When mum said she wanted to take me out to a salad restaurant I immediately started devising ways I could politely decline.
The salads on restaurant menus are usually comprised of three basic ingredients (some dressing if you’re lucky), and its always the choice that makes everyone else at the table feel uncomfortable.
Greenhouse Asian Salads has just opened in Sydney and offers a range of exotic salads, which experiment with multiple ingredients such as green tea noodles, chicken wontons, green papaya, white sesame and more. For some reason, reading the menu, every single option seemed to have a mix of flavours that sounded absolutely mouth-watering.
I felt like being vegetarian for the day (since I’ve been on a bit of a meat-craze lately), and opted for the Green House #1, a vegan salad with tofu, green tea noodle, avocado, cucumber, carrot, red radish, cashews and sesame seeds. However, what really made it wonderful was the coconut soy dressing. This tied the whole dish together with a sweet tang that left me wanting more.
Mum went for the Naughty Tuna, which I tried (okay, maybe I wasn’t 100% vegetarian), and it was delicious – a mix of tuna, green tea noodles, edamame soybeans and cashews with wasabi dressing.
Unexpectedly (I will admit) this café trumped a lot of dining places I’ve been to this year, many of which have menus that offer a range of wonderfully diverse dishes.
So, I’ll take back all my salad prejudices and highly recommend this very green, very healthy and VERY yummy lunch destination.
Yes I decided to go vegan for a week, and no I didn’t die of malnourishment.
I’ve always been interested in trying out different diets I hear about (Banting, Paleo, Vegetarian, Mediterranean you name it). Except I’ve always had a hard time with veganism.
For some reason the stereotype of the vegan diet being bland, boring and difficult to cater for has always put me off. This past week, I decided I was only allowed to judge it once I’d given it a go, and try being the all-scary, waiter-frustrating, plant-based eating, VEGAN.
Sunday DAY ONE
I’ll start here by admitting that the vegan diet was meant to start yesterday (Saturday). However come Saturday lunch time, with the all-good intentions of being vegan, I bought Dal and Naan from an Indian shop I wasn’t familiar with. When my food arrived I found the Dal was made with creamy ghee butter and the Naan was smothered in cheese. With my steaming Dal and gooey, cheesy naan staring up at me, I decided veganism would have to wait until Sunday.
Hint 1: When ordering out at new places, always ask what ingredients are in dishes.
Sunday, my first day of being vegan. My boyfriend and I went out for brunch at a local cafe that does the generic big brekkies, bircher muesli’s, porridges, pastries etc. for breakfast. Perusing the menu (naively expecting to find multiple vegan-friendly options) I was shocked to find that not one of the twenty-or-so dishes were vegan. I had to Build My Own Brekkie and ordered half an avo, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a slice of toasted sourdough (no butter please) for AU$12.50.
For dinner, I went out with a friend to Coco Cubano, a restaurant that serves flavour-packed Cuban food, including Fajitas, Nachos, Pressed Sandwiches, Burgers, Burritos, Churros and exotic cocktails (reminds me of an up-market Guzman Y Gomez). I went with their quinoa salad – and opted not to have a topping of chicken/steak/haloumi – with a side of guacamole and plain corn chips. My problem: The meal was delicious, but I was still peckish afterwards. I had to have a handful of roasted cashews and almond milk tea to save me rolling about with hunger pains all night…
Monday DAY TWO
I didn’t have any big plans today (eating-wise) but I did have my weekly Game of Thrones night with my friend, where she always cooks dinner for me. I have to admit, I did feel a little uncomfortable mentioning that I was Day Two of my vegan streak, and when I sheepishly mentioned my diet restrictions I realised I had to bring a dish along so as to not inconvenience her.
Hint 2: Perhaps offer to cook/bring your own dishes to others houses, if you’d like to be invited back.
Tuesday DAY THREE
I had work all morning and decided to treat myself by going out for a late lunch afterward (a habit that’s become a little too regular lately). Usually I would head for Guzman Y Gomez, Sushi Train, or Grill’d, but I spotted a restaurant that’s recently opened up, called Nudefish Poké. I chose to go with the Down to Earth poké bowl which hosted tofu, mushrooms, beetroot, pickled carrot, ginger, snowpeas, radishes and tamari almonds, brown rice and avo in a salty-sweet soy sauce. I definitely wouldn’t have usually chosen this option, but it turned out to be a delicious choice I’ll definitely go for again.
Wednesday DAY FOUR
I was off to uni today, which meant I needed a big, filling breakfast if I was going to last the day without breaking the budget and splurging on another bought lunch. I put together a homemade brunch, taking inspiration from Niomi Smart’s Butternut Cashew Wholemeal Pasta (she calls it vegan Mac n’ Cheese), which filled me up all the way to 4pm.
I realised here that I was half way through the diet. Had I noticed any changes in my mood/appearance/health? To be fair, I was only four days in, but I had noticed my skin had mysteriously cleared up – it was looking a lot fresher and livelier… could cutting out dairy and animal products be working?
Thursday DAY FIVE
Thursday was a full on day of work and uni, but I managed to squeeze in a quick dinner at Sushi Train with a couple of close friends. Straying away from my usual sashimi, soft shell crab and tuna/avocado rolls, I went for the avocado seaweed salad (with soy sauce dressing), a large bowl of miso soup packed with creamy tofu, and edamame beans. The meal combo was so good, that I’ve decided I’m going to go for it the next time I’m there, regardless of being vegan or not.
Friday DAY SIX
I’m coming to the end of my seven days, and I’m in shock that I’ve almost made it… I thought I’d definitely slip up with the temptations of baked goods, Gelato, creamy sauces and chocolates that had been staring at me from shop windows all week.
On the way home from work I stopped by at McDonalds, to check out if the menu had any vegan options – I was expecting to be told that I would only be able to have a glass of water. To my surprise, that was not the case.
Hint 3: The sodas, apple pie, bread, hash brown’s and juices are all vegan approved.
Saturday DAY SEVEN
I’ve come to the end of my vegan week, and went out with a bang with dinner at my favourite Indian restaurant, Cumin. I went with the Dal Tadka (a staple favourite of mine), knowing that it was 100% vegan and 100% delicious. A perfect end to the week.
The Verdict: I have to say, as much as I would have liked to come out of this week as a hardcore vegan promoter, I just don’t think I could keep it up. I had a wonderful week exploring new food options and meals, and I genuinely respect the lengths vegan’s go to, to protect animals, their health and the environment (read more here). However, the limitations with ordering out, and the guilt I felt inconveniencing others when I ate at their houses were major drawbacks for me.
However, noticeable changes in my mood, skin and weight (after just one week) has motivated me to look for more animal product alternatives (nut butters, nut milks, soy milks and egg replacers) and to cut down on my meat intake.
Do you have any diets you swear by? Let me know xx
Usually when it’s my turn to cook, I try to whip up something a little fancier for a bit of challenge – Thai green curry, lamb roast, or laksa for example (when I say fancy, I mean fancy by my terms).
Tonight I decided to keep it simple and throw together a pizza, with what turned out to be quite an eclectic mix of toppings (a tasty mix nonetheless).
The idea to make pizza’s started brewing in my mind when I spotted wholemeal pizza bases in the grocery aisles.
From there I meandered around the supermarket, grabbing ingredients which I thought would go together – butternut pumpkin (pre-diced), asparagus, basil, low-fat mozzarella, a tomato, roasted peri peri chicken slices, shallots and an 85c tin of champignon mushrooms (the mushrooms were a bit random, but the 85 cent bargain got me).
The best part was that it was only 15 minutes from when I started cooking to when I served the meal. This was ideal as I can’t stand that irritating feeling that comes around 7pm, when all you want is dinner but you still have to cook it.
After winging the recipe for a tomatoey-ish sauce by blending 3 tbsp greek yogurt, basil and 1 whole tomato, I covered the base with the sauce and arranged the assorted ingredients on top. All the pizza needed was 10 minutes at 200˚C in the oven before it was ready to eat.
We ate our pizza’s while watching The Intouchables – if you haven’t seen this movie, I would highly recommend (funny, clever and heartwarming).
I am the number one culprit when it comes to getting hungry when I’m bored.
To stop me from standing in the pantry and eating everything in sight, I have five healthy snacks that I go for when hunger strikes.
Carrot sticks & Hummous – carrot has to be my favourite veggie because of its sweetness, and Pilpel Hummus is my go-to bought hummus because it has so much flavour but doesn’t have garlic in it.
Dried fruit/nut mix – handful of pecans, pepitas, dried apricots, sultanas and walnuts. The fruits satisfy that sweet craving and the nuts fill you up.
Carman’s Nut Bar – Carman’s does such a great range of healthy muesli bars, if your local supermarket stocks them I would definitely recommend checking them out. They are the perfect snack, and funnily enough I got up at 2am the other night because my stomach was rumbling, and a Carmen’s nut bar was the perfect fix to send me back to sleep.
Popcorn – try to avoid popcorns that are doused in butter, just plain corn kernels will do the trick.
Sugarless banana & oatmeal cookies (my own recipe) – note that ‘sugarless’ just means free from processed sugar – but they make up for that in maple syrup and fruity flavour.
Sugarless Banana/Oatmeal Cookies Recipe
I have been making batches of these for longer than I can remember because they are the perfect moreish snack, especially when I’m on the go.
You will need:
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Sprinkle of salt
1/4 cup olive oil (be ready to add more in case your mixture is too dry)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sultanas
2 soft bananas
1/3 cup pepitas
2 tbsp maple syrup
Handful of pecans (to decorate)
Feel free to add chocolate chunks if that’s your thing – I LOVE Pico Super Dark chocolate to bake with.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Mix the oats, flour, cinnamon, salt, sultanas, bananas and pepitas together in a large bowl. Then, add the olive oil, vanilla extract and maple syrup and stir to combine.
Add extra olive oil until the mixture is cookie dough consistency. Roll into small cookie sized balls and whack in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes (or until golden brown).
I love Frittata’s because they are delicious, but also because of their versatility – they can be served hot or chilled and for lunch or dinner. My recipe packs in lots of veggies, making the Frittata filling but low in calories. You can ch0oose to mix and match veggies depending on what you feel like (other options are capsicum, regular tomatoes, pumpkin, mushroom & asparagus).
For a sweet taste and carbs to fill me up, I use sweet potato as the base of the Frittata but this can be substituted for baby potatoes if you prefer. The meal takes about an hour to prepare if you are a slow chopper (like me), but if have a knack for cutting greens it should only take about 30 minutes.
You will need:
1/2 cup almond milk
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tsp turmeric
4 spring onions
2 cups baby spinach
1/3 cup feta
Pinch of salt
6 of cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil
Preheat the oven to 200˚C.
Chop up the sweet potatoes and zucchini into cubes and fry in fry-pan with turmeric and olive oil, until golden brown and cooked through.
Chop up the cherry tomatoes, spring onions, feta and basil. Also loosely chop the baby spinach.
Whisk the eggs, milk and salt in a large bowl until smooth. Then stir through the basil.
Put the sweet potatoes and the zucchini fry into the base of a cake tin. Cover with baby spinach, tomatoes and sprinkle with spring onion.
Pour egg mixture over all other ingredients in cake tin, making sure to cover everything.
Cut up feta into small blocks and place on top.
Cook for 25 minutes, or until egg looks bouncy and cooked through (I check by inserting a skewer – make sure it doesn’t come out goopy).
You can read about it in detail the About Me section of my blog, but basically after stopping swimming last year, I picked up quite a bit of weight from uneducated eating habits.
This year, I decided to get a sports dietician to help me with the transition from an athlete’s diet to an active 18 year old’s diet.
Below is what I ate yesterday, and it’s a good depiction of a healthy eating day for me.
Obviously I still have treats (especially when I go out with friends), and I’ve found that I enjoy them so much more because I’ve re-focused my normal diet around wholefoods, good carbs, healthy fats and protein.
I started off the day with a mix-and-match breakfast. I wanted to make sure I had healthy fats as well as a good lot of protein in there. So, I had 1 poached egg, cherry tomatoes, 1/2 avocado, 1/4 cup diced bacon fried in coconut oil.
I broke up the morning with some honey & ginger tea and a mandarin.
Then for lunch I made my green bean & bacon fry, Mmm..
To make this you will need:
1/2 cup chopped green beans
1/2 cup diced ham
sultanas (weird I know, but trust me)
Place the walnuts in a fry pan on a high heat and drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Place a cover over them for 3 minutes, then add in the rest of the ingredients and fry up.