Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide review + giveaway!

One of my all-time favorite food bloggers {and mom extraordinaire}, Sally, just released her "Cooking Light's Dinnertime Survival Guide"… and it's fabulous

Oh, and in case you were wondering if Sally is as cute, peppy and knowledgeable in person as she is in the pages of this cookbook? She is. But, of course, I had to try several of the recipes to make sure they were as awesome as the ones on her blog, Real Mom Nutrition. As you may recall, we have a bit of a mutual love-fest going on. She loves my make-ahead meals, and I love her RD expertise, coupled with her real life, simple solutions to getting dinner on the table, since she's a super busy mom like all of us. 

Deciding which recipe to try first was the hardest part. 

I ran a few by my kids, and we gave the "Black Bean Soup" {page 235} a whirl first. After all, it was Cinco de Mayo….

Gotta love those recipes that take mere minutes to make...

dump this in, dump that in… give it a stir...

add some veggie broth… pop the lid on….

and voila! Or, "ole!" might be more apropos in this case.

Yum. So easy, and everyone loved it. 

Next up? A few friends were raving about the "Peanut Butter-Coconut Chicken Fingers" {page 122). I like recipes that only have a few ingredients, and this one fit the bill. The outer coating is a mixture of panko breadcrumbs, unsweetened coconut and ginger.

And before you roll it in that crispy coating, you simply dip the chicken tenders into a blend of coconut milk, eggs, and in my case, almond butter.

I doubled the batch, knowing this was a meal that would reheat well. Oh, and I also baked them instead of sautéing or pan-frying them. To go this route, simply spray your rimmed baking sheet with your choice of cooking oil and bake them at 425 until cooked through, about 10 minutes, flipping them halfway.

Another winner!

Then tonight, I had a request, by my one child who is currently {and maybe forever} vegetarian, for a hearty meatless meal. It was a drizzly and gray spring day here in CT, so a perfect night to give the comforting "Curried Carrots and Lentils" {page 75} a test drive.

I usually have carrots in the fridge and lentils in the pantry, making this one of those great "what can I make for dinner with what I have on hand" recipes. I made a few modifications: three cloves of garlic {instead of one}, no ground red pepper {trying to keep it tame}, and smoked paprika instead of sweet paprika {which I highly recommend-- it gave the dish even more depth}.

Oh, and I used veggie broth instead of water, added a whole quart instead of 3 1/2 cups of water…and I added everything to the pot instead of taking things out and adding them back in {because I believe in shortcuts… and because I'm not very good at following directions on recipes}.

This is another one of those "bonus hour" dinners, where it's got to do its' thing for about a 1/2 hour…

and if I didn't have 1st grade reading homework to oversee, I might have used that cooking time to kick back and read a magazine. But it was nice to be able to offer my undivided attention tonight.

The verdict? My vegetarian-leaning son said it was "delicious!", my self-proclaimed "meatatarian" son said, "yum, it tastes like it has sausage in it" {thank you smoked paprika}, and my husband kept making cracks about us now having "Meatless Thursdays" but you'll note that all the bowls were basically licked clean... 

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that yours truly has a mention in the cookbook too! Check out page 37 for one of my freezer tricks. 

And {drum roll}, as a thank you for being a part of her cookbook, Sally has given me a copy to share with one of my readers. To be entered to win, please leave a comment below letting me know why you need this book! For a second chance to win, "like" Real Mom Nutrition on Facebook, and leave me a comment letting me know you've done so! A lucky winner will be chosen on Monday, May 12, 2014 at 8am Eastern Time by May the most desperate mom win! {Just kidding.}

Please note: I was sent a complimentary copy of the book to review, but all opinions are my own. I wouldn't tell you it's great if I didn't really think so! 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

make-ahead breakfast idea: gluten-free blueberry-almond baked french toast casserole in honor of celiac awareness month

In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, I recently adapted one of our family's favorite make-ahead brunch recipes to make it gluten-free.

Made with just a few ingredients: a loaf of gluten-free bread, 2-3 cups of blueberries, a cup of nuts {optional}, some citrus zest {optional, but adds nice flavor}, 8 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of your choice of milk {dairy, soy, coconut, almond}, cinnamon and vanilla, I love this recipe because it can be assembled before you have guests over… or baked and then tucked in the fridge for a delicious breakfast you can reheat on busy weekdays. Click here to grab the recipe for Gluten-Free Blueberry-Almond Baked French Toast Casserole that I recently shared with our local market.

When gluten is not an issue, I like making it with LaBrea's Pecan-Raisin bread, so Udi's Guten-Free Cinnamon Raisin bread was a great substitution, but it is equally good with Udi's Gluten-Free Whole Grain loaf as well.

Yes, he wanted to help...

You'll know it's cooked through when a butter knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve with a drizzle of good maple syrup. Mmm. Perfection.

Hope your family likes this recipe as much as mine does! Click here for the recipe if you'd like to pin or bookmark it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Community Plates: fighting hunger… right here in Fairfield County, CT

Like many of you, I am fortunate that I can run into our local supermarkets and load my car up with nourishing food so I can feed my family well, even on the busiest of days. And, while I have mastered the art of "re purposing leftovers" to cut down on our personal food waste, I never really thought about what happens to all of the unsaleable {e.g.: past due date}-- but still fresh and usable-- foods leftover in our local markets and restaurants. What you see above is one day's worth of unsaleable food, graciously donated by Trader Joe's Darien, CT store… which I was driving down the road and dropping at Person-to-Person's food bank.  And below, another day, another car load going between Trader Joe's Darien and New Covenant House in Stamford, CT.

How did I come to fill my SUV to the gills with all of that amazing food? Simple: Community Plates matches volunteer "food runners" {like me; like you--hint! hint!} with generous food donors {local supermarkets/restaurants} and very, very appreciative recipients of this food {shelters/soup kitchens/food banks}. It is so easy to volunteer. Simply sign up to be a food runner and you'll get access to an online schedule that shows all of the open "food runs" in your area. Show up ready to hoist a few crates or bags into your car, drive a few miles down the road to unload them-- and voila. You have made a difference. A huge one. You can do as many or as few runs as you'd like. Whatever fits your schedule.

In addition to current Fairfield County, CT food runs in Norwalk, Rowayton, Stamford, Darien, Westport, Fairfield, Danbury, and Greenwich, rumor has it that a few new daily runs might be popping up in New Canaan between both Walter Stewart's Market and Mrs. Green's Market, in addition to the weekly donations that come from Elm, so even more food runners will be needed! Please consider being a food runner. It's so easy.

Plus, just think about how much time all of us moms already spend driving to and from these towns on our normal errand circuit… add in a single food run every week or two-- or even just every once in a while-- and just think about the difference you could make in a family's mealtimes.  Need more convincing? Before we did our first run, I watched this video with my son. This was where we were going to be delivering that car load of crates above. Powerful, hmm?

And you're probably wondering what was in all of those crates too… I mean, is it really worth the time to be a food runner?

Look at all of this amazing food that would have gone to waste...

Instead, it was donated-- and because of volunteer "food runners"-- a family who might be going through a tough time had access to the same nourishing foods I take for granted.

 So, please, join me as a food runner. Click here to sign up or learn more.

Let's fill our trunks, and help fill the bellies and hearts of the food insecure right here in our community.

To see if Community Plates is organizing food runs in your area, click here.