Wednesday, December 10, 2014

classic peanut butter cookies

The other night I dreamed I was with my friend Jenn as she was giving birth to her daughter. I was on the hospital bed with her, just up there hanging out ON THE BED WITH HER while she was in labor. (Boundaries much?) It was getting toward the end. She was in a sweaty, altered state pushing that baby down, and when the doctor said, "One more!", she pushed HARD and the baby girl came shooting out like a torpedo. All at once she was here and wiggling on the bed between us. The nurse swooped in just then, to wipe off the baby and wrap her in a soft blanket. Smiling, she held out the newborn to Jenn. The new mom barely looked up. Instead she held up a tired finger and said, "Hold on a minute," and then reached over to a side table where, in a pristine spotlight, there sat the most perfect donut you've ever seen: glazed with shiny chocolate frosting. And big. She tenderly picked up the pastry and proceeded to savor it deliberately, bite by bite, with her eyes closed in rapture. When she (finally) finished, she licked her fingers and her lips, opened her eyes with a giant smile, reached her arms out wide to the dumbstruck nurse and said, "Okay, give me my baby!"

I think this might be the most quintessential pregnancy dream ever. Labor is there, and also a newborn, even a hospital with doctors and nurses. But most importantly: The Donut.

If you swap out the donut for a peanut butter cookie, I would appreciate this dream even more than I do already. The baby boy I'm growing inside me is demanding peanut butter these days (and he's been really bossy about it). I've had funny waves of cravings along my pregnancy journey. The first trimester was very cream-cheese-centric, trimester #2 was all about chicken-salad sandwiches and Arnold Palmers, and now? In the home stretch? Peanut butter. On apples, on toast, by the spoonful and via the best delivery system ever: cookies.

(Bonus: Peanut butter cookies can be Christmas Cookies if you make them at Christmastime!)


Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 3 dozen cookies (depending upon how big you roll them)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (not the natural kind--Skippy is great for cookies)
1 egg
2 t vanilla
1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
granulated sugar for rolling before baking

Preheat oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and mix well. Add the egg and vanilla, scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again. Bit by bit, add the flour mixture until just combined. Roll dough into 1" balls, coat in granulated sugar and place on baking sheet 2" apart. Flatten with a fork in a criss-cross fashion and bake for 10-13 minutes or until edges are golden.

P.S. You aren't required to chill the dough before rolling but you can refrigerate for a day or two or freeze it for a week or two.

Happy Holiday time, lovelies!

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Bouqs

While in High School, I dated a guy for about 5 minutes. On one of our few dates we went to a neighborhood Italian place (where he inhaled a giant meatball sandwich), and then back to his place to make out (classy, eh?). We fell asleep tangled up on his twin bed and a couple hours later when we woke up, he leaned over and open-mouth kissed me with his garlic/meatball/ass breath and that's pretty much all it took for me to want to break up with him. Maybe I mentioned this to a girlfriend and word got back to him because the next day I came home from school, and at my front door was a single, long-stemmed red rose accompanied by a small card that simply read call me written in gold calligraphy. I wondered how many times he practiced writing call me with his calligraphy pen before getting it right. (Remember how hard it was to hold those things so the flat side was at ye olde perfect slanted angle?!) After momentarily being impressed by his calligraphy balls, I steeled myself, dialed his number, and then broke up with him over the phone. Ugh. I'm awful. But that breath was Bad News Bears, you guys. Anyway. That was the most memorable floral delivery I've ever received.

Until now.

The delightfully nice people at The Bouqs sent Joeycake (me) some gorgeous flowers! Have you heard of The Bouqs? You know when you have to send flowers to someone and you kinda freak out? Because let's say they live far away and you have no idea where to order them from? You could choose somewhere local that you're just pulling out of thin air via a quick google search, but are they gonna be good? Or do you go with some FTD situation that feels homogenized, somewhat impersonal and usually downright cheesy? There is another, much more kick-ass option: The Bouqs offer sustainably-grown, super-fresh flowers (grown in rich volcanic soil) at really cheap prices ($40 out the door). Bonus: they last longer than most high-school relationships. The roses they sent me lasted a full 12 days. They were so great looking for so long that we started to become suspicious of them. The Bouqs have a beautiful, chic selection, they ship directly via FedEx, have flat-rate shipping and zero hidden fees. I can't rave about them enough. They just might be good enough to make someone forget your sour meatball breath.

You can check out their website here. They're always having deals but today there are some special Cyber Monday ones too.

Happy Monday!
Hope you had a delicious Thanksgiving weekend:)

P.S. FYI: All opinions posted by me on Joeycake are my very own and I would never rave about anything here that I don't stand behind.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

pumpkin cranberry bread

It's almost Thanksgiving! (My very most favorite:)) Don't you just love Thanksgiving for all that it is (food, family, gratitude) and all that it's not (shopping, wrapping, hustling about)? I have so much to appreciate this year. So many blessings.

I can't believe I'm already in the home stretch of this pregnancy. At 35 weeks along, I'm seriously slowing down. And for someone who is usually on the go (and who kind of loves to be on the go), it's been strange and also surprisingly nice. It's not the kind of slowing down where you try and talk yourself into taking it easy. Physically my body is requiring it. I'll be standing there talking to someone and this one-track-mind urge hits me and I can't even focus on what they're saying because my whole body is screaming for a place to sit down. Take a load off, it says, put your feet up.

I imagine, too, it's awesome to surrender to this deceleration. Because once the baby arrives (I hear) you enter this dreamy, hazy, sleepy, sweet, intimate time where you just slow slow slow down to the baby's rhythms and take it all moment by moment. I can feel myself being lulled there. Mind if we finish this conversation lying down? My eyes are closed but I'm totally listening.

I had to run waddle to the grocery store early this morning to get a couple last items for my Thanksgiving dinner contribution and as I was enjoying slowly moving about and gathering this and that in the quiet store, I came upon one of my least favorite of the store's employees: a super swarthy and oily fellow who looks like he actually might tie someone to a railroad track while twisting his pointy mustache. This guy always seeks me out, too, despite my best efforts to avoid him. He's always switching checkout lines to bag my groceries and make awkward conversation. Let me put it this way: there is another employee there who has a hook for a hand and he's not nearly as scary as this dude. Here's how it went down today:



ME: "Hi."

SWARTHY VILLAINOUS GROCERY FELLOW: "I can't wait to see your baby."

I smile uncomfortably.


ME: "Um. Well, not now. He's still cooking. But I imagine someday you might see him."

Much to my chagrin.

SWARTHY VILLAINOUS GROCERY FELLOW: "What's wrong with your eyes?"

ME: "Uh…sorry?"

SWARTHY VILLAINOUS GROCERY FELLOW: "They look very sad today."

ME: "Oh."


ME: "Um. I don't know. Maybe because I don't have any makeup on."

He looks closer.


Awkward beat.


ME: "Well, I was. Before this conversation."

He laughs maniacally. And for the first time in a long time I wished I could make a quick getaway.


Pumpkin Cranberry Bread
yields one loaf
adapted from Bobby Flay's Pumpkin Bread

Promise me you'll make this before you put all the pumpkin away this season. It's super moist and crazy delicious with those sweet-tart cranberries cutting through all the spicy spices.

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour (you can sub up to half of this for whole wheat flour if you like)
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground cloves
4 T butter, softened, plus more for buttering the pan
1-1/2 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (unflavored)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed, sorted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9" loaf pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. Whisk well to combine. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar and oil together on high speed until creamy and fluffy, scraping down the sides when necessary. Add the pumpkin puree and mix well. Add the eggs one-at-a-time, mixing in between. Mixing on low, add the flour mixture a bit at a time, alternating with the water, until everything is just mixed in. Stir in the chopped cranberries. Pour into your prepared pan, bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer tester comes out clean and let cool completely.

I'm thankful for YOU!
Hope you have the most Happy Thanksgiving:)

P.S. Still need recipes for your TG feast? Joeycake has a "Thanksgiving" section in the recipe index!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

pineapple coconut protein shake with greens

34 weeks pregnant over here and counting. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you people have now begun to literally point at me and shout, "You're HUGE!"

So there's that.

At the hardware store several weeks ago, an employee bustled past me and as he did, he pointed at my belly and shouted his guess at my due date. Like I was a walking how-many-jellybeans-are-in-the-jar contest. It would've (maybe?) been funny had his guess not been TWO MONTHS EARLY.

You know how you're not supposed to EVER ask a woman if she's pregnant? How that is like an Unwritten Rule of Being a Good Person? Well, once one has confirmed she is pregnant, that shouldn't give one carte blanche to say/ask her anything without using one's noodle. These juicy items come to mind:

"You must be ready to POP!"
"Any day now, huh?"
"What are you, nine months?"
"You sure there's only one in there?!"
"You still have six more weeks to go? WOW!"
"How much weight have you gained so far?"**

(**My father poses this question whenever we talk now (which is often). It's like he's my Overeaters Anonymous sponsor. It never fails to make me flinch. And every time, I consider trying to make a joke and dodge the topic. But he's my dad and I know he means well, so inevitably I just tell him my weight. Which I'm realizing now is why he probably keeps asking me.)

Can we add these types of things to the Unwritten Person Rules? None of these things help us Preggos. Here are some handy replacements:

"Can I get you a chair?"
"You're glowing!"
"You don't even look pregnant from the back!"
"I have an extra half-sandwich here with your name on it."
"Another Arnold Palmer?"
"Want me to tie your shoes for you?"
"You have never looked so sexy!"

Consider this a public service announcement on behalf of Preggos everywhere. Bonus: I will be genuinely excited if you say any of the above to me especially if you also forget to ask me how much weight I've gained.


Pineapple Coconut Protein Shake with Greens
yields 1 large or 2 smaller shakes

Some of my baby websites are telling me that this week, the child inside me is the size of a large pineapple, so let's toast to that with some pineapple protein shakes! These are so good, pregnant or no.

6 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
4 oz. water
1 cup frozen pineapple chunks
1/2 frozen banana
2 heaping cups fresh spinach
1 T flax meal (ground flax seeds)
1 T coconut oil
1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend! Add ice if your fruit is not frozen.


Friday, October 31, 2014

pumpkin spiced rice krispie treats with brown butter

Happy Halloween, Joeycakers!! What fun and spooky things are you up to? One of my acting students asked me what I was gonna be for Halloween and I told them: A Pregnant Lady Laying on Her Couch Eating. So it's gonna be a pretty amazing night over here at our house. And I say that with zero irony.

Speaking of Halloween-amazing, I heard the scariest thing on NPR this week: There is a sub-genre of erotic romance novels that involves heroines traveling back to prehistoric times and having good times* with dinosaurs.

(*super raunchy sexy sex)

I'll just let that sit a second while your brain implodes.

Ok, ready? Here is a synopsis of "Taken by the T-Rex", written by Christie Sims (who seems to have cornered the Dinosaur Erotica market):

Drin is her tribe's chief huntress; she lives for the thill of the hunt. Men and sex hold no allure for her, as Drin has never found a partner to satisfy her. When a T-Rex descends upon her village, Drin taunts the beast, giving her tribe mates time to flee. As she runs, leading it through a gauntlet of traps, the thrill of the hunt soars through her blood, leaving her wet with desire. When the angry T-Rex corners the huntress in a box canyon, it seems more interested in her wet womanhood than in her flesh.

Other titillating titles by Sims include "Ravished by the Raptor", "Taken by the Pterodactyl", "In The Velociraptor's Nest", and maybe my favorite, "Dino Park After Dark". Here's the cover of "Ravished By The Triceratops" (somebody's learning photoshop!):

I suppose all ladies should feel free to explore their deep, dark fantasies, whether they include extinct predators or couch-laying. So more power to Christie Sims and her loyal readers. (And to me.)

For a different kind of titillating fantasy, check out these autumnal Rice Krispie Treats. They are so good they'll make you forget you can't be caressed by a sexy Brontosaurus in real life.

Pumpkin Spiced Rice Krispie Treats with Brown Butter
recipe adapted from The Kitchn
makes one batch (about 12)

There are two methods here. One uses actual pumpkin and is a bit more high-maintenance, one just uses the spices and is easy-peasy. Read the whole deal and follow your heart.

4T unsalted butter
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree**
1-10oz bag mini marshmallows
1/4 t vanilla extract
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
pinch kosher salt
6 cups rice krispies

Butter a 9x13 (or 8x11 or 9x9) baking pan and set aside. Over medium-low heat in a heavy saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter until it begins to brown, shaking the pan every so often. Add the pumpkin puree and warm it through (it will sputter at first from all the water content). Fold in the marshmallows and stir until melted. Add the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt, then remove from heat. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature, about 25 minutes (otherwise, you'll have sad, soggy treats). Add the cereal and stir until combined. Silicone spatulas work really well for this. Press the mixture into your buttered pan and then pop it into the refrigerator until set. This helps to further avoid sogginess. Cut and enjoy.

**Note: if you're not into the whole waiting-until-room-temperature thing (I get it), omit the pumpkin puree all together and just use the vanilla/pumpkin pie spice/salt. You can stir the cereal into the melty marshmallow mixture immediately and not bother with the fridge.


{book title photo from Buzzfeed}

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

An Open Letter To My Pregnancy Body Pillow

Dear Pregnancy Body Pillow,

We had a rocky start. You were a hand-me-down, a second-class-citizen, cast aside by a good friend with a newborn. She was eager to return to belly-sleeping so you got the swift boot. I was a skeptic, set in my pre-pregnancy sleep ways but I had heard promising claims. I experimented with you in the glow of my first pre-natal weeks, before I truly needed you, and during our inaugural evening together I had the highest hopes. Unfortunately, we wound up wrestling until the wee morning hours when I kicked you out of my bed, and there you remained, coiled on the floor gathering dust until I reached the beginning of my third trimester.

It was then I got word about the dangers of back-sleeping (turns out the vena cava is not a wine bar), and my belly was becoming increasingly unwieldy. So I picked you up (that was no picnic with said belly), dusted you off (literally), and begrudgingly decided to give you a second chance. Annoyingly, you come not only with a C-curve, but a learning curve. It took me a full fortnight to get acquainted with your squirrely disposition. While you claim you'll bend to my will, I now see it's your way or the highway. You leave me merely two nighttime options: clutch you like a needy child latches onto the leg of his apologetic mother, or lean into you backwards the way a mangy dog demands back scratches. I simultaneously desire you and feel betrayed by your limitations, like a vibrator whose batteries are dying.

But here's the thing: I need you now. I can't do it without you. And I admit that I'm weak. My mother-friends have said,"Don't bother with the body pillow, just use a regular one between your legs," but it's no use. I want you between my legs, PBP. I hate myself for loving you.

Despite your ability to make side-sleeping slightly less horrible, you have copious liabilities. Yet I keep coming back to you like an aloof boyfriend or straight-across bangs. You're hot. Like polyester-blend hot. I wake up clammy and not without the type of skin irritations caused by synthetic fabrics. And getting out of you is a nightmare. Your looped ends trip up my already-compromised ability to move gracefully. Do you enjoy making me feel foolish twelve times a night when I'm forced to get up and pee? Do you?

And pray tell, where am I supposed to stash you in the daytime? If you stay inside the bed, I get small heart attacks every time I enter the bedroom, as my peripheral vision assumes you're a dead body. On top of the bed, you're a pathetic eyesore, a giant, curly pillow-turd that tarnishes my bedroom's minimalistic, non-turd design scheme. I have to hide you like a Real Housewives addiction or a penchant for high-caloric coffee drinks with extra whipped cream and caramel drizzle.

My husband calls you The Interloper. You literally come between us. And that night when he came back from the bathroom half-asleep and rubbed your spine for a full minute before realizing it wasn't his wife's? That didn't help your case. I had to stick up for you, PBP. And it made me feel sad and small. What have I become?

Hating that I can't quit you,

{This letter was also published in the Huffington Post}

Saturday, October 18, 2014

roasted butternut squash soup

I downloaded an app on my phone that gives me daily pregnancy updates and this was yesterday's:

"Do your legs look like tree trunks? Swollen feet and ankles may not be sexy, but it's what most pregnant women are wearing in any given season. To reduce that puffy look, try to take a five-minute walk around your house or office at least once an hour. A quick dance works, too, and may take your mind off your fat feet, so crank up the tunes, Mama!"

Real nice, huh? Hey fatty! Never mind that yesterday I told you to put your feet up and get some rest. Quit being such a lazy ass. Get up and stretch those tree trunks!

As a pregnant woman you unwittingly enter the symptom lottery. I've been lucky enough to avoid cankles (*crosses fingers*) but have come upon my own fun set of pregnancy surprises. Among other unsavory things, bending over is officially over. At 29 weeks, this belly seriously gets in the way. I've developed a new soundtrack of moans and groans and umphs and arrrggghhs for getting out of bed or off the couch or to reach something low in the fridge. Forget about putting on socks or shaving any nether regions.

The hunger is also COLOSSAL. Like bottomless-pit yearnings that physically hurt, and a deep, fierce reverence for food and stuffing my face like a homeless dog. The other day while eating in a Panera, I dropped a potato chip on the floor and was faced with a dilemma of epic proportions. Until pregnancy, never would I consider eating something off the floor (in a Panera, no less). All my life I've been able and not willing and here I was completely game and yet incapacitated. Even had I attempted, and could've actually reached it, my pregnancy-onset clumsiness gave me no guarantees that I would be able to grasp it in the first eighteen tries.

Alas, I let the chip go. It was a real milestone in embracing my limitations. On the flip side, I could've asked my dining companion to reach it for me and that might have proven a great lesson in asking for help. And also choosing not to be affected by the sharp judgement of others for eating food off the questionable floor of a sub-par franchised sandwich restaurant.


This same mildly insulting and contradictory app gives me weekly updates on which fruit or vegetable matches the size of my baby's growth (a fig! a pear! as long as an ear of corn!) and had the balls to tell me my baby was the size of an eggplant for 3 weeks straight. I looked online to cross-reference and found mention of a butternut squash. So, in honor of his size at 29 weeks, I cooked something the size of my baby! (Let's pretend this is not awkward in the least.)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from
serves 6-8

There's a bit of time involved here with the roasting but it makes for such a sweet richness in the final mix. Plus, there's no awkward peeling and dicing an unwieldy squash. Also: THIS SMELLS SO FREAKING GOOD WHILE IT'S COOKING THAT IT WILL TAUNT YOU WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE GROWING A HUMAN.

2 medium butternut squash (buy about 4.5 pounds altogether)
4 T butter, divided
2 large granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 fresh sage leaves
4 cups (1 quart) chicken broth
1-1/2 cups water
kosher salt
black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
cinnamon to taste
greek yogurt or extra virgin olive oil for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F. Place each squash in the microwave (one at a time) for 2 minutes to soften, then cut in half longways and remove the seeds. Put all 4 halves on a rimmed baking sheet. Melt 1-1/2 T butter and brush it all over the flesh, then salt and pepper generously. Roast until knife tender, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the remaining 2-1/2 T butter and sauté the apples, onion, garlic and sage until soft, 7-9 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh (discard the skins) and add it to the apple mixture. Add the chicken stock, water and a good big pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, partially cover it, and turn it down to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes, breaking up the squash with a spoon if there are any chunks. Blend with an immersion blender or in a regular blender in batches, taking care not to burn yourself! Return to the pot. Taste for salt. Start with 1/2 t nutmeg and 1 t cinnamon and add more to your liking. The salt and the spices at the end really bring everything together so make sure you add enough. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or a drizzle of olive oil.

Happy Autumn!


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