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, 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.