Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sweet Treats

T-Minus four days until baby!  When did that happen?

In true Smith fashion, we've been spending our last weekends together as non-parents in our favorite way: yard and estate-sale-ing.  I have to say that my husband is one heck of a bargainer, and has scored a perfect amp and a brand new set of golf clubs for $15 (total!).  While I haven't found any deals that suit me or baby, I was still content to be along for the ride on these sunny, crisp weekend mornings.  We also found ourselves down at the River Arts Fest in Memphis on Sunday, where I bought myself this ring.  I've been coveting this artist's jewelry (and especially these drusy quartz rings) ever since I saw her at the same festival three years ago, and this year I told myself it's either now or never.  So I splurged.  I can't stop staring at my hand now.

In baby news, we're all ready for the little guy (well, we think we are).  Nursery is finished, car seat installed.  I've got a few meals in the freezer (chili, spaghetti, breakfast burritos, banana bread), but my real instinct right now is to bake, bake, bake and eat, eat, eat any sweet thing I can get my hands on.  I made this apple cake (we're calling it bread so we can eat it for breakfast) last night and it is absolutely DELICIOUS.  So it probably won't even make it into the freezer since we've already cut into it.  I also want to make these brown butter bars and these maple apple bars and who knows what else.  Technically, my last day of work is this Friday so if baby doesn't come on Sunday (his official due date) then I suppose I'll have some quiet time next week to bake my heart out.  The logical part of me is telling myself to just go into work next week, but the lazy (or more realistic?) side of me is saying that I'll never have this quiet time to myself again, so I might as well take the time off even if he's not here yet.  Right?  

Monday, October 8, 2012

Great Timing

In baking and food news at our house this weekend: I managed to ruin a batch of snicker doodles (burnt bottoms, anyone?), I put together some freezer meals for when baby arrives...aaaand that's about it.  I've been so tired lately (36 weeks) that my husband has taken up the reins and has not disappointed.  Homemade spaghetti sauce was exactly what we needed this weekend with all of the chilly, rainy weather.

In other news, our rental house (shown above) is available for rent starting November 1st (exactly three days before I'm due...awesome!).  Know anyone in Memphis looking for a cute 2-bedroom?  Contact me!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

No Recipe, No Fuss

I am lucky to live in a city that is chock full of wonderful local restaurants and very enthusiastic foodies that (and maybe I'm a bit biased) don't ever seem to get pulled to far into the trendy, hipster food tendencies (although I'm sure we've got plenty of that as well, and that's not a bad thing!).  I love that the restaurants that we do tend to patronize seem to be steeped in a mindset of very good and very consistent no-fuss food, while still being somewhat creative from time to time.  For me, that is a recipe (get it?) for long-term success.

So I was really excited to see this link.  Here, Memphis restaurateurs giving us a sneak peek of what they make at home on a Sunday night with their families: quick, simple dinners that require no recipe or fuss but rather keep the ingredients and prep to a minimum and allow the quality of the ingredients to really shine through.

I love articles like this and I strive to be the kind of home cook that can whip up dinner based on what's in our pantry, but I have to admit that it doesn't happen as often as it should.  As you can see from my sidebar list of blog links, I tend to collect and hoard thousands of recipes, and sometimes torment myself by tackling too many recipe-heavy dishes on a Saturday night, leaving me exhausted.  Don't be like me!

Another good source for no-recipe or quick prep ideas is Mark Bittman.  I always enjoy his NY Times Magazine articles, as well as links like Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

P.S. the photos is of the cupcakes that my sister made for my baby shower that she and my mom threw me this past weekend.  I included it because a) they were so cute and b) these cupcakes sort of embraced what I'm talking about when I say no-fuss, no recipe.  She pretty much just made these up as she went.  For the filling of the lemon cupcakes, she mixed whipped heavy cream with some crushed-up leftover lemon cookies and a drop or two of vanilla and lemon extract.  For the  filling for the caramel cupcakes, she melted down snickers bars and a few chocolate chips, then mixed in more whipped cream plus a dash of salt.  Or something like that.  I was too tired to help her (only 9 more weeks to go!) but did manage to serve as her taste-tester.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

24 and 28 weeks

I really wish I was taking more pictures during this time, but laziness coupled with exhaustion wins out most nights.  But I did manage to snap these pictures at 24 and 28 weeks for my mom, who lives out of town and wants to see as much belly as she can.  Look at it grow!  

In other baking/cooking news, I got a kick of energy last weekend and attempted spinach and ricotta gnocchi, only to have it fail miserably.  I neglected to follow the rolling/forming instructions and ended up with a big pot of floating, lumpy ricotta and stringy spinach - far from the cute soft pillows of gnocchi that I had hoped for.  My husband was a trooper and insisted that it still tasted great, but it ended up being just a hot pile of mess and we chucked most of it.  However, (maybe because I somehow predicted that the gnocchi would need some redemption?) that same day I was bent on having fresh English muffins for breakfast the next morning so I prepped the dough, let it rise that night, and then got up early to finish it.  We may have had our Eggs Benedict at almost 11 am the next morning, but we had those English muffins and goodness they were amazing.  I used the recipe from the Bread Bible, and the only thing I changed was I reduced the salt amount.  It made enough to last us all through the week, which we've been enjoying toasted, with a bit of butter and honey.  

I also have a question for anyone who's had a baby...did you prep and freeze a bunch of meals before baby arrived?  What were you glad that you had?  I want to start doing this but I find myself frozen with indecision.  Casseroles?  Bread?  Is it too early to start?  I want to get a jump start now but don't want everything to come out with freezer burn.  Any suggestions are welcome!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Fruit & Salad

No, not fruit salad.  Fruit on my salad.  In my salad.  With cheese.  This is what I've been craving the past few weeks and seemingly the only thing that I truly look forward to.  I've felt very, very good almost this entire pregnancy so I cannot complain one bit but (here goes) I've recently developed this terrible, awful problem where I think I'm good - I think I've eaten enough and had enough water and then more water - and all of a sudden I'll get hungry again, or woozy, or dizzy, and then I'm back to feeling hungry.  This of course leads to me eating whatever I can get my hands on, which is not good when A) you haven't really had much energy to stock the house with good, easy snacks and B) you're working an awful lot and you can only eat so much peanut butter + bananas + crackers.  I feel like I'm in an endless eating cycle and while that may sound fun and carefree, it's really the pits.  I get tired of eating and nothing sounds good to me anymore.  

But this past weekend I had enough energy to make a very concerted effort, and it paid off tremendously.  My doctor told me to eat more spinach so that forced me to run to the farmer's market and buy some damn spinach.  I brought it home and instead of being able to just scarf it down like the last meal I had (cereal, anyone?) I took my time with it.  I paired it with fresh plums, feta, chickpeas, red onion, and a splash of olive oil/basalmic vinegar and freshly cracked pepper.  And it was lovely.  I felt so great afterward.

I can't believe I feel this way - this whole inability to keep the house full of good, wholesome food has never plagued me before and I'm a bit ashamed that I've been too tired to do anything about it.  But no more!  That spinach salad inspired me, so here are a few links to some other salads that we've had recently that get my very enthusiastic two thumbs up (or should I say four, for the little guy in my belly?).  Only 13 more weeks to go!

Grilled Kale Salad with Ricotta and Plums

Peach, Mozzarella, and Basil Salad with a Honey Balsamic Reduction

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Surprise for Dinner

How has your spring and (almost!) summer been going?  So far, mine has consisted of more traveling and working than I care to talk about, plus the random baking of bread here or there.  To be honest, I haven't been cooking or baking at all.  Well, I take that back - there has been some pasta salad and I may have whipped up some cookies during one sleepy weekend, and we did throw a party and I put together some fruit and lime kabobs that we enjoyed on our quiet and peaceful deck (above), but really none of it was terribly interesting or blog-worthy. 

But what IS blog-worthy is this: we're expecting!  I'm almost 20 weeks along, and we just had our anatomy scan last week and as much as I wanted the doctor to tell me right then and there, my husband made us stick to our original plan: to have the doctor write down the sex and seal it in an envelope that we would open the next night before dinner.  The torture!  The envelope was sitting in our dining room and screaming my name to be opened.  So the next night, we sat down to a nice appetizer of sparkling grape juice, cheese, and olives, and opened the envelope together...and it's a BOY!  Honestly, it's what I was hoping for.  For some reason, the idea of raising a girl just made me more nervous than raising a boy.  I figure now there is more pressure on my husband!

I am so thankful that this pregnancy has been sickness- and mostly ailment-free, and doubly thankful that so far we're having a healthy baby that is measuring right on schedule.  November 4th can't come soon enough!  (I am secretly hoping he comes on Halloween, because that would make for some really awesome birthday party themes).

P.S. If I work up the courage, I may start posting belly pics...but we'll see.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Frosting

We are not a particularly religious household, despite being brought up in a Presbyterian and Methodist home, respectively.  I'm sure once we have kids that may change, but for now we do not actively belong to any church.  When Easter rolls around I find myself missing those Easter traditions of getting a new Easter dress, going to church, and, most importantly, being around my extended family all day - doing egg hunts, eating baked ham and eggs, and just enjoying the great weather.

So this year, despite being several hundred miles from our families, I decided to start our own Easter tradition.  This meant a very full Easter basket (which I immediately that candy is whispering to me to be eaten), an Easter sunrise (ok, more like 11:00 AM) bike ride, and...drum roll...homemade cinnamon rolls.

I've had this recipe bookmarked ever since I received that issue of Bon Appetit, in March of 2008.  I have flipped by it numerous times, and fleetingly thought, oh, maybe for a special occasion.  Well, yesterday was the day!

I have to say, that if you want to feel like a hero, and I mean super hero, then by all means make these.  The dough comes together really well, and the end product is incredibly impressive.  You'll have to plan ahead, though.  I ended up mixing up the dough around 6 pm the night before, let it rise for two hours, then assembled and cut them, and let them sit in the fridge overnight.  I pulled them out the morning of and let them come to room temperature (it took about two hours), then baked and iced them.  Easy peasy.

A few notes: I am irritated to even admit this but mine were a tad bit dry in the center.  I followed the recipe to a T which also meant baking for the exact time recommended.  Newbie mistake!  I should have checked them at 16 minutes or so.  So check them often.  Also, I should have followed the other commenters that said the filling could easily be doubled.  Once the dough rose and baked up so high, the filling seemed a little scant.  This does not mean they are objectionable, however.  Quite the opposite.    

Ready to become a kitchen god/goddess?  Grab the recipe here.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Momofuko Bo Ssam

Well, I made this dish about two months ago and I was reminded of it this morning because, if you can believe it, we're still eating on it.  I froze half of it the night I made it and just pulled it out of the freezer for my husband's lunches this week, and I was reminded - again - of just how good this was.  

What is it?  It's a huge piece of meat.  The recipe called for an 8-10 pound pork butt, and my husband came home with a 12 pounder.  Seeing as I was just making dinner for the two of us, what's two more pounds of meat?  Ridiculous.

But this couldn't have been easier.  And seeing as at this particular restaurant where this originated they charge upwards of $200 for this meal, it is nothing short of brilliant.  I will definitely make this again, except maybe for more people the next time.

A note: After letting the pork sit in the fridge for 6 hours with the salt and sugar rub, I debated briefly about whether or not to rinse off the salt before I put it in the oven.  It seemed like an awful lot of salt and I had a flashback to an awful disaster of a  recipe I tried once called "salty fish" (thanks, but no thanks Joy of Cooking - that recipe was the pits) that resulted in, well, you guessed it, too salty fish, but I decided to follow the recipe to the letter.  The result?  Yes, the skin on the outside is somewhat salty, but the last blast of carmelized brown sugar really helped to temper it.  Plus the salt was able to penetrate the meat inside so it made for an all over wonderful flavor.  

Ready for lots of meat?  Try the recipe here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A New Cookbook, A New Resolution

My Christmas and New Year's blur of a week was amazing, albeit a bit stressful.  We trekked our way up to Ohio to spend Christmas with my family, trekked back to Memphis, and the next day hopped on a jet plane to Mexico.  To Mexico!  We had both decided early on that this New Year's needed a bit more excitement (plus just relaxation), so to Mexico it was.  Lots of money spent, lots of drinks consumed, and lots of wonderful food eaten, and all of it so, so worth it.  

But I wanted to tell you about one of my favorite Christmas gifts this year, which, incidentally, also involves Mexico.  I had bookmarked this cookbook right when it came out (I've been following her blog now for over a year), and I'm so glad that I told my mom that I wanted it.  Now, honestly, another cookbook is probably the last thing I need (seeing as I collect recipes almost daily and will never have time to get to all of them), but this one really seemed worthy of becoming part of my collection, mainly because I had no cookbook solely dedicated to Mexican/Tex-Mex cuisine. If you are curious about different peppers or spices used in Mexican dishes, or how to make your own salsa (or tortillas!), then take a look at this book.  I haven't had time to try the recipes first hand (see above sentence), but I cannot wait.  I'm thinking that I'll try my hand at making the Ruby Red Sweet Rolls this weekend.  Anyone have the book, and tried the recipes yet?  

And also, a resolution.  (What is yours?)  Our household's resolution this year is to be more conscious of how we consume - not just food, but the inevitable waste and garbage that is a by-product.  I got a jump start on this goal last year by sewing us some every-day use fabric napkins, which has eliminated our use of the paper kind.  We're now looking into starting a composting bin - I am especially fond of this design idea.  I'm already saving scraps of vegetables for stock, but I think composting will really be a great way for us to make our environmental footprint a bit smaller.  Every bit helps, right?