My First Plant-Based Christmas

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My last post was about my feelings in the run-up to Christmas and talked about what I would do to feel more included in the festive meals. Well, I implemented all the things I discussed and I can’t tell you how much of a difference it made!

These Deliciously Ella roasted maple sprouts with hazelnuts, chili and pomegranate seeds made a wonderful addition to our Christmas Eve dinner. It was such a simple yet satisfying dish to prepare, made the kitchen smell nice and brightened up our table. While my family had some along with their grilled octopus and french fries, I had mine with some hummus my dad bought for me. It was nice hearing appreciative comments and feeling like I’d contributed to what my mom said was the nicest Christmas Eve meal we’d ever had (the only difference to last year’s being the addition of my sprouts, I  naturally take some of the credit and fully agree 😉 ).

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For dessert my family had a chestnut mousse while I enjoyed some squishy medjool dates that I stuffed with dark chocolate and pecan nuts (so good!) and a mince pie.

Christmas brunch on the 25th was another great success. In previous years we always went to my grandfather’s for lunch, but this having been preponed to the week before, we decided to have a relaxed brunch instead. I made my Banana Almond Butter Pancakes, which were an unexpected hit with my sister. (I bribed her with some of my chocolate to try one, and, to my great joy, she ended up liking them and eating more). Along with those I had lots of lovely fresh fruit – papaya, persimmon, kiwi, pomegranate, berries – and one of the sweet saffron maize bread rolls I’d made the night before with coconut oil, almond butter and raspberry chia jam. I’m also glad I made some guacamole, as not only did it taste so good with the second half of my maize roll, but my mom ended up eating some too, along with her croissant, cheese and meat. And while my Dad and sister had Eggs Benedict, they ate them on the English muffins I made. So while we all essentially had different meals, the fact that we shared some components, along with the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, brought it all together.

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This year’s Christmas has truly made me realize the importance of sharing food on special occasions. Cooking for others is a way of showing love and appreciation and eating a delicious meal together can also be a wonderful shared experience. For this reason I’m so glad I made the changes I did, so that I was able to feel more a part of our Christmas meals despite eating a fully plant-based diet. It really showed me the difference between merely leaving a component away and actively adding something that enriches the occasion for all.

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas!

xoxo

Thoughts on my first plant-based Christmas

As we’re almost at the end of our Christmas countdown I thought I’d share some thoughts about how I’ve been feeling in the run up to my first fully plant-based Christmas.

While I was dairy-free this time last year, I was still eating seafood and it was therefore much easier for my family and I to agree on a common meal. Lacking a traditional Christmas dish we decided to infuse the culinary part of our festive celebrations with the spirit of a Greek summer, making us potentially the only family to eat grilled octopus and french fries on Christmas Eve. We all took part in the preparations, my mother by making the vegetables, salad and fries, my usually cooking- and all things raw and glibbery-averse sister by preparing the two octopuses (did you know they have beaks??), which my dad then grilled, and I by making a crumble for dessert. We all agreed it was one of the best Christmas meals we’d ever had.

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This year we have opted for the same thing, the only difference being that I won’t be able to join in the hellenic inspired fare. I didn’t think I’d mind that much, being so used to doing my own thing back in London, but I’ve found myself starting to feel a bit glum about the idea of us not all enjoying a common dish. This even more so because we will be having a Christmas brunch on the 25th and I saw the same problem arising – my Dad and sister making some sort of eggy, cheesy concoctions, my mom probably having bread and salmon, maybe some yoghurt with fruit, leaving me to make something for myself that no one would be interested in trying.

I’m writing this post not to moan, however, but to share what I’ve suggested so that this years’ Christmas meals don’t leave me feeling excluded. To start, I’ve taken over the side dish to our Christmas Eve meal, replacing the (rather boring) spinach my mom would have made with these delicious looking maple roasted hazelnut sprouts from Deliciously Ella. And for the Christmas day brunch I asked my family which of my suggested dishes they’d be most likely to try – the winner being vanilla pancakes (chia pudding, oatmeal, homemade granola and even chocolate pancakes were sadly rejected). I’ve also suggested making some guacamole, which the others can have with their eggs or salmon while I can spread it on some toast. Finally, I’ll be making something my family always liked in the past: sweet saffron maize rolls (replacing the butter with coconut oil and the milk with rice milk, which shouldn’t change taste or texture too much).

These are all small things – switching a side dish, adapting flavors so that they are more likely to be to everyone’s taste, adding a versatile spread that everyone can add to their meal, and modifying an old favorite that everyone is sure to like – but they are definitely making me feel much more excited about Christmas meals with my family.

While it can be practical and easiest for everyone to just do their own thing, having some common things to share and enjoy together is definitely much more in the spirit of Christmas. And, as I realized today, it’s not too late to make some changes if you’re feeling unhappy at the prospect of Christmas dinner. You may not get everyone to agree to a kale salad, nut roast and a raw chocolate log (would have loved to make this!), there are always healthy and delicious options that everyone can enjoy.

Happy Christmas prepping!

xoxo

Chocolate Tahini Pancakes

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Now, you may be thinking this is an odd combination, but if you’re looking to step up your pancake game then look no further! While it’s no secret that cacao and any nut butter under the sun are a match made in heaven, using tahini instead is a great way to switch things up. It adds a slight hint of bitterness that contrasts wonderfully with the sweetness of the chocolatey pancake, giving it a slightly more sophisticated edge. Don’t worry, the tahini isn’t at all overpowering, though, and, while it maybe gives a bit more of a “grown up” flavor, this is still a chocolate pancake at heart and, essentially, a way to have dessert for breakfast and feel like a kid again.

The idea for the chocolate-tahini combo came about while on holiday in Greece with my boyfriend this past summer. Up until then, tahini to me had simply been something I had to make sure never to run out of, so I could make hummus at all times – or something to spoon out of the jar on occasion. But it was unquestionably a savory ingredient. That changed for good when, on our second morning in Greece, I discovered halva – a sweet, dense sesame confection with swirls of cacao running through it – at the buffet. I bought a tub back home with me, but soon sobered up to the fact that it was basically just sesame and (a lot of!) sugar, and that eating it too much just didn’t make me feel great. That’s when I started trying to recreate the taste in a more nourishing way, mixing tahini with raw cacao powder and maple syrup or honey and eating it by the spoonful or spreading it on dates (do try this at home), and I haven’t looked back since. When deciding to make a new pancake recipe there was therefore no doubt in my mind that this combo would be a winner.

Now that I’ve hopefully sold you on why this is a good idea, let’s get right to it:

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 2 tbsp brown rice milk (or water)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp honey (or maple syrup)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 tbsp/ ca. 60 g finely ground oats (or oat flour)
  • 1 heaped tbsp raw cacao powder
  • pinch of salt

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1.5 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1.5 tbsp brown rice milk

 

Method:

First, combine the ground flaxseeds with the 2 tablespoons of liquid, stir and set aside while assembling the other ingredients.

Mix together the mashed banana, tahini, honey and vanilla extract till well combined. Next, stir in the flax mixture, oat flour, cacao and salt until a thick batter results. Don’t worry if it looks slightly dense and lumpy – that’s exactly how it should be to get a super satisfying texture!

Heat up some coconut oil in a non-stick pan and spoon in some of the mix, shaping it into circles. It should make 2 medium pancakes or 6 mini ones.

While they are cooking, make the sauce by simply combining all the ingredients (don’t bother melting the coconut oil if it already has a spreadable consistency – it doesn’t need to be completely liquid). When the pancakes are cooked (after about 1-2 minutes on each side), serve with the chocolate tahini sauce and whatever else you like. I like having them with berries, chia jam and a bit more honey or maple syrup if I’m really feeling indulgent 😉

Enjoy!

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Feel Good Fact #1: Tahini is rich in essential minerals such cooper, manganese, calcium, magnesium and iron, which the body needs to function at its best.

Feel Good Fact #2: Raw cacao is extremely high in antioxidants, which combat cell damage caused by free radicals and decrease inflammation. In this way it can help protect against cancer and other diseases.

Mince pies and feeling Christmassy

Since moving away by myself I’ve been finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit. On the one hand it’s (thankfully!) less cold in London than in Switzerland, so it just doesn’t feel wintery enough, and on the other, I’ve been spending my money on food rather than Christmas decorations! Also, due to the much lamented fact that my tiny student kitchen doesn’t have an oven, I hadn’t been able to do any festive baking.

Luckily for me, however, London has some amazing events for getting that Christmas fix and I recently went to two wonderful ones – both incidentally involving the quintessential British Christmas treat: mince pies 🙂

 

Livia’s Kitchen Baking Course

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On the morning of Sunday, December 4th I headed over to St. Lukes Community Center for four gloriously festive hours of baking, relaxed chatting, cheeky spoon-licking, and mince pie eating. It’s an event I booked back in September after having such a great time at the Livia’s Kitchen Cream-Free Cream Tea and meeting the lovely Jordan and Gemma, and it’s something I’d been looking forward to for a long time. In groups of two we went through four delicious, fully plant-based, gluten- and refined sugar-free recipes, starting with the Mince Pies (which, as a non-Brit, I was obviously most excited about!), moving on to Raw Christmas Cake with Cashew Frosting, Raw Chocolate Crispy Cake with Banana Caramel and finishing off with Christmas Granola Bars with Dark Chocolate Drizzle.

While we were eagerly working away in our aprons there was Christmas music playing, which, together with the wonderful smell of cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg created the perfect festive feeling. It was also really nice getting to chat a bit more with Olivia and her lovely “elf” Lydia. And it was so great actually being in a kitchen with them (and even featuring in the Livia’s Kitchen Instagram story – spooning leftovers from a blender while leaving my competent baking partner Jordan to do the work – instead of watching it, wanting to be part of the action!).

At the end of this delicious and cozy event we all went home with the yummy treats we made, feeling decidedly more festive than before.

 

A Plant-Based Christmas with Deliciously Ella

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The next day, Monday December 5th, I found myself at the Whole Foods in Kensington for another great event with another inspiring food blogger, recipe book author and amazing healthy treat producer. It was an intimate Q&A, mainly focusing on celebrating Christmas while following a plant-based lifestyle.

It was great hearing how Christmas in Ella’s family has become a celebration where plant-based eating is embraced and easily incorporated by preparing lots of yummy veggie side dishes to fill most of the plate (- I’m hoping for a similar vibe back home, although somehow I’m not quite so optimistic…) And I couldn’t resist asking what she’ll have for dessert on Christmas day, as I’m still looking for inspiration. She confessed she and most of her family weren’t big fans of the traditional Christmas pudding and that they’ll be having a crumble instead. I actually made one for my family last Christmas and it was a wonderful way to end the meal, but I think I’ll be going for something chocolatey this year 😉

The cherry on top of the refined sugar-free cake was getting to sample a MaE Deli mince pie that I’ve been eagerly wanting to try! It was incredibly yummy and I’m now facing the serious dilemma of having to choose which ones to make for my friends and family – Livia’s or Ella’s? Stay tuned… 😉

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Banana Almond Butter Pancakes

The story behind these pancakes is a silly little reminder of a valuable lesson: When things don’t go the way you intended, accept it and roll with it – there might be something even better in store for you 😉

On Monday morning I originally wanted to make Deliciously Ella‘s Sweet Potato Pancakes as an awesome post-workout carb-y breakfast, but – disaster – I couldn’t use my frozen mashed sweet potato as it was stuck to the ziplock bag! (Never had that issue before, but I guess next time I need to give it some time to thaw..?) Anyway, so I started throwing together some yummy ingredients to create my own pancakes and I was seriously pleased with the result and they made me feel happy ages after eating them 🙂 And as much as I love Ella’s pancakes, these ones are a lot quicker to make and therefore more suited to some spontaneous pancake action.

Besides tasting amazing, they have a really nice stodgy texture that I love in pancakes, and the fact that they’re full of wholesome ingredients means they’re a great choice for breakfast any day of the week.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseeds + 2 tbsp brown rice milk (or water)
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 heaped tbsp almond butter (I use the one from Meridian)
  • ca. 3-4 heaped tbsp whole spelt flour or finely ground oats
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • coconut oil

Toppings:

  • berries
  • almond butter
  • berry chia jam (I adapted this recipe from Livia’s Kitchen, omitting the cinnamon, vanilla and coconut to make it more simple)
  • more honey/maple syrup

First, mix together the ground flax with the 2 tbsp of liquid of your choice and set aside while you focus on the other ingredients. Purée the banana, almond butter and vanilla, resisting the urge to just spoon that directly into your mouth, then mix in the flour, salt and sweetener of your choice. Finally add the flax mixture. The mixture should be quite thick, so if it’s too runny add some more flour. You know you’ve got the right consistency when you can spoon it into the pan and it holds its shape. (If you don’t add enough flour you end up with – delicious – scrambled oatmeal!).

Heat up some coconut oil in a non-stick pan. When the pan is hot, spoon the batter into the pan and shape it into two round pancakes (alternatively 6 mini ones). Cook on each side until done (they cook very fast!) and serve with berries, chia jam and some almond butter (and why not some extra maple syrup too if you’re feeling exuberant) 😉

Feel Good Fact: Almonds (and almond butter) are full of antioxidants and are a source of healthy fat, fiber, protein and vitamin E, which protects cell membranes from damage. They also have a low glycemic index and together with the other low GI, high-fiber ingredients such as the banana and flax will help keep you feeling full for longer.