Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Pregnancy Update- Please Read

This is copy and pasted from my other blog. I was far too lazy to come up with something original and different to say. So here's the latest update with me and my pregnancy.

On Wednesday, I went to my regular OB visit. I had an ultrasound done where we got to see the Mister hide his face with his fist. When prodded, he only raised the other arm in defiance. He did not want his picture taken :-)

I then proceeded to get another (weekly) P-17 injection (to prevent preterm labor) and dropped off a urine sample. My urine contained protein in it so my doctor sent me home with a couple of jugs to collect my urine for 24 hours. On Thursday, I returned my sample to the lab where they also drew blood.

On Friday, I returned back to the doctor for a follow up visit and to check on my blood pressure. My doctor was worried that because of the protein levels in my urine that it could lead to pre-eclampsia. So checking on my BP was just a precaution. A couple of days before it was 120/80 so I wasn't the least bit concerned. Apparently my doctor knows what she's talking about because when I went in for the follow up visit, my blood pressure was up to 140/93, my urine still contained elevated levels of protein and I had gained 8 pounds in a matter of 2 days- that's insane! I haven't been swollen or puffy in the least so I don't know where all the hidden weight is.

Immediately my doctor made me go home and pack my bags and sent me to L&D. Usually Mr. H goes with me to all my appointments but on Friday morning he had taken his Dad to a Senior Retreat at the YMCA- something they do every Friday. I tried calling him but couldn't get a hold of him. I ended up leaving a message on his phone in which I was sobbing uncontrollably, so I sent him a text as well. At the time of my message, he was swimming with his Dad but once he got it he came rushing to me immediately and met me at the hospital for check-in. He's been by my side as well as my family and friends.

I got here yesterday at 1pm. They've taken my blood a couple times, put in a locked IV, are currently running another 24-urine culture, taken my temp, checked my blood pressure and are constantly monitoring Mister's heart rate and activity. He is doing great! It's me they're worried about. At the u/s on Wednesday he was measuring at 4 lbs. 1 oz. which I thought was just fabulous. However, now that I know he will be born early, I worry that he's too small to enter this world. My doctor suspects he'll be born around 34 weeks gestation, which is a week and a half away! Until then, I will remain on bedrest until further notice. There is no set date on which he will be here, we'll just continue to take it day by day and if he starts to go in distress, then he'll be delivered.

I've heard many success stories about babies being born at this gestation. I know having the steroid injections to strengthen his lungs is a plus and being here in this safe place is the best thing for us. It just hurts my heart to know that he'll have to spend time in the NICU. I don't worry for myself, I worry for him. I just feel like my body has failed my children again. This is not the birth story I dreamt of, but I suppose what matters most is that he's healthy, viable, safe, thriving and ALIVE. Nothing else really matters, nor does it ever go the way we plan them.

Please know that I'm not complaining, I'm just worried and I feel unprepared for all of this. Our induction date wasn't scheduled until September 14th at 11:45am and in a matter of moments the tables have turned and I'm feeling a little anxious. I thank God everyday for this miracle baby and I know how lucky and blessed I am (we are) to even have made it this far in the pregnancy. Right now all I can do is trust that "this is exactly where we are meant to be" even if I don't understand or like it.

Thanks for reading and for being here for me.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Baby Shower: Mini Cheesecakes

This is baby shower recipe #2! I thought twice about sharing this recipe with you guys, not because it wasn't tasty, but because I had a few technical difficulties with it. But I had a few requests from guests as the shower to "please post it on your blog" so here it is. There is nothing majorly wrong with it, I'm just a little OCD and was bothered by it's appearance. You see, my cheesecakes sunk in the middle. Some of them weren't so bad, while others had major craters in them and were just plain ugly. I didn't have the heart to serve those to my guests, so we ate those at home and served the better looking ones at the shower.

This recipe comes off the box of my mini cheesecake pan I got from Williams-Sonoma Outlet last year. They were originally $32 each, but were on sale for $14.99, then were marked down another 50%. So I got two pans for half the price of one- score! I've been waiting for just the right occasion to use them, and my baby shower just happened to be it. Of course, you don't really need a special occasion to enjoy mini cheesecakes.

One of my other issues with this recipe was that it made way more than the recipe stated. Normally that's not an issue, but when you have a specialty pan and way too much batter, how are you supposed to bake them? The recipe was supposed to make 12 cheesecakes, but I could have easily gotten 18 out of them. Unfortunately and fortunately, I doubled the recipe. One batch came out fairly decent, the other sunk horribly and the remaining batter got turned into cookies and cream cheesecakes with a whole Oreo acting as the crust. I made those in cupcake liners, which was far easier than using the pan, only not as pretty. It turned out to be a good thing there was extra batter though, because in the end I still had a substantial amount of cheesecakes to serve at the shower.

They actually sunk a lot more than that after they cooled!

As I've mentioned, oh I don't know about 500 times already, my cheesecakes sunk in the middle. Note To Self: I think a way to combat the "souffle" action of the cheesecakes would be to not overbeat the batter and to bake them at a lower temperature for longer. To make up for this, I decided to dollop a little lemon curd in the center and top with fresh berries. No one was the wiser and the little divot actually created a little cup to hold all the toppings in. The Oreo ones were topped with a little sweetened whipped cream. The ones topped with berries disappeared rather quickly so I didn't get to taste those, but the cookies and cream version was creamy and tasty. The sunken ones we had at home were eaten plain, but would have been great with a little pie filling. I also turned a few stragglers into a cheesecake milkshake. Yes, it was good!

Mini Cheesecakes adapted from Williams-Sonoma

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  • 1 cup chocolate cookie, vanilla wafer or graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch salt

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat cups of 12-cup mini cheesecake pan* with nonstick cooking spray.

To make crusts: In a small bowl, stir together the cookie crumbs, sugar and salt. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Divide the mixture among the cups and, using your fingertips, press it evenly into the bottom. Bake until the crusts are set, about 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Reduce the heat to 300’.

To make the filling: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-low and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the cream and beat until incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and salt and beat until incorporated, about 2 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Pour the batter into the crusts, dividing it evenly among the cups. Bake until the cheesecakes are set, about 20 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before unmolding.

To unmold, insert the dowel into the hole in the bottom of each cup. Gently push up to remove the cheesecake from the cup. Use a small spatula or butter knife to remove the cake from the metal bottom. If the cheesecakes are sticking to the pan, gently run a toothpick around each cheesecake to loosen it before pushing it out of the cup. Makes 12 mini cheesecakes.

NOTE: This recipe makes more than it states. It should make 12 mini cheesecakes, but I got about 18. So plan accordingly.

*If you want to make these but don't have a mini cheesecake pan, line a standard size muffin tin with paper liners. Proceed with recipe as written above, but bake for 30 minutes or until set. Allow cheesecakes to cool completely in the pan before refrigerating for at least 2 hours or overnight. Served chilled or at room temperature. Makes 12-18 mini cheesecakes.

For Oreo Cheesecakes: Line a standard size muffin tin with paper liners. Place a whole Oreo cookie on the bottom to act as the crust. Pour cheesecake batter over the top of the cookie. Top each (unbaked) cheesecake with about a half teaspoon of crushed cookie crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes or until set. Allow cheesecakes to cool completely in the pan before refrigerating for at least 2 hours or overnight. Served chilled or at room temperature. Makes 12-18 mini cheesecakes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Baby Shower: Pecan Butter Balls

Here's the first baby shower recipe I promised you. These were pretty amazing tasting so I thought I'd share this recipe first. My neighbors bake these every year at Christmastime along with about 6 other homemade cookies. They make pecan tassies, rugelash, thumbprint cookies and other bite-sized morsels but these are my absolute favorites. I like them so much that when they walk the plate or box of cookies to my door, I immediately eat these first without sharing.

I've always referred to these cookies as Mexican Wedding Cookies, but my grandma and mom said they have to be crescent shaped to be called that, because that's what they're used to. They're essentially the same thing but round. Mexican Wedding Cookies, also known as Russian Tea Cakes, are rich, nutty shortbread cookies rolled in powdered sugar. The cookie is not specifically connected to any one culture, but traditionally they are served to guests at special occasions or holidays because they are made with rich and expensive foods (the richest butter, finest sugar and choicest nuts).

And cheap they are not. I doubled the recipe, and the chopped nuts and butter alone cost about $15. I made these with help from my momma (Thank you Mom!) for thank you favors at my baby shower. Because it was a special day, I wasn't really concerned with the price of making them because I knew they would be homemade and fresher than anything else I could buy on a grocery store shelf. They also were far less expensive to make than other party favors. I needed 25-30 favors so each little gift bag including packaging costs about $1.00. Not too bad!

These little snowball like cookies just melt in your mouth. Once they hit your tongue, the powdered sugar just dissipates. The buttery cookie center is slightly crunchy then they too just melt away. I don't know how else to describe them. They're like lime melt-aways in texture but they're nutty and buttery. The cookie itself has very little sugar in them since they're coated twice in powdered sugar once they're baked. But the final product isn't too sweet, they're just perfect. I used a small ice cream scoop to form the balls, but they could be made even smaller since they puff slightly in the oven. I hope you, too, will make these for your next special occasion or holiday.

Pecan Butter Balls (Mexican Wedding Cookies)

adapted from Cooks Catalog

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  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/4 granulated cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans or walnuts
  • powdered sugar for coating

Cream butter and sugar together. Add salt and vanilla.

Slowly add the flour to the butter/sugar mixture just until it forms a dough. Add the chopped nuts and mix until just combined.

Roll dough into half inch balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets about an inch apart.

Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

As soon as they come out of the oven, roll them in powdered sugar while the cookies are still hot. Be careful because the cookies are extremely hot and fragile. Place cookies on a cooling rack.

Once cookies have cooled completely, roll them in powdered sugar again.

Makes 60-70 cookies.

Hope everyone has a great week. Next recipe: Mini Cheesecakes with lemon curd and berries!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cake Slice Rebellion :-)

I know I promised you all some baby shower dessert recipes, but I forgot that it was the 20th and it's time for me to post this month's Cake Slice Cake. I assure you that I will share a new recipe by this weekend- scouts honor. Every month, the Cake Slice Bakers, bake a different cake from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman and this month the cake of choice was Zebra Cake. If you've never seen a Zebra cake it's a cocoa and vanilla cake that you alternate batters with, creating circles of dark and light batter. Once baked and cut into, it looks like zebra stripes. Pretty yes, but very plain tasting and not totally worth the effort, in my opinion. Because of this, I chose to rebel against the Zebra cake and bake the cake that was runner up in the voting- Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Here's the Zebra cake I made last year but wasn't impressed with, so I never shared it.

My baking buddy, Maranda from Jolts & Jollies, made the Zebra cake said it didn't turn out so well and tasted a wee bit like cardboard. So we both decided to not waste any more time or ingredients on it and make something else we'd both enjoy. So she's my rebel companion in baking :-) Please go HERE to see how her cake turned out!

Anyway, on to the chocolate zucchini bundt cake- I absolutely adore it. There's never been a CZ cake that I didn't like. In fact, the very first recipe that I ever shared on this blog was chocolate zucchini cake and my mother requests it every year for her birthday. I've made a few different versions including a sheet cake, but THIS ONE is my favorite. I liked this version but felt is was just like a really moist, tender and richly chocolate cake. The main difference between my favorite and this one is that this one has sour cream, espresso powder and chocolate chips in it. My favorite version is a little simpler, is made with oil, cocoa and the zucchini shines through a little more. It's more like a quick bread than a cake, yet it's baked in a Bundt.

Really you can't go wrong with any of these. Just close your eyes, pick one, bake it and eat it all up!

  1. Chocolate Zucchini Bundt
  2. Chocolate Chip Zucchini Snack Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Bundt Cake from Cake Keeper Cakes

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  • 1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa (plus more for dusting the pan)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cups sliced almonds, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup Bundt pan and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder or spray liberally with Bakers Joy nonstick spray.

Whisk together the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup and set aside.

Whisk together the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary.

With the mixer on low speed, add 1/3 of the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the sour cream mixture. Repeat alternating flour and sour cream mixtures and end with the flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary between additions.

Stir in the zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts, if using.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. (Mine took 65 minutes to bake). Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

Store the uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Baby Shower: The Food

I had my baby shower this past weekend! It was truly a wonderful (yet exhausting) day. I'll share all the food with you today then in the next couple posts, I'll share a couple recipes that I made. On the table were also painted wooden frames with copies of sonogram pictures of my little boy from the gestational age of 10-28 weeks. This was my favorite addition to the table.

Here is all the food:

Everything at the shower was homemade by either my mother, my mother-in-law or myself. It was all delicious but this cake was bakery made. It's my all-time favorite cake- Chocolate Italian Cream with chocolate cream cheese frosting and it's just amazing. Oh what I wouldn't do to get my hands on that recipe!

Not everyone that came to the shower liked coconut or pecans (or had allergies) so I also made a vanilla bean bundt cake with strawberries as well. I put it on my Jadeite cake pedestal that I bought on the day I found out I was pregnant with this little guy :-)

These are the adorable napkins that I bought from a local hardware store. I love that they look like onesies and that they stand up. I think people were afraid to use them, so I had a lot left over.

We had limeade punch with a frozen ring of limes and cherries. My mother-in-law said she couldn't find frozen limeade, so she used frozen margarita concentrate (non-alcoholic) instead and I thought it was pretty good!

We had ham and asparagus roll-ups- blanched asparagus wrapped up in deli ham with a schmear of Boursin cheese in between. These make great appetizers in you cut them into bite sized pieces.

These are sausage balls and chunks of fresh pineapple turned into kabobs. This is a spin on bacon wrapped pineapple- also very delicious!

A veggie and cheese tray with homemade Ranch dressing. All that was missing were the cucumber slices that were accidentally left at home.

Deviled eggs- never get tired of these!

Strawberries with Romanoff sauce. Seriously love this stuff!

I made mini cheesecakes but wasn't entirely thrilled with the way they looked. They turned out quite tasty but they sunk in the middle and the recipe made way more than stated. So I had to improvise and made the rest of the batter into Oreo cheesecakes (on the bottom). The plain ones on top were topped with lemon curd and fresh berries. Those got rave reviews but I didn't get to taste them since they disappeared so fast!

For some color for the table I took Hershey miniatures and wrapped them in strips of coordinating scrapbook paper. I think they turned out pretty cute.

Of course our hairy daughter, Autumn, was there. And she took the liberty to sit on the couch since it was vacant and no one else would sit there!

Mr. h and I next to some beautiful orange roses a friend dropped by. I am 29 weeks, 3 days pregnant in this picture.

And these were the favors I made for the shower- powdered sugar coated buttery pecan cookies. These were so good and just melt in your mouth. The recipe came from my neighbor and I will share those with you next week as well.

All in all, it was a wonderful day and we were more than blessed by our friends and our family. Thank you to all who played a part in making our day so special!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Blame Game

Last Tuesday I had dinner at a friend's house and brought this coconut milk-cream cheese flan over for dessert. The very next day I had to do my glucose test at my OB's office to check for gestational diabetes. If you've never had to have a glucose test, consider yourself lucky. It involves drinking a sickly sweet orange beverage, that tastes like a cross between flat orange soda and orange Gatorade, then you wait an hour and they take your blood. A couple days later I found out that I failed my test by 2 lousy points! You have to score a 135 or lower and I scored a 137. I'm putting the blame on this sweet sticky flan :-)

Because I failed the first glucose test, I had to do do another test this morning, only it took close to 4 hours to complete and they took my blood 4 separate times, every hour on the hour. I had to do the test while fasting and was starving since I hadn't eaten in 15 hours. NOTE: Don't deprive a pregnant women of food and beverage. It's not pretty. After that I had to go to my OB to get a shot, so I was poked 5 times within a matter of hours. But it's over now, I survived and I got a delicious lunch afterwards and a long nap after that. If it sounds like I'm complaining, I am. hee hee! But I'm entitled to that every once in a while.

So, onto this flan. It's made with coconut milk and cream of coconut, but surprisingly didn't taste at all like coconut, just caramel. It also has cream cheese in it that makes it extra creamy and firm. The end product was more like a cheesecake with a baked caramel sticky syrup on top- cheesecake in texture, and flan in taste. I thought it was good, but not at all what I was expecting. My older brother is a flan lover- he'll go to a restaurant and order 3-4 servings for dessert. I saved a big hunk of this for him and while he ate it and seemed to like it, the first thing he said was "this tastes like cheesecake". So decide for yourself if you want to make this, but don't eat it before you go in for a glucose test.

Coconut Milk-Cream Cheese Flan from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

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For the Caramel:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

For the Custard:

  • 16-ounces cream cheese, room temp
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup cream of coconut
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 7 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Boiling water as needed

To make the caramel: Combine the sugar, water, and lemon juice in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cook, gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and starts to turn color. Increase the heat to high and boil until the syrup turns to a deep amber color, 3 to 5 minutes. If the mixture gets too brown it will start to smoke and smell burned and the caramel will be ruined, forcing you to discard the mess and start again. Once you begin making the caramel, do not leave the pot! Caramel can go from perfection to disaster in just seconds.

Immediately pour the caramel into a 9-inch cake pan, swirl to completely coat the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan, and set aside. WARNING: Caramel will be extremely HOT. Thus it will cause the pan to become very hot as well. If necessary use an oven mitt so you don't burn yourself.

To make the custard: In a blender or food processor, combine all the custard ingredients (except the boiling water) and blend or pulse at low speed just until smooth and combined. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into the caramel-lined pan. (Not all of my custard fit into the cake pan. My pan was completely full to the top and had to bake a smaller ramekin of the custard separately).

Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 300°F. Place the cake pan in a larger roasting pan and place the roasting pan on the oven rack. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil, piercing the foil in several places to allow steam to escape. Bake until the flan is firm to the touch in the center and doesn't jiggle when the pan is moved, 50 to 60 minutes. (Mine took 1 hour and 30 minutes to cook all the way through).

Transfer the flan from the water bath to a wire rack and let cool. When completely cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, preferably overnight.

To unmold: Run a table knife carefully around the edges of the pan, pressing it against the side of the pan to loosen the flan but avoiding cutting into the custard. Hold a serving platter (one large enough to hold the lovely, golden sauce) over the top of the flan and invert. Shake the pan gently to release the custard. Remove the pan and let the caramel sauce flow around the sides of the flan and pool around the edges of the serving plate. Serve immediately.

Serves 8-10

How 'bout a sunset kissed slice o' flan?

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