Saturday, October 25, 2014

Overnight Almond Oatmeal with Chia and Maple Syrup

Overnight Almond Oatmeal with Chia and Maple

Once again I'm way behind a current trend.  Actually, I may be so far behind that the trend is nearly past, but I've finally tried Overnight Oats.

For months my blog reader has been filled with various versions of overnight oats.  From Pumpkin Spice to Orange Cashew, overnight oats are everywhere.  But... the thought of them somehow just sort of seemed distasteful.  Would they be overly mushy?  Would they be chalky?  Would they be just plain weird?

almond extract
Nope to all the above.  Amazing, fabulous, incredible, irresistible, and perhaps even spectacular.

Mushy?  Not at all - a lovely smooth texture with just a little bit of an oaty bite.  Chalky?  Heavens no.  Not a speck of chalkiness in the cup.  Weird?  Maybe a little... but oh, so lusciously fabulous at the same time.

I am forever totally, and positively hooked.

Figuring I should start with a basic recipe - almond milk and oats - I reached for vanilla extract for a little flavor enhancement, but not paying attention, my vanilla turned out to be almond.  And a better mistake has never been made.

Textures and flavors blend together in this "ready when you are" breakfast (or lunch as it may be) creating a simply irresistible concoction I've enjoyed daily for the past week.

Topped with a handful of chopped walnuts and a drizzle of pure maple syrup, these overnight oats are setting a trend all their own.  #love

Overnight Almond Oatmeal with Chia and Maple
Yes... Liv really had her oats in a jar with a little string tied on it!  I think she's getting a little spoiled... :) 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Taylor's Ultimate Triple Chocolate Rehearsal Biscotti... Dance Mom Approved

Dance Moms... do you watch the Lifetime Show?  If you haven't, don't.  It's terrible.  But as a dance mom, it's totally addicting.

With some 13 years of Dance "Momness" under my belt, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the subject.  I've done it all, overnight rhinestoning sessions, minutes before going onstage tap shoe and costume repair, duct taped pieces in place, and ultimate hairstyles, all followed by rivers of tears as I sit in the audience watching these talented girls live their passion.

I'd always considered myself a soccer mom, but as my son grew up and Liv began competitive dance, I embraced my Dance Mom life, and clearly explain to everyone I meet that we are nothing like the catty, mean moms you see on tv.

Having watched Liv's teammates grow up, I feel almost as thought I have some 20+ step daughters, all whom I love almost as much as Liv.  I've grown to know their favorite things, their fears and insecurities, their personalities, and their tastes.  Baking and cooking for them fills my heart and when I get special requests I leap to the project.

Ever since creating Miss Abbie's (we have our own, much more amazing Miss Abbie) Amazing Race Biscotti, biscotti has been the most requested recipe.  This week Taylor H. sent a request for Chocolate Biscotti with "lots" of chocolate chips.  Easy enough.  But would a chocolate drizzle be too much?  Our texts went as follows...

Me:  "So... if I were to make a Chocolate Biscotti with lots of chocolate chips, would a you want a chocolate drizzle on top??"

Taylor:  "Who wouldn't???!!!!"

All righty then... drizzle it is!  Tweaking our Nutella Biscotti recipe to pure, unadulterated chocolate, I set Liv to the task of adding the chocolate drizzle.  As she does on stage, her drizzle was done with passion.  Thinking perhaps it was too much, we allowed the chocolate to set, then did our own taste test.

Too much?  Not a chance!  Rich with the perfect biscotti bite, Taylor's Ultimate Chocolate Rehearsal Biscotti disappeared in a flash at the girls first competition rehearsal and received the esteemed score of Platinum Plus.  Beat that Abbie Lee Miller!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Girards Dressing Giveaway... what would you do with your care package?

Girard's Dressing Giveaway

Dressing... it's not just for salad, is it?  A few months ago I participated in a challenge from Girard's Dressings to create a recipe using one of their products that stretched the idea of the usual dressing use - going beyond salad.

Do you remember the No-Cook Summer Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Fresh Herbs I put together in August?  Using Girard's Old Venice Italian, that recipe launched me on a path I'm incredibly excited to follow.

Girard's No Cook Heirloom Tomato Sauce
Get the recipe here
Girard's brand is one that's always been near and dear to my heart - a company with a history closely paralleling my own (we both began in San Francisco, spent time in San Rafael and made our way south to San Diego) - Girard's brings a bit of my childhood back into my kitchen.

With a recipe dating back to the mid 1930's, my mom says her father actually ate at the Girard's French Restaurant on Ellis St., in San Francisco, where Girard's Original French Dressing first came to be.
Easily recognizable in their familiar triangular-shaped bottles, Grirard's was a staple in our kitchen when I was little, and I smiled as my neighbor's 12-year old daughter pointed to the Champagne Dressing in my now grown up kitchen, exclaiming, "Oh!  That one's my favorite!".  Her smile grew even larger when I handed her the bottle to take home after she helped me style and shoot a few photos.

Girard's Culinary Collective - 2014
Girard's Culinary Collective
Ruthie of Cooking with Ruthie, Kim (me - Liv Life), Amy of Our Everyday Diners, Danelle of Let's Dish, Becky of Vintage Mixer and Julie of A Little Bite of Life
Apparently a winning recipe, our No-Cook Heirloom Tomato Sauce won Girard's challenge, and weeks later I joined five additional food bloggers (shown above) on a Grand Foodie Adventure Weekend in Seattle as we participated in the Girard's Culinary Collective and learned just what dressing can do.

Amazingly talented ladies, I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to be a part of this group.  Their winning recipes for the challenge included Slow Cooker Balsamic Pulled Pork Tacos, Balsamic Flank Steak with Grilled Pears and Gorgonzola, Barista Balsamic Pork Ragout, Blackberry Barista Balsamic Marscarpone Tartlettes, and a fabulous Watermelon Wedge Salad Recipe.

Part of our foodie adventure landed us in Seattle's Miller's Guild Restaurant where we spent an evening with the esteemed Chef Jason Wilson who prepared us a six-course meal featuring Girard's Dressing in every course.  See my restaurant review post to get a rundown of each dish (including appetizers and an amazing specialty cocktail!).

Girard's Dressing Giveaway

But today, I am excited to share a Griard's opportunity with you!  Partnering with Girard's and my fellow Collective participants, we are giving away a four-pack of Girard's Dressings (Champagne, White Balsamic, Greek Vinaigrette, and Caesar) to 20 lucky recipients.

Open from today (Monday, October 20th) for one week (through Sunday, October 27th), just participate in the Rafflecopter widget below for your chance to receive a Girard's Care Package of your own.  With twenty 4-packs ready for the road, you're chances are looking good!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
What would you do with your Girard's Dressing?? 

Girards Dressings Old Venice Italian

Follow the #Girardscc on social media to follow this event.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Arugula Apple Detox Drink

Years ago (like over 25...) my husband mentioned "I wish we could just take a pill for all of our nutritional needs... it would make things so much easier."

Apparently bachelor guys in the Air Force may not have the time or desire during pilot training to really cook, and may perhaps end up eating Lean Cuisine type meals over and over and over for nearly a year.  Hence... the idea of a pill isn't so bad.

Me??  Growing up with a dad in the restaurant business (Dad had the Windjammer in Tiburon, CA if you happen to remember it) spoiled me rotten, and I found the idea of living on a pill somewhat appalling.  As such I've spent these 25 years showing my husband that food is a good thing, it can not only be nutritionally sound but also tasty, satisfying and fun.

I'm happy to say he's come around, and I actually laugh as he works with me to plan our vacations around researched restaurants.  He's done wonderfully well enjoying and looking forward to food until an issue about a year ago.

Last Christmas we gifted ourselves one of those super powerful blenders and began blending up all sorts of tasty drinks.  Until my husband began blending, that is.  Reverting to his old ways, he felt that the more he put into one blended drink, the healthier it was, and it didn't matter how it tasted.

And trust me... it didn't taste good.  The color of mud and with essence of grass clippings, he stuffed so much "healthy stuff" into the drinks no one else could - or would even try to - get them down.

Back to basic training, I've been working to show him that certain flavors work better together, and that perhaps stuffing an entire day's nutrition into one blended drink might not be the optimal idea.  He grumbled at first, then muttered, "Fine... see if you can do better."

So I did.

Enter the Arugula Apple Detox Drink.  Just 7 ingredients plus ice, yet bringing a few superfoods together to provide a super healthy, one has an enjoyable green drink.

After a weekend of indulging I often find the need to fill myself with healthy ingredients, and I find this green drink a nice way to start the day, or perhaps to finish a day off.

But... best music to my ears?  

"Honey... can you make that blended drink you made the other day??  You know... the one that didn't taste like grass clippings??"   My work here is done. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Penne with Roasted Cauliflower, Lemon and Capers

Move over Kale, we're jumping on the Roasted Cauliflower bandwagon!!  Well... I might be a bit behind the wagon as roasted cauliflower's rage may be so yesterday, but cauliflower is one of those veggies my whole family loves and we've been eating for years.  We just haven't roasted it until this week.  And why, oh why did we wait so long??

Cauliflower is one of those cruciferous vegetables filled with health benefits and recommended as part of a healthy diet.  Linked to cancer prevention and detox support, and with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, studies suggest 2-3 servings (1 1/2 cups) of the food group, minimum, a week.

More delicate in flavor that broccoli (which is also highly recommended), cauliflower may be more popular with the kids, and may I mention here it's also fabulous dipped in hummus.  Roasting though, caramelizes the cauliflower and brings out its sweetness.

Thumbing through one of my favorite cookbooks, Good for You (Williams-Sonoma): Easy, Healthy Recipes for Every Day, this recipe jumped out the other day and we've made it 3 times since.

Super easy to put together, the roasted cauliflower marries beautifully with freshly squeezed lemon, parsley and capers.  Tossed with my favorite penne pasta, this dish works as a light dinner or a very satisfying lunch.

When family member ask for "that cauliflower dish" again, I know I  have a hit - and this one's jumped to the top of the list.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Power Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pancakes... here at Liv Life, pancakes bring balance to the table.  For some 18 years I've made pancakes 3-5 times a week, and over the years I've done my best to keep that balance of a "light, fluffy pancake" with healthy ingredients that help get my kids through their mornings.

Hence, I've stuffed everything from whole grains to bananas to avocado to black beans into pancakes with mostly wonderful results (the black bean version was accepted,  but noted as "different... and not in the best way imaginable ;)

Pumpkin Pancakes
Pumpkin Pancake Instagram
Pumpkin, though, is always a hit.  Tweaking a version from 4 years ago (a special post with pancakes that brought comfort to our family), we've turned this pumpkin version in a power version - one that you can count on to get you through the morning in a healthy manner, but also one that will have the kids asking for them again for dinner.

Filled with whole grains, flax, chia and pumpkin, these pancakes bring an array of nutrients and healthy properties including fiber, vitamin E, easier digestibility and a lower glycemic index from the Organic Spelt.  Flax brings a high content of Omega-3's in addition to cardiovascular health, and pumpkin blasts us with vision-healthy vitamin A.

But it's the chia that brings on even more power.  Prized by the Aztecs and Mayans to provide sustainable energy, chia also brings bone healthy calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.  We've been adding chai to all sorts of recipes, and I'm finding I'm somewhat obsessed with this little seed that swells incredibly when added to liquid.

All these benefits leave me happy with our choice of morning meal, but add in a few dashes of pumpkin pie-like spices and you have flavors that will send aromas of the holidays through your kitchen.

Power Pumpkin Pancakes - they're what's for breakfast.  Or dinner.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pike Place Market, Fishmongers and Flying Salmon, Dungeness Crab and Lunch at Matt's on the Market... Day Two with Girard's Culinary Collective

Girard's Culinary Collective, Pike Place Fish Market, Seattle

Seattle... when you hear mention of this charming city what picture pops into your mind?  Before visiting the city for the first time a few weeks ago, it was that "Public Market Center" sign in Pike Place Market and visions of flying fish that flashed through my thoughts.  Now that I've visited Seattle?  It's still the market and flying fish, but now it's oh, so real!

Day two of our Seattle Foodie Adventures with Girard's Culinary Collective began with instructions to "dress casually, bring your apron, and prepare to get a little dirty." (see day one here)  Apparently we were to work for our lunch, and all I've got to say, is this job ranked up there as one of the best "work" days ever.

Kim of Liv Life and Ruthie of Ruthie's Cooking Adventures
Heading through Pike Market, our Girard's representatives led us past that famous sign and directly to the ice bins filled with fish at the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market.

Known world wide for the boisterous filling of customer orders by throwing the fish to be wrapped, the Pike Place Fish Market is not only a local fish market but an entertaining Seattle destination that never gets old.  

Catching up with fishmonger Ryan, we discovered first hand the exemplary passion these guys feel for their market.  With ambitions to "interact with people with a strong intention to make a difference for them. We want to give each person the experience of having been served and appreciated, whether they buy fish or not. We love them.", he did just that.

Briefing us on a little bit of history and lore about the fish market, Ryan proudly explained that all of the fish sold at the Pike Place Market is 100% sustainable.  Giving us a rundown on the day's market offerings, he then grabbed a salmon, gave a boisterous yell for incoming, then hurled the fish across the entire market to a partner who easily caught it without missing a step.

Pike Place Fish Market, Seattle
Ryan then told us to suit up with our own aprons and get ready to catch some fish. 

Donning our aprons the crowd grew exponentially as tourists with cameras at the ready stood by to watch our endeavors.  Oh my gosh was I nervous as I made my way behind the counter and glanced nervously at all sorts of cell phones pointed my direction.

Confidently Ryan caught my eye with a "you've got this" look, called me by name which the rest of the fish guys called back, then launched a flying salmon my direction.

Taking what seemed like minutes to reach the other side of the counter even though it was flying at amazing speed (more seriously... I'm sure it was more like a light toss all of a few feet...) I don't think I've ever been so nervous to do something properly.   Nor have I ever been so proud as when I didn't drop that fish and the crowd cheered resoundingly!

Pike Place Fish Market, Seattle

What a incredibly fun experience we all had, one that will cement the Pike Place Fish Market securely in my Seattle memories and one that will always make my heart swell just a little when I think about it.

Not done with our work for the day yet, the Girard's team whisked us to a nearby test kitchen where we met up with Dan, of Matt's on the Market, for instruction on salmon filleting and Dungeness Crab preparation.

I now know why I've always purchased my salmon already filleted, deboned and cut into pieces, but I can now also say that if I were presented with a whole fish... I could do it myself.

Equipment, i.e, a super sharp filleting knife, makes the work so much easier, and we learned to allowed the knife to do the work for us, not to "saw" through the beautiful salmon.

Up next Dan brought out Dungeness Crabs which needed to be cleaned.  Here I'm ever so thankful my crab was somewhat frozen, and I cringed just a bit as Amy, of Everyday Dinners, worked next to me scooping the crab "butter" (the liver and pancreas) out with her bare hands.  Not a job I think she'll be doing again anytime soon...

Apparently preparing the crabs for our own lunch, Dan showed us how to crack the shells for easier eating and told us the more work we did now in the kitchen the less work it would be at the table.

Table setting Matt's on the Market, Seattle
Crabs cleaned and salmon filleted, we made our way upstairs to Matt's on the Market where Girard's once again had a lovely table ready for us.  And, featured on the menu was... fresh salmon and Dungeness Crab!

Opened in 1996, Matt's began as a small - only 23 seat - restaurant which boasted a fiercely loyal clientele who loved the ever changing menu based on what was available in the Pike Market downstairs.

When Matt decided to leave the restaurant, Dan Bugge - actually a star "fish thrower" for 11 years at the Pike Place Fish Market - began his dream of restaurant ownership.  Keeping the restaurant name along with the passion to create culinary experiences, Dan continues the every changing menu based on the Pike Market seasonal offerings.

He and his staff have, however, made major upgrades to the restaurant including a new kitchen, expansion in both size and capacity, and the addition of a spectacularly well-stocked bar.  When in town, reservations are highly recommend.

Matt's on the  Market, Seattle

A charming finale to our Culinary Collective, Matt's boasts gorgeous views of the bustling market below.  Toasting our day over salads dressed with Girard's Dressings (we had a choice of every dressing they make on the table!), the sun broke through the fog and a clear, brilliantly blue sky shone over our table through Matt's historic arched windows.

Matt's on the  Market, Seattle

With freshly caught Dungeness Crab, perfectly filleted wild salmon and a table filled with new friends, our lunch passed far too quickly.  Laughter rose time and again as we recounted our weekend and commented on our fish splattered sleeves.  I don't think working for my lunch will ever again be as fun.

Salmon at Matt's on the Market, Seattle
Perfectly filleted salmon... Matt's on the Market | October 2014

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