Health has always been important to Brooke Griffin, but she defines it much differently today than she did before her life turned upside down.
Since her teen years, Griffin has been enthusiastic about health and fitness. She taught her first aerobics class at the age of 15, paid her way through college by working as a personal trainer, and performed as an NFL cheerleader. Throughout this time in her life, fitness was at the forefront of almost everything she did.
But in 2011, Griffin says, “I found myself in a different place. I was a brand-new mom. During pregnancy, I had gained almost 70 pounds. I was going through an unexpected divorce right after having my son. I was anxious, depressed, and felt completely different from my former self — like I had gone from the top of my fitness game to the bottom.”
So Griffin did what any self-proclaimed fitness nut going through a series of massive life transitions would do: She moved into her parents’ basement and started a blog.
A Cookbook for Everyone
At first, SkinnyMom.com was a place for Griffin to share workouts and pictures of the recipes she tried as part of her efforts to reclaim her health. Her audience originally consisted of friends and family, then grew to a few thousand. Today, the website draws more than six million readers a month.
Skinny Mom’s readers return to the site again and again largely because of its simple, lightened up recipes. So when a publisher approached Griffin to ask if she’d be interested in putting together a cookbook, it seemed like a perfect fit.
Griffin had just one condition: She wanted the book to speak to anyone looking to build healthy home cooking into a jam-packed schedule. Case in point: The book’s recipes can all be cooked in approximately 30 minutes or less.
“I was really intentional about making a book that’s for everyone — for every home cook, and maybe even folks who don’t like to cook,” she says. Most of all, Griffin hopes her cookbook Skinny Suppers: 125 Lightened-Up, Healthier Meals for Your Family (which goes on sale March 22) will empower anyone who has fallen off the “healthy” wagon to climb back on.
That’s why the recipes in Skinny Suppers don’t conform to any particular diet or health plan. Instead, Griffin encourages a balanced approach in which consistently eating tasty, lightened up meals adds up to feeling healthier over time.
“All of the recipes [in the book] are true to how I cook and how I live my life now,” says Griffin. “I don’t follow any strict diets or food rules, and I don’t deprive myself of the things I love. My style of cooking is to think about how to take the recipes and foods I love and modify them via “skinny swaps” so that the recipes still taste good but are lower in carbs, calories, and fat.”
Some of Griffin’s favorite recipes? Blackened Chicken with Avocado Cream Sauce (a fan favorite) is at the top of her list, followed by Southern Shrimp and Grits and a Tex-Mex casserole she created using pantry staples. “I like to take things that I love — such as southern food, comfort food, or family recipes — and use swaps to make them lighter,” she says.
Equally important to eating healthy meals is enjoying social companionship while doing so. Griffin grew up eating her grandma’s home cooking and sharing classic Southern food at big family gatherings in her home state of Kentucky — so family and food have always been connected in her mind. “Through this cookbook, I want to encourage family members to put technology down [during dinner] and share 20 or 30 minutes of real conversation,” says Griffin.
To that end, the book features conversation starters in addition to light and easy recipes, suggestions for how to stock the pantry (and which brands taste best), definitions for common cooking terminology, and recommendations for which kinds of kitchen equipment to invest in. You’ll also find time-saving resources (such as slow-cooker recipes and ones that taste great as leftovers), plus detailed tips for meal planning. The book’s instructions are clear, and the recipes — which range from beef suppers to casseroles, salads, side dishes, and vegetarian meals — are accessible to both amateur and experienced home cooks alike.
Balanced Diet, Balanced Life
In the process of designing this personal eating philosophy — and sharing it with the world via her blog and forthcoming cookbook — Griffin has redefined her own attitude toward health.
Today, Griffin says, her approach to health and fitness has softened. She inhabits so many roles — business owner, mother, writer, and so on — that a hard-and-fast approach to wellness no longer suits her life.
“Being healthy is definitely different to me than it was 10 years ago,” says Griffin. “For me, I always go back to the idea of having balance in my life. It’s not about a size; it’s not about a look. It’s about making decisions that affect the way you feel and help you feel balanced.”
Skinny Mom Recipe: Healthy Asparagus Fries
Wait — so a balanced diet can include fries? You’d better believe it! Enter: These fries made from asparagus spears. They’ve got a flaxseed-based crunchy coating that’s immensely satisfying.
Asparagus Fries with Garlic Lemon Aioli
Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 10 min
Per 7 spears, 1 tablespoon aioli:
- 161 cal
- 6 g fat
- 20 g carbs
- 4 g fiber
- 3 g sugar
- 9 g protein
28 asparagus spears
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 egg whites
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (Griffin likes Sargento)
For dipping sauce:
3 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.
- Wash the asparagus and trim off the bottoms.
- In a shallow baking dish, mix together the flour, salt and pepper. In a separate shallow baking dish, whisk the egg whites. In a third shallow baking dish, or on a plate, mix the panko, flaxseed meal and Parmesan.
- To bread the asparagus, roll the spears through the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Next, roll the asparagus through the egg whites and allow the excess to drip off. Third, roll through the panko mixture, and press gently to adhere to the spears.
- Lay out the asparagus on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
- Meanwhile, prepare the lemon aioli dipping sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
- Serve the asparagus fries with the dipping sauce.