Anti-Aging Vitamin A: Raw Creamy Carrot & Pumpkin Soup

Given the chilly, wet weather of late I have been feeling like soup most days.  Not to mention I have been lazy as!  Blenders are a God-send in these situations.

This soup is rich in Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin and antioxidant that also moonlights as retinol.  Vitamin A is important for maintaining healthy teeth, skin, skeletal and soft tissue, mucous membranes; and aids immune function by providing a barrier against infections of the skin, lungs and mouth.

It comes from two main types of foods:  retinol and carotenes.  Veges such as carrots, sweet potatoes and rockmelons are orange-coloured due to their carotene content. 

raw carrot + pumpkin

raw carrot + pumpkin

Slurp this up regularly and you’ll have glowing skin without the pricey moisturisers and exfoliators!  The vitamin A neutralises the adverse effects of free radicals, the number one culprit of age-related degeneration and disease.

Vitamin A Anti-aging Soup

2 carrots, chopped
2 cups butternut pumpkin, chopped
handful of raw cashews (soaked the night before)
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3-5 dates (soaked the night before)
sea salt and black pepper
1-2 cups water

Put all ingredients in a powerful blender and whizz until it becomes thick and creamy.  Add more or less water depending on how thick you want the soup to be.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Best eaten immediately.

vitamin A power

vitamin A power

30-sec Blender Bisque: Raw Capsicum Cashew

My god, does it get any easier than this?

Fresh?  Check.  Nutritious?  Check.  Delish?  Check, check check!

Capsicums are high in fibre, vitamin B6, C and A, with a 149g serving delivering a whopping 317% of your RDI for Vitamin C and 93% for vitamin A.  Like most vegetables, it’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.  Capsicums also contain Vitamin K, thiamin, tiboflavin, niacin, potassium, manganese, Vitamin E  and folate.

I made this for dinner the other night.  I’d barely gotten over ‘hump day Wednesday’ and just couldn’t be ass-ed doing much of anything.  The cashews give a nice thick creamy texture.  They’re a tried and true substitute for cream – whether in soups or desserts.

have blender, will cook.

have blender, will cook.

Raw Capsicum Cashew Bisque

2 chopped red capsicums
handful soaked cashews
1/2 cup water
sea salt, to taste

Blitz ingredients in powerful blender.

I then garnished with some shredded zucchini, but you can put whatever you like on top!

Best enjoyed immediately, but I took leftovers for lunch the next day and it still tasted yum.

creamy capsicum cashew bisque

creamy capsicum cashew bisque

Vegan in the Valley: A Visit to Swan Valley Vegetarian Cafe

Perhaps it was a case of ‘third time lucky’.  This was visit #3 to the Swan Valley Vegetarian Café.  My past two visits were for brunch and a PM coffee’n’cake session in the second half of last year.  For those that don’t know, the Swan Valley Vegetarian Café is in ‘the valley’ about 30 mins drive from Perth CBD.  Some of its neighbours are wineries, chocolate factories and farms.  Run by Julie (a naturopath) and Charlotte (a Bowen therapist) the café exudes a quaint country charm. 

Greeted with a smile at the front counter when walking in, we’re given menus and a general direction of our table. Hubby and I made our way through the tea shop towards our seats.  It was a lovely sunny day, however appearances proved deceiving as it was quite chilly outside.  Pity, as the café has a beautiful garden area and live music to enjoy too.

Taking our seats indoors, we were served immediately by our friendly waitress, who brought us water without needing to be asked.  We ordered our mains and requested a fresh detox juice (moi) and Flower Blossom tea for drinks.  Curious name, I thought.

The tea in pre-bloom

The tea in pre-bloom

A blooming tea is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.  It delivered an explosion of spectacular shades of green made from high-quality fresh green tea buds from the high mountains of Yunnan province in China.   Consisting of a bundle of dried tea leaves encasing a dried flower, the bundle expands and unfurls in a process that emulates a blooming flower when steeped.  The flowers inside emerge as the centrepiece.

Wow.  And here is the blooming tea at its full glorious height.

full bloom

full bloom

I slurped my detox juice up in a matter of seconds.  Delish.  No pic sorry!  It was a deep red hue due to the beetroot.

Our mains arrived simultaneously.  Being a chilly winter’s day, hubby opted for the Moussaka.  Not just any moussaka though.  Typically, traditional Greek moussaka is a coronary waiting to happen – lamb mince, cheese, béchamel sauce, potato, eggs and butter.  This was the vegan version.  It looked and smelled awesome….

Swan Valley Vegetarian Cafe vegan moussaka

Swan Valley Vegetarian Cafe vegan moussaka

Hubby gulped down a mouthful.  It tasted as good as it looked.  Big thumbs up.  Actually, an even bigger thumbs up as this is coming from a non-vegan!  Meanwhile, I looked down at my chosen main, Raw Marinated Mushrooms with a Sunflower Seed Pate.  I’d been addicted to sunflower seed pate since devouring the sun-dried tomato version at home.  Again, the presentation was impeccable.

Raw Marinated Mushrooms with Sunflower Seed Pate

Raw Marinated Mushrooms with Sunflower Seed Pate

We both wished we had several stomachs so we could try everything on the menu.  Alas, another day another time.  With our plates scraped clean, we turned our attention to dessert.  There was quite a variety of both raw, cooked, vegan and gluten-free sweet nothings to cap off a, so far, faultless dining experience.

Staying true to my raw roots, I chose the cinnamon maca slice and hubby went for a choc beetroot vegan cake.  I also ordered a mocha with oat milk.  I was curious about the desserts and coffee, as on previous occasions they were less than stellar.

best buds: beetroot + cacao

best buds: beetroot + cacao

raw cinnamon + maca slice

raw cinnamon + maca slice

Ohhh, so glad I saved room for dessert… and the mocha was excellent too.  Hot, thick and frothy.. just the way I like it.

From a year ago, this humble establishment has made leaps and bounds forward.  The presentation, quality and service has drastically improved.  Combined with their seamless amalgamation of nutrition, healing, overall health and well-being – this is one place to definitely mark on the map.  It’s proven to be a haven for the like-minded.  There are various events on the calendar such as pilates, tarot reading and educational seminars.  Another big tick – the café makes donations to the Greener Pastures Sanctuary in Waroona, Lighthouse Foundation and other animal-friendly charities too.

Satiated and happy, we said good-bye and are looking forward to our next visit.  I’m glad there’s an establishment like this in the Valley area.  Often, I hesitate on making the 30 min drive out as inevitably after winery-hopping and general roaming around hunger will beckon.  There is rarely anything on offer that suits my chosen lifestyle.  Until now!

Further notes on Swan Valley Vegetarian Café:

They’re actually licensed and offer a selection of vegan, organic & bio-dynamic wines (some from ‘The Valley’), as well as a range of gluten-free beers.  Whether its breakfast, lunch, brunch, high tea, special functions or catering, it’s pretty likely you’ll be well taken care of.

The tea store stocks their own range of herbal teas ‘Valley Tea’, with herbal blends specially formulated to benefit the body’s systems (brews include Slumber, Winter Blues, Adrenal Detox, Stressless, Purify, Inflammation Tea, Dieter’s Tea, as well as old favourites such as Irish Breakfast et al and much much more), Rooibos varieties and organic Green teas with hints of organic orange peel, lemon grass, lavender etc.  There’s Chinese white tea, Jasmine tea and of course the blooming teas – which I thoroughly enjoyed during this visit!  Check out Valley Tea for more info.

Besides tea, other drool-worthy items in store are Yummy Crunchy Granola, Organic Quinoa, Organic Coconut Sugar, Agave, Cacao, Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds, and Loving Earth Drinking Chocolate.  You’ll have to see the range for yourself.

Let me know what you guys think of this place!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Raw Vanilla Matcha Cheesecake with Sprouted Mung Bean Crust

This is by far my most experimental creation yet.  I must have been channeling Heston Blumenthal in a serious way!

I love my raw cheesecakes as much as anyone else, however the generous use of nuts in both the crust and the filling leave me feeling a little heavy.

I wanted to maintain the slight crunch factor characteristic of crushed nuts and thought sprouted mung beans would be a good substitute.

Mung beans are a common dessert in Asia, able to be served hot or cold and usually accompanied with generous lashings of sweetened coconut milk.

In keeping with the Asian influences, I opted for a regular vanilla filling using silken tofu, and sprinkled matcha powder on top.

For those that don’t know, matcha is finely milled or finely ground Japanese green tea.  The difference is you are consuming the whole tea leaf, not just the liquid from steeping it.  Therefore its nutritional benefits far outweigh traditional green tea (10x more in fact).  Here’s a concise matcha article which is quite informative – on a bodybuilding website out of all places!

In short, matcha….

  • Is packed with antioxidants including the powerful EGCg
  • Boosts metabolism and burns calories
  • Is a natural and effective detoxer
  • Mood and concentration enhancer
  • Rich in fibre, vitamin C, selenium, chromium, zinc and magnesium
  • Fights against viruses and bacteria
  • Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar

Raw Vanilla Matcha Tofu Cheesecake

Crust:

1 1/2 cups sprouted mung beans
1 tbs coconut oil
1/2 cup chopped soaked dates (reserve liquid)
1/4 cup desiccated coconut

protein-rich mung bean crust

protein-rich mung bean crust

Filling:

250g silken tofu
2-3 tbs coconut oil
1 tbs vanilla essence
3 tbs agave
reserved date liquid (to taste)
1 tbs lemon juice

To make the crust, simply food process all the ingredients until they come together.  Press the resulting paste into a springform pan and put in the freezer to harden while you make the filling.

Blend or food process the filling ingredients.  Taste test and adjust seasonings.  If it tastes a bit “tofu-ish” add more lemon juice and agave.

Once you’re happy with the taste of the filling, spoon it over the prepared crust.  Leave in the freezer to firm up, approx 1-2 hours.

Sprinkle with raw matcha powder for an antioxidant hit!

P.S. I mixed then froze leftover filling and mung beans… it’s like mung bean vanilla icecream!

raw vanilla matcha cheesecake

raw vanilla matcha cheesecake

Geoff P: Vegan Snag Royalty

This profile is of a man who, along with his partner Ramona, greatly supported me in making the transition.  An engineer by trade, Geoff worked in Japan and is now happily settled in Perth.  You can find Geoff at most vegan events, just look for the long line of hungry customers at his Vegan Hot Dog stand!

geoff and ramona

geoff and ramona

The Basics:

Geoff Pape, 37, plenty of fur kids, Offshore Rig Mechanic, volunteer engineer for Sea Shepherd, volunteer for PAWS (built a vegan catering van for them).

Your journey to vegetarianism / veganism:

I gradually went vegetarian with the help of my partner Ramona Janssen.  I was vegetarian for 10 years, during which time I met other vegans like Craig Dearth, through his Vegans Unite Perth group.  Even then I had not gone vegan, although it was starting to make sense.  I was involved with PAWS in Perth and bought a copy of Earthlings, because I heard it was a good film to see.  I watched that and declared to go vegan.  I no longer wanted to be a part of any animal’s cruelty.  I have now been vegan about 7 years.

I had absolutely no difficulty transitioning from Vegetarian to Vegan.  Once the mental decision had been made it was easy.  And the food just got better. I discovered new things like nutritional yeast, how to culture vegan yogurt and I’m presently learning to make cultured vegan cheese.  I found a recipe for the best vegan sausage ever.  I use these sausages to get the  message across to those people who should be vegan, the animal charities of Perth who do meat sausage sizzles to raise money for animals.

Other good films are the Youtube video of Gary Yourofsky’s Speech “The Best Speech You Will Ever Hear”, documentaries “Got The Facts About Milk”, “Peaceable Kingdom”, “The Cove”,  “Earthlings”, the movie “Bold Native” book called “Animal Experimentation A Harvest Of Shame” by Moneim A. Fadali.

Some friends I have left behind as I have made compassionate changes to my lifestyle and they choose not to.  Family has always been a struggle.  They watch the documentaries (Earthlings etc) but still can’t connect, or refuse to connect may be more to the fact.  It is a big disappointment for sure.  Especially when I see other vegan’s families changing after being exposed to a vegan lifestyle.

 What’s the most remarkable benefit or change (could be physical, mental or emotional) you’ve noticed since becoming vegan?

Physically better because without dairy my mucus production is less.  It really affects my sinuses.  I no longer get the bad stomach cramps that I used to get as a child.  But mentally I’m way better off.  All the guilt is gone.  I am lighter, both mentally and physically.

A typical day’s meals:

Fresh Juice/Smoothie, marinated tofu burgers with heaps of fresh veges, and organic soy mayonnaise.  Black bean vege stir fries, fresh salads, pastas, pizzas.  The list is really endless!

Favourite no-fail recipe:

Spicy vegan sausages – check it out here.

Biggest challenges / obstacles of being vegan:

Trying to get my family to go vegan, or at least vegetarian.  Sometimes it can take a lot longer to find somewhere to eat when out and about.  The Happycow app certainly make things easier when travelling.

Advice to newbie vegans:

Join a local Vegan meet up group, you’ll make great friends and get tried and tested recipes.   Get the Happycow app for travelling.  Ask lots of questions from long time vegans, they are always willing to help.  Join vegan fb pages, you’ll get lots of info and advice.

Biggest misconception about vegans:

We’re weakling freaks with low iron levels and no protein.  So not true:)  And people think we are limited in our choice of food.

Cruelty Free Festival 2012

Cruelty Free Festival 2012