Thursday, December 07, 2006

Book Wishlist

What's on your wish list for books to get for the holidays?

Here are a few that I recommend to give (or ask for):

Everyday Traditions by Nava Atlas

This is a really cool book full of ideas for traditions and rituals for your family. There are suggestions for daily or weekly rituals like family dinner, reading together, family meetings; seasonal rituals like spring planting, summer relaxation, fall festivities and cozy winter traditions; as well as annual ideas for birthdays, anniversaries, and honoring the departed. Atlas also includes a section on friendship rituals including dates with friends, starting a women's book group, and my favorite - the lost art of letter writing. There are so many little tidbits that you'll be inspired to create your own special traditions that your children will remember and want to carry on.

Christmas From the Heart of the Home by Susan Branch

I love all of Branch's books. They are full of recipes, ideas, and wonderful watercolor illustrations. Like Atlas's book, this too inspired me to create traditions and rituals with my family. Everytime I read one of Branch's books, I can't wait to invite friends over so I can try out all her ideas. If you know someone who likes to entertain, this would be the perfect gift - as would any of the Heart of the Home books.

Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook

I heard about this one on a local radio show. The new version is just out and they were interviewing one of the editors. I haven't seen the book but it sounds great. The pictures are supposed to be wonderful. Besides recipes, it sounds like there are lots of craft, decorating, and entertaining ideas. This one is on my holiday wish list. I think there will be lots of fun stuff to make with my kids.

Beautiful Breads and Fabulous Fillings by Margaux Sky

This is a beautiful book with wonderful sounding recipes. The author (chef) is famous for creating the "O" Special Sandwich. The book is full of very original breads like Horseradish-Parmesan Bread and Lavender-Mint Love Bread. She has recipes for sauces, spreads, and sandwich fillings and these amazing breads with the fillings baked right in like Mixed Garden Sandwich Loaf and Eggplant Parmesan Sandwich Loaf. There are also soups, salads, and desserts from her restaurant in San Luis Obipso. This is not vegetarian but there are vegetarian and vegan recipes in here as well as whole grain breads. It's just a fun book to look through because the breads and sandwiches are so beautiful. I recommend this for any bread baker in your life.

Vegan Lunchbox

I really, really want this book. I've been a big fan of the vegan lunchbox blog ( for a long time and I'm so excited that all the recipes are now in a book. I've heard great things about this.

A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell

I was at the bookstore today picking out a few gifts and this book caught my eye. I browsed through it as I was paying for my purchases and every soups looked amazing (the book is full of gorgeous pictures). Best of all, they are all vegetarian and some vegan. To name a few that sound especially good to me: Yukon Gold Potato Soup, Farina Dumpling Soup, Asparagus-Leek Soup, Jalapeno-Corn Chowder, Pumpkin Stew (in a real pumpkin), Indian Cumin-Scented Coconut Milk Stew, Roasted Vegetable Stew (the picture looks incredible!), and Cashew Chili. There are also chilled soups and recipes for garnishes and accompaniments - I have to try the Rosemary Shortbread. So, if you haven't guessed, this book ended up being an early christmas present to myself.

And of course, I hope if you have any moms (or any who are expecting) on your list, I hope you'll think of giving Simply Natural Baby Food or The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook by yours truly (

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Healthy Holiday Gifts From Your Kitchen

If you want some ideas for healthy (but still yummy) gifts you can give this holiday season, check out my December column of "The Whole Family" at Check out the entire December, 2006 issue of VegFamily Magazine at

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Book Review: Intuitive Cooking

Joanne Saltzman (author of "Amazing Grains" and "Romancing the Bean") is the founder of the School of Natural Cookery in Boulder, Colorado. If you are not lucky enough to be able to attend the school, her new book "Intuitive Cooking" is the next best thing. This book is a complete course in using your senses to create a dish rather than relying on a recipe.

This is not an easy read. There are no pictures. This book is really like taking a cooking course and requires attention and study. As Saltzman says in the introduction, "This book is designed for those who want to study cooking more deeply than what is typically offered in culinary cookbooks."

I have studied natural foods cooking and I found this book an excellent review - reminding me of why I do things in the order I do and what I acheive by certain processes. I learned the reasons for things I do naturally and found some new techniques that I am eager to try, like steeping vegetables.

The book is divided into 3 sections.

Chapter One talks about the language of cooking. Saltzman has her own language and uses many terms I haven't heard before but they really describe perfectly what she is trying to say. She explains how to design a dish and compose a meal. Vegetable cutting techniques are also illustrated.

Chapter Two goes through the cooking methods. This is the crucial part of the book because if you can master these, you can make anything. She talks about pretreatments like soaking and dry-roasting, first stage cooking methods like boiling, baking, roasting, steeping, fermenting, steaming, braising pickling, stir-frying, etc.; and second stage methods like refrying.

Chapter Three gives almost 400 recipe sketches for vegetables, grains, and proteins (all vegan). They may seem a bit daunting until you are comfortable with the cooking methods from Chapter Two - but once you get them down, you will find that these sketches give you lots of room to be creative and free you from the confines of traditional recipes.

Organic, Inc. and soy discussion

I finished the book "Organic, Inc." by Samuel Fromartz. It was very interesting to read about the explosion of 'big organics' and how different big business organics are from what was considered organic food 20 or 30 years ago.

I'm not going to go into detail on the book here but one part that really stood out to me was about soy products and the processing that goes into extracting soy oils and soy protein isolate. This really reinforced my recommendations to stick with whole foods type of soy products and stay away from soy oil and protein isolates.

I am often asked what my stance is on soy with all the controversy surrounding this bean. First soy was supposed to be this miracle food - then the Westin A. Price Foundation and others have made it out to be this totally evil food. After extensive research, I have come to the conclusion that soy is just another food - it is an excellent source of protein and a good source of minerals but, like any food, it should be eaten as part of a varied diet. Like any food, I also recommended eating it in a less processed state - tofu, tempeh, or soy milk.

I do not recommend eating any product containing 'soy protein isolate'. Fake meats, protein bars and drinks usually contain that. First of all, the soy is most likely from animal-grade, genetically engineered soybeans (unless organic soy is use which it usually isn't in those products). Also, the soy is processed using hexane (a known carcinagen) and then chemically treated with acid and alkaline washes. There is nothing healthly about soy in that form. Check out chaper 5. Mythic Manufacturing in "Organic, Inc." for more details about the history of soy products.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Birth Ecology Project

Here's a cool site if you're pregnant or planning on it:

The Birth Ecology Project promotes healing birth through midwifery, doula care, natural birth, conscious parenting, sustainable living, and tolerance for all kinds of families. Birth Ecology integrates the science of evidence-based maternity care and the traditions of women's wisdom and intuition, emphasizing prevention, education, and nutrition.

Their Journal publishes articles and essays of quality on topics like natural pregnancy, midwifery, doulas, homebirth, waterbirth, attachment parenting, breastfeeding, infant massage, yoga, natural healings, herbal health, nutrition, babywearing, and more!

They also put up a really great review of The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook and Simply Natural Baby Food here:

Check it out.

Friday, November 17, 2006

ideas for a vegetarian Thanksgiving

I will be on the radio today - 920 am KVEC, the Dave Congalton show. You can listen to the program live or after the fact if you go to

Anyway - I thought I'd post some ideas and recipes here for a meatless thanksgiving.

We have gone several different ways on Thanksgiving.

- Traditional type food - some sort of veggie roast or stuffed squash with traditional sides

- Non traditional food for thanksgiving but still a special dinner

- Forgot the big dinner and just do something special


The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook has many recipes that would be great for a traditional type of vegetarian Thanksgiving.

Creamy Parsnip Soup
Squash and White Bean Soup

Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Root Vegetables
Baked Winter Squash
Brussels Sprouts with White Sauce
Cauliflower with Toasted Walnuts
Sweet Potato-Spelt Biscuits

Bean and Nut Loaf
Shepherd’s Pie

Mushroom Gravy

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Cranberry Pumpkin Cookies
Coconut Sweet Potato Pie
Apple Crisp

Other resources:

The Passionate Vegetarian has recipes for stuffed squashes and pumpkin.

Gourmet Magazine this month has suggestions and recipes for a vegetarian thanksgiving which includes carrot soup, creamed leaks, whole roasted cauliflower, and pumpkin-ginger cheesecake.

Here's a delicious recipe I adapted that I found on the discussion boards:

Red Lentil Roast

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups red lentils
3 cups water
1 cup grated cheese (optional)
1 beaten egg (or egg substitute)
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
dash ground nutmeg

In medium sauce pan, saute onions and garlic in olive oil about 5 minutes or until soft. Add lentils and water. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until lentils are soft - about 25 minutes. (This step can be done ahead of time and kept refrigerated until ready to bake loaf.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Oil a medium sized baking dish. Add remaining ingredients to lentils and stir until combined. Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake uncovered for 40 to 45 minutes - or until top is golden. Serve with gravy. Serves six.

Non Traditional Dinner Ideas

Sometimes, I just ask my family what special dinner they would like. Here are some we've done:
From the Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook (which of course has all our favorite recipes):

- Butternut Squash Lasagna
- Pumpkin Seed Pesto Ravioli
- Tamale Pie
- Tofu Vegetable Pot Pie

- You could also make your own pizzas or tacos
- Make breakfast for dinner – pancakes, waffles, etc.

This year, my husband requested scalloped potatoes, my oldest dauther wants Brussels sprouts, my other daughter asked for blackberry turnovers and pumpkin pie. I'm thinking I'm in the mood for spanakopitta.

Non Sit Down Dinner Ideas

Last year, we took a picnic to Montana D’Oro. I made potato salad, sesame noodle salad, taboili, hummus, raw veggies and brought pita pockets to stuff. We had oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for dessert. After our picnic, we hiked and watched an incredible sunset.

Several years ago, I volunteered to bring dinners to senior citizens and visit with them.

Other ideas:

- camping trip
- beach walk
- bike ride
- voluteer to bring dinners to senior citicens
- volunteer in soup kitchen
- make Christmas presents
- write letters to people you are thankful to
- play games
- watch old movies and make popcorn

More ideas and recipes can be found here:

Monday, November 13, 2006

Cool lunchbox

This is our first year in public school and after looking at the school meal menu, I knew my girls would be bringing their own lunch. I found a great lunch box at . They are plastic bento-style boxes with four compartments for different foods, a slot for silverware, a little container for dipping sauce. The canvas carrying case fits the box and a water bottle. You can also get stainless steel thermoses separately - and the lunch boxes come with a book of lunch ideas and recipes.

I like this lunch box because I can pack leftovers like stir-fries, pasta, fruit and yogurt, etc - as well as sandwiches. When your child opens the box, she can see all the different foods right there rather than having to open a bunch of seperate food containers or plastic bags. It's also nice because it's reusuable and easy to clean (and dishwasher safe) which makes it really convenient.

This has been a real hit in my second grader's class. I asked my daughter if any of the other kids made comments about her lunch since I pack whole foods, vegetarian lunches, which I know isn't the norm. She said nobody says anything about her lunch but everybody wants to know where she got her lunchbox. When I helped out in class, several kids told me that they wish they had a lunchbox like my daugher's.

Check out the web site to see pictures of the lunch box - I highly recommend it. The only thing I wish is that they had a non-plastic water bottle that fit in the carrying case. I bought the stainless steel water bottle but, first of all, it does not fit in the case - and worse, it leaks really bad so I can't even send it in my daughters' backpacks. It even leaks when you drink from it. I was disappointed - I just have not been able to find a non-plastic water bottle that doesn't leak.

But the lunch box is great. For more lunch ideas - check out She has great ideas and pictures.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

American Soy Association still trying to force genetically modified soy on Europeans

The American Soybean Association (ASA) wants to file an international lawsuit against the European Union (EU) to force them to stop requiring labeling and pre-market safety and environmental testing of genetically modified foods and crops. The EU's precautionary approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), implemented in the face of mass consumer pressure, has basically closed the door on U.S. soy exports. Ninety-percent of the U.S. soybean crops are now genetically modified. The ASA claims it will enlist members of Congress to support bringing the industry's case to the World Trade Organization.

For more information on this, go to .

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Book Review: Genetically Modified Foods - A Short Guide for the Confused

Genetically Modified Food: A Short Guide for the Confused by Andy Rees does a good job of illustrating the potential risks to consumers, farmers, and the environment if we continue to allow genetically modified products to be grown.

The book begins with an overview which gives a history of genetic engineering, who actually benefits from GE (and it's certainly not the farmers), as well as details on the testing and regulation (actually the lack thereof) of GMO's. Some of the key points for me were:

- There have been studies showing potentially negative effects from consuming GM foods. ANewcastle study showed GM DNA trasnferring to gut bacteria in humans after one single meal. Monsanto's 90-day study of rats fed MON863 resulted in smaller kidney sizes and raised white blood cell count. In a 1999 ten-day study, rats fed GM potatoes developed gut lesions; damanged immune systems; less developed brains, livers, and testicles; a proliferation of cells in stomach and intestines which signalled increased potential of cancer, partial atrophy of the liver, and more.

- Most of the animals for non-organic meat, fish, and dairy are GM-fed.

- According to the Grocery Manufacturers of America, an estimated 70-75 percent of products on US grocery shelves contain GM ingredients. And, of course, they are not required to be labeled as such.

There is a section describing "the players" involved in GM foods. The ones you would expect were the biotech and agrochemical companies like Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, Cargill, etc. but there were a few surprises for me, for example, The World Bank (the world's largest multilateral aid organization) has been financing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of GM projects in developing countries - and guess who their project parners are: Mondant, Aventis, and Syngenta.

A very interesting section of the book is where Rees exposes the truth about the claims made by the biotech lobby.

- Have you heard the one about how genetic engineering is no different from the traditional breeding processes used for thousands of years? Give me a break! The transfer of genes from one species to another is totally different from saving seeds of plants that are strong in the qualities you want to preserve. Scientists have reported that there is no evidence that species have EVER crossed during the billions of years that life has existed on earth.

- Another argument - GM foods must be safe because we have been eating them for several years with no ill effects. (Of course, GM foods are not labeled so how could we know what effects they are having!) What we do know is that in the US, food-derived illness has doubled over the past 7 years - coinciding with the introduction of GM foods. In the UK, there was a 50% increase in soy allergies when GM soy imports began.

- How about this? GM crops will help feed the hungry of the world? Here's what delegates from 20 African countries stated in 1998 to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organizations: "We strongly object that the impage of the poor and hungry from our countries is being used by giant multinatioal corporatons to push a technology that is neither safe, nor environmentally friendly nor economically beneficial to us . . . On the contrary, . . . it will thus undermine our capacity to feed ourselves." Also, if the biotech corporations care so much about the poor, why are they patenting seeds making the farmers totally dependent on them - not to mention that GM yeilds are no more or often lower than sustainable agriculture provides - and sustainable agriculture is more accessible to the poor.

- Which brings me to the myth that GM crops will increase farmers' incomes. No studies have shown GM crops to yield more than non-GM crops - and they often give less of a yield. In fact, GM crops have been very detrimental to farmers - they often get lower market price for GM crops, GM seeds cost more, and many farmers have been hurt by GM contaminiation - and of course the big problem is that consumers don't want GM. Other countries don't want them and in every survey they have done, the American people don't want it either (hence the reason for no labeling of GM products).

And there's a lot more - like the myth that GM crops will reduce pesticide and herbicide usage, GM crops will help the environment, etc.

Then the book outlines the risks and dangers of GMOs - both to consumers, farmers and the environment. It talks about antibiotic resistance, new food toxins and allergens, the big L-tryptophan fiasco that killed 37 people, paralyzed 1,500 others, and disabled 5,000 in the US - and resulted in L-tryptophan being taken off the market altogether even though it was the GE version only that was causing harm. It talks about the possible effects on infants and children. Believe me - this section will give you nightmares.

And there's lots more - I highly recommend reading this book - or if you're not a reader, check out the video "The Future of Food" which is excellent as well.

Now - to be practical - how do you avoid GMO's.

- BUY ORGANIC - everything - grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, animal products - it's the best way to protect yourself.

- In the US, some chains are working to remove GMOs from their brand products: Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Wild Oats. Talk to them and find out if they have done that yet and let them know you support them.

- Be aware that GMOs are hidden in many products. Many types of dairy products, jams, juices, cereals, cooking oil, sweeteners, diet foods, wines, beers, etc. are produced with GM-enzymes. Many additives (e.g. vitamin B2 and Riboflavin) can be produced from GMOs and may be used in baby food, breakfast cereal, etc. Food supplements, vitamins, and medicines can contain GMOs. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer to find out.

- Print a GM-free shopper's guide from:

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

E Coli Contaminated Spinach

So they've finally figured out where and how the contaminated spinach came from.

It seems that an unidentified beef cattle ranch in the California Salinas Valley leases some of its fields to spinach growers. E coli in the several cow pies matched the e coli found in the contaminated spinach.

Federal regulators are concerned about the practice of raising cattle near fields that grow salad greens and hopefully will develop stricter guidelines such as minimum distance, upslope and down slope between pasture and fields.

In the meantime, keep these facts in mind taken from Organic Bytes issue #93 put out by the Organic Consumers Association (

- Despite a number of inaccurate media reports, the recent spinach E.Coli outbreak has not been linked to any organic products. The outbreak has now been directly linked to a factory farm feedlot located adjacent to conventional spinach fields in California.

- This was the 25th E.coli outbreak in the California Salinas Valley in 11 years, demonstrating, once again, that industrial farms and feedlots and their toxic runoff are inherently dangerous.
Studies show that factory-farmed cattle have 300 times more pathogenic bacteria in their digestive tracts than cattle that are allowed to openly graze in pastures.
- If you are concerned about E.coli, organic food is the way to go. The USDA national organic standards require organic farmers to carefully compost their fertilizer--made up of animal manure and plant matter--up to 160 degrees, so as to kill any harmful bacteria.
Organic farmers can only apply this composted manure four months prior to planting.
- Conventional farms have no regulations specifying when they can and can't apply manure and are not required to destroy the harmful bacteria in the manure prior to spreading. In addition, it is perfectly legal to spread highly toxic sewage sludge on conventional farms, while this practice in banned on organic farms.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

French Toast

I made another couple of loaves of that yummy bread from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. That bread is amazing. We had some for dinner with Split Pea Soup and the second loaf I used for French Toast this morning. It was the best French Toast I've ever made. That soft, fresh bread just soaked up the batter.

Here are a couple of French Toast recipes from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook - one regular and one vegan. I make the regular recipe with rice or soy milk and eggs from our hens. If there had been any French Toast left over, I was going to put French Toast sandwiches in the girls lunches tomorrow.

Sesame French Toast
This is especially good made with whole grain raisin bread. Freeze the leftovers and warm in your toaster when ready to eat.

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk (dairy or nondairy)
Pinch ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
1/2 cup sesame seeds
6 slices whole grain bread

In shallow bowl, beat together eggs, milk, cardamom, and vanilla or almond extract. Preheat griddle or skillet to medium heat. Spread sesame seeds on a plate. Dip bread into egg mixture, coating both sides. Lay bread on sesame seeds and turn to coat both sides. Place bread on lightly oiled, hot griddle or skillet. Cook each side of bread until golden brown. Repeat with remaining slices. Serve with applesauce, unsweetened jam, chopped fresh fruit, and/or yogurt or cottage cheese.

Makes 3 servings

Vegan French Toast
You can have French toast without eggs or dairy. The flaxseeds give an eggy feeling to the toast and supply omega-3 fatty acids.

3 tablespoons flaxseeds
1/3 cup water
1 cup soy, rice, or almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
8 slices whole grain bread

Grind flaxseeds to powder in coffee grinder or blender. Whisk or blend ground seeds, water, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Make sure they are well blended. Pour into shallow dish. Dip bread into flax mixture, coating both sides. Place bread on oiled, hot griddle or skillet. Cook each side of bread until golden brown. These are stickier than regular French toast so you may need to add more oil to the pan when you turn. Repeat with remaining slices.

Makes 4 servings

French Toast Sandwich
This is a great idea for a take-out breakfast when you don’t have time to eat at home. It’s also a yummy snack.

Spread a slice of French toast (regular or vegan) with peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, or cream cheese. Spread a second piece with apple butter, applesauce, mashed bananas, or jam. Press together into a sandwich.

Makes 1 serving

There's also a good vegan French Toast recipe in Vegan with a Vengenace that's made with chickpea flour.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Book Review: More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts

Recently, I've been trying recipes from "More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts - Naturally" by nutritionist, pastry-chef and cooking teacher Fran Pierson. This book is completely vegan and most recipes contain some whole grain ingredients and less refined sweeteners.

The first chapter - Getting Started - contains helpful information about baking without dairy products and using natural sweeteners. I especially liked the "Tips and Techniques for Making and Baking Desserts" and "A Baker's Dozen Secrets to Successful Desserts." I also like that Costigan recommends using organic ingredients.

The rest of the book is devoted to recipes. I particulary enjoyed the information, advice and tips at the beginning of each section.

- Great Good Gels, Creams, Puddings, and Sauces
- Great Good Cookies, Bars, and Little Bites
- Great Good Cobblers, Crisps, Biscuits, Muffins, and More
- Great Good Cakes, Fillings, Frostings, and Glazes
- Great Good Pies and Tarts
- Great Good Fruit, Beverages, Frozen Desserts, and Confections

Here are my experiences with the recipes I tried:

Oat Sesame Squares (wheat free)

These are pretty much sweetened crackers made with oat flour, sesame seeds, some oil and maple syrup. I found the dough a bit dry so had to add about a tablespoon of water to get it to hold together.

These squares were really delicious - crispy, great flavor. These were one of my favorite recipes from the book and probably the only one I didn't have to cut down the sweetener in.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I was disapppointed in these. They seemed kind of dry and cardboardy. I think they needed more oats and maybe more oil. They also made a very small batch. I wouldn't make them again.

Peanut Butter Cookies

These were very good. I cut the sugar down from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup and replaced the white flour with whole wheat. Yummy.


I found this a little sweet - very light though. My family loved it.

Banana Currant Walnut Cornmeal Pancakes

Not sure how pancakes fit into a dessert cookbook but we tried it just the same. They were light and yummy - I would cut the sweetener down to 1 tablespoon next time.

Banana Walnut Bread

Very light even though I replaced the white flour with whole wheat. I cut the sweetener in half and it was still plenty sweet. Great as muffins.

Currant Scones

Excellent! - Even with replacing the white flour with whole wheat, they were light and puffed up nicely. I reduced the sugar dramtically - to 2 tablespoons and they were perfectly sweet. Also - didn't have currants so used dried cranberries which worked out fine.

Also - a couple of other changes. Since I decided in the morning, I was in a scone mood - the prep steps to this are very long and my kids were not about to wait 2 hours for their breakfast so rather than putting canola oil in the freezer for 45 minutes - I used Earth Balance that I already had refrigerated. However, the dough came out way too dry so I had to add quite a bit more rice milk until the dough would hold together. Then you are supposed to let that dough sit in the refrigerator for 30 minutes for gluten to relax. I put it in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Anyway - they came out great - definitely one of my favorites.

Coconut Sorbet

Wow was this good ! (with a little tweaking)

When I use my ice cream maker - I need at least 3 cups of liquid to get a good batch. This recipes called for 1 cup soy milk and 1 cup coconut milk. I used an entire 14 oz. can coconut milk (about 1 3/4 cups) and 1 cups soy milk (which I will increase to 1 1/4 next time).

Also - to save time and dish washing, I toasted the coconut in the pan (rather than oven roasting) before adding the recipes of the ingredients which worked great. I also reduced the light sugar to 1/2 cup and omitted the dark sugar entirely and it was still very sweet.

This was so good - rich and creamy with lots of roasted coconut. I will definitely be making this one often.


A couple of things that bothered me with this book:

- The recipe format: The ingredients are listed in a column on the left and the instructions to the right - fine if the recipe fits on one page (which it rarely does.) So when it continued, for some reason, there'd be a short list of ingredients on the first page and I'd say - great I have all that stuff and then I'd get to the next page and there'd be this long list - often twice as long - of all the rest of the ingredients. And I kept falling for it every time - maybe it's just me but that drove me crazy.

- Many of the recipes call for 1/4 juice. I don't normally buy juice - we don't drink it - and I only bake a few times a month - so I don't want to buy a bottle of juice to just use 1/4 cup. It seems such a small amount - does the recipe really need it? Can I just use water?

- Many of the recipes are very time consuming to make (like the scone thing) - with all these added steps. I think I would have tried more recipes if I didn't have to freeze canola oil first (what about coconut oil - would that work?) or make prune purree or toast a bunch of stuff. Once in a while, I don't mind a complicated recipe that I have to plan for but usually I just want something on the spur of the moment to make with the kids.

Also - what's with the pictures? The" Strawberry Shortcakes" are filled with raspberries, the "Super Fudge Low Fat Brownie" has frosting on it which is not in the recipe.


I think this cookbook is great if you want vegan desserts that taste just like regular very sweet desserts that you'd get at a bakery or bake from a regular non-vegan cookbook. The baked goods are much lighter and sweeter than typical whole-grain baked goods. You could defintitely make these recipes for your non-vegan, non health food eating company without pride.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's happening as predicted

GE seeds are getting away. Two major incidences are now in the news:

Long Grain Rice
According to USDA Secretary Mike Johanns, domestic and export stocks of long grain rice have been contaminated by a genetically engineered variety of rice that is not approved for human consumption. Johanns says the biotech rice poses no health risks, but could damage the U.S. $1 billion rice export market, since many nations refuse to import genetically engineered rice. Japan has already announced a ban on long grain rice imports from the US. Last year, Japan and the EU banned US corn imports as a result of yet another GE contamination scandal.
For more info about this, go to

An experimental variety of genetically engineered bentgrass escaped from a test plot in Oregon. The biotech plant, designed for golf courses, has not been approved by the USDA, but has already been found among native grasses in six different locations. Scientists say they don't know how will behave in the wild but admit it may have a strong advantage over native grasses, and could therefore irreversibly damage the ecosystem as it spreads. According to Tom Stohlgren, an ecologist at the US Geological Survey's National Institute of Invasive Species Science, the experimental bentgrass "can tend to outcompete other species...It doesn't need to sexually reproduce - it's like The Blob. It could potentially hit rare species or national parks."
For more information on this, go to

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Bacteria-killing viruses okayed for meat and poultry - no labeling required

If there weren't enough reasons to avoid cold cuts, hotdogs, and sausages - here's one more. The FDA just gave first-ever approval for luncheon meats (including sliced turkey and ham), hot dogs, and sausages to be sprayed with a mix of bacteria-killing viruses. These viruses are supposed to protect us against listeria on ready-to-eat meats. Listeria is primarly a danger to pregnant women, newborns (who eat cold cuts?) and adults with a weakened immune system.

So how it works is that the viruses are grown in a preparation of the bacteria they are supposed to kill. Then the viruses are purified to get rid of the bacteria. The Associated Press reported that "The FDA had concerns that the virus preparation portentially could contain toxic residues associated with the bacteria. However, testing did not reveal the presence of such residues," So does that mean they won't test the actual products for these residues because they didn't show up in these intitial tests? And they continue "which in small quantities likely wouldn't cause health problems anyway, the FDA said." LIKELY! Don't they know????

And to top it off - meat and poultry treated with the spray do NOT have to be labeled as such.
I'm wondering if this affects organic products? Can organic turkey slices be sprayed with this stuff and still be organic?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

"Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair

"Feeding the Whole Family" by Cynthia Lair really is for the WHOLE family - and that includes infants and young children. Lair, a certified Health and Nutrition Counselor, devotes a whole chapter on starting your baby on solid foods. From there, she gives practical tips and advice on how to attract your children to healthy food. Lair also discusses the importance of whole, organic foods and well-balanced meals.

And then it's on to the recipes. A cool feature is that almost all of the recipes give suggestions for how it can be prepared for a baby. Many also include variations to make the dish more appealing to children. The cookbook includes the following sections:

Basic Grain and Bean Cookery: A good reference for basic cooking of whole grains, pastas, and beans.
Bustling Breakfasts: Recipes include Whole Grain Baby Cereal, 5-Grain Morning Cereal, Nut and Seed Granola, Buttermilk Banana Pancakes, Tofu Vegetable Breakfast Burrito, and Tempeh Bacon - no eggs here!
Lively Lunchboxes: This section has great ideas for kids lunches. We loved the Sesame Noodles and I am looking foward to trying the Tempeh Avocado Sushi Rolls, Mad Dog Rice Salad, Quick Lemon and Garlic Quinoa Salad, and Apple Miso Almond Butter Sandwich.
Soothing Soups: We loved the Red Lentil Soup with East Indian Spices, Split Pea Soup with Fresh Peas and Potatoes, Creamy Broccoli Soup. I still want to try the Thick Potato Cauliflower and Dulse Soup.
Substantial Suppers: The Pan-Fried Tofu and Greesn with Almond Ginger Drizzle was a huge hit with my family. Still on my list to try is Polenta Pizza, Black Bean Tostados, Nut Burgers, Seitan and Shiitake Mushrooms in Cashew Mirin Sauce. This section does contain some non-vegetarian recipes for salmon, shrimp, rainbow trout, and chicken.
Vital Vegetables: There are lots of recipes for greens as well as many salads. Our favorite so far is Susan's Succulent Supper Salad. The dressing is so good - actually it has become my staple dressing.
Fresh Breads and Muffins: I just made the Homemade Whole Grain Bread yesterday and that's when I knew I had to get this review written. It was probably the best bread I have ever made - soft, light but still hearty. It rose perfectly and tasted great. I did alter the recipe slightly, so here are the details of my bread experience.

First I made the starter. I pureed cooked brown rice with water and added whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, and some oil. The recipe says to let it sit at room temp. for 12 - 24 hours until "dough is fermented." Now that was a little confusing - I kept checking it, expecting it to get a sourdough type smell but after 24 hours, it hadn't. It was bubbly though so at that point I figured it was done. (A description of what to expect would have been helpful.)

I was not ready to bake the bread at that eim so I stuck it in the refrigerator (the recipe says you can refrigerate up to a week.) The next morning, I took it out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Then I proceeded to step 2. I added the sweetener (I only used 1/8 cup rather than 1/4 because I don't like sweet bread.) I also used all whole wheat flour although the recipe suggested a mix of white and wheat. I kneaded it for 12 minutes and then set it to rise.

1 1/2 hours later, it had risen wonderfully, I punched it down and formed the loaves using the folding and rolling method outlined in the book. I put the loaves in the pans for final rise - but oh no - I had to pick up my daughter and take her to piano lesson and I would be gone 1 1/2 hours - this rise was only supposed to be 45 minutes. Now I know from experience what happens to bread that over rises - it deflates when baked - so I covered the loaves with a damp towel and stuck them in the refrigerator. When I returned home, I immediately took them out and preheated my oven. The loaves had risen even in the refrigerator but I was hoping it would work. Well, like I said above - they were perfect well risen, yummy loaves. I will definitely use this bread recipe again.

Oh - one more thing - they have one other step before baking the bread. The recipe says to make a syrup of water, sweetener, oil and salt. I omitted that step and the bread was fine.

There are also some recipes for muffins and pizza dough.

Sauces and Stuff: Recipes for sauces, gravy, dressing, marinade, ghee and curry paste.
Wholesome Desserts: Lair gives an explanation of alternative sweeteners, plus tips for replace eggs and white flour in baked goods. The Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies were great - crispy and delicious. I'm dying to try the Blueberry-Strawberry Tart but the kids keep eating the berries before I get around to making this. There are lots of cookie and cake recipes. The frostings are kind of unusual - I haven't tried any yet.
Natural Drinks and Brews: Teas, nut milks, cold and hot drinks.

As you can see, this a very comprehensive cookbook- full of helpful information and delicious recipes. Though it is mostly vegetarian, there are a few meat recipes - so this cookbook is great for anyone wanting to eat a whole foods diet.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right" by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

In my books and workshops, I encourage parents to feed their children (and themselves) a whole foods diet made up of beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, vegetables (especially dark green leafy ones like kale), and fruit - and to limit animal products if you eat them at all.

"Disease-Proof Your Child" by Joel Fuhrman pulls together the scientific studies that show the difference this kind of diet will make on your children now and in their future. Even what a mother eats when she's pregnant and breastfeeding can affect the future health of her children.

This book gives ample evidence and motiviation to steer clear of the typical American diet high in processed foods and fatty animal foods - as there is a clear link to those foods and cancer, diabetes, and many other diseases.

I highly recommend this book for it's excellent information - and after you are convinced of the need for a whole foods, plant-based diet - you can get my books for recipes and tips on how to prepare family meals using those ingredients.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Omnivore's Dilemma

I just finished "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. What an interesting and thought-provoking book.

The first section takes you through the experience of eating and raising factory farmed animals and commodity crops. Pollan discusses how corn became this huge business and the dilemma corn farmers face because of government subsidies and programs that just exasperate the problem of low prices and overproduction. The descriptions of the feedlots made me glad I'm a vegetarian.

The second section was the most interesting to me. Pollan describes the practices of Polyface farm where animals are pasture raised. It was simply amazing to me the way this farm tried to mimic the cycles and habits of how animals naturally eat. By having cows graze a mixture of grasses, and then moving them to a new pasture, the land does not become overgrazed. Chickens follow the cows into pasture. They eat the bug larvae from the cow pats, enjoy the shorter grasses, and spread the seeds in their manure. It is particularly gratifying to note that animals raised in this way are healthy and there is no need for antibiotics and other drugs. Pollan also discuss the "big organics" and how that industry has changed since the demand has grown.

The last section discuss his experiences and hunting and killing his own meat and foraging for his food.

This is a great book to get you thinking about where you're food comes from and who you want producing it.

PETA protesting KFC

PETA has been organizing protests at Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants. They claim that as the leading chicken buyer (more than 850 million a year), they have the responsibility to demand humane treatment for its chickens.

Chickens are the most abused of all factory farmed animals. They are routinely:

- painfully debeaked using a hot blade
- crammed into cages with barely enough room to move
- bred and drugged to be so heavy so fast they their legs cannot support their weight and often break
- have their throats slit while they are alive
- are scalded alive

I watched the Kentucky Fried Cruelty DVD and there was footage taken secretly of workers kicking and stomping on live chickens - just for fun.

I don't recommend eating at fast food restaurants but if you do, please boycott KFC - and consider not eating chicken at all.

For more information, go to

Saturday, July 08, 2006

"What to Eat" by Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle's latest book "What to Eat" gives a comprehensive look at almost every food available in today's supermarkets. She goes aisle by aisle giving you information on how to look past marketing ploys and decide what foods you should really be feeding your family.

Here are a few questions answered in this book:

- Is organic worth it?
- What's the difference between conventional, natural and organic meats?
- Is it better to eat farm-raised fish, wild-caught - or any fish at all?
- What's the problem with partially hydrogenated oils and transfats?
- How can foods with hydrogenated oils have no transfats?

She also addresses:

- food safety
- supplements
- additives and preservatives
- nutrients added to junk foods
- frozen and fresh foods
- portion sizes, labeling, and nutrition claims

I highly recommend this book as it will give you a lot of insight into how foods are marketed, how food companies make their money, and how to read nutrition labels. I originally checked this out from the library - but after I was about a third of the way through, I bought my own copy. I know I will refer to this often.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Factory Farmed Meat - How does it affect your health?

I will be on Dave Congalton's show (am 920, KVEC in SLO, California) on Monday, June 26th at 4 pm. I will be discussing the health and safety of factory-farmed meat and fish -- what the animals are fed and how they are raised. I'll also explain the difference between organic, vegetarian fed, antibiotic and hormone-free, wild and farm raised choices. This show can be accessed on the web live or downloaded after the show at

Here are some great books to help you make your own decision about factory farmed meat and fish:

"Mad Cowboy" by Howard F. Lyman
"What to Eat" by Marion Nestle
"The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter" by Peter Singer and Jim Mason
"Meat Market" by Erik Marcus

I haven't read this yet but have heard good things about it: "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan

Also - a web site to help you make the best fish choices in terms of contamination and sustainability:

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Help Save Community Rights Threatened by Biotech Industry

In order to protect their crops from being contaminated by drifting pollen from genetically engineered crops, last year, farmers and citizens in Mendocino County California voted to become the first county in the U.S. to ban genetically engineered (GE) crops. Since then, two more California counties and two cities have followed Mendocino's example.

In response, the biotech industry is working to remove these democratic rights. In the past several months, 14 U.S. states, prodded by the Monsanto Corporation and the Farm Bureau, have made it illegal for local communities to ban GE crops.

Two recently introduced bills (AB 1508 and SB 1056) in the California legislature would make California the 15th state to eliminate local communities' rights to ban or otherwise regulate genetically engineered seeds.

This "preemption" bill would overturn GE-Free victories in Mendocino, Trinity, and Marin counties, as well as the cities of Arcata and Point Arena, and prohibit local communities from banning or regulating genetically engineered crops in the future.

Take action today to stop the biotech industry from taking away our democratic rights in California! Send a message to your state legislators! For more information and to take action, go to

Monday, June 12, 2006

EPA Allowing Toxic Pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is supposed to protect our health and the environment - so why do they continue to allow the use of organophosphate and carbamate pesticides without conducting adequate safety and risk assessment tests?

The EPA has until August 3, 2006 to issue a final tolerance approval for 20 organophosphate and carbamate pesticides which were derived from WWII nerve agents. Organophosphate and carbamate pesticides are banned in many industrialized countries, including England, Sweden and Denmark. These agents are considered by most scientists to be particularly dangerous for fetuses, infants and children.

Let the EPA know what you think of that. Write the EPA at U.S. EPA Region 9, 75 Hawthorne St., San Francisco, CA 94105 or through their web site at and tell them to adopt maximum exposure protections for these dangerous agents or take them off the market permanently. In the meantime, it's more important than ever to buy organic.

For more information or to have a predrafted letter sent, go to

Marketing to Children

If you're concerned about the agressive marketing being targeted to children, here is a great organization to check out:

They're fighting against advertising to children being done in our schools - and soon if the new company BusRadio has it's way, children will be listening to ads on their way to school.

Check out the web site for great articles and ways to get involved.

Canned Tuna

There's an interesting article in the July, 2006 issue of Consumer Reports. While canned "light" tuna has been recommended as the safer, lower mercury choice over white or albacore tuna, FDA tests have shown that in 6% of tested samples light tuna contained at least as much or more mercury than white tuna.

Consumer Reports' Chief Medical Adviser recommends pregnant women to avoid eating canned tuna at all, and that women of childbearing age and young children limit consumption.

According to the article, other fish that can be high in mercury are:

Tilefish, shark, swordfish, king mackerel, Chilean bass, halibut, America loster, Spanish mackerel.

Here is what they list for safe (low-mercury) fish:

Salmon, shrimp, clams, tilapia are okay to eat every day.

Oysters, hake, sardines, crawfish, pollock, herring, flounder, sole, mullet, Atlantic mackerel, scallops, crab, Atlantic croaker once a week.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Central Coast Writers' Conference - Registration Open

The web site for the Central Coast Writers' Conference XXII is now up and registration is open. This year's keynote speaker Earlene Fowler just hit the bestseller list with her 13 book The Saddlemaker's Wife -- her first mainstream novel. We have lots of great workshops and presenters -- authors, poets, agents, etc. covering all genres including fiction, nonfiction, children's literature, mystery -- you name it. We also have critique service and a first page writing competition, as well as a young writers' program for middle and high school age students.

The conference is Sept. 15 and 16, 2005. Check out the details at

More Vegan Family Favorites

I tried a few more recipes.

Granola - oats, pecans, coconut, sesame seeds, dried fruit, etc.

My experience: I followed the recipe exactly except used grapeseed oil instead of margarine. I also did not heat the oil and syrup first but just mixed everything together. It was quick and easy to make, tasted great and was not too sweet. Very good!

Winter Veggie Chowder - carrots, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, broth and soymilk.

My experience: This was great - even in the summer. My husband and kids really, really liked it.

Sweet Potato Curry: Sauted sweet potatoes with a coconut milk/peanut butter sauce.

My experience: Since I'm the only one in the family that likes curry, this what I did. I made a big stirfry of sweet potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, tofu, zucchini. I made the sauce as directed with the minimum amount of curry paste suggested (1 tsp.). The only alternation I made was to add a little soy sauce to the curry sauce. I took about a third of the stirfry and mixed with the sauce. The rest I tossed with soy sauce, rice vinegar and a splash of honey for the non-curry eaters. I served both versions with brown rice. Everybody was happy! The curry was great - the sauce is really, really tasty and the spice was just the perfect hotness for me. I had enough for several lunches afterward.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Vegan with a Vengeance

I was so excited to get this book after hearing about it for so long. I have read about halfway through and just love the author's style. I've marked a bunch of stuff to try but so far have just made these three recipes:

"Fronch" Toast - This is interesting - the batter is made with chickpea flour, cornstarch, soy creamer, and rice milk. Stale italian or french bread is suggested.

My experience: Looks amazingly like french toast - great texture and good taste. I used a baguette that I left out overnight for this recipe which was just the perfect amount of bread. I did not have the soy creamer or rice milk so I used all unsweetened soy milk for both of those. I added a little vanilla to give it flavor. I think next time (and I will definitely make this again - it's so easy! and good) - I would use regular (not unsweetened) soy or rice milk or even vanilla flavored. If I only have the unsweetened soy, I will add more vanilla and some sweetener to give it flavor. If you put maple syrup on your french toast - this will probably not bother you but we top our french toast with applesauce or often just straight butter so I would have liked it to have a little more flavor.

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins - a basic vegan muffin recipe - ony 1/4 cup sugar which was refreshing as most cookbooks use too much sweetener for my taste.

My experience: Let me tell you what these poor muffins went through. First, I had decided to make the RFD Spelt Mac and Cheese the same night but I saw my jar of poppy seeds so I thought I'd try this muffin recipe too. My girls were excited to help make muffins and I also had the radio going as there was a segment on the local station I wanted to hear. Needless to say, I was a little distracted. I had it in my head that I would need to halve the recipe for the Cheese for the mac and cheese and somehow, I started halving the muffin recipe. Unfortunately, the only thing I halved was the flour. We made up the whole batch and had just finished pouring the batter into the greased muffin tins when it dawned on me why the batter was so watery. Not wanting to waste all that work and ingredients, I dumped the muffin batter back in the bowl. Now you may not have thought if it - but it is really hard to pour batter OUT of a muffin tin - the batter pours in all different directions. So about 3/4 of it made it back into my mixing bowl. As my daughters scooped the spilled batter into their mouths, I added the missing flour and oiled my mini-muffin tins and filled those. So after all that, can you believe the muffins were DELICIOUS! They were. Imagine how good they would taste if I made them right in the first place.

Pumpkin Muffins: Muffins made with pureed pumpkin, spices.

My experience: I had nonvegetarian friends over to dinner and made these muffins along with a bean/barley/vegetable soup. The muffins disappeared quickly - everybody liked them. I varied the recipe slightly - I reduced the sugar from 1 1/4 cups to 1/2 cup which was perfect to go along with soup. For more of a sweet, I think 3/4 cup sugar would be plenty. I also found the batter a little stiff and increased the soy milk from 1/2 cup to 2/3.

Pumpkin Waffles - Spiced waffles made with pureed pumpkin.

My experience: Well - the waffles did not work out too well for me. The batter was fairly easy to whip up. I scooped it into my waffle maker and waited until it stopped steaming (almost 10 minutes) and then I couldn't get the waffle iron open. I pulled and tugged and tugged and tugged. I finally managed to wrench it apart and the waffle was mostly glued to the iron. I finally managed to scrape it out - actually only 1 half stuck - the other half was okay. But very thin and crisp. I tried one more - it took forever to cook and then again was stuck a bit and was thin and crispy. I cooked the rest as pancakes and those were yummy. If anyone has success with these as waffles - please give me your secret. In the meantime, we'll keep eating these as pancakes.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Gardenburger and other companies switching to eggs from cage-free hens

Here's a press release I got from the Humane Society:


Erin Williams, HSUS, (301) 721-6446,

Gardenburger Takes Egg-Citing Steps

The Humane Society of the United States applauds
Gardenburger's new policy

WASHINGTON (May 17, 2006)-Gardenburger, the veggie burger pioneer responsible for helping change the way countless Americans eat, has taken another leadership role in the food industry by embracing a growing trend: the movement away from eggs laid by hens confined in battery cages. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced today that Utah-based Gardenburger has eliminated the use of eggs in all of its products, except for one privately-sourced veggie patty, whose eggs it is now purchasing from a cage-free, organic egg provider. The company produces a variety of meatless products, including burgers, cutlets, riblets, meatballs, chicken patties, sausages, and prepared wraps.

"As a leader in natural foods, Gardenburger is delighted to be a leader in the trend away from battery cage eggs ," stated Scott C. Wallace, president and CEO of Gardenburger. "Gardenburger is committed to respectful treatment of animals, and this move is a reflection of that concern."

"Gardenburger has already done much to reduce the suffering of farm animals in our country, and this latest move further demonstrates its commitment to animal welfare," commented Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "The HSUS encourages Gardenburger's competitors in the meatless foods market, such as Morningstar Farms, to do the same."

In the United States, approximately 95 percent of eggs sold come from hens confined in barren "battery cages," wire enclosures so small the birds can't nest, forage, perch, walk, or even spread their wings. The cages are stacked one on top of another inside huge warehouses on factory farms. Each bird is afforded less space than a single sheet of paper on which to live, leading to extremely high levels of stress and frustration.

Gardenburger joins a growing bandwagon of institutions and corporations distancing themselves from battery-cage egg production. Several grocery chains such as Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Jimbo's Naturally, and Earth Fare have eliminated their sales of battery-cage eggs. Trader Joe's converted all of its brand eggs to cage-free. Food service provider Bon Appétit is also phasing in cage-free eggs for all of its 400 cafés, including those serving corporate clients Yahoo!, Cisco Systems, Adidas, Best Buy, and Nordstrom. And AOL and Google have ended their use of eggs from caged hens in their employee dining facilities.

Nearly 90 schools have also enacted policies to eliminate or greatly decrease their use of eggs from caged hens, including Dartmouth College, University of New Hampshire, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tufts University, and Georgetown University.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with 9.5 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, animals in research, equine protection, and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy and field work. The non-profit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives and offices across the country. On the web at


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And back to Real Food Daily

This book is just so awesome!

I made the Quick Soba Noodle Surprise a few days ago - well not exactly by the book. I made the Gingered Tofu as directed except didn't have fresh ginger so used 1 teaspoon dried. That came out wonderful - even my daughter that doesn't like tofu loved it. I made the Peanut-Sesame Dressing but without the ginger, cilantro (didn't have any), and red pepper flakes (my kids won't eat spicy food). Instead of doing the raw shredded veggies though, I stir-fried asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and snap peas. THen tossed that all with linquine (didn't have soba noodles). So - okay - it's not too close to the original recipe but boy was it delicious. It was great hot for supper and cold for lunch the next day - my daughter even took it in her lunch box. The only thing I would do differently is use a little less rice vinegar in the dressing. I don't really like things very vinegary. I'd probably use 3 to 4 tablespoons rather than 1/3 cup. Also, I sprinkled a little Thai Chili Sauce over my noodles at the table - YUM!

Tonight I made the Baked Spelt Macaroni with Cashew Cheddar Cheese. It was really good - my husband did not know it was vegan until I told him. However, again I made a few variations. I made a half batch of Cashew Cheddar Cheese. I was supposed to use 1/2 cup of agar flakes or 1 ounce (for the 1/2 batch). Well, I had about only had 1/2 ounce or 1/4 cup flakes on hand and it's kind of expensive and I thought 1/2 cup was kind of a lot so I made it with just the 1/4 cup. Well, I could have used less. I think the higher amount is if you want a firm cheese like really cheddar cheese - not like a cheese sauce. Next time I would probably use just 3 tablespoons. Another thing is - the directions said to cover and simmer the soymilk/agar mixture over med-low heat. Well, every time I did that, it boiled over even at the very lowest heat (and believe me it was no fun scraping that off the stove after). I recommend not covering it. Also, after I mixed the noodles and cheese sauce together, I did not bake for 20 minutes as everything was already hot. I just topped with the bread crumb mixture (so yummy) and baked 10-15 mins. until browned. Oh - also, I used a full pound of penne noodles and there was plenty of sauce for that amount.

***Update on Mac and Cheese: It does NOT reheat well. I served leftovers for dinner the next day and nobody ate more than a few bites. If I make this again, I would just make a half batch - enough for one meal.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vegan Family Favorites

I've gotten a few new vegan cookbooks lately so as I try the recipes, I thought I'd post comments about how well the recipe worked and how my family liked them, etc.

I'll start with Vegan Family Favorites by Erin Pavlina (editor of VegFamily Magazine at Most of the recipes in the book are very quick and easy -- great for busy families. Some use fake meat and dairy products which I'm not the biggest fan of - but there are plenty I am looking forward to making. So far, I've tried:

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich - Basically, you slice up portobellos, toss with garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and bake. Spread toast with chopped spinach cream cheese (vegan) mixture and top with mushrooms. You can add other toppings like lettuce, cucumbers, etc.

My opinion: YUM! I actually didn't have any cream cheese so I just spread the toast with mayo, spinach leaves and cucumber slices. It was heavenly. I can't wait to have it again.

Red Lentil Soup - Simple soup of red lentils, carrots, greens and some spices.

My opinion: A huge hit with my kids. I've never cooked red lentils before (can you believe it!). They actually cook down to a puree like split peas and taste like them. It was so quick and easy to make, I know this will become a regular.

Carrot-Potato Pancakes - Similar to potato pancakes but with carrots -- and vegan of course.

My opinion: My family loved these. I served them with applesauce. They were a bit of work to make though. I doubled the recipe and frying them took a long time. You also need to start this early to soak the shredded potatoes (but what a great tip as it results in nice crispy pancakes.) I would definitely make this again but this is one of the few recipes in the book that is not a quickie.

Giant Old-fashioned Oatmeal Cookies - Just like grandma used to make, except with vegan substitutes for the butter and eggs.

My opinion: I made this recipe as directed except I cut the brown sugar down to 2/3 cup and the regular sugar to 1/2 cup. They were crispy but soft in the middle. Absolutely delicious. This is a good one to serve to non-vegans.

That's all I've tried so far, though I have many others I have marked to try. (I hear the Sweet Potato Curry is superb!) I'll post as I try other recipes.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mojo Mom

I LOVE this book: Mojo Mom by Amy Tiemann. I heard Amy speak in San Luis Obispo, CA last week and she was great - she really understands what it's like to be a mom (because of course she is one) but she has great ideas for getting your mojo back after kids.

I bought her book and literally could not put it down. Even before I finished, I started putting her suggestions into practice. And the small changes I've made have already made a difference. I am examining all the things I do and determining which activities are really necessary and bringing me (or my kids) enjoyment. Reading her book also helped me to realize why writing has become so important since having kids - because it is something I'm doing just for me and has nothing to do with being a wife or mother. And how important it is to have an identity other than mom - not that being a mom isn't a great or important thing but just that we are still our own person too.

I so recommend this book for all moms. It would make a great shower gift too. There are tons of books about taking care of your children, your body, etc. This one tells you how to nurture your spirit and gives practical ways that you can do it no matter what the age of your children are or what your situation is.

Oh - and it would be an excellent Mothers' Day gift!

Monday, April 03, 2006

New column on VegFamily

VegFamily Magazine has a new format - they have discontinued doing book reviews so I will no longer be the book review editor. Starting this month, I will have a monthly column "The Whole Family" where I will discuss the benefits of a whole foods diet. I will highlight a different food each month giving nutritional benefits as well as tips for incorporating the foods in your diet, including recipes. Check out the column here:

They have also added an "Expert Cooking Tips" section where a vegan chef or cookbook author will share tips and recipes. My article "Vegan Meals for Skeptics" is here:

Enjoy :)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Organic milk companies that aren't following the standards

A recent report on organic dairy practices published by the watchdog group Cornucopia Institute showed that while many organic dairies in the U.S. are following strict organic standards, including giving animals regular access to pasture, several major players in the organic dairy sector are blatantly violating organic standards.

Two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods), a supplier to Wal-Mart and many health food stores; and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private brand name organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant, Wild Oats and others, who together control 65% of the market, are purchasing the majority of their milk from feedlot dairies where the cows have little or no access to pasture. In addition, a routine practice on these giant dairy feedlots, many with thousands of cows, is to continuously import calves from conventional farms, where animals have been weaned on blood, fed slaughterhouse waste and genetically engineered grains, and injected or dosed with antibiotics. Certifiers endorsing these factory farm organic products include QAI and the Colorado state department of agriculture.

Get more information and sign a petition to the National Organic Standards Board to stop factory farm organics here:

I also urge you to only purchase dairy products from companies that follow the organic standards - for your health and for humane treatment of the cows. Here's theOrganic Dairy Report:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Artificial ingredients added to organic foods

Thanks to the lobbying of large food manufacturers like Kraft, an amendment was passed to allow synthetic ingredients to be added during manufacturing of so-called "organic" foods. For details about how the amendment became law and how you can help to get this repealed, visit

Vegetarian Baby

www. has an interview with me at this link:

They also have book reviews posted of both my cookbooks in their Book section at

Happy reading!

Monday, March 13, 2006

More on mad cow

I got this release sent to me today and thought I'd share it:

For immediate release, March 13, 2006
Please contact: Jennifer Shecter, 914-378-2402
Urvashi Rangan, 914-378-2211, 646-594-0212
Reggie James, 512-657-6999

Consumers Union: Third Confirmed Case Underlines Urgent Need to Tighten FDA Animal Feed Rules, Improve USDA Surveillance

YONKERS, NY – The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announcement today of a third case of mad cow disease in the United States underlines the need to take additional precautions immediately, says Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. Mad cow disease has already caused 150 deaths in the United Kingdom, apparently from eating tainted beef.

“It’s unacceptable that the American public has been waiting for more than two years for the FDA to tighten its animal feed rules,” states Jean Halloran, food policy expert at Consumers Union.

After the first case of mad cow was discovered in the United States in December 2003, then FDA Commissioner Mark McClellan said that FDA would end the practices of feeding chicken coop floor wastes, restaurant wastes, and cows’ blood to cattle, all of which FDA said at the time could potentially transmit the mad cow disease agent. However the agency never followed through.

In October 2005, the FDA proposed a different course: banning cattle brains and spinal cords from chicken and pig feed. FDA argued that this would prevent any infectious material present in cattle brains from coming back to cattle via the chicken coop floor wastes. However this proposal is still pending, and has been criticized as too weak by both industry representatives and consumer advocates.

“We shouldn’t wait for a major outbreak of mad cow disease to take greater preventive action. There is no question that we should not be feeding the remains of any mammals to food animals, and by not closing this dangerous loophole, we are exposing the American public to unnecessary risk,” adds Halloran.

Consumers Union also urges USDA to expand its surveillance program, which tests less than 1 percent of US cattle per year and to require that all cattle over 20 months of age be tested at slaughter for mad cow disease.

Consumers can minimize any risk of exposure to beef that may harbor mad cow disease by buying organic beef, says Consumers Union. Organic production prohibits any use of animal by-products in feed. Consumers can also protect themselves by avoiding the higher-risk parts of the animal such as brains, and beef cuts that combine meat from a number of animals, such as sausage, hot dogs, and hamburger.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Good Veggie Web Sites

These are my favorite vegetarian web sites: - Help, advice, and resources for vegan families. There are lots of articles, recipes, book and product reviews. - news and articles, book reviews, discussion forum, and lots of great resources and inspiration - articles, advice letters, blog, and recipes - this is a new site but looks to be very valuable as there is just not enough info out there for vegetarian pregnancy. It includes news and studies, articles, discussion forum, and recipes and lots of links to other veggie sites

Feel free to post other great sites that you have found.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

still drinking soda?

Soda is loaded with sugar and chemicals - bad for your body, bad for your teeth. Many sodas contain caffeine which kids are becoming addicted to at younger and younger ages. Sugary sports and juice drinks are not much better - although at least they don't have caffeine. If you drink soda - or more importantly if your children do, this article has some eye-opening information.

If you have young kids, give them water to drink right from the beginning. Getting your kids to enjoy and love the taste of pure water is a great gift you can give them.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Rethinking School Lunches

As childhood obesity and related disease continues to rise, it's becoming clear that we need to take measures to improve the health of our nation's kids. Most children spend a good part of their week in school or preschool, so that is an obvious place where changes can be made. Most school meals are apallingly unhealthy with entrees such as corn dogs, pizza pockets, and chicken nuggets (all loaded with sodium, fat, and chemicals) - and usually served with french fries for a vegetable.

Check out the March/April issue of Mothering Magazine where I have an article (School Food Renaissance) outlining how parents can have a say in their school's wellness policy and work toward changing the school lunch period to become another learning period in the day where children learn about good nutrition and eating habits.

I will also be hosting an online chat for Mothering on March 8, 2006 at 10 am PST (1 pm EST). The web site is and you can find more information about the chat on my site or on

On the resource page of my web site, I also list many links to organizations and programs that can help you get healthier foods into your school. Many schools around the state have already started garden-to-table and other programs. Where I live in San Luis Obispo County, there is a new group working for change called SLO Grown Kids. If you are interested in finding out what this group is doing, contact or

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Real Food Daily Cookbook

I reviewed "The Real Food Daily Cookbook" by Ann Gentry for the March issue of VegFamily Magazine. I had marked the Salisbury Seitan recipe as one I wanted to try but it was such a busy month I just didn't get to it before I had to turn my review in. Well, I made it yesterday and it was incredible!!!

I started with the Basic Seitan recipe. The last time I made seitan was at the Macrobiotic Cooking School back before I had a family. All I remember was kneading and rinsing, kneading and rinsing. Since becoming a mom, that just seemed too time-consuming so I haven't attempted to make it in years. Gentry's recipe is nothing like that. It's as simple as mixing gluten flour, seasonings and baking. And the results - a golden loaf of seitan, enough for four meals.

To make the Salisbury Seitan, I sliced and marinated the seitan, then baked it. It was crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside - really nothing like the prepared seitan I have bought from the store. My husband is not a gravy fan so instead of Gentry's suggested sauce, I sauted ontions and mushrooms and poured them over the seitan. I served it with roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables and the whole family raved.

This is really a great cookbook - to read more about it check out my review on It will be posted March 1, 2006.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mad Cow

There was an interesting article in this week's newsletter from the Organic Consumers Association. It seems that McDonalds Corporation is complaining about how poorly the FDA is monitoring U.S. beef safety. Currently, they test less than 1% of cattle for mad cow disease. It will be interesting to see if anything changes now that a major beef buyer is speaking out.

Check out this link for more articles about mad cow While you're there, sign the petition urging the government to enforce the same testing standards required by the European Union and Japan.

To subscribe to the Organic Consumers Association newsletter, go to

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California

If you get to the Salinas area of California, don’t miss the Steinbeck Center located at One Main Street in Salinas. I recently went there with my family and was pleasantly surprised at how much everyone enjoyed it.

Most of the museum is dedicated to the works and life of John Steinbeck. There is a short film that gives some really great information about him. I came away so inspired – not only is Steinbeck an amazing writer but his books makes social statements as well.

One of the things I particularly liked about the museum was that it’s just as fun for kids as for adults. We were greeted at the entrance by a friendly docent who immediately told my children they were allowed to touch anything in the museum. He gave them a list of things to look for and told them to turn it in at the end to get a prize.

I found the museum particularly well-designed because it was so interactive. Rather than just reading information, you almost always had to turn a knob, open a door, pull a handle, etc. That made my kids want to check out each exhibit and kept them busy while my husband and I read the information. My daughters also had a great time climbing into model cars and trucks and on tractors and horses.

In addition to information about Steinbeck, one wing of the center is devoted to information about California agriculture. There were a lot of fun, interactive exhibits for children there as well.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the gift shop. You can get all of Steinbeck’s books as well as many quality and unique gift items. I had as much fun browsing there as in the museum.

Here’s the web site: