Tuesday, January 31, 2012


My mother-in-law gave me a pair of hand-knit socks for Christmas this year. It's my first pair of hand-knit socks, and while the colorway is a little outside my comfort zone, I have to say the socks are very much inside my comfort zone.

Now that I'm less than 10 days away from my due date, my once-trim ankles are starting to resemble bread dough. My feet are definitely piggy feet.  I mention this so you'll understand why I love these socks so much: lack of elastic at the top means OMG NO SOCK DENTS. 

And that is a glorious thing.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Decisions, decisions.

M. brought home a large tub of Nutella last week, reason 48,348 I love him.

I really, really want to bake something with it, but am so incredibly torn on what to make! I asked him if I should do a nutella pound cake or cookies. His response? Yes. To an either-or question. Cute, mister. So I'm still stumped as to what to bake. I googled "Nutella recipe" and came across a fantastic site: www.nutelladay.com

Reason 1 it's fantastic: it celebrates World Nutella Day (February 5). I have now decided I would like my daughter to be born on this day. What better way to commemorate her birth than with a jarful spoonful of Nutella? Plus, it would give me an automatic theme for future birthday cakes. I hereby claim Feb. 5 as my day in the pool we have going on when she'll actually be born. FYI, Feb. 11, 12, and 14 are taken.

Reason 2 it's fantastic: 27 breakfast recipes that incorporate Nutella; 43 Nutella brownie recipes; too many cookie recipes to count; etc. There's even a category for savory and pizza recipes, for crying out loud!

This has not made my decision any easier.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A debt of gratitude.

The past nine months have been pretty low-key when it comes to wacky food cravings. In the beginning, I wanted Cheerios, and lots of 'em. I didn't want sweets, which was completely unlike me. And I legit craved veggies and cold foods. There was a two week period where I really, really wanted Roy Rogers fried chicken. Now that I'm counting down the days (cough 15 cough), my imagination has started to get the better of me.

An actual thought that ran through my head while driving home from work on Friday:
"I want ice cream. Vanilla ice cream. With, hmmm, chocolate-covered potato chips or pretzels, and salted caramel."

Figuring that the chances of such a concoction actually existing were slim, I stopped at our local Stewart's to see what they offered. They carry their own ice cream, and have some very delicious flavors. Nothing came close to my vision of perfection, though, so I continued my quest at the grocery store.

The ice cream aisle there is a beautiful thing. So many different kinds! So many different price points! I started at one end and worked my way down, feeling more and more hopeless as I approached the last section. I skimmed the pint-size cartons of Ben and Jerry's, knowing in my heart of hearts that this very specific craving would go unsatisfied, and I'd have to make do with something like Peanut Butter Cup Explosion (delicious, but not on point). And then, I swear to you, the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah was piped over the sound system in Hannaford and a magical amber spotlight appeared over a pint of...

Ben and Jerry's Late Night Snack. Vanilla bean ice cream, fudge covered potato chip clusters, and a salty caramel swirl.

Seriously, thank you, Ben and Jerry, for fulfilling a pregnancy craving that I thought for sure could never be fulfilled.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Liverpool indoctrination

My oldest and bestest friend Lottie came up this past weekend to visit, and A.Leo and I introduced her to Liverpool.

We played two games of it before it was time to hustle home and make dinner. The first game, Lottie learned the rules. The second game, Lottie showed us who was boss.
In case you can't read it, the scores were:
D- 695
L - 150 (!!!)
J - 455
A - 335

(I would draw your attention to the first game, which I won handily with a mere 185 points. No, I am not a sore winner.)

Well played, Lottie. Well played.

Friday, January 13, 2012

On homemade 'gourmet' food

Sometimes, restaurants elevate simple dishes to higher planes than are typically achieved at home. Sandwiches, to me, are included in this list of foods. Mostly the sandwiches I make look like this:

1 slice bread, lettuce (optional), 2 slices cheese, 3 slices lunch meat, butter, 1 slice bread.

Definitely not gourmet. Cheap, but not particularly appetizing. Sometimes these sandwiches are made better by heating, either in the toaster or in a skillet. Those are usually pretty tasty. Still, it's no wonder I rarely have sandwiches!

Recently, I embarked upon a quest to improve my sandwiches. It started with building a better quesadilla. Using a Burger's Smokehouse Hickory Smoked Turkey Breast (seriously, one of the best Christmas gifts ever) as a base, I added some brie and spinach. The spinach was a lame attempt to add a vegetable, but it worked out well. My friend gifted us some raspberry jalapeno jelly, which made a really delectable foil to the smoky/salty flavors. Those were some damn fine quesadillas.

A week later, I had some bread that needed using, and a sudden urge to have a grilled cheese. So, fighting the urge to simply slap some sharp American cheese between two slices of white Italian, I re-created the quesadilla as a sandwich.

Tell me that doesn't look more gourmet than my usual sandwich. I owe a shout-out to my mother, who taught me how to achieve the perfect golden brown color on grilled cheese sandwiches. Thanks, mom! And yes, that is the dog's hairy face in the lower left. I'm not the only one who thought it smelled good.

For me, I think the secret to a pseudo-gourmet meal, one that makes me feel like I'm eating takeout, is to include condiments that I wouldn't usually use on a sandwich. Sprouts, for example, or that raspberry jalapeno jelly.  This year I'm going to try to actually consume some of the pickles and jams I make, instead of just admiring them on the shelf. Adding them to simple meals seems like the only way I'll achieve this goal.

But I need help - what other easy changes can I make so that my usual meals seem a little more UNusual?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Twelve months of parties for 2012

Emily at West of the Loop had such a fantastic idea that I felt an urge to not only follow her blog, but follow suit.

Twelve months of parties in 2012.

She's going to follow this schedule:
January — Family dinner party (casual)
February — Superbowl party
March — Adult dinner party (elegant)
April — Passover Seder
May — Mother’s Day Tea
June — Brunch
July — Summer cookout
August — Cocktail party
September — Kid birthday party
October — Game night
November — Girls Night In
December — Cookie Exchange
 I may have to cheat a little and do 11 months of parties in 2012, depending. I will, however, just come out and say that I am not adult enough to have an elegant adult dinner party that is not tied to a holiday. Just not how I roll - and I'm ok with that.

Here's what I think would fit us:
January — Last hurrah party
February — Superbowl party
March — Meet the baby party
April — Easter shindig
May — Mother’s Day with the families
June — Father's Day with the families
July — Summer cookout/4th of July bonfire
August — Summer cookout
September — M's birthday party
October — Game night
November — Girls Night In
December — 12/12/12 party (because hey, who doesn't love a birthday like that?!)

March is kind of lame, but it's the best I can come up with. And I've officially decided that even if we end up physically having the party at someone else's house (cough Mother's/Father's Day cough) I'm still counting it.

And really, this entire post is accompanied by the following disclaimer:
I have no idea what the heck I'm getting myself into with this whole having-a-baby thing, and really, 'having a party' for me might amount to 'eating a complete meal.'

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


As my grandmother would say, goll-ee mose! I am truly astounded that I have only less than 30 days til my due date.

Up until now, I haven't had much in the way of complaints. But finally, my body has decided to acknowledge that it's pregnant. Sleeping is more of a challenge than I'm used to. Getting off the couch is no small feat. And I really, really miss all my jackets and coats.

Here's me, nearly 36 weeks pregnant:

I never thought I'd feel like I had skinny legs, but suddenly, I do!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pounti auvergnat

My post-undergrad time in France was spent in a region called the Auvergne (more specifically, Cantal). It's very rural, and the regional foodscape was filled with hearty, stick-to-the-ribs meals. The better to fuel a day spent on the farm! Or, in my case, taking 3 hour walks every day I wasn't working.

I lived with a host family, and they 100% brought me into the fold. We had Sunday dinner at Tata Nenette's every week - my host mother's aunt, who had to be at least 80. Tata Nenette was, like all the women in that family, an amazing cook. It was at her table that I first tasted pounti. Roughly translated from fr.wikipedia.org:
This dish is a perfect example of a single country food that melds sweet and salty, and is great for brown-bag meals eaten far from home. It is a pate or terrine that combines a batter of flour, eggs, and milk with swiss chard, bits of pork, and prunes. It's traditionally eaten cold or lightly pan-fried in slices, accompanied by a salad. It can also be eaten as a side dish with roast chicken.
Thanks to pregnancy, prunes started holding a special appeal for me last week. I'd never eaten them out of hand, though, and was nervous to try them. I did know I liked pounti, and it seemed like an excellent thing to take for lunch. I looked for recipes in my multiple French cook books, and struck out, so I turned to Google. Quelle surprise! Over at Chocolate and Zucchini, I found a promising recipe. I combined it with others that I found online, and created my masterpiece.

Only it wasn't so masterful. It smelled FANTASTIC coming out of the oven, but it did not unmold well, which really causes me to feel like a complete failure in the kitchen. I hate when things stick to the pan (this post brought to you by Pam cooking spray. I wish). It did taste good, though. But I found there were several things that I will be changing the next time I make it... I'll post my recipe once I finalize it.

 It's short because I don't have a proper terrine, so I made it in a loaf pan. Also because the bottom inch stuck to the pan. And yes, those are extra prunes on the side. I made M. try it, and he said he thought it needed more onion, but mostly liked it.

Overall, my pounti cantalou is tasty and filled with fiber (which, after all, was the point), but there's room for improvement. Specifically:
  • more chard
  • less meat
  • higher temp for shorter time
Still, it was well worth the effort, and I'm looking forward to making it again.