Monday, January 25, 2016

Tropical Blueberry Cranberry Chia Jam

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Have you opened your freezer only to move aside that bag of cranberries you may have forgotten you opened only to have little frozen cranberries spill all over the freezer shelf??  Did you happen to be in a rush so you decided you would remember they were there and promised yourself you'd clean them up as soon as you had a moment?  Did you then forget and next time you opened the freezer find those same frozen cranberries still sitting loose in your freezer shelf?

Don't be like me... always place opened bags of berries in a zip top bag.  And, don't let those nutritious berries sit there taking up freezer space till next Thanksgiving only to realize there are fresh ones in the store so you end up throwing them away.  Cranberries aren't just for the holidays anymore.

With cancer fighting properties cranberries can be slipped into smoothies or quick breads. Or, how about pairing them with another antioxidant filled super food - blueberries - and simmering together a sweet/tart chia jam perfect for topping a crispy slice of toast or slathering over freshly ground almond butter?

Combining blueberries with cranberries brings a virtual powerhouse of nutrition only enhanced by a few tablespoonfuls of protein-filled chia seed.  Sweetened naturally with pure maple syrup you can feel good serving a jam with no artificial sweeteners or processed sugars.

So what are you waiting for?  Blueberry Cranberry Chia Jam = Antioxidant Super Food.  Don't wait for the holidays.... Bring it now!



Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Orange Banana Matcha Smoothie

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Orange Banana Matcha Smoothie - refreshing and bright

Zen ~ "A state of focus that incorporates a toghetherness of body and mind.  Zen is a way of being.  It's also a state of mind.  Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts."
~ Urban Dictionary

Oh how I could use a bit of zen in my daily life.  With multiple schedules vying for my attention, a dog wanting a walk, errands and household chores to be done, meals to be made and a husband asking if I want to go to lunch, my mind often finds itself overwhelmed and in desperate need of focus.  

And that's how I expect Rebekah, of Making Miracles, must feel sometimes as well.  Making Miracles with her own family as well as spreading love to others, Rebekah also finds time to keep her blog filled with recipes.  And it was those recipes I perused to fulfill this month's Blogger C.L.U.E. Assignment of "Healthy".  Piquing my interest??  Rebekkah's refreshing Orange Matcha Smoothie.

Health Benefits of Matcha
A new find for me in 2016, matcha simply exudes health.  Definitely not a new product as green tea dates back some 5,000 years and is described as "so precious it could only be of royal origins promoting health in mind and body." ~ The Way of Matcha, but new to my kitchen and I'm ever so happy.

Thankfully matcha now finds itself available to us common folk as well as those royals, and a quick click of the mouse will have Amazon sending you an organic Japanese version in under 48 hours.

But what makes matcha healthy?  First off -  antioxidants.  Lots of them, and some special ones at that.  Apparently in the antioxidant world, catechins make up some of the most powerful antioxidants, and one in particular - the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg) - makes up some 60% of matcha's catechins.  Known for its cancer fighting properties, EGCg definitely fills that healthy bill.

In addition, matcha brings health to the mind with its calming yet focusing effects. Long used by Chinese Daoists and Zen Buddhists, matcha green tea allows one to relax while still remaining alert.  Known to enhance mood, improve memory and increase concentration, matcha shows a picture of health.

Covered during the last few weeks of growth the tea leaves are deprived of light, thereby causing a tremendous increase in chlorophyll production in the new growth and thereby bringing matcha is brilliant green hues.  With those high amounts of chlorophyll matcha adds detox abilities to its already amazing resume.  Removing heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body, matcha is more than just "zen".

Orange Banana Matcha Smoothie - refreshing and bright
Have I convinced you on matcha yet?  My husband actually convinced me weeks ago when he sent articles on matcha and proceeded to order an organic culinary (made for adding to foods, not for making tea) grade all on his own - not something he normally does.  But what to do with it?

Thanks to Rebekkah and my dad's orange crop (he dropped a Trader Joe's sized bag of the fruit on my doorstep a few days ago!) we now have a new regular smoothie in our repertoire.  Refreshing with bright orange and green tea flavors, the smoothie finds its creaminess from frozen banana.

Sighing as I slowly sipped, I closed my eyes wroking on the schedule for the busy day in front of me.  Feeling amazingly calm the schedule somehow seemed manageable.  

Perhaps it was the additional focus and concentrating power of the tea, or maybe it was just the fact I was home alone with a puppy on my lap and a fabulous smoothie in front of me... whichever, it was that Matcha Smoothie that put me into a zen state of mind.  You'll find me sipping another tomorrow.

Now join me as we focus on the rest of our Blogger C.L.U.E. Group to explore even more healthy offerings from around the world!
  
   
  • Apricot Muffins by Azmina from Lawyer Loves Lunch
  •    
  • Broccoli Stalk Feta Salad by Stacy from Food Lust People Love
  •    
  • Citrus Shrimp by Lauren from Sew You Think You Can Cook
  •    
  • Couscous with Chicken and Vegetables by Sue from A Palatable Pastime
  •    
  • Ginger-Citrus Grilled Salmon by Kathy from A Spoonful of Thyme
  •    
  • Irish Seafood Cocktail by Kate from Kate's Kitchen
  •    
  • Massaged Kale Salad by Anna from annaDishes
  •    
  • Mediterranean Chopped Salad by Christy from Confessions of a Culinary Diva
  •    
  • Middle Eastern Vegetable Salad by Christiane from Taking on Magazines
  •    
  • Orange Banana Matcha Smoothie by Kim from Liv Life
  •    
  • Red Lion Inn Swordfish by Lea Ann from Cooking on the Ranch
  •    
  • Roasted Carrots and Cauliflower (with a kick) by Debra from Eliot's Eats
  •    
  • Sophie's Chopped Salad by Rebekah from Making Miracles
  •    
  • Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing by Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
  •    
  • White Bean Chili by Lisa from Authentic Suburban Gourmet
  •    
  • Winter Salad of Roasted Beets, Avocado and Grapefruit by Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm



  • Orange Banana Matcha Smoothie Bowl
    Don't want your smoothie in a cup?  Turn it into a Smoothie Bowl topped with extra goodies like sliced banana, frozen blueberries, granola, seeds and nuts.

    Sunday, January 10, 2016

    2015 Year in Review - Liv Life Top 10

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    Summarizing 02015 for a girlfriend, the year didn't seem to be one I wanted to recap.  She asked if I really wasn't going to write our annual Christmas Letter, something I've done with zeal for as long as I can remember, and I shook my head no.  Memories filled with emotion, hospitals and loss flashed through my head as tears pricked at the corners of my eyes.

    But further reflection warmed my heart as I recounted successes experienced by my kids, the kindness of friends, warm days on the beach shooting sunsets, puppy kisses, and the love of my family.

    And then there's Liv Life and the blog world I'm ever so thankful for.  Friends from around the world who touch my life with frequency and share my passion for food warm my heart even more.  Touching the life of people I've never met with a new recipe or health tip, or perhaps opening someones eyes to a new way of eating continues to ignite my passion to share.

    While a holiday card didn't make it into the mail this year, I did take a peek at our 2015 stats out of curiosity and found this year's focus different than in years past.

    Admittedly my focus on food and ingredients changed to a more healthy and mostly plant-based style last year, but we still brought tempting treats as well as a cocktail or two.  Amazingly, those cocktails and treats weren't the overwhelming popular posts as in prior years.  This year the posts that "went viral" included Green Tea and Marinated Sweet Peppers.  Gone were the Strawberry Margarita Tequila Shots, though the Margarita Roundup did have quite a run near Cinco de Mayo.
    I'd like to think there is a healthy trend in the food world, but perhaps it's simply the change in my focus.  In any case, I can't thank you all enough for supporting Liv Life and continuing to feed my passion.  Each and every comment touches my heart and inspires me with renewed love and ideas.

    So Cheers to a new year - hopefully one filled with health and happiness for all. And now we bring you the Liv Life Top 10 in 2015!

    -------------------------------------


    I know I said 10... but these Crispy Belgian Waffles sit at 11 and rank up there as on of our favorite recipes ever.  Oft requested by Liv and her girlfriends, I simply had to share again!

    A recent post that seemed to pique interest as the 2015 weather turned chilly, this sweet potato soup sings with a touch of lime.  Silky smooth with coconut milk, this warm weather soup transports you to the tropics when you close your eyes.


    Ice Cream... always a favorite in the Liv Life household and this coconut version is no exception.  Dairy-Free so everyone can enjoy - but your non dairy-free friends will never miss the heavy cream.  

    A homework project turned new favorite meal... I've never been so thankful Liv chose to take Spanish as when she needed a dish from a "Spanish speaking country" for her final project.  Putting our heads together we added some of our favorite ingredients including avocado, quinoa and lime, and then topped it all with a our favorite Lime Crema for the win.  And the bonus??  She got an A on the project.

     Trying to heal while in the hospital with "hospital food" falls into the "not gonna happen" category.  So, when dad spent a few days recovering from knee replacement surgery last summer we brought in most of his food.  Tops on the list?  These protein balls he and his roommate dubbed "Awesome Balls"!


    Blueberries, Bananas and Almond Butter... who knew the combo brings a concoction so heavenly no one will know it's healthy?!  A new Liv Life favorite, I feel good fueling Liv with antioxidant-rich fruits and a decent dose of protein.


    Ahhh... the classic margiarita!  A favorite of mine since my college days, but does it always have to be "classic"?  Apparently not - and we've brought 10 not-so-classic versions to tempt you.

    Classic Brownies, a treat most people (especially me!) can't resist.  But how does one get that shiny crust on top??  We've got the secret with this classic recipe!
     Simply marinated and then tossed on the grill, this easy appetizer ranks as a favorite just about everywhere we go.  Dipped into a zesty Balsamic Garlic Vinaigrette these cute little guys are practically irresistible.
     Who would have guessed a Green Tea Detox Drink would rank as our number one viewed post this year?  But with restorative health benefits, I can totally see why.  Lovely on a hot day but also perfect after a late night with perhaps a bit too much imbibing - Green Tea, Mint and Ginger are number one in our book.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    And there you have it!  Our 2015 year in review... and not such a bad year when I look back at these recipes that have become regulars in our kitchen.  Our heartfelt thanks for visiting Liv Life, and here's wishing you a wonderful and healthy 2016.
    Cheers to you! 

    Thursday, December 24, 2015

    Dairy-Free Chocolate Holiday Truffles

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    Luscious ganache enrobed with a shell of dark chocolate garnished with a sprinkle of crushed hazelnut.  Or perhaps the garnish is coconut.  Or maybe a chocolate covered coffee bean??  

    Whichever your favorite garnish, a basic ganache recipe brings a blank slate just waiting to be enhanced.

    However, when our family moved dairy-free years ago I thought chocolate truffles were a thing of the past.  But oh, how wrong I was.

    A simple swap of heated coconut milk in place of heavy cream provides the perfect combination, and an added benefit of less fat allowing my serving sizet to increase without guilt.

    Add-ins can run the gamut from nuts to more coconut to crushed chocolate covered espresso beans (my personal favorite) and on to whatever you can come up with.

    Silky smooth and lusciously creamy, you won't be able to stop at just one.


    Dairy-Free Chocolate Truffles
    Lusciously creamy, the chocolate ganache is a blank slate to whatever garnish your heart desires!
    Printer Friendly

    Filling
    1 cup dark chocolate, chopped
    7-8 Tbs coconut milk (I use So Delicious Culinary brand - either light or full fat)
    pinch fine salt
    1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

    Chocolate Coating
    1 cup Dark Chocolate, good quality, chopped
    1 tsp coconut oil

    Garnish ideas
    chopped toasted hazelnuts
    shredded coconut
    chocolate covered espresso beans
    cocoa nibs

    In a small pot over medium heat, heat the coconut milk to a simmer, stirring often.  Remove the pot from the heat, and add the 1 cup of chopped chocolate and pinch of salt.   Allow to sit for a few minutes, then stir until smooth.  If chocolate does not melt completely, return to the burner over very low heat for a minute or so continuing to stir until smooth.  Set aside to cool.

    Place cooled ganache into the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight.

    After ganache is fully chilled, remove from fridge and shape approximately 1 Tbs sized amounts into balls (may be larger or smaller as desired).  Place on a parchment paper lined plate or cutting board.  Once all balls are formed, place the board or plate into the fridge to chill.  Note... hands will get really messy!

    While the balls are chilling, melt 1 cup of good quality chocolate along with 1 tsp coconut oil over very low heat on the stove, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

    Remove balls from fridge, and one at a time, drop a ball into the melted chocolate.  Using a spoon, cover the entire ball with melted chocolate then carefully return the dipped ganache to the parchment paper.  Immediately top with garnish of your choice.  Continue until all of the balls are chocolate covered and garnished.

    Return the truffles to the refrigerator to set (they set faster this way as I'm totally impatient!).  Keep chilled until ready to serve.  Enjoy!


    Tuesday, December 22, 2015

    Perfect Peppermint Chocolate Holiday Biscotti

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    Perfect Peppermint Holiday Chocolate Biscotti

    Who doesn't love crunchy biscotti alongside a cup of afternoon coffee?  Drizzle that biscotti with dark chocolate and it becomes irresistible.  But for the holidays?  Dip that chocolate drizzle into crushed candy cane and we have pure peppermint perfection.

    Inspired by Liv's girlfriend, Piper, who made the peppermint suggestion last year, I'm only sorry I waited an entire year to make these beauties.

    As a dance mom for the last 7 years the privilege of watching Liv's competition dance teammates grow from girls into college-bound young women has been all mine.  Talent abounds, and Piper brings perfection not only to biscotti, but to the stage as well.  Pure beauty in motion, I can't wait for the new competition season to begin early next year and then I'm eager to see where the dance world takes this talented girl.

    But not before finishing our holiday season with these chocolate dipped biscotti sprinkled with festive crushed candy cane.  Twice baked for a perfect bite, biscotti works as an lovely afternoon treat and just as well as in the morning alongside a cup of steaming hot cocoa.  And... I'm thinking I know a certain world traveler who would love a few of these cookies on a plate by the fireplace as a midnight snack. :)



    Friday, December 18, 2015

    20 Blogger Reviewed Cookbooks for Last Minute Gifts

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    Shopping at the local Barnes and Noble, you'll find me in the cookbook section.  Do I need another cookbook to add to my already overstuffed shelves??  Absolutely not.  Do I want one (or two or three)?  Absolutely.

    Preferably with glossy pages and lots of pictures, I can lose myself in a good cookbook for hours.  Friday night in the bath with a new cookbook?  Sounds fabulous to me.

    Like everyone though, I've picked out a few cookbooks that I've never really used.  Books that held so much promise, but just didn't work for me.

    So today I have cookbooks reviewed by many of my blogger peers, and a few that I haven't reviewed but own and simply love.  Any of these would make the foodie on your holiday list smile with delight, and if your lucky you'll reap the benefits at you next meal.

    If your panicking at the fact of 7 days left before Christmas, you still have time to head over to Amazon and using your Prime Membership send a last minute gift anywhere in the country.  Or... perhaps something catches your eye?  Santa says you deserve a little something for yourself too.  :)

    Happy Holidays my friends!  Enjoy!
    -------------------------------------

    The Sprouted Kitchen, Sara Forte

    Secrets of Healthy Cooking ~ Barbara Seelig-Brown

    Decadent Gluten Free Vegan Baking ~ Cara Reed

    Our Best Bites - Sara Wells and Kate Jones

    Eat, the Little Book of Fast Foods ~ Nigel Slater

    Teatime in Paris - Jill Colona

    Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook ~ Kathy Strahs
    Reviewed by The Culinary Life
    Melt - The Art of Macaroni and Cheese ~ Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord
    Reviewed by Farm Fresh Feasts 

    Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World ~ Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero
    Reviewed by Liv Life
      
    Beach House Baking ~ Lei Shishak
    Reviewed by Liv Life  

    Steeped - Recipes Infused with Tea ~ Annelies Zijderveld
    Reviewed by An Edible Mosaic

    Maple; 100 Sweet and Savory Recipes Featuring Maple Syrup ~ Katie Webster
    Reviewed by An Edible Mosaic
      
    It's All Greek to Me ~ Debbie Matenopoulos
    Reviewed by Aggie's Kitchen

    Sandwiched ~ Tanya Schroeder
    Reviewed by Lemon Tree Dwelling


    The Great Pepper Cookbook ~ Melissa's Produce
    Reviewed by Liv Life 

    365 Vegan Smoothies ~ Kathy Patalsky
    Reviewed by Liv Life


    Cooking Techniques with Olive Oil ~ Mary Platis and Laura Bashar
    Not Reviewed... another of my favorites!

    The 8x8 Cookbook ~ Kathy Strahs
    Haven't seen this one yet, but I've heard wonderful things about it!

    Plant Powered for Life ~ Sharon Palmer
    Reviewed by E.A. Stewart

    Cocktails for Cougars and Cowgirls ~ Jordan Catapano
    Reviewed by Simple Swaps



    Thursday, December 17, 2015

    Triple Orange Holiday Biscotti

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    Our lights are up and twinkling, the tree is decorated, shopping mostly done and presents wrapped.  But somehow this year I feel like I'm simply going through the motions.  My heart just isn't into the season, and while I have girlfriends pledging to induce holiday spirit, so far I'm not feeling it.

    Hence, the appropriate action seems to bake.  Somehow mixing together flour and sugar always puts me into a better frame of mind, but add a little Grand Marnier and we have something special, don't we?

    Crunchy yet not crisp, these Triple Orange Biscotti have been a tradition on my holiday platters since the recipe release in 2003.  Featured in Fine Cooking, Susan Betz's recipe has been made close to 30 times in my kitchen with yearly requests from neighbors and friends.

    A lovely hostess gift or entry into a cookie exchange, the biscotti also works wonders alongside an afternoon cup of coffee.

    Adaptable and forgiving, I've "healthified" the cookies on occasion by reducing the oil and adding whole wheat or spelt flours, but for the holidays I usually stick to the original recipe and these bright biscotti induce smiles with every bite.

    The recipe comments the dough will be sticky... and be aware they really mean it.  Sticky... very, very sticky - the dough almost seems slack, as if it will puddle off of the cookie sheet.  But no worries, it won't.

    Attitude adjustment?  I think we have success.


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