Updated: Dec 7, 2020
The Zero Waste Collective is lucky to have Amanda from Mama Eats Plants sharing her zero waste granola recipe with our community! Amanda lives in California with her husband and two kids. After struggling with rheumatoid arthritis for years, Amanda discovered that a vegan diet, combined with yoga, meditation, and a simpler lifestyle was the best solution for her. Amanda shares her family's journey on her blog and Instagram, Mama Eats Plants (links below). You'll find great recipes, weekly grocery hauls and meal plans, as well as tips for a zero waste lifestyle. To top it off, Amanda's food photography is mouth watering! Check out the interview with Amanda below, as well as her zero waste recipe for Cherry Cardamom Granola!
ZWC: It's obvious from your Instagram and your blog that you love food! A huge part of transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle involves changing how we approach food (grocery shopping, recipes, diet, etc.). What tips do you have for people just starting out on this journey?
Amanda: Focus on what feels sustainable for you in the long term. Set aside a little time on Friday night or Saturday morning to plan out some recipes for the week if that will help you. Choose simple recipes that don't feel overwhelming, and make a list but be flexible so you can make swaps as needed- for example, if all the cauliflower is in plastic, choose broccoli instead. Cooking at home doesn't have to be fancy at all, and it is such a beautiful gift for yourself. I always like to prepare a large pot of beans like chickpeas for the week- from those I can make many different meals. I also prepare something like this granola, coconut yogurt or a pot of soup or a pasta sauce. This eases the weekly load of cooking when you have a few basics to work with in the fridge. Shifting to less processed foods and cooking things from the scratch ingredients of the bulk bins takes time, so be kind with yourself and just trust that you're getting there slowly but surely.
ZWC: Your family is a clearly a huge part of your life - it's beautiful to see. It's also impressive to see what your kids are eating. How do you inspire your kids towards healthy eating and zero waste living?
Amanda: My trick is to include them in everything...kids are the most intuitive and kind souls and you will be surprised how fast they get interested in what you include them in. Give them independence and ways to be included- go to the market together, let them choose fruits, veggies, snacks from the bulk bins for themselves. Let them help you cook. Choose age appropriate tasks like washing lettuce, whisking vinaigrette, chopping veggies, stirring soup, setting the table, washing dishes. Kids are much more likely to enjoy eating healthy food when they've been involved with shopping and preparing it. Let them help you fill up the bags and bottles and talk to them about what you're doing and why.
Watch documentaries together like A Plastic Ocean, check out books from the library for them about sustainability, involve them in picking up litter at the park. Foster a strong connection between them and the earth, through indulging their curiosities about it and getting outside, or watching shows like Planet Earth and listening to podcasts like Brains On. Emphasize that this is our home and it is our job to take care of it.
ZWC: There's a clear message from your Instagram and blog that there are strong connections between food, health, and lifestyle. Thank you for sharing your journey with rheumatoid arthritis and being so transparent about your experience. I'm sure it's not easy staying on track all the time with a specific diet. What motivates you to stick to the foods that make you feel your best? What would you recommend to others facing similar challenges?
Amanda: A whole food, plant based lifestyle has been instrumental in helping me heal from chronic pain and disease with my rheumatoid arthritis. I've learned to honor my body and tune in to its subtle signals to keep me on track. I can tell right away when things are going south because unmistakably, symptoms show up like brain fog, achiness and joint pain, and irritability. So that definitely motivates me to stay on track. But also, just learning to love myself and my body and really caring deeply about what I put in and on it, to make me feel best, and to keep me connected to the earth.
Eating in tune with the earth and seasons gives me a strong connection to my area, the environment, and just feels really, really good. I am grateful every day to have access in my area to clean, organic, local and seasonal produce that's unpackaged and affordable. That is such a privilege and a gift and I feel that I can't waste it!
If you're going through similar health issues, I recommend taking the time to slow down in your life, and feel deeply into what's going on. Are you stressed? Are you sending love to your body or are you feeling negatively towards it? Are you putting in healthy whole foods and supporting your body with nourishment? Are you taking care of your mental health? Are you making space in your life for periods of introspection and stillness? I believe that illness isn't just an isolated "problem" within the body; but rather, a culmination of treating the body poorly over time (both physically and mentally), which weakens it and leaves it susceptible to illness. Slow down and tune in. You can read my post on healing from rheumatoid arthritis here.
Cherry Cardamom Granola by Mama Eats Plants
The best part about this recipe is that it's infinitely customizable. Grain free? Leave out the oats and add more seeds/nuts. Can't find pecans in bulk? Use hazelnuts, almonds, or walnuts. Allergic to nuts? Add sunflower seeds or sprouted buckwheat instead. Hate cardamom? Add powdered ginger, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, whatever you like. Oil free? Substitute more maple syrup. Make this yours and follow your taste buds and intuition here. Just keep the ratio of dry: wet and you're golden.
2 cups rolled oats (sometimes called old fashioned)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cups raw sesame seeds
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup large flake unsweetened, untoasted (raw) coconut flakes
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt (use less if you use granulated salt)
1 cup dried fruit (I used sour cherries but chopped apricots, cranberries, mango etc would go well too)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Then, add in the maple syrup and olive oil and vanilla and mix thoroughly.
Spread out evenly on a lined, rimmed baking sheet (I use a silicone mat but parchment works well too).
Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake another 10 minutes. It's important to keep a close eye on it so that it doesn't burn. Obviously I've only tested it in my own oven, and ovens can vary quite a bit. You want it to be toasty and browned- if it doesn't look browned in the middle part, bake 5 minutes longer and check again. DON'T stir! This is what's going to make all the clusters. Remove from oven and let sit, undisturbed, until totally cooled. Then, transfer to an airtight container, like a large mason jar, for storage, sprinkling in the dried fruit in between.
This is so good with homemade coconut yogurt, or cashew milk and berries. My kids also just snack on handfuls with fruit, haha. - Amanda
Thanks Amanda for this amazing zero waste granola recipe! Follow Mama Eats Plants on Instagram and be sure to read her blog for more recipes and inspiration. All photographs on this post have kindly been provided by Amanda.