VEGAN RECIPES | Last weekend, I had the chance to attend the Mind, Body & Spirit Cyprus festival in Limassol. One whole weekend dedicated to yoga, alternative healing therapies and methods, meditation, holistic nutrition… One weekend of pure bliss! Besides, the organisation managed to bring icing on the cake by offering all participants a little bag filled with chia seeds!
But what are chia seeds exactly? Apparently, those small little grains were already cultivated by the Aztecs not only as food, but also as medicine and offering to the gods. Today, chia seeds are still used in Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico and Guatemala (1). They are extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins and minerals, and are therefore labeled as superfoods. You know? Those foods that are so fancy in wellness, yoga and fitness circles nowadays, such as quinoa, blueberries, goji berries or spirulina.
But are those superfoods really such magic products or is it just a commercial and temporary hype? From a nutritional point of view, they are undoubtedly very rich in antioxidants, nutriments and minerals. But they are not the only foods showing such characteristics. For example, the nutriments found in the hyper-hyped kale (a type of cabbage) are also contained in broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts. I think consuming superfoods should be part of a more global healthy lifestyle approach, instead of a “new-magic-pill” hype. Besides, the production of those superfoods can sometimes have disastrous socio-economical side effects. Let’s take quinoa, for example. Quinoa used to be a mainstream staple food in Bolivia for centuries. Now that Western health-minded consumers have discovered quinoa and its benefits, world quinoa demand has skyrocketed. This has caused its price to rise to a such a degree that today, even quinoa producers can’t afford to buy it at the market price. Furthermore, since the massive increase of the world demand of quinoa, tractors have reached the plains of Bolivian Altiplano, and many local communities were relocated. Finally, due to this sudden intensive quinoa production, the balance of the local ecological system has strongly been disturbed (2).
Anyhow, I have long been conscious of the effects of our food choices on our health. In fact, thanks to my mum, I am used to consuming healthy and fresh foods from a very young age. Vietnamese cuisine is very light and contains a lot of vegetables. Whenever I eat food that is too heavy, too fat, or contains too much canned, processed or frozen products, I notice it immediately. Today, due to the strong multicultural influence in Brussels and some gained knowledge on nutrition, my recipe portfolio has widened a lot. My cooking style tends to be healthy, as local as possible (I limit imported products to the minimum and choose organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables), using relatively little meat, but still yummy. I have nothing in particular against meat consumption – if it’s produced sustainably and with respect for animals, like it was the case before the post-industrial era. The problem is today, it’s rarely the case. Just look at battery hens, or how hectares of forests are destroyed each year in Argentina and Brazil to satisfy the beef meat demand of hungry Western consumers. Most of those animals are raised under extremely cruel conditions (3) (4). And let’s not talk about the industrial milk production system, which puts cows in a state of extreme physical pain and torture from birth to slaughter. Here lies the main argument of vegans who refuse to eat not only meat, but also any animal food such as dairy or eggs. But then I ask myself, do I really want to feed my body with foods that contain so much suffering? Of course not…
I’ll probably won’t go to the extreme of a strictly vegan diet, but I take into account all the facts I stated above whenever I have to make a consumption choice. Lowering meat consumption while choosing very high quality, such as meat from a local small-scale farm or game. Sadly, I think that today, we have more power as consumers than as citizens. Our political votes can hardly make a difference, but our consumption choices maybe can. Big companies don’t want their profits to fall so they will adapt to new demands. Or new small-scale economies will rise if we all change our consumption habits. Besides the societal side effects of our consumption choices, let’s not disregard their impacts on our health. About two years ago, I followed a sugar and gluten free diet for almost a year in an attempt to restore my damaged gut flora (too much stress, coffee and Royco soups). It made me realize how sweet our food generally is! And gluten! Gluten is everywhere! Wheat and wheat derivates are used in almost all industrially produced food. We eat added gluten without even realizing it! I didn’t share my recipes then because I was focused on blogging about Vietnamese food (which is low in sugar and mainly gluten free). I regret it a little bit now because it could have helped other people in a similar situation (sore digestive track or candida overgrowth). I think I will still follow some short term diets in the future, like for example a 30 detox days challenge, and then share my experience on the blog. Of course, if I find inspiration or borrow a recipe from another recipe creator, I’ll mention my sources and give credits. I don’t do plagiarism.
Today, I gladly share with you a vegan recipe with chia seeds I was offered, and local apples and pears. I admit, when I saw those bright shimmering strawberries at the supermarket, I was very tempted. But then I thought “hey, this is the beginning of April”. In Belgium, it is still too early for strawberries, they must have been grown in a greenhouse with pesticides, the season hasn’t really started yet. So I chose delicious apples and pears instead. Here’s the recipe.
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 150 ml coconut milk for the pudding + 30 ml for the smoothie (the diluted drink, not the thick coconut milk for cooking)
- 1 Williams pear
- 1/2 Kanzi apple
- 2 tablespoons muesli (flat)
- 2 teaspoons maple butter (it’s called butter because of the texture but contains no dairy!) or maple syrup
- a mix of seeds, raisins and dried berries for decoration
On the day before, mix the chia seeds with 150 ml coconut mild and 1 teaspoon maple butter in a bowl. Mix well to avoid sticky clumps! On the next day, you should obtain a compact mixture with a consistency similar to pudding.
Cut the apple and pear and blend them with the muesli, 1 teaspoon maple butter, a pinch of cinnamon and 30 ml of coconut milk. If you like, keep some pear slices for decoration. If needed, adapt the quantity of coconut milk. You should have a mixture that is compact, not too liquid, and can hold the chia pudding on top.
Take a glass, first add the apple and pear mixture, then the chia pudding. Decorate with some pear slices, a mix of seeds, raisins and dried berries. Add a little bit of cinnamon if you like … it’s ready!