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” Just...no.

“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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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Raspberry Pineapple 'ice cream'

I've been digging into pineapple versions of fruit 'ice cream' recently, as you can see here in my post on ASVD. I've been enjoying combinations like:
Mango, pineapple and almond milk (AMAZING by the way, I use a 1:1 ratio) and
Mixed berry, pineapple and almond milk (really yum with a ratio of 1:2)
but today I'll be sharing the raspberry pineapple version! It's sweet but a little tart and it's simplicity and clean flavours speak for themselves. If you're yet to try fruit 'ice cream' what are you waiting for? I've got lots more flavours here.

Raspberry Pineapple 'ice cream'
Makes 3-4 serves
1 cup frozen raspberries
2 cups frozen pineapple
1/2- 1 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk of your choice)
Stevia to sweeten (if you're pineapple is ripe and sweet you shouldn't need it but adjust to taste)
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor/blender (my vitamix is the best but food processor comes a close second, regular blenders third)
  • Allow to thaw slightly for approximately 10 minutes (depending on the temperature)
  • Blend/process drizzling in almond milk as desired to form a smooth consistency
  • Adjust sweetness to taste
  • Enjoy!
  • This can be stored in the freezer but the texture will change
I hope you like this fruit 'ice cream' flavour- it was a real hit at my house!

Love and Smiles,

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Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Best Vegan Pizza!

This is my favourite pizza. You can never have too many vegetables. Capsicums are also a great addition but I didn't have any when I made this. The cashew 'cheeze' is perfect. Perfectly perfect. I may or may not have eaten so much while I was cooking I wasn't sure if I would have enough left! Obviously you can top your pizza with any delicious veggies you desire but these are my favourties.

The Best Vegan Pizza!
For 2 small pizzas (just smaller than dinner plate size)

2 x pizza bases (We've used pita bread, wraps, gluten free pre-made bases, home made dough, I even made cold mini ones with rice crackers!)
1/2 medium eggplant
1 small zucchini
2 large field mushrooms
2 fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup olives

Cashew Cheeze
1/2 cup raw cashew nuts (soaked becomes 1 cup)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 tbsp dijon mustard

Tomato Base
5 sun dried tomato halves (approximately 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 tbsp cashew 'cheeze' above

  • Soak cashew nuts overnight (or for as long as you can if you have a high speed blender)
  • Prepare bases as needed (make dough, thaw if frozen etc.)
  • Pre-heat oven to 180-200 C depending on your pizza base
  • Slice vegetables in 1/2 cm slices and dry fry eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms in a non-stick on a medium heat until golden and leave to cool
  • Slice tomatoes and de-pit olives (if required)
  • Drain cashews, combine cashew cheeze ingredients in a blender and process until smooth
  • Empty into a bowl (leaving approximately 2 tbsp in the blender) and set aside
  • Add tomato base ingredients to the blender, including the soaking water and blend until smooth
  • Assemble pizzas, spreading the tomato base onto the pizza bases then layering vegetables as desired- making sure to spread out the olives- and top with small ammounts of cashew 'cheeze'. 
  • Note on the cheeze: If you would like your cheeze to remain the same consistency then add it to the pizza after baking. When cooked the edges of the cheeze will harden slightly and become more chewy. Personally I do both and enjoy both textures!
  • Cook for 15-20 mins or until base is crisp
  • Enjoy!

Who says pizza has to be oily and unhealthy? Not me! Veggies all the way. So that's mine...what's your favourite pizza?

Love and Smiles,

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Durian Walnut Kale Chips

I LOVE kale chips, I make them often and try not to buy them because they're pricey but they make a great treat. There are a million recipes for kale chips out there so I've refrained from posting one until now but this version is something I haven't seen or tasted before. Usually I make a savory version with a herb/spice coating but recently I've been dipping my toe into the water of sweet kale chips.

These are sweet, 'creamy', fruity, crispy, delicious and jam packed full of nutrients! I enjoyed them as a snack, for dessert and even breakfast! They made a perfect movie snack too, beats popcorn any day. If you're not a durian fan (I know it's an acquired taste) jackfruit would be equally as delicious but so would most other fleshy fruits like nectarines or apricots.

Durian Walnut Kale Chips
Makes approximately 6 serves
1 cup durian flesh (or jackfruit)
2 cups walnuts
1 cup almond milk
Stevia to taste (if you would like it sweet)
1 extra large bunch of kale
  • Preheat oven to 120 c (or the lowest your oven will go)
  • Combine durian and walnuts in a blender
  • Drizzle in almond milk as required to form a smooth paste- you don't want it to be too thin so only use as much as your blender/processor needs to form a smooth consistency
  • Sweeten to taste
  • Remove kale from stems and tear into pieces
  • Coat kale in durian walnut sauce by tossing them in a large bowl- taking care not to overcoat them or they won't crisp up!
  • Lay flat on a lined baking tray
  • Bake at 120 c (or the lowest your oven will go) for 1.5 hrs or until crisp
  • Enjoy!
  • Keep in an air tight container for as long as you can keep your hands off them!

If you're a kale chip and durian fan give this one a try! If you're new to kale chips then I suggest you start out with a more traditional savory version and then move onto sweet varieties like this one. Kale is really wonderful for you, I can't recommend it enough!

Love and Smiles,

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Coconut Walnut Shortbread

I created this recipe to use the ridiculously delicious Coconut Walnut Butter I made (ok, it may have to stop myself from eating it straight from the jar) and give to a friend as a congratulations you just had the most beautiful baby girl gift. 

They're very short (so be careful to allow them to cool before moving) but make a wonderful alternative to shortbread. Granted they don't taste buttery, more coconutty!, but they do have that smooth mouth feel that higher fat desserts give and taste divine.

Coconut Walnut Shortbread
1.5 cups desiccated coconut
1 cups walnuts
1/2 cup coconut sugar
(or 1/2 quantity of coconut walnut butter)
1/2 cup self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
desiccated coconut to sprinkle on top
  • Make coconut walnut butter (if not already done)
  • Pre heat oven to 180 c
  • Ensure nut butter is a room temperature and add to a bowl
  • Sift in flour and baking powder
  • Combine ingredients
  • Roll into small balls, flatten and sprinkle with desiccated coconut
  • Bake on a lined tray at 180 c for 30 mins or until golden
  • Allow to cool on tray to avoid breakage
  • Enjoy!
  • These keep really well so no need to eat more of these rich little things than you need to
I hope this gives you an idea of how to make shortbread with no dairy- it is possible after all!

Love and Smiles,

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The New Years Fresh Start

This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Natural Food Magazine

The New Years Fresh Start
Secrets to making your New Years resolutions successful.

This New Year I will…
Lose all my unwanted weight!
I’ll exercise every day- and train for a marathon!
I’ll get more organised!
I’ll find the perfect partner!
I’ll increase my savings!
I’ll buy a new home!
I’ll get the job of my dreams!
I’ll be a better person!

If 2014 was the fresh start you were waiting for to become the best version of yourself then your resolutions will have summed up all your enthusiasm and hope for the year ahead…

But lets face it, most new years resolutions are broken by the first month of the year and forgotten by the second. Though made with the best of intentions they have the potential to haunt your fabulous new year as a constant reminder of the unattainable perfection you’re striving for.

Without deterring the eternally optimistic resolutioners out there a dash of practicality may be needed to enhance those original goals. Now the New Year has come and gone lets take a moment to review the resolutions (that may or may not be transforming into reality) and see if you could tweak them to better suit you.

Making New Years resolutions to sum up your enthusiastic longings for the year ahead can fall into many traps, assess your resolutions, could you improve them and avoid any of these?

·        Setting huge goals that you are bound to fail
I’ll find the perfect partner and buy a house! - Attempting to move a mountain can deter you when progress doesn’t appear fast enough. It’s fantastic that your end goal might be to run a marathon but if you haven’t run in years then aiming for going for a jog three times a week will be much more achievable. Keeping your longer term goal in mind work backwards and make some smaller, shorter term goals to start with and keep you motivated towards the grand finale.

·        Attacking too many goals at once
I’ll be a better person, get organised, get a new job, increase my savings, make new friends, and be healthier… The desire for a new start in all areas of your life might be tempting but by attempting to change your whole world you’re most likely biting off more than you can chew! If you want to focus on multiple areas such your health, personal life, work etc. why not make one smaller main goal for each or determine your priorities and devote the most dedication to it?

·        Setting goals that are too vague/not measurable
I will be healthier- a great sentiment for a resolutions but incredibly vague. Do you want to focus on your medical concerns? Exercise? Diet? Meditation? Setting ambiguous goals can lead to confusion and frustration with your progress and ultimately demotivation.
EquallyI will be a better personis be a lovely idea but how do you measure better? How will you rate your progress and keep motivated? Will you be satisfied with one good deed for the year (after all it may be an improvement of the year before) or are you striving for being more thoughtful with your words or weekly volunteering? Setting specific goals that you can track will keep you motivated through the year.

·        Setting goals that are too tough (or not getting the help needed)
I will find the perfect partner- some things in life can be quite a challenge! Setting huge goals that you’re unlikely to ever reach or that are impossible to achieve without asking for help can trip us all up. There’s no point striving for a degree without enrolling in university, take the steps needed to start you in the right direction. Remember- asking for help is a sign of strength and intelligence not weakness.

·        Taking an all or nothing approach and giving up!
I’ll exercise every day. Just because you didn’t get the chance to exercise yesterday doesn’t mean it’s all over and there’s no point even trying to go today. Obstacles will come your way- life isn’t as easy as we would all like it to be! When you’re faced with a setback the all or nothing approach often leads to failure (and regret). Get your head in the right place and keep on going. It’s never over until you decide it is.

If your new year isn’t off to the start you envisioned remember it’s NEVER too late to start over. The opportunity for a fresh start presents itself every moment, everyday, every week. Every decision you make is another chance to start fresh and be proud of your actions. You’ve only truly failed when you’ve given up. Just get back on the bike and keep on the journey to your goals.

Practice kindness, cut yourself some slack- this isn’t about perfection- it’s not an all or nothing endeavour, forgive yourself for minor slip ups, acknowledge that obstacles will come your way (how boring would life be without them?) and just keep going!

Here’s the secret: Set yourself up for success.

·        Make achievable, specific, measurable goals
You can always exceed your goals. Start with small, short-term goals and work your way up to your longer-term outcome. Set goals that you know you can accomplish- I know it may sound counter productive but it really does work. By regularly achieving your goals you will have the renewed motivation to continue the desired behaviour and on to your final goal.

Specific goals will allow you to focus your energy and effectivelytrack your progress. Havingexplicit short, medium and long-term goals gives you bearings and allows for frequent achievement to heighten enthusiasm.
Measurable goals give a daily/weekly/monthly progress update- allowing you to keep track of your journey and keep accountable for your actions. This tool can be hugely motivating when you need a boost and can look back at all your hard work.

·        Expect obstacles/setbacks
Sometimes life gets in the way- we know this! There are uncontrollable factors is everyone’s lives- think extreme weather, sickness, last minute occasions etc. When a true obstacle arises (not you trying to use it as an excuse!) don’t beat yourself up over it or let it cause your failure, simply accept it and move on and up.

·        Don’t give up!
Sometimes a setback can be more than a missed workout or meal out- even if you’ve put everything on hold to fly across the world to be with family you don’t have to give up. If needed alter your goals for a time period- perhaps it’s only realistic to take the stairs instead of the elevator or say no to dessert rather than uphold your usual standards. Until you stop trying it’s not over- keep heading in the right direction and don’t give up!
Time off is another option. If you’re going on holiday for example and don’t have the equipment needed a week off to relax and have fun with your family needn’t be your failure. Make the best choices you can at every given opportunity and get right back to your plan when you return.

Now you’ve worked out how to tweak those resolutions here are some ideas and tips that will help you edit your plan of action(if needed) and successfully achieve your new years resolutions.

Assess your priorities
What matters most to you, to your life? What are you most passionate about? What excites and invigorates you? What will make you happiest? Is this what you’re going to achieve via your new years resolutions? If not perhaps a slight reshuffle of goals could help…
·        Write a mission statement
Write yourself a mission statement that you can read to refocus your efforts. Having this resource to remind you exactly what you want and deserve can be a golden ticket when your motivation starts to waiver.Begin by listing all the things you don’t like about you/your life before you reach your goal and then all the positives you envision after reaching it.

·        Planning and preparation
This cannot be underestimated! Timetable the time in your diary to reach your goals, set aside the money needed and make a detailed plan of action for success. Prepare your environment as well as yourself, clean room to exercise, clean out cupboards/fridge/freezer.

·        Pick enjoyable activities
For example if you’re goal is to eat 5 serves of fruits and vegetables daily don’t force down the sprouts- rather enjoy the strawberries! With fitness goals if you hate running don’t make yourself run, find something you do love! Switch the jog for swimming, hula hooping, football, rock climbing etc.

·        Public acknowledgement
By showing those around you that you are committed to reaching your goal you have the opportunity to get other to help you. By having others on side you’re accountable to more than yourself and can use their support when needed. This also has the potential to raise some tension among the negative people in your life, try to surround yourself with positive like-minded people who will respect your desires and help you reach your goals.
Perfection is overrated!
Try to put less pressure for perfection on yourself. While we all want to be the best possible version of ourselves, shooting for perfection can lead to disaster. Reduce the self-inflicted pressure for perfection, accept (and enjoy!) the occasional break and just keep moving in the right direction. Progress at a rate you’re comfortable with, if you’re happy jumping in with a splash go for it! But if you’re happier dipping one toe in at a time then take it slow and steady. Remember you’re striving for consistency over perfection!

·        Track your progress
This may sound annoying but it really is priceless. Keep a journal or electronic document to record your journey. Having to record your actions keeps you accountable and allows for reflection of progress and achievement.

·        Reward desired behaviours frequently
By having achievable short-term goals (in addition to longer term outcomes) you have to opportunity to regularly reward yourself for achieving your objectives. This keeps your enthusiasm up and makes every day count.

If there’s only one thing you take away from this let it be that it’s never too late to keep trying. Don’t allow yourself to give up and wait until next years resolutions to make the effort you deserve to be your best self.

When challenges come your way take deep breaths and remember your goals. Be kind to yourself- but firm- beating yourself up isn’t a productive plan of action, it’s not going to help you reach your goals and will more than likely just make you miserable. Forgive yourself if you slip up but be firm and get back on track with your next choice- don’t let it snowball into something you will regret.

In this same positive manner of practicing kindness with yourself you always have the option to aim for 80, 90 or 99%. There’s no one standing behind you with the rules telling you what to do- if you’re happy that your goals may take a little further to get to you can always shoot for the 80/20 principle. Having a little wiggle room can make all the difference to maintaining your positive mindset.

Forget about perfection; just ask yourself- what’s the best decision I can make for me in this situation? and go with it!For example if you’re aim is to adopt a vegetarian diet but it’s all too much at first go ‘almost veg’ and take each meal as it comes. Remember to value consistency over perfection, you’re most likely focusing on year or lifelong goals that will enhance your big picture, jus take a step back if you feel overwhelmed and remember all the positive changes you’ve made to address your goal.

Whether you dip in one toe at a time and make small changes to help you achieve your goals or jump in with both feet- just keep going! Take baby steps, just focus on continuing to place one foot in front of the other. Cut yourself some slack if things don’t always go according to plan and keep moving forward!

Love and Smiles,

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