Does a plant-based diet increase creativity?

I've been a contributor to The Hectic Vegan Magazine ever since it's launch a year (or two?) ago. There is another issue due out early Spring and I realised I hadn't yet filled you in on the December release!

As per the previous issues, I had a number of recipes featured - these ones were mostly pumpkin focussed ;-)  There was also a special 50% discount on my Not Just For Goldilocks  porridge recipe book!

You can download your digital copy of the magazine (and previous issues) for FREE here! 

But... I am also excited to share another feature that I am so passionate about, that is exploring the link between creativity and a plant-based diet.

It's an absolutely fascinating topic that I am currently delving into more deeply (with a book in mind), a connection that I have experienced deeply in my own life.  This blog was also triggered by a post that caught my eye on the Veganuary Instagram page...

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I have often talked about my philosophy that a plant-based diet goes way beyond the food itself. Once we begin to question one aspect of our lives, our minds open up to explore so much more in terms of how we relate to the world around us.

@@>>>Once we think outside the box, once we shift our perspective, life literally becomes limitless!@@ 

Here is that article, you can click to zoom in (or download the magazine to read it properly!), I love how the designers have illustrated the quotes I gathered from some Facebook research in little speech bubbles (I am a sucker for quirky details!) ;-)

I also see a huge link between the concepts of 'creativity' and 'spirituality' in terms of our connection with our innate sense of self and the bigger picture beyond.. maybe that's a topic for another post, ha ha)

Feel free to chime in with your experiences too - have you noticed an increase in your creativity or spirituality since going plant-based?

I am very keen to hear from those that feel strongly about the subject... and you may well feature in my new book, planning is currently underway and I am aiming to publish it before the summer! Please drop me a note if you'd like to share your thoughts and would be open to having a chat!


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Peanut Butter Roundup... 15 recipes for #nationalpeanutbutterday

Do you know what day it is today?

January 24th 2018 = National Peanut Butter Day!

I almost missed it - again! It was brought to my attention in the nick of time by the peanut overload as I scrolled through Instagram. So yep, I am now adding to the noise by giving you a round up of top peanutty recipes from my archives to try! Plenty of sweet and savoury options to inspire you. Or maybe you've come up with a recipe combo of your own?

If nothing else... I hope you celebrate today by grabbing a spoon and dipping it in the peanut butter jar!

Mmmm, if you want to know my top two favorites out of ALL of these recipes, it would have to be...

1) Nutty Chocolate Truffles

2) Sweet Potato Rostis

If you make any of these recipes please tag @johodson on Instagram so I can see too! :-)

Enjoy...


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Planning to create a Vision Board?... try this even BETTER alternative!

It's New Year and I am having a day setting goals, creating my new bullet journal and getting myself fully in the mindset to make 2018 a year that matters!

This morning I was sitting on my bed brainstorming when my eyes caught sight of my 'vision strip' by my bedside. I created this last January and it has been growing and evolving with me ever since. I absolutely love it as an inspiration for my goals and dreams and also as an artwork in its own right!

I suddenly had the spontaneous urge to share it as a mini 'how to' with you today! Perfect for New Years dreaming, but of course any time of year.

This is a photo of my bedroom taken with my iPhone on a really dull day, so the photo quality is not great... please no judging! ;-)

This is a photo of my bedroom taken with my iPhone on a really dull day, so the photo quality is not great... please no judging! ;-)

Ok, so I know it's my personal opinion, but I really do believe this idea IS better than a traditional 'board' and this is why... 

  • Takes up less space- a vertical wall hanging is more space effective on most walls around the home/office than a vision board of traditional proportions. (This was a winner for me in the space I had available)

  • Made from part of a simple roll of plain or patterned wallpaper border (can be FREE if you take advantage of the sample offers in DIY stores (a bit cheeky!) or if you use an offcut you may already have stored away from your decorating adventures!)

  • Paperclips to fasten mean that nothing is permanent and the vision board of inspiration can adapt and evolve as your dreams do through the months and years.

  • You can begin with a little and add as you go, if you use a patterned border (as I have) it still looks great on the wall even if it is not yet very full of inspiration!

  • One simple hanging point- no more curled or dog-eared edges, sticky marks on the walls, awkward fixings, trying to make sure it hangs straight etc.

  • You can choose to arrange ideas/inspirations chronologically going upwards or downwards if you wish.

Convinced? ;-)

Here's how to easily make your own vision strip...

  1. Get yourself a length of wide wallpaper border (approx 6" is ideal), between 2.5-3 meters in length, making sure it is not the sort that has a sticky back.

  2. Decide how long you want it to hang down and then roll the excess into a roll at the top (it will naturally do that anyway), you want to make sure you have a few rolls to that it is sturdy.

  3. Thread a length of yarn (use approx. 1 metre length) through the rolled up section a couple of times which keeps it tightly together, then bring both ends up to the top and tie in a knot at the centre a few inches above (see middle right-hand photo above).

  4. Pin/fasten the knot firmly to the wall or ceiling as appropriate- I used a simple drawing pin into the wall as the ceiling did not hold it so well (gravity and flaky ceiling finish!)

  5. Carefully adjust the hanging length as desired (mine hangs down approx 1.6 meters) and fasten the bottom to the wall with a blob of sticky tack or similar

  6. Fill your Vision Strip with things that inspire your goals and dreams- I use paper clips to attach things but use what works for you.

  7. Keep a row of spare paper clips on the side ready to attach new inspirations. 

Wonderful optional extra...

I found a length of battery powered fairy light mini-lanterns in a pound shop that was the perfect length of my vision strip. This makes it comes alive with beautiful sparkly energy when I'm working or reading in my room at night!

I simply hide the battery pack in the centre of the excess roll at the top (see photo below- though I usually tuck the battery pack further in) and simply let the lights drape down the side!

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Have you ever made a vision board... or do you fancy giving this a go!

I'd love to see your creations, and if you have any 'vision boarding' tips to share please do so!

My biggest love in life is creativity and the space that awakens within us all when we allow ourselves to get in touch with our innate creative energy- we all have it! I encourage you to give this project as go and see how it make you feel!


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2017 close out: my biggest lesson (and my New Year intention!)

I hadn't planned to write a 'year in review' style post, as everyone else in the blogosphere had written them and to be honest I felt a bit overloaded with a case of comparisonitis creeping up on me in the lead up to Christmas.

But, now having had a few more days to sit and quietly reflect, a few truths made themselves know and it was a humbling process of self-acknowledgement that I wanted to share with you in the spirit of authenticity and as offering you a 'permission giving' of sorts. 

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It's 30th December and just over halfway through that 'odd' bit between Christmas and New Year when there is no sense of routine, time or direction. Time seems to stand still. Truth be told (apart from Christmas day) this is my absolute favourite time of year! The world slows down and time is suspended.

Space for reflection, creation, decluttering, reading and absolutely zero sense of expectation or obligation. Bliss!

So, it is pretty much inevitable that my minds bounced between looking back on the year whilst at the same time future focussing on the next.

There was one main truth that hit me. Quite hard at first, but then with a sense of gentle self-forgiveness and understanding. 

My biggest reaslisation this year...

I have been very lonely at times.

Gosh, it feels super vulnerable to admit that. I feel I need to back it up with an explanation, to justify it and make it seem less pathetic. 

The loneliness was a steady creep throughout the year hitting hardest this Autumn though I only realised it retrospectively! (often the way, right?)

When I reflected on how this came to be I realised there were two big contributing factors:

  1. At the end of 2016 I gave myself permission to step away from going to local networking groups and events that I felt I 'should' be doing as a business owner and instead focus on growing my business in other ways. I had noticed I was getting 'people-out' and drained from small talk (I've always hated small talk) so I just stopped going, BUT what I didn't realise was that, as a result, I was then spending a lot more time on my own in my own head where overthinking tends to happen!

  2. For four years I had been having weekly sessions with a Personal Trainer who was also one of my best friends. The sessions were at a regular time and outside. At the end of July he moved away and so suddenly I lost my time spent with a good friend, structured exercise, a weekly anchor point and time outside in nature come rain or shine... massively significant! (although I had not appreciated just how much until very recently)

What have a learned?

That small subtle consistent things can have a massive impact over time- both positive and negative.  

Just like structured consistent training with a PT can steadily increase your strength and fitness, the cumulative effect of not socialising on a structured consistent basis (which is basically what happened) can massively impact your emotional stability.

It was a massive eye-opener for me! The good news is, that now I have recognised what went wrong I can implement changes to address the balance for the coming year.

Instead of a New Year's resolution I set an 'intention' that I seek to grow into over the course of the year. This allows space for play and exploration and for messing up and learning in a way that a resolution doesn't (for me anyway!)

My intention is summarised in a word... a word for the year that has deep meaning for me and a need to explore more.

In 2016 it was 'experiences' (I travelled a lot and thoroughly lived out that intention)

In 2017 it was 'consistency', something I have struggled with. This does not come naturally at all for me- my ADHD brain sabotages feeling pigeonholed and so it is still a work in progress!

In 2018 my word for the year will be: 'Connection'.

Connection within myself and with others. I will seek to deepen the nature of my connections but also my boundaries in order to stay true and authentic to myself. 

I'm excited to explore where this may lead and what 'connection' might look like on my own terms!

There are plenty other things I could say about the year and about my goals for 2018 as I reflected on what had gone well and what not so well. But my most important lesson was our innate need for human connection that I had been depriving myself of without realising and so I won't dilute this significance with other side notes and thoughts.

It makes me smile as I have long been a fan of Brene Brown. I have all five of her books (having received the last two for Christmas) and a big part of her work is the role of connection. Therefore finding her quote “We are hardwired to connect with others, it's what gives purpose and meaning to our lives and without it there is suffering” brought it all full circle for me, and I enter 2018 with a new level of clarity.

Now, I'd love to hear from you, what was your biggest lesson of 2017 and what is your goal or intention to take forward into 2018?  

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Mushroom Bourgingnon (almost alcohol free!) for your festive table!

Last weekend I co-hosted a wonderful festive vegan feast and sound bath with my good friend and incredible opera singer Laura of Namuami  Healing Through Music.

It was a wonderful gathering and an opportunity for self-care, to reflect and connect within during the Christmas rush. I have been feeling very reflective lately as the end of the year hurtles closer... looking back and looking forward at the same time can feel overwhelming!

I was planning lots of recipes in the lead up to the event, looking for ideas that could easily cater for larger numbers, that would be simple to prepare (the kitchen facilities at the venue are basic) and that would taste festive and sumptuous (haven't used that word in a while!)

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I settled for a roasted parsnip soup (I will post that recipe another time), a roasted brussel sprout, quinoa, cranberry and almond salad (I used this recipe as a guide) AND a mushroom bourguignon... oh it was good, a rich, smooth and silky 'gravy' just like the photos imply! It all went down a treat and got rave reviews with lots of requests for the recipe! 

The recipes I found were all based on using red wine but I was keen to avoid this in a communal wellbeing setting and so instead of the bottle of red wine I replaced this with a carton of red grape juice and a 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar (yes that does contain a little alcohol but much less overall). It worked a treat!

I used chestnut mushrooms for the slightly nuttier flavour, I also recommend using baby chantenay carrots- the bonus is these don't need peeling either, just a good scrub! Any other veg is up to you. I added green beans, but red peppers or peas would be great too. This recipe from The Veg Space was my original inspiration but there are lots of similar variations. 

This would may a wonderful dish as part of your festive dining experience, or served as a meal on its own with a pile of creamy mashed potato (or mashed root veg combo!) would also be amazing.

I'd love to hear what dishes will be adorning your Christmas table?

if you haven't yet tried it... I highly recommend my mini Christmas pudding porridge. It's a winner- promise! :-)
 

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Recipe: Mushroom Bourgingnon

Serves approx 6-8 (half the recipe I orginally made- feel free to halve again)

Ingredients:

  • 5 shallots - coarsley chopped

  • a bag of baby carrots- approx 10-12 - sliced

  • a pack of green beans- approx 2 handfuls

  • 3 garlic cloves - crushed

  • 400g chestnut mushrooms

  • 400ml red grape juice

  • approx 2 tbs red wine vinegar

  • 250ml veg stock

  • 3 tbs tomato puree

  • 1 heaped tbs vegan gravy powder (or cornflower, as the Bisto powder I used was mainly cornflower)

  • a handful of fresh herbs- I used rosemary, sage and thyme.

Method:

And the garlic, carrots and shallots to a large pan with 2 teaspoons of oil of choice and cook for approx. 3 minutes. Cut the mushrooms into quarters, add to the pan along with the green ebans (and any other veg) and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the gravy powder/cornflower in a small bowl with a little of the grape juice to form a thick smooth paste. Add this to the pan along with the remaining ingredients. Bring to the boil and then cook until it looks thickened and 'glossy'- approx 10 minutes. Add some finely chopped fresh herbs in the final five minutes of cook time- reserve some to sprinkle to serve if desired.

Serve immediately with mashed potato or alongside other dishes. A wedge of crusty bread would be great too!

Note: I ate leftovers the next day and it tasted amazing, the flavours seemed even richer. Therefore, I think this would also be a great prep-the-day-before dish! 

vegan parsnip soup
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These were the other savoury delights from the event... I also created a new flavour of 'bliss ball' for the after sound bath treat along with some warmed spiced apple juice.
 

ginger orange and mint choc bliss balls.jpg

These were ginger, orange, goji and turmeric bliss balls. Deliciously festive! I will get this on the blog soon... but if you want to give them a go, use any basic bliss ball recipe (dates and ground nuts) and add a few goji berries, ground ginger ground turmeric and orange zest to taste. 


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Mini Christmas Pudding Porridge... takes just 3 mins all in!!

This was my epic breakfast last weekend. It looks like dessert, to be honest it is totally worthy of 'bressert' status. For dessert use the juice as noted and sprinkle the coconut sugar. Job done!

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You could prepare the mix ahead of time too and just let it sit for an hour or so, possibly overnight, I haven't tried it that way but I don't see why it wouldn't work. 'Overnight Oats Christmas Pudding Porridge', ha ha! The best thing ever to wake up to on Christmas morning... with absolute minimal prep!

It literally takes three mins to make from start to finish! (if you use a microwave- see my notes below).

I make servings like this using a silicone egg poacher - so handy, the perfect size and they are flexible so the contents come out so easily. I highly recommend investing in one for you single serve cakes and such like (not eggs!) ;-)

What will you be making on Christmas day morning?

Are you more sweet or savoury?

I'm such a sweet porridge girl so that's been my go-to to make for my family these last few years. If you haven't already, I highly recommend trying these too- the bakewell pie and the classic festive baked oatmeal that kicked it all off!

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Recipe: Mini Christmas Pudding Porridge!

Serves one

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup porridge oats

  • 2 tbs ground nuts of any kind

  • 1/4 cup apple puree

  • 1/4 cup mixed dried fruit (a mix of some of these: raisins/sultanas/currants/cranberries/gojis)

  • 1/2 tsp spice or more to taste (I used a little of mixed spice & cinnamon)

  • 1 heaped tbs flax

  • 1/4 cup water (or juice for extra sweetness)

Method:

Mix everything together well in a small bowl.

Spoon into a small circular microwaveable domed dish- I use an egg poacher (so great for mini cakes!!) Press firmly and smooth the top.

Microwave for 90 seconds on high power. Carefully loosen and tip out onto serving plate and dress with vegan yoghurt or cream plus any extra fruits and spices, I used gojis, but a cranberry compote or some festive jam would be amazing! If you prefer an even sweeter porridge sprinkle a touch of coconut sugar, it was fine for me without.

*Notes: I rarely use a microwave these days but I didn't want to turn on the oven on for this tiny dish, I also find it crisps/dries up more in the oven and this works best when the moistness is maintained. By all means try the oven but don't overcook- cover loosely in foil and make sure middle is still very moist!

If you try the microwave option but are making multiple puddings- cook one at a time or increase the timing- I have only tried cooking one.

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When 'taking action' weighs you down... shift your perspective

This afternoon I had a wonderful conversation with a lady who had been a client some years back. 

It had been a while since we’d spoken and much had shifted in both our lives. She opened up about feeling ‘stuck’ and almost ‘numb’, like a rabbit in headlights- not fearful but simply frozen and stuck. 

She didn’t understand why.

We dived in deeper and the notion of needing to ‘take action’ became apparent and this was aligned with a sense of needing to ‘do more’ that was likely creating the stuckness in the first place. 

The fascinated me.

I can relate to the idea of ‘taking action’ being a positive method of creating momentum and flow, YET for me this does not automatically align with ‘doing more’. On the flipside, that taking action can also involve consciously ‘letting go’.

I had a sudden sense that there was huge resistance anchoring her down and the vision of someone trying to drag a heavy weight came to my mind. 

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I shared a story from the times when I entered lots of muddy obstacle course races and often the trials would involve dragging something like massive heavy tractor tyres across bumpy ground, feet slipping in the mud finding it difficult to gain the traction and build momentum to move forward. 

But there is a beauty when we realise we can step back and approach things from another angle. We can create a powerful shift that requires less effort for a better result. 

If you try to move the heavy tyre by pulling on it with your arms alone, your feet slide out from under you and nothing moves. You just end up flat out on the floor, feeling exhausted, going nowhere. 

Yet if you change your direction by 180˚ and instead, from behind push the weight through your arms by using the force of your legs to drive the momentum, everything changes.

It's often the subtle shifts in orientation, mental awareness and strategy that can get us unstuck.

But, maybe there is also another approach...

When you stare down at the heavy weight you're connected to, ask yourself who put it there? 

Did you walk into the arena willingly and attach yourself to it knowingly, with a greater goal and clear sense of purpose, or was it quietly hooked on when you weren’t looking, without your permission or awareness.

Is it something that no longer serves you or maybe never even did?

In any given moment, instead of aimlessly dragging that heavy weight through the mud we can choose to reconnect with our goal, we can choose to ask for help, we can choose to share the load... or we can choose to let go entirely and conserve our energy to move on and embrace our next challenge.

What does 'taking action' mean for you, and are there places where you feel 'stuck' and might need to change your approach to?

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BEST EVER chocolate brownie round up!

Yesterday, the 8th December was #nationalbrownieday.... waahh, another day I missed. Any chance to celebrate chocolate and cake, right! 

So I am a day late to the party, but who cares. I figured this was a good excuse to share a brownie round-up with all the best brownie recipes I've created over the years. There are quite a few, and all very different too. Plenty to try out and inspire you to put you own twist on things.

This is the description taken from 'National Day Calendar (I can't guarantee how accurate this info is!)

"Brownies were created in the United States at the end of the 19th century.  A cross between a cookie and cake, they soon became very popular across the country. There was a request for a dessert for a group of ladies that would be attending a fair in the late 1800s.  They wanted a small cake-like dessert that could be eaten from a boxed lunch.  A Chicago chef, working at the Palmer House Hotel, created the first brownie for the ladies, which featured an apricot glaze and walnuts.  The Palmer House Hotel still serves their original recipe for brownies on their menu."

Brownies are the perfect platform for veganizing, healthanising, de-gluten-ing and hiding veggies and beans in. I love the fact that brownies are by their nature quite dense and a little gooey - this makes it easy to hide sight 'mistakes' too (a light airy cake is typically much harder to achieve when keeping the above objectives in mind!)

I consider brownies to be the perfect beginner cake when transitioning to alternative baking!

Click the text links below to for the original recipes and have a scroll through my gallery to tickle your fancy. 

One of my all time favourite recipes for ease, flavour and versatility is my award-winning Chocolate Banana Brownie Bread, so I have included a free downloadable recipe card for it below- scroll down and click the pic to download.

Enjoy the round-up and please do tag me on Facebook or Instagram if you make any of the recipes... i'd love to see them! :-)

1) Pumpkin brownies are a great way of packing veg in cakes (sweet potato works well as a swap as does courgette and carrot or even parsnip!)

2) A bit this year late for advent- but these festive advent calendar brownie bites were a very early recipe on my blog! (you could use any recipe and apply the same ideas as brownies freeze so well)

3) The carrot cake brownies follow a similar theme to the pumpkin brownies, served in cake-like wedges!

4) These raw chocolate brownies are packed with nuts for a rich an filling treat! A little goes a long way.

5) Raspberry ripple brownie slices... packed with tofu and black beans for a fat-free brownie variation!

6) For a non-chocolate version, you can try these double banana blondies.

7) This raw black bean fudge brownie is a spin on my 'worlds healthiest fudge' with added chunky nuts and dried fruits for a brownie vibe!

8) Last but not least... the chocolate banana brownie bread (great as a loaf, slice or muffins) scroll down for the recipe card.

There final two pics shown in my gallery were created for other publications/brands beyond this site... but you could replicate the same kind of thing with any of the recipes above.

For the protein brownies, swap in some of your favourite plant-based protein for some of the flour in any brownie recipe. Make the 'deconstructed brownie trifle' but slicing the brownie into small cubes and tossing with berries and yoghurt or coconut cream- makes an amazing super simple dessert!

Download the Choc Banana Brownie bread that was a 2016 PETA 'Bake Off' Finalist below...

 
 

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