Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Roasted Honey Rosemary Pecans (with a touch of garlic!)

Pecans, they're just nuts right??  Well... coat them with a little butter infused with garlic, honey and rosemary and you now have something other worldly.  Who knew just a couple of ingredients could create eye-popping flavor in less than 30 minutes?

I can tell you who... Lisa of Authentic Suburban Gourmet knew, and I can't even begin to explain my excitement when I received her blog as my assignment for the December Blogger C.L.U.E Event.

Lisa (Authentic Suburban Gourmet) with her husband Charles
The Blogger C.L.U.E (Cook, Learn, Undertake, Eat) Society works similar to other blog events where one blogger is secretly assigned another, with C.L.U.E featuring a monthly theme.  We search the blogger's blog, find a recipe, tweak it ever so slightly to our tastes and diets, and then reveal all on the same day.

My Grandmother, Verle
This month's theme brought me a little reflection.  Assigned to "find something your grandmother would have made" left me a little stumped.  My mom's mom passed away before I was born, hence I never met her.

I've heard stories, and she sounds like a super fun lady - someone whom I would love to have known.  My dad's mom, on the other hand, lived to the age of 93, and while I did know her, the distance of our homes (me in California, she in Minnesota) left us with little opportunity to really be a big part of each other's lives.

Pairing the grandmother with Lisa I really could have gone either way.  The grandmother I knew, German-born Adella, loved to bake and I have wonderful memories sitting in her kitchen on the farm with big plates of homemade Peanut Butter Cookies.  Lisa has a number of fabulous baked goods on her blog, and I could have easily gone this way.  But my other grandmother, Verle, loved a good cocktail party.  Which in the end led me to my choice.

I've "known" Lisa for years, and her Friday Night Bites feature often leaves me tempted to hop a plane and join the fun.  Residing in the San Francisco Bay Area (my home for nearly 30 years), and with two irresistibly adorable puppies (Marty and Stewart, they are Havanese), Lisa and I have a lot in common.  A love of these Roasted Honey Rosemary Pecans are just one more thing.

Thanks Lisa for a wonderful recipe.  I'm so happy you were my assigned blog, and... I finally got participate in a Friday Night Bite, even though it was only virtually.  Someday, I'm going to make it for real.

Join me with a visit to the rest of the Blogger C.L.U.E. Society!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Greek Salad Sandwiches go Organic with Oroweat's new Organic Whole Wheat Bread

Greek Salad Sandwich

Seems to be a decent difference of opinion when I ask people if they are salad or sandwich people.  Occasionally I get a "both" response, but most of my friends tend to fall into one camp or the other.  Myself?  Definitely salad.  My husband and kids?  Sandwiches all the way.

So today I bring you a meeting of the minds... the Greek Salad Sandwich!  My favorite salad between two slices of Organic Oroweat Bread.

Oroweat Organic 100% Whole Wheat Bread
Choosy about the breads I serve my family, I often resort to making my own.  It's frequently difficult to find loaves in the store that are organic, let alone with ingredients that I recognize.

But especially this time of year, I simply don't have the time to make the bread we need, and an offer from Oroweat to review their new organic line of breads eased my workload.  With product coupons in hand and a giftcard for ingredients, I was on my way.

With an organic ingredient list similar to what I have stocked in my own pantry, I didn't have any trouble letting Oroweat do the work, and I love that the Organic 100% Whole Wheat loaf includes the addition of flax seed, cracked wheat and sunflower kernels (all organic, of course!) in their recipe.

San Diego Guacamole Breakfast Sandwich
Liv loves posts like these as Oroweat asked us to host an Ultimate Sandwich Party, which always translates into a sleepover with girlfriends for her.  Hosting 4 of her friends over the school break we brainstormed sandwich ideas and the girls decided on a an Ultimate San Diego Guacamole Breakfast Sandwich in addition to my Greek Salad Sandwich.

Toasting Oroweat's Organic Premium White Bread they started with a layer of guacamole and topped that with crushed organic corn chips (not sure I'd do this on my sandwich... but I let them go with it), a fried egg, arugula (I love that they used the arugula!) and a drizzle of salsa.  Very San Diego, for sure.

I have to admit, these girls nailed it with this breakfast sandwich.  It's totally awesome, even with the crushed corn chips (I had to try!) and the whole thing is reminiscent of a traditional breakfast burrito, just with bread.

We had differences of opinion though, as to whether the egg yolk should be broken in the cooking process or not, and have decided that it's pure personal preference.  The complaint with the unbroken yolk was that it's messy when eating... the choice is up to you.

San Diego Guacamole Breakfast Sandwich

As for the Greek Salad Sandwich, I used bread from the Organic 100% Whole Wheat loaf and layered my favorite Greek Salad ingredients starting with hummus.  Adding crumbled feta brought a nice creaminess to each bite and the veggies (cucumber, roasted red pepper, arugula, tomato, red onion, and sprouts) gave all sorts of textures to keep each bite interesting.

Greek Salad Sandwich

So which camp do you fall in??  Sandwich or Salad?  I actually have a poll running on my Facebook Page and I'm loving the responses.  Seems a decent majority is in the sandwich camp with a few votes for both, one vote for beer, and one comment from a friend who checked in from a Seabourn Cruise sailing towards South Africa and says "Preferably a sandwich, but whichever, I'd like it to be served with champagne, please."  Not a bad choice.

Whichever camp you fall into, I think we have some sandwiches that will make you happy, and the organic ingredients in the Oroweat breads make me happy.

We've been through a number of loaves in the last few weeks and whether it's used in sandwiches like these, folded with almond butter and honey, or simply toasted and slathered with butter, my thanks go out to Oroweat for easing my time pressure this holiday season and for making an organic bread I can feel good about serving.  I think we can make this a forever relationship.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cranberry Vanilla Chia Jam

Certain foods have become associated with the holiday season, but in reality there is no reason we shouldn't eat them all year.  Cranberries, for instance.  How often do you see a cranberry dish in summer?

With the super health benefits of these brilliantly hued berries, it's unfortunate we don't keep them around all year.  The high nutrient and antioxidant qualities of cranberries launch them to "Super Food" status and brings an array of immunity and disease fighting phytonutrients (along with a healthy dose of fiber).

Mix those berries together with chia and fresh orange and you get even more health benefits.  Maple syrup adds a lovely sweetness to balance the tartness of the berries, vanilla rounds out the flavors with its ethereal flavors and a splash of Grand Marnier is simply for pure pleasure (purely optional, of course...).  All put together, this jam is up there with the best I've ever had.

Extraordinarily tart on their own, cranberries are not to everyone's taste, but the rich maple syrup in this jam had even my ultra-sweet loving Liv asking for more.  Whether slathered on an almond butter sandwich or topping as a dollop on goat cheese on a slice of bread, cranberries are good for more than just sauce on Thanksgiving.

Easier than getting in the car and running the the store, this jam goes together with no pectin and is done from start to finish in about 20 minutes.  So next trip to the store stock up on a few extra bags of cranberries and stash them in the freezer for a summertime cranberry fix.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Ninja in the Kitchen... Nutri Ninja with Auto iQ Review

The number of blender and blender combos that have passed through my kitchen over the years seems endless.  From cheap store brand models to expensive high end machines, I've tried them all.  Some exceeded my expectations, some didn't, but mostly I've been frustrated at trying to find one that works for a decent price.

However... I think I've found it!  Meeting Ninja representatives at last fall's International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle, the smiling company representatives brought a sense of community to a room full of strangers, and the Green Smoothie with Pineapple they offered refreshed my over-indulgence with raw nutrients.

Impressed with the ultra "smoothness" of their smoothie, an offer to test and review the Nutri Ninja with Auto iQ had me responding an immediate, "Yes!".  Could a product with a blender, food processor and multi-sized serving cups (with tops) really do the job?  In a word... Yes.

As an owner (and lover) of one of those expensive models, this Ninja had its work cut out for it.  I've become used to ultra smooth smoothies, perfectly blended pesto, creamy hummus and evenly crushed frozen margaritas at the touch of a button.  Now to test the Ninja.

Click here for recipe
First up, one of my favorite green drinks and probably the easiest test for the Ninja, the Apple Arugula Detox Drink.  Placing half of an apple along with handfuls of arugula, goji berries, flax meal and chia seeds along with a few large ice cubes into one of the serving cups I screwed on the blade assembly and fitted the cup into the machine.

Pressing the Ultra Blend button the machine went into action stopping and starting (pure brilliance!) so the ingredients kept falling to the bottom (and I didn't have to scrape any sides) where they then blended up evenly.

That's the "Auto iQ" system where "unique blending, pulsing and pausing cycles deliver consistent even results every time".  And it did.  Time and again the cycle brought smooth smoothies and blended green drinks with no stray unblended chunks of anything.  Even the chia seeds disappeared into the mix.

Pouring a perfectly blended (and I do mean perfect) drink into glasses, my favorite part of the process was simply placing the blending cup into the dishwasher.  Something I can't do with that expensive unit that always needs to be washed by hand.  Score for Ninja.

Click here for recipe
Next up, our favorite Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto.  Simple blenders and a small food processor haven't been able to puree the sun-dried tomatoes and basil evenly, leaving nonuniform pieces throughout.  The Ninja?

Again, the blending, pulsing and pausing worked beautifully in the cup bringing a uniformly blended pesto.  So we tried again with a larger batch in the food processor bowl.

A big batch of pesto perfection took less than a minute from start to finish.  And... the blade removed from the food processor bowl they simply popped into the dishwasher for cleanup (note I usually wash the blades by hand to retain sharpness - the dishwasher can dull them over time).  Another score for the Ninja!

But how about a the classic blended margarita?  I'm fairly picky about this one, and many times blenders leave a nearly perfect blended margarita with a few unappealing big chunks of ice floating in the cup... but not the Ninja.  Perfectly slushy, frozen margaritas at the touch of a button.  Having friends over, they kindly offered to be Ninja testers so we blended up another margarita batch, this time with fruit (whole blood oranges) mixed into the ingredients.  Results?  Cheers all around!

Since receiving the machine I've found myself reaching for it multiple times a day, and I love having the food processor bowl attach to the base, making it two machines in one.

Chia Hummus with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Za'atar
Need to process a batch of hummus?  Placing the ingredients into the bowl, the blade system works extraordinarily close to the bottom of the bowl ensuring a smooth, creamy result...  Every time.  My most recent attempt at hummus included those sometimes difficult to blend sun-dried tomatoes, but they proved to be no issue for the Ninja blade system.

On a side note, I used every part of this system for my Thanksgiving dinner prep... Butternut Soup in the blender, small batch Cranberry Sauce in the cup, streusel for the Sweet Potatoes in the food processor, green drink to keep my energy up in the cup, crumble for the Cranberry Apple Crisp in the food processor, etc.  

Oh... and did I mention Acai Bowls??  Creating a thick acai "sorbet" is sometimes difficult.  Maintaining the thickness is key, but in other processors or blenders we've had to add extra liquid to get the ingredients to blend completely, hence making them more into a smoothie, and therefore no longer the desired thick acai bowl consistency.  Again, not an issue for this machine.

Blended Acai Sorbet for Acai Bowl... thick and smooth, just like it's supposed to be!
Here's a rundown of the pros and cons we came across in our month-long test:

  • Smoothies in a snap!  Smooth and creamy every time with no unprocessed "chunks" of anything.  The Ninja has become our "go-to" Smoothie/Green Drink blending machine for its cup on the go convenience, consistent quality and pure ease of use.  See next point...
  • Clean-up.  Pieces come apart easily and wash up in the dishwasher or by hand with ease (no blades to cut your fingers when washing the bottom of a bowl or pitcher).
  • Blender, Cups and Food Processor all in one.  You can get rid of that old Food Processor and blender you have in the cabinet and you're set with this one product.
  • Food Processor blades are shaped process smooth uniform results and clean up easily with little to no scraping of the bowl necessary. 
  • Suction cups on the bottom of the base.  One of my favorite things!  These cups "suck" amazingly well to the counter and the machine won't move unless you want it to.  No wobbling off the counter when your back is turned.
  • Price... You get a blender, ice crusher and food processor all in one along with a kitchen workhorse (Ninja-style!) for less than those other expensive blender models.
  • A little noisy... but aren't all blenders?  However my husband complained that he thought this one was a "little too loud" (note that he's a little sensitive before his morning coffee... ;)  ).
  • Nut butter... while the machine made a decent nut butter, it wasn't quite as smooth as I would have liked it on the first process.  Another processing though and it was fine, and we found it worked better with a larger sized batch.
And there you have it.  Often we give the products we review to friends and family, but this beauty is staying with me.  I've given away my old food processor and store brand single use blender and now I have a Ninja in my kitchen.  Nutri Ninja Acai Bowl anyone??

Acai Bowl blended in Ninja cup

Liv Life Note:  Liv Life received the Nutri Ninja Auto iQ System from Ninja, but we were not paid to write this review.  As always, I would not have reviewed the item if I didn't fully believe in it and unless I could whole hearted recommend it.  Thank you Ninja for the opportunity...  I'm looking forward to a long relationship with this product!

For more reviews and Ninja recipes see:
She's Cookin
Let's Dish
Ninja Recipes