Thursday, October 27, 2011

Oatmeal Roundup including Vanilla Oatmeal, Pumpkin Oatmeal, Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal and Irish Oatmeal

Steamy bowls of oatmeal were not part of my food repertoire as I was growing up.  Words like "porridge" or "mush" were associated with the bubbling pot, and for me the oats were simply not appealing.  Then I stumbled upon the realization that perhaps the issue was not the oats, but me who didn't know how to cook them correctly and I set to researching the subject.  I even began a thread on my favorite foodie message board asking how to make oatmeal, and after receiving a few chuckles along with the some basic tips I started anew and have been a converted oatmeal fan ever since.

Today, oatmeal is nearly a daily occurrence in our household no matter the season.  For the most part we serve it plain, simply adorned with a few raisins, walnuts and a sprinkle of cinnamon, however on occasion branching out and mixing things in brings a spiced or flavored bowl to the table.

Each time I've posted an oatmeal recipe I've been surprised at the number of enthusiastic responses.  From the comments it seems many people only eat oatmeal in the colder, winter months.  Many people, (like me) never thought to add different spices and toppings, and a good number of people view Irish Oats as either too difficult or too time consuming to make.

With cooler weather on the horizon and a good amount of oatmeal searches showing up, a round-up of our favorite Oatmeal recipes seems to be in order.  Whether it be a simple unadorned bowl or a Baked and Spiced Pumpkin concoction, these oats are good for you.  Oats, via their high fiber content, are known to help remove cholesterol from the digestive system that would otherwise end up in the bloodstream.  So break out those heart healthy oats, warm yourself up with a steaming bowl, add a few mix ins and enjoy!

Vanilla Oatmeal with Spices
Basic rolled oats stirred with a touch of brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg received just the flavor boost they needed with a simple sprinkle of floral vanilla powder.  Regular vanilla extract would indeed work the same magic, bringing a boring bowl of oatmeal up to a new level and sending a tropical feel to your chilly morning.

Irish (Steel Cut) 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 the water reaches a boil, add the steel cut oatmeal and turn off the heat.  Cover, and 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 and much quicker start to your morning.

Spicing it up, we topped our oatmeal with ginger and orange enhanced cashews, finding the orange permeating nearly the entire bowl and giving lending 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.

Left over steel cut oats?  Try this Irish Oatmeal Bread!

Oatmeal Soufflé

Marrion Cunningham's, The Breakfast Book, provided us this wonderful recipe.  However, Ms. Cunningham's version was a bit too rich for our tastes with a 1/2 cup of sugar, 3 eggs and butter, but by simply reducing the sugar and butter and replacing an egg with egg whites we produced a healthier yet still tasty soufflé, perfect for our weekend morning.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

This stove-top version gives a nice steaming bowl of hearty goodness in about 10 minutes.  Flavored with pumpkin and pumpkin pie spices, studded with plumped raisins and dried cranberries and topped with a generous scoop of walnut pieces, this steaming bowl is sure to warm you from head to toe.

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal with Walnut Streusel Topping
Mixed and baked the evening prior, this baked version is stored in the fridge overnight and reheated in the microwave for a quick, flavorful and heart healthy start to your day.  The Walnut Streusel gives a nice crunch and an welcomed autumnal flavor boost

These are a few of our favorites... what are yours?  Feel free to leave links below, we love hearing what everyone is making.

Monday, October 24, 2011

White Chocoalte Macadamia Cookies (Secret Recipe Club)

Once again my Secret Recipe Club assignment has introduced me to another delightful blogger.  Julie, of Julie's Eats and Treats, lives in West Central Minnesota and I feel a little bit of a connection with her as my Dad's family hails from Red Wing, MN, which I'm guessing is not all that far away.  With relatives still in Minneapolis I get occasional winter weather updates and with my San Diego-Sissy skin I'm always somewhat thrilled that I'm not knee deep in snow with wind chills below zero.

Perusing Julie's blog I didn't get far before I stumbled upon her White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies.  Loving of the buttery mac nuts like I do, my hunt for a recipe ended nearly before it began.  Now, that's not to say that there weren't many other recipes that I have tagged to try... just that I couldn't get past this one featuring my favorite Hawaiian nuts.

Remembering Debbie Fields introducing her little cookie shops I have fond memories of discovering how much I love these flavors together.  A job at a department store funded my college education, and I spent many a break popping into Debbie's stores where the cookie I usually purchased was the White Chocolate Macadamia (with the occasional Oatmeal Cookie on the side).

Since those college years I've been on a search for as many mac nut recipes as I can find and I simply couldn't pass this one up.  And... I'm really glad I didn't.  Not really on my pre-vacation diet, I probably shouldn't have made them, but I did cut the recipe in half so as not to overly temp myself with the sweet treats that disappeared from our cookie jar in a flash.

Being a little impatient I have to admit to not following the recipe as I should have and I performed that ever dreaded mistake of reaching for the baking powder in place of the baking soda.  Luckily catching my error before dumping the entire spoonful into the mix, I only dropped about 1/4 of a teaspoon into the dry ingredients.  However, I'm thinking that with the beautiful rise I got out of these guys it may not have been a bad idea.

Slightly crunchy on the outside and chewy inside, these cookies had me reminiscing of afternoons spent with Mrs. Field's.  Julie, truly a pleasure to meet you, I'm so glad you were my assignment!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata from Epicurious

Ahhh... eggs.  I think I could live on nearly eggs alone, however my heart would most likely not approve.  As such, I serve the organic, protein-rich food to my family in moderation and enjoy the additional health benefits including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and lutein along with a serving of whole grains and fruits and/or vegetables.  In the past eggs have been avoided due to cholesterol issues, however recent studies are now claiming that not only will the egg (in moderation) not increase most cholesterol levels, but it may actually help improve one's blood lipids profile.  With that info, I say, sign me up!

According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, lutein is "best absorbed from the egg yolk - not lutein supplements or even spinach".  With a history of Macular Degeneration and cataracts in our family, I welcome the lutein-laden egg yolks and often try to pair them with additional lutein filled foods such as spinach with hopes of providing additional nutritional support to our precious eyes (and skin).  With such health benefits in these two foods, the pairing in Epicurious' Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Frittata, by Golden Door executive chef Dean Rucker, was a match made in heaven.

With the kids at school and my husband on a day off from work I set to preparing a nice lunch for the two of us.  It was the photo of the frittatas on Epicurious, each in individual ramekins, that drew my lutein supported eye and shortly had me chopping onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach for our meal.  Easily put together with whole eggs as well as egg whites and then baked in the oven, these little individual (my husband called them cute) frittatas were a real step up for the plain PB&J.  Served with melons from the farmer's market and a slice of whole grain bread our bodies were fueled and ready for the after school chauffeur duties to begin.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tropical Coconut Scones wtih Passion Fruit Glaze

Passiflora, Lilikoi, or simply Passion Fruit, the mere scent can derive visions of turquoise waters and swaying palms directly into your minds eye.  Add the aroma of coconut and one has a true tropical treat on their hands bringing a taste of the tropics right into your kitchen.

Some 25 years ago I was lucky enough to participate in an afternoon tea at the birthplace of Sir Walther Raleigh in Devon, England.  A touch of elegance was introduced to my young life with a simple plain scone that became nothing short of spectacular when it met clotted cream and homemade apricot jam.  While I don't remember many meals from that long ago, this one stand forefront in my mind as does my love of the scone.

Originally of Scottish origin and baked without leaveners, the scone "rose" in popularity with the introduction of baking powder and now has a popular following in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and many other countries.  A basic component of the traditional Devonshire Tea, the scone can now also be easily found in supermarkets and bakeries worldwide.  Made either sweet or savory, these quick breads are biscuit-like and easy enough to make at home.

For years, my idea of a scone was that plain version I was introduced to at the Devonshire Tea, however, Liv and I have experimented with flavors over the years and we have broadened our horizons with Lemon Blueberry Scones, Spiced Pumpkin Scones, and one of my all time favorites, Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Scones.  Slightly crispy on the outside and extraordinarily tender inside, scones work wonderfully in the morning with your tea or coffee and equally as well as an after school snack or afternoon pick-me-up when those stomach growls reach their peak.

With a jar of Kelapo Coconut Oil in our pantry, a bag of passion fruit on our counter and a yearning for the tropics, the idea of a Tropical Coconut Scone topped with an aromatic Passion Fruit Glaze seemed to call my name.  Replacing butter with the coconut oil and whipping cream with coconut milk, the heady scent of coconut had visions of white sand beaches popping into my kitchen.  Topped before baking with a sprinkle of raw sugar (pure cane from Hawaii - of course), the scones are delightful even without the glaze bringing a light coconut flavor and a nice sugar crunch.  Adding the glaze however, brought these little gems over the top and had me dreaming of Maui in no time.  Look under the nearest palm tree, that's where you will find Liv and me...

Thank You!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Halloween Marshmallow Krispie Treats and a Foodbuzz Award Nomination

Vote for Liv Life - Foodbuzz's Best Family Food Blog

Some twenty years ago I made my first batch of Rice Krispie Treats.  With the ingredients assembled I set to work following what appeared to be a fairly simple recipe only to find myself and the kitchen covered in some sort of sticky marshmallow mess a mere 30 minutes later.  Not only was the marshmallow on my hands, in my hair and on the counter, but the layer in the mixing bowl seemed to have turned into some sort of marshmallow cement leaving me tempted to head to the garage for a chisel.  The treats were OK, but the effort to put them together left me with little desire to try again.

My Little Bakers - Circa 2001
Fast forward about 10 years and my young son was begging for the pre-packaged treats in the bright blue wrappers.  Being a mom who doesn't take kindly to packaged foods I decided it just might be time to try my hand at these krispie treats again.  With my son in tow we again assembled the ingredients.  He measured the puffed rice, even getting most of it into the bowl while I slowly heated the marshmallows over the stove.  This time I actually greased the pan ahead of time and had it ready and waiting.  My son had the spoon in his hand and was ready to stir as soon as I said "Go!" and we poured the melted marshmallow mixture over the krispies.  Both of us stirred madly and then quickly poured the krispies into the prepared pan.  A plastic sandwich bag sprayed lightly with cooking spray kept the stickiness off of our hands and a simple soak in the sink had the mixing bowl clean in no time.  Could they really be that easy?  In a word... yes!

Since then krispie treats have made frequent appearances in our house and are my son's most requested recipe.  He prefers peanut butter versions over regular plain krispies with his all time favorite being our Triple Peanut Butter Layered Treats. 

Funny story... when we posted the Triple PB Treats I was thrilled to have Amanda at Food Porn Daily feature them on her site and proudly told my son of my accomplishment as I drove him home from school.  His comment was, "Featured on Food Porn Daily??  I'm just curious when they will be featured on our kitchen table!"  Ah... the joys of parenting a teen!

With Halloween right around the corner and another request for krispie treats I grabbed a bag of Reese's Pieces on a whim.  Melting peanut butter with the marshmallow mixture, I added the bag of treats to the measured chocolate puffed cereal and quickly mixed like crazy (now my habit) as I combined the "wet" with the "dry".  Producing peanut butttery treats studded with peanut butter candies, we have another winner.

On another note I am extraordinarily humbled to announce that Liv Life has been nominated by the Featured Publishers at Foodbuzz for the Best Family Food Blog Award.  Liv and I stared in amazement as we read the notification and then let out a whoop heard around the town.

Foodbuzz Blog Award Nomimee 2011
Vote for Liv Life here!
Liv and I would be thrilled to have your vote!  If you would like to participate, please follow this Award Link to the Foodbuzz site and take a moment to cast your vote for Liv Life under the Best Family Food Blog section.  And we wouldn't mind if you asked your friends to vote too!  Feel free to shout out on Facebook or Twitter or simply by email.  We have already received so much support that I am simply overwhelmed, and I can't thank you all heartily enough.  The polls close in about a week on October 17th with an announcement coming in early November... we will keep you posted!

In the meantime, enjoy some krispie treats on us.  Halloween is just around the corner and these colorful, Halloween themed krispies have one teenage boy satisfied... at least for the moment.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chocolate Pumpkin Cake for Doug and Marie in BC

A mere sixteen months ago Liv Life sprang to life.  Little did I know then how much this little blog would become ingrained in my very being and indeed help me to "Liv" an even richer life than I had already.  From baking and cooking challenges to contacts around the world, Liv Life is indebted to our readers and supporters for the love we have felt from around the globe.

Over the months my virtual world has grown exponentially and has replaced some of the real world that I lost when Liv graduated from elementary school (where I was very needed) to middle school (where they don't need mom help quite so much).  I have blog friends who I check in with often and who I worry about when I don't see them for a few days.  I've enjoyed kid's birthdays, suffered through family deaths and celebrated new and enticing recipes along the way.  In addition, Liv and I have so enjoyed the comments left for us, often finding ourselves smiling and laughing as we read.

From Judy and Gina in Northern CA, to Dennis and Christiane (even though she doesn't like chocolate) on the opposite coast, back across the crountry to Felice in Hawaii, around the world to my new BFF Jill in Paris, and on up to Dionne and Doug in the Pacific Northwest, my life is a better place with these new found friends in it.

This post however is dedicated to Doug and Marie from BC.  Shortly after we started Liv Life I got an email from Doug, Old Doug he calls himself, up I-5 and on into BC.  Introducing himself and sharing some of his recipes from a site called the Pepper Fool, I've enjoyed getting to know this wonderful couple.

Over the months Doug has continued to email me and with each email I get to know him a little better.  While Doug, who spent some time as a photographer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, began cooking in 1947, it is Marie, his lovely wife of 62 years, who is the baker of the family.  Opening one email I was greeted with a photo of our Oatmeal Bread recipe which Marie had adapted to produce one gorgeous loaf.

Doug occasionally leaves me comments on Liv Life and after his last comment on our Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls,

"Old Doug in BC said...
Hi Kim...Marie read that recipe and so I had to download and print it off!
We just got a couple of squash, so away we go tomorrow. She will get the bread machine going and do what you did, but with Lactaid milk. Tell Liv to leave a couple of those for her brother! :-))!
old Doug & Marie in B"
I emailed him a quick hello only to find that in the time between the comment and my email the paramedics had been to their house and had whisked Miss Marie off to the hospital with some heart issues.  Marie is a trooper, she has survived breast cancer, a pacemaker that didn't work quite right and now further heart issues.  Last I heard she was in intensive care, but was due to be released from the unit shortly.

I haven't heard from Doug in a few weeks and I'm praying that Miss Marie is doing better and home recuperating.  Wishing I lived next door and knowing how Miss Marie likes pumpkin, this virtual slice of Chocolate Pumpkin Cake (an Eating Well recipe) will have to suffice.  Filled with hearth healthy pumpkin and some whole grain flour, this lower in fat cake will hopefully give her a smile and return some of the love that they have sent my way.

Our thoughts are with you Miss Marie!  XO

Edited 10/8/11 - 8:30 PM PST
I've just had an email from Doug, and while Miss Marie is still in the hospital she is doing better.  He visits her daily and last week all 6 of their kids were in town to visit as well.  Doug says thank you for the kind thoughts and comments, Miss Marie will see them all as soon as she comes home!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Apple Rings with Peanut Butter and Krispies, an old Girl Scout favorite!

Peanut butter may very well be my "Nectar of the Gods".  Spanning the years our relationship has grown from the plain but perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had almost daily to Peanut Butter Pies, Peanut Butter Cookies, Peanut Butter Smoothies and Peanut Satay.  Basically, if it has peanut butter in it I'm most likely going to love it, and somehow that peanut butter gene was passed on to my kids.  When an offer from Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program and Planter's came across to try Planter's new creamy peanut butter the "Yes, please!" was a no brainer.

After receiving our notification that the peanut butter was in the mail however, I got just a bit worried.  I've been very brand loyal to my peanut butter for over 30 years, would it be OK to try something new?  What if I didn't like it, what would I say?  Thankfully I didn't have to worry.

First out of the package we did the ultimate peanut butter taste test... right off a spoon.  Rich, peanut flavor melted in our mouths and all three of us reached for a second taste.  Slightly creamier than I'm used to, but that might actually be a good thing.

Secondly, the peanut butter sandwich.  My BFF since the 7th grade when I complained to my mom about the lunch she had packed and she gently (but in no uncertain terms) informed me that I could be in charge of my own lunch henceforth.  PB&J's came to school with me daily for years and I never tired of them.  And Planter's Peanut Butter did indeed pass the PB&J test with flying colors!

While peanut butter is indeed caloric, it holds an important role in our diets with health benefits including a high protein score, monounsaturated fats which eaten in moderation have been shown to help reduce "bad" cholesterols, and fairly high quantities of dietary fiber - again helping to regulating both blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels.  A good source of energy, peanut butter is a food I try to get Liv to eat on hectic dance rehearsal days to get her through the long hours of practice with fuel to spare.

Not only healthy in moderation, peanut butter seems to be popular with most of the kids I have come in contact with and one of our favorite Girl Scout snacks included apples, peanut butter and some sort of krispie cereal.  I believe that I started out with plain puffed rice cereal, but somewhere along the line the cereal of choice turned to a chocolate puffed rice and we've just let that one be.

In short, apples are sliced into rounds, the center cut out (did you know that the cross cut of an apple showing the seeds is an adorable flower??  These are good for making paint stamps, just fyi) and spread with peanut butter.  A bit of a messy job, but something that the kids can do on their own and then top with the crunchy cereal.

Peanut Butter, apples and cereal... a fun snack that mom is happy with.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lemon Drop Jell-O Shots for National Vodka Day

October 4th, National Vodka Day
Suburban living has its benefits.  For example, we have friends to pick up our mail when we are out of town, help picking up the kids from school when we are running late, and someone to fill our measuring cups when we are missing an ingredient.

Such was the case with the creation of our Lemon Drop Jell-O Shots.  In preparation for a neighborhood gathering, and with a phenomenal idea from Naomi at Baker's Royale, I had my lemons assembled and scrubbed, halved and scooped out and lined up on mini muffin tins awaiting their vodka laced Jell-O filling as I reached up into the liquor cabinet for the vodka.  Much to my surprise, the vodka cabinet was bare.

Doing my best to avoid a late night trip to the store I peered out my windows to see if lights were on at any of the neighbors.  One was out of town, another doesn't drink, another out to dinner, but the one directly across the street was lit up in celebrating of Maggie's 9th birthday (10 Gryffinder garbed "Hermiones" were in attendance).  With laughter carrying across the street I stood hesitantly in my front yard while clutching my big measuring cup and decided to head over.

The dad opened the door, saw my measuring cup and asked if I needed sugar.  The all out belly laugh that occurred after I stated, "No... I need a cup and a half of vodka," had me smiling while he asked if my day really had been that bad?

Vodka in hand, I scurried back home, prepared my Jell-O concoction (we used a ratio of 2/3 vodka to 1/3 water) and set the filled lemon shells into the fridge to set overnight.

A sharp knife and a pretty plate was all that was remaining for our party offering the next day which indeed garnered plenty of "Oooh's and aaah's" as it was placed on the drink table.

Adjustable to suit your tastes, the hardest part of the recipe is scooping out the lemon shells.  My first attempt to turn the shells inside out, as I had seen recommended, didn't work and found me with a torn half lemon shell left in my hands.  My solution was to use a paring knife to cut away as much of the lemon from the rind as I could and simply using either the edge of the knife or my fingernail to peel away the remaining pith, almost like peeling the lemon from the inside out.

Visually appealing as well as fun, I enjoyed the numerous questions about how I had shaped the wedges, with most people not realizing that I had cut the wedges from a half lemon that had chilled overnight.  Popular with all ages (over 21 years of age) I served a few saved wedges to my parents, Father-in-Law, and my dad's 85 year old cousin the following night and actually had my Father-in-Law ask for seconds.  Jell-O shots do indeed span the generations!

Happy National Vodka Day 2011!