Monday, September 1, 2014

100 Days of Real Food Cookbook Review {and Giveaway!}

You need this book.

Take it from me. I love cookbooks.

No, seriously, come over sometime. You will really see that I sincerely LOVE cookbooks.

I collect them. I read them. I use them.

But then...

I forget about them.

What can I say?  It happens.

When I received my copy of Lisa Leake's new cookbook, 100 Days of Real Food, I wondered if this one would make the cut. Would it end up collecting dust on my shelf, or would it be something that I could actually use? Would it be something that would speak to me, be useful for my family, and give me new ideas? Or would it be another book using hard to pronounce ingredients, with recipes that my family would never eat?

Only a few pages in, I realized that this book would not become one of the forgotten ones.  I see this one remaining shelf-free, on my counter and being used for a long time!

This book is one of those rare finds that has everything you are looking for in a healthy eating cookbook. Packed with recipes, you will find yourself paging through, wanting to make each and every one of them. The book really caters to almost every "cooking" lifestyle, showcasing many types of recipes ranging from gluten free, vegetarian, dairy free, and all kid and family friendly.

The coolest thing about this book? The recipes barely even scratch the surface of what is included inside. The book begins with some history of Lisa's challenge with her family to attempt to go 100 days of only eating real food, and details "the plan" to eliminate processed food from your family's lifestyle. She includes menus, shopping lists and personal stories, all with a flair that makes you feel as if you are reading a book written by a good friend. She is helpful and understanding, never judgmental or condescending. She writes this book knowing that this is a challenge, but instilling you with the confidence to get it done. After you read only a small section, you feel the need to clean out your pantry and get started!

The recipes are delicious too! I have followed her for a couple years now online, and have loved everything I have made that I found on her site. She is the person that inspired my creative lunches for my kids, and she includes a section in her book all about lunches and some easy to make staples to make life simpler when making those (sometimes dreaded) school lunches. She includes delicious kid friendly recipes like Cinnamon Raisin Quick Bread, which, I am sharing with you if you scroll down below.

There are some other recipes to not miss as well, like this Veggie Corn Chowder, that your kids will gobble up as the weather gets cooler.

And this one? This short cut eggplant parmesan makes me swoon because eggplant is my absolute favorite! And the fact that it has the word "shortcut" in it, makes me even happier!

The book is pleasing to read, and the pictures are so beautiful it makes you want to get cooking. The author's step by step directions are easy to follow and the ingredients for the recipes are simple to find, and most likely on hand in your kitchen. 

This is a book you do not want to miss! And, one LUCKY reader will win this SIGNED copy of her book from Girl and Her Kitchen! Fill out the rafflecopter below, keep your fingers crossed, and hope for the best-it could be YOU! 

Not a winner? Check out these sites to buy her cookbook and get reading. You will not be able to put it down! :)

...or support your local bookstore!

Now, for that recipe I promised you...

Creamy Peanut Butter Ice Cream

It is officially the last day of summer (in my head).

And, because I love all of you, I am giving you this.

Your welcome.

This is the BEST homemade ice cream recipe, I have ever had. Since I love ice cream...A LOT, I feel qualified to make that decision. I first tried this ice cream at my mom's house and fell in love. I begged her for the recipe (which she gave willingly, like all the other millions of recipes I beg from her!) and decided to make it. I was sure I could never replicate the flavor that I experienced when she made it, but I did! This is really a no fuss recipe that yields extraordinary flavor results.

The peanut butter gives the ice cream a really smooth texture and the chunks of peanut butter cups throughout, make this dessert over the top! Best part? This is extremely easy to throw together and doesn't even call for a ton of ingredients. There is no cooking and cooling (which makes ice cream taste so good, but I hate that step in other recipes!), and once all the ingredients are thrown together, you just throw it in your ice cream maker for about 30 minutes.

Happy Last Day Of Summer!

Creamy Peanut Butter Ice Cream

1 1/8 cup creamy peanut butter* 
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups whole milk** 
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped chocolate peanut butter cup candies*** 

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to combine the peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add the milk and mix on low speed until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Turn the 2 quart ice cream machine on and pour the mixture into freezer bowl. Let mix until thickened, about 25 to 35 minutes.  Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the chopped candy through the top and let mix in completely.  The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.  If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about two hours.  Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.  Makes about 14 half cup servings.
*I used the natural kind that does not need to be refrigerated--do not use the one you have to stir-the consistency will be off
*I used 2% and it was still good, but whole amps up the creaminess
**I used the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joes-so good!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Zucchini Banana Muffins

School breakfast madness preparation is here!

You know, the time of year where you may have some awesome ideas to fill your kids with healthy, nourishing, balanced breakfasts each and every morning before they head off to school? You probably planned to set their outfits out the night before and pack a creative lunch. That morning, you had decided to get up early, get showered, (maybe even work out before that??), prepare breakfast, set the IPod to some relaxing, brain stimulating music, set the table and then sit with the kids for some meaningful conversation before you send them off.

And then reality sets in. For me, it started on the first day when my alarm didn't go off.

I tried my best not to swear, since that was the opposite of what I was trying to do as this fresh, good mom. But as I looked at the time on my clock, I began to panic. Racing to the kids rooms to wake them up, I found them dressed and playing legos with each other on the floor.

Oh, okay.

Well, thank goodness THEY woke up. This could have been a total disaster! I threw on some clothes that I hoped were clean, forgoing my shower for a quick teeth brushing and face washing and raced down the stairs to get their first day of school breakfast ready.

Chocolate chip pancakes, bacon and strawberries was not too hard, or at least I thought. Isn't it funny that food you might make often with no problems, always seems to NOT work when you REALLY, REALLY need it to work? That was the case this morning as pancakes were coming out slightly over-brown and bacon was splattering everywhere. Strawberries were rotten (crap! I just bought them!), but I subbed some sliced peaches instead.

Kids barely noticed, except to take time to say how good everything was.

Oh, okay.

Off to school with their creative lunches, that gosh darn it would not fit in their lunch bags. Seriously, why didn't I test this before one. minute. to. leave.

Okay, sideways they will go, slightly shoved in. Kids were excited to go and kissed me goodbye, happily off to their first day.

Oh, okay.

Ahhhh....I see now. This is all ME. I am the one trying to go overboard here, and my kids can dress themselves, enjoy a little overcooked breakfast, and shake it off when their lunch doesn't fit perfectly in their lunch bags.

Basically what I am learning here is the mornings do not need to be crazy. Keeping easy things on hand for breakfast, packing healthy lunches and encouraging the kids to be independent is the best thing  I can do for them to have a good morning before they are off to school.

The kids love muffins and so do I. These are easy to make, packed with some healthy ingredients and absolutely delicious. Making a few huge batches and freezing these are a must to ensure easy breakfasts and little stress this day forward.

Happy Beginning of School!

Zucchini Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (canola oil may be subbed)
2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 2 medium bananas)
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups shredded zucchini, measured loosely

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and adjust baking rack to middle position. Spray a 12 cup muffin pan with non stick baking spray and set aside.  Do not use liners. These muffins are so moist, they will stick to the liners. In a large bowl, mix together sugars and oil with a handheld mixer on low. Add in milk, extract and cinnamon. Mash banana in a separate bowl and add to the sugar mixture. Mix on medium until blended together.  With mixer on low, slowly add in flour and baking powder and mix just until  combined and no dry ingredients remain. Squeeze water out of zucchini with paper towels. Fold in zucchini with a spoon and stir until all incorporated. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full and bake for about 15 minutes or until set and not overcooked. Depending on the moisture level of your zucchini, this time could vary. Check at 10 minutes and every five minutes after that until set. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and carefully remove from muffin pan. Enjoy warm or let cool completely and freeze for another time.

What is your best secret for quick, on the go breakfasts? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Coconut Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Or cake.

Because these "breads" we speak of, are really just cakes baked in a loaf pan, right?

This one, in particular, really got me. It is so good. I mean, really, really good. So good I wish I could come over and bake it for you. Besides you being totally creeped out that I was in your house using your oven, you would definitely thank me.

At some point.

I love the traditional zucchini bread recipe and will share a friend's recipe that I love soon, but I am always trying to find new and exciting ways to use zucchini. I was super happy when a friend gave me one of their gigantic garden zucchinis that I happily spent an afternoon baking as much as I possibly could using it. I used the entire thing and made four different recipes.


This one was definitely my favorite. A thick, moist slice of this cake bread was so delicious right out of the oven full of coconut flavor with dark chocolate chips oozing out. If you have zucchini and can make one recipe, this one is it.

If you don't, you are basically inviting me in to your house to bake it for you!

Coconut Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

1 3/4 cup zucchini, grated, squeezed with a paper towel to remove excess moisture
1 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
3/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup coconut or almond milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted (if you do not have this, feel free to use canola oil)
1/2 -3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (depending on how chocolate-y you want it!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Squeeze out moisture from zucchini using paper towels. Set to the side. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan with coconut oil or baking spray. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, coconut, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, vanilla and coconut extract. Slowly drizzle in coconut oil whisking vigorously until smooth and creamy. Add zucchini until coated. Add wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until wet. Pour into loaf pan and bake 50-60 minutes or until golden brown on the top and the top middle is not jiggly anymore.

What is your favorite thing to make with zucchini this time of year? Let me know in the comments below! I would LOVE to hear your ideas! 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Summer Mango Salsa

So...I am in summer ending denial.

What? You have never heard of it? Okay, let me set the scene. Your kids go back to school SUPER early. No, like really early. Like the kind of early that you are second guessing if you wrote the correct date on your calendar because there is NO way you could possibly start school this early.

But, it is true. And...if school is starting, that obviously means summer is over. Right? Right.

But, I refuse to let it happen. I am in summer ending denial. I am feeding my children popsicles all the time. I am setting up the sprinkler and forcing them in, even though the temps have dipped below seventy in the last few days. We are grilling out more than we have in the whole summer. And let me assure you, we are eating outside since that is what you do IN THE SUMMER.

And then, this salsa. This salsa really makes it feel like summer. Fresh mangoes, colorful splashes of bright color all coming together to make the most delicious salsa you could possibly imagine.

This salsa recipe was given to me by a friend. She even made it for us and it was ah-mazing! She gave me the recipe. I lost it. She gave it to me again. Um.

So... I just improvised with what I remember about it (yeah, I lost the recipe again), and although I don't think it was the exact same as the one she gave me, this one was really delicious too!

Intrigued? Check out the recipe at Little Lake County and whip up a batch to rebel against the end of summer!