Mediterranean Tofu Quinoa

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Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe. It’s been a while since I’ve even cooked a meal if I’m honest! I’ve been so busy lately, and even when I’ve been home and had a chance to cook, more often than not I’ve just thrown together a big salad or whipped out some rice cakes and the peanut butter jar (they’re best friends).

This was quite a departure from my usual quinoa cooking, which 99.9% of the time is this turmeric & ginger flavored one, but I can assure you I will definitely be making this again and again. Bursting with flavor, nutrition and also light and refreshing, this dish is perfect for a relaxed summer evening. I can already see myself making this for my family back home for a (fingers crossed) late summer BBQ on the terrace.

Ingredients – for 2 servings

  • quinoa (I used 190g as that’s what I had left and I wanted to finish off the packet)
  • fresh lemon juice
  • dried or fresh thyme
  • ca. 2/3 of a (400g net weight) packet of firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 small/medium courgette
  • 1 small/medium aubergine
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • ca. 6 sundried tomatoes (in olive oil, drained), chopped
  • olives, as desired, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • balsamic vinegar – to drizzle on top

 

Method

Chop the courgette, aubergine and yellow pepper into cubes, then place in a hot pan with olive oil. While this is cooking, prepare the quinoa (simmer for 10-15 minutes in salted water). Once the veg is done, place aside and cook the tofu cubes in a pan with a bit of olive oil and salt. When the quinoa is nearly done, sprinkle in the thyme, add a squirt of lemon juice, then add the chopped sundried tomatoes and sliced olives. Finally, stir in the veg and the tofu.

Serve garnished with fresh herbs AND (this is the best part): drizzle some balsamic vinegar on the top.

Simple, speedy, so delicious!

Enjoy

xoxo

Wilderness Festival

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I have never been particularly into festivals or camping, but when I recently got the opportunity to work at Wilderness Festival from August 3 – 6, I knew I absolutely had to take it.

Wilderness is a festival for ‘Nomads and gastronomes. Rockers and roamers. Drifters and dreamers. The reclusive, the wise, the weird and the wild.’ Held in the beautiful Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, it has something that appeals to pretty much everyone: a host of workshops (from paddleboard yoga, tai chi and calligraphy to the more eccentric taxidermy, ‘pimp your pineapple’ and hunter gatherer cookery classes), talks and debates, theater, live music, and an almost overwhelming array of food stalls to chose from – many of which provide healthy and/or plant-based options. (I’ll leave you to guess which of these factors held the largest attraction for me 😉 )

Despite working throughout the festival (I was there to support one of the food brands), I was able to soak up the incredible atmosphere and general good vibes. It was wonderful eating my early morning bowls of granola and nut butter in the warming rays of the sun, watching the white tents in ‘The Sanctuary’, and the yogis and interpretive dancers (I think that’s what they were doing?!) come to life. I also enjoyed going for walks in the scenic ‘wilderness’ and soaking up the peace of nature (luckily without bumping into the ‘dance your naked truth’ participants), away from the business of London.

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Outside of our shifts, my lovely friend Amy and I made the most of our free time by exploring the stalls and tents throughout the festival. We also attended a fabulous free workshop by The Cutlery Commission on spoon engraving. We had fun punching letters into a metal plate with hammers until we were ‘ready’ [not really] to personalize our own vintage spoons. The result is these two items of customized cutlery, whose wonky engraving in no way detracts from the pride we feel in having created them 😉

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As to the food, we were spoiled for choice and had real difficulties in deciding where to go when we weren’t having (delicious!) food on shift.

The highlights were, without a doubt:

Club Mexicana

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The Beer-Battered To-Fish with pickled cabbage, salsa verde, pickled chilies and sour cream (all vegan) on soft, dark corn tacos was an absolute dream! It was unlike anything I’d had before – the perfect kind of vegan ‘junk food’ that didn’t leave you feeling gross, but nourished and satisfied. I also got to try some of the incredible (!) BBQ pulled jackfruit burrito, which Amy went for and kindly offered me some of. It’s put jackfruit back in my good books, after a horrendous encounter with a pulled jackfruit burger a while ago.

Verdict: a must-try! (for info on where to find them in London click here).

 

Vurger

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Now, this was not a new one for me, as I first had a Vurger at Balance Festival (see my review here), and again at the Pillbox Kitchen in Bethnal Green. Surely the fact that I went for this again, amidst so many new options, speaks for its utter irresistibility!! I went for the MLT again (baked mushroom and borlotti bean patty topped with a sundried tomato, basil and walnut pesto, with vegan cheese and in the best burger bun) and it truly was the most soul-satisfying experience!! Amy was just as satisfied with her Auburger (chipotle smokey Aubergine, red onion and a chickpea patty topped with cumin mayo and pickled cabbage – and extra avo 😉 ).The only disappointment was that they weren’t serving the Truffle Mac n Cheese at the festival – as I’m super intrigued by this.

Definitely check these guys out, see where they pop up next, and keep your eyes peeled for a permanent location in London!

 

Bad Brownie

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(Featured here with the peanut butter brownie our friend Lauren went for. And yes – not the best quality picture!)

Amy and I were both craving something sweet in the evenings and, on the hunt for something to satisfy our cravings, we stumbled across Bad Brownie. While not a plant-based company, they do sell a vegan (and gluten-free) salted caramel brownie, which we could not resist. The brownie was wonderfully rich, with a pleasantly fudgy texture (nothing worse than a dry brownie).

Speaking of vegan brownies, however, I can’t not mention the brownie I had today, because it absolutely blew the Bad Brownie one out of the water! After arriving at King’s Cross St Pancras from a short trip to Lille, I had to make a cheeky stop at Vx (a little vegan shop on Caledonian Rd with treats and – so I’d heard – the best vegan brownies). The salted caramel brownie I had from there was honestly insane. Richer, fudgier, gooier than the Bad Brownie one – and probably the unhealthiest thing I’ve eaten since going plant-based! Oh my… But, I assure you, I didn’t feel even the slightest inkling of guilt as it was just so incredibly delicious – the sweetness wonderfully complemented by little kicks of saltiness. Another must-visit!

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(The salted caramel brownie from Vx) 

The big disappointment for me was the açai bowl by Boa Vida Açai. I was genuinely shocked by how little I was able to enjoy it, as it was like eating tasteless slush. Harsh words, and I wish it had been otherwise, but that’s all I can say about that.

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To conclude on my time at Wilderness: It was an intense immersion into a truly weird and wonderful world, with amazing people, incredible food, stunning nature – all of which more than made up for the bipolar weather, the disappointing açai, and the cold, mostly sleepless nights in the tent. (Special shoutout to the best tent-buddy ever – wouldn’t have made it without you Amy 😀 😉 )

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DIY Kombucha Workshop

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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

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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

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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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Chocolate Covered Pitaya

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Pitaya, also known as dragon fruit, is without doubt one of my favorite fruits ever. (Big statement). It feels like such a treat anytime I have it, which is, unfortunately, quite rarely. I remember the first time I tried it, on a trip to China a few years ago, and being utterly fascinated by its appearance and taste. Since then, it’s always had a special place in the (large) part of my heart dedicated to food. Then, last summer I discovered dried pitaya, at an unforgettable food market in Aix-en-Provence, where my boyfriend and I stocked up on lots of wondrous things for our journey home, including passionfruit cubes and dried aloe vera [no idea that even existed].

Recently I had the pleasure of feeding my dried pitaya passion due to a little collaboration with Koro Drogerie, a German healthy food start-up that also ships to the UK. When I saw they stocked this delicacy, the path ahead was clear.

Now, when I opened the packet and got the first floral whiff of pitaya, I could have happily just sat down and devoured the half-kg packet then and there. It’s just so good! But, I decided to savor it slowly instead, and do something special with it. And, in the process, I discovered I that it actually tastes really good with chocolate! (What doesn’t, after all?). So, one evening, when I didn’t feel like working on my dissertation anymore, I decided to make myself some chocolate covered pitaya – currently my favorite not-at-all-guilty pleasure.

It’s super simple and barely even a recipe, but I wanted to share it all the same, as it’s so satisfying and also a pretty cool thing to offer when you have people around. (If you’re willing to share that is) 😉

Ingredients:

  • Dried pitaya – as much as you want
  • Dark chocolate (or any chocolate you like; I used my go-to 85% from Lindt) – I used about 4 squares for the amount pictured
  • Sesame seeds (use black ones if you want to use white chocolate)

Method:

Melt the chocolate (I did it in the microwave, even though you’re not really supposed to?), use a spoon to cover half a piece of dried pitaya in chocolate, sprinkle sesame seeds on both sides of the chocolate-covered end, place on a sheet of baking paper and repeat until you’ve choc-ified all your pitaya. Leave the chocolate to set. [It was super warm in my room so I ended up putting them in the fridge, which apparently gives the chocolate a bit of a dull appearance. But that doesn’t bother me as, let’s be real, I’m just going to eat it all myself anyway 😀 ].

BONUS: If you happen to check out the Koro website and see something you like, use BLUEBERRY5 to get 5% off 😉

Hope you enjoy!

xoxo

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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