By Michelle Wu, WallStreetJournal.com
Actress Alicia Silverstone made a major decision about 11 years ago: She decided to go vegan. That meant eliminating meat and dairy from her diet, and instead eating whole grains and what she calls "magic foods" such as miso and sea vegetables. She began to look and feel her best, says the actress who has starred in such movies as "Clueless" and "Batman & Robin."
Now Ms. Silverstone has set out on a mission to share the results from her lifestyle change with her new book, "The Kind Diet" (Rodale Books, $29.99). In this vegan cookbook and its corresponding Web site, thekindlife.com, Ms. Silverstone, 33 years old, explains her pursuit to reach "people who just want to feel amazing, want to look amazing, and who want to contribute to making this planet healthier."
With the boosted energy and enthusiasm she attributes to her diet, Ms. Silverstone's life is moving full speed ahead: She's set to star in the upcoming Broadway show "Time Stands Still" with Laura Linney and is launching a line of eco-friendly cosmetics bags and brushes this month. The Wall Street Journal talked with Ms. Silverstone about writing a book, the benefits of a vegan diet and being a superhero.
The Wall Street Journal: How long have you been working on the "The Kind Life"?
Alicia Silverstone: It was in the dream state for, like, eight years. I always kept this file that I called 'Book' and in it was all my favorite recipes and all these ideas. If I had a random thought, I'd throw it in there. I don't think I ever actually thought I'd do it. When I finally committed to it, it was because this information was making my life so much better. Then one person in particular was like, "I'm setting up a meeting for you. You're going to do this [book] now." And I was like "Oh, OK!" Then it took about a year and a half [to complete].
WSJ: You divide the "The Kind Diet" into three levels of veganism: flirting, going vegan and superhero. Why did you decide to break it down in this way?
Ms. Silverstone: I really wanted it to be non-judgmental. ...You can choose which path feels best for you. The flirting plan I created for people who say, "OK, I've read all this information and I really want to do this. I really want these results, but I feel a little shy that I wont be able to do it all the way." Then do it slowly. Flirting means you keep an open heart, an open mind. You're sort of dating a healthier lifestyle, and you're slowly adding new concepts and new foods to your life. There's no pressure. Or you might decide to dance between that and the next level [going vegan]. Then the final level is the superhero diet. Superhero is for anyone who's ready for the full commitment. It's based on my own journey, I did not arrive directly at superhero. I was a flirt from age 8 to 21, and then I was vegan until I was 25 and then I became a superhero.
WSJ: At the superhero level, you are supposed to not only abstain from eating meat and dairy, but also from sugar, white pasta and white bread, and only eat certain fruits and vegetables with lower sugar and carbohydrate levels. Why do you call it superhero status?
Ms. Silverstone: You really do turn into a superhero! Your body is so amazing. It's really the answer to so much. It's just basic, healing, yummy food. And the magic of that is so profound.
WSJ: Are there ever times that you crave meat or dairy products?
Ms. Silverstone: Craving is a complicated word, and I really do address that in the book – what craving actually is versus what you think you want. There are times that, if there is nothing else around...suddenly a cheese plate goes by, then sometimes I'll think "Oh, I want some cheese." But over the years, I've scratched that itch at different times, and I've come to realize that it's not better than anything else I'm eating. ...If there's two things that taste really good and one of them has all these bad, bad after effects, then there's no contest. I really do believe that this is a no deprivation diet. I was a foodie and I continue to be a foodie.
WSJ: How did you select the recipes for the book?
Ms. Silverstone: One of the things that often frustrates me with cookbooks is that there are one or two recipes that are really good and the rest of them are not so great. I wanted to create a cookbook that had all the bestest, bestest recipes collected in one space. I still have loads of recipes that I think are amazing that didn't make it into the book – maybe for another book, one day. The recipes that I picked are the ones that I thought really were, especially in the vegan section, the most kid- and husband friendly, or party friendly.
WSJ: What are some of your favorite recipes?
Ms. Silverstone: Mmmmm, my chocolate peanut butter cups (see recipe below). They're like my alternative to Reese's. The chorizo tacos are great. Also one of my favorite dishes to serve at a party is the leek, pesto, mushroom crostini.
WSJ: Sometimes organic and specialty foods can be more expensive. Do you have any advice for people on a budget?
Ms. Silverstone: You can do this and this will be cheaper – unless you're eating at Mc Donald's everyday. I cant argue with that, cause that's just cheap. I think it can be a lot cheaper because steak and meat are really expensive. When you start shopping at a local farmer's market, the food is really inexpensive because it's in season. At the end of the day, after you take away all of the nasty foods and add the good foods, your grocery bill will level out.
WSJ: You're starring in the Broadway show "Time Stands Still," which opens in January. How are you getting ready for that?
Ms. Silverstone: I start at the end of November. This will be my second time [on Broadway, after starring in The Graduate in 2002]. I'm slowly, mentally adjusting that I'm going to be [in New York] for four months, but I love it there and I'm so excited.
Recipe from 'The Kind Diet, Rodale 2009
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - makes 12
½ cup Earth Balance butter
¾ cup crunchy peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)
¾ cup graham cracker crumbs or 10 graham cracker squares
¼ cup maple sugar or other granulated sweetener
1 cup grain-sweetened, nondairy chocolate or carob chips
¼ cup soy, rice, or nut milk
¼ cup chopped pecans, almonds or peanuts
Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. (If You Care makes unbleached liners made from recycled paper.) Set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs and maple sugar, and mix well. Remove the mixture from the heat. Evenly divide the mixture, approximately 2 tablespoons per cup, among the muffin cups.
Combine the chocolate and milk in another pan. Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted. Spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture. Top with chopped nuts. Place in the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours before serving.