Pritikin interview

Dr. McDougall’s recent newsletter included a wonderful interview he did with Nathan Pritikin in 1982.  Thank you Dr. McDougall for sharing this and reminding us all that a simple plant strong diet is the best way to heal from the inside out.


Scrumptious Asian side dishes

Asian vegetable side dishesThis year hot pot is big at our house, especially for Chinese New Year.  Jumping Bean requested hot pot and jiao zi dumplings for her party and I happily set off creating a fun feast for a group of high school girls.  They would have been happy with meat, rice, and dumplings, but I couldn’t help myself.  I just had to have a wide array of Asian vegetables.  Luckily these girls do like vegetables and had fun sampling everything.

My quest to find new, fun, and interesting veggie dishes led me to get reaquainted with my Chinese cookbooks along with surfing the internet.  The Sichuan Pickled Cucumbers, pictured lower right above, are from Martin Yan‘s Quick and Easy cookbook.  They are quite spicy and to die for.  My nephew’s wife tried them and is a confirmed addict! A similar version can be found here:  The Sichuan recipe has more soy sauce and uses the pepper flakes.

I found the Namasu recipe (pictured below) from my earlier bento surfing.  If you like sweet and sour with a little lemon taste then this easy side dish is for you.  The author also notes it is a traditional dish for Japanese New Year celebrations!


After making the above recipes I remembered Korean meals have small side dishes which are called banchan.  What I didn’t realize is the vast array, many of which are vegetarian or mostly vegetarian.  I love bean sprouts so naturally I just had to try this one out called Sookju Namul.  Nutty flavors of sesame, salty savory soy, and earthy garlic permeate this wonderful dish.

Bean Sprout Salad

Another popular side dish in Korean restaurants is cooked spinach or Sigumchi Namul.  The basic seasoning for the standard recipe is very similar to the bean sprout dish above so I dug around to see if there were any other variations.  I was not disappointed and was thrilled to have a reason to use the recently purchased Korean pepper paste. This one uses two types of Korean pastes – pepper and soy – along with the usual garlic and sesame to create an earthy vegetable dish with lots of complex flavors.  Honestly, I love this and can’t wait to make it again!

Korean rustic spinach

Then there was my trip to Whole Foods.  Oh my…I love the produce section.  The live pea sprouts looked divine and I knew Chinese stir fried these.  That was plenty reason enough to bring them home, don’t you think?  I wandered back to the Beyond Korean site and lo and behold a pea sprout recipe! Wonderful!  This is a super quick dish with minimal seasoning to let the sweet crispness of the sprouts shine.

Stir fried Pea Shoots

Lastly, you might be wondering what are those white sticks in the first photo.  They are Chinese Pickled Jicama.  Jicama has made its way to China and lends itself well to a variety of dishes.  I’ve been making them for years and they are a perennial favorite of many.  This post is long enough and you all will just have to wait for the recipe in another post!  Until then…happy cooking!

Happy Lunar New Year

English: Traditional Chengdu-style hotpot

English: Traditional Chengdu-style hotpot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Translation:  Congratulations and continuing prosperity.

Another big food feast holiday has arrived at our house!  I have been cooking like it’s Thanksgiving again and everyone is happy because all this wonderful food keeps appearing.  We have settled on hotpot being the main focus this year.  In the past I made the broth myself, but this year I decided to try the packets in the grocery store.

We went to Assi grocery store for the first time recently and I picked up two different types of hotpot seasoning.  One is hard brick-like; the other soft.  I opted to try the soft one and upon opening it my husband immediately said it smelled like the meal he had in Beijing.  We diluted the package more than twice the recommended water and those with more tender palates did fine and everyone loved the unique flavor.

Have I stayed on the vegan wagon?  Not exactly.  I don’t bother trying to make any of these dishes vegan, however I do provide plenty of tofu and vegetables so I can keep meat consumption to a minimum.  Plenty of meat is served so the rest of the family is happy too.  I have been pickling various vegetables and these make a nice contrast to the hotpot.  I will try to post a few recipes or post links to the ones I’ve used this week.

Again…Gung Hay Fat Choy to one and all!

Need help starting a vegan diet?

If eating better is on your New Year’s resolution list once again but you tend to fall short of that goal, then this might be the perfect solution.  This 21 day program has been developed with pre-planned menus so you don’t have to pour through cookbooks or online sites and really who has time these days to do menu planning.  There is also online support in the form of messages and a community forum.  I believe it is also free.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine 21-Day Vegan Kickstart – PCRM 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program.

Best of luck!

New Cookbooks to review

fireworksHappy New Year everyone!

I’m excited to receive two new cookbooks for Christmas although I really haven’t had a chance to try them out much.

The first one, “Sweet and Easy Vegan” by Robin Asbell, looks quite delicious with lovely photos of cookies, granola bars, muffins and more using whole grains and natural sweeteners.  It should come as no surprise this was given to me by my children.  I think they are trying to tell me something!

The second one, “Happy Herbivore Abroad” by Lindsay Nixon, has even more photos than the other book and so far the two recipes I’ve tried were given thumbs up by all.  That’s saying something in this house!  I really look forward to finding more inspiration in here over the coming weeks.

Stay tuned!

Happy Holidays

Bento Christmas Tree

Bento Christmas Tree


I’ll be back blogging in January, hopefully with a new take on a Japanese dish.  I hope you enjoy Jumping Bean’s fancy bento lunch (pictured above) as much as she did.  Everything is edible and no artificial food color is used.  In case you are wondering what is under the tree is a Tex-Mex frittata.  Speaking of bento…I hope to show vegetarian and vegan bento options next year as well!


Wishing everyone a holiday season filled with love.

May the coming year be filled with blessings and joy!


Peace and Good Health,




Bento lunch (playing with food)

Bento at Hanabishi, Koyasan.

Bento at Hanabishi, Koyasan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure how I stumbled on bento lunch making one day recently, but I did!  For those not familiar with bento it is essentially a Japanese-style lunch.  The picture on the left is a traditional bento.  You can pack whatever food you like – spaghetti, sandwiches, rolls – to name a few.  The idea is to arrange the food in a pleasing way and it works best if you can pack it tight so it doesn’t shift when moved.  Bento can be simple or complex depending on how much artistry goes into it.

I decided to give this a try because my daughter’s lunch was a sandwich Monday thru Friday.  Talk about boring!  With Halloween a few days away I dove into my research on how to make a fun, healthy lunch and came up with this:

Halloween bento box for daughter

Halloween bento box for daughter

The jack-o-lantern is made with two types of rice.  Jumping Bean loves Naw Mai Fan, a Cantonese savory sticky rice dish, but it’s dark with soy sauce and would not look right for this.  So I put a layer of Japanese sushi rice over it, painted it with orange food coloring, and added the face accents cut out of nori.  I also tried making tamagoyaki (egg roll) and nori wrapped onigiri (rice ball).  I packed everything in a Rubbermaid lunch container, sneaked it into her lunch box and waited to hear if she like it.  Oh did she ever!  When she popped open the lid one of her friends kept saying “OMG” over and over plus everyone took photos of it and posted to Facebook.  If there is one thing I’ve learned having teens is that anything important to them is posted on FB.

All that praise fueled me to delve further into the world of bento.  There is a dizzying amount of food picks, cutters, sauce containers, egg molds, rice molds, and adorable bento boxes available online.  Oh my…talk about dangerous! Kawaii (meaning cute, adorable) is big in Japan and they extend cuteness to just about every imaginable lunch item.  Jumping Bean and Flexible Bean are amazed too.  Jumping Bean told me that if I had made her cute lunches when she was younger she would have liked me more.  Sigh, the honesty of a teen. I took that as a complement and promptly bought some things.

Face punches make the task of cutting out faces easy and fast.  They are one of the more expensive tools but they seem very heavy and durable. In a flash you can turn any piece of food into a friendly character!

Food punch for nori

Food punch for nori

Then there are the food cutters.  You can use cookie cutters, but these wrap cutters were so adorable I just had to try them out. The bear and rabbit are out of turkey cotto salami and turkey bologna, respectively, with the chick cut out of cheese.  The animals are wrapped around a small vegetable wrap made with wheat tortilla, spinach, julienned carrots, and spicy mayonnaise.  A small cookie cutter is used to cut out the hearts (two types of cheese) and the rest of the box is filled with broccoli, grape tomatoes, and red grapes.  A small container of ranch dressing completes the lunch.  This lunch too scored being photographed and FB’d by her lunch buddies.

A kawaii lunch!

A kawaii lunch!

Just to be clear I do not send every lunch looking like this.  It is way more work than I want to do at 6 in the morning! Plus Jumping Bean is 15, not 5!  This is how her lunch normally looks now:


While I’ve veered off the vegan path for her lunch at least she is getting more variety and plenty of raw fruit and veggies everyday.  She likes it and that’s the most important thing!


If there is one food I simply cannot resist it is chocolate, the darker the better.

If it comes from Switzerland that makes it even more delicious.

Before I found out that brown rice syrup had high levels of arsenic I used a recipe in Blissful Bites cookbook to make these tasty granola bars.  Brown rice syrup is thick and makes a good “glue” to hold whatever you choose for your snack bars.  Since I’ve sworn off rice products as much as possible I have been wanting to make a snack bar.  I wondered if honey could provide the same sticky glue but worried about its intense sweetness.  I perused a few recipes online and adapted them to fit my needs.

Chocolate Peanut Butter snack bars

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • pinch of salt if peanut butter has none
  • 1/2 bar of 70%+ chocolate
  • 3-4 cups of oats, puffed millet, etc.

Heat the peanut butter and honey in a heavy saucepan until slightly boiling.  Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate.  As soon as that is well mixed, pour over cereal and mix until cereal is well coated.  Press into an oiled 8×8 pan.  Cool in refrigerator, then cut into small squares.

I used mostly puffed millet with some multi grain rolled cereal.  Next time I would drop the cereal and just stick with millet.  The honey can be overwhelming in sweetness so make sure the chocolate is dark.  Another plus with the chocolate is its ability to firm up the mixture when cool.

Yes, I realize that honey is not technically vegan, but I am not a strict vegan.  If I find another sweetener that works as well then I’ll switch, but until then its honey.

Now I have a sweet, chocolate-y snack to help me get through the holidays without too much indulgence!

Family update – First anniversary!


Légumes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I tell people I have changed our diet the first question is almost always centered on how the rest of the family is accepting it.  My answer is generally “it depends on who you ask”.  Since it has been one year since I forced them to watch Forks Over Knives this should be a good point to reflect on where we are as a family.

From the kids’ perspective they think all is well since they are trying the vegetables I prepare.  I am happy about that, however, the amount they actually consume is quite small.  Have they actually changed at all?  Yes!  In an earlier post I mentioned Flexible Bean giving up all dairy and his greatly improved complexion.  Since then he does occasionally eat ice cream or a glass of milk, but has learned if he consumes too much the skin rashes come back.  String Bean is at least trying vegetables and hopefully one day will eat more of them.  Jumping Bean likes the un-tuna salad from Blissful Bites cookbook so I try to make it frequently so she can take it to school.  Overall I feel they are making progress!

Have we gone completely vegan?  The answer is yes and no.  For about 9 months I tried being fairly strict about my diet and for the most part prefer when possible to be vegan.  Recently I went gluten-free and decided to ease up on “no eggs” in food because GF baked goods work better with egg.  As for the rest of the family they eat what I fix or conveniently disappear to a friend’s house.  Since I don’t want my kids constantly mooching off the rest of the community I have started providing lean lunchmeat.  Mr. Bean is much happier with vegan meals if he can have meat once a week and peace and harmony in the house is something to cherish.

We’ve made it one year and so far it seems to be working!

Arsenic in Rice – Latest news

Long grain rice from the United States

Rice.  It’s one of the foundations of nutrition across the world.  I, for one, cannot think of rice without thinking of Asian food.  I love rice and now as someone who needs to be gluten-free I’m in a quandary.  Why?  Because rice is testing with high levels of arsenic.  I came across this issue a couple of months ago when looking into information on a seaweed called hijiki.  Turns out hijiki has rather high amounts of arsenic and even the Japanese don’t eat much of it on a regular basis.  But rice?  Why?

Arsenic, a metal and carcinogen, is found in our environment in two forms:  organic and inorganic.  Organic arsenic is a naturally occurring substance which our bodies filter out with no problem up to a point.  Inorganic is man-made and the more sinister of the two.  Starting in the early 1900’s inorganic arsenic was used as a pesticide on crops, especially southern cotton fields.  Today many of those fields are now used to grow rice, hence the arsenic exposure. There is more to the story, though.  Rice, it seems, is terrific at filtering contaminants from soil, especially those that are dissolved in water, like arsenic.  Which gives us a serious problem with a major cereal crop.  Think eating organic rice will steer you clear of this issue?  Think again because the arsenic was sprayed decades ago.  It’s everywhere.

Anyone who wants to understand this issue in more detail or is interested in knowing if something in their pantry is contaminated please read the Consumer Reports article.  Not only do they explain more about how the contamination started, but they list individual consumer products tested in their labs.  The results may surprise you!

Arsenic in Your Food | Consumer Reports Investigation.

So what should you do?  First, understand that arsenic levels are higher in products made with brown rice flour, rice bran, and brown rice syrup.  This is because the bulk of the arsenic uptake by the rice plant resides in the outer layers of the seed and the germ.  Polished white rice has those removed and consistently contains less arsenic.  Second, avoid products that contain brown rice flour, rice bran, and brown rice syrup.  While Consumer Reports’ list shows some products, they did not list energy bars or other energy products that contain brown rice syrup.  Those types of products have turned up high in arsenic in other studies.  Brown rice syrup, in particular, is higher in arsenic because it is concentrated from the germ. Third, follow the guidelines on rice consumption in the Consumer Reports article.

Personally, I have eliminated all brown rice products from my pantry, including energy bars, pasta, flour, and syrup. Our large rice container has mostly various types of white rice from Thailand and Japan, which tends to be lower. Any US rice I purchase will be from California as they consistently show the lowest levels.  I spend more time analyzing labels in the health food section.  Hemp milk, for example, is sweetened with brown rice syrup as are certain brands of soy milk.  Gluten-free products often contain rice and those aimed at health conscious consumers have brown rice flour. Sadly, until more is known about this issue or until science develops a way of removing the arsenic, our family will be eating less rice.


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