Thursday, February 25, 2010

Best Vegan Chili


Full Discloser: This recipe is lifted and modified a wee bit. The original vegetarian reipe I was drawn to sounded amazing. But, because I was making it for my best friend's husband, who is an incredible trooper, but no where near ready to switch to veggies, I tried to "beef," it up a bit. Pun is absolutely intended!

I'm going to copy the recipe with my changes...so you can compare. I will tell you, even with my variations, it turned out amazing. Ok, my main "victim" did his best, but could probably only get through 3/4 of a fairly large bowl. Wendy and I licked our bowls clean. We both added guacamole and tortilla chips. It really was amazing.

Tip: I truly believe roasting the corn until it's a wee bit toasted gives a whole different layer of flavor.

Vegan Chili, Emeril Style
serves 6-8

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 chopped cloves of garlic
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely
1 medium zucchini, pealed and diced
2 cups fresh (or frozen) corn kernels, toasted on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes on 350-400, or until golden
1 pound portobello mushrooms, stemmed, wiped clean and cubed
1 package Lightlife Gimme Lean Ground Beef Style
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespooon ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 cup vegetable stock, or water

Garnish
Fresh cilantro leaves
Tofutti sour cream
Guacamole
Chopped green onions
Tortilla chips
Black and/or green olives
Directions

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the "meat," and break up with the back of your wooden spoon. It may take about 10-15 minutes to brown. Next add the garlic and onions. When they start to turn opaque, add bell peppers, and jalapenos. Cook until soft; about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring, until soft and the vegetables give off their liquid and start to brown around the edges, about 6 minutes. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and stir well. Add tomato sauce, and vegetable stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.

Taste for seasoning. I added a bit of Louisiana hot sauce, but was thinking the Chipotle Tobasco would be great too.

You can definitely serve this over rice or maccaroni, but I love it over crunched up tortillas. Now you have something to do with the broken chips at the bottom of the bag. Put a big ladel of chile, then put all the goodies on top. I felt bad for my friend's husband (he is also my friend, FYI) but more for us!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Face Lift

How great is my new blog design? I hope it's a little cleaner, and more interesting. Wish I could take the credit, but it's all the work of Jessica Nell Graves at Front Porch Studio. There is still a little work to be done with the links, but I'll try to get my part done ASAP. I'm in Mississippi this week, but will give it all my attention this weekend. I also have yummy things to report on my week.

Please let me know what you think? And thanks for reading!

Salad with C


On my drive from Jackson, Mississippi to the coast yesterday, I couldn't help stopping at a roadside fruit stand. Memories of spending summer mornings, with itchy hands, after picking squash and okra for my cousin's vegetable stand flashed in my brain. I remember the wonderful smell of tomato leaves in the summer. And in the autumn and winter, I remember my hands hurting from picking late fruit. I also remember the occassional burr from a cotton plant. Ouch.

So, I decided to incorporate some wintery fruits into my salad, for a double dose of much needed vitamin C. With my travel schedule, vitamin C is always a good bet. This salad creation includes satsumas and persimmons. If you've never ventured to try these lovely, southern fruits, I encourage you to give them a try. Both can be found at groceries, this time of year, or at southern roadside stands.

Satsuma and Persimmon Salad with Traditional Vinaigrette
serves 4-6

Dressing

1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped or pressed
2 packets Truvia (or other Stevia product)
salt & pepper
1/8 cup of olive or walnut oil
1/2 cup canola oil

Mix first 4 ingredients together and whisk well. Taste for salt and pepper. When seasoning is right use hand mixer, blender or just shake in a jar, adding oil in bits, or in a stream. I use a hand mixer (couldn't live without it) and drizzle the oil in as slow as I can. You want the dressing to be emulsified, and a bit creamy.

Salad

1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped roughly
10 cups well washed spinach, torn in bite-sized pieces
2 fuyu persimmons, peeled and wedged
2 satsuma, sectioned, and free of seed and white bits
2 cups bitter greens, torn into bits (I love radicchio, but see list below)

Make dressing ahead of time and let chill. Tear up greens, add fruit, then dress at the last minute and toss in toasted nuts. This is also really good with smoked tempeh tossed in, if you want to make it into a great meal. As I write this, I'm thiking it would be great with a gardein "breast." Between the calcium, C, good fats and crazy flavor combos, you're going to really like this one.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time to Move the Furniture



In yoga we have a concept called “vairagya,” which is most easily defined as renunciation (another good Catholic word!). That word sounds pretty radical to me, as I’m not one to embrace changes too eagerly. I apply “vairagya” to changing your diet, not to suggest anyone do anything terribly radical, but rather “rearrange furniture.” Example: When you rearrange your furniture, or maybe move into a new home, it may feel a bit uncomfortable at first? You may stub your toe when getting up for water in the middle of the night? That’s what I’m talking about.

I had a delightful conversation with a friend last evening, who is ready to jump back into the work-world, after spending a few years taking care of her new baby. This isn’t the greatest time to be looking for a new career, but I believe it’s possible if you’re willing to shift your plan around. This is both exciting and a little scary.

When our conversation shifted to my diet, I told her about the 21-Day Vegan Kickoff, and she presented many of the same obstacles I’ve listed previously. Basically, it isn’t comfortable. She’s not sure what to cook that everyone will eat. She doesn’t know what is quick and easy, and won’t require all new food.

I have tried to offer really flavorful, quick recipes throughout the blog, and links to other creative cooks who give yummy ideas and recipes. I’ve found a few today that I’m convinced most people will adore, and I’m trying to come up with a list of kid favorites. But, I’m sure there will be a few stubbed toes. I encourage you to shake it off and keep walking. 21 days is not a huge commitment, and you may spend the 22nd day at Hot Doug’s, gorging on 5 hot dogs and duck-fat fries. But I’m going to bet you won’t.

For a decent part of my career, moving furniture around and reinventing people’s intimate spaces has been my job. There have been many occasions where they walk into their new space and have an expression that shows completely conflicting emotions. I expect that. But, after about a month, the newness wears off and they are home. And their perception about who they are evolves. If I’ve done my job, they feel more organized, and clear and peaceful and attractive. I try to make their environments reflect, in a harmonious way, who they really are.

I believe your diet should also reflect who you really are, and though I’m not a professional chef or nutritionist or doctor, I do LOVE some food. So, I’d like to help you rearrange your diet. Hope that makes sense.

Eggplant Spread
(makes 2 cups)

1 large eggplant
2 cloves garlic
2 lemons
1 large red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
Lettuce leaves, if you like lettuce on your sandwich (I sub radish sprouts when available)
Roasted tomatoes, packed in olive oil
Pita bread (or a yummy, soft baguette)

Preheat oven to 400. Prick the eggplant all over with a fork. Wrap it in aluminum foil and place in the oven, directly on the rack. Flip eggplant over about every 15 minutes, for about 45 minutes. When eggplant is cooked, take out, unwrap and slice in half, lengthwise. Set aside to cool.

While eggplant is cooking press garlic in a glass bowl, and add 4 Tbsp. of lemon juice. Either roast the red bell pepper on the stove-top flame (if you have a gas burner) or under the broiler. Char all the outer skin of the pepper, then place in a plastic bag to sweat. After pepper cools you’ll be able to roll off the skin, clean out the seeds and stem, then chop the soft flesh.

Scoop out the interior of your eggplant and mix with the chopped red pepper and mash together with garlic, olive oil and salt. I like to put mine in the food processor, but other folks like theirs chunky. Either way is great.

Layer eggplant spread with all the other goodies, into a sandwich.

Every 3 oz. serving of this spread has about 40 cal. and .7 grams of protein. This is also really good on pita chips or cucumbers. So easy and yummy!


Chickpea & Potato Salad (serves 4-6)

This is great as a main dish, paired with some kind of fruit salad or a soup. Or, the spread above, paired with veggies to dip.

3 cups potatoes, diced (I’ve used Yukon gold & sweet potatoes. Would be great to mix)
¼ onion, chopped (I actually don’t like raw onion, so use a little chive)
3 cups cut green beans (you could used canned, but I either get frozen or fresh and zap them in the microwave)
1 16 oz. can chickpeas
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup mango dressing (or other vegan dressing that is kind of creamy. I’ll add the recipe for this)
Salt and pepper

In a pan, boil the potatoes in salted water, until tender. Drain and place in a large bowl. Ether microwave green beans, or cook on stovetop until tender. Drain and add to potatoes. Add chopped celery, and then drain chickpeas and dump in bowl.

When everything is cool, add dressing. This is great if you let it sit in the fridge overnight, or at least a few hours.

An 8oz. serving has about 160 calories and 7 grams of protein. I have added 3 strips of soy bacon at the end, crumbled, which is amazing and bumps up the protein, slightly. If you make this and keep it in the fridge, keep the bacon separate so it won’t get soggy. I plan about ½ slice of crispy bacon per portion.

Mango salad dressing

1 cup plain, non-dairy sour cream
3 Tbsp. Major Grey’s chutney (I’ve also used ginger preserves and it’s wonderful!!!)
1 ½ tsp. curry powder
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. minced onion (I love shallots, but also use green onion, as I rarely have regular onions)
Combine all ingredients and dump on potato salad. This is also good on a lentil salad, or black-eyed peas.

If you are a meat eater, but recognize Lent, consider using one of these as a Friday meal.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Read Me


(This gorgeous sculpture is one of my favorite things in the world, and is the work of Anselm Kiefer. I was fortunate to work at The Modern, in Ft. Worth, when they received many of his pieces, and they are no fun to handle and place, but beautiful. I have a poster with this book-sculpture situated so that it's the first thing I see when I open my eyes)

My Favorite Books about Vegetable-Based Living

1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. Slaughterhouse, by Gail A. Eisnitz
3. The Food Revolution, by John Robbins
4. The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell - I'd get the audio version as it's so long
5. Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
6. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
7. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver - beautiful book, and one that many vegans might not recommend, but I see Kinsolver and her family as taking responsibility for their diet. While it isn't my choice, I respect the choices Kingsolver made.
8. Food Politics, by Marion Nestle - this one really gave me the motivation to take actions agains factory farming.
9. Silent Sprint, by Rachel Carson - I read this at school and it started to change my perspective on everything
10. Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis
BonusEcology of a Cracker Childhood, by Janisse Ray - this book has nothing to do with food, but speaks of our relationship with our world, and the responsibility we have to protect our land. It's an easy read, and redirected my focus in the study of interior design and architecture. Janisse was a writer in residence at my University, so I have a special place for her books.

Deciding Right


I am crazy-over-the-moon happy about the comments and e-mails and conversations I've had over the last week with people interested in participating in the 21-Day Vegan Kickoff. Most of the folks I've talked with are not even vegetarians, but curious about the effects of factory farming, and their health and their budget. Do I imagine they will all come out the other side devout vegans? Umm...no. I do hope they'll have some questions answered, be more informed about agriculture and nutrition, and have learned some creative and delicious ways of switching animal proteins with vegan options.

When I ask folks if they'll join me, I get about a 30% acceptance rate. While to me this isn't a bad figure, I like to press those who aren't on-board by asking why they wouldn't play the game. After all, it's just 21 days...three weeks. What's three weeks?

The comments I get are somewhat predictable, but after looking a bit further, I came up with a theory. I get a lot of, "I love the taste of meat," and "I don't really understand what you eat." I also get, "I could give up meat, but not cheese or ice cream." People comment on the expense, the complication of combining foods to get a complete protein (surprised this myth is still around), and parting with the comfort that a omnivorous meal brings when times are so stressful. I even got one who said, "Going vegan isn't like vegetarianism. It's a lifestyle change. I'm just not ready to make that kind of statement through my diet when there are so many other more important concerns around me."

All of these are really good points, and things I certainly thought about a lot. In a totally unscientific assessment, I came up with 4 influences that I believe lead us to eat the things we do:

1. Pleasure – One of my most favorite things to do was going to Tru and having the caviar staircase, but “pleasure,” can also refer to someone who is starving being able to satiate hunger pangs. To me, pleasure is the strongest factor in making a decision about food. Not long ago my love for everything about caviar far outweighed my personal values of non-violence and humanitarian respect. I loved the smell of the salty ocean, the salty-sweet taste of the eggs, and the lovely, perfect "pop" when the caviar would burst in my mouth, flooding it with that familiar yumminess that begged to be followed with nectar champagne bubbles. Food should be pleasurable.

2. Interest - I often say, food isn't just sustenance for me. It is cultural and social. It is history and craft. There are chefs who could serve me duck lips, and I'd eat them just because I'm so fascinated by the passion and creativity of that chef. My DNA is shared with people who love food. They love to prepare it, share it and eat it. So, I am forever interested in food. We might not get much pleasure from eating duck lips, but those of us who have a strong interest would taste them anyway. Food should be interesting in several ways that appeal to the consumer.

3. Worth - No matter how much I loved eating caviar, it wasn't always worth the cost. Many people would like to eat all organic, but can't justify buying organic milk over their monthly bus pass. I have prepared vegan recipes that called for so many exotic spices and other ingredients that my grocery bill exceeded what it might have been at Tru for the caviar.
Another example: Even though my doctors have told me I need to be careful about my blood sugar, as my levels get really low, it is worth the risk of fainting in the middle of Michigan Avenue on the walk back from More, for a cupcake on Friday. So, deciding what food is worth to you is definitely a big factor.

4. Right - This is the final breaking point. What is right? What is the right thing to do when it comes to what we put in our body? Out of the four factors, “right,” is probably the most important with regard to being our best self, but very often the easiest to overlook.

It wasn't until I started looking at what was "right" in accordance to my personal values and mission, that I changed my diet. I certainly sought out pleasure. Often food brought pleasure that other areas of my life lacked. I’m fortunate to know some of the most remarkable food and wine connoisseurs, so many meals were/are incredibly interesting. And the worth of my meals often overshadowed other things...my health, my pocket book, and my values.

I had to decide what was right for me, with regard to food, without sacrificing the other three factors. This has taken so much time and research and in some instances, putting myself directly in front (or as close as they'd let me get)to the process, and witnessing the effects of my decisions.

I am a new and curious soul. Like many things in my life, I chose the long and arduous path. I have deduced that the enormous effect eating animals, and their bi-products, has on the world is not right for me. Maintaining a vegan diet is ALWAYS right for me, though I don't always make the right decisions. When I crave a crab cake, or a "real" grilled cheese or a really bloody steak to accompany my dark red Bordeaux, or crave my beloved caviar, I make a choice. For almost 2 years that choice has been to be right with my consumption.

I am going to post links to some of my favorite resources regarding veganism, and I hope that if any readers have favorites you will either write to me or post them in the comments. And I hope that anyone inclined to read my ramblings will look beyond what I know, and seek out their own "right."

As far as "social statements," that just not my intent at all, though I recognize it is inevitable. I love to eat. I like animals just fine, but don't feel the need to really speak out on their behalf. There are much more passionate, evolved people who are doing that. I'm speaking out for me and for those who want creative, healthy, interesting food. And for those who want ...who demand to live in a place that is lower on violence and filth, and higher on peace and fun.

Namaste, Baby!

P.S. Great Resources

Compassionate Cooks
Alternative Vegan Dino has the best quick and interesting cookbook and shares such practical info on his podcast and site
Meat Free Radio
The Blooming Platter
Enlightened Cooking - not vegan, but she has great recipes
Sweet Art - someone else on a path, who also makes great sweets!
Vegan Freak - I don't always agree with them, but great informaiton
The Seitan Mafia
101 Cookbooks - amazing recipes and photos. Not all vegan
Almost Vegetarian - the name says it all. GREAT posts...could so relate!
Kimberly Wilson - this isn't about vegetarianism, but a great "force" to provide ideas, support and resources on your path. Kimberly is indeed a sparkly, pink & leopard print force.
The Kind Life

Monday, February 15, 2010

Ready to Jump? Scoop on Protein..


I’ve been on and off a vegetarian diet for a long time. But, if you’re just eliminating flesh from your diet, it’s really easy to load up on dairy (higher fat and cholesterol) and simple carbohydrates. Neither fats nor carbs are “bad,” but if you take in the wrong sorts you may notice a negative effect on the way you feel and your overall health. I’ve actually gained weight while eating a vegetarian diet.

Even now, when I eat virtually no dairy or eggs, I crave sugar. I got on a roll over the holidays and have had a difficult time stopping. That is going to be my challenge over the 21-day Kickstart. My body statistics are great, but by eating too much sugar my energy is compromised, and I can even get a little dizzy sometimes.

Some vegans say, if you eat a wide variety of foods you’ll get the protein your body requires. For me that wasn’t the case. I decided to go to a nutritionist and get a target amount of daily protein. This will vary, so I’d definitely recommend checking with your physician or a nutritionist. I’m 5’5” and weighed about 140lbs. when I went to the nutritionist. She recommended a daily protein intake of 60 grams. Today I weigh between 120-125lbs. and try to hit about 50 grams daily.

It took me keeping a daily food journal for about 3 months, and making sure I learned what would give me the biggest protein “bang.” Now I know what I need to meet my goals. The few times in the past 2 years I’ve eaten fish were when I was in a more remote area where vegetable protein wasn’t plentiful.

Here are some of my favorite protein fixes:

Barley, pearled (great to add to soups or as a side) 10 g. - 1/2 cup
Cornmeal (polenta is great with beans or veggies) 5.8 g. – ½ cup
Couscous, dry 5.5 g. – ¼ cup
Oatbran, dry 4 g. – ¼ cup
Quinoa, dry 6 g. -1/4 cup
Amaranth, dry 6.5 g. – ¼ cup
Black beans, canned 7.5 g. – ½ cup
Kidney beans, canned 6.5 g. – ½ cup
Morning Star spicy black bean burger 11 g. – 1 pattie
Lightlife smoky tempeh (awesome for bbq) 8 g. – 3 slices
Lightlife Smart Mexican grounds (great for tacos) 9 g. – 1/3 c.
Lightlife Ground Sausage (breakfast, lasagna, spaghetti sauce) 7 g. – 2 oz. serving
Lightlife Smart Bacon (makes the best BLTs in the world!) 2 g. – slice
Gardein Tuscan breasts 22 g. – breast
Gardein beef tips (great for steak sandwiches) 18 g. – serving
Gardein crispy tenders (these are my weakness!) 9 g. – 1.5 tenders
Field Roast Sausages – Italian 25 g. – link
Mexican Chipotle 23 g. – link
Smoked Apple 26 g. – link
Plain hummus 4 g. – ¼ cup
Oatmeal, cooked 6 g. – 1 cup
Soy milk 3.5 g. – ½ cup
Tofu, firm 11 g. – 5 oz.
Peanut butter 8 g. – 2 Tbsp.
Lentils, cooked 9 g. – ½ cup

For a great cheat-sheet of more foods that can get you were you want to be check out the Vegetarian Resource Group. Also, VeganEssentials has a protein drink that I mix with frozen bananas (or other fruit), a bit of flax seed and a tad of vanilla.

Good luck!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Letting Go and Moving Forward


Has it ever happened that you get a notion in your head, and then open yourself up to see this idea manifesting all around you? I’m not sure that makes sense, so I will explain exactly what’s going on.

Last fall I was on a teleclass given by Kimberly Wilson. She described the process trees go through, dropping their leaves in autumn in order to conserve energy for the winter months. We were challenged to shed unnecessary activities, relationship, and general “stuff,” in life, so that more energy was available for more meaningful pursuits. This was especially meaningful to me. After battling back and forth with several relationships that were truly becoming toxic, this concept struck a cord.

Since that teleclass it seems I'm being reminded, by everyone from Oprah to CNN, how much more momentum we can have if we focus on who we really want to be. With all the constant interaction via technology, we really are branding ourselves. What values do you want associated with your brand?

There is a yama or “do,” in yogic teaching named vairagya. This is the practice of eliminating whatever keeps you from progressing on your path, and refining your life. So how does this relate to food? For me, it was really clear. I needed to eliminate the things I put in my mouth that weren’t nourishing my body and soul, and helping me become the person I truly am.

Now, if someone didn’t know how I eat, they might assume I was into some kind of minimal eating, or dogmatic about maintaining a whole foods diet. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not everything I shove in my mouth is good for my body, but it is usually good for my spirit. I actually get just as squirrely about consuming my kale soup as I do about a salted caramel cupcake. I’m serious. And I love simple recipes, but love premade “cheats,” like soy bacon, tapenade and Amy’s frozen meals as much as ever.

I’m writing about letting go as we get closer to the start date of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. This looks to be one of the easiest ways anyone remotely interested in veganism can dip their toe in the pool. Seriously, it’s 21 days, they give you all kinds of support and recipes, and at the end of the program you’ll be able to make an informed decision on what is right for you. At the very least, you’ll have cleaned your system out a bit, and learned some new vegan recipes that might be fun to add to your bag of tricks. I don’t see a down side.

One of the biggest concerns I hear from friends and readers interested in trying this challenge is their real sadness of letting go. “I don’t think I can give up cheese.” “How do you live without hamburgers?”

As far as I know, no one has died from not eating hamburgers. And any human being will survive cheese separation. But, I still occasionally eat cheese, and if I ever liked hamburgers, I’m sure I’d eat one if I really wanted it. But here’s the thing: by eliminating animals and their products from my diet I have gained so much knowledge about what my body really needs to operate at full-speed. I know the truth about industrial farming, and have gained the passion and leverage to responsibly share that truth with others. I have gained a glass container full of freekah, for heaven’s sakes!!!

So, here is a really simple recipe that is totally comforting and a bit decadent. I’ve added some “fluffers,” to make it a bit more interesting (yes, I know what that word means in other circles). Enjoy, and let me know if you’re considering the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart!!

Roasted Tomato Soup with Croutons
Serves 6

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 garlic cloves, sliced
1 onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, washed and chopped
½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 28 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
3 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. rubbed sage
Sea salt (to taste)
Fresh sage leaves (to garnish)
White truffle oil (to garnish)

½ baguette, sliced in ½” pieces
1 clove of garlic, cut in half
Salt
Nutritional yeast, if you have it

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Over medium low heat, warm soup pot. When warm add vegetable oil, onions and garlic. Stir until onion turns opaque, but not browned. Add diced carrot and pepper flakes. Simmer about 5 minutes. Dump in can of roasted tomatoes and crush with the back of a wooden spoon. When all veggies are a bit mooshed together, pour in the stock and add sage. Cover, turn down the heat, and let simmer about 15-20 minutes.

On a cookie sheet, place slices of baguette flat and rub with garlic half. Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and nutritional yeast. You can drizzle with olive oil, but I never do. Place pan in oven for 10-15 minutes.

Turn stove heat completely off and let soup cool a bit, unless you have a hand blender. You can use a hand blender to blitz everything in the pan, making a creamier soup, or when the soup cools, put batches in a traditional blender, then back in pot to warm.

When croutons are slightly golden place a couple in the bottom of a soup bowl (or you can float them on top) and pour soup in. You could add a bit of non-dairy milk for a creamy version. I LOVE topping mine with a bit of fresh herbs and some truffle oil.

Served with a spinach salad, or a ½ peanut butter sandwich…either way. Make yourself a tray and go watch the snow fall. No sacrifices here!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Meat Free Monday (not "meet free,")


Hey Guys and Girls. I'm writing you on Thursday, from the Cleveland airport. Missed my flight, so catching up on a little writing and e-mail.

I missed last Meatless Monday, but we have a head-start on next week! (Ever the optimist, I am) I was looking through my e-mail, and if you don't already get Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP newsletter, I highly recommend it. It's always chockfull of great ideas, finds, recipes, exercises, and just all other goodies that ring my bells.

This week she was rallying the troops for Meatless Monday. I can't think of an easier way to dip your toe into some new, sexy vegetable based recipes, and make strides towards healing the earth. It's a win, win, I say!

Gwyneth has some of my very most favorite cookbooks listed, such as Veganomicon, The Moosewood collection, and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Also, she lists the book I want next, Alecia Silverstone's new book, The Kind Diet.

I really encourage everyone I know and love, and those I don't know and love YET...get on board the Meatless Monday train. I swear...you'll be whipping up all kinds of yummies that are good and good for you in no time.

Ok, if I ever get back to Chicago I'm going to pull some of my favorite Mardi Gras dishes, and figuring how to make them sans critters. This could be very interesting. Hope everyone is having a smashing week!!

P.S. when I was looking for a picture to "lift" for The Kind Diet I found this great website for those interested in doing a 21-Day vegan kick start. It's complete with all kinds of nutritional information, plus menus and restaurant guides.