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!

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Class of 2014...

Settling into the stands above the high school football field transformed into graduation venue I finally expressed a sigh of relief.  The gown was ironed and the cap appropriately decorated.  Transcripts had been ordered, various papers filed to the proper departments, schedules arranged and we had gotten my mom to her seat uneventfully.  Everything had worked just as planned and the time had come.

As strains of Pomp and Circumstance played, hundreds of excited graduates poured onto the field.  Searching the waves of purple gowned students it took me a while, but I found him.  Standing so tall and looking so handsome my heart simply burst with pride.  He didn't see me as I clicked the shutter of my camera from some 30 yards away and in an instant he was again lost into the flood of purple robes.

And that's when I realized... the time had really come.

The principal began to speak what I'm sure was a most inspiring speech, but I didn't hear a single word as emotions bounced through me with amazing intensity.  Pride and elation somehow mixed with fear and loss as I traveled through time and found myself once again holding my baby boy...

Looking down at the sleeping baby on my chest I wondered who this little person was.  As he opened his eyes and gazed into mine, my heart grew to know a love only a mom can know.  We sat together for hours, getting to know each other and I dreamed of what the next 18 years would hold.

Brought back to the present moment by the playing of the National Anthem tears began as memories swirled all around me.  The droning of the school board member was once again lost and I instead smiled at the kidergartner who ran from class and flung himself into my open arms.  Burying his head into my shoulder he whispered how much he had missed me and I told him I had missed him just the same.

Visions of a giggling baby flitted through my mind right next to a proud boy receiving his driver's license.  There he was running the entire soccer field to score the winning goal which somehow changed into a toddler tripping over a hose only to have me scoop him up and make everything all better.  The chaos in my mind took me through school projects, summer vacations, afternoons in the pool, driving lessons, and bagel dates after preschool all while I peered through sobbing eyes trying to find that baby in a sea of purple robes.

And then there he was, walking across the stage so confidently and smiling as he shook the principal's hand.  One of many accomplishments in his life, I know he is prepared to head out on his own and that this is only the beginning.  I'm ready to see him live and follow his dreams, yet a part of me doesn't want him to go.  My arms feel empty as I know he no longer turns to me when he falls, but instead picks himself up and moves on... just as we taught him to.

1st day of Kindergarten and last day of High School...
The years have passed all to swiftly my sweet boy and sometimes I wish I could freeze time, but your path continues.  Remember... Mommy loves you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Strawberry Blueberry Chia Jam

I may be somewhat repeating myself with this recipe... but as I explained it to a girlfriend and described it as "You know... just like the blueberry one I made only you add strawberry?" she exclaimed, "But I never would have thought of that!!  You have to post it!!"  So... usually one to follow directions, here we go!

This season I've become somewhat obsessed with chia jam.  Simply put, it's fruit, a little pure maple syrup and chia.  Just real food, nothing else.

We've always purchased jam, and while I've become familiar with the store-bought sweetness, the different varieties we've made this summer have allowed the actual fruit flavors to shine.  Sort of like storing the farmer's market in a jar, the flavors simply tantalize with realness.

Gelled with chia in place of the usual packaged pectin, Strawberry Blueberry Chia Jam brings a nice dose of calcium and protein along with its incredibly fresh flavors.  

Chia Seed, yes the seed of the the Chia Pet era, is everywhere these days.  Once a staple in the Inca, Maya and Aztec cultures, chia is actually the Mayan word for "Strength".  Filled with protein, calcium, potassium, iron, and Omega 3 and 6, chia takes on the title of a true super food and can help maintain energy and endurance.
Soaked in liquid, chia seeds (filled with soluble fiber) swell up to 10 times their weight and form a gel-like outer layer which, in the digestive system, actually slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar and in turn helps stabilize blood sugar.  In addition, the seeds high soluble fiber content also helps to control cholesterol levels.

But back to our jam... maple syrup in place of granulated sugar gives a lovely depth and has me happy we've kept the entire recipe real and healthy.

With strawberry season in full swing here in San Diego, our markets are flooded with fresh, juicy, bright red berries for good prices and purchasing more than you actually need is easy to do.

Just an hour after our last market and some 24 hours since picking our strawberries simmered along with a basket of blueberries into this fabulous, sweet Strawberry Blueberry Chia Jam.

If your markets are bursting with berries you'll love this version... bursting with strawberry flavors you'll be searching for new ways to use jam.

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