Everyone has his or her own perception of ‘veganism’. It is thought almost 500,000 people are vegan in the UK alone – with many more thousands across the world. Lot’s of people recently have been asking if I am a fully fledged vegan now and whilst I am not (I still enjoy eggs, fish, honey and white meats), I have come to understand and enjoy vegan food so much more. The dictionary states a vegan is a person who does not eat or use animal products – and whilst this is true, there are so many layers to this meaning and different types of vegans. I am not a full time vegan, but I eat so many vegan dishes and have been astonished at how amazing the flavours can be. Jamie Oliver’s vegan shepherd’s pie is just to die for!! Not to mention the vegetable curries, salads and stews I’ve added to my recipe repertoire.

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Jamie’s vegan shepherds pie.. uh-mazing!!

But what does ‘vegan’ really mean and is it for you?! I’ve put together a (objective!) list of ten things to know about veganism – the good, the bad and the ugly.

  1. There are three main reasons people choose to go vegan. The primary reason often originates from opinions on ethics of animal sourced products and the belief that animals should live freely without human interference.
  2. The second reason for choosing the vegan life is for health reasons. Studies have shown that eating animal fats and proteins increases a person’s risk of developing certain cancers, heart disease and a number of other illnesses. Eating vegan is also a 100% cholesterol free diet – which is a great pro if you want to lower your cholesterol. With the rise in clean eating and prominent food bloggers releasing delicious vegetable alternatives, you don’t have to look far to see the benefit people are feeling.
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    Vegan matcha latte – so natural and delicious!

  3. The third reason is going vegan is actually incredibly good for the environment. Livestock farming takes up a huge amount of resources, including land, fertilizer and water. It is thought a significant amount of pollution in groundwater and rivers is from animal waste from farms and many argue that more people could be fed globally from the land if we were all vegan.
  4. Veganism often encompasses more than just what you eat, it comes down to the products you use too. Veganism isn’t just what you eat; it can be an entire lifestyle choice. Vegans will look for cosmetics and toiletries that are vegan, organic and haven’t been tested on animals.
  5. You can easily tweak meals to make them vegan! There are so many alternative recipes out there, so you can still cook your favourites for you and your family. Try a vegetable filled stir fry with garlic, ginger and chilli on rice noodles – or replace your meaty spaghetti Bolognese with quorn. Try replacing your morning fry up with avocado, toast, tomatoes and grilled mushrooms or whizz up a refreshing smoothie. So many possibilities!
6. Going vegan can actually be very cost effective. If you go back through your food shop receipts, you will notice that meat and milk based products are the most expensive. Reducing this cost may give you more money to spend on other things – perhaps a little treat!
7. Most restaurants do vegan alternatives – either marked on the menu itself or you can enquire with the staff. With the growing number of vegan, you’ll be surprised what is on offer when eating out. ALL of the below is vegan from various cafes and restaurants!
8. Vegans don’t eat honey – and also many gummy sweets, due to the gelatine content!
9. It’s vital to make sure you’re making up for the lost nutritional content when going vegan. Read up and find the vegan friendly products than contain the following: iron, amino acids, vitamin D, vitamin A, omega 3 and vitamin B12. Lacking in any of these could have serious impacts to your health.
10. Albert Einstein was a vegan. Yes, Albert was a vegan! He famously said ‘nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.’ Now there’s something to chew on…!
 
Whilst it is a lot to go wholly vegan overnight – I would actively encourage you to explore some vegan options. Think how many fruit and vegetable you could pack into your body, in just one portion! img_1729
 
 
 

bryonyhopkins

The festive season is the perfect chance to try some new treats and goodies – and this spiced cookie recipe is a total winner. They are completely gluten free, sugar free AND vegan too! I promise they do actually taste delicious. These will keep in an airtight container for up to a week, so they make a perfect Christmas offering at a party. Pop them in a festive box as a little present – or keep them for yourself… just try not to eat them all at once!
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Ingredients:
200g ground almonds
180g rice flour
95ml maple syrup
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon of chia seeds
Some icing to decorate! I used pre made tube icing from a regular supermarket 
Equipment
Mixing bowl
Wooden spoon
Rolling pin
Weighing scales
Sieve
Baking trays
Baking parchment
Fun or festive cookie cutters
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Method

  1. Pre heat the oven at 180C and cover a couple of baking trays with baking parchment.
  2. Place all the ingredients in a bowl, ass 100ml water and mix into a sticky dough forms. Make sure you sieve the flour!
  3. Cover a worktop and a rolling pin with rice flour and get your dough mixture onto the surface. Roll out into a 1-2cm thickness and completely smooth.
  4. Use your chosen cutter to cut as many cookies as you can from the mixture and place on your baking tray.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Check around 15 minutes and leave for longer if needed.
  6. When baked, remove from oven and leave on baking tray until cool.
  7. Now time to get creative! Decorate with your desired pattern and let the icing set.
  8. Enjoy with a hot drink! Perfect dipped in hot chocolate – yum!!

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bryonyhopkins

Amigos! I’ve been on the prowl again for more delicious vegan, vegetarian and gluten free places to eat in the capital and these really are delish. Due to working ridiculous hours in the office (it’s been a busy news time!), I have been having to eat away from home more than I would usually prefer – but with these simple eateries right on my doorstep, I have little to complain about!
Squirrel
Price: £

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The interior is such a winner at Squirrel – love these barrel dispensers of herbal tea

Based about 2 minutes from South Kensington, Squirrel has a casual salad bar vibe with the most amazing treehouse interior. When I arrived to meet a couple of friends for dinner, the place was packed out for what looked like a health and fitness talk – which just goes to demonstrate what kind of place Squirrel is! The best part of this place is having the ability to build your own salads and warm bowls – although the menu they have put together with names like ‘Kale Yeah’ and ‘Prawn Star’ is definitely enticing! As it was dinner time in autumn I was in the mood for a warming meal, so went for the Miami Rice, which was delicious. I washed the meal down with a turmeric latte (my first ever!) and a gluten free, vegan rocky road – which again was very tasty. Unfortunately, my friends ordered two turmeric lattes which didn’t tastevquite right, and the waiter in this instance left little to be desired in terms of customer service – but in the end the lattes were swapped with green tea. Despite this, I would still definitely return – and for £7 a plate, I think the price is unbeatable for that quality organic produce.
The Good Life Eatery
Price: ££
The Good Life Eatery is a much loved favourite of many London food bloggers and once I visited, I understood why. With a few stores dotted across central London, I went to the cafe in Sloane Avenue – just a short walk from South Kensington tube station (other way to Squirrel!). This place has a great menu – a combo of raw dishes and warming bowls. I went with a friend, who went for the classic Good Life Salad, packed with raw goodies, whilst I got the veggie ‘In a Hurry Curry’.
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Delicious spread at Good Life Eatery

We ordered at the counter and then found ourselves a little spot in the compact cafe. As a matcha latte lover – I couldn’t resist ordering one to see if it matched up to my favourite Kin lattes. The matcha was great – but I have to say, I didn’t need it as my curry was extremely filling. Packed with flavour and chunky pieces of butternut squash, aubergine on a quinoa base meant I was extremely full by the end. My friend loved her Goof Life Salad – amazing colours on the plate and so many elements to enjoy. From the gluten free crackers to the kale, goji berries and roasted sweet potato. I wanted to order a cake for after – but I was too full! Would definitely recommend for dinner or a big hearty, vegan lunch. Would love to return to sample brunch!
SaladPride, Neals Yard
Price: £
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Best turmeric latte I’ve ever tasted!

I found SaladPride by complete and utter fluke – and I’m so glad I did! I was killing time after work and before meeting a friend when I stumbled into Neals Yard near Seven Dials, Covent Garden. It started absolutely pouring down and I sought refuge in this little cafe. As I walked in I saw the menu say turmeric latte and I knew I was onto a winner. I ordered one of those and then saw a range of small square cheesecakes in the fridge next to it – and low and behold, they were all dairy and gluten free! Despite the fact I was about to meet my friend for dinner, I ordered a chocolate hazelnut cheesecake on recommendation of a passing customer and sat down to enjoy them. The cheesecake was amazing and the turmeric latte was the best I’ve tasted. I was only in there for less than half an hour but have since discovered on twitter that the owner has written two cookbooks (Breakfast Love and Salad Love) and the cafe does a range of food from breakfast through to dinner. I will definitely be returning to taste some of that!
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bryonyhopkins

Since the reintroduction phase of food after the liquid diet, I’ve managed to remain on a fairly even keel with regards to what I can and cannot tolerate.

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Delicious coupled with a chocolate shake!

Randomly and inexplicably, I recently discovered that oats are not my friend, which really messed up my morning porridge routine. I tried quinoa flakes instead and again, these weren’t easily tolerated. With a weird fear of these grains, I went on the hunt for an easy on the stomach alternative that would still fill my porridge void. Enter rice flakes! I haven’t come across many recipes which include these lovely morsels but they are so warming and simple.

This recipe brings together some delicious textures for your morning breakfast!

Ingredients (Serves 1)

For the porridge:

 50g rice flakes

250ml of almond milk – or any other plant based milk

Toppings:

Cinnamon

Date syrup (honey also works)

Banana/nuts/raisins/sunflower seeds

Method

Simply put your rice flakes and milk in a bowl and mix together. Put in a microwave for 2 minutes, until mixture is piping hot. Now leave your porridge to stand for 2 minutes – you will notice the mixture starts to thicken. Leave until desired thickness is achieved and sprinkle cinnamon over the top. Arrange your sliced banana/nuts/raisins/seeds over the porridge and then squeeze over date syrup.

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Yummmmm

Tuck in!

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bryonyhopkins

 

Stress is not caused by the environment, but by our reaction to the environment.

This is by far the most important and poignant message that I learnt recently when I embarked on a four-day meditation course.
I know what you’re thinking… meditation? How stressed must you be to resort to meditation??! The truth is, I’m not particularly stressed. Well, of course, I am stressed, but I’m no more stressed than Billy the postman or Leila who served me a latte this morning. We are all stressed. We all take on stress from our own lives and then feed off each other’s stress. It really is one big stress cycle. So when I signed up for meditation, my primary reason wasn’t to de-stress me (although, that has been an added bonus). My main reason was to further explore and understand the power of the mind over the body. For me stress= Crohns flare. The correlation was so alarmingly obvious; it became something I couldn’t ignore anymore.
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Throwback ten years ago, to my fourteen year old self, and I actually learnt how to meditate alongside my paediatric specialist, Dr Sullivan. I was extremely poorly. I had been on every drug under the sun and my body was still raging with inflammation. Major life altering surgery was looming and amongst this, Dr Sullivan suggested I tried meditating. I have to be honest – I didn’t get it. I was a teenager and I was full of hormones! Despite this, I went to a meditating school in London where I learnt the technique but I really couldn’t get on board with it. I wasn’t ready or prepared to understand.
Looking back now, I couldn’t be more grateful for what he did. He planted the seed, which has grown as I’ve settled into my life (ie turned into an adult). It niggled and I couldn’t get rid of it – I knew there must be some value in meditating and I had to go back and find out more. So I signed up for a four day basic meditation course at the London Centre of Meditation to see what I was missing out on.

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The door that welcomed me to my meditation course

 
The technique I learnt was ‘vedic meditation’ – originating from ‘Ayreveda’, one of the oldest holistic bodies of knowledge in the world. Vedic meditation originates from India, in the foothills of the Himalayas. The theory of this type of meditation is deep rooted and practiced by repeating a personal mantra silently in the mind. As soon as I sat down on day one, I knew I had to forget what I had previously learnt ten years ago. The technique was different, the philosophy was different and I had to give this a go with a completely open mind.
Jillian, our meditation coach got us meditating on day one. We each learnt an individual mantra in private and then returned as a group to practice our first meditation together. It’s hard to articulate the feeling of that first twenty-minute practice, but it was blissful. Whilst thoughts still danced around in my head, by coming quietly back to my mantra, I was able to relax and I barely noticed the minutes passing. I felt my muscles relax, my tense shoulders loosen and my brain begin to slow down. It was truly peaceful. I was so chilled on the way home from the session I completely missed my stop on the train! I couldn’t understand how I had missed this feeling ten years ago?!!
Over the next two days, with the homework to meditate for twenty minutes morning and evening, Jillian helped us understand the power of the mantra and how we are realistically going to fit twenty minutes twice a day into our lives. I was extremely reluctant to give up anymore sleep, ESPECIALLY in the morning, but I was surprised how keen I was to jump out of bed into my meditation. During meditation, your metabolic rate is lower than that of the deepest point in your sleep. Similarly, during a meditation session, your body will be receiving 2-5x the amount of rest you receive during sleep. I know what you’re thinking – how can that possibly be right? But the science backs it up. Read more here and here. There are real physical changes that happen during the body during meditation – changes for the better.
I was generally astonished at how quickly I began to feel the difference in my life. I began to feel more relaxed at work and more able to cope with changing demands. Decisions that I had been torturing myself over become clearer. On day four of the course Jillian talked to us about ‘transcending’ – and suddenly I had a flashback to ten years ago. ‘Transcending’ was all I was taught and all I was told to seek to achieve – the place in your mind where you travel beyond thought and sit in a blissful place of total tranquility. Reaching the stage of total tranquility on a permanent basis is known as ‘enlightenment’ – although few ever reach this stage.
fullsizerender-2Whilst I am not expecting a miracle on my Crohns through meditation, I am excited to see if the long-term effects have any impact on my physical health. I have a lot more reading and understanding to do but I feel like I’ve opened another chapter in the life of Bryony.Two weeks on from the course and I am still juggling managing to fit the 40 minutes of meditation into my life, but I’m getting there. The most fascinating thing I found was that it was just the normal Tom, John and Ben learning to meditate with me – businessmen from the city and family men. There was nothing weird about it or any cult feeling about it. Which made me wonder why more people aren’t doing it?! If you can just close your eyes for 20 minutes and feel a benefit… why wouldn’t you do it?*
Continue to follow my blog to keep up to date with the first few months in my meditation journey!
*Critics insert a long list of excuses here!
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