Saturday, 28 February 2015

Starbucks UK Vegan Items

***EDIT - After reading various reports about the chai latte, I contacted Starbucks again. This time, they confirmed that the chai does contain honey so is not suitable for vegans... grumble, grumble. The good news is that Costa confirmed the me that their chai is vegan - yay!***

***EDIT #2 - I recently ordered a Strawberries & Cream Soya Frappucino only to be told that the Creme Frappucinos are not actually vegan. Apparently there is something in the cream flavouring that is not vegan, but the barista couldn't remember exactly what it was. They had checked all the ingredients for a customer the week before, so when he heard me order soya milk he asked if I was vegan. So it sound like even Customer Services can't give a clear answer about what is/isn't vegan, as they had previously told me that Frappucinos were fine so long as you had it with soya milk!***

Our Starbucks card was recently upgraded to Gold status, which basically means we've bought a lot of coffee and hot chocolate in the past year. Consequently, I thought now would be a good time to write this post.

I'm sure that some of you will probably be disagreeing with my beverage choices, thinking instead that I should support the small, independent coffee shops rather than this global corporation. I agree with this in principle, but the beautiful thing about Starbucks is that I can be anywhere in the country and know that there is somewhere I can go to and get a vegan drink quickly and easily (usually).

I say usually because I had a little run in with one particular Starbucks barista before Christmas, who was trying to tell me that all the hot chocolate there contains milk - and I knew this to be false!

To put my own mind at rest, I emailed Starbucks customer service. After about 4-5 weeks and a number of emails chasing them, I was finally sent a list of all the vegan products available at Starbucks and wanted to share it with you. To be fair to the customer service representatives, they were very apologetic - even though they took a lot longer than "shortly" to reply to me.
"I am truly sorry that you had such a disappointing visit because of how you were treated. This is obviously not the experience we want you to have at our stores. I can confirm that the following beverages and food items are currently suitable for vegans."

Tazo Tea
Filter Coffee
Café Misto with Soy
Steamed Soy with or without syrups
Espresso Macchiato with Soy
Café Americano black or with Soy
Soy Lattes with or without syrups
Soy Cappuccinos with or without syrups
Mocha with Soy
Classic Hot chocolate with Soy
Tea based Frappuccinos
Frappuccinos made with Soy milk without whipped cream (excluding our Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino due to the Chocolate Chips in the beverage recipe as they contain dairy. Our Caramel Drizzle topping is also not suitable for vegans as it contains dairy.) ***EDIT - NOT VEGAN***

Perfect Porridge with Soy Milk and dried fruit
Very Berry Compote
Fresh Fruit Salad
Fruit Salad
Fairtrade Banana
Roasted Almonds
Nut Mix
Fairtrade Chocolate bar – dark
Sea Salt Potato Chips
Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar Potato Chips
After Coffee Mints

I can confirm that all of the other syrups are vegan, it is only pumpkin spice and the honey and almond drizzle that is not suitable.
Historically, the only hot drink I have enjoyed has been hot chocolate. I never got into drinking tea and coffee, apart from the very occasional herbal tea if I want a hot drink without all the sugar and calories of a hot chocolate. Hot chocolate is still definitely my favourite hot drink but I have recently branched out to try the chai soy latte from Starbucks, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it... Am I finally "growing up"??


Since this email, I have discovered that there is a food item missing from this list! Perhaps they only changed it after this had all been sorted out, as I know the dressing used to have honey in. However, the Moreish Meze salad box now has a label stating that it is suitable for vegans! Yay! It's quite tasty too, I had one for lunch the other day. The falafels are yummy and the chimichurri sauce is a nice touch.

Starbucks in America are rolling out coconut milk as an option, and I believe almond milk has also been trialled in some stores. I cannot wait for that to happen over here! I love both coconut and almond milk, and it would be great to have a little more choice!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Nana-Nut Ice Cream

I was out shopping yesterday and fancied some ice cream, but knew that it would melt by the time I got home... so I made my own!

I had no idea what flavour I wanted, I just wanted something creamy and yummy. We had a few bananas left from last week so I decided to use one of them, and when I thought about what flavours went with banana, peanut was the obvious answer! You could use any nut butter here though, so pick your favourite and roll with it.

I used my banana powder from this month's The Vegan Kind box (blog to follow soon..) to give the ice cream an extra banana boost, but feel free to leave this ingredient out if you can't find any or don't want to buy any. This is the one I used:

Also, ideally you'll need to chill your coconut milk for a couple of hours before making this. Once it's been in the fridge a while, just scoop out the hardened cream from the top (this is what we'll be using) and leave the water (you can throw this away). This will give you a super-creamy, thick ice cream. Of course, you can skip this part and just use the whole can as it comes if you prefer, or can't wait!

Nana-Nut Ice Cream
Serves 4

1 large banana
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter (or your favourite nut butter)
250ml soya cream
1 can (400g) coconut milk, chilled (see above)
1 tbsp banana powder (optional)

In a 1 litre jug, mash the banana and peanut butter together. Add the soya cream and coconut cream, and mix until smooth. My coconut cream had set so much that I needed to use an immersion blender for this part, so feel free to go ahead and use that straight away. Mix in the banana powder. Then just freeze in your ice cream maker as per the manufacturer's instructions - simple!

Feel free to try this the old-fashioned way if you don't have an ice cream maker, but I can't comment on how effective it will be as I love my little machine. Do let me know how you get on if you try it though.

N.B. - If you store any leftovers in the freezer, you may need to let it rest at room temperature until it reaches the softness you prefer, as homemade ice cream tends to harden in the freezer.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Valentine's Day Chocolate Box (The Vegan Kind & Considerit Chocolate)

When The Vegan Kind and Considerit Chocolate teamed up to do their Christmas-themed chocolate box, I couldn't resist. When they teamed up again to offer a Valentine's-themed chocolate box, I found myself strangely devoid of will-power yet again.

I'll apologise for the photos now. We were so eager to get stuck into trying the chocolate that I didn't get chance to wait for some natural light to take photos by!

The box contained three flavoured bars, a bag of chocolate shards, and a small box of assorted truffles.

Let's start with the bars: Cranberry Crunch Bar, Raspberry Chocolate Truffle Bar, and Chocolate and Honeycomb Bar.

The crunch in the Cranberry Crunch Bar was some chopped up gluten-free digestive biscuits. This bar reminded me a lot of tiffin but in chocolate bar form. I love tiffin, so this was a hit for me!

The Raspberry Truffle Bar was very pretty, as it was covered in crushed freeze-dried raspberries, which have a beautiful colour. This bar definitely did not disappoint. I'm a huge fan of the truffle bars from Considerit Chocolate anyway, and this flavour combination worked wonderfully. I think this was my favourite of the three bars.

The Chocolate and Honeycomb Bar was also another winner! This one was Mr Hatter's favourite - he said it tasted just like a Crunchie. I've not had a Crunchie for years, but they are obviously rather different due to being a large piece of honeycomb covered in chocolate, whereas this bar was a chocolate bar with pieces of honeycomb in it. But I agree that it was very scrummy. I also LOVE that it is gold! I really like the effort that they put in to make theirs bars pretty!

As the chocolate shards are made of the same tasty chocolate as the other products, they went down quickly too. These are probably not something I would buy (because I find the flavoured chocolate more interesting!) but they are definitely a good addition to the selection boxes.

Last but not least, we have the truffles... which for some reason I have no photo of! You'll just have to guess what these heart-shaped treats looked like! There were four in the box, all different flavours - Salted Caramel, Chilli, Chocolate Truffle, Raspberry. All were delicious, even the Chilli which I was skeptical about. The Chocolate Truffle was top of Mr Hatter's list but the Salted Caramel won my vote. I love the salted caramel bar that they do and this was pretty much just a miniature version of it!

I'm so glad I managed to persuade Mr Hatter to try some this time. (He refused to try any of my Christmas box.) He has finally realised just how lovely vegan chocolate can be - yay! I think it helped that I surreptitiously bought him a Considerit Chocolate mint truffle bar for Christmas...

So, another fabulous box from this collaboration. I'm wondering if there might be an Easter one coming up...? Maybe we'll get lucky.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Vegan Life Magazine Jan/Feb 2015

It's taken me so long to get around to writing this review that the new issue is already out! Oops! I actually read the magazine a while ago and planned to write the review sooner, but life seemed to get in the way.

As always, this issue has some amazing looking recipes. The one that really caught my eye was the recipe featured on the cover, for "BBQ Cauliflower Salad with Zesty Ranch Dressing". This dish has made it onto my menu for the coming week!

The other recipe that I really want to try is for the Chinese Steamed Buns, seeing as it's Chinese New Year next week. I won't have time to make them during the week, as I get home from work too late - but hopefully I'll get time one weekend. Do you have any favourite recipes when Chinese New Year rolls around?

It's not only Chinese New Year next week but Pancake Day too - wow! I'm going to have to get my thinking cap on and choose some tasty pancakes... any excuse!

In terms of articles, I really enjoyed reading about the family who adopted a few sheep whilst on holiday and ended up opening a sanctuary. It's always nice to hear about something good happening to farm animals!

I also enjoyed the article about "guerrilla art", focusing on a street artist named Dan Witz who has been creating street art with a message. This campaign was titled "Empty the Cages", and was designed to bring attention to the suffering of farm animals today. You can see how effective the images are:

While I did enjoy the magazine, I didn't find this issue as engaging as the previous two. I think it was partly due to the overwhelming detox vibe aimed at the post-Christmas market, and partly due to being the first issue I had read on my iPad. The whole detox thing isn't really what I'm looking for, as I feel we eat pretty healthily anyway but there were some interesting detox recipes that I may try my hand at. And as for the iPad... I'm a book lover, and I love having something in print to hold and read. For me, it's just not the same reading from a screen and I do think this affected my enjoyment somewhat. I shall persevere though and hopefully next time will be better, as I know what to expect from a digital magazine!