Vegan actress and animal-rights activist Alicia Silverstone's new book, The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet offers a bounty of helpful ideas for choosing and preparing foods that are good for our bodies, the animals, and the planet. Meals are planned around those foods which provide optimum health and vitality, focusing on fresh, organic, plant-based ingredients. It would make an absolutely lovely gift for anyone who is looking for a way to eat more deliciously and healthfully, regardless of where they are on the vegan spectrum.
The Kind Diet is broken down into three levels: Flirting, Vegan, and Superhero. In "Flirting," Alica makes simple recommendations for weaning off the standard American diet with ideas like replacing a few meat-based meals with vegan ones and exploring the myriad of transitional vegan foods available. In the "Vegan" section, she presents a road map for how to build a vegan meal plan.
Focusing on ingredients like sea vegetables, mochi, agar-agar, umeboshi plum vinegar, and Gomashio, along with fresh, local, seasonal whole foods, the "Superhero" level is based on a macrobiotic style of cooking, which has long been associated with improved health. Alicia's own vibrantly beautiful, trim, energetic, and glowing appearance makes a powerfully convincing argument for how choosing these foods is indeed, a very kind thing we can do for ourselves. And readers need not be overwhelmed by the aforementioned exotic-sounding ingredients. They are readily available online, and most can be found at your local Asian grocery or natural foods store.
Excitedly, I spent the first night with my copy of The Kind Diet scanning all of the recipes, as I usually do with any new recipe book. The photographs were utterly mouth-watering, and I immediately honed in on the recipe for Nabeyaki Udon. Made with sumptuously thick udon noodles, shiitake and maitake mushrooms, (I could not find the latter, so used twice as many shiitake), gently cooked carrots, broccoli, leek, bok choy, napa cabbage, bean sprouts, and dandelion greens (which I also couldn't find, substituting delightfully fragrant jasmine greens, instead), and smartly seasoned with shoyu, ginger, and lemon juice. I also added one sliced red bell pepper, which made for an even more colorful and delicious dish.
I didn't think I was a big fan of polenta, having always found it rather bland and dry. But Alicia's Polenta Casserole with Seitan looked and sounded too good not to try.
I'm very glad I did, because this dish was one of the best dinners we've had in the last few months, far from being bland or dry. It made a polenta lover out of me. And since Alica suggested that a side of greens would make it absolutely perfect, I went back to one of my favorite go-to recipes, and served it up with Bryant Terry's Citrus Collards with Raisins Redux. It was perfect!
The Kind Diet contains a glorious selection of desserts that will satisfy any sweet tooth. Lemon-Poppyseed Pound Cake, Mixed Berry Cheesecake, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are just a few. I decided to try something that sounded light and fruity, Candied Ginger Pears. Made with brown rice syrup, pear juice, lemon, and ginger, it was a lovely departure from the usual cakes, cookies, ice cream, and pies.
Oh, and if you're wondering if I was able to remain true to the McDougall diet, while enjoying the recipes in this book, the answer is yes! None of the recipes I prepared contained any oil, and only a bit of tahini or whole nuts. Speaking of nuts, Dr. McDougall has an insightful article about them in his most current newsletter, which you can read here.