Check out Brandy's fantastic recipe for Pear Crisp with Vanilla Brown Butter...don't forget to get your Thanksgiving-themed recipes ready to submit to All Through the Year Cheer later this month. There will be a great prize!
Book Review: Eat Clean Cookbook by Tosca Reno: Recently, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook to review. The book is nicely organized by recipe type, and it even includes a chapter called “Baked Goods and Treats” (oh yes, you can eat clean and still enjoy delicious confections like tofu crème brûlée, carrot cake, chocolate walnut brownies, and rice pudding!).
This is a really gorgeous cookbook to read through, with beautiful color photos of every recipe. There is a short narration for each recipe, which is typically a personal story related to the recipe or more detailed information pertaining to certain ingredients in the recipe; I enjoy reading these anecdotes and I think they help to give a more complete view of each recipe. I love how for each recipe the prep time, cook time, and nutritional information are listed.
There is one small thing that I would change about the format of this book to improve its functionality (it’s really a very small thing!)…the ingredient amounts are listed in fractions, which are shown very small. It’s no big deal really, but when the cookbook was on the counter while I was making something, it was hard to just glance down to see the amount listed (and I have good eyesight…I don’t wear glasses or contacts). The fractions are that small that I had to stop and go in for a closer look. That being said, everything else about the layout/format of this book was completely user-friendly.
The Eat Clean Recipes: On to my favorite part…the recipes! Many of these recipes are basic (and beginner-friendly) recipes for healthy cooking. If you already cook healthy, there will probably be several of these recipes that you are familiar with. I found that there are quite a few recipes that I make fairly regularly, such as everyday breakfast porridge (love my oats!), roasted plum tomatoes, no-cook colorful bean salad, roasted summer vegetables, homemade polenta, beef barley and vegetable soup, chickpea stew, and sautéed garlic spinach. On the other hand, if you rarely cook or are just starting to cook healthy, then each and every recipe in this book will be a lifesaver for you.
Even if you’re familiar with healthy cooking this book is still a wonderful asset. It can help you give your favorite recipes (such as vegetable lasagna, chili, fajitas, 7 layer bean dip, and brownies) a healthy makeover. There’s also a multitude of recipes that are unfamiliar, new, and exciting, such as nasi goreng, hollandse rooie kool, and Persian beef. Not to mention all the healthy ingredients that might be unfamiliar (even if you’re a healthy eater) but are definitely worth trying, like bison, wild rice or manmoomin, and kefir.
Thumbing through the cookbook, right away I knew I wanted to make a few things…lifestyle bars (more on those in a minute), sunflower seed spread, oat tea (!), Moroccan pumpkin soup, tagine beef stew, cream of wheat pudding, and hazelnut espresso cookies (these cookie actually look like almond lace cookies!). I decided to start with lifestyle bars…
And of course, since it’s less than two weeks away and I’ve got Thanksgiving on my mind, I noticed that so many of these recipes would be absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving (or any holiday) dinner. Here are just a few: breakfast corn pudding (I know it says breakfast, but it’s savory and I bet would be fabulous as part of a dinner spread!), herb and garlic roasted baby potatoes, baked deep-dish butternut squash (this is topped with a mixture of apple butter, pecans, and breadcrumbs…it looks incredible!), lemon and cinnamon sweet potatoes, and baked cranberries and apple.
The Recipe I Made Right Away: When I was looking through this cookbook, I was immediately drawn to these “lifestyle bars” because of their interesting name. As you probably guessed, the name of these bars comes from the fact that these days everyone leads such busy lives and from time to time we all need help with meals. Instead of ordering fast food, why not have healthy fast food waiting for you in your fridge?
I love how these bars contain the components of a healthy breakfast: protein and fruit. Plus there’s even coffee in them for a little kick, and who doesn’t enjoy that with breakfast?! These bars are so delicious it’s hard to believe they’re healthy. Although their consistency isn’t chewy, the density of these bars and all the mix-ins actually reminded me of peanut fudge.
Let me give you a little notice though, these bars are very calorie dense. Tosca recommends getting 9 bars out of this recipe, each with 419 calories (and be careful if you’re watching your calories because the actual portion size for the 419 calorie bar isn’t nearly as large as it appears in the cookbook's photo). I decided to cut this recipe into 16 bars, each bar with slightly over 200 calories. That way, I figured I could use these bars as a snack when I need a little pick me up, or I could incorporate them into a healthy breakfast by pairing them with yogurt or cottage cheese and a piece of fresh fruit.
I made a few changes to the original recipe (I noted my changes below) just to utilize ingredients that I already had on hand. Despite all the changes I made, I have to say that this is a very forgiving recipe…the bars came out perfect!
In the photo in the book, these bars were wrapped so beautifully in waxed paper and twine…since the holidays are nearly here I thought waxed paper and ribbon would be festive and pretty!
Lifestyle Bars (From Tosca Reno’s Eat Clean Cookbook)
(Yield: 9 bars)
½ c raw, unsalted slivered almonds (I used sunflower seeds)
½ c pecans (I used walnuts)
¼ c coconut butter, or 1 TB butter + 1 TB olive oil (I used coconut butter)
½ c natural almond butter
2 TB unsulfured blackstrap molasses
1 teaspoon honey
Pinch sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 TB instant coffee granules
¼ c ground sesame seeds (I used golden flaxseed meal)
½ c golden goji berries (I used a mix of dried cranberries and sultanas)
½ c chopped dried apple slices
8 by 4-inch baking pan (about the size of a bread loaf pan)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the almonds and pecans on the sheet in an even layer. Toast the nuts in the oven until just golden (about 8 minutes), stirring halfway through. Allow them to cool slightly, then coarsely chop the nuts either by hand or in a food processor. (Instead of toasting the nuts in the oven you can do it in a dry pan on the stovetop.)
In a mixing bowl, combine the coconut butter, almond butter, molasses, honey and salt. Heating this mixture slightly (either over a double boiler or in the microwave) helps to combine everything. Stir in the vanilla and coffee granules, then stir in the nuts, ground sesame seeds, goji berries, and chopped apple.
Press this mixture into an 8 by 4-inch baking pan and refrigerate until set. Cut into bars, wrap in waxed or parchment paper, and store in the fridge.