Monday, September 1, 2014

Cookbook Review: The Nourished Kitchen by Jennifer McGruther

You know that feeling when you read a description and realize: 'So that's what they call it!'

That's the epiphany I had when I read the following in the introduction of The Nourished Kitchen:

...a traditional foods diet avoids processed ingredients, but allows meat, animal fat, and grains. It embraces cultured dairy, such as kefir and yogurt, that contain beneficial bacteria; fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and kombucha, that are rich in probiotics; and organ meats that are packed with vitamins and minerals. It also celebrates locally grown foods. By choosing ingredients from nearby sources, you create a stronger connection to your food, and have a better understanding what you’re eating and how it was produced. 

Read an Excerpt from The Nourished Kitchen

This attitude toward food reflected the way my own approach to cooking and eating had evolved over the past six months.

First, I began incorporating organic milk and eggs into my regular diet. Next, I discovered that organic produce from the local Natural Grocers was often the same price as regular produce from my Safeway store, if it was in season.

Then I began growing a few herbs and vegetables in containers on my deck, which inspired me to check out armfuls of cookbooks on vegetable-based meals, and finally, I began learning how to bake bread.

By the time I read the introduction of The Nourished Kitchen, I discovered there was a name for the way I was eating and here was a cookbook that embraced that philosophy with simple, yet delicious recipes.

After reading through the book, I chose two recipes to test out: the salmon baked in cream with dill, thyme, and sweet bay leaf, and the sourdough starter...which I then used to make the spelt bread.

The salmon baked with cream and herbs was a delightfully simple to make, not even taking five minutes to assemble and pop in the oven, it was as easy as: place salmon filet in baking dish, pour cream over fish, toss herbs over fish, bake at 400F for 15 minutes. Perfect for a busy weeknight, yet elegant enough for a special dinner. It was delicious!

The second recipe I tried out was the sourdough starter. Since I really enjoy baking slow rise, no -knead bread, this seemed like a logical next step.

Bake Bread with Jennifer

Jennifer's explanation of starting your sourdough starter is thorough and with the proper attention (feeding the starter must be done twice a day) you can be baking sourdough bread in 3 to 5 days.

The Nourished Kitchen is going to be one of those cookbooks that will become a central part of my cookbook collection. If you share my interest in cooking healthy, nourishing meals that lack nothing in taste...check out this book.

About Jennifer McGruther

Find The Nourished Kitchen on Facebook

FEC Disclosure: I received a free copy of The Nourished Kitchen in exchanged for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Bread That Wouldn't Rise : English Muffin Toasting Bread: King Arthur Flour

I've been baking bread all summer long and loving the experience. However, not all of my breads have been this one. 

Up until now, I've only made long-rise, no-knead breads via my baking hero and no-knead baking pioneer, Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery.

However, recently I discovered King Arthur Flour's wonderful baking website where they feature a plethora of recipes and a baker's blog where you can go to ask questions about the most common baking fails that home bakers encounter on a specific recipe...which is exactly where I'm headed after I post this recipe.

Here's a link to the bread I chose, specifically because it is easy to assemble and bake, a good hurdle for what would be my first non-no-knead bread:

English Muffin Toasting Bread: King Arthur Flour

As you can see, I tried it twice and failed twice. I followed the directions exactly, so I'm not sure if it was the common issue of baking at 8,000 feet above sea level or something else?

I'm going to ask the question on the King Arthur website and I'll let you know what I find out.

In the meantime, if you love to bake...try the recipe, despite the failure to rise, it's a delicious bread!

Love xo,


A Map of Heaven Preview: "What if you woke from a dream with a flower in your hand?"

What if you slept?
And what if in your sleep, you dreamed?
And what if in your dream,
you went to Heaven?
 And there, plucked a strange and beautiful flower?
And, what if,
when you awoke you had the flower in your hand?

–Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Monday, August 25, 2014

My Very Own Food Revolution: It Started with a Container Garden

These beautiful tomatoes are from my container garden. My very first vegetable garden which started out as one tomato plant, one rosemary plant, and a basil plant (which quickly died).

My container garden has grown exponentially. I now have five different heirloom tomato plants, strawberries, arugula, red lettuce, eggplant, acorn squash, zucchini, wax beans, red peppers, jalapeño peppers, all sorts of herbs. 

The point is: I started small and took baby steps. And I have a notoriously black thumb....I kill plants just looking at them. Yet, despite my best efforts, these wonderful vegetables continued to grow. And as I enjoyed each little harvest, they inspired me to change my diet.

I used to be the type of eater who struggled to incorporate "Meat-less Mondays" into my diet. Now, I eat vegetable-based meals at least five days a week. 

From my local library, I've discovered arm-loads of cookbooks that have taught me how to cook delicious vegetable-based meals that are so creative and tasty that I don't miss meat.

Which is not to say that I've given up eating blue-cheese burgers or creating bittersweet chocolate chip cookie / java chip ice cream sandwiches.

I've just discovered that thanks to my little container garden, and organic produce from my local grocers, I have found a new way of eating.

Best of all, this way of eating has contributed to my weight loss of 35 pounds this summer, without starving or resorting to strange diets. 

I believe this way of cooking and eating is a lifestyle change that I can embrace for the rest of my life and which I hope will add years and quality to the rest of my life.

I plan to share the recipes I've discovered this summer, here.

I hope you'll join me!



Saturday, August 23, 2014

Do You Believe that Good Can Come From Your Hardship?

Are you going through a hardship, a crisis with your health, or family, or job?
 I want to strongly encourage you to take time today to watch this week's message from Charles Stanley. Here's a link to the video on

For the past six months, I have been struggling with career decisions and a career path that I thought was right, has dried up. Honestly, it feels like all I do is pray and hear God's silence. Which is why I was drawn in when I heard the topic of Dr. Stanley's message this week.

When I'm in the middle of a crisis, it's difficult to believe that things will ever get better, or that what I'm going through will eventually lead to something better. 

Yet, when I look back on my life, I can honestly say that that has always been the case. I couldn't see it in the moment, but afterward, it was always true.

It's just hard to hold onto that truth when you are in the middle of your darkest time and the situation seems to be getting worse instead of better.

So, to encourage you to click on the link to, I've copied the 15 points from the Sermon Notes of Dr. Stanley's message, on How to Turn a Crisis into an Opportunity (this link will take you to a pdf of the notes that you can download for yourself).

I hope you will get as much out of it as I have:

  • Trust that God is working everything in your life for your good (Rom. 8:28).
  • Believe that our heavenly Father is in control of everything. When you and I believe in God’s sovereignty, it’s easier to retain our hope—even if we don’t understand why we are suffering.
  • Accept that the Lord’s ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). Don’t lose heart by asking why; simply trust God’s intimate involvement in your life.
  • Refuse to make quick judgments in the midst of a crisis. Ask, “God, what are you doing in my life?”
  • Focus on the Father instead of the crisis. Meditate on Scripture, which fuels your awareness of the Father’s comfort and unconditional love.
  • Avoid dwelling on the pain. It’s normal to feel loss and suffering, but instead of fixating on the grief, go to the ultimate source of strength—the Word of God (Ps. 103:19).
  • Recall past crises and the opportunities that followed. Seeing God’s handiwork through past hardships will encourage you in your current trial (See Romans 8:29.)
  • Let go of your anger immediately. Even if you feel upset at first, don’t let that emotion take root in your life (Eph. 4:26). Releasing your irritation frees you to see God’s purpose in your circumstances.
  • Submit yourself to God’s will. Joseph faced every trial with a humble heart that was willing to grow and learn. When we believe the Lord’s promises, we are also motivated to surrender to His will in every situation.
  • Demonstrate a spirit of gratitude. Even in the darkest valley, knowing the Lord has good plans for your life is a powerful motivator of thankfulness.
  • Determine to view the trial as a chance to see God at work. Choose to approach the situation with hope and a desire to learn.
  • Refuse to listen to unscriptural interpretations of your situation. No matter how well meaning others are, they are not in your exact situation. Ask God how you are to respond to adverse circumstances.
  • Remain in constant prayer, listening for the Father’s instructions. God will often use hardship to draw you closer to Himself. Pain, trials, and suffering are all used by the Father to develop your intimate relationship with Him.
  • Do not give in to fluctuating emotions. When you pray and your situation doesn’t change, you may want to give up. But remember that feelings are often the enemy of obedience, and resist the temptation.
  • Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him. No matter what, know that the Father loves you and is in control. You can’t go wrong by trusting your entire life to Him.  

Love xo,

P.S. I've been listening to Dr. Charles Stanley for over twenty years and I've always admired his wisdom and straightforward message. He is kind, wise, and compassionate. And no nonsense. I enourage you to listen to this week's message and sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

photo credit: morguefile

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's It About? - A Peek Behind the Cover of A MAP OF HEAVEN

Contemporary women's fiction with a spiritual twist

I will be launching  A MAP OF HEAVEN in December 2014.

Between now and then, I'll be giving you a glimpse behind the scenes of the novel and its creation.

Subscribe to my blog to be notified of upcoming giveaways!

And now...a first glimpse at A MAP OF HEAVEN

What would you do if you had one week to live and a lifetime of unrealized dreams to fulfill?

A series of blinding headaches sends thirty-four year old Elizabeth to the hospital, where she is given the death sentence of an inoperable glioblastoma. Defying her doctor’s order, Elizabeth heads to Paris in search of a different from of healing and one last chance to experience the life she locked away with her paintings.

A MAP OF HEAVEN traces Elizabeth’s choice. 

In Paris, her days are filled with a budding romance with a doctor who is escaping his own demons. Her nights contain dreams of a maze, rooms filled with turning points from her past, and letters urging her to save her life if she can find the map of Heaven first described to her as a child and now enshrined in a painting haunts her dreams.

During these nocturnal trips through an endless maze, Elizabeth meets an astronomer searching forgiveness, an artist searching for immortality, a mother searching for revenge, and an atheist searching for God. MAP ranges from a small Midwestern town to the streets of Paris, from the depths of Hell to a sandy beach that might be Heaven.

With only days left, Elizabeth is offered a choice. To save her life she must give up everything she has gained: the solution that is finally within her grasp and the man she has fallen in love with. Which will she choose? The rest of her life or the best week of her life?

A MAP OF HEAVEN is women's fiction that will appeal to fans of Mitch Albom.

Can't wait to share more with you, next week!

Love xo,


Monday, August 18, 2014

Rosemary Cheese Bread - Easy No-Knead Method

The best bread I've ever made...another winning recipe adapted from Jim Lahey's My Bread


2 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

2 1/2 cups half-inch cubes of your favorite semi-soft cheese, I used comte and some dried out bits of brie and rind that I had. Be adventurous and try your favorite combinations!

1 1/3 - 1/2 cups of cool water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

1 Tablespoon finely minced rosemary

3/4 teaspoon yeast


1. Whisk together dry ingredients and cheese in a large bowl.

2. Slowly pour water into the dry ingredients and using your hand or a spoon, form the dough into a wet ball.

3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm area of the kitchen for 12 - 18 hours.

4. Scrape dough onto a well-floured surface, gently knead two or three times into another ball and place seam-side down on a kitchen towel dusted with flour or corn meal. Let dough go through second rise for 2 hours.

5. Thirty minutes before the end of the second rise, pre-heat oven to 450 bottom of Dutch-oven in the oven during the 30-minutes of oven pre-heating. When oven is preheated, pull Dutch oven out, gently turn the dough out and into the bottom of the pot, put the lid on and bake the bread for 35 minutes. Then, take lid off of pot and continue to let the bread bake for another 20-30 minutes until the bread is well-browned and has a hard-hollow sound when you thump the top. If the bread starts to burn, you can replace the lid to continue baking. You want the bread to have enough time to bake all the way through.

6. Remove from oven and let cool for ten minutes in the Dutch oven, then turn the bread out onto a rack to finish cooling for at least an hour. Let cool thoroughly before cutting into the will be worth the wait.

7. Slice and enjoy with a nice slathering of's delicious!