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Book Review: Back To The Cutting Board

What separates a cookbook from a book just filled with recipes is passion. Passionate cooks feel what they are cooking, they value the full immersion of technique and usage of all the senses. Christina Pirello is a professional chef and Emmy Award winning host of Christina Cooks on PBS. Her passion for cooking is evident from the first page. “I come from a family of true food lovers. It seemed to me that every moment we celebrated, mourned, discussed or marked was centered around a feast,” she quips.

Similar to a fair share of cookbooks, Christina shares some of the core items she keep in her fridge and pantry. The only other thing she has in common with other cookbooks is yes, she shares her personal recipes. What makes “Back To The Cutting Board” different though is she shares some of her knife techniques. While most folks know these techniques, it helps to remind people of the terminology as well.

What I found really interesting is Christina’s take on food and how cooking grounds us with Nature. Finding myself getting more and more into a mindfulness based lifestyle again, I appreciate her take on yin and yang in relation to food. She speaks of the “Five Transformations Of Energy.” Christina brings a different approach to cooking in that she appreciates the innate qualities of food and the energies that they provide. With each recipe she highlights the energies provided by each meal.

It seems that most of the recipes inside are either Fall or Winter inspired, which is perfect as we are settling into Fall here on the East Coast and Winter is knocking. Last week I shared a recipe for her Chickpea Farro Soup which I am looking forward to making very soon. There is also a recipe for Ginger-Poached Pears. I absolutely love pears and this sounds amazing, and somewhat easy to make.

If you are looking for a cookbook that’s a step up from the basic recipe book, or maybe you are looking to refine your skill in the kitchen, I recommend “Back To The Cutting Board.” You can find more info about Christina at https://www.christinacooks.com or order the book at https://www.benbellabooks.com/shop/back-cutting-board/

Book Review: The Mindful Vegan

You know how sometimes you need something to appear in your life and it shows? I’m pretty sure I’ve been inadvertently manifesting this book for the past few months. I used to be super into mindfulness and meditation but for whatever reason got away from it. I’ve been feeling it more and more lately; enter “The Mindful Vegan.”

“The Mindful Vegan” is Lani Muelrath’s new book and it’s truly a treasure.  I’m not normally one for “how to guides” or “x-amount of days” solutions type of books. I’ve read many of those that feel like a manual rather than advice. That’s not Lani and it’s certainly not “The Mindful Vegan.” It’s more of a pathway to freedom beyond just being a vegan or a mindfulness practitioner.

Lani goes through each chapter as days and makes recommendations for practice and introspection on each. Some of them are longer than others as the topic may need more attention. Of course there a few recipes in the back of the book as well, but this is not being billed as a cook book.

There are instructions on a variety of meditation techniques such as loving-kindness and walking meditation. I remember my first encounter with walking meditation and I didn’t understand it all. I was at a retreat at IMS and I remember my first night. I was drinking tea and watching zombies walk around the courtyard. By the end of the weekend I was joining them and understood walking meditation. It’s a beneficial practice and I think Lani offers it up in an understandable and approachable way.

Day Nineteen “higher ground and mind fully navigating conversations” spoke clearly and loudly for me. Her advice on how to approach veganism in a world that is averse to it (although it’s becoming less so) is an approach I wish I had witnessed before; it may have helped me embrace veganism earlier. For instance she speaks of being present in a manner I have never read before. It’s not just about being vegan, it’s about being a vegan in a kind and gracious way. Emotions carry a lot of weight when it comes to being vegan. We want to do our best to cause the least harm possible to animals and at times that can cloud the way we engage people. Lani explains how not only should you speak in a kind way but how to pay attention to your body and it’s movements. Just as your words can be harsh, so can your movements. That blew me away and will help me in the future when I speak to others about the benefits of veganism.

On a side note, I really appreciate this book as I feel the practice of mindfulness and veganism are synonymous. Even before going vegan, when I was practicing Buddhism and mindfulness, I felt like a walking contradiction and questioned many within the world of that practice. A lot of them ate meat, consumed dairy and even wore clothing made from animals. I never understood it and I think it was a big part of the reason I walked away from that world. I’m glad to know that it’s not quite the case with most, now, though. It didn’t make sense that a practice of compassion encompassed so much cruelty.

I highly recommend you taking the time to check out this book if you are open and able to try to make changes for the better. I believe with some of the practices outlined here we can all become better vegans teach the world what veganism is. It’s not about being combative; it’s about combating cruelty with kindness and compassion.

“The Plant Based Journey” Book Review, Recipe + Giveaway

pbjstopNo fluff needed; this is by far one of the most bold + succinct books on transitioning to a Plant Based/ Vegan lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, there are so many great books out there that will help. If it weren’t for books such as The China Study, Whole and more; I would have had a tougher time transitioning. But, those books were written from a different perspective, and that’s from a scientific approach. For someone who needs practical every day advice on transitioning, that may not work. We of course all need to know the “why” as far as this lifestyle goes, but the “how” is the really important stuff.

Lani Muelrath is as legit as they come. She has become one of the most well-known PB/ Vegan Fitness coaches and has worked with many of the big names in the field such as McDougal, Barnard, etc.  I could name all of them for you, but you know them already. Or, just go to http://www.lanimuelrath.com/ where she tells you all about it.

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Guest Recipe, Cinnamon French Toast

If you are a collector of plant based cookbooks, you surely own one or two by Dreena Burton. She recently released her fifth book, “Plant-Powered Families: Over 100 Kid-Tested, Whole-Foods Vegan Recipes”. While I plan to share a more lengthy review later, I can tell you this is one of the best cookbooks I now own. The recipes are simple, taste good and are picky kid approved. I mean that my kids are the picky one’s. But, they really like what the book had to offer and have asked to use it a couple times so far.

Anyway, I’ve been given the opportunity to share a recipe from the book AND do a book giveaway. The latter will follow the recipe. I chose to share the Cinnamon French Toast recipe because breakfast is huge in our house. We eat breakfast for dinner at least once per week. So, this has been a big hit. I’m on a big chia kick lately too and love that it’s used in this recipe in place of egg.

cin_frenchtoastCinnamon French Toast

Serves 3–4

I remember French toast fondly from childhood—and so does hubby. It was the “treat” breakfast we had as kids, probably far easier for our parents to make than pancakes, and a great way to use up odds and ends of bread. This version is much healthier than what I ate as a kid, and I tell you our girls love it just the same.

1 cup plus 1–2 tablespoons plain or vanilla unsweetened nondairy milk
1 tablespoon white chia seeds
1/3 cup soaked and drained cashews (see note for nut-free option)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4–1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Sliced bread of choice (see note)

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