Monday, March 31, 2014

Coconut Granola

I've been on a major granola kick lately. My first trimester, I had about a ten minute window once my eyes were open to eat before the nausea set in for the day. Now, in my third trimester, the baby practically kicks me out of bed to go find something to eat in the mornings. Luckily, once I have a huge jar of this stuff made, all it takes is a splash of milk to "make" breakfast.

These have been my favorite add-ins recently:


I stir them in with my standard granola base (recipe below) and toast them for about 10 minutes on low heat. (My hyper-sensitive pregnancy senses started noticing that over-toasted granola tastes like burned popcorn. Yuck. I use to bake granola all day to get is as crunchy as possible, but now I take it out as soon as the oats clump together and it's still plenty crunchy and the flavor is great!)


Granola Base
(makes about 2 cups)

2 cups old fashioned oats
2-3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil (or oil of choice)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large pinch of fine sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
2. Warm your honey & coconut oil together until liquidy (skip this step if using regular oil; coconut oil is solid at room temperature).
3. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl until well-coated. Stir in any add-ins that you want (except dried fruit or chocolate chips, add those in after granola has cooled).
4. Spread mixture on an ungreased baking sheet and pinch together into clumps.
5. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring once, or until fragrant (it'll smell like delicious, warm cookies). Sometimes this is about 15 minutes for me, depending on what oven I'm using.
6. Allow to cool and store in a mason jar or air-tight container. Keeps for about 2 weeks (if it lasts that long!)




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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bits & pieces of February

Halfway through March seems like a good time to recap February, right? Looking back, we had a pretty eventful month. It was the last few weeks of my second trimester (that went fast) and it also turned out to be our last month living in California! We knew it was time to make a decision about where we wanted to settle in before the baby comes in May, and we decided to move up near my parents. This puts our plans to move to Nashville on hold for a year or two, but allows us the priceless gift of having family around as we start our own.


After much encouragement from his recruiters, Matt decided we should move up here before he has a job. Kind of a risk, but the clock is ticking on my ability to get off the couch without help up, let alone move to another state, so we went for it. His job in California was incredibly understanding and wonderful, and even offered him some part time work for the next six weeks, giving us a nice buffer while he job hunts. He has to make a few short business trips back to California, but we are so thankful to be able to transition with our same insurance & coverage. The first few days we got here, he already had a lot of activity with interviews and inquiries about his resume, praise God!

So, we made the decision to move about two weeks before we hit the road. Luckily, we only had to pack up our one, little room in the Clother's household, since everything else has been in storage since we packed up our house in April and headed off to Alabama. Easiest move we've ever had! This is about our fourth move in our 2.5 years of marriage, so we're pros at this point. I was a little slowed down by my big belly, but other than that it went really well.

Since we just went on a little getaway a few weeks ago, we decided to throw a dinner party for friends on Valentine's Day. I'm so glad we got to do that, since just a few days later we were booking Uhauls and putting in our notices at work. It was really great to spend time together, these people have been like our family down here. Lots of laughs and spaghetti were had.




Because our time was limited before we left, we decided to throw a party to make sure we got all of our goodbyes in. Matt smoked up some delicious eats, of course, and we pretty soon worlds collided as the living room filled up from friends of every area of our life down there.




After eight loyal years together, I decided to sell my car. It's dying a very slow, expensive death and probably not the best "family" car to begin with. That was the beginning of many goodbyes that week!


My last day of work was the night before we left. I was sad to leave my sweet job at Meadow, but was sent off very well by the lovely ladies there. Working in that beautiful boutique in the middle of charming, downtown Ventura was a serious highlight of my time in California.


Two twelve hour days of driving later, we pulled the Uhaul up to my parent's house just in time for hors d'oeuvres and the Oscars!


We breathed a long sigh of relief after two long weeks of work, packing and good byes. Our friends sent us off so well; we felt incredibly loved by them. Lots of precious little gifts for our baby boy that I can't stop thumbing through! So much love. We left behind a really great crowd down there, but are glad to be here.

We've settled into the downstairs apartment of my parent's house for now until Matt gets a job and we can find our own place. We are praying he finds a job this month so we can get settled into our own space before the baby comes-only 10 weeks away! How did that happen?! But whatever happens, we are just so grateful to be near family, and back in the northwest! I've been soaking up all the signs of spring around here. Frogs croaking, robins pulling worms out of the grass, blooms on the trees. I forgot how wonderful and refreshing it is to see the seasons change.

Thank you to everyone who helped us move, yet again, and to the warm welcome we received once we got here! We are very blessed.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Bakery Style Chocolate Muffins

On Saturday morning, our housemates recruited a few people to help them plant some trees in their front yard. I love baking on the weekends and decided to whip up a treat to serve with coffee for the lovely volunteers.

I love chocolate muffins, but let's be honest about what's really happening here. We're eating cupcakes. Cupcakes filled with various chocolate chunks and chips, at around 9 in the morning. Once you face the facts on that, you can move on and just enjoy them. 

I found this recipe on the ever-so-reliable website of King Arthur Flour. I reduced the amount of sugar the original recipe called for and they were still perfectly sweet and delicious. The chocolate chips make this already-dense batter quite heavy, so make sure you give the batter a chance to rest before putting them in the oven.


Chocolate Muffins
Makes 12

2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa (or regular, but Dutch is better!)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons vinegar
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

1 tablespoon coarse white or raw sugar (optional topping) 

-Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line or grease a 12 cup muffin tin. (Lower the temp to 350 right after you pop the muffin tin in, the blast of heat will help raise up the muffin top.)  

-In a large mixing bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. Set aside.

-In a medium-sized bowl, stir together eggs, milk, vanilla, vinegar and melted butter. (Make sure the butter isn't too hot or you'll cook your egg!) Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Set aside batter and let it rest for at least 20 minutes. (Batter will be thick and dense.)

-Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, all the way up to the rim. Sprinkle with raw or coarse sugar. 

-Pop them in the oven and lower temp to 350 degrees. Cook for 16-20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. Allow them to cool for about five minutes before taking them out of the tin. 


Serve warm, preferably buttered and with a cold glass of milk! Yum! I'm so glad we had a house full of people to help me eat these. Also, I need to remind myself not to walk past the bakery section of Costco when I'm waiting for my prescription to be filled so I don't see a tray of chocolate muffins and then come up with an excuse to bake them. Lesson learned.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Great Gift

A couple weeks ago, I got to cash in on my Christmas present from Matt and his mom. It was easily his best gift idea yet! And there are some great ones to compare it to! On Christmas morning, he insisted that I open my present for him last (the man loves a big reveal, what can I say). So, after a lovely, slow morning of drinking coffee, eating scones and opening presents, I finally got to open the poster-sized present leaning against the wall behind the tree.

Before I opened it, he smiled really big and asked if I had any guesses. I didn't! I thought maybe it was a rare poster or a huge picture of us? And started wondering where we were suppose to hang it....

Well, I was surprised. Probably the most surprised I've ever been opening a gift. He gifted me two tickets for us to see Jerry Seinfeld in San Luis Obispo! And then blew them up, with a huge picture of the venue and circled our seats and glued them to a board. He's so tricky! Now, I'm not just your average Seinfeld fan. My family's love for him and the show runs pretty deep. As in, the last time I saw him was in the 4th grade when we all went and saw his stand up show as a family. (I know, I have pretty awesome parents...)


Yet somehow, I had NO idea he was on tour, or whatever comedians go on. So I was incredibly surprised. Don't be thrown off by my fake-looking smile in that picture. There might even be a video of me in Christmas pajamas jumping around screaming with the poster board as I unwrapped it. No, you can't see it.

So, a couple weekends ago we packed up a bag and headed up to SLO for a quick getaway weekend. We love SLO, so getting to spend a night there was like another present in itself. I was REALLY excited for Matt to "meet" Jerry. Plus it was kinda fun to take our babe in utero too. The first time I felt him kick was when we were in the car listening to Bill Cosby's stand up, so the pressure was on. (Don't worry, he loved Jerry too. The kid has great taste.) We headed up there around lunch time, checked into the Peach Tree Inn (not as cute as it sounds) and walked around downtown. We usually leave with a few treasures, but managed to browse through several boutiques, bookstores, and even a baby store and come out empty-handed. Except for a cup of locally brewed coffee, of course.


After a delicious dinner at our favorite spot, it was finally time to see Jerry! He did not disappoint. I actually cried when he came jogging out. I'll chalk it up to pregnancy hormones, but it was so great to see him and hear his voice in person! Like seeing an old friend after a really long time apart. I tried to play it cool, but the woman next to me gave me the weirdest look as I frantically searched for tissue in my bag, sniffling. He was on stage for a couple hours, but it went by so quickly! Probably the first time in months I've gone that long without using the bathroom. It was so, so fun. We laughed, hard. It was such a fun night! 

 
Something I really love and appreciate about Matt is his ability to be thoughtful on a big and small scale. He's so great at thinking of fun, little getaways for us and is also thoughtful in small ways too. Like last week when I came home from a long day at work to a miniature chocolate muffin from my favorite bakery and a "thanks for being pregnant!" from him. Sorry, I just have to brag about him! He's so sweet. (And really puts the pressure on for gift-giving...I won't even tell you guys what I got him for Christmas. Poor guy.)


I loved getting to spend some time with him before the baby comes. I'm sure we'll have plenty of date nights before May, but there's something about getting out of town together. Especially to one of our favorite spots.

Thanks again, my love!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Chocolate Cream Pie II

I posted one of my favorite pie recipes recently, but last week I stumbled upon an easier, quicker and even more delicious chocolate pie. The answer: cream cheese. We made dinner for our friends who just had a baby and I wanted to include a dessert. Nothing says "welcome to this world" like chocolate, right? Well it was already the middle of the day when I thought about chocolate cream pie and I knew it wouldn't be ready in time, but that little morsel of logic wasn't fending off my now pulsing craving to have a slice of it immediately. So, a quick little search for "quick chocolate cream pie" and boom-my new go-to pie recipe.

Now, there's a time and a place for that other recipe, because it's smooth and velvety and classic. And way more impressive when you tell people how long it took you to make it. This pie has a bit more tang to it, (thank you, cream cheese) and is really rich and awesome. And takes less than a half hour to complete.

I found this recipe on Foodnetwork.com, but it didn't include a crust recipe and was a little bit more runny than I wanted, so I added a few steps to make it smoother and more stable and used Martha Stewart's crust recipe.

 
Ingredients:

25 chocolate wafers (I used gluten-free "Oreo" cookies and twisted off one side)
4 tablespoons melted butter
8 oz of cream cheese (softened and slightly warmed)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (optional but important for a stable pie)

1. Pulse the chocolate wafers in a food processor until they form coarse crumbs (or crush in ziplock bag). Stir in melted butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Press the mixture into an ungreased 9x9 pie plate and bake at 350 degrees or until pie is fragrant. Set aside to cool completely.

2. Stir the unflavored gelatin and 1 tablespoon of very hot water together until crystals dissolve in small bowl and set aside.

3. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder, milk and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy. (It's important for the cream cheese to be slightly warmed up so it breaks down better as you mix it. I microwaved mine in a bowl for about 20 seconds.) Stir in the gelatin until well-combined.

4. Press the pie through a sieve to eliminate any remaining cream cheese particles into the cooled pie crust and cover with plastic wrap before placing in the fridge to set. I served up this pie about two hours later and it was perfect and ready to eat! The original recipe says it's ready to serve immediately, but since I added gelatin in, I wanted to give it time to solidify.

Top with homemade whipped cream and garnish with chocolate shavings. And then bring it over to your friend's house and shamelessly take home a few slices for yourself. (Hey, she understood. She was very recently pregnant as well.)


Yum!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A big Christmas post.

I was a little too sad the past few weeks to post anything about Christmas (I mourn the holiday season until around Valentine's Day), but I suppose it's time to share a few pictures.

In the middle of December, our house had a last minute Christmas party. We live a few houses down from Christmas Tree lane, one of the many delightful parts of living in the historic district of downtown Oxnard. An entire residential block lavishes their homes in Christmas lights & decorations and people drive from all over town to stroll around and enjoy them. We thought it'd be fun to throw a party and serve up some hot chocolate before we all bundled up (joking...it was 65 that night) to see the lights.



It was so much fun! We saw caroling pirates (who managed to stay in character even through some heckling which may or may not have come from me), a yard covered in (fake) snow and lots of very happy children pointing out every Christmas light they saw ("look it's SANTA"). It was festive and wonderful. And so fun to throw a party! I contributed to Cynthia's display of goodies by setting up a hot chocolate bar, complete with homemade marshmallows. Let's just say I'm never drinking that powdered garbage from a packet after sipping on creamy, velvety hot chocolate that took approximately two ingredients and three minutes to make.


The homemade marshmallows, on the other hand, were a bit of a commitment. I made a huge batch and gave some away in little treat bags to coworkers, but other than that it probably wasn't really worth the sticky mess. Matt didn't agree. He rarely raves about sweets, but he probably told me six different times how great the marshmallows were and how pepperminty and delicious it made his hot chocolate. So maybe my selective memory will forget how long I was scrubbing the goo-covered KitchenAid mixer and I'll make them again in the future.

Matt and I were incredibly blessed by my generous parents and got to spend a week in the Portland area between Christmas and New Years. We've never been in my hometown, together, for more than a day or two. It was delightful. We tried to keep the week relaxed so that it truly felt like a vacation and we didn't get home exhausted from a week of rushing around.









Christmas was perfect. It was our first Christmas with all the new members of the family (hopefully we didn't overwhelm poor Canadian Abram with our very American Christmas..) and probably the last one with us all together like that for a long time. And for Matt and me, our last Christmas with the two of us! (Who's going to hold the baby next year while I'm tearing through my stocking like a child? Any volunteers?)

I just have to say, I love the way my family does gifts. I'm always amazed. If it's not handmade or perfectly thrifted, it's incredibly thoughtful and deliberate. Rarely do we dislike something or return it. (I swear I like that maternity shirt, Mom!) For example, my sister made us all vanilla extract using beans from Kenya she steeped for like three months or something. Matt is in good company with our family, because he is a fantastic gift-giver as well. I feel really blessed to be so known and loved by our family. Matt and I are still talking about how generous and great our parents were to us over the holidays. Our son is going to have some pretty great grandparents!

Ashby and Abram left a couple days after Christmas, which was pretty sad. It's always a lot harder to say good bye to someone when you don't know when you'll see them next. I'm just so glad we got to spend the time with them that we did!

After that, we spent the rest of the week watching Christmas movies, eating way too many sweets and working on a puzzle (well, Matt and my mom worked on a puzzle, I contributed about three pieces). I even got to show Matt our mountain cabin! The family is very quick to correct me that it is not technically a "cabin" but a "river house" but hey. It's old, it's 15 minutes from a ski lodge, it has a wood burning stove as a heating device and we don't live there. So. It's a mountain cabin to me. Anyway, I've been wanting to take Matt there forever and we finally got the chance to! We insisted that my parents joined us and got to meet up with Brittney and her boyfriend Joshua up there too. A little cider-sipping, more puzzle-doing and my favorite part, a few rounds of Taboo. Easily the hardest I've laughed in months.


 
Here's the view from the deck. Insert fresh, crisp air, the rushing sounds of the river and the occasional hawk flying overhead. Maybe they're not hawks, who knows. Unfortunately, we missed the snow by a couple weeks, so we drove up to the ski lodge to catch a glimpse before heading back into town. I wish we would've had time for a mug of hot chocolate in the lodge, but I guess we'll just have to go back!


New Year's was really fun too! It's probably my least favorite holiday ever, because it's the mark of Christmas time ending and it revolves around staying up late, but we kept it low key this year and just hung out at the house with Bethany. We made some appetizers (namely fried olives, which I have been craving since approximately October), played a new game and ate delicious steak sandwiches & creme brulee that Matt whipped up. Of course I didn't make it until midnight without falling asleep on the couch with my mouth open, but Matt woke me up in time for a quick sip of sparkling cider, a kiss and to catch a glimpse of Miley Cyrus doing something absurd at Time's Square on TV. Any night involving steak sandwiches and Bethany is a party enough for us.

We were sad to go home the next day, but again, so blessed and thankful to be able to go at all! We got to sneak in some time with a couple friends but we were pretty protective over our time with family, so I'm sorry if I didn't get to see you! Lucky for us it's almost that time of year when everyone in the northwest gets stir crazy in the winter weather and starts scheduling visits down to see us. And by "us", I mean the 75 degree weather we're having. In the middle of January. I will never get use to that!


Thanks again for the trip, Mom and Dad!

Monday, January 6, 2014


We had an ultrasound on December 19th and they told us we were expecting a little boy! And good thing too, because we had been calling the baby "he" since I was about 12 weeks. Probably not the best idea, but I was so certain there was a little boy swimming around in there.  

We are delighted, to say the least. I don't think I've ever seen that much joy on Matt's face before. The ultrasound was so fun. We were seeing a specialist and he was spending plenty of time looking at our little one. At one point the doctor said "this is the most magnificent patient I've ever had". Patient. So cute. Apparently we have a very cooperative baby who is a natural at doing ultrasounds. The technician raved to the doctor at how well-behaved he was. The doctor agreed and then paused before saying "he's a little bouncy though. Which one of you is bouncy?" That would be me! Cooperative yet bouncy. The perfect combination of Matt and me. (I think we've told every person we've seen about that. Can you tell we're excited soon-to-be parents?) 

If it's possible, we fell more in love with that little baby after spending a half hour watching his every move. We left the doctor's office grinning and holding a long strip of 3D photos. I swear, he already looks exactly like Matt as a baby! 

On the ride home, Matt pried my phone out of my hand and convinced me to wait to tell our family the news in person. We were heading to the northwest a few days later to spend Christmas with them and he insisted I could wait. We were going to try to wait and tell them all together on Christmas Eve but we didn't make it that far. I'll admit, it was much better seeing their reactions in person than over speaker phone or Skype. 

I bought that sweet little pair of shoes posted above at a consignment store near my parents house. I just about melted when I saw them. It was the first thing I've bought our baby so far and I can't stop looking at them! It's hard to imagine that the little feet that kick me all day are going to be wearing those someday. 

We are so excited to have a first born son and I'm especially excited at the thought of having another pair of Matt's blue eyes to look into. But most importantly, I am so thankful to be having a normal and healthy pregnancy. Praise God! 

And also, praise God for the blissful second trimester. Everyone told me how great it was, but I kind of figured they were just saying that to make me feel better. They weren't! I feel awesome. Still pretty tired, but the nausea is gone and these days my only complaint is getting kicked in my always-full bladder by sweet, little feet. But that's still pretty cute. 

And welcome back, appetite! I missed you.