Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Food Pyramid for Vegans

My sister Susan has been doing a little research on the structure of a vegan diet. She sent the following post to me. Thank you Susan!

I love to share information about my vegan lifestyle. But I am often asked if I'm getting enough protein and calcium. I know that the plant kingdom provides excellent sources for both, but how much ? . . . and in what ? I was not interested in counting the grams of protein in everything I ate, so I began searching for an easy to apply formula that would help me maximize the nutritional value of my diet.

I found what I was looking for in a cookbook -- 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson. She had reprinted the New Four Food Groups developed in 1991 by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. This is a no-cholesterol, low-fat plan that supplies all of an average adult's daily nutritional requirements and fiber; with the addition of a good source of vitamin B-12, such as fortified cereals or vitamin supplements.

I have been applying this plan and feel great!

FRUIT:3 or more servings/day

1 medium piece of fruit
1/2 cup cooked fruit
4 ounces juice

LEGUMES:2 or more servings/day

1 cup cooked beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas, baked and refried beans
4 ounces tofu, tempeh or texturized vegetable protein
8 ounces soymilk

WHOLE GRAINS:5 or more servings/day

1/2 cup rice, corn, millet, barley and bulgur wheat or pasta
1 ounce dry cereal (hot or cold)
1 tortilla or 1 slice bread

VEGETABLES:5 or more servings/day

1 cup raw vegetables
1/2 cup cooked vegetables

Note: The image above was found at animalsuffering.com

Monday, December 21, 2009


This time of year can be crazy (I know I'm going nuts), and when my Uncle Gene sent me his latest article I thought the timing was perfect. Consider it a present, I do. Now, my Uncle Gene...

“These problems are intractable.” So spoke a former Congressional Budget Manager at a conference sponsored by the Petersen Foundation and aired on C-Span. “Intractable” means “difficult to deal with or solve.” The conference targeted the growing national deficit, with special attention paid to the ever-increasing costs of medical care.
After studying the finances of health care, my good friend and colleague Ed Greenberg concluded: “So I fear that the problem is unsolvable.”
The question then is, how do you deal with intractable, unsolvable problems? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Do you let them gnaw away at your innards? Or do you “take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them?” If you let intractable problems get to you, they can destroy your sense of well-being, your health, and your sanity.
It is not like intractable problems are new to the human race. They have always been around, and somehow, solutions have always occurred. In the meantime, there are long established spiritual and psychological techniques devised to help us cross the bridges of intractable problems. The one I want to mention is some form of meditation technique, recently popularized by various medical practitioners. (Since it seems that the medical profession is the source of some of our predicaments, it is fitting that the medical professionals should help us find the way out!) Meditation, in one form or another, has been practiced for thousands of years, for reasons religious, philosophical, healthful, and simply as an exercise in developing humanity.


What is meditation, and how do you practice it? Meditation is essentially a calming and quieting experience, a turning off of the noise and distraction of everyday, and attentiveness to what is basic and elementary. The simplest form of meditation is to find a quiet place, sit comfortably, and spend ten minutes paying attention to your breath. (Dr. Weil says there is no medical prescription more important than re-learning how to breathe!) When we are bothered, we tend to breathe shallowly. We can go days without paying attention to our breathing, or being aware of how shallow it has become.

Simply counting your breath can bring your attention back to this basic physiological function. Controlling your breath is the next step: breathe in for ten seconds, hold your breath for five, and then breathe out slowly and calmly, focusing your attention on the act of breathing.

That is the basis of meditation. You can do it many ways, but focusing on your breathing is the way to begin. You may make it a religious experience by incorporating appropriate imagery. It can be an aesthetic experience by meditating on the sunset or on the moon, or whatever natural phenomenon has a special appeal to you. It can be a calming and relaxing experience through the recitation of some “mantra,” some phrase that has particular significance for you.

Dr. Herbert Benson has documented that the regular practice of meditation lowers blood pressure. Dr. Dean Ornish claims that regular meditation reduces the risk of sudden heart attack. Dr. Weil maintains that meditation boosts the effectiveness of the immune system. Perhaps it does these because it brings us back to our basic self, puts us in touch with the roots of our consciousness, and helps establish a calm and tranquil center at the heart of our activity.

Among philosophers, Socrates had his meditative trances from which he could not be awakened. Plotinus had his transformative experiences of solitude, of being “alone with the Alone.” Thomas Aquinas was so transformed by his meditations that all he had written seemed like so much straw. Asian traditions offer parallel examples: Thich Nhat Hanh, perhaps the greatest living teacher of Buddhism, recommends the simple formula: Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. His books, Peace is Every Step, and Interbeing, can be great helps along the path to successful meditation.

By setting aside 10 minutes every day, you will open a new window on your own self-awareness, gain control over your breathing and your life, and come to sense your participation in the mystery of existence. The problems that seemed so intractable will be much less menacing.

Your material being is part of the matter of the universe, your thinking is part of the web of thought that covers the universe, and your existing is a participation in that wonder of all wonders, the capacity to stand outside nothingness. By setting aside time for meditation, you will be better prepared to be a contributor to the on-going-ness of existence.

The best cure for an encounter with problems that seem intractable is to set aside ten minutes of uninterruptible quiet time, when you center yourself, find your proper place in the non-everyday world, and encounter reality, and not just the appearances of things. The paradox of this experience is that, by setting aside a time for meditation, you will actually have more time to do things, and find greater delight in the doing of them…. even taking on the problems that appear intractable!

Hummus in a Hurry

It was Friday night. I had just walked in from a really long work week only to have to get ready for two holiday parties that night. I needed to bring something to both and time was not on my side. So I went into my refrigerator and threw together a dip lickety-split. Guess what… it was good! Best of all... it was quick, easy and with little to clean up.

Hummus in a Hurry

5 oz. of your favorite store bought hummus
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Fresh lemon juice

Put the beans into a food processor and process until finely minced. Add 5 ounces of your favorite hummus and blend. Squeeze a little lemon juice into the mixture and stir. Serve with chips or veggies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Six Month Anniversary

Beyond lowering my cholesterol, I’m not sure what my expectations were six months ago when I started this diet. I try to remember just what I felt like in comparison to how I feel today. I look at myself in the mirror and wonder if I look a little healthier. These questions I can’t answer, but I do know that I’ve changed more than my total cholesterol number. I’ve lost weight, I feel better... lighter, and I take better care of myself. There are times when it’s still a struggle, but I’ve found a balance. I’ve gotten use to preparing two dinner menus, eating salads without dressing on them when I’m out, and I’ve accepted the fact that I will make exceptions on an occasion without feeling like a failure. This lifestyle is important to me, but not at the expense of missing out on special moments... like sharing a conversation with my mom over a glass of wine and potato chips. Moments like that are few and far between. In all of this, I’ve developed perspective. I want to be able to go out to dinner, travel and socialize; so occasionally I make exceptions. I look at it as a lifestyle for a lifetime, and when I have the opportunity to sit at the kitchen table with my mother sipping a glass of wine, I’ll take it… with delight.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oatmeal Banana Smoothie

I need to eat more oatmeal, but truthfully, I’m not fond of it. In fact, I hate it. I think it tastes like paste. So I am always looking for ways to sneak it into my diet. This recipe is quick, easy and delicious. Healthful additions could be 1 Tbsp. of wheat germ or ground flax seed.

Oatmeal Banana Smoothie

5 minutes

1 C. low-fat soy milk (I prefer chocolate)
½ C. uncooked oatmeal
1 banana
1 C. ice cubes

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and mix on high for one minute or until combined and smooth.

Note: The image above was found at videojug.com

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The End of Overeating?

Once again, my Uncle Gene...

I had been reading several books on nutrition this week, when two of the authors I was busy reading showed up on the Charlie Rose shows. David Kessler, M.D., is the author of a new book, The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Dr. Kessler was puzzled as to why he persistently regained the weight he had so often struggled to lose. Then it dawned on him: he was eating in response to the endless advertisements that promised not just satisfaction, but delight, from eating what Agribusiness wanted Americans to eat: diets high in fat, sugar, and salt. While that may seem to be crediting advertising with powers it does not possess, there is evidence that we do respond to the advertisements we see and hear, and overeating can become a compensation for the satisfactions we are not getting elsewhere in our lives.

To the question, Why do we eat so much? Dr. Kessler suggests that we are biologically programmed to eat more than we need at any one sitting, precisely because our ancestors needed to overeat, to make up for the times when starvation would be narrowly avoided. Long ago, lipidologists determined that our bodies were inclined to store fat when it was available, to be consumed when needed. Problem is, the times of starvation seldom occur anymore.

Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food, rings some serious alarm bells about the way our food is produced and processed. As he says: “People don’t know how their food is produced. A level of industrialization has taken over our food supply, with disastrous consequences. Ground beef, for example, is now a dangerous product. In a slaughterhouse that kills 400 animals an hour, there’s no way of keeping manure out of the end product. The hamburger meat you buy may have come from 50 different animals, and the odds are there will be harmful bacteria in it.” (70,000 Americans are taken ill each year from E-coli bacteria, and 7,000 will have long-term health consequences.)

Pollan is an optimist about how we will deal with these problems. He thinks we can solve the long-term challenge of providing healthy food for the planet’s 9 billion people by the year 2050. We begin by improving our everyday eating habits. Small changes over time will have dramatic impacts. When he turns to the health care spending debate, he writes that three-fourths of health care costs are related to treating diseases that derive from the way we eat. One-third of Americans are obese, and almost half of them are diabetic. The costs of treating Type II Diabetes exceed $500,000 over a lifetime. (Medicare spending on Diabetes is $113 billion dollars today; in twenty years, it will be over $270 billion in today’s dollars.)

Pollan is in the forefront of what is called “The Good Food Movement,” which begins by encouraging people to grow some of their own food, to buy what is locally grown, and to decrease meat consumption. (Americans average 9 ounces of meat a day.) Pollan belittles our fascination with “processed” foods, the foods that have so many ingredients listed you wonder what it is you are really eating, and he suggests: “Don’t eat what your grandmother wouldn’t have recognized as food.” Pollan says his book can be summarized in seven words: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Dr. Kessler might add, don’t spend a lot of time watching the TV commercials that try to convince you that all your troubles will end if you just eat a certain food, or, for that matter, that some pill can compensate for your overindulgence. Kessler and Pollan are right: we may be on the cusp of a revolution in the way we eat, with long term consequences for us, the planet, and the generations that will come after us…

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Black Beans, Sweet Potato & Rice

I found a package of sweet potatoes cut into cubes in the produce section of my grocery store. That's what inspired this delicious dish. It's easy to make, beautiful to look at and a real taste treat!

Black Beans, Sweet Potato & Rice

Serves 4

1 C. brown rice

16oz. sweet potato cubes (1/2 - 1" dice)
olive oil
sea salt

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 C. onion, diced
1/3 C. celery, diced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 T. water
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. cumin

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the rice using the directions on the package. Lay the sweet potatoes out on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt, pepper and cumin. Toss to coat and roast for 30 minutes stirring once when 15 minutes in. As the rice and sweet potatoes are finishing, saute the onion and celery in olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add the water, beans, onion powder and cumin. Once everything is ready, put the rice on the plate first, the sweet potatoes next and finally the beans.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Acquired Tastes

Recently I spent a day with my in-laws doing a little early Christmas shopping. When dinnertime rolled around we needed to find a place to eat and there weren’t many choices. We ended up at a steak house (of all places), but the restaurant had an excellent selection of side dishes so I was happy. As I sat there looking at the plates surrounding me, mostly covered with enormous slabs of prime rib, I realized I had absolutely no interest in even the smallest bite of meat.

Thinking about it later, I reflected on the years it took for me to develop my preferences in food. Yet, here I am, a vegan for five months and the change in my tastes are significant. How this transformation was accomplished I don’t know, but with little effort I have learned to appreciate vegetables, beans and grains in an entirely new light.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t still crave foods that I shouldn’t be eating. In all honesty, I do (there’s something about fried chicken… can’t get it out of my head), but I’ve a newfound appreciation for the foods I eat and the tastes I taste. I enjoy dreaming up new ways to use a vegetable. I get excited about tasting the unfamiliar and I’ve learned to enjoy foods that before I may not have appreciated.

My conclusion? I think intentionally making changes in diet can be hard to accomplish. It certainly requires deliberate effort, sometimes with disappointing results. Still, it's not as hard as you might think, and the longer you demonstrate the willingness to keep at it, the healthier you will become.

I feel better already, and in addition to feeling better I’ve developed a sense of pride and accomplishment in how I’m living. I have a healthier perspective on my life and the lives of the people I love. So if you’re like me, new to this lifestyle, it is worth sticking with. Your tastes will change, the temptations won’t be as challenging, and you will feel better in SO MANY ways… trust me.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Black Bean Chili

There are a lot of recipes out there for black bean chili. When I was eating meat, I used to make a version of this with chicken stock and oil. Since I've become a vegan this version has become my "go-to" recipe when I want something fast and delicious. Recently I took it to a party and got rave reviews! We all think this is a hit. I hope you do too!

Black Bean Chili

4 (15.5 oz.) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained (with one can set aside)
2 C. water
1 cube of bouillon, low sodium vegan (I use the Rapunzel brand)
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 stalk celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
½ red pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 ½ t. cumin
1 ½ t. chili powder
1 t. dried oregano leaves
1/8 t. sea salt
Sliced scallions & chopped avocado for garnish

In the food processor, process, until smooth, one can of drained and rinsed beans with 2 cups of water. Lightly spray Pam in a non-stick stock pot and add the onion, celery, red pepper and garlic. Cook the vegetables over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until tender, stirring often. Add the processed beans, the remaining rinsed and drained beans, the can of tomatoes with its juices, the bouillon cube and spices. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Garnish with scallions, avocado or both.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Low-Fat Hummus

Once again, my sister Susan...

I love hummus! But on the E2 diet, two traditional hummus ingredients (olive oil & tahini) are no-no’s. Lori, a friend of mine who created a successful food business here in Traverse City, Natural Northern Foods, shared her original hummus recipe with me! So thanks to Lori and some soft tofu, here’s a perfect way to have your hummus & eat low-fat too! Even Mr. Meat & Potatoes said, “This is tasty!”; and he HATES hummus!

Low-Fat Hummus

Quick & easy
10 minutes

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained & rinsed
2 - 3 garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/4 C. soft tofu
1-2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
1-2 T. water
3/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t. sea salt

Optional garnishes:
2 T. thinly sliced scallions
2T. chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley or cilantro
A sprinkle of paprika

Put all ingredients in a food processor & blend until smooth. Taste & adjust the seasonings. Enjoy as a dip with fresh veggies, no-oil whole wheat pita bread & baked tortilla chips. My favorites to dip are sweet red peppers, baby carrots, cucumbers and Food for Life sprouted corn tortillas cut into wedges & warmed in the microwave. Also yummy as a spread on veggie sandwiches like cucumber, carrot, green onion, arugula & alfalfa sprouts in pita pockets or sprouted grain wraps.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Café Muse

I went there for a grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, a grilled cheese sandwich...and yes, I ate it. Let me tell you why.

A few months before I became a vegan, I saw an episode of the Oprah show in which they selected what they thought were the 10 best sandwiches in the country. Two of the sandwiches were from restaurants in Michigan, Café Muse and Zingerman’s. Café Muse was chosen for its grilled cheese sandwich. Well, loving cheese as much as I do, a trip to Café Muse immediately shot to the top of my summer “list of things to do.” But summer days became weeks, and soon I became a vegan. So the conflict began...

That grilled cheese sandwich was calling my name. I really wanted that sandwich, but cheese was no longer on my list of foods to eat. What to do, what to do… Now, I know vegans would say, “Don’t eat it,” but I’ve been eating grilled cheese sandwiches my entire life and there’s something very comforting about it (I should really re-read the post "Transitioning"). So, after six weeks of eating a fat-free vegan diet, I went in to have my blood work done, and as a treat to myself for being so good (which I was), I got in my car and drove to Royal Oak in search of Café Muse.

Now, I hope I haven’t lost any Michigan readers, because here’s where it gets good. Joy of all joys, the chef at Café Muse cooks vegan too! Along with my sandwich, I ordered a vegan carrot soup that was "happiness" in a bowl and there were other vegan dishes in addition to the rest of the brilliantly prepared food (ahhh… another restaurant to love).

So I returned with one of my beautiful daughters. We sat down and I ordered the veggie burger. It was excellent. I noticed menu items like steel-cut oatmeal with apples, vegan muffins and tofu scramble, and it seems other vegan dishes often make an appearance depending on the whims of the chef. Café Muse is located in downtown Royal Oak, which is a lively, fun community to visit. It’s a small restaurant, lovely inside, and when the weather is good they have outdoor seating. It's a great spot for breakfast or lunch, and soon they will be open at night for dinner...so go!

Oh yes... that grilled cheese sandwich? It was wonderful, and it certainly deserves the noteworthy acclamations it’s received. And just so you know, it’s made with organic sourdough bread, fresh tomatoes and basil. Then the chef uses cheeses like havarti and fontina, grills it in a European style butter and tops it off with honey… oh my. Believe me, it’s worth the trip, and it’s a great place to go to eat, vegan or otherwise. www.cafemuseroyaloak.com

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Okay, I know it's a lot of squash recipes for one month, but I have a lot of squash! This is a naturally sweet recipe that my family loves. It comes together easily and it's a satisfying dish. My thanks to Susan for her help.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Serves 4

2 acorn squash – approximately 1.5 lbs each

2 C. rice - I used Lundberg Wild Blend, a blend of whole grain and wild rice
4 C. water for cooking rice

2 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. fresh sage, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped (1/2 C.)
1 apple, diced, with the skin on
1/2 C. dried cranberries
2 T. chopped walnuts
1/2 t. sea salt
Pam – non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the rice according to the directions on the package. Line a sheet pan with foil and lightly spray with Pam. Cut the acorn squash in half and seed. Place squash cut side down on the sheet pan and bake until tender, about 40 minutes. When the rice is nearly finished cooking, heat a non-stick saute pan over medium high heat and toast the walnuts stirring for about 3 minutes, remove and set aside. Spray the non-stick saute pan with Pam and heat the celery, garlic and sage together stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the rice, apple, cranberries, walnuts, salt and pepper. Mix well. Divide the mixture between the squash shells and warm in the oven for 10 minutes.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quick & Creamy Not Cream of Tomato Soup

I’d like to introduce you to Susan, one of my three incredible sisters. She is a great cook and has long been a health enthusiast. Recently she read the book, “The Engine 2 Diet,” and became fascinated with the idea of being able to reverse heart disease. She is now eating vegan and loving it. Her husband (a wonderful man), like many people, prefers his potatoes with meat; so we have a similar challenge and she has promised to send me only the vegan dishes that her husband enjoys eating. The recipe that follows is her creation. I made it the other night and couldn’t believe how quickly it came together (boy, she took that “quick, easy and delicious” part seriously)! It’s a tummy pleaser! Thank you Susan!

It was a cold fall day and I wanted a healthy and creamy soup fast! This recipe was all three! Even Mr. Meat & Potatoes thought it was excellent. (Please don’t tell him it was made with soymilk!)

Quick & Creamy Not Cream of Tomato Soup

20 minutes
Serves 4

Non-stick cooking spray
1 medium onion, chopped (3/4 cup)
1 - 28 oz. can Muir Glen Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
16 oz. non-fat plain soymilk (I used Westsoy)
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. Fresh basil leaves, chopped

Spray the bottom of a stockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Spoon the onion into a blender or food processor with the tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Return to the stockpot, add the soymilk and heat on medium-high heat until simmering. Season to taste with sea salt & freshly ground black pepper. Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with basil.

What Our Hearts Require

This post is an article written by my Uncle Gene, a professor of philosophy and author of the book, "Everyday Philosophy." The topics he writes about emerge from "off-the-cuff answers" he gives to student questions in his classroom. Not always satisfied with his answers, once home he expands on these ideas in short articles that become the contents of his periodical, “Gene's New Philosophical Review.” I am lucky to receive these thoughtful observations, and I fell in love with this one. As always, when I asked my uncle if I could post this article, his answer was yes. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did.

“What to do? What to do? One can have a heart attack from too much
worrying. Eat well, sleep well.” --Maury Tretakoff.

The re-upholsterers said to Dr. Rosenman: "You guys must be psychiatrists. No other Doctor’s office that we have done has all the chairs worn out on the edges. You must have a lot of anxious patients." This came as a surprise to Drs. Rosenman and Friedman, because they were both cardiologists, and had not thought much about the emotional or psychological aspects of heart disease. This led them to years of research, and eventually a book, Type A Behavior and Your Heart, 1984.) The book chronicles the correlation between certain behavioral patterns, and the likelihood of heart disease. (Incidentally, Dr. Friedman had two heart attacks when he was 55; he transformed his behavior, and lived to the ripe old age of 90.)

Since heart disease is the number one killer in America, it might be worth reflecting on what the doctors had to say. To most of us, it seems clear that family history, smoking, a diet high in saturated fats, and a lack of exercise are accurate predictors of the likelihood of heart disease. More recent research has identified anger and "free-floating hostility" as frequent precipitators of heart attacks, but the basic formula developed by Rosenman and Friedman remains intact. (Recent criticisms are aimed at “Type A Behavior” not being a good identifier of what stress really is.) They defined "Type A Personality" as "a particular complex of personality traits, including excessive competitive drive, aggressiveness, impatience, and a harrying sense of time urgency." Now the unpleasant fact is, we live in a culture that demands a lot of competitive drive, that rewards aggressiveness, that generates all kinds of situations that try one's patience, and all of us are given more and more things to do, and have less and less time in which to do them.

Fortunately, there are ways to "reengineer" our lives so that Type A-induced heart disease is less likely. We can begin by eliminating events and activities that are of minimal importance. Some people start by canceling the newspapers and magazines they do not need to read, or withdrawing from organizations to which they have already made their contributions. The second step is to spend as much of your day as possible in a milieu that promotes peace. That may seem ridiculous to a harried worker or a mother of five, but there are still "vestibules of peace" that can be established, moments of sanctuary where thoughts can be gathered, good intentions formulated, and some kind of tranquility found. In this culture of group-think and group-action, we all need time to be alone, time to take our own pulse, time to be sure we have the creative energies necessary to actually produce benefits for ourselves and others.

We are all afflicted with sources of hostility, from the phone that rings during meals, to the undeserved parking ticket, to whatever else that seems to be our own personal demon. Learning not to respond with hostility is a task befitting a stoic philosopher, but there are things we can do to minimize the impact of an environment that sometimes seems downright hostile. We can avoid some of the people or situations that persistently aggravate us, and we can learn to walk away from situations that have built-in escalation clauses. But most important, we can reengineer our responses, so that we tone down the rhetoric, defuse explosive situations, and rise above battles that are not worth our time or energy.

We live in a society that focuses more on having than on being. Much of our economic activity is centered on increasing our possessions, whether that is a bank account or a garage full of unused athletic equipment. How much healthier we would all be, and how much less busy would cardiologists be, if we could concentrate on being the persons we might most want to become, instead of merely being owners of goods of passing significance. Instead of focusing on increasing possessions, what we really need is a philosophical reorientation, so that we can focus on being rather than having, on doing what is intrinsically worthwhile, rather than on letting time disappear into black holes. Our minds and bodies benefit from working, and working hard, but our hearts require leisure. Unless we step back and take time to find delight in life, we are in danger of being swallowed up by our own Type A Behavior. We do not want to wind up sitting on the edge of our seats, in some cardiologist’s office, worried about what our charts might say…

Roasted Buttercup Squash

My family has always enjoyed roasted squash as a side dish, but its usually coated in butter and brown sugar. So the challenge was to provide added flavor to the squash(because that's what they are used to) without the fat. Buttercup squash is a sweet variety of squash so that was a good place to start. I made two glazes and this was the one my family all agreed was blog worthy.

Roasted Buttercup Squash

1 Buttercup squash - cut in half, seeded, and sliced into quarters
Pam - non-stick cooking spray
Dry roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with the non-stick cooking spray. Lightly spray the flesh of the squash and roast flesh side down for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and flip so the other edge of the squash will become caramelized as it continues to roast for 15 minutes more. Remove the squash from the oven and flip it onto its skin. Brush a layer of the glaze onto the flesh and roast for 5-10 minutes more, or until tender. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve.

The Glaze

½ C Balsamic vinegar
1T Honey

In a small pan, simmer the balsamic and honey mixture until it is reduced by half (15 – 20 minutes).

Note: You will end up with leftover glaze and its great on veggies or greens. If you can't find buttercup squash, you could use Kabocha or acorn.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

One morning I walked into work and found two bags of squash sitting on my desk. It was the last of a co-workers bountiful garden. As I looked it over, the butternut squash was staring me in the face, so I went home that night and made it into soup. This recipe is a big bowl of comfort.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash (3 – 3.5 lbs) - peeled, seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 6 cups)
1 t. fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper (just a little)
3 leeks - white parts only, washed well and chopped (about 2 cups)
1 C. coarsely chopped cauliflower
2 stalks of celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 bouillon cubes, low sodium vegan vegetable (I used Rapunzel, one cube for every 2 cups of water)
6 C. water
3 large leaves of sage, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay aluminum foil on the bottom of a sheet pan and spray it with Pam. Pour the cubed butternut squash onto the sheet pan and lightly spray the top of the squash with Pam. Sprinkle the squash with the salt and cracked pepper. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, add the chopped sage and stir. Continue roasting for 15 minutes or more until soft.

In a large pot simmer the water, bouillon cubes, celery, cauliflower and leeks until the vegetables are tender. Once the squash and sage are finished in the oven, spoon them into the pot with the other vegetables. Remove from the heat and blend the soup in batches using a blender or food processor until nearly smooth. Serve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Engine 2 Diet

In an earlier posting I referred to The Engine 2 Diet and promised to return to it. Let me begin by saying that this is another book you should read if you are interested in making a change in your health. The author is Rip Esselstyn, a Texas firefighter and the son of Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., who wrote the book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. The diet described in the book was inspired by his father’s research on plant-based diets and was put into practice by Rip, his co-workers and others with great results.

His story is interesting. Before becoming a firefighter Rip competed as a professional triathlete. He began eating “plant-strong” to enhance his performance and recovery. After seeing results in his personal health, he encouraged co-workers at the fire house to take the challenge (hence the name Engine 2), and it worked! Next, he implemented a study comprised of 58 people who participated in a six week program eating plant-based diets. Each saw improvement in their numbers and they all lost weight. The average cholesterol level dropped from 181mg/dl to 142mg/dl and the average LDL fell from 109 to 77. Women lost between 2 and 26 pounds and men lost between 2 and 31 pounds.

In this book you’ll find two versions of a four-week program. This makes it easy for you to begin the journey at your own level of comfort. As a “fire cadet” you will ease yourself into this healthy way of eating. As a “firefighter” you will immediately eliminate all dairy, meat, eggs, oil and processed foods. Either way, you WILL feel better, and you WILL see a change in your weight and numbers! There are exercises, recipes, food substitutions, weekly planners and shopping tips that make it a very friendly diet. There’s also a website with information and a forum for posting questions and finding answers. If you go to www.theengine2diet.com, you will find a lot of people (like you and me), some struggling and others helping. Take a look. I believe if you change even one thing as a result, you will be taking a step in the direction of better health… so give it a read.

The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter's 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that Lowers Cholesterol and Burns Away the Pounds

Friday, September 25, 2009

Farewell Fresh Tomatoes

Recently, my husband turned another year older. We decided it was a great excuse to have a party and invite our neighborhood friends. We are lucky to live in a subdivision filled with really great people and getting together is always a lot of fun! I decided to make it a “Strolling Cocktail Hour” with lots of bite size appetizers so people could easily mingle (although everyone stayed in the kitchen).

That night, the only appetizer I could eat without veering off my diet too wildly were the gazpacho shooters. These were itty-bitty martini glasses filled with gazpacho and each had a shrimp floating on top. The soup was really good and I ate a bowl of it during the evening (without the shrimp of course, but if I'm going to be honest, I did try other foods that night that were not on my diet, oops again). Anyway, the recipe called for olive oil, and as I tasted the gazpacho I wondered if its flavor really benefited from the addition of the oil.

So, as the tomatoes make their final curtain call for the season, I decided to come up with a recipe. A recipe that excluded oil and that I could be proud to serve to company. This is a solid start. The flavor is great, and you won’t miss the oil. My family likes it, I love it and I hope you will too.

Note: This is really good garnished with diced ripe avocado, but cilantro is great as well. If you like your gazpacho spicy, add ½ - 1 small, seeded and diced jalapeno!


4 ripe tomatoes
2 C tomato juice
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ C red onion, chopped
½ C red pepper, chopped
¼ C cilantro, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
1 t. kosher salt
¼ t. pepper
Avocado for garnish

Bring a large pot full of water to a boil. Make an X with a knife on the bottom of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water for about 15 – 30 seconds. Remove and put them into an ice bath until cool. Pat dry, peel, core, seed and chop. In a large mixing bowl put the tomatoes, tomato juice, cucumber, red onion, red pepper, cilantro, garlic, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Put half of the mixture into a blender and puree for 30 seconds. Pour back into the bowl with the remaining mixture. Mix well, cover and chill for at least 1 hour, best overnight. Garnish with avocado, cilantro or both.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Heirloom Tomato Salad

A co-worker brought in some heirloom tomatoes for friends to try, and I took one home. I had never tasted an heirloom, until now, but I started noticing them in grocery stores about a year ago. They are always very expensive, so this was a great opportunity to see just why it’s such a pricey vegetable. I decided to make it into a simple salad to be able to taste it in all its glory, and guess what, the flavor was amazing. My conclusion? Yum…these should be a stable in every backyard garden.

Heirloom Tomato Salad

1 large heirloom tomato – cut into bite size pieces
1/3 C red onion – sliced and cut into bite size pieces
2 leaves of fresh basil – torn
sea salt

Gently toss the tomato and onion together in a bowl. At this point you can tear the fresh basil and sprinkle balsamic vinegar and sea salt over the salad and serve. If you have more time, the dressing is very nice.

Tomato Dressing
1 large tomato
1 T vegetable broth
½ t. apple cider vinegar (I use Bragg's)
¼ t. sea salt

With a knife, make an X on the bottom of the tomato. Drop the tomato into a pot of boiling water for 15-30 seconds and remove to a bowl of ice water to cool. Peel, core and seed the tomato. Put the tomato, vegetable broth, vinegar, salt and pepper into a blender. Blend on low until smooth. Dress the salad just before serving.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Red Pepper Grill

Not too long ago, I was downtown Northville, Michigan looking for a roast beef sandwich. Relax, it wasn’t for me. I was buying it for my mother-in-law. I saw the word “deli” in the name of a restaurant and thought to myself “bingo!” So I walked in confident that I would be able to order up a roast beef sandwich and be on my way. Well, as soon as I opened the door, I knew I couldn’t be further from a roast beef sandwich if I tried. Why? Well, this little gem of a restaurant is mostly raw and vegan, and yes, it’s right here in Michigan!

Ever since my visit to The Chicago Diner, I’ve been on the hunt for a good vegetarian/vegan restaurant near to where I live. I’ve been able to find a few vegan dishes when I go out to dinner, but The Chicago Diner set the bar high and I’ve found nothing to compare. Now, The Red Pepper Grill isn’t The Chicago Diner, but that's not this restaurant’s calling. It is a deli, and a great soup and sandwich destination. So after I took care of the roast beast, I went back and ordered their mushroom soup (amazing) and "Greenwich" sandwich. The sandwich was made with seed cheese, avocado, spinach, cucumber, and sprouts, and although I wasn’t crazy about the seed cheese (maybe an acquired taste?), I left happy and satisfied.

At The Red Pepper Grill you’ll find that the ingredients are all organic, fresh and expertly prepared. The menu is very small, but it has variety. You’ll find dips, soups, wraps, sandwiches, salads, tonics, smoothies, shakes and desserts. The chef is very friendly and truly enjoys talking to the customers and answering any questions. I will definitely go back, and if you’re a vegan living near the Northville area, it’s worth the trip! Thank you Red Pepper Grill for meeting the needs of vegans in an area where vegetarian/vegan restaurants are very hard to find.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Santa Fe Salad

Right now fresh vegetables are at their peak and I can’t get enough of the sweet corn. In fact, I created this salad just so I could eat more! The avocado dressing is wonderfully flavorful on top of the vegetables. It was a hit with my family and I think you'll enjoy it.

Santa Fe Salad

Can be made quickly
Serves 4

1 avocado
3 T fresh lemon juice
½ C. peeled and diced cucumber
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 t. sea salt
1/8 t. pepper

8 C. loosely pack lettuce – chopped romaine and mixed baby greens
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off
1 large tomato, cut into large bite size pieces
½ sweet pepper (I used an orange pepper), cut into bite size pieces
1/4 C. sweet onion, sliced and cut into bite size pieces
1 cucumber – (use the remaining cucumber from the dressing) peeled, seeded and cut into bite size pieces

To make the dressing, cut and scoop out the avocado putting it into a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until blended and smooth. Put the salad ingredients into a large bowl and pour the dressing over the salad. Gently toss to mix the dressing with the vegetables and serve.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fresh Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad

There's little better in this world than fresh sweet corn and tomatoes at the end of the summer. This is my take on a recipe I saw on television one morning. It does have oil in it, but if you play with the amount of lemon juice and balsamic, you can omit the oil.

Fresh Sweet Corn and Tomato Salad

Serves 4

2 T. fresh lemon juice
2 t. olive oil
1 t. balsamic vinegar
¼ t. sea salt
¼ t. black pepper
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

½ C. uncooked whole wheat orzo
¼ C. red onion, diced
1 C. tomato, diced
4 ears of fresh sweet corn, kernels cut off
½ C. cucumber, diced
Italian flat-leaf parsley

Cook the orzo according to directions. While the pasta is cooking make the dressing by whisking together the ingredients. Drain the pasta and put it into a bowl. Spoon a little of the dressing over the pasta, stir to coat and set aside to cool. Prepare the vegetables. When the orzo is cool, mix the orzo, vegetables and remaining dressing together. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve no doubt noticed my infidelities to this diet. I’m not going to lie and pretend this has been “a piece of cake” (wish I could have one), but I do want you to know that the more compliant I am, the better I feel. I have no desire to return to my omnivore ways. Still, at times, it’s been difficult. Recently I received an email from my uncle in which he wrote about the benefits of this diet and making the transition to it. I found it valuable, and with his permission decided to post it. I hope you will find it helpful too.

Several recent articles, in journals ranging from The Lancet to Parade Magazine, have discussed endothelial inflammation as the root cause of heart disease. Since Dr. Esselstyn noted that in his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, it might be timely to review the basics of the Esselstyn program. Here is what he says: “Plant-based nutrition is the only diet that can effectively prevent, stop and reverse heart disease; it also offers protection against stroke, diabetes, senile mental impairment, and cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, rectum, uterus and ovaries.”

Some people have objected to the whole diet, as unproven or not scientific, or simply not acceptable. We are, of course, all engaged in a gigantic experiment in terms of health and longevity, and we literally will not live to see the results! But let me say this in favor of the program: most of us were “habituated” to a diet that included far more fat and far more sugar than was good for us. The transition to a healthier diet may well be difficult, but it may also be surprisingly smooth. Once you cure your taste buds of their love for fat and sugar, vegetables, both those well known and those with whom you might make new acquaintance, become remarkably tasty.

One of my medical research friends from the University likes to say: “remember, data is just the plural of anecdote.” (He commented that several research projects he worked on, derived from off-the-cuff comments from his patients.) We may have only anecdotal evidence, the comments by the individuals we know who adopt a healthier diet, but as the evidence accumulates, as lipid numbers improve, as people feel and act healthier, the anecdotes become data.

For those in transition, a few tips from a recent Consumer Reports on Health about what to order at your favorite restaurants may be helpful. At Olive Garden, try Linguine Alla Marinara, for 1 gram of fat; at P.F. Chang’s try Buddha’s Feast Lunch Bowl, 1 gram of fat; at Macaroni Grill, try Seafood Linguine, 2 grams of fat; at Boston Market, try White Rotisserie Chicken, No Skin, for 0 grams of fat. At Chili’s, try Guiltless Grill Honey-Mustard Glazed Salmon, 1 gram of fat, and if you eat at Bob Evans, try Potato-Crusted Flounder, 4 grams of fat.

Of course, Dr. Esselstyn insists that the more compliant you are, the more vegan you are, the better your results will be. For those who have any doubts about their good health, or for those who want to see if they can adapt to a diet that has a number of anecdotal recommendations, you might look up the website, www.heartattackproof.com. People fear they will not be able to give up their long-standing commitments to bagels with cream cheese, or pepperoni pizza, or whatever. But if you re-educate your taste buds, old favorites may give way to a whole new way of eating, which just might be a whole lot healthier…

My sincere thanks to my Uncle Gene

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

White Bean Pasta

I have to thank my dear friend Maryann for her help with this recipe. This dish is easy, fast, delicious and there's enough for the next day. Now try it Maryann!

White Bean Pasta

Serves 4

1 onion chopped (1C.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 C. organic vegetable broth, divided
1 jar of pasta sauce
1 carrot, shredded
2 - 15.5 oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ t. salt
¼ t. crushed red pepper
1/8 t. pepper
Whole wheat spaghetti
8 basil leaves
4 sun-dried tomatoes, diced

Using a large non-stick skillet, cook the onion and garlic in ½ cup of vegetable broth until the onion is translucent (about 5 minutes). Add the sauce and rinse out the remaining sauce in the jar with the other ½ cup of vegetable broth. Add the shredded carrot, beans, salt, crushed red pepper and pepper. Cook on low for 20-30 minutes. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain and pour the pasta into the sauce. Gently mix and serve garnished with basil and sun-dried tomatoes.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ahhh... Chicago

I went to the windy city one last time before my beautiful daughter had to return home to go to school. This time I went with my other beautiful daughter and my beautiful and amazing mother. It was our annual girl’s weekend of shop-til-you-drop and eat-drink-and-be-merry. We had so much fun! However, this time it was really hard for me to stay on my diet. We ate out for every meal, and I found myself trying to choose the lesser of the evils. I was able to steer clear of meat, but I ate veggie cream cheese on my whole wheat bagel, a potato pancake with applesauce (that was to die for) and late at night I found myself dipping into an awesome spinach cheese dip with pitas that were baked with olive oil.

So mistakes were made (worth every calorie), but there’s some good news. The Cheesecake Factory has a great fresh artichoke dish that’s fire-roasted. It’s served with a spicy vinaigrette and garlic dip (both delicious), but the artichokes are so good alone you won’t be tempted to use the dips. Then, at the Yard House in Glenview, I was introduced to chilled and salted edamame. Oh my! I’ve eaten edamame on salads, but I’ve never had them served like this. What a discovery. It was delicious! Both dishes were under $6.00 and great finds! So at restaurants where you least expect it, you CAN eat,drink and be a happy vegan.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Orzo Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

This dish smells so good while its cooking you’ll want to pull it out early and eat it. I serve this with a steamed vegetable, like broccolini, and undressed greens. The greens taste great mixed with the sauce and stuffed mushroom. It cooks for a long time, so this dish isn’t fast, but it is easy!

Orzo Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Serves 4
30 minutes of prep
55 minutes in the oven

1 small onion chopped (1 C.)
2 garlic cloves finely minced
5 sun dried tomatoes chopped
2 T. coarsely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
¼ C. basil, chiffonade before measuring
2T. bread crumbs
1/8 t. dried oregano
Pinch of crushed red pepper
1 C. organic vegetable broth
½ C. uncooked whole wheat orzo
4 large Portobello mushrooms, remove the gills
Pasta sauce – about 2 cups

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil a pot of water for the orzo and cook orzo according to directions. Simmer the onion and garlic, over low heat, in ½ C. of vegetable broth until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stop the cooking and mix in the sun dried tomatoes, parsley, basil, bread crumbs, oregano and red pepper. Add the cooked orzo to the onion mixture and spoon equal portions of the mixture on top of each mushroom. Place the mushrooms into a casserole. Pour the remaining vegetable broth into the bottom of the casserole. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes. Warm the pasta sauce and ladle up to 1/2 C. onto each plate. Place a mushroom on top of the sauce and serve.

Notes: Sometimes you have to reconstitute sun-dried tomatoes by soaking them in warm water for 30 minutes. If you have to do this, pat them dry before cutting them up. Also, I use Pacific organic vegetable broth. It comes in packages of four one cup servings. This makes it very convenient and not nearly as wasteful.

Butta has a Mudda

This posting is for readers who wonder why I don’t eat butter because “butta has a mudda.” About two months ago at the recommendation of my uncle, I read the book, “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease,” by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. In this book Dr. Esselstyn, a surgeon and researcher who worked at the Cleveland Clinic for thirty-five years, focuses on a study of patients with advanced coronary artery disease. Under his care, these patients changed their diets to all plant-based foods while staying on low dose cholesterol-lowering medications. The goal was to reduce cholesterol levels to below 150mg/dL and see how it impacted their health. The result was the arrest of coronary artery disease. How did they do it? They didn’t eat anything with a mother (mudda) or a face, no dairy and no oil. They ate legumes, whole grain products, fruits and vegetables.

Now, I don’t have advanced coronary artery disease, but two years ago my total cholesterol was high and I worked on diet and exercise with the goal of lowering it. Imagine my shock when a year later my numbers were up! My total cholesterol was 264! So I worked even harder following the current conventional wisdom on lowering cholesterol levels. About six weeks before I was due to have my blood work done, I read the doctor’s book and started following a fat free vegan diet. I had nothing to lose but some of my total cholesterol, right? Soon after I began eating this way, I was feeling better; I lost weight and dramatically lowered my numbers. Here’s MY proof. I went from a total cholesterol of 264 to 191, lowering it by 73 points, and a LDL of 187 to 126, lowering it by 61 points.

My goal is to lower my total cholesterol to below 150mg/dL and my LDL to below 80mg/dL (you'll have to read the book to understand why those numbers are so significant). Since then, I’ve read other books in support of this way of eating. Lately I have been following Dr. Esselstyn's son’s diet which is very similar (more about that later), but gives me a few more options and makes it easier for my family to enjoy eating this way.

If you are struggling with diet and exercise to lower your total cholesterol and LDL numbers I strongly urge you to read this book. I am grateful to my Uncle Gene for finding this book, practicing the diet himself with impressive results and for his gentle encouragement of my own efforts. I’m not perfect, but I’m getting better. I’ve strayed, but I have no desire to return to my old omnivore ways. I love this way of eating and I think you will too. Get the book and read it for yourself. Your views on the connection between food and health will be changed forever.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mexican Night - A Meatless Meal My Family Likes!

Everyone loves this salsa. When I make it, it doesn’t last long. This is an adaptation on a recipe given to me by my sister-in-law. I tweaked it to suit our tastes. I hope it suits yours. Enjoy this easy and delicious salsa!

Tomato Salsa

15 minutes

1 - 28oz. can Dei Fratelli Seasoned Diced Tomatoes
1 T. cilantro, chopped finely
½ small red onion, chopped finely (approximately ¾ C.)
½ - 1 whole jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and chopped finely
1 t. of fresh lime juice
¼ - ½ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Drain the can of diced tomatoes. Add all of the ingredients together in a bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least ½ hour. I serve this salsa with Tostitos Baked Tortilla Chips to keep it quick and simple.

My sister, who lives in Arizona, makes the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted. However, she uses sour cream and a Mexican cheese...no wonder its so good. This is my recipe. I can’t eat much of it, I’m trying to lower my cholesterol, but my family really enjoys it!


3 avocados
1T. lime juice
½ C. red onion, diced
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 minced garlic clove
2T. cilantro, chopped
½ t. cumin
½ t. salt
Pepper to taste

Mix ingredients together and serve. I keep this fresh by placing plastic wrap directly on top of the guacamole, pushing down so it's air tight, and placing it the in refrigerator.

I have a confession. I love the bean burritos from Taco Bell, but I know I shouldn't eat them. So this recipe is about being able to eat a bean burrito that tastes like Taco Bell’s without the guilt.

Bean Burritos

Makes 6-10 depending on the size of the tortillas
15 minutes

2 - 16oz. cans of refried beans, fat free
½ C. diced red onion
Tortillas – corn or whole wheat

In a non-stick skillet warm the beans and onions over low heat. Warm the tortillas, between paper towels, in the microwave for 30 - 50 seconds. Fill one side of the tortilla with the bean mixture and add one tablespoon of salsa the length of the tortilla. Wrap it up. If you need it warmer, place it in the microwave for 15 – 30 seconds.

The Learning Curve

I suspect the learning curve on this diet will be great. For example, the vegan cheese that we ordered on our nachos the other night…what was that?

Now that I’m home from Chicago I decided to look at the ingredients used to make vegan cheeses. They are loaded with oil and definitely not on my diet! Not that it matters much, because I will never ask for it again. Still, it's good to know.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dinner in Chicago

While visiting the windy city, The Chicago Diner became our destination for dinner. I found this vegetarian/vegan restaurant on-line and it received excellent ratings, so we went. Using our Garmin (Toby), it took us forever to find the restaurant (I love those things, but sometimes they take you to your destination the weirdest ways). Once we found the restaurant we needed to find parking. Parking can be a challenge in Chicago, in fact, later I got a $60.00 parking ticket! It took us a while, but we finally parked and walked to the restaurant. That's when we saw that the diner had a parking lot for patrons. Oh well, live and learn.

We were seated quickly after walking the length of the restaurant, through the kitchen (???) and onto the patio. The patio was quaint and it was a perfect evening for eating outdoors, so we ordered sangria and settled in. We asked the waiter for a recommendation from the appetizer menu. He offered up the nachos and we ordered. He asked if we wanted real cheese or vegan cheese, and here’s where we got into trouble. My daughter, being supportive in my quest for improved health, insisted on vegan cheese. OMG! That fake cheese is among the foulest things I’ve ever put in my mouth! It tasted like liquid cardboard! My daughter thought it tasted like licking the bottom of a shoe (not that she’s ever done that). However, the nachos minus the cheese were wonderful and we ate it all!

Dinner was great. We loved it. The food sitting on table tops all around us looked delicious, and the waiter gave us the option to order our meal as vegetarian or vegan. So if you’re ever in the Chicago area, I recommend eating at The Chicago Diner. It's casual, low key and there's absolutely no need to get dressed up. It's just fun and I will return!

Lunch in Chicago

Being on this diet makes traveling difficult. I get tired of eating salads without dressing everywhere I go. So while I was visiting my daughter in the Chicago area, I was excited. Chicago is a town full of foodies, certainly not everyone is a meat eater. My daughter asked if I would like to have lunch at Whole Foods. Yes, Whole Foods! Surely I won’t be reduced to a plate of undressed greens there, but even at Whole Foods it was hard to find dishes made without oils. I ended up eating a salad without dressing.

Yet, here’s the good news. We found a fabulous dessert. Whole Foods makes a vegan chocolate mousse that’s wonderful! It was only $2.49. We shared it and had enough left over to satisfy our random cravings for chocolate later that day. It’s rich and delicious! Yum!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I’m a Vegan Living in an Omnivore’s World

I’m new to this way of eating, and no one around me eats this way. I really do love my vegan life, though at times I’m reluctant. I love food, all food, and it’s difficult for me to resist the temptation of deep fried onion rings, a filet of beef tenderloin with blue cheese and cracked black pepper or a Saunders hot fudge cream puff. This new take on food is a challenge and it all started about six weeks ago when my daughters came back from visiting family in Tucson, Arizona. During their visit my uncle talked about a diet he was on to keep his cholesterol under control. When the girls returned, they told me about this “weird” diet where you can’t eat butter because “butta has a mudda.” I was curious, and soon after I was emailing my uncle.

A year before all of this, my total cholesterol and LDL were sky high. I had been working on lowering my numbers, so after several emails with my uncle I decided to buy the book (more about that later) and read it with an open mind. The diet is fat free and vegan. I tried it, and six weeks later my test results showed a dramatic improvement. I was thrilled and made the commitment to this new way of eating.

So I’m blogging about this food journey. This will be my journal; a journal of my travels through the culinary world of becoming a fat free (or nearly fat free) vegan while cooking for a family of meat lovers. I’m a working mother and although my girls are in their early twenties (the pretty one is living at home and the other pretty one is living in Chicago), I’m always cooking for more than 2 or 3. I love to cook, but like so many others, I'm short on time and long on things to do. Dinner at my house is often thrown together after coming through the door, and now on top of everything else, I have to blend my new vegan menu with my old omnivore ways. My goal? Well, it's to find food solutions that will satisfy the taste buds of everyone in my family, and to do it with recipes that are quick and easy. Wish me luck.