Cookbook Review: The Pure Kitchen

Hallie Klecker's first cookbook, The Pure Kitchen

One of the wonderful benefits of this blogosphere is making friends with fellow bloggers.  I have many blogger friends (some of whom I’ve had the fortune to meet in person) that I’ve made in the last year and a half.  Another benefit, testing recipes for the friends coming out with cookbooks or those who want someone else to try their recipe out before posting it on their blog.  The only thing I love more than developing my own recipes that I dream up in my head, is testing recipes for friends.

September 12th, 2011, Hallie Klecker of Daily Bites released her first cookbook, The Pure Kitchen.  I started following Hallie on her blog last Spring and immediately fell in love with her Carrot Cake Bites.  I dislike carrot cake.  I think it’s more the cream cheese frosting on the carrot cake that I really dislike.  But, if you presented me with carrot cake or zucchini bread, I’d choose the latter.  Hallie’s Carrot Cake Bites made me love carrot cake.   Okay, not really carrot cake, but lets just say, I’d be willing to give carrot cake a second try.

I eagerly volunteered to test recipes for The Pure Kitchenbecause I love Hallie’s whole foods approach.  Her recipes are straight-forward and easy

Black Bean & Quinoa Patties with Fiesta Guacamole

to make.  I tested Fiesta Guacamole, Black Bean & Quinoa Patties, Meatballs with Quick Braised Collards, and Berry Bowls with Fudgy Pecan Crumble.  The Fiesta Guacamole goes wonderfully with the Black Bean & Quinoa Patties.  Her Black Bean & Quinoa Patties inspired me to stop thinking about how to make black bean burgers and start playing around with black beans and veggies.   The Meatballs with Quick-Braised Collards was the first time I fixed collard greens and I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Berry Bowls with Fudgy Pecan Crumble

The Berry Bowls with Fudgy Pecan Crumble with ridiculously quick and easy to make.  In fact, Chaz was eating ice cream or something and I just wanted something sweet.  So, I got up and made the Berry Bowls with Fudgy Pecan Crumble a day earlier than I planned.  I took leftovers to work with me for snacks because it’s so much more than a super healthy dessert.  It’s a super healthy snack, too!

I received my copy of The Pure Kitchen today and the most difficult part of going through it, is trying to figure out which recipes I want to try for my menu next week.  And not just

Meatballs with Quick-Braised Collard Greens

dinner recipes, but breakfast and desserts, too!  My mouth is watering just looking at the pictures of the dishes I tested.  I have a feeling I’ll be using The Pure Kitchen for my meal planning for quite some time.

You don’t have to be gluten-free to enjoy Hallie’s recipes.  You just need a desire to want to eat healthier whole foods.  If I was still able to eat gluten and just doing a whole foods diet, I would definitely buy The Pure Kitchen.  Oh wait.  I did!

 

Chocolate Cherry Almond Smoothie

Chocolate Cherry Almond Smoothie

Has this ever happened to you?  You’ve got all kinds of natural goodies in the blender and it’s blending away.  Not even halfway through the blending, it stops.  Just stops.  Kaput.  Nada.  Switch outlets.  Still nothing.  Take it apart.  Put it back together.  Plug it back in.  Still nothing.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

The blender is D.E.A.D.

This seems to happen every time a blender has died on me.   Every time it’s been a smoothie in the blender.  Of course the first time, we had a rather cheap one that wasn’t built for frequent use.  Neither was the second.  The last one, however, should have lasted a lot longer seeing as how I bought it two years ago and it’s higher quality.

It happened to me again last week while trying to create this smoothie.  I was hungry and looking forward to it, too.

After several days I decided to finally do it.  I bought a Vitamix a week ago and used it for the first time this past Sunday while Chaz was still in bed.  Using the blender while he’s still sleeping is like poking the bear.  He always glares at me when he wakes up and says, “That blender is loud.”  “Yes, you tell me that every time I use it.”

When he finally got out of bed I asked, “Did you hear the blender?”

“No.”

Score!

The Vitamix blended better on its lowest setting than my last blender.  I’m loving it.  And this smoothie I finally got to make.  I’ve made it several ways and will give you allergy-free options.  Right now, it’s my favorite.  The picture is my first attempt with the recipe and I couldn’t tell where the liquid line was so, I the liquid measurement will be good for 16 ounces.

Chocolate Cherry Almond Smoothie

1 cup frozen cherries (or more if you’d like)

1 tablespoon almond butter (or Sunbutter for a nut-free smoothie)

1 tablespoon raw local honey (or other sweetener of your choice to make it vegan)

2 tablespoons raw cacao powder

Unsweetened almond milk (or unsweetened coconut milk, rice milk, or hemp milk for nut-free)

Add cherries, almond or Sunbutter, honey, and raw cacao powder to the blender.  Pour your dairy-free milk to just under the 2 cup or 16ounce line.  Blend well.

Out of all the variations I made of this, it is much better with the almond milk if you can have nuts.  It was so good with the almond milk I had a hard time not drinking it all at once.

This post is linked to Wellness Weekend at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs and Seasonal Sunday at Real Sustenance. 

Healthier Grape Soda

Grape Soda

Earlier this Summer, my friend Amy Green (Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free) posted a recipe for Ginger Ale.  Firstly, I love ginger.  Fresh ginger.  So much so that when our friend and fellow Aikidoka opened up Yang-Kee Noodle and invited Chaz and I to a taste test before the opening, I gushed over the Ginger Chicken we tasted.  It was so full of ginger that it was spicy hot.  Apparently too spicy hot for a lot of people living in Louisville.  Secondly, I concoct home remedies from fresh ginger when I’m really sick.  Ginger tea.  Ginger soup.  Voo Doo Soup (created my one of my ex-roommates and is full of ginger).  Thirdly, ginger is so good for you that it’s a shame when Big Food mucks it up with sugar and all kinds of other crap so Amy’s Ginger Ale makes all other ginger ales pale in comparison.  I told her that it was so easy that I can’t believe I never thought of it it since it’s similar to what I do for myself when I’m sick.  Seriously.  Easy peasy.  If you love ginger ale and haven’t tried her recipe.  Go.  Now.  Well, after you’re done reading this post that is.

So why am I going on and on about Amy’s Ginger Ale when the title of this post is Healthier Grape Soda?  Because I’ve been craving grape soda and doing my best to stay away from those sugar filled bottles and cans of soda.  I had been making Amy’s Ginger Ale for several weeks when it hit me.  I can make my own grape soda.  Hallelujah!

I use black grapes a lot because their darker coloring means more of the good polyphenols and antioxidants.  Black grapes also taste sweeter than red and green grapes to me.

Healthier Grape Soda

1-2 cups black grapes

Sparkling Mineral Water (I used Pellegrino)

Juice your grapes in a juicer.  If you don’t have a juicer but have a high quality blender you can make a whole foods juice.  Pour the grape juice in a glass and fill the rest of the glass with sparkling mineral water.  This won’t be sweet like sodas you’re used to so you can juice more grapes if you’d like for added sweetness or add a little natural sweetener.

This post is linked to 5-Ingredient Mondays at The Daily Dietribe.