Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Cranberry Choc Chip CookiesBack when we were in Tucson and I had a cold, I didn’t feel like planning meals or shopping for food.  Lucky us, I had the simple ingredients on hand to make an extremely easy “comfort food” soup that I had never tried before: New England Sweet Potato Soup.  I’d saved the recipe from Better Homes and Gardens “Ultimate Slow Cooker” magazine back in 2008 (!), and finally decided to buy the sweet potatoes when I realized I had all the other ingredients on hand. 

This is the perfect recipe for when you don’t have the time or energy for anything complex – just load the ingredients in the crockpot, come back 5-6 hours later (say, after a nice nap), mash, season and serve.  I topped it with chopped green onions and coarsely chopped, roasted pecans.  Vegetarian as I made it (with milk); vegan if you leave the milk out (soy or almond milk would be a good substitute); for omnivores if you add the optional crumbled bacon topping.  Odel particularly liked this soup (probably due to the unusual sweetness).  Next time, I plan to serve it with a moist, chewy bran muffin with cranberries or raisins.  Great, easy, and somewhat unusual meal for a cold day!

Red Scarlett Runner Beans in Tomato Fennel sauceOmnivore, vegetarian, vegan… there has been a good deal of talk about the options around our house lately.  Back when Bill Clinton lost 20+ pounds after reading The China Study and switching to a (mostly) vegan diet, Odel and I talked a little about cutting meat out of our diet.  Nah, never went anywhere with that – but I did cut back on the amount of meat we eat.  Odel filled in with KFC or a hot dog whenever his carnivore gene objected.

Recently, The China Study surfaced in our conversation again, and with more force when we read an email from my sister Sydney, a vegetarian who recently bought the book and wrote: “It is a REAL EYE OPENER!!!!! You should really get it.”

It is difficult for me to imagine Odel and I becoming vegans, but I do plan to read the book.  In the meantime, I’m fascinated with the cookbook and heirloom beans I bought when we were in Tucson, at Native Seeds/SEARCH.  If anything could replace meat in our diet, it would be beans.  Both Odel and I love them, and their meaty texture and flavor – along with a dollop of olive oil (or bacon fat – he, he) – provides a lot of the texture and richness that we appreciate in meat dishes.  Plus, they are a natural for the crockpot, one of the few kitchen appliances that earned a ride along when we hit the road.

Giant Red Scarlett Runner BeanDuring our two days of snowy/rainy/cold weather, quite a bit of cooking took place in our little kitchen.  Homemade cookies, a dinner of Red Scarlett Runner Beans in Tomato Sauce on Creamy Polenta, and my other new favorite, Wilted Kale with Beans and Squash (supposed to be Cranberry Beans and Delicata Squash, but I had Anasazi Beans and Butternut Squash – so that’s what I made).  Like the New England Sweet Potato Soup, this is recipe has a surprising (and intriguing) sweetness.  Totally vegan… but we accompanied it with organic, all beef, bratwurst that we picked up at the Tucson farmers’ market just before we left town.  Omnivores.

Our current food philosophy?  Light on meat (and more of it comes from farmers/ranchers at the farmer’s markets), even lighter on dairy (Odel doesn’t like cheese; I buy milk about once every three months; and our freezer can’t keep ice cream frozen).  Heavy on plant foods: grains, beans, vegetables and fruit, purchased as close to our current location as possible (farmers’ markets whenever possible; foods in season and not from the southern hemisphere as the next best thing).  Guess you’d call us omnivores with a locavore bent.  :)

The number one thing we could do to improve our diet is to cut out crackers, chips, and store-bought cookies. We both love salty, crunchy snacks; processed snacks and baked goods are our biggest downfall – along with overindulgence in general!

Pasta sauce and sauteed vegiesThis morning, before Odel headed off to the golf course (yes, our warm sunshine has returned), he made a batch of his fantastic pasta sauce (with meat), which we’ll put in the freezer to reheat and enjoy on whole wheat pasta (which we both prefer) as we continue to travel north over the next few weeks.  (I might try adapting that recipe one of these days, replacing the Italian sausage with small beans; beans and pasta have a long and honorable partnership.) 

When his cooking was done, I put Lima Beans with Smoked Turkey in the crockpot for tonight’s dinner: beans, lots of vegies (added kale this time, and replaced celery – which I didn’t have – with a bulb of fennel, which I did).  A little meat, a lot of vegetables.

We may not eat “right”, but we sure do eat “good”.  :)


  1. Yep, just watched "Forks Over Knives," and read "The China Study." Back to vegan now. Campbell's buddy, Esselstyn is even stricter, but has had amazing results with his diet.


  2. I watched the Forks over Knives too and have been slowly moving more and more away from animal products. We haven't had beef for a long time. Just a little pork, and even less chicken and fish.

    I know we will never be vegan. But hopefully we will continue to eat "better." As do you.

    That soup sounds very good!

    Do you make garlic sweet potato fries?

  3. What I meant to say is less meat and more chicken and fish.

  4. I have a friend that keeps mentioning the China Study. After they read it their whole family, kids and all, went Vegan and never looked back. More energy, weight under control, what's not to like.

    I'm not sure I could totally go Vegan though. I like me a good cheeseburger.

    I agree that in moderation and even less meat would do all of us some good.

  5. Once upon a time when we were trying to cut down on carbs, I started using shaved cabbage in place of pasta. . .amazingly, we really liked it.

    I'm enjoying your take on eating healthier. . .hubby tends to like chips, cookies and crackers also. . .I try to forget to pick them up at the store. If they're not in the house, he makes other choices. . .like pistachios or almonds.

    Love the blog,

  6. I read "The China Study" a few years ago and found it to be the most compelling data for switching to a vegan diet. I did a strict vegan diet for 4-5 months, but have since reverted back to eating meat occasionally in very small quantities (mostly beef which my body seems to like). I do better without the dairy, so don't consume much of that. There's a lot of false nutritional info out there. Best advice is to pay attention to how YOUR body reacts (or doesn't) to various foods. I recently found a recipe for pasta and ceci beans (garbanzos) that my mom used to make when I was young. It has rosemary, a small amount of tomato paste and onion. Great pasta and beans combo!

  7. I suppose the resurface of The China Study is due to the recent debut of Forks Over Knives which is very compelling.

    We read the book, watched the DVD and turned Vegan over night. Have never looked back and the food is fabulous.

    Now this does not mean that if I were at your house and you served those brats, I would not eat them and love them. Polska Keilbasa is an all time favorite. But if you were at my house, I would serve you my vegan delights.

    I'm 10 pounds lighter, have more energy and in general feel much better. We did this JUST before David's recent health revelation.
    Hope it's helping as all the authors seem to say it will.

    Thanks for the recipes which easily go vegan. YUM!!

  8. About 4 years ago, we got somewhat healthier..No, we still eat meat..but sub turkey sausage for regular, and lots of chicken...I absolutely HAVE to have a steak every now and then..and Den is slightly anemic, so he takes iron plus eats some red meat...and lots of spinach and green veggies...That soup looks yummy!

  9. Jim and I eat "light": less beef, more fish and chicken, but I ordered The China Study from the library to check it out. Our household is addicted to the salty crunchy stuff too, even when we buy "healthy" for the most part.

  10. I find your posts really interesting... but... not having a TV and seldom seeing a newspaper, I don't know about Knives Over Forks... (guess I'll have to look into that)... We eat beef 2 or 3 times a year... eat chicken and pork ... but mostly eat fish. Sweets don't even interest me (but Bill has a sweet tooth)so about the only baking I do is Bill's annual birthday cake. CARBS are my downfall! BREAD.. whole wheat, rye, pumpernickel, herbed..... However, I really believe that a total program is the answer... exercise, food, mental stimulation... to maintaining good health. What do you think?

  11. I have always eaten exactly what I want, although I seem to rarely want beef in the last few years. My energy got very depleted last year and I found myself craving hamburgers, so I figured I needed some. I went through several pounds of ground beef (organic, of course) in a couple of weeks - I'd cook up as many small hamburgers as I could get out of a pound, and I might eat a couple for breakfast or lunch, or maybe both. I sure felt a lot better. I eat mostly fish and chicken, and lots of fresh vegetables and fruits. Nothing could ever induce me to go vegan.

  12. I'm an omnivore. I'm saying that shrimp po-boys fall in the fish category while I'm in Mississippi. :) Never have liked beans...

  13. My wife and I changed to vegan 2.5 years ago after reading Dr. Esselstyn's book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease." Eating out is a little difficult so we mostly eat in. A very helpful website is NutritionFacts.org.

  14. We're omnivores definitely. I could never get my husband to give up red meat and since we started buying a half of a half of grass fed beef we both enjoy it. We don't eat it as much as we used to and we don't eat as much at one sitting as we used to though. Pulses (i.e. beans and peas) grace our plates often, sometimes with meat, sometimes not. We could probably eat more fish than we do but twice a week is probably more often than lots of other people do. We buy a supply of free range chickens in the fall and cook up at least one a month. Then I use the carcasses to make chicken broth. We also buy chicken pieces but I wish I could find a good source for them that are raised free range or organic. I really don't like the idea of factory farming. I don't see going vegetarian and certainly not vegan. I love my dairy products too much.

  15. We TRY to eat healthy. We don't eat much meat...mostly chicken and fish. Our downfall is when we come in at night. We begin to snack. We shouldn't even buy the stuff, but we are weak! We eat a ton of salads.
    One question....where do you store all your ingredients? You always have everything on hand. I am not a good planner when it comes to cooking and usually am missing something when i go to make a dish. ~wheresweaver

  16. Hmmm, very interesting post (& comments). Omnivore with a locavore bent! I'm with you there. I could live on bread, cheese, pasta, potatoes, but you know where that would lead (think: wider!).

    Processed foods are not our friends, esp packaged cookies (I don't buy 'em), crackers (like 'em) and chips (can't have them in the house 'cause I'll eat every last one. Whole almonds are now our snack of choice.

    Love reading your "food" blog, Laurie!

  17. Became vegetarian 8 years ago for the most part. I say for the most part because I eat fish on occasion . I lean towards vegan but on occasion eat cheese. No milk. For me my first reason to quit eating meat was for the animals. I Love animals !! And I hate factory farming which is mass produced meat. Secondly , I am a cancer survivor and truly think that a plant based diet is the best for me. I don't think I will ever be super strict about it tho. In fact over the 8 years I have eaten an occasional small piece of beef alltho not for over a year now.

    YOu two look like you do eat good !! I love your food posts . It all looks yummy. I think a lot of it can be made without meat. That soup looks so awesome and i happen to have a bunch of sweet potatos right now !!

    Myself, I Love beans of all kinds, big giant salads, and I find that as time goes on I have lost the craving for meat. So, I feal content with my diet.

  18. You hit me fairly square with the first picture......... I vote for chocolate chip cookies........ There's not much meat in them!!!! LOL Rod

  19. the biologist in me wonders why we have these front shearing teeth... I am pretty certain it is for the occasional Rib Eye Steak... so color me an omnivore...

  20. I don't think we will ever give up meat completely but we have tried to switch to more vegetables and fish vs red meat. We continue to let our diet evolve to a healthier state sometimes we are more successful than other times.

  21. I'm vegan. Love a good portobello mushroom burger! Marinate the caps in olive oil and italian herb mix. Toss on the grill. Top with grilled onions and cranberry apple chutney. Aaaaamazing!
    Add some roasted taters, a big salad and I'm a happy camper.

  22. Omnivore's here but trying to cut down on the amount of meat and dairy.

  23. Those cookies look yummy. And crispy. Were they crispy? If yes, I need the recipe.

    I'm leary of any diet or food way of life that eliminates whole categories of food. I believe in balance. Nothing to an extreme.

    Could never be a vegan. We buy a gallon of milk about every 4 or 5 days. Love butter, cheese and eggs. And of course good ice cream when available. (But then I was raised in Wisconsin whose tag line is "America's Dairyland.)

    I wouldn't mind eating less meat and more beans, although beans are not Fred's favorite food. All the stuff in today's blog sound really good. Thanks for sharing.


  24. OK ~ now I am hungry... My daughter is a vegitarian trying hard to go vegan but with kids she has a hard time of it... We eat everything sad to say!!! and we look it! I want to try the New England Sweet Potato soup....
    Have fun

  25. Although I would like to live a long life, it all seems too much trouble to change from eating and drinking what and when I like.

    Bottom line for me is the belief that I'm only passing through this life once, so might as well enjoy it to the fullest while I can.

  26. Great post! We have been pescaterians for about a year. We do eat eggs, yet no other dairy. Eat lots of beans and veggies. Have not heard of Forks over Knives, yet will get it and read.

  27. Trying to eat less meat and succeeding--with a rancher husband even! Can't get him to eat fish unfortunately, I love it. He will eat shrimp and the fresh clams we were getting in Florida. Our downfall is snacking and I have a sweet tooth!

  28. Vegan as much as possible. If I am a guest...I eat what is presented but I always lean away from the animal protein. Our health is the MOST important thing to us, so if we have to do without things we were use to and enjoyed eating to stay as healthy as possible, we do it. Without good health, we are financial poorer and spiritually poorer because we are not able to do the hiking, biking, and kayaking we LOVE!!

  29. Authors to check out: Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Esselstyn, Rip Esselstyn, T. Collin Campbell, Dean Ornish.

    DVD - Forks Over Knives is WONDERFUL and a real eye opener.