Posts tagged vegan
Why I'm not a vegan activist... and the approach I take instead.

I saw this picture post shared by the Veganuary team on Facebook earlier today. I went to automatically click the 'share' button, but as my finger hovered over the keyboard I took a moment to reflect on what it meant to me.

I knew there was a deeper story there waiting to be explored.

I cast my mind back in time to 2011 and relived those emotions. These were the words that flowed out of my mind into the text space.

Then I pressed 'share'.  

P.s if you want to read more about my transition to veganism, you'll enjoy this mini story!

veganuary xmas.png

I never try to push veganism on people (if I find myself getting too vocally passionate I consciously tone it down!)

That is not because I am not passionate about a plant-based way of living and minimising harm to the environment around us BUT because I know that before I made the switch back in 2011 my ex-boyfriend tried to force his ethical views upon me and it did not work.

It created so many negative feelings of resistance, frustration, rebellion and denial within me compared with the mindset of curiously learning and feeling inspired to change through observing his actions alone and sharing information when asked.

It shut me down instead of opening me up to possibility and change.

I can still feel that resistance and disconnect inside me now when faced with the black and white 'militant vegan' approach. I fear it overwhelms those who are curious to explore more.

We are all on a journey, none of us are perfect and we've all been there at the very beginning. (No judgment on those activists who follow this more approach, if it works for you great, it just doesn't vibe with me personally).

Still, the seed had been planted and I found my own path to plant-based living, via nutritional education and then found the ethical side crept up on me slowly over time.

That is my hope for Including Cake and my work as a coach, to simply inspire people in their own journey of discovery wherever it may lead. No pressure, no judgement, just a willingness to open your mind beyond the conditioning of society. Questioning why we do the things we do and no longer accepting 'because that's just what I have always done' as a valid answer.

BUT... i'll be totally honest, when someone messages me to tell me they've become a 'week day vegan' or have permanently switched out dairy for plant milks, or are consciously evaluating all their nutritional and lifestyle choices... through being inspired by how I show up in the world, I can't help but feel so full of love, happiness and hope inside!

It's not just about saving the world, it's taking the steps to saving yourself and stepping away from the expectations of society.

We can all make so much more difference than we realise.

It may sound cheesy (pun intended!) but it's true, it really is all I want for Christmas!

Take on the Veganuary challenge and give plant-based living a try for 31 days in January and see what shifts for you. This is the perfect introduction without feeling the overwhelm of 'infinity' and also a supportive playground to get creative and explore alongside so many others feeling the same way. I guarantee you'll discover so much more abut yourself than you would have ever imagined.

I'd love to hear your stories... if you are already vegan what most helped you make that transition. What educational approach worked for you? Or, where are you at in your journey and where would you like to be?

P.s reach out to me if you want some support and let's have an open conversation!

With much love on your journey,

jo sign off.png
 

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My 'gateway' to veganism

I want to tell you a story.

A moment in time that became the gateway to my vegan journey.

Last night I gave a public talk around the topic I am most passionate about... "nutrition is the gateway to your optimal self”.

Towards the end of the talk I held up this Nakd bar, and mentioned that it became my gateway to understanding that a vegan diet was not just 'kale and cucumber', before then going on to give a 'bliss ball' demo!

Later, as I was driving home and reflecting on and processing the evenings events, I realised that comment held so much more gravity then I’d ever given credit, than I had ever previously acknowledged before in my life.

So, I'm going to tell you a little story...

Grab a mug of tea and get comfy, or maybe bookmark this for later when you have a clear ten minutes for yourself.

In 2010 my life was incredibly ordinary. Everything was very mediocre. Not bad, but really not great either. Towards the end of that year I met a guy, a vegan guy. Those of you familiar with my recipe blog posts from the very beginning may remember this guy often fondly referred to as 'the boy’.

One weekend on our third date, we went for a walk around a park which led into the town centre where his office building was based (he owned a graphic design company). We had grabbed some lunch from Marks & Spencer’s and were debating where to sit and eat it. He asked if I'd like to come up and see his office as it was on the 12th floor of the building and had a great view over the town. We could sit and eat lunch there.

He was right, the view was amazing, as were the wonderful fluttery feelings I was getting in my tummy. 

He took the Nakd bar out of his carrier bag and I looked over curiously, since I had already finished all my food! Breaking it in half he held out his hand, with a bemused and slightly quizzical look on his face.

"It’s just dates and nuts and cocoa all smooshed up together…it tastes exactly like chocolate-orange”, he told me.

"Yeah right" I smiled back.

But I very was curious, and to be honest didn’t want to offend since it was only the third date and all! So I took it.

Mind blown. It DID taste exactly like chocolate orange! 

In that precise moment in time, as I sat on a chair on the 12th floor of an empty office block with a guy I barely knew… my entire changed. In that precise moment I realised that a vegan diet was indeed about more than just kale and cucumber... I was holding the proof in my hand!

I still vividly remember thinking, 'maybe this guy is not so crazy after all!'

At that time veganism was not at all mainstream (I’d even had to ask him to explain to me exactly what it meant!) Vegan food options were not widely available and Nakd bars were pretty much the only type of vegan treat you could buy, and only typically available in health food shops. Plus they were very expensive!

From that moment forward my curiosity got the better of me. I made vegan cakes and cookies that he could eat at every given opportunity.  I went and bought a £20 food processor on Amazon so I could make my own chocolate ‘smoosh bars’. It wasn’t until about nine months later than my ‘Including Cake’ recipe blog was born, by which time I was now in the thick of it, following a 99% vegan diet myself and seeing so many shifts in all areas of my life.

In conversations with others, I often refer to myself as an 'accidental vegan', since it had never even been on my radar. 

Life simply presented me with a guy who turned my world around, who happened to hand me a piece of chocolate orange Nakd bar one day. 

A memory I will cherish forever, as it was the gateway that set in motion literally everything that I am today.

He lit the light within me to ‘always be curious’. It is now my deepest passion, and I urge you to get curious about everything in your life, especially the small things so often cast aside… they often have the greatest potential for change.

Loving you all. 

 

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The magic of Raw Fest

For the last few days I spent a magical weekend amongst magical people in a magical forest by the sea.  

A long weekend to embrace nature, to embrace so many beautiful open hearted souls, to embrace the deeper vegan lifestyle, and most of all to embrace the beauty of our reality. 

I volunteered at Raw Fest. Set by the sea in The New Forest at Pylewell Park, Raw Fest Retreat & Festival encourages you to unplug from the bustle of city life and drop into the nature that surrounds you. A safe haven for all walks of life to gather, learn about clean living and healing technology, and to uplift our souls through a variety of creative arts.

"A decompression party from your everyday busy life."

Getting stuck in as part of passionate, dedicated team was enriching in itself, but the environment  created by the organisers... a truly immersive space to simply BE was incredible. Nowhere before have I felt so accepted to be me, pure and unedited. 

I didn't see my own reflection for over two days (not alone do anything with my hair or makeup!) and when it got chilly in the evenings or early mornings, because I had brought inadequate layers I simply walked around wrapped in my big red dressing gown. No questions asked. 

Everyone in every walk of life was true accepted, embraced and celebrated. 

There were inspiring talks, music, dancing, campfires, food, yoga, meditation, foraging and nature walks. Yet still plenty of moments in between to just sit and soak up the vibe, to think, hug and converse with strangers, who were no longer strangers at all.

On Saturday night the sky was beautifully clear and so when I went back to my tent to sleep I pivoted my sleeping bag to that it stuck out the tent door opening and lay snuggling down in my sleeping bag looking up at the stars. As my eyes adjusted, layer upon layer of stars appeared. The sky was filled with stars as far as I could see. So beautiful and eternal I could have gazed forever.

I went to the festival with a couple of friends, yet many many more, and we camped for three nights. I took lots of fruit, snack bars (recipe coming very soon!) and my Wholeplus Hotpots but also enjoyed plenty of the delicious meals, smoothies and juices on offer. Amrutha were incredible... not just with their amazing vegan food (check out their Facebook Page and find them popping up all over London) but their genuine passion and sweet and pure philosophy on life. On Monday morning as we were packing everything away they conjured up an awesome complimentary breakfast with all the leftovers... just the way I like to work in the kitchen too.

I also had the privilege of being on the 'juicing station'... whipping up a concoction for all members of the volunteer team. There were wasps around me constantly.... I have a big fear of wasps so this was a huge deal for me to overcome! I felt a little proud.

On that final Monday morning I woke up early, before 7am, and the campsite was quiet and still. Not wanting to wake anyone I decided to postpone packing, got wrapped up in my dressing gown against the morning chill and took a quiet walk around the lake running down to the eastuary. 

These were the thoughts that came to my mind, spontaneous and unedited. 

My heart was full with gratitude.  

I felt truly alive.


All the photography for the event was captured by Adrian at Tbilisi Portraits, I have been given full permission to share them with you all here... a little snapshot of some of the magic. Thank you Adrian for capturing it so perfectly.

p.s see me in the last photo after the ceremonal gong bath to close the event late Sunday evening, I'm wrapped up my dressing gown having not seen my own face (erm, or showered) for nearly three days!

For me, this weekend embodied the essence of what I want to offer you at my own immersive wellness retreat. Join me in November in Lanzarote for some deeply soul centred enrichment.

Intrigued to know more? Join the Facebook retreat event here or drop me a email and let's talk about the retreat, about life, about you.

Curious to work together? Get in touch for a complimentary chat and we'll see where your are at and where you want to go!

 Why not sign up for my newsletter in my sidebar where I feature roundups and special offers plus my FREE ebook. If you are new round here you might like to check out my 'About' tab up top. To buy healthy nibbles you can also find me over at my sister site Wholeplus. 

Day to day you can always find me hanging out in these places:

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Ten minute pizza (gluten free)

On weekday evenings, when I go straight to a gym class after work, I often get in quite late.  On these days a super speedy dinner is in order.

I have to admit, I often resort to a big bowl of oats with their endless variations of toppings. Other times I might opt for a defrosted portion of one of my soups, (this one is my current favourite), or a bowl of cous-cous and veg.

Earlier this week I made pizza…the fasted pizza I’ve ever made! 10 minutes from first having the idea the pizza was on my plate ready to eat (ok, I had to allow for a 5 minutes photo shoot first!)

The pizza base is also gluten free as it is made using my flatbread dough, I simple made a larger flatbread to act as a pizza base. The original recipe made 4 small flatbreads but I doubled them up to make 2 larger pizza bases (in actual fact I halved the recipe to make a single serving).

I obviously haven’t used ‘cheese’ here, as I really don’t think it needs it. The tomato-hummous base is full of flavoursome. You could add some cheese/vegan cheese if you fancied when you pile the veg on top of the bases.

Recipe: Ten minute pizza (gluten free)

Serves 2 

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch of flatbread dough (formed into two large rounds)
  • 2 tbs tomato puree
  • 2 tbs hummous
  • Mix of vegetables for roasting (chopped small)- I used peppers, tomatoes, courgette, onion
  • 1 tsp olive oil plus ½ tsp seasonings of choice
  • Handful of sweetcorn and/or canned beans (defrost sweetcorn if frozen)

Method: 

Prepare the pizza base dough according to the flatbread recipe form into two larger pizza sized rounds.

Place the pizza bases on a lightly floured baking sheet under a pre-heated grill.  Grill for 3-4 mins each side until lightly golden.

Prepare the vegetable for roasting and coat in the oil and seasoning mix. Spread it n a baking sheet and place in the oven for 5- 10minutes (depending on size of pieces) and roast until just cooked.

Briefly remove the pizza bases from the grill and spread with 1 tbs each of the tomato puree and hummous. Top with the roasted veg and add the sweetcorn/beans. Place back under the grill for 2-3 minutes to finish cooking.

Serve with a salad if you like.

Did that take 10 mins?....ok well maybe 15 tops!


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Valentine's Coconut Ice

Valentines is such a commercial holiday…but then again, any cause for celebration is good enough for me!

I’m not really the type to celebrate Valentines in a big way, I much prefer showing a little love at any other time of the year and not when I’m ‘told’ I should. But since I have no Valentine of my own it’s a little bit pointless debating my options (or maybe I’m just a tad jealous)!

A thoughtful gesture always means so much more than anything money can buy. A little homemade gift is sure to raise a smile... and a tasty yummy treat all the more!

I have a few simple Valentine’s ideas to post over the next few days.  These would be perfect any time of year….another little way to remind someone how much they mean to you.

No Valentine? Then treat yourself, you best friend or your mum. Plus since these treats are super healthy you will all be smiling all day long.

First up, pretty pink coconut ice. 

You can use any dried red berries here- I used cranberries but cherries would be fabulous! The result is a lovely speckled pink cube of delight with a light crumbly coconutty texture and hints of delicate sweet berries. You could use any shaped moulds you fancy, just make sure to firmly press in the mixture whilst still soft and warm.

Recipe: Valentine's Coconut Ice

Makes approx. 12 cubes (1 ice cube tray)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut butter (make your own)
  • 2tbs cashew or almond butter
  • ½ cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 2 tbs agave nectar plus tiny pinch stevia
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Melt the coconut butter then combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until a thick smooth paste is formed.  There should be ‘flecks’ of the red berries in the mixture as opposed to a solid colour. Whilst still warm, spoon the soft mixture into an ice cube tray or other candy moulds and press down firmly into each mould.

Freeze briefly to set and then store in the fridge.


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Homemade Granola- Two Ways (Banana & Nutty)

Last weekend I really fancied a bowl of granola!

I’d seen some posh tasty looking ‘healthy granola’ in the health food section of the super market, it was chocolate orange flavour and I wanted it there and then! I was so excited (is that odd?) to get home and try this new snack with a dollop of soy yoghurt as an afternoon treat… but I have to admit I was left a little disappointed. It just didn’t do it for me. I’m not sure if it was the flavour combo, the texture or the fact that maybe it wasn’t as amazing as the packaging would have me believe...plus it was very expensive!

Undeterred, I vowed to make my own. I’m surprised I haven’t done so before now. It is really so simple to make, stores for weeks in the cupboard (as if it would last that long!) and is the perfect snack to nibble on at any time of the day when a bowl of porridge just doesn’t quite have the same appeal. I just love oats in all forms!

My granola is now all but gone and today I made a second batch based on the ‘fruity nutty’ version- my favourite of the two if it had to choose, plus I trialled a healthy chocolate version of my own which will be posted soon no doubt once I've had a chanve to refine it a little more. I’m sure I’ll also be playing around with other flavour combos in coming weeks… I will keep you posted.

For now, here you have two recipes for starters. I ate the first as breakfast and the second as dessert…

Breakfast…a generous handful of the nutty fruity granola topped a bowl of grated apple mixed into soy yoghurt sprinkled with cinnamon.

Dessert…the coconut banana granola had a more tropical trip and was mixed through a bowl of soy yoghurt and mango chunks. Fresh mango would be ideal but I only had frozen chunks at the time which I allowed to defrost before mixing through.

I’d be interested to hear about your own granola experiments as I know so many people already make their own.

Banana coconut granola - Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup oats
  • ½ cup chopped almonds
  • 2 tbs each chia seeds/pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds
  • 4 tbs dessicated coconut
  • 1 banana- pureed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbs cocout butter- melted
  • 2tbs maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch salt

Nutty fruity granola - ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup oats
  • 2 tbs chia seeds
  • 1 cup mix of nuts (I used cashew, walnut and hazelnut)
  • 2tbs each of sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • 2tbs ground flax
  • 3 tbs apple puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs coconut oil- melted
  • 2 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tbs rapadura/palm sugar
  • 1 cup dried fruit- optional (I used dates and cranberries) Note: mix into granola once cooled.
  • Makes approx. 3 medium bowls each (or two baking sheets)

Method for both: 

Melt coconut butter/oil into other liquid ingredients. Add all dry ingredients and mix through. Spoon onto two lightly greased baking sheets making sure to achieve a thin even layer with some clumpy bits.

Bake at 170C for 10-15 minutes until slightly golden.

Allow to cool fully before storing. Stores in an airtight container in a cupboard for a few weeks.


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Sweet Scones with Walnut & Cranberry

I like a challenge, the chance to do something a little different, the chance to explore a common theme with a little of my own imagination thrown in. I also enjoy seeing how others respond to an idea…

…for example if you were asked to make scones (aka American biscuits) what would you come up with?

Sweet, savoury, a circle of wedges, round scones cut with a cutter, fruity scones, chocolate scones, scones served with jam and cream for afternoon tea, scones served as a side with a casserole or broth…the list goes on!

I have recently joined the Daring Bakers and this was my first monthly challenge….scones! The challenges are set on the 1st of every month with a publishing date of the 27th of every month. It’s been very interesting to check out the results of the other bakers and to see just how different the outcomes can be.

For me the basic scone recipe presents simply the principle, one which I can then tweak to create a healthy vegan adaptation.  I opted for sweet scones as would be traditionally served with jam and cream (or in my case sugar free jam and a dollop of soy yoghurt). This is the type of scone with which I am most familiar; I remember days gone by cuddling up on the sofa with a warm wedge of light and fluffy baked scone slathered in jam and squirty cream!

I haven’t had too much experience with baking healthy vegan scones (or any scones for that matter), other than the first batch I ever made- my Halloween pumpkin scones which were a resounding success! This gave me a little confidence boost and I was keen to get cracking!

Traditional scones, whether sweet or savoury, consist primarily of plain flour, butter and milk. I adapted the basic recipe to incorporate spelt flour, almond milk and coconut oil and I’m pleased with the overall result…a good base for many flavour combinations.  I had three attempts at this challenge, tweaking as I went and reducing the liquid slightly and adding a little baking soda along with the baking powder, and adding a little dried fruit.  The original Daring Bakers January recipe challenge can be found here.

So, question time...Do you call them ‘biscuits’ or ‘scones’? Do you prefer sweet or savoury? What’s your favourite flavour combination?

Recipe: Scones with walnut and cranberry

Makes approx. 6 wedges or circles (I made one batch of each)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mix of white and wholemeal spelt flours
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Tiny pinch of salt
  • 2 tables coconut oil (not melted)
  • Slightly over 1/3 cup almond milk (or other non-dairy milk of choice) plus extra for glaze
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • ¼ cup mix of chopped cranberries and dates (optional)

Method

Mix/sift dry ingredients well to maximise air in the mixture. 

Rub through the coconut oil with fingers to achieve a breadcrumb like consistency, then mix through the dried fruit if using. 

Mix agave into the milk and add liquid to the dry ingredients. Use hands to create a soft dough ball that should be slightly sticky but manageable.

On a floured surface, knead dough into a circle approx. 2cm thick and either cut into 6 wedges or circles using a cutter. Brush a little ‘milk’ over the tops to glaze.

Lay close together on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 210C for 8-10 minutes until tops are golden. You may need to rotate halfway through to ensure an even rise.

Daring Bakers... Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!


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Carrot & Citrus Bean Soup

For this week’s soup fix I wanted to bring on the lovely sweet and earthy flavours of the winter root veg but also a little citrus kick to perk things up on these cold winter days. Beans are (or should be) everyone’s best friend and are perfect way to get your protein, so a good mixture of beans also feature here for a nice variety. 

This recipe was based on a BBC Good Food recipe which used one can of mixed beans to serve 4, when I make this soup again I will definitely double this two cans to give extra body and oomph to the soup. My photos barely show any beans at all but I can promise you this soup had a lot more bulk than would appear- it sank to the bottom of the bowl!

I made this soup last Saturday as a quick lunch in between batches of baking, freezing the extra portions as I nearly always do. I actually had another portion for my lunch at work today and it was just as good.

My kitchen work top ends up full of ‘experiments’…this is what my typical weekend looks like! Note…this is what it looks like when I’ve already cleared up and wiped down and have tidied away all my ‘baking boxes’ full of goodies that end up being stacked on the floor around me. No creative cooks are tidy cooks…are they??

Here I have a pan of these granola barto keep me going through the week, my trusty smooshbars for a colleague at work, some remaining scones- recipe to come (minus the two I’d eaten) and four leftover pots of this soup for freezing.

I do love being surrounded by warm, freshly cooked food...I want to nibble on it all…it’s a good job it is all so healthy then!

Recipe: Carrot and citrus bean soup  

Ingredients

  • 2tbs olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • Approx. 450g carrots- roughly chopped
  • 1tbs garam masala
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger- grated
  • Juice of 1 orange or ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 200ml coconut milk (full fat or light is fine)
  • 410g can mixed beans- drained and rinsed (note- I would use two cans next time)
  • 2 tbs chopped corriander

Method

Heat oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions and chopped carrotfor around 15 minutes until softening. Add the garam masala and ginger and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the orange juice and vegetable stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Once the carrots are tender, stir in the coconut milk. Using an electric hand blender (or pour into a blender) puree until fairly smooth (or as smooth as you like).

Add the beans to the pureed mixture in the pan, simmer for a few minutes. Add the coriander just before serving.

Note: if making this again I would use 2 cans of beans to make it even more substantial.

Left over portions can be frozen.


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