Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Heavenly Buttermilk Waffles & Meeting Martha Stewart


Before we got married we registered for a waffle maker - make that I registered for a waffle maker and nearly 99% of everything else on the registry! Anyway, our dear friend Veronica C. ended up getting it for us (along with a juice maker), and I can officially say I've now perfected making waffles on it. 

Now it wasn't an easy process. The first time I tried it was awful. I know I constantly praise America's Test Kitchen, but this was the one time they failed me. Their recipe had waaay too many steps including separating the egg whites, and the result was a dense, cakey waffle. Ugggh! I ended up throwing out the batter. So  . . .


I started thinking, who would know how to make a classic buttermilk waffle? My dad makes pretty good waffles, and I think I recall asking him how he makes them, but for some reason I kept exploring on my own and came across a Martha Stewart recipe. JACKPOT! They were perfect! Thank you Martha :-*


Now I have to pause here and interject my personal Martha Stewart story:

When I was working for the man, I had the opportunity to meet Martha Stewart at her book signing at the Columbus Circle Williams-Sonoma for her last cookbook, Martha Stewart's Cooking School. Now this was open to the public and a loooong queue started to form, but because I was in the media industry I got to bypass everyone, receive a free book and get it signed by her upstairs in the home section (the public signing was downstairs). There were about 30-40 people there invited for the same experience. 

Anyway, I heard from one of her handlers that she was in a foul mood having not been invited to some big event that was happening that weekend. He informed me that she wouldn't have attended it anyway, but she felt slighted by not being invited. Well, having read her unofficial biography over the course of several study halls during my senior year of high school, I knew I needed to tread lightly. 

She finally appeared with a tense expression on her face and was seated at a large, imposing desk. I grasped my book tightly in my hand and waited my turn in line. When I got to her I just expected her to sign and move on, but when given the slip of paper with the spelling of my name, she asked "Quiana? Oh, that's different! How did your parents come up with that?" 

Uhhhh . . . what was I supposed to say?! I just said, "They're quite creative! Thank you." And I moved on. It's not like she said it in a nice friendly way. It was as though I was a FREAK. Oh well. I still like her business sense, but she is very cold. Afterward, I went with her staff to Landmarc for an afterparty which included a huge appetizer buffet and cocktails. It helped warm things up a bit after my cold encounter. Anyway, here's a pic of her signing the book and the actual signature:












Now back to the regularly schedule program . . .

I had invited a few ladies over for a holiday cookie exchange brunch this past December, and I made them and they were a hit. I topped them with blueberries and homemade whip cream. We had crisp bacon and OJ on the side. Afterward, I could hardly eat any cookies!

Anyway, here's the recipe including in-progress pics I took this morning:

Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Buttermilk Waffles

Prep Time: 10 min
Total Time: 30 min

Ingredients:
  • 2 c flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 c lowfat buttermilk
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • Vegetable oil, for waffle iron
 I like to get set up my ingredients beforehand according to mise en place:


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees; set a rack on a baking sheet, and place in oven. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, butter, and eggs; add flour mixture, and mix just until batter is combined.


2. Heat waffle iron according to manufacturer's instructions; brush with oil. Pour batter onto iron (amount depends on iron size), leaving a 1/2-inch border on all sides (spread batter if necessary). Close iron; cook until waffles are golden brown and crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to rack in oven to keep warm; repeat with remaining batter.



Enjoy!

 


Saturday, March 27, 2010

(Almost) 22 Weeks - Baby Agbai Report


Our 9 month wedding anniversary fell on my monthly pre-natal appointment. The dr. loves to tell me how I'm gaining weight too quickly (about a pound/week), but I'm not even eating more than I did when I wasn't pregnant. It's just that I'm not as physically active cause I feel so heavy and I'm tired. It's hard lugging an extra 40 pounds around than what I'm used to!

Anyway, I can totally tell where all the weight is: hips, booty, boobs and of course tummy. I'm glad my arms aren't getting bigger and my face only slightly (I've always had chipmunk cheeks, and I think they'll still be there even when I'm 60!). My energy level is pretty good and for the brief period when the weather here was decent, Uka and I took walks together. I'm lucky if I can make it to the gym 2x/week. Once the weather is consistently good I want to keep up with the walks, especially at Riverside Park. Here's the sunset we saw last time we were there:


Well, on to the Baby Agbai Report:


How far along: 22 weeks


How big is baby: (from 3Dpregnancy.com) Your Mini's hands have grown bigger and stronger and the nerve endings in her fingers have developed her sense of touch. She's in there testing out her newfound abilities by touching her face and grabbing the umbilical cord. Other cool developments:

You're already raising a little Einstein. Your baby's brain is developing at a clip this week and will continue to do so until she's five years old (so load up on the Omega 3)!

Baby's hair is now a short, bright white crop (Billy Idol, eat your heart out!). No matter what color it will end up—red, blonde, black—all babies' hair lacks pigment at this point.

Your baby has started growing taste buds and may be able to detect strong flavors in the amniotic fluid. If you could see inside, you might catch her sticking out her tongue for a taste and then grimacing, a sign that perhaps you should chill on the chili powder.

Your baby now weighs almost a pound and measures almost 11 inches from her head to her heel, which is how the Stretch Armstrong in your uterus will be measured from here on out. Up 'til now your baby's legs were curled tight up against her torso, so she was measured from her head to her bottom (or crown to rump) and not head to toe. This week your mini is about as long as a package of Oreos and as heavy as a large bag of tortilla chips. Who's hungry?

Stretch Marks: Still no pregnancy-related SM

Sleep: It's turning violent - sorry Uka :-( 


Best Moment This Week: Uka finally feeling Baby Agbai kick/punch really hard! I think it's cause his hand was ice cold when I yelled, "Quick, feel it!" and when he did, she moved SO strongly!

Movement: Starting right after lunch I can start to feel Baby Agbai move around pretty consistently until about midnight. I think she likes to sleep in like her mommy!


Sex of the Baby: Girl


Food Craving: Red meat, per usual, but I'm starting to open back up to chicken (I made a yummy brined, roasted rosemary chicken this week - let me know if you want the recipe!)


Belly Button In or Out: Sadly the top right side is starting to pop out; I think I need a popper stopper:


What I Miss: Still a good night's sleep


What I'm Looking Forward To: Seeing my chunky baby in my dreams. When I thought it was a boy I dreamt of the baby as a boy, but I now have yet to dream of the baby as a girl. 


Milestone: Receiving our first baby girl clothes from Melinda A. and books for once the baby's actually here from Momma and Poppa Heff. Here's a peek:










Monday, March 22, 2010

The GLOW

A friend of ours said to Quiana, "Oh my God...You look amazing...You're glowing!" I've always heard women talk about a 'glow' they're supposed to get when they are pregnant but I just don't see it. Don't get me wrong, I think my wife looks great pregnant but the glowing aura that is supposed to be seen are not by my eyes.

Maybe I'm supposed to wear those glasses they gave me when I saw Avatar to enhance the glow.



 SHE GOT THAT BLUE GLOW
=======================>
            "I SEE YOU"


When I think of the glow, I think of Bruce Leroy fighting against Sho Nuff the Shogun of Harlem (The Last Dragon...classic).

"WHO'S THE MASTER?!!!"


I guess I'm just a man and men are not good at noticing things (Is that a new hairdo? Looks great = Get points).

So I decided to do a research (one Google search) and "The Glow" is real. There is actual scientific proof of it. "The glow isn't just a old wives' term. This facial shine actually has a biological basis. The increased volume of blood causes the cheeks to take on an attractive blush, because of the many blood vessels just below the skin's surface. On top of this redness, the increased secretions of the oil glands give the skin a waxy sheen. The flushed face on many pregnant women is similar to the one non-pregnant people experience when they are excited, cry, or do anything that increases their heart rate (which pregnancy does constantly)."-AskDrSears.com. So is the glow nothing more than red cheeks and oily skin? Man, what bamboozlement.

Even though I'm blind to the glow, I can see how beautiful Quiana is pregnant. She's fit and the added curves to her body are definitely a plus (make me wanna do the night thang). Child-bearing is an amazing experience and I am happy that I am actually home (vs. being overseas) to experience it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Squeaky Wheel

Ever since I was in high school, I've had a bit of a consumer habit that I'd like to share: I went to Columbus School for Girls and at lunch time the "dessert lady" would circle with her cart passing out desserts. Now, all the other food was self-serve, but I think the food services realized how out of control we would get if we had unlimited access to high sugar foods so they decided it was in our best interest to ration it out. Anyway, we'd get things like pudding, ice-cream cups and the like. 



Well, I don't know who thought it of it, but someone at my lunch table thought it would be fun to start calling the 800 #s listed on the deserts to tell them what we thought about the products. So after lunch we'd make our way to the pay phone near the athletic office while one of us would make the call and the others would encircle as a means of support often throwing in our two-cents. 


Eventually, it crossed over to calling about other products such as Secret's "click-click" deodorant. They had a big marketing campaign when it launched and with most of us at our lunch table being atheletes  we decided to essentially call and give them an impromptu focus group. I don't know why we got such a kick out of this but by then our antics really started to annoy the athletic staff who could hear our phone calls and fits of giggles right outside their office. 



Now, I'm sharing all this to get to the point that these experiences stayed with me and as I've grown older I've taken to more appropriate consumer sharing of my product experiences. From writing a letter to McDonald's to tell them I loved it when they featured a chocolate-brown family enjoying The Book of Pooh in their advertising campaign, to letting Kozy Shack know I've rediscovered their rice-pudding as an adult and that I actually like it now, I've shared both praise and criticism with many companies. 

Usually, I'll get a generic response, but in the example of McDonald's they actually wrote me back letting me know they like receiving feedback about their advertising campaigns and Kozy Shack sent me coupons for more rice pudding! I've even inspired my past coworkers to write e-mails when they have product issues including one who found Sabra's hummus containers to not snap tightly and spill everywhere during her commute. They ended up using her suggestion to fix their lids AND gave her coupons for free hummus!



So yes, the squeaky wheel does get the grease, and if you end up sharing your feedback and getting a response, please let us know and we'll share your story.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's a GIRL!


So on Tuesday, March 9 at 9a.m. we went for the 2nd ultrasound. I knew we'd probably find out the gender for sure, but I drank some OJ on the way to the hospital to be sure Baby Agbai would wiggle around a bit. It was Uka's first time at the ultrasound. We had to wait a bit and the actual scan happened around 9:30. The technician had the screen pointed away from me which was kinda annoying, but Uka could see. I eventually asked her to turn it around. Uka said he saw Baby Agbai punching her arms and kicking really strongly. We could see her eyes too and now that they are in their final position they are definitely Uka's eyes - big and perfectly round (like her head!). I have always said Uka has Precious Moments eyes and my sister pointed out that the baby's head is round like Harold and the Purple Crayon (before I thought it looked more like Charlie Brown, but Ari's assessment is more accurate!):





Now some people have said, "Oh babies heads are always round," but I've scanned many ultrasounds online and ours is the roundest head I've ever seen for how far along I am. Some baby's heads are round/elongated in the back or just round at the front, but Baby Agbai's head is a prefect circle! 

Before revealing the gender the technician asked if we wanted a boy or girl or if it mattered and we told her we wanted a boy. She then said, "Well, you'll have to try next time." Honestly, I was disappointed and my face fell. I asked her to show me how she knew and when she turned the screen around and showed me Baby Agbai's little thighs I could clearly see between them that it was a girl. 

I know everyone says, "Oh you should just be happy to have a healthy baby," which, btw, the technician said she appears to be extremely healthy and strong, and that I shouldn't expect any complications. However, there's nothing wrong with feeling a bit disappointed. Why do I feel this way? Because I had imagined having a boy first as the big brother of the family and a little version of Uka. But yes, there's always next time, and it'll be fun trying!

So about baby names, yes, we do have one. Our immediate family knows the name but we are keeping it under wraps until she's born. We definitely want to do everything gender neutral as far as the nursery is concerned - no pink, frills or lace here! 

Anyway, I'm just relieved at this point to properly refer to Baby Agbai as "her" from now on :-) 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Easy Empanadas



Besides America's Test Kitchen, Real Simple is another recipe resource I go to especially for easy, quick recipes. I was introduced to Real Simple in Boston soon after it launched as I was considering it for one of my client's advertising campaigns. I remember not being familiar with the magazine, and one of my teammates convinced me to start reading it, and I've been hooked ever since. I don't get comps like I used to :-( but whenever there's a good issue I pick it up off the newsstand. You can find it at The Container Store too - another bastion of type A-ness!

Anyway, a couple weeks ago I remembered in Boston I used to like to make their empanada recipe and thought to try it again. It's non-traditional as it's baked instead of fried and it's meatless, but since I've been eating SO much red meat lately I thought it would be a good balance. 

Now, my recipes don't always turn out looking like the recipe in the picture, but here is the process and outcome of my empanadas (the pic above is Real Simple's):

1. I start out with Peter Reinhart's dough recipe; I keep in 6 balls instead of the usual 3 which I make for pizza. One ball of dough makes 2 empanadas.




2. I use organic salsa and Amy's Organic Refried Beans for the filling; I used to use Old El Paso, but decided I needed to forgo the lard. Amy's beans are surprisingly really good (I'm not a fan of the vegetarian chili though!).



3. Next, I stuff with the beans, salsa and cheese then brush with olive oil.


 

  

4. After 15 minutes on 400 degrees I'm ready to eat it with a bit of salsa and reduced fat sour cream on the side (I used to dislike sour cream, but since Baby Agbai has taken over my body I love it!).

 


Looks a little pale, I know, but it's yummy!


Here's the official recipe:

 

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 package refrigerated pizza dough (about 1 pound)
  • flour for the work surface
  • 1 16-ounce can refried beans
  • 1 1-pint container fresh salsa
  • 1 8-ounce package shredded Cheddar
  • sour cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Spread 1 teaspoon of the oil on a baking sheet. Divide the dough into 6 equal portions. Roll each into an 8-inch round on a lightly floured surface.
  2. On half of each round, spread some of the beans, then top with 1½ tablespoons of the salsa and 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Fold over the other half of each round, covering the filling, and press the curved edge with your thumb to seal. Lightly brush the tops of the empanadas with the remaining oil, then transfer to the baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, if desired. (Perfect complement: the salad of avocado, red onion, cilantro, and lime juice pictured in the first picture.)

Enjoy!

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