WEEK #5: SPICY GREEN BEAN PICKLES WITH GARLIC, DILL AND MUSTARD SEED

Before we became pregnant the second time we asked each other, “If we get pregnant again, will we tell our family early, like we did the last time?” Our answer – NO.  Definitely not. We will wait until we are much closer to the end of our first trimester before we tell anyone at all.2

Not exactly how it went.

Back in April my husband and I had gone to dinner with some friends of ours at a very nice Italian restaurant that was celebrating it’s 60th anniversary with a prix fixe 5 course meal. We were both very excited to go. We got a babysitter for our son, we both dressed up, and planned to spend the evening having a wonderful time with fantastic friends. I was excited to have a glass of wine and to indulge myself in whatever the chef had prepared.

The first course we were served that night was Scampi alla Livornese. The plate they brought me had 5 beautiful shrimp in a perfect row that were swimming in a rich and creamy pool of sauce made with butter and white wine. The dish was delicious and we were excited to see what was next. However, as I waited for the second course – a pasta dished called Cappelini d’Angelo alla Nanni – I became very nauseous. I excused myself from the table and went to the ladies room and as I closed the door behind me I fell against the bathroom wall. I had no idea what was happening. My temperature had gone up, I was sweating, I felt as though I could vomit, my abdominals were throbbing. I tried to throw-up, wondering if I was sick with food poisioning, but I couldn’t. After 10 or so minutes, I washed my hands and face with cold water and went back to the table.

By that time the cappelini dish had been served, so I sat down, smiled at everyone, then quietly told my husband that I wasn’t feeling all that well, but didn’t want to ruin dinner. So, I tried to take a few bites of my pasta (angel hair pasta with mushrooms, prosciutto ham, peas, lots of fresh cream, tomato and fresh grated Romano). A few bites in and I had to excuse myself again. My throat felt as though it was slowly closing, the pressure in my stomach was too much, my pants were suddenly becoming too tight. I went to the ladies room again and panicked. What was I going to do? I decided to step outside the restaurant for some fresh air and felt some relief, but could tell that whatever was going on with me wasn’t going to magically get better.

I summoned the courage to walk back into the restaurant to find my husband, concerned that as I walked across the long room I may pass out, and whispered to Jeff, “I’m done. I can’t do this. I’m going to the car. Stay and eat and bring my purse when you’re done. Please apologize to everyone for me”. At least I hope that’s what I said. As soon as I got to the car I opened all of the windows and unbuttoned my pants, resisting the urge to rip all of my clothes off. With every second that passed I felt like my body was expanding and my clothes were shrinking and I just couldn’t take the pressure. I was also covered in sweat and having a hard time breathing. My breaths were shallow and my throat felt as if it were trying to close up completely (a common side effect of nausea for me).1My husband decided not to listen to my request for him to stay and eat and had followed me out of the restaurant, remembering my purse, and told me he was taking me home. I again begged him to stay – the meals were already paid for and we’d only received two of the five courses, but he insisted. Before we left I told him I wanted to take off my clothes – I felt so restricted and everything was so tight. I  felt like there was a balloon in my stomach that was getting bigger and bigger and BIGGER and there just wasn’t any more room for it to grow. The pain was intolerable. It was radiating through to my back and up into my shoulders. He helped me get my bra off and that helped a bit. Not knowing what was going on and concerned I was having an allergic reaction to the shrimp, he stopped at a gas station on the way home to get some Benedryl and water for me. I remember him parking and getting out at the gas station, and then nothing after that until we got home.

Forty minutes later we pulled in to our driveway and Jeff  helped me get out of our car. Jeff sat me on the couch with a tall glass of cold water and got me some ibuprofen. And then we sat there, not knowing what to do, for the next 4 hours. The pain was still radiating throughout my abdominals, shoulders and back. The nausea was still quite intense. Several times he said to me, “Can I take you to the hospital?” to which I responded every time, “No. My health insurance doesn’t start until May 1st. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”

I really thought it was just food poisoning. But, I’ll tell you what, had I had health insurance that night, we would have gone. The pain, the pressure, the nausea all lasted 8 hours. I tried to go to bed, but I couldn’t find a comfortable way to sleep. It hurt to lay on my stomach. I hurt to lay on my back. It hurt to lay on my sides… All of the pain, pressure and nausea didn’t stop until 3AM when I finally ran to the bathroom and threw-up. Instantaneously I was relieved and was able to finally fall asleep.

The next day my neighbor popped over to bring J a few books and toys and found me sleeping on the couch. She apologized for waking me and I told her, “Oh it’s okay, I had a really rough night” and I told her all about what had happened. She said to me very seriously, “You have gallstones. That’s exactly what I went through a few years ago. You need to go see a doctor”. Immediately after she left I began to google gallbladder and gallstones and I knew she was right. The 1st of May could NOT get here soon enough.

Between that dinner and waiting for May 1st, I told my family and closest friends all about what had happened that night. My mom. My dad. My sister and her husband. Jeff’s entire family. I called my two best girl friends. I told our best couple friends. I surveyed everyone to see if they’d ever had problems with their gallbladder or knew of anyone with gallstones. With every response I believed more and more that I definitely had an unhappy gallbladder. Everyone knew that on May 2nd I was going in to talk to my family doctor and that on May 6th I’d be going in to have a sonogram done on my gallbladder.

My doctor’s office called me on May 9th to let me know the scans from my sonogram had come in and that I did, indeed, have gallstones.  The night before my doctor’s office called I’d taken a pregnancy test and found out we were expecting. The night before that we’d started receiving calls from friends and family wanting to know when we’d find out about the sonogram.3

So, in WEEK #5, as friends and family called to find out what was going on with my gallbladder, we told them. Several of the conversations went something like this:

FRIEND/FAMILY – “So, what did you find out about your gallbladder?”

US – “They definitely found gallstones.”

FRIEND/FAMILY – “Are they recommending surgery to have it removed?”

US – “Yes”

FRIEND/FAMILY – “Do you know when that will happen?”

US – “In about 10 or so months.”

FRIEND/FAMILY – “…why so far out?”

US – “Because we want to wait until the baby is born… We’re pregnant!”5

At WEEK #5 our baby was the size of a mustard seed. His/Her millions of cells have been busy multiplying and creating the complex structures of his/her developing body. His/Her sweet little facial features have started to form and his/her little heart had started beating regularly.

4

SPICY GREEN BEAN PICKLES WITH GARLIC, DILL AND MUSTARD SEED

So far this pregnancy has been TOTALLY different than the first. With J, I didn’t crave much of anything outside of Sonic ice and cheese burgers. This time around, you name it, I WANT it! We were given a bucket full of beautiful garden fresh green beans from a neighbor and before my husband had a chance to give me suggestions, I knew right away that I wanted to pickle them. With garlic and chili peppers. And that’s exactly what we did.

This recipe is insanely easy. No boiling necessary (except to prepare the jars). It seriously takes just a few minutes to prepare. And the result is exactly what you expect – fresh crisp garlicy spicy green bean pickles. De-licious.

Ingredients (per pint jar):

8 oz fresh green beans

3 cloves Garlic

1/2 Teaspoon Dill Seed

1/2 Teaspoon Mustard Seed

1/2 Teaspoon Whole Peppercorns

1/4 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 Tablespoon Pickling Salt

1/2 Cup White Vinegar

1/2 Cup Water

Instructions:

Wash as many pint size mason jars you’ll need with hot, soapy water.

Measure spices and garlic (not including the salt) into the bottom of each jar.

Wash and trim beans then pack, vertically, into your jars.

Mix together salt, vinegar, and water. Stir until salt is dissolved then pour over beans.

Refrigerate beans for at least 24 hours. Enjoy!

Adapted from this recipe.

 

WEEK #4 – POPPY SEED ROLLS

When you are trying to get pregnant it’s hard not to look for early signs. And what is frustrating is that every sign of potential pregnancy is also a sign of your impending menstrual cycle. Sore boobs? Cramping? Food cravings? Mood swings? Back pain? Extra tired? Are you feeling bloated? Congratulations! You may or may not be pregnant!

When I got pregnant the first time around, subconsciously I knew . I didn’t really believe I was pregnant in my heart, but my body knew and some how communicated it to my brain. A week before my period was suppose to start I stopped drinking (let me clarify, I am by no means a big drinker, but it was Christmastime and eggnog is quite the family tradition during the holidays). I also ran across a bottle of prenatal vitamins that I’d not touched in a few months and decided, “What the heck, someday maybe” and started taking them again. And I remember just being happy. Happy happy happy. :)

When my period didn’t start on the day it was suppose to, I knew something was up. My cycle was like clockwork. But, I decided not to get excited and thought nothing more of it until the end of the next day. The following morning I went to CVS and bought a pregnancy test and shoved it waaaaaaay down in the bottom of my purse. It was December 23rd and I was three days late. At this point I started to feel hopeful. I started to believe, deep down somewhere, that I could actually possibly be pregnant! But, I also knew that if I was wrong, and that if I took the test and it was negative, that it would ruin my entire holiday. But, I held on to the hope, and it was building.

I remember laying in bed next to my husband on Christmas Eve, listening to him breathing in and out, being warm and cozy, with a smile on my face, daydreaming about how next Christmas we might be a family of three celebrating. We might have a sweet baby in our arms. I might be a mother and he might be a father.

Finally, Christmas morning, around 6:30 AM I believe, I woke up with a full bladder and thought, “I’m just going to do it! I can’t wait any longer – I’m 5 days late. I HAVE to be PREGNANT!” and sure enough, I was!  I crawled back into bed with my sleeping husband never having felt so happy and joyful in my entire life. I kept my sweet secret for a few hours before my excitement was no longer containable.

 

This time was different. Man oh man, was it ever different.

Before getting pregnant the first time my husband never really knew what my cycle was. This time around, he was ON it. He knew before I did that I was a day late. “Honey, let’s go get a pregnancy test. You’re late,” he said to me on a Monday. My response, after looking at the calendar, was “I’m one day late. I’ve been late before. Let’s not get excited”. And at this point, I was convinced my period was coming. Every month leading up to this month had been tricky and sneaky months. Some months I was just a few days late. Others, I was an entire week late. And each month I broke down and bought a pregnancy test, with each test showing negative results. I was not feeling hopeful. Plus, my boobs hurt, I was super crampy, crazy emotional, and couldn’t stop eating – all signs of my period to come.

On Wednesday I had a sonogram scheduled to look at my gallbladder. When I went in I said to the guy, “I’m three days late, I don’t know if I’m pregnant, but I’m hoping that I am and want to make sure that what you’re going to do won’t be potentially harmful to the baby – if there is a baby”. As I said it out loud for the first time, I felt as if maybe I might actually be pregnant. He assured me all would be fine. On my way home I stopped at the grocery store and picked up the cheapest single pregnancy test I could find. And I shoved it way down in the bottom of my purse.

Thursday was a rough day. My husband was working another 15 hour day, my son was tired of being cooped up in the house (all week long it was either WAY too hot to go outside for a significant amount of time or it was raining), and I was growing frustrated by being a “single parent” (for 12 days straight J woke up after his daddy left for work and went back to bed before daddy came home – that was rough on ALL of us).

While J was happily contained in his highchair I slipped away to take that pregnancy test. I ripped the box open, did my thing, and then set timer for three minutes. When the buzzer buzzed I went back to the bathroom and looked at the test. And I had no idea what I was looking at. Was that a positive line? Was it just a weird mark in the fibers of the test? What WAS that? I grabbed the box from the trash can and looked to see if any of the examples were similar to what I saw, and that didn’t clear anything up for me. But what DID help me make sense of the test was noticing that I’d not followed the directions as I should have. I’d not peed on the test for as long as I was suppose to… Ahhhh!!!  Why didn’t I read the directions? I shouldn’t have assumed that all tests were the same.

I called my neighbor and asked her if she could pop over for a few minutes to watch J while I ran a quick errand. She happily obliged and off I ran to the CVS. This time I bought a slightly more expensive and more reliable test that contained two sticks (you know, in case I messed up again). That second time the results were unmistakeable. I was pregnant. :)

I wanted to tell my husband right away but also wanted to wait until he was home so I could tell him in person. I called him on the phone just to check in and find out if he thought he’d be home any time soon. He told me that he would not be done with his last call until around 10:30PM. He also indicated that he was not having the best of days/nights. In fact, he was in a particularly bad mood while I talked to him on the phone. And, he was still in a bad mood when he finally got home that night around 11PM. I don’t blame him – 12 days straight of waking up before 7AM and not coming back home until past 10PM, of not interacting with his son, of not having quality time with his wife (or anyone else for that matter), would be difficult for ANYONE.

I decided not to tell him that night.

What I did decide to do was to wait until Friday evening to tell him. I’d crossed my fingers and hoped that he’d actually come home from work at a decent time, that we’d all be able to go out to dinner and have a nice, relaxing, unwinding night together as a family. I imagined that as we enjoyed our last bite of a shared dessert I’d say to him, “Honey, I have some amazing news to share with you”, and then I’d be able to tell by the look in his eyes that he knew exactly what my news was, he’d hop up from the table and give me a giant kiss and say, “Oh my God, this is fantastic! I love you so much!” and then look at J with a giant smile across his face and say, “Buddy, you’re going to be a big brother!”

Not. How. It. Went.

Friday, unsurprisingly, was another long day/night for both of us. Halfway through the day J came down with a fever and just felt miserable. I’d received a phone call from my doctor’s office informing me that I do, indeed, have gallstones and they recommended me having my gallbladder removed a.s.a.p., to which I said, “I’m pregnant”. Their response was, “Oh, wow, what bad timing”. Yes, I know. My husband didn’t get home again that night until after 10PM. I’d decided to keep J with me out in the living room (where he napped) until his daddy came home because I knew he was missing him. When my husband finally got home it was obvious that he was exhausted. Together we read J a book, sang our nighttime songs, said a prayer and then put him down for the night in his room.

We both were tired. It was past 11PM. We contemplated watching a show but didn’t know if either of us would even be able to stay awake for it. As we both sat on the couch, worn out from our own individual days, I contemplated just telling him – “I’m pregnant”. But, straightforwardness has never been my style. So, instead I started the conversation like this: “So, I have bad news, more bad news, some good news, and then more good news,”. This got his attention. So I continued:

ME: “My doctor’s office called me today and told me that I do, in fact, have gallstones and are recommending that I have my gallbladder removed. Immediately.”  HIM: “Okay, we were expecting that. When do you think you’ll be going in for surgery?”. ME: “Well, that’s where the other bad news comes in – probably not until February or March 2015″. HIM: confused, “I don’t understand why we’d wait that long.” ME: “I’d rather wait until after I’m no longer pregnant to have surgery… that’s the good news. I’m pregnant.” HIM: big smile. ME: “The other good news is that I imagine that by the time this baby is born we will have gone through my health insurance deductible, so having my gallbladder yanked out will be like a free-bee, right?”

The rest of the evening we talked about how excited we were to be pregnant again, we laughed at the whole gallstones/baby timing (better than crying, right?), and started making plans. It was an excellent way to end a not so excellent week.  :)

So, at WEEK#4, our baby was just an itty bitty little thing. He/She was only as big as a POPPY SEED. Between now and week#10 all of his/her organs will develop. Right now he/she consists of just two layers: the epiblast and the hypoblast. But that will quickly change!lemon poppy seed muffin 1

POPPY SEED ROLLS

My husband is the bread baker in this house. When I decided to start this blog up again I knew right away that his poppy seed rolls would be my (well, our) first recipe. Getting him to measure out his ingredients and slow down long enough to tell me what he was actually doing was quite a challenge. He’s the kind of baker that just goes in to a kitchen, grabs his ingredients, and “measures” out by eye and hand. He’ll say to me, “Okay, let’s see, you need some flour – about this much (and shows me a bowl with who knows, maybe 3 cups? or 3 and a half? of flour in it) – and some salt and sugar – about this much (and shows me his palm with maybe a TBSP of sugar? or is that the salt?) – and mix it up. In another bowl you bloom your yeast with some water – make sure it’s not too hot. Here, stick your finger in and see how hot it is…” and on and on. No recipes. Just gut instincts. He’s a pretty impressive guy.  :)10488857_787567414609731_757221254_n

INGREDIENTS:

(Please note, these are approximate measurements. As my husband regularly reminds me, “Baking bread is an art. There are no exact measurements in bread”.)

3 TBSP bread flour, plus 4 heaping cups bread flour

1 pkt active dry yeast

1 TBSP honey

warm water

1/3 cup olive oil

1 TBSP salt

poppy seeds

 

METHOD:

1).  Make a thin slurry by combining 3 TBSP flour, yeast, and honey. Set for 15 minutes, till bubbly.

2).  Combine remaining flour and salt in a large bowl. Mix in 1/3 c olive oil and the bloomed slurry.

3).  Start pouring warm water by the 1/4 c. and mix in until all of the flour has been incorporated and dough is sticky (total 1.5-2.5 c approx). Knead on parchment 10-15 minutes. Add flour as needed until dough is no longer sticky. Dough should form ball and spring back if you put fingers in it. If it doesn’t, keep needing.

4).  Pour enough olive oil to coat your dough ball into a big bowl (a TBSP or two). Add dough ball and move around til covered in oil. Cover with warm wet towel and wait one hour or so for dough to rise and double in size.

5).  Once the dough had doubled, punch it down, then section out into individual rolls. Feel free to do whatever fancy roll making moves you like. My husband twisted some inside out and also left some just round (my favorite). Egg wash and then cover as liberally as you like with poppy seeds.

6).  Place on a parchment covered or greased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for 20 or so minutes, or until rolls are nice and golden brown and you can smell the rolls all the way down your hall.

 

I’m back. :)

The last time I sat down in front of my computer and made a post in this blog was one week before I gave birth to baby J. I’d spent the weeks leading up to his birth sharing with you my experience of being pregnant. And last night my husband and I reread all of those posts, with giant grins plastered across our faces, I might add. Remembering the way my mother-in-law reacted to our news, the horrible fish oil, the first time we heard our baby’s heartbeat, the moment my husband and I saw our baby for the first time… it was a joy to relive each of those memories all over again. And, last night, as I read the posts aloud, I was so grateful that I’d taken the time to write all of those things down. Which brings me to this decision – to start blogging again. I’ve missed it.

If you read any of the older posts in the blog you may recall that it took us exactly two years to get pregnant with baby J. We decided on a Christmas morning we were ready to start a family and then two Christmas mornings later, we found out we were expecting. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.

He was born at 39 weeks. My labor was 15 hours long. My husband was next to my side the entire time. I’d gone in with the plan to say “no” to any offers of pain management drugs – and then changed my mind around hour 10 of labor. We’d also made a hard and firm decision to never use a pacifier – then changed our mind about that on day 5. He smiled for the first time (and I mean really smiled, because he wanted to smile) on October 9, 2012. He discovered he had toes on January 20, 2013. He slept through the night from day one – all the way to 6 months and 5 days. He had his first newspaper mention on March 30, 2013 (his daddy was in a kayak race and a photographer took a picture of us huddled under an umbrella in the pouring rain cheering daddy on). He fell in love with ducks on May 28th, 2013. He walked from one side of the room to the other for the first time on July 28, 2013. He ate his first (and his second) cupcake on August 23, 2013. He had his first conversation with me on September 27, 2013 (Me: pulling his pacifier from his mouth, “Nap time is over. Give me that thing.” Him: shaking his head back and forth,”No”, then grabbed the pacifier back and popped it into his mouth). He proved to me he was tall enough to steal cookies off the kitchen table on October 26, 2013. He decided on November 17, 2013 that he doesn’t like homemade pickled beets (also the same day I vowed that to eventually change his mind about that).  On December 29, 2013 he discovered that a fork can be used as a comb. On February 24, 2014 he had his first scoop of Glacé ice cream (maple bacon) and loved it. He became a harmonica aficionado on March 2, 2014. On April 22, 2014 he pooped in the potty for the very first time. And, on May 8, 2014 I told him he was going to be a BIG BROTHER.

Yes! I’m pregnant again! And so so very happy about that.  :)

This baby only took us nine months. I’d told my husband that I didn’t even want to think about having another until our first was one year old. I wanted to make sure I was completely present for his first full year of life. By that I mean focusing on him and not on becoming pregnant. The frustration I felt during the two year span (well, really just the last year and a half) that we spent trying to get pregnant the first time was overwhelming. And at times consuming. And I didn’t want that to become an issue if we tried again. Not until my first baby was no longer a baby at least.

And, I’m happy to say that during the nine months we tried for baby #2, I handled everything much better. Sure, I had a few “Why is this happening again? What is wrong with us? Why can’t we get pregnant?” moments with a few close friends. But, those moments were greatly overshadowed by, “Thank you, God, for blessing us with such a sweet and awesome baby! He was totally worth the wait!” moments.

And I mean it. What an awesome kid. He’s going to be an amazing big brother.  :)

Spaghetti with Green-Tomato Bacon Sauce

I have a necklace that every time I wear it at least one person comments on how much they like it. And I love it when that happens because it allows me to say, “Oh, thanks. I got it in Paris!” Then, if they inquire more, I go on to tell them all about the little old man who I bought it from. And how I walked past his shop window each morning after breakfast and on the last day we were in Paris he beckoned me to go into his store to try the necklace on that I’d been eyeing (like a child outside a toy store) for the past several days.

Up until we had J. (my son), I believed that my necklace was the ultimate conversation piece. I was wrong.

BABIES are the ultimate conversation pieces. Everywhere I go now, people who I do not know strike up conversations with me.

My favorite random conversation with a stranger happened at the River Market in downtown Kansas City just a week after J. was born. Jeff and I were shopping at the Al Habashi Mart when a gal stopped me to tell me how beautiful our son was. I thanked her and then she said, “You know, not all babies are cute. In fact, there are a LOT of ugly babies out there. But yours is not one of them,” and then off she went.

Yesterday during lunch a woman approached us at our table to let us know that our son had made a terrible mess. When I looked down I saw that a bunch of peanut shells were on the floor directly beneath the side of the table where he was situated. I smiled. Jeff said, “If you think THAT’S a mess, you should see what he does at home!” The lady laughed and then spent the rest of her lunch pointing out, comically, to other passers by how messy our sleeping baby boy was.

And then today, while out and about, a man walking behind us said, “Hey! Great mustache!” (referring to the awesome mustache pacifier J. uses). When I turned around to see him I noticed he had one just like our son’s (only, clearly, his was real) and I thanked him and told him he’e been working on it for quite some time now.

Of course, most of the conversations start out with: “How old is your baby?” and “Ohmygoodness, look at all of that hair – you must have had a ton of heartburn!” and “Your baby’s name is J.?! So is my uncle’s/brother’s/best-friend-from-college’s/dog’s/nephew’s name!”

Perhaps one of these days I’ll dress J. up WITH my necklace from Paris… I can’t imagine how many conversations that would create!!!

(And Jeff, dear husband of mine, if you are reading this, don’t worry. I was just kidding, I will not take our son out wearing jewelry… I promise).   :)

SPAGHETTI WITH GREEN-TOMATO BACON SAUCE

This summer we planted eleven tomato plants and not one of them produced an abundance of tomatoes. We brought in perhaps eight or nine ripe fruits all summer long. And as far as I was concerned, we had no hope of harvesting any more tomatoes from garden this year. However, just within the past couple of weeks we noticed that two of our eleven plants were covered with large green  unripe tomatoes. We’re still holding out that a few may ripen before the first frost comes and kills what we have left.

But, in case that doesn’t happen, I decided to start researching recipes that call for unripe green tomatoes. This is one that I found on-line and knew I had to try immediately. I made a few modifications – I omitted the pepperoncini and swapped out the pecorino Romano for Parmesan (because Jeff thinks pecorino smells and tastes like feet).  Both Jeff and I thought the pasta was de-lic-ious! The green tomatoes, once cooked down, actually take on a nice rustic but tangy flavor. And combined with the fresh green parsley, the buttery parm, and the salty bacon… YUM. This dish is a real powerhouse of flavor!

Ingredients

  • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound green tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound uncooked spaghetti
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

In a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels. Drain and reserve 1 tablespoon bacon fat. Add the olive oil to the pan. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 60 seconds.

Raise the heat to medium high. Add the tomatoes, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften and start to turn golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the some of the liquid evaporates and the tomatoes are a bit saucy.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain the pasta.

Put the drained pasta back into the pot and add the cooked tomatoes, cheese, 1/2 cup parsley and cooked bacon. Toss until combined, adding reserved pasta water to moisten, if necessary. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta among warm plates, sprinkle with additional parsley and serve immediately.

Oatmeal Pumpkin Cookies with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

On August 23rd we welcomed our beautiful son into the world. With a head full of hair and a smile that melts hearts, he has already changed my life in so many ways. There was no question in my mind that I would love him – but I honestly had no idea my heart was capable of SO MUCH MORE love! I’m just crazy about the newest little man in my life!

This sweet little boy who giggles in his sleep has completely re-prioritized my days (and nights, for that matter). For instance, here is an example of what my “to-do” list for Mondays use to look like:

  1. Sort Laundry
  2. Wash Laundry
  3. Create Weekly Menu
  4. Grocery Shop
  5. Deep Clean Kitchen
  6. Pick Up the Rest of the House
  7. Process Invoices from Last Week’s Customers
  8. Send Thank You’s to Last Week’s Customers

One of my favorite things to do is scribble big fat check marks next to completed tasks on my “to-do”. As you can imagine, it’s been hard for me these past several weeks to look down at my list at the end of the day and see so many boxes left unchecked. To help with this I had to modify my daily “to-do’s”, as I’m now well aware that as a new mother of a two-month old it’s just not possible for me to get as much done in a day as I was once capable of. So, here is my new pared down Monday “to-do” list:

  1. figure out what to eat today

Yesterday, as I was making these cookies one handed with a baby slung over one shoulder, I thought to myself, “You know, you could regain the satisfaction of checking off multiple items from a ‘to-do’ list if you just made a more realistic list”. And so I did. And here it is:

  1. Change diaper
  2. Feed baby
  3. Change diaper
  4. Feed baby
  5. Change shirt and ask yourself why you keep forgetting to grab burp rags before burping your baby
  6. Change diaper
  7. Pack diaper bag
  8. Rush in and out of grocery store as fast as you can
  9. Drive around a few extra blocks to see if you can lull your sweet adorable baby to sleep
  10. Tip-Toe into house, carefully remove baby from car-seat to bassinet for a nap
  11. Put away half of your groceries
  12. Change diaper
  13. Feed baby
  14. Put baby back down to finish nap
  15. Put away the rest of your groceries
  16. Prep dinner
  17. Feed baby
  18. Google “how much is a two-month old suppose to sleep during the day?” and “why isn’t my two-month old sleeping as much as other two-month olds?”
  19. Finish making dinner one handed with baby slung over one shoulder

Now THAT is a list I can zip through in a day!

OATMEAL PUMPKIN COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS AND WALNUTS

Last weekend I was able to spend some time with one of my very favorite friends (who happens to be an excellent baker). We enjoyed catching up over lunch and did a bit of shopping. She took me to a super cute boutique where I purchased a mustache pacifier for my son. Before I left, she gave me a loaf of her delicious and addictive chocolate-chip pumpkin bread. Working together, my husband and I had that loaf polished off by the following morning. And, as I sat there, saddened by the fact that the bread was gone, a thought crossed my mind – what if I tried to turn that tasty bread into a cookie? Is it even possible? Would that be a disaster? Or would they turn out awesome? The answers – Yes. No. And YES!  And they’re DELICIOUS.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2  cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4  cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2  cup granulated sugar
  • 2  eggs
  • 2/3 c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1-1/2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3  cups old fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1-1/4  cups chocolate chips
  • 1-1/4 cups chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add eggs and pumpkin; mix well.
  3. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in separate bowl. Add to pumpkin mix and combine. Add oats, nuts and chocolate chips; mix well.
  4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

This recipe makes 48 cookies.

Tomato Basil Jam

Things I’m looking forward to enjoying again once I’ve delivered this baby:

  1. Sleeping on my stomach.
  2. Taking hot baths.
  3. Driving my car (I haven’t safely fit behind the wheel of my car since June).
  4. Eating an obnoxious amount of sugar all at once – like a big fat cinnamon roll. Or a thick slice of German Chocolate Cake. Or a pile of my grandma’s chocolate chip cookies. Or a package of Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins. Or bowl of Baskin Robin’s peanut butter and chocolate ice cream…
  5. Having more than 4 shirts to choose from.
  6. Wearing shoes other than flip-flops.
  7. Ordering my favorite sushi roll – spicy tuna with avocado – from Mr. Le’s.
  8. Regaining emotional control – everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, makes me cry these days.

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Tomato Basil Jam

Before I got pregnant I enjoyed trying to predict all of the crazy and bizarre things I thought I might crave. I imagined waking up in the middle of the night and screaming at my husband, “CRAB RANGOON – NOW!!!”.  Or making myself peanut butter-jelly-nacho cheese Dorito’s sandwiches as an afternoon snack. But, unfortunately, I have no stories of weird cravings to share.

I can tell you that on Christmas Eve, the day before we found out we were pregnant, I was the most thirsty I ever remember being, and all I wanted was Vitamin Water. On our way to my grandmother’s house in McPherson I had Jeff pull over at least 3 times to buy bottles of it for me to drink.

And then there have been multiple evenings where I’ve really wanted something salty – tater tots from Sonic, big fat cheese burgers, piles of hot crispy fries. Those were perhaps some of my husband’s favorite of our pregnant moments because those are all of his favorite things.

Today, however, I finally had an unusual craving. I had an overwhelming urge to make tomato jam. It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s flavorful and depending on how hefty your pinch of cayenne is, it might even pack a punch. It’s the perfect way to use up any less than perfect garden tomatoes that have been sitting on your kitchen counter. And the things you can do with it!  Pair it with cream cheese on crackers for a beautiful and simple hors d’oeuvres. Spread it on a burger. Sneak it into a grilled cheese sandwich. Serve it with grilled chicken or steak. Or simply use it to add some glamour to your homemade biscuits.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 15 leaves of basil, torn into pieces
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • hefty pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3-4 strips of lemon peel

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and allow to simmer until tomato mixture has thickened, about one hour. Stir and mash down frequently during cooking.
  2. Remove lemon peel.
  3. Can in prepared jars.

Kentucky Bar Fight Jam

It’s been several weeks (months?) since I’ve posted any new entries in my blog. In fact, I believe the last time I sat down to type my baby was merely the size of a mango. Today he or she is closer to a watermelon. Or something even bigger, perhaps. I’ve missed blogging and have been wanting to come back, but feeling completely overwhelmed by the need to catch up/finish what I started (i.e. documenting the weeks in my pregnancy by posting recipes featuring an item that was the same size as my baby). I’ll tell you what happened – I got hung up on the mango entry. My husband and I came up with this fantastic recipe for Spicy Mango Pops, but I never was able to find any Popsicle molds. Then, one week after another after another went by… and the realization that this baby was coming made me replace the need to blog with the need to PREPARE.

I’m sure you understand, right?

Anyhow, I’ve given myself permission to jump back in to blogging without having to go back and finish up the weeks. I’ve also given myself permission to change my mind and decide to maybe later, down the road, post a WEEKLY recipe, here and there, in case I do choose to finish up my WEEKS OF PREGNANCY project.

That is not the plan for today, though. Today I’m going to catch you up on where I am now:

  1. I’m 38 weeks along.
  2. Pregnancy has been, for the most part, a very enjoyable experience.
  3. I am, however, over the heartburn, waddling, inability to get myself up off the floor without the assistance of my husband, and getting out of bed 7 times a night to use the bathroom.
  4. Our bags are packed and waiting by the front door.
  5. We still do not know the sex of the baby, making it very exciting – especially for those who’ve made bets!  ;)
  6. I had three WONDERFUL baby showers – each of them unique and beautiful. I swear, I have the best friends a girl could ask for.
  7. We have a solid boy name picked out, but haven’t told anyone what it is yet. We’ve known for over 2 years what we’d name a boy if we ever had one. As for a girl’s name… I’m just not convinced we need to worry about that. I’m 98% sure we’re having a boy – I can just FEEL it.  But, if we do have a girl, which I would be thrilled about, we have a few names picked out that we’ll just have to choose from.
  8. I’m nearing the end of my big BABY-TO-DO list. The nursery is finally all put together (minus window trim, which Jeff is putting the final touches on), baby clothes and toys are all washed and put away, the car seat has been installed and inspected… Unfortunately, though, it seems that as soon as I check off CLEAN KITCHEN I have to put it back on the list again. For example:

I had the the kitchen all clean and sparkling over the weekend. I even said to my husband, “Don’t even THINK about going in there. It’s staying that way until we get home from the hospital”.  Then, we went out to our garden and saw that our four sad little jalapeno plants had FINALLY produced some peppers. We picked an armful and brought them in and knew we couldn’t just let them go to waste. So, back out came all of the pots and pans. And sugar. And berries. And booze.

Kentucky Bar Fight Jam

While discussing what we could make with our home grown jalapenos Jeff and I reminisced about how much we both LOVELOVELOVE the candied jalapenos we like to make and give out during the holidays. He says, “let’s make a version of that – we’ll make jalapeno jam”.  That reminded me of a spicy jam we made last year for Christmas with blackberries and raspberries. Naturally, one thing lead to another and we came up with this – Kentucky Bar Fight Jam. Why that name? Because we decided to use blackberries, blueberries and bourbon. Get it?  Black and blue?  Bourbon is historically associated with Kentucky? Japalenos sting and have a bite, like bar fights? We’re goofy. I know. It’s okay.

So, what do you do with a spicy berry jam? Anything you want!  We immediately got out the Triscuit crackers and goat cheese and started to make tasty little bites. However, I have since then become a big fan of eating it spread on top of a piece of hearty wheat bread with more goat cheese. Don’t worry, if goat cheese isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute with cream cheese. Both are delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint Blueberries
  • 6 oz Blackberries
  • 1-2 cups finely diced Jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • ¾ c apple cider vinegar
  • ½ c your favorite bourbon
  • 1.75 oz pkg of pectin
  • 5 c white sugar

Directions:

1).  Wash and prepare berries. Make sure you discard any bad berries and remove any stems that may still be lingering on the blueberries.  All together they should measure out to 3 cups.  Combine with jalapenos in a large sauce pan along with apple cider vinegar and bourbon. Heat mixture on high, stirring constantly. Gradually add all of pectin.

2).  Once mixture comes to a rolling boil, add all of sugar at once. Stir continuously until it reaches a rolling boil once again – cook for 1 full minute.  Remove from heat and pour into cleaned and prepared canning jars. Wipe rims and process 15 minutes in boiling water.

Makes 3 pints.

WEEK 18 – Sticky Sweet Potato Cookies with Marshmallow Glaze

WEEK 18 was the first time I felt our baby move – or so I thought. Looking back now I know for sure that’s what it was. But at the time, I just didn’t know.  I mean, I was pretty confident that was the baby moving around in there. It felt like flutterings inside my belly and was certainly something I’d never felt before. But yet…

I kept thinking “maybe it’s something I ate?”. Perhaps. But, again, I’ve eaten a lot of things over my past 33 years and NEVER had I felt something like THAT before.

It was weird – in a fun way. And much lower in my belly than I expected it to be. And so very slight! If I wasn’t paying close attention, I’m sure I would have missed it.
The first movements that were quite noticeable that week happened during the first night of my church’s Easter Choir performance. It seemed as though our baby was moving around throughout the entire thing!  My assumption – our sweet little baby is going to be a singer him/herself.

It was ALMOST distracting. Each time I felt a flutter I’d get excited and stop paying attention to where we were in the music. Luckily, I had the program mostly memorized. And, I sing in the 2nd row, so I’m sure no one saw how many times I turned a page late.

Being a first time mom, it was an amazing thing to experience!  I’ve mentioned this several times already in this blog, but sometimes it’s still so hard to believe that this miracle has truly happened – we prayed for so long and waited for so long. And at times I still find myself wondering, “Are we really pregnant? Are we really going to be blessed with a baby in just a few short months? Are we this lucky?”  And at this point in my pregnancy I still didn’t have much of a belly, I was feeling much better (morning sickness was OVER), so there really wasn’t much of a change as far as I could see or feel. So it’s moments like these that really make it REAL! And I love each and every one of them!

In WEEK 18 our baby was about 5 1/2 inches long – about the length of a sweet potato. He/She was busy flexing his/her arms and legs (something I definitely felt!). Blood vessels were visible through thin skin and an ultrasound should be able to let us know if we’re having a boy or a girl. BUT – we’ve decided to wait and be surprised!

STICKY SWEET POTATO COOKIES WITH MARSHMALLOW GLAZE

So… Sticky Sweet Potato Cookies. You’re asking – “Why not sweet potato fries? Or sweet potato pie?”  I know. Jeff wondered the same thing. And here’s my answer – because I’m pregnant and I wanted COOKIES!  This is another recipe I threw together on a whim, using the Angeletti Cookie recipe as a base. And I’m really excited about this one!  The cookies are big and fluffy and moist with a very satisfying bite. Without the glaze they are lovely – a simple delicately flavored spiced sweet potato cookie that’s perfect for someone looking for a lightly sweetened cookie. However, once you pour on the marshmallow glaze they transform into a whole other cookie – sticky, sugary and perfect for someone looking for a sweet-tooth fix!  Last night, as Jeff and I devoured a plate of these amazing things, I said, “Don’t you think these cookies will be perfect for Fall? Or Thanksgiving?” He replied with “Why limit it to just one season? These cookies are awesome – they’re perfect for Fall, Spring, Summer, any holiday, Tuesdays…” and the list went on and on.

Ingredients:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2/3 c mashed sweet potato
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Glaze: 1/4 c marshmallow fluff, 1/2 cup powder sugar, 2 TBSP milk, 1 tsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, eggs and cooled sweet potato until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
  3. With floured hands or a scooper, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 10-11 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Make glaze by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and mixing with a fork. Once cookies are cooled, dip the tops of each cookie in glaze, sprinkle with cinnamon, and set on a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes. Tops will set, but will be sticky.

Makes: 13 large cookies

WEEK17 – Spicy Onion Jam

(I’m so behind! As I write this I’m actually in WEEK 24!)

WEEK 17 is when I finally started to show. Not a whole lot, but enough to cause people to stop and say, “Hey! You look like you might be pregnant!”.  My standard response at the time was, “Are you sure? Because I feel like I look as if I’ve eaten a box of donuts every day for the past 3 weeks”.

WEEK 17 is also the week that my mom came and stayed with us for a few days to help us start work on the baby’s room. When she arrived that room still looked like an office, but by the time she’d left the room had been transformed!  The desk and file cabinets and paperwork had all been removed. The curtains and wall hangings had all come down. The wallpaper was torn off the walls. The room was ready to be turned into a nursery!

We had a lot of fun over those two days. We talked a lot about all of the things Jeff and I had planned for the nursery, such as painting the walls a nice gender neutral color (gray) and painting a white tree in one of the corners of the room. We also took the time to do a little shopping and eating out at some of my favorite Kansas City spots!

Spending time with my mom is always something I look forward to. I wish she could have stayed a few more days – in addition to being a lot of fun, there’s no telling what all we could have accomplished!

At WEEK 17 our baby was 5 inches long and about the size of an onion. His/Her skeleton was changing from soft cartilage to bone and he/she was able to move her joints.

SPICY ONION JAM

Onion jam is something I’ve always been curious about. And that doesn’t make sense to me, or to anyone who knows me, because I absolutely do not like onions. (Unless they are fried and served in the form of a blossom or rings along side a delicious dipping sauce.) But, when I saw that WEEK 17 was the week of the onion, I realized that I finally had my excuse to try out onion jam. And I’m so glad I did!!!  We served it on grilled hamburgers with cheddar cheese and tomatoes and MAN was it GOOD. Then, later on we decided to make onion dip by combining 8 ounces of cream cheese with 3/4 c of the onion jam and MAN was THAT good! We are excited to continue finding ways to eat this delicious stuff. My next plan – cornbread.

This recipe is totally something I found on-line. I made a few changes to suit my pregnant cravings. If you’d like to check out the original version, go here. Otherwise, enjoy my adaptation below.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds sweet onions, cut into thin slices (we used Vidalia)
  • 10 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 6 chipotle chiles in adobo, diced
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste (we used around 1 tsp)

Directions:

  1. Combine oil, onions and garlic in a large pan and cook over med-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Cover pan and cook for an additional 20 minutes, stirring only once in the middle.
  3. Uncover and add chipotle chiles, balsamic vinegar and cayenne pepper and stir to combine. Cook until the vinegar has reduced and onions are soft, around 20-25 minutes, stirring often. Add salt to taste.
  4. Use warm or at room temperature and enjoy!

Yield: about 1 pint

WEEK16 – Chipotle Guacamole with Roasted Corn

Jeff and I love to celebrate the holidays – all of them.  One of my favorites (and I’ll say this with every holiday) is St. Patrick’s Day, which happened to fall during WEEK 16 for us.  I love all of the hoo-ra and and celebration of the day – everyone wears green, you listen to Irish music and eat Irish food, you attend parades and parties, and if you’re not pregnant you drink a green beer or two!

This year we celebrated by attending the North Kansas City Snake Saturday Parade – something we’ve done since the first year we were married. Jeff suggested we make a special t-shirt for me to wear to the parade and I thought that was a great idea. So, we fooled around with MS Publisher and ended up with a cute little design that said “FUTURE LEPRECHAUN”, turned it into an iron-on decal and placed it right on the belly of a white t-shirt. It couldn’t have been cuter! Jeff wore a Guinness t-shirt I gave him for Christmas. We were quite the festive couple!

We also celebrated by making Rueben sandwiches for Jeff’s grandma for dinner.  Because Jeff and I are who we are, we turned making these Reuben’s into a culinary road-trip of sorts.  We bought the most amazing marble rye bread at our favorite bakery in Kansas City – Bloom Baking Co. – located in the River Market. Then we drove all the way to Waldo to McGonigle’s Market to pick up the corned beef.  I canvassed the area for a local cheese store and ended up in the Plaza at The Better Cheddar for swiss cheese. The Thousand Island dressing we made from scratch (we’ll share that with you later – it was phenomenal).  And then, of course, we drove to Osawatomie to put it all together. They were the best Reuben sandwiches I think I’ve ever had, too!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day to us, huh???

During our St. Patrick’s Day festivities our baby was 16 WEEKS along and was around 4.5 inches long – about the size of an avocado. Our baby’s legs were much more developed and head was more erect than ever, and his or her little heart was pumping 25 quarts of blood a day!

CHIPOTLE GUACAMOLE WITH ROASTED CORN

Something I’ve been craving throughout my entire pregnancy has been spicy food. So, when I read that our baby was the size of an avocado during WEEK 16, making a spicy guac was all I could think about.  So, my husband and I fooled around with ingredients and after a few complete fiascoes, we came up with this brilliant concoction. The chipotle peppers lend a nice smokey heat while the roasted corn provides a much needed sweetness. Unfortunately, we forgot to add the cilantro to this photographed batch, but I assure you it’s a much appreciated ingredient, giving the guac a wonderfully fresh taste. I hope you’ll try it and love it as much as we do!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ear of corn, shucked
  • 4 avocados, seeded and peeled and chopped
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 5-6 chipotle peppers with adobo sauce
  • cilantro
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  1. Place corn on a baking sheet and place under broiler that’s been set on high. Rotate corn every 5 minutes for  total of 15-20 minutes.
  2. While corn is roasting, combine chopped avocado with lime juice and set aside.
  3. Remove chipotle peppers from can and thinly slice. Add to avocado mixture.
  4. Once corn is roasted, remove from oven and carefully remove kernels from the cob and add to avocado mixture.
  5. Add desired amount of cilantro and salt, combine and enjoy with corn chips!

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