Shakti Thinks: 5 Reasons Men who Love Vegans are the Greatest

 
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Let's face it – we all want to find our 'soulmate' – someone we connect with deeply, who really 'gets' us. Someone that shares our values, supports our beliefs, and helps us reach our goals. A best friend, lover and cheerleader through life's ups and downs. Oh, and someone who shares our sense of humour, loves cooking, travel, and is kind to animals... and is cool with you being a vegan. Okay, that's a unicorn. We're looking for a unicorn. Damn. 

Waiting for the planets to align and magically bring that person into your life can be a major bummer! (That's mine up there, and trust me, girls, he took FOREVER to show up!) Modern women like to get things done, am I right? So when my friend told me about her new brilliant new dating app for vegans, V Love, I got to thinking. I remembered the times I struggled with the problem... when do I tell him I'm a vegan? When do I drop THAT bombshell? And you know what? I have a theory. The man who is cool with it from the start... THAT's your unicorn! Men who love vegans are the greatest. And here's why:

1. They are open-minded

A man who is open to dating a vegan immediately wins points for being open-minded – you know, as opposed to close-minded and stubborn? It's a really attractive quality. It means he's a good listener, and enjoys discussing ideas and theories. He won't knock that mushroom latte or that jackfruit burger without trying it first. Plus, he's likely to be open-minded about a lot of other things too – like your crazy friends, your secret passion for conspiracy theory documentaries, and the fact that you wear your favourite yoga pants EVERY SINGLE day (yeah, I'm a real catch!).

2. They are patient

The man who loves a vegan is a patient man. This is the guy who will happily make the weekend pilgrimage across town to your favourite farmer's market to get vegan mozarella, allow an extra 20 minutes at the supermarket for deciphering labels, and wait while you grill the waiter about the ingredients in your lentil burger (for the hundredth time!). Another excellent quality that spills over into other aspects of your life.

3. They are smart

Men who love vegans are pretty clever. Aside from the obvious GENIUS decision to date a goddess like you, this is an intelligent man who questions things and seeks truth, rather than blindly following. This is no sheep. He understands the political, ethical, socio-economic and environmental reasons for your cause, as well as the physiological ones. And he's always up for a documentary date night. Swoon!

(above) Mr. Jungle Shakti with a newborn street puppy in Galle. His mum had been hit by a car and crippled, so he insisted we bring them some food to eat. He wanted to adopt them all!

(above) Mr. Jungle Shakti with a newborn street puppy in Galle. His mum had been hit by a car and crippled, so he insisted we bring them some food to eat. He wanted to adopt them all!

4. They are kind

Compassion is a beautiful quality in any human being. To understand, love and support a vegan means that you share their important values of kindness and compassion for all sentient creatures. Men who love vegans are kind to animals – and to you! They are not violent or callous or aggressive. And let's face it, you're going to want to start a rescue farm one day, and you need him to be down with that!

5. They are sexy

Yup! I said it. Plant-based diets make you sexier – and better in the bedroom! The folks at PETA actually made a video so steamy it was banned when they attempted to explain this at the Super Bowl, so it's best you do some online research if you don't believe me. But in short, as Men's Health put it, "junky diets typically lead to heart disease. And men often fail to remember that heart disease doesn’t just affect your ticker – it impacts the blood flow to other areas of the body". Apart from the obvious, that means glowing skin, luscious locks and brighter eyes... AKA sexy!

Last but not least, I couldn't leave out this spicy little tidbit I uncovered... research conducted by OK Cupid (where they surveyed 256,370 users) found that vegetarians and vegans were noticeably more into giving oral sex than our carnivorous counterparts. What can I say? We know our way around bananas, kiwis and peaches! Ha!

meet the love of your life...

Download V Love at:
www.vlove.com.au

 

Gingered Pineapple Vegan Cheesecake with Coconut Bliss Balls

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Okay, I'm officially obsessed with making tropical vegan (almost fully raw!) cheesecakes! After the success of this delicious passionfruit and mango creation, I decided the next one on my list had to be pineapple! That glorious yellow fruit with it's funky green crown whose scent alone whisks me away to a nostalgic la la land of poolside Pina Coladas and those delicious Splice ice-creams I used to buy from the milk bar as a kid in Airlie Beach. 

In addition to being rich in vitamin C, pineapple is also bursting with manganese, a trace mineral that is essential for healthy bones, collagen production, and antioxidant defence. Hello beautiful skin! But we knew this cake would make us glow already, right? The pineapples are so sweet and juicy here in Sri Lanka, and they seem to be in season all year round – so I just had to try it. And I'm so glad I did. This cake is seriously yummy – it's sweet and tangy at the same time. Just like a Splice! The addition of fresh ginger, lime and turmeric just gives it that zingy, superfood-y bomb-diggity that will keep you going back for more... 

Ingredients

for the base (and bliss balls)
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
1 1/3 cups gluten-free oats
1 1/2 cups shredded toasted coconut
1 tsp kitul treacle (or maple syrup)
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
a pinch of salt

for the filling
2 cups cashews, soaked overnight
2 cups fresh, pineapple (go for very ripe, sweet pineapples!)
1/3 cup kitul treacle (or maple syrup)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tsp fresh turmeric, grated (or 1 tsp powder

for the gingered pineapple swirl
1 cup fresh pineapple
1 tbsp kitul treacle (or maple syrup)
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp white chia seeds

Method

Line a round 6" pan with parchment paper and set aside. Make the crust first - place the dates, oats, coconut, treacle, vanilla bean and salt into the food processor and pulse to obtain a sticky, doughy mixture. Spread the mixture into the pan and press it down evenly to form the crust. There should be enough left over to form 4-5 small coconut bliss balls. Simply roll the remaining dough into balls and store in the fridge until you are ready to top your cake.

Next, drain the cashews and place them in the food processor along with the pineapple, treacle, lime juice, coconut oil, ginger and turmeric. Process to obtain a smooth cream. Pour the creamy mixture into a bowl and set aside for a moment.

To make the gingered pineapple swirl, place the pineapple, treacle, ginger and lime juice into the food processor and pulse to obtain a chunky puree. Stir in the chia seeds and wait until the mixture becomes jelly-like (should be 10 minutes).

Alternate pouring layers of the creamy mixture and the pineapple swirl into the pan on top of the crust, starting with the creamy layer and finishing with a swirl. 

Cover and freeze for at least 3 hours. For serving, let it stay at the room temperature for 15 mins until it can be cut easily. Top with fresh fruit (I left the pineapple crown aside for this!) and the bliss balls that you set aside earlier. Seriously yum!

Raw Zucchini Noodles with Creamy Avocado & Mango Dressing

Zoodles! What can I say? I have been having a love affair with these things every since I first discovered raw veganism back in 2011. My spiralizer is one of my most beloved kitchen appliances, because it has changed my world! What could be better than noodles straight from the garden – no gluten, no junky processing, no cooking – just pure, raw, nutrient-filled and incredibly hydrating zucchini? This neat noodle alternative is extremely low calorie, high fibre and soaks up the flavour of just about any sauce you can dream up!

I love zoodles with kale pesto, chunky walnut 'bolognese', cashew cheese sauce... even spicy pink dragonfruit dressing. But for this recipe, I've chosen a creamy, fruity dressing inspired by my tropical island home, Sri Lanka. Mangos and avocados are both in season right now (Hallelujah!) and the zucchinis seem to grow to colossal sizes here too! It's like the Jurassic Park of fruits and vegies... okay, let's get to the recipe, shall we?

Ingredients

2 large zucchinis
2 mangos
1 avocado
3 spring onions
juice of 1-2 limes
1/2 cup coriander
1 green chilli

method

Spiralize or julienne zucchini into noodles and pile into a large salad bowl. Remove the skins and pits from the mangos and avocado and blend along with the remaining ingredients to create a thick, creamy dressing. 

Garnish with coriander leaves, chopped spring onions and a little chopped chilli too, if you like it hot! Serve immediately, as raw food deteriorates very quickly.

Shakti Stays: Leopard Trails at Yala

I'm lucky to say I have had some pretty surreal experiences in Sri Lanka – from hiking through misty mountains to swimming with sea turtles, riding the blue train to watching the sunrise over the Indian Ocean – but by far the most magical moments were in Yala National Park. And, the best part? We experienced it all in style, with the best guides on the island, thanks to Leopard Trails bespoke tented safaris. We originally went down to work with the team on a digital marketing project, but we soon fell in love with the park, our guides... and the food! And suddenly, it didn't really seem like work anymore...

The Wildlife

Yala is Sri Lanka's most famous national park. Forming a total area of 1268 square kilometres of scrub, light forest, grassy plains and brackish lagoons, it's so rich in wildlife that you're virtually certain to encounter elephants, crocodiles, buffaloes and monkeys... and, if you're with the right guides, you'll encounter a leopard.

Yala has this ancient, primordial energy about it that you can't shake off, and at sunset, as the park is about to close for the night, you can feel it more than ever. It was around this time, one quiet evening, that we encountered a leopard. As we turned a corner, around some scrub, she was just suddenly THERE. We stopped dead in our tracks. I don't think I dared to breathe or move. She locked eyes with each of us, one by one, seeming to be scanning our very souls, and then... she turned and slipped away into the forest shadows.

Leopards possess an energy of sublime knowing, and in shamanic teachings, their appearance has deep significance. The leopard spirit is said to guide you to a greater understanding of your true identity and divine destiny – revealing that your 'dark spots' are what make you unique and give you spiritual strength.

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The Camp

Leopard Trails is perfectly positioned on the outskirts of Yala National Park, surrounded by jungle, on the edge of a wetland. The word "camp" doesn't really describe it, as the tents are luxuriously fitted with comfy beds, a fully equipped bathroom and electricity – I even could plug in my hair straightener (my hair is one wild thing Yala is not prepared for!). You still feel in touch with nature, and you can hear the jungle sounds at night, or take a shower outside under the stars, but it's really more like a 'glamping' experience. 

It's especially magical at night, when lanterns are lit and the incredible carpet of stars above Sri Lanka come out to shine. In the lounge tent (the camp's version of a hotel lobby/bar), you can flip through various books on Sri Lanka's wildlife while enjoying a pot of Ceylon tea or a stiff drink (only if your nerves need it after stumbling upon a snake...!). You'll feel like you've stepped into Indiana Jones' drawing room... and the rangers will entertain you with their vast knowledge of the stars, the plants, the ancient histories and, of course, the animals of Yala.

If you're especially lucky, you might swap stories of the Sri Lankan supernatural – the myths and legends of Yala and beyond – with expert guide, good friend and resident documentary film-maker, Arran Sivarajah.

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The Food

Finally, there's the incredible Sri Lankan cuisine. You'll get a chance to try something new with every meal here, and the chefs do an incredible job of giving you a taste of the island's best and most popular dishes. From Pol Pani Pancakes (filled with coconut and treacle), delicious spicy Curry Leaf Sambol (you'll keep going back for more), Red Rice String Hoppers (my favourite!) and classic Parippu (lentil dahl). Better yet, tell them you're a vegan (or you have a rather difficult food allergy in this part of the world – onion!) and they'll take care of you like nowhere else on the island. I was able to relax and not worry about a thing... except maybe my expanding waistline!

But, I'll still never forget that leopard sighting. I was totally entranced, and so was my darling and camera-man, apparently, as he forgot to take the lens cap off. And I don't blame him – I didn't want to take my eyes off her either! Which is why the leopard photos here were very kindly given to me by our awesome guide, good friend and wildlife photographer, Avijja Fonseka. Thank you, Avi!

take me there...

Leopard Trails
Bespoke Tented Safaris
Kataragama, Yala National Park
www. leopardtrails.com

Jungle Passion Vegan Cheesecake with Mango, Treacle & Toasted Coconut

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So, if you've been following my instagram account, you will have read that THIS is the best thing I've made since moving to Sri Lanka! A passionfruit and mango delight with toasted coconut and treacle - a real tropical overload. It's vegan, of course, and almost fully raw (it's only the treacle that isn't). I'm finally getting my head around the subtle differences in the fruit here and learning to work with what's available and in season. No use fighting mother nature, you just gotta embrace it! The dates here, for example, are best used in crusts and for things where you want a chewy, not-so-sweet result.

So for the filling here, I've gone with the local sweetener of choice; Kitul (Wild Palm) treacle. Kitul treacle is a type of sweet syrup extracted from the sap of the Wild Palm flower. It is incredibly rich, sweet and sticky and is used here in Sri Lanka like maple syrup. It has a much lower calorie content than cane sugar and is highly nutritious - so much so that it is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for it's various essential vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. What's not to love?

The other interesting ingredient I've used here is Narang juice to give the cheesecake filling a sour, citrusy tang. Narang is another local Sri Lankan fruit (it looks like a small orange, but has green skin when ripe and bright orange flesh). But you can use lemon or lime juice if you can't find it.

Ingredients

for the crust
3/4 cup almonds
3/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
8 pitted medjool dates
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp sea salt

for the filling
3 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight
1/2 cup coconut cream
3/4 cup kitul treacle (or sweetener of choice)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup mango
1/4 cup fresh narang juice (or lime juice)

for the topping
1 and 1/2 cups mango
1 cup passionfruit pulp
2 tbsp kitul treacle
1 tbsp white chia seeds

Method

Line a round 6" pan with parchment paper and set aside. Make the crust first - place the almonds, dates, coconut flakes and salt into the food processor and pulse, adding coconut oil as you go, to obtain a sticky mixture. Spread the mixture into the pan and press it down evenly to form the crust.

Drain the cashews and place them in the food processor along with the coconut cream, treacle, coconut oil, mango and lime juice. Process to obtain a smooth cream. Pour the cashew mixture in the pan on top of the crust, and spread evenly. Pop it into the refrigerator to chill while you make the topping.

Finally, to make the topping, place the mango, treacle and chia seeds into the food processor and pulse to obtain a puree. Stir in the passionfruit pulp last so that the seeds remain intact.

Top the cheesecake with the puree, cover and freeze for at least 3 hours. For serving, let it stay at the room temperature for 15 mins until it can be cut easily.

Lusciously Raw Pink Dragonfruit Cakes

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It's dragonfruit season here in Sri Lanka and I couldn't be happier! My favourite pink superfruit is popping up everywhere from road-side stalls to street food markets and I couldn't wait to get in the kitchen and start playing around! Like anything this brightly coloured in the plant world, you can bet it's good for you! Dragonfruit contains high levels of vitamin C which boosts the body’s immune system, and stimulates the activity of antioxidants as well. These antioxidants actively seek out and eliminate free radicals. The more vitamin-C, the better! Here's how to make them into a beautiful and tasty raw dessert with a texture like a jam-swirl cheesecake.

ingredients

For the base
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup cashews
15 medjool dates
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp water

For the filling
3 cups raw cashews (soaked overnight)
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
1/4 cup raw coconut cream
1/3 cup Medjool dates, pitted
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2-3 pink dragonfruit
2 tbsp white chia seeds

Garnishes: a handful of pomegranate arils, white dragonfruit balls and slices

method

Line a 6×6 baking pan with grease proof paper. 

For the base, blend all the ingredients in a high-speed food processor until you have a slightly sticky dough. Press onto the bottom of the prepared pan. Place in the freezer while you make the filling.

For the filling, place the cashews in a food processor and blend until they start to mix together and are broken down. Add the coconut oil, coconut cream, dates and vanilla bean paste and blend until you have a thick, creamy mixture.

Scoop out the flesh of the dragonfruit and discard the skin. Add half of the dragonfruit flesh to the blender/food processor with the cashew cream filling and blend until well combined (it should go a luscious pink colour!). Pour approximately 3/4 of the filling on top of the crust and pop in the freezer to firm up.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining filling with the dragonfruit flesh and the chia seeds to make a gooey-er mixture that should be even more pink! Pour this over the top, swirling through gently with a skewer to create patterns. Return to the freezer and freeze for 3-4 hours until firm.

Once ready to serve, slice into squares and top with pomegranate arils and white dragonfruit. A tip for getting the seeds out of pomegranate without making a huge mess – do it underwater! Simply fill a large bowl with water and break apart the pomegranate with your fingers while the fruit is submerged. The seeds will sink to the bottom, the juice won't fly everywhere, and you can skim the white pith off the top. Handy!

Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. 

Dark, Rich & Raw Chocolate & Almond Bars

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If you're serious about feeling superhuman on jungle foods, then the first thing you'll want to give up is refined sugar (along with all the other processed foods). The good news is, that doesn't mean you have to give up chocolate! Mmm the ultimate goddess superfood! Here's my favourite go-to chocolate bar recipe that is ready in a jiffy – as long as you remember to soak the dates overnight! I prefer the richer flavour of date paste over honey, but you can use any natural raw sweetener you like as a substitute – raw honey, rice malt syrup, coconut nectar and agave nectar are all good sweeteners to try. Also, look for the best quality coconut oil and raw cacao you can find – it all makes for a better tasting chocolate. Yum!

Ingredients

1/4 cup medjool date paste (pitted, soaked overnight and blended until smooth)
3/4 cup raw cacao powder
3/4 cup liquid coconut oil (if you need to melt it, try not to overheat or it won't be "fully raw")
a pinch of sea salt
3/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped

Method

Mix all ingredients, except the almonds, until smooth and velvety. Pour about a cup of the liquid chocolate into the bottom of a square brownie tin lined with wax paper and sprinkle evenly with about half of the chopped almonds. Pour remaining chocolate on top, sprinkle with the rest of the chopped almonds, and place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to set. Break into shards and indulge!

Shakti Eats: My Top 5 Plant-Based Breakfast Spots in Colombo

 

So, I'm settling into Colombo life and starting to LOVE this city! It really has everything... you just need the time and the patience to hunt down what you're lusting after. And so, I thought I'd write up a little "insiders guide" for anyone who doesn't have the luxury of time (and patience) to track down that which you crave. For me, the first thing I NEEDED to lock down was a good, healthy breakfast spot and a solid plant-based coffee. Morning rituals are my jam. I like to enjoy my breakfast listening to good tunes, writing in my bullet journal and sipping a good coffee. Here's my top 5 spots in Colombo to do just that...

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1. Café Kumbuk

Not only can you get a delicious plant-based breakfast at Café Kumbuk, it's also positioned conveniently next door to my favourite yoga spot in Colombo – the beautiful Prana Lounge (more on this later). If that's not enough to tempt you... I have three words: 'Coconut Milk Latte'. Holy moly! When I first tasted this coffee, my eyes rolled back in my head and I looked to the heavens saying a silent little prayer. Hallelujah! Creamy, delicious plant-based coffee come at me! And there's more. There's coconut bread with mango and mint, seriously yummy granola topped with strawberries, banana and starfruit and superfood smoothies for days (peanut butter, cacao nibs and toasted coconut flakes – hells yeah!). Read more about it in this post, or just take my word for it, and get on down there...

take me there...

Cafe Kumbuk
60 Horton Place

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2. Black Cat Café

What can I say about my darling little Black Cat Café? It has great coffee, that unmistakeable vintage vibe about it and sweet, sweet air-conditioning that makes it one of my favourite places in Colombo to sit with my journal and chill. Also, in the words of Black Cat's creators, bookshops are fun. Vintage book markets are funner. And there's one hidden at the back of this brilliant café to further aid my morning procrastination (sorry, work!) sessions. As for plant-based breakfast options here, soy milk is available for your coffees and granola bowls (when there's not an island-wide shortage!), as well as pancakes, smashed avo on toast, and what I reckon is the BEST fruit platter around! And trust me, I've tried a LOT of fruit platters in this country!

Take me there...

Black Cat Café
11 Wijerama Mawatha

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3. One Up All Day Breakfast

What could be better than waking up in an exotic paradise like Colombo, knowing you can easily pop down to One Up All Day Breakfast and get the kind of coffee you thought you could only have in freezing, gloomy, 'Miserable Melbourne'? Not much, my friends! I love this little breakfast spot dedicated to exactly that – breakfast, and Melbourne-style coffee. Two of my very favourite things! There's one stand-out dish on the menu for all you plant-lovers out there, and that's the bircher muesli bowl with chia, oats and apple... oh, and wait, then there's blueberry pancakes and avocado smash. I'll take one of each, please!

Take me there...

One Up All Day Breakfast
330 Galle Rd

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4. Life Food

Perhaps you caught the latest edition of 'Shakti Eats' where I discovered this pocket-sized healthy hotspot – Life Food. This fresh little café offers a really impressive breakfast menu featuring plenty of options for vegans, vegetarians and anyone of the lean, green persuasion. There's juices, smoothies, granola, avo smash, roasties (think freshly-baked wholewheat toasted sandwiches) and pancakes – all with a healthy twist. Yes, you can also get your GMO-free soy milk fix, and almond milk is on the way. All this, combined with a bright and cheery atmosphere makes Life Food one of my favourite places to enjoy my morning ritual, watch the leaves fluttering across the street, and chat away to Mr. Jungle Shakti.

take me there...

Life Food Café
33 Perahera Mawatha

5. Milk & Honey Café

Now, there were a lot of cafés I was considering to finish of this list, but I thought that if this is truly a list of the top PLANT-BASED breakfast spots in Colombo, then there's a café I've heard of through the vegan grapevine. I have yet to go there myself, but I've been told that Milk & Honey Café is the MOST vegan-friendly breakfast spot of all. I've heard tales of green pancakes, spinach wraps and homemade granola. If you get there before me, report back, otherwise... watch this space!

take me there...

Milk & Honey Café
44A Horton Place