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I'm pretty jazzed about this little Hitting the Books post. I'll be highlighting two seriously lovely (and easy!) recipes from Gena Hamshaw's Power Plates, which I've been having a great time digging into lately. Anyone who reads The Full Helping won't be surprised that this latest book of Gena's is totally gorgeous:

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Also unsurprising, but still valuable is the conceit of this cookbook, which offers "nutritionally balanced" dishes. Frequently, that means the recipes showcase a grain, a protein, a fat source, plus a buncha veggies. I love that kind of thoughtful framing—basically, Gena thought about it so now I don't have to. It makes reaching for this book a no-brainer when I need to plan meals during busier times.

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And busier times are exactly what I've been having lately. So instead of digging deep into the bowl section—with all its alluring chopped veggies, savory proteins, and variety of sauces and dressings—I've sampled some of the quicker items from Power Plates. Starting with this to-die-for Guacamole Rice Salad with Black Beans. (It's actually a quinoa salad in the book, but I find quinoa aggressively joyless, so I swapped in brown rice. I can't wait to try this with couscous, too, but I've been adoring the rice.)

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Gena advertises this salad as basically a batch of guacamole with mix-ins, so sign me up. And boy howdy, does she deliver. This seems like a dish you would hardly need precise instruction for, but I promise you want to use Gena's recipe. The balance of everything is bang-on, and this is my new favorite meal. Stuff it in romaine leaves and eat it like a taco, and invite me over when you do.

The recipe starts with preparing all the avocado and then adds everything else, but I don't need the whole recipe at one sitting. To make it work for my leftover-reliant weekdays, I assemble the salad first, which keeps well in the fridge for a few days, then add freshly mashed avocado to the amount I want just before serving. Works like a charm.

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I was so eager to dive into this recipe that I bought grocery store cherry tomatoes in April. I regret nothing, but they were predictably sad, so my advice is to substitute chopped Persian cucumbers, diced jicama, or a mix of both, if you're making this out of season (which I continue to do because you could not possibly stop me).

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I'm equally enthusiastic about Gena's Whole Grain Waffles. The first thing that struck me about Power Plates is how generous the breakfast section is, with plenty of savory options. I may have mentioned fifty or so times that I prefer savory breakfasts to sweet. But I make an exception for waffles. These are made with spelt, which I had never used before, and they are super-tasty. If you adore nutty, more complex whole-grain baked goods, then there's nothing more I need to say here. These guys are totally great, and I'll be making these repeatedly whenever I'm craving a waffle with sweeter toppings.

Speaking of toppings, I have something special for you. It's a dead-simple whipped banana-coconut cream, and it adds a dreamy, fluffy tropical note to any baked good, fruit salad, fresh berry, or spoon you care to stuff in your pie hole. I finished off this particular plate with some trail mix I had handy, but cacao nibs are also a nice, crunchy addition. Or you can enjoy the cream atop the waffles without anything extra. I recommend it like I recommend Power Plates.

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Whipped Banana-Coconut Cream

Print the recipe

yields 1 generous cup

1 can full-fat coconut cream chilled at least 24 hours, such as Thai Kitchen brand

1 just-ripe banana

1 TBSP powdered sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp vanilla extract

Spoon the solid fat from the chilled can of coconut cream (reserve liquid for another use). You should have one rounded cup of chunks (not firmly packed).

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and fluffy. Leftovers may be kept for several days in an airtight container.


About Hitting the Books: You know that shelf in your house with all the great cookbooks you don't get to nearly as often as you'd like? Yeah, there's one of those over here, too. The Hitting the Books series allows for occasional opportunities to dig into that shelf and highlight some handy cookbooks.