Thursday, November 1, 2012
I'm not sure what I love most about the pre-baby maternity leave that I'm currently enjoying. Is it the fact that I can go run errands around 10am, when there is no traffic, and no line at the grocery store? Is it the daily baking? The freedom to see friends for two-hour lunches, and to take naps? The couple of hours a day spent knitting and watching TV? The fact that I have energy at the end of the day to make a nice dinner and eat with my husband? I don't know, it's all been lovely. Absolutely lovely.
I started baking treats because I loved the idea of bringing a little edible gift to the nurses in the maternity ward at the hospital - a little bribe for quality care can't hurt, right? And then I thought, why stop there? So after I had a dozen chocolate chip cookies and eight cheesecake-marbled brownies chilling out in the freezer, I just kept going! I had a couple of past-prime bananas on the counter, so I made crackly banana bread, and stashed most of it in the freezer pre-sliced. Then some everything cookies, which I just realized I've never told you about. I will, I promise. Then on to roasted pear and chocolate chunk scones, frozen unbaked for a warm breakfast treat in December or January. I have elaborate visions of myself all calm, holding my newborn baby girl, pouring coffee and pulling freshly baked scones out of the oven for a friend who came over for breakfast. Who knows if that's anywhere close to reality, but I have high hopes. And I just made it a million times easier for myself, since the only thing I'll actually have to do is turn on the oven and put the scones in. Perfect!
I've also been doing what I can to prepare for life after baby. There's only so much you can read about childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care before the words start swimming before your eyes and you worry about how you're ever going to remember it all, so yesterday I headed over to the library and picked up some fiction. I've also been thinking about how isolated new moms (actually, moms in general) can become in our culture, and seeking out ways to prevent myself from feeling that way all winter long. There used to be so much community for raising babies; women banded together and all pitched in where they could. In a city this size, I know that feelings of isolation are easy to come by, but with so many people so close, there's really no reason for that. Enter the "village" of the 21st century, Meetup.com. I've already found 2 or 3 promising communities of women with small kids who I'm really excited to connect with. They host playdates and book clubs, meet for coffee and walks, and from what I can tell, generally support each other. I look forward to meeting some new friends.
I love it when fresh cranberries reappear at the supermarket; it feels like the holiday season has arrived! Here are some other ways I love to use them:
Roasted Cranberry-Apple Sauce
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries
Cranberry Orange Muffins
adapted from the Cook's Illustrated Cookbook
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
1 pound bag fresh whole cranberries, rinsed and picked over for mushy ones
zest of 1 orange
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray two standard muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the yogurt and dry ingredients in 3 alternating additions, ending with yogurt, mixing on low until combined. Use a spatula to fold in cranberries, orange zest, and pecans. Scoop generous amounts of batter into each muffin cup (you have to really fill them for them to get that rounded, puffy muffin top). Sprinkle the tops with a bit of sugar, if desired, and bake about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for a minute or two, and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Yield: about 18-20 standard-size muffins, or half as many jumbo muffins, or a mix of the two (I got 12 standard and 4 jumbo from my batch).