May 23, 2015

CSA 2015: Week 1

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiime of the year… summer CSA season! 

The past two years, we’ve split a full share from Lancaster Farm Fresh, and I’ve really enjoyed the experience.  This year, however, we switched things up and are doing a half share through Greensgrow.  The switch started out of convenience: the CSA pickup for LFFC is at my work, but I’m currently out on maternity leave.  While it’s normally really convenient to swing by in the afternoon and pick up a box of veggies, it wasn’t really worth the hassle of trying to get back and forth with a newborn.  Greensgrow offered a pick-up spot close to home, and only one block out of the way when I walk home from work, meaning it’s equally convenient to pick up while I’m home on maternity leave and once I go back to the lab.  The Greensgrow CSA box also includes fruit, cheese, and fresh eggs or yogurt, so I’m excited for the additional variety!  Instead of splitting a full share with friends, we’re doing a half share this year – which means we get a full-sized box every other week.

We picked up our first box this week, which contained tokyo bekana, romaine lettuce, asparagus, easter egg radishes, rhubarb, strawberries, and a dozen eggs.

2015-05-23 23.31.40(Photo from Greensgrow)

The strawberry/rhubarb combination is an obvious choice for baking (pie!), and I see some salads in our future this week!

May 15, 2015

Five on Friday (05.15.15)

It’s been a little while since I’ve done one of these, and I fear this one will be mostly baby-related.  Even I’m sick of posting so many baby photos to my Instagram account, but when you’ve been stuck inside for a month, there’s really nothing else of interest going on in life.

1) Recovery
I’ve had a pretty rough go of things, recovery-wise.  Thanks to a bad infection, my incision split open in multiple places and will require twice-daily packing changes for many more weeks before I can be sutured back together. Because my blood pressure dropped so low during labor and I required blood transfusions afterwards, I was pumped so full of fluids that I had severe swelling and couldn’t bend my knees for two weeks after delivery – I left the hospital weighing 16 pounds more than I did when I went in for the induction.  It’s been frustrating and painful, and really made for an unpleasant past month.  Fortunately I am finally starting to feel better, 4.5 weeks after delivery – yesterday was the first time I left the house for something non-medically related and it felt so great to get back into the real world!  I really thought that I could spend some of my maternity leave enjoying the nice weather – I pictured walks outside with the baby and dog, lunch with my husband… nothing strenuous by any means, but I thought I could at least get myself out the front door.  Not so much.  Sigh.

2) Mother’s Day
Sunday marked both the four week “birthday” for our little guy and my first Mother’s Day.  Somehow, we wound up hosting brunch at our house for our families.  Fifteen minutes before everyone was supposed to arrive, our kitchen was full of smoke, Ryan was wailing inconsolably, and we were all still in our pajamas – how on earth did we, with the newborn, get stuck hosting everyone else?!  But brunch went off without a hitch (aside from the slight lingering of smoke…), the new grandparents spent time with the baby, and we took our first little family photo (aside from the one where I’m still in the middle of surgery). 

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3) Dreidel
While I was pregnant, I did some research into the best ways to introduce our dog to the new baby and how to make the transition less stressful for her.  There’s no denying that our dog has always been a member of our family and the center of our little family life, and she’s also prone to some overall anxiety and bad separation anxiety, so I wanted to make things as easy as possible on her.  So many people said that once the baby arrived, the dog would be demoated to “just a dog” – we wouldn’t want her on the couch anymore, or sleeping in our bedroom, we’d find her desire to play to be a nuisance, etc.  I’m going to go ahead and call bull on that – almost 5 weeks later, our dog is every bit as important to us as she was beforehand.  In fact, since she sleeps through the night, she’s generally the preferred individual. ;)

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4) South Street West Night Market
As mentioned earlier, last night was the first time I left the house for fun – we put the baby in a wrap and headed out to the Night Market Philadelphia in South Street West.  The Night Market is a great concept – it’s basically a big food-related street festival with restaurants and food trucks, hosted by The Food Trust.  From the website: “Night Market Philadelphia is the city’s premier street food festival, a roving food event spotlighting Philly’s best ethnic and regional restaurants and food trucks. Inspired by Asia’s lively outdoor markets, our events celebrate up-and-coming neighborhoods and showcase Philadelphia's diverse food and drinks and vibrant arts and culture scene.“ I had a great time – not only was it amazing to leave the house like a normal human, but all the food we tried was delicious: sausage cheesesteak on a pretzel roll from Alla Spina (I’ve had my fair share of pretzel rolls in my life, but this one was amazing), a BBQ chicken and coleslaw biscuit from Scratch Biscuits, shortrib truffle mac and cheese from Bistro Romano, arepas from the Delicias food truck, and a Crabby Granny cider from Frecon Farms.  I hope the Night Market comes back to our neighborhood again next year!

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5) Memphis Taproom
I’ve been telling my husband that I want to go to Memphis Taproom for at least two years now, ever since I spotted the vegan coconut club sandwich on an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  We finally made it for lunch today, with baby in tow.  It worked out really well – we were able to drive and street park since it was a weekday afternoon, and while busy, the restaurant wasn’t crowded, so it wasn’t a problem to take a table for 4 so we could put the car seat on the bench next to me.  The fried pickles and smoked coconut club were everything I imagined – the coconut was amazingly smokey and bacon-like, with just a hint of sweetness at the end.  Scott enjoyed the Mighty Memphis Burger, topped with aged cheddar and fried kielbasa.  Next week, we’re aiming for lunchtime visits to South Philadelphia Tap Room and American Sardine Bar!

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May 14, 2015

Cookies and Cream Puppy Chow

Back in March (which seems like ages ago!), I shared this chocolate chip cookie dough dip that I made for our Super Bowl party.  As I mentioned in that post, I love no-bake, bite-sized desserts for big parties – my stovetop and oven are always occupied with savory food, and I’ve learned the hard way that a piece of cake on a paper plate balanced on your knees often ends up with me trying to scrub frosting out of the carpet.  In addition to the cookie dough dip and some cookies, I made this cookies and cream puppy chow for our Super Bowl party, and not only did it meet all my requirements, it was a huge hit! Puppy Chow is one of my favorite options for large gatherings – it’s easy to make ahead of time, it’s good for up to a week (so you can really make it ahead of time to free up the night before for other pre-party prep!), and the possibilities of things you can make are truly endless.  I made three different varieties for our holiday party (including this candy cane crunch variety) and we barely had any left over!

cookies cream puppy chow

Ingredients:

  • 10 cup rice chex, divided
  • 1 cup vanilla candy melts
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar, divided
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/8 cup cocoa powder
  • 16 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
  • 1 (8-ounce) bag mini bite-sized Oreos

Directions:

  1. Add 5 cups of chex into a large bowl.  Melt the vanilla candy melts in the microwave and stir until smooth. Pour the candy melts over the cereal and stir until well coated.  Transfer the chex into a gallon sized ziploc bag and add 1/2 cup powdered sugar.  Shake, shake, shake until well-coated with powdered sugar.
  2. Repeat this process for the “cookie” pieces – add the remaining 5 cups of chex into a large bowl.  Melt the chocolate chips and stir until smooth.  Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal, stir until well coated, and transfer into a ziploc bag.  Add in the remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and crushed Oreo cookies and shake to evenly coat.
  3. Pour both bags onto a cookie sheet or into a large bowl to cool.  Fold in the bite-sized Oreos before serving.  Puppy chow will last up to a week when stored in an airtight container, as long as it fully cools before storing.

May 8, 2015

April 2015 iPhonetography

What we had planned in April: lots of restaurant reservations, lots of time spent with friends, long dog walks, catching up on projects around the house.  What actually happened in April: surprise! early baby!  I’m not going to lie – as we were in the Lyft on the way to the hospital for my induction, I was on the OpenTable app canceling the six reservations we had for dinner over the next three weeks and was really bummed about it.  To all the friends with whom we had to cancel plans: our apologies.  It will surely not be the last time that we have to back out of things on account of an unexpected child-related emergency.  Three weeks of parenting down… a lifetime left to go.

April 2015

1) My sous chefs for Seder preparation – the weekend before our unexpected induction, we hosted our families for Passover.  I had two furry friends ready to assist in any way possible, mostly by consuming anything that fell on the floor.
2) Jinxy the foster cat loved to get into all sorts of trouble, including climbing into the dishwasher…
3)… and the refrigerator.  This cat doesn’t have a “sell by” date – does anyone know how long cats last under refrigeration?
4) I took this picture as I was leaving for my induction at 37w0d pregnant.  I felt huge and wondered how I could possibly make it 3+ more weeks – turns out, I wasn’t going to find out.  Classic case of be careful what you wish for – I would have much rather been able to go into labor on my own, but cholestasis got in the way.
5) Our last photo as a family of two (three, really – we consider the dog to be a member of our family).
6) And the first photo with our new addition.  Has anyone in the history of c-sections ever had a flattering photo taken in this position?  I’m going with no.  Also, it’s weird to think that at the time this was taken, my uterus was still wide open.
7) Getting ready to leave the hospital, 5 days after checking in.  Kate Middleton waltzes out of the hospital in a dress and heels mere hours after giving birth… I was rolled out in a wheelchair wearing only socks because my feet were too swollen to even wear my husband’s slippers.  Royalty I am definitely not.
8) Tiny yellow baby, waiting to head home.
9) Introducing Dreidel to the newest member of the family.
10) Jinxy found his new favorite hiding spot in a paper grocery bag.
11) Five days old, and already heading to Target – we were ill prepared to have to supplement with formula, so the first trip to the pediatrician was followed by the first trip to Target to buy necessary supplies.
12) Big yawn from the only one who actually gets any sleep around here!
13) There’s still room for everyone on the couch.
14) Despite a terrible recovery process involving an infection, my incision splitting open in multiple places, etc., I was able to shuffle once around the block to enjoy the pretty spring flowers.
15) Hello there, handsome.
16) I sadly missed almost the entirety of our cherry tree in bloom while stuck on bed rest – I at least managed to take one picture before all the petals fell off.

April 28, 2015

Tim Tam Brownies

Once in a while, BzzAgent sends me free items or coupons for things, in exchange for my honest review.  I generally keep these off the blog – I’m not here to shill products, and this is a food blog so reviewing shampoo would be kind of pointless, right?  But this time around, I was sent cookies to review… more specifically, Tim Tams, deemed “Australia’s most beloved biscuits.”  I received one package for free, which we just ate as is… in fact, my husband packed it in his “snack bag” when we went into the hospital for my induction.  I knew I wanted to bake something with them, but you have to taste a product first to decide what to do with it first and, as one might expect… “tasting” turned into eating the entire package over a few days.  I think the best way I can describe them is oreo-meets-kit kat.  It’s a cookie, but it’s also very candy-like.  It’s crunchy but crumbles like a cookie, and then dipped in chocolate.

tim tam brownies

So.  While I did receive a box for free in exchange for my opinion, I went back out and purchased 5 more boxes with my own money so I could do a little baking.  I did receive several coupons for $0.75 off each package, but Target wouldn’t let me use all the coupons I had at once, so most of the cookies were purchased at full price, out of my own pocket.  (Just clarifying this to state that all opinions really are my own, and obviously I liked these because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have gone out and bought them with my own money.)

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Since these reminded me a little bit of a crunchy version of an Oreo, I figured I would try them in lieu of oreos in a baking project.  I had a lot of ideas (tarts! cheesecakes! mousse! chocolate cream pies!) but, since I’m a mere two-weeks post-partum and have had nothing but complications, I went with easy-peasy mix by hand brownies.  My triumphant return to the kitchen was not so triumphant, but who doesn’t like brownies?  And even more, who doesn’t like brownies with cookies baked right into them?  I really enjoyed the unexpected crunch the Tim Tams gave to the brownies, but if you love really soft, fudgy brownies with no extra fuss, I could see how these may not be your cup of tea (or bite of brownie, as the case may be).  I would definitely make these again, but I’m hoping I’ll be feeling up to trying something else with the remaining boxes today or tomorrow… while the brownies were very good, I think there just might be even more delicious uses for Tim Tams when it comes to baking.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 16 Tim Tam cookies (or oreos, or other favorite cookies/candies)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 9-inch square baking dish with aluminum foil, folding foil over the edges.  Spray foil with cooking spray.
  2. Combine the chocolate and butter in a small, microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave in one-minute increments at 50% power until fully melted and smooth.
  3. Whisk together the melted chocolate mixture, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.  Add in the eggs, whisking after each addition, followed by the vanilla extract.  Add in the flour and cocoa powder and stir just until combined and no streaks of flour remain.
  4. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Place the 16 Tim Tam cookies on top of this layer of batter.  Gently pour the remaining batter over top of the Tim Tams, using a knife to spread the batter to the edges of the pan – it is thick and will not spread on its own.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester comes out with a few moist crumbs.  Allow brownies to cool completely before cutting and serving if you are aiming for perfect presentation… or cut them and enjoy while still warm (they will crumble a bit and start to fall apart) to enjoy the Tim Tams while they are still gooey and melty!
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