Sunday, November 25, 2012

Knowledge addicts: Plant love is growing all around....all around...all around.

Plant-based diets are on a rise!   How happy does this make me?  Thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis happy!

The current social discourse surrounding plant-based diets has not only been more positive but has been more readily embraced than in previous years.  You can actually see the effect it is currently having on our culture.  Restaurants are now offering vegetarian and vegan options regularly on their menus,  supermarkets are filled with a great variety of non-dairy and meatless products and the percentages of vegetarians/vegans is increasing noticeably.

In recent years, there have been more research studies providing evidence supporting the deleterious effects of consuming large amounts of animals products.  This is completely understandable as the consumption of animal products is at its height in our current day.  I highlighted the most recent of the these studies in my Harvard Meat Study post but research has been confirming this effect way before 2012.

In a 2008 Press Release from the University of California (UCSD to be exact.....big up to my school!), researchers led by Dr. Ajit Varki, discovered a new mechanism linking the consumption of animal products to an increased risk for cancerous tumors.  It appears that tumor cells contain higher concentrations of a sugar molecule called Neu5Gc than compared to healthy cells that may be beneficial to the growth of the tumors.  The sugar molecule is not naturally produced in the body and is taken up into tissue after eating meat    Due to the foreign nature of the molecule, the body recognizes it as an invader and initiates an inflammatory response.  It is now understood that an underlining factor for increased cancer risk, as well as many other chronic diseases, is inflammation.  Because I'm a knowledge addict and in love with science, I was hecka excited to read about this in the full article (and it's free, Yeaaaah baby!) but this press release breaks it down nicely for my non-scientifically excited people.   :)

Photo Credit: Boston University

It has become pretty clear that if we continue business as usual in regards to meat production and some agricultural practices, we will not be able to sustain ourselves in the future.  This a really critical point.  In an article by The Guardian, it details the projected water shortage that will soon be inevitable if the current level of meat production is not reduced.  A quote from the Stockholm International Water Institute states:

"There will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations."

They then propose a possible solution to this predicament.

"Adopting a vegetarian diet is one option to increase the amount of water available to grow more food in an increasingly climate-erratic world, the scientists said. Animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet. One third of the world's arable land is used to grow crops to feed animals."

Other options proposed include elimination of waste and increasing the trade interactions between countries with excess and countries that lack essential resources.  Editor Anders Jägerskog sums it up nicely, "We will need a new recipe to feed the world in the future." And I think that recipe has a whole lot of greens in it.

So what do people do with this information?

They read some more, critically analyze the information, and alter their behavior.  There has been a rapidly increasing amount of such behavior alteration in recent years and numbers are continuing to grow.  In a recent July article in US News Health titled Me, Give up Meat? Vegan Diets Surging in Popularity, plant-based diets were rated as one of the top "best diet plans overall" according to the US News's ratings.  The article details the rising popularity across the country, notable figures who have made the change, advocates promoting the diet, the research that backs it up and the numerous benefits one can experience after the switch.  So what's the overarching theme here? Eat the, orange, turqouise, fuschia, burnt orange, beige, periwinkle, blue violet, cornflower, sepia and everything in between.  I absolutely believe plant-based without animal products is the best but everyone has to live in a way that works for them.  Just get the plants in darlings, that's all I ask.  As stated in the article:

"Healthful diets fall on a continuum, and most nutritionists would agree that veganism is far superior to the typical American regimen. But the healthful choices that work best for you are the ones that actually work for you."

Not only are plant-based diets on a rise in the general population but they are becoming more mainstream.  The culinary culture is experiencing a shift and no where is this more profound than in California, the leader of states in progressive movements. In a September NYTimes article, author Jeff Gordinier writes:

"....the surging popularity of plant-based diets is drastically changing the dining landscape. That shift is under way in various cities around the world, but it’s happening in an explosive way in and around Los Angeles"

Celebrities and public figures are playing a large role in pushing these changes forward.  I apologize but I am going to be a rando and insert a partially random thought right here as it came to my mind...Chrisette Michelle just recently caught the plant love bug: Read all about it.  Bangin'!...We will now return to our regular program...Their influence is having a noticeable effect.  For example, Ellen Degeneres and President Bill Clinton, have been mentioned in interviews and tweets as sources of inspiration that helped others to make the change.  Ellen was easily able to have a vegan counterpart of a menu item added to the regular menu at a restaurant just by asking.  A quote from the article says: 

"Not long ago, Ms. DeGeneres asked Mr. Susser if he would try a vegan spin on chicken parmigiana. The dish appeared on the menu in September, with a patty of Gardein, a protein substitute, standing in for chicken. “I’m willing to do anything,” said Mr. Susser, something of an expert in celebrity relations. “I want them here, and I want them happy."   

Obviously, Ellen is a gansta and I am so glad that she and others are using their power to promote the necessary education about healthy living.  Progress is being made as we march to the land of the free and the home of the healthy.  So that is all well and good but what if you are like me and need to see data or information for yourself rather than looking to celebrities for guidance.  Is this diet really reasonable?  I totally understand and that's why I looked up the position of the American Dietetic Association.  Who would have better advice than the government-affiliate that sets the dietary guidelines?  Here is their stance on the issue:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.

I bolded and italicized for just a little emphasis :) And there you have it, my people! Plant based diets are appropriate, beneficial, plausible and sustainable ways of living life to the full.  All I can say is I'm living the good life! Come join me. 

Thank you for reading! My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be healthy and happy. Ciao!

Monday, November 19, 2012

This Thanksgiving, I've got you absolutely covered!

Thank God for Twitter and fit finger muscles!  All of last week I was scoping the twitter feed for Bangin' Bird Food Thanksgiving recipes and my my myyyyyy look what we have here.  Listen, no worries, no stress.  I gotchu!  There are so many recipes to choose from that I might have actually made this challenge harder for you.  I'll try my best to give you an overview of each so that you can quickly round up your favorites and get it crackin' in the kitchen!  It's gonna be a beautiful and bangin' holiday! 

Photo Credit: Hdwallpapes

Option # 1:  Lunch Box Bunch Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes for 2012.
This one has a HUGE variety!!!  It includes, appetizers, entrees, sides, soups, salads, beverages and even breakfasts.  If you are looking to throw down for a crowd of bangin' bird food eaters, this is the one for you.  These recipes are absolutely approved for NON-bangin' bird food eaters as well.  Share the plant love!  Here is a spread I would try using just a few of the recipes featured and assuming I was feeding the boatload of people in my family: 

Beverage: Ginger Juice Shooters
Entree 1: Toasty Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters
Entree 2: BBQ Hasselback Tofu
Side 1: Baked Vegan Sweet Potatoes
Side 2: Vegan Mac and Cheeze
Side 3: Vegan Stuffing
Dessert 1:  Chocolate Epiphany
Dessert 2:   Peanut Butter Cheesecake
Salad/Veggies 1: Fully Loaded Kale Salad
Salas/Veggies 2: Roasted Beet Salad

Check out the rest here.

Photo Credit: SHAPE Magazine

Option #2:  SHAPE Magazine Veganizes Thanksgiving
I was too excited to see SHAPE magazine feature a whole spread on veganized Thanksgiving dishes.  The word is really getting out and plant-based diets are seriously growing in popularity.  It's just a beautiful thing.  If you are looking for some simple but delicious sides and lighter recipes, this might work for you.  This has sides, salads and appetizers and they look pretty-fool proof, perfect for stress-free Thanksgiving cooking.

Photo Credit: FOK

Option #3: A Happy Herbivore Thanksgiving
Forks Over Knives has been featuring plant-filled Thanksgiving Spreads since last year after the documentary was released.  They were so forward thinking knowing Thanksgiving had the potential to be a serious challenge for folks recently switching to the new plant life.  This is great option if you are cooking for smaller amounts of people. Here is one by the author of Happy Herbivore, Lindsay Nixon.  Here's the line-up:

  • Butternut Soup
  • Hippie Loaf
  • Thanksgiving Gravy
  • Dirty Mashed Potatoes
  • Harvest Cornbread
  • Dijon-herbed Green Beans
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Photo Credit: FOK

Option #4:  Plant-Based Thanksgiving by Chef Del Sroufe
Here is another spread by FOK's from Chef Del Sroufe.  Dude has skills and is the author of the Forks Over Knives Cookbook that accompanies the documentary.  He is also the owner of a plant-based catering service in Columbus, Ohio that's going strong.  Do your thing Del Sroufe!  This is another great option if you are cooking smaller amounts of people.  Here are the featured recipes:

  • Chestnut Soup
  • Autumn Mixed Greens Salad
  • Cranberry Orange Biscotti
  • Delicata Squash Boats with Cauliflower Bechamel
  • Cauliflower Bechamel
  • Whole Grain Vegan Stuffing with Pecans and Currants
  • No Bake Cranberry Pear Tart

Photo Credit: FOK

Option #5: Thanksgiving with the Plant-Based Dietitian
This is the third one from FOK.   This spread came from the woman known as the Plant-Based Dietitian, Julieanna Hever.  She has such a bubbly and fun personality and I expect that her dishes will be just the same.  This is also great for even smaller parties.  Here is what she offered for last year's Thanksgiving:

  • Fall Harvest Chowder
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash
  • Tempeh Italiano
  • Kale Salad with Maple Mustard Dressing
  • Berry Apple Relish
  • Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Option #6: A Holiday Menu with the Chef and the Dietitian
Here is spread from the Plant-Based Dietition, once again, but now she's part of a power duo with vegan chef, Chef AJ.   The recipes look soooo incredibly delicious and hearty.  This is great for a small party as well.  Here is what they have:

  • Hearty Lentil Loaf
  • Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes
  • I Can't Believe It's Not Tuna Pate
  • Spinach Waldorf
  • Reduce Fat Hail To The Kale Dressing
  • Almost Instant Pumpkin Pudding
  • Holiday Nog
  • Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts

Photo Credit: VegNews

Option #7:  VegNews Magazine Vegan Thanksgiving Sides
If you have your main dishes already set and you're just looking for sides and a dessert to seal the deal, check out these recipes from three master vegan cooks, Nava Atlas, Allyson Kramer and Ayinde Howell and dessert by Betsy DiJulio.  It looks pretty promising that there probably won't be any remnants of these dishes at the end of the night.  Here they are:

  • Cornmeal Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Coconut Butternut Squash Soup (My sister just made her own version of this yesterday.  Speechless.  Sooo good!)
  • Herbed Creamed Collards
  • A decadent Flourless Cake with Whipped Cream

Photo Credit: Pinterst

Option #8: Holiday Favorites from VegNews
Our next option is coming once again from VegNews. You have so much to choose from with this one.  The fact that they are holiday favorites also gives them a higher rating on the full-proof scale.  I would suggest these for a first-time plant-filled Thanksgiving. 

Option #9:  Vegan Thanksgiving with the Sweetest Vegan
Here are some recipes from the southern belle known as the Sweetest Vegan.  She has the chirpiest personality and makes a cooking show good entertainment and really fun.  I'm actually cracking up most of the time I'm watching the show. Check out the link to her Vegan Thanksgiving playlist.

My people, I hope I was able to make your Thanksgiving a little more easy, exciting and just plain delicious. It doesn't even matter if you eat bangin' bird food all day or just once in a while, all of these recipes are table worthy and will make your Thanksgiving happy and healthy.  

Thank you for reading! My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Have the most bangin' Thanksgiving. Ciao!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grilled Eggplant Panini

This is so easy your pet ants could do it!  I mean some folk are into that.  :)  I love eggplant when it's made right and one of the most right ways it can be made is GRILLED and in a PANINI.  Without fail, this is a delicious invention every single time.  

Let's do this:

Two slices of Good Quality Whole Wheat Bread (You know, the ones that actually have a reasonable amount of fiber...reject all those that have only 1 or 2 grams/serving.  5 grams per serving is where you want to be )
Slices of Tomato
Pieces of Lettuce/Spinach
Slices of Avocado (Optional)
Slices of Cucumber (Optional)
Hummus (serves as the mayo)
2-3 (1/2 - 1 inch) slices of eggplant
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 teaspoon of oregano
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Pinch of Black or Cayenne Pepper (if desired)

Finely mince garlic and add to a small bowl with olive oil, salt, oregano and pepper and mix. Heat grill (I use George Foreman). Place garlic-oil mixture on both sides of the eggplant slices. I usually leave the eggplant to marinate overnight which allows for amazing flavor. Allow eggplant to grill for 3-5 minutes for each side.  Note: Eggplant is a very delicate vegetable, so you don't want to cook it for too long or you will end up with a grilled rubber panini.    Prepare  the sandwich by adding in this order if you like: hummus, spinach/lettuce, tomato slices, grilled eggplant and avocado/cucumber. Combine the two slices and place back on the George Forman for 2-3 minutes or until brown grill marks are seen on the bread. Cut in half.  Enjoy!! 

Thank you for reading! My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be healthy and happy. Ciao!

Collard Pasta

My happiness is linked to the things that I like, plain and simple.  Firstly, I like collards raw but I also liked them cooked.  Secondly, I like simple and fresh dishes from time to time. They showcase the flavor of the food in its purity which means just a hint of seasoning to accent the already wonderful flavor of the vegetables.  Random note: My friends in high school would constantly make fun of my accent when I pronounced this word.  I guess that's what happens when you try to pronounce words correctly.  Such is my sass and such is life.  :)  Thirdly, I love whole wheat pasta.  It's nutty and textured which pretty much characterizes most of the foods I love.  I don't eat it all the time but when I do, it's pure love.  So what do I get when I combine all three loves?  A happy meal! gotta embrace the inner cornball sometimes!  

Let's do this:

1 tomato
1/2 onion
3-4 collard leaves
1-2 rosemary twigs
4-5 garlic cloves
1/4 sweet red bell pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup of water
1 tsp each salt and pepper
cooked whole wheat pasta

Chop all the base ingredients for your light sauce.  The onions, tomato and garlic are the main sources of flavor and thus make your base.

Thinly slice the collards and julienne the sweet pepper.

Saute onions, tomato and garlic in olive oil with garlic powder, salt and pepper for 5 mins.  Add water and let simmer for 5 mins.  Add sprigs of rosemary, collards and sweet peppers and cook for 2-3 mins. 

Add pasta and toss in sauce until coated.


Thank you for reading! My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be healthy and happy. Ciao!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Salsa Salad with Tofu Croutons

McDonald's Chicken Salad (and any other salad) Ain't Got Nothing on Me!

Ok, Denzel's long lost daughter, what's got you so hype?  

This salad was another wonderful accident that happened last week.  Wonderful accidents are the best ways to develop new recipes.  I love the adventure because it is all about trying and discovering new things!  So my sis and I usually have a big cooking extravaganza on Sundays before the week starts.  This way we get cooking out of the way and have delicious meals at our disposal.  Sometimes I just don't have the time to cook every day and that's fine because life happens so I respond to that by planning ahead.  My sister is an absolute master at making salsa and guacamole.  Anytime I want salsa or guac, I just put in my order because I don't know what happens to my hands when I try.  Absolute fail......too sour, not enough flavor, too much salt, etc.  And that's why you have family!  :)  So in prepping lunch for school the next day, I decided I wanted a big salad with spinach, my favorite leaf, lettuce, tomato, red onions and purple cabbage.  I gotta tell you.  I can really get down in some raw purple cabbage.  The other day was enjoying my share in the kitchen and made the goodness of the cabbage audibly known.  I bursted out, "Man, I do loooove me some purple cabbage".    My sister confused as to what was going on was like, "Um, those aren't chicken wings".   Just disrespect.  See, sometimes folk just don't understand.  Anywhos, there was some leftover salsa in the fridge and I just finished up making the salad and didn't have time to make a creamy ranch salad dressing so I thought to myself,  "What if I use the salsa?"  I actually got the idea from a nutrition elective I was currently taking.  And I knew I wanted to eat some of the leftover pan-seared tofu my sister made with it.  And here's what I got:

14-16 oz block of tofu (I use a Trader Joe's brand)
1 tbsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp olive oil (for cooking)

*Salsa (party serving):
5 tomatoes
1 cup of red or white onions
1/2 cup of cilantro
2 freshly squeezed limes
salt and pepper to taste
Mix together

Purple Cabbage
Red Onions

Place tofu between to thick sheets of paper towel or a clean cloth and press out as much liquid as possible while keeping the shape intact.  Cut tofu into 1/2 slices and season.  Cook the tofu on medium-high heat in a skillet until sides have browned.  Prep salad vegetables.  Chop and combine all veggies for the salsa, add your lime juice, salt and pepper and mix.  I would suggest letting the salsa sit for a night so the flavors can really come together.  Throw everything together.  Enjoy!

*Recipe courtesy of my sister

Thank you for reading! My people, I appreciate you all so much. Be healthy and happy. Ciao!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Word's Still Getting Out (One)

The word is continuing to spread and more people are starting to think about how to better care for their bodies.  Many may say that this is just a Hollywood trend.  I can understand that.  You know once someone in Hollywood starts something others are soon bound to follow even if it doesn't seem to be the most logical thing to do.  Being vegetarian/vegan is just the new thing, right?
Uh uh uuuh.  I don't think so.  These are real folks making real changes.  

It seems that every individual who has decided to add more green goodness to their lives has done so primarily for the health benefits if not solely.  The benefits are supported by research, statistical data, dietary guidelinesmere observations and anecdotes.  From Rosie O'Donell to Chaka Khan, the Word's Getting Out!

Rosie O'Donell recently revealed her shift to bangin' bird food life.  She tweeted earlier this summer in August of her nine pound weight loss just nine-days into her new diet.  This change was in response to Ms. O'Donnell suffering from a heart attack known as the widow-maker (being in med school gives me the great privilege of knowing exactly which artery has been blessed with that name).  Her left descending artery (there's the answer!) was 99% blocked!  Poor babe!  I'm so glad that she immediately took action to take back her health.  Read more about it here.

You know I had to choose this one! 

Chaka Khan recently decided to adopt a bangin' bird food lifestyle after being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes.  She gave all the details in this HuffPost article earlier this year.  In response to a question about her weight loss, she describes exactly why she made the shift:  

             "My weight loss had to occur, because I was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes and I also had high blood pressure. And I’ve been on medication for that since last year until the beginning of this year. And I ended up going, “Oh, no, no, no, no, this is enough. I can’t live like this.” And I have a new little daughter to raise [my granddaughter], I adopted her so I have to be here. ... [She] was really my first and major influence to lose weight and get healthy so I can be here for her. What I did was stopped eating and went on a strict unconditional fast for a couple of months. And went off meat, became vegan, stopped all the dairy, stopped all the meat."

I was actually surprised by this next person.  Gimme a sec.  Let me just call up Ludacris so that I can pronounce this name right.  "You make me wanna leave the one I'm with and start a new relationship with you, this is what you do".   Urrrrshher (Thanks Luda!) was quite obviously talking about banging bird food!  C'mon nowww.  RadarOnline was the first to report this new life change and detailed that Usher was even encouraging his protege, Justin Beiber, to give it a try!  Encouraging the young ones.....I support!

The hilarious comedian Ben Stiller is another newbie to the bangin' bird food life.  He recently announced on Conan that he made some recent dietary changes which included adopting, for the most part, a plant-filled lifestyle and dropping coffee.  He's not as excited as I am about this life but he made the change for a reason, right?  Plus, I aim to be an unbiased reporter.  Facts are facts and opinions are opinions.  For some, it a can be a little more difficult to make the change.  I found the video in an article about World Vegetarian Day 2012

Fran Dresher in a recent article attributed her new figure, new found energy and clear skin to dropping alcohol and picking up the plants.  She said, "And so I cut out that went and I became gluten-free and vegan."  

Looks like the word is still getting out and that this Hollywood trend may end up not being a trend after all.  

Thank you for reading.  My people, I appreciate you all so much.  Be healthy and happy.  Ciao!