Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Molasses Oatmeal Banana Bread - Vegan Recipe

Oh Banana Bread... how we love you!  Since the kids were babies, Banana Bread of all sorts has been not only a staple in our kitchen but also a vehicle to pump healthy ingredients into the kids without them really knowing it.

I've gone so far as to add spinach and avocado to recipes (with success I might add!), but we keep returning to an old favorite recipe (and spinach-free version...) - Oatmeal Banana Bread with Molasses.

Tender and flavorful, we easily removed the dairy when my son became intolerant, but would the old recipe stand up to becoming "veganized"?  Absolutely.

The banana and oatmeal bring a tender moistness while the walnuts add a touch of texture.  But I think it's the molasses that kicks this recipe over the top with a rich pop of flavor that leaves you simply wanting more.

Fabulous fresh from the oven, we've been known to demolish an entire loaf before the last slice cools.  However if you can save enough for breakfast the next morning, a toasted slice slathered with peanut butter and topped with sliced banana is pure heaven.

Whether serving to your plant-based friends or not, this recipe may rise to the top of your most used recipes once you give it a go.  

Cheers my friends, here's to banana love!


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Skinny & Company Coconut Facial Oil Review

Skinny & Company Facial Oil Makeup Remover

Setting off on vacation a few weeks ago I tucked a couple travel-sized 2 oz jars of Skinny Coconut Oil products into my suitcase.  Skinny & Company sent me a few travel-sized products to review, and I agreed to social media (if we liked them) in return.  Asking Liv if she and her friend would give the products a try and perhaps help compose a photo or two (they are instagram styling queens!) I received a "Maybe." in return.  Hence, I was on my own.

However, on my own turned out to be just fine when unpacking some 20 hours later and I realized I hadn't packed my usual makeup remover wipes.  Turning to the Skinny products I chose the Coconut Facial Oil which is said to remove makeup.  And remove makeup it did!

I think for the first time in ages my face was completely makeup free - including those stubborn mascara smudges under my eyes.  Seriously... wow.

Skinny & Company Facial Oil Makeup Remover
Taking a peek at the ingredients brought another wow.  Chemical free, all natural (not natural flavor - but actually real, natural, plant-based ingredients), and it worked.  I'm so sold.

Three products all packed in one little jar, the Facial Oil works as a makeup remover, cleanser and moisturizer.  I think Skinny's site says it best:

"This amazing jar contains some of the most calming essential oils in the world. This facial oil is best used to remove stubborn makeup with ease, then wipe off with a warm cloth. A little goes a long way with all coconut oil products and it has a long shelf life. It will not irritate eyes or skin because just like all Skinny & Co. products, it is not made with any chemicals or preservatives. A great bonus tip is to add this to the tops of the cheekbones or decollete as a light highlight once makeup is applied."

But the real test came some 10 days later when Liv asked if she could use some of my "coconut stuff" as she had used the last of her makeup wipes.  Unfortunately, this was the last I saw of my prized little jar.  However the girls too, are sold, and Olivia's friend returned home to order a jar to spread the Coconut Facial Oil love in college at UC Davis.

The girls say their faces are clearer since they've begun using the Facial Oil and that it works "way" better than other removal products.  In addition, while it is an actual oil, it doesn't make their faces oily - only soft and clean.  Note a little goes a long way!

Researching Skinny & Company, made me even more of a fan.  Products with real ingredients made by real people with real stories, Co-Founders Matt and Luke Geddie create raw alkaline coconut oil products that are changing the face of the food and cosmetics industries.  

Skinny & Company Facial Oil Makeup Remover and Oil Pulling Oil

Skinny and Company also sent me a jar of the Oil Pulling Coconut Oil and now our whole family uses it.  Hard to get onto the pulling bandwagon, it was Skinny's oil enhanced with real peppermint that changed their minds. (The pulling oil leaves your mouth minty fresh while improving overall oral health).  I've been pulling for almost a year and my last dental visit the hygienist mentioned my teeth were cleaner and healthier than ever.  She asked if I had been flossing more (Um.... no).  But I told her about the oil pulling and she said that's most likely what did the trick.  Again...  I'm sold.

So thanks for introducing yourself Skinny & Company.  I'm loving the raw alkaline coconut oil benefits for my whole family including the dog, and the UPS guy is getting used to making regular Skinny & Company deliveries to my house.  Here's to a long and healthy relationship!

Liv Life Note:  Skinny and Company sent me a few sample jars of coconut oil products.  I've since repurchased the facial oil, pulling oil and ordered a jar of the pure coconut oil for cooking (recipes coming).  I was not under obligation to post about the products, however when you find something you love so much you simply want to share!  

Skinny & Co Coconut Oil

Friday, September 23, 2016

Banana Oatmeal Waffles - Vegan (But you'd never know it!)

Vegan Oatmeal Waffles

Liv:  "Mom... can I have friends sleep over this weekend?"

Me:  "Sure.  Any special requests for breakfast?"

Liv:  "Ya.  They want the same waffles as last time, they loved them.  But they also said they're glad you don't make them eat vegan stuff.  Haha!  I didn't have the heart to tell them the waffles they want are the 'vegan stuff!'"

Many times vegan, or plant based, foods get a bad rap - sometimes deservedly so.  But I always chuckle a bit inside when I make that "weird vegan food" and people don't even know it's missing eggs and dairy.  I love having people gush over dishes and ask for recipes only to be surprised they are eating plant based and they love it.

Vegan Oatmeal Waffles
And these waffles are no different.  Found on our breakfast table more often than not, these oatmeal beauties pair beautifully with a simple drizzle of maple syrup.  Want to dress them up a bit?  Sprinkle with raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar like we did for the photos.  Or how about a lovely drizzle of Blueberry Maple Syrup?  That will surely do the trick.

This recipe makes 6-7 waffles in my waffle iron (yield may differ based on your waffle iron size, etc - we use a Cuisinart), which gives us breakfast and usually 1-2 left over.  For those we either freeze for super busy mornings, or, better yet turn them into one of my all time favorite things - Waffle PBJs!

~ Waffle PBJ:  Spread 1/2 of the waffle with peanut butter and jam (I like Blueberry Chia), fold in half and toss into a zippy sandwich bag for lunch that will make friends envious ~

But don't wait for weekend to make these beauties!  For busy school nights I set out the dry ingredients the night before, and in the morning mix together the almond milk, banana, and vanilla then add the dry, mix and we're cooking in no time.  Note - they may also be the perfect comfort dinner...

Enjoy the day my friends... balance and love always :)
Vegan Oatmeal Waffles

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad CA - New Restaurant Review

Dragon Bowl, Vitality Bowls Carlsbad

Acai, Pitaya... Bowls are all the rage right now with most cities offering numerous choices to fulfill your every desire.  But, the question remains - Are all bowls created equally?  When it comes down to ingredients, no.  They are not.

With brilliant blends and artistic toppings, many bowls appear healthy and appealing, but instead are filled with sorbets, syrups, and artificial sweeteners.  These "healthy" bowls can equate to a dessert in disguise.

Vitality Bowl Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad, CA
Not so at the new Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe located in the Plaza Paseo Real Center just off of El Camino in Carlsbad, CA (right next to Cineopolis - La Costa).  Owners Divya and Vikas Gupta bring pure, additive-free, superfood (organic when possible) to the table along with a balanced and nourishing vibe.

Quoted from the Carlsbad Patch - "All items on the menu are made to order for each customer and are prepared in a kitchen to avoid cross contamination so customers with food allergies can feel safe about eating at Vitality Bowls. No ingredient fillers such as ice, frozen yogurt, added sugar or artificial preservatives are used, giving the purest taste possible to each menu item."

Hence when Liv and her girlfriend offered to meet me at the new "superfood place" I hopped in the car and beat them to the menu. A chance conversation with Divya made me feel as though I had a new friend, one who is also passionate about not only nutrition, but tasty nutrition.

Take the Dragon Bowl for instance... Blended Pitaya, Mango Juice, Coconut Milk, Bananas, Pineapple, Raspberries and an Immunity Boost is topped with Strawberries, Kiwi, Almonds, Goji Berries, Bee Pollen and Honey.  What's not to love?  Liv's friend Hannah ordered this dish and all three of us gushed over the flavors with the girls proclaiming it one of the best Pitaya Bowls they'd ever had.

Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad, CA - The Rehydrator
Liv chose the Tropical Bowl (topped with crunchy granola, bananas, strawberries, coconut shavings and honey) which drew equal proclamations of love, and I found myself craving my choice of the Rehydrator Juice for days following.

Filling out the menu the cafe also offers Panini (might I recommend the Veggie - Mozzarella, Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Dijon and Pesto?), Kombucha on tap, and creative Salads.

Located next to Carlsbad's Cineopolis Movie Theater (La Costa), I'm so happy to have a healthy, real food alternative to Pizza and Subs before we head in to see the latest flick.

Real food made by real people, Vitality Bowls has found a few new fans in us.  Thanks Divya for giving me a new happy place in Carlsbad!

Vitality Bowl Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad, CA

Liv Life Note:  Vitality Bowls offered to sponsor us for lunch, however we enjoyed our visit so much we paid for our meal so this post could be unsponsored. Purely my own thoughts and opinions.  We've returned a number of times since our first visit and simply want to share our love!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Blueberry Lime Detox Cooler

Blueberry Lime Detox Cooler

Three weeks of vacation - pure, wonderful, indulgent vacation - has left me in somewhat of a food coma and ready for fresh, revitalizing foods.  Which brings me directly to today's Blueberry Lime Cooler recipe.  

Light and refreshing, I've prepared this minty drink for the last three days and have found it an ideal "get me going" drink on sluggish jet lagged mornings.

Filled with antioxidant-rich blueberries, protein and vitamin rich spinach, digestion enhancing mint and a bright squeeze of lime, this cooler is easing by post vacation blues and helping me transition to the slightly chillier end of summer mornings.

Blueberry Lime Detox Cooler

Blueberry Lime Detox Cooler
A get you back on track nutritious drink that sets your morning off in the perfect direction.  Light and refreshing, it's a great way to start the day!

1 cup coconut water
1/2 cup ice
1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries
1 handful organic spinach
1 Tbs oatmeal
1 Tbs goji berries
2-5 leaves organic mint
juice of 1 lime (more if desired)

Place all items into your blender and blend until smooth.  The mint leaves usually bring quite a bit of flavor, so adjust to your taste by using more or less - we use between 3-5 leaves, I love a nice minty drink! 

Add more water if smoothie it too thick.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

5 Reasons to grind your own stone ground flour with a Mockmill Stone Mill (plus a bonus Whole Wheat Pita Recipe)

Freshly ground whole wheat flour with wheat berries - Mockmill Grinder

Being a food blogger sometimes comes with benefits.  Take for instance the mail day that brought a Mockmill Stone Mill to my kitchen!

Within minutes of opening the box we had freshly ground, aromatic whole wheat flour begging to be used.  And use it we did as we set to whipping up some of the tastiest Homemade Whole Wheat Pitas we've ever had (see below for recipe).

Grind your own flour, you ask?  Absolutely.  And it's far easier than you think with Mockmill's new Kitchenaid Attachment (see special promotion below!).

Mockmill Grinder with whole wheat berries

But first, why grind your own flours?  Here are my top 5 reasons to grind whole wheat flour yourself:

1.  Freshness - Ever wonder how long that bag of whole wheat flour has been sitting on the store shelf?    Ya, me too.  And the fact is, we'll never really know.  Most of the time my store bought whole wheat flour is fine... no issues.  But on occasion I get one that smells slightly "off" when I open the bag.  Yes, flour can go bad, and whole wheat flour can lose quality and freshness faster than others due to its higher oil content.  Hence, grinding your own insures pure, fresh, nutritious flour.

2.  Nutrition - As with quality and freshness, the nutrition content of whole wheat flour can degrade rapidly, with freshly ground you know you're getting the most nutrition possible.

3.  Flavor - I've never really thought of flour having much flavor, but freshly ground whole wheat flour does!  Nuttier and aromatic, the freshly ground whole wheat flours have a tempting scent that carried through in flavor to our baked goods.

4.  Control - Ever wish your flour was a little coarser grain for a certain recipe?  If you grind your own you can choose the fineness (or coarseness) of your grind.

5.  Choice - When purchasing store bought wheat flour you get whatever wheat berries that company uses.  However grinding your own allowed you to choose from all sorts of berries.  From soft wheat berries to winter hard wheat berries, the choice is yours.  Searching the internet you can find ancient berries and/or organic berries, much harder to find in local stores already ground.  And as an added bonus, I have gluten intolerant friends who swear certain berries allow them to bake with flour again.

Freshly ground whole wheat flour

Now that we have the reasons to grind our own flour, here's how to do it with my new favorite kitchen gadget... the Mockmill Grinder.

Created and made in Germany by Mr. Wolfgang Mock, the the stone grinding Mockmill attachment fits easily onto your Kitchenaid Mixer and takes mere minutes before you are up and running.  Actually, perhaps even just one minute if you are quick.  And speaking of quick... clean up is just as fast!

Their website describes it best:

~ Mockmill was created to open up the opportunity for virtually everyone to enjoy the benefits of freshly milled grains, spices and dried legumes.  Our innovative stand mixer attachment simply fits and works easily, giving you professional quality results, so that once you own one, it will soon become one of your favorite accessories. ~

Note:  Do make sure your Mockmill attachment is securely set into the attachment slot (It fits right in!) - clear and easy directions come in the box.  I may or may not have found out the hard way that the grinder will spin sideways spilling the entire contents of wheat berries all over your freshly cleaned floor if you are careless and don't follow the directions... :)

Homemade Whole Wheat Pita
When you are ready to grind, attach the grinder to you KitchenAid Mixer and then simply pour your wheat berries into the top of the mill. Adjust the grind fineness of your choice, and then turn it on - that's all there is to it.

The freshly ground and beautifully aromatic flour falls directly into the bowl of your mixer and grinds surprisingly faster than I thought it would.

But the Mockmill Grinder isn't just for wheat.  We ground rice, oats and even chickpeas (chickpea flour works beautifully for thickening soups and stews - and I add it to my dog's food for added plant-based protein - And it's expensive to buy.  Not so when you grind your own!

But back to the organic hard red wheat which we chose first... what to do with all that precious freshly ground flour??  For our first experiment we turned it into Homemade Whole Wheat Pitas.  But then the test... would it actually taste different than the store bought we were used to?

In a word - Yes!

Pita is most popular at our house, however of late it hasn't drawn any special complimentary comments other than "Mom... when are you making more pita?".

These freshly ground flour flatbreads though, had 3 out of four people commenting "Wow... these pitas are awesome! Did you do something different??"  (Sorry Mr. Mock, I initially took all the credit as simply my really good baking ;)

Freshly ground chickpea flour
To date we've put our Mockmill to the test and have ground organic soft wheat berries, organic hard winter wheat berries, dried chickpeas, oatmeal, flax, and brown rice.  All ground more consistent and much easier with the stone grinder than my past processing in the blender (with the exception of the oatmeal - I did find oatmeal to grind easier and faster in my high powered kitchen blender - but my next experiment will be oat groats which seem to be more fit for the stone grinder!

Note:  I found organic berries on Amazon.

So, have I convinced you??  Do you want a grinder too?  As a part of this Mockmill promotion, Mr. Mock is offering Liv Life readers a special deal good through August 31st (Check out my friend Mimi's review too!).

Included in the special summertime promotion for $179 (Value is $259) good through August 31st is the following:

  • 1 Mockmill Grinder
  • 2 lb bag of rye
  • 2 lb bag of oat groats
  • 2 lb bag of red fife
  • 2 lb bag of spelt
  • a specially reprinted book "Flour Power" reprinted only for this promotion!
** Check out the summertime promotion and receive an $80 discount when you enter the code  livlife  at checkout and you'll be on your way to freshly ground flour just like me.  Let me know what you think when you receive it and I'm curious what you will make first!

And lastly, my thanks to Mr. Mock for giving me the opportunity to review the Mockmill Grinder.  Liv Life received a Mockmill Grinder for review purposes and this review is all my own words and opinions.  I do love the product and I'm eager to share it with you all.  The grinder has become one of the most reached for items in my kitchen - who knew freshly ground flours smelled so good?  Thanks Mr. Mock for including me, I feel your passion!

"For over 30 years and with many patents for flour mills,
I’ve worked to create the perfect flour mill for everyone.
And now with Mockmill, we’re one step closer.
It’s the most affordable, durable stone grain mill available.
And professional and home cooks alike are impressed with the results.“
~ Wolfgang Mock, millwright of passion ~

Homemade Whole Wheat Pita

Homemade Whole Wheat Pita
Nutty and healthy, these pitas bring the nutrition of whole grains.  Split open and fill with your favorite sandwich ingredient for lunch on the go!
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1 cup warm water
1 tsp yeast
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs flax meal
1 tsp salt (may use 1 1/2 if you are a salt lover)
2 - 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

Homemade Whole Wheat Pita
Place water into the bowl of your stand mixer and add the yeast.  Stir and and wait a minute or so, then add the 1/2 up of all-purpose flour.  Begin mixing with the regular beater on low.  Add the flax meal and salt, then add about 1/2 cup of the whole wheat flour.

Switch to the dough hook, and add another 1/2 cup of the whole wheat flour.  At this point I begin adding the flour in 2 Tbs increments, waiting a for flour to be incorporated before adding more flour.

Note the amount of flour needed will vary based on humidity and measuring - you want the dough to come together, but be careful not to add too much flour.  The fresh whole wheat flour will continue to absorb water as it rests.  You want your dough to come together, but it should still be sticky.

As the dough begins to clean the side of the bowl, stop adding flour and allow the dough to knead for about 5 minutes or so. The dough should be sticky and may not create a full dough ball like with other breads.

Homemade Whole Wheat Pita
Remove the dough and place into an oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil.  Cover with a dish cloth and allow to rise for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat oven to 425º while dough is rising, placing a stone or baking sheet in the oven to preheat as well.

Remove dough from bowl and place onto a floured rolling surface.  Cut dough in half, replacing one half into the bowl.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel.

With the remaining half, roll with your hands into a fat "log" then cut into 5 pieces.

Roll each piece to about a 1/4-inch thickness.

Place the rounds onto the hot pan or stone in the oven and bake for 5 minutes, or until pita is puffed and lightly browned.

Remove baked rounds to a wire rack to cool.  Note, the pitas will deflate when removed from the oven.

Liv Life Note:  We make this recipe so often I no longer measure the ingredients... to make a slightly larger batch, place about 1 1/4 water in the bowl, add yeast, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and the salt and mix.  Simply add enough flour (either whole wheat or all-purpose) until the dough ball just begins to clean the sides of the bowl.  Follow the rest of the directions as above.

Liv Life Note 2:  Occasionally my pita doesn't puff... after much research, I still haven't come to a good reason why, but whether it puffs or not, it's still wonderful! 

Mockmill Grinder

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Captain Greg's Masterful Mint Chip Gelato

It's been a while since we've had Captain Greg stop by with one of his fabulous, and oh so decadent gelato concoctions. Who can forget his scandalously rich Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk?  Or maybe it's the zingy Lemon Lime version that stuck with you?  Personally I'll never forget the Ghirardelli Mocha Chip that sent me dreaming of Italy for days on end.

One of the kindest and most generous people I'm lucky enough to know, Captain Greg remains one of my favorite neighbors and gelato makers.  For the last 18 years he's always the calm voice on the other end of the phone when I'm in a pinch, but more importantly - he delivers treats right to my door.

And today he's sharing with all of us a new and ever so special Mint Chip Gelato in this guest post. Join me as we explore this most recent flavor explosion.


Two years ago I decided to teach the children of close friends to cook Italian. As you would expect, when I left menu choices to the kids they came up with two “food groups”: pizza and gelato. 100% of the time.

“No pasta? No entrée’s with rich tomato sauce or cheeses?”

Nope. Pizza or gelato.

I know when to give in, and decided instead to build the challenge a different way.

I insist they choose the flavors and make it start-to-finish. No shortcuts. It lets me talk food chemistry, creativity, the importance of natural ingredients, and lets them experience the richness and fun of making their own creations. And it is fun!

Two great girls, Chloe and Sophie, showed up with a vision of “the greatest Mint Chip gelato ever”. So we brought together a garden of fresh mint, lots of eggs and most importantly, two packages of Andes Crème de Menthe Thins. You know, the ones you always grab 5 of when leaving a restaurant? They melt in your mouth with an explosion of mint, like the essence of a Girl Scout Cookie or a Grasshopper Martini (two very different delivery vehicles)!

I couldn’t think of a better, more refreshing frozen treat. And... we nailed it!

Start with my basic sugar and egg custard base, but prep it with a clutch of fresh mint sprigs steeped in the simmering milk ingredients. Cool it, add a couple drops of pure peppermint extract (guaranteed to clear your sinuses). An optional drop or two of green, throw it in your gelato or ice cream churn, and when it sets up swirl in the Andes Mint bits --- if you haven’t already eaten them.  Good luck!

It’s a complete rush of freshness -- silky, laced in chocolate and taking mint to the level of fantasy. I don’t think the girls will ever ask for pizza again…

Friday, July 15, 2016

Picnic in the Park Watermelon Arugula Salad with Watermelon Vinaigrette

Picnic in the Park Watermelon Arugula Salad with Watermelon Vinaigrette

Are you loving these long days of summer (except for my friends in the other hemisphere... for you I wish you warm weather soon!)?  Mornings with no alarms, impromptu beach sessions with friends, and Friday evening Jazz in the Park... I'm loving each and every sunny moment.  And frequently these special summer moments include food, but the potluck part can sometimes be difficult if we don't have the right tools.

Once again I have OXO to the rescue.  Making me a super salad queen, we have no more soggy salads when using the 8 Piece Snap Glass Round Container Set and the super handy Little Salad Dressing Shaker to transport my goodies to the fun.

Heading to mom and dad's last week, mom requested her favorite watermelon salad.  Not a problem, but I knew we wouldn't be eating until other friends arrived and by the time I transported the salad and let it sit for a few hours we'd have a less than appetizing, soggy dish.

So, I placed the greens and quinoa in the largest of the 4 glass snap bowls, then the watermelon in another bowl and the dry, crispy toppings in another.  The salad shaker brought the dressing separately and I placed it all into a cooler with OXO's 2 in 1 Salad Servers.

When the time came to serve I simply tossed the greens, added watermelon, and then dressed and garnished with my favorite crispy chickpeas and served - all in mere minutes and we had a fresh, crisp salad.

Mom loves the sweet watermelon paired with the zesty arugula (I love the name "rocket" that my Australian friends use for it!) and I adore the crispy salty chickpea/pumpkin seed topping.  Easy to toss together, this salad works well from the beach to the park to your own backyard.

My thanks to OXO for the bowls, and for once again making me look all put together and polished.  The snap lids are perfect for transportation with 4 locking snaps and a removable gasket that makes these beauties totally leakproof.  Nestable and stackable, these bowls store easily in the cupboard or transport well in the cooler.

Wishing you health and happiness as we enjoy these summer days...
Eat well always,

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Berry Coconut Strawberry Blueberry Salad - Recipe

Coconut Strawberry Blueberry Salad

Coconut... it's everywhere these days, isn't it?  We've all seen the coco-water craze, and personally I'm obsessed with the oil and manna (manna dollop on oatmeal anyone?).  But Coconut Balsamic?  Ohhh, yes indeed.

Last weekend I attended a local food festival, North Eats, in Carlsbad, CA.  Showcasing some 25+ local North County San Diego restaurants (Blue Ribbon, Local Tap House, Prep Kitchen and Solterra being a few of my favories).  The sponsor, Baker and Olive, challenged the chefs to feature Baker and Olive oils and vinegars in their recipes, and oh my goodness did they succeed.

I'm still craving Prep Kitchen's savory Potato Agnolotti, and that Honeydew Melon Gazpacho from Solterra will be a must have whenever I visit.  But it was Master's Kitchen's Coconut Lime Shrimp Sapicon (think shrimp, mango, coconut and lime on small toasts) that took me to Baker and Olive for a bottle of Coconut Balsamic to call my own (Note I came home with olive oil from Spain, a Tuscan oil and a Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic in addition).

Baker and Olive Coconut White Balsamic Vinegar
Yes... Coconut Balsamic, a white balsamic infused with the scents and flavors of any tropical island you can think of.  Slightly tart with the balsamic notes, the coconut makes a rich, flavorful vinegar that I can only imagine paired with a Lime infused Oil (it's on my to try list).

But how perfect does it pair with my strawberry salad?  Simply perfectly perfect in my opinion.  

Just in time for your 4th of July celebrations tomorrow, this simple salad receives an extra coconut kick from the coconut balsamic, but a drizzle of any white balsamic will do.  Toss in finely sliced mint ribbons and top with crunchy coconut chips and your potluck dish is ready in no time.  And... it will be gone in time too.

Here's wishing you a fun-filled and safe, 4th of July, 2016 my friends.  Eat well :)

Coconut Strawberry Blueberry Salad with Oxo Glass Snap

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Coconut Lemon Scones with Lavender Option

Dairy Free Coconut Milk Lemon Scones with Lavender Option

Ahhh scones... the epitome of afternoon tea.  I carry vivid memories of my very first tender biscuit (some 30 years ago!) served with traditional clotted cream and a side of homemade apricot jam whilst visiting the South of England - Devon to be exact.  And while I'm not sure I've ever tasted another scone that actually lives up to this memory, I haven't stopped trying.

On occasion we used to bake scones with traditional butter and cream, but when my son (dairy-free) requested a lemon version we used a coconut milk substitute and we haven't looked back at heavy cream since.

Light and tender, these scones bake to a lovely bite on the outside with a tender, almost creamy inside - when a light hand is used in kneading.

The coconut milk lends a richness and boosts the flavors all around, and the lemon icing brings a bright finish to the whole thing.

Another scone stuck in my memory found its way to me far, far away from the green hillsides of England, but rather in a Farmer's Market on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu.  The flavor of the day listed lavender and I almost walked right on by.  But curiosity got the best of me and I purchased one for brunch.  Hesitant, as lavender has always been a candle scent in my world, my husband and I shared the scone and quickly wished we had purchased two.

Today, a new lavender plant in my back yard, brought temptation to recreate the Hawaiian Lavender version along with our sunny lemon.  And fresh lavender turned this scone into another great success.  While it's not seeming to be a hit with everyone who tries, those who do enjoy the flavors of lavender will enjoy the lavender/lemon combo of this dairy-free recipe.

So whether you prefer a brilliantly bright lemon scone on its own, or lemon with a hint of lavender, you can start making new scone memories right here and right now.

Wishing you love and laughter my friends, enjoy!

Dairy Free Coconut Milk Lemon Scones with Lavender Option Recipe

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Maxwell Creek Inn B&B ~ Sodus Point

Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York

Loaded with history, tended by exemplary hosts, sleeping in comfortable rooms, and dining on delectable breakfasts catering to your every whim... did I catch your attention?  These are just a few highlights of our weekend at the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast in the Sodus, NY area.

Dining Room at the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
My first ever visit to the state of New York found me shivering in 42º temps on the chilly shores of Lake Ontario and experiencing spring for the second time this season.  So different from my bustling (warm!) San Diego home, the Maxwell Creek B and B served as a peaceful haven for our weekend stay in the Sodus area.

Just outside of Sodus Point proper, this lovely B and B dates back to 1846 when William Swales built the home for his daughter Elizabeth and her new husband Mr. John Preston as a wedding gift.

Covered with round, lake-washed cobble stones, the house makes quite a statement along with its original carriage house (now turned into guest accommodations for families, groups and extended stay guests), gorgeous grounds and big red barn.  The happy Preston's bore 7 children, and this historic home stayed in the family for nearly 150 years.

With our visit in early May, apple blossoms were just popping from trees on the grounds and daffodils smiled brightly in greeting around the home's front entry.  Smiling even more brightly, owner Belinda McElroy, made us most welcome from the first hello.

Giving a short history of the house and a quick tour, we somehow felt transported some 170 year earlier to Elizabeth Swales' home.  Filled with antiques, it wasn't hard to imagine ourselves back in the mid-1800's.

Red Barn at the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York

Most notable in the home's history is the rumored connection to the Underground Railroad.  Recently named a local "Legend and Lore" Historical Site, the home's 6 acre grounds back up to Maxwell Creek and Maxwell Bay where small schooners sailed in to trade wheat for flour milled at Preston's Grist Mill originally built in 1794, and then rebuilt after being washed away in 1812.

Grounds of Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
View from the grounds of Maxwell Creek
It's said a tunnel ran from the creek to the fireplace in the back of the main house where slaves would hide until they could board ships across Lake Ontario to Canada.

Sitting Room - Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Sitting Room for all guests
Today, the Maxwell Creek Inn boasts five guest room accommodations in addition to the Carriage house which houses families and long stay guests.

Two comfortable sitting rooms in the main house feature bright windows, comfy chairs and a tv available for all guests, and the dining room (used to be called the "keeping room") can be found on the bottom level.

With coffee available all day in addition to irresistible home made cookies (I had at least two a day!), Belinda has thought of everything.

For our recent stay we laid our head in the Gaylord Suite, the largest of the five available guest rooms.  Originally the Gaylord Boys' Dorm Room, this room features a large picture window overlooking Maxwell Bay and apple orchards along with peeks of Lake Ontario.

Furnished with a King sized bed, sofa, chaise lounge, and tv, the suite boasts a private bath with shower (no tub).  In addition, the room holds a dining table for four where guest may have breakfast served in their room upon request.

Gaylord Suite - Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Gaylord Suite

For us though, we looked forward to breakfast in the dining room with the historic fire place and views overlooking the grounds, part of the creek and the old red barn.

Which brings us to the breakfast part of the stay.  Belinda checked with us before our arrival for any special requests or dietary needs, and our request for a diary-free meal was met with no issue and was at the time of our choice.

Breakfast of Orange French Toast - Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Our first day started with freshly baked apricot scones topped with homemade apricot jam (how did she know that was my all time favorite?), and my husband and I reached for seconds after our firsts disappeared in mere moments.  "Simply irresistible" being the operative phrase here...

Refreshing our palates with freshly squeezed orange juice, the second course arrived featuring a tempting veggie frittata served with sliced tomatoes topped with feta and sliced basil.  Two slices of hearty homemade English Muffin Bread rounded out this mouthwatering meal, and we found ourselves already anticipating breakfast the next day.

And it was that second day that left Liv begging me for a trip to the Inn.  Orange French Toast served with chopped bananas and broiled orange slices all sort of melded together with a delectably sweet orange syrup.  Photos immediately made their way across the country and onto my facebook page as I may have boasted how lucky I was just as Liv removed yet another frozen waffle (I did make them for her before I left!) from the freezer.

As we were the only visitors on our stay, I took a moment to peek into the other guest rooms before we left.  All rooms look comfortable and inviting, and many feature king sized beds with private baths, and one room on the top floor offers a twin sized bed in addition to a full-sized antique four poster.

Charming, comfortable, beautiful and historical, the Maxwell Creek Inn made our visit to Sodus, NY even more special than expected. Many thanks to Belinda for the extra special touches that made us feel so welcome.

Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Early morning spring dew on the grounds of the Maxwell Creek Inn
Liv Life Note:  Note that Liv Life did not receive any incentives to write this post and the Maxwell Creek Inn did not know we would be writing about our stay.  We simply had such a wonderful visit I wanted to share!

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