Saturday, October 31, 2015

Power Pumpkin Oatmeal

Power Pumpkin Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a near daily affair in the Liv Life kitchen.  Wholesome and filled with fiber, oatmeal brings low glycemic carbohydrates while also bringing a healthy dose of protein to the table.  Said to help regulate blood pressure, lower risk of cardiovascular disease and decrease risks of colon cancer, oatmeal is an inexpensive breakfast (or dinner?) option  we love.

But... I've been told oatmeal is "boring".  Actually, it's "sooooo boring" (said with 16-year old eyeroll for full effect...).  And while I love the oaty grains, I guess I can see how it can get a bit old day after day.  Luckily, oatmeal is simply a blank slate just waiting to be adorned with the flavors of the season!

Power Pumpkin Oatmeal
So today, we bring fall flavors and a dose of vitamin A-rich pumpkin to that blank slate.

Pumpkin - and it's pumpkin pie spice flavors - is also a favorite in the Liv Life kitchen, and as such a regular to our dishes year round (stock up on cans now for use in summer!).  And while we've had pumpkin oatmeal in the past, I'd simply forgotten about it until today.

Pairing a version of our Power Oatmeal (oats, flax, chia and hemp) with a scoop of organic canned pumpkin brought a lovely orange hue to the bowl.  Topped with a sprinkle of walnuts and banana as well as a dash of pumpkin pie spice today's breakfast was met with smiles all around. 

Power Pumpkin Oatmeal

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles... Pure Fall Comfort

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Fall has finally made her way into our San Diego weather, and as the morning temps dip into the chilly 60's locals relish the warmth of jeans and sweaters.  However by mid-morning San Diegans find themselves shedding those layers as the sun warms back to our normal 70's and life remains pretty much the same.

Many of us crave the comfort of that warm sweater or a snuggle with a loved one, and while the weather may not cooperate, a comforting cookie often does wonders for the soul.

Maltese Dog running on the beach
Kona and Tavo
Cookies provide warmth and a moment of happiness even on hard days, and this week we desperately need that moment.  

Regular readers of Liv Life will remember our two Maltese pups, Kona and Tavo.  Littermates, these little guys have brought undying love into our lives for the past six year.

But last weekend we lost our precious little Tavo.  A severe allergy reaction led to incessant scratching around his neck and then moved into seizures.

With numerous vets and specialists shaking their heads saying the dreaded words, "I've never seen anything like this before, I really don't know what to do ...", they reached for every medicine in their arsenal.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Plowing through every allergy medication and then moving on to incredible doses of anti-seizure meds, little Tavo's symptoms never ceased and last Friday began to worsen.  And when he began letting out little whimpers of pain we knew the time had come to let him go.

The first real loss in Liv's life, Tavo's death has hit her, and all of us, hard.  With a huge hole in our hearts we've done our best to console Kona and keep him busy with lots of love and attention.  He seems to be adjusting, but our hearts still hurt with loss.

Cookies help momentarily though, and I'm putting these Pumpkin Snickerdoodles from Cooking Classy up there with some of the best cookies I've ever had.  Not in the mood to create, I followed her recipe exactly, only substituting Earth Balance Butter Alternative for the butter and adding a dash of nutmeg with the cinnamon sugar that the dough is rolled in before baking.

With a tender texture and warm Pumpkin Pie Spice flavors, the coating of cinnamon sugar pops a sweetness in your mouth that can't help but make you smile.  Pure comfort bringing a moment of happiness into any day - even the bad ones - we've found a new fall favorite.

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Pumpkin SnickerdoodlesTraditional snickerdoodle texture melds with warm Pumpkin Pie flavors for melt in your mouth happiness!  I've found a new favorite cookie.

This recipe comes from Cooking Classy and I followed her recipe exactly with the exception of using Earth Balance Butter Alternative to make them dairy-free and then adding a touch of freshly ground nutmeg and a pinch of ginger to the cinnamon sugar that the dough is rolled in before baking.  Click on the orange words below for this fabulous recipe:

Maltese Dog
 In memory of our sweet Tavo (2009-2015).  We miss you little dog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Garlic Home Fries - Pure Garlic Potato Love

Garlic Home Fries - Fried Potatoes with Garlic

Amazing.  Awesome.  Love.  Just a few words to adequately describe today's post.  The recipe, you ask?  Yes... the recipe.  But also the original blogger.

Today I bring you the October edition of my favorite group of food bloggers, the Blogger C.L.U.E group.  A wonderful group of ladies working together on a monthly theme while investigating one of the other member's blogs to find a recipe to meet that theme - This month our theme brings "Fall Recipes".

Years ago when I started blogging I met Christiane, The Mom Chef of Taking on Magazines.  And while we've never actually met in person, she's a friend.

Canadian Geese... I love them!
I've watched years of seasons pass on the other side of the country (spider season comes and goes), I've seen her daughter grow into a young lady, I've followed her travels and enjoyed tales of family visits.  I love the Canadian Geese that float on her lake (well... the lake in her neighborhood) and wander in her front yard, I don't understand why she doesn't really like chocolate, but I enjoy hearing about the thunderstorms she loves so long as they are not over me (we don't get those in San Diego).

You see, Christiane has an amazing heart.  She's full of love, humor, and passion, and pure and simple, she's just a really wonderful person.  And she takes the mystery out of recipes.  Her blog, Taking on Magazines, tests recipes from popular magazines in a real kitchen... one with interruptions, pets under foot, a daughter needing help with one thing or another and real ingredients that don't come pre-measured or prepped.

Describing the process, bringing a verdict and telling you what she would do differently next time helps incredibly, and on more than one occasion she's made a recipe I've had earmarked and with her advice I've avoided issues that may have occurred had I simply followed the original recipe in the magazine.

Occasionally her daughter gets in on the action, and I feel like I know this little girl as I've seen her grow through her videos.  Full of humor like her mom, Dudette will tell it like it is, and she will always make you smile.

Dudette bringing her verdict on Caramel Banana Pecan Bread Casserole

And today in addition to introducing you to Christiane, I bring you a fabulous recipe - Garlic Home Fries - originally from The Food Network Magazine, April 2015.  While the recipe may have been from April, it screams fall to me.  With the Idaho potato harvest occurring as I type, potatoes bring a hearty, warm side to any meal, and on occasion (like today) become a meal on their own.
Garlic Home Fries - Fried Potatoes with Garlic
We have a favorite restaurant here in Carlsbad, The Naked Cafe, which serves similar potatoes.  I've tried to recreate them at home to no avail.  Liv's comments are always noncommittal, but I know that they don't live up to the restaurant version.  Frankly, I think it's my trying to "healthify" them that makes them suffer (one really does need oil/butter to crisp potatoes).

So today I followed Christiane's recipe and actually used butter and olive oil.  And garlic.  And oh my heavens!  These potatoes totally rock.
Crispy on the outside (I will crisp even more next time) and fluffy inside, the garlic stirred in at the last minute is positively swoon-worthy.  Liv smiled in appreciation, and while they still aren't exactly like the restaurant, they are the closest thing we've had, and we'll have them again.  The Verdict?  This recipe is a keeper.  Just like Christiane.

Now join me as we travel the world to see what other Blogger C.L.U.E members are bringing for Fall Recipes!
  • Apple Coffee Cake by Jean from Lemons and Anchovies
  • Applesauce Cranberry Bundt Cake by Aly from Cooking in Stilettos
  • Baked Squash Stuffed with Homemade Applesauce by Kathy from A Spoonful of Thyme
  • Banana Peanut Butter Chip Muffins by Confessions of a Culinary Diva
  • Braised Chicken Leg Quarters by Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm
  • Brussels Sprouts with Harissa, Honey and Lime by Stacy from Food Lust People Love
  • Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins by Lora from Cake Duchess
  • Creamy Butternut Squash Soup by Azmina from Lawyer Loves Lunch
  • Fire-Roasted Tomato Soup by Christiane from Taking on Magazines
  • Frangelico Squares by Kate from Kate's Kitchen
  • Garlic Home Fries by Kim from Liv Life
  • German Apple Pancake by Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
  • Honey Sriracha Sweet Potatoes by Lauren from Sew You Think You Can Cook
  • Hot Curried Chicken Salad by Debra from Eliot's Eats
  • Pumpkin Bran Muffins by Anna from annaDishes
  • Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Ale by Lea Ann from Cooking on the Ranch
  • Pumpkin Palmiers by Lisa from Authentic Suburban Gourmet
  • Raspberry Cointreau Syllabub by Kate from Kate's Kitchen
  • Witchy Finger Cookies by Sue from A Palatable Pastime

  • Garlic Home Fries - Fried Potatoes with Garlic

    Monday, October 12, 2015

    Classic Brownies with Maple Coconut Whipped Cream (Dairy-Free)

    Classic Brownies with Shiny Crust on Top

    The older your kids get the harder they are to impress.  However, when the UPS guy stops at your door and drops a box of Brownie Baking Love complete with the coolest little powdered sugar dusting wand  your coolness factor definitely increases.  Combine the brownie love with OXO's sponsorship of Cookies for Kid's Cancer and the project coolness doubles.

    Classic Brownies with Shiny Crust on Top
    Loving this OXO pro non-stick pan!!
    The words childhood cancer bring fear straight to the heart of every parent, and just sitting here I never feel there's much I can do to help.  Enter OXO and their work with the blogger outreach program to donate $100k to the Cookies for Kid's Cancer campaign and I'm thrilled to do my part - especially when my part includes baking.  In exchange for a $100 donation on our behalf, OXO sent us baking products (pan, spatula and super cool dusting wand) and has asked us to create a brownie recipe for the cause.

    As my coolness factor was riding on an unusual high, Liv actually took time away from high school social activities to help me come up with a recipe.  Trying to be healthy, we made a vegan version with black beans.  Good, but not awesome (no, you can't taste the beans!).  Next we tried avocado.  Also good, but her first bite didn't bring that smile of love and I felt my coolness factor slipping.

    So I went back to basics and settled on creating a classic brownie with that gorgeous sheen on top.  My first attempt tasted fabulous, but no sheen.  How the heck does one achieve that classic brownie sheen anyway? 

    Classic Brownies with Shiny Crust on Top
    Powdered sugar dusting
    Internet research led me to one of my favorite baking blogs from King Arthur, Flourish, and according to PJ Hamel, the secret to a shiny brownie is in the chocolate.  

    A fan of cocoa powder, I've always used cocoa powder for the chocolate in my brownies and sprinkled a few chocolate chips into the batter before baking.  PJ used a similar recipe resulting in the same dull surface.  However her experimentation making brownies using chocolate chips in place of the cocoa hit the jackpot and brought a gorgeous shiny crust to her brownies.

    Back in our own kitchen I followed PJ's lead and used chips in my recipe, and eureka!  We too have a beautiful, classic brownie with a gorgeous shiny crust.  While I don't understand the science behind the chips/cocoa query, I'm not questioning it.  I just know these classic brownies are totally awesome, and my coolness factor is creeping back up where I want it to be.  For the moment anyway.

    Want to be cool like me?  When shopping for baking goods keep an eye out for the OXO Cookies for Kid's Cancer sticker and grab those products.  OXO is making donations for each product purchased and you too will be doing a part in helping to fund research for cures for these devastating diseases.  (Read about the dedicated OXOnians who started the program here)

    For this project OXO sent us one of each of the following for the perfect brownie baking set:
    OXO #oxogoodcookies Brownie Baking Kit with dusting wand

    I already owned the Pro Non-Stick 9x9 pan (something I reach for often) and I can attest to how easily baked goods release.  Many brownie recipes call for lining a pan with parchment paper, but with these pans the paper step isn't necessary.  The pans cook evenly and help create beautifully baked goods that release from the pan easily with each and every use.

    The brownie spatula is something I've seen, but never picked up.  After using this one though, I'll never be without one again!  Perfectly angled to pick up the brownies without bending them, I served nicely cut brownies with ease.

    And lastly the dusting wand.  Can I gush a little here??  This wand immediately became our new favorite kitchen gadget and I'm seriously considering buying a case of them to give as Christmas Gifts.  Absolutely an item no kitchen should be without, the wand is extraordinarily useful, but even more than that it's fun.

    Classic Brownies with Shiny Crust on Top

    Super cute all on it's own, the wand scoops up powdered sugar and drops a perfect dusting onto anything.  What would you use it for??  How about crepes?  Waffles?  Brownies?  Or most fun of all... dusting cocoa onto cappuccino!

    Liv is somewhat addicted to the adorable gadget, and she'll  be mortified if she finds out I'm sharing that she simply scooped a tablespoon or so of powdered sugar and dusted it into a bowl just for the fun of it.  (Note... the higher you are from the item you are dusting the less precise it may be.  Just saying - if you are a foot or more over a small bowl you may not make it in... :)

    Thank you OXO for donating $100 to the Cookies for Kids Cancer campaign on our behalf, we're honored and humbled to be part of this wonderful program.  And on a side note?  Thanks for making me look good.

    Classic Brownies with Maple Coconut Whipped Cream (dairy-free)

    Sunday, October 4, 2015

    Apple Bran Flax Muffins from Bob's Red Mill (Back of the package)

    I've been in a bit of a cooking rut lately.  With no imagination or inspiration, I see no problem with a bowl of cereal for dinner.  My family, however, sees things differently.

    So last week I hit the farmers market and put soup to simmer on the stove.  The house smelled wonderful, which in turn left me feeling motivated and  I set to refilling jars in the pantry.  Nearly tossing the Bob's Red Mill Golden Flax Meal packaging, the recipe on the back caught my eye.

    Apples, carrots, raisins and nuts.  Coincidentally every one of those ingredients had also been in my farmer's market basket.

    Inspiration set in, and soon the oat bran, flax and flour mixed with a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon to perfectly complement the fresh ingredients.

    Placing the muffins into the oven, the aromas soon mixed with the simmering soup and a bona fide meal was about to take place.

    Browning beautifully, the baked tender muffins took a rest on the cooling rack and I allowed my motivation to take me to the gym for a quick workout.  Arriving home Liv greeted me with an enthusiastic "Mom!  These muffins are awesome!" as she proceeded to grab another.

    Still feeling proud of my inspired soup prep I tossed together a small salad and actually set the table.

    However my "Hey guys... what time do you want dinner?" was met with a "Oh... don't worry about dinner Mom.  I had so many muffins I'm not hungry."

    Sigh.  At least soup reheats well.

    And by the way.. so do the muffins.