Week 3 of the Vegan Challenge.

Well folks, I am now on week 3 of my vegan challenge and I have to say that I am still loving it.  In hindsight, I now realise that my first week, I felt very tired and didnt have much energy.  I now know that that was my body purging itself of dead animal flesh.  Lol.  So I am feeling a more permanent change coming on…In this post, I am going to share some of the things that I have been cooking and how I have been feeling generally.  Image

Above was last weekends masterpiece – thyme and onion tart in a black pepper pastry and I have to say, it was a roaring success.  And I found vegan margarine!  YAY!  In a local supermarket might I add!  It wasnt there last time I went but I got very excited about it, let me tell you.  Anyway…the recipe called for soy cream…which of course I could NOT find…so I mixed a little soy milk with some cornflour and hey presto, it did the job.  I will make it again in a few weeks.  The delicious treats that you see to the left of the tarte are vegan brownies.  Oh. My. Word.  I have since made them 3 times to share.  And eat.  But mostly share.  Well…kind of.  The good thing about them is that the whole family loves them.  I have since fiddled around with the recipe, substituting the flour with organic spelt flour, the sugar I have halved and also made it raw and I have tried it with canola oil and coconut oil.  I think I now have it down to a fine art.  Here’s the recipe for a standard brownie tin.  Preheat oven to 175 c (dont ask me what that is in F!)  Take 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of brown raw sugar (should be two but you really dont need it), 1 cup of Cadbury Bournville Powder – vegan!, 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of baking powder.  Mix.  Then add 1 cup o’ water (I also substituted that with coconut juice – from a coconut which I opened with my BARE hands…and a hammer and a screwdriver!), 1 cup o’ oil and a tsp of vanilla flavour.  Mix, pour into tin and bake.  De-LISH.

Another dish that I made was stuffed peppers.Image

These bad boys are stuffed with cous cous, raisons, chopped almonds, cinnammon, fresh coriander, chopped dried apricots, paprika and salt n pepper.  Oh, and olives.  You gotta have olives.  And when you bake these bad boys, you’re supposed to put a bit o water around the peppers so they cook too.  Really successful food. 

My final piece de resistance…Image

This bad boy (and please excuse the shoddy photography!) is eggplant stew.  Basically, take one huge ass eggplant, cube, put into colander and sprinkle with salt so bitter juices are drawn out (Who knew??).  Leave to sit for about 20 mins.  Meanwhile, cook up a couple of red onions with fresh garlic in a bit of olive oil.  To this, add a good spoon of cumin powder, cinnamon and paprika.  Mix well and add washed eggplant.  Put lid on and stew for a bit.  Then add a tin of chopped toms, a tin of kidney beans and/or a tin of chickpeas and just stew the ass off it until the eggplant is all mushy and it thickens.  Add some water if need be.  Serve with brown rice and fresh coriander on the top.  Absolutely top, delicious and filling.  I have a batch in the freezer.

One thing that I am still loving about the vegan-ness is having to explore everything again as far as food goes.  I realised so much how we depend on animal produce.  The quick choccy bars I used to grab in the supermarket has stopped and I am really happy to report that my craving for all things naughty has stopped – I am sure that has nothing to do with the brownies…

I drink far less coffee now and I dont eat out anywhere near as much as I used to.  I went to the Organic cafe with Safia the first week and I think that is the last time I ate out.  For someone who lives in Dubai, that is pretty good…all people do here is go out to eat!  I have also rediscovered the supermarket – and how much vegan stuff is out there.  I have to say that I didnt really go into this with an open mind and thought that I would really struggle  with finding stuff.

One thing that did surprise me is that some soy milks actually contain moo juice!  This really upset me and I kind of felt betrayed!

I am also trying to move away from wheat…I bought gluten free bread from the organic store and   when you slice it and toast it its like eating an english muffin (the savoury, flat kind – for all you ‘Muricans!).  Wonderful. I also got some other bits and pieces there too.  Like my very first jar of organic peanut butter.  I totally didnt realise how much crap is in the normal stuff!

I also found…vegan chocolate…which is like 20dhs per small bar (about 3 quid) but it is the most exquisite stuff ever. Very decadent, almost specialist.  But you know something, the money I am now saving on normal groceries allows these treats occasionally.

I’m not planning on chucking out all my cleaning products, shampoos etc but I have decided that once these products are finished, we will be moving towards, environmentally friendly, chemical free, against animal testing products.  Oh, by the way…The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works are against animal testing.  YAY!

A bit about mood…my mood has changed.  A LOT.  I’ve become more placid and relaxed.  Nuff said.

So thats it!  Until next week… 

Continuing Vegan…

So yesterdays dinner didn’t go as planned. I was desperate to go and check out the Organic Store and Cafe (www.organicfoodsandcafe.com) to see just how much vegan food was on offer.  By the time I had got there, I had managed to get myself and my 19 month old stuck in traffic twice and missed the turn off twice also.  Dubai is not very easy to drive round!

So we eventually got there and were both famished.  I was really excited to try a vegan pizza for dinner but they had run out of soy cheese so I settled for vegetable spring rolls served with lentil salad.  Yum and very filling.  I have noticed that I am getting quite hungry more regularly so I am filling up on crudites a lot.  I have also cut out all coffee and am really only drinking water, spearmint tea or peach tea.  I have to plan out our menus for next week today so that I can go shopping over the weekend.  I also think that I am going to extend my challenge to a full month. 

Today I woke up feeling really energized – I am a bit tired because I went to bed late (precious time with husband and daughter) but managed to do a quick 3 km run before going to work.  I felt great – the first 1 km was a toughie as usual but it got better,  And there were people out there too!  Happy people!  Giving me thumbs up, smiling and saying good morning.  What better way to encourage exercise that friendly interaction and some good tunes on your i-pod.

Anyway, sorry, I do have a terrible habit of digressing.  Vegan stuff in the shop.  Not much. Well, actually, there were a few things but not what I was after. I really wanted to buy some raw sugar (which I did get) and some vegan butter for my onion tart on Friday.  Vegan butter they did not have but I have just found the most awesome recipe for olive oil pastry.  Huzzah! 

Olive Oil Pastry Crust
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup warm water

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together flour and salt. Add olive oil and water and mix quickly with a fork until it all comes together in a ball.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a lightly floured board or a parchment-covered baking sheet, roll or pat out the dough into a 1/4-inch-thick circle or oval. Press into a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom or, for a more rustic look, place it flat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Prick all over with the tines of a fork (if baking flat, leave a 1-inch border around the edge un pricked).

I also started reading a blog by a guy called David (http://www.raptitude.com) who gives himself 30 day experiments…one of which was to go vegan for 30 days.  He writes:


To not eat healthy food because it’s “too expensive” is like not sleeping much because it’s too time consuming — yet that’s how some people operate.

How many times have I thought that to myself!  But only recently I said that my shopping bill was halved for the first week of this challenge.  This proves two things – being vegan can be cheap.  Lentils, beans, chickpeas etc are quite cheap but vegan processed food such as soy and quorn is expensive.  Therefore, find a balance. 

Yesterday and today’s Vegan challenge…

I think this is the first day in four days that I haven’t sported a headache…I am not sure whether this is because of my new change in diet or whether because I had a fairly good nights sleep last night – so much so that I was able to pull my ass out of bed and go for a quick run. The run wasn’t particularly successful, nor was it outside (I’m not a big fan of the treadmill) but at least I did it. I need to find myself another challenge for my fitness regime. But I digress…

I’ve been thinking a lot about veganism. I’m not particularly familiar with the history of the movement but I suspect it began when animal products began being produced en masse. Leather, milk, dairy, meat riddled with chemicals because people want to produce MORE. Its all about greed, really. Now, I am really not going to be one of these people who bash meat eaters – on the contrary, I do believe that healthy meat is good as part of a balanced diet. This is the problem though – our meat ain’t healthy anymore. Even organic meat – do we really know how these animals are being treated before the slaughtering process? What is their life’s journey really like to the end? And why, oh why is good quality food expensive? Why is it cheaper for a working mother of a family of four to feed her children shite from Frozen food stores than it is to feed them good quality, healthy, chemical free stuff?

I joined a group on Facebook called ‘Vegan, Muslim and Proud’. As many people know, as Muslims (yes, I am Muslim but more of the progressive kind – see Muslims for Progressive Values for information http://mpvusa.org), we are supposed to eat meat that is ‘halal’. This means that a) it’s the meat that Allah said we’re allowed to eat (which can be found in all 3 holy books) and b) it’s been slaughtered correctly to ensure all the blood is drained and its been done in the name of Allah.

This group suggested that, although the meat may have been slaughtered in a halal fashion, was the life of the animal before slaughter halal? Bloody good point. And I am guessing more than likely not.

When I first moved to Dubai, I wondered why the chickens were so small…the largest I have seen in this country is 1600 grams – the smallest is about 800 grams. Does this suggest that perhaps the chickens here are not pumped with hormones to make them so large that their legs cannot support their own weight? I don’t know, but I really would like to think that Dubai is doing something right.

I am currently reading Jordan Rubin’s ‘The Maker’s Diet’. This guy suffered severely with Crohn’s disease and by following a diet based purely on the 3 holy books, he recovered. A lot. It is a really good read. I haven’t finished it yet, but it makes some excellent points. Basically, we are eating a whole helluva lot of shite, y’all.

He talks about why certain animals are here and why we shouldn’t eat them. Pigs – they’re here to eat waste and to basically keep the farms clean. Crustaceans – they’re here to keep our oceans clean. Everything has a purpose for why they’re on the planet. It kind of makes sense.

Now, like I have stated time and again, I am not against eating meat. And these two weeks are a trial – which I have to say, I am enjoying immensely. And so is my little family. What I am against, is the treatment of these poor beasts and their en masse production, which is wholly unnecessary.

Humanity has lost their way – whatever happened to keeping it simple? Why do we feed ourselves with crap? When did this all start? I think of Wall-E…and the cruise ship, where are the people are morbidly obese and are being carted around on hover beds…that is where we are.

I will be the first to admit that I am a comfort eater – and it is something that I find so difficult to control. But, with the grace of God, I am getting better at it. Junk food is so readily available. It affects our brains and bodies – people eat because they are sad and it makes them feel better. Then they feel sad again because of all the shite that is in the food that they just guzzled. Vicious circle.

Keeping it simple – it’s the way forward – humans used to have to work for their food. We don’t really do that anymore. And then, after all the ranting and raving that I have done and that others do, I think to myself: is it too late? Can we change the world? How did we screw it up in the first place?

Humans are such greedy creatures. Everything that has happened to our world is because of greed. For every action, there is a reaction. We blame the Almighty for huge storms, changes in the weather, tsunamis. What a load of crap. If we hadn’t fucked with the world, none of this would happen in the first place. If we boar into the earth and rape her of whats inside, then we are going to get a reaction somewhere.

All of us are looking for answers to living in the most complicated of places. We seek out different religions, move to different countries, find ways of escaping. Jesus said “the Kingdom of God is inside you”. I am not a Christian but I totally get what he meant now.

So, what did I eat yesterday?

Well, the day before yesterday I made vegan brownies. OMG. I am so sorry that I made the full batch because I cannot stop eating them. Even my husband likes them – and he can be very fussy. So, I will make them again, but I need to use unbleached flour and raw sugar.
The recipe is 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup of cocoa powder (obviously a powder sans dairy!), 1 tsp of baking powder and a tsp of salt. Mix all that together. Then add your wet stuff which is: 1 cup of veggie oil (I actually used coconut oil and it was amazeballs!), 1 cup of water and 1 tsp of vanilla essence. Mix, put in a baking tray of 9″ by 15″ and bake at 175 degrees (preheated) until firm and slightly gooey – takes about 30 minutes.

Anyway, yesterday:

Breakfast – pineapple with strawberries and a bit o’ salt.
Snack – peach tea (Twinings – om nom nom) and a cucumber
Lunch – wholemeal wraps stuffed with avocado, olive, tomato and fresh coriander mash.
Snack – another cucumber and PB ‘n’ J on bread.
Dinner – aubergine and chickpea stew served with brown basmati rice. This was a HIT! Even my little daughter loved it and my husband likes it too. I think I will make this again next week.

Here is the recipe. I should have taken a photo, I will endeavour to do so in the future.

Take 1 large aubergine and cube. Put in a colander, sprinkle with salt, swoosh around and leave for bitter juices to run out for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile – fry up (I used a large stew pan) one large onion with a diced clove of garlic (I put in two) in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook until onions are soft.

Add the aubergine to the onions and mix. Pop the lid on and leave for like 20 mins, stirring occasionally.

Then add 1 tsp of ground cinammon, 1 tsp of ground cumin and 1 tsp of ground coriander. Add a tin o’ chickpeas (the ones that are already cooked) and give it a stir. Then add a tin of chopped toms and leave to simmer for 20 mins or so or until the aubergines are totally soft.

Serve with Rice. Yum-tastic!

So today, I have promised myself not to eat any brownies or bread cos I really have been overloading with them…yikes.

Breakfast: rice cakes with a little bit of PB and a plum; peach tea.
Snack: a little cucumber and a pear.
Lunch: leftover stew from yesterday with a bit o’ rice.
Snack: apple
Din-dins: I will be making stuffed peppers and toms. Can’t remember the recipe so will post tomorrow.

I need to plan out the menu for next week also so will be working on that today. That and a new exercise programme which includes more weight bearing.

That’s all for now! If you have any tips or comments, feel free to share!

Vegan Challenge: Day 1 and 2





Yesterday was my first vegan day.  I think it went very well.  It was always at the forefront of my mind – I found myself incessantly thinking about it – like I do when I always start a new way of eating.

So my menu was as follows:  

Breakfast: 2 small slices of wholegrain, vegan bread with a little peanut butter.

Snack: Tangerine

Lunch:  Homemade vegan pea and mint soup with one falafel. One banana.

Dinner:  Sauteed green beans with baby tomatoes, celery, soy sauce, olive oil and garlic with some bread. And some nuts.  Lots of nuts.

In fact, I think I overdosed on the carbohydrates because during my last dieting phase, I wasn’t allowed any.  I am hoping that the balance will be better today.  

I feel quite tired, but I really believe that is due to the fact that my daughter is still jet lagged from our trip to Rome and keeps me up til nearly two in the morning.

I did, in fact, wake up feeling much more energized this morning than I had anticipated that I would, But now, sat at my desk at work, waiting for my first class of the day to come, my brain feels foggy.  

So after my first class, I have some non contact time, where I am now chowing down a cucumber (they are actually quite delicious here in Dubai) and finishing my coffee – black, americano of course!

My meals have also been planned for the day:

Breakfast – two pineapple slices with salt (delicious – the salt seems to cut the tartness and it doesn’t make your tongue feel weird. I learnt that tip from Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii movie and have since found a new love for pineapple)

Snack – a cucumber and water

Lunch – left over green beans, toms and celery from last night with two rice cakes and another cucumber.

Dinner – I am supposed to be making pak choi and mushroom stir-fry but I may just have some pea soup again cos there is a bit left over.

Warm drink before bed – Twinning’s Peach Tea. Its so lovely and fresh.

Anyway, I am feeling a bit more awake now and I really must go for a run tonight as I haven’t done anything in two days. I REFUSE to be where I was last year (80 lbs heavier and a whole lot of depressed).

To be continued…

My two week vegan challenge

I have a lovely Canadian friend who used to work with me in Dubai.  She is always so positive about life and frequently posts on facebook about her vegan lifestyle – she is fairly new to this, about 6 weeks in.  I often read her posts, pictures, thoughts for the day et cetera and just bypass them to be honest.

Until last week.  I decided to try being vegan for two weeks.  Well, as far as food goes.  My friend tells me that her veganism is a revelation of who she is – a non-violent lover of animals and nature.  Veganism is as much about human rights  as it is about animal rights.  It has a profound spiritual significance for her.

As selfish as it sounds, I am trying veganism to continue with my weight loss and to try to be healthier.  I will be documenting how I feel, what I eat and what happens both internally and externally with me.

I have to honestly say that I am not all about the fluff and the love of these little creatures.  But after having watched several docudramas about the meat industry, it just made me think a little bit more.

Have I been conditioned by society to think this way?  Of course I have.  Will my two weeks sensitize me again to the value of animal life?  We will see.

I spent 7 months working the Dukan diet and shed around 80lbs.  That diet was purely protein and vegetables.  No fruits, grains, legumes or root vegetables (apart from the odd carrot).  I was ecstatic with the weight loss, but did feel sluggish a lot and my stomach burnt a little bit.

Now I will take in no animal protein at all but will use nuts and seeds for my protein consumption – which are very high in calories.  I will need to be careful and weigh my food appropriately.  My darling husband (who really enjoys his meat and all things dairy) will be joining me.  My little daughter (who rarely eats meat as it is) will still have her milk and yogurt.

My letdown is chocolate.  I love it.  But I have been exploring some recipes…

Let the challenge commence!

“Veganism is no…

“Veganism is not about giving anything up or losing anything; it is about gaining the peace within yourself that comes from embracing nonviolence and refusing to participate in the exploitation of the vulnerable”
― Gary L. Francione

From Dukanism to Veganism…my two week challenge.  More to follow. 

Post 5 km Parties!

We did it!  My beautiful friend Kathy and I completed our first run!  5 km completed in a fairly decent time, without stopping the run and without coming last!  Ok, so it was nothing compared to the Ethiopian lady who completed it in some 16 minutes or so but we did it!  *insert happy success dance here*

Both on a high after the event, we drove home and got ready to have breakfast at More Cafe – one of my most favourite places to dine.  Kathy was off to the art bus that afternoon and I decided to hang out with my beautiful daughter at the mall for a bit.  Then the endorphines wore off…it turns out that getting nervous, running 5k while you really need to pee and getting a running ‘high’ is actually pretty tiring!

So I spent the afternoon at home, watching Christmas movies (my most favourite past time during these winter months!) and in the evening, I ordered a Naked Pizza.  I ate about 2 small slices and felt full.  Very full.  It was very delicious but oh boy, did I pay for it the next day!  I felt like I had a hangover and during my yoga class I felt bloody awful.  And the next day.  And today.  Well, a bit.  I’m not sleeping too well these days because my husbands shift pattern has changed and we are both sleeping at the same time now.  After 2 years of sleeping alone, its kind of difficult to get back into it!

But I digress…more running!  I am raring to go for a run this afternoon with my partner in crime.  Yee haw!  After this week, we start Suzi’s interval 5 10 k training programme (www.kissmyblackass.org).  I am very excited (and a little scared, I have to admit!) about this new phase.  Kathy and I are doing another run also, on the 23rd of November – the Nike Night run…I think it is the same path as the last one but at night.  It should be good!  I think trying to get in more runs like this before our marathon section in January is a good thing.

Yesterday my husband bought me some clothes.  For the first time.  Ever.  He bought be a pair of size 16 (UK) trousers from Zara and a shirt.  Very nice.  The trousers are tight squeeze but I can shut them!  Which amazes me! So I imagine after a few more pounds they will fit perfectly.  Its such an incentive for me!

So, onwards and upwards as of now…my times aren’t particularly fast nor is my running particularly good.  But its good for me.  And I am getting better,  There is no stopping me now.  And I don’t want to stop!

Until next time x

5 K preparation and a bit of stagnation…

3 more days until my first run.  The last time I did anything like this was when I was 16 and did a fun run of 3 km in my local town of Crosby, Liverpool.  I can hardly say that I have been training hard for this one, but I am getting there.

Things have been quite stagnant at the moment – I think it is because the winter season is on its way and I always associate that with crock pot food, hanging out with friends, thanksgiving, Christmas, and many other delights.

My weight hasn’t shifted much but my measurements are decreasing – which is a good thing.  I bought some clothes that are slightly too small.  Usually I don’t do that as it is generally associated with negativity.  But, as usual, I am flipping it on it’s head and I want to make it a positive.  I have one more dress size to get down to on my top half and two more on my bottom half.

My mum came out last week for a few days – it was, as always, wonderful to have her with us.  Especially during this time in Dubai – the weather is just perfect.  We took my little daughter to the beach early on in the morning and it was breathtakingly beautiful.  When you get into a routine, sometimes it is difficult to remember the beauty that surrounds you.  Usually I am not particularly enamoured with Dubai, but this season makes that change.

So, what after this 5 k?  Well, it will be a 10 k!  My beautiful friend Kathy is training with me to run this.  I think that we have decided that the 5 k is just something to get under our belt and into the habit of doing some running.  I am not, by any means, Usain Bolt, nor do I ever aspire to be (he is a sprinter, after all!) but I am improving.  I find it easier now, for example, to run without music.  In the beginning I thought I would die without it – music then, was a distraction.  Music now is a reminder – on average, it takes about 3 minutes for a song to play – and when you are conscious of that, you are conscious of how slow, or how long your run is!  So music, at the moment, is a no no.

The 10 k (which is part of the Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon) is being held on January 25th at 7:15 am.  That gives us about 11 weeks to work on it.  Susie’s running programme on http://www.kissmyblackass.org in training for a 10 km run is 6 weeks long.  So, after our run on Friday (the 5 k) we will build up our time and distance for 2/3 weeks; then do Susie’s 6 week programme and finish off with 2 weeks before the actual event to work on distance etc.

I am quite excited about getting going on this.  I am excited to have a new plan to work from, to print it off, laminate it, and every time I complete something, to give myself a big, fat star!  I did that for the C25K programme and it was so motivational.

I am so blessed to have some really close friends out here – my lovely Raheela, Maria, Elena, Kathy, Kelly, Yvonne…but to name a few!  And I am so lucky to have lovely friends and family around the globe, who I miss so much – Jami, Kristin, Vicki, Debbie.  I so wish that they would hurry up and invent a transporter like on Star Trek so I could visit them in an instant (although 8 hours away on a flight is actually pretty good!).

I am feeling so happy and balanced.  I have never felt healthier.  Alhamdoolillah, I haven’t been sick in the longest time and I feel so blessed with my family and friends.

Phase 2 and Measurements

So…I have started phase 2 of my training programme, which is great.  Challenging, to say the least, but in a good way.  I am back on the treadmill and am using Susie’s blog http://www.kissmyblackass.org for podcasts.  She has some amazing tracks and I just love running to her old school music.  She has such a sweet voice that tells you when to walk and run.

The programme currently starts with a 5 minute walk as a warm up, followed by four sets of 10 minute runs followed by a two minute walk.  I have to say that the first time I tried, I near keeled over.  I quickly learnt that there is a trick to running distance, and that is to do it at a slow pace…at least, when you start out anyway.

I have run outside several times on the track by where we live, but it is still a little bit too hot to do it straight after school.  I would like start again in the morning but my husband doesn’t always get back on time for me to go so he can watch our daughter.  So, luckily, my school where I work has a little fitness suite which has a treadmill, some bikes, rowers and ellipticals.  The plus side?  I am usually alone so I can sing my little heart out along with Susie’s mix.  The downside?  Everything faces a white wall.  Which is exceptionally boring.  Still, it gives me time to focus on the psychology and patience of running.  I have 27lbs to go now.  Which is fab.  But, the last leg is always the hardest.  The weight is not shifting as quickly as it was in the beginning.  Which is a good, safe thing, but nonetheless frustrating.

I measured myself today which I haven’t done in a good while.  I am pleased with the results.  I will show the measurements in cm from my start date until now:

Body Part            Start (24/4/12)         Now (11/10/12)            Difference

Waist                     116.84 cm                 86 cm                            30.84 cm

Hips                      137.16  cm                111 cm                           26.16 cm

Thigh                        78.74 cm                59  cm                            19.74 cm

Chest                      114.3 cm                101.6 cm                           12.7 cm

Arm                           43.1 cm                  35.56 cm                          7.54 cm

So, I am feeling like a happy bunny.