can tell, Baby Icing is taking her sweet time. So, today was household chores day. I hung some curtains in our loft, and finally polished a mountain of silver...since I am pretty sure I won't be doing that before the next time we have a fancy family dinner. Then I made some more soup to freeze. I'm trying to be patient, and despite being a little uncomfortable, I'm kind of enjoying puttering around the house and taking care of little projects here and there. It also helps that I know she's going to be coaxed out on Monday, if she still refuses to come on her own. I'm getting lots of check in telephone calls from friends and family, so I'm feeling fine. Now, I think I may treat myself to a nap...no point in overdoing it - right?
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Living in LA, you don't often get to eavesdrop on other people, so urban baby is my way of finding out what is up in the world of competitive parenting. It alternatively makes me howl with laughter or freak out...but it's a good way to waste a few hours. I think I'm a bit more middle of the road than most of the people posting there, but they sure are fun to read!
This afternoon, my big project is to make some congo bars to freeze and pop out when it's time to go to the hospital...I'm losing energy rapidly, and really want to make sure I have something for those nurses!
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
This morning an appraiser came over to evaluate our townhouse so that if/when Baby Icing starts getting into trouble with all our wide open spaces and dangerous stairs, we can be ready to put this on the market. I think I'm a little hormonal, because even thinking about moving makes me weepy.
So as not to completely waste the day, I did drag myself back to Trader Joe's for more sorbets and other cool foods. I have to say, I'm in love with Double Rainbow - their chocolate and raspberry sorbets are to die for! TJ's makes a pretty good mango sorbet too. Plus, that parking lot in Westwood is so nice and easy during the week - how could I not take advantage of it.
And, I want to do a plug for the hardest-working maternity dress on the block - my short sleeve black wrap from Isabella Oliver. I don't have a lot of summery maternity stuff, because it generally doesn't get hot around here till later, and often April and May are quite cool and cloudy. That is obviously not the case this week, and this black dress is flattering and cool. I have a black summer dress from Old Navy that literally looks like a hospital gown or a sack, but I won't wear that if people have to see me, because it looks like I'm carrying at least four toddlers!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
Then I went to the paradise that is the Westwood Trader Joe's at 10:00 in the morning. It has great parking, wide aisles, and a really great selection. I would think it is horrible on the weekends, but this morning was lovely. Why does TJ's always choose locations in LA with bad parking? The one in Woodland Hills was the only truly large parking lot that I've ever seen!
I had my last eyebrows and related waxing appointment today - my aesthetician had to help me up! At least my eyebrows are ready for some post baby photos. And, tomorrow is my belated cut and color - my hairdresser is making a house call for me! We've been together for 7 years now, and I adore her. My friend M also uses her, and she'll be coming too - which will be super fun. So, I most likely won't have roots in the post-baby photos!
I made N butterscotch pudding (I'll post the recipe and pictures later) that was just so delicious! Now I'm resting on the couch and enjoying the beautiful spring weather through the open windows. Happy Weekend!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Then, I made Orangette's nutmeg muffins. The idea of nutmeg as the leading flavor may sound odd, but I want to tell you that these are some of the most delicious little treats ever. Essentially, they are like little cake doughnuts that are baked - not fried. They freeze like a dream, and are delicious with coffee and tea. Mama Icing is a particular fan, so I wanted to have some ready for her arrival. In case you can't tell, I'm a total baker and need to work hard on my "cooking." Baking is just so easy because you follow the rules - with some small modifications :)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Baby Icing had a busy day of wiggling around, which I think means that she isn't interested in coming outside because she feels like she has plenty of room in there! I suppose I can't blame her too much. One good back pain trick that has been helping me and that I thought I'd share is bouncing on that silly exercise ball. I try to sit on it for a while during watching TV, and it does make my back feel a little better. All in all, I can't complain much. She'll come out when she is ready...or we'll evict her the week after next!
I tried the "Hearts and Minds" cake from Orangette's book, and I'll post a picture tomorrow. It's the sweetest story that she writes about it. I'm in love with her book! Tomorrow I'm going to try some stuffed shells (I may share a picture of my freezer - it seriously looks like I'm preparing for nuclear winter) and some sort of cookie/brownies to test for the l & d nurses. I also need to finish hanging the photos for Baby's room - one of the cats must have hidden the hammer!
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A trip to the drugstore for more essentials prior to Baby Icing arriving, and a quick stop by my doctor's office to confirm that no, my water had not broken (I figured it hadn't, but wanted to make sure) and since I have that strep B, they make you come in. Everyone in the doctor's office is so nice, and they got me in and out in about 30 minutes! The good news is that I'm progressing along, and Baby Icing is apparently happy as a clam in there! Hopefully we can persuade her to come out at some time soon!
Now I'm taking it easy on the couch and gearing up to do some prenatal yoga to stretch out my back - any back pain suggestions would be most appreciated! Also, what do you think the L & D nurses would like as a snack? I was thinking a pan of brownies or congo bars - those are pretty easy, but are there any better options I'm not considering?
Monday, April 13, 2009
- Buy a futon for our loft/guest sleeping space that appears to be comfy and is queen-sized.
- Buy an exercise ball and some small free weights for after Baby Icing arrives and I need to start thinking about bathing suits :(
- Went to the most awesome kitchen/cook's supply store ever. It's called Surfa's and is in Culver City. I think they also have a website. I needed some new cake pans and a jelly roll type pan, and walked out with those, in addition to hazelnut syrup for my coffee, and some delicious chocolate/hazelnut gelato. They have some really interesting kitchen implements - lots of stuff for restaurants, but also lots of stuff for the home cook, and really interesting specialty foods.
- Generic tidying. I need to drag myself outside for a little walk, but other than that, I'm done.
All in all, fairly productive, and here's hoping I get a good night of sleep tonight!
12 pieces bacon, cut crosswise into 3/4 inch wide pieces
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from the 17 oz package - Pepperidge Farm makes a good one) THAWED!
6 large eggs
2 (10 oz) cartons creme fraiche (delicious French sour cream - Trader Joe's sells it, as does Whole Foods). You can also use full fat sour cream, or a mixture of full fat plain yogurt and sour cream. I really wouldn't try to make this low fat.
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg ( I don't grate my own nutmeg, and I think the little spice jar nutmeg works just fine).
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese.
- Put a baking sheet in the middle oven rack and preheat to 375.
- Cook bacon in large sauce pan over moderate heat until crisp (stirring occasionally) about 10 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate to drain. Roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface into a square. Fit it into a deep pie dish (9 inches or so) or a special quiche pan, and trim off excess.
- Whisk eggs in separate bowl until well-combined, then whisk in creme fraiche, salt and nutmeg just until smooth. (Pour filling through fine mesh sieve into prepared crust - I skipped this and it was delicious too). Sprinkle bacon evenly over filling and top with grated Gruyere.
- Bake quiche on baking sheet until center is set (it doesn't jiggle when shaken) for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to rack to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature. I reheated mine the next day by placing in 200 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Our Easter brunch was delicious! It was so fun to catch up with people, and to enjoy what is most likely our last leisurely meal with just adults. What with getting out the good china, and hand washing it again, I'm a little tired now, so I think I'm going to lie around for the rest of the day. I'll polish the silver and put it away nicely tomorrow.
Two Egg Yellow Cake
2 cups all purpose flour
1/1/2 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350. Grease and flour two 8" cake pans.
- In the bowl of the electric mixer, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
- Add melted butter ( I melted mine since it doesn't beat in quite as well at room temperature as shortening), milk and vanilla. Mix at medium speed for 2 minutes, pausing to scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add eggs, beat two minutes longer.
- Pour batter into prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes or until surface "springs" back when gently pressed.
- Cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool COMPLETELY before filling/frosting. (I like to bake the day before and then wrap well when cool to fill and frost the next day)
Rich Vanilla-Cream Filling (HALF the quantity is perfect for filling this cake, but I think I like a little less custard than most people - so here's the full recipe and just be careful not to use it all on the cake!)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch (if you are halving the ingredients, 1/8 of a cup is approximately 2TBS)
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk (I think whole milk is best)
4 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
- In medium saucepan, combine sugar with cornstarch and salt.
- Gradually add milk, over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
- Add half of hot milk mixture to eggs and mix well (to avoid scrambled eggs). Gradually return to saucepan, stirring.
- Over medium heat, bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add vanilla. Cool completely before using to fill cake. (You can tell when your custard is getting close, because it gets much thicker and if you drag a spoon along the bottom of the pot, the drag mark remains for a while.
Quick Fudge Frosting
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1/4 cup soft butter (I would NOT substitute margarine for butter in this frosting)
3 cups sifted confectioners' or powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup hot cream or whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
- Melt chocolate over hot water or in microwave (I always add a little bit of butter or oil to chocolate before melting in microwave). Remove from heat, stir to ensure all melted and let cool a little.
- In medium bowl (I used the kitchen machine) combine butter, salt, sugar, and 3 TBS of hot cream. Beat at medium speed until mixture is smooth.
- Add chocolate and continue beating until frosting is thick enough to spread. Then mix in the vanilla.
- If your frosting seems too thick, add a little more hot cream.
- This makes enough to fill and frost two 8" layers. Traditionally, the sides of Boston Cream Pie are unfrosted, so I just pile all the frosting on top and don't quite use it all
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
1. Annick Goutal L'Eau D'Hadrien - it is the lightest and most citrusy scent - I'm using the soap in the shower, and may need to pick up the eau de parfum for this summer. Delicious and not sweet at all!
2. Grapefruit - I guess there's sort of a citrus thing going on right now for me, but it's one of my favorite snacks these days - so sweet and refreshing!
3. For Easter Brunch, what could be tastier for dessert than Boston Cream Pie? I hope I can make one, or find a good recipe - I love the custard filling!
4. This pretty top from Pea in the Pod (I think it's on sale now). It's perfectly springy, and it still fits me now. I think it will come in useful after Baby Icing arrives as well.
5. My maternity 7s. I bought them at about 15 weeks, and am still wearing them at 38 plus weeks. I strongly urge the potential preggos out there - buy a really nice pair of jeans that are really comfy...because if you work in an office, you probably only need one pair, and it's so worth it to have a pair that are flattering and comfortable!
Today I met a friend at Babies R Us and got a bunch of last minute necessities, and then headed up to the valley to have lunch with another friend and her beautiful baby boy. She looks gorgeous, and so does he! Now I'm lounging on the couch with big kitty and trying to work up the energy to do some pregnancy yoga. It really helps with my back pain, and it seems to really entertain my cats - I'm not the most graceful practitioner at the moment :)
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Today was beautiful and windy here in LA, and I wanted to make a nice snack for my kind friend A, who stopped by for tea after work. I am also working on project use all the wacky kitchen gadgets that I received as wedding presents - including my beautiful Bundt pan. So, who better to turn to than Martha - considering I've never made Bundt before? Her maple bundt did not disappoint - in fact, it was stupendous!
Maple Bundt Cake (Martha Stewart Living Magazine)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (this is the main flavor, so I would definitely use the real thing!)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream (if you're serving it with whipped cream)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter/spray a 10 cup bundt pan and dust with flour (I used a non-stick bundt, so I didn't flour it). Whisk together flour, baking soda, powder and salt.
- Beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy (I used the mixer for this). Add the eggs and beat well. Then beat in the maple syrup and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream. (Don't over mix - beat until just combined but not too lumpy). Scrape batter into the bundt pan.
- Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean (about 35-40 minutes). Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes and then tip cake out of pan to cool completely on wire rack.
- Just before serving, beat cream with a mixer/whisk into soft peaks. Add 2 TBS maple syrup and beat until soft peaks return, then drizzle over cake. You can also drizzle some maple syrup on top of the whipped cream. (This would be pretty for a larger party/brunch, but since there were only two of us, I figured I need to send the leftovers to work with N tomorrow and thought the whipped cream would ruin it).
Honestly, I'm mostly a chocolate person, not a regular sweets person. This cake was really delicious, especially with a nice cup of tea. It is moist and has a great maple flavor. It's impressive and easy to make. I think it would be lovely to have for a fall brunch/football watching party - or to bring to a friend's house. So, I love you Martha, and am subscribing to your magazine, because you rock. Not to mention, I'm happy I played with the bundt pan, because it really does make a pretty cake. Now I just need to find more cakes to bake in it!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
I also got these nursing pjs for the hospital - just in case I want to wear something with pants. Both are Japanese Weekend, and I'm really impressed with the quality. If you don't live in LA, the Pump Station has a really helpful website with lots of baby products/new mama products to order. http://www.pumpstation.com/pumpstation/
Today I took care of the nursing/postpartum clothing for me. Tomorrow is Babies R Us for a few last essentials. And, sweet A is dropping by to visit me after work, so I'm going to need to make a tasty snack for us. After a string of beautiful spring days, it started raining tonight. Just so you don't think it's all sunshine and lemon drops around here, one of the cats peed in the stroller bassinet when it was sitting on the ground - thank goodness it is washable (and I can confirm that cat pee does wash out of strollers :)
Now it's time to reflect on the train wreck that is "Toddlers and Tiaras." I just can't take my eyes off this show. It's riveting!
And, here, as promised, is the Lasagna that my mum makes - if any of you are from New England, it's the recipe from the Prince Lasagna noodle box (there was actually a Prince factory in the North End a long time ago.). This recipe is very amenable to variation, so you can get really creative with the sauce and cheese. It also freezes and reheats like a dream. I know a lot of people assemble the lasagna, then freeze it to cook it later, but I like to cook mine first, because then you just need to defrost and microwave. It's my standard present to people with babies, because one pan will feed two grownups for at least 3 meals, and if you package it in individual Tupperware, your friends can decide exactly how they want to use it - and can freeze some for later if they have a lot of other casseroles.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you are cooking lasagna noodles, do that first and then let drain in the colander while you construct the lasagna.
- In large skillet over medium heat, brown the meat and pour off some of the fat (don't pour the fat off if you are using lower fat meat). Add garlic and oregano with wine (you could also use beef broth if you don't cook with wine) and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in pasta sauce and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, shredded Parmesan, eggs, parsley and pepper. You can add in some drained chopped frozen spinach (defrosted) and I added some defrosted artichoke hearts this last time. Add a little bit more ricotta if you are adding lots of veggies.
- In a large 13 x 9 baking dish, spread a generous layer of the sauce (this helps make the pan easier to clean) and top with a layer of lasagna strips. Then do a layer of ricotta mixture with mozzarella. Layer the noodles over the ricotta/mozzarella layer, and continue as such until you use up all the ingredients. The top layer should be sauce (and use a lot because it sinks down to keep all the layers moist. Finish with a layer of mozzarella or Parmesan. Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. I generally need more like 35 minutes. Remove the tinfoil and cook for an additional 5 minutes to let the top brown (you can just cook uncovered too - it turns out fine).
- Let the lasagna stand for at least 10 minutes before serving - 15-20 should leave it plenty hot and gives the layers time to set up.
- If you're freezing this, let it cool completely before cutting up.
Monday, April 6, 2009
She talks to a lot of highly educated, professional women about why they left their careers after having children and her conclusions are really interesting. If you are interested, I really recommend it. There is no judgment or agenda, just a thoughtful discussion of the forces that work to make career and motherhood very difficult to balance.
Here's what I'm reading right now - and it's also fascinating. Women with families who work and who stay home provide insight into their decisions, and what helped them decide. It's fascinating stuff. I am an attorney, so I'm hopeful to continue my career after having a family. However, these books are really useful to get thinking about childcare, parenting responsibilities as well as my own assumptions. My mother was a fantastic and doting stay at home mum, and she really deserves credit for the success of my brother and I. (When I was in high school chemistry, she retaught herself to balance chemical equations to help me with my homework!) It's definitely a topic that interests me - if you've read anything on the subject, let me know what else I should read!
Our installation was out in the valley, and I used my time on the other side of the hills to enjoy a beautiful day in the valley. I know that if you don't live here, the San Fernando Valley has kind of a bad reputation, and I want to say that it is not deserved. The valley is a great place to visit with great restaurants and is warm and sunny on days when this side of the hills is foggy and cold. Maybe similar to New York, LA is clogged and traffic-infested, and the Valley is nice and suburban. I went to a lovely and uncrowded Target and Trader Joe's...heaven big parking lots, wide aisles, and a generally more pleasant shopping experience.
I availed myself of these opportunities and stocked up. We now have toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies to get us through a month or so of baby-included chaos (including visits from my mum and N's dad and stepmother and his mum). We also have all sorts of frozen goodies from Trader Joe's and there is a lasagna cooking in the oven. I played around with my mother's recipe, so I'm going to test it, and if it worked, I'll share, otherwise I'll just post her original version (which is awesome).
After exerting myself, I am perched on the couch with my little buddy. Happy Monday, and if you're some place warm, please have a glass of chilled rose or some other summery drink for me.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
I'm also working on putting together a postpartum transitional wardrobe. In that spirit, here are two machine washable, potentially nursing friendly pieces from C & C California. Check out Bluefly.com for a great selection!
Friday, April 3, 2009
You'll agree it was not a very taxing day. However, I'm simply too tired to go to the grocery store now, so I'm going tomorrow. In other frustrating news, I finally figured out the mystery of the missing rocking chair. Pottery Barn cancelled my original order for some reason, but since I paid with N's credit card, I didn't notice. So please, cross your fingers that the reordered rocker arrives in time. My mum was quick to note that Baby Icing will probably not notice the difference if her first few days are sans rocker.
It's crazy windy here, and quite nice and sunny. Big kitty and I are relaxing on the couch and watching "What Not To Wear." I'm pretty sure that I am one watermelon bellied "Don't" at this point, but I will try to redeem myself after Baby Icing arrives. In a traumatic new development, my hairstylist just left her salon, and I hope I can coordinate with her on a new location before Baby Icing arrives - otherwise we'll have to do some headless shots of me (mama don't do roots).
Thursday, April 2, 2009
13 oz bittersweet chocolate (it's worth it to use really good chocolate - Valrhona or Ghirardelli)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13"x9"x2" pan (and you can line with parchment if you like- but I always skip this step!)
- Melt the butter and chocolate (I use the microwave, but you could use a double boiler. In a bowl (I use the Kitchen Aide) beat together the eggs, vanilla and sugar. Measure the flour and salt and mix in a separate bowl.
- When the chocolate is melted, let it cool a little before mixing with the eggs (otherwise you get scrambled eggs). Beat the melted chocolate into the eggs and sugar, then add in the flour/salt mixture. Beat until you have a nice smooth batter.
- Scrape into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes where the middle of the brownies stays nice and gooey. I generally give these 30 minutes, but don't go over. They also continue to cook as they cool.
- It is much easier to cut these after they've cooled overnight. So, cut yourself a nice brownie hot out of the pan, and leave the rest for another day. Your brownie will be hot and crumbly, but they cut quite well and are really pretty if you let them cool overnight.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Have a drink for me! I made it through my last day at the office - of which I spent about 6 hours standing in the hallways of our lovely downtown courthouse as we waited on a judge. I don't really like standing for extended periods of time these days...so I'm tuckered out. We were finally sent to another courtroom, where the trial will start in with the preliminaries tomorrow. I have done my out of office email, checked in with all the parties, and I'm on leave.
That said, you'll have to bear with me because I'm going to have a lot of time to post over the next 3 plus weeks (I am assuming that Baby Icing has NO interest in coming early). So, stop on by to check on my progress...and if you would be kind enough to send kind thoughts/prayers my way for a safe, easy and early arrival for my little sweetheart, I'd be very grateful!