Saturday, May 31, 2014

Fruity Vegan FroYo!

I've finally discovered the joys of dessert bars! I've seen them on other people's blogs for years but now I've finally found one near (enough) to me with delicious vegan options. Skinny Dippa is in Chapel street, Prahran (Melb) and it's a little slice of heaven... and totally worth the 2 trains to get me there. Ooo and I just found the vegan toffee macadamia flavour on their fb and am now planning my next trip!

I've fallen in love with this stevia sweetened vegan frozen yoghurt, I dare say it rivals my home made fruit 'ice cream' I hold so dear. Plus, they have enough toppings to make my head spin! Wheeeee :) Honestly, I felt like a kid in a candy store. A yummy healthy candy store- just perfect!
I packed my little cup with their cinnamon banana fro yo, fruity boba (popping tapioca balls with a flavoured liquid center), berry compote, fresh passionfruit, strawberries and topped it with a delicious mochi!
as you can see it took some digging to get down to the good stuff, my toppings slid down and became my bottoms but they were completely delicious none the less.
I also had the pleasure of finding some delicious vegan frozen yoghurt when I spent some time in Sydney last term break. This gorgeous watermelon sorbet is hidden underneath a mountain of bobas (can you tell I really like them?) and a lychee! 
oh and the topping bar! This is actually from another place because I forgot at the other ones (my bad, I was too excited by all my options) but they're all pretty similar. I was swooning over the selection of boba (mango, strawberry, mandarin, lychee, pomegranate! mmmm. The fresh fruit is always a glorious option (grapes and strawberries are my faves) but I have a soft spot for the canned variety too. I really enjoy lychees, mangosteen, rambutan, longan, palm fruit, jackfruit etc. etc. I've found such an abundance of vegan options to enjoy.... see?
I have a feeling this is going to become one of my favourite dessert treats!
Do you like vegan fro yo? What are your favourite toppings? Anyone Melbournians have other favourite spots for me to try?

Love and Smiles,

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sour Cherry + Cacao Nut Truffles

Following on from my last post, I made these delicious nut truffles for my gorgeous friend's birthday recently. They went down a treat with everyone who tried them so I just know you'll love them too!

As I told you, I made two versions with different flavours but the same nut/seed base so these are fairly similar to the Blueberry + Coconut Nut Truffles I shared with you last post.

This next version is equally delicious. The smooth, rich, gooey nut base is packed full of nutrients and enough protein and good fats to keep you satisfied and glowing with health. I went for dried sour cherries with cacao nibs, it's a wonderful combination, just think a sophisticated cherry ripe! Again, with the same nutritional boost you don't usually get in a sweet treat.

Sour Cherry + Cacao Nut Truffles 
Makes 16-18 truffles
1 cup almonds
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup cacao nibs (+ additional to top)
1 cup dried sour cherries
1/8 cup water
Natural sweetener to taste if desired
  • Combine almonds, cashews, chia seeds, pepitas and cacao nibs in a food processor
  • Process until they are broken down into a fine crumb
  • Add dried blueberries and continue to process
  • Drizzle in water while processing until the mixture clumps and balls
  • Remove from processor, divide and roll into bite size balls
  • Leave in fridge to firm up for 30 mins
  • Top with additional cacao nibs
  • Enjoy!

I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!
Love and Smiles,

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Blueberry + Coconut Nut Truffles

I made these delicious nut truffles for my gorgeous friend's birthday recently. They went down a treat with everyone who tried them so I just know you'll love them too!

I made two versions with different flavours but the same nut/seed base so you'll be seeing them both pop up. These first ones are absolutely divine. I'm a huge fan of the blueberry coconut combination but with dried blueberries it just takes it to the next level! The smooth, rich, gooey nut base is packed full of nutrients and enough protein and good fats to keep you satisfied and glowing with health.

Blueberry + Coconut Nut Truffles
Makes 16-18 truffles
1 cup almonds
1 cup cashews
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut (+ 1/2 cup for rolling in)
1 cup dried blueberries
1/8 cup water
Natural sweetener to taste if desired
  • Combine almonds, cashews, chia seeds, pepitas and desiccated coconut in a food processor
  • Process until they are broken down into a fine crumb
  • Add dried blueberries and continue to process
  • Drizzle in water while processing until the mixture clumps and balls
  • Remove from processor, divide and roll into bite size balls
  • Leave in fridge to firm up for 30 mins
  • Roll in desiccated coconut
  • Enjoy!
I hope you enjoy these as much as we did!

Love and Smiles,

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Vitasoy Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to
JohannaGGG from Green Gourmet Giraffe
The winner of the Vitasoy Giveway!

I hope you enjoy your goodies! 
Thanks so much to everyone else who entered.

Love and Smiles,

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Jazzy Vegetarian Classics + Free Recipe! [Black Forrest Pecan Pie}

Recently I was offered the opportunity to ask the gorgeous Laura, author of Jazzy Vegetarian Classics some questions and delve into her delicious recipes. Oh boy does life hand you presents when you need them most! 

Her book is packed with vegan twists on American family classics. While she uses the term vegetarian she offers up a multitude of vegan recipes for us to enjoy! Laura's recipes are so in tune with my style of cooking, clean, quick, easy recipes that taste divine. Just the book for me- so I know you'll enjoy it too!

We've been slowly munching our way through her book and have especially enjoyed the Magnificent Maple Granola with Banana Whipped Topping, Coconut Oatmeal, Beautiful Basil Lemonade (so loving the drink recipes btw), Strawberry Surprise Apple Muffin, Cinnamon-Maple Mini Muffins, Fancy Peeled Salad, Coconut-Encrusted Tofu Cutlets,  Cashew Parmesan, Quick Baby Spinach Salad, Summer Cucumber Salad, Paprika and Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes, Dreamy Banana Pie, Black Forest Pecan Pie (Delicious recipe below).

There are so many amazing sauces/dressings in this book, I fear I might forget some but my other half loves the BBQ sauce, we're both nuts for the Tomato-Mushroom Gravy and the Dijon dressing, Creamy Dijon-Mayo dressing and Orange-Tahini dressing are some of my faves.

Obviously there are many many more recipes still on our 'to cook' list but these are the ones we've got through so far.

I should also mention that Laura's 'menus' are super convenient, I love having it all set out for you, it makes life much easier when time is lacking! We don't usually make them ALL (soup, salad, main, side and dessert) but having the options there allows us to choose which bits we feel like.

I just love getting the opportunity to ask cookbook authors questions and Laura was no exception. Have fun getting to know her better too!

1. What's your favorite part of a meal? (Mine used to be dessert but now it's a draw with sauces!)
I love the veggies! Baked potatoes with steamed or sautéed greens and sunflower seeds are one of my favorite meals!
2. What are your favorite summer and winter ingredients?
Summer: Fresh Basil from my garden.
Winter: Organic Kale - it is available all winter long!
3. What makes you smile in the kitchen?
Having successfully created a new recipe that tastes great and I know everyone will love.

4. What has been your biggest challenge in the kitchen?
My latest challenge has been figuring out how to make vegan pancakes...almost there!
5. You've got some great meal plans in your book. How do you go about planning a menu for a dinner party (or just yourself!)?
I think about the guest list, what they like to eat and I craft the menu around that. Then I break it down, organizing each course: Soup, salad, main dish and dessert. There it is!
6. When cooking/sharing with others do you divulge the ingredients before or after? Do you tell people it's healthy or just let them dive in?
I answer ingredient questions throughout the meal, but usually I let everybody taste each course first, because I know they will then say: YUM - then ask "What is in this dish to make it so delicious?"
7. Do you have any tips for people who think they can't cook?
Start with simple recipes. Chili is a good one. Two cans of beans (drained),  1 can of  corn, (drained), 1 jar marinara, 1 diced onion, 2 teaspoons chili powder and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. You cannot go wrong!
8. How do you explain your food restrictions when ordering at restaurants?
I just say - make sure there are no animal products in the meal. No dairy, meat, eggs or fish. Then I say: Make sure that there is no chicken/beef stock, butter or cheese either - no animal products what-so-ever. Done!
9. How do you feel about the more processed vegan ingredients like sugar/oil? I notice you give low fat substitutions but still use some in the Jazzy Vegetarian Classics
I think they are fine in limited quantities.
10. If you could choose, what would your last meal be?
See question 1!

And now for the ooey gooey delicous dessert I've chosen to share with you all. You're welcome!
To finish any festive meal with a flourish, I take a cue from my mother, who always offered a homemade pecan pie as the finale for our holiday gettogethers. Now I have carried on that tradition with an innovative and tasty vegan version of this gooey, sweet treat that features a flourless crust. I must admit, I think this is the most decadent dessert I have ever created!
Black Forest Pecan Pie

Makes 8 servings

10 pitted Medjool dates
¾ cup rolled oats
¼ cup raw unsweetened shredded dried coconut
¼ cup pecan halves

½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup unsulphured blackstrap molasses
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
5 pitted Medjool dates
2 tablespoons vegan margarine
2 tablespoons filtered or spring water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups pecan halves

15 pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Put the dates, oats, coconut, and pecans in a high-performance blending appliance, and process to the consistency of soft dough. Transfer the dough onto a board and form it into a ball. Flatten the dough slightly with your hands and then use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 10- inch round. Invert the dough on to an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Press the dough mixture evenly over the bottom of the plate, pushing it up the sides of the pie plate as you go, to make a crust. To craft a pretty edge to the crust, use your index finger to push the inner edge of the crust out, while pinching the outer edge in with the thumb and index finger of your other hand to make a classic scallop edge around the pie crust.

Put the maple syrup, molasses, vegan chocolate chips, pitted dates, vegan margarine, water, and vanilla extract in a blender and process until very smooth. Pour the maple mixture in a medium bowl. Fold in 1½ cups whole pecans. Pour the filling into the crust and smooth the top using a rubber spatula. Gently press 15 whole pecans into the top of the pie, arranging them in a pleasing manner. Put the pie on a baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the edges start to set and brown. Tent the pie with foil and bake for 5 to 8 minutes more, or until the pie has almost set in the middle. The filling will still be somewhat soft.

Carefully put the pie on a wire rack (the filling will be very hot!) and let cool for 1 hour. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled. Cover and store leftover pie in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I hope you enjoy this divine pie as much as I did!
Love and Smiles,

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Friday, April 25, 2014

The China Study All Star Collection- Free Recipe! {Pumpkin Seed and Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Breakfast Bars}

It's blog tour time! The same smart cookies who brought us The China Study Cookbook are back with this All Star Collection. You might remember my previous interview with Leanne Campbell (Colin T Campbell's daughter) and how much I enjoyed her book and this second round is no exception! 

With a wide range of recipes from some of my favourite vegan chefs in one handy book this is a wonderful place to start as a new vegan or a great addition to the cook book collection of a well seasoned vegan cook. It's divided into lots of handy categories: Breads and muffins; breakfasts; appetizers and salads; soups and chilis; burgers, sandwiches and tacos; side dishes and yummy yummy desserts so no matter how you like to eat they've got you covered.

We've been eating our way through the array of delicious plant based recipes and have already hit on some favourites!: Overnight muesli, Almond Cardamon Cream Chia Pudding with Fresh Berries, Lemon-lime Green Smoothie, Spicy Almonds, Confetti Kale Salad, Caesar Salad dressing, Quinoa Salad with pistachios, Lemon-Berry Sorbet (minus the vodka), Dreamy Baked Bananas and obviously Dreena's breakfast bar recipe below. 

I can personally recommend all of these recipes we've tried so far, they've all been hits! Seriously yummy hits that have been a godsend while I haven't had the time/energy to create my own new recipes. My fussy other half has been pleased with all the ones he's tried too (namely ones without veggies he doesn't like) but we've found it easy to substitute other things he does like in (e.g a brown rice version of the Quinoa salad or Spinach/Lettuce in the Kale Salad recipe)

Plus I can't wait to try a heap more! I've got my eye on the Green Papaya Salad, Perfect Pesto stuffed Mushrooms, Pineapple-Cucumber Gazpacho, Almond crusted Eggplant Cutlets, Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake, Peanut Butter Fudge Truffles etc. etc.

I've been lucky enough to share one of the scrummy recipes from the book with you too. I hope you enjoy Dreena's delicious breakfast bars (or if you're me anytime bars) as much as we did!

These are a terrific “on-the-go” healthy breakfast or a perfect snack anytime of the day. Our whole family loves them!

11/2 cups rolled oats
11/4 cups oat flour
3–4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2–3 tablespoons nondairy chocolate chips (see Tip)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8–1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1–2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons unsweetened plain nondairy milk

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, oat flour, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.
  • In a smaller bowl, combine the brown rice syrup with maple syrup and milk.
  • Add the wet ingredients into the dry mixture, stirring until well combined.
  • Transfer the mixture to an 8 × 8 baking dish or brownie pan lined with parchment paper and press it down until evenly distributed.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut to mark out the bars before you bake them to make it easier to fully cut and remove the bars once baked. (I usually mark out 16 bars, but you can make them whatever size you like.)
  • Bake for 20 minutes, then remove and let cool in pan. Once cooled, use a sharp knife to fully cut the bars, then remove with a spatula.

Mini chocolate chips are great if you have them. You can also substitute the pumpkin seeds and chocolate chips with raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, hemp seeds, unsweetened coconut, or other dried fruit (chopped, if needed).

I hope you enjoy this breakfast bar as much as we did!
Love and Smiles,

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My Soy Milk Story + Yummy 'milky' recipes

When I first went vegan, soymilk was my go-to. I fell in love with the sweet, creamy versions that made any recipe better... but then I did some research and found out about the darker side of soy (GMOs, pesticides, protein isolates, added sugar and oil). I decided if I was going to switch to soy it had better be made with organic soy beans! This was quite hard for me after getting rather attached to the luxurious soymilk but I made the change, I tried some organic brands... but they just didn't taste as good. I can distinctly remember standing in the supermarket aisle reading the back of all the soymilks searching for one that was made from organic soy beans and unsweetened but being bitterly disappointed. I soon realised there were many other non-dairy milk alternatives and set about drinking my way through them. I went with almond milk, it wasn't as creamy but for less calories I'd settle and my husband went for sweet rice milk... but every so often we were still tempted into buying the odd carton of (non-organic) soymilk because it just tasted so good.
You can imagine our delight when we found Vitasoy’s organic soymilk range, which is made from organic whole soybeans! I headed straight for the ultra low fat unsweetened organic bean soymilk and I'm LOVING it! It's only 40 cals per cup (same as almond milk but creamier with more protein – score!) & obviously my husband who doesn’t care about calories goes for the original version to 'cream' up his tea and cereal. The fact that Vitasoy are producing Aussie grown non-GMO whole organic bean soymilk makes me very happy. And the unsweetened low fat version with no carrageenan makes me off the charts happy because carrageenan is one of those annoying things I have to watch out for, as it upsets my tummy.

I'm really enjoying cooking with soymilk again and I've noticed how much of a difference it makes to 'creamy' dressings, sauces, smoothies and desserts. Why not give these yummy 'milky' recipes a try:

Fruit 'ice cream' (you all know I'm a fruit 'ice cream' lover but soy milk really ups the creaminess and makes it even more amazing without any change in flavour like with coconut cream/milk)
This discovery happened late last year so when I was given the opportunity to share this with you I couldn't really refuse. I know I said no more giveaways and I've been turning them all down since, but how can you knock back something you're consistently using and genuinely excited about? So apologies if you're not loving the giveaway but for those of you who would like the chance to win a Vitasoy hamper valued at $150 packed full of:

3 x 1 litre Vitasoy milk cartons
4 x Vitasoy recipe cards
1 x ‘Healthy Every Day’ cookbook by Pete Evans
1 x T2 coffee mug
1 x KeepCup
1 x 250g Global Cafe Direct organic coffee
1 x $65 Coles gift card
Please leave a comment on this post, my facebook or tweet me @ClaireASVF (mentioning #spillthebeans) telling me your favourite soymilk recipes! The competition is open from 15/4/14 - 29/4/14, click here to check out the T&Cs. The lucky winner will be announced 30/4/14. Good luck!

Love and Smiles,

*For calcium enriched soymilk in the Vitasoy flagship range, try original or reduced fat. 

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Vegan Degustation Menu at Da Noi

I've been working so hard lately that I've hardly had time to think about fun things! I did manage to get out to dinner for a friends birthday the other night and I can safely say if you're looking for a yummy vegan menu in Melbourne then Do Noi in South Yarra can step up to the mark. It's well priced too, coming in at $65 each for the group booking which was 5 delicious courses for us all with great veg and vegan versions. Apologies in advance for the dodgy flash phone photography- we were eating by candlelight. 

Vegan Degustation Dinner at Da Noi
We started the meal off with some tomato and basil eggplant. Simple but delicious.
Then orecchiette with confit cherry tomatoes and asparagus
 Next up was a smooth sweet pumpkin puree with a barley and pea 'risotto', sauteed kale, spinach, roast cauliflower, broccoli and the best roast potatoes ever!
 Then citrus sorbet with an AMAZING praline on top. This was the best course of the night!
Double dessert! Wheeee! 
I ended the night with spiced poached fruit with pistachio nuts and a berry sorbet mmm
So there you have my delicious night. I hope you enjoyed having a peek at our delicious meal!

Love and Smiles,

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Spiced Apple and Oat Fudge Balls

These little fudgey balls are two bites of seasonal yumminess. They're not too chocolatey but are full of Christmas spice with a hint of molassas. Yum! They're made with raw apple and oats rather than using all nuts and dried fruit to make them less calorie and physically dense (perfect for those looking to keep trim).

I made these to share with friends and family last Christmas (thus the mixed spices) so this recipe makes 2 batches or twice those pictured. They went down wonderfully at both functions with both adults and children being similarly enticed. 

Spiced Apple and Oat Fudge Balls
Makes approximately 40 balls
2 cups rolled oats
3 large or 6 small apples
1/2 cup natvia or 10 packets of xylitol
4 tbsp cacao powder
4 tbsp mixed spices
1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts
2 tbsp molasses
To roll in:
1/2 cup Oat flour (Grind oats in a coffee/spice grinder)
2 tbsp Mixed Spices
1/2 tsp Powdered Stevia
  • Core apples
  • process apples and sweetener until a smooth paste forms
  • add oats, cacao and mixed spices 
  • process until smooth
  • add nuts and molasses and process until smooth
  • if using whole oats grind into flour
  • combine oat flour, mixed spices and stevia
  • spoon into even portions
  • roll into balls
  • roll in flour mixture
  • refrigerate for 30 mins + to firm slightly
  • Enjoy!
  • I would imagine these would keep well but since they were demolished within 2 days I'm not 100% sure!

I hope you give these a go, or any flavour combination with the apple oat base. I've tried a simple cinnamon, vanilla and extra chocolatey version but give anything a try, I'm sure it will work wonderfully with most combinations.

Love and Smiles,

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Herbivore

This article was published in the November 2012 issue of Natural Food Magazine

A Day in the Life of a Herbivore

The term Herbivore can elicit some entertaining reactions. I’ve seen a range from understanding smiles to frowns of complete and utter confusion. Now I know they sound like dinosaurs but there are a growing number of vegetarians referring to themselves as herbivores.

Most people associate vegetarians with healthy food but in this junk food culture there seem to be endless vegan versions of unhealthy food or 'ninja vegan' options (unintentionally but conveniently vegan, like Oreos) so herbivores use this term to distinguish themselves as plant based vegetarians.

I consider myself to be a herbivore, it seems to tie 'plant based vegan diet' into a nice neat package. You may be asking, 'What's the difference?'  To help answer that question here's an example of a day in my life. Now obviously there is some day-to-day variety and weekends are different, with more time and kitchen access but here's an example of day in the life of a herbivore.

We start, bright and early at 6:00am with a refreshing drink of water, either plain or with some fresh lemon juice and a dash of stevia. If it's warm I'll enjoy it cold but in the cooler weather it tastes wonderful as a hot lemon tea. The next thing that needs water are my plants, I'll head out to the garden to water my vegetables, herbs, wheatgrass and fruits- when you eat as many of them as I do every bit you can grow helps.

If I’m hungry I might make a yummy vegetable juice now, packed full of green goodness, carrots to sweeten it a little and lemon or ginger for a bit of zing. I try to make a little extra and keep in an air tight mason jar for an afternoon snack or the next morning.
The obligatory house tidy follows before some yoga in the living room with a view of the treetops. If time permits I'll try to get out for a morning walk before the work begins but on days when I have to leave quickly it's straight onto dry brushing (great for your skin and circulation) and by 7:00am I'm in the shower.

Showering with the divine smelling coconut soap makes it easy to forget that finding vegan soap can be a challenge (avoiding lanolin). My hair washing options are super simple; no-poo-ing with vinegar, bi carb and coconut oil or indulging in one of the organic shampoos available. The products in my skincare regime are something I pay close attention to; in the same way what we eat fuels our bodies the products we put on our skin are absorbed so I try to make sure everything’s as natural and chemical free as possible. The same holds true for make-up and of course I make sure everything I buy has not been tested on animals.

I get dressed, opting out of any leather, silk or wool. I try to buy ethically produced clothes (easier said than done) and visit op shops regularly. After the obligatory morning routine by 8:00am it’s time for some breakfast! (Yes, I know I’ve already had juice, that’s hydration with nutrients not breakfast) My favourite morning meals tend to be sweet- I opt for green and fruit smoothies that are a great option for when you’re in a rush, wholegrain cereals like quinoa, oats and buckwheat, yummy either warm or cold, or green salads with fruit & juice dressings. Here are a couple of delicious options. For the cooler months this warm, sweet, filling Peanut butter Banana Buckwheat tastes divine and in the warmer weather a crisp, fresh, juicy Grape, Cucumber and Spinach Salad is a wonderful way to start the day.

By 9:00 I’m out the door, walking (ok sometimes running) to catch the train from the second closest station to home- it’s good to get in some incidental exercise. I use my commute to work, catch up on my overflowing google reader, and check social media and emails before continuing the walk up to my destination.

At 10:00am I’ll be immersed in work and if I’m peckish at 11:00am I’ll have a lovely cup of herbal tea and might nibble on some veggie sticks and hummus or fruit and nuts. The work continues until about 1:00pm when lunch rolls around. Usually I’ll have a super salad (aka everything remotely salad like in the fridge with an awesome dressing) or leftovers but If I have enough time grabbing lunch out in one of the many healthy veg eateries is a nice treat. I work and study with some wonderfully intelligent and informed people so conversations over lunch always lead to interesting topics and questions. Food choices- ethical considerations, local/organic, processing, fluoride, supplements, farming, woofing (willing workers on organic farms), recipes and nutrition, exercise all seem to pop up allowing for an exchange of opinions and information. I know that some people are uncomfortable sharing differing opinions; luckily I’m not! In a respectful, calm discussion I think listening to a different point of view can be great fun, thought provoking and interesting. Problems only seem to arise when ego or closed minds come to the table! As long as you respect the fact that everyone is entitled to their own opinion you can agree to disagree and walk away with a greater understanding of the other side of the coin.

After more work if I’m hungry at about 5:00pm I’ll nibble on some fruit, veggies, nuts or homemade goodies like muffins, truffles or muesli bars as I make my way home and get started on dinner! 6:00pm reveals a delicious home cooked meal like Soba Noodle & Watercress Salad with Five Spice Tofu or Vegan Mousaka with a side salad or veg. I try to make sure there’s a good balance of veg, protein, unrefined carbohydrates and whole fats like nuts, seeds, soy, and avocado. If one food group is missing the meal just don’t seem to be as satisfying or enjoyable. Speaking of which- a healthy dessert is a vital addition to my day.

7:00pm is almost my favourite time of day. I think the key to maintaining a healthy diet is not feeling deprived- so to that end I try to have a little treat every day and thoroughly enjoy each mouthful, not feeling guilty in the slightest. Chocolate is really good for you, you know! Just avoid the sugar and fat and go straight for the intensely chocolaty raw cacao. Every bite of my delicious, deceptively healthy desserts like Cacao-Coconut Nut Balls  and Creamy Cacao Pudding bring a smile to my face and I’m sure to yours too. The idea that I can truly enjoy eating this way is too much for some to understand but when you can delight in foods that nourish you and taste divine what’s there to be confused about?

By 8:00pm it’s time to clean and pack a lunch of leftovers for the next day- a little bit of prep goes a long way. I usually cook double or triple portions to allow for this and freezing the remainder for those days when you really don’t feel like cooking. If I’m left to my own devices first thing in the morning I’ve been known to end up with whole cucumber and carrots for lunch, healthy but not exactly exciting. This way I have a backup instead of reaching for convenient but unhealthy foods.

9:00pm means it’s finally time to relax, blog, read, browse recipe books for inspiration for the next day’s meals and by the time 10:00pm rolls around I'm more than ready for some meditation and sleep! I meditate sitting on the bed with my legs crossed and attempt to achieve some sort of mental calm, visualizing the momentum of crashing waves before sleep (as you can imagine some days are more successful than others!) Finally, my day concludes snuggling down into a cosy bed and floating off into dreams.
I hope this has made a plant based lifestyle more welcoming, it’s one of the best changes I’ve ever made and as you can see the herbivore lifestyle isn’t as scary as it might seem at first! 

I hope you enjoyed that little flashback!

Love and Smiles,

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Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Healthy Vegan Lifestyle

This article was published in the October 2012 issue of Natural Food Magazine

The Healthy Vegan Lifestyle

The problem with the label ‘healthy’ is that people often hear ‘bland, dry vegetables’. Similarly, ‘vegan’ tends to translate as ‘highly restricted, weird food’. My focus is helping people find healthy, vegan food they LOVE to eat! Life is short and there is absolutely no reason you should not enjoy your food and be healthy at the same time.

The main reaction to my diet is “so what DO you eat?” While my plant-based diet contains a multitude of vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes and limited soy,  the endless combinations of these ingredients create a delicious array of meals that never fail to make me smile. The first question is usually quickly followed by: “Oh, I could NEVER live without X (insert cheese, bacon, sugar, bread etc.)” It is concern for the addictive foods that is always raised; sugar, fats and carbohydrates always seem to pop up and have a special place in people’s minds.

Admittedly, incorporating some natural sugars, healthy fats and whole grains in your diet is a must, however I am in no way suggesting eating copious amounts of refined sugars and processed fats (if you cut out everything you’ll just end up hungry and depressed). The best solution is to enjoy small amounts of healthy sources of fats, sugars and carbohydrates daily.

So what naturally healthy substitutes are there to these three potential dietary sins?
Sugar- Fruit is sweet. Somehow many of us have lost that knowledge. If you stop eating sugar and artificial sweetener, you will realise just how sweet fruit is! Fresh fruit is delicious and dried fruit is a concentrated source of sugar that can be used in many recipes.
Fat- Nuts, seeds, avocado and coconut are a great source of fats and nutrients. They’re delicious and can transform a meal from something nice to something really special. Plus, they’re great for your brain, hair and skin!
Carbohydrates- There are plenty of gluten free/low gluten grains that you can enjoy. Try brown rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth - just to name a few. Then there are beans, lentils and starchy vegetables like potato, sweet potato, turnip, swede and celeriac to make a filling and satisfying meal.

The next thing that comes up is usually the longevity of this lifestyle: “So you’ll be off this diet by Christmas, right?” No. I’m not on a diet, I’m eating healthy! This is a life goal, not a sprint to the next little black dress occasion. Numerous indicators can measure health but to me quality of life is my yardstick. Do I feel good eating this way? Yes. Has my heath improved? Yes. Have my allergies disappeared? Yes! There is no way processed ‘food-like’ products can make you feel this good. The tremendous feeling of lightness, power and happiness that good health brings is a right we all have and the fact that so many people have lost touch with the knowledge of just how good they can feel is shocking.

The change to a healthy lifestyle can be a huge leap for some, but why not take baby steps in the right direction? No one is going to be disappointed if you just try your best, and you know your body will love you for it! The questions and reasons people give to justify their standard diets amused me somewhat, so I thought I’d share a few.

“But you could never eat out again!?” Of course I can! There are so many vegan-friendly places that serve delicious healthy meals; you just need to do a little google-searching to find them.

“Don’t you crave meat/sugar/junk?” Of course I do, I’m human. The smell of some foods is still appealing, but ‘food-like’ products don’t even look edible anymore. The junk foods that saturate our world tend to just look dry, oily or likely to induce a migraine and stomachache. The longer you can avoid processed food the easier it gets, I promise. Make sure you’re well nourished, hydrated and full of good healthy, yummy food and the cravings will disappear. Having said that, if I really feel like something, I’ll ‘vegan-ise’ and ‘health-ify’ it. Try finding healthy alternative ingredients or  recipes - there are so many options these days!

“But fish isn’t chicken! Fish isn’t meat?” No, no it is not, but neither is it a plant.

“You need meat to live!”  Well, apparently not if I’m standing before you answering this question…

“But you have to eat cows to stop them farting methane”

“If you don’t milk cows their udders will EXPLODE!” Also, no. But if you shoot them up with steroids and hormones they will get extremely swollen.

“So would you eat human meat?” Possibly, if I was dying of starvation… I realise that this question sounds ludicrous, but that doesn’t stop it from being asked.

The ridiculousness of such comments serves to show just how big a leap the change to a healthy lifestyle can be. Whether you decide to jump in with both feet or dip one toe in the water, making a change in the right direction will always help! The major change needed for a healthy lifestyle is being informed about your food choice; soak up all the knowledge you can. I know at times the conflicting sources can all get too much, but if you stick to eating whole natural foods with as little processing as possible you can’t go far wrong. If in doubt think about it this way. Fresh, natural food goes off. It's not something that will sit on the supermarket shelf for years unchanged. The food that will nourish you is alive and consequently rots. This is a good thing! Try to buy fresh food frequently to keep your meals as nutritious as you can.

The motivation to start cooking can be found in many places, do cook books inspire you? (yes, even regular ones) Why not use a recipe as a starting point and switch out some ingredients to make it good for you? You can use pretty much any recipe as inspiration for a meal- you may not end up with an exact replica, but the flavor profile and textures will remain intact. If you like shopping then why not let the ingredients that look best inspire your cooking? Just got for a wander through the grocers and pick the things that sing out. Don’t be scared to try new things, once you know which flavours go well together you can make pretty much anything delicious. My general rule if you don’t know what will taste good together is to smell it -  if it smells good together, then chances are it will taste great too.

If I could give anyone some healthy eating tips, they would be:
       Eat natural, whole foods - organic and local if possible.
       Cook your own food as much as possible. If you are buying products, read every label- if you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.
       Eat foods you enjoy! For example,  don’t eat carrots if you don’t like them, find something else you do enjoy eating and replace them.
       Perfection is impossible, aim for consistently healthy choices and your body will love you for it.
       Cook enough for leftovers for the next meal to save time. In the same vein: pre-cook things! Have cooked grains/legumes in the fridge ready to use.
       Pre-chop vegetables (not too far in advance, they will deteriorate but if this is the difference between eating whole foods and getting take away, then do it!)
       Try to eat an assortment of natural foods in all the colours of the rainbow (especially the greens!). Don’t eat the same thing everyday; variety is the spice of life, try new ingredients/meals whenever you can. Keep trying foods - don’t give up after one bad meal, cook it a different way, your taste buds change, you may like things you didn’t as a child.
       Be prepared, have contingency plans - life is unpredictable, so have a back up. If you’re starving and the only things around are unhealthy, you’re fighting an uphill battle, so give yourself a good chance by preparing healthy portable snacks. Have some nuts or seed on you, grab some fruit (fresh or dried) before you head out the door, bring some veggie sticks and dip if you know you’re going to be out for a while or a full packed lunch if you’re out all day. Make the best possible choice you can in any given situation - and if you can, stack the odds in your favour!

A positive attitude is one of the key ingredients to a healthy natural lifestyle. Focus on all of the great new things you get to try and not dwell on the things you can’t. Smile! Enjoy your life and be proud of every healthy choice you make. Lead by example; you cannot force anyone to choose your lifestyle, nor should you, so make the right decision for you and be friendly and helpful to those who ask. Treat others the way you wish to be treated and respect their choices.  

I hope you enjoyed reading that little flashback!

Love and Smiles,

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