Cookbook Review: So Easy by Ellie Krieger

Cookbooks are some of my favorite books.  Even though you can find so many recipes online these days, there is something exciting about leafing through a cookbook, looking at the pictures, seeing the splatters on the much loved pages, and picking out a recipe for the day that is intrinsically appealing to me. I am a Food Network lover but have found that so many of the recipes are not healthy.  They are loaded with saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar.  This isn’t true of all of the recipes, but a fair portion of them are this way.  Ellie Krieger, who became well known after her show on Food Network Healthy Appetite, is different.  She is a registered dietician with a master’s degree in nutrition from Teacher’s College, Columbia University (Ellie Krieger Bio).  So you know that the recipes she provides are going to be well balanced and include lots of colors and nutrients.  She isn’t a big fan of packaged products, but is a big fan of healthy eating made easy. With a toddler at home, a husband who works outside the home, and too many commitments of my own we need easy, fast, and delicious meals. So Easy: Luscious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Week delivers.  The cookbook begins with an explanation of nutrition as well as what the general breakdown of fat, protein, carbs, etc. should be in a typical 2000 calorie diet.  Ellie emphasizes that you don’t need to count every little calorie, gram of protein, or carb however.  She emphasizes eating lots of fruits and veggies, eating lean proteins, and making sure your plate is colorful. After this informative intro she goes on to provide a list of suggested items for your pantry.  I have a fairly well-stocked pantry and find that I agree with her suggestions.  They keep my options open during the week if I suddenly decide I want to deviate from our weekly plan and make weekly shopping simple. All of this information is great, but you may be wondering about the recipes.  A lot of times when you see “healthy” and “recipe” together all that comes to mind is BLAND.  The recipes in this cookbook are well-seasoned and flavorful.  They range from really simple – cheddar-apple quesadilla with only three ingredients – to spaghetti frittata with salad presto.  It doesn’t matter your level of cooking competence, you can easily...
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Transforming your favorite cold weather comfort foods

I don’t know about you, but as the weather turns colder I crave comfort foods.  Those foods that warm your whole body from the inside out and the outside in.  The foods that make you think of warmth, that smell warm, and that are warm.  Unfortunately, I struggle with making sure I am adopting healthy comfort foods.  I think about crock pot spaghetti sauce, holiday cookies warm from the oven, hot chocolate (usually in combination with those warm cookies from the oven), homemade soups, calzones, and the list could go on.  These foods, the way I traditionally make them, are not very healthy.  They often lead to overeating and a general feeling of “ugh!” afterward. I would like to share with you a couple of the strategies that I use to prevent that “ugh!” feeling while still getting the comfort food effect I crave in the colder months. Swap a high fat meat for a leaner source of protein.  I make spaghetti sauce in the crock pot using my mother-in-law’s recipe.  It calls for ground beef, canned tomatoes, onion, green pepper, bay leaf, tomato paste, garlic, and oregano.  I typically make a double batch and we freeze half for another week.  This is my husband’s favorite meal and we always overeat.  Recently I have started switching out the ground beef for ground white turkey.  The result is just as filling, just as comforting, but uses a leaner meat. Opt for “No salt added” products.  When we are adding products such as canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and stock to our meals we always make sure to use the “no salt added” version to control the sodium.  While the Sahara Desert is often quite warm, if your mouth and body feel like the Sahara Desert you will not be feeling very comforted after your meal.  Too much sodium, particularly right before bed will lead to a lot of water consumption during the night and probably multiple trips to the restroom (which means getting out of your nice warm bed) as a result.  I feel like this rule is more important in the winter months since so many more of our typical meals include some sort of stock or canned tomatoes.  By using “no salt added” products you can control the sodium content of your food and salt to taste if you choose to do so.  Obviously one of the best options...
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Cannellini Bean Brownies

If you have spent any time with me at all, you know that I LOVE chocolate.  In particular, I LOVE brownies, they hold a special place in my heart (but that is another story).  I needed a healthier option than the boxed brownies you can pick up at the store – but it still had to be easy.  This recipe actually has some nutrients, can be made with stuff I keep in my pantry, and takes care of my brownie cravings. You may recognize this recipe from the Dessert Competition.  A version of this recipe submitted by Upstate BirthNetwork, from Chocolate Covered Katie, tied for second place.  I found out by necessity (my craving for brownies crept up on me) that you can swap out the black beans for cannellini beans with nearly identical results.  So here, you go brownie lovers! Ingredients: 1 1/2C cannellini beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well) (250g after draining) 2T cocoa powder- dutch or regular (10g) (add a little extra if desired) 1/2C quick oats (40g) 1/4t salt 1/3C pure maple syrup or agave (Honey will work, but not for strict vegans.) (75g) 2 nunaturals stevia packs or 2 tbsp sugar (or omit and increase maple syrup to 1/2 cup) 1/4C coconut or vegetable oil (40g) 2t pure vanilla extract 1/2t baking powder 1/2C to 2/3C chocolate chips (115-140g) (Not optional. Omit at your own risk.) Optional: more chips, for presentation Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients except chips in a good food processor, and blend until completely smooth. Really blend well. (A blender can work if you absolutely must, but the texture—and even the taste—will be much better in a food processor.) Stir in the chips, then pour into a greased 8×8 pan. Optional: sprinkle extra chocolate chips over the top. Cook 15-18 minutes, then let cool at least 10 minutes before trying to cut. Makes 9-12 GLUTEN-FREE brownies. Notes: The original recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie, and the one that earned second place in the Dessert Competition calls for black beans rather than cannellini beans.  I didn’t have enough black beans to make black bean burgers for dinner AND make the brownies last week so I had to substitute cannellini beans in the brownies.  Terrific results! I have used rolled oats when I didn’t have any quick oats.  You will probably not get as smooth of...
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Dessert Competition R&R (Results and Recipes)

On February 2, 2013 we had a dessert competition at Natural Baby to benefit Greer Relief food bank.  We had a great turnout, ate some yummy desserts, and raised some money for Greer Relief.  First prize went to Brittany Clark for her blackberry cake.  It was truly delectable!  Emily and Curtis Snyder and Upstate BirthNetwork tied for second place.  The Snyders submitted their chocolate peanut butter cookie bites and Upstate BirthNetwork brought some wonderful black bean brownies. A special thank you to Natural Baby for donating the space for this event.  Thank you to Earth Fare and Charleston Cooks! for donating prizes! Here are the recipes that we had the opportunity to taste: Winner: Blackberry Cake (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook) Ingredients: Nonstick Cooking Spray 1C blackberries 1C + 2T All Purpose Flour 1/2C Sugar 1t Baking Powder 1/4C Butter, melted 2 Eggs 2t Vanilla 8oz Plain Fat Free Yogurt 1 1/2t finely shredded Cutie peel Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat 9 in springform pan w/cooking spray; set aside. In a bowl combine 1 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, and baking powder. Add melted butter, 1 egg and 1 tsp of vanilla; stir until combined. Spread onto bottom of prepared pan; sprinkle w/blackberries. In another medium bowl, combine yogurt, 1/4C sugar, 1 egg, 2T flour, cutie peel and 1t vanilla. Stir until smooth and pour over berries. Bake in 350 F oven for 35 min or until center appears set when shaken gently. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 min. Loosen and remove sides of pan. Cool completely. Cover and chill for 2-4 hrs before serving. Second Place Tie: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Bites Ingredients: 1 1/4C Soaked Garbanzo Beans 2t Vanilla Extract 1/2C + 2T creamy peanut butter 1/4C Honey 1t Baking Powder 1/2C Chocolate Chips Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine all ingredients. Form into tablespoon-size balls and bake at 350 F for 10 minutes Second Place Tie: Black Bean Brownies (www.chocolatecoveredkatie.com) Ingredients: 1 1/2C black beans (1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed very well) (250g after draining) 2T cocoa powder- dutch or regular (10g) (add a little extra if desired) 1/2C quick oats (40g) (See nutrition facts link below for all substitution notes.) 1/4t salt 1/3C pure maple syrup or agave (Honey will work, but not for strict vegans.) (75g) 2 nunaturals stevia packs or 2 tbsp sugar...
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Dessert Competition on February 2!

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and that means yummy desserts!  Do you want to make a special dessert this year that everyone will love? Even Dr. Sears says that desserts are ok once a week.  So let’s have a dessert competition to get some new ideas, show off your own great creations, and help a local food bank restock their pantry.  The competition will take place on February 2 from 11am-2pm at I Love Natural Baby (11 College Street Greenville, SC 29601). Rules Here’s the catch, there are some rules about the ingredients in your dessert.  In this challenge you are being asked to submit a healthier dessert (as many as you wish).  The dessert may be sweet or savory, but there are a couple of rules that you must follow: The dessert must contain at least one(1) fruit or vegetable.  If you are not using a frozen fruit or vegetable there can’t be any added sugar in the product. There must be less than 2t (8g) of added sugar/sweetener per serving.  Natural sugars from fruits and vegetables do not count toward this limit.  See the chart below for conversions.  Although I will not count sugars in packaged products (e.g., cream cheese) please try to limit the refined sugar in your dessert in the spirit of the competition. No high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors or flavorings, or hydrogenated oils may be used or be present in any component of your recipe.   How to Enter Entrants must submit their recipe(s) no later than January 28 February 1 at 11:59pm to: Sign Up Here If your submission doesn’t meet the requirements listed above you will be notified via email by January 30.   You will be given the option to submit an updated recipe or to withdraw your submission. that is ok! On February 2 you must deliver your submission(s) by 10:45am.  Please bring enough for 25 tasting size portions (just a bite or two per portion).  We will take care of serving up the dessert into bite size portions if you don’t have the time to take care of that. The event will open to everyone at 11am.  If you arrive early (or have just dropped off your dessert), please feel free to shop while you wait for the doors to open!   Judging & Prizes Attendees will judge the entries.  Each attendee will receive 5 tickets...
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