Friday, April 25, 2014

Chocolate Chia Pudding

Sometimes my kid's brilliance amazes me.  Every once in a while they reach out of those teen moments and pull down something that leaves me wondering, "Why didn't I think of that??".  They just as easily slip back into the "Do you seriously want me to empty the dishwasher?" moments, but those special occasions tend to leave my heart proud.

Such is the case with our most recent decadent chocolate dessert, the Chocolate Chia Pudding.  Discovering Chia Pudding (did you know chia seed can swell up to 10 times it's weight in under 15 minutes) a few months ago, we've stuck mostly to vanilla versions made with almond milk.  Then Liv, a girl after my own heart, suggested chocolate.  Simply using chocolate almond milk and adding chia, we had our treat.  And it was good.

One night, however, the chocolate almond milk was gone.  I told Liv we would just go back to the vanilla version, but her suggestion of, "Why don't we just make it chocolate with cocoa powder like we do to our hot chocolate?" became a question of pure brilliance.  Why not indeed??

A simple concoction of almond milk, cocoa, a little sugar and a few spoonfuls of chia, who had any idea this pudding would be so wonderful??

Rich in chocolate flavor, this dessert takes chia pudding to a whole new level.  While my son doesn't care for the chia seed texture, I personally find the pudding somewhat irresistible.

Chia Seed, yes the seed of the the Chia Pet era, is making a come back in a big way.  Once a staple in the Inca, Maya and Aztec cultures, chia is actually the Mayan word for "Strength".  Filled with protein, calcium, potassium, iron, and Omega 3 and 6, chia takes on the title of a true super food and can help maintain energy and endurance.

Soaked in liquid, chia seeds (filled with soluble fiber) swell up to 10 times their weight and form a gel-like outer layer which, in the digestive system, actually slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar and in turn helps stabilize blood sugar.  In addition, the seeds high soluble fiber content also helps to control cholesterol levels.

Adding these little power house seeds to liquid, in our case chocolate almond milk, the seeds swell giving the liquid a lovely pudding-like texture without whipping cream. Dairy-free and low in fat, this dessert brings doses of nutrition along with its decadent chocolate flavors.  Well done, Liv... well done.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Hard as it is for me to believe, I have a son who is nearly a legal adult.  I have vivid memories of rocking my baby boy to sleep for his nap as thoughts of him going off to college would flit through my mind.  "Not to worry,"  I would tell myself, "that's years and years away."

Well, somehow those years have passed, and with a new UCSB Mom sticker proudly affixed to the back of my car, I find myself entering a new phase of parenting.  Gone are the days of worrying if he would look both ways before crossing the street or would put something in his mouth that wasn't good for him.  Here are the even more worrisome thoughts of will he see what he needs to as he merges his car onto a busy Southern California freeway?  Or worse yet, will he make good choices when thinking about taking a drink when he's at college?  And even more stressful, will he pick a girl that I like?

Now, I'll freely admit that whomever he chooses is already knocked down a peg because I know with her addition I will have been fully replaced.  However... there will definitely be some choices that will be better than others (oh my goodness I hope I like her!), and I've been dropping (unappreciated) hints as to who I think may be that good choice.  So far most of my "suggestions" have been met with eye rolls and "leave me alone" comments, until I mentioned Julie Morris.

Admittedly she may be a little old for him, and I'm not sure, but she may actually already have the man of her dreams, but Julie Morris, the author of Superfood Kitchen appears to me to be the perfect catch!

First off, Julie is positively adorable.  But it's her love of healthy, nutrition and good food that has me thinking she would be the perfect choice.  An advocate for healthy food and an expert on the so called "Super Foods" of today, Julie has an amazing story with her journey to a plant-based diet and a love of life-enhancing and energy-giving foods.

Presenting myself with her book, Superfood Kitchen
, for Christmas, I've made a number of recipes all with resounding success, but her Secret Pesto with Sun-dried Tomatoes inspired a recipe that has has become one of our all time family favorites.

Filled with fresh basil, sun-dried tomatoes and a few tablespoonfuls of hemp seed, no one is any the wiser that this pesto brings a healthy bent to the table.

Hemp Seed, while from the same family as the marijuana plant, does not produce the "high" inducing THC of its cousin.  It does however, provide a complete protein boasting all essential amino acids and is easier to digest than animal proteins such as meat, dairy and eggs.  Julie writes in her book, "Hemp also offers a wide range of mineras, especially iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium.  Better still, hemp is an excellent source of fiber, and is one of the few alkaline-forming seeds in nature, due to the small green filament on the inside of the kernel. " pg 30, Superfood Kitchen.

Recently hemp has been gaining status in the food world and is finding itself a featured ingredient in everything from smoothies to soups to salads and more.  Here in our Sun-dried Tomato Pesto, hemp takes the place of nuts yet retains the perfect flavors and textures of traditional versions while keeping the recipe healthy.

My soon to be college-bound son loves this recipe, and he even admitted that Julie's photo was a head turner.  Looks like he might have really good taste after all.

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

Monday, April 14, 2014

Carlsbad, CA... our Spring Break Staycation!

Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch, ranunculus
Carlsbad Flower Fields
Ahhh... Spring Break!!  Magical words to over-worked students and parents alike.  After months of homework, dance rehearsals, trips to Orlando for Dance Team Nationals (they came in 2nd!) in addition to a Broadcasting Competition (they got 3rd!!), college preparations for the boy child (He'll be attending UCSB in the fall!) and A/P testing, I was exhausted simply doing the driving.

Our Spring Break last week flew by, but we enjoyed every minute of our Staycation here in Carlsbad, CA.  From the brilliance of the Carlsbad Flower Fields to the shores of our sunny beaches, we're rested and ready to get back to work.  Here we bring a photo essay highlighting some of our Carlsbad Staycation Spring Break!

White Ranunculus, Carlsbad Flower Fields

The Carlsbad Flower Fields bloomed brilliantly and I took full advantage of the opportunity on a morning date with my camera.  Carlsbad, California provides its own color show at the Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch devoting 50 acres to the cultivation of the Tecolote® Giant Ranunculus.  Springtime brings ribbons of spectacular colors stretching behind the Carlsbad Outlet Mall just off of I-5.

From mid-March through early May the beautiful Ranunculus transform the otherwise dry coastal hills into fields of coordinated color.  A working farm, the flowers themselves are harvested for market, while the plants work to produce additional bulbs which will also be harvested and some replanted.  See our prior Flower Field Post for more detailed information on the fields (and an Oatmeal Strawberry Bar recipe!).

Carlsbad Flower Fields
White Ranunculus, Carlsbad Flower Fields

Pink Ranunculus, Carlsbad Flower Fields

Yellow Ranunculus, Carlsbad Flower Fields

Yellow Ranunculus and farm workers, Carlsbad Flower Fields

Ranunculus and farm workers, Carlsbad Flower Fields
A working farm, the ranunculus are picked and sent to market.

tractor ride at Carlsbad Flower Fields
Old fashioned tractor rides are available around the fields.  The friendly drivers always bring big smiles and waves!

Areas of the fields are set aside for family photos

Pink Ranunculus, Carlsbad Flower Fields

Carlsbad Beaches, Birds and a Sunset
Carlsbad Beach - warm waters
Golden Hour just past Warm Waters

Carlsbad Beach - warm waters
Sunset by the jetty...

Carlsbad Dance Girls... beach day photo shoot!

We love spring break!
Carlsbad Beach - warm waters

And now... back to work.  Hope your Spring Break brought rest and relaxation too!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

California Greek Salad

California Greek Salad

Crystal clear waters giving way to white sandy beaches, vibrant colors filling my lens and our Captain and Master Chef, Iakis, grilling on the back of his 20 metre boat...  Such are the memories I took with me from our day on the Nautilus as we cruised the shores of Corfu, Greece (Click here for a recap of our day in Corfu).

With traditional Greek treats including Saganaki, stuffed baby squid, homemade wine and a simple Greek Salad I've never forgotten, the food of Greece has stuck with me years later.  While the ambiance may have enhanced our day, Iakis put together a feast I can never hope to recreate in my own kitchen.

Corfu Greece Nautilus Daily Cruise
Corfu, Greece - 2012
However, the simple Greek Salad he served has become a favorite and finds its way to my table often.  Adding avocado for a California twist, this salad goes together in mere minutes and brings bright, fresh flavors to your table.

I've not thought to post it in the past as it's something I just toss together, but over the last few weeks I've had friends and my mom request a formal recipe for this fabulous Greek creation.  Fresh ingredients can make or break the salad, but beyond that you can adjust the ingredient measurements to suit your taste.  Love cucumber?  Add a little extra.  Not an onion fan?  Leave it out all together!

As we enter this spring season our markets are beginning to bring fresh produce and this salad just might become a regular in your kitchen too.

California Greek Salad