Party report

Last night we celebrated my 30th birthday in style. We had elegant appetizers, fancy cocktails (both regular and non-alcoholic), and cake from Macrina. Most guests arrived well-heeled and many came bearing gifts, flowers and limericks. I thoroughly enjoyed myself- many thanks to my husband for pulling so much of it off. Our friend, RoseMarie, commented upon leaving that he is among “the elite” (of husbands) for being so thoughtful, diligent, and well-prepared. I couldn’t agree more, but I won’t bore you with my praises. Suffice it to say, the party was that much more impressive for the hired help, printed drink menus, photo displays/decorations and playlists that he organized.

The recipes for my 2 favorite appetizers from the evening appear below. I strangely ended the evening having eaten little of the food, but a tremendous quantity of cake. G’s ham was also a hit, both last night and this morning when we had leftovers for breakfast.

Thanks to all of you who made it a most memorable birthday!

Endive Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Endive Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Source: Cooking Light, September 2001

1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons honey, divided
Cooking spray
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons orange juice
16 Belgian endive leaves (about 2 heads)
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese
16 small orange sections (about 2 navel oranges)
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine walnuts and 1 tablespoon honey; spread on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes.

Combine 1 tablespoon honey, vinegar, and orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, and cook until reduced to 3 tablespoons (about 5 minutes).

Fill each endive leaf with 1 orange section. Top each section with 1 teaspoon cheese and 1 teaspoon walnuts; arrange on a plate. Drizzle the vinegar mixture evenly over leaves, and sprinkle evenly with chives and pepper.

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 2 stuffed leaves)

NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 92(44% from fat); FAT 4.5g (sat 1.1g,mono 0.7g,poly 2.4g); PROTEIN 2.5g; CHOLESTEROL 3mg; CALCIUM 43mg; SODIUM 29mg; FIBER 2g; IRON 0.6mg; CARBOHYDRATE 11.9g

Chipotle-Lime Crab Crisps

Chipotle-Lime Crab Crisps
Source: Cooking Light, March 2006

48 baked tortilla chips
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon chopped canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
3/4 pound lump crabmeat, shell pieces removed
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled jicama
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon finely chopped celery
1 medium avocado, peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350°.

Arrange tortilla chips in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.

Combine mayonnaise, chile, and juice, stirring with a whisk.

Combine crab and next 6 ingredients (through celery) in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise mixture, stirring until well combined. Spoon about 1 tablespoon crab mixture onto each chip. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated; top the chips evenly with avocado.

Yield: 16 servings (serving size: 3 crisps)

NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 85(35% from fat); FAT 3.3g (sat 0.6g,mono 1.5g,poly 0.8g); PROTEIN 5.1g; CHOLESTEROL 18mg; CALCIUM 44mg; SODIUM 211mg; FIBER 1.2g; IRON 0.4mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.1g

Happy Birthday, Planet Danika!

Well, I already mentioned that today is my 30th birthday. It also happens to be the 1st “birthday” of planetdanika.com (G set it up for me last year as a b-day present). I don’t always blog as much as I would like (just can’t keep up with bluefacedpixie!), but it’s been a lot of fun. Thanks for reading.

Finally!

As of yesterday, I am 28 weeks pregnant. Depending on who you ask, your 3rd trimester begins at 24 weeks, 26 weeks, or maybe 28 weeks. Either way, I’m certainly there now (finally!). One of the things I’ve found frustrating about the counting is there’s so much discrepancy- some books say your 6th month is from weeks 22-27, others say its weeks 21-24 (along with various other combinations of weeks). Anyway, lack of consistency aside, I’ve now entered the last trimester. As predicted, I found the 2nd trimester to be much easier than the 1st. Energy levels were higher, nausea disappeared, and I felt I really got the hang of being pregnant. Supposedly, this last 3 months (give or take) will be marked by increased discomfort. I’m not TOO huge yet, but things like tying my shoes are getting to be more awkward. We’ll see what other limitations crop up as my size continues to increase. Am I REALLY going to get bigger for 12 more weeks? It seems hard to believe but I think I’m going to have to accept it. 18 pounds gained, last time I checked.

In other developments, my appetite continues to be quite hearty and the little one remains incredibly active. G has been encouraging me to eat HIS favorite foods so the baby likes the same foods as he does. Ha! Meanwhile, Laila’s convinced I’m grooming a future gourmet with my European chocolates and fancy cheeses. I’m mostly relying on walking for exercise these days. Running doesn’t exactly hurt, but it sure isn’t very fun anymore. I’m logging between 2 and 4 miles per day on foot but have been slacking on the yoga. My only real complaints are some low back/sciatic pain and the occasional insomniac night. Perhaps the biggest change I’ve noticed in recent weeks is that I’m starting to feel ready. OK, I’m not 100% ready or anything, but I’m starting to look beyond the 9 months of pregnancy to the baby’s arrival and beyond. The house is starting to shape up and we’ve made lots of decisions about everything from car seats to sleeping arrangements. Names are still undecided, but we have a few contenders. In other words, this is all starting to become awfully tangible! In the first few months, I was virtually consumed by the fact of my pregnancy. I read everything I could get my hands on about the development of the fetus and the side effects I might experience. Your identity also changes quite a bit during this time. At what point do you become a mother? Does it start with conception or at birth? I’ve seen how changed I am in the eyes of friends and strangers now that I am visibly pregnant. It’s a good thing it lasts 9 months- I think we first-time moms need that long to adjust to the physical, mental and emotional changes. Tomorrow marks my 30th birthday, another milestone. Somehow my transition to motherhood seems MUCH more significant than another decade passed.

“Why Bother?”

When you find out you’re pregnant, one of the first things you do is come up with a laundry list of things you can no longer eat or drink. Your friends, doctor, and others will help inform you of all the forbidden fruits, so to speak. These days, it’s not as simple as just giving up caffeine and alcohol (and cigarettes, if you happen to smoke) but the list now includes things like deli meat, unpasteurized cheese, artificial sweeteners, any raw or undercooked meat, and many kinds of fish. Of all the things I’ve had to forego, I think cheese (i.e. brie, any blue cheese, etc.) has been the most challenging. The surprising one has been coffee- I’ve barely missed it at all. Earlier this year, I gave coffee up for Lent and hadn’t been back on the drug for long when I found out I was pregnant. For the first trimester, it sounded actively disgusting and thus presented no challenge. Now, I miss the ritual of it more than the taste or physical affects. Occasionally, I’ll order a decaf latte (specifically, a “single short nonfat decaf latte”) when we go to Besalu for our weekend croissant fix. G loathes ordering my drink, which he deems “useless” and sometimes just asks for a “useless latte”. In fact, the barista recently informed us that my beverage is known in coffee culture as a “why bother”. I also found the beverage referred to as a “harmless latte”, “skinny harmless” and a “double no fun”. Really, people, life without caffeine isn’t that bad!

Eat Local!

There’s a great article by Michael Pollan (author of “The Botany of Desire” and “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”) in this week’s New York Times Magazine about local versus industrial food economies. Specifically, he talks about the recent e. coli outbreak and how that will ultimately effect both the huge salad/spinach producers and the smallest local farmers (in very different ways, of course). The point I take from it is how vital it is to support local food growers for many reasons- everything from keeping farmers in our communitites to avoiding mass contaminations such as the spinach incident.

He notes that, “Today 80 percent of America’s beef is slaughtered by four companies, 75 percent of the precut salads are processed by two and 30 percent of the milk by just one company. Keeping local food economies healthy — and at the moment they are thriving — is a matter not of sentiment but of critical importance to the national security and the public health, as well as to reducing our dependence on foreign sources of energy.”

Please. Read the article. And I urge you to seek out local producers at your Farmer’s Markets, by joining your nearest Community Supported Agriculture venture, and eating in restaurants that serve as much local food and wine as possible.

Cran-Oat Scones

I made these scones for a brunch this morning and they were such a huge hit, I figured they were worth passing on! Note: the dough is incredibly sticky so I would use the drop method (rather than rolling out) to form the scones the next time I make them.

Cran-Oat Scones
Source: my friend Deb
Servings: 14

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
6 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 Tablespoons butter or margarine
3/4 cup Craisins
7/8 cup lowfat buttermilk
1 Tablespoon turbinado sugar

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut the cold butter into the dry ingredients until the dough is crumbly. Fold in the cranberries. Add the buttermilk and stir lightly until the dough comes together to form a ball. Don’t overwork the dough.

On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough into a large circle about 2 inches thick. Cut the dough into 14 wedges (or drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto baking sheet instead). Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar. With a spatula, transfer the wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 22 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

Nutritionals, per Serving (excluding unknown items): 156 Calories; 4g Fat (22.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 28g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol; 188mg Sodium