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.


June 27, 2016

Balsamic Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

For the looooonnggest time, Brent has tried to convince me to buy an ice cream machine. A smart man he is, he knows better than to surprise me with one spontaneously (I am not one for surprises - I'm kind of a control freak in that way). I am sure he truly believes my life will not be complete without one, but speaking as a person with no self-control and an unhealthy obsession with ice cream, you can see my hesitations.

Brent, on the other hand, has an unhealthy obsession with kitchen gadgets. While I can get by with my enamel mixing bowls, chef knife, and wooden spoons, he needs a gadget for everything. He even needs a gadget for a gadget. I have to pick and choose things wisely or our cupboards will turn into a hoarder's dream. Our cupboards are already jam packed with various small appliances - if that's what you can them - a cotton candy machine, a tiny food processor that works like shit, a George Forman Grill, and avocado slicer, an electric egg poacher. He knows how stressed out I get with an unorganized house, so he is currently in the process of building me a new kitchen island, with 9 large drawers, and I can't wait. I am going to organize everything into a permanent home, and I might even buy a label maker, cause I am one of those type A types - anal retentive, and extra organized - unless we're talking about my underwear drawer, which is a bottomless pit of old sunglasses, expired drivers licenses, and miscellaneous ear buds.

I'm sure you have some sort of idea the direction in which this post is going, cause frozen yogurt is in the title, so I'll just cut to the chase. Last week, after a few glasses of wine, I impulse purchased a Conair Cuisinart ICE-21 1.5 Quart Frozen Yogurt Ice Cream Maker. Let be real guys, deep down I really just want to be an ice cream scientist, a Bill Nye type.

I am simultaneously ecstatic and fearful of this new machine. For my first icy experiment, I decided to make a frozen yogurt (let's ease into it with something a bit healthier), particularly a balsamic strawberry frozen yogurt - which is one of my favorite flavors from my favorite ice cream shop here in Seattle. I started with a plain low-fat yogurt, one that is pretty sour in flavor. I added granulated and maple sugar for sweetness. I used a bit of half and half cream to add some fat, which gave it a nice creamy texture. I then cooked the strawberries in a sweet balsamic reduction, until the strawberries became soft, and the liquid, syrupy and sweet. For this recipe, the key is to use some really juicy ripe strawberries. I used some California Giant Strawberries, which are available at Costco and Kroger here in Washington. They are in season right now! and are so delicious and taste just like sweet strawberry candy. I swirled the balsamic strawberries into the yogurt mixture and then churned it into delicious frozen yogurt. Guys, homemade frozen yogurt is incredible, particularly one with a really tart yogurt. I have been won over to the homemade ice cream camp. Don't get me wrong, I'll still enjoy going out for ice cream on a hot summer day, but now, I can also enjoy it in the comfort of my own home!

*This post was sponsored by California Giant. Thank you for supporting the brands that keep the Flourishing Foodie delicious. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.

California Giant is providing all Flourishing Foodie readers with a coupon to use at your local Costco or Kroger. You can follow the link to download the iBotta app on your phone https://ibotta.com/get-the-app

California Giant has partnered with other fresh produce brands to offer the chance to win a $5000 vacation this summer. To enter the sweepstakes follow the link http://promos.calgiant.com/summer-snacking-sweepstakes-flourishingfoodie

Want more fresh summer snacking recipe ideas? Check out the brand's Summer Snacking Ebook at http://promos.calgiant.com/summer-snacking-ebook-flourishingfoodie


June 22, 2016

Strawberry and Avocado Salsa

There is a theory that what a woman eats during pregnancy, may shape her babies food preferences later in life. During pregnancy, when a mother eats, those flavors from food get passed to the amniotic fluid, which a baby will gulp a few ounces per day. Not only do babies get a taste for these flavors in utero, but they are also making memories about flavors, ones that could potentially result in future food preferences. There have also been some studies that have shown feeding an infant a wide variety of flavors early on in life can increase the chances that that child will prefer a wider variety of foods and be less likely to turn their nose up at unfamiliar and unusual tastes later in life. Of course, there are always exceptions.

While pregnant with Sebastian, I tried to eat as diverse as possible (except the first trimester when I ate nothing but Pop Tarts and Skittles.) I ate spicy food, sweet foods, garlicky foods, and gingery foods. I varied my diet with different cuisines such as Ethiopian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, and Italian. But aside from the exotic spices, the curries, and the buttery naan, I am still a creature of habit, and would religiously eat my avocado toast with a little flaked salt for breakfast every morning, partly because I am obsessed with avocados, but also because I wanted Sebastian to share my same love, hoping that these theories had some truth. And it's funny, because to this day, avocado is one of Sebastian's favorite foods. I can give it to him chopped up into tiny pieces or mixed into foods, the consistency doesn't bother him. And I'm not going to lie, having a baby that loves avocado is a blessing. Avocado is so easy to prepare, cheap, high in calories and fat, nutrients that are so essential for a growing baby. It has truly made feeding him so easy.

Because Sebastian and I both love avocado, I try to incorporate it into at least one dish per day, whether it's blending into a smoothie or serving with scrambled eggs. Over the past few months, I've come up with more recipes than I can count on one hand that have included avocado. #notsponsored

One of my greatest joys in the kitchen is coming up with a recipe using only a handful of ingredients, those ingredients so fresh, and so flavorful, playing so intensely of one another, that you think to yourself, can this even be possible? Can this really exist?

I kind of had one of those YES moments when I pulled a few simple, but seasonal, ingredients together for this salsa. The idea was inspired by one of my favorite salads - a spinach, strawberry, avocado, and almond salad. It is shocking how well the flavors from avocado and strawberries compliment each other. I've been experimenting lately and have come to some sort of culinary realization that replacing tomatoes with strawberries in a recipe really works. Examples; bruschetta, gazpacho, Caprese, grilled cheese, and salsa. Salsa is such an easy snack to put together. It's one of those dishes that you can serve in the cold winter months or hot summer days. When I have friends over, I like to make a pitcher of margaritas, and some salsa and chips on the side. It's always a crowd pleaser. I'll be curious to see what my friends think next time they're over and I serve up a bowl of strawberry salsa. At first glance, the strawberries look so similar to tomatoes it's hard to tell.



June 8, 2016

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

We are going to visit Brent's parents on Thursday in Victoria, where they've rented a vacation home for 4 weeks. They rented this same house 7 years ago when Brent and I got married, so we have some pretty great memories there. It is the house where we hosted our rehearsal dinner, ate the best chowder of my life, and where Ody miraculously survived a run-in with a car.

While in Victoria, I plan to eat ice cream daily. Drink beer on more than one patio. I will visit Red Fish Blue Fish and order the chowder, jerk fish poutine, crispy tempura battered halibut, chips, and a tempura cod tacones, in no particular order. The next day I will attempt to hike up Mt. Finlayson with Sebastian in our new Deuter Ki Comfort 3 backpack, because I'm going to need to burn off the 5000 calories from the night before. After the hike. I am going to get a massage, a pedicure, and shop until I can no longer feel my feet. Maybe, I'll save the shopping for the next day. This trip is necessary and long overdue.

I am going to spend 7 days not thinking about paint or kitchen renovations. Baby-proofing, lawn maintenance, or the PayPal dispute I filed last week against the shady home furnishings store in Florida who won't acknowledge my patio furniture purchase. These are my plans, in a nutshell. Do you guys have any summer trips planned?

Besides planning for this trip and the epic full-service car wash I am getting tomorrow, nothing really new around here. Brent bought a paint sprayer 12 months ago when I convinced him that it was a necessary purchase. I wanted to spray paint the Ikea dresser we got for the babies room. Every now and again I convince myself that I am the DIY type. The sprayer has sat in the basement in its box unused ever since. Brent, clearly the DIY'er in this family, painted two interior doors last weekend. I was thoroughly impressed.

Aside from chasing Sebastian around the house, cause he's a crawler now!!!, I've made a ton of recipes that I'm really proud of - these lemon and ricotta pancakes, the baby spinach salad with dates and almonds and the mejadra from the Jerusalem cookbook, Marcella Hazan's famous butter sauce and a halloumi, cherry, arugula salad with savory quinoa. Pretty much sums up my life.

I think my obsession with lemon pancakes sparked after that Mother's Day trip to Cafe Flora, and then the return visit with Brent's parents, just to order the lemon pancakes. I've been dreaming about them ever since. Since I don't have a good lemon pancake recipe in my supply of pancake recipes, I was determined to spend a week cooking my way through the various lemon pancake forms. After some careful experimentation, I have discovered that separating the eggs, and then beating the whites into stiff peaks, provides the fluffiest texture. Adding lemon zest and the juice provides the best flavor. Adding too much sugar turns them into a giant lemon cookie - not bad, depending on what you're after. Adding a bit of ricotta gives a nice flavor and creaminess. Not too much, though, or they'll be too soggy. Finally, adding a generous portion of butter to the frying pan and frying the pancakes on medium high, gives the best result!!!!!! If you love pancakes and lemon, I highly recommend giving this recipe a try. They are incredible.

I'd like to thanks the folks over a Falcon Enamelware for providing me with one of their prep sets. If you guys love enamel like I do, you should check out their site. So many beautiful pieces to choose from. I have the prep set in pigeon gray. I keep it out om my counter and use it practically every time I cook. It's also really pretty to look at, which is a bonus! The prep set includes 5 mixing bowls and a colander.