Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Zero Waste & Vegan Lunch Box w/ PlanetBox

I am embarking the final stage for my bachelors in university. Cue the emotions of excitement but anticipation of whats to come & the dedication that lies ahead. Studies are meant to challenge us and at times we put ourselves last. We fall out of balance with our health and succumb to the maddening late-nights spent editing, writing, or formulating. I’d always fallen into the category of neglecting to eat at the so called “proper” standardized times. Be it school or work when you feel rushed or need to catch the train, a deadline, or hour & it you forget to nourish yourself. And sometimes you get tempted by what’s available in the university cafeterias which may or may not lead to healthy choices, or produce waste - and if you, like me, have food allergies? It’s instantly a debacle.

I thought about attempting the zero waste mentality to meals when you’re in school, work, or even a trip. Perhaps it saves money, or offers you to make better choices. It definitely cuts down on waste, which was important for me to address.

planet box @ http://violet-woods.blogspot.com

PlanetBox creates classic stainless steel lunch boxes that are an excellent alternative to plastic or single serve containers. No lead, BPA, or phthalates here folks, and its recyclable after your long years of use (no waste). I received the Shuttle Box with the Shuttle Carry Bag (which I highly recommend, to ensure longevity of your box & they’re BPA free + recycled materials used). I don’t like plastic; I want to avoid it as much as possible, especially when it concerns what I eat.

I gave myself a challenge: Create a vegan & zero waste meal for my Shuttle Box. I ventured to the farmers markets for fresh fruit & product, nuts (protein), found veggie chips in bulk! I recommend taking cotton or reusable product bags instead of the plastic ones they have at stores, or even mason jar (know your jar weight!)

planet box @ http://violet-woods.blogspot.com

My meal comprised of unsweetened coconut yogurt* (the container is recyclable) with a drizzle of grade B maple syrup & a heapful of chia seeds (protein & omega-3s), sliced strawberries and a handful of almonds to dip them in, Sliced zucchini (which I also dipped in the yogurt) and lots of dehydrated veggies to round the meal. I take my own spoon & cloth napkin as well!

It took me less than 15 minutes to comprise this meal, mostly chopping fruits and veg and ladling in yogurt and its toppings. I really encourage y’all to try meal prep and ditch plastic for safer and earth-friendly alternatives. Check out PlanetBox for more inspiration on making your own rainbow meals.

planet box @ http://violet-woods.blogspot.com

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Going Back Into The Wild & Our Impact On The Environment

Recently I came across the titles of these articles online: “Light Pollution Hides Milky Way From 80 Percent Of North Americans”, “Measuring America’s Disappearing West” “Oh, the Places Your Plastic Waste Will Go” or “Rising Seas Push Too Much Salt Into The Florida Everglades” Climate change likely to turn up heat on koalas. Not surprisingly I did not hear about these stories covered on tv news (a 2015 report showed that mainstream TV outlets spent devoted less than an hour covering climate change.) which is a shame but several online news outlets do a better job at covering these stories.

Sometimes I wonder if we’ve become so detached from wilderness, unless you happen to live near it. With human development expanding and taking away from natural areas there’s a concept of trying to tame the wild instead of trying to understand it, as individuals. How many believe its up to park rangers, botanists, or ecologists to understand? Some of us don’t see forests, mangroves, or lakes outside of our windows or on our way to work so we forget an environment completely unique to our own surroundings exists. Living in the city all my life I have become accustomed to hardly seeing stars, often having to venture out past skylines or buildings just to catch a glimpse of them at night. On a recent trip to Sequoia National Forest this year, walking on soil and passing creeks with the earshot of wilderness - birdsong and scuttling somewhere around us. I wasn't wondering about tomorrow or worried about something perhaps trivial. There was no internet reception to distract us, and the experience is different for everyone but for me I felt more alive basking in this habitat that was so distinct from my daily life.

sequoia national forest

I wonder how many of us take the science of things for granted.  We can appreciate the beauty of trees, their winding branches and changing leaves serve as home for many wildlife species. They absorb carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and release oxygen back to us. Some of us may be spooked by the occasional bee, in fear of the possibility of being stung. Except the tiny bee’s presence does more for us than we realize. They are pollinators important for biodiversity and about 1/3 of our food production. However many bees are dying off which is most likely linked to widespread pesticide use, in particular the effect of neonicotinoids which includes losses of 44% in America this past year. Others may litter without realizing their action multiplies and regardless or whether their litter will find its way to a bin, it can also find its way to marine environments, parks,

Of course I don’t think we should drop our lives, our responsibilities and live into the wild. Most people don’t have that luxury because we are consumed with debt, the necessity to work, and others simply don’t want that and that’s perfectly fine.  But perhaps there should be a more conscientious approach about what we know pertaining to the environment. We go to the ocean for a few hours and leave, we visit the national parks and say goodbye but its not just a source of entertainment for us, it serves as a home for more other creatures unbeknownst to us. Yet these national parks are severely underfunded and even plastics in the form of microfibers or particles are showing up on the ocean floor and in the bodies of marine life. s (the United Nations Environment Program reports that about 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of ocean today)

sequoia national forest

Perhaps we should consider asking ourselves about our actions and how it relates to the environment? It unequivocally affects us on a small scale. If a neighborhood chooses to liter instead of disposing of their trash properly or better yet recycling it, if we purchase from farmers who don’t use insect-harming chemicals on their crops, urging companies like Starbucks to create non-disposable forms of their coffee cups, or better yet investing in reusable non-plastic coffee or water cups (a 2006  Pacific Institute report estimates that it took 17 million barrels of oil per year to create America’s plastic water bottles) to take to cafes, or simply minimizing our food waste footprint or picking up after ourselves or others. If you have a case of wanderlust, go visit the national parks, its up to us to keep them. There is also the importance of voting, in particular researching the candidates who hold environmental rights in their policies.

This is not to say that I am devoid of anything that could contribute harm to the environment, and I don’t stand to say we should all become over night purists – its not that simple but its not impossible. Because there are many people who are creating programs, startups, and outreach efforts that are raising awareness about the state of our environment.  I simply believe we have to collectively live in conjunction with our natural environment instead of allowing it to disappear.

Monday, February 8, 2016

“A book is a dream that you hold in your hands."

A small round up of the beginning of the year so far. At least what I have captured: baking, reading (5/60 so far...), meeting new people & eating delicious vegan food. But its what I don't capture that has also brought a lot of light in my life: weekly lunches with my mum, reading by myself in cafes and finding moments of silence, & allowing myself to share my thoughts and opinions in class (I used to be quite shy and avoided this although I really wanted to share.)

With classes back in session i have definitely felt the shift in activity and prioritizing. I am trying not to let it stress me and planning things out has been an incredible help. So here are some things I want more of:
  • farmers markets
  • cafe sessions with my headphones on & a book in hand
  • film days with my mum 
  • the wind to stop so I can take my pups to the park 
  • scrap-booking!
  • perhaps a museum visit before springtime
  • have a proper film noir (or pre 1960s) movie night complete with pizza & popcorn
  • invest in a good sketchbook
strawberry reading challenge + herbs deer 

I. Practicing with recipes and doughnuts. It kind of helps my mum loves when I bake them and its fun to come up with the proper ratios and combinations of flavors and farmers market finds (see: pistachios) Especially since its been cool-weather, I'm taking advantage of the oven
II.These are books 2 & 3 for my reading challenge. Angry Candy was a surprise read because I didn't expect to like it but I really enjoyed the way the stories (17 short stories) Ragnarok is a retelling of the Norse myths through a perspective of a girl during World War II - I have a few books on Norse myth and this is not a straight academic retelling, its still worth the read for the language and how it explores the characters from Norse Mythology - feel free to check out my Goodreads for my reading challenge updates and book reviews!
III. New painting up in my shop - I have been painting lately but not as much but I am working hard to catch up on everything in order to be able to paint and lose myself. I am also becoming less headset on only using natural sunlight and finding proper lights to use at night

my vegan gold

IV. Delicious vegan food from My Vegan Gold. I love coming here to eat when I am in Los Angeles and the variety of food is amazing (Thai, American, Italian) - no complaints. Definitely worth a visit.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Light-Chasers Manifesto: How To Defeat & Overcome Self Doubt

In my own life, I had never really addressed the unwelcome dance between "self doubt" & I. In my interactions with those around me (friends, colleagues, family members) I consistently saw the same sentiments of self doubt, of wanting to accomplish something - be it a goal, dream, desire, etc. There always seemed to be reasons for why not to do something, instead of a reverse mechanism of listing off all the ways that they could turn their wishes into reality.

There are plenty of reasons why people hit these "blocks" or obstacles. Sometimes it is internal or external criticism. Sometimes its other factors like finances, or perspective. We try to encourage others but when we find ourselves in that similar situation - fearful to accomplish something no matter how greatly we may desire it- we aren't always very kind to ourselves.The intention is there but the spark needs igniting.

I personally dont believe in perfection (anymore). I like the idea of balance but balance takes self mastery, self discovery, and sometimes hard work. This year I want to address how I feel and attain what I desire. I realized roadmaps can be helpful and I complied a list of ways that could help silence self-doubt in order to sprout. What if we spent more time inspiring one another? What if we spent more time encouraging ourselves? This is the light-chases manifesto. This is chasing your own light and making it burn brighter. 


1) Develop one (or more) mantra that applies to you or what you want to achieve. this could be something like "I am/will be successful"  or "I am deserving of what I wish to achhieve." When you discover your own message, practice mantra meditation by repeating this to yourself. Then say it out loud. Yes out loud. I do this before I go to sleep with the lights off and my mind clear. I dont even think about the mantra I simply repeat it. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you feel conflicted of self-doubt - repeat to yourself and remember meditation isn't about perfectionism, its meant to move you forward. Its meant to empower you. 

2) Kick self-doubt in the face. Whenever self doubt starts to appear or those feelings creep up simply reply with a "No."  Counter those thoughts little by little. Even if it feels impossible or if something is telling you its not possible, discover that you don't have to give in to someone else's perception. 

3) Throwing yourself to the wind. Explore stream of consciousness options like journaling, coloring books, etc. The goal is so create something without expectations. Shake off the dust and get moving

4) Surround yourself with positive people or like-minded ones. I cannot stress how valuable this is. Seek people who will encourage your growth and goals, find a group (in your community or even online). Reach out to someone you admire and let them know. Never underestimate the power and potential of genuine camaraderie. 

5) Forget expectations. Its easy to look at others or different situations and needlessly compare ourselves and feel negative; as if we aren't "achieving enough" - this thinking can set us back and make us lose that confidence. Instead release the concept of expectations and focus on what you want and how to attain it. The truth is that everything takes time and effort. Behind every picture of success is a story of how someone got there. Focus on the journey not the endpoint. "Decide to rise" a wonderful mantra from Danielle LaPorte with a great motivation piece on overcoming doubt (P.S. I am currently reading her book The Fire Starter Sessions and truly recommend it)

6) Plan. I used to avoid any kind of planning medium because I didn't think it was necessary. However as the years passed and the busier I got I realized how easy it is to forget ideas, thoughts, and plans. By writing these down you create visual (and hopefully organized) outlines of keeping things on track while priming you to do something that day/week/month.

7) Step back and ask yourself what you want. Why are you not feeling motivated? Why is this doubt kicking in? Sometimes our paths & desires change - & this is truly okay. To better ourselves we have to be honest with ourselves and address what we want (or don't want) in order to move forward.

8) Accept yourself. Once you accept who you are, what you want, and wish to do - you then gain a power and confidence with realizing your potential. The only happiness that matters is your own, when you act against what you really want, you can't grow. "You're freer than you think you are."

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Plant Based Mushroom Bolognese with Banza Pasta | Vegan & Gluten Free

Now that it is winter, I wanted create a warming, rich delicious pasta dish. I went to the farmers market and on intuition picked several items that I wanted to used, including the cutest plump kumatos and oyster mushrooms. Kumatos are beautiful brown-red tomatoes that are incredibly sweet and burst will flavor you can eat them as is if you desired.

Cooking, for me, has become a type of therapeutic activity. When I step into the kitchen i remove myself from anything on my mind and devote myself completely to culinary alchemy. It might sound a little odd but I believe in positive intention and as my mother says: Its an experience, learn from your steps. Heeding her advice, I think its best to do things mindfully - simple acts like enjoying the season and what it has to offer.

This recipe was made for my mother in mind. She loves the addition of wine in cooking but I wanted to make a completely plant based dish full of nutrients and flavor. There in mind came a bolognese sauce which I know she enjoys. For this dish I made my own tomato sauce based and oh-my-gosh making your own tomato sauce is infinitely better than the store brought. I also mixed in some lightly sautéed oyster mushrooms to give it texture and "meatiness." This decadently tasting and make sure get a good red wine because it adds so much distinct flavor.

Planted Based Mushroom Bolognese with Banza Pasta | Vegan & Gluten Free

Banza is an amazing chickpea-based pasta that has a taste similar to wheat except it is completely gluten free. Its has bite and fares favorably well when it comes to nutrition on its own (14 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber & half the carbs of regular pasta, GMO-free and it's vegan) The pasta was also named one of Time Magazines 25 Best Inventions of 2015. Feel free to check out their shop for a variety of styles although the pasta is beginning to show up in more natural food stores which is great! I love the flavor of the pasta and that it holds up so well. I have a few more recipes in the works using this amazing brand. Follow Banza on Twitter & Instagram!

1/2 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup chopped mushroom of choice (I used baby bella)
1/2 cup chopped eggplant
3/4 cup of chopped organic kumato, or a cherry/grape tomato or diced tomato
1/2 cup of organic red wine like Pinot Noir
2 cloves of garlic
2 sprigs of rosemary, remove from stems and finely chop the leave
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4th cup pasta water, water or no sodium veggie broth
olive oil
pink salt
pinch of white or black pepper
oyster mushrooms
Banza Pasta

  • To save time and speed clean up chop up all veggies and place them on a cutting board or plate
  • Heat a saucepan or dutch oven on medium heat and add olive oil, add the diced yellow onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and then add the mushrooms
  • Cook until onion and mushrooms have lightly brown and softened
  • Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the pan then add 3/4 cup of chopped kumato or tomato of of choice, eggplant, carrot and mince the garlic, rosemary and dried oregano, extra pinch of salt and pepper
  • Continue cooking on medium heat until the all the veggies soften, stir and add a little more olive oil if needed, about 15-20 minutes 
  • Remove veggies from saucepan, transfer to a blender and pulse but dont overdo it, you want a little texture but make sure veggies get processed. Taste to to see if you need more salt, pepper, or want to puree it more
  • In another pot, begin cooking the Banza pasta (I used Rotini) or pasta of choice, cook according to the box instructions and drain.
  • Meanwhile in the saucepan, add the red wine with the heat turned up to medium high, you want the red wine to reduce by half. This can take up to 10 minutes. After the wine has reduced, lower to medium low heat and add the veggie sauce you blended back into the saucepan and 1/4 cup of water or veggie broth. Stir while it simmers for about 10-15 minutes. 
  • This is optional but after I finished the sauce, I chopped several oyster mushrooms and lightly cooked them over medium heat with olive oil and salt + pepper
  • Add the pasta to a serving dish and ladle the sauce. Serve accordingly, and top with the cooked oyster mushrooms

Planted Based Mushroom Bolognese with Banza Pasta | Vegan & Gluten Free