5 unexpected benefits of a vegan diet.

About one year ago I decided to try a vegan diet for a month, to see whether it would work for me.  I expected it to be quite difficult to maintain, but I’d been curious about veganism for years and following a period of research into benefits of such a diet and the reality of the farming industry, I wanted to at least attempt to go vegan.

 

It’s nearly a year later and I’m still going strong on my vegan journey.  Once I’d done my research and some planning, I didn’t find it very difficult at all to make the transition to a vegan diet.  A lot of the obstacles I’d expected were non-issues, and I reaped a huge number of benefits.  My skin improved, I lost a little weight and I had more energy.  But going vegan had a number of benefits that I hadn’t predicted would cross my path before I started on this journey.  Today I wanted to share five unexpected benefits of being a vegan:

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  1. Vegan food takes less time to prepare.

Eating vegan is a huge time-saver.  Initially, I had a couple of shopping trips that took twice as long as usual because I had to check a lot of packages to figure out what was vegan friendly.  But once I knew what to buy, shopping was a total breeze.  Cooking vegan food takes a fraction of the time it used to take me to prepare meaty meals.  Vegetables cook a lot more quickly than meat, and a lot of the meat substitutes require less cooking time as well.  My meals are done so much more quickly now.

2. Your palate changes

Over the past year, I’ve tried to keep an open mind about food.  I’m not generally a picky eater, but I am normally hesitant to try new things.  A lot of vegan foods have a reputation for being boring and tasteless, and I tried to keep an open mind when sampling new ingredients or foods.  In fact, I’ve found loads of specialised vegan foods that are super tasty, which I now get cravings for.  I pushed myself to try some vegetables that I’ve never been fond of and found that I actually really enjoy them.  I think that since I changed my diet, my palate and tastebuds have changed somewhat too.  Just the other day I found myself snacking on a handful of cherry tomatoes, a food that I previously hated and found bitter.  I feel proud of myself for trying so many new foods and adopting loads of them into my cooking.

3. It’s easier to wash the dishes

Have you ever tried to chisel dried-up cheese off a plate that once held pasta or nachos?  It’s damn near impossible.  But when you don’t eat cheese, you never run into that problem!  Even the vegan cheese substitutes don’t stick as voraciously to the crockery as dairy cheeses, and are easy to wipe off.  As a person who hates doing the dishes, I welcome this.

 

4. You weed out the jerks

I don’t think that I’m a preachy vegan.  My personal philosophy is that the food you eat doesn’t make you a dick….but the way you act about it can.  When I started ordering vegan meals in restaurants and sharing pictures of my vegan cooking on social media, there were the inevitable number of eye-rolls and comments challenging my decision.  And while it wasn’t fun to be made to feel shitty about my food choices (especially as I made an effort not to bite back judging people who do eat meat) those jibes served a very important purpose.  I was able to look at those people who were so negative towards my diet and evaluate whether I actually wanted to continue spending time with them.  It allowed me to see those people who shout down others who don’t share the same opinion as them and step out of their path.

 

5. You can lick the bowl

Vegan baking is made extra fun by the fact that you can eat raw cookie dough without fear of food poisoning.  There are no raw eggs that might harbour salmonella, so it’s perfectly safe to lick the bowl after your cake goes into the oven.  Heavenly.

 

Do you eat a vegan diet?  What are some of the unexpected benefits you found?

 

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Vegan pasta with creamy mushroom sauce

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about adopting a vegan lifestyle is re-working some of my old favourite recipes to make them vegan-friendly.  I’m an absolute sucker for creamy pasta sauces but it’s tricky to find a way to make them without using cream. Although there are some vegan cream alternatives, the supermarket here doesn’t stock any of them.  So I had to get a bit creative when substituting cream from my recipes.

 

Last week I was craving something delicious and filling. What I really wanted was my mother’s mushroom and spinach pasta sauce.  So I put on my thinking cap, had a bit of a tinker in the kitchen and came up with this dairy-free version.  It’s lower in fat than the traditional recipe, and it’s perfect for vegans and lactose intolerant folk.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100g mushrooms, chopped
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 200g block silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken style stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups pasta

 

 

  1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water until al dente
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and fry the onion until soft.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pan with the onion and fry until soft.
  4. Chop the tofu into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until it is the consistency of pouring cream.  If the tofu is too thick, add water in small increments until the consistency is right.  Add a the turmeric to the tofu cream.
  5. Reduce the heat on the mushrooms and onions.  Add the tofu, the nutritional yeast flakes and the stock and stir to combine.
  6. Add the spinach and herbs to the sauce.  Stir on a medium heat until the spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat.
  7. Drain pasta and stir through sauce.

You can very easily adjust this recipe to your personal tastes.  I like adding a little more nutritional yeast because it gives the sauce a cheesier flavour.  You may also like to experiment with adding other herbs as well.

 

I love this technique of using blended silken tofu to replace cream in pasta sauces and casseroles.  It works a treat, producing a rich creamy texture without any animal content.

 

 

The Cruelty Free Shop vegan snack haul

Shopping for vegan food can be a challenge in a small town.  Even though my local supermarket is bursting with fresh produce, plant milks, cereals and fruit, the one thing that is lacking is good junk food.  It can be extremely challenging to find snack foods and sweets that are vegan.  While there are a whole bunch of great “accidentally” vegan items on the shelves, it gets kind of tedious when you have to check every label to make sure that what you’re buying doesn’t contain any animal products.

 

A few weeks ago I visited The Cruelty Free Shop in Fitzroy, Melbourne and it was like falling down the rabbit hole.  It is a vegan supermarket that sells everything from snacks to meat and cheese substitutes, desserts, junk food, cosmetics, toiletries, sex supplies and even clothing.  It was so refreshing to be able to fill my cart with whatever took my fancy, and to be spared the tedium of label-checking.  I knew that every single item in that place was vegan and I went a teensy bit nuts buying delicious snacks and treats.

 

 

The Cruelty Free Shop also has a fantastic online store. I’ve shopped with them online as well and I loved the fast service and awesome range of products.

 

Here is a full list of the items mentioned in my video:

I had such a blast shopping at The Cruelty Free Shop and I can’t wait for my next visit.  There are so many rad things I’d love to stock up on the next time I’m in Melbourne.

 

What are your favourite vegan junk foods?  Do you have any questions about vegan shopping or cooking that you’d like me to cover in future posts?

 

Note: This is not a sponsored post.  Everything featured here was purchased with my own money and I was not compensated in any way.  I just love this store and the products they sell and am excited to share them with my readers.

Vegan Eggnog recipe

Eggnog is one of my favourite Yuletide treats.  The very first sip always leaves me with an overwhelming rush of Christmas spirit. Lately I’ve been experimenting with what I call a vegan-ish diet, in that I’m eating a mostly plant based diet with as few animal products as possible.  I’ve been attempting to convert some of my favourite recipes to make them vegan-friendly, and I couldn’t resist trying to create my own vegan eggnog.

The results were a delicious, creamy beverage that is like Christmas in a cup.  This recipe is really easy, and uses ingredients that are available in most supermarkets.  You don’t need any special equipment or appliances and it’s ready to drink in a matter of minutes.

 

This eggnog recipe is for you if you:

  • are vegan
  • are lactose intolerant
  • are watching your cholesterol
  • are grossed out by the idea of drinking raw egg

 

You will need:

  • 1 cup non dairy milk.  I love cashew milk for this recipe because it has a sweet flavour.  Almond milk also works really well.  But you could use soy milk, rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk or any other non-dairy alternative.
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream.
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 shot brandy (if you want to make this a boozy bevvy.  If not, leave the brandy out)

 

Method

Place ingredients in a jug and whisk with a fork until combined.  You can also put it in a cocktail shaker and give it a good shake if you want a frothier drink.   Top with a little cinnamon in a glass.

 

This recipe makes enough for 2 glasses.

 

Variations:

  • warm milk, spices, syrup and coconut cream in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring often.  Pour into a mug and add brandy if desired.
  • Add a teaspoon of drinking chocolate to make a chocolate version.

Happy nogging!

 

 

5 Fandom Friday: My favourite cupcakes

I’m an unapologetic cupcake fanatic.  Tiny cakes have held my heart since I was a wee little wisp of a thing scoffing them at birthday parties.  I went through a period of cupcakey bliss around 2008 when cupcakes were the dessert du jour.  And when macaroons knocked them off the top spot, I didn’t give a toss.  There’s nothing quite like folding back the crinkly paper case and taking a scrumptious first bite of soft, sweet cake.  Or eating them from the bottom-up so that you get a lovely mouthful of frosting to finish with.  Choosing five favourites is going to be hard, but here we go.

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  1. Bacon cupcakes.

No joke, these are a real thing.  They are a super simple recipe but they always go down a treat.  I like to make them when I’m having friends stay because they make an impressive breakfast.  They’re filling, they’re tasty and they look way more complicated than they are.  Basically you use a rasher of bacon to line a cupcake tin.  Then you crack an egg into it, sprinkle the top with cheese and chives and bake.  Viola!  Delicious breakfast cupcake.

 

2. Red velvet cakes.

Red velvet is just so decadent and divine.  The rich rosy hue is utterly romantic and so sexy.  The fact that they usually come topped with rich cream cheese frosting is another reason why I can’t get enough red velvet.  The creamy-sweet-tangy flavour of cream cheese frosting is mouth-watering to say the least.  The best red velvet cakes I’ve ever had are at Little Cupcakes in Degraves Street in Melbourne.  That hidden eatery has an array of flavours, but the red velvet truly are superior.

 

3. Fairy cakes

Every year for her birthday my Nan used to make a batch of lighter-than-air sponge cakes.  She would take a sharp knife and slice a portion out of the centre of each cake, filling it with jam and cream.  The cut-out would then be fashioned into two fairy wings and perched charmingly atop the mountain of cream-cake goodness.  Fairy cakes are so pretty and fluffy and always bring a wash of delight when you glimpse a plate of them coming your way.

 

DSCF64094. Vanilla cupcakes

My vanilla cupcakes are legendary in my family.  Whenever we get together for a special event, I inevitably have somebody request that I make a batch of vanilla cakes to bring with me.  I’ve decorated them in every way imaginable: with demure pastel frosting and tiny sugar roses, with outlandish coloured sprinkles, dusted with edible glitter and done up to look like mushrooms.  But they always taste the same, sweet, simple and delightful.  So many people use the word “vanilla” as an insult, to mean “boring” or “mediocre”.  But my vanilla cupcakes are anything but.

 

5. Lumberjack cakes.

The chef at my favourite local cafe regularly churns out batches of lumberjack cakes, and they are the perfect thing to down with tea on a chilly Sunday afternoon.  Heaped with apple, coconut, dates and golden syrup, these morsels are sticky and comforting.

 

Do you have a favourite cupcake variety?  And do you believe that cupcakes are superior to macaroons?

Sweet potato fritters recipe.

Wow, it’s been ages since I posted a recipe on my blog. I’m trying really hard to get back into cooking this year in a bid to eat a bigger range of foods.  I’m also trying out some different ways to cook some of my favourite vegetables, to include a bit more variety in my diet.

One of the most delicious vegies around is the humble sweet potato. Not only does it taste great, but it’s low in fat and sodium, it contains loads of vitamins (B6, A and C to name a couple) and is a rich source of potassium.  It is also low GI, which means that it will give you sustained energy and keep you feeling full longer.

I usually serve my sweet potatoes as chips or roast them in the oven for a delicious side dish.  But last week I decided to have a go at creating some pan-fried sweet potato parcels.  These yummy fritters are so easy to make, they are vegan and gluten free and they taste scrumptious.  I like to serve mine as a side with pan-fried tofu or some salmon.  They also go down a treat when slapped between a bun and layered with salad and a slice of cheese for a delicious burger.

You can make the mixture and keep it in the fridge for up to 48 hours until you are ready to cook it.  This recipe makes about 6 patties.  You might also like to adjust the spices and herbs used to suit your own tastes.

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Sweet potato fritters (makes 6)

Ingredients

2 cups sweet potato

4 spring onions

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1 teaspoon parsley

1 tablespoon sesame or coconut oil.

Method.

– Peel and dice the sweet potato and cook in a pot of boiling water until soft.

– Using a fork, mash the sweet potato and set aside.

– Finely slice the spring onions and add to the mashed sweet potato, along with the spices.

– Heat the oil in a frying pan.

– Using your hands, roll the sweet potato mixture into balls.  Each ball should use about 1-2 tablespoons of mixture.  You can adjust the size of the fritters if you wish.

– Place the fritters in the frying pan over a medium heat.  Use a spatula to press the fritters flat in the pan.  Cook until browned, and then flip and cook on the other side.

– Serve and enjoy!

If you wish, you might like to add an egg to the mixture to help it to bind together a bit better.  You may also like to add some other vegetables, such as peas or diced carrot, to the mixture to change the flavour.

Let me know if you’d like to see more recipes on the blog.  I’d be happy to share my cooking exploits if you’re interested.

My bircher muesli recipe

Bircher muesli is hands-down my favourite breakfast food.  It’s delicious, it’s healthy and it’s filling enough to keep you going through to lunch time.  I don’t make it very often because it does require a bit of night-before planning.  But I like to whip this up as a special treat for myself from time-to-time

This recipe makes enough for two people (or enough for one person if you like a big breakfast).  It will keep in the fridge for about 48 hours.

Ingredients 

– 1 cup rolled oats

– 1 1/4 cup of apple or pear juice

– 1 grated apple or pear

– yogurt

– fresh berries or dried fruit to serve

What you do:

1. Roughly grate the apple or pear (you can use whichever you prefer)

2. Mix the grated fruit with the oats in a big bowl.

3. Pour the juice over the oats mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.  This works best if you make it the night before and stick it in the fridge overnight.

4. Serve topped with yogurt and your choice of dried fruit or berries.  It’s also delicious topped with a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

This recipe can easily be adapted for vegan diets.  Just leave out the yogurt and serve with a splash of soy or nut milk instead.

What is your favourite breakfast food?  Have you tried bircher muesli?