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Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate

Vegan friendly chocolate.

There seems to be a misconception that when you turn vegan you suddenly stop eating chocolate; this is not the case. There are many brands of chocolate offering dairy free options which don’t have to come from the “free from” section. If you like dark chocolate then you will find the transition easy. If you don’t enjoy dark chocolate it could take a while to make the transition however over time you will get used to the taste and start to love it.

It is possible to get milk and white vegan chocolate however it does have to come from the “free from” section because it isn’t naturally made dairy free. As a result the cost will be a bit higher than your regular chocolate bars.

Things to note:

  • not all dark chocolate is vegan so always double check the label.
  • dairy products are mostly always in bold however “butterfat” is sometimes not highlighted; so again double check the label.

Some facts about chocolate:

Chocolate is made from the cacao plant which in its most natural state is actually a health food. Not to be confused with cocoa, cacao is naturally high in antioxidants and has numerous health benefits. Alongside a healthy diet, cacao has the ability to balance blood pressure, lower cholesterol, reduce arterial plaque and ultimately reverse heart disease.

Other health benefits:

  • Its high in magnesium which increases energy levels and protects against osteoporosis.
  • Cacao boosts serotonin levels and endorphins which improve mood and balance mood swings.
  • It contains healthy fats which create chemical reactions for growth, immune function and metabolic function.

I have accumulated a section of photos on my trip around Tesco, finding all the vegan chocolate I could. Other supermarkets and health shops have more choice so you’re never short of options. These are mainstream brands, where as health shops have great raw chocolate varieties (and more!) but at a higher cost.

Other alternatives include raw cacao powder (to create your own great vegan desserts/ treats) and cacao nibs (to add to snacks, smoothies and oats).

Find some of your mainstream varieties below.

Green & Black’s

Tesco’s Own

Lindt

Green & Blacks Thins

Tesco Finest

Bournville

Ritter Sport (not their mint variety)

BENDICK’S

 

To find out more about how chocolate is made, go view my post on how I made chocolate in the Amazon!

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

Being the only vegan at a party

I don’t know if it has happened to you before but I sometimes feel like I am the only vegan in the village. Eating a vegan diet does make you the minority, although the number of us are on the increase, so there are things you need to accept.

  • people don’t always understand you
  • people think you only eat lettuce and carrots
  • you may be weird to some people
  • some people assume you are judging them OR that they’re making you feel uncomfortable eating meat near you
  • some genuinely don’t know how to cater for you
  • don’t expect to be catered for at parties and don’t take offence!!

As a result of this you have to be confident in what you’re doing, happy with what you’re doing and always be prepared.

Here are some quick tips to help you feel comfortable in party situations:

  • eat before you go: you wont offend anyone at the party because chances are there’s not much substantial you will be able to eat there. Eating before hand ensures you wont be hungry there so you wont get “hangry” and want to leave. You want to be happy and comfortable there so make sure you’re well fed before hand.
  • take something with you:  super easy tip. Take food with you! Share you’re food with others, it will make you blend in and people will appreciate the gift 🙂
  • don’t make comments about there being no vegan food available: in a room full of numerous “normal” eating people, you can’t expect that on top of catering for all them people that they’re going to go that extra mile for you. They have spent a lot of time and effort into preparing the party so don’t mention you’re vegan and there’s nothing to eat, simply say you’re not hungry or “no thank you” to non-vegan offerings.
  • find any vegan food you can and take it before it goes: there’s a chance that there will be a cheese board with fresh or dried fruits. Take some and pop them on your plate before they all go. Bread is normally available and if you’re lucky some salads or veggie sticks. More times than none there will be vegan options but get them on your plate at the beginning of the party, just incase they run out by the time you’re hungry.
  • don’t worry about it: at the end of the day you’re not there for the food, you’re there for the party. Enjoy the party and be social. Social environments don’t always have to revolve around food and if they do just make sure you’re prepared.

I hope these few, quick tips help you for when you feel like the only vegan in the village 🙂

 

 

Cuppa Tea and a Biscuit?

Cuppa Tea and a Biscuit?

Cuppa Tea and a Biscuit anyone?

I mean, who doesn’t love a cuppa tea and a biscuit?!

I try to make transitioning into a plant based diet easy for everyone and I understand that not all of us have time to make our own alternatives. Making plant based biscuits by hand are definitely a healthier alternative to shop bought, but I know this isn’t convenient for everyone. As a result I have accumulated a bunch of photographs for you for some shop bought biscuits which are all vegan and easily accessible.

The Oreo’s I noticed contain vegetable oils including palm oil. This actually makes them non-vegan! I’m not 100% sure about ingredients for them around the world but this left me a bit suspicious. Oreo’s have always been known  as a vegan go-to biscuit/ cookie so I’m left wondering.  I will leave this up to you to make your own opinion but as for ingredients otherwise, they’re definitely plant based; no dairy.

I want you to know that a vegan/ plant based diet doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult. If you do have time to make your own biscuits then I’d definitely recommend doing this! However if you have a party to go to and need to take something, these could be useful. Alternatively you may have children who still want their biscuits as a treat and this way you can feed them vegan foods without them knowing the difference.

Whatever works for you is what is most important and there are lots more on the market so do keep an eye open for them.

Things to take into account:

Recipes change all the time so always double check the packaging. For example: Jaffa Cakes and After Eights used to be vegan and now they are NOT.

Brands differ. For example: Regular digestives are NOT vegan, but some cheaper brands ARE.

Just because biscuits say chocolate or cream, it doesn’t always mean it isn’t vegan. You’ll be amazed by what is vegan so always check the packet first.

OREO’S: so far I have found that all varieties are dairy free apart from the Peanut Butter brand.

These are not a “health food”: although the biscuits are vegan and/ or plant based they contain oils and unhealthy sugars. If you do choose to eat them then do so in small amounts.

 

Selection:

   

The British Classics

    

 

Oreo’s – the “Vegan” favourite

   

Childhood favourites

 

Like I say, these are just a few I found whilst out shopping today. Always double check before you buy, dairy products are written in BOLD so are easy to find.

Good luck!

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

Popular UK restaurants offering Vegan options.

There are so many restaurants here in the UK that offers vegan options now. When I lived in America the options were extremely limited unless I went to vegan specific restaurants. Lucky for us we do have many chain restaurants now which offer vegan options.

Most restaurants if you call beforehand will offer you a vegan option or you have to alter a dish on their menu to veganise it. For example: veggie pizza without cheese (check base is dairy free), tomato based pastas without meat or cheese. Be careful with veggie burgers as many have egg to combine the patty. You just have to play around with the menu and ask the staff questions.

See below to see which popular UK restaurants offer a vegan option without chopping and changing the ingredients.

Restaurants:

Nando’s.

Offering salads and veggie burgers, you just have to ask for no cheese and no mayo!

Wagamamas.

The only set vegan option on the main menu is the Yasai Itame. The vegetable dumplings to start are vegan as well as vegetables and edamame. If you ask the staff they will accommodate for you on the mains by leaving out fish sauce or swapping your choice of noodles, for example.

Las Iguana’s.

I was happy to see that Las Iguanas offer a separate vegetarian / vegan menu. I’ve had the fajitas before, although they were quite oily. Great to have an array of vegan options though.

Jamie’s Italian.

With vegan options plus the option to veganise a meal, Jamie’s Italian is great. The only thing I’d mention is that the Aubergine main dish is pretty small so just be warned.

Zizzi 

Zizzi has kicked it out of the bag with their new all vegan menu. Started, mains and desserts all deduced to healthy vegan choices. They even have vegan cheese! That is dedication from Zizzi’s; I salute you.

Toby Carvery  

A carvery which offers a vegan nut roast!! This had me really excited. Just be careful to avoid any vegetables cooked in butter.

JD Weatherspoon

With it’s own separate vegan menu you can’t go wrong.

Pizza Express

With their own specific vegan pizza that alone is great. However all their bases are dairy free so hop and change ingredients as you wish, and of course, hold the cheese.

Carluccios

Another fantastic Italian restaurant offering a desperate vegan menu.

Giraffe 

I know they offer a vegan breakfast which is fantastic as you don’t see this often. As for mains they have a couple of options but not a separate menu.

On the go

All supermarkets offer vegan food so when you’re on the go these are an easy option. Opt for the salad isle and get the tubs of quinoa salads, bean salads, couscous, nut salad etc. They have so many options you just need to know where to look. In the “on-the-move” section it has little variety but if you check the salads section you will be fine. For snacks you can always go in and grab some loose fruit too or possibly a raw foods bar.

Check below for some more on the go options so you’re not stuck when you’re on the move.

Cafés:

Pret-a-manger 

Offering an array of vegan options, Pret is a great go to. From salads to sandwiches to dessert!

Starbucks

Limited on choices but do offer a salad option and wrap if you’re lucky!

The West Cornish Pasty Co

A Cornish pasty that’s vegan? The West Cornish Pasty Co offer two pasties: vegetarian and wholemeal. If you like a pasty then it’s great to know this!

Eat. 

I only discovered this over the Summer time but was very pleased to see more than one vegan option. Sandwiches plus hot food! This alongside a nice hot latte is a great on the go stop.

 

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese

Let’s talk cheese.

When it comes to transitioning to a vegan diet or simply going dairy free, the main difficulty people find is giving up cheese.

All dairy products contain a protein called Casein and cheese contains the most addictive and concentrated form of Casein, Casomorphins. Casomorphins have an opioid effect (opioids: known as one the world’s oldest drugs)! This addictive formula is what was designed to keep the calf suckling its mother’s milk. Now can you see why cheese is so difficult to give up!?

 As well as being highly addictive, cheese contains no fibre. This means that when consuming it you simply don’t get full. If you were to eat fibre rich foods such as rice or beans however, you’d get full. When you can understand this it makes in mentally easier to make the transition to dairy free alternatives, limiting your intake or cutting out cheese all together!

Ultimately you want to make the transition as smoothly as possible and you don’t want to feel like you are restricting yourself. If you want to reduce/ cut out cheese from your life then you need great alternatives and you need flavourful, texture-rich foods that stop you reaching for the cheese!

Habits are made over a life time so don’t expect to be cheese free in a day, although this is possible! However, realistically it is a change of habit. Habits on average take three weeks to break. Three weeks to break a habit which could last a lifetime, really isn’t that long.

 So how can you break the habit?

1) Cheese alternatives. 

These are a great way of transitioning and sticking to a lifetime without real cheese. There are some great varieties out there now and most supermarkets have an entire array of alternatives.

For cheese on toast, baked potatoes, sandwiches, pizza and more! Try Violife (here in the U.K.). I’ve heard from many people that this is the best on the market and they come in many varieties.

There is a brand in the US called Daiya which is also a great branded alternative, however this is more difficult to find in the U.K.

Vegan cheeses are a fantastic alternative when going dairy free and there is absolutely no casein added. Give them a go and really try to get used to them because they are a much healthier alternative.

2) For a “cheesy flavour”: Nutritional Yeast aka Nooch. 

One of my personal favourites.

  

 Nutritional yeast is de-activated yeast, not to be confused with baking yeast, which gives your meals a cheesy flavour. You can sprinkle it on pasta, toast, baked potatoes and into soups or sauces. It’s a parmesan style addition to a meal and packed with Vitamin B12 (an essential addition to a Vegan diet).

 3) For a creamy, cheesy sauce: Tahini

 

 Used with nutritional yeast or simply on its own, tahini is a fantastic way to create a creamy, cheese like sauce. Used in most of my pasta sauces, tahini is a staple in my kitchen. Simply stir in your desired amount into your pasta sauce (I normal use about 1tbsp) or you can make a dressing with it too.

 Tahini is great combined with soy sauce, lemon and garlic. Add some water for a thinner consistency and it can used on salad or on potatoes (thicker consistency is better here). Another way I like to use tahini is on toast! It’s a staple that you will need in your home. Think of it as a cheese spread replacement.

  4) Get creative in the kitchen.

      

In other words, try making foods other than cheese based foods. There is such an array of foods in the world that meals don’t always have to revolve around cheese. Thai foods, Indian foods, Chinese, Mediterranean and more. The world’s cuisine has so much more to offer than cheese, you just have to experiment more. 

An increase of flavours and textures will have you so satisfied that you won’t need to be reaching for the Cheddar and the grater!

 To summarise: 

 Cheese is an addictive food. To break your cheese habit it can take up to three weeks and it can be done. I know that due to the addictiveness some people may really struggle to give up cheese completely but at least give it a go. If you are trying your hardest to be vegan and cheese is the only component of it that you can’t do then don’t beat yourself up about it! You want something that is manageable long term and if the only food you can’t let go of is cheese then so be it. However, do not give up. Research is clear that a plant-based vegan diet is the healthiest way to live and can eliminate disease and illness.

Take your time in making the transition; the more you reduce your intake the easier it will be to give it up in the long run. As you experience the health benefits of a plant-based diet and how fantastic you feel, gradually the desire for “real cheese” will go away. Every small step makes a huge difference so stick with it and do your very best!

Pear and Chocolate Oats with Caramel Sauce

Pear and Chocolate Oats with Caramel Sauce

choccy

I am someone who very much sticks to what they like and will continue having the same food over and over until I get bored of it. Today I thought I would try something different and I absolutely love it; you will continue to see this post on my Instagram feed for a while I’m sure.

Pear in oats is something that isn’t knew but it is such a nice subtle sweetness to the oats and as they are a soft fruit, compared to apple for example, they cook really well when left in chunks.

The caramel sauce is a newbie for me but it worked really well and adds a delicious sweetness to the oats. This sauce could be used for raw desserts also, the combination of caramel and chocolate is an absolute winner!

Lets get into the recipe and I hope you enjoy 🙂

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the Porridge:

  • 3/4 cup Oats
  • 1/2 Banana
  • 1 Pear – peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tbsp. Chia Seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp. Raw Cacao
  • 2 tbsp. Frozen Raspberries
For the Caramel Sauce:
  • 3-4 Dates
  • 1 level tbsp. Tahini
  • 3 tbsp. Boiled Water

METHOD:

  1. Mash the banana and then put all the porridge ingredients into a sauce pan with boiling water and cook over a low heat.
  2. Whilst this is cooking chop the dates and put the caramel sauce ingredients into a small frying pan.
  3. Mash together the dates, tahini and water with a fork over the lowest heat, until well combined.
  4. Once the caramel is all ready (approx. 1 minute), turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Continue to cook the oats until ready, then top off the oats with the sauce.
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Cashew Cream

Cashew Cream

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Hello Hello 🙂

I’ve been making batches of raw vegan carrot cake cupcakes recently because it is just what I fancied and sometimes I fancy something sweet but not chocolate? For the cream topping I used this recipe and it is so delicious and moreish!

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Cashew nuts are one of the most versatile wonder foods of a vegan diet and I absolutely love them. Cashew nuts have a softer texture than most nuts and a slightly sweet taste which make them perfect for creating healthy alternatives to your non-vegan foods. My favourite uses for them are most definitely raw vegan cheesecake, cheese pasta sauce (i.e. alfredo, mac and cheese) and cashew cream. But also you could try cashew milk, blended in creamy soups and vegan cheese.

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Try this recipe as not only a cake frosting but also with fresh fruits (strawberries and cream! Yum.), filled into dates or even spooned onto your morning oats too.

It’s sweet and creamy and you will most definitely be tempted to eat it with a spoon too! So lets get into the recipe so you can enjoy it too !!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Cup Cashews (soaked either overnight or 6-8 hours)
  • 3 Soft Sticky Dates
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 Cup Coconut water

METHOD:

  1. Soak cashews in water either overnight or 6-8 hours.
  2. Once soaked, drain off all water from cashews.
  3. Add cashews into a high speed blender or food processor with dates, fresh lemon juice and coconut water.
  4. Blend until smooth creamy consistency.

Eat however you choose!

Store in the fridge.

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Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

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With the grey and wet weather we have been having the past few days I thought it would be appropriate to share a warming, creamy sweet potato soup recipe with you all, because lets be honest, days like these just call for a big bowl of hot soup and chunky freshly baked bread.

Soup is such a simple food but so satisfying. It is also one of the easiest foods to make out there, is perfect for getting in lots of veggies and is also great for  putting into a flask and taking out with you on outdoor adventures, to work, to school, or wherever you may be going.

The recipe is a simple and satisfying but if you want to bulk it up a bit without adding bread, why not try adding in some extra cooked veggies or beans for added texture and protein. Rice in soup is also an awesome combo if you ever fancy trying that 😉

Enjoy however you like, go crazy, and let’s get into that recipe 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 3 medium carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 200ml can of coconut milk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp rice vinegar
  • 1tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 1tbsp tomato purée
  • salt & pepper

METHOD:

  1. Dice celery, garlic and onion and then sauté in large pan
  2. After 3-5 minutes add in chopped and peeled carrots, sweet potato, smoked paprika, rice vinegar and mixed herbs, stirring all together
  3. Allow these all to cook for a couple of minutes before adding in tomato purée, coconut milk and boiling water (enough to cover and cook the vegetables).
  4. Allow to cook for about 30 minutes, until carrots and sweet potato are soft.
  5. Once cooked blend all together to make a soup, add in salt and pepper to taste. (if soup is too thick for you, here’s the time to top up with some boiling water, if desired).
  6. Enjoy 🙂

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