Wednesday, September 24, 2008

celiac awareness

hi guys-

tonight is an exciting night for us at 'christina cooks.' i have been asked to host a big event at our wachovia center here in philly sponsored by the national celiac awareness foundation. i have worked with them before and this will prove to be an amazing night.

called 'appetite for awareness,' this event has attracted 40 area chefs who will seduce attendees with the most delicious food...all gluten-free. in case you are not aware, people with celiac disease become deathly ill if they eat gluten...and the problem is genetic with no is easy to live with, requiring some creativity and accommodations, but people with celiac can live wonderful...and delicious lives.

getting involved in this event has been an interesting journey for me...each time i work with the people from this foundation, i am struck by their passion for their cause...i do not have this disease; nor do any family members, so you may ask what drives me to commit time and my name to them.

it's interesting. i love anything that connects food and health. i love people who are passionate. i love people who want to remove the connection between food and health from the world of illness and make everyone a part of our world, equally.

for people with celiac, their lives can easily become all about what they can not eat. but the people at the national celiac awareness foundation are committed to preventing that. with events like this one, they have made the goal to take gluten-free cooking from the world of disease and elevate it so that it becomes a part of our cuisine, with options for everyone in the dining world.

bringing together the finest and most creative chefs in our area together around a gluten-free event drives home the point that cooking for health can be delicious, sexy and glamorous.

i am committed to helping this organization because i am passionate about the very same thing...that the food we choose can be healthy, sexy, delicious, desirable and nutrient-dense. we can have it least with food, if we only use our creativity and pay attention.

so i am off to have my hair blown out since my face will be on some sort of jumbo screen tonite during the event...yikes! i am pretty nervous, with more than 1000 attendees and 40 chefs on hand, but i'll sip some champagne and dive right in.

then i head to seattle this weekend to teach classes at 'festa italiana,' a wildly popular italian festival on the west coast. i am so excited...a whole weekend dedicated to all things know i love that.

be well until we speak again.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

i am shocked!

hi guys-

it would be nice to say that nothing surprises me anymore, but that would make me a cynic and i am nothing if not supernaturally optimistic...some people think it's nauseating...hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...i am pretty easily shocked, but this latest news item floored me.

i was perusing the new issue of 'veg news' magazine when i saw a small piece on lab grown meat. research is being done in europe to create this synthetic meat that would eventually be grown in giant bio-reactors. Okay, that is pretty shocking in itself, but i had heard about this nonsense. i guess we can't produce meat fast enough the natural way, so we need to lab produce it now...all i can say is e-e-e-e-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w.

but here is where it really takes a turn for the weird. PETA, the infamously radical animal rights group, is offering $1 million to 'whoever successfully manufactures and markets the first in-vitro chicken or meat product.' are they kidding me????

look, as a vegan, i am completely in favor of not eating animal food. i do not think that we need it. i choose not to judge people for their choices...everyone has their karmic destinies. my job is to share information about what i have experienced and i can tell you that you will experience the best health by eschewing animal foods.

while i do not believe that we need to kill animals for food (or sport, but that's another blog...), i find it hard to stomach that the people at PETA think it's okay to stomach humanity to yet another un-natural food-like substance and the health of the species be damned. no one knows the longterm ramifications of lab-grown meat on humanity's health or that of the planet. and yet this supposedly 'conscious and compassionate' organization thinks it's acceptable to sacrifice human life in this grand experiment.

it's like pro-life people who are hunters or in favor of war or capital punishment...or environmentalists eating steak dinners at their fundraisers...something in this equation doesn't compute. in my view, you are all in for life or not. you can't have it both ways...if you say you value life and would never sacrifice it, then you must stand true to your word...stand in your truth.

we have made our causes small and petty. we protect dogs, but not cats. we are pro-choice, but racist. we rescue stray animals, but leave homeless people to fend for themselves.

we must learn to care for all life, to live truly compassionate lives...none of us are perfect, least of all me, but i believe that we must learn to live with the mantra given us by the no harm.

and even if that harm is only potential harm, grown in a lab in the form of meat, we need to just say no, not rejoice in this frankenstein style of food production...and certainly never reward it.

i was seriously considering getting involved with PETA, because i thought we shared values...but i am re-thinking my options...i want to back an organization that cares for the health and safety of all living creatures...

see you later...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

a sad day

hi guys-

regardless of your politics, take a minute today to reflect on what happened in new york seven years ago. that massive loss of life should stand forever as a reminder of the frailties of humanity and why we must all show kindness and compassion to each and every person we meet.

see you later...

Monday, September 8, 2008

vegan cupcakes rule

hi guys-

i was all set to blog about consumption and the new study that shows that obese kids are at a greater risk of liver disease than previously thought, but then i saw this lovely post about making cupcakes vegan and i thought i could postpone ranting for one day and talk about sweets!

i love vegan cupcakes. these compact little treats are such a lovely indulgence and there doesn't have to be a compromise to your health or your hips!

for flour, i have recently discovered that a mix of whole wheat pastry and quinoa flour (yes, like the grain) yield the most spectacular texture. about a 50-50 mix does the trick. second, i use equal measures of baking powder and soda (a teaspoon of each per cup of flour) to make them rise and create those little peaks that you think you can only get with eggs!

for oil i use avocado or a blend of flax and sunflower oil by a company called shape foods. i love the blended oil...i get a sweet treat and omega-3. the blended oil allows for cooking the oil without losing the omega-3. how sweet it is!

for sweeteners the options are varied. if you are looking to create a low-cal cupcake, go for stevia or erythritol, both natural and no calorie. stevia is an herb and comes in both liquid and granular form and is intensely sweet, so you will need to play with it to get your sweet taste right. a little goes a long way.

erythritol, known as the brands organic zero and z-sweet (i am sure there are others, but i know these) is a fermented sugar alcohol that has no effect on blood sugar chemistry and is all's very cool and i really like cooking with it. the only quirk is that you have to heat it slightly with your oil before adding it to the flour or the grains of the sweetener do not dissolve well and your cupcakes can taste gritty.

i use brown rice syrup most often and still love it the best for sweetening, but it does have calories...

the way i see it, we're talking cupcakes, so enjoy.

and here's a great recipe for cupcakes...from my new book, 'this crazy vegan life' due out in december!

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Orange Glaze

Makes 24 cupcakes

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup semolina flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup avocado or olive oil
½ cup erythritol
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 cup canned pumpkin or pureed winter squash
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Orange Glaze
½ cup unsweetened orange marmalade
4 tablespoons brown rice syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a 24-cup mini muffin pan. You may also use paper liners.
Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
Combine oil, erythritol, syrup, pumpkin and vanilla in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, until ingredients are smooth and creamy and erythritol is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
Combine the pumpkin mixture with dry ingredients. Slowly stir in almond milk to create a smooth batter. Fold in walnuts. Spoon mixture evenly into muffin cups, filling two-thirds full. Bake until the tops of the muffins spring back to the touch, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in the baking pan for 7 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove each cupcake and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Make the glaze while the cupcakes cool: Bring marmalade and syrup to a rolling boil over medium heat. Slip a sheet of parchment paper under the cooling rack and spoon glaze over each cupcake, letting the glaze run down the sides onto the paper. Allow glaze to set for a few minutes before serving.

Per cupcake: Calories 70; Protein 1.9g; Total Fat 1.3g; Sat. Fat .12g; Cholesterol 0mg; Carbohydrate 22g; Dietary Fiber 1.3g; Sodium 127mg

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

rock the vote!

hi guys-

me again...late again...i took some time off for the long weekend and did not even think about computers, email, phones and whatever else...hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...

but i did watch tv...last week, i was mesmerized by the democratic convention...and this week i am fascinated by the republicans' party in minnesota. everyone says that the 2 parties are pretty much the same thing these days and that it doesn't matter who takes office this coming january. i think that those people could not be more wrong.

i won't get all political on you...i don't think you all care who i am voting for or support...i am sure that many of you can guess...either way you may lean, conservative or liberal, this election is proving to be historic with both an african-american and a woman on tap to enter the white house. either way, it's a big step for this country.

but i am noticing something as i watch both conventions. the democratic platform seems to be more about taking care of each other, of taking personal responsibility for who we are and what we do, about diplomacy and repairing foreign relations, about a government that makes it possible for all of us to make our dreams come true if we are willing to work hard. the republicans seem to be talking more about keeping the country safe from harm, worrying and staying, as president bush said in his address, 'on the offensive' to protect our country and its interests...and about having a government that makes it possible for all of us our dreams come true if we work hard. it's interesting to me.

regardless of the color, age or gender of any candidate, i think that it's time for americans to put down their cheesburgers for just a minute and educate themselves on the ideals of each party and then decide which one embodies their personal ideology the most. and then step into that little booth in november and vote for the party that will take the country in the direction they'd like to see it go. with all the mud-slinging going on, we need to remember that our elections are not about the candidates; they are about us. we decide what this country will be.

we can stay as we are, pay it forward or take huge steps backward. americans are wonderful, compassionate, caring, generous, clever, open-hearted, savvy, smart people. we live in a country founded on optimism, progressive ideas and revolutionary thinking.

this election will change everything. be a part of it and vote.

ps...we'll get back to food and health in the next blog, i promise!