Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Food Day: Classic Brownies

Friday Food Day is a feature I try to do every Friday. Mostly to keep me on my toes, trying new things, but also to share with you my findings! Have fun!

Ok, I'll admit it: At one point in my life, I didn't think it was possible to make brownies 'from scratch.' I literally thought that brownies from the box were considered from scratch..I mean, you are adding stuff, right?! Doesn't that count?!

This is why when I found one (or several) recipes for brownies on Smitten Kitchen, the love of my foodie heart, I was elated! I sifted through her recipes that she's hilariously finagled and found this one she calls 'Classic Brownies.'

I cannot stress this enough: this recipe is DELICIOUS. And easy! I'm now requested to bring these brownies where ever I go and, in fact, have made them three times (for three different events) this week alone. I can officially say I'm sick of making them. But they're so freaking good! And easy! (Did I say that?!)

I haven't changed anything in this recipe except that I didn't use cake flour the first time, specifically because I didn't have any. They turned out well, so I continued 'screwing it up.' I also don't use nuts, only because my kids would declare mutiny and someone would find me locked in the attic or something days later. I can also vouch that her freezer storage idea is just divine.

One last thing, if you haven't done so yet, you should peruse Smitten Kitchen's site. Not only is she hilarious, I've never been disappointed with her recipes. And how often do you read a recipe site and laugh out loud?! She has things meticulously cataloged and also has a fun 'Surprise Me!' button, which can only lead to good things. Enjoy!

I'm copying and pasting directly from her site, as she has written it:

Classic Brownies
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Be sure to test for doneness before removing the brownies from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it) the texture of the brownies will be dense and gummy. If overbaked (the toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

1 cup (4 ounces) pecans or walnuts, chopped medium (optional)
1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into six 1-inch pieces
2 1/4 cups (15 3/4 ounces) sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking dish, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhand pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and, if using extra-wide foil, fold lengthwise to 12-inch width; fit into width of baking pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. If using nuts, spread nuts evenly on rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven until fragrant, 5 to 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Whisk to combine flour, salt, and baking powder in medium bowl; set aside.
  4. Melt chocolate and butter in large heatproof bowl set over saucepan of almost-simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth. (Alternatively, in microwave, heat butter and chocolate in large microwave-safe bowl on high for 45 seconds, then stir and heat for 30 seconds more. Stir again, and, if necessary, repeat in 15-second increments; do not let chocolate burn.) When chocolate mixture is completely smooth, remove bowl from saucepan and gradually whisk in sugar. Add eggs on at a time, whisking after each addition until thoroughly combined. Whisk in vanilla. Add flour mixture in three additions, folding with rubber spatula until batter is completely smooth and homogeneous.
  5. Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter into corners of pan and smooth surface. Sprinkle toasted nuts (if using) evenly over batter and bake until toothpick or wooden skewer inserted into center of brownies comes out with few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan by lifting foil overhang. Cut brownies into 2-inch squares and serve. (Store leftovers in airtight container at room temperature, for up to 3 days, or, ahem, in the freezer until your resistance gets the better of you.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sleep Sweet Baby: Our Journey to Sharing Our Bed

When Esther was born, it was common knowledge (among the people I knew) that bedsharing was dangerous. I wasn't much into research at that point in my life and went with the flow. If you're a mom (or a human for that matter), you know that with each person comes a story, a bit of knowledge on what worked for them in different situations. And that they willingly (and without invitation!) hand over said information at any given point in time. So I was encouraged to let my baby cry it out. One friend guaranteed I'd thank her for it. When Esther was six months old, we'd feed her her bottle before bed time, kiss her good night and lay
Lydia and I
her in her crib. She cried. My heart broke and so did the husband's. But we followed instructions and did was we thought was right. Eventually, Esther did just go to sleep without crying. So maybe it did work. But at what cost, I wonder to this day. A friend told me that she had read that babies eventually stop crying when they lose all hope. I think of that often, unfortunately. But it is what fueled sleeping goals with our next child.

When Abigail was born, I was determined that things would be different. She spent about four months in her bassinet (until she could no longer fit into it) and we co-slept. For us, this meant that Abigail moved into her crib, which was in our room. She was not a real great sleeper, getting up several times a night, but I was so against letting her cry that it didn't matter to me. This option worked well for us for sure. I was so happy that our Abigail was still close to us when she needed something and rarely to never cried when she needed us. So she stayed in our room until she was about 15 months. We only moved her into her sister's room because she was having a real issue sleeping through the husband's alarm clock every morning. And it fixed the problem.

When I was pregnant with Lydia, I read more about bedsharing. I wasn't really looking for a change from Abigail's babyhood, but more education can never hurt. I also had quite a few friends who had successful and wonderful bed-sharing stories to share. I learned how many benefits there were for baby and mom. Almost too many to count, but I'll share a few that persuaded me.

Our crib is side car-ed, so we have some separate space
Bedsharing is great for mom's breast milk supply, since she produces the hormone prolactin which aids in milk production at night. Milk production has always been a huge concern for me, so this fact was pretty instrumental in persuading me. While I'm still supplementing this time around, my production for Lydia is definitely more than it was for Esther and Abigail.

Families who bedshare sleep better. I still remember the days of getting up out of bed several times a night with Abigail. The beauty of bedsharing is that you don't have to get up out of bed to sooth babe. She's right there! Abigail would have to actually start crying for me to wake up, Lydia stirs a little and I notice. She has probably cried in the middle of the night a total of three times in her short eight months being Earthside. I hear her stir, pull her close to nurse, and we all blissfully sleep through it! She wakes up and latches on like a pro. I literally have no idea how many times she's awake at night.

Babies who bedshare also seem to be safer, in my research. I've read countless stories of babies who stopped breathing in the middle of the night and, because babe was in the family bed, mom woke up right away to assist. Babies are also not great at regulating their own body temperature. Enter mom again - having babe in bed with his/her family helps this system get going.

My thoughts eight months in? I wouldn't have it any other way. We are all happily sleeping at night! 

Interested in learning more? Here are some of my favorite resources on the topic:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dear Abigail: You're THREE!

Dear Abigail,

I can hardly believe this day has arrived! You're growing up so stinkin' fast! You're still such a little peanut
that it's hard to remember you really are a big girl. But you are, and you're a beautiful person.

You love to play with Esther and Lydia; you have a great imagination. The story lines you come up with are just hilarious! You like to color and paint. You just got some crayon rocks for Easter that you really dig. You love to sing, often singing crazy things that really don't make sense. You have a lot of songs that you've made up about Lydia, again, hilarious! You love your baby sister, that's for sure. I was a little nervous you'd be jealous, but you're not. You like to come snuggle with us while she nurses. She likes to look at you while she eats, often getting distracted, which just makes you giddy! You also like doing puzzles, you're a natural! You like to read, your favorite books are Llama Llama books, Elephant and Piggie books, and Little Critter books, but you like anything as long as someone is reading. You have a 'game' that you call "The Little Lord Jesus Game" which is an interactive Nativity with a book. You are IN LOVE with it! You love going on walks around our neighborhood and picking up sticks. You also love the museum and the zoo!

We've started to do some school work, you're great with shapes, colors, letters and numbers. I blame Esther. You don't really like to write, yet, but I know that will come. I wonder sometimes if you would want to sit and do school if Esther wasn't. You do seem to enjoy it, though. You are very smart and know what you want to do and what you don't want to do!

You and Esther are so close, which really brings joy to my heart. Besides her, you spend the most time with your friend, 'Beebeek' (Burkley). I love to see you interact with other kids (especially our church family kids, who you're most familiar with), you're so sweet and are so full of happiness! You like to try to remember the Bible verses that you learn in Bible School, too, which is always cute! Your favorite at this point is probably, "Joy to God all the Earth!!" = "Shout for joy to God all the Earth." Psalm 66:1. Which is just absolutely perfect for you!

Your favorite foods are strawberries, grapes, apples, yogurt, peanut butter toast, bunny crackers, and milk.

You are such a funny kid! The things you say crack us up!
- "You do the rest and I will zip it up" is probably my favorite, meaning you want me to start your zipper on your jacket and then you'll zip it.
- "When it's a sunny day..." referring to the morning. You have lots of plans!
- "Bless you, me" when you sneeze.

I'm excited for this next year in your little life! Now that you're three, you can start Cubbies this fall (which is crazy because that means you really are a big kid!!). At the same time, I'll also start being a little more serious with homeschool with Esther, so I know you'll get into that as well. I can wait to see you grow and change. The Lord has truly blessed our family with you, Goo Ruth! Happy Birthday, my Goo Babe, God has truly blessed our family with your sweet little self!!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Getting Back To It

Sorry, Blog. I've neglected you.
Getting used to life as a family of five has been a crazy ride in these last eight months. I've thought of writing often, but the thought comes at inconvenient times. I'm hoping to get back into it. Here's a brief update:

- Our eldest daughter, Esther, has turned a whopping FIVE years old. This is insanity. She's suddenly so...old! So mature, taking on new responsibilities and pushing the limits set for her. Each day is a new adventure, for sure. She's my sweet, forgiving child. Fun loving and generally goofy. She continues to thrive in her last year in Cubbies (Awana for itty-bitties) and also started ballet. Recently, Madame Dorothy (her instructor) invited parents down to witness the progress. In a room full of girls wearing black and pink, Esther wore a pink and purple swirly leotard with sparkles and a purple sparkle tutu. Absolutely hilarious! It was a proud moment for me to see her doing as well as I would expect and having so much fun with her little friends.