Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day is kind of a big deal

to me.

I (honestly!) do not care if you send me flowers or chocolate or jewelry or whatever. But give me some cheesy heart shaped confetti and over the top decorations, and I am in heaven. I will wear pink and red and pass out conversation hearts. Now, it's only recently that I discovered all of this. Or rather, that I was willing to admit it. My name is Melissa and I love cheesy Valentine's Day crap. And now that I have a kid, I do lame-o stuff like this:
This year, I decided I would make heart shaped sugar cookies. A few years ago, I was on a sugar cookie tear, and was rocking the royal icing. This year, I wanted to make the cookies egg free, so Max could eat them*.  The cookie part was easy. I used this recipe (doubled, because I wasn't fully thinking that 8 dozen cookies was NINETY SIX cookies. It ended up being more like 80) They're super yummy. They taste like those butter cookies in the blue tins.

But the icing was a bit more difficult. I wanted something that would behave like royal icing without the egg. With some Facebook asking (is there a term for that yet?), my mom's obsessive googling, and my incredible knack for identifying the perfect recipe (one of those things is not really true), I ended up using this recipe. I used lemon juice instead of vanilla or almond extract.

It was pretty good. The thing about royal icing is that it's pretty easy to work with. You can put it in those condiment squeeze bottles and decorate til your heart's content. This is not that icing. Because it uses corn syrup (oh the humanity!), it's sort of sticky and ooey gooey. It's possible if I had made it thinner, that I would have been able to decorate the way I wanted (I was envisioning X's and O's and little icing arrows drawn on the hearts.) But I ended up doing some of that looks-fancy-but-isn't-really "marbling". Truthfully, it was after 8pm on Sunday by the time I got around to decorating, and I was sort of at the point of "just slap something pretty-ish on the cookies and go to bed"

Anyway, happy Valentine's Day to you, and all of your in-the-closet-about- their-cheesy-Valentines-love friends and family.

*I'm not giving Max these cookies with corn syrup and 95 lbs of sugar!

Ok, I made some without the icing that he may get to enjoy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

This has nothing to do about food, but everything to do about me

When my husband asked me if being pregnant changed my opinion on abortion, my immediate response was "of course not"

But after thinking about it more, it had changed. It made me more pro-choice. I don't actually know if there is such a thing as being "more pro-choice" but it made me intimately aware of how important it is to be able to choose when to have children.

Our son Max was 100% a planned pregnancy. We discussed starting a family, discussed when we would want to be pregnant and, knowing that it could take a few tries, chose a time to start  trying. And yet, even after the 2nd "positive" pregancy test, there was still an air of "holyjesuswhatthehellhavewegottenourselvesinto".  We were happy for sure, but scared.

I can not imagine what it might have felt like if it was an unplanned pregnancy. And if my only choice were to continue the pregnancy.

Pregnancy changes your body almost immediately. For me, there was no mistaking that something was going on. Everything I did was tinged with the thought that there was a baby growing inside of me.

Yep, I totally just called it a "baby".  Because this was a child I wanted.

And if there was any doubt in my mind about it, that doubt was obliterated when I started bleeding at 10.5 weeks. As I drove to the OB's, hysterically crying that I was miscarrying, it hit me. To me, this is a baby.  Not because life starts at conception, or because some right wing, anti-choice nut said so, but because this was a wanted child. Wanting this child made it so. Logically, scientifically and politically, I understood that it wasn't. But because of my intent, it  was my child.

And I could not imagine anyone being forced to continue with a pregnancy that was not intended.

I loved being pregnant. I imagined myself to be a glowing beacon of fertility. Even when I was huffing and puffing as I walked from our seats at Dodger Stadium to our car a million miles away, I loved being pregnant. I did prenatal yoga and had a doula and had cute maternity clothes.

But pregnancy takes a toll on your body. (Understatement of the century) Not a day went by that there wasn't something that reminded me of what was going on inside. Heartburn, jabs to the ribs, food aversions.

What is the value of forcing a woman to go through 9 months of pregnancy for an unwanted child?
My baby is loved, because he was wanted. He was "Max" when, at week 12, the ultrasound tech was able to discern he was a boy. 

He was "Max" because we wanted him.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Asking for help

On occasion, we have had a cleaning service come to do the hard stuff/major cleaning. I always felt ridiculously guilty and indulgent, like I should be able to do it all. After juggling full time work/ responding to emails 24/7, trying to be a great mom, an attentive wife, and still maintaining my identity (and sanity), I finally realized that it was time to get some regular help with the cleaning. Once a month was not going to cut it, but every other week seemed a bit...excessive. So I've settled on every 3 weeks. Yesterday, they came to clean. All day, I kept thinking about how great the weekend would be because I wouldn't be trying to find a few hours to clean the apartment. And so far, life is great. It meant I got to make a banana peanut butter bread which I have been dreaming about for the past few days.

I have this tendency to do things half assed/rushed. You know how you can freeze bananas that are over ripe and use them to bake? When I learned about it, I got excited. I HATE bananas, but love banana baked goods. LPR loves bananas, but hates any banana that smacks of over-ripeness. So, I just started throwing on-the-verge bananas in the freezer. Which is really really stupid. Because you end up with this:
And then you have to defrost them and peel them. Which sucks. This week, I kept thinking about getting rid of these damn bananas so I could start over with PEELED bananas in the freezer.  Also, the last time my parents came to visit, apparently my dad opened our freezer and said to my mom "You know they have brown bananas in here?!"

I started thinking about banana bread, which I know is easy to make eggless (banana is super moist and binding so it takes on that responsibility normally tasked to eggs) But then I thought about adding peanut butter, because YUM.

I checked out the PPK recipe and the Joy the Baker recipe, and settled on Joy's recipe, with some adjustments. Cause that's how I roll.  I cut the sugar down (bananas and peanut butter are already pretty sweet) and didn't double the salt. You could totally make this recipe vegan-I would sub the butter for coconut oil or canola oil, and the milk for soy, almond or rice milk. Also, I have no idea if rice milk would work, so maybe just soy or almond.

I really liked this. Max really liked the batter but has not reached a verdict on the baked product. Stay tuned....

While I'm thinking about it, I know the "Shit ___ Say" videos are super overdone, but I wanted to share this "Shit Crunchy Mamas Say" (or as they so delicately call it, "Sh*t Crunchy Mamas Say"). I have never thought of myself as crunchy/granola/whatever, but maybe I am more than I realize. Coconut Oil....Coconut Oil....

Anyway, back to the recipe:

Max "helped" with this-I held him while I stirred everything together, which he thought was amazing, and he loved when I sprayed the Pam on the pans (Pam on the Pans....huh) and even imitated the sound. I am not so secretly hoping this kid loves to cook

Peanut Butter Banana Bread/ Muffins

Adapted from Joy the Baker. This is a double recipe from her's, and made 1 9 x 5 loaf, 24 mini muffins, and some tastes of batter from Max.

3 cups mashed ripe banana
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons flax meal mixed with 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) water (this is used as an egg substitute)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9×5-inch loaf pan/ muffin pans. (or spray them with Pam) Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon and ground allspice.

In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, milk, peanut butter and melted butter. Whisk in flax meal mixture and sugars. Blend mixture until no sugar lumps remain. Give nearest child as
much batter as they want, because it's egg free!

Pour the wet mixture into the larger bowl with the dry ingredients. Fold together with a spatula until no more flour bits remain. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake muffins for 20ish minutes and loaf for 55 to 65 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

According to Joy, this bread lasts, well wrapped at room temperature, for up to 4 days. It is also great to store, well wrapped, in the freezer. I froze the muffins, since I like to have a collection of muffins to give to Max whenever. Also,  mini muffins in the hand of a baby look like a regular sized muffin in the hand of an adult. Chew on that.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fearlessly licking the bowl

A few months ago, we received a panicked call from one of the teachers at Max's daycare-Max had awoken from a nap, covered in hives and crying. As I drove to pick him up, while calling the pediatrician who advised us to take him to Urgent Care, I tried to think about what it could be that he was reacting to. Was it the omelet I made for his breakfast? Made of eggs, a highly allergenic food which he just recently started eating? Of course not.
Mango? The delicious fruit he had been eating for months? Yes, it most certainly had to be that.

Fast forward to our trip to the allergist, where we discovered that not only is Max allergic to eggs, he is allergic to cats*. Fortunately, cats are not an important part of baking. 

In the past few months, I've been working with recipes that are egg free or totally vegan, as it turns out Max loves baked goods. One of the great things about baking without eggs is that you can lick the bowl/spoons/beaters without fear of salmonella.

Oh who am I kidding, I eat batter with raw eggs, steak tartare and used to eat the raw meat for meatballs and meatloaf that my mom made.

Anyway, I'd been making a great vegan recipe from Post Punk Kitchen for Pumpkin Muffins, and they truly are amazing. Max seemed to like them. For some reason, I recently switched from that recipe, to a recipe from Joy the Baker I had modified (less sugar, added in some flax meal, turned them into mini muffins) and they were also yummy, and froze really well. And I don't feel terrible giving them to Max. So then I started thinking about making other types of mini muffins-ones that I could sneak veggies into. Coincidentally, Joy the Baker had a recipe for "Almost Vegan Zucchini Bread" that I used and adjusted a bit. Here's my version.
This is what happens when you put too much batter in. 
And don't pay attention to whether things are fairly even.

Mini Egg Free Zucchini Muffins:
(Makes 24 mini muffins plus 5 regular sized muffins. Or if you have enough mini muffin tins, probably about 35 mini muffins)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
3 tablespoons ground flax seed meal
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray your muffin tins with Pam, or don't. If you like your muffins to stick, that's your business.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flax seed meal, milk, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and sugars. Whisk thoroughly, then add the shredded zucchini.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together with a spatula. Make sure all of the flour is thoroughly incorporated into the batter. At this point, I found that I needed to add about a 1/2 cup of water.  Fill muffin tins about 3/4 and bake for about 20 minutes (the regular sized muffins needed 27 minutes), or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan for a bit and then transfer to rack to cool completely.

*If you or anyone you know is looking to adopt 2 older, sweet cats, please let me know.