Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 6: Vegan Cheese is Real (rainbowy) Cheese

Hi, it’s Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn here,

I hope you’ve enjoyed our posts up to now. I hope you realized how important some of the topics are for discussion and to be aware of as we continue towards making a better world for ourselves and animals. I know some of it can be hard to learn about and hear/read, but I feel it is very necessary to address before we can have a magic rainbow unicorn party across the land and seas.

The remainder of this week’s theme posts will be more lighthearted and less serious. Tomorrow I will go back a bit to the initial few days’ sentiments, freeing ourselves of guilt and shame over food and our bodies, and share my vegan dessert food pyramid. On Sunday I will be sharing a unicorn worthy salad, in case that’s more your speed. Unicorns like to make everyone’s different tastes happy.

Today is keeping with MoFo’s Daily theme, Vegan Cheese is Real Cheese. Just because the cheese is dairy free doesn’t make it any less real. Who is to say what cheese really is, anyways? The FDA? USDA? Some kind of patent office? I don’t know, but they fail us all the time.

Last night I inspired Laura with my magic energy to create for me a creamy vegan mac and cheese sauce made of rainbows. While the recipe will still be tweaked a bit further after this post is shared, it is at least, edible and quite a beauty.

The recipe starts by making cashew cream and boiling cauliflower and onions and blending in some other seasonings and nondairy milk. Then you separate the sauces into 5 portions and add color!

This recipe uses all natural powders such as beet for red, turmeric for yellow and orange, and butterfly pea tea powder for blue. Most of these are easy to find, except the butterfly pea tea powder. It also uses fresh spinach blended into the sauce for the green. Laura considered using spirulina but she and I don’t like the taste of it, so she opted for doing the spinach instead.

What even is butterfly pea tea powder? Butterfly pea tea powder comes from Thailand where a type of gorgeous blue flower grows. They make it into tea powder. It is caffeine free and does not have much of a taste. Laura bought it on Amazon because the other websites she found it on were out of the US and charged a lot of taxes and such. Make sure you get the powder and not the dried leaves, although I suppose if you have a good food processor or spice grinder you could make it yourself. A little ends up going a long way, so don’t worry if you see the package and think it is small.

Anyways, without further ado, may I present you my magical rainbow vegan mac and cheese:

IMG_5180

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces, stem and leaves removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped roughly
  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water overnight
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tablespoon white miso or chickpea miso
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups unsweetened plain nondairy milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the red sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon beet powder

For the yellow/orange sauce:

  • 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder

For the green sauce:

  • A handful of baby spinach

For the blue sauce:

  • A little less than 1/2 tablespoon butterfly pea tea powder

For the purple sauce:

  • 1 teaspoon beet powder and 1 tsp butterfly pea tea powder

 

  • 1 lb elbow pasta, gluten-free if necessary

Directions:

  1. Boil cauliflower and onion in water for 10 minutes or until soft.
  2. Blend cashews and water in a blender until smooth.
  3. When the cauliflower and onions are as soft as my unicorn mane, drain them, rinse under cold water, and add to the blender along with the cashew cream.
  4. Add all ingredients up to the nondairy milk. You may need to slowly add the milk instead of putting it all at once to prevent an ugly overflow mess in your blender. Blend until creamy and smooth.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Now for the magic part. Separate the sauce into 5 equal portions as best as you can, leaving one portion in the blender.
  7. Blend the spinach into the sauce that’s in the blender until it becomes a light, natural shade of green.
  8. Stir in the powders to each individual portion one by one until they become vibrant and brightly beautiful.
  9. When the pasta is cooked, grease a casserole or lasagna dish and pour the pasta inside.
  10. Spread out each color of the rainbow in stripes in order of the handy acronym ROY G BIV (except we are not doing the orange and indigo). To make it easier, you may want to start by placing a stripe of the red to the far left first, and then doing the purple to the far right so you know how much space you have for the other colors in between. It would make us all sad if your rainbow was missing colors.
  11. Cook the pasta in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  12. When serving, try to get a taste of all the colors. Just don’t swirl them too much or they become a muddy, poopy, un-unicorn ugly, gross color.
  13. Enjoy this savory rainbow of vegan cheezy goodness!

IMG_5184

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 5: Who says vegans don’t care about human rights?

Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn here:

Being that I am an ethereal being, who only wants to best for everyone, animals, and humans alike, I am here to share why human rights are important for vegans to think about and make food decisions based around in addition to animal rights. I implore you to treat humans as compassionately as you do animals. Humans are animals too, and deserving of peace and protection. Making excuses as to why human beings do not deserve fair treatment, such as some humans’ having the capacity for evil, will not challenge or end any suffering. Try to think of the essence and energy of me, a beautiful, positive unicorn who loves everybody and can spread love everywhere the next time you want to turn away from making a decision that will be good for the rights of both humans and animals.

Now I am sending some of that energy over to Laura, who will share some basic information on human rights and her favorite vegan resources doing powerful work for the vegan movement that also happen to include human rights in their missions.

Laura says:

Human rights are an expansive concept. To gain an understanding of what is generally understood to be considered universal human rights, check out the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights here. Though these rights have been declared and adopted by the UN, they are constantly being violated around the world and in the United States.

I want to try to keep this to food-related human rights issues since vegan MoFo stands for Month of Food, but know that I’m happy to have more comprehensive discussions the comprehensive subject of human rights more with others.

Food justice, cultural awareness, racism, classism, ableism, health, ethnocentrism, are just a few of the topics we should be aware of when we have conversations about veganism and making it a more inclusive movement.

As a social justice-minded white person, I want to lift up, value, and listen to the voices of people of color, women and people who are trans or gender non-conforming, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses (different than my own), people of different religions, and socioeconomic statuses when they say white vegans need to recognize their privilege and consider their criticisms about how the general vegan movement has failed to consider or be sensitive to their struggles and needs.

I believe that as a white person I need to educate myself about human rights and social justice, racism, and beyond, not rely on asking others who have experienced injustices to tell me how it is. It is not their responsibility and can contribute to further oppression.

So, I feel it is best, at this point, to share some of the resources, blogs, websites, books, etc. I have found helpful in educating myself. I hope if you are like me, that these resources open your eyes to others’ struggles in the vegan community and beyond and inspire you to take action towards justice. If you are a person who has experienced oppression from vegans in regards to your race/sex/gender/disability/class/etc. that some of these resources will be encouraging if you have not seen them yet.

These are just a small handful, but anyone is welcome to share more of these in the comments.

Food Empowerment Project. Website: http://www.foodispower.org/

F.E.P is a nonprofit vegan food justice organization. They seek to educate vegans about human rights issues present in chocolate, bananas, coffee, and more. They are behind an extensive amount of research on chocolate companies and whether they violate human rights (of children especially) and started a list of vegan chocolate lists they would recommend or not recommend based on their research. The list is on their website and also available as a searchable smartphone app.

Just as importantly, Food Empowerment Project addresses farm workers rights, food insecurity and lack of access to healthy foods in their community, provides delicious recipes for vegan Mexican food, and so much more. Their website is available in both Spanish and English.

Decolonize Your Diet. Website: http://decolonizeyourdiet.org/

This is a resource designed for and by Latinos/as with the purpose to reclaim their food choices to honor their ancestors who were colonized. They share recipes, information about food ingredients, herbs and tea, cooking techniques, health, and more. They have published a cookbook and have an index of their recipes on their website. When you visit the site, be sure to click on “kindred spirits” where they share other people and organizations in line with their mission.

Sistah Vegan Project. Website: http://www.sistahvegan.com/

Dr. A. Breeze Harper has lots of information on her website, in her books, on social media, in podcasts, and elsewhere about her own experiences being a black, feminist, vegan, scholar. Her book Sistah Vegan highlighted her own and other women of color’s experiences. It is considered a must-read.

Vegan Feminist Network. Website: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/

Vegan Feminist Network has a wealth of information on vegan intersectional feminism. Their website is a source for essays on almost any topic you can think of and beyond. They have comprehensive resources for all kinds of issues, including tips for understanding racism and sexism, for male allies,  reading lists, and more. I especially like their page titled “What You Can Do!” They are also on social media and have a podcast.

*

So please check them all out and educate yourself on the importance of honoring human rights! Hopefully, the more of us that become aware of these issues, the less this perception of vegans not caring about humans will be true.

I’ve been a little overwhelmed by writing these last two posts, but I hope that they are useful to you and have stimulated some thoughts. It is now time I get started cooking my dinner tonight, which I hope will be successful and that I can share with you tomorrow to smash the misconception that vegan cheese is not real cheese!

 

 

Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 4: Hidden Cruelties in our food

Laura here:

Hey there everybody, thanks so much for your awesome comments and likes so far! Fluffy and I really appreciate the support.

Today Fluffy and I want to talk about hidden cruelties in vegan food. Fluffy has asked me to speak on this today. The topic is very important to them, but they feel I am more experienced with explaining about it. As a humane education graduate student, I am used to doing a lot of research, especially about the life cycle of products and their impact on the environment, animals, and humans.

It’s not the most pleasant topic but I hope you will consider it and learn some new research skills and explore some new issues that require your compassion and empathy. As vegans, to be fully compassionate it is important that we consider supporting companies that are not just vegan, but also have good human rights track records for their workers at all levels of production and are better for the environment that we animals all share and need to not decline any further. Doing so makes for a better world where the goals are fairness, equality, freedom, sustainability, a restored planet, and beyond. We all want that, right? I’ll be talking more specifically about why human rights are an important issue for vegans tomorrow.

It’s ultimately up to you what companies, products, foods, etc you choose to buy. But I do urge you to think about what led you to first become vegan. Many of us had to open our eyes and face the realities of some immense cruelties that we maybe had never considered before. We opted out, we wanted to no longer contribute to such immense suffering. Now, we need to extend that compassion, keep learning, keep growing, keep researching the same way we did when we went vegan.

It can be really challenging to research a lot of the hidden cruelties behind our foods and their packaging. They wouldn’t be considered hidden otherwise.

Some tips for uncovering some of these cruelties in foods, ingredients, and packaging:

  • Look to the company themselves. Write to them and ask questions. Sometimes if you suggest they may be violating human rights or accuse them of something super serious, they won’t write back, so be polite and very specific. They will be honest otherwise. If you’re inquiring if a product is completely vegan down to something really specific like sugar sourcing, or whatever, be clear as to what that means. They don’t always know what it means, especially smaller companies that may not label their products as vegan but the products may actually be vegan anyways.
  • Main ingredients such as fruits and vegetables that are grown around the world are often easy (yet maybe a little overwhelming) to research their footprint and how they affect animals, human workers, and the environment in order to grow. Looking up their typical country of origin, growing season, water usage, transportation (how many miles do they travel to get to you? How do they keep them fresh if it’s a long distance? How much gas is involved in their transport?) will be a good start. Then once you get some of the answers to those questions you can begin to look into other factors. How are the workers treated who grow them, pick them, package them, ship them? Are there any current boycotts or labor actions such as strikes on behalf of the workers that you can find? What are the animal issues involved with their production (especially treatment of insects and other animals that risk the crop’s viability and what they do with other animals in the local environment that interact with the crop or the land used for growing it)? Is the land, water, air being destroyed in some way from the production of it? Etc.
  • To learn more about the effect plastic packaging is having on animals, humans, and our planet, I recommend starting with the film A Plastic Ocean. This is currently available on Netflix.
  • To learn more about the bottled water industry and the harm it’s doing, check out the film Tapped. It’s not on Netflix but may be available streaming elsewhere. This article provides an overview of some of the topics covered in the film.
  • To learn more about the human rights abuses involved in chocolate, coffee, bananas, and more, get familiar with the Food Empowerment Project.
  • There are lots of other issues and food products to be aware of that we often consume as vegans. Palm oil is a big issue as well, but to be honest I rely on other people’s research and try to reduce my use of products with palm oil in them as much as I possibly can. It feels a little too overwhelmingly upsetting to expose myself to the research on it myself. Which brings me to my next few points.

Take care of yourself and don’t get overwhelmed by researching everything all at once. If you feel your favorite food might be problematic in some way, don’t start by researching that one. You cannot be perfect and it does get overwhelming when you realize how many products have major problems with them.

Find a way to practice self-care when you uncover upsetting things, and take action when you can by boycotting the product, writing to the company to tell them you’d like to see them change, educate others about the problem and direct them to alternative products, etc

If you’re worried about a product you use and have heard many people’s rationale for avoiding it, and you feel like it might too much to expose yourself to the gory details, it’s probably a good idea to stop using the product. This is the same guilt and denial mechanism that prevents some people from adopting a vegan lifestyle.

I’ll say it again: remember you can’t be perfect. Sometimes we need to make trade-offs and analyze and use our critical thinking skills, remember our core values, and try our best to do the most good, least harm (from a book by the president of the Institute for Humane Education, Zoe Weil, which I highly recommend). It’s important to research and make fully informed decisions, but losing our sanity over it is also ineffective and harmful and prevents us from making a positive change in ourselves, the world, and for others.

Compassion fatigue is a serious issue as well. Here are some articles that provide some good tips and stuff about it.

https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/self-care-vegan-activist

http://www.ourhenhouse.org/2013/05/how-an-activist-headed-toward-burnout-can-change-course-four-ways-to-cope-with-compassion-fatigue/

And this podcast sounds amazing. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I will. I like the link mainly for its awesome resources:

http://veganwarriorprincessesattack.com/137-burnout-compassion-fatigue-vicarious-trauma-vegan-activism-steven-dawson-lcsw/

Anyways, tomorrow will be the last serious post before I get back to some more super fun, unicorny stuff!

 

Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 3: Body Positivity for Vegans

EPSON MFP image

Laura here: Yesterday Fluffy talked about food shaming and guilt and why it does not need to happen and how to be better at avoiding it.

This week’s MoFo topic is “Changing vegan perceptions.” Today I want to talk about another big bummer that plays into the topic of guilt and shame that I see happen within the vegan community a lot. Shaming people (or yourself) for their whole body or an aspect of it, beyond their daily food choices.

When I say the term “body shaming” let me be clear. I mean that these are negative comments directed at someone else’s (or your own) size (small or large or in between), disability, health status (such as a chronic illness, having a cold/flu or colds more frequently than others, or any other diseases, as well as general ideas about a person’s overall health, etc.), appearance, gender presentation (for instance, whether they look feminine or masculine or are non-binary), choice of aesthetics, and can go on to include even more. I think you probably know the type of comments associated with these areas, so I’ll spare you the added negativity.

But here is a personal example of body shaming from my own life and my experience in the vegan community. Several years back, I read this statement from a prominent vegan activist or media source that said, essentially, we cannot be good vegan advocates if we look unhealthy (as in fat).

I considered their rationale and took it to heart. I lost around 70 pounds. But I was obsessed with being thin to the point I was kinda miserable (I didn’t realize it right away because I was getting so much praise and attention for the way my body looked.) I was training for and ran a half marathon that I wasn’t quite ready for because I thought that was what good, successful, and most influential vegan advocates did.

Before the half marathon, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid. Shortly after I thought I had recovered from my half marathon, I tried to start Crossfit in addition to running again, and I badly injured my back. I couldn’t even stand with my spine up straight, and I was barely able to walk and in excruciating pain.

 

After almost a year in physical therapy and chronic pain that continues long after I was discharged from physical therapy, and having gained a lot of the weight back due to my thyroid condition, my injury, reduced ability to exercise and no longer depriving myself of foods I love, I appear to be back to the body they said couldn’t be a good advocate for veganism.

Except they were wrong. My body is not wrong. I can assure you that despite my larger size and illnesses/disabilities, the fact that I do get colds once in a while, that I don’t conform to certain standards of beauty, etc. that I am just as good an advocate for veganism as I was when I was running half marathons and thin. In fact, I’d say I am now a better one because:

  • I am not grumpy and miserable all the time from depriving myself of foods I enjoy. Veganism should bring joy.
  • I have time to focus on my graduate studies in humane education instead of spending most of my time training for runs and doing a half-assed job at school
  • I can help vegans who get sick realize it is beyond their control and that they are not a bad vegan because of their illness
  • I can show vegans that you can still be a healthy vegan if you are a larger person, as my blood work levels are the same as when I was thinner
  • I have found a form of mind-body exercise that leaves me feeling restored and in less pain overall, that I devote a manageable amount of time to practicing and is ultimately a form of self-care so I don’t experience as much burn out when I’m wearing my vegan advocate hat. 
  • I have been going to talk therapy and working on loving my body for what it does for me and how strong and powerful it can be rather than attaching it to others’ ideals and ideas of perfection or what kind of a body is suitable to be a vegan advocate, which is what I am and will always be

Says Fluffy: All bodies are magical bodies. Never assume you know someone’s health story by looking at their body. Humans are complex and their uniqueness and differences make them beautiful. Vegans can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s not a one size fits all movement. Now it’s time to eat some cupcakes and do my Prancercise. (In case you were wondering, that is the official exercise of choice for unicorns).

Vegan MoFo 2017 Day 2: Eating Treats Without Guilt

Hi, it’s Fluffy here!

I want to talk to you today about something two concepts that never need to go together: food & guilt. Sadly, people often DO put them together.

IMG_3733

To avoid my salty unicorn tears from flowing, here is my take on the matter:

Vegan food, after all, is about eating with compassion and making a conscious effort to reduce suffering through our food choices. So, as long as you are doing the best you can to achieve this goal, there really is no need for guilt! (If you’re not vegan and are experiencing feelings of guilt because you’re becoming aware of the suffering that occurs from your food choices, there are plenty of supportive vegans who would love to help you make the transition! For example, my pal Laura, the owner of this blog, is a Vegan Outreach Mentor and also has her own site, veg-edu-ables.com that you might want to check out.)

I see a lot of people associate guilt and shame with supposed “bad” vegan foods as opposed to “healthy” vegan foods. There is no such thing as “good” and/or “bad” food. Vegan food is vegan food. Want to eat a delicious sugary vegan donut? Go ahead! Enjoy it. Savor each melt-in-your-mouth morsel. Think to yourself, well, that was magical! I deserved that experience! I am happy I ate that. Want to eat a salad? As long as you don’t feel with every bite that you live a joyless, hopeless, sad and tasteless existence, that’s okay too!

When we shame or guilt trip ourselves or others for eating certain foods it creates unhealthy problems with food, or our bodies, minds, and spirits. As long as you are eating a balanced diet that does not consist of around the clock cookies and nothing but cookies and turning into a cookie monster, you’ll be okay. In fact, you’ll enjoy life a little bit more when you allow yourself to have fun, enjoy, and savor all the delicious vegan treats that are exploding onto the shelves of grocery stores, in vegan bakeries, restaurants, cookbooks, blogs, Instagrams, and beyond. I know I do!

Tomorrow we’ll be talking about shame and guilt as it relates to people’s bodies, which goes together with this topic.

**If you feel like you have a real problem with guilt and food, or feel like you may have some seriously disordered eating habits, I encourage you to find a vegan-friendly registered dietician and/or a psychologist who specializes in disordered eating. It won’t be easy but you can recover. Fluffy loves you and wants to see you healthy, happy, and successful.

 

 

 

Vegan MoFo (Month of Food) Day 1 Introduction

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 8.53.30 PM

Hey everyone! I haven’t been posting much here lately but I’m going to be writing (hopefully) every day in October to participate in Vegan MoFo. I first started doing MoFo in 2014, and I skipped it last year, but this year I am back at it because I have a cool new project and life stuff I want to talk about.

Plus October is my birth month (my birthday is on the 29th), and in the previous years, I have done MoFo it has been in September. What a better way to celebrate my birthday than to do what I love best? Talking about vegan food!

So what is this cool new project? Well, for my Master’s thesis in Humane Education I’m going to be writing a Vegan Unicorn Party cooking and craft book. Humane Education is a field that seeks to help others learn about the environment, human rights, animals, cultural structures, and how to effect change in the world. You can learn more about the kinds of things I seek to practice from my grad program’s blog here.

So how do unicorns and humane education go together?

That’s where Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn Comes in!

Fat Unicorn

Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn is a body positive, gender non-conforming (they use they/their/them pronouns) treat loving unicorn who believes that vegan food should be fun!

Having fun with food is great for kids of all ages, even children at heart who happen to be adults. In fact, it is Fluffy’s hope that their food can bring joy to all, even the most grumpy, un-childlike adults. Fluffy believes that is healthy for all adults to have a childlike sense of wonder about food and other beautiful things, like the magic of nature.

 

The first week of Vegan MoFo is devoted to Changing Vegan Perceptions. This week Fluffy will help me share a lot of their attitude toward vegan food philosophy. There may not always be recipes or pictures of food every time, but hopefully, you will learn some new things about vegan food, be encouraged to play, treat yo’ self, and enjoy more. Maybe Fluffy will even change your perceptions of vegan food.

This is the rundown for the rest of the week, so you know what to expect:

Monday, October 2, Eating Treats Without Guilt

Tuesday, October 3, Body Positivity for Vegans

Wednesday, October 4, Researching Hidden Cruelties in our Food

Thursday, October 5, Who says vegans don’t care about human rights?

Friday, October 6, *keeping with the MoFo daily theme for this one* Vegan Cheese is Real Cheese with a surprisingly cheezy unicorn recipe

Saturday, October 7, Fluffy’s Vegan Dessert Food Pyramid

Sunday, October 8, You Can Make Friends With Salad *Vegan MoFo day theme* After reading about all this dessert stuff, don’t forget to eat your vegetables!

Then in the following week, you’ll be getting a behind the scenes look at some of the things I’m doing for the book, some of Fluffy’s favorite staples and tools, and rainbowy frosting tips. The third week will be mostly keeping in line with the daily themes for the ingredient challenges, with a unicorn twist. And the final week of MoFo will be all about entertaining, Halloween, unicorns, and their overlaps.

You can also follow my posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I also have an additional Instagram devoted to Fluffy Approved recipes and other unicorn things, that you can follow @unicorns.eat.vegan 

So get excited and I cannot wait to look at and read what my other vegan blogger friends are doing for MoFo this week and beyond!

 

 

 

 

My vegan donuts

I’ve been all forlorn because there are now two places in my city that have vegan donut options, but I am essentially too broke to buy them. Everyone I know that’s vegan seems to be posting them on social media, and it made me want donuts SO BAD.

So, I made up my mind to make some of my own.

IMG_3730

I used this recipe for the donuts but substituted the shortening for coconut oil (using 1 1/2 tbsp).

I fried them up, choosing to make them without holes because I thought I might add a filling inside. I used Chloe Coscarelli’s recipe for chocolate ganache as a topping.

IMG_3731

On half of them, I applied some vegan sprinkles from Sweetapolita’s shop.

IMG_3733

On the other half, I used Chloe’s filling frosting in the recipe above (made with half coconut oil and half veggie shortening I’m trying to use up), and separated it into three bowls, colored it with my natural food colorings (red, yellow, green), and then got super frustrated trying to use this icing bag contraption I bought that’s supposed to make it easier to pipe out multiple colors at the same time. I don’t think it was that easy, but it did come out very nice.

IMG_3732

I think next time it’d be better if I fill the insides with the frosting and don’t color it. It got really melty on top because it’s summer and I ended up refrigerating them.

BUT THEY ARE SO GOOD! They helped me wake up early this morning because I knew they were waiting for me, and I was able to get a ton of humane education work done because I was up so unusually early. 🙂

 

Why I’m going to avoid artificial colors from now on. (Update 8/31/17)

 

I have been hearing all sorts of bad things about artificial and synthetic food colors for a long time. I had heard that they were tested on animals at some point, that they’re harmful to our health, that they’re not environmentally friendly, and that they are unnecessary. Yet, I kept seeing products labeled as vegan that had them in them and I assumed I could eat them despite what I believed were rumors. They are in, after all, in some of my favorite mainstream candies that are widely accepted as being accidentally vegan.

Realizing that many people avoid synthetic food colors for the reasons I listed above, I set out to begin to find some alternatives when I cook for other people and for the cookbook I am writing. I was not thinking I would decide to avoid them for the most part until I began to research them more as I was writing this.

However, I discovered some facts that upset me and convinced me otherwise:

Synthetic colors can be present in almost any product in the market, from food and drinks to toothpaste, chewing gum, medications, cosmetics, and even tattoos. They are typically made in a laboratory from petroleum products (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10) or Coal (FDA, 2007). The petroleum and coal industries are destructive to our environment, and produce products and byproducts that are not exactly considered food!

To identify an artificial food coloring in your foods’ ingredients lists, you must look for the prefixes FD&C, D&C, or Ext. D&C, followed by the name of a color, and a number. Sometimes the artificial color may be listed just as the color and number. These labels mean that these colors have been “certified” by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have been approved by them to be safe for use in food (FDA, 2007). Today, there are nine dyes that are approved to be used in food, and these are (minus the prefixes): Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

However, the FDA does not require certain colorants derived from plants, animals, or minerals, though some are still considered artificial colorants and need to be regulated differently (FDA, 2007). This list includes some unappetizing options for colorings such as carmine and cochineal extract (which are produced using beetles and therefore not vegan), canthaxanthin, Sodium copper chlorophyllin, Toasted partially defatted cooked cottonseed flour, ferrous gluconate and ferrous lactate, synthetic iron oxide, mica, etc. The same list includes ingredients we vegans are more familiar with, such as beets, turmeric, vegetable and fruit juices, spirulina, saffron, paprika, carrot oil, and annatto (FDA, 2015). For more information on these lists you can check them out here.

In order to certify a synthetic colorant’s safety, they are tested on animals. The FDA requires that there are tests on at least two different species of rodents (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). That alone may be a reason to avoid these dyes. However, if it does not sway you for whatever reason, know that even scientists are critical of the ways in which animal testing is used and applied in research. In order to test the carcinogenicity of these colorful products effectively, scientists believe that more animals needed to be tested, that the tests need to be performed on pregnant animals and their fetuses, and have a longer duration than the two years they are conducted for at present (Potera, 2010). Personally, I would rather avoid or even encourage a ban these questionably safe products than advocate for more extensive animal testing.

Scientists, medical doctors, nutrition experts, and even psychologists, teachers, parents, and other concerned folks also take issue with some of the research findings of some dyes when the FDA has not. For example,  Potera states, “Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 contain free benzidene, a human and animal carcinogen permitted in low, presumably safe levels” (2010). However, benzidene has also been found to be bound to the chemical structure of the dyes at a greater level than the free benzidene. The tests the FDA does do not consider or identify bound contaminants, only free ones (Potera, 2010). Yellow 5 (also called tartrazine), can cause allergic reactions that can be severe in some people. Tartrazine is now required to be listed by name on food labels, but that isn’t the only concern with this colorant. In a majority of the test-tube and animal experiments for it, this yellow colored dye was shown to damage DNA, which may indicate that it is a carcinogen. Unfortunately, the studies that showed the data was not considered by the FDA (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 11). Furthermore, it has been suggested by researchers that artificial food colorings can increase hyperactivity in children diagnosed with ADHD, as well as children without the diagnosis (Arnold, Lofthouse, & Hurt, 2012).

Some food dyes used today are even banned for use in cosmetics and topical drugs but not food. Red 3 has been banned from these applications by the FDA. It has been shown in animal testing to cause thyroid cancer. Today, five million pounds of Red 3 are present in the food supply (Jacobson & Kobylewski, 2010, p. 10).

It is, as always, up to you to decide what you will tolerate ethically and put into your body. Personally, now that I know that these products are harmful to my health, animals, and the environment, I am going to try to do away with synthetic food colorings as much as I possibly can. I will use natural colors instead.

References

Arnold, L. E., Lofthouse, N., & Hurt, E. (2012). Artificial food colors and attention deficit/hyperactivity symptoms: Conclusions to dye for. Neurotherapeutics, 9(3), 599-609. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13311-012-0133-x

Jacobson, M. F., & Kobylewski, S. (2010, September). Color Us Worried. Nutrition Action Health Letter, 37(7), 10-11. Retrieved from Nursing & Allied Health Database.

Potera, C. (2010). Diet and nutrition: The artificial food dye blues. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(10). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp/118-a428

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2007, December 10). How safe are color additives? Retrieved August 30, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm048951.htm

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2015, May). Summary of color additives for use in the United States in foods, drugs, cosmetics, and medical devices. Retrieved August 31, 2017, from https://www.fda.gov/ForIndustry/ColorAdditives/ColorAdditiveInventories/ucm115641.htm#table1A

***

For the purposes of the cookbook I am writing, unfortunately, I had bought a bunch of sprinkles that were labeled vegan that used the artificial colors before I did this research. I feel guilty letting them go to waste and so I plan to use them. However, I feel the need to point out that there are naturally colored vegan sprinkles available. Let’s Do Organic… brand makes a fairly easy to find variety. India Tree makes some too, but not all of them are vegan. You will need to look out for ingredients such as confectioner’s glaze or beeswax (made from insects) before buying. Additionally, there is an Etsy store called Naked Sprinkles that makes a beautiful range of vegan and naturally colored sprinkles that  I’m really excited to support in the future!

Since my cookbook is all about creating fun, rainbowy, unicorn-inspired foods, I felt it especially necessary to provide options for creating these beautiful colors without the cruelty, environmental destruction, and health risks involved.

If you are short on time or these are not cost effective for you or difficult to find, there are pre-made natural colors that you can buy as well. India Tree, Color Garden, and Color Kitchen, all make natural and vegan food coloring that you can buy in stores or online.

The following are my alternatives to artificial dyes, using natural ingredients. I recommend that you mix each color in a small glass jar and keep chilled in the fridge until needed to color all sorts of foods, such as smoothies, cakes, donuts, frostings, cookies, etc. Always shake the jar before using as separation will occur. I will be using these dyes I created in many of the recipes in the book I am writing.

*Though I have not included it in the official recipes, you can make orange colored dye by mixing the beet color with the turmeric color until you get a satisfactory shade of orange. It may be easier to mix into the food item you are making rather than in a jar, as the colors appear darker than they will in the food you are mixing them into.

Vegan Friendly Natural Food Dye Recipes

IMG_3692

Red

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional, you could use cornstarch or arrowroot if you do not have it)
  • ¾ tsp beet powder

Yellow

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

Green

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp spirulina powder

Blue

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ½ tsp butterfly pea tea powder

Purple

  • ½ cup hot water
  • ¼ tsp agar agar powder
  • ¼ tsp butterfly pea tea powder
  • ¼ tsp beet powder

IMG_3695Here is a picture of some cookie dough I colored using red, purple, yellow, and green dye I made.

 

New Project! Magic Rainbow Unicorn Party

Hey!

As some readers may or may not know, for the past year I have been studying at the Institute for Humane Education, working towards an M.A. in humane education. Humane education seeks to empower and educate people who can be “solutionaries,” or, people who find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, which often involve human rights, environmental ethics, and animal protection issues. I went into this program to become a better vegan mentor and educator, as well as learn more about human rights.

I am always looking for ways to encourage people to make healthier, sustainable, and less harmful product choices. Of particular concern to me are labor issues, cruelty towards animals, the amount of waste and pollution that is created from any particular product, etc. That being said, our quests to find these types of products and making our own food and other handmade activities should still be FUN!

Fat Unicorn

Not only that but learning about how to be more ethical and healthier consumers does not have to be boring or painful and upsetting. Being equipped with information and resources presented in a non-threatening way can make a big difference for people and their habits.

So, for my master’s thesis, I am working on writing a cookbook/eco-friendly craft/kid’s party book, with a magical unicorn rainbow theme.

Inside the book will be a cute chubby unicorn sharing facts and resources most likely, among other helpful tidbits.

The reason for her chubbiness is simple,  vegans come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of a person, big or small, should not dictate what kind of a role model they are in the vegan movement. So, this unicorn pays tribute to that concept.

Likewise, what people choose to eat, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, is their choice! If they want to eat sugary cookies, or ice cream, or whatever else, they have that right, whether they do it every day or once in a while for a treat. If you are opposed to treating yourself with food, this probably isn’t for you. (Although there will be foods that are more health-oriented as well).

In the next few days, I’ll be sharing with you the details of the first project I tackled for this project. Making your own natural vegan food dyes!

IMG_3692

In the meantime, check out my new Instagram account associated with the project, @unicorns.eat.vegan.

Have fun this weekend!

xoxo Laura

Vegan Air Fried Chickun and Waffles

IMG_3662

Hey, so I wanted to make a fried chickun and waffles recipe using my air fryer. I based the recipe off of this and this, but made several big tweaks to them. For the chickun, I used Gardein chick’n scallopini, and I didn’t have the Follow Your Heart vegan egg so I used Ener-g and added more ingredients to make it taste better, among some other changes, such as using beer and changing the spices to suit my tastes better. For the waffles, I used less (not gluten free) flour, almond milk yogurt, avocado oil, and changed the method a bit.

It was SO AMAZINGLY GOOD! OMG.

I’m hoping to be back on my blog a lot more now that I’m in a good place with my humane education master’s degree program, so keep a look out for new posts! I know I often say I’ll be posting more frequently and then never end up doing so, but this time I think I mean it!

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

For the chickun:

  • 1 package of Gardein Chick’n Scallopini, slightly defrosted, just enough to be able to cut in half, not enough to be mushy.

Dry mix

  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Wet Mix

  • 1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tbsp Ener-g Egg Replacer + 4 tbsp water
  • 1/4 tsp Kala Namak (Indian Black Salt)
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegan beer

For the waffles:

  • 1 1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk with 1 tsp apple cider vinegar added
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp flax meal
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1 small container Kite Hill almond vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Toppings:

  • Maple syrup and vegan butter, as desired

Directions:

  1. Start by making the chickun first. In one bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.
  2. Mix together the egg replacer, water, black salt, nutritional yeast, and turmeric.
  3. In another bowl, add the egg replacer mixture into the rest of the ingredients for the wet mix.
  4. Slice each piece of scallopini in half vertically.
  5. Coat the scallopini pieces in the dry mix first, until each piece is coated. Place on a plate or tray.
  6. Add 3 tbsp of the liquid mix into the dry mix. Coat the floury scallopini pieces in the liquid, then place them into the wetted dry mix until covered. Put them back on the tray or plate and place in the fridge while you start preparing the waffles.
  7. Preheat your waffle iron.
  8. Add the apple cider vinegar to the almond milk, stir, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together all the dry ingredients.
  10. When the almond milk and vinegar is done, pour the mixture into the dry mix, along with the oil, yogurt, and vanilla. Stir well. The mixture will look clumpy, that’s totally okay.
  11. Place the coated chick’n scallopini into the air fryer basket in a single layer. Heat at 400 degrees 4, for a total of 10 minutes. Check on them and shake the basket after five minutes of cooking. You may need to cook in batches if your air fryer is small like mine is.
  12. While the chickun is cooking, place a good amount (depending on your waffle iron) of batter after spraying the iron with coconut oil. Cook according to the instructions for your waffle iron.
  13. Keep waffles in a pouch of aluminum foil until ready to serve.
  14. Serve with the chickun atop the waffles with maple syrup and vegan butter if you like.

IMG_3661

Bon Appetit, don’t eat your feet!