November 10, 2010

Natural Foodie: Healthy living feeds cook's palate

By Avery Yale Kamila
Staff Writer

What began as a friend's suggestion to start a food blog has blossomed into a cookbook.

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

Meg Wolff

Patricia McCarthy photo

Additional Photos Below


BOOK SIGNING, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Nonesuch Books, The Shops at Biddeford Crossing, Biddeford

BOOK SIGNING, 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, Good Egg Cafe, 78 Middle St., Portland

COOKING CLASS AND DINNER, 6 p.m. Nov. 18, the Nonantum Resort, 95 Ocean Ave., Kennebunkport. Includes a cooking demonstration, a full meal using recipes from the book, and a signed copy of the cookbook. $45. Reserve a seat at (800) 552-5651.

BOOK SIGNING, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 20, Nonesuch Books, Mill Creek Shopping Center, South Portland

BOOK SIGNING AND HEALTHY DESSERTS, 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 5, Kennebooks, 149 Port Road, Kennebunk. Enjoy healthy dessert samples during Christmas Prelude.



Reprinted with permission

2 cups navy beans or dried white pea beans, rinsed and soaked overnight in water

1 whole onion, peeled

Optional: 1 (8-ounce) package tempeh, chopped

¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon grain mustard

1 cup apple butter

Drain soaked beans. Add new spring or filtered water to cover. Bring to a boil, cook on high, then reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour. Check water while cooking to make sure the beans stay covered, adding more water if needed.

Add the onion to the bottom of the pan. It will cook down and come apart, flavoring the beans, so there's no need to chop it. Add tempeh, if using.

After an hour, check the beans for doneness. Take one bean on a spoon and blow on it. If the skin comes off easily, it's done. Salt should be added at this time. If the beans are not done, cook for 15 more minutes and check again. These small beans usually cook quickly, within an hour or so. Add mustard and apple butter, and stir.

Serves 10 to 12.

This week, "A Life in Balance: Delicious, Plant-Based Recipes for Optimal Health," written by Meg Wolff of Cape Elizabeth and published by Down East Books, hits bookstores.

The all-vegetarian cookbook includes many recipes first posted on Wolff's Becoming Whole blog (www.becoming, which she started in 2007.

"I hadn't planned on doing a cookbook in the beginning, but after doing it for two years, I decided I had a book," said Wolff, who is also the author of two self-published memoirs about her journey to healthy living.

Wolff's recipes in the cookbook are joined by those from local people and national celebrities who appreciate the benefits of a diet based on whole plant foods rather than processed animal foods.

Contributors include "Skinny Bitch" author Rory Freedman, who offered a recipe for a French Scramble; "Quantum Wellness" and "The One" author Kathy Freston, who contributed a recipe for tofu cakes that comes from celebrity chef Tal Ronnen; "The Engine 2 Diet" author Rip Esselstyn, who supplied the recipe for his Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna; and "The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics" author Jessica Porter, who offered her recipe for Hambulghur Helper.

Locals featured in the book include Mary Ledue Paine, co-owner of the Pepperclub/Good Egg Cafe in Portland, who contributed the recipe for the eatery's popular tempeh hash; Portland macrobiotic cooking instructor Lisa Silverman, who gave a recipe for black bean and cornbread casserole; Yarmouth family practitioner Dr. Lisa Belisle, who offered her recipe for beet slaw with blueberry vinaigrette; and Falmouth surgeon Dr. John Herzog, who provided his recipe for Powerhouse Pasta.

The cookbook's foreword is written by T. Colin Campbell, known for his game-changing book "The China Study," which provides detailed, scientific information on the overwhelming health benefits to be gained by eating a plant-based diet. The preface is written by Maine Olympian Joan Benoit Samuelson.

Wolff's journey into plant-based eating began 12 years ago, after she was diagnosed with bone and breast cancers, underwent a leg amputation and mastectomy, and was told by her doctors she had little chance of survival.

Instead of resigning herself to what her doctors said was inevitable, she embraced macrobiotic food and saw her health improve dramatically. This style of eating is centered on energetically balanced whole grains, beans and vegetables, and generally avoids meat, dairy, sugar and nightshade vegetables (such as tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant).

Macrobiotics is popular among those recovering from life-threatening illnesses as well as a growing number of young, fit people who want to stay that way.

About three years ago, Wolff began broadening her diet beyond strictly macrobiotic foods to include vegan foods.

"I really still consider what I eat to be macrobiotic," Wolff said. "But maybe healing diet (macrobiotic) people wouldn't consider it macrobiotic."

The cookbook reflects this shift with a few recipes that include things such as bread and tomatoes.

"In the past three years, it seems like a whole new world of vegan food has appeared," Wolff said.

Her observations about the rapidly growing interest in plant-based foods is echoed by Campbell.

He writes in the forward that "more and more people are willing to make drastic lifestyle changes in the name of better health. We are reaching a tipping point, and a critical mass of success stories like Meg's is accumulating."

It's Wolff's hope that her book will help push more people to their own personal tipping points.


Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at:


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Additional Photos

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Meg Wolff's Stovetop Beans

Patricia McCarthy photo


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