My favourite Accidentally Vegan foods

When I first went vegan, my initial reaction was to panic about all the things that I wouldn’t be able to eat anymore.  I had this idea that my days of grabbing a tasty treat off the supermarket shelves were over.  It was easy to think that my grocery shopping was going to be limited to the produce and health food aisles, maybe snagging some tea bags in between.  And for the first few weeks, this is where I shopped.  It was extremely expensive because a lot of the speciality vegan foods are very pricey.  It didn’t occur to me to look in the regular sections of the supermarket and once I did I was pleasantly surprised by all the accidentally vegan foods that I found.

An “accidentally vegan” food is a product that doesn’t contain any animal products even though it’s not specifically marketed as being vegan.  Loads of delicious treats and snackfoods fall into this category, and they’re easy to find if you take your time to check the packaging when you do your shopping.  Today I thought I’d share some of my favourite accidentally vegan foods to show you that you don’t have to stick to the health food aisle when shopping for cruelty free foods.

Kettle salted caramel popcorn: I am a sucker for anything that’s Salted Caramel flavoured, but most of them contain butter.  This delectable popcorn is sweet and salty and is the perfect movie treat.

 

Pringles- Original and BBQ flavour: It cracks me up that often the BBQ flavoured chips are the ones that tend to be vegan.  Pringles have been vegan for a long time, but they’ve only recently begun labelling their cans with the Vegan sunflower symbol.

 

Skittles: These fruity lollies have been a favourite of mine for years, so you can imagine how chuffed I was to find out that they don’t contain any animal products.

 

Arnott’s roast chicken flavoured Shapes: Yet another example of a meat-flavoured snack that is vegan.  Sadly, the vast majority of the Shapes flavours contain milk or cheese.  But these tasty snacks get their flavour from herbs and onion powder.  Plus they taste absolutely scrumptious.

 

Sour Patch Kids: It’s really difficult to find jelly lollies that don’t contain gelatine or carmine.  But Sour Patch Kids hit the bill and are perfect for the vegan sweet tooth that likes a sour hit.

Arnott’s Lemon Crisp biscuits: Tangy and sweet, these go down a treat with an afternoon cuppa.

 

Cadbury drinking chocolate: Ironically, while most of Cadbury’s chocolates contain milk, their drinking chocolate has no dairy content.  Which is awesome because it’s probably the yummiest hot chocolate mix on the market.

 

Massel gravy: In addition to being incredibly delicious, the Massel gravy is probably the easiest instant gravy I’ve ever made.  Just mix a few tablespoons with cold water to form a thick paste, add boiling water and stir vigorously until the gravy thickens.  It’s incredible on roast veggies or tofurkey.

Calippo icy poles: These are an Aussie summer favourite. I always have a pack of these in the freezer for sweltering days.

 

These are just a few of my accidentally vegan favourites.  As you can imagine, there are still so many choices on the supermarket shelves for vegans if you’re willing to take the time to check the packaging.  I’ll admit, it is a bit time consuming to begin with, but once you’ve found the things that don’t contain animal products you’ll be able to get your shopping done in a jiffy.  There’s no need to miss out on treats and snacks just because you’ve decided to give veganism a whirl.

 

Do you have any accidentally vegan favourites to add?

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Substituting vegan ingredients in recipes

I am an enthusiastic cook and I enjoy puddling about in the kitchen.  Few things excite me more than the prospect of a new recipe to try out.  When I was contemplating switching to a vegan diet, I felt a bit wary that my cooking would become very limited.  I was under the impression that I would have to stop making all of my favourite non-vegan dishes and that any new recipe I tried would have to be vegan approved.

 

I quickly learned that it is very simple to adapt recipes that are intended to be made with meat, dairy or eggs to make them vegan-friendly.  Today I want to share a list of the common non-vegan ingredients and the vegan alternatives that I typically use in their place.

 

Beef: Thickly sliced portobello Mushrooms.  Thickly sliced eggplant.  Seitan stir fry strips, black beans, Nut mince.

Chicken: Firm tofu, Fry’s rice protein and chia stir fry strips, Quorn vegan nuggets sliced into pieces, chickpeas, lentils.

Fish: Pulse chickpeas, lemon juice and a dash of soy sauce in the food processor.  This makes an awesome alternative to tuna in sandwiches, pasta bakes and can be mixed with breadcrumbs and fried to make “phish” cakes.

Eggs: For baking, I use an egg substitute product called The Vegg.  It’s a powder that you mix with water and add to your baking.  It bakes really well and looks and smells like egg when you mix it up.  Flaxseed oil or other vegetable oils can be used in place of eggs in baking. Applesauce may be used in sweet recipes.

Ham or bacon: For soups or stews that use ham or bacon, I like to add a can of white beans such as cannelini or butter beans for protein and texture.  Liquid Smoke can also be added to give the smokey flavour that these cured meats add to cooked dishes.

Milk: There are so many milk substitutes to choose from that it can make a vegan’s head spin!  My personal preferences for everyday are soy and almond milk. Coconut milk is naturally sweet for baking but can have a coconutty-flavour.  Rice, oat and hemp milk are also great options.

Cream: For pasta sauces that call for cream, I like to blend silken tofu in the food processor until it’s smooth.  For sweets and desserts, try this cashew cream recipe.

Sour cream: Simply blend silken tofu in a food processor until smooth and add a dash of lemon or lime juice, a pinch of paprika and a pinch of salt.

Cheese: Nutritional Yeast is perfect for adding a cheesy flavour to risotto, pasta bakes, soups or on top of pasta.  My favourite vegan cheeses are Biocheese and Green Vee cheeses.

Butter: It’s easy to find vegan spreads on the supermarket shelf. My personal favourite is the Nuttlex Buttery Spread.

Beef or chicken stock: use vegetable broth. Alternatively, Massal stocks contain no animal products and come in beef and chicken flavours.

Gelatine: Agar flakes or powder.

 

When you become more practised at vegan cooking, you’ll get a feel for how to adapt regular recipes to make them suitable.  When choosing your substituted ingredients, it’s important to consider the ingredient’s role in the recipe.  Is the ingredient there for texture?  To bind the mixture together?  For flavour?  This will help you to select a substitute that performs the same role so that your recipe is more likely to be a success.

 

Do you have any additions to this list?  What do you substitute to make ordinary recipes vegan-friendly?

 

 

 

5 unexpected benefits of a vegan diet.

About one year ago I decided to try a vegan diet for a month, to see whether it would work for me.  I expected it to be quite difficult to maintain, but I’d been curious about veganism for years and following a period of research into benefits of such a diet and the reality of the farming industry, I wanted to at least attempt to go vegan.

 

It’s nearly a year later and I’m still going strong on my vegan journey.  Once I’d done my research and some planning, I didn’t find it very difficult at all to make the transition to a vegan diet.  A lot of the obstacles I’d expected were non-issues, and I reaped a huge number of benefits.  My skin improved, I lost a little weight and I had more energy.  But going vegan had a number of benefits that I hadn’t predicted would cross my path before I started on this journey.  Today I wanted to share five unexpected benefits of being a vegan:

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  1. Vegan food takes less time to prepare.

Eating vegan is a huge time-saver.  Initially, I had a couple of shopping trips that took twice as long as usual because I had to check a lot of packages to figure out what was vegan friendly.  But once I knew what to buy, shopping was a total breeze.  Cooking vegan food takes a fraction of the time it used to take me to prepare meaty meals.  Vegetables cook a lot more quickly than meat, and a lot of the meat substitutes require less cooking time as well.  My meals are done so much more quickly now.

2. Your palate changes

Over the past year, I’ve tried to keep an open mind about food.  I’m not generally a picky eater, but I am normally hesitant to try new things.  A lot of vegan foods have a reputation for being boring and tasteless, and I tried to keep an open mind when sampling new ingredients or foods.  In fact, I’ve found loads of specialised vegan foods that are super tasty, which I now get cravings for.  I pushed myself to try some vegetables that I’ve never been fond of and found that I actually really enjoy them.  I think that since I changed my diet, my palate and tastebuds have changed somewhat too.  Just the other day I found myself snacking on a handful of cherry tomatoes, a food that I previously hated and found bitter.  I feel proud of myself for trying so many new foods and adopting loads of them into my cooking.

3. It’s easier to wash the dishes

Have you ever tried to chisel dried-up cheese off a plate that once held pasta or nachos?  It’s damn near impossible.  But when you don’t eat cheese, you never run into that problem!  Even the vegan cheese substitutes don’t stick as voraciously to the crockery as dairy cheeses, and are easy to wipe off.  As a person who hates doing the dishes, I welcome this.

 

4. You weed out the jerks

I don’t think that I’m a preachy vegan.  My personal philosophy is that the food you eat doesn’t make you a dick….but the way you act about it can.  When I started ordering vegan meals in restaurants and sharing pictures of my vegan cooking on social media, there were the inevitable number of eye-rolls and comments challenging my decision.  And while it wasn’t fun to be made to feel shitty about my food choices (especially as I made an effort not to bite back judging people who do eat meat) those jibes served a very important purpose.  I was able to look at those people who were so negative towards my diet and evaluate whether I actually wanted to continue spending time with them.  It allowed me to see those people who shout down others who don’t share the same opinion as them and step out of their path.

 

5. You can lick the bowl

Vegan baking is made extra fun by the fact that you can eat raw cookie dough without fear of food poisoning.  There are no raw eggs that might harbour salmonella, so it’s perfectly safe to lick the bowl after your cake goes into the oven.  Heavenly.

 

Do you eat a vegan diet?  What are some of the unexpected benefits you found?

 

Vegan pasta with creamy mushroom sauce

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about adopting a vegan lifestyle is re-working some of my old favourite recipes to make them vegan-friendly.  I’m an absolute sucker for creamy pasta sauces but it’s tricky to find a way to make them without using cream. Although there are some vegan cream alternatives, the supermarket here doesn’t stock any of them.  So I had to get a bit creative when substituting cream from my recipes.

 

Last week I was craving something delicious and filling. What I really wanted was my mother’s mushroom and spinach pasta sauce.  So I put on my thinking cap, had a bit of a tinker in the kitchen and came up with this dairy-free version.  It’s lower in fat than the traditional recipe, and it’s perfect for vegans and lactose intolerant folk.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 100g mushrooms, chopped
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 200g block silken tofu
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken style stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 cups pasta

 

 

  1. Cook pasta in a pot of boiling water until al dente
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and fry the onion until soft.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pan with the onion and fry until soft.
  4. Chop the tofu into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until it is the consistency of pouring cream.  If the tofu is too thick, add water in small increments until the consistency is right.  Add a the turmeric to the tofu cream.
  5. Reduce the heat on the mushrooms and onions.  Add the tofu, the nutritional yeast flakes and the stock and stir to combine.
  6. Add the spinach and herbs to the sauce.  Stir on a medium heat until the spinach is wilted.  Remove from heat.
  7. Drain pasta and stir through sauce.

You can very easily adjust this recipe to your personal tastes.  I like adding a little more nutritional yeast because it gives the sauce a cheesier flavour.  You may also like to experiment with adding other herbs as well.

 

I love this technique of using blended silken tofu to replace cream in pasta sauces and casseroles.  It works a treat, producing a rich creamy texture without any animal content.

 

 

The Cruelty Free Shop vegan snack haul

Shopping for vegan food can be a challenge in a small town.  Even though my local supermarket is bursting with fresh produce, plant milks, cereals and fruit, the one thing that is lacking is good junk food.  It can be extremely challenging to find snack foods and sweets that are vegan.  While there are a whole bunch of great “accidentally” vegan items on the shelves, it gets kind of tedious when you have to check every label to make sure that what you’re buying doesn’t contain any animal products.

 

A few weeks ago I visited The Cruelty Free Shop in Fitzroy, Melbourne and it was like falling down the rabbit hole.  It is a vegan supermarket that sells everything from snacks to meat and cheese substitutes, desserts, junk food, cosmetics, toiletries, sex supplies and even clothing.  It was so refreshing to be able to fill my cart with whatever took my fancy, and to be spared the tedium of label-checking.  I knew that every single item in that place was vegan and I went a teensy bit nuts buying delicious snacks and treats.

 

 

The Cruelty Free Shop also has a fantastic online store. I’ve shopped with them online as well and I loved the fast service and awesome range of products.

 

Here is a full list of the items mentioned in my video:

I had such a blast shopping at The Cruelty Free Shop and I can’t wait for my next visit.  There are so many rad things I’d love to stock up on the next time I’m in Melbourne.

 

What are your favourite vegan junk foods?  Do you have any questions about vegan shopping or cooking that you’d like me to cover in future posts?

 

Note: This is not a sponsored post.  Everything featured here was purchased with my own money and I was not compensated in any way.  I just love this store and the products they sell and am excited to share them with my readers.

Things I Love Thursday 22/6/2017

This past month has flown by.  Since the beginning of June, I took a little holiday from work, caught up with loads of friends and celebrated my 31st birthday.  There have been so many things that I’ve felt proud of and grateful for.

This week I love:

  • My friends.  I got so many messages of love and celebration on my birthday and each one brought an ear-to-ear smile to my face.
  • Michael Jackson.  David and I watched This Is It together and it was amazing.  I am a huge Michael Jackson fan and it breaks my heart that he didn’t get to perform his final masterpiece at least once.  I found the rehearsal footage breathtaking, and it’s hard to imagine what the final show would have been like.
  • Putting my cupcake hat on Rupert, David’s cat.  He purred like a maniac and wore the hat for a full half hour before he fell asleep and it toppled off his head.
  • Poking around vintage markets on chilly afternoons.
  • Bean burritos
  • Vegan vanilla cupcakes that look like they were pooped out by a unicorn.

Helloooo! Awesome birthday pin from my brother. #mrsdoubtfire #pins #birthday #geekery

A post shared by Nessbow (@nessbow64) on

  • My new Mrs Doubtfire pin from my brother.  I am slowly building quite a collection of cute enamel pins, and this is the newest addition to my hoard.
  • Watching the Top 1000 Songs of the 80’s countdown on Foxtel and taking bets on what would be number 1. ( I lost.  I voted Thriller, which was edged out by Living on a Prayer)
  • Kate Lister’s website Whores of Yore.  Kate is a sexual historian who explores the history of sexual practices, language and culture.  Her website is fascinating and funny as well as highly educational.
  • My new heated throw blanket.
  • Watching my cats wriggle on the floor after their dinner each night.
  • The smells of winter mornings: wood smoke, frost and wet grass
  • Booja Booja chocolate salted caramel truffles.  And also the name Booja Booja, which is really fun to say.
  • Skins.  Various friends over the years have urged me to watch this show and I’ve never listened.  Now that I’ve started, I can see why they thought I would love it.
  • The Time Traveller’s Wife.  I’m not usually into romance stories, but this one is so clever and thought-provoking.  Dr Who fans who enjoy the romance between The Doctor and River Song should give this book a whirl.
  • Gloves

What do you love this fine Thursday?

5 Fandom Friday: My favourite cupcakes

I’m an unapologetic cupcake fanatic.  Tiny cakes have held my heart since I was a wee little wisp of a thing scoffing them at birthday parties.  I went through a period of cupcakey bliss around 2008 when cupcakes were the dessert du jour.  And when macaroons knocked them off the top spot, I didn’t give a toss.  There’s nothing quite like folding back the crinkly paper case and taking a scrumptious first bite of soft, sweet cake.  Or eating them from the bottom-up so that you get a lovely mouthful of frosting to finish with.  Choosing five favourites is going to be hard, but here we go.

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  1. Bacon cupcakes.

No joke, these are a real thing.  They are a super simple recipe but they always go down a treat.  I like to make them when I’m having friends stay because they make an impressive breakfast.  They’re filling, they’re tasty and they look way more complicated than they are.  Basically you use a rasher of bacon to line a cupcake tin.  Then you crack an egg into it, sprinkle the top with cheese and chives and bake.  Viola!  Delicious breakfast cupcake.

 

2. Red velvet cakes.

Red velvet is just so decadent and divine.  The rich rosy hue is utterly romantic and so sexy.  The fact that they usually come topped with rich cream cheese frosting is another reason why I can’t get enough red velvet.  The creamy-sweet-tangy flavour of cream cheese frosting is mouth-watering to say the least.  The best red velvet cakes I’ve ever had are at Little Cupcakes in Degraves Street in Melbourne.  That hidden eatery has an array of flavours, but the red velvet truly are superior.

 

3. Fairy cakes

Every year for her birthday my Nan used to make a batch of lighter-than-air sponge cakes.  She would take a sharp knife and slice a portion out of the centre of each cake, filling it with jam and cream.  The cut-out would then be fashioned into two fairy wings and perched charmingly atop the mountain of cream-cake goodness.  Fairy cakes are so pretty and fluffy and always bring a wash of delight when you glimpse a plate of them coming your way.

 

DSCF64094. Vanilla cupcakes

My vanilla cupcakes are legendary in my family.  Whenever we get together for a special event, I inevitably have somebody request that I make a batch of vanilla cakes to bring with me.  I’ve decorated them in every way imaginable: with demure pastel frosting and tiny sugar roses, with outlandish coloured sprinkles, dusted with edible glitter and done up to look like mushrooms.  But they always taste the same, sweet, simple and delightful.  So many people use the word “vanilla” as an insult, to mean “boring” or “mediocre”.  But my vanilla cupcakes are anything but.

 

5. Lumberjack cakes.

The chef at my favourite local cafe regularly churns out batches of lumberjack cakes, and they are the perfect thing to down with tea on a chilly Sunday afternoon.  Heaped with apple, coconut, dates and golden syrup, these morsels are sticky and comforting.

 

Do you have a favourite cupcake variety?  And do you believe that cupcakes are superior to macaroons?