Weekend Reading, 4.26.15
April 26, 2015

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope you’ve all had restful weekends so far. Big thanks to those of you who entered my Oriya Organics giveaway on Friday. (If you missed it, I’m giving away protein and green powder and sharing a tasty new energy ball recipe–check it out!)

I’ve got a lot of work to catch up on, but at the moment I’m sipping my coffee and catching up on my weekend reading. Read with me, will you?


First, a lunch wrap that would entice me any day of the week: this colorful, layered spicy lentil tahini wrap from Slyvia of Feasting at Home.


These zucchini boats from Maya and Emre at Dreamy Leaf are as beautiful as they are healthy, packed with lentils and rice and veggies. Such a great idea for dinner with friends or family.


I’m in love with this mushroom leek risotto from Madeline at Plantaful–not just the creamy texture and hearty nature of the dish, but also the lovely presentation. Yum.


I couldn’t resist a dessert double header today. First up is the The Blenderist’s vegan chocolate panna cotta, made with cashew milk and agar agar. That texture!


And finally, an ingenious matcha dipped coconut lime shortbread recipe. I love the color contrast, and I love that this presents us all with a new way to use matcha! Thanks to Leah from Love Me, Feed Me for the recipe.


1. A fair amount of attention has been given recently to the issue of heart disease in women. Historically, the warning signs of heart attacks are more likely to be overlooked among women than men, in part because the symptoms are different (nausea, back, and arm pain are more common indicators than sudden chest pain) and in part because our society still tends to categorize heart disease as more of a risk for men. This recent article in The New York Times covers the symptoms and the phenomenon of heart disease among young women well.

Two risk factors stood out to me: first, stress. Author Jane Brody states, “Stress, for example, is a known, though not often cited, risk factor, ‘and the youngest women in this country are more stressed than ever,’ she [Holly S. Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Perelman Heart Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College] said. “They’re always ‘on’ and self-comparing.'” I think most of my readers know a little something about that.

Second, the article notes that statin use, which has placed focus exclusively on cholesterol lowering at the expense of the big picture, may actually contribute to missed warning signs and risk factors. “[T]he treatment often provides ‘false reassurance’ that the drugs ‘can compensate for poor dietary choices and a sedentary life,’ Dr. Rita F. Redberg, a cardiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, wrote last year. In one study she cited, ‘statin users significantly increased their fat intake and calorie consumption, along with their B.M.I. (body mass index), in the last decade. Focusing on cholesterol levels can be distracting from the more beneficial focus on healthy lifestyle to reduce heart disease risk.'”

An important article for women to read and share with the women they love.

2. The battle against ag-gag bills continues to rage in North Carolina. This week, I was pleased to see that Bellamy Young, the actor known for her portrayal of the first lady in Scandal, spoke out against these bills, which would essentially criminalize any effort on the parts of employees to document/expose cases of animal abuse or food safety violations on factory farms. Her language is strong and passionate, no doubt animated by the fact that Ms. Young is an Asheville native. So glad she added her voice to this fight.

3. A very cool profile of Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi, two west coast chefs who have envisioned a new kind of fast food eatery. Their vision is to bring healthful, homemade fast food to neighborhoods in which corporate fast food chains currently monopolize the entire food landscape. In other words, to “give the fast-food chains that inundate inner-city diets with a steady stream of chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup a run for their money.”

Their idea is to create Loco’l, a Korean noodle food truck that will feature fresh, quality ingredients and food that Patterson says he’d be proud to feed his own child. The truck will also pay employees above the minimum wage (about 20% higher) and offer community education initiatives. It definitely seems to me that fast food and fast casual eateries are in a position to do a lot of good, for health, for community, and for the planet, and I’m glad to see more concepts like this one being hatched.

4. In recent decades, our understanding of epigenetics–the science of how cellular environments determine genetic expression–has grown vastly. We’ve come to understand that genes can be turned on or silence by nutrition, environmental toxicants, and stress, even if the underlying DNA sequence is unaltered. The implications are tremendous: namely, we’re not the sum of the genes we inherit. We are porous, plastic beings, always responding to our environments.

This article from Aeon discusses epigenetics in an interesting way. A lot of the information it contains is familiar, but I was interested to note that it frames epigenetic changes in a neutral fashion, presenting them as possibly beneficial. It also places a hard-hitting focus on the ways that socioeconomic circumstances and epigenetics intersect, calling into question the tendency to blame certain health conditions, such as obesity, exclusively on lifestyle choices. The authors state:

Because epigenetic processes demonstrate that the body’s boundaries are porous and permeable, they raise fundamental questions about an individual’s ability to control his or her own body. This flies in the face of the overwhelming emphasis on individual responsibility that defines current approaches to health. Because many of the environmental factors with epigenetic effects also disproportionately affect disadvantaged people, epigenetics offers social, political and economic explanations for disease and disorders that heretofore have been attributed to bad choices or bad genes. Instead, such problems might be the biological imprint of unjust histories that cannot be rectified with better choices.

These conclusions are largely lost amid media scare-mongering. In January 2010, Time Magazine ran a feature on epigenetics emphasising how your environment and lifestyle choices could influence your genes. Titled ‘Why Your DNA Isn’t Your Destiny’, it discussed the ‘bad news’ that your decisions about smoking and eating could affect your children’s epigenetic inheritance. Or consider the website PreventDisease.com, reporting on the ill effects of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical common in plastics. The website lists six things you can do to avoid contact with it, from buying wholefoods to refusing to take the BPA-coated receipt when buying groceries. But if cash register receipts are routinely produced with BPA, how does refusing the receipt affect the plight of the cashier who handles them all day?

A nuanced, sensitive article, worthy reading.

5. I think it’s often the case that folks like me, who spend a lot of time thinking about how food and nutrition and lifestyle impact health, can suffer from a bit of tunnel vision. We’re so fascinated by the nutritional quality of our food and by the benefits of yoga and exercise that we forget how multi-dimensional health is. We forget that socializing, reading, community, faith, and artistic expression may be as vital as exercise or food, if not at times more so. This article focuses on the health benefits of non-strenuous pastimes and activities (think painting, rather than jogging), and I really enjoyed it.

Speaking of enjoyment, I’m very much enjoying my brand new copy of the Food52 Genius Recipes collection. It’s written by my friend and Food52 colleague Kristen Miglore, and it grew out of her eponymous column, which highlights fresh approaches to iconic recipes or techniques. I’m pondering all of the ways in which I can veganize some of these 100 creative, intelligent recipes, one-by-one. But perhaps I’ll leave the brisket alone 😉

On that note, I wish you a lovely day. This week, I have a few new recipes and a new cookbook review to share. Till soon!


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  1. Thanks as always fot putting this list together. I love discovering new food blogs and I love how you introduce me to blogs I’ve never heard of before.
    I’m also liking the look of that cookbook. (Swoon).
    On my wish list 🙂
    Thans for sharing

  2. Those lentil wraps look amazing! Thanks for the link about NC’s “ag-gag” bill. I just watched the documentary Cowspiracy over the weekend, and they talk about how even discussing animal agriculture’s impact on the environment can be potentially illegal now, which is just astounding.

  3. Once again, Gena, great food and food for thought. I especially liked the wrap with lentils from Northwest Growers! I buy their pedrosilliano garbanzos all the time–one of my college student friends who used to split wood for me is from a family that grows these beauties! Nice to see the Palouse (which sports a lentil festival every year) make it to Choosing Raw!! xo

  4. I always enjoy these Weekend Reading posts and it was very cool to see one of my recipes included!
    I love the article about mellow pastimes – I just recently started Zentangling and it has helped me calm down and relax a lot. Especially when I’m feeling anxious.

  5. Great round up Gena! I think I’m more excited to dig into these articles then the recipes this week ( not to say I’m not excited about the recipes), I know I could use a reminder to keep my stress down. I’m bookmarking these for the plane tomorrow, thank you!

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