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Optimal Health: 6 Meal Ideas That Contain A Grain, A Green & A Bean

I love saying ‘a grain, a green and a bean,’ when I’m asked what an optimally healthy meal is. Party because it rhymes and it’s rhythmic, and partly because it’s mostly true. You can use other starches (sweet potato/white potato/squashes) instead of (or as well as) the grain to nutritionally round-out a meal, and of course you can add plenty of other veg that aren’t green. But it’s just an easy, fun way to remember how to get a full complement of nutrients in a meal.

Of course you don’t have to eat the full trifecta for every single meal either. It’s just something to aim for on a reasonably consistent basis.

With this in mind, here are 6 great ways to utterly rock the holy trinity that is the gorgeous grain, the glorious green and the beauteous bean! 🙂 :

1. Black Eyed Pea Curry With Collards & Potatoes

ppk-black-eyed-pea

This recipe is from isachandra.com – Post Punk Kitchen that was. I remember watching Isa’s videos that she shot with her friend in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, like, a million years ago. I’ve made several of her recipes and she knows her shit. Make.This.Now. Ooh, and serve it over brown rice!

2. Pasta Fagioli with Cranberry Beans and Kale

pasta-beans

I’ve used fatfreevegan.com several times, always with delicious, yummy success. Don’t forget to use wholewheat pasta! Also, Susan (the recipe creator) says you can use pinto or borlotti beans if you can’t find cranberry beans (phew – I’d never heard of these!)

3. Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew

quinoa-isa

From isachandra.com again. What dish could be more perfect for winter?

4. Cajun-Style Vegan Red Beans and Rice

cajun-beans

I make a version of this, but to be honest, this recipe from emilieeats.com has a couple more flavours than mine. And Emilie is a Louisiana dude so knows what’s what when it comes to Cajun beans, so I’m using her recipe here. You can wilt a little spinach into it for your greens, or just have any steamed greens on the side.

5. Adzuki Bean Noodles with Bok Choy, Edamame, and Miso Sesame Sauce

noodles

This recipe from thefullhelping.com uses adzuki bean noodles; but just simply switch these for brown rice, black rice, or soba (buckwheat) noodles, to get your grain.

6. Shimbra Asa (Spicy Chickpea Stew) & Atakilt Wat (Gardener’s Vegetables in Aromatic Spices)

ethiopian

Much like the blogger over at profoundhatredofmeat.com , Ethiopian food is easily my favourite. This year I discovered Shimbra Asa (pronounced ‘shimbrassa’), a dish I hadn’t yet tried in all my years of visiting Ethiopian restaurants, and it blew my teeny-tiny mind. It’s like a berbere stew with chickpea balls in it, and it is heaven. It’s soul food. When you eat shimbra asa, you know damn well you’ve been fed.

I haven’t yet tried to make it (I’m scared I’ll f**k it up) but this recipe looks legit. Your ‘grain’ is the highly nutritious teff used to make the injera bread, your ‘bean’ is the chickpea flour, and your green is the cabbage in the atakilt wat.

 

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The Problem With ‘Flexitarian’ And Why It’s Not Enough

One last look at 2012. Happy New Year planet Earth! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So Donald Asshat Trump won the US election (do you remember saying a few months back, as I did, ‘it’ll NEVER happen!’), and I’m seeing lots of concern on social media about what this means for the planet.

It’s said that Trump believes climate change is ‘a hoax invented by the Chinese.’ If this is true, then of course it’s very worrying indeed.

He may let energy and business projects go ahead regardless of the environmental impact, and may not be too concerned with implementing clean forms of energy. Not to mention the fact that he may get the planet nuked if someone pisses him off too much on Twitter!

However – there is LOTS that WE can do to counteract his ecological idiocy.

We know that the best and most positively impactful solution to all forms of environmental damage is cessation of animal agriculture.

This can only be achieved if WE stop consuming animal products.

Watch Cowspiracy and read the works of Dr Richard Oppenlander if you didn’t know this already and need it substantiated. Though I have a hunch you already have an awareness of this.

Worryingly, what I’m seeing on Twitter from some non-vegan peeps that are worried about Trump’s effect on the planet, is a call to ‘flexitarianism.’

This word has no exact definition, but seems to mean a reduction in amounts of meat consumed.

Under one such call to arms I saw people saying they’d reduced their meat consumption to three times a week, and that they felt good about the change.

While it’s true that any reduction is good; it’s not enough. And it’s not helpful just to encourage people to lessen the amount of meat they eat by an ambiguous amount.

Here’s why:

  • The tweeter that now only eats meat three times a week is possibly still eating eggs every day, and dairy a few times every day. It’s ALL animal products that bugger up the planet, not just meat, so to put the focus on meat is misguided.
  • It dilutes the discourse; it lowers the bar; however you want to say it. If you think that all you have to do is not eat as much beef – then that’s ALL you’ll ever do. If you’re encouraged from the outset to avoid animal products and you understand why, you’re more likely to keep moving in that direction. It may take a while, but the end goal will be more achievable than if we make people feel comfortable just reducing meat a little.
  • ‘Flexitarian’ is very much like the word ‘moderation.’ What does it mean? Everyone’s definition is different. By not having a firm definition, this slows down progress, as anyone who even does as little as stops eating meat for one meal a week can call themselves this.
  • I don’t care if being flexitarian is the most zeitgeisty thing to do right now – it’s NOT working anywhere NEAR quickly enough. We need more and quicker movement in that direction if we are to salvage anything for future generations.
  • I include ‘Meatless  Mondays’ in this criticism. What this really means is that you’re screwing up the environment and contributing to world hunger six days a week instead of seven, but it makes you feel that you’re ‘doing your bit for the planet’ and that that is ALL you need to do.  It’s true some people might start here and go further, but I believe in the long run its better to be honest about what is really needed, and have people start moving in that direction, than have lots just stop at Meatless Mondays.

 

Manifest your concern for the environment by going vegan. Call it ‘plant-based’ if you don’t want to call it ‘vegan.’ The planet doesn’t really care. It just cares that you quit doing what is harming it the most – consuming ALL and any animal products.

If we really care about the fate of the planet, we absolutely have the power to counteract a substantial amount of the harm that Trump may do (uh, unless he nukes it of course!)

 

 

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Be Your Own Vegan

your-own-vegan

I know you already know this; but there are lots of Judgey McJudgeypants in the world.

I’m sure you’ve come up against some already, what with living amongst, like, people and shit.

Surprise! We have some Judgey McJudgeypants in the vegan community too!

They are in every space. No community gets away without having its fair share of Judgey McJudgeypants.

This particular vegan brand may think less of you if you don’t transition to vegan quick enough, for example; or if you appear to care too much about the health aspect or the environmental impacts of going vegan and don’t talk enough about the ethics.

They may think you should walk around wearing T-shirts with slaughterhouse images on, or that your every waking moment should be spent raising awareness of animal cruelty.

They may think you’re not vegan enough if you still have leather or wool products that you bought before you were vegan, but don’t want to throw away until they wear out because that would be wasteful.

Look – you can be judged for any darn thing you do in life, so –

PLEASE don’t let a judgey vegan put you off going or staying vegan!

You’ve gotta do you. Who else can you do?

If you need to transition slowly, that’s great! If you do it at YOUR pace you’re more likely to succeed.

If you’re not the sort of person that feels they can push slaughterhouse videos in front of other people’s faces every waking minute – don’t!! Once you get comfortable and confident with your lifestyle shift and feel you might want to share all the positive aspects of it with the wider world, there are a TON of different ways you can do this, and lots that would be a good fit for you.

If, right now, your concern is to better your health, lose weight or improve a specific health issue – fine! Focus on that right now (but I must warn you – you may find you’ve experienced a consciousness shift at some point in the future that connects you to the ethical side of veganism :))

I can give you a list of people as long as my arm who started out being plant-based in order to achieve better health and fitness, then a way down the line had a total expansion of consciousness where they saw animal agriculture for the horror it is; saw how blind society is to it, and started using the word ‘vegan’ proudly (me included!)

I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but I’ve heard enough stories of this happening to not judge or interfere when someone tells me they are going vegan primarily for health reasons. I just think to myself ‘mmmkay,’ and smile because I know the universe probably has other ideas for them.

And even if this doesn’t happen? Well, the world needs more healthy people, not more sick people. Healthy people use less resources.

The world also needs more people concerned with the environment, not fewer. And a healthier, cleaner planet helps animals too, so….

And seriously, why would it be so important to someone who is probably a stranger WHY you are no longer harming animals, as long as you AREN’T?

Equally, If your concern is ONLY about the ethics of a vegan lifestyle; if you are not interested in health and wellness and you want to eat vegan junk food all day, then much as it pains me to say it (being a nutritionist and always wanting to get all up in people’s faces about being healthy) – this is your business and your business only, too!

(Though please do try and substitute whole grains for white refined grains. Aaaaargh! I can’t help myself, it’s stronger than me! 🙂 )

When you make the decision to go vegan, do it YOUR way.

It’s a brilliant idea to join vegan communities, both in real life and online, and you will find great support and fellowship in this.

I am confident that you will gain so much more from a vegan community than the annoyance you may get from the odd judgey vegan – so I highly recommend you join one.

But, if anyone starts to make you feel that you’re not doing it right, or that you’re not vegan enough, or that your reasons and motivations aren’t as pure as theirs, I don’t know how to put this any other way than – SCREW THEM!

If someone persists in saying things that feel critical rather than helpful (don’t worry, your instinct will tell you which of these was their intent); then put boundaries between yourself and that person.

Look, you are going (or have gone) vegan. THIS IS AMAAAAAZING!!!!!

Keep an open mind; keep reading, talking, learning, listening (to those that are genuinely helpful), sharing information etc, and you’ll get to be exactly who and where you need to be.

Let Judgey McJudgeypants find an elsewhere to be.

 

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Yorica Ice Cream London: A Review.

yorica

 

It’s way past the time that I should have written my review of Yorica, London’s only fully vegan ice-cream parlour.

It’s been about three months since I visited the first time, and about six weeks since I went the second time. I put off writing this because, well, you’ll see.

I remember being soooo excited to hear there was an ALL.VEGAN.ICE.CREAM place in London.

This stuff normally happens in New York or Austin – not London!

And it’s on Wardour St, one of my favourite streets ever!!

It opened in March, but I didn’t have occasion to visit until July of this year.

I was with my (non-vegan) mum. The idea was we’d have a mini ice-cream crawl. First, a gelateria in Covent Garden, which has several vegan options, then on to Yorica.

When you enter Yorica as a vegan it seems magical. It has a sixties psychedelic theme going on decor-wise, and is…just…so…pretty! It has fun slogans and signs everywhere like this:

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Yorica actually offer froyo as well as ice-cream, so if you want a lighter dessert, you’re covered!

They have four flavours of froyo – caramel, matcha, chocolate and vanilla, and there are around thirteen flavours of ice-cream, including chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, bubblegum, cookies and cream, and beetroot (which, while inventive, didn’t really sound appealing, at least to me!)

There’s a decent selection of toppings at the counter; healthy ones – blueberries, pomegranate seeds etc, along with the old fun favourites – sprinkles, candy, marshmallows, gummy bears, oreos etc.

There are also sprinkle machines in the main space, so you can cover your ice cream in however much crap you want!

I try and limit sugar now for health reasons, but I know that if I’d visited as a kid, I’d have thought this place was heaven on earth.

This visit, I opted for the matcha froyo. Partly because it’s one of my favourite flavours, but partly because I wanted it ‘soft serve’ (‘Mr Whippy style’ to us Brits!) Only the froyo is soft serve, the ice-cream is scooped.

I chose pomegranate seeds as a topping because I couldn’t resist seeing the bright red against the pale green of the matcha froyo, I knew it’d be pretty – and it was:

img_20160712_164143564

My mum opted for caramel flavour with, er, nothing on top. I KNOW! Boring! 🙂

So what did it taste like?

Look. I can only be honest.

Much as I hate to say anything less than congenial about the first vegan ice-cream joint in London; I ain’t gonna lie either. There’s no reason why we should hold a vegan place to a lower standard than a non-vegan place. That wouldn’t make sense. And perhaps you’ll have a different experience to me in any case.

Firstly, the pomegranate seeds were not fresh; they were pretty dry and hard. I was worried I’d lose a filling so I spat them into a tissue.

This alone was not a problem to me. So it was a bad day for the pomegranate seeds, so what? I still had all that luscious froyo right?

You know, the matcha froyo didn’t taste bad; it just wasn’t great, and didn’t particularly taste like matcha. It was pleasant enough for a few mouthfuls. Then, something happened which just does.not.happen.to.me.ever. I found I was having trouble finishing it up!!!! It was just a medium pot; not super big, and bear in mind I can eat a whole pint of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, no problem!

I really wasn’t enjoying it as much as I’d hoped to.

The caramel froyo my mum had was a little bit better, but not much.

I think part of the problem was the lack of creaminess, and I figured that froyo wouldn’t be as creamy as ice-cream, what with it not being, um, cream, right?

So I thought it was only fair to give Yorica another try before I wrote a review, and I’d be sure to get some actual ice-cream next time.

SO, a month or so later, the next time occurred, and I found myself at Yorica again, on this occasion with a friend.

This time I wanted strawberry ice-cream. When strawberry ice-cream is done well, then it’s glorious. No need for bells and whistles.

I had a big scoop of strawberry ice-cream, then inquired about a flavour that I wasn’t sure about. I was told it was called ‘wowbutter’ which is like peanut butter, but not peanut butter. Uh, ok! Nothing else was really tempting me so I got a big ol’ scoop of that too.

A drizzle of strawberry syrup to top it off, and then I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

img_20160820_210956132

I really wanted it to be great, but….it just wasn’t. I had trouble finishing this too. Both flavours just tasted like….cheap ice-cream.

It’s a shame.

I KNOW how great vegan ice-cream can be. There’s an all-vegan place in Austin, Texas which had me going back for 3 more helpings.

And I already mentioned how much Luna & Larry’s coconut Bliss I can devour.

So Delicious, too, are champs at plant-based ice-cream.

So what was the problem here?

I can’t work it out exactly.

I asked what the ice-cream was made with, and was told rice milk. I feel rice milk may be too thin to make a decent ice-cream, perhaps this is the problem? I’m not sure though as it was also a taste problem, not just texture.

Conclusion:

The place is pretty; the service is friendly; and it’s fun looking at all the things you can top your dessert with.

I may come back with my friends’ kids – I know they’d adore topping their ice-cream with ten tons of candy!

And if I was out with several friends just looking for something fun and light to do, I may bring them here.

BUT…if I’m out on the town looking for a truly yummy iced dessert with my partner or a friend, I’ll probably go to one of the gelaterias that have vegan options. La Gelatiera on New Row for example (which has a good number of options), or Snowflake, a few doors down from Yorica on Wardour St that has one or two vegan options.

 

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Questions You’ll Get As A Vegan, And How To Respond

people speech bubble

A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.

I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.

There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.

 

1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?

Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.

 

2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.

Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.

 

3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.

Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.

Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?

 

4. But God said we have to eat meat.

Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.

 

5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.

Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.

 

6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.

Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’  into the search facility? There you go.

You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.

 

7. But I don’t like vegan food.

Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.

 

8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.

Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!

 

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How The BBC View Veganism

 

Green Smootie from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Robert Gourley, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

*Sigh*

The BBC is supposedly all about impartial, objective, informative, educational programming.

Indeed, part of their remit is ‘Promoting education and learning

On their ‘purpose remits‘ pdf, it says:  BBC journalism should be independent, accurate and impartial.

I’m about to tell you of a programme that did not promote education and learning but instead promoted ignorance, and the journalism most definitely flouted all of the above criteria.

Sometimes the institutions we are led to believe are the most trustworthy can actually be the most harmful because people question them less.

I would much rather some trashy TV channel brought out a programme blatantly discrediting veganism, than what I witnessed last week on the BBC.

At least then we’d be able to say ‘….well, it’s Channel Crapola, no-one takes that shit seriously.’ And most people wouldn’t.

So what was the offensive emission that sent my bullshit radar into overdrive?

I just saw a repeat of a programme called ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets‘ (apparently it was first broadcast in July).

The presenter talks about the upsurge in ‘clean eating’ blogs and personalities – some of whom I referred to in this post, and explores their correlation with an increase in orthorexia (orthorexia is a state of worrying about eating the ‘right’ things to the point that it impinges on quality of life).

There is a legitimate argument to be had here. No-one is denying this. But it becomes very clear, just a few short minutes into the show, that its main aims are to discredit veganism, and eating healthily.

There is no difference made in this programme between veganism, and those who are purely eating more plant-based for health reasons. In fact, some of the blogs mentioned aren’t even plant-based, espousing bone broth, eggs and ‘happy meat’ as they do.

How they can be lumped in with veganism when veganism is at core based on ethics and social justice is some lousy-ass journalism on the part of the researchers of this programme.

It happened continually throughout, however. The agenda was practically waving at you.

The presenter decides to try…well…I’m not sure whether she decides to try veganism, clean-eating, a plant-based diet or what.

At one point she pulled everything unhealthy out of her fridge, then whined that there was no ‘joy’ left in there.

The thing is, her fridge was full of crap. There was barely one unprocessed thing in that entire space. If her fridge had been full of fresh produce, great bread, yummy leftovers from the dinner she made the night before, cool dairy alternatives and homemade treats, that fridge would’ve still been full.

She then went to a branch of one of the most expensive health food shops in London (one at which, in 27 years as a vegan, I have NEVER purchased anything), pointed at a bag of £5 kale chips, and declared healthy eating to be expensive and for the middle classes.

Uh…I shop mainly at Asda. Since when did beans and rice cost more than meat and dairy???

A dietician is interviewed and leads us to believe that it’s unwise to cut out dairy as you’ll forgo a good source of calcium.

This in fact, is the science on dairy; and this page gives you lots of great plant-based calcium sources. Both these pages are run by doctors. If I know where to get this information as a humble nutritionist – why the hell doesn’t this dietician?

Talking of which, online nutritionists are of course disparaged. It’s pointed out that some of these bloggers became a nutritionist with online courses of just 20 hours.

You wanna know something frightening? DOCTORS only get 20 hours of nutrition study!

The presenter then enrols in a course that costs just £29. Of COURSE this is a BS course. Twenty-nine pounds??? I only wish I’d found one that cheap when I did mine! This doesn’t mean all nutrition courses are BS.

And sure there are bad nutritionists; but there are bad doctors; bad lawyers; bad teachers etc, all of whom have studied for years. I’ve personally suffered the consequences of a string of bad doctors. I certainly suffered bad teachers. And bad dentists? How long ya got?

At some point near the beginning of the programme, a sentence that mixes veganism, plant-based eating and clean eating all together says that these diets are not based on science.

Why weren’t the plant-based doctors interviewed? Dr’s Greger, McDougall, Barnard, Klaper, Campbell etc. These guys would have told a totally different side.

No actual plant-based expert was interviewed at all. There was no balance or fair reporting on the health benefits of a whole food, vegan diet.

Nothing is mentioned of the fact that the prime way to stop all forms of environmental degradation is mass adoption of a plant-based diet. You’d think they’d stick this in somewhere wouldn’t ya?

The conclusion to this shambolic shit-fest came from a dietician who bleated, as you might expect, ‘…eat a little bit of what you fancy; eat in moderation; eat food that looks like food.’

How fuzzy and ambiguous is this advice? People fancy all sorts of unhealthy foods all the time. We know that moderation kills (I wrote about moderation here); and bacon looks like food to lots of people, yet it can do this.

A staff member at an eating disorder clinic said it was dangerous to cut out food groups, but never mentioned which ones! We know it’s actually optimal for health to avoid animal products and replace them with whole foods, but the positive side of eliminating certain foods was never mentioned.

 

I don’t even know which part of this programme was the most bullshizzy. Whoever in the BBC let this tripe go out must be absolutely TERRIFIED of vegans.

All I can say is this effort was manipulative, misleading, misrepresentative, biased, unbalanced, and seemingly went out of its way to be deliberately confusing.

Also, as Dr John McDougall says, people LOVE to hear good news about their bad habits, so I can imagine lots of people rubbing their hands together with glee after this programme aired.

It just worries me that because it’s the BBC, some people WILL believe this garbage to have credence.

Let’s not forget. The BBC is publicly funded, so they want to keep their funders happy. Most of the public are not vegan. The BBC possibly figures that making vegans look wacky, extreme and unhinged will make the general public feel warm and fuzzy and better about NOT being vegan. They will then have positive associations with the BBC and keep funding it willingly.

As someone who doesn’t tolerate sexism or anti-vegan propaganda, I fell out of love with the BBC ages ago having witnessed both from them often. But it worries me that because it is widely believed that the BBC are trustworthy when it comes to presenting information, some people will suck this shit up.

I’m extremely proud to declare that not one single penny of mine funded this excuse for a programme.

My advice:

I don’t care if it’s the BBC, NPR, PBS or whatever other ‘well-meaning,’ ‘educational,’ ‘impartial,’ channel. Always question; look for the peer-reviewed science, and do your own research.

Dr T Colin Campbell in his book ‘Whole’ talks about how PBS (a reputable American channel known as being educational and impartial) didn’t end up interviewing him about his findings on diet and cancer despite showing initial interest, because they probably realised how unpopular his views would be and didn’t want to risk a funding backlash.

It would seem that no mainstream media outlet, however supposedly ‘respectable,’ is immune to this.

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Grilled Portobello Burgers With Smoky Chipotle Sauce

 

Warning (in a good way): This recipe really is killer. It will impress non-vegans, and it’s great for a casual dinner party because it’s so damn simple – you’ll be able to chat easily to the annoying guest who stands in the kitchen talking to you while you’re cooking, instead of thinking ‘would you please go and chat with everyone else already!’ and feeling mean about doing so.

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Ever fancy a big, juicy, burger with all the trimmings; something creamy and cheesy on the burger; a smokiness reminiscent of bonfires and barbecue, and where the burger juice seeps a little into the toasted bun and every moment of mastication is sheer heaven?

I did too, yesterday.

Now bean burgers are great, I love ’em.

And seitan patties – fantastic!

But when portobello mushrooms are just THE PERFECT shape and size already, and have a meaty texture when grilled (it’s almost like portobellos were invented PURPOSELY to be vegan burgers!!), I wanted to go this route instead.

Sometimes bean burgers can be dry (unless deep fried), and I definitely wanted a ‘juicy’ quality, without any frying action having taken place.

I love trying to ‘upgrade’ junk food. Junk is ok once in a while, but I figure we can have it MORE OFTEN (and still remain healthy) if we make a few switches, and just upgrade a few of the ingredients. What’s ace though, is that we lose none of the taste! Not a single bit!

Now this recipe DOES contain oil, but if you’re concerned about it you can always minimise the quantity, or just using water instead of oil may work too.

I don’t have chronic disease so I do include a little oil in my diet.

This recipe was inspired by the portobello burger recipe on veganvigilanteblog.com, but I’ve simplified it, and changed a couple of measurements and ingredients (adobo sauce is only sold online in the UK!) I wanted it to be accessible to all.

Also, the original recipe adds a layer of vegan cheese. I’ve excluded this; partly because we have no decent vegan melty cheese in the UK, but also because it really isn’t needed. The cashew chipotle sauce is plenty cheesy. If you want that extra cheese factor, go ahead and add a layer of vegan cheese on the burger.

 

What you’ll need:

All the shizz you will need.
All the shizz you will need.

For the burger:

  • 4 x wholewheat buns
  • 4 x portobello mushrooms (remove stalks)
  • Lettuce leaves
  • 1x large sliced tomato
  • 1 x red onion (thinly sliced)

For the marinade:

  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 x cloves garlic minced (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp dried basil

For the chipotle sauce:

  • 3/4 cup plain cashews soaked in boiling water for 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp chipotle chilli flakes
  • 1 x large clove garlic (or 1 tsp of garlic powder)

 

What you do:

Note: Put the cashews on to soak in boiling water for an hour first!!

For the marinade:

De-stalk your mushrooms, and I also recommend peeling them – I feel they absorb liquid better when peeled, as the skinned flesh has a more spongy texture.

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Left: smooth finish; right: spongy finish!

In  a medium bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic and spices.

IMG_20160813_212143930

Roll each mushroom in the marinade, making sure both sides are well coated. Use a spoon, basting brush, whatever it takes! Let sit for 15 minutes.

Too big for the pan now - but wait and see what happens...
Too big for the pan now – but wait and see what happens…

For the chipotle sauce:

Add drained cashews, water, lime juice, sea salt, garlic, chipotle flakes to food processor (I used my Magic Bullet).

Looks gross now - but wait!!!
Looks gross now – but wait!!!

Pulse until smooth consistency, then set aside.

Ta-daaa!
Ta-daaa!

Grilling and dressing the burgers:

Grill mushrooms for approximately 10 minutes on each side. They will reduce in size, that’s normal.

Impressive shrinking trick or what?
Impressive shrinking trick or what?

Remove from grill, and then the fun begins!

Lightly toast the cut side of your buns under the grill (under the broiler if you’re a US friend), and gather together your toppings.

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Place a mushroom on one side of each bun, and add a generous dollop of the chipotle sauce. Remember, you’re not using cheese (unless you are!), so really, a GENEROUS dollop!

That's a small dollop. You should make yours bigger!
That’s a small dollop. You should make yours bigger!

Dress with lettuce, tomato and red onion slices and serve!

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Now THAT’S a sexy little burger!

Serving suggestions:

Feeling virtuous? Serve with corn on the cob and steamed greens.

Feeling a little cheekier? Serve with my yummy sweet potato fries!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Makes: 4 burgers. Up to you if this is one each for 4 people or 2 each for 2!

Prep time: 5ish minutes (though cashews need to soak for an hour)

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Spiciness level: Pretty spicy, say, 7/10 where 10 is ‘oof!’

Suitable for kids?: If the kids are good eaters and like spicy foods, then yes absolutely. If they are picky eaters, not so much.

 

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Vegan + Healthy Does Not = Expensive Weird Shizz

Chia Seed Pudding from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Meal Makeover Moms, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

 

There was an article in The Times recently about how the ‘clean eating’ blogs and websites (there are a couple of big ones in the UK – I’m sure the US has its own fair share) have fed into eating disorders, and only served to encourage those that suffer from them to stress even more over the food they eat. It suggested that they play into ‘orthorexia’; a condition where you become so obsessed with eating ‘right’ that it impinges on your quality of life.

I guess I can see how this might happen.

What really irked me about the article however is that it didn’t seem to be too concerned about mentioning veganism in the same breath as the ‘clean-eating’ phenomenon, thereby associating it with the harmful effects that these blogs can have.

You need to know that these blogs have ZERO to do with being vegan. In some cases the ‘diets’ espoused aren’t even 100% plant-based.

Veganism is about not exploiting animals for our use; and in broader terms it’s a foundation for exposing all oppressions, about guardianship of the planet, and giving our bodies what they need and not what they don’t so that we have the energy, will, and spirit to do this.

These ‘clean-eating’ blogs seem to be about looking cool AF while slurping on a smoothie full of ingredients from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes (hello? What happened to shopping locally?)

You also need to know that the foods these blogs showcase are not the only path to great health.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My thoughts were very conflicted when these fancy, high-end ‘clean eating’ food blogs forced their way across my radar a few years ago.

My VERY first thoughts on discovering Deliciously Ella (famous UK ‘clean eating’ blogger), quite honestly, were jealous ones that I’m not proud of.

How does a 23 year old afford a house with a kitchen like THAT??? How does she afford a fancy website like that?? How does she have the time to compose those pictures and write text and recipes every day??

When I found out it was because she was born rich, that didn’t help my jealousy any.

But then I got over myself and thought about it some more.

My next thoughts were in fact about how positive it could be if lots of people were introduced to plant-based eating this way.

As I said, these websites are all about health and style. They are not about ethics, or about the impact of diet on the environment.

But MY initial main motivation for eating plant-based was health, which eventually grew into something much bigger and all-encompassing.

If I grew to embrace veganism and all it entails through seeking health, surely it could happen to others this way?

Upon further exploration of these websites, I became disheartened. Far too many of the recipes contained ingredients that I knew to be expensive, hard for lots of people to find, and questionable in terms of whether they really deliver benefits in proportion to the price they cost.

If you have the money to afford chia, baobab and cacao by the bucket load, then good for you.

However, veganism and plant-based eating are ALREADY erroneously perceived as being expensive and elitist by many people looking for an excuse to never try it.

These ‘clean-eating’ blogs only reinforce this perception.

I explored the reasons why veganism isn’t elitist here.

I also wrote an article for Mind Body Green with 8 tips on how to eat vegan inexpensively, find it here.

Health does not = smoothies with exclusive ingredients in a vintage mason jar on a photogenic piece of distressed wood.

The much less glamourous  (but also less expensive, YAY!) route to health is this:

  • Eat your wholegrains. Lots of ’em.
  • Potatoes too, both sweet and regular.
  • Root veg like carrots and beets rule for their bright colours and the nutrients they bring.
  • Beans and lentils may not sound sexy, but they are where amazing energy is at.
  • Don’t forget your leafy greens of all persuasions, your nuts and seeds, and fruits of all varieties.
  • Add all the herbs and spices and condiments the earth offers and you not only have the wherewithal to eat deliciously for the rest of your life, but a great foundation for your best health ever.

 

I’m interested to know, what do YOU think of these websites? Please let me know in the comments!

 

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Do Vegans Need To Supplement With Vitamin D?

IMG_20160422_242818040

 

Unlike the answer to ‘should vegans supplement with vitamin B12?’ (which is YES btw!), the answer to whether to supplement with vitamin D is not so obvious.

What vitamin D does

Vitamin D is vital for helping us to absorb calcium from the foods we eat, and helps protect us from cancer. It is also thought that it can help prevent us from getting depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Vitamin D deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children, and bone problem in adults (due to calcium not being adequately absorbed). It’s possible that depression is also a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D sources

The main source of vitamin D for everyone is sunlight (aim to get 5 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face, legs or arms every day between 10am-3pm. Go for the full 15 minutes if you have darker skin). It’s also found in fatty fish and eggs, but even omnivores don’t eat fatty fish and eggs every day, so, as with most deficiencies, vitamin D deficiency isn’t just a potential vegan problem, but a potential ‘everyone’ problem.

Depending on where we are in the world, or whether you work outside or not; we all have different exposure to sunlight. If you’re in southern California or some tropical paradise; or you are always outside during daylight hours – you’re likely getting enough. Those in more northerly regions or who aren’t often outside at prime sunlight times may not be.

What to do if you feel you are deficient

If you feel you MAY be deficient in Vitamin D, the first thing you should do is have your blood tested by a doctor.

If the test shows you ARE indeed low, then unless you can escape to sunnier climes pronto – supplementation is probably the way to go.

It used to be that Vitamin D3 was purely animal-based (from the lanolin in sheep’s wool), and vitamin D2 was plant-based (from yeast and fungi); but I hear that now it’s possible to get vegan vitamin D3 supplements, so either D2 or vegan D3 is what you’ll want to look for.

Some would argue that Vitamin D3 is more effective than vitamin D2. However, I had low levels of vitamin D which manifested each year as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I started taking 1000 IU of vitamin D2 (1 capsule daily), and I no longer suffer from this each winter, so I personally found it to be effective.

See what works best for you.

 

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Leather; And Tips On Finding Great Alternatives

leather

 

For me it was a process.

When I first started eating a vegan diet, I didn’t give much thought to leather, suede or wool; where these products might’ve come from; or how much of them I was wearing.

I mean, I knew the specific animals these products came from, but I knew nothing of how the end-product came to be.

I’d heard that leather, suede and wool were all just by-products of the meat industry. That as long as people were eating meat, these products would exist anyway.

I reasoned that I wasn’t contributing to the demand for animal products, and therefore had no participation in the death of an animal. So if the animals were being killed anyway for other people to eat, then me purchasing leather, suede and wool from these already dead animals made no difference to the demand, right?

Besides, I looked shit hot in leather jackets and shoes!  I loved leather bags and purses; and wool is warm in the cold UK winters, so…

This all changed when I saw the documentary Earthlings and saw exactly how leather is produced.

I’m not gonna post any graphic vids, but you just need to know that leather is NOT a by-product. Lots of our leather comes from India, and many cows are skinned alive.

Leather production is also very toxic and disastrous for the environment.

Yup. Lesson duly learned about leather and suede.

I’ll write about wool at a later (more seasonally appropriate!) date. In this post we’ll just look at leather and suede.

When you make the decision to stop buying leather, suede and wool, you may feel bad for owning what you already have.

My suggestion is this:

Don’t feel bad. What’s done is done. You’ve committed to buying no more of these products and that’s amazing.

Don’t throw your old products away – that’s wasteful. Don’t give them to charity or to a friend – that’s just passing on the karma.

Use the products until they wear out, then buy no more.

There is one problem that CAN occur with this, but I have a super sneaky way of getting round it 🙂 If you have a leather or suede jacket (or bag or whatever), that looks really good on you and people often remark how great it looks – this isn’t cool – it might encourage THEM to buy one. So if you get a compliment, tell ’em it’s fake!! Tell them you couldn’t wear leather because of the cruelty involved, but you found this cool jacket/pair of boots/bag made of pleather! Yes it’s a lie, but you already tell your bf they look great when they’ve in fact had a really bad haircut, so…sometimes…needs must!

You could possibly come unstuck if it was a recent item on the High St or at the mall and this person could have seen it in the shops too. In which case you could just tell them the truth – for example ‘yes, it IS a great jacket, but to be honest I’m only wearing it because I bought it BEFORE I found out how leather was produced, and now I know the truth about leather, I’m not going to buy any more.’

Both these responses could spark a conversation that may end up planting seeds in the complimenter’s mind, so weigh up which one would be appropriate to the situation.

 

Tips On Acquiring A Cool, Leather-Free Wardrobe

 

1. Bags (‘purses’ in American:) )

You’ll have no problem finding a great non-leather bag. There are so many great pleather, canvas, and other manmade bags around. I normally go to a high street shop or department store, pick a bag I like, then search inside the bag for the label that will tell me what it’s made of. Yes, sometimes I’m gonna be disappointed because it will be leather, and yes I may have to try a couple more shops, but I ALWAYS end up with a bag I like.

The last two bags I bought got a ton of compliments – even when they got old and raggedy!

 

2. Purses (‘wallets’ in American!)

I go through exactly the same process looking for a purse as I do with bags. Again, it may take a few minutes more than if I just grabbed a leather purse, but I’ve NEVER failed to find something I like.

 

3. Shoes

There are lots of online vegan shoe companies (Bourgeois Boheme, Olsenhaus, Mohop, Beyond Skin etc)  but they’re all pretty pricey. So what to do if, like me, you’re on a regular ol’ Joe Shmoe budget?

Shoes are still pretty gendered (yawn) so:

Women:

Because women are told that they love shoes above all else, there are plenty of varieties of shoes to cater to this worn-out old trope in your regular High Street or shopping mall (um, silver lining, right?) So it couldn’t be easier finding great non-leather shoes, pretty much everywhere, in all styles.

If there is no marking in the shoe, just look on the underside to see if there is a sticker that has the leather symbol or not. If not, it should say ‘man-made materials.’  And don’t forget, for casual footwear; flip-flops, Converse, lots of trainers (sneakers) should all be made from manmade materials. Check out Dr Marten’s vegan shoes too.

If you feel you need long winter boots then you may need to look a little harder but you should find them. Here’s some, for example.

You know the really cheap shoe shops (Shoe Zone in the UK, Payless ShoeSource in the states etc)?  If you’re looking for a basic shoe or sandal, it’s maybe worth trying one of these shops. I’m not saying every shoe is amazing, and yes, these shops kinda stink of rubber and plastic, but you can sometimes find a pair of decent enough shoes, and you KNOW they ain’t gonna be leather or suede.

I’m not too kool for the ‘Zone or the ‘Source, nor should YOU be! 😀

Men:

It IS a little harder to get non-leather footwear for men, but it’s still not DIFFICULT,

Again, Converse, lots of sneakers, flip flops and most sandals should all be non-leather; check labels for materials if you’re not sure.

Dr Martens do an amazing vegan shoe – so no need to miss out on the old DM’s!

My partner has to dress smart(ish) for work, and did have more of a problem getting smart dress shoes that weren’t leather, but eventually found some on vegetarian-shoes.co.uk.

There IS another issue with shoes – sometimes the glue used in the manufacturing of them contains animal products. Some shoe companies can tell you if they use this kind of glue; others can’t, and sometimes there is conflicting info.

It’s up to you what you do with this. For me, if there is no visible animal product in my shoe, and if it’s not a company that says they definitely use glue containing animal parts – I’m good. We can only do what we can do.

 

4. Jackets, skirts, trousers etc:

As for jackets – I don’t even need to tell you there are a million fabulous alternatives to leather everywhere. If you specifically want the leather ‘look,’ a quick google search just told me that H&M, New Look, Warehouse and Miss Selfridge have great, inexpensive faux leather jackets. I don’t doubt it’s just as easy to get faux leather in any mainstream clothing shops in any country.

Confession: I’ve never worn either leather or non-leather skirts or trousers, and so was completely ignorant on where the faux leather versions may be.

I feared I may have to look toward, er, specialty shops for them 😉

It turns out Forever 21, New Look, H&M, Misguided, Top Shop and MANY, MANY other mainstream shops come up with a TON of results for faux leather trousers and skirts with one quick google, so if this is your thing – Go for it!

 

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