Friday, July 31, 2015

Cookbook Review: Autumn Calabrese Presents FIXATE

get your copy here

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!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

HBH: Week 40


Walls, Walls, & Tile

This french door was installed improperly, so out it came and back in it went. Thanks to Adam's friend for the added muscle to help keep the door up while David caulked it into place.

DRYWALL DELIVERY!! I had no idea that it would be put through the window. Out the window came, in the drywall came, back in the window went.

I made Brub watch from this mud/dirt pile and he wasn't super happy about it.

The drywall went up in ONE day thanks to a crew of 10. HUGE relief off of our shoulders!

Oh the mud and tape -- lots of it, too. Adam wanted a Level 5 finish, so in addition to this picture below the mud had to be rolled or squeegeed on like paint. 

Duders took this picture, but it shows very well the stilts that the finishers used....and the squeegee he mudded with.

Adam had to quickly get the last window in the house installed because it was getting ready to rain.....and this opening is on the side of the house that faces the weather.

Lots of fans to get the mud to dry between the different applied coats. 

Duders and his picture taking skills again. Ad and I talking about something or other...

The boys always want to be doing what Dad and Pap are doing.

The door is finally installed. The hardware is finally installed. The door will be painted at a later time.
The pillars in the front are the deck supports.

Men hard at thinking. Determining how the retaining wall will be installed.

As many of you know, the foundation walls moved on us. To make a long story short, the walls were fixed and doubly braced from the inside. One of those brace maneuvers was this cross-corner beam. Adam and David can now focus on other areas of the house such as overseeing the HVAC, water, and electrical installation. Fabricating the deck and putting the siding up on the house. The painting, tile, hardwood, and carpet will be installed in the very near weeks.

Our basement and first floor HVAC unit and our septic pipes.

Master bathroom floor.

Bad picture, but master stand-up shower.

Living room and kitchen are now primed and ready for paint.

Boys' bathroom bath and shower. They picked out the accent tile. 

Inside of the entryway....

The start of the retaining wall.

So the great question that everyone is thinking.....will we be finished before Isaac arrives. The quick answer is mostly likely no, but we're trying our hardest to make decisions, get stuff done, and keep within our budget while outsourcing as much as possible. It will all come together for sure, but it just might not be on the timeline we had hoped for when we started.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Easy Paleo Oven Roasted Chicken Drumsticks

This post came about from the simple need to find a quick and easy recipe for the chicken drumsticks I had picked up on a whim from Costco. I had never, ever purchased chicken drumsticks before in my life, but I know how much Adam like wings and figured he'd enjoy a meal with drumsticks. And I can appreciate anything that's new the boys have to eat. While they have had chicken, of course, I was pretty certain they had never had a was high time they saw some.

A quick Internet search turned up loads of recipes, but most of them were BBQ inspired and that wasn't what I was looking for at all. I can't say that I was looking for a dry rub either, but that's what I found at Ever Clever Mom and I'm so happy that I did! Super simple ingredients. Super simple prep. Super simple cooking. And super duper good!

  1. drumsticks (I used a pack of 15 from Costco)
  2. olive oil
  3. salt
  4. black pepper
  5. garlic powder
  6. paprika
  7. cinnamon (don't skip me!)
  8. cayenne pepper (a LITTLE goes a LONG way)
  9. cookie sheet
  10. parchment paper
  1. Preheat oven at 400F
  2. Do NOT wash your drumsticks; pat they dry with a paper towel.
  3. Lay the drumsticks on the parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  4. Mix ingredients (I used a 1/2 tbsp each, except for cinnamon and cayenne. About a 1/4 tbsp of cinnamon and a just a shake of cayenne pepper.)
  5. Brush the drumsticks with olive oil.
  6. Sprinkle half of the seasoning mixture over the drumsticks and flip them over.
  7. Sprinkle the rest of the seasoning mixture over the drumsticks.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes and then flip the drumsticks and rotate the pan.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes.

  1. I forgot to oil the chicken and realized it when I had to flip the drumsticks. For as good as the drumsticks turned out as I cooked them, I can only imagine how delicious they would be had I used some oil. 
  2. I can't emphasize enough how easy this way to cook during a weeknight and then prepare the rest of the dinner and set the table while it cooked. Sauteed green beans from the garden, strawberries, and mashed potatoes rounded out the meal.
  3. And yes, the cinnamon is important and you can't detect an actual cinnamon flavor. It was a bit more pronounced the next day when I ate two drumsticks cold for lunch, but not overbearing in the least. 
  4. I cooked the chicken on a wire rack to allow the fat to render off of the chicken and fall below the actual drumsticks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Baby #3: 31 Weeks Pregnant & Preemie Preparation

31 weeks

Preemie Prep, The Glucose Tolerance Test, & Accepting Reality

Oh boy! We've made it almost 8 months already and while I haven't  been sharing weekly bump updates, I will be now. I'm fast approaching the gestational age Brub was at when I first went into labor with him. Luckily, for all parties involved, we were able to hold him off for another two and a half weeks. This time, however, the doc is really just crossing her fingers and toes that I don't go into labor before 36 weeks. 

The Bump tells me that Baby Boy #3 is going through some MAJOR brain and nerve development. His 5 senses are now all working, including his sight -- his eyes can now react to light. The Bump also tells me that I might be short on breath and that Littlest Man is probably crowding my lung space. I can tell you that the authors are spot on because that's exactly what's happening! Despite being in pretty healthy and active shape, I still tire easily and get shortness of breath easily. Even just by sitting still depending on where Baby's legs are positioned. And let's not even talk about indigestion -- not so much heart burn, but oh, the indigestion. The Bump also talks about Preggo Brain and we all know that I've had Preggo Brain since Duders and then it just got compounded with Mommy Brain with Brub. The lack of brain power isn't even on the radar anymore; I've just accepted it and write everything down nowadays! 

Back aches, trouble sleeping, general aches and pains, swelling in the humidity....yep, yep, yep, and yep. B-H contractions, leaky boobs, frequent urination...nope, no, and nada. Just kidding! Of course I'm in the bathroom all the time...scratch that....WE'RE in the bathroom all the time. I have a 3 and half year old who just recently learned the ins and outs of the potty, so it's a potty party just about every 20 minutes or so. I'm not complaining though. I'd rather have a party next to the pisser than clean out soiled under-roos any day!

I'm carrying the "equivalent" of a pineapple and truth-be-told some days it feels like I really do have one of those things inside of me with all of the jabby jabs. Movement is a blessing, of course, but when I'm measuring small and the baby is measuring big according to the ultrasound it can get dicey in there! At 28 weeks, the ultrasound indicated he was in the 78th percentile and already averaging 2.7 pounds. Given the error of those exams, we still have a bigger baby than previous Ramsey boys. 

Thirty-one weeks also saw the 3 hour glucose test since I failed my one-hour glucola test. I was super stoked about having to fast and then drink that nasty, sugar and dye filled drink....not. No, I didn't ask for an orange juice alternative and I could have I suppose, but I didn't. Feel free to do that if you feel strongly about drinking the standard never hurts to ask. I'm happy to report that I am not at all in the range for gestational diabetes....but I still am in the range for preterm labor.

And that brings me to preemie prep. We had a #realtalk moment in the doc's office on Monday and my doc, as soft spoken as she is, has been my doc going on 14 years now. She's delivered and cared for all of us as our family doc and is never the here's-a-pill-call-me-never kind of doc. She lays it on the line and tells me how it is...always. And I feel that's how it should be...always. "Pack your bag now," she said. 

WAIT. WHAT? I thought I just  heard you say to pack my bag.

Holy hospital, Batman! I'm only 31 weeks and have not thought of ANYTHING baby yet, let alone PACK the hospital bag.

She wasn't hearing any of it. She's giving me about a week to get a bag packed and some bedding, clothes, and diapers thrown together. Even with taking the progesterone shots, she said it's better safe than sorry and who can argue with her. Less stress is a good thing and preparedness always equals less stress in the long run for me. I'm even down two weeks before my next appointment and then it's one weekers after that already. 


And so, now comes the part when I have to come to terms with our forever home not being ready, as the fault of no one, when Baby Boy #3 arrives. THAT, my dear sirs and ma'ams, is the harsher reality, to me, than having a preemie. Yes, a preemie can be super touch-and-go...that has never been, and never will be, lost on me, but I did have two preemies before and I've dealt with those feelings of uncertainty already. Not having my own space to parent a newborn is something I will have to wrap my heart and head around. But I have vowed to take it to God rather than worry about it. I pray that I carry this baby as long as possible, but not so far that the baby is bigger than I can safely birth with a natural delivery and I pray that we have our occupancy permit before I go into labor. It will take two small miracles to accomplish both, but we all know The Man Upstairs can handle tall orders. 

So......31 weeks is here and almost gone already. I have my to-do list for this weekend and so I say...