Monday, 2 September 2013

Quickie pasta sauce

It's Monday (groan) - perfect for a quickie recipe. Quickies are so useful for those rushed evenings when you have only a little time to cook, and you've already eaten through the leftovers. And for those lovely summer evenings when you want to be outdoors, not slaving over the stove. 

This recipe uses canned beans and tomatoes. I usually don't use tinned food but they're handy for when you want a quick and healthy meal. This recipe takes about five minutes to get together.

You'll need:
A sliced onion
A cup of sliced mushrooms
1-2 cups of chopped broccoli
Half a cup of sliced capsicum
A 400g can of diced tomatoes
A 400g can of mixed beans
Chilli flakes (to taste)
Dried oregano (one teaspoon or to taste)
Minced garlic (optional - only coz I don't like garlic)
Leftover cooked pasta or rice, or instant rice/vermicelli noodles.

Heat a large frying pan on the stove. You can use oil to coat the pan but it's really not necessary. While this is heating, slice the onions and throw them into the pan.

Let the onions cook for a few minutes, until they start to brown, then add in the chilli flakes and garlic (if using). 

During this time you can chop the broccoli, mushrooms, and capsicum (keep stirring the onions so they don't burn). If you're using instant rice/vermicelli noodles, put them in a bowl with boiling water.

Put the broccoli into the pan along with a third of the tinned tomatoes. The tomatoes will help stop the onions and broccoli from sticking to the pan. Cook for one minute, then add the mushrooms, capsicum, oregano, and the rest of the tomatoes, and stir. Cook for one minute and then add the drained beans, and stir. By now the vegetables should have softened and the broccoli should be turning a vibrant green colour. Serve immediately on top of leftover cooked rice or pasta, or onto your drained noodles. 

You could use this as a dip for corn chips, or as a topping for a baked potato. Or, add two teaspoons of ground cumin and use as a filling for taco shells or burrito wraps. 

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Choco-chai shake

It's the first day of spring! And the start of vegan MoFo, in which I'm very excited to be participating!

I seriously love spring. Because it means the hot weather is right around the corner. Late sunsets. Lunch breaks in the sun. Lazy weekends at the beach. Warm nights. And of course....mangos. Hooray.

While we wait for mango season, it's time to stuff ourselves with as much winter fruit as we can. Mandarins, grapes, pears, oranges, kiwis, and apples. And of course the humble banana.

I heart bananas. I could eat them every day. Actually, I do eat them every day in various forms - smoothies, "ice cream", fruit pudding, or just straight out of the peel.

I'm going to kick start vegan MoFo with my kickstart for the day - a chocolate chai shake. It's sweet, spicy, and creamy. Kind of a cross between a chai latte and a chocolate milkshake. I used to be seriously addicted to chai lattes, but that little habit can get expensive. And some places use those chai mixes, which are probably not healthy anyway. With this shake, I can get my chocolate and chai fix using basic ingredients from home. 

You'll need:
4 bananas
A heaping tablespoon of carob powder
A teaspoon of ground cinnamon
A teaspoon of ground cardamom*
Vanilla (optional)

* you can grind your own cardamom or you can buy it pre-ground. If you have a high speed blender, you can throw the whole seeds in without grinding  (DO NOT throw the pods in, make sure you open the pods and extract the seeds). Please don't omit the cardamom because it really punches up the flavour of this drink.

Put the bananas and spices into a blender, and then add water. Use enough water so that around half the bananas/spices are submerged. Blend until smooth and any whole spices are ground. Add vanilla (if using) and give a quick blend to combine.

The consistency should be somewhere between thick and thin. Whatever you prefer, really.

This recipe made one litre of shake. Perfect for a snack, or if you want a meal-sized shake you can double or triple the amounts. 

Throw in some whole ice cubes, if you like. And head outside with a hat and a good book, and dream of summer!

Happy Father's Day to all dads!!

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Sprouts are the best. They're the lazy man's greens and there's so many varieties to get you through the year.

I'll backtrack. We all know that vegetables are super important in any diet. Particularly raw vegetables. Particularly raw, green, leafy vegetables. But it's not always easy to eat enough of them, especially in winter. Who wants big leafy salads loaded with cooling produce (like lettuce and cucumbers) when it's freezing outside?

This is why sprouts save the day. Did you know that one cup of lentil sprouts contains 2.5mg of iron? And almost 7 grams of protein? You'd have to eat about 7 cups of raw spinach to get that much nutrition.

And, sprouts are easy to make, even for the black-thumbed gardeners out there. Soak some seeds for 8-12 hours or overnight, and drain and rinse a couple of times a day until little tails have formed. There's plenty of step by step sprouting guides on the internets so I won't go into detail here. No fancy equipment necessary. Just a jar, seeds, water, and TLC.

Here's a terrible photo of some sprouts I made today. 

The tails are about the same length as the seed, and that's when I like to eat them. Here we have a lentil sprout and a mung bean sprout - but of course you can sprout anything, like chickpeas, wheat, almonds, sunflower seeds... Any whole seed, bean, or grain.

Then what? Well, you can cook them but that will lead to some nutrient losses. Also I personally think they taste better raw. Just throw a hefty handful on top of any dish - soup, salad, stew, or mixed through rice or quinoa. As long as your food isn't piping hot when you mix the sprouts through, you'll retain the nutrients.

You can also create a side dish using the sprouts. They taste great with a sprinkle of cumin and a squeeze of lemon juice. Or, you can try my version of raw chili. You'll need:
1 cup of sprouts (I like mung bean sprouts for this)
A half cup of corn (optional, not everyone handles raw corn well)
2 large or 3 medium tomatoes 
Half a red capsicum
A big handful of fresh herbs like parsley and oregano (dried is ok too)
A few squeezes of lemon
A chilli pepper (optional).

Set aside sprouts and corn in a bowl. Put the tomato, capsicum, herbs, lemon, and chilli into a food processor. This will be the sauce, so make it as smooth or as chunky as you like. Pour the sauce over the sprouts and corn, and stir through. 

You can eat it just like this, or spoon it into cos lettuce leaves to make "boats". It also tastes good as a topping for a baked potato. 

You could add cumin and use coriander leaves as the herb, and then put this chili in a burrito or atop nachos. 

If you're so inclined, you could dice celery and capsicum into this chili and make it even more like its cooked counterpart. 

Leftovers keep pretty well, although the liquid from the sauce may separate and need to be stirred through. 

If you're like me and feeling a bit stodgy from all the winter comfort food, try adding some sprouts to your meals. I'm pretty excited about sprouts, and with their help I think I may just make it through another Melbourne winter :)

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Why instinctive eating doesn't work

Our body is intelligent. Intelligent beyond our control or knowledge. And some people claim that our bodies "know" exactly what conditions are necessary for optimum functioning and well being.

I personally agree with all of this. I agree that our body wants to heal, and that healing happens by the body without any external inputs. 

The problem, however, is that we cannot always recognise the signals from our body. Sometimes the message gets distorted or overridden - by our mind, our subconscious, or our ego. Sometimes, we hear the message but we misinterpret its meaning.

On a purely physical level, our modem environment makes it difficult for us to understand the message. When we spend years ignoring our natural instincts, is it surprising that we might have lost touch with our true self and our true needs? We rob ourselves of sleep, night after night, and use food or drugs or stimulating activities (like caffeine and sugar and television) to prop ourselves awake, without repaying our sleep debt. We sit all day in dehydrating office environments, ingest dehydrating substances (like salt and caffeine and alcohol), without ever properly replenishing our fluids. We use food or drugs to numb ourselves from the realities of our life. 

So while it seems simple and beautiful to just "listen to our bodies", unfortunately the message we receive is often far from the truth. 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Vegan and gluten-free hearty minestrone soup

It's still cold and windy here in Melbourne, and soup is calling more than ever. 

What's not to love about minestrone soup? Well, if you're trying to avoid gluten and/or animal products, it's pretty tricky to get a decent minestrone soup unless you make it yourself. Most of them contain wheat pasta (sometimes egg-based) and have hidden nasties like milk powder and palm oil. 

There are gluten-free pastas available, but usually they don't hold up well in a soup. And, since I like to eat whole foods wherever possible, pastas are a bit too processed for my liking.

So here's a recipe for a satisfying vegan and gluten-free minestrone - without pasta. 

1 onion, diced (optional. I also have used a leek, if onions are too strong)
2 medium or 1 large carrot, diced
1 large stalk of celery, diced
Half to 1 cup cabbage, chopped
3 large potatoes, diced
5 large tomatoes, diced (or one 400gram tin of tomatoes)
A tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
1 chilli, minced (optional)
1-2 cups hot water

In a large soup pot, sauté onions (or leeks), celery, carrots, potato, and chilli and garlic (if using) until the onions are translucent. You can sauté in a teaspoon of oil, but I find that water sautéing works just fine. 

Add tomatoes and dried herbs, and add 1-2 cups of water until all vegetables are covered. You may need more water if you have a really big soup pot.

Simmer until potatoes are almost soft, and then add chopped cabbage. I like to add the cabbage towards the end of cooking so that it still has a little texture, but it can always be added in the first step with the other vegetables.

Salt isn't necessary with this soup, because the tomatoes add quite a lot of salty flavour. If you do add salt, be cautious because it is really easily to over-salt.

To serve: Add a few sprigs of parsley and a bit of cracked black pepper right before eating. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

30 day gratitude challenge

I love 30 day challenges! And I don't do them often enough. (I've mentioned them previously here)

This month, I have decided to to a 30 day gratitude challenge. It's pretty simple - for 30 days, I spend a few minutes focusing and writing on things I appreciate and for which I am grateful.

It takes only a couple of minutes every day.

For example, this morning I am grateful for:
waking up early to do a yoga class
lazy weekends
banana-carob smoothies (I swear they taste like a decadent chocolate milkshake)

Why a gratitude challenge? Quite simply, to improve my quality of life. My mood lowers slightly this time of year, because of the cold weather and short days. For a few years, I took antidepressant medication during the winter. I know I'm not alone - many people experience a shift in their mood during winter. Sometimes, if severe. it's labeled Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Psychologically, I am in far better shape now than I was a few years ago (thanks in part to a low fat raw vegan diet). I am vulnerable to shifts in my mood, which is why during the winter I have to be extra careful to look after my physical and mental health. Maintaining a positive focus is a big part of that. This challenge is actually a segue into 30 days complaint-free, which I have set as a challenge for August.

I'm not sure what to expect after 30 days. I do notice that after I think about or write my appreciations, I feel uplifted. Even if I was already feeling happy, there's a definite shift in my mood. And somehow, life just feels easier when we're in a good mood!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Why I eat a low fat raw vegan diet

For those unfamiliar with the lingo, a low fat raw vegan diet is a fruit-based diet. Almost all calories are derived from fruit, plus vegetables as a concentrated mineral source. Fruit for breakfast, lunch, dinner - plus salad. 

Most people, when they observe my eating habits, are shocked and skeptical that anyone could tolerate such a "boring" diet, let alone thrive on it.

Five years ago, I was not a vegan. I scoffed at vegan "hippies". I believed that humans were designed to eat meat, that too much fruit would make you fat, and that protein was the secret to health and well being. My diet consisted of oats, tuna fish, cottage cheese, yoghurt, tofu, chicken, shellfish, green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and the occasional egg. I was working at a gym at the time, and I was thoroughly brainwashed by the high protein propaganda. I avoided potatoes, bananas, and rice, believing that they would make me fat and unhealthy. 

I was eating ridiculous amounts of canned tuna fish, and others' comments about mercury poisoning and heavy metal toxicity sparked my curiosity about the health of my diet. I started gravitating away from seafood, eating more chicken. Red meat was only an occasional menu item, as the rest of my household did not eat it.

I wasn't a huge fan of chicken, and I gradually began eliminating it. Before I knew it, I was eating a mostly vegetarian diet. I had gone off milk several years ago due to lactose sensitivity, but I was still eating large quantities of yogurt, cheese, and eggs (particularly egg whites). I wondered whether a vegetarian diet was actually healthy, and so I started reading in earnest. Then, I came across a documentary called "Earthlings" that ended up changing my life. From that day, I knew that I wouldn't in good conscience ingest another animal product or exploit another being in order to fulfill my needs. 

Switching to veganism prompted more research and a radical shift in diet. Eliminating dairy products was difficult, which I later learned was due to the addictive properties of dairy (particularly cheese). What was more challenging were the hidden animal ingredients in almost every mainstream processed food product. Pasta sauce, crackers, seasoning packets, candy - even veggie burgers. I did make mistakes, where I unknowingly consumed animal products, but I learned from each experience. And quickly learned that a diet based on whole plant based food like beans, grains, and vegetables, was far easier on my sanity (not to mention healthier). I was still a little carb-phobic, so my diet consisted of oats for breakfast, with salads and beans for lunch and dinner, and low sugar fruits like apples and oranges for snacks. 

After about six months on a vegan diet, I started reading about a "raw food" diet - which I immediately dismissed as impossible. Within a few months, however, I decided to give it a try. I started drinking green smoothies for breakfast, which consisted of half a banana, a teaspoon of flax seeds, and a few handfuls of spinach. A woefully inadequate breakfast of barely 100 calories. Lunch was a small salad of lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, and an apple and an orange for snacks. Around this time I also eliminated coffee. Dinner was another small salad. After dinner, I would snack on nuts. And by snack, I mean several large handfuls. It's no wonder - I was barely eating 400 calories during the day.

I didn't realize it at the time, but my under eating during the day was the reason for my gorging on nuts in the evening. I was inadvertently eating a very high fat diet - which led to a few extra pounds on my frame and skin breakouts.

In late 2009, I stumbled upon a website called 30 bananas a day, which promoted a calorie-abundant, high carbohydrate, low fat raw vegan diet. It sounded bizarre to me, but seeing as a high fat raw diet was causing some unwanted side effects, I decided to try it. Or so I thought. My carbohydrate phobia was still in full force, and initially I could only stand to eat around 4 pieces of fruit a day. My half banana in the pitiful green smoothie (now minus flax seeds) along with a few apples and oranges. Gradually I added a couple of bananas to my daily intake. Then five. Then ten. Clearly, I didn't quite understand the concept of carbohydrate abundance to promote health, athletic recovery, strength, and weight loss. I was still under the illusion of "calories in versus calories out" as being the key to health, that thin = healthy.

Eventually, I learned that our bodies are designed to live on carbohydrates. That under eating leads to cravings for undesirable foods that are high in salt, high in fat, or processed. That inadequate hydration leads to mixed body signals and cravings. That under consumption of greens leads to cravings for salt. 

Most importantly, I learned that health isn't all about diet. Health must include enough movement, rest, hydration, sunshine, and positive relationships - and more. 

I will never have the "perfect" diet, because I no longer believe there is such a thing. I do my best, though. I buy from markets when I can. I eat organic greens most of the time. I grow some of my own food. I eat a plant based, whole-food diet. I avoid certain things not because of dogma or because I'm trying to attain some level of "purity" - rather, I avoid things because I don't desire them and/or because I don't like the way they make me feel. 

Once upon a time I wanted to identify as a "raw foodist" and I went to great lengths to sustain this diet. Even if it meant eating a fatty raw food dish over, say, a plate of rice and vegetables. I avoided EVERYTHING that wasn't raw, including minute amounts of dried herbs.

These days, I'm less concerned about labels and "fitting" into a particular group. It's about doing and being the best I can be. 

We might be lured into thinking that diet is everything, if the raw food/vegan Internet community is anything to go by. There's a lot of in-fighting between people who actually have more similarities than differences. Even the "Paleo" and "vegan" crowds agree on a number of points. And each is convinced that their diet is the right diet.

I have more to say on the principles of health and a vegan vs non/vegan diet, which I will do another time. For now, I'll conclude with the idea that there is no perfection in life, and that we are all striving to better ourselves in all areas. Don't put all your focus on one aspect of health at the expense of others - your health can only be as good as your weakest link. I've lived the unbalanced life, and I can safely say that if you're mood is dictated by a number on the scale, or if you feel guilt for eating a possibly non-raw item, or if you repeatedly beg off social events to exercise, or you refuse to associate with people based on their diet .... You need to take a look at your priorities. 


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Why weight loss doesn't work

The fat trap.

This article appeared on the New York Times website a while ago. It describes the plight of the overweight and obese in losing weight. Those who successfully lose significant amounts of weight will eventually regain it. This is compounded by "fat genes" that supposedly predispose individuals to obesity and even to selecting high fat, high calorie foods. Those who lose weight are described as forever having to meticulously monitor calorie intake and expenditure.

Pretty depressing stuff if you're overweight.

Losing weight is fantastic, but who wants to always be measuring food and maniacally exercising? Always thinking about food and worrying about the pounds coming back on? It's enough to make a person abandon the running shoes for a pair of extra wide sweat pants.

This article is everything that's wrong with weight loss and "dieting". It's based on starvation level diets, which are unrealistic and impossible to maintain in the long term. Unfortunately, what the author doesn't realise is that by eating in accordance with our physiology, it IS possible to lose weight and keep it off, without being doomed to a life of food scales and calorie charts.

The problem with "diets" is that they're a quick fix solution to a systemic problem. Mainstream medicine will tell you that it's all about "calories in vs calories out", without taking into account the complexity of the human machine. Starve, over exercise, and get hyped up on stimulants, and the body will eventually rebel. Rapid weight loss will see a significant loss of muscle tissue, the body's effort to reduce calorie requirements by removing  energetically demanding tissue. With a loss of muscle tissue comes a drop in basal metabolic rate. In addition, stress hormones kick in, which promote fat storage and feelings of hunger. Then, when the dieter succumbs to any sort of refeeding, their body a) becomes more likely to gain fat, and b) requires fewer calories to maintain the same initial body weight.

This is why fast weight loss never works in the long run. People want to lose 5 or 10 pounds in a matter of weeks, but this is often mostly water, salt, or glycogen... with some muscle loss and eventually some fat loss. It makes about as much sense as chopping off a leg to lose some quick pounds. The number on the scale may be lower, but at what cost? What's the point of being "thin" if your adrenal glands are burned out from chronic stress? Or if you've increased the risk of cancer from all the chemicals ingested in food? Or if you're unable to enjoy life because of obsessive calorie counting?

Most people want to lose weight to reduce their risk of diseases like diabetes and heart disease. But too many weight loss programs leave the individual in worse shape than when they started! Malnourishment is the precursor of disease - and it is difficult to obtain all necessary nutrients on most calorie-restricting diets.

In the raw food world, there is increasing focus on building health as a means of achieving a healthy weight. When an individual is truly healthy, mentally and physically, a healthy weight can be effortlessly maintained.

How is this achieved?

True health includes athletic fitness, hydration, stress management, strong social relationships, a sense of community and belonging, exposure to sunshine and nature, and adequate rest, in addition to ingestion of healthy foods and minimising exposure to toxins. Addressing all these issues permanently means a lifestyle and habit change - developing a consistent routine that addresses all of these needs, and which is realistic and can be easily maintained.

So, what should the overweight person do to lose some pounds? Before doing anything, get a full physical work up. Cholesterol, liver function, blood pressure, heart rate, everything. It's called a baseline measure - and it will be the comparison point for all subsequent measurements on the journey to health.

Once that's done, it's time for diet change. Don't be afraid - a healthy diet will not mean rabbit food and leave you constantly hungry. In fact, you get to eat more than you ever would have thought. Cut out animal products: dairy, meat, eggs, honey, as well as soda, fast food, and processed snack food. Replace these things with whole plant foods, like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, and small amounts of nuts and seeds. Stick to a low fat, whole food vegan diet and watch your health skyrocket. Incorporate as much raw food as you can. Entire meals can be made 100% raw, like a breakfast smoothie with bananas, mangoes, and water. And for those who think it's too radical a dietary change: don't worry, there's vegan alternatives to almost every meal in existence. Tempeh and seitan instead of meat. Veggie burgers instead of beef burgers. Scrambled tofu instead of scrambled eggs. Almond milk instead of cow milk. Yes, you can have vegan pizza, burgers, and pies. All of these are great transitional tools for getting off the dead animals and onto the plants.

Make sure you eat enough - the calorie density of plant foods is generally  lower than animal products. One fast food hamburger meal is easily the equivalent of 10-15 bananas. Make sure enough calories are consumed to meet nutritional targets, maintain energy levels, and sustain a positive mental attitude. is a great resource, or check out the Banana Girl Diet, Banana Boy Diet, and Raw Til 4 pages on facebook.

Next is movement. You can't be healthy if you're not fit. Do whatever floats your boat, whether it's running, walking, swimming, rock climbing, salsa dancing, or yoga. As long as you're moving. If you do what you enjoy, it won't even seem like a work out - it will just be fun. Incorporate activity into daily life. Play with your dog or your kids. Ride your bike or walk instead of using the car. Take the stairs.

Ensure adequate rest. Get off the stimulants. Most of us are running around on too-little sleep, but artificially boosted with coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate. The body can't rest when we're hyped up on drugs, and rest is crucial for recovery. It's common to require 8-10 hours of sleep per night - or even more if athletic. Drink plenty of water. Spend time with uplifting people who encourage you to make positive changes. Get outdoors.

Over time, you will see radical shifts in your physique as well as mental outlook and attitude. You will become less interested in weight and more focused on how you FEEL. Happiness, vitality, and vibrancy will attract more of those things into your life. And THAT's the goal - not simply a number on the scale.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Love and peas soup

I love making soup. The preparation and cooking process is soothing - almost meditative - and the aroma wafting through the house is very cosy on a cold day. Soup can be simple or complex, and is delicious with just 5 ingredients or with 20.

I'm not a huge recipe person. I will look at recipes to get inspiration, and then adapt according to the ingredients I have available - usually, whatever is in season. I'm lazy, so I don't like doing mid-week shopping trips after a long day at work. And, I REALLY don't like buying produce at the big chain supermarkets. I'm very much a farmers' market kinda gal. Plus, the quality of produce is usually poor at the big chains compared to markets, and more expensive. I'm frugal, so shopping at farmers' markets is win-win.

So here's a delicious soup recipe that will bring love and peace (peas?) into the hearts of your family and friends. It's been awhile since I cooked with dried peas, and after this recipe I think I'll be using them a lot more. I used yellow split peas for this recipe but green ones would work just as well. Peas pair really nicely with root vegetables - perfect for winter!

1.5 cups split peas (yellow or green)
1 diced yellow onion
1 large carrot
1 large potato (or 3 small potatoes)
half to 1 cup chopped cabbage
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 chilli pepper (optional if you like heat)
2-3 cups vegetable stock
Dried rosemary

Sauté onions (in water or a little olive oil) for 1-2 minutes. Add the rest of the vegetables, garlic, rosemary, and chilli pepper and sauté for another minute. Add split peas and vegetable stock, and bring to the boil. If needed, add a little plain hot water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until split peas are cooked.

(Note: you could add any dried herbs in place of rosemary, such as thyme, oregano, or basil. If using fresh herbs, add them right at the end of cooking, just as you're about to serve).

I don't pre soak my split peas, and they cook within about 45 minutes. Next time I'll try soaking them and see if it shortens the cooking time at all.

This soup is really thick and filling. My family had it as a stand-alone meal with some plain rice on the side.

I forgot to take a photo of this soup. Oh well, gives me incentive to make it again very soon!

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Roast winter vege soup

It's not winter YET, but I'm definitely starting to feel a little chill in the mornings! Autumn is definitely here, and the winter produce has slowly overtaken the mangoes and stone fruit (sigh).

There's still a lot of versatility with winter produce! Especially soup, which my family loves this time of year.

We had a bit of an unseasonal heat wave in March, but this week has been real comfort food weather. Pumpkins are cheap and plentiful, and lend themselves well to comfort food. Here's a roast vege soup recipe I whipped up this week.

1 butternut pumpkin
4 carrots
1 sweet potato (optional)
4 cloves garlic
1 onion, diced
Chili pepper (optional)
Low sodium vegetable stock

Roast the pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, and garlic at 200 degrees Celsius for 30-45 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked. Allow to cool, then peel the skin off the pumpkin and potato.

In a soup pot, sauté the onion with the chili pepper (if you're using). You can sauté in water or a LITTLE olive oil (I prefer water). Once the onion is transparent, add the roast vegetables from the oven and enough vegetable stock to cover. Simmer for 5-10 minutes. The soup will probably be chunky at this stage, so you can serve as is or use an immersion blender to purée some of the soup. Add a sprinkle of black pepper and you're done!

This soup is really warming and filling, especially if you serve it over rice.

Lots more winter recipes coming up, stay tuned!

Friday, 22 March 2013

Five fun fruit ideas

It's Friday! I thought I'd cap off the work week with five fun fruity ideas. Sure, I love unadulterated fruit but sometimes it's nice to make fruit meals extra exciting!

1. Freeze your fruit.
And then thaw it until it's just becoming soft, and give it a whirl through the blender or food processor. Result? Fruit ice cream! Dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free, egg-free, raw, and vegan. What's not to love? Bananas and mangoes are a personal favourite, but any creamy fruit will work. For more watery fruits, like berries, use frozen bananas as a base and blend the berries together with the bananas. Strawberries or blueberries are delicious (and you get pink and purple ice cream!). Stir through some berries or chopped fruit for a sundae!

2. Fruit pops
Remember icy poles (or Popsicles)? So good in summer but commercial icy poles are just sugar and chemicals. Make your own fruit pops with juice or blended fruits, and Popsicle moulds. You can line the moulds with fruit slices and fill the remainder with juice. Or, try making layered icy poles by filling the moulds halfway with one type of juice, freezing, and filling the remainder with a different juice.

3. Fruit sauce
This is simply blending dates with a little water into a "caramel" sauce. You can add fruit to make a sweet sauce. Particularly good with fruits that are slightly tart, like raspberries. The sauce can be used on fruit ice cream or to dress up a fruit salad.

4. Fruit cake
I've seen this online several times, but have yet to make it myself. The base of the cake is a large disc of watermelon with the rind removed. The disc can be as large as you like, although it does depend on the size of the watermelon! Place the disc on a serving plate on a flat edge. Then, decorate. This is a great one for the kids to get into. You can cover the watermelon with sliced fruit, or make some fun shapes like stars and hearts. You can also skewer fruit and fruit shapes on toothpicks, and insert them into the top and sides of the cake.

5. Fruit sushi
For the wrapping, you'll need a neutral fruit like cucumber or zucchini (yes, both are botanically fruits!) Use a slicer or veggie peeler to make long strips. Arrange slices of fruit at the end of each strip, such as mango, papaya, and pineapple. This is the "filling". You can cut the fruit slices to fit the width of the strip, or just let them overhang - it still looks great! Don't over-fill the roll otherwise it will fall apart. Once you have all the fillings in place, start rolling! You can put some fruit sauce in the roll, or drizzle the sauce over the top.

Thursday, 14 March 2013


Just a quick post on hydration. And no, not juice, tea, carbonated drinks, or Gatorade. Water. Just good ol' H2O.

No one is going to argue about the importance of water. We know we need water to live, and it's good for our health and our appearance.

Here are two more interesting facts about hydration:
1. Digestion is slowed on a dehydrated system. Water helps speed up gastric emptying, which means that our food is digested more efficiently and will less chance of fermentation and putrefaction.
2. The uptake of glucose from the bloodstream is more efficient on a hydrated system. Glucose is more efficiently shuttled into cells, which enhances the cells' metabolic function.

Happy drinking!!

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


It's a bit of a hot topic: Vegans who have decided to incorporate small amounts of "healthy" animal products into their diet.

First of all, the idea of "healthy" animal products is pretty ridiculous considering the numerous studies linking animal products with most first-world diseases. Doesn't matter whether its grass-fed, organic, free-range, unpasteurised, hormone-free, gold-plated, or sun-dried. The bottom line is that animal products are acidic, inflammatory, and not easily digested by humans. So the idea of adding toxic foodstuff to the diet in the name of "health" is absurd.

So. Why would a vegan introduce animal foods into their diet? Why can one person thrive on a vegan diet, and another person suffer? I believe that there must have been something fundamentally wrong with the individual or with the diet. I'll start with the latter.

I question the nature of the ex-vegan's diet, because no two vegan diets are the same. There are a few reasons why people "fall off" a vegan diet:
1. Not eating enough calories. Plant foods are less calorie dense than animal foods, and contain more fibre - so vegans need to eat a greater volume in order to get calories. (This is a great thing - we get to eat more!!)
2. Eating highly processed vegan foods. There is nothing wrong with a faux beef burger, but not every day. Faux meat is generally made from soy and/or seitan - neither of which are particularly healthy or nutritious.
3. Not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables. There's a reason the raw food crew are taking over the vegan world - because fresh, whole, raw fruits and vegetables are full of nutrition. Not just vitamins and minerals, but also photochemicals and a host of undiscovered compounds that are crucial to health. These chemicals are in abundance, and in the quantities that most benefit human health, in raw fruits and vegetables.
4. Ignoring other aspects of good health, including exercise, sunshine, sleep, hydration, stress management, etc. as much as we vegans enjoy talking about food, being a healthy vegan is SO much more than diet.

I also question the motives of the ex-vegan in adopting a plant-based diet in the first place. For many of us, being vegan goes beyond diet. Some people "go vegan" to lose weight. Others adopt a vegan diet as part of a cruelty- free lifestyle. What draws a person to a vegan diet may be very different to what keeps them there.

Ethically, we have no need to consume animal products. Factory farming is appalling, yes, but even so-called "humane" meat is no different. Ultimately, an animal's life has to be taken, and I'm just not ok with that. Watch the documentary "Earthlings" - it changed my view about the entire animal cruelty industry, from meat to fur to vivisection.

There is also the environmental aspect of Veganism. Raising animals for food is a highly inefficient method of food production. The amount of grain and water required for one cow could feed many more people than the cow itself. Also consider the environmental impact of methane emissions, destruction of rainforest to produce more land for crops or animals, and the huge monocultures of crops such as corn and soy.

Onto my second point. What if there is something physiologically different about the individual, such that he or she cannot survive on a vegan diet? I've personally never heard of it, but it is possible. There are rare metabolic disorders where individuals cannot break down certain types or sugars (or fats, or proteins) and therefore are required to remain on a strict regime where specific foods must be avoided. The average person is not likely to have this problem because most of these disorders are detected early in life and are often associated with other medical and developmental problems - and unlikely to be discovered simply after adopting a vegan diet.

The people who think that they are biologically different and therefore NEED to eat animal products? They are sadly mistaken, and are unaware of (or unwilling to accept) their mistake.

For most of us, we may have compromised digestion due to past abuses - for example, limiting our ability to produce it absorb vitamin B12. This is where supplementation is important (and, there are many types of vegan supplements available). There is no danger of deficiency for most vitamins and minerals in a vegan diet, provided that plenty of raw fruits and vegetables are consumed. It is prudent for us to carefully monitor vitamins D an B12, as we don't spend enough time in the sun (D) and adequate B12 relies on intact digestive processes, which, as mentioned earlier, may be compromised due to past abuses.

This brings up my final question: If a person has damaged their body (via past abuses) and is unable to thrive on a vegan diet, should animals have to suffer?

Monday, 11 February 2013

Bikram yoga

This has been a pretty epic weekend for Bikram yogis around Melbourne. Saturday saw Rajashree, Bikram's wife, in an all-day workshop, and today the Yoga Championships. All this has made me reflect on my practice, right back to my very first class.

What do the words "Bikram yoga" conjure up? Sweaty lunatics in skimpy clothing balanced perfectly on one fingernail? That's seriously what I thought when I first stepped into a Bikram studio. I thought I was the most inflexible person on Earth. I loathed meditation and silence. Actually, I disliked being still, period.

The first class was ok. I survived and I didn't throw up or pass out. I came back the next day. And the next day. And pretty soon I was buying a six-month membership. And then a one-year membership. Here I am, three years later... (and I don't plan on stopping anytime soon).

I'm not a big part of the yoga "community" but one thing I do know is this: when I tell other yogis that I do Bikram, the usual response is a roll of the eyes or a smirk or the comment "oh, that's not real yoga". I'm no expert on yoga, but I've learned a few valuable lessons over the last three years. And I'm pretty sure I would have learned these lessons no matter what style of yoga I practiced.

1. You don't have to be flexible to do yoga.
Yoga isn't about getting your head to touch your feet. It sure looks cool and it's a great party trick, but it's not the point. All of the stretching and bending is simply a means to keeping your mind still - whether you can bend forward one millimetre or one metre. As long as your mind is still, your breathing is calm, and your body is relaxed.... you are doing yoga. (Actually, being inflexible as a beginner isn't such a bad thing, because you will notice rapid improvements in your flexibility in a short amount of time). When I first started, I couldn't touch my toes. And it took six months for me to be able to even grab onto my toes with straight legs.

2. It's about your mind, not the heat
Oh, the heat. It's a sauna in there. It's up around 40 degrees celcius, but the humidity makes it seem hotter. Some days, the heat is our worst nightmare. But ultimately, it is there for a reason. At a basic level, it makes your body more pliable. Stretching is easier and safer when you're warm. But more than that, the heat seems to help with mental strength. Because when you're balancing on one leg, limbs aching, sweat dripping, and all you want to do is collapse on the floor and drink a river of ice water, it takes mental strength to tough it out. To stay in the posture, even to stay in the room. Once you've survived a ninety-minute Bikram class, the day to day stuff won't faze you.

And, on a cold winter day, the heat lures you in like a siren song. It's like the hug of an old friend. And, after doing a Bikram class, you won't feel the cold for the rest of the day. Seriously.

3. Keep an open mind
You might not be a deadlocked barefoot hippie when you step into a Bikram class for the first time, but you just might be one when you walk out.

Perhaps not. But in all honesty, Bikram yoga can open the door to other types of spiritual practices like meditation, to people who would otherwise never delve into them. I'm thinking specifically of Type A personalities (myself included) who might scoff at the idea of meditation. The "athleticism" of Bikram yoga attracts many Type As into the hot room, and from there the mind opens - and the magic happens. Personally, I spent the first year of my practice fiercely focused on flexibility and getting "better" at the postures. I wanted to do the standing splits, dammit! Over time, I seem to care less and less about getting the postures "right" and more about being in the postures in that moment. Other things become the focus, like whether I can keep my mind still during savasana, or whether I can concentrate well enough to balance on one leg for a full minute. With that, comes mindfulness, gratitude, appreciation, acceptance. Yes I do want to do the standing splits one day but I'm ok with (and grateful for) where I am now.

4. Don't compare yourself to others
As tempting as it is to envy the gorgeous model-type yogi who has just set up next to us, remember why you are here. You are here for your own peace. If you spend your ninety minutes focused on someone else, then you can't be focused on yourself. There are many roads that lead to the yoga room, and every person there faces different battles. The person next to you might be there to heal their arthritic knees. Or to open up a frozen shoulder. Or to quiet the demons telling them that sobriety is no fun and to just have one more drink. The posture that's easy for you might be extraordinarily difficult for someone else. My point is: don't waste time wondering about others.

Never been to a Bikram class? I highly recommend you try it at least once. Many studios offer first-time students seven- or ten-day trials for the cost of a single class. You don't need any prior knowledge of yoga, and Bikram is suitable for all ages and all fitness levels. Some tips for your first time:
* Don't practice with a full stomach. There's nothing quite like the first forward bend and feeling your lunch sliding up the back of your throat. Don't eat anything at least a couple of hours before class - and even then, something easily digested like fruit. Save the bean burrito for afterwards.
* Hydrate well beforehand. You're going to sweat. A LOT. If you're doing an evening class, make sure you have consumed at least two litres of water during the day. If you do morning classes, make sure you are well hydrated the day before. On the morning of your class, you may like to eat something light such as a small piece of fruit or some juice. I would recommend drinking as much water as you can tolerate - but not so much that you're having to run to the bathroom every five minutes. Personally, I don't like eating anything beforehand, but experiment and see what works for you.
* Turn up early to the studio. This will allow you enough time to get settled and relax before class.
* Don't talk or walk around during class. It's about stillness - and anything else is just distracting.
* Listen to what the teacher is saying. Yes, the teacher will talk a lot and it's hard to concentrate on that for 90 minutes. It's kind of the point, though. Every bit of the dialogue has a purpose. And ultimately the teacher is there to take care of you.

As much as the general yoga community may dislike Bikram yoga or even Bikram himself, I will continue to tout the benefits of this yoga simply for what it has done for me over the last three years. As for the future, who knows? I may start disliking the heat, or I may find other types of yoga appealing. But for three years my eyes have gradually opened to what's real and what's important in this world, and learning my place in it - and this yoga has a big part in why I'm here now. If you haven't tried Bikram yoga before, I do recommend that you give it a go (provided you have your doctor's ok). I never would have guessed that the humid and slightly smelly room would unlock so many doors for me, and who knows, it just might for you too!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How to give up drugs without really trying (part III)

Click for parts one and two

When trying to implement permanent habit change, it will usually fall into one of two categories. Things I want to start doing, or Things I want to stop doing.

The title of this post is about giving up bad habits, so I'll start with "Things I want to stop doing".

1. Identify and measure the habit you want to eliminate. Be realistic about how much you engage in it. Think back over the previous few days to gauge how often it occurs. Do you smoke? Drink? Bite your nails? How much/how many per day? If you really struggle to identify frequency, I suggest you keep a log - although note that this may be an underestimate, as once we're aware that we're logging our habits, we are less likely to engage in them. You could also ask a partner or close friend to keep the log for you, if you're comfortable with that.

Your logs will come in handy later, as they are a useful way to measure progress.

Sometimes, this self awareness is enough to significantly shift the frequency of our habits. Logging our behaviour is powerful, as it requires us to make a conscious decision to engage in that habit rather than simply doing it mindlessly.

If you're like me, though, you probably need a little more help. Onto step 2.

2. Identify your triggers. Your logs may be useful here. Do you tend to smoke while you're on the phone? Do you drink after work? Do you eat fast food only at 3am after a big night out? Bad habits tend to occur in context, as part of a chain reaction - so identifying the trigger point is critical to making permanent changes.

3. Modify your trigger, which will break the chain reaction. You could physically change your environment so that it is difficult to engage in the habit (e.g. Taking all phone calls at your desk so that you cannot light up a cigarette). Avoiding the trigger is also helpful (e.g. Taking a different route home so that you avoid the favourite fast food outlet). You could also engage in a new behavior that is incongruous with the old habit (e.g. Painting your fingernails so that you can't dig into that family-sized bag of chips at 11pm).

Changing habits is really about changing the environment around the habit.

4. Take action. This is a tough step. And it won't be successful every time. Continue logging your behaviour, and identify the patterns that aren't working for you. You may have been unrealistic with some of your changes, like expecting yourself to go for a jog every time you want a cigarette. It is important, though, to recognise and celebrate your successes. If you managed to avoid the 3pm chocolate fix for three days in a row, identify why - and continue doing it!

The process of habit change can be difficult, particularly for habits that are long term or well-entrenched. Some habits are harder to break than others. One "slip" doesn't undo everything. In fact, "slips" are helpful in helping us identify what is and isn't working - as long as you learn something from the experience!!

Implementing new habits is generally easier, provided that you are consistent. I would suggest scheduling time for your new habit, just as you would an appointment, or you may like to establish a regular time for your new habit (e.g. Exercising for thirty minutes every day at 6pm after work). The important thing here is to schedule the habit and stick to it, particularly for the first few weeks. You might like to try a thirty-day challenge. I've done a thirty-day challenge once before for yoga, and three years later I'm still a regular practitioner. For 2013 I have plans to try other challenges, yet to be decided.... (stay tuned!)

Monday, 4 February 2013

A simple diet

I'm pretty lazy when it comes to food prep. Usually because I'm rushing in the door and I'm hungry NOW. And that's why I love eating the way I do, because food prep is unbelievably quick. Sometimes even as quick as peeling a banana or biting into a nectarine.

I do occasionally make more complex foods. But "complex" is a relative term - I have no desire to slave over a stove for half an hour, just to have something to eat. And I don't have the patience for some of the gourmet raw food recipes that require a million ingredients and three days of dehydrator time.

So here's a super quick recipe for raw spaghetti that takes about 5 minutes to prepare. Ingredients are deliberately vague - the great thing about raw recipes is that precise amounts of ingredients are not needed for things to taste delicious. You can adjust ingredients depending on taste and availability.

Enough rambling. Here's a recipe and a crappy phone pic.

Ingredients for pasta:
1 zucchini spiralised
Few squeezes of lemon juice

Ingredients for sauce:
1 tomato
About 1/4 small bell pepper
Small stick of celery
Couple pieces sun dried tomatoes
1 date
A small chilli pepper (optional)
Basil & oregano to taste

Basically, soften the zucchini with the lemon juice (takes only a few minutes, I do this first and allow to soften whilst making the sauce). Blend half of the tomato and the rest of the sauce ingredients until chunky. Dice remaining tomato and mix into sauce. Pour onto zucchini noodles immediately before serving.

This recipe was for one person, since everyone else at my house eats cooked food. And, I recommend having a large serving of fruit as a starter, because this pasta is extremely low in calories. I ate about a kilogram of grapes, an hour before eating this meal.

Super low fat, and super high in nutrients. I don't get pasta cravings anymore, that's for sure!! 

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Raw food on a budget

In my household, there are low fat raw vegans and low fat cooked vegans. Considering that I do the grocery shopping, I've gotten pretty good at sniffing out cheap deals on food. Comparatively, a raw vegan diet is generally more expensive than a whole-foods cooked vegan diet per calorie (unless you're lucky enough to grow all of your own food), but overall our household's food costs have reduced dramatically over the years. Here are five tips for reducing your food budget:
1. Eliminate animal foods. If you're finding cheap meat, eggs, and dairy, it's probably riddled with hormones and antibiotics. Not to mention fillers and random animal parts (chicken nuggets are a prime example). In addition, the animals were likely factory farmed, and treated in all manner of hideous ways.

I don't subscribe to the idea of "happy meat" for ethical reasons, but if we're thinking purely of health then it is probably a better choice than cheap and nasty factory farmed meat. And, happy meat is EXPENSIVE. Organic, grass fed, free range, yada yada yada costs money. For the cost of a single meal, you could buy enough plant based food to last a week.

2. Eat a whole foods plant based diet. Get rid of the mock meats, cashew ice cream, soy cheese, rice milk, faux burgers and hot dogs. The cost of processing these foods is passed down to the consumer. Minimal processing is cheapest and healthiest. Rice is better than rice noodles. Whole grains better than bread or pasta. Fresh fruit better than canned. Centre your diet around whole fruits and vegetables, and if you eat cooked food, around starchy vegetables, grains (preferably gluten free grains), and beans and lentils.

3. Eat seasonally. It is cheaper but also healthier and tastier to eat the fruits and vegetables that are in season. It's just heading into autumn in Australia now, and I can buy several kilograms of grapes or watermelon for less than a dollar. As much as I like to hold onto summer, the stone fruit and mangoes are getting expensive as the season draws to a close, and, frankly, they just don't taste that great anymore.

4. Buy in bulk. This goes for all fruits and vegetables that you eat frequently, like bananas. Ripe fruits and vegetables just don't store well so if you're not going to eat it all, have a plan for freezing your produce or split your purchase with a friend. Beans, lentils, and grains are easily and cheaply bought in bulk, and can be stored for long periods. And an added bonus is that these foods are incredible versatile and can be used to create thousands of different recipes. Who said that healthy food had to be boring?

5. Hit the markets. The closer you get to the source of your food, the less handling/shipping costs and the cheaper it will be. Farmers markets are a great resource for produce, and even for other items like nuts. The food is fresher and will last longer (and taste better) than grocery store produce. And, markets generally have a closing time when produce is marked down. Usually this is the produce that is too ripe to be stored, so it's win-win. If you visit the market in the last hour or two of trading, you can expect to pay less for your food than earlier in the day. This week I managed to snag a box of ripe organic bananas for $25 and about 7 kilograms of grapes for a dollar. Also I was lucky enough to score five red dragonfruit for $2 each - a rarity in Melbourne.

In the past I've bought whole boxes of kiwi fruit, apricots, mandarins, figs, persimmons, and mangoes for $1-2 each. Usually the fruit is perfectly ripe albeit with a few blemishes or mouldy spots (which can be easily removed).

Following these tips over the last few years, I have really learned to enjoy the seasonality of different fruits. This way, rather than trying to score a mango in the middle of winter, I can gorge myself silly in summer (and stock up the freezer if I choose) and really look forward to the next mango season.

As a bonus, the money saved can go towards a holiday somewhere in the tropics (like Thailand) where the fruit is always cheap!!

How to give up drugs without really trying (part II)

(For part I, click here)

Onto my other previous addiction: alcohol. Ah, sweet alcohol.

In all seriousness, though, alcohol addiction is a very real problem. Was I an alcoholic? To my mind, I wasn't, but perhaps others in my life would have disagreed. I was certainly drinking a lot of alcohol, many times alone or in secret, and often to numb myself or distract myself from something else. However, I did continue working and my job performance was not suffering. I had never drank on the job (although I will admit, the thought did cross my mind more than once).

I don't know when my alcohol addition started. I'm pretty sure after I turned 18, because I had finished high school. I remember, when I was living at my parents' house, sneaking nips of alcohol from their liquor cabinet. Eventually that progressed to buying bottles of wine or vodka, sneaking it into my room, and drinking it late at night whilst reading a book or watching a movie. I was probably consuming 2-4 drinks at a time, not a lot, but certainly enough to feel it.

The alcohol consumption really kicked into high gear during my postgraduate studies at university, after I had returned from a year overseas and had moved back in with my parents. My parents and I weren't getting on very well, I was stressed and overwhelmed by my coursework and part time job, and I felt isolated from my friends who were out in the real world getting real jobs and starting their lives. I wasn't drinking every day, perhaps only once a week or once a fortnight - but I was drinking a lot each time.

After I moved out, my drinking abated a little but then picked up again in full force, even worse than before. Most nights I would pour a glass after work, whilst preparing dinner. On Friday and Saturday nights, it would be two or three or four glasses. I was easily able to drink a full bottle of wine, although thankfully this didn't happen too often. Instead of binge-drinking, it was more steady throughout the week. I started having fewer and fewer "dry" days. My alcohol consumption continued well into 2011.

Coinciding with all of this was my continual exploration of a fruit based raw diet (for another post). It was only in mid to late 2011, even into early 2012, that I really learned how to do the diet properly.

Before I discovered a raw diet, I was drinking all types of alcohol (except beer, which I would only drink if I was already drunk). I usually bought hard liquor like vodka or rum or tequila, which I thought was cheaper and less calorie-dense than wine. Eventually I started drinking only wine, and this lasted for a few years.

As my intake of fruit increased, my tolerance of alcohol decreased. I started noticing that my physical strength and stamina was poor the morning after, even after only one glass of wine. Alcohol started losing its appeal, and I became aware that wine smelled "off" and "vinegar-ish" to me (well, it is fermented fruit). The thought of having a drink was no longer pleasurable. I got to the end of 2012 and realised that I hadn't even had a sip of alcohol for the entire year. Not even on New Year, nor on my birthday. Had I chosen to consume alcohol, I am sure that one whiff of the stuff would have set me straight. Interestingly, last month at our family Christmas lunch, I found myself being repulsed by the smell emanating from the open bottles of wine.

Like with coffee, I didn't use willpower. I intensely dislike "white-knuckling it". With changes in my diet, exercise habits, and mindset, these "bad" habits just fell away. In my opinion, that is the secret to successful and permanent habit change. When we try to remove something from our life, we are left with a gaping hole, often with no idea how to fill it.

If we think about children, there comes a time when they outgrow the rattles and start playing with blocks and dolls and trucks. How does it happen? They find other activities, other interests, and the rattles get sidelined until they are no longer appealing. There's no white-knuckling. There's no force involved. It's a natural progression into better habits that make the old "bad" habits fall away.

(continued here)

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

How to give up drugs without really trying (part I)

I always get incredulous looks whenever I tell people that I don't drink coffee or alcohol.

But it's true. I don't consume coffee or alcohol.
Even though I used to love them.
Even though I used to be addicted to them.

I'll backtrack. A trip down memory lane.

June 2009. Winter in Australia, which can get pretty miserable sometimes. I was drinking 3-4 cups of instant coffee per day, at a minimum. Plus, at least one coffee from the cafe, each day. Weekends, even more than that. I loved everything about coffee. I was 99% sure that there was nothing wrong with my habit - after all, almost every person I knew drank coffee. I thought I was pretty healthy - I had become vegan 12 months previously, I was exercising, I looked ok, etc.

But the 1% part of me had doubts. I was needing to drink more and more coffee just to feel "myself". Over the years I had gone from one coffee in the mornings, to two, and even to three on weekends. Without coffee, it was difficult to get going in the morning - whether I was working, reading, socialising, or working out.

It wasn't a calorie issue. Actually, I loved the fact that coffee had no calories. I used to drink mine without sugar, and only a splash of low fat milk.

BUT. The bottom line was: I don't like being a slave to anything or anyone. And by June 2009, I was well and truly under the thumb of the delicious roasted bean. So began my experiment to give up coffee.

I did my homework - sort of. I had heard that the withdrawals from caffeine are worst in the first 2-3 days. So I started my experiment during a long weekend. The withdrawals weren't too horrid, surprisingly (although I'm pretty sure I was still drinking green tea at the time). I actually managed to go for an entire week without coffee. I don't remember feeling all that different after that week, so the following Monday, nine days after starting my experiment, I decided to have a small latte from the coffee shop.

WOAH. I definitely noticed the difference in my energy, after just one week. I remember feeling buzzed and happy. But I also felt a little queasy and headache-y, which I now realise was probably the caffeine-induced dehydration.

I replaced coffee with tea of all kinds and coffee substitutes, and I didn't have coffee again
until October, around four months later. That ended up being a memorable day: it was a Friday, I hadn't slept well that week, and with a full day of work ahead of me I decided I could use the pick-me-up. I decided to be cautious in my consumption, since it had been so long since I'd had coffee, and I ordered a mocha latte (half coffee, half chocolate).


I remember buzzing to the point of jitters. I couldn't keep still and my mind was racing. I was talking at a hundred miles an hour. Anything I typed (reports, emails) was long and rambling. I drank that mocha latte at 10am and I was still awake sixteen hours later. That was it. I was under no more illusions about coffee. Something with that strong a physiological impact could not be good for me.

I continued with coffee replacements and tea, and I got onto chai lattes, which were so amazingly delicious that they sent me into a trance. I always had the goal of eliminating caffeine completely, and over time my consumption of green and black tea slowly dwindled. I continued with herbal teas, fruit tea, and chai, and sometimes even just hot water with or without a squeeze of lemon.

Incidentally, in late 2009 I started eating a fruit-based raw food diet, and in early 2010 I started doing Bikram yoga. I have no doubt that this had a positive impact on my avoidance of caffeine, due to detox effects and my increased knowledge/awareness of hydration.

With the increased consumption of fruit, all of a sudden the fruity teas and chai became less appealing. The teas, although fruit-based, never compared to the taste of fresh fruit itself. Usually, any "craving" for fruit tea just meant that I was hungry for fruit. The craving for chai was slower to dissipate. I continued drinking chai lattes right into 2011. Until one day I realised that it no longer tasted amazing. I was no longer experiencing that trance-like state (which, in retrospect, was probably the feeling of my brain cells firing up from the sugar). I am a stubborn gal, though, and I thought perhaps it was an "off" day for the barista. So I persisted with the chai lattes until I had to admit defeat. The chai just wasn't doing it for me anymore. And, at $4 a cup, it was a pretty pricey habit to maintain.

I don't remember my last chai latte, but it's probably been around 12 months. I do drink hot water and occasionally herbal teas (like peppermint tea) in winter, but otherwise I have no desire for hot beverages.

(continued here)

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Yep, another blog

Hi everyone! I've decided to start blogging.

Here are some of the things I like (in no particular order) and I aim to write about each one eventually.

Funny stuff
Hanging out with people
Visiting markets

Plus more.

Many of these are only recent interests. Rewind five years and my interests would have included: partying, meeting friends for coffee/drinks, shopping, going out to dinner, watching TV, smoking, and being obsessive about food. Oh, and complete and utter resistance to change.

No doubt, I'm a very different person now. But this blog isn't about my whining or inflating my ego. It's an acknowledgement of where I've been, who I am now, and where I want to be in five, ten, fifty years time.

I'll admit, I'm not the world's best journaller. If I scan through old diaries, I can see my entries are pretty sporadic - and even then, I tend to only journal when things aren't going well. Dwelling on negatives isn't the way to move forward, so here's to a positive focus for 2013!