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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!

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!

Vegan “Mac and Cheese”

Vegan “Mac and Cheese”

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Here is a healthy take on a Mac and Cheese Recipe which is easy to make, versatile and satisfying.

Coconut milk is a great substitute from cows milk and is super high in fibre, B vitamins, vitamin C, iron, calcium and magnesium. Not to be confused with coconut water! Coconut water is fresh from a coconut itself and is clear in colour. Coconut milk, which here in the UK comes in a can, undergoes a straining process and is white in colour and much thicker and creamier. Great for using in curries and soup to give a creamy consistency.

Lets get into the recipe (serves 2 – large portions):

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Butternut Squash
  • 200g Coconut Milk (canned, full-fat type)
  • 1/2 Vegetable Stock Cube
  • 1 tsp English Mustard
  • 2 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon (optional)
  • Ground Pepper (to your taste – I like lots!)
  • 300g Pasta of your choice

METHOD:

  1. Start by slicing the Butternut Squash into two halves, deseed and place face down on a baking tray with a little water (approx. 100ml)
  2. Bake in the oven on Gas 6 for 1 hour
  3. Once cooked take out Butternut Squash and set aside while you cook your pasta
  4. Cook pasta for 10 minutes (or as packet instructions suggest) and while cooking you can scoop the flesh from the Butternut Squash and add it into a blender with the stock cube, balsamic vinegar, mustard, garlic, pepper and lemon.
  5. Once pasta is cooked, drain pasta and return to the pan with the “cheese” sauce you’ve just blended up and cook for a further 5 minutes or so until it heats back up and gets creamy.
  6. Season to your taste and serve with vegetables or whatever you fancy 🙂

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10 minute Vegetable Pasta

10 minute Vegetable Pasta

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This dish is perfect for when you have no fresh food in the house but still want a healthy and filling meal. It’s easy to make and is cooked start to finish in just 10 minutes. Minimal effort required and minimal washing up too.

Many people say that they don’t have time for cooking healthy meals but this simple recipe shows that you can have healthy quick food that requires no fuss at all. You can also use the base of this recipe as a pasta sauce for any future meals and just add different vegetables into it and/ or beans, lentils etc to make a variation of the dish.

Most jarred sauces contain added sugars, oils, salt and preservatives which just aren’t necessary for your body. Making sauces yourself is so much cheaper, more delicious and a lot healthier too. Get creative and step away from them jars !!

Also, did you know that frozen vegetables are frozen within hours of being picked? This means that they can contain more nutrients than when we buy our vegetables “fresh” from the supermarket. When we buy fresh vegetables from supermarkets they may have taken up to a month before they arrived on the shelf and then days before you’ve bought and eaten them! This means that in that time they’ve slowly deteriorated and lost some of the vitamins and antioxidents they had at the time of picking. The point is, frozen veg isn’t as bad as some people may think and it can be healthier too.

So let’s get into the recipe and I hope you enjoy!

(Makes 1 portion)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 150g Pasta (Any pasta you like, linguine and fettuccine is my fav!)
  • 280g Passata
  • 1/2 tsp Tahini
  • 1 tsp Dried Coriander (can substitute for favourite herb/s)
  • 1 tsp Garlic
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Tamari (can substitute for Soy Sauce)
  • 1/4 Red Onion
  • 1/2 Lemon
  • 1 + 1/2 Cups Frozen Mixed Vegetables

Optional extras:

  • Chilli powder
  • Pine nuts and Seeds sprinkled on top
  • Nutritional Yeast – cheesy flavour and vitamin B12

METHOD:

  1. Add ALL ingredients into a pan (no oil needed) and simmer for ten minutes
  2. At the same time cook your pasta. Both will be cooked in 10 minutes.
  3. DONE ! 😀
3 ingredient pancakes

3 ingredient pancakes

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” I couldn’t live without chocolate ” – no me neither !! 😄 Eating plant based does not mean you can’t have chocolate ! This lifestyle allows you to be flexible and find healthier alternatives so that you can still indulge but in a healthy and happy way.

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Pancake day is quickly arriving so I thought I would share a really simple, 3 ingredient recipe for you all to try ! It’s healthy and delicious so what more could you ask for ?! Add fresh fruits, lemon, maple syrup, anything you like to it to make it your own. I’ve made a warm chocolate sauce for mine 😍 Serious indulgence !! These will keep you full for ages, I promise !!

lets get into the recipe 😉

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups of oats
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup dairy free milk (I used coconut by Rude Health)
  • dash of cinnamon

Chocolate sauce:

  • 4 soft pitted dates
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao
  • hot water to desired consistency (you won’t need a lot)

METHOD:

  1. blend together oats, banana and milk
  2. pour into skillet making small circles
  3. patiently wait until they’re ready to flip over, roughly 2-3 minutes each side
  4. stack on top of each other on a plate
  5. then create/ chose toppings !!

if making chocolate sauce:

  1. blend together dates, cacao and water (hot or cold, up to you)
  2. pour over stack of pancakes 😍

ENJOY !!!

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Jamie’s Italian

Jamie’s Italian

A chain that offers a variety of vegan food, say whaaat!? Dining out as a vegan is sometimes difficult and you may end up eating something really boring so that you can be catered for; and that’s no fun, especially when you’re paying probably quite a lot for it too.

This weekend I went to Jamie’s Italian, I always check menus before hand, and saw that he had more than one vegan option. I was pretty happy. It’s also great because if you’re with non-vegan friends then you don’t want to keep dragging them to vegan restaurants all the time so having variety here is fantastic!

I had the vegan bread board to start and then a baked aubergine dish, which both were so delicious I was pretty happy! It’s clearly stated on the menu what is vegan and what can be MADE vegan for you, so it’s a good shout if you’re ever out and see one. Keep it in mind that he caters for vegans and on a good level; Pasta dishes included too with a choice of regular size or large 😉

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