Thursday, October 31, 2013

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Happy Halloween!!!  

Have you carved your pumpkins yet??  I have to admit my pumpkin carving skills are anything but amazing, but Liv and her dad put their skills to the test last night and look what they came up with!  Pretty darn impressive in my book.

While I didn't get to participate in the actual carving of these jack-o-lanterns, the two of them did leave the remnants of the carving to me.  Wrapping up the plastic bag of pumpkin insides and leftover pieces, the seeds began to slip out and the salvaging began.  Before I knew it, I had a bowl full of hearty seeds ready for roasting.

Pumpkin seeds are a favorite of ours for salads and granola toppings, but I have to admit that this year I've simply been eating them out of hand.  Lightly coated with a touch of oil and then topped with a sprinkle of salt, I've been finding these seeds to be a little irresistible.

Thankfully, pumpkin seeds bring more than just flavor.  While they are on the higher side of calories, pumpkin seeds are filled with minerals (including phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, iron and copper), a good source of Vitamin K and an excellent source of the Vitamin B family.  Pumpkin seeds also bring a good source of protein (said to have 30 grams per 100 gram serving) and have been said to reduce the inflammation of arthritis.

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So don't toss those seeds!  Separate as much of the pumpkin membranes as you can, then give the seeds a good wash in a colander.  I've used this recipe for Perfect Pumpkin Seeds from Vegetarian Times successfully on more than one occasion, and have had fun experimenting with different flavor versions.  You know what I keep coming back to though??  Simple, fresh roasted seeds with a touch of oil and salt.  Practically irresistible!

Do you have a favorite flavor combo for your seeds??  

Happy Halloween everyone.  Stay safe and enjoy the day!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Double Chocolate Truffle Skulls… and a visit from Spabettie!

dark chocolate ganache truffles
After a comment from Liv a few weeks ago, I promised to work on my holiday festivity.  Apparently I've been a little festive-deficient over the last few holidays, and my holiday loving girl is wishing for more holiday fun in her life.

I've been trying.  I decorated a bit, bought pumpkins and we even carved them (pics up tomorrow!)  But how can I compare to what Kristina, from Spabettie, has brought for us today??  Not only is her recipe dairy free (so my whole family can enjoy), but how Halloween festive are these guys??

Liv has already been asking me to head down to the local craft shop so we can make our own skulls to much on.  But her list didn't stop there… she looking at Christmas trees, hearts and even bunny molds.  Looks like we are going to be festive for holidays to come!

Kristina, thank you for helping me keep my promise and for bring a bit of spookiness to Liv Life.  Liv says you are more festive than I am, and she's hoping it will rub off on me!!

And now I give you Kristiana:


double chocolate truffle skulls
Halloween is one of my favorite times of year - not only for the costumes (dachshunds included), but also for creating some Halloween fun in the kitchen. I make truffles year round - they're actually one of my favorite things to make - so of course I had to come up with something for Halloween. While there are several steps and some waiting time involved in the truffle making process, these really are very easy. I promise. I mean, look at the ingredient list - two ingredients total. for the whole recipe. and these are filled truffles. yum. Stop by your local craft store - the candy making section has way too many candy molds to choose from - and pick up some coconut milk and dark chocolate, and you will be on your way to some impressive treats of your own.

  vegan Halloween chocolates

double chocolate truffle skulls

YIELD: 20 one-inch truffles dairy, egg, soy and gluten free, vegan


8 ounces dark chocolate, divided (70-72%) 
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk (canned)* *  Without shaking, open a can of coconut milk, spoon out 1/2 cup of the thick portion at top of can for this recipe. 

Chop 4 ounces chocolate. In saucepan, bring coconut milk to a boil, reduce to simmer and stir continually for several minutes. Remove from heat, add chopped chocolate, whisk until smooth. Allow to cool. Cover and transfer to refrigerator to thicken (1 hour).

Chop remaining 4 ounces chocolate, and melt over lowest heat possible, stirring constantly and rapidly. Spoon a small amount into each mold, and using a small paintbrush, coat the mold completely. Place in refrigerator until set. Once chocolate in molds is set, fill each mold with ganache filling, leaving room at the top to seal with more chocolate. Reheat remaining chocolate and fill each mold, covering the filling completely. Tap molds on counter to remove any bubbles, return to refrigerator to set. See step by step photos of this process here.

 More Halloween fun!

Happy Halloween!

 Kristina is better known online as spabettie - where she shares vibrant plant based recipes and stories of her two dachshunds, Basil and Rosemary. Find her on twitter, facebook, Google, instagram and pinterest, as well as at

Monday, October 28, 2013

Biscoff Toffee Cookies and a visit from Liz

What does community mean to you??  Deep in the world of college essays, this question is one my son is working hard to define.  (Easier than the one we posted last week though!)

For me, though, it wasn't so difficult.  Entering the food blogging world a little over three years ago, I've found myself involved in a community filled with wonderfully supportive people from around the world.   Sometimes I stop and am simply amazed at the virtual friends I look forward to catching up with every few days.   I feel like I know their families and I enjoy sharing a cup of coffee over some of the fabulous food that shows up post after post on their mouthwatering blogs.

Liz, is part of my community, and I feel truly blessed to have come to know her over the years.  Her blog's title is "That Skinny Chick Can Bake" (you do follow her, don't you??), and I'm here to vouch that, indeed… she can bake!!  Liz produces recipe after recipe that has Liv asking, "Mom… can we make that?", and every one we've tried has been a treat.

This recipe is no different.  As a matter of fact, Liz sent this post to me last week, and within hours of receiving it we had a batch of toasty Biscoff Toffee Cookies in our own kitchen.  Liv made them herself and actually brought me a few, still warm from the oven.   Bringing the rest to her dance team at school, Liz increased her San Diego community even more, and now has a High School Dance Team all agreeing… that skinny chick really can bake!!

Liz… thanks not only for the cookies and the break, but for making my community a better place.  One of these days I hope to share coffee and a treat in real life, but until then I'll be virtually tasting every treat that comes across your page.

And now, I give you Liz! 


It’s so exciting to be guest posting for Kim as she is taking a well deserved break. I met Kim in my early blogging days…and knew right away that she was the kind of gal I’d be immediate friends with if we crossed paths in real life. She exudes warmth and kindness and it’s obvious that family is her priority. I love seeing her beautiful food photos, recipes and stories about her travels and children on her blog. I decided to share some irresistible cookies that would be perfect after school snacks for her kids….and yours!

I have had a jar of crunchy Biscoff in my pantry way longer than I care to admit. I checked the expiration date and breathed a sigh of relief...I could still make the cookies I spied on one of my favorite blogs, The Cafe Sucre Farine ( I have a deep love of toffee, so I knew these cookies with a cup of Biscoff added to the dough, not to mention a boatload of Heath Bar chunks, would be terrific.

These are my favorite new cookies of the year. The shortening adds a certain crispness to the bite which is not to be missed. I generally use all butter, but please try these with the mixture of shortening and butter and you won’t regret it. I took these to Denver, and when my sister, Mary, sampled them, she HAD to know what was in them. Outrageously delicious, you’ll be asked for the recipe, too, if you make and share these babies.

Thanks, Kim, for inviting me to you spectacular blog!

You can find me and my recipes on my blog and these social media sites:
Biscoff Toffee Cookies
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup Biscoff Spread (I used crunchy)
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 8 ounces of Heath bars, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350º. Line baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Using a mixer, combine sugar, brown sugar, Biscoff, shortening and butter and mix until well combined. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Mix in baking soda, baking powder, then salt. Mix in flour just till incorporated, then stir in toffee chunks.
  3. Roll about 1 1/2-2 tablespoons of dough into balls, then place on prepared pans, about 2 inches apart. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden. Let cool completely on wire cooling rack.
  4. Yield: 3-4 dozen cookies, depending on size
    Total time: 1 1/2 hours with baking and cooling time

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks... Gluten, Dairy Free and Irresistible!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks

How do you feel about Wednesday?? A thought provoking question that recently appeared as a college application essay for the University of Chicago.  With our life currently revolving around college essays and everything college application related, my son brought this one to me with a look of utter disbelief and asked, "What would you write?"

Hmmm... Wednesday.  Sort of an innocuous day that really doesn't bring much emotion.  The weekend is still too far away to get excited about, yet we are already half way through our week of insane schedules, so I feel like we are getting there.

Peamut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks... gluten and dairy free
Wednesday, for us, brings a late start to school and an extra hour of sleep that somehow makes this day a little brighter than some of the others.  Especially as my alarm goes off after the sun rises, not as it merely thinks about peeking its rays over the horizon.  Waking to the sun, and usually a few minutes before the alarm goes off, my Wednesday sets off to a good start.

With the usual errands filling the day, Wednesday seems to pass rather uneventfully with each one mostly like the next or the last, but will admit to enjoying a few hours to myself with the pups as the kids are at school and my husband at work.  Noontime, though, brings thoughts of the kids returning soon and a knowledge that they will be hungry.  As such, my thoughts turn to food, and today, to cookies. Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks to be exact.

Gluten and dairy free, these irresistible little bites bring Wednesday to a new level.  Bursting with peanut buttery flavor, the crumb sort of melts in your mouth and has you immediately reaching for another.  The semi-sweet chocolate chunks add an additional layer of depth, and again, have you immediately reaching for another.

So, as for Wednesday... while I'm not thinking my somewhat indifferent thoughts on the day will get me into college, this Wednesday has shaped up to be a pretty good one.  How do you feel about Wednesday??

Peamut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks... gluten and dairy free

Peanut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks
Gluten and dairy free (not that anyone would know it!) these cookies whip together in a flash and disappear just as quickly.  Just what anyone would need to perk up their Wednesday!
adapted from a recipe found in Real Simple
Printer Friendly

1 cup peanut butter (we use Jiff**)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
1 handful chocolate chips (we used Trader Joe's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks)

Peamut Butter Cookies with Chocolate Chunks... gluten and dairy free
Preheat oven to 350ºF, and line two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients and using a wooden spoon, stir well to combine.

Drop rounded teaspoons of dough onto your prepared baking sheets (place about 2 inches apart and do not flatten).  Bake for 7-9 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed, golden and a little cracked on top.  Remove from the oven and allow to firm up on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes.  I dare you not to eat one!!  ;)

Remove from baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.  Enjoy!

**Liv Life Note:  We've made these both with natural peanut butter (I used Trader Joe's brand) and with Jiff cream and with Jiff crunchy peanut butters.  While all were a delight to eat, those made with Jiff had a more "cookie-like" texture. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Squash, Beets and Arugula

Quinoa Salad with Squash Beets and Arugula

You all know how much I love my local farmer's markets.  With no less than 6 surrounding me with fresh, local and organic produce, my heart sings with happiness as I shop to my heart's content.  Unfortunately, Liv's extreme dance schedule occasionally leaves me without time to actually visit my favorite markets. 

Enter a fairly new service in our San Diego area - Naturally to Your Door, Delivery of Farm Fresh Fruits and Veggies.  I've since forgotten which local blog I first read about this service on, but I've used them numerous times over the last year when my personal market time is not to be found.  Ordering online on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, Naturally to Your Door features in season and organic produce from some of my favorite local farms (Suzi's ranks right up there).  With choices from individual items to a preset CSA-like box, your shopping is covered and a few days later dropped at your door.  (Note... Naturally to Your Door has not idea we are writing about them, nor did we receive any sort of compensation to mention their company.  This company is simply one I love, whole heartedly support and wish to share).

Quinoa Salad with Squash Beets and Arugula
While I've enjoyed all of my delivered boxes, last week's preset box ranks up there as a favorite and brought me everything I needed to embrace autumn with some of my favorite fall salad ingredients.  Squash, beets, arugula and a heavy pomegranate had dinner on my doorstep.

Roasted squash and beets have become some of my most loved ingredients, and the kabocha squash included in my box worked perfectly into my veggie mix.  Commonly called a "Japanese Pumpkin", the beta-carotene filled kabocha brings a natural sweetness and rich, pleasing texture.  Mixed with ruby-red beets, chopped onions and a touch of oregano, the veggies roast in the oven for about half an hour before exiting with brilliant colors and flavor as well as filling the house with an incredibly delicious aroma.

Cooled and then dressed with a simple white balsamic vinaigrette and then served over oiled arugula, this salad has me obsessed.  Crumbled feta or goat cheese finishes the salad beautifully, and a sprinkle of pomegranate literally makes the salad pop.

While I may not be loving the shorter and cooler days of Autumn (I keep telling Liv I'm moving to Australia in search of my own endless summer...), this fall-like salad is making my transition just a little easier.

Quinoa Salad with Squash Beets and Arugula

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cereal Treats... Getting into the spirit

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cereal Treats

So... I've been told that I have no holiday spirit.  And, thinking back,  that just may be true.  Over the years holidays have become a lot of work, and I think I may have lost the "holiday spirit" somewhere along the way.  It was Liv's comment of "Other moms make the holiday so fun, but you just don't seem like you are having a good time..." that made me reflect on my attitude and I'm promising to work on an adjustment!

Happy Halloween Spider
As such, I bring you a spooky spider (Liv will hate me for that!!) who has been living in my backyard, and a fall-filled Halloween treat bursting with the flavors of pumpkin pie.  A recent and exclusive to Target find, these Pumpkin Pie Spice M&M's are not something to be taken lightly.  Larger than the "regular" M&M, I hesitated when I first saw them, but they just sounded too tempting not to try.  And I'm so glad I did!

Reviews online have blasted the candies for not having a "pumpkin" flavor... but they are called "Pumpkin Pie Spice", not "pumpkin" M&M's, and I think they taste just like they say, albeit in a familiar M&M candy form.  Added to our Pumpkin Pie Spice enhanced Krispie Treats, these little candies bumped up the Ohh/Ahh factor and even my "I don't eat Krispie Treats" husband slyly reached for a second.

Not a hit with everyone though, my son refused to even try them claiming krispie treats and simply M&M's don't go together.  The dance girls, however, all gave them two thumbs up!

So here's to holiday spirit...  May your season be filled with happiness and spooky treats!

Pumpkin Pie Spice Cereal Treats

Monday, October 7, 2013

Banana Apple Spice Bread... Pure Comfort!

Banana Apple Spice Bread
What are some of the words of wisdom that you've passed to your kids over the years??  Things like, "Make good choices" or "If you don't have anything nice to say don't say it" or "Don't settle for someone who doesn't treat you like a Princess"... etc. etc.  Or how about, "Choose your senior yearbook photo carefully because 30 years from now the committee may put it on a name tag at your reunion."

The last piece of advice I learned firsthand last weekend when I attended my 30th (gasp!  Yes... 30th) High School Reunion.

We were the Class of '83, a time when Swatch's were used to tell time not cell phones, when The Moonwalk was cooler than Twerking, and when no one knew who Anakin Skywalker was but we all wanted an Ewok for a pet.

1983 also brought a young Tom Cruise to the scene in Risky Business, an awesome Vacation with Clark Griswald, and a flood of tears when watching Aurora in Terms of Endearment.  And "What a Feeling" it was to see Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance (yes... I had a shirt just like hers!).  I also wanted one of those Vegemite Sandwiches from a land "Down Under", and I really wanted to know... who was Billy Jean?

In any case... we've all come a long way, and what it treat it was to see nearly half of my graduating high school class.  With 30 years passing, those name tags really did come in handy as we all tried to covertly peek (not so easy without putting on those reading glasses we didn't want anyone to know we use) so we didn't seem to have forgotten anyone.

The girls were gorgeous and the men handsome as ever, and for the most part friends picked up where they left off at the last reunion.  At this point in our lives most of us are comfortable in our own skin and just happy to see old friends.  Laughter could be heard the whole night through and many of us had a hard time saying goodnight.

All this is a testament to our incredible reunion committee.  Putting in months of work so the rest of us could fly in at the last minute to enjoy a wonderful evening, the committee put together an incredible event.

Friends for over 35 years...  Love you Suzanne!!
Arriving on my own and admittedly a little nervous (would anyone really remember me?), the first face I saw immediately put me at ease with a big smile and a welcoming hug.  Thank you, thank you to the committee for all the work you put into the evening and for immediately making me feel comfortable.  Thanks to the wonderful friends I hadn't seen in years, I enjoyed catching up with each and every one of you... I'm eagerly looking forward to our 40th! How lucky am I to be a part of such a wonderful group of people??

And comfortable is exactly how this bread will make you feel.  Bringing the soothing flavors of fall, this Banana Apple Spice Bread studded with soft chunks of cinnamony apple will leave you with a smile on your face and a friend in anyone you choose share it with.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Vanilla Extract (Essence) Update and DIY Sweet Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla Extract at two weeks
Vanilla Extract at 16 Days!  I'm loving the color!!
Have you started your vanilla extract yet?? Since brewing a little over two weeks, ours is turning a gorgeous amber color and taking on a lovely vanilla fragrance... just like it's supposed to.  I'm so excited at how pretty it already looks, I simply had to share our progress.

Starting DIY Vanilla Extract
Extract after 24 hours
Easy, easy, easy, all you need to make your own extract is vanilla beans, alcohol and bottles or jars.  After our success with last year's project, I couldn't wait to begin more for this holiday season (I have DIY instructions if you need them!), and my mom is eagerly awaiting her homemade bottle so she can use last years.  Yes... she saved last years gift saying, "It's too pretty to use!" so we are making more, and will probably have to make more next year so she will use the one from this year.  Do you know anyone who does that??  I've told her I'm not buying her candles any more either because she saves them all.  :)

Extract Day 1
In any case... have you started your extract?  What beans did you use?  How is it coming along??  Did you experiment with different alcohols?  I can't wait to break open a bottle of this batch and bake!

In the mean time, we also have Vanilla Sugar.  A nice addition to many of your baked goods, Vanilla Sugar also makes a lovely hostess gift.

How to make it?  Simply place the pods of vanilla beans you've used the seeds for in other baking into a container filled with granulated sugar.  The vanilla pods infuse the sugar giving it a heavenly vanilla taste and fragrance in just a few weeks... perfect for a sprinkle on top of waffles or as a stir into your morning coffee.

Want a lower cal version?  Simply place your used vanilla pods into your favorite sugar substitute, wait a few weeks and enjoy!

DIY Vanilla Sugar

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Minty Cucumber Honeydew Smoothie... I finished the challenge!

Minty Cucumber Honeydew Smoothie

October brings to close my participation in the 30-Day Juicing Challenge of September.  With goals of healthier eating and losing a few pounds, I am happy to report resounding success in both areas!  More importantly, I now have a husband requesting his morning "Green Detox Super Drink" and kids who look forward to an after school blueberry or mango smoothie in place of chips and salsa or frozen burritos.  While the official challenge may be over, our move towards healthier foods is not, and I'm ever so thankful to Teresa, of Eat. Drink and Be Skinny, for inspiring us to make better choices.

Closing out our month of smoothies and juices, I have one more new favorite to share, a lovely Minty Honeydew Cucumber Smoothie.  With my mint plant continuing its takeover of my flower bed, I enjoyed snipping a few of his bountiful sprigs to flavor our morning drinks.  Bringing a fresh, clean flavor, the mint combined with lime and sweet honeydew to bring an invigorating start to our day.

During September we shared a number of new smoothie favorites, and I in turn received a few emails and comments stating that juices and smoothies bring "too much sugar and calories into the diet".  I absolutely agree that many smoothies on the market today truly resemble milkshakes more than any sort of health drink, however, I do believe that smoothies and blended fruit and veggie drinks can be a wonderful addition to one's diet - so long as they are used in moderation and with the proper ingredients.

Minty Cucumber Honeydew Smoothie
For us, smoothies bring the addition of fruits and veggies that we wouldn't otherwise have had.  My husband, not a huge salad fan, receives a nice dose of spinach or kale in his morning "Green Detox Super Juice", and my son, not a blueberry fan, amps up his antioxidants with a cupful of our Blueberry Cucumber Smoothie.  That said, serving size is also an issue.  We keep our serving sizes to about a cup to a cup and a half, thereby keeping the calorie count in check.  Drinking pints of smoothie indeed throws the equation out of balance and yes, can bring too much of a good thing.

Personally, I prefer smoothies to juicing as blending a smoothie uses the entire fruit or vegetable thereby keeping the fiber in the serving.  True, the fiber is broken down in the blending process and is not as intact as eating, say a salad, but much of it is still there in addition to vitamins from the skins and seeds (for example blueberries or kiwis).

In any case, this 30-Day Challenge resulted in a big success for my family and we've seen our fruit and veggie consumption increase in volume.  Incorporating a few super foods, such as Camu Camu Powder, Flax Meal, chia seeds and Goji Berries has amped up our nutrition even more, and I'm enjoying the new flavor creations we've been experimenting with (well,most of them anyway...).

Thanks again to Teresa for making a difference for our family and for getting me in shape before my high school reunion.  I'm keeping with the challenge for the foreseeable future... just because I like it.

Minty Cucumber Honeydew Smoothie