Friday, September 3, 2010

Review: This Crazy Vegan Life by Christina Pirello and the food

I decided to start this post with my review of this book because I enjoyed it so much. The book was not what I was expected but in a good way.

I have been a fan of Christina Pirello since I first saw her show “Christina Cooks” on PBS years ago. She was the first person I saw prepare vegan food. I learned a lot watching that show and really miss it now that it isn’t on our local PBS station.

Christina’s story of being diagnosed with terminal leukemia and healing herself with macrobiotic food over 25 years ago gives anyone facing a health challenge a reason to be optimistic. I had expected this book to focus on her life story with has to be fascinating. She does discuss her situation thorough out the book but the focus is more on eating for general health and wellbeing. She discusses her struggles with weight and how she conquered that problem as well as leukemia. It is a fascinating read that I highly recommend. Christina focuses on whole natural food which you all know I love as well. She does use oil when she cooks but that is easy to modify. The book is categorized as follows:

1. How Did We Get into This Mess, Anyway?
2. Veganomics: Rethinking Everything
3. The Path to Rethinking Your Life
4. Food for Thought
5. Eat Well for Life
6. The Eating Plan: Menus and Recipes
7. Get Moving
8. This Crazy Vegan Lifestyle

The book discusses the health benefits of a vegan diet as well as a the detrimental effects of meat and dairy. Christina does have Master’s in Food Nutrition from Drexel so some of her descriptions are fairly detailed (which I like) but they are still easy to understand.   She also touts the benefit of consuming mushroooms for cancer patients and cancer prevention.  Since this is the third or fourth time I have read this in a couple of months I feel like the universe is sending me a distinct message. Guess what we are having for dinner, LOL?

There is a 21 day menu plan outlined in the book which focuses on weight loss and getting rid of processed and refined foods. Christina is not a fan or sugar which I love. She also advocates vegetables, specifically green leafies. Additionally she advocates starting meals with soup which I think is a great plan and serves to fill you up without many calories if you chose the right soups.

Also included is a sizable recipe section as well as exercises you can do at home with resistance bands. I would say the exercise section is the weakest portion of the book. However to be fair it targeted to people starting to exercise and for that it is fine.

Overall it is a good book and one that I am adding to my Amazon list. Her recipes alone make the book something that I want to be able to refer to. I always find her flavor and textural combinations to be quite nice.


Early today I was off and running again. Fridays tend to be hectic at our place and this one was more busy than most. After we went through our morning ritual of making fresh vegetable and fruit juice, having breakfast and packing Dan’s lunch I made myself breakfast. I wanted something quick and had leftover oven roasted vegetables and chickpea mash topped with pomegranate molasses and diced cucumbers for coolness and crunch. I intentionally omitted nuts or seeds since I was taking a high fat snack with me to munch on in the car which I don’t normally eat that.

To tide my over while I was gone I put ½ cup of trail mix (equal parts almonds, raw pumpkin seeds, dried blueberries, roasted soy nuts, and chocolate chips) in a small snack bag and ran out the door to run my errands with my iced green tea in hand to wash down the trail mix. When I was making my bag of trail mix for the car I decided to make an extra bag for Heather at the doctor’s front office since she is always so pleasant and helpful. This was going to be one of my good deeds today. However she wasn’t there when I stopped by to pick some paperwork, darn it. Oh well, now I need to come up with another good deed today but that shouldn’t be too hard though. ;-) Did you do something to make the world a nicer place today?

I had a number of errands to run today which meant more driving. *sigh* I finally figured out what I don’t like about driving. Why do people feel the need to be so rude, actually downright nasty, when they drive? Not only do they not let you in when you signal your intention to change lanes but they speed up to cut you off. *shakes head* Where does that behavior come from? I decided to be uber courteous on the road today to offset this ridiculous behavior. People seemed to be very wary of courteous behavior behind the wheel. I actually had a few people that seemed to be worried about changing changes when I slowed down and flashed them to go ahead. This is a very sad commentary on society that went someone is courteous it is looked at with disbelief.

Lunch today was the remainder of the oven roasted veggies (I used it like dressing to moisten the salad) on lettuce topped with Roma tomatoes and diced cucumber and 4 baked falafel from the freezer. Again I left off the added fat since I had the trail mix earlier. I needed to wait a while for this to digest before I could work out. I find I get my best workouts on a reasonably empty stomach. Does the same thing happen for you or am I the only one that needs to work out on an empty stomach?

Since I left early this morning I didn’t exercise before heading out. I was not looking forward to exercising late in the day, but I wanted to get my errands knocked out and that was at the top of my list today.  I really dislike exercising later in the day

My afternoon snack today was a cup of edamame from the freezer.

Dinner tonight is a simple meal of adzuki beans and shitake mushrooms over sweet potatoes with lemon. I had the adzuki beans soaking while I was running my errands so they would be ready to cook when I got home. Here is what I made tonight:

Adzuki Beans with Shitakes and Lemon
Serves 4


1 cup of dried adzuki beans, soaked for 8 hours
8 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 2 cups hot water until softened
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating)
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes before heating)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced or grated
2 tablespoons mirin
6 tablespoons water
1 lemon, zested and juiced
5 spice powder, to taste (I used about ¼ teaspoon but the amount you need will depend on the freshness of your spice mix)
1 sweet potato, cooked and cut into bite sized chunks
2 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely minced
¼ cup walnuts, chopped


Cook the adzuki beans until they are soft. The exact time this will take depends on the age of your dried beans and how long you soaked them.

Remove the stems from the shitakes. Add the mushroom stems to the bag in your freezer so you have them on hand when you make mushroom stock.

Water sauté the onions, garlic and ginger in the water and mirin until the onions are tender. Now add the cooked beans, sliced mushrooms, lemon zest, lemon juice and 5 spice powder.

I served this with microwaved baked potatoes and topped it with a few roughly chopped walnuts and sliced green onions and cilantro which I added without measuring.

Nutritional Information:

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 288.09
Calories From Fat (15%) - 42.1

Total Fat - 5.28g
Saturated Fat-  0.6g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 35.4mg
Potassium - 1066.1mg
Total Carbohydrates - 55.13g
Fiber - 10.72g
Sugar - 3.24g
Protein - 13.26g


This recipe has a lot of flavor but the flavor is very clean because it is so low in fat. I think it would be helped by a little dollop or drizzle of cashew crème fraiche to give it a more fatty mouth feel. Alternately the walnuts could be used to make a sauce and that could be drizzled over the dish. Overall we enjoyed it but I may need to tweak it just a bit.

After the main dish we had a simple fresh dessert of peach, pineapple, and blackberry topped with a sprinkle of reduced fat flaked coconut and a few sliced almonds. It was the perfect ending to the meal a little sweet, soft, and crunchy. I enjoy ending meals with fresh fruit.

The big news at our house is that all the projects went out yesterday and today and Dan is not only going to be home all weekend but Monday and Tuesday as well, four whole days off of work. Woo hoo! Tomorrow is going to be a relaxing one for us starting with no alarm clock. I am looking forward to a little down town with my sweetie.

I hope you all have a great holiday weekend. Talk to you again soon.


  1. I love love LOVE Christina Pirello! I remember how happy I was to run across her show on public television right after going vegan.

  2. sgcorrie,

    The same thing happened to me. I found her right after going vegan and she really helped me have some idea of what to cook since I was very lost at the beginning of the process.

    It is a good book. I like that she spent extra time on the nutrition and health aspects of vegan diet vs omni. Of course there are lots of recipes too.

    hope you are having a good holiday weekend,

  3. Thanks for the book review! So glad Dan is going to be taking some time off and be home. Enjoy!

  4. Heather,

    I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. But know know I love anything that focuses on health. ;-)

    Needless to say I am thrilled to have Dan home. We have seen so little of each other over the last 6 weeks. I am going to enjoy every minute of our long weekend. I hope you and Jason have a great weekend.


  5. Hi Ali,
    Hope you're having a nice relaxing Saturday evening.
    Your foods for the day look so great. I just picked up some peaches and blackberries from the market today..I may have to create something similar!

  6. Aimee,

    Thanks, we just finished watching a movie. It has been a nice relaxing start to the weekend. I hope you are having a good one too!

    Can't wait to see what you do with your peaches and blackberries.


  7. As usual, everything sounds great and so healthy! I also like to end my meals with fruit. I think it's interesting how some people say that you shouldn't eat very much fruit because of the content of the sugar and the risk of you getting diabetes. I don't think it's true. What do you think?

  8. Carissa,

    Thanks for the food compliment, I really appreciate it.

    I think we all process food a little differently. But in general I don't think whole fruit is anything to be concerned about. Fruit juice is something that could increase serum blood glucose levels if you drink too much. Although Dan drinks veg and fruit juice everyday and it doesn't have any impact on him, which I thought it might. If you are worried about the blood sugar level of fruit by itself always have it immedidately following a meal which would reduce the GI impact by the other foods. Overall I think flour products (bread, pasta, etc.), white rice and baked goods are much more of an issue in regard to blood sugar than fruit.

    hope you are having a great holiday weekend,

  9. I get very frustrated driving, and it's so funny especially on the expressway on a road trip that someone who cuts you off in the car will then nod hello at the rest stop. I always think of the part in the book Traffic (Tom Vanderbilt) about people interacting face-to-face but anthropomorphizing cars so you're face to rear when driving. On that note, I love reading actual books and should check out some nutrition/vegan books too!

    I'm noting your adzuki bean recipe. I just purchased some but have never eaten them before, and the sweet potatoes and beans look good and I bet it will a good introduction to the adzuki.

  10. Jessica,

    Thanks for letting me know it is not just me who doesn't enjoy driving. I have had people do the same, thing cut me off and then smile later outside the car. I need to read the book you recommended, sounds like something I would enjoy.

    Have you read Brendan Brazier's book Thrive? That is an interesting book on vegan nutrition for athletes.

    Adzuki beans are more creamy that other beans but the taste is not dramatically different. I bought them initially because my Japanese friend likes them so much and mentioned that her mom always said how healthy they were. Since the Japanese have such a healthy diet I thought why not buy some. ;-) If you use oil I would recommend a little drizzle of toasted sesame oil on the bean dish, that would be tasty.

    hope you had a great long weekend,


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