My order from the Alliance of Rural Communities (ARC) via the Unqueue app came in reusable glass bottles and parcels wrapped in banana leaves. This was not only a delight to receive but a reminder to continue my personal mission to reduce my waste and plastic use and repurpose old jars and containers. Determined to make a healthy snack using as many local products as possible, I ordered the ingredients that I needed for my Coconut Oatmeal Bons with just a few clicks on my phone.
The beauty of what Alliance of Rural Communities does can be seen in the simplicity of their packaging and understood in their mantra — “People. Planet. Profit! We say NO to single use plastic. To pesticides, to chemicals, to monoculture.” The group’s mantra is one that we should all adopt. It’s a mantra that could encourage us to change our food import dependency and support our farmers by shopping from the source. Our focus should be on changing our agricultural practices, reduce our waste and change our laissez faire attitude towards single use plastics. It has been reported that our tiny twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago produces 700,000 tonnes of waste per year with the average citizen producing 1.4 kilograms of waste daily. We need to do better.
The naturalness and mindfulness in the packaging reminds me of my childhood. We would receive milk in glass bottles delivered weekly from the milkman, fresh baguettes in brown paper bags from the neighbourhood boulangerie and vegetables from the market sans plastic which were placed carefully in your reusable market bag. The plastic bag filled with plastic bags tucked away in a cupboard didn’t exist and to think this was only 28 years ago, if only we could return to that way of life.
The small but strong, passionate and driven team of the Alliance of Rural Communities (ARC) continues to create programmes and initiatives which have helped communities across Trinidad to become financially independent entrepreneurs. ARC has helped to create a variety of community based initiatives such as walking tours, community supported agriculture and the manufacturing of their popular cocoa products. They also participate in environmental research.
The ARC store on the Unqueue app has a variety of products which range from produce boxes to household products, ready to cook items to ready to eat items and everything in between. One of the most asked questions of the EAF channel is where can you buy roucou. The ARC store not only sells liquid roucou but also the paste, harvested straight from one of the rural communities participating in their programmes.
My order from ARC was a combination of basic items that I needed to top up and others that peaked my interest. Some Himalayan salt, a small jar of roasted eggplant pate, some cashews, a stir fry pack wrapped tightly in banana leaves, seamoss, coconut chunks also wrapped in banana leaves and my new favourite go to chocolate bar, Grande Riviere 60% orange chocolate.
In an effort to lose the COVID-15 (lbs), I’ve been making a batch of oatmeal bons weekly, to satisfy my sweet tooth. These oatmeal bons are quick and easy to make and are perfect little grab and go snacks with lots of fibre, antioxidants and protein. My oatmeal bons are a mix of oats, natural peanut butter, a mixture of nuts and seeds, dates and semi-sweet chocolate chips. I decided to order some ingredients from the ARC store that I could add to zhuzh up my little morsels of love, some cashews, coconut chunks which I will grate and dry and the 60% chocolate and orange bar which I’ll use to coat the coconut oatmeal bons.
There isn’t an actual recipe for oatmeal bons. This recipe is actually a variation of energy balls that Baidawi used to make for road trips and hikes. Add and mix whatever healthy ingredients you desire and let your tastebuds guide you.
2 cups of dried oats (can be old fashioned rolled or instant oats)
1 cup of nuts of your choice
¼ cup of natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Pitted dates to sweeten
1 cup of dried coconut
¼ cup of water (enough to mold the bons)
1 bar of local chocolate (purchased from ARC)
Making shredded coconut flakes from scratch:
Set your oven to 365 degrees and grate your coconut. A tip to get the coconut shell off the flesh is to freeze it and peel it off, otherwise you can carefully peel it off with a knife. Once you’ve grated the coconut, place it on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes or until dry. Once the flakes are dry, allow them to cool before use. You’ll use half of the cup coconut in your oatmeal bons mixture and the other half to coat them.
Place all of your dried ingredients including half a cup of the dried coconut in a blender or food processor. Blend until fine. If you want a bit of texture, blend 1 cup of oatmeal and add the other cup to the mixture after blending. Pour the blended ingredients in a bowl.
Add dates in a small bowl of warm water to soften them for five minutes. Once dates have softened, drain them and cut them into small pieces, add to the dry ingredients. Add a ¼ cup of water to the dry ingredients. Mix water and dry ingredients with your hands. The water should be enough for you to mold and make small balls.
After creating the balls, melt your chocolate. Place your chocolate bar in a mug or small bowl then heat chocolate for two minutes or until melted. If you have a chopstick, stick your oatmeal bon and dip it in the chocolate. Once coated, carefully roll your chocolate covered oatmeal bon in the coconut flakes. Place coated bons on wax paper and place in the fridge to set.
For more information on Unqueue and to check out the ARC store, download the Unqueue app.