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 :)