Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cookbook Review: Babycakes Covers the Classics

        The boyfriend's birthday is next month and that means that birthday planning starts now. There are a couple of surprises up my sleeve this year and this year I am determined to keep this a surprise until his birthday. I'm sure if he guessed anymore than twice he'd know what I was getting for him, but I like to let myself think that I'm clever and awesome about gifting, however far from reality that may be. 
        Beyond gifts and surprises, birthdays also mean cake! There isn't much that gets me more excited for an event than the prospect of fresh-out-of-the oven cake. However, summertime in Texas makes me dread using the oven for an extended amount of time, especially since our AC duct into the kitchen is blocked somehow. The plan for an ice cream cake hatched at work while I was talking with a woman I sit near about cake in general. The conversation turned to ice cream cake and when I mentioned that I'd never had one she nearly fainted and insisted that I eat an entire one as soon as I am able. With a birthday coming up, I figured why not make one? The hunt was on for a recipe of some kind to guide my way through a vegan and gluten free ice cream cake.
        I hunted around and found Babycakes Covers the Classics by Erin McKenna, a gluten free and vegan cookbook devoted to desserts, and wouldn't ya know, there's a recipe for ice cream cake in it! It's as simple as I thought it would be, consisting of a basic chocolate cake, two flavors of ice cream layered, topped with another chocolate cake, and drizzled with chocolate sauce before being frozen. While I won't follow the directions exactly, the basic principle will be the same. I'll post about it, complete with pictures, when that goes down, because it will be spectacular!
        Besides the ice cream cake recipe, Babycakes is filled with amazing recipes to tempt you into giving your sweet tooth more pleasure than you'll know what to do with. There are so many amazing recipes in this book from one of my childhood favorites, pineapple upside down cake, to cake donuts, bread pudding, German chocolate cake, and even crispy rice squares! There are a couple of appetizers thrown in, as well, to balance things out. Everything is vegan and gluten free, and the recipes are simple to follow with well written directions, easy to find products, and a few pictures of the finished products spattered throughout. 
        Something I hardly ever mention about a book is the index, and who the heck really cares, anyway. This book, however has a very well laid out index and it's rather in-depth. In addition to the index is a store listing of where to buy the ingredients online. This is amazing and exciting for those of us who live in smaller than average towns and who sometimes have to drive and drive and drive to reach any kind of decent grocer. 
        Enjoy the book and let me know what you think about it!
- Patricia
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Monday, May 23, 2011

USA Today Article Insults Those With Lactose Intolerance

Painted dairy cows by Flickr user susieblackmon
     Recently my mom e-mailed an article to me out of USA Today that really puzzled me. I will link you here so that you may have the pleasure of reading it, as well.

Beyond the title, “Lactose intolerance may sometimes be in the head, not the gut”, which itself is abrasive to those with lactose intolerance issues, I think the article is slanted against women. I am far from a feminist, but I think it unfairly categorizes women into discriminative, unstable, and overly emotional stereotypes with the use of a “questionnaire about somatization, anxiety and depression”. The USA Today article then uses a short paragraph to explain what somatoform disorder is, stating that,
“Those with somatoform disorder often report multiple problems in different areas of the body, such as faintness or weakness of a body part, Basilisco said, but no physical cause can be found.”
They conveniently fail to mention that the other part that makes up somatoform disorder is deliberately exaggerating symptoms for secondary motives, pain in multiple parts of the body with no apparent reason, and/or sexual dysfunctions of any kind.

Secondly, the results of the research were not given in plain English. While the article states that “patients with altered somatization are four times more likely to report lactose intolerance”, it does not state how many of the patients exhibited altered somatization. The researcher stated that 33% (about 24) of the 72 females and 29% (about 5) of the 25 males that made up the study were found to actually have lactose intolerance or malabsorption issues. With current lactose intolerance rates around 60 – 80% of the world's population, the numbers of occurrence in this study were comparably small. 

Lactose Intolerance rates around the world.

Lastly, and the biggest slap in the face, by far, was how the article was ended: 
“Patients can then focus on the real root of the problem and get back to eating dairy, she added.That's important because not eating dairy products raises the risk of calcium deficiency and osteoporosis, the researchers noted.”
Not only does this falsely state that living without dairy raises your risks of calcium deficiency and related disorders, but it's an unbelievable insult to those of us who suffered silently for years without seeking a doctor's help because of the scorn we knew our myriad of symptoms would draw. 

Those of us living life without dairy due to a damaged gut from Celiac, a vegan lifestyle, or from lactose intolerance will all tell you that calcium is everywhere. Oatmeal, spinach, soy milk, tofu, salmon, molasses, and many others. While the bio-availability of these foods may not be as great as a glass of cow milk, the point is that it is more than possible to get the daily required amount of calcium while living a dairy free lifestyle.

- Patricia

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Claiming Celiac Related Medical Expenses on Your Taxes

          Tax season is behind us for this year, but preparation for a successful filing season next year should start now if you are interested in taking a medical credit on your taxes. This is a bit of a touchy subject for people, so I have to say that I am not, nor have I ever been, a tax expert or professional. My advice should not be taken at face value and research should always be done on your own, especially regarding legal advice (and money matters!). The IRS staffs real, live people that are available to take your calls regarding the tax laws and they can actually help! As with all call centers, it might be hit and miss with the operator you get, but overall they want their money and are more than happy to tell you how to file your taxes.
That being said, I wanted to give you a rough break down of how to go about claiming your medical expenses related to Celiac Disease. For the 2010 filing season (that was April 2011), in order to claim medical expenses they had to total more than 7.5% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). So if Jane Doe had an AGI of $34,567, she would have needed more than $2,592.53 ($34,567 x .075) in unreimbursed medical expenses. This can be a lifesaver if you are uninsured, like myself. These medical costs, which I will tell you how to go about calculating in just a bit, are going to be entered into a Schedule A that you can download and print out to attach to your regular 1040. 

The most important part of being able to claim the medical deduction is that you need proof that a gluten free diet is medically necessary for you to remain healthy. This can be accomplished by a letter from your doctor, signed and dated, stating that your diet is needed. This is also the case for any other illness that you are going to claim – a bad back needed back braces that you have to purchase on your own or something of that nature. I know that this can be frustrating for people who have not been officially diagnosed by a doctor, but have just done the elimination diets on their own. It's a roadblock, but you have to get that statement from your doctor. No ifs, ands, or buts. 

Once you have the letter in hand, you can officially claim your medical expenses and food costs. This might sound amazing, but there is a formula you have to use. A normal loaf of bread retails for $3, but gluten free bread is $6, you can claim the $3 difference per loaf of bread. Your 5lb bag of gluten free flour is $8, while a 5lb sack of wheat flour is $3, you are able to claim the $5 difference. Soy milk vs cow milk is the same. This is a bit of a pain in the ass, I will admit, but if you have two or more people in your household that are gluten free (or on a medically prescribed diet of another kind), this is really helpful in the end. Keep your receipts, but they do tend to fade over time, so make monthly copies. This will allow you to go through and calculate how much you're spending on gluten free items vs. conventional items. 

While I shouldn't have to mention this, I sadly have to: If you are on a gluten-free diet for weight loss or because you just think it makes you feel better and have had several negative tests for Celiac, you do not qualify for this write off. It's like trying to write off a tummy tuck. Also, if your child has Autism and the diet has not been medically prescribed, you cannot claim this either.

Over all, just remember that there has to be two important parts to properly claiming your additional food costs for Celiac – 1) you need a doctor's directive for it, and 2) you can only claim the difference between gluten free and conventional items totaling beyond 7.5% of your AGI. Keep in mind that these tax laws are always changing, and again, please research this yourself and find the best route for your personal situation.
- Patricia
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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Traveling and the Importance of Easy Meals

     One of the only downsides about biking everywhere is the lack of long distance transportation. I can easily ride 10 miles on my bike to go somewhere, but that is about the upper limits of my abilities when time is taken into consideration. It's not too convenient beyond that. 

     The end of this past week and the beginning of the weekend were spent mostly in San Antonio with my lovely niece I had not seen in three years. She was able to catch up with her boyfriend and his family while Thomas and I were able to take in the sights of San Antonio. It truly is a beautiful city with a bit of old world charm. Because we had to be in town so early we were able to see it as few people get to, nearly empty.

     By the time we got home, we were all exhausted and wanted to do nothing more than go straight to bed. Dinner, however, needed to be dealt with. Two bags of 10oz frozen corn and a couple of potatoes to the rescue!

Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes
Serves 3

For the chowder:
2 - 10oz bags of frozen sweet corn
Handful of cilantro, washed, stemmed, and chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
Olive oil for frying
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp chili powder
2-3 cups water
1/4 - 1/2 cup soy milk
Salt, to taste

For the roasted potatoes:
2 or 3 small to medium potatoes
1/2 onion, chopped
Olive oil for coating
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne

Optional Toppings:
Shredded cheese
Diced green onions
Sour cream
Diced cilantro

First... Preheat your oven to 350*F while you prep the potatoes by washing them well, then dicing into bite sized pieces. Nothing fancy here, just keep them a uniform size. Toss together in a bowl with the diced onion, coat with the olive oil, then add the salt and cayenne before mixing well. Toss the potatoes in the oven on a foiled or parchment-lined baking sheet for around 25 minutes or until fork tender.

Then... While the potatoes are baking, you'll make the corn chowder. Start by heating oil in a soup pot and adding the onions to fry for around 5-6 minutes. Add the salt and other dry seasonings and mix well. Add the frozen corn and enough water to cover before bringing to a simmer. Carefully transfer around 1/2 of soup contents to a blender and blend, using the remaining water for easy blending. Return contents of blender to soup pot, add cilantro, and continue simmering. After 10 minutes of additional simmering, add the milk and turn heat off.

Finally... Remove the potatoes from oven. Ladle soup into bowls, top with roasted potatoes and any optional toppings desired.

     Because this recipe is so basic, there are many ways that you could make it your own. Try adding some salsa or chili garlic paste to the blender for a spicier touch, a can of chopped tomatoes with green peppers, or use a can of black beans instead of the second bag of corn for a slightly different soup. Make it yours!
- Patricia
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Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Meal Plan, Made Simple

      My seasonal job has started back up for the year and as a result I've been a bit extra busy these last several weeks, so posting has been a bit sparse. I've been trying to keep posts scheduled so that things aren't too barren around here, but that's just how it goes. 

With my new, mostly nocturnal, schedule I've been keeping the cooking down to simple one-dish meals that are easy and quiet to prepare at 2AM. Here's a sampling of what I've been cooking as of late:

The top right photo features Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes. This is a new dish I am making that is inspired by the method I use to make black bean soup. I have not posted about that black bean soup because the pictures of it seem to come out poorly, but I won't let that be an excuse to keep such a simple and quick recipe from you. Both the corn chowder and the black bean soup are very simple and can be made in under 30 minutes! Bottom right is the beginnings of Lentil & Brown Rice Soup, with just an onion, seasonings and a lentil blend in the pot. The final picture is of Berbere Mixed Vegetables which I featured last month, along with what is pictured in the top left photo, Kale and Zucchini Stir Fry.

I'll be posting the recipes for the Lentil & Brown Rice Soup as well as the Corn Chowder with Roasted Potatoes over the next week or so. Also coming up will be a Wokin' Stir Fry Recipe! One of my birthday gifts this year included a wok and I couldn't have been more surprised. It was used within the week and we took lots of pictures that I'll post along with the recipe. 

The thing about making these 'easy' meals is that it is make possible with a meal plan diligently created each week before we grocery shop. While meal planning isn't exactly exciting - it's quite far from it, actually, and can start arguments you wouldn't normally have about broccoli vs cauliflower - it does need to be taken care of. I've made a small system to help with that time of the week. First, I made a document on my computer that includes dishes that I make on a regular basis broken down into pasta, rice, and vegetable based dishes. When it's time to meal plan for the week I open up this list, grab a cookbook or The Flavor Bible, and maybe open up a few good websites to browse (I like Open Source Food as of late). I use some loose leaf paper to make three line sections where I'll fill in a rough breakfast/lunch/dinner schedule as follows:
As you can see, I've got kale, zucchini, and lentil soup, chili & corn bread, Mexican casserole, pesto & white bean quinoa (seen in this months' Vegetarian Times), lasagna rolls, pizza, and a black bean avocado taco superevent on the menu for this week. I don't really worry about making Thursday's meal on Thursday, we're pretty flexible on when that happens and sometimes you just don't feel like what's on the meal plan, and that's okay. The real point of having all this is so that I know that when I go to the store with the list based off this meal plan, that I will be purchasing enough food to theoretically feed myself and the boyfriend for however many days I've planned for. 

It might be a bit overkill. Do I really need to fill in oatmeal, waffles, and eggs for breakfast every day? Yes, I do, because I will forget to put them on the grocery list to buy. Sometimes we'll shop for just dinner stuff and think we have some extra money to splurge on a bottle of something and then we realize we have no lunch or snack stuff available during the week. Lame.

So pictured above is my meal plan for this week, my grocery bill at Whole Foods came out to $68.50 and we bought juice, cookies, and a couple of personal items that weren't on the list. It is possible to shop healthy on a budget - even with a special diet!
- Patricia
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Mixer and a Recipe

Farmers Market Stir Fry

     It's hard for me to believe that March is almost over. Very much an 'in like a lamb, out like a lion' year for me so far. As the year has progressed, the natural order of things has changed around our house as I returned to my seasonal night shift job and our schedule was turned on end as a result. We're eating and sleeping at much later hours than usual. I'm drinking coffee at 9:30 PM as I write this.

     I've been so busy lately reading, making meal plans that I want to share with you, finding new products, and trying out some new recipes. Finding the time for me to sit down and write about it all can be a challenge at times, so forgive the absence.

New Products
     I've come across a couple of new products I want to share with you. This first one is excellent prepared falafel from Falafel Republic. It comes in traditional and roasted garlic flavors and both are superb. Being huge fans of falafel, we have eaten and enjoyed both flavors. He eats them in pita pockets, while I just eat them plain with a dollop of hummus and a little chili garlic paste on top. They heat up in the oven in just under 10 minutes at 300. Our local HEB grocery was carrying them, but I think we may have bought them out. I hope they restock...

     The other product is Bob the Builder corn and rice pasta. I also found this at my local HEB but unlike Falafel Republic, I cannot find much information on the company. A Google search turns up mostly British results to stores where it is available for purchase. I don't know how common it is in the United States, but I can purchase it for $1.99 a bag. This is by far the cheapest gluten free pasta I've bought. It holds up to boiling and tastes good. Reheating does break the shapes apart, but it does not turn to mush. I do feel a little childish purchasing this at the store, but it's cheap and it's delicious.

      This springtime dish is the result of our weekly CSA box. We pretty much force feed ourselves vegetables in order to get our way through the box each week. I can't complain - we all need more vegetables in our diet. Simple vegetables are the key here - spinach can be subbed for kale if that is outside your comfort zone, and bell peppers could be swapped for the zucchini without any problems. Play around and find out what spring vegetables you enjoy most. 

Farmers Market Stir Fry
Serves 2


3 handful kale, rinsed and ripped away from the stalk
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 onion, diced
1 zucchini, washed and sliced
2-3 tbs water
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Herb blend of choice


First... Heat oil in skillet, add onions and dash of salt, and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Then... Add vegetables, herbs, and water to skillet and stir well. Cover and cook for 7-10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender before adjusting seasoning to your liking.

Finally... Serve vegetables over rice and pour any excess water over rice for additional flavor. Add a dash of tamari for additional flavor!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cookbook Review: Potato Salad by Debbie Moose

     I got this book for two reasons; for one, potatoes and vegetarians go together very well, and two, potato salad is a great make ahead dish that can be kept in the icebox for several days and it still tastes good to just about everyone on the planet. I know some people are weird about leftovers (I live with one of those people) and being able to use the make-ahead method is great to help save time during the week.

It seems that in the potato salad world there are two camps, mustard and mayonnaise. Potato Salad, however, takes you beyond that school of thought and suggests pesto, yogurt, olives, tomato soup concentrate, olive oil, and even tahini as main ingredients for new versions of an old favorite. They all sound delicious, too.

The majority of the recipes in the book are naturally gluten free, but there are a few ingredients she mentions that may be up in the air such as vinegars, mustards, and dressings. Just double check before you buy something new and all should be well. As far as being dairy free or vegan friendly, the book offers a vegan mayonnaise recipe and any eggs called for can simply be omitted without much change to the quality of the recipe. Worcestershire sauce is called for a few times, and this contains fish if I remember correctly, but can be omitted for Bragg's or tamari.

Potato Salad does not stop at just salads, Moose has included more hearty dishes pairing the potatoes with crab, shrimp, tuna, and chicken. For the vegetarians, there are recipes for Tex-Mex style dishes with sweet corn and spicy jalapeños, other recipes are more simple calling for a simple olive oil and herb dressing.

Great book to keep on the shelf for reference. I was a bit put off at first by an entire book about potato salad. Really, how many ways are there? Apparently more than I ever thought possible, and now I'm craving a good curry potato salad!

Want to check the book out before you buy it? Click here.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cookbook Review: Kids Fun and Healthy Cookbook by Nicola Graimes

     While this cookbook is definitely not aimed at the gluten free community or at vegetarians, it is a fun book as the title promises! There are techniques and recipes in the book that are appropriate for children of all ages, so worrying about it not being for the right age group is not an issue if you're buying it as a gift. I would say it would be fine for kids up to 12 or so, depending on their personal skills.
I enjoy the fact that Graimes' book is readable (and enjoyable) by both children and adults. It gives plenty of safety advice, explaining things in a simple and calm manner while avoiding chastising reminders about hot stoves or making messes. I also enjoy the fact that Graimes discusses the different food groups and explains how each food plays a role in contributing to a balanced diet. I will say that the one thing I disagree with is that the book states that potatoes should not be considered as a serving of vegetables, while I think they should. Potato flakes, fries, potato chips, and the like are not considered servings, but real potatoes should be. Yams and sweet potatoes are great for you – there is no reason to not consider them vegetable servings.

All the basic cooking techniques are covered in the book, from egg cracking to whisking, stirring, basic sautéing, chopping, and peeling. The book itself is divided into sections for breakfast, light meals, main meals, desserts, and baking.

It is great to see a cookbook that is geared towards kids that both explains and utilizes fresh, whole foods in all the recipes. This book really pushes the fact that kids can accomplish many things on their own and should not be afraid to try to do new projects or ideas. The book is mostly plant based with a few dishes calling for meat thrown in. The use of eggs is pretty liberal throughout, simply because they are an easy to cook item.

For those of us on a gluten free diet, the majority of the recipes can be easily converted to suit our diet and the vegetarians and vegans can just substitute proteins and omit other ingredients to satisfy other needs. Some dishes, such as hard boiled eggs, would just be useless to the vegans, but there are relatively few of these instances.

Check the book out here before you buy it!

Happy cooking!

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Morning Rice

By the time the boyfriend and I get our coffee going and morning started, we've already been in the kitchen for about half an hour. I find it odd that considering this, I hardly ever make breakfast for myself. The boyfriend will toast these amazing-smelling toaster pastries we get him to hold him over, but I'm often left roaming the kitchen like some half-crazed, half-starved loon.

I've written before about how breakfast is that one meal I still struggle with to get some sort of consistency with. I understand that this is, technically speaking, not a difficult task to do. Bananas, cereal, oatmeal, eggs; there are tons of different foods available for breakfast time that are gluten free. For me, it's a combination of being a broke college student with a crappy part time job and a slight failure in the meal planning department I seem to be having. When I do my weekly meal planning, I often forget to get items for other meals besides dinner, so we'll end up eating the pasta I was saving for Wednesday night on Sunday afternoon.

The same thing goes for breakfast - I forget to pick up groceries for it. This is an exceptional pickle to place yourself in because it's a bit more difficult to convince yourself to eat pasta for breakfast. This got me thinking about a satisfying breakfast I could make with just what we had on hand.

We have rice. Mountains of several kinds of rice, and enjoy them all. We truly love rice. The grocery store nearest to our home has a great deal on 5lb bags of un-enriched Jasmine rice from Thailand we buy once or twice a month. So, this morning when I was trying to figure out what to make for breakfast, I naturally reached for the rice.

Hot Jasmine Rice Breakfast

Serves 1

1 C water, brought to a boil
1/2 C Jasmine rice
3 Tbs cane sugar
Cinnamon, to taste
1/4 C soy milk
1 Tbs vegan butter

Add rice to boiling water and stir well. This will cook a little faster than a normal serving of rice will, so watch it carefully to prevent scorching. When the water is around half absorbed add the sugar and cinnamon and stir well. 
When the rice has finished cooking add the milk and butter, stir well, and enjoy!
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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Nothing at all...

     Hey guys! This entry is going to be about nothing food related - just a check in to say hi, really.

After the holiday break that the whole world seemed to take from Thanksgiving till MLK Jr Day, it seems like things are finally back to normal and going in full swing. I'm enjoying that very much because it means more hours for me at work and it's easier to get business taken care of when you need to.

I know I've been a bit quiet lately, but all is well here. I've had some general stress with me only working part time hours and the boyfriend trying to get his IT business back up and running after his layoff at the end of last year. I've also been having issues with my transcripts and financial aid from Portland transferring back to Austin. Just a general mess, but that is what makes up life and keeps things interesting.

So other than work and trying to get my schooling straightened out, I've been looking for a better job, reading, and knitting. I went to a processing session today for a federal position that I've held in the past and I'm pretty sure that will go through for me. I've been trying to open up on what I'm inclined to read and ventured into westerns and I even picked up a couple of historical romance novels that were pretty interesting. I didn't know they were 'romance' at the time I began reading them and thought they were some pretty dirty novels in some spots, but once I was filled in on the fact they were also romance in addition to being historical fiction, I better understood.

Oh, upcoming books I'll be reviewing will include Potato Salad by Debbie Moose, Kids Fun and Healthy Cookbook (I'm excited about that one and I don't even have kids!), and the Autism and ADHD Diet.

Keeping this short, so that's all for now. I'll be back in February with more reviews and hopefully a new recipe or two for you guys.
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Monday, January 24, 2011

Cookbook Review: Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko

     This book review has been a long time coming. I received Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko back in August as a pre-release and have been holding onto it and thinking about it for quite a while.

I was not familiar with Boutenko's past with green smoothies and a raw lifestyle before I read this book. I thought it would be an interesting read, and I'm all for learning about new diet suggestions and the reasoning behind it. I do not buy into many of these prescribed “diets” because I truly believe that dietary habits should be part of your lifestyle, fitting in and complimenting your activity levels and personal needs.

That is another blog for another day...

Green for Life initially caught my interest because there are times when I crave greens as bad as I crave sweets! Lentil soup with tons of spinach and kale, kale chips, pureed spinach sauce over curried chickpeas and rice, and butter lettuce salads are some of the things I've been eating lately. I've been trying to find easier ways to get in larger quantities of greens in our meals and thought that this book would provide some ideas to grow from.

The book begins with a back story of her family and the medical problems they were plagued with, including hyperthyroidism, chronic rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue, arrhythmia, edema, asthma, allergies, depression, and diabetes. There is a triumphant turning point in which the author cries all night, dramatically changes the family's dietary intake, and they run a 10k three months later to celebrate their awesome health.

I have no doubt that this happened, but I do doubt that it was the raw and green foods that did that. I'm not saying that they hindered their progress to this point, either. What I would like to call attention to is the fact that any sort of dramatic beneficial change to your diet is going to have dramatic impact on your overall health. 

My main issue with the book is that I feel Boutenko is trying to sell her particular path or way of doing things without recognizing that there might be others out there that will not benefit from the suggestions as described. For instance, there is an entire section in the book devoted to testimonials from people who have gone on a 30 day green smoothie drinking 'cleanse' and had success. This section is followed by a question and answer session from other participants outlining their energy levels, elimination habits, and overall wellbeing before, during, and after the 30 day trial. This makes it feel a bit gimicky to me, but that's just one opinion.

The Amazon page has many 5 star reviews of people who are thrilled with the book and have adopted drinking their green smoothies everyday.

I did enjoy the book and the few recipes they did give, but what's wrong with just eating 4 kiwis and 2 bananas with a huge salad and a glass of water? Again, I'm sure that's just me.

I'd save your money on this book, or just browse through it at the store to get the general idea. I wish there was more emphasis on greens in addition to your already healthy-ish lifestyle, rather than pushing a green smoothie lifestyle that can fix all kinds of issues.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cookbook Review: The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley & Melissa Clark

     I recently came across The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen by Peter Berley & Melissa Clark while I was browsing Amazon and instantly added it to the wish list to buy it when my financial days are a bit sunnier. I knew I would love it from the reviews and the awards it has won. Thomas, the boyfriend, saw it on the wish list a couple of days later and got it for me as a late holiday gift from for much cheaper.

     Out of the roughly 400 pages worth of recipes, only about 55 to 60 of them are not useable by those with Celiac. And I love that! In fact, most of the recipes are vegan or can be quite easily made vegan. Again, I love that!

     The book comes with high reviews from Amazon users and the author's other books have also garnered high marks from readers. I can see why with such a useful, non-intimidating, and delicious array of recipes that are broken down by type and season. There are no pictures of the meals, a feature that I like as it does not give false expectations (or hope!) to struggling / aspiring chefs. The book does, however, feature zine-like illustrations that show particular preparation methods, mostly of dough preparation and vegetable chopping.

     The book is divided into sections – Soups & Stews; Seasonal Salads; Vegetables; Pasta, Whole Grains, Polenta, Risotto, & Porridge; Beans & Pulses; Tofu, Tempeh, & Seitan; Breads; Condiments & Sauces; Desserts; Seasonal Menus. Each of these sections is further divided into subcategories like seasons, hot or cold, side or main entree, and dips or spreads.

     I heartily recommend this cookbook to vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike. I have not had many chances to cook out of this book yet, but I've already tagged a couple recipes to try out and I'll be sure to let you know when I do. The ingredients are made up of basic items that someone who is living outside of a metropolitan hub can have a fairly easy time finding. A few of the ethnic ingredients might be more challenging to find, but 99% of the ingredients called for can be gotten on a basic trip to the grocery store making it quite practical.

     Another point I want to mention, although it has nothing to do with the quality or variety of recipes, is the layout of the book. It's quite a visual book despite the lack of photos. the typesetting is enjoyable and the layout makes it easy to keep your place when only half paying attention.
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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Cookbook Review: The Allergy-Free Cookbook by Eileen Yoder

     Eileen Yoder has serious experience dealing with food allergies. She states in the preface to her second edition of *The Allergy-Free Cookbook*, her family has five generations of known food allergies. Some allergies are the same for one or two people and other allergens vary. As you can imagine, this cookbook came about out of sheer necessity.

     Yoder's cookbook is laid out so that information you might be searching for is easy to locate. There are two parts to the book. Part one is planning. Here, a section on replacements for the common allergens such as eggs, milk, and soy can all be found in one place, a section for dealing with children and food allergies has its own chapter, and easy ways to start and maintain an allergy-free diet can be found in another place. Part two is the recipes and begins with menus and lots of tips with shortcuts and time savers. Part two ends with listings of foods and their families, a very handy chart for those who are allergic to whole families of foods such as nightshades or

     The only unexpected thing I noticed in *The Allergy-Free Cookbook* is that while the front cover states “How to avoid the 8 major food allergens and eat happily ever after”, some of the recipes include these very ingredients. I had assumed when I got the cookbook (which I got here, by the way) that all of the recipes would be free of these allergens.

     Its not a big deal at all, and the cookbook is still an invaluable resource that can save your sanity if you are trying to meal plan and avoid more than one or two food allergens.

     While not all of the recipes are gluten free, many are gluten free naturally or can be easily adapted. There does seem to be quite a few recipes that call for wheat, rye, oats or oat flour, and barley. While these grains are usually easy to substitute out with other grains or a gluten free oat in most of the recipes, there are a few recipes that might prove more challenging to convert than others.

Happy cooking!
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's A New Year!

     I really hope that everyone had a splendid holiday season and is now ready to get on with the business. It's seemed as though the majority of humanity took off for a three week vacation while a few of us common folk were left milling around work and home.

     My holiday was relaxing. I was able to see my family and exchange a few gifts with one another. That is more than I could have asked for, but I am ready to get back to the business part of the calendar year.

     This will be a big year for me - I can feel it! It is the year of the rabbit, after all. I do have a strange affinity towards rabbits being born in the last year of the rabbit and owning a pet rabbit.

     Enough of that superstition! Here's to a great year filled with less bills than last year, a full refrigerator, cherished memories, a clean kitchen, hot coffee and cold water, loving family, and more changes and challenges than I can keep up with!
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