Book Report: How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease


I have the privilege of holding this book in my hands. I absolutely LOVE the title of this book and the author, Dr. Michael Greger. He is one of my heroes – a doctor who is out there telling the truth, both on his site and now with this book which will be released on December 8th.

The title says it all – HOW NOT TO DIE – and it isn’t even that complicated. Through simple changes in diet and lifestyle, the vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented. Dr. Greger examines the top 15 causes of death in our country – heart disease, high blood pressure, cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and more. These diseases claim the lives of 1.6 million Americans annually and it does not have to be this way.

Dr. Greger doesn’t just say it – he backs it up – with peer-reviewed scientific evidence. He tells us what food to eat and what we need to do to live longer, healthier, drug free lives.

From simple things like adding flaxseed to prevent prostate cancer or drinking hibiscus tea to bring down blood pressure or eating soy to prolong survival of those battling breast cancer, Dr. Greger pulls no punches. Eating a whole foods, plant based diet is the key to not only preventing these diseases, but arresting and even reversing them.

Don’t you want to know what eat? How about Dr. Greger’s daily dozen – a checklist of the foods we should consume every day. I am not going to tell you what they are because you need to preorder this book right now! I would advise you to order a hard copy and not the Kindle version – it is too valuable a resource not to have at your fingertips for reference and you are going to want to lend it to everyone you love.

Book Report: Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine + Bonus Recipe!

COVER. Crossroads very hi res

Tis the season of vegan cookbooks! Today on the blog, it is Los Angeles based chef Tal Ronnen’s new book Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine which will be released next Tuesday, October 6th.

From the cover to the photos to the recipes, this is one spectacular book. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but…just look at those ravioli! And the top half – the white part where the title is written – has a kind of texture to it that says, “This is no ordinary cookbook. I am fancy and upscale.” I am a big fan of Chef Tal’s Kite Hill cheese (how many posts have I raved about it on here?!) and, since Crossroads is in LA and I am in NYC, I was really excited to get my copy to see what the buzz is all about.

The recipes in this book are super creative – masterfully turning vegetables into gorgeous, rich, cutting-edge dishes. Chef Tal is quick to point out that this book is not about vegan cooking, just cooking that happens to be vegan – elevating the vegetables, using fancy cooking techniques and ditching tofu and tempeh. Personally, I don’t understand why it is so important to make that point but let’s chalk it up to whatever it takes to bring people over to our side.

The recipes are a bit more involved and complex than how I typically cook. There are dishes with three or four separate recipes, but because there are no crazy ingredients – except for maybe black garlic – they are not that intimidating. And I am inspired to work with ingredients that I usually pass right by like cipollini onions.

But a few are super simple like Papas Arrugadas (Spanish wrinkled potatoes) and leek pâté. I made them both – they are easy and delicious. The potatoes are a Spanish tapas dish – potatoes boiled in a cup of Kosher salt and as Chef Tal promises, they come out tender and with a dusty coating that is amazingly not salty. They are really cute, too. They reminded of zeppoles! And the leek pâté is rich, decadent and delicious on crusty bread.

There are nine chapters in the book starting with snacks and spreads, salads and dressings, which can all be mixed, matched and adapted based on seasonal ingredients or whatever is on hand.

How about a whole chapter on flatbreads with innovative toppings like sweet corn puree and tomato pepper jam? And a chapter on small plates including one of the restaurant’s signature dishes Hearts of Palm Calamari. See recipe below!

And then there is a whole chapter on homemade pasta recipes – my fave food group – complete with a pasta tutorial. I have only made pasta once and so with this book, I plan to spend the winter perfecting it in my kitchen. And the book wraps with desserts, cocktails and basics, all of which have great ideas.

Overall, I will say that regardless of your kitchen skills or where you are at in your vegan journey, this is a great book to have on hand. It is creative, inventive and perfectly vegan.

116_Hearts of Palm Calamari with Cocktail Sauce and Lemon-Caper Aioli

Excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.

Hearts of Palm Calamari with Cocktail Sauce and Lemon-Caper Aïoli
Serves 4

Much of the Crossroads philosophy is about taking classic, familiar dishes and giving them new soul as plant-based renditions. Here hearts of palm are sliced into rounds that look like rings of calamari. They are lightly coated in a batter seasoned with Old Bay and nori seaweed and fried to golden perfection. The cooked palm rings look like calamari and taste like calamari, and if you tell your guests the dish is fried calamari, they’ll likely believe you.

The cashew cream for the batter needs to be prepared a day in advance, but all of the components can be made ahead of time, so frying and serving happen quickly. The cocktail sauce and lemon-caper aïoli are dipping sauces typically served with calamari. For an Italian spin, you could also serve Scoty’s Marinara Sauce.

After hollowing out the hearts of palm, you can cut up the unused centers and toss into a salad, such as the Melon Salad with Watercress and Oroblanco Vinaigrette.

1 cup Cashew Cream (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons filtered water
1 tablespoon toasted nori flakes, finely ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm (12), drained and rinsed
1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal or polenta
1 cup rice flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Expeller-pressed canola oil, for frying
Cocktail Sauce (recipe follows)
Lemon-Caper Aïoli (recipe follows)

1. To prepare the batter: Put the cashew cream in a bowl and add the water, ground nori, salt, and pepper. Stir the batter to combine; it should be smooth and not gloppy in the slightest. Set aside at room temperature to let the flavors meld while you prepare the hearts of palm.

2. To prepare the hearts of palm calamari: Trim both ends of each heart of palm to expose the center; this will make it easier to see and remove. Working from the narrow end, gently push out the insides of each cylinder, using your pinkie or a chopstick. Some pieces will be easier to gut than others—don’t worry if a few split. (Reserve the insides for another use—see the headnote.)

3. Using a paring knife, carefully cut each hollow spear into four 1-inch-wide rings. You should end up with about 48 pieces.

4. Add the hearts of palm to the cashew cream batter, gently turning the pieces over with your hands until thoroughly coated. Set aside.

5. Put the cornmeal in a food processor and process to a fine powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour, Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper, and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.

6. Using a slotted spoon, working in batches, scoop the hearts of palm from the batter, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, add to the cornmeal mixture, and toss with your hands until evenly coated on all sides. Transfer the breaded hearts of palm to a strainer set over a bowl, or work over the sink, and shake off the excess cornmeal. This is a key step to ensure that the cornmeal crust is light and not clumpy whatsoever. (All of this can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance. Arrange the breaded hearts of palm in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered. Allow the hearts of palm to come to room temperature before frying.)

7. To deep-fry the hearts of palm calamari: Heat 2 inches of oil to 325°F in a cast-iron skillet or heavy saucepan. Working in batches, add the hearts of palm to the hot oil and fry, carefully turning with tongs, until golden brown and crispy on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cooked pieces to a paper towel–lined platter to drain. Season the hearts lightly with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning while still hot.

8. Pile the hearts of palm on a large platter and serve with the cocktail sauce and lemon-caper aïoli for dipping.

Cashew Cream
Makes 3 cups

Cashew cream, made from soaking raw cashews and blending them with water, is an indispensable part of my vegan cooking. It stands in for heavy cream in a variety of ways—in the batter for Hearts of Palm Calamari and as a base for Spinach Cream Sauce among others. The cream is at its best when used for cooking; it thickens up even faster than heavy cream and adds richness. You will never miss dairy if you use cashew cream.

It’s essential to use raw cashews to make the cream; the raw nuts have little flavor of their own but provide a fatty creaminess. Roasted cashews taste too strong and won’t blend as well.

Making cashew cream requires planning ahead, since you have to soak the cashews for at least 12 hours. Use only filtered water; the impurities in tap water will add a grayish tinge to the final product. The cream keeps for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator, at room temperature, or in a large bowl of warm water. The cream will separate upon defrosting, so give it a whirl in a blender to re-emulsify.

2 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed
Filtered water

1. Put the cashews in a bowl and pour in enough cold filtered water to cover. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 1 day.

2. Drain the cashews in a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer the cashews to a blender, preferably a Vitamix, and pour in enough cold filtered water to cover them by 1 inch, about 3 cups. Blend on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until very smooth and creamy without any trace of graininess. The cashew cream should be smooth on the palate; add more water if necessary. If you’re not using a heavy-duty blender, you may need to strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of any grittiness.

3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It will thicken as it sits, so blend with ½ cup or so filtered water if needed to reach the desired consistency. It can also be frozen; see the headnote.

Makes 2 cups

1. To make thick cashew cream, reduce the amount of water in the blender so that it just covers the cashews, about 2 cups.

Cocktail Sauce
Makes 1 cup

This couldn’t-be-simpler cocktail sauce is so much better than store-bought, you will never buy bottled again.

1 cup organic ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or more if you like it hot
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard

1. Combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and Worcestershire in a small bowl. Gently whisk until well combined. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

The flavor of the cocktail sauce gets better as it sits, and it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Lemon-Caper Aïoli
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Aïoli is chef code for souped-up mayo. Try this as a dip with grilled artichokes or as a savory sandwich spread.

1 cup vegan mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, capers, and garlic in a small bowl and gently whisk until combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until the aïoli is thickened and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

2. The flavor of the aïoli gets better as it sits, and it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Stir in 1 tablespoon water or lemon juice to thin it if needed.

Excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones. (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.

Book Report: The Plant-Based Journey + Book Giveaway + Bonus Recipe!


My blog is today’s stop on the blog tour of the new book “The Plant-Based Journey” by Lani Muelrath. And today is also the official release date of the book. Exciting!

Designed to support people through making the transition to a vegan/plant-based lifestyle, this book is a great resource for even a seasoned vegan like me – it is full of clever strategies, the science to back it all up, inspiring stories and great recipe ideas.

Lani Muelrath is an award-winning teacher, author, speaker, plant-based, active, mindful living expert. She is certified in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University (I am too!) and has served as presenter and consultant for both the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Complete Health Improvement Project. She has written several books but more importantly, she has lived this life – for more than 40 years – and has coached thousands of others in their transition to plant filled lives.

Part therapist, part coach, part trainer and part chef, this book takes us through the concept of living a plant-based. It starts with the awakening – making the plant-based connection, all the reasons not to eat animal protein or drink milk (ugh!), and models for change. Then comes setting the stage for success – a description of what being plant-based is, what a plant-based meal looks like, how to satisfy hunger, and what you need to do to fix your kitchen and pantry. Then comes actually making the switch and sticking to it by creating systems for success. Then the book turns to taking the lifestyle on the road and dealing with work, restaurants and what Lani calls “food pushers” which is a nice way of saying people who can’t deal with the fact that we don’t eat what they do and want to try to force us to eat their way which is to say the SAD way (Standard American Diet.)

Even with all of that info, I still wanted to ask Lani a few questions directly.

LPV: Why did you include a lot of case studies in the book?

LM: There are many kinds of personal stories in the book that are inspiring because they show us what people have overcome – as simple a thing as changing what is on their plate. All the examples from people’s personal transitions are deeply instructive because they use one of the most powerful teaching tools of all – modeling!

LPV: All of the tips you offer are fantastic, but if you had to boil it down to just one, what would it be?

LM: I am thrilled to see that an overwhelming response from those who already have a copy of The Plant-Based Journey is the overwhelming sense of relief and empowerment people feel. Instead of being overwhelmed by “don’t do,” they are telling me they feel a surge in “can do!” As a teacher and coach, this is high marks!

So to answer your question, start where you are and begin to incorporate more of what you want in your life—in food, fitness, and frame of mind. Remember that you are a project in the works—and will be for the rest of your life—and be specific about small changes—I call them micro changes—that you can make to move in the direction you want to go. Some people can manage several micro changes at once, some only one at a time.

And, respect the stages of the adventure! The five steps in Journey are universal to everyone who has experienced sustainable success on this transition. And that’s what I am interested in—sustainable change. And I think most people are too.

LPV: I love the recipes in the book. The portobello pot roast, which was reviewed on A Virtual Vegan’s site as part of this blog tour, a version of which has already happened in my kitchen, was especially inspirational, a definite crowd pleaser as you call it. But you also present a really great idea – recipe templates – a recipe with several easy variations. Sort of like a no recipe recipe which is how I like to cook! What was your rationale behind them?

LM: Thank you! I put the templates in as a practical tool for people to prepare plant-based meals in a simple fashion—plus it’s how I cook! The templates are pulled from my kitchen. One of the stumbling blocks to getting started is that people feel they have to learn fancy recipes and a long list of unfamiliar and strange foods. I want to blow that one out of the water by showing how easy it is to simply get more plants on your plate.

With permission from the publisher, I am posting one of the templates right here.

Bean Spread Template
Yield: About 1 cup
Bean spreads make quick and easy sandwich fillings, an irresistible dip for vegetables or baked chips, or, thinned with vinegar, a delicious dressing for salads, whole grains, or starchy vegetables.

1 (15-ounce) can chickpea, pinto or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (about 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon seed or nut butter or ¼ cup pitted olives
1 1/2 teaspoons seasonings, to taste (ex: cumin, paprika, chipotle)
2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon mild yellow miso or salt or 1/2 teaspoon tamari
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons water, as needed

Place the ingredients except for the water in a food processor or blender. Process, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time, to the desired texture (chunky or smooth).

Note: For a lower-fat version, eliminate the nut butter/olives; for a richer version, add more. Adjust the lemon/lime juice and garlic to taste. This goes fast, so I usually double the recipe.

Do you want this insightful, inspiring, and well organized book?

Write to me at l i s a s p r o j e c t v e g a n @ g m a i l . c o m by the end of the day and tell me why you should be the owner of this book!

I only have ONE book to give away!

Please include your mailing address (U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only.)


How to Skin Tomatoes

IMG_9599IMG_9602I’ve been loving all of the fresh tomatoes from the garden and farmer’s market this summer. And, I found a great method for skinning tomatoes in the NY Times. I prefer this method of getting the skins off vs. the scoring/blanching. It’s super easy – grate the tomatoes on the box grater! This method yields the perfect “crushed tomato” texture that I like to use to make tomato sauce.


Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. You can squeeze out the seeds if you like but I prefer to have them in the mix. Press the cut side of the tomato against the large holes of a box grater and grate the tomato flesh into a bowl. Discard the skins.

Depending on the kind of tomatoes you use, you will get varying amounts. Pour into a measuring cup to see how much you got.

Make a batch of homemade tomato sauce right away. Adjust your sauce recipe for your yield. Then, use the sauce right away, store it in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze it for delicious fresh tomato sauce in the middle of winter. Enjoy!


The Best Way to Keep Kale & Some Great Tips for Reducing Food Waste


I have been all about kale lately which is a total about face. As a super taster, I found kale tough to take but since my juice cleanse, my palette has adjusted and I am buying bunches of kale every few days.

I cut the very bottoms of the stems off, place the kale in a jar of water and keep it in the refrigerator. If it starts looking wilted, I cut a little more off the bottoms and wait a day. The kale livens right back up.

And speaking of how to preserve food, an article appeared in The New York Times this week all about how to reduce food waste. I cut, pasted, and edited the section on produce which has some great ideas, some of which I am already doing and some of which I am going to start doing ASAP like mashing ripe avocados with a little lime juice and freezing them for an instant guacamole base.

  • Give vegetables some space. A crowded vegetable crisper is soon a rotten one. Allow air to circulate. Most vegetables are best left in plastic bags that are open and punched with holes.
  • Leave onions and potatoes in a cabinet or pantry, alone in the dark, away from other vegetables and each other.
  • Wrap lettuce and cucumbers well in paper towels and refrigerate in plastic bags. For best results, wrap cucumbers individually.
  • Rinse herbs lightly, roll them in paper towels and refrigerate in a plastic bag with the top left open. Or trim the ends off a bunch, put it in a glass of water like a bouquet, and cover with a plastic bag.
  • Sauté lettuce that has begun to wilt in olive oil and season with garlic or shallot.
  • Make chocolate pudding or mousse with overripe avocados. Or mash them with a little lime juice and freeze for an instant guacamole base. Or blend with spinach or basil, olive oil and herbs to make a sauce for pasta. Or add to salad dressing and purée for a thicker emulsion.
  • Keep the stems from cilantro or parsley, along with celery leaves, onion peels, mushroom stems and the like in a bag or bowl in the refrigerator or freezer. When you have enough, simmer into a stock for risotto or soup.
  • Toss berries and peeled brown bananas (cut into chunks) in a bag in the freezer for smoothies.
  • Keep lemons in the fridge. Wrap zested lemons in plastic, and keep extra lemon halves cut side down in a bowl or on a plate to be used for salad dressings. They can also be preserved or cooked down to a quick marmalade.
  • Throw woody stems, like rosemary, thyme, and savory into a roasting pan with root vegetables or when baking tofu.
  • Steep mint for tea.
  • Purée herbs and olive oil and freeze in plastic bags or ice cube trays. Use as the base for pesto or other herb sauces. Do the same with water. Or try these flavor bombs from Amanda Cohen of Dirt Candy.
  • Resprout scallions by using the green parts, then taking the white bulbs and putting them in a jar of water. Replenish the water regularly.
  • Hang sturdy herbs upside down to dry. Use as you would any store-bought dried herb.

Have fun!