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Whittaker’s Dark Chocolate: Vegan!

I w0uld like to thank New Zealand for bringing Whittaker’s chocolate into my life. Well, into the lives of everyone. You see, Whittaker’s is a recognisable (read: non-specialty vegan) brand here in the Australian market. And all their dark chocolate is vegan. Plus, their chocolate (the family blocks at least) is wrapped in paper and foil – all recyclable.

I’ve known this for a while. I’ve been eating their plain and nutty chocolates for a while (peanut slab OMG!). Recently I discovered the one with little pieces of orange zest. But nothing prepared me for finding gooey peppermint chocolate the other day in Big W.

whittaker's ghana peppermint chocolate 250g

Whittaker's Ghana Peppermint family chocolate block (250g).

I love gooey peppermint chocolate! Always have!

It tastes like peppermint patties.

It tastes like the Cadbury’s family chocolate block I used to choose when it was my week to pick which chocolate we bought for the family. (Dad didn’t like my weeks, because he dislikes peppermint. Everyone else loved my week. More chocolate for them!)

It tastes like yumminess.

Thank you Whittaker’s!!!

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Plastic-Free Vegan Chocolate WIN

I just had to share… Mrs Flannery’s (an organic health food shop in Queensland) has changed the recipe for their dark chocolate, so it no longer has milk in it.

So now, my fellow Queensland vegans, you can get:

  • Dark chocolate covered strawberries
  • Dark chocolate covered cherries
  • Dark chocolate covered blueberries
  • Dark chocolate buttons
  • Dark chocolate chunks (all sizes, including some rather giant chunks. I drool a little when I see them).

It is really nice dark chocolate. I do like strong, bitter chocolate (like 70% or 85%), but sometimes I want something a little milder and sweeter. I miss milk chocolate sometimes, and while soy chocolate is nice, it’s just not quite the same. This chocolate is not milk chocolate, but it totally meets my needs. It is definitely dark, but it is almost like a 50% or something, which I’ve never before seen without milk. It’s sweet and almost creamy… or maybe I’m just comparing it to 70%…

Even Mr Teeny-bop likes it, and he hates dark chocolate.

You can find these delicious products in the bulk foods section at Mrs Flannery’s so you can totally avoid plastic or other disposable packaging when you buy it! Mrs Flannery’s weighs their food, so they supply light paper bags for you, so they don’t really add to the food weight. Yankee Elv and I save our bags and reuse them. They do allow you to bring your own containers, but you’d have to get them to weigh the container first and take the weight off, and I think that might be challenging on a busy day at the store (like Supa Saver Saturday – the first Saturday of every month, when you save about 15% off bulk foods if you are a store discount club member). You could give it a go though.

Anyway, I’m really excited and I totally love it!

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Friday Feast: Coconut Chocolate Pudding

This is the best vegan pudding I’ve made. Ever. It is so awesomely good. It has the perfect texture and is just brilliant!

I got the recipe from the Livejournal community vegan_cooking (where I habitually go to find recipes and ask questions about cooking). The original recipe is so good I hardly had to change it. This is very unlike me – I am a chronic recipe tweaker. The only thing I did to this, however, was reduce the sugar.

This pudding is super easy to make. Basically, you put everything in a bowl and cook it in the microwave for 4 minutes. (Yes, a little more finesse is preferrable – read the recipe!)

This recipe makes four servings and the pudding tastes great warm or cold. If you are putting it in the fridge, you’ll need to cover it unless you are ok with it developing a skin on the top. The skin tastes fine though, it’s just got a bit of a weird texture. You also don’t get as strong a coconut taste as I’d expected. I even tried to increase it using coconut essence (but it didn’t taste as good, so don’t go there). I haven’t tried making it with other non-dairy milks, but the original recipe suggests that it would work fine if you did.

I think this would also make a great vegan substitute for a ganache!

Chocolate Coconut Pudding


Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar (I use low GI cane sugar)
  • 3 tabs cornstarch (I use custard powder)
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 400mL (14oz) coconut milk (or 2 cups of the milk of your choice – soy, almond, oat, etc)
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Pour sugar into a microwave safe bowl.
  2. Sift in the cornstarch and cocoa powder and gently combine. Make sure there are no lumps.
  3. Gradually whisk in the coconut milk until combined. (I use a fork because I don’t have a whisk. It works.)
  4. Cook in the microwave for 3 minutes on full power.
  5. Stir, then cook in the microwave on full power for one more minute before stirring again. (If it doesn’t look shiny and thick, try 30 to 60 seconds more, but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over!).
  6. Stir in the vanilla extract and spoon into dessert bowls/containers/glasses.
  7. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

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The Milo Replacement Debate

I know I keep harping on about this vegan thing, but it’s something I’m conscious of lately, it’s often at the forefront of my mind. You know how when you’re just learning how to do something, you have to think about it, nothing is second nature? That’s how it is for me still. Vegetarianism was like that too for a while, but it became automatic eventually, and so will veganism. It will just take time. For now though, living vegan feels like one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, commitment-wise. It’s not that it is difficult to eat vegan generally, but it is tough (particularly as a new vegan, I think) to keep it up, day after day. Especially when it means missing out on foods you love, for which there doesn’t seem to be an adequate replacement.

Don’t get me wrong – as a vegetarian and now as a vegan, I’m discovering so many new foods and food combinations that I enjoy. Check out my StumbleUpon favourites if you want some examples! Most of the foods I’ve given up were never very healthy for me in the first place. Some I ate more often than I should have. Overall, I think I’m better off as a vegan, although I’m not experiencing that wonderful, bouyantly healthy feeling many new vegans brag about. I wonder if that’s because it’s been such a slow transition for me, and the non-vegan things I did eat weren’t chock full of dairy and eggs. I have been on mostly soy and oat milk for years, so I guess it wasn’t such a shock to my system, like it was when I first went off drinking milk. I had to do half cow/half soy for a while to allow my body to adjust. I got there, and soon only ate a few non-vegan things.

But those few non-vegan things I did eat! Most I’ve since given up without much concern (such as ice-cream or custard), but there are others that have been more difficult – cheese for example. It seems to be the universal vegan stumbling block. This has, however, worked in my favour regarding cheese. Since everyone finds it tough to get over, there are lots of recipes and ways around it, advice, suggestions and commiserations. There are some other things that seem to be more unusual though, and I’m actually finding those more of a struggle.

milo

Milo: chocolatey goodness that is actually good for you! But it's not vegan. 😦

Milo, for example. For those of you who don’t know, Milo is a chocolate ‘energy food’. It’s something like chunky Nesquik or Ovaltine, but with the vitamins of Sustagen. You add it to a glass/mug of cold or hot milk (non-dairy, in my case), and stir it in. Unlike other chocolate milk powders, it doens’t entirely dissolve in cold milk, but  also leaves a moist, chocolatey, slightly crunchy top layer of ultimate tastiness. Milo is low GI and provides a bunch of vitamins, minerals, iron and calcium. It’s brilliantly tasty and I’ve been eating it all my life. It was pretty much my stand-by for whenever I wanted a chocolate bar but didn’t think I should have one. Milo gave me the flavour without all the bad fat and sugar. It also helped ensure I got my vitamins and minerals. At work, I was known for having a giant tin of Milo on my desk. I heard more than my fair share of Milo and Otis jokes.

Unfortunately, in addition to the malted barley and cocoa and sugar and other fabulous ingredients Milo is made from, it also includes milk powder (just a little bit), so it’s not vegan. That means no more drinking Milo. And since this doens’t seem to be a global phenomenon, there doesn’t seem to be a comparable vegan alternative. At the moment, I’m drinking Akta-Vite, which does the trick for vitamins and minerals, although not so much with the sugar, taste and texture. (As a colleague said, it looks like little chunks of rat poo. It does, fortunately, taste better.) It’s not the same though. Akta-Vite dissolves completely (except for random chunks left at the bottom of the cup), so it’s not a good replacement for cold Milo. As a hot drink, it tastes a bit like Horlicks (who came up with that name!?). Malted, but not so chocolatey. I know I can drink hot cocoa, but it doesn’t solve my vitamins, minerals and sugar problems. And what about a cold drink?

I am out of ideas! Aside from drinking Akta-Vite (which I’m doing), making my own inferior batch, or somehow convincing Milo to go vegan… what can I do?

And if, as I suspect, there’s nothing I can do… how on earth do I get over it?!

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Friday Feast: Oatmeal Cookie Bars

Here comes the latest recipe… it’s a cross between a slice, a cookie and a granola bar – it’s Oatmeal Cookie Bars! I’ve just veganised these tasty treats, which wasn’t too hard. They’ve come out a little more crumbly than their non-vegan versions, but that could also be because I used gluten-free flour and baked them about ten minutes longer than usual (I momentarily forgot they were in the oven).

Regardless of any mishap, they’re still super tasty. Eat them fresh from the oven (be careful you don’t burn your mouth on the cranberries, which seem to get to a scalding temperature), cold the next day, or re-heated in the microwave. I used to eat these with ice-cream in my non-vegan days (as if they were so long ago!), so if you’re into vegan ice-cream, that could be a winner too. I’m going to try them with this new vegan cream I bought last week… I hope it’s good!

Oatmeal Cookie Bars

A slice of Oatmeal Cookie Bar, half crumbled on the plate. Look at the cranberries and that chunk of vegan white chocolate - yum!

A slice of Oatmeal Cookie Bar, half crumbled on the plate. Look at the cranberries and that chunk of vegan white chocolate - yum!

Ingredients:

  • 230g (0.5lb or 2 sticks) vegan margarine (I use Nuttelex)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (I used LoGIcane – a low GI version of cane sugar)
  • Egg substitute, equivalent to 2 eggs (I used Orgran Egg Replacer)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence (imitation is ok)
  • 1/2 cups plain (aka all purpose) flour (I used 1/2 cup each of wholemeal spelt, barley and Orgran’s gluten-free flours)
  • 1 tsp bi-carb soda (aka baking soda)
  • 1/2 tsp salt – optional
  • 1 tsp cinnamon – optional
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup sultanas or dried cranberries (I used the latter this time, but sometimes I do half and half)
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used 1/2 cup each of Sweet Williams chocolate chips and chopped Sweet Williams white chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of desiccated coconut

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
  2. Beat margarine and sugars until creamy (it’s ok to do this by hand).
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well (still ok by hand..).
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour(s), bi-carb soda, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Mix the aforementioned dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  6. Add oats, sultanas/dried cranberries, chocolate chips and desiccated coconut, and mix well.
  7. Press into a greased baking tray or dish (I use a square pyrex dish) and bake for 30-35mins*.

*You can also use this recipe for cookies, rather than cookie bars – if so, shape into cookies, place on a tray and bake for 10 to 12 mins.

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