Everyday Life, Reviews, Saturday Cooking

Cooking and Coronavirus

Hey readers! What are you up to these in these strange days? As a homeschooling parent, this new normal didn’t seem all that different to me at first. Now, after weeks of no events or family/friends or even parks, plus never being able to find bread in the supermarket, it’s getting real! But we are healthy and happy at home, and remembering that this is temporary, even if it already feels like it’s gone on too long. And it’s spring, so hurrah!

Oddly enough, just when I should be posting the most about books that you finally have time to read, what I’ve been reading is…cookbooks. Womp, womp. If you know me at all, this may surprise you because meal prep is not my fave. As different types of people go, I’m the type who does not think about what they’ll eat for dinner when they wake up in the morning. That is why I need cookbooks so desperately– to get me thinking about what food to buy and what to do with it. Like it or not, food preparation is a big part of life with a family of six who eats three meals a day at home, even in the best of times! So here are some cookbook reviews for you. (Psst: I always check out cookbooks from the library before I purchase them!)

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes – I adore this cookbook. I haven’t bough it yet, but when I borrowed it and made some recipes over the holidays, I felt as legit as Mary Berry. Of course, you can’t really make these breads in five minutes–can you do anything in the kitchen in five minutes?– but you can make a big batch of basic types of dough in say, twenty-thirty minutes. The idea is to have dough in the fridge, ready to go, and then at baking time, you pull off a chunk of dough for a specific recipe and have that bread ready pretty quickly. I did two of the recipes and can’t wait to do more! Swedish Tea Ring, anyone? Putting this one on my birthday list in June may look a little strange based on the “holiday” title…but I’m doing it. Five stars, even if it does have “5 minutes” in the title. [I take issue with any cookbook with “minutes” in the title. 30 minute meals? A myth. Every dinner takes me an hour. From the minute I turn the light on in the kitchen to dinner on the table, it’s always an hour, even when it’s just leftovers. I can’t explain it. I guess I could blame the four kids interrupting…]

Magnolia Table – This is the cookbook I wish had been out when I was a newlywed. I didn’t know how to make so many home-cooked favorites that my husband enjoyed, and the Joy of Cooking and Southern Living cookbooks I got for wedding presents assumed I already knew a lot. This cookbook has pictures and instructions on even certain brands to buy, and everything I’ve made has turned out beautifully. If you’re assuming it’s all fried chicken and biscuits, there are more than just Southern cooking recipes included, as Joanna Gaines has Korean, Tex-Mex, and other influences in her culinary tastes. Still, you’re not going to stay svelte eating out of this book for long (how does she do it??). The dessert section is enormous. But once a week or so, an entree or treat out of this collection will thrill your family (and yourself). After getting this cookbook from the library, I bought it as fast as you can say “fluffy pancakes,” and I’m using it several times a week. Five stars from me and everyone else in my household.

Healthyish – I checked this one out from the library in the fall and then put it on my Christmas list and lucky me, got it! It includes a lot of recipes that only require a few ingredients, similar to Real Simple Magazine recipes. I like that the recipes are doable and nourishing, without swinging all the way into “eat this, not that” rules. My only downside is my family hasn’t loved the recipes I’ve made out of it as much as I have. Four stars.

Smoothie Project – We eat a lot of smoothies here, but also get in ruts with the combinations and flavors, and that’s why this book has been so great. I appreciate that there are ideas for healthy but optional add-ins (ex: collagen). The best thing about it is my ten-year-old grabbed this off the library stack and ran with it. She made “Nice Cream” and marked a bunch of other recipes to copy for her recipe book. Lesson learned: kids can make smoothie recipes. Game changer! Four stars.

A Homemade Life – Part cookbook, part memoir, and very reminiscent in style to Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine. However, I give Bread and Wine 5 stars and this one 2. The writing is descriptive and nostalgic, but these recipes are pretty hard, require ingredients I don’t have on hand, and the memoir selections were not really my cup of tea, either. Sadly, I liked the theme of the book better than the actual book itself. One star.

The Laura Lea Balanced Cookbook – I love reading this cookbook and the recipes look great…but I haven’t tried anything out of it yet. Some of the ingredients are unfamiliar to me (tamari?) and I don’t have things on hand like coconut sugar or tahini. But really, I think I can make good use of it if I take the plunge and buy a few of the staples Laura Lea uses in this book to make familiar recipes in a healthier form. It would be great for anyone trying to go gluten free without completely changing the kind of meals you usually enjoy. No stars yet.

In addition to these new cookbooks, my go-to’s remain The Whole30 Cookbook because it is delicious, the Damn Delicious website (she has a cookbook out now that I need to check out, too!), and Moe’s To Go. Wait, what? I meant Mom’s recipe cards, not Moe’s To Go! Did I say Moe’s? I did not mean Moe’s…or Marco’s…

See you soon for an update on novels and children’s literature! Follow me on Goodreads for real time updates and book reviews. Happy reading and cooking and whatever else you do to stay sane in a crazy world!

Cocoa Cashew Truffles, Everyday Life, Saturday Cooking, Whole30

Cocoa Cashew Truffles {Whole30 Survival Food}

I’m on Day 16 of my second Whole30. (Because I am insane, thanks for asking). Honestly, after many months of eating whatever was easiest amidst our home renovations, I needed a reset. And it has been awesome! Except for the chocolate cravings. Enter these little guys. I know, I know, this is totally “not in the spirit” of the Whole30.  Seriously, though, these can be the difference between falling off the wagon and making it to Day 14. Besides, the logic here is skewed. The  Whole30 book gives us recipes for sodas to help fight our soda cravings, but when it comes to chocolate cravings, we’re left out in the cold? Well. That just doesn’t seem fair.

When I did the Whole30 the first time, a friend warned me about the chocolate withdrawals and sent me this recipe in case of an emergency. It didn’t really work for me, but I thought it was a great idea, so I made up my own.

 5a37baca7d52322814961d4cd9745261Cocoa Cashew Truffles

1 cup pitted dates

1 cup cashews

1/2 cup almond butter

4-5 Tbsps. cocoa (no sugar added, remember!)

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 1 minute, or until you can take a pinch of the mixture and it holds together. Scoop out little bits at a time and mold them into balls. Make yourself only eat one or two and put the rest in the ‘fridge or freezer. Go on with your Whole30 without biting anyone’s head off or weeping incessantly.

I have no idea if these are any good when you’re not doing a Whole30, but I’m guessing they are since two out of three of my children devoured the one each I allowed them. Not because I’m a good mom who limits sweets, but because they have Tootsie Rolls and I have nothing but these things.

Still worried you might gorge yourself too much and awaken your “sugar dragon?” This recipe is easily halved. And the freezer is your friend.

Happy Chocolating!

Need more Saturday Coooking posts? Click here! Because a person cannot live on books alone. 

Everyday Life, Saturday Cooking

Simple and Creamy Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

This is absolutely the recipe I have missed the most during our Whole30. It’s the easiest hot breakfast ever, my whole family gobbles it up, and it’s healthy! I’ll be making this Saturday morning when our Whole30 is over (with almond milk, so as not to throw our systems into shock just yet…). I’m sharing it today in honor of National Oatmeal Day (is that really a thing? apparently it is).

A lot of baked oatmeal recipes will give you a drier, more bread-like pan of oatmeal that you can cut into bars. This is a creamy recipe that you will want to scoop into a bowl, which is more comforting somehow. It’s awesome for winter, but we make it all year round. My kids love to take their bowls of creamy oatmeal to the play house on bright summer mornings.

Ingredients:

2 cups of old fashioned oats

1.5 cups of milk

1.5 cups of water

1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries

3-4 Tbsps of brown sugar

1 tsp of cinnamon

Here’s all you do: dump all the ingredients into your 9×9 or thereabouts baking dish, stir it all together, bake it for 15-20 minutes at 350. Seriously, you don’t even have to wait for the oven to preheat, though it’s a good idea to turn it on first thing. I check on mine around the ten minute mark and add a little more milk or water if it’s looking too dry for our liking.

And that’s it! Creamy blueberry oatmeal for everyone. This recipe serves our family of two adults and three small children with no leftovers. I need to start doubling it! It’s pretty good leftover, too, heated in the microwave with just a little extra milk to keep it moist. Mmmm….I can’t wait til Saturday.

Everyday Life, Reviews, Saturday Cooking

The Whole30 – Our Review {Saturday Cooking On A Wednesday}

As mentioned in this post, I’ve been poring over The Whole30: The Thirty Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom a lot over the last few weeks. Today, my husband and I have reached Day 28 (justtwomoredays!!!!) of our Whole30 experience.

What is The Whole30?

It’s thirty day period of taking everything out of your diet but fresh meat, vegetables, fruits, eggs, and some nuts. That is all you eat for 30 days. It’s along the the lines of paleo, but with a different theory and intention. The theory isn’t that we should eat like this because our ancestors ate like this, or even that we should always eat like this. The theory is that what we put in our body effects us and wouldn’t it be a good idea to figure out how the stuff we eat makes us feel? Maybe you have zero problems with dairy, or maybe you’ll find you actually have an intolerance. Maybe you’ve been eating way more processed grains than you realized, or that your diet is a lot further from “natural” than you would have thought. (Maybe I’m speaking from experience…). Oh, and it’s very likely you’re addicted to sugar. And it’s also likely that your body is completely hooked on sugars as an energy source instead of using fats .That’s the number one reason why I did this program, in fact. I reached for some form of sugar, be it unhealthy sweets or “wholesome” granola bars, pretty much any time I was hungry.

But really, the reason we got to this point where we decided to do something that makes everyone who knows us think we’re lunatics is that we wanted to get our indulgences under control. We’d spent years eating whatever dessert was available, whatever meal was easiest to make on a rough day, etc. It was time for a change, and how hard could it be to do this for 30 days?

So, how’d it go?

There were some great times and some hard times! I was extremely tired at first. Melissa Hartwig and Dale Hartwig write in their book that we have trained our bodies at a cellular level to use energy from the sugar we eat instead of the fat we eat or store. I was kind of skeptical about this, but when I felt how tired I was on about Day 3, I decided, “Yes. I am tried on a cellular level right now.” And then around Day 6, I felt a steady energy, much different than the kind of energy swings I had been experiencing. Other than better energy, losing an inch or two, and feeling pretty good overall, my husband and I did not make any amazing discoveries about what foods affect us negatively. Our bodies seem quite happy with wheat and dairy! In fact, since about Day 25, we’ve been feeling the pendulum swing from too much wheat in our diet to not enough. Our bodies need some grains!

I was very hopeful that my complexion would improve on this program, but alas, it all seems to be unrelated to what I eat. On the bright side, no guilt about chocolate. =)

How About The Recipes?

I’m really glad I bought the Whole30 book, because many of the recipes are keepers! We will keep eating menu items like Chicken Cacciatore, Harvest Grilled Chicken, Salad, and the beef brisket recipe found in the book. The salmon recipes we tried from the book were not our favorites. It’s our humble opinion that salmon needs some kind of sweetness in the marinade or sauce to take it from “meh” to delicious. We also were not fans of two of the breakfast recipes we tried that I found on Pinterest: Cauliflower Sausage Casserole (the smell was one of the worst smells ever! I ate it a few times, but my husband hated it and we won’t be making that again.) and Breakfast Pumpkin Custard (it was icky). This online recipe for Greek Meatballs was awesome, though! And we discovered we actually like sweet potatoes, though not as a sweet dish but a savory side dish.

While we’re on the topic of recipes, I would just like to say that the absolute hardest part of The Whole30 was all the cooking you must do in order to eat. You cook at every meal, or you cook lots at once and eat leftovers. You may find a few convenience foods like a rotisserie chicken, but even those often have some added sugar in the rub or marinade. So, if you do not cook, you’re going to need another kind of plan for getting jump started on healthy eating. We all know that homemade is best, but not all of us are there yet.

What’s Next?

The Whole30 has lots of benefits, but what we are most excited about is the re-wiring our habits have gone through. Where we once ate mostly carbs for breakfast, we now eat eggs. (And eggs. And eggs). We’re planning on adding oatmeal back into our normal routines right away, but we also plan to keep the majority of our breakfasts protein-based. For snacks we used to grab crackers or whatever the kids were eating, but now I reach for nuts or fruit. And we haven’t eaten this many vegetables per day in our whole lives!

I will tell you this though: as soon as I wake up on Day 31, I’m grabbing the half and half and enjoying some creamy coffee! The almond milk has grown on me, but it’s still not cutting it.  So the plan going forward is to keep our new good habits, but allow ourselves flour tortillas with our fajitas, and some cheese in our scrambled eggs, and see what happens.

Have you done the Whole30 before? Thinking about it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For other food related posts from Miathereader.com, click on over here!

Reading, Reviews, Saturday Cooking

Saturday Cooking, Banana Muffins Edition

After reading What Alice Forgot a few weeks ago, I decided to catch up on Liane Moriarty’s other books. I read Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret one after the other, but they both pale in comparison to What Alice Forgot and I don’t really recommend either of them. Moriarty knows how to set down a good plot and mix in some really great characters, but the language gets a lot rougher in her latest two books. There are some great themes that add some redeeming value to these books, like working hard on making a good marriage and eschewing busyness and the performance driven life, but usually the conclusions drawn by the end of the book don’t line up with my values. Good discussion can come of it, though I wouldn’t say that redeems it enough for me to recommend these books to friends.

Banana Muffins II RecipeBut I would recommend something else from Moriarty and that is this: make some banana muffins. They are mentioned in every single book I’ve read by her, and especially focused on in What Alice Forgot as the pinnacle of comfort food.  When I saw some nearly rotten bananas in my kitchen last week, I decided to make banana muffins without even realizing why I wanted to until later. But really, it’s perfect because it takes so much less time than banana bread, which is my go-to course of action when I have expiring bananas.

If you decide to make some, this is the recipe you should make. It is delicious. It’s not a low fat recipe, though, so you may want to make some tweaks if you’re going for a healthified muffin. I followed the recipe exactly except for changing out the white flour for whole wheat and leaving out the nuts because half of our family would rather starve than eat a walnut. I think next time I’ll use less sugar. And by next time, I mean tomorrow. They are so good.

What’s cooking in your kitchen this Saturday?



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