This past weekend, our home was filled to overflowing with many of my closest women friends and family, here to celebrate Bubbles and my transition to motherhood. I felt like my heart might burst with love. It’s an unbelievable feeling to be entering into this new club, and I’m beginning to feel a new appreciation for my own mom and her fierce protectiveness of me. Mom hosted the shower, and I will be sharing more pictures and details soon. In the meantime, I have a few third-trimester pregnancy updates, and a recipe for these cold, blustery days and nights.
Our midwife appointments are now every two weeks, another sign that Bubbles will soon be making his or her entrance into the world. Everything is still going well, with the exception that I’m slightly anemic. For those with the same problem, but who don’t want to take another iron pill (which can aggravate pregnancy-related constipation), try Floradix, a liquid iron supplement which is more easily digestible and gentler on the system.
I feel like all of my cravings and aversions have passed, but food still doesn’t have the same pleasure it did pre-pregnancy. Perhaps because I’m still so conscious about what I’m eating and making sure every meal and snack counts for good nutrition. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a hard time eating enough, because I never really feel hungry, thanks to this sweet, growing baby taking up all the room in my belly. So, I’ve been trying to eat smaller meals and snacks more often throughout the day. Smoothies help, as do soups.
Another thing I’ve learned in my third trimester–pregnancy brain is real! I can’t believe at how absentminded and forgetful I have been in the past few weeks. I have lists all over the house, because If I don’t write it down, I will never remember. This past weekend, I was making an Americano for my friend, McKenzie, and I put the water in my (already half-empty) latte, instead of in the espresso in her mug. Silly.
Lastly, Elie and I are still working on how to merge our two spiritual belief systems into one for our family. The Christmas season has continued to raise a lot of questions, both for spiritual beliefs and holiday traditions. Elie has graciously embraced the Christmas tree and decorations that now cover our home, but how will we tell the Christmas story to Bubbles? Will we celebrate Santa? Or the new (to me) Elf on a Shelf?
Since the first night of Hanukah, we’ve been lighting the candles on the menorah and establishing a tradition of daily thankfulness and reflection, asking ourselves, “What happened today that we are grateful for? And what difference did we make today?” I know it will take many months, if not years, for us to develop our own faith traditions. In the meantime, if anyone has wisdom to share, I’d love to hear your stories.
I know Matzo Ball soup is usually made for Passover and not Hanukah, but our weather has been so gloomy, rainy and blustery lately, chicken soup sounded perfect for one of our holiday dinners. While traditional Matzo Ball soup does not have a lot of vegetables or chicken in the soup, this is a heartier version that can serve as a main dish for a lunch or light dinner. I also make the matzo balls with whole wheat matzo, which adds a nice, toasty flavor to them. They are still light, but with just enough texture and heft to keep them from being too fluffy.
A homemade chicken stock makes all the difference in soup. A boxed stock just can’t compare in flavor and savory-ness. I know from teaching cooking classes that stock can be intimidating, mostly because people think it’s time consuming. But the hands-on time is minimal, and it’s no harder than just putting a bunch of ingredients in a pot. If you can boil water, you can make stock.
I often make this soup in an evening, just making a quick version of the stock. But if you have the time (and you’ve planned ahead), it’s best when the stock can cook for a long time and then chill overnight to be made into soup the next day. This recipe will make more than you need. Just freeze the leftovers in tempered glass containers for up to three months.
- 2 large eggs
- 2 ½ tablespoons butter or chicken fat (skimmed from the stock), melted and cooled
- ½ teaspoon salt
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 75 grams whole wheat matzo crackers (about 2 ½ crackers), finely ground in the food processor (should yield about 2/3 cup of matzo meal)
- 4 tablespoons sparkling water or club soda
- 8 cups chicken stock (see recipe, below)
- 2 large or 4 small carrots, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 1 large or 2 small parsnips, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs, or to taste
- 8 ounces cooked chicken, or more, if desired
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- First, make the matzo balls. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and then whisk in the melted butter or chicken fat, salt, black pepper and parsley. Stir in the matzo meal (ground crackers) and then the sparkling water. Stir to combine everything thoroughly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill at least one hour, and up to one day ahead.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon or a small cookie scoop, shape the batter into small balls the size of small walnuts. Place them on a baking sheet.
- Drop the matzo balls into a large pot of gently boiling, salted water. Cover partially with a lid and decrease the heat to low. Simmer gently until tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes. If you cut a matzo ball in half, it should be the same color all the way through.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to a clean baking sheet. You can either cool them and then transfer them to the refrigerator, where they will keep for up to a day. Or, you can add them directly to hot soup.
- To make the soup, add the chicken stock to a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and add the carrots, parsnips and celery. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Taste and add salt or pepper if necessary. Right before serving, add the cooked chicken, and matzo balls. Allow the matzo balls to warm through and then add the parsley and dill right before serving.
- Homemade Chicken Stock
- Make the chicken stock one day ahead, if possible.
- 1 whole chicken, about 5 pounds
- 1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered
- 1 carrot, unpeeled and cut in half
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, cut in half
- 1 parsnip, unpeeled and cut in half
- 3 – 4 stems of fresh parsley
- 3 - 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled and cut in 1/2 crosswise
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 whole bay leaves
- Place the chicken and all of the vegetables, herbs and seasonings in a large stockpot or Dutch oven. Cover with water and bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Skim off any foam that rises to the top. Simmer, uncovered, for about 1 ½ hours, or until the chicken meat is fully cooked.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and place in a large bowl. Once it’s cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones and set the meat aside. If you are making the stock ahead, place the chicken in an airtight container and refrigerate.
- At this point, you will have a light chicken broth and you could use this to make soup immediately. Just strain the stock and proceed with the recipe.
- If you have time, place the chicken bones back in the pot and continue to simmer for at least 4 more more hours.
- When the chicken stock is ready, strain the entire contents of the pot through a colander and discard the solids. Chill the stock overnight. The next day, remove the fat from the surface (reserve for matzo balls, if desired). Use immediately or pack in containers and freeze for up to 3 months.