It’s been pretty quiet here on Pixelated Crumb over the past several months, but I assure you, it has not been quiet in my home. The last recipe I shared with you was written at the end of March. Exactly one week after I shared my favorite pizza recipe with you, my daughter was born. My life turned inside out, the world seemed to spin simultaneously faster and slower, and sleep became elusive. Days and nights ran together. I spent my days pinned to a chair feeding Melanie, the only steps on my Fitbit coming from pacing around the apartment, rocking her, desperately trying to quiet her cries and lull her to sleep. I never expected motherhood to be easy, but nothing prepared me for the reality of being so depended upon. Who knew such a tiny little thing could be so incredibly demanding? Who knew a baby could cry for hours on end? Only every parent before me, I suppose. How did everyone make it look so easy?
I think Emily at Five and Spice described the “utter bliss combined with total desperation” of being a new mom so perfectly. Being a mom is hard. Honestly, much harder than I ever could have imagined. But to look at your child – this tiny little human being that you made – is unparalleled. There are times when I’m utterly exhausted with so much to do, but I still find myself just sitting there looking at Melanie sleep. It’s like a campfire that you just can’t look away from. She makes this sucking noise when she’s sleeping that is music to my ears. I love that sound just as much as her shrieks of laughter. And her smile is like an ocean that swallows me whole. One flash of that gummy smile and I almost forget the hours that I was up with her in the middle of the night the night before. Almost.
In the early weeks after Melanie was born, I often wondered how I had managed to eat all week without either my husband or I cooking (answer: lots of wonderful food from my mother-in-law and frozen Tikka Masala from Trader Joes). Melanie will be eight months in just over a week and we still haven’t resumed our old life of cooking. Our meals are simple and prepared as quickly as possible. We make lots of panini, quesadillas, and homemade pizza. Anything that requires minimal prep and cooking time. My baking has been limited to a few batches of banana muffins and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. I miss cooking and especially baking so much, but we never seem to have enough time and our new apartment has maddeningly little counter space (oh yes, did I forget to mention that just a few months after having a baby we moved 400 miles away to Maryland for Joseph’s new job?).
I’ve got a few different cookie recipes to share with you for the holiday season, and I figured I may as well start with my favorite so that you don’t have any excuse not to make them. These chocolate fluff cookies come from the same recipe booklet from America’s Test Kitchen as the much-loved chocolate turtle cookies from last year. I’ve been wanting desperately to make them ever since I got the booklet a year ago. How I’ve resisted that gooey, fluffy chocolate covered center this long is a mystery.
And you would never guess it, but these are actually ridiculously easy to make. The most complicated part of the entire process was clearing out enough space in my freezer to lay a cookie tray in there that would lay perfectly flat. Who has that kind of room in their freezer? Are we the only ones that keep our freezer stocked with everything from leftovers, frozen peas and corn, veggie burgers, the remains of a can of chipotle peppers, nuts, coffee, and backup frozen meals from Trader Joe’s for those days when we only have 15 minutes to prepare and eat a meal before heading out the door? Surely we’re not the only ones. We had to load our cooler up in order to make room, but there was never a doubt in my mind that it would be worth it.
One of the best things about the end of summer is the abundance of fresh, ripe veggies at their prime. Even better is when you have friends trying desperately to unload their gardens’ bountiful yield. So far I’ve been enjoying zucchini, summer squash, and tomatoes from friends’ gardens. A coworker e-mailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I wanted some pickling cucumbers. Her CSA’s crop had just come in and they were giving them away. My first thought? Umm..not really. I’ve just been so busy lately and the idea of pickling cucumbers and canning them and everything was just a little too much. But then I learned about refrigerator pickles. All you have to do is make your pickles and let them sit in your refrigerator until you eat them all up in the next month or so. I love pickles, so I figured I should give it a try.
When Patty arrived at work with an enormous bag of cucumbers, I started having my doubts again. I got home and weighed my new bounty and quickly decided that there was no way I could use seven pounds of cucumbers. Seven pounds!! Luckily another coworker was more than happy to take 3 pounds off my hands, still leaving me with an incredible pile of cucumbers.
I have a new favorite quinoa recipe. This southwestern quinoa salad now stands right at the top of the list along with the spinach feta quinoa that I fell head over heals in love with earlier this year. This one’s got some of my favorite ingredients and flavors: black beans, fresh veggies, some southwestern chili spice, and (my favorite) delectable, creamy avocado. Oh, and of course the wonderful nutty and nutritious quinoa with its fun, slightly crunchy bite.
If the ingredients alone aren’t enough to have you running to get your keys to go to the store, consider how easy and healthy this dish is. In fact, we first made this the morning we were heading up to Vermont for the day. As much as Joseph and I love eating out, we’re pretty frugal and besides, we had to save our money to stock up on cheese, maple syrup, and our favorite Vermont pepperoni. We hadn’t thought ahead and planned on making anything, but when I woke up the morning of our day trip, I figured, hey, that recipe looked pretty simple, I bet we could make it quickly before heading out.