August 25, 2016

Israeli Couscous Salad

There was a time in my life that I considered myself a semi-hardcore backpacker. The time Brent and I woke at 5am, drove half-way up a mountain only to get a flat tire in the rain, and despite our shitty luck (he more than me) was determined to hike the trail, set up camp on top of a glacier, and call it a day. So we set out, hours after our original estimate, and arrived at the camp just before the sun set, which was a miracle in itself considering we forgot a map. Too tired to cook, we ate dry Ramen noodles out of the pack and then fell exhausted into the tent. That night, the coldest I'd ever been, I fought tooth and nail with our dog over who got to snuggle into Brent's sleeping bag to steal his warmth. The dog won. The next morning we woke to find ourself literally camping on a glacier. The clouds broke, and to celebrate we drank a bottle of wine, then climbed to the top using the empty bottle and an ice axe. Once we reached the top, it seemed awfully steep and icy, so why not use our jackets and slide down the glacier on our asses? Maybe I'll take back my previous comment about us being semi-hardcore, and rephrase it as semi-stupid.

Or there was that time that we decided to circumnavigate Mount St Helens 28 miles in 3 days, which was one the most challenging things I have ever done. The hike was dusty and dry, with only a few water stops along the way. We zig-zagged up and around volcanic rocks and deep gullies, while I carried somewhere between 30 and 35 lbs on my back. By the time we had finished the hike, I was simultaneously crying because I had lost 2 toe nails and laughing because I was so happy not to be hiking anymore. For the next few days, I hobbled like I had been riding a horse for weeks. I spent most of my time on the toilet, because I'm pretty sure I got some sort of bacteria from the water we drank. It was only after that trip that I realized I actually hated backpacking and I would never do it again. I do however, bring up that experience often, and regale tails as if I'd gone off to war.

Two weekends ago, we set out on our first camping trip with Sebastian and let me tell you, camping with an 11 month old is not the easiest thing I've ever done. In preparation for the trip, we set aside all of our light weight super small backpacking equipment and promptly drove to REI where we splurged on a new cooler, cooking stove, plates and utensils, and a massive tent with two rooms. Brent wanted to get the tent attachment, oh you know, in case we need to store our horses?, but I immediately refused, because I thought our tent was already pushing the maximum size limit, and not even sure we'd fit in the campsite. I'm not going to lie, though, if we hadn't already spent so much on the tent, I was half-way tempted to get the cot and side tables to go with. Maybe a rug or two? Too much? We've now taking camping to a whole new level.

The only downside I can see to owning all this gear is the set-up and take-down. It took forever. Honestly, I am a little glad that summer is almost over (I know, I'm an asshole), because camping with an 11 month old is exhausting, and I can probably wait until next year until we venture back out into the woods. Brent, on the other hand, lives for camping, and I'm sure if we were at the beginning of the season I'd have quite a few more trips in my near future. For now, I'll enjoy the last few weeks of this glorious weather on my patio with our new patio furniture and a glass of rose in my hand. I'll also be grilling everything on the BBQ and eating all of the summer produce that I can get my hands on, starting with all of the tomatoes. I'll watch Sebastian cruise around our nice baby-proof home, where I don't have to worry about him choking on small objects scattered about. For the next little while (or until he stops putting everything in his mouth), you can find us here, cozied up in the comforts of our own home. Jeez, we sound lame.

This week, I was looking for something easy to make, because cooking in the heat, ugh. I purchased some beautiful tomatoes and a nice bunch of basil from the market last weekend. Obviously, the avocado is from Mexico, but wouldn't that be grand if we could grow avocados in Seattle? I pulled together a quick salad with those ingredients and added a few of my staples, things I always have around - olive oil, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. And the most important ingredient - Israeli couscous - which is can also be referred to as pearl couscous. Pearl couscous looks like small little white pearls, that once cooked, have a texture similar to pasta. I love to make them into fresh salads, or pair them with roasted veggies in the winter. They are really easy to cook, and can be store in the fridge for later use. They have a fairly mild flavor, so I like to dress them us with spices and sauces. And a boat load of fresh tomatoes, obvs.


August 9, 2016

Cherry Tomato and Halloumi Salad with Fresh Herbs

I may have purchased one too many cherry tomatoes to consume in a week or two, or however long it takes for a tomato to spoil. Last week, I walked 20 blocks down a steep hill, into the busiest part of Seattle during lunch hour, to Whole Foods to purchase two bunches of broccoli rabe for some recipes I am creating. I rarely ever shop there, unless I'm so famished from an afternoon of light browsing at West Elm. It's dangerous. As in, the kid in the very expensive candy store no self-control kind of dangerous. I shouldn't have gone hungry. Rather, I shouldn't have burned so many calories getting there. The hot-food bar is delicious and tempting with mashed potatoes and mac and cheese calling my name. The produce is beautifully presented, as I'm sure they have their employees individually polishing each tomato in the back room before it's displayed. I bought 3 pints of tomatoes cause I just couldn't decide on one variety. I bought Sebastian a full-fat Greek yogurt, cause if he could live on one thing alone, it would be that. I spent $25 on hot food from the food bar, because I always underestimate the amount of food I load into the to-go container. And, I almost paid $20 for two bars of orange-ginger handmade soap. Is that a lot to pay for handmade soap? I left the store a few hours later (how did I spend two hours in Whole Foods?) confusedly spewing the words gluten-free, artisan, raw and 100% organic in a hypnotic manner the whole walk home, until I broke the trance consuming a whole bag of all-dressed chips and a few PBR's in a sweaty mess on my back porch.

After my enthusiastic purchase of many tomatoes,  I decided to snack on the first pint while standing at my new kitchen island with some sliced aged cheddar and a 1/2 empty bottle of rose. Alright fine, there were chips as well. I used the second pint of cherry tomatoes in this delicious seared halloumi salad with fresh herbs, and the third is still sitting on the counter growing a colony of fruit flies. Send help.

The halloumi and cherry tomato salad was by far the best use. I choose a variety of tomatoes that were on the sweeter side, less acidic. I didn't want too many flavors to over complicate things, so I tossed them in a light olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper and let them rest for 10 minutes or so, to allow the juices to form. I preheat a pan with some butter and then added the halloumi while it was sizzling. I let the halloumi fry on each side until a nice golden color. I then plated the halloumi with the fresh tomatoes and their juice and topped with some fresh herbs from the garden. The salad was so simple - only a handful of ingredients - which is often my favorite kind. I love to celebrate and appreciate produce as is when it's in its freshest form - with a healthy serving of cheese, of course.


August 3, 2016

Chocolate Dipped Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies

Naturally, the first recipe I made when back in my kitchen after a few shorts weeks away was desert-related. If you know me, then you know I'll take any excuse to make an ice cream related desert, and the 50% off sale on all the chocolate related baking products at my grocery store was all the motivation I needed. Don't worry, there have been a few other healthy-ish recipes I've made as well. Mostly quick easy dinners, all of which are baby friendly. Nothing particularly noteworthy for the blog, though. I did make Sprouted Kitchen's turkey meatball's last Sunday, and they received a great deal of praise from Sebastian in the form of squeals and hand waves.

We've been taking things real slow around here the last week or two. Mostly to counterbalance the high-paced speed in which Sebastian is choosing to live at the moment. I've been spending my spare moments on the computer choosing tile, kitchen hardware, patio furniture, etc. Real mind-numbing tasks. The weather has been a little grey and gloomy, reminiscent of the fall days to come. I'm hoping for at least a few good weeks of summer left, so I can utilize this patio furniture I plan to purchase. I don't have a single canker sore in my mouth, which means that I probably haven't been eating enough fresh tomatoes, which is completely unacceptable. I do have my eye on this beautiful vegan Caprese salad, which should get me pointed in the right direction.

Despite the weather outside these last few days, summer is living strong at our house in the form of ice cream sandwiches! I am a firm believer in the positive effects ice cream can have on one's soul. For example, last night Sebastian refused to go to sleep until 11pm. Once I did manage to get him to sleep, I ate two three ice cream sandwiches and felt much better about things. Case in point.

For this recipe I wanted to change things up from my usual - chocolate chip cookie sandwich with vanilla ice cream. It's what I gravitate towards 9 out of 10 times at my local ice cream sandwich shop. I envisioned a soft chocolate sugar cookie paired with my favorite cookies and cream ice cream. To take things one step further, I decided to dip the cookie in warm chocolate and sprinkle with chopped nuts, which is kind of a risky maneuver, dipping cold ice cream into warm chocolate. In the end, it was a really good decision. The whole cookie, in my mind, is a classy grown-up version of something so fun and child-like. From the chopped hazelnuts to the dark chocolate, to the chocolate sugar cookie. It's such a fancy and indulgent treat. And completely acceptable to hide in the back of you fridge, just for you. Or is what I keep telling myself.


July 26, 2016

Ice Cream, Tacos, and Summer Beach Days

Forgive me for the silence around here. Life has been so full of excitement, come 8 pm, I plop down into bed and as soon as my head touches the pillow I am asleep. The last month has been hectic and crazy but in a good and exciting way. Our days have been filled with ice cream and tacos, beaches, lakes, hikes, visiting, napping, and eating. I've been trying to learn how to raise a busy child, while also trying to fit in my creative pursuits, my career, and trying to be a good wife. It all seems pretty overwhelming at the moment, but I am slowly trying to figure out a way to fit it all in.

We went back to Ontario for a couple of weeks for a wedding and to visit family and friends. We are lucky that both our families live within a few hours drive from each other. There was lots of visiting to be had. A pretty tight schedule to adhere to. Each day was planned, from the morning we woke to the time we went to sleep. Honestly, I feel like I now need a vacation from my vacation.

The weather was hot and humid, which most of you are probably experiencing as well. When the days were cool enough to spend at least a few hours outside, we went to the beach, hiked the Bruce Trail, the Niagara Escarpment, drank wine on the patio, and strolled for ice cream. Sebastian is now very active, which makes all of the activities above challenging. He is at the age where he is really focused on putting everything in his mouth, slamming doors, and pulling himself up onto unstable objects. Thus far, it's been the most terrifying stage.

The culinary highlights of our trip were - the Baja fish and avocado tacos from a new taco restaurant that opened up just a few miles from my parent's house. The rhubarb and sour porter from Oast House Brewery. The chocolate orange and frosted mint gelato from Gelato di Carlotta. The wood oven pizza from Pieza' Pizzeria. And of course, my favorite, the chicken shawarma from Colossus.

We are now back in Seattle, the weather is pleasant, my pants are tight, and I have a half-finished kitchen staring me in the face. I am excited to get back into the kitchen and start experimenting!


June 28, 2016

Broccoli Rabe Tater Tots

Have I told you guys about our little vacation in Victoria this past week? I wrote about my vacation plans a few weeks ago which included - eating a lot of ice cream, pizza, fish, beer, wine, and hiking - in that order. I am happy to admit that I ate a half-ton of ice cream, consumed enough fish and chips to satisfy me for a lifetime, and sampled all the local micro brews, twice. The weather was warm and summery, with a slight cool crisp in the air that made things ever so pleasant. We did all my favorite Victoria touristy things, including a trip to our favorite winery for brunch where I order a flight of champagne at 11am. I then, with a medium-strength buzz, impulse purchased two cases of wine.

Sebastian was a trooper on his first real trip, maintaining a good level of contentment while we subjected him to our 5-hour brewery tour, countless hours of shopping, and a good amount of time eating and drinking. This trip did allow me to learn a few things about Sebastian's travel style - as long as the day ends with a slice of pizza, he is as happy as a clam. He is content for much longer if we haul him around in the baby backpack versus the stroller. And as long as there are people for him to watch, it's almost better than bringing any toy.

Since returning home from Victoria, all I can think about are tater tots. I don't know why? Maybe something deep in my subconscious was triggered during our trip, I don't know. Growing up, we never had tater tots in the house. Occasionally my mom would buy those frozen hash browns, the ones that taste like McDonalds, but that was rare. It wasn't until my final year of high-school that I became obsessed. Occasionally, I would take the bus to my boyfriend's house after school. Being teenagers, lazy and unmotivated, we'd throw a pan of tater tots into the oven for 20 minutes, and then cover them in a generous amount of ketchup. It was probably one of the culinary high points of my youth. I had that brief love affair with tater tots and then went off to college and completely forgot about them.  It wasn't until my late twenties when I had the idea to create a tater-tot-nacho-platter, that I realized I could never part with them again.

I had always wondered what would happen if you added some sort of vegetable to the tot mix. If you make them from scratch would they taste better? Sometimes when you make a classic, something that's already done so right, at home in the privacy of your own kitchen, it can be a major fail. Luckily, this broccoli rabe tater tot recipe was the opposite. It was a complete win.

I was feeling an above-average level of confidence, so I decided to make some tater tots from scratch. I liked the idea of adding something green and healthy, something with a bold flavor. I opted for broccoli rabe because I really like the flavor and texture after a quick blanch and a saute in the frying pan with some salt and butter, and I thought the flavors would work so well. And with much excitement, this recipe was a huge success. The tots are savory and crispy with a delicious pop of broccoli rabe in each bite. You can make a batch ahead of time and freeze them for later snacking, or you can cook them all at once and watch as your husband devours them all in less than 10 minutes. They are amazing.

*This post was sponsored by Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep the Flourishing Foodie delicious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. For more broccoli rabe recipe ideas be sure to check out their website and Facebook page.