Saturday, May 25, 2013

Superfood Smoothies Review and Giveaway!

A few weeks ago Julie Morris’ second book, Superfood Smoothies was released. Similar to her first work, this book is elegantly put together, well-conceived, has stunning photos, and of course, the recipes, all featuring only the healthiest ingredients, are mouth-wateringly appetizing (and are all oil free!).  

Julie has a simple argument for writing this book and it basically goes like this: including health-boosting smoothies into your everyday routine is an excellent (and delicious) way to boost your energy and nutrition intake. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been a huge fan of smoothies for several years and have come to rely on them to help me recover after long runs and hard rides. In fact, when people ask me for one tip on how to be a little healthier, I suggest adding a healthy, plant-based smoothie to their daily routine. And if you’re one of those people who are looking for an easy way to boost your nutrients without making a major change to your diet, Julie’s book is a great starting point.

Like her previous book, Julie’s book is more than just recipes. The first thirty pages of the book identify some of the main ingredients like acai, camu, flax, goji, greens, maca, maqui, and pomegranate and gives a brief but thorough review on their health properties. In this section, Julie also lays out the principles of creating superfood smoothies (first rule of superfood smoothies? There are no rules –but there are guiding principles!). Her principles and base ingredients are similar to mine. Her book also includes some lesser known ingredients, some of which were new even to me. For instance, I was unfamiliar with Sea Buckthorn juice, which is an herb that can help lower blood pressure while boosting immunity. 

While the ingredients I’ve listed above sound exotic and exto facto expensive, most of the smoothies include everyday superfoods like cucumbers and kale or spinach and in total only cost around $4 dollars per serving. Considering that any of the smoothies in this book will most likely be the healthiest part of your day, it’s more than worth the price. Also many of these smoothies work as an excellent meal replacement; and $4 dollars is a pretty cheap meal no matter how you look at it! Julie has also included a purchasing resource guide as an appendix to help first time buyers of some of these foods find good deals. And remember, building a “superfood” pantry doesn’t have to be done in one fell swoop, so if you don’t have all the ingredients don’t sweat it.

Julie’s book also identifies which smoothie recipes are good for bone strength, heart health, high in protein, high in antioxidants, healthy skin and more. However this is a bit of a gimmick, because in reality, each of these recipes are an excellent blend of all of these health properties so I wouldn’t spend too much time stressing over these details. 

The recipes are divided into a few easy sections: “Light and Fruity” section which have blends that are mostly under 300 calories; there’s a “Cleansing and Green” chapter; a “Rich and Creamy” section; a “Stealth” section, which “hides” the taste of various vegetables that maybe you want to consume in your diet, but don’t want to taste, (this section is perfect for picky kids) with smoothies like the Chocolate Cauliflower; and finally, there’s a “Premium” section. This last section puts an increased focus on superfoods, and hence will have a slightly higher price tag than the $4 per serving mentioned above. 

Above all, Julie stresses that smoothies are essentially experiments and really encourages people to use her recipes as guidelines rather than rigid orthodoxy. While that is partly what makes the book so fun, all of her recipes are designed to not only taste amazing, but are also stunning.  You will not find a single “gray” colored smoothie within these pages making her blends perfect for family-get-togethers and picky eaters who may be put off by bland colors.

While Julie marks “superfoods” with a special logo within the recipes, the truth is, all of the fruits and vegetables within these pages are super foods in their own way, and including them in your daily diet will certainly lead to better and longer lasting health. Also Julie offers some suggested substitutions if you don’t have access to the hardest to find ingredients.

(Red Velvet Cake)

I’ve had the book for about a month now, and have made several blends but by far, my top three favorites are the Mint Chip (whose recipe I already shared), the premium Chocolate Mint, and the Red Velvet Cake. The Red Velvet Cake uses beets, and I slammed several of these drinks (with some added beet greens) prior to my most recent half marathon. In a book like this, it’s impossible to pick a favorite so my suggestion is randomly turn to a page, blend, and drink up… It can, literally improve your day! 

So now the Giveaway! Navitas Naturals continues to floor me with their generoristy. Not only are they going to send one lucky winner a copy of Julies' book, they are also including a bag of Navitas Naturals Organic Cacao Nibs to help start you one your way to building a Superfood Pantry!


Here are the rules. First, the winner needs to live in the United States (sorry international readers, no disrespect). The contest will end on June 1st at midnight. To enter, you must be a subscribed reader to BYOL. To increase your chances of winning leave a comment on this post or/and "like" "Superfood Cuisine with Julie Morris" on facebook. You will also gain a point if you "like" the new Bring Your Own Lentils facebook page. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Preview of My Beef with Meat by Rip Esselstyn

A few months back, the folks over at the Engine 2 Diet posted on their facebook that they wanted bloggers help in spreading the word about Rip’s new book, My Beef with Meat. Originally, they were allowing bloggers to submit five questions for Rip to answer and also mentioned the possibility of giving away some E2 products- they now have everything from E2 shirts (I have one from when I volunteered at their plant-strong immersion last summer) to E2 crackers, cereal, and almond milks! 

However, things change, and I suspect they were overwhelmed with requests and after nearly two months I reached back out to see if the blog tour was still happening and if any of my carefully crafted questions would be answered. They replied with a template for bloggers to follow, including some recipes, a short peak into the new book, and a Frequently Asked Questions section with answers from Rip. So while I was a bit disappointed I decided to use parts of the template, what follows is far less personal than I was hoping for, but still worth sharing (and do note, I resisted the urge to cut and paste Rip's answer to make him say silly things, like in the film, Good Morning Vietnam). I’m excited for his new book to arrive and highly suggest either of his books if you are veg curious, at a cross-roads with your own health, or if you are already plant-based and looking for some new healthy recipes, need a reminder about why oil is dangerous, or if you just need some advice on how to respond to the paleo people at your Cross Fit gym, My Beef with Meat should be on your radar.

For those of you who don’t know, (and I really should do a full review of his first book, The Engine 2 Diet, sorry I read it before I was blogging…) Rip Esselstyn is one of the stars of the documentary, Forks Over Knives and the son of the legendary Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, the cardiovascular doctor who has been saving thousands of lives (including President Bill Clinton’s) with the simple prescription of a strict plant-based diet. When Rip was younger, he was a three-time All-American swimmer at the University of Texas at Austin and then competed as a professional triathlete, winning the classic Escape from Alcatraz triathlon six-times and the Capital of Texas Tri a stunning eight times.

After retiring from his career as a triathlete, Rip joined a firehouse where, besides being the most popular model on the Austin Firefighter Yearly Calendar, he helped transform the health of his firefighting brothers with his trademarked Plant Strong™ diet (I was serious, it's trademarked). His success was stunning and it inspired him to write his first book. With the book published, Rip left the firehouse and teamed up with Whole Foods Market as one of their Healthy Eating Partners where he works with employees, customers, and Whole Food’s local communities. If all this sounds slightly familuar it might be because he has appeared on hundreds of radio shows as well as national television programs, including the Today show, CBS Sunday Morning Show, Good Morning America, and The Dr. Oz Show.

The Engine 2 Diet, which advocates a strict whole food, plant-based diet is proven by both science (including researchers such as his dad as well as his friend Dr. T. Colin Campbell) but also through his own anecdotal evidence as he has witnessed thousands transform their health simply by following his diet.

Following is a brief glimpse of what Rip’s newest book is all about, as well as one of the new recipes.

(Just to be clear, these are not my questions, but I thought they were worth sharing)
Why did you write this book?

I’ve discovered that there is a HUGE disconnect between what people think is healthy and what medical science knows to be healthy; for example, people have been bamboozled into believing that olive oil, Greek yogurt, chicken, and fish are healthy. Many people think the diet of the day is salmon, low fat dairy, and olive oil, washed down with a glass of red wine and a Lipitor pill for good measure. This is how confused, distracted, and off-course we have gotten--because this is NOT a good diet!

This book explains to plant eaters and meat eaters alike why a whole food, plant-strong diet rocks on a jillion different levels, hence the subtitle: The Healthiest Argument for Eating a Plant-Strong Diet. The primary driving force behind the book was to delve deeper into the major myths that keep surfacing about eating plants, such as: “You won’t get enough protein”, “You won’t get enough calcium”, “Eating plants is too expensive”, “Real men (and women) eat meat”, “Olive oil is heart-healthy”, and “Moderation in everything.”

The book shows how wrong each of these myths is. It gives the reader real science, not fad-diet talk. One of the titles we thought about was “How to Win an Argument with a Meat-eater” and believe me, after reading this book, you will never lose another argument with a carnivore again.

By the way, once you’ve won the argument, you can start cooking up any one of the 140 lip- smacking, rib-sticking outrageously good recipes to prove your point with food as well as with words.

There are some controversial things you tackle in this book, like the Paleo Diet. Why did you decide to address that speciļ¬c diet?

The two big dueling diets right now are paleo and planteo. I believe that the paleo diet is just a good gimmick. The paleo people have taken the South Beach/Atkins diets and put a little spin on it.  There are some positives with paleo, such as no refined or processed foods, and no dairy products. But any diet that promotes animal products with saturated fats, and animal protein isn’t promoting health. The consensus among the researchers who have studied the diets of humans in paleo times have said that at least 80 percent of their food was plant-based. Yes, they ate some animals, but we've evolved since then, we're smarter; we do not need, want, or get healthy from animal products. Back in the day, you would do anything you could to get calories into your body--it was a matter of survival. But in this day and age, you can go down the street to any grocery store and get all that you need without resorting to animal flesh.

An interesting article in US News & World Report in 2011 reviewed many different popular diets and decided that the one people should avoid is the paleo diet.

What about the people who say that they get results from a paleo diet? That’s because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is such an abomination you will get good results when switching to any diet that is even remotely healthier. If you want to get to the next step, cut out the meat!

Do your kids like eating this way?

My kids, Kole and Sophie, do not like eating this way--they LOVE eating this way! They have no interest in eating anything from animals. If they find out that cake and ice-cream offered to them has things like eggs, butter or milk they politely decline. Kole and Sophie love mangoes, grapefruit, brown rice, baked tofu, peanut butter on whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, cheese-less whole grain pizza and banana ice-cream.  Kole was hungry, and I told him I'd give him anything he wanted. Guess what he asked for.... he asked for broccoli!

Here is a photo of a seriously good looking guy and Rip Esselstyn too! I got to meet Rip at the Farms2Forks Immersion during the summer of 2012. He is an incredibly nice guy and even let me tease him about being afraid of the word "vegan."

What about athletes--can they be plant-strong?

Yes they can and should be plant-strong. It is the absolute dope when it comes to taking your athletic performance to the next level. When I was a full time triathlete, I was guilty of taking performance enhancing…… foods. They are nature’s legal performance enhancing drugs!  Plants give you an abundance of protein, water, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals that support your body after training. Plants are loaded with clean, unprocessed carbs that will replace depleted glycogen stores in your muscle and liver--allowing you to train harder, adapt faster, and improve quicker.

Plants give you a dose of alkaline, and anti-inflammatory substances that protect you from the stresses of long training days.  Plants give you a clear head that will allow you to focus like a laser beam. Plants give you youthful arteries that will improve blood flow to all of your working muscles for maximin oxygen uptake. Plants strengthen your immune system and keep you healthy and free from illness.  Plants give you a lean and muscular body that doesn't carry excessive weight.

When you are eating plant-strong, you are getting unprocessed carbs, healthy fats, plant-proteins, fiber and anti oxidants -- all of the things that your body relishes and craves and takes your performance to the next level.

Thanks Rip!

And just to show that the Engine 2 recipes are more than just salads, here is a recipe for healthy, low-fat, and oil-free Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies from the new book!

I made these last week, and have to say they are frickin' delicious! In fact, I could have eaten the entire tray, but instead I decided to bring them into work so all the T-Rex's (omnivores) I work with can get a taste of what healthy eating is all about! These guys are similar to my holiday special Peanut Butter and Oat Cookies, so you know they're good, but are still distinct enough to be a warmed and much welcomed addition to your next cookie tray!

E2 Banana Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies:

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon vanilla
¾ cup natural chunky peanut butter
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 cups old fashioned oats
½ cup whole wheat flour*
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt ((optional) I omitted the salt.)
½ cup non-dairy chocolate chips or raisins** 

Makes 30- 32 cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper
3. Mix bananas, vanilla, peanut butter and maple syrup into a creamy consistency in a large bowl
4. In another bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder and salt
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until they are well combined -the batter
should be slightly sticky
6. Fold in the chocolate chips or raisins
7. Place rounded, heaping tablespoon-sized balls of the batter onto an ungreased baking sheet
8. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned
9. Gobble these up while they are still warm


*For wheat-free version, sub whole wheat flour with spelt flour.  
** For a less processed chocolate chip, try cacao nibs. (is it a cookie if it doesn't have some type of chocolate?) 

As a side note,  I ran the numbers on these cookies and while nutrition calculators are not perfect, each cookie has roughly 55 calories which is less than half the calories in Chips' Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Also, for those of you who are obsessed with protein, eating an entire tray of these would cover most peoples protein needs for an entire day! Yup seriously people, protein is that easy to get on a plant-based diet!

Well, a big BYOL thank you to Rip and the E2 team for everything they do and for sharing their work with us.