Friday Delights: Vegan Keftedes

Matt comes from a Greek family that is quickly helping me become well-versed in Greek cuisine. Greek food is delicious, fresh, unique, and I rarely get tired of it. Greek food also seems to have two sides: naughty and nice. On the one hand we have tzatziki, Greek salads, melitzanosalta, plenty of grilled seafood, souvlaki, etc. On the other hand we have heavier things like moussaka, taramasalata (MY FAVORITE!), gyros, and… Keftedes. Keftedes are deliciously seasoned fried meatballs that are perfect paired with some creamy tzatziki. In the past I have replaced ground beef with lentils when I want to turn a traditionally meat dish vegan, so I decided to use this method and attempt a vegan keftede. The result was tasty, healthy, and easy enough to add to my weekday dinner line-up.

DSC_0017

Vegan Keftedes

2 cups of cooked lentils (these can be plain or seasoned, just watch the salt if they’re already seasoned)

1/2 cup of ground flaxseed

1/3 cup of water

2 TSB of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp of dry oregano

1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

polenta or cornmeal for rolling

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
  2. Place the lentils, flaxseed, water, and olive oil in bowl and mash until you have a consistency that is malleable but still has some whole lentils for texture.
  3. Add the minced garlic, oregano, mint, and parsley and mix together with a spoon. Then add the salt and pepper and taste. It’s ok to go a little over salty on this one as the saltiness will lessen once they are cooked.
  4. Pour some polenta on a working space and roll 1-2TBS size balls of the mixture in your hands and then in the polenta to give the exterior a nice crunch coat.
  5. Grease a baking sheet, line up the balls, and bake for 20 minutes, turning the keftedes halfway through.
  6. Serve with tzatziki and enjoy!

These are high in fiber, vegan, gluten-free, and naturally healthy. We enjoyed ours with tzatziki, a salad, and rice 🙂

Hope you have a happy Friday!

xo,

Natalia

Chocolate: The most important food group

I’m baaaaaaaaack! Yikes! Sorry for my absence, lots and lots of stuff happening over here and unfortunately the bloggie got pushed to the side 😦 but onwards and upwards, let’s get to the exciting little treat I’m sharing today. I’m a boring breakfast gal, I like my fruit and coffee and that’s it. Matt (le boyfriend) is so much better at breakfast than me and does this overnight oats concoction with all kinds of superfoods mixed in. Sometimes I get jealous and sneak a few bites, but I always go back to fruit. Anyway, this morning I was feeling adventurous and decided to make my own version using chocolate Sun Warrior. I always thought protein powder was reserved for those who are interested in building some serious muscle. Then I realized, as a wannabe vegan, I’m not getting much protein any way so a little extra can’t hurt. Sun Warrior is of the raw vegan variety and the ingredients are phenomenal (hemp seed protein, pea protein, cranberry protein, and so on). This recipe is a delicious little breakfast, but also a perfect pre/post workout snack. It hit the chocolate craving sweet spot and I will definitely be making it again. After all, chocolate is the most important food group. Right?

chocolate chia pudding

Chocolate Chia Pudding

serves 1

1/2 scoop of Chocolate Sun Warrior

1 TBS of chia seeds

1/2 TBS hemp seeds

1 TBS of unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably raw cacao but I didn’t have any)

coconut milk

dash of sea salt

 

Place the chia seeds and hemp seeds in a small bowl and cover with coconut milk. Leave to thicken for at least 15 minutes (preferably over night). Then mix in the Sun Warrior, salt and cocoa, if the mixture is too thick add a bit of water until you reach your desired consistency. I find Sun Warrior sweet enough, but feel free to add a bit of stevia/honey/agave if your sweet tooth calls. Devour.

 

Enjoy your Monday!

 

xo,

Natalia

Juicy Wednesday: Carrot Cake in a Glass

Happy Wednesday! Is it just me or is this week flying? Maybe I’m just excited for my Friday departure, but I’m glad that it’s already Wednesday 🙂

We’re off in two days and the mania of packing and tying up loose ends before we go, has begun. Amidst the chaos there is order, and while I joke that I might mysteriously miss my flight back to South Africa… I really think I will miss the old girl. It might have something to do with biltong

I like trying to keep it clean when I’m on vacation, but I definitely don’t deprive myself of the delicacies only available when one is on holiday. For example, I’m very excited to try BabycakesNYC (is there a cuter name for a bakery? no.) and get my Starbucks fix of Pumpkin Spice Lattes. Until then, my mind is already in treat-mode and this Carrot Cake inspired juice is a good way quell an inner treat beast.

carrot juice

Carrot Cake in a Glass

serves 2

5 large carrots

2-3 apples

1 cup coconut water

1 inch of ginger

1 tsp of cinnamon

1/2 tsp of nutmeg

Wash the carrots, apple and ginger. Juice. Whisk in the coconut water, cinnamon and nutmeg. Enjoy!

Some Benefits:

Hydrating (coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes); excellent for skin and eye health; high in Vitamin A, B2, B6, C, beta carotene; good for digestive health; weight loss (cinnamon is natural appetite suppressant); good for blood circulation; good for the brain (nutmeg can improve concentration and relieve anxiety).

 

See you Friday babycakes!

xo,

Natalia

Juicy Wednesdays: Coconut Milk

Happy Spring to my South Africans and Happy Pumpkin Season to my Americans 🙂

First off, apologies are in order for the a) hiatus and b) lack of guest post on Friday. Unfortunately life got in the way this past week, but I have it on good order that a sprouting post will be coming our way soon. Regardless, I’m back and today I’m sharing one of my favorite new discoveries: homemade coconut milk.

Now let me just start by making one thing very clear: my love of coconut is only surpassed by one thing: pumpkin. I spoke of my pumpkin infatuation in this post, so I think you can see why this was so exciting. Coconut milk from a can often has so many additives that it loses a lot of its nutritional advantages and picks up some preservatives along the way. Homemade coconut milk is better nutritionally AND in terms of flavor. Furthermore, you can control what goes into the milk and decide how sweet/plain/creamy you want it to come out.

This milk is easy, cheaper than its almond version, and an excellent milk alternative.

coconut-dreams

 

(coconut dreams)

Coconut Milk

2 cups of dried coconut (soaked overnight)

3-4 cups of water depending on your creaminess preference

1 tsp of vanilla (optional)

Pinch of salt

1TBS of liquid sweetener of choice (agave, maple syrup and honey are all good options)

  1. Find dried coconut that is shred into larger pieces if possible (preferably organic), finely desiccated coconut won’t have the same effect. Measure out 2 cups and soak in water for at least 6-8 hours.
  2. Drain the coconut, place in blender, add desired amount of water (3 cups yields a creamier milk than 4 cups) and blend for 1 -2 minutes, until the mixture looks nice and creamy.
  3. Strain through a nut milk bag, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, and reserve pulp.
  4. Place the milk back into the blender with optional vanilla, salt and sweetener and blend for 30 more seconds.
  5. Enjoy! Store the milk in the fridge and give it a good shake before every use, should keep for up to 5 days.

The coconut pulp can be spread on a baking sheet and dehydrated (oven at 50C or a dehydrator) for several hours until it becomes coconut flour. If the texture comes out clumpy after several hours of dehydration, just give it a spin in the blender or food processor until it resembles fine flour.

Some health benefits of coconut milk: high levels of magnesium, selenium, calcium, copper and vitamin C. The results of these include: good for the skin, nervous system, joins and bones!

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, coconuts!

 

xo,

Natalia

 

Juicy Wednesdays: Ginger Shooters

Time for another Juicy Wednesday! Today I’m sharing a shooter rather than a juice. You’ve probably heard of people taking ginger or wheat grass shots? Well, they’re basically a blast of power. A ginger shot can reduce arthritis pain almost instantly, as well as ease morning sickness in pregnant women. They are strong, but in a good way, and are best taken on an empty stomach. Because the flavor of ginger is so intense, it’s nice to compliment it with other flavors, and fennel and apple are a lovely addition. Below is a recipe for a Ginger Shooter with apple and fennel to soften the blow. Some of the health benefits include:

Ginger:

  • Reduces inflammation
  • Natural anti-histamine
  • Anti-viral
  • Immune system booster
  • Relieves nausea and motion sickness

Fennel

  • Calms the digestive system
  • Reduces intestinal cramps and gas
  • Good for the gut
  • Anti-inflammatory

Apple

  • Vitamins A, B1, B2, C and E
  • Pectin, ellagic, malic acid and more

ginger shot (source)

Natalia’s Ginger Shooters

serves 2

1 large chunk of ginger

1-2 apples

2 fennel bulbs with stalks and stems

Clean everything and juice. If you’re struggling to fill two shot glasses, add more ginger. Feeling fancy? Sprinkle some cinnamon on top, and enjoy!

 

Bottoms up!

 

xo,

Natalia

Friday Delights: Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Those who know me well in the States, know that I have a pumpkin problem. I was never that into Pumpkin Pie (although that has changed), but when Starbucks released the notorious Pumpkin Spice Latte many years ago, a pumpkin junkie was born. Whether in coffee, baked treats, smoothies, ice cream, cheesecake, ravioli, you name it… if it has pumpkin in it, I will eat it and probably with a little more gusto than is ladylike.

Flavor aside, the health benefits of pumpkin are also something to get excited about. That orange gourd-like squash is packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene (an anti-oxidant that plays a role in cancer prevention and is great for your skin), potassium, to name a few. 

Pumpkin Spice is a seasonal favorite associated with Autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving in America, and since it is Autumn (verging on Winter) here in South Africa, my taste buds were calling. Below is a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Muffins that I adapted from Oh Ladycakes‘. These muffins are seriously one of the best things to ever come out of my kitchen, they are vegan and make a delicious treat or indulgent breakfast, enjoy!

pumpkinmuffins

Pumpkin Spice Muffins

makes 12 muffins

½ c. melted coconut oil

¾ c. raw organic sugar (or granulated sweetener of choice)

1 TBSP blackstrap molasses

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup pumpkin puree*

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon of ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon of ground ginger

¾ teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of baking soda

½ c. coconut cream

2 ¼ cups of whole wheat flour (or flour of choice)

¼ cup of unsweetened finely shredded coconut

 

Crumble topping

3 TBSP of coconut oil (in its hard state, should resemble a cold butter texture)

¼ cup of sugar

1/2 tablespoon of molasses

6 TBSP of flour

2 tsp of cinnamon

½ teaspoon of vanilla

Pinch of salt

*pumpkin puree is found canned in the States, so if you don’t have access to the canned version just steam some pumpkin and blend.

 

1. Preheat oven to 190C and line a regular-sized muffin tray with 12 liners or simply grease the tray

2. In a large bowl mix melted coconut oil, sugar, blackstrap molasses and vanilla.

3. Add pumpkin puree, spices, salt, baking soda and mix

4. Slowly add cream and flour, and mix

5. Stir in coconut and divide between muffin cups (you’ll want to fill each tin about 2/3 of the way). Set aside.

6. For the crumble topping: in a separate bowl cut the coconut oil with the rest of the crumble ingredients, until it feels like coarse meal, a few large clumps are fine.

7. Divide the mixture between all 12 muffins

8. Pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes

9. Enjoy!

 

Enjoy your weekend!

 

xo,

Natalia

20 healthy swaps

life

 

(source)

You know that whole “it’s not about dieting, it’s about changing your lifestyle” thing? Well, it’s 100% true if you’re looking for something long-lasting and sustainable.  A healthy clean diet goes hand-in-hand with sustainable and green living as it primarily cuts out the crap. The best way to approach this is to look at your current diet and find room for improvement, without completely shocking it. Baby steps. Here are my top 20 healthy swaps:

 

Swap this…. ….for that!

1. Sugar

Xylitol, brown sugar, raw sugar or stevia
2. Salt

Try to cut down on salt in general, but if you must then go for something higher quality like Himalayan, Sea or Kalahari salts

3. Generic honey

Agave, High quality maple syrup or raw organic Honey. Most honeys off the shelf are not that great for you, so try to use sparingly in general

4. Milk Chocolate

Dark chocolate, 70% or higher

5. Cooking oils

Coconut oil or a pat of butter

6. Margarine or any oil-based spreads

Butter. Butter trumps any of that processed crap that they claim is “better” for you. Just use sparingly.

7. Cous Cous

Quinoa or Millet

8. Bread Gluten free bread (read labels though, sometimes that stuff comes with processed nonsense) or lettuce/cabbage cups
9. White rice

Brown or Wild rice

10. Salad dressing

Balsamic, Raw Apple Cider vinegar, or lemon juice with a bit of olive oil

11. White potato

Sweet potato

12. Pasta

Gluten-free pastas (there are varieties, some are even made from brown rice) or spiralized vegetables like zucchini or sweet potato

13. Chips and salty snacks

air-popped popcorn

14. Cow’s milk and Soy milk

Nut/seed milks, rice milk, coconut milk or oat milk (just read labels carefully if store-bought)

15. Cream in warm dishes

Coconut cream

16. Mayonnaise

Mashed avocado

17. Cereal/Oatmeal

Steel-Cut, rolled, unprocessed oats

18. Ice Cream

blended frozen bananas
19. Chocolate sauce

Melt natural peanut butter with a bit of cocoa powder and raw honey, or melt cacao nibs with raw honey

20. Peanut Butter

Other nut butters (like almond or cashew) are better for you, but peanut butter is fine as long as it is natural. When buying a nut butter just check the label and make sure the nuts are the only ingredient aside from maybe a bit of salt.

 

*note: honey is not technically vegan, but I prefer raw honey to agave so it’s mentioned quite a bit here. If you are vegan, just replace raw honey with a good quality agave or high grade maple syrup.

Enjoy your Thursday and see you tomorrow for another Friday Delights post 🙂

 

xo,

Natalia