Tag Archives: Food

Books and Wellness

I’ve been reading more and more about wellness. Wellness as in “drink more water, eat whole foods, avoid unprocessed foods and heal your body” type of wellness. I’m a relatively healthy person, so its my priviledge to indulge in books like these. I know others who are on medication for things like Type 1 Diabetes can’t really throw their insulin out the window and replace it with kale.

The Wellness Project: A Hedonist's Guide to Making Healthier Choices

I started a new book last week called The Wellness Project by Phoebe Lapine. Its really not the best book out there on the topic. Its more anecdotal than informational. She chronicles her journey trying one wellness fad after another in the vain of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Her chapters don’t provide any real substance other than casual reminders that we should all be drinking more water in the day and that what we put in our body can affect how we feel, what we look like.

I think I’m too critical of this book because I’ve read so much on the subject. Lapine’s book is based off her blog which chronicled her year of wellness in more detail. I think if you’re really interested in her journey, visit her blog. For the books about wellness, lifestyle changes and new kitchen skills, try some of these books instead:

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food

This in another one of those year-long wellness books. Although the difference with Unprocessed, is that author Megan Kimble takes you through the world of how food is processed (good or bad processing, there is a difference). It offers much more in the way of global analysis of how our actions effect the greater world around us through our  grocery shopping and eating habits.

Year of No Sugar

 

Year of No Sugar is another look into the world of wellness, rather accidental wellness. What happens when a family of 4 tries to stay away from sugar for one whole year? Although it received some negative reviews because of the author’s “cheats” with sugar, I found it to be more realistic. Its basically how I would have handled the challenge.

 

Other books worth noting:

In Defense of Food: An Eate... Food Rules: An Eater's ManualIn Defense of Food & Food Rules by Michael Pollan (because he kickstarted this whole genre).

Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum HealthEating on the Wild Side  by Jo Robinson (A great book to take to the grocery store with you. Its like an encyclopedia of which are the best foods for your body).

 

In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France In a French Kitchen by Susan Herrmann Loomis  (A good book for the beginner cook who wants to be more natural in the kitchen a la the French way)

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano (Another book on French eating, which is also in the vain of eat more whole foods, avoid snacks and be more active)

The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner (a look at how the world’s centarians stay healthy and active well past their 100th birthday)

 

 

 

 

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French Kids Eat Everything – Karen Le Billon

French kids eat everything : how our family moved to France, cured picky eating, banished snacking, and discovered 10 simple rules for raising healthy, happy eatersFrench Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir, Food, French Parenting, Non-Fiction
Source: My Copy
Publisher: William Morrow, 2012
ISBN: 9780062103291. 305 pages

Find this book at your local library

After having moved from Canada to France with her husband and two young daughters, Karen encounters a sort of food revelation/revolution that forces her to change the family’s eating habits, adapting 10 rules she devised based on her observations of the French.

In this intimate memoir, Karen takes us through the ups and downs of slowly changing her family’s eating habits, and the particular toll it took on her daughters. Apparently, Canadians eat just as poorly as US Americans, and were faced with a myriad of difficulties adapting to French life, where food is an honored national passion.

What I most enjoyed about this memoir is Le Billon’s frankness with her own shortcomings, although she is a victim of her North American consumerist culture. The stark differences between France and the US are quite obvious when it comes to food. They have multiple bakeries with freshly baked bread on every street. Here, in San Jose, I struggle to find one bakery that actually sells bread and not just pastries. In France, the schools have food appreciation as part of their daily curriculum. Children as young as five are served five course meals, seated with real plates and cutlery at school each day. Some schools even go so far as to send dinner suggestions home so that parents don’t accidentally replicate a lunch meal for the month.

Part of Le Billon’s struggle with getting her kids to eat healthy and eat a variety of foods was overcoming her own aversion to cooking more intricate meals. It’s easy to just through some noodles in the pot after a long day of work, but is it the best decision? No, not really. Loaded with an array of cookbooks from her French husband’s side of the family, Le Billon was able to craft some recipes that were simple, yet met her criteria for introducing new foods to her daughters. One idea I particularly liked was cooking the taboo food in a number of different ways, (as a soup, steams, in another dish), etc.

Her 10 rules don’t seem very groundbreaking to me, but its their simplicity that does the trick. Don’t make two different meals, don’t be a short-order cook. If the child doesn’t like something, they don’t have to eat it, but they don’t get a replacement item. Dinner should be a social family affair, not something scarfed down in front of the TV, while one parent hastily washes the dishes. There is the no snacking rule, but that one I have a tough time following. Although my general rule of thumb is to snack, but snack on fruits and veggies.

Le Billon also includes a bevy of recipes at the very end of the book, which I am thankful for. Thankful that it’s all at the end of the book. I hate foodie books with recipes at the end of each chapter. It makes it that much more difficult to go back and look for a recipe I want to make. I made the cauliflower casserole in Le Billon’s book, but I tossed in carrots to add some color, and next time I’ll add some spinach too. The recipe was delicious, really, really easy to make and one of my husband’s favorite dishes that I’ve whipped up.

My only complaint about this book is that even though Le Billon is talking about Canada, she constantly refers to them as “Americans” which I think short-changes US Americans. Not that people in this country can really argue against the nation’s dismal eating habits, but still. It felt like the blame was being passed onto us.

For new parents who want to start their kids off on the right foodie path, this is a good introduction on what to do to ensure that your child appreciate quality food, not just quantity. For parents of picky-eaters, it’ll be an uphill battle, but one that you can win following Le Billon’s advice.

Weekend Cooking – Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives PosterI recently watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives, about the diets of Americans versus Asian countries. The  main premise of the documentary is that by altering our diet from meat-based to plant-based, we can not only lose weight, but also decrease the number of medications, prevent disease and cancers, improve our health without medical intervention.

I found this documentary to be very insightful, particularly in regards to how modern medicine and doctors neglect to consider food and eating habits as a potential source of illness and cure for various symptoms. There is a lot of scientific evidence and interviews with doctors from various fields in the documentary to provide substance and validity to the facts present. There are also a series of interviews with individuals who have reverses heart disease and ailments with dietary alterations. The part of the documentary that stuck out to me was the section about dairy. The higher the calcium consumption, the higher the chances for osteoperosis. What I also liked was that this documentary didn’t use any fear-mongering to get its point across. I hate when documentaries do that, it takes away from the message. This documentary was balanced, although I wish they would discuss how exercise helped increase the health of the people interviewed, and I also wish they discussed the monetary aspect of poor nutrition v. healthy nutrition. I mean, if you really want to change the mind of the American public, you have to consider the wallet.

Although my husband and I have already drastically changed our diet from Kraft Mac & Cheese to properly prepared meals, we are in the infant stages of a new chapter in our foodie lives. Over the past month or so, we’ve been dipping our toes into the Vegan/Vegetarian pool. I’ve been incorporating more tofu into our meals. We eat a meat-based dinner 3-4 times a week, and its usually just baked chicken breast with a side of brown rice and steamed broccoli. Its been a real challenge trying to find vegetarian recipes that work for us and our schedule. You’d think cutting out meat would make cooking easier, but that’s not the case with us. Most vegan recipes are stir-fry dishes, which isn’t all that healthy since you’re basically deep-frying tofu. Pasta dishes are boring and we  don’t have the time to sit down to make stews or curries. Still, we order the vegetarian dish when we eat out, and try to do what we can at home. I haven’t noticed any drastic changes in our lives as a result, but it’s probably too early to tell.

Although I started us on the vegetarian path because I had read one too many articles about livestock being mistreated, Forks Over Knives helped me reaffirm my desire to cut meat out of my diet for reasons other than the dubious treatment of chickens, pigs and cows. Fans of Michael Pollen with appreciate this documentary and I hope will feel inspired to make simple diet changes as a result.

If you’ve read my rambles this far then congratulations! You get a recipe for my favorite tofu stir-fry recipe from Eating Well

Pineapple Tofu Stir-Fry Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 8-ounce can pineapple chunks or tidbits, 3 tablespoons juice reserved
  • 5 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 7 ounces extra-firm, water-packed tofu, drained, rinsed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (See Tip for Two)
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 3 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 large bell pepper, cut into 1/2-by-2-inch strips

Preparation

  1. Whisk the reserved 3 tablespoons pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup and sugar in a small bowl until smooth. Place tofu in a medium bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons of the sauce. Let marinate for 5 minutes. Add cornstarch to the remaining sauce and whisk until smooth.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Transfer the tofu to the skillet using a slotted spoon. Whisk any remaining marinade into the bowl of sauce. Cook the tofu, stirring every 1 to 2 minutes, until golden brown, 7 to 9 minutes total. Transfer the tofu to a plate.
  3. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil to the skillet and heat over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and cook, stirring often, until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the sauce and cook, stirring, until thickened, about 30 seconds. Add the tofu and pineapple chunks (or tidbits) and cook, stirring gently, until heated through, about 2 minutes more.

French Women for All Seasons (Mirelle Guiliano) – Book Review

French women for all seasons : a year of secrets, recipes & pleasureFrench Women for All Seasons: A Year of Secrets: Recipes & Pleasure by Mirelle Guiliano
Age: Adult
Genre: How-To / Cooking
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf, 2006
ISBN: 0307265234
350 pages

Published a year after French Women Don’t Get Fat, Mirelle Guilano returns with more insight into why the French woman is thin and healthy and why Americans are fat and lazy.

I know that’s a terribly mean synopsis, but I found Mirelle to be a little high on her horse based on the success of Why French Women Don’t Get Fat. The same elements that bugged me in French Women Don’t Get Fat, bugged me in this book. Why did I pick it up then? For the recipes. For the 10+ instructions and methods of tying a scarf. For getting another reminder of the simple changes I can make to my diet and my habits to live a healthier life.

The recipes in the book were well written, easy to follow using basic and simple ingredients. I did skim the sections of the book where Mirelle would go on and on about how the French are better than Americans. I am aware of how crappy our processed foods and addiction to high fructose corn syrup is. All I really wanted from this book was the recipes, but I was pleased to see the various sections of scarf tying. If French women are known for nothing else, it is their love of scarves. That was something I saw aplenty when in Paris in April. So many different methods of tying scarves too! I love the way the book is divided into different seasons, with a week’s worth of menu options at the end of each chapter.

Living in California, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, I tend to forget how different the rest of the nation is from my little hub. I love going to farmer’s markets, to experimenting with food, walking, exploring, etc. I sometimes forget that the rest of the nation doesn’t have all the same options and variety that I have here. It is something I shouldn’t take for granted. California is one of those special states with a plethora of climates that make it a fantastic place to grow fruits and veggies. My husband even has a garden growing on our apartment balcony: basil, mint, tomatoes, oregano, rosemary, parsley,  green beans, bell pepper, etc. We are always picking leaves and sprigs from the containers to add to our meals. It’s not difficult to eat healthier. In a little over two years, I went from eating corn dogs for dinner, to making crock-pot dishes, and eating game hen at restaurants. Food is supposed to be fun and nourishing, not something to worry about.

Find this book at your local library 

Book 38 of 2011

 Book 4

Lunch in Paris (Elizabeth Bard) – Review

Lunch in Paris : a love story, with recipesLunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir
Location: Paris
Source: Public Library
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company,2010
ISBN: 9780316042796
324 Pages

Lunch in Paris is not your typical love story. Lunch in Paris is about the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations of being an American living in France. We follow Elizabeth’s life from when she first meets Gwendal to their dates, the proposal, the wedding, and life afterward. Their romance is not the center of the story. Elizabeth butts heads with France, she has a love affair with the food, carefully honing in cooking skills from her daily trips to the market. Carefully and thoughtfully woven throughout the chapters are Elizabeth’s insecurities, hesitations, successes and problems with assimilating into the French culture.

I connected with Elizabeth from the very moment she described herself as a “bit of an old-fashioned girl. I feel good in old places.” (page 6). As well as someone who was “born in the wrong century.” (page 19). I can’t say I’ve never felt the same based on my tastes in music, hobbies, movies and art. I felt she was very honest with her struggles in Paris. It seems to be every girl’s dream to fall in love with a charming, dashing Frenchman who just happens to be a good cook to boot. To get married and live in a little bohemian love bungalow with the Eiffel Tower in view from across the distance. Elizabeth fills us in on what happens after that happily ever after moment. The truth about the struggles of living in another continent from your family and friends and trying to start a brand new life.

I could readily identify with Elizabeth’s torn self between American and Parisienne. Although she sheds  a certain amount of American traits (talking loudly everywhere, buying less than quality foods, rushing through meals, etc.) there are some habits and rights of Americans that are not available in other countries. The right to a second, third or fourth medical opinion, the ability to get married and work in the country without any restrictions, optimism and a can-do attitude, the ability to rethink and reuse objects for something other than their intended use. Although France is highly cultured, part of that is the strict adherence to the mentality of stasis.

At the end of each chapter, Elizabeth pens a couple of recipes that she had discussed during the chapter. Food and cooking very important to her, as they were the stepping stones of her entrance into the French life. From her first introduction to her then boyfriend’s closest family and friends, to her ability to improve her French and order meat like a pro at the butcher’s. What I like about the recipes is that I already own most of the ingredients in my pantry. They are regular pantry herbs and spices and only the proteins used would require any extra effort to locate, even that effort is limited. The recipes are a mix of traditional French, recipes of Elizabeth’s Jewish heritage, and sometimes a cross between the two styles, with a little American classic comfort foods thrown into the mix. She begins each recipe with a little paragraph explaining its origin as well as how to change certain ingredients to get a more personal and unique flavor from the dish.

Book 29 of 2011

Find this book at your local library

  Book 3

The Art of Eating In – Review

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The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir, nonfiction
Location: Brooklyn
 

Based on a highly popular New York blog, Brooklyner Cathy Erway went two years without eating out in restaurants in one of the biggest and most culinary metropolitan cities in the nation. How? She made copy-cat meals of restaurant favorites at home, learned how to forage for food and entertain friends with dinner parties during her quest to forgo convenience for quality.

I connected very strongly with this book right from the start. Cathy is a wonderful narrator. She is quirky, introspective, and her social commentaries throughout the book definitely provide some good food for thought. My biggest compliment to her writing is that she is not preachy. Let me say that again, but in all caps: SHE IS NOT PREACHY. I have read, or tried to read, far to many books about cooking and healthy eating that have just been riddled with judgement and a “holier-than-thou” attitude, and that is a major turn-off. That was my biggest qualm about Animal, Miracle, Vegetable by Barbara Kingsolver. I think I got through 2 chapters before I gave up on the entire concept.

The Art of Eating In is in a way, what I expected Animal, Miracle, Vegetable to be. After reading through her blog, Cathy’s book is not a retelling of her posts from the past 4 years. She provides a lot of unique insights and knowledge into food culture in America. She is incredibly well read, citing a number of books, writers, columnists, journalists etc, throughout the book. Each chapter has a different focus, a different anecdote and ends with two or three recipes that were discussed in that same chapter. The subtitle of this book, however is a lie. For one thing, Cathy did not learn to love the stove. She began the book with a healthy background of home cooked meals and eating-in. Although a switch from eating out to cooking in can be extreme, Cathy had an advantage because she already possessed considerable cooking skills from the start.

Since this book and the blog is written by a 20-something year old in New York, that should be definitely taken into consideration when picking up this book. She leads a single lifestyle through most of the book and a scheduling flexibility of 10pm dinners that parents do not have. She also lives in a major metropolitan city where pretty much everything you want to do or try is available at all hours of the day.

The way the book is written reminds of French Women Never Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. It has the same mix of memoir/biography/recipe/cookbook with a unique spin on youthful urban society.

Being in my 20s and living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’m lucky enough to have just many foodie resources as Cathy to explore at my own pace. Food being my third favorite hobby (right after reading and knitting) I found her challenge to be interesting. Although I don’t experiment with or cook as much as I want to, I definitely don’t eat-out frequently for a challenge like this to make much of an impact on either my wallet or my waistline. I’ve stopped eating at national chain restaurants for well over a year (except the occasional Panda Express and McDonald’s cravings) and now look for places with intriguing and unique menu items — Lobster corn dogs as one example.

This is by far my favorite non-fiction book read of 2010 and I’m really glad I stumbled upon it.

The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove
 by Cathy Erway
Gotham Books, 2010
ISBN 9781592405251
320 pages

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Find this book at your local library

Bon apetite!

August is shaping up to be quite the foodie month for me. It all started when I picked up French Women Don’t Get Fat on a whim. That book inspired me to be more creative with my food and to really enjoy what I eat and seek out fresh, whole foods. In this respect I was lead to Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food, where he discusses the history and presence of processed food in our grocery stores. This leaves me paranoid of all substances in my supermarket that is not fruit!

Add to the mix watching a documentary on Hulu called “The Future of Food” where the topic is genetically engineered food, and then seeing Julie and Julia in the same day, my head is swimming. I want to eat healthy, enjoy my food, and cook more. but then with so many imitation products and genetically modified junk out there stealthily hidden on the shelves, I’m not sure if what I’m picking up at the grocery is really food.

I feel like I’m either going to starve or go broke trying to eat healthy. =/

I’ve been exploring different farmer’s markets in my area lately, trying to find one with the best and most varied products (the one that is in walking distance is really lame). I have been digging through my cookbooks to meet my goal of cooking a meal once a week (and not the usual chicken & rice or chicken & pasta combo).

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Julie and Julia is a really cute and inspiring movie. Meryl Streep is adorable as Julia Child, she is by far one of my favorite actresses. You could tell she took a lot of glee being in that role. The premise of the movie is that a young women living in Queens as well as being stuck in a rut, decides to take on a challenge of cooking all 524 recipes from Master The Art of French Cooking in one year. She wrote a blog about it, which gained in popularity, and eventually landed a book deal which turned into the movie.

Julie Powell doesn’t update the blog anymore, but if you can’t find the book at either the bookstore or library, well here is the blog still intact.

Budget Living – Groceries

This post is moreso to help me organize my thoughts for my project at the library. I’m starting a new program called Budget Living. Each month, I’m going to research and discuss a new cost-cutting method, little tips and tricks for everyone in my neighborhood. I work in a very low-income area of San Jose, so I think this new program will be useful. How to stretch the dollar. I’m currently perusing the book The Cheapest Family in the World, and trying to implement the tips into my own routine. Starting with groceries for April’s forum.

10 Tips To Cut Your Grocery Bills

1. Go shopping twice a month.

2. Prepare a menu plan at the start of week.

3. Take a shopping list and only buy items on the list,

4. Match coupons with sale items for the best deals.

5. Sometimes, generic brand items are cheaper than name brand with coupon.

6. Cooking from scratch is sometimes cheaper than buying pre-assembled, or packaged meals.

7. Don’t shop on an empty stomach

8. Look for items above and below eye level, they tend to be cheaper.

9. Don’t shop at just one store. Look at ads from all the stores in your area to find the best deals.

10. Stock up on sale items for non-perishables.

Today is Tuesday March 10th, 2009.
For the rest of the month I will be researching how to save money on my groceries, as well as keeping track of how much I spend when grocery shopping. I will implement these money saving tricks in April.