Archive for November, 2008


Now We Have Two!

Long time, no write. I have been trying to focus my energy on getting my home somewhat back to pre-Mira status. I find myself wishing I had a lot more arms like Durga, or having the ability to astro project myself to be in two rooms at the same time (yup, I’m that geeky.) Having 2 children certainly takes some adjusting to. Of course, it’s a welcome adjustment, and both my daughters bring me new joy and sanctification daily.  Mira’s personal schedule and preferences have been a challenge for me to adapt and mold. Thankfully, someone referred me to the Happiest Baby on the Block and while I disagree somewhat with Karp’s philosophy, we are finally getting a bit of sleep through his methods. Hurrah! We are still having adventures in potty training with Ophelia. She is 50/50 on diapers. I don’t feel this is a good time to really transition her because of all the changes we are experiencing already. She uses disposables for nap and bedtime. Otherwise she’s in her Happy Heinys (which, btw, I can get you an awesome deal on if you’re in the market!). It’s working well for us right now.

We haven’t quite got back into making real dinners yet. Having been blessed with many meals through thoughtful friends and family, I haven’t really needed to do any cooking for a month. Now that I’m starting to get my feet on the ground again, we are doing simple meals. Oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter and honey or tuna sandwiches for lunch.  For dinner last night, we melted cheeses on baguette slices in the oven, had fruit, and an array of cold cheeses.  I have been experimenting a bit, though. I tried adding some marshmallows in with my chocolate crescents. Yum! I started pouring some prepared pumpkin pie filling on top of my cherry pie filling before cooking it instead of doing a lattice top. It looks a bit like an autopsy, but it tastes fabulous! Last week I experimented with spinach and risotto. That one still needs some serious tweaking. So, that, in a nutshell is what has been up with us. Both the girls are napping right now, so I’m going to take this rare opportunity to sneak in some sleep myself.



This year I’m only in charge of the desserts for Thanksgiving, which is a welcome change of pace. I’m making baklava, chocolate pumpkin pie, chocolate pecan pie, and a deep dish cheddar crusted apple pie (I’ve got about nine big Granny Simths sitting on my counter, all waiting to be jammed into my red Chantal pie plate). So far I’ve managed to get the baklava done, and if you’ve never made it before, that stuff is time consuming! I’d never made it before, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but goodness, that’s a lot of layers! But when it was baking in the oven, the wonderful smell proved that it was all worth it.

I ended up combining two recipes (one from Everyday FOOD, and one from to make my baklava, and here’s the recipe that I ended up with.
1 pound butter
3 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
3 whole cloves
3 cups walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 package (16 oz) frozen phyllo dough (17 by 12 inches), thawed

Preheat oven to 375. Brush a 13-by-9-inch jelly roll pan with butter and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine a scant 3 cups sugar, lemon juice, orange juice, cloves, and 1 1/4 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sugar dissolves and mixture is syrupy, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set syrup aside.

In a food processor, pulse walnuts with cinnamon, nutmeg, and remaining 1/2 sugar until finely ground. Set walnut filling aside.

Clarify your butter. I found that doing it all at once was easier than doing by individual sticks (as some websites recommended). So, put all the butter (you may have to cut it up) into a 2 or 3 or 4 cup pyrex measuring cup and melt in the microwave. Let it sit for a few minutes so that the layers separate nicely. Then, with a regular spoon, skim off the foamy white stuff on the top (you don’t want that). Then pour off the lovely yellow butterfat into a dish, leaving the other white stuff on the bottom of the pyrex (you don’t want that either). Throw away the stuff in the pyrex dish. Now you have lovely clarified yellow butterfat, ready to spread all over your phyllo dough. (And if you’re wondering, I read that clarified butter will make for a more flaky baklava. That’s why I went through all that mess).

Place your stack of thawed phyllo sheets on a work surface and cut in half, to create a stack that is roughly 12 by 8 1/2 inches. This will give you more than enough phyllo sheets to work with so you don’t have to worry about running out or feel guilty about throwing away that torn sheet. Place 1 sheet of phyllo in prepared baking pan (keep remaining sheets covered with a damp cloth). Brush gently with butter; repeat with two more sheets of phyllo, laying each on top of the other. (you now have a 3-sheet stack of buttered phyllo.)

Sprinkle phyllo stack in pan with 1/3 cup walnut filling. Repeat with seven or so more buttered phyllo stacks, sprinkling each with walnut filling. I say seven or so because I just went until no more would fit in my pan (and I had a little walnut filling left over). Top with one more stack; brush generously with butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut unbaked baklava into 24 squares. Bake until puffed and golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; pour syrup over baklava (it’s amazing how quickly it soaks the syrup up, and the sizzling sound is quite lovely). Let stand at room temperature until syrup is absorbed, at least 3 hours. To store, keep at room temperature up to three days.



Since Bella was born, we discovered that I have a genetic blood clotting disorder known as Factor Five Leiden deficiency. This can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women and tends to cause 2nd and 3rd trimester miscarriages because a blood clot will develop in the placenta and cut off oxygen to the baby, or a number of other clotting problems can develop to harm the baby. Pregnancy also makes it more likely for me to get a clot that would cause a pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis for me, which I’ve heard are not fun (not to mention life threatening).

So while I’ve never had any symptoms from this genetic disease, we decided with the input of our doctor that I should be put on a prophylactic dose of blood thinners for my 10th through 38th weeks of pregnancy. This means that twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, I get to fill up a little syringe with heparin and inject myself in my belly. Last night as I was preparing to inject myself I was thinking of the Friends episode where Ross has an allergic reaction to the kiwi lime pie and has to get a shot, and he’s asking the doctor if there’s any way to avoid the needle and just “thquirt it in my mouth, like a thquirt gun?”. After 7 months of doing this though, I figure I’ll be a pro (after all, it’ll come to nearly four hundred injections).

I started injections a few weeks ago, and Andrew was a big help at first. After the first few times I decided it was just easier to do it myself though, so it’s been a one person deal for a while now. Initially, they stung a lot and I was bruising to the point where nothing could touch the injection sites (tight shirts were too painful!). This made holding Bella and being hugged by my husband difficult tasks. Fortunately the sites have been less painful lately and I can even handle lying on them a bit when I sleep.

While this is a trial, I’m thankful every time I have a chance to inject myself because of two things. First, it means that God has blessed us greatly by sustaining the life of this little one inside of me and we still have a reason to be taking the medication. And secondly, I’m so thankful for the hope that God has offered to us through modern medicine. While being on blood thinners during a pregnancy is a bit scary (since bleeding is really the last thing a pregnant woman wants to do), we know that the benefits outweigh the risks and this is the best thing that we can do (medically) to ensure the health of our baby.

So while this twice-a-day ritual is becoming a pretty mundane, daily task, we ask that you would pray for its effectiveness and that God would use it to protect me and our baby from any complications stemming from this genetic disease. There are pregnant women with clotting disorders who take heparin and still have devastating complications in their pregnancies, and it is our prayer that God would bless our use of this medication and use it to bless us with a wonderfully healthy baby in May.


a little announcement

Andrew and I are delighted to announce that we are expecting our second baby! We’ve been praying for this little one since B was about 7 months old, and we are very thankful that God has, in His perfect timing, chosen to bless us with another little one now. Our baby is due June 1st, but we’re expecting him/her to arrive closer to the middle of May.

Today was my 12 week ultrasound and everything looks great!
The baby is measuring right on schedule and was rolling around for us, stretching its little legs (see the bottom right picture), and even hiccuping! We are very pleased to see that everything is going so well.

I had another ultrasound at 8 weeks, and everything was looking spot on then too, but we wanted to wait and verify everything today before letting everyone know. I have two diseases/disorders that make my pregnancies high risk – PCOS which puts me at a higher risk for first trimester miscarriages, and then I have a Factor V Leiden deficiency which is a blood clotting problem that puts me at risk for miscarrying in the second and third trimesters. I’m on a prophylactic dose of blood thinners for the rest of this pregnancy, but more on that in a few days.

Please join us in rejoicing in the miracle of this little one, and pray with us that the next six months go smoothly and quickly!


pure chocolate disguised as a cake

For his birthday (which was Saturday, Happy Birthday Babe!), my husband requested a fudgy chocolate cake with confetti icing. I told him that that would not taste good, so we decided to do two separate cakes – one very easy Duncan Hines yellow cake with confetti/cream cheese frosting (we mixed two cans of frosting together to get that combo), and then I had to find a recipe for a really really chocolaty fudgy cake. I found this recipe on epicurious, and I will copy it below for you…

For cake layers
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting
1 pound fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Make cake layers:
Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

Make frosting:
Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth.

Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).

Spread frosting between cake layers and over top and sides. Cake keeps, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.

I used the bulk chocolate bricks from WinCo and the bulk cocoa powder and it turned out just fine! It was really quite spectacular, and the sort of cake that somehow tastes better slightly chilled. I of course forgot to take a picture, but there’s a good one on the website with the original recipe and the cake does turn out looking like that. There is so much chocolate in this, and it is so dark in color, that I am convinced that it’s just pure dark chocolate disguised as cake.


Absolute Enjoyment

I had to share this picture of my sweetums playing with play-dough for the first time. The little things in life can certainly be the most fun!


macaroni and cheese season

Yesterday we got a beautiful half inch of rain here. It was so thick that it was obscuring the ridge to the south of our apartment, and every time I passed by our bedroom window I had to stop and look out at how beautiful it all was. Oh, and I spent a number of my formative years in Oregon, so that probably accounts for why I like the rain so much. Anyway.

With this chilly weather came the need for some comfort food, and Andrew and I both decided that macaroni and cheese would be perfect. And it was. Nothing like a steamy bowl of mac ‘n cheese from scratch on a cold rainy day. And, we found a beautiful ale to pair it with – a Winter Bourbon Cask Ale. Maybe it was just great because we haven’t had beer for a while, but I loved it all the same. Nice and smooth and not incredibly hoppy.

After the delicious mac ‘n cheese and ale, we needed cookies so I put together a batch of those too – some soft gooey peanut butter ones. All around a great evening for comfort foods.