Saturday, February 26, 2011

Blueberry Coconut Macadamia Muffins

A day at the spa calls for a special tropical treat, doesn't it?  All that getting your hair cut,  blown out and then styled, followed by a nail trim and a good tooth brushing works up an appetite. San Diego may well be home to some of the world's top spas, La Costa being one of the most well known (Tiger stays there when he's in town), but Kona and Tavo prefer the Grateful Dog.  Coastal in Leucadia, Mary and the other grooming girls take good care of our little guys.  They arrive matted, dusty and over-grown and come home soft, styled and smelling pretty. 

Tavo and Kona post spa!  
(Lisa, Authentic Suburban Gourmet, this shot is for you!!)
So pretty in fact, that as we dropped Liv at her dance rehearsal Tavo actually got "propositioned"!  Around the corner walked a lady with her female Maltese pulling the way and Tavo caught both of their eye.  Approaching me, she commented on his good looks and excitedly asked if he would be available for breeding.  Unfortunately, Tavo's breeding days are over (well, he never really got any to start with), but he appreciated the sentiment anyway.  Later in the day as I aprised the story to my husband, he thought for a moment then reached for his phone to make an appointment to have his own hair styled...

One sleepy boy!  (Tavo)
While the pups choice of after spa treat may not concur, the real people in the house fully enjoyed these Blueberry Coconut Macadamia Muffins.  With my love of the tropics, either coconut or macadamia alone is enough to turn my head.  But, put the two together and we have something to hula about!

With these muffins Eating Well not only provided one of my favorite combos but they packed it with whole grains and antioxidant-rich blueberries.  Tenderized with buttermilk and topped with a lovely mac/coconut/brown sugar streusel these muffins are the ideal post spa snack.  (They do well for breakfast, after school or as a late night treat too!).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes with Chunky Blueberry Sauce

This week I have confirmed something that I have heard for years, men get sicker than women.  Poor guys... I'm sorry to say it just seems to be a fact.

Liv has been struggling with sinus issues for the last few months, and while she has missed a few days of school she has muddled through and continued with her intense dance rehearsals as the upcoming competition season is literally just around the corner.  Dragging those black circles under her eyes along with her, she dutifully completed her homework after dancing for hours after school and then hit the shower and fell into bed.

A few weeks ago I had a cold, but with my husband out of town the world did not stop for my sniffles.  My chauffeur business had to be run with school drop offs and pick ups along with dance rehearsal commitments reaching late into the night.  The catering business continued as well, requiring shopping for ingredients (a certain 14 year old boy had a special salsa request...), meal prep and serving to accommodate said dance rehearsals and school schedules.  Not to mention the bus-girl/dish washing job that I have on the side.

The pet care business had two Maltese pups staring at me with their leash in their mouth as I attempted to put me feet up for a moment.  And the laundry business.... goodness, the laundry does not slow down for a sick mom, "Mom!!  You didn't wash the jeans I wanted to wear today!!!"

Men, however, are simply not as strong.  My poor, poor 14 year old son, with his red nose and constant sneezing, would sit at the table with such sad eyes quietly asking, "Mom... could you get me some water??  Oh, and that box of tissues over there.  And when you get a sec, I'd love a burrito..."  He suffered stoically while watching multiple movies over the weekend having meals served to him with special orange juice smoothies to boost his vitamin C.

Speaking to my mom has confirmed that my poor Dad was also soooo sick with his cold.  Coughing and coughing through the night he caught up with frequent naps during the day.  Luckily she was there to prepare an immune boosting Chicken Soup.

Next we have my hapless husband with his head fully clogged and coughs shaking him to his core.  As with the other two, he's taken the last two days to rest and try to regain his health.  (In all seriousness, I have to admit this bug is a particularly nasty one!).

Having a freezer full of organic blueberries, Liv and I decided to give Daddy one of his favorite breakfasts, Blueberry Pancakes.  Cleaning out my binder of "to try" recipes the other day I found this particular recipe torn out of an Eating Well Magazine from 2006 with the note "this looks great!" scribbled on the side.  

Filled with whole grains, protein rich eggs and low-fat ricotta, antioxidant-rich blueberries (Daddy's favorite fruit!), and the brightness of fresh lemon juice and zest these pancakes were not only healthy but delectable as well.  Topping them with a zesty Blueberry Sauce and a little maple syrup brought a slight smile to our sick Daddy's face, but with his cleaned plate we are thinking that the antioxidants will soon begin working their magic, putting him on the road to recovery.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Potato Bread and a Stylish Award

Something about the aroma of freshly baked bread warms my heart.  As the aroma seeps into every corner of the house visions of the finished golden loaf flash through our minds and activate our salivary glands.  Professionals advise waiting until the loaf has cooled before slicing, but that kind of willpower I don't have.

More often than not the breads in our household are filled with whole grains, but on this occasion with potatoes on hand and Catherine McMichael's award winning Potato Bread recipe on the counter my decision was made.  Assembling the ingredients, kneading the dough and then baking the loaf, I knew we had a winner even before I tasted the first soft, tender slice.  Fresh from the oven (no, I did not wait for it to cool...) and slathered with butter this bread literally had me groaning with pleasure and utter amazement that these few ingredients mixed together could bring forth something so exquisite.

Speaking of award winning bread, I am reminded that I have been remiss in acknowledging a few Stylish Blogger Awards that have kindly been sent my way!  One award was enough to make my day, but to have four bloggers I hold in high esteem pass this award my direction is beyond belief.  Thank you to Raven, of RavieNomNoms, Michele, of Fit Foodista, Susan, of The Spice Garden, and Hester, of Alchemy - Simple Ingredients Magical Food. Each of these bloggers authors a blog I frequently visit and I feel like I personally know them through their posts.  Thanks for thinking me stylish!

In receiving this award the responsibilities include:
  • List seven things about yourself that people may not know
  • Pass the award on to 10 additional Stylish Bloggers
  • Notify the bloggers that they have received the award
7 things about ME!
  1. I love the beach!  From some of my posts you may already know that, but even though I love the beach I really don't like to go into the water.
  2. I really like office supplies!!  I don't have much use for them, but a visit to the local Staples Store makes me want to load up my basket.
  3. My favorite movies are Buzz Lightyear and The Birdcage.  When Harry met Sally is a good one too...
  4. I would live on a tropical island if I could.  A pair of floppies, a few sundresses, Jimmy Buffet... life is good. 
  5. Tequila is my drink of choice.  I don't like vodka.
  6. I worked as an Accountant and an Assistant Controller at a power plant before being promoted to the best job in the world, Mom.
  7. I don't like tv.  If I had my way, I'd give our tv away.  (Liv has issues with this one and is thankful that I don't have my way!)
And now I would like to pass this award to some additional Stylish Bloggers.  These are a few bloggers (in no particular order) that we have not passed awards to before who truly show passion and style:

  1. Judy at Tastemonials.  Judy's blog was one of the first blogs that I stumbled upon when I started blogging.  She personifies style!  Wonderful restaurant reviews, tasty recipes and posts, and the most adorable grandson!  Her recent trip to Peru was an example of her passion for life.
  2. Bella from Bellabits.  This 11 year old girl has got it going on.  She's engaging and has a passion for food and food items.  Her recent visit and review of Williams-Sonoma had me smiling.  She has quite a future if the foodie world!
  3. Sommer of A Mama with Flavor.  Sommer lives in Germany and I truly look forward to catching up with her in her posts.  Her little Sous Chef has the most adorable curly hair and is quite a help in the kitchen!  We are sending safe travel wishes to her husband!
  4. Letizia Golosa, of Lesizia Golosa, For the Love of Food.  Letizia has the most amazing eye for photography and made a simple slather of Homemade Nutella look sensuous.
  5. I couldn't pass this award without thinking of my friend, Dionne, from Try Anything Once.  Dionne's style and passion shows in each and every post she writes.  She has inspired me to return to bread making, something that I love to do, but just haven't made the time for lately.  Her true love of life shows in her prose and style!
  6. Becky of Baking and Cooking, A Tale of Two Loves.  Becky's posts frequently make me smile.  We have little pups in common, and when I read her posts I feel like I'm sitting at the kitchen table with her sharing a cup of coffee.
  7. Ang, of Life Given, Eat Well.  Ang is one of those people who seems to live life with style.  Her quest for balance in life is one I hope to achieve as well.
  8. Sabrina, from Eat. Drink. and Be Merry.  Sabrina's blog is a new blog for me.  She was also our recent giveaway winner and I could have been happier that the giveaway went her direction!  Recently married, she had my daughter and her friends drooling over her gorgeous wedding photos in the "about me" section of her blog.  I'm looking forward to following her!
  9. Zerrin of Give Recipe.  Zerrin has made some healthy changes of late and I'm truly enjoying her healthy recipes along with bits and pieces of her culture and life.  Zerrin resides in Turkey and seems to "Liv Life" with a smile!
  10. Jean, of Lemon's and Anchovies.  Jean writes from her heart... her Valentine's Day post has stuck with me.  Gorgeous photos to go along with some wonderful posts, all done with style!
And I could go on!  This flood blogging community has won my heart.  My husband belongs to another online community and is constantly amazed at the support and kindness that flows through the people I visit with.  I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Potato Bread... one of those that's worth each and every calorie (and extra for the butter!!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Black Bean Stew with Butternut Squash

It was a dark and stormy night, wind shrieked past the corners of the stuccoed dwelling splattering the driving rain onto the freshly washed windows.  When, oh when would she learn to wait until April to wash those panes of glass which so lovingly let the coveted morning light shine into the familial home (for it is in San Diego that our scene lies).  

But in San Diego it doesn't rain, or it hadn't rained much more than the usual 10 inches or so annually until a year ago when the family obtained the two tiny balls of white Maltese fluff... the same fluffs who don't care to get their manicured toes wet when it's time to "do their business".  The same fluffs who stand outside past bedtime on the soggy lawn (but not alone... no never alone...) with the somewhat impatient mother whose hair is wet even with the hooded protection of a somewhat too thin jacket.  She stands there, coaxing the little fluffs, telling them that it will be a long night and that they should "go" now.  But they are more interested in the flying leaves and the strange feeling of wind and rain on their teddy bear-like faces.  Finally they are done and the mother returns with the wet and "not-so fluffy" Maltese fluffs to the warm and aromatic house.

Aromas of beef and chili spices envelope the warm rooms of the house, for the mother had known it was going to storm and what better way to beat the unbearable (yes... it was in the low 50's...brrrr) cold on a stormy day than a hearty stew?  Filled with vibrant butternut squash the stew was visually a sight for cold eyes.  Chipotle chiles and a slightly spicy chili powder brought a warmth other than the actual physical heat of the dish, and the cilantro and pepper jack cheese brought a Mexican Chili-like flair to the steaming bowl of goodness.  Pearl barley added a healthy fiber to the flavorful mix and the tender chunks of grass fed beef made the husband's spirits soar.

With full bellies and happy heads, the family slept through the remainder of the storm awaking to gleaming but streaky windows and welcoming a new day.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats with Trader Joe's Mini Peanut Butter Cups

I need to post a retraction.  In my last post, the Valentine's Day Double Chocolate Pudding, I misspoke when I commented, "Mr. and Mrs. Romance we are not."  That was only half true.  While I did lovingly make the Double Chocolate Pudding complete with chocolate truffle heart on top, that was about the extent of my romance.  Not bad, or so I thought....

You'll remember that my Valentine was some 2500 miles away on the shores of Waikiki on the 14th.  He lovingly sent text photo after text photo of swaying palms, sunlit beaches, his beer at lunch, as well as a few surfers catching the waves with Diamond Head as a magnificent backddrop.  Little did I know, he had also done a bit of shopping.

The following afternoon after watching him gracefully land his enormous 767 at Lindbergh Field (San Diego) he popped into the car and we raced up the highway to hopefully make our 6PM date with my Dad for our monthly Wine Club pickup.  As the traffic slowed somewhere near Sea World, he glanced my direction and said, "Grab my backpack".  Well, it was all the way in the back and I looked at him and thought, "Really?  You want me to climb all the way into the back for your backpack?"  But I dutifully crawled over the seats and brought the pack up front.

Thinking he was rummaging through the pack for some work related item, I was surprised when produced a small, colorful bag with a little gold box inside.  He smiled and said, "I picked this up for you!" and slid it my direction.  A little giddy, I opened the box to find a lovely, gold rendition of my favorite tropical flower, the Plumeria, hanging from a delicate gold chain.  Knowing my love for the tropics he couldn't have chosen anything better!  With my heart melting, I quickly removed the pendant and necklace from the box and had it around my neck in seconds.  He smiled and said, "I knew it would look perfect!"  

I hereby retract my comment above and proclaim:  
Mr. Romance he IS!

Making our date with Dad, we enjoyed our special monthly evening chatting while tasting our wine selections, then selected our favorites.  Arriving home I had a surprise for the third special man in my life, my 14 year old son.  He has been begging for Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats for weeks, but alas, the last time we went to make them the peanut butter was gone.  Hence, we created the Nutella Rice Krispie Treats, which he truly enjoyed, but his heart was set on Peanut Butter.

Perfect for baking, if you can stop yourself from eating them out of hand!
With the ingredients finally in the pantry, a box of Trader Joe's Mini Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups considerably boosted the peanut "butteriness" of these sumptuous treats.  Topped with a chocolate/peanut butter ganache-like frosting these krispies are anything but ordinary.  Enticing peanut butter aromas from the melty cups and the ganache permeated the kitchen requiring us to set the ganache in the freezer so we could indulge faster.  Peanut buttery, chocolaty, krispy and beyond delicious, these treats won't last long on your counter!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Double Chocolate Pudding

Happy Valentine's Day to my love who is 2500 miles away!!  

Oh, how I wish I was with you, waking to the tropical trade winds and swaying palms in the shadow of Diamond Head...  We could have enjoyed lunch at Kona Brewing Company, appreciating a brew or two with our Spinach Strawberry Salad and a Kohala Pizza before strolling along the beach, stopping to catch a few waves in the Waikiki surf prior to sunning ourselves like turtles on the warm sand.  After a much needed afternoon nap, dinner at Roy's would have topped off our evening culminating with that tantalizing Chocolate Soufflé that we love so much!

I received this text yesterday afternoon...  OOOhhh!!! SO jealous!!

Unfortunately work has once again taken my guy away on St. Valentine's Day, this time to the shores of Waikiki.  However, after 19 years of his travels for work (ex-military turned airline pilot), we are pretty much used to it.  We have come to the conclusion that holidays really don't need to be celebrated on a certain day just because the calendar says so.  My son never knew the difference when Santa arrived on the 26th one year or on the 23rd the next.  Birthdays were the most difficult for the kids, but even they are not as bothered as they used to be now that they are getting older... the celebration is when we are all together, and that's the important part.

As for Valentine's Day, we really don't celebrate this one in a big way anyway, Mr. and Mrs. Romance we are not.  However, this year we marked the day on his one full day off in between trips with a nice flank steak and all of us together.  Needing something chocolate to top it off, Liv and I turned to an old favorite, Double Chocolate Pudding, a recipe from Food and Wine first published in 1987, then republished in 2008.

Silky and luscious, this lower in calorie treat is just the thing to curb your sweet tooth or chocolate craving.  Filled with dark chocolate we feel we are getting a good dose of those precious antioxidants along with a serving of calcium from the milk and protein from the eggs.  Almost a health food, I think!  ;)  Easy to put together and pretty in little cups, this pudding is a winner year round for kids and adults alike.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Roasted Jalapeño and Pineapple Infused Tequila

Crisp, vibrant, tart Margaritas have always been my cocktail of choice, the stronger the tequila bite the better.  However, after I reached that 40 year mark and watching calories has become a bit more of a requirement, I've tried to reduce sugars.  Realizing that a smallish size margarita can pack as much as 300 calories along with a cupful of those dreaded sugars, I began following the advice of Jillian Michaels and have left the mixers behind, enjoying my tequila straight.

Even in those college days when we were thinking that Cuervo 1800 was "the good stuff" the amber libation appealed to me.  As I've aged (matured??) I've found that there is some really "good stuff" out there, and that the 1800 really isn't it!  A few of my current favorite sippers include Tres Agaves, Corazon, Partida, Casa Noble (it's organic!) and a new Costco find (and better priced!) El Agave.

Seeking something "more" from my sippers, Brandon's, Kitchen Konfidence, post of a Roasted Jalapeño Blackberry Margarita piqued my interest with his infused tequila.  Weeks later, a visit to a local Mexican restaurant, Las Olas, had me perusing the margarita menu and an item with Roasted Pineapple and Jalapeño Tequila quickly caught my eye reminding me of Brandon.

Asking our server about the infused tequila, he smiled and said, "I'm the one who makes it!"  Eagerly retrieving a sample for me he quickly had me hooked.  Slightly sweet but with a spicy kick, the tequila went down easily.  After taking far too much of his time asking all sorts of questions I ventured to Trader Joe's and picked up my own pineapple.  Jalapeños from a friend's plant provided some spicy peppers and we got to grilling.

The pineapple and pepper aromas emanating from the grilling fruits were enticing!  As these peppers were exceptionally hot, I seeded them before dropping them into the infusing jar, then adding the pineapple spears and the tequila we were infusing in a flash.  Within hours the aroma of the roasted jalapeño wafted to our noses as we sniffed the concoction, the pineapple taking a few more days to appear.

Part of the fun of infusing is the tasting... one must taste regularly to know when the infusing is finished!  I must say that I was surprised how quickly the flavors melded into something wholly different than what I had poured into the jar.  After only 48 hours we had a pleasing sense of the spicy peppers on the back of the tongue and a fairly strong smokiness.  Removing the peppers we allowed the pineapple to keep working and 4 days later the sweet flavors made an appearance.   As our pineapple flavor seemed somewhat overwhelmed by the roasted pepper I added a few additional spears to release some fresh juice into the infusion and 24 hours later we had a slightly spicy, slightly sweet tequila that we proclaimed "finished"!

Testing the tequila with a simple Margarita recipe of fresh lime juice, our tequila and a splash of Grand Marnier over ice, we found a wonderful margarita shining with the flavors of the roasted jalapeño, the pineapple however, got lost somewhere in the mix.

Serving the infused tequila at Super Bowl brought mixed reactions.  One guest (our guest poster Dan of Becky's Stromboli) proclaimed that tequila was meant to be tequila, not something else and he promptly returned to the non-infused versions.  Another comment described it as "a very strong yet flavorful cocktail", and other simply smiled with pleasure as the melded flavors sent a pleasant warmth through her body.  Seems this one of those fairly subjective tastes, and you will either like it or you won't.  Our bottle was nearly half gone after the game, so I'm thinking that most people liked it!

For myself, I'm thankful that I didn't put it all out for our Super Bowl event and that I tucked away that other small bottle all for me.  I've dipped into it more than once on those nights when a little "pick-me-up" is in order.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Orange Crepes

Last summer, Liv and I discovered crepes with seasonal fresh, plump, red strawberries and we've been expanding our repertoire ever since.  Experimenting with banana, chocolate and peach, we've found these light, pancake-like wrappers far easier to make than we had ever imagined and they are a cinch to fill with all sorts of fillings.

Looking for any excuse to use part of our extraordinary orange crop this season, I was thrilled to find this recipe for Orange Crepes in Beatrice Ojakangas' book, Petite Sweets, the newest addition to my ever growing cookbook collection.  Ms. Ojakangeas' book features bite sized desserts along with stunning photos and mouthwatering recipes.  It's one of those books that you want to sit down with and leisurely audit, and had me turning down page after page as I perused the volume.

Liv pulled out the book one day after school and suggested that crepes would be the ideal after school snack.  (I truly think she's getting spoiled!)  With our new Sur La Table juicer on the counter just waiting to be used, we got to cutting open the oranges and quickly had a cup of fresh OJ.  She whisked up the batter and as it was "resting" we made the sweet Orange Syrup.

With the lovely orange aroma wafting through our kitchen I couldn't help but think that this sweet treat would benefit from a nice dousing of Grand Marnier.  Wanting to keep Liv's crepes kid-friendly, I set a few tablespoons aside for when she had had her fill.

And have her fill she did!  I believe she at nearly half the batch, literally licking her plate in the process.  I found the Orange Syrup to be a tad sweet for my taste (not unusual... I'm more of a tart person!), but the Grand Marnier made up for it.  Orange Crepes make a lovely afternoon treat and would be most perfect for a lovely morning brunch.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Strawberry Margarita Jell-O Shots

When thinking of Super Bowl foods strawberries don't usually make the cut.  However... mix the strawberries with a little tequila and turn them into a margarita and you are getting closer!  With our sunny Citrus Blush already mixed and in the pitcher we weren't really in need of another cocktail, but when I came across these cute little shots I couldn't resist putting them on my Super Bowl Extravaganza Table.  

Hollowed out strawberries work as a vehicle for a Jell-0 concoction of strawberry gelatin, tequila and a touch of Grand Marnier.  Garnished with cute little wedges of lime these little shots are absolutely adorable!

Strawberry season here in San Diego is a tad behind schedule and I had a bit of trouble finding those beautiful, plump and bright red berries, but we made do with the Farmer's Market offerings and found some that were good enough.  Hollowing out the berry is a bit of a chore, and I pierced the bottom of the berry on more than one occasion.  Note to self:  If there is a hole of any size in the bottom of the berry the Jell-O will flow right through!

The gelatin is mixed with water, 4 oz of tequila and 2 oz of Grand Marnier.  When mixing, the "potion" smelled just like a Strawberry Margarita!  The next hurdle was to actually get the Jell-O into the hollowed out berries... not an easy feat.  Luckily Liv came to the rescue!  Suffering with a sinus infection the pharmacist had filled her antibiotics and given us a baby dropper to take the medicine dose.  Being 11 years old, we laughed at the baby dropper and stuck it in the drawer.  Remembering this little dropper at the last minute, we pulled it out, sucked up about a Tbs of the Jell-O and squirted it into the berry.  Ideal!!

The berries were adorable on the table and garnered "Ooohs and Aaahh's" from the crowd, but upon tasting, most people could not taste anything but sweet Jell-O and the berry.  None of the "Margarita" flavor seemed to make its way onto the taste buds.  So while these little guys are visually perfect for the table, they didn't pack the punch I was hoping for.

The recipe and directions can be found on the Baker's Royale blog and I really think that with the proper tweaking they could pack more of a Margarita Punch.  Definitely worth playing with for the visual impact that they made.  Next time I would probably double (at least!) the tequila (reducing the same amount of water) and see what we can come up with.  To be continued... (someday!)

Edited 2/10/11:  Tamera, in the comment section below, suggests using all liquor in the gelatin mix, no water.  My friend, Becky (of Becky's Football Stromboli) suggested the same thing

Edited 1/26/12:  After the success of our New Years Eve Margarita Lime Jello Cubes, I would fill the strawberries with this tempting concoction! 


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Citrus Blush... a sunny cocktail to brighten your day!

Whew, Super Bowl XLV was awesome!!!  Ok... I didn't see a single commercial, more than 2 plays of the game or the National Anthem (though I did hear about it on the radio), but I had one of the best days ever.  With our house filled with good friends, our table filled with scrumptious football food, and a sunny citrusy drink in our hands we were set for the perfect day.  Our 8th Annual Super Bowl Extravaganza was another resounding success.

Becky carried the team with not just one, but four Football Strombolis!  People literally started crowding the kitchen as seconds ticked off of the timer, waiting for the cheesy goodness to exit the oven.  The kids would run through and grab a piece on the fly, so we had to be quick to get our fair share.  My neighbor, Evan, even scored his own personal stromboli after accomplishing a personal best in the Long Beach Marathon earlier in the day.  He arrived home after running those 26+ miles, took a quick nap and was still standing an hour after the game had finished... nicely done, Evan!

With everyone bringing a football food donation for the table we had a bona fide football feast.  The Asian Spring Rolls dipped in a tasty peanut sauce were the first to go, but the remaining dips, sandwiches, cobblers, Strawberry Margarita jello-shots, cakes, meatballs, ultra-dark chocolate cookies and bugles filled the gap.

I was not familiar with Bugles prior to last year's game when my husband found them in the snack aisle and had to have them.  Many of our guests smile with glee at the overflowing bowl, reminiscing about the crunchy little treats that apparently are fun to stick on the ends of your fingers.  In any case, that bowl was soon emptied as well!

Bugles... do you remember bugles??
Another Super Bowl tradition at our house is the Citrus Blush, a lovely, bright and sunny, beverage that simply makes the world a good place.  Brimming with freshly squeezed Ruby-red grapefruit and lime juices and mixed with a concoction of vodka and limoncello, the drink is extraordinarily sippable and will have you smiling with pleasure at the first taste.  Sweet, yet tart, the thirst quencher pleases nearly every palette and will bring a bright, happy spot to your day!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nutella Rice Krispie Treats

I'm usually kind of close to the cutting edge... not right on it, but not too far behind either.  I was actually one of the first kids in my class to have a calculator, but being slightly smaller than an adding machine and still having to be plugged into the wall, the new gadget didn't make its way into my backpack - but we did have one!  

I was also right there with the "car phone".  Yep... that was me, blonde, permed hair blowing under the open sunroof in my Honda Prelude, curly cord plugged into the charger, chatting on my shoe-sized flip phone just like Farrah Fawcet in Charlie's Angels.  Ahhh... those were the days!!  And we were also right there with the mid-90's HP Pavillion Desktop super computer with all 800 MB of hard drive (now I take that much in pictures in a week!) closely followed by one of those early digital cameras.

While we may have been technologically there (with the exception of Twitter!), we missed the Nutella wave.  Letizia Golosa is really the person responsible for bringing us into the Nutella world with her Homemade Nutella Post.  Her stunning shots of the creamy, chocolaty spread literally had me craving some for myself.  While I haven't ventured into the homemade world yet, we did take advantage of one of those Costco super coupons for a two pack.  Cutting the plastic off of the containers and opening the jar for the first time we really weren't sure how we would like it, but... Wow!!  Creamy, nutty, and full of chocolate, really, what's not to like?

Since our first time we have returned to purchase jar after jar.  The plethora of Nutella recipes of late has me eager to try Letizia's homemade version, and I have found that the spread on our Chocolate Banana Crepes is no less than extraordinary.

A few days ago, my son's request to make his favorite Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats had me reaching for the jar of peanut butter only to be met with a shriek of, "NO!  You can not use crunchy peanut butter!"  (though I really do think that would have been good!).  After I explained that we were out of the creamy kind he replaced the crunchy jar into the pantry and returned with a fresh jar of Nutella.  Why not?  

We got to mixing, melting a cup of the Nutella into the marshmallow mixture and then creating a decadent topping of the chocolaty hazelnut spread combined with melted chocolate.  Eagerly anticipating our first tastes, I watched the smiles all around and a plate emptying fairly quickly.  I'd say we have a hit!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Citrus Season is in full swing here in my San Diego back yard!  I absolutely know how lucky I am to have not only a generously producing orange tree, but a lemon and lime as well.  Planted as little slips and literally arriving in quart sized cartons they have grown into wonderful producers who willingly provide us with orange, yellow and green fruits for months on end.

This year's and next year's Margaritas!
Growing up in Northern California we also had an orange tree.  I remember how my grandparents, from Minnesota, would pose by the tree on each and every visit.  Somehow though, I took those orange globes for granted.  They were always there and easy to get.  But then I moved away from home and was slapped into reality when I tasted my first store bought orange.  Blech!!  It must have been weeks old, was mushy and mealy and had absolutely no flavor.  My loving dad came to my rescue with a bag of home grown oranges and we haven't looked back!

Dad is still providing us and a good portion of my neighbors with bags of the precious citrus and has been proclaimed to have one of the best trees around!  Serving sliced oranges to the kids, I'm frequently asked, "Are these our oranges or Papa's?"  receiving a smile when I confirm that they are Papa's.  Not that our oranges are bad... his are just better.  He says it is because he talks to them... and I'm sorely tempted to take up a conversation with our tree next time I need advice.

With a bag of no less than 50 sweet, juicy oranges on our table we definitely needed a use.  My buddy Giada once again came to the rescue with her Spinach Salad and Orange Vinaigrette.  Altering it to what we had on hand, we added my current green obsession, arugula, and I couldn't help myself from topping it with a generous handful of blue cheese.  Filled with greens, pancetta, onions and oranges and dressed with a lovely orange/balsamic vinaigrette I had 6 smiling faces.  I guess I'd better go tell the tree!