Loving the skin you’re in – with Jessica Anwyl

Jess Anwyl

I love people. I love connecting with them, listening to their stories, and learning from their experiences. There are some amazing humans out there who I really would like to get to know better.

So this year I thought I would do an interview post once a month, with people who inspire me. People who have amazing skills, knowledge and experience to share. People who are not afraid to talk about their own struggles and challenges. Real people like you and I. Most of them are my friends, people I come to admire, and people with interesting stories to tell.  I hope there is something in each post that makes you think, ponder, or better yet, take action. We’re all in this together.

For our first interview post this year I’d like to introduce you to Jess. Jess is a skin and gut survivor, wellness writer, and founder of In The Ra — a personal blog that shares raw and real stories of how to love the skin you’re in and heal yourself with wholefoods.

I got to know Jess through a Mastermind Group called The Pack run by George Siosi Samuel. I still remember being super impressed by Jess when she did a Tough Mudder (a popular mud and obstacles run in Australia), after a 16-day water fast! Not only is she an expert in juicing and fasting, she is also a talented copywriter, photographer, and a kickass interviewer. I’m just so honoured to have Jess sharing her story here on this blog.

In this interview, we talk about Jess’ personal stories, her gut and skin journey, and her growing community In The Ra.

Hi Jess, what did you have for breakfast this morning?

A chocolate banana smoothie.
[Thought I’d share this choc smoothie bowl recipe Jess posted on Instagram so you get an idea of the type of ‘smoothie’ she’s talking about] ⇩⇩⇩

Sticking with chocolate tradition this Easter Friday. This chocolate smoothie bowl is more of a choc Macca moussey bowl. She’s yummy! Let’s have choccy for brekky! This recipe combines banana, cacao, macca and avocado to make the ultimate hormone balancer and mood booster! 1 frozen banana 2 tbsp cacao 1 tsp cacao nibs 3 medjool dates 1 tsp macca powder 1/2 avocado 2 tsp chia, psyllium husk and flaxseed meal (each) 1/2 Apple (Yes that’s a lot of fibre! #howweroll ) 1 tbsp coconut yogurt 1/2 cup coconut water 1/2 cup non dairy milk (I used organic soy today) Blend until moussey smooth. Then top with your choice of fruits, nuts and seeds. At the moment I’m drawn to pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, apples and berries (all skin loving). And today I also added my “choc dirt” 😉 It’s sooo good! I was hoping to have a healthy chocolate hot cross bun recipe (vegan and GF) ready for you guys but couldn’t find a recipe even close so it was a total experiment. And I’ll admit it failed in a way…They turned out like chocolate rock cakes but delicious as a crumbly chocolate over icecream and mousse 😍 (see my instastories). Anyway…maybe next time 😜 Enjoy your moussey smoothie bowl breakfast for tomorrow 😋🤤 #eastereats Xx Jess

A post shared by Jessica Anwyl (@in.the.ra) on Now, I believe there are some fun facts about your name Jess. Do share.

My full name is Jessica Robin Anwyl. There’s a funny story behind my last name. An uncommon name in Australia, but very common in whales. It’s Welsh and is often obscure enough for people to ask me how it’s pronounced. I pronounce it softly and the way my father first told me.

Though recently when I was in Pai Thailand I met a Welsh girl. I told her my last name, but she said she’d never heard of it. I was shocked! So I insisted she knew and repeated it. She gave me this deadpan look, and I went silent — a tad disappointed.

“How’s it spelled?” she asked.

“A-N-W-Y-L.” I said.

“Oh! Anwyl! I know that name.” She said it back to me, but it in a way that was completely unrecognisable, and quite frankly painful to my ears.

That was the day I realised I didn’t know how to say my own name, AND I’ve been correcting people INCORRECTLY for 25 years!

Now when people ask me “how do you pronounce your name?”

I tell them the truth, that “I don’t know”.

I totally sympathise, until I was 11 years old I had been incorrectly correcting my name to Karen. It wasn’t until I told my mother that her spelling of my name (i.e. Keren) was wrong that she showed the verse in the bible where my name was taken from to show me that my name is in fact Keren, not Keren!

Now, tell us something about you that most people might not know?

This is a hard one as I try to be transparent under the small limelight I’m in. One surprising thing people might not know about me is I’ve had 3 close calls with death in the last three years and I’m only 25. First, from an acute illness, then a chronic illness and more recently in an accident.

If you had a superpower, what would that be, and why?

The ability to communicate with anyone. Not just to converse in their language, but to connect on a level where each person felt understood. I feel that that’s a real a superpower. Because it’s the way we’ll change the world.

Jess Anwyl

What is your earliest childhood memory?

I had two sisters growing up (now I have three) and in the early days we didn’t get along. Until we had an important reason to band together, i.e., to steal my dad’s shoe horn. Let me explain…

Back when it was okay to hit kids, my dad kept this plastic, yellow shoehorn on top of the fridge. That’s what he used to hit us with. I don’t remember being hit with it, only the point where we were sick of it. I remember my sisters and I going on this brave mission, and making this elaborate (at the time) plan to distract my dad and construct our own ladder to retrieve it, and a plan to dispose of the shoe horn. We even made sure we corroborated our stories. It was the wildest fun! My dad was furious but, us sisters, we bonded over it.

A post shared by Jessica Anwyl (@in.the.ra) on Do you have a favourite subject in School?

I was not keen on school. I liked to socialise, play sport, write, but on my own terms. I was stubborn, but if I had to choose a subject, it would have been biology because I loved my teacher.

Where is your favourite place to travel, and why?

Anywhere with fresh produce! Haha. This may seem childish but what makes me happiest is when I see people coming together, growing, selling and connecting out in nature over fresh food.

What does a typical day in your world look like?

Different places, different spaces. The thing that stays the same and smoothies, me and my laptop. I’m a writer, so I write and it doesn’t matter where.

A post shared by Jessica Anwyl (@in.the.ra) on Tell us about your journey with In The Ra

Well, about 15 months ago things were looking pretty dim in my world. I had been diagnosed with a severe and rare skin condition called Rosacea Fulminan (RPOB), SIBO (a gut condition) and couldn’t eat anything without having a severe reaction. It got to a point where I was so allergic to food that I had to stop eating altogether. I lost a lot of weight, weighing in at 44 kilos.

If not eating wasn’t bad enough, the skin on my face was also debilitating. Completely swollen and unrecognisable, with black scabs all over my face. If wet, it was like an open wound and the skin would literally wash away — it was no longer a barrier. The skin was so dry and painful, I couldn’t smile, pluck my eyebrows or bathe. I looked like a monster, so I didn’t go out in public for 3+ months.

In my vulnerable, desperate and scared state, I reached out to my specialists one last time. To be told I was a complex case and that I would never get better.

But I couldn’t accept that! So I decided to leave all my health practitioners behind and heal myself naturally. And as I improved (scary as it was) I was called to show my face, share my story, and my healing journey, in real time. That’s when I started The Ra.

I have to say that I’m a big fan of your blog Jess, even though I don’t have a skin condition. The issue with shame and not feeling good enough with your own skin is so relatable on so many levels. What are some of your goals and vision for In The Ra?

In The Ra started off as a safe place for me to be seen. Now In The Ra is a story sharing platform to help others be seen and have the courage to see themselves.

It’s specifically tailored to those suffering with skin and gut conditions, but I know the messages resonate with a wider audience, because we share fundamental and timeless truths.

I feel that In The Ra message has a lot more to give. Soon, we will be working in collaboration with The Genyus Network to help women with skin conditions connect and share their stories as a community.

Eventually, I hope to be speaking and spreading this message, story and inspiration with courses, books and more.

I love how your blogpost is always so beautifully written and captivating, what are your top tips for people who want to write better.

There are two ways I write, when inspiration strikes, and when a topic is requested.

When inspiration strikes I just go for it. I get everything down on the page. When you’re in flow, go. You can always edit it after. Once you’ve got it all out, think about who’ll read this. How can this help them? What might they glean from your writing? After answering this read it over again and shape it for them. No one likes anything that’s too me, me, me. Your story is powerful, but only when it’s shaped for the reader.

When a topic is requested or I’m writing an A to your Q, I first write the purpose of my post.

For example: This post will outline how to succeed on a juice fast.

This is your north star. It will keep you focused and on topic.

Then I write down all the key points and ideas, write them out in order of why (the reason it’s important), what it is and how (if there is a practical element) to do it.

Quick tips would be:

  1. Keep looking back at your north star to see if you’re on point.
  2. Allow yourself to do a shitty first draft (without judgement)
  3. Ask yourself, could this be said simpler? How can I make this point more succinct and powerful?
  4. Back up what you say with science a story or a quote.

I’m so amazed at how confident you are with your videos and stories. And you do it while battling with your skin condition! How did you cultivate this confidence and how can we be more confident with the skin we’re in?

Such a great question! It’s interesting, because before my skin condition I was terrible in front of the camera, I hated it! Now I look back at those photos and videos and think, “what the heck? You were beautiful!”

The truth is, now I’m confident on camera because I’m allowing myself to be seen. Before, when my flaws we’re not physical, I was worried about showing myself, making a mistake and being judged for my internal flaws and insecurities. I was holding back.

Now I’m all good because I’m all in. My flaws and me are all on show so there’s nothing to hide or be scared of. At first though, it was scary, but like anything, the more you do it the more confident you become.

Plus, When we hide we cultivate shame.

That’s why being seen applies to overall confidence as well. The more we get out there and be seen doing a particular skill, sharing a particular view, or a particular side of ourselves, the more open and comfortable we become with that part.

Allow yourself to be seen and through this courage, your confidence will come.

If you could invite 3 people (historical or current) to a dinner party who would they be?

  1. Socrates, because wisdom.
  2. Matthew Hussey, because he’s a great communicator and thinker
  3. Marie Forleo, because she’s my female crush.

I love that you have Matthew Hussey on the list!… And what would you serve?

Is it naughty to say I’d get Uber eats? I feel Socrates’ mind would be blown. It’s a sure way to win him over! ;)

You are going to be stranded on an island and could only bring three things with you, what would they be?

  • For beauty — an aloe vera plant! Says any girl with a skin condition.
  • To write and create — my laptop with a solar charger.
  • To read for mental strength — Man’s Search for Meaning By Viktor Frankl

What is your guilty pleasure (if you have any)?

Books! Haha, when I say I’ve been on a bender my friends know I’ve just spent half my day buying books. It’s excessive…

What’s the most influential book (or books) you’ve read to date?

This is a tough one to answer. Some of the first books I ever read are ones that changed my life, but do not at all resonate with me now.

Here are my recent inspirations:

  • Unmasked By Turia Pitt – This book made me feel completely understood. It also gave me the courage to travel on my own with a severe skin condition.
  • So Good They Can’t Ignore You By Cal Newport – A key read for creatives who want to become successful. It debunks the passion hypothesis — the idea that you need to be passionate to be successful — instead proves that passion follows hard work, and often won’t precede it. It’s mind-blowingly thorough, well structured and practical. It’s close to becoming a “re-readable”.

I RARELY read books more than once. I may reference them, but for me to re-read an entire book is rare, it means they’re very valuable.

Here are my timeless “re-readables”:

  • The War of Art By Steven Pressfield – This taught me about resistance — that real art takes hard work. That “your calling” doesn’t always feel good, and that inspiration isn’t the only sign you’re on the right path. It’s one of those books you can open at any page and find an insight and inspiration to keep you going.
  • On the Shortness of Life By Seneca – Written by a stoic Italian philosopher in ancient times, but reads as if it were written today. Except for the random slave comment… This book hits some hard home truths. One is, “life is long if you know how to use it…it is not that we are given a short life, but we make it so…we are not ill supplied, but wasteful of it.” He goes on to explain how he thinks we can make our lives long.

Both these books are incredibly short, but powerful.

A post shared by Jessica Anwyl (@in.the.ra) on Do you have any exciting plans for this year?

I am excited to be ghostwriting a book, but I also want to write my own. It’s been a crazy-wonderful, dark, but delightful journey that needs to be shared. Hopefully it will have the similar effect on people that Turia’s ‘Unmasked’ had on me.

For In The Ra , we have interviews with skin, gut and health experts, as well as sharing raw and real stories of inspirational wellness warriors.

I’m not a massive visionary. I feel for the long-term and only can see in the short term. I know that if I follow my intuitive ideas and make the most of today, what I want will come.

I hope you enjoy this interview with Jess as much as I did. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with Jess and In The Ra, learn to love the skin you’re in, get inspired, heal yourself with wholefoods, or connect with Jess, sign up for email updates at www.inthera.com.au.

You can find Jess on:



New York Photo Diary – Part 1

New York

New York, New York….

The food. The art. The iconic yellow cab. And although it’s been over a month since I went to New York, the memory is still fresh in my head. And here it is, friends, highlights from my birthday, honeymoon, and Christmas trip combined to the Big Apple, part 1.

Manhattan Island

Manhattan Island 

A tiny rant on time zones

21-hour flight, one transfer and two ‘special’ security checks later we landed in the afternoon on the same day we left Sydney.

Honestly, it kind of sucks being behind everybody else. The 16-hour time difference really made me think about the whole fuss with time zone and its significance. Do we have to have time zones? Is it really necessary? I mean, from a physics perspective, there IS only one time! I think the world will be a much simpler place if we just use one time. Why we can’t follow a universal time system? China for one has abolished time zones despite it geography being in five different time zones. Of course, things might be a little bit awkward at first but I’m sure we’d be able to adjust to it with time, and I think the benefits would outweigh the initial confusion. Anyway, moving on.

New York Street

Taking it all in..

The Empire State of Mind (see video above to see what I’m talking about) plays in my head every now and then, whenever I see a landmark, the ‘I heart New York’ tees, the big apple on red Applebee’s sign. I’ve always wondered what it’s like, and now I’m finally here!

New York Street

Where’re All The Apples?

A fun fact – did you know that New York’s nickname “Big Apple” has nothing to do with the state’s apple production?

It was popularised by John J. Fitz Gerald, a newspaper reporter back in 1920 who uses this catchphrase in his horseracing column, “Around the Big Apple.” And then in the 1970s, the nickname “Big Apple” was picked up by the New York City’s official marketing and tourism organisation and well…the rest is history.

I was surprised to see the Trump Tower smack bang in the middle of 5th Avenue. I only noticed it because there was a security station built on the side of the building, which is an odd thing to find next to an apartment.

New York Street

I did a little digging and it turns out that they have extra security guarding the building because Mr Trump stays here whenever he’s in New York.  And according to Fortune, this extra security costs about $308,000 per day. Hmm…

Christmas in NYC

The best thing about spending Christmas in New York is that firstly, the city is not dead on Christmas day! This is very exciting for me because, in Sydney, the 25th December often feels a bit like one of those cities in Walking Dead – all the shops are closed and the only thing you see walking around the city are zombies…or Asians.

The second best thing about celebrating Christmas in New York is seeing all the beautiful Christmas decoration adorning the buildings. I especially love the Christmas wreath. I have never seen a real wreath in before. Not one made with real pine cones and Christmas berries anyway. I kept on touching them because I couldn’t believe they were real.

New York - Passionately Keren

In front of a gorgeous Christmas wreath outside The Frick Museum

How amazing do they look?

New York - Passionately Keren

Church stairs decorations

Gorgeous wreaths in New York's apartment building

More gorgeous wreaths. I really love how bright the red bow is, especially against the white wall of the building.

What the Shrub?!

On my second of third day, I noticed these unusual shrubs I kept coming across along the street of New York.

At first, I thought they were fake because honestly, they look too good to be real. I mean, look at them in their bright green colour, covered with snow in freezing temperature, looking very ‘fresh’.  Surely they’re fake… I thought to myself.

Junipers plants

But as I walk, I see more and more of these shrubs… And started thinking, man what’s with all these fake plants?. But then I thought again, maybe.. they are real?

So at my next encounter with this weird looking shrub, I stopped, bent over and pulled one of the branches closes to me.

Ermahgerd…, they’re REAL!

Junipers plants

This is exactly why I love travelling. Finding out amazing things about the world that I know very little of.

I did some googling when I got back to Sydney and it appears that the shrubs I saw were some sort Junipers plants. I’m talking about those deep green spiky things surrounded by the beautiful Holly plants (the one with yellow-green leaves and bright red berries). They are part of the Conifers group (plants with those distinct needle-like leaves), ancient as the dinosaurs, resilient as hell, mostly evergreen (retaining their foliage and retains their colour throughout the year, despite the seasons), and can live for a very long time (the world oldest plants are all conifers). Now that is a very impressive plant resume if I ever see one.

NBA game New York

Christmas Day Basketball Game

Did I mention how lively Christmas day is in New York? They even have a Christmas day NBA game!

NBA Game

We went to it was so much fun. The crowd atmosphere was buzzing and everyone was so into it! The Knicks fan were chanting “defense, defense’, whenever the Knicks were pushed to their own side, and since we were in New York, I thought it was apt for me to side with them, so I joined along. Here’s what they sound like if you’ve never heard of them.

Unfortunately, the New York Knicks lost the game that day….and every other game they played during our time in New York…

City view from Central Park

Around the City

New York - Passionately Keren

Ice Skating in Central Park


New York street cart's pretzel

Street cart’s pretzel

Top of the rock

View from Top Of The Rock


Central Park Squirrel

Up close with the Central Park’s Squirrel

NYC Subway

New York Subway

The Amazing New York Sax Buskers

Okay, let me tell you about the New York Sax buskers.

They are THE BEST.

New York Subway Sax Busker  

It’s hard to explain, you really need to experience it yourself (check out this Youtube playlist so you can see what I’m talking about). The experience was truly mesmerising for me. The atmosphere, the music, and how it all just makes the world feels a little better, a little nicer.

NYC Sax Busker

A girl dancing to a sax busker on the street – I totally regretted not recording this one. The beat was so good you just want to move.

Sometimes, all you need is love, and music….

In New York
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do
Now you’re in New York
These streets will make you feel brand new

Big lights will inspire you
Let’s hear it for New York, New York,….

Keren x

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Vegan Brunch at Allegra Dining

A couple of weeks before going away for Christmas I had the great pleasure of being invited to check out Allegra Dining, which is a new restaurant on the ground floor of a chic residential & commercial complex on Danks St, in the heart of Waterloo.

Allegra Dining

It was a nice and sunny Sunday morning so we decided to sit outside at the back for some fresh air. I think they were the best seats in the house! It was quiet, away from everybody else, plus you had the best view of the shallow pool, the palm trees and the surrounding apartments. It almost felt like you were holidaying in a tropical resort somewhere.

Allegra Dining

Allegra doesn’t promote itself as being vegan friendly, though they should. I ordered a few dishes straight from their menu which they were happy to ‘veganise’. And they were good. Really good!

Whipped avocado, broadbeans, peas, soft-boiled egg & bottarga on toast (veganised by removing the egg and the fish).

This toast was exploding with flavours and textures – the crunchy bread, the creamy whipped avocado (which is ingenious in itself), the fresh, sweet, bright-green peas (shelled by hands, mind you), the mildly earthy broadbeans, and those bright purple microgreens, all sang their beautiful tune in perfect culinary harmony. It was decidedly the most delicious toast I had in 2017.

  Allegra Dining

Spaghetti, burrata, tomato, basil, pangrattato (veganised by removing the cheese, and they also added some nice herb leaves).

This dish was such a delight to eat. The spinach pasta is perfectly al dente, the flavour is distinctly simple with just enough heat to excite the tongue. It’s not too oily and not too dry. Bellísima.

Allegra Dining

Allegra Dining - Roasted Kipfler Potatoes

Kifler crispy kipflers, rosemary, burnt butter aioli (veganised with vegan aioli)

Having had hundreds of roast potato dishes (outside and inside of my own kitchen), I consider myself as somewhat of a connoisseur of roast potatoes. It is quite a fine art making crispy and wonderfully fluffy potato and it looks like the good folks at Allegra have mastered it. It’s definitely on my ‘must order’ list for Allegra Dining.

Passionfruit sorbet with fresh mango, coconut cream and mango pearls

Now this is something that they made especially for me on the spot, because the mango pancake is not vegan. I really think they should put this alternative on the permanent menu. The creamy coconut, the soft fresh mango flesh, the silky smooth passionfruit sorbet, and the bursts of mango juice as the pearls dance around and pop in your mouth… now that’s a party I’d invite myself to! It was a delicious dessert to cap off the year before we went overseas.

Allegra Dining

Allegra’s décor

My husband Nat was especially complimentary of Allegra’s décor. He thought that the restaurant’s interior was a very artistic mixture of different materials (from the wood-board planks snaking through the polished concrete floor, to the wood-panelled walls, the wine bottles decorating the walls, and the tasteful spotlights creating a moody atmosphere) that all came together to create a very pretty warehouse-conversion-style establishment that made you feel at home from the moment you arrived.

The interior designer definitely earned their keep with this venue because even though there are a dozen different materials and styles all jostling together inside the restaurant they all ‘click’ together and the venue never feels tacky or dated. I personally thought the place, and not just the food, looked great.

Allegra Dining

Allegra Dining
Address: 8/18 Danks St, Waterloo NSW 2017


All day brunch: Sunday 9am to 3pm

Dinner: Tuesday- Saturday 5pm to 10:30pm (kitchen opens at 6pm)

Contact: (02) 9698 1699,  hello@allegradining.com.au

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Vegan Eggnog Custard

Vegan Eggnog Custard

Merry Christmas everyone! I’ve got a delicious recipe for you today. It’s a creamy, dreamy Vegan Eggnog Custard.

I’m writing at The Manhattan Hotel Club New York. We landed yesterday after a tiring 21-hour flight from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles, and two special security screenings for which I was randomly selected (not sure how ‘random’ it was to be honest).

It is the 24th December here in America but because of the time difference, it is 25th December (Christmas day)for my Australian friends and family!


I was supposed to post this recipe before I left for New York but better late than never right?

Vegan Eggnog Custard

This Vegan Eggnog Custard  ‘happened’ because I couldn’t choose between making Vegan Eggnog or Vegan Custard for my Christmas lunch week, so I made both! I was really surprised at how good this turned out, and how much everyone loved it. It’s delicious, decadent, and contains all the spices that scream Christmas morning.

The addition of fresh mint leaves and pomegranate seeds, although optional, makes such a difference, so I recommend you include them if possible. The freshness of the mint and the sour tanginess of the pomegranate just adds such a lovely contrast to this sweet creamy dessert.

I hope you give this recipe a go, and may the sweet magic of Christmas fills your heart and soul and wishing you all the peace and joy this holiday!

Vegan Eggnog Custard

Vegan Eggnog Custard

A creamy, dreamy, delicious Christmas treat for everyone.
Course Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword custard, eggnog
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Total Time 17 minutes
Servings 4
Author Keren Natalia


  • 1 400ml can coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 3 tablespoon brown rice syrup or you can also use maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoon spiced sherry or rum, bourbon, brandy, or whiskey
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
  • a tiny pinch of turmeric for colour optional
  • 6 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Fresh mint leaves and Pomegranate seeds  optional


  1. Soak the cashews overnight or for at least 1 hour.
  2. Combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup water and mix really well. Make sure there are no lumps
  3. Place all the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  4. Pour the eggnog mixture into a saucepan and warm gently on the stove. Do not bring to a boil.
  5. Add about a cup of the warm eggnog milk to the cornstarch mixture and combine. Now pour it all back into the saucepan to combine with the remaining eggnog mixture.
  6. Stir constantly with a whisk and continue cooking on medium until the custard is thick and luscious.
  7. Remove from heat and transfer to serving glasses.
  8. Chill for 3 hours or overnight before serving
  9. Serve with some fresh mint leaves and some pomegranate seeds (about a tablespoon per serve)


Keren in New York

Me eating Vegan Burger at By Chloe, NYC

P.S. If you make this, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or find me on Instagram and share your creation. Don’t forget to tag me @passionatelykeren so I won’t miss your post.

Keren x


Review of Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix

Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix

Hello friend!

Only a few more days until Christmas! Are you excited? I am.

But I’m one of those people who’d spend the entire year looking forward to Christmas and New Year and then find myself completely unprepared for it. So every year I always end up in a mad rush trying to get things organised before everything sold out for Christmas.

Thankfully this year things are a lot simpler. Because I’m going away to celebrate Christmas in New York, yay!

That said, I’ve had five Christmas events already, most of them are catered for (thank goodness) but last week I had a team lunch where I had to bring a plate. It was on a weekday which means I didn’t have much time to prepare. But luckily, I have a packet of Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix that’s been sitting in my pantry, just waiting for me to try it.

Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix

I love cake mixes. I use to love making Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie for special occasions until I realised how unhealthy it is!

Since then I’ve been making my own cakes from scratch which have been great, when I have the time.

But I do love my mixes for the days when I don’t feel like messing around in the kitchen, or when I simply don’t have time.

And so I have high hopes for this brownie mix.

And boy did it rise up to my expectation.

Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix

This Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix doesn’t taste ‘activated’ or ‘buckwheat’ or ‘healthy’. It tastes perfectly normal, which is pretty incredible. Like a real chocolate brownie! You know, not the kind that you’d eat because it’s ‘healthy’ but the kind that you’d bring to the dinner party to impress the in-laws. It’s that good.

But there’s more!

Here are a few other reasons why I love this brownie mix:

  • It’s made with stoneground activated buckwheat flour.
  • It comes with a reusable wooden peg from rescued pallets.
  • The packet is made Earth Bags and will fully compost in the compost bin, green waste bin or even just in regular rubbish.
  • 50c from every packet sold will go directly to OzHarvest making one meal available to one vulnerable Australian.
  • It’s gluten free, grain free, and dairy free.

What’s not to love?

Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix

The mix is also easily veganised. The packet instruction actually calls for eggs but you can replace it using 2 tablespoon ground flaxseed mixed with 6 tablespoons of water (or store bought egg replacer like .

I also added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder for extra lift and 1/3 cup of chopped walnut for that extra texture.

The result is a delicious, decadent chocolate brownie that smells and tastes divine!

Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix

I have to say, I haven’t been impressed with a gluten-free, vegan, cake mix until now! I’m a total convert and will definitely be including this on my shopping list – because you just never know when someone might call a last-minute get-together!

This post is created in collaboration with Gino’s Gourmet Groceries, a cool new online store that source artisan products that are free of artificial ingredients and nasty. You can find Love Life & Gluten-free: Activated Buckwheat Brownie Mix there as well as other great products. You can get 25% discount on our next purchase by using the code “PASSIONATELY25” during checkout. 

Happy holiday everyone!



4 Important Life Skills I Learned from Being a Vegan

Passionately Kere

A week ago I celebrated the four years anniversary of becoming a vegan. Four years! Four very humbling, challenging, eye-opening, thrilling, wonderful years. I’ve learned so much from this journey that I thought the best way to celebrate my anniversary might be by sharing some of the skills I’ve learnt from my four-years (and counting) vegan journey.

Passionately Keren

To be honest, transitioning to a vegan lifestyle wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as difficult as what most people think either. I love exploring new ways of cooking and veganising old favourites, and I love feeling healthier and more fulfilled, and knowing that I’m doing something good, not just for my body, but for the animals and the environment.

My goal with this post is not to convince you to go vegan (although if you do decide to pursue that path, I’ll be jumping up in joy!). My goal simply is to share with you some of the valuable life skills I’ve learned from the last four years. Skills that you too can acquire, should you so choose.

I have to say that I feel a little uncomfortable sharing this post because deep down, I don’t feel like I’m a good enough vegan – I still own and wear a lot of my leather accessories from my pre-vegan days, I still make mistake and let egg and dairy slip into my meals sometimes, and I still have immense abhorrence towards cockroaches. I mean, I bomb them every three months and I don’t think that’s a very vegan thing to do.

But we can only do our best right? And I believe that I am doing my best at this time. I also believe that it is better to do something, however imperfect it might be, than doing nothing at all. And so here I am doing something, and it has served me well. This post itself is a testimony to all the life skills I’ve acquired, in particular Life Skill # 2, # 3 and perhaps a bit of #4.

Here they are.

Life Skill #1 – Empathy

What is Empathy? Merriam Webster defines it as “understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another … [being] without having [those] feelings … fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner”.

Empathy is at the core of a vegan lifestyle. Once we’ve learned about the cruelty involved in factory farming, or the harmful impact meat consumption has on the environment, we stop consuming animals. We now understand what these animals have to go through in order for us to enjoy our burgers and steaks. Even though we don’t know them by name, even though they can’t express their pain the way we do, we still can feel their pain.

Vegans are not only empathetic towards animals; we’re empathetic towards humans, too. And this is not just my words. One study reveals, through brain scans, that vegans and vegetarians are indeed more empathetic to human and animal suffering than omnivores.

Empathy is one of the most important life skills you can have as a social creature. It allows you to connect better with people, understand them more fully, and deal with them more effectively. Empathy facilitates greater communication and helps you understand what drives people, what motivates them, what makes them tick.

Empathy helps you become more compelling, more convincing, and more encouraging. It makes you a better leader, a better employee, a better colleague, a better friend, a better partner, a better daughter, a better son, and a better human being, overall. It’s a nice side effect to feeling great physically, don’t you say?

Life Skill #2 – Vulnerability

Being a vegan helps me become more vulnerable, which is not something that comes naturally to me. Growing up, I’ve always guarded myself against rejection, or the potential of being rejected, ridiculed or mocked.

I’ve always had a soft spot for animals. In fact, I first became a vegetarian when I was eight years old, after watching the movie Babe. It only lasted a few months as my mother convinced me that Babe was not real and that animals don’t feel the way we feel. And because I couldn’t resist her delicious spaghetti bolognaise.

Being vulnerable is about being authentic, honest and true to yourself: not just revealing the pretty and shiny part of yourself, but all of you. Putting all your feelings and hopes on the line. As a woman (and with Asian heritage) this can be extremely difficult, as we’ve always been taught that vulnerability is a weakness, not strength.

Truth is, there is nothing more vulnerable than announcing to the world – to your non-vegan friends and loved ones – that you will change the way you eat, that you will no longer eat meat, chickens, fish, cheese, eggs, dairy, the kind of foods that you used to enjoy together, that you value the lives of the animals more than you value sharing those plates with them, that some of your principles no longer align with theirs, that you are now… a vegan.

It was one of the very few times where I was vulnerable by choice, and willingly opened myself up to judgement, criticism, and rejection.

Being a vegan has been a gateway for me to practice vulnerability, at every function, at every social gathering, every time I make new friends, or when I enter a new work environment. Practice, practice, practice. It’s not always easy, but it does get easier each time. And I’m all the better for it.

Passionately Keren

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown.

Skill #3 – Courage

Courage is not the absence of fear, rather, it is the ability to do something despite of that fear.

Stereotypically, courage is often represented as stoicism and a projection of invulnerability. But this is not true courage. True courage is opening yourself up to vulnerability, recognising the fear, embracing it, and saying, “this feels scary, but I’m going to do it, anyway.”

“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability.” Brene Brown

The last four years as a vegan have strengthened my tiny courage muscles in ways I couldn’t possibly have imagined.

It took courage to ask the receptionist at work to fill the office fridge with dairy-free milk.

It took courage to ask for a customised meal at the restaurant for the first time.

It took courage to refuse food that my mum made for me, food that I used to love.

It took courage to announce my new lifestyle to my meat lover friends, which was pretty much everyone I knew.

It took courage to say no to cruelty, and yes to compassion and kindness.

And these tiny acts of bravery has helped me with other big decisions I’ve made in my life; like shutting down my four year food blog to start a vegan food blog from scratch; like asking for a pay rise at work; like quitting my cushy corporate job to spend time with my family overseas; and like starting my own business.

Who knew one could practice courage by simply changing what they eat?

“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Skill #4. Not giving a damn

Previously a chronic people-pleaser, being a vegan fixed me right up.

I used to buy ‘things’ to fit in, talk in a certain way, do things I didn’t like, and say things I didn’t really mean simply to try and make people like me.

I used to feel upset when way people looked at me a certain way (or if they didn’t look at me in the first place), if they didn’t ask me about my weekend, compliment my new dress, or ask me to join them for lunch. I used to care about all that stuff.

And then I became a vegan and I stopped giving a damn.

Passionately Keren

How? Why?

I believe it is because I no longer felt part of the existing social construct so I stopped feeling the need to impress people who still abided by that construct (i.e. almost everyone I knew). Instead, I started focusing on how I could be a more effective human, in my own right, and how to get the most out of this one life that I’ve been given.

And the last four years have taught me that the only thing you can control is yourself, what you do, how you think, who you choose to see. The rest is out of your hands, so why waste your energy worrying about it?

Does it really matter if people think I’m a bleeding-heart weirdo, if I don’t get invited to certain dinner parties because I’m a vegan, if people criticise me for still wearing my old leather shoes and bags after all this time, or if nobody like my photos on Instagram?

The truth is, there are so many more important things in life than all the superficial details and trivialities we all cling onto – our vain feelings, our pride, our ego.

It’s not that I don’t give a damn about everything, it’s that I’m picking my spots and only give a damn about things that truly matter, the big things, the important things. Health. Family. Friends. Loved Ones. Values. Purpose. Pancakes.

The less damn I give, the happier I become.

Passionately Keren

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. If you’re a vegan, let me know what other life skills you have gained from this lifestyle in the comment section below. And if you’re not, what skills do you think you would gain, if you choose to experiment with this lifestyle?

Keren x

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Penne with ‘Meaty’ Vegan Ragu with Gino’s Gourmet Groceries

Penne with ‘Meaty’ Vegan Ragu

I love my pasta. I love how something so simple as boiled dried dough, made out of flour and water, can bring such comfort and delight.

Casalare: Gluten Free Vegie Penne Pasta

Before I became a vegan, one of my favourite pasta sauces to make was ‘ragu’, a meat-based Italian sauce, which is rich, thick, delicious and full of flavours. It was, in more ways than one, awesome.

Spiral Foods: Organic Garlic & Basil Sugo

When I eat food, it invokes all sorts of feelings and emotions inside of me. Not all the time, of course, because sometimes eating is just the mere act of ‘re-fuelling’ oneself. The meal can take many forms, but all share the same mundane, unremarkable purpose, to stop that feeling of hunger in its tracks.

But other times, more often than not, I eat to feel things (as opposed to stop feeling things, like the sensation of hunger). I eat to make myself feel joyful, gratified, indulged, pacified, inspired, delighted, happy, and alive.

Penne with Meaty Vegan Ragu

I wanted to re-create that feeling I used to get whenever I had a good ragu back in the old meat-eating days, only this time with a vegan ragu. And so I went to my kitchen laboratory and started experimenting I chose mushroom and tempe as my plant-based proteins of choice and, boy, did they rise up to the challenge. I also added some shredded kale leaves to give the dish another layer of texture and flavour, and to boost its nutritional content, and because I just love kale in general.

The result is a thick and rich ragu that tastes so ‘meaty’ and delicious that you’ll forget it contains no meat at all. I hope you will give it a go!

Penne with ‘Meaty’ Vegan Ragu

A deliciously rich, protein-packed vegan ragu that's nourishing, satisfying and oh so comforting.
Course Main
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2
Author Keren Natalia


  • 250 g tempeh diced to about 1cm cubes
  • Leaves from three stalks of kale chopped or shredded (optional)
  • 1/3 cup basil leaves
  • 3 large brown mushrooms chopped
  • 1 large red onion
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 700 g jar of pasta sauce*
  • 250 g gluten free penne pasta*


  1. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Cook red onion for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until softened slightly.
  2. Add the minced garlic and diced tempeh and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally until browned.
  3. Add the chopped mushroom, cook, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the pasta sauce, bring to boil, then add the chopped kale into the pot and stir until kale is cooked, about 1 minute.
  5. Stir in fresh basil. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of salted boiling water according to the packet instruction until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
  7. Mix sauce with pasta, adding the reserved cooking liquid to coat pasta with sauce. Serve with Vegan Parmesan.

Recipe Notes

*I use Spiral Foods: Organic Garlic & Basil Sugo; and Casalare: Gluten Free Vegie Penne Pasta, both from Gino’s Groceries.

This recipe is sponsored by Gino’s Gourmet Groceries, an online store that partners with the best independent producers who share their values of doing things the right way. They supply real, honest food, with no artificial ingredients and no nasties, at a fair price. I must say that the pasta sauce and the gluten-free vegan penne I got from them were some of the best I’ve ever tasted.

And because the team at Gino’s Gourmet Groceries are awesome, they’re giving you, my lovely readers, a 25% discount on our next purchase with them. Just use the code “PASSIONATELY25” during checkout.

P.S. If you make this, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or find me on Instagram and share your creation. Don’t forget to tag me @passionatelykeren so I won’t miss your post.

Keren x


How to Make Vegan Haloumi with Mad Millie Cheese Kit + Giveaway

Vegan Haloumi Cheese

Gosh, I’m excited about this post! It’s been four years since I last had haloumi cheese. And although I’ve experimented with making dairy-free cheeses for a while, I’ve never made haloumi cheese, at least until now. And it’s the best thing ever. And thanks to Mad Millie’s Vegan Cheese Kit, you too can learn how to make vegan haloumi at home.

Talk to any vegan or aspiring vegan, and they will tell you one of the hardest transitions to make is quitting dairy. It’s getting a little bit easier now to source good vegan cheeses, but they’re still like finding purple MnMs, still quite hard to find, and can be pretty pricey. The best (and the most affordable) way to get your cheese fix, therefore, is to make your own.

But making your own nut cheese is not without its challenges. I own three vegan cheese cookbooks and I can probably count the number of recipes I’ve tried from these cookbooks using just one hand (in other words, not a lot). Some of the ingredients can be hard to source, some of the recipes can be quite complicated and intimidating for first-timers, and sometimes it can be a long wait before you can eat your cheese, ranging between three days to 3 weeks.

What I love about Mad Millie’s Vegan Cheese Kit is that it provides you with all the ingredients you need to make your own vegan cheese. The recipe is also very simple and easy to follow. No specialised equipment or experience is required. Just add your choice of nuts and kitchen spices. The best thing is that all the cheeses can be made in less than a day!

The kit contains a thermometer, cheesecloth, citric acid, agar, tapioca flour, yeast flakes, cheese salt, instructions and recipe booklet. The kit makes approximately 3.6 kg of cheese before you need to replenish some of the ingredients. That’s a pretty decent amount of cheese I think, enough to feed a family with two hungry teens… or ten.

I have to say that the vegan haloumi I made using the kit was unexpectedly divine! Even Nat (my pescetarian/vegan hubby) says it tastes as close as 80% to the real thing… and I think that is excellent as far as dairy-free cheese goes. And Nat is a severe critic as he loves his haloumi!

I love adding this haloumi to salad or simply serving it with some fresh tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil. Nom!

How to make a vegan haloumi

Seriously, you won’t believe how easy it is. You don’t even need to do any culturing! Click on the video below to see how to make vegan haloumi using the cheese kit.

You can see all the ingredients required to make the cheese, all provided in the kit (except the nuts and some pantry items of course). It’s a simple blend, cook, and chill process so you can spend more time eating them :D

Vegan Cheese kit Giveaway

Because the Mad Millie team are so awesome, they’ve agreed to give away one Vegan Cheese Kit to a lucky reader of Passionately Keren. To enter the giveaway, simply do any one of the following action to gain entry points.

Winners will be drawn on the 8th of December 2017. I think it would make a lovely Christmas gift, don’t you agree?

Mad Millie Vegan Cheese Kit

Do you like Haloumi cheese? If not, what’s your favourite cheese?


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Vegan Triple Cream Brie

Vegan Triple Cream Brie

Gosh, I love cheese. How can you not? I especially like the soft and creamy kind… like Brie, my favourite cheese ever. And so it makes sense to veganise it, doesn’t it? I honestly believe this Vegan Triple Cream Brie is the closest thing to Brie I’ve made in a long time.

Vegan Triple Cream Brie

For a couple of years now I’ve been experimenting with nut cheeses. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. When they work, I get so excited that the whole thing is gone before I have the chance to photograph it (hence the lack of vegan cheese blogposts). But when they’ve failed, however, it knocks me down for months…. such as that time I tried to make hazelnut cheese. It was a massive fail. The problem with nut cheese is that the ingredients are expensive. Hazelnut is close to $30 a kilo and raw cashew is about $35 a kilo.

Vegan Triple Cream Brie

But lately I’ve been having more luck in the cheese department. And this vegan double cream Brie was a success in one go. I’ve since made it a few times and have been able to consistently reproduce it.

Vegan Triple Cream Brie

This recipe was inspired by Julie Piatt’s ‘’ cookbook. I’ve modified the ingredients to simplify the process a little. I definitely recommend you check out the book if you want to explore the world of nut cheeses. Unlike the other non-dairy cheese books I own, it has the least amount of ingredients, so you won’t have too much trouble sourcing most of them.

Vegan Triple Cream Brie

Vegan Triple Cream Brie

Creamy and delicious vegan brie
Course Sides, Snack
Cuisine Gluten-free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword cashew, cheese
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 rounds
Author Keren Natalia


  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 probiotic acidophilus capsule
  • 400 ml 13.5 ounce can coconut of milk
  • ¼ cup unrefined coconut oil plus extra for greasing the mould
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp sea salt
  • You will also need 2 mini spring-form round pans 11cm diameter


The night before:

  1. Place cashews in 3 cups of filtered water. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Place the can of coconut cream in the refrigerator overnight.

On the day:

  1. Oil the pans with coconut oil (you can also use coconut oil spray).
  2. Rinse and drain the cashews. Transfer to your power blender (I use my beloved Vitamix). Add coconut oil, lemon juice, sea salt and the contents of the probiotic.
  3. Open the can of coconut cream and scoop out the solid cream at the top of the coconut milk. Take ¼ cup of the remaining coconut milk in the can. Transfer the coconut cream and coconut milk into the Vitamix.
  4. Blend on medium speed, using the plunger to distribute the mixture evenly until smooth.
  5. Transfer the mixture into the spring-form round pans. Cover with baking paper cut to fit the pans.
  6. Dehydrate for 24 hours at 35C. You can do this in the oven if your oven can be set to lower temperature, otherwise leave in the oven with the headlight on for 24 hours.
  7. Carefully remove the cheese from the mold using a sharp knife to release the edges. Place in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a day before serving. You can also age the cheese by placing them in a wine fridge for 1 to 3 weeks. Rub fine sea salt over your cheese every few days or so to prevent mold growth.

I recommend eating the brie on crackers or sliced cucumbers. It’s so good that sometimes I just eat it on its own.

P.S. If you make this, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or find me on Instagram and share your creation. Don’t forget to tag me @passionatelykeren so I won’t miss your post.

Keren x

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Brown Rice, Kale and Bean Salad

Brown Rice, Kale and Bean Salad

Brown Rice, Kale and Bean Salad

If I have to pick my favourite grain, it’ll be rice every time. It’s delicious, nutritious and most importantly, it’s filling. This is especially important when making a plantbased salad, especially when you want something substantial that can keep you going for a few hours. This Brown Rice, Kale and Bean Salad is one of my favourites salads to make because, not only is it easy to make, it’s also a great make-ahead dish for dinner party, lunch boxes or picnic. Unlike most salads, this salad stays fresh for about three days in the fridge. In fact, it tastes better the day after you make it.

The sturdiness and toughness of kale leaves makes kale perfect for this salad. They hold their shape and keep their crunchiness and freshness in the salad mix even after three days in the fridge. You don’t even need to shred them finely, just chop the leaves and then ‘massage’ the leaves in olive oil for about 2 minutes. If you don’t know what that means, you’re essentially scrunching the leaves with your hands to break down the cell walls which, in turn, softens the leaves to make them more enjoyable and easier to eat. It also helps release the sugars within the leaves to make them less bitter. You know you’ve done enough when the kale feels softer and tastes somewhat sweeter than before.

This salad is also a great way to use up cooked brown rice. I cook rice regularly and so I always have leftover rice. This salad is a perfect way to transform a day or a two day old rice into a delicious lunch or dinner meal. I hope you give this salad a try!

Brown Rice, Kale and Bean Salad

A deliciously simple salad that's full of protein and fibre. It is satisfying, easy to make and can be made a day ahead. Perfect for parties, potlucks, picnics and to fill up lunch boxes.
Course Main
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 2 -3
Author Keren Natalia


  • Kale bean salad
  • 2 stalks of kale
  • 1 cup of black beans
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 to mato diced
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  1. Wash and rinse kale, tear the leaves off the centre leaves and the stem and then tear or chop to bite size pieces. Place into a bowl, add oil and a pinch of salt. Massage for about 2 minutes until kale softens and turns to a bright colour.
  2. Combine the massaged kale, red onion, brown rice, and beans. Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin and garlic powder until thick, about 45 seconds.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Gently toss, taste, adjust seasoning if needed and then top with diced avocado (I usually add the avocado last so it doesn’t get mushed when I mix the salad dressing). Let it sit to marinate for at least an hour if you can or leave overnight in the fridge for the flavours to develop.

Recipe Notes

I always have cooked rice in the fridge I didn't have to cook the rice. However, you can also buy instant brown rice at the shop that takes minutes to cook in the microwave.

What’s your favourite way to use up leftover rice? 

P.S. If you make this, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or find me on Instagram and share your creation. Don’t forget to tag me @passionatelykeren so I won’t miss your post.

Keren x

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