imageWell, today was one for the record books. The kind of day that breaks your spirit a little bit but then you get home and get a hug and a grin from your five month old and you’re like ok. Just another day. Buuuuut I still want comfort food. Cue the egg, olive, and cream cheese sandwich on toast. Perhaps the best thing about this sandwich is that Rob thinks it’s disgusting and won’t steal any bites or want his own. But what will he have for dinner?! He’s a microwave champ, he’ll survive. #leftovers. Back to my sammich. It’s really a no brainer. Make some toast, schmear some cream cheese, add some green olives and a fried egg, then mash straight to your mouth-hole. For good measure, drink milk straight from the carton. It’s not something I ate as a kid, or anything that I ate prior to being pregnant, but some of the dumb ideas that occur while pregnant turn out to be favorite food combinations for later. Bonus that I don’t get kicked in the bladder after I eat it anymore. Maybe it’ll turn into a favorite of the baby’s when she gets teeth, or maybe she’ll take after her daddy and think I’ve lost my damn mind. Either way she’s cute and I’m going to go snuggle with her.

 

 

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I was really, really, really excited because we’d been smelling it for two and a quarter hours.

it’s 7am and I have a milk drunk baby asleep on my chest. What a surprise! I know, you’re thinking, “tell me something I don’t know, Alexa.” Since that’s the case, here’s something I learned that will forever be implemented as a Christmas tradition in my home: prime rib. Don’t waste my time with turkey or ham or Chinese food or pizza. Prime rib is the new Christmas dinner staple.

Yesterday was as close to perfect as it could have been without me being in Vermont with my family. We stayed home, had coffee and opened presents and made the baby wear everything she got all at once (cue picture of Eva the Christmas wizardimage

had Rob’s best friend over for brunch, drank more coffee, watched stupid movies, and had Rob’s parents join the party for French onion soup, baked potatoes, green beans, and prime rib. And wine. There was lots of wine. I couldn’t decide whether to make au jus or horseradish sauce to go with the beef so I did what any indecisive person would do and made both. Hey it’s the holidays, the more the merrier!

Prime Rib:
7lb prime rib (boneless)
1/4c olive oil
A bunch of rosemary and thyme, chopped
8 garlic cloves, sliced
Lots of salt and pepper

Take the meat out of the fridge about and hour before cooking and let come to room temp for even cooking.

While the meat is warming, combine the oil herbs and garlic. Let set for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350

Make slits all over the top of the meat and stuff the garlic slices into them. Pour the oil and herbs over the top and massage in. Season roast liberally with salt and pepper.

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Place meat on a roasting rack in a large pan and roast for approximately 2 hours or until meat thermometer inserted into the middle reads 125 (for medium rare).

Take meat out, place on wooden board, cover with foil and let rest until ready for service.

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Slice and serve from the table for an impressive presentation.

Au jus:
Take drippings from pan and combine with 1c red wine, 2c beef stock, tablespoon of butter and simmer until reduced by at least half.

Horseradish sauce:
2c sour cream
1/4c Dijon mustard
1/4c chives chopped
1/2c drained prepared horseradish
Pepper

Stir all ingredients together and let set overnight in the fridge. Or mix and serve immediately. Either way it’s delicious.

edit: ok the baby is back asleep again so I can add to this. The prime rib idea came out of Rob and I not exchanging gifts this year because we are lazy, but I still wanted to do something nice for him. Since I had to (hahahhahahaha) go to Costco to get the meat, I figured I may as well also grab 10lbs of onions and make French onion soup since I was going to be in the kitchen anyway. Costco on Christmas Eve was not one of my more thought out plans. I do not recommend that. Be better. Plan ahead. People will elbow you in the ribs if you go for the cut of meat they want. Christmas Eve I spent making soup and prepping brunch for the next day (mushroom frittata) and listening to Christmas carols while talking to Rob and the baby through the kitchen pass-through. Our house is really starting to feel like home. For real now. Well, now that I’m sufficiently emotional I’m going to go cuddle my little girl and plan our charcuterie spread for when Rob’s high school friends and their wives come over this afternoon. Stay tuned.

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Bagel and schmear, oh bagel and schmear. Were there ever a more perfect weekend breakfast combo than bagel and schmear (and tomato, capers, red onion, and lox)? Waking to the realization that it’s still the weekend and not Monday morning like you thought is cause for celebration in the form of a real breakfast and not a hurried shake or just a cup of coffee like most mornings. The baby plays happily on her play mat, or studiously sits in her play chair where she can see you motoring around the kitchen and occasionally chirps at you to say “hey ma, I see you.” The cat watches the baby from a safe distance and occasionally commandeers one of the baby toys as her own (“I can haz this, human”). Rob gets to sleep in because I actually have other things to occupy me and don’t have to resort to annoying him for fun. But back to bagels and schmear!

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There’s nothing more perfect than a crisp toasty but chewy, creamy, salty, sweetly acidic bite in the morning. Plus it’s an excuse to eat capers in the morning. Capers are not actually tiny salty peas. They’re tiny salty briny pops of deliciousness and they belong on bagels, in tuna fish, and anywhere else that can benefit from their magical flavor. Did I mention that they’re magical? There are few woes in my suburban world that can’t be fixed with a perfect breakfast bagel. Now I’ve gone and made myself incredibly hungry. What are your favorite bagel toppings? If you say plain bagel with butter I don’t know if we can remain friends.

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For when life gets to you and you just need comfort food. This version is far more than leftover potatoes, tomato soup, and ground beef. (Baby is sleeping in my arms and I wrote this from my phone  excuse any stupidity)

Filling:
2 lbs of lamb, either ground or cubes
3 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cups chopped mushrooms
2 smashed chopped cloves of garlic
1/3c flour
1 beer (brown ale or similar)
1/4c tomato paste
3c chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1 bundle of thyme
1 bag frozen corn

Topping:
2lbs potatoes
3tbs butter
3/4c milk or cream
Pepper
Paprika for topping

Short version: put all filling ingredients in a crock pot and cook on high for 4 hours
Make mashed potatoes and spread on top

Long version:
Brown meat in a pan (I use a Dutch oven so that I can then transfer the finished pie right to the oven without switching pans).
Remove meat, add veggies (except for corn) and cook until brown bits coat the veggies. Add the flour and stir to coat the veggies. Add the tomato paste and beer and stir to incorporate. When that mixture is thick add chicken stock. Return meat to the mixture and add herbs. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cover and cook for an hour or until meat is very tender. When done should be like a thick stew consistency.

While that cooks, put chopped potatoes into salted cold water and bring to a boil, lid off. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until fork tender. Drain potatoes, add milk and butter and then mash.

When filling is ready, add the corn on the top to make an even layer. Scoop the potatoes onto the top and gently spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper and paprika. Bake in a 375 degree oven until top is nicely browned.

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How my husband likes his.

We’ve talked in the past about my obsession with Buffalo flavored everything, so here’s a fun little diddy that I made up last night before the Patriots game.  (This post is super short because I’m on my lunch break at work and I’m very busy stuffing my own face and my coworker’s faces with my leftover stuffed pepper that I brought for lunch. Stuffed. Now I feel like I’ve said stuffed enough.)

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Ingredients:

3C cubed or shredded chicken (leftover roasted or rotisserie chicken works well)

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1C honey maple buffalo sauce (or more to taste)

2C shredded cheese (any kind is fine)

3C cooked white rice

1/4C pine nuts (optional, but highly recommended)

Red bell peppers (tops cut off and ribs/seeds removed)

 

Saute the onion, celery, and carrot in a medium pan with a small amount of olive oil until soft

In a large bowl mix together all the ingredients except for the red peppers and 1 cup of shredded cheese

Stuff the red peppers with the well mixed filling, top with rest of the shredded cheese, bake at 375 until cheese is brown and melty.

Place the tops of the peppers over the cheese for presentation, or munch on them while the peppers bake.  Your call.

 

Bonus: put any leftover filling in a casserole dish, top with shredded cheese, and bake for dinner the next night.

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How many cups of coffee can this new mama drink while the baby naps? So far this morning it’s three. We are gently rocking the morning away on our three season porch wrapped in flannel blankets, baby snoring softly and occasionally fussing when the pacifier slides from her sleepy mouth. We have the buzz of end-of-summer insects, birds chirping, and distant train rumbles as white noise to help baby sleep. It’s cool and humid with a stillness that comes after the rain, and it reminds me of early morning coffee at the cottage, our ramshackle family gathering place in Scranton, PA. Our lawn is patchy and burnt from summer’s lack of rain and the shallow roots of our Norway Maple make the ground beneath it uneven and mossy, just like the cottage. My house is my cottage. My cozy shack. My daughter will grow up not knowing the cottage itself. I’ll tell her about it, show her pictures, stop during walks to say, “smell the way the air is now… That’s how it smelled up the mountain.” She’ll get to know the place I went to during labor and delivery when I was out of my body and too tired to push. We would go up to recharge and see family, and how appropriate that my husband while coaching me through contractions said “go to the cottage, it’s time to meet our daughter”. It’s only been 24 days, and at the same time it feels as if I’ve known her for as long as I can remember. Her face is my face, her fusses, tantrums and snores are my soundtrack, her weight in my arms is what I’ve waited all this time for. She’s my baby. My world. My Eva Wren.

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Side note: Duh, it’d be pretty stupid to post about buying a bag of chips at the store.

Ok this one was definitely a craving-driven adventure. I was making taco pizza for dinner (another adventure, forgot to take pictures. Oops.) and needed crispy corn strips for the top. I didn’t want crumbled Tostitos, so being the dip I am I decided to make them from scratch. It would be simple to just fry up some strips really quickly. That was the plan, and then I ended up making a whole batch of homemade chips because the strips were so damn tasty. Isn’t that just the way. The good news is I combined three almost empty salsas to eat them with and that’s three less containers in the fridge. Mom would be so proud! I may or may not have a condiment problem.

This was a total wing-it-to-win-it experiment. I’d never fried up my own chips before, but I had fried these really temperamental Swiss cookies that nobody in our family can agree on a spelling or pronunciation (the closest I could find was kaechlis but that pulls zero search results so who knows) so I figured why not.

Ingredients:

1 package corn tortillas, sliced into wedges
canola oil
salt
chili powder

Fill a deep pan with a couple of inches of canola oil, then heat over medium high heat until it ripples and a small bit of tortilla dropped in bubbles furiously.

In batches, fry the wedges of tortilla, while moving them around with a wire basket scoopy thing so that they fry on both sides. Keep them in the oil until the bubbles settle down and they look lightly browned.

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Using the wire basket thingy pull the chips out of the oil, tap over the pan so excess oil goes back in, put onto a paper towel to drain and immediately sprinkle them with salt and chili powder

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Repeat until all the wedges are fried. I experimented with different sized frying batches from 7 chips to a handful and didn’t really notice a difference in quality, as long as I stood over them and moved them around so the hot oil got on every surface.

Eat. Eat them all. If you make fresh salsa there’s really nothing to feel guilty about because you’re technically eating vegetables.

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We’ll start with my most recent food adventure since it’s still pretty fresh on the brain. The other day I had some close girl friends over for brunch and quality time in the new house. We haven’t really done any big entertaining since the miscarriage in November and then when I got pregnant right away after that, the first trimester was basically a three-month nap. Second Trimester came along and with it being much more energetic and not sleepwalking everywhere. This meant brunch with the girls, obviously. We had all the breakfast meats, (sausage, bacon, and corned beef hash), cut up fruit, mimosas, and the subject of this post – an asparagus Parmesan baby greens frittata topped with sliced cherry tomatoes.

That seltzer was for my baby-friendly mimosa.

That seltzer was for my baby-friendly mimosa.

Since I’d never made a frittata before I decided to consult my handy Food Network In the Kitchen app to get some ideas. I wanted to make the frittata in a pie dish for nice presentation and avoid the possibility of burning my hand by reaching in and grabbing a 400 degree sauté pan handle without an oven mitt. Don’t laugh, I’ve done that twice so far this pregnancy. And set off the smoke alarms four times. But that’s a different story. I can’t remember which recipe exactly I messed with, but I think it was a combination of an Alton Brown and a Food Network Kitchen recipe. What I was able to determine is you can pretty much put whatever the heck you want into a frittata and it will be tasty. Since we were heavy on the meats already I decided to do a vegetarian one.

Ingredients:

7 eggs. Or 6 if you want to be that way. I needed to use up eggs to I used 7.
large splash of half & half or milk (about ¼ cup, maybe a little more)
pile of freshly grated parmesan cheese (about ½ cup)
fresh cracked pepper
salt
dash of paprika
1 C chopped roasted asparagus (leftovers are great!)
1 C wilted baby greens – I used spinach, kale, and chard
as many sliced cherry tomatoes as you need to dot the top – slice them thinly so they stay afloat! The idea is to have a pretty presentation (if you’re feeding company. If you’re just feeding your family then jeez make scrambled eggs… I’m kidding).

1 glass pie pan liberally greased with butter

preheat oven to 400

whisk together eggs, cheese, S&P, paprika, and milk until well combined and there are no patchy white or yellow bits to the eggs.

Stir in the greens and asparagus until mixture is well combined. Pour into greased pie pan and gently, gently lay the cherry tomato slices on top so they stay on top. As the frittata bakes the eggs will puff up around the tomatoes making little eggy beds for them.

Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the eggs are puffy and golden brown and look set in the middle.

Remove from the oven (use yer mitts! Oven mitts that is), let cool for a couple minutes, slice, and serve!

up close and personal.  and beautiful.

up close and personal. and beautiful.

bonus picture: look at the pretty crocuses I planted in our front yard!

bonus picture: look at the pretty crocuses I planted in our front yard!

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It simultaneously feels like everything and whole lot of nothing has happened over the last five months. First of all, I’m pregnant again and time absolutely creeps by when you’re counting in weeks. Second, we’ve finally unpacked most of the boxes since the move and now are starting to feel like our house is really our home and our space. Third, I’m only allowed to have 200mg of caffeine a day and on some days, brace yourselves, I don’t have any. WHAT. Ok I guess one of those bits of news is pretty huge so I’ll give you a minute.

If you want more info about the baby here it is: She’s a girl, has adorable little 22 or 23 week old toes, weighs a pound so far, and is primed to be a champion Irish step dancer, or soccer player, or kickboxer, or gymnast, or… you get the idea. She wiggles a lot. I ate like a jackass frat boy before this whole adventure so not much has changed on that front, except for I no longer want Taco Bell, hot sauces (they hurt my gums and my mouth), and I can’t really have obscene amounts of coffee. Favorite foods are potatoes in any form (fries, mashed, baked, roasted, tots, chips), cheese mustard and pickle sandwiches on potato rolls, handfuls of almonds and chugs of milk from the carton at 2:30am, and Ben & Jerry’s. All the Ben & Jerry’s. How I’ve only gained 14lbs so far is beyond me, but I’ll take it.

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The goal today is to write up some of the meals and snacks that I’ve been taking pictures of this whole time but doing nothing with. Hear that, Mom? I’m going to DO SOMETHING with all those annoying pictures I take. Maybe. Some day. Ok right now.

Perhaps the most exciting part of having the house come together (other than starting the nursery and having the guest room/library come together) is I have a beautiful little sun porch to eat breakfast on and hang out in while writing or reading, or waiting for the chimney repair folks who are now 3 months and nine minutes late. Not that I’m counting. Thanks for all the snow, New England, I could have had roaring cozy fires all winter had it not been for you cramping my style and preventing people from getting up on the roof. Rude.

breakfast on the sun porch

breakfast on the sun porch

coffee break on the sun porch

coffee break on the sun porch

I lost our baby.

“It’s not your fault, you did nothing wrong, something was wrong from the beginning, you wouldn’t want the additional heartache of carrying the baby any longer…” all perfectly legitimate and true things, but they don’t make us feel any less empty. Our baby is gone. Our due date in June will be just another day.  Where my body was once changing rapidly to accommodate the massive job of dividing cells into a real live human being, who at 8 weeks would have been starting to grow little arms and legs, I now feel completely empty. Cold. I’d give anything to feel the pain in my breasts again that meant that they were changing to accommodate becoming a sustainable food source for a new human life. They feel just as they always have. Dead weight bolted onto the front of my chest for no fucking reason. My insides are cramping, and not in the way that they were previously to rearrange and make room for our baby. They’re working to squeeze every last drop of evidence out of my womb, and out of our life. I haven’t let Rob into the same room for any of that. I want to protect him from having that visual. I can’t protect him from the memory of the look on my face at our friend’s house, ten minutes after we told them we’d be having a baby, the look that told him something was very wrong. I can’t protect him from the horrible sound I made when we got the news in the emergency room that we’d lost the baby. I can’t protect him from the random crying jags in the middle of our living room while clutching a bottle of whiskey that we’ve already drank half of.   Our baby is gone, my body is emptying, he doesn’t need to see that to know.

The statistics of miscarriage that go around are vast and confusing. One in three women miscarry, but 30% of all pregnancies are miscarriages, and there are multiple kinds of miscarriage. Ours was a spontaneous abortion. There was something so wrong with our baby from the beginning that nature wouldn’t let it live past 8 weeks. My husband is a scientist, so he explained it to me in the way he knew I would understand. DNA has letters that must match up exactly. If there’s an error in the spelling, or the proofreader notices a glitch, the pregnancy cannot continue. We had a major typo.

But my point is, one in three. 30%. Whatever number they are throwing out there this week. Not one in a million, not one in two billion… The nurse in the practice I saw yesterday, the receptionist too. The multiple women who have reached out to me upon hearing the news. We are not alone, and yet going into this I thought that nobody lost their babies, and that miscarrying meant that your body was horrible and unfit and not meant to have children. Why do we have to feel this way? Those who know me know that I keep everything close to my heart and I would usually rather walk across hot coals than talk about the inner workings of my life.   Some of my closest friends have no idea that we were even trying to have a baby. Some don’t know that I’ve been seeing a mental health professional to get my shit under control since my anxiety hit critical mass over the summer because I got attacked by a dog and stopped eating. Well, there you go. All of our dirty laundry is out so judge away, but we need you. Even if we don’t know you, we need to know we’re not alone, and this isn’t a freak accident that only happens to us. We are letting you in. If there is a time to put aside our commentary on how other women are handling their lives and their facebook feeds and instagram accounts, and support each other, it is in times like these. Everyone is different, many people are very private and ashamed when this happens. Fuck, I’m horrified about this, but one of the things I’m working on every week is asking for help. I feel like this is one of those taboo topics that should be less so.

Oh you’re thinking about kids? Here’s a very real set of statistics about miscarriage. It could certainly happen, so be prepared, but it doesn’t make you less of a woman. It doesn’t make you less of a viable candidate to be a mother. It doesn’t make you unfit, or unwell, or unlovable. If we had this conversation I’m not saying that it would hurt less, or feel less like a failure, but we would know that we’re not alone. Thank you to the women who have reached out with kind words, encouragement, stories, feelings, and to the men who reached out to Rob to give him a safe place to speak candidly.

We are mourning the very real loss we’ve just had. We cry off and on, and I absentmindedly rub my stomach and wonder why. Not that we’ll know, but it’s human nature to want to know why and what we did wrong to do better the next time. Our Huckleberry is gone.

Last night I looked up at Rob and said, “I just want you to know that if we aren’t meant to be parents, you’re enough.” He agreed. While we have been reassured time and time again over the past three days that we are young, healthy, fertile, and we will conceive again… If we can’t, don’t, do and miscarry time after time, we can look at each other and know that we are enough. In the meantime, we’re going to be sad, but together in this. We’re not alone.

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