Thursday, March 31, 2011

Limoncello Lemon Cake

Lemon throws a ray of brilliant sunshine into our lives.  Spring at its best, a dazzling lemon cake brightens up even the worst of days.

Using a dash of our freshly made Limoncello in the batter along with the zest of a lemon, Liv and her friend gobbled up the glazed slices as we made our way to their afternoon dance class.  With much of the fat replaced by yogurt I felt as though they were getting a treat I could feel good about.  For an adult version Limoncello is used in the sugar glaze as well as the cake, easily subbing out plain lemon juice and zest for the kids.

The smiles on the girl's faces flashed a bright spot into my somewhat dark day.  With comments of "like cake from Heaven", this bright Lemon Cake is dedicated to Monet (Anecdotes and Apple Cores), my friend Annie and their families.  Monet's sister, Pam, rose to heaven yesterday, joining her 13 year old son after a heart wrenching recent tragic auto accident.  In addition to Pam, my friend Annie lost her mother, Yoshi, to cancer on the same day.  Such painful events, yet we know the heavens shine a little brighter with their presence.

Bright with zesty lemon, this light and tender cake won't last long on your table.  One batch makes three smaller loaves or one large.  Topped with a sweet lemony glaze the cake is nearly irresistible!  Limoncello or lemon juice may be used interchangeably with equal heavenly success.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beans a la Charra

Long ago I have memories of my parents saying, "Remember when we did that, what was it, 20 years ago?" and me thinking, "Wow, 20 years ago?  I've not even been alive that long!".  Well, more and more often I'm finding myself reminiscing about events from 20+ years ago...

For example, some 20 years ago my "bff", Gail, and I spent a good many evenings at a local Mexican restaurant, Chevys (a chain, we were in Northern CA).  They served up the most mouthwatering flour tortillas fresh for "La Machina", tender, almost buttery tortillas that seemed to melt in your mouth.  I began my love of the Margarita during those years as we sampled our fair share while pouring out our hearts to each other.  We shared our dreams, dating frustrations, and general chatter as we dipped our warm tortillas into the freshly made salsa and guacamole while sipping our "ritas".

A few years later had me married and moving away to Kentucky for a short time.  No Chevy's there, however as I began my trek into the food world I learned to make my own Mexican inspired dishes.  I grew my own tomatoes and cilantro for the salsa, whipped up a mean guacamole and even learned to mix a darn good Margarita.

While Chevy's has lost some of its appeal now that I've "matured"  (the margaritas are too sweet for my taste and the salsa... well, I think mine is better) I jumped at the chance to place the Chevy's & Rio Bravo Fresh Mex Cookbook on my shelf.  I have to admit that in the last few years I've sort of forgotten about the book, but recently took it off the shelf and thumbed through the familiar recipes.  

Trader Joe's Carne Asada with grilled onions and peppers
With a Trader Joe's Carne Asada thawing in the fridge I needed a bean recipe to round out the meal.  Beans a la Charra jumped off of the page reminding me of another favorite from Tiffany at I Don't Cook, But My Boyfriend does.  Her Pinto Beans that Rock have become a family favorite (highly recommended!!), and I've made them so often I almost don't need to refer to the recipe.  Beans a la Charra is nearly the same, but changes it up with a different spices.

A couple of cans of Pinto Beans start us off when they are combined with flavorful diced onion and chopped bacon.  With my winter jalapeños bright red on the bush I eagerly diced one up for a little added spice.  Garlic, chili powder and cumin round out the flavors giving these tender beans a Fresh Mex appeal.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Monet, Anecdotes and Apple Cores, and her family as they struggle with a tragic auto accident which struck her sister's family recently.  Chef Dennis has written a beautiful guest post on her blog which sums up our feelings about the lovely Monet.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Living in Southern California, and more particularly near my dad, we have an abundance of citrus.  Dad's "groves" (he has a small plot of land but lots of trees!) include lime, orange and lemon.  His mature lemon tree produces nearly year around and supplements the baby tree that we have growing in our own "groves".  With literally hundreds of the yellow fruits ripe at any one time we try to find recipes to use them up as it just breaks our heart to toss them if we can't find an eager recipient.

Limoncello is just the type of recipe that makes you feel good about using lots of the produce.  Using a vegetable peeler, my husband peels strips of rind as thin as he can from the lemons and places them into a jar.  While the peeling does indeed take a bit of time, the completion of this section of the recipe simply calls for "pouring vodka over to cover".  The citrusy jar then goes into the closet for a rest until we remember it is there, usually about 4 weeks or so.

I'm always amazed how quickly the liquid takes on a brilliant yellow hue and emits a most lovely lemony scent.  Within 24 hours the oils from the rind have already begun releasing into the vodka giving the color and scent.  After a good 4 week or so rest, the vodka is ready to be "cut" with a simple syrup of water and sugar.

A quick internet search will turn up dozens of recipes, all somewhat different.  I found one recipe calling for a steeping time of 4 days and another asking for 44+ days.  I also found great variations in the amount of simple syrup used as well as the water/sugar ratios leading me to believe that this beverage is a bit of an imprecise science and that you really can't go wrong.

Next year's lemon crop!
Cutting the Lemon Vodka is indeed imprecise involving variations and personal taste.  My husband has made the Limoncello twice with the lemons being riper the second time.  The riper lemons seemed to release a more citrusy flavor requiring less of the simple syrup than the first batch with less ripe lemons.  His advice was to mix up the simple syrup and add in batches rather than all at once, adjusting to suit your taste and making sure that you haven't gone too sweet.

Brilliant in color and rich with a delightful scent this Italian beverage makes a special treat over crushed ice on a warm summer day (or even a cold winters day, for that matter...).  Limoncello can also be a tasty addition to baked goods and glazes adding a lovely lemony boost to the finished product.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Irish Oatmeal Bread

Steel Cut Oatmeal makes for a wonderful, satisfying, warm-you-to-your-toes, breakfast.  The 1 cup of dry oats, however, cooks into far more than I can eat in one sitting, and if I'm the only one partaking on any particular day I have leftovers.  My Great Aunt Betty makes oatmeal and reheats it for a day or two afterward, which I have successfully done, but with the return of winter-like weather to our soggy San Diego coastline I found myself reteating to the kitchen to bake.  

Oatmeal Bread is one of our family favorites, and the addition of the leftover steel cut oats gives this loaf a slightly nubby texture.  Without giving me a chance to even get a single photograph my husband hardly let this loaf cool before he sliced it up and followed me into the laundry room with a couple of toasted pieces saying, "Wow... this bread is awesome, I meal absolutely awesome!  We should have it more often."

Toasted and slathered with butter or topped with sweet honey (we have some special Macadamia Hawaiian Honey from Felice, All That's Left are the Crumbs, that we have been rationing!) this oatmeal bread with added flax meal gives not only a dose of fiber and nutrition, but a delightful flavor.  The loaf does not last long, and I'm here to say it makes a darn good PBJ as well!

On a side note, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with Monet, of Anecdotes and Apple Cores.  Her sister's family has been in a tragic auto accident and our prayers for them continue. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

After a total of nearly 18 hours at the theater in two days, Liv and I returned home Saturday night around midnight utterly exhausted.  Our girls rocked the stage!!  I saw most of her solo through my tears of emotion, but what I saw was enough to know that she had done well.  My husband had flown across the country and made it just in time to see her take the stage.  My dad called my mom in rehab (hip replacement) so she could listen on the cell phone and the laughter and applause from the audience was carried across the Verizon phone network to her little room 30 miles away, bringing tears to her eyes as well.  An hour later as they announced awards we were thrilled to hear she scored well that evening and received a second in her category. 

Liv's Solo - she dances to Sarah Jessica Parker's "Shy" from Once Upon a Mattress
The next day had us heading back to the theater for the group numbers where the girls once again lit up the stage.  I feel a bit of "ownership" for each of the girls and my heart was bursting with pride as I sat behind an older couple during the small group tap number and listened to them laugh out loud, comment that they loved the costumes and say that this was one of the best numbers they had seen all day.  Yep... those were MY girls!

In less than two weeks we get to head out and do it all over again.  Liv is ready to start packing her bags!!

With both Liv and myself a bit limp the following day we spent a good amount of time sitting on the couch watching tv together.  My son joined us for a while and soon our stomachs were grumbling.  With Daddy back on the travel road, I had earlier turned to the slow cooker, filling it with chicken, onions and spices and let it "do its thing" while we got our energy back.

Before I knew it the house was aromatic and dinner was ready.  Tender chicken was shredded and returned to the somewhat spicy tomato based sauce flavored with Frank's RedHot Sauce, cider vinegar, and garlic.  Served with a bowl of sliced oranges and a side of slaw we all enjoyed the meal and decided to leave the dishes for the next day.  An early night was had by all...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish (Steel Cut) Oatmeal with a Ginger-Orange Cashew Topping

An Irish Blessing
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again 
may God hold you in the palm of His hand

Six years ago my beautiful friend Annie crossed my path, and my world has been a better place ever since.  Her nearly 5 foot frame literally bursts with happiness and occasionally erupts with the most contagious laughter that has graced this earth.  We don't see each other very often as a few years ago life led her to Colorado.  Leaving behind her little town by the sea our busy lives leave little time to chat, and some of her short visits don't even allow enough time to see each other.

However, every year, about 2 days before St. Patrick's Day an envelope arrives in the mail with some sort of Irish best wishes.  Annie is a beautiful mix of Japanese and Irish, looking more Polynesian than anything, but always signs it "To my favorite Irish Friends".  She nicely includes me with my German blood, but my 100% Irish husband always feels that the card is really for him!  This years card included the above blessing, however, my husband's favorite was the one that told this Irish joke:

Front of Card: "So these two Irish guys walk out of a pub..."   

Inside of card: "End of joke!  But I suppose it could happen..."

Viewing all of the beautiful Irish recipes in my blog travels this last week has led me to the realization that I don't really know much about Irish food.  Pulling out my only "Irish" recipe and tweaking it just a bit, we present our St. Patrick's Day contribution of Irish Oatmeal with a Ginger-Orange Cashew Topping.

I am surprised at how many of my friends won't make Irish, or steel cut, oatmeal as they say it "takes too long".  Many of them love it, but buy it frozen at Trader Joe's or simply don't make it at all.  I have a trick!

Before you go to bed heat 4 cups of water in a sauce pan.  When it boils, add the steel cut oatmeal and turn off the heat.  Cover, go to bed.

When you wake in the morning the oatmeal simply needs a quick heating and maybe a few minutes of cooking, but your prep time will be cut down considerably making this healthy bowl of goodness an easier start to your morning.

Needing something to spice it up, we topped our oatmeal today with ginger and orange enhanced cashews finding the orange permeating nearly the entire bowl giving it a lovely fresh flavor.  Finishing off with diced banana and mango (just what we had on hand, any fresh or dried fruit will do!) the kids started their St. Patrick's Day morning with a nutritious and somewhat Irish breakfast.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Macadamia Coconut Granola Bars

We did it!  The show was a resounding success.  Our last post detailed the last minute sewing, rhinestoning and general chaos that led up to the big day, the beginning of Liv's Competition Dance Season, and I'm here to say that it was all worth it.  

Liv and Molly ready for the Magic number!
My girl hit the stage a-glitter with all those beautiful (hand applied) sparkling rhinestones (I have currently have a great amount of appreciation for sparkle), the sash with my less than perfect stitches that didn't fall off and the hats and headbands that stayed together with large amounts of hidden gorilla glue and red duct tape.  She and her dance team members rocked the stage and brought many of us moms to tears in the process.

Liv and Ellie ready to hit the stage.  Liv's sash almost looks like a pro sewed it on!
Now that the costumes are complete, the real fun begins.  The team will travel the region in hopes of a trophy or two between now and the final competition, Nationals, on the stage in Vegas in early July.  Friday they will hit the road again with costume bags and makeup kits in hand as the first competition sets off.  They are ready!

Yesterday's performance was sort of a dry run for our studio and the girls danced for the community.  In between shows our tireless Booster Club put on a BBQ for the dancers and their families asking each family to provide a side or dessert.  Our assignment was dessert and I had it all planned - Macarons from Jill Colona's book Mad About Macaroons.  However time slipped away and the macarons didn't happen (coming soon!), but thankfully Carolyn of All Day I Dream About Food posted the ideal treat.  Wanting to provide the girls with something a bit sweet, but also something that would fuel them for the next show Carolyn's Granola Bars fit the bill.  Her description, "These are to die for", had me more than comfortable making them without a dry run.  She was right.

Macadamia nuts, crystallized ginger, coconut and dried mangoes brought a tropical flair to our grain filled bars while the rolled oats and golden flax meal provided much needed energy producing nutrition.  Honey and brown sugar lent the perfect amount of sweetness bringing us the ideal dancer treat.  Easy to toss together and filled with nutritional goodness along with a touch of sweetness these bars will be a regular in our household.  Thanks Carolyn, these bars are indeed to die for!!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Grilled Garlic Herb Chicken... with a little help from a package

It's been one of those weeks... you know, the one where you start the week thinking you have it all together - the menus planned out, ingredients purchased, schedules set and manageable, and everything looks so darn organized.  How does it all fall apart so quickly?

First of all, the more than 178 miles I put on the car in six days without really leaving my little town of Carlsbad has me cringing when I need to head back out on the road.  $80 took care of the empty tank, but I've watched the gas meter drop ever so quickly.  Between the kids contradicting school schedules, trips to drop and pick up my son at the gym, Liv's regular and extra dance rehearsals, visiting my mom who is recovering from hip surgery, the store for regular groceries and then the last minute shopping for the big dance show tomorrow, I'm exhausted.

Add in Liv's last minute costume arrivals for the dance season (she dances competitively for a local studio) and you have me sewing in my "spare" time (I don't know how to sew... you can imagine my "pretty" stitches), applying rhinestones to any bare spots on the fabric (I have a new appreciation for sparkle) and much to my son's amusement he found me on my knees out in the back yard rubbing an old pair of his jeans on the concrete for a "well-worn" look and holes in the knees for the small group tap number that has them dressed like farmers.  I still have elastic to sew onto the hats, a crown to rhinestone and socks to trim.  The show is tomorrow at 9:30.  I think I'll make it.

With my head swirling with altered schedules, the menus somehow got lost in the fog and as dinnertime would approach 6 human, 4 canine and 2 feline hungry eyes would begin looking my crazed direction wondering when dinner would arrive.  Realizing it was 6 PM and I had thawed the chicken but never done anything with it I gave in.  I'm not really a package girl, I like to prepare our meals fresh without the unknown ingredients that sometimes come along with things in a box or bag.  I do organic, fresh and local when I can, but sometimes a girl just needs a little help.  I turned to the beloved package.

A few years ago my friend Becky (of Becky's Football Stromboli) had us over for dinner and served the most wonderful Peppered Chicken.  Fresh from the grill it was tender, flavorful and one of the best meals I'd had in a while.  Frequently we share recipes and I immediately asked for this one.  She casually comment she'd show me later.  As we cleaned up the kitchen she tossed a McCormick Grill Mates Package labeled "Peppercorn & Garlic Marinade" my direction.  My jaw dropped... this awesome chicken I had just raved about was from a package???  Yep.  It was indeed.

Since then I have stocked up on the Grill Mates for just the occasions that this week provided.  (Note: Neither McCormick nor Grill Mates knows that I'm writing this post, I have received nothing from them in any way... but would happily test anything if they offered!!).  Requiring meat (chicken, beef, pork), oil, water, sometimes vinegar and the packet, dinner is on the table in about 36 minutes from start to finish (assuming you have thawed the meat which on occasion I've been known to forget to do).  Our favorite is still the Peppercorn & Garlic that Becky made for us, but the Chipotle Pepper and Garlic Herb and Wine versions are also very high on our list.  I have yet to find one that the entire family is not pleased with and never have a complaint when I serve the freshly grilled, tender and tasty chicken.

A 15 min bath in the marinade and another 15 minutes on the grill has the meat part of the meal complete.  Frequently I toss oiled onions and peppers onto the grill along side the meat, add a simple tossed or bean salad to the serving plate and you have all those eyes staring at you now smiling with pleasure (well.... except for the cat who gets the same can every day - her choice).  Then before the fog clears you are back to rhinestoning gloves and costumes and remembering that you forgot to pick up the tan fishnet stockings at the dance store...

Grill Mates Pepper Corn and Garlic Dinner

1 Packet Grill Mates Marinade
4 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
oil for the veggies (I use an herb dipping oil)
sliced onions
sliced red peppers
Bean Salad (leftover from yesterday)
someone to do the dishes (anyone??  anyone??)

Proud Mama moment here...I can't help sharing my girl with you all.  Here's the video from Nationals in Vegas last year where she scored 6th place overall in her solo!  We'll have a new video in a few weeks from this year's season.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kenyan Banana Cake with Crunchy N'Dizi

As I married my husband some 20 years ago, my cooking skills were not quite what they are today.  The lucky guy was the fortunate recipient of pasta - 5 different ways in our first 7 days together!  However, a quick trip to Price Club had him arriving home with an attractive, yet entry level cookbook filled with brilliant photos and mouth watering recipes along with hopes of something other than pasta for dinner.  He did indeed eat better in the days following, but little did he know he had just started what he now calls my "cookbook addiction".

I find a good cookbook akin to a good novel.  Perfectly happy to curl up on the couch with a steaming cup of coffee and a cookbook on my lap, I can easily pass the hours.  Our travels often find me returning home with a regional cookbook as my souvenir bringing the flavors of our trip home to our kitchen, and I can rarely resist a pretty new book when I pass the overflowing tables at Costco.

Imagine my excitement when Storey Publishing contacted me asking if I would be interested in reviewing Krystina Castella's book, A World of Cake.  In a word, Yes!  The people at Storey have been kind enough to additionally offer a 2nd copy for us to giveaway.   

(Edited to note giveaway is closed)

Definitely not your typical cake book loaded with endless variations of frostings, cakes and decorations, Ms. Kastella has taken cakes from around the world and filled her pages with recipes, photos and most interestingly, history and lore.  Each recipe comes with variations for different tastes and occasions, along with a description of what you will be making.

To enter the giveaway we asked our guests to leave a comment telling us which country they would like to visit (virtually) through the book.  Locations from near and far have been commented on including China, Greece, France, Austria, Mexico, Lebanon, Morocco, Croatia, Macedonia, Eastern Europe, anywhere in South America, Scotland, Kenya or Africa, Ireland, Australia, Italy, Russia, Hungary, Germany, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Spain, Israel, Poland, Sweden, India, Mongolia, Peru, Tortuga, and Nancy had a special request for her son in the Foreign Service in the Middle East.  Whew... that's a lot of countries!

I can happily report that Ms. Castella has got them all covered!!  From continent to continent and country to county the recipes are representative of their region and bring morsels of culture along with a sweet treat.

With a bunch of brown, ripe bananas on our counter in addition to Liv's obsession for the fruit, I couldn't resist trying Kenya's Banana Cake with Crunchy N'Dizi.  Ndizi, a Swahili word for "plantain", is in this case sliced and steamed banana dipped into butter, sprinkled with chopped peanuts and then baked for a crunchy, caramelized banana topping.

Note:  (For experimentation purposes only) I sampled the N'Dizi before putting it on the cake and deem it, well... awesome!  

Simple sweetened whipped cream alone would have been a perfect finish to the cake, but the Banana Whipped Cream recommended is a real treat.  Cream whipped and sweetened receives a flavorful addition of mashed banana for the perfect complement to the banana cake and crunchy banana topping.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

King Cake

Highly sought after frequent flier or visitor upgrades bring a smile to our face.  Who wouldn't jump in elation as the airline employee smiles and says, "Well, Mrs. Liv Life, you are being upgraded to First Class on this leg of your journey." (This has only happened once, but I keep hoping every time I fly!!)  Like Jerry Seinfeld, I'm lucky enough to know the elusive comforts of first class...

Jerry: Elaine, have you ever flown first-class?
All right then. See, you don't know what you're missing. I've flown first-class. I can't go back to coach. I can't, I won't.

Thankfully my mom received her own kind of upgrade this week when she was awarded a private room at Scripps Memorial Encinitas Hospital.  Arriving early in the morning a few days ago for a hip replacement, she was wheeled hours later to her coveted private room with a new hip along with an unfortunate complication.  The surgery had caused a small fracture to a part of the remaining bone as the new joint was being inserted, pushing her full recovery back some six weeks.  The private room was a godsend indeed!

While nurses, aids, doctors and volunteers all helped to make her stay more pleasurable, there really is no pleasure in having to ring for help every time you need to head to the bathroom.  Even less pleasure when the person who arrives to help you with this most private function is a man (no offense men, it's just a bit embarrassing...).  However, over the few days of her stay she came to truly appreciate those strong arms that helped her in and out of the bed, the chairs... and even to the bathroom.

Wanting to thank the many people who helped to make Mom's stay at the hospital (in her upgraded room) as pleasant as possible, I took the opportunity to open a new cookbook that had been sent my way.  Storey Publishing contacted me a few weeks ago asking if I would be interested in reviewing Krystina Castella's book AA World of Cake.  Jumping at the opportunity I was thrilled when my friendly UPS man dropped the eagerly awaited package into my waiting hands just a few days later.

Definitely not your typical cake book loaded with variations of frostings, cakes and decorations, Ms. Kastella has taken cakes from around the world and filled her pages with recipes, photos and most interestingly, history and lore.  Traveling to Italy for Panettone, to Israel for a special holiday Seed Cake, to Kenya for a Banana Cake with Crunchy N'Dizi (this post is up tomorrow!) and last but not least to New Orleans for a traditional King Cake, Liv and I spent well over an hour reading about the origins, traditions and stories that go along with the featured sweets.  Each recipe comes with variations for different tastes and occasions, along with a description of what you will be making.

Churros from Mexico were the first treats to catch Liv's eye, but the King Cake from New Orleans won out.  In California the 5th grade curriculum covers the United States with each child completing a detailed project on a certain state.  Last year Liv did her report on Louisiana, and what report on Louisiana would be complete without a Mardi Gras section featuring a King Cake??

Ms. Castella's synopsis of the King Cake would most definitely have come in handy last year as Liv was researching Mardi Gras food and traditions:

The French brought king cake to New Orleans in the eighteenth century, and for a hundred years this cake was associated with the Feast of Epiphany on January 6.  A bean, pea or small trinket would be baked into the cake and the person who found the hidden item was named king of the feast, said to have good luck for the next year.

Over time, the king cake became the official cake of Mardi Gras, the new Orleans carnival that kicks off on Epiphany and ends on Shrove Tuesday.  No Mardi Gras party is complete without its king cake.  Instead of a bean or trinket, Mardi Gras king cakes have a small ceramic or plastic baby baked into them, said to represent the baby Jesus.  The person who finds the baby is charged with, among other duties onerous or joyous, bringing the king cake to the next Mardi Gras party.

Filled with a luscious, lemon enhanced cream cheese layer this yeast cake is then topped with a sweet/tart lemon icing and decorated in bright Mardi Gras colored sugars for a brilliant presentation.  The directions were clear and easy to follow, providing us with a wonderful treat to bring to the hospital to share with those who have been such a comfort.

A World of Cake Giveaway!!!
(This 2011 giveaway is closed...) 
Storey Publishing was not only kind enough to send me a copy of A World of Cake
, but they have also offered to send one to one of our readers!!  To enter our giveaway simply leave a comment below with the country you would most likely check out first in the book.   We visited Mexico, Tortuga, Austria and then headed over to China for Mooncake.   Tomorrow we will bring you to Kenya for an amazing Banana Cake topped with a Crunchy N'Dizi... stay tuned!!

Leave your comment and country of choice below - the giveaway closes next Sunday, March 13. Unfortunately this giveaway is open only to United States residents....however, we'd still love to hear what country you are interested in even if you don't live here!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake

Blueberry Lemon Pound Cake
As the gentle trade winds stir the palm fronds above my sleepy head, I send you to our Guest Post on Chef Dennis' More Than a Mount Full for a slice of Blueberry Pound Cake.  Liv Life is taking a much needed day of off.  Dennis, however, has featured our Pound Cake in all its glory along with an essay by Liv, a Myth on Why Ants are Small.  We'd like to take a moment to say that all the characters in the story are completely fictional and that any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  More importantly... My dad's name is Jerry and when you read the myth on Dennis' blog you will understand our disclaimer!

Bora Bora 2/10 - Kim Kelly
For us though, we are headed out for a bit of snorkeling and swimming with the sea turtles, then off try our hand at hanging 10 and catching a few waves.  However... with the surf a bit on the small side today, we may just stretch ourselves out on a the warm sand and catch a bit of a nap, taking in each and every ray the sun is so lovingly sending our direction.  Thinking of you Dennis, may the 23º warm up soon!
Wish you were here!!!
(just dreaming... be back tomorrow)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Poached Salmon with Asaparagus and Citrus Vinaigrette

I can feel it in the air, spring is on its way!  The sun is rising earlier as well as setting later, the birds are chirping happily in the warmer mornings while they search for their plump worms, and the warmer days are inviting us outdoors.  Not that we can really complain as our cold has been far easier than the majority of the country, but for a solar powered person such as myself these warm days of spring are eagerly anticipated.

With the warmer temps and dryer days "the boys", Kona and Tavo, are also eager to feel the wind in their faces and stretch their little limbs.  After our recent rains the fields are drying out (mostly) and I am more willing to let them run free in the park without the fear of having to give them a full mud-removing bath afterwards.  Closing the gates at the baseball field just up the street from our house I'm able to let the little guys run free, and run they do!

Kona leaps from the car with the excitement of a hungry hunting dog.  Unleashed Kona, the 7 lb Maltese, makes for a small flock of bird far off in the field turning on a dime as they easily fly away.  He runs directly through the only muddy puddle in the field and continues on through the red dirt infield to make his way back to us racing on his no longer white paws.

Tavo, my diva, delicately skirts the mud puddle and runs at a slow jog so as not to muss his hair.  He takes a few laps then settles himself sedately at my feet, happy to watch his brother continue to tear around the field.

Today our neighbor Lizzy joined us.  Some of you may remember little Elizabeth from her debut on our blog about 4 months ago, a wee little pup at the time, she has grown into a lovely young lady.  She and Tavo enjoyed more of the diva life today as they watched crazy Kona run his circles.

Home from the park with rumbling stomachs, the boys chewed on a beef stick while I luxuriated in something a bit more to my taste.  Having poached the salmon and asparagus the evening prior, this salad was a breeze to put together.  Refreshing and nutritious, the orange essence brought a brightness to our afternoon in addition to the shining sun!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Happy National Pancake Day!!

Pancakes according to Wikipedia:
A pancake is a thin, flat, round cake prepared from a batter and cooked on a hot griddle or frying pan. Most pancakes are quick breads; some use a yeast-raised or fermented batter. Most pancakes are cooked one side on a griddle and flipped partway through to cook the other side. Depending on the region, pancakes may be served at any time, with a variety of toppings or fillings including jam, chocolate chips, fruit, syrup or meat.

For us pancakes equate to happiness and over the years these hotcakes have provided numerous essential nutrients to my somewhat finicky children without them ever having a clue that they were eating something other than what they wanted.  Taking the simple batter and turning it into an inviting breakfast (or snack or lunch or dinner) filled with whole grains, nuts and any variety of fruits has allowed me to furnish their growing bodies with essential nutrients that they would otherwise say "No thank you" to.  I can always count on a pancake to be received with a smile and I have yet to have one turned down.

Today, being a special occasion, Liv decorate her pancakes in what she deems "the proper fashion".  Smothered with whipped cream and sprinkles, these guys were more of a dessert than a healthy start to her day, however I smiled knowing that she was happily eating a good base of whole wheat, flax meal, milk and a bit of egg with each and every whipped cream smothered bite.  Add in a glass of OJ and she was set for her day!

In the short life of Liv Life we have already filled our pages with some of our favorite pancake recipes.  Whole Wheat Pancakes were the first to be shared and they are indeed still a frequent guest on our breakfast table.  Very similar to today's recipe, these pancakes have the added benefit of a splash of vanilla giving them an added layer of flavor while providing lasting energy for the morning.  Topped with a touch of butter and drizzled syrup these light and fluffy pancakes are gone in a flash.

Next up, our favorite Pumpkin Pancakes.  Cans of Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin are stocked in our pantry specifically for this recipe.  Light and fluffy, these pancakes are spiced with pumpkin pie-like spices spreading the aroma of fall throughout your home as you flip them.  Topped with dark maple syrup no one will ever know that they are receiving a good dose of vitamin A along with fiber and antioxidants.  Additional garnishments of banana, raisins and walnuts only improve the overall health benefits.  Liv first had these when she was still a baby and has been eating them ever since!

The richer Puffed Apple Pancake provides a bit of a different version of the regular pancake.  Cooked as one big pancake in a skillet and finished off in a 425º oven this delight puffs into a dream as it cooks!  Filled with sauteed apples and everyone's favorite apple pie spices the puffed cake is dusted with powdered sugar for a little added sweetness.  Ingredients of 1/2 and 1/2, butter and maple syrup bring this version into the highly desired dessert realm, but I can remember happily finishing it off the following morning with my cup of coffee.

Another whole grain version, Whole Grain Buttermilk Pancakes with Oatmeal and Banana, mixes not only whole wheat flour but rolled oats, flax meal and wheat germ into the batter along with some mashed banana for an additional nutrition boost.  A touch of brown sugar combined with cinnamon add a welcome sweetness and spice that complements the maple syrup with each and every bite.  A plate of homemade goodness that makes Liv's eyes shine every time she sees them!

Every once in a while though, a girl just needs a does of plain, good 'ole white flour.  Buttermilk Pancakes with Flax provide just that!  With only 3 Tablespoons of Golden Flax mixed into the batter Liv had no idea that she was receiving a tiny bit of something good along with her fluffy and most requested Buttermilk Pancakes.  While the 3 tbs probably don't provide much nutrition when broken down into servings, somehow I just feel better knowing that they are there.

And we can't forget the recent Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes.  Dripping with a luscious, lemon spiked blueberry sauce reminiscent of blueberry pie, these little guys are a true treat.  The addition of ricotta adds a wonderful tenderness to the pancakes along with the pleasant tang of the buttermilk.  Lemony, blueberry goodness dazzles the tongue with flavor while the addition of spelt flour (or whole wheat) gives a little whole grain nutrition.  The topping on this one is the true joy, simply oozing with flavor and nutrition from the antioxidant-rich blueberries.  Ideal for any special occasion or just a simple morning breakfast, Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes have become an oft requested breakfast in our household.

With that, Liv Life wishes you a most joyous National Pancake Day.  May your fingers be sticky with syrup and your lips smudged with whipped cream!