I was really excited when Skyhorse Publishing offered me a review copy of Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking, Nicole Morrissey’s first cookbook.
I’ve been reading PreventionRD.com for years and have made tonnes of her recipes in the past (like this Spinach and Goat Cheese Rolled Omelette or this Slow Cooker Navy Bean Soup) and they’re all recipes that I make over and over again.
Keep in mind that Nicole and I are Internet friends (and there was that one time last month that we met IRL too), so this review may be biased, but I’ll try to be as honest as I can.
I made 3 recipes from the book– Buttermilk Ranch Dressing, Pesto Mashed Potato Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms, and Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Spinach. I tried to follow the recipes as written so I could get an accurate review but I admittedly made a few adjustments.
I was a fan of the Light Buttermilk Ranch (I made it twice!). I’d encourage you to stick with the recommended Greek yoghurt; I used regular plain yoghurt and it wasn’t as creamy as it should have been. The flavour was great though– much better than any bottled dressing.
Matt and I really enjoyed the Pesto Mashed Potato Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms. I liked the tip of scooping out the gills of the mushrooms before filling them. You get a lot more pesto mashed potatoes that way and that filling is damn good. I whipped the potatoes with a hand blender so they were super smooth and luxurious. I followed the recipe exactly but I had quite a bit of filling left over (not complaining) and I think I could have gotten another 2 mushroom caps with it.
The Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Spinach was our favourite of the recipes I’ve made so far. It had a great tartness from the lemon that made it feel light and summery, but it was hearty enough to be a meal on its own. I might have unhealthified it by swapping the olive oil for schmaltz (ie. rendered chicken fat). Sorry Nicole! But I did use (sodium free!) homemade chicken broth.
I liked how simple all the recipes were. Most recipes only had a handful of steps which were very intuitive anyway. I probably could have guessed the directions just by looking at the recipe name and ingredient list. I like that because I do this anyway with a lot of cookbooks, and also because it makes the recipes really accessible to people who are new to healthy cooking.
I liked the healthy icons that told you at a high level whether a recipe was high in fibre or heart healthy or vegan, etc. Nutritional information is provided for each recipe which takes away the guesswork for people tracking calories or macronutrients.
I would have liked to see an index at the back of the book pointing me to recipes by ingredients. I use indices often when I have an ingredient and want to find a recipe for it.
Aesthetically the book is great. It’s easy to read and well laid out. I noticed the balance of a few of the photos seemed a bit off in a way that me think there was an issue with the printing rather than the photography itself. Nicole always takes gorgeous pictures that are well-balanced and well-composed and most of the ones in the book hit the mark, except a select few.
Overall I liked the book a lot. I suspect I’ll be using it a lot for quick, easy, and healthy dinner ideas.
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup with Spinach
as printed in Prevention RD’s Everyday Healthy Cooking
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 med onion, chopped
4 carrots, halved lengthwise and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
12 c low sodium chicken broth
1 lb rotisserie chicken meat
8 oz orzo pasta
1/2 c fresh lemon juice (~2 lemons)
zest of 1 lemon
black pepper, to taste
8 oz baby spinach
In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, heat il on medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until vegetables begin to soften and onion becomes translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or so. Add bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and pepper. Cook for another 30 seconds or so and add broth. Bring to a boil then partially cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are just soft, approximately 5-6 minutes.
Add pasta, lemon juice, and zest. Stir. Simmer 7-8 minutes.
Add cooked chicken. Allow to heat through. Stir in baby spinach and allow it to wilt in hot broth. Remove bay leaf, and serve.
Yield: 8 servings, (2c each)
Nutritional Information (per serving):
246 calories, 2g fat, 47mg cholesterol, 214mg sodium, 31g carb, 3.6g fibre, 24.5g protein3 Comments
I really like America’s Test Kitchen because they let you in on all sorts of culinary tips and tricks that, when implemented, work really well. It’s comforting knowing that they did a number of tests to find the best results for a recipe.
I found this little granola-making trick on America’s Test Kitchen and recently implemented it. It results in a nice, chunky granola with big clusters (which are, let’s be honest, the best part of any granola).
Most granola recipes call for regular stirring while the granola bakes, but this one is quite different.
The Process for Chunky Granola with Big Clusters
Step 1: Press down the granola mixture into a baking sheet creating a compact layer.
Step 2: Bake the granola without stirring, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
Step 3: Once the sheet of granola has cooled, break it up into pieces.
Basically you’re making granola bars and then breaking them up into granola. And it works like a charm.
I used the technique on this granola recipe and it turned out to be the chunkiest granola ever. Take notes my friends, because this process is a winner.
My hair is now purple. Not purple-ish but purple purple. I highlighted it this weekend and I love it. It’s pretty far out but I’ve already gotten compliments from total strangers so it must not be terrible. Now I’ll just have to learn how to ignore the old people who stare.
The Decadent makes a mean chocolate chip cookie spread. When I saw this in the Zehrs flyer I shouted “Decadent* Cookie Spread?!?!?!!!” but no one around seemed to share my enthusiasm. I promptly purchased it and went on to eat the entire jar of chocolatey spread with cookie crunch in precisely 3 days. So, yeah, it’s good. Not quite as good as speculaaspasta, but at least as good as nutella.
*Sidebar for my US readers: The Decadent is probably the best store-bought chocolate chip cookie you’ll ever find. They’re like Chips Ahoy, except not shitty.
A year and a half after I got them, my orchids started blooming again! Since I have the opposite of a green thumb (a black thumb?) and kill every plant I own, this is a major victory in the life of me.7 Comments
A rep from Energy Bits sent me a free sample of their product to review recently and, since I like free stuff, I agreed.
Energy Bits are essentially tablets made of just spirulina, a micro-algae loaded with nutrients that’s been shown to prevent damage to the organs caused by toxins. According to the press release, spirulina has “the highest concentration of antioxidants and protein in the world, forty nutrients, and Omega 3” and “provides a steady stream of energy”.
They recommend taking 30 tablets prior to a workout for improved energy and endurance, or when you don’t have time to cook to stave off hunger. I sampled them in both situations.
I skipped breakfast opting for the 30 tablet dose one morning and found myself needing food only 2 hours later. So it’s enough to tie me over in a pinch, but not enough to count as a meal and not nearly as satisfying.
I took them prior to a heavy squat workout and I admittedly had a good workout that day, but whether the pills had anything to do with it, I haven’t the slightest clue.
The folks at Energy Bits tout their product as being high protein. At 64%, this is true in composition but that calculates to only 5g of protein for a 30 tablet (30 calorie) serving which isn’t much compared to a scoop of good protein powder which has 5 times that amount.
While I’ve heard great things about the health benefits of spirulina (and have used it before in powdered form in many a green smoothie), overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Energy Bits. I found taking so many tablets to be annoying and not at all satisfying. I like to eat food for it’s taste and texture and mouthfeel, in addition to its nutrients, so I’d rather have real food—or, at the very least, a protein shake—than tablets to get energy and satiety pre- or post-workout.
And, hey, if I want all the awesome nutrients from spirulina I’ll just throw a scoop of the powdered stuff into my shake.No Comments
This time last year I was feeling uncomfortable with my body and less than optimally healthy. I set a goal for myself–my waist goal– to lose 6cm from my waist.
Goal: 77cm at waist; 85cm at belly button.
Progress: (the measurements are waist/belly/weight)
Aug 15: 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/88cm/170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
May 15: 82cm/ 87cm/ 170.8lb
Jul 1: 79cm/85cm/ 164.0lb
Aug 1: 80cm/85cm.163.4lb
Sep 1: 80cm/86cm/164.4lb
So I haven’t quite hit my goal yet but I made some great progress this year and I am much happier with my body today than I was one year ago. The change isn’t drastic but that’s the point. The more slowly I change my habits the more likely I am to maintain them.
I feel stronger, more limber, healthier, and happier with how I look and feel so, for me, that’s a win.
For most of the last year my weight was hovering around 170lb and my waist was 82cm belly zone. My last update, immediately after returning from 3 a week Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) intensive, saw my weight plummet 7lbs and my measurements to drop by several centimetres. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that drop happen in July but I was very surprised that I didn’t gain it all back in the last 2 months given that I haven’t been sweating my ass off in twice daily yoga classes.
I paid a good deal of attention to my measurements since July and they fluctuated throughout the months and while I expected them to go up and stay there, they always seemed to return to the post YTT numbers.
The Start – Taken Aug 31
Halfway Through the Year – Taken Jan 28
Last Update – Taken June 30
Current – Taken Sep 1
My Game Plan:
My game plan to whittle my middle was to:
-opt for high intensity exercise
-increase my protein
-cut out white carbs
-plan out my late night snacks
-include a cheat meal every week (with dessert and/or white carbs)
How I Followed Through with my Game Plan:
Over the course of the year I slowly lost track of nearly all of the items in my game plan. Last fall I was much more diligent about following through with my original game plan, but along the way I learned some things about what works for me and changed my tune.
High intensity exercise has been awesome. This is something I did stick with (but sticking with exercise isn’t much of a challenge for me). In addition to my strength training I’ve been getting a lot of my cardio in by just lifting weights faster, which is more fun than a long run on a hamster wheel.
I started by tracking my macronutrient intake diligently and aiming for more protein, but I then found out (as I mentioned in my March and May recaps) that I function much better on a higher carb diet so I scrapped that idea.
I quickly added white carbs like bread and pasta back into my regular diet. I have made sure that they’re not dietary staples that I eat frequently at home, and so I don’t worry to much about them.
Late night snacking has really curbed. I used to nosh a lot in the evenings but now I do so less and less. I allow myself something sweet at night if I feel like it. Just the knowledge that I can basically eat what I want at night keeps any cravings away.
I eat a cheat meal or have dessert daily and try not to over-indulge on any given day. If I save it for once a week then I feel too deprived during the week and go overboard, turn my cheat meal into a craptastic free-for-all.
Going Forward . . .
I like that I have reined in my eating without being restrictive.
I like that I get regular exercise and am growing stronger all the time.
I like that I have a consistent yoga practice.
I like that I eat dessert every day.
I like how my clothes fit.
I like that I am happy with my body.
I like where I am right now and I’d like to continue doing what I’m doing just to stay here.
Waist Goal Recaps:
My Waist Goals
Waist Goals Update 1 – October 2012
Waist Goals Update 2 – November 2012
Waist Goals Update 3 – January 2013
Waist Goals Update 4 – March 2013
Waist Goals Update 5 – May 2013
Waist Goals Update 6 – June 2013 – Yoga Teacher Training edition
I just finished my 8th cycle of 5/3/1.
I can’t believe I’ve been doing this programme for 32 weeks already! That’s the longest I’ve ever stuck with any routine, so I’m clearly jiving with it. I like that the programme focuses on increasing strength in the big muli-joint lifts (squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press) but lets me play around with the other exercises that I do in addition to these lifts.
Read more about how it works here: 5/3/1 for Women
During my 3 weeks of YTT (yoga teacher training) I completely cut weightlifting out. When I got back I tried to pick up where I left off, repeating my pre-YTT loads in cycle 7 but I lost a lot of strength and failed miserably at hitting my deadlifts and squats.
So for cycle 8 I went way back to my cycle 4 loads and I’m trying to build back up from there.
Deadlift: 225lb for 3 reps
Push Press: 115lb for 4 reps
Squats: 210lb for 3 reps
Bench Press: 135lb for 4 reps
the number of repetitions that I completed for each exercise was identical to what I did back in April for cycle 4, so at least I know I scaled back properly.
For cycle 8 I went back to doing a variation of the ‘boring but big’ accessory lifts:
- the Main lift, then
- the Main lift in a different form (eg. squats + front squats, bench press + dumbbell bench press, etc), then
- 3 accessory exercises with a higher rep range (10-15)
But I find this quite boring and also I was becoming pressed to get cardio exercise in so I’m switching back to complexes and circuits that will elevate my heart rate and a get a good sweat going in just 10-20 minutes.
I think I only got one weightlifting session in during deload week. Woops!
I opted instead for more yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, and hiking sand dunes.4 Comments
On Friday Matt and I and my friend Tina loaded up the car with all of our camping gear and ample foodstuffs and headed to Southwestern Michigan.
We arrived at Warren Dunes State Park just before sundown and raced to erect our tents while we could still see them. Our friend Daniel rolled up an hour later, after having battled the stress of heavy traffic on his drive from Minneapolis.
As the sun set, Matt and I tried to hone our fire-building skills but just confirmed the fact that we really have no fire-building skills (we’ve had this problem before). It didn’t help that, by this point, it was too dark out to search the woods for kindling. It took the burning of nearly an entire Weekend Edition newspaper before finally getting some logs alight and I’m convinced that everyone uses lighter fluid or some sort of fire starter to get their fire going.
We managed to get a respectable fire going on Friday night and a better one on Saturday night (when we actually used a fire starter kit). I’m still trying to wash the smoke smell out of my hair but I’ll admit that I’m secretly hoping it lasts a little longer.
Surprisingly, Lake Michigan has really good surfing and we (or at least I) was itching to try it while we were there. I’ve never gone surfing before so I booked a lesson for the 4 of us but, naturally, there were absolutely no winds this weekend so we never got a chance to try it.
Instead we went Stand-Up Paddleboarding on Saturday morning. This was my second time doing it (the first time being a SUP Yoga class during my yoga teacher training) and it was my favourite part of the weekend. I find it really relaxing, even when I’m trying to row fast. Because you can put more of your body into it, it doesn’t feel as tiring for the arms and back as canoeing and kayaking do.
Plus I love to stand, so there’s that.
Hiking the Dunes
There are impressive sand dunes all along the west coast of Michigan and, though I’ve been to different parts of western Michigan on several occasions, I’ve never been to any of the dunes. Warren Dunes State Park is made up of a number of massive sand dunes dotting the coastline of Lake Michigan.
I’ll be honest and say I don’t like sand dunes. We climbed a few of them, one really steep one in particular, and while I loved the challenge of the climb— ie. the extreme incline coupled with the ground sinking beneath your feet so a single step is more like half a step— I mostly hate sand which is, of course, is the essence of the dunes. It’s a nuisance.
There are trails in the park that wind through the woods where the ground is firm but it seems like, ultimately, all paths lead to dunes.
They are quite impressive to see and I’m glad we got a chance to hike them, but it wasn’t my favourite thing.
We spent Saturday afternoon at the beautiful beach on Lake Michigan. The sky was clear, the sand was soft, and the water was blue. It felt a lot like a Caribbean beach with fresh water.
Unfortunately we were ill-equipped for an afternoon at the beach. Having brought no umbrellas or cabanas we were left baking in the sun which, I understand, some people actually enjoy but for me it feels a lot like torture.
I kept my clothes on most of the time to avoid getting burned which just made me hot and cranky. Luckily the water was cold and refreshing to give me some respite.
I have a philosophy of eating well while camping and I’d say we ate very well.
Tina came ready with banana pancakes, pb&j french toast, and mini quiches for our breakfasts.
Daniel provided us with a picnic of very spicy chili and sweet cornbread to refuel after our paddleboarding adventure.
We also had ample fruit like clementines, peaches, and . . . ummm. . . brandy?
Of course we didn’t forgo the campfire classic, roasted marshmallows, this weekend. On Saturday night we made s’mores and I surprised myself by only eating two even though Tina had the genius idea of using Reese peanut butter cups instead of milk chocolate.
Two s’mores is still more sugar than necessary, but I’ve been known to eat an unreasonable number at bonfire outings so I consider it an improvement.
My restraint may have been due to the fact that I was sitting next to a dietitian, Mrs. Prevention RD herself(!), whom I finally got to meet in real life. And I must say she is just as fun and bubbly as she is on her blog.
Overall I had an awesome weekend and I’m so glad that I got to go camping with good friends this summer.5 Comments
I’m looking forward to the upcoming premiere of Series 4 of my favourite show, Downton Abbey.
Last week my friend Andrea gave me The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook for my birthday and I am SO excited about it. Maybe even more for this than for the show.
The book is broken down into an ‘Upstairs’ section– dining with the Crawleys, with recipes for a full 7 course service– and ‘Downstairs’ section– dining with the service staff, with hearty no-frills recipes. I love how each recipe ties into the characters of the show and how tidbits of historical information and turn of the century etiquette are peppered throughout the book. I’m both a history nerd and a cooking enthusiast, so I find it all fascinating.
AND I’m very seriously considering hosting a Downton Abbey themed dinner party or, if that’s too ambitious, at the very least an afternoon tea.
In other British TV news, I started watching Broadchurch.
It’s a mystery about a the murder of a boy in a small coastal town and how various townspeople are related to the events of the death. It’s quite captivating so far and I’m only 3 episodes in.
I recommend it.
And following what seems to be a British theme in this blog post, I just finished reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simpson.
It’s a book about a dignified, retired army Major living in the English countryside, his relationship with a woman of Pakistani descent, and their interactions with their families and neighbours. The characters are really charming, particularly Major Pettigrew, who it written with such an extreme sense of duty and manners that it is almost comical.
Overall I really enjoyed the story, finding it elegantly humourous and really well written.5 Comments
I find when the weather is too hot (and I keep my house air conditioned as little as possible) my ice cream maker starts to warm up before the churning is finished making the ice cream come out icy. Not fun. But this temperate summer has been really good for ice cream making.
Back in July I made 3 ice creams for a cake and ice cream social at my sister’s new house. They’re all variations of recipes from Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, who, judging by my experience with her recipes, really knows her stuff. I’m almost tempted to buy her cookbook of ice cream concoctions but I’m not sure I can make room on my bookshelf for a book devoted to one very specific food.
This Lemon-Blueberry Frozen Yogurt was a HUGE hit.
It was nearly everyone’s favourite, including my cousin who claims to not like dessert (I fail to understand how this is even possible). He called it ‘gorgeous‘ upon tasting. This frozen yoghurt is made with gelatin (sorry vegetarians) which gives it this light, almost whipped, mouthfeel. Plus it’s tart and not too sweet. It’s basically a win all around.
Jeni claims to “never make frozen yogurt as a low-fat replacement for ice cream” but uses it instead to bring out the tanginess of fruit. I like her style.
For that same cake and ice cream social I made this variation of her Chocolate Ice Cream.
I have made this recipe in the past and it is so smooth and creamy with a milk chocolate-y taste that’s it’s pretty irresistible. And I don’t even like chocolate ice cream. It was my sister’s favourite.
And finally, I also made this Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream, substituting Saskatoon berries for the blackberries. I enjoyed the eccentric taste of the corn in ice cream, but this was the least popular of the three. I think only one person deemed it their favourite.
It’s a cool novelty but I don’t think I would make it again.
What I like:
I like that these ice cream recipes don’t include eggs. Most homemade ice creams have an obscene amount of eggs in them which deters me from making them. These are thickened with cornstarch or gelatin instead. It’s a cool concept.
What I don’t like:
One thing that is recommended in the recipes is to place the ice cream base in a ziploc bag and cover it with ice water to cool it down prior to churning. I always take this step out, favouring instead to make the base the day before and refrigerate it overnight. I find that when I do the whole ‘ziploc bag thing’ it gets messy and there’s a whole lot of wasted ice cream stuck to the bag afterward.6 Comments
It’s time for the next Baking Partners Challenge!
This month’s theme is World Cookies.
We all know how much I love cookies, so I was excited for this challenge. We had the option to make Dutch Speculaas (which was obviously enticing for me because they are my favourite cookie), Italian biscotti, Chinese almond cookies, or Greek kourabiethes. I decided on the kourabiethes for the simple reason that I had all the ingredients on hand.
What are a Kourabiethes?
Kourabiethes, Koo-rahb-YEH-thes, are traditional Greek shortbread cookies made with toasted almonds. They may have been imports from the Middle East because of their similarity to Iranian Qurabiya or because their crescent shape, which is said to date back to the Turkish occupation to represent the Turkish flag.
They are an integral part of important celebrations like Christmas, Easter, and weddings because they traditionally required serious effort; the butter and sugar would have been beaten together manually for over an hour!
I made these for my birthday this year and shared them with the yoga class that I taught in the park in the middle of a downpour (but luckily under a pavilion).
The miracles of modern technology (ie. mixers) mean these cookies are really easy to make. They’re tasty in a subtle way that’s not too indulgent but satisfies the sweet tooth. They went quickly in our house (though not as quickly as the ANZAC biscuits which I made at the same time). I certainly ate a lot of them.
I need to invest in multiple shiny metal baking sheets. I always run into the problem that when I use a shiny metal sheet my cookies come out perfect and when I use a dark metal sheet for the same time and temperature the cookies come out slightly burnt. The baking sheet makes a difference you guys!
The recipe I worked with was flavoured with orange zest which doesn’t seem to be a very common flavour for kourabiethes. With a little googling I found most recipes used brandy for flavour and a few recipes listed rose or orange blossom water as an ingredient. I’d be interested to try them with brandy next time.
250g butter, softened
2 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 orange, rind finely grated
1 egg, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 shiny metal baking trays with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter, 1 cup icing sugar, vanilla, and orange rind until pale and creamy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Sift flour and baking powder over mixture. Add almond meal. Stir until dough comes together.
Roll out one tablespoon of dough into an 8cm-long log, and bend to form a crescent shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing each cookie on baking tray, allowing room for spreading.
Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden. Stand for 5 minutes on trays until firm but still warm.
Place the remaining sugar in a bowl. Coat warm biscuits, 1 at a time, in sugar. Place on a wire rack to cool. Sift any remaining icing sugar over biscuits when cool.
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- Lose 6cm from my waistline
Start (Aug 15): 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Aug 31: 82cm /89cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Sep 20: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 1: 83cm/ 88cm/ 165.6lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Oct 31: 81cm/ 88cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
Jul 1: 79cm/85cm/ 164.0lb
Aug 1:: 80cm/ 85cm/ 163.4lb