Sunday, March 31, 2013

Matzo Ball Soup

Ask any Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jew what is one of the most common foods during Passover and matzo ball soup will likely be one of the answers. I have attempted and failed to make a matzo ball soup that doesn't well, suck, twice.

The first year when I was making sure everything I bought was kosher, I used pre-made kosher for Passover stock. Ugh. That was really bland and really horrible. Even doctoring it up with carrots, chicken, dill didn't help that soup. I also made the balls much too big and much too hard. Yuck.

The next year I made stock from scratch and followed a simple recipe that called for carrots, celery and chicken. It was also bland but not as bad. The matzo balls came out fluffier but still kinda gross.

The problem then is of course, that there are two parts to the soup. The first basic of this soup is a great chicken soup stock. Then good matzo balls. I tried a few different techniques from around the web and I think it went better. I think. I'll still mess with it each year but so far, this was the best version yet.

The stock was still not extremely seasoned. Because I was feeding a large crowd whose taste preferences range from pass the ghost pepper flakes to no pepper or your killing them, I kept it mild. For my individual taste, I added more pepper and dill to my individual bowl.

I still need to work on the actual matzo balls, but I hear only after years of making them does one truly achieve perfect balls :)

Matzo Ball Soup
I ended up having to buy a bigger stock pot this year as I was feeding twice as many people as last year, so I ended up using a 12 quart stock pot. This recipe makes a ton of soup, enough for 9 people plus left overs.

Everyone said it was really good. I'm not sure if people were being nice and actually liked it or not, but they all ate it. I thought it was good and I thinking making the stock ahead of time in small steps helped. It seemed less stressful and the flavor was much better.

Ingredients for stock

3 bay leaves
10 sprigs of flat leave parsley
2 tablespoon whole pepper corns
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 small white onions
1 pound peeled carrots
5 stalks of celery
1 parsnip
1/2 fennel
9 chicken thighs with skin
2 quarts chicken stock - check the ingredients for non-Passover items like yeast!
6 quarts of water

Directions for stock

This can be made the day of but first off, it takes a long time (hours!) and second, the stock gains flavor the longer it sits. Stock can normally be safely frozen up to four months and refrigerated for up to 3 full days.

Add all ingredients to stock pot. Bring to a low boil and simmer for 2 hours until chicken is done. Make sure you don't have the heat high enough that it breaks the chicken thighs apart or it will be a pain to pick the chicken meat out.

Remove the chicken thighs from the stock and let cool. Remove the chicken meat and refrigerate.

Add the skin and bones back to the stock. Keep stock on the lowest heat for 6 hours.

Let your stock cool and then strain all the veggies, herbs and bones out.

Return stock to pot and allow to cool in fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight. When you check your soup, there will be a layer of fat on top. Skim this off and if you wish, save it for the matzo balls (it isn't schmaltz but you could always use it in it's place), if not, disregard it.

Ingredients for matzo balls

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2teaspoon dill or 1 sprig fresh dill, finely chopped
4 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons reserved chicken fat or vegetable oil or butter (not kosher but yummy!)
1 cup matzo meal
4 tablespoons chicken stock

Directions for matzo balls

Mix salt, pepper, dill, eggs and oil lightly together. Add the matzo meal and gently blend together. Don't stir too much or your matzo balls will come out dense.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1-4 hours. The longer they sit the stronger the flavor is.

Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. *You can boil them in stock as well, it will make the stock cloudy but some swear it makes them taste better. I've done it both ways.

Wet your hands with water so that the matzo mixture doesn't stick to your hands. Spoon out 1 tablespoon of matzo mixture and gently roll it in your hand. Don't over roll or compact the balls, a light touch is best.

Once all of the matzo balls have been rolled, carefully drop them into the boiling water for 30-40 minutes. Cover.

The matzo balls will puff up when boiling and should double in size. The matzo balls are done when they can easily be cut in half with a spoon and should be light in uniform in color.

Remove from heat.

Ingredients for finished matzo ball soup

1 pound, sliced carrots (I cheated and used canned so they were already soft)
5 stalks celery finely chopped
chicken saved from chicken thighs
chicken stock
matzo balls

Direction for finished matzo ball soup

Bring your stock up to a low boil.

Add carrots, celery and chicken to soup. Let simmer until celery is done.

Remove from heat. Either add the matzo balls directly to the broth so that they can soak up some of the flavor or spoon matzo balls directly into individual bows, ladling the stock over it.

Eat and enjoy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

I've got a story to tell you

I wrote a while back that in January I had a HSG done. I had read the rumor that your fertility might slightly increase after a HSG but my OB never mentioned it and I put no stock in it at all. I was just glad the news was good that my tubes were open.

During January I did not take or chart my BBT at all and for the first month in a long while, didn't use ovulation tests. I had some random cramping on one side 23 days into my cycle but I didn't get my hopes up. I feel crampy all throughout my cycle so it wasn't that big of a deal.

Then I had my accident at the beginning of February. In order to get a CT scan done with the dye the ER ran a blood pregnancy test, that came back negative. I was deemed not pregnant and had a CT scan and popped muscle relaxes for the next week off and on. I felt horrible but after all, I had just been hit, literally, by a propane tanker, so I didn't question anything.

After finally going back to work The Husband and I then had our first RE visit. No exams or ultrasounds were done and I went home with scripts and plans to get pregnant.

Two days after the RE visit, it was Friday night and I wanted a drink. I had been in a car accident and seen the RE for the first time, all in a span of less than two weeks. I was mentally exhausted. But I always test before I drink. Always. I'm not about to go out and buy peach schnapps and not be able to drink it, so I bust out a pregnancy test.

Annoyed that all I had were good ones, you know, brand name, not cheapy $1 ones, I tested late at night and stared in disbelief when it turned positive, instantly. I actually remember laughing at loud and thinking, "yeah, I don't get positives". I fumbled around and found a second test and used that one. Positive.

I remember staring at them and walking slowly out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. The Husband had already dozed off when I woke him up. Our conversation went like this:

Me: Hey, hey, wake up. I'm pregnant.

The Husband (half asleep): okay

Me: No seriously I'm pregnant.

The Husband (starting to wake up): Are you sure?

Me: I took two tests. [I shove them at him] The good kind! Brand name!

The Husband (wide awake): Good ones? The good ones say pregnant?!

Me: Yes!

The Husband (awake): That's fantastic honey.

So yes, you are reading that right... I'm pregnant!!!

Yes, yes I am. I am 10 weeks pregnant, 11 weeks next Thursday. I have a baby and I've seen it two times on ultrasound already.

So there you have it. Yes. I am that woman who had been struggling for 14 months to get pregnant and then managed to get herself pregnant the month that no charting, no OPTs and no ovulation drugs were used.

I'm that woman who took a month off of trying and got pregnant. I'm that woman who "stopped trying so hard" and magically get pregnant. It's one of those stories I used to read and would be happy but also secretly thinking, "good for you, you lucky bitch".

The fact that when my friends and family found out and about half of them basically said, "see! you just needed to relax and not try!" didn't help. But there you have it. I managed to get pregnant during my 14th month of TTC.

So it turns out that I was pregnant, but only by 5 days, when I had my accident and was 4 weeks pregnant when I had my RE visit. Yup, I'm that jerk that showed up to her RE pregnant :)

Our family knows and some close friends, but I haven't put it on Facebook, yet. Funny how pregnancies are now judged as Facebook public or not :)

I just can't wait for October 24 to get here so we can meet our baby. I feel so very blessed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Passover 2013

Passover began at sunset on Monday this week. Normally in the past I have posted what my plans for meals were, but this year, I kinda crapped out. Opps.

This year, we haven't been following the rules at all. I'm feeling very sick this week and I just can't make myself do it. I'm living on crackers and soup or cereal for dinner. So instead, this year, I'm hosting our Passover seder not on the first night, not even on the second night, nope, this year due to schedules I'm having sedar on Saturday night. Traditional? Not at all.

For our Passover sedar, like last yearwe will be following very basic rules that fit our family. Our rules include:
  • No pork, shellfish or insects (it's not as if we do anyways, but just sayin).
  • No chametz, which is wheat, barley, spelt, rye and oats that have been mixed with water and allowed to sit for longer than eighteen minutes.
  • No items with yeast or leavened products are allowed.
  • Milk, veggies and fruits are permitted.
  • Eggs and fish that have scales and fins are permitted.
  • Rice, corn, peanuts, legumes, quinoa and all other kitniyot will be eaten.
  • Non-kosher meat will be eaten.
I plan on making a simple menu of matzo ball soup followed by pot roast, baked potatoes, baked squash, green beans, a simple fruit salad and for dessert the flourless chocolate lava cake.

This weekend will be busy, Passover sedar on Saturday and Easter lunch on Sunday at my dad's. Look out in the next few days for follow-up!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

First trip to the RE

I'm behind again, but only by two weeks.

The day before Valentine's day we, The Husband and I, made a trip to see the RE. We both took the day off, left A. with My Mom and I made sure to shave, you know, just in case.

We arrived at our appointment and were impressed by the waiting room. It had a mini fridge with bottles of water. Fancy.  We filled out the standard forms and I handed over the ones I had completed before hand. I have never been so thorough on a medical questionnaire and found myself wondering if one can share too much detail about ones, getting it on.

There were two other women in the waiting room. They both had smiled at each other and it was clear they were "regulars" by how relaxed they seemed. The Husband and I instead had the nervous, fidgety, we're new here, look. I smiled weakly at the one, who nodded back at me. I was really, really glad we had left A. at home. I'm not sure what the "rules" are about kids, but I didn't wanna seem like that jerk at the RE's office.

We waited only a short amount of time before our lovely nurse called us back. It was pretty standard, height and weight check (ugh) with a blood pressure check. I had to quick use the bathroom and apparently while I was away, the nurse asked The Husband about his performance. He made me laugh when he retold it later, saying he was caught off guard, despite being at the RE and responded to her question by answering, "Uh, yeah, fine. Just fine. You can ask my wife." He's so cute.

When I got back, the nurse and I went over my whole reproductive health history since I was young and answered a bunch of questions I'm sure by now, doesn't phase her at all, but made me smile at times.

Eventually she was done and we waited a few minutes for the RE. He didn't do an exam, like I expected him to, but instead just asked a few more questions, more about my pregnancy with A., the chemical pregnancy and how I reacted to the mini pill after I had A.

He said after reviewing my case, he felt I have PCOS. He indicated that there is no one test, but that given all of my test results to date, my history, symptoms /signs and family history, PCOS was the best explanation. He still wanted to run a few more blood tests but was confident in his diagnosis.

The solution was simple, he explained and included a three phase plan. He sent me home with scripts for clomid 150mg and ovidrel. He let me know to call back on the first day of my cycle and that then on day 14 they would do an u/s to see what was happening. If everything looked good, he explained that I would fill the ovidrel and they would tell me how to inject myself.

If that didn't end up working after a few cycles his suggested plan was to move on to introducing metformin for one to two months, followed up by clomid, ultrasound and ovidrel.

If all of that didn't work, he said he would explain the next step but that it involved fertility shots. Yuck.

I left the office excited knowing that I just had to wait for my cycle to start so the next [art of this journey could begin. I remember feeling more relaxed than I had in months.