DIY Kombucha Workshop

Kombucha (also known under various weird and wonderful names such as ‘tea fungus’, ‘Wunderpilz’ – German for miracle mushroom; ‘champagne of life’; and ‘stomach treasure’ (胃寶))* is a fermented tea that is purported to have originated in 220 BC in Northeast Asia. It has only become commercially available relatively recently, but is growing fast, with the US market expected to experience a yearly growth rate of 25% till 2020.**

Even though kombucha is irrefutably part of the health and wellbeing trend, it is definitely not (yet?) as common as sipping a green juice. I myself only tried it a few weeks ago when it was offered at an event, and have since heard from many people who are interested in it, but haven’t yet tried it themselves.

I was excited, therefore, when I got the chance to attend a kombucha-making workshop at Whole Foods Kensington, organized by the Health Bloggers Community (HBC) and kombucha brand Jarr.

It was very interesting learning from founder Sam, how he had developed an appreciation for kombucha during his travels, and started making his own back home in LA (kombucha, like many trendy health beverages, is not the cheapest refreshment to indulge in). His kombucha (original, ginger and passionfruit – with a new flavor on the way) is available from many London stockists as well as to order online.

We also learned a bit about the process of actually making kombucha, which is reminiscent of making sourdough bread. Instead of a sourdough starter, however, the correct lingo in this context is SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) – which is a really weird-looking, gelatinous aggregation of bacteria and yeast that you add to caffeinated tea (traditionally black, or green) along with sugar, to create the fizzy, acidic drink that is kombucha. After topping the tea-SCOBY-sugar mix up with water, you leave it to ferment for a week onwards in a glass jar covered by a cloth, burping it daily, talking and singing to it, and generally treating it like your baby (Sam recounted using his mother’s heating pads, while back in LA, to keep his kombucha nice and snug 😀 ).

If this is something you’re interested in getting into, there are so many instructions and books out there nowadays (Sam recommended The Big Book of Kombucha: Brewing, Flavoring, and Enjoying the Health Benefits of Fermented Tea, by Alex Lagory). There are also endless options for how you can flavor your brew. My favorite so far has been the new raspberry flavor by Jarr Kombucha, which is exclusively available on tap at Whole Foods – definitely recommend giving this one a try!

Now, as to my own kombucha brewing journey: it came to a jarring halt yesterday morning, when the big glass jar I poured the boiling water into emitted a loud and angry cracking sound, and the half liter of water flooded out all over my desk (I just managed to get my laptop into safety!). I did have my misgivings as to whether I would be able to make something actually kombucha-like myself (thinking back to my failed attempt at kimchi), but didn’t expect disaster to strike quite so soon. Oh well, I will definitely be giving this a shot at some point (keen to make a blueberry-flavored one), but for the moment, I think I may just content myself with drinking the kombucha from the event 😉

Hope you enjoyed reading!

xoxo

 

P.S. A word of warning: if you do look into making your own, just be careful, as homemade kombucha is, apparently, prone to contamination, with even a reported death in connection with it!***

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(above: the SCOBY) 

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* Click here for more on the history and other names kombucha has been called.

** Kombuch market growth data, US.

*** Click here for more on this, and a critical view of kombucha.

 

Double Chocolate Chunk Brownies by Leitchy Creates

Is there anything better than chocolate brownies? Double chocolate chunk brownies of course!! 

… Which is why I’m so excited to be sharing this recipe by my wonderful friend, gifted chocolatier, raw treats creator and boss lady Jordan Leitch from Leitchy Creates. If you’re in Sheffield, keep your eyes peeled for her stalls where you can buy her fabulous creations. For the rest of us, luckily her artisan chocolate boxes are available to order online. I’ve had two of them and they were both an absolute delight (trust me, I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend 😉 ) She also shares tons of inspiring recipes, so definitely go check her out! Hope you enjoy these brownies and have a wonderful day! xoxo

 

Morning morning! I thought I’d share a wonderfully indulgent, luxury, gooey, moist, fudgey, rich and all round incredible brownie recipe to get you through the week! These warm are some what magical! Drizzle them in nut butter and nice cream and you’ll be in a really magical wonderland! Trust me, these may be the best brownies you’ll ever make! Big statement I know and because I don’t know how wide your brownie pallet is, I’m going with may… But be sure to let me know if they’re the best! Because they’re certainly the best I’ve ever had!

INGREDIENTS – MAKES 16

1 can of butterbeans, drained and rinsed

220g ground almonds

80g buckwheat flour

85g raw cacao powder

2 pinches of salt

300ml hazelnut milk

60g coconut oil

100g almond butter

100ml maple syrup

100g coconut sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

45g raw chocolate, cut into chunks – I used Well and Happy zesty bar

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a square tin with parchment.

Pop the first set of ingredients into a food processor and blend until combined and smooth.

Pop the second set of ingredients into a small pan and place over a low heat.

Once melted and combined, pour the contents into the blender with the first set of ingredients and blend until smooth.

Add the chocolate chunks and pulse to combine.

Pour the brownie batter into the lined tray and level with a spactular.

Pop in the oven for 25 minutes – cooked through.

Remove from the oven and cut into 16 slices, leave to cool a little before removing from the tin and popping on a wire rack to cool fully.

Try warm with cinnamon nice cream!

Enjoy,

Leitchy xx

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Reflecting on a Year of Plant-Based Eating

I started this blog almost a year ago, to celebrate my love for plant-based eating, and to share some of the happiness it’s brought me. As it’s also been over a year since I’ve embarked on a fully plant-based diet, I thought it would be the perfect time to share some of my thoughts and experiences on this topic.

Why did I go fully plant-based?

Back in February 2016 I started learning more about plant-based eating, in the hope it might heal my chronic stomach problems. I’d already cut out dairy after being diagnosed with an intolerance – a change that had alleviated, but by no means eliminated my symptoms – and was inspired by discovering Deliciously Ella, whose plant-based diet had helped her manage a rare autoimmune disease. At the same time, I came across a book called How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger. Having already been interested in nutrition, I picked it up with an eager and open mind, and was soon convinced of his message advocating a plant-based diet. The nutritional science coupled with Ella’s infectiously positive take on food, life and plants were the perfect catalyzing combo for this diet shift.

During my uni holidays that February I worked my way through Ella’s recipe books, discovering a love for kale, tahini and chocolate avocado ganache cake that made me as excited about food as I had never been before. From then on, I’ve been almost exclusively plant-based [on a holiday in Greece late June/early July 2016 I had some seafood, as options for balanced plant-based eating were very limited where we stayed; I haven’t had any animal products since] and absolutely loving it.

 

What was the hardest?

In terms of giving things up: yogurt and tuna. Plain yogurt was a staple item for me, as part of breakfast or a snack, and soy yogurt, unfortunately, didn’t make me feel good. When I gave up dairy I first started having banana overnight oats with hemp protein for breakfast, until I discovered smoothie bowls (see my first ever recipe post) and never looked back. And as to tuna: I stopped craving it once I got absorbed with all the other amazing things I was cooking and creating.

I also have to say that my stomach was not at all happy at first, due to the sudden influx of new, fibrous foods. In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend having big bowls of raw kale salad every evening, eating bread made out of pretty much only seeds, and overindulging on chickpea blondies. (This will probably be obvious to many people, but I was just too excited to try all these new things). Thankfully, my body soon adjusted.

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Mmm chickpea blondies (I remember, it was so hard stopping myself from eating the batter) This is the recipe I used.

 

What has been the best thing about going plant-based?

Definitely the excitement and happiness the things I now eat give me. Smoothie bowls loaded with peanut butter for breakfast, when I’m not having the most indulgent-tasting chocolate mousse or delicious pancakes (what can I get you: chocolate tahini, banana almond butter, or purple sweet potato? 😉 )- and maybe I’ll have pancakes for dinner, because, why not? Full of fiber and healthy fats and antioxidants – they can be a balanced meal instead of empty calories that leave you feeling sluggish, and maybe slightly guilty. I love how food can taste incredible but also be so good for you – there’s no need to compromise. I’ve also discovered a passion for creamy hummus, sweet potato falafels, decadent bowls of oatmeal, crepes, (sweet and savory), and have realized that you really can have your cake and eat it too (see e.g. these gooey feel-good squares) 😉

Because I still do struggle with my stomach, the fact that I can still get enormous enjoyment from my food, even if my appetite is not quite there and I’m experiencing discomfort, has been so enriching.

Also, creating my Instagram account (blueberrysmiles22) where I share some of my meals has allowed me to meet some incredible people and (sorry if this is getting [cashew]-cheesy) to feel part of a loving, inspiring community. Being able to engage and connect with people who share this love and excitement has been truly amazing.

 

How do I feel about plant-based eating now?

What I’m not going to say is that a fully plant-based diet has given me boundless energy, made my hair grow ten times faster and been a general panacea. I’m all about being honest with whatever I share, and I have to say that there have been times when I’ve questioned whether it is, in fact, the healthiest way of eating for me.

Having done my research, I started taking B12 supplements right from the start, and soon also started taking microalgae-based Omega 3 (DHA and EPA are components of Omega 3 that – unlike ALA, which you find e.g. in flaxseeds and walnuts – are not easily available on a vegan diet), which is combined with a source of vitamin D. I’ve also started taking an iron supplement, as, a few months ago, I started experiencing unusual tiredness and a ‘fuzzy head.’ I went to get my blood tested as I was preparing for exams and needed to be able to focus, and was told to take a supplement, as my iron levels turned out to be mildly below normal (despite eating lots of leafy greens and legumes). Since then my energy levels have been up again, and I feel fine.

 

To sum it up: Changing my diet to a fully plant-based one has, without a doubt, improved the quality of my life, bringing more enjoyment, satisfaction, indulgence and variety with it. It has also been a fantastic creative outlet, and connected me with amazing people around the world. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that it is not necessarily the easiest diet for providing the body with all the nutrients it needs in the most easily-absorbed form (iron from plant sources, e.g., is less easily absorbed than that from animal sources – with, however, the benefit of not being inflammatory, like the latter) – a challenge I accept by trying to get as much nutrition into my meals as I can.

I’ve had a wonderful year of eating a fully plant-based diet and will happily continue eating this way as long as I am thriving on it, and it feels right to me.

Hope you enjoyed reading!

xoxo

Here is the celebratory meal I had at Farmacy – the first plant-based foodie spot I visited when I moved to London in September. 

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