Food My Life

Thinking About Food

I want to be healthier for myself and for my family. No junk food! Healthy and fresh! Seasonal produce! Organic! Free-range!

Whew. Sounds good, right? Except I was a little lost.

I don’t really know how to cook. Actually, it’s more like I don’t know what to cook. I had a vague idea of what’s good to eat, but I could only come up with a few options for each meal. Isn’t that sad? Well, help has come in the form of my two new favorite books: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, and Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver.

Thinking About Food

Inspired by Pollan’s book, I’m trying to stay away from processed foods with unfamiliar and unpronounceable ingredients. He has three guiding principles: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Pretty genius in its simplicity. And Jamie has given me the tools and inspiration to cook simple, healthy meals — I feel like it’s the missing companion cookbook. Jamie also likes the idea of passing it on, growing a radical new food movement person by person, which is what I’m doing here. Passing it on.

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  • 8 Tea West
    March 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Nicole, I’ve read both of those books, and would suggest that you also read Food Matters by Mark Bittman ( ). I think it might be exactly what you’re looking for. It *is* Pollan + A Basic Cookbook.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you, that looks fantastic! I’m terribly interested in this subject these days.

    • rosecampion
      March 24, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      I like Bittman’s books a lot, more than Pollan or Oliver. His “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” is the dirtiest cookbook in my collection, which is to say, the most used. We’re vegetarians in our house, but I don’t think you have to be vegetarian to get a lot of use out of HTCEV.

  • Adrien
    March 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    I’ve been trying to eat and cook “clean” for the past couple of months and at first it felt very overwhelming. It definitely gets easier, though, once you really start planning. I have In Defense of Food but I’m going to check out Jamie Oliver’s book as well. I’ve also been trolling online recipe sites and keeping a bookmark file of recipes to try, which helps. Thanks for the book rec!

  • Kathryn Humphreys
    March 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I really like for recipe ideas. all made it 30 minutes or less with very few prepared ingredients (and those are canned tomatoes and the like, which you could do yourself if so inclined). the 30 minute part is really nice with small children and we’ve all branched out from our comfort zone.

  • Bethie
    March 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    I love it! My husband and I always have good intentions, but we seem to constantly fall back into old habits. For the last month or two, however, we’ve really been able to pull it off. We use the same “mostly plants” mantra you wrote of. It takes a little time, but you really can get used to it! Shopping at a food coop or other natural foods store really makes it so much easier. Good luck with this. You won’t regret it!

  • Lindsey
    March 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    I want to do the same thing..but have been lost as to where to start. It all seems overwhelming, which is odd considering I want to “simplify” my foods. I watched Jamie’s new TV show the other night and was inspired. I’m going to have to pick these books up. Thanks for the tip. Feel free to share more as you learn!


    • Making it Lovely
      March 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

      I know – it was overwhelming to me too. I’ve known about the whole “slow food” movement for a long time, but it just seemed so extreme and hard to pull off. These books made so much sense to me and left me feeling inspired.

  • Down and Out Chic
    March 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    i read ‘omnivore’s dilemna’ by michael pollen as well as a plethora of other material on food ethics. it’s nice to know about a cookbook that compliments those things. i will definitely check it out!

  • Jessica
    March 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    My husband and I have dedicated our blog to our ventures in a new healthy lifestyle and I can’t tell you how great it is or how amazing it’s been for our life!


  • Kim at EF eDesigns
    March 24, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks for the tip about Jamie Oliver’s book – I’m halfway thru In Defense of Food and I’m going to need help knowing what to cook afterward!


  • Gail
    March 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Long time follower, first time poster who has to laugh because I JUST BLOGGED about this very thing! Jamie’s cookbook is AMAZING! Please tell me you’re going to watch his 2-hour premiere of his Food REvolution show on ABC Friday?

    Also, Cooking Light is an AUH-mazing magazine for new foodies. I’ve yet to make a bad recipe from there!

  • Brigite
    March 24, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    I LOVE In Defense of Food. May I also recommend you pick up a few vegetarian cookbooks and at least one that focuses on seasonal cooking. We’re not vegetarians, but do try to eat more vegetarian dinners, knowing that we eat plenty of animal proteins. It really helps round out your diet.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm

      Yes, we’re not vegetarians but we don’t want to eat meat at every meal, or even every day. Any favorites to check out?

      • Brigitte
        April 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

        I’m a bit late to respond – hope you see this! I love Vegetarian Food for Friends by Jane Noraika, because the recipes aren’t so traditional veg. The Moosewood Restaurant has an entire set of books, and they’re great. Finally, Kitchen Seasons by Ross Dobson isn’t vegetarian, but it is all about eating seasonal food. And the recipes are fantastic.

        Happy eating!

  • Catherine
    March 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Did you see the preview to Jamie’s new show? He’s in a school this week. I think it was a preview run and will show again Friday. Disturbing does not begin to cover it. I hope he’s successful. We need him to succeed.

    • Making it Lovely
      March 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

      I watched the first hour already. It was shocking – the school food was atrocious! /That was part of why I wrote this today. If adding my voice can in any way help, then at least I’m doing my own small part.

  • Allison
    March 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    One of my all time favorite healthy recipe sites is The Gluten Free Goddess ( I have cooked many recipes on this site for friends, and no one has ever complained that their food tasted too healthy, or that they weren’t satisfied. Don’t let the name detour you. I have gluten issues, but I know that many people don’t, although I’m pretty sure that we could all use a little less refined grain in our diet. There are many veg heavy meals on here that are absolutely delicious.

  • Brigite
    March 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Oh! I see you mention organic in your tweet. A good rule of thumb is that the more protection a food has, the more ok it is not to eat organic. So a non-organic avocado is not going to be as “bad” as a tomato.

    I could go on about this for hours. I’ve been eating this way nearly my entire life.

    • Alyse
      March 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm

      This is true but don’t forget about the amount of pesticides that still get sprayed on the “more protected” food and the affect on the environment. You should still buy organic bananas (if you buy bananas at all) because the people who work in the field have a history of being sprayed with the pesticides which cause health problems for them!

  • val
    March 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Now if only Jamie Oliver would come out with a cookbook for the health conscious lady and her ever-so-finicky husband, I’d be set! Seriously, who doesn’t like peppers of ANY form? The man I live with, that’s who!

  • Whitney
    March 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Ooh, my new favorite subject! Something that has been hugely useful to me to know what to buy is the Weston A. Price buying guide. It’s available on their website for a couple of dollars. It’s helpful to know what brands are better from stores if you can’t get (or afford) everything straight from a farm. I get some stuff super fresh, but this was still really helpful. I’d recommend it!

  • Christine
    March 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    After watching Food, Inc. we too have decided to make as much a leap as we can over to no hormone, organic food. I think what I like most, is that it has a trying all kinds of new foods we probably would have never tried before. We pretty much lived on fast food before watching Food, Inc. I talk a lot about in my blog, if you’re interested come check it out.

  • Wendy
    March 24, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I have been really actively trying to do this for the last few years. Shop your farmers market- it’s fun! We also have a CSA veg box delivered every other week. And we buy our meat from a farmer who grass pastures. The rest we try to do organic from our grocery.
    Great job on getting into this! Your doing a great thing for your family!

    • Making it Lovely
      March 24, 2010 at 2:42 pm

      We’re lucky to have some really great options in Oak Park, including a farmer’s market! No excuses to eat poorly. ;)

  • Kathleen
    March 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    In Defense of Food changed my life. I’ll have to check out Jamie’s Food Revolution.

  • Janet
    March 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    Speaking of Mark Bittman, I’d like to recommend his “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.” It’s really the only cookbook you’ll ever need, with variations on every recipe. Most of them are also really simple. I think you’ll love it…And yes, a CSA can be a great thing. I didn’t even know I liked kale until some came in my bag! Good luck!

  • Mandy Ford
    March 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    My husband and I have decided to adopt a healthier eating plan as well, and we both love Jamie Oliver. I’ll have to check out his book!

  • Juliette
    March 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    yes, it’s overwhelming sometimes. Have you see the website? I’m not even vegetarian and I love this site! TONS of great recipes that are easy, not too out-there, and mostly fast.

  • Rachel
    March 24, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    I love this post. :) If you don’t really know how to cook healthy, you should get Cooking Light Way to Cook. It’s a GREAT Book. It’s divided by cooking method and teaches you how do that cooking technique then provides recipes afterwards. Plus, there’s tons of other techniques in there for preparing fresh foods—how to wash greens, how to cut a mango, how to peel fresh ginger, etc.

  • hsp
    March 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    We LOVE Jaime’s cookbook (have you tried the Mac & Cheese yet? Heavenly!) and I’ve been telling everyone I know about it (my own Pas It On effort.)

    No matter what kind of food you’re going to cook, the best thing you can do to make it easier on yourself is planning the whole week in advance and then shop only from that list. Since we’ve started this (well over a year now) our grocery bill has gone down significantly and we don’t waste as much food. Plus, if you look at the week together you can see where you can cook extra of certain ingredients (chicken, rice, beans, potatoes etc etc) and use leftovers as part of the another dish (much as Jaime does with his leftover curry recipe) later in the week.

    Good luck!

  • caitlin
    March 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    It IS overwhelming, but I’m definietly starting to feel the same way.

    Jamie’s Oliver’s show is awesome, it premires Friday night at 8 I think.

  • Rebecca
    March 24, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    I loved In Defense of Food and I’ll check out Mark Bittman’s and Jaime Oliver’s books too. I thought Animal, Vegetable, Mineral was very inspiring even though I’m not planning on growing all my own food. And I also recommend seeing Food Inc., it was really well done.

    As for recipe suggestions, I highly recommend two quinoa recipes that I’ve tried and have really like:

    Quinoa Burgers

    Mediterranean Quinoa (make sure you read the comments)

  • Jessika
    March 24, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    I think there are a few ways to eat “responsibly.” First, you can eat local, which is being more environmentally responsible and helping your local farmers out. Second, there is responsible for you– healthy foods and maybe also organic foods.

    I think you could really turn this into an educational experience, both for you and for Eleanor. Many counties/cities have farmers markets, and those farmers are often contactable for outside sales and visits. You could easily find a supplier for food year-round that is local. Alternatively, get a book to determine what is in season and when.

    Though I do break my rules, I find it really comforting to eat food in season. There’s something balancing about it. Root veggies are so winter, peas are spring, tomatoes remind me of summer.

    I also am a huge fan of home cooking. Since Eleanor and work probably keep you busy, I’d google crockpot recipes. I’ve had great success with that, especially the ones which permit user reviews. So much better than buying a cookbook, where I may not use 80% of the recipes. Cut down the butter and cream, look out for bad things, substitute broth in places where you remove. You’ll learn!

    And feel free to email me with questions. It’s been so much fun over here to cook, eat, and learn.

  • rachel denbow
    March 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    this has been intimidating me since I started critically looking at what my toddler eats and how my body isn’t responding as well to exercise alone as it used to. I have a four month old and can’t WAIT to get rid of about 20 pounds and feel like this discipline (cooking fresh, local, healthy food) will kill two birds with one stone.

    Thanks for sharing your walk through it!

    • Jenny
      March 28, 2010 at 7:22 am

      The key is balance and not taking things too seriously. I like Gillian McKieth. She has great suggestions on how to individualize what you need to eat. I don’t follow her routine beacuse it’s too strict but she is inspiring. I don’t diet. I just don’t eat fake food and I love to be active. If there was one “diet” book I would strongly recomend it would be “French Women Don’t Get Fat”.

  • Laura
    March 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Congrats, Nicole! I love how this is becoming so important to people! I’ve been doing it for three years, which is not to say I’ve stopped eating M&Ms and things with the words ‘ice’ and ‘cream’ in their titles. Rather, I think about where things are coming from, what went into growing them and getting them to me and (this is the hard one) what does it mean for me (i.e., is this nutritionally significant? Am I doing myself a favor or hindering my attempt at good health with this bite).

    One of the sites that got me started on this road is Heidi is 1. am amazing photographer and 2. cooks like me (a lot of one bowl, easy, filling meals). She has a cookbook, Super Natural Foods, but really the Web site has great recipes to start from. Another favorite of mine is Shauna James Ahern, the Gluten-Free Girl. I live wheat-free, so I love Shauna’s baking recipes. However, she and her husband, the Chef, focus on local, fresh ingredients and are great inspirations.

    Pollan just issued a new book, one even more digestible than In Defense of Food. It’s called Food Rules and it was issued in paperback.

    On a side note, I just subscribed to Cooking Light … so far, I am not that impressed. Totally needs to be redesigned (it’s so dated looking … ) and there was an article on healthy frying … if I am eating fried food, I’m NOT thinking about health. :)

  • Amanda elias
    March 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Congrats on the decision to alter your daily eating habits…as someone who is making the transition as well, I think your approach is admirable. I too, enjoyed Food Matters as it takes a very direct approach to the issue and has lots of recipes in the back. :) Bonus!
    Aside from joining a CSA (which is totally brilliant, we love ours) I would also suggest watching the documentary “No Impact Man” and checking out his blog. While it deals with other elements, they do focus a lot on changing to an all organic diet and the struggles and rewards. For me, it was a great kick start to motivate me to make subtle changes in my day to day activities that would ultimately result in a healthier lifestyle. It’s great as it’s not preachy, but poignant, candid, touching and sweet.
    (It’s available either to rent or instant stream through netflix, and you can rent it at Blockbuster.)
    Best of luck, and I can’t wait to hear the ensuing developments! :)
    Oh, and by the by, love your blog!

  • Sasha
    March 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    We’ve been changing our eating habits slowly over the last year or so. Until early last year, we did a lot of dining out or buying prepared foods. Since then, we’ve gradually changed how we eat. I’ve been testing a new (simple) recipe a week. Here are a few easy recipes:

    If you haven’t seen Food Inc., you may want to check it out, it is eye opening to see how comoditized food production is.

  • rosecampion
    March 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    The farmers market in Oak Park is a great resource, when it’s running. The Marion St. Cheese Market tries to stock local cheeses. Oak Park is basically a great place for someone trying to eat a more local, responsible diet.

    Another thing I find really helpful in my quest to eat better is meal planning and a grocery list, especially the meal plan part of it. If I don’t have something planned for each night, what happens is I look at my fridge full of fresh, organic produce, decide I don’t know what to make, that it’s too hard to cook, etc. then order a pizza or chinese (and the veggies go to waste). But with a plan, all I have to is say, “well, it’s Wednesday, so that mean ‘veggie curry’ night. Let’s get out the broccoli and pea pods”. It really makes knowing what to cook a lot easier.

    • Ann
      March 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

      I wholeheartedly second meal planning as an essential tool for this endeavor. I made myself a little spreadsheet, so I can fill in what I am going to eat for every day, for every meal plus snacks, how many servings each recipe makes and when I am going to use all of them, and finally what groceries I need. When I got really disciplined about this, I was surprised to find out that I need to cook less frequently than I thought. I make one large (usually more labor or time-intensive) dish on Sundays, and take the leftovers for lunch through the week, and cook once or twice on weeknights, and make sure that those are quick-cooking dinners.

      This really helped cure my impulse-produce buying problem (especially at the Evanston farmer’s market!), and also from being overly ambitious in the recipes I choose for weeknights. I think you’re more likely to cook frequently and enjoy it if you start with a realistic, pragmatic approach.

  • cathie
    March 24, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    i read “in defense of food” in college & liked it a lot! i was pretty happy to discover that i already followed general guidelines (shop around the perimeters of a grocery store where there is fresh produce & meat, rather than through the aisles where most of it is processed). hope you enjoy your new cooking adventure!

  • Christina
    March 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I’m so glad you and your family have decided to change your food habits. After all, that is really all it is – a habit. My husband and I have been eating like this for about two years now, inspired mostly by Michael Pollan. I can relate to you and other readers comments about it being difficult to make the switch, especially if you aren’t comfortable making your own menus/cooking from scratch.

    Some advice I would give to anyone about changing their food habits is, if you make the switch to local, seasonal, and organic foods you will commit to a lifestyle change and spend a lot more time in the kitchen. You will find a greater appreciation for food, which can be amazing to experience with your whole family. If you have a local CSA to join I would recommend that too. I still get items in my box that I have no idea how to cook, but it has stretched our minds and our abilities on the stovetop.

    I also follow the rule: Stick to the periphery of the supermarket – avoid the aisles. This is where all those hydrogenated oils and refined sugars live. Avoiding high fructose corn syrup is easier than you think. And switching to a good quality chocolate will make you question why you ate terrible candy bars all those years! Thinking of meat as a side dish is also a great idea on the nights you don’t make a completely vegetarian meal. Good luck in your new food adventures!

    Some Vegetarian cookbooks I recommend:
    The Moosewood Cookbook, Mollie Katzen
    The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters (queen of the local organic restaurant movement)
    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Mark Bittman

  • Hanna
    March 24, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I loved In Defense of Food! I would also recommend Real Food by Nina Planck. It’s less about the ethics of what to eat and more just a breakdown of why real food is good for you. I really found it helpful and interesting.

  • Victoria Rosas
    March 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I think is great that you want to be healthier, Im a new vegetarian, I started this year in january and its not always easy but the thing is find the good healthy food that suits your body. If you havent, I recomend you watch Food Inc it changes your life, really.

    Good luck!

  • Rachel @ La Bella Bungalow
    March 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    Thank you for this post. I recently heard about this Jamie Oliver book but your reminder sent me straight to the library! Love your blog by the way!


  • J.
    March 24, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    In Defense of Food is the March book for the OP Public Library book group Genre X (for 20s and 30s peeps; meets in the Snug at Molly Malone’s in Forest Park the last Tuesday of every month at 8 pm). I loved IDoF so much I got a copy of Food Rules, too, and I’m totally looking forward to the discussion next week (which is usually pretty good, anyways).

  • Lauren
    March 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    This is good timing! I also watched the Jamie Oliver preview last night and recently read Pollan’s new book (more of a pamphlet really…I read it cover to cover in about an hour or so). One of the things I struggle with is the overwhelming question of what to make…I feel like our culture doesn’t really have it’s own cuisine (or at least a healthy one!), so it’s always a question of do I want mexican, or italian, or something else?

    For cooking magazines, I let my Cooking Light expire…I have some fantastic recipes that I pulled several years ago, but hardly anything from the last year or two. I actually really like Bon Apetit. It’s not nearly as “fancy” as it seems and while it’s not all low-calorie dishes, they’re mostly simple and delicious and emphasize the idea of really celebrating food. (I like Ina Garten’s cookbooks for the same reason.)

    I’m going to check out the Jamie Oliver book next!

  • Mama Em
    March 24, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I found that joining a CSA (a farm share) really helped me eat more healthfully. I had a huge box of fresh produce, harvested within 24 hours, at my disposal, for far less than it would have cost at the farmer’s market. Instead of wondering what to cook, I went about finding ways to cook what I had (often with help from, where you can search recipes by ingredient). I had so much healthy, organic, farm-fresh produce to eat that I ate little else. Many CSAs also have the option to add on beef, chicken, egg, or cheese shares to each delivery. Here’s a list of Chicago-area CSAs with reviews that I found super helpful:
    Good luck!

  • adrianne
    March 24, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I have in defense of food and want the bittman and oliver books. hoping to watch jamie’s food revolution show, too. i’m thinking about this a lot, too. i have a one-year-old and have made 90% of his food (instead of doing pre-made jarred baby food). I want to stick with it for my husband and I, too, and the baby as he gets more into ‘big people food.’

    • Making it Lovely
      March 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm

      The contrast between the healthy food we feed Eleanor and the crap we let ourselves eat was a big part in my wanting to eat better.

  • kay*
    March 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    this is something i’ve been wanting to do too and have been meaning to buy ‘in defense of food’ for some time now. thanks for sharing/posting – i plan on going back and reading each comment left because just by looking i can tell there is some good feedback there!

  • jessica
    March 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Oh goodness, I love Jamie Oliver! He’s the one that got me interested in the Food Network years ago, back in his Naked Chef days. I’m amazed that he’s only four years older than I am and is having such an important impact! Are you watching his Food Revolution?

  • sheryl
    March 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    This post had some cosmic timing… I literally just watched Michael Pollan’s appearance on Oprah on my PVR this morning, followed by the first episode of Jamie’s Food Revolution. I was feeling inspired, and jumped on my computer to visit Amazon for some Oliver cookbook purchasing, when lo and behold what post is at the top of my Google Reader? I think I’ve been sent a message from the universe…

  • Rachael Anne
    March 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    You’re a mind reader. I went to the grocery store just last night and wondered around picking up food, staring at it and putting it back down. I desperately want to make the best choice, but find it overwhelming. Plus, I too am not a cook and am uncomfortable and lack confidence with making meals. I already have your book choices on hold. I need strength in the battle of food with the husband. This is a man who didn’t know what a brussel sprout was and has NEVER had brocolli. So, it’s an uphill battle but worth it. I know I will be back to your post to review the multiple sites shared by your readers and for inspiration.

  • Stancie @ Fig+Sage
    March 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    I am SO loving this post! I can’t wait to check out Jamie’s new Food Revolution show on ABC this Friday….seriously so excited. I just saw his TEDtalk this morning…its soo good – have you seen it?

    Here’s the link:

    Its entirely inspiring and exciting and its a must watch!!!

    In Defense of Food is also a great book! Good for you for looking at food in a new light and making new healthy choices for you and your family :)


  • Loren
    March 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I’ve never been a big meat eater (my parents were crazy liberal organic farmers) but after reading ‘In Defense of Food’ I became a completely ‘at home vegetarian’. I still order meat dishes at restaurants if I want (I love food to much to stop eating it). But I don’t COOK meat. It is healthier, cheaper, and easier for me because meat goes BAD so quickly.
    I mostly wanted to post my FAVORITE ‘healthy eating’ snack.
    Homemade granola bars…
    I use a simplified version of this recipe (no wheat germ), but I would recommend baking it for a few minutes after mixing and shaping to get crunchier granola bars.
    They are CRAZY simple, organic (if you buy the supplies organic), delicious, and CHEAP. (Mine come out to about 35 cents a bar)
    And when you tell your friends you make your own granola bars you will sound like a super-domestic-diva.

  • jHill
    March 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I love both of these and Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is my most loved cookbook. My favorite “Pollanism” is something to the effect of “food doesn’t come through a drive through window.” It keeps me honest when I feel a french fry craving coming over me.

  • Stancie @ Fig+Sage
    March 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    One more thing I forgot to mention! These healthy food blogs are some of my faves, just thought I’d share :) Maybe you’ll find them as inspiring as I do (the fabulous photos help a lot!):

  • Emily
    March 24, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    Seeing as how you fancy cooks from the other side of the pond (we’re waving at you over here!) check out Nigel Slater as well, he’s the food columnist for The Observer newspaper– — I find him one of the most inspired cooks, and I make a point of giving a copy of his Real Fast Food cookbook to anyone who’s a novice cook. It’s a lifesaver for those weekday meals where you want simple, tasty food. His latest cookbook ‘Tender’ is beautiful as well– makes you want to grow your own veg!

  • Danielle
    March 24, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Going to have to give both of these books a try.
    I have been trying to find a healthier way of living also!

  • Marie
    March 24, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Hi Nicole! Marie from byw here..I wanted to let you know I put your blog on my top 5 for our last homework. See you on twitter! xo

  • coral
    March 24, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    I’ve been eating this way for a few years now, and I can’t emphasize enough the importance of meal planning to be successful. I always thought Tuesday-chicken, Wednesday-fish was too constricting. But just having a list on the fridge of Main dishes, Side dishes, and lunch foods is super helpful, and my husband can help out more because he can look on that list and know that all the ingredients for that meal will be here.
    The best benefit to cooking better is how much better your taste will be- suddenly you know that nothing you’ve ever made from scratch is as sickly sweet as that fill-in-the-blank-filled-with-corn-syrup snack and that junk food will never taste right again!

  • Laura Ingalls Gunn
    March 24, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    Another way to become inspired is to watch the documentary “Food, Inc.” It is truly mind blowing. (1 1/2 hours and you won’t be bored.) If you have Netflix it is available to watch instantly. It inspired me to join an organic fruit and veggie co op. Every other week for $15 I get an entire laundry basket full of goodies that last the full 2 weeks. (We are a family of 4.) Check in your local area as co ops are all over the place.

  • Emily
    March 24, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    I have to weigh in – I LOVE LOVE LOVE Alice Waters’ The Art Of Simple Food.

    Waters + Pollan = a force to reckon with. Even if you’re not a nascent cook, it’s a great primer.

    Also – PBS made a documentary of Pollans’ The Botany of Desire, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Good luck!

  • amy purple
    March 24, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    You should check out – you can get local grown, organic produce delivered to your home on a weekly basis.

    • Michelle
      March 25, 2010 at 8:52 am

      I’d like to second a vote for It’s a good for people who can’t plan their lives around a CSA schedule and who appreciate the convenience of having it delivered right to their homes. They have good quality meat which is also humane, organic and local.

  • Megan
    March 24, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    I have two more great resources for super healthy food. I’ve completely changed my diet to be fresh and organic the last couple years and it is an amazing difference! Food at the grocery store no longer tastes like it has flavor to me.

    I recommend: for fun, gourmet menus. Also, the site has healthy recipes in it’s health section. Many weeks they pick one ingredient and follow it through with a different recipe each day. It’s really worth checking out!

  • Allison
    March 24, 2010 at 8:42 pm

    Good for you — not only for changing but for sharing! Food is such a sensitive subject in this country — almost like religion. I have recently read The Kind Diet, Food Matters, Omnivore’s Dilemma, and my favorite, Eating Animals all this year. Starting Jan 1 I went vegan thanks to these books (and Food Inc and Earthlings documentary). It’s been surprisingly simple and wonderfully liberating.

    I highly, highly recommend The Kind Diet and Eating Animals. Highly.

    Thank you again for sharing.

  • Aspirations of a Southern Housewife
    March 24, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I just posted the other day about the need for me to eat more fresh fruits and veggies and less… crap. Thank you so much for the suggested reads!

  • My First Kitchen
    March 24, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    Food Rules by Pollan is great, too. And have you seen the movie Food, Inc? It’s awesome. You should check it out.

  • Jenny
    March 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Good for you! I sit here and can totally relate. Cooking is a definate struggle in our house. I can hardly find the time to scap together a grocery list (the grocery store is a peeve of mine, it’s sooo hard for me to embrace the time that goes into the whole meal process). Last week we purchased a crockpot. While I don’t consider myself as a crockpot gal, I’m willing to go the distance if it can improve family dinners. Anyhow, your willingness to change reminds me to keep on track especially for the health of my kids. Good luck!

  • Abigail
    March 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    Check out Simply in Season, available from Ten Thousand Villages (and on amazon… I’m an uninspired cook also, but these recipes are pretty simple and delicious AND encourage buying local, seasonal food. :)

  • Lisa
    March 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    What I was going to say’s been said but I have to say RIGHT ON!!! So happy to see this post.

  • paty fontes
    March 25, 2010 at 1:41 am

    eat better is the beginning, and we need to give example for our little ones! Books are great. Why dont you take some classes as well? I did and it was really nice. I am sure that you can fine some basic cooking schools over there. nothing fancy, new ideas and basic concepts….

  • tiina
    March 25, 2010 at 5:34 am

    Sounds great. I woke up to the reality of how bad quality most processed foods are, and that I don’t want to put those things in my body. In the last few years, we’ve reduced the amount of meat we eat. Just because most of the times, we feel more like making something tasty with veggies than having meat. After the wake up, we have spent more time enjoying food and making it. And those days when it’s not possible to cook, like when we are traveling, we allow ourselves some junk food too. It just really doesn’t taste as great after having home cooked meals. Good luck with the new kitchen adventures. There’s so much inspiration out there in the food blog community to give you ideas what to cook!

  • lisa
    March 25, 2010 at 7:16 am

    My favorite cookbook is Simple Suppers by Moosewood Restaurant. Really, it’s easy, simple and tasty! Most dinners prepare quickly. So it makes eating healthy easier.

  • Kate
    March 25, 2010 at 8:03 am or the monthly magazine has many good and easy recipies!

  • lifeologia
    March 25, 2010 at 8:11 am

    I love this topic of eating healthy and being a vegetarian. I have recently changed my diet (4 months ago – and NO meat for just 2 months). I did it for health reasons. I was suffering from an autoimmune illness (notice I wrote WAS) The diet + some supplements I researched have CURED ME – although medically there is NO cure for this illness. AMAZING nutrients are in foods. We just need to educate ourselves and choose the foods that give us most benefits.
    I book I would also like to add to the list is The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone,
    I posted about it on (come see my easy to prepare vegetarian recipes too. Since just a few short months I have transformed my life to being HEALTHY & HAPPY. I encourage everyone to eat healthy meals, no processed foods, no sugar (or very little), organic as much as you can afford.
    Love your blog by the way!

  • Kari
    March 25, 2010 at 8:28 am

    I think Springtime makes us all re-evaluate what we’re putting into our bodies.
    For me the solution was a bento box – it’s portion control, fresh food and fun all rolled into one. It transforms simple, healthy, typically raw ingredients into something you simply can’t wait to eat. It’s kind of magical!

    Bento lunches are ideal for commuters/lunch-packers BUT even at home I find the creativity and the art of presentation useful in making healthy food so much more appealing (especially to little ones)!

    This book is great and easy to find…

  • Lisa
    March 25, 2010 at 8:32 am

    You should check out It’s a blog about the struggles with dieting, eating healthy and food in general. Kristin does a great job with ideas for recipes and just food thoughts in general!

  • Eilis
    March 25, 2010 at 8:39 am

    I’m not sure if anyone has mentioned this one, but “The Unhealthy Truth” by Robyn O’Brien has changed my life. We eat only organic now and life is good. My husband just got a glowing review at the doctor last week…cholesterol has plummeted. And the best part? Everything tastes so darn good!

    Also, a good movie to watch is “The World According to Monsanto.” It will blow your mind.

    Keep spreading the word!

  • Sara
    March 25, 2010 at 8:46 am

    I’m a huge proponent of the eating whole foods trend. It just makes sense. Don’t you want to have control over what goes into your body rather than corporations or the government? My advice is to keep is simple. Meats, fish, eggs, butter, cream, cheese, vegetables and fruits.

    I do a lot of cooking, so if you’re interested e-mail me and I can get some recipes to you!

    Also, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes is an excellent and eye-opening book about health and the way we eat.

  • Jessie
    March 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Someone else mentioned Eating Animals and I would also recommend that book. It will make you rethink the way you think about eating meat. I think of it as the vegetarian’s dilemma. He also references Michael Pollan quite a bit.

  • Christen
    March 25, 2010 at 9:13 am

    My fiance and I are in northwest AL and it’s SO HARD to find organically grown produce and organic products here. We aren’t vegen or vegetarian but we incorporate ALOT of those practices into our meals.

    I recommend Alicia Silverstone’s book “The Kind Diet.” It is a cookbook, but the first half of the book talks about what’s in our food, what it does to us, and what alternatives there are. (Most are easy to find, unless you live in an area like me with very few options)

    I also recommend “30 Minute Vegan” by Reinfield and Murray. It has great, quick recipes including how to make your mayo – which is MUCH less expensive than buying Veganaise or other vegan mayos (though Veganaise is fantastic, it’s over $6 a jar in the only healthfood grocery we have in my area!)

    Here are a few blogs I’ve come across as well that have awesome information and great recipes: (great for finding nut flours!) (offers almond flour at great price)

    Thanks everyone for sharing! I’ve gotten so many great ideas off here!

  • Becca
    March 25, 2010 at 9:47 am

    I am on this same journey myself–and pretty new to it too. Eating Animals by Janathan Safran Foer is a pretty eye-opening book; thanks for sharing these two–they are next on my list!
    Just started a new weekly post on my blog called Thursday’s Thinking of Food- check it out if you want:

  • Nicole RJ
    March 25, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Good for you for trying to eat healthier! The hubs and I started trying to get better about eating healthy when we first moved in together and it’s been an interesting journey!

    With our current budget we’re more concerned with non-processed than organic, and I’m also a lot more conscious about where my food is coming from. But even little things like substituting honey for white sugar and adding oat bran into cake mixes helps! It also helps ease your way into a new way of eating/thinking!

    Not a cookbook, but a fabulous read: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver ~ the story of her & her family going local for one year. Very inspiring!

  • Erika
    March 25, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Good for you! I am trying to be a little “better” too. I recently started dating someone who eats 90% organic ingredients, and the food tastes soo good!

    Remember that even minor changes can make a big difference!

  • Meg
    March 25, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Excellent! I read the Michael Pollan book followed by his “Food Rules” and have found the rules it so sensible and easy to follow. I started the year out following weight watchers for portion control, and food rules for content, and I’ve lost 30lbs. Beyond that, I feel so much better lately! More energy, better sleep, digestive problems gone away… I always felt like a reasonably intelligent person, but never realizing before that such simple changes could make me feel so much better, I feel like a (healthier) moron!

    I’ll have to check out the Jamie Oliver book. I’ve started to lose some steam with creating “meals”. Some new inspiration is just what I need!

  • PinkVelvetBird
    March 25, 2010 at 10:35 am

    Yea! You’re gonna love a greener diet! May I suggest Vegan Express by Nava Atlas. Great, easy vegan recipes. Try the chocolate/peanut butter cake! Wow!
    PS, sad to say that “free range” when it comes to eggs is a lie. Look into what it really means, unless you’re at a farmers market/stand, the big companies are selling us a lie.
    Enjoy the new foods!
    Pink Velvet Bird

  • Amber
    March 25, 2010 at 11:15 am

    This is exactly the transition we’ve made in our household over the last couple of years. I started out barely able to make scrambled eggs… and now cooking is my favorite hobby. I’ve read so many great books about the subject. Check out “Real Food” by Nina Planck, “Food Rules” by Mark Bittman, and “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Pollan as well… and head over to my site for some easy, fresh recipes (and plenty of food commentary!).

  • Kathy
    March 25, 2010 at 11:22 am

    My fiancee and I read ‘Food Matters’ and ‘How To Cook Everything Vegetarian’ about a year ago and Mark Bittman has totally inspired us. We now cook about 5 nights a week (not bad for New Yorkers!) and just by sticking to the mostly plants idea we have both dropped about 20 lbs! We still eat meat but have come to look at it as a garnish to our meals instead of the main event. I am looking forward to reading the 2 books you suggest, I have heard great things.

    P.S. I LOVE your blog, it too inspires me and gives me a lift whenever I read it, keep up the great work :)


  • Rebecca
    March 25, 2010 at 11:41 am

    I have a more modest proposal for you. If you don’t currently consider yourself to be much of a cook or a “healthy eater”, start slowly. I think it’s more about knowing how to make food than knowing exactly what to make. There are so many theories and philosophies out there, the stream seems never ending. However, if you know how to make it, you don’t buy it, e.g. tomato sauce. Making your own is infinitly healthier than buying processed stuff at the store, with it’s loads of salt and sugar plus lord knows what else. The books that you have are a tremendous start! Good for you! Eating clean means eating less processed foods, not necessarily becoming a vegan, vegetarian or going gluten free. Slow, steady and reasonable wins the race.

    I hope you have fun with this! And for some DELICIOUS recipes with lots of step by step instructions, I recommend and Both good fun!

    Good luck!


  • jbhat
    March 25, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I too am just now learning to cook (my husband has always been the one, but it’s high time that I, at 41, learn how to feed my family). I am intimidated when shopping for meat and always have been, so am learning to do things with beans and veggies. It’s been fun so far, but as you say, the simpler the better. And better for us.

    Good luck to you, Nicole. I think this it’s wonderful that you are doing this. Was it on your 30 before 30 list?


  • stephanie
    March 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    for some inspiration, you might want to check out and sign up to go to one of their dinners…i know they host some in the chicago area.
    best of luck!

  • Rebekah Coleman-Brahler
    March 25, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    BIG congrats on taking this step!!! i love both of these men and have espoused their philosophies for some time now. can’t wait for jamie oliver’s new show to start tomorrow night!!!

  • laura
    March 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    i would recommend you check out

    the blog has tons of really tasty yet healthy recipes. i’ve cooked quite a few myself and am never disappointed

  • Jessica (Goodbye, Small Heart)
    March 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    My favorite reference for those who are trying to lose weight or improve their health is My Dad followed the eating principles detailed on that site and lost 20 pounds in 6 weeks. It’s definitely worth looking into. And remember, healthy eating does not have to be fancy! Keep it simple and good luck!

  • Nicole
    March 25, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    I just received a Real Simple cook book. It’s great for working moms with no time who wish to eat healthy. Recipes are simple, one pot and few ingredients.

  • jane
    March 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    What a great post! It looks like you already have plenty of great recommendations but I would like to add Dr. Mark Hyman’s “Ultrametabolism” to the list. The first part of the book explains his approach, and the second part has very simple recipes that are easy to incorporate into your life. I use probably 10 of his recipes on a regular basis, because they are so quick & easy and I know I’m eating well when I make them. Good luck Nicole and let us know how it’s going.

  • Heather
    March 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I, too, have been reading “In Defense of Food,” and now I feel like the FDA, who I assumed was looking out for my (the consumer) best interest, is not looking out for me at all! I went to the food store to buy bread, and even ones marked 100% whole wheat had enriched white flour and high fructose corn syrup…I didn’t think whole wheat bread would be hiding those things. It makes me mad!

  • Mandy Saile of Bijou's Whimsy
    March 25, 2010 at 2:57 pm

    We are lacto-ovo vegetarians in our household and we feel so much better eating healthfully, how could one not though I guess…we eat tons of green, really simple beautiful food that we can feel good about eating mostly…once organic becomes more reasonably priced it’ll be better for everyone I think…there are 2 veggie heads and 4 rabbits living under our roof making an organic bill abit pricey…but we get organic when we can…but definatly lots of green…lots of it…and everything else in moderation…lots of water, lots of pure lovely tea…less sugar…it’s a matter of keeping in mind that whatever I put in my mouth has to fuel my body and since I’ve never had a big appetite, I have to make sure what I do take in really counts…love your blog…I became a ‘follower’:D

  • Vanessa
    March 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Nicole,
    I don’t have time to read all of the posts so I hope that I am not being repetitive, But I highly recommend the book “The China Study” ( Good reading. Also there are some good documentaries out there, If you have netflix it is easy to get your hands on them.”King Corn” and “Food, Inc.” come to mind, but there are others too.

    Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. One small step at a time.

  • Tatyana
    March 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    What a perfect timing for your post. I’ve always struggled with what to cook, especially what is healthy and good for me. Nobody ever told me or my mother that things like baloney were bad for us. :)
    I’m so glad people are saying such good things about Jamie Oliver’s show on ABC. Few years back they showed (on TLC) the same show he did in the UK. It was so sad to see what kids were eating, some didn’t even know what some vegetables looked like (they were so used to processed foods).
    You asked for recommendations for vegetarian cookbooks.
    My mother in law is vegetarian and she’s always liked the stuff we make from this old cook book “Gourmet Vegetarian Feasts”
    It’s not really gourmet but more like the dishes our mothers or grandmothers made, homemade and delicious. Some are easy and some are a little more elaborate. I got my copy used for less than $1.
    I also like this blog, mostly for baked goods.
    And if you decide (or if anyone is interested) to start a veggie garden, here is a website where you can trade too many of your vegetables/fruits for something else you don’t have. Even if one doesn’t have anything to trade, you can just buy the veggies and fruits from the members. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the system in my town.
    Good luck!
    P.S. Sorry for such a long comment.

  • Jillian Buechi
    March 25, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    I had to comment because I just had my 3rd baby just a month after you had yours! It’s always an interesting challenge to get that baby weight off and then some…
    I have recently read the EAT CLEAN DIET by Tosca Reno. It is not a diet book, but a way of eating clean for life. I don’t follow it completely, but it is a great guideline for healthy eating. Good luck!

  • veronica
    March 26, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Not sure if you have subscribed to Clean Eating magazine…but trust me, it’s UNBELIEVABLY helpful.
    I suggest you get it. It comes with a shopping list too…life-saver!

  • PrutsPrinses
    March 26, 2010 at 5:27 am

    Waw Nicole, I didn’t expect this from you. I’ll be cheering on you!
    I’ll add my vote for Bittman’s book (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), but be careful not to be overwhelmed by the amount of recipes and info…
    Good luck!

  • Gwendolyn
    March 26, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Good luck! The thing with making healthy food choices a habit is that after a while, the processed stuff doesn’t taste too good. So it’s easier to avoid.

  • Lisa-Marie
    March 26, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Both of these books are really good. If you get the ‘Love Food’ series of books where you are, the ‘Seasonal Cookbook’ has really good ideas too.

    I sort of took up the same challenge last year. I love cooking and actually bottles of sauce don’t taste good, so I thought it was worth a shot. My husband and I rarely eat processed food now – the only things we buy are the fresh torteloni type pastas, and an occasional pizza.

    As well as feeling better for it, it is so, so much cheaper. The only thing I would say is that if you don’t freeze things or meal plan, you will waste alot.

    And good luck!

  • Fiona Hanley
    March 26, 2010 at 10:11 am

    If you want to lose weight and don’t want to do hunger, then a vegetarian diet is it. Pulses are your friend. Filling, healthy protein. Make dahl, lentil soup, humous, and keep a supply of baked beans (though not as a first option because of the sugar). Here’s what worked for me: follow the Carol Vorderman detox diet during the week (you won’t be hungry, the weight falls away by the day and you look amazing) A good detox diet isn’t just about what you avoid, it’s about eating loads and loads of the good stuff. Then do a blow-out meal once a week from any book by Dennis Cotter (mind-blowing vegetarian food). Also you must run every second day with great music. Say to yourself I hate it I hate it I hate it I wanna be sick every step you take for three weeks, then the endorphins will kick in and you’ll love it.

  • CJ
    March 26, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I LOVE this! I have been thinking about eating healthier for quite some time but the amount of books out there is overwhelming and I don’t have much patience for them, but the one you recommended (In Defense of Food) looks great!

    And don’t worry if you don’t get the hang of it right away (cooking in general is a work in progress for me at least!) but I think you are doing the right thing by starting when your little girl is young so she can pick up good habits!

  • Anna
    March 26, 2010 at 11:36 am

    CSAs (community supported agriculture) are a great lower cost, smaller footprint way to purchase local grown organic produce. I live in Tinley Park and have supported a CSA south of here for quite a few years. Here is a link to other CSAs in Illinois.

    Another tip: Don’t shop for food, shop for ingredients. You’ll eat much less chemicals and preservatives if you shop this way!

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