Labor-Inducing Spinach Artichoke Dip

Just kidding. Sort of.

While there’s no scientific evidence that a particular food can jump-start labor, my water broke within one hour of eating this dip.

Adapted from Slate’s “You’re Doing it Wrong,” I threw this together for Thanksgiving. At 33 weeks pregnant, my husband and I made the short drive to Houston for the holiday. My 94-year-old grandmother lives there, and some other family drove in from Arkansas.

We left Austin with the uncooked dip in tow, compression stockings squeezed onto my swollen legs. I napped most of the way (Aside: I have a superhuman ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, within moments. It’s great for me; not so great for whomever I’m roadtripping with).

We exchanged hugs and a few jokes about whether my grandmother’s or my ankles were more swollen, and then the seven of us sat down with paper plates of dip, veggies, pita chips and Panettone bread. We’re not the kind of people to postpone eating for decorum’s sake.

I sat on a scratchy old, yellow chair with my legs stretched out in the living room, talking with my big sister. Something must have registered on my face, as she suddenly asked if I was okay. I nodded, and excused myself. I can only describe the feeling as unexpected dampness.

Surprise! I’ll leave out the details, but suffice it to say my water broke on that ragged yellow chair while my husband was jogging and my dad was sleeping. A few phone calls and we headed to a Houston ER.

742
Happy Thanksgiving from the Houston hospital! This is about four hours after eating dip. If I’d known it would be the last I could eat for 20 hours, I’d have consumed the entire pan.

My big sister graciously blotted up the poor chair, and grandmother is still none the wiser. Our son was born at 6:30 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. No word yet on whether he likes spinach.

So if you’re pregnant and feeling ready to pop, why not give this recipe a whirl? Or just make it to enjoy; it’s easy and delicious.

Ingredients
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper – to taste
Salt and black pepper
2, 15-oz cans marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions
Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the cream cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the artichoke hearts, spinach and mozzarella. Transfer to an 9×13 pan or a gratin dish and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with crisp crackers and crunchy veggies.

 

Eating as a New Mom

933I’m a mom! My son arrived 7 weeks early and spent a month in the NICU. We brought him home a few days before Christmas and are riding the rollercoaster of parenthood.

The little man loves to eat and isn’t a fan of sleeping – or at least, sleeping without being held. This particular trait is endearing – snuggle bug! But it also makes it challenging to accomplish anything, say, like, prepping or eating food.

My husband is awesome about making ‘real’ meals for dinner, but during the day and after late night feedings, I’m purely snack ‘n grab. This means my eats have included:

  • spoons of peanut butter and hummus
  • bananas
  • cans of green beans and baked beans
  • string cheese
  • Triscuits
  • Cheerios

My mother visited and showed her concern about my lack of balanced diet by adding slices of of butter and extra mayonnaise to everything she prepared for me. It was sweet in that mom way, and also served as a reminder that I need to do a better job of managing healthful eating – for myself, for baby and for successful breastfeeding.

Since her visit, I’ve made a more conscious effort to store leftovers in containers easy to pop in the microwave, stock lunch meats for meat-and-cheese roll-ups, and keep quick proteins like cottage cheese and yogurt on hand. Less butter and mayo necessary.

What other quick, easy and one-handed foods should a new mom consider?

Everything is bigger in Texas

…Including the bug bites.

Deep Ellum’s Neato Bandito

Last night I enjoyed a 45-minute walk with some ladies, followed by a juicy lamb burger at Black Star Co-op and pint of Deep Ellum’s Neato Bandito. A delicious and satisfying evening all around.

This morning, I woke up with a robin’s egg-sized itchy, raised welt on my forearm. Four hours later, it’s grown in itchiness. I’d call it goose egg-sized now too. If it gets softball size, I’ll hit the urgent care clinic.

arm500x680I swear, there is something in the spit of these damn Texas bugs that makes me puff up like a balloon. And thisTexas  guide to diagnosing mysterious bites isn’t helping.

Swelling from mysterious nibbles isn’t new.  I have distinct memories of waking up in the twin bed in my grandmother’s house in Houston and counting 20 bug bites on myself before waking up Dad, who made a midnight Benadryl run.

From the time I was a little kid, I related perfectly to this Calvin & Hobbes strip:

Breakfast Cookies

It’s been too long since posting, but rather than look back, I’m looking forward.

I have a friend in Austin, the Maple Syrup Lady, who produces maple syrup in Michigan, then hauls and sells it here in Texas. Part of her business is blogging about recipes. This week she tried a new ‘breakfast cookie’ recipe and I had the pleasure of sampling the results.

Let’s just say my bag of 6 cookies lasted 2 days, and that took restraint. They’re soft and fluffy, moist, tangy, and just the right amount of crunch. They’re like less refined Lara Bars, only WAY less expensive. Not to mention that they’re chock full of fruits and grains, no refined sugar, no butter, no eggs – and potentially gluten free. (If you’re into that). Who doesn’t want to eat cookies for breakfast?!

maple breakfast cookiesIngredients
1 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce
2 Mashed Bananas
2 Tbsp Pure Michigan Maple Syrup
1/2 Cup Raisins or Dried Cranberries
1/4 Cup Chopped Almonds
1 Cup Fresh Strawberries, Diced
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Sea Salt
1 1/2 Cups Rolled Oats

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the applesauce, mashed bananas, and maple syrup in a medium sized bowl. Add in the dried fruit, nuts, strawberries, cinnamon, and sea salt. Fold in the rolled oats.

3. Use an ice cream scoop to make 16 cookies. The dough will be loose so pack them together and press down on the middle to make a cookie shape. Place on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.

And yes, the Maple Lady has an online store and ships!

The recipe makes 16-18 cookies per batch – 80 calories per cookie.

 

“Holy moley!” Shrimp and Parmesan Grits

The only way to enjoy grits is to add butter and cheese. Then add more butter and cheese.  This was the first time I made this dish, and while it’s delish, it’s also decidedly not heart healthy. Which makes this recipe perfect for sharing!

For our first Friends-giving this week, B and I each made a memorable dish. His German Potato Salad is practically legendary now, but my shrimp and grits held their own in the taste test. I’d make this again. In fact, the hubby declared, “Holy moley! These are good!” Thanks for the recipe, Aunt Judy – and Southern Living.

PARMESAN GRITS:
1 tsp salt
2 cups uncooked quick-cooking grits
14 oz. grated Parmesan cheese (not the powdery stuff)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 TBS butter
SHRIMP SAUCEshrimp n grits
At least 2 pounds unpeeled, medium-size, raw shrimp
pepper and salt
vegetable cooking spray
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 TBS water til smooth
2 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 TBS fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1/2 tsp hot sauce
2 cups fresh baby spinach
parsley and lemon slices for topping
DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare Parmesan Grits: Bring 1 tsp. salt and 8 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in grits. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until thickened. Whisk in cheese and pepper and butter until smooth. Taste and keep warm. TIP: Use a whisk – it helps the fluffiness factor.2. Prepare Creamy Shrimp Sauce: Peel shrimp; devein and/or detail, if desired. Sprinkle shrimp with pepper and 1/8 tsp. salt – I tossed them with salt and pepper in a colander. Cook in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat 1 to 2 minutes on each side or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from skillet with slotted spoon.
3. Keep the skillet on the stove. Reduce heat to medium. Add oil; heat 30 seconds. Whisk in flour; cook 30 seconds to 1 minute. Whisk in broth, green onions, grlic, lemon juice, half of the lemon rind and all the hot sauce. Bring to a boil and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. TIP: If the roux never thickens add the corn starch mixture and boil one minute. Stir in shrimp until heated through. Taste broth and add salt, pepper and/or more hot sauce as desired.
4. Pour grits into serving dish. Add spinach leaves. Top spinach with shrimp and sauce. Sprinkle with parsley, lemon slices and lemon rind. Serve immediately or keep warm. TIP: Nobody likes congealed grits.
This made a LOT of grits — more than one 9×13 pan could handle. Next time I’ll serve in two pans, but in the meantime, who is excited about leftovers? This girl!