Being Vegan is awesome, no matter what people say – you feel great, live longer, have more energy, eat delicious foods full of actual nutrients, get creative in the kitchen, live an eco-conscious lifestyle, love animals, make this world a better place…. the list goes on!
But one thing that a lot of Vegans struggle with in real life, specially in the beginning of their journey, is lack of support from friends and loved ones. Even more so, we struggle with finding friends who are also vegan! Sometimes we try to ‘covert’ existing friends and family in order to have someone to share our love with, and they even resent us for it!
Well, I have to say I’ve been very very lucky in this department. Sure, I’ve heard my share of ridiculous, completely off-base comments about my lifestyle and choices, disrespectful jokes and even direct attacks. I stopped eating meat at age of 16, and everyone from my own father to my school teachers tried to protest, luckily in no avail. But, at the same time, I made sure to find vegetarian and vegan friends wherever I go, from day one. I guess I should mention my mom is a vegetarian since I was three years old; that helps a lot. I had someone to teach me how to cook, and by the time I turned vegetarian myself, I already knew how to take care of myself and my hunger! From then on, I’ve always surrounded myself with vegetarian and vegan friends, even turning my high school best friend vegetarian. I like to attend meetups and events that focus on veg food, which definitely expands my veggie friend group.
I’ve also had a few very close friends who are vegan/vegetarian chefs! Now that’s winning the veg friend lottery. I’ve learned so much about cooking, shopping, prepping, detoxing and more from them. Having a professional at your disposal is priceless!
My best friend Vani is a vegan chef who used to manage a vegetarian restaurant in Miami, she’s also an Ayurvedic health coach and a massage therapist. As I’m writing this, I’m looking forward to visiting her next month in May and eating her delicious cooking every day! She is a pro at do-it-yourself cooking, specially cooking from very scratch and making creative and somewhat unusual foods that most won’t take the time to make at home. The woman makes her own coconut milk yogurt from fresh coconut meat (again, priceless)! Learning how to make things from scratch, grind your own flour or make kale chips can be quite transformational and life saving for a vegan!
When I found out Vani made her own COCONUT BACON, I flipped out! I had to have the recipe, and decided to invite her as my guest right here at Girl in The Raw. This is a delicious, yet healthy treat, that is gluten free, vegan, can be made raw, and is made with super healthy coconuts! Vani has years of experience, and has done some pretty awesome things, like lived in India to study Ayurveda, the sister science of Yoga and the ancient Vedic medicine. Here’s her awesome Coconut Bacon recipe. Continue reading for a little interview and insight into Vani’s life.
- 3 cups large unsweetened coconut flakes
- 4 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp liquid smoke
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (optional).
2. Mix all ingredients except coconut flakes in a large bowl. Add coconut flakes and mix well making sure to coat each flake well.
3. Spread the flakes into an even layer on baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for 12 to 14 minutes, flipping halfway, until flakes are mostly dry and turning golden on the edges. Keep an eye on the coconut as it can go from golden brown to deep burnt brown fairly quickly.
4. Let the “bacon” cool, then use it immediately or transfer to a ziploc bag and keep in refrigerator.
Now, if you want to be all cool and natural, like Vani, you might want to make your own Coconut Bacon from scratch! In that case, all you’ll need is a fresh coconut, not the Thai one that we drink coconut water from on the beach, but the brown deliciously meaty kind. This coconut gives more meat than thai, and it’s harder, perfect for this kind of a preparation. Thai coconut meat is soft and deliciously creamy, perfect for blending and eating with a spoon.
“Opening coconuts and taking out big pieces of coconut meat is little complicated at first and requires some practice.”, says Vani. “After you open the coconut you have to try to take out as many big pieces of coconut meat as possible, which you then slice into strips with potato peeler. So the bigger pieces you get the better.”
I wanted to take this opportunity and interview Vani, since she has some cool lifestyle and vegan cooking experience to share. That is to say, I didn’t want to be rude and just steal her delicious recipe and send her on her way… Which is what I do in real life all too often! (Tip: this is the way to become an awesome vegan chef, ask and ask questions and get recipes from people who know what they are doing!)
Interview with Vanesa (Vani) Dejanovic, of Sattva Wellness.
Q: How long have you been vegan/vegetarian?
A: Fourteen, perfectly healthy years.
Q: What made you turn to this lifestyle?
A: I always loved animals, but as most of the people, i was raised to discriminate between animals on my plate, so called “food”, and animals in our home, our pets.
Luckily, i used my own brain and common sense, and I released that there is no difference and that all living beings deserve to live, love and be loved. And just like that I made one of the best decisions in my life. It wasn’t easy to become the first vegetarian in my family and between my friends, specially during “the beginning of internet” era when we didn’t have so many resources, recipes and all these amazing communities as a support. But I was determined, and of course i was rewarded for it. Just a few months after I adopted my new lifestyle, I met a group of amazing people who practice Bhakti Yoga. One of the principles of Bhakti Yoga is ahimsa (nonviolence) and I was happy to learn that they were all vegetarians. From that point on everything was easy. I got many new cookbooks and I got to practice cooking with great chefs.
After my move from Bosnia and Herzegovina to United States, I learned all about animal agriculture and factory farming, the way they treat animals and their negative impact on ecology and our planet. That was the reason for me to go vegan.
And here I am today, healthy, happy, and with clean conscience.
Q: As a Vegan and a health coach, can you reveal a bit about what your everyday diet is like?
A: My day always starts with a cup of warm water in which i add fresh lemon
juice and pinch of Trikatu (Ayurvedic herbal blend of ginger, black pepper and long pepper). It is a great metabolism booster and it assists my body in the process of detoxification. There are so many other health benefits of this morning ritual, and it’s the first thing I recommend to all my clients.
I am one of those people who believe that breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, so i usually skip it. On days when i have early massage appointments I take few bites of something that will give me the energy and prevent my stomach growling (which happened few time and it was awkward). It is usually some fruits, my homemade energy bar or smoothie.
My main and biggest meal of the day is lunch, which I try to have between 11am and 2pm, when our digestion is strongest. I usually have big hearty salad with lots of greens and veggies, which is my main dish, and some grains and/or beans on the side. I don’t experiment so much with salads, I just mix whatever fresh produce I have in my fridge that day, add some nuts, seeds or beans and a simple dressing. But I get creative with the sides, and try different recipes, such as veggie and bean burgers, falafel, whole grain breads and pastries, dishes made of rice, quinoa, buckwheat or millet etc.
For dinner I try to eat lighter, so most of the time I have nice and warm veggie soups or stews with a piece of homemade bread or few crackers.
Of course there are days when I eat pizza, lasagna or other “sinful” foods. But even when I sin, I do it as healthy as possible. So we are talking about whole wheat or gluten-free pizza topped with fresh spinach pesto or tomato sauce and loads of veggies. For me the most important thing is to cook all my meals at home. That way I can control the ingredients in my cooking and save lots of money, which i use to buy more good quality foods. I am truly an eating-out illiterate person, so don’t ask me about best places to out.
Vani shared some great tips and insights – like cooking most of your foods at home in order to eat a healthy wholesome diet. Thank you for being my guest Vani, and here’s to more of her delicious recipes!