Lemon Coffee Cake

4 weeks.  That's it.  28 days until my fairly organized and scheduled life comes crashing down all around me.  I like to think that since I have done this five other times already, I am better prepared to the craziness that is life with a newborn baby but who am I kidding?!?!?

People keep asking me if I am anxious for this little girl to be born, but I'm honestly savoring each day she is still inside.  Sure, I move a bit slower now and have to get up to pee at least twice a night, but that's nothing compared to nursing for hours in the middle of the night or not having any type of schedule to rely on to keep me sane.  I'm honestly savoring each day I'm still pregnant.
In preparation for when my baby girl does come, I'm busy filling my freezer with food like this coffee cake.  It was so moist and dense, which is how I like my cakes.  My kids were fighting over the leftovers when they got home from school so you know how they felt about it!

Lemon Coffee Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart
1 3/4 C flour
3/4 C brown sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 C cold butter

2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 C sugar
3 Tb grated lemon zest (from 3-4 lemons)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 C plain yogurt

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tb fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 Tb milk

1.  Make the streusel by mixing together the flour, brown sugar and salt.  Using a pastry cutter, cut butter into the mixture until small clumps form.  Stick in freezer while preparing the rest of the cake.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9" angel food cake pan with nonstick spray.  Mix together in a small bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl, beat together with an electric mixer the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  With the mixer running, add eggs one at a time and scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Add the vanilla.  Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt.  Do not overmix!
3.  Spoon the batter evenly into the pan and sprinkle with the cold streusel mixture.  Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edges of the pan and remove the outer ring.  Let cool another 15 minutes before removing the center tube.  Let cool completely before drizzling the cake with the glaze.

Root Beer Pulled Pork

I've been going to the same gym for five years now.  That hour everyday to myself and my thoughts helps keep me sane.  During the past month though, I've become a bit self-conscious while working out.  Apparently, exercising while 8 months pregnant persuades people to come tell me what they think.  All the women over 55 feel the need to educate me on the risks of exercising while pregnant.  While the men and women around my own age like to share words of encouragement of "how great you are doing" while I'm the size of a house.

The first few comments made me chuckle, but now this almost daily attention is making me a bit uncomfortable.  I'm pregnant people.  Not that strange is it?!?!
I enjoy exercising, but I really enjoy being able to eat more because I exercise.  These sandwiches are worth my time on the elliptical machine.  I tried this super easy recipe for the first time this summer for a camping trip then whipped it up again last week.  Really delicious as it is, or you can mix in your favorite BBQ sauce for something different.   I served these on some homemade oatmeal rolls topped with coleslaw.

Root Beer Pulled Pork
5 lb pork butt roast
2 ltr bottle root beer, not diet
BBQ sauce (optional)

1.  Place roast in your crock pot.  Salt and pepper generously then pour enough root beer into the pot to barely cover your roast.  Cook on medium for 8 hours or until the meat falls apart when pulled.
2.  Remove roast from crock pot and allow the roast to cool before shredding into a large bowl.  Pour some of the cooking juices over the pulled meat once it is all done.  You can serve it like this or add your favorite BBQ sauce to the meat before serving.  Leftovers freeze very well!

Oatmeal Pecan Praline Cookies

My kids pack their lunch everyday.  Well....actually, I pack their lunch for them, but you get the idea.  They used to buy lunch once a week, but I came to find out a couple years ago that they hate the food and most if it gets thrown out.  That was $10 down the drain every week.  Completely unacceptable.  It has been two years since they purchased a school lunch.

I put a lot of effort into trying to mix things up and keep lunch interesting.  My oldest son is always the wrench in those efforts as he is my pickiest eater, including no chocolate.   So for him, I'm always on the search for a good cookie recipe that doesn't have any chocolate in it.  These cookies didn't call for chocolate but after I tasted their great toffee flavor, I had to drizzle chocolate over half of them.  Had to.
So whip up a batch and tell me what you think.  Chocolate or no chocolate?

For those who have never browned butter before, this is what your finished butter should look like.  It makes the dough so deliciously nutty in flavor that it is hard not to devour the uncooked product!

Oatmeal Pecan Praline Cookies
(makes 3 1/2 dozen)

2 sticks butter
1 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2/3 C brown sugar
2/3 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 C whole rolled oats
3/4 C chopped, toasted pecans

6 Tb butter
6 Tb brown sugar
1/4 C milk
1 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C semisweet chocolate chips, melted (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place butter in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat.   Keep over the heat until butter starts to bubble and turn brown.  Take off the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes.
2.  In a large bowl, stir together brown sugar and white sugar.  Add browned butter and stir until combined.  Stir in eggs and vanilla, followed by flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, oats and pecans.
3.  Scoop dough with level 1 1/2" cookie scoop or rounded tablespoon on to parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet.  Bake 10 minutes and let cool on sheet for one minute before removing from the pan.  Allow cookies to cool completely.
4.  Make the glaze by melting the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir in brown sugar and milk.  Bring to a boil for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Turn off the heat and mix in powdered sugar and vanilla.  Spoon over cooled cookies and allow glaze to set.  Drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate chips of desired.

Cheese Ball

Today was the first day of kindergarten in our school district and sadly, I sent off my baby girl Elisabeth.  I'm not a particularly emotional type of mother, but sending my kids to kindergarten for the first time always brings a few tears.  It's the realization that my five years of being the center of her world are over.  She belongs to the school system now and will be under the influence of her friends and teachers more than me.  

Of course, this leaves my two year old son home alone wondering where the heck everyone has gone without him.  Until today, he's always kept himself entertained by following Elisabeth around and doing whatever she was doing.  Since she is not here, he's now following me around driving me nuts!  I know we will fall into a new pattern, but these first few weeks are going to be tough on us both.

I made this cheeseball for a scrapbooking night over the weekend and it's a good thing there weren't any leftovers because the stress of this morning would have resulted in me feasting on it.  It's just one of those recipes you can't stop eating once you start.  My friend Charlea gave me this recipe a few years back and I love the complex flavors.  I suggest giving the ball the chance to sit overnight so the flavors can come together.
Cheese Ball
8 oz cream cheese (I use low-fat)
1 Tb mayonnaise
2 T chopped black olives
2 tsp grated onion
1 Tb chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
ham, chopped

1.  In a medium bowl, mix together all the ingredients except for the ham.  If it is hard to mix, allow the cheese to soften to room temperature.
2.  Spread out plastic wrap on the countertop and sprinkle it with the chopped ham.  Place the cheese mixture in the center of the wrap and roll it around to form a ball and to cover with the ham.  Refrigerate to firm-up the ball.  The flavors are best if the ball has a chance to sit overnight before serving.

German Nut Strudel

I had a hard time sleeping last night.  I kept tossing and turning and checking the clock.  My mind was just too excited for today.  THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!  Like the Office Depot commercial sings, "It's the most wonderful time of the year....."

After I dropped the kids off at school, I headed to the gym with a noticeable smile on my face and lilt in my step....and I was surrounded by many other mothers with similar personas.  Should I feel a bit guilty about this rejoicing?  Probably, but I won't let that realization ruin my day!
This is an old family recipe from my German heritage that my Mom would make for me on special occasions.  While my children would never categorize the first day of school as special, I felt I should send them off with a little extra breakfast love.

So now that my two year old down for his nap, I have a list of stuff to get done without INTERRUPTION!  What a concept!  Joy, joy, joy!

German Nut Strudel
from Dorothy Steiner
(makes 2 large strudels)
4 C flour
1 C butter
1 Tb sugar
1 tsp salt
3 egg yolks
1 C milk
1 package yeast

3 egg whites
1 C sugar
1 lb nuts, ground
2 Tb cinnamon

1. With a pastry cutter, cut together the flour, butter, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Add the yolks, milk and yeast to form a dough.  Mix well and form into a disk.  Wrap well with saran wrap and put in the fridge overnight.
2.  In the morning, remove dough from fridge.  Make the filling by beating the egg whites until soft peaks form and slowly adding the sugar and beating until stiff peaks form.  Add the nuts and cinnamon and mix gently to combine.  
3.  Cut dough in half and roll out into a large rectangle.  Spread half of the filling over the rectangle then tightly roll the dough width wise into a log.  Repeat with other half of dough.
4.  Allow strudels to rise for 1 1/2 hours then bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes until golden brown.  Frost with powdered sugar icing if desired.