Tag Archives: vegan

Hit Upside the Head

Skinny Bitch I’m not a big fan of crudeness when it comes to writing. It’s not that I have a problem with expletives–I use my own share of them occasionally as a reaction to something unexpected–but using the f-word and other obscenities in a book gets pretty vulgar.

However, I see why authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin did it in their book Skinny Bitch. They’re trying to get your attention and, as one woman said in her testimonial on the authors’ website, she felt she was hit upside the head when she read it. Obese and frustrated at the numerous ways she tried losing weight, Skinny Bitch was like a wake-up call. She actually lost 180 pounds (from an overweight of 300+ pounds) by following the authors’ advice, which is basically to go vegan.

According to their website, Rory Freedman is a former agent for Ford Models, and a self-taught know-it-all. Kim Barnouin is a former model who holds a Master’s of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition.

I do think they know what they’re talking about even though their smart-mouthed approach gets a little old. That’s why I stuck with the book instead of being turned off by statements like, “Beer is for frat boys, not skinny bitches. It makes you fat, bloated, and farty.” Or “Eat your fiber and crap like a champ.” Or “F__ excuses about not having the time or money.” (Luckily, it’s a quick read. If I can do it, you can, too.)

The authors include facts supported by research and practical plans to “stop eating crap and start looking fabulous.” It’s not about fad dieting. Rather, it incorporates the theme “you are what you eat” throughout. The chapters on meat include hardcore facts about the meat industry and factory farming as graphic as Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals. The book clearly demonstrates how our food industry leaders are intertwined with our government, making it difficult for consumers to get quality, healthy food at the grocery store. The authors offer suggestions for eating well, what to avoid, and a supportive “just do it” attitude (if you can look past the accompanying f-words).

I’m still a carnivore and, even though I only eat happy meat, I have to say Skinny Bitch got me thinking about going vegan. It was more than reading (again) about the horrific conditions on factory farms. It’s about what our bodies were designed to consume. Sure, we have canine teeth but do we really need to tear apart meat anymore? Do we really need to consume dairy products (my favorite food group) after we’re weaned from mother’s milk? And how about all those food allergies? Food for thought, I guess. The only thing I can’t consider, if I were to go vegan, is fake meat. (And there are many “substitutes” listed in the resource section of Skinny Bitch for vegans.) I’m really curious why anything that looks and tastes like meat, but isn’t, would be appealing to vegans.

So, if you’re interested in learning more about our screwed up food system, or you’d like a new approach for tackling weight loss, get a copy of Skinny Bitch. And get ready for some sass.

Moujadarah Lettuce Wraps

When Bill and I were invited to a plant-based dinner hosted by my friend Sue over at Stirthepotgr.com, I definitely felt challenged to find a recipe that qualified as vegan but was also something Bill could eat. Because, when you’re allergic to wheat, corn, and cow dairy like he is, meat is an ingredient that helps you get through the day.

For some reason I had it in my head to make lettuce wraps–probably because I had never made them before and wanted to try them. There are a lot of great Asian lettuce wrap recipes out there but many of them have meat in them. I also found some with rice and beans, but finally I settled on Lebanese Mjadra – Lentil & Rice Lettuce Cups. When I read through the recipe I realized it was basically the same as Moujadarah with Curry, one of our favorite legume recipes. The one on Food.com simply uses lettuce as a vessel for serving it.

So I followed the recipe on my blog instead, which also includes a garnish of tomatoes, green onions, and parsley.

The legume mixture can easily be made a day ahead. I mixed the caramelized onions right in with the rice and lentils for this appetizer so it’s easier to eat.

Then I stuck it in the fridge overnight.

After heading to the Holland Farmers Market (on opening day!), I found Bibb lettuce from Visser Farms, which I washed and laid out stacked between paper towels in the fridge until I was ready to assemble the wraps.

I took everything out of the fridge a couple hours prior to assembly.

Then I made the tomato garnish and sliced up some lemons to serve with the wraps.

I had to warm the moujadarah slightly in the microwave so it would be soft enough to spoon into the lettuce. Then I packed them closely into a serving dish for the trip to Grand Rapids, where the dinner was held.

They survived the trip and I think they were the right temperature–room temperature, but slightly on the cold side to keep the lettuce crisp.

Bill and I enjoyed the variety of creative plant-based dishes that the guests–about 30 people–brought to the event. We made some new friends and spent a lovely evening at a beautiful location in Grand Rapids!

Going Vegan?

Photo via Madprime, Wikipedia

Earlier this week I read a blog post by author, health and wellness expert Kathy Freston in The Huffington Post called “Eating Vegan on the Cheap.” I thought it was good info to share with my vegan friends and anyone considering the switch to a vegan lifestyle. Then in today’s Grand Rapids Press I read an article called “Vegan in Vogue,” which cites veganism as “part of a health movement promoted increasingly by hip celebrities such as Alicia Silverstone, the authors of the Skinny Bitch book series Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, and ultra-fit sports figures such as Ironman tri-athlete Brendan Brazier.”

You can read the Press article for more the details but I thought it was important to highlight a few points made by Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine (PCRM): “If you follow a casually planned vegan diet, you will be healthier than a person who follows a meat-eating diet.” And, he insists, contrary to popular belief, that eating healthy on a vegan diet is not difficult. “You simply need to do two things,” says Barnard: “Build your diet from the four healthy food groups–vegetables, grains, legumes, and fruits. And add a multiple vitamin to ensure a source of vitamin B-12.”

That said, let’s get back to Kathy Freston’s post, which focuses on the costs of going vegan.

She says many people think a healthy diet is an expensive diet, and it doesn’t seem right that meat should be so cheap and fresh vegetables, especially organic ones, relatively expensive. (I assume she’s referring to feedlot meat as being cheap because grassfed or pastured meat is certainly not inexpensive.) Going vegan, she claims, “is not only healthier by every measure, but it can actually be considerably cheaper as well.”

For example, many staples of a vegan diet are available in grocery stores at reasonable prices.

  • Try whole grains such as quinoa, barley, or brown rice; legumes such as chickpeas, soybeans, black beans, and black-eyed peas are fairly inexpensive.
  • Buying whole grains and beans in bulk is another way to save money. Because they are full of fiber they make you feel full and satisfied, without the dangerous saturated fat of animal protein.
  • Shop for fresh vegetables and fruits at supermarkets and farmers’ markets.

Freston claims that “the general populations who eat these simple diets may get waterborne illnesses and lung infections from bad environmental conditions, but they don’t have anywhere near the rates of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes that we have — until they are exposed to our Western diet, that is.” So switching to a vegan diet can also save you in healthcare costs.

[My personal caveat to the previous paragraph is that I believe the food causing cancer, heart disease, and diabetes is primarily processed and that the meat, eggs, and dairy products come from factory farms. While I’m not a vegan, I have certainly cut back on my meat consumption. And, I only eat grassfed and/or pastured meat–that is, meat from animals raised without hormones, antibiotics or stress in a natural environment with room to roam and plenty of grass to eat.]

Finally, here are some tips suggested by Freston to help vegans save money when shopping:

  • Shop seasonally: Produce in season is almost always less expensive than out-of-season produce because it’s more abundant.
  • Avoid pre-packaged foods: They’re always more expensive than the whole foods (and a waste of packaging).
  • Watch produce prices: Locally grown fruits and vegetables sometimes cost less than imported produce, while at other times imported produce saves you a lot. (But be mindful of the food’s carbon footprint–how far it had to travel to you.)
  • Shop at farmers’ markets: They’re great places to find fresh, in-season, and locally grown produce for cheap. Shop at the end of the market day, when growers may be willing to sell their produce at a discount, rather than having to pack it up and take it home.
  • Try frozen veggies: They are often cheaper than fresh ones, and they can actually be more nutritious, because the veggies are frozen right after they’re picked, preserving vitamins that are lost in transporting fresh veggies from the farm to the store.
  • Value your time: People tend to think that eating fast food is less time consuming–an illusion reinforced by fast-food company advertising. In reality, the time that you spend driving to a fast-food restaurant and then idling in a drive-through could just as easily be spent at home with your family, cooking a simple meal.
  • Build a menu: Rotate the same menu of dishes every week, for ease of preparation and to simplify grocery shopping. Once you’ve got that set menu of favorite vegan meals, prep time is quick.

If you’re thinking about going vegan, both Freston and the Grand Rapids Press offer some resources that might be of interest to you:

Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World by Kathy Freston

Vegan Diner: Classic Comfort Food for the Body and Soul by Julie Hasson



“Kickstart Your Health with Dr. Neal Barnard” on PBS

Moujadarah with Curry

If you read my post earlier this week about processed meats and you need a vegetarian dinner idea, moujadarah is the way to go. Also spelled mujadara, it’s basically lentils and rice. There are many variations on this dish.

When I made it recently, I Googled “lentils and rice” instead of following the recipe I made in February. The Lentils and Rice with Fried Onions recipe on Allrecipes.com served as the inspiration for what eventually became dinner. Because Bill is a big fan of curry, I thought I’d add some just for fun. It was delicious!

I like the idea of frying onions for the garnish. I used red onions for the garnish because I only had a couple of yellow onions, which I wanted to mix with the lentils.

When I cooked the lentils and onions as the recipe instructs, I simply added a teaspoon of curry to the mix while it simmered.

Then I threw in some fresh chopped flatleaf parsley.

For additional garnish, I chopped some fresh tomatoes and added olive oil, salt, and more parsley. Then I topped the moujardarah with this mixture, as well as the fried onions.

This is an easy recipe with plenty of fiber and protein. A great substitute for meat at dinnertime! A side of hummus and pita bread would complement this meal nicely.

Would You Eat Fake Meat? (It Tastes Like Chicken)

It’s amazing to me what the food industry comes up with. For example, fake meat. I realize there have been tofurkys for Thanksgiving and veggie “burgers” to accommodate the American need for putting something on a bun, and other substitutes for meat along the way for decades.

But this one takes the cake. Are you ready to try the first soy product that “not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh”? Watch the video, “Turning Powder into Poultry“, which tells how food scientists replicated those “delicate strands of meat” that are found in chicken. It’s from this week’s Time magazine–an article about a soy product that tastes–and feels–like chicken.

I’ve always been a texture girl. For example, I don’t eat shellfish because I can’t stand the texture of it. I love fish, however. Irrational? Perhaps. But that’s just me. I can’t explain it and I’ve always been this way.  Texture is definitely an important part of the human taste experience.

So I guess I’d be intrigued by a product that is similar in texture and taste to chicken except for one thing: It’s not chicken. And, it’s still processed food.

I’m baffled why there’s a need for this wanna-be meat product to exist on the vegetarian or vegan menu. I mean, if you don’t want to eat meat, then eat legumes. Why would you want to eat something that feigns to be meat if you’re against eating meat in the first place?

Vegans and vegetarians: Please comment! I’m interested in your perspective here!

Marie Catrib’s: Something for Every Taste Bud

Bill and I sure wish we lived closer to the Grand Rapids East Hills district. If we did, we’d be at Marie Catrib’s all the time. It’s not just that the food is so good, so real. It’s the way Marie Catrib accommodates the ever-growing dietary needs of people to make eating out an enjoyable experience. Her menu tag line, “Something for Every Taste Bud,” is right on.

Take Bill, for instance. With his allergies to wheat, corn, and (cow) dairy, it’s not unusual for him to ask the chefs in restaurants everywhere we go to compromise or improvise or substitute in a dish they serve. While I happen to enjoy this challenge in our household kitchen, I’m not running a business that serves food. I think it’s probably difficult to switch gears midstream in a commerical kitchen as orders are coming and going all night long.

What I like about Marie Catrib’s is that the menu itself offers numerous options that accommodate so many people: vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian, carnivore, and flexitarian.

So, tonight Bill ordered the lentil and bean soup as a starter. I had several spoonfuls of it, too. Delicious!

Then he had the BLT, made with Creswick Farms bacon (the same place we buy our bacon via the West Michigan Co-op) and gluten-free bread! No accommodations necessary for Bill tonight!

I chose the Vegetarian Kibbe, and we shared an order of Marie’s Seasoned Potatoes. You can just tell the food is homemade when you eat it.

And, of course, my favorite part about eating there is that Marie Catrib’s is so in tune with the importance of farm-to-table eating. That was obvious, not only by the mention of local farmers on the menu, but also by the large chalkboard listing them for everyone to see in the dining room.

As it says on the restaurant’s website, “We do what we do, how we do it because we genuinely care about serving really good, quality food. Here at Marie Catrib’s, we take much pride in using locally grown and raised food whenever possible…. The more farms the better chance you will feel good about eating your food!”

I was happy to see some of the same farms we buy from on the list: Besides Creswick, Marie Catrib’s supports Crane Dance Farm, Mud Lake Farm, and Grassfields, with lots of others coming soon.

The place is full of happy food. It’s a real treat for your taste buds.

To read more about Marie Catrib–the restaurateur–check out the March 14, 2010 article in the Grand Rapids Press.