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 .