Dinner: Changing the Game


There is no bigger hiccup in my day then realizing I forgot to take something out of the freezer for dinner or didn’t make it to the grocery store like I told myself I would. Dinner is something I don’t enjoy making and I’m never really excited about it. Frankly, if I didn’t have a husband and child to feed, I’d be perfectly fine microwaving a Healthy Choice frozen dinner. I’m hoping this book, “Dinner: Changing the Game,” by Melissa Clark, will change that feeling, at least slightly.

Just in the Introduction, I’m hooked. Clark talks about how unconventional our eating habits can be and with good reason. We don’t always want a protein and two veggies for dinner. When I order out, just as she says about herself, sometimes I just order appetizers, sometimes just sides, or maybe no meat at all! And when someone tells me I’ll get more flavor with less work? Count me in.

Before we get to any recipes, you’ll find a list of things to always keep on hand. These include oils, vinegars, and ethnic ingredients such as sumac, harissa, preserved lemons, and kimchi – none of which I actually have on hand. Guess a trip to the store (or stores) is in order.

The book is divided into sections by the main ingredient/idea: chicken, meat, fish & seafood, pasta & noodles, grains, etc. AND the list of recipes is incredible! Over 200 of them! Not only are the recipes impressive, but the photographs  of the meals make you want to dive right in and eat everything you see.

On to the recipes.


Whole birds are a great way to get lots of flavor and lots of meat without too much effort, but they’re somewhat intimidating. There are some helpful tips and lots of recipes like Smoky Paprika Chicken, Chicken & Grapes, or Roasted Sumac Chicken.

For those who don’t like to use whole chickens: Thai Chicken Breasts, Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Kumquats, Anchovy Chicken, Za’atar Chicken, or Pizza Chicken (interesting).


If you are tired of chicken, try: Vietnamese-Style Skirt Steak, Korean-Style Stir-Fried Beef, Georgian Lamb Kebabs, Crispy Salt & Pepper Pork, or Pork Scallopini.


It’s all about ground meats. Chorizo Pork Burgers, Ginger Pork Meatballs, Seared Sausage & Rhubarb…yum!


I think I’m going to use these recipes ASAP since I’m in the Lenten season (which means no fish Fridays for all the Catholics). What you’ll find: Anchovy Salmon, Slow-Roasted Tuna, Thai-Style Shrimp Balls, Shrimp Banh Mi, or Warm Squid Salad.


There is a brief tutorial about how to make different types of eggs before you jump in. After, it’s all fun. Shakshuka (made a lot during Passover), Eggs Poached, Japanese Omelet, Frogs & Toads (in a hole – no frogs or toads used), Herbed Parmesan Dutch Baby.


Pretty straightforward chapter. Stovetop Fusilli (with spinach, peas), Cacio E Pepe, Farro Pasta, Fried a Lemon Pasta, Coconut Rice Noodles.


I tried to make tofu once and it was a complete disaster. Haven’t eaten it since and that was probably 8 years ago. I may attempt it again with some of these recipes. They might make me a convert like: Sweet & Sour Tofu, Maple-Roasted Tofu.


Great chapter for vegetarians, those who don’t like a lot of meat, or those who are tired of always eating meat.

Some great ideas: Sweet Potato Dhal, Tomato-Braised White Beans, Black Bean Skillet Dinner, Asparagus Carbonara, Pole Bean Salad, Fried Halloumi, Spicy Beets.


This group includes rice, farro, quinoa, and other types of grains. There is a small section at the beginning that instructs you how to cook each grain – very helpful, especially if you’ve never cooked some of them.

Some great recipes include the Summer Grain Bowl, Quinoa Egg Bowl (would be great for breakfast), Farro & Crispy Leeks, Farro-Lentil Balls, and Sausage Polenta.


Every pizza recipe must have a recipe for pizza dough. Clark’s pizza dough recipe states you don’t need water from Naples and flour from Italy to have delicious flavor. It just takes time.

Once you have your dough, you can try adding some broccoli rabe, ricotta, and olives, or maybe tomatoes, anchovies, and garlic. There are also a couple pie recipes using puff pastry and phyllo dough.


I love soups. I don’t make them often, except for my homemade chicken soup that heals your weary soul, but I wish I did. They’re so easy (usually) and full of flavor.

I wish it wasn’t getting hot here because my husband won’t eat soup when it’s warm outside, but if you don’t care, here’s a few to try: Creamy Caramelized Broccoli Soup, Leek &a Tomato & Farro Soup, Rustic Shrimp Bisque, Kimchi Soup, or Watermelon Gazpacho (great for hot weather).


It says this is about salads that mean it so I’m assuming they’re filling and substantial, unlike so many other recipes. For example, a hearty Nicoise Salad with a basil dressing, a Summer Vegetable Salad loaded with veggies and potatoes, Burrata Caprese (one of my absolute favorite meals in this whole entire world!), or a classic Roasted Chicken Salad (like a Cobb sort of).


These recipes would be great to add to meals that need something extra, for use as appetizers at a party (especially a tapas party), or to put together when you don’t quite feel like a traditional dinner.

Recipes include Killer Hummus (I’ve been looking for a good go-to recipe), Carrot Muhammara, Pea Guacamole (hmm…not sure about this), Tuna &a Olive Spread, Spiced Lentil Salad, and a Citrus Salad.


Overall, I’m really excited to try a bunch of these recipes. The recipes do look involved, as far as ingredients go, but Clark says that after you learn techniques and get used to certain recipes, eventually you’ll be cooking meals quickly and effortlessly. What I really like is the diversity in recipes and the unique ingredients she uses. It spices up how mundane dinner can be and gets you out of your favorite-staples comfort zone.

I hope you give this book a try, especially if you’re a cookbook hound like me. Dinner is something we pretty much eat every night (unless you don’t want to cook and eat a bowl of cereal instead, like we do at our house), so why not make it enjoyable!?

Dinner @ Penguin Random House


I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

“When God Made You” – A Children’s Book


“When God Made You,” by Matthew Paul Turner (and illustrated by David Catrow), is a sweet and empowering children’s book. While it definitely seems geared towards those who are religious/spiritual, the message that no child is a mistake and that each child is made to be wholly and uniquely themselves is a wonderful message for all.

This book celebrates differences, individualities, and helps teach children the importance of using all the gifts and talents and love they were given to help, accept, and love others.

Not only is the message beautiful, but the artwork is incredibly colorful and bold and exciting. It, in and of itself, takes you on a journey through the little girl’s imagination and creativity. The pages are bright and imaginative and your child(ren) will love it.

It has already passed the kid test in our household. I hope your child(ren) enjoy it as much as ours.

My favorite line: “You being you is God’s dream coming true.”

More about When God Made You


I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.



As a plant lover and hobby gardener, I was intrigued by this book. Is it a cookbook? A DIY book? What are these extraordinary plants anyway?

Looking at “Harvest”, by Stefani Bittner & Alethea Harampolis, I could tell it would be a book different than any I own…and I own too many. The book is separated into gardening seasons during the year: Early, Mid, and Late. I like this better because if you’re picking this book up during a certain time, you can get to planting or harvesting for the projects right away.

Before you even get to any projects, you’ll notice that the photographs are bright, detailed, and quite exquisite. They highlight the beauty of what a garden and its harvest can be. I would get this book just to have it on my coffee table so that guests could admire the photos.

As we go through each gardening season, the author gives us information about certain plants/flowers and then proceeds to include projects for each.


Breadseed Poppy: Can’t say I’ve heard of this one before, but the flower is beautiful. It is called the “Baker’s flower” so that means I must add it to my garden! It can be used in baked goods and salads. It is accompanied by a recipe for Poppy Seed Dressing.

Lilac: Best used as a supporting shrub and best harvested in the morning. Great to use in a Lilac Flower Cream for your skin or to flavor sweet dishes.

Peppermint Candy Flower: Also known as Pink Purslane. It can be used in many ways like in salads, cooked, or pressed into cheese as they show you in a recipe for Edible Flower-Pressed Cheese.

Elderberry: Well known for its use in syrup. Can harvest flowers and fruit. Can make infused tonic water (recipe included), as well as Elderflower-Infused Honey. I think I’ll definitely be adding this to my garden as I am completely obsessed with honey. I don’t even need bees for this as you can use already jarred honey.


Oregano: I’m sure if you don’t have this one in your garden now, you probably did at some point. It is so well-known that many people probably get bored of it. Though I’ve used it in cooking as a fresh or dried herb, I’ve never used it to make vinegar and they show you how to do that. A lovely addition to any vinaigrette recipe.

Lavender: As I write, my lavender is just starting to bloom its beautiful purple blooms. I never thought about making tea from it and now I know what to do when I’m overwhelmed with flowers. So exciting.

Flowering Basils: Great in arrangements inside (and outside) your home. The cut stems can last weeks in vases as long as you don’t allow them to wilt – talk about bang for your gardening buck. Plus, the bees loves them.

Rose: I don’t currently have any planted, but I do love using a toner with rose in it. They teach you how to make your own using your own roses.


Quince: Not many people, at least that I know of, are familiar with the quince fruit. It’s easy to grow, but requires maturing time off the branches and is not used fresh but is cooked. Included is a recipe for quince paste, one of my favorite things with a good cheese.

“Berggarten” Sage: Drought tolerant and deer resistant, for those in climates where water is scarce or where deer love to eat your precious plants. Makes a wonderful garland for tables, mantels, or just about anywhere.

Australian Finger Lime: Chef favorite. Best grown in USDA zone 10 so it is not for all areas, but if you put it in a container, you may be able to keep it if you aren’t in that zone. Great for use in a gin and tonic (one of my favorite cocktails!).

Pomegranate: Favorite varieties include “Wonderful,” ” Ambrosia,” and “Eversweet.” If you like margaritas, you can make this lovely Pomegranate Margarita. It has a beautiful pinkish-red color, great for any holiday table. Even if you don’t want to grow them in your yard (or you don’t have space), just buy some from the store and they’ll work just fine.

Above are just some of the highlights of each section. There are many more plants and projects included. In the back, there are alternatives you can use should you not have what they recommend. For example, my favorite recipe, the infused honey, can be used with apricot, blackberry, rose, or lavender also. Also included is a Terms & Techniques section if you are unfamiliar with something they mention like Pruning, Succession Planting, or Drying.

This is a must have for any gardener that wants some new ideas, any DIY’er that loves being in the garden as well, and pretty much anyone that appreciates beautiful photography. I know, with this book, I’ll be using my garden much differently this year.

Harvest @ Penguin Random House


I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

The Kindness Challenge


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Happy 2017 everyone! Hope your New  Year has started off on the right track, but if it’s been a little rocky, you’ve still got the whole year left to make your changes.

I thought I’d start my new year off with a bit of kindness. After all, it’s something that’s lacking significantly in the world right now. But if you think you’re pretty kind already, how can you become kinder? Check out Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, “The Kindness Challenge”.

Though easier said than done, as most worth-while things are, here are the basics:

  1. Say nothing negative about the person you choose to be kind to, not even to other people (i.e. no complaining to friends/family, no venting – even to yourself).
  2. Daily positive thing to praise/affirm about person – tell them and others.
  3. Daily act of kindness/generosity.

I must say, as a more negative than positive person myself, this seems like it should be easy peasy, but somehow negativity makes its way in here and there. It’s definitely work and requires you to be mindful and aware of yourself and how you are reacting to others, behaving towards situations, and how much negativity you are allowing your mind to conjure.

There are many studies they’ve done and surveys they’ve given and the results are basically, if you put work into it, almost all relationships and people improved. Obviously, the degree of improvement depends on the individuals, their situations when they began this, if one or both people are participating, and how much work they’re putting into the project.

The relationships you choose to work on don’t have to just be romantic relationships. They can be parent/child, friend/friend, employee/boss, etc. Whatever relationship you need to improve, kindness is the start. What’s great is that even if the other person doesn’t improve, which is completely possible as we cannot change others forcibly, you will be changed in a more positive, kind, and thoughtful manner. You may feel calmer, more patient with those who test your will.

If you’re feeling stuck in a relationship and are looking for something that YOU can do, pick up this book and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how such a “simple” thing can change your life.

The Kindness Challenge


I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Radical Beauty


Things are constantly changing. Not only life around us, but information too! Every day, someone learns something new about how to be better, live better, eat better, sleep better, communicate better, better the way we feel, better the way we look…the ways to be better never end.

Most of the time, these things make us feel inadequate, preying upon our need to be as good as those around us: as beautiful, as successful, as accomplished, etc. Not so in this new book.

“Radical Beauty has nothing to do with trendy makeup, fleeting fads, or insecure comparisons with other women. Radical Beauty extends beyond the physical, encompassing all parts of your inner and outer being. It is something that exists universally, and, at the same time, it is completely unique to you. It nurtures and highlights your magnetism and confidence, vitality, and overall health, from your bodily tissues to the outer, visible parts of yourself.”

In “Radical Beauty,” by Deepak Chopra, M.D. and Kimberly Snyder, C.N., they use six radical beauty pillars to address beauty through nourishment (internal, external), sleep, energy, movement, and spirit.

Pillar 1: Internal Nourishment

This pillar is about the relationship with food. It’s about getting rid of all those fad diets, calorie counts, and false promises, and instead, focusing on long-term shifts, even just a few degrees at a time.

Shifts that you can make:

  • Accepting that chronic diseases (preventable cancers, type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease) and premature aging are not natural or necessary; lifestyle determines how you age and at what rate so if you can approach your diet strategically, you can increase your immunity, your natural healing response, and your beauty
  • Increasing circulation – incorporate berries, citrus, garlic, etc.; avoid vegetables oils, dairy, processed soy, etc.
  • Improve digestion – add probiotics, fiber; avoid carbonated beverages; soak beans/legumes, etc.
  • Avoid canned products and junk foods
  • Help yourself by using cooking time savers so you don’t have to get fast foods
  • Drink a green glowing smoothie daily

Pillar 2: External Nourishment

This pillar has to do with skin-care products and self-care practices to benefit the outside of your body.

Shifts that you can make:

  • Avoid toxic skin-care ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, DEA, Phthalates, etc.
  • Take care with sunscreens – they may contain harmful ingredients
  • Avoid aluminum, parabens, and other harmful ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Support circulation – get massages, go for a walk
  • Use natural masks, homemade beauty products using natural ingredients

Pillar 3: Peak Beauty Sleep

Does this one need an explanation? You need sleep. You need more sleep than you think. And sleep is super important.

Shifts that you can make:

  • Get 7-9 hours sleep per night
  • Avoid blue light before bed
  • Create an evening routine
  • Avoid heavy meals

Pillar 4: Primal Beauty

Get in touch with nature and the natural world.

Shifts that you can make:

  • Tailor your beauty practices to the seasons, adjusting to fit the change in climates
  • Take 5 minutes in the sun (protect face from sun and focus on sun on limbs)
  • Spend time outside
  • Use natural cleaning methods inside
  • Go shoe-free inside
  • Houseplants

Pillar 5: Beautiful Movement

Do exactly what is says…move!

Shifts that you can make:

  • Get moving
  • Walk
  • Play with your kids (or kid-like friends)
  • Practice your Pranayama (breathing exercises)

Pillar 6: Spiritual Beauty

Focus on improving your inner beauty. The most valuable knowledge says:

“The path must be inspiring. It must fit your own personality and tendencies. It should be without stress and strain.”

This, it seems, is probably the most difficult because we all have that negative, nasty, degrading voice that comes out every now and again (if we’re lucky) or more often than that. It can be quite difficult to ignore, let alone get rid of.

What you can do:

  • Be kind to yourself: smile at yourself, let others compliment you, get to know yourself like a friend
  • Stop self-judgment: don’t dwell on faults, don’t belittle yourself, don’t rationalize other’s bad behaviors towards you
  • Meditate
  • Surrender, Let Go, Accept, Be

I really enjoyed the progression of this book and all of the helpful information and practical things that can be done to obtain the end results they are speaking about. There are so many options to improve even just the slightest part of each bit of your being that no matter what you choose, you can’t go wrong.

I could see it as a book for the person who is ready to make a change, but even if you just read it to get inspired, I think it could be a benefit. I, myself, was not necessarily looking for a change, but after reading this, I realize how badly I’ve been treating my body (junk foods, not moving enough, ignoring my spiritual beauty, not paying attention to the products I use, not drinking enough water, and the list goes on) and have been inspired to greatly change the state I’m in. I hope it can inspire you to change even just ONE thing!

Radical Beauty at Penguin Random House


I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.