Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen Review

Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen by Kathy Patalsky (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 28, 2015)

 

Kathy Patalsky’s latest cookbook perfectly matches her “Healthy.Happy.Life.” brand: “This food-filled, wellness-seeking, happiness-embracing adventure starts in your kitchen and ends wherever you wish” (10).

Patalsky was initially drawn to a plant-based lifestyle out of her love for animals and became a vegan in 2002; however, while this collection of over 250 vegan recipes “are rich in life, rather than death,” (10) the sins of the current meat and dairy industries are not the focus of this upbeat, cheerful cookbook. Patalsky welcomes “New vegans, savvy long-time vegans, non-vegans, part-time vegans, wannabe vegans, and even ‘I will never be’ vegans” (11).

Her role is a culinary playmate, and to facilitate this role she includes a list of helpful kitchen tools (most will be familiar to any home cook, except possibly “nut milk bag”) and staples for the vegan pantry (which may be less familiar).  The recipes are grouped loosely by course.

Breakfast offerings include Cranberry-Nut Farro Porridge and Peanut Butter Toasted Coconut Oatmeal Bars.  Old stand-bys are reinvented, like the Eggless Salad Sandwich and the Toasty Tuxedo Grilled Cheese.  As expected, salads, soups and veggie burgers abound, but with a twist: Sweet Potato Veggie Burger with Avocado or the BBQ Peanut Burger.  Veggie Sides are truly side dishes, entrees deserve to be front-and-center, and desserts are just as tempting as any bakery. Each recipe lists calories, carbs, fat, protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals.  Healthy Happy Vegan Kitchen celebrates how a plant-based diet is not only spiritually fulfilling, but physically satisfying as well.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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My Organic Life Review

My Organic Life: How a Pioneering Chef Helped Shape the Way We Eat Today by Nora Pouillon and Laura Fraser (Random House LLC, April 21, 2015)

Organic Life

Nora Pouillon’s My Organic Life is an authentic, inspirational heroine’s journey.  The narrative arc is chronological, but begins with an “Amuse Bouche” which answers the question, “Why do you care so much about organic food?” (1). The short answer is expected: “…organic food is better for our bodies and our environment.”  The long answer, resulting in this engrossing read, is unforgettable.

Born in 1943 in a devastated Vienna, Pouillon’s earliest memories are of mountain air, fresh produce, and long hikes in the Tyrolean mountains where she lived during the war (alongside concealed Jewish friends): “More than anything else in my first decade of life, the experience of living on a working farm profoundly influenced the person I was to become” (11). Her early years are described with lush imagery and palpable detail (one should not read this on an empty stomach!) as Nora learns how much work is required to live off the land.  At the age of 21, marriage brings her to the United States, where she is dismayed to find “convenience food” packaged in plastic with unpronounceable chemical ingredients, and corn-fed, antibiotic and growth-hormone laced beef.  Teaching people how “to make natural, wholesome food that also tasted delicious” (X) became her mission, eventually resulting in Restaurant Nora — the first certified organic restaurant in the U.S.

While the dangers of WWII facilitated a love for fresh produce, the surplus chemicals created for this war (pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides) lead to the processed foods she would later fight against.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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The Plantpower Way Review

The Plantpower Way: Whole Food Plant-Based Recipes and Guidance for The Whole Family by Rich Roll and Julie Piatt (Avery, April 28, 2015)

PlantPower

Sanjay Gupta, MD, (CNN Chief Medical Correspondent) calls The Plantpower Way “the best book I have read on the topic” and “so intuitive…it provides answers before you even ask the question” (Foreword). The Plantpower Way began on the eve of Rich Roll’s 40th birthday, 50 pounds overweight and out of shape; within two years, Roll was one of Men’s Fitness “25 Fittest Men in the World” after finishing the Ultraman World Championships.

Rich and his wife Julie believe food has a vibrational energy, positive or negative, and “the nature of the frequency we ingest has an indelibly profound impact on every aspect of how we feel, interact, behave, comprehend, and appreciate the world around us” (xiii).  They present more than 120 original recipes representing three paths to wellness (vitality, performance, or transformation) to “repair, restore, energize, and invigorate your body, mind, and soul…” (xiv).

Each lifestyle path has a timed schedule for each meal, snack, and drink, as well as an explanation of the intention behind each.  In addition, tips for raising healthy kids with a plant-powered lifestyle, the emotional landscape surrounding food, and our responsibility as stewards of the planet and its residents (human and animal) are addressed. Each section presents two related elements (for example, Blends + Juices and Soups + Salads), and provides tips and rationale for each recipe. Luminous photographs of Rich and Julie’s family, as well as benevolent, compassionate articles throughout, support the recipes and the reader’s journey to a holistic, plant-based life.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for bringing this book to my attention!

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All Dogs Go To Kevin Review

All Dogs Go to Kevin by Jessica Vogelsang (Grand Central Publishing, July 14, 2015)

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang’s memoir begins with a dedication, “To the misfits, the miscreants… and socially inept, and the dogs who love them” and ends with a promise, “I can honor [my dogs] by striving just a little more to live like they did: with joy, unabashed and open, reminding myself and others that our flaws do not make us less, but ever more worthy of being loved just the way we are” (319).

The opening scene introduces the identity of the titular “Kevin,” a dear friend from college who has recently died at the age of forty.  The memoir then flashes back thirty years and is organized into three parts according to the family dog at the time: the childhood Lhasa apso Taffy (“…one of those sweet fuzzy faces people found irresistible — the temperament of a senior with a bad prostate” 10), the first retriever welcomed into her adult life Emmet (“…[who] seemed to view himself as a Dickensian ragamuffin, a street urchin who needed to rely on his street smarts for survival” 137), and the lab Kekoa (“She lived in a constant state of extreme remorse, even when she was perfectly content” 243).

Each dog provides quiet wisdom and support as Dr. Vogelsang navigates the trials of adolescence, the challenges of vet school, the angst of post-partum depression, and eventually the loss of her dear friend Kevin; however, the many humorous stories of Dr. Vogelsang’s patients and their guardians ensure that laughs far outweigh the tears.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for helping me find this book!

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The Lentil Underground Review

This one really took me by surprise…  Loved it!  Might prompt your book club to eat a LOT more lentils, too!

Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America by Liz Carlisle (Gotham Books, January 22, 2015)

Initially readers may wish Lentil Underground was a memoir — Liz Carlisle has a B.A. from Harvard, a PhD from UC Berkeley, and is an accomplished country singer-songwriter opening for Travis Tritt, LeAnn Rimes and Sugarland.  In fact, the inspiration for Lentil Underground arose when Carlisle was crisscrossing the United States, singing about rural America.

As her fans described their day-to-day lives, she realized she had been “lying” about the romantic agrarian life in her music:  “Big Food had all of middle America fooled into thinking that their folksy branded products were the protectors of the family farm and its wholesome values…  Farming had become a grueling industrial occupation, squeezed between the corporations that sold farmers their chemicals and the corporations that bought their grain.”  Carlisle decided to take a break from touring and tell the real story of farming in America instead.

This goal lead her to a true hero’s journey:  Dave Oien from Conrad, Montana revolutionized the farming practices of his home state with the use of legumes, the “Robin Hood of the dryland prairie,” which turn atmospheric nitrogen into rich fertilized soil and are remarkably drought resistant. Oien and a small group of committed neighbors created Timeless Seeds in 1987, a revolutionary organization that began as an experiment and became a million dollar enterprise with products on the shelves of Whole Foods and on the tables of first class restaurants.  In Carlisle’s capable hands, the story of how a few renegade farmers bucked the prevailing culture of Big Ag is riveting and inspiring.

Thank you to Shelf Awareness for helping me find this book!

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