When nutritionist and Westfield resident Lauren Kelly started her blog Lauren Kelly Nutrition.com just one year ago, she never imagined it would lead to her writing a cookbook.
"They approached me in the end of June and I had two months to write almost 300 recipes," said Kelly, who works as the staff nutritionist at The Bar Method in Montclair. "The irony is the two months I had to write it were the two months my kids were out of school."
Kelly said while it was daunting coming up with the recipes and working out their exact measurements, putting it all together proved to be "a labor of love."
"It was fun when I got it right and then the fourth time making my dark chocolate scones ... it's difficult getting the right ratios for gluten-free," Kelly explained.
While she was creating recipes, Kelly said she was lucky to have some willing taste-testers right in her own kitchen.
"I'm blessed because my all three of my kids will eat stuff that I would never eat," she said. "I make it a point to introduce them to new things and they're open to trying them."
In addition to the recipes, Kelly said she also had to come up with fun facts or nutrition tips that appear in the sidebar beside half the recipes. For this, the nutritionist said she drew on her expertise by providing information such as "Most people don't know kale has more vitamin C than an orange."
While she is not a wheat-free blogger, the new author explained that her recipes "tend toward quinoa and vegetarian and a lot of healthier options."
"I think most people eat more wheat than they really know, so I think my book is a great way to limit intake. You don't have to be wheat-free to enjoy the book. A lot of recipes can be adapted but I think it's a really smart way to reduce the wheat in your diet for people who don't have an intolerance but who want to reduce it for various reasons," said Kelly, who noted that wheat has been linked to attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as well as chronic inflammation.
She added that others try to reduce their wheat consumption in an attempt to lose weight. But cutting back on wheat doesn't have to mean giving up flavorful snacks or meals. Kelly's cookbook contains chapters devoted solely to kids meals, appetizers, breakfasts, seafood, meat and, of course, dessert, which she noted was the most challenging.
In addition to being "kid-friendly," Kelly said none of the recipes is too labor-intense or time-consuming.
"I don't have the time and I don't want the time to make a three-hour meal," she said. "Some took longer but they're more of a fancier dinner and required more preparation."
Published this month, the book is available at The Town Book Store as well as at Barnes & Noble.
While she was approached previously to write a cookbook, Kelly said she turned down the offer as her youngest child was just an infant. Luckily, "everything came into place for this one." Penning her debut cookbook has given her confidence, she noted, and added that she'd be interested in writing a second in a few years.
"My son said maybe I could write another one in two years because he said, 'I missed you this summer,'" shared Kelly, who said half her time was spent in the kitchen and the rest was devoted to working in the Westfield Memorial Library or in the quiet homes of friends who were on vacation where she wrote down the recipes and perfected the measurements.
Still, her boys are proud of their mom's accomplishment. Her oldest has the cookbook loaded into his Kindle and has decided he'll be selecting family dinners from the book nightly now.
When she isn't testing out new recipes, the nutritionist can be found hosting workshops and consultations at The Bar Method and in Westfield.
Kelly shared one of her favorite wheat-free recipes:
Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust **Wheat-Free**
You will never miss the wheat or gluten in this pumpkin pie! Who says your favorite pie has to be filled with tons of sugar, additives and refined carbohydrates? NOT ME
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup blanched almond flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice (cinnamon, ginger, allspice and nutmeg)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons coconut oil (or cold butter)
3 tablespoons 100% maple syrup
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the pecans in a food processor and process until you have a coarse flour. Add the almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, pumpkin spice, coconut oil, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla and pulse until a ball of dough forms.
Using the palms of your hands, press the dough into the bottom and up the sides of a pie pan. Spread into a thin layer thoughout the sides and bottom. Bake for 10 minutes.
Pumpkin Pie Filling:
15 oz. pumpkin
3/4 cup almond milk or your milk of choice
3/4 cup maple syrup
3 egg whites
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin spice or to taste
Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix all ingredients.
Pour batter into pan. Bake about 55-60 minutes, or until you put a toothpick through the center and it comes out clean. ENJOY