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.

 

 

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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.

2016-05-11 09.03.55

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.

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.

 

 

K.I.S.S – Applying the Principle in my Kitchen

This weekend its been about simplicity. Post a very hectic and slightly stressful week – I wanted to make delicious but easy food that would put a smile on my face.

I have a love of trying complex dishes, testing myself with new and interesting ingredients and putting something together that I would never have thought up on my own.

However – that’s all well and good when you have the energy and the time. But what about when you just want yummy food with minimal effort.

K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid). 

And thats just what I did.

I had an amazing girls night on friday night with two lovely friends and that’s what gave me the idea. We had a rice paper roll night where we all bought different ingredients and laid them on the table and just assembled and ate as we chatted and put the world to rights. At the very last minute – about 10 mins before I left the house to meet them – I decided to make a dessert as I had some random ingredients laying around that I thought might just work together….

2016-03-12 19.15.19.jpgHere’s what I made…4 Ingredient Banana Chocolate Mousse. It took me 5 minutes and that might be exaggerating. And it made enough to serve 5 small serves (at about 300 calories a pop).

How? So easy that your 10yr old could make it.

  1. 2 frozen bananas
  2. 1 bag Sweet William Chocolate Chips
  3. .75 of a tin of ayam light coconut milk
  4. 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Simply melt the choc chips in the coconut milk. Place in microwave for 40 secs (or in a saucepan) to heat the milk and then – once warm – tip in the choc chips and stir until melted. Put aside and let cool for a minute. Then chop the frozen bananas and pop into blender with the coconut milk 2016-03-12 08.38.09.jpgand maple syrup. Add the choc mix to it and blend away. It will become mousse-like in consistency. Then – simply pop into serving utensils and put in fridge to chill (if you can wait that long). So yummy and chocolately and banana-ery. Amazing. Not great if you don’t like a strong banana taste…but otherwise faultless in taste versus effort stakes. I sprinkled a handful of walnuts on top when I served them.

Inspired by the simplicity of this recipe – I then tried another dessert – just now. Having previously made ice cream in an ice cream maker – I was a little suspicious of blender-made banana ice cream. How wrong I was….will I ever go to that much effort again I wonder after the ease and taste of this dish.

Banana Ice cream (vegan):

  1. 2 frozen bananas
  2. 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  3. half cup nut milk (I used brazil because I make it at home and its my fave but any would work)
  4. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  5. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2016-03-13 14.57.01.jpgAs before – simply chop the frozen bananas then pop everything else in the blender together and blend. Bob’s your uncle. It takes about 3-4 mins to blend and the consistency will change from thick to light and fluffy. And its amazing. Why spend $$$ on buying a vegan ice cream when you can just whisk up this little bad boy at home. I think it would be awesome sprinkled with nuts or with dark choc mixed into it. I think the skys the limit here. And – what’s more – its only about 6o calories a serve with hardly any sugar in it. WINNING.

Finally – something savoury. Many many moons ago my friend Terri had a house warming party in Manly and her housemate at the time made a spinach dip that I still remember. It was creamy and yummy and served in a cob. It was also laden with cream, mayo and cheese….which probably aided the indulgent flavour. Its been years and I’ve never yet tasted a spinach dip that was its equal.

However, after looking at a bag of spinach in the fridge yesterday and thinking I was going to have to throw it away (and I HATE wasting food) or get creative I decided to google ‘spinach dips’ and to veganise one. What I came up with was so yummy that even my dairy loving hubby thought it was delish.

Creamy Vegan Spinach Dip

This was definitely the most complex of the 3 recipes cooked; however it was still achieved in under 10 mins! So I think that still counts.

  • 10 ounces fresh spinach
  • half cup cashews (raw)
  • 1 red onion (medium sized)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Half teaspoon onion powder
  • juice half lemon
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Corn starch to thicken (if you need it)
  • Teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon oil (your choice)

2016-03-12 19.18.36So…how to achieve this yummy dip (that vegans and non-vegans alike will love)

  1. Pop the cashews in your blender with half cup luke warm water and leave for 5 mins.
  2. Roughly chop the spinach, the onion and the garlic.
  3. Fry the onion gently so it doesn’t colour in 1 tablespoon coconut (or olive) oil. Then add the spinach and the garlic and gently cook until it wilts.
  4. Finally – squeeze the half lemon over the wilted spinach.
  5. Go back to your cashews. Blend the water and cashews together. Then add the nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, salt and pepper and blend again. It should be slightly thick and not runny. If its too runny feel free to add more cashews or more nutritional yeast. Just make sure its nice and smooth.
  6. Add the spinach mix into the cashew mix a bit at a time and blend merrily away until its a lurid amazing green in colour.
  7. If its too runny – mix cornstarch / cornflour with a little water in a mug and add to the mix and blend again. This will help to thicken and stabilise it.

Then simply serve…I had it hot with fresh bread – amazing. It ended up becoming dinner as I couldn’t put it down. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

So there you have it. K.I.S.S in action. I am so pleased I did. 3 yummy dishes with really minimal effort and hardly any cost (or calories). Hard to beat that combination.

Until next time. Happy blending. 

 

 

 

 

It’s getting Saucy in my Kitchen

Something I’ve not previously tried my hand at (well not a lot anyway) is marinading. I tend to eat my tofu, tempeh, seitan etc etc as it is, mostly straight from the package.

I am not sure if that’s because I am impatient, unaware or simply because we never really marinated things when I was growing up so it generally doesn’t occur to me.

So – this week – I decided to try my hand at some sauces – new ways of cooking ingredients that I haven’t previously tried. When I started this vegan adventure it was all about what I gained and not what i’d lost – and so (with this in mind) I decided it was high time I challenged myself again and threw myself wholeheartedly into the strange, new and untested.

Here’s what I made:

  • Balsamic tempeh marinade
  • Sweet ricotta tofu paste
  • Jalapeno chipotle Dressing

Not all at the same time and certainly not in the same meal.

All three of them have been a massive hit and have been used copiously this week (in fact I’ve eaten the marinated tempeh for every main meal – quite literally. Its sauce-sational (sorry).

I’ve learned that marinated tempeh / tofu pays huge dividends for the tastebuds and that – now its out there – I won’t be going back. Much as I love tofu in its pure state – this marinade wipes the floor with anything else I have tried thus far.

I’ve also learned that tofu doesn’t need to be a savoury flavour. The sweet ricotta tofu has been amazing on toast with banana for brekky and a welcome replacement to ricotta which I used to use.

Finally – as a former LOVER of chipotle – I am now delighted to have found a sauce thats as creamy as an aioli and just as tasty.

I can’t claim these recipes for my own. I had help with some genius vegan cooks whose recipes I found on Google and added some little twists of my own to shape them to my tastebuds.

If ever you are in doubt – get your sauce on – I feel like a new door to a world of amazing flavours has just opened and I am happy to walk through it.

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Sweet Ricotta Tofu (served on toast with mashed banana and drizzle maple syrup and small handful of pepitas)

  • 100gm firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • Pinch himalayan pink salt

So simple – just blend it all up and pop into a tupperware and serve whenever you want – it will keep for about a week happily before it’s time to say goodbye. This one is my own recipe.

Marinated Balsamic, Maple and Garlic Tempeh

2016-02-21 09.59.07.jpgThis one is courtesy of the amazing Angela Liddon and her ‘Oh She Glows’ Cookbook (which I love). The only difference to the original recipe is my addition of coconut aminos (below)

  • 300gm plain tempeh
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons tamari
  • 4 teaspoons coconut aminos
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Pinch himalayan pink salt

Take the tempeh out of the package and pat it dry. Then chop into about 16 bite size pieces. Pop into a glass tupperware container. Then blend all the other ingredients together and 2016-02-21 18.45.37.jpgpour over the tempeh. Pop the lid onto the pot and give it a really hearty shake. Then pop in the fridge for about 6-8 hours and occasionally pick it up and shake it to make sure all covered. Once marinated – turn oven onto about 150C and get out a baking tray. Into that tray add a base of tinfoil / alufoil. Bend over the sides of it to shape a basket that would hold liquid happily. Into this ‘basket’ pour the tempeh and it’s marinade. Cover the basket with a foil lid and pop into the oven and bake for about 20 mins. After this time has passed, remove the lid and bake without it for a further 20 – 30 mins or until most of the sauce has dissipated and you are left with a sort of caramelised mess on the base of the foil and lovely semi sticky tempeh. I served this with a fresh vegetable stir-fry one night and with roasted sesame carrots and cauliflower another. Its really versatile and utterly delicious.

Creamy Chipotle Saucy Goodness

This one was a combo of a recipe that popped up on Facebook on a vegan cooking group page and my own little twist. The original recipe is here.

2016-02-21 09.26.41.jpgI love chipotle sauce on corn cobs but, as it turns out, I will actually eat it on anything. This is super tasty and works on salads, roasted / steamed veg, mashed potato, veggie sausages and so on (the list might actually be limitless – it’s that good).

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas (I actually used butter beans as I prefer their texture and flavour and my belly prefers them)
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tbsp tahini (I use hulled)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp sea salt
2  1/2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1  1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp Tabasco brand (I actually used slightly more to taste as I wanted to offset the sweetness of the maple)
1/4 cup water, or more to thin as desired
3-5 marinated pickled jalapeños(I use the Sandhurst brand)

Simply blend it all until its a creamy consistency and has the right balance of sweetness and heat…add more jalapeños or tabasco to taste (and if you are feeling brave). Serve generously on everything (!!)

And that’s it folks….a week of sauces and blending. Next up…yummy homemade desserts.

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.