Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quick Takes: Pregnancy Edition!

In case you didn't read yesterday's post carefully enough, that's right! I'm pregnant! And so today, 7 random things that I've wanted to say over the past few months, but haven't been able to lest I prematurely spill the beans! Go see Jen for more quick takes!

- 1 -

There is no sweeter sound to a pregnant lady's ears than to hear someone say, "You look great." No matter how excited I am to be sharing my body with this little person I'm growing, there are times when I just look in the mirror and can't muster a happy thought about what I look like. To hear someone else tell me I look nice really makes my day. (Side note: I don't know how people go back to wearing regular pants, after having worn maternity pants. I'm just saying.)

- 2 -

You can eat soft cheese all you WANT! I am really not good at following rules if I don't understand the reasoning behind them, and since there are some things you're supposed to avoid while pregnant (and I will not take your word for it), I decided to read the fine print. Fact: soft cheese is fine, as long as it's made with pasteurized milk. Do you know how hard it is to even find soft cheese that's made with raw milk? Almost impossible. So indulge in that bacon and bleu cheese burger, or the goat cheese salad, or crackers with Brie, or whatever it is that you're craving. It's perfectly safe. Sushi? Still no. Deli meat? Only if you heat it up to steaming beforehand. All of this is to avoid exposure to Listeria, a bacteria that is easily fought off by adult immune systems, but is a threat to a growing fetus.

- 3 -

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Another thing you can have? Coffee. When I was so tired that I could barely make it through the morning without taking a nap under my desk, my morning coffee was an absolute life-saver. The last thing you need when you're more exhausted than you've ever been, and nauseated on top of that, is to have a caffeine-withdrawal migraine. Of course, if you drink coffee all day long, you should probably cut back. But a cup in the morning is perfectly fine and poses no risk to the baby.

- 4 -

Fried egg

It's possible that crackers will not be the best relief for morning sickness. In my first trimester, I had to eat about every 30 minutes to keep nausea at bay, but anything carby or sweet made me feel sicker. No crackers or bread or other things you think you should eat when you're nauseated. Nope, this baby of mine wanted scrambled eggs, cheese, and chicken. Weird, I know. As soon as the constant queasiness went away (Hallelujah!), I started balancing my diet back out again. Lots of fruit, veggies, whole milk dairy (I'm planning to dedicate a whole post to why later), and fatty fish, like salmon. And tons and tons of water.

- 5 -

Prenatal yoga is amazing. I went to my first class last week, and plan to try to take a class once a week until the baby comes. I took one regular yoga class a few weeks ago, and there were a fair number of poses I couldn't comfortably do, so I enjoy a class that's geared toward pregnant women. It also helps keep me in a calm mental space, so that when people start bombarding me with their well-meaning advice and compulsive labor and delivery war stories, I can just let it roll right off.

- 6 -

The book Baby Bargains is a great resource to help you wade through all the many, many brands and styles and types of things people will tell you you absolutely must have in order to safely and adequately raise your baby. It's part guidance from a close friend who's been where you're going, part deluxe all-inclusive Consumer Reports. A huge help as we were starting to put together our registry.

- 7 -

Here's what I looked like at 17 weeks :)

17 weeks!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Radish Pickles

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I always buy radishes in the spring. They're so colorful, peeking out from rows and rows of baby greens and asparagus at the market. Especially these Easter egg ones - a purple vegetable will always have a special place in my heart. But here's what happens. I get excited when I see them. I buy them and take them home. They sit in the fridge, lonely and sad, until they get all wrinkly and semi-soft, and then... I throw them away.

That is crazy talk.

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Thing is, until I thought of this idea, I did not know what to do with a whole bunch of radishes. A single solitary radish thinly sliced and mixed with salad greens? That I can handle. A whole bunch? What do I look like, some kind of radish fiend? I can't handle that much radish action. For how cute and pastel-colored they are, those suckers are spicy and assertive!

Speaking of things that are cute and pastel-colored, but can be spicy and assertive... we are expecting a little baby girl! She should make her big debut in November, and we can't wait to meet her. In the past couple of days, I've been thinking about what a weighty responsibility it is to teach a girl how to be a woman. There's just so much I want to make sure she knows, so much that I hope for her life.

I want to teach her that she should only laugh when boys are actually being funny, not just because they're being boys. I want her to be healthy and happy in her own skin. I want her to have a soaring imagination and a fabulous sense of humor. And I want her to know how to take a vegetable she doesn't really love and turn it into pink pickles!

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This is my new favorite thing to do with radishes. I've tried cooking them, and it wasn't bad. It's just that, ok, what gives a radish its inherent radish-ness? It's crispy and spicy. If you cook it, it's soft and not spicy. It's not horrible, it just doesn't really remind me of a radish anymore. These pickles take radishes to the next level - they don't have the same raw bite, but they're still crispy and a little spicy.

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Radish Pickles

Substitute these any place a normal pickle would go. One delicious option: piled on buttered toast, and sparingly salted. Actually, taste first to see if they need salt, since the brine is already pretty salty.

1 bunch radishes, any variety, washed and sliced thinly
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon crushed peppercorns

Pack the sliced radishes and the garlic into a pint Mason jar. In a medium saucepan, combine water, vinegar, salt and sugar over medium heat and stir until dissolved. Add the peppercorns and pour the brine over the radishes. Screw the lid on tightly and allow to come to room temperature. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Voila pickles!

Can be kept in the refrigerator up to a month.

Yield: one pint.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup

**NOTE: I have fixed the thing that was making it impossible to pin photos to Pinterest, thanks to this helpful post. If you have a blog and you've been having the same issue, I hope that helps! If you don't have a blog but you like to pin my posts and recipes, thank you! I love it when you share!!

For my blogday, I asked people to suggest things they'd like to see on the blog. My good friend Cassie asked for some asparagus soup, and since this hot weather is about to send the asparagus packing, it's now or never! I had never had asparagus soup before, and I have to say this is not my favorite preparation of this vegetable. Upon first taste I thought maybe I hadn't seasoned it well, or maybe it was too much stock and not enough vegetable, but after letting it rest a day in the fridge it turns out it was actually a pretty nice soup. It's just very, very subtle. And since asparagus has such a short season, I'd rather just barely saute it and toss with pasta, or shave it and pile it on a pizza, or steam it and dip it in a creamy sauce. But! If a velvety, subtly-flavored light green soup sounds like just the thing for you, give this a try!


Cream of Asparagus Soup

I've seen several recommendations from other sources that if you puree asparagus, you should strain it to remove any lingering tough or woody pieces, but I found it to be an unnecessary step. My soup was plenty smooth without straining. Follow your heart, though, and make sure to trim your asparagus well. Peeling the hard edges might also help with especially woody asparagus.

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch spring onions, or 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1- to 2-inch lengths
4 cups water, vegetable stock, or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and saute about 3-5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add asparagus and toss together. Season with salt and pepper, add the water or stock, and simmer until the asparagus can be easily smashed against the side of the pot with a spoon, about 10-15 minutes (more or less depending on how thick your asparagus is). Puree in batches in a blender, and then return to the pot over low heat. Stir in the butter and cream, taste, and adjust seasoning. Serve warm or cold.

Yield: about 4-6 servings

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Slow-Roasted Wild Salmon

Slow Roasted Salmon 2

I've been reading Nina Planck's Real Food: What to Eat and Why a little before bed each night for the past couple of weeks. It's making me feel really good about making food decisions that are extremely, ridiculously pleasant. Like whole, pastured, non-homogenized (when I can find it) dairy, which tastes so, so much better than its non- or low-fat counterparts. Or grass-fed beef, which is naturally lean, tastes amazing, and is chock-full of healthy cholesterol. Or pastured eggs, with their bright orange, protein- and omega-3-rich yolks.

Slow Roasted Salmon

Then there's wild salmon, the chapter I'm currently reading. I'm beginning to believe that wild salmon is the answer to all modern health issues. People who eat salmon once a week are at a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart arrhythmia, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides in the blood. Omega-3s help to regulate blood sugar and suppress insulin resistance. It's been well-documented and publicized that DHA, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in high concentrations in salmon, is vital for fetal and infant development, but why? Our brains are made of about 60% fat, and the most important type of fat is - you guessed it - DHA! DHA consumption has been linked to higher IQ and brain function, and to a decreased risk of neural and spinal birth defects.

Ever heard of pregnancy brain? I'm starting to wonder how much of that little-understood, anecdotal symptom of pregnancy could be solved by a couple more servings of fish each week. Developing babies take the nutrients they need from their mothers, whether or not said mothers are conscious of the nutrients they consume. Since our bodies don't produce DHA, but store a lot of it in our brains, maybe those little fetuses are taking mom's brain in order to make their own! If you're pregnant and feeling strangely forgetful, or you'd like to reduce your risk of cardiovascular health issues and type-2 diabetes, make some salmon for dinner tonight!

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Slow Roasted Salmon

adapted from Bon Appetit

Seek out wild salmon when you're shopping. Farmed salmon is higher in mercury, less sustainable, and much lower in omega-3s. It's also fed dye so that it looks like salmon. The flavor and texture of wild salmon are vastly superior.

2 six-ounce center-cut fillets wild salmon
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
assorted fresh herbs, about a cup total (I used thyme, basil, and parsley - dill or rosemary would be great!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Coat the bottom of a baking sheet with a couple tablespoons of the oil, and arrange the herbs in two piles, about the size of the salmon fillets. Lay the salmon skin-side down over the herbs, drizzle with another tablespoon oil, and season lightly with kosher salt. Bake about 25 minutes, until the salmon is just tender - a knife will slide easily into the flesh. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving suggestions: A bed of arugula and a chopped up tomato with a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of salt and pepper was perfect alongside this salmon when it came out of the oven. It would also be great with sauteed new potatoes and asparagus. I have a piece leftover in my fridge, and I plan to make a sandwich out of it on ciabatta, with lemon-dill-caper mayo and more arugula. Delicious!