November 22, 2015

Maple Walnut Apple Crisp with Raisins

As I write this post, it's 11am on Sunday morning and I'm feeling incredible because for the first time ever, Sebastian slept 8 hours last night without a peep. I haven't felt this good since Jan 31, 2015, the last time I slept through the night. This morning I heard him fussing a bit, so I got up and looked at my phone, and it read 715am!!!! I nearly fell over from pure excitement. I feel SO good, words can't even explain. He's currently sleeping again, in the coffee shop, and I am sitting here relaxing, drinking a soy latte, eating a bran muffin, and wondering if this is going to be the new normal. WAKELESS NIGHTS!!! Sleep never felt so good, something I completely took for granted when it was just Brent and myself.

In other not-so-serious but at the time seemed really serious news, last week, I found a large lump on my dog on his left side near his rib cage. I spent the better part of two days in total panic mode, thinking the worst things imaginable until I brought him to the vet to get it biopsied, and it came back negative for the big CA. It is just a fatty deposit - common in labs, or for Ody's sake, half labs. If the week wasn't filled with enough drama, the next day I took Sebastian to the doctor's for his 2-month check-up and vaccinations, which ended in a full blown meltdown. The both of us. What I have learned from these two experiences is that it is much easier to distract my dog when getting a needle with ear rubs and milk bones. Less effective with Sebastian. After the doctors appointment we stopped by Brent's work for lunch, because these days I'm all about someone else cooking my meals. They have this amazing new salad bar with every ingredient imaginable which is awesome and intimidating. I ordered this hella big salad with grapes walnuts and blackberries, which was so good it's all I can think about. As well as the salad, I also ate this amazing slice of wood oven pizza with mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, and a bechamel sauce, which got me thinking, why havent I been putting bechamel sauce on my pizza? because seriously, like whoa.

Now that I have a baby, I have a new fondness for lunching. Gone are the days of slipping out the door at 830pm for late night tapas at the wine bar. Now I'm all about the lunch, and the thing about going out for lunch is there are no waits, no need for reservations, restaurants are less crowded, the lighting is bright and inviting, it's somewhat acceptable if your baby cries, and nobody ever complained about an early afternoon cocktail, am I right? This gives me plenty of time to be in bed by 830pm.

Did I mention that last week I was able to finally perfect my apple crisp while the baby was sleeping? Since the beginning of the summer I've been on a quest for the ultimate apple crisp, which to me means big juicy chunks of apples, a little tart a little sweet, slightly soft with a little crunch, bathed in a thick sweet syrupy liquid topped with a bittery, nutty crumble, but not too crumbly. I prefer my crumble with large chunkier pieces scattered throughout. I added a good serving of raisins to this crisp. Enough so that you get at least one or two with each bite. I also added maple syrup because all good things begin with maple syrup. I usually add sliced almonds to my crumble topping, but this time I decided to switch it up and add walnuts. They are nutty, earthy, and substantial, a perfect balance with the apples. I wanted a crisp recipe that can be acceptable to eat for breakfast, but also sweet enough to indulge with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a slice of aged cheddar for dessert, and guys, this is it!!!! My ultimate apple crisp. Look out Ina.

I'd like to take a quick moment to give a shout out to Polder's Old World Kitchen. They were kind enough to send me a few pieces from their dreamware collection - those two sweet little spoons pictured below. The craftsmanship in their products is impeccable. Their pieces are one of a kind, and they are by far one of my favorite shops for kitchen utensils. If you are looking for some Christmas gifts for that loved one in your life, I highly encourage you to check out their site for ideas.


November 15, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Salted Caramel and Candied Pecans

It's been far too long since I've given you guys a proper update on things around here. Let me tell you, it has been crazy. For the past three weeks, we've had a whole string of houseguests trying to get in as much snuggle time with Sebastian as possible. Brent's parents stayed for two weeks, and then immediately following my mom and sister arrived. This past week was officially the first time Sebastian and I have been home alone since his birth, 8 weeks ago. Things that I have learned this past week; Sebastian is unable to nap during the day without being in someone's arms. Cuddling to sleep is really all he's ever known, so you can see the challenges ahead. I am currently trying to work on getting him to nap in his crib, and lucky for us he's not a big crier, he mostly grunts and then when he's really upset he start making spooky ghost noises. It's adorable, and way less stressful than having to hear baby cries. Our current sleep schedule is non-existent, but we are also trying to work on this. This past week has been somewhat of a success, and last night he slept for 7 hours straight. I am learning that each day with a newborn is different, and what works one day may not work the next.

Sebastian loves to feed, but he is not very good at it. I guess it's just the warm comfort of my arms, but whenever he feeds, he falls asleep within 5 minutes, and then I put him in his crib and he wakes up 10 minutes later hungry. I've tried all of the tricks - changing him, pinching his feet, a cold cloth - but nothing seems to work. It makes for a very frustrating day. I have just started pumping a shit ton of breast milk, so when he's feeling extra sleepy I fill him up that way. Clearly he is getting enough nutrition because he is now 13 pounds!!! In baby terms, that is big.

These days, most of my time is spent breastfeeding and trying to get Sebastian to sleep, but last Wednesday I actually managed to make an apple crisp while he was bouncing in his chair and talking to the leaves outside - his favorite pastime. The highlights of my day are going to OrangeTheory in the morning (which is a very intense cross-fit type of workout), while Brent watches Sebastian for a couple of hours. After the class I stop by my favorite coffee shop on the walk home, grab a 12-ounce soy latte, and then stroll home in the best mood ever, despite the fact that I still can't feel my abs. When I return home, Sebastian is so happy to see me (mostly because I have the boobs) but the excitement and (very new) baby smiles melt my heart. After we feed, I take him upstairs and we fill up the tiny adorable baby bathtub. Sebastian loves the bath and being in the water, which makes me so happy. I am one of those mother's who is absolutely obsessed with baby clothes and most days Sebastian is better dressed than me. I have SO much fun picking out his outfits. Lately, I have unconsciously been dressing him in the same clothes (color and style) as myself. It is simultaneously adorable and frightening. Life with a tiny human is so rewarding and wonderful and I am absolutely in love. And that's basically it. Boring, I know.

Now enough about us, let's talk about this cheesecake. I know you're probably thinking, how the shit has she pulled off making a cheesecake with a tiny little human around? Don't those things take time? And the truth is, I made this cheesecake well before he was born. And I probably won't get around to making another until he's enrolled in school, but hey, that's life.

If you were to ask me what my favorite pie is - hands down, it's pumpkin. If you were to ask me what my favorite dessert is - I would probably teeter between cheesecake and pie. Naturally, at this time of year, combining these two desserts just makes sense. It also helps that Brent LOVES pumpkin cheesecake, so he will usually eat a good portion, a nice change from our usual roles - I eat the whole thing while he has only one slice.

I started dabbling in the pumpkin cheesecake department a few years back. I began by sampling various frozen varieties from the grocery store, trying a slice at the Cheesecake Factory, and I think I've ordered a few slices here and there from various restaurants. I've come to the conclusion that homemade cheesecake is way better than anything you can find in the store. This cheesecake recipe is one thatI have been making for a while. I love it so much that I really haven't thought of trying anything else. The consistency is more of a creamy pumpkin pie than your typical New York style cheesecake. The crust is made up of graham cracker crumbs, butter, and sugar. The crust is sweet and crisp, and you could argue that it may be the best part! I like to cover the cheesecake in a salted caramel sauce because the flavor of pumpkin and caramel pairs so well together. The crunchy candied pecans add texture and depth to an otherwise uniformly creamy and smooth desert. The whipped cream is like the icing on the cake. It enhances the flavors from the brown sugar, cinnamon, and spices. I made this cheesecake for Brent's birthday on Sept 4. I have been waiting awhile to share it with you guys since, and I am so grateful that Brent is at home watching Sebastian while I sit here in the coffee shop eating a croissant and sipping on a soy latte and typing up this post. Have I mentioned how much I love him?

Thanks to the folks over at Kraft for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out the Kraft Product Locator to find ingredients near you.


November 9, 2015

Vegetarian Stuffing with Broccoli Rabe

Stuffing seems to be one of the most contentious dishes on the Thanksgiving lineup. Over the years, I've learned that everyone has their own opinions on how to make the perfect stuffing, and even in my own home my parents each had their own way to make stuffing. My mom liked to take the easy route and use the pre-packaged seasonings from the box. My dad liked to make his with a generous portion of onions and butter. To make things fair, they would usually make two batches - one they would stuff the turkey and one they would cook on the side.

As a child, my parents put on quite a Thanksgiving spread. We had the traditional turkey with all the fixings. Dessert followed, even though everyone was always way too full to think about it. With enough determination we would all cram a slice of pumpkin pie into our mouths and then spend the rest of the evening in a food coma on the couch. I was very meticulous about my Thanksgiving plate. I would start off the meal by adding a few slices of turkey, followed with a giant mountain type structure of mashed potatoes overflowing with gravy. I'd add a few brussel sprouts to the top for greenery, and a dinner roll or two to mop up the extra gravy. Stuffing was never really my thing, as I'd always been an enthusiastic hater of onions.

The first year Brent and I moved to Seattle, we decided to host a Thanksgiving dinner at our apartment with our friends. I was in charge of preparing the Tofurkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy, and I delegated out the stuffing task to a friend. You could imagine the excitement I had when I learned that stuffing could be made with delicious things like cornbread, vegetarian sausage, mushrooms, and cheese. For the first time ever, I was reaching for the stuffing before anything else. His recipe opened up my eyes to a whole new world of Thanksgiving possibilities. Now, stuffing is my favorite Thanksgiving dish to prepare. Brent also really likes making stuffing, so we usually combine forces and make it together.

This year we decided to experiment with a new recipe, one that incorporates the bright leafy green - broccoli rabe! Broccoli rabe has a bitter flavor that works really well with the earthy and savory flavors of stuffing. This stuffing is rich and flavorful, moist yet crunchy on the top. A new favorite around our house.

A big thanks to the folks over at Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own. For more broccoli rabe recipe ideas be sure to check out their website and Facebook page.


October 22, 2015

Salted Caramel Chocolate Doughnuts with Skor Bits

Happy Fall guys! I feel like it was just yesterday that I was sitting around my house in nothing but a bra and underwear cursing the hot weather, my swollen feet, my gigantic stomach, and dreaming about ALL OF THE ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES. The weather in Seattle is now cool, the leaves are falling off the trees, Denver is currently getting dumped with snow which hopefully means that we will be getting lots of snow, and therefore, the best year for skiing yet. I am absolutely loving all of it, and the best thing ever - I have a baby! I am in such a happy daze, the fact that I still need to lose 10 lbs to get back into my pre-pregnancy pants, and the ones that do fit I need to take off half-way through the day doesn't even phase me. I'm not even cursing the huge pile of leaves all over our lawn that I will somehow and someday have to try and find the time to rake up before it starts to rain and our backyard becomes a giant slimy compost pile, which would normally drive me absolutely crazy. Having a tiny baby in the house is simultaneously the most wonderful thing ever, and the most stressful thing ever. He is so cute and cuddly and squeaky, and I love just lying around the house staring into his eyes, but I often find myself dreaming about the things that I used to get done in a day - email, shower, socialising with adults. It now takes my like 5 days to put together a blog post, 4 days to do the laundry, and 2 weeks to clean the kitchen. I swear, this last month has just flown by, and I'm not even really sure what happened.

Sebastian is a pretty chill baby unless he has gas, which is ALL THE TIME. When he's sleeping, he is so peaceful, but when he is awake it seems like he has hella gas. He cries and grunts and flexes his back and it is so sad, and I want to do everything to help him, but the doctor says - that's the way it goes.

My in-laws arrived last Saturday, which has been an absolute blessing, and I am probably going to cry when they leave. Just last week the paediatrician told me that a good ratio for newborns is 4 adults to 1 baby and I completely agree. Since they arrived I have had time to sleep and clean and cook! It's nice having people around to just hold the baby while I do things, because when I am not holding him in my arms I am freaking out that he is going to spontaneously combust or something and I won't be there to save him. Night time is the worst. In the beginning, Brent and I both laid awake at night freaking out that the baby was not breathing or that he was going to die from SIDS and it would be the worst thing ever. That has past, only because we are now so exhausted we pass out into a coma every night.

I have finally started this whole pumping my breast milk thing in the hopes that I can get a little freedom, and some consecutive hours of sleep at night, but it turns out that if I don't feed him every 3 hours my boobs fill up with so much milk they feel like they are going to explode (sorry tmi). Breastfeeding has now become my full-time job.

Despite the lack of sleep and the boob issues, everything around here is pretty fantastic. As my mom would say, I may be acting somewhat overly dramatic about things, because most days Sebastian sleeps all day, we are able to bring him out and about to restaurants and bars, and I usually get 8 - 9 hours sleep a night (although it is interrupted). But let me tell you, the days that everything does go to shit, those days are real.

Since my in-laws arrived, I have taken the opportunity to create as many recipes as I can before they leave. It's a win-win situation for all of us - I have people to eat all of my creations (which no one seems to be complaining about), they get to hold they baby and eat delicious food. The first recipe that I made for them is a chocolatey sweet decadent one, because since I started breastfeeding my appetite has become fierce and my craving for chocolate is out-of-control.

I used a doughnut pan to make them instead of deep frying, because although I currently have some time to cook, I really don't feel like cleaning up splattered grease all over the kitchen. Baking doughnuts is easy and clean.

This doughnut recipe is one that I adapted, ever so slightly, from Tracy Benjamin from the blog Shutterbean. I've made it a few times and it's one of my favourite baked doughnut recipes out there. The salted caramel glaze is rich and buttery and a perfect accompaniment. The crunchy Skor bits were a bit of an afterthought and definitely not needed, but absolutely worth it. It's a real shame that I only made six, because they were all gone before I could blink and eye.



October 14, 2015

Apple Cinnamon French Toast Casserole with a Cream Cheese icing

Now that the summer is slowly coming to an end, and we find ourselves heading into the cooler season of fall, thoughts of berries, stone fruit, and watermelon are in the distant past. The produce aisles are beginning to fill up with rows of apples, so many different varieties. During this time of year, I love taking a trip to one of the many apple orchards that we have here in Washington and seeing what new varieties each orchard has to offer. The smell of apples baking in cinnamon and brown sugar is one that stirs up so many emotions and memories from my childhood. The first time I made an apple pie with my mother. The first time Brent and I perfected the cinnamon roll. I wish I could bottle up that aroma and wear it as a perfume. On days where I'm feeling a bit down, I'll fry up some apples, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon and eat them warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It is the absolute comfort food.

Now that the summer holidays are tapering to an end, and life has gotten just a bit more hectic, I find that having casseroles on hand to heat up for left-overs can really come in handy when I'm in need of some good homemade food.

I got the idea to make this French toast casserole for a Sunday brunch with friends. I really wanted to make french toast, but it's a little tricky when you're at someone's house, and you don't really want to dirty their dishes or rummage around their cupboards. I thought that if I prepared the French toast as a casserole, baked with cinnamon, brown sugar, apples, and pecans beforehand, I could save some time the morning of.

The casserole turned out perfect. It was the first time I had made something like it, and I was so pleased with the results. I picked up a fresh loaf of brioche bread from the market, which smelled oh so incredible. I think the key to a good French toast is having a really good loaf of brioche. If you don't have access, you could always use a loaf of white bread, but the results just won't be the same. The additional of the apples and pecans added a sweet flavor that really enhanced the dish, and topping it off with a cream cheese icing was definitely the right thing to do. It was such a hit at the brunch, everyone wanted the recipe. I can't wait to make it again.

Thanks to the folks over at Kraft for sponsoring this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Be sure to check out the Kraft Product Locator to find ingredients near you.