Posts tagged vegan

BOOK REVIEW: Skinny Bitch in the Kitch

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (Rory Freedman and Kim Bardouin) – 2007 (excerpt)

The Bitches are Back!

For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember how excited (and grossed out!) I was by the book Skinny Bitch, a treatise on eating vegan and treating yourself like the queen (or king) you really are. (read the review here) Soon after turning the last page of that book, I ordered the new companion book, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch from the library and sat back to wait, and wait, and wait, for it to come. Guess it’s just as popular as the original!

While I did enjoy the book, it lacked the hard-hitting feeling of the first book. Much of this is due to the different format. After all, this is a cookbook, so the focus is on recipes, not pep-talks. I guess they figure they’ve already hit you over the head, no need to do it again. I read through it in an afternoon, copied the recipes I liked, and sent it on its way. No grossed out dreams the next day, not even a squeamish look at the supermarket meat aisle. Perhaps after the first book, my expectations were too high… I actually MISSED this feeling of being punched in the stomach, and felt like I’d been let down. The book sort of assumes that you’ve already read Skinny Bitch, and for those that haven’t you’re relegated to three pages of summary and an order to get off your ass and purchase that book too.

That being said, the recipes look very good, and admirably, they stick to a relatively normal palette of ingredients that you probably already own (or should). And they look pretty tasty too. Most don’t travel to the culinary ends of the world, but are instead vegan revamps of classic recipes. The organization was funny and there are some cute little quotes peppered here and there for good measure.

Overall, I liked the book, but felt that I’d have liked it better with a little less expectation. I found myself photocopying chapters from the first book and handing them out to everyone I knew while breathlessly expounding on the vegan lifestyle. That won’t be happening with this one. As a producer in the movie business, I know well the daunting challenge these ladies faced in creating the sequel to such a popular book. Truly, living up to high expectation is never easy. If you’ve never read either, I recommend getting the two books together and trying out the recipes while you read Skinny Bitch and other food is totally turning your stomach. That way, the yummy vegan meals you prepare will taste that much better, and will have a greater chance of ending up in your regular cooking repertoire.

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Solar Cooking Roundup: Two New Recipes

As mentioned previously, I haven’t been getting out the oven as often lately, as it’s been unseasonably cool and cloudy here. But, as if magically anticipating that summer was right around the corner, a few days back the thermometer jumped about 30 degrees. Yikes, it is triple digit hot!

So, of course the first thing I did was pull out the box cooker. After a yum but “haven’t I tried this before?” few meals of roasted red sweet peppers with cheese, it was time to do a little culinary exploration. So this past weekend, I fired up the “grill” and made two new recipes.

First up:

Banana Nectarine “Pie”

3 bananas, roughly broken into slices
1 nectarine, chopped
2 T flax seeds (for nutrients and “crunch”)
1/8 cup Sunny Delight (next time I’ll skip this)
1/4 cup honey graham cereal

To make, mix all ingredients except graham cereal into pan. Cover and bake for 30 minutes, or until the bananas smell super sweet and mash easily. The flax seeds will swell to a larger size, too, so you know they will not be too hard. Bring out of the sun and mash the bananas with a fork, stirring to mix everything well. Allow to thicken for about ten minutes. During that time, crumble graham cereal into the bottom of ramekins/ cups and crumble more for the tops. Spoon mix into each cup and top with more crumbled graham cereal.

This recipe turned out well taste-wise. Next time I might skip the Sunny D (there was a lot of natural liquid in the mix after cooking) and add a little cinnamon before cooking, but it was also good as is. The only disconcerting part was that the bananas looked kind of brown in the pot, but covering the top with graham solved that aesthetic dilemma. Easily makes enough for two people.

Today, I tried a different take on my pepper lunch:

Chili and Celery with Mango

2 large green Anaheim Chili peppers
2 long stalks celery
1 sweet red pepper
Annie’s Naturals Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette Marinade
1 large mango

To make, cut and deseed the chilis and sweet pepper into pinky finger size strips, and chop the two stalks of celery. Pour a little marinade over the mixed veggies in the pan, and put in the sun for about an hour. At that point, I checked the progress, added a bit more marinade, gave everything a good shake to cover, and returned the pan to the oven for another 1/2 hour. Bring everything inside, add the mango (chopped) to the mix and stir together. Serve immediately.

Yum. Of all the dishes I’ve made so far, this was my favorite. At first, I was nervous about adding the mango to what smelled like a very hearty mix, but it worked perfectly, giving everything a cool taste even on this scorcher of a day. And it needed no seasoning either, though I’d imagine it would be good with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt sprinkled on top. This recipe will make it into the cookbook. Makes enough to feed one VERY well, or two for a light lunch or appetizer.

And here’s the finished result:


Now for a nap to work off all that gourmet eating! =)

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Making Cheese

“Hi, my name is Solarious, and I am addicted to cheese.”

Why does cheese have to taste so good? And why is it in every processed food on the planet? Even the “healthy” foods are dusted with sharp, yummy cheeses to bring out their gourmet flavors. Of all the things I’m attempting to give up after reading that book, cheese manages to creep back in with scary regularity. Sometimes, it’s a slice here or a sprinkle there, but as often as not, I’m not even particularly aware of it until I’ve already eaten. Ever try to find an economic frozen dinner without meat? Even brands like Healthy Choices and Lean Cuisine basically only offer meat dishes. Add cheese to the list, and you’ve just blackballed yourself from the freezer section. And though I’m sure that awesome cheese alternatives exist (someone keeps telling me great things about some walnut “cheese”), I haven’t yet discovered them.

Homemade Cheese

So it’s time to rethink the paradigm. Sure, processed cheeses are bad, but like any other food, the homemade variety should be more healthy and fulfilling, right? While I attempt to figure out what yummy types of “cheeze” alternatives exist out there (please, share!), I found this great tutorial on making hard cheeses to try out. He’s got a PhD in chemistry – so I figure he’s got the cheese making thing down, too. Of course, he recommends starting with the beginning cheese making tutorial, and indeed, there’s a lot of great information and recipe/tutorials to get you started. There’s even a link to a DIY cheese press for all you super handy types.  Here’s another great site, sorted by type of cheese, with lots of recipes.

Cheese and yogurt making are great projects to try with kids, too. There are a lot of projects that can be completed in a day. It teaches them about long-term care and food making all at once, while teaching proper food handling safety. And of course, getting to eat the spoils of your devotion is always a great motivator!

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The Law of Unintended Consequences

I’ll admit it: when I got the book reviewed last week, Skinny Bitch, I had no real intention of becoming vegan (well, no more than usual, anyway), I simply wanted to learn more about healthy food choices and eating a plant-based diet. Vegan diets are good for the whole planet? I had no idea. But now, one week later, I’m slower than your Great Granny at the grocery store, reading all the labels, trying to remember whether ingredients were on the Good or Evil list. The other day, I ate soy yogurt, for pete’s sake! True, when I read Fast Food Nation a few years back, it inspired a similar quest to eliminate fast food from my life, but I’m not usually one to just jump wholeheartedly on a bandwagon. What’s going on?

Ingredient List

The book recommends not going cold turkey if you’re used to a carnivorous diet, but being kind of an accidental semi-vegetarian most of my life (my parents never could figure out why I preferred asparagus to ice cream at ten), I figured I was close enough to try. Rather than set up for failure, I simply aimed to reduce as much as possible with each individual food choice, and keep a food journal to track progress. One week in, it’s been pretty enlightening.

From the first day, I could feel a difference. I stuck vegan that day, but already I could tell it wouldn’t be cold turkey for me. Oh no, I’m still thoroughly hooked on milk products. The next day, I allowed myself cheese on top of pasta, and ate some peanut M&Ms after dinner. Okay, opiates, refined sugars, and artificial colors. Could be worse. Day three must have been, like the book predicted, when my body started to digest itself, which although it sounds awful, they promised was a good thing, once you expel all the toxins and stop feeling like crap. Which I definitely did on and off all day. Already, I could feel the direct effect of putting butter on my wheat toast in the morning, and of eating a bean and cheese burrito from Del Taco. Buouyed by the book’s promise, I stuck it out and promised myself I’d stop eating so much junk. Yesterday, I was back on my feet, and feeling good. Tried soy yogurt, in a moment of particular devotion. Ummm… not going to make the regular shopping list yet. But almond and rice milks will, for sure. Suddenly, I understand why everyone at Whole Foods looks so great. Ralph’s (Safeway) is definitely NOT vegan friendly. To be honest, it’s no less expensive either.

Strangely, the first thing I’ve noticed about this “food vision quest” I’m on is that my skin brightened up immediately, and has been getting softer by the day. Not bad for an added bonus! Those little enzymes must be hard at work putting things back together again. Also, in an effort to stop drinking so much soda and caffeine, I’ve been exploring the world of teas. I discovered Tulsi Ginger Tea (caffeine free) from Organic India, and it’s love at first sight. It reminds me of Celestial seasonings Tension Tamer tea, minty and rejuvenating. And the literature included listed so many health benefits of Tulsi (“Holy Basil”) that I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of it before, especially since it said it had been revered in India for darn near 5000 years!

Tulsi (Holy Basil) Tea

So there you have it. Though this blog is about getting off the grid, I realized how much better for the planet and for my local community it would be to eat locally produced vegan foods. In the end, the foods you eat DO have a huge impact on the footprint you leave. I wasn’t planning on cleansing, or making a definitive vegetarian choice this week, but Skinny Bitch’s arrival nudged me (with a cattle prod) to get started if I ever wanted to stop being a half-assed foodie hypocrite. So I am. And me, my glowing complexion, and my newfound tea are loving every minute of it. You can do it, too. Read Skinny Bitch to find out how forgoing animal products will save you and the environment and help avert the global food and energy crises. If you haven’t read it already, read Fast Food Nation. That should put you over the edge, for sure! Or pick a hard-hitting book on some other topic and scare yourself into making that change you’ve been toying with. After all, in our entropic world, building your spirit will require you to actively participate, and there’s no time like the present to start. In fact, that’s the only time you’ll ever start anything. So do it now!

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BOOK REVIEW: Skinny Bitch

Skinny Bitch

Even though it doesn’t sound like an off-grid living title , read this book! Let me repeat: Read this book! It won’t take you more than an afternoon or two, and if it’s straight talk you need to scare yourself healthy, well, these gals have plenty of that. Written by a former agent and a former model who met at Ford models, the book is officially geared toward the female health and diet crowd. But the diet talk is minimal, and the text is full of totally gross-you-out quality secrets that the government and food industries can’t afford for you to know. ‘Cause, trust me, once you know, you won’t look at their products the same ever again. I finished the book yesterday, and suddenly, my morning tea had scary ingredients today. Liquid carcinogens, artficially processed sweeteners. Oh, boy, it’s not even 8 am yet.

Besides an excellent (graphic) discussion of the meat industries and another on food additives, the highlight of the book to me was the focus on applied action. Rory and Kim implore you to make a decision today… right now!… to change at least one habit that isn’t doing your body or life any good. Then, once you’ve mastered that, take on another item. This is the strategy that has worked best for me when trying to change habits. For example, want to quit smoking? Don’t scare yourself thinking I’ll never be able to smoke again! Instead, train your focus on “Don’t buy another pack”. It’s a specific action that takes effort (and a financial transaction!) to complete anyway, so it’s easier to regulate than reaching for a single ciggy. Concentrate on that, and by the time you’re moving on to “don’t smoke” (ie. you’re getting tired of bumming smokes off your dragon-breathed buddies), you’re already in the habit of thinking about your action: you’re halfway there!

Anyway, back to the book. Authors Rory and Kim have recently expanded their line of Skinny Bitch offerings to include Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (a cookbook) and Skinny Bastard (for men). So no matter what information you’re jonesing for, there’s a book for you. If you think you know a lot about what’s in your food, these ladies likely know a whole lot more. But even though they’re straight talkers (to put it politely), they never talk down to you. It’s like having two big sisters who kick you in the ass, but you know it’s because they love you and for your own good. They are very careful to explain the difference between an awesome vegan Skinny Bitch and a skinny bitch, which no one wants to be. As for me, after waiting months to get this book from the library (which arrived with curious “shelve with fiction” stickers all over it… huh? I WISH it was fiction!), I’m once again on the waiting list, this time for the cookbook. Read Skinny Bitch today and start feeling better tomorrow!

If you want to preview the book, check it out here at Google Books.

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Vegetarians Rejoice!

“Our finding that children with greater intelligence are more likely to report being vegetarian as adults, coupled with the evidence on the potential health benefits of a vegetarian diet, may help to explain why higher IQ in childhood or adolescence is linked with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease in adult life.”

This is news from a 2006 study done in England on many individuals, correcting for things such as social class and educational levels of attainment.  It clearly showed that people who reject meat products tend toward a higher IQ, and that this relationship can be demonstrated early in life simply by testing a child’s IQ.  Wow!  As a semi-vegetarian, but someone who does try to think about food choices, this is great news.  Be sure to read the full article here, because I’ve barely scratched the surface of their particular study, and upon hearing such good conclusions from the scientists, I’m feeling a sudden craving for a salad…

IQ Booster

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