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Monday, August 29, 2011

I Gotta Get Cable...

There's a very simple reason why I do not have cable. It has nothing to do with economics, morals, or anything like that. But, the truth is, I would watch TV 24/7 (if I had my druthers). During our recent vacation, I got to catch up with the Kardashian family. Not sure why I am so into the dynamics of that family, but they amuse me beyond belief. And after that, I could watch the news for days and feel as though I didn't learn quite enough about some piece of historical minutia. And between Kim K's wedding, an earthquake, and a hurricane, I was busy!

Anyway, the recent airing of the CNN special, The Last Heart Attack with Sanjay Gupta, MD was my main obsession all week. At our vacation home, that huge, gigantic TV in the living room was going to be Visual Nirvana for me. But, between Libya and Irene, I didn't stand a chance. The special was scraped numerous times.

So, back home in PA, without cable, but with the hysteria of local newscasters, reporting about Hurricane Irene, I found out that the CNN special was going to air. on Sunday night I had several thoughts in my head...go to a hotel, go to a bar, call a friend...but, I thought, THE GYM. Without access to cable, I was almost in a panic. Although I had been to the gym earlier in the day, I figured that an extra 4.5 miles on the treadmill would allow me to watch the show, uninterrupted.

As the credits rolled in the beginning of the show, I was on the edge of my treadmill. That Bill Clinton, he still packs a powerful message. If he is plant-strong, there is promise for the rest of the world. Imagine that each of the 450,000 Americans undergoing heart surgery has sky rocketing costs to the tune of $112,000 per operation. And while I really love/admire Bill Clinton, I was really tuning into the show to see the rock star of the plant-strong universe, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD. You know, the guy from the Cleveland Clinic's Wellness Institute. Also known as Dr. Sprouts, this man has single handedly changed the direction of prevention of heart disease, as we know it.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Esselstyn three times, and truth be told, if you said to me, "You have a choice between making dinner for Bill Clinton or Caldwell Esselstyn, who would you chose?" Hands down, Esselstyn would win! Such a smart man, such a visionary. Quite comical. And with an amazing family.

When I am eating, people often look at my plate of greens and things and say, "Don't you think the food you are eating is a bit radical?" And that is when I hear the rich voice of Dr. Esselstyn say, "You think this diet is radical, what about open-heart surgery and having your sternum cracked wide open?"

Sanjay Gupta, MD, you deserve an EMMY for having the chutzpah to air such an important show. It covered many important facts. However, here are a few things that I would have added to your story board:

-Ending the story in a food court at a mall was a cheap and pedestrian shot. Why didn't you head to a Whole Foods Market's produce department?

-Eating out is a breeze. Who doesn't have VEGAN STEVEN on their iPhone? I go to NYC all the time and always find a great place for plant strong dishes.

-Finding other medical providers who truly supported a plant-strong way of living would have been nice. The MD's represented seemed skeptical to me. A pitch from Neal Barnard, MD would have been awesome.

Esselstyn makes it all very simple in a rather mellifluous manner, "Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Kale, Collards, Collard Greens, Beet Greens, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Napa Cabbage, Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Parsley, Spinach, and Arugula."

Hats off to Dr. Gupta, and may the greens be with you.

Power to the plants.

Here's my dinner from last night, I am calling it "CNN GREENS"

This is a quick and easy dinner, make lots so you have some on hand for several meals.


Head of Kale, stripped and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup of vegetable juice for sauteing
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cups of cooked, brown rice

Add juice to a skillet, saute garlic in bubbling juice, add kale. Cover for about three minutes. Once the kale is slightly wilted, add nutritional yeast, stir. Throw in tomatoes and steam for two minutes.

DONE. And done.

Serve on a bed of brown rice OR, place greens on an Ezekiel Wrap and you are good to go.

I'd make dinner for the Esselstyns anytime! And for you too, Dr. Gupta!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What I Learned from Fran Costigan

My real profession is "People Watcher." What I know, I have learned from watching others. Really.

For example, I like to watch how my husband, Patrick, eats his dinner. He is tall and thin. And the reason he is thin is due to the fact that he is a very, very slow eater. He chews his food well, stops eating when he is full, and occasionally, leaves food on his plate. I, on the other hand, eat at meteoric speed, and have never, never, left food on my plate. Never, ever.

I am intrigued by slow eaters. Like, how did they get that way? Last week, I joined some friends for dinner at Seasons 52. We are all vegans, so it was fun getting together, sifting through the menu, and finding something that we could all eat. One of my friends at the table was noted vegan cookbook author, Fran Costigan, that's her in the picture. If she and my husband ever went out for dinner, they would still be eating dinner at closing time. But Fran's "sensibility" goes beyond how she eats. Watch her do her "thang" in the kitchen. It is a reflection on how she approaches life...all with balance and keen observation.

I would describe Fran as a whisp. She is quick moving, a thoughtful talker, and an ace in the kitchen. She was busy showing her fans how to make vegan truffles. There she was in the middle of a Whole Foods Market where an audience of forty watched her every move as she discussed the virtues of fair trade chocolate, the importance of organics, and the fun of vegan dessert making. This is a woman who doesn't miss a beat. She takes it all in, and gets the job done. She is also a "food-balancer," someone who is cognizant of what she puts into her body, and if she thinks she has eaten too much, her next meal will be greens and more greens. How smart is she?

When Fran was ready to make the truffles, in my mind, they were going to be the size of golf balls. Really, when did you ever seen a truffle the size of, well, a pellet? Fran meticulously made each truffle with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. And each one was about 10-12 millimeters in size. She dusted each truffle with ginger powder and they were so pretty.

As she was busy rolling away, a light went off. Nothing in a healthy person's life is supersized. Everything is normal. Within reach. Balanced. No extremes. Slow. Unrushed.

I am going to take a few lessons from Fran. She is a witty lady, and has a sense of humor that makes you laugh into the depth of your soul. But my take-away is this. Don't overdue it. Add balance. Love what you do and do what you love. Add greens, and don't overeat. She hasn't told me this, but, remember, I am a people watcher. And watching Fran was my master class.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Here's Jonny...

Call it fate. Call it Kismet. Sometimes there are people who you are supposed to meet. And, they plop in your lives at the most unsuspecting times. And I was meant to meet Jon Ostroff, Esq.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post on Rip Esselstyn's wall from a woman named Amy Saler Ostroff. She asked Rip to support her husband in his quest to become plant-strong. Rip, in turn, asked his E2 followers to lend some support to Jonny O.

Jonny O. started a blog called, "Jonny O Goes Vegan." It was a pictorial countdown of his days as a carnivore. I started reading the blog and was amused by Jon's wit, but inside, a part of me was aching for Jonny. Because Jonny was caught in a tangled web of bad eating. Having escaped that same winding and destructive path, I was really pulling for Jonny O., who at the time, was "my friend whom I hadn't yet met."

In the corner of my mind, I remembered seeing Jonny and Amy at the May 19 premiere of Forks Over Knives. I also remember him getting his picture taken with Rip. And I remember thinking to myself, "Oh, I would love for this guy come to the plant strong side of life."

I posted to Jon's wall, you know, just a friendly "holla." Well, a few weeks ago on a Friday, I got a call from Jonny O. who was traveling the globe and visiting every restaurant on the eastern seaboard. He was having a swan song with meat and captured every moment through pictures. The funny thing was that, just as he had called me, a Whole Foods Market truck passed him on I-95. It was as though central casting sent the truck as a "sign." During our chat, I was touched by his humor and wit. But even with all of his "hardy-har-hars," I knew that he wanted to escape from bad eating and join us the Engine 2 way of life. In my heart, I felt as though bad eating had consumed his life, and he was done with feeling horrible. I knew that, because Jonny O. and I walk the same walk.

I met Jonny O. on August 1. I drove to his house in a thunder storm. My car was loaded with plant strong groceries. I got to his home and was greeted by Amy his wife, who is a life long vegetarian. They ooze love for one another. Amy and I unpacked the car and my plan was to make a few "E2 Basics" for them. I always LOVE showing people just how delicious plants can taste. And, Rip's lasagna is always a treat, and that was on the menu for my hands-on cooking demo. Dinner was "Raise the Roof" lasagna, a hearty salad with Casa de Luz dressing. Dessert was Spinach Sorbetto. Jonny's eyes were crossed in confusion when I mixed grapes with spinach, but he loved what he ate. I scribed the dinner in its finale as a "romantic, plant strong dinner for two."

Meeting Jonny O.? There are no words to describe Jonny O. He is larger than life. Perceptive. Very witty and funny. But, also very serious. Serious about his goals. He has set the plant strong world on fire. He is truthful. I wait for his daily blog posts. He has a posse of 12 who has joined his crusade, I am one. I live E2 everyday of my life, but being with the "Vegan Wagon" has me committed to more gym, getting more sleep, and taking my lunch to work everyday (this is part of a money-saving crusade I am presently on to reserve funds for a Vespa, a sea foam green on at that [another story, another time.]).

Jonny O. is the real deal. He can talk about farts and make you laugh, but on a deeper side, I can feel him moving to the plant strong side of life beyond his 28 day prescription. And that puts a smile on my face. When I visited that afternoon, Jonny O. was Skyping with Rip. It was fun being a fly on the wall. The whole time, I was pulling for Jonny O., because saying good bye to bad food, well, it is like the Gladys Knight song, "Neither one of us wants to be the first to say good bye."

So, if you want to read a little of Jonny O., and believe me, he will make you laugh, get to his blog. He will also make you think deeply into the bowels of your heart. This is a nice man. A funny man who is reaching out for change, and at the same time, to lend support to others.

I love Jonny O.

In the voice of Ed McMahon, I say to you, "Hereeeeeeeeeeeeee's Jonnnnnnnnny."