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It’s all about warm Winter salads this week.

I am often asked how I balance out my menus for so many different diets… my trick is to make a dish that items can be added or taken away, and salads are perfect for this, they are also a great way to change up the seasonal vegetables… Fall and Winter Salads are delicious, lots of roasted squashes, butternut, acorn and even my favorite squash the delicata, switch it up, try different squashes to keep dishes interesting, you can even throw in some sweet potatoes or yams.

Fill your salad with lots of seasonal greens, kale is a firm favorite in my house as long as it’s finely chopped I will add, it is full of nutrition and it works well in a robust winter salad, add in some spinach, and toss in some arugula (rocket) leaves for a little peppery spice. Next on my winter salad is broccoli or cauliflower, chopped finely, again for the fussy eaters in my house, it’s raw and totally delicious, blended with the other ingredients you will hardly know it’s in there.

Add in some carbohydrates, always whole grain as Jamie would say, quinoa is high in protein, farro, barley, wild rice, brown rice, whole grain couscous… your options are limitless, switch it up add potatoes, celeriac is a great choice roasted or add a little whole grain pasta, again so many different shapes and sizes out there.

Keep your portion sizes small for carbs, balance this out with all the glorious veggies out there, you can add ribbons of carrots, chopped red onions, one of my new favorite things to bake and add to salads is the humble beet, add chopped cabbage, red or green it works so well in a robust winter salad, add in some grape tomatoes, thinly sliced asparagus spears… just have fun, think lots veggies and think about eating lots of different colors within your dish.

Well I will put my hand up and say I never used to like fruit in my salad, I don’t know what it was about the sweet and savory combination, but it definitely was not my favorite, fast forward a few years and I love it, it just goes to show if you persist you can grow to love all different kinds of foods… anyway my go to fruit for my winter salad is pomegranate, the juice as you tap those little nutrition packed seeds onto your salad add into the dish to create its own dressing, they are bright and vibrant, and most definitely add a pop of color and nutrition to your plate. Apples and pears are definitely in season right now, so think about slicing or chopping and tossing them throughout your dish to add in some sweetness.

Last but not least is your protein, well this one is easy if you are a meat eater, seared turmeric chicken Jamie Oliver style is one protein that packs a punch of flavor and is an excellent anti inflammatory aiding dish. Perfect pork belly is a fantastic protein to add to a robust winter salad. The list goes on, spicy sausages, apple sausages add a touch of Fall flavor, crispy ground beef, perfectly seared slices of steak… take your pick they are all fantastic to add to any salad dish.

Now if you are a vegetarian or vegan beans and lentils are a perfect accompaniment for your salad, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans in all shapes and sizes, you can flavor them or you can just toss them in as they are. Now I am a huge lentil fan, red, green, French, I just love lentils, add them into a salad or make a soup to go on the side, they definitely are a great protein for a salad, Spring or Summer, Fall or Winter. Of course eggs are not vegan, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition, boil them and have them on the side of your salad, make an omelette to eat with your salad, either way eggs are good with everything. Avocados, what can I say, it’s protein packed along with other nutrition, it’s most definitely delicious and I know Florrie, Mabel and I could eat them all day and every day… add them to salad and you will most definitely be smiling.

In my house we are split with dressings and toppings, some of us love a good salad dressing, some of us like it creamy, some of us like it acidic, some of us even like our salad dry with no dressing… WHAT? I know that is crazy right? Whatever way we like our salad dressing, just make it healthy and delicious. I always leave my salad undressed, then everyone gets to choose how they want to eat it. Toppings are the same, some people do not like nuts, other like seeds, have fun add some crunch to your salad your way, think sesame or hemp seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, nuts, nuts and more nuts, throw on whatever you have in and crunch away.

I could eat salad every day, that combined with a good yummy comforting soup is perfect Winter food for me… here are a few ideas to help plan your meals for this week, remember always have fun, get your children chopping, get them to help with each recipe, what I find in my house is if they have contributed to making our meal they are more willing to try it.

Tomato farro salad

Harvest salad

Warm Winter salad

Superb squash soup

Spiced parsnip and lentil soup with chili oil

English onion soup

Salads are a great way to eat the rainbow, they can be a complete meal with all of your food groups on one plate. Something that Jamie said in his Superfoods show was to add feta over your salad, not too much, think of it as a seasoning, that is most definitely my new way of thinking, another quick tip is to turn a can of garbanzo beans into hummus, spread it onto your plate and place your salad on top, a great protein , with great flavor… however you make your salad, have fun, chop away, different shapes and sizes, add texture and color, your body will definitely love you for it. ♥️

Diet and nutrition, plant based diet, recipes, Uncategorized

Veganuary

IMG_2722It is officially half way through Veganuary, so let me tell you how it is going…

First off let me tell you it is not as hard as I thought, there are actually so many new plant based items coming into our grocery stores, from delicious butter to perfect smelling and delicious tasting sausages from the company Beyond Meat… on our first day of Veganuary we had a rather indulgent sausage sandwich, not only was it completely plant based but it was all gluten free too… so we were off to a flying start and it was not feeling too much like a vegan diet.

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Now when it comes to cooking normally, I am definitely a cook from scratch kind of girl, no additives, natural, organic cooking… but eating a completely plant based diet and finding delicious recipes has been so easy, even Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey are getting in on the act these days. Pinterest has become my best friend, along with Deliciously Ella, Aine Carlin and Bosh to name a few.

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What have we eaten I hear you ask… well I will give you a little food tour of our two week adventure into plant based eating… breakfasts are usually a potato and sweet potato hash with lots of healthy veggies, I have recently purchased a mung bean scrambled egg product called Just Egg, it scrambles just like eggs and tastes almost the same, its big plus is the amount of protein it adds to your diet, if Paul is traveling into the office I make him a fruit filled chia pudding with added beet powder for nutrition and topped with a little granola for crunch. Lunch is a mixture of leftovers from the night before to soup and sandwiches, soups are very easy to make vegan, substitutions are easy, nut or oat milks replace dairy milk, coconut cream or a non dairy yogurt replaces cream or half and half, garbanzo beans are a perfect replacement for chicken and butter is swapped out with a healthy oil or plant based butter. One of my new favorite lunches is Trader Joes new Crabless Jackfruit patties, with a large salad, they are so good. Dinner is where it is at, so many well thought out nutritious and really delicious recipes to chose from, one of my favorites is a skillet lasagne, but to be honest I am also loving the simple baked potato with a little vegan butter and a huge salad too. Buddha bowls have featured in many of our menu plans… simple nutritious bowls of delicious colors like a Winter buddha bowl and a  Chickpea bowl with a spicy peanut sauce. Of course it is always good to have a sweet treat and eating a plant based diet does not mean you cannot do that… like these delicious Fudgy Vegan Brownie Cookies, I did not have the aqua faba, so I substituted it for a flax egg and it worked perfectly, they were so good even my children ate them and did not suspect for even a minute that they were totally vegan.

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Now onto how I am feeling in myself… since the beginning of December when we purchased our treadmill I have lost 10 lbs, I gained 3 lbs over the Christmas period, so I guess in total I have lost 13 lbs because I had to lose that weight again, I think the combination of diet and exercise is the reason, I use the treadmill 6 days a week and have eaten a nutritional plant based diet that I calorie count each day. I have cut down my sugar intake but I am stilling enjoying a glass or two of wine, we found out that our favorite red wine is actually totally vegan and our favorite chocolate sweet treat is vegan too, so win, win when you want a little treat here and there.  Apart from a very bad reaction to some sour dough bread I bought for the first time ever in Trader Joes on Sunday, where on two separate occasions of eating it I became very sick, shaking, heart palpations, difficulty breathing and feeling so cold, I am feeling good, I have no bloating at all, my head feels very clear and very focused, I seem to have more energy than I have had for a long time.  Now Paul will tell anyone that will listen how being a vegetarian for 11 months has helped him feel better too, his health has seemed to improved a great deal. Over these past two weeks Paul has been 98% vegan, he has had no eggs and a very tiny portion of cheese when he grabbed a small slice of pizza and ate it before he realized what he had done, I too had a small slip up with some salted movie popcorn Florrie bought back from her outing with Dom, I was happily munching away when I was informed they had put butter all over it, hopefully not too much had gone on the bottom kernels.

At the moment Veganuary is going strong for Paul and I, I really don’t mind substituting vegan cheese for the odd grilled cheese sandwich to go with a large bowl of creamy broccoli soup or making a beautiful Black Bean Plantain Enchilada Bake from the Minimalist Baker, I am also good at adjusting the odd Jamie Oliver recipe and turning it into a plant based delight.

 

Diet and nutrition, Florence, plant based diet, Uncategorized

Road to getting fit and healthy…

IMG_2035As I get older my weight has spiraled, I have never had weight issues before and I do not like the loss of control over my size, so before I get any older I need to get a grip and get fit and healthy.

Over the past few years I have played around with exercise, the odd phase of Yoga with youtube, a little bit of low impact cardio, damn it I have even considered a few laps in our friends pool or on vacation enough exercise for a week or two… in reality I have never really stuck to any program of exercise since I was in my thirties.

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Diet is exactly the same, I have fluctuated from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, I have tried the paleo approach, I have counted calories and I have even tried to starve myself, nothing works and I have not stuck to anything with success.

So what is a girl to do… suddenly it hit me, I really need to get real, whilst on vacation a few weeks ago I decided to try out the treadmill in the hotel gym, I had no sneakers with me so I went barefooted, gross I know, but I promise I cleaned everything down after I used it.  I actually enjoyed using the treadmill each day and it was surprising how I improved even after only a few days, I followed it with a few laps in the pool and then of course some fun time with my children, I felt so much better in myself.

Which brings me to today… we now own our own personal treadmill, a bargain purchase on Black Friday, I have found a low impact cardio video on Youtube and a quick morning Yoga morning session to add to my morning routine.

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It is time to get real people and kick this middle aged body into shape… I started a loose exercise routine on Saturday and as the week has progressed it has developed and shaped its way into something I can do everyday, I can adapt it if I need to.  I have even purchased scales, something I swore I would never do as I was anorexic in my teens and obsessed with my weight… but now I am armed with a lot of research on health and nutrition I am determined to lose weight the sensible healthy way.

Today after completing 6 continuous days of exercise, 99% gluten free and plant based diet I have lost 7lbs, now I know this may not continue at this rate, but I am very happy to have it as a starting point… so how have I done it?

Every morning, I am definitely a morning exerciser, some people prefer afternoon or evenings, I like to have my routine done before I sit down to breakfast… anyway every morning I start my day with a very quick 5 minute wake up yoga session, stretching out my body, then I set an Interval training 30 minutes session on the treadmill, my usual distance is about 1.4 miles going from a slow walking pace to a slow run, believe me I couldn’t even do this when I first started, after I have recovered from my walk/run, I move onto a 20 minute low impact cardio workout to tone my muscles then finish with a 5 to 10 minute, depending on how bored my children are, mediation to focus for my day.

I have been very careful with my diet this week, I think 90% of my shopping cart this week was fresh organic produce, when my kids look in the refrigerator all they see is fruit and vegetables… and you know what this week nearly everything has been used in my nutritious buddha bowls for dinner every night.  I have been 99% plant based and gluten free, I have felt so much better, no bloating, sorry TMI, more energy and I feel much calmer.  Breakfast usually consists of vegan gf whole grain toast and something like avocado or vegan cream cheese with lots of veggies, like tomatoes, arugula or baby kale.  Lunch has been a butternut squash gf based pizza with organic tomato sauce, no cheese but lots and lots of super healthy veggies and for dinner we have eaten the rainbow, both cooked and raw in our variations of buddha bowls, if you have not tried them take a look at all the different recipes out there or create your own bowls of perfectly balanced nutrition… It is a great way to get your children eating healthier too, let them create their own bowls, F and T would fill theirs with cucumber, avocado, apples and pasta, but hey its healthy so I will be happy.

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Now I am not saying I have been perfect, I have drunk a glass or two of wine each night, I even had two pieces of a Terry’s chocolate orange and I am still having sugar in my coffee, but I have improved at one stage I could have drunk the liquor store empty of wine… well not really but you get the idea, I was also having half a bag of mini Kit Kats a night with Paul and I was drinking 3 sugars, 4 if I had a coffee from Dunkin Donuts… everyone has their vice and mine is a little sugar in my coffee each day, and of course that much needed glass of wine to end my busy hectic days.

Diet and nutrition, plant based diet, recipes

Vegan or plant based diet?

DSC_4900-EditI recently read a post on Facebook about Steve Jobs, one thing that stuck in my mind was something he said, and something I whole heartedly believe in more and more recently… ‘we need to look at food as our medicine, or one day our food will be our medicine’.

Veganism is some thing that has become hugely trendy recently, but realistically how many of the Vegans out in the world are truly vegan, do they still wear leather shoes, do they still sit on giant leather couches, I think that maybe a few still do, so truthfully I think the real term should be plant based diet, but with that being said a plant based diet is not always healthy, there are many flavored chips out there that claim to be vegan, a quick trip to five guys for fries cooked in peanut oil, is that considered vegan too?  Not in my mind, when I think vegan or plant based diet I think vegetables, healthy grains and legumes… and that is exactly the way we have been eating for quite some time now.

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In the last two weeks I have really cracked down on healthy eating vegan style… I am not going to say I have been totally a plant based diet eater as I have had a tiny amount of fish in some sushi, but I would say that 98% of my diet in 14 days has been healthy plant based gluten free foods, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What have I discovered from plant based eating and gluten free dieting?  Well I am preparing food for a long time each day, vegan recipes can be very complex but extremely tasty, but most of all my body feels so much healthier… I have no bloating, my skin looks healthier, I can feel I have started to lose a little of the weight I have been trying so desperately to offload for quite some time now, not much but I can feel it in myself and my clothes and my mind feels clearer and more focused.

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I have always been a menu planner, so cooking plant based meals has not changed this, the only change is that my cart is filled with much more fresh organic produce and unprocessed foods than ever before.  My shopping list always includes lentils, all varieties of beans, gluten free flours from garbanzo bean flour to tapioca flour, and all the flours in between, lots and lots of fresh veggies and fruits, frozen veggies and fruit and lots of herbs and spices, fresh and frozen… it’s never cheap to eat healthily but it is definitely rewarding.

I challenged my husband to a one week vegetarian diet a few months ago, he not only accepted my challenge, but he knocked it out of the park and became a full time Vegetarian, he doesn’t want to become a fully plant based diet eater as he says he would miss cheese and eggs, and I am good with that, but in all truthfulness because I plan all his meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner including when he is at work, I would say he is 90% a plant based eater… pretty good for someone who has eaten a lot of meat his whole life.

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How does he feel after a few months of his new diet… well he has started to lose weight, slowly but he is down two holes on his belt and shorts he couldn’t wear last year now fit him.  He had health issues, which prompted my challenge, and he says he feels much healthier.  Every day I make him breakfast, lunch and dinner and to be honest he eats it all, he does not like products that pretend to be meat so it can be a challenge for me at times, I’ve made black bean burgers, walnut and mushroom meatballs, and to be fair he has eaten them but they are not his favorite… BBQ’s are my biggest challenge with him, but he recently saw a recipe for beer can cabbage cooked on the grill on Facebook that he fancied, so that is on my list to make when we get back from vacation.

Talking about vacation, what happens when you become a plant based eater and you are out and about, especially on vacation staying in a hotel.   South Carolina is famous for fried chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, lots of seafood and meat dishes… this will be the challenge, to keep on the healthy eating plan, it will be hard but I am setting myself the challenge, let’s see if I can do it.

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So what have I been cooking… the list is long as I like to change it up all the time otherwise I would get bored with cooking day in day out… now remember I live in a house of 10 people most of the time, 12 right now as my parents are visiting, not everyone is vegetarian or plant based, so how do I manage to juggle meals for everyone?  That was my dilemma, but I came up with a solution that seems to be working, although it is a lot of work for the chef, namely me.  I always select a vegan meal then think how can I adapt it, what meat could I add in for the meat eaters, it quite often ends up being two big skillets of food, one with meat and one without.

Here are some of my favorite recipes so far…

Low fat vegan mac n cheese

Crunchy Thai noodle salad

Vegan lentil enchiladas

Indian Frankie’s

Mid week mash and beans

Quinoa and cannellini bean soup

Vegan skillet lasagne

Vegan buffalo cauliflower tacos

Socca

Chickpea scramble

Magic green sauce

Vegan one pot Asian style pasta

Unfortunately I haven’t taken any food photos recently, but I promise going forward I will include photos of our meals.

Vegan cookbooks I recommend…

The new vegan by Aine Carlin

Mindful vegan meals by Maria Koutsogiannis

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A while ago a friend of mine suggested that I create a blog of what we eat… I am hugely into nutrition and I try my hardest to cook a balanced meal plan each week, so that got me thinking, especially as we have just started this healthy plant based diet… I thought maybe I could share our journey with you, I’ll give you ideas for meal planning for your healthy week ahead, shopping lists of foods I like to include in my refrigerator and pantry, also I can let you know what is happening and how we are feeling as the weeks go on with our diet based mainly around plants… I really hope you will all join me on this adventure and come along for the ride… but first let’s see how I handle the hurdle of a vacation in the south staying in a hotel… Happy Summer everyone.

 

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Changes…

Wow… It’s only taken me 45 years to realize how important our diet really is to our well being, after being an anorexic teenager and suffering from IBS on and off for many years, I am finally understanding binge eating chocolate and chips, then starving yourself is so bad for you… Duh! With recent events in our household the stress levels meant I did not eat for over a week, this has triggered the horrible symptoms of IBS to rear its ugly head again… So it’s time to squash this thing once and for all… I am very good at preaching a healthy diet to others, but to actually practice it for myself is another thing… Every morning I make an ultra healthy salad for Paul’s lunch, but then when it comes to lunch time I binge snack on all the bad things I can find because I cannot be bothered to throw a simple healthy lunch together for myself… Well it’s time to change the bad habits of a lifetime!

One of my thoughts in rehabilitating myself is to buy a juicer, it’s a thought at the moment, but maybe I will find it easier to drink lots of fruit instead of just looking at it in the bottom of my fridge … Thoughts from everyone would be appreciated here… Good, bad or just a complete waste of money? When I’m hungry and in need of a snack, I automatically reach for something unhealthy, whatever is easiest really, I don’t think oh that apple looks yummy, I will eat that!

One of the things recommended to Jordan recently by his Gastro doctor for good digestive health was Activia, probiotic yogurts, I often look at them in stop and shop, but this week I actually bought them, I am trying to have one for breakfast every day, this is my second day and I do have to say yesterday I did feel less bloated, but that may have just been my imagination because I want them to help… I will continue to have them for breakfast and see if it does help and make me feel better!

My grocery shopping has changed over recent years, we went to Trader Joes last weekend and I noted that almost half of my bill was actually organic fruit and vegetables, also my dry goods were mainly brown organic rice products or fully gluten free, our snacks were more healthy granola bars… In years past the refined processed products would have filled my cart… Much to my older children’s frustration our pantry and refrigerator is now 80% healthy organic produce and grains… Now I need to really start eating this stuff myself, not just giving it to my family, then binge eating all day on the cheese that sits in the fridge door!

I am also trying hard to reduce my stress levels… Difficult in our house, believe me… My Mum’s brother has always said ‘don’t worry about things that may never happen’, well this is my new motto in life, I have spent my whole life worrying about anything and everything, so now I am trying to live one day at a time, deal with that day and then move on… Easier said than done, but I am trying!

Have a great day… Look for the positives and not the negatives around you… And just be happy!

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