Stoptober: 31 Days Sugar-Free

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This year I decided to participate in ‘Stoptober’, opting to quit sugar for the entire month. So I thought I’d share my experience, plus a few handy ‘alternative’ products that quite frankly, I probably couldn’t have survived without.

To clarify, by ‘no sugar’, I mean cutting out the refined stuff, or anything where the top 3 ingredients are sugar (or products which are clearly laden, though may not make it clear on the pack).

So, things like biscuits, sweets, chocolate, most cereals, baked beans, yogurts, store bought sauces, cordial and fizzy drinks, cereal bars, cakes etc.

To be honest, most of these things I’ve generally avoided for a long time anyway (I haven’t had fizzy drinks or cordial for years, and since I switched to a plant based diet I only ever make my own sauces), but chocolate admittedly is my weakness, as can be cereal (if I’m bored at night I can put away 3 bowls without blinking). So to say it was a challenge is still somewhat an understatement.

In our western culture, we’re introduced to sugar from almost day 0. And quickly we become addicted to it, going through childhood with fists full of candy, throwing tantrums if we can’t get our fix. Then progressing into later life, as adults we find solace in chocolate bars and cakes (I know this is the main thing that gets most of my work colleagues through their day in the office, besides gossip). And if we try to resist, the temptation is more often than not too much, despite the huge sense of guilt that usually accompanies even just one Miniature Hero.

Now, many studies have emerged showing not only how detrimental the white powder is to our health (leading to diabetes, obesity, heart disease and even cancer), but also how highly addictive a substance it is (it stimulates the same pleasure receptors in the brain as cocaine!!).

Personally I’ve known this for a long time, never being able to have just one bite of anything that’s laced with it. And who knows how many times I’ve woken the next morning with a ‘sugar hangover’, belly feeling like it took a powder beating, hardly room left for real food yet feeling like I’m starving.

So when I quit, I found that the ‘hunger’ I often feel, despite having had substantial meals throughout the day, isn’t hunger at all but just a sugar craving.

Here’s what happened when I quit:

  • I stopped waking up feeling groggy/ inexplicably hungry. 
  • I lost weight, particularly that stubborn belly fat.
  • My cravings reduced.
  • I had more energy throughout the day, due to replacing it with more natural/sensible energy sources.
  • I was generally happier.

Of course, these things didn’t all happen at once, but did precede one another. 

The main change for me I noticed really was in the mornings; I was no longer dragging myself out of bed, subconsciously looking for my fix. Instead I had lots more energy, and really looked forward to my breakfast.

Here are some of the (delicious) alternatives that helped get me through:

  • Fruit (fresh, frozen, dried)
  • Maple syrup
  • Xylitol
  • Raw Bran Flakes
  • Pancakes
  • Home made popcorn
  • Raw cacao
  • ‘Plamil’ sugar free dark chocolate
  • ‘Pulsin’ raw brownie bars
  • Smoothies

These two together with soy milk are actual Love in a bowl 😍

Buckwheat pancakes – click for recipe

Cinnamon & maple syrup popcorn- click for recipe

Admittedly, once October was over I did succumb to 3 bars of cooking chocolate in one week (ugh, gluttony). But I’m trying my best not to fall back into that pattern again. And avoiding the sweets aisle in the supermarket is actually easier than it was before! 

I’d recommend anybody give detoxing from sugar a try- there are so many alternatives out there that help us maintain our energy levels without spiking then dropping our blood sugars (which only leads to further cravings). Like any drug, it’s a vicious circle and we all know addiction to any substance isn’t the ideal. 

Why not give it a try?🙂

Peace and love, Warriors 

Healthy Cinnamon & Maple Syrup Popcorn 

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I’ve always loved popcorn, but couldn’t continue to justify pumping my body full of store bought, sugar – laden versions any more. 
When I first made it at home myself, I actually couldn’t believe how easy it is! Not only that, a 1kg bag cost less than ÂŁ2.00… what a bargain!

And surprisingly, the corn is full of whole grains, fibre and antioxidants. Boom! (or should I say Pop!?)

Cheap, healthy and delicious.. can it really be? Well try the recipe for yourself and find out!

2-3 servings:

2 handfuls popcorn kernels 

1 tbsp coconut oil/ EVOO

For the topping:

2 tbsp coconut oil

1-2 tbsp ground cinnamon 

2-3 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp xylitol (optional)

Method: 

Heat the oil for popping in a large saucepan. Add 2 kernels and place lid on top. Once the kernels have popped, the oil is hot enough and you can add the rest of the popcorn.

Replace the lid and wait until all the kernels have popped (or until there are 4-5 seconds between pops). Remove from heat and transfer to suitable bowl.

While the popcorn is cooling, melt the rest of the coconut oil in a saucepan and add maple syrup and xylitol (if using). Keep stirring until well combined, then add cinnamon and stir quickly.

A sticky mixture will form. Before it dries, pour over the popcorn and mix it all up, ensuring even coverage.

Sit back with your favourite film and enjoy (guilt free)!

6 reasons I fell in love with yoga

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Through daily practice, yoga has become my foundation for a healthy, happy life.

Just half an hour each morning sets me up with a fresh outlook and good intentions.

On top of that, my fitness levels and general physique have improved so much. And after a year and a half, I can connect my mind and body, and do things I never imagined I’d be strong enough for!

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So, just because the love has hit a deeper level recently, here are 6 reasons why I’ve fallen madly, head-over-knees in love with yoga:

  1. It clears the mind- if I’m feeling stressed, anxious or just generally down in the dumps, doing a few sun salutations or releasing some residual tension in certain areas of my body (such as the hips, where much of our past angst is stored), really helps clear that stuffy mind-fog. Sometimes, our amazing minds become so entrenched with thoughts (whether positive or negative), that it becomes overbearing and we need to just stop the flow for a while, to reset and regain some clarity.
  2. It tends to the body- physically speaking, yoga is a wonderful way to strengthen, tone and stretch our bodies, without even realising we’re doing it. Because much of the practice is so subtle- focusing on remaining calm, breathing mindfully and flowing through movements gently, it’s easy to forget we’re essentially getting a ‘workout’ the whole time. Then every few days you take a glance in the mirror and see some newly sculpted muscles here and there – awesome surprise!
  3. It reminds me how it feels to Be Alive- This feeling is so easy to forget. Too many times I’ve found myself stagnant, mooching on the sofa or playing video games for days on end, with no real activity. And the longer this goes on, the harder it is to pull yourself back. But once you do, even in that first downward dog of the day, a fire is ignited instantly and the energy flowing through your body reminds you of what it is to feel, what it is to be. And how wonderful it actually feels to be a living, breathing entity on this planet.
  4. You get back what you put in (and then some)- Like any healthy relationship, you reap the benefits when you invest the best part of yourself. Yoga has no expectations- all it asks is that you show up, and just be yourself. And in turn, the path will lead you to beautiful new places, inspiring new people and exciting new experiences.
  5. Anybody can do it- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Every body is a yoga body. Fat or thin, tall or short, muscular or feeble. We can all reap the benefits of regular practice. Of course, every body is different and every body will adapt and grow in different ways, but the truth is yoga is not exclusive for just already-bendy dancers or skinny fitness freaks. Yoga will embrace you, whoever you are.
  6. It will never leave me…. Sure, I could leave yoga. I could roll up my mat and stop practicing for the next 6 months, become shrivelled and tight. But the philosophy of yoga and the lessons it brings won’t ever go- I’ll always remember to breathe in stressful situations. I’ll always be more aware of how individual muscles and body parts feel at different times. And I’ll always remember the mind-body connection that yoga and I chiselled together through dedication and commitment. We’ll always have that mutual love. And that I adore.

I’d love to see schools introduce yoga as part of Physical Education or maybe those odd, ‘Social Studies’ classes that encouraged even the nerdiest of kids to skive. This in turn would create the space and opportunity to learn mindfulness and stress-relief, throughout their education, which they then take with them to use later in life.

In fact, I’d just love to see everybody try it, period. Sure, some won’t be as taken as I was, and that’s fine. But just to experience it would create a newfound outlook, everybody can benefit from.

Maybe I’m being biased towards my love. But I believe in it so much, I’m even willing to share it with the world! Now that’s commitment.

Peace and love all.

Vegan Buckwheat Flour Pancakes with Blackberry Sauce

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Vegan Buckwheat Flour Pancakes with Blackberry Sauce

I couldn’t resist tucking in before I snapped the photo🙈

Hello Autumn. ‘Tis the season for juicy blackberries!

To celebrate I whipped up these buckwheat pancakes with warm blackberry sauce.

Best of all, I had them for breakfast, cos I can! Buckwheat flour is super healthy; not only gluten-free, it’s jammed with protein and fibre, an array of nutrients including magnesium, zinc and iron, it helps lower cholesterol, aids digestion and even has cancer fighting antioxidants. Win-win.

To make 3-4, all you need is:

120g buckwheat flour

200ml almond milk

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp ground flax seed (aka linseed)

2 handfuls blackberries

Handful blueberries to top (optional)

Maple syrup to top (or other optional sweetener)

For the sauce:

Add 50ml boiling water to a saucepan, with the blackberries. Heat for a few minutes until the blackberries soften, drain the water and add the fruit to a food processor.

Whiz until a sauce forms and set aside to cool.
For the pancakes:

Simply whisk together all the ingredients until a batter is formed (it shouldn’t be too thick, just similar to regular pancake batter).

Spread a little olive oil evenly around a frying pan. Then add a thin layer of batter and cook on either side for around 4 mins each, until the edges are nice and crispy.

Topped with blackberry sauce, blueberries, maple syrup and walnuts

I’m always full of energy and excited for the day after eating these babies!

You can top them with anything you like, but this blackberry sauce was certainly a sweet deal. I often mix it up with vegan chocolate spread, strawberries, raspberries, nuts, bananas and maple syrup. 

Enjoy!

12/11/16 UPDATE: Vegan pancakes 2.0.. stacked and layered with fruit is the way forward 👌

Crispy Cauliflower Bites

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I recently discovered these bad boys, the same time my best friend was giving birth to her first child- what a momentous day.
Believe me when I say, these are one of the tastiest vegan foods I’ve had the pleasure of consuming.

Having experimented with a few flavours, I’ve found that this ‘curried’ version came up top. But it can of course be amended to include any herbs and spices you like.

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower

120g buckwheat flour

220ml almond milk

3 tbsp coconut oil (measured solidified)

5 tsp paprika

6 tsp ground turmeric 

6 tsp ground cumin

3 tsp ground coriander

5 tsp black pepper

3 tsp salt (I use pink himalayan)

2 cloves garlic (crushed/finely diced)

1 inch finely diced ginger (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven to 200°. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper and melt the coconut oil in the oven on the tray for a couple of minutes. Spread evenly.

Chop cauliflower into medium – small florets (it’s really up to you, I prefer them smaller as they go crispier).

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, paprika, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garlic, ginger,  salt and pepper. Ensure everything is combined nice and evenly.

Next, add the almond milk to a separate bowl and begin dunking a few florets of cauliflower. Once soaked, dip them into the flour until well coated and add to the baking tray.

Try double dipping some of them (milk-flour-milk-flour) which will create a batter – like consistency, giving a thicker, softer coating (the mix between crispy and soft is amazing).
Don’t leave out the tiny florets either- these are extra special as they work great for a super crispy coating.

Bake for 15 minutes before turning them over. Add more almond milk to any florets that might still have dry flour on them and bake for a further 15-20 minutes.

Serve up with your favourite vegan main and enjoy! 

Big hit with the dog who lives off junk food

Fun, nutritous and delicious.. you can’t go wrong🙂
P.S. I’d love to know if anybody has tried making a similar version of these? I’ve read great things about pan frying them..

Accompanying home made vegetable pattie with rocket

12/11/16 Update: just felt the need to add this – after I mentioned to my friend about making these the day she gave birth, she admitted she’d had total crispy cauliflower cravings throughout her pregnancy, and had visited the restaurant we first discovered it multiple times towards the end! 

Needless to say I whipped her up a batch in a nice little food parcel with some houmous and salad, and she loved it!

Ahh, universe, how you continue to fascinate me so.💚

Rice Krispie & Oat Energy Bars

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Since going vegan, I actually can’t get enough of puffed brown rice. I use it for so much, like when I want that naughty sensation of eating cereal and cold milk covered with sugar, I fill a bowl with puffed brown rice, almond milk and xylitol (a plant based sugar subsititute which ironically even has oral health benefits)… snap, crackle and pop.
Or I make something like these Krispy, nutty oat bars. They’re packed full of fibre and protein, and the chia seeds give them an extra energy bursting nutritional kick – great for before or after a workout. Plus they take just a few minutes to whip up.

Ingredients:

140g almond butter (or any nut butter, though almond seems to taste best as it isn’t overpowering like peanut can be)

3-4 tbsp maple/date syrup

2 tbsp coconut oil

1/2 banana

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup puffed brown rice

Method:

Melt the coconut oil, almond butter and syrup gently in a saucepan. Blend together with the banana, chia seeds and cinnamon. 

Mix oats and rice well until sticky. Transfer the lot to a baking tray lined with parchment and freeze for about an hour.

The beauty of these babies is that you can take them straight out of the freezer and they’ll be edible within a couple of minutes. Hope you’ll try and enjoy🙂
You can also of course mix n match- try opting just for just rice krispies and setting them deeper in the pan- leaves them nice and chunky with lots of bite.

Move over s’mores…it’s BBQ Oreo time

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BBQ #6 this year and #6 being vegan… and aside from Linda McCartney sausages and veggie patties, this time I discovered a real gem; WARM OREOS.
That’s right, whack a bunch of Oreos on the BBQ for a few minutes, wait for the biscuit to warm (it smells like cake), the cream to melt and you have yourself a delicious, naughty vegan treat that gives s’mores a run for their money. Just wow.

They are so exciting and moreish, especially on a restricted diet. Just try not to eat the whole lot (we got through 3 packs).

For the second batch I got crazy and added some dark chocolate on top😍

Divine Devon

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This weekend I was lucky enough to bag a visit to rural county Devon, staying with my cousin and her other half in their new(ish) home. They relocated from our home town in November, and it was my first visit.

Despite leaving loved ones behind, I can see why they easily had no regrets with their decision. Their secluded village sits atop a hill, overlooking the beautiful Devonshire countryside. Woolacombe Beach (dubbed the ‘best beach in the UK’ and I’d say easily comparable to a beach in Spain) is just an hour’s drive, and an array of other touristic gems are dotted around, an even shorter distance away.

It’s experiences like these that remind me England isn’t the dull, grey image that a lot of us often have. It’s brimming with stunning scenery, wildlife and nature spots. At one point near a place called Castle Drogo, I couldn’t believe I was still in the UK. A giant valley filled with luscious green trees, and a convenient path that lets you admire the view from different angles, literally took my breath away.

Fingle Bridge, Castle Drogo

Another trip took us into the heart of a huge gorge, with gushing waterfalls and mossy trees surrounding us on upward spiraling paths.

Lydford Gorge was around 3 miles of massive woodland, ancient tree roots underfoot and an enclosed rock cove/cavern at a spot called the Devil’s Couldron. Standing on a bridge above, you can watch the water bubble and whirlpool madly around below your feet.

Lydford Gorge

Amongst scrambling up rocks, hiking up steep hills and sitting on the edge of cliff faces, I found a sense of tranquility I haven’t experienced in a while. The freedom felt while trekking across fields hundreds of miles from home, from anywhere familiar, was exciting and exhilarating. Living in each moment to moment, taking it as it comes and accepting the fact that it all ‘is what it is’, was an emotional release, to say the least. The fresh air definitely went to my head.

Dartmoor Moors

Devon is a beautiful place and as a ‘Brit’ I feel truly blessed to know we have such serenity on our doorstep- we don’t need to skip countries to get a dose of  escapism from the everyday England we’re used to. We just need to know where to look… and the drive to want to find the rest of the hidden gems the UK has to offer.

So much brocolli 😍

No meat, no dairy, no sex

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So. I made the decision to practice celibacy about two or more years ago. Back then it was a loose insight in my mind, projected and ideal but not quite accepted. With a crazy sex life having basically come to a halt, I didn’t need to actively abstain.

Then over time it developed as an actual truth, and as much as I’ve resisted, I’ve also learned to accept it.

I had to make a mistake or two to learn some lessons, but recent occurrences seem to indicate I learned well. It’s been an extremely difficult.. should I say,  frustrating  week, and temptation has been rife. But I didn’t succumb and I know I’ve made the right decision(s).

I mean I’m sure I have, but as a replacement distraction I’m stuck with constant thoughts of food instead.. not necessarily a new struggle, but it is now far heightened by the need to fill some kind of comfort gap. Mostly by bourbon biscuits and Oreos since they’re some of the naughtiest treats I can have as a vegan.

Anyway, I believe the preservation of sexual energy far outweighs the wastage of it on something that isn’t an emotional connection. Saving it for a special person and moment, a sacred act shared between the two of you who understands one another is just perfect.

No need to jump straight into each others pants, as temporarily exciting as that can be. I’m no prude, in fact this decision is kind of killing me inside, but I know it’s the right one and has been there for a long time. It’s just been a while since I’ve been ready for the next test.

Now I’m taking another step along the path of self discovery. And I am genuinely excited to be on the way :)🙏