September 23, 2016

Strawberry Dream Cake for Sebastian's First Birthday

This past Monday Sebastian turned 1! I can't believe a year has past already. It's hard to imagine that a year ago I was 45 pounds heavier, huffing and puffing up every flight of stairs, and praying someone would just take the baby out of me. Pregnancy was not my most glamorous time. I had all the typical ailments plus a few weird ones I had gained along the way. Plus, abstaining from alcohol for 10 months had me feeling all the rage. Especially during the hottest summer in Seattle's history. I remember sitting up at night, mostly due to insomnia, trying to imagine what my life would be like with a baby. In retrospect, trying to imagine what your life will be like with a baby is impossible, because babies come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments, and really, you just have to cross your fingers that you get a calm relaxed one that rarely cries. Sebastian and I have come along way since the early days where he was such a tiny little thing, curled up in my arms barely making a peep. It all seems but a fleeting memory now. People tell you how fast the first year goes, but when you're in the thick of it, up all hours of the night, a 24-hour hour milking machine, you're thinking to yourself, can this phase go any faster? And then your baby turns one, and they start teething and being fussy all the time and throwing food all over the floor and you think to yourself, gosh I miss those early days. In all seriousness though, I love all of the stages. Even though we are going through a tough one right now, it's magical to see Sebastian turn into a little person. He has such a fiery and feisty personality and I love him so.

For Sebastian's first birthday, I decided to throw him me a party to celebrate surviving our first year together. In true Heather form, I ended up inviting more people than I had anticipated, prepared more food than I wanted to, and stressed just slightly more than a healthy person should. I spent 2 days planning for the party - soaking chickpeas for Ottolenghi's hummus, peeling vegetables, baking cakes, cleaning, and then more cleaning. The day of the party, the clouds parted, and the sun shone, and we were able to make use of our new patio furniture! We fired up the BBQ and grilled maple glazed salmon. I prepared two salads - my signature black bean and a pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and basil. I had hummus and pitas, guacamole and chips. Two cheese platters that would make your heart sing. I was so busy and in such a state of panic I accidentally forgot to photograph anything, except the cake. Which, really, is the most important part anyways.

Shall we talk about this cake? I made a four-layer classic white cake using the America's Test Kitchen's recipe and a strawberry buttercream frosting from I Am Baker. I doubled the classic white cake recipe, and quadrupled the buttercream recipe (disclaimer: a lot of butter was killed in the making of these recipes). I made the cake the night before, wrapped each layer in Saran wrap, and set them on top of each other to flatten out. The next day, I prepared the buttercream frosting in two batches. I spread a generous layer of frosting in between each cake. I then covered the cake in a crumb coat, and then finished it off using this piping technique with a Wilton 1M tip. I bought a few macarons from the local bakery and placed them on top! The cake was a hit - especially with Sebastian. It was so fun to see his eyes light up as we sang happy birthday to him - all 35 of us.

September 20, 2016

Broccoli Rabe and Maple Glazed Salmon Bibimbap

I think I am finally ready to say goodbye to summer. It might be because the leaves have aggressively started to fall off the trees or it may be because I miss my cozy sweaters and comfy flannel. Either way, I am now ready to embrace Fall with wide open arms. My Fall-inspired agenda for the next month includes 1) a hay wagon ride with Sebastian, 2) an obligatory photo of him in a pumpkin patch, 3) a 2-hour drive to the apple orchard where I will take more photos of Sebastian, and 4) intense planning for his first Halloween costume. That should keep us busy. Oh, and the 2000 tons of leaves that I will have to rake.

This year, I've told myself that I am going to spice up my Fall/Winter recipe collection. I'm not usually a huge fan of hearty dishes - stews, soups, casseroles etc. I'm more of a summer gal - fresh produce, salads, crisp, cold foods, but Brent, on the other hand, lives for hot meals, so it's fun trying to create dishes for him that I know he will love.
Because of my general (meh) attitude towards hearty warm dishes, I usually only stick to a few that I really love. Let's see, we've got lasagna, chili, veggie pot pies, and a few different soups, but that's pretty much it. I had an idea to try and create a dish that would satisfy Brent's need for warm and savory, but with a touch of fresh veggies and crunch to satisfy my craving. After a bit of research, I narrowed in on a Korean rice dish, Bibimbap - which literally translates to 'mixed rice' in Korean.

Bibimbap is probably one of the most well known Korean dishes. There are many variations of the dish, but I prefer mine with marinated salmon and veggies. To this dish, I added some steamed then fried broccoli rabe in soy sauce and olive oil and then sprinkled with sesame seeds, some fresh carrots, red pepper, avocado and green onions for garnish. I love this dish for its savory comforting components and also because it's so healthy.

*This post was sponsored by Andy Boy Broccoli Rabe. Thanks 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.


September 14, 2016

Savory Corn and Cheddar Waffles with Avocado

Did you eat avocados when you were young? Do you remember when you first tried an avocado? I can't remember the exact time I saw my first avocado in the grocery store, but I'm pretty sure it was when I was an angsty teen, which probably means I passed right by them not even noticing, making a b-line for the junk food aisle.

The first time I had guacamole was in College, I remember that clearly. How could I not? The fact that I can't remember avocados, though, could be because I grew up in a small town in Southern Ontario where spending a Friday evening at Boston Pizza was the highlight. Or it could be because I am from an era where the internet did not exist, kale was a foreign concept, and the term organic was solely used to describe molecules, in other words, ages ago. Just wait until I try to explain that one to Sebastian. "Sebastian, when I was young we didn't have cell phones or the internet. Not even a computer. When I had an assignment or a paper due, I would use something called an Encyclopedia. Guacamole and chips. Forget about it. We were all like - pass me the Ruffles and onion dip."

Seriously, though, I am soooo happy that avocados now exist in my life. They are affordable and easily accessible. They are a unique, nutrient-dense, plant-based food that provides a good source of fiber and folate and contain naturally good monounsaturated fats. I could go on for hours about the many reasons why I love avocados, which is why I was so excited when the Hass avocado board reached out to collaborate on this post. I was like YES - where do I sign?

Being a dietitian, a previous pediatric dietitian, and now a mama, I fully understand the importance of providing a high fat, nutrient dense, and low sugar diet for Sebastian. Up until he was 6 months old, I was certain that he was getting everything he needed from my breastmilk (with the exclusion if Vitamin D). Also because I was eating an avocado a day!!! But then when he turned 6 months and I started him on solid foods, I was less sure. In the early stages, one of the first foods I offered was avocado, because of it's soft and smooth texture - which is perfect for creamy, lumpy, pureed or mashed foods. The avocado's soft, neutrally flavored and nutrient-rich properties make it a desirable first food, and the fact that it is one of the best complementary and/or transitional foods available is a bonus. Plus, avocados are higher in key developmental nutrients than other fruits. This gave me that extra reassurance that I needed to know that I was doing him good. So my goal of serving him as much avocado as I could, was well justified. Funny story, this almost backfired in my face when there was a stretch of 3 weeks where all he would eat was avocado. Anyways, to this day, they are still one of his favorite foods - high fives!

When offering Sebastian avocado, I used to chop it up into small pieces or turn it into guacamole. Now that his flavor and texture profile have expanded, I like to serve it as a side or topping to other dishes. Right now, his favorite foods are breakfast foods - pancakes, scrambled eggs, huevos rancheros, breakfast tacos etc. What he is especially into are these savory corn and cheddar waffles. They are fun and kid friendly, but I also really like eating them myself, so it's a win-win for all of us. I usually make a large batch and then store them in the fridge and reheat over the course of a few days.

* This post was created in partner with the Hass Avocado Board. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep the Flourishing Foodie delicious. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own. If you're looking for some more fun and kid friendly avocado recipes, be sure to check out the following link.


September 7, 2016

Tomato and Cheddar Tart with a Savory Parmesan Crust

Pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks, and here I am posting a summery tomato tart recipe. I think I'm in denial that summer is almost over, or rather, I'm convinced that I haven't eaten nearly enough tomatoes this season. So until the leaves have completely fallen off the trees and my basil plant is dead, I am going to live this season out to the fullest. In all seriousness, though, I have a pumpkin recipe coming next week. I wouldn't do that to you guys.

So, for one last summer hurrah, I bought some end of the season heirloom tomatoes and a tub of salted caramel gelato - for good measures. The tomatoes had been sitting on the counter for a couple of days, destined to turn into a pile of mush. The gelato, on the other hand, completely gone. I was going to use the tomatoes in a scramble, but then we went out for brunch. I was going to use them for TLT's (tempeh lettuce tomato) sandwiches, but then we decided to go to the state fair where I ate so much fair food that I couldn't even stomach another bite.

Last night, after a long day spent in the kitchen, fixing our crooked tile backsplash and our janky outlets, we went for a pre-dinner walk where I dreamed up a recipe for this tomato and cheddar tart. It's more of a quiche rather, but I like to call it a tart because I think the word 'quiche' sometimes throws people off. I've been doing a lot of experimenting lately with egg tarts - some for work, the rest for my own personal enjoyment. I've narrowed in on a crust that I find to be a perfect vessel for any savory pie. I add a generous handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese which transforms the crust into something more reminiscent of a cheddar croissant. I, of course, add a generous portion of sharp cheddar to the base of the tart before I add the eggs. A thick layer of the juiciest tomatoes on top with a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper completes this dish. I'm really fond of tomato tarts. The combination of the acidity from the tomatoes and the salty savoriness from the eggs, cheese, and crust is something incredible.


September 1, 2016

Smoked Salmon Pasta with Basil Pesto and Grilled Corn

I just celebrated my 38th birthday last weekend in a manner that is totally appropriate for my mood these days. On Sunday, Sebastian woke me at 5:30 am, crying hysterically. I spent the next few hours trying to calm him, completely exhausted from a previous night of binge-watching Penny Dreadful. Once I finally got him down for his nap, I napped myself. I then woke at 10:30 am, showered, got in the car and left Sebastian and Brent to fend for themselves. I drove 40 minutes, blaring cheesy 80's rock, into the mountains, to the spa, all by myself. I felt like such a grown-up. I ate roasted tomato soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, homemade potato chips, mint tea, and a mimosa for lunch. I was so full I could barely walk, but that didn't matter because I was going to spend the rest of the afternoon with my feet up. After I leisurely finished up my meal, I went to the spa, where I spent the next two hours soaking in a hot tub made of stone with a flowing waterfall that made me feel like a was going to melt into a puddle. After the hot tub, I spent the next 90 minutes getting a deep therapeutic massage and it was probably the most amazing massage of my life. I think I even drooled all over the pillow and at some point, fell asleep. I finished off the day with a manicure and pedicure and then drove home feeling the most relaxed I'd ever felt while driving.

The next morning, (which was my actual birthday), I woke at 5:30 am to Sebastian screaming, and any ounce of relaxation that I still felt was now down the drain. Nobody ever warns you about a teething baby. Or maybe they did and I just wasn't listening. To make matters worse, Sebastian is cutting three canines and three molars at the same time. It is hard for me to relate to him, because who can remember what it was like to get new teeth, but I do remember what it was like to get my wisdom teeth pulled, and if it's anything like, I can completely understand. On top of that, he also has a cold and diaper rash and yesterday he fell and cut his chin and tongue, and today he also fell and cut his lip, and just talking about this out loud makes me want to pour myself a drink, but it's 12:30 pm, and I have a rule - no alcoholic drinks before 4pm. So, my actual birthday was a little poopy, to say the least, but Brent got home from work at 5:30 pm (not early enough) with a bottle of champagne, chocolate, ice cream, and pizza, and it's times like this where I think - this man really gets me. We sat on the couch and ate so much junk food while watching the last two episodes of Downton Abbey and I felt like crying because I was so full of junk food and so happy for Mary and Edith.

The next day I decided that I could no longer live off of junk food and pizza like I had been doing for the previous two weeks because dealing with a teething baby is sort of similar to cramming for exams. You're super stressed, irritable, and have no time to make meals, so you order a different take-out menu each night of the week.
So, I made Brent's favorite smoked salmon pasta because I love him and because he made me feel so special on my birthday. I put caramelized onions, and mushrooms, and grilled corn in the pasta, because those are his favorite things. I cut back most of my basil plant to make the pesto, which is ok because most of it had started growing baby flowers and it's almost the end of the summer - cue tears. This used to be Brent's dish, but I have now adopted it as my own. When he first made this dish I was totally grossed out at the thought of smoked salmon and pasta, but then I stopped being a baby and gave it a try, and guess what?, I loved it!!!!!