Review: 20+ Recipes To Become A Cruelty-Free Kitchen Badass, a new e-Cookbook by Plant Power Couple

 

You know what is a joy?

Writing a review of a friends’ e-Cookbook that you already know is tip-top quality from the outset.

Plant Power Couple’s Greatest Hits: 20+ Recipes To Become A Cruelty-Free Kitchen Badass is full of inspired veganised versions of traditional US favourites (T’s TVP Sloppy Joes, Red Lentil Cheez Fries to name but two); some Mexican (T’s Hearty Vegan Chili & Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Muffins, Jackfruit Carnitas); Italian (Creamy Mushroom Lasagne); and quite frankly I could eat the picture of their Thai-inspired Veggie Dumplings. There’s even a Seitan Bangers and Mash recipe that looks tastier than any B&M I’ve ever seen here in the UK (where it originated!), and some gorgeous desserts that I’d say transcend continents!

If you are a new (or wannabe) vegan and nervous about potentially missing out on your favourite meals, you need this book. If you want to cook for your family or friends to show them you don’t need to forgo tasty traditional faves as a vegan, you need this book. If you’re a ‘vegan vet’ and think you know it all you STILL need this book. That kinda described ME, but I got blown away by the recipe I just tried. Read on….

The B and the T. They are standing in the right order!

I’ve known Brittany and Terrence Roche, aka B & T, aka Plant Power Couple, for around two years. We met in the early, heady days of Periscope, when a few of us vegans were trying to get information and recipes out to the world on the newest, hottest, livestreaming platform.

I very quickly became aware of this vegan couple in Philly through their interaction on my broadcasts, and I became a regular viewer and interacter with theirs.

If you weren’t familiar with it, the fun thing about Periscope was that it really wasn’t *content provider talks at audience,* it was more that if it was your broadcast you kinda sorta hosted it – but everyone else that hopped on shared, commented, critiqued, joked, chatted with other viewers; so much so that it was more like a group discussion/party/shambles (and I absolutely mean the most fun shambles ever!)

Myself and B&T shared lots of followers and so for a while there it was like we had several parties a day. One of us would broadcast first (depending in whose timezone morning came first, so, generally me), then someone else; then in the evening (in the UK) Plant Power Couple would hop on, usually cooking something scrumptious.

Another sweet, cool thing was that we all had each others backs when the dastardly Periscope trolls appeared. ‘Open bobs’ anyone? That phrase will forever remind me of the second half of 2015. You will only understand that particular charming request if you were ever a female Periscope broadcaster (or viewer of). It seemed to be broken English for ‘you are a female on a public platform so why are you even talking, just get your boobs out already.’ Anyway, I distinctly remember Brittany taking NO prisoners and chasing off a few of my trolls VERY decisively!

Then Facebook went and pretty much monopolised the world of livestream, and we all realised that we’d have to keep up and move platform. But ya know, we had a thing, and the people we met on Periscope (from all over the planet!) have remained friends, and it felt like we shared something special and sweet.

Luckily, before Periscope died B & T had the foresight to create a Facebook group, Plant Power People where we all convened, and the group has grown immensely ever since. We chat; share info and pics, and ask questions on all things vegan. The group was set up to provide community – as it can sometimes be isolating being vegan in this oh so bacon-enamoured world. The group is great for vintage vegans like myself, but if you are a newer vegan you especially need to join us there. You’ll get support, recipe ideas, make friends and just generally feel part of a community, and less like a Vaygan from planet Vayga.

OK OK, I’ll get to the book!

The whole reason I mentioned the Periscope days was because most of the recipes in this new e-Cookbook I have personally SEEN Brittany and Terrence make. I know what these recipes consist of. I know that they contain quality ingredients, I’ve seen Brittany’s foodgasm face when she’d taste test a recipe at the end of a broadcast; and I’ve seen endless people raving about these recipes in the Facebook group.

But for this review to be totes legit, I gotta make something myself right?

I also roped in my mum – more on her creation later.

My first instinct was to make T’s Hearty Vegan Chili, but that would’ve been too easy. I love all chili and know I’d have adored this one.

I needed to make something I wouldn’t ordinarily eat to REALLY test the mettle of the recipe.

I opted for Smoky Carrot Dogs, which are, you guessed it – hot dogs made from carrots.

Seriously? You wouldn’t believe just how stinkin’ easy these are to make. You marinade your ‘dogs’ (the lush, smoky marinade takes around 10 minutes to put together):

After the requisite 24 hours, they look like this:

Who knew carrots were sponges?

They have TOTALLY absorbed the marinade!!

Then you cook them in the marinade for 15 minutes. Serve in hot dog buns, with as many or as few trimmings as you like (fried onions, mustard, salad, ketchup etc).

No pig suffered for these gorge dawgs!

Verdict? Utter deliciousness. SOOOO damn yummy. I feel they are MUCH tastier than I remember non-vegan hotdogs to be.

It’s a little difficult to get Liquid Smoke here in the UK (I believe you can get it online), but a 1/2 tspn of ground chipotle flakes does the same job, so DO NOT let that put you off.

My mum went for T’s TVP Sloppy Joes, and after I’d explained what TVP was and that she could get some quite easily from her local Holland and Barratt, she gamely had a go at making this dish she’d never heard of before (Sloppy Joes are an American concept!).

Her opinion?

‘VERY tasty and VERY easy to make’

No mincing words there (geddit?)

And get her and her rustic plates!

T’s TVP Sloppy Joes, by my mother

These recipes really are solid. Like, Isa Chandra Moskowitz solid. Yes, THAT solid.

Terrence has a background in catering, and since becoming vegan 3 years ago Brittany has cooked her ass off – learning, experimenting, recipe-inventing etc; so these dishes have been thoroughly tried and tested.

Do yourselves a sweet one and grab a copy here.

If you want to get to know B&T more (which you absolutely DO), follow them on Instagram and Facebook too.

 

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Review: Zizzi (UK pizza and pasta chain)

This is actually the Strand branch, I forgot to take a photo at Victoria, doh!

I was looking for a decent place to meet a friend on a Saturday – a lovely friend who, though not vegan, is totally on board with eating at vegan restaurants with me.

She told me to choose the venue.

My criteria were location (I couldn’t be bothered travelling that far on a Saturday, and it needed to be easy for us both to get to), and price. I remembered it was my turn to treat us to a meal and I wanted amazing food at a good price.

I remembered a friend had emailed me a £10 Zizzi voucher, and I’d heard that Zizzi now have a separate vegan menu.

They also had a branch in London’s Victoria, which was a perfect location for us.

Done, done and DONE!

I was quite optimistic about what the experience would be like. I’d visited Zizzi about 10 years previously and had a super-yummy pizza with tomato sauce and a few veggies on top (no cheese) that they’d had no problem sorting out for me.

Once at the restaurant I asked for the vegan menu which was brought to me immediately – it definitely seemed like they were used to people asking for it. I say that because I’ve been in other restaurants where you ask to see the vegan menu and they look at you like ‘oh jeez, I have to remember where I put that thing?’

The vegan menu was of course much more diminutive in size than the carnist one – but there was a small selection of dishes that, if each dish was good, would constitute a fair selection.

There was a margherita pizza where you can add your own topping; a couple of great-looking pasta dishes; salads; bruschetta; and several nibbles and sides that were exactly the same as on the carnist menu.

OMG that torte!

The main dessert option – sticky chocolate praline torte with coconut and chocolate swirl gelato called my name loud and clear, and I kinda couldn’t wait to get to it!

It’s not many places that do vegan pizza with ACTUAL vegan cheese in the UK as of yet, so I wasn’t gonna hesitate in ordering pizza.

Normally a basic margherita wouldn’t hold enough interest for me (I like a TON of shit on my shit!), but you could add three toppings for the same price, so I plumped for artichokes, field mushrooms and red chillies.

I also chose the gluten-free crust (made of rice-flour) as I try and avoid white wheat flour. If you want to know why, read this post.

While waiting for the pizza I ordered some green tea, and was thrilled to find out they serve Teapigs super quality fancy muslin teabag tea! Not being a millionaire, I can’t afford to buy boxes of Teapigs tea in the supermarket, so it’s great that I can sample it at places like this.

Fancy tea

It was served in a glass (I LOVE tea served in a glass!), on a very artsy saucer, with a block of honeycomb (not ACTUAL honeycomb, but the stuff that we Brits call ‘honeycomb’ but which is actually caramelised sugar).

Everything boded well for the food…

The pizza came, and while a nice size, I was struck by the thin-ness of the crust. To be fair, I think it was described as thin on the menu, and I’m probably comparing it to American pizzas – which are the only other vegan pizzas I’ve experienced.

Great pizza, but cheese not working visually! 😁

It looked fine, but not super-pretty. I can’t help but be blunt here – visually the melted cheese had a jizzy appearance, like someone had just serviced themself over the pizza (if that needed explaining!) I’ve noticed that lots of the UK vegan cheeses have that kind of an appearance when melted. As opposed to the amazing Daiya cheese in the US, which when melted, looks, like…well….melted cheese. We clearly still have a way to go on the visual side of things!

I could have done with slightly more of each topping too. Though I can accept that this might be me being Greedy Gertie.

Now I’ve had a moan – I’ll tell you what it tasted like.

It tasted pretty great. It was a perfectly fine pizza.

The cheese tasted a lot better than it looked! It tasted of cheese, not rubbery or weird – definitely cheesy. I think a non-vegan would tell it wasn’t dairy cheese by the look of it, but perhaps not by the taste.

I gave some pizza to my non-vegan friend and she was surprised at how nice it was. I’m pretty sure the vegetable toppings were fresh as fresh, and the crust was not too hard – as crusts sometimes can be.

Even though I love my American pizzas, I’m pretty sure that this is a more authentic Italian experience.

I’m definitely coming back for this pizza, and I’m going to encourage my local vegan (and non-vegan) community to try it too.

Now for my favourite bit.

The dessert choices other than the above-mentioned chocolate praline torte were just your classic lemon or strawberry sorbets. But why in the name of all that’s holy would you not go for the torte???

I wasn’t ready for just how delicious the torte was.

Chocgasm alert!

I was expecting a nice chocolatey, gooey vibe; but this was beyond Beyond.

You know when you involuntarily make a sex face while you’re eating something extraordinarily delicious? Well, that happened.

The coconut and chocolate swirl gelato made for a perfect pairing, and more flakes of ‘honeycomb’ were sprinkled on top.

It was rich and creamy, not bitter and not too sweet.

I don’t know what else to say about the torte except that when you eat it time stops and it becomes all about what is going on in your mouth. I can normally eat and yak and do fifty other things at once, but this torte demanded my absolute attention. It violently stole my attention in fact (um, in a good way!),  and I become a slave to the taste and texture sensations I was experiencing. Hehe – yes, I know I’ll never be a food writer, but I don’t know how else to explain it.

The portion size was spot on. When I’d finished – I was definitely done, but didn’t feel like I’d eaten too much.

Another wonderful thing – I don’t think this torte is particularly unhealthy either, since the base is made from dates, hazelnuts and walnuts. And we all know dark chocolate is good for you, so…

Without exaggeration, I’ve spent a large proportion of my time since that Saturday dreaming about the torte, trying to conjure up the taste and checking over and over again online to see which branch of Zizzi I could get to this weekend to grab some more (they do take away, so I knew this was possible).

The space was large and with all different types of seating, so you can sit in a cosy booth; on the banquette seating; or at the tables for two in the middle. And unlike lots of UK restaurants, the tables weren’t too crowded together. It felt like there was enough space for everyone, even when it got busy.

Service was efficient and friendly, and the staff were all knowledgeable about the food.

To conclude: I highly recommend Zizzi for vegans. If my pizza and the standard of the food I tasted was anything to go by, then all the vegan dishes are totally solid.

It’s a great lunch spot, but personally I’d even go there for a long dinner with friends or family. But possibly that’s just me; I prefer hustly-bustly places full of a cross-section of the community rather than your swanky-wanky gaffes.

Hustly-bustly, swanky-wanky. Hee.

And when you go, for the love of Pete – get the torte!!

 

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Is Your Sparkly Stuff Vegan?

Hey guys!

Steven from vegan jewellers MADE Diamonds is taking over my post this week.

Yes, that’s right, there’s such a thing as vegan diamonds!

Now I’ll be honest, diamonds are not THIS girl’s best friend. I didn’t bother with an engagement ring, and my partner and I just used very modest rings we’d previously bought each other, as wedding rings. But guess what, it’s not all about me.

I KNOW! I was shocked to learn that! 🙂

So for those of you who like a little sparkle and are considering tying the proverbial knot, this is for you.

Or pass this on to someone you know who fits that description!

I have to admit this post enlightened me. I knew that there were conflict-free diamonds, but had no idea how much diamond-mining affected wildlife habitats.

As vegans, we are concerned with the welfare of both farmed and wild animals alike so it’s great that there is now the option to purchase jewellery that is in alignment with our values of causing the least harm to any wildlife.

If I were ever to desire a ‘retroactive’ engagement or wedding ring, MADE Diamonds would certainly be my first stop. They are featured on Viva’s website, and that’s good enough for me!

OK, over to Steven….

 

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We all know that finding products that align perfectly with our values can sometimes be challenging, and when it comes to certain one-off purchases like an engagement ring, the romance and excitement of the situation can cause many people to overlook some rather inconvenient truths.

It’s well known that natural diamonds are fraught with ethical concerns on many levels, yet so many people who would otherwise make a point of only shopping from sustainable and cruelty-free sources inevitably end up wearing a natural diamond engagement ring. It could be said that this is attributable to the fact that an engagement ring is a gift and so it was not the wearer’s choice, but let’s be completely honest here, if the person asking for your hand in marriage isn’t aware of your deeply held values then something is clearly wrong.

Another reason otherwise ethically-minded vegans often end up wearing a natural diamond engagement ring is lack of awareness of both the key issues or a viable alternative. It’s this lack of awareness that this post aims to address.

First up there is the more commonly understood concept of conflict diamonds and blood diamonds. Whilst most natural diamonds today are marketed as “conflict-free” there is a limit to the certainty of these claims which always completely ignore the historical aspects of the situation. It was often the blood spilt over many preceding decades which has ultimately led to the ownership of land on which today’s “conflict-free” stones are mined.

Besides the human suffering though is the so often overlooked devastation to some of the planet’s oldest and most precious habitats, and of course their animal inhabitants. Thousands of tonnes of earth have to be moved to find even a tiny amount of rough diamonds from the earth and zero consideration is given to the obliteration of ancient ecosystems which are irreparably damaged. The process leaves many animals without a home, and that is if the animals manage to survive the indiscriminate clearing of land required for diamond mining. When this is considered it is abundantly clear that the natural diamond market should not be supported by people who otherwise care for animals, but because the harm caused is less direct than that of other directly animal based products, the cruelty can often be unrecognised. In fact it is specifically because diamonds are not viewed directly as an animal product that most people, including most vegans, overlook the abhorrent animal cruelty caused by diamond mining and willingly opt for natural stones.

Even when aware of the issues though, many people often still end up opting for a natural diamond because they are unaware of a viable alternative. These days however the wonders of modern technology have created many far better options, so there really is no excuse to endorse such a terrible industry in order to obtain that beautiful shiny rock on your finger.

MADE Diamonds are a UK based company with experience in the jewellery trade spanning over many decades. We create engagement rings which combine traditional jewellery production methods with a more technologically advanced natural diamond alternative that offers a host of benefits over natural stones. First and foremost MADE Diamonds stones are cruelty and conflict-free making them a far more suitable choice for people following a vegan lifestyle. Being owned and operated by two generations of a family, all of whom are vegans, MADE Diamonds have attracted support from numerous vegan organisations like Viva and celebrity vegans including Leona Lewis.

Here’s the science bit… MADE Diamonds stones are created in a laboratory rather than in the ground, through a process of building real man-made diamond onto a purpose built core. Ethical diamond alternatives currently available range in their nature, price and overall value. Whilst the technology exists to create pure man-made diamonds, the technology is not yet there to create high quality stones of any decent size, nor any reasonable price. Many such technologies involve growing a diamond using a natural diamond, which clearly somewhat misses the point! The technology used by MADE Diamonds where real man-made diamond is built into a non-diamond core, creates an outer layer of diamond with all the visual characteristics of a natural stone.

This technology also allows the quality of the stone (in terms of the four C’s of colour, clarity, cut and carat) to be far more easily regulated in order to create top quality stones every time, and at a price point that represents real value.

MADE Diamonds have become the go-to place for ethically-minded individuals looking for an engagement ring which is in-keeping with their values. If you’re thinking of popping the question this year, or if you’re hoping a certain someone in your life might soon get down on one knee, make sure it’s with a ring that represents your lifestyle and values as a vegan. After all, an engagement ring is such a meaningful treasure intended to be worn for the rest of your life, so it really should be something you can feel truly proud of.

 

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Yorica Ice Cream London: A Review.

yorica

 

It’s way past the time that I should have written my review of Yorica, London’s only fully vegan ice-cream parlour.

It’s been about three months since I visited the first time, and about six weeks since I went the second time. I put off writing this because, well, you’ll see.

I remember being soooo excited to hear there was an ALL.VEGAN.ICE.CREAM place in London.

This stuff normally happens in New York or Austin – not London!

And it’s on Wardour St, one of my favourite streets ever!!

It opened in March, but I didn’t have occasion to visit until July of this year.

I was with my (non-vegan) mum. The idea was we’d have a mini ice-cream crawl. First, a gelateria in Covent Garden, which has several vegan options, then on to Yorica.

When you enter Yorica as a vegan it seems magical. It has a sixties psychedelic theme going on decor-wise, and is…just…so…pretty! It has fun slogans and signs everywhere like this:

img_20160712_170453706

Yorica actually offer froyo as well as ice-cream, so if you want a lighter dessert, you’re covered!

They have four flavours of froyo – caramel, matcha, chocolate and vanilla, and there are around thirteen flavours of ice-cream, including chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, bubblegum, cookies and cream, and beetroot (which, while inventive, didn’t really sound appealing, at least to me!)

There’s a decent selection of toppings at the counter; healthy ones – blueberries, pomegranate seeds etc, along with the old fun favourites – sprinkles, candy, marshmallows, gummy bears, oreos etc.

There are also sprinkle machines in the main space, so you can cover your ice cream in however much crap you want!

I try and limit sugar now for health reasons, but I know that if I’d visited as a kid, I’d have thought this place was heaven on earth.

This visit, I opted for the matcha froyo. Partly because it’s one of my favourite flavours, but partly because I wanted it ‘soft serve’ (‘Mr Whippy style’ to us Brits!) Only the froyo is soft serve, the ice-cream is scooped.

I chose pomegranate seeds as a topping because I couldn’t resist seeing the bright red against the pale green of the matcha froyo, I knew it’d be pretty – and it was:

img_20160712_164143564

My mum opted for caramel flavour with, er, nothing on top. I KNOW! Boring! 🙂

So what did it taste like?

Look. I can only be honest.

Much as I hate to say anything less than congenial about the first vegan ice-cream joint in London; I ain’t gonna lie either. There’s no reason why we should hold a vegan place to a lower standard than a non-vegan place. That wouldn’t make sense. And perhaps you’ll have a different experience to me in any case.

Firstly, the pomegranate seeds were not fresh; they were pretty dry and hard. I was worried I’d lose a filling so I spat them into a tissue.

This alone was not a problem to me. So it was a bad day for the pomegranate seeds, so what? I still had all that luscious froyo right?

You know, the matcha froyo didn’t taste bad; it just wasn’t great, and didn’t particularly taste like matcha. It was pleasant enough for a few mouthfuls. Then, something happened which just does.not.happen.to.me.ever. I found I was having trouble finishing it up!!!! It was just a medium pot; not super big, and bear in mind I can eat a whole pint of Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss, no problem!

I really wasn’t enjoying it as much as I’d hoped to.

The caramel froyo my mum had was a little bit better, but not much.

I think part of the problem was the lack of creaminess, and I figured that froyo wouldn’t be as creamy as ice-cream, what with it not being, um, cream, right?

So I thought it was only fair to give Yorica another try before I wrote a review, and I’d be sure to get some actual ice-cream next time.

SO, a month or so later, the next time occurred, and I found myself at Yorica again, on this occasion with a friend.

This time I wanted strawberry ice-cream. When strawberry ice-cream is done well, then it’s glorious. No need for bells and whistles.

I had a big scoop of strawberry ice-cream, then inquired about a flavour that I wasn’t sure about. I was told it was called ‘wowbutter’ which is like peanut butter, but not peanut butter. Uh, ok! Nothing else was really tempting me so I got a big ol’ scoop of that too.

A drizzle of strawberry syrup to top it off, and then I couldn’t wait to get stuck in!

img_20160820_210956132

I really wanted it to be great, but….it just wasn’t. I had trouble finishing this too. Both flavours just tasted like….cheap ice-cream.

It’s a shame.

I KNOW how great vegan ice-cream can be. There’s an all-vegan place in Austin, Texas which had me going back for 3 more helpings.

And I already mentioned how much Luna & Larry’s coconut Bliss I can devour.

So Delicious, too, are champs at plant-based ice-cream.

So what was the problem here?

I can’t work it out exactly.

I asked what the ice-cream was made with, and was told rice milk. I feel rice milk may be too thin to make a decent ice-cream, perhaps this is the problem? I’m not sure though as it was also a taste problem, not just texture.

Conclusion:

The place is pretty; the service is friendly; and it’s fun looking at all the things you can top your dessert with.

I may come back with my friends’ kids – I know they’d adore topping their ice-cream with ten tons of candy!

And if I was out with several friends just looking for something fun and light to do, I may bring them here.

BUT…if I’m out on the town looking for a truly yummy iced dessert with my partner or a friend, I’ll probably go to one of the gelaterias that have vegan options. La Gelatiera on New Row for example (which has a good number of options), or Snowflake, a few doors down from Yorica on Wardour St that has one or two vegan options.

 

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Review Of Living Food Kitchen’s Raw Beetroot Hummus

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During my weekly Whole Foods shop last week, in the interest of trying something new, and for something I knew I could snack on immediately when I got home; I picked up a tub of Living Food Kitchen’s raw beetroot hummus.

I love beetroot; and I love hummus (is there anyone who doesn’t, seriously?); and though I’ve tried several different flavours of hummus, beetroot flavour had never crossed my path.

I don’t normally buy ‘raw’ anything (unless it’s fruit and veg obvs). I live in the UK and my body needs hot foods lots of the time, but I thought that this could only taste good. And it was so pretty; so, so pinky purple and pretty. So in the bag it went.

This is what it contained:

Ingredients

Beetroot (41%), cashews, sprouted chickpeas (18.5%), sunflower oil, lemon juice, tahini (sesame seeds), herb salt (Himalayan crystal salt, thyme, oregano, rosemary, chives, basil, tarragon), garlic powder, cumin, coriander powder, extra virgin olive oil.

As you can see, the ingredients are as pure as the driven snow, just the way I like ’em. And if it tastes good too – win-win!

Later on, I toasted some Cranks wholewheat bread, and covered it in this purple delight.

It was soooooooooo good. No, that’s not an imaginative description, but that was my first reaction. The beetroot taste is very subtle; sweet but not overwhelming. and there is just a hint of each herb in the ingredient list. It’s this subtleness that makes you just have to have more.

The texture (which is possibly what worried me about it being raw) was perfect.

I don’t like hummus when it’s super smooth and creamy, I like a bit of ‘texture’, and this had just the right amount.

I can’t begin to describe how moreish this is. You better share it with one or two others or you’ll find yourself all of a sudden at the bottom of the pot; purple all round your mouth, whistling fake innocently when someone walks in and asks who ate all the hummus.

 

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