One of the things that many people struggle with when going vegan is the transfer onto cruelty free cosmetics and toiletries. In the latest issue of Vegan Life magazine Sunny Subramanian from Vegan Beauty Review helped to demystify the changeover with an article on natural, vegan beauty. One of the pitfalls that a lot of people have is the difference between cruelty free and vegan. Many products now are cruelty free which means they’re not tested on animals but this doesn’t guarantee that they are free from animal ingredients such as Lanolin (from wool), Carmine (crushed beetles) or Collagen (from animal placenta). As vegans we are looking for products which fit both the cruelty free and vegan criteria and in the list of vegan beauty brands provided in the article I came across one that stood out above all of the others.
Arbonne are not only a vegan and cruelty free company. They are also gluten free and free from other nasties such as parabens, formaldehyde, petrolatum, synthetic dyes and artificial colours and flavourings. This makes them perfect for anyone with allergies or even those of us who are just trying to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
I was recently given the opportunity to try some of their products. I highlighted that some of the most difficult things to find as a vegan were hair products for coloured hair and good lip balms and met with one of Arbonne’s consultants, Jo for a chat about their products and what they have to offer. I came home with a thick catalogue of beautiful products, a lip salve and some shampoo and conditioner for coloured hair.
This lip moisturiser no longer seems to be on their website but is similar to the Liquid Sunshine Lip Balm that is now available. Most well-known lip balms you can buy in the UK are packed full of beeswax and lanolin so I’m always ready to give a new vegan product a go. Many coeliacs are also worried about gluten in their lip products as even the slightest bit of ingested gluten can cause severe problems. This balm therefore covers all bases! It is uncoloured and has a very mild and natural fragrance as would be expected with its natural ingredients. It goes on very smoothly and leaves your lips feeling very soft and also quite tingly! There is a glossy aspect to the balm too so it leaves a nice shine whilst also protecting from the sun.
The haircare range I tried is called Pure Vibrance and has been developed for use on coloured hair. In the range is a shampoo, conditioner, hair masque, texturizing mousse, serum and a hair spray. I use semi-permanent hair dye so it generally washes out quite quickly. I noticed when lathering this into my hair that not much dye seemed to be coming out which was an excellent sign. There is a citrusy type fragrance in the shampoo and conditioner which leaves your hair smelling fresh and clean. I was impressed with the quality of these products and my colour didn’t seem to wash out any sooner than it usually would with other non-vegan coloured hair shampoos.
All in all the brand covers a lot of bases with cosmetics, skin care and even nutritional products available. It is on the more luxury end of cosmetics with a large bottle of shampoo setting you back around £26 but the products are so good they’re worth it! There is also a sense of safety when using these cosmetics as you know they are fully vegan, environmentally friendly and gluten free.
To find out more about the differences between vegan and cruelty free cosmetics and how to refresh your vegan make up look for Spring grab a copy issue 4 of Vegan Life magazine!
Tea is probably one of the most commonly bought fairtrade products in the UK. We love our tea and we love our fairtrade! Thankfully it’s not too difficult to switch your usual brew for one that pays the farmers enough to support their families. Here is a list of my favourite teas, many of which are available in your local supermarket.
1) Clipper Teas
Every single bag that Clipper produces is fairtrade! This gives you an excellent selection from black teas to specialty blends and fruity infusions. They can also boast that there are no artificial ingredients in any of their products. My favourite flavour at the moment is Strawberry and Rhubarb which is giving me a taster of summer. Clipper can be found in most supermarkets.
They may be remembered for their coffees but Cafedirect make some excellent teas. Their everyday tea is a delicious cup you can enjoy at anytime and their new One Acre varieties are all slightly differently flavoured depending on the region they are grown in. My favourite of the lot has to be the Uganda Bushenyi Hills Tea. Again, I’ve seen these in most supermarkets and also in Oxfam shops.
While Pukka can’t claim that all of their teas are fairtrade, a large number of them are. This is where the fairtrade logo comes in which you can see in the bottom right hand corner of the box. Vanilla chai is without doubt my favourite one here, it’s beautiful in the winter. These are slightly harder to get hold of but can be found in some supermarkets as well as Oxfam shops.
Traidcraft is a one stop shop for all your fairtrade needs and their tea range is no exception. Here you can find all kinds of black and herbal teas and you’re guaranteed to be getting a gorgeous cuppa.
5) Supermarket Own Brand
All of the hot drinks you can buy in the Co-op are fairtrade. This is a massive step and one that hopefully all supermarkets will one day choose to engage with. For now though you can find a fairtrade own brand tea in most major supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, ASDA, Tesco, M&S and Waitrose. This means it’s now easier than ever to swap your normal brew for a fairtrade one!
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are lots of other fairtrade tea companies out there so don’t be afraid to try something new!
What are your tips for a good cuppa?
If you don’t know already, it is currently fairtrade fortnight! This means two weeks of celebrating the amazing products which look after the farmers and workers who make them as well as being delicious. I’m marking the occasion with 14 blog posts about the where you can buy fairtrade goods and why you should. I’m starting the fortnight with a definition of what fairtrade actually is.
There are a lot of symbols that we look out for on our food and it can certainly get confusing! The fairtrade symbol is shown on the mug above. This is different to organic, recycled or FSC but if your product contains those symbols too then all the better! Fairtrade is also different to Fair Trade. Fairtrade is a certification that shows a food product fits into the fairtrade guidelines whereas Fair Trade is often used on non food products or to describe the whole movement.
So now that confusing part is out of the way, how exactly does fairtrade help farmers?
The fairtrade mark means that the fairtrade ingredients have been made in organisations that meet the right social, economic and environmental standards. This includes protecting the rights of the workers and using some of the money from sales of the product to invest in schools, transport, health care and sanitation amongst other things.
They ensure that farmers and workers are paid a decent wage which enables them to support their families even in times of hardship. Therefore your fairtrade chocolate bar really does save lives.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll show you some products that are both vegan and fairtrade to show that you can save the world by altering your shopping ways just a small amount!
What are your favourite fairtrade products?
When you tell somebody you’re vegan and they ask you what it entails the honey aspect is usually what tips them over edge to thinking you’re ridiculous. “What harm can a bit of honey do? The bee’s give it to us for free!” is one of the most common arguments I hear. It’s not just between vegans and meat eaters either, I’ve seen many vegans arguing about honey online. So what’s the real answer?
Vegan Life Magazine have tried to tackle the controversial argument in their January/February issue by comparing the for and against arguments. As usual they have left it up to their readers to decide what to believe but I don’t think this is a difficult decision at all.
The yes camp use the argument that not eating honey is what gives vegans such a bad name. People think we’re pedantic and over the top. Why do we care about bees? It can’t have escaped your attention that bees are in dramatic decline all over the world. Colony collapse disorder is causing hives to literally become empty shells overnight and scientists are baffled as to why. It is thought that it could be pesticides which are killing off our bees or possibly the changes to their natural environment. What is certain is that the extinction of bees would be extremely dangerous to human kind with many of our foods disappearing with them as they are not being pollinated.
Honey is a natural food and can be harvested without harming the bees but unfortunately that usually isn’t the case. Bee’s create honey so that they have food to eat over the winter when pollen is hard to come by. If we take that honey we have to then feed them with an artificial alternative so that they can still feed. This is usually made with processed sugar, a very unnatural alternative. Honey is extremely nutritious which is one of the reasons we take it, can you imagine what happens to the bees that are fed this ridiculous alternative?
To keep up with the demand for honey beekeepers often add new layers to the hives so that the bees carry on reproducing and therefore produce more honey from their offspring. This is not natural and causes increased stress and often death. A bee would rather work itself to death than let it’s offspring die and yet the honey isn’t going anywhere near the young but being taken for humans to enjoy instead.
The vegan lifestyle is about caring for animals and not taking advantage of them for our own benefit. While people may argue that keeping bees is stopping them from becoming extinct, nothing could be further from the truth. Keeping these vulnerable insects in hives and stealing the food they would give to their children is not what I call care. Someone who exploits bees by eating their honey cannot call themselves a vegan.
A couple of days ago I told you all about the number of vegan recipes you could find in Jack Monroe’s first cookbook and on her website. I tried my first recipe out of the book this week and since I’d been craving falafel it had to be the carrot and coriander falafel!
Anyone else who is gluten free and vegan knows how difficult it is to find some ready made falafel that is suitable. Most varieties have wheat flour in which I’ve never completely understood! The recipes I’ve seen to make them at home tend to use dried chickpeas and require quite a bit of effort. What makes this recipe different is that it uses tinned chickpeas for convenience and texture. The grated vegetables mix with the chickpeas to create a nice soft inside while the outside crisps up nicely in the frying pan. I made mine into burger shapes and topped them with hummus, avocado, tomato and lettuce.
I’ve never had better burgers in my life. If you want to give them a go the recipe can be found here.
One of my great summer memories was at Reading Festival a few years ago. I wasn’t gluten free back then but it was still surprisingly difficult to find vegan food. Luckily Waitrose was just a ten minute walk from our campsite and I found massive vegan samosas in their chilled section that I ate all weekend. Sadly a gluten free samosa is hard to come by, especially a vegan one!
Enter Afia’s, a traditional indian company that specialise in gluten free samosas, pakoras, achaar (indian pickles) and chutneys. While their range includes some meat products, five of their Samosa fillings are vegan! I recently had a chance to try some of their traditional vegetable samosas and spicy parathas so I snapped it up!
Their samosas and parathas come frozen and ready to put in your freezer. This means they’re ready to cook anytime! They also come with cooking instructions it’s pretty impossible to get wrong. I oven cooked mine as I don’t have access to a deep fat fryer. I brushed them with oil and baked them for 10 minutes as instructed and they came out absolutely beautiful.
The inside of the samosa seemed to be mainly potato but there were also peas and sweetcorn in there. It was lovely and soft with a kick from the masala spices. The pastry was something else! I would never have thought it was gluten free! Most gluten free pastry I try turns out dry and crumbly but this was crispy and made a gorgeous contrast to the filling. This is definitely something I’d eat again.
I have to admit I’d never heard of a Paratha until now. After a quick google I discovered that they could be used like a wrap and eaten with salad or any other fillings. I had mine on the side of my aubergine curry which was a good choice because I needed the rice to cool my mouth down! These wraps are made with gram flour, corn flour, potatoes, green chillis and other spices. They are extremely delicate and mine broke in the pan but this may have been because it had defrosted slightly. It was really tasty but slightly too spicy for my taste buds. I’m not known for my ability to handle spice!
What makes this company so great is the fact they can cater to all sorts of different dietary requirements. One of the ladies is coeliac herself which definitely puts my mind at ease! Next I’ll definitely be ordering more samosas and some chapatti’s too.
Have you tried Afia’s? What did you think?
Today I want to point you towards a blogger and cookbook writer who strangely enough, is not vegan! Jack Monroe came to everyone’s attention when she started her blog about budget family cooking a few years back. Since then she’s become a beacon of hope for anyone who is currently suffering in the terrible political climate in Britain today. She’s well known for feeding herself and her son for just £10 a week when she was waiting for benefits to be paid to her which never seemed to turn up. Unfortunately this is more and more common now and many families are struggling to cope.
On her blog and in her books many of the recipes tend to be vegan because vegetables and rice are much cheaper than a steak! I follow the blog and own the first book and there are a surprising amount of recipes that I can use. Jack has gone a step further now and introduced a vegan section on her website to make it even easier for us vegan fans!
Here are a list of the most exciting vegan and gluten free (or easily adaptable) recipes I’ve found so far:
Carrot and Coriander Falafel
Penne Pappa al Pomodoro
Carrot, Cumin and Kidney Bean Burgers
Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Garlic Soup
Red Lentil Bolognese
For the rest of her vegan recipes have a look here.
Have you used any of Jack Monroe’s recipes? What did you think?
It came to my attention over the weekend that this week was in fact Bramley Apple Week! Obviously this was an opportunity to make my favourite dessert, a buttery and spicy apple crumble. It also inspired me to find out a bit more about Britain’s favourite cooking apple.
I grew up with the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” which I used to take literally. Now I know there are plenty of other factors in keeping good health. Apples are well known for their health benefits though and are full of vitamin C and fibre! Does this make my favourite pudding any less virtuous? I don’t think so!
I actually used frozen apples for this recipe. I’d never used them before so I was apprehensive but they worked fantastically! These only cost £1 from Ocado and they saved us the peeling and chopping that usually comes with an apple dessert. I also decided to make two smaller crumbles rather than a normal family sized one. Me and my boyfriend like slightly different flavours in our apples so this was perfect!
First I split the frozen apples between the two dishes and we both added our own flavourings. We both used maple syrup then I added mostly vanilla to mine and Steven added mostly cinnamon to his. Then it was just a case of whacking the crumble on the top and putting them in the oven for 20 minutes!
A gorgeous, comforting dessert in half an hour and a perfect way to celebrate Bramley Apple Week.
One packet of frozen apples or 4-5 fresh apples
2 cups of gluten free plain flour
1 cup of vegan margarine (I used Pure Sunflower)
1 cup of sugar
Cinnamon to taste (around 1/2 tsp)
Chopped nuts (optional)
1 tbsp maple syrup (for each pie)
1) Split the apple slices between the dishes and add 1 tbsp maple syrup and cinnamon/vanilla to taste. Give a mix to coat all of the slices.
2) Add the margarine and flour to a bowl and crumble together with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs. Mix in the sugar with a wooden spoon.
3) Cover the apple mixture with the crumble mixture and sprinkle with cinnamon/vanilla sugar and chopped nuts.
4) Place in the oven at 180 degrees for 20 minutes or until the apples are bubbling and the top is golden
5) Enjoy while warm!
Up until not long ago my go-to quick and easy food when I was away from home was any product made by Goodlife. This vegetarian company changed all of it’s products to vegan back in 2011, a huge step for the vegetarian industry I’m sure you’ll agree.
If you keep an eye on vegetarian freezer foods I’m sure you’ve noticed that Goodlife have had a makeover. The new boxes are colourful and look fun but hang on… is that cheese?
That’s right, Goodlife have taken a huge step backwards and reintroduced cheese products into their sausages. Their french bean and spinach sausages sound delicious until you find out that they’re full of wensleydale cheese, crème fraiche and eggs. Beetroot sausages are an original and exciting flavour but the addition of feta cheese and egg means they’re not to be enjoyed by vegans. Tomato and basil sausages? Bring it on! Hold the mozzarella and eggs though. Cauliflower cheese sausages? You get the point.
Don’t get me wrong, Goodlife still have two products that are suitable for vegans and one of them is also gluten free. The spicy veg beanburgers with chipotle chilli sound amazing and the picador parsnip and sweet carrot nut burgers with crunchy cashews even more so. Unfortunately I will not get to sample these burgers as I, along with many other vegans, have decided not to support a company that goes back on it’s vegan values so it can make more money from the vegetarian customers. I’m sure their new range will be very successful and the animal suffering involved will be forgotten behind the sound of ringing tills. If you are like me though, you will not want to be any part of this exploitation of animals for the benefit of the owners of this company with questionable morals.
I’m sorry I’ve been away since the end of Vegan MOFO! Last month I took part in another challenge called Nanowrimo where I wrote 48,199 words in the whole of November. Every minute I wasn’t sleeping, eating or working I was writing my novel! You can see my results in the graph below, I’m very proud of how I did.
Now I’m back though and in a vegan Christmas mood! I’m here today to share some Mulled Wine cupcakes I made yesterday.
Some of you may remember the exciting time I had at the Northern Vegan Festival where I met the lovely Ms Cupcake and came home with a signed version of her book. She did a brilliant talk on how to make gluten free and vegan cakes taste amazing so I couldn’t wait to try out one of her recipes and use her tips. The main tip was that the cakes should be mixed as quickly as possible and put in the oven before the baking soda gets to work. She also said that it was better to measure ingredients in grams rather than cups.
She must have been right because these cakes did everything I’ve not been able to manage up until now! They rose, they had a gorgeous golden colour and my boyfriend said they were the best things I’d ever baked. I used the Vanilla Cupcake recipe but used Mulled Wine flavouring instead of Vanilla extract so they had a hint of orange and spice. I found the flavouring in Lakeland and the sprinkles were in ASDA and were labelled vegan.
I’ve found a new favourite baking book! Have you tried any of Ms Cupcake’s recipes?