Monday, January 31, 2011

Under Construction

It has been 3 weeks since I posted last!  My how the time flies!  Not too much exciting going on here, just cruising along in the words of my Ob.

We had some exciting arrivals recently, courtesy of Chris' overly generous uncle!  Thanks to Uncle Mike, our nursery is really starting to take shape!  He sent us our glider/ottoman, our stroller/car seat, and our crib/mattress is on its way!!  Over the weekend Chris and I tried to hang some new blinds in the nursery, but alas, Lowe's doesn't have our size blinds in store, so we have to order them online.  We did, however, put together the glider, I put together some new bookshelves, and we hung some floating shelves from Ikea on the wall that have been sitting in closets ever since we purchased them probably 5 years ago!!

Here are some very much under construction photos of the nursery so far!

Baren closet -- we will surely add more storage units and maybe another bar for hanging items!

Look at how the book shelf cries out, beckoning for children's books!

Blindless window -- the bare wall will be the home of the crib once it arrives.

There will be picture frames, stuffed animals, organizing bins/baskets, decorations on the shelves, and hopefully a cute little owl lamp on the end table!

Hey!  Look what else is under construction -- my belly seems to change every week!

Obviously we have a lot of work to do and finishing touches to add to make the nursery what it will become, but I am getting pretty darn excited!  The "theme" if that's what you want to call it will be little forest critters with a color scheme of orange, green, and brown.  I think Elliot is going to love it!

PS -- Take the poll, how should we spell Eliot/Elliott?!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Empanadas de mierda

Second night in a row I am cooking a nice, healthy dinner from scratch!  AND blogging about it!  I'm impressed with myself.  Tonight I made some empanadas that were stuffed with mashed sweet potatoes, black beans, cumin, chipotle chile powder, green onion, and they were supposed to have poblano peppers which I couldn't find at ANY of our stores this week, so I substituted diced green chiles from a can -- definitely not the same, but they worked.  As Chris and I were assembling the empanadas, a few of them looked less than beautiful, so I said it was a shitty empanada, which turned into Empanadas de Mierda, hence the vulgar blog title.

The empanadas were good!  We dipped them in salsa verde, and I will be eating them for lunch the rest of the week as the recipe made 10 empanadas!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas

  • 9  ounces  all-purpose flour (2 cups)
  • 3/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/3  cup  canola oil
  • 1/4  cup  cold water
  • 1  tablespoon  cider vinegar
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1  poblano chile
  • 1  tablespoon  cumin seeds
  • 1  cup  mashed cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1  cup  canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/3  cup  chopped green onions
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1  teaspoon  ancho chile powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1  egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine canola oil, 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and egg in a medium bowl. Gradually add oil mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Knead lightly until smooth. Shape dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour.
    2. Preheat broiler.
    3. Place poblano on a foil-lined baking sheet; broil 8 minutes or until blackened, turning after 6 minutes. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 15 minutes. Peel chile; cut in half lengthwise. Discard seeds and membranes. Finely chop.
    4. Preheat oven to 400°.
    5. Cook the cumin seeds in a large saucepan over medium heat 1 minute or until toasted, stirring constantly. Place cumin in a clean spice or coffee grinder; process until ground. Combine cumin, poblano, sweet potatoes, and next 5 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt) in a large bowl; mash with a fork until almost smooth.
    6. Divide dough into 10 equal portions, shaping each into a ball. Roll each dough portion into a (5-inch) circle on a lightly floured surface. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), spoon 3 level tablespoons poblano mixture into center of each circle. Moisten edges of dough with egg white; fold dough over filling. Press edges together to seal. Place empanadas on a large baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cut 3 diagonal slits across top of each empanada. Bake at 400° for 16 minutes or until lightly browned.

 In addition to making a healthy dinner (we had a spinach salad along with the empanadas), I baked my favorite Christmas cookies!  I was sad that I didn't get to make this recipe at cookie bake this year.  I had made the dough and brought it to Faith's house prepared to make the cookies, and then wound up with the stomach flu, leaving Faith to finish and enjoy the cookies herself.  Poor Faith (not really).  So, here they are, my all time favorite Christmas cookie, Chocolate Filled Russian Tea Cookies:


1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
48 Brach's milk chocolate stars (from 14-oz bag)

Sugar Coating:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon red sugar
1 tablespoon green sugar
(Christmas being over, I just omitted the red and green sugars)

Heat oven to 400F.  In large bowl, beat butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed.  On low speed, beat in flour, salt and walnuts.

for each cookie, shape scant measuring tablespoonful dough around chocolate star to make 1-inch ball; place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until set and bottoms begin to turn golden brown.  Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix sugar coating ingredients.

Immediately remove cookies from cookie sheets, roll in sugar coating.  Cool completely on cooling racks, about 30 minutes.  Roll in sugar coating again.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dinner, Dessert, and Good Reads

I haven't made any resolutions this year.  I never keep them.  But, there are always and definitely things I would like to change about myself and habits I would like to begin.  I accomplished a few last night when I  had a fire lit under me, the fire being the fact that yesterday was my last day of Christmas Break freedom before it was back to work today.  I always get to the last day of break and regret all of the things I should have accomplished.  One of those things this year was reading.  I am reading an excellent book right now by Haruki Murakami.  I have read two other books by him, and have liked them both, but this one is my favorite.

This book is a translation from the original Japanese version.  Japanese writing is definitely different from Western-style writing.  We are a very linear-thinking society, meaning our stories typically have an introduction, a plot with a climactic event, and then a resolution.  Murakami's writing tends to intertwine several plots into one book, often without a climactic event, and even more often without a concrete resolution.  This style could be difficult for some who are used to the Western way of thinking, and it is hard for me at times, but he writes about very interesting, fantastical subject matter.  It would be fun to have a book club question session on one of his books.

In addition to whirl-wind reading last night, in an attempt to make up for my laziness over break, I baked some MORE cookies.  I couldn't pass up the on-sale candies at Target after Christmas, so I decided to make mint chocolate M&M cookies.

I adapted Dorie Greenspan's "World's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies" to suit my needs, and came up with the following recipe:

  1. 1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well-blended. Beat in the vanilla and mint extracts. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a rubber spatula, mix in the mint M&Ms.4. Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.5. Bake the cookies- one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point- for 10-12 minutes, or until they are slightly firm; they may still be a little soft in the middle, and that's just fine. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.6. Repeat with the remainder of the dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

The cookies turned out really well, and go famously with leftover limited edition peppermint ice cream!

Another habit I would so like to get into is to plan meals each week, and STICK TO THEM!!  I tend to buy all the ingredients for recipes I would like to make, then get lazy and eat out or just eat something simple from the fridge.  Tonight I made a really good Cooking Light recipe:

The recipe calls for orecchiette noodles, but our store didn't have them this time, so I substituted campanelle  noodles, which were really good!  It was also a very simple, fresh tasting pasta.  I will definitely make this again.

I hope to blog about each dinner I make (at least the ones that are fairly interesting), but you know how life gets in the way.  We shall see . . . no promises.

What is your favorite go-to pasta dish?

What are you reading these days?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

So much for a creative blog title . . . there aren't many words that rhyme with 11: heaven, seven, that's about it, right?

Anyway, we had a very laid back, but nice, New Year's Eve this year.  Of course, we couldn't get too wild since I couldn't party hard as a pregnant lady.

We spent an hour or so of the day in our basement making sure we avoided any of the tornadoes that hit pretty close to our home.  Once the storms were pretty much out of the way, we took the dogs to a trail near our parents' houses to let the dogs run in the 60 degree weather!!  Insane weather we are having in the end of December!!  Then, we headed over to my in-laws' house.  They had a lovely spread of appetizer-type foods that were all delicious.  We spent some time hangin with the babies, and the rest of the family, playing a little Scattergories.  Then, Chris and I had to scoot home to drop off the dogs and change clothes for our dinner.

We met some friends at a really nice Peruvian restaurant called Mango in downtown St. Louis.  The service there was so nice.  As soon as we got there and I explained that I couldn't drink and would have a water, the bar tender offered to make me a "mocktail" of whatever drink I chose from the menu.  I got the mango mojito mocktail, and it was awesome!!

Delicious plantain chips and salsa verde
 They were serving a prix fixe menu for New Year's Eve which consisted of your choice of selected appetizers, a salad, an entree, a dessert, and your choice of champagne.  I did indeed order a champagne, even though they offered to make me another mocktail for free, but I decided I wanted a sip of the bubbly to toast the New Year, and would then pass the rest on to someone else.

First Course:

Katie got the Sashimi (which I couldn't sample)

The rest of us chose the beef tenderloin wrapped in bacon atop sweet potato puree -- yum!

Second Course:
There was only one salad, which consisted of field greens topped with mangos and roasted red peppers.  The dressing was a little too tangy/salty? for my taste, but I still ate it all!

Third Course:
Chris got the halibut that was Asian style, topped with delicious veggies and all served on top  of a crab and scallop puree that was amazing!

I got the chicken that was rolled around a cheese? and spinach atop a potato puree with asparagus -- it was delicious and cooked well, not too dry at all!

Jenn got the pork tenderloin that came with a really good potato/aji amarillo pepper/fava bean puree!
Katie ordered the scallops that were served with fried plantain/sweet potatoes and asparagus.
Tim got the steak tenderloin that was so delicious and spicy!  I am not sure what it was served with, but it must have been good, because he didn't share that part! ;)

Fourth Course:

I ordered the sponge cake with dulce de leche (caramel) filling, which was really tasty as the caramel oozed out of the cake with each forkful!

Chris and Jenn ordered the chocolate torta, which was also delicious, and apparently a family recipe

Katie ordered the mango sorbet, which was awesome, as mango sorbets usually are!

Fifth Course:

My glass of pretty pink Moscato champagne, that I mostly gave away.

Toast! To 2011!

Happy New Year Everyone!!!  It's going to be a good one!