Doctor’s orders?

“Let food be thy medicine.”

“You are what you eat.”

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”


We’ve heard these sayings before, but step into a doctor’s office and you’ll likely not be guided toward eating well. Doctors are great at things like diagnosing disease, performing surgery, and prescribing drugs. But I’ve learned that very few are trained in nutrition.

A vegetarian friend of mine who was low on iron started eating meat again—on her doctor’s orders! I told her cashews, kidney beans, quinoa, spinach and tempeh are all great sources of iron. Her doctor never told her that—or even recommended a supplement.

The doctor I saw last week for my checkup was just as bad. When he found out I’m vegan, he told me “it’s the riskiest diet.” He then recommended goat’s milk, since I can’t drink cow’s milk. I had to tell him goats are animals and their secretions aren’t vegan!

He told me to be careful because there are certain amino acids that are found only in meat. I said, “you mean protein?” He nodded. I asked him how cows and other herbivores get their protein. He referred me to a nutritionist.

The truth is, plants have protein. Plant proteins are referred to as “incomplete” only because they don’t match our human amino acid profile. But they are not “incomplete” when it comes to fulfilling our dietary needs.

Not all medical schools require training in nutrition, and the ones that do, require only a few hours. I’ve completed the Plant-based Nutrition Certificate program through eCornell, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, it has given me more nutrition training than most doctors have.

I worry for people who trust doctors blindly. For people considering veganism, a doctor’s warning like the one I heard might convince them not to try it. A whole-food, plant-based diet is a healthy choice—and most doctors aren’t aware.

There was a time when doctors recommended cigarettes as a way to relieve nerves. What doctors say about nutrition likely isn’t gospel. I’m on a quest to find a vegan—or nutritionally-aware—doctor.

Until then, here are a few good resources:

Dr. John McDougall
Dr. Michael Greger
Ginny Messina
Plant-Based Dietitian


Premarin: A cruel way to fight menopause

Many women, upon reaching menopause, reach for prescriptions to treat their change-of-life symptoms.

Premarin is one of the drugs women are often prescribed as a hormone replacement therapy. It stands for PREgnant MARe unINe and it’s a cruel industry. Estrogen-rich pregnant horses’ urine is harvested from horses who are forcibly impregnated, confined to tiny stalls, and forced to wear painful urine collection bags. Horses’ water consumption is restricted so their urine is more concentrate.

horsesWhen foals are born, they’re often slaughtered, but sometimes replace their poor mothers on the urine collection line.

And did I mention it’s horse piss?

Most urine is collected at farms in Canada and North Dakota, but the industry is growing overseas too. Premarin is one of the most popular drugs prescribed today. Pfizer makes billions from it.

Premarin isn’t the only name to look out for. Avoid Prempro, Premphase, and Duavee as well. They’re also made with horses’ urine. If your menopausal prescription includes “conjugated equine estrogen” or PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) just say no.

Controlling the symptoms of menopause

I get it. No one wants hot flashes, trouble sleeping, low energy, and all the other issues that goes along with a change of life. Lifestyle changes can help control symptoms: Go vegan and get exercise. Simple, yet effective. No urine ingestion needed.

If you really need medication, ask your doctor for a plant-based (phytoestrogens) or a synthetic alternative. Alternatives carry fewer risks too (Premarin increases the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes in women).


Humane Society article

Last Chance for Animals campaign

Havehest blog

Peta factsheet

Vegan Thanksgiving options

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up Thanksgiving. In fact, a big portion of the dinner is probably vegan–or could easily be made vegan. As for the turkey? Swap out the carcass with a delicious vegan loaf!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of sharing precious time with family and friends. There’s no better way to show people how easy and delicious being vegan is. And if you can share your vegan food with others, they’ll know so much more about how to be vegan.

Here are some options for the holiday:

Host a dinner

Having dinner at your place guarantees you can make it an all-vegan meal and show others the joy of eating cruelty-free.

Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, soup, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are all dishes that are vegan or easily can be. Substitute butter and milk with dairy-free options and you’re set. You can find lots of vegan recipes online–even for things like gravy.


Field Roast, made from seitan (a wheat protein), and Tofurkey (made from soy beans), make delicious prepackaged loaves that easily take the place of a turkey on the table. Doing an online search for “vegan turkey loaf” will return great recipes for a DIY version.

Attend a dinner

There are two types of dinners I’ve attended. My favorite are ones hosted by vegans. I get to try all the food, and I get to spend time with like-minded people.

Attending a dinner with people who aren’t vegan is a great opportunity to bring a dish and show people you can still enjoy holidays and that vegan food is awesome! If being around a murdered turkey is too disturbing, plan to arrive for dessert–with your favorite vegan sweets!

Go to a vegan restaurant

Sometimes vegan restaurants will offer a Thanksgiving meal. You’ll likely have to make reservations in advance, but it will be worth it. It’s also a great chance to take friends who still eat meat and show them vegan options.



No matter how you plan to celebrate the holiday, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the vegan food!


Plant-based Diet 101

I just finished reading a book by Luke Jones. You might recognize that name: I featured Luke in my vegan profile segment recently. Luke runs the site Hero Health Room, a blog about plant-based living, sustainability, mindfulness and exercise.

Plant-based Diet 101

Luke recently published a book called Plant-based Diet 101: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Sustainable Eating Habits. I just finished reading it, and I highly recommend it–especially if you’re new to (or considering) a plant-based diet or if you’re a vegan who isn’t eating as healthy as you think you should (after all, cola and cookies can be vegan, but they’re certainly not healthy).

The book is very digestible (pun intended) and covers health basics like what to eat, what to avoid, and whether supplements are necessary. Luke covers costs, health concerns, and even topics like how to eat in restaurants and deal with skeptical friends and family members.

Luke has a great, conversational writing style, which made reading the book feel like a trusted friend was helping me. It’s not preachy nor is it judgmental. Of course I’m a proponent of a plant-based lifestyle and I sometimes want to bash people over the head with my ideas. Luke doesn’t do that. It’s clear that he’s researched the topic well (and has loads of references and resources to support his findings), but he allows readers to make their own decisions. I like how Luke shares a plan for easing into a plant-based diet and sets readers up for success.

The main focus of the book is health and wellness but Luke also addresses the environmental and ethical angles of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. It’s an excellent primer.

You can download the book from Luke’s site. It’s only $5, making this the most affordable investment in your health that I can think of.

My evening with John Salley

I spent last night with John Salley.

No, wait. That doesn’t sound right! Last night, I attended “An Evening with John Salley,” a special event at Plum Bistro. The event was a fundraiser for Pasado’s Safe Haven and was also an opportunity for John Salley to share wines from The Vegan Vine with the crowd.

Salley collage

John Salley, as any self-respecting sports fan will know, is an NBA superstar. With four Championships under his belt, he’s played with the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, and LA Lakers–that’s quite a resumé!

What you might not know, though, is that Salley is a long-time vegan, wellness expert, and animal advocate. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his story, learning about how he connected with Makini Howell, owner of Plum Bistro, and also how became the owner of a winery. And not just any wine: Vegan wine.

vegan vine wine

Many people don’t think about animal products when they drink wine, but many wines are fined (or finished) with clarifying product that include gelatin (from cows or pigs), casein (a milk protein), albumin (from egg whites), or isinglass (from fish bladders). Now I’m a fan of voting with my dollar. So why support a company that uses animal products (even if they’re not in the final product)? There’s no need.

John Salley is such a genuine guy. You can feel his love for animals and people and being vegan when you’re in the room with him. He also happens to be really funny! I felt like I’d known him for a long time and even though I was a bit star struck, talking with him was fun and comfortable.

jean, john, steph and amy

Plum didn’t disappoint either! We nibbled on decadent vegan hor d’oeuvres and drank plenty of The Vegan Vine wine. All proceeds went to Pasado’s, a farmed animal refuge right here in Washington. Pasado’s fights against animal cruelty, helps pass animal laws (and enforce them) and is a sanctuary for abused and neglected who would have ended up on the dinner table.

I knew a number of people at the event and it was a great way to catch up with friends. Best of all, I didn’t know a lot of people. I love meeting vegans and that’s what I did. It was a great night all around–right to the very end when I won an auction item: an autographed (by Mr. Salley) bottle for Vegan Vine wine.

The event sold out in days, but you can ask for The Vegan Vine wine at your local Whole Foods. And if you ever have a chance to meet John Salley or hear him speak, don’t miss it! You won’t be disappointed.

Kite Hill Cheese

Another nail in the coffin of dairy.

Kite Hill vegan brie

I recently tried a vegan brie–yes, brie–by California-based company, Kite Hill. Kite Hill specializes in hand-crafted, artisanal, nut-based cheeses.

When you read that description, you might think “pricy,” but you can’t put a price on compassion. The wheel of brie was about $12 at Whole Foods–and worth every penny. Cruelty-free, rich and smooth. Just like “real” cheese. Because it is real! It’s made with macadamia nuts.

And, with such a rich product, a little goes a long way. I served the brie with crackers and apples. I went through about a third of it so I saved the rest for two other occasions. Wine and cheese nights are always fun to have and with this brie, everyone is happy.

I hope you get to try Kite Hill cheese. So many people tell me that their love of cheese is what prevents them from going vegan. With Kite Hill, you’ll know that no cows were harmed. No calves were denied a mother.

You can have your cheese and be vegan too!

Beyond Meat: Chicken-free strips

I spiced things up in the kitchen recently with Southwest style chicken-free strips by Beyond Meat.

I first learned about this company when I read a blog post about the future of food by Bill Gates. Gates is financially backing Beyond Meat, in part because he recognizes that increasing meat consumption is bad for the environment. The global population is growing, and as people become more affluent, they often transition to western-style diets. That’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

I searched for Beyond Meat at my local Whole Foods and ended up getting a couple of ready-made wraps for a picnic. So yummy! Until now, I hadn’t cooked with it, so I gave it a whirl.


I made a simple stir-fry using red pepper, broccoli and zucchini, added spices and the Beyond Chicken strips, which I’d cut into cubes.

stir-fry in progress

Beyond Chicken is made primarily with non-GMO soy and peas. It’s a complete protein, has plenty of fiber, and isn’t loaded with fat or cholesterol (in fact, it has no cholesterol, saturated or trans-fat and is just 5% fat).

I served my stir-fry over a rice pilaf for a quick, simple, and delicious meal. I’m going to try their beef-free crumble next for a taco meal!

simple dinner

I like that technology is helping reinvent meat and that through technology we can harness plants to create healthy delicious meat alternatives. It has a lot of potential in developing nations too, not just on the plates of people in the developed world.

Biz Stone, vegan and founder of Twitter, is also financially invested in Beyond Meat. Perhaps the future of meat is vegan.

Vitamin supplements for vegans

When people find out I’m vegan, they’re often concerned about my health. “Where do you get your protein?” is a common question (I’ve answered it in this post). Iron, calcium and B12 are other things people worry about too. I’m going to address these concerns (and throw in a bit about vitamin D too).

I’m not a medical professional, but I study nutrition and I’ve completed the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate taught by Dr. T. Colin Campbell at Cornell and I’m going to share a bit about what I’ve learned about supplements and vitamins for vegans.

plant-based lunchThe good news is that we can get all the nutrients we need from plants. Ditching meat, eggs and dairy is ethical and it’s a way to avoid cholesterol and excess fat and protein (too much protein is not healthy). Animal products lack fiber and are missing a host of other nutrients–as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants!

The course I took emphasized a whole food, plant-based diet. Coke and Oreos are vegan, but not good for us! When we eat a variety of whole foods, we get a variety of nutrients. Our bodies utilize nutrients over time and it’s healthy to eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and beans.

Vitamin B12 – We need B12 so our brains and nervous systems work properly. It helps build blood and regulate our metabolisms. B12 is produced by microorganisms (it comes from bacteria, not meat). Animals who eat foods from the earth consume dirt and the B12 stays in their intestines. In the past, we ate food with a bit of soil on it too and got our B12 the same way animals do. Today, we’re cleaner (and soil is Deva vegan B12often depleted of nutrients), making B12 not just “a vegan problem.”

A simple blood test can determine your B12 levels. Fortified soy and almond milks contain it, but you can also take a supplement. Deva makes vegan vitamins (meaning vitamins for vegans but also vitamins free of animal ingredients and gel caps made from gelatin).

Vitamin D – This vitamin isn’t truly a vitamin (it acts more like a hormone and helps us absorb calcium). We can make our own just by getting some sun. It’s often added to dairy, but milk normally doesn’t have vitamin D. It’s in fortified soy and almond milks too. The best way to get vitamin D is to get a bit of sun exposure. Not too much, course! Get your levels checked and supplement if you’re low (a lot of people in the northern hemisphere are).

Calcium – Calcium builds strong bones and helps our bodies absorb vitamin D. Many people think about milk when they think of calcium, but milk and other animal proteins create an acidic environment in our blood. Our bodies use bone calcium to neutralize the acidity and make blood more alkaline. When we get rid of the excess protein, we lose calcium. Animal proteins also block vitamin D which, in turn, promote cancers. Yikes! So where should we get calcium? Check out this chart from Vegan Street:

plant-based sources of calcium

Iron – Iron is also important. Among other functions, it carries oxygen to the lungs. Meat has iron, but fortunately so do a lot of plants. Pro tip: eat iron-rich foods with foods containing vitamin C. The vitamin C aids in iron absorption. Tomatoes and spinach on a pizza, anyone? Here’s another great image from Vegan Street:

plant-based sourcdes of iron

Thoughts about supplements

One of my nutrition classes was presented by Dr. Matt Lederman. He said we’re designed to get nutrients from food. Supplements aren’t food. They don’t cure disease, and we don’t need then unless we have a deficiency. The real reason people are sick is because they’re poisoning themselves with fat, cholesterol and protein and by eating foods that are lacking in nutrients. Doctors don’t know exactly how much of each nutrient we need, but our bodies do. Poor health, Dr. Lederman said, is a fruit, grain and vegetable deficiency.

The best thing we can do is eat a variety of whole foods from plants. With the exception of B12, and (if you’re in a northern clime) vitamin D, we can follow Hippocrates’ advice:

Let food be your medicine and medicine your food.

The cult of protein

In the early 19th century in America, women couldn’t vote, slavery was legal, and blood-letting was a legitimate medical procedure. Around that time, scientists decided protein was the most important nutrient. We changed our thinking about the first three issues, but protein myths are still being perpetuated–and the meat, egg, and dairy industries want to keep the myths alive.holy protein batman

If you read nothing else:

  • Protein is essential.
  • We get all we need from plants.
  • In developed nations, it’s hard to get too little protein.
  • Too much protein is bad for our health.


Protein comes from a Greek term meaning of prime importance–talk about high regard! It was first described by Dutch scientist Gerardus Johannes Mulder in the early 19th century. His German contemporary, Justus von Liebig, called it “the stuff of life itself.”

Carl Voit, a 19th century German physicist, was enthusiastic about protein too. Even after discovering that 52g per day is all an adult man needs, he recommended 120g a day. Protein was regarded as the king of nutrients.

Not everyone was on board, though. in the early 20th century, Russell Henry Chittenden, an American biochemist and professor at Yale, disagreed with the idea that more was better. He tested his theory on himself by cutting his protein intake to 40g a day. He lost weight and felt better!

Chittenden then tested his ideas on his colleagues and school athletes and everyone in the study thrived. He upped the ante and gave ROTC recruits and world-class athletes low protein diets and tested their athletic performance. They all improved!

His colleagues chastised him in spite of his findings and the cult of protein continued.

What is protein?

Protein is a polypeptide (a long chain–or polymer–of about 15 to 20 amino acids). Of those amino acids, 8 or 9 are essential for consumption, meaning our bodies can’t make them. We have hundreds of thousands of different proteins in our bodies, many of which are enzymes. Proteins become enzymes (the catalyst for chemical reactions), hormones, and part of the structure of cells.

That makes protein an essential nutrient. We do need it. Our bodies constantly use new protein molecules, and get rid of old ones.


Want to be strong as an ox? Eat one! That was the thinking. And that’s why animal-sourced foods were (and still are) seen as higher-quality sources of protein.

Plant protein is referred to as “incomplete” because it doesn’t match our human amino acid profile. However, plant protein isn’t incomplete when it comes to fulfilling our dietary needs.

An early myth encouraged protein mixing. The thinking was that in order to compensate for an inadequate vegetarian diet, people needed to eat the proper combination of foods.

Frances Moore Lappé wrote about it in Diet for a Small Planet. However, she’s since changed her stance: “In 1971 I stressed protein complementarity because I assumed that the only way to get enough protein…was to create a protein as usable by the body as animal protein. In combating the myth that meat is the only way to get high-quality protein, I reinforced another myth. I gave the impression that in order to get enough protein without meat, considerable care was needed in choosing foods. Actually, it is much easier than I thought.”

The American Dietetic Association agrees: “Plant sources of protein alone can provide adequate amounts of the essential and nonessential amino acids. Conscious combining of these foods within a given meal…is unnecessary.”


Plants have protein too! Without protein, they wouldn’t grow. Protein from a whole food, plant-based diet is all we need, both in amount and kinds of nutrients. In fact, animal-based foods displaces complex carbs and antioxidants while adding unnecessary protein and fat of the wrong kind.

Yes, we need protein! And we should get protein from the places that big, strong, fast animals get them from: plants.

When protein has ratios of amino acids similar to ours, we synthesize it effectively. Animal protein is more likely to have these ratios  because we are similar to animals. While that might be efficient, it’s not necessarily ideal. Farmers want animals to grow big quickly so they can slaughter them sooner. But this fast rate of gain isn’t good for humans. We shouldn’t grow as fast as a farmed animal!


Higher protein efficiency means faster growth rates, but it also means faster cancer growth rates and earlier menarch (which is linked to increased rates of breast cancer).

Animal protein creates an acidic environment in our blood (metabolic acidosis). Our bodies pull calcium from our bones to neutralize our blood, which can lead to osteoporosis. Then, excess protein is excreted in our waste, and that taxes the kidneys.

Animal protein elevates blood cholesterol levels, promotes heart disease, can initiate type 1 diabetes, is associated with Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, cataracts, kidney stones, an increase in the production of growth hormones and rate at which cells divide.

Plant protein has the opposite effect.

How much do I need?

A whole food, plant-based diet with variety will naturally contain enough protein. We don’t need to worry about not getting enough and we don’t need to be concerned just with protein; we need a balanced diet.

If you want numbers, no more that 8-10% of our calories need to be protein–even less as we age. The estimated average requirement (EAR) states that 0.5-0.6g of protein/kg of body weight is needed to replace what our bodies get rid of (4-5%). The recommended daily allowance (RDA) recommends 10% daily protein consumption, right in line with what a whole foods, plant-based diet provides! Broken down, that’s 0.8g/kg or about 48g/day for an average 60kg/132lb woman or 56g/day for an average 70kg/154lb man.

Now, if anyone asks you where you get your protein, you can confidently say, “from plants!”

vegan sources of protein


Much of this information comes from notes I took during the Plant-Based Nutrition program I completed this past summer. I have to thank Dr. T. Colin Campbell for his stellar lectures and Dr. John McDougall for his guest lecture. I am not a medical professional, but I care about my health and I take care to research carefully. I hope to spread the word and help people take control of their health. Where applicable, I’ve linked to sources.

Making a transition to veganism

Veganism is on the rise and people are interested in it for many reasons: health, animals, environmental, economic, political, and more. Here’s a list that might make your vegan transition smoother.

Find your groove.

hearty salad

For some, Meatless Mondays is a good start. Others might have fun with being Vegan Before 6 (breakfast and lunch). Lean into veganism when it feels right. But if you wake up tomorrow and want to be a full-fledged vegan, go for it! You don’t have to do it in phases. Push yourself but don’t set yourself up for failure.

It’s a journey.

You’re going to slip up. Maybe by accident (“whey is an animal product?”) or on purpose (“I couldn’t resist the pizza.”) That’s not a reason to quit. After a lifetime of developing food habits, you’ll find some are hard to break. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Being vegan isn’t about being perfect.

Eat out.

A good vegan restaurant (or restaurant with vegan options) is really helpful. If you’re at a regular restaurant, look for ways to veganize a dish. Hold the cheese. Substitute a Portobello for a hamburger. Ask the wait staff. They’re usually more than happy to help customers with dietary needs.

Learn to cook.

There’s nothing like taking your health into your own hands. Cooking at home means you know exactly what goes into your meal. Find some recipes online or get a few cookbooks and experiment. My first vegan cookbook was How it all Vegan. I still use it because the recipes are simple and delicious.

Find replacements.

If you crave cheese, bacon or ribs, look for vegan versions like Daiya, Upton’s, or Morningstar so you can still eat your favorite foods. Mock meats (or analogs) are a lifesaver when you’re not sure what to eat and you haven’t found a new way of eating yet.

Don’t live on processed foods.

That said, it’s easy to become a junk-food vegan. Mock versions of your old favorites can be healthy, but they aren’t always. The best vegan food plan includes lots of natural, whole foods. When it comes to health talk, you might hear “whole-food, plant-based” instead of “vegan,” because chips and soda are usually vegan, but they’re not healthy.

Introduce color.

A colorful plate of whole, plant-based foods is bound to be rich in lots of vitamins. Even my salads are hearty, and include lots of things like quinoa, garbanzo beans and seitan.

mango saladSpeaking of seitan.

Try new foods. You won’t like them all, but you’ll find new favorites and you’ll likely end up eating a more varied diet than the typical meat-and-potatoes American. I like to explore a variety of foods from around the world–and I’m always pleasantly surprised.

Expect change.

Meat is calorie dense. I don’t count calories but I know it takes a lot more plant-based food to match the calories of animal-based foods. You might find yourself snacking more (healthy snacking is fine). Maybe you pile your plate higher. If you’re eating whole foods, go for it! If you swap a 3-oz. steak for 3 ounces of hummus you’ll probably still be hungry! If you aren’t full, eat more. If you’re eating processed foods though, be careful. Oils and refined foods are fattening and offer very little nutritional value.

Don’t worry about protein.

Yes, it’s absolutely important, but if you eat enough food (meaning you’re not starving yourself), you’ll get enough protein. And a big surprise to many people is that plants have protein! Tomatoes, potatoes, bananas–they wouldn’t grow without it. Beans, nuts and such have more than fruit, but there’s protein in all of it. A plant-based diet provides 8-10% of calories from protein, which is the exact amount the RDA (recommended daily allowance) recommends. I’ll write a separate post about it soon.


Vitamins are a multibillion dollar industry but nothing comes close to whole foods–it’s what we really need. We get vitamin D from the sun, but if you don’t get a lot of sun, that’s one supplement you could take. Dairy is fortified with it, and fortunately, almond, soy, and other milks have it added too. There’s B12 in organic soil (that’s where the cows get it from) but since so much produce is grown with pesticides and other chemicals, soil isn’t what it used to be. A B12 supplement is probably wise. For the record, a lot of omnivores are low in B12 too–it’s not just a vegan thing.

Remember why you’re doing this.

For me, it’s was all about the animals (I say was because it’s about health now too). What’s your motivation? Remembering why you’re going vegan will help you stick with it. You can eat whatever you want; you choose not too. It’s not limiting if you think of it as a choice.


  • Forks Over Knives – This documentary drives home the value and sound nutrition behind a whole food, plant-based diet.
  • Engine 2 Diet – This website links to books, recipes, and lots of resources for your plant-based journey.
  • The China Study – A comprehensive look at the 27-year study that Dr. Campbell undertook that led to finding on the superiority of whole food, plant-based diets.
  • Whole: rethinking the Science of Nutrition – This is Dr. Campbell’s latest book and explores a new way to look at how–and what–we eat.
  • PCRM – The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine portal has tons of health and nutrition information.
  • Vegan Outreach – This site links to videos, a free vegan starter kit, and lots of resources about why to be vegan (from factory farm cruelty to environmental nightmares).

As an aside, I’m in the middle of taking the Plant-based Nutrition course through eCornell. I’ve learned a ton in the course, but I’m not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The course is amazing but doesn’t qualify me to dispense medical advice. Then again, most doctors aren’t trained in nutrition either!

Vegan readers, do you have other tips on going vegan? Best cookbooks? Favorite recipes?