Monday, May 21, 2012

Raw Deal

As a personal trainer, I should have known to check the calorie count for the recipes in Day 1 of Fat Blast. It occurred to me as I pondered Ani Phyo's claim that I would be amazed how not hungry I was during the first phase of drinking only smoothies and eating soups. I was not, not hungry. To be clear, I was starving. By about 4:00pm I had fixed a small plate of pico de gallo with avocado and corn chips and plowed through it while adding up the calories in the day one meal plan: 580. 

Wow. That is simply unacceptable. You cannot find a reputable health organization or doctor to recommend that little calorie intake. The only diet I am even aware of to recommend so low is the HCG diet, which has its fare share of critics and for good reason. Even Biggest Loser contestants consume about 1200 calories a day. While dieting, 1500 is appropriate for most people.  

I will not be modifying this phase substantially, perhaps by consuming her recommended breakfast and lunch options and then enjoying a sensible vegan dinner. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Veganomics Project Goes Raw


A few weeks ago I purchased raw, vegan chef Ani Phyo's new book, Ani's 15-Day Fat Blast: The Super Fast Plan to Get Lighter, Tighter, and Sexier Super Fast. I had high expectations given her previously published recipe books, which I gave rave reviews for a Portland-based newspaper a few years ago.

Her creativity, energy and inspiration continue in this new book. Though it deviates from her previous works in that it has more information about the health benefits of a raw food lifestyle than actual recipes, it provides something her earlier works--at least the ones I have read--do not: a menu with shopping lists. That made my job at the grocery store today inordinately easier than it would have been otherwise. I suspect it will make following a raw food diet easier as well.

Tomorrow I begin the first phase of the diet in which raw smoothies and soups are the only foods consumed for three days. I'm a little nervous about the phase, but if I get hungry or just can't handle it anymore, I'll have a handful or nuts or one of my homemade just-like-Lara bars.

Another aspect of the book I love is that it is teaching me about new ingredients. I think I am the last vegan on earth to learn what nutritional yeast is. But wow, the stuff is amazing! I purchased a container of it a few days ago and was amazed how much energy it gave me. Don't take my word for it though, try it yourself. By the way--and Ani explains this well in the book--nutritional yeast is nothing like brewer's yeast or active dry yeast for baking. The former has nutritional properties the latter two do not, plus it is not alive, meaning you're not going to get a big frothy mess if you put it into your smoothie. It looks like fish food flakes, but it tastes mildly savory, with a nutty almost Parmesan flavor. I'm hooked.

So how did all of the new foods add up at the grocery store? It's tough to tell because I purchased pantry staples for the whole two weeks including all of the nuts and a huge tin of olive oil that will last well beyond the diet. Moreover, I am not requiring the men in my life to follow me on the diet, so I didn't purchase foods for the whole family, though they will enjoy some of it as I doubt I can eat an entire head of Napa cabbage all by myself. That said, I spent about $100.

I'll keep you posted how the 15 days go. For now check out Ani's book here: 



Ani's 15-Day Fat Blast; The Kick-Ass Plan to get Lighter, Tighter, and Sexier... Super Fast
by Ani Phyo
Hardover, 272 pages
DeCapo Lifelong Books
May 2012

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Falling off the vegan

It was bound to happen sometime. Eventually I fell off the wagon and indulged in some animals at a cooking class I hosted this past weekend. French onion soup with croutes au fromage, lemon sorbet, Coq au vin blanc with buttered potatoes, mixed greens with herb vinaigrette, and warm berry creme brulee. That's a whole lot of butter and beef broth and butter and chicken and cream and, did I mention butter?

Okay, so here's the big surprise: I had not missed the flavors. An even bigger surprise: I actually found most of my vegan dishes far more flavorful than the French classics we made in class. Maybe I'm doing it wrong. I concede that possibility, remote as it is. I've made coq au vin blanc three times in as many months, following the untouchable Julia Child and building upon her wisdom in further variations. I've made creme brulee more times than I can count and have a similar number of ramekins in my kitchen. Lots. Still not impressed.

Part of the problem is that fat in food coats your tongue preventing you from actually tasting many of the subtle flavors of what you're eating. Moreover, meat has relatively little flavor on its own, especially when compared to fresh produce. Chicken versus cilantro. I rest my case. My favorite food blogger over at Smitten Kitchen says, "I always argued that most of the things people thought they liked about meat, they actually liked about the sauces and braises and spices they were cooked in."So I guess the ultimate truth is that whether meat or vegetables, what matters is flavor.

I started another vegan week on Sunday with as much resolve as when I started cooking and eating vegan about a month ago. But I have stumbled across another problem, this one far bigger than that of temptation to French cooking: I have no energy, I'm sore after my yoga classes, and I feel, how do I say this, I feel sad all the time. The latter likely has more to do with the fact that the last several months have beat the living sh  life has not worked out the way I expected it to of late. Regardless, I don't feel that I'm getting all I need from a vegan diet.

So I fell off the vegan. Tonight I bought salmon for dinner, eggs for breakfast and a container of Greek yogurt just because.

I would feel guilty. But this isn't a religion. I already have religion, and God knows, oh boy does He know, how hard it is for me to follow it with any degree of perfection. My kids are equally aware or my shortcomings. But again, this isn't a religion. I'm not sure what it is right now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies


No other dessert on earth has power over me the way chocolate chip cookies do. It's an ungodly, unbridled, unrestrained passion. I cannot have then in the house without mowing through them in a matter of days.

All that changed when I went gluten-free over a year ago. Being vegan--at least for the now--further complicates my obsession.

Until now.

The forthcoming recipe is similar in flavor to the amazing cookies in my cookbook, Modern Family Table, but of course contain no wheat, butter or eggs. They're perfectly chewy and densely decadent, everything you want in a chocolate chip cookie, and nothing you don't!

yields 24 cookies

1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar (make sure it's labeled suitable for vegans)
2 1/4 cups self-rising gluten-free flour blend*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup neutral oil
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips**

*I use a variety milled by Dove's Farm here in the UK. It is a combination of rice, potato, tapioca, buckwheat and maize and also contains xanthan gum and baking powder. Because it's not a finicky bread or pastry dough, I suspect you could experiment with relative ease
**You don't have to purchase chocolate chips that are specifically labeled vegan. Instead, just find a semi-sweet chocolate chip that contains no milk fat. I used Baker's in these. My favorite in the US is Ghirardelli 60 percent Cacao Bittersweet chips.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together the dry ingredients (in this recipe, sugar is considered a dry ingredient). Add the oil applesauce and vanilla and stir until combined.

Form into one inch balls and flatten with your hands to help them spread. They will be nearly the exact same shape when they come out of the oven because the oil is already at melting point at room temperature and therefore will not further melt the way butter or shortening does.

Bake for about 15 minutes, rotating the baking tray halfway through cooking. Remove to a cooling rack. They taste lovely as soon as they've cooled but are out of this world a few hours later.

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