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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 🙂

 

 

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.

 

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!

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas

Top 5 Vegan Breakfast Ideas !

As a really young child I remember my Mum always saying to me, “Please Hannah, just eat a piece of fruit at least”. I guess this was engrained into me and now I would never leave the house without eating something.

My breakfasts tend to be sweet, fruity and nutrient packed. Here I share 5 great options which will appeal to everyone and anyone. Whether you have 5 minutes in the morning or 30, there is an option for you. Get creative and really try to introduce a meal to your morning, if you don’t already. For some people I know it is difficult but start off slowly and gradually you will be waking up ready for breakfast!

So why is breakfast so important?

Breakfast literally means “to break the fast”. Overnight  our bodies work hard to digest the food from the previous night. In the process of this our body uses it’s main source of fuel, carbohydrates. As a result, our glucose levels can be low when we wake. Glucose (also known as our blood sugars) is the fuel our bodies need to power our muscles and brain. When we eat breakfast this restores our glucose levels, kick starts our metabolism and re-fuels us for the morning ahead. Research suggests that skipping breakfast can result in our body tapping into our energy reserve; in extreme cases this includes energy that is stored in our muscles. All of this results in low energy and lack of concentration, commonly leading on to unhealthy food choices later in the day.

Have a look at some of the options below and I hope you start to love breakfasts like I do. If you do already then I hope this gives you a few more ideas!

Breakfast #1

Smoothies and Nicecream.

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Smoothies are fantastic for when you are in a hurry. They are incredibly satisfying, filling, delicious and transportable. Take them in the car with you, into work, on route to school. Whatever it may be, they are a quick and nutritionally packed breakfast. Simply blend together: liquid of choice (plant based milk, water, coconut water), greens (spinach or kale), a high energy fruit (banana or mango), soft sweet fruits (berries of any kind, pineapple, papaya, kiwi fruit) and an optional extra (protein powders, nuts and seeds). This combination of fruits, greens and healthy fats are a brilliant way to start the day, replenishing all your glycogen stores and more!

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Nicecream is similar to a smoothie but has the consistency of ice cream. These are amazing if you have more time in the morning as they take longer to consume. Simply blend up some frozen bananas with a little milk of choice, or wait for them to thaw for approx. 15minutes. Add into the blender variations of flavours such as:

  • vanilla
  • peanut butter / almond butter
  • soft fruit of choice: mango, kiwi, berries, papaya, passion fruit
  • healthy extras: super greens, hemp, maca, cacao, baobab

When blended into an ice-cream consistency, spoon into a bowl and top with crunchy topping (granola, chia seeds, goji berries, coconut, etc).

Breakfast #2

Oats.

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Oats are super versatile. What I love about them is that they are packed with fibre and keep you full for such a long period of  time. They are a low GI food meaning they release carbohydrates slowly into the body and help maintain glucose levels. You can make so many different variations so that you never get bored and they can be eaten hot or cold! That is correct, oats are great eaten cold and this means you can eat them on the go if you need to.

Some hot oat combinations could be:

  • banana, almond/ peanut butter, maple syrup, milk of choice
  • grated apple, raisins and cinnamon, milk of choice
  • berries, sweetener of choice, plant based milk

The recipes are endless and I’m sure each individual has their own personal favourites.

Eaten cold, soak oats overnight in plant based milk combined with your choice of extras: fresh berries, nut butter, apple, coconut, chia seeds, dried fruits, cinnamon, etc. For fresh fruits that brown, such as banana and apple, add these in the morning for optimal freshness.

Breakfast #3

Toast.

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Who doesn’t love toast? As long as you are eating a high fibre content bread and choosing healthy toppings, it is a great way to start your day. Opt for Rye, Wholegrain and Brown Sourdough for slow release carbohydrates and easy digestion. Toppings are endless but some easy, delicious ideas would be:

  • banana and nut butter (optional: coconut, chia seeds, cinnamon, berries)
  • avocado and tomato
  • nut butter and berries
  • tofu scramble (tofu cooked with tomatoes, greens, onion, soy sauce or spices)
  • baked beans
  • mushrooms
  • hummus and vegetable of choice: cucumber or tomato

 

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Breakfast #4

Pancakes.

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Slightly controversial as a “health food” but when made vegan these ARE healthy! The ingredients are the same as a bowl of porridge: oats, banana and plant based milk. This is a simple 3 ingredient recipe which can be varied adding in spices (cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg), flavourings (vanilla, almond, cacao, coconut), nuts, etc. But for simple recipe ideas follow: 1 cup oats, 1 banana, 1 cup plant based milk. Blend all in a blender and make into pancakes; its that simple. For a thicker style pancake add in 1 + 1/2 cups of oats instead. Top with fresh fruits, maple syrup, honey, nuts and seeds.

These are definitely a treat I would say, but they are an option for a special day, or weekend winner.

Breakfast #5

Cereals.

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If you are more of a cereal kind of person then cereal is an option. Make sure the cereal is as natural as possible, great ingredients, high in fibre and wholegrains, and as little refined sugar content as you can find. I personally don’t eat cereal but I know that many people do, and for some this is the only option suitable at present.

Shredded Wheat is a popular UK choice and as for ingredients it is pretty good. Try health food shops for natural cereals such as: muesli, popped quinoa, puffed rice etc. When topping your cereals opt for fresh berries, banana and a plant based milk.

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These are a variety of options for you all to try and enjoy. I hope this has given you ideas and options to try. Like I said, I know some people do struggle to get a meal down them in the morning but start slow. Smoothies are a fantastic idea as you can vary your quantities. If that isn’t for you, try with a piece of fruit or slice of toast and nut butter. You will build a habit and introduce your body to eating in the morning. Once you build up to a full meal you wont look back again. Your energy will be optimised, you will think clearer and you will kick start your metabolism for the entire day.

Don’t be afraid to eat breakfast. For all current breakfast lovers, I hope this has helped give you ideas too!

Until next time,

Have a great week!

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Foods that are surprisingly Vegan

Foods that are surprisingly Vegan

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If you are transitioning into Veganism, hello and welcome 🙂 I am here to try and help make the transition an easy one for you because it can be difficult at first and it doesn’t need to be!

Before turning fully vegan I had researched it on and off for about three years and ate a lot of vegan recipes so when I tried Veganuary I thought it would be a doddle; how wrong was I? I failed miserably (literally) and lasted just one day! I lasted just this one day because I really didn’t know what meals to eat each and every day and found that I was thinking way too much about it and stressed myself out. Not only that, I think I gave up so quickly because my heart wasn’t truly in it and I didn’t know the shocking facts behind the meat and dairy industry as well as the nutritional benefits of the lifestyle (videos I recommend: Cowspiracy, 101 Reasons to Go Vegan, Gary Yourofsky’s Best Speech You’ll Ever Hear. Books: Starch Solution).

So, my first piece of advice would be go and check out my blog post: Store Cupboard Essentials. This will give you an idea of all vegan products you can stock up on in your pantry and which are staples for this lifestyle. On top of that I recommend stocking up on lots of fruit and vegetables too. Fruits are great for quick grab and go food; fruits that last a longer period of time: apples, bananas, grapes and pears. Vegetables are great for bulking up a meal as well as providing lots of nutrition too of course.

Secondly, go check out: Tips for eating out as a Vegan. This page will give you ideas to make you less stressed when eating out as a vegan also.

Lastly, read this long list of foods that are surprisingly vegan. I do advise eating a whole foods plant-based diet for optimal health, however when transitioning this can be difficult so it’s good to know which foods are actually vegan to help you ease into it at your own pace.

Biscuits:

  • Rich tea biscuits
  • Ginger nuts
  • Bourbons (chocolate Bourbons, yes. They’re Vegan)
  • Oreo’s
  • Jammie Dodgers
  • Chocolate Chip Hobnobs (yes, really)
  • Crawford’s Pink Wafers
  • Lotus Original Caramelised biscuits
  • Fox’s Party Rings

Sweets:

  • Starburst
  • Millions
  • Cadbury Bournville Plain Chocolate
  • Green and Blacks – Dark Chocolate, Lemon, Mint, Espresso
  • Flying saucers

Crisps (lots are vegan so just check the packaging but to name a few):

  • Walkers: Prawn cocktail (yes), Ready Salted, Salt and Vinegar, Worchester Sauce
  • Doritos: Lightly salted, Chilli Heatwave
  • Pringles: Smokey Bacon (yes), Original, BBQ, Paprika
  • Skips: Prawn cocktail
  • McCoy’s: Ultimate Sizzling BBQ Chicken, Salt & Malt Vinegar, Ultimate Sea Salt & Black Pepper

Savoury biscuits:

  • Ritz: crackers
  • Nairns: rough oat cakes
  • Jacobs: cream crackers

Protein bars:

  • Cliff: Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, Chocolate Peanut Butter
  • Nākd bars
  • Trek: Peanut Power, Berry Burst, Original Oat Flapjack, Cocoa Chaos, Cocoa Coconut Flapjack
  • 9bar: Peanut

Plant based milks:

  • Almond
  • Hemp
  • Rice
  • Oat
  • Coconut

Cereals:

  • Shredded wheat
  • Cheerios
  • Frosties
  • Rice Krispies
  • Shreddies
  • Honey Monster Puffs
  • Coco Caramel Shreddies
  • Cocopops
  • Chocolate Chip Wheetabix
  • Chocolate Cheerios

Chocolate drinks:

  • Mars chocolate drink
  • Nesquik
  • Ovaltine

Spreads:

  • Jams
  • Nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter etc
  • Marmalades
  • Marmite (Great for B12!!)

Side note: Quorn is NOT VEGAN!! It contains Milk and Eggs.

This is just a list of a few I found through PETA and through general research.  I didn’t list the obvious items such as rice, beans, veggies etc because you can find that though my older posts but these are just a few for when you want something different. I hope this helps you out and if you have any other questions I can help with just ask me and I will do my best J Happy eating Vegan Lovelies!!

Eating Vegan on a budget

Eating Vegan on a budget

I think that there is a misconception that eating vegan is expensive because we eat so much fruit, which I do for sure, but it really isn’t expensive. Eating vegan may even save you money, it has for me and there are many tips and tricks to eating vegan on a budget that I am going to share here with you 🙂

Tips:

  • Buy in bulk: I always do a bulk shop, have my cupboards full and then just top up when I need to. buying odd bits here and there can be a lot more costly!
  • Shop online: I buy in bulk my “health foods” online at buywholefoodsonline.co.uk. They also have their store through Amazon so it’s worth a look, or just explore online and most things you will find a LOT cheaper than your conventional Health Food stores.
  • Shop at local farmers markets: I wish I could shop like this all the time but unfortunately I can’t. However if you are fortunate enough then this is a fantastic way to save money, support local farmers and eat organically too!
  • Shop at Lidl or Aldi: Lidl and Aldi are perfect for fresh fruits and vegetables and canned beans, lentils, chopped tomatoes and pasatta. They’re cheaper than the supermarkets and taste just as good as branded products too.
  • Buy cheaper fruits and vegetables: apples and bananas for example are a lot cheaper than papaya and mango. Carrots and potatoes are also cheaper than squashes and asparagus. They’re cheaper but also still greatly nutritious and delicious.
  • Buy frozen vegetables: these are frozen right at when they’re picked and the goodness is stored within the veg as it’s frozen so they’re actually more nutritious than that carrot that’s been sat in the fridge for 2 weeks. They’re also super quick and easy to cook with too which is also a favourite of mine!
  • Buy in season: fruit and vegetables in season are always super cheap compared to out of season fruits so buy these! In season nectarines will cost you 69p a punnet, out of season can cost you almost £4 a punnet; so stick to in season produce!
  • Buy own brands: staples such as rice, pasta and potatoes etc will taste just the same as over priced branded products so stick to the basics!
  • Buy dried herbs and spices: don’t spend lots of money on fresh ingredients if you can’t afford to. Staple spices and herbs are great for quick, easy and still delicious recipes.
  • Make a shopping list: I know it is easily done but walking nito the supermarket without a list means we usually end up going crazy and buy tons of food we do not need, so qrite a list before you go and stick to it.
  • Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry: Obvious one here but I have to say it. Going shopping when you’re hungry is a no no because we can to buy the whole store and spend way more than we need to. Eat first people 🙂
  • Freeze left overs or have them the next day: No one likes waste. Any leftovers save for the next day, put in a tuppawear, freeze them until a rainy day, or even if its a small amount of food that wont make a meal keep hold of it and add it into tomorrows meal. i.e. got a small amount of rice and beans left? Add it into tomorrows lunch or dinner.
Store cupboard essentials

Store cupboard essentials

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To lead a healthy lifestyle it is so important to keep your cupboards not only full of good food but full of good, quick and easy foods too. The reason I say this is because there is nothing worse than coming home absolutely starving marvin and only having foods in the cupboard that takes ages to make, i.e. brown rice (who feels me on that one? lol). Also, having full cupboards means that you have everything on hand, options are endless and you are going to eat great food. I buy all my “health” foods in bulk on Buywholefoodsonline (who have their store on Amazon also), then everything else from the supermarkets. These foods are ALWAYS in my cupboards and it might seem a lot to some people, I’m not sure, but for me they’re essentials and if you want to eat in abundance, with variety and flavour I recommend stocking up on these too 🙂 A boring diet isn’t fun so get creative.

Here is my list of store cupboard essentials:

  • Brown rice
  • Brown pasta
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Red lentils
  • Oats
  • Pasatta
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans
  • Tahini
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Chia seeds
  • Goji berries
  • Coconut flakes, desiccated coconut, coconut oil, coconut milk
  • Flaked almonds, whole almonds, walnuts
  • Tamari
  • Apple cigar vinegar and red wine vinegar (because I have vinegar with everything…)
  • Sesame seeds, linseed, flaxseed, pine nuts
  • Spices (paprika, smoked paprika, turmeric, cayenne chilli powder, cumin, cinnamon etc)
  • Hemp powder
  • 100% Maple Syrup
  • Raw Cacao and Cacao nibs
  • Brown rice flour

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