Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Day on the San Diego Bay... a photo essay #wordlesswednesday (almost)

After living in San Diego some 18 years, I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that last weekend was the first day I've spent on the water in the San Diego Harbor.  With stunning views of wildlife, sailboats, military activities and gorgeous scenery, it's a day to consider if planning a visit to our beautiful city.

As no words can convey the beauty of the day, I'm simply going to show you with a (nearly) Wordless Wednesday.  Enjoy!

Coronado Bridge, San Diego
Coronado Bridge
Sea Lions in San Diego
Waving as we sailed by...
Sea Lions in San Diego
A dog from a fishing boat ran towards the sleeping sea lions and it was abandon pier!

Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego, California
Hotel Del Coronado
San Diego Sunset with Hotel Del Cornoado
Sunset skyline with the famous Hotel Del Coronado spire
Coronado Bridge, San Diego, Sunset

Coronado Bridge, San Diego, Sunset
Coronado Bridge
San Diego, California, Sunset
City of San Diego

San Diego, California, Sunset
City of San Diego

San Diego, California, Sunset

San Diego Marina at Sunset

San Diego Sunset
Bring me that hoizon...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pumpkin Cupcake Muffins with Coconut Glaze

Really... what's the difference between a cupcake and a muffin??  They are both baked in the same tins and look pretty darn similar with the exception of mega amounts of frosting which definitely delineates a cupcake.  But what about a healthy cupcake with a glaze?  Could that not be a sweet muffin?  Or what about a muffin with more of a cake-like texture that is dusted with powdered sugar... could that not be a frosting-less cupcake?

In my mind, I guess I've always felt a muffin is healthier than a cupcake, but I have to admit I've enjoyed a good number of cupcakes that are actually healthier than many muffins.

Turning to the good 'ole internet where any truth can be discovered, I found a definition that makes sense.  According to a post on Seasoned Advice, the cupcake v. muffin question comes down to method...

From a technical point of view, muffins are made by the muffin method, making them small quickbreads. In the muffin method, the wet ingredients are combined in one bowl; and the dry ingredients are combined in another bowl. Then the two are quickly incorporated together with minimal mixing to avoid gluten development. This gives muffins a somewhat coarse crumb.

Cupcakes are small cakes, and are made by one of the traditional cake methods such as the creaming method, the reverse creaming method, the genoise method, the chiffon method, and so on. They tend to have a finer crumb than muffins.
9/9/13 by SAJ14SAJ
Trying to identify our fabulous Pumpkin creation, I attempted to apply the numerous criteria for a proper description.

  1. Created in the muffin method = Muffins
  2. High in sugar and bringing a cake-like crumb = Cupcakes
  3. Frostingless = Muffins
  4. Glazed = Cupcake-like
  5. On the healthier side with pumpkin and some whole grains = Muffins
Still no closer to a proper description, we've decided to go with both.  Part muffin, part cupcake, we bring you a wonderful recipe that will leave you with a title of Best Mom Ever when you surprise you kids with these for breakfast.  But really... cupcakes for breakfast??  So long as they are like muffins, it's all good.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

National Tequila Day… A little history and a tequila recipe round up

Seems every day these days is some sort of National Food Day, and I'm the first to admit that I don't really pay much attention.  However… National Tequila Day???  Totally caught my attention!

Being a "Margarita Girl" for some 20+ years I've had my fair share of the spirit, but as I've aged I've ditched the calorie-filled cocktails and simply stuck with pure, straight tequila.  Enjoying a bit of a bite and a squeeze of lime, I wouldn't call myself a tequila connoisseur but I've definitely improved my palate and I've come to appreciate tequila in all areas of cocktails and food.

Tequila's history dates to the 16th century, with roots back even further.  A decedent of Pulque - a beverage fermented by the Aztec's from the sap of the maguey plant and later the agave plant - and Mezcal (the first distilled beverage in North America), the concoction first went by the name of "Mezcal Wine" or "Agave Wine", finally taking on the name of a small town in Jalisco, Mexico - Tequila.

Distilled from the sap of the hearts of the blue agave plant, the first licensed manufacturer is a name most people will recognize, Jose Antonio Cuervo. Receiving the rights to cultivate an agave-filled parcel of land by the King of Spain, the rest is history.

By the mid 19th century Curevo's fields held some three million agave plants, and Cuervo was selling 10,000 barrels of tequila in Guadalajara alone. Cuervo is still one of the largest tequila manufacturers along with other familiar names including Srs. Herradura and Sauza.

Today tequila can be found at nearly any price point and has gained a somewhat trendy following leading many to ask the question "Is Tequila the new Vodka?".  With celebrity-owned tequilas ranging from Casamigos (George Clooney) to 901 (Justin Timberlake) to Cabo Wabo (Sammy Hagar), tequila seems to be on the road to even more popularity.

And now we celebrate July 24th, National Tequila Day!  What's your favorite brand, or do you have a favorite tequila recipe??  We'd love to hear your thoughts!!!

But... in case you're in need of a recipe we've got a few favorites in our National Tequila Day Roundup

Roasted Jalapeño and Pineapple Infused Tequila - Liv Life

Tequila Lime Watermelon Granita - Recipe Renovator

Strawberry Mango Tequila Sunrise - The Girls in the Little Red Kitchen

Triple Citrus Pomegranate Margaritas -  Spicy RD

Mango Coconut Margarita - Snappy Gourmet

Strawberry Margarita Punch - The Cookie Rookie

Champagne Margaritas - The Kitchen is my Playground

Mexican Martini - Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine

Strawberry Habañero Margaritas - Spabettie

Coconut Creamsicle Margaritas - DrinkedIN

Strawberry Mango Margarita -  Quarter Life Crisis Cuisine

Frozen Watermelon Margaritas - Liv Life

Super Skinny Margarita -  Family Fresh Meals

Mango Passion Fruit Margarita - Laylita's Recipes

Key Lime Raspberry Margarita - Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

Frozen Peach Margarita - Miss in the Kitchen

Spicy Cucumber Margaritas - A Cozy Kitchen

Colada Margarita - Cooking on the Front Burner

Rhubarb Paloma - The Girl in the Little Red Kitchen

Mango Strawberry Margaritas - Wine and Glue

Blueberry Lime Margaritas - Heather Christo

Layered Margarita Popsicles - The Cookie Rookie

Tropical Tequila Sunrise Popsicles -Real Food by Dad

Margarita Lime Jell-O Cubes - Liv Life

Ocean Margarita Jelly Shots - Delish

Strawberry Margarita Jell-O Shots - Liv Life

Mexican Coffee - Diethood

Margarita Cupcakes - Love From the Oven

Margarita Lime Sherbet - Around my Family Table

Margarita Lime Cheesecake - Liv Life

Watermelon Margarita Cupcakes - Cooking with Curls

Frozen Margarita Lime Pie - Liv Life

Margarita Hint-of-Lime Cupcakes with Margarita Buttercream -  The Kitchen is my Playground

Margarita Cookies with Salty Sweet Tequila Glaze - Love From the Oven

Roasted Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa - Recipe Renovator

Tequila Lime Chicken Fajitas - Persnickety Plates

Girls Night Guacamole - Love From the Oven

Tequila Lime Fruit Salad - Taste of Home

Honey Lime Tequila Shrimp Tacos - Tartine and Apron String

Tequila Lime Fish Tacos - Love and Lemons

Mole Chicken Wings with Tequila Lime Marinade - Eat the Love

Tequila Lime Flank Steak Fajitas - How Sweet it is

Tequila Lime Shrimp and Quinoa Salad - Iowa Girl Eats

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Frozen Watermelon Margaritas in Celebration of National Tequila Day!

Frozen Watermelon Margarita

We all identify with some holidays more than others.  For instance, I have a friend who lives Christmas nearly all year round while I struggle to get into the spirit for just a few weeks in December.  Other friends pine for Valentines Day and still others are all about the red, white and blue of the 4th of July.  Me??  I tend to prefer holidays that somehow revolve around food with Thanksgiving right up there on the top of my list.  Another favorite though, has to be National Tequila Day.

Not quite a Hallmark Holiday, July 24th, or National Tequila Day, can be celebrated year round.  Whether you prefer your tequila straight, with a squeeze of lime, or blended into a tart margarita, there are a plethora of choices out there and something for most everyone.

Years ago I was known as a "Margarita Girl", but as I aged matured my preferences changed.  I've always liked a strong tequila taste, and this somehow morphed into actually preferring tequila straight rather than sweetened in a Margarita.  Find me a good sipping tequila and you have my cocktail of choice.

As such, you can imagine my sheer joy at receiving a box, actually a day after my birthday, filled with samples of Casa Noble Tequila!  We det all sorts of blog mail here at Liv Life, but this has to rank up there as one of the most fun.

With summer in full swing and a neighborhood gathering on the horizon, a tequila cocktail seemed to be in order, and that perfectly ripe watermelon from the farmer's market just begged to be included.  Making both rocks and blended frozen margarita versions, I positively shocked myself by preferring the simple frozen concoction which simply burst with summer brightness.

Using the Casa Noble Crystal (I love the name!), the first requirement is definitely to sip.  Pure, clean and crisp, the Crystal lives up to its name and is truly a delight.  Mixed with a few simple and fresh ingredients, our Frozen Watermelon Margarita is slightly sweet and smooth, and might I say the perfect libation by the pool on a hot afternoon.

How will you celebrate National Tequila Day??  We'd love to hear your favorite recipes!!

Frozen Watermelon Margarita

Friday, July 18, 2014

Coconut Mango Pops with Blueberries

Summer... it's meant for leisurely days by the pool with a cold popsicle in hand, isn't it??  We spent years buying rainbows of store bought pops, but when the kids smiled at me with lips dyed red and blue my heart always felt a little sad as I had purposefully served my kids some sort of chemically food dye.  Hence... we started freezing whole fruit smoothie recipes and we've never looked back.

This week these pops have come in particularly handy, though they weren't consumed lounging leisurely by the pool.  As I mentioned in the last post, this past week brought a nasty stomach bug that now has me trying to refuel my girl with nutrients, and as soon as her stomach could again hold food her first request was a mango pop.

Made with potassium rich coconut water, these pops work to replenish fluids better than sports drinks, and while I'd love to get Liv to sip on coconut water alone, she's not really a fan.  So in the pop it goes.

Sweetened with mango and banana I also tossed in whole blueberries for a little texture (frozen blueberries are a favorite snack in the Liv Life household) and they look pretty to boot.  Frozen, the pops go down slowly and are perfect for helping refuel after a stomach bug.

All fruit, no additives or yucky dyes, you'll want to keep extras on hand.  Today??  We're all healthy again and I have 3 girls leisurely lounging by the pool... their first request?  Coconut Mango Pops.  Bring on the summer San Diego sun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Feel Better Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup

Getting a stomach bug is never fun... but getting a stomach bug in the middle of summer just after you finish dancing onstage at the beginning of a week long extravaganza is even worse.  Unfortunately, such has been Liv's life this last week.

As a competitive dancer she prepares all year for the National Competition, and the Spotlight Dance Cup puts on a fabulous event with Nationals hosting an exciting Elite Extravaganza, which Liv qualified for at regionals.  This competition held the opportunity to compete in a pagent-like event, Title, in addition to the pure dance part, and Liv had waited all year for this experience and we'd found the perfect formal dress for the finale.

The first day held 4 hours of elite rehearsals with the incredibly talented Jaci Royal in addition to the onstage Title competition, an interpretive solo (they play music and you just dance... no prearranged choreography) and her own solo.

Liv performing her Interprative Solo... She heard the music only minutes before coming on stage and improving this dance.

The title portion went fabulously as her confidence simply glowed, and her interpretive solo was amazing.  As she began preparing for her solo though (around 9PM), she complained of her stomach feeling "off" and her extremities feeling "funny".  I brushed it off as a case of the jitters (which she usually doesn't get) and told her to focus harder.

Imagine my dismay (and guilt) when some 20 minutes after performing she found a trash can and lost her lunch.  The beginning of a long night, we chatted with the Spotlight Director who told us that missing any of the rehearsals over the next 5 days would have her out of the competition.  Changing our overnight plans and heading home, she got very little sleep that night and proceeded to spend the next 48 hours in bed, indeed missing rehearsals - the competition was over for her.

With heavy hearts we began the process of healing, and Liv's first food request was Chicken Noodle Soup.  Always a favorite when she feels the need for a health boost, the soup also does a little healing for the heart as it warms the body and brings life back into balance.

Her simple version includes the traditional ingredients, broth, chicken, noodles, and vegetables, but she proclaims the chicken must be shredded, not chopped, for the proper effect.  The vegetables also must but cut in very small shapes, the carrots preferably in little squares.

The pasta also becomes an issue if it is too big, and thankfully we had just the right pasta on hand thanks again to Hodgson Mill (they keep coming to our rescue!).  Weeks ago Hodgson Mill sent us a care package including some of their new Ultragrain with Quinoa pastas, and I hadn't had a chance to do much else other than look at it.  Liv had commented on the "cute little elbow noodles", and when talking about her soup, those cute little noodles made the perfect addition.

Made with whole wheat durhum as well as quinoa flours, the Ultragrain noodles bring a slightly nutty flavor and an amazing texture to the bowl (they don't get mushy).  Doing my best to pack this Feel Better Soup with as many nutrients as possible, the quinoa made a nice addition without the actual quinoa texture (which was not allowed in the soup).

Bringing needed fiber as well as a nice dose of protein, the "cute little elbow noodles" combined with perfectly cut square carrots, little moon shaped celery, not too big shredded chicken and a steamy chicken broth enhanced with a bit of garlic and thyme for the perfect feel better meal.

Whether you are healing a head cold, getting the stomach slowly working again or fixing a heavy heart, this Feel Better Chicken Noodle Soup is sure to do the trick.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Coconut Cauliflower Curry

In our everyday attempt to fill our meals with a rainbow of colors, the vegetable shade green unfortunately often finds itself left out.  As babies, the kids gobbled their green beans or peas in a jar, but once we moved to "real" food, green somehow lost its love.

Pure and white cauliflower though has always been a favorite, and everyone down to my two little Maltese pups never turns up a nose at this cruciferous offering.

Hence, a meal including cauliflower can usually be counted on to please everyone, and this Coconut Cauliflower Curry is no exception.  With fragrant spices and our beloved coconut milk, this bowl of comfort brings not only happiness but a healthy meal to the table that also reheats leftovers beautifully.

Featuring ginger in addition garam masala, coriander and cumin, a fragrant curry flavors the simmered vegetables and creates a sauce that seeps into a bowl of brown rice and has you sopping up every last drop.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

DIY Homemade Waffle Mix - aka Hotel Waffles (mix works for pancakes too!)

How many times do you head to a hotel breakfast only to be greeted with fat laden, white flour, soggy waffles?  For years I've simply skipped breakfast and my kids, while excited at first, complained of not feeling well after these indulgent meals (frequently topped with whipped cream...).  We, however, have fixed the issue on our past few hotel stays with what we've affectionately dubbed, "Hotel Waffles".

With a little bit of pre-planning, healthy waffles can be ready in no time right in your hotel room and no one needs to shower, worry about when the restaurant breakfast ends, or spend the morning recovering from unhealthy treats that weren't really enjoyed but cost a fortune anyway.

A simple DIY mix containing whole grains, chia and flax shake together with an egg, a little oil, milk and vanilla in a lidded jar.  With a waffle maker brought from home (we travel with the Cuisinart Round Waffle Maker that I've had for years), we pre-measure the mix in zippy bags and store eggs and milk in a cooler.

I have small travel bottles of oil, vanilla and maple syrup that we pack along, and shortly after rising my family is happily sliding out of bed and starting their day the right way (healthy, quick and cheap).

Perfect for camping as well as hotels, you may want to make extra mix as these beauties work just as well on a leisurely weekend at home!