There is something phenomenal that happens near the end of a pregnancy. Some call it nesting, my husband probably calls it “Ashley’s – crazy – hormonally – charged – let’s – get everything – done – RIGHT – NOW – time”

It truly is a remarkable thing. I feel as if I have no energy, let alone the fact that bending down below my waist is nearly impossible at this point. But when I get an idea in my head about what needs to happen and what I want done it has to be done NOW! Somehow a surge of energy comes over me and I am able to complete the task, with the amazing help of my husband of course.

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For example… today alone I decided that 1. Our bedroom needed to be rearranged. So I suggested to my husband that we rotate the bed. He agreed with that idea but was quite surprised when I actually began to angle the bed. “You mean right now?” he says to me. “Yeah.” I say, seeing no problem with this. 2. I decided that I wanted a ‘pop’ of color in our breakfast nook. Out to the shed I go to choose a paint color from our limited but delightful selection. I grab a paint brush and begin the task.

Currently I am really resisting the urge to take a sledge hammer to our cabinets. I guess you have to draw the line somewhere but I have to be honest and say that I have come really close to crossing that line. Gabe is going to be off shooting for a few days – who knows what he is going to come home to.
The biggest example of this time of nesting is our yard. We have many wonderful projects happening, as you have seen in the photos from my last post. Each day we move closer and closer to being able to put seeds and seedlings into the earth. Today Baron and I sat on my beautifully crafted planter box which has a ledge all around the perimeter so that in the summertime, when our harvest is plentiful, we can sit and enjoy Sugar Snap Peas, Cherry Tomatoes and Purple Carrots right from the dirt. Does life get any better than that? I explained to Baron today that we will be able to pick the tomatoes off the vine and go inside to make a tomato tart with a peppery Arugula salad. He humors me and says “Okay!” in his I’m – excited – because – your – excited voice. He’ll understand soon enough and realize that momma isn’t as crazy as she sounds.

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As crazy as I know that I am right now I do really value this time. It’s a time of great anticipation that coincides with an overwhelming sense of urgency. A lot gets accomplished during this period as I believe my pregnant body realizes that very soon  my time will be devoted to the care of a new life. We pregnant women naturally scurry around trying to complete unfinished tasks and tie up loose strings so that we can completely devote ourselves to the well-being of our babies. It truly is a beautiful phenomenon.

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I am fortunate also that in both of my pregnancies this time of nesting has conveniently coincided with the season of Spring. Which in and of itself brings about feelings of anticipation, joy and the start of fresh produce. I naturally begin to crave foods that are just emerging from the earth during this time of year. Lately my body has been screaming for Rhubarb. I have always loved this unusual vegetable. The balance that is created with the tart and sweet flavors make me earn for Spring every year. As I child I would love to bite into a piece of tart Rhubarb pie that alone would make my mouth pucker but was always so nicely contrasted with either a scoop of perfectly sweet vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
My craving for Rhubarb was happily satisfied as I attended a class on Eggs taught by Molly of Orangette and her charming and very talented husband, Brandon. Molly created a delightful dessert that consisted of a very sweet Pavlova, which is a meringue based dessert that is crisp on the outside and slightly chewy and marshmallow-esque on the inside. Along side the Pavlova she served a Rhubarb compote and unsweetened whipped cream. It was pure heaven.

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Even after that Rhubarb encounter I still want more. So I have now for you all a Rhubarb Shortcake recipe with the most buttery and tender shortcakes you have ever had. Serve with a very generous dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and you have an incredible dessert (or breakfast :) )

Shortcakes
adapted from Desserts by the Yard

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 stick) ice cold butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 large egg

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Whisk together to aerate and remove clumps. Add the very cold butter pieces to the flour. With your most useful kitchen tools, your hands, work the butter into the flour. You want the pieces to remain quite large. Break up the butter slightly then flatten with your fingers. The butter should resemble fat Nickels in the flour mixture.

In a small bowl combine egg, vanilla and heavy cream. Pour into dry ingredients. Mix until dough just comes together – in fact it won’t completely come together. It will still be slightly crumbly at some parts and sticky in others.

Remove the dough from the bowl and proceed as you would with puff pastry. With your palms flatten the dough into a 6×8 rectangle. Dust your surface with flour if the dough is sticking. Fold the dough as you would a business letter. If you feel any sticky areas on the dough give it a light dusting of flour. Turn the dough 90* and repeat the process. Collect any dough bits that may have escaped. Repeat one more time for a total of three folds. Return the dough to the original 6×8 rectangle and wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze the dough for 30 minutes or stick in the refrigerator for 2 hours. The dough at this point can be refrigerated for one day or frozen for one week.

Pre-heat your oven to 400*. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

You can cut the dough into any shape you wish. Circles, squares, diamonds, triangles… anything! Brush your fancy dough shapes with more heavy cream and sprinkle Turbinado sugar on top. Bake for 15 minutes – turn your baking sheet at this point if your oven bakes unevenly. Bake for another 5-8 minutes or until they are beautifully golden brown.

Rhubarb Compote

juice and zest from one large orange

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed

1/2 cup organic sugar

2 cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup water

2 cups quartered strawberries (if in season)

1/4 teaspoon Rose Water (optional)

Combine first five ingredients. Cook until rhubarb is tender and desired consistency has been reached. I like to really cook it until rhubarb has fallen apart and the juices are nice and syrupy. You may have to add more water. If strawberries are in season fold them in at this point. You want the berries to remain in tact. Add the rose water here too.

Serve the warm shortcakes with warm compote and lightly whipped unsweetened cream or cream fraiche.

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