Nuts about greens!

SALAD.

What does this word bring to mind? Lettuce, cucumber, tomato and feta cheese? EHH! Wrong! 

Let’s clear a few things up:

Lettuce is boring. Stop buying it. 

Chicken on a bed of spinach is NOT and never will be a salad no matter how hard it tries. 

Creamy dressing atop lettuce and feta cheese does not a healthy meal make. Stop lying to yourself. 

Now that you have accepted the above, let me teach how to transform your salad into a meal you won’t be able to live without. Trust me, you will thank me for it. Money back guarantee 😛 

I unashamedly LOVE eating an almost raw salad at least once a day. Someone once asked me to make her the exact same one as me, because I eat it like it’s chocolate. 

I happen to be pretty boring and a creature of habit, and I am happy to eat the same salad every day. Almost. But I want to help you keep it interesting. So, lucky for you, you will get some variety. 

Here is my guide to making the perfect salad! 

Base:

Choose your base for your salad by ascertaining your activites for the day as well as your other meals. If you plan to go out for Italian food, and you are having toast for breakfast, then choose a leaf base, like rocket or baby spinach

If you are going to gym, and/or eating fairly light for the rest of the day, opt for a grain or starch base, like cous cous, quinoa, or whole wheat pasta. 

Standard Veggies:

 Staples like onions, peppers, cherry tomatoes and cucumber are a must in my salads. 

Spiralised&Grated Veggies:

You might want to invest in a spiraliser. It is my most favourite kitchen utensil. 

I use it to spiralise up zucchini, or baby marrow as we call it in South Africa, which normally I wouldn’t eat raw. 

And who likes to eat big pieces of carrots anyway? No-one! Spiralise those too!

Grate some fresh beetroot too. Fresh beetroot is so very delicious, and it’s good for you! 

Optional Veggies:

If it isn’t month end, and you have some extra money to splurge on slightly more expensive vegetables, do yourself the favour of your life, and buy tenderstem brocolli, baby corn and mange-tout. If you are brave enough, you can even chuck in some fine green beans.

Don’t you think this sounds considerably better than your boring old Greek salad? We aren’t done yet, don’t worry!

Protein:

If you are vegan, I know this is probably your least favourite word. I hate it too. Because it always comes from the mouth of ignorant meat eaters, who want to desperately find something wrong with your chosen lifestyle of compassion and care. Ok, I am getting riled up now, so lets revert to food. 

Protein. Yes.A handful of chickpeas, cannelini beans, or any type of beans really, will make a great add to a salad, and ups the calories a little. 

If you have the time, you can even saute a few cubes of tofu, or even better, add tofeta.

Nuts:

I am a certified nut-a-holic. But a handful of raw cashews or pecans in your salad is normal. Almonds are nice too, but wouldn’t be my first choice. And macadamias – well those are reserved for irritating my boyfriend with my apparent loud crunching.

Seeds:

Seeds might be bird food, but don’t diss them. Even you were once just a little seed 😉 Sunflower and flax seeds are both high in nutrients and goodness in their own special way, and it won’t harm you to add a teaspoon to your food. 

And now for my favourite part ..

Dressing:

You are simply not permitted to add store bought salad dressing to my salad. Try a drizzle of olive oil, a half a teaspoon of garlic, salt&pepper, and basil. You will not regret it.

A teaspoon of hummus or cashew cream, along with some sliced avocado (if your stomach so desires and your calorie counter permits) completes this beautiful creation. 

Now obviously, you can (and should) mix it up a little. But try to actually keep your salad a salad please? And not a heap of oily, fatty food with a side of spinach!

“While I pride myself on trying to be creative in all areas of my life, I have occasionally gone overboard, like the time I decided to bring to a party a salad that I constructed, on a huge rattan platter, to look like a miniature scale model of the Gardens of Babylon” ~ Gregory Maguire

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Heal the world ♥

In 21 days, 2 young women have single handedly spared the lives of 8 chickens; 7 fish; 5 lambs; 5 cows and 1 octopus. Quite a feat, don’t you think?

You might be wondering how they accomplished this. Did they break into slaughterhouses and free some beings destined for a life of slavery? Trespass on a farm and smuggle some adorable lambs out in their car? Attack a fisherman holding a few fish captive in his net while they wriggle and writhe?

Guess again.

They renounced meat.

Yep. That’s it. In an effort to live a healthier lifestyle, after being raised and conditioned to eating meat all their lives, they simply went cold turkey (excuse the pun!) They bravely experimented with nutritious vegetables; superfood smoothies; heaps of hummus; vegan lentil burgers and refreshing fruit salads. And they LOVED it.

Both Heidi and Zahida reported weight loss, more energy, and a faster metabolism, coupled with a newfound love for and interest in alternative foods. Listening to them talk about food and health is like hearing my own thoughts being verbalized sometimes.

People go vegan for many different reasons. Sometimes they’re imitating celebrities, the likes of Jay Z and Beyonce, or they’ve watched Earthlings and are now put off the idea of eating meat again. And some do it for the health benefits, like Bill Clinton. The reasons are irrelevant. The fact is those people are not eating animals anymore, and that’s what counts.

I know many vegans who are against trends like ‘Meat free Mondays’ and get up in arms about people not eating meat one day of the week, but continuing to do so thereafter. Would they rather those people eat meat on Monday instead, to remain consistent? Is it only vegans who are allowed to not eat animal products? I find that logic rather extreme. I prefer to live by the philosophy that every little step taken towards non consumption of animals is a win in the books for veganism and animal rights. Most importantly it’s a win for the animal that gets to live.

So, next time someone asks you for advice because they want to be vegan, even if just for a week, put aside your judgment and disdain against them for eating meat, and instead, help, teach and nurture. If you can’t do it for your own peace of mind, do it for those happy, free and alive animals. Because veganism is not about us, it’s about them.

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” ― Albert Einstein

“I did not become a vegetarian for my health; I did it for the health of the chickens.” ― Isaac Bashevis Singer

Rrrrrawmarkable

Lions don’t cook their buck before they eat it. Monkeys don’t like their banana fried. And we don’t see horses wanting their carrots well done. Animals are instinctive and know best. Food should be eaten RAW because cooking it destroys the very nutrients that we need.

But humans have become so spoilt, with our BAKED potato, GRILLED cheese, ROASTED red pepper hummus, that 90% of the food we consume is cooked. And then we complain about having vitamin deficiencies, picking up weight, and feeling tired all the time.

Have you ever eaten a HUGE (albeit delicious) brunch, and then wanted to do nothing but go horizontal? It happens to all of us, even those of us eating vegan food. It’s because our bodies have to now work 10 x harder to digest the food because we have destroyed the enzymes by cooking it. In addition, with most veggies, there is little nutritional value in cooked foods. BUT (there’s always a but) there are some foods, like carrots, butternut and beans that actually gain nutritional value when they are cooked. Therefore I am advocating a diet that incorporates more raw food, rather than a 100% raw diet. Also because I personally LOVE my roasted red pepper hummus! 😀

But since I am a research addict, I’ve come across a few important tips that I’d like to share if you are going to try eating more raw. I’m also on my second week long raw detox, so I can provide some useful inside info directly from the cupcake lovers mouth J

Fruit MUST be eaten on an empty stomach. If you eat fruit after a meal, you will experience digestive problems, because fruit doesn’t need to be broken down as much as other foods, and will pass through the system almost immediately. But not if you’ve eaten baked beans on toast beforehand. The fruit will get stuck behind the cooked food that gets held up being broken down a lot longer, resulting in sometimes painful indigestion.

If you are going to go completely raw for a detox, you will be hungry, all the time. Your body will be adapting to the healthier foods, and you will feel the need to eat a lot more than normal. Don’t be afraid. Give in to your rumbling belly. It’s OK to eat tons of raw fruit and veggies all day, but limit your intake of nuts and dried fruit. I eat about 8 portions a day on the raw detox.

Keep it interesting. If you eat the same thing every single day, you will get bored and not want to eat healthily. So change it up daily, and eat different things every day. I have my favorites – grapes, blueberries and apples, but I experiment with different smoothie flavors every day.

Invest in a blender. The blender will make being raw MUCH easier. I have 3. Yes 3. I use them to make yummy cashew cream cheese, smoothies and soups.

And obviously, stock up your pantry. Buy tons and tons of fruit and veggies. Be sure to buy your bananas a little un-ripened, because they spoil so quickly. Celery, carrots and cucumbers taste delicious with cashew cream as a dipper. Baby corn and mange-tout make for a crunchy midday snack. Spinach and banana combined with a cup of homemade almond milk result in an unbelievably yummy smoothie.

So after 5 days of the raw detox, I’ve lost 1.5 kgs (the belly bulk I was trying to get rid of); I’ve had excellent energy levels – I’ve been waking up at 5:30, going to a spinning class daily, working a full day and studying for a good 3 hours in the evenings. I haven’t felt this happy and energetic in a while. I have a little spring in my step too and feel more confident about my body.

And tonight, I am treating myself to what promises to be an amaaaazing raw vegan pizza.

Fresh spinach topped off with pesto, tomatoes, Earthshines’ homemade nut cheese, and finished off with delectable dehydrated olives, all set on a raw vegan gluten free seed base covered with a tomato purée is no doubt the best way to finish off a raw detox. The verdict on Vivo is in, and it is simply FANTASTIC! This, without a doubt, is better than your regular cheese pizza. The combination of flavors and the sweetness of the dried olives (by the way I usually do NOT eat olives, but I can’t get enough of these) results in a burst of yumminess in your mouth that you simply cannot describe.

They prove that raw food can be extremely satisfying and is far from boring as some would say. To the brilliant minds who created this pizza, my tummy salutes you.

If you live in Cape Town, you MUST try a Vivo Pizza. They deliver to many collection points around the city free of charge and have different and interesting toppings every week, but deliciousness is always guaranteed! Check them out here

I hope that you will all try eating more raw food, and please share your experiences and tips with me!

Check out these links for more info on raw eating.

Xoxox

http://www.examiner.com/article/when-food-cooked-at-very-high-temperatures-is-eaten-what-happens-to-your-body

http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/07/08/01/eating_raw_the_advantages_and_disadvantages_according_to_various_experts.htm

http://www.rawlicious.co.za

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The Raw Diaries

Day one

Today I begin my 5 day raw challenge.
I wanted to do a whole week, but Sunday is my birthday celebration, and I’ve invited my friends out for Vietnamese food. Sadly, there are no decent raw restaurants in Cape Town, or else that would totes have been the theme! Also, most of my friends are meat eaters, and I can’t deprive them for my whims.

So I’ve decided I will slowly ease back into cooked food on Saturday evening, because the last thing I want is to be sick after my birthday dinner. And then starting August 7th is a holy month for Hindus, where we also observe a fast of fruit for most of the day, and have only one cooked meal a day. So I hope I will still be reaping the benefits of a healthy diet.

I spent all of last week detoxing from caffeine, alcohol, added sugar, and only ate one cooked meal a day. So this week, I shouldn’t have too many side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

Breakfast is a smoothie made with 1 large banana; a sprinkling of blueberries; 2 big strawberries; 1 green apple; a quarter cup of my home made almond milk and a quarter cup of water. Topped off with some sunflower seeds and chia seeds, this smoothie is creamy, healthy, AND has a low glycemic index. Score 🙂

I had the smoothie at 9, so I figure my appetite will be satiated until noon. Oh, I started off my day with a mug of hot water to cleanse my system as well as jump start my appetite. If I am up at 7, I don’t actually get hungry until about 10.
I am not tired, hungry or grumpy as some have felt. My friend (who is a meat-eater usually) complained of headaches and some dizziness at the end of his first day. But he didn’t have the foresight to pre-detox like me 🙂

What I do feel, is cold! It’s usually fairly warm in the office, and I usually do just fine in a long sleeve top, but since an hour ago, I have been shivering and hugging myself a lot. I even took to standing under the hand dryer for a good 5 minutes to warm up my body. The lady who walked in on me was quite intrigued 🙂

I’m generally a small eater anyway, so my stomach only started growling at about 12, right on schedule. Since then I’ve munched on 3 dates and 3 pieces of dried peach.

Lunch was some grapes, cherries and blueberries. Then it’s off to gym. On my way I crunched down a handful of raw almonds. I spent a good 2 and a half hours working out, and I felt fine. Great in fact!

I devoured two juicy oranges when I got home. It was probably the most satisfying thing I’d eaten all day. Until … (cue the mysterious music)

A friend, who was also doing the raw challenge, came over for dinner. When we compared notes, we realized we were both craving something crunchy. So I experimented and came up with some lettuce wraps. Followed by a tall chilled glass of water, it was the perfect dinner.

Try them before you knock em – I will post the recipe soon 🙂

Day 2

Today I have decided to re-structure my eating times. I ate a red apple before work, and now I’m having a cup of hot water.

Breakfast (10am) is a fruit salad of red and white grapes, cherries, strawberries and blueberries with a sprinkling of chia seeds.

Lunch (2pm) is a banana, blueberry and home-made almond milk smoothie.
For a snack and a burst of energy before gym, I keep dates and dried fruit in my drawer at work.

I feel quite tired today, however I am not certain if that is due to the diet or because I slept after 10pm last night (I have a good 8 hour sleep usually)
We will know tomorrow!

I skipped gym and decided to stay in and rest.

For dinner I had some raw macadamias and 2 lettuce wraps (these are becoming a firm favorite).
After going to bed, I started to feel hungry about 2 hours later so I gobbled down THREE oranges. They. Were. AMAZING!

Day 3

I’m a pretty boring and routine person. So once again I had a cup of hot water to start my day, along with a date or two.

I’m about to have my usual feast of breakfast (same as yesterday)
I was tremendously hungry today and ate all my dates and dried fruit before lunch 😦 So I ended up having my smoothie at midday, and then wolfing down a pack of raw macadamias before gym.

I felt pretty awful today, and I’m not sure if it’s my mind or my body. I struggled at gym, my muscles ached, but I soldiered through. I also had some stomach issues. I won’t elaborate on that, but I have heard it’s a side effect, especially around the third day.

When I weighed myself, I realized I had lost 1 kg since Monday evening, which was the best part of this awful day, because despite all my crazy exercising, my weight has stayed exactly the same over the past 3 weeks.

The second I got home, I ate 2 oranges, and prepared 3 lettuce wraps for dinner, along with some baby corn and carrots with cashew cream.
I was in bed by 9. Drained, exhausted and with a pounding headache.

My housemate had awful stomach cramps on her 2nd day and she caved. My other friend reported his skin looking better after the 3rd day. Here’s hoping 🙂

Today was hard, mostly because my colleague (who eats like she’s preparing for the zombie apocalypse) ate a few packets of crunchy chips during the day and I wanted some. I was quite irritable with her for eating all the time. Or was I jealous? I think my body was asking for more food so I’ve prepared a little more for tomorrow 🙂

Day 4

So today I woke up on the right side of the bed, and I am determined to maintain a positive attitude to get through the day. I keep telling myself that’s it’s all in my mind. This is what I believe about cravings anyway. It’s my body telling me it needs something, and my mind translating that something to a packet of crisps, or a chocolate. Which means, what I need is more energy.
So, last night I made some strawberry cashew milk, which is pretty amaze-balls if I may say so myself. It’s creamy and easier to strain than the almond milk. So I’ve got a bit of that in today’s smoothie. I am going to be oh so daring and have my smoothie for breakfast instead of fruit.

The smoothie had 1 large banana; the juice of 1 pomegranate; half a cup of water and half a cup of cashew milk, along with the usual accompaniment of seeds – sunflower, chia and flax.
Now I feel good and full, but not Thanksgiving full.

I plan to keep myself busy throughout the day, and try to focus on work. I felt a dip in my concentration levels yesterday and struggled to work at the fast paced rate that I usually do.

I am doing MUCH better today. I don’t feel that slump that I felt around this time yesterday, where all I wanted was to get into my bed, hold my pillow and sleep until this raw detox is over.

For lunch I had a small portion of onions, yellow peppers, sugar snaps, baby corn, carrots, celery and tomatoes, topped off with cashew cream. I really enjoyed it, even though I was being informed by a meat eating colleague about how boring and weird my healthy life must be. Oh woe is me.

I’ve been drinking a lot more water today, and I definitely feel more alert.
I started feeling a little sleepy around 3, and ate the rest of my snack – a few dates, a piece of dried fruit and some raw nuts.

I opted against going to gym, and ended up doing some shopping. While browsing clothes and shoes at a sidewalk sale, I ate a small packet of macadamias.

When I got home at about 6, I had a lot of energy to do laundry and tidy up.

At about 7 I ate a huge with spinach, onions, tomatoes, celery, peppers, carrots, sugar snaps and baby corn, and topped it off with cashew cream.
I prepared more cashew cream and some lunch for work today, and decided to get to bed early. At about 10, I made 3 baby lettuce wraps and quickly ate that. It’s actually a great midnight snack cos its super healthy.

Day 5

It’s the last day! I woke up starrrrrrving! I had some baby carrots and corn with cashew cream and an orange before leaving home.

Breakfast at work is the usual array of fruits. I am trying to eat a little less today because I plan to have a big late lunch. There is a company called Earthshine, who produces raw products which are found in most health stores in Cape Town, and every Friday they make a raw pizza.I haven’t sampled it before. What better way to end off my raw challenge?

I ate a mix of cashews, macadamias, almonds and dates for a snack and I have some dried fruit in case I get hungry.

My beauty therapist told me my skin looks exceptionally healthy today, which is great news 🙂

A small pre lunch is coming up soon – a small “salad” sans spinach like yesterday.

I am going to post a review of the VIVO Pizza soon, as well as the recipes I have discovered along the way!

I most certainly learnt a few things from this raw challenge, especially about cravings, and what my body needs and is asking for. There are many lessons I will take away from this, and I plan to make changes to accommodate certain foods into my diet. Here’s what I discovered:

– If you are going to follow a raw diet successfully, you need to up your intake of fruit and veggies, even if you usually have a small appetite.
– Water, water and more water!
– Raw nuts are actually better than roasted and salted nuts.
– Lettuce wraps are a healthy midnight snack
– You must include a good variety of superfoods and supplement powders in your diet like pea protein isolate, hemp powder, maca powder etc.
– I need to eat more oranges! Ha ha.
– Raw eating takes planning, organizing and good time management.
– Listen to your body.
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health FREAK!!!!

From the point of no return, ie: becoming vegan, there are a series of stages.

The first is missing anything and everything you used to eat, and lamenting about how you CAN’T eat pizza, your favorite chocolate, or that creamy pasta.

The second stage is when you buy any and every replacement you can find for the vegetarian or meat dish you used to eat. So fake meats, vegan cheese and dairy free chocolates become your friends.

I believe the third is when you start to become defensive about your lifestyle, because people make condescending remarks towards veganism. You feel you need to stand up for yourself and make them understand your choices. So you tell them about how calves are yanked away from their moms, how chickens are injected with growth hormones, and pigs are tortured in tiny little cages, to make them understand why you have personally chosen this lifestyle.

The next stage is about proof. I think it is about proving to ourselves as well as others that being vegan is easy. We discover vegan baking, and we churn out delicious cupcakes, biscuits and cakes for our disbelieving colleagues to taste. We seek comfort in vegan mac’n’cheese. And with this phase comes the kilograms piling onto the hips.

And then you realize that being vegan doesn’t equal being thin. So you cool off with the baking, and decide to opt for the healthy vegan approach. You switch from mock meats to tofu; from soy milkshakes to all fruit smoothies and vegan cheese to fat free hummus.

You eventually turn into this person
who stays away from as much processed foods as possible; makes her own almond milk; blends up hummus at home and limits the cupcakes to once a month. Essentially you become me 🙂

You become more interested in your health and avoiding chemicals and toxins that are found in most store bought foods. You start saying you DON’T eat that as opposed to CAN’T. You want to live more naturally.

So last week there were free (unvegan) cupcakes at work, and since I am the only vegan in the office, I am the only person who did not take one. My colleagues were scandalized that I would not take one. It’s FREE, they said; break your “diet” for one day. I found myself explaining (yet again) that it’s not a diet but a lifestyle. They interrogated me a little about what I eat (do I only eat salad?) and I gave the same talk I give everyone. I love animals too much to eat them or take from them. I stay away from processed foods, and I cook a lot at home, there is more to my vegan life than salad, you should taste one of my vegan meals one day, they’re quite yummy, as are my cupcakes, blah blah blah … I’ve said it a million times.

The responses I received were all negative. Wow you’re weird; you’re extreme; what’s wrong with you?? But the hardest hitting one was “you’re crazy.” This came from a person who has constantly taunted me, scrunched up her nose and said nasty things about my lifestyle. This person is overweight, eats a diet high in meat and carbs, chomps on crisps for most of the day, drinks soda and does not exercise. But according to this person, they want to lose weight. That very same person once said exactly this to me, “It is so annoying that you are constantly crunching on nuts” while they were crunching down a packet of potato chips. That very same person once ASKED me what was in my smoothie and proceeded to say how disgusting it sounded. Instead of wasting my energy, I try to ignore the jibes.

The feeling is all too familiar for me. It feels a lot like when I was in school, and wore glasses on my first day back after the holidays, and the entire class proceeded to call me “specs” thereafter.

Make no mistake; my aim is not to convert anyone when I tell them about my lifestyle. I am merely answering a question that someone asks me. I understand the change must come from within and from a desire to nourish your body with good wholesome food.

My mind can’t let it go. I am utterly perplexed. Why are those who care about their health, their bodies, and their fitness labeled as freaks? Why, in this day and age, where heart attacks, cancer, diabetes and obesity are so prevalent, are the people who are interested in their wellbeing and living a long healthy life described as weird?

Home made almond milk

When I lived in USA, almond milk was my absolute favorite. I could drink a glass on its own for breakfast. But, alas, South African supermarkets have not yet discovered the deliciously creamy wonder that is Almond Breeze.

So today, in preparation for raw week, I made my own almond milk. Here’s how:

1 cup of raw unsalted almonds soaked for a minimum of 8 hours

Use 3 parts water to 1 cup almonds, and blend in a food processor or with a hand mixer.

Sweeten with dates, sugar, or stevia.

Add a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

Once it’s all blended well, strain into a bowl, and repeat the process with the left over almond meal until you’ve reached a reasonable amount. I did it 3 times.

You can also play around with flavors, by adding cocoa or strawberry powder to the mix for for fun flavors!

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