Virginia Willis is a French-trained chef and well-loved authority on Southern cooking. Her new book Lighten Up, Y’all: Classic Southern Recipes Made Healthy and Wholesome arrived in my mailbox a few weeks back. I’ve enjoyed cooking from it very much.

Bacon-Wilted Greens from @winnieab//www.healthygreenkitchen.com

In this beautifully photographed book, Virginia shares “lighter” versions of her favorite Southern recipes. Whole foods ingredients-and vegetables in particular-are featured prominently, and balance and moderation (yay!) are discussed throughout. Nutritional information is provided for all of the recipes.

I chose to make Virginia’s Bacon-Wilted Greens because 1. I am always looking for new ways to serve greens 2. I was intrigued by the baked apple with goat cheese garnish. I really loved this dish and will definitely be making it again! I used local Savoy spinach instead of the kale Virginia calls for: next time I’ll give the kale a try because the spinach cooked down quite a bit and made fewer servings than the recipe in the book states.

Bacon-Wilted Greens from @winnieab//www.healthygreenkitchen.com
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Carrie Vitt is one of the sweetest people I know and she’s got a great new cookbook out called The Grain-Free Family Table: 125 Delicious Recipes for Fresh, Healthy Eating Every Day. Carrie has experienced huge improvements in various health issues via diet change: she follows a grain-free diet and the focus of this book is grain-free recipes.

grain-free stuffed peppers from @winnieab//www.healthygreenkitchen.com

While I don’t eat a grain-free diet, I really like this cookbook because it’s packed with protein-filled recipes as well as recipes that feature fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, grain alternatives, natural fats, and wholesome sweets. Moreover, the food photos, shot by Carrie, are beautiful, and my recipe for sauerkraut is on page 258!

I have made these stuffed peppers a few times now and my family enjoys them a lot. For the record, I have not been too keen on adopting the “cauliflower in lieu of rice” trend but I did “rice” the cauliflower for this recipe and I am glad I gave it a try (it’s really easy to do and it increases the veggie quotient of this dish). That said, feel free to substitute cooked rice for the cauliflower rice if you like, and if you don’t need the recipe to be grain free. (Note that this is not a Paleo cookbook, but Carrie gives suggestions for how to make each recipe Paleo/dairy free if that’s something you need.)

grain-free stuffed peppers from @winnieab//www.healthygreenkitchen.com
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We went to the Dominican Republic back in December and boy am I missing it right now. The beach was so, so beautiful and the weather was perfect. And the fruit! The mangoes, papayas, etc. were really delicious. I drank their juices and ate plates of them every day.

Ever since I got home, I have been buying papaya at the market because I enjoy it so much. While I love a few slices with my breakfast, I’ve also discovered it’s great in smoothies. One of my new favorites is this one with fresh squeezed blood orange juice, papaya chunks, and frozen dark sweet cherries.

Blood Orange, Papaya, and Cherry Smoothie from @winnieab//www.healthygreenkitchen.com

I made this smoothie last week hoping to share it with you on Valentine’s Day. But there’s really no reason to relegate this dark red beauty of a smoothie to a holiday! It’s a wonderful winter treat you can enjoy any time.

Blood Orange, Papaya, and Cherry Smoothie from @winnieab//www.healthygreenkitchen.com

You don’t have to use blood orange juice; You can absolutely use the juice of any type of oranges. Don’t use bottled orange juice if you can help it, though…it won’t be nearly as good if you do. I’ve also made a version of this without the frozen cherries and I like that one, too, but the cherries add great flavor and a powerful punch of nutrients so I strongly recommend them.

Feel free to change up this smoothie by adding some more fruit such as banana and/or pineapple, greens, yogurt, protein powder, etc.
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Heart Disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. To increase awareness and help prevent heart disease, the American Heart Association is currently sponsoring American Heart Month. Since eating lots of fruits and vegetables is strongly recommended as a preventative measure for heart disease, I’ve partnered with Dole on this post to inspire you to eat more of these in 2015, and especially during Heart Month.

When the folks from Dole asked me to come up with a healthy, heart-inspired recipe, I had many different ideas about what I could make. In the end, I had a lot of fun creating this Greens Quesadilla, especially since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner :)

quesadilla_hearts_text
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It’s been a brutally cold and very snowy winter so far. On days when the weather’s too unpleasant to venture out for long, I love to curl up on the couch with a hot drink and a stack of inspiring cookbooks. Aimée Wimbush-Bourque’s book Brown Eggs and Jam Jars: Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites is one of my new favorites.

brown eggs and jam jars

In addition to being a friend of mine, Aimée is a very talented cook and writer and an urban homesteading aficianado. She is the editor of Simple Bites, a family-oriented whole foods blog, and she lives in Canada with her husband and 3 young kids. Brown Eggs and Jam Jars is her first cookbook and it’s really a gem: the seasonally-arranged recipes are at both imaginative and comforting, the photos are vibrant and inviting, and the writing is warm and engaging. So far I’ve made the Toasted Oat and Cocoa Smoothies, the Mexican Hot Cocoa, and the Citrus Cheesecake you see here: they’ve all been wonderful.

Now let’s talk about this cheesecake :)

Citrus Cheesecake from @winnieab | www.healthygreenkitchen.com
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