Hankering For Some Good Vegan Eats?

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Good! Then it’s time to hit ‘Little Pine,’ Moby’s Silverlake restaurant, ASAP! It comes highly recommended, by me, but, before I strike another key, here’s what the man himself has to say about this unique little spot:

“…i can write about food and veganism and architecture & design, but it’s a lot more compelling and interesting to open a restaurant and show actual, physical examples of food, community, veganism, and architecture & design. blogs and Instagram are great, but a picture of food will never replace an actual, beautiful plate of food served in a beautiful space…” (littlepinerestaurant.com)

See? Definitely a necessary interruption, as he duly points out the inadequacy of words, when actions are really what it’s all about. So, I’ll keep this brief. Yes, blogs etc. can spread the news, and quite effectively provide people with the opportunity/information they need to begin a whole-food plant based diet. But why not just drag a skeptic kicking and screaming to dinner…and let them get a taste of what they’re not missing. The whole purpose here naturally being – to reinforce the power of doing, over just saying. And, while not everyone will have the opportunity to open a (non!) greasy spoon in their lifetimes, this is the kind of effort anyone can make. I know I plan to return with as many cynics as I can squeeze in one sitting next time!

Serving beyond delicious Mediterranean inspired California cuisine, “featuring 100% plant-based produce and ingredients”, Moby’s restaurant is exactly as he describes it above….plus 10% cooler (littlepinerestaurant.com). It has an intimate, but very relaxed, community feel – a vibe that so many places strive for, but completely miss the mark on. Now, this, to me, was awesome, as in having a celebrity owner, I was expecting a little pretentiousness. But, I guess, when you have a proprietor that gets the fact that we are all made of stars – then you’re really all set.

This “we,” of course, also includes all sentient beings, an equality the menu rightfully recognizes by stating that all profits go to animal welfare organizations. So, all the more reason to support a plant-based way of life that is not only commendable, but also sustainable. Blasting “Go – The Very Best Of…” in the car on the way home, one particular chorus jumped out at me, one I hadn’t paid any heed of in my omnivorous past life… “growing in numbers, growing at speed, can’t fight the future, can’t fight what I’ve seen” (Moby). But listening now, it suddenly had new meaning i.e. that fact that the future is truly vegan, as we can’t sustain a future without it…

Ok, this wasn’t brief, but words are all I have for now – unless you deem the ethical undertakings of my knife and fork to be suitable enough action. Oh, and here’s what we ate, together with some kick-ass sparkling wine cocktails…

  • Panzanella – Toasted Bread, Avocado, Market Vegetables
  • Brussels Sprouts – Apple, Fennel, Apple Cider Gastrique
  • Fennel Flatbread Pizza – Housemade Sausage, Fennel, Romesco, Spinach,         Parmesan
  • Mushroom Bourguignon – Crimini Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, Carrots, Cotes du Rhone, Mashed Potatoes
  • Garlic Basil Gnocchi – Pine Nuts, Pesto, Market Vegetables, Bread Crumbs

No dessert this time, as we were completely stuffed with this lot, but don’t worry, it’s happening…in the very near, vegan secured, future!

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The Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet…So Where Does this “(DNA)Fit” In?

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So, I have a interesting story for you guys! Right around Christmas, just before my whole-food plant-based journey began in February, I sent my DNAFit swab away for analysis. I had been wanting to do this test for quite a while, and having spent some time checking out its mostly rave reviews, I was excited to “change the way [I] think about fitness and nutrition forever” (DNAFit). For those of you not in the know, this saliva test is used to uncover your genetic profile, one that is specifically geared up to reveal your body’s own unique response to exercise and diet. To be fair, the reports generated – which I received just after New Year – are super neat. And while they provide you with two healthy volumes on the latter, I feel the third, a one-page overall “state of the union” kind of summary is really all you need to get straight to the heart of your results.

The Lowdown? 

Ok, so while the exercise portion gave some seriously nifty info on my recovery speed, injury risk and power/endurance response (almost 50/50!) for example, I wanted to tell ya’ll about the food situation. As I said, with this reaching my inbox right around the first week of January, I couldn’t have been more hyped about getting a personalized diet plan. Having a post-holiday spare tire to shift, I was desperate to get my hands on what I was sure would be the quickest route to deflation! And hey-ho, with my optimal weight management regimen noted as being “Low-Carb,” I felt assured that science hadn’t failed me. With a reported high ‘Carbohydrate Sensitivity’ and normal (not raised) ‘Cruciferous Vegetable Need’, I was confident in what I had to change. So…no more bread and refined potatoes (ahem, fries!), and definitely no need for an extra broccoli or sprout boost.

Post Deflate-Gate

All set then, right? Well, with human nature being what it is, it took me some time to get back on track, and while in the middle of getting my resolutions in order, I began, as you know, exploring the whole-food plant-based thing. What I hadn’t mentioned in my previous posts, though, was that having finished The China Study, I decided to enroll in, and have now just completed, eCornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate. And boy-oh-boy, what an incredible education that was! Forgetting all about DNAFit’s recommendations, I instead adopted the high carbohydrate/low fat/low protein model as advised by T. Colin Campbell, and have been doing so, with great effect, for the last couple of months. By great effect I mean, higher energy levels, clearer skin, stronger hair, nails etc., but best of all, is the feeling of being completely satiated after every meal. Yup, all these lovely benefits from a fuel source I was supposed to curb. Granted, I think we all know by now that a close eye should be kept on refined/processed carb intake, but the sky’s the limit as regards whole grains, and as for vegetables – no increase will ever hurt!

I know it definitely hasn’t hurt my scales, with my weight, happy to say, fully recovered from the holiday fall-out. But, back to DNAFit, with their conclusions once again coming to the forefront of my mind this past few days, I was curious to find out if they even suggested a vegan, or whole-food plant-based option to their clients. Turns out, they don’t. Offering only Mediterranean, Low-Carb or Low-Fat plans, a company rep informed me that while their reports do not explicitly cater to herbivores, their separate online meal planning service does allow users to specify dietary preferences, whereby they can then avail of recipes that match their particular needs. Now this inclusiveness is awesome, for sure, but to me, it just stresses the fact that you really are your own best doctor. I say this, as if you aren’t really in the nutritional know – like me, round about 3 months ago – I think a person might be more inclined to unquestioningly accept the advice as emailed, especially if you’re in the midst of a battle with the scales!

Our “Made to Measure” Obsession

But, don’t get me wrong here, this is in no way a criticism, just an observation based on my own experience, and fresh education on the subject. And, with it under my belt, I think it kind of begs a sincere question i.e. why is a whole-food plant-based diet, one that has been proven to be the cure of virtually all ills, not automatically top of the list? My hunch, here, once again comes back to human nature, and that fact that no-one really likes a “one-size-fits-all,” simple, solution. Fancying ourselves as “one-off’s” that require a tailored fix, we are reluctant to accept the fact that as much as our DNA is wholly different, we are, at base, tantamount to the same. Anyway, each to their own – at the end of the day the DNAFit experience was fun, and informative in many ways. Yet, on reflection, I’m grateful that in the meantime I happened to stumble upon the Center for Nutrition Studies – and I can tell you, with utmost sincerity, that it was this adventure that truly allowed me to “change the way [I] think about fitness and nutrition forever”.

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Looking For A Kick-Ass Vegan Lasagna?

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Well, if you are, you’ve come to the right place! Today was kind of an awesome day, one that was spent chopping, slicing and dicing to my heart’s content – thank you, Netflix! Just when you think you’ve already binged on every conscientious food documentary it has to offer, its “Because You Watched…” section always seems to plate up something new n’juicy.  And, although I somehow managed to miss the quite unassuming gem that is The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue from 2011, I think I couldn’t have caught up with it at a better time. Running at a very short and sweet 52 minutes (perfect commute/lunch hour viewing!), whole-food plant-based diet advocate and presenter, Rip Esselstyn, provides viewers with the best hands-on approach to the adoption of this lifestyle that I’ve seen. Working with two families keen to kick their conventional eating habits, he spends about a half-hour of on-screen time with each, giving practical advice on how to go about a weekly shop, and then, more importantly, how to cook up the bounty of herbage they’ve returned home with.

And it was at this juncture, my dear friends, where I witnessed the magic that was Rip’s preparation of the mouthwatering, Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna. Taking a very “bish, bash, bosh” /Jamie Oliver approach to its assembly – a style I absolutely love, and one, I think, which makes us all feel like we can be rockstars in the kitchen – I knew I had found my new go-to mid-week dish! Truthfully, I had been at a loss for the last couple of months since scrapping the old Sunday Shepard’s Pie whip-up, and this recipe fits the meal-prep bill just perfectly. Better still, now it’s just out of the oven, I can confirm that it also tastes exactly as it looks on camera – bloody delicious!

Pun possibly intended there, but what wasn’t was the extra sprinkling of nutritional yeast that I used as an add-on to Rip’s specified ground cashew topping. Mentioning in one of the film’s grocery sprees that it makes a nice parmesan substitute, I was dying to give it a go. Result = Spot On! Another quick tip on this – the veggie/tofu mixture makes a ton, so be sure to have a decent size Pyrex dish on hand to squish it all in. I spent the entire 60 minutes of its cook-time trying to cope with the unadulterated fear of a possible overflow, and a night spent not eating but cleaning. Happy to say, though, that the aluminum foil covering, as recommended, relieved me of that chore – which is perfect, as one of Rip’s books, “Plant-Strong” just arrived in the mail, and with another 150 life-saving recipes to sift through, I know where my time is more wisely spent!

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I’ll Send An ‘SOS’ To The World…

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Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t quite intend this blog to be a whole-food plant-based haven, but I can see it taking that turn – and I’m super pleased about it! Because, to me, it means that what I want to say will not only be more focused in terms of my goal to live a balanced, healthy, existence, but it will also make this little endeavor a heck more worthwhile. I spoke last week about being on a “veggie crusade,” but as I’m already feeling like a rockstar since adopting this diet just a couple of months ago, I know this lifestyle is something that I want to share with as many people as possible. Having unintentionally converted my carnivorous husband and best friend through the casual relay of juicy extracts from the above reads, and bearing witness to their own success with the change, I think I’m on some sort of evangelical high. So, yup, I think it’s time to go forth and spread the good news – that we do not need animal protein to survive, thrive, and be happy!

But how? That is, I’ve found myself wondering how best to tackle this within our wider social circle without being pushy. We can all preach at home, that’s easy, as my ability to be direct about why I’ve become a whole-food plant-based devotee to my nearest and dearest, and now new disciples of the movement, will testify. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have two birds in the hand, but as there’s plenty more in the bush, being an armchair advocate just won’t do – the message is simply too good! But, for casual conversation it needs to be succinct, and I’m kind of struggling with that at the moment. Coincidentally, I came across a link on Twitter this morning, a photograph which simply said “Eat Plants, Gain Health, Save Animals, Help the Planet,” and I wondered if the next time I decline that ground beef patty say, for example, at a friend’s barbecue, would this nice neat tagline suffice? Would it be enough to give them the gist of what I’m doing without creating an uncomfortable atmosphere, but possibly pique their interest?

But, maybe I’m asking the wrong the question here. Perhaps this conversation should be uncomfortable. Honesty, after all, is uncomfortable – unbearably so, in most cases. And let’s face it, those who have already made the leap to plant-based living (and now know how amazing it is!), would probably wish they had access to the truth much sooner. I know I certainly feel that way. But as I console myself with the words of another tidy tagline, “better late than never,” I hope with some effort to convey my own version of the former, that the message will get through. So out goes the ‘SOS’, because, with 7.5 billion now in need of a better world home,  I’m not content in being alone on this one for too long.

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It Takes A Village…And Some Veggies!

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So, after spending the weekend amongst this gloriousness (see above), I’m fit to just head for the hills right about now and never come back – especially after week spent once again shackled to my desk! As you can see Mono Lake provided quite the visual feast, and with the reflection of the Sierra Nevada peaks also rippling magnificently upon its waters, the soul was well overindulged too. Clean air was consciously inhaled, and reluctantly let go of. Did I want to spontaneously combust? Nope. But as I drew in what I believe the word ‘fresh’ actually means, I couldn’t help but think about a time where this insane kind of beauty would itself implode. And it was worrying, especially as that time is, as we are increasingly being told, already upon us.

Now, I never thought of myself as being a tree hugger. But, I love nature, I love being outside, and as I appreciate that – and don’t want that outlet to vanish anytime soon – I guess I probably am. So, maybe it’s time to own up to it then. Or, I could keep blaming Netflix for its array of ridiculously disturbing environmental documentaries like Sustainable, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives for example, that have me clinging to edge of my wicker seat – which is plastic, by the way. And while no trees were (directly) harmed in its making, this small consolation only serves to underline the bigger message of these films i.e. that direct effort on all our parts is required now, however minute.

I think the most frightening element of each these narratives is the sense of urgency with which action must be taken. It’s frustrating really, and each time I sit down with a relaxing cuppa to have an even more relaxing binge-watch, the end credits always roll to a tune which seems to echo the despair of being a glutton for punishment. It goes something like this…If I didn’t watch it in the first place, I’d have no reason to be concerned. But then, as I’m now duly enlightened, that there’s a day just around the corner where no sand will exist to bury my head in, I’ve been asking myself what can I realistically do to make a meaningful difference. The answer, which was for the most part inspired by these movies (there was a few other factors too which I’ll tackle later), is my recent adoption of a whole-food plant-based diet. Kind to the world and his wife, I feel that being a warrior in the kitchen is definitely a sound place to start making a change. And, if you were think of an en masse reach for the peelers, this change wouldn’t be insignificant. Each to their own of course, but when I saw the lake’s – for now – clean casting of my own image, I felt the need that was to keep up my own little veggie crusade.

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Damaged Goods? There’s No Such Thing!

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So, when my Imperfect Produce box isn’t prompting a wave of the deep and meaningful’s (see previous post!), I would like to, as originally intended, give you the low-down on this nice little service. Not usually being a fan of these subscription things, a friend managed to twist my arm into giving it a try. And, I’m happy to say, her praise was spot-on. I’ve been getting deliveries now for the last 4 weeks, and each and every one has unexpectedly sparked a wave of creativity in the kitchen – which, as I’m in the throes of exploring a whole-food plant based-diet, is just ideal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a minute that you have to be on the veggie warpath to reap value from this haul. This delivery is packed with a variety of cheap, but top-notch, produce – so what if it’s a tad unconventional looking?! Personally, with the motherlode of greens I received for a very reasonable $23.90, I’m more than happy to be a part of the change that aims to reverse the (highly unacceptable) fact that “in America, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown don’t fit grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards — the crooked carrot, the curvy cucumber, the undersized apple — usually causing them to go to waste.” With this hard to ignore truth plastered on the front page on the company’s website, who wouldn’t want to put a roof over their wonky heads?!

Anyway, while their goal may be to re-home “ugly” spuds and the like, I’ve undertaken my own mission to convert these misfit contents into some delectable vegan/vegetarian dishes – and, honestly, so far, I’ve had some great successes. This, I think, has been mainly down to the random, limited, ingredients you can choose from each week – which far from curbing my inspiration, has only fueled it. More to come, but as you can see from the above, ain’t nothing dodgy about this luscious curry-bound pepper… which, don’t panic, will be minus the orange that’s beside it!

For kicks, here’s what I got in my Customized Medium-Sized Box yesterday;

  • 1 Conventional Butternut Squash
  • 1 Conventional Celery
  • 1 Conventional Mango
  • 1 Conventional Eggplant
  • 1 Organic Cauliflower
  • 1 Organic Zucchini
  • 1 (carton) Organic Grape Tomatoes
  • 1lb Conventional Brussel Sprouts
  • 1lb Organic Apples
  • 1lb Organic Blood Oranges
  • 2lb Conventional Red Peppers
  • 2lb Organic Onions

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Imperfections, Anyone? Let’s Cut Them Some Slack

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I was listening to an audiobook earlier today, to which its narrator was keen to inform me that the ability to embrace the negative parts of your character was key to improving self-worth. The idea being, of course, that once you can stand up and look them square in the face, your acceptance of such traits, and subsequent remedying of them, will ultimately help you love yourself, and hence, (happily!) grow.

Earth-shattering stuff indeed, the details of which I tried to absorb whilst unpacking this supposedly stunted box of veggies! An odd coincidence, with the merchandise proving in and of itself how unforgiving the world actually is when it comes to anything deemed less than perfect. This being the case, it’s no wonder most of us are happy to keep burying those most haunting aspects of ourselves. As, to own up to flaws of any kind, especially in the positivity saturated world of social media, would be a task too daunting to even contemplate.

But, when you think about it, while you’re perpetually busy putting only your best foot forward, the rest of you is bound to get stuck behind in the mud. So, what to do? Well, if this Imperfect Produce haul is anything to go by, maybe it’s time to take a step back, and root out some of those not-so-nice attributes which tend to stranglehold our existence, in the long run, accordingly. With the outcome not the blight we are conditioned to think it is, as the above impeccable contents, to me, demonstrate, I believe we should begin nurturing our whole warts n’ all self – knowing, comfortably, that that best version of ourselves will always be the most uncontrived one.

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Do You Love Anyone Enough…

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…to give them your last Rolo? Well, as it turns out from the making of this tasty batch, the answer would be a resounding YES! This only being the case, of course, as I managed to squeeze out a healthy 19 of these divine little treats with the ingenious improvisation that was my shot glass cookie cutter. So, all in all, plenty of love to go round, and then some – which was a major relief as these yummy bundles were a huge hit!

Ok, enough fawning, let’s get down to brass tacks. I was super excited when I saw this Valentine’s inspired recipe posted by The Happy Pear just recently for a couple of reasons. Number 1 being the pure novelty of recreating this old selection box favorite at home, one which I only enjoy these days if I go out of my way to get to an Irish/British import store. And Number 2, because of their sheer simplicity to make. With only 6 cupboard friendly ingredients on the list, and a couple of easy steps to follow, the whole process took about an hour from start to finish including washing-up time. And, as you can see from above, the end-product looks the handiwork of a master chocolatier – well, maybe on their day off…and, with both hands strapped behind their back!

But you get the picture – quick, really fun to do and definitely better as a healthier, homemade version. Honestly, I never thought a caramel made up primarily of cashews, walnuts and medjool dates could be so delicious. And, even though I’m currently exploring the world of veganism, I think this recipe proves you don’t necessarily have to follow any kind of [insert diet preference here]-ism in order to get the pots and pans out and spend a little quality time in the kitchen. And, giggles aside, I think the molding and shaping of the dough itself – a task that could only have been successful with a mindful approach, due its stickiness – was one of the most truly meditative experiences I’ve had with quite a while.

So, with that said, if you fancy checking it out, click right here for the You-Tube link (not affiliated, just a fan!). A couple of things to bear in mind though, you will definitely need a decent blender for this. My Vitamix just about coped with the gooeyness, and I had give it a couple of short rests to get the mix to the right consistency. Also, the guys mention that you need 200g and 400g of chocolate at two different stages in the video, so taking a risk I used a 340g packet of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Day Value Dark Chocolate Baking Chunks and I had tons to spare. Which makes for happy days, as I  wasn’t looking forward to denying my lovely, lovely, Rolos to anyone, be it their first, second, third, or last!

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I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me…

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…well, not as often anyway. You know, I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day than taking in this breathtaking view. Yet, even though I live less than a 5 minute drive away from the beach, I only pop down once in a blue moon to catch the sunset. And what kills me is that I absolutely love it, so does the mutt, as this ritual seems to have a greater pull with crowds that favor only four-legged plus ones. So, while we stroll along the bluffs I get to take in the phenomenon that is light’s swift exchange for darkness, and my fluffy munchkin gets to partake in the meet and greet of a lifetime.

Clearly then, it’s an all-round win-win. Being also the consensus of every other individual gathered on the lookout, as judged by the sheer volume of selfie stick activity, I wonder why I too often find this unquestionably worthwhile and non-time-consuming jaunt so inconvenient. Roundtrip is 30 minutes at best, and with myself and the pup always leaving both completely centered and fully rejuvenated (going on wags-per-minute here!), it seems crazy not to want to make this soul-filling pilgrimage a regular thing.

But once the day soon dawns again, the exhilaration of our trip is usually fast forgotten to a million excuses that will busy me out of going. And, in reflecting upon today’s excursion, I now know that I justify this frequent opt-out on the basis that the sun will be going down every single night of my life. Therefore, there’s tons of opportunities to see it again, right? This outing has reminded me though, that unlike sunset, we cannot predict when our own burning torch will extinguish. So, with procrastination no longer the comfortable option it once was, I’ll be beach bound again tomorrow, this time with some decent 80’s beats in tow to soundtrack the occasion. I know the mutt will be thrilled, any excuse to have Nik Kershaw reinforcing the absolute need for us to keep hitting repeat on playdate heaven!

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Squashing In Time To Make Soup!

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Ah… I can’t say how much happiness both the making, and eating, of this delicious butternut squash soup brought me today. Well actually, I can, and for the minimal time investment that was the veggie chopping this recipe required, it was so worth it for the abundance of creamy goodness that it yielded. In fact, the saucepan really took the burden on this one, and while my veggies dissipated into future bowls of loveliness throughout the 20 minute simmer time, I was able to wrap up some work emails whilst contentedly thinking of the amazing lunch I was about to have.

Recipe shout-out here goes to The Happy Pear, whose work i am absolutely loving at the minute. These guys are awesome if you haven’t yet checked them out, they’re super fun and their videos make you feel like you can achieve just about anything given 5 random minutes in the kitchen!

Although their recipe calls for carrot, I just had turnip to hand and it still turned out crazy good. And, in making a good last minute call to quickly spread some avocado mash on a couple of slices of whole grain toast to dip, my midday feast was just magic. Also, I now have leftovers to last me for a week, and that makes my time-tormented self so very, very, happy!

https://thehappypear.ie/recipe/how-to-make-butternut-squash-soup/

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