I like sweets, that’s no secret. Sweet treats are my favourite things to create (and eat) in the kitchen. Sugar, however doesn’t sit well with me – once I start eating sugar, I can’t stop, and the crash that follows a sugar-fest is not pretty at all. Not to mention skin problems, mood swings – the list goes on. Natural sugars like fruit, and less refined forms of the white stuff are OK – just not in massive amounts.
I’m actually a huge fan of stevia and alternative sweeteners that are derived from natural sources. Stevia is one of my all-time favourites – I use it daily and do not experience any sugar-crash-like symptoms from including it in my diet. It doesn’t taste exactly like sugar though, and that’s something you have to be aware of. If you go into tasting an alternative sweetener imaging sugar – then you may be confused/disappointed at your findings. It took me a few goes to get used to stevia (plant extract) erythriotl (plant extract) xylitol (plant fibre)- and stevia is definitely my favourite of the three.
Different brands taste different – a lot of people try stevia and declare it “fake tasting,” and “bitter” – and a lot of stevia-based products DO taste like this. I have found that shopping around, and trying different brands has helped me discover the best tasting products. I have been lucky enough to receive a few products from the Natvia range recently (I received these products for free, in exchange for my thoughts) I had already tried this alternative sweetener which is a blend of stevia and erythritol (we even use it at the cafe I work at). I do like this product – it’s not quite as strong as straight stevia, so I find I have to use a little more than I would if I were using a product that was 100% stevia. The first few tastes took a little getting used to, but as I said – don’t think of it as SUGAR, and don’t expect it to taste exactly the same. It’s a really good product to use in baking that calls for a granulated sweetener, not to mention in hot drinks, sauces etc.
If you need to cut down/out sugar for any health reasons, then I think alternative sweeteners can really help lessen the SUGAR cravings….. a sugar-crutch if you will.
Warm Spiced Pumpkin Slice
(Vegan: gluten/wheat/nut/refined sugar/grain free)
This is a very simple slice – it is best served warm, more like a pudding (or breakfast!) – it will dry out after a few days. I serve this with a rich carob-cashew cream that really gives this healthy slice a bit of decadence, minus the sugar and refined ingredients!
- 2C roasted pumpkin pieces (slow roast your pumpkin in the oven for the ultimate sweet flavour)
- 1C buckwheat flour (ground from raw buckwheat groats – I use a small spice/coffee grinder, but a food processor or high speed blender will work too)
- 3T ground flax seed
- 1/4t sea salt
- 1t vanilla extract
- 2t ground cinnamon
- 1/4t ground ginger
- Pinch of nutmeg, pinch of ground cloves
- 1/2C Natvia
- 1/2C full fat coconut milk
- 2T coconut oil
- 1t baking powder
- 1/4t baking soda
*Optional: Throw in 1/2C “add-ins” – think raisins/chocolate chips/cranberries.
- Pre heat oven to 170 degrees C on fan bake setting.
- Throw everything into the food processer – except baking agents – (make your buckwheat flour FIRST!) and pulse/blend until very smooth.
- Add baking powder/soda and mix through the batter.
- Either using a spring form cake-tin or a baking tray lined with baking paper (depends on what shape you want) – scoop mix in. The slice should end up at about 2-3cm high (it doesn’t rise at all, really). I used a 20cm/10cm baking tray lined with baking paper.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean, and the slice is golden brown.
- Cool a littler before removing from the pan. I cut mine into small “cake” rounds using a large cookie cutter (trying to tempt the toddler to eat).
- Serve warm with the following cream.
Carob Cashew Cream
(Vegan: gluten/wheat/grain/refined sugar free)
- 1/2C soaked cashews, rinsed and drained (soak for at least 4 hours – better still, overnight)*
- 2T Natvia
- 2T carob powder (or cocoa/cacao)
- 1t vanilla extract
- 1/4t sea salt
- 1t lemon juice
- Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz until smooth and creamy (scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Store extra in the fridge.
This cream will firm up in the fridge.
*If you happen to be nut sensitive, this would be a delicious alternative topping
This slice is so good served warm with the cashew cream….. definitely best eaten on the day it was made (it tends to dry out after 2 or more days). I have, however eaten it a few days after baking, and it just needs a very generous slathering of cashew cream to combat the dryness. Not complaining about that.
So my thoughts on Natvia are pretty positive – it’s a great option for an alternative sweetener that is easily accessible (sold at most local supermarkets like Woolworths or Coles). It works really well in baking, and to my taste buds, doesn’t have that weird bitter taste that is prevalent in a lot of similar products. My advice is to let yourself get used to the taste of alternative sweeteners – don’t expect them to taste like sugar/honey/maple syrup etc – they take a little to adjust too.
Everything in moderation, right? I like to change it up in regards to sweeteners – my favourites would be medjool dates, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, coconut sugar and stevia – how about you?
It’s funny, when your kid first starts eating food (the solid stuff) it’s kind of amazing. Misty would eat anything…. pureed spinach & broccoli, my kooky millet-creations, home made teething rusks, you name it, the kid would eat it. Then it’s like a switch goes off around the 2 year mark, and your previously “I will eat ANYthing,” child turns into Fussy Mr. NoIDon’tWantAnyTypeOfSauceToEvenGoAnywhereNearMyRice. Frustrating.
Some days, Misty doesn’t eat. Oh, he will DRINK close to anything, but eat any solid food? You’re joking, right? Thank goodness for smoothies – I can blend anything into one and he will guzzle it down…ask the boy to chew though, and you are just tempting a tantrum. I suppose it’s an age thing – Misty has realised his own decision-making power, and is beginning to work out what he does and does not like. Perfectly normal and acceptable. I think kids actually have a really good grasp on intuitive eating – they eat when they are hungry and reject stuff they don’t like/are not hungry for. I really don’t get that “You will sit at the table until you finish EVERYTHING” mentality. Yes, of course kids need boundaries, but force feeding a toddler is not my style….. Misty will eat when he is hungry enough.
Misty is a grazer…. he prefers to have a bunch of snacks during the day instead of 3 set meals. Suits me, as that’s the way my eating-style rolls too. When he does decide to eat, I try and get as much nutritional value in as possible….. the following cake/slice has been a big hit. It’s high in protein and good fats, low in sugar and even involves some fruit.
The cake itself is not vegan – Misty (and Viper, on occasion) eats eggs, but the icing/frosting is vegan-friendly. I would highly recommend making a double batch of icing, and eating it as “fudge” on it’s own – when it is chilled it goes wonderfully firm. I’ll take icing over cake ANY day…. or maybe I’m just the fussy one?
Cinnamon-Raisin Cake with Carob-Peanut Fudge Frosting
(Grain/Wheat/Gluten/Dairy/Refined sugar free)
- 2C almond meal
- 2t ground cinnamon
- 1/4C rapadura sugar (or your favourite granulated sugar)
- 1/8t sea salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1C apple puree
- 1t vanilla extract
- 1t baking powder
- 1/2C raisins
- Pre heat oven to 170 degrees, fan bake.
- Whisk together eggs, vanilla and sugar.
- Combine almond meal, cinnamon, salt, and raisins in a mixing bowl.
- Add wet mix to dry, and finally fold through baking powder
- Pour into a lined baking dish, or silicone mould. I use a silicone pie dish which results in a cake that isn’t too high – around 2cm. If you want a smaller, higher cake, you may need to adjust the cooking time – just insert a skewer in the middle, when it comes out clean it is done.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Cool the cake completely before icing with the following recipe.
Carob Peanut Fudge Frosting
(Vegan:Gluten/Wheat/Grain/Refined sugar free)
- 1/4C soft coconut oil
- 1/4C peanut butter (I used crunchy, unsalted)*
- 1/8t sea salt (if using unsalted peanut butter)
- 1t vanilla extract
- 3T carob powder**
- 1T hot water
- 3T brown rice syrup***
*If you have a peanut sensitivity, tahini is a delicious substitution.
**Cocoa/cacao can be used instead.
***Or your favourite liquid sweetener – maply syrup, honey, coconut nectar etc.
- Mix all ingredients together well – the hot water will help get things moving.
- Spread on top of cake – or eat as is….. use as a topping for oatmeal, spread on fruit slices/toast/rice crackers. This fudge frosting will be soft at room temperature, but if you chill it, will firm up so it is more of a “fudgey” texture.
That little head in the background agreed with this offering. Hoo-ray.
Do you have a fussy child? Or are YOU the fussy one in your household!? If we are being honest here – I’m probably WAY more fussy than Misty, but I’m the adult here, right? I have ways of defending myself!
Sometimes I find myself asking – ‘what more can I do!?’ I eat super healthy, exercise, supplement, sleep enough, meditate – you know, all that jazz. Yet, I still get sick all.the.time, and I have a list of ailments as long as my arm. Argh.
I know people that eat a shocking diet, drink 2 cases of beer a week, and consider walking to the fridge to get another cold one their exercise, and they NEVER get sick. Argh.
I suppose it’s safe to say that you can try you best in the “health” sense, but genetics and constitution really get to play the final card. Frustrating to say the least. We are just seeing the light after 3 weeks of constant sickness here – I know that having a toddler (disease sponge) doesn’t help my chances of staying healthy through Winter, but I can try my hardest in terms of diet and lifestyle. I shudder to think what I would be like if I didn’t look after myself.
At the moment, I am trying to keep life simple – not over complicating everything. Same goes with my food. Simple is good (and less time messing up the kitchen). Maybe it’s the cooler mornings, and me craving something a little ‘stick to your ribs,’ style, but I have been loving a very simple (huge) breakfast bowl of 1c oats, 1 huge banana chopped into it, salt and coconut kefir. So simple, so filling, and it seems to agree with my body. Hoo-frickin’-ray.
I work nights which makes life a little hectic at the best of times – especially when it comes to food preparation. I try to leave something nutritious for the boys, and hope there will be leftovers for me when I get home. Quick and simple is my mantra – but it also helps to have a little secret weapon in the flavour department: herbal sea salt.
When you are stretched for time, a little container of this stuff is a godsend – an instant flavour boost, with no need for stock or complicated seasoning combinations. It’s all done for you. This brand is my favourite, but there a plenty available at both supermarkets and health food stores these days.
On the topic of quick, simple and nutritious (not to mention CHEAP) you can never go past soup. A big pot will last a few meals, and for fussy toddlers, it’s also great served over rice or pasta.
Simple Pumpkin Soup
(Vegan: gluten/wheat/grain/refined sugar free)
- 1kg sweet pumpkin (think Jap or buttercup varieties OR kabocha squash for you on the flip side)
- 2 medium red onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 4C water
- 2 400g cans of chickpeas (I used salted) – drained and rinsed well
- 2t Herbamare (or any herbal sea salt blend – you may eed to adjust seasoning to taste though)
- 1/4t regular sea salt
- 1/4t white pepper
- Black Pepper to taste (I like a very inappropriate amount)
- Combine pumpkin, onion, garlic, water in a saucepan.
- Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, and then cook until all veggies are super tender.
- Pop the lid on, turn off the heat, and let it cool down.
- Blend up the veggies with chickpeas and seasoning.
Serve as is…. hearty, thick and comforting. Of course, I never practise what I preach – Viper has been missing dairy-based condiments, so I made him a batch of cashew “sour cream” to dollop on top. Not essential, no, but SO good.
Raw Cashew “Sour Cream”
(Vegan: RAW/gluten/wheat/refined sugar/grain free)
- 1 & 1/4C raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours – then drained and rinsed well.
- 2t apple cider vinegar
- 4t lemon juice
- 1/2t sea salt
- Approximately 3/4C water for blending
- Whizz all ingredients together in the food processor – you could use a blender, but I would double the recipe, as it isn’t a huge amount, and could be annoying to scrape out of a large blender. Blend until super smooth and creamy – adding water as needed.
- Adding herbs (think basil/parsley/shallots) is great if you want something with a little more oomph. 1/4C fresh should do the trick.
Of course, you simply cannot have soup without some sort of bread. I know I’ve been talking about this “no-knead,” bread for awhile – it’s just awesome. It’s the easiest thing I have ever baked, plus Viper reckons it’s the best bread ever…. it’s just that I have run out of time, and the work whistle is blowing.
Apologies, apologies, but such splendid bread deserves a dedicated post, and to spend any more time clacking keys would result in tardiness, which is not my style.
Anyway, the moral of the story is, keep things simple – and don’t place EVERY health intention on your diet…. eating clean & wholesome definitely helps, but it’s not the divine answer a lot claim it to be.
Who broke the cookies from the cookie jar? MISTY broke the cookies from the cookie jar. Argh.
Anyway, a few days ago, I was inspired to make cookies. Cookies aren’t my favourite thing to make, and so I rarely partake in the art. This day was different though – I was playing around with spelt flour, and felt the urge to make cookies. Misty generally loves anything “cookie” shape, so I thought I would make us all a treat, while trying out a new flour. Spelt flour was an impulse buy – no real dietary reason for the purchase, I simply wanted to try something new. Spelt still contains gluten, but is apparently more easily digested, and is higher in protein & B vitamins than traditional wheat.
These cookies turned out really nicely – they are amazing straight out of the oven (aren’t all cookies?) but after two days (I know, how did chocolate chunk cookies last that long in my house?) they had dried out a bit. Misty decided to swipe the whole container off the bench, smashing them to pieces. Bugger.
It’s no secret I hate to waste food, so if you you hang around until the end of the post, I will tell you how to create something delicious from a toddler-induced disaster.
Vegan Chocolate Chunk Spelt Cookies
(Vegan, wheat/nut/refined sugar free)
- 1 & 1/8C white spelt flour *
- 1/8t sea salt
- 1t baking powder
- 100g dark chocolate, cut into chunks
- 1/2C soft coconut oil – soft, not liquid (place in the fridge if necessary)
- 1/3C brown rice syrup (or alternative liquid sweetener)
- 1t vanilla extract
*If you are gluten sensitive, almond meal would be a good substitution here.
- Pre heat oven to 170 degrees C fan bake. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Combine flour, baking powder, chocolate and salt in a mixing bowl.
- Whip together rice syrup, vanilla and honey until well combined.
- Fold wet mix into dry, and either using clean, wet hands or spoons – shape into cookie shapes and place on your prepared tray.
- Bake for 12 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Best eaten within 2 days of making.
After eating about 1/2 of the batch, Misty (destroyer of all things) decided to take his frustration out on the remaining baked goods. Disaster. There is no denying the delicious-ness of cookies, even in crumb-form, so I decided to re-purpose them into a fudge-type slice. Obviously, you don’t need to make the spelt cookies just to try out the fudge recipe – use any cookies you like/have on hand.
Cookie Crumb Fudge
(Vegan, wheat/nut/refined sugar free)
- 2C cookie crumbs/broken cookie pieces (obviously, the flavour of the end fudge will vary according to what cookies you use)
- 1/2C kefir*
- 4T coconut butter
*I used coconut kefir, but if you eat dairy, cow milk kefir would be fine. Alternatively you could use 1/2C non dairy or dairy yoghurt to get the pro biotic factor into your fudge. 1/3C milk plus 2 pro biotic capsules would also work.
- Pulse everything together in a food processor until it forms a soft dough.
- Press into a lined tin, and place in the fridge to set.
- Cut into small squares and store in the fridge.
It may look ugly, but I tell you, it’s delicious. Even better than plain cookies. A little pro biotic sneakiness is always a good thing too – I can never convince Viper to eat kefir on it’s own or in a smoothie – but in fudge? No worries.
So Misty finally discovered chocolate, this Easter past. After managing to avoid it up till now, I decided not to be a Scrooge (Easter Scrooge?) and let him indulge. It was however, 70% dark vegan chocolate – yes yes, Misty has good taste indeed. I think we have a chocolate fan on our hands.
Now everything chocolate-coloured is described as “Cock-o-Lat Buddy,” or in layman’s terms, “Chocolate Bunny.” There have been multiple demands for Cock-o-Lat Buddy as of late, and so I came up with this little snack bar which is perfect for the lunch box as it is nut free, plus satisfies a toddler-craving for Cock-o-Lat Buddy.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about treats – I just don’t like the ones that contain numbers instead of FOOD, and cause my child to bounce off the walls for hours on end. Let’s just say that Misty is a highly spirited boy who does not need any more stimulation in the form of sugar in his life thankyouverymuch.
I love Whittaker’s chocolate – good old New Zealand confectionery. Their dark varieties are usually vegan which suits us just fine. Yes, I took a decent stash home in my suitcase after our recent trip – and have even convinced Viper that dark chocolate has some merits. (He who would only indulge in the lightest of light milk chocolate).
I didn’t add any sweetener to this recipe – I figure the small amount of sugar in the chocolate I used, plus almost a cup of dried fruit would do the trick, and it did. If you are a super sweet tooth, then a few tablespoons of a granulated sweetener such as rapadura, coconut crystals or raw sugar would work.
Chocolate Oat Brownie Bars
(Vegan: wheat/nut/refined sugar free)
- 2/3C oat flour
- 2/3C sunflower seed meal/flour
- 1/4C quick oats
- 1T cocoa powder
- 1t vanilla extract
- 1/8t sea salt
- 1/3C dried banana, roughly chopped – if you don’t have banana, something like tart dried apricots or even cherries would be delicious.
- 1/3C dark raisins
- 50g dark (vegan) chocolate, chopped into chunks
- 3T liquid coconut oil
- 1C non dairy milk (I used full fat soy)
- 1/2t baking powder
- 1/8t baking soda
- 1 flax “egg” (1T ground flax seed whisked with 3T water, and left for 5 minutes to gel
- To make the oat & sunflower seed “flours” simply grind/whizz oats and sunflower seeds in your food processor or spice grinder – it doesn’t matter if it is left a tad chunky – this just means more texture in the final product.
- Pre heat oven to 170 degrees C.
- Whisk together your flax egg, and leave it aside to gel while you prepare the dry ingredients.
- Combine oat & sunflower flour in a mixing bowl with quick oats, cocoa, salt, raisins, banana, and chocolate. Mix well.
- In a separate bowl. combine non dairy milk, flax egg, coconut oil and vanilla extract – again, mix well.
- Pour wet into dry, and finally add your baking soda and powder, gently folding through.
- Line a slice tin with baking paper(approx 15 by 30cm tin – if you use a larger/smaller pan you will need to adjust cooking time) and carefully pour in the mix. I wanted thin bars, so the mix is only about 2cm high in the pan.
- Bake for 25 minutes – it will feel firm(ish) to the touch.
- Cool completely in the pan before attempting to move – even popping it in the fridge is a good idea before trying to cut it into bars, otherwise you may end up with a pile of crumbs.
These were approved by both the toddler and the newbie to plant-based-eating (Viper). Chocolate always seems to be a winner, no? I dearly wish I could taste these – actually I dearly wish that I could taste ANYTHING – the season of cold & flu is upon us, and has struck me down with speed and ferocity already. 10 days of illness (and no taste buds) and counting. Eating really is extremely boring when you are unable to taste ANYTHING. Very very frustrating, and so I have to rely on the male members on my family to judge my kitchen experiments as the moment. These were a win.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about my health/healing experiments – so I’d thought I’d do a little update. I’m pleased to say that it’s been over 6 weeks since coming of conventional anti depressants – and I actually feel like I am in a good place. I’ve found during other past attempts at withdrawing from ADs, that I usually feel good up to this point, and then at around the 6 week mark, experience a huge mood crash (probably as the drugs would still be somewhat in my system up to this point).
Through healing with homoeopathy I have had a significantly different experience this time. I have been through a few “aggravations” or healing crisis, which have brought up a lot of past symptoms/ailments – both physical AND emotional – but that has happened for a reason…. it’s all a part of the healing process you see. I suppose the ADs have been masking a lot of symptoms, and it’s perfectly natural that they come up and are addressed head-on during this journey. I actually feel as if I am moving forward this time – not teetering in a fragile place between falling back into AD-use or emotional turmoil.
Anyway, I truly feel that I could not have done this without the support of homoeopathy – I am definitely a convert of this therapy. I KNOW I will continue to use it myself, and treat my family with remedies.
Another aspect of my healing process has been (obviously) diet – I haven’t written much about my recent diet-experiments since my little foray in an 80/10/10 style of eating. I really loved the fruitarian way of eating for a short period of time – unlimited fruit during Summer came naturally as the abundance of delicious tropical fruits made the diet very easy. For the first few weeks my energy was excellent, but this way of eating didn’t have staying power for much longer than that in my opinion. After an initial energy boost, my endurance started to wane, and I began noticing other not-so-glamorous side effects of the fruit-heavy eats. My digestion started to go a little “off” and I noticed dark circles under my eyes. I began to see WRINKLES! Oh the horror! I put this down to the low amounts of fat I was eating, and rectified the situation immediately – as soon as I had increased the amounts of fat I was eating (primarily coconut oil) my digestion became more productive, and my skin texture improved immensely.
All in all I think that the 80/10/10 diet is a great way to eat for short periods of time. If you are like me, and cannot comprehend the idea of a liquid detox (juices only) then I reckon that this is a perfect way to help “re-set” yourself after a period of indulgence. The initial stage is brilliant – increased energy, good mood/skin/digestion – but it isn’t something that (in my opinion) should be sustained for more than say 2 weeks. If you read my blog a lot, you will know that I have the attention span of a squirrel, so even though I love fruit a LOT, I did get a little bored eating in the 80/10/10 style. I missed COOKING, and all the techniques and dishes that go with the territory – plus I love to eat out, and the restrictions that this diet involves really cuts out a lot of options in social situations.
Anyway, to help me feel motivated and creatively inspired (aka happy) I need more food-scope then just slicing an apple or peeling a banana (however convenient that may be). I’ve naturally fallen back into a more varied style of eating – a balance of cooked and raw – lots of fruit & veggies, moderate beans/legumes, minimal grains and lots of fat. Works for me (until I get bored once again and go off on another eating-tangent).
The most exciting news of late (diet related) however, doesn’t concern me at all. After (finally) agreeing to watch “Forks over Knives,” with me, Viper has decided to adopt a plant-based diet. He has cut out all animal products, including cheese and milk – to say I am over the moon is the understatement of the year. I am going to keep you all updated with his transition into a vegan diet, as I think the male perspective is an interesting angle – at the moment his only complaint is that he is constantly hungry – good thing I love to cook, right?
The following recipe came about from me trying to use up scraps before we head off to New Zealand – fridge scrapings at it’s finest. It’s a take on the traditional kofta ball – although not deep fried (soaked in oil), because I can’t stand deep fried things, plus I don’t have a deep fryer. There you go.
Healthy Baked Kofta
(Vegan: gluten/wheat/soy/seed/refined sugar free)
- 1C chopped veggies (I used grated carrot and broccoli – but most vegetables should work just fine…. grate any root vegetables so they cook quickly)
- 1/4C + 2T chickpea flour
- 1/4C crushed cashew nuts (I just bashed them in a mortar & pestle until they reached a chunky bread crumb consistency)
- 1/2t ground cumin
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 1/2t tabasco sauce
- 1t whole grain mustard
- 1/4t ground coriander seed
- 1/8t sea salt
- 1/4C water
- Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Let mix stand in the fridge for about 10 minutes to help it firm up.
- Wet hands, and pat into balls (about golf size).
- Bake in the oven at 160 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn balls over.
- Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
- Serve with some of my Spiced Apricot Relish, or a nice mango chutney.
Makes 6 Kofta – they are quite spicy, so omit cayenne and tabasco if you are not fan of heat.
These are really quick and easy – plus a great way of using up leftovers – which always makes me happy.
So on all fronts, things are looking good – my emotional health is on the up, and my family’s diet is improving 10-fold. I’m so excited to be able to cook ONE meal for all of us now – plus exploring vegan food WITH Viper will be such a treat.
Viper eats the same thing every.day. for breakfast. His home made cereal mix and milk. Maybe he refills his bowl a few times, but it’s always that – no real variation in his first meal of the day. So boring.
Actually, I admit I used to be the same. It would always be a morning bowl of porridge in Winter, and maybe yoghurt & muesli in the warmer months. Yes, I used to be a boring-breakfaster. I think my morning-creativity has come about mainly because I have more TIME in the mornings – I’m not usually rushing off anywhere, just hanging with Misty. I appreciate the fact that the morning is a hectic time for most, so the ideas I’m going to share with you today are actually super quick to whip up (if you do a little planning & preparation). When I get a spare minute in the kitchen, I always try and cook extra to stash away in the fridge for quick meals during the week – preparing a pot of quinoa, soaking buckwheat, roasting sweet potatoes and so on. It really makes life easier.
If you follow me on Face Book – you would have seen me posting my breakfasts for the past few days. I’m really into breakfast “bowls” at the moment – a sort of cereal-esque style meal, but with way more exciting ingredients, and a few interesting not-of-the-norm breakfast foods.
I have left these recipes pretty “loose” if you get what I mean – customise to your own likes/what ingredients you have on hand – makes for creative breakfasts, that’s for sure. Read through for a variety of options.
Sprouted Buckwheat Porridge (raw)
(Vegan: gluten/wheat/nut/refined sugar free)
- 1C soaked, sprouted buckwheat groats*
- 1/2C coconut milk kefir (or any other milk of choice – almond, soy, plain coconut etc)
- 2t rice syrup (or any liquid sweetener – 1/8 to 1/4t liquid stevia if you are that way inclined)
- Pinch sea salt
- 1/2t vanilla extract
- Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor until (relatively) smooth – the buckwheat will retain a slight texture, which is all part of the charm.
- Top with some of the following Slow Cooker Apple-Nana Butter, or with dried fruit, chopped fresh fruit, nut butter – whatever you like.
Slow Cooker Apple-Nana Butter
(Vegan: gluten/wheat/soy/seed/nut/refined sugar/grain free)
- 6 medium apples – cored and roughly chopped (you can peel if you like, but I am lazy and like fibre)
- 6 small bananas – roughly chopped into chunks
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 1/8t sea salt
- 1t vanilla bean paste (optional)
- 2t ground cinnamon (optional)
- 4C water
- Throw everything in your slow cooker/crock pot and cook on low for about 24 hours, or until the mix has reduced by half, and it super thick, syrupy and sweet.
- You could puree the whole lot now, if you prefer a smoother texture to your butter – but I like a little texture (and again, I’m lazy).
*Chuck a couple of cups of raw buckwheat groats in a bowl – cover with water and leave overnight to soak. Rinse in the morning (the liquid tends to go a little gooey. Leave drained buckwheat groats to sprout for about another 12 hours or so (depending on the temperature) making sure you rinse the groats a few times during this sprouting process.
Sweet Potato Custard
Vegan: gluten/wheat/grain/refined sugar/corn/soy/nut free (depending on milk choices)
Makes 3-4 serves
- 1C cooked sweet potato (Roasting your sweet potato whole will give you the best – sweetest – flavour. Plus the skins make for great snacking).
- Full fat coconut milk - the amount will depend on the consistency of custard you like, whether you want it very fine & runny, or so thick you can stand a spoon in it. Add little by little. starting with 1C until you reach your desired custard -this can use over 2 cups of milk easily. Almond milk, soy, or cow milk are all good substitutes – just remember that the higher fat milks will give a creamier texture. I also love to use coconut milk kefir here.
- 3T maple syrup (or any other liquid sweetener to taste)
- 1/8t sea salt
- 1t vanilla extract (optional)
- 1t ground cinnamon (optional)
- Whizz everything together in a food processor until super smooth – add milk gradually until you reach your desired “custard” consistency.
This custard is delicious on top of porridge, in a bowl with chopped banana, walnuts and raisins, added to a smoothie, poured over banana “soft serve” – or as pictured - 2/3C cooked quinoa, 1C sweet potato “Custard” and 2T cacao nibs.
I really love beans. It’s sad, because they don’t really feel the same way about me. I have figured out that I had our romance all back-to-front. It is NOT a good idea to eat a whole can of beans at 9pm, and then wonder why I could not sleep for crippling stomach cramps. Beans for breakfast though, suit me (and my stomach) just fine. I find if I eat beans at the start of the day, they keep me full for ages – without the tummy troubles. You may find it hard to get your head around the idea of (sweet) beans for breakfast, but I really encourage you to give this a go – the following “recipe” is my method for making a delicious bean bowl – pick and choose the ingredients you prefer/have in your pantry:
Basic Bean Bowl
See the options listed below, so you can cater to your own tastes/what you have on hand. Vegan.
- 1 & 1/2C cooked beans (equivalent to 1 can of beans)
- 3T nut/seed butter
- 2T liquid sweetener (OR 1/4-1/2t stevia liquid for a low sugar option)
- 1/4-1/2C non dairy milk
- Pinch of sea salt
- 2T cacao/carob powder
- 1/2t vanilla extract (optional)
- Toppings: (optional) Chopped nuts, cacao nibs, dried fruit, fresh fruit slices, fruit-only jam, additional nut/seed butter.
Beans…. Kidney, cannelini, butter, chick peas, black turtle.
Nut/Seed Butter…. tahini, coconut butter, almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, walnut butter.
Sweeteners…. maple syrup, agave, rice syrup, raw honey, barley malt, coconut nectar. You can even use things like date paste/mashed banana in place of liquid sweeteners, but I would use MORE of these – for example 4T date paste, or 2 large very ripe bananas.
Milk…. almond, soy, rice, coconut, oat, kefir.
The bean bowl pictured above is made with kidney beans, cacao, tahini, coconut butter, rice syrup and almond milk – delicious!
It’s probably quite obvious that I don’t eat “normal” food – whatever that means. Sweet beans sound weird, but they taste good – I promise…. the photo above is one of my favourite desserts using beans (and tofu AND popcorn, but that’s just me). I like to be a little adventurous and try different flavour combinations and ingredient pairings…. sometimes they work, and sometimes things get spit into the sink. If you don’t try, you don’t know, right?
Do you stick to your tried and true meals? Or are you a little adventurous when it comes to trying out new taste-ideas?
I admit, this week has been a struggle. Emotions (hormones!?) are running rampant, and physically I’m a tad under the weather. It’s hard to keep motivated and optimistic when you are feeling sluggish, that’s for sure.
Misty and myself have watched far too much television this week, I’ve been lazy with the cooking (surviving on cafe-leftovers…. perks of working in hospitality) and I haven’t washed my hair in I don’t know how long (actually that’s no real change). That’s OK though, as some weeks, you are not on you “A game,” and that’s perfectly fine. These things happen. I use these little stages as an opportunity to practise a little self-love, and to “let-go” of preconceived ideas of what I should be doing/achieving/being. Learning a little more about myself through my healing crisis, I have become a little more tolerant of myself and realise that it is a good thing to admit to having limitations.
Nobody is perfect – if that was the case, life would be so boring.
Anyway, Misty and me have been spending a lot of time at home this week, so we have been experimenting. I spent today chasing him around the house with the scissors, as his hair is slightly out of control (in the mullet-sense) – he was not amused. Anyway, I managed to get the hair cut out of his eyes, which is an achievement – but if anything, the mullet is even more pronounced. Oh well, I’ll take a mullet over a bowl cut any day.
I’ve never been one to use hair-products…. usually they are ridiculously overpriced and so full of toxic crap I won’t go near the things. After Misty’s hair cut today, I thought it would be kind of cool to play around with styling his new “do.” I have heard about people using flax gel for a hair product, but as usual I started to play around with what I had on hand – a never ending jar of xantham gum. This gel results in what I would call a “wet-look,” and it goes a little crunchy when it dries (like a hair-spray) – any way it makes for cute spikes on a little boy’s head, that’s for sure.
DIY Natural Hair Gel
- 1C water
- 1t xantham gum
- This is easiest to prepare in a food processor/blender as otherwise the xantham gum tends to just lump-up.
- Whizz together and store in a little jar/air tight container.
- Use SPARINGLY – you don’t need much at all – 1/2 a tsp rubbed into your palms and then used to style is ample.
What are your ways of finding balance when you have an “off” day (or week)? Yoga and a good nap are my 2 favourites.
I officially have a fussy toddler. It was bound to happen sooner or later. It’s definitely time to get sneaky.
Misty loves plain pasta, plain noodles, plain rice. No “bits” please. No sauce, no nothing. Awesome. He’s actually pretty good with snacking on vegetables (think carrot sticks, peas, sweet potato cubes, celery, cucumber, cherry tomatoes) so I’m not too concerned with having him eat 3 “balanced” meals a day – he’s a grazer, just like me. Lot’s of nutritious snacks & smoothies throughout the day – maybe I’m lazy but I’m not going to make him sit down and force him to eat a huge plateful of food at breakfast, lunch & dinner if that’s not the way his appetite works. Back to the plain pasta obsession….. I have a sneaky trick up my sleeve:
“Bone broth is a flavourful liquid made by boiling the bones of just about any vertebrate you can think of (typically poultry, beef, bison, lamb, or fish) in water for an extended period of time (typically anywhere from 4 hours to 40 hours!). Often vegetables and herbs are added (typically carrots, onion, celery, garlic and I like to add bay leaves too). The bones from mammals need to be sawed open, whereas fowl and fish bones don’t. The used bones and vegetables are strained from the liquid and typically discarded. The resulting liquid is called “broth” or “stock” and is rich in numerous vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants (especially calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, which are essential for bone health) . Most importantly, bone broth is also particularly rich in two very special amino acids: proline and glycine.” SOURCE
Obviously , this is not an option for vegans (I apologize to my vegan readers – of course, a home made veggie stock is a good alternative, but unfortunately, won’t quite pack the nutritional punch that a bone broth wields) but the fact of the matter is that Viper and Misty eat meat. I think using every possible part of a slaughtered animal is the most respectful thing to do – if there is going to be a dead animal in my fridge, I am going to honour it’s sacrifice by using every little tiny part of it (hippie rant).
So that’s it, my dirty little secret – buy organic, free range meat and get the MOST bang for your buck. Chicken, beef, fish – whatever you buy, use ALL of the animal. If you are using beef, try to get a variety of bones for maximum nutrients. A whole chicken will provide us with at least a couple of manly-sized meals, toddler pickings, scraps for the dog, PLUS a whole lot of glorious bone broth (or stock, whatever you like to call it). Value for money AND huge nutritional benefits is a win in my book. All you need to do is chuck everything in a large pot (add whatever you like see the suggestions in the quote above) and let it simmer away. You can use this as a traditional broth, a base for a more complex soup/stew/casserole, add to sauces for extra wow factor, add to baby food/veggie puree – the uses for this stuff are endless. You can even partake in a bit of toddler-trickery.
Cook your regular pasta/noodles/rice in bone broth – it adds flavour AND nutrition, and little people LOVE it. It really makes you wonder what goes into those “stock” cubes you can get at the supermarket, doesn’t it? I will take boiled bones over a tiny foil wrapped square ANY day, thankyouverymuch.
The sparkling lights, the gambling, the shows, the parties. I admit it, if you asked me where I would go in the world RIGHT NOW (expense being no worry) I would have to go with Las Vegas. Viper and I are obsessed with all-things-American, and even if I should be saying Europe (for the culture!) or India (for the spiritual enlightenment!) I would be off drinking cocktails and putting it ALL on 26 red before an Elvisn impersonator could pronounce myself and Viper, “hound dog and Lisa Marie.” Seriously, although my wedding last year was lovely – there is still a teeny tiny part of me that wished we had gone with our original “Vegas Elvis Elopement” plan. One day.
At the moment though, I have to live vicariously through the tales of other bloggers. Hannah recapped her Vegas adventure here and here, and the very brave Bethaney did it with her toddler in tow (not sure I’m game enough for that!) We all know, however, that I am slightly obsessed with vegan food – so while on my insomnia-spurred-Vegas-trawl I began researching into the foodie options available. Paul Graham from Eating Vegan in Vegas really covers all the bases when it comes to compassionate cuisine.
While Viper would be (oh so predictably) tempted by the promise of celebrity chefs cooking up all sorts of meaty-glory…. Vegas is actually turning into a bit of a hub for vegan dining, which gives the place even more appeal. During the witching hours of insomnia (oh the joy) I have been perusing different restaurants/menus for inspiration…. although I love reading food blogs, I never really try out recipes – just reading the title of a dish can really get the creative cogs in my brain turning – I find recipes way too restrictive. I saw the Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Almonds on the menu at Mesa Grill, and then that little inspirational tidbit turned into my “Ode to Vegas.” I know America has a real fondness for mayonnaise, and while I can’t stand the traditional stuff in any way, shape or form, this vegan/root veggie version is quite the delicious variation. I couldn’t have possibly dedicated a recipe to Las Vegas and NOT include some sort of Elvis-ingredient either – hence the “Bacon” almonds, which are given a sweet/salty/smoky marinade which is a pretty stellar addition to this salad.
The whole orange/spinach combination reminds me of my Mum, who always made me make sure I was eating a little vitamin C (orange) whenever I ate an iron-rich vegetable (spinach) – thanks Mum – and it just so happens they go great with sweet potato and fake bacon – who would have thought?
Spinach & Orange Salad with Sweet Potato Mayo and Smoky Baked Almonds (aka “Bacon” bits)
(Vegan: Gluten/wheat/refined sugar/grain/soy/corn free)
Makes 4 large serves
“Bacon” Bits (Sweet Smoky Almonds)
- 1C almonds
- 4t tamari
- 3T maple syrup
- 2t smoked paprika
- Combine all ingredients except almonds in a small mixing bowl and whisk well.
- Throw almonds in and toss to coat.
- Roast at 180 degrees C for 8-10 minutes…. careful they will catch and burn quickly.
- When dry (they will almost be like a cluster of toffee) roughly chop.
Sweet Potato “Mayonnaise”
- 2C cooked sweet potato (roasting will get the best flavour)
- 3T nutritional yeast
- 3T tahini
- 3T olive oil
- 2t wholegrain mustard
- 2t apple cider vinegar
- 1C water (up to 1 & 1/2C to achieve desired consistency)
- 2t lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor, adding water bit by bit until you reach your preferred “mayo” consistency.
- Season (S&P) to taste.
(Ingredients for each person – you are making 4 serves)
- 1 navel orange, cut into segments, free of pith.
- 1 good handful (2C) baby spinach leaves
- 1/4C “Bacon” almonds
- 1/4C Sweet Potato Mayonnaise
- Place spinach leaves on plate, arrange orange segments.
- Sprinkle over chopped almonds, and drizzle with the mayo – putting the mix in a squirty bottle is the best idea (an old ketchup/mustard bottle is perfect for this).
So now I shall eat this salad and pine for the parties, lights and loose times that Las Vegas seems to promise. One day I will get there. How about you? Where in the world would you LOVE to visit? Your dream escape? Your ultimate adventure?