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When I share my personal lifestyle modification story I get asked a number of questions repeatedly.  What health books do I suggest? What cookware do I use?  Who did I initially rely on for health advice?  What health related DVDs are good for viewing?  This page is an information clearinghouse presented as an on-going effort.  I’ll add to it as time allows.  If there’s an Amazon link I do receive a very small percentage of any sales so please use these links to get to Amazon even to purchase something that’s not on this page...I need all the help I can get right now and it doesn’t cost you anything!  Besides that, I’m not paid anything to suggest these items, I do so because I actually use them and think that you might want to as well.

Health Information:
I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel here, not everything in my message is new, much of what I’ve learned about health while on my lifestyle modification journey comes from other folks.  I’ll never try and represent their ideas as my own, most of them can say it better than me so the best thing I can do is reiterate their information and let you know where to get their material.  We all have things that we do best and these folks are the best at what they do...I hope they say the same about me in the kitchen!

Most questions I get are about where to find reliable nutrition information that directly relates to healing chronic illness, so rather than do this chronologically, I’m going to skip right to the end and give you this link to NutritionMD.  It’s a newer site and is the work of Dr. Neal Barnard in association with the organization he founded; Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).  NutritionMD supplies evidence-based nutrition information as relating to many common chronic illnesses.  You can either view the health care provider’s page and gain access to the studies the information comes from or go to the consumer’s page for simple explanations and suggestions.  This web site is exceptionally easy to use for quick and easy answers about nutrition.  Naturally it should be used in conjunction with both a personal Physician and Registered Dietitian.


Read below for more on Dr. Neal Barnard.


Just after I left a position as the Executive Chef of the Half Moon Bay Resort in Montego Bay Jamaica in 1992 my Mother contracted breast cancer.  She decided to fight the disease naturally with something called a “macrobiotic diet” and I went back to Connecticut to help her learn how to cook that way.  I read as much of that macrobiotic stuff as I could (or dared) but mostly I helped her with the logistics of cooking that way on a day-to-day basis.  She’s always thanked me for that, but it was actually a gift she gave to me.  Lying in the emergency room on June 23, 2003 after waddling into Grant Medical in downtown Columbus Ohio holding my chest, my mind went immediately to the concept of food and healing, and what I had helped my mother learn how to do, and a book by that very name that I still had in my possession; “Food and Healing” by Annemarie Colbin.  I launched that very day in the ER.


“Food and Healing” and her outstanding cookbook “The Natural Gourmet” are now indispensable classics.  Both of these books really laid the groundwork for the mainstream works on conscious eating so popular in the last few years.  For me it introduced the concept of energy in food, and energies in the environment that we apply to food without even knowing it.  In 2003 my mother gave me the copy of “The Natural Gourmet” we worked out of in 1992; it’s covered with hand written notations and reminders and not a small amount of mom’s tears are died on the pages.  I’ll treasure that forever...or as long as it lasts because I still refer to it at least once a month!  Annemarie Colbin is the founder of the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health which is the home of my favorite vegan Chef; Peter Berley. (See His Stuff Below)


Walter Willet is the next guy I ran into.  “Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy” started me down the path of thinking about general health concepts rather than science, nutrition or in the case of Annemarie Colbin energy details....looking at the forest and deriving the general principles of health rather than being side-tracked by the trees, or details, we seldom understand anyway.


These are all great resources, those in a more conservative mindset will find Walter Willet very appealing, but if you like your morning granola with a heavy dose of cosmic energy the Colbin books are for you!  Either way the whole food recipes in “The Natural Gourmet” are worth having, if the energy stuff in the front bothers you then don’t look at it, but it'd be a shame miss these great recipes because the first 30 pages of the book rubbed you the wrong way!


I next ran into the group of characters I affectionately refer to as “the vegsource health mafia.”  John McDougall, Caldwell Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell, Neal Barnard, Joel Fuhrman, Douglass Lisle, John Robbins and others like Ruth Heidrich and Michael Klaper, Jeff Novick, Milton Mills, Marion Nestle, Brenda Davis and more all take turns speaking annually at something called the “Healthy Lifestyle Expo” facilitated by Jeff & Sabrina Nelson and  I left off all of their titles; they are all well respected Medical Doctors or PhDs, except John Robbins who has done a tremendous amount of self study on his own and in my book should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his long suffering environmental, health, and spiritual work.  Jeff Novick has two Masters Degrees, I believe, and although Brenda Davis hasn’t perused a graduate degree, she is nevertheless a powerhouse in the vegetarian movement with the traditionally very conservation American Dietetic Association.


Before singling out specific people I want to identify itself as a location on the internet that brought all these people together under one roof.  Their annual Healthy Lifestyle EXPO events held at the Burbank Airport Marriott Convention Center are documented on a series of DVDs called “Get Healthy Now” and are available at the link below.  Frankly, for an individual with a chronic illness diagnosis that wants to seriously learn about the healing qualities of food and maybe enter into a lifestyle modification, I think that this series of DVDs is the very best introduction I can imagine!  I’d suggest skipping the documentary “Processed People” they are advertising and applying that money to buying one, or all of, the much more informative DVD sets. It's interesting, and I'm gald I have it, but buy it from a third party seller at the Amazon link below for $10 less.  This was my very first stop on the internet and it was a lucky one at that!  As I transformed my attic into a gym I set a TV in front of the elliptical trainer and these DVDs became my first introduction to health.  You can read about this in much more detail in the first chapters on the Healthy Cooking with Steve v1.0 CD.

If you visit vegsource you’ll see an extremely wide range of ideas and - dare I say - beliefs presented there.  I would encourage you not to be put off by anything and to use this extremely special time in your life to practice a very deep form of acceptance and inclusion and to seek out what each of these people has specifically for you.  Since this was the very first website I visited, I started taking little bits of ideas and concepts from each one of these people and placed them into my own arsenal of health strategies.  How and what I blended together to come up with the health message I’m presenting at FoodCanHeal makes good reading in the Healthy Cooking with Steve v1.0 CD.

I first have to single out Dr. John McDougall.  There’s a lot you can say about Dr. McDougall, on the CD I go much more in-depth, enough to say that like my own approach to the wide range of health ideas out there, Dr. McDougall brings together some important strands of health information and weaves them into something cohesive that you can test and apply to your life.  He and his wife Mary, an RN and an integral part of the McDougall program, run a clinic in Santa Rosa California that facilitates a 10 day live-in program as well as advanced study and theme weekends.  Along with vegsource, his location in Santa Rosa has become a place that brings many different speakers together under one roof.  If you have the time and money, a visit to the McDougall clinic would be a great way to jump start your lifestyle modification journey!



What was extremely helpful to me, maybe even crucial, about Dr. McDougall right at the start of my lifestyle modification was his relentless, emphatic, borderline arrogant style.  I say that with deep affection!  At the start of something as overwhelming as a lifestyle modification you need a person that projects that type of strength and I’ll forever be grateful to John McDougall for providing that for me.  Dr. McDougall has been at this for a while so some of the book covers are a bit dated, but the material and the recipes are not.  His latest book “Digestive Tune-up” follows the template of a small 1979 book entitled “Eat Right to Stay Healthy and Enjoy Life More” by one of my health heroes (and his) Denis Burkitt; the “Fiber Man.”  (More on him and his landmark studies in the Healthy Cooking with Steve v1.0 CD!)  “Digestive Tune-up” is concise, very readable, and contains pertinent information that needs to be read at some point in time by everyone undertaking a lifestyle modification on their own.  “Maximum Weight Loss” is a classic......and besides having a great period cover photo, “The New McDougall Cookbook” can start you off with some basic thoughts on recipe modification.


Dr. McDougall is a no-holds-barred speaker and his DVDs should be apart of your heath viewing library!


Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell are authors of the two studies that most influenced my decision to embrace a plant-based lifestyle. 

Working out of the Cleveland Clinic Caldwell Esselstyn took 17 of the “sickest of the sickest” of heart disease patients.  They had all had serious interventions like bypass operations and angioplasty and many had been advised by their Cardiologists that they had less than a year to live.  Using an oil-free, plant-based diet Dr. Esselstyn was able to stop the advance of heart disease and actually show healing!  The video clip below is actually from one of the “Get Healthy Now” sets recorded at the 2007 Healthy Lifestyle Expo sponsored by and mentioned above.


Dr. Esselstyn’s book “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” is mandatory reading for anyone with heart disease!


 T. Colin Campbell is a nutrition researcher credited with coining the phrase “plant-based diet” as an alternative to the word “vegan.”  After 20 years of study and publishing over 300 peer-reviewed articles Dr. Campbell finally published his results for the general public in a book entitled “The China Study.”  Along with Dr. Esselstyn’s book, and Douglas Lisle’s book below it’s one of the half dozen or so that are simply mandatory reading for those involved with a lifestyle modification!  He is featured in the “Get Healthy Now” DVDs and the other DVD set you can purchase at Dr. McDougall’s web site, but I think his best lecture, or at least most in-depth, was recorded at an event facilitated by Gary and Tami Benton over three nights in Walla Walla Washington.


He also has a brand new website where you can questions answered on plant-based diets as they related health and nutrition......

......and even take an on-line course......


If John McDougall motivates you and lends you the hnad up that initially pulls you out of trouble, and Caldwell Esselstyn and T. Colin Campbell provide relevant data from recent studies, then Douglass Lisle and Neal Barnard educate you about what physiological mechanisms and psychological instincts are involved with the lifestyle modification process and why those things have put us in the cultural health crisis where in right now!  For me, the light bulb really went off here.  These two brilliant gentlemen explain why it is that you do the things that you do in terms you can easily understand and apply to your own life.  Understanding these concepts can help facilitate your lifestyle modification process!


I’d suggest starting with Douglass Lisle almost as soon as you start!  I present Dr. Lisle’s motivational triad idea in the first 15 minutes of a cooking demonstration...understanding this concept can enable you to step around pitfalls you’ll hit in the first week of your lifestyle modification journey!  Dr. Lisle is a psychologist that works both in Santa Rosa at Dr. McDougall’s clinic and at the “TrueNorth Health Education and Fasting Center” with Alan Goldhamer, D.C.  “The Pleasure Trap” is a short, immanently readable, and well referenced book with essential information that really needs to be on your shelf right now!  Dr. Lisle also has two DVDs out; a lecture version of “The Pleasure Trap” that’s also a must have and “Losing Weight Without Losing Your Mind.”  Both are available from Dr. McDougall’s website and that of the TrueNorth Health Center.  You can also get “The Pleasure Trap” DVD at Amazon sometimes at a serious discount.


 Dr. Neal Barnard takes the kind of risks that groundbreaker Dean Ornish did 30 years ago when he proved that heart disease could be dealt with naturally with diet and exercise.  Dr. Barnard is the President and founder of the "Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine", the organization that hosts the outstanding NutritionMD website mentioned at the top of this page.  Dr. Barnard refuses to “dumb down” his message which inspires you to step your own game up to his level.  Unlike many authors, his texts are exceptionally well referenced which allows you to make decisions about his statements for yourself which is a crucial step in owning your own health.  He presents seemingly outlandish claims about food, nutrition, and health like “reverse diabetes” and then proceeds to prove his claims and show you exactly how he did it.  His books may be a little more advanced than you need right at the start, but you need to aspire to being able to read, understand, and apply his information.  “Breaking the Food Seduction” is the exception there and should be read closer to the start of a lifestyle modification.


Joel Fuhrman’s message is about “nutrient density.”  That is, consuming foods that are not dense in calories, but dense in nutrients and light on basic concepts go that one is hard to argue against!  Dr Fuhrman also has some interesting products that he sells.   Frankly I wouldn’t bother with the equipment, that’s not what doctors specialize in, but Dr. Fuhrman does sell some very high quality flavored vinegars that I feature in some of my recipes.  I have them listed under the food section here on the resources page; click here to have a look.


Choosing cookware is a complicated matter with tons of variables.  I touch on this very briefly in cooking demonstrations and get much more in-depth in cooking classes.  The text in the upcoming CD is also helpful.  The long and the short of it is that until I win the lottery I've settled on Calphalon Hard Anodized cookware; it offers a decent price-performance-durability-maintenance compromise and works well in the home kitchen environment.

The 8-1/2-Quart Dutch Oven is the one you see me use in demonstrations and cooking classes.  Whether you purchase this one or another, you need to have a durable, thick bottomed pot like this with firm, heat-tempering handles.  I know it’s not cheap, but have a look at what a comparable All-Clad costs and bite the bullet.  In a month you’ll wonder how you got along without it!  Frankly $100 is a very good deal for this pan and this is the one pan you need if you're trapped on a desert island with a hungry family of four!


The 2-1/2-Quart Shallow Saucepan with Lid is just a no-brainer...the stupid thing is only $ three!


The 9-Inch, 2-Quart Chef's Skillet with Lid is a bit of a luxury but for families of between 2 and 6 persons you can never have enough 2 quart pans and the lid on this is worth the $40 alone.  It’s concave so it can handle the inevitable recipe that expands a little more than anticipated and is also perfect for things that shrink, like steaming spinach.  I use this lid on other pans just for that reason.


The 4-1/2-Quart Saucepan with the opposing handle is just an exceptional pan, it’s not cheap though.  I cried as I purchased it, but 5 years later you couldn’t rip it away from me, not even for the $200 I paid for it!  It’s also available in a 3.5 quart size which would be great, but I’ll wait for that rich uncle to die before I purchase that one, this 4.5 quart size is more useful for a much wider range of uses anyway.


The 2-1/2-Quart Saucepan is another sweet pot!  It’s the same size as the $30 shallow version I mentioned before but with higher sides.  After seeing the price for this one you should be scampering up to buy that shallow sauce pan before they change the price...LOL...I told you, that one is a no-brainer!  Having said that I use this saucepan more than any other; it’s a space-efficient and fits everywhere comfortable...including in my hand!  If I was going to pick just one pan to take to bed with me; this would be it!


I purchased the 1-1/2-Quart Saucepan only because I’d been a professional Chef and knew the value of a small, thick bottomed, sturdy pan with a tight fitting lid, and although I don’t use it every day or even every week, it’s indispensable when I do use it!  Even so it’s an admitted luxury, but not if you're a habitual dinner party host!


If you’re going to be serious about cooking whole grains and beans you need at least one pressure cooker.  Here’s one area where I’d suggest just biting the bullet and getting the best there is, and that’s Kuhn Rikon.  The idea of having a scalding hot pressurized bomb on my stovetop made by anyone but the best in the business is a little frightening, but maybe that’s just me...LOL.  I have the two exact models below.  You can get by with one for sure, but many is the time that I have the two of them going at the same time, one with some beans and the other with grains.  Bigger is definitely not better when it comes to pressure cookers, in fact the one I use the most is the smaller 2.5 liter pan.  The 2.5 liter I have looks like the one at this Amazon link, but it is originally designed as what’s called a chicken “broaster” (Col. Sander’s great innovation) and has a Teflon  coating on it.  I can’t tell if this one has that or not.  It doesn’t really matter since a utensil never touches it and the chance of some of the coating flaking off is pretty minimal.  I’d definitely suggest just buying a replacement gasket for any pressure cooker you buy immediately.  It’s eventually going to give out for sure and there’s nothing worse than not having one on hand, and plus, if someone happens to notice that you had a replacement gasket in a drawer just waiting for this eventual day, it’s terribly impressive!  The 2.5 liter cooker has a 22 cm gasket and the 3.7 qt has a 20 cm gasket.  Try not to gasp, these are actually pretty decent prices.  Remember, this isn't the thing to skimp on and the shipping from Amazon is usually free.


Getting away from recipes and developing you're on sense of “cooking consciousness” is a large part of my culinary education message.  Having said that; you need to have a few cookbooks around both as trustworthy reference and to provide occasional inspiration.  Here are some that you can find in my kitchen.

As a professional Chef I can tell you that there just aren’t that many good vegan or vegetarian cookbooks; there’s not that many good vegan cooks for that matter!  Peter Berley is a grand exception.  His recipes are clearly written and offer ingredient insights and production solutions that other recipe writers leave out.  It is obvious from reading his recipes that he actually cooks these items and has a deep understanding of them and conveys that effectively to the reader.  He’s a teacher at Annemarie Colbin’s Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health, ex Executive Chef of the renowned Angelica Kitchen in New York, and one of the founding members of the Chef Collaborative, a group of chefs who work to maintain traditions in cuisine and promote sustainable methods of food cultivation and production. 

His first book “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen” should be a part of every serious vegetarian’s kitchen.  It has a “Joy of Cooking” kind of feel in that its section heads contain technique illustrations and a general concept explanation.  There’s also a good deal on ingredients and some mention of equipment.  Several words of caution, first it’s not for beginners, I think you should buy it at the start, but don’t expect to just bang out a recipe right away unless you’re already fairly comfortable in the kitchen and your own skin as a cook.  Second, He’s a professional Chef - and like me prior to my lifestyle modification - is not well acclimated to the home kitchen environment, so some of the recipes are too involved to be utilized by the average person on a daily basis and may use ingredients that might not be in a frugal cook’s pantry.  Having said that I’d mark at least his first book; “The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen” as an essential part of your cookbook reference library!


Finding foods that fit your new lifestyle can be difficult.  here are a few suggestions that I’ve find to be helpful.

Dr. Joel Fuhrman features some very tasty flavored vinegars on his website.  They’re pricey, but in my opinion are so good that they are worth having on hand.  This is a great way to utilize some of the savings you’ll realize by reducing the amount of meat in your diet on something that will increase flavor varieties in your food.  I’m always searching for uniquely flavored, high quality vinegars and you can always make your own, but if you can afford it, these are hard to beat!  I’d suggest the 2 ounce sample pack and then identify a few that you like to order larger bottles of. 


They’re pricey, but in my opinion are so good that they are worth having on hand. This is a great way to utilize some of the savings you’ll realize by reducing the amount of meat in your diet on something that will increase flavor varieties in your food.I’m always searching for uniquely flavored, high quality vinegars and you can always make your own, but if you can afford it, these are hard to beat!I’d suggest the 2 ounce sample pack and then identify a few that you like to order larger bottles of.


Finding snacks that fit a low-fat, plant-based diet isn’t easy.  There are some out there if you’re willing to consume some processed ingredients, but few fit 100% into what I’d call a healthy diet.  Pretzels are a wonderful exception, they have they have the crispiness we associate with snack foods, are widely available with little or no fat at all, and can be found in whole wheat versions!  These Uncle Henry pretzels are simply outstanding and they are made with 100% whole wheat and have no oil, plus they are low-sodium!  They have 80 calories, 3 grams of fiber, and only 55 milligrams of sodium per pretzel!  Again, if you think this is expensive start to actually look at the prices you pay for low-fat chips of any kind!


 For some reason whole oats can be difficult to find sometimes.  Our local Whole Foods Market has them sometimes, but not always.  Barry Farms is a great website resource to keep bookmarked in your browser.  Not only do they always have the hard to find grains, but they don’t kill you on shipping especially if you live in the central States!  The link below will take you to their grain page, but click around the site; they have tons of hard to find things like a great selection of gluten-free flours!

These whole oat berries or “groats” are what you need to make my Whole Grain Oatmeal recipe available in a pdf at the bottom of the “Healthy Cooking Live!” page.


In many of my recipes you’ll see something called “chipotle seasoning.”  Chipotle refers to a dried pepper, usually grown in northern Mexico.  They are sometimes lightly smoked and have a little “heat” to them.  Spice manufacturers often blend things into something they will call “chipotle seasoning.”  Mrs. DASH makes a decent one, but what I’m referring to is made by Tone’s and was formerly sold by Sam’s Club.  I find it to suit my recipes perfectly.  It is manufactured and sold for institutional use only but Diversified Distributing will sell it to you at the link below. If you’d prefer not to use the internet you can call them at 1-877-453-1638.  You’ll be looking for Tone’s Southwest Chipotle Seasoning.