Lifebox – Birthday Box

Lifebox. A monthly package delivered to your door, bursting at the seams with snacks, powders, treats, chocolate, drinks and teas to enrich your life, widen your tastebuds and make healthy eating easy and accessible in your busy lives. Jennie and her team have now been providing people across the country with their goodies for the past three years, I have been following them from the very off after finding them on Instagram and watching how far they have come since then.

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With a choice of four different boxes to either order as a one off or as a subscription there is something to suit every lifestyle and pocket. The everyday wellness box, the men’s health box and the women’s health box all costing £22.95, encasing full sized products from exciting new startups and old favourites on the market. Also there’s the Lifebox mini, offering samples of products featured in the everyday Lifebox for a smaller price, so you can dip your toe in the water before committing.

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Is there anything more enjoyable than receiving a parcel in the post? Not really. It’s like Christmas day for me! So the fact that if you subscribe to Lifebox every month you will receive a jam-packed white box, with food and drinks to fall in love with, that’s a pretty great thing to look forward to. Also included is a booklet with workout routines anything from HIIT to yoga and recipes from guest bloggers using ingredients found in the box so when you’re lacking some inspiration you know where to turn.

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So in this birthday box, first some things that were well-known to me:

Alongside that many new nibbles:

Standouts of the group have to be the Vild and Co. granola. Strong in cinnamon but a tart bitterness cuts through from the bilberries. It’s addictive. It’s granola, what’s not to love. The Wilde Nuts chocolate cashew butter is mightily good, creamy but with a good cacao hit. In porridge with raspberries…NEXT LEVEL. I’ve also been enjoying the energy bomb sachet from Your Superfoods in my overnight oats. Cinnamon typically is the only spice or powder that features in my breakfasts (maybe maca if i’m feeling fancy), but this mix-up of açai, guarana, lucuma, maca and banana powder is nice to switch things up a bit. Lightly sweet from the banana, supposedly great for energy levels, not that I’ve noticed a difference but as long as it tastes good, that’s what we’re here for really!?! A note on the Leithy Creates raw puds, specifically the peanut butter truffle, it’s a good job that you don’t get more than one they’re devilishly good and would be polished off in one sitting!

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Head on over to their website to see what’s in store for this months’ box. Follow them on instagram @lifeboxfoodco for some daily inspiration for recipes, the breakfast and drinks in particular are really rather funky, and the odd giveaway here and there. you never know you might be the lucky devil one day! Don’t miss out on the seasonal specials either, at Christmas time and Easter there tends to be a luxury Lifebox, full of seasonal treats. Better than your tub of quality streets?? I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

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The Nutty Group – Nutty Nibbles

Certain times and certain days require snacks. Copious amounts of them. On those kinds of days, there may have been a superrrrr early wake up, say 5:30/6, a rushed breakfast and lunch isn’t until 1pm. An apple or banana simply won’t cut it.

On days like these, my sweet tooth tends to kick in. A gooey medjool date may come to mind, but some nut butter is always preferable to cut through that richness. Instead, reaching for a bliss ball, where everything is handily packed into a transportable bite, that’s what I’m after. Cup of tea or coffee NECESSARY.

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The Nutty Group are a smoothies and juices start up and have now expanded their product range to nibbles. Available in 5 varieties, coconut blueberry, mango coconut almond, apricot and chia seed, apricot and cashew and their autumnal special, pumpkin pie. Simply organic dried fruit and nuts, to provide a treat or snack high in fibre and healthy fats.

My favourite has to be a toss up between the pumpkin pie and the apricot and chia seed. The pumpkin pie, has flecks of green from the pumpkin seeds and a hint of warming cinnamon spice. Anything with cinnamon in makes me one happy gal. The apricot and chia, is wonderfully caramelly, since they’ve used unsulphured apricots the darker and deeper flavoured than your typical orange dried apricots, and the chia seeds add a nubbly texture and some crunch.

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If you’re after some dried fruit and nut nibbles using organic ingredients and different flavours to those you tend to find in shops, then head on over to the nutty group’s online shop. You will also find their treats in the October Primal Snack box, or head to Veg Fest London on the 21st-22nd of October where they will be waiting with snaackksss!

I would like to say a big thank you to The Nutty Group for sending me over some of their bites to sample and spread the word to all of my lovely readers. I hope soon to be bringing you more product reviews, sometimes life is too hectic to make things yourself and we all need a bit of help and assistance!

Much love and nibbling

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The Allotment Vegan Restaurant – Review

The most unlikely of places for a vegan restaurant, it’s true. Fine dining vegan even more so! Manchester has the odd few places, V Rev for the times when you are in need of some serious junk food action and The Earth Centre for vegan comfort food like dahls, pies and soups. Then most places have some vegan options on the menu, but they never really stray much further than a bean burger or some fried tofu. Wander slightly further afield to Stockport however, a 20 minute drive, and there you will find what is starting to become a foodie mecca.

Down a steep declining hill from the market, on the corner of Vernon street you will find a bright, minimal but warm restaurant, stocked with hanging plants and succulents and a bustling open kitchen. We visited shortly before 7 on a Thursday night and it was almost full and by the time it hit 8:30 every table had guests, a good sign that they’re doing something right!!

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Starting with some water flavoured with cucumber, mint and orange as we browsed the menu, deciding between the 10 or 7 course taster menu, the a la carte or the early bird. The menu is short and concise, but even so I struggled making a decision on what to eat, everything sounded so tempting. The wine and beer list isn’t extended either, all the more easier to pick and choose, a few award winning wines and craft ales, also a wine pairing menu if you so wish. I would have walked out sloshed if that were the case.

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First out came an amuse bouche, aubergine, beetroot and cucumber, a perfect little tasty concoction whilst sipping on our chardonnay, just a little taster of what was to come. Don’t get me started on the plates, the temptation to lick the plate clean and stuff it into my handbag definitely ran through my mind.

Next along came the starters, one the courgette scallop with sea herb salsa verde. A pan-fried courgette scallop with a samphire salsa verde on a celeriac puree, tapioca pearl, apple and nori. A salty sea freshness and the smoothest celeriac puree that has ever graced my mouth. Alongside the allotments’ signature dish cauliflower hot wings with some roast garlic hummus. Addictive doesn’t even explain it. My mum is not a fan of cauliflower at all. No matter how much I try to disguise the flavours she will always shove it to the side of the plate for me to pick at. These went down pretty well though. How can they not really? They’re deep fried!! 😛

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I opted for the aubergine manchurian for main, an indo-chinese spiced confit aubergine, spring onion rice, chilli popcorn, lemon kale, pickled vegetables and fried enoki. Full of different textures and flavours, some spicy some sharp and the meaty aubergine to mop up all the lovely sauce. For my mum was the sweetcorn and pickled chilli. A fried sweetcorn and jalapeno fritter, lemon thyme and cumin potato puree, tomato marmalade glazed roasted romanesco, white bean, pine nut and avocado. All plants. Yep not a bit of meat, eggs or dairy in sight! And that’s coming from someone who when a dish isn’t feeling quiiiitteeee right, cheese is always the answer.

Another glass of wine down and out came an unexpected (and my favourite bit of the night). A PRE DESSERT. Can this be made obligatory at every restaurant. K thanks. A bottom layer of turmeric custard, topped with a pink fir apple compote and some toasted chopped hazelnuts. We could’ve eaten this by the bucket full. Only to be followed by the dessert, a sweet potato custard tart with meringue shards and lemon sorbet. Nicely spiced, in between an egg(less) custard and a pumpkin pie, a bit of crisp from the meringue, all cut with some zing in the lemon sorbet. We did share the dessert, I’m sure much to the dismay of some of you, but stuffed we were and it topped off a lovely meal.

Sorry that there’s no images of the pre-dessert and dessert, you’ll just have to picture it in your head. We just wanted to tuck straight in for once, it was my birthday, let me off!

I’d like to add that neither me nor my mum are vegan or even vegetarian for that matter. We tend to eat plant based meals the majority of the time, but still do enjoy some fish once or twice a week and the odd roast chicken or steak. That being said, dinner at the allotment was refreshing and inspiring, every plate full of varying textures and using ingredients together that you would not normally dream of. There is indeed a cheese course. Cultured nut cheeses served with seasonal nut cheeses and raw crackers, something that I am yet to try and anticipating it to be sooner rather than later!

Starters cost £6-£7, mains are between £17 and £18 and desserts are £7, it’s fine dining so don’t expect large portions, but that just means you can try more of what they have to offer. If you do visit though, please make sure to order the cauliflower hot wings. Just for me. Even if that’s all you go for, it’ll be completely worth it.

The Allotment Vegan, 6 Vernon St, Stockport, SK1 1TY

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September saviours

It’s been a crazy mad one this September. Every year without doubt there is many things inked in the calendar, when there has been nothing happening for months, why all at once? I suppose going back to school and work after the summer brings around many more social occasions, and for some September is a good chance to wipe the slate clean and attempt many of those resolutions you quickly forgot about during January. September always means something to me in particular, its my birthday month and this time around it was a big-un. The big 2 1.

Preparing myself and the house for a party was of course in order, as was big batches of chilli and all the sides, bakewell tarts, brownies and butterscotch blondies. Too many aperols were drank and too much sugar and cheese consumed, but that’s what a birthday is about!

Earlier in the month I managed to pass my driving test. FIRST TIME. It was a sheer relief as I had it set in my mind I was going to fail, but the gods were on my side for once! Alongside job searching and acquiring, and university visiting, my mind really has been all over the place. However of course I still had an inch space to think about a cobbled together list for this month. A mixture of clothes, beauty, food (shock) and recipes, there’ll be something on here of interest to you!

#1 Babe Balm by BYBI beauty 

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A multipurpose balm that looks as beautiful on the inside of the tub as it does on the outside. Perhaps you’re a fan of Elizabeth Arden’s eight-hour cream, well this is similar in idea but switched up to totally natural ingredients. To be used on brows to keep the unruly buggers in place, on lips, on elbows, knees, hands, anywhere dry that needs some TLC, cheekbones for a highlight and anywhere else you so wish. A gorgeous peachy tint comes from the pink sweet potato extract and coenzyme Q10, squalene, kokum butter and calendula are a select few of the reasons to why it is so nourishing. I must say, how can you not resist owning something called babe balm, from one babe to the next this is something you’ll want to add to your beauty arsenal. Find it on their website here where you will also find other products and recipes to create your own natural skin-loving goodies.

 

#2 Adidas Gazelles in Green White

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I’m not the biggest trainer fan, even though I tend to wear them often for comfort when trooping the pavements, I would much rather be stomping around in a good heeled boot or something like this shoe I have my eyes on. Trainers though can add serious style points with a cropped jean or trouser, a midi skirt and paired with a floaty dress. Considering my favourite of my trainer loot, these Nike X Liberty trainers, are too small and crush my toes, a new pair was definitely on the cards. Looking for something retro, a nice bright colour to brighten up the dreary days ahead, well these Adidas Gazelles in a lovey emerald green ticked all the boxes. I made the mistake of wearing them to work the other day, only to spend the night treading carefully around everything and trying not to spill food and oil over them. Thankfully there were no serious OOPS moments and we came out unscathed (yes both me and the trainers), but boxfresh now they are not so much!

 

#3 Granola Gravel – recipe from the blog Earthsprout

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Sick of sandy granola? Loads of finely chopped nuts and oat crumbs that are left in the bottom of the packet, when all you really want is a good mega sized chunk. Well that’s what we have here. Granola Gravel!! I made the orange and cinnamon version, slightly sweetened by the banana and a little maple syrup, crunch from the nuts and seeds and I added oats and puffed rice for a more sustaining snack. If you’re a smoothie bowl or açai fan, this is the answer you’ve been looking for, or on top of porridge (you cant go far wrong with a double oat hit) or how I’ve been eating it, by the shovel full. Once you have an over-ripe banana in the fruit bowl, get busy in the kitchen!

 

#4 Sour cream and black pepper rice and pea crisps by Off the Eaten Path

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Another to add to the savoury snack-attack. Fond memories of sour cream and chive Pringles from childhood parties and sleepovers, where a couple of tubes (at LEAST) would have been consumed, these have a similar flavour and a satisfying crunch. I planned on eating half the bag to save the rest till later, but before even realising, they had all vanished. The green and yellow peas and black beans add a nutty bite to your bog standard rice-cracker, alongside some crudites and hummus (I think there was a glass of kombucha involved too, I was hungry!) it was the perfect interim between lunch and dinner.

 

#5 Figs

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Besides my birthday, my other favourite thing about September is fig season. Abundant at this time of year, you’ll see the black skinned variety in all supermarkets and greengrocers selling them off remarkably cheap compared to other times of the year. Many have bad memories of figs from when they were children, the dried figs as tough as old boots and full of seeds that get stuck in your teeth. Personally I love them, and they’re really high in calcium too perfect for those avoiding dairy, but for others this has put them off for life. Totally different to the fresh ones. Baked until jammy and bubbling besides a melting Camembert is a thing of beauty. Or simply sliced with some walnuts and cinnamon, when you get a good fig they are marvellous things. When buying them ensure they have some give, just give them a squish, if they feel soft that’ll be the perfect fig – they don’t ripen once they have been picked. If you spy some green figs, grab them!! Even better than the darker skinned kind, juicier and more succulent. And FYI please do eat the skin, there’s nothing wrong with it and a fig doesn’t need to be scooped out with a spoon, my dad was asking the other day so I thought this point was worth adding.

 

#6 The Allotment Vegan Restaurant in Stockport

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For my birthday meal, my mum took me out to The Allotment. Found in stockpot, not the most likely of spots for a fine dining vegan restaurant, and lentils and nut roast it most definitely wasn’t. Hanging plants, bottles of water filled with cucumber and mint and the most beautiful crockery set the scene. There is a 10 course or a 7 course taster menu on offer, an a la carte menu and an early bird offer with 3 courses for £25, so there’s something to suit every budget. Starting with an amuse-bouche, then a starter each, a main each, a pre-dessert and a pudding to share, afterwards our bellies were filled and our hearts were full after a glorious meal. see the current menu here. No meat, dairy or eggs in sight, there is also a cheese board made from cultured nut cheese that I will only have to go back for, and seeing as the menu changes seasonally no two meals will be the same. I will post a full review on here soon, with pictures too (perhaps not the dessert we were too excited to eat it before I got a snap!). The pre-dessert was the thing that I can’t get off my mind. A turmeric custard layered with a pink fir apple puree and some chopped roasted hazelnuts, something that will need to be recreated, and on a much larger scale. I could’ve eaten 3!

The Allotment Vegan Restaurant, 6 Vernon st, SK1 1TY

 

I’d love to hear what things you have been loving this September? Whether it’s a new podcast, your favourite chocolate bar or just as simple as autumnal walks kicking through the crunchy leaves! I’m off to go and pick some blackberries as last time I checked they weren’t ready – I have a feeling they will have all been eaten by now. Fingers crossed as i want some apple and blackberry crumble this weekend!

Love to you all

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Funky ferments from Loving Foods

I’m sure many of you reading this will be well and truly familiar with kombucha, sauerkraut and kimchi. Perhaps due to the fact that I talk about them quite often, always giving that gut some good loving! Or maybe it’s due to them going through a hype at the moment, these new foods that we are discovering and adding to our diets which are actually age old processes that past generations lost the taste and practice for.

In London and other major capital cities or areas of known ‘wellness’, these foods are a regular on the menu and found in every health food shop. Occasionally kombucha is even served on tap in bars!!! Kombucha shots, now that’s some drinking game I’d happily be a part of. I have a few favourite brands of kombucha from my stints in living in London, particularly Jarr and Wild Fizz kombucha. There are now so many new companies popping up with unique and interesting flavours it’s hard to keep up.

Now there’s a little problem in that I live in the north of England. To the majority, fermented tea sounds like a brew that you put down and forgot about for a few days, only to find it smelling slightly cheesy a few days later.

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Thankfully that’s not what it is, and there are a few new companies in Manchester alone busy brewing up the bubbly stuff. One of these is Loving Foods. Situated in Hale Barns they’re a relatively new start up founded by brother and sister Mendel and Faye. They specialise in fermented foods and drinks, none of them pasteurised so the good bacteria is alive and thriving to maintain a healthy gut flora. Everything is made traditionally, salt, vegetables and spices left to sit and bubble until tangy, and the kombucha made from green tea to leave that fruity-almost-cider flavour us booch fans adore.

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I first picked up a bottle of their hibiscus and lime booch from a cafe called The Garden in Hale who stock a small range of their products to buy. Loving Foods products are also available to buy online if you are not from the area and they also deliver worldwide! Anyone else know how to describe the flavour of hibiscus? Me neither, but it’s tart and refreshing all the same. Poured directly over ice for a boost, or if you’re feeling naughty on a Saturday night, mixed with some vodka. Don’t blame me if the results are less than virtuous!!

The other flavours on offer are blueberry and lavender, lemon and ginger, matcha and mint and grapefruit hibiscus and ginger – which is my favourite of the lot! Something for everyone and every mood. They also produce a drink called Jun, one I hadn’t heard of until recently, similar to a kombucha however instead of sugar it is fermented with honey. Thought to originate in Tibet and known as the champagne of kombucha, this is a very special and niche drink that you won’t be able to find in many other places.

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Alongside the drinks Loving Foods also produce cultured vegetables. Sauerkraut – classic, sauerkraut – juniper and caraway, kimchi – classic, kimchi – turmeric and black pepper and their own creation of krautchi – a blend of carrot, kohlrabi and fennel. Their sauerkraut is as tangy as it should be, and would happily sit besides a bratwurst as it would a buddha bowl. The kimchi has a little more heat (not blow your head off though) with some fragrance from the ginger and garlic. All the cultured vegetables are easy to add to your diet, breakfast, lunch or dinner, and even snacks they’ll find their way in! High in prebiotics to feed your gut bacteria and also those necessary probiotics to increase the diversity of your gut microbiota too.

SO. I am SUPERRRR excited to announce that I have paired up with Loving Foods, and I have 3 kombuchas and 3 of the cultured vegetables to giveaway. One of you lucky lot will get your hands upon the blueberry and lavender kombucha, lemon and ginger and grapefruit, hibiscus and ginger AND also a jar of sauerkraut, kimchi and a krautchi too. A little bit of everything that Loving Foods have on offer. To enter find me on Instagram @theahudson and follow the instructions on the post. Sadly I can only offer this to those of you in the UK, but the main reason is to draw attention to this young company who have big things ahead of them. I’m sure we shall we seeing a lot more of them in the near future!

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So you GUYZZZZ. Head on over to my Instagram to enter and tell all of your friends so you have a better chance of winning, the competition closes at 11:59pm Monday 18th September GMT, so that gives you 1 week, and I will choose at random and announce the winner on Tuesday. Best of luck to you all, and a big thank you to Loving Foods. Someone is in for a real treat.

Sorry folks the giveaway has now ended. Thank you to all who entered!

CHEERS my lovelies *raises glass of booch!*

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July Jamborees

July. A month of variable weather. Full of promise one day for that scorchio summer at home that we all hope for, to wake up the next morning to torrential showers and gusting winds that leave a chill in our bones. When it comes to what to wear that day, preparing for all weathers is a must, or in my case giving up and just wearing jeans and a t shirt with some jazzy earrings and a neck scarf. And under no circumstances forgetting that umbrella even if it’s broken and sagging, as all of mine are, it will provide some protection against that unforgiving weather of ours.

The summer provides some serious downtime for me. As the whole of Europe prepares to shutdown for August, the UK decides to take a break too and jet off to some warmer clime. Meaning not much work to go around in the modelling industry. A time I am now learning to take in my stride, not get stressed about having a free schedule and just make the most of it and doing things for ME. So far having involved decorating my room, a few lunches out, shopping trips, plenty of cooking and soon to come will be trips to other cities in the UK, gallery visits and *fingers crossed* a day at the seaside.

I hope you have the most fantastic summer if you’re in the northern hemisphere, and if you’re in the south and moving into winter, don’t worry too much as I’m sure it will still be a hell of a lot warmer than it is here in Manchester!

Here’s the things I’ve been loving this month. Enjoy!

#1 Belazu Rose Harissa

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If I had to, which I’m hoping no one holds me to this, choose ONE food that I would eat for the rest of my days, I reckon harissa would be a strong contender. Harissa is a chilli and paprika paste mixed with spices, oil and in this case rose petals, used frequently in North African and Middle Eastern cooking. I’ve tried many supermarket brands in the past, and they’ve been fine, perfectly acceptable but I’ve had my eye on this harissa from Belazu for a while and finally got my hands on some. A gloriously deep red spiced up paste, which is fragrant, sweet and smoky, compared to the supermarket versions it wins hands down. Also the company is based in the UK, YAY for that too! I’ve been swirling it through my hummus, spreading on a sandwich, dotted across eggs, mixed into salad dressings and using as a marinade for salmon. Come along harissa, I reckon you’ve surpassed peanut butter in the Thea’s Top 10 list, and you won’t be going anywhere for a long time.

 

#2 ManiLife Deep Roast Peanut Butter

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Ok I go on and on and on about peanut butter here. I’m sorry. I’m sure many of you also share the same feels? Please say yes. I’ve been happy eating the same brand of peanut butter for a good while, Meridian Crunchy Peanut Butter is found in the majority of supermarkets, made with no added sugar or palm oil just roasted peanuts and salt. It’s good. Then however I discovered Pic’s Crunchy Peanut Butter. Made in New Zealand, again just salt and high-oleic peanuts, it surpassed Meridian on the flavour scale, but money wise it’s slightly more pricey. Not much later, ManiLife Deep Roast arrived in my life. A British company grinding and producing in London and sourcing their peanuts from Argentina. They roast them for longer so it is dark, verging on the bitterness of coffee, utterly AMAZING. I can’t look at normal peanut butter anymore…I am a changed woman 😉 Visit their online shop here, as it is impossible to buy in the north of the UK but found in many shops around London and the south. Hop onto it, you will be forever grateful. I am.

 

#3 Home brewed Kombucha

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One of my favourite treats to buy whenever I go to London. If you’ve never heard of it, kombucha is a fermented tea drink which has a slight effervescence, the taste not completely dissimilar from cider. It’s made using a sweetened black or green tea and a SCOBY which feeds on the sugar to create an acidic environment and when bottled up the CO2 increases which makes it that bit fizzy. I’m a huge fan of Jarr, a company haling from Hackney, their passionfruit kombucha is particularly dreamy, not too sweet and really provides a good pick me up as well as some TLC (tummy loving care that is). With only one place I’ve discovered in Manchester which sells kombucha, I’ve taken to making my own as a little project for over the summer. One batch down, in a ginger and lime flavour I’m pretty chuffed and getting all jazzed about the flavour combos I have lined up. If you want to give kombucha brewing a go, I bought a scoby from ebay and then there’s many blogs full of all the information you need to get started. See here, here and here. Happy fermenting!

 

#4 Bundobust – Leeds and Manchester city centers

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Any of you Leeds/Manchester-ites will be well aware of this gem of a food spot. And if you’re not where have you BEEN? Originally an craft beer bar in Leeds which sold Indian street food for a snack, turned out the food was more than good so now it’s an Indian street food restaurant with a well stocked bar full of beer, lager and ale. Completely vegetarian and most dishes are vegan too, that’s not saying you shouldn’t go if you’re a meat eater. You won’t miss the meat at all. Offering all the classics such as Massala Dosa, Idli Sambhar, Chole Batura, Tarka Dahl and Vada Pav alongside their own Gujarati-inspired creations like the Biryani Bhaji Balls and the Onion Gobi Bhaji Bhajis. Do not visit without ordering the Okra Fries. And you will want a portion for yourself, those aren’t for sharing. See their website for the rest of the menu and where to find them.

 

#5 Light Before Dark Black Gingham Wide Leg Culottes – Urban Outfitters

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You know when you walk into a shop, see something and know that you NEED to own it. That happened with these culottes. At heart I’m still 8 and would happily live in my junior school red gingham summer dress. So, in flies in these black and white gingham culottes, slightly cooler, more ‘hip’ as my dad might say, whilst still living that ‘mini-me’ life. They’re loose and airy, perfect for those times when the weather is in our favour, or layered up with a jacket and some trainers to withstand the rainy days. The high elasticated waistband, well the fashion isn’t the only reason I wear them. Going out for a big meal? Stick these on and you can squeeze in that dessert instead of your jeans button popping open. Comfort and style, I’m in.

 

#6 Flamingo wallpaper

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So last week me and my mum spent a few days redecorating my room. Going though the whole procedure of painting the ceiling, woodwork, walls and finally coming to the best bit, the wallpapering. When your new wallpaper is pink and covered in flamingoes it’és particularly exciting. As glorious as it sounds. I have plans for a corner full of plants, terrariums and succulents to keep the air fresh and clean, lots of artwork by me, a handmade crocheted throw which I’m currently in the making of and some white artichoke lights as there isn’t enough of a 70’s throwback as there is. If anyone has any Pinterest boards that they would be happy to share for some bedroom/plant/artwork inspiration, I’m all eyes!!

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What’s the dealio with dairy?

We pour it on our cereal, splash it in our tea, our coffee, eat it as an after dinner dessert or slice onto crackers with chutney for a mid-afternoon snack. Dairy in all its forms is something we have been brought up on. In the western world we are told as soon as we stop breast feeding to drink our milk, so much so that is an integral part of most peoples’ diets.

Memories of a glass of warm milk before bed as it helps to send you to sleep, that minuscule red wheel of Babybel cheese you fished out of your lunchbox daily, and squeezy yogurts that you stuck in the freezer to make into ice lollies on those (more frequent back then) days of stuffy summer. Frubes I’m looking at you! Dairy, seemed to be a fundamental part of the diet.

Marketing campaigns encourage parents to feed their children dairy products, enforcing the fact that without it they won’t get enough calcium to grow and have strong bones, ‘it will make you strongerer’. The fear of rickets is probably on most parents minds, so if the guidelines say to eat dairy, the children will eat it. What if they were lactose intolerant though? Around 10-20 years ago the only option you had as a dairy alternative was fortified soya milk. Probably sweetened. Most likely a bit gross. There wasn’t really much development in terms of dairy free milks, yogurts and cheeses, and the free from aisle…what free from aisle? If you were lactose intolerant you either gave it up cold turkey, or suffered the consequences.

I can’t pinpoint when exactly, but here in the UK, let’s say 5 years ago? Something triggered a small amount of the population to go dairy free. We also became more aware of the effects of soya on the environment and how it disrupts hormone levels (particularly for us women). The dairy free market was steadily growing, the occasional almond and coconut milks were accessible, still didn’t taste that good- mainly water and emulsifiers – so the need for creamy dairy wasn’t ever satisfied. You know it’s become a thing when Starbucks catch onto the trend and almond and coconut milk become an optional extra, with a 30p charge of course. Soon the media channelled into it spreading the word that dairy is the devil, it leads to cancer and causes osteoporosis, and every other ailment under the sun.

Around the same time, another tribe of people were touting that low fat dairy should be avoided at all costs. You can still eat your cheese, yogurts, milk and butter, but ensure that it is full fat. The higher the better for some, swearing off high fat – low carb diets. Bulletproof coffee (that is indeed coffee blitzed with butter to supposedly give a creamy drink without the crash from the caffeine), full fat yogurt, choosing cheese over dessert and searching out raw milk if possible. Totally contrasting to the dairy free crowd, making it utterly confusing to us consumers.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer to this problem for the time being. The government guidelines include dairy as part of a healthy balanced diet, it’s a good source of protein and calcium ensuring that you stick to lower fat varieties as the amount of saturated fat can be high. Personally, I find a happy ground in between all this conflict. I eat full fat yogurt (organic if I can, Yeo Valley is my go to), spread salted butter liberally on my toast and eat cheese when I want. I enjoy dairy. Cutting it out from my life would make me miserable and being unhappy doesn’t contribute to a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve ever experimented with removing or reducing your consumption of something, you will have realised that it penultimately ends up in being substituted with something else. The best dairy substitute by far is nuts, healthy though they are, you can always over do it. Need some cream, use cashews, spread nut butter instead of butter on toast, make cheese from cashews herbs and garlic, and milk from, yet again, more nuts.

Nuts aren’t the only culprits in the dairy free gang. Rice milk has been a favourite for many for years as it’s naturally very sweet, and coconut milk too for something a bit creamier and richer. Oat milk hailing from Sweden and even hemp, quinoa and tiger nut milk can all be spotted. If you’re wanting to switch up your milk routine and try something new here’s a list of dairy free milks that I would always choose. They are tried and tested, all of them with a different flavour which lends themselves to different things.

  • Oatly – Oat Milk

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A personal favourite, creamy milk which tastes as delicious chilled from the fridge as it does on your morning muesli or stirred into your porridge. Also note that it is one of the best dairy free milks for using in tea and coffee as its foams well and doesn’t separate. I tend to choose the blue Oatly carton as it is fortified with calcium, vitamin D, B12 and riboflavin and it is also cheaper than the organic version.

  • Rude Health

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I’m a huge fan of the company Rude Health, having sampled all of their range of milks (many times I may add) they still are a firm staple on my shopping list. Their almond, hazelnut and coconut milks all are made with a base of brown rice so are delicately sweet, perfect for those of you wanting some sweetness without adding sugar, and when blended into smoothies or lattes have a nice subtle flavour. Then there’s the ultimate almond for the purists – with a heftier price tag – and a higher percentage of nuts and none of the rice. The cashew milk too, which I’m highly fond of, purely made from cashews and water, it is the creamiest of the lot and makes a mean turmeric or matcha latte. All of the Rude Health milks have the added bonus that there are no emulsifiers or stabilisers so they do require a good shake before pouring. However if you’re worried about missing out on certain nutrients when you cut out milk, none of these are fortified so you may want to opt for another brand for the everyday use.

  • Alpro – Unsweetened roasted almond milk

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Alpro is well known by the masses notably for soya products, which has a bit of a bad rap. This almond milk though is the best of the lot they offer. Unsweetened and fresh, it’s the sort of milk that fits into your everyday life. More cost-effective too at the cheapest on offer, but with a very low content of almonds and quite a neutral flavour it may not be the most exciting for your tastebuds.

  • Califia farms – Unsweetened almond milk

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New to the UK and currently found in Sainsburys, Califia Farms is a bit of a game changer in terms of almond milk. Carageenan free, no added sugars and utterly delicious I have to add, this one is something to hunt down. It’s so good I enjoy drinking it as is, from a glass (and when I’m that desperate straight from the bottle) and that’s that. Also brilliant for use in hot drinks as there is no curdling and it isn’t thin so you won’t require half a carton to get your tea how you like.

Now what’s my stance on dairy? I love the stuff and have tried (vow to never again) giving it up, and believe that if you aren’t allergic or intolerant and most importantly you enjoy it, don’t deprive yourself. Dairy is high in saturated fat but as long as you don’t overdo it, there will absolutely be no problems. Here’s some of the dairy products that I like to eat, I always try to stick to organic if possible and mix it up by consuming not only cows milk, but sheeps, goats and buffalo too. You will be surprised how many of your favourite cheeses aren’t actually made from cows milk.

 

  • Yeo Valley – Natural yogurt, Greek style yogurt and salted butter

 

I love this brand as all of their products are organic the cows are fed on luscious grass and made in Somerset . I always return back to their natural yogurt, or the greek style if I want something richer, as it has a good tang and you can find it in most supermarkets and even corner shops. The butter too is lovely, a bright marigold yellow with a little salt, spread it on sourdough. That’s what you call heaven.

  • St. Helen’s farm – Goats yogurt

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This may be a dividing option. It’s rich, but with a salty savouriness that balances all out. The flavour too is much stronger than a cows milk yogurt so a little goes much further. Dolloped on a crumble, topped with strawberries or strained to make a labneh. Perhaps keep it real simple with just a drizzle of local honey and a little pinch of salt, bloomin’ marvellous!

  • Feta cheese

The most famous of offerings from Greece. That salty crumbly cheese that none of us can get enough of. It makes every meal better, whether that be avo on toast, a mundane salad, a sandwich or a pile of broccoli. Add feta and automatically it is elevated. Traditionally feta is made only from goats milk so try to opt for one of those, searching in your local Aldi or Lidl should do the trick.

  • Halloumi

Halloumi tends to be the vegetarians’ choice (and eaten by all the carnivores too) particularly when BBQ weather rolls along. You Nando’s aficionados will know the drill. Squeaky cheese, as my mum refers to it, takes on flavours well so when marinaded and griddled to leave blackened scorch marks, that rivals any sausage or chicken drumstick. Another cheese which traditionally is made from goats or ewes milk and found in the Mediterranean sunnier climes of Cyprus.

  • Longley Farm – Crème Fraîche

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From a dairy local to me comes this crème fraîche. Alongside many yogurts, butters, milk and creams they produce, this is the better than any supermarket version. If anyone knows in more detail, please back me up on this, but supposedly this is the only variety of cream available to buy in France. Crème fraîche goes through a fermenting process to give it that tang, meaning it lasts longer in the fridge and is better for our digestion than cream.

  • Godminster – Organic Cheddar cheese

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Having worked a stint in a farm shop and on a cheese counter, a good few chunks of cheese came my way. Blue, Cheddar, Lancashire, Cheshire, Brie, goats cheese, I like them all, but when it comes to making a cheese board I know that a good cheddar will always be the first to disappear and everyone fights for the last slither. This Cheddar cheese from Somerset is mature and punchy enough to stand up to any chutney, but still creamy and lingers on your palate…until the next piece. Available to buy in the UK at many delis by the slice or in individual truckles. Grated into a cauliflower cheese or sliced in a cheese sandwich, guaranteed it will be the best you have ever made.

To wrap it all up, I still don’t think there’s an outright decision on whether we should be eating dairy or not. Do what works for you. I do try to limit my dairy consumption, so that means substituting dairy milk for a plant based milk instead, for environmental reasons mainly as methane production is one of the main causes of global warming. Milk is something in the western diet that is consumed at least once a day, particularly for us Brits – we’re all rather partial to a cuppa – very swiftly by switching that up you’ll be eating and drinking much less. Yogurts, cheeses, butter and cream don’t tend to be an everyday thing. Also yogurt and crème fraîche (and some butters if they’re french) are all fermented or cultured. They’re beneficial to our guts and if you’re not a huge fan of other fermented products such as sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi they are a good way of getting those good bacteria into your diet.

Do what’s right for you, your lifestyle and your budget. As long as we’re all ensuring to eat as many vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, mainly plant based, then that cheeseboard and a glass of vino, it’s there to ENJOY!

Until next time

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