Wednesday, 30 January 2013

10 Tips for a Healthy Life

Ally's 10 Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle
1. Eat fresh food! Try to reduce the amount of food you eat that comes pre-packaged/cooked. Up your fruit and vegies to those recommended 2 fruit, 5 veg per day or more!

2. Perform cardiovascular exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, 3 times a week. This doesn't mean you need to join a gym - take the dog for a walk, or get someone to play frisbee with you for half an hour!

3. Know what you're eating. Take note of appropriate portion sizes, but more importantly the ingredients in the food you eat - this is where point 1. comes back in - if you cook it fresh, you know exactly what's in your meal!

4. Beware hidden sugars. Back to point 3, beware foods like pre-marinated chicken or breakfast cereals that often contain sugar. Don't forget that all fruit products (whole, pulp, juice) are mostly sugar too.

5. Treat yourself! Your body benefits from change in the quantities you consume - it's ok to have a big breakfast on Sunday mornings, or a slice of cake for afternoon tea once a week. Not only is the change good for your body, it keeps you sane!

6. Get some sunlight! Go outside and catch some rays in your lunch break - a great way to do that 30 minutes of exercise. You'll be surprised how good it can make you feel, not to mention how much your body will benefit from that vitamin D!

7. Drink up! All that water the health experts recommend you drink is not a way to make money, you know!

8. Talk to the people who sell you your food! If you can, source your foods from farmers markets where you have the opportunity to chat with your provider and find out a little bit about what happens to their food before it hits your plate.

9. Be aware of what your body likes and dislikes. Try keeping a food journal for a month and note when you feel tired, or get a headache, or when you have lots of energy. Have a rash that comes and goes? Right down when this flares and check if it is associated with food or perhaps different washing powders. Identifying which foods your body doesn't react well to can really improve how you feel each day.

10. Have fun! Get out and enjoy your life - it's happening NOW!

Vegan Eats: London

This summer I spent 7 weeks in England, visiting family and being a tourist. 
One of my favourite things about London was the popularity of Vegan eats. Here are some of my favourites:

Cookies and Scream (website)
Camden Market
Vegan and gluten-free bakery.
Hosts the best brownie I have ever eaten.

Their Chewy Wookie Bars are also delicious - almost too big to take a bite out of, a great vegan version of Hedgehog Slice.

If you want to find a giant vegan cookie, this is your place, too.
Whilst I wasn't particularly impressed with their chocolate chip cookies, their ginger cookie provided a delicious sweet-spiced hit.

Next time: I'll try their vegan donuts!!
                                                                                      Ruby Tuesdays (website)
                                                                                      Greenwich Market
Vegan cakes and cupcakes.
Hosts the best double chocolate muffin I have ever eaten.

Ruby's cakes, which you can buy by the slice, are divine. I tried her Chocolate and Strawberry Gateaux and it gave me that warm-fuzzy feeling that only cake can!

My brother says her carrot cakes are spot on, and I particularly liked her chocolate, coconut and raspberry cupcake!
Next time: I'll try her Chai Spiced Choc-Chip cupcake!

Mildred's Vegetarian Resturant
45 Lexington St, Soho, London
I have blabbed and blabbed about Mildred's.
Hosts the best vegan meals I have ever eaten.

Vegan Ethiopian Stall
Brick Lane Market (Sundays)
Hosts the best Ethiopian food I have ever eaten.

I don't know what the stall is called. I have no pictures. All I know is: when you go to London you must find this place!!! 
After my first lunch there I made a day of the markets so I could go back for dinner. I then returned to the markets just to find this food on my last day in London. Go there. Now.

Wholefoods (website)
Piccadilly Circus and Kensington High Street (and many other locations)
A supermarket designed for lovers of food.
Their Banoffee Pie (in a tub) is a fantastic vegan dessert, and while many of their products are not vegan - they have a fantastic range of cheeses, and meats, and anything else you can imagine - they have a great range.
I found vegan and soy-free iceream that was delicious. 
I found vegan chocolates in their chocolate counter. I found cookbooks. I found amazing breads, and a great range of vegetables, and nuts and seeds and oh my.. 
My sister-in-law and I both admitted to popping in to pick up some milk and spending a whole hour in there just browsing their shelves.

If you possibly can, find the time to visit these places. They could not let you down.

Monday, 28 January 2013

I Quit Sugar

Yes way.

I've been following Sarah Wilson and Jules Clancy's blogs SarahWilson and The Stone Soup and learnt a lot about the joys of quitting sugar.

Recently I've been doing a lot of baking for various birthdays and using a lot of sugar. This means I eat ridiculous amounts as I taste test while I'm going and I noticed how awful I felt afterwards. Headaches and mood swings and general unwellness. I identified these feelings as sugar drops, and recalled my doctor suggesting I be careful with my diet after I confided my sudden 3-o'clock drops, particularly when I'm in the kitchen.

I know sugar is bad. We all do, really. So today after a week of feeling rubbish I declared myself sugar-free.
I don't know how long it will last. I don't know if I'll decide to keep at it, or become lazy and throw it in the too-hard-basket for next week or next year etc. But for now, lets have a crack.

Day 1: horrid headache, withdrawals I think. And moody. Doesn't help that I'm babysitting a screaming 1 year old. Nor that I had too much sugar yesterday.

Breakfast: oats cooked with water, seed mix added inc. chia, and a dollop of coconut cream. Not bad.

Lunch: lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad with a tin of lemon-pepper tuna (<1g sugar per 100g).

Afternoon: tin of 4-bean mix.

Evening: 4 sundried tomato corn thins and a handful of almonds.

Dinner: 2 celery sticks with hummus and peanut butter.

Drinks: 800mL bottle and 3-5 glasses of water + 1 black tea + 1 green tea

Banoffee Pie

#15 A major regret in my life is not making Chocolate Banoffee Tart before I was told I was dairy intolerant.

About a month before I found out about my intolerances I stumbled upon this recipe for chocolate banoffee tart. I hadn't heard of Banoffee before and these photographs and recipe made me (my least favourite word) salivate.
I couldn't get this darn tart off my mind and planned it to be the next dessert I would make. This all happened around exam time, of course, and was pushed away. Before I got a moment to dwell on my entrance to the wonderful world of toffee and banana again I got my results back about my intolerances: no pie.

The world came crashing down around me. Ok, not quite that extreme, but I was disappointed.

Then I went and stayed in London with my brother and sister-in-law and on my first night they took me to their favourite vegetarian restaurant: Mildred's. (I can easily talk about Mildred's for hours, but I'll spare you - for more read my facts about England).
In short: I didn't dare believe my sister-in-law when she told me there were vegan desserts on the menu.. but when their dessert menu came out and I saw for myself that there was not only one, but about six different desserts I could choose from, I felt the heavens had opened above me.
And what could make this occasion even better? The first dessert on the menu was Banoffee Pie. Yes way.
All three of us ordered the same, and my goodness that slice of pie was enough on its own to make flying for 30 hours so absolutely worth it.

I could share with you many more of the delights that Mildred's dessert menu had to offer as I returned on my last night with my brother and sister-in-law, then again by myself on my last night overseas. I could tell you of the joys of chocolate truffle cake with raspberry coulis, of chinese dumplings and roasted artichoke mezes and wellingtons and oh.. But I'm not sure I could ever do the place justice.

If you are ever in London, visit Mildred's.
Each night the wait was considerable. They don't accept bookings. But if you want to taste vegan food out of this world, you need to wait.

Once back in Australia, to the sun and summer and beaches (and fires), I wanted to get my family together to say thank you for all they had done to get me where I had been and share with them the many adventures I had had. A dinner, I thought. And what better way than attempt to share with them the pleasures of Mildred's.
My sister-in-law had discovered Mildred's blog, and on it the Chestnut and Truffle Wellington that we had declared the greatest meal of our lives. Well, for me, anyway. I spent my weekend in the kitchen creating this masterpiece with a fabulous port gravy, spiced red cabbage and mixed potato and beetroot wedges. But this will be another story.
To complement this main (oh, and zucchini flowers for entree) I prepared a Vegan Banoffee Pie.

This darned pie had to be worth it. I made it the day before our dinner whilst in a house I had been looking after for a friend and so had to move it that night to take it home. Leaving, in the dark, by myself, holding the pie, locking the door, I proceeded to fall down the flight of stairs from the front door to my car.
In a crumpled heap with bruising already starting and a twisted ankle and skinned knees, I sat with this bloody pie above my head. I hardly dared to look. I had saved the pie.

And thank goodness I did, every crumb was worth it.

Vegan Banoffee Pie
Makes 14 generous slices/fills a 24 cm flan tin.

1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup pecans (next time I think I'll reduce the pecans and increase cashews, the pecans have a strong flavour)
1/3 cup cashews
1/2 cups dried dates, soaked in boiling water for a few minutes (discard water before using)
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
(add a few tbsp cocoa powder to make a chocolate-crusted variation)

Banana Layer
3 - 4 bananas, ripe but not too brown

2/3 cup (115g) brown sugar
2/3 cup (115g) margarine
1 tbsp golden syrup

200mL non-dairy milk (I used almond)
2 dessert spoons cornflour
1 tsp vanilla

2 - 3 tins worth of coconut cream
(Place 3 tins in the coolest part of your fridge, when required scoop out the thick cream layer from the tin and put away the liquid that remains. You just want this thick cream, start with two tins and make a third if the tart tin is not filled)
3 (- 5) tbsp icing sugar

1 tbsp cocoa powder
Mint leaves
(Add the mint leaves, they balance the flavours unbelievably - even my mint-hating father-in-law agrees!)

Blitz your nuts in a food processor until crumbs, then add drained dates, then coconut oil and blitz until combined.
Press into flan tin base and sides. Refrigerate.

Slice thinly your bananas in an even layer, completely covering the base of the crust.

Gently heat the sugar, margarine and golden syrup in a saucepan. Stir continuously until it begins to boil and become foam-like. Simmer in this state for 5 or so minutes without letting it get hotter.
Remove from heat.

Whisk together milk and cornflower until the cornflour has dissolved. In a saucepan over medium heat whisk to form a thick white sauce. Add the vanilla.
Add the white sauce to the toffee mixture, whisking continuously until completely combined. Remove any lumps of cornflour remaining and discard.

Once cooled to room temperature, cover the banana layer with an even layer of toffee and refrigerate to set.

You need to wait until the pie has chilled before adding this layer so wait a bit before making the cream.
In a chilled mixing bowl add sifted icing sugar to the cream and whisk with an electric mixer until thickened. You will notice stiff peaks forming when the cream is whipped.
Cover the chilled tart with the cream layer.

Before serving sift a light layer of cocoa powder over the pie and garnish with two mint leaves per slice.

Enjoy with a cup of quality black coffee, or some black tea to cut the richness.

It wasn't until I showed my partner my masterpiece that I realised why it's called Banoffee. Doup.
Me: "Look what I made today!"
Him: "Wow, looks good! What is it?"
Me: "Banoffee Pie!!"
Him: "Banoffee? What's that?"
Me: "Banana and toffee pie."
Him: "Haha, Banoffee, cool."
Me: .... Durhh!