“Yoga stops traffick” – Fund raising event

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A huge thank you to everyone who donated to KOK at today’s fund raising and otherwise. We raised 200 eu!!!!! whoop whoop!!

(A few pictures from the class in Stadtpark this morning. Lovely day and lovelier Yogis 🙂 )

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Betty anwar Yoga cross-training and nutrition, KOK fund raising, Human trafficking

KOK fund raising – warming up

Betty anwar yoga cross-training and nutrition, KOK fund raising, human trafficking

KOK fund raising – standing flow

Betty anwar yoga cross-training and nutrition, KOK fund raising, human trafficking

KOK fund raising – cooling down

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Please join me in supporting KOK, a German NGO, in their fight against human trafficking. As part of this fund raiser I would like to invite you to join me on the mat for a 90 minute gentle flow in the outdoors. All levels are welcome.
Yoga not your thing? No problem, just turn up and donate to show your support. Who says you can’t roll out your mat and lie back on it for the entire duration 😉

I have listed June 10 and 11 as the event dates, please let me know in the comments which date suits you best. The times will be 10- 11:30 am on both days.

Minimum donation is 10 euros.

We will meet on the Festwiese (across the road from the Planetarium) in Stadtpark, and hope it remains dry for at least 2 hours.

Below is a description of what KOK do. More information may be found on their website https://www.kok-gegen-menschenhandel.de/en/home/
“KOK is a German NGO network and coordination office against trafficking in human beings. The network is active against all bodies, organisations and legislation which exclude migrants from social, political and economic participation. It believes in equal rights and opportunities for all, including persons working in prostitution and other informal economies. KOK e.V. sees trafficking in women in terms of the migration process, which is triggered by the prevalence of worldwide poverty, global crises and conflicts, and rapid transitions in political and economic spheres. In order to support their families, women are becoming increasingly forced to leave their home countries in search of employment. Some of them become victims of structural, psychical and/or physical violence. One form of this violence against women is human trafficking.”

Affording Veganism

I’m not a vegan veteran. I’ve been vegan for just over a year now, and I have to say that I’ve faced my share of challenges. When I look back at my pre-vegetarian days, I remember feeling overwhelmed when I’d look at recipes and articles about plant-based “superfoods”. It all seemed so difficult. I had no idea what it meant to eat a plant-based diet (would I starve?) and I’d feel out of place in Organic/Whole foods stores.

Two years down the line, with plenty of trial and error, I feel more confident and can navigate my way around a weekly plant-based meal plan. I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a newbie and hope I can shed some light on the simplicity of a plant-based diet for those who might be toying with the idea of adopting it.

 

Let’s start by defining what being vegan is NOT. It is not a fad nor is it only for the wealthier part of society. Unfortunately, that is the impression a lot of people have of the lifestyle and diet – “too expensive”.

Most simple Asian dishes are naturally vegan. One of my favourite dishes is Indian Dal (lentil curry) and rice. It’s comfort food for me – warm, nutritious and doesn’t cost me an arm and leg. Growing up, I came to see Dal and rice as a poor man’s meal and it is what a lot of the underprivileged in India eat till today.

dal and rice, Betty Anwar, Vegan

A simple meal of Dal, Rice and Veggies.

 

Even in Mediterranean regions like Greece, it is traditional to eat meals free of animal products during the fasting periods.

So what does it mean to be vegan? The following definition from the Vegan Society (registered charity since 1979) sums it up perfectly:

“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

 

Like with any diet/lifestyle, there are those who will take things to extremes and those who will take on a “holier-than-thou” stance, possibly even wagging fingers at anyone who isn’t doing it “right”. There is no right or wrong. The reason I chose to be vegan was out of disgust at how the industry is exploiting innocent animals and keeping us in the dark.

So being vegan does not only pertain to food, it means making conscious choices every day to lead a lifestyle that emphasises compassion. Finding alternatives to most of what we’re used to, is initially a challenge. Which is why adopting a vegan lifestyle should be a well-thought-out decision with emphasis on simplicity, practicality and sustainability.

For the sake of keeping this concise, I’d like to stick with the diet aspect of veganism, starting with redefining a vegan diet. I like the term “Whole-food Plant-based Diet”, which focusses on whole, unprocessed plants that include fruit, vegetables, tubers, legumes and whole grains. It excludes or minimises the use of refined oils, sugars and flours and excludes animal products (meat, dairy, eggs and, in some cases, honey)Betty anwar, Affording veganism, fresh produce.

There has been plenty of evidence showing how beneficial such a diet is and I can vouch for it as well (I’ve been on both sides of the playing field and have witnessed tremendous improvements in my well-being). I won’t go into details, but here are some articles for your perusal:
https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/why-go-vegan

http://www.forksoverknives.com/the-film/

http://www.pcrm.org/health/diets/vegdiets/vegetarian-foods-powerful-for-health

Health benefits of being vegetarian

20 Health Benefits of Going Vegan, According to Science (+6 Delicious Vegan Recipes)

So far so good, you’ve understood the concept – maybe even agree with it. The next phase is applying it i.e. you look up recipes and head to the store. You’ve probably found some items in your regular super market, but suddenly you’re faced with things like “Nutritional Yeast”, “Quinoa”, “Chia” ,”Hemp seeds” and nut butters to mention a few. Off you go to your nearest Organic/Whole foods store where the prices are sometimes shocking. Now, you may be in a position to spend about 12 – 33 euros on a jar of almond butter, but not everyone is.

Imagine a family on one income with 4 or more mouths to feed…..imagine a family living off benefits. Now imagine what a plant-based diet looks like to them…..

I recently had a chat with a fellow plant-based eater who insisted that all food you buy must be organic. Whilst I completely agree that organic food is better for you, I am also aware that it is expensive to buy organic produce and that option is not available to everyone.

If you took a look around areas that house low income families, you’ll rarely find a Health food store around the corner, nor will you find these families shopping at the local farmer’s markets. What you will find is a local discount supermarket and lots of cheap fast food around, what in geographical terms is called a “Food Desert”.

 

Betty Anwar, affrding veganism, food desert

Source: theodysseyonline.com

In Germany, a person living on benefits (Hartz 4) receives about 404 euros per month. The break down here http://www.hartziv.org/ shows how that amount is estimated to be used. It approximates 143 euros for food and non-alcoholic beverages – insufficient for buying organic all month long.

In the past few months I’ve met people who’ve come across as very dogmatic in their approach and application of a plant-based diet. It’s easy to do so when you’re not struggling to get by every month. Even if you’re not, one should never feel nor be made to feel like they’re not living up to certain standards. A plant-based diet is as the definition states above. No one says you need to live beyond your means to eat plants!

If you are enthusiastic about spreading the message about plant-based eating, then it’s the welfare sector of our society that needs reaching out. We all shop around for a good bargain, but this group doesn’t have a choice. The message needs to be tailored so that it’s attractive, practical and most important, affordable for them.

I spend under 65 euros per week at my local supermarket. This usually includes 3-4 weekday meals and 2 weekend meals with at least one or two meals I can freeze. Most of the produce is not organic, but if I find something reasonably priced, I will pick it up.

Before I get heat for saying that I don’t shop at the uppity organic stores, let me re-iterate that I support organic farming and eating 100%. The pesticides used in conventional farming practices can wreak havoc on your body.

That being said, here are my ideas on how you can adopt and healthy, plant-based diet without breaking the bank:

  • Making inorganic fruit and veg safe to eat:

Soak fruit and veg in a solution of sea salt or white distilled vinegar solution or baking soda can help remove bacteria and pesticides.

Fill a tumbler/sink with water and add salt/vinegar/baking soda (A general rule of thumb would be to mix 1 teaspoon of salt/vinegar/baking soda in a cup of water). Stir solution till it’s clear. Soak the produce for about 2 minutes and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Pat dry and refrigerate.

Another option for non-organic veggies like carrots and cucumbers, is to scrape the skin off.

  • Steer clear of ready to eat foods labelled “vegetarian”, “vegan” and “low fat”:

There’s plenty of processed, junk food out there and they are expensive. Always check the back for hidden sugars and ingredients you’ve never heard of.

For example, cereals like Special K are sugary, contain quite a bit of salt, barely keep you satiated (who sticks to the recommended 31g serving size?!) and cost a whopping 3-4 euros for 300g.

Now take a pack of simple whole grain oats – about 50 cents for 500g. Add nuts or seeds and maybe some fruit and you’ve got your hunger under check for a good 3-4 hours. A pack of oats in our house lasts a good week.

I could go on about the processed vegan cheese and vegan “deli meat” etc., but I think you get the point.

  • Make your transition easy:

This is going to contradict what I’ve said above, but it is such an important part of transitioning to a complete plant-based diet.

If you’ve been raised on meat, cheese, milk, eggs etc. you’ll find that whilst you transition to a plant-based diet, your body will crave these products. Most people find the cheese is the hardest to give up. Look at this phase like experiencing withdrawals.

You are trying to rewire your brain and body to associate fruit, veg, nuts and grains as equivalent nutrition sources, and this can take time (sometimes up to a year). During this period, allow yourself to indulge in vegan junk food like deli “meat”, vegan “cheese” etc. Know that it is only temporary and like with cravings/withdrawals, there will be peaks and valleys.

  • Drop the idea of “Superfood”:

Yes, superfoods are a myth, and a marketing ploy for you to spend big bucks.

Every climate region allows certain fruit and vegetable to thrive and no fruit/veg is superior to another. It’s not the way nature works.

Blueberries have been marketed as a superfood for a long time now and I see the tiniest punnets being sold in India -a country not home to the blueberry bush – at extortionate prices. People in countries where Blueberries do not grow have been doing just fine without this “superfood”.

So what’s so super about it? Nothing. It’s still of nutritional value but hasn’t got the fountain of youth hidden in it.

Which brings me to my next point.

  • Don’t feel pressured into buying fancy items if your budget doesn’t allow for it:

Quinoa, kamut, hemp and chia seeds, matcha…everyone’s talking about them! Not everyone has access to these products.

Rice, potatoes, millet, wheat etc. are just as nutritious as a carbohydrate source and are affordable.
Cheaper alternatives to hemp and chia would be legumes and flaxseed, both of which are grown worldwide.

  • Support local farmers and buy seasonal produce:

I’ve noticed that German “farmer markets” may or may not have the actual farmers on site. I’ve been told that some are distributors for a particular (or maybe several) farms. Their fruit and veg always look really good, but a lot of it is non-organic, imported, and costs a LOT more than the local discounters.

I once bought a single courgette (zuchini) from my local farmer’s market – I paid 2.19 euros AND it was imported!!

Now take items like potatoes, swiss chard, carrots and other veggies you’re more likely to find grown in a neighbouring farm – they’re are equivalent in price or cheaper than the supermarkets.

Here is a list of seasonal fruit and veg grown in Germany:

Betty Anwar, Vegan, Seasonal produce, Germany

Seasonal produce in Germany Source: Bundesvereinigung der Erzeugerorganisationen Obst und Gemuese e.V.

  • Grown your own:

If you have the garden space and know a thing or two about sowing seeds, you could plan to have your own produce all year round! You could also start small by growing herbs in pots.

  • Cook from scratch and freeze portions:

If you have time over the weekends, get the family involved and make a meal. Freeze portions of it for when time is not on your side. You can also pre-cut and prep your veggies so they’re ready to be thrown together for your weekday meal. Planning and prepping can save you loads of time and money, and it ensures that you’re not tempted to pick up pre-packaged and processed foods.

  • Nut butters and plant-based milk don’t have to be store bought:

If you’re in possession of a food processor, you can easily make nut butter and plant-based milk at home.

If you can’t afford a blender and can’t make nut butter, get your hands on a bag of peanuts and go to town on it!
Cheaper plant-based milks are oat and rice milk. If the taste doesn’t appeal to you, add water or fresh orange juice into your morning cereal.

  • Finding cheaper replacements for coconut oil:

I’ve found coconut oil here in Germany very expensive, and it drives me crazy because in India it is the cheapest oil you will find! I’ve stopped cooking in oil for about a year now and use water instead to fry onions etc. If you’re looking to get a coconutty flavour, you can add coconut milk instead of water.

If you do buy oil, look around for bargains on cold-pressed oils. These are minimally processed but might not be stable under high temperatures.

  • The deal with honey:

Honey consumption is a matter of debate in the plant-based community. If you still want to consume honey, make sure it’s from a keeper who takes care of his/her bees – again local is the way to go. You can also visit local apiaries and decide for yourself.
If you want to explore other options, maple syrup (can be pricey), rice syrup, agave syrup and the like are good substitutes. Like with all sugary items, you don’t want to consume these in bulk. Opt for whole fruits if you want a sugar kick.

 

So there you have it – my 2 cents worth on how to make a plant-based diet work for everyone.

As for veganism, it is the element of intent that sets it apart from other lifestyle choices. Vegans strive consciously to avoid harming other life forms. This does not mean that vegans do not hurt others inadvertently, but that it is never their aim to do so.(1)

As much as we try to live a totally harm-free life, it is impossible. “All animate sentient beings inflict some form of injury or death to others simply by their existence.”(1)

Don’t get buried under the rules, standards and marketing jargon people throw around with regards to a simple plant-based diet. The key here – as with any diet, exercise program, and basically anything new you adopt – is to keep things simple, practical and ensure that it can be sustained long term.

 

References:

http://www.vegsource.com/jo/qa/qahoney.htm

https://worldwidevegetarian.com/2015/03/is-it-possible-to-be-vegan-in-india/

https://www.vegansociety.com/go-vegan/definition-veganism

http://www.forksoverknives.com/the-fok-diet/

http://www.bioland.de/im-fokus/hintergrund/detail/article/mehr-oeko-durch-die-mehrwertsteuer.html

http://www.livestrong.com/article/505005-how-to-soak-vegetables-fruit-in-sea-salt-water-to-remove-pesticides/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/255880-how-to-clean-fruits-vegetables-with-vinegar/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/healthyeating/11158676/The-myth-of-the-superfood.html

 

YCT at the Yoga Connection

Very excited to announce that I will be holding regular Yoga Cross-Training classes in English at the Yoga Connection in Eimsbuettle (Hamburg, Germany):

More information can be found under
http://yoga-connection-hamburg.de/zeiten.htm

If you are interested in participating please contact Stefanie Brosda under

kontakt@yoga-connection-hamburg.de

 

Looking forward to seeing you there 🙂

full plank, high plank

Fit in 5 minutes: Say hello to the Plank

The Holidays are wonderful to spend quality time with friends and family. They are also associated with overindulgence, and you sort of take for granted that you’ll pile on the pounds.

 

Does it always have to be that way?

 

Some might argue that a 2 month set back in an entire year isn’t a bad deal. If you have a regular exercise and healthy eating plan that you’ve been following, then I’m with you.

 

Now what if your decision to get back in shape was made closer to the holidays? Do you need to give it all up?

Don’t get me wrong, the emphasis here is not on weight gain/loss. It’s about a breaking a health and fitness regime you had going (irrespective of what stage it was in) even when things get crazy busy.

I’m all about doing as little as possible to stay healthy. The key is consistency i.e. doing something every day…even if it’s for 5 minutes.

I want to share with you one exercise that you can perform daily till the festivities come to an end. It will only take 5 minutes of your day and keep you on track so you can jump right back into your pre-Holiday routine without any setbacks.
Have I sparked your interest yet?

 

Say hello to the Plank. If you’ve been practicing with me you’ll be familiar with this and the funky variations it comes with. All in all it is, in my opinion, THE most effective bodyweight exercise. Here’s why:

  1. It is a FULL body exercise. You use your arms, upper back, core (abs and lower back), thighs, buttocks, and even your feet to keep you in this position. You’re looking at a stronger core (say good bye to lower back aches), firm buttocks, toned arms and lengthened calves.
  2. It is an effective way to strengthen the wrists. I see a lot of students with weak wrists and I can’t stress how important it is to strengthen this area. Opening doors, driving, cooking (and associated prep work), carrying groceries, playing an instrument, pushing a stroller, typing – tasks we perform every day that require hands. In fact one of the causes of Carpal Tunnel is wrist weakness. Not convinced? How about wrist strength and upper body strength go hand in hand? Strengthen one and you strengthen the other.
  3. It strengthens and maintains the flexibility in your toes and feet. Your feet are the only connection between your physical body and the earth. These are what “ground” and stabilise you – your foundation. If these are weak, other muscles have to work extra to compensate leading to a host of other issues due to the imbalance created.
  4. It is a mental exercise. Very rarely in a class are you asked to hold a plank for more than 10 seconds. Most likely, you will move into several variations. In my experience, one of the most challenging aspects to holding a plank is keeping still. It’s a work in progress for me and depends on the state of my mind at that moment. Don’t be discouraged if you find yourself getting fidgety and cursing 😉 practice will help immensely and you’ll find it paying off in your Yoga class and in other aspects of your day-to-day lives.

 

How to perform a Plank

I’ve chosen a high Plank in this post to ensure you get maximum benefit in a short time.

High Plank

  1. Start in a table top pose (hands and knees/all 4s) with your knees perpendicular to your hips and hips distance apart. Wrists are under your shoulders and shoulder width apart.
  2. Head and neck:
    • Keep the neck long and drawing away from the shoulders. One way to ensure this is by finding a point slightly ahead of you to gaze at.
  3. Hands and Arms:
    • Spread your fingers out as wide as possible and engage the muscles of the arm by pressing the base of the knuckles into the mat/floor.
    •  Your middle finger points in the direction of your gaze.
    • The weight is not in the heel of your hand, but rather distributed evenly throughout the entire surface area of the palm.
    • Don’t lock the elbows out. Keep them soft.
  4. Chest:
    • Keep the collar bones wide (Imagine your chest expanding)
  5. Upper back:
    • Keep the shoulder blades on your back, don’t let them wing out like they would if you rounded your back.
    • Keep your shoulders away from your ears.
  6. Core:
    • As you exhale, feel the muscles of your abdominals moving towards your spine, and the sides of your waist drawing in. These are the muscles you want to keep strong and engaged throughout to protect your lower back.
    • The challenge comes with keeping this activation and not restricting your breath and the movement of your diaphragm.
  7. Legs and feet:
    • Extend one leg out behind you so it’s resting on the ball of your foot, and then extend the other.
    • Activate the heels by attempting to press them back (you will feel your calves here).
    • Squeeze the inner thighs together.
    • Squeeze the buttock muscles.
    • Activate the front of the thighs (quadriceps) by drawing the knee caps up.
    • Don’t lock the knees. Like the elbows, keep them soft.
  8. Hips:
    • Keep the hips in line with your shoulders (it helps to first do this with the help pf a mirror). You should be able to see your feet if you look under, and you will see a straight line from your head to your heels if you looked in a mirror.
    • Sagging hips are a lower back injury waiting to happen. You will feel the strain in your back and your feet will have disappeared!

 

Now every part of your body is working. Keep imagining the crown of your head and tailbone moving away from each other, lengthening the spine.

 

Observe your inhales and exhales, keep breathing and remember that each exhale helps you reconnect with your power house, associated with confidence and will power, the core.

 

Exiting is just as important as entry. Gently lower one knee and then the other. Shift your hips back and sit on your heels. Never exit hastily from a pose to avoid injuries.

 

Release your wrists with slow, conscious circular movements – clockwise and anticlockwise.

 

Modifications if the version above is too intense

  1. Once you extend both legs out, keep everything working and gently lower your knees down to the floor/mat. You know you’ve done it right if you lift your knees off and are in a full plank without changing anything (in other words, the angle your body makes between the knees and the mat/floor is about 45 degrees). You may chose to experiment keeping the feet on the floor or raising them.

Modified plank on kneesModified plank on knees

  1. If you have separation of the abdominal muscles (Diastasis Recti) of more than 2 fingers’ width, it is safer to plank using a chair or coffee table that’s sturdy. Make sure your shoulders are over your wrists and that the entire palm of your hand is on the surface of the chair or table.

Modified plank on chair, diastasis recti

Getting your Plank on

  1. Week 1: Start with 2 sets/rounds of 10 seconds each. If you feel that didn’t challenge you, then by all means go for 30 seconds or even a minute. Doing it twice is the key.
  2. Week 2: Add another 20 to 30 seconds. Do it twice every day.
  3. Week 3 and so on…keep adding 20 – 30s until you’ve reached 5 minutes.

 

Practice holding a Plank for 5 minutes for a week and on busy days. Observe any changes (physical and mental) this has brought about.

 

Remember, the idea here is staying consistent. This will without a doubt keep you in shape and not regressing if you’ve been making progress. You’ll emerge on the other side of the “Holiday High” stronger and ready to take on the New Year!

Raw Vegan White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

I’m not a big cheesecake fan – never have been – but hubby dearest is. He also loves white chocolate and will fight you for a raspberry. A few years ago, before I turned vegan, I had looked up a recipe for a white chocolate and raspberry cake. He loved it – it was creamy, chocolate-y and berry-y 😉

This year he asked for a similar cake. It had to be vegan (for me) and it had to have the same wow-effect as the dairy laden one (for him).

 

Betty Anwar YCT & nutrition, Raw Vegan White chocolate and raspberry cheesecake

 White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake

 

The recipe below serves 10 – 12 and is adapted from Crazy Vegan Kitchen’s White Chocolate and Raspberry Cake . It is heavy on coconut oil and cocoa butter so reserve this only for special occasions.

Please see the notes below for the products I used.

INGREDIENTS

About 200g of refined/mild Coconut oil* (melted if not already in liquid form)
100g Melted Cacao Butter*

As you read on, you will see how these quantities have been divided.

I used a 23 cm spring-form or cake tin.

Base

  • 114g Coconut oil
  • About 300g of plain vegan Digestive Biscuits (Graham Crackers)* (You can eyeball the quantity with this one. The more biscuit you use, the thicker the base)

White chocolate filling

  • 170g Vegan Cream Cheese*
  • 400g to 500g (about 2 cups) Raw Cashews (soaked overnight in water and then drained, or soak them in boiling water for about 30 minutes. I do recommend the overnight method though)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Maple Syrup (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 cup Almond/Soy Milk
  • 3 Tbsp Coconut oil
  • 50g Cacao Butter
  • Seeds of one Vanilla Pod
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt

Raspberry layer

  • 500g Raspberries (fresh or frozen*. This quantity doesn’t really matter much. I was going for a stronger raspberry flavour but you can use fewer berries to let the chocolate filling stand out)
  • 50g Cacao Butter

A few raspberries to serve (optional)

Preparation

1. Make the base by processing the biscuits in a food processor until they are fine crumbs. Add the coconut oil and process once more until the mixture has softened.

2. Press this biscuit mixture into the base of your springform tin, and place it in the freezer to set while you move onto the filling.

3. To make the white chocolate filling, add all your filling ingredients to a high speed blender and whizz away till you have a smooth consistency.

4. Take the cake tin out of the freezer and pour half the filling in, reserving some in the blender for the Raspberry layer.

5. Add the raspberries and cacao butter in the blender and blend until smooth.

6. Pour this into the cake tin and using a butter knife or skewer, swirl the mixtures to give it a marble effect. Top with raspberries now or before serving.

7. Allow to set in the freezer for about 5-6 hours. Defrost* a little before serving.

Notes:

1. Coconut oil:

In Hamburg, you can find the refined coconut oil in stores like Edeka. It does not smell or taste of coconut, so perfect as a substitute for butter in cooking and baking when you don’t want a coconut flavour.
In the organic and “reform” stores, you can find “Kokosfett mild”. I used the latter from Bio Planete.

 

Betty Anwar YCT & Nutrition, raw vegan white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake, coconut oil

Mild Coconut Oil

 

2. Cacao Butter:  Alnatura Kakaobutter

3. Digestive Biscuits: Linea Natura American Hafer (Oat) cookies 

4. Vegan Cream Cheese: I used an almond base one from Simply V. I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted.

5. Raspberries: If using frozen, allow them to thaw a little before blending

6. Defrosting: If you make this during the warmer seasons, you might only require about 10-20 minutes of defrosting time before serving. It’s winter here and I thought 1 hour would suffice, but it was still frozen (still delicious!), an extra 20 minutes or so would have done the trick.

Pea and Kale Soup

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m just NOT cut out for Winter. I’m the person in a group who’s wearing her winter gear at Christmas dinner and is asking for the heater to be turned up! lol!

What I do like about this time of the year is the abundance of kale (Gruenkohl in German) in the markets and making soups. Now, whilst we were on our European road trip in October, I rekindled my love for peas. It was at a restaurant in France where I had a delicious and surprisingly simple dish of rice, fresh tomato sauce and peas. It was so good I ordered seconds!

Put ’em together and you’ve got Pea & Kale soup – something you can pig out on without that bricks-in-your-belly feeling after.

Wondering why everyone raves so much about kale? This dark leafy vegetable is low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol. It is high in fiber, protein, vitamin A, Thiamin (vitamin B1), Riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B6, Folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, vitamin K, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Calcium, Potassium, Copper and Manganese. (source: Self Nutrition Data)

It is also a much healthier source of Calcium than dairy. Kale has 150 mg of Calcium per 100 g whilst milk has 125 mg.

I recently read that kale is also a good source of ALA (an Omega-3 fatty acid) which has been shown to be essential for brain health. 1 cup has 121 mg of ALA.

And peas? These babies are also low in saturated fat and cholesterol. There are high in protein, Iron and Manganese, and a very good source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, Thiamin (B1) and Folate (B9).(source: Self Nutrition Data)

Peas are rich in phytonutrients which research has shown can aid in lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes and gastric (stomach) cancer. They are also a reliable source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (source: WHFoods.org).

pea soup 2

 

pea soup 1

So by all means, dig in 🙂

Ingredients  (serves 4)

  • 2 shallots thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 900 g (about 8 cups) frozen peas
  • 3-4 large handfuls of fresh kale (use frozen if fresh is not available)
  • 1.2 l (5 cups) vegetable stock
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Sticky rice to serve (optional)

Preparation

If you’ve been reading any of my other recipes you’ll know that I barely use oil and salt to cook with. Feel free to swap the water for oil and add salt if you wish.

  • Heat about 4 Tbsp of water in a large pan (add more if you feel the shallots are sticking to the base of the pan) and add the shallots. Fry until they start to soften.
  • Add the garlic and gently fry for another 2 minutes
  • Add the peas and cook for about 3 minutes until they look “unfrozen”.
  • Add the stock and bring the soup to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 4 minutes.
  • Add the kale and continue to cook until the leaves have wilted and the peas and tender.
  • Turn the heat off. Allow the pan to cool sightly and then transfer to a liquidiser to blend until the desired consistency is achieved (I like mine smooth)
  • Season with pepper.
  • Enjoy served on it’s own or with rice (I made sticky white rice – something I’ve been craving lately to go with this).

 

 

 

 

Berry “Compote”

If you’re anything like me you’ll understand what it’s like to have a sweet tooth and know that you absolutely MUST have a teensy weensy dose of the good stuff everyday! Life’s too short to go without the small things that make you happy. On the other hand, if you’ve crossed your twenties and reading this you’ll know better than to scoff at the saying “A moment on your lips, forever on your hips”. Now if you’re in your 20s, all I can say is….

Your time will run out……oh yes it will!

But see, here’s the fun bit about healthy eating. Nature has a ton of ueber sweet foods like berries, dates, bananas that you can use to satisfy all your sugar cravings.

This Berry Compote is so delicious, versatile and easy that even if you tried to mess up, you’d still end up with something you could dig into for dessert.

Here are some ways you put this recipe to use:

  1. Making ice lollies (my kids’ newest hobby)
  2. As topping on oatmeal/porridge
  3. On it’s own as pudding
  4. Maybe even spread on toast (I haven’t tried that option yet but do let me know if you do)

All you need is a blender/liquidiser and you’ve got your creamy dessert ready in a few seconds! It doesn’t get better than that 🙂

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Ingredients

I eyeballed the quantities, like I said you can’t go wrong

Berries – fresh/frozen (If using frozen, let them thaw for a bit. You could also add water/a plant-based milk such as oat milk to ease the blending process)

Dates/Maple syrup

Optional addins – coconut, banana, chia/flax seeds, vanilla, cinnamon

Procedure

Place berries and dates/maple syrup (and

any optional addins) in your blender/liquidiser and whizz away.

 

 

Cashew “nutella”

I was in a health store yesterday after coffee with my girlfriends and at the entrance were 2 plates of little bread squares – one with chocolate macadamia spread and the other with cashew spread. The former was divine but a bit too sweet for my taste (owing to the added sugars).

This morning, my daughter asked me for a sandwich as her post-gym snack. I couldn’t help but think of a chocolate spread, so off we headed to the kitchen to whip up this delectable spread.

It’s so easy, you could have your kids help out (or lick – ahem, I mean clean – up after). What’s better is that this can be tweaked to your taste. Want it sweeter, add more dates; like it chocolatier, add more carob; don’t have cashews/sunflower seeds to hand, use hazelnuts or peanuts. In short, the quantities don’t matter much.

Carob is naturally sweet – nature’s chocolate – so you don’t need to add sweetner like you would if using cocoa powder. I might try a version with cocoa powder to see if it’s any different, but I quite like taste of carob 🙂

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Ingredients

  • Dates
  • Carob (powdered or pods) – I had pods
  • Cashews
  • Sunflower seeds

Preparation

  • Soak the dates, cashews and sunflower seeds while you prep your carob.
  • If using carob pods, wash them well and boil for 20 minutes to get the seeds out. If you want it raw, grind them in your food processor and fish out the bits of hard seed. I did the latter.
  • Add the dates, cashews and seeds and a little bit of the water they soaked in to the carob and blend again. You might have to do this in batches.
  • Keep adding as much water as you need to attain the desired consistency.
  • Serve on bread or crackers.

“Leafy” Fruit Salad

I recently visited a friend who lives out in the country side, on a golf course. Her husband is a very talented artist (you can see some of his extraordinary work here – Frank Rosenzweig) who has helped me design some pretty awesome business cards.

This salad was served for lunch and it rocked! I must have helped myself to 3 servings (and that was me holding back!). This is a sweetish salad – perfect for a meal/dessert combo.

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Serves 8 -10

Ingredients

  • 1 pack rocket leaves
  • 1 pack lamb’s lettuce (if you can find baby spinach leaves, add them too)
  • 500g pack of vine ripened cherry tomatoes (first quarter these and half each quarter)
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 punnet of blueberries
  • 2 ripe mangoes, diced
  • 4 figs (first quarter these and half each quarter)
  • 2 avocados, diced

Mustard vinaigrette dressing

  • 3 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 3 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons water (optional)

Preparation

  • Combine all the salad ingredients in a large serving bowl.
  • Combine the ingredients for the dressing.
  • Add the dressing to the salad bowl and toss again.

 

 

 

Raw Vegan Orange and Blackberry “Cheesecake”

This is by far the BEST cheesecake I’ve made! Really, you have to eat it to believe how good this is. I took it to a summer party in August and it was ALL gone!

The icing on the cake (literally) – the berry “sauce” – was made with wild, organic blackberries picked from a massive blackberry bush we found growing in our neighbourhood (No one told me the ordeal I’d have to endure to hand pick these babies – eaten alive by mosquitoes and skin ripped by thorns – now I know why they’re so damn expensive to buy).

I didn’t get a chance to take pictures (that’s how good it was!), so for now the featured picture in the link below will have to do 😉

Raw-Orange-and-Blueberry-Cheesecake

Source: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-food/recipe-raw-orange-and-blueberry-cheesecake/

The spring-form pan I used was about 23 cms so I doubled the quantities below. This recipe has been adapted from One Green Planet’s Raw Orange and Blueberry “Cheesecake”:

Ingredients

Crust 

  • 2 cups mixed raw nuts
  • 1 cup sultanas (dates and raisins will work too)

Orange Cheesecake

  • 3 cups cashews
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of all the oranges you juiced

Blackberry Layer 

  • 2 cups fresh blackberries (you could use any type of berry here – fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 cup of the orange cheesecake mixture

Preparation

  • For the crust, process the nuts and sultanas in a food processor until the nuts have become crumbs and the mixture sticks together when you press it. Press into the bottom of a spring-form pan and put in the fridge.
  • To make the orange cheesecake, blend all ingredients (except orange zest) until very smooth. Add in the orange zest and mix with a spoon.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup of this mixture for the berry topping – pour the rest onto your crust and put in the freezer.
  • To make the berry layer, blend the berries and the 1/4 cup of cheesecake mixture until creamy or still with small pieces of blackberry (depending on preference). Spread this over your cheesecake and keep in the freezer overnight (if you can wait) or transfer to your fridge.

Enjoy with sliced oranges and berries.