What a story this is! Trust me, I never imagined I would fly across the country and come back so changed. I fly to LA a lot these days, mostly for TV appearances or influencer related events, so when I decided to partner with Pure Farmland and join their influencer retreat, I had somewhat of an idea in my head about how it would go. Part of the retreat experience included going to Food Expo West, which was supposed to happen in Anaheim. But literally 24 hours before I landed in California, it was cancelled due to the outbreak of coronavirus (a.k.a. COVID-19) in the US. At this point in time, COVID-19 was not so rampant but all large gatherings were advised to postpone or cancel their event. This means all conferences, festivals, expos, marathons...you name it!
I have complete respect for how the Pure Farmland PR team handled this, because the entire trip could've easily been cancelled. Part of me was like, what will we even do without the Food Expo component of this trip? Low and behold, the team decided to hold strong and merely ciphon off the expo experience and continue forward with everything else planned. I'm so happy they chose to do this. Keep in mind this was weeks before there was a shutdown or stay at home mandate of any kind. We were not breaking any rules and the airports were still very busy.
So I landed in San Diego, CA, and made the hour long drive to Temecula for the 2nd time in my life. This, to me, is one of the most beautiful parts of Cali. It's brimming with rolling hills, vineyards, dirt roads, avocado farms and lovely people. I was excited to arrive to the Villa Del Vino Ranch and meet the other health, food & wellness influencers invited. Of course, I arrived first! I settled into my fabulous room, watched the sun slowly begin to set like a ball of fire behind the vineyards and waited for the other girls.
I made this video journal to give you a sense of my time on the ranch with Maria, Cara Maria, Jackie, Nikisha, Anisa, and Liz. Getting to know them was incredible and I truly feel like I gained 6 new insta-sisters. I hope you enjoyed the video, which I'd love your honest feedback on, as I might start making more of these shorter pieces as a way to keep you tuned in to what I'm doing without making it a huge production.
My time on the ranch was spent learning about plant-based food and cooking. I wouldn't call myself a vegetarian but at the start of 2020 I began to change up my diet. Little did I know I was already living a "flexitarian" lifestyle! Do you know what a flexitarian is? I'll tell you! It's someone who eats mostly vegetables like a vegetarian but also consumes meat every now and then. Several of the girls invited were either vegetarian or vegan, and this really added to the diversity of our group. The retreat was intended to teach us how to incorporate more plant-based foods into our diet and teach us how to prepare dishes using Pure Farmland and RightRice food.
I was in food heaven tasting everything we were cooking up. I realized how much Pure Farmland products taste like meat! Is that bad? I just love the taste, and as a newly self-identifying flexitarian, I don't think I have to apologize for it either. Right? The Pure Farmland meatballs, breakfast patties and links all taste savory and juicy like meat! You really can't tell its plant-based! At least I couldn't tell and I grew up in Missouri on a meat & potatoes diet...so I'm pretty discerning.
I've cooked a lot with vegetables but I don't have much experience cooking up plant-based foods that are designed to be eaten as a meat replacement. This trip is where my education began! I loved every second of it and since returning home to NYC, I've been obsessively emulating all the dishes we tried in Temecula as well as inventing my own. If you're not familiar with RightRice, it's an excellent brand of vegetarian rice that comes in several flavors and medleys. My favorites are their Original and Lemon Pepper rice packages but their new range of RightRice Medley with Ancient Grains is so yummy and you don't even have to add anything to them if you don't want to.
I could go on and on about this cullinary trip in the most rustic yet plush residence I've ever stayed in. If you want to view everything through my eyes and how I experienced it without any editing involved, make sure to check out my "Ranch in CA" highlight on my @BiancaJade instagram page. You can also watch this video that our wonderful photographer/videographer for the trip captured. Walid Azami is so talented and couldn't have told the story as authentically as it happened in this video below.
Sometimes when plans are fall apart, they actually turn out for the better. You just have to have faith and a good attitude going into things. Little did I know that several weeks later I'd be house-bound with restrictions on what public places I could go to with the exception of grocery stores and pharmacies. I'm grateful that I returned to NYC with all this cooking knowledge and plant-based food inspo. Let me just say I've kept myself very busy in the kitchen channeling my creativity into the peaceful activity of cooking and feeding the ones I love. I've even got my chihuahua Frida eating like a flexitarian!
Thanks for reading and watching. I'm thankful for you and your commentary. Drop me some plant-based cooking tips or recipes if you like. All comments and questions can be left below. Gracias y adios!