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January’s Blogger Book Club (Belatedly!)

Posted Feb 12 2013 8:44pm

First, I’d like to thank everyone who entered my giveaway for Flip & Tumble’s reusable produce bags !  With 184 entries, this was the most popular giveaway I’ve ever held. I absolutely loved seeing how many of you try so hard to avoid plastic bags AND how much you all love your fruits and veggies!

Congratulations to my winners, Alex (who I ‘met’ through Elf4Health ) and Debbie (a fellow Chicagoan!).  I know they will get a lot of use out of these bags!

Now, a month late, I’m finally posting a recap of January’s Blogger Book Club & Potluck.  In my defense, it’s been a very busy (a.k.a. fun) month.  I’ve actually attended THREE different potlucks in the past 4 weeks (with yet another potluck coming up next week – an office potluck party).  Can I officially call “Potlucking” a hobby of mine now?  

Even though I’m now a regular on the Chicago Potluck circuit, I still get pretty nervous every time one rolls around.  Most of what I cook is just for me and Mike, and it’s intimidating to have so many fellow foodies try my cooking.  I always like to try a serving of my dish before I head to the party, and then of course I need to be the first person to taste it again once it’s out on the buffet.

And I’m sure you know how difficult it is to select the perfect potluck recipe:  It needs to be portable enough to bring on the El train, with ingredients that won’t spoil easily, and can be served at room temperature (or easily reheated).  The taste should be crowd-pleasing yet still have a bit of a “Wow-factor” (a difficult balancing act), plus with our group’s allergies, intolerances & preferences, it also should be gluten-free, vegan, and ideally soy-free too.  And since we’re all “Healthy-Living Bloggers” it should be pretty healthy too (though as any healthy diet should, we do love it when the occasional splurge item makes an appearance!). To make matters even more complicated, we meet almost monthly and try our best not to make the same thing twice!

It’s definitely a herculean feat to find a dish that meets all those criteria, so I always especially love sharing the potluck eats I enjoy each month – they’re practically the Olympic Gold Medalists of recipes.  Next time you have a potluck to attend or picky eaters to please, check out some of the amazing recipes & ideas below!

January’s book club was hosted by Kelsey  and had one of our biggest turnouts yet – 16 bloggers, I think!

While I still was eager to attend the potluck, I actually chose not to read January’s book selection – the serial-killer novel  Heart Sick by Chelsea Cain.  I’m generally not a huge fan of anything scary, though listening in on the group’s discussion, I actually wished I had given the book a chance.  There were rave reviews all around and the plot sounded really unique.  If you’re curious about the book, Katie gives a great synopsis  on her blog. 

(Source:  accidentalintentions.com )

As for the eats, the potluck dishes included Kale Salad, Apple slices with Vegan CaramelCitrusy Quinoa Salad (with grapefruit in it – yum!), Vegan BBQ “Meat”balls, and a Chickpea Salad. For a splurge item, the not-’free’-of-anything Peanut-Butter Cookies in the bottom right-hand corner (above) got gobbled up (and shh… I snuck mine home for Mike to try).

I decided to play it safe and bring something that I’d made & loved before -  Mama Pea’s Thai Crunch Salad .  It’s definitely a winner, though for simplicity’s sake I tossed the salad with the dressing at home which I should not have done.  The cucumbers had watered down the dressing by mid-way through the potluck, making the flavors fall flat.  Lesson learned.

While everything I ate was super tasty, there were 4 recipes in particular that I’ve added to my list of must-make recipes:

Bethany  made these Healthier than Rice Krispie Treats “ since everyone agreed that “cereal” was the perfect not-deadly way to work a “serial”-killer theme.  These were gluten-, egg-, and dairy-free (but not truly “vegan” since they contain honey) and they were absolutely incredible.  May I say that the Peanut-Butter-and-Honey combo was… to die for?

Cate’s  batch of  Chocolate & Peanut-Butter Snack Bites  were also amazing with the perfect amount (a lot!) of dark chocolate chips.  I give these extra theme-points too, since in my book, Oatmeal = cereal too.

Despite being stuffed, I went back for seconds of both.

 

Lindsay’s  bowl of  Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso Sauce  was a new-to-me take on Potato Salad, with loads of Tahini flavor (yum!).  I think I’ll have to whip up a batch of this for my brown-bag lunches very soon.  I could even add some chickpeas and diced celery to make it a balanced meal in itself.

Sierra’s incredible Vegan Polenta Pie  was sadly one dish that I didn’t get to try seconds of!  When I went back for more, there was only one bite left.  I am always so awkward about taking the very last bite of anything and can never do so without a side-kick to urge me on.  

 

Partly because I didn’t get the “seconds” I wanted, but mainly because I knew Mike would love it too, I didn’t waste any time and cooked up my own Polenta Pie right away.  I followed Sierra’s recipe almost exactly, though I did add some garlic powder & italian seasoning to the polenta mixture, subbed in a red-onion for a yellow-onion, and used a cast-iron skillet.  It turned out absolutely delicious, and I was surprised at how easy and fun it was to use Polenta as a base.  Mike and I started brainstorming other toppings for the polenta and are hoping to try out some other combinations soon, like a Mexican Pie and a Pizza version!

I’m looking forward to our next Book Club event for both the delicious food and for the discussion of our next book, which comes highly recommended.  We’ll be reading  Unbroken  by Laura Hillenbrand which was suggested to the group by  Cate .  Everyone I’ve spoken to about it agrees that it’s a must-read book. The book-store cashier couldn’t say enough great things about the book, and my parents both read it, gifted a copy of it to my brother, and have been telling me to read it for months now.  

So what’s it about?  Here’s a summary from Amazon.com:

“The inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed… a juvenile delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time. You’ll cheer for the man who somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you’ll want to share this book with everyone you know. ”

 I’d love to hear from you!

Have you read or heard of either book?

What toppings would you put on a Polenta Pie?

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