Vegan basil pesto dip

This is yummy dip for carrots and crackers or I just add it as a side to roast vegetables and steamed greens.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts or pine nuts
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

Combine all ingredients into a food processor and blend until slightly crunchy still. 

Enjoy!

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Blossom into Spring with the Equinox

How amazing is this weather!? Spring is finally and officially here with the Spring Equinox today.

I just ran a lovely ‘Blossom in Spring with Ayurveda & Yoga’ workshop at Wylies Baths, while watching whales breaching and jumping next to dancing dolphins! There is definitely a sniff of smell in the air! 🙂 

This is great news, however a change of seasons can also play havoc with our heath, bringing allergies, colds and flus.

In Ayurveda, they say we are all made up of the 5 elements that make up the doshas:
Vata – ether & air
Pitta – fire & water
Kapha – earth & water.

As the cold winter melts into a warmer Spring, it can cause excess fluid retention and mucus held in the chest and lungs, which is the seat of kapha, our earthy, watery matter and tissues. Allergies and cold/ flus can present if we have hibernated over Winter, and not been so active and getting fresh air into our lungs. 

The strong September winds can also affect our vata dosha, making us feel a little spacey, irritable and anxious and is drying.  

In TCM, Spring is the beginning of the season cycle, a time of birth, new beginnings and optimism and is governed by the wood element. This is the energy that brings forth new growth, grass, new branches and new leaves. Like nature, we need to slowly adapt and move with the seasonal rhythms and nourish ourselves appropriately.

The liver and gallbladder meridians dominate in Spring, hence it being a great time for fasting and detoxing the body to kickstart the metabolism after eating heavier, warmer foods during Winter and get that spring back into our step. 

Here are a few tips to blossom into Spring..

  • Eat lighter foods
    • A lighter diet will help us to shed the winter coat and cleanse the body so we feel lighter in energy before summer hits.
    • Add some raw food to every meal to kickstart your digestion
    • Eat more green leafy vegetables and start to reduce the starchy foods
      • Some nourishing, warming foods are still good for Vata as we transition especially with the strong winds

  • Move the body
    • Dynamic yoga with twists, heart openers and core work is great to get the fire back in your belly and squeeze out any toxins built up from the colder months
    • A daily yoga practice can greatly contribute to increased stability and grounding, and can also assist in reducing anxiety and stress for vatas.
    • Get outside in nature and get some fresh air into your lungs to further expel the stagnant energy and ‘ama’ build up

  • Meditation & Breathing
    • Sitting and grounding can really help reduce vata anxiety in the strong winds
    • Strong breathing, Ujjayi & Kapalabhati helps to excrete toxins from the lungs
  • Drink lots of liquids
    • This helps to reduce any water retention and heaviness
    • Hot lemon with apple cider vinegar to get the digestive juices and the fire in the belly ‘agni’ going every morning is amazing
      • If you are hardcore you can add turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper and ginger for that extra hit to the metabolism

  • Do a liver cleanse
    • Great to clear out the toxins and heaviness from winter
    • There are beautiful herbs to really clean out that liver, including turmeric, bitters, rocket, dandelion leaves and even dandelion coffee
  • Kickstart your digestion
    • Add a spoonful of probiotic sauerkraut to every meal to aid digestion
    • Use warming spices, like cumin, coriander, ginger to your cooking to really warm up the pitta dosha and fire in your belly and speed up your digestion and liver 
  • Try an Ayurveda ritual of detoxifying
    • The following ritual is a great way to rid the body of toxins by cleaning all the body’s elimination channels. Read more in my article here.
      • Washing ama from eyes and face
      • Tongue scraping to rid the tongue of toxins built up over night
      • Oil pulling draws toxins out of the mouth  
      • Sesame oil massage draws toxins out of the organs and bones to the skin surface for elimination
      • Body Brushing helps to get the circulation going and helps toxin excretion out of the skin
      • Sauna helps to flush the body via the skin

Happy blossoming into Spring!

If you would like more information on workshops or would like to delve deeper into a Spring cleanse, I do full naturopathic consultations at Nimbus & Co and Natural Progression in Bondi.

Please pop in and see me or contact me here for more information.

 

Egg replacement apple sauce

This recipe can be used in cakes, muffins and brownies as an egg replacement for 3 eggs or 3/4 cup. You can half the amount but it’s harder to bind with less ingredients.
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 cup Peeled, cored and diced Apple (1 medium size)
  • 1/2 cup or as needed Water
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick (optional)
METHOD:
  1. Combine the chopped apples, water and cinnamon stick (if using) in a saucepan and cook it for about 15 minutes or until tender. Add some more water if you think its necessary.
  2. Remove it from heat and cool it.
  3. If there is excess water, drain out the apples and blend it smooth in a blender adding little water if needed. Reserve the excess liquid and use it in the baking recipe for some of the liquids mentioned. The above measurement yields 3/4th of a cup of applesauce which can be substituted for 3 eggs.

Volunteering with the refugees in Greece

Wow! What an experience! I feel like I haven’t quite yet landed back from Greece and my heart & soul hasn’t quite made it back with me to Sydney!


When people ask me how it was working in Greece with the refugees on a little island close to Turkey, I haven’t really been able to put it into words. Amazing doesn’t quite do it.. humbling, emotional, life changing, overwhelming are perhaps closer. My beautiful fellow roomie and volunteer, Anushka, inspired me to share and put my emotions and feeling into words.

I spent a little over 2 weeks volunteering in Chios supporting refugees, working for a tiny emergency response NGO called Chios Eastern Shore Response Team (CESRT).  This was set up by a beautiful Greek lady who simply saw boats landing at the beach close by to her holiday apartments and took action to make a difference! More and more people wanted to help and donate supplies and CESRT grew into a great Emergency response team.

We mainly assisted with boat landings as Chios was a main gateway to Europe from Turkey, taking only 45 minutes by boat, after perhaps waiting for days hiding out in the bush.

Boat landings were mostly during the night and therefore we would be on call in case we were called to assist by the port police.

The boat landing was pretty intense. To experience it first hand was quite overwhelming in so many ways. They were so grateful and happy to see us as the first people on this promised land amidst all the terror, trauma and uncertainty. We handed out food and water and grabbed ice if they had been waiting for hours in the sun, having been held up by the police. Arriving in tiny boats that should fit up to 10 yet 70 people often squeezed in, at risk of drowning and sinking or getting separated by the police. One family were separated by the police, their mother taken from her 3 month old baby and deported back to Turkey alone!

 

We provided the children toys and watched their smiles as they played. Their gratitude brimming from their smiles as they jumped on the bus to Vial, waving us off and making hearts with their hands at the extent of their gratitude for the little we did for them to help lessen their trauma. I had a big cry when the bus left. Overwhelmed. Happy. Sad. Shocked. Confused.

We also distributed clothes, food, water, shoes and baby supplies and worked at the various centres CERST opened to teach English, provide a creative outlet, offering yoga, drawing, music (I will never listen to ‘Despacito’ without thinking of the creative centre) and arts, working from 830am until 8/9pm.

The Children’s House full of toys and games was also amazing. As soon as you walked in you felt at peace. It was beautiful watching the mothers relax as they walked in, finally feeling safe and often falling asleep, so exhausted from the reality of their lives and constantly being on guard for their children in the camps.  The children could just play and be children.

We put on creative nights and movie nights to give them a safe space to relax outside of the camps. I got the chance to do some yoga with some of the mothers while their children watched a movie as the women are the ones that really suffer. Stuck in the camps all day, watching out for their children, not so able to join the projects as often the men did.

I was often brought to tears as I helped the children choose an outfit and their beaming faces as they showered and tried on their new clothes, so grateful to have a second set to wear.

The language centre was open to all and I taught English there and also learned some Arabic which was amazing to converse with basic conversational skills, especially in Yoga.

In the Creative centre I started up yoga classes as soon as I got there as I saw the amount of anxiety and depression, with many coming to me saying they can’t get out of their spinning minds. They really took to the yoga classes, especially loving the meditation and breathing to relax and calm the body and mind. It really was an honour to teach them and to feel them relax.

The creative centre also offered an escape for the refugees to lose themselves in learning to play an instrument or teaching others, listening to music, drawing, painting, learning salsa – anything to get out of their heads and forget about the worries. It was a beautiful place for them to come together as a community, meet other friends, who became family and feel love, hope, friendship, kindness and connection. 

The refugees were beautiful, so kind and full of smiles despite the horrors and devastation they have met and the stories they told, bringing tears to my eyes. Not simply a number with their fate in the hands of others, treated like animals in rat-infested tents, some not even having tents as the main camp on the island reaches capacity.

There are two camps on Chios. Souda, the camp that we have access to, is close to the town centre. Refugees are free to come and go as they please and the programs are all in walking distance. Vial is the other camp, which is military run (we don’t have access) in the centre of the island, a 1.5-2 hour walk to activities in the heat.

One guy in particular really touched my heart. He was taken to the more military-like, prison-style camp, called Vial, which was located some distance away from town with only a few buses to allow access to the town. This lead to people getting stuck in the awful camp day in and day out, fighting to get on the rare bus to escape the horror.

No opportunity to get into town to have some sort of hope of a life, visiting the Language school to learn English or to the Creative centre

This beautiful guy from Kuwait would walk into town everyday for English – a walk taking 90-120 minutes in the hot sun! He wasn’t phased by the move and just took it in his stride without a complaint or a whinge. Just smiles, strength and resilience. Such an inspiration! He loved my yoga too and kept asking for more!

I gained so so much more than I gave. The other volunteers were amazing, some taking 3 or more months out of their lives to make a difference, and I have made friends for life.

I couldn’t stop crying for a few days afterwards and, stupidly, I didn’t, (in usual Chrissie style), give myself any downtime after the experience to properly process what I had just experienced.

The tears were hard to explain as they weren’t for me or about me (which made a nice change after a challenging mental health year), Anushka, explained it perfectly…

“This isn’t about me. This is about a crisis of humanity.  Hate and fear must be replaced with love and we must give those seeking asylum refuge in our hearts.  There is no humanity in the camps in Chios.  My tears aren’t for myself, they are for those who have been left behind, for those who have been deported back to the living hell they have fled, those who have disappeared with no trace and for those who’s futures are still so uncertain.”

“Their fates rest in the hands of other people because they were born in the wrong place. They are completely devoid of basic rights.  Everything I have been afforded; safety, an education, a roof over my head, food and water, I owe to being born in Australia.  These are basic human rights, which I am not more deserving of than my brothers and sisters in Chios or anywhere in the world.  These people are just like you and me and yet they got dealt a shitty hand.”

It’s such a terrible situation hitting crisis point as the island becomes unable to house many more refugees, leaving them at risk of deportation back to the horrors of their reality back home even after waiting from 9 months to 2 years in the camps or moved to the awful conditions of Vial.

Some make it to Athens, where there’s a glimmer of hope for a better future or at least an apartment, but still very basic, with little food and sharing with many other families in one or two rooms. The smiles as they waited for the boat to Athens left me feeling a little raw and saddened as I prayed they haven’t been given false hope and that a better future does await. The reality of which I knew wasn’t always achieved.

It’s good to know that RefuComm are helping refugees in Souda and Vial camps to prepare for their interview when seeking Asylum, so important when trying to make a case to be heard and granted asylum, giving them a hope of a future.

It really was a very humbling amazing experience.  I felt a little selfish coming into their lives and then leaving again when they had no choice but to stay. So many became close friends who really came to trust me and open up, sharing their stories, fears and hardships. I really hope I made even a tiny difference and impact in their lives bringing some yoga and meditation, smiles, supplies, love and help in anyway possible.

I definitely want to continue helping in anyway I can from here. Australia is a lot more closed in how they deal with them, but ASRC do some good work in getting refugees jobs and I want I will definitely try and get back to Greece to help in any way I can.

Thanks for all your support and donations to allow me to get to Greece and help with supplies and getting involved. Let’s pray the situation can only get better.

Volunteering was such a gift and helped me out of my own head… which I was in quite a lot last year. I have come back to Sydney after 2 months away feeling grateful for my life and ready to embrace it 100%! Yah!

To see more stories from the refugees themselves please visit Instagram humans_of_chios

Thanks Anushka for inspiring me and your words and Quico for the photos. 🙂

 

Yummy Vegan Gluten free Chocolate Cake

I was very excited to still be in England for my Dad’s birthday this year. I wanted to make it special as he’s been really sick so I decided to bake a cake!

I had literally just got home from Italy and Greece at 4am that morning but I was inspired! I usually make raw chocolate cakes but I wanted to make one that was more like a normal cake that both my Dad and my nephews could enjoy!

I was impressed with the result having researched many different recipes and knowing that I would need some good egg replacements so it was not too dense and dry since gluten-free flours absorb more moisture.

I also usually never use baking paper but I really wanted this to look amazing and not stick to the bottom so I used coconut oil then paper. The result was amazing! I was so happy given it was midnight by the time I finished so no time for a second attempt!

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Here’s the recipe inspired by Loving It Vegan’s great recipes.

Ingredients:
For the Cake:
  • 1.5 cups (204g) Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend
    • I used Dorset Farm’s Self Raising White Flour Blend from UK that had rice, potato, tapioca, maize and buckwheat flour
  • ½-1 cup (100-200g) Brown Sugar
    • I only used 150g and used half stevia to keep sugar lower but not too much of the aftertaste that stevia leaves
  • ½ cup (42g) Cacao Powder
  • 1 ¼ tsp Baking Soda
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 cup (240ml) Soy Milk (or other non-dairy milk)
  • 2 tsp (10ml) Vanilla Extract
  • ½ cup (120ml) Olive Oil
    • I used half coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp (1/8 cup) Non-sweetened Applesauce
    • See how to make your own here
  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) Apple Cider Vinegar (or White Vinegar)
  • 1 Flax egg
    • 1 Tbsp Flaxseed meal + 3 Tbsp Hot Water

For the Chocolate Ganache Frosting:

  • 10.5 oz (300g) Vegan Dark Chocolate
  • 1 cup (240ml) Coconut Cream
  • 2 Tbsp (28g) Coconut Oil
  • 1 cup (250g) Powdered/Icing Sugar
    • You can use coconut sugar or xylitol in a food processor or coffee grinder to create a light fluffy sugar for frosting and add 1 tbsp arrowroot/tapioca starch for a healthier, lower carb, lower GI option

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Grease two 7 inch round cake tins with coconut oil and cut out circles of baking paper for the base.
  3. Sift the gluten free flour and cacao powder into a mixing bowl.
  4. Add the sugar, baking soda and salt and mix together.
  5. Prepare the flax egg by mixing 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed meal with 3 Tbsp Hot Water and allowing to sit for a minute.
  6. Pour in the soy milk (or other non-dairy milk), vanilla extract, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and applesauce and mix.
  7. Add the flax egg and mix in.
  8. Divide the batter between the two cake tins and place into the oven to bake for ~30 minutes.
  9. After 30 minutes check if they are ready by inserting a toothpick into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean it’s ready. If not, put it back in for another 5 minutes and then check again.
  10. Move to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
  11. Prepare the chocolate ganache frosting by adding the coconut cream and coconut oil to a pot on the stove and heating to just prior to boiling (it should have just started to simmer).
  12. Remove from stove and pour out the hot liquid over broken up pieces of the vegan dark chocolate in a bowl.
  13. Allow to sit for a minute for the chocolate to melt.
  14. Whisk up into smooth chocolate.
  15. Add 2 cups of the icing sugar/coconut sugar and arrowroot and whisk again with an electric whisk.
  16. Place the chocolate ganache into the refrigerator to firm up for about an hour while the cake cools.
  17. When the frosting is cooled and firm, whisk it up again with an electric whisk until it’s the right consistency to spread onto cake. If it’s too thin, add another ½ cup of powdered sugar to reach the right frosting consistency.
  18. Frost onto properly cooled cake.

 

My Happy Place! :)

I wrote a poem! I am not really one for just busting out a poem but I felt really inspired.
 
There was a lovely guy, Ryan, I met on a yoga retreat, who wrote a lot of poems and I was also playing car games with my wonderful nephews on the way to Brighton a couple of weeks ago and we were playing a game where you had to say a line at a time and make it rhyme! I must have been more inspired than I realised.
 
When I arrived in Greece in Thessaloniki I had a 7 hour layover to get to Greece to work with the refugees. All I wanted to do is get to a beach as the airport was tiny and not very inviting. I felt so relaxed and happy to have found a beach close to the airport that I just had to write down how wonderful it made me feel.
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🙏☀️🐬🌊
The beach! My happy place! 😀
So much beautiful space
To simply embrace 
Just being me – no putting on a brave face
 
Free to just ‘be’
Not needing to do or sightsee
Simply laying in the sun
Or in the waves – much more fun!
 
The exhilaration as I dive beneath the wave
Really makes this a true fave
The serotonin hit makes its mark
Fading away any feelings of dark
 
Playing like a mermaid or a dolphin
In this ocean we all play a part in
The salt, the sand, the blue
Makes me see it each time anew
 
The sounds of the calming waves
Crashing against the caves,
Lap gently onto the shore
Lulling me into a sleeping snore
 
Nowhere would I rather be
Than my happy place that brings me glee
Knowing at the end of a long day
I always have a place to lay ! 😀#chios #yogaeverydamnday #morningritual#oceanlover #mermaid #dolphin #clear#vitaminsea #myhappyplace

 — at Limnionas Beach

Healthier Easter Chocolate yumminess

It’s Easter 🐣 so time to indulge in chocolate.. but who wants the sugar and dairy hangover the next day!?

Try these yummy recipes that are less naughty and a hellavu lot more nice…😀

Chocolate no bake vegan brownies

  I was a little short of time yesterday and had promised I would make dessert for my friend’s dinner party. So no need for baking these beauties!

Ingredients

Base

2 cups pitted dates
1 1/2 cups walnuts
6 tbsp cacao powder
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tsp water
1/4 + 1/8 tsp salt

Frosting

1/4 cup cacao or cocoa powder
1/8 cup pure maple syrup (or raw honey)
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Combine the dates, walnuts, 6 tbsp cacao powder, 1 1/2 tsp vanilla, water, and salt in a food processor. It may seen dry but the oils from the nuts will come through.

Lightly grease an 8-inch square baking pan and press the chocolate dough very firmly into the pan.

For the frosting, in a medium mixing bowl, combine cacao, vanilla extract with the maple syrup and oil. Stir until cacao dissolved and spread evenly over dough in the baking pan.

Refrigerate brownies for at least 2 hours, to set. Leftovers, if any, can stay covered at room temperature for a day, or up to 2 weeks in the fridge, or 1-2 months in the freezer.

Enjoy!! 😀

Chocolate coconut Easter Eggs

Ingredients

Chocolate covering

50 g cacao butter
25 g coconut oil
30 g cacao powder
30 g carob powder
2 tbsps rice malt syrup

Coconut filling
3/4 cup desiccated coconut
3 tbsps Coconut milk (Coco Quench)
1 tbsp Rice Malt Syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla powder
pinch of salt

Instructions

Place all coconut bounty filling ingredients into a food processor and blitz until well combined.

In your hands roll into small balls and place in fridge.

In a medium sized bowl, melt the chocolate covering ingredients – cacao butter, coconut oil and rice syrup over a double boiler or place bowl in pan filled with boiling water, until completely melted together.

Remove from heat and stir through the carob and cacao powder ensuring there are no lumps. Continue to stir for a couple of minutes as the mixture begins to drop in temperature.

Take the coconut bounty balls out of the freezer and dunk them in the chocolate covering a few times and place in the freezer for 20 minutes. You might want to do another chocolate coating if some chocolate left.

You can use moulds and place the chocolate covering in the moulds, freeze them for 20 minutes and then add the bounty filling inside and seal the moulds together. I just didn’t have any moulds.

Chocolate

50 g cacao butter
25 g coconut oil
60g cacao powder
2 tbsps rice malt syrup

Melt the coconut oil, cacao butter and rice syrup in a double boiler. Take off the heat and stir in the cacao powder.

Add any ingredients you wish:

Nuts, chilli and salt, goji berries, inca berries.

Pour the mixture into moulds or onto a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper. Leave to cool at room temperature for at least an hour before placing into the fridge or freezer to set completely.
This chocolate will stay relatively firm at room temperature, however I recommend storing it in the fridge or freezer

Happy Easter!  Happy chocolate yumminess!  🐣🍫🍪

For even more chocolate ideas you can see my Christmas choc fest recipes here.

 

 

Happy Autumn Equinox

The Autumn Equinox reminds us to balance all parts of ourselves, the active and the passive, the known and the unknown, the outer journey and the inner journey, the seen and the unseen, the logical and the intuitive, the conscious and unconscious. From this place of Unity new doors open, new directions and new possibilities are revealed.”  Adapted from “The Alchemist’s Journey” by Glennie Kindred1

Autumn is a great time to turn inwards and reflect on what is important and where you might be out of balance. Yoga and meditation is a great practice to help this phase of rest, contemplation and renewal.
According to Ayurveda, we need to adapt to the change in seasons, as nature does, otherwise it’s hard to stay grounded during this time of change, wind and vata aggravation, and illness occurs.
Have you felt a little nervous, anxious, or difficulty focusing?  Are your bones and joints feeling a little achy?
A dedicated yoga practice at the same time everyday will also help us to stay grounded and calm the chaotic vata energy.2

Autumn in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is all about the metal elements i.e. minerals and salts and affects the lungs, large intestines, nose and mucus as well as worry, grief and sorrow.

Although a little wetter and warmer than usual so far, the lungs protect us from the dry, wind and colder climate as we move towards winter and help reduce our vata aggravation by pulling in and refining the Qi, (energy) sending it downward to nourish our roots.1

The large intestine helps enthusiasm for life, but if congested, waste goes upwards and leads to sinus and head congestion, back stiffness, abdominal discomfort, cramping and lethargy.1

It’s therefore important to stoke the intestinal fire of our gut to reduce vata with heating breathwork, twists and heating poses and heart openers to open the lungs.

An autumn cleanse is perfect to help prepare our bodies for a fuller, richer and warming winter diet and more nurturing foods.

Limit congesting foods, such as meat, dairy, gluten, sugar and refined foods; slow down your eating and be more present and mindful.

Reduce overburdening foods like alcohol, fatty foods, fried oils, sweets and chemicals/preservatives.

Increase natural, alive, fresh foods, like fresh fruits, raw or lightly steamed veggies, leafy greens and whole grains to assist in good elimination and keep the intestines well-toned.

I have been practising yoga and meditation and doing the Nutrition talks for the 40 Day Revolution at Yogatime. It’s the perfect time for a full mental, emotional, spiritual and physical overhaul, preparing us for winter. See more tips on my blog post here.

Happy Autumn! 🍂🍁🍏🥒🍆🍠🥕🌽🥗🍲

References:

1 Dr Elson Haas http://livelighter.org/staying-healthy-in-autumn-part-1/

2http://www.gaiam.com/discover/806/article/yoga-seasons-autumn/

3 The American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine