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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