Friday, December 21, 2012

Gingerbread | Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays, everyone!

I've been enjoying my last few weeks at home with Maxwell and it's been wonderful.  In less than two weeks I'm returning to the office, so I'm getting my fill of baby smiles and baby giggles every day right now.  Of course, there will be plenty of smiles and giggles after I return to work, but right now I get to enjoy them without any time constraints.

What do you think of our Christmas card?  Family and friends, yours is probably in the mail.  We're really late getting them out, but I'm also posting it here for all to see and enjoy.

If you've been on the Facebook page you've probably noticed that I've been experimenting with some new recipes, particularly gingerbread.  My earliest memory of gingerbread was making gingerbread (or molasses bread) with my grandmom. I'm pretty sure my mom doesn't like molasses (and she's not a huge fan of baking), so it was grandmom who introduced me to the sweet goodness of molasses. My pop pop used to bring me back jars of blackstrap molasses from North Carolina.  As a matter of fact, I think I still have one of the jars (and it has to be at least 15 years old).

So I started looking around for some recipes to approximate the molasses bread I know and love and I found this recipe from King Arthur Flour.  I tweaked it a bit to make it gooey-er and a bit more robust in flavor.  I bet you have most of these ingredients (minus the molasses, which can be purchased at any grocery store) in your pantry.  I actually prefer gingerbread over coffeecake in the winter with my coffee.

The sweet spicy taste takes me back to childhood.  It's really easy to make and it keeps at room temperature for a few days. I'm not sure my husband had ever had gingerbread, but he enjoyed it as much as I did. Next year Max will be enjoying it with us!  (He's still on an all-milk diet.)

So here it is!  Bake and enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

adapted from King Arthur Flour

2 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon each cloves and nutmeg (or nutmeg and cardamom... I didn't have any cloves!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
1 cup buttermilk

1) Grease and flour a 9" square pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

2) In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

3) Melt the butter in a heatproof measuring cup. Add the molasses to the cup, and pour into the dry ingredients in the bowl, mixing to moisten.

4) Add the water, stirring until everything is moistened. Whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Stir into the batter until it's evenly combined.

5) Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cake just begins to pull away from the edge of the pan.

6) Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes before slicing; serve warm with ice cream or freshly whipped cream for dessert or at room temperature with coffee at breakfast.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Getting Back to Reality | Out and about with a baby

I haven't been blogging as frequently as I used to because I'm soaking up every single solitary minute with this handsome little baby named Maxwell.  I'm returning to work (a.k.a. reality) in just three weeks and I'm making the most of the last few weeks of our uninterrupted time together.

Max is 4 months old and he's growing and changing every day.  He can now roll over (and roll across the room), he smiles, he laughs a little, and he sleeps about eight hours a night.  He also screams and cries for no reason, tries to escape from his stroller, and his latest trick is grabbing things.

In the beginning of my new mom experience it was quite the ordeal to even run to the mall with Max.  Now that I'm getting the hang of this mom stuff I feel much more comfortable going out in public with a baby.  Max has already logged over two weeks total in hotels, he's accompanied us to many restaurants and he's been out shopping more times than I can count (I think they know him by name at Costco and ShopRite).

I've noticed that we dine out less now that Max is part of our family and I think that's a good thing.  I'm cooking a lot more of our meals at home (even breakfast and lunch) and when we do eat out it's often takeout, not a restaurant meal.  We have, however, gone to restaurants with Max and here are some things that I've learned:

1.  Go early.  Lunch or early dinner seem to work best.  Max's bedtime is about 7:30, so if he's with us, there's no point in torturing him (and everyone around) by having him in a restaurant when he's ready for bed.

2.  Places with baby changing tables are preferred.  I'm now keenly aware of which restaurants have baby changing stations in the restroom. Bonus points if the changing facilities are also in the men's room (so mama doesn't have to change a diaper while her soup gets cold).

3.  Sometimes it's easier to go to a "family restaurant".  I used to roll my eyes at buffets, chain restaurants and diners, but I realize that they tend to have ample space for strollers and high chairs, friendly servers who are used to screaming babies, and quick service.  I do still enjoy going to pubs, bars, and exotic ethnic spots... but at this point I'll leave Max at home for those dates.

4.  Pack light.  I try to avoid rolling the stroller through the restaurant and carrying my diaper bag out of the car when dining out.  Instead I put a few essentials in my big purse and just carry Max in his infant car seat.  It (usually) snaps conveniently onto a restaurant high chair.  If not, we just wedge him in a chair or booth next to us.

5.  Learn how to multi-task.  Max is at the stage where he doesn't want to be left out.  Sometimes he sleeps through our meals, but other times he wants to sit in my lap.  I've learned to eat just about everything with one hand.

I'm really looking forward to introducing Max to solid food and I'm planning to make his baby food from scratch (I'm sure there will be a series of blog posts on the topic).  At this point he's not ready for solids, so we're holding off and hoping that we can give him a little something within the next couple of months.

Stay tuned for some Christmas recipes.  My plan is to make at least two cookies/desserts per weekend throughout the holiday season and I've been sticking to that plan.  When I'm not blogging you can always find me on the Facebook page or on Instagram (keeleypowell) or Twitter (@keeleypowell).
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