August has only just begun and my kids don’t go back to school until next month. From seeing friends’ updates on facebook, however, I know there are lots of children out there who have already waved goodbye to summer (or will very soon). To make the transition a little easier (and more fun!) I’ve team up with MightyNest to bring you a healthy and green reusable lunch gear giveaway :)

reusable lunch gear giveaway from www.healthygreenkitchen.com

I just adore MightyNest. It’s an online store specializing in natural, non-toxic products for the kitchen and home. Their numerous items are beautiful and durable, and their entire reusable lunch gear selection is 100% free of potentially harmful chemicals (including BPA, phthalates, and lead). They’ve put together a giveaway for my readers: it includes the lovely lunchbox and water bottle that you see above, plus a few other wonderful things. We want your child to have a super stylish, eco-friendly, and wholesome lunch from home when they go back to school!

Lunch Gear Giveaway | Healthy Green Kitchen

I have two kids (ages 14 and 11) and I’ve been doing the home lunch “thing” for a long time now. We’ve been through our fair share of lunchboxes/bags, believe me, and I can say without any doubt that the Milkdot lunchbag that comes with this set is definitely the nicest lunch bag we’ve ever owned. Here are the other items that are a part of this giveaway:

-One Lifefactory glass bottle
-One Lunchbots Uno
-One Snack Taxi sandwich bag
-One Wean Green glass bowl
-One Kids Konserve ice pack

It’s a great set for your child, but if you don’t have any kids and you bring your own lunch to school or work, you will love it, too!

{Ps If you are looking for fresh inspiration in the lunch box department, I suggest you check out this great-looking book: Best Lunch Box Ever: Ideas and Recipes for School Lunches Kids Will Love.}

The total retail cost of this giveaway is $83.00. It is open to US residents who are 18 and over and will run until 08/12/2013 at 12:00 PM (US Central Time). Please use the widget below to enter the giveaway and I wish you the best of luck! Many thanks to MightyNest for sending me/my daughter the set to try out, and for sponsoring this giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I am both a big fan and a friend of Shauna Ahern (aka Gluten Free Girl), so I was very happy to accept a copy of her newest book, written with her husband Danny–Gluten-Free Girl Every Day–for review.

Shauna’s food blog was one of the very first I discovered, and I’ve always loved her work, but this book has really exceeded my expectations. The photography (by the exceptionally talented Penny De Los Santos) is wonderful, and I really adore the short and sweet headnotes: they make the book a true pleasure to read. Perhaps my favorite thing about the book, though, is the “Feel Like Playing?” blurb that accompanies many of the recipes. This is where Shauna notes different ways you can change up the dish, and it’s genius.

I’ve cooked from Gluten-Free Girl Every Day over the past few months (I don’t review books here unless I’ve made and enjoyed at least three recipes). Today I’d like to share these delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, ever so slightly adapted from the book.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Shauna is her dedication to the development of flour combinations that make gluten-free baked goods not taste gluten free. You see, when I eat gluten free, it is by choice…not necessity. I have neither celiac disease nor a gluten sensitivity, so if I am going to eat gluten-free cookies, they damn well better taste good (so many gluten-free baked goods simply don’t). My family and some friends we had staying with us really loved these chocolate chip cookies!

The flour in these cookies is Shauna’s Whole-Grain Gluten-Free Flour Mix, a combination of nutrient-dense teff flour, millet flour, and buckwheat flour. That’s all: nothing weirdly starchy or devoid of wholesomeness. You make up a batch of it by combining 300 grams of each of the flours. (A scale is really a must for successful gluten-free baking: this is the one I have.) In the book, Shauna mentions that you may swap out the buckwheat flour for oat flour or sorghum flour. (Be aware that not everyone with celiac disease will tolerate oat flour.)

The recipe calls for hazelnuts and I didn’t have any on hand, but I recently heard from someone “in the know” (Shauna’s editor Justin!) that not adding the hazelnuts was a BIG mistake. Because there’s that whole nutella-like aspect if you use the hazelnuts, you know? So next time I make these, I won’t leave the hazelnuts out.

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies | Healthy Green Kitchen

Shauna’s recipe is below, and I’ve put the slight changes I made in parantheses. Also note that I sprinkled a bit of coarse sea salt (I like Celtic Sea Salt) on top of the cookies as soon as they came out of the oven. I almost always do this when I make chocolate chip cookies: the salt really intensifies the flavor of the chocolate ;)

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*Disclosure: This post is part of my ongoing relationship with the folks from California Endive Farms. I’ve received complementary boxes of endive over the past few months and I am being compensated to develop recipes to share with you; all opinions expressed here are 100% mine.

I discovered grilled endive last year when I came up with this grilled endive caprese salad; I make it all the time now. Pretty much every time I fire up the grill, I throw some nutritious endive on there: the heat softens it up and does away with any bitterness.

Grilled endive is great on it’s own as a side dish; it’s also a nice addition when chopped and thrown into salads.

salad 2_

You can also slice it lengthwise…

grilled endive

…and put it on a sandwich.

sandwich 1_

This grilled endive salad recipe and the related open-faced sandwich (above) is something I’m a little obsessed with lately. I’ve devoured one or the other a couple of times this week after I’ve been to the gym in the morning (where I do crossfit or lift weights for an hour or so). With the veggies, the protein from the steak, the carbs from the sourdough bread, and the high quality fat in the homemade dressing, it’s the perfect lunch as far as I am concerned.

(The open-faced sandwich is basically the same as the salad in terms of its components. I love salads, and find them super easy and satisfying to eat, but sometimes I like something I can really sink my teeth into, you know? The only difference between the salad and the sandwich is that I left the steak slices larger, I cut the endive differently, and I used a bigger tomato from my garden instead of a bunch of little ones. If you make everything for the salad, but you aren’t really in the mood for a salad, you will have more than enough to make 2 open-faced sandwiches.)

About the dressing: I am not sure it’s really a ranch dressing (maybe it’s more of a “green goddess”?), but I am sure it’s awesome. Seriously awesome. I usually stick to olive oil-based dressings, but I thought a creamy, herby dressing would be perfect for this salad. I was right!

dressing 1_

The dressing whips up in a jiffy in the blender. I used a combo of my diy crème fraîche and buttermilk as the base and I just love it. Greek yogurt (or an all-natural sour cream) would work too, I think. Feel free to play with the amount of herbs and the garlic. Have fun with it, and use the leftovers for dipping all sorts of veggies and anything else you can think of. Heaven.

I really like the chunks of slightly grilled bread in this salad, but you can leave them out and have your bread on the side, if you like. Or omit it from the meal entirely if you don’t “do” bread. If you don’t eat bread, I’d add another form of carbs to this meal: maybe some quinoa or rice or another grain, or some fruit. Too many carbs in the diet can be problematic but I am not really of the opinion that’s it’s healthy to eat very low carb.

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The last stop on our Peru journey was Machu Picchu.

Machu Picchu | Healthy Green Kitchen

I’ve dreamed about seeing this legendary place for a very long time.

Machu Picchu | Healthy Green Kitchen

It far exceeded my expectations: I was truly astounded by the beauty, mystery, and spiritual significance of the site.

Machu Picchu | Healthy Green Kitchen

Known as “The Lost City of the Incas”, no one knows exactly when or why MP was built. Construction of the buildings is thought to have been completed in the mid-15th century (and the area was apparently abandoned about one hundred years later). Fortunately for us, MP was not discovered nor destroyed by the Spanish conquistadores. The remote location and the surrounding jungle “hid” the site for many years: only locals knew about it until 1911. If you are interested in learning about how MP came to be known to the world, I recommend the book Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu. I read it on my phone while we were traveling in Peru and I really enjoyed it.

Machu Picchu | Healthy Green Kitchen

Machu Picchu | Healthy Green Kitchen

Machu Picchu | Healthy Green Kitchen

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I am having lots of fun with fruit and herb infused waters this summer. For a recent brunch I hosted, I made up a big pitcher of water infused with strawberries and lemon balm. The one you see here features peaches with basil and lemon balm (I’ve got SO much lemon balm in my garden!).

peach infused water 2_text

I’ve also been dreaming up many other combinations, like pineapple with lavender and plums with anise hyssop, that I plan to try soon. If you are like me and don’t love drinking plain water, infused waters are a nice option.

Infused waters are great because they add subtle, pleasing flavors to the water your body needs. They are also naturally sweet, though much less so than juice. The icing on the cake? They are beautiful to look at…

infused water 1_

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