Vegan White Chocolate Tart

When I went vegan, I thought my white chocolate days were far behind me, and all that remained was a fond memory… until this morning when I decided enough was enough! I needed to hack white chocolate and veganize it!

The key to a lovely vegan white chocolate is cocoa butter, lightly sweetened with a creamy base. As many of you know, I’m a savage for raw cashews and knew immediately where I was going to find that creamy structure to support the delicateness of cocoa butter, so it was experiment time… it’s always experiment time in my kitchen!

Recipes? Where I’m going, I don’t need no recipes!… Unless I make something amazing, in which case I write it down to share with all of you. So without further ado here is my marvellous morning creation that is not only delicious but also super low maintenance and pretty foolproof!

Enjoy!!

Holly xoxo

Vegan White Chocolate Tart

 

Crust

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Almond Flour
  • 1/3 Cup Cacao Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Maple Syrup or Agave
  • 1/4 Cup Melted Coconut Oil
  • Pinch of Salt

Method

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until a dough forms.
Press into tart pan and chill.

White Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients

  • 3/4 Cup Raw Cashew Pieces
  • 1/3 Cup Cocoa Butter Melted
  • 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup or Agave
  • 3/4 Cup Dairy Free Milk
  • 1 Tsp Maca Powder (Optional)
  • 1/8 Tsp Salt

Method

Combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy.
Pour into crust and chill in freezer or refrigerator for 45 minutes.
Garnish with fruit, chocolate, flowers.

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Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto

One of my favourite dishes as a vegetarian was a nice creamy risotto, and like many, before me, I was one of those people who said ” I’d go vegan, but I could never give up cheese, ” and with that, I believed I could never give up risotto. Giving up dairy initially felt like a major sacrifice but after learning more about the dairy industry, and the adverse effects dairy has on the human body it became easier.

I recall a year after going vegan I was at a Sunday brunch at a popular winery where I live, and I came across a massive plate of cheese. Smoked gouda…. one of my past favourites was calling to me, so after a year dairy free I figured what would one cheese cube hurt and I had love smoked gouda so much. So I took a small piece much to the surprise of my also vegan husband who asked if I was sure I wanted to break a year of solid veganism. I decided I just had to have that one little piece and I popped it into my mouth; the flavours startled me. The cheese that I had enjoyed for years tasted nothing like I remembered and had a more oily texture and to be honest really grossed me out.

That was my moment of confirmation, I no longer needed or wanted dairy. A funny thing happens when you go vegan, your taste buds change and natural flavours start to appear that are of such a beautiful quality it leaves you wondering how you’ve lived so long with a blind tongue. I always find it funny when I hear people refer to a vegan or plant based life style as bland when it is quite the opposite!

You don’t need to sacrifice your health or flavour to enjoy a beautiful risotto, this recipe has been a labour of love for me, and I have spend years trying to get it just right. I’m so excited to finally share it with you!

Creamy Vegan Mushroom Risotto

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook time: 22 mins

Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

Ingerdients

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Small Onion Diced
  • 2 Cups Chopped Mushrooms (mix a variety for a gourmet flair)
  • 1 Large Garlic Clove Pressed
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme or Basil
  • 3/4 Cup Arborio Rice
  • 2 Tbsp Wine (any kind will work)
  • 1 Cup Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Cup Dairy Free Milk (I use Cashew Milk)
  • 1/8 Cup Nutritional Yeast
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Method

  • In a pot fry the diced onion in olive oil until it is clear.

  • Add pressed garlic and mushrooms and cook on med/low until the mushrooms have softened.

  • Add Arborio rice and fry on low until the rice is evenly coated in oil, then add wine and stir.

  • Once the wine has mostly evaporated add the veggie broth, dairy free milk, and nutritional yeast, and herbs.

  • Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer on low for 22 minutes.

  • Add salt and pepper to taste, serve and garnish with vegan parmesan.

ENJOY!

Teaching Compassion To Children And Teens

I think we can all agree that the world needs more compassion and teaching our children to understand the need for it is a mission we as parents must take on! With growing social media platforms we can sometimes become desensitized to the things happening around us as much of the information about the world today is filtered in some way. Yes, we have all seen photos of suffering but is that enough to teach our children to feel compassion? I think compassion needs to be taught through hands-on learning, yes some of us immediately connect with news stories or seeing a bird with a broken wing but do we actually do anything about it?

I want to see my kids stand up and help, offer kindness to someone who is down on their luck, and know that compassion ALWAYS matters. I’ve created a list of ten ideas to try with your kids that have been successful with mine in our journey to create a more compassionate world.

Ten Compassion Building Ideas

Plant A Garden: Compassion doesn’t just extend to humans and animals but to plants as well. The trees provide us the essential oxygen we need to survive, some bare fruit and essential oils. We acquire vitamins and energy, as well as maintain our health through plant foods and pharmaceuticals that have plant derived ingredients. All of this giving and we so often fail to honour and recognize all that plants and trees do for us. By planting a garden, we teach our children how to show compassion to plants; from a tiny seed in our little one’s hand to the excitement they feel when they see a little sprout appear. Children become invested in their plants; they have a natural desire to nurture and care for new life. This creates compassion not only for the plants they personally grow but the plants and trees they encounter in the outside environment.

Volunteer At The Food Bank: Take your older children to volunteer at your local food bank, there is something interesting that happens to kids as they enter their older child to teen years; for a time many become a little ungrateful and a bit self-absorbed. This is totally normal! It’s hard to go through that tradition from child to teen, and they have a lot going on, but it’s still important for them to recognize the wellbeing of others. Volunteering at a food bank teaches your child that not everyone has the same luxuries you enjoy and many families can’t afford to put food on the table. Working with these families develops an understanding that even in our own communities a large number of families are struggling and could use the help. Even in donating a few hours of their time they can make a difference in the lives of others.

Adopt A Shelter Pet: We all get excited about baby animals but what we often fail to teach our children is that adult or senior pets are just waiting for someone to play with them too. Shelters are full of abandon, lost, or neglected animals and are often overrun with them. Two years ago we adopted a fifteen-year-old labrador who we named Deefer to teach our children about compassion. What they learnt was that even at fifteen and with his old man gray chin Deefer loved to play catch, go for walks, and run around. He lives for play time! Not only that, but he was also well trained, and we didn’t have to deal with any of the puppy drama. We often wonder what he was like as a young pup and the kids like to make up stories about him from his younger days. Of course, with shelter pets, you need to make sure they are a good fit for your family, that they are good with children, and that any health issues they may have are manageable. When we first added Deefer to our family, we were asked why we chose not to get a puppy, and the kids have no problem saying “Old dogs need love too!”.

Make Care Packages For Homeless People: Most people hurry their children away from homeless people as if hoping their children won’t notice them sitting there. I assure you, your child noticed! This is the perfect opportunity to teach your child about compassion and take it to an even higher level. Talking to your child about the homeless in a way that gives a life and story to the people they encounter turns them from someone who is begging to someone who came from somewhere just as they have. Everyone has parents, we all have a family even if some us don’t have a loving family, we didn’t just fall from the sky and become. A series of events has led us to where we are now, and unfortunately, some of us fall into hard times. This doesn’t mean we are any less worthy of compassion. A great way for children to understand compassion is by helping others, small care packages in zip lock bags are a wonderful way to support your local homeless community. Pack some essential items into the bags, like toothbrushes, mini toothpaste, snack items, hats and mittens, matches, etc. Small gestures can go a long way! Though I will say not everyone is going to want a care package, typically if given by a child they are very well received.

Sponsor A Child In Need: If you are able to, consider sponsoring a child in a third world country. Our family had a lovely sponsor child called Faith who lives in Uganda. We made the decision to sponsor through SOS Children’s Villages as after considerable research we found that this organization would make sure the majority of the money we send each month goes directly to Faith’s care and activities. We receive letters and photos from her, and our children love to write and draw pictures for her. It’s a lovely exchange and has sparked a curiosity in my children to learn more about the part of the world Faith lives and what an average day looks like for her.
http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org

Visit Seniors Homes: Caring for someone smaller and younger than ourselves seems to come naturally to most children, but age certainly doesn’t define the level of compassion we require. Visiting seniors homes is a great way for kids to connect with older souls and discover how similar we really are. Aside from learning from the people in the homes an incredible exchange happens, the children add a flair of fun and excitement in the day of the residents and in exchange they are usually given some gem of wisdom. For teens, it’s a wonderful way to make friends with a senior and form a more mature relationship or mentorship.

Consider A Plant-based Lifestyle: Plant-based lifestyles are compassion based, health-based and environmentally based. It’s very easy for us to disconnect the link between animals and food as most of us grow up eating animal products. When looking at a bigger picture it a pretty good assumption that the animals who are raised for meat would rather live, and the environmental effects of factory farming is doing a considerable amount of damage to our environment. Living a plant-based lifestyle means no longer purchasing or consuming products that are animal derived creating a more gentle way of life. Teaching your children compassion for animals through this type of lifestyle has not only health benefits but is also delicious! This doesn’t mean you have to make the change overnight, many people are making gradual changes toward a plant-based lifestyle, and that is a fantastic step to take!

Donate To A Local Cause: Hop online and check out Go Fund Me, you will be surprised at how many local causes you will find. From families that have encountered death, to injuries, and ailing family members, each of these local causes will have a story. When something happens in your life that is difficult or traumatic, community support is incredibly important. Share the stories of these people with your children and ask them how they think they can help.

Get Your Teens and Children Excited About Volunteer Work: Get your kids involved in volunteer work and helping others! The organization Change Gamers has developed an app that makes charity work and volunteering fun, with a great community they are making positive contributions to communities near you! Great online discussion and brainstorming add to the community lead by the Change Gamers Ambassadors who empower kids to change the world! Check them out at https://www.changegamers.com

Donate Gently Used Toys To Children: Have you ever walked into your child’s room, looked around and thought “Where did all of this stuff some from?!” I am with you! With six kids in our home we are at a surplus of barely used toys, and every year around the holidays we get our kids to go through their rooms and find the toys they no longer use. We always make sure these toys are clean and gently used and explain to our kids how happy another child will be to have them to play with. These toys can be dropped off at your local food bank for holiday hampers or to many various organizations such as The Women’s Shelter and the Salvation Army.

Many little things that can go a long way! Let me know in the comments what you have tried that worked for you. Of course, this goes without saying, safety is always the number one priority, I encourage my kids to be as compassionate as possible, but never at the expense of their personal safety. Unfortunately, not everyone is full of kindness, and this too is a lesson we should inform our kids about.

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Island Energy For The Empath

There is something magical about islands, it’s almost as if they are little vortexes of concentrated energy dotted all over the world. I’m not just talking about tropical islands but islands in general; I arrived in Maui for a writers workshop on Thursday and noticed immediately on my arrival that the energy of this incredible place was identical to the energy I feel when visiting Ireland and Vancouver Island.

I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to energy (here is where I go hippie on you, the site is called Hippie On The Grid… you were warned!), since childhood I’ve been able to sense the energies of other people, plants, animals, and the general energy of a place or situation. As a child this was incredibly confusing because I would automatically think I had angered someone if they were having a bad day as I was picking up on that unhappy energy, in reality, I had nothing to do with their mood, but because I could feel it, I assumed I caused it. It wasn’t until my twenties when my lovely friend Maartje taught me about empathic people. Those who carry this trait or ability often can’t identify it and live their lives constantly absorbing the energy put out by the world around them; this can be both confusing and stressful if you don’t know what you are dealing with.

We are all energy, everything around us is energy, so it makes sense that we can feel and absorb the energy around us. We all do this every day, but some of us are hypersensitive to it, and without the proper protections we can easily become heavily overwhelmed causing depression, anxiety, and avoidance.

There are a few things empathic people can do to alleviate this intake of energy, protecting themselves from the more negative or lower vibrating energy out there. One is to create what is called a psychic shield; this is simply a visualization of protective white and gold light covering your body bouncing the dark energy away. I do this every morning when I wake and often pause throughout my day to recharge this protective shield by repeating the visual. Another great tool for empathic people is the use of crystals; I truly believe they help and always have either my pockets or bra full of these precious gems. The three crystals I have found most helpful are hematite (reflects negative energy away), smokey quartz (protects and blocks negative energy), and rose quartz (inviting love in).

Let’s talk about island energy; islands are grounding places for empaths, it’s as if the surrounding water acts as a buffer from the mainland chaos. The term “island time” is often thrown about jokingly due to the slower pace and more relaxed disposition of the inhabitants. Island energy is almost like being caught in a time warp for an empathic person, our heart rate slows, we become more connected to our environment, and we are more easily able to repel those invasive type energies.

Islands are usually dense in vegetation, and because plants and trees are incredibly healing and raise the energetic vibration of the land, they create an energy cleanse. If you consider the mainland which is often highly populated with much of the vegetation cut away to create infrastructure; the energetic vibration will be lower allowing those unpleasant energies to thrive.

Even with an arsenal of tools to help alleviate the symptoms known to visit empathic people, we all need a break from the constant demand on our consciousness to sort out what feelings are ours and what is just energy put off by others. Islands are the perfect place to reset and recharge ourselves quickly when we have taken on too much.

I try to take some kind of island holiday once a year to clear my system and feel grounded again. It wasn’t until this past week in Maui that I realized the connection between the islands I’ve visited and the healing effect it has had for me. I have always naturally been drawn to islands, and I think I’ve finally figured out why. Our subconscious is incredible and knows exactly what it needs to thrive, guiding us in its gentle manner to our greatest potential if we would only listen and follow along.

Holly

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Getting Lost in Motherhood, 10 Easy Ways Find Yourself Again

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Some days I feel utterly lost in motherhood, now don’t get me wrong, I love being a mother and would never trade my six amazing children for the world but its just so easy to get caught up in the every day robotic schedule. We often forget about what inspires us and makes us who we are. In the end after years go putting our hearts and souls into our babies we need to have something to keep us going after all of the stressful excitement raising our children has passed.

I know in the past I’ve fallen into the mom who’s let herself go mode and it’s very easy to find that place once we get pulled into that robot lifestyle . Day in and day out of cooking, cleaning, driving, for many of us working, homework, the bedtime chase, and then preparation for the next day leaves us feeling exhausted and sometimes pretty depressed. For me it was just like crawling to the finish line… or a glass of red wine in my case. Maybe if I was lucky I’d get an hour to sit with my husband and watch a show on Netflix before going to bed; that was the only reward I felt I had to look forward to.

I know I’ve hit points in my life where I have been completely frustrated and felt angry with my husband, the only problem is I didn’t know why I was actually angry with him… Maybe I wasn’t angry with him at all. He would ask me what was going on and I would say “I have no life!”.  I wanted to blame him for that isolation and for my feelings of monotony. I would tell him “I have so much more potential than to be stuck being a maid and chauffeur all day!” like he had put me in this place.

I think due to my own perception of gender roles I felt angry that I needed to be the one who dealt with everything at home. I became so resentful that I wasn’t even able to recognizing the things he did at home when he wasn’t working to financially support our family. The truth is he is a hard worker who does his share around the house. He was not the one who chose this life for me, we decided we wanted one of us to be home with our kids. We both didn’t have a preference who stayed home as we both felt that we are equally competent parents, it just so happened that he had a more fruitful career than I did so it made sense that I stay home. To be honest I want to stay home and raise my children, it’s just much harder than I imagined.

Lets rewind 14 years to the time before my first child was born. I was 18, a very young mother to be. I had always been very active in performing arts and writing, I also had a dream to join the airforce and become a fighter pilot. Big dreams!! At the time of my pregnancy I couldn’t see why I couldn’t still do those things one day. As the years passed and I added to my family it seemed my dreams were slipping away and the girl with big dreams and huge ambition was stuck in what I could best describe as a box with no exit. That was when I gave up…

Feeling defeated I felt like there was no point, I’d always just be a housewife. I gained a lot of weight which only made me feel worse about myself and looked for someone to blame for my misfortune. I can clearly recall sitting on my couch weighing 90lbs more than I do now with children fighting in the background and consciously deciding screw it! My life was just destine to be boring and suck.

It’s very sad to look back now because what I’ve learnt is that for one there is no such thing as “just a housewife”. We mothers are individuals and really super women who if we just allowed ourselves could not only be amazing parents to our children but incredibly loving to ourselves! This negative place I created was for the most part totally in my head, sure I’ve had road blocks as we all do but sometimes with a little improvising and compromising we can take back that ambitious woman hiding inside.

Knowing that there are so many women in the same position I was, I decided to share with you some of the things I did to find myself again. Here are a few easy steps to get you started with re-connecting to yourself and your passions. The best part is you can do all or most of this with little to no cost at all:

  1. Let go of the guilt! My number one cop-out excuse for not taking “me” time was always that even if I went out I’d feel guilty for leaving my husband with the chaos after his work day. This is a hard one to break, my husband knew I needed some me time and encouraged it but I’d leave and instantly feel bad and then come home and resent him for my feelings of guilt. Totally not his fault and not fair of me to throw on him when he was being wonderful and encouraging my freedom. It’s like they say,  “You can drink from an empty cup”. It’s time to stop the guilt and refill every now and then.
  2. Rekindle what you loved in your youth. So many of us were part of clubs in high school or had hobbies we enjoyed that we stopped doing once we had children. I always loved theatre but thought that my acting days were behind me due to time constraints. Plus what was the point I’d never be a famous actor so why bother right? Wrong! The joy I found in my life once I discovered community theatre was incredible, plus it worked with my schedule as most people involved had day time obligations. Maybe you loved to paint, or were a killer soccer player, perhaps you liked to debate in high school. You can always find an adult version of what you loved, with adult sports leagues, art lessons, toastmasters classes to brush up on your public speaking skills for a good debate. The opportunities are endless!
  3. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Be grateful! There is so much beauty in this world, all you have to do is look at your sleeping child to see that. Take it further, maybe you saw a rainbow or perhaps someone let you merge in heavy traffic. The little things add up in a big way! Keep a note pad on you or use the note pad on your phone and record the little and big things you have to be grateful for in your day. At the end of the day add your grateful notes to your Gratitude Journal. I love to physically write these grateful moments into my journal but there are also many stellar apps available as well that you could use.
  4. Join a women’s group. When women get together amazing and powerful things happen! In my time as a Counsellor, Life Coach and Women’s Healing Arts Teacher I have lead many groups for women. The bonds that form when women gather who have a common situation or interest are lasting. It is so important to have someone to relate to as a mother, there is so much pressure to be that TV mom we all see. Here’s a secret… she doesn’t exist! Nobody is perfect, not you and certainly not me and it is so important to be reminded that we are only human. We all have struggles and thats totally okay! We should be talking about these things and empowering each other because we all need support on this amazing journey through parenting.
  5. Cook for fun! Wait, is that an oxymoron? If you’re like me you are so so done with cooking!! Every meal there is always somebody who complains or cries. You work so hard to cook a good meal for your family and before you even have it on the table someone is turning their nose up. It is very frustrating, not to mention trying to come up with something new everyday so not to condemn your family to another day of pasta and tomato sauce. So my suggestion is let your partner chase the kids off to bed while you create something special. I put on some old school Jazz, I like my Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. Pour a glass of wine and actually enjoy cooking again. It’s really a win/win you don’t have to put the kids to bed and your partner gets to enjoy a nice meal with a happier and more relaxed you.
  6. Learn something new. I’ve always been fascinated by ancient civilizations but never really knew much about any one particular topic so I decided to learn more. You’ll be amazing how fun learning can be when it’s something that interests you! I catch myself excitedly talking to people about the cool things I’ve learnt. My kids could tell you all about the ancient Celts and Mayan as sometimes they are the only ones around to share my knowledge with. Pick up an instrument and commit to learning to play it, learn a language for that trip you will one day be able to take! With so many instructional videos on YouTube there really isn’t much you can pick up and learn. Udemy is another great place to learn and take courses with so many free and cost friendly options! Knowledge is power and honestly just feels good!
  7. Take a wacky class. I took a holistic sauerkraut making class and let me tell you it was one of the most entertaining and fun classes I’ve every taken! Our instructor a holistic chef Scott had us singing to our cabbage as we massaged the salt into it. Yes, an odd class choice but I find that sometimes the most wacky and random classes you can take are the ones that fill your heart with joy and leave you inspired to make an obscene amount of sauerkraut! Another example would be a fantastic adult acting class I took which taught how to be part of an improve soap opera, silliness and over the top drama were encouraged and it was freeing! There is something beautiful about a bunch of people taking a class together where you are encouraged to be silly and have fun!
  8. Create! So you might not be an artist, so what! Besides art is subjective and always beautiful to someone. Get your hands dirty, paint a picture, build a sculpture. Sometimes taking your frustrations out by creating is very therapeutic. Creation doesn’t necessarily have to be art based either, why not create a garden or a new recipe? I love developing new recipes many which I will share with you on here in there future. Be inspired to create in any way you can! You have it in you, you’ve created children, a home, a life, now go create just for fun!
  9. For goodness sakes take a nap! You’ll remember people telling you to “Sleep when the baby sleeps”. Here’s your chance, even 20 minutes can make a world of difference in your day. If you’re like me and aren’t the best sleeper you will love this step because it not only will make you a nicer person to be around but you won’t feel as grouchy inside either. We are busy women! We need a recharge from time to time. If the kids are safe and supervised or sleeping then there is no reason not to catch a few minutes of rest. This becomes easier as your children get older and you have a teen who can care for their siblings but until then, there is no shame in asking Daddy or a trusted adult to watch the kids for 20 minutes while you catch some sleep.
  10. What do you love about yourself? Don’t you dare tell me you don’t love anything about yourself because that simply isn’t true. Yes, sometime we can forget those amazing things we love about ourselves but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. At my very lowest points I still knew I had pretty eyes and a nice singing voice and I loved that about myself even though I’d have denied it at the time. Go to a mirror and look at yourself, not just your reflection but also look at the person who has talents and accomplishments. Maybe you make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, or perhaps you can read an entire novel in one sitting. We all have something and more likely many things no matter how small! Make a list, keep it close and add to it as much as possible. When you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, open your heart, be kind to yourself, and read your list.

You are a super woman who needs to reconnect with herself! You completely deserve to enjoy your life as much as anyone else in this world. It doesn’t have to take up a ton of time to reconnect with who you are outside of being a mother. There is no reason why you should lose your identity! Plus just think of how inspiring you will be to your partner and children as a radiant, passionate, knowledgable person. It’s never too late to start something new or develop new habits and self love should be at the top of the list.

Warmest Thoughts and Wishes to you always!

Holly