Thursday, January 28, 2010

TOMS Shoes: A vegan cause in a time of major suffering

It seems so absurd that people in other countries have to suffer in the manner they do.  We have enough resources on the planet to solve all of these problems.  Life's current model can really feel antiquated at times.  I have been trying to find a way to make a small positive impact in peoples lives all my life in subtle ways.  I think of the current struggle in Haiti with the earthquake and how horrible it must be there.  As if that country needed a major catastrophic earthquake to deal with.  This situation along with countless other individuals who suffer needlessly on our planet burns at me.  People ask me all the time what they can do to help?  Enter TOMS Shoes.

TOMS Shoes was imagined and created by Blake Mycoskie in May of 2006.  He took a trip to Argentina and quickly noticed that many of the children walking around did so barefoot.  To make a long story short, he created TOMS Shoes under the preface that for every pair of shoes he sold, he would donate one pair of shoes to a child in need.  One for One.  The twist?  Not only do they donate 'One for One', but they travel to the countries and physically put the pair of shoes right on the child's feet.  I am really moved by that.  This type of human interaction WILL make tomorrow a better day.

I encourage you to look into TOMS Shoes if you want a place to start taking small, philanthropic steps (no pun intended).  These shoes are all the rage right now in L.A., and there are major name brands teaming up with TOMS to co-brand under the 'One for One' philosophy.  They are great looking, comfortable shoes.  Most importantly, you give a child a gift they will use immediately.  Disclaimer--if you click on the TOMS Shoes banner link above or below and make a purchase I will be compensated because I am an affiliate.  My pledge is to donate a portion of the proceeds to the victims in Haiti.  This is a two for one type of child receives a new pair of shoes and someone else gets supplies/food/etc.
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat

So who is Tal Ronnen?  Well, a talented chef no doubt.  Talented before he started cooking for Oprah.  Then he hit the lottery and was chosen to be the chef for Oprah on her diet cleanse.  The rest is vegan cooking history!
When we dine out at restaurants--being the visual learners (spenders) that my wife and I are, we order two ways.  We take the advice of our server if they can articulate the specials or popular menu items and it is something that fits into our diet lifestyle.  The other way we order is simply from the pictures on the menu.  Done.  A good looking picture sells us the dish every time.  In The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat the pictures of the ingredients and dishes knocked our socks off.  They are absolutely stunning; you have to see them for yourself!  So many vegan cookbooks lack true vibrant, eye popping visuals but this vegan cookbook made picture quality the focal point.  This doesn't take away from the content of the cookbook either.

The book gives an incredibly basic definition of 'vegan' to the effect of eating everything in the world except animal products.  How easy is that?  It dispels the top non-meat/dairy diet myths like 'not getting enough protein'. 

After the basics the author discusses his favorite ingredients with more rich photos.  Some of Tal's favorite herbs include thyme, saffron, basil (our favorite), rosemary, mint, and chives.  In fact, one of the recipes in this cookbook is made with a blackberry basil sauce.  Yes!  More and more we are incorporating thyme into our cooking regimen and my wife loves chives. 

This vegan cookbook is important in that it really promotes eating seasonally.  Eating seasonally encourages a more sustainable living.  By eating seasonally, you reduce the carbon footprint being stomped on the planet.  You support local farmers.  Best of all, when you become tired of eating the foods of the season a new one arrives with a fresh new slate of goodies to enjoy!  There is a winter dinner, spring dinner, summer dinner, and fall dinner incorporating only ingredients of the season.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the cookbook.  

The Conscious Cook includes plenty of delicious recipes that are filling.  If you are looking for vegan cookbooks where the pictures do the talking, this is the book.  The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat was fun, the food visuals were top notch, and we refer to it often for inspiration to try ingredients we don't often think to use.
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet

I am never quick to jump out of bed and run to purchase the latest celebrity book/dvd/whatever it is they are trying to naturally I waited to read this cookbook.  I do share one thing in common with Alicia Silverstone though and that is being vegan.  Alicia Silverstone rose to stardom with her lead role in Clueless and has leveraged her stardom to promote causes she is passionate about, one of which is living a vegan lifestyle.  Her latest book, a vegan cookbook, is one of those vegan cookbooks that incorporates practicality to the vegan diet and lifestyle and I believe this to be the reason it has become so popular so quickly.

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet runs 320 pages and is half vegan content and half vegan cookbook.  The content in the beginning of this book is broken down into layman's terms and easy to understand which makes it a quick read.  The second half of the book is Alicia's own vegan recipes that are neither over-the-top nor too outlandish to prepare.  There are vegan cookbooks around that are much more intricate and scientific; this isn't one of those vegan cookbooks.  If you are a beginner you certainly won't use all of these recipes, but there are a few good ones to get you going.

There are some statistics in this book that will get you thinking.  In her 'Pills Vs. Plants' piece, Alicia goes on to explain that Americans alone purchase 50% of the drugs on the planet!  Vanderbilt University is set to receive $10 million alone from Johnson & Johnson to develop new drugs with another $100 million to come if they reach certain research milestones.  Talk about power and influence.  Switching over to a plant based diet, according to Alicia, would reduce our risk of disease and improve our overall well being--reducing the need for pills.

The book also explains terms like GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in easy to understand lingo and addresses some common fears for those who might be hesitant to give up meat and dairy in their diets.  Questions like "How will I get enough iron?" are addressed and simplified.  The answers are not sophisticated and that is a point in this book.  A vegan diet isn't complicated or sophisticated, it's a matter of adjusting a portion of your lifestyle to improve your health.

This vegan cookbook breaks down a vegan diet into three types:  The Flirting Diet, The Vegan Diet, and The Superhero diet.  The flirting diet suggests you start frequenting vegetarian restaurants and adding some vegan meals to your diet.  The vegan diet is a vegan meal plan all together.  The superhero diet is a macrobiotic diet and makes whole grains/beans/vegetables the centerpiece of your diet.  Three stages of dieting for wherever you are in your lifestyle journey.

Two recipes in particular that I really enjoyed were the Moroccan Couscous with Saffron and the Crispy Peanut Butter Treats with Chocolate Chips.  I wouldn't normally prepare the first but there is a great looking picture of it inside.  It was equally delicious to taste.  The second was a no-brainer.  If you are the Blendtec vs Vitamix type, you'll love these recipes.

Overall the book was a simple read and gave me some really different recipe ideas to implement.  The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet is one of those vegan cookbooks that I will refer back to mostly for the recipes she includes. 
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