Vegan MoFo 2017 Week 2, Day 9: Behind the Scenes: Unicorn Must-Haves

Hello, Fluffy the Vegan Unicorn is here!

This week’s MoFo theme is “Behind the Scenes.” This means you’ll be getting tips, tricks, tools, and must-haves, as well as some sneak peeks at the idea for the book Laura is writing with me.

Today we are looking at some of the must-haves for a magical unicorn-inspired kitchen. Some of these things we will be going into more detail later in the week. Those items will be starred.

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Here’s a photo of my “unicorn poop” sugar cookies…

Natural vegan food coloring. Whether it is the from the powders and recipes I talk about here, or storebought colors such as India Tree, Color Kitchen, or TruColor.

Cocoa Butter. This is used to make various vegan white chocolate recipes, some of which will be shared at a later date through this MoFo. I will only buy cocoa butter by brands recommended by Food Empowerment Project, or are fair trade and sourced outside Africa, since F.E.P. seems to be more about ready-to-eat chocolate rather than raw ingredients like Cocoa Butter. I do need to research this topic a bit more to be more clear on the matter.

Marshmallows. Let’s all take a moment of silence for Sweet and Sara Vegan Marshmallows getting ready to close…………..Okay. So, unfortunately, we won’t have dried rainbow-colored cereal marshmallows for much longer 😦 but we will have Dandies and Trader Joe’s vegan marshmallows. Dandies make special edition flavors sometimes which are really good and has good mini marshmallows that you can use for lots of Unicorn-friendly recipes. If you can only find the large pillowy vegan mallows near you, you can always cut them smaller for certain recipes that need mini mallows.

Vegan Sprinkles.* More on this in its own post, due Wednesday, October 11. All different kinds. And colored sanding sugar.

Unicorn shaped cookie cutters.* How else will you make unicorn shapes? More on these tomorrow.

Lots of sugar. This is self-explanatory. Make sure it’s always organic/vegan.

There’s probably a lot more I should mention, but this is a good start of the basics for now.

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

 

Better than Cadbury Cream Eggs! (vegan, fair trade, and gluten free) with update for palm free/gmo free recipe

Hi!

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I’ve been wanting to make a vegan chocolate cream egg since…well…every year I’ve been vegan. This year I finally decided to take action.

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I bought an egg shaped mold from a craft store and everything. However, I found a recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Hell Yeah It’s Vegan which does not require a mold (and I think comes out better if you don’t). Please check the blog out beyond this recipe. It’s amazing!

Originally I just made some simple adjustments to the recipe. Instead of using yellow and red food coloring, I made the yellow out of water and powdered turmeric. I also changed the method a bit, instead of using two disks I used one and just free-styled the yellow part of the egg by placing it in the center and wrapping the white part around it and shaping it into an egg shape. It was actually really easy in terms of making candies and other stuff.

The chocolate I used was Equal Exchange Fair Trade chocolate chips which I am really passionate about buying from now on. Not only are they conflict/child labor/slave labor free and on the Food Empowerment Project chocolate list, but they’re also the best tasting chocolate and worked like a dream.

But I was annoyed that I was making these with Earth Balance, which has palm oil in it, and corn syrup, which is often gmo and not organic (genetically modified). So I had to totally revamp the recipe. It works just as well if not better. The updated recipe is below!

Of course, these are also gluten free and also nut free (if you don’t consider coconut a nut!)

Chocolate Creme Eggs–vegan, gluten free, palm oil free, fair trade, organic

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp refined coconut oil (solid) –plus 2 tsp for the chocolate
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 cups organic/gluten free powdered sugar
  • Ground turmeric and water, as needed
  • 8 oz (or more, just use the full bag) fair trade, vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer, cream the brown rice syrup, coconut oil, vanilla extract, and water together.
  2. Slowly incorporate the powdered sugar into this mixture, blending until well combined. If it is hard to mix add a small amount of water, no more than an 2 additional teaspoons.
  3. Place a small amount of the mixture into a small bowl (a third or less of it), and sprinkle the turmeric powder and a small amount of water (you do want this to get a little runny), use a small whisk or spoon to stir it together until it all incorporates and is a bright yellow color. It will be hard to combine at first.
  4. Cover both bowls and place them in the refrigerator for an hour or more. If you are short on time you can place them in the freezer for no more than 30 minutes.
  5. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper.
  6. With a small spoon, place little blobs of the yellow mixture onto the tray. You want to aim for about 15 nickel size pieces.
  7. Then shape the white mixture into 30 flat egg shaped discs and place on the other tray.
  8. Place the white ones in the fridge and the yellow in the freezer for 20-30 minutes.
  9. Take one white disc, place the yellow blob and put it in the middle, then place another white disc to form a sandwich. Smush together and then shape by rolling in between your hands into an egg shape. Continue on with the rest of them. It’s okay if some of the yellow is oozing out, it gets better looking results that way.
  10. Place again in the freezer for a half hour (or more).
  11. Melt the chocolate with 2 tsp coconut oil in the microwave or a double boiler.
  12. Dip the frozen eggs fully into the chocolate one by one, placing on a cookie sheet with a fresh sheet of parchment paper or wax paper to set. I have found that the best method is to use a spoon to roll the egg in the chocolate and then carefully take out of the chocolate, letting the excess drip off back into the chocolate, and then placing onto the tray. They will not be perfect, you may have some drips that deform the egg shape. Once you let them set you can break those off a little bit.
  13. Place in the refrigerator or freezer to set fully. I like to keep a big batch of them wrapped in foil in the freezer, and when there is a day that I want one, I place it in the fridge for a few hours, let it sit out for a little longer at room temperature, and then dig in! They are so good.