Sunday dinners, Veganuary and plastic

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Review – V-Bites Meat-free Meatloaf

A vegan meatless meatloaf had to be worth a try post-Christmas.

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to automatically skip traditional Sunday meals, and I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting dishes to throw into the mix.

V-Bites came up with the goods on this occasion.

As part of their VegiDeli range, I was excited to find this in my local Holland and Barrett – and even more excited to give it a try.

I have liked the Cheatin’ roasts and love Macsween Veggie Haggis – my favourite roast substitute as it’s totally natural and very filling – but like a boy in a vegan sweet shop, I get excited by new vegan foods.

As Veganuary rumbles on, the hunt for “meaty” replacements to tempt new vegans grows, and this is certainly “meaty” – maybe too much so for some vegans.

The main problem I had with my Meatless Meatloaf was actually getting into the thing. You need to remove the tight plastic casing to cook the thing – it’s harder to get into than the Free Masons – mainly due to the metal clips at each end!

Also, plastic is bad – its affect on the environment is directly deadly for many animals – so, V-Bites, how about dropping that bit? To be fair, a lot of processed vegan food comes in a plastic prison and it’s something we really should be pulling companies up on – it simply isn’t cool!

Once you’ve got into it, it takes a fair while to cook – definitely closer to 50 minutes than 45 (the packaging says 45-5o minutes) – but, on the plus side, it is a chunky beast – I reckon you could get three good servings from it.

So, how does it taste?

It’s OK, in short. Personally, I thought it could do with a little more seasoning – or some seasoning really. A few herbs would have certainly livened it up – or maybe I’m too used to plenty of herbs and spices in vegan dishes – but many meat dishes are powered by these plants to make them taste better too!

It has a nice meaty texture, look and is certainly tender. The taste reminds me a little bit of some vegan minces on the market – so a good gravy, tomato sauce or mustard certainly adds a welcome flavour punch to this substantial and filling dish.

You can buy online here: https://www.vbitesfoods.com/product/meat-free-meatloaf/

But what’s your favourite vegan Sunday dinner? Please comment below – or in the social media thread which brought you here. I also welcome your recipes for vegan dinner dishes.

Also, I’m after your Veganuary stories for future blogs, so please get in touch.

Veganism in Veganuary and beyond!

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I love the Idea of Veganuary (https://veganuary.com/) – asking that people should go vegan for the month of January.

Many people who try it don’t go back to a meat-based diet and, with this in mind, I ask what better New Year resolution than trying Veganuary? After all, veganism is better for the animals, the environment and your own health.

I decided to ask some relatively new vegans about their experiences of converting to veganism – some even came to it through Veganuary.

I hope the answers will help other prospective vegans and show new vegans how easy it is to choose a compassionate diet. It may even help some new vegans over the issues those making the change may face.

Those questioned are all members of the Facebook group Vegan Friends UK – there is so much support for new vegans on Facebook and other social media sites.

My participants are:

Scott McKie, aged  21, from Glasgow

Karen Clarke, aged 51, from , Dorset

Lee Cash aged 44, from Brockley, South East London

Katey, aged 22, from Norfolk (now living in London)

Christina. aged 31, from near Preston

Nikki, aged, 44, from Gloucestershire

Rebecca Bamsey, aged 24, from Lampeter, Ceredigion, Wales.

What made you turn vegan?

Scott: “I started listening to punk rock when I was like 13/14 years old and started identifying with “punk” subculture etc, and through that became aware of political, social, environmental etc issues. After a while of supporting animal rights and things of that nature I found it harder and harder to justify eating meat to myself. I tried going vegetarian for a month to see how I found it, went back to eating meat, then decided I’d try going vegan for a month around a year after my last experiment. I thought it would suck changing from my normal, omnivore diet to a strictly vegan diet, so I went vegetarian again for two months running up to my vegan month. Although I then ate dairy and eggs after my vegan trial month the next year (in the month where I would traditionally challenge myself) I decided I would commit to being completely vegan with the aims of it being for good this time. Nearly one year on and there are zero signs of me going back to animal products. A much longer and more drawn out process than I’d have liked but going from being someone who consumed so many animal products, I think the gradual shift over the years has made it so much easier for me to maintain a vegan lifestyle now. I feel better about myself knowing I’m lessening my contribution to the destruction of the environment and to the suffering of non-human animals.”

Karen: “My husband and son are vegans and had been nagging me to make the jump from vegetarianism. I agreed to do it for a month and see how I felt.”

Lee: “I watched Cowspiracy.”

Kayey: “I went vegan in the house and still ate omni when going out for dinner for about four months before Veganuary because I watched conspiracy and I studied environmentally sensitive design at university and they pointed out how bad the animal agriculture industry is and I learnt the science behind our actions against the planet and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I couldn’t stand knowing I was contributing towards the deterioration of our planet.”

Christina: “I was vegetarian since birth. Then I turned vegan after seeing baby goats taken away instantly from there mums and being fed by bottles stuck on to a wall on Countryfile. The more I looked into it the more I was disgusted by the whole dairy and egg industry.”

Nikki: “Animal welfare, having my buried head removed from the sand after 36 years strict vegetarian.”

Rebecca: “I was already a vegetarian and had put on a bit of weight during freshers in uni so I thought it was a good way to drop the pounds if I were to do it for a month. During this month, I began researching veganism and uncovered the issues with the dairy industry. My moral compass wouldn’t allow me to live with the hypocrisy of being a veggie but turning a blind eye to these issues so the ‘diet’ became a lifestyle change.”

 

What made you try Veganuary? Did you think you would still be vegan after Veganuary?

Katey: “I tried Veganuary because my friend Sophie is a vegan activist and through exposure to her views and information I decided to give it a go. I knew afterwards that I would stay vegan because I got involved in the vegan community and I used to suffer from an eating disorder and to my surprise, it changed my entire perspective and relationship towards food. It saved my life.”

Christina: “I didn’t do Veganuary, but Viva had something similar where they sent you emails every day for a month with a day’s food menu. I knew I would continue to be vegan after the 30-day period.”

Rebecca: “I tried Veganuary the previous year to becoming a vegan after seeing a Facebook add, I think it was more curiosity and challenge than actually recognising the ethics of it. ‘Did I think I would still be vegan after Veganuary?’ Not really, I guess I thought it was too ‘extreme’ or quite impossible to sustain in the long term.”

 

Have you noticed any physical/mental changes since you became vegan?

Scott: “Since turning vegan I’m far slimmer/leaner and (predominantly since dropping meat from my diet) my general immune system seems to have improved, and I regularly feel less sluggish and groggy.
Karen: “I have felt much more mentally alert, less fatigued and my asthma has improved. I’ve also lost weight without trying and still eating what I fancy.”

Katey: “Yes. Like I stated previously, it saved me from self-destruction. I feel ten times better. I also suffer from celiac disease and damages to my stomach and bowel from all the abuse I did to it during the dark times of my ED – veganism has made it so much better. I’m more awake, I feel better in myself. My hair has actually started to grow back from when it fell out when my eating as bad. It’s just amazing!”

Christina: “Physical differences much more energy and psoriasis cleared up. Mental differences I was quite sensitive beforehand when it came to animals but much more now and I seem to be much more aware of the suffering in the world (can be quite depressing) it has also helped me with mental issues with food as I no longer feel guilty whilst eating. I struggled at first until I found out everything and since then there’s no going back.”

Nikki: “Yes, I dislike people more. I feel healthier, although I did gain weight at first.”

Rebecca: “I’m not the most observant of my own health. However, I do get a lot less sick (I used to get colds and flues quite regular), I have lost weight and I get a lot less lethargic.”

 

Has there been any times when you’ve found it particularly difficult to stick to veganism?

Scott: “Veganism for my ‘trial month’ was pretty difficult, but since going completely vegan I have had very few difficulties apart from odd cravings here or there. Strangely I did get meat-anxiety dreams for a little while where I’d dream I was eating a burger or something like that and then feel really bad once I realised what I was doing but they didn’t last for very long.”

Karen: “The hardest bit for me is giving up cereals as I haven’t got my head round eating cereal with milk alternatives yet. Apart from that I have found it much easier than I thought. I am a master at seeking out vegan alternatives and I make food from scratch most of the time.”

Lee: “Early on in my vegan journey I had a get together with friend that was organised at a steak house. I got drunk and ended up eating some steak and was ill the next morning. That was the only time I ever struggled. Now I find the thought of eating animal flesh repulsive.”

Katey: “Yes, but not due to veganism itself. Just when I go out for dinner with my friends or try to get food on the go. As I’m gluten-free too it makes it extremely difficult to find anywhere that provides food to those dietary requirements however I’ve gotten used to it now and just call ahead.”

Rebecca: “The hardest is when I’m in a rush looking for food on the go, I definitely should have learnt my lesson to prepare lush by now!”

 

Were you surprised by the range of vegan options available?

Scott: “Part of me is surprised by the amount of vegan options there are but Glasgow is very good for vegans. My more rural hometown of Dumfries in southwest Scotland is a little tougher but still very manageable.”

Lee: “Yes. Especially the fact that vegan bacon is so great!”

Katey: “I was surprised by the development of vegan options in supermarkets – especially over the past 12 months. Makes life a lot easier! Although, I’ve always shopped in the free-from section so I’ve known about a lot of the vegan options for a while.”

Christina: “The vegan options have grown massively in just the 2 years I have been vegan. It’s amazing now.”

Nikki: “Yes, veganism is the future, and it’s showing out there in the shops/restaurants.”

Rebecca: “Yes, definitely! It’s about knowing what things are ‘accidently vegan’ that makes life so much easier (mmm Oreos and bacon rashers).”

 

How “vegan friendly” is the area in which you live?

Karen: “Our area is good for vegan food, a number of restaurants and shops plus two vegan fish and chip shops and lots of takeaways with excellent options and vegan menus.”
Lee: “Very.”

Katey: “In London, pretty much everywhere is vegan-friendly. but back in Norfolk not so much. However, I am seeing a massive increase in vegetarian cafes and restaurants!”

Christina: “I still struggle eating out if with friends and family as not everyone wants to eat at a veggie/vegan places. But just have chips or salad. There’s not many restaurants close by, but plenty in bigger cities near me and can get most of what I need from a supermarket and a health food shop. If not, one can always order things online.”

Nikki: “Pretty good.”

Rebecca: “There is a lovely vegetarian whole foods shop, just a few houses away from where I live with all the vegan treats and essentials I could ever wish for!”

 

How did your friends and family react to your change in diet?

Scott: “A lot of my friends and family at first didn’t understand or didn’t think I’d stick with it, and were probably quite shocked that I have given how much I used to enjoy meat, but I think they all more or less get it now.”

Karen: “Most of my family are vegan or veggie and as we have all been veggie for years the omnis are used to it. Did get some non-vegan presents like biscuits etc. But I genuinely think they didn’t realise. I’m quite a strong character so not many people would be brave enough to say to my face anything negative.”

Lee: “Mine have been mostly supportive.”

Katey: “Some of my family members are farmers so they thought I was being silly but none of them were surprised. I was vegetarian for four years when I was at secondary school and then stopped because my ED got bad and the doctors forced me to eat meat to build up my calorie intake. However, my mum and brother have been incredibly supportive. They’d never be vegan but they always cater for me and accept my decision completely.”

Christina: “Friends and family thought it was a phase and used to try and tempt me to eat cheese again, but now they know I’m serious everyone is very supportive of me I did split up with a long-term boyfriend over it though, as he was extremely unsupportive and hated that I had gone vegan.”

Nikki: “Totally disrespectfully, unhelpful, insulting comments.”

Rebecca: “I had a varied reaction! My dad loves it and I think he boasts about me somewhat. My mother rolled her eyes and chuckled at me, she can’t quite understand it, I don’t think, but is still supportive. My partner didn’t react at all really. He engages in philosophic debate with me quite regularly, but he is now giving up beef and milk so I think he might agree somewhat.”

 

From a nutritional standpoint, do you watch what you eat?

Scott: “I don’t particularly watch what I eat in terms of health or nutrition, I’ve never been overly health conscious about my diet at all.”

Karen: “I make sure everyone eats a balanced diet which consists of tons of fruit and veg, juice and smoothies. Plus, we take B12 as a supplement. I believe in gentle conversion and do it through suggestion and humour.”

Lee: “Not particularly but I plan to in 2017.”

Katey: “Yes I do. I’ve learnt so much about nutrition and where to get nutrition from. That’s why it makes me laugh when people say “where do you get your protein from?” Well if you educate yourself you’ll find out where!”

Christina: “I do watch what I eat (sometimes better than others) but also take supplements to ensure I get what I need.”

Nikki: “I try to.”

Rebecca: “Not at all! My ethos is- If it’s vegan, I’ll eat it. Although I do eat a lot of junk food I don’t feel as though I’m lacking any nutrients, not that I am a professional, but I’m sure I’d notice if I was.”

 

Have you converted anyone else to veganism/asked anybody to try Veganuary?

Scott: “My girlfriend and I turned vegan together and have converted a few people to vegetarianism, as well as got more people considering veganism and approaching vegan dishes and lifestyle with a more open mind.”

Karen: “I have had a lot of genuine interest and I’m hopeful……..will encourage Veganuary too.

Lee: “Yes. My fiancée also went vegan shortly after I did.”

Katey: “I’ve managed to convert about four people so far, and got a lot of people to reduce their meat intake. My best friend is now a full vegan and is as much of an activist as I! It’s great!”

Christina: “I’ve planted the seed in a few people but none have gone fully vegan (one is now veggie) and won’t watch documentaries as they are happy being ignorant (their words) I have converted at least five people to drink plant milks instead and made people more aware of where food comes from and what’s it in it (like gelatin, lanolin, cochineal).”

Nikki: “Converted yes, although I don’t think they continued after we split up.”

Rebecca: “I converted a friend over the summer, although I’m not sure if he still is vegan. I shared a Veganuary post and stated if people wish for advice then to drop me a message. So far, I have had two people message me about it and also my partner is making a step in the right direction cutting out beef and milk (all about small steps, right?).”

A vegan at Christmas

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When I was a child, the humble nut roast was seen as the staple of veggie Christmas dinners everywhere.

These days, of course, a vegan can go through life without ever going near a dry and dull nut roast. There are of course people who enjoy nut roasts – just as there are people who enjoy watching Elf – I, personally, prefer self- flagellation!

OK, there are some great recipes to make the humble nut roast less humble and slightly more edible, but there is a wealth of alternatives in the world of the 21st century vegan.

I am going for a Vegusto Roast this year, as I’ve become rather bored of grabbing a Celebration Roast at every given occasion – although, price-wise the two are very similar.

Many will forego the processed option completely and make their own Mushroom Wellington, vegetable roast, or even, God preserve us, nut roasts. A simple Ecosia search, or walk through Facebook’s Christmas Wonderland will provide suggestion after suggestion. Recent issues of vegan and vegetarian magazines also provide plenty of suggestions.

Many Christmas puds and mince pies are vegan by default. The news that Iceland’s own brand of mince pies are vegan-friendly is great news for those doing Christmas on a budget. They cost £1.50 for a pack of 12. I, however, already have some Foods of Atherny Mince Pies as I snapped them up at the Animal Aid Christmas Fair. A great event in early December every year for stocking your cupboards with everything you need for the big day (or the looming nightmare of forced consumerism – Veganonadesertisland caters for all vegan beliefs).

This very day, I found a Christmas pud in Morrisons for my table. Their own brand Rich Fruit Christmas Pudding is vegan-friendly and contains booze! Alpro do a widely-available Single Soya Cream (or a custard – an item also produced by Oatly if you prefer soya-free) and vegan squirty cream is now widely available online and at vegan fairs. This year, Coasta is selling some rather nice vegan-friendly slices of Christmas cake in their shops – I thoroughly recommend giving that a try.

 

I have already reviewed the Tesco selection box and they also produced a dairy-free Advent Calendar this year – it’s a bit late for that now though – unless you wish to devour the first three weeks’ chocolates in one go – which is actually quite tempting! I have added a Moo-Free selection box to my Christmas shelf as their chocolate is divine. But if you want something a little more luxurious, you can’t beat Booja Booja products. But online stores like Animal Aid have a huge range of vegan products available.

Holland and Barrett have many nibbles in their fridge and freezer – I have picked up some Bites VegiDeli Spicy Bean Bites and the absolutely massive VegiDeli 48-piece Party Pack (also sold at H&B) has gone down well in previous years – but you need a huge freezer in which to house it Remember the one in the film The Shining? Well one about that size should do it)!

Obviously, things like vegetable spring rolls, onion bhajis and veggie samosas are available all over, as are the staple favourite Linda McCartney Sausage Rolls. You can, of course, always make your own and enjoy a truly sustainable festive lunch. After all, it’s a time for family – and what could be better than cooking together at the family time of year?

A couple of my previous blogs deal with vegan cheeses – another popular evening or afternoon snack – especially nice with strong pickled onions!

Many stuffings are accidently vegan and so are many gravy brands – including Bisto!

Away from the meals themselves, being vegan can be a bit of a nightmare if you’re the only vegan in the family (or indeed the village). But letting family know to the things to avoid when buying you gifts can help – otherwise you end up with leather gloves, a woolly hat and bubble bath tested on rabbits! Not to mention dairy chocolate and gelatine-based sweets….

Avoiding meat can be difficult at this time of year – I hate the smell so choose to eat separately from those who have a “traditional” Christmas lunch. The other festive traditions of fox hunting, shooting, parading or showing reindeers and horse racing also horrify me – but there are demonstrations up and down the country against the former on Boxing Day – and serve as a reminder that Christmas isn’t really an animal-friendly festival – despite the John Lewis ad!

Many animal sanctuaries – including Hillside – offer “in lieu” presents, where you can buy hay or carrots for the animals and let your loved-ones know through a certificate and, in Hillside’s case, a small calander.

Just because the occasion itself neglects our fellow species, it doesn’t mean that we have to as well. Enjoying a vegan Christmas is easier than saying “pass the sprouts”!