Category Archives: Reviews

Beyond Bacon - Pork Party! (and giveaway)

Thanks to everyone who entered. This giveaway is now closed.

A few weeks ago when advance copies of Fermented were sent out, Stacy from Paleo Parents had a brilliant idea. In order to really get a feel for all that Fermented had to offer and to test out a bunch of recipes at once, she invited some friends over to her house and they made a bunch of things from the book. First of all, I was so honored and thrilled that someone would do this and second of all, it was a fabulous idea!

So, I decided to return the favor. I invited a few of my pork-loving friends over this past Saturday and we cooked up a feast courtesy of Stacy’s (and her husband Matt) latest masterpiece, Beyond Bacon.

beyond_bacon

Before I tell you the details, I have to say that I think I will be doing book reviews in this way from now on. Not only was it a great way to try a bunch of recipes at once, it was just a really good time spent with some friends.

So, here are the pork party players:

Sarah – She’s a badass mamma to Oliver Danger (Yes, her son’s middle name is Danger. Fantastic.), real food lover, gardener, animal lover, and owner of an actual house pig, Speck. When I invited her over to cook up pork in various ways I asked if she felt any weirdness about it considering she has a house pig. She said no and that Speck has no room to complain as he’s eaten bits of ham. Ha.

speck

 

 

Liz – Hardcore CrossFitter, the one who got me to start fermenting by giving me a SCOBY, always has a unique take on food. Cooking genius and all-around awesome friend. And she looks sexy with a block of lard in hand.

lizzy_mac

Kevin – AKA The Scientist ™. Liz’s boyfriend, chemist, and meat lover. When he and Liz started dating their third date was sausage making. Not a euphemism and not a joke. I’m glad that my friend is dating a man of this caliber. When a gentleman shares your love and respect for meat products, you keep him around, no? The Scientist was in charge of meat cutting and did an expert job of pocketing out the pork chops Sarah brought. Brilliant.

kevin

Supporting cast:

DJ’s Butcher Block – This is a new-to-me place in Pittsburgh. I found out about it through Liz (of course) and I have become a regular customer. I can’t always buy half of a cow or an entire pig straight from the farm – I don’t have anywhere to store it! Instead I’ve now started supporting this little independent butcher who sources his meat from local farms. Seriously folks, this is the type of place you want to buy your meat from. There is a visible ban saw. They cut ALL steaks and chops to order. DJ and his girlfriend own the place and they’re the people you’ll see behind the counter. They know everything about their product. There is a collection of meat cleavers hanging on the wall. The place isn’t glamorous, but it’s clean, inexpensive, and the quality is second to none. This is where we bought all the meat and lard for the pork party.

dj butcher block

Dude – My man napped throughout the pork preparation portion of the day, but woke up in time to eat.

So, what did we make? A few days before the party, we put our heads together and came up with a comprehensive menu:

Sarah made Apple & Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops (page 168) and Zucchini Pasta with Avocado, Roasted Tomato, & Bacon (page 234).
I made Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits (page 222) and Savory Bacon Jam (page 244).
Liz made The Best Brownies (page 284)
Kevin improvised a pan sauce for the chops with the bacon drippings we had left over – and that was a lot. Plus, as mentioned above, he was our meat cutter and got things off of high shelves.

Liz is crazy for brownies

The book! It’s brilliant, plain and simple. It’s beautiful too. I had a difficult time settling on what to make because the depth and breadth of what is in this book is just overwhelming – in a good way! We could EASILY have four or five pork parties, cook from Beyond Bacon for every single one of them, and never get bored. And we might just do that. The non-recipe part of the book is flat out invaluable. I mean, the recipes are positively fab, but the additional information beyond the food preparation is reason alone to have this book in your library. I thought I knew about pork, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know.

The party went off without a hitch. I have a nice-sized kitchen, but it’s not enormous. I was concerned the four of us wouldn’t have enough room to work together AND make six different things. But I worried for nothing. We had a terrific time, enough room, and nobody had to fight for oven or stove real estate. We didn’t even plan it, but everything was finished cooking at just the right time. By the time the pork chops were pulled out of the oven, everything else was ready, on the table, and ready to eat. Dude had even woken up by this point and has his appetite ready.

And the food? Come on. You know what I’m going to say here. This was the best meal I’ve had in a long, long, long time.

Apple and Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops – These were perfection. I mean, how can you go wrong stuffing a pork chop with bacon? You can’t. But it was more than just pork-on-pork action. The flavors and textures were perfectly balanced – sweet/savory, meaty/crunchy. The apples were perfect for this dish.

pork chop close up

Zucchini Pasta with Avocado, Roasted Tomato & Bacon – This was probably meant to be a stand-alone entree, but we used it as a side dish. It was so deliciously creamy and wonderful! Plus, the bacon wasn’t overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon as much as the next person, but there is so much more to food than bacon. And we had a pretty bacon-heavy menu going at this party. Sarah brought grape tomatoes and basil from her garden to use in this dish and that just pushed it over the top.

epic 6 foot zucchini noodle

Sweet Potato Drop Biscuits – What can I say about these beauties? They are absolutely fantastic. The flavor is very subtle and lends itself nicely to sweet and savory dishes. After the pork party, I made another batch of these gems and quadrupled the recipe. Dude and I have been eating them with every meal – with eggs and bacon (make a breakfast sandwich with them!), with honey (Oooh! Sweet and savory!), and Dude even ate one with his pork mole at last night’s dinner. And do I even have to tell you how well these paired with the bacon jam? I practically fainted.

Savory Bacon Jam – Yeah. You can’t go wrong with this. Seriously. If you don’t even care about pork and if you aren’t interested in an entire book’s worth of awesome recipes, you’ll want to get Beyond Bacon simply for this recipe. What’s the cover price? Who cares! Spend the money JUST FOR THIS BACON JAM RECIPE. This is an order. You’ll thank me for this bit of advice. It was so easy to make and it yielded incredible – and I mean INCREDIBLE WITH ALL CAPS – results. I sent Liz, Kevin, and Sarah home with a wee bit of what was left over from the batch. Pirates. I can’t believe those guys would rob me of the rest of the bacon jam. Don’t worry. I’ve since made another batch. And I may or may not be eating it all myself by the spoonful.

bacon jam is ready

The Best Brownies – Truth be told, I’m always skeptical of grain-free desserts. Most of them aren’t good. They are well intentioned, but the texture is always off and the flavor is usually kind of blah. However!!!!! Trust me when I tell you these brownies are the exception! Light, moist, and not a whiff of that weird paleo pastry texture! These are the real deal, friends. I think using lard makes all the difference. Believe me when I say that I am persnickety when it comes to paleo/grain-free desserts. These brownies lived up to their name!

prebrownies

 

table

 

plate

 

eating

 

dude eats

So, what’s the moral of this story? First, do yourself a favor and get a copy of Beyond Bacon. Actually, how about entering here for a chance to win a copy? Leave me a comment below telling me what your favorite pork preparation is. And surf on over to like my Facebook page and follow me on Instagram for additional entries. Do it. You have until Thursday, August 29, 2013 at noon EDT.

The second moral is this: Everything is always better with your friends around. Thanks to Liz, Kevin, and Sarah for the good times and for taking some photos!

Review: The Food Lovers' E-book and App

Well, I am FLUSH with good fortune these days.  My latest reason for thinking so is because I’m good friends with Hayley and Bill of The Food Lovers’ Kitchen.  We (especially Hayley and me) go back a bunch of years – even before either of us became truly interested in real, whole food.  It’s been so cool to see my friends go from “Hey, so we started this blog…..” to full-fledged Internet Paleo superstars.  They’ve published a gorgeous cookbook, they’re working on another one, and they’ve recently come out with two new products (an e-book and an app), both of which I’m going to review today, plus they’re planning their wedding and who knows what else.  How do they do it all?!?!?!?!

Ok, so let’s break this down…..

First the e-book.  It’s called 30 Day Intro to Paleo, and just like everything else Hayley and Bill create, it’s beautiful and it’s thorough.  It’s designed to be a guide for anyone who is brand new to the Paleo way of eating but it certainly isn’t limited to Paleo noobs.  If you’re a seasoned Paleo veteran, it is still worth your time!  The recipes are superb (natch!  They’re the Food Lovers!)

The three sections break down this way.  Part 1 is a thorough explanation of what Paleo is, the benefits and what kinds of foods are a part of this way of eating.  My fave section on this part is a total breakdown on how to build a meal and what the difference is between these words we often hear – “Paleo” and “Primal”.

(Will you look at that fabulous kombucha photo!  I hope you see THAT again soon! >wink!!<)

Part 2 is a 30-day meal plan WITH shopping lists!  If you’re following along with their 30-day plan, simply print out the shopping list and you’re set for the week.  It’s that easy.

As you can guess, Part 3 is a collection of fantastic recipes to go along with the meal plan, or stand-alone noms that you will want to put into heavy rotation around your house.

Ok, so that’s the basic breakdown.  What didn’t mention is that this is not your ordinary e-book that is a static document to read and file away.  You guys, this is so cool because it is stacked full of dozens of links that take you out into the Internets to show you supporting information and where you can buy ingredients, tools, etc.  AND!! (my favorite part) it features video clips right in the book!  You’ll have tons of information right there at your fingertips.

Why do I love this book and why am I recommending it?  Because eating cleanly is often confusing and overwhelming.  This is a succinct work that not only simplifies how to get yourself started on a better way to eat, but also gives an almost overwhelming amount of resources to help you learn along each step of the way.

Ok, so now, onto the app.  myKitchen is available for iPhone and Android, first of all and secondly I have already used it a hundred times.

Here is its simple genius:  It’s a collection of great, easy, delish recipes (with beautiful photos to match!), a feature that allows you to make a “favorites” list of what you make most often, and a shopping list builder based on which recipes you choose for each day of the week.  Boom!

Why do I love this and why am I recommending this?  Because I am a 21st century woman and I am also addicted to my iPhone.  I can’t live without it and I don’t want to either.  It is an extension of my hand and it helps me run my life and my business.  Now, with the myKitchen app, it helps me run my grocery store and farmers’ market runs too.  Meal planning through this is a breeze, my friends. I know that these recipes are tried, true, delicious, and contain no food shenanigans or crazy junk I don’t want in my body.  And the fact that I now have a grocery list made for me and it’s in my purse ready to go is invaluable to me!   All this, plus the fact that I can cross the stuff OFF the list after I put it in my cart is just gosh darned MASTERFUL!!!!!!!!

Long story short, buy this stuff.  Juggling a life and kids and job and work and exercise and keeping up with the Olympics (you are, aren’t you?!) is hard enough.  I’m offering you two tools that not only will make life easier for you, but will help you to fuel yourselves with beautiful, healthy, meals.  You can thank me by just buying the book and downloading the app (iPhone/Android).

Before I sign off, let me offer a few disclaimers about this review.  I mentioned at the top that I’m friends with Hayley and Bill, but rest assured!  We are buddies enough that I can offer an unbiased review without damaging our friendship.  In fact, I think they’d be mad at me if I didn’t offer the straight dope.  In keeping with my review policy of full disclosure, I did receive the e-book to review, but the app (which is free) I got earlier than the rest of the world as part of being a supporting member of their site.  Since I paid for my membership (and you can too!), I got my copy of the app before non-members, just like all other supporting members did.  I do get a wee bit of a kickback if you buy the e-book using the links I provided throughout this post, but I wouldn’t want you to buy it if it weren’t awesome.  Which it is.

If you’ve already gotten your hands on these goodies, please share your thoughts and opinions with me!  If not, what are you waiting for?!

Book Review: Practical Paleo

Ok, how much do I love my job? Answer: heaps and heaps. I have about a thousand reasons for feeling this way, but today’s reason is because I received an advanced copy of Practical Paleo to review for all of you.

For those of you who don’t know, Practical Paleo is the soon-to-be released book by Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites, one of THE premiere Paleo sites on the World Wide Web. It is one of my go-to sites when I’m feeling stumped about a particular nutrition issue for a client, or even if I just need a good recipe. Diane and her website never fail me. She’s also the co-host (along with Cave Girl Eats) of my favorite podcast, also called Balanced Bites.

So a few weeks ago I got an email requesting my address so I could be sent this lovely tome for advanced review. I was so excited! What an honor! THEN! When it arrived….Christmas morning and my birthday all balled into one.

At the risk of sounding like a weirdo fangirl, Practical Paleo is, simply put, the book of the year.

I can’t say it any more plainly than that.

I always knew that Diane knew her stuff. I attended one of her Practical Paleo seminars, I’ve talked with her in person, and I’ve even consulted her about some new-to-me things that cropped up with a few of my clients. But this book? It’s everything I want to be as a health coach rolled up into 400+ pages of genius. I’m almost angry at Diane for writing a book that perfectly sums up what I’m about as a health coach (PLUS gorgeous photos!!!! PLUS mindblowing recipes!!!!) before I could get to it. That’s sarcasm, but maybe not. I’m definitely jealous!

Three sections of beautiful photos and more information than you could ever want about what happens inside your body when you eat, why eating real food is essential to a long healthy life, meal plans, and the gorgeous recipes. I know I’m gushing here, but I can’t help it. This book will be my guide and my bible.

Let’s take it section by section:

First of all, part one is all about the hows and whys of shopping for food, cooking, eating, digestion, and…ahem…elimination. Curious to know how to get started with healthy eating? It’s in there. Curious to know how junk foods wreck our insides? It’s in there. Curious to know some tips and hints for maintaining healthy habits when you go out on the town? It’s in there. Buzz words are explained and misinformation is cleared up. My favorite section in this part is definitely “Everything We’ve Been Taught About Good Nutrition Is Wrong”. It is a concise and thorough explanation of why all the stuff we hear in the news and read in the paper is actually working against our health. I can see myself quoting from this for years to come.

(This is one of my favorite passages in the book. No hokum here, friends. Just eat real food.)

Part two consists of twelve 30-day meal plans to follow depending on the state of your current health. Have I used the word “genius” enough already in this post? It applies here too.

Typically when I see a book or a magazine article that contains a meal plan, I cringe and/or skim over it. I find most meal plans to be devoid of things I want to eat and information on why I ought to be eating these bland foods. Nobody wants to eat a broiled boneless, skinless chicken breast (or poached salmon for the love of heaven!) and steamed vegetables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Blah.

Because we’re all different and have different goals and issues (fat loss? have cancer? a family tree riddled with autoimmune disease?) simply following a Paleo diet isn’t good enough. Sure we can eat healthy meats and tons of vegetables, but getting down to the nitty gritty of ensuring what we eat will serve us well is complicated stuff.

Practical Paleo to the rescue. Not only are there calendars with foods to eat each day, but lifestyle and supplement recommendations and thorough explanations of WHY these things are being recommended. (This is something I think other sources omit – the WHY!)

And what’s a meal plan without beautiful, tasty, mind-blowing food to eat everyday? Part three contains over 120 recipes.

Allow me to emote a bit about the recipes. Full disclosure, I was privy to some of the recipes while Diane was still writing the book. (How lucky am I to be able to taste test recipes? Another one of the thousand reasons I love what I do.) When she was having the photos taken, there were a group of friendly vultures hanging around photographer Bill Staley’s house to scarf up the noms after shots were taken. I was one of those vultures. And let me tell you, those were some of the most delicious and filling days I’ve had in a long time.

The recipes are not fancypants, hoity-toity, too-complicated-to-put-together kinds of recipes. They are positively scrumptious, easy to prepare, simple to follow dishes that have already become mainstays in my kitchen. You cannot go wrong with any of the 120+ recipes in this book! Seriously!

Something I especially love about the recipe selections is that the dishes are unique. A quick search of the Internet for Paleo recipes will yield many tasty things, but quite often the recipes are not quite inventive or different. Diane’s recipes have a different flair to them and often contain unexpected (but not weird or difficult to find) ingredients that truly set these recipes apart from anything I typically make.

Just last night I made dinner for my dad and used two recipes from Practical Paleo – Indian Spiced Turkey Burgers (page 268. I used beef because I had some local grass-fed ground beef in my freezer) and Zucchini Pancakes (page 248.) The Zucchini Pancakes recipes is in the breakfast section, but I used it as a little vegetable side. All this plus a sliced heirloom tomato and Dad and I were set for a delicious meal.

I, of course, thought it was a fabulous meal, and my dad said, “EXTREMELY delicious!”

It could have been a mainstream dinner of a hamburger with whatever on the side, but spicing up the beef with a unique Indian Spice Blend (page 233) and adding a zucchini pancake is just what I’m talking about when I say that the recipes have that extra little somethin’-somethin’ to set them apart from typical.

Ok, so I’ve gone on and on here. I know that. If I could virtually jump up and down and shout from the Internet’s rooftop about this book I would. The short story is this: Buy this book. Period. The recipes alone are worth it, but this book is SOOOOOOOOOOOO much more.

Here is a link to Amazon.com where you can pre-order it. It officially is released in one week and if you pre-order now you can have it on your doorstep next week. I’m telling you, you will NOT be sorry you bought this book.

Review: The Paleo Diet Budget Shopping Guide

So, as promised in my previous post, today I will be reviewing an e-book I received for free to read and talk about here.  It is Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Diet Budget Shopping Guide”.

Before I get into the meat of this (ha ha – a little Paleo pun there), let me say that I am a fan of Robb Wolf.  For those of you who don’t know who Robb is, please go here and check out his extensive website.  In short, he’s a biochemist, author, athlete, trainer, academician, and fervent preacher of all things about the Paleo diet.  He’s a straight talking kind of guy who says we all ought to be eating real food as close to the source as possible.

The second thing I want to say is in my holistic health coaching practice, I too naturally urge people to eat real food as close to the source as possible.  If you’ve been reading my site regularly or following me on Facebook or Twitter you know that I am a big big fan of eating the best quality foods in their natural states – no processed foods, please!  And as a result of this the most common question I get is this: But what if I can’t afford to eat that way?

This is why I jumped at the chance to read and review Robb Wolf’s newest e-book.  I wanted to see what he said about eating a natural, healthy, clean diet AND minding one’s budget.

With all of that said, I’ll get to the punchline: If you want to eat healthfully and you have to count your pennies, buy the e-book.  It’s just that simple.

When I read it, I admit to getting kind of angry.  I have been sharing all kinds of tips and tricks with my clients about budget healthy grocery shopping and cooking, but I hadn’t ever put all of my information into one place, in one organized easy-to-follow way.  Someone beat me to the punch!  Grr!!

Kidding aside, it is 70 pages of brilliant ideas.  And since it’s an e-book (available as a download only) you not only get the book, but sprinkled throughout are links to helpful websites, YouTube clips about food prep, recipes, and other bonus material right at your fingertips.  Maybe I’m not as space-aged as some of you, but I thought that was pretty darned clever.

The topics covered in the e-book are learning to cook, meal planning, money saving tricks, budget shopping priorities, kitchen know-how and (my favorite) rebutting all the excuses of why eating healthy is too pricey.  Didn’t I tell you this was thorough?!

Robb and company didn’t leave out a single thing when writing this.  It is in depth, practical advice about how to eat cleanly and healthfully while not spending hundreds at the market each month.  The meal planning chapter alone is worth the cost of the e-book.

Speaking of dollars and cents, the download is $19.99 and available right here on Robb Wolf’s site.  For the amount of information you receive and the resources that come along with it, that is a bargain basement price.  I’m a cheapskate and I think this is easily worth more than 20 bucks.  It’s a steal for sure.

I did get a copy of the e-book for free, but buying a copy for yourself doesn’t benefit me at all – other than it will make me feel wonderful if you get it and use it!  That will make me smile for sure.

If you buy it, let me know what you think of it!  If you have questions about the book before you buy, please contact me or leave them in the comments.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

 

 

Reviews

When I started this little website of mine, I wanted it to be a place where my current and future health coaching clients could come for information on healthy living and wellness.  I am a holistic health coach first and foremost and blogger or writer second.  The coaching is my first love and what I do best (I think!).  But the deeper I got into writing this site, the more I fell in love with the writing and the research and the interaction I get both here and on Facebook and Twitter.  Over the course of the last few months I’ve come to elevate this site to “just as important” to my health coaching.  I love this site and I love developing my skills as a healthy living blogger.

Something that bloggers do is use their platform to promote products or services.  I debated a little with myself on whether or not I wanted this to be one of those blogs who reviews things for money or products or perks.  I think it can be tastefully and tactfully done, but I’ve seen too many times where the author has gone from interesting writer to paid shill who just hawks anything from hotel rooms to restaurants to almond butter to potato chips.  I can think of a handful of sites that I used to love to read for the interesting and informative content, but they’ve become sites I don’t frequent anymore because I got sick and tired of being sold to all the time.

On the other hand, there is a definite up-side to reviewing products and services.  I can get the word out about things that I think my clients and readers would find useful and I’m using myself as a guinea pig for these things.  I hope you like and trust me enough to be honest and know that I come from a place of good intention.

This is a long preamble to say that in the last several weeks I’ve been approached by a few people/companies to do reviews on this site. I thought long and hard about it and decided to wade carefully into these waters and see what happens.  I’ve set up some ground rules for myself and I do solemnly swear to uphold these rules as my vow to you, dear readers.

1. I will ALWAYS be completely honest with you about when I am talking about something that has been given to me to write about – This site will not become a sneaky subliminal commercial for things I have been given.  When I am reviewing a product that has been given to me to sample, you will know about it and there won’t be any mystery.  Sometimes I like to tell you about things I’ve tried or done on my own time with my own money.  I will be very diligent in making the distinction between the two scenarios.

2. I will ALWAYS give you my honest opinion whether it is flattering or not – If you know me in real life, you know I am a straight shooter and I don’t mince words.  I am proud of the fact that I am a tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman.  When I share product reviews with you they will be completely honest and straight forward. I am under NO obligation to anyone to just say nice things about something just because it was given to me as a free sample or complimentary gift.  In fact, if someone gives me something to write about here on the blog and a condition is to only say something positive regardless of my true opinions, it won’t appear here.  Period.

I just wanted to put this out there.  Tomorrow I will be reviewing an e-book I was given and before I shared my thoughts on it I wanted you all to know where I stood on this whole review-my-stuff-on-your-blog enterprise.  I also am asking for your feedback along the way.  If you don’t like these sponsored posts, please tell me.  I write for you.