Friday, September 23, 2016

Banana Oatmeal Waffles - Vegan (But you'd never know it!)

Vegan Oatmeal Waffles

Liv:  "Mom... can I have friends sleep over this weekend?"

Me:  "Sure.  Any special requests for breakfast?"

Liv:  "Ya.  They want the same waffles as last time, they loved them.  But they also said they're glad you don't make them eat vegan stuff.  Haha!  I didn't have the heart to tell them the waffles they want are the 'vegan stuff!'"

Many times vegan, or plant based, foods get a bad rap - sometimes deservedly so.  But I always chuckle a bit inside when I make that "weird vegan food" and people don't even know it's missing eggs and dairy.  I love having people gush over dishes and ask for recipes only to be surprised they are eating plant based and they love it.

Vegan Oatmeal Waffles
And these waffles are no different.  Found on our breakfast table more often than not, these oatmeal beauties pair beautifully with a simple drizzle of maple syrup.  Want to dress them up a bit?  Sprinkle with raspberries and a dusting of powdered sugar like we did for the photos.  Or how about a lovely drizzle of Blueberry Maple Syrup?  That will surely do the trick.

This recipe makes 6-7 waffles in my waffle iron (yield may differ based on your waffle iron size, etc - we use a Cuisinart), which gives us breakfast and usually 1-2 left over.  For those we either freeze for super busy mornings, or, better yet turn them into one of my all time favorite things - Waffle PBJs!

~ Waffle PBJ:  Spread 1/2 of the waffle with peanut butter and jam (I like Blueberry Chia), fold in half and toss into a zippy sandwich bag for lunch that will make friends envious ~

But don't wait for weekend to make these beauties!  For busy school nights I set out the dry ingredients the night before, and in the morning mix together the almond milk, banana, and vanilla then add the dry, mix and we're cooking in no time.  Note - they may also be the perfect comfort dinner...

Enjoy the day my friends... balance and love always :)
Vegan Oatmeal Waffles

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad CA - New Restaurant Review

Dragon Bowl, Vitality Bowls Carlsbad

Acai, Pitaya... Bowls are all the rage right now with most cities offering numerous choices to fulfill your every desire.  But, the question remains - Are all bowls created equally?  When it comes down to ingredients, no.  They are not.

With brilliant blends and artistic toppings, many bowls appear healthy and appealing, but instead are filled with sorbets, syrups, and artificial sweeteners.  These "healthy" bowls can equate to a dessert in disguise.

Vitality Bowl Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad, CA
Not so at the new Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe located in the Plaza Paseo Real Center just off of El Camino in Carlsbad, CA (right next to Cineopolis - La Costa).  Owners Divya and Vikas Gupta bring pure, additive-free, superfood (organic when possible) to the table along with a balanced and nourishing vibe.

Quoted from the Carlsbad Patch - "All items on the menu are made to order for each customer and are prepared in a kitchen to avoid cross contamination so customers with food allergies can feel safe about eating at Vitality Bowls. No ingredient fillers such as ice, frozen yogurt, added sugar or artificial preservatives are used, giving the purest taste possible to each menu item."

Hence when Liv and her girlfriend offered to meet me at the new "superfood place" I hopped in the car and beat them to the menu. A chance conversation with Divya made me feel as though I had a new friend, one who is also passionate about not only nutrition, but tasty nutrition.

Take the Dragon Bowl for instance... Blended Pitaya, Mango Juice, Coconut Milk, Bananas, Pineapple, Raspberries and an Immunity Boost is topped with Strawberries, Kiwi, Almonds, Goji Berries, Bee Pollen and Honey.  What's not to love?  Liv's friend Hannah ordered this dish and all three of us gushed over the flavors with the girls proclaiming it one of the best Pitaya Bowls they'd ever had.

Vitality Bowls Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad, CA - The Rehydrator
Liv chose the Tropical Bowl (topped with crunchy granola, bananas, strawberries, coconut shavings and honey) which drew equal proclamations of love, and I found myself craving my choice of the Rehydrator Juice for days following.

Filling out the menu the cafe also offers Panini (might I recommend the Veggie - Mozzarella, Spinach, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Dijon and Pesto?), Kombucha on tap, and creative Salads.

Located next to Carlsbad's Cineopolis Movie Theater (La Costa), I'm so happy to have a healthy, real food alternative to Pizza and Subs before we head in to see the latest flick.

Real food made by real people, Vitality Bowls has found a few new fans in us.  Thanks Divya for giving me a new happy place in Carlsbad!

Vitality Bowl Superfood Cafe, Carlsbad, CA

Liv Life Note:  Vitality Bowls offered to sponsor us for lunch, however we enjoyed our visit so much we paid for our meal so this post could be unsponsored. Purely my own thoughts and opinions.  We've returned a number of times since our first visit and simply want to share our love!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Captain Greg's Masterful Mint Chip Gelato

It's been a while since we've had Captain Greg stop by with one of his fabulous, and oh so decadent gelato concoctions. Who can forget his scandalously rich Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk?  Or maybe it's the zingy Lemon Lime version that stuck with you?  Personally I'll never forget the Ghirardelli Mocha Chip that sent me dreaming of Italy for days on end.

One of the kindest and most generous people I'm lucky enough to know, Captain Greg remains one of my favorite neighbors and gelato makers.  For the last 18 years he's always the calm voice on the other end of the phone when I'm in a pinch, but more importantly - he delivers treats right to my door.

And today he's sharing with all of us a new and ever so special Mint Chip Gelato in this guest post. Join me as we explore this most recent flavor explosion.


Two years ago I decided to teach the children of close friends to cook Italian. As you would expect, when I left menu choices to the kids they came up with two “food groups”: pizza and gelato. 100% of the time.

“No pasta? No entrée’s with rich tomato sauce or cheeses?”

Nope. Pizza or gelato.

I know when to give in, and decided instead to build the challenge a different way.

I insist they choose the flavors and make it start-to-finish. No shortcuts. It lets me talk food chemistry, creativity, the importance of natural ingredients, and lets them experience the richness and fun of making their own creations. And it is fun!

Two great girls, Chloe and Sophie, showed up with a vision of “the greatest Mint Chip gelato ever”. So we brought together a garden of fresh mint, lots of eggs and most importantly, two packages of Andes Crème de Menthe Thins. You know, the ones you always grab 5 of when leaving a restaurant? They melt in your mouth with an explosion of mint, like the essence of a Girl Scout Cookie or a Grasshopper Martini (two very different delivery vehicles)!

I couldn’t think of a better, more refreshing frozen treat. And... we nailed it!

Start with my basic sugar and egg custard base, but prep it with a clutch of fresh mint sprigs steeped in the simmering milk ingredients. Cool it, add a couple drops of pure peppermint extract (guaranteed to clear your sinuses). An optional drop or two of green, throw it in your gelato or ice cream churn, and when it sets up swirl in the Andes Mint bits --- if you haven’t already eaten them.  Good luck!

It’s a complete rush of freshness -- silky, laced in chocolate and taking mint to the level of fantasy. I don’t think the girls will ever ask for pizza again…

Friday, July 15, 2016

Picnic in the Park Watermelon Arugula Salad with Watermelon Vinaigrette

Picnic in the Park Watermelon Arugula Salad with Watermelon Vinaigrette

Are you loving these long days of summer (except for my friends in the other hemisphere... for you I wish you warm weather soon!)?  Mornings with no alarms, impromptu beach sessions with friends, and Friday evening Jazz in the Park... I'm loving each and every sunny moment.  And frequently these special summer moments include food, but the potluck part can sometimes be difficult if we don't have the right tools.

Once again I have OXO to the rescue.  Making me a super salad queen, we have no more soggy salads when using the 8 Piece Snap Glass Round Container Set and the super handy Little Salad Dressing Shaker to transport my goodies to the fun.

Heading to mom and dad's last week, mom requested her favorite watermelon salad.  Not a problem, but I knew we wouldn't be eating until other friends arrived and by the time I transported the salad and let it sit for a few hours we'd have a less than appetizing, soggy dish.

So, I placed the greens and quinoa in the largest of the 4 glass snap bowls, then the watermelon in another bowl and the dry, crispy toppings in another.  The salad shaker brought the dressing separately and I placed it all into a cooler with OXO's 2 in 1 Salad Servers.

When the time came to serve I simply tossed the greens, added watermelon, and then dressed and garnished with my favorite crispy chickpeas and served - all in mere minutes and we had a fresh, crisp salad.

Mom loves the sweet watermelon paired with the zesty arugula (I love the name "rocket" that my Australian friends use for it!) and I adore the crispy salty chickpea/pumpkin seed topping.  Easy to toss together, this salad works well from the beach to the park to your own backyard.

My thanks to OXO for the bowls, and for once again making me look all put together and polished.  The snap lids are perfect for transportation with 4 locking snaps and a removable gasket that makes these beauties totally leakproof.  Nestable and stackable, these bowls store easily in the cupboard or transport well in the cooler.

Wishing you health and happiness as we enjoy these summer days...
Eat well always,

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Maxwell Creek Inn B&B ~ Sodus Point

Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York

Loaded with history, tended by exemplary hosts, sleeping in comfortable rooms, and dining on delectable breakfasts catering to your every whim... did I catch your attention?  These are just a few highlights of our weekend at the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast in the Sodus, NY area.

Dining Room at the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
My first ever visit to the state of New York found me shivering in 42º temps on the chilly shores of Lake Ontario and experiencing spring for the second time this season.  So different from my bustling (warm!) San Diego home, the Maxwell Creek B and B served as a peaceful haven for our weekend stay in the Sodus area.

Just outside of Sodus Point proper, this lovely B and B dates back to 1846 when William Swales built the home for his daughter Elizabeth and her new husband Mr. John Preston as a wedding gift.

Covered with round, lake-washed cobble stones, the house makes quite a statement along with its original carriage house (now turned into guest accommodations for families, groups and extended stay guests), gorgeous grounds and big red barn.  The happy Preston's bore 7 children, and this historic home stayed in the family for nearly 150 years.

With our visit in early May, apple blossoms were just popping from trees on the grounds and daffodils smiled brightly in greeting around the home's front entry.  Smiling even more brightly, owner Belinda McElroy, made us most welcome from the first hello.

Giving a short history of the house and a quick tour, we somehow felt transported some 170 year earlier to Elizabeth Swales' home.  Filled with antiques, it wasn't hard to imagine ourselves back in the mid-1800's.

Red Barn at the Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York

Most notable in the home's history is the rumored connection to the Underground Railroad.  Recently named a local "Legend and Lore" Historical Site, the home's 6 acre grounds back up to Maxwell Creek and Maxwell Bay where small schooners sailed in to trade wheat for flour milled at Preston's Grist Mill originally built in 1794, and then rebuilt after being washed away in 1812.

Grounds of Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
View from the grounds of Maxwell Creek
It's said a tunnel ran from the creek to the fireplace in the back of the main house where slaves would hide until they could board ships across Lake Ontario to Canada.

Sitting Room - Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Sitting Room for all guests
Today, the Maxwell Creek Inn boasts five guest room accommodations in addition to the Carriage house which houses families and long stay guests.

Two comfortable sitting rooms in the main house feature bright windows, comfy chairs and a tv available for all guests, and the dining room (used to be called the "keeping room") can be found on the bottom level.

With coffee available all day in addition to irresistible home made cookies (I had at least two a day!), Belinda has thought of everything.

For our recent stay we laid our head in the Gaylord Suite, the largest of the five available guest rooms.  Originally the Gaylord Boys' Dorm Room, this room features a large picture window overlooking Maxwell Bay and apple orchards along with peeks of Lake Ontario.

Furnished with a King sized bed, sofa, chaise lounge, and tv, the suite boasts a private bath with shower (no tub).  In addition, the room holds a dining table for four where guest may have breakfast served in their room upon request.

Gaylord Suite - Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Gaylord Suite

For us though, we looked forward to breakfast in the dining room with the historic fire place and views overlooking the grounds, part of the creek and the old red barn.

Which brings us to the breakfast part of the stay.  Belinda checked with us before our arrival for any special requests or dietary needs, and our request for a diary-free meal was met with no issue and was at the time of our choice.

Breakfast of Orange French Toast - Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Our first day started with freshly baked apricot scones topped with homemade apricot jam (how did she know that was my all time favorite?), and my husband and I reached for seconds after our firsts disappeared in mere moments.  "Simply irresistible" being the operative phrase here...

Refreshing our palates with freshly squeezed orange juice, the second course arrived featuring a tempting veggie frittata served with sliced tomatoes topped with feta and sliced basil.  Two slices of hearty homemade English Muffin Bread rounded out this mouthwatering meal, and we found ourselves already anticipating breakfast the next day.

And it was that second day that left Liv begging me for a trip to the Inn.  Orange French Toast served with chopped bananas and broiled orange slices all sort of melded together with a delectably sweet orange syrup.  Photos immediately made their way across the country and onto my facebook page as I may have boasted how lucky I was just as Liv removed yet another frozen waffle (I did make them for her before I left!) from the freezer.

As we were the only visitors on our stay, I took a moment to peek into the other guest rooms before we left.  All rooms look comfortable and inviting, and many feature king sized beds with private baths, and one room on the top floor offers a twin sized bed in addition to a full-sized antique four poster.

Charming, comfortable, beautiful and historical, the Maxwell Creek Inn made our visit to Sodus, NY even more special than expected. Many thanks to Belinda for the extra special touches that made us feel so welcome.

Maxwell Creek Inn Bed and Breakfast, Sodus, New York
Early morning spring dew on the grounds of the Maxwell Creek Inn
Liv Life Note:  Note that Liv Life did not receive any incentives to write this post and the Maxwell Creek Inn did not know we would be writing about our stay.  We simply had such a wonderful visit I wanted to share!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Apple Pie Smoothie - Vegan Recipe

Vegan Apple Pie Smoothie Recipe

National food days... who decides them?  I mean seriously, how is today, April 13th, simultaneously National Fruit Cocktail Day, National Hummus Day AND National Apple Pie Day?  I simply don't get it.

Nonetheless.  This morning I made Liv one of her favorite smoothies, something she dubbed an "Apple Pie Smoothie" way back when she was little.  And don't you know, today just happens to be National Apple Pie Day?

So it seemed fitting to share this creamy, vegan Apple Pie Smoothie recipe with you to include you in our coincidental celebration!

Creamy with Liv's favorite frozen banana, this simple concoction of apples, almond milk, almond butter, cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg sweetened with a splash of pure maple syrup brings the essence of apple pie to your cup.  But without the sugars and fats of the real thing.

Join us as we toast National Apple Pie Day and sip our pie before heading out to start the day.

Vegan Apple Pie Smoothie Recipe

Monday, April 25, 2016

Bite San Diego - Coronado Walking Tour Review

cDowntown San Diego from Coronado Island

Looking to spend a little time on some of the most pristine beaches in the country?  Or how about dining in a restaurant in the heart of a quaint community with the feel of yesteryear?  Or perhaps you're looking to catch a glimpse of some of our country's elite military in training (SEAL BUD/S)?  What you are looking for is Coronado Island.

Situated just across the bay from downtown San Diego, Coronado Island can be reached by the award-winning and beautifully curved Coronado Bridge or by a 15 minute ride across the bay on the Coronado Ferry.  Known most notably for the iconic Hotel Del Coronado, this little island, peninsula actually, transports visitors to a charming town filled with numerous dining and shopping opportunities.  But to feel the quaintness of the town and to really appreciate the beauty of the many elegant gardens lining the streets one really need to get out and walk.

Coronado Island Ferry Landing
And that's exactly what we did last Saturday afternoon with a Bite San Diego Coronado Walking tour.  Started in 2010 by a San Diego native, Bite San Diego aims to show local and out of town visitors alike that San Diego restaurants bring more to the table than fish tacos and cheap sushi.  Fun and carefree tours guide guests through one of seven different itineraries bringing each little town to life through food combined with a little history and lore.

The Coronado tour takes you to both sides of the island, beginning on the more touristy side near the Coronado Ferry Landing.  Greeted with spectacular views of down ton San Diego, one can't help but marvel at the expansive bay and usually gorgeous weather that we here in San Diego many times take for granted.

  Our guide, Brittany, began with a brief overview of the tour then encouraged us all to introduce ourselves, which I admit I first scoffed at.  However after hearing everyone's home town and favorite travel destination, conversation between groups easily ensued as we made our way to the first destination, the aptly named waterfront Peohe's.

Meaning "A Gathering of Friends" in Hawaiian, Peohe's offers sweeping views of downtown San Diego and the Coronado Bridge while specializing in fresh tropical seafood dishes influenced by Pacific Rim flavors.  Eagerly accepting plates of Crispy Coconut Shrimp, my husband and a few others perused the crafty cocktail menu (note cocktails are not included in the Bite San Diego tour, but are available for purchase at a few of the stops).

Crispy Coconut Shrimp from Peohe's Coronado
Monarch margarita Peohe's Coronado

Making the perfect call, we both very much enjoyed a Monarch Margarita - 1800 Reposado Tequila, Solerno Blood Orange Liquor, Finest Call Blood Orange Sour, and freshly squeezed lime juice - which now ranks up there as one of the best I've had (and a side note here... I'm probably one of the pickiest margarita girls around).

Moving on to our next stop our group meandered back past the ferry landing and on to the delightful Tartine.  With a menu specializing in "what's selling now at the farmer's market", one knows whatever is being served will be fresh and probably local.  And that's exactly how I'd describe the light veggie filled gnocchi dish served the smiling staff.

Tartine Coronado

A few guests tried the featured rosé, but even more of us succumbed to the cases and glass domes filled with freshly made pastries.  From giant snickerdoodles (which I brought home to Liv and she has proclaimed better than my recipe... sigh...) to pretty pavlovas to slices of nutty banana tortes, Tartine treats are beyond sublime.

Heading out to Orange Avenue, our group strolled and chatted while enjoying the lovely gardens in front of many residences and hotels as we made our way to our next destination - Coronado Taste of Oils.

Coronado Taste of Oils

Family owned and operated since 2010, our bubbly host taught us that oil and vinegar aren't just for salad dressing.  Serving a sorbet topped with a lovely aged balsamic combined with some sort of wine (I unfortunately didn't get the recipe...) we learned health benefits as well as tips for oil and vinegar use.

Sorbet with Balsamic - Coronado Taste of Oils

Then the fun began as our group tasted incredibly fresh oils and vinegars from as far away as Tunisia, Australia and Italy in addition to specialties made right here in California.  Fig, blueberry, lemongrass and espresso balsamics made it into my tasting cup, but it was the Cilantro Roasted Onion Oil that made it into my bag and back to my kitchen (recipe for roasted olive oil chick peas coming soon!).  Note - a discount is given to Bite San Diego guests.

Back out on the road our group headed to another local favorite, Clayton's Mexican Takeout along with their new smoothie takeout window.  Brittany settled us in the outdoor seating and we enjoyed watching the endless line of locals grab and go with their favorite tacos or burritos in hand.

Tasting street tacos and a cup of their new acai smoothie we all felt like locals.

Satiated and enjoying the sun, Brittany moved us along with a promise of a sweet treat.  Just around the corner from Clayton's we found yet another local favorite, Nado Gelato.  With roots back to Italy, Nado's takes their gelato seriously and fills their recipes with fresh, quality ingredients. Be it deep, rich chocolate, bright lemon or creamy caramel, Nado's brought the perfect finale to our Coronado Walking Tour.

- A quick note here to let you know the tour does not end where it began, but a 20 minute or so walk will have you back at the ferry landing -

Taking Brittany's advice my husband and I bid our fellow guests farewell and headed off for a quick walk through the famed Hotel Del Coronado.  I've always loved the iconic red turrets, but hadn't known they were inspiration to L. Frank Baum for his Emerald City as he wrote the Wizerd of OzAnd this time we even spied the crown chandeliers said to have been designed by the author.

All in all a wonderful, leisurely day that introduced us to a little bit of vacation in our own backyard.  Our thanks to Bite San Diego for the inspiration to explore Coronado even more now that we've seen and learned a bit about the area.

But the biggest question remains... which tour should we do next??

Bite San Diego Walking Food Tours
Pacific Beach
La Jolla
North Park
Liberty Station
Downtown/Little Italy

Liv Life Note:  Bite San Diego provided Liv Life with two Coronado Walking Tour Tickets.  Writing this post was not a required part of the deal, but we had so much fun I want to share!    

pink roses corodado walking tour
Coronado Walking Tour - April 2016