April 27, 2016

Tahini Citrus Salad with White Beans and Avocado

Last week, I think I told you guys that I was going to look into hiring someone to paint the trim in our house? Soooooo.... I called up this guy who used to live in the basement of a friend's house, who just so happened to paint her house for $30/hr cash, under the table. I thought this was going to be a perfect option to get the house painted at a reasonable price, and not have to go through one of those large painting companies that charge waaayyyyy too much, cause they can. It turns out that that this guy no longer runs a solo operation, employs???? a crew of 4 people, is booked solid until June but reassures me he can fit in my project for a low low price of $9800. Does this seem absolutely crazy to you? There are so many other things that I would rather do with $9800, like travel, buy a hot tub, buy a horse, hire a dog walker, buy a moped, go to Morocco. So, if you need me, I'll be the one on the ladder, painting all the trim in the house, probably for the next 10 years.

Everything in my life has been at a standstill since last Friday when I got sick. I woke up with a sore throat, cursed that mother f#%^#%^ who got me sick, and have been crying in bed for the last five days. Crying because I've been unable to call in sick for work, aka raising Sebastian - the full-time job that's 24/7. Sebastian started to get sick a few days ago which sucks, but is also a blessing in disguise, cause he's been all sleepy sleepy all day long. Last Sunday night I put him to sleep at 7pm and he woke the next morning at 8:45 am and I was all like 'what just happened?' Why do I feel so weird? Oh, is this what feeling rested is like? And then I started reflecting on the last 7 months and came to the realization that I have been operating at a low-level sleep deprived borderline coma since Sept 19, 2016, which is why I keep getting sick. But, on a positive note, Sebastian has slept through the night for the last three nights and I am crossing my fingers that this is the way of the future. update - late last night he woke at 3am for a feeding. wha wha.

The kitchen remodel has begun!!! Brent started building the kitchen island last weekend, and it is coming along nicely. Once the island is build, we can tear-out our current island, and then sink, faucet, counters, and tile. I was thinking about doing a big kitchen post in the future, sharing before and after photos. So, stay tuned for that.

For the last five days, I've had no energy to cook. It's been all take-out pizza and Pad Thai around here. I managed to drag my ass to Home Depot on Saturday which was a bad idea because going to Home Depot is always a bad idea, am I right? Yesterday I washed my hair in what seemed like forever, so I'm taking that as an accomplishment. Also, I managed to gather enough ingredients to make this big ass salad, because pizza and Pad Thai for the last 5 days has left me feeling a little nutrient deprived and sluggish. Luckily this salad is loaded with tons of healthy ingredients - avocado, yellow peppers, beans, kale, green onions, tahini! I'm hoping it will counteract the fro-yo that I ate for lunch on Monday and the ice cream sandwich I ate for dinner yesterday?


April 19, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower, Snap Pea, and Avocado Pasta with a Walnut Basil Pesto

Here is Seattle, we've skipped Spring and jumped right into Summer. Yesterday was 88ºF and today it is predicted to be the same. I either need to invest in an air conditioner or a pool, cause I'm not sure I'll survive another one of these unbearably hot summers with our small window fan and kiddie pool.

The kitchen renovation is currently at a stop while we finish the bathroom remodel. We decided that for our Brent's sanity it probably best to tackle one major project at a time. In the bathroom, we've got a toilet installed, and a sink on its way. A faucet that needs to be returned cause I changed my mind yet again. It is pretty exciting, though, cause it's been two years since we started and I think the end is in sight. Lessons learned - home renovations are time-consuming and stressful. Which is why I have decided to hire someone to paint the trim in our house. And why I should probably hire someone to build our kitchen island. And why I should probably just take it down a notch with the whole DIY business.

Have I mentioned that I'm now on snapchat? Now that I have come to terms with the sound of my own voice I am really digging it. Snapchat is fun and silly and messy and I love it. If you want to follow me my username is heatheralanna.

Last month, early one Sunday morning, I left the house on my way to the gym and I ran into Macklemore. He was walking towards me carrying his daughter in a baby backpack, eating a muffin, drinking a coffee. At first, I had no idea it was him, so as we passed on the street I gave him a friendly nod and a 'hey, what's up', not even realizing until I hit the next block that indeed that was Macklemore. After a little investigation, I have learned that he does, in fact, live a few blocks from my house. Which is awesome, but also annoying, cause now every time I leave my house I second guess my outfit, my hair, do I have baby puke on my shoulder????? cause today might be the day that I run into Macklemore again.

I just signed up for HBO now so I can binge watch the final season of Girls. Last night I watched the first 5 episodes, and I feel like this season is the best one yet. Speaking of binge-watching tv, are you guys pumped for Gilmore Girls? I cannot wait.

For those of us who live in Seattle, and have leaped right into summer, we can refer to this pasta as a farewell to spring, but for those of you who live in other parts of the world where the snow has finally melted and the flowers are starting to pop up through the soil, I present you with a fresh spring-y salad of roasted cauliflower, snap peas, and avocado. Do you ever get on kick where you make something so delicious you want to eat it for every meal until you get completely sick of it? Welcome to my life, and to this pasta. Currently, I can't get enough, and all I want to eat is this pasta. The pesto is fragrant and earthy. Rich and creamy. The cauliflower is salty, crunchy, caramelized and delicious. The snap peas fresh and crunchy. This whole combination is just a really intense explosion of flavors. Yesterday for lunch, I was snacking on a deconstructed version of this meal, dipping the cauliflower and snap peas into the pesto, and I was just as pleased with the results.


April 6, 2016

Chocolate, Raspberry, and Hazelnut, Yogurt Parfaits

Have I told you guys that I have decided to paint all of the trim in our house, amongst all of the other projects currently underway. I know, it's crazy. I just can't, and I won't deal with the off-white, dirty, yellow/pink trim anymore. I've started in the living room. Each day when Sebastian goes down for a nap, I spend the 3 or so hours, frantically taping, sanding, priming, and then painting the trim. It is stressful. I don't really want to do it. But the results are looking sooooo good, which is enough to keep me going. Until I have to paint the upstairs, and then I may hire someone.

I am being a bit frantic about these projects (including the kitchen renovation) because I am pretty sure that Sebastian is going to crawl soon. And once that happens, it just doesn't seem feasible to have my ladder and paint cans scattered around the house. I feel like I'm on the mad dash to get everything done and tidied up around here before I have to baby-proof the house, something that I'm not particularly thrilled about. Right now, it is no nice when I put him down, and I know that he won't go far. I am definitely not mentally prepared for this whole mobility thing. Can't he just stay a tiny baby forever????

Speaking of having a baby, anyone know of a reliable babysitter in the Seattle area? Last weekend, we attended a friends wedding, the rehearsal dinner on Friday, and a brunch on Sunday with Sebastian in tow. He has lost the ability to nap during all the hustle and bustle (life is just too exciting right now), which means that this week I have one over-tired, borderline delusional little baby. It has finally set in that if I want to have a life, apart from Sebastian (late night tacos and margaritas, holah), I need a babysitter. And how do you go about hiring a babysitter? Do you interview them? Facebook stalk them beforehand? Is it inappropriate to set up a nanny cam?

The weather in Seattle these past few days has been unreal. The sunny warm days is getting me really excited for summer, and days at the beach, and I'm all like, ahhhhh bikini season, I need to get this post-baby tummy in tip-top shape. Which means I've added an extra day to my weekly workout sesh's. Now, more than ever, I really need to focus on my diet. I know that I've mentioned my pre-workout snack (oatmeal), but I'm not sure that I've ever talked about my post-workout snack, high protein Greek yogurt with nuts and berries!!! Lately, I've become completely obsessed with Chobani Flip Yogurt - especially the chocolate haze craze, which got my thinking (for all those people who don't have access to Chobani), why not make a version of my own chocolate yogurt, for my post workout fuel.

To begin, I simply melted some semi-sweet chocolate and mixed it into some honey-flavored Greek yogurt. I then added some cocoa powder, and finely chopped chocolate pieces. I topped the yogurt with hazelnuts and raspberries, which are pretty much my favorite yogurt additions. Guys, this yogurt parfait is incredible. It reminds me of a healthier version of chocolate ice cream. Which got me thinking that this could be my healthy substitution for chocolate ice cream (which is one of my weaknesses). It's got all the chocolate flavor of ice cream, the mouthfeel of a silky mousse, with half the calories and fat. Funny, I was intending to create a post-workout high protein snack, but I think what I really stumbled upon, is a super healthy high protein low-calorie dessert alternative, which in some ways, is even better.


March 25, 2016

Valencian Paella

I remember the look on my mothers face when I told her I was buying a one-way plane ticket to England. Did I have anywhere to stay? What was I going to do there? How would I find work? I didn't have any answers to these questions, and deep down inside I was terrified (although I would have never admitted it at the time). I knew it was something that I needed to do.

A year prior I had packed everything I owned into a truck and drove to London Ontario, where I enrolled in University. I had just ended a serious relationship and it was the first time in years that I had been alone. It was during that first summer at school that I told myself I needed to go out into the world and experience it on my own. No boyfriend, no friends, no family. Just me and a backpack. I was in desperate need to let go of all my fears and reservations and just go (I had also been dealing with some serious anxiety). My mother was terrified, so she arranged my father's cousin's wife brother to pick me up at the airport. Once I arrived, rushing with adrenaline, he was waiting in the airport with a sign that said my name. It was perfect. He brought me to his flat in London, where I spent the next few days eating nothing but fish and chips. By choice. As cushy as it was, I was eager to find work and meet up with some people my own age. I found an ad in the local paper looking for wait staff at the Skiddaw Hotel in Keswick- meals and accommodation provided. I rang them up and they hired me on the spot. I spent the next three months living in the Lake District and having the time of my life.

At the end of the summer, I decided to take a month and travel through Spain before returning home. I flew from New Castle to Barcelona, without any plans or anywhere to stay. I thought I would just wing it, that strategy had worked for me so far. Unfortunately, Spain is bananas during the month of August, and there was absolutely no hostels with any availability for 2 weeks. I wasn't going to spend every penny I earned that summer on swanky accommodations, so I took a bus to a campground outside of the city and set up my tent for the night to regroup. Seriously, I can't believe I used to backpack with a tent. And I can't believe how many times I actually used it. The next day I rented a car, which was surprisingly cheap, and I drove to the Pyrenees. I spent the next 2-weeks hiking across the Pyrenees solo. Each night, I either found a campground or slept in my car, woke the next morning to complete another 9-hour hike. I survived off of nothing but boxed sangria, canned tuna, and chocolate croissants. I spoke to a handful of people for the whole two weeks, and by the end, found myself to be a pretty good companion. I dealt with some demons that had been lingering and finally excepted that it was ok to be alone. It was one of the most exhilarating and freeing experiences of my life. Despite that, by the time I had made my way back to Barcelona, I was starving for human interaction and food. Literally, I was emaciated.

I found a fun group of people at the hostel, and stuck to them like a jellyfish. Each night would begin around 8pm, when we would head to one of the many amazing restaurants in Barcelona to share pitchers of sangria and plates of paella. We would dance all night long, in the bars, on the streets, on the beach. Someone in our group had some inside connections with some locals, and each night we would take the train to some remote area of the city, and as we were walking down the alley, we would turn a corner and the biggest street party would appear. Locals serving sangria and paella from their front doors.

I have such a fond association with paella. It brings back so many memories of that summer abroad. That's why I was super excited when the Culinary Collective approached me to see if I was interested in participating in their virtual paella party this month, with National Paella Day being March 27th! Since my time in Barcelona, I've only had paella a few times but never attempted to make it at home, mostly because I thought it was a very labour intensive dish, and I don't own a paella pan.

The Culinary Collective was kind enough to send me one of their paella kits to help me with the process. The paella kit included 1) Matiz Paella Rice, which is a traditional short grain rice from the region of Valencia in Spain, 2) Aneto Paella Base, which is an all-natural broth made from fresh whole vegetables, meats and saffron that has been slow-cooked for hours, producing a rich and flavorful base for paellas and stews, 3) Matiz Organic Piquillo Peppers, which are grown and roasted in the area in Spain where piquillos originated, and 4) a paella pan of course. Since receiving this kit, I've become a little obsessed with making paella. It is such a fun meal for a small group of people or for a party. I'm thinking about throwing a few backyard parties this summer, and cooking up a big pan of paella for my friends, and of course, a few pitchers of sangria to go with.

The Culinary Collective has been kind enough to give away one Paella Kit to a lucky reader. All you have to do is:

1. Comment below and tell me your favorite experience with paella.

2. (2 additional entries) Become of fan of the Matiz and Aneto facebook pages.

The winner will be announced 3/30/16.

Contest now closed.

The winner of the paella kit is Miruska Milanovic. "Last May my sister and I took my dad to Spain for his 73rd birthday. He is a huge fan of flamenco so we thought it would be very fitting to go there for 3 weeks, enjoy great food and music. Of course, paella had to be part of the celebration. We travelled to Barcelona, Seville, Granada and Madrid, with additional day trips from each city. We tried paella in every one of these cities as it's a great sharing dish. We ate our weight in paella. Great memories. My dad loved that trip."

I'd like to thank Culinary Collective for sponsoring this post. For more Spanish recipes visit www.culinarycollective.com If you would like to purchase a paella kit, they are available online at www.marxpantry.com


March 16, 2016

Dark Chocolate Banana Rye Muffins

Life is moving at lightning speed these days. I'm not sure if it's the lack of sleep, or that my days are so full, and my life so fulfilled, I don't even notice what day of the week it is anymore. I seem to be moving through the months with such a feeling of presence and gratefulness, feelings that I have longed for for years.

Life update. Have I mentioned that our kitchen remodel begins in a couple of weeks? I am trying to prepare for this experience as much as possible, which is sort of similar to preparing for a new baby. Cooking and freezing as much foods as possible. Daily meditative and yoga sessions to reduce stress. I am simultaneously excited, but also terrified at the thought of no kitchen for a whole month. Will I was my dishes in the laundry room sink or scrub them in a bucket outside? Will I rely solely on take-out and convenience foods after we get through the freezer foods, or will I live off of nothing but cereal? Despite the trepidation towards the whole process, I'm pretty happy to get things moving, cause I'm not sure I can spend any more time looking at faucets and sinks. Unlacquered versus lacquered. Fireclay versus cast iron.

- In the entertainment department, I just binge-watched Love on Netflix. Have you guys seen it? The first few episodes had me hiding my face in my hands due to sheer awkwardness, but despite that, I became hooked pretty fast.
- I've been putting it off, but I'm finally about to start Friday Night Lights. I know that there are some die-hard fans out there, and based on recommendations from multiple people, and my love for Connie Britton, I pretty sure it is going to be epic.
- Last weekend I spent a whole 2-days away from Sebastian for the first time. I planned a bachelorette party for one of my friends in the most amazingly swanky mini resort in the mountains with the most incredible view. We ate good food, spent hours in the hot tub, drank probably too much wine, and slept. Oh, the sleep I had.

Last week, after spending a few days weeding through the gardens in the front of the house, you are now able to see the bright green new growth peeking up through the soil, and not a jungle of weeds. And even though I am painting an image of perfectly manicured gardens, I'm not even going to begin to tell you about the gardens in the backyard, and all the dog poop I am in total denial about. Guys, we were walking a fine line between being a respectable family and total trash.

If you follow me on snapchat (heatheralanna), you probably know that I slogged up a mountain a few weeks ago with Sebastian strapped to my front. It was Sebastian's first experience in the mountains, and my first experience hiking up a mountain with 20 pound baby strapped to my chest. After the hike, I was so hungry that I came close to eating my weight in french fries. Also, snapchat. I am hooked. It's super fun and low key and silly. My snaps are mostly about Sebastian and food, which really isn't that exciting. The only things that bums me out about snapchat is hearing the sound of my own voice. Ugh, so weird.

Speaking of Sebastian. He is now rolling over all the time. Back to front, and front to back. It's a nice step in the right direction, cause for a few short weeks when he couldn't roll from front to back, he would wake me up all hours of the night, in a shear panic that he was stuck. He is laughing all the time, so much so, that I'll often here him laughing manically to himself in the crib. What is he laughing at?????

He is now 6 months old, and I've started him on solid foods. This new stage of the game is totally my jam. I've been introducing a whole variety of fruits and vegetables, some he likes, some he hates. One thing is for certain, that boy loves his avocados. Cue proud mama fist bump.

A few weeks ago I bought a few pounds of bananas, cause for some reason I thought Sebastian was going to like them a little more than he actually does. I am now left with a freezer full of ripe bananas, so much so, that when I open the door, bananas literally come flying at me. What a better way to get through a freezer full of bananas than to make banana related baked goods. I actually made a pretty good dent in the banana supply, trialing this recipe a few times last week. I wanted to get it perfect - the right amount of banana flavor, moist but not too soggy, chocolately without being over-powering. I was going for a bit of a sour note with this recipe, which is why I opted for the rye flour, dutched cocoa, and buttermilk. After a few trial and errors, the recipe came out just perfect. I froze most of them, replacing the space in the freezer that was taken up by bananas. It was the only way that I wasn't going to eat them all at once.