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.

Anyway.

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 Chow.com
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!
xoxo
jolie

Saturday, September 20, 2014

blueberry oatmeal muffins and a gripping story about curtain shopping


Part of my pregnancy-induced nesting mayhem this past week involved scouring Los Angeles for the perfect new bedroom curtains (natch). After doing loads of reconnaissance online and finally making a curtain decision, I called a Pottery Barn store near me to see what they had in stock. I got a busy signal around 19 times, so my giant belly and I decided to go and see for ourselves. When I got there I fought the urge to ask them if their phone was off the hook. Or if they had a teenaged employee hogging the line.

I bee-lined for the drapes, immediately found what I wanted, and was promptly greeted by a saleslady whose cheer was surprisingly impressive.
"Hi, hon! How can I help you?" She asked.
"Yeah, hi. I need two panels of the 96" white sheer linen drapes," I said, pointing to the drape display in case she didn't understand words.
Her face twisted like she smelled rotten garbage.
"Oooh. I think we're out of those. Want me to check for you?"
"Yes, please." 
Using a metal cane, she hobbled out from behind the counter wearing a giant foot cast.
"I'll just go check in the back, hon. Give me a sec," she said.
"Step on it," I said.
She froze. The garbage face was back again, but this time much stinkier.
"Excuse me?" 
"Oh, God, no. I am so sorry. I was just kidding," I backpedaled. And then for good measure: "I hope your foot's okay."
She didn't crack a smile. This is when I became sure her cheer was false.
"I'll be right back," she grumbled.
At least 47 minutes elapsed. Then she slowly hobbled out from the storeroom and back to her counter.
"Just as I thought: we're out," she said.
"Shoot. How about another store close by?" I asked.
She stared and sighed. And then reluctantly clickety-clacked on her computer with her acrylics.
"Looks like the whole district's out," she said.
"That sounds serious," I said.
She didn't reply.
 "Well, can't I just order them online?" I asked.
More hostile clickety-clacking. If she got sick of Pottery Barn she'd make a great ticket agent at the airport.
"Nope. Says here the whole country's out," she said. 
"What? The entire country is out of white sheer linen drapes?" I asked.
"'Fraid so," she said, the tiniest smile forming on her thin lips.   
Just then, another customer sauntered up to counter to purchase some Halloween plates. She eyed Stink Face's bulky cast.
"Oof. Ouch! What'd you do? Break your ankle?" She asked, pointing to it.
Stinky was done. She sighed deeply and didn't attempt to hide her irritation.
"No," she snapped. "Just above the ankle."
Halloween Plates didn't take the hint. She pressed on.
"How the heck didja do that?"
"I slipped on my porch," said Stinky, stone faced.
Halloween Plates shook her head and whistled slowly.
"Been there, done that," she said, looking to me like haven't we all?
I didn't answer. There was a long pause while Stinky rang up Halloween Plates's Halloween plates.
"Well. Thanks anyway," I said as I backed toward the door. "Good luck with your foot."
Stinky gave me one more small stink eye. Then I nodded to Halloween Plates.
"And Happy Halloween."


No one will give you a stink face if you bake them these muffins. Warm baked goods pretty much guarantee zero stink faces. You can quote me on that.



Blueberry Oatmeal Yogurt Muffins
yields 12

Using yogurt helps keep these deliciously moist and adds a little tangy zip. Sprinkling turbinado sugar and a few oats on top before baking gives these babies some nice sweetness and texture. And feel free to use a mixture of berries instead--raspberries are particularly great. This is the perfect use for frozen fruit and you can just mix it in without thawing.

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/2 t kosher salt
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1 egg
6 T butter, melted
8 oz. plain yogurt (you can sub buttermilk here if you like)
1 cup fresh or frozen (don't thaw) blueberries or mixed berries
turbinado sugar and extra oats for sprinkling on top before baking (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper liners. In a medium/large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients. Whisk together and set aside. In a separate bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the yogurt and melted butter and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring just until everything is incorporated. Scoop the batter  into the tins, divvying it up for 12 muffins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes and then remove the muffins, cooling another 20 minutes. Serve warm.

You can also bake muffins now and freeze them for later. Here's how.

Happy Weekend, loves!
xoxo
jolie

P.S. I'm not even a mother yet and I find this tumblr site to be amazingly funny:)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

a handful of thoughts from the mind of a preggo


Guys, this pregnancy is ON. Tomorrow I'll be six months along and there's no turning back. My auditions have tapered off to a slow drip of obscure roles for women who are either perpetually seated or attending baby showers.

It's a bit of a relief. I was going to these castings wearing one of the two super drape-y tops I own, sidestepping into the room and then holding my script in front of my belly. This worked surprisingly well for several weeks until I started noticing people's eyes flicker down almost imperceptibly to my bump, and I was convinced they believed me to have a rare disease whose horrible side effects include a giant torso goiter. Over time, all this goiter suspicion pushed me to come out to my agents. Now the cat is officially out of the bag, the drape-y tops have gone the way of the Dodo, and I'm currently designing a (tight) T-shirt that says "It's a baby, not a goiter!"

Perhaps because I have a bit more time on my hands now, the nesting effect has set in BIG TIME. I've been in this gotta-fix-the-house haze, trying to complete any possible task that I've been putting off for years (painting the baseboards! Changing the filter for the ice cube water!) or might need to happen in the next 9 months (eye exam! Teeth cleaning!). I realize it's the futile desire to control circumstances I can, so that when all hell breaks loose (aka newborn arrival), I'll be better equipped to handle it. Like if I have the most organized spice drawer and/or freshly painted and put-together linen closet, it'll somehow be easier to sleep only ten minutes a night and be drenched in spit-up. Even as I write this I see the ridiculousness of it and yet I still kinda believe it to be true. Anyway, it feels good to have a focus for all of my crazy life-will-soon-never-be-the-same energy, even if it's deciding on paint colors or learning about pile height in different types of rugs. I mean, there's only so many books on pregnancy, labor and swaddling a lady can absorb. Someone asked me recently if I'd thought about which parenting style I subscribed to and I realized I spend more time these days legitimately pondering the best chicken salad sandwich in Los Angeles (BTW, Food Lab FTW).

All this to say: one thing at a time, people. Whether it's paint colors, co-sleeping or chicken salad. One thing at a time.

Another thing that's been on my mind lately is that while I poke fun at all of this stuff and truly enjoy the humor in all of our (my) human experiences, pregnancy included, I've been in such appreciation and awe and joy at the miracle of all that is going on in my body and heart. It's heavenly. And I've been a little reluctant to effusively write about it because I'm so sensitive to the fertility-focused. I don't want to hurt the feelings of those who are yearning for this experience (as I was for SO long). I suppose it's impossible not to push buttons or have our buttons pushed by others around topics that we're super focused on. But we need to put our joy out there into the world and not stifle it, right? So: Here's to compassion. And to joy. And to expressing it with the best of intentions.

Hope you're having a wonderful week so far.

xoxo
jolie

P.S. Thank you again for all the well wishes and congratulations!

P.P.S. Do yourself a favor and do not ever google 'goiter'.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

quinoa muffins with chocolate, banana and coconut


A CONVERSATION BETWEEN ME AND AN IMAGINED AMALGAM OF ALL PERSONS WITH WHOM I'VE DISCUSSED MY PREGNANCY SO FAR



AMALGAM: CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ME: Thank you so much! I'm truly thrilled. David and I are so excited.

AMALGAM: How are you feeling?!

ME: Great!

AMALGAM: You're so chubby already!

ME: Excuse me?

AMALGAM: Wow--I didn't pop that much until 25 weeks AT LEAST. Here, let me show you a picture.

ME: …Oh. Yeah, you looked great.

AMALGAM: How are you feeling?

ME: A-Ok!

AMALGAM: Did you get sick at all?

ME: Nope. I was really lucky that way.

AMALGAM: Do you know what you're having?

ME: A human!

AMALGAM: No, silly.  I mean a boy? Or a girl?

ME: A boy.

AMALGAM: Oh! How fun! Boys are AMAZING. *Whispers* SOOOOO much easier than girls.

ME: Bonus!

AMALGAM: How are you feeling?

ME: Super!

AMALGAM: When was the first day of your last period?

ME: What now?

AMALGAM: Do you know the day you conceived? Like the exact day you guys did it?

ME: Um. Well, there was a range of days in there.

AMALGAM: How are you feeling?

ME: Awesome!

AMALGAM: Was your pregnancy planned?

ME: I don't even know your last name and I just met you.

AMALGAM: I just thought maybe you've been trying forEVER and so you're really relieved you're FINALLY pregnant.

ME: Again, I've never seen you before five minutes ago.

AMALGAM: Turn around.

ME: Hmm?

AMALGAM: Do a 360, Lady! Nice! I'll bet your husband likes that extra back there. More to grab onto. Ha ha ha!

ME: I hope you're right?

AMALGAM: How are you feeling?

ME: Tip-top!

AMALGAM: Wait: how far along are you?

ME: 21 weeks.

AMALGAM: Wow, you still look amazing.

ME: Still?

AMALGAM: Any names picked out?

ME: Believe it or not, I think we've got him named already.

AMALGAM: ….WELL????

ME: We're not really telling anyone the name.

AMALGAM: What? Why the hell not?

ME: We've decided to keep it under wraps until he's born.

AMALGAM: You can tell ME though, right? I won't tell anyone.

ME: We're gonna keep it a secret for now.

AMALGAM: Boo! Tell me the name!!!

ME: Sorry.

AMALGAM: *Pouts awkwardly*

ME: …

AMALGAM: You feel good?

ME: Yep!

AMALGAM: You pooping?

ME: …That's…wow…

AMALGAM: Are you guys gonna have another one?

ME: …I think we'll start with the one.

AMALGAM: It'd be great if you could have a girl next.

ME: I'll see what I can do.

AMALGAM: You might wanna get on that though, if you know what I mean.

ME: …

AMALGAM: Tick tock…*repeatedly pokes at wrist*

ME: I actually knew what you meant.

AMALGAM: Are you planning on natural childbirth? You HAVE to have a natural childbirth.

ME: It'd be awesome if it unfolded that way.

AMALGAM: Oh, just get the epidural, honey.

ME: …Ok...

AMALGAM: You HAVE to meet my doula! She's amazing.

ME: …Ok…

AMALGAM: And make sure you have your birth plan in order.

ME: …Ok...

AMALGAM: Did you know baby doctors secretly hate birth plans? They totally judge you for them. Just show up and roll with the punches.

ME: …Ok…

AMALGAM: How are you feeling?

ME: Like making muffins alone with my baby.



Quinoa Muffins with Chocolate, Banana, and Coconut
makes about 12

These took some trial and error to get right but were so worth the tinkering. They take a bit of planning (black bananas, leftover quinoa) but man, they are crazy delicious. I'm certain the quinoa and chocolate cancel each other out.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 super ripe (read: black) bananas, mashed with a fork
2 eggs
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup cooked quinoa (this is about 1/3 dry)
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
turbinado sugar (Sugar-In-The-Raw) for sprinkling (optional)

Preheat oven to 400F and paper or grease a muffin tin. In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Whisk well and set aside. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the bananas and the eggs, mixing and scraping down the sides after each addition. Add the dry ingredient mixture a bit at a time, mixing until just combined. Stir in the coconut, quinoa and chocolate. Use an ice cream scoop to drop the batter into your muffin tins. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar and bake for 20ish minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm for optimal deliciousness.

(Did you know you can also make a batch of these and freeze them? Bake muffins and cool completely. Then place them in a plastic freezer bag, squeezing as much of the air out as possible. When you're ready for a muffin, preheat oven to 350F, pop a muffin or two into a muffin tin and bake/warm until heated through.)

xoxo
jolie

P.S. THANK YOU SO MUCH for all the kind words and congratulations! I am so blown away by all the support and love and I feel it ALL. You guys are the best ever. Giant hugs and love to you……………xo

Thursday, August 14, 2014

a little bit of gigantic news


Well, what do you know? In the best turn of events ever, I am pregnant. Miracle-style, after four years of trying and all we've been through, we were days (moments?) away from beginning an overwhelming, invasive, extensive, expensive hormone protocol for IVF and I got knocked up naturally the cycle before.

It really took me some time to wrap my head around it. For a while, I was in this surreal limbo. I had to keep reminding myself that I was Pregnant(!!) and also not Not Pregnant. There was a ton of momentum in that Not Pregnant story. And then poof! That story was finished. It shifted my perspective on all the other areas in my life where I've felt stuck. It ignited my faith in a visceral way that I've never experienced. Things can feel for so long like they're never gonna change and then one day, before your very eyes, they do. And then you gotta go get yourself a new story. 


It was two days after I found out about my pregnancy that we learned about Lena's cancer and within two more weeks she was gone. The timing was not lost on me. It was like she waited until we had this imminent new love before she chose to make her transition. My tag-team beloveds: one coming, one going. And as tumultous as it was during that time, having new life inside me and this upcoming adventure to anticipate was a blessing of a diversion from my pain over losing our sweet Lena girl.

As if my heart wasn't open before, now it's a wide-receiver. The littlest things touch me and bring me to instant tears. It's like the nail salon post times a million. I have so much to say about all of my experience so far but for now, I think I'll just leave it here. Except to say thank you so much for all of your support and love that were part of getting me to this now moment. Now: pass the kleenex, would you?

xoxoxo
jolie

"Faith is a place of mystery, where we find the courage to believe in what we cannot see and the strength to let go of our fear of uncertainty." -Brené Brown

P.S. Keeping in line with new beginnings, our baby BOY is due to arrive New Year's Day, 2015:)

Monday, August 11, 2014

yes!

Being a huge Jason Mraz fan, I entered to win free tickets to a secret concert he was giving that was being taped for The Artists Den, a PBS live-concert television show, to promote his new album, YES! I never do stuff like that, so when I won two tickets, I was gobsmacked. We arrived early to stand in a gigantic, snaking will-call line (the top-secret location turned out to be the beautiful Royce Hall on the UCLA campus) and I was so thrilled to be there that I wasn't even bothered by the girl behind us lecturing her companion on the perils of dairy for a solid hour. When we finally got to the front, a guy checked a list, handed us two tickets, and by the grace of the Jason Mraz gods, we were seated IN THE FOURTH ROW!

Needless to say, I was in heaven.


And we had the most fun, special night:)




The concert is airing on PBS stations this week so we just caught the televised version and saw our happy mugs on TV!


Hope you have a wonderful week...
xoxo
jolie

P.S. You are loved:)

P.P.S. My other fave, Sara Bareilles, is writing a musical version of the film Waitress(!) and this is her singing a new song from the show…….*swoon*

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

baked zucchini fries


Hello darling people:)

We just returned from a decadent week-long Colorado mountain vacation. It felt so nourishing to be in that crisp mountain air and see such blue blues and green greens. And the trees! And the meadows! And the clouds! (Oh, how I wish Los Angeles could get itself some dreamy, cottony clouds. Can someone get on that?)

So now we're back to reality and business-as-usual. Case in point: DP and I said a teary goodbye to the gargantuan king size hotel bed and are back to slumming it in our queen. Last night I woke up in a panic when my foot ventured out .0001 millimeters from my side and hit a husband.

We're also (sniff, sob) back to not eating french fries every day. Which is a travesty.


I was Lutheran for a few childhood years (long story) and when I was 7 or 8, our church sponsored a Cambodian family of refugees who had escaped horrible conditions in their country. Somehow they wound up in Boulder, Colorado to attend our little church and I remember our family having a handful of social interactions with them. Once, we introduced them to McDonald's to show them how Americans eat (have you ever?). I will never forget the pained looks on their faces while they inspected and gingerly tried the food, trying to be polite. It was SO foreign to them and so small-minded of us to not only let fast food represent an entire country's cuisine, but assume they would be delighted by it. As a little girl, I remember showing the kids how to dip a french fry into a pile of delicious ketchup while they looked at me like I had three heads. Politely, they followed my lead and proceeded to hate it. One of them had to spit it out in a napkin. And as a 7 year old I could not wrap my head around the notion that a.) someone had never tried a fry with ketchup before and b.) they didn't like it.

That experience is so burned into my memory that I pretty much think of it every time I dip a french fry into ketchup. And seeing how many fries I ate last week, it's like that Cambodian family was right there on vacation with me.


So, okay. These baked zucchini fries aren't truffle-laden or even potato-laden but trust me when I say: they are seriously good. I think even new-to-the-USA Cambodians would like them.


Bonus: they smell SO good while baking--Like a pizza scratch-n-sniff sticker. Another thing that would be really odd to explain to Cambodian refugees. But you guys get it. I know you do.


Baked Zucchini Fries
serves 2-3

2 medium zucchini
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon
black pepper
1/4 t kosher salt
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs (FYI: here is a great gluten-free version)
1 T flax meal (ground flax seeds)
heaping 1/3 cup grated parmesan
1 T salt-free Italian seasoning (like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute)


Preheat your oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with foil, drizzle with olive oil and smear it around evenly. Trim the zukes, cut them into fry-size wedges and salt them generously. Set aside. In one shallow bowl, beat the eggs and add the lemon juice, a heavy dose of black pepper and 1/4 t salt. In a different shallow bowl, mix the bread crumbs, flax, parmesan and seasoning. In assembly-line fashion, dip the zucchini wedges first into the egg mixture, next into the bread crumbs, then onto the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes (no need to turn them) until golden brown. Taste for salt and then serve immediately with ranch dressing or warm marinara. (OR KETCHUP!:))

xoox
jolie

P.S. Shout out to the Cambodian readers of Joeycake!

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