The Sweet Life

Gone are the days when I would spend a week diligently making my way through a tub of Streets Peppermint Chocolate Swirl Ice-cream, a Cadbury Milk Choc Block or A Twix bar. But it is the week of love (Happy Valentine’s and all) so I thought it was time to get cracking and make a little somethin’ sweet for myself.

 

Don’t hate me….im about to make your life that much sweeter….and delicious…and nutty….and salty….and delectably divine.

 

I present my version of a raw snickers bar.  It’s been on my hit list for quite some time but honestly I try to steer clear of ‘treats’ because I get easily addicted. Even though I have good self-restraint I have a bite or two everyday…until the whole batch is gone.

 

These babies can last in your freezer for up to a month, perfect for unexpected guests.  All the equipment you need is a blender or food processor and a freezer. I kid you not.

The only mess I made was melted chocolate all of my little hands…and maybe my face after I licked my fingers…

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Raw Snickers

The Nougat Base

Ingredients:

–       1/3 Cup raw hazelnuts

–       2 tablespoons raw pinenuts

–       3 tablespoons organic maple syrup

–       1 tablespoons organic peanut butter

–       2 tablespoon raw peanuts (or 2 extra tablespoons of peanut butter)

–       ½ teaspoon organic vanilla essence

–       1 pinch of pink salt

 

Method:

1.  Mix all ingredients in the food processor until smooth.

2.  Spread into a bread tin/square container lined with baking paper (1 cm thick)

3. Place in the freezer and start making the caramel.

 

The Caramel

Ingredients:

–       10 medjool dates (pitted)

–       ½ teaspoon organic vanilla essence

–       ½ teaspoon pink salt (or more to taste)

–       1 tablespoon warm water (add more if your processor requires but try to add as little as possible so caramel is thick)

–       ½ cup raw peanuts

 

Method:

  1. Add all ingredients EXCEPT the peanuts and mix in the food processor to form a smooth salty caramel paste.  Taste and add more salt if not salty enough.
  2. Stir through the raw peanuts.
  3. Remove container with the nougat from the freezer and layer the caramel and peanut paste over the top evenly.
  4. Place back in the freezer for at least 1 hour (I left mine overnight).
  5. After it is frozen slice into small rectangular bars (approx. 1.5cm x 3cm)
  6. Place back in the freezer while you prepare the raw chocolate.

 

The Raw Chocolate

Ingredients:

–       ¼ cup coconut oil

–       ½ tbs cacao butter

–       2 tbs organic maple syrup

–       4 tablespoons raw cacao powder (sifted)

–       pinch of pink salt

 

Method:

  1. On the lowest heat melt the coconut oil and cacao butter in a saucepan.
  2. Once melted remove from heat and whisk in maple syrup, salt and sifted raw cacao powder (important it is sifted to avoid clumping).

 

The Final Assembly

1.  Line a flat plate or tray with baking paper.

2.  Get the small nougat/caramel bars from the freezer and dip into the melted chocolate.  You might want to do this 3-4 times to ensure chocolate is nice and thick coating the bar completely.

3.  Place on the flat baking paper lined tray and pop back into the freezer for 10 mins (if you can wait!).

 

Note: I store my snickers in an air tight plastic container in the freezer and eat them straight from the freezer where they can last for up to a month.  Delicious!

 

 

 

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How best to tackle a challenging situation?

It’s that time again.  Time to put the honesty hat on and brace yourself for an argument.

Whether it be a difficult and honest conversation with a friend, employee or client we often freak out, get nervous and lose our shhhhh$t…before the conversation has even begun.  Our brains rehearse every possible scenario and we often go in expecting the worse.

There are 4 pillars to keep in mind when tacking the traumatic convo:

–       Prepare: Know exactly what you want to say.  Write it down and read over it a few times.  The more you know your stuff, the less likely you are to waffle on and allow emotion to mount.

–       Use Evidence:  Stick to the facts.  “I asked you to do this in this email, and this is what you have given me”.  No one can argue with fact (unless you’re a 10 year old child…and you will just argue with everything!)

–       Eliminate Emotion: I’m not telling you to be a robot and not be empathetic when communicating sad/bad news, however it is best not to hold the persons hand and shed a tear with them.  Stay strong.  The best way to do this is back to preparation, expect various outcomes and decide the best way to react.

–       Confidence: Be confident when communicating.  If you are confident in what you are communicating, the individual is more likely to be comfortable.

Whilst these 4 pillars are terrific for tackling a challenging conversation, they can be applied to many situations in life.

Last week I was given a mission:  Cook a plant-based dinner for 4 of my lovely girlfriends.  What do I cook people who eat what I don’t eat anymore?? (think wine, bread, pasta, chocolate, chips, lollies, but also lots of fruit, veg – these are some healthy but ‘normal’ girls).

I prepared, I stuck to some evidence (what do our tastebuds LOVE?!), I eliminated emotion (don’t freak out when they tell you the green juice tastes like the grass they ate that day in kindergarten) and I was confident serving them some tasty deliciously nourishing food.

The verdict? They requested the recipe…for the juice, asked how to make the ‘pasta’ and are addicted the to raw ‘cheesecake’…more about that one later.

Here I give you…

Caramalised Maple, Balsamic & Coconut Roasted Pumpkin served with Basil & Pine Nut Pesto ‘Pasta’.

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Caramalised Maple, Balsamic & Coconut Roasted Pumpkin (serves 4)

Ingredients:

–       Half a butternut pumpkin cut into wedges. (approx. 6cm long by 2cm thick.
1 wedge per person)

–       1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

–       1 tablespoon organic maple syrup

–       2 tablespoons organic coconut oil

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Melt coconut oil and whisk with balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.
  3. Pour mixture over pumpkin wedges and rub in.
  4. Gently place each pumpkin wedge on the baking tray and place tray in the oven for 20 minutes.
  5. Turn pumpkin half way through to ensure caramalisation on each side.
  6. After 20 minutes gently poke pumpkin in the centre with a fork to ensure it is cooked in the centre (fork should easily go in).

Basil & Pinenut Pesto Pasta (serves 4)

Ingredients:

–       4 organic zucchinis

–       1 cup baby spinach

–       2 cups fresh basil leaves

–       2 tablespoons olive oil

–       ½ cup toasted pinenuts

–       2 cloves of garlic

–       pinch of pink salt & black pepper

–       juice of half a lemon

Method:

–       Mix all ingredients except zucchini in a small food processor or blender.  If using a blender please pulse, stop half way through and mix with a spoon to ensure an even and chunky texture.

–       For the ‘pasta’ use a vegetable spiraler or potato peeler and form long strips of ‘zucchini pasta’.

–       In a large bowl coat ‘zucchini pasta’ with pesto.

–       To serve place a pumpkin wedge upright on a flat plate.  Using tongs pick up some ‘pasta’ strips and twist the tongs a few times so the pasta wraps around the tongs.  Gently place the tongs on the plate and release the pasta so it is a circle of pasta strips wrapped around each other (see picture).  Decorate with fresh basil leaves and whole pinenuts.

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The Art of Staying Healthy

I have a confession. I fell off the bandwagon…as in ate all the food that I know my body hates…but my brain and my tastebuds are tantalised by.

It was my best friends birthday, so cheese…bread….wine…were all on the menu. I got sick….I could feel my stomach seize up and begin grumbling ‘WHYYYYYYYY, WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!’

But it was worth it and I couldn’t tell you the last time I had indulged in unhealthy foods.

Nobody is perfect and it’s okay to fall off the wagon once in a while.

It reminded me why I need to be extra careful when it comes to eating. I need to make sure I am nourishing my body, not just treating my senses.

Whilst I am a big advocate for healthy eating and stick to a plant-based diet in order to nourish, heal and restore, I do realise that it is tough.  There are times when I just want to whine to anyone who will listen about how I just want to be ‘normal’ for a day (aka let my body take a trip to hell and eat muffins, milkshakes, burgers, fries and wash it all down with a good bottle of wine, or a cocktail or 10).  But the truth is, I’m kind of lucky my body is so responsive so I can form good habits now so I can hopefully avoid chronic disease in the future.

How do I do it? Substitutes are my go to.  Instead of milk I have nut milk, instead of yoghurt I have coconut yogurt, instead of Pepsi Max I have coconut water, instead of muffins I have vegan grain free muffins, instead of Dairy Milk I have quinoa chocolate.  Life is still brilliant and honestly a bit more tasty…and did I mention I feel fab?!

Recently I have been on the prowl for some more healthy drinks to have while my friends booze up.  This may also help a few of you joining in for ‘Feb Fast’.

Coconut Water is amazing but you can only drink so much right.

Kombucha is my next favourite drink AND I make it at home so it’s cheap but again, you can only drink so much probiotic rich fermented fruity tea.

My solution? Let me introduce Bionade (pronounced Bee-oh-nah-dee). The second best selling soft drink in Germany which is organic AND fermented.

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Bionade contains super low sugar, is free from preservatives, colourants and artificial flavours and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It contains plenty of good stuff like calcium and magnesium, super low in sodium and phosphorous free. And for those of you who are calorie conscious…it is 60% less calories than normal soft drink.

There are also some amazing flavours to choose from which are Ginger & Orange, Lychee, Elderberry (my fav!), and Herbs.  The best thing about these soft drinks is they aren’t super sweet so you can drink more than one without a problem.

The perfect summery solution for a Feb Fast Booze-y BBQ.

You can grab them from various Health Stores or www.drinks-logistics.com.au.

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My other fav substitute brands for alcohol are JT’s Coconut Essence (Coconut Water), Mojo’s Kombucha or Sparkling Mineral Water with fresh lime or lemon.

Delish! …And healthy. Now I can get back on the wagon for another year. Cheers!

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Why is saying thank you good for everyone?

As a positive psychologist I can assure you that when your parents taught you the importance of saying those two small words ‘thank you’, they weren’t just doing it to make themselves look like good parents.  They were also doing it to help you out.

Whilst many people believe that saying thanks is a kind gesture to the person you are thanking, research conducted by Grant & Gino (2010), reveals that showing a bit of gratitude is good for the giver too.  Additionally, they found that if you thanked someone, the person being thanked was more likely to go out of their way and show a bit of discretionary effort (they volunteered to assist) to help the person issuing the ‘thank you’.

This is nothing new and ground breaking.  But at this time of year, most of us go out and spend our hard earned dollars on gifts to give as a sign of thanks to those who are important in our lives.

If you’re running low on funds this year or feel like doing something extra special, spend a bit of time crafting something yummy and healthy to give away.  Ask any person dealing with health issues – because at the end of the day the most important thing you can give anyone is their health….and love.

My favourite ideas are:

-Homemade raw brownie balls

-Cookies or Cakes

-Homemade granola

-Preserved lemons

-Homemade sauerkraut or kim chi

Here are some super fabulous moist cookies full of Thanksgiving Love.

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PUMPKIN AND PECAN THANKSGIVING COOKIES

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Ingredients

1 cup pumpkin puree (preferably homemade)

½ cup coconut flour

2 tablespoons spelt/buckwheat/oat flour

¼ cup coconut sugar

2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

1 tablespoon molasses

½ teaspoon vanilla essence

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon all spice

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

1 egg (or vegan egg – flax/chia seeds and water)

Extra pumpkin seeds to decorate.

Method

1. Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius

2. Combine all ingredients to form a dough.

3. Line a baking tray with baking paper

4. Take tablespoon size pieces of dough, roll into a ball and press flat onto the baking paper (note – they will rise approx.. 1 cm).  Decorate with pumpkin seeds.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until golden on the edges.

6.  Allow to cool before serving. They will firm up!

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Is an idea ever really original?

Unless your surname is Einstein or Edison, I doubt you come across unique genius ideas without any inspiration. Every idea is born from somewhere.

Being innovative & utilising your resources is the key to creating ‘awesomeness’. Whether your interests are fashion, food, fitness, travel, writing, singing, sculpting…the list goes on…the key to unleashing your full potential lies in destroying any inhibitions that may be holding back your ability to be innovative.

‘Innovation’ is not a new or foreign concept, many workplaces are trying to find ways to get their employees to work to their full potential through innovation. It’s not just about ‘thinking outside of the box’ anymore. It’s much more.

Innovation doesn’t involve a ground-breaking idea that is going to save the world. It may be as small as personal growth. To be successful in our lives we must be open to change & consistently ask ourselves ‘what can I do to be better at ‘x’? It’s about not allowing yourself to become irrelevant. Too add extra value to what you do.

Similarly if you’re looking to be more creative & innovative in the workplace, ask yourself ‘What would I do if I had endless resources to be able to address this challenge?’ ‘What do I/my team need to do to be successful?’

No social judgment, no personal expectations or inhibitions. Don’t be afraid to draw inspiration from other sources.

Jamie Oliver wasn’t the first chef to grace the Earth, but he made himself marketable & presented his knowledge in a unique manner. Be yourself – you with all of your experiences, likes, dislikes & crazy ideas.

Speaking of seeking inspiration from elsewhere…I have been thinking of some more delicious raw vegan meals. My recent holiday in Byron Bay was not short of inspiration.

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Raw Vegan Pizza

Raw Pizza

Part 1. Raw Onion Bread (alternative: use an organic, gluten free wrap)

2 medium brown onions, roughly diced

1/2 cup sunflower seeds, ground

1/2 cup ground flax seeds, ground

2 tablespoons olive oil

1.5 tablespoons of tamari or aminos

Method

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl

2. Using extra oil, oil your rolling pin (to prevent mixture from sticking) & roll out mixture onto a sheet of baking paper or a dehydrator sheet to approx 1-2cms thick.

3. Dehydrate for 12 hours or place in the oven on the lowest temperature for 8-10 hours.

4. Can be kept in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Part 2. Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Ingredients
1 handful of raw cashews (soaked for at least 2 hours)

3 cherry tomatoes

4 sun dried tomatoes (not in oil)

Method
1. Blend the 3 ingredients in a small food processor.

onion bread

Part 3. Assembly

Ingredients

Onion Bread

Sun-dried tomato pesto

Baby Spinach Leaves

Quartered Cherry Tomatoes

Olives

Sunflower Sprouts

Method

1. Slice Onion Bread into pizza sized triangles

2. Smother a layer of the pesto over the bread. Top with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes & olives. Dollop Pesto on top & sprinkle with sunflower sprouts.

3. Dig in!

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Re-engaging with Life

A New Beginning…

I couldn’t be happier to say that Summer is on the way!

Sunshine, golden skin, delicious fruit, Christmas, holidays…I live for it!

I seem to have lost a sense of myself over the past few months, I have been so caught up in working 12 hour days that I didn’t take time to look around me.

Luckily I had a trip booked away with my family to the Beautiful Byron Bay and I seem to have returned ready to re-engage with the world.

In psychology we have this term ‘engagement’ which is a positive and fulfilling state of mind.  It is characterised by three factors – vigor, dedication and absorption  (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2004).

-Vigor is used to refer to a high energy levels and willingness to invest oneself despite potential challenges.

-Dedication refers to “a sense of significance, enthusiasm, inspiration, pride and challenge.

– Lastly Absorption refers to being fully immersed and can be experienced as the difficulty felt when detaching oneself from their task.

Bring on the vigor, dedication and absorption!

How will I be doing this?

It is time to focus on mind, body and do the things I love doing.

MIND:  Find what makes you relax.  For me this means spending more time around those I love – in a meaningful way.  Not just sitting in front of the television.  I want to add some adventure to our time spent together.  For my own mental clarity it means making sure I commit to at least 2 yoga classes a week and go for walks and runs with friends instead of letting other ‘commitments’ interfere.

BODY:  Nourishing yourself.  I will commit to starting my day with my lemon water and pre-shower dry body brushing,  I already have a pretty good diet but I want to make sure this summer season I follow through with eating only the food that make me feel my best.

SPIRIT:  Moving out of your comfort zone. Taking on new challenges will be on the agenda.  Practising to be mindful and live in the moment.  Making the most of each day by spending time with those around me and showing some self-love along the way. 

Sounds sappy right?! Holidays are a good time to reflect on your goals moving forward.  These last few months have put big challenges in my way but I am glad to say it is all behind me.

 

To celebrate this new beginning I am going to share a super amazing salad recipe.  Here’s a link about the benefits of the great bloody beetroot.

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Beet & Apple Slaw 

Ingredients

1 large beetroot (or 2 small) cut into matchsticks

6 leaves of kale, sliced (stem removed)

½ red onion, chopped

¼ medium red cabbage, sliced thinly

¼ cup raw walnuts

1 apple, cored and cut into matchsticks

4 springs of mint leaves, torn

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar

Optional: 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Combine beetroot, kale, onion and cabbage in a large bowl.
  2. Mix olive oil and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl and pour over beetroot mix.  Scrunch with your hand to combine well (wear gloves or use a spoon to avoid beet dye all over your hands).
  3. Toss the walnuts, apple and mint on top of your slaw.
  4. Devour! (This goes well with chicken or chickpeas).

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Can we really have it all? The key to work-life balance

The key is energy.

Tony Schwartz, author and CEO of the Energy Project writes, it’s not about the quantity of time we put into a task, but the quality:
“It’s not just the number of hours we sit at a desk in that determines the value we generate. It’s the energy we bring to the hours we work. Human beings are designed to pulse rhythmically between spending and renewing energy. That’s how we operate at our best. Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually — requires refuelling it intermittently.”

This statement perfectly sums up the rhythm of life.
Sleep-Wake-Eat-Do Stuff-Sleep.

Whilst this probably sounds like your standard sleep-wake cycle, it’s time I let you all in on a secret…in between all that ‘doing stuff’ you’re meant to be ‘not doing stuff’.

Just ask any of the Glassdoor.com Top 25 companies for work-life balance, it is all about making sure we intermittently switch off. Riveting stuff – I wouldn’t mind a workplace with on-site yoga classes, sleep pods, fitness centres, healthy meals, offices filled with natural light and flexible work hours.  “Companies that make sincere efforts to recognise employees’ lives outside of the office,” said Glassdoor’s Rusty Rueff, “will often see the payoff when it comes to recruiting and retaining top talent.”

Among the top 25 are companies that mostly create an ‘organisational culture of wellness’.  Whilst it would be great to go and play a game of tennis at lunchtime, the best most of us can hope for is to actually get a lunch break.

Here are some top tips to get your work-life balance (without a sleep pod):

– Don’t get caught in a common thinking trap (e.g. Jumping to conclusions, overgeneralising, dramatising, personalising etc). Just because you dropped your coffee all over your white shirt on the way to work does not mean it will be a bad day – obviously you were just meant to wear a different shirt into the office.

– In times of stress, take a second to breathe and re-focus.  A few deep breathes can change your entire tone and outlook.

– Remain optimistic

– Connect with others and invest in your relationships.  Have a chat to someone – people love talking about themselves (this has been proven by various psychological studies).

– Don’t let yourself get caught at your desk.  Take regular breaks and reward yourself for your hard work.

– Take the time to relax and refocus.

Find your source of energy and motivation and the balance will follow

Speaking of finding balance…it can be difficult to balance a healthy diet and cravings.  Therefore I love adjusting ‘traditional’ unhealthy recipes and turning them into something more food friendly.  Insert – Moroccan Mushroom Burgers

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Moroccan Vegetable Patties

Ingredients
1 tsp Cumin, seeds
2 cup Chickpeas , drained, mashed (sub with steam sweet potato if paleo)
2 tbs coconut oil
½ cup brown onion finely diced
¼ cup of Zucchini , coarsely grated
¼ cup of carrots , coarsely grated
¼ cup quinoa flakes
2 tsp Lemon Zest, grated
1 tbsp ground Coriander
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
A pinch of Himalayan rock salt
A pinch of Black Pepper
¼ tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 large egg (or flax egg)


Method

  1. Melt half of the coconut oil in a fry pan over medium heat and sauté onion, zucchini and carrot until almost dry.  Set aside.
  2. Place cumin seeds, chickpeas (or sweet potato), quinoa flakes, 1 egg (or flax egg), lemon zest, salt, coriander, pepper, cinnamon in a high speed blender and combine (tip you may have to stop and mix it around a few times).
  3. In a medium bowl combine the mixture from the blender with the sautéed vegetables. Chill for at least 1 hour – Do NOT skip this step or you may have trouble keeping the burgers from falling apart.
  4. Use the rest of the coconut oil to coat the fry pan and cook the patties over medium heat until lightly brown (approx. 3 mins each side).  Alternatively, patties may be baked in a 100 degrees Celsius oven for approximately 20 minutes.

The Mushroom Burgers

Ingredients
Large Portebello Mushrooms (2 per person)
Patties (Recipe for Moroccan Vegetable Patties below)
Iceberg Lettuce
Tomato
Avocado

Coriander Pesto (optional)

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 100 degrees Celsius.
  2. Steam the mushrooms for 2 minutes.
  3. Place mushrooms on a baking tray lined with baking paper.  Bake for approximately 10 minutes each side (flip after 10 minutes). Mushrooms should be nicely browned but still plump.
  4. Assemble burgers layering lettuce, tomato, avocado, pesto, vegetable patties in between the ‘mushroom buns’.ImageImage