Dairy-Free / Vegan Easter Eggs – Top Picks for 2015

With just over a week until Easter, our minds have been on all things egg and bunny shaped, and preferably made of chocolate. We’ve been scouting the shops and online stores, checking out what’s on offer for vegans and the dairy free. Every year, the selection gets bigger and bigger. I remember not so long ago that it was impossible to find a dairy-free egg (even the dark chocolate eggs contained dairy :/). This year, whether you’re a milk, white or dark chocolate lover, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our top picks for 2015.

Milk Chocolate Lovers text

 

 

Dairy Free Milk Chocolate Eggs 2015

1. Moo Free Organic Dairy-Free Milk Chocolate Bunnycomb Egg 100g (Vegan Town, Animal Aid, Viva!)

2. Moo Free Organic Dairy-Free Milk Chocolate Egg 100g (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Holland & Barrett, Ocado)

3. Moo Free Organic Dairy-Free Milk Chocolate Cheeky Orange Egg 100g (Animal Aid, Viva!)

4. Plamil Organic Dairy-Free Milk Chocolate Egg 85g (Holland & Barrett, Vegan Town)

5. Choices Dairy-Free Easter Egg & 6 Choc Discs 125g (Holland & Barrett)

6. Choices Dairy-Free Caramel Flavoured Egg with 3 Caramel Chocolates 120g (Holland & Barrett)

7. Vantastic Large Vegan Milk Chocolate Easter Bunny 100g (Vegan Town)

Guaranteed dairy-free: Moo Free, Plamil

White Chocolate Lovers text

 

 

White Chocolate Easter Treats 2015

1. Vantastic Large White Chocolate Bunny 100g (Viva!)

2. Zotter Mi-Xing White Easter Egg 100g (Viva!)

3. Choices Dairy Free White Chocolate Egg & Buttons 65g (Holland & Barrett)

4. Choices Dairy Free White Chocolate Bunny Bar 40g (Holland & Barrett, Sainsbury’s)

Dark Chocolate Lovers text

 


Dark Chocolate Easter Treats 2015

1. Montezuma’s Dark Chocolate Chunky Button Egg 250g (Ocado)

2. Cocoa Loco Dark Chocolate & Ginger Easter Egg 225g (Cocoa Loco)

3. Divine Luxury Dark Chocolate Easter Egg with 100g Dark Chocolate Raspberry Bar (Waitrose, Ocado, Animal Aid)

4. Hotel Chocolat Dark Egglets 110g (Hotel Chocolat)

5. Hotel Chocolat Dark City Bunnies 90g (Hotel Chocolat)

6. Montezuma’s Dark Chocolate Mini Eggs with Almond Praline 150g (Montezuma’s, Ocado, Animal Aid)

Hotel Chocolat Milk-Free Milk Chocolate – NEW for 2015!
As soon as I heard that Hotel Chocolat had launched a range of milk-free milk chocolate, I headed straight to our store in Bath to check it out. It didn’t taste quite as I expected… it’s got that quality cocoa flavour that we know and love about Hotel Chocolat, but it didn’t have the creaminess (or sugary sweetness) that we associate with dairy chocolate. When Lil’ L tried it, he said that it was more like a dark chocolate than a dairy chocolate. If you’re a milk chocolate lover, I’d recommend trying a sample before you buy to make sure it suits your tastes. I like it… but then again I’m a dark chocolate lover ;)

Hotel Chocolat Milk-Free Milk Chocolate1.   Milk-Free Milk Scrambled Egg 210g

2. Milk-Free Goose Egg 130g

3. Milk-Free Milk City Bunnies 90g

 

What chocolatey treat would you love from the Easter Bunny this year?

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Cocoa Lime Energy Bites (Vegan / Gluten Free)

Cocoa Lime Energy Bites

As we head into Spring, I’ve started to crave lighter foods and fresh citrus flavours. For me, these Cocoa Lime Energy Bites are spot on for this time of year. They’re chocolatey but not too rich, they’re fresh and zesty thanks to the lime, and they’re lighter than the classic energy bite as I’ve cut down on nuts and substituted oats instead.

Lime Zest

I toyed between calling them ‘bliss balls’ and ‘energy bites’. They’re packed with mood-enhancing nutrients like magnesium, zinc, iron, B vitamins and omega 3, as well as cacao which triggers bliss-like chemicals in the brain. I always feel amazing after eating them. For these reasons, they definitely belong in the ‘bliss camp’.

Cocoa Lime Energy Bites

However, whenever I mention ‘bliss balls’ to M, he cringes. Maybe the name’s just too hippy or girly for him. ‘Energy bites’ got his approval though. It’s not very attractive or sexy, but if this name makes it a ‘man treat’ too, then that’s what we’ll go with. Men definitely deserve their share of these yummy snacks.

Energy bites is an accurate description anyhow, as they’re packed with fantastic ingredients like oats, nuts, seeds and dates that boost and sustain our energy levels.Cacao Nibs

I also like to add a handful of cacao nibs into these bites. They provide a lovely chocolatey ‘crunch’, as well as more of those amazing raw cocoa nutrients.

These energy bites make a great mid morning snack, afternoon ‘pick me up’ or post-school snack (Lil’ L loves them!) They’re very filling, so I find that one is usually enough for an energy boost and to stave off hunger pangs. They’re easy to transport too, so perfect for stashing in your bag for road trips and days out.

Cocoa Lime Energy Bites

Products used in this recipe (UK Stockists)
Mornflake Superfast Oats
Tesco Wholefoods cashewswalnuts  and soft pitted dates
Sevenhills Organics shelled hemp seeds, cacao powder, cacao nibs
Clarks original maple syrup
East End desiccated coconut
Suma coconut sugar (available in health food shops) or Biona coconut sugar from Amazon
Magimix 3200 Food Processor

Cocoa Lime Energy Bites

Do you crave different foods in Spring? As well as citrus, I’m loving fresh green flavours right now… mint, peas, asparagus, green beans. Two of my favourite Spring dishes are Mint Pea Soup and Risotto con Verdure. Hopefully I’ll get to share them with you very soon! xx 

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Vegan Life Issue 4

These past couple of weeks I’ve been savouring my copy of Vegan Life Issue 4. Usually I get through magazines in a flash, but there’s so much to read in this one.

Vegan Life Issue 4

As usual, the magazine gave me plenty to think about and invoked so many emotions… sadness and despair while reading about the plight of Moon bears and Angora rabbits in China…

Moon Bears

… to hope and optimism when reading about the plethora of vegan businesses popping up all over the globe.

The feature on vegan cosmetics was timely as my make-up bag is in desperate need of an overhaul. Most of its contents are years old (probably older than Lil’ L!) and from The Body Shop (which I mistakenly thought was natural / cruelty free). It was fantastic to hear there are so many vegan cosmetic brands available these days.

It was also useful to learn about the animal-derived ingredients to watch out for including beeswax and honey; lanolin (wool grease); squalene (shark liver oil); carmine (crushed beetles); tallow (animal fat); collagen (placenta-derived); allantoin (cow urine); and elastin (animal connective tissue).

Vegan Life Issue 4

This morning I did a little online research into vegan cosmetic brands and I was amazed at how many there are available here in the UK. I came across an online shop called Honesty Cosmetics which sells 100% vegan products. They stock Beauty without Cruelty, Lavera Trend Sensitiv and Benecos Natural Beauty (the vegan range). Their products really appeal to me as they’re natural and organic as well as vegan. I’m really looking forward to refreshing my make-up bag. It’s long overdue!

On the food front, I was so happy to see El Piano featured in this month’s issue. A vegan Spanish restaurant? Now that’s something I never dreamed I’d see in my lifetime! I’m heading to Spain soon, and my Spanish friends told me that it could be difficult to find vegan options there. From what I’ve heard, Spain sounds a bit like my experience of France, where pigs (ham/chorizo) seem to end up in most dishes, even the vegetable ones :/

El Piano

So you can imagine how delighted I was to discover that El Piano has branches in Malaga and Granada… two places that I’ll be visiting during my travels. It’s going to be so refreshing to be able to head into a Spanish restaurant and know that I can eat anything on the menu. Happy Days :D

This issue of Vegan Life is jam-packed with tasty recipes too. We’ve already tried Tara Stiles’ Portobello mushroom burger from the Make Your Own Rules Diet book (featured on the front cover). It was super easy to make, so perfect for a Saturday night movie dinner. My brain is already whizzing with ideas of variations on the Portobello Burger theme.

I’ve also tried Jane Easton’s Indian-Style Padma Pancakes (from the Viva! cookbook). Most weeks I make a big batch of curry and we serve it with rice one night, then the leftovers are stuffed into pitta breads for lunchboxes or flatbreads/pancakes for another evening dinner. I often make chickpea pancakes as they’re rich in protein and iron, but I usually flavour mine with paprika/chilli/oregano, rather than Indian spices. I was intrigued to find out how they would taste.

Vegan Life Issue 4 Recipe

Chickpea pancakes can sometimes be quite dry or heavy, but these came out just perfect. They were light, yet sturdy enough to flip and roll. The recipe suggested flavouring them with turmeric and ground fenugreek or asafoetida powder. I found a bottle of asafoetida powder at the back of my pantry which I’d not even opened. I thought this would be a good time to dust it off and give it a try.

Oh my word, I don’t think I’ve ever been so repelled by a flavour. Seriously, I nearly barfed! It’s hard to describe the flavour but, to me, it tasted like an intense ‘eggy’ flavour, maybe ‘eggs gone bad’. Argh even now I’m shuddering at the thought of it. Maybe I had a bad batch?

Second time round, I used ground cumin, a little turmeric, fresh red chilli pepper and fresh coriander (cilantro). This flavour combo worked much better for me. For the filling, I used our Sweet Potato, Red Lentil and Coconut Curry leftovers. This was my lunch today and it was so good! I’ll definitely be making it again.

Indian Chickpea Pancake

As you can tell, this latest Issue of Vegan Life has given me plenty of food for thought AND for my belly hehe ;)

Did you manage to get hold of a copy yourself? If so, have you tried any of the recipes yet?

If you use vegan cosmetics, I’d love to hear your recommendations. Do you know of any UK high street shops that sell vegan cosmetics we can try before we buy?

Vegan Life is UK-based magazine, available worldwide both in hard copy and digital formats. Check out this link to find out more.

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Bath Half 2015 – I did it!

I did it! I actually completed my first half marathon!

Bath Half 2015 - I did it!

And what an incredible experience it was to be in the midst of all these runners making their way round my home city

Bath Half 2015

[Source]

My ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots look the wrong way round as I started the race soaking wet and finished it dry. As we set off for Bath city centre, there was a cool breeze, the sun was shining and the sky was clear blue. I kept calling out to the family how it was the perfect day for running… no sooner had I uttered these words than the sky went dark and there was the most almighty downpour!

Bath Half 2015 - before shot

Stupidly, I hadn’t packed a waterproof coat or an umbrella, so I ended up soaked to the skin and freezing cold. Instead of heading to the runners village, I popped in Cafe Nero’s to try and warm up. At least I managed to stop shivering! Luckily, the rain stopped just before the race began and the sun started to peep out.

With thirty minutes to go until ‘the off’, I headed up Great Pultney Street to the ‘starting pens’. It felt surreal to be part of the running crowd. I couldn’t quite believe I was there! Suddenly the race started, and the only sound I could hear was the ‘pitter patter’ of thousands of feet. It was such a unique sound. I found it mesmerizing.

Bath Half 2015 - Bath Chronicle

[Source]

The first four miles went really fast, then it started getting tougher. I tried to keep up with ‘Pound Coin guy’ for a while. I did manage to say hi to him, but even his pace was too much for me. To ignore the fact my feet were screaming, I focused on the crowds and ‘hi fiveing’ all the kids I passed. Seeing their smiley faces definitely kept my spirits lifted.

Pound Coin guy

[Source]

Another highlight for me was being lapped by the winner, Paul Martelletti and runner up, Dean Lacey. I can’t believe how fast those guys can run! If I’d blinked I would have missed them! Paul was the first British guy to win the Bath Half in twelve years, finishing in 1 hr 5 minutes.

Paul Martelletti

[Source]

That’s a whole hour faster than me! I ended up finishing in 2 hours 5 minutes, which is quicker than expected. I even managed a kind of hobbled sprint finish :)

Once over the finish line, my body pretty much refused to move. I could barely bend over to reach the time chip on my shoe. I hobbled my way through the exit pens and collected my medal, finishers t shirt and ‘goodie’ bag.

Bath Half 2015 Medal

I loved the t shirt but the ‘goodie’ bag was pretty dismal. I was kind of expecting a protein bar or energy drink. Something to rejuvenate me after the big run. But no, here’s what was inside…

Bath Half 2015 Goodie Bag

Dairy milk bars and a Dairyfine Titan. Glad to see they catered for the plant-based runners ;)

But joking aside, I’m so glad that I took the plunge and signed up for the Bath Half. It was a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for me, and one that I’ll never forget.

Bath Half 2015 - I did it!

The fact I got to run for such a worthwhile cause was the icing on the cake. Thanks to you guys, I’ve raised £436 for Mercy In Action. I have been so touched these past few weeks by your kindness and generosity. I can’t thank you enough. As promised in this post, I’ll be picking three sponsors at random to win some of my home-made chocolates. Since donations are still coming in, I’ve extended the deadline until this Friday, March 6th March. I’ll notify the winners by email.

Thank you once again, to everyone that’s donated and offered words of advice and encouragement. I couldn’t have done it without you xx

 

 

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Vegan Florentines

For this month’s Suma Blogger’s Network entry, I though I’d share one of my latest treat obsessions – Vegan Florentines

Vegan Florentines

I’ve been dreaming about Florentines ever since I saw them on display in the patisserie shops of Venice and Florence a few years ago. I’d never seen anything quite like them before. They looked so dainty yet totally decadent with their dark chocolate bottoms! I was pretty sure that they’d be full of dairy and off limits to me, but I was excited about the thought of creating a vegan version one day.

This week I finally got round to a little Florentine experimentation in the kitchen.

Cranberry Pieces

After a quick internet search, I discovered that Florentines are typically made with cane sugar, honey, butter, candied cherries, candied citrus peel and almonds. Since I’m not a fan of the first 4 ingredients, and I know a lot of my readers aren’t keen on candied peel, I ended up subbing 5 of the 6 ingredients. The almonds stayed ;)

Florentine Making

The cane sugar and honey was swapped for coconut sugar and maple syrup, which gave the Florentines a wonderful golden hue and caramel-like sweetness. Instead of candied cherries and citrus peel, I used dried cranberries and some lemon and orange zest. This gave the Florentines a fresh, citrussy flavour which I absolutely loved. The butter was exchanged for non dairy spread or organic aroma-free coconut butter.

Vegan Florentines

I’ve done 6 trials so far this week, playing around with different ingredient ratios and combos. All have tasted delicious, but I was striving to bake a Florentine that was super thin with the traditional ‘lacey’ texture on the underside. By the 4th trial, I’d cracked it.

Vegan Florentines

Once cooled, I then added the classic Florentine wavy chocolate bottom.

Vegan Florentines

These Florentines are my new treat obsession. I absolutely love their texture – crisp on the outside, chewy in the centre with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate bottom. Plus the flavour combination is so lush. The citrus zest gives them a wonderful lift while the dark chocolate makes them feel decadent.

Another great thing about this biscuit is that each one only contains 1 tsp of mixture which, in my eyes, makes it totally acceptable to go back for a second or third :)

‘M’ and Lil’ L seem to love them as much as me. I’ve made 72 so far this week, and there are very few left in the biscuit tin! I also took along a sample to my Tuesday night study class and they were a big hit!

Vegan Florentines

Unwaxed Citrus Fruits
Unwaxed lemons are widely available, but unwaxed oranges are a little harder to come by. In the UK, they are currently available in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. If you’re only able to find waxed oranges, you’ll find tips online on how to remove the wax. The wax on citrus fruits often contains shellac (from the lac beetle) or beeswax, making them unsuitable for vegans. Organic citrus fruits are unwaxed, which makes them vegan friendly :)

You’ll find Suma products available to purchase in UK independent health food shops. You can also bulk buy many of their products from Amazon.

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