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’ (胃寜))* 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.

 

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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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

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!)

A Healthy Af-Fare

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Last Saturday morning I found myself cold, wet and hungry, standing in the rain in Brick Lane. Pretty gloomy? Oh no – I was queueing to get into the Old Truman Brewery for the first day of Fare Healthy (a “feel good festival of food, exercise and wellbeing”) and inwardly glowing, feeling super excited to be let loose in a fabulous foodie playground and, not least, at the prospect of a good breakfast!

Fare Healthy is an amazing gathering of brands, fans and inspiring people from the areas of health and wellbeing, all somehow involved or interested in what and how we EAT, MOVE and THINK. (Personally, my thinking was mainly geared towards the eating, as was my movement – going from one amazing looking food stand to the next!).

My first stop, after meeting up with my lovely friend and fellow foodie Catrina and getting some skin care samples from Kiehl’s, was: breakfast! I had an amazing coconut banana waffle from Spring Green London (I shamelessly helped myself to all the toppings: coconut yoghurt, blueberries, wild blueberry jam, goji berries, cacao nibs and bee pollen). To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of all things coconutty, but I absolutely loved this waffle and it was the best way to fuel myself for, well, a lot more eating. Because that’s basically what the rest of the day consisted of 😉

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Let me just briefly take you through some further personal highlights from the event:

  • the Pip&Nut energy ball workshop: Everyone received a little bag with some base ingredients, got to process them and choose a station with the desired add-ins. Catrina and I went for the cacao peanut butter version and ended up with insanely delicious spheres of nutty goodness! [If you’re interested in the recipe: 60g raw almonds processed together with 120g dates and 40g dried cherries, mixed with 1 tbsp peanut butter and 1/2 tbsp cacao powder.] Luckily our friend Leila arrived just in time to help us shape the mixture into balls, roll them in various toppings, and, of course, test them 😉 IMG_3997.jpgIMG_4006 (1).jpg

 

  • Food Stories: Ella Mills interviewed by Martin Morales – Yes, I’ve been to many Deliciously Ella events already, and, as I sat there waiting for the talk to begin, I did start to question my booking. [Having felt so entirely out of the whole “scene” back in Switzerland has, I guess, made me instinctively book anything and everything involving the people and brands I was following from afar]. Would I just be hearing the same things I’d heard from other events? Well, there were, of course, elements I recognized, but I found it a very inspiring talk that discussed things from a slightly different angle, which was probably due to the interviewer and his choice of questions. Being a chef and restaurant owner he was, perhaps naturally, very much interested in the business side of Deliciously Ella and asked great questions about both the origins and the future of the brand and the delis. This resulted in some amusing anecdotes. For example, three weeks into the opening of the Mae deli, her husband and business partner being sick in bed, Ella found herself in possibly one of the worst positions imaginable to an inexperienced deli owner with, at the time, no management, when the chef informed her that she quit and was off to Barcelona. As horrible as that must have been (!), I love stories like that as they reveal some of the less sparkly reality that is often behind successful businesses. We often just see the result of something and perhaps underestimate or are ignorant to the fact that a lot of hard work went into achieving that result and overcoming countless obstacles. I was also intrigued by Ella’s vision for a restaurant, inspired by one of her favorite food spots in LA, which she’d ideally like to open within the next three years.IMG_4012.jpg

 

  • Biccy Bom Tasting! Now, if you are a fan of Livia’s Kitchen and their wonderful treats, this needs no explaining to you. For those unfortunate souls who have not yet discovered this brand of divine fully plant-based, refined sugar and gluten free delights: Biccy Boms are little balls of biscuity, oaty goodness with a date-based center in three flavors covered in a milk-chocolate like coating (the milky-ness apparently comes from the addition of lucuma), that are due to be launched soon. I was lucky enough to try two flavors: ginger (very fiery!) and salted maca caramel (one word: wow). If you’re in the UK, definitely keep your eyes peeled for these, as they should be hitting shelves within the next few weeks – can’t wait!IMG_4038.jpgIMG_4032.jpg

 

  • The In the Blog House: with Niomi Smart, Saskia Gregson-Williams and Izy Hossack talk. This was a relaxed interview with three inspiring bloggers and I very much enjoyed hearing a bit more behind how and why they started blogging. IMG_4034.jpg

 

  • Sampling! I won’t list everything I tried, as I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you, but the standouts were: Mani Life peanut butter (deep roast!), Pana Chocolate fig and wild orange raw vegan chocolate and The Giving Tree Broccoli crisps! (none of which I took pictures of annoyingly – was too wrapped up in enjoying the taste 😉 )

So, unsurprisingly, I conclude with the warmest praise for this wonderful, inspiring, fun and delicious festival. I strongly hope that it will take place again next year, and that I will still be here in London to enjoy it 🙂

Hope you enjoyed reading about it and maybe discovering some new brands or products!

xoxo

A Fit and Fab Start to 2017

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Hey there!

Hope you all had a great New Year’s Eve and have started well into 2017! This year I went for something a bit different and decided to spend the last few hours of the old year sweating it out in a club with lots of other fitness fanatics. The Fitssi “Rave and Behave” party  was incredibly fun and involved four different workouts (lower body, HIIT, abs and a choreo-style one) led by various trainers and separated by intervals of dancing, and of course refueling: There were iced buckets of – no, not Champagne, although the winners of the plank challenge did win some bubbly (how can anyone hold the plank for 7 minutes??!!) – vegan protein shakes by Missfits and instead of salty bar food there were bananas with  Nut Blend spreads. (Sounds like my kind of party!)

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Besides the fact that it was so fun and incredibly refreshing seeing everyone in their sneakers and gym gear – not a high heel or false eyelash in sight! – it was great getting that added endorphin boost from not just being active and being part of something, but from trying something new and appreciating the increase in strength and fitness you’ve achieved over the past year.

I’m so glad my friend Gemma and I tried it and I definitely recommend keeping your eyes peeled for such events next year, as I’m sure there will be more exciting ways to have fun while also doing something good for yourself. (Muscle ache = the new hangover?) 😉

The next morning we treated ourselves to a lazy brunch at Granger & Co, where I started the year off in style with a delicious acai bowl and warming almond milk chai.

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And lastly, do I have any New Year’s Resolutions? Yes and no. I definitely have goals I want to achieve and things I want to work on, but they are not motivated by a changing digit. One of these goals is to continue working on Mindfulness – something that I’ve already found to be extremely beneficial to my wellbeing in the short time that I’ve been practicing it.

Hope you enjoyed reading about an alternative way to spend New Year’s Eve and I wish you a truly happy & healthy 2017!

xoxo

 

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

Mince pies and feeling Christmassy

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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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