Tuesday, 6 September 2016

OrganicSeptember: Riverford Organic Veg Box

The day that my Riverford Organic Fruit & Veg Box arrived I was positively giddy! The doorbell went and then van was there, a smiley delivery chap and a big box full to bursting with organic fruits and vegetables! When I finally had it in my hands I think my exact words were 'Yeeheeheeheee!' 
I was one happy vegan.

There were all sorts of yummy goodies in the Medium Fruit & Veg box which includes 6 veg and 3 fruits. It was like a big, bright, nutritious, Christmas present! Here's what was inside:
Recipe ideas, potatoes, spinach, mixed greens salad, runner beans, raspberries, corn on the cob, bananas, beetroot, melon.
Woop! The beets had the leaves on, the corn had the husks and my toddler had his eye on the raspberries as soon as he saw them. It was early. The bananas and raspberries were perfect with our morning porridge.

We've had the box a few days and it's been a really versatile mix. When most people think about organic food they think of haute cuisine buuuuut...I don't know how to cook like that....aaaaaaannnnd I have a small child so I can absolutely confirm that there are loads of simple family meals to be had from these delicious ingredients. Simple breakfasts. couscous lunch, skin on mash potatoes and salad greens so fresh you can eat them without any dressing. 

Riverford has been bringing organic farming to doorsteps all over the UK for almost 20 years. They're pretty good at it AND their HQ is right in the heart of Devon. They offer almost 10 different box variations to more than 15 different locations around the UK. They attend farmers markets and food festivals, run farm tours, have field kitchens and farm shops, they even a cook book. Everything they grow is organic. And everything they do seems to be thought through with similarly right-on intentions. If #organicseptember had teams, they'd definitely be all-stars.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Celebrating All Things Organic for #organicseptember

I'm celebrating all things organic this September - and in Devon that means there is LOTS to celebrate!

But why organic? Well, there are many reasons but they can pretty much be summed up saying: I love bees.

I love that they like to dance. I love watching one bee who's found a really good patch of flowers go crazy getting all the goodness for himself. I love how fuzzy the bumbles are. I love that there is a queen bee named after Beyonce. I love watching them disappear into a foxglove and come back out. I love seeing them working away even when their pollen sacks are filled to bursting. They make me happy.

I mean just look at this guy?

When you see that little Soil Association organic mark in the UK, it means no herbicides or artificial fertilisers. It also means more sustainable land management and more respect for wildlife. And that means more respect for bees - and everyone else by default. And most importantly it means bigger flavours and even healthier foods.

Farming is at the root all things organic so I will be starting out the by looking at organic vegetable box schemes before moving onto farmers markets and some of my favourite organic food shops. And though food is the first thing that comes to mind, but the range of products that can be organically sourced is immense. Shoes, make-up, clothing, nappies and even holidays can be made organically, so I'll explore some of these too!

I'm really excited!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Mythbusting: Milk is the only way to get calcium

Up until the age of about 25, I thought that breakfast made me nauseous. Yep, breakfast. I'd noticed a pattern that every time I had breakfast before work or school, I was queasy by about 11 o'clock. So I got into the habit of skipping the most important meal of the day altogether and waiting for lunchtime. It wasn't until after I stopped drinking milk and eating other dairy products, that I realized that it wasn't breakfast itself, but the milk in my cereal that was causing me trouble.

When I cut out it out, other things started to make sense as well. It wasn't the stress, but the milk in the help-me-stay-up-late-to write-essays lattes that were causing me stomach aches in college. Those mysterious sharp pains in my lower abdomen that were sometimes so strong that it was hard for me to walk, also disappeared. It had all been because I was/am lactose intolerant.

Chances are that, if you're reading this, you're lactose intolerant too. I say this because you're probably a human person and despite a name that would make you think it's a rarity, as much as 70% of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
Map of Global Lactose Intolerance. See large image here

What is widely referred to as 'intolerance' is actually the general state of affairs. It is mainly people with Norther European heritage, that's white folks, whose cuisine has been linked with dairy farming for eons, that seem to be able to able to digest lactose. The rest of the world puts up with the bloating and pain because they like the taste of cheesecake and ice cream, but it's probably not doing them any good.

What happens in the body when you're lactose intolerant?
It's about your gut. Lactose is a sugar found in milk. When you drink milk, your body digests lactose with an enzyme called lactase. If you are lactose 'intolerant' then you don't have enough of this enzyme to deal with the grilled cheese sandwich or the pecan praline ice cream you just ate! As a result, your colon tries to pick up the processing slack. Or to say it in a sciencey sort of way:
In lactose intolerance, the individual has a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose. Normally, lactose is broken down in the small intestine by lactase and very little lactose reaches the large intestine where the bacteria break it down to produce hydrogen. In lactose intolerance (lactase deficiency), the ingested lactose is not metabolized in the small intestine and reaches the colon where it is metabolized by colonic bacteria producing a large amount of hydrogen which is measured in the breath sample. This excessive fermentation can cause symptoms and diarrhoea.
The hydrogen detected in the breath and is one of the ways to discover of you are lactose intolerant.  All of these processes cause the symptoms that I'm not too proud to say I've experienced like bloating, cramping, nausea, as well as wonderful things like diarrhea, constipation, and gas. Yeah, it's the best. 

What do you do about it?
I tried a few things over then years but abstinence is the most effective. What I have is not a milk allergy, I don't break out in a rash or anything, but the more I have the more uncomfortable I become. So, though I am vegan, I could physically manage one bite of my grandmoms mac n cheese without too much trouble, but couldn't manage a bowl of Haagen Daaz, even if I wanted to. There are pills you can get over the counter that can ease the aches and pains but in my experience they also act as a bit of a laxative, meaning that you end up replacing one problem with another. Not a glamorous topic I know but truth is truth.

What about calcium?
Yes of course. The biggest side effect of being lactose intolerant is a calcium deficiency, right? Wrong. It's aaaaalllll over the internet but it is complete and utter nonsense. There are so many natural, easy, delicious, plant-based sources of calcium it's not even funny. Don't believe me? Let me spell it out...

Do you like pictures better? Let's put it another way with a little help from the folks at Viva.

There are so many things to chose from. So many many delicious things. And one of them is HUMMUS so as a vegan I'm already eating this 30 times a week anyway!

Are you worried about my calcium? because I'm not!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

8 Naturally Hydrating Foods & Drinks to Beat the Heat

Summer is well and truly under way and while it's my favorite time for looking good - less rain to mess up my hair and more excuses for pedicures - all that sun and heat means paying a little bit more attention to feeling good as well. The human body is more than two-thirds water and keeping yourself juiced up goes a long way to making sure joints, eyes, brain, skin have the fluids they need while aiding digestion and keeping the skin healthy this season.

On an average day, the average woman needs about 2.2liters and the average man needs about 3 liters of water from foods and drinks to stay hydrated. As the heat increases, you are more likely to lose these fluids and natural salts through perspiration so it's important replenish yourself throughtout the day. Lots of sports drinks claim to be able to do the job but you can avoid the additives and see real results with some of these deliciously natural sources of hydrating nutrients.

Source: phuthinhco

Coconut Water
Coconut water seems to be everywhere at the moment and with good reason. Unlike traditional sports drinks, leading brands contain no dyes, fat, cholesterol or added sugars but DO provide a natural source of 5 essential electrolytes - potassium, sodium, calcium, magensium and phosphorus - for rejuvenating after even the most hardcore workouts.  Drinking the juice of young green coconuts has been standard practice throughout the tropics forever, but you don't have to go on vacation to get this nutrient rich tipple anymore.

Source: mitch98000

Cucumber Spa Water
I love this one because it tastes fantastic, looks beautiful and cost pennies!  Cucumbers on their own are not only full of water but also potassium, vitamins K and  C, respectively good for your cells, bones and the immune system. Sliced and soaked in a bottle or jug of water, they give you get all of these benefits plus a refreshingly cool taste with almost no trouble at all. Mix it up with a some lemon or fresh mint to make it a spa day any day.

Source: agemo

Lemon Water
Drinking water with lemon is another beautifully simple solution for anyone who likes eating out or going out. When you order your water with ice and slice, your adding calcium, Vitamin C and giving yourself a detoxifying boost. Lemon naturally helps the liver to break down the external toxins from smog, chemicals and air conditioning that become much more relevant as the temperatures increase. As it's generally free and easily accessible, there's almost no reason not to hit it.

Source: mynameisharsha

Growing up, I thought that you just ate watermelon in the summer time because it was delicious. While this is absolutely true, turns out that this perfectly pink treat has been found to be a natural source of electrolytes like potassium, magnesium and phosphorus which help you to better dissolve all the water - 92% of the fruit - in the melon.  All this plus it's fat free and contains lycopene, an antioxidant which has been shown to protect skin from the suns UV rays, making it the perfect summer snack.

Source: daviderestivo 

A fresh tomato right off the vine is like a mouthful of sunshine and at almost 95% water, they are a great source of fluids on a warm day.  Like watermelon they provide a healthy dose of lycopene with every bite, as well as antioxidants like Vitamin A and C. An extremely versatile ingredient, they are easy to add to salads, munch in salsa or eat as a stand alone snack.

Source: mobilestreetlife

This time of year strawberries are juicy, plentiful and full of goodness. Each little fruit is 91% water and just 8 strawberries can provide more vitamin C than an orange. High in manganese, potassium and fiber, they make a fantastic summer treat that is easy to share, or not!

Source: thedeliciouslife

A single stalk of celery is made up of 96% water but also contains natural healthy salts and lots of fiber. All of these things help to keep digestion on track during challenging warmer weather. Great for juicing or eating raw, celery is also unique in that it maintains up to 99% of its nutrients when steamed.

Source: pettacolopuro

And finally regular everyday water. If you're feeling thirsty, this is your body telling you that you need more to drink more water, so respond accordingly. If you're taking it easy then drinking water should provide everything you need. But if you're working up a sweat, then your body will start to using up its electrolytes after about an hour and may need something with a higher nutrients mix. As the mercury rises it's useful to keep a reusable bottle to hand so that you can quench your thirst whenever and wherever you need.

As seen in Clutch Magazine

Saturday, 31 January 2015

How to Survive Your First Year as a Vegetarian

Make friends with Avocado Toast
I will soon celebrate my veggiversary and after four years, I've learned a thing or two about how to hold your own as a vegetarian. Your first year can be tricky but whether you're new to it or just considering making a change, it's easier than you think.

1. Bring your A-Game
You got skills in the kitchen? Then don't let them go to waste just because you've got a taste for kale. Tracye McQuirter, author of By Any Greens Necessary, suggests looking in your recipe repertiore  for 3 meals that are already vegetarian, 3 meals that could easily become vegetarian, and 3 vegetarian meals you'd like to try. So, lose the meat but don't lose the flavor.

2. Enjoy the fruits of eating fruit
It's a big change and the first few months can be a challenge, so make sure to appreciate the fun things about being vegetarian. I've lost weight, I get to snack all day on lots and lots of low calorie high nutrient fruit and veg, I've met lots of new people, tried so many new recipes and sometimes, at restaurants, I have an excuse to have the chef whip up something special just for me.

3. Don't go it alone
If you've made this change for yourself, while your friends or family have not, then don't think your riding solo. Hit up blogs for recipes, try Happy Cow for restaurants, there are even clubs and meetups you can join. Vegetarians and vegans can be found in country, every city and every state, and they just love potlucks.

4. Fear not the fake meat.
In the first few years especially, meat substitutes can be a life saver. They allow you keep some of the recipes that you know and love while settling into your new found vegginess. Veggie burgers, sausages, and faux ground beef help make the transition easier. Not sure where to start? Look a little closer in the frozen food aisle at the supermarket or pop into a whole foods store for a larger selection.

5. Educate yourself
There are some amazing books available on all aspects of vegan and vegetarianism. Jonathan Saffon Foer takes up the philosophical argument for vegetarianism in Eating Animals. While, Tracye McQuirter's bestselling By Any Greens Necessary is an all in one guide for transitioning to a vegan diet. Bryant Terry's delicious Vegan Soul Kitchen is over flowing with recipes that will make you cry they're so good. And the ladies behind veggie classic, Skinny Bitch, will have you laughing out loud with they're no nonsense approach to food and nutrition.

6. Name drop like a boss
I won't lie: the haters will hate BUT just remember that you're in good company. Lots of beautiful, intelligent, successful and inspiring black people are vegetarian and vegan. Tia Mowry, Serena Williams, Erykah Badu, Prince, Russell Simmons, Mos Def, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Williams, Brandy, Samuel L Jackson and Angela Davis to name but a few. Stand proud, there are more people in your camp than you might think.

7. Get friendly with fresh produce.
Since I stopped eating meat I've tried kolrabi, jackfruit, calabash, spaghetti squash, persimmons, pomegranate seeds and even cactus! What we see in an average grocery store is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce (see what I did there). Think of it this way: you haven't given up meat, you've discovered fresh produce.  Explore your local supermarket, but don't forget to check the farmers markets, vegetable delivery schemes and even you neighbourhood swapmeet - really though - for new and interesting fruit and veg. There's a whole new world of flavours out there for you. So that the next time someone asks you "what" you eat, you can blow their mind!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Vegan Chipotle Carrot & Coriander Soup

Vegan Chipotle Carrot & Coriander Soup
Soups are so comforting, warming and simple. Served with a lovely lump of bread there are few things that can make me feel more like I'm being hugged from the inside than than a big old mug of warmness. As someone who is vegetarian and dairy free, soup in a can is not really something that I can get down with because even when it's veggie, nine times out ten, they put milk all up in it. But that's cool, that's alright, I'll just make my own! Making soup from scratch means that you can miss out the dairy AND all of that extra salt that they use to store it for ages.

This carrot and coriander soup is a spicy little number inspired by the jalapeƱo pickled carrots that you get in quality Mexican restaurants in Los Angeles. I'm a little bit obsessed with chipotle chilli flakes at the moment and the smokiness is put to great use here.

Vegan Chipotle Carrot & Coriander Soup

Serves 2


500g carrots, peeled & chopped
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp chipotle chilli flakes
2 tbsp soy margarine
1 clove garlic crushed
600g vegetable broth
2 tbsp almond milk
  1. Dry roast the cilantro seeds and chilli flakes in the bottom of your sauce pan for 1 or 2 minutes or until you can smell them. Once toasted, remove from heat, and crush in a pestle and mortar.
  2. Add margarine to the saucepan along with chopped carrots, garlic and all the coriander seeds. Stir everything around until everything is evenly coated, then cook on a low heat until carrots begin to soften - 10 mins or so. 
  3. Add the vegetable stock and season to taste with salt and pepper, before bringing to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover and let cook for another 15 mins until everything is tender. Remove from heat and liquidise with a hand blender or food processor. To finish, return to heat and stir in almond milk. Dish up and eat.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Vegan Recipe: Lemon Basil Butter Bean Salad

Mmmm butter beans, also known as lima beans, also known as in my belly. They have a flavour that is so stand alone indulgent that they don't need much doing to them. This makes these little pulses perfect for salads, so I set about making it happen. A little bit of dressing and the mineral rich sources of protein, potassium and b vitamins are ready to eat.

Lemon Basil Butter Bean Salad


250g cooked butter beans
2 medium tomatoes
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1 clove garlic minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 bunch of basil, chopped
pinch of salt
  1. Mix tomatoes, chili, garlic lemon and basil together in a medium sized bowl. 
  2. Add butter beans and mix until distributed evenly. 
  3. Serve chilled over a bed of mixed leaves.