Saturday Night Treats – Two Happy Tummys

I hate being vegan…I never have anything tasty to eat. Its basically all lettuce and dust (for the little Britain fans out there!)

This couldn’t be farther from the truth…as I now find myself nearly 2.5yrs vegan one thing I’ve noticed is that my tastebuds are constantly firing as new or interesting flavours surprise them. I can truly say that the last 2.5yrs have been nothing but an opportunity for me as I have tried more different foods on a regular basis and challenged myself to cook and try more things that I probably did in the previous years combined. When I became vegan I said I wasn’t going to focus on what i’d lost (re cheese lamentation) and instead focus on what I’d gained.

I have gained so much. I couldn’t be more thankful for my dear friend Elsie who challenged me to go down this road with her. I consider my lifestyle change to be a blessing.

This weekend saw a few firsts…I ate my first fresh fig in nearly ten years and couldn’t figure out why I’d ever stopped. They are amazing. I caught up with a dear friend who I haven’t really been able to catch up with for a while and she has recently become dairy free and it was so wonderful to have that time together. And I made the most sensational (sorry to sing my own praises) dinner for my husband and I on Saturday night.

I made us a creamy pumpkin soup with a baked cashew camembert. I have to say, genuinely, I could have kept eating it until I made myself unwell.

I am a sucker for a pumpkin soup as is my hubby. The baked camembert was a first. The soup is a staple. If you are keen to try the camembert…check out Bosh on Facebook and scroll through their page. I literally saw it on Saturday morning and basically fantasised about it all day deciding to make it that same evening. I can’t share the recipe for that as it was in a video with no URL but it wouldn’t be hard to find. Search for Camembosh! It was absolutely worth the 5 mins it took me to blend it and the 20 mins of baking for the end result. Its pretty garlicky though…so be warned if you aren’t a fan.

So my soup…I thought I’d share this love-filled, heart-warmer with you all. As that’s the only way to make it, with love.

Jac’s Pumpkin Soup

  • half pumpkin – sliced and de-seeded
  • 1 brown onion – chopped for frying
  • 2 red skinned potatoes – chopped for roasting – but smaller than you would usually for roasting
  • 5 garlic cloves whole – for roasting
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch paprika
  • pinch tumeric
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped – for frying
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 1 carton soy / rice cream
  • 1 cup soy milk (or oat if you can’t have soy)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Peanut or coconut oil for roasting
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • Tablespoon sugar (Any kind)
  • tablespoon vegan butter for frying

Pop the oven on to about 180, fan based. Put the pumpkin, potatoes and garlic in a baking tray (with tinfoil or non stick under them) and cover with about a tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt. Make sure covered. Pop in over to roast for about 40 minutes (check once and shake them around a bit.)

Whilst roasting, fry off the onions and carrots in the butter (onions first until nearly clear and a little browned for flavour). Into the pan pop the turmeric and fry the veg until a nice golden brown yellow colour. Pop onto a very low heat until the roasting veggies are done. Once done – add them to the pan and immediately add the stock and the other herbs. Plus two bay leaves. Make sure the veggies are covered and add more stock if required to cover.

Let this delicious mix simmer away on a low heat for about 30 minutes to soften the potatoes completely and for the flavours to infuse.

Post this point add in the soy milk and stir. I then blend straight away – I keep it all in the pan and use a stick blender. Once blended I then add the soy cream and the salt and pepper to taste. I also add the tablespoon of sugar (use whatever variety you prefer it really doesn’t matter). The flavour just helps to bring out the pumpkin.

Then I pop it back on the hob, on number 1 (the lowest temp) and leave it for another 30 minutes to simmer gently away and to let the flavours settle. I usually make this a little ahead of time as it gets better after a few hours. So – if you can, turn the heat off, and leave it cooling on the hob with a lid on for 3-4 hours. Serve later that same day with toasted french stick (or whatever bread you like with your soup) and the camembosh.

Truly truly yummy.

I hope you enjoy it!

And remember, this is another example of what you gain as a vegan rather than what you lose. There is absolutely no reason why this lifestyle choice should mean you compromise on your tastebuds or your health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celebrating two years a vegan with…hummus

So…just quietly, I am celebrating two years of my vegan journey. I can’t believe its been two years…seriously, where have the last two years gone?

And what better way to celebrate it, from a self-confessed, and obsessed, hummus eater, than with, well, hummus! Wine is so passe! Ha.

Whilst scrolling through Pinterest for food inspiration the other evening, I stumbled upon what might well be the most brilliant of all combinations….hummus with peanut butter. My curiousity was immediately piqued and I straightaway decided that a supermarket run was in order.

The recipe I talk of is not mine, I can’t claim any ownership for it, but I do want to share the love as its simply amazing. I have eaten FAR too much of it the last few days as it makes an amazing accompaniment to a buddha bowel. Tops it off perfectly.

The recipe is from a food blogger called fooduzzi and its genius. Its a thai, sriracha, peanut butter based hummus. http://www.fooduzzi.com/2016/03/thai-peanut-hummus/

WOW. Is all I can say. I followed the recipe to the exact quantities thinking, this might be odd or this might be amazing, as I did it. And it was the latter. Who would have thought that peanut butter could be a hummus ingredient…the question now is, can I use it every time I make hummus? Not sure my thighs would agree it was a good idea but my tastebuds definitely do.

20170105_162642.jpgIt took less than 5 minutes to make and went from blender to mouth in under that…

Here’s my delicious dinner buddha bowl complete with it. Yummy roasted beetroot and sweet potato, with hummus, peanuts, spring onion, raw zucchini, cherry tomatoes and Avo.

Marvellous.

Happy Thursday all.

 

 

Oooey Gooey Melty Love

Life is good.

Since taking the advice of the Vegan Cheese Lovers group on Facebook and purchasing the Non-Dairy Evolution Cookbook my relationship with vegan cheese has changed beyond recognition.

After spending months as a new vegan lamenting the absence of cheese in my life and buying terrible plastic ‘wannabees’ in the supermarket, after spending months trialling and trying to make my own cheeses based off recipes I had found on Google (and failing miserably), I now feel like I have achieved fully fledged bonafide vegan cheese-maker status. Its a pretty amazing feeling.

2016-08-10 06.35.43.jpgI’ve made about 6 recipes from the book and each one has been amazing. Amazing in different ways – some have kicked ass with their flavours being so close to dairy cheese they caused a happy dance in the kitchen, whilst others have just been divine in their own right.

The latest experiment from the book was the brie (recipe to follow). I have to confess its not my fave of all the flavours BUT what it does have going for it is that it melts. Its ooey and gooey and actually melts like dairy cheese under the grill and even browns off a little. I had it for brekky yesterday with tomatoes and popped it under the grill and I was grinning from ear to ear.

The man who wrote this book is quite possibly someone I could begin to hero worship.

So…to the recipe and to the cheese. I know that’s what you really want….

Seriously – if you are into this sort of thing and you fancy having a go…I recommend you buy this book. Its a ninja game-changer. I’ll never buy vegan cheese again unless my back’s against the wall.

Ingredients:

  • 2tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup refined (or normal…refined just has less coconut flavour) coconut oil
  • 1.33 cups almond / soy (I use my homemade nut milk)
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon mellow white miso paste
  • 1.25 teaspoons kappa carrageenan
  • 1 tsp himalayan pink salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon truffle oil

2016-08-10 06.35.21.jpgThe recipe is in the book – re the process – it doesn’t feel right to share it for the world when this man has spent this amazing amount of time creating these recipes. The only thing I would change – and will next time I make it – is the truffle oil. It was too strong for me and overpowered the cheese entirely. I love truffle flavour but I found it too much in this cheese. I would have reduced the truffle slightly (by half probably) and added in 1/4 teaspoon onion powder to balance it I think. That’s what I will do next time.

What a wonderful world we live in – where we can eat something so alike to dairy cheeses without any of the pain, suffering, forced separation or pollution. If only it were this way around and that non-dairy cheeses were the norm and dairy was the minority. I dream of the day. As would the cows and the calves if they knew, I imagine.

Happy cheese making everyone!

 

 

What do vegans eat?

After the question about where I get my protein and the question about whether I miss bacon…this is the next biggest question I get from the curious is, ‘what do you eat?’ Usually followed with, ‘it must be really hard to figure out what to cook. You must have to really think about it.’

It always interests me this question. I think its, of all the questions about my diet, the one I like the most. Because it has healthy connotations and is devoid of judgement (unlike those about missing bacon whether I am lacking in iron and protein).

I can genuinely understand people’s bemusement and concern about what they would feed a vegan. I have seen the panic/fear in people’s eyes about the thought of trying to cook for me (to which I usually suggest a simple, easy stir-fry).

Its easier when you have already transitioned from vegetarian to vegan because you’ve already got used to thinking about substituting, different flavours, different ingredients and work-arounds. Plus, being vegetarian in now socially accepted and much easier to cater for as a meat-eater because you just chuck in some cheese or a fake sausage and you are good.

However, catering for a vegan requires a whole new ninja level train of thought – take out the butter, the eggs, the milk, the cream, the cheese, the honey, the ice cream, the chocolate…and I can understand why most people would freak out to varying degrees about the thought of cooking for me.

So – I thought I’d spend some time thinking about answering that question, what is it that I eat…

This blog is a collection of some of my fave meals over the last week; breakfast, lunch and dinner (recipes on request should you be remotely interested in them) in an attempt to demonstrate the variety of food that I eat and how easy it is to cook for and eat as a vegan.

Let’s start with the brekky options...these were my three fave breakfasts in the last week. They were packed with flavour and colourful. I am not really a marmite on toast or cereal kind of ‘cat’ unless I have no choice (and most people in my life know that I will pretty much eat anything for breakfast…so you might find these a little odd).

What about lunch? What did I have for  lunch this week that I really enjoyed? Some highlights included the below vegan quiche and especially my take on San Choi Bau.

Finally…dinner. Some delish meals in the last week which were fairly easy to cook and with a great variety of flavours.

And finally, an almond tart I made for myself for my birthday! My hubby wasn’t keen but he doesn’t like almond essence – but I really enjoyed it. It took about 10 mins to prep and then 50 in the oven…easy easy easy.

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All of these meals were packed with flavour. Easy to prepare and cook and delish to eat.

I hope that this has given you some inspiration whether its as a new vegan, as a
meat-eater trying to figure out what the hell to cook for a vegan or as someone who is thinking about making the leap to being vegan.

Its not bland, its not boring, its not colourless or lacking in flavour. In fact – I think its some of the best damn food I’ve ever eaten.

Here’s to our tastebuds.

Vegan Bacon, yep you heard me right

Ok so let’s start by saying…(for all the meat-eaters who will think this is ridic) that its not really like bacon except its cut into long strips and that it has a smoky taste.

However, let’s also qualify (for all the vegos and vegans out there) – that this sh** is delish.

I actually don’t miss bacon. I’ve never missed bacon. I will never miss bacon. Since the day I became a vegetarian in 1992 I haven’t given bacon a second thought and I’ve never understand the lamentation over missing it. I don’t even think it smells nice when its being cooked. So…its not like I’ve been pining for bacon for 24 years and trying to figure out how to replicate it. Quite the opposite.

2016-04-11 18.03.11.jpgHowever, I spied this recipe the other day on someone’s blog and I thought…hmm, that sounds tasty, I have some tempeh in the fridge, let’s give it a whirl.

So I tried it. It was really really easy. Obviously waaaaaay better for you than actual bacon (and clearly, way better for the pig who doesn’t have to die for the benefit of someone’s tastebuds).

I totally recommend you try this at home. I thought this would last me for days as I made 21 slices of it out of my 1.5 blocks of tempeh…however it was so tasty it only lasted me for 3 days as I basically had 3 slices of it for every meal (I couldn’t leave it alone).

2016-04-11 18.03.27.jpgSo here is the recipe and the process:

  • Tempeh (300 g) – I use the nutrisoy brand which I love
  • 2 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for the marinade
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil for frying the bacon
  • 1.5 tbsp maple syrup
  • ½ tsp red hot sauce
  • 2 tsp liquid smoke flavouring
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
PROCESS:
  1. Slice the tempeh as thin as you can without it falling apart.
  2. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the salt) in a bowl. Soak the tempeh slices in the marinade for 15 minutes. If there is not enough mixture to cover make up some extra and pour over. You really want them to soak it all up.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, add the tempeh and cook for 3-4 minutes each side over high heat until both sides are browned and crisp. This took me longer than expected. Persevere with it as otherwise it will be soggy and not quite as amazing as you want it to be.
  4. Lay cooked tempeh on paper towel to cool. Add salt to taste.

I had this on toast with avo for brekky, I had it chopped up in a salad for lunch, I had it with roasted potatoes and steamed veg…it literally went with everything!

My fave had to be as part of a fresh and delish buddha bowl that I served up with my lovely friend Elsie as we sat and ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ our way through it!

2016-04-11 18.32.33.jpgSuper satisfying. In summary, get some tempeh and get this stuff cooking.

Your tastebuds will absolutely thank you for it. 

Once again, thanks to the simple vegan blog for this fantastic recipe and share.

How I learned more about vegan nutrition in the last 5 months than I thought possible

I am happy. Really happy.

Today I got my results through from the docs of my most recent blood tests. After 1 year of being vegan I had my bloods done as I wanted to know I wasn’t deficient in the big stuff, you know, the stuff everyone thinks vegans are deficient in…B12 and Iron. And…I was super happy in November when I discovered I was mid range and in the healthy range for everything.

However, I’ve been seeing a nutritionist since then and she felt I could still improve in my results. The woman is a legend, and has taught me so much about what I could eat more of and how to balance all of the nutrients I need in my diet.

Today, I got another set of results back, after a further 5 months and I am beaming. Literally beaming. I can’t stop smiling. 

Not only have my results improved, but they have improved dramatically. To well above the mid-range and into the upper range.

Check them out below….my iron levels have gone from 16.8 back in 2013 as a vegetarian to 29.6 as a vegan (the range is from 5.0 – 30.0) so I am almost literally at the top of the range).

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My vitamin B12 has gone from 262 as a vegetarian in 2013 to 460 now in 2016 as a vegan (healthy range is deemed to be 135 – 650). I am over the moon. Quite literally.

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Amanda Ford, of Zest and Zing has done wonders with my diet. SO much amazing advice and such great tips. If you read my last blog and enjoyed it (click here to read) on the ultimate vegan shopping list….it works. And whatever you think about nutritionists versus dietitians etc etc….its hard to question these results. I am so pleased.

And its not just on paper. I feel amazing. I have so much energy, my nails are strong, my hair is shiny and my skin is clear. Who could argue with it.

Its been a journey and I’ve had to really apply some thinking and research to my diet. Its not like being vegetarian, or eating meat, you do need to think, really think, about what you are eating and how it’s sustaining you. But its worth it, really worth it. I am worth it. I am so pleased with all of the research I did, reading I did, and the assistance of this amazing woman.

To any doubters of the vegan diet out there…here’s the proof. You can be vegan without being unhealthy, skinny, unwell, sickly and all those other stereotypes that the meat matrix would have you believe. You are what you eat and I am living it and loving it and hope to go from strength to strength. Glass of wine in hand. Celebrating.

Love and chickpeas all.

 

 

My Ultimate Vegan Shopping List

Since October last year I’ve been seeing a nutritionist locally in Dee Why (Zest and Zing). Its been a really interesting journey. It was all prompted by my decision to get my bloods checked by my GP to see how my body was coping with the vegan diet..e.g was I deficient in anything, how were my levels of iron / B12 / Zinc/ Magnesium etc.

Whilst I was delighted that everything was in the normal range…I had an inkling that things could still be improved. I have never felt healthier than I do with my vegan lifestyle, however I still wanted reassurance that my body agreed with me and was intrigued to find out what I could do better to make sure my system was healthy and flourishing.

So, here’s what I found out.…although all my ranges were healthy and normal, they were still lower than the nutritionist would like them to be. She felt that the protein levels in my muscles could improve, that my iron / B12 / Magnesium / Zinc / Iodine and Vitamin D could also do with a little attention.

Whilst complimenting me on my diet and encouraging me that I was one of the most informed and healthiest vegans she had met (which obviously made me smile), she still was frank in her statement that there was work to do regardless.

And so we embarked on a journey together…

Not only have I started taking supplements recommended by her, but I have made some real changes in my diet to help with a longer term approach to ensure I am ingesting what I need to enable my body to do what it needs.

So, I thought I’d share the benefit of the wisdom I have learned with you all. Whether you are embarking on a vegan diet or are simply trying to fine tune an already successful healthy vegan lifestyle – you may find this useful or interesting.

I now have a ‘must eat‘ list of weekly foods that I try to incorporate in my weekly shop, my weekly meals and to stock in my pantry. This helps me to maintain the right balance of nutrients & minerals that my body needs.

Apparently Australia is one of the most magnesium and iodine deficient countries in the western world. Hard to believe isn’t it? But I am so grateful that I am now aware of this.

So, what’s on my list and why? Here it is
for your benefit. As a heads up – where an ingredient repeats as regards its nutrients I haven’t repeated it on the list below. I didn’t see the point in having things listed twice so some of these actually fit under a number of the headings but although I recognise that I’ve decided to K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) as I find it easier to work with that way.

Amino Acids:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • peanuts
  • legumes / pulses
  • Spirulina
  • Soy Protein
  • Sesame seeds
  • Udo oil (not a necessity but I use it as a salad dressing)

Vitamin B12:

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Marmite / vegemite

Folate:

  • Lentils
  • Parsley
  • Limes
  • Hazelnuts
  • Spinach
  • chives
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Raspberries / Strawberries

Vitamin C:

  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Red Pepper
  • Banana
  • Chilli
  • Lemon

Omegas and Selenium:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Pine nuts
  • Walnuts

Calcium:

  • Tofu
  • Cinnamon
  • Oregano
  • Tahini
  • Almonds

Copper:

  • Cashew Nuts

Iron:

  • Tempeh
  • Coriander
  • Sun-dried Tomatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Unhulled sesame
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pistachios
  • Silverbeet / collard greens
  • Quinoa

Magnesium:

  • Curry Powder
  • Mustard Powder
  • Passionfruit
  • Prunes
  • Shallots
  • Dark Chocolate

Potassium:

  • Apple
  • Avocado
  • Celery
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potato

Iodine:

  • Cocoa Powder
  • Cacao powder

Zinc:

  • Walnuts
  • Garlic
  • Basil

So my theory is simple. I don’t need to worry about how much I eat of what. I just need to make sure that each week, as best I can, and with obvious awareness of what’s seasonal at the time, I get something from each of these groups and have as much variety as possible.

There’s no need to worry about percentages of fat or sugar or carbs etc in my diet. I just need to eat all the right foods, with the right nutrients and make sure all my major groups are covered, and the rest will look after itself.

Honestly, I think I know so much more now about nutrition than I ever did as a vegetarian. I love that being vegan forces you to be aware and that you need to consider all of these things. Knowledge is power after all and I certainly feel empowered with this knowledge.

I hope you find this useful too. It certainly helped me to get a good overview of what I need to do to maintain a healthy weight and to encourage balance in my body.

On a final note, and inspired by my lessons learned here is what I made for dinner:

(Serves 1): Broccoli, Pepita and Pumpkin Salad (with homemade aquafaba basil mayo…see earlier blog)

  • 1 bunch broccolini (steamed)
  • Handful fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon pepitas
  • Half fresh spring onion chopped
  • 30g mini gherkins chopped finely
  • 1 cup cubed baked pumpkin (no oil)
  • Pinch himalayan pink salt
  • tablespoon liquid aminos (you could use tahini instead)
  • Lime zest from fresh lime
  • 45g semi dried tomatoes
  • pinch nutritional yeast

orange-broccoli-salad.jpgServe all on a plate with a little of the mayo drizzled over the top. It looks a little like this (just with pumpkin instead of orange…I forgot to take a pic! Doh).

Delish. Nutritious. Healthy. Balanced.

= Happy vegan.