Sunday, February 22, 2015

DIY Oat Flour

Sometimes we tend to make things harder than they need to be.  Oat flour for example.  I love it.  It lends a slightly nubby texture to many baked goods and brings a wealth of nutrition along with it.

But my local stores often don't carry it.  Hence, I found myself ordering online and paying more shipping fees than I care to admit to.  (shhh... don't tell my husband!)

And then I thought, "Why don't I just pop some oats in to the blender and make my own flour?".

And I did.  And I had oat flour ground to the fineness I desired for the particular recipe I was making in mere seconds (with no shipping fees!).

Want more of a nubby texture for your pancakes?  Don't process the aots quite as long.  Want a finer texture for crepes?  Blend a little longer.

Oat flour has become one of my go-to flours lately, and when I purchase gluten-free oats it reduces the gluten in our baked good.

 Long known to have cholesterol lowering benefits, (Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fiber known as beta-glucan - and since 1963, study after study has proven the beneficial effects of this special fiber on cholesterol levels), antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides are now being said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

And if that isn't enough, according to The World's Healthiest Foods, oatmeal also has the potential to stabilize blood sugars, enhance immune response to infection, lower type 2 diabetes risks, and protect against postmenopausal breast cancer.  #superfood

After reading all these health benefits, I'm even more inspired to kick up our daily oats and I've been substituting oat flour in place of a portion of the all-purpose flour in pancakes, waffles, muffins, breads, etc.  I've even been known to add a few tablespoons into Liv's smoothies and she doesn't have a clue.

So here's to oat flour!  Make your own and save those shipping fees!

DIY Oat Flour
A simple spin in the blender - I use a Blendtec (note this post is not sponsored by Blendtec nor has Blendtec given me a blender) and within a few pulses I have transformed my oats into oat flour.  I've also used a regular blender with good results, however I wasn't able to blend quite as fine as I wanted at times.

To prepare:
Place rolled oats (gluten-free or not) into your high-powered blender or regular blender.  Pulse until pulverized, then pulse a few more times to desired fineness.  Note, with a regular blender you may have to process for a longer time.

Store in an airtight container. 

Here are a few of our favorite recipes:


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

You'd think when they turn into teens, kids would catch on to your little secrets.  You know, like telling them "eat the crusts from the sandwich, they're really good for you!".  Or "Try this smoothie... you'll love it.  It's Orange Mango!" and then you stuff it with avocado or spinach and they don't know the difference.  I've been filling pancakes, muffins, brownies etc with all kinds of secret super food ingredients for years and while the kids now know I do that, they really don't know when I do it.

Shape though, is a whole different matter.  Shape isn't something you can hide, but I do know that pancakes shaped like dinosaurs or hearts have always been more popular than just plain round.  And today, sweet potatoes became just that much sweeter because they were crinkle cut.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries
Last week I made these same Baked Sweet Potato Fries for Liv and she turned her nose up at them.

"I don't like sweet potato.", she said, and she didn't touch a one.

So today I used my Crisp Wavy Knife.  When I served them to her this time I told her, "Hey... try these fries. . You love crinkle cut things!"  and she exclaimed, "You know it!!", and then polished off a full serving.  Teens... Go figure.

As such, our sweet potato fries will henceforth be wavy cut... And I have just the tool you need to make your own, way better than the normal cut Wavy Cut Baked Sweet Potato Fries.

I "met" Crisp Tools last year at the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle where they promoted their line with a gift of a super handy zester to the attendees.

crisp zester
Well made and perfectly balanced in my hand, this tool has received a workout since it arrived in my kitchen, but what I also brought home was a feel for the company.

I still remember the happy and friendly people who represented, smiling faces you simply wanted to hang out and chat with. The Crisp representatives made an impression on me and when they later asked if I'd like to review more of their tools it was my turn to exclaim, "You know it!".

I'd promised to have this review up before the holidays, but my husband's illness and time in the hospital set me back a full month and a half.  While Crisp has my apologies for an extremely "unprompt" post, the extra weeks have given me even more time with the tools, and they've become regulars in my hands.  The holidays even saw more arriving on my doorstep as I ordered for foodie friends.

Crisp Kitchen Tools
I'm not exaggerating when I say I use one of these tools at least once a day.  Receiving a set of three small strainers (used daily), the Wavy (crinkle cut) Knife and a straight peeler, these tools have had numerous runs through the dishwasher and have yet to show any wear.

We used Crisp Products in gift bags for teacher presents and hostess gifts for the holidays (My girlfriend loved the avocado slicer we ordered for her and my niece has gone melon ball crazy with her new melon ball set!) and the feedback from them is just as excited as mine.  Just a thought... Mother's Day is right around the corner!

These bold tools with gracefully contoured and perfectly balanced handles fit beautifully in your hand and are comfortable for kids all the way through adults with arthritis.  My mom has arthritis in her hands and mentioned that the angled peeler we ordered for her is easier to grasp and she is back to peeling apples for pie.  Needless to say Dad is now a Crisp fan as well.

So... our many thanks to Crisp for sending us a care package.  I'm always a fan of things that make my life easier, and you've done just that.  Thank you.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Roasted Asparagus... #bloggerclue

February... a month filled with heart.  Be it shooting arrows at your Valentine, bringing healthy dishes to the table for American Heart Month, or mingling with the Blogger Clue Society group of bloggers, it's all about heart.  And... I have the perfect submission for this month's Blogger Clue Society Submission from Wendy, at A Day in the Life on the Farm (side note, I'm totally envious as she is scuba diving in St. Eustatious as I type!).

First off, I need to tout the fabulousness of this group that I am so blessed to be a part of.  Wonderful bloggers from all over the world post once a month on the same day with a themed post.  But last month I missed mine.  My husband spent most of the holidays in the hospital with an unexpected medical emergency and when I mentioned this to the group someone immediately said they would take over my post.  That person was herself extraordinarily busy, and another blogger volunteered to take the post from her, and so on.

I'm somewhat embarrassed to say that with my nearly six week blogging hiatus I'm not exactly sure who actually ended up writing for me (I think it was my dear Christiane of Taking on Magazines... I love her!), but the caring and support shown from these dear friends melted my heart.

Which brings us to February's assignment... all about the heart - something red, be it for Valentines or the American Heart Month.  And while my post is actually green, I chose the very first recipe I saw on my blog assignment.  You see, Wendy, of A Day in the Life on the Farm, made Roasted Asparagus Spears of Love and these perfectly roasted spears couldn't be more perfect for our red, all about heart celebration.

First off, did you know asparagus tops most "Top 5 (or 10) Aphrodisiac Food" lists?  In the 17th century Nicholas Culepepper wrote that "Asparagus stirs up lust in man and woman", and in 19th century France, bridegrooms were known to be served three servings of the "sexy spears" at their prenuptial dinner.

Did it work??  I don't know, but with potassium, fiber, vitamin B6 as well as A and C in addition to thiamin and folic acid, asparagus is said to raise histamine levels which is a helpful ingredient in both sexes to reach optimum pleasure.  And with its low calorie count in combination to the above health benefits, asparagus is an ideal dish for a healthy heart as well as the happy  heart.

My grandmother grew asparagus on their farm in Minnesota, and I always remember her telling us "eat up... it's good for the heart".  Now, grandma was very proper, and I always assumed that she meat the heart muscle... but now that I've done a bit of research, who knows?

In any case, Wendy, brought us the perfect dish and while it's simple, it's sure to become a staple in our life.  Roasted in the winter, grilled in the summer, asparagus is good for you any time of year.

Join me as we travel around the world for the rest of today's Blogger Clue Society submissions!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Vegan Maple Cupcakes and a Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World Cookbook Giveaway

It all started with just one cookbook.  You see, some 25 years ago I met my husband, and when I began cooking for him my repertoire included scrambled eggs and pasta.  Hence, he ate pasta 3 different ways (red sauce, pesto or alfredo... from a jar) for about 10 days before he came home from an errand with a cookbook in hand and a suggestion that perhaps we might have something that didn't include eggs or pasta that evening.  I settled myself in front of the fire and read the book cover to cover, adoring the beautiful photo splashed pages along the way.

That cookbook still sits on my shelf, though it's a bit dusty as 25 years has seen an evolution of change to my cooking style in addition to a collection of cookbooks that I don't ever see ceasing to grow.

Collage courtesy of Christina Chavez - Mama's High Strung
And today I'm thrilled to be one of 14 Food Bloggers participating in the 14-Day Valentines Day Cookbook Affair Giveaway to help you grow your own collection!  After all, who doesn't love a new cookbook?

Our group has books to suit all tastes and chances to win every day through Valentine's Day.  Here's a list of what's already up and a sneak peek at tomorrow's giveaway:
  • Alice (our coordinator!) from A Mama, a Baby and a Sharpei in the Kitchen started the event with Artisan Bread Every Day .
  • Christina from Mama's High Strung is featuring the incredible The Flavor Bible written by some of my favorite authors, Karen Page and Andrew Dornenberg. 
  • Christy - Confessions of a Culinary Diva, takes us on an international journey with a French bundle including Around my French Table as well as My Paris Kitchen 
  • Adriana from Great Food 360º keeps us traveling with The Cuban Table
  • And a Sneak Peek... check Heather, from girlichef, tomorrow for a chance to spice up your Valentine with Cooking with Frank's® RedHot® Cayenne Pepper Sauce Cookbook
  • Follow my Facebook page (Liv Life) for daily updates for the remainder of the giveaway! 
Me?  I'm turning to dessert with a little book I picked up on a whim, but one that has become our most reached for book this year.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero has brought cupcakes back into our life in a big way.

Along the path of my food and cooking evolution, both of my children became lactose intolerant.  My son severely so.

As such, the last few years have found me turning to vegan recipes, knowing they will guarantee diary-free results.  Further exploration into the vegan world has actually brought my family to a nearly all plant-based diet, but vegan baking is occasionally difficult to transition into something the whole family enjoys.

Enter Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World... light, gorgeous, flavorful, luscious, decadent, purely spectacular recipes have even my non-vegan friends asking for recipes and has also made me one of the most popular dance moms at Liv's studio.

Showing up with a batch of Toasted Coconut Cupcakes after a long day of rehearsals is a sure way to gain dance girl love, complete with hugs all around.  Not a coconut fan?  No worries, I can assure you that Peanut Butter Chocolate Heavencakes bring the same reaction.  As do Golden Vanilla Cupcakes with luscious Vegan Fluffy Buttercream.

This book, complete with glossy photo-splashed pages, is 168 pages of pure cupcake love, and I'm guessing your copy will soon be batter splattered just like ours.  I think the authors described it best:

"75 dairy free recipes that are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and add some extra padding to your butt (or not, we do have some low-fat options!) Named “Cookbook of the Year” by VegNews, vegan cupcakes is the perfect book for beginner bakers wanting to learn the basics as well as the accomplished home baker who wants to expand her repertoire. What’s more, it’s a really awesome looking book with color photos by Rebecca Bent throughout.

We’ve got recipes to fit your every mood and to work with every dietary restriction. While most recipes are decadant and all out naughty, we didn’t leave anyone out. Your aunt is gluten free? No problem! Your boyfriend is trying to lose a few pounds? Send him our way! Your third cousin once removed is diabetic? We’ve got you covered."

Today (and until March 2nd) we are giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and one set of 300 Count Polka Dot Standard Baking Cups .
  • Giveaway is open to US Residents as well as those with APO/FPO addresses
  • Givewaway ends March 5th, 2015
  • Givewaway includes one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and one set of 300-count polka dot standard baking cups.  (Giveaway is paid for by me, Liv Life)
  • Please enter using giveaway widget below
  • Winner will be notified by email.  Winner has 48 hours to respond or we will then choose another winner. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Potato Bowls (Bites) with Salsa, Black Beans and Avocado

The Super Bowl... what does it mean to you?  Football?  Shopping?  Commercials?

For me Super Sunday has evolved over the years.  As I find myself ever so slightly older than the Super Bowl itself, I don't have many childhood memories of the event, but entering my 20's the Super Bowl stood for one thing... Joe.  Montana that is.

You may remember him... handsome, young guy who could do no wrong (in my eyes) with a football in his hands.  Total calm under pressure, Joe led the 49ers to 31 fourth quarter comeback wins in addition to 4 Super Bowl Championships.  Nicknamed "Joe Cool", Montana remained a vision of calmness in the midst of chaos and simply marched his team down the field to earn those final few points necessary for the expected win.

ESPN's Larry Schwartz describes it best:

"Take the 1989 Super Bowl against the Cincinnati Bengals. The San Francisco 49ers were down by three points with 3:20 left when Montana spotted -- no, not an open receiver -- but a personality. "There, in the stands, standing near the exit ramp," Montana said to tackle Harris Barton. "Isn't that John Candy?" And then he led the 49ers 92 yards, throwing for the winning touchdown with 34 seconds left."

Cool and calm under pressure, that's how I'd like to think of myself handling the appetizers at one of our Super Bowl Extravaganzas, and these Super Potato Bowls, much like Dwight Clark or Jerry Rice, make my job easy.

Roasted Potato Bowls

Roasted until tender, potato bowls are filled with either homemade or store bought salsa with added black beans.  These super potato bowls are then topped with diced avocado (did you know that Super Sunday sees the consumption of more than 158 million avocados?) and chopped cilantro... add a squeeze of lime if you like, then sit back and watch these bites disappear faster than Joe could have turned around a score in the last few minutes of a game.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Season 2 MasterChef Jr. Winner, Logan's Chocolate Chip Cookies and a MasterChef Junior Giveaway

Life.   We tend to think we have it all figured out, don't we?  Our flight plans filed, we find ourselves happily headed down nice balanced paths when all of a sudden a fork, or a rock, or even a flood appear out of no where bringing a diversion we didn't expect.  Taking us off our current path and onto another, we sometimes find this new path easy going and blossoming with flowers, however other times we find ourselves fighting to regain our footing in an attempt to get back into balance.

Early December brought a bit of a tumble off of our happy, balanced path when my usually healthy husband found himself visiting the ER twice in three days with the second visit ending up with emergency surgery.  After an emotional 5-day hospital stay he headed home two days before Christmas with even more questions and an understanding that we have no understanding of how to efficiently work the current medical system.

While he's doing much better, he's been off work for some 4 weeks and will probably see a few more before he returns to filing flight plans for real (he's an airline pilot).  Thankful his issues aren't life threatening, Liv and I have settled in to make him comfortable with he's healing and stretch of time on the couch.

Looking for pick-me-up entertainment, Liv took the remote from his hands, fired up HULU on the computer and caught him up on Season 2 of our favorite show - MasterChef Junior.  And just in time as the premier of Season 3 aired last Tuesday, January 6 at 8/7c on Fox. 

Oona from Season 2
I have to admit he scoffed at the show at first.  "Seriously...", he questioned, "How good can watching a bunch of kids compete in a cooking show be?" (I fear he vividly remembers my Girl Scout Troop's adventure in cooking in our kitchen...).

But within minutes 9-year old Oona had him wrapped around her little finger with her confident come backs, kitchen finesse and irresistible personality.  12-year old Sean left us in awe of his restaurant-quality precision and skill, and who could resist 8-year old Abby's love of all things jelly bean?

Judged by the esteemed Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliot, and Joe Bastianich (whom I read is leaving the show sometime in 2015)MasterChef Junior doesn't go easy on the contestants aged 8-13.  With critiques that would bring adults to their knees, these kids take it and move on to the next challenge with their heads held high simply oozing skills that I can only envy.  Really... how many kids enjoy pâté let alone know how to whip one up?

Finishing up our binge watching of Season 2, we caught the premier of Season 3 last Tuesday (January 6th - 8/7c on Fox) and I love that my husband is totally hooked, even telling us that we will have to wait to watch the show all together when he goes back to work in a few weeks. 

Meeting the kids in the first episode I must admit I'm somewhat missing the kids from last season, but I also enjoyed seeing the new personalities begin to shine with the first Mystery Box Challenge.  I loved how the kids brought different ideas from the same ingredients with final dishes ranging from entrees to desserts.

Jenna's Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango Mint Compote had me itching to whip up a batch of my own, and Jack's Chard-Wrapped Salmon is tucked away in my mind for a future date.  If only I had the recipe... because unlike him it's not something I'm capable of just whipping together like he did.

Nathan... from San Diego!
And I have to pull for 12-year old Nathan, though we didn't see much of him in this episode.  Hailing from our hometown San Diego, I'm wishing him the best of luck!!  But I think he'll see some serious competition from the intelligent and talented Ryan Kate, 11-years old from Texas.  And one can't help notice little 8-year old Riley, also from Texas who showed skills I can only wish for (I love his little step to get him over the counter!).

8-year old Riley... he's adorable!  And talented.
And easing us into this new, compelling season I have a special gift for us!  Just as we arrived home from the hospital a care package arrived on our doorstep (how did they know we needed a pick-me-up?) and proved the perfect treat while watching the Season Premier.

Opening the box we found goodies the treats including a recipe from Season 2's winner, Logan!  I almost feel kind of like he and I are cooking buddies... right??  Hot Coco Milk Crumb Chocolate Chip Cookies, he's brilliant!

Rounding out our MasterChef Winter Warm Up Box we received two MasterChef Junior Mugs, 4 chunks of chocolate on spoons, and jars of marshmallows, crushed candy canes and caramel chips... all perfect to go with Logan's Chocolate Chip Cookies and warm us to our toes as we enjoy the show.

MasterChef Junior Warm Winter Giveaway
And MasterChef Junior wants you to have a care package too!  Together we are giving away the same box of goodies we received to warm you up while you watch an episode of the show too.  Here's how to enter:
  • Open to residents of the United States only.
  • Giveaway ends January 16, 2015
  • Leave a comment below with your favorite new contestant, or if you haven't watched the show something you cooked when you were little.
  • Please leave an email address so we can contact you if you win!!
  • For an extra entry leave a comment below after you Tweet the followingHave you entered Liv Life's #MasterChefJunior Giveaway? #MCJWarmWinter
  • For another extra entry pin to Pinterest from this post and leave a comment below telling me you did.
  • Giveaway includes:  Recipes, two MasterChef Junior Mugs, 4 Wooden Spoons with Chocolate, 3 jars toppings (marshmallows, crushed candy cane and caramel)
Liv Life's #MCJWarmWinter Cookie Instagram!  (Logan even liked my post... now we really are recipe buddies!!  @logan.jr.chef )

Our thanks to the kids of MasterChef Jr. for helping us heal and getting us back into the kitchen!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Roasted Honey Rosemary Pecans (with a touch of garlic!)

Pecans, they're just nuts right??  Well... coat them with a little butter infused with garlic, honey and rosemary and you now have something other worldly.  Who knew just a couple of ingredients could create eye-popping flavor in less than 30 minutes?

I can tell you who... Lisa of Authentic Suburban Gourmet knew, and I can't even begin to explain my excitement when I received her blog as my assignment for the December Blogger C.L.U.E Event.

Lisa (Authentic Suburban Gourmet) with her husband Charles
The Blogger C.L.U.E (Cook, Learn, Undertake, Eat) Society works similar to other blog events where one blogger is secretly assigned another, with C.L.U.E featuring a monthly theme.  We search the blogger's blog, find a recipe, tweak it ever so slightly to our tastes and diets, and then reveal all on the same day.

My Grandmother, Verle
This month's theme brought me a little reflection.  Assigned to "find something your grandmother would have made" left me a little stumped.  My mom's mom passed away before I was born, hence I never met her.

I've heard stories, and she sounds like a super fun lady - someone whom I would love to have known.  My dad's mom, on the other hand, lived to the age of 93, and while I did know her, the distance of our homes (me in California, she in Minnesota) left us with little opportunity to really be a big part of each other's lives.

Pairing the grandmother with Lisa I really could have gone either way.  The grandmother I knew, German-born Adella, loved to bake and I have wonderful memories sitting in her kitchen on the farm with big plates of homemade Peanut Butter Cookies.  Lisa has a number of fabulous baked goods on her blog, and I could have easily gone this way.  But my other grandmother, Verle, loved a good cocktail party.  Which in the end led me to my choice.

I've "known" Lisa for years, and her Friday Night Bites feature often leaves me tempted to hop a plane and join the fun.  Residing in the San Francisco Bay Area (my home for nearly 30 years), and with two irresistibly adorable puppies (Marty and Stewart, they are Havanese), Lisa and I have a lot in common.  A love of these Roasted Honey Rosemary Pecans are just one more thing.

Thanks Lisa for a wonderful recipe.  I'm so happy you were my assigned blog, and... I finally got participate in a Friday Night Bite, even though it was only virtually.  Someday, I'm going to make it for real.

Join me with a visit to the rest of the Blogger C.L.U.E. Society!
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