April is Festival Time!

Berkeley Vegan Earth Day

It looks like April is going to be a busy month for getting out and celebrating with my fellow vegans (and vegan wanna-bees).

I already told you about the Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley on April 4 – with some fabulous speakers.

Now there are two more dates to add to your calendar.

April 19, the Berkeley Vegan Earth Day will happen from 9:30am to 3:00pm. The speakers are nutritionists, animal activists, doctors and chefs, including Dr. Alan Goldhamer of True North and Keegan Kuhn co-director of Cowspiracy.

Spend the day listening to educational and earth-friendly talks and panel discussions, or wonderful food demos. There will also be vendors selling vegan products and activist groups to connect with.

Not to be outdone by its East Bay neighbor, Oakland is planning a Veg Week!

Oakland Veg WeekSome of the details are still being finalized, but there is something for everyone.

The movie on Tuesday will be Forks Over Knives followed by Q&A with a health coach and vegan athletes. Thursday is a Vegan Bar Crawl and Friday join the Youth Hip Hop Green Dinners for an event. The Veg Fest on Saturday will take place at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater – more details to come, but there will be lots of free food samples. Sunday’s event is a bus ride to Animal Place farm animal sanctuary in Grass Valley.

The Friday and Sunday events are by invitation only. Visit the site for more details.

I love living in the Bay Area and having these great events happening. It’s going to be a great spring. See you at the events.

Kaiser Embraces the Plant-Based Diet

kaiser-permanente-logoBack in September 2013, the first post on this blog was about Kaiser Permanente advising their doctors to

consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients…encouraging whole, plant-based foods and discouraging meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods.

I believe they want their patients to be healthy, but… given that they are a managed care organization, the more of their patients who eat a plant-based diet, the better their bottom line looks.

Plant-based DietAlong with the recommendation, Kaiser produced this 20-page guide with information about the “New Food Groups” their patients will be eating from, tips for getting started, and sample menus and recipes.

Reading this guide, I thought I was reading any number of books by Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall, Barnard or Ornish.

This explanation of the benefits of a plant-based diet read like the list of benefits from Dr. Campbell’s book Whole.

  • Lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar
  • Reversal or prevention of heart disease
  • Longer life
  • Healthier weight
  • Lower risk of cancer and diabetes
  • May slow the progression of certain types of cancer
  • Improved symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fewer medication
  • Lower food costs
  • Good for the environment

The guide recommends that patients with heart issues stay away from nuts and oils, like Dr. Esselstyn.

What a radical idea – improving health with diet, not pills.

The resources section at the end of the guide points patients to the Forks Over Knives movie and website, and the websites and books of the good doctors listed above. You can download the guide from their website.

Kaiser is my health care provider and the doctor I see there is not necessarily on board with this program. Despite my telling him that I eat a plant-based diet, he suggested I take fish oil to ensure I get enough Omega-3s. He also wanted to make sure that I was getting enough protein. I should have asked him if he ever tells his omnivore patients to eat less.

However, it is great to see the health care establishment embracing plant-based diets for their patients. Whatever the motivation, their patients win.

Yam Chickpea Spinach Curry

Chickpeas with YamsI found this wonderful recipe for Yam Chickpea Spinach Curry on the Forks Over Knives website. The recipe is by Veronica Grace who blogs and cooks at Low Fat Vegan Chef.

It is very easy to make and has some wonderful ingredients that make the kitchen smell great. Here is the recipe. You can get a PDF version on the FOK site.

Yam Chickpea Spinach Curry
Serves 2-3


  • 1 15 ounce can chickpeas (unsalted), drained or 1½ cups of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 inch of ginger, minced or pressed
  • 1-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2 15 ounce cans of diced tomatoes (fire roasted or regular)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1 teaspoon coriander, ground
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup of yams/sweet potatoes, peeled and diced 2” thick
  • 2 cups of fresh spinach, packed or 1 cup frozen, drained
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala (or to taste)


If using canned chickpeas, rinse before using. If you’re using dried chickpeas, soak in water the night before and pressure-cook with salt for about 10 minutes before using for the recipe.

Sauté onion, garlic and ginger in vegetable broth until translucent, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add more vegetable broth as necessary, to keep from burning.

Add diced tomatoes and seasonings except for garam masala.

Add chickpeas and stir to combine and cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes until tomatoes have broken down, the chickpeas have softened and the flavors meld, stirring occasionally. Add a little more vegetable broth or water as needed if your tomato juice is running low.

In another pot, gently steam the yams just until tender so they retain their shape, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside.

Add the spinach to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or two until it’s wilted and heated through.

Add yams and stir to combine. Be careful not to break the yams apart by over mixing. Add some garam masala to taste, as desired.

I served this dish with fresh rice, greens (kale and chard) and whole grain bread.

Food for Life

Food for Life

Last weekend my wife and I coordinated a Food for Life event at our UU Church. We showed the movie Forks Over Knives and made dinner for about 60 people – which helps explain why I haven’t had time to post anything here the past two weeks.

The dinner was sponsored by the church’s Social Justice Committee. We wanted to make the point that, along with the personal health benefits, a plant-based diet could impact other areas like

  • Climate change
  • Clean, potable water supply
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Healthcare costs

Along with planning, shopping and preparing food we put together a fact sheet with information related to the impact areas listed above and books and websites for more information. I’ve uploaded a PDF and Word version of the file. Feel free to use and edit them.

For dinner we made Bad 2 the Bone Chili and Raise the Barn Butternut Squash-Vegetable Lasagna from Rip Esselstyn’s book My Beef with Meat.

The event was a great success. The audience reacted well to the movie, the food we made got rave reviews and the questions people asked after the movie showed there was interest in finding out more about how to improve their health through what they eat.

Don’t Make a New Years Resolution to Lose Weight

2014It’s the new year, Happy 2014. Time for the weight loss ads to pummel us from the radio to Facebook. We’ll also see the promotions for exercise equipment – that many of us will buy and then sell at a garage sale a year from now.

This year, don’t make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight, make a commitment to a lifestyle change.

That’s the path I took in 2013. After watching the movie Forks Over Knives and reading Dr. Esselstyn’s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease my wife and I made a lifestyle change to a whole foods, plant-based diet. We didn’t necessarily make this change to lose weight, although we did, we did it to change our long-term health outcomes. To prevent the chronic diseases that have impacted others in our families.

What do you want for the new year? Everyone’s path is different. If you do have a chronic condition like high blood pressure, pre-diabetes or cardiovascular issues then look at making a lifestyle change following the advice of Drs. Esselstyn, Campbell, McDougall or Barnard; or Rip Esselstyn’s Engine 2 Program. If you would like to lose weight – and keep it off – then look to the programs offered by Drs. Ornish, or Pulde and Lederman that provide a continuum approach to diet and lifestyle.

In 2014 make a commitment to changing your life. Eat whole foods, get exercise, sleep well and use meditation or other means to reduce stress. This is my prescription for a truly Happy New Year.


Happy 80th Birthday, Dr. Esselstyn

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

Today is Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s 80th birthday.One of the doctors featured in the movie Forks Over Knives.

My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife Ann at a retreat center in Massachusetts earlier this year. He is an example of what a whole food, plant-based lifestyle can do for your health and wellness.

I hope I have as much energy and vitality when I turn 80.

Visit the Engine 2 Diet Facebook page – Dr. Esselstyn’s son, Rip, wrote the Engine 2 Diet and My Beef with Meat books – to send Dr. Esselstyn a Happy Birthday message.

Here is one of Esselstyn’s favorite quotes


Stuffed Acorn Squash

Stuffed Acorn SquashFor those of you who have watched the movie Forks Over Knives (FOK), this dish should look familiar. At the end of the movie, there is a wonderful dinner that all of the people in the film enjoy. One of the dishes is this stuffed acorn squash. The recipe is in the FOK book (not the FOK Cookbook).

The filling for the squash is made of a wild rice mix, leeks and celery – I added mushrooms this evening. It is a wonderful, simple dish. I serve it with steamed broccoli or this evening we had fresh Brussels sprouts.

Stuffed Acorn SquashI bake them oil free. Just cut the ends off, add a bit of garlic powder, pepper and enough balsamic vinegar to lightly coat them. Then bake them at 400 degrees for 35-40 minutes, rearrange them at 20 minutes so they bake evenly.

What a harvest time feast.



Summer Bounty, Too

Summer Bounty Soup

Here is the soup we had tonight, made with ingredients from the Farmers’ Market. The recipe is Summer Vegetable Soup, from Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook. The ingredients are:

  • Onion and garlic
  • Early Girl Tomatoes
  • 5 types of summer squash
  • Fresh corn off the cob
  • Fresh basil
  • Cooked rice
  • Vegetable stock

All the ingredients except the stock were from the market, including the rice (grown here in Marin County).

I served it with fresh kale and chard from the market and Northern California grown applesauce.

What a treasure we have here in Northern California.

Happy Whole Food cooking to all of you.