Five Items That All Vegans Need In their Food Cupboard

When you first start looking into living a plant based lifestyle some of the ingredients can seem a bit daunting but you’ll soon see that the same things come up again and again. These are my top five things you need in your cupboard.

  1. Nutrional Yeast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this stuff is amazing. Packed through of goodness it can add a cheesy hint to any meal and when a dish just feels like  ‘there’s something missing’ nine times out of ten, it’s this bad boy! I really don’t know why it’s not out there on everyone’s table, whether you’re vegan or not, right next to the salt and pepper!
  2. Liquid smoke. When I first heard of liquid smoke in a recipe I thought it must be some fancy pantsy ingredient. In reality it’s a liquid bbq sauce which can give your food a smoky, meaty taste. Great for marinades and chillis, or for making the amazing rice paper bacon. 
  3. Chick peas. Everyone knows how great chickpeas are in curries, soups, and blended as hummous, but did you know if you whisk the water from the can it can replace egg whites in cooking? Pretty neat! Called Aquafaba you can use it to make meringues, sauces and it’ll even give your chocolate mousse bubbles! 
  4. Black salt. This was a total revelation to me as I love a boiled egg. When I went vegan I was surprised that I wasn’t all that bothered about cheese or chocolate but I did get a craving for an egg. Black salt tastes exactly like boiled egg, I was stunned when I tasted it. I ate it with avocado, portebello mushroom and Violife creamy and it blew my mind. You can buy this from Indian Supermarkets and you can get it ground or whole, I bought ground for ease.
  5. Cashew nuts. Though all nuts will provide you with protein and can bulk up your power balls it’s the cashew nut which is going to make your cabanara sauces creamy and give you the right consistency in your cheese cake. So simple to use, just soak then blend, cashews are the base for many recipes for homemade cheese.

So there you have it, not a comprehensive list by any stretch of the imagination but a pretty good start! 

Advertisements

Scarily Good Vegan Mushroom Stroganoff 

So this is a super quick post but I just had to share the recipe for the vegan mushroom stroganoff I just made. It was really tasty and so quick! 

Ingredients 

2 tablespoons Olive Oil

2 cloves of garlic

paprika

1 finely chopped onion

1 packet of shiitake mushrooms (if not available use any mushrooms)

1/2 packet of white mushrooms

1/2 a veggie stock cube

1 teaspoon of Bisto granules 

1 dash of soy sauce

3 tablespoons of soya cream

10 chopped black olives

Rice to serve

Method

Fry onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft.

Chop then add mushrooms and fry with paprika for 5 minutes on a high heat.

 
Add stock cube, gravy and soy sauce to 50ml of boiling water, stir until dissolved then add to pan. 

  
Heat until desired consistency

Take off heat and add soya cream and olives

  
Stir until thourghly mixed

 
Serve with rice. 

 

As you can probably see I actually served it with vegan gnocchi this evening because I couldn’t be bothered to wait for rice to cook, this was amazing but traditionally it’s served with rice. 

Ten Tips for Newbie Vegans

I have failed at being vegan or veggie more  times than I can shake a stick at. It’s taken me over 28 years to find a balance that suits me, and to find a way to make it work where I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Some people can just go cold turkey overnight but most people might have a few false starts before getting into the groove. Whether you are wanting to go full vegan, veggie, thinking about cutting down on animal products, or are just curious about the lifestyle, well done, every little helps.

Here is a list of life-hacks that might make the transition run smoothly for you 🙂

  1. Buy a slow cooker. I am not able to emphasis this point enough, this will make so much difference to your life and your efforts. When you come home tired after a day at work this is when you’re most likely to get a takeaway, or find yourself with your head in the cheese fridge at the co-op, if you know you have a hot, delicious tasty meal waiting for you this is much less likely to happen. I’m a great believer in making your life easy for yourself, the easier you can make being vegan the more likely you are to stick with it. There are many tasty, quick and healthy dishes that you can whip up in your slow cooker so you’ll never have to worry about dinner again.
  2. Superdrug’s own brand is cruelty free and mostly vegan. One thing that put me into overwhelm when I first started thinking about being vegan was cosmetics and bathroom items. I knew I didn’t want to use products that tested on animals but the deeper you dug the more difficult it seemed to be to avoid this. You can buy specialist products but they seemed to come with a hefty price tag, and it meant buying all my products from different places. Then I found out about Superdrug and it made my life so much easier. Toothpaste, mouthwash, hair dye, baby-wipes, body lotion, everything you can think of, all at reasonable prices, all with the bunny logo and clearly marked if vegan. They even do their own make up range, which is surprisingly good.
  3. Know what’s important to you. Being honest with yourself will go a long way. About 2 years ago I decided that I wanted to stop using any cosmetics that were tested on animals and this included hair products. I bought a shampoo and conditioner from Holland and Barretts and threw out all my expensive hair products. I went completely cold turkey and my hair went frizzy and dry, I saw a picture of myself and it really upset me. I didn’t want it to, I wanted to be above such shallow things but I hated my hair being in (what I thought to be) bad condition so much that it drove me straight back to my Loreal Professional shampoo. This time I did a bit of research and found Paul Mitchell, his salon range of hair care is not only completely cruelty free but also mostly vegan too. It’s more expensive than the Holland and Barrett stuff but I think it’s more than worth it as I will stick with it. Your thing might not be your hair, it might be burgers or beautiful shoes, whatever it is you need to do your research and get a viable alternative that will make you happy.
  4. Meat/dairy substituts are not substitutes they are replacements. Vegan cheese does not taste like cheese, sorry but it just doesn’t. That doesn’t mean it’s not nice, I love violife, but if you go into this thinking its going to be as good as cheese then you’re going to be disappointed, it’s not. Same with vegan meat, they are nice in their own right but the are not the same. Learn to love them for what they are and become excited about expanding your meal repertoire rather than just repeating what you ate before but with ‘substitutes’.
  5. Nutritional Yeast. Called ‘Nooch’ in the vegan community this is a yeast that has a vaguely cheesy flavour and adds a savoury kick to dishes. Buy it, sprinkle it on everything, love it.
  6. Get a good supplement. For one of my attempts at veganism I was living on a tiny boat in Brighton Marina, in October. Saying it was cold and damp is an understatement, I had nowhere to dry clothes and as a poor student I was trying to save money by cycling everywhere and would often get caught in the rain on the cycle home along the beach. I couldn’t afford to eat out and I only had a one ring gas burner and a microwave to cook my meals on, which meant that I basically lived off lentil soup and tomato pasta. Low and behold I became quite poorly. I got coldsores around my mouth and a cough that I couldn’t shake. For years I equated ‘being vegan’ with ‘being poorly’, looking back now I can see clearly that my predicament had much less to do with being vegan and much more to do with being a wally. However this time I was taking no chances and got a good quality supplement from Holland and Barretts which I take every day. The vegan diet does not supply vitamin B12 and can lack vitamin D too, this means its very sensible to top up your supplies with a supplement to stop you feeling lethargic, as this is the quickest way to drive you back to animal products. This doesn’t mean a vegan diet is unhealthy though, studies show time and time again that as long as you get your vitamin B12 from somewhere veganism is the healthiest diet out there. There’s also lots of evidence to say that even if you eat meat and dairy you should top up vitamins B12 and D with supplements anyway.
  7. Don’t do it to lose weight. If losing weight is your primary goal then chances are you’ll fail. I am EXACTLY the same weight as I was when I ate meat, my husband has lost a few pounds but that is mostly down with him not being able to eat cakes at work anymore. I have even found that I eat MORE cake as I now feel that if there’s a vegan cake available I have to take one for the team.
  8. Be clear in your mind about why you don’t want to eat meat or dairy anymore.
    I had an epiphany one day when teaching a pregnancy yoga class about the role of oxytocin in birth and breastfeeding that made me never ever want to eat dairy again. I was talking about how oxytocin is the love hormone and how it is one of the major factors in bringing the mothers milk in. That the bond that Mothers have with their babies literally stimulates the breasts to produce milk, that without it the mother can’t produce milk and if the oxytocin is disrupted then this can upset the milk supply. I was showing techniques that new mothers can do to stimulate oxytocin flow themselves, such as skin on skin contact with baby and nuzzling. I’d said these things a millions times before but for some reason I just suddenly thought about cows. It’s the cows love for their babies that enable the milk to be produced, they don’t just create milk on their own they have to have been pregnant, then have a baby that they bond with. The baby is then taken away from the cow sometimes as soon as two hours after birth, and the cows have been known to bellow and cry for their babies for weeks after. I don’t believe that animals love their babies any less than we do, they are mammals and its exactly the same hormones, doing the exact same biological functions.
    From having that thought I can’t look at dairy in the same way, when someone says ‘but do you not miss blue cheese’,  the answer is yes on one level but an a much more overwhelming level I do not have a desire to eat cow grief, which is how I now see it.Your reasons will not be the same as mine, and thats totally cool, but the clearer you are in your head as to exactly why you want to be vegan or cut down on meat, the easier it’ll be.
  9. Get used to tuning people out. EVERYBODY will have an opinion on your new diet, everybody. Suddenly people who have never ever shown an interest in how much protein you eat will be overcome with concern that you’re not getting enough. People will assume that your diet is somehow a judgement on them and feel they need to justify themselves. This will happen all the time and you can’t stop it, just learn to smile and nod and tune them out. Also arm yourself with some awesome facts relating to whatever your reason for being vegan is so that if you have had enough tuning out you can stand your ground.
  10. Find a support network, whether its a friend, a partner or a group online life is so much easier when you can take a photo of your nooch covered baked potato and send it to someone who cares. The vegan online community is very friendly (much friendlier than The Archers Fanpages, my god those places are vicious!) I suggest the What Fat Vegans Eat page for lots of recipe tips and general support.

Finally don’t expect to be perfect all the time, there’s no vegan police that are going to put you in vegan jail if you accidentally (or even not so accidentally) eat something with animal products in, just do your best and know that there’s lots of people out there going through the same thing as you.

Does anyone have any to add to the list?

Love Lula April 2016 Unboxing

Is there anything better than a beauty box? I think not. It’s like a little mini Christmas every month, but a Christmas where you only get presents that you’ve for bought yourself, and you don’t get to eat any food. 

Over the years I’ve had Glossybox  and Birchbox, I loved Birchbox but when I decided to go cruelty free with my products I had to find an alternative. In stepped Love Lula, for only £12.50 a month including postage you get at least 5 cruelty free products straight to your door. Their ethics are great and they have a very clear manifesto which they print on their boxes.

  
A couple of points about the box itself. It’s very basic but it’s  actually nice to have a bit less packaging after getting spoiled with the Glossybox and Birchbox whose boxes were ‘too lovely to throw away’.  I felt I had to keep the boxes until my cupboards were rammed full of boxes that I’ll probably never use but felt too guilty to throw away. At least with these boxes you can just throw them in the recycling with no guilt. 

The Love Lula boxes are too big to fit through the letterbox so if you are not able to be in for delivery it might be worth getting it delivered to your work address. Also be careful that you look through all the packaging before throwing it away, it didn’t happen this month but in the past I’ve almost thrown away little samples as they’ve got lost in shredded paper, I think it would be nice to have a product list in the box  so you can see that you have everything and see how to use each product. 

So this is what I got this month 

 

First impressions is that the samples are of very generous sizes and of high quality. There are two brands that are the same as in last months box, but they are good brands and they are different products so that’s not too much of an issue. There is also 3 facial moisturisers in the box and I only have one face so I’ll not need to buy a moisturiser for a really long time!  

First product I used was  

 
This was one of the brands that was in last months box and I’ve been using the matching cleanser all month which I really like so I was thrilled to see this in this months box. 

This is a very light moisturiser that manages to also feel creamy. It absorbs into the skin straight away and leaves no greasy residue. It would be a lovely daytime cream to wear under make up but it couldn’t replace a night time cream.

  
I have very sensitive eyes so usually stay away from eye cream but I gave this a go and was pleasantly surprised. It has a serumy consistency and is a little on the watery side, this means you only need a teeny tiny amount. It says on the box to use it morning and evening but I think it’s a bit sticky to use in the morning.  The biggest bonus of this product though was that it didn’t make my eyes sting or make my cheeks go puffy which most eye creams do.

  
Again this is another light moisturiser but I found this one packed more punch than the Skin Blossom cream. This is slightly more oily and I would be happy to use this either in the morning or the evening, this cream has a faint flowery scent and you do not need to use very much to cover the face and neck. 

  
This is another duplicate brand from last months box and we actually got the same set of products but from a different range. Last month it was the ‘radiance’ range rather than the ‘purifying’ range. This range actually suits my skin type better so I was happy to try these. 

The facial wash had a strong scent and you have to be careful not to get it into the eyes as the eucalyptus is an irritant. It tightened my pores almost immediately and left my skin feeling very clean. It’s slightly too harsh for my skin but if you were very oily it might suit you better.

  

I loved this product. I have been trying to find a face polish that doesn’t use micro beads but haven’t been able to find one I like, this is definitely a contender. Whatever they use as the exfoliant is gentle and doesn’t feel like it’s scraping the skin but it also feels like it’s getting deep into the pores. I will be purchasing this product once the sample runs out.

  
This was my least favourite product in the box, I found the scent too strong and it didn’t hydrate my skin enough, I also felt it left a sticky residue. 

All in all I am very happy with this months box. I am however cancelling my subscription as they are unable to ensure that all future boxes will be vegan (I checked with them beforehand and they ensured me that Aprils was).

I also feel that this box is a bit of a victim of its own success, because the product sizes are so generous I don’t feel like I need one every month. Maybe if they added lifestyle items or make up to the box it would make getting a box every month worthwhile. Like I say, I probably got about 6 months worth of facial moisturiser in this box alone so I am going to stop this box. This is not a reflection on how lovely the box is though, it is very good value for money and a delightful treat. 

Next month I’m going to be trying the ‘Vegan Kind’ box, so look out for my Unboxing of that at the beginning of May.

Do you get a lifestyle or beauty box? What’s your favourite? 

Easy, Slow Cooked Silken Tofu, Chicory and Coconut Chowder

I gave this to my husband for the first time last night and when I asked if he liked it he said, ‘but we eat this all the time!’ I’m taking that as a success because I did use to make fish chowder all the time, and it means he can’t tell the difference! 

This is such an easy recipe and is a great way to start getting used to working with silken tofu which can be pretty intimidating if you’ve never used it before. 

Ingredients 

300g of organic silken tofu 

25g of creamed coconut

1 head of chicory

1 carrot

1 leek

2 medium potatoes 

Half a small head of cauliflower

As much frozen sweet corn as you like

Boiling water to cover

1 onion

1 bay leaf

1 veggie stock cube 

To serve (optional but recommended)

1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast.

1 teaspoon of vegan spread (I have a soya one but any will do) 

Method 

Drain then hand blend the tofu until smooth don’t worry if it all falls apart in your hands when taking it out of the packet, that’s ok it’s going to be blended anyway. 

Chop up vegetables to desired size but keep them uniform so they cook evenly ( I prefer smaller chunks in chowder)

Add all ingredients (except the ones to serve) to the slow cooker and cover with boiling water, stir ingredients until evenly distributed in slow cooker.

Turn on slow cooker and cook for about 6 hours or until  vegetables are soft but not mushy. (Different slow cookers have different strengths, I have a crock pot and I need to put this recipe on high but that’s because my slow cooker is old and I use it all the time. If your slow cooker is new you might prefer to put it on low)

 Serve in bowls with nutrional yeast and vegan spread. 
Yummy!!
 

Cheatin Bacon – Review

It’s a cliche for a reason, bacon is  my weakness. Many a spell of being vegan or veggie in the past have ended with me biting into a hot bacon roll, it’s so predictable that it’s sad.

I was brought up veggie so I am familiar with bacon substitutes, the fake bacon of my childhood still makes me gag thinking about it. Thick cut, beany, with a fake smoky plasticy taste, like someone left a bacon flavoured crayon on a radiator. Vile, but that was 20 years ago so you’d hope that the world of bacon substitutes would have moved on somewhat since then.

With most substitutes I find that they work better if you don’t expect them to taste like the original, you need to judge them in the their own right. I think of them as things that can be eaten in place of, rather than things that taste like. So with this in mind I went looking for something I could happily eat hungover and with loads of ketchup.

I bought my Cheatin Bacon from the Honeytree on Heaton Road  


I love this shop, and it’s so handy for me being just down the road. 

In order to test the Cheatin Bacon I decided to a traditional, no frills, bacon sarnie.

 
The bacon was easy to cook, you just fry each side for a minute and a half, I used the pure soya spread as oil because I’m lazy and I already had it out of the fridge. I only used half a teaspoon as I don’t like greasy bacon anyway. 

  
When it was cooked I piled it on some bread that I had smothered in soya spread and tomato sauce, pretty standard sarnie craic.

   

The bacon was very pleasant, not the horror of veggie bacon past. It had a crunch to it and a faint ‘bacony’  taste. Certainly did the trick as a filling in a ketchup sandwich. 

Did it taste like bacon? No, not at all, and I wasn’t really expecting it to but it was nice in its own right.

Would I buy it again? Definitely.

Marks out of ten. 7/10