I'm still alive…

These last two weeks or so have been crazy so today I’m giving you a quick update.  I’ve been getting used to shift work again, and working on an elderly medicine ward (very heavy work), whilst studying at the same time.  Needless to say, I have been a little tired.  However, I love the ward and the work so it’s all good.  In foodie related news, I have been trying to up my raw game but my digestive system has been complaining.  So, I’ve cut back on a few things, and added a few things into to my diet to see how my body reacts.  It’s all trial and error, people, until you find the right  diet that suits you and your needs.  Still loving being vegan and how much energised and less bloated I feel.  Whilst on shift it’s quite easy to eat raw as we have little to no cooking facilities in our staff room/sisters office so salad is my best friend.  However, some days I like a bit of variation so I delved into the world of sushi making for the first time the other night!  The more I made, the better the sushi  My first sushi roll was a disaster and fell apart, but by the third attempt I had it nailed.  Here’s a photo of yesterday’s lunch before my late shift…

Mmm sushi

I must confess that whilst my main meals when working are raw/high-raw, I have found that my cravings for caffeine and sugar have come back with a vengeance.  And, I have occasionally given into these cravings.  How to remedy this?  I think I need to make more of my raw chocolate balls as snacks because the mix of dried fruits and nuts should give me a more sustainable energy boost.  These sugar and caffeine embibing times have reminded me how sensitive my body is to blood sugar level fluctuations so that’s also a good thing.  Isn’t it great that as soon as we listen to our body rather than our addictions/cravings we can learn more about what it wants and needs.  Marvellous (love that word).

In other news, this Sunday November 1st, I am hosting the Gluten Free Blog Carnival that has been set up by Kim the Food Allergy Coach.  It’s the third carnival so far and I’ve already recieved lots of great entries so hopefully, if all goes to plan, you should be able to take a look at them then.  It will showcase all the great food you can eat even if you are living with food allergies, as well as giving tips on allergy free and healthy living.  If this sounds good to you, I shall hopefully see you on Sunday!

I’m still alive…

These last two weeks or so have been crazy so today I’m giving you a quick update.  I’ve been getting used to shift work again, and working on an elderly medicine ward (very heavy work), whilst studying at the same time.  Needless to say, I have been a little tired.  However, I love the ward and the work so it’s all good.  In foodie related news, I have been trying to up my raw game but my digestive system has been complaining.  So, I’ve cut back on a few things, and added a few things into to my diet to see how my body reacts.  It’s all trial and error, people, until you find the right  diet that suits you and your needs.  Still loving being vegan and how much energised and less bloated I feel.  Whilst on shift it’s quite easy to eat raw as we have little to no cooking facilities in our staff room/sisters office so salad is my best friend.  However, some days I like a bit of variation so I delved into the world of sushi making for the first time the other night!  The more I made, the better the sushi  My first sushi roll was a disaster and fell apart, but by the third attempt I had it nailed.  Here’s a photo of yesterday’s lunch before my late shift…

Mmm sushi

I must confess that whilst my main meals when working are raw/high-raw, I have found that my cravings for caffeine and sugar have come back with a vengeance.  And, I have occasionally given into these cravings.  How to remedy this?  I think I need to make more of my raw chocolate balls as snacks because the mix of dried fruits and nuts should give me a more sustainable energy boost.  These sugar and caffeine embibing times have reminded me how sensitive my body is to blood sugar level fluctuations so that’s also a good thing.  Isn’t it great that as soon as we listen to our body rather than our addictions/cravings we can learn more about what it wants and needs.  Marvellous (love that word).

In other news, this Sunday November 1st, I am hosting the Gluten Free Blog Carnival that has been set up by Kim the Food Allergy Coach.  It’s the third carnival so far and I’ve already recieved lots of great entries so hopefully, if all goes to plan, you should be able to take a look at them then.  It will showcase all the great food you can eat even if you are living with food allergies, as well as giving tips on allergy free and healthy living.  If this sounds good to you, I shall hopefully see you on Sunday!

Raw Chocolate Bombs

raw chocolate bombs 002

Good afternoon!

It’s a beautiful, sunny, fresh autumnal day in Bristol (my favourite kind of day), which I would capture on camera if my photography skills were up to it.  But they’re not, so you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.  Not only is it gorgeous outside, the day also started well with a hardcore hour and a half of yoga.  I was quite impressed with myself as last night I went to bed with a stomach ache and nausea, and woke up still feeing ropey.  I blame the wraps I posted about last night…  Maybe I can’t digest nuts and seeds very well, and in combination with starchy foods, but I’ve almost given up in trying to understand my digestive system.  Anyway, this afternoon I made a batch of Raw Chocolate Bombs, inspired by Charlie, of Charlie’s Raw Treats fame.  She kindly sent out a recipe book of 5 treats to those who recieve her newsletter, and this recipe is adapted from there.  Wow, do they taste good.  I’m even giving them as a gift to a friend for her birthday; rarely do I trust my cooking (or un-cooking) enough to give the results as gifts.  I’ve recycled a Swedish Glaze carton to use as the present box.  And yes, I used my new food processor, which is still amazing.

raw chocolate bombs 001

Raw Chocolate Bombs

Ingredients

50g sundried goji berries, soaked in warm water for 30 mins to soften
100g almonds, soaked for 6 hours (apparently this makes them easier to digest, which is always good)
50g raisins
100g dates
60g raw cacao powder

Method

Strain the almonds and the goji berries, squeezing any excess liquid out of the goji berries.  Put all the ingredients into your food processor and mix until a dough is formed (takes about a minute or two).  Then roll out the dough into little balls, and put them in an airtight container in your fridge to firm them up.  Or just eat them straight away!

***

Whilst your munching on these delights, you can ruminate over how good these are for you, especially as they contain superfoods:

Almonds are great for your skin as they are rich in vitamin E, as well as magnesium, manganese, and other vitamins and minerals.  Studies have also shown that  they can lower LDL-cholesterol and protect against heart disease and diabetes.  Furthermore, there’s no need to worry about weight gain (unless you eat them in ridiculous quantities) as apparently they contain good fats, and can guard against weight gain.  They may even help on a weight loss diet.  Bare in mind, that when eaten roasted and salted their health benefits dramatically decrease so keep them unadulterated.

Goji berries are rich in amino acids, dietary fibre, and loads of other nutrients.  Weight for weight, they have more vitamin C than an orange, more iron than a steak, and more beta-carotene than carrots (which is a relief because they are rather pricey).  I’m not sure if they are very good in terms of food miles though (they have to be imported from China, Tibet and Mongolia; but on the other hand this may boost the places econonies).

Raw cacao has loads of antioxidants; more than green tea, red wine and goji berries combined.  As well as a concentration of magnesium, chromium, and iron (and is also expensive to buy!).  It’s also good for your skin, heart, and helps with the management of chronic diseases such as diabetes.

I feel even better about devouring these now! :)

My new kitchen toy!

beautiful

I finally have a proper food processor!  That is, in fact, mine pictured above, sitting on our now rather cramped work surface.  And, as you can see, it’s not just any old food processor; it’s a Magimix 4200!  After weeks of researching the best value food processors, and scrutinizing my mum’s recently purchased food processor, I decided to spend a little more than planned and buy one that will last a while.  Especially as I’m likely to be using it alot; I’ve already made a list of recipes I plan on making (I embrace my food geekiness).  I’m hoping it will help me make a greater variety of meals to nudge me closer to my raw food-vegan ideal.  At best, I’m hoping to eat all raw in the day and then have something cooked in the evening, with a raw side dish.  However, I’m not going to pressure myself, particularly as it’s winter and I may be craving loads of warming foods.  Instead, I’m going to try to listen to my body and eat intuitively.

Truly, this is the best principle to go by whenever you’re making changes to your lifestyle, be it an exercise regime or a new diet etc.  Putting pressure on yourself and striving for perfection will only lead to disappointment and guilt as perfection doesn’t exist.  Set yourself realistic goals and, if you have an ideal, be prepared that you won’t always reach that ideal; be flexible.  It’s much healthier for you psychologically to take it easy on yourself, embracing and learning from any slip ups you may make.  I’ve learnt this the hard way (for example, I used to practice restrictive calorie counting and the guilt, and low moods, that would ensue when I didn’t reach my impossible ideals made things miserable for me and those around me).

If anyone’s intrigued by the raw food diet and lifestyle and is thinking of flirting with it occasionally then a great website to check out is Choosing Raw by Gena, an inspiring lady.  It’s an informative blog that is packed with guidance, tips and recipes on pursuing a raw diet and healthy lifestyle (not necessarily one that is 100% raw).  Gena has just re-instituted her Raw Wednesdays, which are a great way to sample what it’s like to eat raw, but without the long-tern commitment.  In fact, I have christened by food processor with one of Gena’s recipes, Raw Zucchini (courgette) Hummus.  Perfect for a hummus fiend like me.  I halved the recipe, which still made loads(!), and used it as a dip for some rice pancakes filled with strips of raw carrot, yellow pepper and mushroom….

my semi-raw snacky dinner
… In hindsight this perhaps wasn’t the best combo for a sensitive digestive system like mine, but it tasted great and it’s a perfect transition dish for going raw.  And here’s the chaos in my kitchen during its making…

my messy kitchen
I’m off now to call the parents to gloat about my new food processor before watching Ugly  Betty.  Hope you’re having a good evening.

A Simple Salad for a Day of Drizzle

Super Salad Yum

It’s Friday!

(Although Friday’s mean very little to me at the moment because my timetable is all over the place- very much like my mood this week).

It feels truly wintery- grey, overcast days are looming in, bringing with them the beginning of the winter chills.  The sun seems to have disappeared for the most part, taking my joy and excitement with it.  However, it’s not all doom and gloom here in the fair, but hilly, city of Bristol.  My weekend should be starting soon and is accompanied by great things such as…
a relaxing evening with the husband tonight; meeting up with a school friend I haven’t seen for years, in my homeland (Wales, although I’ll be in Cardiff rather than Swansea), followed by another friend coming over for some dinner and X-Factor magic (my guilty pleasure); and Sunday, well on Sunday the world’s my oyster!  Church in the morning, maybe coffee with friends, maybe a trip to the cinema, who knows..

As for my Friday so far, not great.  I’ve been trying to get on with some boring uni work but I’ve been unable to get very far as Spotify has distracted me with it’s world of music that I can tap into with a click of a button (I am weak before you , Spotify!).  However, for the first time in weeks, I have stepped away from my lunch time hummus fix and instead had a beautifully dressed salad.  After it I had this wonderful feeling of satiation; of my stomach feeling full, my taste buds satisfied, and my body being nourished.  Until recently (that is, pre-vegan, and increasingly raw days) I had associated fullness with discomfort, bloating and sluggishness.  Even just eating gluten-free didn’t get rid of this unwelcome sensation.  As a result, I tried to  avoid the feeling of fullness, and would rely on sugar to meet any residual energy requirements (I wanted to be able to function after my meals, and enjoy the people I was with, rather than languishing on the sofa).  However, now I know what it is to be comfortably full, to sit back and reflect on my meals with pleasure rather than regret.  And it feels great.  That’s not to say I never get bloated and uncomfortable anymore; I wish that was the case.  Meals with lots of pulses and nuts, or heavily spiced, fatty meals leave me with a similar sensation but I can deal with this rarity now because that’s what it is; rare.  Have I tempted you with a vegan diet or including more raw foods at meal times yet???

Onto the salad.  As far as I am aware, the ingredients are all raw (however, there is some controversy in the raw community as to whether balsamic vinegar is raw, and more importantly any good for your health).  But, I’m not a purist and surely eating a salad with an apparently suspect dressing is better than no salad!  So here it is:

Red Batavia Lettuce Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Super Salad 1

Ingredients

For the salad:
2 generous handfuls of washed, shredded, organic red battavia lettuce (courtesy of this week’s veg box; thank you Riverford farm)
1 small carrot, peeled and grated
1 tomato, roughly chopped (sad times are when tomatoes aren’t season, which I think is now…?)
1/4 red onion, finely sliced
1 handful of cashew nuts

For the dressing:
5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 tbsp of good quality, extra-virgin olive oil (add more if the end result is too vinegar heavy for your tastes)
1 tbsp dijon mustard (probably not raw but hey-ho)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano, or other favourite Italian herb

Method

Toss all your salad ingredients in a bowl.  Then, with a fork, whisk all your dressing ingredients together.  Taste, add salt and pepper, and more olive oil tablespoon by tablespoon until you get the desired result.  Drizzle a tablespoon or two over your salad and enjoy.  (The rest of the salad dressing can be stored in the fridge, in a screwtop glass jar or other airtight container, for up to a month; if it lasts that long…).

I know, I'm rubbish

I have two confessions to make:

1. I have been a poor vegan mofo blogger already by not posting frequently enough.
I don’t wish to make excuses but… after Stress took a welcome break from the life of Sarah, it has made a brief and premature visit this week.  As a result, my creative energy has been zapped, compounded by a lack of sleep.  I even skipped yoga last night (shock, I know but I’m going tonight instead).  I’ve been anxious about my new nursing placement, getting back into the swing of shift work, irregular and rushed meal times, and how it will all fit in with my newly found healthy vegan lifestyle and experimentations with raw food.  In addition, I have never done shift work without the aid of coffee, chocolate or sweets (which I am continuing to boycott; did I mention dark chocolate doesn’t count?!?).  Thankfully, these anxieties have been put to rest as I started on my ward yesterday and the staff are lovely.  However, during an entire shift I only have a 20-minute break; it was very strange eating my lunch at 10:30 yesterday.  If anything is going to test the high energy levels that raw foodists like to sing about, nursing on a heavy ward, with less-abled bodied, chronically ill patients most certainly will!

2.  I’ve ODed on hummus.
Yes, the final nail in the coffin occurred today at lunchtime.  It was  a late lunch, and I was starving so I just sat at my computer and mindlessly ate carrot sticks and hummus until the small-ish tub was empty.  Needless to say, I am stuffed and will have to find a new replacement for lunch.  Any ideas?  I’m trying to keep lunch as raw as possible (and now that I’ve gone off the cooked component of the meal I can now try to make it 100% raw).  All suggestions welcome, and very much needed!  Bare in mind, that lunch needs to be made without the use of machines (unless a tiny, rubbish mini-food processor can cope with the job).

Speaking of raw, I was feeling a little extravagant on Sunday and, seeing as I’m starting another nursing placement, I need something raw that I can grab quickly to supplement my fruits and salads.  So, I visited funkyraw.com‘s online shop and bought myself these:

raw frolics cut

(I bought the sushi nori today when collecting my raw food order- I missed the delivery to our flat.  I’ve never made sushi so that’ll be an interesting experience).  Since I don’t have a dehydrator, nor can I see me ever being abled to afford one or persuading the husband that it’s a good idea to buy one, I ordered dehydrated crackers (just in case you were wondering what they were…).

With haste I opened a packet and sampled the raw onion and vegan cheese bread variety first.  Hmmm, what to say about those few (or more) nibbles I had… an acquired taste has too many negative connotations.  The taste of the raw onion is a little over-powering at first, coupled with the tanginess of the vegan cheese.  Whilst I don’t think I can snack on these as they are, I am very excited to try them topped with avocado, tomato and lettuce.  I would have tried this today but the avocados aren’t ripe enough yet.  Below is a picture of a cracker upclose…

crackers for raw

As for the live supergreen flax crackers, I shall open them once I have finished the other ones; if I opened them both now I fear they will become unedible before I get to finish them.  I love that they’re raw; a well-timed order as the winter nights draw in, darkening our days…

One more thing before I go, does anyone know how to roast corn on the cob?  I’ve only ever prepared tinned sweetcorn (yes, a travesty) so ideas would be good. xxx

Raw Treats, Can it be?

Last weekend, needing a pick-me up and something small to look forward to whilst studying and returning to lectures I ordered myself these:

Charlie’s Raw Treats!

Charlie's raw treats 001


Charlie's raw treats 005

Since I hadn’t tried them before, I decided to play it safe and go for the raw chocolate brownies and, boy, am I glad I did!  They are yummy.  Honestly, who needs chocolate bars and stodgy, sugar-laden cakes when you can have these.  The rich taste of cacao (raw chocolate) is punctuated with a hint of star anise giving them a greater depth of flavour.  And they’re good for you!  There isn’t a single ingredient that your body would not thank you for.  Charlie also included a complementary Lemon Pocket which I’m looking forward to trying.  I’m returning to shift work shortly, so these will be great to pack in my lunch box to nibble on when I have a spare five minutes to fit in some nourishing and sustaining food.  Plus, I’m still saving to buy a food processor so until then I am without raw treats/snack bars, especially as larabars are no longer being sold in the UK.  (I do have a mini food processor which doesn’t even deserve the name “food processor”.  Honestly people, don’t bother with the mini versions; they’re a waste of space).  Anyway, here’s the website where you will find many other treats and cakes that Charlie makes to order, and can be delivered to anywhere in the UK.  Also, if you’re a blog addict like me, then you can check out her blog, Charlie Goes Raw.  Thank goodness the UK is slowly catching up with the raw foods movement that seems to be sweeping the US.

Right, it’s time for our daily installment of West Wing (we’re on season 4, for the fourth time) but I’ll be reviewing more delicious raw foods soon enough.  Oh, and did I mention that Charlie’s treats are vegan, organic, and free from gluten, wheat, dairy, and refined sugar.  Awesome.  Happy Vegan MoFo!

***

Since writing this I had the lemon pocket for breakfast and it was amazing (I could get used to that kind of breakfast!).   I think I may even prefer it to the brownie- it tastes really light and refreshing, and the lemon isn’t over-powering; perfect.