pumpkin spiced rice krispie treats with brown butter

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween, Joeycakers!! What fun and spooky things are you up to? One of my acting students asked me what I was gonna be for Halloween and I told them: A Pregnant Lady Laying on Her Couch Eating. So it's gonna be a pretty amazing night over here at our house. And I say that with zero irony.

Speaking of Halloween-amazing, I heard the scariest thing on NPR this week: There is a sub-genre of erotic romance novels that involves heroines traveling back to prehistoric times and having good times* with dinosaurs.

(*super raunchy sexy sex)

I'll just let that sit a second while your brain implodes.

Ok, ready? Here is a synopsis of "Taken by the T-Rex", written by Christie Sims (who seems to have cornered the Dinosaur Erotica market):

Drin is her tribe's chief huntress; she lives for the thill of the hunt. Men and sex hold no allure for her, as Drin has never found a partner to satisfy her. When a T-Rex descends upon her village, Drin taunts the beast, giving her tribe mates time to flee. As she runs, leading it through a gauntlet of traps, the thrill of the hunt soars through her blood, leaving her wet with desire. When the angry T-Rex corners the huntress in a box canyon, it seems more interested in her wet womanhood than in her flesh.

Other titillating titles by Sims include "Ravished by the Raptor", "Taken by the Pterodactyl", "In The Velociraptor's Nest", and maybe my favorite, "Dino Park After Dark". Here's the cover of "Ravished By The Triceratops" (somebody's learning photoshop!):

I suppose all ladies should feel free to explore their deep, dark fantasies, whether they include extinct predators or couch-laying. So more power to Christie Sims and her loyal readers. (And to me.)

For a different kind of titillating fantasy, check out these autumnal Rice Krispie Treats. They are so good they'll make you forget you can't be caressed by a sexy Brontosaurus in real life.

Pumpkin Spiced Rice Krispie Treats with Brown Butter
recipe adapted from The Kitchn
makes one batch (about 12)

There are two methods here. One uses actual pumpkin and is a bit more high-maintenance, one just uses the spices and is easy-peasy. Read the whole deal and follow your heart.

4T unsalted butter
1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree**
1-10oz bag mini marshmallows
1/4 t vanilla extract
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
pinch kosher salt
6 cups rice krispies

Butter a 9x13 (or 8x11 or 9x9) baking pan and set aside. Over medium-low heat in a heavy saucepan or dutch oven, melt the butter until it begins to brown, shaking the pan every so often. Add the pumpkin puree and warm it through (it will sputter at first from all the water content). Fold in the marshmallows and stir until melted. Add the vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt, then remove from heat. Allow this mixture to cool to room temperature, about 25 minutes (otherwise, you'll have sad, soggy treats). Add the cereal and stir until combined. Silicone spatulas work really well for this. Press the mixture into your buttered pan and then pop it into the refrigerator until set. This helps to further avoid sogginess. Cut and enjoy.

**Note: if you're not into the whole waiting-until-room-temperature thing (I get it), omit the pumpkin puree all together and just use the vanilla/pumpkin pie spice/salt. You can stir the cereal into the melty marshmallow mixture immediately and not bother with the fridge.


{book title photo from Buzzfeed}

An Open Letter To My Pregnancy Body Pillow

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Pregnancy Body Pillow,

We had a rocky start. You were a hand-me-down, a second-class-citizen, cast aside by a good friend with a newborn. She was eager to return to belly-sleeping so you got the swift boot. I was a skeptic, set in my pre-pregnancy sleep ways but I had heard promising claims. I experimented with you in the glow of my first pre-natal weeks, before I truly needed you, and during our inaugural evening together I had the highest hopes. Unfortunately, we wound up wrestling until the wee morning hours when I kicked you out of my bed, and there you remained, coiled on the floor gathering dust until I reached the beginning of my third trimester.

It was then I got word about the dangers of back-sleeping (turns out the vena cava is not a wine bar), and my belly was becoming increasingly unwieldy. So I picked you up (that was no picnic with said belly), dusted you off (literally), and begrudgingly decided to give you a second chance. Annoyingly, you come not only with a C-curve, but a learning curve. It took me a full fortnight to get acquainted with your squirrely disposition. While you claim you'll bend to my will, I now see it's your way or the highway. You leave me merely two nighttime options: clutch you like a needy child latches onto the leg of his apologetic mother, or lean into you backwards the way a mangy dog demands back scratches. I simultaneously desire you and feel betrayed by your limitations, like a vibrator whose batteries are dying.

But here's the thing: I need you now. I can't do it without you. And I admit that I'm weak. My mother-friends have said,"Don't bother with the body pillow, just use a regular one between your legs," but it's no use. I want you between my legs, PBP. I hate myself for loving you.

Despite your ability to make side-sleeping slightly less horrible, you have copious liabilities. Yet I keep coming back to you like an aloof boyfriend or straight-across bangs. You're hot. Like polyester-blend hot. I wake up clammy and not without the type of skin irritations caused by synthetic fabrics. And getting out of you is a nightmare. Your looped ends trip up my already-compromised ability to move gracefully. Do you enjoy making me feel foolish twelve times a night when I'm forced to get up and pee? Do you?

And pray tell, where am I supposed to stash you in the daytime? If you stay inside the bed, I get small heart attacks every time I enter the bedroom, as my peripheral vision assumes you're a dead body. On top of the bed, you're a pathetic eyesore, a giant, curly pillow-turd that tarnishes my bedroom's minimalistic, non-turd design scheme. I have to hide you like a Real Housewives addiction or a penchant for high-caloric coffee drinks with extra whipped cream and caramel drizzle.

My husband calls you The Interloper. You literally come between us. And that night when he came back from the bathroom half-asleep and rubbed your spine for a full minute before realizing it wasn't his wife's? That didn't help your case. I had to stick up for you, PBP. And it made me feel sad and small. What have I become?

Hating that I can't quit you,

{This letter was also published in the Huffington Post}

roasted butternut squash soup

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I downloaded an app on my phone that gives me daily pregnancy updates and this was yesterday's:

"Do your legs look like tree trunks? Swollen feet and ankles may not be sexy, but it's what most pregnant women are wearing in any given season. To reduce that puffy look, try to take a five-minute walk around your house or office at least once an hour. A quick dance works, too, and may take your mind off your fat feet, so crank up the tunes, Mama!"

Real nice, huh? Hey fatty! Never mind that yesterday I told you to put your feet up and get some rest. Quit being such a lazy ass. Get up and stretch those tree trunks!

As a pregnant woman you unwittingly enter the symptom lottery. I've been lucky enough to avoid cankles (*crosses fingers*) but have come upon my own fun set of pregnancy surprises. Among other unsavory things, bending over is officially over. At 29 weeks, this belly seriously gets in the way. I've developed a new soundtrack of moans and groans and umphs and arrrggghhs for getting out of bed or off the couch or to reach something low in the fridge. Forget about putting on socks or shaving any nether regions.

The hunger is also COLOSSAL. Like bottomless-pit yearnings that physically hurt, and a deep, fierce reverence for food and stuffing my face like a homeless dog. The other day while eating in a Panera, I dropped a potato chip on the floor and was faced with a dilemma of epic proportions. Until pregnancy, never would I consider eating something off the floor (in a Panera, no less). All my life I've been able and not willing and here I was completely game and yet incapacitated. Even had I attempted, and could've actually reached it, my pregnancy-onset clumsiness gave me no guarantees that I would be able to grasp it in the first eighteen tries.

Alas, I let the chip go. It was a real milestone in embracing my limitations. On the flip side, I could've asked my dining companion to reach it for me and that might have proven a great lesson in asking for help. And also choosing not to be affected by the sharp judgement of others for eating food off the questionable floor of a sub-par franchised sandwich restaurant.


This same mildly insulting and contradictory app gives me weekly updates on which fruit or vegetable matches the size of my baby's growth (a fig! a pear! as long as an ear of corn!) and had the balls to tell me my baby was the size of an eggplant for 3 weeks straight. I looked online to cross-reference and found mention of a butternut squash. So, in honor of his size at 29 weeks, I cooked something the size of my baby! (Let's pretend this is not awkward in the least.)

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from
serves 6-8

There's a bit of time involved here with the roasting but it makes for such a sweet richness in the final mix. Plus, there's no awkward peeling and dicing an unwieldy squash. Also: THIS SMELLS SO FREAKING GOOD WHILE IT'S COOKING THAT IT WILL TAUNT YOU WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE GROWING A HUMAN.

2 medium butternut squash (buy about 4.5 pounds altogether)
4 T butter, divided
2 large granny smith apples, cored, peeled and diced
1/2 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 fresh sage leaves
4 cups (1 quart) chicken broth
1-1/2 cups water
kosher salt
black pepper
freshly grated nutmeg to taste
cinnamon to taste
greek yogurt or extra virgin olive oil for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F. Place each squash in the microwave (one at a time) for 2 minutes to soften, then cut in half longways and remove the seeds. Put all 4 halves on a rimmed baking sheet. Melt 1-1/2 T butter and brush it all over the flesh, then salt and pepper generously. Roast until knife tender, about 50 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, melt the remaining 2-1/2 T butter and sauté the apples, onion, garlic and sage until soft, 7-9 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh (discard the skins) and add it to the apple mixture. Add the chicken stock, water and a good big pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, partially cover it, and turn it down to a simmer for about 15-20 minutes, breaking up the squash with a spoon if there are any chunks. Blend with an immersion blender or in a regular blender in batches, taking care not to burn yourself! Return to the pot. Taste for salt. Start with 1/2 t nutmeg and 1 t cinnamon and add more to your liking. The salt and the spices at the end really bring everything together so make sure you add enough. Serve with a dollop of yogurt or a drizzle of olive oil.

Happy Autumn!
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