I was really thrilled when I heard that my friend and fellow Culinary Nutrition Expert Graduate Michelle Vodrazka was coming out with another cookbook. I am a big fan of her Smart Snacking for Sports (released in 2014) as it contains a wonderful and extensive selection of healthy sports snacks that just so happen to be wonderful snacks for growing kids as well! As an on-the-go parent I often find healthy snacks to be a challenge. Pre-packaged products are often high in sugar, and finding home made options that my kids can get excited about is often a challenge. Thankfully Michelle's wonderful selection of sport snacks is both healthy and kid-friendly. I was very excited to start sampling more of Michelle's delicious recipes, expanded this time to include appetizers, mains and desserts.
I really appreciate the approach that Michelle takes with Help Yourself to Seconds. In her introduction she writes about the life experiences that led her to embrace a new way of eating. She then moves into the reasons why adopting a healthier way of eating are beneficial, which is so important for anyone looking to shift their lifestyle. If you understand the whys it makes the how, what and when much easier to facilitate. Her understanding of nutrition is extensive, and this information is presented in a way that is both engaging and accessible to the reader. I especially liked her concept of trading up instead of giving up, complete with a wonderful chart of healthier substitutions. Her fitness background deeply informs her discussion on fats and weight loss, presenting these ideas in a way that is down to earth and easy to incorporate into your day to day life. Michelle also includes handy reference materials, like the current Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen list and a meal plan template. These are all great resources for taking her wonderful ideas and putting them into action!
One of my favourite things about Michelle's new book is how accessible the recipes are. They are straightforward and easy to prepare, while also being chock full of flavour and nutrients. Perfect for busy parents! My kids enjoy helping me in the kitchen, and I found that lots of the tasks involved were accessible for little people. For more experienced cooks, Michelle's recipes are wonderful as well. Her Cheesy Broccoli Soup is hands down the best dairy free version I have found. It is a new family favourite and will be making frequent appearances on our weekly meal plans from now on! Some other highlights for us included the Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Raspberry Banana Smoothie Bowl (with Double-Chocolate Granola of course!) Grab n' Go Breakfast Cookies, Spinach Hempseed Pesto, Vegan Sweet Potato Chili, Vegan Falafel, Cilantro-Lime Quinoa Bowl, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding and Michelle's aptly named Perfect Granola Bars. Yum!
Michelle's recipes are all gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar free, which makes this book a perfect reference resource for maintaining a healthy food lifestyle. I appreciate that this book really is about lifestyle, there are no quick-fix, instant weight loss solutions, rather shifts and changes that you can incorporate to embrace a healthier way of being over the long haul. You can pick up a copy of Michelle's cookbooks here, and be sure to try out the Double-Chocolate Granola recipe below, it is incredible!
Indulge in your chocolate love affair with this decadent, delightful and delicious granola. Rich in antioxidants and high in fibre and complex carbs, this granola will keep your belly — and brain — happy for hours. Serve with almond milk or yogurt for breakfast or grab a handful as an on-the- go, high-energy snack.
• 3 cups gluten-free rolled oats
• 1 cup quick-cooking gluten-free oats
• 1/3 cup cocoa powder
• 1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
• 2 tablespoons flax or chia meal
• 2 tablespoons hemp hearts
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/2 cup coconut oil
• 1/3 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
• 1/4 cup real maple syrup
• 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips (again)
1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
2. In a large bowl, mix together both types of oats, cocoa powder, coconut, flax or chia meal, hemp hearts, cinnamon, and sea salt. Set aside.
3. In a small pot, heat coconut oil and chocolate chips (the 1/3 cup) just until melted.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the maple syrup and vanilla.
5. Pour the chocolate mixture over the oat mixture and stir together until completely coated.
6. Spread evenly onto a parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet.
7. Bake for 45 minutes, making sure to stir every 15 minutes because the outside edges tend to brown faster.
8. Remove from oven and immediately mix in the remaining chocolate chips.
9. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight, glass container.
Excerpted from Help Yourself to Seconds by Michelle Vodrazka. Copyright © 2015 Michelle Vodrazka. Photography by Marianne Rothbauer and Ann Nimarom. Published by Michelle Vodrazka. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.