Zero Waste Groceries + Black Bean Brownie Recipe

The zero waste movement is gaining traction and I’ve decided to give it ago. According to Greenpeace, the average Australian produces 1.5 tonnes of waste each year. And, as an island nation, an innordiante amount of plastic ends up in our oceans. I honestly couldn’t justify the waste to myself. I wanted to make a change.

I’m not 100% zero waste yet, and I’m not sure when I will be. Being chronically ill, sometimes I need foods of convenience and, by and large, those foods come in plastic packaging. That said, I’m still wanting to reduce my waste and was overjoyed when a bulk foods store opened up in my area. Another amazing bonus is that they’re pretty vegan-friendly!

They had plenty of options in term of staples like flours (including gluten free optionss), pasta, rice, dried beans but also stocked plenty of snacks, treats and chemical free hygiene and cleaning products. A whole wall is taken up with assorted oils on tap. Everything is organic which is great for those with chronic illness who need to avoid processed foods or have chemical sensitivities. Depsite being organic, the prices are on par with or even cheaper than the supermarket.

I loaded up on beans, lentils, rice, magnesium bath flakes and vegan chocolate. So, naturally, I had to make black bean brownies with delicious mylk chocolate chunks!

I know what you’re thinking. Black beans? In brownies. Gross.

I understand, friends, I was like you, once. A total purist with my food (I hate different foods even touching on my plate) I originally balked at the idea of mixing black beans and chocolate – but it works! You get the nutrients of the black beans but I guarantee that you wouldn’t know they were there. I love getting people to guess the secret ingredient in these bad boys and no one ever does.

Ok, so evidently taking a photo of the brownies was an afterthought… after four brownies after… still, they look pretty good, right?

This is inspired by a recipe over at Chocolate Covered Katie, but I doubled it and made a few small changes. i doubled it because the brownies have very little rise and, as a result, come out pretty flat. I like a thicker brownie.

The only special equipment you need for this is a food processor. You won’t even need a mixing bowl – you just throw ingredients into the processor and let the blades do their thing! The limited number of steps is why this recipe is a favourite for days when I want to bake, but don’t have enough spoons for anything complicated or time consuming.

Another plus of these brownies is that, with very little tweaking, they can become gluten and sugar free which is great for those of you with food sensitivities.

Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups black turtle beans (soaked overnight). You can also use two drained cans of black beans but dried beans are waste-free and much cheaper. If using cans – recycle!
  • 4 T cacao powder. (The original recipe calls for cocoa powder, but cacao has a lot of great health benefits. If you don’t have cacao, you’re welcome to substitute. Just keeep an eye out for hidden sugars)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (make sure it’s certified gluten-free if you have sensitivities or sub quinoa flakes)
  • 2/3 cup pure maple syrup. 1 cup if sugar-free (Emphasis on pure. Don’t fall for the ‘maple-flavoured’ cheap stuff. Your brownies will be oversweet)
  • 4 T raw sugar, if using.
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil. I prefer the unpressed, unrefined stuff, but if you don’t want too much of a coconut kick, pressed coconut oil is much subtler in flavour and scent. Personally, I think the coconut plays off the cacao really well.
  • 1 tsp baking powder (another ingredient to check for hidden gluten)
  • 1 1/4 cup roughly chopped mylk chocolate
  • Optional: roughly chopped nuts or more chopped chocolate to sprinkle on top.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees (350 if using fahrenheit)
  2. Drain and rinse the black beans. Throw into the food processor and pulse (this is an optional step, but i prefer the beans to be finer)
  3. Add all other ingredients except for chocolate chunks and blend really well. This could take a few minutes depending on the quality of your processor. Use this time to get a drink, check your phone, pat your pets (and pity their inability to eat chocolate)
  4. Once the mixture is smooth, take out the blade and lick that sucker clean! Just kidding, please don’t lick sharp objects. Instead, use a spoon to scrap some back into the processor, and some into your mouth!
  5. Stir in the chocolate chunks
  6. Line a brownie pan with greasproof paper and pouur in the mixture.
  7. Top with nuts if you’re using them. I love to use hazelnuts.
  8. Bake for 25- 35 minutes. If you’re topping with more chocolate, sprinkle it on while it’s still hot. Wait ten to fifteen minutes before removing from the pan and cutting into squares.

I love having them fresh with a scoop of soy or coconut ice cream. If you like to snap pictures of your food, do it right away because these beauties will be gone fast!

I hope you enjoy the recipe. If you give it a try, let me know what you think in the comments. If you’re intereste in more recipes, let me know that, too!

Book Review: Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner

Ask a bird how to fly, and it might tell you to remove the weight from your wings

– Erin Loechner, Chasing Slow

I can’t remember where I first heard about Erin’s book. It might have been a podcast or a blog. The title stuck in my mind. Chasing Slow. I liked the notion. After all, am I not in pursuit of a simpler lifestyle?

It was not what I expected. When I cracked the spine, I thought I would find a how-to guide. Tips and inspiration for slowing down, simplifying, savouring life instead of charging ahead with blinders on. I did find tips and I did find inspiration, but not in the way I had thought.

Chasing Slow is at it’s heart a memoir, the recollection of a struggle and a journey. Erin doesn’t claim to have her shit together – she is upfront about the fact that she doesn’t. She finds slow, and then lets it slip through her fingers as she is lured by want of more. She stumbles and falters and fails and is unflinchingly honest about it all.

Erin made herself a household name through her blog. Her sense of style and creative eye had her recieve countless opportunities and accolades. She was one of the first to beta Pinterest. Such sucess is hard to resist – I don’t know that I could – and sometimes, often, Erin doesn’t. I find this so refreshing. While I love The Minimalists, they look like they’re established minimalists. A finished product. But I’m not, and neither is Erin. Neither is anyone. There is something novel about the admission that we are going to screw up. We are going to buy things we don’t need and overspend and forget our values. It is hard not to want more. It is hard to keep your foot on the brakes when everyone around you is pumping the gas. Pedal to the metal.

I have friends with their own businesses, their own homes. They have wedding bands on their fingers and babies in their arms. I see it on Facebook and Instagram and I look around and feel disatisfied. Happy for them, but upset with myself. I likely won’t have a big career and the jury (or doctor) is out on whether kids is a good idea for me. It meant something to read that Erin, as successful as she is, felt the same thing.

Erin opens up about her husband’s terminal diagnosis, her own struggle with panic attacks. She doesn’t back away from her failures and faults, despite aditting how much she desires to control. She suffers from impulse buying and imposter syndrome. This isn’t Erin with an instagram filter. She is unfiltered and human.

While the bible verses grated on my agnosticism a bit, I envy her faith because she finds so much value in it.

The book reads more like a confession than a sermon. Erin is talking to you, not at you, like a lot of these books seem to.

It reads easily, though some of the metaphors are a bit heavy-handed for my tastes. Repitition is a key part of Erin’s style. But it’s a matter of taste. I devoured the book within a day and found value in it.

While it didn’t teach me how to chase slow, Chasing Slow did teach me that it is an endless process. It is a meandering journey. It is ok to fumble and fall and veer off the path to simpler living. As long as you dust yourself off, readjust your course and, more importantly, forgive yourself. There is no such thing as perfection. They key is to not let chasing slow be about perfection. It is about you. What is best for you.

If you find yourself stalling or stressed, I recommend picking up Chasing Slow. It wasn’t what i expected, but I think it’s probably a bit of what I needed.

Quick update

Hi friends.

I’m sorry I haven’t been very active the past two weeks. It’s flu season here in Sydney and I came down with a really bad case and I’m only just on the up-tick. I’m going to get back to posting this week. Some of the posts in the works include ways to minimise beyond your belongings, some essentials I can’t live without, a look into waste-free living and maybe a recipe or two! I hope you guys will enjoy it. Stay tuned!

My Morning Ritual

I like the word ‘ritual’ more than ‘routine’. To me, a routine sounds dull, monotonous. Mechanical. A routine is intentional, as minimalism is intentional. It is something I have crafted for myself to give myself a good start to the day.

To be perfectly honest with you guys. I am not a morning person. I’m not even an afternoon person. My chronotype is a bear, meaning I crave sleep and am most productive mid-morning. I have trouble getting up and am pretty eager to climb back under the duvet at the end of the day. In the mornings, I more or less resemble this:

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Suffice to say, mornings are rough for me. So I take them slow. My alarm goes off at about 5:30.

Yes. 5:30. While I need sleep, it’s about quality over quantity and oversleeping can damage the quality of sleep you have at night. The early wake-up ensures I get enough z’s but have time for an easygoing morning. That said, I don’t get up straight away. I like to have a leisurely stretch because my muscles will be tight and tender. I’ll start on the glass of water I leave beside the bed. After 15 minutes or so, I get myself up. Patrick is a night owl, so he’ll still be sleeping.

I’ll stick in some earphones and listen to a podcast or some upbeat music while I wash my face and brush my teeth. It helps to wake me up. Next I’ll do a yoga video (Yoga With Adriene on YouTube is my favourite) followed by some guided meditation on Headspace. Keeping calm is central to my health and gentle stretching is great for my body so I try and do both. Even if it’s just ten minutes apiece. Afterwards, it’s time to make breakfast. My current breakfast obsession is ‘cinnamon toast breakfast quinoa‘ by Cookie and Kate. I like to top it off with some chia seeds and blueberries. I make enough for two and try and coax Patrick out of bed to eat. If not, it goes in the fridge for later. I like it when he gets up, though. A few minutes with a loved one is a great way to start the day.

I’ll make up a mug of cold brew coffee to have with it and only then do I allow myself to check my phone if Patrick is still sleeping. Usually it’s to check out the headlines on my Flipboard app.

After breakfast, I get dressed. I have a shower and pick what I’m wearing the night before so it’s a snap to get ready. My makeup is pretty minimal because my medication makes my skin pretty acne-prone. Just some concealer under my eyes, some tinted moisturiser and brow filler and I am done. Then I usually have time to have a quick play with my cat, Leo, before it’s time to kiss my boys goodbye and head out the door.
How do you like to start your day? Let me know your favourite morning rituals in the comments.

For the Love of Busy

“No matter how busy a man is, he is never too busy to stop and talk about how busy he is”

Author unknown

You know that guy, who complains about how stressed and busy they are, how little sleep they run on. They complain, but there’s a glimmer of pride as well. Maybe you’ve been that guy at some point or another. I know I have. We read articles about successful CEO’s who sleep for four hours a night and work long hours for six figure salaries and we want to be like them because that is the ideal. Who doesn’t want to be rich and successful? So we push ourselves. Five hours sleep, running on nothing but caffeine and willpower. The shiniest, most productive cog in the machine. We live in a world obsessed with productivity.

But here’s the kicker, folks. Busy and productive are two very different things. It doesn’t matter how fast I run on the wheel, I’m not going anywhere.

Busy is not something to idolise. Busy is not something to love. But we do. We love to hate it. To wear it as a badge of honour to prove the lengths we go to, the demand we’re in, how much we contribute to the world. I have to wonder, though. What are we contributing? What are we sacrificing? How does this all balance out?

When my health took a serious turn for the work this year, I was in denial. I wanted to be fine. I expected myself to maintain the fast and efficient level of work that I had been capable of before hand. Instead of maintaining my work, however, I started making mistakes. Lots of them. So many that I soon found myself in a meeting with my boss, staring at a warning letter. Something had to change. It took a major job scare for me to realise a few crucial things. My job wasn’t a career. I didn’t want a career. I enjoy my job, but it should not be the centre of my life. I shouldn’t be damaging my own body trying to keep up a standard I thought they expected of me. I should work to live, not live to work.

I also realised I wasn’t the same person I was when they hired me. Not physically, emotionally or mentally. I needed to adapt to the new way my body operated. It was a slower pace than I was used to, but it would have to do. I talked to my partner and we both decided that full-time work was not ideal for me so, once he graduates university and starts earning more, I could reduce my hours and go part-time.

With the pressure off, I stopped pushing myself. I acknowledged my limits and made them clear to those I work with. Before that meeting, my boss had no idea what I was going through. She had no idea I was constantly sick and in pain. Once it was out there, she offered help and support.

Now I manage my work better. I make sure deadlines are clear so I prioritise better. If there’s an extra task added on, I make sure I know which is the most pressing so I’m not scrambling to get everything done. I learn to say no (politely of course). I don’t work through my lunch break and don’t linger after hours unless it’s an emergency. I take regular breaks and make sure my health and wellbeing is my number one priority.

This doesn’t just apply to work, either. I need to accept that sometimes my shelves get dustier than I would prefer, or there are dishes sitting unwashed. I need to know when I can go out with friends and when I need to stay home.

You know what? I’m not stressed or busy but I am productive. I give myself the space to ensure my work is good quality and being calm makes it easier to troubleshoot and come up with solutions when things do go wrong.

Some people enjoy being busy. They thrive under pressure. For me, I prefer having things to get done, but too much and I start stressing out. Anyone with my illness will tell you that stress is like poison. While I may have immediate physical effects, stress is damaging to everyone. People have died from work-related stress. There’s even a word for it in Japan, Karoshi meaning ‘overwork death’. How terrifying is that? We live in a world that literally works people to death. No job, no paycheque, is worth running ourselves into the ground for.

I’m trying to opt out of the rat race for want of something slower and simpler. I’m much happier on the sidelines.