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10 ways life is different than I would have expected 10 years ago

A few weeks ago, I was rummaging through my belongings. Pottering, you could call it. And among these belongings was an old diary I had kept at age 15. Full of delight I read back what my 10-year younger self thought of life and the future. One thing stood out to me. The life I had imagined for myself as a woman in her mid-twenties is completely different from the life I am currently living. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how wrong my younger self was about her predictions.

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My top 10 pantry essentials

Creating nourishing and wholesome meals is so much easier when you have your pantry stocked with some essential basics with which you can whip up a healthy dinner in no time. Having whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes and spices in your pantry, means you no longer have an excuse for not cooking a quick meal on busy days. For a long time, some white pasta and ready-made pasta sauce was my go-to for an effortless pantry meal, but as my interest in nutrition has grown, I have ditched the white pasta and replaced it with these 10 essentials.

1. Oats

I absolutely love oats and in winter I have them for breakfast almost every day. Oats also serve as my go-to dinner on days I am so tired that cooking a proper meal just seems to much of a chore. By adding some zucchini or grated carrot, I can take the humble oat and turn it into a dinner-worthy meal.

2. Brown rice

I have written a blog post about why brown rice is so much healthier than white rice, but it really should come as no surprise. Because brown rice naturally has a nutty flavour, all it really needs is some steamed veggies on the side and a bit of seasoning to make a killer quick dinner.

3. Quinoa

Another essential grain for me is quinoa. This grain is quick to boil, full of fiber and protein and makes for the perfect filler in a ‘toss in whatever is left in the fridge’ salad. I tend to buy organic three-colour quinoa, as it adds some colour and dimension to my dish.

4. Brown and Red Lentils

Although I love many legumes, brown and red lentils are definitely my pantry essentials. They cook a lot quicker than most beans and work great in an earthy winter soup or as a light dahl in summer.

5. Miso

Besides salt and pepper, miso is my favourite condiment to use in cooking. It offers saltiness and has a similar flavour to soy sauce. However, as it is packed with loads of probiotics, miso is always my preferred healthy choice for any Asian dishes.

6. Tahini

I am so obsessed with this stuff that I put it on almost everything. I add it to salad dressings, oatmeal, homemade hummus, bread spreads, curries and anything else that I can think off. I justify this to myself with the fact that (unhulled) tahini is full of calcium, making it a perfect food to add to my vegan diet.

7. Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are my essential salad/soup/oatmeal toppers, as they add the perfect crunch. The seeds are particularly high in magnesium, iron and zinc, which again make them a perfect staple food for any vegan.

8. Flaxseed

The king of all seeds! Flaxseed is exceptionally high in omega 3s. Since our food culture is rich in omega 6 fatty acids, balancing those out with some omega 3 is crucial for your health. I must admit that I don’t use flax seeds as much of a flavour addition, but because their health benefits are so important, I do aim to eat 3 tablespoons of flax every day.

9. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is known as having a cheesy flavour and although I am not convinced on that, I do think it is absolutely delicious. I sprinkle nutritional yeast on all types of dishes, from pasta dishes and stir-fries to salads and oven-fried potato chips. The high amounts of B vitamins make it another nutritional powerhouse.

10.Cacao nibs

Sprinkling cacao nibs over a bowl of oats takes care of any chocolate cravings I might have, so I make sure to always stock up on a jar of cacao nibs. These little bits of cacao beans are clearly more nutritious than their processed counterparts, so keeping them in my pantry at all times ensures I don’t have chocolate on a regular basis anymore.

These are my 10 favourite pantry essentials and together with fresh fruits and veggies daily, they make eating healthy eating that much easier. I still keep loads of other good stuff in my pantry, but without these 10 foods my kitchen definitely feels empty.

Thoughts on January after a rainy walk

The warm liquid trickles down my throat, as my fingers slowly come back to life. In their excitement, they have asked the nervous system to light up some fireworks. Mistakenly, my brain translates this into a tingly pain. Outside, the raindrops now race each other to the ground, not knowing that their destination is an ungrateful concrete wall rather than a thirsty flower. We made it back inside just in time.

The world is slow, this time of year. Although the first snowdrops of the season have already made their appearance, Mother Earth is not ready to awaken yet. She knows the weight of all the baby lambs that are soon to be born will require another year of patient endurance. “One more dream”, she moans in her sleep.

She is right, I think to myself. Januaries aren’t made for carrying baby lambs or new beginnings. Dreaming might be for the lazy and imperfect lover – as William Congreve professed -, but it is all we should long for when much of the afternoon still basks in moonlight.

While I sit there, pondering Januaries and baby lambs, I suddenly notice the howling wind. He is trying to catch my attention. With him, he carries not only the fresh ocean air but also many stories from faraway places. Unable to bear the heavy load any longer, he drops a few of them at my doorstep. I can hear a big sigh of relief as he continues his journey a little lighter. More stories mean more to ponder I suppose, but I will leave them for another day.

There is hope amidst the moaning and yawning of the world. Tips of noses are no longer red, so – with careful optimism – we store away our tissue boxes. Gatherings around the dinner table produce draft proposals for journeys to be taken and changes to be implemented. Moreover, each passing day, the light steals back a few moments from the enduring darkness, tickling Mother Earth as she takes her last restful breaths. Our stiff limbs yearn for another hot summer’s day. In hopeful anticipation, we await the dawn of spring.

Not much longer now, but not today – I muse, as I slowly drift to sleep.