Category Archives: Books

Eating Animals

I’m reading this new book called Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffran Foer. It’s an interesting book about the food we eat and how we justify eating it culturally and socially. It’s a powerful book to inform and to help us consider what we eat and don’t eat.

There’s a part in the book that I wanted to excerpt below because I felt it was a memorable part of the book that really gives us insight into factory farming:

“We spend several minutes like this, looking for an unlocked door.
Another why: Why would a farmer lock the doors of his turkey farm?
It can’t be because he’s afraid someone will steal his equipment or animals. There’s no equipment to steal in the sheds, and the animals aren’t worth the herculean effort it would take to illicitly transport a significant number. A farmer doesn’t lock his doors because he’s afraid his animals will escape. (Turkeys can’t turn doorknobs.) And despite te signage, it isn’t because of biosecurity, either. (Barbed wire is enough to keep out the merely curious.) So why?”

Meatless Monday: Very Gingery Pear & Sweet Potato Soup

Ginger, Pear and Sweet Potato Soup

Ginger, Pear & Sweet Potato Soup

This week the weather has been very chilly and all I can think about is eating a warm bowl of soup. So, I got this great book from the library called The Get Healthy Go Vegan Cookbook and made Very Gingery Pear and Sweet Potato Soup. It is very easy to make and has a sweet and savory flavor. It’s amazing. Here’s what you need to make it:

  • 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 Bosc or d’Anjou pears (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tbsp crystallized ginger
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions
  1. Put the sweet potatoes and pears in a large saucepan and cover with water and cook for 15-20 minutes until soft.
  2. While the potatoes and pears are cooking, coat a skillet with the olive oil spray and add the onions and cook for about four minutes.
  3. Then, in a food processor add the onions, drained potatoes and pears, and all the ginger. Purée until smooth, using some of the broth if needed.
  4. Then, add the mixture back into the saucepan add the broth, salt, pepper and lime juice.
  5. Cook for about 15 minutes and then ladle the soup into bowls and top with scallions and pears.

This soup is delicious and classy. Great for dinner parties or a nice dinner at home!

Do you have a favorite soup you eat when the weather is cold? Share with us!

Meatless Monday: On Wasting Food

Food Waste

I started reading this new book called The Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend a couple weeks ago to broaden my outlook on why we eat what we eat in this country. Plus, I’m always reading books about animal rights, vegans and vegetarians that I figured I needed to hear what the meat-eaters are saying.

So, what do you think of when you or people you know waste food? For me, I think about how so many people don’t even have food and how wasteful it is that I didn’t feel like taking my $15 pasta leftovers home. I always think of “waste not, want not” and feel horrible about throwing away food (which is one of the reasons I try to only buy food I know I’ll eat).

Well, in The Compassionate Carnivore, I wanted to share a fascinating point that Friend makes about wasting food: when you waste food you’re needlessly killing animals. Wow. I never thought about food going to waste in that way. It really makes me think that when you eat a hamburger you’re actually eating a cow and when you don’t finish your meal a cow was killed for no reason—how wasteful. Friend makes this point to help readers realize that if they’re going to eat meat, they should finish their food. To me, it just makes sense that if you’re going to take an animal’s life to put food on your plate, you should eat every last bite and cherish the food you are consuming while recognizing all the hard work it took to get that meat on your plate.

So, what are your thoughts on wasting food? Wasting meat?

Meatless Monday: The China Study

The China StudyThis week, instead of posting a recipe I thought I’d talk about an interesting book that I just finished reading: The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD with Thomas M. Campbell II.

The book discusses a major comprehensive study conducted in China and Taiwan which gives great insight into the differences between a Western diet full of animal proteins, fat and cholesterol versus a Chinese diet full of plant protein, fiber and carbohydrates and their effects on common diseases of affluence. Campbell discusses diabetes, common cancers, autoimmune diseases, obesity and heart disease and the implications of animal proteins, high fat intake and eating a Western diet have on our health.

Campbell also discusses why we’re all so confused about what to eat, what’s healthy and why diet fads don’t work. He specifically addresses the low-carb diets that are full of unhealthy animal proteins, fat and cholesterol. He even addresses the relationship and politics of medicine, pharmaceutical companies, government, education and the food industry.

Things I found fascinating in the book:

  • Studies show that it’s possible to “turn off cancer” with proper nutrition—whole food, plant-based diet
  • Eating a “low-fat” Western diet will not make you healthier or prevent any diseases (read more on the Nurses’ Health Study about this)
  • The “American” diet is getting more people sicker than ever—despite all the dieting craze that so many people participate in
  • You can make a big difference in how you feel and change your health by eating differently—it’s something that’s not controlled by genetics
  • Genes do play a role in disease, but certainly not the only role
  • The whole of what we eat is much greater than individual parts
  • If you’re eating a plant-based diet you should make sure you are obtaining enough vitamins D & B12—if not, you may have to take supplements

If you’re suffering from disease or know someone who has a disease such as diabetes, heart disease, or precursors to diseases such as high cholesterol or being overweight—I’d really recommend checking out this book. It’s amazing to read through this and feel that you can take control of your health three times a day. Eating a plant-based diet sure is much cheaper than taking medication and is a way to improve the overall quality of your life. Plus—imagine if you really could stop cancer growth or lower your insulin dependency by just changing your diet. It seems worth a shot to me.

“The science is clear. The results are unmistakable. Change your diet and dramatically reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.”

Personally, I think this book has made me want to eat even less animal products than I already do (right now I’m vegetarian, but eat vegan a lot). I’ve been exploring many vegan food options lately to lower my animal protein intake to stay healthy and fight disease. And I’ve been loving every moment of it.:)

Have you read The China Study—what did you think? Or do you think you’ll read it?

What I Learned From “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan

On my last library trip I picked up Michael Pollan’s new book, Food Rules. Overall, I think I have a pretty healthy diet (fresh produce, whole grains, protein, fiber, low sugar, low salt), but I was curious to see what this book could teach me. After reading it, I realized that I followed a lot of the rules in the book already. However, a few really reminded me to continually think about what I’m consuming on a daily basis. Here’s a few of the ones that I’m going to focus on more:

  • “Avoid foods that are pretending to be something they are not.” — I sometimes eat soy “fake” meats and other replacements for dairy, when I really don’t have any dairy allergies. So, I’m trying to stick to the “real” food unless I have a compelling reason not too.
  • “Avoid food products with the wordoid ‘lite’ or the terms ‘low-fat’ or ‘nonfat’ in their names.” — This one is interesting to me because while I know that healthy fat doesn’t make you fat, it’s a hard thing to get over, since a majority of my life I sought out the low-fat ice cream, cheese, etc. I’m going to try to enjoy healthy fats and non-healthy fats (in moderation) and let go of the “low fat myth.”
  • “Get out of the supermarket whenever you can.” — It’s spring and lots of delicious, local fruits and veggies are available. I have no reason not to go to farmers’ markets and local produce stands. It’s time I stop making excuses for this one (or sleeping in too late).:)
  • “Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it.” — OK, I’ll admit it. I talk fast, work fast, walk fast and unfortunately eat fast. So, I’m going to take my time and try to savor the food that takes me a great deal of time to cook.

I’m sure working on these rules will be a challenge, since many of them are having to break life-long habits, but I think that these will only strengthen my relationship with food. I highly recommend this book for the everyday person looking to eat better and for someone who already has a healthy diet—there’s something that everyone can learn from this read. It’s one of those books that would make a great gift and is a good to reference from time and time again to keep yourself in check.

Have you read Food Rules? What did you think of it? Do you have any favorite rules?

Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond

Student's Vegetarian CookbookI just moved this week so everything has been very hectic, but I was craving some REAL food. So, I pulled out the first cookbook that I ever bought: Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Raymond and searched for the quickest, tastiest recipe I could find. In the fast foods section on page 97, I found Curry in a Hurry. Now, there’s not much to this recipe—just some olive oil, scallions, green bell pepper, curry, corn, tomato, s + p, and a pita pocket (or in my case I used a wrap). I grabbed all the ingredients and made a quick, cheap, delicious meal—eating like this reminds me that eating well doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The one thing I love about this book is that you’ll most likely have at least a few of the ingredients on hand and the portions are small (perfect for 1 or 2 people). Plus, you can make lots of the recipes vegan very easily—It’s only a $10 cookbook and I promise you it’s well worth your money. My tattered, dog-eared, food-stained, paper-stuffed, well-loved Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook is above.

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

My Food Life in 2009

Since it is almost 2010, I figured I would take some time to reflect back on something that has really impacted my life over the past year: food. I grew up eating LOTS of processed, fattening, sugary, convenient and over packaged foods. Some of my favorite foods included: candy bars, macaroni and cheese, lunch cakes and pizza. While, arguably I still enjoy some of these treats from time to time, and do indulge during the holidays (mmm…cookies), I still have managed to transform the way I eat this past year. Here’s how I’ve done that:

  • Education: I’ve read many books, including The Way We Eat—Why Our Food Choices Matter, Food Matters and The Omnivore’s Dilemma
  • Cooking: I cook all vegetarian and sometimes vegan. I rarely buy lunch out at work (maybe three times this past year)—I always cook in bulk and freeze the leftovers. I buy fresh foods and go to farmer’s markets when I can. I spend money on buying healthy, quality ingredients. You can’t eat well, without spending more money on the food you buy. Here’s a video from Good on that: The video above shows some advice for people just starting out and wanting to eat healthier.
  • Exercise: When I exercise, I feel better, and this is motivation to continue eating healthy and being conscious about my food choices.
  • Friends: There’s nothing better than being surrounded by friends while enjoying a healthy, home-cooked meal.

There’s always room for improvement (as with anything) in my eating habits and I’m conscious of that, but I wanted to share my story since I’ve come from a family where I knew very little about my food choices and the correlation between eating and health. It seems like an obvious relationship, but when we as a society start taking medications instead of looking at the root cause of our health issues, it seems we overlook this connection. While I’m still educating myself on how to eat local, gardening, cooking and the impact of my food choices, I feel I’ve come a long way. I feel healthier, look healthier and am 30 pounds lighter than I was a year and a half ago. I’m not about complicated rules or being so strict about my diet that I can’t enjoy eating—my goal is to improve my health and lessen the impact my food choices have on the environment. It’s simple.

How about you—have you changed your eating habits or made any other significant life changes in 2009?