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The new and first-ever cookbook from Autumn Calabrese, creator of the super-popular and super-effective 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme fitness and nutrition programs, arrived on my doorstep and I couldn't wait to get cooking. I have to admit, however, that because I'm so pregnant right now I am not counting my containers, but that doesn't mean that I still don't watch my portions or eat cleanly with whole, real ingredients. This review was truly to see how easy the recipes were to recreate, how much time they truly took to make, and how my family or I thought they tasted. I tried to make a variety of foods and remember.....I'm NOT a food blogger, food stylist, or food photographer. I tried to make the pictures look nice, but....well, they're still just pics from my phone. We'll just have to deal with it together. :)
The cookbook starts out with several pages of Autumn's backstory and reason she felt compelled to create Fixate. She then talks about her daily eating style and simple ways to stock a kitchen with real, whole food ingredients. Finally, she explains the container system as it comes with her 21 Day Fix/Extreme programs.
When I made these recipes, I tried to follow them as closely to their published steps and ingredients as I could, but inevitably I had to make some changes based on ingredients that I know wouldn't work with our family or I used one of the variations suggested in Fixate.
The first two creations I made were breakfast items:
Portabello Mushroom & Goat Cheese Omelet
I followed this recipe pretty much exactly as written except that I used goat's milk feta cheese instead of crumbled goat cheese...and I never garnish my food with chopped flat leaf parsley. I'm a mom who's usually scarfing down her food. There is no such thing as a garnish in this house.
The Healthy French Toast recipe that I made turned out okay and Duders ate it without complaint. That's a huge compliment in and of itself! I didn't drizzle the remaining maple syrup called for in the recipe over the French toast to serve it, but sprinkled powdered sugar over the sticks. That's how we do French toast in this house. I'm not a huge fan of cooking French toast, honestly, because I'm not very good at it, but if it got my oldest son to eat sprouted grain bread without noticing.....well, that's something for sure!
Don't mind the picture...I barely got this one on the phone since Duders was on the verge of a meltdown...
The next two dishes were for lunches, both being salads:
Healthified Cobb Salad
This recipe is simple and very similar to typical lunchtime salads I eat a lot anyway, so it was a no brainer to try it. I used spring mix for the lettuce bed rather than the called for romaine and spinach. I used regular, uncured bacon as opposed to lean turkey bacon, and finally I used feta cheese instead of blue cheese. No blue cheese for this pregnant mama! The dressing was a simple EVOO/white wine vinegar/whole grain dijon mustard mix. Nothing fancy, but boy was it delish!
The Quinoa & Black Bean Salad is probably the favorite meal made this past week! I ate some warm and then have yet to reheat it and it's still absolutely amazing. I told my mother-in-law that I think this will be my go-to take-to-a-party salad from now on because it's simple to make, can be eaten warmed or chilled, and will hold up well at either an inside or outside get-together.
I did only use one can of black beans and instead of one pepper each of yellow, red, and orange, I just used two green bell peppers. They were on sale and that was that. Oh, and no cilantro for me. I stand firmly in the "hate" camp when it comes to cilantro. Yuck! My youngest, Brub, really enjoyed this salad, too. Next time I might even make it without the peppers so that he'll be more tempted to eat his own portion rather than eat what's in my bowl.
Yeah right. Mom and Dad's food is ALWAYS more appealing.
Grandma's Tomato Sauce was the recipe that took the longest by far, but because I cooked the sauce for several hours. It's an Italian tomato sauce and every Italian family know cooks their sauce for a looooong time. I simply followed suit, naturally. There were some modifications that had to be made -- I used honey in place for agave nectar (we don't use agave nectar in our home) and I just used 3 ounces of a Parmesan cheese wedge because I don't have any rinds in the freezer right now. The fresh basil was replaced with dried basil and the amount reduced by a third.
Duders even got in on the action with me! We paired this sauce with the Italian Meatballs as called for on page 153. I probably made the biggest adjustments to this recipe because of food availability. I used two slices of sprouted-grain bread, cut into dices, and soaked those instead of bread crumbs. I used all dried/powdered ingredients and didn't chill the mixture at all. I was running out of time for dinner and had to get a move on for Adam and the boys.
But let's be real here -- a recipe has to be workable for a busy family to make the grade, right?
And it did. The sauce was very good, but I did feel the need to add some additional salt. The guys all liked the turkey meatballs a lot, even with the soaked bread, dried ingredients, and lack of mingling. I just used my hands to mix it all up and made large meatballs (not the small ones called for in Fixate) with a portion scooper. The guys had vermicelli and I had spaghetti squash for noodles.
And no cookbook review is complete unless you make dessert, right?! And it just so happened that Duders had been asking for brownies for about a week, so it was an easy choice to make the Flourless Chocolate Chickpea Brownies! My only changes to this recipe was the take on the variation suggested and use cannellini beans in lieu of chickpeas. I used the coconut oil and baked them in an 8 x 8 pan lined with parchment paper up all sides.
I wasn't sure if I was going to even like these because brownies are such a deep-seeded comfort food. I also have a favorite gluten free/dairy free brownie recipe that I love, but it's quite involved for a busy mom. These ingredients are blended in a food processor and then baked. Easy peasy!
And the final results -- creamy, fudgy brownies!! Not cake-like as I'm used to eating, but still the brownie flavor is amazing and my entire family really enjoyed them. We will definitely be making them again in the future! And, please, don't mind all of the poke holes you see. Those are from my boys doing the toothpick test...a lot.
I can't wait to create more of the dishes featured in Fixate and share them with my family and you! If you'd like a copy of your own, click here and then get cooking. This cookbook will help to make meal planning so much easier and it really is valuable to a home cook, especially busy families looking to eat a clean diet rich in real, whole food ingredients. Buon Appetito!