Wednesday, August 28, 2013

SLO Weekend Part 2, Bubble Gum Alley and Big Sky Cafe

College applications... words that seemed so distant 17 years ago are now nearly an every day part of our vocabulary.  Doing due diligence, our travels this summer took us on a California college tour including Cal Poly, UCSB and UCLA.

Overnighting in one of my favorite central coast towns, San Luis Obispo, I eased my college anxiety with a visit to the SLO Farmer's Market, time in Morro Bay (see yesterday's post on Morro Bay) and also enjoyed a fabulous breakfast at the esteemed Big Sky Cafe.

San Louis Obispo, California, Farmer's Market
After driving a little over 6 hours on our trek from San Diego, our schedule just happened to mesh perfectly with the weekly downtown San Luis Obispo Farmer's Market, held Thursday's from 6-9 PM.  Covering some 5 blocks on Higuera Street - between Osos and Nipomo Streets - the road is closed to car traffic as rows of vendors fill the area with many intersections featuring live music and entertainment.

Incredibly popular, the mid-market hours find the area packed with locals and tourists alike as people fill up on produce for the week or simply fill up on BBQ for dinner.  One end of the market features a plethora of prepared food choices ranging from homemade pasties to Indian dishes to tender BBQed ribs and artichokes, while the other boasts the bounty of the area with tables overflowing with produce.

McLintocks BBQ - San Louis Obispo Farmer's Market
McLintocks BBQ... mouthwatering!
While we didn't wait in the 2 block long line for McLintocks BBQ, one couldn't help but stand and watch the grilling guys who sang and cheered their way through the evening.  Cheerful bouts of laughter resounded as customers made their orders of grilled corn, artichokes and the famous McLintock Tri-tip, and happy faces eagerly received their loaded plates of bounty.  The incredible aroma, wafting for blocks, will easily lead you to their location, which I hear is most definitely worth the wait.

Bubble Gum Alley - San Louis Obispo

Taking a gander around town, we made a point to stop at a San Luis Obispo landmark... Bubble Gum Alley.  Whether your thoughts turn somewhat to disgust or pure fascination, the alley is worth a peek.

Legend has it the bubble gum in the alley began to accrue sometime in the 1950's as a rivalry between SLO High School students and those from Cal Ploly (though it has also been said that the gum may have began as far back as WWll as a SLO High School graduation event).  In any case, Bubble Gum Alley has been very "gummy" since at least the 1970's and has been growing every since.

Bubble Gum Alley - San Louis Obispo
Located between 733 and 734 Higuera Street, the alley walls are covered with vibrant wads of chewed gum.  Have you left some on your visit??  While we didn't leave our mark, we did watch a young couple fashion their chewed gum into an artistic heart, marking their love on the wall forever more.

SLO has numerous lodging options, and I thought I'd mention our stay at the La Cuesta Inn.  Cute, comfortable and clean, the Inn offered a reasonable price, a good location and my son loved the free wifi.  Note the Apple Restaurant across the street was NOT recommended by a number of locals.  And luckily, I have a wonderful alternative...

Big Sky Cafe - San Louis Obispo
Big Sky Cafe... what a treat!   With breakfast served until 1 PM and dinner menu beginning at 4:30, all day is covered (they are open for lunch as well) with healthy, fresh choices.  Offering a comprehensive menu in addition to vegetarian and vegan options, everyone is sure to find something to suit their tastes, and I loved the local and organic resources.

Breakfast for us began with good (and I mean really good) coffee and juice quickly followed by our entrees of eggs, oatmeal and a fabulous yogurt/fruit/granola parfait which I selfishly refused to share.  My son gushingly commented on the bacon which he refused to share, and my husband devoured his perfectly cooked steel cut oatmeal and ended up ordering a fruit plate of his own.

Big Sky Cafe - San Louis Obispo

Heading out of town on our way to UCSB and then home, we all three reflected on our stay.  My son loved the campus as well as the towns of SLO and Morro Bay, but more importantly (teasing!) so did I.  Stamping my whole hearted approval on this college possibility I know I'll be happy visiting often should this be his final decision.  If not, I'm happy to visit anyway!


From the Archives....
Perusing my iPhoto Library, this shot turned up from exactly 7 years ago to the day of our 2013 visit to Bubble Gum Alley.  That's Liv on the right in the pink... 4 of the other kids are beginning their own college searchs this year.  Dave, the man in the back, is a good friend of ours and a Cal Poly graduate.  He insisted the wall was a must see and the kids loved it!

Notice from the photo above how the gum goes so much farther down on the walls.

Bubble Gum Alley - San Louis Obispo
Liv Life - 2007 - SLO Bubble Gum Wall

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Morro Bay | SLO Weekend Part 1

Morro Rock | San Louis Obispo

I keep looking for the button to slow life down, but I just don't seem to be able to find it.  When they handed me that squirming 9.5 lbs of boy baby some seventeen years ago I felt as though I had eons until the words "college tour" would become a regular part of my vocabulary.  Well... those eons have passed all too quickly, and last weekend became a real SLO weekend.  San Luis Obispo, that is for a college tour of CalPoly.

Having camped at the Morro Bay Campground, our love of Morro Bay goes back many years.  A quaint, sleepy town on the edge of the water, SLO is an ideal location for a weekend getaway and leisurely walks by the bay.

Morro Rock | San Louis Obispo

Morro Rock, with its 23 million year volcanic history, remains one of my favorite San Luis Obispo sites.  At 576 feet, Morro Rock is the smallest of the chain of Nine Sisters (a chain of volcanic peaks and hills between Morro Bay and San Louis Obispo) and in February of 1968 was declared a California Historical Landmark.

Morro Rock | San Louis Obispo

Considered a sacred site to the Salian and Chumash and dating as far back as 6500 BC, Morro Rock was first charted in 1542 by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who dubbed the rock "El Morro" due to its resemblance to the Moor's head-wraps.  Today, the Chumash remain the only people legally allowed to climb Morro Rock for their annual solstice ceremony.

Morro Rock | San Louis Obispo

Popular with tourists and locals alike, Morro Rock also serves as a sanctuary to the endangered peregrine falcons who are joined by 3 species of cormorants and 2 species of gulls who nest in the rock's crevices.  Sea lions and otter regularly swim in the waters surrounding the rock and seals also breed in the nearby lagoons.

Morro Bay | San Louis Obispo

Whether camping at the Morro Bay Campground, staying on the water's edge in Morro Bay or downtown San Luis Obispo to visit Cal Poly (we were very happy with our stay at the La Cuesta Inn - but don't eat at the Apple Farm Restaurant across the street.  Big Sky Cafe was a much better choice!), Morro Bay brings stunning vistas and becomes a lovely, peaceful stop while visiting this Central California area.

Seagull - Morro Bay | San Louis Obispo

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Double Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut Butter, oatmeal, and peanut butter cups... 3 ingredients leading to positively perfect peanut buttery heaven.  Add in those other cookie ingredients (flour, sugar, etc) and we have a cookie that tempted me to hide the batch and not share with a soul.  Caught in the act, Liv and her brother twisted my arm eagerly grabbing what they claimed to be their "fair share".  Needless to say, this batch didn't make it to morning.

Have you tried these Trader Joe's Mini Peanut Butter Cups??  Let me just say we had to return to the store more than once as they somehow seemed to evaporate before we actually got the cookies made.  Little bites of peanut buttery awesomeness, they added an outrageously incredible bite to the soft, puffy cookies.

I must also note that the cookie dough test (we do test all of our cookie dough, but we suggest you do so at your own risk due to the raw egg content...) was unquestionably amazing.  I may or may not have maneuvered my spoon gathering a few extra mini pb cups during the test, but I can without a doubt proclaim perfection.

Peanut Butter Lover's unite!!  This cookie is for you!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Jalapeño Manchego Corn Bread

Jalapeño Manchego Corn Bread | Liv Life

Here we are half way through August, and already much of the food blog universe is be switching to fall and autumn-like recipes, but here at Liv Life it's still summer.  After living these chilly, gray months of July and early August, I'm relishing an afternoon with full sun.

San Diego's stats may show some 275+ "days of sun", but I'm here to profess that some of those days the sun doesn't reach the coast, and if it does it may only peek through the ever present marine layer for a mere minute before retreating back to the heavens.  I shouldn't really complain as the temps are in the lovely low 70's region, somewhere where you really don't notice the temp - its neither hot nor cold... it just is.

San Diego summer marine layer
The gray though, is taking its toll and I find myself dreaming of fields of corn raising their stalks up to greet morning rays of light.  With the change of the calendar to August my heart sank as I read quite a number of food blog posts proclaim a season change to fall, to which I'm hereby proclaiming a fall boycott.  As such, with my local farmer's markets still providing tables filled with fresh ears of perfectly grown white and yellow corn, I'm still living summer.

Some 3 years ago (almost to the day) and one of our first posts after establishing Liv Life, this Jalapeño Cornbread laced with nutty Manchego cheese, has earned its top spot as a summer favorite.  Made with whole kernels of grilled corn in addition to the cornmeal, zesty pickled jalapeños (did you know you can make your own??) give the recipe a nice little kick without being too overpowering.  Slathered with sweet honey butter, this cornbread becomes somewhat irresistible.

So here's to summer!  Anyone joining me in the fall/autumn boycott??!!

Jalapeño Manchego Corn Bread | Liv Life

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Homemade Dog Treats - aka Bowzer Bites

Homemade Doggie Treats - Bowzer Bites

I think I just may have the most spoiled, finicky and difficult to feed Maltese dogs around.  IF we find a food they deem "good" enough to eat, that food occasionally doesn't agree with their super sensitive digestive tract, and even if it does, occasionally they will still turn their noses up at it.  Usually enjoying their imported from New Zealand (read uber expensive), dehydrated lamb, they still occasionally impose hunger strikes in the hopes of finding something new and tasty.

Being a mom, when the boys don't eat, I worry.  Not that they are in danger of starving or anything (I really can feel their ribs if I push hard enough...), but I know they might get low blood sugar or something and we simply can't have that.

Checking the labels of doggie treats from local pet stores I'm continually unimpressed with the number of ingredients I can't pronounce, and even more unimpressed with the additions of sugars, salt and chemical preservatives.  Hence, we've started DIY Doggie Treats or... Bowzer Bites.

Homemade dog biscuits are not only easy to make, but they allow you to control what goes into the treat so you don't run into any "sensitivity" issues if your dog is so prone.  Even if your dog has no sensitivity issues, one simply rests easier knowing exactly what ingredients are going into your pooch and that the ingredients you choose are "real" food.

After years of begging and convincing my husband and I that we were "irreversibly harming" them, Liv and her brother convinced us that not just one, but TWO Maltese pups would be the perfect solution to their damaged psyches.  Arriving as 2 lb of pure white fluff, I didn't want to like them... let alone love them.

You see, 10 years earlier we had lost our beautiful Golden Girl, Yanah, and I never really recovered from it.  Hearing any sound similar to her collar jingles sent me to tears for the first few months, and continued to bring sadness for over a year.  Finally, pushing the grief away, I swore never to have another dog which would only pass away all too soon.  And I lasted 10 years.

Then the white fluff balls arrived, full of energy and spunk at 10 weeks of age and they proceeded to relieve themselves on every soft household item they could find... my entryway carpet being a favorite location.  Having to set an alarm to get up in the middle of the night to let them outside brought me back to my kid's baby years, and the constant watching of them was even harder than potty training the kids.  It wasn't too hard not to get too attached to them...  For about a week.

Then the snuggles and puppy kisses started to take their toll.  I felt those little strings in my heart tug, and I became their protective mama.  When they got sick, I sat in the chair and held them all night.  We celebrated when they learned to ring the bell to go outside, and even saved a small clip from their first haircut.

I fully admit it... I love these little guys.  They have completely wormed their way into my heart and I dread the day that they will age and I will lose them.

Today as I made a quick stop at the vet, I held the door open for an older woman who was clutching her little white ball of fluff and frantically rushing to enter.  She looked up at me and the tears began to flow.  She sputtered, "I think I've lost her... my baby.  I think she's gone.".  And she was.  The vet came and took the bundle while leading the lady (she was at least 80) into one of the private rooms.  But I could hear her sobs through the door.  And I sobbed along with her.

Understanding her pain, I immediately wanted to give her a copy of my friend Stephanie's new book, Golden Angels - Lessons in Love and Loss from Buddy Girl and Daisy Mae.  Stephanie's book is currently in e-book format, but she's working hard on her Kickstarter Program to get the book into print.

Stephanie lost her Golden, Buddy Girl, a little over a year ago and turned to writing to help her through her grief.  With 13 soulful essays combined with 13 recipes to feed the soul, her e-book became popular, but people are asking for hard copies to gift to people who lose their beloved pets and she's looking for help to get the book published.

So today we add the Liv Life Maltese Approved Bowzer Bites to Stephanie's Kickstarter Blog Hop entitled "The Dog Days of Summer".  Join us as we head on over to see what else she's got cookin', and grab a few treats for your pup!

Homemade Doggie Treats - Bowzer Bites

Monday, August 5, 2013

Small Batch Plum Jam - no pectin and lower sugar

I know I'm supposed to eat fruits and veggies year round, but it's really these gorgeous, juicy, ripe summer fruits that steal my heart.  And living where I do, I not only enjoy a plethora of farmer's markets, but I also have Dad and Capt. Greg.  While Dad keeps my bowls filled with peaches, lemons (no limes anymore... he cut down the tree... but we are back on speaking terms ;), tomatoes and fresh scallions, it's my neighbor, Capt. Greg, who brings these beautifully plump and brilliantly purple plums that we simply can't get our fill of (you may remember Catp. Greg's Plum Perfect Gelato).

For about two weeks in mid-July our neighborhood is filled with more plums than we know what to do with and everyone fervently works on inventive recipes incorporating the fruits.  I've seen tarts, breads, stewed plums for ice cream, salad dressings and even a plum chicken marinade.  My use, Plum Jam, may not be the most inventive, but I've been loving it for weeks in the early afternoons on almond butter sandwiches or stirred into Greek yogurt with granola.

Our Plum Jam is on the tart side, just like I like it, and uses no pectin and lower sugar than other versions to let the fruit itself shine through.  Used on a sweet breakfast scone, on top of that almond butter sandwich or as a swirl into creamy vanilla ice cream, Plum Jam is a treat in its own right.  Next season can't come fast enough.


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Lemony Israeli Couscous Salad with Mint

Lemony Israeli Couscous Salad with Mint

A Green Thumb I have not, and as such most plants in my care tend to live somewhat abused lives due to a simple lack of water.  Orchids have withered on my shelves, potted tomato plants have been seen wilted and gasping for breath, and petunias have seen better days when given proper water.  Mint, though, is a different story.

Lemony Israeli Couscous Salad with Mint
Years ago I brought home a beautiful, emerald green, perfect mint plant from the local farmers' market with a warning from the vendor that the roots tend to be somewhat aggressive.  With my past history of plant growing, very little worry entered my mind and I actually never even planted the beautiful herb in my garden.  Six months later as I went to move the pot, I found the little guy had rooted itself through the holes in the bottom, thereby explaining how he had lived even though his water source had been sparse.

Cleaning for winter I tossed the overgrown, flowering plant and promptly forgot I had ever grown a mint plant.  Until this spring.  Along with my snapdragons (they thrived beautifully with my husband's loving care), little shoots of the brilliant green herb popped up where the old pot had been.... as well as on the other side of the garden, and as well as numerous other spots in between.  Aggressive roots indeed, but a hardy little guy who seems to be a survivor.

With mint back in my garden, the fragrant, flavorful leaves have been finding their way into my daily iced teas as well as into my salads.  Bringing a clean and fresh element to recipes, mint became a welcomed addition to my Israeli Cous Cous concoction and had me repeating the recipe twice in a week with resounding reviews from the whole family.

My mint... it's the little plant that could.

Lemony Israeli Couscous Salad with Mint