Tired Of Unhealthy Dietary Misinformation?

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…well, on the off-chance that you are – just like me! – I’d like to point you in the direction of the extremely talented Dr. Hilary Greenebaum, who’s wonderful website I had the honor of contributing to this week. I had a lot of fun writing this guest post, as it gave me the opportunity to really get stuck into some of the scientific minutiae substantiating a whole-food plant-based lifestyle, and, once again, fully appreciate the comfort that only facts and figures can sometimes provide! We are swamped in nutritive myths peddled by mainstream media on a daily basis, and it’s no wonder we struggle to see the wood for the trees when persistently drowned in dietary fallacies. But enough said here, if you fancy checking it out… just click this link.

A quick word about my good friend over at bettereatingforlife.com, Hilary’s work is just phenomenal. Dedicated to furnishing the – too often overlooked – facts only, she has created a wonderful 11-part video series which educates on the importance of adopting a WFPB diet, in addition to helping you successfully make the transition. Aptly titled “Knowledge is the Key to Good Health,” I couldn’t agree more, so…go get signed up, and open the door to a healthier, happier life, coz it’s way way too short!

To wrap up, I’m interested to know how you feel about mainstream media’s handling, or even mishandling, of nutritional information – would love to hear any thoughts/comments you may have, so stick them in the box below!

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Say, What Ya’ll Up To September 24-27th?

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If “nowt” is the answer, you may want to think about attending this year’s International Plant Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference. Being held in Anaheim from September 24-27th, the agenda looks super impressive. I’ve signed up myself – with the opportunity to hear the who’s-who of the whole-food plant-based nutrition world speak, it’s just too good to miss. Their aim? To…

educate, equip and empower the gatekeepers of dietary-related advice…about the power of plant-based nutrition, providing compelling resources they, in turn, [can] use to inform and inspire their patients and clients to adopt the optimal whole food, plant-based dietary lifestyle” (pbnhc.com, my emphasis). 

And with the likes of T. Colin Campbell, Caldwell Esselstyn, and Dean Ornish on the bill, I’m sure no one will leave questioning the benefits of what they term – and I like it – the “Ultimate Rx”. Also, in addition to the usual/standard lectures themselves, I’m thrilled to see they’ve set an hour aside for plant-based chef, Chad Sarno to demonstrate some “Foundational Cooking Techniques”. So, not only talking-the-talk, but for a change, actually walking-the-walk too. This, I think, will be super helpful, as we can know all there is to know on paper about the WFPB diet, but really, we need to be able to translate this knowledge in the place where it matters most – the KITCHEN!

To me, this inclusion is both critical and ingenious…especially, especially, when you are trying to get the message across that this lifestyle is far from complicated, and that its magic can easily be revealed through the most basic cooking skills. In fact, you could almost argue, that the less you do to your food, the better! But anyway, this is at the very core of truly equipping, and empowering, people to actually make a difference in their lives – and it can begin, so simply, with a peeler in one hand, and chopping board in the other!

That’s why I’m excited to go, to be further informed, further inspired. And, as to why I’m drawing attention to this now? Two reasons. First, as I just barely, just by-the-way, found out about it myself, I’d like to publicize its existence as much as is humanly possible. Second, I got my ticket at premium pricing rate, which up until May 15th is $945 – so time is running out! After this date, it will be $1245 for physicians, $1145 for non-physicians. Not the cheapest by any means, I know, but I’ve spent the same (unintentionally, and not all at once!) on the most throwaway of things over the years. This, I know, will be well worthwhile. I mean, it’s an investment in your health really – and in that, for sure – there will always be a great return.

(FYI – I’ll will be blogging throughout, and post, the conference – with a plan not only to review it, but to give you the lowdown on some of the best insights learned there.)

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Note: In this instance, logo is courtesy of the “International Plant Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference” website (pbnhc.com).

Bobbing Along In A Sea Of Nutritional Confusion: Why Are We So Comfortable With Food’s Infinite Gray Areas?

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Been a couple weeks since I checked in, but my absence can be somewhat explained by the above photograph taken at Hook Head Lighthouse in Co. Wexford just a few days ago. The goal was to keep my blog schedule on track while on holidays, but even with the best of intentions, it fell by the wayside. I was, however, keeping the old Instagram feed going – being a nice diversion when family conversations started to run dry! I had actually posted this picture shortly after we got home from the coast, and as we sat down to dinner that evening I realized the image couldn’t be more apt for this next installment.

I knew going home was going to be tough, from a food perspective that is. Not only had I to explain my whole-food plant-based leanings, I had to hope that my parents would be accepting enough to let me practice them. Now, while they had been forewarned, I think the reality was a little unsettling for them at first. But, I’m happy to say, after a couple of days, and good dose of sarcasm about my ability to maintain a pulse sans animal protein, they were actually very good about it. So, no fuss with my new dietary inclusions/exclusions at all, and totally fine with me making the necessary adjustments to my plate at mealtimes.

Happy days, you may say! But while the war I thought I’d be waging ended up being no battle at all, an unexpected struggle – and I think I was fated to be at home while this happened – instead reared its ugly head. Not wanting to impose my herbivorous lifestyle on the folks the first few days of the visit, I said nothing while the typical/traditional Irish diet they were enjoying was dished up before me. And, I can tell you, that after a while, it was unbelievably difficult to sit there and watch the veggies play second fiddle to whatever meat was on the menu that night – even if it was in the interests of having a conflict-free vacation!

But then a letter arrived about half-way through, and with the results of recent blood-work revealing my dad’s LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol being at 210 mg/dl, I knew it was time to stake a claim on no man’s land. Just for context here, 190 mg/dl is considered “very high” according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Although being informed that he was absolutely in line for a heart attack, stroke, or worse was beyond shocking, I think the most disturbing part of this communication was the laxity of its delivery. Simply told to check back in 3 months time, whereupon repeat tests would be carried out, the doctor was confident that with the help of the accompanying leaflet on how to amend diet and lifestyle accordingly, my dad’s cholesterol would lower considerably.  No argument there, but as this life-saving pamphlet wasn’t actually included with the mail, the report by itself, in being meaningless to its retiree recipients, was promptly shelved.

Until, (thank God!), I found it. And, then I knew it was time to unleash everything I had learned from The China Study, and through eCornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition course. The first conversation fell on deaf ears, the reason being, that as the doctor hadn’t followed up with a phonecall, they were of the opinion that the issue was not grave enough for them to be in any way concerned. It was infuriating, but on went the dialogue, and together with some intense Googling, they eventually accepted they had a situation that they not only needed to be worried about, but immediately address. And this is where the fun, quite literally, started. Oh yes – and in having seen their initial attempts to transition to a whole-food plant-based existence, the report’s disappearance began to make much more sense!

So, no, they may not have understood its technicalities, but on some level, I think they were cognizant of the practical changes that were going to have to be made. My mother’s a good cook, but not adventurous. My dad likes the basics, and therefore, you have a culinary prescription designed to stand the test of time – which it definitely has (42 years to be exact!). And, with that in mind, you can see why denial set in when told that it would be best advised to drop all meat and dairy, together with the extensive miscellany of processed foods stuffed into the kitchen cupboards. Life, in their eyes, was now going to be hell. But in trying to convince them otherwise, I came up with a simple plan – a list of all their favorite foods (minus the contraband), and what to do/how to easily prepare them. I also told them to keep a simple food diary, and to return to the doctor with it in about 4 weeks time, making a point to follow up with him, as opposed to being followed up with when it might be too late, and the unimaginable had already happened.

Here’s hoping they’ll implement last change. I gave them the tools, including a copy of The China Study, now it’s in their hands. If anything, it’s a lesson in how we end up in such murky waters, with the fear of change, the unknown, keeping us forever floating in life’s cosy gray areas. Now this is fine, until the time comes when you’re presented with a potential life/death scenario such as this, and you somehow know, that the glaring black and white of a situation is really your best guide, your only guide. And then you’re left with no option but to just follow the facts – which in this case, was/is to ditch the meat and be done with it. As human beings, we will doubtless falter from time to time in this quest – certainly, no one’s perfect. Testament to this was our first family effort in having the full-on whole-food plant-based experience on my last day together with them.

We were right on cue all day, with breakfast and lunch running smoothly, until dinner, when a planned rice and veggie stir-fry was mysteriously replaced with a couple of bags of french fries from our local chipper while I was busy packing. Insisting they were adhering to WFPB standards by going the potato route only (usually a burger and some battered sausages would be in tow), I let them off the hook, but at the same time leaving them under no illusion that this was suitable fare! There was discomfort, for sure, now that the chipper was firmly out of the equation as a take-out option. But I’d take that uneasiness any day of the week, if only to eliminate the convenient confusion that lies there in lieu. At the end of the day, no one ever really benefits when heads remain treacherously stuck in the sand. I’ll keep you posted on those LDL numbers!

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Hankering For Some Good Vegan Eats?

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Good! Then it’s time to hit ‘Little Pine,’ Moby’s Silverlake restaurant, ASAP! It comes highly recommended, by me, but, before I strike another key, here’s what the man himself has to say about this unique little spot:

“…i can write about food and veganism and architecture & design, but it’s a lot more compelling and interesting to open a restaurant and show actual, physical examples of food, community, veganism, and architecture & design. blogs and Instagram are great, but a picture of food will never replace an actual, beautiful plate of food served in a beautiful space…” (littlepinerestaurant.com)

See? Definitely a necessary interruption, as he duly points out the inadequacy of words, when actions are really what it’s all about. So, I’ll keep this brief. Yes, blogs etc. can spread the news, and quite effectively provide people with the opportunity/information they need to begin a whole-food plant based diet. But why not just drag a skeptic kicking and screaming to dinner…and let them get a taste of what they’re not missing. The whole purpose here naturally being – to reinforce the power of doing, over just saying. And, while not everyone will have the opportunity to open a (non!) greasy spoon in their lifetimes, this is the kind of effort anyone can make. I know I plan to return with as many cynics as I can squeeze in one sitting next time!

Serving beyond delicious Mediterranean inspired California cuisine, “featuring 100% plant-based produce and ingredients”, Moby’s restaurant is exactly as he describes it above….plus 10% cooler (littlepinerestaurant.com). It has an intimate, but very relaxed, community feel – a vibe that so many places strive for, but completely miss the mark on. Now, this, to me, was awesome, as in having a celebrity owner, I was expecting a little pretentiousness. But, I guess, when you have a proprietor that gets the fact that we are all made of stars – then you’re really all set.

This “we,” of course, also includes all sentient beings, an equality the menu rightfully recognizes by stating that all profits go to animal welfare organizations. So, all the more reason to support a plant-based way of life that is not only commendable, but also sustainable. Blasting “Go – The Very Best Of…” in the car on the way home, one particular chorus jumped out at me, one I hadn’t paid any heed of in my omnivorous past life… “growing in numbers, growing at speed, can’t fight the future, can’t fight what I’ve seen” (Moby). But listening now, it suddenly had new meaning i.e. that fact that the future is truly vegan, as we can’t sustain a future without it…

Ok, this wasn’t brief, but words are all I have for now – unless you deem the ethical undertakings of my knife and fork to be suitable enough action. Oh, and here’s what we ate, together with some kick-ass sparkling wine cocktails…

  • Panzanella – Toasted Bread, Avocado, Market Vegetables
  • Brussels Sprouts – Apple, Fennel, Apple Cider Gastrique
  • Fennel Flatbread Pizza – Housemade Sausage, Fennel, Romesco, Spinach,         Parmesan
  • Mushroom Bourguignon – Crimini Mushrooms, Pearl Onions, Carrots, Cotes du Rhone, Mashed Potatoes
  • Garlic Basil Gnocchi – Pine Nuts, Pesto, Market Vegetables, Bread Crumbs

No dessert this time, as we were completely stuffed with this lot, but don’t worry, it’s happening…in the very near, vegan secured, future!

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Looking For A Kick-Ass Vegan Lasagna?

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Well, if you are, you’ve come to the right place! Today was kind of an awesome day, one that was spent chopping, slicing and dicing to my heart’s content – thank you, Netflix! Just when you think you’ve already binged on every conscientious food documentary it has to offer, its “Because You Watched…” section always seems to plate up something new n’juicy.  And, although I somehow managed to miss the quite unassuming gem that is The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue from 2011, I think I couldn’t have caught up with it at a better time. Running at a very short and sweet 52 minutes (perfect commute/lunch hour viewing!), whole-food plant-based diet advocate and presenter, Rip Esselstyn, provides viewers with the best hands-on approach to the adoption of this lifestyle that I’ve seen. Working with two families keen to kick their conventional eating habits, he spends about a half-hour of on-screen time with each, giving practical advice on how to go about a weekly shop, and then, more importantly, how to cook up the bounty of herbage they’ve returned home with.

And it was at this juncture, my dear friends, where I witnessed the magic that was Rip’s preparation of the mouthwatering, Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna. Taking a very “bish, bash, bosh” /Jamie Oliver approach to its assembly – a style I absolutely love, and one, I think, which makes us all feel like we can be rockstars in the kitchen – I knew I had found my new go-to mid-week dish! Truthfully, I had been at a loss for the last couple of months since scrapping the old Sunday Shepard’s Pie whip-up, and this recipe fits the meal-prep bill just perfectly. Better still, now it’s just out of the oven, I can confirm that it also tastes exactly as it looks on camera – bloody delicious!

Pun possibly intended there, but what wasn’t was the extra sprinkling of nutritional yeast that I used as an add-on to Rip’s specified ground cashew topping. Mentioning in one of the film’s grocery sprees that it makes a nice parmesan substitute, I was dying to give it a go. Result = Spot On! Another quick tip on this – the veggie/tofu mixture makes a ton, so be sure to have a decent size Pyrex dish on hand to squish it all in. I spent the entire 60 minutes of its cook-time trying to cope with the unadulterated fear of a possible overflow, and a night spent not eating but cleaning. Happy to say, though, that the aluminum foil covering, as recommended, relieved me of that chore – which is perfect, as one of Rip’s books, “Plant-Strong” just arrived in the mail, and with another 150 life-saving recipes to sift through, I know where my time is more wisely spent!

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I’ll Send An ‘SOS’ To The World…

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Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t quite intend this blog to be a whole-food plant-based haven, but I can see it taking that turn – and I’m super pleased about it! Because, to me, it means that what I want to say will not only be more focused in terms of my goal to live a balanced, healthy, existence, but it will also make this little endeavor a heck more worthwhile. I spoke last week about being on a “veggie crusade,” but as I’m already feeling like a rockstar since adopting this diet just a couple of months ago, I know this lifestyle is something that I want to share with as many people as possible. Having unintentionally converted my carnivorous husband and best friend through the casual relay of juicy extracts from the above reads, and bearing witness to their own success with the change, I think I’m on some sort of evangelical high. So, yup, I think it’s time to go forth and spread the good news – that we do not need animal protein to survive, thrive, and be happy!

But how? That is, I’ve found myself wondering how best to tackle this within our wider social circle without being pushy. We can all preach at home, that’s easy, as my ability to be direct about why I’ve become a whole-food plant-based devotee to my nearest and dearest, and now new disciples of the movement, will testify. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have two birds in the hand, but as there’s plenty more in the bush, being an armchair advocate just won’t do – the message is simply too good! But, for casual conversation it needs to be succinct, and I’m kind of struggling with that at the moment. Coincidentally, I came across a link on Twitter this morning, a photograph which simply said “Eat Plants, Gain Health, Save Animals, Help the Planet,” and I wondered if the next time I decline that ground beef patty say, for example, at a friend’s barbecue, would this nice neat tagline suffice? Would it be enough to give them the gist of what I’m doing without creating an uncomfortable atmosphere, but possibly pique their interest?

But, maybe I’m asking the wrong the question here. Perhaps this conversation should be uncomfortable. Honesty, after all, is uncomfortable – unbearably so, in most cases. And let’s face it, those who have already made the leap to plant-based living (and now know how amazing it is!), would probably wish they had access to the truth much sooner. I know I certainly feel that way. But as I console myself with the words of another tidy tagline, “better late than never,” I hope with some effort to convey my own version of the former, that the message will get through. So out goes the ‘SOS’, because, with 7.5 billion now in need of a better world home,  I’m not content in being alone on this one for too long.

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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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