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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Vegan transition tips

We are now into the third week of Veganuary and I thought that this would be a great time to share some of my tips for transitioning to a vegan lifestyle.  I’ve been a vegan for around eighteen months now and I can tell you that the first six weeks are the most difficult. But those weeks were difficult for reasons I hadn’t anticipated.

I had expected that I would have to deal with strong food cravings during my transition period.  In particular, I predicted that I would have the most trouble separating from cheese, because it was my favourite food in my pre-vegan days.  In actual fact, food cravings weren’t that much of an issue for me.  What I found the most difficult was just navigating the shops and restaurants as a new vegan.  Tasks that had previously been second-nature took on a whole new dimension and became time consuming and difficult.  I had to check labels, ask questions and the whole process was kind of overwhelming.  Additionally, modifying recipes to make them vegan was tricky in the beginning.  But as time passed and I gained more knowledge and experience, these things became much simpler and less stressful.  Let me share with you some of the things I wish I’d known when I first became a vegan, as well as my top transition tips.

  • Go at a pace that feels manageable for you.  There is no rule that says you have to be completely vegan from the get-go.  You might find it easier to cut out meat one month, then progress to dairy and eggs when you are ready.
  • Don’t rely on meat substitutes.  In the early days of adopting a vegan diet, you might be tempted to replace your usual meals with the “meat free” version.  Although this sounds like a good way to ease away from meat, I found this actually made it more difficult.  Meat substitutes are great, but most of them don’t have the flavour or texture of meat.  This means they’re less likely to satisfy cravings. Use meat substitutes sparingly and instead stock up on fresh veggies, legumes, grains, pasta and spices.
  • Try new things.  This is the perfect time to experiment with new recipes and ingredients.
  • Eating out can be a bit of a minefield when you’re a new vegan.  But there are loads of options available, even at restaurants that aren’t specifically vegan.  Mexican restaurants have a huge range of options, pizzas can be ordered without meat or cheese, salads are served at most restaurants and most burger places have at least one veggie burger.  Even my local pub has a veggie stir fry with smokey soy sauce that is accidentally vegan.
  • Plan ahead when you go shopping.  Make a list and spend a little time researching at home which brands offer vegan options.  You can find lists of accidentally vegan snacks at Veggieful which are super helpful.  This will save lots of time and stress when you actually hit the shops.
  • Embrace home cooking.  If you don’t know how to cook, this is the perfect time to learn.  Even though it might be difficult to find vegan versions of your favourite foods in stores, it’s pretty easy to make your own snacks, sweets and meals at home.  It’s also so much cheaper than buying pre-packaged meals or eating out.

Image from mikimottes.com
  • Don’t stress out about protein.  A lot of people believe that meat, eggs and dairy are the only sources of protein.  This isn’t true at all.  If you’re eating a wide range of foods that includes nuts, legumes and grains, you’ll be fine.
  • Some folks love to be jerks to vegans.  It sucks, but it’s a fact.  Accept this, but realise that it’s not your job to respond or be an ambassador for the vegan lifestyle.  If you want to, that’s your choice, but you do not have to engage with someone who is harassing you over your diet.
  • Don’t be alarmed by portion sizes.  When I first went vegan, I got really worried because I had to eat a much larger meal in order to feel satiated.  This occurs simply because plant-based foods don’t have as many calories and therefore it takes a larger amount to make you feel full and satisfied. So if you’re eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans, you might find that your serving sizes need to increase in order for you to feel full.
  • Make your own rules and choices.  You don’t have to be the “perfect vegan” and you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself.  You get to decide how to implement your lifestyle and make choices that suit you.  For example, some vegans get rid of all of their animal-based clothing and only buy animal free clothes.  I still own wool and leather from my pre-vegan days, and I will continue to use these things until they are worn out.  I won’t buy new items that are made from wool or leather but I will still purchase second-hand items made from animal products because I believe in recycling and getting the most out of clothing that is still wearable.  That’s my choice, and it feels right to me, even if it might not be the “perfect vegan” choice.
  • You are going to make mistakes.  You will buy things that have sneaky animal products in them.  You will accidentally order a meal that you didn’t realise had cheese or cream included.  It’s ok.  Mistakes happen and we learn from them.  Don’t beat yourself up or expect to be perfect.

It’s true that the first month or so of trying a vegan lifestyle can be difficult, but I promise you that it does get easier.  And the benefits definitely outweigh the initial struggles.

 

Do you have any transition tips that you’d like to add?  Or any questions about transitioning to a vegan lifestyle?  I’d be happy to answer them.

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?

 

 

 

My favourite vegan resources

Happy Veganuary!  Veganuary is a campaign to encourage people to try a vegan diet for the month of January.  If you’re interested in veganism and want to give it a go, I recommend taking part in Veganuary.

 

To celebrate Veganuary, I’m publishing a series of posts about veganism during the month of January.  These posts will deal with some of the common questions faced by new vegans and assist and support you if you’re considering making the transition to a vegan diet.

 

One of the most important things to do at the beginning of your vegan journey is to do your research.  Veganism is a massive topic and there are so many things to be considered.  You need to think about the reasons why you want to go vegan, the health benefits and concerns associated with a vegan diet as well as recipes and meal inspiration.  The internet is filled with resources for new vegans, but it can be very overwhelming when you’re just getting started.  To help you out, I’ve put together a list of the resources that I found most helpful at the beginning of my transition to veganism, as well as the ones that I reference on a regular basis now.

 

Films

Forks over Knives: This compelling documentary discusses the health benefits of a plant based diet.  It considers whether eating a diet high in animal products can contribute to problems like heart disease and cancer and how moving away from animal products can have a healing effect on our bodies.

 

101 Reasons to Go Vegan: A presentation aimed at high school students to help you consider the ethical dilemmas involved in farming and eating animals and animal by-products.

 

Cowspiracy: A sobering look at the environmental impact of the farming industry.

 

Books

The Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S Nixon: When you’re first learning to cook a plant-based diet, a comprehensive book like this one can be a lifesaver.  I read this book two months after I began eating a vegan diet, and it made life so much easier.  It is chock-full of recipes for meal inspiration, has pages of tips for negotiating eating out at restaurants and social gatherings, lots of interviews with vegans of all walks of life and great shopping lists in the back.  One important thing to note is that this book is focused on plant-based eating, which doesn’t include things like oil and so it’s a tad more limited than a traditional “vegan” diet.  But this book is still a great starting point and I highly recommend it.

 

Veganish: the Omnivore’s Guide to Plant-Based Cooking by Mielle Chenier and Cowan Rose: An excellent book to read if you’re concerned about the nutritional value of a vegan diet.  Although the book does have a lot of recipes, they are a tiny bit more advanced than most beginner-friendly books, owing to the fact that the author is a chef.  It’s still a great read and very informative.

 

Bake and Destroy: Good Food for Bad Vegans by Natalie Slater: Most vegan cookbooks are a plethora of salads, soups, curries and other angelic delights.  This punk-rock book is brimming with amazing vegan junk food options like pizzas, cakes, cookies, chips, sandwiches and nachos.  It’s colourful and creative and so much fun.

 

Websites

All Vegan, All Good: All Vegan, All Good is the shopping hub for cruelty-free clothing and products. If you are looking for good-quality vegan clothing, beauty products and lifestyle products, this website is a great place to start.  Browse through the list of shops or search for specific items.  This site has saved me so much time when looking for new shoes and beauty products.

 

Veggieful: This is my most-visited site for finding vegan groceries and takeaway options.  Although the site is packed with blog posts about vegan nutrition, recipes and so forth, the real kicker is the comprehensive lists of “accidentally vegan” items at major grocery stores and takeaway chains in Australia.  This website will save you so much time scouring ingredients lists and asking waitstaff what you can order.  It’s amazing and I love it.

 

Choose Cruelty Free: A comprehensive listing of all the companies that make cruelty free and vegan cosmetics in Australia.  This is immensely helpful as it can be very confusing trying to determine which products are cruelty free in the chemist or supermarket as not all of them are clearly labelled.  This website takes all the guesswork out of shopping for cosmetics.

 

The Cruelty Free Shop: The biggest vegan supermarket in Australia.  The brick-and-mortar store is located in Fitzroy.  However, if you’re not able to get to the actual shop, you can buy all your vegan goodies at their online store.  Featuring everything from groceries to snacks, makeup to lubricant, everything is 100% vegan.

 

Youtube channels

Keira Rose: Keira vlogs about a range of topics, including mental health and cosplay.  But my favourite part of her channel is her “what I ate” videos which are great fodder for meal planning and her reviews of vegan products.  She’s charming, funny and adorable and I’ve learned so much from her channel.

 

Jenny Mustard: I first discovered Jenny’s channel when I was looking for videos about minimalism and decluttering.  In addition to being a genius on these topics, Jenny is a total foodie and gives brilliant advice on simple, satisfying vegan cooking.  She’s a master of meal planning and has loads of snack ideas that will make your mouth water.

 

Plant Based News:  A great channel to help you access the newest vegan documentaries as well as interviews with scientists, doctors and health professionals.

 

Vegan Voyager: Laura’s down-to-earth tone and witty attitude make this channel a pleasure to watch.  Featuring great advice for vegan travel, avoiding products with hidden animal content and identifying accidentally vegan products.  Loads of delicious junk food and shopping tips.

 

If you know of any other resources that you think I should add to this list, please let me know.  I’m always on the lookout for new vegan books, films and online media to learn from and share.

 

As always, if you’ve got any questions I’d be happy to try to answer them for you.  Drop me an email or leave a comment and I’ll do my best to find the answer for you.

 

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.