My next guest blogger contributing to my Vegan Resources! Click here to see all of the contributors and read their stories! Introduce yourself to all of us!
Name: Yvonne Ardestani
Origin: San Diego and Santa Cruz, California
Current City: Los Angeles, California
Occupation: Vegan, Gluten-free Chef. Founder of My Eclectic Kitchen Recipe App (available on iTunes and Google Play), eBook, and blog.
1- Prior to attending culinary school, I was an accountant and sold real estate.
2- I am the youngest of six daughters.
3- I have an autoimmune disease. I was first hyperthyroid, and now I am hypothyroid.
4- I was once a size 13 and went down to a size 2 within 1.5 years, with the help of a cleaner diet and a lot of exercise.
5- I’m often asked what ingredient I miss most since going vegan. I have to say honey. It used to be so good in my granola and granola bars. Luckily, I discovered great alternatives for honey.
Can you describe your lifestyle and food philosophy?
It is important for me to maintain a balanced life. This includes daily meditation and prayer to thank God for my many blessings—my overall health, a wonderful marriage, my family and friends, and, of course, for the abundance of delicious, natural food that I am privileged to enjoy each day. As I live an active and healthy lifestyle, I work out at least 4 times a week and enjoy a plant-based, whole foods vegan diet. Taking yoga a few times a week and journaling daily help me achieve a sense of self-awareness. Maintaining healthy and peaceful relationships is a priority so spending time with my supportive and loving husband, family, and friends is a must. In my spare time, I enjoy watching the LA Clippers at the Staples Center, writing music with my husband, learning about nutrition, and keeping up with current events.
In terms of food, my philosophy is to listen to my body and eat what makes me feel energized, alive, and healthy. I eat colorful, mostly raw foods throughout the day (before 4pm) as it gives me a boost of energy and is easier to digest. My goal is to retain optimal digestion, and raw fruits and veggies are easily digestible. This allows my body to expel less energy digesting the food and more energy to beautify my body. I never deprive myself of foods that I crave and see every meal as a celebration. I admire the beauty of my food (I take pictures for my blog) and always chew slowly…appreciating and savoring every tasty morsel. Eating slowly also allows me to break down foods, encouraging the digestive process, and getting a better sense of fullness. When my body craves warm foods, I make warm food even for lunch. I nourish myself with a plant-based vegan and gluten-free diet because my body feels its best when doing so.
I am passionate about vegan cooking that not only looks and tastes delicious, but also because it caters to a healthy lifestyle. My inspiration for new recipes comes from a variety of sources–my multi-cultural background, friends and family, my favorite restaurants and markets, cookbooks, magazines, blogs, Instagram, and experimenting with exciting ingredients in my humble kitchen.
What do you do?
I create healthy alternatives to not-so-healthy foods, and turn recipes I learned in culinary school and at the restaurant into vegan and gluten-free recipes. All of my recipes are vegan, refined sugar-, gluten-, soy- and dairy-free. I am very passionate about health, fitness, nutrition, protecting animals from slaughter and mistreatment, and helping the environment, while still eating deliciously, and I want to keep spreading the word.
Have you always been living this way or what triggered the change? Why do you do what you do?
Ever since I can remember, my mom has always encouraged me to eat right and live a healthy lifestyle. This is because my paternal bloodline came with hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity, and, among many others, diabetes. As much as possible, my mom fed us healthy food in the hopes that her 6 offspring would delay or halt their genetic predisposition. In my college years, my dad unfortunately passed away from a massive heart attack. He had been dealing with diabetes less than half his life but never learned to maintain it through eating right and living a healthier lifestyle.
More recently in 2011, when I worked in a professional kitchen at Tavern restaurant in Los Angeles, I was concerned about my own autoimmune disease, hypothyroidism. I felt compelled to exercise my culinary skills and creativity to harness a lifestyle that would allow me to maintain a good balance of healthy and delicious tasting foods. I thought it was ever-important for me to eliminate butter, cream, sugar, and kosher salt in the foods that I cooked for myself. Although I was a frequent runner and physically thin, my LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides were high for the very first time in my life. I attributed my suboptimal blood results on copious amounts of taste-testing at work, staff meals, and feasting on day-old pastries that would have otherwise been tossed.
Luckily, a great opportunity presented itself and I was prepared to leave the restaurant business to become a private chef for clients who wanted flavorful and satisfying food, but low in caloric intake and high in nutrition. In collaboration with a client’s fitness expert and self-care coach, Anna Price, I developed balanced meals to meet specific weight-loss goals while still being able to satisfy my clients’ sophisticated palettes.
In early 2013, I read Kimberly Snyder‘s “The Beauty Detox Solution” and it positively changed my life. Since transitioning to a vegan and gluten-free lifestyle in early 2013, I have never felt better in my life.
I enjoy creating and sharing recipes that are not only vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free, but are full of flavor. I also love being a resource for those who struggle finding ethnically diverse recipes that are clean and nourishing. I am passionate about vegan cooking that not only looks and tastes delicious, but also because it caters to a healthy lifestyle. My inspiration for new recipes comes from a variety of sources–my multi-cultural background, friends and family, my favorite restaurants and markets, cookbooks, magazines, blogs, Instagram, and experimenting with exciting ingredients in my humble kitchen.
Why are you vegan?
I initially became vegan for my health–to prevent disease and promote wellness: for longevity. I am inspired by the idea of longevity and overall wellness. Both of my husband’s parents are cancer survivors and my father (and his father) had diabetes and passed away from a massive heart attack at the age of 61. I have had a few thyroid conditions and now have hypothyroidism, and my husband used to have slightly high cholesterol. Both of us are predisposed to diseases, so this led me to start learning more about health and wellness.
A friend of mine, who I considered a health nut, was reading The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder and it inspired me to do the same. This book and The China Studysparked many “aha” moments. After learning about how our bodies were designed, where humans belong in nature as we relate to gorillas and tigers, then reading about the negative effects of animal protein and dairy consumption in the human body, it all started making sense. At dinner, I would report to my husband what I had read that day, and with a snap of the fingers, we went cold turkey—we made a transition to the vegan diet. Upon our transition, we started drinking at least 16 ounces of a green smoothie every morning. We noticed positive results within 3 days. We started following Kimberly Snyder’s principles and felt better as we made other changes in our diet.
We enjoyed how the vegan diet made us feel, so we started researching more and watching documentaries. To name a few, we watched Forks over Knives, Food Matters, Vegucated, Hungry for Change, and then environmental documentaries. All of the films led us to, well more so myself, to be more of an ethical vegan. I am now vegan for longevity, for the protection and welfare of animals, and for the betterment of our environment and our world.
Tips and tricks you can provide to others in regards to transforming their lives and transitioning into (or merely strengthening their current) plant-based lifestyle:
If you can, ditch the caffeine and replace it with at least 16 oz. of a green smoothie for breakfast! That’s how I started. Experiment on yourself. Eliminate certain foods in your diet and see if you feel better. The best research is the kind you do on yourself.
All The Best,
Founder of My Eclectic Kitchen
Chocolate Truffle Cake
- ½ cup raw pecans (almonds or walnuts will also work)
- ½ cup soft Medjool dates, pitted
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ cup raw cashews, soaked in the filtered water overnight in the refrigerator. Rinsed and drained.
- 1 whole vanilla bean (or 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract)
- ⅓ cup raw coconut oil, melted
- ⅓ cup coconut nectar (or maple syrup)
- ⅓ cup filtered water
- ½ cup raw cacao powder
- Handful of chopped walnuts or pecans
- Make the crust. Place the nuts, dates and sea salt in the food processor and pulse to chop until they are to your desired texture (you will want a finer crust than a chunky one). Test the crust by spooning out a small amount and rolling it in your hands. If the crust mixture holds together, your crust is perfect. If you don’t feel it’s holding together, try to mix the mixture with your hands until it comes together. Pour the crust mixture into a 6-7” spring-form pan (if you don’t have a spring-form pan, use a cake pan lined with plastic wrap) and press firmly, making sure that the edges are well packed and that the base is relatively even throughout.
- If the coconut oil is solid, gently heat the oil in a small saucepan on low heat until it comes to a liquid state.
- Place all of the filling ingredients into the blender and blend on high until very smooth (this may take a couple minutes).
- Taste the mixture. If you feel the filling needs a little more sweetness, add about 1 – 2 more tablespoons of coconut nectar, and blend.
- Pour the filling into the crust and smooth it out evenly with a spatula.
- Place the cake in the freezer until solid, about 4 hours.
- To serve, remove from the freezer 30 minutes prior to eating. Run a smooth, sharp knife under hot water and cut into slices. Serve when fully defrosted. You should get 8 slices. Serve on its own, or the way I like it, topped with raw chopped walnuts or pecans! Enjoy and store leftovers in the freezer!
This post is part of a new series for sweetsimplevegan.com! I am inviting guest bloggers to share their take on how to go vegan! Find my full list of vegan resources and guest posts here.