Nationality: born in Johannesburg, South Africa, but live in the beautiful city of Cape Town
Career: Kindergarten – Grade/Year 2 Teacher
Hobbies: cooking and baking healthy meals and treats, photography (of said healthy meals and treats! As well as nature photography), reading, blogging hiking and spending time in my Heavenly Father’s amazing creation
Favourite meal: A huge fresh salad loaded with ingredients such as chickpeas, artichokes, marinated mushrooms, avo, olives, peppers etc (although a cooked veggie lasagne or gluten-free, vegan pizza would go down just as well!)
Favourite treat: depends on my mood, but I would never say no to a raw chocolate brownie!
Goal for this show: to motivate and inspire others, interact with like-minded people and contribute to a more healthy and happy society (and future generations)
My name is Zarah and I live in South Africa, in the beautiful city of Cape Town. Although I have visited a few different cities and countries around the world, Cape Town is definitely where I feel most at home. I am so blessed to be able to live here; the people are relaxed and friendly and we are spoiled for choice in terms of our natural surroundings – endless stretches of beaches, evergreen forests, mountains and fynbos (our beautiful and unique indigenous vegetation). Not to mention the amazing wildlife (and no, we do not have lions walking down our streets, but there are places nearby where they can be seen!) In addition, there is no excuse for not living a healthy lifestyle as there are so many activities available (indoors and outdoors) to encourage one to be active, as well as a huge variety of restaurants and eateries offering healthy meal and drink choices (if not a whole menu devoted to raw, vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten free diets).
I am an introvert by nature and although I love spending time with friends (especially one on one) I do not often feel comfortable in large groups or speaking in front of others. When I was first approached about contributing to this radio channel, I was very excited to share my recipes and written articles, however the thought of speaking on the radio (even though they are pre-recorded podcasts) was enough to set my heart racing and my knees shaking (not quite, but you get the picture!) So I must ask for your patience if I sound at all awkward, nervous or unprofessional in the audio clips (as all of the above are true!) However, I do believe that being pushed way out of one’s comfort zone is the best way to grow and improve in one’s abilities (and even character), so I am up for the challenge!
Now that that is out of the way, let me introduce my show, Z 4 Zest. In the weeks and months to come, I hope to cover topics such as healthy tips and advice, recipes, reviews of cookbooks and natural products, and hopefully an interview or two with health experts (and a few surprises in between!). I must also mention that I am no health expert myself, but rather a health enthusiast who has a passion for living a healthy lifestyle and eating and drinking foods that are nourishing and life-giving. Now if this sounds like a diet of carrot sticks and lettuce leaves, I hope you will be pleasantly surprised in the weeks to come! Healthy eating does not equal boring or tasteless foods. In fact, since starting on my health journey about 10 years ago, I have been overjoyed to find that old favourites such as chocolate cake which were laden with processed flours and refined sugar could be replaced with desserts such as raw and baked chocolate brownies, which not only taste amazing but are guilt free and actually good for you! In fact, some mornings, I will eat healthy (n)ice-cream with delicious toppings such as nuts and fruit for breakfast and feel absolutely no guilt at all, knowing that I am fueling my body with fibre, nutrients and a whole lot more. Whether you follow a plant-based, vegan or vegetarian lifestyle or whether you just want to incorporate more healthy meals and treats into your diet, I trust that you will find something here which will inspire you and even assist you in making healthier choices for yourself (and those around around you).
Although I was born in South Africa, my family mainly originate from Mediterranean backgrounds which greatly influenced the way I was brought up and the foods to which I was accustomed. I still remember the comments during my primary/junior school days when my friends would come over and eat with us. Most of them had never tasted or even heard of some of the foods we ate – ravioli, dolmades, tzaziki, megadara, ratatouille etc. I was also always known as a bit of a health freak back in school when I would eat my lunch of wholewheat bread with cream cheese and cucumbers, while most of my classmates devoured white bread and polony sandwiches and bought endless packets of crisps and sweets from the tuck-shop. I have my Mom to thank for her influence in our healthier upbringing. We could easily add on a good few minutes when shopping with Mom as she would check every single label before adding a product to her cart. She tried to avoid most processed foods but especially those with any preservatives, flavouring or MSG. This was normal for us, but not for everyone else I later discovered. Shortly after finishing college, I grew frustrated with a few health ailments which just wouldn’t go away such as poor digestion (labeled of course as “IBS”), skin problems (eczema and mild acne), hormonal symptoms (bad PMS etc) and in general, I was just sick and tired of being sick and tired! I had tried various creams and medication but nothing really worked (and the possible side effects were not worth continuing). Starting my teaching career also put me at greater risk for germ exposure (my dad often joked about me receiving some kind of danger pay for all the health and safety hazards I was exposed to on a daily basis surrounded by little ones!)
I had heard about best-selling author and health expert, Mary Ann Shearer, and we had a few of her books on our shelf, and around 2012 I finally had the opportunity to visit her shop and cafe, The Natural Way in Gordon’s Bay, just out of Cape Town. I was blessed to have had the chance to speak to her personally after our delicious vegan buffet meal and I mentioned the health issues which were worrying me. Her info and advice really opened my eyes and for the first time it all made sense – my lifestyle and food played a huge part in how my body functioned (or didn’t!) For the first time I fully saw the link between sickness and diet and realized that my body was designed to heal itself, given the right tools and nutrients. At the same time, I realized that this was no quick fix and that I would have to make some possibly radical, long term changes if I truly wanted to be healthy and well. As I had exhausted all other routes, I willingly jumped in, boots and all, and cut out gluten, dairy and sugar the very next day. I won’t lie to you, it was tough (especially for this bread & cheese, and chocolate loving girl) but I was determined and pushed through. Mary Ann recommended sticking to it for at least 3 months (which is the amount of time it takes for your body to heal and repair itself). However, I didn’t have to wait that long to see results. Within a few weeks my skin started clearing up and I was not permanently bloated or struggling with digestion. I did not have my usual monthly cramps (which were extremely painful and debilitating) and I had so much more energy and stamina throughout the day. My sweet tooth (or rather “chocolate-tooth”) all but went away as I began increasing my intake of fresh fruits (and preservative free dried fruit such as dates). All these amazing changes were also largely due to the daily barley juice and omega supplements I had started taking (on Mary Ann’s recommendation). Of course, these dramatic results were enough to help me stick to this new path I was on and I was very determined to not veer off after any temptations (“Mmm that chocolate bar does look good, but by tomorrow, I will not be feeling too good and I am definitely not willing to risk it just for the sake of a few seconds of pleasure” – these were the type of conversations I had constantly in my head which really helped!)
At first, I was a little despondent that I could no longer bake my “go-to” desserts and treats (full of processed flours, refined sugar, dairy etc) and so took a break from my favourite pastime for a few weeks. When I started craving certain treats though, I decided to do a bit of research into alternatives. I soon discovered that while dairy-free and sugar-free baking was relatively easy (with all the healthier substitute options) gluten-free baking was often a nightmare (think dense, rock hard bread loaves and cake that had the texture and taste of sawdust). Raw desserts became my boon as they were mostly flop-proof, looked and tasted amazing and most importantly, were filled with nutrients. In between “unbaking” these raw treats, I found a few baked recipes which became my new “go-to” desserts. These will be shared in the coming weeks of course. I am finally learning to listen to my body, and do not follow a diet but rather a lifestyle, eating plant-based, whole and natural foods, free of preservatives, chemicals and refined sugars.
I am currently teaching at an amazing school (started in 2015) which encourages its students to not only excel academically, but to also look after their bodies and environment by eating “God-made” foods, learning to grow and cook their own organic produce, giving back to the community etc. It is so exciting to be a part of teaching (and learning alongside) the next generation, as they gain these invaluable skills needed to survive in our rapidly changing world. Watching these children at lunch time each day, loading their plates with carrots, peas, corn, celery, hummus, baked potatoes etc (many of who would not touch a vegetable when they started) is so encouraging and just goes to show that when given the right tools, environment, and motivation, we can all change our thinking, habits (and even tastes!) And if we can get our children on board, from as young an age as possible, we can change the future health of generations to come.
As Hippocrates famously quoted, “Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food” which is echoed in another famous line “The food that you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison” so let’s choose wisely!
I love feedback so please feel free to comment, ask questions, give advice or constructive criticism, and/or share ideas and recipes.
You can contact me at email@example.com or follow me on instagram (account: zarah_z4zest). For more recipes, follow my blog: z4zest.wordpress.com.
Kushari (also called Koshary/Koshari) is an Egyptian dish (apparently from the 19th Century). It was introduced to our family last year by a good friend (he discovered the dish while traveling in Egypt and told us that one finds it in almost every Egyptian restaurant, cafe and pavement stall).
The combination sounded really strange at first, but we were intrigued and ...
I have made these brownies so many times now, and each time they come out perfectly (flop-proof recipes make me so happy! 😀 ) These brownies have a rich, dark chocolate flavour and a soft fudgy texture. They are quick and simple to mix together and just require one bowl (yay!) and an electric/hand whisk. So without ...
Makes about 50 small power balls
2 cups Mixed nuts and seeds*
2 cups Dried dates** (or medjool dates)
1/3 cup Carob/raw cocoa powder
2 TBS – 1/3 cup raw honey (according to taste)
1/3 cup Peanut butter/tahini (sesame seed paste, high in protein and adds a nice flavour!)
Pinch of salt
Optional: 1 ...