Cream of Tomato Soup from the Oh She Glows Cookbook

ohsheglows 822x1024The day the long-awaited Oh She Glows Cookbook showed up on our doorstep was an exciting one indeed.

My wife and I do a lot of cooking at home, and time permitting, we make as much as we can from scratch — staples like almond butter, hummus, almond milk, and vegetable stock. Foods that of course you can buy, but it just feels better (and it’s usually cheaper, too) to make them ourselves.

And if there’s one blog that has helped us find our way along this less-trodden (these days), do-it-yourself path — and one blog that seems to turn up whenever we Google “how to roast pumpkins” or “oil-free vegan pancake recipe” — it’s Oh She Glows, by Angela Liddon.

Though we haven’t met in person, Angela has become an online friend of mine. I jumped at the chance to get a review copy, knowing major points would be scored on the  home front (as they always are when advance copies of cookbooks show up) but also genuinely excited to see how Angela would distill her considerable natural cooking chops and hundreds of recipes on her blog into a cohesive, comprehensive book format.

To nobody’s surprise, she has done it beautifully, with rustic, DIY elegance.

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5 Recommended Books for Healthy Summer Reading

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post called “On Turning Pro” where I laid out my plan to make some changes in my mindset — this after the roughest six months of my life, when anxiety issues came (seemingly) out of nowhere to render me pretty darn useless.

Central to my plan: reading for one hour each day.

It’s the one habit I can identify that is most closely tied to my sense of well-being. My hope was that by making sure I absolutely stuck to it, other good habits would naturally form.

And I’ve actually done it! I’ve gone through busy periods where much of the daily hour has shifted to listening to books (easy during 100-miler training), but that’s acceptable, and I must say it’s worked pretty much as I hoped it would.

I’ve taken on a lot this year — finishing up writing my book, training for a 100, moving to a new house, and having a new baby (granted, my wife played a slightly larger role in that than I did) — and anxiety has really taken a back seat to it all. Gooooo, reading!

My Summer Reading Recommendations

Anyway … in this past month I decided to read five health and running books that had piled up on my to-read list. Many of them had been sent to me for review by publishers, and I had back-burnered them in favor of books that I personally wanted to read. (By the way, I’m trying to get back into updating my GoodReads account, so you can follow me on there if you’re into that sort of thing.)

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My New Favorite Running Shoes and the Story of a Gigantic Chocolate Egg in a Suspicious Package

1101411D725.070defaultpdMy friend Jason Fitzgerald, who writes the brilliant blog Strength Running, taught me a philosophy that I think strikes the perfect middle ground in the barefoot-versus-shod running debate:

“Run like a barefooter, but do it with shoes on.”

What Jason means when he says to run like a barefooter is that you should run with a quick cadence, short strides so that your weight stays over your feet, and a midfoot strike, instead of landing hard on your heel. Running barefoot essentially forces you to do these things, since doing otherwise just plain hurts, without all that cushioning that traditional running shoes offer.

This lack of feedback caused by modern shoes, of course, is the main argument for barefoot running. Cushy shoes allow us (encourage us, even) to run in a way that’s unnatural and that, over time, leads to injuries.

The argument for wearing shoes is less subtle: a layer of cushioning between our feet and the ground protects us not just from the impact of the road (which is perhaps much harder than the surfaces we evolved to run barefoot on), but also from rocks, glass, etc.

You can see the appeal of the compromise: Run with the form nature designed us to run with, then throw in a layer of protection from the ground.

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The 2012 No Meat Athlete Holiday Gift Guide!

Face it — as a vegetarian or vegan athlete, you just might be that friend who is impossible to shop for. We tend to be kind of obsessive, and outside of food and fitness, there’s not always a lot of time leftover for other, gift-friendly hobbies. You know; golf, gadgetry-obsessing, necktie-wearing, etc.

That’s why Susan, Doug, and I decided to put together this little holiday gift guide, specifically for weirdos out there like us. Over the past few weeks, we’ve tried out a bunch of new (and some not new) vegetarian/vegan/fitness products, and the ones we liked best made our list!

We hope you’ll find the opportunity to not-so-subtly pass it  on to a friend whose gift list you’re on … or that you’ll find a few ideas for things you had no idea you badly needed. Which, of course, is what the holidays are all about, right? icon smile

Enjoy our holiday picks!

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How Subway’s 3 New Vegan Subs Stack Up

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Subway's new vegan subs

Finally, a mainstream restaurant chain has taken a step toward embracing the dietary choices of vegetarians and vegans.

And, lucky us, it’s not just any old restaurant chain — it’s the world’s largest.

After a lengthy campaign from the good folks over at Compassion Over Killing, Subway announced last week that eight of their Washington, DC area restaurants would be testing out three new subs.

The Malibu Greek, the Italian Black Bean, and the Sweet Riblet are their names, and these new subs aren’t just vegetarian — they’re 100% vegan.

Why this matters

It happens to us all.

Even the most prepared of vegetarians will find themselves five hours into a long car ride, or sitting in the airport looking for something to eat besides a wilted salad and a roll. Most of us prepare by bringing snacks, homemade sandwiches, or following tips for traveling as a vegan, but sometimes the only option is to grab something on the road.

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Book Review: Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra

FINDING ULTRA COVER FINAL1Rich Roll may not yet have the name recognition of Brendan Brazier or Scott Jurek in the plant-based endurance world, but his story sure deserves to be heard.

What makes Rich’s story so inspiring, as he tells it in his new book, Finding Ultra, is that in reading it you come to realize that this man who now excels at the Ultraman — a triathlon about double the Ironman distance, spread over three days, ending with a 52-mile ultramarathon — is actually a whole lot like you and me.

Looking at Rich’s resume now, it’s hard to believe that just five years ago, he didn’t do much of anything physical: didn’t run, didn’t cycle, and hadn’t done much swimming in his 20 years since college. And he most certainly didn’t do Ultramans or anything resembling EPIC5, an event consisting of five Iron-distance triathlons, one on each of Hawaii’s islands, in the span of a week, that he and his buddy cooked up for fun.

On top of all that, as a busy lawyer he didn’t give a second thought to what he was eating after a hard day of work. And as it turns out, the shift to eating plants is what started it all for Rich, when at nearly age 40 he got a wake up call and decided he needed to change, starting with his diet. In his words:

I can say with full confidence that my rapid transformation from middle-aged couch potato to Ultraman—to, in fact, everything I’ve accomplished as an endurance athlete—begins and ends with my PlantPower Diet.

That alone would make for an interesting story. Who just decides to go vegan, gets off the couch and starts running, and a year and a half later turns in a respectable finish at one of the toughest endurance events on the planet, only to be named one of the fittest men alive shortly after that?

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Thrive Foods Direct Review

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Eggplant Chana Masala from Thrive Foods Direct (the official photo, not my own)

On the heels of last week’s post about eating vegetarian while traveling, it seems an opportune time to publish a review of a service that makes it easy to do that very thing.

During Brendan Brazier’s podcast appearance earlier this year, we talked briefly about Thrive Foods Direct, his new service that delivers healthy vegan meals (like those in Brendan’s book Thrive Foods) to your door, fully prepared and ready to heat and serve.

I had the chance to try Thrive Foods Direct several weeks ago. My four sample meals could not have arrived at a better time — just a few hours prior, Erin and our son had left on an overnight trip, and I was foodless. The arrival of TFD at my door at that time meant:

(a) I wouldn’t have to cook for myself; and

(b) I wouldn’t have to share any of it with the little table monster that steals food from people’s plates in our house. Or with my son, either.

Win win win. Here’s how it went down.

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A Review of Brendan Brazier’s New Book, Thrive Foods

ThriveFoods image 882x1024If you’re the type that reads blogs about vegetarian and vegan fitness, then you already know who Brendan Brazier is.

He’s been a friend of this site since the very beginning, so of course you’ve already checked out our first interview, our second interview, and our third interview, right?

Okay, so if by chance you don’t yet know about Brendan, he’s a former professional Ironman triathlete who competed on an entirely vegan diet. And he’s the author of several books — most recently, Thrive Foods, which hits U.S. stores this month.

Well, the folks at Vega, Brendan’s sports nutrition company, were nice enough to send me an advance copy of Thrive Foods to review.

Hence the title of this post. Review time!

How do you improve on Thrive?

I read Brendan’s first book, Thrive, shortly after I became vegetarian back in 2009. It was my first serious introduction to plant-based nutrition, and it’s an incredibly thorough resource for any athlete who is interested in learning about the advantages to the body and the environment that a vegan diet offers.

It became my manual, my nutrition bible, and the book I recommended whenever someone asked me where to turn.

But there was one aspect of Thrive that I eventually came to realize I did not love: the actual, day-to-day recipes.

Take a look at a few of the ones I shared on this site (with Brendan’s permission, of course).  There’s the raw walnut “burger.”  There’s raw zucchini “pasta.”  There are the “pizza” recipes.

Why am I putting this stuff in quotes? Because if you actually look at these recipes, you’ll see that while they’re super-healthy, they’re really approximations of what these words are supposed to mean.  Don’t get me wrong — these high-raw, gluten-free, high-net-gain versions of familiar foods are far better for you than the originals, for sure. And as a professional Ironman triathlete, someone for whom fueling his body is part of his livelihood, that’s what mattered most to Brendan when he wrote Thrive.

But for a family, a vegetarian one even, that wanted to eat pretty normal (read: cooked) food, the recipes in Thrive were a little too extreme. I did the best I could with raw smoothies, salads, and I incorporated of as many of Brendan’s “next-level” foods as possible into my meals, but the diet in its entirety was something I just couldn’t adopt.  (I did appreciate the recipes for smoothies, sports drinks, and energy bars, however, and still use those today.)

The good news: Thrive Foods, Brendan’s new book, changes all of this.

In Thrive Foods, the focus is still on high-energy foods, many of them raw. But now, taste seems to have played a substantially larger role in the development of the 200 recipes in the book. Thrive Foods isn’t just for athletes; it’s for the growing vegan-curious population out there who cares about health, but really wants their food to be good.

And cooked. That’s hot.

Right in the introduction, Brendan explains that he’s not a chef, and so he enlisted the help of several top vegetarian and vegan chefs to improve the palatability of his ultra-healthy recipes. I’m familiar with only a few of the names, but you may know more of them: Amanda Cohen, Matthew Kenney, Julie Morris, Chad Sarno, and Tal Ronnen.

There are still the sports drinks, smoothies, energy bars and energy gels like I loved from Thrive. But now the salads, soups, dips, dressings, main courses, and desserts are the types of foods you can make for your family. (In fact, our 16-month old son even likes this food — a few nights ago he wolfed down his share of the Shanghai Rice Bowl, the recipe I’ve included at the end of this post.)

What’s amazing is that with the much-improved quality of the recipes, the focus on nutrition still shines through, making Thrive Foods the healthiest cookbook I know of. Many of the recipes (perhaps 10-20% of them) are raw, and most of those that are not still incorporate lots of raw ingredients and the foods that Brendan introduced so many of us to in Thrive — chia seeds, buckwheat, sprouts, dulse, coconut oil, dates, hemp seeds, etc.

If Thrive Foods was a cookbook and nothing more, it’d be totally worthy of my recommendation.

A volume of accessible recipes to accompany the treasure trove of information and the more extreme recipes in Thrive.  What more could you ask more?

Well, guess what? There’s a lot more… the recipes don’t start until page 127!

The entire first third of the book is an introduction to benefits of a plant-based diet, for health and the environment. It differs from Thrive in that the nutrition focus isn’t on sports nutrition, but rather on eating for general well-being and energy. But just like in Thrive, Brendan explains the need for all kinds of individual nutrients and minerals, listing the reasons why we need them and the best sources for them. He also goes into depth about the benefits of each of what he calls “next-level” ingredients.

If it sounds like I’m gushing about this one, it’s because I am. I really like this book. In fact, I’ll go ahead and call it the best vegan cookbook out there, if you’re looking for a balance of serious nutrition and food that tastes good. Oh yes, I went there.

I’ve recommended Thrive to more people than I can remember, but if I could go back and do it again, I’d start with Thrive Foods instead, for anyone but the most serious of athletes. The recipes are way better, and the supporting information is presented in a more appealing, easily-digestible way, with the help of graphics and diagrams for those who just want to skim it.

Alrighty. Enough gushing. You can check out Thrive Foods for yourself by visiting Brendan’s Facebook page, where you can download the introduction and three chapters from the book for free. Or if you just want to go ahead any buy the book, you can do that here (that’s my Amazon affiliate link, by the way). Finally, in case I haven’t provided enough links to click, you can go to Vega’s Facebook page to enter a contest for a chance to hang out with Brendan at a “green” Hollywood party during Emmy week.

I’ll leave you with my favorite of the handful of recipes I’ve tried so far. It’s quick, filling, and gives you a good idea of the mix of healthy, superfood-y stuff and regular food that you’ll find throughout Thrive Foods. And like I said, my kid even liked it. icon smile Oh, and the portions are enormous, so count on leftovers from this one.

Shanghai Rice Bowl (from Thrive Foods)

Time: 10 minutes; 20 minutes for the rice – Makes 2 servings

  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 baby bok choy, cut in half lengthwise
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 tbsp tamari
  • 3 cups shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and halved if large
  • 4 cups cooked brown basmati rice
  • 1/2 cup Tahini Sauce (see recipe below)
  • 2 tsp Mixed Herbs  (Another recipe used several others: basically a blend of oregano, basil, marjoram, dill, thyme, rosemary, sage)
  • 2 cups sunflower sprouts
  • 2 tbsp hulled hemp seeds
  • 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas
  • 2 lemon wedges, for garnish

Put the water in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the bok choy halves and cover. Steam 5 minutes until bok choy is almost tender. When water evaporates, add 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp tamari, and the shiitake mushrooms. Saute 5 minutes until bok choy and mushrooms are tender. Set aside.

Divide the cooked rice between 2 large bowls, and drizzle both with Tahini Sauce, 4 tbsp olive oil, and 4 tbsp tamari. Sprinkle with Mixed Herbs.

Place the sauteed bok choy and shiitake mushrooms on the rice, and top with sunflower sprouts, hemp seeds, and chickpeas.

Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Tahini Sauce

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup tahini

In a belnder, process the garlic, parsley, salt, and lemon juice until smooth.

Add the water and tahini, and process until smooth. You may need to add a bit more water if your raw tahini is especially thick. Add water a tablespoon at a time until you get a pourable consistency.

Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

 

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Note: Amazon.com links are affiliate links.

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