Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rindsrouladen (Beef roll ups)

Rindsrouladen are a german treat that you absolutely should try to make. I think they're fairly foolproof, the trickiest part is to find beef that is sliced thin enough. I bought some sort of thinly cut steaks, that I pounded with a meat pounder until less than 5 mm thick (ideally even thinner).

8 slices of thin steak
8-16 slices of bacon
8-16 pickles
onion, carrots, celery
bay leaf
pepper, salt, broth concentrate

Pound the meat if needed. Spread mustard thinly on each slice of meat, layer one or two slices of bacon on top, add a pickle, and roll up. Tie with kitchen thread.

Turn the rolls in flour and brown on high heat in your dutch oven or similar heavy pot. When all sides are brown, remove meat and add chopped onion, celery and carrots to the pot, an stir until the bottom of the pot is clean. Put the meat back in, cover with liquid so that the rolls are half covered. Simmer for 1 hour or more, until meat is very tender and delishious.
Then, remove the meat and keep warm. Use immersion blender to blend the vegetables and broth into a gravy. You shouldn't need to add starch since the flour from the meat rolls will bind the gravy.

Serve with dumplings of some sort, and a vegetable side. I served with 'Schupfnudeln' (Bubaspitzla) but I didn't like the way they came out so that recipe will have to wait for another post. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Corn-syrup free Easter Treats

As I mentioned before, my older daughter can't have anything that has corn or corn syrup in it. (Well, I guess my younger one can't, either LOL). So in search of an easter treat for her, I came across a recipe for homemade Peeps:

  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1/3 cup cold water, for gelatin (I added a couple of drops of lemon extract and I think vanilla would be good, too).
  • 1/4 cup water for syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 cup cold water. Allow gelatin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water and sugar, and stir over medium-high heat until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and place a candy thermometer into sugar water; wipe sides of pan with a wet brush if sugar crystals have splattered up. Boil sugar until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage (238F). Remove syrup from heat; add to softened gelatin. Using the whisk attachment of an electric mixer, hand-stir the mixture a few minutes to cool; place bowl on the mixer stand. Beat on medium high with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form and the marshmallow mixture holds shape, 8 to 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer marshmallow mixture to a large (14-inch) pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch (No. 11 Ateco) tip, and use immediately. I didn't hve a pastry bag with a large enough tip, so I just used a large zip-loc bag and cut off the corner.
Then you make them into peeps - I basically followed this set of instructions. Here are some results. It wasn't too hard to do and I think with a proper pastry bag it would have been awesome. My peeps and bunnies have no eyes yet because I haven't gotten around to putting them on, and they're sitting on corn-starch free powdered sugar to set.
For next time, when it isn't easter, I think I will try this recipe:

Homemade Marshmallows

2 env. (2 tbs.) unflavored gelatin
1 1/4 c. water
2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. powdered sugar

Soften gelatin in 3/4 cup of water and set aside. Place remaining 1/2 cup water and granulated sugar in medium sized saucepan. Cook until small amount dropped in cold water forms soft ball (240 degrees F). Remove syrup from heat, add softened gelatin and stir until almost cold. Add salt and flavoring. Beat until syrup is white and thick (8 minutes with an electric beater). Pour to 1 inch thickness in two 8 inch square pans that have been greased and dusted with powdered sugar. Let set in cool place about an hour -- do not place in refrigerator. Turn out on board that has been well dusted with powdered sugar. Cut into 1 inch cubes.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cheap Favorite Kids' T-Shirts

Today, I took my almost 3-yo daughter to Michaels for some craft supplies. We picked up 4 T-shirts for $10 (on sale) and a couple of colors of fabric paint for $.99 each. I looked online for cute cartoons of chicks, since we're all about chicks and chickens around here right now, plus Easter is right around the corner.
I think the T-shirts are a little big on her this year, but I might order more smaller ones from Dharma Trading and make this a Birthday party activity for her upcoming birthday.

She loves T-shirts with designs in the front but what's available at the stores is either very expensive or just not that cute and/or appropriate IMO.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Recipe for Baby Food

When I had my first baby and it came time to feed her food, I found that jarred baby foods don't pass muster when it comes to yumminess or affordability. So using my favorite, the immersion blender, I made my own. Today it was time to remember the recipe because my second daughter had her first meal of solid food:

Supplies needed:
Ice cube trays
Saran wrap
Immersion blender
Stainless steel pot (non-stick would get scratched by the blender)
Organic vegetable or fruit of your choice.

You boil the peeled and cubed vegetable or fruit in as little water as you can get away with. You puree with the stick blender. You pour into ice cube trays, cover with saran wrap, and freeze. Duh. Simple, huh? When frozen solid, remove from tray and put in a container of your choice, label with contents and date. Or don't, and then play baby food roulette/artistry when you pack lunch for daycare, that's what I did. One yellow, one white, one green makes a pretty lunch.

A couple of advantages come to mind. This is very cost effective, in particular since you can make organic baby food for the price of regular jarred food. VERY little work is involved if you buy frozen peas or spinach, or baby carrots (though I prefer real carrots that I have to peel). As I was peeling a sweet potato today that I then cooked and pureed I thought that it took less time than to walk to the baby food aisle in Target (or wherever).
One of the biggies is the flavor and consistency. None of this stage 1,2,3 crap that is used in marketing. You make it smooth enough that there is no danger of indigestion or choking, and that's it. Baby gets used to a little texture and a LOT of flavor in the food and that's what you want.
My daycare teachers were always playing guessing games as to what the food was, but most often the smell would be telling - have you ever smelled jar baby food? It's gross.
Another plus is that there are no secret ingredients. Pears are pears, apples are apples, veggies are veggies without secret additions of rice or corn (which to a baby is really worthless filler I would say).

I have no idea why not everybody does this. I tried to look at it from both sides to no avail.

Possible variations and hints:
I have tried to make chicken this way, but my daughter never liked it. It is impossible to not make it taste dry I find. Rice also was fairly tricky. The one thing that she gagged on was zucchini squash. It's probably genetic since I hate the stuff too. Once I cooked some dried apricots this way, the result was so sweet it didn't freeze well and my daughter didn't like it much. I thought it was yummy though. Prunes are the one thing I bought jarred after that.
One of our favorites are beans. I used to use canned but these days I would pressure cook my own. Garbanzo (hummus) and kidney beans come to mind as very healthy. They're pretty good for babies who tend to be constipated, I should add.

Why organic:
Because children have been found to have measurable levels of pesticides in their urine. That just doesn't seem right to me. The ingredients in pesticides have (if at all) only been tested one at a time, in adults (most often male adults) and at high doses. Typically, things like that don't get tested for long-term, low-dose exposure so there is really no telling what's safe and what isn't.
And you can't rely on the FDA or EPA to tell you what's safe, sadly.
When those kids in the study were switched to all organic food, the pesticides in their urine disappeared. That's reason enough for me to go the extra mile and once you know when and how to shop, the extra cost is not that staggering. Nobody says you have to eat bell pepper and Boston lettuce all the time....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recipe for a Sound Economy

.... I am in no shape tonight to post anything original but I read this quote today in one of my favorite books ('The Tightwad Gazette'):

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift. You cannot establish security on borrowed money. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.”
-Abraham Lincoln

Seemed like a good recipe for sound economy both in the big and the small scale.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Recipe for Happiness

Get yourself a baby of some sort. Human babies are good. If you can't get your hands on one, I have a new favorite: chicken babies. Hold them. Talk to them. Notice how they make you relax and how they slow you down. Babies are good. More babies are better. Sadly, my husband cannot be convinced of the latter, so I had to settle for extending my family the chicken way. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy (Brownie, Spotty and Blackie):

Salmon and Spinach over Gnocchi

This is a very very quick weekday dinner - and it's fancy enough to hide its healthfulness. Frozen ingredients are key - I buy my frozen pesticide-free spinach and my wild-caught salmon at Trader Joe's.
1 large salmon fillet
1 bag frozen spinach
1 onion
1 cup cream or {milk and some flour}
1 clove garlic
1 package of gnocchi (little potato dumpling)
1/2 cup white wine.

Start a pot of water on the stove and proceed to cook gnocchi according to directions. Do NOT overcook them. They only take 2-3 minutes.
Sautee onion and garlic until translucent. Add frozen spinach and cream, cook until it's all hot and bubbly. You could add sour cream or cream cheese if you had any on hand. Add the wine.
Cut the salmon in 1 in cubes. Put the cubes on top of the other stuff in the pan, don't stir. Cover pan with glass lid and cook on medium heat until fish is done.

Defeat and Clafouti aux Cerises

My original plan was to post about a couple of dishes that my 'Oma' used to make. I am the proud child of a working mom, and once a week, my grandmother would cook for us. Which was a blessing for my mom, I am sure, but more so for me. Nobody can cook like my Oma when it comes to 'Schwaebische' cuisine. Alas, my foray into 'Hefeknoepfle' (yeast dumplings) was only about 80% successful, so that post will have to wait.
However, since I anticipated a suboptimal outcome, I thought I'd appease the family with a kick-ass dessert: Quick skip across the French border - Clafouti Aux Cerises.Ingredients:

3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon extract
2 eggs
1 jar of Trader Joe's cherries (I am sure you could use frozen ones)
1 Tbsp butter


Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Add milk and butter, stir until smooth. Add eggs. I added them whole but if you were going out of your way to make this extremely awesome, you could beat the egg whites and then fold in just before you add the cherries.
Put the batter in a 9x9 dish that you have buttered. Put the cherries on top.
Bake for 35 or so minutes at 350F until golden and delicious.

The husband at it and loved it. Said it reminded him of something his mom would make. About 20 minutes later, he realized it reminded him of the dessert that came with the TV dinners she would put out for when she was out and his dad had to 'cook'. I thought that was funny. I cannot remember my mother ever serving convenience food. Thanks mom!!!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Not your average Tuna Noodle Casserole

Big snowstorm today. Screams for tuna noodle. Plus, the husband has been helping me build a chicken coop and so he deserves a treat. He's way stacked up on brownie points for not only letting me have chickens, but also actively helping me build! I will post a separate post about the chickens, and look for lots of egg based recipes come summer.....
This recipe will make two casseroles - one for a friend with a new baby or other distress in her life. The other for your own dinner. Notice the absence of the usual 'cream of crap' canned soup. I only know of one recipe worth cooking that uses these products and that is my husband's almost-from-scratch Mac and Cheese. Which, if you tasted it, would make you want to marry him, too. I might make him post that sometime. Anyway, here we go.
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages uncooked medium egg noodles
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalk celery, finely chopped
  • 2 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bag baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups water
  • salt, pepper, pasta seasoning, chicken broth concentrate to taste
  • 5 (6 ounce) cans tuna, drained and flaked
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons of those horrid french fried onions that the husband loves
  • 2 cups shredded Goat Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Parmiggiano or similar
How you do it:
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Butter a medium baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter and one tin foil 9x13 dish.
  2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add egg noodles, cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente, and drain.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onion, celery, and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, until tender.
  4. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan, and whisk in flour until smooth. Gradually whisk in wine, cream and water, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in tuna, peas, spinach, onion mixture, and cooked noodles. Transfer to the baking dishes. Stir the cheese in - we like our cheese 'in' not 'on'.
  5. Bake covered for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until bubbly and lightly browned. Put the terrible onions on for the last five minutes, when you can also take the lid off.
Well, in all its glory, I forgot to photograph the endresult. Silly me. It just looked so good and we were so hungry. It looked like tuna noodle with green polka dots.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homemade 'Honey Bee' Cream

As mentioned before, my daughter has very bad excema. In my stumblings to identify healthy skin potions that don't cost a fortune, I read a research paper that suggested putting a 1:1:1 mixture of honey, beeswax and olive oil on people's skin. I have no idea how they made that work because said mixture is basically a solid. However, with some trial and error I have developed the following recipe

1 part by weight Beeswax, grated
5 to 6 parts by weight high-quality, organic olive oil
1 part raw Honey. There might be a benefit to using local honey, which is what I did.

Put the grated wax and the olive oil in a microwave safe dish and heat. I heat in 30 second increments and stir in between. Do this until the wax is completely dissolved in the oil. Then stir and stir and stir while the mixture cools down. When it's not super hot anymore, add the honey. Then keep stirring for a while, until the mix becomes more solid and cream-like. Put in a jar. This probably won't keep forever. I keep meaning to add a small amount of Vitamin E for prolonging shelf-life but alas, I haven't done this yet.

My daughter goes through phases where she likes this cream and other where she claims it hurts her. This is true for all creams we have tried so far. So if you're struggling with excema, I figure it's worth a shot. If you're looking for a really nice hand-cream (useful as gift, too!) - you got it. I bet you could add some essential oil if you're not blessed with sensitive skin.

Laundry Detergent

I am going to post a series of recipes of a different kind. I could start this with a long rant about the exposure we're all getting from cosmetics and other personal-care products. It's not good news. Read what the Environmental Working Group has to say about that sort of thing. I just read in the book "Ready, Set, Green" that in the U.S., a total of 10 chemicals are banned from cosmetics. Compare this to 1,100 in Europe! As I said to my husband - imagine the bottles on the shelves of CVS and Sephora were required to read 'Made with ingredients outlawed in European Countries'. Would you buy it? I didn't think so.

I have been making my own laundry soap (technically speaking, soap and detergent are different animals) for a while now. I cannot possibly claim credit for the recipe, that's floating all over the internet. I follow this set of instructions

"Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar Fels Naptha or other type of soap [I use 1 bar of a soap from vegetable oil and without fragrance, Fels Naphta has perfume but I hear it clean really well]

½ cup washing soda

½ cup borax powder

~You will also need a small bucket, about 2 gallon size~

Grate the soap and put it in a sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat it until the soap melts. Add the washing soda and the borax and stir until it is dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot water into the bucket. Now add your soap mixture and stir. Now add 1 gallon plus 6 cups of water and stir. Let the soap sit for about 24 hours and it will gel. You use ½ cup per load."

However, I am posting it here to raise some awareness. There are a number of advantages to this recipe and a couple of FAQs that come up, so I will briefly discuss.

Why did I start this in the first place? I have a daughter who has crazy bad excema. In an effort to eliminate environmental triggers, I have reduced her exposure to all but the most basic things that can get to her skin. Making my own laundry soap allows me to control exactly what is in the stuff. Interestingly, I used to use a honey&oat soap bar from Trader Joe's because general wisdom is that oats are good for excema. Now it turns out that my daughter is allergic to oats! Go figure. Almost all OTC excema creams or bath soaps have oatmeal in them. I feel lucky that I am easily able to identify triggers and change recipe. Homemade means you know exactly what's in it. Be that for food or for other stuff (homemade playdough, homemade soap or creams).

Is it hard? What does it cost? It is not hard. The hardest part is grating the soap. There are posts online that compare the cost exactly, but one thing is for sure - this is a LOT cheaper than commercial detergent. Some people have reported difficulty finding wash soda but in my experience a well-stocked supermarket will carry it. I made a batch today which took me under 30 minutes, of which maybe 15 minutes were active hands-on time.

Does it work in a HE washer, aka Front Loader Washer? Yes it does. This soap does not produce a lot of suds (bubbles) which is typically the problem in HE washers. I have a front loader (like any normal European). In fact, good time to plug the German appliance brand Miele. Way the best. Can't wait till I get to redo my kitchen with all Miele appliances. As soon as the stock market rebounds :-)

Does it work as well as detergent? Hmm. I don't know. Since I get rashes from Tide, I have only ever used other 'earth friendly' hypoallergenic commercial detergents. Some of those I find suck. Seventh generation brand detergent doesn't work at all. Trader Joe's brand liquid detergent smells to high heavens. A brand I like is 'Sun and Earth' and I would say the homemade stuff washes as well or a little bit better than that.

Is it safe for babies? I couldn't imagine a reason why it wouldn't be and I have been using it on mine. I would not use a soap bar with fragrance or antibacterial ingredients if I was going to use the soap for babies. In fact, you should never use antibacterial soap for a variety of reasons.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Tonight, I decided we deserved a special treat for dinner. Everyone in the family seems to have just gotten over not feeling well for one reason or another, plus isn't it Oscar night after all?So I cooked Chicken Cordon Bleu with Mushroom Risotto and a Baby Spinach salad with Raspberry vinaigrette.

I started with the risotto which was going to take the longest. Chopped half an onion and sauteed in oil until translucent, then added 1 cup of Arborio rice. Stir stir stir. Add 3/4 cup white wine. Stir stir stir. Meanwhile heat 3 cups of water in the kettle and pour over a small bag of dried mushrooms. Why is it that dried mushrooms have so much more flavor than fresh ones? This one was a mixed bag that I got at Trader Joe's. The mushrooms expand, and you keep adding the water to the rice as the rice cooks on low to medium heat. Stir stir stir. I also added 2 little pouches of chicken broth concentrate. When the mushrooms are soft, fish them out of the water, chop chop chop, and add to the rice. Stir in the rest of the liquid until rice is soft but not mushy.

While the rice was cooking, I sliced open some chicken breasts and stuffed them with a slice each of cooked ham and swiss cheese. Dipped in some beaten egg and breadcrumbs, fried in a generous amount of butter in a stainless steel pan.

When the meat was done, I kept it in an oven safe plate in the warm oven (probably too warm, the pieces got a little darker in there), and made some piccata-like sauce. 2 Tbsp flour into the buttery pan, stirring to get all the chicken come up from the bottom of the pan. Added 1/2 cup of white wine, and juice of one lime. Stir stir stir. When it started to thicken, I added 1/2 a little jar of capers (turns out my older daughter loves them - weird child) and about 1/2 cup of cream. Stir stir stir. Take the meat out of the oven, collect the juices from the bottom of the bowl and add to sauce. Serve over risotto.

The raspberry vinaigrette is a variation of my favorite salad dressing:
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
4 Tbsp aged Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
After stirring this all together, add a handful of frozen raspberries and let sit to gently thaw the raspberries. Add bag of baby spinach and toss gently.

Meanwhile the risotto was smelling amazing and my older daughter was very very hungry. Devoured half a jar of capers while I was cooking. Somehow in there I made Tofu Chocolate Mousse for dessert, and then we all sat down for a strangely harmonious and nice family dinner. Nadia ate risotto, and dipped pieces of chicken in the sauce like a grown up. I can't wait for her to be old enough to really enjoy food. When do kids start liking sushi?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

3 continents in a day...

While I was cooking the most improbably combination of dishes today, I philosophized a little about what we can do these days. We can find information at the click of a mousebutton, that lets us explore cuisines from all over the world. We can even 'talk' to the people that post the recipes, or read a little about their lives. To me, the most rewarding aspect of globalization, besides finding my husband on another continent, is food. I shudder to think I might have missed sushi! What if I'd never tried it? In my native Germany, sushi isn't all that prevalent and it's harder to get fresh fish than it is here on the east coast.
So today, we'll take a whirlwind trip from the Mediterranean to India and back to Mexico. Fish stew, Aloo Gobi and Enchiladas Two Ways. The latter I haven't actually tasted yet (other than the components one by one) because I froze all of it. There are a lot of families with new babies in my life that will need some meals delivered I think .....

Anyway, the fish stew. It was meant to be a slow cooker meal, but since I had frozen fish, we ended up making it on the stove. Don't think it matters either way though. It's an easy meal.

Fish Stew

3 lbs mixed fish and shrimp.
6 large red potatos, cut in 1in cubes
1/2 of a 28 oz can diced tomatoes (I only use organic ones)
1 cup chopped carrots, chopped celery, chopped celery root, each
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup lemon juice (I think clam juice would be even better)
1 sprig sage
2 sprigs rosemary
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
Water or broth to cover everything in the pot.

Since I was planning on making this in the slow cooker, I put everything in together. This makes the fish fall apart a little (especially since I used sole). If that bothers you, you could put the fish in last, but I fear the quality of the broth would be less good..... I'd rather have the flavor. Ideally, I guess, you'd get some fish heads and start the dish by making fish stock, but hey, I have 2 kids and a job and a house and a husband. And today, I have a bad back to boot. And no clue where I could buy fish heads other than in chinatown.

Moving on to: Aloo Gobi
As usual I compiled several online recipes into what made the most sense to me.

2 Tbsp oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
ground pepper
1 generous Tbsp garlic ginger paste
1 Tbsp green chili from a can (I know. I know)
1/2 of a 28oz can of diced tomatoes
3 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small head cauliflower
Fresh coriander

I fried the onion with the cumin seeds in the oil until translucent. Make a paste of the ground spices with water and add that, the chilis, ginger garlic paste. Stir. Add tomatoes. Stir. Add chopped potatoes and cauliflower florets. Add about a cup of water, stir and cover the pan. (Do check on it while it's cooking. I burned it a little because I didn't notice that my stove isn't level, so the back of the pan didn't have enough water). At the end, you can add fresh cilantro for serving. I meant to add peas but forgot at the last minute. I also think you could add some Garam Masala, which I also forgot. But the result was tasty!

Enchiladas 2 Ways

This makes 4 dishes of 4 enchiladas each. Watch out! It's a lot of food.

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup chili powder (I used Indian 'regular' and I think it's too hot. Be careful here. I think 2 Tbsp would be a good amount. Or use New Mexico or California chili powder as the original recipe suggested).
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • salt to taste
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in flour and chili powder, reduce heat to medium, and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning flour.
Gradually stir in tomato sauce, water, cumin, garlic powder, and chocolate into the flour and chili powder until smooth, and continue cooking over medium heat approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt.

While you simmer the sauce some more, you can get started on the fillings.
The beef filling is simple. You brown one chopped onion with 1.2 lbs of very lean ground beef. You might add salt and pepper, or taco seasoning. I added creole seasoning because that's what I had.
The vegetarian filling I made was:

1 bag of frozen chopped spinach
1 cup cooked butternut squash
1 bunch green onions
1.5 cups ricotta
1 cup grate cheese (monterey jack or colby)
Salt, pepper, garlic to taste

Sautee the chopped green onions in butter. Add the spinach and squash and cook until spinach is thawed. Add ricotta. Stir. Add cheese, stir. Season as desired.


Now, the assembly. You need 2 packs of tortillas. I used wheat because my older daughter might be allergic to corn. I put the beef in whole wheat and the spinach in spinach tortillas. You also need a bunch more grated cheese. Altogether I used up one and a half bags.

Put out four tinfoil trays - I believe mine were 9x9 in. Put a ladle of sauce in each.
Assemble the enchiladas by adding either some beef and a handful of cheese to a tortilla, or about 1/2 cup of the ricotta/spinach/pumpkin goop. Roll up. Put seam side down into the trays. I fit 4 enchiladas per tray, for a total of 16 enchiladas.
(To give you a glimpse into my crazy weirdo mind: When I took this picture I momentarily got reminded of some stained glass window picturing a cross I must have once seen in a church in Germany. Then I thought 'Jesus loves Enchiladas'. Yes.... I know. My husband agrees with you.) Anyway, moving on. Ladle more sauce over it all, then top with cheese as desired. Bake 25 or so minutes. Forgive me for forgetting to photograph the final product. I like to eat my enchiladas with sour cream on the side. Lots of it.

By the way, and completely unrelated to cooking, my second baby learned to roll over both ways this past week. It's just as thrilling as it was with the first one. If anything I enjoy her more since I know she's 99% likely my last. Sniff.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pumpkin Ricotta Ravioli

Someone on my favorite messageboard was talking about making homemade pasta. Uh oh! There goes my Monday afternoon I thought. I remembered that I had once gotten a pasta machine as a gift, but had never used it! I had made ravioli in the past but always just with a rolling pin. Turns out the machine is super awesome and makes the process easy! The recipe is strongly based on 'Ravioli alla Ricotta' from my Italian Cookbook called 'Talismano Della Felicita'. I purchased this when I was in Rome, learning Italian. Use translation at your own risk - my summer in Rome was many moons ago.


4 eggs
400g flour
2 Tbsp water

I made the dough in the Kitchen Aid with the dough hook, and had to add about 2 Tbsp more water. I think it depends on the flour. I didn't have proper pasta flour, so I used all-purpose.

Then you drive the dough through the machine, at successively smaller settings. If you don't have a machine, just do your best with a rolling pin, or even a straight-sided wine bottle.
The resulting pasta sheets should be even and pretty thin:

Then you make the filling:

Filling (original recipe):

400g Ricotta
1 egg
Parmesan (I don't think it said how much)

My filling recipe:

200g Ricotta
200g cooked Butternut squash
1 egg
freshly ground pepper

I mixed mine with my favorite immersion blender to make the squash all smooth. Then I put that into a ziploc bag and cut the corner off. Squeeze small amounts of the filling on the pasta sheets (brush the pasta sheet with water first):Then put a similar size pasta sheet on top and seal by pressing down, then cut into individual ravioli. The book said to do triangles but I did squares. I am such a rebel!

Boil in a lot of salty water until 'just right'. Maybe just about 5 minutes? Definitely do a taste test because it depends on how you rolled out your pasta.

Serve - the original recipe said to serve with melted butter and sage, but I served with some Walnut Pesto I had in the freezer. Not the best recipe so I don't include that here. I had some leftover filling, so I used it to fill some Pillsbury Crescent Rolls and they were just as delicious as the pasta. Buon Apetito!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Potato Pancakes (A Recipe and a Rant)

Yesterday was one of the many occasions I tried again to use the grating attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. It sucks. There is no way to say this more delicately.
Look at it:
Seems innocent but figure this. The large conical shape sits on the mixer with the wide open side pointing sideways. So you can do the following with your two hands. One, manipulate the speed settings on the mixer. Two, hold a large bowl close to the 'exit' of the grater. Three, push the foodstuff into the grater at the top. Wait. What do you notice? Yes, I have indeed just counted to three. But that's not the only flaw here. The more significant flaw is that the grating or slicing does absolutely not work at all. I have tried nuts, almonds, cucumbers, carrots (my husband does anything for carrot cake), cheese and now potatoes. Half the foodstuff gets stuck in between the housing and the grating tool, and then gets pushed out and the large pieces fall into the bowl with your grated stuff. The mounting and cleaning of this item is also completely awkward.

I am comparing this set-up to my mom's mixer, which is a Braun and much less glamorous than a Kitchen Aid but I am so ready to 'upgrade' to it:

Well, now to the recipe for the potato pancakes:


2 1/2 lbs potatoes
3 tbsp flour
1 large onion
3 eggs

Peel and grate the potatoes with the kitchen gadget of your choice. Peel and grate the onion as well. Stir with flour and eggs, salt and pepper to taste. (In my case, I actually used my favorite - the immersion blender - after attempting to grate with the Kitchen Aid, which left chunks, so the resulting mix was rather finely blended). Done. Fry on low heat, very slowly, on both sides in a skillet. Serve with apple sauce (in my case, home canned without sugar). It's one of my favorite meals. My dad serves these with kidneys in beer sauce instead of apple sauce but that's probably pushing it for most people other than me and my dad.

When my husband cooks

This is just a little anecdote from our household. My husband was supposed to cook the potato pancakes I made from scratch last night. Which, btw, were entirely delicious. So he's standing there with two skillets going because the frying of the pancakes is supposed to happen slowly. That' why he's doing it and not me, I have no patience at all.
Halfway through I hear some large power tool going in the basement. My daughter wants to know what daddy's doing in the basement and I thought that was a very good question! Turns out he was 'sharpening' the wooden spatulas on his belt sander. The man is weird. I am not even going to tell you that he uses a dremel tool to 'pedicure' his feet. Nope, I am going to keep my trap shut about that one. You didn't hear it from me.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Why you should own a pressure cooker

My new pressure cooker is quickly climbing the ranks of my favorite-kitchen-gadget list. Here he is:

I couldn't find a larger picture - believe me, he's great! My mom gave him to me. She uses his older cousin for cooking everything. Potatoes, meat, soups, you name it, my mother puts it in a pressure cooker. I have made with this guy mostly legumes, in particular lentils, but also chicken soup when time was of the essence. It cuts the cooking time down by a lot. It's very useful for indian cookery and is mentioned in all of the indian cooking blogs I read. It's a money saver (especially if you receive it as a gift!) since buying dry beans or lentils is much cheaper than the canned version, plus you avoid having to take your cans to the recycle as often. Wait, you don't recycle your cans? Shame on you. Get out of here. In the time you spent reading this blog you could have recycled at least something.

No Fuss Generic Granola Recipe

I have poured over a lot of different granola recipes on the 3dub. (That's a totally dorky way of saying internet, that my coworker at MIT is trying to coin. Josh, I am trying to help!). Since my motivation for making granola is financial, I also tried to eliminate the ones that wouldn't save money. My husband eats box cereal like there's no tomorrow. And he has definite preferences as to brands and kinds.... so I need to make the granola enticing enough that he'd eat it. This was successfully accomplished by the addition of chocolate chips. I consider myself a genius for coming up with this, since it wasn't on any of the internet recipes I saw!

Here's my 'formula' that I use with great success.

Mix in very large bowl:

10 cups organic oldfashioned rolled oats (buy in bulk at Whole Foods)
2 cups small things (e.g. sesame seeds, ground flax meal, wheat or oat bran, wheat germ)
2 cups nutty things (e.g. chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds)

Mix in smaller bowl:

1 cup water
3/4 cup molasses (or Maple Syrup or Honey but it's less healthy and more expensive)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp Vanilla
2 Tbsp Cinnamon

Pour liquids over dry ingredients and stir well. Spread this in two of those large 'disposable' aluminum lasagna trays. I do reuse them many times, btw, you can wash them just fine.

Bake at 330F, for 20 minutes, stir, 10 minutes, stir, 10 minutes, stir and take out.
Let it cool down about 2/3 of the way. This is somewhat critical. Now you add
1 cup of chocolate chips to each tray, as well as 1 cup of cranberries (I am sure you could use raisins, I just don't like them). Stir. If you do this right, the chocolate will melt ever so slightly. The darker the chocolate, the warmer the granola should be when you add it. I.e. wait long for white chocolate which is my favorite. It appears to melt at a lower temperature than the darker kinds.

Let cool all the way, stir again, and store in airtight container. I have no idea how long it could last - in my pantry it's gone after a week, tops.

You can make your own yogurt parfait with this, which I like to do at work. Those cups of yogurt and granola are like $4 at Starbucks and the likes!!!

Slow Cooker Millet Porridge

My firstborn is allergic to oats, yet she loves oatmeal for breakfast. So I am embarking on a quest for the perfect oatmeal substitute. Today's grain of choice was millet.

1 cup millet
2 cups soy milk
(I assume regular milk works the same)
4 cups water
3 Tbsp Molasses
1/2 cup raisins

Put in slow cooker, on high, with lid slightly open. Watch and stop when it thickens, 3-4 hours. I am not sure yet but I believe one could cook this overnight (8 hours, on low) as well.

Flavor of the grain is excellent. We sweetened it with some agave nectar after cooking. I think I'd add some cinnamon and apples during cooking next time, too. Husband commented on 'yummy aftertaste' at first but wasn't much of a fan after a bowlful.
Texture is much more nutty than oatmeal. I think that's what turned Nadia off it. Oh well. Move on to the next grain.

Cooking Marathon

Today, I embarked on a marathon of cooking up a batch of smoked BBQ pork that I had left from a party in June. Please take a minute in memory of the beast....

I cooked Mango BBQ Pulled Pork, Sweet and Sour Pork (using pulled pork instead of the recipe's instructions), and Lentil Soup. Which is going to be today's recipe. And which involves using my brand new pressure cooker. And will hopefully keep my husband from whining this coming week if he has to prepare dinner while watching two little ones (Quel Horreur!)

Lentil Soup

For a very large batch with enough to eat and freeze:

  • Fry a finely chopped large onion in pressure cooker until transparent.
  • Add 2 cups of lentils. I like the green French Lentils that Whole Foods sells.
  • Add 4 cups of water.
  • Close the cooker and fire it up. When the valve (however yours works) indicates the pressure is reached, cook for 10 minutes. Then let it cool down enough to open the pot.
  • Add 3 large cubed carrots
  • Add half a cubed celery root. If it's a small one, you can add the whole thing. Are you wondering 'what is a celery root?' It's the secret ingredient. It makes any soup or stew or pot roast taste amazing. It makes for perfect gravy. You should really learn to use it.
It's the white thing on this picture -->

  • Add 2-3 cups cubed ham (but today I used pulled pork).
  • Add 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook on medium until carrots and celery are soft. Then add 2 cubs chopped parsley.

This soup is one of those recipes that tastes even better the next day.

Here's a picture of my stove at about 4 pm today:
You see, clockwise, 2 pound cakes ready to go in the oven. Lentil soup simmering in pressure cooker, no-fuss granola with white chocolate chips and cranberries, and Mango BBQ sauce. And that's only half of today's cookery! In the slowcooker in the picture above is slowcooker millet porridge and the sweat and sour pork didn't get its picture taken.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

1 birth = 2 copays?

Read my birth story for more detail, but the gist is I was admitted for a scheduled C-section that never happened. I was in the Hospital for approximately 3 hours. Turns out that they billed it as an 'inpatient stay' and I owe $500 as a copay.
Then of course, I owe another $500 for the actual birth that happened 2 1/2 weeks later.
Seriously, NWH? Inpatient stay? I hope you do better when you re-submit that claim because otherwise I will have to bore my readers with a much longer rant about everything that is wrong with the healthcare system. Oh, and BCBS, you might consider that I saved you megabucks by having a VBAC. You're welcome, and thanks for not budging on that copay.

Chocolate Hudding (Tofu Chocolate Mousse)

This is the best way ever to use up a block of tofu that you bought on January 1st, when your resolution to eat better was still young.... Eating this will NOT make you feel like you're eating healthy.
This recipe is sort of the common denominator of many recipes on vegan sites out there and I started making it because my chocolate pudding lover, Nadia, turned out not to tolerate dairy so well. So, in her honor, we shall call this recipe 'Chocolate Hudding'

1 block (15 oz) tofu
powdered sugar
1-2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet or bitter), more seems to make a firmer pudding
soy milk

1. Blend tofu really well, add with some soy milk, vanilla and powdered sugar to taste.
2. Melt chocolate chips
3. Add to tofu. Blend even more until totally smooth.
4. Add soy milk as needed to get to desired consistency. Will stiffen up when you refrigerate it.

I wonder what it would taste like if you used Bailey's instead of soy milk... likely yummy.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Challenges for 2009

I better post this publicly very soon ... I have imposed some challenges on myself for this year. I will list them so you (the world) can hold me accountable:
  1. I will lose the baby weight
  2. I will ride the MS150 this June
  3. I will leave my mental comfort zone and try things I know I stink at
  4. I will learn to cook Indian food
  5. I will start college funds for the kids
  6. I will FINALLY set up a will, and all that other legal stuff parents really do need.
Maybe if I do all of the above, I will reward myself with some chickens? So far, 1/12 of the year has passed and I have made decent progress on ... all of them! We have joined a gym which is a fun time for our family, and a nice getaway for me on weeknights after bedtime. This covers #1 and #2. It also helps with #3, actually!
My mom gave me a pressure cooker for christmas, so I have been cooking lentils lately, and tackling #4. #5 is done, and an appointment was made to get on #6! So far so good, but I am a 'starter' personality and often don't finish well ... maybe that should be a challenge for another year.

Get out of your comfort zone!

Yet another of my self-imposed challenges is to leave my comfort zone. Today I took a class at the gym called 'Zumba'. It's a pretty good cardio workout where dance moves from mostly latin dances are incorporated.
I am NOT a dancer. I looked ridiculous the entire time, but I broke a sweat and I tried. I might go back for more. Mission accomplished, I definitely did something that did not come easy to me, or made me feel particularly comfortable!

Indian Cooking

One of my self-imposed challenges for 2009 is to learn how to cook Indian food. Born out of necessity - we love Indian food, but we can't really afford to go out that much to eat it. Also my older daughter is currently on a no-dairy diet, which makes it even harder.

Recipes I have made with reasonable success:
  • Baingha Bharta
  • Sambar
  • Mango Dal
  • Pav Bahji
I won't post all recipes but I will refer you to my inspiration.

Recipe for Sambar

This recipe was given to me by a friend, I think it is her mother's recipe. It takes a lot of work and took me three tries to get it to taste awesome. (Picture stolen from wikipedia, because I didn't think to take one myself. Clearly, I am not used to this yet).

Here we go, with credits to Mrs. Radhakrishnan (I hope I didn't mangle that), in her daughter's words:

"Here's my mother's tried-and-true "from scratch" sambar recipe. I don't know exact amounts, because I always just add enough stuff til it tastes good. It always tastes better on the second day. It should taste both tangy (from the tamarind), coconutty, and spicy (from the red chilis and coriander seeds) and it should have the consistency of a thick stew, and should be creamy brownish in color.

I'm going to try and "estimate" the appropriate amounts for four people:

Part I: Lightly roast a heaping handful of coriander sseds, a heaping tablespoonful of cumin seeds, a tablespponful of channa daal, and about 5 dried red chilis together in some oil in a frying pan. You can also sprinkle some asofoteida powder on the mixture as well. All of this stuff you can get from an Indian grocery store, like Shalimar in Central Square. [Edited by me: My friend later told me to also add fenugreek. I have no idea how much!].

Then, take this roasted mixture and blend with about 6 square inches of chopped coconut, and some water, until you get a fairly smooth paste. (The paste can be very slightly textured, but it tastes better if it's pretty smooth) By the way, Shalimar sells dried coconut pieces, if you don't feel like cracking open a coconut...

Set this aside. This is the spice mix.

Part II: Rinse about 1 cup (?...maybe a little more) of toor daal (can get at India store) in some water. Then cook in water for about 45 minutes (just keep this going while you do other stuff). The daal should be extremely soft, and each individual lentil half should be just about to fall apart. Don't cook it to the point where you can't see the individual daal pieces, but *just* before that point. The daals should be soft enough to just melt away in your mouth. [I used my most amazing brand new pressure cooker for this step].

Part III: Get a package of tamarind root from Shalimar, or wherever. It should be about a 12 square inch block or so...take about 40 percent of it and break it into squeezable pieces. Squeeze each piece into a bowl of warm water. Squeeze as much of these pieces as you can into the water, until it's really dark brown. Then strain so that you just get brown liquid out. This is kind of an art -- knowing how much tamarind extract you'll need. I find that completely squeezing out 40% of a block is enough. But you can always add more later...or dilute it with water is it's too tamarind-y. Set these bowls aside.

Part IV: Finally, using the pot you'll eventually have your final sambar in, pop some mustard seeds in oil (cover the pot when popping). Add your vegetables (if onions, sautee them first), (you can use carrots/peppers/onions, or pearl onions, or okra, or cauliflour/carrots)... [I used okra, peppers and onions] and lightly sautee in oil for just a bit, and add just a hint of tumeric for color. Then add the tamarind water, and cook the veggies in there for awhile til they're soft. Add some salt. Add enough water so that the mixture is a clear, dark brown color.

Then, add the spice mixture slowly. The color should become kind of like a pale brown for awhile, and then, as the spices gel, it should become a thick brown color. Finally, add daal. The sambar should cook for awhile and it will start to thicken. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

Variation: The variation is that for part IV, the veggie you add is cubed eggplant (small 1cm cubed cubes) and you also add whole black channa that you've soaked for a few hours. Everything else is the same. this is called "kalla kootu". Kalla means "stone", because the black channas resemble stones."

2 Weeks No Grocery Shopping Challenge

I am finishing today the '2 Weeks No Grocery Shopping' challenge. My wonderful husband had been complaining about money, so I figured rather than pity ourselves I'd turn this into a fun challenge. (BTW, this is my interview stand-by line. When someone describes something difficult, I say 'That would be a fun challenge'). So The Rules were that no groceries other than milk or soy milk may be purchased for two weeks. This is hard for a food packrat like yours truly. (It deserves mentioning that this was decided without prior planning, so I didn't just go out and buy twice as much as my weekly grocery supplies.)

Anyway, pretty quickly, I realized we were running out of eggs. And I wanted pound cake. Internet to the rescue, here we go. One Egg Lemon Pound Cake. Hah! I made a double batch with only 2 eggs last weekend, and then another double batch today. I glazed it with a glaze made from powdered sugar and lime juice. Yum.

Then, I realized the only vegetable left was leeks, however, I couldn't use my normal leeks stand-by (Stuffed Leeks with Potatoes), because it can't be made without dairy. I have tried.
So instead, I decided to make Leek and Potato Soup. It was delicious, served with sliced hot dogs, just as in my childhood. Funny how food can transport you right back to a different place and time. Potato soup to me is eating in my mother's kitchen on Saturday at noon. The chores are mostly done and the whole family is together. One 'Wienerle' (German for Beef Frank) per person.

The recipe is simple and there are endless variations. Basically, cook a couple of peeled and cubed potatoes. If desired, start by frying some onion. In this case I started by frying the leeks (cut into thin slices) in a little oil, then adding potatoes and water. Cook until potatoes fall apart. My mother - the queen of pressure cooking - accomplishes this in her pressure cooker. Stick immersion blender in and blend to desired consistency. Add water or broth as needed. Add salt, pepper, dill weed, garlic powder or cumin, to taste. Warm hot dogs in soup. It's simple and satisfying, and healthy!

Among the things I figured out this week are also a delicious way to make oatmeal overnight, so it's ready for you in the morning. I made a double batch because my slowcooker is very large. It was delicious! I didn't use raisins but cut up fresh apple instead. Sadly, my daughter loved it and immediately had an allergic reaction to it. Sooo..... watch for a marathon of porridge alternatives that I am in the process of trying out.

To summarize - the two weeks went by really fast. My fridge is so empty I can see the back wall, which is an entirely new and liberating experience for me. It is fun to search the web for from-scratch alternatives for food items that I didn't have in my pantry. And I *still* have way too much food in my freezer. If there is a natural disaster happening, you'd want to be my friend (in fact, that might be the only time you'd want to be my friend).

Recipe for a Natural Induction

My first daughter was breech throughout my entire pregnancy and born via Cesarean section. I was very disappointed but since I was told I had a misshapen uterus, I resigned myself to have more breech babies using the same exit route.
It came as no surprise that my second daughter was also breech all along, as confirmed in many ultrasounds. We scheduled a C-section for 39 weeks, 1 day. Got the grandparents to watch my 2-year old (reason for a Rant), went to the Hospital. Got an IV. Negotiated anesthesia with the nurse and physician, got shaved, husband got put in scrubs, the whole 9 yards. Then we got bumped off the OR schedule and in the meantime the midwife was going to repeat the ultrasound, just to be sure. Well, she couldn't find the baby's head! She thought it was hiding under my ribs, where it had been for quite a while causing me great agony. Then we waited around for the OB to come and try again - half an hour later, he couldn't find the head either. He did a vaginal exam and said 'Hmm....feels like a head'. So the head of OB was called in and finally found the head. Down at zero station, right where it belonged! This moment definitely makes my 'top 5 best moments of my life' list. My first thought was 'Awesome, I can eat now!'. So we practically ran out of the hospital and into the nearest Panera Bread.
From there, we went to the maternity store to buy a belly belt strap thingie that was supposed to hold the baby in place head down.
The waiting began. It was awful. I had stopped working, my babysitting arrangements for my older daughter had to be revised, and somehow I felt a certain amount of pressure since I knew I had to go into labor before 41 weeks, given that this was an attempt at a VBAC. I knew I could not be induced with pitocin without risking a rupture of my old scar. I will spare you a detailed account of the following two weeks. Suffice to say that I was still very pregnant at 41 weeks, but a non-stress-test and a biophysical profile told me and the doctors that the baby was doing great. I had my membranes stripped twice to no avail. That following weekend I tried Castor Oil twice. On Saturday, I took one dose. It made me nauseated but I didn't throw up. It brought on nice and regular contractions but unfortunately they didn't last when I went to bed. Sunday, I tried with 2 doses. Same story.... contractions but not that hard. We took a long walk at night to try and speed things up before going to bed. Nothing. We were scheduled to go to the hospital the next morning to have my water broken and see if that would work.... this would also have started the clock to a C-section on Tuesday, over 2 1/2 weeks after my original scheduled date. Very early Monday morning, I still had light contractions but my C-section scar started to hurt. After getting in touch with the midwife on call, we went in to the hospital, got checked in and they checked on my uterus and the baby. Nothing bad going on, but no labor either. So we slept a little. Early Monday morning, Emily, my midwife, broke my water.
The walking began. We walked for a long time, and we walked for a very long time. It was torture. I was watching all these women in labor and I wanted their pain so badly. At some point, the midwive sent my husband home to get the breast pump. I had used it to try and bring on labor and it did always bring on contractions. However with the silly hospital protocol I had to stop using it every time it brought on a contraction, and we had to monitor the baby. This was never going to work! So we walked some more. Then we decided to give the Castor Oil another chance, since it had given me contractions before. Hah! The hospital pharmacy didn't even have it, so poor Paul had to go out again, this time to CVS. They wouldn't give me anything but alcohol to drink with it either, disgustingly.
And then we walked. We walked for a long time, and we walked for a very long time. I got totally desperate and eventually the OB asked me how long I wanted to keep it up for. We agreed that a C-section the next morning was going to be the plan B. (Or C, depending how you count). Then a nurse had the genius idea to send us outside to walk. It was cold and dark out, and we talked about the upcoming elections. And then all of a sudden, I got the first real contraction. It stopped me in my tracks and I had to hold on to Paul. By the time we had finished our walk, the contractions were pretty darn strong and about 5 minutes apart. It was 8 pm at this point. Inside, the midwife checked me out, and I spent a bunch of time on the ball, like on the picture here.

The midwife was worried about my labor slowing down so she encouraged us to walk almost all night, which we did. At around 3 to 4 am I took a heavenly bath in the tub. It didn't help with the contractions themselves but in between, I got some good rest. My contractions never went closer than 4 minutes apart, which was of concern to the midwife but it was all I could handle anyway, so I was sort of glad.

We spent the rest of the night walking or sitting on the ball. Then at around 7 in the morning, right as the nurses changed shifts, things got dramatic really quickly. The baby's heartrate wasn't satisfactory to the medical team, so I was put in bed (Ouch) and given IV fluids as well as oxygen. I was only dilated to a 6, so quite a ways to go it seemed. Then they made me lie on my left side, to give the baby maximum blood flow. This gave me killer pain in my old C-section scar. The contractions alone were pale in comparison. The medical people didn't think it was a problem, just likely an adhesion inside the old scar, but that didn't help my pain. I asked how long I would have to be in this position, and was told it could be hours. There was a definite possibility that we would have to opt for a repeat C-section hanging in the air. So I ordered the anesthesiologist.... while waiting for him, I had to yell at the nurse to let me go to the bathroom. She asked what I needed to do there (#1 or #2) and I just yelled 'I don't know, I just need to go!' which really should have clued me in to something but it didn't. I did some involontary pushing on the bathroom, but again, didn't get it. Then the anesthesiologist was there and read me my rights... once the epidural was finally in, I could still feel the pain in the scar. At this point, the OB was in and was looking at the heart rate. But before deciding on our fate, he was going to do one last vaginal exam. And while he was expected to say 'Let's head for the OR' what he did say was 'Or we could just push'. Everyone in the room let out a sigh of relief and started laughing.

People were running aound, getting things ready. The OB slipped out of the room again, and I started pushing at 8 am with 2 midwives at the foot of my bed, mostly watching. Paul was taking pictures, which I didn't realize while being so totally focussed. I won't post those here :-)
At 8:29 am, Eleanor Delilah was born. It was November 4th, 2008 and we joked that she wasn't going to come out until she knew this country (and the world) was going to take a turn for the better. I did not have a single tear or complication, and she latched on right away. She looked quite a bit different than her sister in those first hours.

At my 6 weeks postpartum appointment, the midwife told me we were the talk of the hospital. Due to my stubbornness and determination, we had avoided surgery, and managed to induce labor using no pitocin at all. Ellie was born 2 1/2 weeks after her originally scheduled birthday, and she is the easiest baby that ever was. We definitely think the extra time inside suited her well!

Castor Oil Labor Cocktail

Castor Oil is a disgusting vegetable oil that can successfully be used to bring on labor. I know it because I have done it! The birth story of my second daughter was somewhat crazy, and I kept meaning to write it up. But first, here's the recipe:

2 oz Castor Oil
2 Tbsp Almond Butter (the smooth kind, buy at Trader Joe's)
1 cup Apricot Juice
1/2 white wine, champagne or cava

Blend thoroughly. Enjoy quickly. Though the ingredients are sort of odd and you're hereby instructed to consume a moderate amount of alcohol while pregnant, I promise you this tastes a lot better than the usual recommendation of mixing the Castor Oil with OJ or even put it in a screwdriver. Again, I know because I have tried! You can expect this to work within 2-6 hours. My recommendation is to wake yourself up at about 4 am, after a night of a good dinner and decent sleep if you can manage. Drink the stuff and go back to bed. That way you might sleep through the nausea that sets in 1-2 hours later. Also, the sooner in the day your labor starts the better off you are.

BTW - here's the birth story that goes with this recipe....

10 Reasons to own an Immersion Blender

My immersion blender is my favorite kitchen gadget - I don't think it matter which brand you get, they all seem to do about the same thing. Make mush. Doesn't sound that exciting? Oh, you have no idea.

  1. Homemade hummus. It's super easy and very delicious.
  2. Mango Dal. I loosely follow this recipe.
  3. Homemade baby food. No recipe needed. Take a bag of (frozen) organic vegetables, e.g. peas, carrots, spinach, cook in a little water until soft, and mash away. Freeze in ice cube trays. You can make many servings while only washing one pot and the bottom part of the stick blender.
  4. Lentil soup. I will post the recipe I use, I promise. Also, pumpkin soup, potato soup, mixed vegetable soup.
  5. Tofu Chocolate Mousse
  6. Gravy. I am very big on gravy and good at cooking it.
  7. Pesto. This is a project that I am still learning. Not perfect enough for posting yet - but that's not the blender's fault!
  8. Banana milk shake. This is total comfort food for me. Mash a banana, add 2 cups of milk, sugar, vanilla, amaretto, baileys, etc to taste, and blend away.
  9. Castor Oil. This laxative is used as a natural way to bring on labor, and it has worked for me! (Third time was a charm) A recipe to make drinking oil more delectable is posted here and involves a blender.
  10. Mashed potatoes. I know this is a personal preference but I love my potatoes 'gluey'. Which is how they turn out if you blend them. They get all shiny and so yummy!!