Cooking With Friends: Jasmine Briones + Quinoa Lentil & Arugula Salad

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Last weekend, I spent the weekend cooking a magnificent Thanksgiving feast with my good friend, Jasmine Briones, of Sweet Simple Vegan.  Jasmine and I met through Instagram about a year ago and met in person last August at the very first Los Angeles Summer Vegan Potluck.

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From the start, Jasmine was very sweet–she gave me a thoughtful thank you card, thanking me for being so kind and for inspiring to her.  She also gave me some of her adorable fruit and vegetable hair accessories that she makes and sells in her Etsy store!

 

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One big thing we have in common is our passion for health and nutrition.  Jasmine is a Nutritional Science and Public Health student, and she creates vegan and gluten-free recipes, just like me!  She enjoys a high carb, low fat lifestyle, while I follow more of the Beauty Detox Solution principles, developed by Kimberly Snyder.

Another thing we have in common are writing eBooks!  Jasmine authored her first eBook, Sweet Simple Vegan: Lunch and Dinner a few months back.  It is the ultimate beginner’s guide for those transitioning to or already eating a high carb low fat (hclf) diet. It is also for those wanting to incorporate more raw foods into their existing diet, or for those who eat Raw Till Four.

With Sweet Simple Vegan: Lunch and Dinner, one has essential information needed to embrace and thrive on a high carb low fat lifestyle. Jasmine’s words are very encouraging for new vegans and for those who want to cook simply yet still deliciously. Her recipes include detailed instructions, they’re oil-free, low-fat, and just like her: sweet, simple, and vegan. All of her recipes are delicious, easy to make, and full of nutrition. I recommend it!

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Since we have so much in common and clicked so well from the very start, we thought it would be a great idea to join forces and cook an ambitious holiday feast together!  I’m glad we did!  It was so much fun!  Here’s a sneak peak of our Sweet Eclectic Thanksgiving Feast!

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Jasmine is a sweet, intelligent, and talented young woman.  She is also very hardworking, ambitious, and aspires to be many great and admirable things.  I am certain she will achieve all that she pursues.

This Thanksgiving, I am so thankful that Instagram, veganism, and the desire to eat delicious yet nutritious food brought me to meet so many amazing people, like Jasmine!  It’s been fun learning from and about one another, and I look forward to many years of friendship!

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We thought it would be fun to interview each other.  Below is Jasmine’s interview, and on Jasmine’s website, you can find my interview.

 

 

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Interview with Jasmine Briones of Sweet Simple Vegan

Y: Can you describe your lifestyle and food philosophy?

J: Mentally, I always try to be connected with myself. I try to stay focused on the now and to count my blessings! After having come from a past of negative views of myself both physically and mentally, I have finally learned that I need to find a balance in my daily life in regards to my time spent with myself and the rest of what I plan to do. I used to view this as being selfish, but I have realized that I am living to care for myself, to keep myself happy and healthy above all others and to live my life to the best of my ability. Once I was able to find myself the way I did, I see that I have inspired others to do the same. I never intended to the live the life that I do in the small limelight that is now in on the Internet and social media, but seeing that it inspires others to take a step further and also make changes towards living a more positive life has helped me stay grounded and motivated in this all.

Physically, I do yoga, HIIT workouts and weight training. I used to be a big gym junkie and push myself past my limits, but I try now to do physical activities that I enjoy and am good at doing. I workout 3-5 times a week depending on my schedule. As for my diet, I follow a high carb, low fat vegan diet. I only eat whole food plant foods, and I eat minimal to no salts and oils. I find this diet to make me feel my best and to be the easiest lifestyle to follow. There is little to no prep, easy digestion, and simple meals everyday. I eat raw foods until dinner, then I will enjoy a rice or potato dish with lots of veggies, sometimes legumes, and greens.

I love to blog, play around with photography, and teach others how to adopt this beautiful lifestyle. I hope to one day release a cookbook and a little more about my story to inspire others, especially of my age, to make more positive changes and decisions in their lives.

 

Y: Have you always been living this way or what triggered the change?

J: Growing up, I ate a standard American diet. I did not ever think about the things I put into or onto my body! After going off college, I started developing health problems that eventually forced me to return home. I had to take charge of my health before it was too late. My diet was the main factor of all that I was suffering with, and I knew enough was enough. I also  was studying to be a veterinarian at the time (my major has since changed), and I felt it to be ironic that I claimed to be concerned with the health and well being of animals, yet I was till consuming and using animal products. I went into veganism in order to eradicate the most changes in my health in a small amount of time and also to life a more ethical lifestyle. I intended for it to be 40 days, but it has now turned into 3 years, and will be a lifetime. I have never felt as good as I do now, mentally and physically. I love myself so much more, I am happier, healthier, and I am a lot more motivated to go out into the world and appreciate the renewed chance of LIFE that I have been given.

 

Y: What ingredients are must-haves for your fridge and pantry?

J: My diet consists of primarily fruits and vegetables, so these are “must-haves” in my kitchen. I know that is vague, but the list changes between the seasons so I can’t give you a definite answer! I always make sure to buy MORE fruit than I need so that I will have back ups in the freezer for when I am not able to get to the market.

Currently, I have been consistent on having: Bananas, persimmons, dates, apples, cucumbers, spinach, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, and lots of leafy greens.

I have a garden at home that a large portion of my produce comes from as well! Since these are living on my property, I have an abundance of these during their respective seasons:

Fruits and Vegetables: Kale, spinach, brussels sprouts, lettuce, collard greens, bell peppers, jalapeños, figs, apples, oranges, lemons, calamansi, grapefruit, cherry tomatoes, cabbage, various squash, ashitaba

Herbs: Basil, mint, rosemary, dill, oregano, thyme, parsley, cilantro

Other foods that I also have throughout the week:

Nuts/Seeds: flax seeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts and cashews

Grains: brown jasmine rice, quinoa, barley

Beans: black, pinto, garbanzo and red beans

I have an ‘In My Kitchen’ post on my blog with more info as well :)

 

Y: Is there anything you are completely strict about when it comes to your diet and lifestyle?

J: Well, the obvious is everything has to be vegan. Another thing is that I don’t eat “junk food” vegan. After having learned more nutritionally, as well as seeing how I feel when I eat certain foods, I make sure I only eat whole foods, avoiding soy, wheat, salts and oils.

 

Y: What routines are non-negotiable in your daily life?

J: Drink about a liter of water one rising, eat whole fresh living foods throughout the day, and to take a moment of each day to tell myself that I am beautiful, strong, able to do ANYTHING I set my mind to.

 

Y: Where do you find inspiration and motivation to keep living your healthy lifestyle? 

J: In those I follow on social media and in all of those that I am lucky enough to have supporting my page. Being able to hear and see so much positive feedback towards a plant-based lifestyle will never stop bringing me so much joy. I am passionate about health and happiness, which is why I am studying nutritional science in school!

 

Y: You share parts of your life in Los Angeles, through your blog. How has having a blog changed things for you?

J: It has allowed me to become more social and adventurous. I did not have many vegan friends prior, but once I discovered the beautiful vegan community in Los Angeles, I was able to go out and explore a bit more :) Although I do not advocate eating out all of the time, it is nice to get away from my home and enjoy a night full of surprises. My blog has also allowed me to find a voice in this world of chaos. Being able to share what I love and have other enjoy it is truly a blessing. I never once thought I would be a foodie, or even a vegan! I discovered a new passion and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

 

Y: What are 2 of your favorite vegan/natural beauty products?

J: Coconut oil- I try to use homemade or minimal ingredient products at home, especially when it comes to beauty. I’ve been using coconut oil as a moisturizer for almost 2 years now, and I swear by it. Along with my diet, I believe that the use of this natural, one ingredient moisturizer has helped me maintain soft and clear skin. Plus it smells SO GOOD!

Schmidt’s Natural Deodorant in Lavender + Sage- You actually got this for me for my birthday, thanks so much for that! I started reading a lot on the damages aluminum can cause on our bodies, and deodorant sold in stores almost always has aluminum as a main ingredient, yikes! So I started looking into DIY deodorant recipes and found that the ingredients were almost identical to the ones used in the Schmidt’s deodorant. I love the smell and it works well for me! I don’t know if this is too much information, but I will share it anyways. I used to get really bad odor when I would sweat a lot, especially at the gym, but after going vegan and cleansing my body of all the animal products and unhealthy foods/products I used to put in and on it, I feel that my odor has diminished substantially. Has this happened to you at all or have you heard of anyone else experiencing this change?

Y: Thank you for candor!  This is such a funny topic for me, and I’m a little embarrassed to share,  but I will share since you just shared such honest information.  I did experience body odor.  Interestingly, in my right underarms and only when I would drink coffee.  I remember telling my doctor the cause and effect, and she told me to stop drinking coffee.  I haven’t had coffee in almost 2 years, and since then I don’t experience that problem!.  Hahaha

Y: How do you keep your energy level high throughout the whole day?

Simple, I make sure I eat enough and I eat WELL. I don’t really keep track of how much I eat (calorie wise), but I try to eat intuitively, and healthfully. Being fueled by, lets say, pastries for example, will probably make me feel sluggish and sick. But drinking a banana smoothie instead will keep me fueled for the day and definitely energetic! Carb up baby ;)

 

Y: You have a lot of good stuff going on! Blogging, school, recipe development, and other exciting projects and collaborations. How do you organize your day to stay focused and get things done without feeling overwhelmed?

J: I have to create schedules each day in order to manage every aspect of my life! It’s been pretty hectic lately with school and work, but I’ve been able to somehow live through it all. With my dedication to bettering my own health and that of others, I see that all of the time I am dedicating to this lifestyle is worth it. When I am able to hear feedback and know that I helped improve someone’s life, the amount of joy I feel is indescribable. I know that I am doing what I am meant to do with my life, and I will do whatever it takes to make the most positive change :)

 

Y: You are glowing from inside out, what’s your secret?

J: Thank you so much Yvonne, that is so sweet of you to say! Physically, I give it all to my plant-based diet :) I drink lots of water and eat most raw living foods. For my skincare, I wash my face with homemade scrubs, moisturize with coconut oil, and periodically make face masks out of whole food plant-based ingredients. I also try and wear minimal makeup! I don’t wear eye makeup often, maybe once a year, and I use just a sheer coverup or powder. Mentally, I try to stay positive. I’ve learned to embrace my mistakes, focus on the beautiful things in life, and try to find a reason to smile and stay happy through everything I do. I take moments to remember where I am, and where I came from, and I use that to fuel my happiness. I try to share this with as many people as I can, and I hope everyone will do the same <3

 

Y: What kind of advice would you give anyone wanting to become a healthier and happier person but doesn’t know where to start?

J: Take one step at a time. Everyone is at a different place, and lives a different lifestyle, so I can’t pinpoint just one specific thing to do. Of course, I suggest transitioning into a more plant-based diet. Get rid of 1 food/food group at a time, and don’t stress about it! People make mistakes, and change takes time :) Focus on all of the positives that will come from what you are doing, and make the change for YOU! You have to want it, or else it will feel like more of a hassle/task and less of the beautiful lifestyle change it is.

 

Y: Your top 5 tips to stay grounded, happy and healthy!

J: 1. Eat more whole, fresh, ripe and raw organic fruits and vegetables.

2. Stop comparing yourself to other people.

3. Live in the now, and appreciate all that life has to offer you.

4. Stay active, in whatever way you may choose. Once you find an activity you love, stick to it and it will be more play and less work for you!

5. Take a moment everyday to just stop what you are doing, clear your mind, take a deep breath and SMILE :) Be grateful for living, and for being you!

 

Y: What is your favorite meal to cook/prepare at home for yourself and for your family? 

J: When I find a dish that is enjoyed my family and I, I tend it make it as often as I can until we move on to something new. I try to get my family to eat as plant-based as I can, and if that means a recurring meal then so be it! Lately, we have all been hooked on my Quinoa, Lentil and Arugula Salad. I make variations of it depending on what I have in my kitchen and garden, but the dressing is always the same oil-free vinaigrette on the original recipe. The full recipe is up on my blog if anyone is interested, it can be found here.

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QUINOA, LENTIL & ARUGULA SALAD (LOW-FAT)
 PREP TIME
COOK TIME
TOTAL TIME
Author: Jasmine Briones / Sweet Simple Vegan
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 3-4 servings
INGREDIENTS
  • 1½ cups quinoa + 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 1 cup green lentils + 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
  • 3 oz arugula
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp finely minced garlic
  • 1 tbs olive oil OR water
  • 2 tbs fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup orange bell pepper, diced
  • 15 grape tomatoes, halved
  • Fresh black pepper
  • Healthy green salt substitute or desiredsalt
INSTRUCTIONS
Dressing
  1. Vigorously stir together the lemon, vinegar, pepper, garlic and oil/water. Try and do this first so that you can set it aside as the garlic infuses into the liquid.
Quinoa*
  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine sieve until water runs clear. Drain, transfer to a pot with your liquid of choice and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, cover reduce heat to a simmer until water is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat for 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.
Lentils*
  1. Pick over and remove any shriveled lentils, debris, or rocks. Rinse the lentils in a fine sieve and drain. Transfer to a pot with your liquid of choice, cover and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer until tender, about 15-20 minutes. If necessary, drain the lentils once cooked before adding it into the salad.
Assembly
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and toss. Add fresh black pepper and salt to taste.
NOTES
I suggest cooking the quinoa and lentils at the same time to cut down the cooking time.
Keep in mind that the lentils will double or triple in volume during cooking.

 

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