garlic cheddar brioche buns

It’s Friiiiiday, Friiiiiday, gotta get down on…

Ahem. Friday.

But seriously, I could not be more ready for the weekend. The weather here might not say so but it IS springtime, dangit, and we’re planning on living it up for dinner at least once this weekend by grilling. This is about as exciting as our life gets right now, you guys, as we wait for baby to arrive (then life will REALLY get exciting… gah). I am slowly narrowing the radius for acceptable driving distances from our house/the hospital each and every day. As the husband so aptly put it, “It’s like we’re living in The Truman Show.”

Well hey, as long as there are burgers on garlic cheddar brioche buns to be had inside the bubble, I’m cool with it.

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nutella babka

Or, alternately titled, “That One Time I Used an Entire Jar of Nutella in a Bread Recipe.” Oh yes.

(And oh no, says bikini season, but that’s not for a while, right? Right.)

Call me a crazy, but I rarely buy Nutella. It’s not because I don’t like the way it tastes — it’s that I do. And when I know there is a jar of it lurking in my pantry, I can’t stop thinking about it. Suddenly, I’m in the kitchen, in front of said pantry. And just as suddenly after that, I’m spoon-and-or-fist-deep in the jar, like Winnie the Pooh with his honey. Only much less cute.

So what I’m saying is, I just HAD to put the entire jar of Nutella into the bread recipe, lest I devour the rest of it in an obscenely short amount of time. Instead, it is now safely tucked inside swirl upon swirl in a streusel-topped Nutella babka… which, come to think of it, only makes it less safe. Um, yes. Did not think through the logic on that one too well.

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homemade cocktail rye bread + reuben dip

Tell me I’m not the only one who grew up on those mini cocktail rye breads at holiday gatherings. You know the ones — they’re square-shaped and, well, mini and they perform like champs when it comes to bringing spinach dip from the bowl to your mouth. Sometimes they also make fun lil’ cucumber sammies. I love ‘em.

I love them so much, in fact, that I fear the day when I will need them for a party and they will be all out at the grocery store (which probably will never happen, because I always see stacks and stacks of them by the deli counter, BUT STILL); or the day when I have a craving for them but there’s a blizzard outside (may it never be again this winter, though); or, more likely, when I’m too lazy to put on real clothes and walk out the door but I still want the cocktail rye bread yum yums.

This is my brain on pregnant.

Anyway, that’s how this homemade cocktail rye bread came to be. And the reuben dip is a bonus recipe because, well, what good is cocktail rye bread without a dip? You’re welcome.

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whole wheat baguettes

Mastering the art of making baguettes at home, in my experience, is really no art form at all — it’s actually very similar to making a sandwich bread or a free-form loaf, but instead you shape the dough into a torpedo. And somehow it tastes just that much better that way.

And making whole wheat baguettes at home, in my experience, is very similar to baking regular baguettes — but with whole wheat flour.

I baked these last week with a Snowstorm of Doom in the day’s forecast. It was cloudy and snowing (and snowing, and snowing), I was housebound, my dinner date for burgers with friends was cancelled — you know how it goes. Baking bread — specifically, baguettes — was the only thing that could calm me down (I was really bummed about not getting a burger).

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basil, olive and sun-dried tomato bread

So here’s something I don’t so much love about pregnancy: um, NIGHTMARES.

I’m serious. Apparently this is a thing that can happen when you’re with child — something that’s been happening to me nightly, if not twice nightly. You get these crazy, vivid, out-of-control dreams-slash-nightmares and the worst part is? You can’t do a thing about it. You just have to ride it out.

Which means I’ll be spending a lot of time every night with zombies in my attic and murderers trying to decapitate my husband and/or cat and waking up a sweaty mess with my arms clutching my sides like I’m hugging myself in fear. Fear of the zombies, that is.

The last couple of nights have been a little better — as in, I have more stress dreams than dreams of the undead — and I have decided to credit it to this bread. Because after I made this bread, the zombies went away. Ergo, I’m making and eating this bread every day henceforth until May. And then I might even keep eating it afterwards. Just to be extra-safe, you know.

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eggnog cinnamon swirl bread

The Christmas season always brings with it a flood of memories and emotions for me (all of which, mind you, are grossly exaggerated right now thanks to my physical status. Pretty sure I teared up after watching a life insurance commercial the other day). It reminds me of gatherings with old friends; glittering, nostalgic memories of waiting for Santa to come deliver our presents on Christmas Eve; spending my first Christmas with my husband when he surprised me by decorating our entire place (indoors) with Christmas lights.

It also reminds me of the ones I’ve loved and lost — my sweet grandfathers who never ceased to make me laugh and whom I miss terribly with an aching, gutting feeling every year as the snow begins to fall; and my loving aunt, whose two young boys will be without their mother for the first time this holiday.

Most of all, it reminds of how ridiculously blessed we are in this life. I say this humbly, because I know there are so many hurting and alone this season. Sometimes I feel that pain in my own life, too. And sometimes I feel it for others so much that I become paralyzed with indecision on how to help them. Do I send cookies? A card? Do I just offer a hug? A sympathetic tweet or Facebook message? Will I sound selfish? Aloof? Sometimes I feel like a drop of a few coins in a red bucket outside of the mall just isn’t helpful, so I don’t even do it. Sometimes I clean out our cupboards and completely forget to set aside a few pantry items for the local food shelf. We send money to a child in India, but sometimes I forget we even divvy out that payment every month. Is that enough? Why do I become so overwhelmed by the needs of others that I neglect them?

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