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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!

Finding happiness with food

Finding happiness with food

Finding happiness with food.

There have been times in the past year (well, 2016 until now) that I have just sat back and realised how far I have come.

As you all may know, 7 years ago almost to the day, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. The whole ordeal was a nightmare and I really was at rock bottom. Depressed, malnourished and my body giving up on me, I didn’t know what the future had in store for me.

Time passed and although the physical effects of the Anorexia had gone, the mental effects lasted around 5 years. I had to retrain myself to eat normally and not to be afraid of food. Not to be obsessing over what I’m eating or feeling extremely anxious in public environments where food was present; it was painful.

After spending days, months and years researching nutrition to the fullest I could, it wasn’t until I found veganism that I noticed changes. I knew that eating a plant based diet I could eat healthy nutritious food and it was giving my body goodness. I was able to eat and thrive. I could eat food in abundance and not worry if it was going to make me sick, if I was going to binge and purge, along with all the other mental and physical issues it would result in.

18 months into eating a plant based diet I am not only thriving physically and mentally but I am finally at peace with food. I am able to sit in social environments and feel comfortable. I am happy with my body because I know I am healthy. I don’t care that I have fat on me because I know I am healthy.

I enjoy the occasional sweet treat and that is fine. The fact I can eat a cake (albeit vegan) and not feel guilty or binge out because “I’ve blown being good” is something I never thought would ever happen. I can sit in a room of people all eating cake and not stare at it thinking “should I have some or shall I be good?”. These things that some people may think are normal or little things feel like a miracle to me!

For years I spent my time obsessing over the food I put in my mouth. Worrying over what I was eating and constantly questioning what to eat, how much to eat, if I should eat it or not. Now however, these questions are not there. I eat three main meals a day, I eat what I like and all guilt has disappeared. I snack on healthy foods but these foods I enjoy.

I enjoy eating healthy. I don’t miss dairy or meat because they don’t make me happy. When I think of meat and dairy I don’t get the excitement that other people may get. This may be because of my eating disorder background but that’s ok. I do what I do for me because it makes me feel good.

Not everyone understands what I do but that is fine. I am happy and I am content. I’ve finally found peace with food and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Now I just want to share the amazing benefits of a plant based diet and encourage everyone to just try and eat better so that they can find peace too.

Whatever makes you happy is what you should do. No one has the right to tell you otherwise because it’s only you who has the power over your actions.

Thank you for listening to me and I hope this gives you more of an insight into why it is I am so passionate about this subject.

 

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!

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Egg Replacements

Vegan Egg Replacements

As you transition into a vegan/ plant-based diet there will be obstacles you’ll come across which can leave you stuck. As I speak to more and more people about problems they’re coming across I have found that for some people giving up eggs is difficult. Eggs are a quick meal and high in protein which is good for filling you up. However, eggs contain high levels of cholesterol and zero fibre. Research into eggs have even compared eating eggs as bad a smoking cigarettes due to the plaque build up in arteries they produce.

Unfortunately, in the food industry there isn’t much on the market that can replicate the taste of egg. Fried eggs and poached eggs simply can not be replaced at present, however scrambled eggs and omelette have a similar plant-based alternative. As for baking, this is an easy transition that won’t effect your bakes.

 

For cooking

Tofu.

The stereotypical “vegan food”. Tofu is the closest and cheapest you can get to scrambled eggs or an eggy taste and texture.

To scramble simply mash the tofu in a pan and cook with soy sauce to bring out the flavour. You can also add in: spices, turmeric for colour, spring onion, tomatoes, mushrooms etc. Cook as you would normally do your scramble.

To note: tofu comes in a packet of water which needs to be drained and rinsed off. For cubing tofu you need to pat dry the tofu and dry it out; instructions will be on packet.

Tofu is great when cubed and put into main meals but for this you need a firm tofu as typical tofu crumbles easily (better for scramble) You can buy tofu pre-marinated if this is an easier option for you.

VeganEgg.

Personally I have never tried this and it’s not something that appeals to me. However I have known people to use it and opinion varies. VeganEgg can be used for omelettes and scrambled egg and it tries to replicate the taste of real eggs.

The downsides to this product are:

1. It it is very expensive for the amount of product that you get. Online it will cost you around £7 plus delivery!
3. It is hard to come across unless you purchase online. However it is sold in SOME health food stores.
4. It is an egg replacer meaning they have tried to replicate the taste and texture the best they can, consequently the ingredients reflect that.

The plus side of this product is that you get a close replication of egg and the most similar you’ll possibly find. It all depends on how much you miss real eggs and if you’re able to go without them.

For baking.

Banana

Simply use 1 banana to replace 1 egg. Mash into your baked goods and pancakes too!

Flaxegg and Chiaegg

Flaxmeal

As a binder for baked goods flaxsmeal is brilliant. Combine 1 part flaxmeal to 3 parts water. 1 tbsp flaxmeal + 3 tbsp water equivocates to 1 egg. Combine and wait ten minutes for the mixture to go gooey, then use as you would egg.

Chia seeds

Exactly as above. 1 part chia to 3 parts water. 1tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water = 1 egg. Leave to get sticky for approximately 10 minutes.

This should hopefully make your life easier as you transition to a vegan / plant-based lifestyle. The more you research into the egg industry and the health consequences, it should be enough to cut them out of you diet. I ate eggs on a regular basis before going vegan and although I missed their convenience initially I could never eat them again knowing what I know now. I really hope this helps you out and if you’re still sceptical then just research, research, research. The more you know the better you’ll feel.

 

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.

 

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

What’s all the fuss about Vitamin D?

We have all heard about the importance Vitamin D but how much do we really know?

As the cold, dark nights set in here in the UK it is a known fact that with that comes a dip in our overall mood. This dip in our mood is largely influenced by lack of sunlight. Lack of sunlight disrupts our bodies internal clock, reduces serotonin productivity and production of melatonin. These disruptions cause feelings of depression, increased tiredness, affected sleep pattern and appetite.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a vitamin which regulates the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. It helps maintain a strong immune system, supports our mood and keeps bones, teeth and muscles healthy.

Where can we find it?

Unfortunately, unlike other Vitamins, Vitamin D is only available to us 10% by diet. The further 90% of our Vitamin D comes from UVB rays, which during winter time is virtually impossible to achieve. Even during our Sumer months, with the use of sun cream restricting the amount of UVB we absorb and time spent indoors, it isn’t always achievable to reach our optimal levels.

Supplementation.

Due to the population only getting 10% of Vitamin D from their diet and 90% through direct sunlight, supplementation is strongly advised by Health Experts to achieve optimal levels. Public Health England recommends taking a supplementation during Autumn and Winter months of 10mcg. For those who spend a lot of time indoors throughout the year, it is advisable that these individuals supplement throughout the year, also with a daily 10mcg supplement.

Types of Supplementation.

Supplements are available by either a Vitamin D3 pill or an Oral Spray. Vitamin D is a fat soluble Vitamin therefore an Oral Spray is a preferred method as it absorbed directly into the blood stream via the inner cheek. This quick absorption means your body is able to benefit from it sooner.

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Vitamin D supplementation is just one way you can stay healthy this Winter. An active lifestyle, stress management and adequate nutrition are all other ways you can stay healthy this Winter, and all year around.

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Vegan food sources for Vitamin D include:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Plant based milks (look for added Vitamin D)
  • Soy products (yoghurts, drinks)
  • Some mushroom varieties

But remember, only 10% comes from food so supplementing is still crucial! Focus also on getting enough calcium rich food in your diet to aid in bone health.

How chocolate is made: Amazon Rainforest

How chocolate is made: Amazon Rainforest

 

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Hello you beautiful people !!

I have just returned from four days in the Amazon Rainforest and I had such an amazing time. During my time exploring the jungle I was fortunate enough to learn all about one of my favourite foods ever, cacao. It grows wild here in the Amazon and everywhere I walked I stumbled across it; heaven. To be honest, before entering the Amazon I couldn’t have told you what cacao looked like before being crushed into a powder or nib but now I can.

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I have spoken about it before but in case you didn’t know, it is one of the best sources of vitamin C you can get and contains the highest amount of Antioxidants than any other food! They also contain the highest natural source of magnesium, zinc, copper and iron, all of which are essential for a healthy metabolism.

I wanted to share the process of making the chocolate with you because I thought it was pretty amazing and I think you’ll like it too, so let’s get into the process.

Firstly, did you know there are actually three types of cacao plant? They come in three varying colours: red (can turn deep purple also), yellow and orange. Before they ripen they are green in colour; colourful plants hey?

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Inside the cacao plant sit the beans in their pod, encased with a white soft and sweet coating. You can suck on the beans and eat the gooey coating, it’s delicious, but do not bite as you will bite into the raw bean and it will be extremely bitter.

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The seeds are dried in the sand and stored there for a few days to dry and become the beans you see below.

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They are the dry fried on a hot heat for about 3-5 minutes to cook; they make a popping sound as they cook.

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After the cooking process the bean is separated from a very thin shell and set aside; the chickens peck away at the shells so there is no waste, ha ha! This is where cacao nibs would be made as the beans easily crush under little pressure between your fingers making nibs. I ate so many beans whilst helping de-shell them as I kept crushing them too hard and I didn’t want to waste the bean did I? They were warm, crunchy, light and rich in taste. So delicious.

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Next, the de-shelled, toasted beans are put into a grinder which heats the beans whilst grinding them and forms a warm chocolate paste. Here you could stop the process, leave this to dry and that is how cacao powder is made, however I will continue with the process into making the chocolate.

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Once all the beans are ground, the warm paste that’s produced is added back into the pan on the heat and this is when you will add cocoa butter, milk of choice, sugars and flavourings etc. Bubble away and a thick creamy chocolate is produced. Dip away, leave to cool and solidify or make a hot chocolate drink. Absolute dream.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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Cacao, you rock my socks. I continue to be fascinated, obsessed and in awe of you. My favourite superfood ever: Cacao.

I also just want to add that after taking part in the making of this chocolate and witnessing the process that goes into the making of it, I can fully appreciate why organic, fair trade, high cacao content chocolate is that extra bit pricey. It’s all made by hand, locally produced, no additives or junk added in and it’s made with knowledge, heart and passion of the Rainforest.

I will never question the cost of great chocolate ever again.

I hope you enjoyed 🙂

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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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