It Takes A Village…And Some Veggies!

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So, after spending the weekend amongst this gloriousness (see above), I’m fit to just head for the hills right about now and never come back – especially after week spent once again shackled to my desk! As you can see Mono Lake provided quite the visual feast, and with the reflection of the Sierra Nevada peaks also rippling magnificently upon its waters, the soul was well overindulged too. Clean air was consciously inhaled, and reluctantly let go of. Did I want to spontaneously combust? Nope. But as I drew in what I believe the word ‘fresh’ actually means, I couldn’t help but think about a time where this insane kind of beauty would itself implode. And it was worrying, especially as that time is, as we are increasingly being told, already upon us.

Now, I never thought of myself as being a tree hugger. But, I love nature, I love being outside, and as I appreciate that – and don’t want that outlet to vanish anytime soon – I guess I probably am. So, maybe it’s time to own up to it then. Or, I could keep blaming Netflix for its array of ridiculously disturbing environmental documentaries like Sustainable, Cowspiracy, Forks Over Knives for example, that have me clinging to edge of my wicker seat – which is plastic, by the way. And while no trees were (directly) harmed in its making, this small consolation only serves to underline the bigger message of these films i.e. that direct effort on all our parts is required now, however minute.

I think the most frightening element of each these narratives is the sense of urgency with which action must be taken. It’s frustrating really, and each time I sit down with a relaxing cuppa to have an even more relaxing binge-watch, the end credits always roll to a tune which seems to echo the despair of being a glutton for punishment. It goes something like this…If I didn’t watch it in the first place, I’d have no reason to be concerned. But then, as I’m now duly enlightened, that there’s a day just around the corner where no sand will exist to bury my head in, I’ve been asking myself what can I realistically do to make a meaningful difference. The answer, which was for the most part inspired by these movies (there was a few other factors too which I’ll tackle later), is my recent adoption of a whole-food plant-based diet. Kind to the world and his wife, I feel that being a warrior in the kitchen is definitely a sound place to start making a change. And, if you were think of an en masse reach for the peelers, this change wouldn’t be insignificant. Each to their own of course, but when I saw the lake’s – for now – clean casting of my own image, I felt the need that was to keep up my own little veggie crusade.

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Damaged Goods? There’s No Such Thing!

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So, when my Imperfect Produce box isn’t prompting a wave of the deep and meaningful’s (see previous post!), I would like to, as originally intended, give you the low-down on this nice little service. Not usually being a fan of these subscription things, a friend managed to twist my arm into giving it a try. And, I’m happy to say, her praise was spot-on. I’ve been getting deliveries now for the last 4 weeks, and each and every one has unexpectedly sparked a wave of creativity in the kitchen – which, as I’m in the throes of exploring a whole-food plant based-diet, is just ideal.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting for a minute that you have to be on the veggie warpath to reap value from this haul. This delivery is packed with a variety of cheap, but top-notch, produce – so what if it’s a tad unconventional looking?! Personally, with the motherlode of greens I received for a very reasonable $23.90, I’m more than happy to be a part of the change that aims to reverse the (highly unacceptable) fact that “in America, 1 in 5 fruits and vegetables grown don’t fit grocery stores’ strict cosmetic standards — the crooked carrot, the curvy cucumber, the undersized apple — usually causing them to go to waste.” With this hard to ignore truth plastered on the front page on the company’s website, who wouldn’t want to put a roof over their wonky heads?!

Anyway, while their goal may be to re-home “ugly” spuds and the like, I’ve undertaken my own mission to convert these misfit contents into some delectable vegan/vegetarian dishes – and, honestly, so far, I’ve had some great successes. This, I think, has been mainly down to the random, limited, ingredients you can choose from each week – which far from curbing my inspiration, has only fueled it. More to come, but as you can see from the above, ain’t nothing dodgy about this luscious curry-bound pepper… which, don’t panic, will be minus the orange that’s beside it!

For kicks, here’s what I got in my Customized Medium-Sized Box yesterday;

  • 1 Conventional Butternut Squash
  • 1 Conventional Celery
  • 1 Conventional Mango
  • 1 Conventional Eggplant
  • 1 Organic Cauliflower
  • 1 Organic Zucchini
  • 1 (carton) Organic Grape Tomatoes
  • 1lb Conventional Brussel Sprouts
  • 1lb Organic Apples
  • 1lb Organic Blood Oranges
  • 2lb Conventional Red Peppers
  • 2lb Organic Onions

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Imperfections, Anyone? Let’s Cut Them Some Slack

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I was listening to an audiobook earlier today, to which its narrator was keen to inform me that the ability to embrace the negative parts of your character was key to improving self-worth. The idea being, of course, that once you can stand up and look them square in the face, your acceptance of such traits, and subsequent remedying of them, will ultimately help you love yourself, and hence, (happily!) grow.

Earth-shattering stuff indeed, the details of which I tried to absorb whilst unpacking this supposedly stunted box of veggies! An odd coincidence, with the merchandise proving in and of itself how unforgiving the world actually is when it comes to anything deemed less than perfect. This being the case, it’s no wonder most of us are happy to keep burying those most haunting aspects of ourselves. As, to own up to flaws of any kind, especially in the positivity saturated world of social media, would be a task too daunting to even contemplate.

But, when you think about it, while you’re perpetually busy putting only your best foot forward, the rest of you is bound to get stuck behind in the mud. So, what to do? Well, if this Imperfect Produce haul is anything to go by, maybe it’s time to take a step back, and root out some of those not-so-nice attributes which tend to stranglehold our existence, in the long run, accordingly. With the outcome not the blight we are conditioned to think it is, as the above impeccable contents, to me, demonstrate, I believe we should begin nurturing our whole warts n’ all self – knowing, comfortably, that that best version of ourselves will always be the most uncontrived one.

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Do You Love Anyone Enough…

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…to give them your last Rolo? Well, as it turns out from the making of this tasty batch, the answer would be a resounding YES! This only being the case, of course, as I managed to squeeze out a healthy 19 of these divine little treats with the ingenious improvisation that was my shot glass cookie cutter. So, all in all, plenty of love to go round, and then some – which was a major relief as these yummy bundles were a huge hit!

Ok, enough fawning, let’s get down to brass tacks. I was super excited when I saw this Valentine’s inspired recipe posted by The Happy Pear just recently for a couple of reasons. Number 1 being the pure novelty of recreating this old selection box favorite at home, one which I only enjoy these days if I go out of my way to get to an Irish/British import store. And Number 2, because of their sheer simplicity to make. With only 6 cupboard friendly ingredients on the list, and a couple of easy steps to follow, the whole process took about an hour from start to finish including washing-up time. And, as you can see from above, the end-product looks the handiwork of a master chocolatier – well, maybe on their day off…and, with both hands strapped behind their back!

But you get the picture – quick, really fun to do and definitely better as a healthier, homemade version. Honestly, I never thought a caramel made up primarily of cashews, walnuts and medjool dates could be so delicious. And, even though I’m currently exploring the world of veganism, I think this recipe proves you don’t necessarily have to follow any kind of [insert diet preference here]-ism in order to get the pots and pans out and spend a little quality time in the kitchen. And, giggles aside, I think the molding and shaping of the dough itself – a task that could only have been successful with a mindful approach, due its stickiness – was one of the most truly meditative experiences I’ve had with quite a while.

So, with that said, if you fancy checking it out, click right here for the You-Tube link (not affiliated, just a fan!). A couple of things to bear in mind though, you will definitely need a decent blender for this. My Vitamix just about coped with the gooeyness, and I had give it a couple of short rests to get the mix to the right consistency. Also, the guys mention that you need 200g and 400g of chocolate at two different stages in the video, so taking a risk I used a 340g packet of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Day Value Dark Chocolate Baking Chunks and I had tons to spare. Which makes for happy days, as I  wasn’t looking forward to denying my lovely, lovely, Rolos to anyone, be it their first, second, third, or last!

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I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me…

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…well, not as often anyway. You know, I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day than taking in this breathtaking view. Yet, even though I live less than a 5 minute drive away from the beach, I only pop down once in a blue moon to catch the sunset. And what kills me is that I absolutely love it, so does the mutt, as this ritual seems to have a greater pull with crowds that favor only four-legged plus ones. So, while we stroll along the bluffs I get to take in the phenomenon that is light’s swift exchange for darkness, and my fluffy munchkin gets to partake in the meet and greet of a lifetime.

Clearly then, it’s an all-round win-win. Being also the consensus of every other individual gathered on the lookout, as judged by the sheer volume of selfie stick activity, I wonder why I too often find this unquestionably worthwhile and non-time-consuming jaunt so inconvenient. Roundtrip is 30 minutes at best, and with myself and the pup always leaving both completely centered and fully rejuvenated (going on wags-per-minute here!), it seems crazy not to want to make this soul-filling pilgrimage a regular thing.

But once the day soon dawns again, the exhilaration of our trip is usually fast forgotten to a million excuses that will busy me out of going. And, in reflecting upon today’s excursion, I now know that I justify this frequent opt-out on the basis that the sun will be going down every single night of my life. Therefore, there’s tons of opportunities to see it again, right? This outing has reminded me though, that unlike sunset, we cannot predict when our own burning torch will extinguish. So, with procrastination no longer the comfortable option it once was, I’ll be beach bound again tomorrow, this time with some decent 80’s beats in tow to soundtrack the occasion. I know the mutt will be thrilled, any excuse to have Nik Kershaw reinforcing the absolute need for us to keep hitting repeat on playdate heaven!

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Squashing In Time To Make Soup!

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Ah… I can’t say how much happiness both the making, and eating, of this delicious butternut squash soup brought me today. Well actually, I can, and for the minimal time investment that was the veggie chopping this recipe required, it was so worth it for the abundance of creamy goodness that it yielded. In fact, the saucepan really took the burden on this one, and while my veggies dissipated into future bowls of loveliness throughout the 20 minute simmer time, I was able to wrap up some work emails whilst contentedly thinking of the amazing lunch I was about to have.

Recipe shout-out here goes to The Happy Pear, whose work i am absolutely loving at the minute. These guys are awesome if you haven’t yet checked them out, they’re super fun and their videos make you feel like you can achieve just about anything given 5 random minutes in the kitchen!

Although their recipe calls for carrot, I just had turnip to hand and it still turned out crazy good. And, in making a good last minute call to quickly spread some avocado mash on a couple of slices of whole grain toast to dip, my midday feast was just magic. Also, I now have leftovers to last me for a week, and that makes my time-tormented self so very, very, happy!

https://thehappypear.ie/recipe/how-to-make-butternut-squash-soup/

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