Plant-based Eating on Holiday (Wales)

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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Simple Tomato-Tahini Pasta

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This is one of my go-to speedy recipes for a healthy refueling meal after a workout. It’s so simple in fact, that it’s slightly embarrassing to call it a recipe, but let me bask in my (imagined) creative genius all the same.

What I like about this besides that fact that it’s so quick and easy to make is that it’s incredibly satisfying – the tahini gives the whole thing a creamy and indulgent element, while the veg adds some freshness to it. It’s more carb-based than my usual meals, as I created it for my post-workout needs. l If you want you can also reduce the amount of pasta and top up on more veg and add some beans instead.

Serves: 1

Ingredients:

  • 100g whole wheat, spelt or brown rice pasta
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 heaped tbsp tahini
  • bit of olive oil
  • frozen peas
  • any other fresh or leftover veg, for example zucchini or broccoli
  • optional: sesame seeds (in the top picture I just used mix seeds as I’m out of sesame)

Update: add some hot, smoked paprika to take this to the next level!

Cook the pasta in salt water according to the packet instructions, adding the peas and some chopped veg (the peas only take a few minutes and if you finely dice the zucchini it’ll also cook very quickly. I tend to throw them in 3-4 minutes before the pasta is done), drain, drizzle a bit of olive oil over it before adding and stirring through the tomato purée and tahini (and seasoning with the smoked paprika). Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top (use black ones if you’ve got them – not only do they have more antioxidants but they make the dish look cooler than it probably is). Eat directly or let cool and pack into a tupperware for after the gym 😉 Enjoy!

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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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