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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Meat Does NOT = Energy

This subject keeps coming up again and again in my professional life.

I do feel we are (VERY) slowly but surely getting the message across that we don’t need meat for protein.

But there’s another, very much related, almost AS pervasive myth that seems to be sticking around and is not in any hurry to dissipate. And that is  – we need meat for energy.

I am guilty of making the mistake of thinking we are WAY past believing that we need meat for energy. But unlike so many people, I have not been exposed to the whole Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic deal; and I guess it’s true that not everyone has their eyes glued to the peer-reviewed science-filled websites of Dr’s McDougal/Greger/Barnard/Klaper all day! (For those that may not know, independent ‘peer-reviewed’ science is the most objective, credible way of doing science that there is. It is the closest to the truth that you can get). There is precisely NO peer-reviewed science on Paleo/Atkins/ketogenic/any other high-fat, low-carb diet you care to mention that concludes that these diets are healthy long-term.

Of course it didn’t help when ex-vegan bloggers declared very loudly that they’d stopped being vegan because they felt they ‘needed’ meat, and that when they took their first bite of meat they felt like the energy was flowing back into their bodies again.

I can’t comment on what may or may not have happened to make them feel unwell on a vegan diet – there could be lots of potential reasons; just as there could be lots of potential reasons for someone feeling unwell on a meat and dairy-centric diet. But, I can say that it is NOT the meat that gave them their energy back.

Science says:

Energy comes mainly from carbohydrates.

Meat contains little in the way of carbohydrates. If you used meat for carbohydrates, you’d have to eat SO much of it to get the carbs your body needed it really wouldn’t be healthy in terms of the amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol you’d also be consuming (not to mention hormones and antibiotics).

So which carbohydrates specifically should energy come from?

Whole carbohydrates.

These are:

  • Any whole grains/cereals (brown/black rice, wholewheat bread/pasta/couscous etc, quinoa, oats, buckwheat, barley, millet, corn)
  • Any legumes/pulses (beans, lentils and peas)
  • Any tubers, root veg and starchy veg (potatoes, sweet potatoes, squashes of all description)

I implore you to memorise this list if you suffer from fatigue; the dreaded 11 or 3 o’clock slump; or just generally feel you don’t have enough energy.

These are the foods you should look to for your everyday energy. Not meat or any animal protein. Not even nuts, or fruit and veg.

Just to be clear; nuts and seeds contain little carbohydrate, and you’d have to eat a ton to get any decent levels – which would mean you’d be consuming way too much fat.

And fruit and veg, although they contain more carbohydrates than the previous items mentioned, it’s still too small an amount per calorie to give you substantial fuel for the day – unless you eat a bucket of them – but who really wants do that?

If anything, many people report meat making them feel lethargic and ‘weighed down,’ not full of energy. But thanks to paleo et al, carbophobia is an epidemic right now of proportions it is hard to comprehend. Lots of us seem to have lost the innate knowledge that previous civilisations held – that it is grains, cereals, beans and starchy veg that give us fuel.

In case you were wondering; whole carbohydrates will not make you put on weight. They are FULL of fibre, and will fill you up before you can overeat.

Meat, on the other hand, does not fill you up and contains zero fibre. If you are concerned at all about weight – it’s the meat you should be ditching.

The reality is that we should all be clamouring for whole carbs to power us optimally through our busy lives.

 

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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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Review: Riverside Vegetaria In South London

South Londoners and North Surreyites – you need to know about this little gem of a restaurant on the River Thames called Riverside Vegetaria.

I paid my second visit there last week, and for the second time had a great evening.

It’s in Kingston-Upon-Thames, and a 25 minute drive from my home in South West London. Although I’d say it’s totally worth up to an hour’s travel!

The restaurant has been there for almost 30 years, and has won a ton of awards. The owner has a spiritual philosophy of ‘love all, serve all’ and this definitely shines through in the high quality of the service.

You: ‘What about the food already???’

Ok, ok, I just wanted to set the scene.

The menu is approximately 80% vegan, and 20% vegetarian, and everything is clearly marked. If you are gluten-free there are a large number of items marked ‘wheat-free;’ and if, like me, you are health-conscious, all rice is brown rice, and all grains served are whole grains. Very little oil is used.

There is a huge variety of dishes available, from Indian dishes, to Mexican, Italian and Jamaican.

Now when I say that from my experience the food is hit and miss, you need to know that it’s 80% hit, and 20% miss, and even the misses are still good – they’re just not exceptional like the ‘hits’ are.

Organic Spicy Vegetable Balls with Coriander Sauce

Our stand-out starter is the vegetable balls with coriander sauce. These balls are fried but not at all greasy, and they are brilliantly set off by the intense coriander flavour in the dip.

Now as a health freak, I wouldn’t normally entertain the notion of a dosa for a main course. They can be greasy and often contain white wheat flour – which I’m not a fan of.

Masala Dosai

Riverside Vegetaria’s dosa is not only To.Freakin.Die.For taste-wise, but it’s made with lentil flour, is not at all oily, and comes with the most delicious coconut sambal and vegetable sambar for dipping.

I’ve also tried the Jamaican stew and a special – green lentil curry, which were both excellent.

Organic Spicy Jamaican Stew

 

Green Lentil Curry

The dosa really is top class though, and my absolute first recommendation.

I’ve found that the Italian dishes are not quite as good as the Indian dishes, so my advice would be to stick to spicy Indian, African and Jamaican dishes.

I love that the garlic bread is wholemeal – you hardly ever get this in restaurants! And a soup we tried this time was full of fresh okra and herbs, a perfect dunking receptacle for the bread 🙂

Okra & Chickpea Soup; Garlic Bread

Most dishes come with a colourful salad – not as a sloppy garnish but as a thoughtful, well-presented accompaniment. You’ll want to take a pic for Instagram before you tuck in!

You must also consult the ‘specials’ board as there seem to be a huge amount every day.

As for dessert, my partner says the chocolate fudge cake was great – moist, rich and as decadent as it should be. I had an orange sorbet which was decent.

Chocolate Fudge Cake

I can’t offer much info about the drinks as I just have tea and my partner has beer. Sorry – we’re just not wine aficionados!

Riverside Vegetaria is in a beautiful setting next to the river, with a small outside terrace for spring and summer dining.

The decor is cozy and cute; prices are absolutely fair; and the vibe is friendly, casual, local and inviting.

The only downsides are that the space is very small, and fills up quickly as the restaurant is so popular. You can find yourself squeezed in tight with the neighbouring table practically joining yours. Not too cool if you wanted a more intimate meal with a friend/partner. I guess this is worse in winter because the outside space is closed, so they have to maximise covers inside. My advice is to visit on a Monday or close to the beginning of the week, or wait until later in the evening when the restaurant has emptied out a bit, to have your meal.

I haven’t yet visited on a summer evening but I can only imagine that if you go on a warm night, and are lucky enough to snag one of the riverside tables, you’ll find yourself in heaven for a couple of hours…

 

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Beware The BBC Bullshit

BBC from Flickr via Wylio
© 2006 Tim Loudon, Flickr | CC-BY-ND | via Wylio

Hoo-boy was this a week for the bullshitz.

The bulls must be completely free of shit right now because it seems it has all been dumped this week.

Actually some of the BS that I’m about to address was from last week, but whatever.

Remember the fiasco that was the BBC programme ‘Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets,’ in which veganism was, in a very transparent agenda, smooshed together with eating disorders, clean-eating and just general food faddiness in order to make it look a little crazy?

I ranted wrote about that utter shitfest here.

Guess what? The BBC has done it again.

This time, ‘clean eating’ was the subject of the BBC documentary programme ‘Horizon’ (a long-running British television series that covers science and philosophy).

I belong to a Facebook group called London Vegans. A few weeks ago someone from the BBC posted, asking for people to talk to them about their eating habits for a new show they were making about ‘clean eating.’

Myself and others chased them off, saying that if it was anything like the last shitshow, to forget it.

I believe it was for this very programme they were looking for content – and knowing what I know now – we were utterly justified in giving them short shrift.

I heard that this programme was on last week, but didn’t have any interest in watching it.

A (non-vegan) friend told me it was quite interesting and that she’d liked the doctor who wrote the book about China.

Hang on a minute, I thought. Dr T Colin Campbell? They interviewed him? Maybe the BBC had done a complete 180 on their previous anti-vegan agenda and bothered their arses to talk to actual experienced doctors in the plant-based field? Miracles can happen, can’t they?

Then a couple of days ago, this article appeared on Dr Campbell’s website.

Then today, Dr Caldwell Essylstyn released this one.

Dr Campbell and Dr Esselstyn are both extremely disappointed at how their segments were used, and at the fact that important information and interviews were seemingly purposely omitted.

Alarmingly, they realised it was because the guy who made the programme (Dr Giles Yeo) was promoting the goals of a pharmaceutical company, and therefore had a definite agenda to make plant-based diets appear to not be as optimal for health as we know they are.

I strongly advocate advising those people you know that are interested in being vegan, to NEVER get their information from the television. And in this day and age they really don’t need to. Reputable books and websites suffice.

These sources of health advice are independent, and their only agenda is to make you well and wise:

Books: The China Study (Dr T Colin Campbell); How Not To Die (Dr Michael Greger; Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Dr Caldwell Esselstyn); The Starch Solution (Dr John McDougall)

Documentaries: Forks Over Knives; Food Choices; Cowspiracy; Plant Pure Nation

Websites: forksoverknives.com; nutritionstudies.org; nutritionfacts.org

Veganism and plant-based nutrition are the subjects I usually stick to giving professional advice on. But if I could give any other advice, and if anyone would listen, it would be this: THROW AWAY YOUR TELEVISION SETS.

I did this a few years back and it was the best thing I ever did.

Thankfully there is plenty of good, independent alternative media out there to inform and enlighten us.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The OTHER piece of BS that had me fuming was in HuffPost UK. It said vegan women had a higher risk of having premature babies.

The whole premise of this was that women who are low in vitamin B12 risk delivering prematurely.

What they don’t say is that vitamin B12 deficiency ISN’T JUST A VEGAN THING – plenty of omnis are B12 deficient. And no vegan ever need be deficient in B12 as there are these handy things available everywhere called supplements. I don’t know this for sure but I would be happy to wager that fewer vegans are deficient in B12 than omnis, as vegans learn from the beginning that they have to supplement. Omnis always just assume they’re getting plenty when this isn’t always the case.

FFS.

If you think you know someone who may have been influenced by this piece (as you can bet it will have been widely shared and quoted by omnis happy to believe bad things about veganism), then Julianna Hever’s response post is here. Make sure to share this with them.

Please media, no more bullcrap this week, I can’t take it.

 

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Delicious Vegan Stocking Fillers Omnivores Will Love

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Have you done most of your Christmas shopping, but there’s maybe a few little extra things you need to get for your family and friends?

This totally applies to me this year.

I did a lot of my Christmas shopping online on Black Friday. Win-win right? Ridiculous savings and you don’t have to trawl around crowded shops that blast out obnoxious Christmas ‘music.’ I was trying desperately not to be a consumer on that day, in protest at our greedy capitalist society, but once I saw the savings to be had I went a little…er…crazy (ok, a lot crazy) and decided I’ll have higher principles when I’m rich and can afford to be revolutionary! 🙂

What I’m trying to say is, as a result of my savings, a lot of the gifts I bought came in under-budget, so I feel like I want to top these up with an extra little treat for the intended recipients.

If this is you too, then here you’ll find a few ideas for deliciously decadent, vegan, chocolatey, truffley, praliney stocking stuffers.

Because hello? What says love at Christmas more than chocolatey goodness?

NOTHING, that’s what!

Please consider these gifts ESPECIALLY for non-vegans. Good food is good food right? You can’t argue with scrummy chocolate. The idea is that it will help them see that vegans do not deprive themselves and can easily enjoy decadent treats.

As we know, good food talks!

If you are worried that dark chocolate may taste bitter, avoid any product with over 70% cocoa. Good dark chocolate however, should NOT taste bitter.

You also need to know that I am not getting paid by any of these companies. Although quite frankly I really should be considering the amount I’ve spent on some of their yummy products! 🙂

I have 3 top ideas for my UK friends and 3 for my Northern American pals:

Here are my UK suggestions:

Booja Booja

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Oooh, What would I do without Booja Booja? It is an all-vegan company, and their small boxes of truffles make the sweetest little stocking fillers, which come in a range of flavours. They are £3.99 each. If you want to splash out a little more, they have bigger boxes for £9.99, or super fancy boxes for £12.95

Available at: Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods, Ocado, Booja Booja online.

I recommend: The hazelnut truffles are scrumptious, as are the champagne, and the almond and sea salt caramel flavours.

Hotel Chocolat

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Hotel Chocolat isn’t fully vegan, but they have a ton of vegan products – see full vegan selection here. Usually (though not always), the staff can point you in the direction of the vegan chocolates if you are in store.

The vegan products ARE marked ‘vegan,’ so if the staff are a little clueless, just check the packaging.

They have quite a few cute stocking-filler size gifts around the £3-5 pound mark.

Available at: Hotel Chocolat outlets are in most UK cities, or shop online.

I recommend: Gianduja Bombe Selector (hazelnut pralines).

Montezuma

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Again, Montezuma are not an all-vegan company, but very vegan-friendly, see their vegan selection here.

Again, several great options at stocking-filler prices.

Available at: Some supermarkets stock Montezuma products, otherwise Whole Foods, Holland & Barrett, Ocado, or online.

I recommend: The chocolate buttons!!!!

 

And if North America is the continent you call home:

Whole Foods chocolate truffles

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You may have seen these at the artisanal chocolate counter in Whole Foods. I’m pretty sure most Whole Foods have these – though it’s possible the smaller ones don’t.

They have several flavours that are vegan, so it’s easy to make up a small bag of the vegan choices. You really don’t need to buy many, they are very rich and decadent, so don’t think you need to fill the bag.

Don’t worry if your local Whole Foods doesn’t sell these single truffles at the chocolate counter – they should also carry these boxes of organic chocolate truffles. When I last checked, these were $6.99/box.

Available at: uh…Whole Foods.

I recommend: Everything. Yup, everything.

Hooray Truffles

Courtesy of Hooray Truffles
Courtesy of Hooray Truffles

This Canadian online company is all vegan. They have 3 types of truffle; some made with different flavoured balsamic vinegars such as raspberry and blackberry, some with essential oils (I’ve been drooling over the peppermint one); and some gold ol,’ plain ol’ chocolate truffles.

These are a little pricier, but you can pick up a stocking filler size bag for C$10.99

Available at: Hooray Truffles

I recommend: I haven’t tried these, so I can’t recommend any in particular, but a safe bet would be the plain (Simply Naked) chocolate truffles.

Lagusta’s Luscious

Courtesy of Lagusta's Luscious
Courtesy of Lagusta’s Luscious

Oh man, did I have fun browsing these goodies! Lagusta’s Luscious is an all-vegan artisanal chocolatier, with several outlets across the states – but they ship everywhere too.

From Selma’s Peppermint Patties, to Furious Vulvas (yes, you read that right!), to Cardamom Caramel Bars, to Fig & Caramelised Fennel Bark, just about everything sounds delicious.

For more moderately priced gifts, see the bars and barks.

Available at: Here is a list of the outlets, otherwise online at Lagusta’s Luscious

I recommend: Again, I haven’t tried these, but I’d definitely be willing to try every single product given the opportunity!
For a safe and sure bet stick to more classic flavours, otherwise take a risk on a Furious Vulva!

 

And on that note dear readers, Merry Christmas!!! May your year ahead be rollicking, and stay tuned for exciting, new, RIDICULOUSLY AFFORDABLE programs appearing here at Vegan Coach. I hope to bring you a weight-loss freebie, and a program based around ethnic vegan dishes. I can’t wait to share these with you all!

 

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Optimal Health: 6 Meal Ideas That Contain A Grain, A Green & A Bean

I love saying ‘a grain, a green and a bean,’ when I’m asked what an optimally healthy meal is. Party because it rhymes and it’s rhythmic, and partly because it’s mostly true. You can use other starches (sweet potato/white potato/squashes) instead of (or as well as) the grain to nutritionally round-out a meal, and of course you can add plenty of other veg that aren’t green. But it’s just an easy, fun way to remember how to get a full complement of nutrients in a meal.

Of course you don’t have to eat the full trifecta for every single meal either. It’s just something to aim for on a reasonably consistent basis.

With this in mind, here are 6 great ways to utterly rock the holy trinity that is the gorgeous grain, the glorious green and the beauteous bean! 🙂 :

1. Black Eyed Pea Curry With Collards & Potatoes

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This recipe is from isachandra.com – Post Punk Kitchen that was. I remember watching Isa’s videos that she shot with her friend in her tiny apartment in Brooklyn, like, a million years ago. I’ve made several of her recipes and she knows her shit. Make.This.Now. Ooh, and serve it over brown rice!

2. Pasta Fagioli with Cranberry Beans and Kale

pasta-beans

I’ve used fatfreevegan.com several times, always with delicious, yummy success. Don’t forget to use wholewheat pasta! Also, Susan (the recipe creator) says you can use pinto or borlotti beans if you can’t find cranberry beans (phew – I’d never heard of these!)

3. Quinoa, White Bean And Kale Stew

quinoa-isa

From isachandra.com again. What dish could be more perfect for winter?

4. Cajun-Style Vegan Red Beans and Rice

cajun-beans

I make a version of this, but to be honest, this recipe from emilieeats.com has a couple more flavours than mine. And Emilie is a Louisiana dude so knows what’s what when it comes to Cajun beans, so I’m using her recipe here. You can wilt a little spinach into it for your greens, or just have any steamed greens on the side.

5. Adzuki Bean Noodles with Bok Choy, Edamame, and Miso Sesame Sauce

noodles

This recipe from thefullhelping.com uses adzuki bean noodles; but just simply switch these for brown rice, black rice, or soba (buckwheat) noodles, to get your grain.

6. Shimbra Asa (Spicy Chickpea Stew) & Atakilt Wat (Gardener’s Vegetables in Aromatic Spices)

ethiopian

Much like the blogger over at profoundhatredofmeat.com , Ethiopian food is easily my favourite. This year I discovered Shimbra Asa (pronounced ‘shimbrassa’), a dish I hadn’t yet tried in all my years of visiting Ethiopian restaurants, and it blew my teeny-tiny mind. It’s like a berbere stew with chickpea balls in it, and it is heaven. It’s soul food. When you eat shimbra asa, you know damn well you’ve been fed.

I haven’t yet tried to make it (I’m scared I’ll f**k it up) but this recipe looks legit. Your ‘grain’ is the highly nutritious teff used to make the injera bread, your ‘bean’ is the chickpea flour, and your green is the cabbage in the atakilt wat.

 

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The Problem With ‘Flexitarian’ And Why It’s Not Enough

One last look at 2012. Happy New Year planet Earth! from Flickr via Wylio
© 2012 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

So Donald Asshat Trump won the US election (do you remember saying a few months back, as I did, ‘it’ll NEVER happen!’), and I’m seeing lots of concern on social media about what this means for the planet.

It’s said that Trump believes climate change is ‘a hoax invented by the Chinese.’ If this is true, then of course it’s very worrying indeed.

He may let energy and business projects go ahead regardless of the environmental impact, and may not be too concerned with implementing clean forms of energy. Not to mention the fact that he may get the planet nuked if someone pisses him off too much on Twitter!

However – there is LOTS that WE can do to counteract his ecological idiocy.

We know that the best and most positively impactful solution to all forms of environmental damage is cessation of animal agriculture.

This can only be achieved if WE stop consuming animal products.

Watch Cowspiracy and read the works of Dr Richard Oppenlander if you didn’t know this already and need it substantiated. Though I have a hunch you already have an awareness of this.

Worryingly, what I’m seeing on Twitter from some non-vegan peeps that are worried about Trump’s effect on the planet, is a call to ‘flexitarianism.’

This word has no exact definition, but seems to mean a reduction in amounts of meat consumed.

Under one such call to arms I saw people saying they’d reduced their meat consumption to three times a week, and that they felt good about the change.

While it’s true that any reduction is good; it’s not enough. And it’s not helpful just to encourage people to lessen the amount of meat they eat by an ambiguous amount.

Here’s why:

  • The tweeter that now only eats meat three times a week is possibly still eating eggs every day, and dairy a few times every day. It’s ALL animal products that bugger up the planet, not just meat, so to put the focus on meat is misguided.
  • It dilutes the discourse; it lowers the bar; however you want to say it. If you think that all you have to do is not eat as much beef – then that’s ALL you’ll ever do. If you’re encouraged from the outset to avoid animal products and you understand why, you’re more likely to keep moving in that direction. It may take a while, but the end goal will be more achievable than if we make people feel comfortable just reducing meat a little.
  • ‘Flexitarian’ is very much like the word ‘moderation.’ What does it mean? Everyone’s definition is different. By not having a firm definition, this slows down progress, as anyone who even does as little as stops eating meat for one meal a week can call themselves this.
  • I don’t care if being flexitarian is the most zeitgeisty thing to do right now – it’s NOT working anywhere NEAR quickly enough. We need more and quicker movement in that direction if we are to salvage anything for future generations.
  • I include ‘Meatless  Mondays’ in this criticism. What this really means is that you’re screwing up the environment and contributing to world hunger six days a week instead of seven, but it makes you feel that you’re ‘doing your bit for the planet’ and that that is ALL you need to do.  It’s true some people might start here and go further, but I believe in the long run its better to be honest about what is really needed, and have people start moving in that direction, than have lots just stop at Meatless Mondays.

 

Manifest your concern for the environment by going vegan. Call it ‘plant-based’ if you don’t want to call it ‘vegan.’ The planet doesn’t really care. It just cares that you quit doing what is harming it the most – consuming ALL and any animal products.

If we really care about the fate of the planet, we absolutely have the power to counteract a substantial amount of the harm that Trump may do (uh, unless he nukes it of course!)

 

 

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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:

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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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Questions You’ll Get As A Vegan, And How To Respond

people speech bubble

A while back I posted responses to some of the comments and questions that vegans get; part 1 is here, part 2 here.

I was a little, shall we say, sarcastic with some of the responses back then because as a long time vegan, it can be hard hearing (or these days, reading on social media) the same silly things over and over again while the planet is deteriorating due to animal agriculture; and both non-human and human animals are needlessly dying – the non-human through our brutalising of them, and the human through heart disease, strokes, cancers and diabetes complications that occur through eating the non-human animals.

There are a few I didn’t cover back then, so I’ll tackle them now, and I’ll try and be kinder. Maybe.

 

1. But what if you found yourself on a desert island with a cow, and absolutely NO vegetation around and no chance of getting rescued. Would you eat the cow?

Answer: Probably. But that isn’t happening right now, so I’ll just continue to eat the abundance of plant food available to me and leave the animal products – which only HARM my body and the planet – well alone.

 

2. But if we didn’t eat cows, the world would be overrun with them.

Answer: No. Truly no. We would simply stop breeding them for food if nobody ate them.

 

3. Cont…But if we stopped breeding cows for food and milk, then there would be no more cows. I mean nobody would keep them as pets, so they would effectively become extinct.

Answer: Cows becoming extinct is preferable to them being bred to lead a miserable life in which they are raped, having their offspring instantly taken from them, only living a quarter of their natural lifespan and meeting an untimely, brutal (and in many, MANY cases) long, drawn-out death.

Besides, there are many species that have gone extinct that you never heard of. Did you cry over these?

 

4. But God said we have to eat meat.

Answer: To you? Personally? No, God didn’t. At least not in any religious text I know of. There are proscriptions for IF we eat meat, but that is not the same thing. In the three Abrahamic religious texts, for every verse you give me that you believe means it’s ok to eat meat, there are verses that suggest that meat-eating is against the spirit of the text as a whole. I wrote about religious texts and vegetarianism here if you are interested.

 

5. But I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now if I went vegan.

Answer: As long as you eat enough calories and enough nutrients (which you should be concerned with if you are omni, too) you will thrive. In general, vegans get less sick than non-vegans, with both serious diseases, and minor ones.

 

6. But I wouldn’t know what to eat on a day-to-day basis.

Answer: Do you have access to Google? Can you type ‘vegan meal ideas’  into the search facility? There you go.

You can do one of two things. Both are great. You can eat EXACTLY as you eat now, but with the vegan versions of everything, or, discover a whole new world of vibrant, colourful foods from all around the world that are vegan by default, and discover how to make them yourself. You’ll have fun while learning, and very soon have a whole repertoire of go-to meals you can draw from each day.

 

7. But I don’t like vegan food.

Answer: You don’t like bananas? Apples? Sweet potato fries? Olives? Sweetcorn? Hummous? Popcorn? This list can go on for miles.

 

8. But eating too many vegetable foods makes me gassy.

Answer: Gross! I mean…If this happens (and assuming you don’t have medical issues with your stomach) then it’s just because your body isn’t sufficiently acquainted with fibre. The more vegetable matter you eat (veggies, beans, wholegrains etc), the more your body acclimates to digesting fibre and the fewer problems you will have with gas. Your body is INTENDED to eat fibre, so get chomping on those beans!

 

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