Monday, July 23, 2012

Chunky Peach BBQ Sauce with Grilled Pork Tenderloin - a Food Photography Challenge

BBQ... what does it mean to you?  In my childhood years, BBQ was more of a verb than a noun.  Dad would BBQ chicken, or maybe T-Bone Steaks on the weekend.  However, when my husband and I moved to Kentucky early in our marriage, BBQ became a "thing".  I must admit that I never did quite figure out what that "thing" was, but I know it's something traditional and not to be messed with.

Shortly after our move to Kentucky I happened to be chatting with a neighbor boy of about 10 years old and he mentioned that he "had BBQ last night".  In my naive California way I asked, "BBQed what?".  Perplexed he retorted, "What do you mean BBQed what?  We had BBQ!"  I never did figure out what "BBQ" was, but  know it was indeed special.

Moving back to California our new San Diego home included a fabulous built in grill.  Here we don't really BBQ, but I do grill 4-5 times a week.  I grill everything from the traditional chicken, fish and steak to garlic bread and pizza and even fruit and veggies.  I look upon my grill as my BFF.  We have a wonderful relationship as long as I pay attention to her - meaning not forgetting that I have something cooking.

With this month's Food Photography Challenge for my photography group, The Inspired Plate, posted as BBQ, I must admit to being in a bit of a quandy.  Should I go traditional with meat doused in a viniagery sauce (BBQ) or work on something a little more out there like our favorite grilled pizza?

Once again, Dad provided the answer.  Nothing says summer quite like the rosy kissed cheeks of a tender, fuzzy peach, and with an occasional bag of the fragrant, sweet stone fruits appearing on my doorstep, I know Dad has been thinking of me.

Yesterday, such a bag appeared, and wending peaches into this month's Food Photography Challenge didn't prove to be a difficult decision.  Photographing said BBQ, though, did prove to be quite a challenge.

Meat has always proved to be difficult for me to capture nicely.  Frankly, I don't really think meat is "pretty", or even attractive.  Sizzling away on the grill, meat is indeed mouthwatering, and a nice, juicy fillet topped with a pat of herb butter can even almost appear sexy.  Pork tenderloin, however, just didn't bring out those feelings for me.

With a fabulous Peach BBQ sauce simmering away on my stove, aromas of bacon, chipotle and sweet peach filled every corner of the house.  The pork slowly roasted over my low flame on the grill, and after a quick rest on the cutting board, the pork proved to be exceptionally tender and perfectly cooked.

Combining the steaming sauce and tender pork with a side of Aroz Verde, the plate actually held mouthwatering appeal.  Shooting as the sun set into the ocean just a few miles behind me, the light brought out the colors of the sauce and the rice contrasted nicely with its green hue.

As the setting sun dropped quickly and my teenage son hovered over his dinner, time was of the essence and after some 20 shots my shoot was deemed done.  The dinner, however, lasted far longer as my son and I lingered over our peaches and pork for an enjoyable and infrequent dinner with just the two of us.  With topics bouncing all over the spectrum and conversation flowing for over an hour, this BBQ dinner proved to become an evening that this mom will long remember.

For more BBQ Food Photography, join my for a trip around our Inspired Plate Blog Circle.  Next up?  A fabulous photographer I had the pleasure of joining on a photo shoot a few weeks ago,
 Laurie Vengoechea | Southern California Food Photographer

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Time for Vacation!

No... we are not flying UPS, but this is the plane my husband flies!
Greetings from 36,000 feet above the ground!!  Goodness, times have changed.  Explaining to the kids today that, yes... they needed to look presentable on the plane, they commented, "But no one else does!".  While I disagree with their evaluation, they do have a point.

Do you remember the times when we put on our Sunday best for airline travel?  Do you remember getting a deck of cards that you actually got to keep?  I still have one from American from oh, so many years ago.  And how about those little wings that made you a Jr. Co-Pilot?  Not anymore as those pins could be a weapon.

Times have changed indeed, but what hasn't changed is the excitement of travel.  And excited we are!  With my Mom and Dad home with the pups, my family is winging our way to Venice, Italy where we will catch the Seabourn Spirit in a few days with an itinerary including Italy, Croatia and Greece.  Yes... I'm excited!!

With my internet connectivity price a bit higher than home, my posting will be less frequent, but we will try to check in and post a few pics of our adventures.  Hence, I leave you with a few of our travel posts from the last year or so.

Safe travels, my friends!

Last fall has my husband and I heading to Rome on a flight reminiscent of Elaine's coach experience...  join us for The Joys of Flying and Some Inflight Entertainment.

2011 also brought us to one of my favorite Farmer's Markets -  The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Market

Waterfalls in spring in Yosemite.  We saw Frazil Ice flows then went home and made Lemon Limocello Cheesecake

And speaking of Limocello... Sorrento - The land of Limoncello Dreams

As we wing our way to the other side of the world, we wish you safe travels in your own adventures and a summer filled with Living Life!!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Oatmeal Pancakes with Milk

This post is sponsored by got milk? in partnership with local California organizations that educate kids about the importance of proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle.

Since returning home from Liv's Vegas Competitive Dance Nationals, my main focus has been to put a little weight back on her exhausted frame and some energy back into her body.  With 12 hour days for nearly a week, Liv had the time of her life while competing against some incredible talent from as far away as Hawaii.

National Champions!!  (Liv's boots designed by... me!)
The Spotlight Dance Cup proved to be a most successful event for our team.  Remember those boots I spent hours (over 14 to be exact...) on earlier in the season?  How about 1st place, baby??  Yep... the small group tap number, Kixmix, was named the National Champion small group in Vegas last week.  I think I may be stretching my resume to add "National Champion Costume Designer" to my all around qualifications.

4th Place Lyrical Solo
Liv once again brought tears to my eyes as she performed her lyrical solo to near perfection, earning herself a 4th Place Overall standing in the finals.  Her second solo, a musical theater number, brought her a 7th place standing along with a 3rd runner up position in the Miss Teen Spotlight competition, and again, emotional tears to Mom and Dad.

Being on the road though, sometimes makes finding not only good, but healthy food difficult to come by.  With three to four hour long rehearsals (sometimes twice a day) combined with hours of competing, I found myself attempting to refuel her little body at any opportunity.  By the end of the week, however she was running mostly on adrenaline and ended up losing weight.

3rd Runner Up (Liv, left)
Shortly after returning home, the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program in combination with the California Milk Processor Board (the creators of the "Got Milk?" campaign) provided me with the opportunity to promote a product near and dear to our hearts, pure dairy milk.  An ingredient this Dance Mom uses on a daily basis, especially to refuel my young teenage dancer's body, highlighting the benefits of milk is not hard to do.

Filled with calcium, milk helps meet the requirements necessary for the growth and proper development of growing adolescent bones.  In addition, researchers have provided scientific support that milk is even better than sports drinks for serious athletes recovering from exercise.  Containing carbohydrates, electrolytes, calcium and Vitamin D, dairy milk sets an athlete's body back on the recovery track, and with casein and whey being two of the best proteins for rebuilding broken down muscles, milk "does a body good".

In an effort to educate consumers about the wholesome goodness of pure, dairy milk, the CMPB is partnering with the Bay Area based Community Resources and Central Valley After School Foundation, THINK Together, to sell limited edition Got Milk Glasses which contrast the pureness of dairy milk with some of the multiple ingredient imitation milks.  During the four week sale (July 9 through August 5th, 2012), the limited edition glasses are available at for $15 with 100% of the purchase price going directly to the community organizations to support nutrition education programs in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco/San Jose, and Fresno.  The goal of the sale is to raise $10,000 for each area for a total of $50,000.

Making milk a part of our lives is vital to Liv's growing body, and while she has never been keen on sipping it from a glass like me, the ingredient is part of many recipes that have become family favorites.  Adding milk to smoothies, making ice cream, eating cereal, enhancing baked goods or stirring up pancakes, milk and all of its benefits are helping her to recover from her long week at the Spotlight Dance Nationals.

As her growing body finally eases into the lazy days of summer and rebuilds those torn down muscles, pancakes have been a frequent request.  Staying with simple, pure and wholesome ingredients, Oatmeal Pancakes have graced our table multiple times in the last few days.

Featuring rolled oats, whole grain flours, eggs, a touch of brown sugar and of course, pure bone building milk, Liv tops her pancakes with bananas, walnuts and maple syrup while my son prefers his with a banana on the side.  I enjoy mine with a tall, frosty glass of pure dairy milk.

Thanks to the CMPB and the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program for giving us the opportunity to share our love of milk and to help promote their charity event in support of the THINK Together community.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cherry Tomato Salad with Beans, Blue Cheese and Arugula

For the last few weeks my eyes have casually strayed to those magazine racks that always seem to tempt me at the checkout line.  While a pretty food picture always draws my eye, I've recently been on the lookout for a particular issue, the Fine Cooking August/September issue, to be exact.

Today as I strolled my semi-filled cart towards the Costco checkout lanes, those magazines beckoned once again, and this time, the issue I have been waiting for was there.  Reaching past one of those adorable food sample ladies who was taking a break, she asked, "Do you like Fine Cooking?"

"Yes," I answered.  "But I've been waiting for this issue.." I commented as I began to flip through the glossy pages.

"Really?  Why?  Do you like summer recipes?" the sweet little lady asked.

"Well, yes.  But I think I'm actually in this issue..."  I mumbled as I turned even more pages.  My new friend yelped and leaned in closer to peer at the pages with me.

It didn't take long, and as I flipped to page 19, there it was.  Yep, it was me smiling back at me from the bottom of the page next to my favorite tomato salad recipe from last summer.  The little lady clapped her hands as she squealed, "That's you!!  That's really you!  You're in the magazine!"

My face flushed as another passing customer stopped and also leaned in for a look.  The little sample lady proudly put a hand on my arm and explained to the customer, "That's her!  She's in the magazine!"  At which point she and the passing customer both picked up copies to buy.

Helping myself to a copy of my own along with one for my mom, I proceeded to the checkout counter sporting what I'm sure was a very goofy grin.  Coming home, even my teenage son took a double take and commented that my 1/8 of a page was "pretty cool, but did anyone really buy that magazine?"  Chuckling, I told him I knew of at least three people who did today.  He smiled again, even gave me a little hug and said, "Not bad Mom, not bad."

A few handfuls of  cherry tomatoes get you started along with about half a can of beans.  Preferring Garbanzo Beans (chickpeas) or White Beans, we toss them with the tomatoes, add in a little onion (red, white or even scallion) and toss gently with white balsamic and a little oil.  Salt and Pepper bring out a little zing and the oiled arugula serves as a base.  Topped with a sprinkle of crumbled blue cheese, you have a bright salad singing summer's praises!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Captain Greg's Plum Perfect Gelato

Arriving home from our long week in Las Vegas for Liv's Nationals (pics on our Liv Life Facebook page), my cupboards were absolutely bare.  Leaving a teenaged son home with his dad for a week totally depleted our stores of frozen burritos, marinated salmon and chips and salsa along with anything even remotely sweet.  Please note that they did indeed have access to a car and a grocery store, but have instead kindly left me with a list of needed items prominently on the kitchen table.

Having wonderful neighbors, however, frequently brings good things to me just in my times of need.  That's where Captain Greg comes in.  Perhaps you remember Captain Greg, our gelato expert and guest poster, from his sweet/tart Lemon Lime Gelato post or his plentiful  Peanut Butter Cup Chocolate Chunk Gelato?

Captain Greg is one of those people who always seems to know what you need.  One of the kindest and most giving people I know, Captain Greg is the Captain of our local Team in Training Chapter for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Mentoring new members as they begin their marathon training, Captain Greg provides the positive support that keeps these runners moving, and a love of life that makes everyone love him.

In any case, arriving home tired, hungry and just a little grumpy, Captain Greg was at our door in mere minutes delivering his latest creation, Captain Greg's Plum Perfect Gelato, as a congratulations to our dancing girl.  Taking a quick look, Liv simply smiled, gave a heartfelt thanks and headed for a spoon.

Captain Greg, thanks for welcoming us home and thanks for bringing another fabulous Guest Post to Liv Life.


Every April, my wonderful neighbor’s children – Jack and Maggie – knock on my door with one all-consuming question, “Mr. Greg!  Are the ‘prums’ ready yet?”  Each week as spring tumbles into summer, Jack insistently drills me with the same question, as though asking will somehow hurry the plums to harvest.  It doesn’t matter whether my tree is just barely bristling with delicate, fragrant white blossoms, the question is always the same.

So in that beautiful moment in mid-June, when Carlsbad’s morning fog gives way to hot, brilliant sunshine, my one over-achieving plum tree begins dropping a crop that could feed the county.  Plump, unspeakably sweet, and the deepest of red-purples, the fruit arrives all at once.  And Jack and Maggie (who I affectionately call “my Farmworkers”) slip into the backyard at dawn to harvest what’s fallen almost magically into fruit nets.  My tree is relentless!

So I took on a challenge.  What to do with the hundreds of plums that in just a few days would move from ultimate sweetness to “not-so-wonderful”?  Catch them at their peak, and the “Oh my God” sweetness can be folded into dozens of recipes!

But how could I freeze the moment when these firm, succulent plums packed their ultimate punch?   Jack and Maggie’s Mom wondered aloud, “If only you could just capture that uniquely incredible moment of sweetness, shocking plum tartness and the fresh taste of your plum tree…”  Captain Greg, you were served!

Well, gelato’s my passion.  But the flavor signature of this early-Summer fruit is difficult to feature.  The culinary world just hasn’t served up a recipe that tapped plum’s seasonal punch.  Until now.  I re-crafted the delicate balance of sweet-and-pungent of my Blood Orange gelato recipe to exploit the tart delivery of ripe plums.  Modestly, I must admit, this recipe nails it!  The fruity sugars, the sharp wallop of a crisp tart plum, and the mellow consistency of gelato will leave you begging for “Seconds”, “Thirds” and “What the hell, let’s finish this off…!”

Enjoy the “prums”.