Thursday, April 27, 2017

Eat to Live Quick and Easy

There have been exactly three people in my life who have spontaneously told me that, "I eat to live; I don't live to eat." This was said proudly, as though it was some sort of virtue. Like the rest of us humans spend way too much time eating food that we like.

To be honest, I don't think I know anyone who literally lives to eat. Sure, I have a bunch of food-loving friends, and we all enjoy eating good food. But we all have other things in our lives that are important. Many of us enjoy cooking food, and seeing the pleasure that others derive from our efforts. But I can't name anyone who actually spends their entire existence seeking out the best morsels of food.

That person might exist, but I don't know them.

On the other hand, most of us understand that we need to eat food in order to survive. It's just that we prefer it to be tasty. Eating well-made food (and possibly the occasional junk-food indulgence) is one of life's simple pleasures.

The interesting thing is that the "eat to live" people I knew were all very different from each other, aside from their declarations of food-as-fuel virtuosity.

The first fellow wasn't particularly picky about food, but did enjoy things that were well-made. He preferred simple homemade and peasant foods over restaurant meals, and he preferred from-scratch cooking over boxed or frozen products. He thought that diet sodas were the stupidest things ever, since you were paying for something with no nutritional value at all, and he disliked full-sugar sodas just slightly less, because they were all sugar with no other benefits. While he didn't seek out "fancy" foods and didn't follow food fads, he could be perfectly happy eating pretty much anything set in front of him. And while he certainly indulged in ice cream or cookies on occasion, he preferred foods that were more nutritionally balanced.

The second person was nearly the polar opposite. He said he didn't "need" fancy foods, but what he actually meant was that he didn't like them. He said that he didn't need anyone fussing over him, and that he wasn't picky - he was fine with simple foods. But, in fact, he was very picky. The list of foods he wouldn't eat (mostly vegetables) was quite long. But he patted himself on the back that he didn't require anything fancier than green beans and carrots and simply cooked meats. While he enjoyed going out to restaurants, he was likely to order a steak, lest he end up with something too fancy for his simple tastes.

The third person was a woman who would literally eat anything that wasn't actively trying to kill her. That included food that didn't taste good, had been long-dead of freezer burn, or that anyone else would say, "I'm not risking getting sick by eating this." Food was fuel and she had little interest in what it tasted like, particularly if she was cooking. If someone else was cooking, she could enjoy or critique their efforts, but she would eat it all. As far as restaurants, she always complained that she could make the same thing at home for much less. She was a big fan of McDonalds.

When the book Eat to Live Quick and Easy Cookbook by Dr. Joel Fuhrman showed up on my doorstep, I wondered what the author thought that phrase meant. Since it said quick and easy, I assumed I wouldn't be asked to stir a sauce for 20 minutes. Since the author was an MD, I assumed the recipes would be healthy.

But what sort of healthy?

I mean, seriously, there are dozens upon dozens of diets these days that purport to be the best way to stay healthy. Which one did this doctor embrace?

The extra text on the cover said: 131 Delicious Recipes for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, Reversing Disease, and Lifelong Health. So there ya go. Delicious healthy diet food. But still, how is this magic accomplished?

A quick glance through the book tells me that he doesn't use salt or oil, and not much black pepper. His "simple vinaigrette" uses vinegar, water and arrowroot powder with no other ingredients. He does like vinegar, Bragg Liquid Aminos, raw almonds and other nuts, and nutritional yeast.

He doesn't mind using packaged or canned products, and he doesn't mind cooking in the microwave. The first main dish uses frozen artichoke hearts that are microwaved and garlic that is microwaved then chopped. Then, tomato sauce (I'm imagining it's canned because it doesn't say otherwise) is poured on top of the microwaved artichokes, the minced garlic is placed on top of the sauce, and then whole shebang is microwaved again.

Pasta recipes in the book suggest bean pasta. While gluten is scarce, he's not entirely gluten free, since he calls for whole-grain bread crumbs in one recipe and whole grain pita bread in another. Presumably, if someone is following a gluten-free diet, they'd have gluten-free bread and pita bread for use in those recipes.

He's fine with grains in general, as long as they are whole-grain. He's also fine with beans, lentils, and all sorts of nuts.

The book seems to be dairy-free. Recipes that might otherwise use milk will use dairy-free alternatives. I didn't notice any recipes that used cheese, but I didn't scrutinize every recipe in the book.

He doesn't avoid soy since some recipes use tofu, and soy milk is listed as one of the choices for a dairy-free milk.

While the book isn't completely meat-free, the ones I saw used chicken or turkey rather than beef or pork. I didn't notice any recipes that used eggs, although it's possible I missed one.

Dessert recipes contain no sugar, but most (if not all) use dates as a sweetener. I didn't notice any other sweeteners, like honey or agave, and he doesn't use artificial sweeteners.

So ... when you add it all up, it doesn't seem like he follows any of the named diets out there. But overall it seems like we could call it Unseasoned Dairy-Free Gluten-Lite Nearly-Vegan.

Seriously, though, I'm sure this diet speaks to someone. And if you want to add a pinch of salt, a splash of olive oil, and a shake or two of black pepper, I'm sure nothing will explode.

This book is currently available for pre-order and will be released on May 2, 2017. Please note that there are two previous books with a similar "Eat to Live" graphic and title on the cover. I'm not sure if these are a series or if they're revisions of the same book.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of a review.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Chicago Coloring Book

Since I grew up in Chicago, I thought it would be fun to review a coloring book with scenes of Chicago. So, when The Chicago Coloring Book arrived, and I got to work.

Hahaha ... work.

Just like when I get a new cookbook and I choose something to cook, this time I had to find something to color. There were buildings, artsy things, signs, pizza, hot dogs ...

And of course I decided to color the hot dogs. I also wanted to eat the hot dogs, but Chicago-style dogs aren't exactly ubiquitous in Colorado. Sigh.

So I colored the hot dogs and got hungry.

This is one of the simpler items in the book - the difficulty ranges from pretty darned simple to things like the interior of the Auditorium Theater (which is where my college graduation was held) where there are a lot of bits and pieces to be colored.

Overall, I like the book. I probably will be coloring the buildings in crazy colors, and I'll be sure to add some graffiti to the train ... and I might add some crazy topping to the pizza, too. Because, what the heck, coloring is just plain fun.

Meanwhile, have a hot dog. Or two.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Weeknight Paleo

A while back, a publisher asked me if I wanted to review Weeknight Paleo by Julia and Charles Mayfield. I said, "No thanks, I don't do a lot of special-diet books," and didn't think any more about it ... until the book arrived.


I paged through it, thinking that I probably wouldn't like the recipes. If you know me at all, you know I'm not afraid of carbs. I like bread, rice, potatoes ... not that I eat them with every meal, but if I'm eating Chinese food, there's probably rice, and if I want a sandwich, it's going to be on bread.

The more I paged through the book, the more I was surprised. For the most part, these were recipes that I would have been happy to make or eat. I mean, I might have cooked a carb as a side dish for some of them (a shrimp and vegetable dish was looking for rice, for example, and the pork mole would have been nice with some tortillas), but the recipes themselves looked fine.

There were a couple recipes in the book where squash was substituted for pasta, like a "lasagna" that I'm a little more skeptical of. I mean, I might try it and like it, but I don't think I'd give up regular lasagna.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised, and happy that this accidentally got sent to me. While I'm not going to suddenly embrace the paleo lifestyle (at least not today, because there's rice in the rice cooker) I'll probably be making some of these recipes.

Honestly, this could have been named something else, and I probably wouldn't have noticed the lack of grains and starches, because the recipes are fine as they are. And the chicken and Brussels sprouts skewers wrapped with bacon look pretty darned good.

I received this book from the publisher at no cost to me.