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Navigating Dietary Labels (& Moreish Quinoa Veggie Soup)

Navigating Dietary Labels (& Moreish Quinoa Veggie Soup)

People living and breathing a lifestyle grasp the vernacular that goes along with it over time, until it eventually becomes a language they can fluently recognise and speak.

When you’re just starting out, it can all sound completely alien. It’s easy to misunderstand, misinterpret and make mistakes when you have no idea what all the labels mean. This could leave you on the receiving end of a litany of attacks from the militant – those who can’t seem to separate identity from lifestyle.

To sidestep the virtue signallers and save you some of the hassle I’ve compiled a list of my interpretation of common definitions in the plant-eating world. Here’s what you need to know about the terms “vegetarian”, “plant-based”, “vegan”, “animal activist”, “whole food plant-based” and “nutritarian”.

Vegetarian

The earliest record of vegetarianism comes from 7th century BCE yet the first written use of the term “vegetarian” didn’t originate until early 19th century – a long time between meals for that one to work its way in!

Vegetarians don’t eat the flesh of any animal, including insects and shellfish. It may also exclude animal slaughter by-products. There are variations of the diet as well: an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs. 

There could be several reasons driving the decision behind the lifestyle like religion, health or to spare the lives of animals. For the vegetarians in the latter camp who haven’t yet moved to the plant-based realm, they may be unaware that they’re still contributing to the loss of animal life in the consumption of milk, cheese and eggs. Despite this, vegetarianism has done more good for the world than veganism or Sea Shepherd or whatever. Consider, for example, India alone has ~500 million vegetarians.

Vegetarianism is usually the first step in moving away from a standard western diet, and the most catered to in the modern-day world making it a more accessible lifestyle to the others we are about to explore.

Plant-based (aka ‘Dietary Vegan’)

Plant-based eaters are the new kids on the block as far as terminology goes. We can thank the militant vegans for this one.

In recent years, there has been a growing negative association with veganism which saw many disassociate from the name and “plant-based” was born.

People who consider their diet “plant-based” eat no animal products or by-products (including dairy, eggs, honey, etc). It’s all about the food and generally stems from (but not always) wanting improved health, or for environmental reasons. “Plant-based” can be a Burger King rebel burger made from plant-based ingredients but still cooked on the regular animal meat grill.

“Plant-based” can include processed foods providing they exclude animal ingredients – e.g. refined sugar, white bread, white flour, oil etc.  For a lot of people this is the next logical step on the journey after vegetarianism.

Vegan (ism) (aka a “strict” vegetarian)

By definition, any word ending in “ism” means “taking side with” or “imitation of”, and is often used to describe philosophies, theories, religions, social movements, artistic movements and behaviours. It’s been suggested that veganism is the fastest growing social movement of all time.

A “vegan” can eat identically to a plant-based baller but kicks things up a notch – from casein to gelatin to red food colouring, no stone is left unturned as to what’s lurking behind the food label.

Vegans also consider the ethical treatment of animals, with a tendency for it to be the driver of their decision over factors such as health and/or environment. A good friend once summed it up as eating “nothing that once had a face or a mother” which is illustrative of the empathy supporting the decision.

A vegan lifestyle carries over into every facet of life, from homewares to toiletries to clothing.

If animals were made from it (e.g. leather) and/or,

if animals were involved in its production (e.g. wine) or testing (e.g. make-up) and/or,

if an animal’s environment was heavily impacted to produce it (e.g. palm oil) …

… it’s out.  

To try and put what may sound complicated simply, a vegan is a plant-based eater with the emotional plight for animals and their environment.

Even cross contamination is a concern for vegans – they certainly would NOT be okay with chowing down on a plant-based burger cooked on animal meat grills (sorry, not sorry, Burger King).

Animal activist 

I’m not so sure that this sits in its own category as this is more a subgroup to vegan. An animal activist is usually a vegan who actively fights for the welfare of animals and their rights. This could be by way of protest, petitioning, or other methods of raising awareness. While it doesn’t fall into a dietary lifestyle per se, animal activism is an important distinction to make as activists tend to be labelled “vegans” in the media, further adding to public confusion of the definitions.

As animal activism can involve assertive and even somewhat aggressive forms of protest, the association has perhaps cast a negative hue over the more passive and non-confrontational vegan lifestyle. Not all vegans are animal activists, yet many wear the public backlash regardless.

Like or loathe it, animal activistism gets people talking and raises awareness on much needed topics. Extremists may like to consider more positive methods of lifestyle enrolment as research suggests current tactics are not working.

Whole Food Plant Based (WFPB)

“Whole Food Plant Based Diet” (WFPB for short) is a term coined by Dr T. Colin Campbell, an American biochemist and author of New York Times best-selling books, including The China Study and Whole – Rethinking the Science of Nutrition.

Dr Campbell specialises in the effect of nutrition on long-term health and believes that eating a variety of whole veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is the most effective way of preventing, treating, and in some cases, even reversing the most common ailments today, including certain types of cancers, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

A WFPB diet does not include highly processed foods including oil, refined sugar and grains (e.g. white rice, white bread). It does include minimally processed foods that come from plant-based sources e.g. nutritional yeast, tahini, tamari sauce etc. For plant-based eaters and junk-food vegans, this way of eating is the next progressive step.

Nutritarian

A “Nutritarian” is a person whose diet is largely plant-based, gluten-free, low-salt and low-fat. The term was created in 2003 by family physician Dr. Joel Furhman in his book “Eat to Live”.  The Nutritarian Diet, also referred to as a nutrient-dense, plant-rich diet (NDPR diet) promises impressive weight-loss results, increased lifespan, slower aging and shares in the health benefits touted by Dr Campbell for WFPB.

Key to a Nutritarian diet is the principle of selecting the highest number of nutrients for each food calorie.

Foundationally, the diet is vastly like WFPB. How it differs is that:

  • Non-factory farmed animal products including meat, dairy, eggs, fish and seafood is compliant in small amounts (<10% of total diet).
  • Gluten and salt are off the table completely.
  • Natural fat sources and whole grains are reduced in measure.
  • Snacking is banned

Many Nutritarians have found food (and fat) freedom with Furhman’s approach. It’s a good fit for anyone wanting to reduce animal foods from their diet but aren’t yet ready to say goodbye to them for good.

There you have it – my distillation of the various definitions you might hear around the traps to do with eating lifestyles. Things are not black and white and two people in the same “group” don’t always agree on every variable.  

What you may or may not eat is a continuum to finding where you belong and where you’re comfortable. It isn’t for anyone else to dictate or criticise your personal choices. There is no right or wrong way to eat. Just begin, and when you find yourself overwhelmed and caught up in food miniature, come back to centre by remembering the sage advice of Michael Pollan “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

What do you think about these definitions? I’d love to hear in the comments below.

 

Moreish Quinoa Veggie Soup

Light and filling, this homemade vegetable soup will have you coming back for more! It packs great for lunch and like most soups, it tastes even better the next day. Why not double batch it and keep the second portions in the freezer for when you need a quick but nutritious meal.

Moreish Quinoa Veggie Soup

  • 1 brown onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups seasonal vegetables, chopped (like pumpkin, zucchini, sweet potatoes)
  • 1 400g can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, dried
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup kale, ribs removed and chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon juice (to taste)
  • parsley, chopped (to garnish)
  1. Warm a little water in a large soup pot over medium head. When warm, add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, and seasonal vegetables. Cook, stirring often adding more water to prevent sticking. Cook until the onion is translucent.

  2. Add the garlic and thyme, Cook for about a minute until fragrant. Add the can of diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes, stirring frequently.

  3. Add the quinoa, stock, water and salt/pepper. Raise heat and bring to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer.

  4. Cook for 25 minutes then add the beans and kale. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until the kale has softened.

  5. Remove the pot from heat and add the lemon juice. Taste, and season with more salt and pepper to your liking. Divide into bowls and top with chopped parsley.

Wishing you a yummy week ahead – whichever way you choose to fuel. 

In Gratitude,

Gabrielle xo

Need some help eating more plants? Join our non-preachy, private Facebook group and find motivation with fellow #plantbods.

My Most Used Plant-Based Pantry Ingredients (& ‘Eggy’ Fried Rice)

My Most Used Plant-Based Pantry Ingredients (& ‘Eggy’ Fried Rice)

Making the decision to eat plant-based is the easy part. It’s in the doing where things can become unhinged.

Most people aren’t all swanky- pants with access to a personal chef – they ARE the personal chef, and usually with more mouths to feed than their own (plus a job to boot). Keeping up with the routine of existing life leaves little room for taking the foot off the gas.

Yet with the decision made, it’s fair to say that roughly 80% of everything a person knows about food and cooking up until this point will need to be relearned. It’s a wild arse ride for sure but one hundred percent worth it.

A huge help is knowing the high-use, staple ingredients in plant-based cooking so they can be kept on hand. Having these available in your pantry saves oodles of time back and forth to the grocery store or worse, haemorrhaging money through Uber Eats to save time.

With the exception of fresh produce, I’ve put together a list of the most commonly used ingredients in my household. I’ve even ranked them for added geekiness.

My OCD tried desperately hard to have these be a “top 10”, but the uncooperative part of me wouldn’t let go so alas, here are the 11 masters of your plant-based kitchen.

# 11 – Coconut Cream / Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is the liquid that comes from the grated meat of a mature coconut. The opacity and rich taste of coconut milk are due to its high oil content, most of which is saturated fat (the good kind, so don’t worry).

Coconut cream is very similar to coconut milk but contains less water. The difference is mainly consistency. It has a thicker, more paste-like consistency, while coconut milk is generally a liquid.

Make sure to shake before you use it, or alternatively store at the back of the fridge for 24 hours, flip the can over and open it to gain access to the super creamy part. Then whip it up and use as a cream.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Curries
  • Soups
  • Smoothies
  • Whole grains
  • Dressings
  • Desserts

TIP – If you’re watching your weight, take it easy on these or pick up the “light” versions.

# 10 –  Firm & Silken Tofu (organic)

Ok, I know – this isn’t technically a pantry item as tofu tends to get stored in the fridge, depending on the type that you buy. But I had to include this chameleon in food making – it can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Tofu is a food cultivated by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It can be soft, firm, or extra firm and is either found in the refrigerator section at the supermarket or in the ethnic food aisle.

You don’t have to cook it first – you can eat it as is – just rinse off the packaged water from firm tofu and you’re good to go.

It works a treat by marinating it as tofu soaks up all the flavours like a sponge. The texture of tofu changes if you freeze it before use so try this too for variation.

Silken tofu won’t hold its form and you will have water to run off. It is best used for desserts, smoothies, and sauces or even used as a binder in savoury dishes.

Plant-based uses of tofu include:

  • Baked or fried and added to anything
  • Egg replacement
  • Tofu scramble
  • Sandwiches
  • Salads
  • Dressings
  • Protein to soup

TIP – Always buy organic tofu. Soy crops are heavily sprayed with pesticides.

# 9 – Rolled Oats (Wholegrain)

Rolled oats are traditionally oat groats that have been steamed before being rolled into flat flakes under heavy rollers and stabilized by being lightly toasted. As they cook, rolled oats soften further and develop a thick, gummy texture.

Be sure to buy wholegrain as like any whole food, it’s the nutrient dense version of regular rolled oats.

A neat thing about these is that they can be eaten without further heating or cooking. If you’re gluten free, an alternative is quinoa flakes. 

Plant-based uses include:

  • Thickening agent
  • Smoothies
  • Burger binder
  • ‘Meatloaf’
  • Oat milk
  • Oat flour
  • Muesli
  • Sauces
  • Pie crust
  • No bake cookies

 # 8 – Flaxseed / Linseed

Flaxseed (also known as linseed) is full of omega 3 fatty acid – a healthy fat that plant-based eaters can struggle to gain in their diet alone.

Its a tiny grain ánd not to be confused with ‘LSA’ in the shops which is a blend of seeds/nuts – not pure flaxseed.

Buy the whole seeds, and use a high speed blender or coffee grinder to grind the whole seeds. Keep the grounds in an airtight container in your refrigerator to sprinkle into your food at any chance you get.

Here’s how make a flax egg to use as a binder in cooking:

1. Add 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into a bowl

2. Then add 2 & 1/2 tablespoons of water,

3. Pop in the fridge for 5-10 minutes – it will become thicker and ‘egg-like’ in consistency.

Note– one flaxseed egg replacement is equivalent to 1 egg so you can double it, triple it etc depending on the traditional recipe you are ‘veganising’.

 # 7 – Beans (organic, canned)

Canned beans come in all varying types and colours. They are quick, cheap and easy to use.

Don’t get me wrong, beans in their raw form are great too (and cheaper / more nutritious than canned), but it’s the convenience of the canned version that makes them a high-use pantry item in our home.

Beans are full of protein making them a great meat free alternative.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Blend into smoothies
  • Add to soups – last 5 minutes of cooking
  • Dips
  • Chilli
  • Mexican food
  • Brownies, cakes, muffins and cookies
  • Salads
  • Dressings
  • Baked beans
  • Bean based pasta sauces
  • Crepe
  • White bean pudding with coconut milk
  • Lentil flat bread
  • Curries
  • Chickpea water (aka ‘aquafaber’) to make a multitude of items

 # 6 – Apple Sauce (jarred/canned)

Apple sauce is terrific for baking. Unsweetened is best due to sugar content. It’s also a terrific egg replacement.

It adds moisture content, so you can cut back on oils and fats.

The flavour is subtle and natural, so enables it to act as a binder without dominating the taste of what you’re making.

If you have apples, you can easily make your own and freeze it down (don’t add any sugar) or buy it in jars/cans which is what we mostly do.

If buying, once you’ve opened a jar of sauce put any leftovers in ice cube trays and store it in the freezer so it’s handy for the next time you need it – no wastage.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Brownies
  • Pancakes
  • Icings
  • Cookies, muffins or cakes
  • Loaves and breads
  • Health bars
  • Burger patties

 # 5 – Tahini

Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Being a seed, it is lunchbox safe.

This seed gives us an amazing hit of B vitamins and detoxes our liver – all while containing no sugar, salt of gluten!

You can make your own tahini or buy it. It comes in two different types – hulled and unhulled.  The hulled version has been processed more than unhulled stripping it of additional nutrition so always aim for unhulled tahini where you can.

Tahini is known for its bitter, nutty taste, but it’s usually adding in other ingredients in recipes.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Brownies
  • Pancakes
  • Icings
  • Cookies, muffins or cakes
  • Loaves and breads
  • Health bars
  • Burger patties
  • Sauces
  • Dressings

Tip: When you first open your jar of tahini you will notice the oil separates from the paste, much like peanut butter. This is normal and totally fine, just pour off the excess oil and stir in what’s left.

 # 4 – Quinoa

Quinoa is an amazing seed that is packed with protein and full of all amino acids.

This seed comes in a variety of colours, and can be served hot or cold, and as a side or a main dish.

When preparing quinoa, it is always important to rinse it before use to remove the bitter or soapy coating.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Burger patties
  • Stews
  • Meatballs
  • Salads
  • Pancakes
  • Health bars
  • Cookies
  • Muffins
  • Breads
  • Stir-fries
  • Porridge
  • Rice replacement

Ooooh, now we’re getting to the sexy stuff …

# 3 – Savoury Yeast Flakes / Nutritional Yeast

Otherwise known as nutritional yeast seasoning, or ‘nooch’, these flakes are versatile, full of folic acid, protein, fibre and B vitamins. They are also gluten free, salt free and sugar free.

Savoury yeast flakes have a strong nutty, cheesy flavour making them easy to sprinkle on anything where you want that umami flavour.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Macaroni cheese sauce
  • ‘Parmesan cheese’
  • Cheese blocks
  • Cashew cheese
  • Soup
  • Gravy
  • Dips and spreads
  • Popcorn
  • Dressings

Tip: Brewer’s yeast is VERY different to savoury yeast flakes. Do not attempt to substitute.

# 2 – Cashews

My heart goes out to anyone with a nut allergy because we use cashews heavily in our cooking.

The incredible cashew is a seed, but is commonly referred to as a “nut”.  Whatever you call it, just know the amazing things it can help us create on a plant-based diet.

One of my favourites is creamy cashew milk, its so much simpler than almond milk as it doesn’t require any soaking or  draining. Just pop them in your high-speed blender, add some water and you’ve got drinkable milk in a matter of seconds.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Cheese blocks
  • Cashew milk
  • Cashew cheese
  • Dips and spreads
  • Sour cream
  • Dressings
  • Sauces
  • Soups

Time to blow those knickers clean off with the number one … Are you ready?

 # 1 – Dates (pitted)

Forget the bad rap dates have from the 80’s thanks to Devil on Horseback.

No lady.

Dates are the best kept secret sugar alternative to use any time you need to add a bit of a sweet kick to food.

Because it’s a whole food, you consume the fibre that comes with it so it doesn’t spike your blood sugar the way refined sugar does.

Fibre is also beneficial for your poo pipes helping keep your system as clean as a whistle. Unlike sugar, you’re also getting the nutrition that comes with eating a whole food.

1 date equals the sweetness that approximately 1/2 teaspoon of sugar delivers.

The best way to incorporate dates in your food is by hot-soaking them first so they’re easily broken down by your blender/food processor.

Add desired number of dates to a bowl and pour hot water over them, allowing them to soak for approximately 10 minutes.

Discard the water and you’re ready to add these to your recipe.

Plant-based uses include:

  • Smoothies
  • Milkshakes
  • Sauces
  • Dips and spreads
  • Custard
  • Nice cream
  • Cakes, slices and biscuits
  • Icings
  • Dressings
  • Desserts

What’s your favourite pantry plant-based ingredient? We’d love to know! Please tell us in the comments below.

‘Eggy’ Fried Rice

'Eggy' Fried Rice

  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • a little water as needed
  • 1 block silken tofu
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Optional

  • 1/2 teaspoon kala namak (Indian black salt)
  • sriracha sace (to taste)
  1. Heat pan over medium heat. Sprinkle a few drops of water in the pan to make sure it is hot.

  2. Once hot add the onions and garlic. Stir regularly. As the onions begin to brown pour a little water into the pan then give it a good stir to prevent stick. Continue to cook the onions repeating the step of adding water as often as necessary until the onions are translucent and soft.

  3. Add the veggies and stir them into the onions. Cover with a lid and cook until carrots are soft.

  4. Prepare the 'egg' mixture while the carrots cook. Open the silken tofu carefully and discard packaged water. Rinse under cold water and add to a medium size mixing bowl.

  5. Add the turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, sea salt and kala namak (if using). Whisk together until combined.

  6. Heat a second pan and pour in the egg mix when hot. Let the mixture cook without stirring for 3 or 4 minutes and then stir through. Continue cooking until it is hot through then add to the other pan containing the onion, and vegetables.

  7. Add the cooked rice and tamari or soy sauce and stir once more. Reduce the heat to low and heat until everything is warm and combined.

  8. Serve immediately, adding sriratcha sauce (if using). Eat and enjoy!

A truly versatile recipe – use any combination of stir-fry vegetables you prefer.

One day old cooked rice is best as the grains separate with time.

Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge or freeze to reheat later.

Wishing you a productive week ahead. May you make some time taking stock of your pantry items at home.

In Gratitude,

Gabrielle xo

Need some pantry help? Join our non-preachy, private Facebook group and have your questions answered by likeminded #plantbods.

This Is What Got Me Through A Decade (& Carrot Cake Bites)

This Is What Got Me Through A Decade (& Carrot Cake Bites)

In the book “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, Mark Manson writes “Life is essentially an endless series of problems. The solution to one problem is merely the creation of another.”

The irony of this wisdom is that it’s the easiest to forget when life is going great, and the hardest to remember when the chips are all the way down.

Then there’s the kind of problem that has no solution – like losing someone you love. At times like these, it feels like all you can do is bite down on that shit sandwich, gargle some mouthwash and try to summon the energy to make it out of bed.

As the end of a decade closes in, I realise my own experience of the last 10 years has been terrifying and heartbreaking; thrilling and poignant; adventurous and challenging,

My personal cocktail of problems/solutions/shit sammies include:

  • Moving to New Zealand
  • Surviving home renovations
  • Welcoming a fifth child
  • Graduating from studies
  • Saving a home from a fire
  • Grieving the loss off of a (step) father
  • Starting a business
  • Separating from a Beardo
  • Commencing therapy
  • Selling up
  • Starting over in Australia
  • Terminating a pregnancy
  • Reuniting with a Beardo
  • Adopting a rescue puppy
  • Growing a child into adulthood
  • Speaking at public events
  • Dodging melanoma
  • Treating cervical cancer
  • Celebrating a teenager
  • Losing an Uncle

Through the happiness, uncertainty, fear and loss, the one constant I had was my plant-based lifestyle.

At times, the food that I ate was all I could control and it gave me the energy to power through events that felt completely foreign and out of depth.

Plant-based eating is my fuel to weather the storms.

The fuel to grow a family.

The fuel to ask for help.

The fuel to survive a broken heart.

The fuel to summons courage.

The fuel to start over.

The fuel to learn and grow.

The fuel to find things to feel grateful.

If 2020 is your year to eat more plants, here are 10 quick tips to get you going: 

ONE – Drink plants.

Add fresh or frozen fruit or vegetables to your smoothies. Stock your freezer with frozen bananas, berries, mango, spinach, cauliflower, zucchini and any other fruits and vegetables you want to blend up. Make up smoothie bags and freeze them so it’s as simple as emptying into your blender, adding water / milk / juice and whizzing away.

TWO – Bake with plants.

You can easily replace eggs in baking recipes with plant-based alternatives. Mashed banana, apple sauce and flaxseed act as a binder, and without all the bad cholesterol.

THREE – Make plants taste better.

Dry veg is sad veg. Make them sing by adding a spoonful of tahini dressing, a natural peanut butter or rub the leaves with avocado or hummus.

FOUR – Wilt plants.

The beauty of leafy greens is that they wilt down considerably. Add handfuls of greens like baby spinach, silver beet, and kale to soups, stir-fries, sauces, and spaghetti sauce at any given chance.

FIVE – Use plants to create new favourite meals.

Add healthy fats to vegetables to make them tasty. Wilt greens into EVERYTHING! I can almost guarantee you that the internet has already published a plant-based recipe for your most favourite non-vegan meal. Just let your fingers do the googling. e.g. ‘Plant-based pasta alfredo’ or ‘vegan beef stroganoff’.

SIX – Turn plants into noodles.

Veggie noodles are a fun addition to salads, stir-fries and pasta. You can make them with a spiraliser. Veggies that works best are carrot, zucchini, cucumber, capsicum, onion, beetroot and parsnip.

SEVEN – Choose organic plants

The great news with buying organic produce means never having to peel it! Perfect for quick snacks and cuts down time during meal prep. Just be sure to wash it thoroughly first.

EIGHT – Prepare plants in advance.

If you have a fridge full of prepared fruit and veg, you’re more likely to eat it. Every few days, get to work washing them, chopping them, and storing them.

NINE – Travel with plants.

When hunger strikes, don’t be caught without snacks! Fruits like bananas and oranges are perfect for grab-and-go snacks, along with a handful of nuts or trail mix.

TEN – Eat plants as an entree before main meals.

Make this one a habit and you’ll not only massively increase the amount of plants you eat, but you’ll also eat less of your main meal too (great if you have weight-loss goals). Where possible, always start with a salad.

Life is glorious, devastating and precious –sometimes all at the same time. Nothing can blanket us from future problems but a diet rich in plant fuel can provide the energy needed to stay afloat on the unpredictable river of life.

What was your stand-out memory from the past decade? I would love to hear it in the comments below.

Carrot Cake Bites

Carrot Cake Bites

  • 1 cup pepita seeds or sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup desiccated cocounut plus extra to coat
  • 1 cup wholegrain oats
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/3 cup sultanas
  • 2 medium sized carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 tablespoons rice malt syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Combine pepitas or sunflower seeds, coconut and oats in a food processor and grind on high speed until mixture becomes a powder/meal texture.

  2. Turn the processor to a low speed, and add the dates one at a time. Then add sultanas, diced carrot, rice malt, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

  3. Taste the mixture once combined, and adjust as needed to suit your taste. If mixture is dry or crumbly add a few tiny drops of water or if the mixture is too moist then add extra desiccated coconut until desired texture is achieved. Mixture should be easy to roll like play dough. I usually add 1/4-1/2 cup desiccated coconut if the dates used are really fresh and juicy.

  4. Roll mixture into balls and coat in coconut. Place in fridge and set where they will last 5 days or freeze in glad bags for up to 4-6 weeks.

You may need extra if mixture is a touch moist depending on texture of the dates.

Makes approximately 36 bites, depending on size.

Wishing you love as you enter a brand new year filled with possibilities. May it involve a decision to fuel with plants.

In Gratitude,

Gabrielle xo

Do you want to meet some like-minded friends in the new year? Bounce on over to our private, preach-free Facebook group. We’d love to have you.

But I Could Never Give Up Cheese (& Veggie Based ‘Cheese’ Sauce)

But I Could Never Give Up Cheese (& Veggie Based ‘Cheese’ Sauce)

Recently I came across a busy thread in a vegan Facebook community. There were hundreds of comments to one question … “what food do you miss the most?”

After flicking through the feedback, it was pretty obvious that the most mourned food in a plant-based life is cheese.

The yellow, melty gooeyness has become America’s love child and largest source of saturated fat. The average American consumer eats approximately 33 pounds of cheese each year. That’s over 60 thousand calories that never needed to be eaten!

Our lizard brain LOVES it because humans evolved from a time when food was scarce and high-calorie morsels were to be savored for energy and survival. But evolution is a slow process. Our brains need to catch up with modern times of food abundance so that diets are more focussed on obtaining key nutrients from food instead of calories.

A further reason why cheese-lovers are adoring fans is largely due to the opioid-like effect on the brain that is similar to taking drugs. Cheese contains casein. It also contains casein fragments called casomorphins, a casein-derived morphine-like compound. Basically, dairy protein has opiates that attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach. It makes the desire to eat it again a powerful urge to deny.

The cold truth is that cheese (and dairy) is responsible for a range of common health issues – from asthma and acne to ear infections and period pain. In my work with people to help them quit dairy (some are diagnosed as lactose intolerant), they’re always surprised to heal other complaints that they had come to accept as having to live with forever.

Sometimes it’s not until we stop a eating something noxious that we make the connection.

I think cheese would be easier to deny if people knew how a lot of it is made. This information not only helped me to never eat cheese again, but never want toA subtle but important distincion.

Here’s the deal …

Calf rennet is extracted from the fourth stomach of young, nursing calves as part of livestock butchering. These stomachs are a byproduct of veal production. Rennet contains enzymes that helps the baby animal digest the protein from the mother’s milk. Humans have found it to also help in cheesemaking by separating it into the solid curds and the liquid whey. 

My own stomach is curdling right now … 

If you’re ready to kick the stuff, it takes at least one full month for cheese cravings to die off. Sometimes it’s longer but when you consider the effects on human health, it’s short-term pain for a long-term reward.

Women who eat cheese at least once a day put themselves at a 49% higher risk of death. According to Dr Neil Barnard this is because of the hormones in cow’s milk (from which cheese is made) that causes cancer to grow.

Science also indicates a strong correlation between cheese consumption and Alzheimer’s disease. The higher the consumption, the higher the risk.

The best approach to breaking up with cheese is firstly accepting that there really is no substitute that will give you the same “fix”. There are some highly processed alternatives like Daiya, and Miyoko brands, but these lack the dopamine hit and are devoid of any real nutritional value.

Rather than looking to substitute, it’s better to look for non-dairy alternatives that also taste great where cheese would have had a place too.

Here are five of my favourite foods that you can use in the places where cheese might have lived:

ONE: Almond meal

Ground, sifted whole almond have a similar texture to Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle on top of dishes like pasta, soups and pizza where you’d usually use it. You can also mix the almond meal with some dried herbs and a little salt for more flavour.

TWO: Nutritional Yeast (aka ‘nooch’)

‘Nooch’ is a heavily used ingredient in a cheese-free kitchen because of it’s cheese-like qualities. It’s also an umami bomb! Sprinkle it on popcorn, pasta, pizza, and soups. Add it into sauces and fillings. Nutritional yeast is also a source of Vitamin B12, folic acid, selenium, zinc and protein making it a great addition to any recipe.

THREE: Avocado

The humble avo is versatile in a dairy-free kitchen. Use it in sweet or savoury dishes – in sandwiches, on pizzas, inside burritos and quesadillas. It can also be used to replace butter in cakes and makes a mean chocolate pudding! It’s rich and creamy texture satisfies the senses. Just be mindful that it is also high in calories so limit intake to a quarter avocado per day if weight-loss is a goal.

FOUR: Cashews

Another staple in the pantry is the humble cashew. These are usually mistaken for nuts but are seeds because they grow inside the cashew fruit (aka drupe).

Just one of the many ways to use them is to soak cashews for a few hours, drain and then puree with a little garlic and nutritional yeast to make a kind of spreadable cheese. You can also use cashews to make cheesecake, and cheese-like sauces and dressings.

FIVE: Miso Paste

If you’re a lover of older and stronger cheese, this is likely due to its umami taste. Miso paste, made from fermented soybeans, has a rich umami flavour. A little goes a long way so just a tablespoon of miso paste can add serious flavour to sauces, dressing, marinades and soups.

There you have it. Five awesome new things to try in the kitchen instead of reaching for the cheese.

So … enough of the “I could never …” statements. If you’re scared of kicking it to the kerb because it brings you comfort and pleasure, then that’s the truth.

You CAN give up cheese and the great news is that when you’re ready to quit the excuses, face the fear and step into action, you’ll kick it forever. I know you will.

What’s something you’ve given up in the past that you never thought you could? Please let us know in the comments below.

Veggie Based ‘Cheese’ Sauce

Veggie Based 'Cheese' Sauce

  • 2 cups sweet potato, diced (approximately 2 small sized sweet potatos)
  • 1 cup carrot, diced
  • 1 brown onion, quartered
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chickenless chicken stock (I use Massel brand)
  1. In a large pot, boil the sweet potato, carrot and onion until tender.

  2. Transfer vegetables to a high powered blender and blend until smooth. 

  3. Drizzle over nachos, steamed veg, or gluten-free pasta. Serve immediately.

If the sauce is too thick, add more water until the desired consistency is reached.

Here’s to a happy week ahead filled with honesty and action.

 

In Gratitude,

Gabrielle xo

Do you want to quit cheese but need support? Join our non-preachy, private Facebook group filled with likeminded #plantbods and let’s do this together.

How Tacos Help Your Kitchen Space (& Velvety Macadamia Cream)

How Tacos Help Your Kitchen Space (& Velvety Macadamia Cream)

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It might sound obvious, but if your kitchen is disorganized, unattractive and cluttered then it’s not going to inspire you to spend much time there. And if the goal is to eat food that’s better for you, you’ll need to make more meals at home which means more time spent in the kitchen.

When it comes to that space, I want you to think about TACOS – because tacos are delicious. You could also think about Liam Hemsworth or Mila Kunis but that isn’t going to turn into a handy acronym for this makeover.

Tools
Accessories
Cupboards and drawers
Oven and cook top
Surfaces

#1 – Tools

The good news is that plant-based cooking actually requires less, not more. Having a few essential tools in top condition is all you need – forget the whizz-bang gizmos and gadgets for now. When you move your food sources closer to nature, you automatically simplify matters. The ingredients are then given a chance to stand out in their own right.

Check that you have the essentials – a good cutting board (preferably wood), 2 sharp knives (chef and paring), vegetable peeler, sauté pan (with a lid), mesh strainer, and a clean and sturdy baking tray. A high-powered blender is also recommended for making light work of tough jobs.

Sharpen your knives. You can either sharpen them yourself (watch some popular YouTube tutorials) or call your local hardware store to see if they offer the service. Ironically, I’ve had mine sharpened by the local butcher. Wherever you get them done, the prices are typically per knife.

Make sure your chopping board is clean and hygienic. You can give it a deep clean with a baking soda paste. Use 1 tablespoon each of baking soda, salt, and water. Scrub the paste into the board and rinse thoroughly with hot water. This will get rid of any stains and smells.

#2 – Accessories

An accessory is a thing which can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive. Here’s what I mean by adding an accessory to your kitchen …

… are you a visual person? Try keeping a vase of beautiful fresh or silk flowers nearby. Move a favourite art piece to the area. If music’s your thing, move your sound dock into the room so you can cook away to your playlist. If you thrive on being productive and like to multi-task, introduce your tablet. Then you can listen to podcasts or catch-up on Jon Snow’s latest squeeze while you stir.

Think about what you can introduce to your kitchen space to make it a more inviting space that’s uniquely you.

#3 – Cupboards and drawers

Ever noticed how the food is laid out at your local Subway fast-food chain? Everything is close at hand or has its place nearby. The sandwich assembly process flows and repeats.

This follows Kaizen principles which is a Japanese business philosophy of continuous work practices, including personal efficiency. And while we don’t run a sandwich bar at home (although I feel like I do with five kids), it’s frustrating when everything seems too hard and takes longer than it should.

Try rearranging your cupboards and drawers by opening each one and matching things up. Be sure you don’t overfill. Donate the things you don’t use. Match saucepans and plastics with their lids. Make sure your essential tools are close at hand and they have a regular place. I keep my cutting board on the bench top along with a knife constantly. Once I’ve used it, I wipe it down and put it right back in the same spot so it’s ready to go again and again. The convenience of it being right there means I’m more inclined to use it instead of reaching for a packaged snack.

#4 – Oven and cook top

Cleaning a dirty oven is perhaps the worst of all the household chores. Wait, no – cleaning my children’s toilet is. So, let’s call it the second worst.

Not only is a dirty oven a fire hazard, but a stove full of smouldering oil and old food rot can ruin the flavour of food by filling it with a nasty smokiness that it doesn’t deserve. The grease that clings can become soft during heating and drip into your food while it’s cooking. Gross!

Clean your oven and cook top, making it all sparkly fresh and free from built-up muck. Try to use a non-toxic cleaner. Instead, you can try baking soda and vinegar. Again, tutorials on the internet will offer cleaning recipes that are effective.

#5 –Surfaces

I’ve always had a love of a clear surfaces. We didn’t live this way growing up – all benchtops were cluttered from loose change bowls, knickknacks and key jars. This used to irk me so much that when mum would disappear for a good half day, I would spend it finding homes for all the things that cramped the kitchen space.

There is a calm that comes when you wake up, walk downstairs and see a kitchen all ready to go. It’s the difference between cleaning up the night before and leaving it until the next morning. I bet you’ve done both. And I bet, like me, you feel grateful for the times that you wake to a clear workspace to prepare breakfast, create lunchboxes, make coffee or whatever usual morning ritual you follow.

It’s about getting into the habit of clearing your surfaces as you go. Ideally – after every meal. Get the family on board to form the habit. The adage of ‘many hands make light work’ is an adage for a reason.

Get rid of knickknacks and anything sitting on your bench top that doesn’t belong there. The space should be mostly clear. To invite you to cook more plant-based meals, get a few inspiring recipe books and place them nearby for quick and easy reference.

Concentrating on making your kitchen an inviting space is an important yet often overlooked aspect to healthy eating. By giving it a bit of love and attention, you may just find yourself wanting to hang out there and make … tacos.

Velevety Macadamia Cream

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velvety Macadamia Cream

  • 1 cup raw macadamia nuts (soaked overnight and drained of water)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup water (varies depending on desired thickness of cream)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place all ingredients, starting with only 1/2 cup water, in a high speed blender or food processor. Blend or process until completely smooth (the process should take about 1-2 minutes in a high speed blender and about 4 minutes in a food processor). If using a food processor, stop a few times to scrape down the bowl and then continue blending. Drizzle in extra water as needed to reach a desired consistency and add sweet or savory flavorings of choice. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

If you’re using a high speed blender, the nuts will only need 2 hours of soak time.


Wishing you an inviting week ahead in the kitchen.

In Gratitude,

Gabrielle xo