Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Crazy Sexy Kitchen

This may be one of the most exciting vegan cookbooks I have seen recently. Crazy Sexy Kitchen by Kris Carr is jam packed with healthy living advice and delicious recipes for those trying to follow a plant-based-diet. There are several pages information for those just beginning to dive into the vegan lifestyle as well as those who have been avoiding meat for years. With a sound understanding of inflammation, gluten-intolerance issues, sugar,pH’s effect on the body, and raw foods, Crazy Sexy Kitchen provides more than just flashy pictures and delicious recipes. This book is substance and style. With mouth watering recipes like the Green Colada Smoothie, Tofu Country Scramble, Cinnamon Cherry Granola, and Avo Toast, you will be ready for a delicious brunch. Recipes like Vegan ‘Clam’ Chowder, Black Bean Roasted Sweet Potato Burgers, Vegetable Sushi Maki Rolls, and Sea Veggie Salad make this book a collection of creative lunches and light dinners. There are plenty of hearty soups and dinner entrees, delicious juices and savory sauces, this is the go-to guide for daily meals that are easy and healthy. There is even a chapter on sweets like Spiced Peach Crumble and Chocolate Walnut Cake. This book is packed with beautiful pictures, loaded with information about supplements and how to prepare a well-stocked vegan pantry, Crazy Sexy Kitchen is a fun book that is sure to become an essential for vegan home cooks.

Ruby Star Wrapping

When I first saw Ruby Star Wrapping, I almost giggled. A whole book dedicated to gift wrapping and unique packaging seemed like something that I had dreamed up. Fortunately for me, and other gift wrap fans, Ruby Star Wrapping is far from a whimsical day dream. This book is truly amazing! Packed with beautiful full color photos and creative twists on traditional gift wrap, this is the perfect gift for your favorite craft lover. Using cloth, paper, ribbon, and unique flourishes, you will be able to wrap any little thing you fancy. There are also clever projects, such as a pretty picture keeper, a cloth envelope, and a beautiful tote bag, all of which are sure to fill your days with fun. One of my favorite things about this book is that many of the projects focus on using and reusing in order to maximize your resources. Also, none of the projects are too complicated. With templates, examples, and step-by-step directions, this is a really fun and engaging book, sure to give you hours of enjoyment.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

This book has earned a spot on the shelf as one of the most unexpected hits I have read recently. I thought that story about a retired gentleman walking 500 miles to “save” an old friend couldn’t have much in the way of plot, but I was pleasantly surprised by the heart and story that surrounded Harold Fry’s long journey. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry centers around the title character, an elderly man who is stuck in a life over which he doesn’t feel he has control. His marriage to Maureen is strained, his relationship with his son David is non-existent, and his life has little in it to distinguish one day from the next. At breakfast one morning, though, Harold receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a former co-worker from his days at the brewery. She explains that she has cancer and is dying, and wanted to say a last goodbye. After years of not seeing her or hearing from her, Harold tries to write a letter to send his condolences, but he can’t seem to get the words right. Determined to send it off, he drafts a quick note and hurries out to the postbox. Upon arriving at the first postbox, however, Harold can’t send the letter off yet – it just doesn’t seem right. So, he walks to the next postbox, and the next, until, realizing that he is hungry, he stops at a gas station for a snack. He explains that he just heard of Queenie’s cancer, and isn’t sure what to do about it. The young cashier explains that her aunt had cancer and the thing that helped her the most was having faith. In a moment of insight, Harold comes to believe that if he has faith that Queenie will survive, she will, and he decides to set off for Burwick-upon-Tweed (over 500 miles north) on foot, confident that Queenie will survive until he arrives. With nothing more than a light jacket, his wallet and a pair of deck shoes, Harold sets off to see Queenie. Phoning home, he announces his mission to Maureen (who in response to his plan declares, “I think not”) and to the nursing home where Queenie is staying. Along his journey, he makes unexpected friends, learns about himself, and comes to better understand his marriage. Although it is a solitary journey, and Harold doesn’t have companions to speak of, I never felt that additional characters were needed. This story is powerful and I enjoyed reflecting upon what is really important in life as Harold overcomes obstacles and tests relationships. Additionally, Harold’s determination was incredibly inspiring (even though he is a fictional character, the power and voice with which he was crafted makes him so real and life-like that I was genuinely concerned for him at times and was unabashedly cheering for him at others). The ending is completely unexpected and, like the rest of the book, is pitch perfect. This is a wonderful story – the kind of book that you want to share with all of your friends because it is that good – and I am certain that Harold Fry will stick with me for quite some time.

Cranberry-Quince Upside Down Cake

This tart and slightly sweet cake is so easy and is a great dessert for Thanksgiving or Christmas. While quince is not the most common fruit, it tastes like a sweet apple when baked and has the perfect texture for this fall version of upside down cake. It is simple and practically goof-proof. While it may not be the prettiest cake, the flavors pair beautifully with the others on the table.
Cranberry-Quince Upside Down Cake 2 Tablespoons coconut oil 1/3 cup brown sugar, plus 1/2 cup 8 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries 1 quince, peeled, cored, and sliced extra thinly 2 Tablespoons ground flax seeds 2 Tablespoons unsulphured molasses 1/2 cup almond milk plus 3 Tablespoons 1 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour 3/4 teaspoon baking soda 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 cup vegan butter 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a springform pan by placing coconut oil into the pan and melting it in the oven. 2. When coconut oil is melted, sprinkle 1/3 cup brown sugar over oil and shake to distribute evenly. Top with cranberries and thinly sliced quince. 3. In a stand mixer, mix flax seeds, molasses and 1/4 cup almond milk. 4. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar in a bowl. With a fork, mix in vegan butter, almond milk and apple cider vinegar until mixture is crumbly and coarse. 5. Slowly mix the flour mixture into the molasses mixture with the stand mixer. Pour the cake over the cranberries and quince in the prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a fork inserted into the middle comes out cleanly. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before taking a knife around the edges of the cake and inverting onto a plate to serve.

Cranberry Orange Israeli Couscous

While this makes a great side dish any time of year, the flavors are so perfect for this time of year, that it makes a great addition to any harvest table. Plus, as an added bonus, it is super quick and takes about 15 minutes from start to finish.
Cranberry Orange Israeli Couscous 1 cup Israeli Couscous 1 cup pulp-free unsweetened orange juice 1/2 cup water 2 stalks celery, finely diced 3 teaspoons shallots 4 Tablespoons dried, unsweetened cranberries 3 Tablespoons golden raisins 1/4 teaspoon salt 1. Bring orange juice and water to a boil in a medium saucepan. 2. Add couscous, celery and shallots. Put a lid on the pan, reduce to a simmer and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until couscous is tender. 3. Remove from heat, mix cranberries, raisins and salt into the pan, and replace lid. Allow to cool for 3 to 5 minutes.

Portabello Chipotle Fajitas

These are definitely a departure from the Thanksgiving flavors that I have been loving for the past few weeks, but these are delicious and filling. They are packed with healthy veggies and bold flavors, but low on salt. Hopefully you enjoy these as much as we did!
Portobello Chipotle Fajitas 3 Tablespoonschipotle seasoning blend (such as Mrs. Dash) 2 teaspoons vegetable oil 2 portobello mushrooms, washed, stemmed, and thinly sliced 2 medium sized zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into strips 1/2 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced 6 corn tortillas 1. In a large freezer bag, toss seasoning and vegetable, oil, mixing to form a dressing. Toss mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper, and onion into bag, and mix to coat completely. 2. Heat a large skillet over medium and add vegetables, sauteeing until tender and beginning to brown. Spoon vegetables into corn tortillas and top with guacamole and sour cream if desired.

Daily Wisdom For Women

Because 2012 is winding down and 2013 is upon us, I have begun planning for the coming year – looking for calendars, planners, and even devotionals. I was thrilled to find Daily Wisdom for Women – a year long Christian devotional with scripture passages, short passages for reflection, and a brief prayer for each day of 2013. The readings are only 1 page long (completely manageable, even for the busiest of ladies), and offer wisdom and insight into specific biblical passages. With readings focused on biblical figures, finding God’s gifts, and having faith, this devotional is diverse and relevant for modern women. Although the book is labeled as a devotional for 2012, there is no room for writing or response, so this could be used year in and out without any problem. The format is approachable and the readings are appropriate for any Christian denomination. I really enjoyed some of the readings and can’t wait to usher in 2013 with Daily Wisdom for Women.