As I write this, the number of Instagram posts hashtagged #food numbers 187,416,418 and, of the estimated 300,000 million bloggers in the world, it seems to me that the majority are writing in the food space.
From all corners of the world people are sharing pictures of the food they're eating and cooking. Our exposure to foreign food is greater than it has ever been, as it is to every subset of the food culture - whether vegan, paleo or those whose eating is influenced by religious, spiritual or philosophical beliefs, like the Jians, who won't eat anything that grows under the ground.
Then there are the diets and dieters - not just weight-loss diets, but food-combining diets, blood group diets, 5-2 diets. As writer John Lanchester once wrote in The New Yorker: "The superficiality of food fashions and trends touches on something deep: our ability to choose who we want to be."
Since my late-20s, my philosophy around food and cooking has been based on an idea of healthy eating that's not dogmatic or restrictive. I want to feel healthy and strong but I'm interested in doing this in a way that celebrates variety and tastes delicious. I'm not interested in fads, per se, but I do love learning new things and discovering how to use new ingredients. Michael Pollan's famous quote: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" is a useful mantra to live by, as is the advice about not eating anything your grandmother would not recognise as food. As my husband Ted says: "Eat fresh food, not barcodes."
These days, food is so readily available anywhere and everywhere that we eat at the gas station, in the car and as we walk down the street. It's become a habit of our day-to-day living, rather than something we stop to enjoy. The mindlessness of this constant gratification via consuming industrialised food is, I'm sure, what's largely responsible for making the western world fat.
Yes, collectively we are now fat, and often dangerously obese. This doesn't just happen. We eat our way to this state of being, and never faster than when we don't even notice what we're eating. Snacking is now ingrained in our psyche and so much of our snack food is nothingness - just a bunch of sugar, fat and lots of chemicals.
I know I'm going to want to grab a quick snack now and then, so I like to stock my pantry and fridge with power snacks such as the following recipes. No empty calories here, these snacks pack all the good taste as well as the goodness.
Hummingbird Bliss Balls
Ready in 20 mins. Makes about 36
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup ground linseeds
½ cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp cinnamon
2 cups pitted dates
230-240g can chunk or crushed pineapple, well drained
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
1 cup shredded dried coconut, plus ½ cup extra to roll
Combine the oats, linseeds, sunflower seeds and cinnamon in a food processor and blend to a fine powder. Add all remaining ingredients except coating coconut and whizz for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and pulse until the mixture is evenly combined and sticks together.
Use your hands to shape tablespoon-sized amounts into balls. Roll each ball in the extra coconut to coat. Bliss balls will stay fresh in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or can be frozen on a tray then stored in a freezer bag or container.
Annabel says: These make a fantastic snack or lunchbox filler for a sweet tooth - without any added sugar. These are great to have on hand in the freezer for healthy, anytime snacking. If made with wheat-free rolled oats they are suitable for people avoiding wheat, but as oats contain a different form of gluten they may not be suitable for coeliacs.
Ready in 45 mins. Serves 6 as a snack
8-10 stalks kale, stems discarded and large leaves torn in half
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
Flaky salt, to sprinkle
Chilli flakes, to sprinkle
Preheat oven to 120C fanbake and line an oven tray or shallow roasting dish with baking paper for easy clean-up. Place kale in prepared dish, drizzle with oil, salt and chilli flakes and toss to combine. Spread out to a single layer and roast until crisp (about 40 minutes). Remove from oven and leave to cool. If not using at once, store in an airtight container for up to a week. If they lose their crispness, refresh in a 150C oven for 5-10 minutes.
Annabel says: Okay, so kale chips aren't potato chips but they do make a tasty snack - the trick is not to cook them at too high a temperature, so they crisp up before they get brown. You can also dry them in a dehydrator.
Raw Carrot Hummus
Ready in 10 mins. Makes 3½ cups
2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ cup blanched almonds
½ cup tahini
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup orange juice
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp salt
Ground black pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp coriander leaves
Place all ingredients in a food processor and whizz to make a smoothish, spreadable dip. Adjust seasoning to taste. Thin as desired with extra oil or water. Transfer to a jar and store in the fridge.
Annabel says: This is such an easy quick whizz-together and it will keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. Use as you might any other hummus - with crackers or vegetable bites. It's great as a snack, party dip or lunchbox filler.
BePure Live Well Festival
For more healthy snack recipes join me at BePure Live Well on Saturday, October 15 and Sunday, October 16. At 2.45pm on the Saturday I'll be demonstrating quick and easy recipes that'll help you get more seasonal vegetables into your day, and on the Sunday morning I'll be signing books and launching my new summer annual.
Held at The Cloud on Auckland's waterfront, BePure Live Well is New Zealand's largest wellbeing event, offering everything you need to know about wellbeing in one venue. Immerse yourself in the latest health trends, products, food and experiences. For more information visit livewellfestival.co.nz or to buy tickets go to iticket.co.nz.