Monday, December 31, 2007

The Luck of the Bean

We take the New Year’s meal pretty seriously down here in the South, although this particular tradition is steeped in nothing more than superstition. You know how Thanksgiving means there will be turkeys and cranberry sauce at the dinner table? Yeah, well, we feel the same way about black-eyed peas and collards on New Year's Day.

    My life has changed dramatically in the past few four years. I can easily remember the first few New Year’s Eves that The Carnivore and I celebrated together; those were the better-planned ones, the years in which kissing at midnight still seemed important (and when I could still stay up that late). I can remember the shows we went to, the parties we either hosted or attended, the friends we were with, even some of the outfits that I wore.

      And then (here’s where it gets funny), we decided to start a family. We spent the last evening of 2003 watching television in the thirty-year-old trailer we were living in while we built our house. I was pregnant with The Big Boy, and I fell asleep on the sofa after eating Chinese take-out. The Carnivore woke me up at midnight; I kissed him goodnight and went to bed. Last year I managed to stay awake, and we opened a split of champagne that a client had given me for Christmas a few years earlier. We each choked down a swallow or two, and then I dumped the rest of the bottle down the sink. Like I said, things have changed.

        I had my first traditional Southern New Year’s Day dinner on January 1, 1999, when The Carnivore and I joined some friends out in the middle of nowhere for a dinner party that included, among other things, black-eyed peas and collards. I may have lived in Georgia for most of my life, but, somehow, I was 26 before anyone let me in on the secret that the way to ensure you would be flush in money and luck over the next year was to eat collards and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. Oh sure, it’s all a bunch of hooey. But its' fun. And incredibly tasty. Who would I be to argue with a good meal?

          Of course, the friends who hosted that dinner are now divorced. And a new road runs through the property where their house once stood. Depending on peas for luck may not be too good of a bet.

            All else may have changed over the years, but the one thing that has remained constant is our New Year's Day menu. I could care less about traditional meals for all the other holidays, but I won’t budge on this one. For a few years there, we still ate dinner at those same friends’ house. At some point the party moved to our house, and The Carnivore started cooking the meal. And after a while, the torch passed to me. Some years we just winged it, tossing hot sauce and onions into the pots until the taste seemed right to us; other years I’ve followed recipes that weren’t particularly satisfying.

              This year, I’m sticking with the tried-and-true. The Carnivore will make his spicy cornbread (for which we have no recipe). I’ll soak some black-eyed peas tonight, and then simmer them for most of the afternoon tomorrow, adding some sautéed onions and peppers, a pinch or two of smoked chipotle powder (to compensate for the bacon most Hoppin' John recipes call for, which I will obviously be omitting) and whatever hot sauces or other seasonings strike my fancy at the moment. And of course, I’ll make a pot of brown rice too. And though I have a myriad of greens recipes (especially after The Summer of Our CSA, in which we ate greens for nearly every meal for at least a month), I’ll go with my favorite and cook the quick and easy Mediterranean Collards, a recipe that has never failed us.

                MEDITERRANEAN COLLARD GREENS (adapted from an old John Kessler column in the AJC Food Section, serves four as a side dish)

                • 1/4 cup of olive oil
                • Medium red onion, chopped
                • Two cloves of garlic, minced
                • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
                • 1 Tbs tomato paste
                • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
                • 1/4 cup red wine
                • 1 cup vegetable broth
                • 1 lb fresh collards, chopped
                • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
                • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
                1. In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
                2. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until onion is translucent.
                3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, balsamic vinegar, red wine, broth and collards.
                4. Cook, covered, for 20-30 minutes, until collards are as soft as you like them (I prefer for mine to still have a little texture).
                5. Season with salt and pepper, and add more vinegar if needed.

                As for luck and money, well, I’m not terribly worried about all that. I’ve got everything I want right here.

                Saturday, December 22, 2007

                Warm and Fuzzies

                I am not a sentimental person. I do not always see the positive side of every situation. And I am not always in a pleasant, cheerful mood. I’m not one of those people who curls up in her favorite chair with a steaming mug of cocoa and a beatific smile upon her face. And I’m rarely, if ever, cozy and warm-hearted here in this blog. Because let’s face it, Sarah is much more funny when she’s being sarcastic and is busy making fun of herself and her surroundings, right? Come on, I know that is what you were thinking.

                But see, this time of year completely brings out the warm and fuzzies in me. We have our very first Christmas tree lit up all nice and pretty in the living room, the foyer at church is decorated so beautifully that I smile every time I walk through, and I love it (LOVE IT!) when everyone you see smiles at you and says, “Merry Christmas.” I know, I know, this doesn’t sound like me, but the week or two right around Christmas is just the coolest time of year. Planning the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals tickles my fancy. Poinsettias are absolutely gorgeous, especially when it’s the only flower you’ve seen in months. And I really, truly dig those cool Christmas cards with family pictures on them.

                As long as I’m not forced to listen to Christmas music for an entire month or to buy presents for people I hardly know, I stay in a good mood all season. And with the first day of winter arriving today, and along with it, the shortest day of the year, I’m really geared up. Lest anyone think I’ve lost my mind, no, I don’t particularly care for winter. And these uber-short days take a toll. But the beauty of the shortest day is the fact that the days start getting longer THE VERY NEXT DAY. So just when I think, oh crap, it is getting dark by six o’clock every day, and its officially winter now, things already start looking up. The worst is over before you even realized it happened.

                Of course, I live in the South. And most likely we won’t see any snow this year (just like every year). So you people who live up North have your own set of problems. But I’m assuming you guys enjoy the cold and the perpetual twilight and the grey skies and the shoveling of snow and all that…

                As for me, I’m feeling pretty good about things. Christmas morning is much more fun now that we have small children, and I can’t wait to put The Big Boy’s presents under the tree after he goes to bed on Christmas Eve (I know better than to upset a three-year-old’s tenuous emotional grip by putting the presents under the tree too far in advance). And the cooking, OH THE COOKING, I’m right smack dab in the middle of a weekend of baking. There are gifts to make, casseroles and desserts to bake, hot cocoa to drink, carols to sing, beatific smiles to conjure…

                Oh dear, maybe I have lost my mind.

                More importantly though, there are recipes to share. And I’ve got one that I’ve been dying to mention here, but I wanted to wait until it was closer to Christmas so that it wouldn’t get lost in the shuffle. Remember back around Thanksgiving when I mentioned that chocolate-espresso pecan pie from a recent issue of Fine Cooking? Whoo-whee! That was one of the yummiest doggone desserts I’ve had in a while. My sister-in-law asked about it when I talked to her a few minutes ago, and my mother-in-law already put in a request for it for Christmas Eve.

                Now, it should be noted that I cheated when I made this recipe last month and used (oh, the humanity) a store-bought pie crust. I already had a full roster of dishes to prepare for Thanksgiving and I was under constant self-reminder to NOT stress myself out unnecessarily. So I took the easy way out. See, recipes involving dough put an undue strain on my self-confidence anyhow, and I swear I break out in hives when I see ingredient lists that include the words “chilled butter, cut into small pieces.” I shudder now just thinking about it.

                But the filling(!), the luscious, rich filling of this pie is just incredible. The texture is perfect, and it has much less of a cloying sweetness than a traditional pecan pie, thanks to the bitterness of the espresso. So prepare your favorite pie crust or just meet me in the frozen foods section where I'll be, once again, picking up a perfectly acceptable pre-made crust. I simply WILL NOT let my own self-righteous moral code regarding Homemade Everything get in the way of a chance to enjoy this beautiful pie.


                CHOCOLATE ESPRESSO PECAN PIE (serves 8 to 10, adapted from Fine Cooking)
                • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
                • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
                • 4 large eggs
                • 1 cup light corn syrup
                • 1 cup sugar
                • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
                • 2 Tbs instant espresso powder (I like the Cafe Bustelo brand)
                • 2 Tbs coffee liqueur (like Kahlua)
                • 2 cups lightly toasted, coarsely chopped pecans
                • 1/2 cup perfect pecan halves
                • pie shell (homemade if you're better at it than I am)
                1. Melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until smooth.
                2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, corn syrup, sugar and salt.
                3. Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 Tbs hot water.
                4. Add the espresso, the coffee liqueur, and the melted chocolate and butter to the egg mixture. Whisk to blend.
                5. Evenly spread the toasted, chopped pecans in the bottom of the pie shell.
                6. For a border, arrange the pecan halves around the perimeter of the pie shell, on top of the pecan pieces, keeping the points of the pecans facing in and the backs just touching the crust. This sounds complicated, but isn't (and it looks fantastic).
                7. Carefully pour the filling over the pecans (the pecans will rise to the top as the pie bakes). This filling does not puff up very much, so the liquid should be pretty darn close to the top of the pie shell - if it seems precarious, put the pie plate on a baking sheet so the filling doesn't spill all over the bottom of the oven.
                8. Bake the pie for 45 to 55 minutes, at 350 degrees, until the filling has just begun to crack and appears fairly set.
                9. Chill before serving.

                Friday, December 14, 2007

                Sneaky Cuisine

                I have not read Deceptively Delicious, and I have no plans to. Yet it seems everywhere I’ve turned over the past couple of months, food writers and book reviewers have all weighed in, rather contentiously, on the subject of getting children to eat fruits and vegetables. In the best-selling book, Mrs. Seinfeld shares the ways she has tricked her children into eating healthfully, and it seems that hiding vegetable purees in typical kid fare is something that gets people riled up in a hurry. And you know how easily offended we have all become...

                My lack of interest in reading the book has nothing to do with my taking a moral stand on the issue. If anything, I simply don’t need to read a how-to book about deceiving my child. I do it all the time. Oh sure, I know you’re not supposed to lie to children. And honesty is the best policy. I’ve heard all that. But I’ve found that the quickest way to pre-empt an incoming meltdown is to lie. I have managed to convince The Big Boy that the ice cream freezer in Blockbuster is art. Same goes for the pastry case by the coffee counter at Barnes & Noble. And you know those big arcade thingies whereby you put in a quarter (or more) and then try to manipulate a defective claw into picking up a stuffed animal? Art.

                The Big Boy is catching on to my ways. He now waits until he is sure people are watching, and then he points at a table full of cupcakes in Publix, narrows his eyes at it and asks in his loudest, most suspicious tone, “Mom, is that art?” Without batting an eye, or worrying in the least what these onlookers might think, I reply in the affirmative. The Big Boy has taken to muttering, “That sure does look like some good art.”

                But back to the book…

                Children can be challenging when it comes to proper nutrition. My mother raised me to eat very healthfully, and this is one of the only ways in which I did NOT rebel against her as I got older. Even when I got my first apartment, it didn’t occur to me to stock the kitchen with potato chips and soda. Instead, when I remembered to eat at all (you know how eighteen-year-old girls can be), I tended towards salads or fruit. But lest I come off sounding too pious here, I distinctly remember chowing down on junk food when I was much younger and the opportunities presented themselves when I was visiting relatives. And The Big Boy is the master of choosing the junkiest of the junk when the choice is available. This is why I have made sure to stock his shelf in the pantry with boxes of raisins and whole-grain cereals. The refrigerator shelf at his eye-level holds yogurt, blueberry bagels, baby carrots and the like. It just isn't any of his business that I hide my stash of dark chocolate truffles up in the kitchen cabinets behind the drinking glasses.

                Whoops. Now Big Mama will know where to find them when she comes over.

                I do not begrudge Mrs. Seinfeld her deception. Rather, I applaud it. Crucial physical development takes place in these early years, development that depends on adequate nutrition, and these just happen to be the years when kids can be incredibly annoying to argue with. If your son or daughter steadfastly refuses to eat anything but mac & cheese, go ahead and add some pureed cauliflower. They’ll never know. Your toddler will only eat fruit with a sweet dip? Fine, thaw out some orange juice concentrate and let them go to town on some apple slices. Mix some wheat germ into peanut butter to add fiber to a ‘white-bread-only’ munchkin. Learn how to make muffins with whole-wheat flour, sweeten them with applesauce, and add chopped nuts and dried fruits to the batter. There is no need to make sure your child knows you have won the battle. I say let them think the power is theirs. There will be ample opportunities to disabuse them of this notion in later years.

                Besides, children become more reasonable as they get past the toddler and preschool stage, and it is then that I plan to take my stand. When The Big Boy is older, I fully intend to stare him down at the dinner table until he eats his vegetables. And he will get no dessert until he cleans his plate. But until then, I will continue to trick him in any way I can. For the past week, I have been cutting PB&J sandwiches with a champagne flute so that I can serve him “Circle Sammiches,” which, I might add, he has been wolfing down. Since he has lately lost interest in fruit, I have learned to whirl yogurt and frozen fruit in the blender, and serve him smoothies for a snack. And he wouldn’t touch a green bean until I served it to him with ketchup. Hey, if he wants “green bean fries,” who am I to judge?

                Don’t get me wrong. The Big Boy is not living a monk’s life here. I make desserts ALL THE TIME. I just tell him they’re all gone after he has had one piece. I suppose I should be ashamed or at least a little alarmed at how easily the lies just roll off my tongue. But let's just consider me creative...

                BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS (makes 12 muffins, adapted from The Mom's Guide to Meal Makeovers)
                • 1 cup all-purpose flour
                • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
                • 1/4 cup wheat germ
                • 2 tsp baking powder
                • 1/4 tsp salt
                • 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
                • 2 large eggs, beaten
                • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
                • 1/3 cup canola oil
                • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
                • 1 tsp vanilla
                • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
                1. Stir together the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt.
                2. In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, eggs, brown sugar, oil, milk and vanilla.
                3. Pour the banana mixture over the dry ingredients, and stir just until moistened.
                4. Fold in the chocolate chips.
                5. Spoon the batter into 12 greased muffin cups.
                6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (until the muffins are light golden and a toothpick comes out clean).

                Saturday, December 08, 2007

                The Mommy-Fried Brain

                I love my children so much that, at times, I fear my heart will explode. But let’s be honest, spending 24 hours a day caring for an infant and a three-year-old may stimulate my heart and my emotions, but it does very little in the way of keeping me intellectually alert. I can no longer finish the Sunday crossword. I have no idea who I will be voting for in the upcoming presidential primaries. And the thought of being around adults and trying to have an intelligent conversation about current events makes me break out in a cold sweat.

                Instead of reading three newspapers a day, I now read only the local articles in one local newspaper. And when I say ‘local,’ I mean only those stories which concern a two-county area. Except, of course, for the Wednesday New York Times Dining section, and the Thursday Atlanta Journal Food section. And I’m not exaggerating (a fairly unusual event in and of itself) when I claim I can’t remember the last time I watched a news program on TV. My world just keeps getting smaller and smaller.

                I realized this morning that I haven’t left my property in three days. Today is Day Four, if things go according to plan. I’ll leave tomorrow to go to church, but let’s be honest, that is only about a mile away, so close that I could walk there if I didn’t insist on wearing four-inch stilettos.

                There was a single month, albeit six years ago, when I spent a week in California, a week in Miami, and a long weekend in Las Vegas, coming home for a few days in between each trip to see The Carnivore and to re-pack my suitcase. This past month, the furthest from home that I’ve found myself is 15 miles away. Oh, how my life has changed.

                Granted, the changes have been good. This is, I suppose, precisely what the phrase ‘settling down’ means (although in my case I may have taken this TOO literally). My twenties were all about having fun, going places, meeting people, and learning as much as I could about as many things as possible. It appears that my thirties will be about my marriage, my children and my home, which can all be contained in one VERY small section of the world. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

                Okay, I know that it sounds as if I’m restless and making a desperate attempt to justify my life to myself. And sure, maybe I DO go a wee bit stir crazy at times, but I’m all too aware of how quickly time goes by, and I don’t want to rush through these precious few years that I get with my children while they’re still babies and toddlers (and completely loving and innocent and hilarious). Truly, I only even bring these thoughts up at all because it struck me this morning, when The Big Boy woke up after spending THE ENTIRE NIGHT in his own bed, that it won’t be long before Little Miss Piggy wants her own bed as well. And then they’ll start school. And (here's the rub) it will be time for me to re-evaluate my own daytime life when I’m no longer needed as the hausfrau/stay-at-home-mom. Of course, I’ll be nearly forty by then…

                So maybe that’s what all this is about. I’m back to the what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my-life question. And I don't mean it in the context of faith and contentment and happiness. Rather, for me, this question always smacks of measurable accomplishments or, in my case, the lack thereof. Someday, I hope to find a career I can stick with so that I can maybe ACTUALLY accomplish something with it. Retail management suited me for nearly ten years, but frankly I got tired of living by The Corporate Rulebook, which was why I (finally) went back to school and (finally) chose a major and (finally) followed through with higher education. And I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming, but I am already utterly bored with my chosen profession in business and, other than using it to manage the financial side of The Carnivore’s HVAC company, I find myself with very little use for this degree. Clearly, my original plan of going to grad school after the kids are both in elementary school is pointless, since I have absolutely zero interest in learning anything more about accounting and finance. And sitting for the CPA exam ranks pretty low on the priority list, right down there with dusting the baseboards or watching paint dry. So obviously I'm going to need to re-think my career choice. Again.

                Lately, as a matter of fact, all I’ve really cared to learn about has been food. The books I’ve been reading recently have all been non-fiction food lit, like The Soul of a Chef, Service Included, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, and California Dish. And I’m waiting for my fashion and beauty magazine subscriptions to expire, since I would rather be spending time with my Fine Cooking, Cooking Light, Edible Atlanta and Cook’s Illustrated issues. I can get a little obsessive.

                Which is why I’m now staring at a stack of books on recipe writing, digital food photography, resources in food writing, etc. Come to think of it, I may have been on to something 16 years ago, when I first started college with a major in pre-journalism. Coming full circle is not, I can say without a doubt, all its cracked up to be. I am a walking exercise in frustration.

                Monday, December 03, 2007


                I have a vicious sweet tooth, the kind that can turn violent in a hurry if not appeased. This used to be a real problem, because I have not always enjoyed cooking. In years past, I would, without any provocation, in the middle of a perfectly quiet and pleasant evening at home, turn to The Carnivore (and before that, to preceding boyfriends) and snarl, “Ben and Jerry’s!” I would stop at nothing, until a carton of “Everything but the…” was delivered into my hands. The Carnivore took to calling it ‘PMS Cream.’ We were fortunate, when we lived in town, to be within walking distance of a store that carried Ben and Jerry’s, and were only a few blocks away from a doughnut shop as well. And though The Carnivore could ignore my demands at times, I could, in a pinch, put my shoes on and actually take care of the emergency trips myself.
                In the old days, my sweet tooth would rear its cranky head on a fairly predictable 28-day cycle, so the cravings were relatively manageable. Then we made a slight misstep and moved out to the country within a couple of weeks of the start of my pregnancy with The Big Boy. Suddenly, the nearest purveyor of decent ice cream was about five miles away. And my sweet tooth moved in with us permanently.
                You see why I had to learn to cook, right?
                Summertime is easy for me. With abundant fresh fruit available, I can manage my after-dinner cravings without having to pull out the big guns. For a couple of years, there were scads of blueberry bushes on the property right next to our house. And just this past summer, I was able to supplement my environmentally shameful trucked-in-from-California cherry addiction with cantaloupes from our CSA, watermelons from my mother’s garden just down the road from us, strawberries from the farmer’s market, and blackberries from our own front yard.
                But things get really ugly when I’m nursing a baby. I’m not sure if it’s because my caloric needs increase to an extent that I’m unable to get by without supplementing my usually very healthy diet with vast quantities of dessert, or if I’m just using breastfeeding as an excuse to act like a madwoman, but I cave in completely to these desires.
                Lately, I’ve been making a batch of brownies (a great time for me to keep refining my baking techniques, right?) and playing around with different pie recipes every Saturday. And now that it’s Christmastime, and I would do most anything to avoid having to go shopping, I’ve enjoyed digging around for candy recipes to give as gifts this year. I hit the jackpot this weekend with a Cooking Light recipe for Walnut Brittle. I was quite nervous about this one, not least because the idea of ‘diet’ desserts causes a great deal of cognitive dissonance for me. And I get cranky when I have to wrestle with candy thermometers.
                As soon as it came time to pour the molten liquid into the sheet pan to let it harden, in which there is a window of only a couple of seconds to get this done before pouring becomes impossible, and I HATE having to move that quickly, and my parchment paper shifted on the pan, and the wooden spoon nearly got stuck on top of the finished product, I swore I would never make this recipe again, no matter how good it tasted. But then I ate a piece an hour or so later, and oh my, I fell deeply, madly, hopelessly in love.
                Normally, a dessert will last about a week around here. The Carnivore and I, with the help of a friend who is staying with us right now, went through the ENTIRE BATCH within 24 hours.
                We are completely out of control. Soon we’ll be main-lining sugar and chasing it with shots of vanilla extract.
                WALNUT BRITTLE (adapted from Cooking Light, makes less-than-enough servings)
                • Cooking spray
                • 1 cup sugar
                • 1 cup light corn syrup ('light' refers to the color, not the number of calories)
                • 1/2 cup water
                • 1 Tbs butter
                • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
                • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
                • 1 tsp vanilla extract
                1. Line a small jelly-roll pan with parchment paper, coat paper lightly with cooking spray, and keep pan warm in a 200 degree oven (the warm pan will be a slight help in spreading the candy).
                2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, water and butter in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves.
                3. Cook 20 minutes, or until a candy thermometer (in my case, a turkey thermometer) registers 275 degrees.
                4. Stir in walnuts, and cook for another 2 minutes or until thermometer reads 295 degrees, STIRRING CONSTANTLY.
                5. Remove from heat, and QUICKLY stir in baking soda and vanilla.
                6. VERY QUICKLY pour mixture into prepared pan.
                7. Optional, because it is nearly impossible: attempt to spread mixture to 1/4-inch thickness using a wooden spoon coated with cooking spray.
                8. Cool completely; break brittle into pieces.
                9. Threaten family members with eviction if they eat the last piece.

                Saturday, December 01, 2007

                Caffeine-Free Me (not a pretty sight)

                I am fully aware that life is unfair. As a matter of fact, I repeat this phrase nearly every day in response to something my son says (or silently in my head in response to whiny complaints from virtually anyone I'm talking to).
                Platitudes and clichés do not always make this fact easier to digest. Especially for me in a time of crisis such as this one. See, parenting is wonderful and rewarding and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything in the world (and so on and so forth – you’ve all heard this before, right?). But one of the true injustices of motherhood is that, in those early few months with a newborn, when caffeine is quite possibly the only thing that can get you through the day, breastfeeding moms must limit their caffeine intake. This would be an issue for me on a good day, so I’m sure you can imagine my distress on the more challenging days. And not only is caffeine completely necessary to my well-being, but I love the FLAVOR of coffee. So it’s not just that I want my morning coffee, but in the evenings, especially during times of frustration (see: the early few months with a newborn), I would like some coffee ice cream to settle my nerves.
                What totally blows my mind is that, according to the dumb parenting books, it is okay for breastfeeding moms to have an alcoholic drink every now and then, as long as you don’t nurse the baby for the following two hours, thus allowing the alcohol to (somehow) be metabolized out of the milk. And yet, we’re told to limit caffeine.
                Like I said, life is unfair.
                For the past three weeks, Little Miss Piggy has had a fussy time every day, from late afternoon to bedtime. Naturally, with her being a baby, and therefore being impossible to understand, I don’t know for sure if her cranky time has something to do with my diet or if she’s just, you know, being a baby. But since I’m her mom, and I flog myself daily in a quest to always do right by my children, I keep making adjustments to my meals to see if it has an effect on her. At first, I gave up soy milk in my morning cereal, and it seemed to make a difference. But a few days later, she reverted back to the fussing. I tried everything, even eliminating beans from our meals (no easy feat for a vegetarian), saving caffeine changes for last. And here we found ourselves, after trying everything else first, with no choice but to try reducing my coffee needs even further than I had already done.
                See, when I’m not pregnant or nursing, I typically have four or five cups of coffee in the mornings. While pregnant, I weaned myself down to 12 oz, well within the acceptable range. But those numbers change, thankfully, for nursing moms, with all available literature stating, seemingly unequivocally, that I can have up to 16 oz of coffee each day. Yay, right? I’ll take what I can get.
                So I tried giving up coffee altogether to see if it would help Miss Piggy and her digestive problems. And here’s the thing: I don’t know whether it helped or not, because I was too doggone tired to notice. I dragged around for a couple of days, forgetting what I was doing, wandering off in the middle of a task, and griping whenever anyone spoke to me. Mom remarked that she’d rather deal with a fussy baby than put up with a caffeine-free me.
                Thank you very much.
                Clearly, this was not going to work. And thank God, it won’t have to be an issue any longer. Removing caffeine from her milk, by the time all was said and done, did NOT affect the baby’s evening fussy time. And if anything, she should grow out of this in the next few weeks anyhow. Or at least that’s how I vaguely remember it working when The Big Boy was an infant. Or it could all be wishful thinking. But at least I’ll be better equipped to have patience while she fusses as long as I’ve been fortified first with a couple of cups of coffee.
                Matter of fact, I wonder how much better my Cheapaccino recipe would be if I added a scoop or two of coffee ice cream to it?