Breaking the Fast

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Not quite right but you get the drift. How many of us actually live by this principle? I was thinking about this recently when I decided to mix it up from my usual staple of porridge oats and various toppings. I got this bee pollen from WholeFoods in a recent trip stateside, it’s a really good quality one.

My morning routine now looks like this…

Continue reading “Breaking the Fast”

Homemade Veggie Chili

I eat mostly a plant-based diet most of the time, which means that occasionally I do eat a little meat and dairy, generally whenever I really feel my body craving it. It feels wrong to me to be ultra rigid in my food choices so its plants preferably but if that can’t be done for whatever reason, I will do my best.

One thing that I love about this chili is that traditionally, the chilis I have made in the past have always included mincemeat – not anymore and the best thing is I think the dish is better without it!

Continue reading “Homemade Veggie Chili”

My Experience of: The Quality Vegan Café

On a recent long weekend away to the sunny south-west county of Cork, I went to check out the latest addition of vegan cafes to open up in the Rebel County. Cork is becoming more and more trendy and hipsterish these days with craft breweries and vegan food outlets starting to appear with more frequency. One such outlet is the Quality Vegan Café.

Here’s my take on this experience.

Continue reading “My Experience of: The Quality Vegan Café”

The M&M Burger

I am obsessed with making different types of burgers these days. Maybe it’s the summer having an impact on me but when the sun comes out, my thoughts turn to the sizzle of the BBQ and having dinner outside. I don’t eat that much beef anymore so I am experimenting with different types of burgers. This time, we are making an M&M burger!

Imagine making a burger out of M&Ms – maybe next time. On this occasion, we are talking about a spicy Millet & Mushroom burger.

nfd

Continue reading “The M&M Burger”

Beetroot, Feta and Cashew Burgers

With summer upon us, we recently hosted a street barbeque where we invited all of our neighbours out to the green area to socialize and get to know each other. Since nobody goes to mass anymore, there are precious few opportunities to get to know your neighbours up and down your street anymore so, in the interests of building more community spirit, a bbq on the green sounded like just the job!

Everybody brought some food along so it was great that way. It was mostly beef and chicken burgers but I added these beetroot burgers to the mix to up the health profile of the bbq a bit. They are savage tasty.

beets

Continue reading “Beetroot, Feta and Cashew Burgers”

3 Day Juicing Detox

Have you just been on holidays? Did you return refreshed? Did you sleep well? Did you enjoy eating healthy nutritious food every day? Did you get your exercise in?

No? Neither did I. So that makes two of us.

For the last two weeks or so I have been holidaying in Spain. The sun was beautiful and the resort was really good. The kids were crazy and the entertainment was fun. The food, however, was not so good. I have been gorging my usual plant-based self on a wide variety of meat and dairy junk foods – I’ve been bingeing on burgers, pizzas, cheesey baguettes, alcohol, fizzy drinks, ice cream (to help with the hangovers), fry-ups, chocolate, jellies, and crisps.

Continue reading “3 Day Juicing Detox”

How to Start Juicing

There is no doubt in my mind that juicing veggies and fruits is a good thing for your health. It is a simple and quick way to add the good vitamins and minerals from veggies into your diet, without having to eat a truckload of kale.

Some people slate the amount of sugar in juice as detrimental and use that as an excuse to ignore juicing. I can see their point but I don’t 100% agree. I always try and make a juice of 80% veggies and then just use some fruit likes apples to sweeten it up a bit. I reckon this is a good formula – mostly veggies, a bit of fruit to sweeten.

So to get started with juicing you are going to need 3 things.

  1. Some good juice recipes.
  2. The produce to make the recipes.
  3. A juicing machine to make it.

Step 1

The internet is awash with juicing recipes so I will just include my favorite juice of all time here, it is a banker. My kids even drink this and they are the ultimate food critics. This one is inspired by the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix, check out the trailer here.

Recipe: Mean Green

  • 1 head of celery
  • 1 large cucumber
  • A good handful of spinach or kale
  • 2 apples
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime

28754604_607519246252427_3358642349340098560_n(1)

Step 2

Go buy this stuff from your local shop. If possible and feasible for you, opt for organic varieties. The fewer chemicals and pesticides you ingest the better right? If not organic, then wash it all thoroughly.

Step 3

This is the most exciting part – go shopping!

There are two main types of juicers out there. Centrifugal and Cold Pressed Masticating Juicers. Here’s the lowdown on both….

Type 1: Centrifugal Juicers

These are widely available and generally, the cheapest juicers to buy. They are high-speed juicers that extract the juice from the pulp by pulverizing the produce against a fast spinning round cutting blade. They have a wide neck that is usually the width of an apple so less chopping is required.

On the positives, they are fast, cheap and easy to use. On the negatives, they actually produce less juice than masticating juicers and the juice quality is reduced due to the heat from the spinning blades that destroy some beneficial enzymes.centrifugal

I have used the Philips juicer below a lot when I was starting out. I still use some days when I am short on time as it’s a lot faster than the cold pressed. Just head to your local electronics store and ask them for a centrifugal juicer. Expect to pay around €100.

philips

Type 2: Cold Pressed Masticating Juicers

These juicers operate via a masticating (chewing) or cold press method to produce a superior juice to their centrifugal counterparts. In contrast to the rough extraction and high speeds of centrifugal juicers, cold press juicers operate at lower speeds and gently compress fruit and vegetables to ‘squeeze’ out their juice. While more costly, their slower and more thorough extraction rates produce a higher-quality juice and more of it.

coldpressed

On the positives, they produce more juice and a higher quality of juice. As a result, they last for longer, keeping for up to 72 hours in a fridge. This one positive alone can really help you make juice a part of your daily routine as you can make a batch ahead of time that will last 3 days.

On the negative side, they are more expensive and require much more chopping and preparation. These juicers are not as convenient as the centrifugal ones but are of a higher quality.

For this reason alone, in terms of starting out, I suggest getting yourself a centrifugal juicer to begin this with. The benefits of it being cheap, fast and convenient outweigh the negatives of a lower juice yield and quality, but just for now. The important thing you are trying to do is get into juicing, start to like it, engage with it and feel better for it.

So to begin with, get a centrifugal juicer. Establish the habit of juicing in your life. If you did this for a few weeks consistently, you will feel the benefits of weight loss, less vitamin and nutrient deficiency and more energy. Over time, as your interest in juicing builds, I would then recommend upgrading and making the investment in a cold pressed juicer.

If opting for a cold pressed masticating juicer go for Hurom, you will love it. Expect to pay a few hundred euros for this one.

hurom2

Step 4

The most important step. Drink it!

My Experience of: Nutritionists

Recently I had cause to engage the services of a Nutritional Therapist or a Nutritionist for short. I wrote about this experience briefly in Going Gluten Free but I wanted to reflect on the whole experience here.

First things first, let me set the stage. For a number of years now I have been suffering from abdominal pain and poorly formed and frequent stools. When I first went to my local doctor, his answer was to take Nexium when the pain hits. Boom, you’re fixed! This was the extent of the wisdom dispensed to me from the doctor, when I said I don’t really want to be taking Nexium for the rest of my life and taking a pill does not really address the root cause, his answer was an incompetent “a lot of people take pills for their whole life”. I don’t buy this nor do I want this to be me. A lot of people get cancer and heart disease too, and I don’t want to be one of them either.

Through my own self-diagnosis, I narrowed down my root cause to be either food or stress related or most likely a bit of both. I figured I needed some professional help so I sought out the services of a Nutritionist. Nutritionists in Ireland are not a regulated entity, in the sense that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and start seeing people and doling out advice. Either way, I found I thought was suitably qualified and engaged.

The 1st stage of this process was to rule out any pathology issues through some blood testing (cost €80). The blood tests were done via a referral to another GP. Based on the consultation with this GP, I was referred to hospital for a colonoscopy (cost €1000) to detect any issues in the digestive tract.

The results from the blood tests showed high cholesterol levels (total = 6.0 and LDL = 3.5) but all other vitals were good. The results from the colonoscopy showed no major issues but some signs of diverticulosis, but nothing major to worry about. I also got a CT scan of my upper abdomen done, again the results indicated nothing to worry about here.

Ok so at this point there is no clear root cause identified from either blood tests, a colonoscopy or a CT scan. Pretty comprehensive eh? Total cost so far is about €1200 including nutritionist fees.

So I am back with the nutritionist and based on the recommendation from the hospital consultant to try a wheat and gluten-free diet, we agreed to try an elimination diet. This is a short-term eating plan that eliminates the most common troublesome foods like dairy, gluten, wheat, soy, and eggs as examples of foods to remove from your diet. I did this for a 3 week trial period and I guesstimate that I stuck to plan at least 80% of the time. I fell off the wagon at times on the soy (which I didn’t believe I had an issue with anyway) and the gluten (Weetabix) but I was pretty good overall, or so I thought. My nutritionist wanted 100% compliance to be able to accurately identify troublesome foods. So we tried elimination diet #2 for another 3 weeks. I guesstimate was compliance with the plan to be about 95% this time. Still not good enough and no further along the road to any real conclusions of the root cause.

Next step was to try a low fodmap diet. Fodmaps are small carbohydrates which exist mainly in dairy, legumes, and many fruits and vegetables. Given that I follow a mainly veggie based food diet, this was going to a real challenge to me. A low FODMAP diet is not designed to be permanent. It is highly restrictive for several weeks before foods are slowly reintroduced to determine what causes symptoms.

I had serious concerns about my ability to stick to a low fodmap diet for 8 weeks so I agreed with my nutritionist that this was basically the end of the road for us both here. The pain involved in a low fodmap elimination diet seemed greater to me than the pain I experience occasionally from stomach cramping.

So I’ve spent about €1500 in consultations and services and I am none the wiser, bar some piece of mind from the colonoscopy and the CT scan and an awareness that I need to address my cholesterol levels.

Upon reflection of this experience, I noticed that during all of these consultations, we rarely spoke of stress or stress management. Personally, I feel that stress is a major factor in my situation, and likely has more to do with the root cause than any food-related issues but we never addressed how I manage stress or how stressful my life is. Now I know I was seeing a nutritionist who is food focussed but it seems silly to compartmentalize this to me. Stress influences your mood and your food choices and internal inflammation levels as a result.

Here’s to an awareness of the whole person, and not just focussing on one narrow perspective.

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

Chickpea & Carrot Stew

This is a chunky monkey of a stew that will fill you up, not fill you out. Get stuck in.

You will need:

  • 1 onion
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 5 carrots
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 400g tin of organic chickpeas (I like the Bunalun brand)
  • 1 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 200g green or brown lentils
  • 100g brown rice
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp cinnamon • 2 tsp paprika • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tblsp cumin • 2 tsp coriander • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1.5lt veg stock
  • Some chopped herbs like coriander or parsely

To make this:

  1. Chop the onions, garlic and carrots
  2. Add all to the pan with some salt and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the pan
  4. Add the lentils, rice, tomatoes, lemon zest and juice and all the spices to the pan
  5. Add the stock and bring to the boil
  6. Then simmer gently for 30 minutes

Enjoy!

Yours in health and happiness,

JP

Indian Dahl

Super filling lentil based dish inspired by both Indian cooking and the Happy Pear boys, I always make a double batch of this and it lasts all week. I tend to either eat a whole bowl of this on it’s own for a meal or add a small portion of it to another dish. It’s a great, quick and basic meal to have in your recipe toolbox.

You will need:

  • 500g red lentils
  • 2 red onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Thumb size piece of ginger
  • 1 courgette
  • 4 ripe tomatoes or a tin of chopped tomatoes will do
  • Spices – 2 tsp cumin | pinch of cayenne pepper | 1 tsp tumeric | 3 tsp curry medium powder | 1 tsp black pepper | 1 tsp cajun | 1 tsp harissa (for extra kick)
  • 3 tblsp soy sauce
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 can of coconut milk if you want to make it a bit more luxurious
  • Some herbs like coriander or mint (optional)

To make this:

  1. Soak the lentils in cold water for a few hours if you can. If you can’t that’s fine too
  2. Chop the onions, garlic and ginger and saute in a hot pan for 5 minutes
  3. Add the chopped courgette, tomatoes and 1 tsp salt and stir well
  4. Cover and cook gently on a low heat for about 10 minutes
  5. Add the lentils, spices, soy sauce, lime juice and rest of the salt and about 1.5 lts of water
  6. If you want to keep this super low fat, skip the coconut milk, otherwise add it now
  7. Bring to the boil and then simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes
  8. Add some green herbs to pimp it up

Enjoy!

Yours in health & happiness,

JP

 

Juicing for Better Health

A few years back, I was binge watching my way through Netflix, killing time as I used to do when I came across a documentary called Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It struck a chord with me as it was practically how I felt at that time.

It was the story of an Aussie called Joe Cross, who was overweight and suffering from various health-related conditions of his own. Joe had had enough of being fat and sick so decided to do something about it, something big. He undertook a 60 day trip across the US eating and drinking nothing but green vegetable juice and made this movie to chronicle that trip. I still use his recipe for “Mean Green” today and it is a tweaked version of this that I am making today in the video below.

Joe’s health improved dramatically, he lost an unreal amount of weight and he ended up starting a new business based on juicing for health. I follow him on Instagram and he is a cool guy, very ordinary, far from perfection and I guess that’s why people can relate to him. This is what kick-started me into the world of juicing. Soon after, I went out to Power City and bought a basic juicer for less than €100, went to Lidl and got a heap of celery, cucumber, kale, apples and lemons and started juicing. The first thing I would say about juicing is you need a good recipe – start with Mean Green – as experimenting with juicing and different fruit and vegetables can come later. Start well and experiment later.

There is a ton of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants in freshly juiced fruits and veggies so the sooner you drink it after you make it the better. As there is no fibre, the vitamins and minerals are easily absorbed into the bloodstream in about 15 minutes. There is no way that I would be able to eat this amount of produce in the morning but when juiced I can take advantage of all the goodness inside these fruits and veggies in a very quick and effective way.

I try to make a big batch of juice on the weekends that might see me through to Tuesday or Wednesday. That way there is one clean up with lots of output. Here’s one I made recently with my little 2-year son, growling in the background…

 

juice balls

Yours in health and happiness,

JP