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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving...

This is a day of giving thanks, and mine, today were abundant. A lovely dinner with my family, mine plant strong, theirs, not. It is okay though, because on some level, I see my vegan thoughts and practices seeping into my family. It is all good.

One of my favorite foods in the world is pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie. And becoming a vegan means that I need to be pretty creative to make a pumpkin pie that tasted delicious, fresh, and spicy. I also wanted something that would look like a freshly made pie that would appeal to everyone.

Here's my well-tested recipe. Try making it. I make it crustless,because I am leaving added fat out of my cooking and eating. But, you could use your favorite crust, if you wanted to. If you make the pie, let me know how it turned out.

Fancy Vegan Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

One can of organic pumpkin
One brick of Silken Tofu (firm)
3/4cup of vanilla, unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup of maple or date syrup (you can also make date paste with 8 dates in place of the syrup)
1 t of vanilla

(Mix these all together until you have a light brown mixture)

Add to the mixture:
1 t of organic cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves (one of each)
dash of pepper
3/4 cup of your favorite flour (mine is gluten free, I used garbanzo bean flour)
1t of baking powder

Mix everything together. Place in a silicone round cake pan. Smooth out top. Place on the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Remove. Allow to cool. Brush top with maple syrup, and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Delicious. So good.

This pie will be the new norm. Anyone for another serving of baked sweet potatoes and kale?

Happy (Plant Strong) Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Where Have You "Bean" All of My Life?

When I meet my friend Christina Pirello for lunch, we usually go to South Philly at Valentino's for lunch. They have great whole wheat pasta, and make the best arugula salad (without oil) that I have ever had. I eat the same thing when I go there--soup and salad.

Now, I do not mind spending $7 for a bowl of soup...but a cup of soup in a fancy bowl for $7? I mean, maybe it would cost $2 to make. I love this soup and decided to pick Christina's culinary mind for a run down of ingredients. She helped me figure it out, and I came home and created my own purer version of this delicious soup.

With the holidays around the corner, I need an arsenal of creative and new recipes to help keep me motivated and excited about being plant strong. I love being plant strong and I love how I feel, not just physically, but in general, fabulous. This is not a diet for me; for me it is a dietary belief. I have no carve-out days for indulgences from the other side. But, that's just me. There is no turning back for me. Plant strong, baby, plant strong.

Make this soup...you will love it!

Garbanzo Lemon Soup

2 cans of garbanzo beans, no added salt
10-12 garlic cloves
1/4 water
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1/4 red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon of reduced sodium tamari

2-3 lemons

Take the garlic gloves and place in a very hot pan, add about 1T of water, and brown them, shake the pan a good deal to prevent burning. Once they are a lovely brown color, add the two cans of beans (with liquid). Add water, spices, and allow to simmer. When the garlic is soft, you are good.

Remove the garlic and mash it with a fork. Return it to the soup.

Remove about one cup of soup and put it in a blender and puree (it will look like hummus). Return it to the soup, and stir. This will add thickness.

Finally, add the juice from 2-3 lemons.

Stir well.

Time to dig in. Serve it with a salad and a piece of Masterbacher whole grain bread...perfect dinner.

Oh, and the best part? With the leftovers, the next day, MAKE HUMUS! It makes OUTRAGEOUS humus. I call this "Double Duty Soup." It's all in the lemons!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Achoo-Achoo, I Think I Have the Flu!

It started with a little ache, and then a little stabbing in my throat. It could mean only one thing...I was getting a cold. Immediately, that means a few things...rubbing my feet with Tiger Balm, taking Umka Care(r) my favorite herbal remedy, and hot beverages. But, I am talking achy to the marrow of my bones. I mean, this is hot water bottle, achy. Curl up under three blankets, achy. But this year, something is different.

I think Hippocrates was right when he talked about food being thy medicine. Because, at this point, I should be really sick. But, I have no runny nose, no hacking cough. No chills. Just a gentle reminder of an ache. Being plant strong is the BEST prophalactic there is...really, who needs a flu shot? Not me. I am stocking up on veggie soup, cranberry relish, fresh fruits, kale smoothies, and more. That is all that I need.
I used to LOVE coffee...but, I stopped drinking it two years ago. And, I used to LOVE hot cocoa. It just always felt so soothing as it slipped down my throat. So, to replicate the comfort of hot cocoa, here's what I came up with today,and I feel AMAZING. It seems to keep a runny nose at bey.

Try this on a cool, fall day...or anytime, as a matter of fact. Just remember, that food is thy medicine.

Hot Cocoa

Cup of almond milk
2 dates (remember to remove the pits)
2T cocoa powder

1/2 cup of chopped kale
Put everything in your VitaMix.

Process for about 4-5 minutes, or until the container is hot to touch. Yum. Yum. Hold the marshmallows, but
I still might need some tissues.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat...Something Healthy to Eat!

Halloween is the day, in my opinion, that sets off spirals of crazy eating for anyone who struggles with food addiction. That one first bite used to send me into a tailspin of crazy eating through the arrival of the new year. It was like a switch made a loud click, and after "reviewing"my children's Halloween finds, my eating was thoughtless and sloppy. I had a pecking order, too. The stuff I liked (black licorice) would be consumed first, and eventually, and at last resort, I would end up eating candy corn. I still don't understand the concept of candy corn.

Anyway, Halloween doesn't even phase me anymore. Doesn't even register on my radar. I am too busy thinking about what plant strong dish I can discover and create for family and friends. I am also starting to focus on Thanksgiving and how I can blend this day for the "Carnivorous Connelly's," my family.

In LA, there's a zany chef by the name of Chef AJ. I met her in Austin, TX in March. She is very funny and witty. I follow her on her "weekly show," which is called The Chef and the Dietitian. AJ has me thinking about Thanksgiving, and this is her recipe for a FABULOUS cranberry sauce. As she would say, "it is free from the evil trio of sugar, fat, and oil." You can visit AJ's website at www.chefajshealthykitchen.com. She has awesome recipes. Here is her divine recipe for Cranberry Sauce.

You Will Need:

Pound of Cranberries (organic, if you can)
2 organic oranges
6-9 organic dates

Wash the cranberries. Place them in the food processor and pulse them until they are finely chopped. With a zester, add skin from one orange.

Peel two oranges, and add them to the mixture. Pulse again until well blended.

Put in your pit free dates, and pulse again.

YOU ARE DONE, this is it! Lovely color and so delicious.

I made a Mushroom and Barley soup that was seasoned with sage, thyme, and other fall spices. The cranberry sauce was the side dish. It was delicious!

I am on a mission. There is nothing that can get in my way. My new mantra is simple: There is no temptation that would taste as good as being plant strong makes me feel...

Sometimes I am hard on myself, because I know that the entire fabric of my life would have been very different if this was my lifestyle choice twenty years ago. I did my best, though, and now I can only do better. No regrets. Plant Strong...Nutrient Dense...a good place to be.

Hold the turkey, pass the cranberry sauce, please.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Giving Thought to Thanksgiving

I have this video playing in my head about the First Thanksgiving. It's where everyone is seated around the table, and as they are passing platters of food to one another, one of the Pilgrim ladies says, "Oh, none for me, I am plant-strong, but could you please pass me the acorn squash with wild rice?" Someone had to be plant strong at that dinner, don't you think?

This will be my second Thanksgiving being plant-strong. And let me tell you this, it gets easier with time. Really. With the exception of the carcass in the center of the table, I have learned to create vegan counterparts to every animal dish ever made. And, I steer clear of the Tofurkey, as it is too highly processed for me. The more I am vegan, the more I appreciate simple, pure, local, and fresh foods.

In some ways, though, I am a cheater. After having spent 25 days of November selling turkeys to housewives, teachers, lawyers, and the like, I am pretty much exhausted, especially during those three days prior to Thanksgiving. That's because I work three, 12 hour days of slinging turkeys to 2000 people. I am pooped. Although, I am always energized to do my favorite 5K on Thanksgiving morning.

My cheating, however, comes in this way; I take my family out to eat Thanksgiving dinner. I am so tired from work, that the thought of cooking exhausts me. We go to a fancy place. We all get dressed up. We look good. Philadelphia is not short on good restaurants, so it is always a pleasant day. And, I eat vegetables, and lots of them!

After making my reservation, I ask to speak to the chef. I see if they have brown rice, baked sweet potatoes, and can vegetables be cooked without any expressed oils. Here's the deal; in this economy, restaurants want your business, and short of acting as though I have a personal chef, no restaurant has ever disappointed. And, as the courses are being served, my small family and I catch up on activities, reminisce, and have fun.

Meanwhile, at home, Crockpots are filled with all kinds of veggie dishes for "leftovers." Sage, thyme and other herbs maintain the flavors of Thanksgiving. I am not a loss for the traditional flavors. Brown rice, succulent steamed vegetables, and a hearty salad make for great grub later in the day.

Dessert isn't an issue, either. There are a million vegan pumpkin pie recipes out there, and you can easily convert a conventional recipe by adding almond milk and egg-replacer. Mighty Muffins can also be made with pumpkin (3 bananas/1 cup of mashed pumpkin) and seasoned to fall perfection. And really, I highly doubt that the Pillsbury Dough Boy was even at that first gathering many, many years ago. I am sure desserts were simple, too, and that simplicity is something that being a vegan helps you to maintain.

Thanksgiving used to be the admission to crazy eating for six weeks for me. Now, it is just another day, but a day where I get to reflect, count my blessings, connect with friends, and then take a nice long nap. I am no longer held captive by the end result of eating things that weren't good for me.

If you're not going out, get a Brown Rice Extravaganza going on. And I bet your family will want that more than anything else at the table.

One thing that stays true is that you still get to count your blessings on this special day.

Lettuce give thanks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chill in the Air...Means One Thing...Time for Soup!

With the temps dropping into the 50's at night, that newly identified chill tells me it is time for soup. I was talking to a firefighter yesterday who told me, "Oh, who needs home made soup when you have Progresso Light?"

Well, the answer is, "I need homemade soup." I like soups that are easy to make, and I like them on the thicker side with some added texture, like, chunky vegetables and some type of puree. Nothing out of can, however. No high sodium canned soups for me.

Here's a quick, easy and delicious recipe I whipped up in the kitchen yesterday. The color was lovely and the flavor way too delicious.

This soup will warm your plant-strong heart and you can eat it for breakfast,lunch, dinner, or snack.

Sweet Po/Carrots/Ginger Soup

Two very large organic sweet potatoes (leave the skin on), cubed
Pound of shredded organic carrots
1/2 white onion, sliced into half-moons
1 inch of peeled and diced fresh ginger
Two cups of finely minced kale
1 tsp of Bragg's Amino or Reduced Sodium Tamari
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
One quart of spring water

Fresh parsley garnish.

Saute the onion in a few tablespoons of water. Once they've started to caramelize, add the sweet potatoes, carrots and ginger. Add the quart of water, and simmer until the potatoes are done.

Remove 1/2 of the shredded carrots and set aside.

With an Immersion Blender, make a puree of the remaining veggies in the soup pot.

Put back the reserved carrots, and add the kale. Cover the pot and let the kale wilt. When you plate it, add some fresh parsley.

This is so good. The sweetness of the carrots and sweet potato clearly tells me that fall has arrived!

Time to rake the leaves!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To "V" or Not to "V"

So, I am this plant strong machine, shy of almost becoming a Vegan Bitch, because I am very tenacious about my own state of well being. I am truly committed to the greener side of life. And, I try to contain my zeal at all times.

Last night, I got to see another preview of Forks Over Knives, the Brian Wendel movie that will change the way people view their food, and what they eat. (A special shout out to my endothelial cells, holla). I have seen the film five times! And each time I see it, I learn something new. I hear something with more clarity, and it always resonates to the bowels of my core.

My friend and neighbor is Lucille. She is the definition of sweet...a loving wife, mother, daughter, and grandmother. But she has this crazy relationship with bad food (like we have all had at one time or another). I always tell her that her food choices are like the bad boys we don't want our daughters to date. She dabbles with being plant strong, but will easily turn the corner for a piece of dead flesh marinated in ginger and soy.

Lucille is an outstanding cook. She knows her meat cuts like a chemist knows the Periodic Tables. And, she tastes when she cooks. At work, I often make meat-related meals for the masses, and I can barely, barely I tell you, touch the stuff. The thought of tasting it would have me hugging the toilet. But, Lucille has announced that "Jesus would have to come down from the cross" before she would give up tasting her food while cooking. And she will never give up salmon.

I love and adore Lucille. But here's what has me worried. While watching FOK last night, she gets an alarming phone call that her mother has been admitted to the ICU of a local hospital where she has had a heart attack and pneumonia. Lucille has to leave early to run off to the hospital to visit her 86 year old mother. And part of my worry comes from seeing Lucille at work where her own breathing is labored.

Now, I know I am not perfect. Really, I do. My own mother died from the ravages of lung cancer. And for this, I do not smoke, nor have I ever. As for my birthfather, he fell off a ladder, and I try to avoid climbing high places or roof tops at all costs. I am plant strong because I got scared from what could have become a stream of chronic diseases entwined with more of life's health complications.

Anyway, I am not sure how Lucille will get the "plant-strong" message in full blast, but this is where I remind myself that I only need to focus on myself and the direction I follow from being plant strong everyday.

The sound of an irregular heartbeat piercing from a heart monitor just might be enough to help Lucille. Let's hope her mom pulls through this, and let's hope that Lucille gets the message.

Plant-Strong and Proud.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Immersionites at Engine 2 (Day 4)

We are starting to wind down at the Immersion. Today's the day that I get to speak to everyone as part of a "panel." I am not sure what I will say, but I do know that while I may not have remembered each participant's name, the store they work at, or the position they hold, I have remembered everyone's story.

You might be the grocery team leader from the "original" Santa Rosa store who wants to feel better for the sake of his children.

Or, you might be the cancer survivor from Boston, whose story of survival and persistence moved me.

Maybe you're the young mother who once had sassy blond hair, and now you feel burdened by the excess weight that has crept into your life.

No matter your station in life, the poundage on the scale, or the resistance you might meet at home, this program is all about you, and only you. Now, your belt is full of new tools. You need to go forth, always trying your best, giving it a full 100%. When something is hard and you think you cannot be plant-based, grab your tool belt, and figure out what it is you need to do.

Maybe you need to say no to the situation, or just walk away from it. Or go for a run in the park, a trip to the gym, or a stroll in a garden. Bad food doesn't provide love and comfort.

Strive to be plant perfect, and as I always tell my children, "Reach for the stars..."

The pleasure has been my honor and thank YOU for motivating ME and helping me to continue on this journey--think of it as something we can do together. Plant-strong, one day at a time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Plant Strong Nation

The other day when I was on the flight to Austin, the flight attendants were coming around with breakfast. I was well situated with my own veggies, almond butter, and steamed kale. But, I was listening to her ask people, "Honey Nut Cheerios?" She was also pawning off 2% milk and the smallest banana I had ever seen.

I thought to myself, "In a plant perfect world, she'd be coming down the aisle saying, "Rip's Big Bowl?"

Thanks to President Bill Clinton though, this so-called cult (of which I am a part[according to old friends]) is going to become mainstream. Thanks to the CNN piece, what Bill Clinton eats will become part of the fabric of what many Americans will chose to put in their grocery carts. Too bad he wasn't Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. Imagine the changes he could help to create?

Last week I was speaking to a small group of people about a new initiative at Whole Foods Market. You may know it as "Health Starts Here." In this crazy world of so many health messages, someone at this meeting said, "Well, your competition to this program is ignorance." And, it made me think that as long as I am plant-strong, part of my own personal message is to educate people about the choices they have so that ignorance is stomped out, and better choices for eating and living take a prominent place in life.

Here's hoping I haven't been too preachy. It is just that I am bursting at the seams with excitement to share all the news that this Immersion gives me on a daily basis!

Plant Strong and Tenacious!

Big Bowl, anyone?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Back at the Ranch

I am back at the Ranch, that's my nickname for the Crossings, in Austin, Texas, where I am a "guest" at the second Engine 2 Immersion for Whole Foods Market. You know, my employer?

I have posted these two pictures because I needed to see, for myself, the progress I am making as a plant-strong and tenacious "60 Year Old Vegan."

A few years ago when I thought that Weight Watcher's could save my soul from the perils of overeating, I was dutiful and diligent about the process...in the beginning. One night, I thought I had lost my wallet. And my panic wasn't over credit cards, driver's license, etc. It was over the fact that my Weight Watcher's card was in there and if anyone found the card, I would die of humiliation from people knowing my weight.

So, last night at the opening of the Immersion, I had to give a brief intro about myself in 90 seconds. And I am not sure how this even happened...but, I told the very quick story of my pre-op experience and learning that I weighed 297 pounds. I just blurted it out. A room of 100 people knew that I weighed almost 300 pounds. Aside from never giving up, I told them that they needed to have deep courage and believe in themselves and the fact that they could be plant strong. And, I did not cry.

Take a look at these two pictures...and if you think that being plant-strong is impossible, I will challenge you to think other.

The food is wonderful. I like, no I love, being pampered with plant strong food. When I get home, I am sitting down with the family. I am going to come down firm with them and tell them that they have no other choice but to eat plant strong. I am thinking of gentle ways to convey this.

Plant Strong-and Tenacious. That is me.

All you need is love.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer Vacation 2010

This has been my virgin vacation as a vegan. We've been coming to the quaint island of Chincoteague, which is located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, for more than twenty years. Aside from the beautiful beaches, nature paths, and lovely vistas, over the years, it has mostly been earmarked with "places where I have eaten."

As we began our journey on a rainy Sunday, I made certain that I was well stocked in the "vegan food set." I was prepared for this journey, and staying vegan was my primary goal. No fish, meat, artificial sweetener or piece of candy was going to get in my way. Simple as that.

For those of you who have never been to CI, it is almost lost in time. I've always found it very relaxing, but it was also a haven for eating crap and not treating myself well.

I survived a full week as a plant-strong diva. And it was easy. This is not a matter of being "90% vegan," or "I will veganize during the week," this is a strong choice to treat myself as best I can, and making wise choices about the food at the end of my fork. I am plant-strong to prevent lifestyle diseases in myself. But, also, strange things happen to you when you do become vegan...like, I cannot for the life of me wear leather made shoes or purses!! A year ago, I would have only worn leather! The other thing? Seeing animal parts at a butcher almost makes me feel as though I want to yak.

So, here's how I survived my week away from home:

1. Make a menu of the meals you will eat. You might not follow it 100%, but you have a strong scaffold for how the week will go.

2. After you make your menu, create a shopping list and head to your favorite market to get everything you need. I stocked up on almond milk, because I was sure that the one small grocery store on the Island would not carry it. I was right, too. I was sure glad that I had enough Ezekiel bread, be/c that saved me several times. Remember that ever store in the world has fresh fruits and veggies (not organic, though).

3. Take your favorite utensils/appliances. We always rent a nice house, but I was sure that they wouldn't have a Vita-Mix--and I was right. If you like your smoothies a certain way...take the Vita-Mix.

4. Prepare a list of snacks. My family likes to snack, so I didn't want to feel excluded from their snacking. My snacks consisted of fresh fruit, veggies, baked potatoes, etc.

5. My "Vegan Steven" application saved me and I was able to find ONE vegan restaurant on the Island. I treated myself to a "Santa Cruz" sandwich, which was a whole wheat roll with fat free hummus and fresh veggies! Their iced tea was made without sugar and caffeine, so I was in heaven. My family, "The Carniverous Connellys' also enjoyed the restaurant!

6. Eating out with carnivores is rough. In my family, they do not at all criticize my vegan ways, and I do not roll my eyes at their omnivore eating ways. Anyway, check the menus out on line before heading out...everyone has a salad bar and everyone makes a baked potato. That was my dinner when we ate out. I ate slowly and enjoyed the people I was with. A long time ago, I learned that you remember eating out not by what you ate, but by the company and conversation.

7. This sounds crazy, but when I eat out, I look for someone who is the "old me." This woman is eating everything in site, walking with a pained and shameful look, and wearing baggy clothing. I have this intense urge to go up to them and say, "Hey, listen, you do not have to live your life this way, let me tell you about the Engine 2 Diet and how it can save your life." One day I will get the courage to do that, and when I do, you will hear about it.

8. Eating Italian? Carry in a serving of uncooked whole wheat pasta. Ask them to cook it al dente. You'll have a great dinner, and won't feel as though you are excluded in any way, shape, or form. I do not use dressings on salads, but you could use your own salad dressing, too. You want to make this a comfortable experience for yourself, you want to fit in, but you also want to remain plant-strong and true to thine ownself.

9. Let your fellow diners that you would prefer their not ordering dessert. After wards, my family would head out to a famous Island dessert hole, and I would ask to be dropped off at our home. A nice cup of tea suited me fine. When I would look at them eating their desserts, I wanted to vomit, because in my head, all I could see was fat.

10. Do something physical everyday! I joined the "Y" for a week and went there everyday for a two hour workout. Aside from the "Y," I also exercised everyday, took kayaking lessons, rode my bike, etc. The only place I didn't see the old me was at the "Y." Oh, wait, getting into that kayak was for the newer me, too.

In a handful of words...eat plant-strong, move everyday and you will have a perfect vacation. If you struggle with your food, or know someone who does, please pass these tips along. And, always love your family even if they can't be plant-strong.

I am leaving you with this quote...and I leave you with a full heart in letting you know that you can achieve a calm and serenity in allowing yourself to be plant-strong. Getting ready to head back to Philly. Happy as can be, too!

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.
Louis Pasteur

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Peacefoods Cafe

The Megabus is my new best friend. I love getting an early bus bound for Manhattan. So much to do and see. But lately, I am on a quest to find great vegan restaurants. Eating out is always fun, but eating at a vegan restaurant allows a certain freedom. No need to filter out the menu of the "can haves and can't." Generally, there are just two questions to ask: Can you make this without oil? Can you please omit the salt? Once that is cleared, it is smooth menu sailing.

The Peacefoods Cafe is located on Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side. Charming and adorable, it sits nestled on the corner of W. 82nd Street. It is simply stated, clean, adorable and did I mention the wonderful aromas? You seat yourself. You're greeted by your food server who doesn't tell you her name, but has the courtesy to ask, "How are you today?" I was too embarassed to tell her that I had tripped on 6th Avenue and fell to the asphalt, but I was so happy to be at Peacefoods.

Thanks to Vegan Steven, my iPhone application, The Peacefoods Cafe popped up. That's how I found the place. I kept hearing the Cat Stevens song in my head, "Peace Train," but I interchanged the words.

Menu: Trifold, nice paper. Easy to read. Everything laid out nicely.

Comfort: Nice comfy chairs. Very clean restaurant. Lighting nice, windows let in lots of fresh sunlight.

Service: Great. Not in your face food servers, all very sweet and sincere. Fast turnover from each course.

Food: Fresh. Local. Delicious. Not overly seasoned. I requested mine without oils and salt. My salad of fresh veggies and quinoa was so good. I had a tamale stuffed with cilantro and fresh veggies. Very yummy. No gooey cheeses to get in your way. For dessert my friend and I shared a mango tart, which was made from dry mangoes into a puree. The portions were nicely sized. No gimmicks here, just great food.

On my vegan scale of tomatoes, I would give this four (4) tomatoes.

460 Amsterdam Ave
(between 82nd St & 83rd St)
New York, NY 10024
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
(212) 362-2266

Friday, August 6, 2010

The New Friday

Used to be that Friday night dinner required a call to the local pizza place. To be safe, I would order grilled chicken salad, with dressing on the side,etc. It would be my "show dinner." But somehow as the night wore on, I would also have some pizza and something else. Then, something else.

My family isn't totally on board with the way I eat. I cook loads of food, but they do not always partake in my beautiful vegan fare. Tonight was no exception. I made a lovely vegetable melange of summer vegetables while "they" ate Chinese food. Just the smell of it almost made me yak.

Dinner time used to be a time of unity, and now I feel as though we are at a restaurant, each eating something different. The centerpiece bowl of our table used to be a focal point for discussion. Instead, today, I am feeling that my plant strong life is creating a wedge between me and my family,but there is no going back. They are fully supportive of what I do and what I eat, but the dinner table has a different vibe.

I think it is time for a discussion. For me to outline the importance of my journey on the vegan highway. Every one in my house is thin and uber healthy. I will figure this out, but will remain plant strong to thine own self.

Time to clean up the kitchen.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Engine 2 Comes to Bryn Mawr

I have a job that I really love. Most days, I am amazed that I get paid to even show up. Since April, I'd been working on a program to bring the brilliant documentary, Forks Over Knives, to the Philadelphia area. It began with a simple Skyping session with Rip Esselstyn. And when those plans from that one phone call all came to fruition (some three months later), I wasn't sure what to expect.

I've been plant-strong for ten months, and I wondered how differently my embrace would have been around this event had I not been that way. But, with all the calmness in my heart and the plant-strong strength of a gorilla, I was ready for this special event. In my mind, I thought that perhaps 150 people would have shown up. I would have been very happy with that. But, when 400 people kept on coming, and coming, and then when many had to be turned away, I knew that the message of the film was what people wanted to see. Plus, hearing Rip E. speak beholds the power of plant-strength. He has the true ability to hold people in the palm of his hand. He gets people to think about the food direction of their lives. He is a zealot in the best form of the word, and I think I figured out that he just wants you to have what he has...he is giving it away.

At the event, we had great food, lovely music, a private party for 70 patrons of the Bryn Mawr Film Institute, firefighters on a big yellow and brown truck, the hum of the group of 400 created a din that I can still hear. It was one of the best experiences of my life. All of the Healthy Eating Specialists from area WFM stores came together to share food, knowledge and humor; a very impressive group.

The movie will be out on March 11th, but I am hoping to help preview it on a smaller scale to some other outlets in the area. We cannot wait for the message of this movie, we need it now. All week long, my phone has been ringing off the hook. The question is always about the movie. This movie will change the way people view food and their lives.

This is the third time I have seen this movie. The first time I saw it, I was so moved by its message, that I knew I wanted to share it with people. Simple as that. This movie will change your life. I am in a state of repair from years of not being plant strong. Everyday gives me a new vista and more hope for the best life I can build.

Here are a few pictures from earlier this week. Thanks to my co-workers for such a great job, and to Rip for being the centerpiece of the event.

Be plant-strong to thine own self. Oh, and by the way, to date, I have lost 67 pounds. Just from eating plants, imagine that.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Juicing in July

I must say, that the thought of juicing for a week seemed like a task much too big for me to achieve. I really love to cook, create, taste and eat food. I am a plant-strong whole foodie. And while I have been diligent in my vegan pursuit, I have come to realize two things:

1. I still have a relationship with food and portion control is the hardest thing for me to do. I had expected my excess weight to roll off like wax on a burning candle. Not the case for this post-menopausal lady. Nope.

2. I was moving less than I thought...and that has been the key.

I had purchased an inexpensive heart monitor that also measured caloric burn. It appealed to me because you didn't need to wear a chest strap. The down side, it really didn't register well for me. I would finish a six mile work out and the watch's face would read that I had burned 100 calories. Are you kidding me?

So, I stepped it up a notch. I splurged and got a swanky and fancy Polar heart rate monitor that wanted to know my age, my sex, my weight, height, etc. The only thing it didn't ask for was a nick-name. Not happy about the chest strap, though, because it makes me feel as though I am wearing two bras.

The reality of this tool is that I move far less than I thought. Even with a six mile workout, at the end of the day, my watch would tell me that I burned 1800 calories. Not the one million I had thought in my magical mind field.

My solution? Aside to move more, I decided to juice for one week. And quite honestly, I feel AMAZING. Just great. In one week, I have lost five pounds. The weight has slithered off. Raw. Juice. Smoothie. POWER. I have decided that I am going to juice for a week, once a month.

Here's one juice I love, and I hope you will, too. If you like to pucker, this will make you one happy camper.

Super Juice

2 organic grapefruits, peeled and cut up into pieces.
3 organic lemons, peeled and cut up into pieces.
Piece of ginger, about the size of a small thumb
1 teaspoon of date sugar
2 cups of spring water

You can use a juicer, but I like the fiber and bulk, so I through into "Vita" and let her do all the work. You will get a thick and creamy smoothie that tastes yummy. For variety, I also add spinach (two cups). Makes it very rich in iron.

Do you like to juice? Have a recipe you'd like to share?

Enjoy each day. As my Mom used to say, "Reach for the Stars!" Keep moving!!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Markets and The Abundance of Fabulous Produce

I get pretty spoiled in the summer because I am the "market master" for a farmer's market twice a week. I have an early preview of beautiful produce that comes in every Tuesday and Sunday. This is my fourth summer of hosting a market, and it is loads of fun putting together, but frankly, even harder to sustain.

The young child in me can't wait for the market day to arrive and I am impatient as I await each growers' arrival. I've learned a lot about farming and even more about farmers, more than I ever thought I would know. They are a passionate group, whether they be the college-aged blueberry farmer who brings organically raised blueberries, (she picks them at 8:00 AM, and by 10:00 AM, they are on a table at my market), or the cheese producers from faraway in Chester County. The market unfolds like a fan, and once it is opened, my heart is happy and content. Not just because my store becomes a community resource for shoppers, but because I get to buy beautiful, fresh, and clean produce. It is so beautiful, it appears that diamonds are shining in the collected dew on each kale leaf. Really.

I whipped this up tonight and thought it turned out nicely, so I thought I would share it with you. Quick and easy would be its claim to fame.

Summer Vegetable Saute

One large summer squash, diced nicely into 1/2 inch cubes
Two shallots, finely minced
One clove of garlic, finely minced
Two cups of kale, ripped into bite-sized pieces (I use scissors to cut it up)
One can of organic artichokes (rinsed and dried, then smashed)
One can of organic pinto beans (rinsed and dried)
One cup of 365 Organic Pasta Sauce (fat free)
One cup of cooked, brown organic rice
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or more, if you are so inclined)

"Saute" onion and garlic in about a 1/4 cup of water, on a low flame. When the shallots are clear, add the summer squash, and saute them until the squash starts to brown.

Add kale and "saute."

Add canned items, sauce, and rice.

Add spices, and simmer on a low flame (covered)for about 10-12 minutes.

Serves four, generously.

I like it best over a bed of fresh Romaine, of course from the farmers' market.

It's good that we get to see all of the good stuff that grows locally. And that going to a farmers' market allows you to see the "face behind the product."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Eureka Salad Dressing

I like my counter top appliances to know that they are multifunctional. For example, I use my trusty waffle iron to "grill" tofu, make a whole wheat "panini," and cook a veggie burger. It also make wonderful grilled asparagus, one of my favorite veggies. Foods come out nice and crispy, and they stay their shape very well. They are cooked very securely, because they are guided as they sizzle. The waffle iron also affords me the time to "do other things," as foods cook.

So, today, as I was "cooking" one of my homemade veggie burgers, I was dabbling with a salad and what veggies I might want to use. I have a well stocked vegetable crisper, thanks to the availability of local markets. I thought...salad...dressing...no oil...no salt.

Here's what I did, and I was thrilled and surprised beyond belief!

Have you ever used a small appliance for something else other than its marketed purpose?

Eureka Dressing

One medium sized tomato cut into eighths
One small white onion (about the size of a small apricot)
One clove of garlic
2 Tablespoons of Good Quality Balsamic Vinegar*
1 Tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1/4 cup of spring water

I am a spoiled kitchen brat and I make this in my Vita-Mix. It creates a smooth and delicious texture that boosts the flavor and appearance of whatever I make.
This dressing really took me by surprise.Bold

Add all of the ingredients to the Vita-Mix container. Let it rip! You will a very smooth pink-red dressing. Pour it over your salad or veggies.
It yields about 3/4 cup of dressing. I put the remainder in an old squeeze bottle and I was good to go.

The tomato will be happy to be reunited with lettuce and friends. Really.

If you make this, let me know how you liked it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pass the Beans, Please...

I love beans, all kinds. Fava beans are my absolute most favorite, I think because they are the beans I knew as a child. My grandmother would cook them with fresh greens and loads of garlic and serve them over a bed of linguine. See, I was plant strong a long time ago, but took some type of detour along the way.

Maybe you already know this about me, but I do everything fast. I walk quickly, speak quickly, and always feel as though I am catching a bus. In the day when I would make Jell-o, I would even make it with ice cubes to hasten up the process. I need a microwave that works in double time, because sometimes, those two minutes for a veggie burger to get crispy seem like forty five minutes. In the time that my husband comes home from work, changes his clothes, and walks our two dogs...I can have a complete dinner made...it's about twenty minutes, really.

We needed a side dish to tonight's dinner. Plans to make my famous three-bean, slow-baked masterpiece evaporated with the day. But, I still wanted to have beans. So, with a flick of the wrist and my fabulous "Vidalia Chopping Wizard," some shallots, balsamic vinegar, and a few other things, I made this bean dish that was really good. You can serve this cold or hot. Your choice.

Pass the Beans

Can of Garbanzo Beans
Can of Black Beans
Can of Pinto Beans

One finely diced shallot

One finely minced garlic clove

1/4 cup of good quality Balsamic Vinegar*

1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard (I like the grainy one)

Open, drain, and really rinse all the beans in a colander. Wash them well.

Add finely minced shallot, vinegar, and mustard.

Mix well. You can either heat these up on the stove, or try them cold on a bed of lettuce. If you heat them slowly, the vinegar will carmelize. But, they're good uncooked, too!

Store them in a good, air-tight container.

* I used Rao's Balsamic Vinegar, costs $25 a bottle, and tastes wonderful! Love the flavor, warm or cold.

Hope you enjoy them.

Tip of the Day...

This is for anyone who might be struggling with trying to pull people onto the "Plant Strong Life Raft." The reality is that you only need to worry about yourself, your food choices, your exercise plan...and so it goes. I have found in this last year, that one's sincere zeal is often received with mixed reviews and many questions. If we continue to lead by example, our actions will speak for themselves.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Freedom from "Weight Loss" Ads

Those late night TV infomercials can really tug at you. Whether it be a fancy-smancy floor cleaner, an under garment that makes you look 20 pounds thinner, or, my former favorite, the "guaranteed" weight loss product. Last night, I was watching an infomercial that promised a huge weight loss, all while eating "your favorite foods." As I was watching, I felt a sense of relief, because for the first time ever, it was not summoning my name. Happy to be plant strong, thanks.

But, I thought about the countless victims who were drawn in to this commercial and the fact that their life's problems might just be ended by sprinkling a powder on their animal based foods. I was free. I am a plant strong sixty year old, my shield of legumes, fruits, vegetables and whole grains is broad and protects me.

I can't help but to reflect on September 23rd 2009 when I was where I wasn't supposed to be. I was slated to attend a meeting in Philly, but instead, found myself in Rockville, Maryland, headquarters for the Mid-Atlantic Whole Foods Markets. And, that's the day our regional president told us about being plant strong. I think that day is the most pivotal day of my life. That day, though, ties with March 14th 2010, the day I landed at the Engine Two Immersion in Austin, Texas. Whole Foods Market has given me the tools to practice a healthier lifestyle. And, I am not going back. Thank you, Whole Foods Market.

Breakfast is the most fun meal of the day for me. Here's something quick, easy, versatile, and delish. Originally inspired by Ann Crile Esselstyn, I have tested this many times, and I believe this is the best recipe for a PLANT STRONG OATMEAL WAFFLE. Let me know what you think.


3/4 cup of "Old-Fashioned" Oatmeal
1/2 banana, mashed well (or, 5 tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce)
1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon (or to taste, I give the jar ten taps!)
1/8 cup of warm water

Plug in waffle iron on HIGH

Mix uncooked oatmeal with mashed banana. Put it in a glass jar. Add the cinnamon, stir well. Add water. Place cover on jar, and shake about ten times (like you are Tom Cruise).

Now, put the mixture on the waffle iron, gently spread. Close cover. Cooks in about 6-8 minutes. DO NOT LIFT COVER until you get to first time of six minutes.

To remove, get a chopstick. And score along each right angle of the waffle iron. It will then POP OUT! You can use maple syrup, if needed, but I prefer a sprinkle of fresh fruit.

These are SO good!!! Make a batch and keep them in the freezer. I have also used them to make "ice cream sandwiches," using pureed, frozen fruit.

The next time you see an infomercial that touts super weight loss, count your blessings that you are plant strong, happy, and centered.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rapini Roots and a Great Pizza Recipe

My grandmother, Mary Montaruli, was an incredible chef. She and my grandfather, Luigi, owned many restaurants throughout their lives. So, as a young child, while my peers were playing in sandboxes, I was hanging out at Luigi's Restuarant, learning a sense of urgency and at a very young age, learning to cook. We lived on the second floor of the restaurant, which was a Victorian mansion, and today, an historical landmark on Long Island. My older sister, Mary Lou, and I share many fond memories of Luigi's.

Even as a young child, though, rapini (sometimes called broccoli rabe), was my favorite vegetable. I have always loved greens, and now that I am plant strong, I love them even more. I've had to re-adjust how I cook, and the word saute has taken on a new meaning, because if I do saute, it is generally in a liquid; bye bye, olive oil! My grandmother always made linguine with rabe, and loads of garlic. She sauteed hers in olive oil (I never knew, until I was an adult, that olive oil didn't just come in gallon cans). Mine is steamed in very little liquid, and it seems to carmelize well on its own.

I steam my rapini and add about ten cloves of freshly peeled garlic. I save the water for future sauteing, or I just drink it. I love its flavor.

What to do with rapini, you ask? Well, last night I made a delicious, plant strong, rapini pizza, and it was delicious. Here we go...and Grandma, thanks for always letting us tag at your side, you taught all of us to be good chefs, and you were the first person who really showed me "field to fork" with the beautiful gardens you always had, long before it was trendy.

Rapini Pizzzzzzza
One head of Rapini
One whole wheat pizza crust, or Ezekial Wrap
Eight cloves of garlic
A melange of freshly chopped vegetables (onions, mushrooms, peppers, etc)
One Tablespoon of Nutritional Yeast
3 Tablespoons of finely ground raw cashews*
One Roma tomato

Cut the stems of the rapini off (about one inch), and clean them in your lettuce spinner. Throw them in a pot, and add 2 cups of water. Add garlic. Steam for about 7-9 minutes. Turn off flame, keep covered, and let them cool a bit.

Drain them well, and reserve the liquid. Once you think they are drained well, pick them up with your hands, and squeeze out every last drop of water. You'll have a nice ball of greens and garlic. Put this into your food processor and "whir" until you have a green looking paste. Remember, the better drained they are, the less soupy your mixture will be.

Spread the rapini mixture on your dough, or wrap. Add your veggies. Sometimes, I like to also add Roma Tomatoes sliced into thin rounds. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast. Place in oven, directly on the rack, at 400 degrees.

Just eye the dough for readiness, but generally, the dough will take about 20 minutes, where the wrap will be cooked in about10 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with cashew powder. This will look like parm reggiano.

There you have an oil-free, plant strong delicious pizza. It is SO nutrient dense and so delicious.

*If you wanted, rather than the yeast and cashews, you could use DAIYA MOZZARELLA CHEESE, this is dairy/casein/soy free cheese. It has a high fat content, so use it as a treat. It even melts and stretches!

And don't forget about the KALE. You can also make this with kale, but I would suggest adding some lemon juice to the kale for added flavor.

Long before Lidia Bastianich, my grandmother always said, "Tutti a Tavola A Mangiare."

There you have it, a truly delicious and beautiful pizza.

Thought for the Day

I am not trying to convert the world into being plant strong, but I do want to share that I feel fabulous and fit. Really, the way that plant strong food travels through your body will propel you into feeling great in a way that you have never known before.

Let your journey begin with just 28 days, and after that, you make the choice.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Better Recycler Now That I Am Plant Strong

Well, this morning on my "walk-out," (that's a cross between a workout and a walk that really makes you sweat), I was looking at the recycle bins in the neighborhood. Street by street on a three mile walk...

In my own neighborhood, bins are neatly stacked and everyone categorizes their recycling. I am amazed with how much you know about people without knowing them. Pizza boxes, beer cartons, loads of diet drinks, and occasionally, a tomato box. I doubt someone called takeout for tomatoes, but it was a pleasure to see such a decorative box.

As I move further away from my house (a mile and a half away), I notice that the recycling theme changes...more of Tony the Tiger and less almond milk. Lots of instant mashed potato boxes mixed with old bottles of Sunny Dee. My thought is that I really do think that socio-economic status really does have social impact on behaviors like recycling your trash.

But, my personal comment is this. The relationship I feel in being plant strong seems to weave a thread into my life. I table top compost in the kitchen, really take deep care in "what goes where." It is a clean feeling, I feel as though I am reducing my carbon footprint in so many ways, not only in what I eat but in how I chose to dispose of it.

Maybe you're not eating plant strong and maybe you don't recycle with a full heart. If Monday is a meatless day for you, then, make that the day that you recycle all the papers in your house. Do something to be plant strong, whether you put something in your mouth, or take it to the curb.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Candle Cafe Review

A tourist if I ever saw one...

The first time I went to Rome, I was awestruck by each and every building, piece of art and fountain my eyes took in. I remember that my heart was bubbling with excitement. Same thing happened when I lived in Brasil and I saw the Roberto Carlos singing fountain for the first time in my tiny town of Cachoeiro de Itapmarin. What I am saying is that it is hard for me to realize that I get to see things in the world, say, that I may have learned in the sixth grade from my teacher, Mr. Harry P. Kent, the best teacher I ever had. Going to Candle Cafe in NYC (the city of my birth) gave me the same goose bumpy feeling I had when I saw the Ferragamo flagship store in Florence. I never believe that I get to be part of these destinations.

Megabusing it to the city, we tore up Lexington Avenue to our final destination, the Candle Cafe, a mecca for vegan eating in NYC. I've been reading about this place since last year when I decided that I needed to feel better and act like a preventive warrior for new "wellth." I'd studied the menu prior to my arrival, and even bought their cookbook as one of my latest reads.

Nothing was a disappointment. The din of the cafe grew moment by moment as each table filled up with all sorts of people. For me, a people watcher, it was Nirvana. The menu, simple, reprinted on recycled paper, was a delight to read. What I liked best was that our food server did not tell me her first name or what the specials were, simply she said, "Here are your menus, I'll be back." I never like to know my food server's name, it really means nothing to me. I prefer a comfy seat, a clean bathroom, and great food.

My friend Aileen and I shared a mezze plate of Middle Eastern dips, a salad and a sandwich. And everything was fresh, delicious and beautifully prepared. It was a relaxing place, even at the peak of noon. I didn't want to leave. What I loved the most was...I didn't have to filter through a menu a find "something" I could eat. This was a menu that was hand tailored for me. I think I even detected kale stains on page three of the menu, really.

I will caution, however, that you need to be cognizant about oil and sodium. Asking what the ingredients are is still a very crucial question, even in a vegan restaurant. I cook and eat without either, so it was important for me to selectively order my food.

If I worked for a magazine as a restaurant reviewer, I'd give Candle Cafe "5 leaves of kale, out of five" in my review, because it was awesome and filled all of my vegan dreams. It was simple and pure, no gimmicks. All real. Just like the food.

Candle Cafe is located at 1307 Lexington Avenue. Make sure you get there on your next jaunt to NYC. I'll gladly lead a caravan of friends on the Bolt or Megabus.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Soup's On

Well, tomorrow is a big day. As part of the Immersion, we are in a study, and every eight weeks we have blood work done to measure our cholesterol, and LDL, as well as the BMI and weight. I am a little nervous about one thing; the scale. Only because I am becoming obsessed with the scale and have my own at-home scale calibrated like a Swiss watch...same scale, same time of day rule. But, I am a vegan not to just lose weight. I am a vegan to feel better about myself--not just in the vain sense, but in the overall mind-body way, and it seems to be working! And truth be told, if my cholesterol is less than 150 tomorrow, I am calling CNN. Not really, but someone needs to know the empowerment factor in being vegan! I feel like a caped crusader. Like, I can leap tall buildings at a single bound.

In the kitchen, I am trying to kick it up a notch, and although I am a good cook, I am using recipes from different sources each night in the kitch. Sometimes, my own food tastes the same...you know, garlic, onion, spieces, etc. If I am out for dinner, the next night, I try and re-create the same dish in my own house. Seems to be working.

I went to a vegan potluck at work the other night, and Tahirah Barnes made a delicious kale and white bean soup. I was REALLY proud of her, because she is not vegan, but she converted a recipe to be vegan, and this is what she made. In her honor, I am calling this "Tahirah's Kale and White Bean Soup."

On the "very good" scale, it is a "very-very."

Tahirah's Kale and White Bean Soup

Head of Kale, finely chopped (make sure to remove the center stem)
2 quarts of low sodium vegetable stock
4 cans of cannellini beans (no salt added)
One small (12 ounce) can of San Marzano tomatoes (rinse them to remove added salt)
8 cloves of garlic, minced
Red Pepper Flakes to taste

Add all of the ingredients in a soup pot. I would suggest rinsing the beans with water, first. Cook until the kale is done to your liking. This really is a "20 Minute Soup," but tastes MUCH better the next day.

With a nice hunk of whole wheat bread and a delicious salad, you will think you are doing some fine vegan "dining out." Really, a nice and quick meal.

Thought for the Day...

I was driving the other day and chuckled when I read, "Things may be closer than they appear," in my side view mirror. It made me think that sometimes a situation is really awful to me, but the reality is that it is never as awful as it may appear. So, "Keep a bright light," and check your side view mirror often. Things are not as bad as they seem. :-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kale with a "Krunch"

You know that I love kale. So versatile. And so nutrient dense. I juice it. I make it into a thick and creamy smoothie. I eat it raw in salads. I steam it--even make it into soup! I eat kale everyday!

My friend Ruth had introduced me to kale chips some time ago...and I loved them. Ruth has a fancy-smancy food dehydrator and makes all sorts of great treats. I've thought about getting an Excaliber, but my small kitchen can't take another appliance with a plug. My thoughts about making kale chips were set aside...until today.

I received an email from the brilliant Ann Crile Esselstyn who just happened to have sent a recipe for kale chips! How did she know I loved kale chips? Five minutes after reading Ann's email, I was in the kitchen. I made a batch of chips, and took them to work. Everyone loved them, and by the day's end, had given Ann's recipe to ten co-workers and one shopper.

Take note that there are many kale chips on the market, but all are not fat free...these are. You will love them...crunchy, sweet, and as Ann said, "these are addicting!" And, they are!

Thanks, Ann, for a great recipe!

Kale Chips

Head of Kale, stripped from stem and cut into bite sized pieces
Mrs. Dash. to taste
One Lemon
Nutritional Yeast (can be found at WFM in bulk or in Whole Body)

Oven is set at 275 degrees

Spread kale on an ungreased cookie sheet. Sprinkle ZEST of the lemon, then, squeeze the juice from the lemon over the kale. Sprinkle on Mrs, Dash, and then sprinkle with nutritional yeast. The yeast will look like cheese, so sprinkle it as you wish. (I am light handed with the yeast, others really go heavy-handed).

Place in oven, and "bake" for about 30 minutes. Halfway through the process, I moved the center pieces to the edge of the pan...

The finished pieces will be crispy and sweet. You will love these. Even the biggest kale skeptic won't be able to stop eating these!

A note on Nutritional Yeast...
Nutritional yeast has a strong flavor that is described as nutty, cheesy, or creamy, which makes it popular as an ingredient in cheese substitutes. It is often used by vegans in place of parmigianno cheese. Another popular use is as a topping for popcorn. It can also be used in mashed and fried potatoes, as well as putting it into scrambled tofu or eggs. Some movie theaters offer it along with salt or cayenne pepper as a popcorn condiment.

In case you forget how many blessings you have, make sure you count them, everyday!

Kale Power!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

New York Minute Veggie Burgers

Since returning from my Engine Two Immersion, I no longer eat ready made veggie burgers. Many of them are loaded with fat, so I started making the "New York Times" Veggie Burgers that appear in the "Engine Two Diet Book." They are good, but you really need loads of time to get them together. I am always looking for shortcuts..whether it be on road, or in life. That's when I came up with these really good burgers.

My best friend in the kitchen is actually my"Vidalia Chopping Wizard(VCW)." Makes you think that you will be chopping lots of onions, and only onions. But the truth is, it cuts uniformed pieces of fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs, which actually help to cook your foods uniformly. I even use it to chop cilantro, parsley, and of course, my most beloved kale. The funny thing is that I picked up my VCW at a drugstore, not too far from the shampoo aisle.

So, you wanna make delicious veggie burgers, at perhaps a maximum time of ten minutes. Here's what you'll need:

1/2 can of 365 Organic Fat Free Refried Black Beans
1/2 pepper, chopped on the smaller grid of the Vidalia
1 stalk of celery, chopped on the smaller grid of the Vidalia
1/2 yellow onion, again, chopped on the smaller grid
1 cup of cilantro, finely snipped with shears
1 carrot, chopped on the smaller grid of the Vidalia
2 garlic gloves, grated
1 baby bello mushroom (or a mushroom about 1 1/2 inches), finely chopped
1/2 can of Muir Glen NO SALT ADDED Diced Tomatoes
2 envelopes of instant oatmeal (I like the Organic 365)
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Now, do this...

Mash the beans, add all of the chopped veggies, pepper, and garlic. With your hands, mix together well. Now add tomatoes and oatmeal. Form into four ounce burgers. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for about 35 minutes...I like my dry, so I bake for about 45 minutes. Though not my mode of cooking, some people do like to hear the sizzle of the pan, so, you can use whatever it is you like to skillet cook with...spray stuff, oil, etc.

These are really good. And, really, you can get them together in a New York Minute!

Live plant strong. No exceptions.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Love Cilantro--Try this Oil Free Dressing

There's a lot of learning when you become a vegan. I'll be honest, on my days off, like today, I plan menus for the week, and shop for its ingredients. It takes a lot of time, but I see it as an investment in my health. And, remember, I am making lunch and dinner, so I need to really prepare well. I am not a fan of leftovers, so I really do make a lot of food so that my lunch and dinner are totally different meals. That's just me.

One thing that takes time shopping is reading labels. I try my best to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, but sometimes, I need "staples." I am learning that things I once thought as healthy are almost pure crap. My new motto is, "If it ain't from the ground, don't keep it around."

I have grown very fond of cilantro, which, as you may know, are the leaves to the coriander plant! I see it more than a garnish, and now incorporate it into the actual base of salads instead of lettuce. It is full of vitamins C and A. The small graph below gives you a better understanding of cilantro and just how wonderful it is.

Coriander leaves, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 95 kJ (23 kcal)
Carbohydrates 4 g
Dietary fiber 3 g
Fat 0.5 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A equiv. 337 μg (37%)
Vitamin C 27 mg (45%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
And, here's a recipe for Cilantro Dressing...I know you will like it. Good on tomatoes.

Cilantro Dressing

Head of Cilantro
2 Lemons or Limes
2 cloves of grated garlic
1/4 cup of water
half an avocado
salt (your choice)

What to do:

Snip the cilantro and place it and all the other ingredients into your blender. Use the juice of the lime (or lemon) to BLEND until you have a smooth looking dressing. If it is too thick, add more water. You won't need oil, as the avocado kicks in for you. However, if you need to, olive oil might work. Remember, I am oil free.

Get some Heirloom tomatoes and slice into 1/4 inch slices, pour dressing over tomatoes. You have a perfect salad.

This is an adventure. Being a vegan works for me, and I hope you will give thought to just trying the vegan life for 28 days. Not forever, just for 28 days. I've listed various resources throughout the blog, but if you have any questions, let me know. In the meantime, try the salad dressing and have a gorgeous day!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Be Plant Strong to Thine Ownself

I figured it out. There's a part of me that is hearing my mother's voice...saying something like, "Mind your own business." Or, don't be part of the crowd...if everyone else jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge...would you? (I have often wondered, like if you live in, say, San Francisco, do mothers make reference to the Golden Gate or Oakland-Bay Bridges, like mine did for the Brooklyn Bridge?).

So, it's about seeing others not follow their self-prescribed vegan path, then deviate to animal based food. It has NADA, ZIP, ZERO to do with me, and I only need to focus on my own food choices, food journal entries, etc. What a relief for me. Nothing to worry about, only myself.

And, the next part of this? Well, this is B-I-G. I was chatting with someone and listening to their food choices. I realized that whatever they can handle is their business and not mine. I can't handle all foods, some show no moderation for me. So, I steer clear. If Jane or Susie can eat corn chips with salsa, brava for them. I can't do it. Just can't.

If I have offended anyone with my strong pant-based opinions, I extend an apology. Sometimes, passion wears a disguise.

I'm going to finish my kale smoothie (my dessert), grab a shower. Then, head to bed.

Does this entry all make sense?

Love all. Count your blessings.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Biggest Loser...and a Great Salsa Recipe!

I can't miss the "Biggest Loser," (BL). It is better than any tele-novela I have ever seen. This group seems to have a strong fellowship of love and respect, and that is what really appeals to me this season. It pleases my heart to see such a caring group of people who genuinely care about one another. Other seasons have been so cut throat. Oh, wait, there was Melissa...

Still, I lament that I worry about the food that Koli, Sam, et al, eat. Shay is going to get $1000 per pound from "Subway" for every pound she loses. I am guessing that the "Kale Council" doesn't exactly have the same budget as "Subway," or maybe "Extra" gum. Actually, there isn't even a thing called the "Kale Council." But, if there was, I'd be the CEO.

I just wish that there was a "Plant Strong" version of the Biggest Loser, or that maybe, just maybe, they'd invite Rip Esselstyn to visit the Ranch and do his thang with Bob and Jillian. One week of plant based eating would be the best thing that ever happened at the ranch. The progress of someone like, say, O'Neal, has been wonderful, but, I think his progress would have a higher pitched quality if he were plant based. Just my opinion.

With "Cinco de Mayo" around the "rincon," I thought that I would share a simple recipe for "Pico de Gallo." This phrase translates to "beak/bite of the rooster," and it has a kick to it. Of course, I have added kale to this, very finely minced kale.

"Pico de Gallo"
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded, pulp removed, finely chopped
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (I like to grate the garlic)
  • 2/3 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced
  • 4 tablspoons of finely minced kale (you can snip it with shears)
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro leaves
  • 3 or 4 fresh serrano chiles, seeded, very finely chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • salt to taste (if you need it, but who does)
Mix tomatoes, onion, garlic, cucumber, kale, cilantro, chiles. Sprinkle lime juice over all. Add salt to taste. I have a "Chopping Wizard" and it takes two seconds to make this. This is great on rice, in a salad, mixed with corn. It has endless possibilities!

You can make your own tortilla chips by merely cutting corn tortillas into 1/8's. Then, spread them on a cookie sheet and place them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. No added fat in these and they taste great.

Best if refrigerated, covered, for at least 1 hour, and served the same day made. Makes about 3 cups.

Thanks for the great feedback. Tell your friends to visit me here and share their thoughts. Have a wonderful day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It's Not Always Sunny in Philadelphia...

I don't follow a lunar calendar, but I would guess that there is a full moon or something. Or, maybe, just maybe, the reality of being back in the real world has hit me in the head like a ton of tofu since returning from my Engine 2 Immersion.

What I am feeling is real. Not everyone in the world wants to be vegan. Not everyone wants to avoid eating cholesterol heavy foods. And not everyone gives a hoot about getting healthy. Staying strong. And, while I try, really try, to NOT take the inventory of others, I can't help it.

And really, the world couldn't give a damn about your strong convictions in staying vegan and getting healthier. So, here's what went down.

It's been a special week of fun at work, and there has been more food on parade than there is on the Food Network, and not all of it has been plant strong. I had to preserve my resentment, and I had to be proactive and pack a great plant strong lunch everyday. No biggie, really.

Seeing your vegan pals eat meat is like learning that your best friend's husband is cheating. A friend at work who is vegan, has been snorting meat, cheese, cake, and other foods all week. And the funny part, as I would enter a room, this friend would be in the kitchen eating pizza in record time. Inhaling it, in fact. Through the corner of my eye, I would see the embarrassment, but I realized one thing. You might make the decision for the first bite, but after that, you really have no control...cognitive, affective, or otherwise. That physical SNAP is loud and it hurts. That snap can set you into a tailspin. One is always too many. With that first bite, I am convinced that it is laced with a binge.

Seeing my friend surrender his vegan domain left me feeling isolated. I felt alone. And I felt betrayed. Sounds silly, right? It reinforced, for me, that being vegan is the best thing I have ever done for myself. And in reality, I do not need to be consumed about others and their actions.

I've had a rough week at work. I think I handled all the curve balls well. And, I ducked when I needed to. And, I did not solve the problem with food. I solved it with thought provoking actions, and I tried my best. And I kept my mouth shut, in more ways than one. I didn't eat AND I didn't voice my opinion. My lips were sutured with iron thread.

I am posting a great recipe from the Whole Foods Market website...one that I have tried...and tweaked to suit my favorite flavors (I like freshly grated garlic, what can I say?).

Have a nice day. Continue to breathe deeply and count ALL of your blessings.

Mediterranean Chickpea Salad

Serves 1

This quick and easy meal is a testament to the satisfaction of a good main course salad and is just one example of how to include healthy, protein-packed beans in a warm-weather menu. It's simple to double this recipe for two, or increase further to serve even more. Maybe it will become the summer potluck dish you're famous for! Serve with pita chips or warm pita bread on the side.


5 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 small zucchini or yellow squash, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 pitted black olives, such as Kalamata, halved
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1 tablespoon prepared balsamic vinaigrette or Italian dressing
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Ground black pepper to taste
2 or 3 lettuce leaves, torn into large bite-size pieces


Toss together all ingredients, except lettuce, in a large bowl. Arrange lettuce on a dinner plate and top with bean mixture.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bloomingdale's and Beans...

I can remember as a very young child, seeing the big "B" on Queens Blvd. It was the site of Bloomingdale's and where I got a pair of navy blue PF Flyers. When we went there to shop, my mother or grandmother would make certain that we were nattily attired for the trip, I think we even wore our Sunday best. Far cry from today when people shop in gym attire and eat Cinnabon as they peruse the racks. But, in my mind, I still see the big, cursive letter "B." It is a happy memory.

I am headed to Bloomingdale's tomorrow to do a demo on "Plant Strong" eating. They had called me several weeks ago and wanted to know if I could come and do a demo for Earth Month. Everyone loves Whole Foods Market, but even more so in April. They were thinking cleaning solutions made from scratch. And I was thinking plant strong, carbon footprint, organic food, etc. So tomorrow, I and a colleague are headed there for a two hour class. We are cooking up a plant strong storm with recipes from my new favorite book, "The Engine Two Diet." I love to cook, and I love to teach. And I also love the components to E2. I can now walk the walk, talk the talk, and cook the speak.

What's funny about this is that I went to the Bloomingdale's website to see how they had promoted the class. And they have me listed as a "chef" from Whole Foods Market. I silently laughed, but also thought that my grandfather, who was a master chef and owner of several restaurants in his lifetime, would have been so proud. When other four year olds were playing in the sand box, I was working in the kitchen of Luigi's, his restaurant. So, grandpa would be very proud. I am hardly a chef, but I do love to cook. I especially love to make Italian food, which is hard to do without cheese. However, take a look at this recipe where I have recreated a sausage flavor with beans. I am not a fan of the tofu, nor do I want to eat processed "meat crumbles."

Lentil "Sausage" Recipe

This is really delicious and can be used to make a "meatloaf," lasagne, or anything where beans are kicking a high step of culinary enjoyment.

Make a whole bag of lentils. Cook as the package suggests, but use about 1/4 cup less water. I like to add a bay leaf or two for flavor. When done, as the package recommends, drain, if needed. I prefer to then squeeze the juice of one robust lemon into the lentils. Let them cool. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves.

Once cooled, you can mash them into a coarse paste. I don't like putting this in the food processor, because it looks to "mealy." Now add:

1/4 teaspoon of sea salt (I am not a fan of salt, so you don't even need this)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 tablespoons fresh, minced Italian (broadleaf) parsley
4 tablespoons crushed fennel seeds
3 garlic cloves, minced (I grate this on a planer)

Mix well by hand. You can either make them into a "patty" or use it as filler for a casserole, lasagne, etc. If you want, add about 1/2 cup of instant oatmeal to the mixture to use if you want that "veggie burger" like consistency.

If you love being plant strong and also appreciate Italian food, this is a great recipe for the flavor and texture of freshly made, and delicious, Italian food. I wonder how you say "Plant Strong" in Italian?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rocky Balboa Likes Kale (in my mind)...

I took this picture when I was at the red light at the Philadelphia Art Museum yesterday. I spotted the other love of my life, Rocky Balboa. I love him. When "Rocky" came out in 1976, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Brasil. And when the film came to my town, I went to the cinema every night to see this movie of inspiration. Yes, inspiration. There's something about the blaring trumpet's of Bill Conti's theme that makes me want to reach for the stars. The theme music is on my iPod. And, there's something about hearing those mellifluous words, "Yo, Adrian."

I've lived in Philadelphia for more than thirty years, and I embarrass myself when I say, "Yo, Bobby," or "Yo, Jackie." It just comes out. People don't expect a sixty year old to say, "Yo." But, I do. I think I say it with endearment.

But, Rocky is my inspiration to never give up. Anytime I have crossed a finish line of a marathon, Rocky's theme song has been on my iPod (or its precursor, the "Walkman"). When I am on Kelly Drive and doing a workout, I relive scenes from the movie, especially at mile one. I have the miles marked in "Rocky Miles." Sadly, "Rocky Mile" three on Kelly Drive is where Adrian is buried. I know, sad, right?

My real connection with Rocky Balboa (face it, how can you NOT love a guy whose turtles are called "Cuff" and "Link?") is the tenacity required to get healthier. The boldness to be "Plant Strong" and to focus on the daily actions needed to be healthy. In this case, I am determined, like Rocky running up the Art Museum steps, to get thin, and have a body that matches my mind. And, the side effects of being healthier are so rewarding. Nothing to do with smaller sized clothing, it's all about feeling calmer, happier, self-fulfilled...being taken differently by others. Really. I have been so harsh on myself for so long, and I know that the harshness has trickled over into other aspects of my life, and for this, I offer amends.

So, yesterday when I was waving to Rocky's statue (yes, I was, Yo, Rocky!), I was wondering about dinner. What would I make? This is a salsa that is delish, And yes, it has kale in it. It can be your main course.

I think if there was a remake of "Rocky," he'd be making a kale shake instead of eating raw eggs.

Let me know how you like this.

Bean and Kale Salsa

Can of black beans, washed, drained
One cup of fresh tomato, chopped (I actually like mini Heirlooms cut in half)
One avocado, diced
1/2 onion, finely diced
One garlic clove (I grate it on a zester)
1 red pepper diced (you can use any color pepper, I just like red)
One cup of finely minced cilantro
One cup of very finely minced raw kale
Juice of 1-2 lemons or limes

Mix all of the ingredients together, adding the lemon juice, last. Remember to roll the lemon before cutting in half-it'll be much juicier.

You can serve the salsa on whole Romaine Leaves, corn tortillas, steamed collards. Or, on a bed of lettuce.

This is my favorite dish.

I think Rocky would approve and say, "Yo, Charlene..." Live PLANT STRONG.

Thought for the Day:

If there is a "Plant Strong" version of "Pay it Forward," what will you do to help others learn about the benefits of eating foods that are plant based?