Meet my new wellness partner and co-author!

Greetings, friends!

Wow, this sure has been an exciting week, hasn't it? I love seeing how many folks are focused on inspiring changes for the new year....So many wonderful developments are taking place in the area of wellness and holistic health - truly exciting stuff!

One such thrill for me this year has been my partnering with Carré Otis (author, activist, mother, and model). Respectively Carré and I come from two different backgrounds but have found our common ground in our recovery from disordered eating. We are joining forces to bring to you a practical, nourishing, enticing and exciting way of preparing and experiencing food that will transform old habits into healthy and liberating new ones!

Carré's book, Beauty Disrupted, was one of the first things that gave me insight into the stellar person that she is. Despite the many trials in her life (both in and out of the modeling and acting can read about them in her memoir), I can say without hesitation that she absolutely TRIUMPHED. It is incredibly rare to see someone work so hard to overcome, grow, and evolve - and to exemplify such dedication not only to the betterment of their own life, but also to use their abilities to make the lives of others better. Carré is just such a person - a shining example of the power of humans to make radical, profound, deeply beautiful, and lasting shifts!

So, what exactly is this spectacular and powerful woman cooking up with me? Well, lots!! We have all kinds of incredibly exciting plans in the works...for starters, we're working on a groundbreaking book together. We will also be offering unique holistic retreats very soon in the beautiful Colorado mountains. Haven't you ever needed to just get away and feel totally regenerated, nourished, and recharged on all levels? Um, YEAH!! Sign me up while you're at it!!

So, sit tight my sweet peas and we will keep you posted on all the new ways we're planning to be of service to your greatest wellness. You can also check out Carré's blog here and connect with her (and also me) on Twitter for more fun stuff. She has also done some great interviews recently for her book. For starters, here's one of her on The Today Show, and this is a great interview she did for Huffington Post. And don't forget to check out her book - if you want to be completely inspired and moved (and yes, entertained!), it will totally deliver.

Here's to a fantastic, inspired, love-filled, vibrantly healthy new year. Much love to you all!

Giveaway Time!

Greetings, friends! In honor of the New Year and all its promise, I've decided to do a HUGE giveaway before 2012 begins! In case you didn't know, I'm rolling out a super exciting program, devoted to making 2012 your happiest, healthiest year EVER. A year of membership is still a screamin' deal at only $299 (or $199 if you get a group together!) but I'm giving away one free membership for a full year to the lucky winner!

What all does this golden, glittery prize include, you might be wondering?

1. You get FREE e-copies of my books (or hard copies of all 3 at a great package price)

2. Menu planning - I will give you set menus each week to assist you in reaching your optimal health, weight, and energy levels! Each Friday, you'll receive the DELISH menu for the upcoming week, along with a complete grocery list and preparation guidelines to help you maximize your time and simplify your life. Basically, staying on track will be a no-brainer with these guidelines!

3. Goal Charting for Extreme Awesomeness on ALL Levels!

4. This program will take the guesswork out of setting goals to achieve your ultimate wellness. You'll receive a DOABLE step-by-step guideline, plus a weekly chart to track your progress. This is key, as it will teach you to build on your successes!

5. Each morning, you'll wake up to an email that will inspire and motivate you! You will also receive all of the steps you'll need to take that day to keep you on track with your goals. (It's funner than it sounds)

6. On the first and third Sunday of each month, I will be available via conference call to answer questions, offer support, help you fine tune your goals, and renew your inspiration!

7. Stay connected with other members and myself via the Facebook page (and also a private blog) that's dedicated to making 2012 your most amazing, awesome, rockstarring year ever!

So, how exactly DO you enter to win? Simply do the following:

1. "Like" my Facebook page where you'll find healthy tips, recipe ideas, & other fun wellness jazz
2. Follow this blog (scroll down to the right and hit "follow")
3. Reply to this post and tell us what your wellness goals for 2012 are
4. Share the love! Post this contest either on your Facebook page, Twitter page (here's my Twitter profile), or blog.

Good luck...and cheers to making 2012 your healthiest, happiest year EVER!!

Vegan Gingerbread Molasses Cookies

This recipe is one of those lucky experiments that I happened to get right on the first try...which was today! My daughter and I wanted to make up a special Christmas eve meal with something a little different, so we decided on gingerbread as the dessert. Hope you enjoy!

Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar (I use dark brown sugar for extra molasses flavor)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Wet ingredients:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons oil (I used non-virgin olive, but coconut or sunflower would work too)
1/4 cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 tablespoons nondairy milk

Final fun:
Organic sugar or turbinado sugar for topping

1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients until thoroughly combined. You may need to sift them in order to remove the lumps. This is also a good time to preheat your oven to 350 F.

2. Stir the wet ingredients together well and add to the dry mixture. Combine well.

3. Here's the semi-tricky part. Place the dough-like substance on a countertop and knead for a minute or so. It won't knead up like regular dough, but just do your best. It will all turn out well in the end. Next, form into a ball and roll out (using a rolling pin) until it's about 1/4-inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Tip: to get the cookies to the pan without breaking, you may find a spatula helpful.

4. Finally, sprinkle the tops of the cookies with the sugar. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned (well, more browned). Remove and let cool.

Makes 2 dozen medium-ish cookies
GF (if using gluten-free flour)/SF/Purple (according to the health guidelines in my books)

Ten Great DIY Vegan Food Gifts

1. Kale chips! This is what started me thinking about doing this blog post in the first place. A friend suggested the idea that kale chips in pretty tins would make the perfect Christmas gift. I had to agree! What better way to give the gift of yummy snacky healthy deliciousness?! And who doesn't need a little green balance, what with all the sugary madness this time of year? My personal preference would be to make raw kale chips, but if you don't have a dehydrator you can also bake them at low temperatures (see my video for tips on making baked kale chips). Also, my newest book contains great raw kale chip recipes if you need some inspiration.

2. These chocolate truffles are insanely yummy and can be decorated with all sorts of fun coatings. My favorites are crushed candy canes, peanuts, walnuts, and raw cacao nibs. For holidays, I often make up a double batch of these and give an assortment of them away in pretty tins. People completely love them, and they're perfect for those who think they don't like vegan food. They'll flip for these and never even guess they're not chock full of artery-clogging ingredients.

3. Have someone who loves to grow their own food? Give them the gift of sprouting! All you'll need is a few glass mason jars, some sprouting lids (cheesecloth and even a screen patch kit can stand in), sprouting seeds, and instructions. They'll never be able to thank you enough!

Raw Cinnamon Rolls photo by Olga Vasiljeva
4. My recipe for Raw Cinnamon Rolls from Radiance 4 Life is one of those things that has surprised even me. I can't tell you how many folks have made these as gifts, served them at holiday parties, and taken them to work for rave reviews. The cool thing is that most people love them withouth even realizing that they're vegan, raw, and contain absolutely NO sweeteners (aside from whole dried fruit)! Oh, and they're scrumptious. How cool is that?!

5. This vegan parmesan sprinkle is the perfect gift for the health-minded Italian food lover on your list. It's a fantastic topping for pasta, lasagna, roasted vegetables, and anything tomato-related. Plus, it's insanely high in Omega 3s, delicious, and easy breezy to whip up. The fact that it looks super cute in a glass jar with a green bow on it doesn't hurt either!

6. These dark chocolate mint cookies are perfect for the raw foodie or gluten-free person on your gift list. In fact, just about anyone would love these healthy, raw cookies - and what a great way to balance out all the nutrient-poor treats we see everywhere this time of year!

photo by Olga Vasiljeva

7. Have someone who could use a little yummy fuel for themselves, and perhaps their family? These lemon poppyseed muffins (with zesty lemon glaze!) are super delish and made with whole grains. Long live the vegan muffin basket!

8. Want to make one dish that you can use as gifts for a LOT of people? Of course you do! Who doesn't need an awesome & delicious short-cut this time of year? Plus, you won't be tempted to eat the ENTIRE TRAY of this insanely delish orange-spiced baklava when you know you have to give most of it away. The recipe (from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth) is also on my blog here and makes like 15 pieces. So, that's at least 5 gifts right there, yes? Package it up all cute, perhaps with a cinnamon stick up in there.

9. Have a Thai food lover on your list? Or anyone with tastebuds? This Peanut Sauce is off the hook awesome and can be bottled up in a pretty glass bottle for a gift they'll never forget. Trust me, this is a recipe I used to have to dodge stalkers for.

10. Like the idea of popcorn in tins? I know I do...I grew up looking forward to our yearly giant canister of popcorn with the divider thingy in it, yielding a trio of cheese, regular, and caramel corn. Well, you too can duplicate this idea...with cleaner ingredients! Give a variety of popcorn to your munchie gift recipients for something they won't forget. Some ideas on types of popcorn include cinnamon spice Everything Nice Popcorn, caramel corn (there's a good one in Radiant Health, Inner Wealth), plain popcorn with olive oil and sea salt (add some nutritional yeast for extra lovins), spicy lime popcorn, BBQ popcorn, and chili-garlic popcorn. YUM. Need my mailing address? ; )

So, I hope that gives you plenty of ideas on what to give your friends and family (and anyone else lucky enough to be on your gift list) this season! I'd love your feedback...and please send me pictures of the vegan foodie gifts you're making. I love that stuff!

Italian Bread Salad with Tangy Basil Vinaigrette

I always associate this one with potlucks. Maybe that’s because I have so many vivid memories of people, in said potluck setting, raving about this salad. However, be warned—it makes no excuses for its totally bold, intense flavor! Anyway, a salad giving you excuses would be pathetic and just a little creepy.
Recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth

8 oz. loaf of slightly stale crusty sourdough bread, cut into cubes (6 cups of bread cubes)*

Deliriously Delectable Dressing:

4 large cloves garlic, peeled

⅓ cup (tightly packed) fresh basil leaves

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

⅓ cup non-virgin olive oil (or additional extra-virgin olive oil if you prefer)

⅓ cup red wine vinegar

¾ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Salad Stuff:

½ lb. red leaf or romaine lettuce (one medium sized head)

One medium-large cucumber, very thinly sliced

One small red onion, very thinly sliced

Three roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped in half

1. *Cut or tear the bread into bite sized cubes or pieces. You should end up with six cups of bread cubes. Allow them to sit overnight in a partially open bag. The purpose of this is to make the bread slightly stale so that it does not become soggy when the dressing is added to the salad. Of course, if you already have stale bread, you can pretend like this step never happened.

2. Place the garlic, basil, and a little of the olive oil in a blender. Blend on low to emulsify the ingredients. Add the remaining olive oil and other dressing ingredients and blend on high for a minute or so, until very smooth and thick.

3. Wash the lettuce. Dry it with paper towels or in a salad spinner to remove all of the excess water. This step is important, as too much water on the lettuce will dilute the dressing. Prepare the other vegetables at this point as well.

4. Put the bread cubes in the largest bowl you can get your hands on. Place the lettuce, cucumber, onion, tomatoes, and olives on top of the bread. Pour all of the dressing on top, making sure to get every last drop with a rubber spatula. Using the same spatula, stir the salad very well to mix the dressing evenly.

5. Cover the salad bowl and refrigerate it for an hour or so. This will allow the dressing time to work its magic. Stir again and serve, either at room temperature or chilled. Enjoy having the most popular item at the potluck! You will never live this down.

Serves about 6; 30 minutes or under! (with slightly stale bread) SF/Purple (according to the health guidelines in my books)

Whole Grain and Flax Cornbread

Mmm....cornbread. The perfect winter goodie. Nothing beats homemade cornbread that's warm, steamy, and fresh from the oven! Especially when it's guilt-free, as this one is - all high in fiber and goodness and whatnot, with no refined flours or animal products. Enjoy!

2 tablespoons flax meal (ground flaxseed)
1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1-1/3 cups nondairy milk
1/3 cup oil (non-virgin olive, melted coconut, or sunflower)

1 cup EACH: cornmeal and whole wheat pastry flour
2/3 cup organic sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon EACH: sea salt and baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 400F. For skillet cornbread, place a large (12-inch) iron skillet in the oven to warm it while you're making the cornbread. For muffins, lightly oil the cups in a muffin tin.
2. Flegg out. How, you ask? Simply combine the flaxseed meal with the water in a small bowl and stir. Set aside for at least 5 minutes, or until gooey.
3. In another small bowl, combine the vinegar and milk (this will become your "buttermilk"). The vinegar/milk bowl will also need to be in time out for five minutes - same as the flegg. They can talk amongst themselves if they get bored.
4. In the meantime, combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Whisk or stir well, until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
5. Combine the flegg with the vinegar/milk mixture. Stir well, then whisk in the oil. Once the wet ingredients (and flegg) are very well combined, stir into the dry mixture. Combine well, but do not over-mix.
6. Remove the skillet (if using) from the oven and spray or lightly coat with oil. Pour the batter into the skillet and smooth out the top. If making muffins, pour the batter evenly into ten muffin cups. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!

Makes 10 servings/SF/Blue (according to the health guidelines in my books)

What to Bring to Holiday Parties and Potlucks? My Top 12 Picks!

So, you've asked...and I've heard you...and here's my answer. What DO you bring to all those annoying (I mean, simply delightful) Holiday parties and potlucks?? Especially when you want to contribute a relatively healthy dish but still knock some socks off? THIS, people. This...

photo by Olga Vasiljeva

My Top Twelve Picks for Healthy, Scrumptious Potluck and Party Dishes!

1. This Carrot Ginger Lime Soup from my newest book Radiance 4 Life will have everyone raving! Not only is it delicious - it's also incredibly immune-boosting, nutritious, and vitalizing. If you don't have my book, it's also here on my blog.

2. I know you've seen far too much hummus at parties, but how often is it really spectacular? Plus, sometimes hummus really is just the right thing to do. Here's my blog post on hummus perfection in all of it's glory.

3. Do you have something to prove in the "vegan desserts are just as awesome as any other kind" realm? Then make THESE. They're the most delicious, addictive chocolate truffles in the, you can do all sorts of fun coatings on them for parties. My favorite is a candy cane crunch coating. Yeah, you heard me right. It's epic and such.

photo of Raw Cinnamon Rolls by Olga Vasiljeva

4. These raw cinnamon rolls are crazy easy to make, healthy, nourishing, energizing, and totally scrumptious! Try em. Recipe from Radiance 4 Life but yes, also on my blog.

5. Want to do something really different? Every time I make this Indian appetizer, it never fails to disappear in minutes. Seriously, people freak out over these Lemon Cilantro Pakoras. Think of them as the crack cocaine of Asian snacks.

6. Speaking of flavor, these Chili Lime Noodles are incredible. Even picky eaters flip for them! Plus, they're great if you have any gluten-free guests. Another recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth that's also on my blog here.

photo of fresh spring rolls by Olga Vasiljeva

7. This will win you friends, stalkers, and fans. I promise. My fresh spring rolls (aka "summer rolls") are always a hit, no matter what the venue. They're unusual, fresh, vitalizing, and you're likely to be the talk of the party if you bring them, especially if you serve them with my insane Peanut Sauce! I even have a fresh spring rolls video to help you, as well as tons of spring roll recipes in my books.

8. OK, so this is so perfect that I get a little over's a pretty green dip (that's colored naturally by the edamame!) served with red bell pepper strips. The perfect holiday colors, and the perfect holiday dip! This recipe uses a ton of healthy superfood ingredients and the result is delicious and crowd-pleasing! I recommend serving with some black sesame crackers or other healthy crackers that are relatively neutral in flavor. Yet another recipe from RHIW that's featured here on this blog.

photo by Michelle (McCluggage) Bebber

9. Here's a delicious, easy to make dessert that travels well and that everyone is sure to adore. My Grandma's Apple Crisp recipe is also near and dear to my heart as it was something my darlin' grandma and I always used to make together this time of year. And trust me, it's insanely delish! Recipe from Radiant Health, Inner Wealth and also here on my blog.

10. These asparagus wraps are so fun and fancy! Yeah, I just said that. But really, you'll get a lot of secret admirers up in your grill if you serve these awesome asparagus wraps. (pictured above) They're pretty exciting and very easy to make, even if you've never worked with phyllo before. Recipe here on my blog (and also in RHIW).

11. Feel like bringing something super easy and snacky? This cinnamon spice Everything Nice Popcorn is a breeze to make and will surely be a hit!

photo by Michelle (McCluggage) Bebber

12. This Tomato, Basil, & Roasted Pine Nut Penne is great for when you want a crowd-pleasing entree that no one will ever guess is vegan. It's delicious, satisfying, and guaranteed to get rave reviews!

So, I hope you find that helpful, friends! And please let us know - what are YOU bringing to your next potluck or party?

A Dozen Gifts for Vegan Book Lovers

So, you're working your way through your gift list and you've come to that vegan/vegetarian friend, relative, or co-worker who loves to read. How very convenient, then, that you've somehow stumbled upon this blog post! It was really hard for me to narrow this list down to just a dozen, as there are so many great choices out there. It actually blows me away, considering what was available when I first made the choice to go vegan in 1991. I think there were like two books back then. (I started writing cookbooks for a reason.)

Anyway, this is my definitive list. It's an eclectic mix, so there's something here for just about anyone - even if they're only veg-curious! So, get yourself ready for some thrills, people - this is gonna be fun...yet informative.

My Top Twelve List of Gifts For Vegan Book Lovers (in no particular order):

1. The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia by Rebecca Wood: This is a lovely reference guide that I recommend in all of my books. Rebecca's book is a wonderful treasure of whole foods, listed in alphabetical order along with their nutritional benefits. She also includes storage tips, historical references, and a few preparation tips. Basically, it's like a fun, well-written wikipedia for plant foods.
2. Vegan Bodybuilding and Fitness by Robert Cheeke: This book gives you all the information you need for building your body on a plant-based diet (it's not just for bodybuilders either - it's helpful for all fitness regimes). I also like recommending Robert's book because he's just a really nice guy with a lot of common sense - and he does one hell of a George Bush impression.

3. My books (Radiant Health, Inner Wealth; The Two-Week Wellness Solution; Radiance 4 Life): I know many of you already have these, but for those who don't, they're all about deliciousness and optimal health. And who doesn't want that fab combo?? I'm currently running a sale on all three - perfect for the foodie who wants to get (or stay) healthy!
4. Beauty, Disrupted by Carré Otis and Hugo Schwyzer: Although this isn't technically a book about veganism, I can't bring myself not to include it on my must-read list. It's one of the most inspiring things I've read in ages, being that Carré is living proof that transformative change is possible in this life.
5. Happy Herbivore Cookbook by Lindsay Shay Nixon: I love how simple and easy Lindsay's recipes are. If you want practical, healthy dishes, her book is a fantastic resource! And she's also just a down-to-earth, friendly person who constantly surprises me with her creativity and intelligence.

6. Japanese Cooking by Miyoko Schinner: I love this book mostly because it contains some of the first vegan recipes I ever came to love. Imagine my delight when, twenty years later, I got to spend some time with Miyoko at the San Francisco Veg Fest (we were both speakers there). She's just a delighful woman who understands the concept of balance, health, and delicious food.
7. The Thrive books by Brendan Brazier: I actually met Brendan on that same trip (at the San Fran VegFest) and found him to be delightful, funny, and just chock-full of good, common sense - something that's ironically often lacking in so many health books. Brendan is a great example of how to be in top notch physical condition on a vegan diet and his books are full of great advice for anyone interested in reaching their peak condition.

8. A subscription to VegNews Magazine: So, this isn't a book, but you probably figured that out after you saw the word "magazine." But hey! What's more fun than a gift that you keep getting all year round? Not much, my friends. VegNews is all kinds of awesome.
9. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Eating by Julieanna Hever: A great book for those who need to learn the basics of healthy vegan eating, written by one of the sweetest people I know! Plus, how cool is it that Julieanna was recently featured on Dr. Oz? I'll answer that - it's crazy cool.
10. Sweet Freedom by Ricki Heller: This book was even recommended by Ellen Degeneres. It's a great gift for the gluten-free gal (or guy) on your list, as all of her dessert recipes are wheat-free, vegan, and also free of refined sugar. And, yeah, Ricki's a peanut too. It's a great community that I'm part of!
11. The New Fast Food by Jill Nussinow: The great thing about this book is the fact that Jill really gets pressure cookers - and few do. I often recommend this book, as I love seeing my readers and students using the fabulousness that is the pressure cooker!
12. Party Vegan by Robin Robertson: Robin is one of those long-time vegan goddesses who has written lots of books and is very dedicated to her profession. I admire her tremendously. I chose to recommend this book as it's a great resource for, yeah, parties. And also, it gives me some time to stall the people who've asked me to write a book along those lines! For now, I have a few others I'll be writing first, so I'm happy Robin has it covered! It's a great concept and a great book.

So, I hope you found that list helpful. And I do encourage you to give the gift of reading these great books not only to the vegans on your list, but also to anyone who wants to live a healthy, happy life.

I also have to mention that it was very hard keeping this list to a mere dozen - there are many other vegan books and authors that are near and dear to my heart, and I hope I have a chance to feature them as well before too long! Happy holidays and thanks for stopping by!!