Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Tree down

I have a crazy story to share about my 20 month old, Claire:

One day last week I was in my room, minding my own business- never a good idea when you're dealing with a toddler- when I thought to myself, "maybe I should go see what Claire is up to." I walk into the family room where Claire is [supposed to be] watching Elmo and I find her there, sitting on the couch with SIX candy canes in her lap. I look to the left and this is what I find:

My 7-foot Christmas tree was lying on the ground. (The space heater was face down as well.) She saw the candy canes, decided they ought to be hers, and pulled the whole thing down. She didn't scream, she didn't cry- she didn't even come and get me. She had this smug little look I had to hide my face so she wouldn't see me laughing. I thought about snapping a quick shot of her with the candy canes, but I didn't want to reinforce the behavior so I put her cute little bum in time-out.

I sure love this girl. I have to admire her moxie. Here's a picture from another night when Bobby was reading scriptures to the girls. When I pulled the camera out, she was sitting next to Franny listening to Bobby read. But as soon as she saw the camera she was flashing me cheesy grins like this one.

Gingerbread Houses 2011

I knew I needed to cut out some of the things we like to do around the holidays with the new baby and my recovery and everything- but Bobby loves gingerbread houses and I love seeing him get so excited about them. And it really wasn't that much work once I got the gingerbread baked and put together. We had most of the candy because we save what we don't use each year. We had so much stuff and two big houses so we invited the Johnson's to come over and join us. Our kids had a blast with their kids and I was totally impressed with the way both houses turned out. It was a fun night.

Homemade Gnocchi

Bobby bought me some of the Giada pasta sauce they sell at Target and I thought it would taste great on some homemade gnocchi. So I looked for a recipe and tried this one out and thought they were fantastic!

Potato Gnocchi

adapted from serious eats


serves 4-6, active time 50 minutes, total time 1 hour 50 minutes

  • 2 pounds potatoes (about 4 medium baking potatoes, such as Russet and one medium waxy potato, like Yukon Gold)
  • 1 whole egg, plus one egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for adding to boiling water and for final seasoning
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

  2. With a fork, poke a few holes in each potato and spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet. Bake until potatoes are cooked through and tender, about 1 hour.

  3. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle but still very warm, scoop out the flesh and pass it through a potato ricer or a food mill fitted with a small hole insert. Spread the potatoes onto a clean, cool, lightly floured surface.

  4. Whisk together the eggs and salt together and drizzle over the riced potatoes. Sprinkle ¾ to 1 cup of the flour over the eggs. With a bench scraper, work the ingredients together, cutting into them and gathering them into a mass. Add flour to reduce stickiness.

  5. When the mixture holds together, knead briefly, continuing to flour the work surface to prevent sticking and adding flour if the dough is sticky. As soon as the dough is smooth and soft and holds together, stop kneading and shape it into a thick log.

  6. Working with ¼ of the dough at a time, roll the dough into long ½- to ¾-inch ropes. With the bench scraper, cut them into 1-inch-long pieces. Optionally, form ridges on the gnocchi by rolling them over the back of a dinner fork. Transfer the gnocchi to a lightly floured baking sheet while rolling out remaining dough.

  7. At this point, you may refrigerate the uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 hours or freeze them on the baking sheet and then transfer them into a covered container and store in the freezer for several weeks.

  8. Boil a large pot of water, add a generous pinch of salt, and blanch the gnocchi in two batches until they float. With a slotted spoon or spider, remove the gnocchi and spread on a baking sheet while brown-butter sauce finishes cooking. (Alternatively, you can shock the cooked gnocchi in ice water, remove and spread them onto a baking sheet, toss with a little olive oil, and refrigerate until needed.)

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce

This was just as good as I was hoping it would be. I saw this on the Food Network while I was in the hospital after Mabel was born- made me realize how much I miss the Food Network. I had to cut a few things out like star anise, bourbon, and apple schnapps. I searched and searched my cupboards, but I could not find any bourbon. Maybe it's in the same place as the apple schnapps. ;)

The original recipe also calls for vanilla creme anglaise. I don't know about you, but a caramel sauce, creme anglaise, AND whipped cream seems a little indulgent, even to me. But I am sure it would have been DELICIOUS. Scandalous, but delicious.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce
adapted from Food Network


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup pure canned pumpkin puree
  • Pumpkin Bread, toasted and cubed, recipe follows
  • Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce, recipe follows
  • Freshly whipped cream


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the cream, milk, vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Whisk together the yolks, sugar, maple syrup, and pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture until combined, remove the vanilla pod, and whisk in the bourbon. Strain the custard into a clean bowl.

Scatter the pumpkin bread cubes in a buttered 9 by 13-inch baking glass baking dish. Pour the custard over the bread, pressing down on the bread to totally submerge it in the custard. Let sit for 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up some of the custard.

Place the pan in a larger roasting pan and pour hot tap water into the roasting pan until it comes half way up the sides of the glass dish. Bake until the sides are slightly puffed and the center jiggles slightly, about 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and water bath and cool on a baking rack for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Drizzle the bread pudding with the Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce. Top with freshly whipped cream. Bread pudding is best served warm.

Pumpkin Bread:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces (scant 1 cup) canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or lightly spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 4 tablespoons softened butter, sugar, and oil at high speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl a few times.

Add the pumpkin puree and mix until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. At low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and water and mix until just combined. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a baking rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Once the bread is cool, slice in half lengthwise, and then slice each half into 1/2-inch cubes. Spread the cubes on a large baking sheet and bake in a 325 degree oven until lightly toasted, turning once, about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Spicy Caramel Apple Sauce:

Combine the cream, apple juice, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and nutmeg in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes. Strain the mixture into a clean, small saucepan and place back over low heat while you make the caramel.

Combine the sugar, water and, vinegar in a medium saucepan over high heat and cook without stirring, until it's a deep amber color, about 8 minutes. Slowly whisk in the warm cream mixture a little at a time, and continue whisking until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. The sauce can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated. Reheat over low heat before serving.

Friday, December 16, 2011



Mabel Marianne Fields
7 lbs. 9 oz., 21 inches

She's here! She's been here for a little over four weeks and we are in love. What a sweet little baby. She's still in that "bear cub" stage where she makes little animal noises and her little body is always curled up. (Bear cub because of all the dark hair.) She also makes this little Cosby face where her eyes are wide open and she looks up and to the side and purses her lips. It's my favorite thing! I have to describe it here since I probably won't be able to get a picture. I kind of miss the days when I could just sit home and stare at my newborn baby all day... waiting to catch moments like that on film. But then of course during those days I only had six weeks at home with Franny before I had to go back to working full time, and that was no fun.

(here's sort of an example of the cosby face I'm referring to. The forehead wrinkles are relevant to the comparison as well. :)

Anyway, back to Mabel! I guess I should write a little about the day she was born. The doctor noticed a few weeks prior to her birth that she was breech and that a repeat c-section might be necessary. I hoped and prayed that she would flip, but it didn't happen. My one consolation was that the c-section would be scheduled on 11/11/11 and my kid would have the best birth ever. I called my wonderful mother-in-law Louise and asked if she could come a week earlier. She did. She spent nearly two weeks taking care of us here and it was so hard to see her go! It was also really nice to leave my girls in such capable and loving hands the morning Mabel was born. Bobby drove me to the hospital that morning and did my pre-op evaluation. A few of his co-workers stopped in to say hi and give us well wishes or help prepare me for surgery. I spent a few weeks feeling really nervous about being cut open again, but then about a week beforehand, when I knew for sure that I would have a c-section, I started to feel much calmer about it. So it was kind of surprised to see Bobby a little nervous. Bobby is usually the one tempering MY anxiety. But like I said, he was just a little nervous. I think his friends at work were a little surprised to see him so serious. I thought it was cute that he was worried about me.

I love the people Bobby works with. They are all so nice and funny and great at what they do. I'm just so sad so many of them have had to see me naked.

From here on it was pretty much the same as last time, only this time it was scheduled of course and I knew what I was getting into. Bobby was right there next to me holding my hand right up until the baby was out. It actually was really nice to spend some time with him because he had a really busy week at work and we'd barely seen him! The weird thing about c-sections is you don't have to anything. You just lay there, totally numb, and wait while the OB and the nurses do all the work. So I laid there, waiting to hear something, from the doctor, from the nurses, the anesthesiologists, or Mabel herself. And then it came: someone's intake of breath and then the "oh there she is!" and Bobby standing up with the camera with a big smile on his face, and then the best sound in the whole world- my baby's first cry! And then I watched them walk quickly by with her to start cleaning her up. I was twisting my neck as far as I possibly could trying to get a good look. Her face was all mashed up and her head was totally lopsided because apparently she stretched part of the uterus with her head and carved herself a tight little spot. I got to kind of hold her long enough to take a picture and then she was off for her first bath. One of the worst things about a c-section is how long you have to wait before they bring you your baby. Actually that first day was not my favorite- I felt much better the day after. I wasn't very good about remembering to use the morphine pump and I had a really hard time getting on top of the pain after that. And also, I could hardly keep any food down that first day. Which is very typical for me after I've had anesthesia. I had the best nurses- I have always had the best OB nurses, actually. Mabel fussed a lot that first day. It worried me a little, but she's been sweet and calm ever since. Bobby stayed with me that evening and held the baby a lot while I slept. I was so out of it. I wanted to stay up so we could hang out and talk and look at the baby together. But I knew I needed the sleep.

The girls came for a visit with Nona and Bobby in the late afternoon. I hardly remember anything but the sweet looks on their faces and trying to get Claire from jumping on my incision. It was great to see Claire so happy and excited. It was very hard to leave her for so long. She was only nineteen months when Mabel was born and I didn't know how she'd respond when I was gone for a few days. It's not like I could really prepare her for what was coming. But she did fine while I was gone and has been fine ever since.

I love the hospital experience and I'm sad that this was probably my last time! But Sunday afternoon I was ready to come home and be with the family. The house was spotless when I got home and as I said before, Louise took care of just about everything- lunches, cooking, housework, dinner, shopping, laundry- so that I could take naps and take care of Mabel. She is amazing.

Some other things we love about Mabel- the hair! I was kind of hoping we'd have another one with lots of dark hair. One of her features that we love is her forehead wrinkles! She got them from her Mommy. She has about 4 or 5 wrinkles every time she raises her eyebrows. It's adorable. I don't know how much she weighs, but she seems HUGE relative to how she started out. It's rewarding to watch her little cheeks and belly round out after all the many hours I've spent nursing her. She is a pretty decent sleeper, as long as I don't eat too much chocolate or ANY hummus at all. She's not consistently in any pattern at all yet- I wouldn't expect her to be at 5 weeks- but sometimes she'll sleep as long as 5 1/2 hours in a row at night in her own bed which I really appreciate, though I don't mind pulling her into bed and tucking her under my arm for a few hours every now and then. It's just so sweet to be so close to a sleeping infant. I can't resist sometimes. I'm on the verge of tears now just thinking that this is likely the last time I'll get to do this with one of my own children. Although it does feel nice to think of our family as complete for now. Everyone's here.
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