The movie Clueless came out when I was in middle school or thereabouts, a most impressionable, celebrity-obsessed age, and while I don’t remember exactly when I became vegetarian, it was around that time, and I imagine Alicia Silverstone had something to do with it. Her name has recently resurfaced following the publication of her best-selling book, The Kind Diet, and in search of dairy-free recipes in keeping with my new year’s resolutions, I picked it up at my local bookstore.
However, there are a few drawbacks:
She makes some unsubstantiated claims. Some of her advice is a little too heavy with the Traditional Chinese Medicine. I know that this is an ancient practice with some benefits, and I myself have tried acupuncture before with much success — but some of the stuff she writes is just a little wacko. For example, she says that we should never eat fruit grown outside of our climate, because it “weakens the blood.” Um….okay. Easy for a Californian to say!
Her attitude toward meat and dairy is a bit hyperbolic. That meat causes every disease known to man may hold true for fatty, red meats — I tend to agree that those are not healthy in any way, especially in the quantities considered normal today. But I think the truth is a little more nuanced than she portrays it; certainly, lean meats raised in a natural environment can be a healthy part of your diet if that is your choice.
Too many fake substitutions! As a whole she avoids this pretty well, which was the appeal of the book to me. But I don’t know how she can claim to avoid processed foods on one page and extol the virtues of soy and seitan on the next. This is my primary issue with vegan diets overall, however. She does make a point to say that the most processed soy products (soy milk, all the various fake meats, etc) should be eaten in moderation, but for some reason tofu is okay. Hmm.
That said, I think the pros outweigh the cons…
Recipes include new, interesting ingredients. Though some ingredients have been hard for me to find (like lotus root), I have been happy to discover recipes for vegetables and products I had never thought to use before. Daikon root, radicchio, mochi, sunchoke — I’ve seen these in stores but never had any idea what to make with them. Now I know!
She is not too preachy. She does not advocate converting to a full-fledged vegan straight away. There are three different “levels” to attain, which allows you to gradually incorporate healthier, kinder eating into your diet. She also is not one of those snotty, rigid vegans who believe that you cannot be considered a vegan if you dare have one drop of honey every 10 years. She even admits to occasional cravings of sushi that cause her to grab a piece of fish. I REALLY appreciate that kind of attitude. I just believe we should define our approach to life by what we can and are doing to help our bodies and the planet, not what we’re failing to do.
It offers a comprehensive array of recipes. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snacks, on-the-go meals, kid-friendly recipes — it has everything. There is some great inspiration on these pages for some new ideas I’d never would have thought of myself.
Recipes are energy-intensive and full of nutrition. This is how it meshes so well with my food philosophy. It offers some terrific ideas for getting the nutrients and vitamins you need on a plant-based diet without any calorie counting.
Overall, I’m pretty glad I picked up this book. After all, it is the source of inspiration for my new favorite breakfast! Not quite vegan, due to the eggs, but meat, dairy and gluten-free!
Pan-fried mochi with scrambled egg whites and greens
I had never even heard of mochi before but after reading her recipe I was officially intrigued. I stopped at my grocery store and there it was, in the section with the meat substitutes. But mochi is not a meat substitute — it is made from brown rice, processed into a cake.
You buy it in a big block form, cut it into small pieces, and either bake or fry them. They puff up into strange shapes, get crispy on the outside but retain a delicious creaminess on the inside. You can serve them sweet or savory, alone or as the grain component of any meal. You can even cut it into strips and place across your waffle iron to make crispy mochi waffles!
My latest obsession has been eating them with my scrambled egg whites in the morning, instead of a piece of toast.
1/4 onion, diced
Handful of frozen chopped spinach, or other green of choice
1 package mochi
Heat a cast iron or other heavy-duty skillet over medium-high eat with about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.
Cut mochi into one-inch squares using a heavy knife.
Place squares into the pan, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about four minutes. When the four minutes are up, flip them over and cook for another four minutes on the other side. Add a few drops of soy sauce.
While you are waiting, start sauteing the onion in a separate pan. When it is translucent, 1-2 minutes later, add the spinach and cook until it is thawed and cooked through. Add a splash of white wine vinegar.
Turn heat to low. Crack an egg into the pan ( it is safe to eat up to seven egg yolks a week if you have healthy levels of cholesterol. Otherwise, just use the egg whites — it is low in fat but still high in protein).
Scramble egg as you normally would, stirring continuously to combine with onion and spinach.
So filling, healthy and delicious!