Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Inspiralized by Ali Maffucci (Cookbook Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

The definitive cookbook for using a spiralizer: the kitchen gadget that turns vegetables and fruits into imaginative, low-carb dishes.

Ali’s recipes for breakfast, snacks, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, salads, casseroles, rices, pastas, and even desserts are easy to follow, hard to mess up, healthful, and completely fresh and flavorful. Best of all, she tells you how to customize them for whatever vegetables you have on hand and whatever your personal goal may be—losing weight, following a healthier lifestyle, or simply making easy meals at home. 
Here, too, are tons of technical tips and tricks; nutritional information for each dish and every vegetable you can possibly spiralize; and advice for spiralizing whether you’re feeding just yourself, your family, or even a crowd. So bring on a hearty appetite and a sense of adventure—you’re ready to make the most of this secret weapon for healthy cooking.

On her wildly popular blog, Inspiralized, Ali Maffucci is revolutionizing healthy eating. Whether you’re low-carb, gluten-free, Paleo, or raw, you don’t have to give up the foods you love. Inspiralized shows you how to transform more than 20 vegetables and fruits into delicious meals that look and taste just like your favorite indulgent originals. Zucchini turns into pesto spaghetti; jicama becomes shoestring fries; sweet potatoes lay the foundation for fried rice; plantains transform into “tortillas” for huevos rancheros.

My thoughts-

I think it was probably about a year ago that I came across a recipe online (probably via Pinterest) that used zucchini in place of lasagna for a low carb lasagna recipe. What I discovered after making this recipe is that I actually prefer the taste that zucchini adds to pasta dishes and so I was on a mission to find more recipes using them as a replacement. That journey led me to a hand held spiralizer and now we have zucchini noodles pretty much at least once a week. When I came across Inspiralized I was so excited to see that there would be recipes for zucchini noodles, but so much more. When I received the book, it exceeded my expectations. There are sections to this book that I would have never thought you could make tasty spiralized recipes for (breakfast and dessert) as well as sections that I expected but with so many more recipes than I thought possible. The beginning of the book has a nice section on how to get started and the end section has more information on the fruits and vegetables that you can spiralize. It is evident in the book that Ali Maffucci is not only passionate about being healthy, but about creating recipes that reflect her love of delicious food. Inspiralized recipes are meant for a spiralizer with several blade options (there are several available on and I am sure elsewhere), but even if you want to start with a little handheld device like I have, there are plenty of recipes you could still create from this book. I love the wide variety of cuisine represented here- there's Italian, Asian, Indian, ect.- it makes food less boring when it is varied. And there are way more types of vegetables and fruits utilized than zucchini (although I definitely recommend trying them spiralized! YUM!)  If you are looking for a very easy (and quite delicious!) way to add more veggies and fruit to your meals, Inspiralized is the book for you!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

VeggieTales Supercomics Volumes 1 & 2 Review + Giveaway!

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the comics from Family Christian Stores via their program for bloggers in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About VeggieTales Comics-

The VeggieTales characters and stories that we have all come to love are available in a new format- comics! Each comic contains 3 stories focused on a specific lesson. Recommended for ages 4-8

My thoughts-

VeggieTales came out when I was in high school and I remember always being super happy to get to watch them in youth group. Yes, the show was aimed at young children, but they were super cute and always had some great songs to sing along to! Since then the VeggieTales franchise has grown exponentially since then and still are as popular as ever! Their latest endeavor in the entertainment industry is VeggieTales Supercomics! Comic book heroes have always been popular, but it seems in the last few years that superheroes have really been everywhere. These comics are great because they teach important lessons while still being super fun to read! Volume 1 includes Dave and the Giant PickleLyle the Kindly Viking and an all new story Larry Boy and the Prideosaurus and volume 2 offers these- Josh and the Big WallThe League of Incredible Vegetables, and Larry Boy and the Reckless Ruckus. My kids, specifically my 7 year old daughter, really enjoy looking through these comics. I like that each volume has several stories so that the little ones have something to keep them busy for a while. The vibrant pictures and cute characters are also a big win! These are great for older kids to read independently and wonderful for parents to read out loud to little ones who might need help reading them. We really have been enjoying the great stories in VeggieTales Supercomics and look forward to many more in the future!

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert (Book Review)

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of that book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Just like in my dream, I was drowning and nobody even noticed.

Every morning, Carmen Hart pastes on her made-for-TV smile and broadcasts the weather. She’s the Florida panhandle’s favorite meteorologist, married to everyone’s favorite high school football coach. They’re the perfect-looking couple, live in a nice house, and attend church on Sundays. From the outside, she’s a woman who has it all together.  But on the inside, Carmen Hart struggles with doubt. She wonders if she made a mistake when she married her husband. She wonders if God is as powerful as she once believed. Sometimes she wonders if He exists at all. After years of secret losses and empty arms, she’s not so sure anymore.
Until Carmen’s sister—seventeen year old runaway, Gracie Fisher—steps in and changes everything. Gracie is caught squatting at a boarded-up motel that belongs to Carmen’s aunt, and their mother is off on another one of her benders, which means Carmen has no other option but to take Gracie in. Is it possible for God to use a broken teenager and an abandoned motel to bring a woman’s faith and marriage back to life? Can two half-sisters make each other whole?

My thoughts-

I really LOVED this novel. I have read all of Katie Ganshert's books and with each one I think it is my favorite and there is no way it can be outdone- I was wrong yet again. The Art of Losing Yourself will appeal to a broad range of people. I think it will especially resonate with women, who can relate to Carmen, and teens, who can relate to Gracie. I honestly could relate to them both in so many ways. 

One of the biggest draws for me to Ganshert's books is that the characters feel so authentic. They are flawed, their lives aren't perfect. These are people we can relate to or maybe even want to be friends with. The more books she writes the more she perfects the art of creating interesting stories with every day people. I can not even decide who may favorite character in this book is and I usually have a very clear favorite. I enjoyed the overall story interweaving the thoughts and feelings of sisters Carmen and Gracie and the run down family motel they are working to restore, as well as the sub-plots with the more minor characters. Gracie's story with Elias made me feel like I was in high school again, I have definitely been in the exact same position at her age, it had me feeling nostalgic. I enjoyed the flashbacks as Carmen remembered the beginning of her relationship with Ben and although the parts of the story with aunt Ingrid are a bit on the sad side, she is an important part of the book giving great advice, even when she doesn't realize it. When I got to the end of the book, I was not ready to leave Gracie, Carmen and company. I want to know what happens next in this story! I would really love to see a sequel (or better yet, a series!)

The Art of Losing Yourself will be available on April 21. You can pre-order a copy on

Check out my reviews of Katie Ganshert's other novels-

About the author-

Christy Award finalist and Carol Award winner, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her family and their goofy black lab, Bubba. When she’s not busy penning novels or spending time with her people, she enjoys drinking coffee with friends, reading great literature, and eating copious amounts of dark chocolate.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Paris Hop! by Margie Blumberg (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

On a visit to Paris for just one day, Grandma Goldie is eager to show her granddaughter, Aimee, how the city sparkles in the sun from the top of the Eiffel Tower. But the other joys of "Paree" create delightful detours along the way. Will this peppy pair make it to the tower before sunset? Find out in this charmingly illustrated rhyming tale about the City of Light . . . and happy surprises.

Our picture book includes a French-English glossary. 

The second book in our Travel Adventures with Grandma Goldie series will be published in October 2015.
My thoughts-

This was such a cute book! My husband and I love to travel. Sometimes we go places as a couple and leave the kids behind, but they are always on our minds. Since we also both love to read, if we go somewhere without them we get them a book about the area we were in. After we started that tradition, the kids also have a serious case of wanderlust and a fascination with geography, so sometimes we buy books about different places just for fun. One of my favorite places I have ever been is Paris and I love this little book. It is a great way to introduce children to the French language and to some of the historical and popular parts of Paris. It is cute and easy to read and the pictures are adorable. I know my little ones would pick this book to read often. I absolutely recommend Paris Hop! to parents of pre-school or young elementary aged children. Paris Hop! will broaden your children's horizons and open up a passion for other places and cultures. 


Connected: Curing the Pandemic of Everyone Feeling Alone Together by Erin Davis (Book Review)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Technology has allowed us to connect with more people in more places than ever before. Sure we have “friends” we even have “followers” and yet, a silent epidemic is sending shock waves straight into our living rooms. What is this hidden disease? Loneliness. Popular author Erin Davis knows what it’s like to feel lonely. She knows how it feels to have many friends, a full schedule, and a pit in her stomach. As she wrestled her own feelings of loneliness to the ground, Erin started to feel like the scientist charged with finding the cure for the lonely epidemic—a journey that has proved to be funny, encouraging, and helpful. What is causing the pain of loneliness to gnaw at our hearts? What does God know about feeling alone? While swimming in a sea of people, what’s a lonely girl to do? Where should she turn for a life raft? Erin has traveled across the country to talk with other women and answer these questions for us all. Come along in Connected to learn about her journey as well as the stories of women who are probably a lot like you!

My thoughts-

It is sad that we live in a society in which people feel like they are more connected than ever via technology and yet are more lonely than ever in reality. Busyness and misplaced priorities are a huge culprit. I long for a world in which Sunday dinners with family and more in person interactions with friends are the norm. I absolutely think it is why there is such a prevalence of depression and why so many people feel so alone. Connected hits the nail on the head several times about relationships- actual real-life, in person relationships, not the superficial all online kind- and the things that have led them to have almost disappeared. Smart phones and Facebook seem to take priority over real life get togethers- something I think many people will regret years down the line-up you can't ever get that time back. The book gets off track several times for me into other subjects when I think the absolute focus should be on how we as a society can get back the community aspect of relationships, but the author's heart is in the right place. This is definitely a subject we should all take the time to think about.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Soup Club Cookbook Review + Giveaway

*Disclosure of material connection- I receive a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a postive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own

About the book-

Food-sharing is the hot new thing in the "getting dinner on the table" conversation, and in The Soup Club Cookbook, four busy moms share not only their formula for starting a soup club--which gives you at least three meals every month when you don't have to worry about dinner--but also 150 fantastic recipes for soups and sides and storing tips for stretching those meals across the week.
The Soup Club began when four friends (who, between them, have four husbands and ten hungry kids and several jobs) realized that they didn’t actually have to cook at home every night to take pleasure in a home-cooked meal. They simply had to join forces and share meals, even if they weren’t actually eating them together. Caroline, Courtney, Julie, and Tina happen to be neighbors, but a soup club is for anyone: colleagues, a group of workout buddies, a book club. All you need are a few people who simply want to have more home-cooked food in their lives.

In a soup club each person takes a turn making soup—and sometimes other dishes for sides or for when everyone needs a break from soup, so if a club has four people, in a month each person will have dinner delivered three times—a dish that can start as a full meal and stretch into more dinners or lunches or even morph into a sauce. Soup is forgiving, versatile, and perfect for sharing; it can be spiced to taste, topped elaborately or not at all, and dressed up or down. It travels well and reheats beautifully.  The Soup Club Cookbook also has dozens of tips for cooking in quantity and for tailoring soup to individual tastes and needs. Here, too, are simple guidelines for starting your own soup club, anecdotes, and a few cautionary tales  that will inspire anyone to share food and eat well. 
Recipes include quick and easies, classics, twist on favorites, and dozens of flavor-rich new crowd pleasers:  

   • Carrot Coconut and Chicken Chili, 
   • Senegalese Peanut Soup 
   • Faux Ramen 
   • Red Lentil Curry Soup 
   • Potato Cheddar Soup 
   • Sun Dried Tomato Soup 
   • Jeweled Rice Salad 
   • Cheddar Cornbread, 
   • Summer Corn Hash 
   • Soy Simmered Chicken Wings

My thoughts-

Some friends and I decided a few months ago that it would be fun to host a soup exchange. None of us have ever  done it and we really don't know what we are doing so I was excite to see there was a book out there like The Soup Club Cookbook. I thought it would be a great book to reference for our soup exchange coming up in a few weeks. As I began reading the book, I knew it would be so much more than what I thought. The idea that this group of friends had was to have a soup CLUB. What that entails in this case is four friends who takes turns making soup for the other three. There are 4 weeks in a month, so each friend has a designated week (just one day of that week) where they are in charge of making and delivering the soup! This means three times a month that each of these ladies get a break from cooking but still get a great home cooked meal. I think this is a genius idea! I don't know what it is these day (I probably sound like an old geezer, but I am only in my early 30's...I was just born into the wrong time period, I guess) but it seems like everyone is so wrapped up in their own worlds that they never take the time to connect with others...maybe on these 3 days these ladies can do the connecting that is so desperately absent from present day American society...a. with their friend who delivers the soup and b. with their family since they won't have to make dinner those nights. The Soup Club Cookbook really got me thinking about this whole food exchange idea and I would like to offer another suggestion- each month rotate the type of food you are making. For example: in January each week someone makes the soup, in February maybe each person makes a casserole, in March perhaps the focus is on chicken, ect. I would also suggest having a potluck get together once  month with all four families or perhaps a tea time for just the ladies of the group! I absolutely love the idea of a food exchange between friends! There are some great soup recipes in the book (which is mostly a cookbook) that would be helpful to get your own soup club started. There is also a nice section at the beginning of the book explaining exactly how the ladies run their soup exchange. Even if you don't have any interest in the club part, there are so many soup recipes here, that this is a book worthy to be added to your cookbook collection.

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Bolla Wines + Enter to Win a Trip to Italy

Disclosure of material connection- I received some of the products mentioned in this blog post in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are 100% my own. 
It is hard to think of wine without Italy and good food coming to mind. 1 in 3 bottles of wine that are sold in the U.S. are from Italy, and with good reason- Italian wines are delicious and, of course, go very well one of Italy's other great offerings- Italian food! Bolla, the iconic Italian wine brand that is  based in Verona, Italy wants to help you "feel Italian" by teaming up with other great Italian brands to offer you the very best products to great exquisite and tasty meals! Bertolli's olive oil and Locatelli cheese will help you come up with  a great meal to go along with your Bolla wine. I love this wine for so many reasons! Bolla is both affordable and delicious and there is something for everyone. Bolla Prosecco is bubbly and fruity, with lovely hints of apple, pear and peach, a great drink for beginning your evening. Bolla Soave 883 is a great drink for someone just getting into wine, it is very light with a great floral fragrance with a hint of peach and a very sweet taste. If red is more your thing,  Bolla Chianti is medium bodied wine and a little bit on the stronger side, with an intense taste of violet and red cherries. It also makes a terrific addition to cooking, add a splash to your red pasta sauce to take it to another level. These are just a few of Bolla's great offerings, head over to Banfiwines to explore the other great wines that Bolla has to offer. 

If you have always dreamed of going to Italy, Bolla is giving away a trip for two to Verona, Italy on their Facebook page. It includes roundtrip airfare, lodging an a visit to the wonderful Bolla Winery. The giveaway will run now until June 2015. Go enter today!