Mince pies and feeling Christmassy

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

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

 

Livia’s Kitchen Baking Course

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

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

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

 

A Plant-Based Christmas with Deliciously Ella

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

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

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

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Eat Smart Brunch at Farmopolis

 

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Can brunching be a hobby? I feel like that’s all I’ve been doing lately on the weekends, but what can a healthy-food-obsessed girl do if there are so many pleasingly plant-based places and exciting events to go to? When I found out about Niomi Smart’s brunch at Farmopolis I jumped at the chance to eat some more of her delicious Eat Smart food (I already got to sample some at her Q&A at Wholefoods in September) and I’m so glad I got my hands on a ticket – it was a wonderfully relaxing and enjoyable way to spend part of my Sunday.

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The event started off with refreshing mocktails: Pina Coolada, Cucumber & Melon Muddler (what I went for) and Virgin Mary. Next we were served artisan-style rye toast with different types of chia jams: Strawberry, Orange & Apricot and Plum & Ginger, which were all incredibly tasty. My favorite was the Plum & Ginger, which is on page 57 of Eat Smart. Next was what was, for me, the star of the show: the Swiss Bircher Muesli (page 49). Being (half) Swiss I have had my fair share of Birchermüesli over the years, yet none of them vegan and none of them as yummy as this one! I will definitely be making this, maybe as a lunch (I don’t think I can ever wean myself off of my breakfast smoothie bowls and, hey, why should I!) or afternoon snack. It’s made with almond milk, oats, apple, lemon juice, cinnamon – which gives it a wonderful warming note – raisins, flax- and sunflower seeds. If you have the book I definitely recommend you give it a try!

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The final course was the full English (pages 62-63), consisting of tofu scramble, grilled tomatoes, garlic mushrooms and baked beans. Now, I’m not such a fan of savory dishes for breakfast or brunch and I was semi-considering asking for another bircher instead, but as the whole point was to try several different recipes from the book I went for it and I have no regrets! The flavors all harmonized really well – especially the scramble with the tomatoes and the delicious (!) baked beans with the mushrooms. It was a nice way to end an amazing brunch that left me feeling satisfied, yet energized instead of overly full and sluggish.

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The event was all the nicer thanks to the lovely hostess, Niomi. She’s just as warm and friendly as she comes across in her videos and it was great seeing her in a more relaxed setting with less people than back at the Whole Foods Q&A. What I also love about these events is the people you meet, as more often than not you end up having a lot in common! It was so nice to be surrounded by people also into plant-based eating and a healthy lifestyle in general 🙂

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Tip: check out the Farmopolis website for more interesting events. It’s a café, bar, cinema and event space and is also London’s first floating garden, rehousing plants from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. It’s a really nice space to be in and there is so much going on there – this Tuesday, November 29th, for example, there is an event called “Wildlife Drawing: Miniature Pigs”, a drawing class where the subjects are mini pigs!! How cute is that? It was already sold out when I checked though, so I unfortunately won’t be posting about mini pigs any time soon…

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Cardio 4 Cake

Could there be a better combo than cardio and cake? …Tea and cake … cake and cake.. ? Ok, maybe it’s not the most exciting combo out there, but a great one nonetheless and definitely a balanced one. Balance is the key word behind the Cardio 4 Cake event organized by Olivia Wollenberg from Livia’s Kitchen (you know, the brand with the amazing and healthy raw millionaire bites?!) While her brand is all about indulgence and treats it also goes hand in hand with being good to yourself on other levels, such as exercising. And what better way to refuel after a grueling workout than with something utterly delicious and indulgent, yet full of good things!

The grueling workout took place at 1Rebel in the form of the Reshape class. I’ll readily admit I was a little scared, as, while I regularly go to the gym and absolutely love exercise and need it to stay sane, I have never been big into cardio. As little as 2 years ago, the cardio element would have been my idea of utter and total hell. My misgivings did not leave me as we entered a dark room full of treadmills on one side and black boxes with shiny metal objects on the other – looks like a torture chamber, I muttered to my friend Gemma. I have never regretted a workout in my life though and this was of course no different. We did intervals of cardio and weight training, so it didn’t feel like too much cardio at once – although it definitely pushed my limits! The instructor was great and didn’t yell at us (too much), which also definitely helped. It was an awesome workout and I’m really proud of myself for keeping up.

After a wonderfully relaxing shower (loved the array of products 1Rebel provides) it was time for Phase II of the event: cake! I started off with a blondie, which was the most unhealthy-tasting healthy treat I think I’ve ever had (if I’m not mistaken, this is the recipe – so definitely give these a go!). Next I had one of these blueberry porridge squares that I’ve actually made from her blog and are really good! And of course I couldn’t resist having one of each of the 3 Raw Millionaire Bites flavors: salted date caramel, almond & raisin and chocolate orange  (would have been rude not to). I honestly still can’t say which one is my favorite – I keep changing my mind after each one. And finally, I shamelessly wrapped up one (ok, two) blondies. Already looking forward to having one tomorrow with a cup of tea!

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It was wonderful having these treats after a tough workout and feeling so ravenous! This event was such a great idea and I also loved having a quick chat with Olivia, who was just as sweet and friendly as when I met her at her Cream Free Cream Tea in September (check out my post on that, as well as her website for future events – I 100% recommend them!).

Honestly couldn’t think of a better way to spend Saturday morning 🙂

Smart Eating and Smoothie Sipping

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As previously mentioned (see my post on the last events I went to), I am making full use of the fact that there is so much going on in London – whatever your interests, there are events to suit them. Last week was super exciting because I got to meet two inspiring people who I’ve been following from afar: Niomi Smart and Ella Mills, both of whom have just released new recipe books.

On Wednesday I trekked over to the Kensington Whole Foods for the Q&A with Niomi Smart and the signing of Eat Smart – her fully plant-based recipe book. It was great seeing the area designated for the event buzzing with lots of chatty excited people (and by people I mean exclusively young women), and feeling the excitement bouncing off everyone. I’d take this over a rock concert any day (- is that sad?) I was given a copy of the book, a goody bag (I could so get used to those!) and offered a drink. After rushing to get over there on time from uni I needed something more hydrating than alcohol though, so I sipped on some flavored water by Plenish that I conveniently found in my little bag of goodies.

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The Q&A itself was interesting and touched not just on food and eating, but also on (truly) organic beauty products, i.e. products approved by the Soil Association. It was thus only fitting that we had samples from some of these brands in our goody bags ;). (I’ll do a review of some of the – edible and non-edible – products I got from this and other events in a separate post). A highlight was getting my book signed by Niomi and exchanging a few words with her. She seems like a genuinely delightful person and you can tell how excited she is about her book and her recipes. As for me, it’s great having another fully plant-based recipe book to be inspired by. Oh and I almost forgot: We got to sample some of the food from her book and the falafels were amazing – especially with the peanut sauce that accompanied the vegetable skewers. (I was quite hungry at that point and was luckily sitting right next to a large platter of them, so, while chatting to the lovely Laura from Toronto, I could easily reach out and grab more 😉 )

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The next day I made my way to Whole Foods again, this time the one in Fulham Broadway. Eager not to be in a rush as I had been the day before, I made sure I had enough time and ended up being the first to arrive. As I didn’t feel like queueing outside the building for half an hour I engaged in a much loved pastime – aimlessly browsing through Whole Foods – and eventually came out with my first packet of maca. While waiting in the queue I started reading Deliciously Ella’s Smoothies and Juices while sipping a sample of Ella’s Green Dream Smoothie – nice and thick and full of flavor! There wasn’t any Q&A session at this event, but it was so wonderfully surreal to actually meet Ella, even for only a few moments, have her sign my book and pose for a picture. It was lovely and it made her feel like more of a real person to me – if that makes sense 😀

On my way back to the bus stop I happily munched on one of her hazelnut and raisin energy balls that I’d been excited to discover in the little brown bag containing her book (along with a bottle of the smoothie we’d sampled). It made me smile to think that probably a lot of students new to London were in pubs, drinking beer and eating chips (judging from my course’s Whatsapp group at least!) and might have a different idea of what a cool way to spend the evening is. But that’s what I love about London – it’s easier to fully be yourself and embrace who you are because there’s something for everyone. I’m still in the process of learning who I want to be and what I want to get out of life, but I feel like this is a good place for me to be while I’m asking myself these questions.

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A Sweaty & Sweet Saturday

 

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One of the – many! – things I was looking forward to with regard to moving to London was access to cool events. Back at home I’d read about book signings of people I’m following, cooking classes by people who’ve inspired me and regret living in a small country with mountains and cheese, where plant-based eating hasn’t quite so firmly planted its roots yet. Well, yesterday I made full use of my new, exciting location and spent the morning at the Sweaty Betty Live event and then indulged in Livia’s Kitchen’s delicious Cream-free Cream Tea. It was honestly the best of many great days here so far.

I arrived at the Sweaty Betty event at 7.40 am already, with my boyfriend in tow, hoping to beat the expected crowds. At that time most people were in colorful leggings, getting ready for the first Psycle class (I had been too late to get us tickets including a class – so the sweaty part of the title is a tad misleading and sadly not to be taken quite literally I’m afraid). This was perfect though, as it meant we were among the first visitors to get a free matcha mini facial by Origins, in my case, and, in my boyfriend’s, a hand and arm massage (I didn’t think he was actually going to do it, I heard the lady waiting behind him say to another – a comment I didn’t repeat to him, as I love that he’s supportive and open-minded enough to accompanying me to these, let’s face it, rather more girly events 😉 ).

Back to the important things: The facial was a wonderfully soothing experience, where one incredible smelling, refreshing product after another was applied to my face, leaving me feeling glowing and fragrant. The product the facial was centered around was the Rituali Tea Matcha Madness, of which I received lots of samples that I will happily be trying out at home. Next I got a free manicure and tried out some products at the Neom Organics stand from the Happiness and De-Stress range, while my boyfriend made himself comfortable on a couch and lost himself in his action thriller, only looking up when I came by with free pots of coconut yogurt by the Coconut Collaborative. We also tried our first Deliciously Ella energy balls – cacao & almond and hazelnut & raisin – at the mae deli pop up and were most impressed. There I also got a free sample of Ella’s new products for Neal’s Yard Remedies (Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Wash and Moisturizer) which I am dying to test out.

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At 10.30 am we went to a talk on mindfulness by Dr. Melanie Tokley from The Mindfulness Project. Mindfulness is something that’s been on my list of things to get better at for a while now, and the talk was perfect for reminding me to prioritize this. At the end of the session we did a guided mindfulness exercise where we focused on our breath while listening to Melanie’s calming voice. Opening my eyes a few minutes later I felt refreshed, as if I’d been on a mini holiday. This is definitely something I want to consciously incorporate into my daily life. 

We left the event at around 11, armed with goody bags containing things like Sweaty Betty socks, tank tops (I obviously got my boyfriend’s too 😉 ), water bottles as well as samples of Pip & Nut and matcha (for drinking this time). By this point I was feeling very happy and already majorly excited for the next event:

The Cream-free Cream Tea, organized by Olivia Wollenberg of Livia’s Kitchen, was an absolute dream from start to finish. Located at the Beach, Blanket, Babylon bar and restaurant in Shoreditch in a beautiful and spacious room right under the roof, it was an event that more than surpassed my expectations. First of all it was so nice and refreshing to be able to just sit down and tuck into good looking food without worrying about what was in it or downheartedly realizing I wouldn’t be able to eat most of it. It was wonderful having the kind of food that I could enjoy laid out before me in the most inviting way. But the food wasn’t just fully plant-based and gluten-free, it was also utterly divine. From the red pepper hummus with crudités and the finger sandwiches (spicy guacamole and tahini cucumber) to the incredibly indulgent chocolate cupcakes, the gorgeous oat and maca cookies and the raw millionaire bites to – drumroll – the scones that (plain or topped with almond butter and berry chia jam) tasted out of this world , every bite was a delight to the senses.

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The event was not just about food, however, but also about the people sharing it. It was wonderful chatting with people who share my interests and understand where I’m coming from (yes, I’m talking about you Jordan and Gemma), and so inspiring to meet Olivia, who obviously loves what she does and puts her heart and soul into it. So, at the end of the day, what remain with me most are not the many goodies I got (I felt so spoiled!) or even the scrumptious leftovers I took home, but the memories of feeling at peace, understood and completely and utterly happy.

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