Plant-based Eating on Holiday (Wales)

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Plant-based eating has never been so easy for me as it has become since moving to London. I have a basic kitchen all to myself in my tiny little studio, a food cupboard (and random food stashes, like the drawer under my bed…shhh)  filled with all the makings of yummy plant-based meals, snacks and treats. And for eating out there’s only a dizzying amount of exciting options out there, just waiting to be tried! It’s become so natural to eat and crave plants all day every day, and to be able to order indulgent food, desserts and go out for hot chocolate with friends. So much so that, while back home in Switzerland over Christmas, it was almost with shock that I realized cheese and meat actually still exist, and vegan options can be hard to find. (Ok, I’m slightly exaggerating, but it was really strange seeing all the dairy, meat and fish in the fridge at home and wondering what there was for me to eat!).

Yes, I’ve become very spoiled here in London, and am living in a little plant-based food bubble. It was interesting, therefore, to leave that comfort zone recently on a week-long holiday at the wonderfully scenic western coast of Wales, and  I thought I’d share some of my experiences with you here.

Things I’m Glad I Did:

  • Pack lots of snacks! – I never leave the house without food, and always have an apple, energy bars and nuts with me, so this was certainly a no-brainer for a week-long holiday. I readily admit this was the most exciting part of packing 😀 This time I decided to mix things up a bit by bringing some new goodies as well, and I’ll share the highlights with you here:
    • The “All Day Breakfast Bar” by Olly Bars – this oaty bar was a nice change from my usual date and nut based energy bars, like nakd and Primal Pantry bars
    • The chocolate covered goji berries from the Planet Organic Raw 46 brand were a clear favorite – absolutely delightful. I also quite liked the Salted Hazelnut Vanoffee from The Raw Chocolate Company, as light chocolate is not usually my thing and it was an interesting change!
    • Energy balls: the day of my trip I made these Almond & Blueberry protein balls by Deliciously Ella. They’re packed with nutrition and are my favorite energy balls. I stored them in the fridge when we arrived at the holiday flat (where they didn’t last too many days, however, due to the frequent snacking!).
    • Now, I always say I’m a Meridian girl when it comes to my peanut butter, but these Pip&Nut squeeze packs were a godsend for the first morning when we hadn’t yet had time to buy groceries. (Only downside: I haven’t yet figured out a sophisticated way to eat these. Because the oil separates, it runs out – making a mess – and you’re left with nut butter lumps that are hard to squeeze out!).

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  • Research – It was definitely disheartening when my Happy Cow App for once failed me and came up blank, after typing in the name of the village we stayed in. But it did help me find a pub in a nearby town we visited that had labeled vegan options (hooray!). Also, as I knew we were driving through Cardiff, I made sure to check out the options there and discovered Anna Loka – a super cool fully vegan cafe with a mouthwatering menu. It was so nice trying a new fully vegan place (I had the tempeh burger with the best sweet potato fries ever, and my boyfriend the Caribbean curry). We also both got takeaway wraps for our – sadly separate – journeys home: me to London and him back to Switzerland.

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  • Stay at a place with a kitchen – While we only cooked one meal (who wants to spend their holidays washing pans after all?) my boyfriend and I were definitely glad of the food prep opportunities we had in our holiday flat. We made yummy and nourishing bowls of muesli topped with ground linseeds, blueberries, nuts, banana, peaches and peanut butter for breakfast. Once I also made some deeelicious banana peanut butter chia pudding with chia shots I had in my bag from a recent event. Starting the day with a breakfast you’re happy with is so important, and if we’d stayed at a hotel I definitely would have been more limited.

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Challenges

  • Limited options for groceries – As we stayed in a very small town it was difficult getting some of the things I consider basics. In vain, and with increasing despair, did I peruse the shelves for the plant-based panacea that is hummus. And even plain (i.e. non yogurt-covered) rice cakes remained elusive. We were, however, able to buy staples like bananas, apples, muesli, almond milk and peanut butter – allowing us to make nutritious breakfast bowls (pictured above) and always have fruit with us on our coastal walks – as well as kale, to add some greens to our takeaway dinners (see below).

 

  • Eating healthily – My choice to eat a fully plant-based diet is based on the belief in its health benefits, and I have developed a true passion for whole and minimally processed plant-based foods. I soon realized, though, that always eating whole foods-based, balanced meals just wasn’t going to happen in the Welsh hinterlands. I accepted my fate at our first grocery trip, when I resignedly put the palm-oil containing jar of peanut butter into the shopping basket, inwardly cursing myself for not having bought a small jar of my favorite meridian with me. From then on I just went with the flow, happily enjoying a meal of chips with a side salad (iceberg lettuce) at a remote pub, or grazing my way through salt and vinegar crisps and energy bars on another occasion. A holiday is about being relaxed, after all, and enjoying foods you might not regularly have. Plus, it’s extra nice when you do discover your favorite options – you should have seen me light up when I saw hummus on the menu at a pub one evening!

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Best Food Memory

We were lucky enough to have a little gem of an Indian restaurant just a minute from where we were staying [in the course of my research I had already checked out the menu and made a mental note of this veggie-friendly place 😉 ] and ended up getting takeaway from there three times that week. Ordering takeaway is not something I’ve done very often, and it felt very novel and extremely satisfying picking up delicious food to take back to our cozy apartment. It became a short-lived, but much loved ritual – me putting the food into little dishes while my boyfriend set up a little oriental table in front of the couch, and then enjoying chana masala, veggie curry and the dreamiest veggie-stuffed naan while snuggled up under a blanket and listening to the rain lashing down against the roof.

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In conclusion, I had a wonderful time in Wales, and didn’t let food-related challenges faze me. I discovered new snacks and treats, reconnected with childhood holiday memories while tucking into a big basket of chips, and realized I’m obsessed with Indian takeaway. I’m also proud of myself for not packing my handheld blender with me (something I came very close to doing) – proving to myself I can survive without smoothie bowls 😉 (One of the best things about being back, though, is – of course – having my favorite breakfast again).

Hope you enjoyed reading 🙂

xoxo

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Oaty Bowls of Goodness

 

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Oats are one of my ultimate comfort foods. I used to regularly have overnight oats for breakfast with mashed banana and hemp protein – but after making my first smoothie bowl I never looked back 😀 Since then I’ve been indulging in my love of oats later on in the day, as a quick, warming dinner or the perfect post-workout lunch.

They are full of comforting carby goodness and are wonderfully versatile! It’s so easy to switch things up a bit, adding different ingredients to the porridge, or playing around with toppings.

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As people have been asking me more and more, I thought I’d share with you how I make my oat bowls – from the basic recipe to what goes into the nut buttery sauces I’ve started using.

Basic recipe:

  • 70g whole oats
  • 1 cup liquid (usually a mix of almond milk and water)
  • pinch of salt

This will make a very thick, stodgy porridge – which is just how I love my oats. If you know you prefer a thinner, more runny porridge, you’ll want to add more liquid. You can also modify the quantities to make more or less, as desired, but this is the basic ratio I use.

Flavor fun:

  • adding a tsp of vanilla extract
  • looseleaf tea – I love rooibos and/or honeybush – maybe my South African roots coming through 😉  Depending on how coarse the tea is, you can get a slightly gritty texture, so you might want to grind the tea into a finer powder
  • cacao powder
  • turmeric, ginger & cinnamon
  • maca (I’ve also previously uploaded a recipe for Maple Maca Oats)
  • lucuma – I use this sometimes to naturally sweeten the porridge a bit, as I don’t want too much sweetness in the oats if I’m using a sweet topping; you could, at this stage, also, however, add maple syrup, another sweetener of your choice, or even some mashed banana to the oats
  • protein powders – I use hemp or brown rice protein if I want an extra protein punch

Toppings:

  • fruit – I always love having some berries on top, fresh or frozen, warm or cold; you can also slice up some banana, or add any other fruit you’ve got at hand
  • chia jam – I heat up 150g frozen berries (usually blueberries & raspberries) with 1 tbsp chia seeds and ca. 1.5 tbsp maple syrup, till you get the perfect gloopy, jammy mix (ca. 10 min. on medium heat)
  • crushed nuts – great for an extra crunch; I love using walnuts and pecans
  • nut butter – if you’re a nut butter addict like me, this is essential! Peanut butter, walnut butter (!), hazelnut, almond … or, why not go for a seed butter – I’ve found pumpkin seed butter goes really well with strawberries on porridge
  • sauces – my go-to sauce is mixing 1 tbsp (or more 😉 ) of nut or seed butter with almond milk and maple syrup, adding cacao powder if I want a chocolatey, nutella-like vibe, or maca, for some unique, warming goodness
  • chocolate – what could be better than a square or two of your favorite chocolate melting into the hot oats?

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(Lazy) Method:

Pour your oats into a microwave-proof bowl, add a pinch of salt, and whatever you want to flavor it with, such as cacao powder, lucuma, rooibos tea and vanilla extract, stir, add the liquid and then pop into the microwave. I put it in for 1.5 minutes, so no time at all! While that’s cooking away for you, chop up some fruit or whatever you’re topping the oats with, and whip up a quick sauce, e.g. almond butter, maca, almond milk and maple syrup – just stiring all the ingredients together, tasting along the way, until you get the desired sweetness and balance of flavors and the consistency you’re going for.

As you can see, the options are literally endless!

Hope you enjoyed reading about how I make my oats, and let me know what your favorite ways of having porridge are!

xoxo

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Feel Good Fact: Oats are a great way to get more heart-healthy fiber, and are high in manganese. A diet high in fiber has also been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer.

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Plant-based Pizza in London

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I have been happily eating my way through many of London’s plant-based and plant-eater-friendly restaurants over these past few months. During that time I have also had my share of vegan pizza – the best of which I’d like to familiarize you with, for when those pizza cravings hit!

The Basic: Zizzi’s vegan pizza

I’d seen this pizza on Instagram quite a bit, and had marveled at how “normal” it looked. I had to try it, and, my not-exactly-a-health-freak sister staying with me, I’d decided it was the perfect opportunity to give Zizzi’s a go. The great thing about Zizzi’s is that it’s perfect for a meal with non-plant-based friends or family. All you have to do is ask for the vegan menu or, when you order your pizza, say you’d like the one with vegan cheese. No fuss, and practical, as it’s such a wide-spread chain. I’ve been there twice, meanwhile, and had a classic vegan mozzarella pizza with spinach, and both times seriously enjoyed it. Proper, satisfying pizza – very similar to the kind I ate before going plant-based. The cheese is coconut-based (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like coconut in the slightest!), but it was quite soppy, and not like real cheese in texture (maybe good if you’re on a date and don’t want to battle the cheese strings) 😉

Overall verdict: a good, basic option, especially if you’re out with people who don’t share your excitement about plant-based eating, but definitely the most boring one on my list, so read on for more exciting options!

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The Classic: Farmacy House Pizza

Farmacy is one of those places where simply everything is a winner – at least in my experience so far. This naturally extends to the cashew-cheese and herby roasted veggie topped pizza, which was probably one of the tastiest pizzas of my life. A good sourdough base, classic Italian flavors, but the intensity of the flavors – incredible! Now, bear in mind, it was my first ever vegan pizza, so that might have added to the experience (such a treat after months of no pizza!). But I’d go for it again in a heartbeat. I’d probably share it with someone next time, as it was quite oily and, therefore, incredibly filling!! Gotta have room for the amazing desserts!

There’s also a Calzone on the menu, with macadamia cheese, which is on my list of things to try!

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The Original – The Nr. 1 from Franco Manca

I’m calling this The Original, as they use a traditional Neapolitan method of making their pizza, and because it may very well be the original vegan pizza. How come? No cheese my friends. Just a fabulous super doughy sourdough base with a flavorsome tomato oregano sauce. You can also add extra toppings, such as romanesco, as I did. This one is another great option for when you’re out with your omnivorous friends. There are a whole bunch of Franco Manca’s scattered around London, so it’s easy to satisfy that pizza craving without having to go somewhere “special”. Also, at under £5, this was the cheapest dine-in pizza I’ve ever had in my life! Hard to beat.

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And, saving the best for last:

The Exotic: Pickywops

On the other side of the spectrum, we have a pizza place that doesn’t simply try to emulate “regular” pizza, but goes above and beyond with innovative pizza bases and crazy topping combos. It is also one of the pricier pizza places on here, but so worth it! I discovered it on Instagram, and am so glad, as I never would have seen it otherwise. My boyfriend and I walked past it and only when we doubled back saw the black sign indicating to head into what looked like a dark, run-down shopping area, somewhat over-confidently named “Shopping Palace”.

Inside Pickywops, though, there was a very welcoming, olfactorily pleasing atmosphere, and one of the owners immediately came up to us and took the time to explain the concept and all the different options. And there are a lot of options! Besides all the topping combos there are also the different bases: Hemp, Burned Wheat (need to try this one next!), Multigrain, Kamut, Turmeric and Spirulina.

Of course I went for the only pizza I’ve ever seen with blueberries on top: the Vegan Temptation (mozzarella, kale, broccoli, almond ricotta and blueberries). The hemp base tasted incredible, and was wonderfully soft yet also had a nice crisp. I also loved the kale and broccoli on top, which went so well with the almond ricotta and the blueberries providing little bursts of freshness. Honestly up there as one of my top food memories… sitting at a little square out in the sun with my boyfriend, sharing mind-blowing pizza out of the box, messing ricotta-covered kale on myself and feeling so blissfully happy.

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The pizza pictured at the very top of this post is also from Pickywops (mozzarella, kale, walnuts and sliced pear on the hemp base).

Hope you enjoyed reading about these various plant-based pizza options!

xoxo

Balance Festival

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Today I was back at the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane for another great wellbeing event – reminiscent of Fare Healthy, but with its own awesome vibe. While I had an amazing time at Fare Healthy back in February, I learned a few things that I am pleased to say I implemented at Balance Festival: 1) less talks, more food sampling, and 2) not just sampling, but also buying!

This way I didn’t feel like I’d missed out on some awesome brands, rushing from one talk to the next. The talk I did attend – on brain health and diet by Kimberley Wilson (who proved she is not only great at baking cakes!) – was incredibly interesting. Nothing that I hadn’t somehow come across before, but it was good to hear it all in context, with the emphasis on what’s truly important. (Which, in case you’re wondering, is: omega 3s, lots of fruit and veg – especially leafy greens – nuts, seeds, beans, vitamin D, polyphenols; and did you know: eating berries boosts brain function 90 minutes after consumption! Definitely will keep that in mind for Friday’s exam – might make some energy balls using the Arctic Power Berries I got 😉 )

To keep this post as short and sweet as I can, considering my ability to babble on forever about these kinds of things, I will share with you the two stand out food brands that I came across, and two of my favorite products I sampled.

Stand Out Food Brands

Escape & Bake

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This newly launched gluten-, refined sugar- and dairy-free treats business garnered lots of “ooohs” and “aaahs” by the people gathering around, and it’s no surprise why. There was a truly divine array of desserts, from millionaire peanut butter bars and donuts to red velvet layer cake and an incredibly indulgent looking raspberry chocolate tart. Everything looked an absolute dream. I was literally in a state of distress trying to make a decision! I ended up getting a Raw Snickers Bar (unadulterated bliss) and a Raw Chocolate Peanut & Almond Butter Brownie (can’t wait to have that tomorrow!!). They are selling these two treats as well as some others online. Definitely keep on eye on this brand!

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The Vurger Co

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This was honestly the best burger of my (not just plant-based!) life. I wasn’t planning on having one, as I tend to avoid mushrooms and onion, but I couldn’t resist a bite of my friend’s burger, and was so smitten that I had to get one of my own. (Nevermind the fact that I’d just had a raw snickers bar and wasn’t even hungry). I had the “MLT” Vurger, with walnut pesto, rocket, sundried tomatoes and vegan cheese. Every bite was packed with amazing flavor, and the bun was a dream. I know they also do a truffle mac & cheese (also fully plant-based), which I’m dying to try. Definitely check out where they pop up next – their food is too good to miss!

Favorite Products Sampled

Mindful Bites nut butter – I was really taken by the Almond & Maca and the Hazelnut & Berries nut butter. Especially the hazelnut one, as it was not only delicious, but also truly unique – something that I think is hard in a nut butter nowadays. These nut butters are proper “treat” nut butters, for a slightly more special nutty occasion than your every day quick spoon-in-the-jar fix. The only reason I didn’t buy any is that I have already quite a few nut and seed butters open, to state it mildly, and they are a bit pricey. Definitely on my list of treats though!

Pollen & Grace – I sampled their Sweet Potato & Peanut Butter Flapjack as well as the Raw Cacao Protein Bar and was in raptures! I didn’t get any this time around, as the shelf life is not too long (a good thing, as they’re not full of junky preservatives!), and I felt like I’d bought quite a few things already, but I’ll be keeping an eye out for these in future at Planet Organic. They were super tasty and full of goodness! A fabulous, nourishing treat. (Note: the sweet potato ones are plant-based,  but not vegan, as they contain some honey).

Short and sweet? Definitely sweet for me – so many awesome food memories 😀 But as always, these events are about so much more than just the food. It’s the people you share the food with, the people whose eyes light up with yours at the wonderful things you taste and discover, the people who inspire you and those vital ones who will tell you if your mouth is covered in chocolate.

Hope you enjoyed reading, and if you happen to be going to Balance tomorrow, do check out some of these brands!

xoxo

Fudgy Brownies

Hi everyone! Today I’d like to share a recipe with you from the lovely Emma. I had a tough time choosing as all her recipes look and sound amazing and are mostly centered around breakfast or dessert (or both! check out her latest recipe for Banoffee Pie Oats!) , which is my absolute favorite kind of food. These fudgy sweet potato brownies look incredible and I can’t wait to make them once I have an oven again!
Do check out her site for more fabulous recipes, as well as all things running-related. Hope you enjoy! xoxo

Fruits and Routes

Brownies and I have had a love-hate relationship in recent years; in my efforts to create one that both satisfied my craving for that square of rich, fudgy chocolatey goodness whilst providing a nutritional twist, my experiments would always fall short of my aspirations. Too dry, too dense, not sweet enough, too “healthy” looking and tasting… something was always amiss. As I’ve progressed along my brownie-journey, I’ve realised that no “healthier” brownie will be able to totally replicate the taste, texture and appearance of your typical one, but I think this one comes quite close. Maybe they’re not perfect, but they taste pretty amazing either way and (hopefully) will satisfy your chocolate cravings.

brownies 2 Look how gooey and fudgy they are 🙂

The not-so-secret ingredient? Sweet potato. I know, it’s not incredibly original nowadays what with social media being rife with pictures of super thick, gooey sweet potato creations, but having…

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Pea Shoot Crepes

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Crepes are something I never ever liked making. Pancakes, sure! But crepes? I had the prejudice that they’re super fiddly and will surely end in a scrambled mess. And since going plant-based, I honestly hadn’t given them a thought. Until, that is, I found a brilliant and super simple recipe by the inspiring James Wythe from Healthy Living James.

Having had great success with his these sweet ones, I decided to make a savory version, so I would be able to indulge in my newfound love of crepes at any time of day! The result: fabulously green, soft crepes that went so well with the hummus spread inside, the cherry tomatoes adding a burst of freshness and some smokey paprika for a bit of heat. Delicious and also an easy way to get in some more greens!

So let’s get started:

Makes: 4 medium-sized crepes

Ingredients:

  • 95 g flour (I used wholemeal spelt, but others, e.g. buckwheat, will work too)
  • 260 ml water
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • salt
  • 2 large handfuls pea shoots (washed and thoroughly dried)
  • oil for cooking (I used olive oil)
  • optional: hummus to fill (a nice pesto or tapenade would be good to, though, I can imagine!), cherry tomatoes and some some hot smokey paprika for on top

Method:

  • Mix together the flour, water, salt and ground flaxseeds, then add the pea shoots and purée till all green!
  • Heat a bit of oil in a non-stick pan and pour enough of the batter in to cover the base. Cook until done and then flip. (Be patient with this, as they are delicate if you try to turn them over too soon. I had to learn this the hard way when I made the sweet version!)
  • Once they’re cooked, fill them with your filling of choice. I had them with hummus, topped with cherry tomatoes and some hot smokey paprika.

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

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Feel Good Fact: Pea shoots are super nutritious, being high in vitamins C and A as well as folic acid.

Fudgy Feel-Good Squares

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Sweet, sticky, chewy, gooey... these little caramel-y squares are my new favorite indulgent treat! Great to have in the fridge to offer friends* or, of course, to sink your teeth into whenever you feel like a little pick-me-up 😉 You get the caramel-like flavor of the dates and maple syrup, which, with the hint of vanilla and cacao, is utterly irresistible. The walnut butter adds to the luxurious texture, enhancing without competing against the flavors.

Consisting of nourishing, wholesome ingredients, these sumptuous squares do more than just taste great – they provide a steady source of energy, which won’t cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket and crash, like more processed, refined options. A treat for your the tastebuds and a pretty nutritious, fueling snack… win-win situation, right?

*Side note: I tested this on a friend who is highly allergic to peanuts. Even though I used no peanuts in this recipe I was suddenly gripped by the fear that traces of the lethal legume had somehow gotten into into the mix, as, let’s face it, my place is a peanut allergy sufferer’s worst nightmare. Luckily I was just being overly paranoid and she was perfectly fine, giving them the thumbs up without landing in the emergency room 😉

Makes: 12 small squares

Ingredients

  • 10 Medjool Dates (ca. 200 g); pitted
  • 1 tbsp walnut butter**
  • 2 tbsp + 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1/2 tbsp chia seeds
  • pinch of salt
  • some ground vanilla bean (or a drop or two of vanilla extract)

** If you don’t have this on hand, the recipe should definitely work with other nut butters, but the flavor will, of course, vary. Walnut butter is very subtle, so it blends in well with the other ingredients. I like to use the raw organic 100% walnut one by Sun and Seed.

Frosting:

  • 2 tbsp walnut butter
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp unsweetened almond milk
  • optional: crushed walnuts to sprinkle on top

 

Method

Once you’ve pitted the dates, process them in the food processor and mix together with the other ingredients (I like to do this by hand, as it easily forms a really nice, sticky, but perfectly workable, play-doh-type mix). Press down onto a plate with your hands and shape into a rectangle (a knife works well to smooth the top and clean up the edges), cover and place in the fridge while making the frosting.

For the frosting, simply mix together the ingredients and then spread onto the date base. At this point you can decorate by sprinkling some crushed walnuts and raw cacao powder, or whatever else you fancy, on top.

Now, either place back in the fridge or in the freezer to fully harden up. [I didn’t have any space in my minuscule freezer, which is bursting with berries, so I had to just pop the plate back into the fridge. The frosting stayed soft, but, surprisingly, I was able to cut squares without making a mess. If you do freeze before slicing, I’d store them in the fridge after, to get the best, stickiest, fudgiest consistency 🙂 ]. They should last a few days (or longer in the freezer) if you can keep them that long!

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

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Feel Good Fact: Dates are rich in dietary fiber and contain powerful antioxidants, both of which are important contributors to a healthy diet.

 

Purple Sweet Potato Pancakes

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I’m back with more purple goodness! 😀 (click here to check out my purple sweet potato falafels and find some information on the nutritional benefits of purple sweet potatoes).

Due to requests I received on Instagram, I’m sharing these purple sweet potato pancakes with you here. They’re adapted from the Sweet Potato Pancakes by Deliciously Ella and reflect my undying love for these vibrant tubers.

Quick to make (especially if you cook the sweet potato before you actually want to make the pancakes) and oh so satisfying, they are especially irresistible with walnut butter and maple syrup – I can’t even begin to describe how good they were, so you’ll just have to try them yourself 😉

Ingredients:

  • 1 small cooked purple sweet potato (mine was 240g, peeled)
  • 160 ml almond milk (or 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp)
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • ca. 4 heaped tbsp wholemeal flour of choice (I used spelt)
  • coconut oil for cooking

Method:

Once you’ve peeled, boiled or steamed, and chopped your beautiful purple potato, purée it together with the other ingredients, except for the flour. Take a few seconds to admire the gorgeous mix, then stir in the flour, adding enough so that the mix holds together well. (I first only used 2 tbsp and my tester pancake was too delicate when I cooked it, so I added more to the mix. It’ll definitely be a very thick mixture, so don’t be surprised if you’re more used to a liquid pancake batter! If you’ve tried any of my other pancake recipes, you’ll know I like my pancakes thick and stodgy 😉 ).

Then simply heat some coconut oil in a pan, spoon in some of the mix, shape into circles, and cook till done (they only take a minute or two on each side).

Stack and drizzle with walnut butter (I used this one and can’t recommend it enough!) and maple syrup for utter pancake perfection!

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

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Leggero – An Evening of Light & Laughter

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Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of accompanying my lovely friend Leila, her equally lovely sister Sasha and the wonderful Catrina to the re-launch of a gluten-free Italian restaurant in Soho.

Formerly La Polenteria, Leggero serves delicious and innovative gluten-free Italian food. Italy, with all its pasta, pizza and bread, is pretty much synonymous with gluten, as owner Gabriele Vitali – an Italian with an obvious passion for what he does – joked. Seeing the gap in the market for catering to pasta-loving, gluten-avoiding individuals, the team embarked on a mission to create high quality Italian food for all to enjoy. This idea has gone beyond offering coeliacs an enjoyable dining experience, by making the kitchen and menu accommodating to people with various allergies and special dietary requirements. The fact that, minutes before his talk, we were enthusing about how refreshing it was to have such a restaurant where everyone could find something exciting on the menu and not have to worry about “being complicated”, is surely a testament to the success of Leggero’s mission.

While you certainly can find everything from unrefined sugar-free raw vegan to a meat eater’s paradise in London, it’s harder to find a restaurant where there is common ground for people with different preferences and requirements, i.e. where the carefree omnivore can enjoy, let’s say, lamb meatballs with mint and grilled butternut squash (as was served last night), while the gluten-free vegan can tuck into the courgette burger with mixed vegetables and homemade hemp bread muffin – and all from the same menu. This seems to me more important than ever in this age of ultra-individualism, where you can find all kinds of specific needs catered to, but, in the world of food at least, not necessarily at the same table.

At Leggero last night, we ended up with gluten-free Leila insouciantly dipping handmade artichoke, tomato and olive focaccia into oil and balsamic vinegar, dairy-intolerant Catrina having her (almond and orange) cake and eating it too, my plant-based self delighting in handmade sorghum and hemp tagliatelle (the culinary highlight of the evening for me!) and the omnivorous Sasha being in the happy position of sampling all the delightful dishes.

All this ties in perfectly with the restaurant’s new name – leggero, or light, as it means in English. Gabriele explained that the concept embodies not just “light” food, that makes us feel good, but also a light and happy way of life – something that couldn’t have come across any better in the wonderfully bright, intimate space, filled with the sounds of live music and laughter.

Let me conclude by once again thanking Leila for inviting me along and the lovely people at Leggero for having us. I can’t wait to go back for a big plate of delicious pasta!

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(This was the sorghum hemp tagliatelle – absolutely divine!)

Goody Bag Gems – Part 2

I’m back with more of some of my favorite new foodie discoveries (you can check out Part I here in case you missed it). Once again I am – obviously – not being paid by any of these brands, but just genuinely love these products and find them worth recommending 🙂

Almond Milk Yogurt – Nush

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Thoughts: Where have you been all my (plant-based) life?? This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! The one thing I truly missed while switching to a fully plant-based diet was yogurt. I loved having a pot of creamy greek yogurt as part of my breakfast or an afternoon snack. Unfortunately, soy yogurt didn’t agree with me and while I do sometimes have the odd bit of coconut yogurt, I just find it too heavy to eat much of. I had some Coyo in a goody bag once but I haven’t included it in this list because I simply didn’t enjoy it. (It was as dense as cream cheese and I couldn’t eat more than a few mouthfuls per sitting). So, what to do? For a long time I gave up on having a nice light plant-based yogurt… until now! This almond milk yogurt that I had in a goody bag from a recent Protein Baking Event by Livia’s Kitchen had the taste and texture of real yogurt!I had the Peach Melba flavor one with granola and berries and it was such a treat! I highly recommend it.

While it may not be the cheapest yogurt out there (at around £2 for a 125 g pot), it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking for the “real deal”.

Ingredients (Peach Melba flavor): 80% live almond milk yogurt (almond milk [almonds, filtered water], tapioca starch, carob gum, live vegan cultures), 20% Peach Melba (peach, raspberries, fruit extract).

Tip: also check out the other flavors: Blueberry (can’t wait to try it!), Natural and Caramel & Hibiscus!

 

Three Cinnamon Tea – Pukka

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[image from http://www.pukkaherbs.com]

Thoughts: I used to hate all things cinnamon-y (the only time I remember liking cinnamon as a child is with waffles and vanilla ice cream) and one of the most horrific things to me was the idea – and smell – of cinnamon flavored gum. Tea would have seemed just as bad if not a worse offender!  While I’ve grown to like cinnamon (especially in Christmas bakes, turmeric lattes and sprinkled on peanut butter covered apple slices), I can safely say I never would have bought it in tea form. However, from my first cup of this I was sold! It’s such a warming, sweet, comforting taste and it’s become one of my favorite ways to end a meal (a square of dark chocolate will always be number one – but who says you can’t have both?).

Ingredients: Vietnamese cinnamon bark (60%), Indonesian cinnamon bark (16%), licorice root, Indian cinnamon bark (10%).

Tip: If you like this, check out other teas from this range. I’ve also tried and loved the Three Ginger and will definitely try the Three Chamomile when I see it.

Extra Tip: the longer you leave the tea bag in, the sweeter the tea gets – after about 10 minutes you’ve got a fantastically, naturally sweet tea that perfectly satisfies post-meal dessert cravings (although I tend to indulge them anyway 😉 )

 

Organic Fruit Blend – Naturya

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[Image from http://www.naturya.com]

Thoughts: This is yet again a product I wouldn’t have bought if I hadn’t tried it first. I would have seen the 50% banana powder and 15% hemp protein powder on the ingredients list and put it back thinking: why do I need to add this to my smoothie when I already add banana and hemp? I have to say, though, that the flavor of this powder is fabulous. As you can see below there are some other great ingredients that give this blend an amazing tropical and sunny flavor that will cheer up even the coldest and darkest of mornings. I honestly find it a great way to snazz up my regular smoothie, as one teaspoon of this makes such a difference! I’ve just run out and I think this will be on my shopping list for my next health food haul!

Ingredients: 50% banana powder, 20% goji powder, 15% hemp protein powder, 10% pineapple powder, 5% acai powder.

 

Chocolate Lip Balm – Hurraw!

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[Image from http://www.hurrawbalm.com]

This last item is not edible, sadly, but I couldn’t help adding it to the list as it was in fact in a goody bag and I absolutely love it! Just lifting the lid and sniffing it – as I repeatedly did just now – makes me simplistically happy. The smell must go directly to my brain and light up happy chemicals. It also feels good on my lips and seems to really hydrate. Just make sure you don’t catch yourself licking it off! (Glad to say that hasn’t happened… yet). Also, I suspect it’s tantalizing for the people sitting near me when I reapply it in lectures – I saw a head turn the other day and someone seemingly sniff the air in an intrigued and puzzled manner.

 

That’s all for today folks – hope you enjoyed it!

xoxo