Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blogs and More Blogs

Well my blog recently became part of The Foodie Blogroll, along with many other food blogs. You can check out the entire roll by looking at the link on the right hand side of this page.

I am not an expert blogger but I've been doing it a while. I just received this info today, and I want to check it out. If you've thought about blogging and don't know where or how to start, it might be for you.

I'm evaluating a multi-media course on blogging from the folks at Simpleology. For a while, they're letting you snag it for free if you post about it on your blog.

It covers:

  • The best blogging techniques.
  • How to get traffic to your blog.
  • How to turn your blog into money.

I'll let you know what I think once I've had a chance to check it out. Meanwhile, go grab yours while it's still free.



Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday Appreciation and Lots of Breathing

This morning as I was heading to the farmer's market (I do realize that I might be teasing some of you who live where it's cold and snowy, and for that I apologize), I was thinking about how grateful I am that the farmers bother to get up in the middle of the night, or very early morning, to be there to sell vegetables to those of us who care. I appreciate what they do so much. But what I was truly thinking about was a comment that someone made to me last night at a holiday open house about how Larry from Triple T Ranch and Farm is a character.

And honestly, what that brought to mind is how the people that grow our produce all have personalities. They are real people, and they will engage with you at the market. You can find out about them, and how interesting they are.

Related specifically to Larry is that just this week someone told me that she doesn't buy from their farm because they are USDA certified organic and that they seem so commercial. Their farm is less than 40 acres, yet here in Sonoma County it is considered a "big" farm. I tried explaining that I've been to the farm and that they do what they are supposed to do. I guess that she prefers the smaller farmers, and the truth is that sometimes I do, too. But given the choice of the supermarket, Whole Foods or the farmer's market, you are going to get a better product at the farmer's market. And you may also get to speak to a character like Larry, or maybe Ed or Les or your local farmer. Give it a try when you can.

Now, for the breathing... I just gave a presentation on putting happy back in the holidays where a woman told me that she felt like an out of control train that might derail. If you feel that way, then I suggest that you do what I did with my group -- I led them through a breathing exercise. Deep breathing helps you relax. And that's what most people need at this time of year.

The most gratifying part of my talk was when someone came up to me at the end and told me that she'd put into practice the deep breathing that I suggested 2 months ago. I said that when you have to stop at a red light, take the time to breathe, rather than stew about having to stop and that you aren't getting where you need to go fast enough. She told me that stopping usually only delays you a minute or two, and how much better she feels after doing the breathing. I left with a big smile on my face, as I took an extra breath or two, as a reminder to myself. I suggest that you do the same, whenever you feel the need.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pressure Cooking in the Cold

I spent the morning on Saturday at the farmer's market demonstrating how to use the pressure cooker. I made an Indian-Spiced Root Vegetable Soup, using market-fresh ingredients that included onions, carrots, parsnips, sweet potato and sometimes rutabaga, that takes only 5 minutes at pressure. You can make the whole recipe in less than 30 minutes, from start to finish, from chopping to a very hot bowl of soup.

I heard all the horror stories, the accolades and the people who just don't know anything about a pressure cooker. One man told me about his 2 electric pressure cookers. I guess those in the know really know.

Completely unsolicited, a man came up and told me that he'd taken a class from me at a store named Food for Thought (which hasn't even been in existence for about 7 years since it was gobbled up by Whole Foods) and that he uses my recipes, especially the one for risotto, every week. I was glowing after that.

In fact, I was probably glowing (red, that is) the whole time because it was so darned cold (for California, that is) that day. Ed Miller, the fruit vendor, of Twin Peaks Ranch told me that the market was only half as busy as usual, likely because of the cold. People may have also been at the mall and the grocery store, judging from the packed parking lots that I saw on my way home.

I had a great time at the market, showing off 3 of my Fagor pressure cookers -- the newest one being a Futuro which should be released here in the US soon. It has a different kind of shape to it -- a bit pot-bellied, fatter at the bottom so it's cute. But they all work the same, and that is very good news for a cold day. Hot soup, come and get it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Wild Fermentation and More

This has been my week of learning and meeting allies in the movement to help people eat better food. I met Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Sandor Ellix Katz, fellow authors.

Miyoko and Colleen are fellow McDougall program http://www.drmcdougall.com/ teachers. Miyoko taught Japanese one day and holiday dishes the other. Miyoko's books are The New Now and Zen Epicure and Japanese Cooking--Contemporary and Traditional. Colleen just released her first book The Joy of Vegan Baking and has a great website: Compassionate Cooks http://www.compassionatecooks.com/ on which she features her weekly free podcast on vegan issues.

It was great fun to watch both Miyoko and Colleen, as it gave me a new appreciation for what it takes to present to a group. Sharing food tips and samples invites people in but you also need to capture their attention.

The day following those 2 meetings, I was a participant in a fermentation class with Sandor Ellix Katz, the author of Wild Fermentations and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved. Sandor is a fascinating fellow, I don't think eccentric truly captures his spirit, and an article about him and the class will appear in the future on Jason Wyrick's website http://www.veganculinaryexperience.com/. (Jason occasionally teaches the McDougall program.)

Katz embraces the Weston A. Price philosophy and is likely not a big McDougall fan but I do know that we can agree that eating fresh, local vegetables is good, especially if they are fermented. Everyone needs to embrace their own philosophy and eating style. If it works well for you, then do it. If what you are doing doesn't work, try other methods.

Learning how to ferment vegetables is quite easy. Check out http://www.wildfermentation.com/ for more information about it. If you've heard of probiotics and prebiotics, these are the original forms -- they occur naturally, no pills, capsules or liquids needed. Also, you don't really need special equipment such as fancy crocks. I do my fermentation in wide mouth quart or larger canning jars set in a bowl to catch the liquid. If you want to know more about this from me, please feel free to email me at jill@theveggiequeen.com.

This is a very busy time of year but I hope that you will take the time to nourish yourself in a very caring and loving way with lots of fresh food. Busy often translates into not eating well and grabbing things on the go. Keeping healthier foods around helps with that issue.

I know that I tend to eat what I've got (since it's incredibly difficult to eat what you don't have) around. Lately, I've had lots of wonderful leftovers from classes -- things like Fruited Wild Rice, Indian-Spiced Root Vegetable Soup, Mediterranean Greens, Red Rice, Braised Tofu and Vegetables and more. Taking the time to cook for yourself, as if you are an invited guest, will actually turn you into one. This is my gift to you -- treat yourself like a queen (or king). It's what I do, and it works.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wild Rice and Interesting Observations

I really like wild rice. I made my Fruited Wild Rice Dish for an Elderhostel class that I taught last week and then wanted to buy some for myself. What happened was very interesting, as many things are.

I headed to Trader Joe's. While there I was chatting with Linda, the demo lady. We talked about my new pressure cooking DVD, Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes which can be found at http://www.pressurecookingonline.com. I told her that my goal is to get people to shop just a little less at Trader Joe's and to cook more at home. I said that many people probably don't realize that they can make lentil soup in the pressure cooker in less time than it takes to drive to the store.

Linda agreed and then said, "If anyone is concerned about sodium or sugar, then there are lots of foods that they can't buy here." And that's the big downside of processed foods.

Together we walked over to the fresh case and Linda showed me a small package of sweet potatoes with cranberries that was about a pound. She remarked that it was awfully expensive at $3.99, and that it was too sweet for her.

Then I saw a package of diced sweet potatoes in a steaming bag for the microwave. It was 8 ounces and cost $1.69. I was amazed. A pound of organic sweet potatoes is about that much and those were conventional. I thought that was expensive.

Finally, I managed to find my wild rice which cost $4.99 for a 1 pound bag. Wild rice needs to be cooked with a lot of water and 1 cup of raw rice makes about 3 to 4 cooked cups. In the pressure cooker it takes 25 minutes at pressure and on the stove top it cooks in about an hour. I think that the taste is wonderful. It's a whole grain (although not a true grain) and has a fairly low glycemic index (GI). It's a good food choice.

So, when the young cashier, remarked that the wild rice was expensive, I was surprised. He didn't consider the package of Spanakopita for my son expensive at $3.99 but the rice for a dollar more was. He said, "But it's rice," as if that made it inferior to already prepared food.

I think that this is one of the current issues in society -- our priorities are not working. We don't think of good, whole food as important and want our food made for us.

I say, "Let's go back to basics and let our bodies work as nature intended them to." I believe that it will improve our individual health and that of our society.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Pressure Cooking Online Website is Up

I am so excited about my new website http://www.pressurecookingonline.com . My goal is to convert as many people as possible to using the pressure cooker as an easy way to start eating healthier.


The only thing not yet available on that site is a clip of me showing you how to use the pressure cooker. But you can find one on My Space and also at http://www.simzproductions.com and click on clips and then TV. You'll find the Veggie Queen there.

If you sign up for my newsletter on my site http://www.pressurecookingonline.com you will get a free pressure cooking recipe. I also offer free information on using a pressure cooker.

I say, "Pressure cooking changed my life." And I am not kidding.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Update on Beans as Vegetables

The research presented by Sara Rose of Bush's Beans was fascinating. The research that they did showed that bean consumption is going down as beans don't always fit easily into the traditional family meal, as they are not thought of as a starch and aren't a traditional vegetable. So Bush's came up with a new phrase: Beans, The Vegetable With More. And their website http://www.vegetablewithmore.com has lots of recipes for what else? Beans.

I guess that maybe many vegetarians are making up for others in the bean department. Interestingly enough beans are an incredible food. Too bad that so many people hardly cook any more - as beans take only a few minutes in the pressure cooker. I just made a pot of rattlesnake beans with onions, garlic and smoked paprika. I had to stop myself from eating the whole pot of them, which must have been at least 3 cups worth. Instead I roasted some eggplant, red peppers, tomatoes and garlic and then mixed that with my beans. What a yummy meal, along with a salad. And then I had a couple of cups of beans leftover to either freeze for later or make into burritos or meal in a bowl with rice and other veggies.

Beans are so versatile. But with cooking skills declining, it's not surprising that people are eating less beans. I like the fresh ones best but if they'll eat can beans, so be it. At least beans are being consumed. They are a low GI food and fill you up. Eating too many may result in bloating and gas, so it's easy to have portion control.

I may never think of beans as a vegetable but if it gets some people to eat them more often, I am all for that.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Vegetable Steaming Bags and Beans

I've seen the ads for the frozen vegetable steaming bags but haven't used them because I eat mostly fresh vegetables, raw or cooked. But last night I had a chance to speak to someone who has actually tried the bags and said that the vegetables turn out great. I also read that now McCormick's, the giant spice company, now has bags that are preseasoned so eating your vegetables may not get any easier. I, of course, will stick with my tried and true cooking methods, often using the pressure cooker and seasonal vegetables. I do keep frozen spinach around and sometimes have a bag of corn in the freezer but that's usually about all, unless I've frozen something from the harvest.

Now, how about beans as a vegetable? I was speaking with Sara from Bush's Beans last night and she said that people respond to eating more beans when they think of them as a vegetable. I am going to hear more about that today as I gather with a group of dietitians who are into food and culinary. I can't wait to hear but I don't think that i am likely to think of beans as vegetables any time soon. Ifit gets other people to eat more of them, well maybe I could say it.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mollie Katzen of the North Bay and Vegetables

Some people have dubbed me the "Mollie Katzen" of Sonoma County. After listening to Mollie on the radio this morning discussing her new book The Vegetable Dishes That I Can't Live Without, I'd have to say that those peopel are correct. Except that I actually preceded Mollie on taking up the strictly vegetable (versus vegetarian) mission and spreading vegetable enthusiasm. Unfortunately my audience isn't as broad as Mollie's. But I am thankful that some of you have read my cookbook,The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.

I, like, Mollie feel best when I can encourage people to eat more vegetables. Honestly, it doesn't matter to me if you are vegan, vegetarian or a carnivore, as long as you are eating your 9+ servings of veggies a day -- in a delicious way.

With that in mind, I'd like to share a really simple recipe for Curried Winter Squash and Pear Soup. You can make it with or without roasting the squash first, but it tastes richer using the roasting method.

Curried Winter Squash and Pear Soup
Serves 4 to 6 (or just you 4 to 6 times)
Even though squash is sweet, it still tastes great paired with pear. If you like, you can add a pinch of cayenne for contrast, in addition to the lemon juice in the recipe.

3 delicata or other squash, roasted until soft in the oven to equal 1 ½-2 cups
2 teaspoons canola oil (optional)
1 small onion, diced
1 medium D’anjou or comice pear, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 teaspoons or more curry powder
4 cups vegetable or other stock or broth

1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped

Roast the squash in the oven at 350 degrees until a knife is easily inserted into the squash, about 25 minutes. Cool and scrape pulp from skin.

Heat the stock pot over medium heat and add the oil, if using. When the pot is warm, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes until it softens. Add the pear and curry powder and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the stock or broth and simmer for 10 minutes until the pear is soft. Add the roasted squash and simmer for another 10 minutes to blend flavors. Using a hand blender, puree until desired consistency. Taste and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley or cilantro. Serve hot.

©2005, Jill Nussinow, MS, RD from
The Veggie Queen™: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment
www.theveggiequeen.com

Serve with a giant green salad and some wonderful bread or crackers such as Mary's Gone Crackers or Dr. Kracker crackers.

This is perfect for helping keep your vegetable intake up. Mollie and I are in this together, so watch out.

If any of you know Mollie personally, please let her know that I'd like to speak to her.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A New Corn Variety at the Market

I didn't have much time at the farmer's market on Saturday because I was busy buying fruit to make fruit salad for 35 for my mother-in-law's 75th birthday. I had hoped to get some melon and hadn't found any from my favorite farmers. I was almost ready to leave the market when I ran into a former student, April. She wanted to buy a copy of my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment (shameless plug here http://www.theveggiequeen.com/book.html) so I went to my car to look for one, knowing that I hadn't brought any with me. I did, however, have a number of them in packages that I was shipping so I ripped one open and it became April's latest purchase.

I headed back into the market and was at Cliff Silva's stand, Ma and Pa's Garden, where I saw some corn and bought a couple of ears. In a last attempt to buy melon I took a walk around the corner and to my delight I saw Larry Fields at a small table with melons. I told Larry that I was happy to see him and he said that he hoped that I would come by. (I don't know if this is true but it does feel good when people say that, doesn't it?) He offered me an ear of corn and asked me to take a bite. I did and it was incredibly sweet. Now, just having bought corn, I didn't really want to buy more but Larry said that I could have the ear that I bit (great marketing tactic, I told him) and then I bought another couple ears, along with 5 melons including musk, Charentais and another kind that I can't remember.

Larry was telling me how much he liked this new variety of corn. I must admit that it was sweet and delicious. It had a name like Miara or Maira but definitely something with an M. I couldn't wait to get home to eat it.

While I was chatting with Larry someone saw me there and knew who I was. He said that if I liked it that it must be good. (I have to say that I didn't know who the guy was and he could have been a former student, seen me at a cooking demonstration or seen my photo in the paper.) I am glad to have some produce influence and share what I like.

The corn was delicious in my pressure cooked veggie dish with peppers, potatoes, squash, onions, garlic and Mexican type seasoning. Yumm.

The fruit salad that I made for the birthday party was also a hit. And honestly all I did was pick out the fruit and cut it up. But the fruit was in its prime and that's what made it delicious. Please remember that you can't make dishes that taste better than the ingredients you start with. Go for fresh and quality.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A Fruitful Season for The Veggie Queen

I am about more than just vegetables. I am into all plant foods. This year there has been a bumper crop of fruit. Luckily I know a number of people that have trees and have been able to harvest all manner of fruit from peaches and plums to grapes, apples, pears and Asian pears, and I can't forget the figs. At times I have been overwhelmed with all of it. And at other times I have been thrilled to open my refrigerator and find a jar of homemade applesauce with cinnamon, as if someone else made it for me. (Ask me about my 5 minute pressure-cooked applesauce.)


The rhythm of the season is in full swing. I am sure that when canning was at its peak, mothers didn't have to leave their boiling pots to shuttle their kids from one activity to another. The Moms stayed at their task, cooking and canning until the project was done. But now, it doesn't work that way and with the advent of the modern freezer, sometimes canning doesn't seem worth it. Although unlike many people I do not have an extra freezer or refrigerator, so back to the jars and lids. If it doesn't fit in the space available, then I must can to preserve the harvest.


Pulling a bag of peaches out of the freezer mid-winter to make a tart, crisp or compote is a touch of sunshine in a sometimes bleak season. When I am up to my elbows in peaches on a hot summer's day, though, it's hard to think of winter and the enjoyment to come. There is always the dilemma that summer fruit brings but this year it has been exaggerated.


My wish and hope is that everyone can enjoy the bounty of the season in its abundance. And to that end, I hope to get some fruit dried in a solar dryer (built by a friend) so that I can have yet one more way to preserve the harvest for the coming months. It worked in the past and I have faith that it will continue to keep me satisfied in the future.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Too Many Zucchini or Polite Vegetable Giving

This is the first year that I am starting to get upset about some of the vegetables that I have received. If they aren't exactly what you would eat, please don't give them to other people. I don't enjoy getting zucchini the size of baseball bats. Picking them at the right time, when they are youngish and tender, is good for both of us.

Please be polite when sharing your fruit and veggie bounty. If you have too many zucchini, be nice to your plants and get them off the plant when they are still small and put them in the frig. Or grate them, squeeze out the liquid and freeze them in zippered bags for use later. Make them into "pancakes", mixed with herbs, and freeze them. Quickly saute them with onions and garlic and herbs and freeze that, make soup, and when you've exhausted your energy, give away your beautiful babies.

But please, don't donate your teenagers -- I've already got one of my own -- situated between my countertop and the compost pile (or in reality, my own son, sitting at the computer right now).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pressure Cooking in the Heat

It's been hot here for most of the past week. Last week I had the opportunity to pick fruit at my friend Barbara's organic orchard with my assistant Ellen. It was hot and we picked a lot. I do enjoy the picking but when you're done, you've got to do something with the fruit.

Here's where my pressure cooker comes to the rescue again. I made applesauce in just 5 minutes on the heat. I then put it through the food mill and get the seeds, core and skin out. The wonderful flavor from the skin gets infused into the applesauce. Doing it that way keeps the kitchen fairly cool.

When I mention the pressure cooker, people usually think winter. But I think summer since this is when using the pressure cooker can help keep you cool.

My new DVD Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes uses early summer produce because that's when I filmed it. I keep the cooker on the stove and use it almost daily.

Today I made a vegetable dish with onions, garlic, potatoes, corn, red peppers, carrots, summer squash and curry powder. It took 3 minutes at pressure. I ate it on top of quinoa which I made a couple of days ago in the cooker for 5 minutes on the heat.

Healthy and delicious eating can be easy and cool in the summer if you use a pressure cooker.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beans and Mushrooms and More

There's something wonderful about every tine of year when it comes to vegetables and other plant foods. But right now, I am rejoicing about mushrooms, a fluke find, and the first shelling beans, chiles, and more.

I just got to go to Mendocino for a much-needed break with my Biz Divas group. We had a wonderful time at Crane Dance, a wonderful house by the ocean. We ate at The Ravens at The Stanford Inn by the Sea (go there if you can), an upscale vegetarian restaurant with spectacular view of the ocean and gardens below. The food was varied but fresh. We all loved our salads and found other items varied greatly. We didn't have dessert which I took to mean that we were satisfied with how much we ate.

On the way home we had to stop on Highway 128 to check out a brake light that came in on the car in which I was a passenger. That meant that the car following us stopped, too. Two of the divas took a walk. They came back to the road and told me that there were mushrooms on a log down the path. I didn't get too excited as these words usually turn out to be false alarms. But not this time.

I let out a whoop when I realized that the log had young and tender oyster mushrooms growing on it on one side and more mature ones on the other. I didn't pick them all but could have, if I had a bag or basket nearby. I did get quite a few and showed them off to the group. They were concerned about my eating them. I told them, "I'll eat some of them. If I don't die, I'll eat the rest." I explained that oyster mushrooms aren't poisonous but still they worried.

I had some for dinner that evening mixed with other veggies with only pleasant taste and no ill-effects. Yum. But do NOT pick wild mushrooms unless you know what you are doing.

Today at the market, I got some fresh cranberry beans. They are expensive and a bit of a pain to shell so I only got what amounted to just over a cup and a half shelled. I can't wait to cook them with some garlic and eat them. I will leave out the chilies, although I bought many of them this week.

I have varieties that include Hungarian carrot (very hot), chile de Padron (hot but sweet and tasty), aji amarillo which I haven't yet tried this year but it varied wildly last year, bulldog, Cyklon, and more. I usually buy them red because they have more flavor and agree more with my system. I eat them in small amounts but truly enjoy them for their heat, and because they are good for me, or so I have heard. I do know that the capsicum in them is good for you plus they contain plenty of Vitamins A and C. The flavor can't be beat as long as it doesn't overpower the other food with its heat.

Produce here is just bursting with flavor and the tables at the market are just about overflowing with items from squash and onions to corn and lettuce, and lots of tomatoes. A neighbor dropped off a bag of apples and the pears are ready, too. One can eat so well and fresh. I hope that you are able to do the same.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Blueberries for The Veggie Queen

Traveling these days can be tough. I have been to many cities in the past 9 days and the work part of my travel is over (if you don't count the traveling). They say that timing is everything. And despite have a cancelled flight which resulted in a long taxi ride to an alternate airport, and, separately, a 3 hour flight delay, all has gone relatively smoothly. But nothing can top my experience last night picking organically grown blueberries in Duxbury, MA. Steve Berall and his wife Ellen are friends of my very good friends. Steve does organic lawn care professionally and has many blueberry bushes planted on his exquisite property.

I saw them (Steve, Ellen and the blueberries) last year and when I was trying to arrange a visit with my friend Barbara (the first of the 30+ that I know), we decided to meet in Duxbury. I asked it if was blueberry time and Barbara didn't know. But I suspected that it was. When I asked Steve on the phone as I drove toward his house, he confirmed that by saying that the timing was "perfect". I couldn't agree more.

He has a variety of blueberry cultivars. And I must say that there is nothing like having berries directly from the bush, although this is my first time picking them. I am sure that I ate at least a pint of them while harvesting, yet we ended up with 4 quarts in about 10 minutes.

My favorite fruits are blueberries and figs, so I truly felt that I was in paradise. And now I am sure of it. All this blueberry talk has made me hungry so off to the berries I go.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Short Notes from Vegetarian Summerfest

I've written a whole blog posting about my trip to Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA but it's locked away on my computer which can't talk to this one so I will just recap highlights here:

My talks on Superfoods and Sea Vegetables went better than I had anticipated. I received validation from Dr. Michael Greger when he did he speech about the year's nutrition news in review, as he mentioned both of my topics.

My pressure cooking demonstration was well attended and I hope that I can get more people to see the benefits of pressure cooking.

I got to meet Brenda Davis, R.D. who is an incredible vegan dietitian from BC, Canada who just participated in leading an amazing study in the Marshall Islands, helping the Islanders reverse diabetes, which is killing them off.

I flew with Jeff Novick, MS, RD, who is a funny guy who speaks about following a no-fat added diet, as he works at the Pritikin Center in Florida. And I got to have lunch with Jeff, which I guess makes me one of the brave few.

Howard Lyman, The Mad Cowboy, was as wry and funny as ever as he urged people to share the message about following a vegan diet. That is the main mesage at the conference, as well as being kind to animals and eating your greens.

It would have been hard to leave without having heard the same "eat your greens message many different ways". Without any kind of game plan, we all had just about the same message to help with all the major diseases of this age -- eat a plant-based diet.

And that I did -- at least 3 times a day, plus cooking demos. We had to walk a distance to meals which almost justified eating a lot, and I mean a lot.

Dan Piraro of Bizarro fame was there again this year, and he is amazing witty and funny. His wife Ashley is like a blonde, glowing light, being so beautiful, obviously inside and out, which I noticed with others, too. It must be the lack of animals in their bodies, or something.

Chef Ben Stone http://www.veganchefben.com/ lent me a knife which I didn't totally keep track of and it made me worry which I don't like to do.

I had many chats with Latham Thomas, of Panela Productions, a wonderful raw food chef and educator. We discovered that we are definitely some kind of "sistas" for the cause.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Vegetarian Summerfest -- Travel to PA

I am preparing my talks for Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown, PA. The trip there is long but the event is quite interesting -- being with 600 vegetarians and vegans for a nunber of days in the middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania is quite refreshing. The best part is that I know that I can eat all the food served at the event, no questions asked.



This year I will be doing a cooking demonstration, a talk on Superfoods: Myths or Miracles? and another about Sea Vegetables: The Nutrition Missing Link? I could talk about diets but how boring for me. I like to delve deep and these two subjects will take me there. Hopefully a few people will come along for the ride.



I will likely report more on this while I am on the road.



Friday, July 20, 2007

Eating Vegetables When You're Busy

It's been a while since I've written, and I know that I've been eating lots of what's fresh and in-season although more of it is a blur than usual. Considering the insanity of my schedule of late, it amazes even me that I've managed to do that. So, I want to share a secret -- have a routine and stick to it as often as you can.

I usually shop at the farmer's market twice a week: on Wednesday and Saturday or Sunday. (I know, you may not have these options.) Once a week would probably carry me through but since I can buy fresh more often, I do. I don't use all that I've purchased on Wednesday by the weekend, so I then reassess my needs and buy based on that. Or at least I do, in theory. The reality is that if the Romano beans look great, I buy them. If a certain summer squash appeals to me. It's mine. I am swayed by what I see and that works for me. It's better to let what's fresh guide my meals than have it the other way around. That way -- no winter squash in July.

Shopping at the market is an easy way to make sure that the vegetables are here to cook with when I want them. (Having food around to prepare will always be to your benefit. Think of where you'd want to be if disaster struck -- in the place with the fully stocked pantry or the mostly bare one?) If you've read any posts lately you know that I am heavily into pressure cooking.

The reason that I've been busy is that I've been working on the finishing touches of my DVD: Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes. I thought that it was going to be 30 minutes and it turns out that with the 14 dishes that I prepared, it runs an hour and 15 minutes. More for you and right now, more work for me. But it's a constant reminder of the great fast food that I can make in my pressure cooker, which I do, almost daily.

Whether I run to the store for prepared food (which I don't do often) or to buy ingredients or cook a meal at home, I have to devote at least 20 minutes. One way, I burn gas and don't get something as fresh as possible, and the other way, I am part of the process of what goes into my mouth. I get to put love into the food. And that's important to me. What do you think about this?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Corn, Chiles and Tomatoes -- Summer's Here

I got a big surprise at the farmer's market this morning. Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm told me that they might be the only one at the market since Paula the market manager said on the radio that the market would be cancelled.


Well, that's certainly not the case. Many vendors were there. And Jill at Crescent Moon Farm had told me on Saturday that they would have corn today. And they did. People were buying it like crazy. In the time that Carey of Neilsen Farm got her few ears and while we talked the remaining corn was purchased by just a few shoppers. Jill also had 3 kinds of chili peppers -- Cyklone, black Hungarian and cayenne. I bought the cayenne the other day and it was hot and sweet and wow.



I also got tomatoes and there were lots of them today. I came home and made wonderful vegetable soup in the pressure cooker. What an Independence Day treat.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Vegetables for Breakfast


I feel so much better when I eat vegetables in the morning. I know, it's kind of strange. And I'm not asking you to do the same but you could try it and see.


In Japan, I hear that they eat soba noodles and in China, they eat jook which is a rice porridge. Both are savory. And so in an effort to not get so hungry before 10 a.m. I eat a higher protein veg breakfast that either has tofu, beans or lentils and veggies. I serve it over any grain that I happen to have already cooked, or add lots of veggies and eat as much as I want.
I make my breakfast bowl in the pressure cooker and it takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish. The one that I made this morning was especially delicious as it had ginger, garlic, onions, carrots, potatoes, part of a cayenne pepper, tofu, Romano and wax beans, Costata Romanesco squash, broccoli shoots and curry powder. I topped it with a very interesting Asian salt from McCormick. I liked it so much that I ate 2 bowlfuls.
I got my bowl from Scott Wilson who makes pottery up near Lake Tahoe. It's a substantial bowl and I like to eat almost everything out of it. It's similar to portion control but the portion is larger. When I really want to limit my portions, I use a very small bowl. This one reminds me to have beauty in my life. And that is incredibly important. Add in some gratitude and good food, and that's a wonderful life.

Belly Fat and Stress Hormones

Oh, I read this story this morning in my local paper and figured that people are thinking that they've got it made -- all their belly fat woes will be taken care of with the magic hormone-blocking pill. Then I read the following post on Ethicurean and felt good that I wasn't the only one who realizes that knowing why you have belly fat or pack more of it on won't change anything. Change comes from within. If you've got stress, manage it. Change your life, if you must. After all, it's your life.

by http://www.ethicurean.com/ Ethicurean @ 5:47 pm on July 1st, 2007.
NEWS
Stressed-out, supersized mice: Researchers have found the neurochemical pathway in mice that makes them fat when subjected to chronic stress and a junk-food diet. They’ve also found how blocking those signals can prevent fat accumulation and shrink fat deposits, “while stimulating the pathway can strategically create new ones, possibly offering new ways to remove fat as well as to mold youthful faces, firmer buttocks and bigger breasts.” Why even bother trying to decrease our stress levels, or change our diet, when we can manipulate our brain chemistry instead? (first seen in the Washington Post, and today in The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA


While vegetables might not be the complete answer, certainly eating more of them might help boost your antioxidant and phytochemical intake, possibly effecting your hormones in a positive way, and help you eat less "junk". Remember that eating vegetables has many benefits -- but reducing stress may not be one of them. Although, getting rid of belly fat may help make you feel better so...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Veggie Queen Lets Off Steam -- Pressure Cooking Joy

It amazes me that I chose the hottest day of the year to film my pressure cooking DVD but perhaps it was a reminder about why I choose to pressure cook -- it's a chance to let off steam, literally, and get great tasting food with not much work.



My ambitious schedule included 16 recipes but I had to cut it down when I got too hot and tired to do the last one which was for Curried Vegetables to serve over Alter Eco purple Thai rice. I did make the rice and it doesn't look nearly as good on film as it does in person but heck, it takes only 3 minutes at pressure, the same as white basmati or jasmine rice. The time savings amazes even me.



I bet that the crew was happy to be filming food versus plastic surgery. I'm sure that the plastic surgeons don't provide food after each section is complete. I started with breakfast and went straight through dessert. The leftovers could have fed a small hungry village almost anywhere in the world. I didn't let them go to waste as I fed my assistant Ellen and her family, my husband and me, and put some in my mother-in-law's freezer as payment for letting me use her kitchen (while she was out of town).



It'll be interesting to see the finished product. Any ideas for a title? Currently it's The Veggie Queen Cooks Under Pressure: Delicious Dishes in Minutes. But until the cover goes to the printer, I am open to suggestions.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anxiously Awaiting New Potatoes

I will reluctantly admit that I am somewhat of a potato addict. And while many in this country choose to eat them as French fries, that's not the way that I like them best.


I most enjoy potatoes baked, grilled or as a non-creamy potato salad. While filming my pressure cooking DVD (still untitled, so if you have any ideas, please send them my way), I made my Garlicky Green Bean and Potato Salad. It takes just 3 minutes to cook, and has a dressing with garlic and lemon juice. And it's wonderful.


Because of the timing for filming, I couldn't wait until our local potatoes popped up but got California Yukon golds. I would have preferred to have made red, white and blue potato salad, and have been assured by one of the potato growers that they might have them by July 4th. But I've found that they usually appear later than that.


It took me many years to realize that potatoes are really more of a summer crop although I think that most people eat them in the winter. I like them all year round but try only to eat the local ones which don't last all winter (maybe in a root cellar but not in the dark of my garage).


I know that there are some people who say that potatoes aren't good for you. And that may be true for some people, especially those of you who have blood sugar problems. It doesn't mean that you can't eat them but that there are better choices for you. And if you do eat them, watch the quantities. Also, you may not know it but potatoes that are chilled and mixed with an acid such as vinegar or lemon juice will cause less of a rise in blood sugar than potatoes eaten hot and plain. Of course, there's no need to discuss mayonnaise-laden potato salad or French fries, here.


If you enjoy potatoes as much as I do, and can eat them, then be on the lookout for new potatoes, in whatever colors and varieties you can find them.

I wrote this entire post and then went to the farmer's market in Sebastopol. Larry, of Triple T Ranch and Farm and the produce stand that was formerly Bob's Fruit Truck, both in Santa Rosa, called me over when I was at his booth. He showed me a bucket. And in it were yellow Finn potatoes. I let out a whoop and then went behind the table and got down on my knees and started picking through them. My inner potato fantasy has been satisfied and I know that there will be more to come. I'm off to cook now.

Seeing My Students at the Farmer's Markets

What a joy it is for me to be at the farmer's market and see my current and former students shopping there. Sometimes I might see as many as 4 of them in just a few minutes. It makes me feel as if I have done my job getting people out to buy fresh and local food.


Yesterday I saw April again who now rides to the market on her bicycle or carpools with a friend. She is taking steps to decrease her "carbon footprint" and that's impressive. Another student, Nathan, rides his bicycle to work all week, and also shops the market. If he sees me when he first gets there, he stops by for the market tip of the day.


I've thought about setting up a booth at the market, like the advice booth in the Peanuts cartoons, to tell people what is great that day. April was lamenting that the pea people weren't there yesterday. Lucky for me, Carey Nelson was at my Sunday market. And once again I am "rich in peas" (which was something was son used to say when he was little).


As for my students, if I can get at least one a semester to go the farmer's market regularly, it's worth all my cajoling. Often, I think that when they see the beautiful produce that I bring in to class, that they get to use, they know that it's in its prime and they want to get it. I mean, it's not as if you can buy zephyr squash (they are mostly yellow with a little light green), Suyo long cucumbers or truly ripe peaches at the store, all of which can be found at the market.


We are also lucky enough to have a great local farm stand. And I've seen my students there, too. I guess that my evangelical tirades about eating fresh and local are working. I am hoping that everyone can get the concept but it has to happen one person at a time. This is the time of year to check out the farmer's market.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Apricots, Peaches and Cherries, Oh My

Here in California we are into the stone fruit season with an abundance of wonderful, fresh, ripe apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, apriums, pluots and other new stone fruits that are crosses -- the names that I can't remember. Also, there are cherries.

This year my friend Ellen had a bumper crop of cherries and she made a pie. I don't really eat pie but I do love the fruit inside. I prefer fruit crisps for their taste and higher nutrition value with oats, nuts and cinnamon and other spices which enhance rather than enrobe the fruit. I am not into crust. But oh, the cherries -- which Ellen gave me a bag of since I didn't want pie. I am savoring them. They are ripe and deep red bings.

Amazingly, that same day I was able to pick Ranier-type cherries from my late friend Jon's tree and ate far too many before going out to dinner. They taasted much better than dinner. I realize that I could sit and eat cherries for much of a day, if I had the intestinal fortitude. And I mean that seriously since cherries, like all fruit, have a lot of fiber. So when you eat too much of them, you know it. Therefore Mother Nature has created something of a perfect system, unlike that of manufactured food such as potato or other chips, where it's almost impossible to eat too much fruit without suffering the "natural consequence".

My favorite summer salad contains stone fruit, lettuce and bitter greens with spring onions and a raspberry or strawberry dressing, topped with toasted sunflower seeds and ripe avocado. It is divine decadence and so satisfying. And the good part is that you can eat quite a lot, in fact, pretty much all you want without feeling stuffed. I urge you to try this and see how you feel.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bean Anywhere New Lately?

I am definitely on a bean tear. For me, part of the joy of teaching is that it keeps me doing what I talk about -- eating lots of great food. I have leftovers that I pretend someone else made for me. They are what I want to eat, and wish that I could find in restaurants -- the more low key and standard kind than upscale and pricey. I think that everyone deserves to eat tasty, wholesome food that provides incredibly nutrition such as freshly cooked dried beans, sprouted corn tortillas (made by Food for Life), some spring onion and cilantro with a bit of local hot sauce. Yum, yum.

So, let me tell you what I've been up to and thinking about. I want to mention beans again. The Rancho Gordo beans are relatively expensive at $4.95 per pound. When I mentioned the price at the demonstration that I did at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, I think that I heard a gasp. When I went on to say that it turns out that they cost 70 cents per cup, people became more interested. I also mentioned that it's likely that many of the animal products that they eat such as fish, seafood, and meat all cost more than $5 per pound, and that you'd be hard pressed to feed a family on a pound of that while you could do so with the beans. A pound of the Cellini beans makes about 7 cups (it varies with the variety cooked).

Getting people to see that buying a latte for $3 is expensive while the beans are not, is tough. But it's only one of many of the challenges that I face in my teaching. I am up for it.

Today I cooked brown tepary beans from the Tohono O'odham Nation tribe in Arizona. They are small but so delicious. They are native beans which have sustained that Native American tribe for many years. They're available from http://www.heritagefoodsusa.com.


And that brings me to another interesting project that I came across at the farmer's market in Santa Rosa.

There is a woman who has been coming there and giving away heirloom seeds for people to grow and save. Agreeing to take some home got me out of my comfort zone as I don't consider myself much of a gardener although I do grow a number of summer vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and occasionally peppers and/or eggplant. She calls what she does Seed Stewards http://www.seedstewards.com. I am kind of excited to see how these plants turn out, and if I can give them enough care.

I would love to grow some heirloom beans but know that I lack the space to do so. I only keep encouraging farmers I know to do that. Jill Adams at Crescent Moon farm told me that they will be growing 8 or 10 varieties of dried beans this year. I am very excited about that. And my friends at Tierra Vegetables will hopefully have the amazing pink beans that I bought last year, if all goes well with the crop.

And the best part about beans is that they are made for pressure cooking. So, now on to my pressure cooking DVD. And you will hear more about that, and beans, I am sure.

Contemplating Beans and What That Means

Part of my presentation and cooking demonstration at Kaiser in Santa Rosa mid-May was about beans. I used some wonderful beans from Rancho Gordo called Cellini which is a large white runner bean. They are "meaty" and delicious but take a while to cook. I was happy to have used the pressure cooker, and they still took 10 minutes after being presoaked. Yet they were delicious.

Now, about soaking. Someone asked me about whether or not you need to soak beans. I answered that when you soak beans and you then dispense of the water, you get rid of some of the indigestible carbohydrates which can cause gas. The best way to presoak is to put 3 inches of water above the beans, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Pour off the water, and then cook. If you add a piece of kombu seaweed, it may help make the beans easier to digest. And even if the seaweed doesn't do that, it will add important minerals that you need to get daily.

The other way to make beans more digestible is to eat them more often. Yes, that's what I said -- EAT BEANS MORE OFTEN. If you eat small amounts of beans every day, your body will likely adjust to the fiber in the beans. The key is to not eat a large portion of beans at once, if you don't eat them regularly. The indigestible carbohydrates may end up fermenting in your intestine, causing flatulence. This may not be a problem for you but possibly for the people around you. It is a natural occurrence but you can lessen the effects.

Another way to make beans more digestible is by sprouting them before cooking them. You can do this by soaking the beans in a glass jar overnight. Then drain, place a piece of cheesecloth on top of the jar, turn it over and put it in a bowl in a dark place and rinse the beans twice a day. When they have sprouted a little tail, which takes a day or two, then the beans are ready to eat or cook.

I also want to address the myth of beans being fattening. I was sitting across from an older friend who told me, "Beans are fattening." He said this while he was eating roast beef and I was eating pasta with pesto. I said, "This pasta is fattening. Beans are not." I am often amazed at what people think about food and what will make you fat.

Of course, if you eat too many beans you might gain weight. But that's not what I'm contemplating today.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Vegetables Improve Your Sex Life

Did I get your attention? Do vegetables sound sexier now? I think that's part of the problem with veggies -- they don't get much respect and they aren't somehow tied to sex. But did you know that eating lots of antioxidants can keep you healthier and that can lead to better sex more often? (How's that for a big jump but it would make a good headline, wouldn't it?)



Vegetables need a better image and I think that maybe people would eat more of them if they had it. Anita Levine Goldberg, FNP (nurse practitioner at Kaiser in Santa Rosa) and I were talking at the farmer's market in Sebastopol about how Kaiser farmer's market customers wanted fruit not vegetables. I said that I think that they are intimidated by vegetables. And many people are afraid to go to the farmer's market to shop because they don't want to ask questions and have to learn more to eat their veggies. Granted, it is easier to be on automatic pilot. But if you learn and change what you do, that will some day become automatic pilot for you.

Try eating more vegetables and see what happens -- you never know what it might lead to. You may just end up feeling better and having more energy, and that's good, too.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Peased to Meet You

This morning I put on my pea shirt with the slogan, "Peased to Meet You", with the hopes of finding peas at the market. I parked in a different place than usual and guess what? I saw the Nielsen Ranch sign and got excited at the prospect of potatoes. Boy, was I surprised when I saw that they didn't have potatoes but instead had peas, both English and sugar snap (edible pod), and favas (which are not of interest to me because they are too much work). Carey wanted to know if I could stand at her booth and advertise peas with my shirt. (I didn't do that but mentioned my peas to numerous shoppers.)


Her husband Robert told me that he just finished planting potatoes 2 days ago and that they'll have 14 varieties this year, including red, white and blue for July 4th. I am looking forward to it so I might be able to make my red, white and blue potato salad.


I bought both types of the delicious peas which was a great start to my market morning.


Although, I was quite tired from doing a cooking demonstration last night for Women's Night Out at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, I got to the market early. About 100 hundred women were at the Kaiser event and I'd have to say that it was a success. I got home around 9, had to unpack and it left me dragging a bit.



At the market, I still had enough energy to help my friend Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm, after I snagged a number of baby artichokes. Oh, I just love the veggies of spring. Larry also had beautiful red spring onions, asparagus and a new crop that's similar to broccolini (which is trademarked) called Happy something which I just call happiness or "beyond broccoli". I will eat well in the next few days.


At Orchard Farm I got some "mandrake" carrots that really looked like people pulled from the ground. No mistaking that one of them was a male carrot. (If I had a camera, I'd show you.) They were sweet to eat and interesting to see.


In addition to great veggies, there was summer fruit: apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines and sweet as can be strawberries. At last night's event which was called Greens, Grains and Chocolate: The Path to Women's Health, we finished the evening with organic strawberries and dark chocolate. The local strawberries were incredibly sweet.


My fellow presenter, Melanie Larsen, MA, RD, asked me to address the issue of buying in season. So I went on a few minute rant about shopping at the farmer's market and buying locally. I explained that it's next to impossible to get really ripe strawberries (or any fruit for that matter) at the supermarket or natural food store. They don't travel well. In fact, one of the peaches that I bought this morning had to be eaten as soon as I got home because it got bruised, and I was pretty gentle with it. Just imagine what would happen with commercial shipping and handling.


I want to continue to encourage you to buy as fresh and local as you can. And if you can get your produce unsprayed or organic, that's even better, especially for strawberries and other produce on the Environmental Working Group's Worst 12 list (Check out it out at http://www.foodnews.org). I know that cherries are on it and I have been told by Brenda, who works the cherry booth where I buy, that no harmful chemicals have been used by her "uncle". I hope that's true. I justify my eating them this way: they are fairly expensive so I don't buy lots at a time, and they aren't in season for that long so I don't have continued exposure, should I be poisoning myself unwittingly. I am paying attention and like everyone else, I have to make choices about what I eat. Fresh, ripe cherries are hard to resist.


Now, I shall turn my attention back to my sweet and delicious peas, which I added raw to the Quinoa with Spring Onions and Herbs that I cooked up last night. This is real food at its best.



Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

To everyone who is a mother (and even those who are not), have a wonderful Mother's Day. I find that it is the one time a year that I try hardest to indulge myself. This morning I bought roses at the farmer's market. I am not talking about the long-stemmed modern kind that emit almost no scent but the ones that not only look but smell wonderful.

They are nestled in a vase (that was my grandmother's) numerous feet from me and I can smell them. They have perfumed the air. Their colors are beautiful and range from light yellow to apricot to lavender and the double colored Double Delight which has an aroma to match its white and fuchsia beauty.

If you're lucky, at this time of year (at least here in CA) you'll find peas of all types -- English, snow and sugar snap, the first of the cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. It's finally the true end of the apple, pear and citrus season. And I am thankful.

Last week I went to the Pleasant Hill Farmer's Market and did a cooking demonstration. The highlight was trading my book for a bottle of Deep 6 wine from Periscope Cellars http://www.periscopecellars.com. I love the name of the cellar and the wine and the winemaker works here in Sonoma County.

The Veggie Queen cookbook comes in handy for many things, and trading for wine is one of them (which you'd find out if you read this blog often enough).

Since I live in wine country, it's easy for me to meet winemakers and I know a number personally. I am incredibly lucky and I know it. If you are ever planning a trip to Sonoma County, I'd be happy to steer you in the right direction regarding your food and wine interests.

Happy day to you.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Spring in Chicago

I am speaking of both the weather and the restaurant -- one was cold and the other was warm and attentive.

The $55 per person menu at Spring in the Buckhorn district– four savory dishes and a dessert – offers an imaginative twist. It is not pre-set but rather selected and composed by the chef on an individual basis and based on items from the regular menu. If more than one guest of a party orders the chef’s tasting menu, all receive different items allowing everyone the opportunity to sample a vast variety of dishes.

There we were, 4 wonderful culinary women, sharing fantastic food, prepared by Chef Shawn McClain, a James Beard award-winning chef, and treated like queens by our wonderfully entertaining waiter, Jeff, and drinking sparkling Spanish cava in honor of my birthday (what an excuse) and just being alive.

We started with an amuse bouche, which was different for the fish eaters versus the vegetarians. The veg version -- a bite to be chewed and then sipped finished with a burst of flavor that was a sure sign of the delight to follow.

I wish that I could recall all that we ate but we had 16 different dishes and I was so focused on our conversation and the laughter that ensued, that I can only recall bits and pieces. Two standout dishes were the Spring Garlic and Potato Soup with pickled veggies hiding in the bottom of the bowl, and the smooth and silky vinegared barley underneath a dish made with octopus. I must get that barley recipe. Every dish was packed with flavor, some more exciting than others. The restaurant is known for its fish dishes but my friend Fran and I were served wonderfully imaginative vegetarian fare.

Desserts were delicious but a bit of overkill, as we were all quite sated. I ate just a bite of dessert. The small shots of hot chocolate were the perfect end to the meal.

When we were done, and said hello to Chef "McDreamy", as Jeff called him, he suggested that we eat at Green Zebra, the chef's vegetarian restaurant. I wish that we had had the time to do that.

Another trip to Chicago is in order but it will not be in the Spring -- it's just too cold for me there. And I guess that leaves out the latter Fall and all of Winter. But I do see Green Zebra on the horizon -- and another peek at Chef McClain would be pretty good, too.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The State of Food -- Chicago IACP Conference

The opening session at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference was a discussion about the state of organic food. On the panel were Sam Fromartz, author of Organics, Inc., Michael Abelman, former farmer in Santa Barbara, and author of a couple of books, Jim, the marketing guy, from Chipotle Grill and Howard, the guy from Kraft.

Sam introduced the guys and talked about how to keep ideals in a capitalist system. Everyone else gave their view of it and what they do in this regard.

Jim from Chipotle had visuals of pigs in CAFO which are confined animal feeding operations. Those poor pigs were stuck in their own little prison cells, next to other inmates, for their whole lives. Steve Els, the driving force behind Chipotle Grill, figured that there was a better way and found Niman Ranch and their small farms. Jim showed photos of the happy hogs out on the farm -- a much better image to keep in mind, if one is going to eat pork (and that is truly a much bigger topic). He also mentioned that when they raised the price of their carnitas by a dollar that they sold 4 times as much. That is amazing. I guess that people really are willing to pay for better food. Good stories.

Then we went on to Howard from Kraft who unfortunately seemed out of place. He was dressed in jacket, tie and white shirt. He was the Kraft spokesperson and this is what he said. "It's all about the consumer. We are helping people around the world to live and eat better." Yes, that's just how I think of Kraft. He went on to talk about their Back to Nature brand, and Boca, how they have organic salad dressing and the best one yet -- Kraft Organic Macaroni and Cheese. I can't say much about that, other than wow.

Michael Abelman said that organic is only the 1st and most basic step. He used the term "organicrats" for what has happened in and to the organic industry. He told us that we must consider the ecological, spiritual and social values and learn to know the people that grow your food. The industrial food system is broken. He suggested that we make pure food available to all. And to that, I say, "Amen".

Chicago Eats

Traveling is hard on me. It's not just the time or temperature change, but having to go through security at the airport where you just about have to get undressed and redressed before you gather yourself together to sit at the gate and wait for the plane, all while feeling thirsty or plunking down $2 to $3 for a bottle of water. I opt for the water, at almost any cost, although I don't care for drinking out of plastic bottles. I guess that I could choose beer but it doesn't truly quench thirst -- at least not while traveling. But on to my travels to Chicago.

My first day there I had the chance to take a tour with about 45 other food professionals. It was fascinating despite the snow, rain, slush and overall cold weather.

Our first stop was at Bleeding Heart Bakery, the first certified organic bakery in the country. Run by a young, tattooed woman with talent, they offer many baked products from scones to Mexican brownies. Many are vegan and those that I tasted were pretty darn good. The place was not big enough for our crowd but we did get a brief kitchen tour in small groups. The baking staff is going to be helping a new pizza place get off the ground and that will provide them with more baking space. Well, worth the visit when you are in the area (I couldn't tell you where I was.)

Our next stop was to an ice carving plant. In my mind I kind of dismissed this part of the tour as boring. Well, I was wrong. I had no idea how interesting ice could be. From making it to designing it and then actually carving it -- it's all an art. And a fascinating one to observe. Later that evening we got to see an "ice bar" in action.

Then it was on to lunch. We were treated incredibly well by the staff at Quartino, an Italian place done up just right. The very un-Chicago thin crust pizza was tasty, as were all the small dishes, although there was far too much white bread for my liking. They did provide us with lots of food, in a wonderful atmosphere.

Vosges chocolate was the perfect after lunch stop. We were met there by Katrina Markoff, the young woman in charge of Vosges, who shared her story of her chocolate empire. The unusually flavored truffles are divine but expensive which seems just right. Most interestingly, my purple and black clothes matched the store's interior. I looked like a Vosges spokesperson.

Finishing our tour we stopped at Goose Island Brewing which was in a nondescript industrial part of the city which is perfect for this type of business. I mean, you really don't want people knowing where you make the hooch, do you? This was the largest regional brewery that I'd even seen in action, and I have been to a few. The range of beer was amazing, from a silky Belgian style to a hearty IPA, and many types in between. As at most breweries, there were lots of high energy young guys working there and handing out sample tastes and larger as if there were no tomorrow. For us, there was still the conference opening night reception.

That was held at the Merchandise Mart and it was wonderfully interesting -- from molded jello body to the mannequin designed from greens and so much more. After all that food and drink, I needed a good night's sleep. But that took days to arrive.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Crap" Carbs not Good or Bad Carbs

This past weekend was the busiest farmer's market of the season. I am sure that spring has hit and people have taken notice as I arrived at the market just after 9:30 a.m. and the asparagus was all gone, even the stuff for the ridiculous price of $10 a pound. I needed it for a class but...

I ran into Brad Larsen who was one of the instigators of the Healthy Cafeteria project at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa. He was speaking to me when up walked another person into health, Steve of Santa Rosa Strength http://www.santarosastrength.com. Brad mentioned a clip from NPR about someone comparing diets and saying that the message that people got from the Atkins' diet was to cut out bad carbs such as white flour and white sugar. The part that they didn't get was to skip the beef and brie as good food. The part that they didn't get was to skip the beef and brie as good food. In any case, Brad mentioned "crap carbs" and I much prefer that to good and bad.

People have a lot of issues surrounding what's good and what's bad. And some like to eat what's labeled "bad" just because it's verboten. So, "crap" carb seems more appropriate since I said, "I don't really know anyone who wants more crap, do you?"

It's the same white flour and white sugar, pasta and such that needs to be eliminated.

Brad told me about how he went and cooked for his brother for a week and helped him clean out his kitchen and institute whole, healthy eating, that his brother said that the food tasted better than worms. Now, that is no compliment.

And if you are used to eating pasty white food most of the time that's filled with sugar, salt and fat, then perhaps "real" food tastes like worms. But I will take the "real" food any day for it makes me feel nourished, and it's good fuel for my body. I can't imagine my body wanting to perform on a diet of "crap" carbs all day long. Can you?

Organic French Fries and Weight Loss

This morning while flipping through the coupons in the Sunday paper I saw an ad for organic frozen French Fries. The worst part about it was that they were touting the fact that they provide more in their bag than other leading frozen brands. I certainly encourage people to eat organic foods, and, yes, even with French Fries it would be better but they are not on my list of recommended foods. If you've got to eat them, do oven fries and make them yourself. They'll likely taste better and be better for you. Ugh. What will they come up with next in the organic department? It's getting insane.

Related to this reversely is that I saw someone at the first Sebastopol farmer's market of the season. I hadn't seen her in a number of months. I said hello and realized that this woman (who shall remain nameless so we'll use the letter A. unless she chooses to be known) had lost weight. I asked her if she'd lost some weight and she said, "Yes. I lost 68 pounds."

"How did you do it? " I asked. She told me that she cut out white flour and white sugar. This goes back to the blog in which I wrote about "crap carbs". A. got it. Good for her. She said that she'd like to lose more and I suspect that she will now that she's understood the concept: processed white flour and sugar products are not good for you. It doesn't matter if it's sourdough bread or pasta. None of them are good as part of your regular meals.

But enough ranting...I just want to say that it was a joy to go to the first Sunday market. And since last year was such a vegetable bust due to heavy rains deep into the spring, this year was a joy -- asparagus, lettuce, greens, onions, garlic. Oh, I am getting hungry. Time to develop some new recipes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dairy-Free Dessert Diva Makes Vegan Twinkies on Nightline

My friend Fran Costigan will be my roommate at the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) conference in Chicago in a few weeks. The most exciting part, other than the fact that we like each other, is that she was just filmed for news show Nightline demonstrating how to make vegan "twinkies". Her new website http://www.francostigan.com also looks great.

I met Fran at an IACP conference in Phoenix where we ended up sitting next to each other at lunch. We both pulled out our special tags so that enable us to get vegetarian meals at these conferences. Really nice of them to think of that for us foodies who prefer "real food". The sad part is that often the food is prepared by hotel or convention center catering services and what they offer to feed us is woefully inadequate, especially if you are a vegan.

My sister just told me about a lunch that she went to where all the other people got sandwiches with fillings such as roast beef or turkey with bags of chips but what they had for the vegetarians was a plain salad with tomato. No bread to go with it, nothing else. I told her that it must be a plot to starve the vegetarians and maybe they'll go away. She said what she thinks is more likely the truth -- they just don't think about it. One of my hot buttons.

Why don't they think that vegetarians care? Maybe it's because most meat eaters don't care as long as they get their food, be it lousy sandwiches or not. This is not truly the case since there are conscious meat eaters but it's almost an oxymoron. If they were really conscious, wouldn't they choose not to eat meat? (I do realize that I am being a bit judgmental but I can be since I am the writer here.)

Back to Fran... She's wonderful and I love what she does to make truly tasty vegan desserts that anyone wants to eat. Too bad that we won't have an oven in our hotel room. Oh, but she is teaching a cupcake class immediately before boarding the plane. Maybe I could talk her into saving one and bringing it for me -- in case it's one of those instances that there isn't much for this vegetarian to eat.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Fair Trade Products from Alter Eco

You know when you meet someone and get that warm, fuzzy feeling? You can feel that what they do is from the heart? Well, that has happened to me more than once with Mathieu from Alter Eco http://www.altereco-usa.com/, a company that has fair trade rice, quinoa, coffee, tea and chocolate available in the U. S. I spent quite a while speaking to Mathieu at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim in March. He is an amazing young man (he's only 32), who credits the success of the company to his French cousin (he and his business partner are also French) whom he calls a genius.

Matthieu holds up a box of the Thai purple sticky rice and tells me that he does what he does for the man whose picture is on the side of the box. "I took that photo," he says with pride. Feeling that his heart is in his work, and it is making a difference, just about brings tears to my eyes, right there on the convention center floor. When you hear something so heartfelt, doesn't it touch you deeply?

And to make it even better, the products are truly wonderful. They include a Thai red rice, the purple sticky rice (already mentioned), regular and red quinoa, and more. I walked away with a bar of dark chocolate with almonds from the El Ceibo cooperative in Bolivia. It's organic and fair trade certified. On the back of the package is the story about the origin of the product. With my purchase, I am helping to support 800 families of the cooperative in the Bolivian Amazon. (This is the kind of Amazon I truly want to support.)

Having always had a desire to join the Peace Corps and make a difference, perhaps this is my way to contribute to a better future for others. Heck, I hear that they are taking older volunteers now and perhaps I will get that chance in the future. In the mean time, I am going to support Alter Eco and their Fair Trade products. I hope that you will do the same.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Veggie Queen Featured in Community Market Newsletter

Last week (OK, it's really a couple of them now) after my trip to the farmer's market I went to Santa Rosa Community Market http://www.srcommunitymarket.com/, my local, vegetarian natural foods store. I picked up their newsletter and their feature story was about me and my book The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.

Along with the interview is my recipe for Asparagus, Oyster Mushroom and Tofu Stir-Fry. As I am currently growing oyster mushrooms at home it will be easy to pair them with my farmer's market asparagus and some great tofu from Small Planet http://www.smallplanettofu.com, I'm ready to prepare my own recipe. I hadn't looked at it in so long, it didn't even seem like mine, which is a far cry from the time period when I was writing The Veggie Queen cookbook, and every recipe was fresh on my mind and in my face daily.

I feel as if I have put that baby to rest a bit and I am going to now forge ahead with my DVD Pressure Cooker project. Stay tuned for more details. In the mean time, keep those fresh veggies cooking -- under pressure or not.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Chatting with Dan Piraro of Bizarro

I met Dan Piraro for the second time since last summer at the Natural Foods Expo in Anaheim. This time I actually had a conversation with him. He is not only brilliant when drawing his cartoons, he is a funny guy -- pretty blunt or direct, too. I like that.

Perhaps he was happy to have a conversation with someone who just wanted to talk about life -- not necessarily about his cartoons, although some of them are just hysterical (at least to me).

Dan is an animal activist, and he recently designed the product label for So Delicious Kids Popsicles. In our conversation Dan said that he wasn't such a great fan of kids, as such, except for the fact that they are human beings. He loves his 2 daughters very much and seems relieved that they have grown up somewhat, the youngest being 19. But he's done having kids despite having a beautiful young wife.

I wasn't writing while talking to Dan and can't remember all the funny and poignant things that he said but I walked away laughing. And when I did I had a poster in my hand, signed to my son Shane. I told my contact at Amy's Kitchen about the poster and took her over to meet Dan. Michelle was thrilled.

If you want to feel more connected to Dan he suggests the you support Farm Sanctuary http://www.farmsanctuary.org. Also read Dan's strip Bizarro in your newspaper, if you are lucky enough, that they include it. It will likely give you a new perspective on a number of issues -- he's got plenty of "vegan" cartoons.