More than just a collection of healthy crock pot recipes, Thankful 30 is a book that reminds me of just how important good friends and good health really are. While some people you meet are only in your life for a short time, other’s find a way into your heart and stay. Brooke Thomas is one of those people for me….
Friends from the start, I met Brooke almost 25 years ago at the Benjamin School in North Palm Beach. Our school was very small and our friends there were like family. The photo to the left was taken of me and Brooke in 1994 when we were cheerleaders at Benjamin. I still remember exactly where that photo was taken and I even remember the day. I had not a care in the world back then and I doubt Brooke did either. Yet just a few short years after this photo was taken I would be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) at the age of twenty-two (you can read my story HERE). A few years after that we would lose a dear friend to a suicide (our friend also had MS and the disease-modifying medication he took had a very serious side effect: suicidal ideation). By the time a third friend of ours would also be diagnosed with MS, we were all in shock.
And then Brooke would be diagnosed with the most deadly form of skin cancer (melanoma) while she was pregnant with her first child. It was so awful it didn’t even seem real.
Our carefree days quickly came to a screeching halt.
“You Have Cancer.”
I think it is fair to say that life changes for anyone who ever hears those words.
Before her diagnosis, not only was Brooke an avid tanning bed user, she was a calorie counter and “Lean Cuisine” frozen meal connoisseur. Conscious of how she looked and what she ate— the efforts she put forth at the gym and eating “healthfully” were not for the purpose of actually being healthy—but rather so she could look good in her jeans. I can assure you, Brooke was not alone. How many teenage girls put looks before health? I would say a lot do.
Keep in mind, we were teenagers in the 90’s, and we grew up smack dab in the middle of the Snackwell phenomenon, when “healthy eating” was synonymous with low-fat. If your lunch in high school consisted of pretzels, Twizzlers and fat-free Snackwell cookies that all tallied up to less than 5 grams of total fat, then you were really doing a great job eating “healthfully” (never mind the fact none of your lunch had any real nutrients!)
The last thing Brooke and I concerned ourselves with in our carefree high school days was optimizing our nutrient intake. I don’t think either of us had any idea of what an antioxidant was and we certainly didn’t know about phytonutrients, the powerful disease-fighting substances found in whole foods, much less what in the world an anti-inflammatory diet was.
But like me, Brooke’s diagnosis was a total life changer. And like me, Brooke radically overhauled her diet and entire lifestyle as a result. Everything she thought she knew about health was flipped upside down after her diagnosis.
It was through our own personal journeys that we both came to adopt the same nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet. It is a lifestyle that has not only helped us both regain our health, but is now helping to ensure the well being of our own families. Today, Brooke is a certified health and nutrition coach, a much sought-after corporate health and motivational speaker, the founder of the 360YourLife website and a mother of two absolutely beautiful girls. Oh yes, and she is happily married to the love of her life. So it if fair to say Brooke leads a super active life and she is incredibly thankful for having the good health and vitality to do so.
Brooke’s Biggest Challenge Today
As thankful as Brooke is for the very blessed life she leads today, she is also the first to tell you that the biggest challenge she faces is the time it takes to live healthfully. It is especially time consuming to consistently prepare real, whole foods meals for a family of four night after night after night.
And let’s be real here: if you have made the commitment to eat clean and to avoid processed and packaged foods, then there is definitely a time commitment required to actually prepare those meals. A working mom of two young girls, Brooke has always been on-the-go a lot, which has made meal-time even more of a challenge. In addition, Brooke has never been someone who thoroughly loves to cook; she cooks clean because she knows how important it is, but not because cooking is her #1 passion or hobby (I am sure so many moms can relate!) But Brooke also very much appreciates delicious meals and she doesn’t just want to serve her family boring (albeit healthy) “Plain Jane” meals night after night.
What’s a mom to do?
Brooke’s Time-Crunch Solution? Healthy Crock Pot Recipes (for the WHOLE family)
Brooke’s solution to getting nutrient-dense, “whole food” meals on her family’s table every night— without having to spend all day in the kitchen—was the crock pot. But since nobody wants to eat the same thing night after night, she decided to come up with thirty go-to recipes and compile them in a cookbook, Thankful 30 Healthy Crock Pot Recipes (a follow-up to her previous book, Thankful 30 Recipes.) And trust me, any frazzled mom who has ever wondered what on earth to make for dinner would be most THANKFUL for a collection of easy, nutritious, family-friendly recipes that don’t take all day to prepare!
Growing up in Florida, the crock pot was an appliance reserved for cheesy dips or creamy casseroles. It certainly was not something any of us would have thought of as a tool for healthy cooking. But Brooke has become a crock pot convert and she’s seriously turning me into one too. The crock pot really does save time in the kitchen. Plus, it keeps dishes to a minimum and it makes the house smell amazing. Nothing beats coming home to the aroma of a home-cooked crock pot dinner!
Thankful 30 labels each book gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free or paleo. There are chili’s and soups like you might expect but there are plenty of surprises too! I think my two favorite “surprise” healthy crock pot recipes were the veggie crock-tata (which is a delightfully creative and SO delicious concoction of eggs and veggies in a sweet potato crust) and molten lava chocolate cake.
Brooke’s Veggie Crock-Tata Recipe
Can’t wrap your hands around what in the world a “Veggie Crock-Tata” is? Click HERE to try Brooke’s recipe.
What is the Best Crock Pot?
My personal favorite is the VitaClay Smart Organic Multi-Cooker. Made with a non-toxic clay cooking pot, not only is Vitaclay the safest and healthiest crock pot on the market, it actually combines several appliances in one! VitaClay serves as a crock pot/ slow cooker, steamer, rice cooker and bonus yogurt maker all at once (it makes the most amazing coconut yogurt, by the way!)
Q & A with Brooke Thomas
I sat down with Brooke recently to chat a bit about her new Thankful 30 Crock Pot cookbook. Here is what she had to say…
Ivy: Every good idea has an aha moment.. what was yours?
Brooke: I started the veggie crock-tata one morning then ran out to an early morning workout class while my family slept. When I got back everyone was just waking up and breakfast was ready! It was magical! I thought, every mom should experience this!
Ivy: How do you think this book might change the way other families eat?
Brooke: I hope it eliminates the need to run through a drive through to grab food on a busy night when you are running all over with the kids. We’ve all experienced that mommy guilt that strikes when we know we aren’t feeding our families like we should. With a little planning this book can help eliminate that! Remember, I used to be paralyzed in the kitchen. I hope it helps moms who don’t think they are great cooks feel more empowered.
Ivy: What was the criteria for including a recipe in your book?
Brooke: I am so aware that many people have eating sensitivities. So I wanted every recipe to be heart healthy and gluten free, dairy free, nut free, or paleo. Most importantly, it also had to make sense for a busy mom, so simple was a requirement. After all, that’s who these recipes are for.
Ivy: What did you learn about cooking in a crockpot when developing the recipes for your book?
Brooke: Don’t overfill the crock pot. If you do, things don’t cook right. And I know it seems like one little peek won’t matter but don’t lift the lid. I also learned not to use frozen meat and did you know they have crock-pot liners!? You put one in first, add the ingredients and when it’s done there is no pan to clean!
Want to Give Brooke’s Healthy Crock Pot Recipes a Try?
Do you think trying Brooke’s healthy crock pot recipes might help you and your family eat cleaner? If so, be sure to enter to win our Thankful 30 Crock Pot Cookbook Giveaway! We will be giving away three cookbooks to three lucky winners.
Here are the rules:
THE THANKFUL 30 CROCK POT COOKBOOK GIVEAWAY RULES
To enter our giveaway, you must do these three simple but REQUIRED steps:
1. Make sure that you are SUBSCRIBED to the Clean Cuisine weekly newsletter below for recipes, fitness & nutrition advice, and more giveaways like this one. The winner will be announced via the newsletter ONLY. To sign up for the newsletter click HERE. (If you’re already signed up for our Clean Cuisine Challenge, you DO NOT need to sign up again, but you still have two more short steps!).
2. Leave a comment below this article (scroll all the way down to the “leave a reply” section at the bottom of the page) and tell us YOUR story! We want to know about a friend you are thankful for or a health condition you have overcome. Also, occasionally technical difficulties will prohibit you from seeing your comment on the bottom of this page. However, that does not mean you are not entered. We have every entry on the back-end and you only have to comment once to be entered to win.
3. When you are all done signing up for our newsletter and commenting below, all you have to do is spread the news about our Thankful 30 Crock Pot Cookbook Giveaway with your friends and family by clicking on one of the “Share This Page” green social media icons above or below this article. All you need to do is share the giveaway on at least ONE social media outlet (Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Google +).
This giveaway runs January 20 – January 29, 2015. Three lucky winners will be announced on January 29, via the Clean Cuisine Weekly Newsletter.
***Winners will have three days to respond and redeem their prizes. After the three day window, we will pick new winners. So, be sure to read our newsletter!***
That’s it! Now all you have to do is share the Giveaway and Thankful 30 Cookbook with your friends and family!