I’ve never felt better since I became a vegan

  • Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemons (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemons (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

  • Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemons (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemons (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

  • Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemons (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemons (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

  • Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemens (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Vegan food blogger, Ashayo Clemens (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)


Ashayo’s Vegan 4 Lyfe Mac & “Cheese”

INGREDIENTS

10 ounces dried macaroni (or about 2? cups)

1 cup peeled/diced yellow potatoes (or russets)

¼ cup peeled/diced carrots

? cup chopped onion

¾ cup water (preferably use liquid from pot of boiled veggies)

½ cup raw cashews

¼ cup coconut milk

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 bag of Daiya cheddar style shreds

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¾ to 1 teaspoon salt (or more to taste)

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

1 pinch paprika.

INSTRUCTIONS

Cook macaroni, according to package instructions (usually requires boiling for 6-8 minutes in salted water), drain, and set aside.

Bring several cups of water to boil in a small pot. Place chopped potatoes, carrots, and onion in the boiling water, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and soft enough to blend. Cooking time will vary slightly, based on how small you have chopped your veggies.

When veggies are soft enough to blend, use a slotted spoon to remove them from cooking water, and place them in your blender add ½ cup Daiya cheese *optional. Add ¾ cup of that cooking water to your blender, along with your remaining ingredients.

Blend until smooth.

Pour sauce over your cooked macaroni noodles in a dish of your choice, taste for salt, and serve immediately.

Or, place macaroni mixture in a baking dish, sprinkle with breadcrumbs, Daiya cheese optional* and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, or until crumbs are turning golden brown.

A love of cooking had Ashayo Clemons trying every recipe — and every diet. Still, when pregnant with both of her children, she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

She knew she needed to make a long-lasting change.

“I’ve always been a yo-yo dieter. I’ve tried the Lemonade Diet, I’ve tried the Atkins Diet, I did calorie counting, I’ve tried the Paleo Diet.

“I’ve tried a good bit of them, but the best I’ve felt is on a vegan lifestyle,” said Ms Clemons, who stopped eating meat and animal products a year ago.

“My doctor told me that I would be more likely to develop diabetes later on in life. That’s a big issue in Bermuda. For me, it’s about health. If you’re a parent you want to live a long life to see your children grow.”

She committed to a 30-day vegan challenge in 2015 as an attempt to shed a few pounds and was surprised by the results.

“I felt wonderful,” she said.

Despite that, the diet did not stick. In 2016, she enrolled in the American Intercontinental University in Atlanta and her habits were “horrible”.

“I was on the school diet — drive-thus, burgers, Chick-fil-A. I was sluggish. I didn’t have energy. I couldn’t function properly for my classes. Coffee and sugar made up a lot of my diet.

“I wanted to go back to how I felt when I did the challenge, so I started doing my research.”

She checked out recipes on the internet and it became easier to stick to a healthier diet.

“Now I wake up in the morning energetic and happy. I don’t get that 3 or 4 o’clock slouch that everyone else gets.

“People started asking me what I eat, what was I cooking, how was I feeling.”

To answer their questions she started Vegan 4 Lyfe in May, posting vegan tips and recipes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Her aim is to grow awareness.

“To show them an alternative,” The Royal Gazette employee said. “The physical effects as well as the internal effects are life-changing. It’s not just a fad for me, it is a lifestyle.”

“In the United States and Europe, it’s growing. If you’re going to go vegan, now is the best time to do it.”

She has noticed a growing interest even here. More vegan products are cropping up in supermarkets, easily spotted by the V symbol on their packaging.

Her protein comes from beans, pulses and greens; she avoids “processed” meat alternatives.

“Plant-based food, no animal products — that’s the criteria,” she said. “A lot of green vegetables have protein you just have to do your research. You have vegan junk food, so you have to incorporate a healthy lifestyle as well.”

It can be challenging sharing meals with friends and family.

“That’s the hardest thing. Thanksgiving, Christmas — how do you celebrate it and enjoy it with the rest of your family? I take simple recipes and I make them vegan. I make cassava pie with coconut milk and Earth Balance butter. Because cassava pie requires 12 to 14 eggs, you have to substitute. I use apple sauce [and] apple cider vinegar.”

Her vegan mac and “cheese” is a crowd-pleaser. It helped convince the more cynical members of her family.

“They thought I was crazy,” she laughed. “Because I was the cook in the family they were disappointed, but they’ve tried many of my vegan dishes and have been impressed by them. Not many have wanted to transform, but they will admit that they enjoy the food just as much as before. “

She is slowly transitioning her children, Kemai, 6, and Akeio, 4.

“Kids don’t like change. My daughter thought it was the end of the world. But I talk to her. I explain the importance of her body and food. I’m not afraid to show her the videos. She understands, but she’s only 6 — we have a lot of growing to do.

“We have to set the example we want for our children. I have people who follow me who have had cancer and their doctors recommend plant-based diets. With the epidemic of diabetes, obesity and cancer, this is an alternative lifestyle.”

As an added bonus, she lost 45 pounds.

Ms Clemons recommended everyone try the 30-day vegan challenge but acknowledged that cost might be a deterrent to some. “You’ll really get a sense of how much energy you get and how clear your skin looks and feels,” she said.

“Natural products are much more expensive. I shop on Wednesdays to get discounts. I go to all the farmers’ markets. When you want something you budget around it. You can make sacrifices for your health.

“Yes, the food is pricey, but so is healthcare. Which choice do you want to make?

“I’m not shoving it down anybody’s throat. I’m just trying to draw awareness and let people know they can choose another lifestyle and it is a healthy one and it’s one that makes you feel good.”

Look for veganlyfestyle441 on Instagram, vegan4lyfe441 on Twitter and veganlifestyle441 on Facebook

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Published Dec 21, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 21, 2017 at 7:55 am)

I’ve never felt better since I became a vegan

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