Sunday, 30 November 2014

Let Me Introduce Myself.....


Hi, my name is Leah and with my blog 'just frank' still in its infancy and as I still work on getting a schedule of writing frequency in place, I am pleasantly surprised to have so many of you subscribing to email updates already. I am also amazed at how far and wide the net has been cast with many subscribers and readers from interstate, which pleases me no end.
The purpose of my blog is to share with those visiting, some useful information on a plant based diet and its health benefits in the form of recipes, gardening tips, lifestyle information and articles introducing you to things you may not have been aware of while embarking on the journey to health and wellness.
I would like to share with you a little of my background so that you have an idea as to the angle I am coming at all of this from.
Firstly, Id like to make it clear that I have no professional training in this field. No certificates, degrees or diplomas. Any information that I share with you here is purely from what I have witnessed, researched and personally experienced in my own life as I've journeyed from 'there' to 'here.'
Up until I was 30 years of age, I ate a standard diet, meat and 3 veggies and a plethora of junk food. It was nothing for me to sit on the couch after tea of an evening and consume a bag of potato chips, a large bowl of ice-cream with lashings of chocolate topping all washed down with the a couple of glasses of Coke. While on the subject of Coke, at the height of my health breakdown, I was consuming about 2 litres of this chemical and sugar laden beverage a day.
At the age of 32, my body and my mind said 'no more,' a host of medical issues gradually came forth to indicate to me that some lifestyle changes needed to be made, and when one of them required specialist advice, the wheels of inevitable change were set in motion. Surgery was recommended for a 'women's problem' that was giving me an enormous amount of grief but I was reluctant as I carefully considered the many years of medication that would then be the result. I asked the specialist for some thinking time, which he gave me and I went on to consult a Physician for further advice. Although blunt, the Physician gave me some much needed advice about my wellbeing and lifestyle, and armed with this, I began my journey towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Overnight, and without hesitation, I gave up all junk food. Everything. Within a week, I had eliminated red meat and in the coming months, chicken and fish as well. Under supervision, I also set up a regular exercise programme, which combined with my new found nutritional health, had me feeling the best I had ever felt.  I remained Vegetarian for 2 years until, for both health and ethical reasons, I became Vegan, eliminating both eggs and dairy from my Lacto-ovarian diet.
In 2005, at the age of 41 and after some ongoing episodes of depression, my battle with Anorexia Nervosa began, a near fatal dance which lasted for approximately 6 years in varying degrees of severity. My health declined rapidly as did the state of my marriage and the relationships with those around me.
Late in 2009, my marriage ended and so began my solo journey, which in hindsight, could have easily ended very badly had it not been for the unwavering support of my 3 beautiful daughters and my amazing and compassionate GP. *I am more than happy to talk more about my recovery from Anorexia in future blogs for those interested, in the hope that I may inspire someone on a similar trajectory.
The last 5 years have been such an amazing journey for me and I sometimes need to pinch myself to be reminded of how far I've come. (Old photos are a haunting leveller!) My food choices remain Vegan for ethical and health reasons but when I think back as to how unwell I felt 20 years ago, the health aspect propels me forward with gusto. I seriously cannot imagine living any other way now.
I thank you all for your support so early in this part of my journey and I look forward to your company on the next leg.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

An Unlikely 'Garden-bed' Fellow

If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you will probably get used to me talking up the benefits of planting, maintaining and reaping the benefits from a home grown veggie patch, a trend that seems to be on the increase as more and more people make the connection between the quality of the food they eat and their wellbeing.
In my work as a Freelance Gardener. I've assisted many a client in the setting up of a 'fruitful' veggie patch, many of them created in small spaces as busy or aging people opt more and more for unit type dwellings with only a courtyard as their garden space.
An apparent lack of space is no barrier to fulfilling the desire to 'grow your own,' in fact I've seen some fantastic crops grown in containers that were never designed to hold such things.
One of the best ideas I've seen is the utilisation of wooden pallets set up as either as vertical gardens or laying flat on the ground on a concrete or paved area.
A few years ago, in my attempt to create more garden space, I brought 3 wooden pallets into my yard, covered the bottoms and sides with shade cloth secured with heavy duty staples and filled them with a good quality garden soil from the local garden supply centre. This gave me a huge amount of extra space in which I successfully grew Butter Lettuce, Dwarf Beans, Baby Carrots and a fantastic selection of herbs.
Vertical gardens are another way of utilising space that would normally be left bare and again, wooden pallets are a great way to achieve this. Strawberries thrive in a vertical garden as the overhang gives the fruiting tendrils room to 'droop' and as the fruit has no contact with the soil, it stays lovely and clean. Protecting the fruit from the birds with netting is still a must.
Another great idea is container gardening, any container. I've been growing Lebanese Zucchini in some discarded wooden dressing table drawers this season with great success. There are so many vegetable varieties out there now in either dwarf form or that simply lend themselves to this type of growing container. Even the successful growing of a compact variety of Tomato plant in a medium to large pot may be enough to inspire you to expand on the size of your veggie patch.
I promise you, the flavour of a home grown Tomato or Strawberry will be enough to entice you to consider setting up a veggie patch if you haven't already done so.
Happy gardening.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Natures Little Green Vitamin Pills

Just a handful of Pumpkin Seeds (Pepitas) a day on your breakfast cereal, in a stir-fry or as a tasty snack with nuts and dried fruit brings a host of health benefits including those listed below.
For anyone interested in maintaining good health, they are a rich source of essential nutrients and one of natures little vitamin pills. I certainly make good use of this amazing 'superfood' on a daily basis.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

What Milk is That?

Milk Alternatives '101.'

I suspect I was lactose intolerant long before it was a common diagnosis of touchy tummy issues and bloating and I suffered painfully at the hands of anything I consumed that contained more than a mere trace of dairy. As a child, milkshakes had me projectile vomiting at school fetes and public outings and cheese and yoghurt did horrible things to my intestinal tract and bowels. (I'll spare you the details!)
Back in the day, it went undiagnosed, not through lack of attentiveness, but more because it wasn't widely recognised as an issue that could be fairly easily remedied by a simple dietary change. I say simple, and while some people struggle to give up their beloved dairy foods, with cheese often being the most difficult to ditch, I happily gave it all up in preference for a normal functioning digestive system.
Fast forward a couple of decades and choosing a vegan lifestyle gives me an added incentive to give up even the smallest amount of dairy in my diet.
These days, there are so many alternatives to cows milk that they almost take up the same amount of shelf space in the supermarket and most of these are also relatively simple to make from the comfort of your own kitchen. Deliciously creamy and tasty, many store purchased varieties are fortified with Vitamin D and an extra serving of calcium if that's something that you think you aren't getting enough of elsewhere in your diet.
I would always strongly recommend some scrutinising of labels when first choosing a brand as many of them contain too many additives for my liking including sugar and preservatives. When I'm not making my own, I always choose organic and with the least number of added ingredients.
Below is a list of the most commonly available milks but there are many others that I'm yet to try. Cashew Nut Milk is right up there on my list of yummy things to source.....
In a future blog, I will share with you some tips on making your preferred variety at home.


Soy milk is arguably the most popular and easiest-to-find non-dairy milk on the market. Made from soybeans, soy milk has just as much protein as dairy milk does and is a great source of calcium and vitamin D. Since a lot of supermarket chains make their own store-brand versions now, soy milk can be very easy on your wallet although I would always recommend choosing the organic option with no added extras which is most often more expensive.

 

Almond milk is made from—you guessed it—almonds. This non-dairy milk has a tasty nutty flavor, and it’s also great for vegans with soy allergies since it’s soy-free. Almonds are a great source of protein, fibre, vitamin E, and calcium, so you really can’t go wrong with this one. You can even easily make your own almond milk which I will go into in a future blog.

    Rice milk is a grain milk processed from rice. Like almond milk, rice milk is also soy-free, and it’s also handy if you’ve got a tree-nut allergy. When fortified, this milk can be a great way to get calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D2 and is also easily made at home.

    Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds and has a nutty taste like almond milk. Hemp milk is a great source of protein, and it’s also rich in all 10 essential amino acids, including omega-3 and omega-6. Like rice milk, hemp milk is great if you’ve got a soy or a tree-nut allergy, and it’s also great if you’re just looking for a tasty nondairy alternative.



    Coconut milk is made from the water that comes from the “meat” of a coconut. If you don’t like the taste of coconut, you may not be into coconut milk, but if you’re a big fan, you’re in for a treat. Coconut milk is also a great source of calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D!

    Oat milk is made with pre-soaked oat groats, which are hulled grains broken into fragments. Oat milk features a mild, slightly sweet taste, and can be used in the same way as rice milk or soy milk. Western herbalists recommend oat milk as a tonic for the nervous system. Oat milk is very low in fat and lactose free. Another fantastic milk to make at home.


    Wednesday, 19 November 2014

    Live, Love, Chocolate.

    I absolutely love cooking my own meals and have become passionate about not only cooking other peoples vegan recipes, but also about creating my own from scratch as well as 'veganising' standard non-vegan recipes.
    Experimenting with baked goods such as biscuits, cakes and muffins is probably the thing I love most about vegan cooking and the following recipe is a standard favourite Chocolate Cake recipe that I've only just adapted this week with great success. It's had the taste test and has received the thumbs up for texture and flavour and for the generous slathering of chocolate icing and grated white soy chocolate that I added to the top.
    Give it a try and if you have any questions, give me a yell through the contact form on the right hand side of the blog home page.

    Veganised Chocolate Cake

    Ingredients

    1 cup SR flour
    2 tablespoons raw cacao powder or cocoa
    3/4 cup sugar
    90g softened vegan margarine
    2 flax eggs (see recipe under very vegan tab)
    1/2 cup almond/soy/rice milk

    Beat all together until thick and creamy and bake in a loaf tin in a moderate oven for 25-30 minutes.
    Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack.

    When cool, make icing using:
    1 cup icing sugar
    1 tablespoon vegan margarine
    enough hot water to make a thickish icing.
    I then grated some white soy chocolate over the top.
    *once you've made the flax eggs, I skip the refrigeration step and whisk them into the milk before adding it to the other ingredients. This ensures a lump free mix.
    If you intend experimenting further with flax eggs, I highly recommend purchasing a mini whisk available from Live-In Kitchens. (for my local peeps.) These are so much easier to work with for this task than the larger varieties of whisk.

    Tuesday, 18 November 2014

    The Invitation


    It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

    It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

    I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

    I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic or remember the limitations of being human.

    It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

    I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, 'Yes.'

    It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after a  night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

    It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

    It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

    I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

    ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer~

    Monday, 17 November 2014

    Kids in the Kitchen

    These fritters are a great way to encourage kids to eat veggies in any combination you/they prefer and the recipe is so simple, that the kids can be involved in the process of making them too. The veggies listed here are only suggestions and can be substituted for others if desired. Grated pumpkin or sweet potato, chopped mushrooms, capsicum or even frozen mixed veggies are also great options and some chopped fresh parsley always works a treat. Served with your favourite salad or in a bread roll as a 'burger' substitute, I'm sure they'll be a winner.


    Vegetable Fritters

    Ingredients

    1/2 cup plain flour (I prefer wholemeal for extra fibre)
    1/2 cup soy, almond or rice milk,
    1/2 cup of either peas or corn
    1 medium zucchini grated
    1 medium carrot grated
    1/2 cup broccoli florets finely chopped
    1/2 brown onion finely diced
    1/2 teaspoon veggie stock powder
    Salt and pepper to taste.

    Whisk the flour and soy milk to form a batter then add stock powder.
    Stir through the veggies and season to taste with salt and pepper.
    Heat a large frying pan over a high heat and add a little olive oil.
    Add a tablespoon of the mixture to the pan at a time, shaping into small rounds.
    Cook the fritters until brown on one side then flip over carefully and cook the other side.
    Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.

    Sunday, 16 November 2014

    A Sunday Pep Talk.

    I don't know about you, but Sundays always have that bitter/sweet element running through them for me. Its like you want to embrace the day and take in every experience it offers, (coz heaven knows, its your day off) but Monday is always looming, consuming your thoughts and threatening to shorten your Sunday by the mere fact that you aren't living in the moment.
    Take heart my friends...you aren't alone but keep in mind that this is your moment and it's the only moment there is despite what your wandering thoughts are telling you. Embrace what's left of your Sunday, each moment, one at a time and never stop being 'awesome!'
    Click on the link below for a timely Sunday pep talk.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-gQLqv9f4o

    Wednesday, 12 November 2014

    Get Your Veggie on!

    The veggie patch is thriving at the moment and for those who may be interested in some fresh organic produce, I am going to be making some available for sale when quantities are in surplus to my requirements.
    At the moment I have a few bunches of Silverbeet, some bags of Spinach leaves and a few bunches of Curley Leaf Parsley. 
    Please contact me via the form on the right hand side of this page if you are interested or would be interested in being notified of future produce as it becomes available. 😊

    Tuesday, 11 November 2014

    The Case of the Disappearing Spinach

    With a surplus of Spinach in the veggie garden at present, I've been picking and blanching large quantities to go into the freezer for use in smoothies, soups and veggie burgers at a later date. What often looks like a huge quantity and takes seemingly forever to pick, cooks down to a meager amount of useable produce.
    It's a labour of love though, as I 'squirrel' away in the freezer almost anything that is surplus to my requirements for the months when this produce is out of season.