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Friday, 15 August 2014

Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids: Wrap-Up

Squirrels gathering twigs and reinforcing their nests? Is it a sign that Fall is now just around the corner? As temperatures are slowly cooling off the remaining Summer month, transitioning into Autumn, we have yet to enjoy a couple more weeks of warm days before the Fall jackets are being pulled off the hangers.
If you have been following the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 virtual event throughout the month of July-August, well the time now has come to close the curtains. It has been a fantastic month of featured bloggers sharing with us useful tips, pieces of advice and their delicious kid-friendly recipes.

By the way, this event has inspired me to start a Kid-Friendly Vegan Recipes board on Pinterest. Check it out!

Follow Teenuja | Veganlovlie's board Kid-Friendly Vegan Recipes on Pinterest.



Thank you once again to all guests who participated in this event. And here's the round-up again:

Easy Broccoli Pasta
by Sarah Creighton

Spring Pea Miso Soup
by Cristina Cavanaugh


Carrot Hot Dogs
by Helyn

Mega Chocolate Muffins
by Julie

Finally, I wanted to feature this Baked Vegetable Fritters recipe as my contribution and finale for this event. But it has been one crazy month at work for me! I am really out of steam and looking forward to a vacation which is actually not going to happen for another 4 weeks. So, bear with me while I get a chance to write down the recipe.
Coming up soon:
Baked Vegetable Fritters with an exquisite spicy sauce recipe!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Week #4: Eat Real Food with Julie

About a month ago, I started the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event which is a virtual event where a few blogging friends and I have teamed up to present to you kid-friendly recipes, tips and pieces of advice about how to get your child to eat more vegetables and cultivate a healthy eating habit right at an early age.

This week's featured blogger is Julie from The Real Food Kids. Julie is a licensed Family Therapist with a PhD in Child and Family Development, a certified Health Coach with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and a professor at a New York university. Trusting her gut instinct, Julie made the decision to change her food choices to improve the health of her son who was suffering from a number of health problems. In so doing, she has also hugely benefited from this change for herself and her daughter. Today Julie is sharing her Mega Chocolate Muffin recipe which features zucchini and beets -- a great way to get children to eat their veggies in a disguised way! So let's read about Julie's inspiring journey to better health for her family.

1. When did you begin your blog, and what inspired you to start it?
The blog was launched in May of 2014, although it had been in the planning process for a few years before that, but we lost our home in Hurricane Sandy and I’m a single working parent, so the blog had to go on the backburner for ages. I started the blog because of my son’s struggles with health problems early in life. He was regularly prescribed antibiotics to help with fevers, heavy colds and hearing problems (he was a late talker), and whenever I asked the
health professionals if food could be a contributory factor they treated me as though I was a neurotic mother! One night I sat down to watch Forks Over Knives and that was pretty much the turning point. I cleared out the pantry and fridge before I went to bed, and then it was a slow road to figuring out how to feed us. Along the way I trained as a health coach to better understand the connection between food and health. And then of course I am a licensed family therapist, and as I made the connection with my own child, I also started to see child behavior problems differently at our community clinic. Now I see how powerful food is I just want to do whatever I can to help other families who are open to changing how their kids eat.

2. You said that "while no one diet fits all, eating clean, real food will generally benefit most of us". Can you elaborate on what you mean by "real food" and what kind of diet has worked so far for you and your family?
To me, real food is food that comes in its most natural form. It is not processed or full of added sugars, so if I can figure out how to make a product myself then I would rather do that than trust a food corporation to do it. For my family, real food is also plant based, which means the bulk of it comes from food that grows in the ground. There is a basic guide on the blog on how to keep your diet real, and that’s what I work to when feeding my kids. I would say we eat a clean plant based diet about 95% of the time, the remainder being when we are out somewhere. If my kids want a slice of pizza or birthday cake to fit in, then I don’t make an issue out of it, although usually they don’t feel so great after! My son is 6 and he is making that connection for himself already, which is wonderful.

3. What impact has a "real food" diet had on your health and that of your family?
Oh, where to start? My son has had no antibiotics since I changed how we eat and his ears work fine now (although I suspect he has selective hearing!). My daughter has been raised this way from birth and is the healthiest kid I know. She is 3 and has never had a heavy cold (a slight sniffle for a day or two at worst), a fever, an ear infection or been prescribed any medications. Both kids have a ton of energy and a glow to their skin. As for me, I have seen huge changes in my health since we switched to real food. I was pretty much a junk food vegetarian for years and was suffering with asthma and slow weight gain. Then in my late 30’s I was diagnosed with uterine fibroids. They were so bad I was told I needed a hysterectomy. Luckily I avoided a hysterectomy by finding the right doctor, but it was still major surgery to repair my uterus. Since changing my diet my periods have become pain-free and manageable, and I have had no re-occurrence of fibroids. I also lost a lot of weight and have stayed slim without needing to work out or diet, and my horrible mucous chest is a thing of the past. So it has been a win-win situation for all of us!

4. Are you fully adapted to a vegan diet / lifestyle, what has been (or would be) the most challenging part?
I would say we are adapted although we call ourselves plant-based rather than vegan, if only because I know plenty of vegans who eat a junky diet! I guess there are challenges to this lifestyle, in that society in general is not geared up to support it. People think you are weird if your kid doesn’t drink milk or eat candy and beef burgers, so you have to be prepared for backlash. You also have to learn to pack healthy snacks and plan ahead so you can fill hungry mouths in any eventuality. We were in rural France for the summer and were invited to the annual village dinner. I was told they could provide a ‘végétarienne’ meal, but packed hot food just in case. Lucky I did because the dinner for us turned out to be a double portion of Camembert cheese with vegetables cooked in the pot that had a pig’s head bobbing about in it! It could have been a disaster, but we had a Plan B, and I appreciated that they had tried their best to feed us.

5. What type of vegetable dishes have you found to be most successful with children?
My kids really love hearty pasta-based dishes or grains such as quinoa or millet. We do a lot of bean-based recipes which are budget-friendly and nutritious (like my spaghetti beanballs or hummus from the blog) and my kids appreciate foods they can eat with their hands (like nachos). I still hide veggies in food sometimes, although my son wised up to it ages ago. He actually told me he liked me making burgers as it meant I hid lots of vegetables he would not otherwise eat! My daughter loves soup but says she hates leaves (lettuce, spinach, etc.) even though she will drink them in a smoothie. My son has finally started liking leaves after years of offering them to him, and both kids eat kale if it is made into chips. Just goes to show, you never know what your kids might like, and if they don’t like how you present it, then try it another way next time. Persevere with every food, don’t give up!


6. How do you deal with your children when they refuse to eat a particular vegetable or dish?
We have a family rule that all new foods must be tried with a couple of good tastes, there is no outright refusal allowed. My son used to do the index finger test where he would stick a finger in the food and announce he didn’t like it, so the rule went into place. I only offer an alternative if it’s a new recipe I am testing and it didn’t turn out well. I have seen parents run themselves ragged trying to offer foods their kids will accept and I don’t go there. I tell my kids this isn’t a restaurant! I really like the French idea where kids don’t get a special kid menu, they are expected to eat a wide variety of foods, which include salad and vegetables. My family therapy training helps me to keep the boundaries fair but firm. The worst kids can do is scream! If they really hate a particular food I respect that (I have childhood memories of being forced to eat good old British foods like liver and suet pudding that make me shudder to this day) but I expect them to make a good go of the meal otherwise.

7. What advice do you have for vegan mums or parents looking to make the change to a vegan lifestyle or incorporating more healthy eating habits
First off, I would say do your homework. There are plenty of great books and websites out there (including mine I hope!) to help you figure out how to feed your child a broad range of healthy foods. Make smaller changes at first, so maybe start by making all your grains whole grains, or cutting out the sugary drinks. I have learned that food is a very emotional topic for families, and often only one parent is on board when it comes to making changes (and quite possibly extended family such as grandparents are not supportive), so take it one step at a time according to what your family can handle. Keep in mind I have been on this learning curve with food for over three years already, and my mother’s first reaction was “Oh God, you are not going to do that to the children are you?” My parents have since come around, but it has been a process for us and the process continues as I learn more. I would also say you need to incorporate an element of education with your kids. They are more likely to be supportive of dietary change if they understand why, as well as where their food comes from.

8. Do you have any upcoming projects? Where do you see your blog in 5 years from now?
Right now I am just working hard to carve out time to load content into my blog so that people want to follow it, and to figure out the look and feel of the site. I attended my first food bloggers conference about a week after launching my blog, which was a huge leap into my new project! I also just enrolled to do my gourmet chef’s training this winter, which I hope will give me a flair and confidence with food and recipe writing. I would love to grow this project to include resources such as one to one counseling/coaching with families. It would be wonderful to share inspiring stories on the blog of families who have improved their kids’ health and behavior just with food! I’m passionate about helping all kids to develop a love of healthy eating; I think it’s such an important contribution to future generations.

9. Anything else you would like to share?
I have loved talking about my work with you, and hope folks will check out my blog, sign up for my free guides to finding hidden sugars and reading food labels, share some love by following me on social media, and reach out to me! I would really appreciate hearing about you, your family’s journey with food, and what would help you in turning your children into real food kids.




Mega Chocolate Muffins

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20-25 minutes | Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (about 10 - 12 muffins)

1 cup rolled oats (can be gluten free)
½ cup whole grain flour of your choice (can be gluten free, e.g., quinoa)
½ tsp baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
⅓ cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
½ teaspoon ginger spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch of iodized sea salt
1 ripe banana, skinned
1 ripe pear, cored and roughly chopped
1 x 15oz can of black beans (rinse thoroughly and drain)
8 pitted medjool dates
½ teaspoon vanilla powder
½ cup of milk of your choice (I use hemp or almond).
1 cup combined shredded/grated zucchini and beets (I do this in the food processor)
½ bar of quality dark chocolate, roughly chopped into small pieces
⅓ cup hemp hearts

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C/Gas 4
  • Pulse the oats in a food processor until they resemble course flour.
  • Pour the oat flour into a large mixing bowl and add ingredients 2 thru 8 from the list above. Mix well.
  • Place ingredients 9 thru 14 into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the mix into the mixing bowl with the dry ingredients.
  • Add the grated zucchini and beets to the mixing bowl, along with the hemp hearts and chocolate. Mix it all until it forms a thick cake batter.
  • Use a lightly oiled metal muffin pan (or a silicone muffin mold if you prefer). Fill each mold until it is almost full so you get a deep muffin (nobody likes a skinny muffin). Sometimes I get 12 muffins, sometimes it comes out slightly less, depending on the size of fruits and type of flour I use. Then bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted comes out almost clean.
  • Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack. We usually eat some of these warm from the oven, but they are equally good cold; it all depends whether you like your chocolate chips runny or crunchy! Store the muffins in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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Thank you Julie for sharing with us your thoughts, advice, tips and this wonderful muffin recipe! It sure is a great way to hide in the vegetables in the recipe and get the kids to eat them.
Do you have any tips how you get your kids to eat their vegetables? Leave us a "dodo love" in the comments box.


Connect with Julie

The Real Food Kids
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest
Google+


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Visit the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event main page for updates on participating guest bloggers every week until August 2014.
If you haven't already, follow Veganlovlie by email by clicking on the envelope icon in the sidebar at the top then enter your email address. Or you can subscribe to the Veganlovlie's Sunshine Newsletter.

In case you missed our previously featured bloggers:


If you want to link to this event, grab the banner below.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Week #3: Helyn and a Nutritarian Diet

This is the third week of the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event. In case you've missed the previous weeks of this event, here's a little recap - the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 a virtual event featuring a few blogging friends who are sharing with us their kid-friendly recipes, tips and pieces of advice. We hope you will be inspired by what our blogging friends have to say and their delicious recipes.

This week's featured blogger is Helyn of Helyn's Healthy Kitchen. Helyn, as I came to know when I stumbled upon her blog, follows a Nutritarian diet. If you are like me and had never before come across the term, here's a little description:

A Nutritarian diet focuses on food choices that maximize the micronutrients per calorie. A Nutritarian diet is designed with food that has powerful disease-protecting and therapeutic effects and delivers a broad array of micronutrients via a wide spectrum of food choices. The Nutritarian diet may not necessarily be vegan but since plant-based foods surpass animal-based food by far in terms of their micronutrient per calorie, plants are usually favoured. The foods with the highest micronutrient per calorie scores are green vegetables, colorful vegetables, and fresh fruits. The term Nutritarian was coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman.

That's interesting to know as I couldn't agree more with Helyn when she says on her blog "Just because it's vegan, doesn't mean it's healthy!". So, let's get to know Helyn a little bit more.

1. When did you begin your blog, and what inspired you to start it?
I started Helyn's Healthy Kitchen in late 2012. I got so excited about my weight loss and the health benefits that I was experiencing on a plant-based diet, that I wanted to start sharing some recipes. It took off like a rocket!


2. You said that you love sharing delicious and healthy vegan recipes, can you explain why you chose a vegan lifestyle?
I originally chose a vegan lifestyle for health reasons. My weight was up, as was my blood pressure. I had some blood work done and found that my triglycerides were also quite high. Now that I have been vegan for over 2 years, I have also become more aware of the horrific abuse that factory farm animals endure both on the feed lots and in the slaughterhouse. Then there is the negative impact that factory farming has on our environment. So now I am vegan for all of those reasons.


3. How long did it take you to become fully adapted to a vegan lifestyle, what has been the most challenging part?
It took about 2 months to where I was not craving fats and oils and other junk food. I didn't have too much trouble giving up meat because I was never really a meat and potatoes kind of person. Butter was the hardest for me to eliminate. Now, if I eat those kinds of foods, they don't taste good to me anymore! :)


4. What impact has the vegan diet had on your health?
40 pounds dropped with ease. Blood pressure lowered to normal. Triglycerides dropped to below "average." I also sleep better, my skin is smoother my hair is thicker and I have more energy.


5. How do people respond when you tell them you are vegan?
People are more responsive now than ever about healthy eating/living choices. Most people are curious about what I eat and I'm happy to share with them my plant-based recipes and adventures!


6. What advice do you have for vegans mums or parents looking to make the change to a vegan lifestyle?
Start slowly. Children are such creatures of habit. Introduce foods that are fun/look fun and transition with things that they already like, such as mac & cheese. There are many vegan versions of mac & cheese floating around the web that are really yummy.


7. What type of vegetable dishes have you found to be most successful with children?
As I mentioned, start with things they already like... If your child likes cereal, try a homemade granola with healthy nuts, seeds and fruits. Pizza can be a good choice (what kid doesn't love pizza?) because you can load it up with veggies and use just a small amount of vegan cheese like Daiya brand. And let them help to prepare the food. That's KEY!! Kids love to help and when they help to create their own, fun meals, they are more likely to eat them. Visual appeal is also super important with kids. Make the foods look bright and fun!

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Carrot Dogs

Marinade ingredients:
½ cup tamari or other low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp liquid smoke
TIP: use a quart sized mason jar to marinate the carrots, standing them on end. This way they will be evenly submerged. The jar will fit about 10 carrots.


To make the carrot dogs, simply cut the carrots into the length of a usual hot dog, then using a veggie peeler, shape each end so it's rounded. Then par boil them until a fork can pierce the carrot easily but not all the way to the center (about 10-15 minutes). Remove them from the water, pat them dry and soak in the marinade overnight. Then bake or grill until tender and top with your favorite condiments!

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Thank you Helyn. Carrot dogs sound wonderful! By the way, check out the recipe for the spelt buns that Helyn has used in this recipe on her blog.

Connect with Helyn

Helyn's Kitchen Blog

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Visit the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event main page for updates on participating guest bloggers every week until August 2014.
If you haven't already, follow Veganlovlie by email by clicking on the envelope icon in the sidebar at the top then enter your email address. Or you can subscribe to the Veganlovlie's Sunshine Newsletter.

In case you missed our previously featured bloggers:


If you want to link to this event, grab the banner below.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Cherry Je T'aime!

With the avalanche of cherries in the stores this summer, I have pretty much been buying them at every trip to the grocery store. Fresh and just popped in the mouth, these juicy sweet drupes are seriously addictive. That said, an insatiate thirst for yet another youth elixir, beckoned my creative juices for another smoothie concoction. Melded with kale and ginger, cherries provide an energizing detoxifying power-packed experience. I say experience because a good smoothie is not merely a drink, it is the kind of drink that tells a story in every sip, tickles your belly and makes you want to slurp more and more even though you are full. This is the kind of smoothie I love to enjoy on weekend mornings while I eagerly prepare brunch.



Cherry Kale Power-Packed Smoothie (serves 2)

5 stems curly kale (remove middle stem, cut leaves into small pieces)
10 - 12 fresh sweet cherries (pitted)
1/2 inch cube fresh ginger
1 medjool date
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon pumpkin seeds
Water to thin out

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a tall glass and gulp!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Week #2: Meet Registered Dietitian and Yoga Instructor -- Cristina Cavanaugh

We are now at week two of the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event which, as announced previously, is a virtual event featuring kid-friendly recipes, tips and pieces of advice from a few featured blogging friends who strive to prepare quick, easy and delicious meals for their children. We hope you will be inspired into how to encourage your child to eat more vegetables.

This week's featured blogger is Cristina Cavanaugh, RD, who writes a beautiful blog - BeginWithin Nutrition. Cristina is a registered dietitian, yoga instructor, and mom who is passionate about health and wellness. She strives to help people feel and look their best! "Variety is the key to ensure your kids are getting all the nutrients they need from a plant-based diet", as she rightly says it. I feel so privileged to have Cristina as a guest this week. I interviewed her and she was very kind to share with us some pieces of advice from her experience of working with mums and children.


1. You said you were interested in cooking and learning about healthy living at a young age, what triggered your interest in healthy living at that time?
I come from a long line of foodies! My mother is Italian and I grew up watching her and my grandmother cook. It always relaxed me and still does to this day! I remember waking up early with my grandma to pick squash flowers to turn them into a delicious salad for lunch. Something about using fresh, whole ingredients to create a meal has always amazed me!


2. Since when have you been a vegan and what made you choose this lifestyle?
I can’t call myself a vegan although I do feel like it is a diet that makes me feel my best. I would say I eat a vegan diet 90% of the time. However, becoming 100% vegan is a goal I strive for! My love for animals lead me to a plant based diet when I was in my early teens. I feel as though eating a plant based diet is a way for me to practice ahimisa or non-violence in my everyday life. In my professional career as a nutritionist, I truly believe that we are what we eat! Our food should be healing and by eating plants full of prana or energy is the best way for people to feel their best!


3. From your experience of working with mums and children, what type of vegetable dishes have you found to be most successful with children and welcomed by mums too?
Quinoa! I’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t love quinoa! Some day’s quinoa is all I can get my little one to eat! It’s super easy to make, is very versatile and tastes great too! For an added nutritional boost I add sesame seeds, which are high in calcium! Quinoa can be used for breakfast, lunch or dinner! I recommend cooking a plain batch in the beginning of the week and using it as needed for a quick and healthy meal!


4. What has been your best experience so far from working with parents and children (in terms a particular project or event if any)?
I loved working with WIC as a nutritionist. I was able to interact with moms from a variety of different backgrounds and ethnicities. I was there to educate moms, but I learned so much more from them!


5. What advice can you give to parents to ensure their children are getting all the nutrients they need from a plant-based diet? Do you recommend supplements as part of a healthy diet?
Variety is the key to ensure your kids are getting all the nutrients they need from a plant-based diet. Rotate grains, always add different sources of protein to meals and snacks and experiment with new fruits and vegetables. Also, add what I like to call superfoods to meals and snacks. Some superfoods include hemp seeds, chia seeds, miso, sesame seeds, seaweed and wheat grass to name a few! These ingredients add a power packed nutritional punch! I add them to smoothies, soups, salads and dips. Yes, I do recommend high quality supplements, especially a probiotic supplement.


6. Do you have any particular plans for the next year, for your blog or career-wise? Five years from now?
I don’t! I know I should, but honestly being a good mom is all I am focused on at the moment! I would love to devote more time to my blog and I know that day will come, but for now all my energy goes to my family!


7. Anything else you would like to share?
I wanted to share my recipe for miso soup, because not only is it kid friendly, it is super healing! We eat miso soup year round, even in the summer! It contains probiotics from the miso paste, phytonutrients from the seaweed and fiber rich vegetables, all are important ingredients for keeping immune systems running strong! Feel free to use any veggies that your kids like! Baby spinach, tofu and edamame are all great add-ins! I hope you like it as much as we do :)



Spring Pea Miso Soup

4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups white mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup alphabet pasta (or brown rice)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen peas
1 large pinch of wakame
1-2 tablespoons Bragg’s Amino Acids
1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
2 tablespoons white miso paste

In a large soup pot add broth, water, carrots, mushrooms, garlic and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and lightly simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add pasta or brown rice and cook until tender. Add chickpeas, frozen peas, wakame, Bragg’s Amino Acids and toasted sesame seed oil. Cover and remove from heat. In a small bowl mix miso paste with a few tablespoons of water until thinned out. When soup is no longer simmering, stir in miso paste. Serve warm and enjoy!



Sweet Cucumber Salad

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced using a mandoline
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
½ tablespoon organic cane sugar or agave (optional)
½ tablespoon red onion, minced
Pinch sea salt
Small pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Gomasio for garnish

Add sliced cucumbers to a medium bowl, set aside. In a small bowl whisk together rice vinegar, sesame seed oil, sugar, red onion and sea salt. Drizzle on top of cucumbers and toss to coat. Top with gomasio and enjoy!

Note: I only add crushed red pepper flakes for an adult version, kids don’t always tolerate heat well!



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Thank you Cristina for sharing these delicious recipes with us. Miso soup is one of my favourite all-year-round recipe too!

Connect with Cristina

BeginWithin Nutrition Blog
Facebook
Pinterest
Instagram

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Visit the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event main page for updates on participating guest bloggers every week until August 2014.
If you haven't already, follow Veganlovlie by email by clicking on the envelope icon in the sidebar at the top then enter your email address. Or you can subscribe to the Veganlovlie's Sunshine Newsletter.

In case you missed our previously featured blogger:


Sarah Creighton


If you want to link to this event, grab the banner below.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Punching Up The Salad Blues

Reminiscing about just a year ago when I was commuting for four hours a day changing four buses each way to and from work, I cannot help but feel utter relief about my now half-hour bus journey. Had I gone around to get a bike already, I could now easily do this journey by bicycle. I guess it will have to wait until next Spring. A short bus trip however does give me a bit of time to relax and, more often than not, daze into my habitual daydreams where I am quite cocooned into my own little world distrait from reality. It is surprising how my fabricated world is so vivid with me being this totally different person, carefree and unquestioning, enjoying only this very moment. From time to time, I am bewildered back into the mundane reality as I catch an audible glimpse of the surroundings. The chirping conversation of a few youngsters caught my attention; they were only shooting the breeze but I couldn't help but sink myself into a half smile thinking of my school days. Their chirps somehow moved on a healthy food topic now grasping my full attention with ears untwining into their full sensory ability. Youngsters talking about healthy eating is not something to be casually missed. As their conversation progressed onto salads and dressings, discussing whether a salad without dressing could be called a salad, I started figuring this out for myself. I have many a time eaten an assortment of leaves, raw vegetables, fruit and other toppings without any dressing. So far I have been calling them salads. What's your take on this? Is a salad without a dressing still a salad?

Speaking of salads, midway through Summer and I realize that I haven't featured any of the colourful nutrient-dense salads I've been eating. My salads don't usually follow a recipe and are somewhat spurred-by-the-moment tossed in from fresh ingredients available at hand. Dressing-wise, I sometimes whip up a tasty creative one or, when short of inspiration or time, a squeeze of lemon juice is more than enough if my salad is already rich in flavours. In any case, I usually steer clear of any added refined oil as I try to consume fat mostly in its natural unprocessed form like adding in avocados, fresh coconut pieces or some of the very few seeds that I am not allergic to.

One of my favourite aspect of Summer is the gorgeous Summer berries we get to enjoy. Their frozen version, even though lacking the freshness, do come in handy and contribute in nutritional value during the colder months of the year.
While berries are still in season and abundant, here's a colourful blueberry dressing, no oil added, with a pinch of chipotle or chili punch to go with a very filling artichoke pasta salad that you could very well take to potlucks and picnics. Isn't blue a lovely colour to add to a salad?!



Artichoke Pasta Salad with Blueberry Chipotle Dressing

Ingredients (serves 2 - 3)
Salad
2 cups cooked fusilli pasta (can be corn or rice pasta for gluten-free option)
6 - 7 frozen artichoke pieces (you may also use canned ones)
2 cups mixed baby salad leaves (arugula, spinach)
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/4 cup olives, black and green mix
1/3 cup broccoli florets, lightly steamed or raw (leftovers are perfect)
1/2 cup mushrooms (optional)
1 teaspoon barbecue sauce
1/4 cup beansprouts

Dressing
1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or chili powder)
2 pitted dates
1 tablespoon avocado, mashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons water (more or less depending on desired consistency)

Prepare the salad:
  • Immerse the frozen pieces of artichokes into a bowl of boiling water to defrost. Drain and keep artichokes aside. If using canned artichokes, drain the water and just use as is.
  • If using mushrooms, toss them in a pan with a few tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon barbecue sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally until mushrooms are cooked but still retaining pretty much their size. (That is, do not overcook so that they considerably shrink in size and ooze out a lot of water. If this does happen though, you can use this mushroom water as part of the dressing too instead of throwing it away!)
  • Allow mushrooms to cool.
  • Toss all salad ingredients in a big bowl. Mix well.

Make the dressing:
  • Place all dressing ingredients in a blender (you can also use a stick blender), process until smooth.
  • Pour dressing on the salad, mix well and serve.
  • If not serving straightaway, keep dressing chilled separately then add when ready.

So, what's your favourite type of dressing? Leave me a 'dodo love' below.



Sunday, 6 July 2014

Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 - Week #1: The Boy Who Loved Broccoli

Last week I announced the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 which is a virtual event where a few blogging friends and I have teamed up to present to you kid-friendly recipes, tips and pieces of advice about how to get your child to eat more vegetables and cultivate a healthy eating habit right at an early age.

While some kids enjoy eating their vegetables, others need more encouragement and motivation to do so. Our guest bloggers have striven to present quick and easy dishes that they have found to appeal to their children.

Meet this week's featured blogger for the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 virtual event - Sarah Creighton of Veggie-Kids. Sarah is a mum of three and the author of two children illustration books - The Boy Who Loved Broccoli and Clover's Great Escape; the latter is endorsed by farm sanctuaries as well as John Robbins, author or "Food Revolution" and "Diet For A New America" and also by Neal Barnard, MD, founder of PCRM.org and revolutionary clinical researcher.
When I learnt about how Sarah cured a large ovarian cyst through her diet only, I was reminded yet again of the healing power of the food we eat. For the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids event, Sarah is sharing with us her quick and easy Broccoli Tomato Pasta recipe. But let's get to know Sarah a little bit more first.

  1. When did you start your blog and what triggered your interest in writing a vegan food blog?
    Veggie-Kids began back in 2009 after I was diagnosed with a large ovarian cyst. Wanting to avoid surgery, I went on a mission to heal myself through plants (foods, teas, tonics). I learned that although I was eating healthy at the time, my pH balance in my body was off. I healed myself completely within 2-3 weeks using plants only. At that point I was sold! I decided to dedicate a blog to keep track of the healthy foods I was making for myself and my family. Veggie-Kids.com has been growing ever since!

  2. Was the transition to a vegan diet challenging for yourself and your family?
    Becoming vegan wasn't much of a challenge for me as I was so motivated and amazed by the new world of foods that were opened up to me. My kids were fine with it as they've always loved healthy foods since that's what I've fed them from the start. Kids seem to be excited by whatever the grown-ups in their household are excited about though (i.e., if mom likes veggies, kids most likely will too!)

    My husband is a meat-eater and although I've tried to change him, he's set in his ways. He has come around to drinking green smoothies every morning and eating much healthier though! ;)

  3. What type of vegetable dishes have you found to be most successful with children?
    I've done a lot of research finding out what vegan meals families and kids would like best. While many families here in America prefer dishes with cheese such as lasagna or mac'n cheese, they also like foods you can eat with your hands like tacos. The very best veggie-filled meals that kids will actually eat are the ones they participate in making. If a child has a chance to pick out a few ingredients from the grocery store and help prepare the meal, they are so much more likely to eat and enjoy it!

  4. How do you deal with your children when they refuse to eat a particular vegetable or dish?
    In dealing with a child's refusal to eat a vegetable or dish I think parents need to chill! I believe in intuitive eating and kids are the best at this, as long as they have healthy choices. So I suggest parents give their kids 2-3 healthy options if they're a picky eater. That gives the power back to the child but it's still a win-win because they only have a healthy choice to make. For example, if the child refuses to eat his broccoli, don't make a big deal out of it (although I would suggest reading my book "The Boy Who Loved Broccoli" to them!). Just set out some other options like cauliflower or salad leaves with salad dressing to dip if they like.

    I like to tell parents to look at the whole week of their child's eating, not just a day's worth. Most likely, they're getting in all their nutrients over a few days. Most of us have seen a baby or toddler only want to eat one or two foods only over and over again. Once their body has had enough of whatever nutrient they're craving, they will move on!

  5. Do you have any tips for vegans mums or parents to make dinner preparation quicker and more appetizing for kids?
    In making mealtime a smoother process, I suggest setting out a plate of freshly cut veggies, bell peppers and olives-making it look fun and colorful. So while mom (or dad) is cooking the meal, the kids are munching away on healthy stuff. This also eases parents minds when their child refuses a vegetable at dinnertime because they know he/she ate some healthy goodies before dinner!

  6. Can you talk a little about your illustration books - “The Boy Who Loved Broccoli” and your newest one “Clover’s Great Escape”? What inspired you to write them?
    My two children's books are both now available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle. My first book, "The Boy Who Loved Broccoli", was to help kids get excited about eating their green vegetables. It's had great success as I've heard from many parents who were amazed at their kids reaction after reading the book to them. They actually are eager to eat broccoli and get superpowers! It was designed to help alleviate that struggle parents have with getting their kids to eat veggies.

    My brand new children's book "Clover's Great Escape" was based on a real-life events. It's about a cow who escapes the slaughterhouse and eventually finds her way into a farm sanctuary. I wrote this book to raise our consciousness about factory farming. It's a real problem in many countries and effects so many things, not just the animals and our bodies but our waterways, our ozone layer, our world. Written in a gentle way, "Clover's Great Escape" was endorsed by farm sanctuaries who loved it as well as two people I highly respect in the plant-based eating industry; John Robbins, author or "Food Revolution" and "Diet For A New America" and also by Neal Barnard, MD, founder of PCRM.org and revolutionary clinical researcher.

    Both books can be found at Veggie-Kids.com or Amazon.com.

      
  7.    
  8. Are there any other projects you are working on?
    As far as future projects, I am currently working hard on a 30-day vegan dinner eCourse I've now officially opened enrollment for my eCourse, The 30-Day Vegan, where moms and dads can sign up to learn how to cook easy, family-friendly vegan dinners for 30 days. I've created delicious recipes that have been kid-tested and approved. The eCourse will include includes meal plans, shopping lists, support and bonus material. I'm hoping to have it launched in late July '14! The course starts August 1st. Enroll here.

  9. Anything else you would like to share?
    People wanting more help with vegan eating can get my FREE Vegan Starter Guide at Veggie-Kids.com, along with a FREE Vegan Q & A's guide, answering the most common questions and concerns about going vegan.




Quick Broccoli Tomato Pasta

This is a fantastic go-to meal during the week when you're pressed for time. Have your kids help you wash the veggies or stir the onions. It's also great served cold the next day for lunch!



Ingredients (makes 8 servings)
1 lb. (16 oz.) whole wheat rotini pasta
1 1/2 tsp. coconut oil (for sautéing)
1 small yellow onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cup fresh broccoli florets
2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (for drizzling)
Sea salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Bring water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta al dente.
  • Meanwhile, sauté onion in a large skillet over medium heat in the coconut oil. Stir and sauté until onions become translucent, about 5-7 minutes, then add garlic and turn heat to low.
  • Stir in vegetable bouillon cube and broccoli, turning the heat back up to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add in tomatoes, oregano, basil, salt, pepper and cooked pasta. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well.

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Thank you Sarah for being part of this wonderful event!


Connect with Sarah:
Veggie-Kids blog
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube (check out her awesome videos!)








Visit the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event main page for updates on participating guest bloggers every week until August 2014.
If you haven't already, follow Veganlovlie by email by clicking on the envelope icon in the sidebar at the top then enter your email address. Or you can subscribe to the Veganlovlie's Sunshine Newsletter.

If you want to link to this event, grab the banner below.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Bringing out the "Kitch" in Risotto



Enlivened by the food culture that I've experienced from having lived in a few countries, my time spent in Europe has opened up my fascination for the Mediterranean cuisine more than I could ever have imagined. Sure enough, with the click of a mouse, nowadays you can "travel" to any country's kitchen, but living the experience is astoundingly peerless. Of the many dishes that I have literally come to enjoy, risotto has been one that it is now pretty much a bi-weekly menu staple at the Lovlie Cocoon.

Where this dish gains its singularity though is from my inherited Mauritian food culture. While I have blogged about what the Mauritian cuisine is like before, it is always an enchantment to hear about your home country from the perspective of a foreigner. Much to surprise today, I came across a colleague who has actually been to Mauritius for a three-week vacation. She described Mauritius as this land lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean where you have people from Indian, Chinese and African origins all mix up in one pot but where the common spoken language  is a Creole-French. Well that's pretty much a concise all-rounder description. Back to the food culture, kitchri is a wonderful homey lightly spiced rice dish that is popular in many Mauritian households and inherited from India. It is cooked with lentils and / or dal (yellow split peas or mung dal) which melt into the rice resulting into a hearty meal of earthy comfort. In Mauritius, this rice dish is very often accompanied by a Mauritian Rougail.
Medleyed with my love for spices and a little bit of added Mauritian pizzazz,  on one day where a one pot rice dish was calling, I whizzed up something between a traditional vegan risotto and a kitchri.
Featuring turmeric infused dal and red lentils into an oozy brown rice 45-minute one-pot meal with no added oil, I quite inadvertently coined the term kitchrisotto - when risotto meets kitchri.



Turmeric Infused Dal and Red Lentil Kitchrisotto

1 cup brown rice
1 cup chana dal
1/2 cup red lentils
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 cube vegetable bouillon
4 - 5 stems fresh thyme
2 carrots
1 broccoli head
8 - 10 fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (or to taste)
Coriander for garnish


  • Rinse the rice, dal and lentils several times until water is clear. Place the grains, along with turmeric, bouillon cube and thyme in a deep cooking pot with 5 cups of water.
  • Cover and let cook on medium heat for about 30 minutes. You may need to occasionally uncover if water and froth is boiling over; in this case, just give it a good stir and position the lid so that it is partly uncovered. Also check the water level and add as required until rice and dal is soft.
  • (Freezing tip: you may freeze a portion of this cooked rice, dal and lentils mix for later, then just defrost and add fresh vegetables for next time. A great time saver.)
  • While grains are cooking, prepare the vegetables. Dice the carrots, slice the mushrooms and cut the broccoli into small florets.
  • Add the vegetables to the rice pot. If most liquid have been absorbed add some more water to enable the vegetables to cook; since this is a risotto, we want it to be oozy.
  • Cover and cook for another 12 - 15 minutes until vegetables are soft or al dente (if you prefer them that way).
  • Turn off heat, garnish with fresh finely chopped coriander and serve.

This makes a great packed lunch.

On another note, watch for the next post which will feature our first guest for the exciting Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 event hosted here for the month of July and August 2014. If you have a kid-friendly recipe that you would like to share for this event, drop me a line at veganlovlie at gmail dot com or by using the contact form at the bottom (in the footer) of the page.

Also, have you checked out the awesome posts at the Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014


Character illustrations on poster - Kevin Mangaroo.
Poster design - Teenuja Dahari

Now that Summer is in full swing, a few blogging friends and I have teamed up to present to you the Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 virtual event.

Do we not all agree that healthy eating habits should start right at an early age?

While some kids enjoy eating their vegetables, others need more encouragement and motivation to do so. Very often, they will turn their nose up even after you've put so much effort into preparing a dish you think they will like. I don't have children of my own but I do remember the creative ways my mum would devise to make dinner time more appetising. For busy mums, time is a key factor. A while ago, we presented some effective tips on how you can encourage your child to eat more vegetables.

So, what is this event about?
The Merry-Go-Veggie-Kids Summer 2014 is a virtual event, hosted by me at Veganlovlie.com where I would be featuring fellow blogging friends throughout the month of July to mid-August. Each blogger will be presenting a kid-friendly vegan recipe that highlights vegetables to inspire parents and to get kids to eat more veggies. Let's make Summer 2014 an unforgettable one both for parents and kids.

We have a selected list of featured guest bloggers for this event, but if you write a vegan-related blog and have a kid-friendly recipe that you would like to share for this event, drop me a line at veganlovlie at gmail dot com or by using the contact form at the bottom (in the footer) of the page. I will be more than happy to feature your recipe here during this event.

You can also share this event by grabbing the poster above or the banner below and link to this post which will be updated with the featured guest bloggers and recipes every week.

Whether you are a busy mum looking for inspiration or you've decided to become vegan and are finding it difficult to convince your kids to do the same, come and join us for this exciting event. Meet new bloggers and try some of their tried and true recipes that work. But most of all let the kids have a blast with vegetables this summer!

Recipes from our featured bloggers:


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Oats Gone Coconut!

A long overdue video which should probably have been posted a few years ago along with what has now become my most visited post to date - Homemade Oat Milk. However, not until when I recently stumbled upon this post from The Tropical Vegan, that I gave my homemade oat milk a whole new spin. It's those moments when you can't help tap yourself on the head thinking why haven't I thought of that before. Seriously, I do sometimes make coconut milk from the desiccated flakes but never have I thought of mixing the two. Indeed, a tablespoon of coconut flakes along with the oats makes a whole lot of difference to the milk. It helps the oat particles hold together better and lessens the sliminess. I never make oat milk any other way now, definitely a keeper. Since both Boyfriendlovlie and I are allergic to most nuts and we have reduced our soy milk consumption to almost zero, the Lovlie Cocoon never goes by a week without at least three batches of oat milk made. We use it in our teas, smoothies, cereals, sauces, baking, you name it.

I've used quick oats, which require no soaking, in the recipe but I have recently started to use oat groats soaked overnight, drained and rinsed before grinding in the same way. Organic oat groats, that I have started to buy in bulk, make a tastier milkier consistency and are cheaper too. If you are allergic to gluten, use gluten free oats.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Pop of Frozen Coziness

Balmy days of late Spring are giving way to warmer ones despite the occasional thundery storms and rattling downpour which seems to have taken quite the bigger slice of the cake this season. Added to this, the 9-to-5 humdrum of work routine barely leaves a splinter of time to mellow out into the enjoyment of Summer days. And yet, because a girl has got to grab a pop of Summer, a frozen treat merely becomes a well-deserved reward if not a necessity.

Watermelon Pineapple Fruitsicles

I have had my days of store-bought nasties with added gums and sugar along with so-called "natural flavours". Oh, no, I want to enjoy the finer things with a dainty homemade popsicle made with 100% fruit, no added sugar. As easy as blending fruits for a smoothie, these ice pops have literally cozied my heart leaving me wonder why I ever bought the commercial ones in the first place. Pineapple makes a perfect ingredient for fruitsicles as they create a creamy froth when blended at high speed. Pair it with watermelon and you get a unique combination that freezes well into a grainier ice texture rather than a solid block. Isn't it true that sometimes the best of things are just the simplest ones?

4 - 6 fruitsicles (depending on mold size)

2 cups watermelon (cut into cubes)
1 cup pineapple pieces (I used fresh pineapple)
1 banana
4 dates
Handful of frozen blueberries (or other fruits cut into small pieces)


  • Add all ingredients, except blueberries, to a blender.
  • Blend at high speed until very smooth and slightly frothy.
  • Place a few blueberries or fruit pieces into each mold.
  • Pour smoothie into popsicle molds.
  • Freeze for at least 3 hours before serving.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

C is for ChuChai

Aside the celebrations, birthdays serve as an irreplicable reminder of the fleet-footedness of yet another year gone by. While I am not one for new year nor birthday resolutions, cuddling up in my thoughts recapping on the past year is as unavoidable as it is replenishing, giving me ground to refocus and reflect on how far I've come. The future is left to its own devise; most of the time, I allow myself to be lulled by the gentle waves of life where decisions seem to take care of themselves as long as I keep myself centered and grounded.

So much has transpired during the past years with changes that have all turned out for the better for Boyfriendlovlie and I, despite the stirring ups and less exciting downs that goes along with immigration procedures. Eighteen months since we first touched the land of the maple leaf have flown by like a breeze. Last month we celebrated both our birthdays, which are just a couple of days apart. So, we tend to celebrate some time in the middle or just push it to the closest weekend. As it so happenned, we planned our little celebration for the second weekend in May. The plan was to spend the mid-afternoon just the two of us strolling about in Montréal's underground city followed by a classic evening with vegan fine dining and a movie to finish the day off.

Montreal's famous underground city has been one of the many places that was on my list to visit. The peculiarity of it, first thing is that you may well be inside it already or standing at the front of an entrance and still be looking for it! Well, that was pretty much what happened to us - Google map indicated we were there but there were no signs that specifically said underground city. A little common sense told us to just not get out of the metro station and instead find an alley that leads deeper inside. And there, from McGill metro, a vast gallery of shops, food court leading to a cinema theatre opened up to us spanned on a 32-kilometre area. In fact, many parts of the "underground city" are above ground, weaving through office buildings, cultural centres, universities and civic institutions. While this is somewhat a tourist attraction, the real concept behind it was undoubtedly to serve as a convenient way of getting from one place to another on those brutal winter days when the temperature plummets horribly below -20 degrees Celsius. Since we do not live on the metro network or close enough, we only got to visit the underground city in Spring. Otherwise, I would have much appreciated the convenience of it many times during the winter season.

Here's a few photos I captured above ground around the Place des Arts metro on our way towards ChuChai Fine Dining Restaurant for dinner.







Finally close to the restaurant, we could not miss the huge C signpost, making it so easy to find.



We were greeted by a very amiable friendly waiter who was so full of life, literally the kind of person whom you cannot but have a light heart by just being around them. The beautiful mid-Spring day called us for seating on the patio as we enjoyed the gentle light breeze while perusing through the menu.



ChuChai exults in a solely Thai vegan menu. The restaurant's chef, Lily Sirikittikul, strives to recreate the shapes, textures and flavours of beef, chicken, shrimp and fish from soy, seitan and other plant-based products with a good selection of gluten-free dishes in the best, freshest exoticness that Thailand has to offer.

From our previous experience of ordering too much food, we decided we were only going for a main course each and one salad to share; besides we only had one hour before our movie would start.

Boyfriendlovlie ordered a Fried "Chicken" Noodle dish which I cannot remember the exact name of; ChuChai does not have their menu available online and I never took notes of what we ordered that day. Unlike me, Boyfriendlovlie does not mind faux meat. The noodle dish was an instant hit! Bursting with an amalgam of so many indistinguishable exotic flavours, this dish sure made it admirably hard to decipher each one. Boyfriendlovlie said he felt envious that he would not actually be able to reproduce this dish by himself. Attempting to reproduce restaurant dishes has almost become one of our restaurant review motto.



For my part, as I tend to steer clear of the faux meats, I figured out the vegan "shrimp" may be an interesting one to try since seafood is something I could probably still eat. "Shrimp" in a Coconut Milk sauce was my choice. And again, this is not the name of the actual dish as per the menu.



An intricate mix of fresh and dense sensation with the distinctive taste of galangal made this dish amiable for this mild mid-Spring weather. With brown rice as accompaniment, the mingled textures were quite remarkably unique.



The humble cucumber salad that we shared had quite some character of its own with a gorgeous quintessential Thai sweet chili dressing and a hint of tanginess.



Since everything on the menu is vegan, we vowed to ourselves to revisit again. If faux is not your thing, ChuChai does have a nice selection of wholesome vegetable or tofu dishes on the menu. And for those of you living with an omnivore partner, it's the perfect place to go for fine dining and keep everyone happy.

4088, rue St-Denis
Montréal, Québec
H2W 2M5

After our satisfyingly memorable meal, we made our way to the theatres to end this beautiful day watching The Amazing Spider-man 2. Both of us are utter fans of Spider-man. Isn't his wittiness killing cool? This one was utterly much bigger on the action scenes.

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