Perhaps, on the surface of it, nothing much has changed in 2015. This is still a plant-based blog, I am still living in London and I am still very much studying nutrition (counting the days though, getting so near now to the end!). But once you take a closer look it soon becomes evident - I feel - that this blog as well as I have gone through a major transformation.
I mean, let's start with the biggest change of all – I quit my job and have now spent the last month (YIKES) at home, focusing on the things I realised mattered so much that it became impossible to keep neglecting them for the sake of following the wrong career path. Though I still wake up some days rather perplexed by the fact that I don't need to rush to the office, I am happy to report that resigning from my job was very, very clearly the right decision for me and my family.
To me a food blog is not 'just' a place to gather pretty and delicious content. Sure it helps and it's important but I think a food blog can be sooo much more than that. For example it can be a place from which we send out positive energy into the world, a place from which we initiates change, spark an exciting idea, celebrate creativity or ignite a sense of compassion. Big stuff, right?
So with that in mind, I thought the month of December during which we aim to spread love and joy, would be the perfect time to host a virtual blog party entitiled #loveMALAWIcoffee. I am well aware that a virtual blog party might sound like a random event completely unrelated to the message normally associated with December. But rest assured there is a connection...
On September 11th, 2001 I was at my parents' house in Madrid, returning home for a brief stay whilst in my final year at university. We were in the living room watching some television when the news broke that something odd had happened in New York. We switched to a news channel and watched reporters frantically try and make sense of what was going on when suddeny, in front of my eyes, the second tower was hit by a plane. I remember feeling sick to my stomach and watching my dad move across the room in total disbelief. We'd never seen anything like it before.
'' In the last few months I feel I have been peeling away layers, layers of who I think I was or wasn't, layers of (limiting) believes and convictions. I didn't know much about myself apparently. Maybe I still don't. The process felt and still feels so hard. And, that outer shell was so cozy, so protective. But inside I hope to discover a soft core, full of life and beauty.'' - quote slightly adapted from Silvia Bifaro
I quit my job. And though I felt relieved and elated when I handed in my notice, I also felt terribly sad. That surprised me.
I kept trying to figure out why I had felt a little upset that day and why I still continue to feel sad in the run up to my last day in the office (which is this Thursday BTW). I mean I hadn't been enjoying my work for a long time anymore therefore, surely, I should feel nothing other than joy, right?
As those of you who have been reading the blog over the past few months know, I have been eager to make food blogging, recipe development, food writing and all that goes with it more than just a hobby. In order to achieve that I have spent the last few weeks trying to formulate what exactly it is I want to do and how I can ultimately fulfil my dream. To help me find my way I did a blogger collaboration with Ceri from Natural Kitchen Adventures a few weeks ago (I shall touch on that again at the end of today's blog post) and I also attended the food blogger connect conference. Both experiences were immensely useful in assisting me to thrush out my path in the food blogging world. But, I knew that something was still missing and that I had to add another little piece to the puzzle to make it complete.
It feels as though so much has happened in the last two weeks and I am bursting to tell you all about it! Can I start off by sharing a little bit about my experience at Food Blogger Connect 2015 (FBC15)? If you've been following along, you'll know that I've wanted to become much more serious about my food blogging, writing, photography and recipe development. So as part of that 'want', I did a collaboration with Ceri about two weeks ago to broaden my food blogging horizons. I also attended FBC15 at Chiswick House and Gardens in order to get as many tips as I could on making my blog bigger and better.
So what was the conference like? Well, it took place over 3 days (I attended and volunteered at 2) during which one had lots of opportunities to meet, mingle and connect with other bloggers, share experiences and provide one another with heaps of encouragement and support. For me personally, this was probably the most invaluable aspect of the conference and as it stands 2 possible collaborations are in the works as a result of FBC15! So watch this space ;)
If you've been following along on instagram, you know that I got REALLY lucky a few weeks ago cuz I got to share my kitchen with the sweet and super talented chef Ceri from Natural Kitchen Adventures. Not only has Ceri rubbed shoulders with Jamie Oliver (as you do!) and run a successful blog for more than 4 years, she also has a very non-dogmatic approach to healthy eating which resonated with me from the moment I stumbled across her blog.
Oddly enough, I first got to 'know' Ceri through instagram but only actually met her face-to-face in May of this year. How did it all come about? Well, Ceri mentioned in her ig feed that she was attending a food photography workshop just as I was at a point on my food blogging journey where I desperately needed some guidace and direction. Hence I gladly tagged along to the workshop and not only did I learn loads, I also got to meet Ceri in real life, which was a lovely added bonus.
Warning: This is yet another long post about food blogging. (Sorry I know I sound like a broken record). If foodie talk is not what you came for, just scroll down to the end of this blog post and you'll find the recipe. No offence taken.
Gosh so what am I on about this time? Well, to answer that question I need to take you back a few weeks to late June . It was the My New Roots Cookbook Supper Club, which I attended with two friends, one of whom knows me really well. Seeing this was a supper club hosted by gorgeous plant-based blogger Sarah Britton, it was impossible to escape food blogging talk. So when I was asked about my blog I mentioned nonchalantly that it was a lovely, pleasant hobby of mine, but certainly nothing else. My friend interrupted, looked me straight in the eye and said: 'But Kimberly, The Little Plantation means soooo much more to you than that.'
What? What was she talking about? I just shrugged it off at the time and thought nothing more of it.
After 6 long weeks 'on the road' and a rather bumpy, arduous and exhausting 20-odd hour trip door-to-door, we're home. Though it hasn't quite sunken in yet, I must confess. You see, I still keep getting confused about what time of the day it is and what day of the week it is. I am getting all muddled language-wise and speaking more Spanglish than ever. And when I wake up in the morning it takes me a second or two to remember where on earth I actually am.
But that will all pass, I know, as will this mix of emotions I am currently experiencing (saying goodbye is horrible, but coming home is the most amazing feeling ever). Well, it's got to pass presto because I'm going back to work tomorrow and the little one is returning to school on Wednesday :(. So I just have to get on with it, right?!
WARNING: This is a long post mainly about food blogging, food styling and food photography whilst abroad. If that's not what you came for, feel free to scroll down to the recipe. I won't be offended ;).
As those of you who read the blog regularly know, I'm on a 6-week adventure this summer. My first stop gap was the beautiful island of Curaçao where I stayed for a week. Thereafter, my son and I continued our journey and headed to our second destination for the summer: Ecuador. Our first week was spend in Quito, the capital city where we stayed with numerous relatives and friends. It was a joy seeing my son run riot with his cousins, but I was starting to miss my time in the kitchen and the creative process of blogging.
During our second week in Ecuador, we moved further north to a small, ancient indigenous market town called Otavalo, which is where my husband is from and where we set up camp for 2 weeks. Throughout that period we stayed with my mother-in-law and for the first time during our travels I felt able to allow myself to dream of writing a blog post or two.
Hi everyone! Sorry it's been a little while since I posted a recipe. As you know I like to post bi-weekly, but the last few weeks I've been away from home meaning it's been rather complicated to access the internet or a kitchen for that matter. I'm glad to report though, that I may have found a way around this problem. For now. More about that soon...
Firstly, I wanted to tell you a teeny tiny bit about my week on the island of Curaçao or Curadise as I like to call it. If you've been following me on instagram, you know I enjoyed lots of gorgeous and fresh juices whilst I was there. Honestly, I can tell you that they were all as tasty and refreshing as they looked!
You'll be glad to hear though that those delicious juices formed only a tiny part of our wonderful time on Curaçao. I mean the warm and friendly people, the fun music, the vibrant atmosphere and those magnificent beaches were actually what made our stay unforgettable. It's such a special island; I can wholeheartedly recommend a visit :).
As you read this post I'm either at the airport, perhaps I'm even on a plane high up in the sky or maybe I've already landed in my first destination. Either way, I won't be in London. In fact I won't be in London for the next 6 weeks (eek!). Needless to say I'm excited and not just because it's a holiday and a nice long one too. Nope, it's more than that. Actually it's really all about my son. He's just finished his first year in school and with me being so busy over the last 12 months, we've not seen each other as much as we we did before he was in full-time education. So, I though it was worth making the most of the school holidays and spending the entire time together.
During the first week of our journey, we will be on the gorgeous island of Curaçao which forms part of the Dutch Antilles. Curaçao has the most beautiful beaches I know and it's also the place my mother is originally from meaning that part of my roots as well as my son's roots are from this stunning little country too.
I've posted some really long blog posts recently and you'll be glad to hear this one's gonna be short and sweet. Why? Cuz I've got a massive nutrition exam coming up at the end of the week and I am waaayyy behind schedule. Which in turn means I'm in a total panic :(
BUT I made a commitment to this blog and to you so here is my bi-weekly post as promised. And, it's a pretty good one too. In fact it's a super good one - my all time favourite green juice! Yup, this is one of the juices that helped me find my green path and I bet it will help you on your wayy too.
WARNING: This is another looooong blog entry, mainly about food photography and food styling. So if you're just here for the recipe – no offence taken – just scroll way down to the bottom of this post and you'll find what you're looking for :).
You still here? Great, cuz it's a blog post I've been feeling really excited about sharing with you. But first the backstory: I'm a complete total first born. I think as a first born you always feel responsible and you always want to make things better for everyone. So if someone comes to me and tells me their problem – I go into first born mode. I'm a sympathetic listener, sure, but mainly in the back of my head I'm thinking: OK, this person is upset/sad/frustrated, what can I do to make everything alright? How can I solve their problem and make them smile? Cuz that's what you do as a first born, you fall into that psydo parenting role, right? At least I do.
So what's that got to do with food photography? Well, loads actually. See this time around I was the one with the problem that needed fixing. I just got so bored of hearing myself moan about not knowing how to take good enough pictures (BTW I don't feel that way anymore, but at the time I did ;)). So, I thought about all the ways I could make things better and solve my problem. Ah! Attend a food photography and food styling workshop of course...
In many ways I have always been a city girl at heart. I was born in a big city - New York in case you were wondering - and have lived in countless cities all over the world. My frequent moves were partly the result of my parents' work (they were in the airline industry when I was growing up) and party the result of my gypsy ways getting the better of me in adult life.
After spending time in the lovely, small and quaint Williamsburg, Virginia (of all places right?!) for my undergraduate studies I knew with every bone in my body that I desperately needed to get back to the bright lights of urban life. Hence it's no coincidence that after a few detours here and there, I eventually landed in London.
''And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'' - Martin Luther King Jr. (1929 - 1968)
I have mainly viewed my little corner in cyber space as an opportunity to share my passion for good, healthy plant-based food. Sure, there has been a gentle undercurrent of wanting to empower myself and my readers to cook more and make informed food choices. And I've perhaps jutted down a note or two about eating local, organic plant food. But it's never been more political than that.
However a few weeks, as the run up to the UK elections was hotting up and pretty nasty and disturbing comments about immigrants and other disadvantaged groups in society were being batted about, I felt I needed to speak up and use this nook for more. I mean how could I 'just' talk about yummy food when there was all this 'stuff' going on around me?
So here it is. My blogiversary. It's gone so quickly and - it might sound cliché but - it feels like only yesterday when I pressed the publish button and sent this vegan carrot cake out into the blogosphere.
I know that blogiversaries are supposed to be a time of joy, but as the the date drew nearer, I felt quite ambivalent about it all or, dare I say it, even slightly downcast. I'm a pretty upbeat, positive sorta person, but I couldn't help but feel a sense of overwhelming disappointment. All this work that I put into the blog and I had nothing to show for it. No thousands of instagram followers (What did I read the other week? Someone got 72,000 in their first year?!), no million blog hits a week (Yes, someone else mentioned that staggering figure on social media just a few days ago. Amazing stuff, right?) and nothing exciting on twitter either (I don't even get that platform, do you?). So I turned to my husband and asked him if I should just call it a day and stop blogging.
Next week is a pretty significant week for The Little Plantation Blog (more about that next week of course ;)). To mark the special occasion I wanted to share a recipe on the blog that YOU really want to see. So I am handing over the reins and letting you decide what's next. The choice is between a vegan, gluten-free and grain-free savoury asparagus tart OR a sweet vegan, gluten-free and grain-free rhubarb tart. They are both seasonal, easy to make and utterly delicious.
Meet my new favourite breakfast buddy: Miso Soup! I know it might sound weird, but I can promise you, it's weirdly wonderful :).
Actually, let me backtrack a little bit and tell you how I got to swap my fruity porridge for soup...
As those of you who have been reading the blog for some time know, I'm studying to be a nutritional therapist (Yup, Still. In year 2. One more year to go. And in case it's not blatantly obvious: I CAN'T WAIT TO GRADUATE! ;)). As part of my studies we were asked to partake in a diet experiment; we had to live a particular diet and lifestyle for one week and then write a report about our experience. Cool huh?
By the time I had a chance to look at the options available to us, most of the diets were already taken:( and I was left with only 4 possibilities: FODMAP, the GI diet, macrobiotic diet and the blood type diet. Sorry, but this was a no brainer for me. As a massive Madonna fan (this is her best album ever and this my favourite tune) I knew full well that Madonna partly attributed her healthy body to her macrobiotic diet and so I HAD to give it a try.
Though still in the midst of Winter, the sun was shining brightly the day I got to hang out with the most influential Raw Chef in the UK – Russell James. Many of you will know Russell from his youtube channel and other may know him from his popular blog The Raw Chef. I was lucky enough to meet him at an uber-cool converted South London warehouse which is his live/work space. It houses not one but two stunning, envy-worthy kitchens; the first kitchen Russell uses to teach his super popular raw food classes, the second one (an electric blue one nonetheless), is his personal kitchen which is as high tech as it is inviting and beautiful.
Now what do you do when you meet a vegan foodie superstar with more than 190,000 facebook followers? Talk plant-based food of course ;)