April 20, 2015 0

Choc Mint Macarons

Difficulty: Medium

Makes 12

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You thought your macaron days were over, right? WRONG! Call in sick to work, cancel your lunch date and turn your phone off. It is mandatory that you drop everything right now and make some of these bitchin’ choc mint macarons. Thanks to the magic of the humble chickpea, you add these little French treats to your all-vegan baking repertoire. BRB eating them all.

Ingredients

Macarons

  • 1 cup almond meal (use the one without brown flecks)
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup liquid from canned chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon peppermint essence
  • 2-3 drops green food colouring

Chocolate Ganache Filling

  • 300 grams vegan dark chocolate
  • 1/4 cup coconut cream

Method

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the almond meal and icing sugar. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the chickpea juice on high speed with an electric mixer. As it starts to thicken, slowly sprinkle in the xanthan gum.
  3. Once soft peaks start to form, add the caster sugar one teaspoon at a time.
  4. Add the peppermint essence and food colouring once hard peaks have formed and continue to mix for another minute or so.
  5. Gradually and gently mix the almond meal mixture into the meringue until well combined.
  6. Fill a piping bag with the mixture and pipe into circles (about 4cm in diameter) on macaron trays or baking trays lined with baking paper. If you want to be super finicky (like me), you can use a clean pair of scissors to cut the little peaks off the top so the macarons will sit flat once filled.
  7. Allow to sit for half an hour while you preheat the oven to 140°C.
  8. Firmly tap your trays on the bench to remove air bubbles before placing in the oven.
  9. After 15 minutes, check on the macarons and allow some steam to come out of the oven. Place back in for another 15 minutes or until the outside of the macarons are firm.
  10. Remove and allow to cool completely.
  11. To make the filling, melt the chocolate and coconut cream together in a saucepan over medium heat.
  12. Once melted, transfer to a container and pop into the fridge until soft but firm (it cannot be runny).
  13. Fill a piping bag and squeeze about a tablespoon of ganache onto the flat side of one of the macarons.
  14. Gently press the flat side of another macaron to sandwich the ganache. Press until the ganache is just about to the edge.
  15. Serve the same day.
April 13, 2015 1

Oh My Chai – Review & Chai Cake w/ Maple Walnut Glaze

Price: From $4.95

Where to Buy: www.ohmychai.com.au

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I don’t drink a lot of hot drinks but this recent cool snap has me downing several cups a day. When the guys from Oh My Chai offered to chuck a bag of their organic masala chai my way, it was simply an offer I could not refuse.

Oh My Chai Masala is a hand blended loose mix of 9 spices like cinnamon, fennel and ginger and is lightly sweetened thanks to our old friend dark agave. It’s smooth, subtle and can be made on your favourite non-dairy milk in no time.

This blend is available in 1kg or 250g bags but if you’re not quite sure that Oh My Chai is the right tea for you, they have 30g sample bags available too so you can give it a little chai (SORRY, SO SORRY).

I decided to spend my lazy Sunday baking and thought what better ingredient to use then Oh My Chai! This Chai Cake w/ Maple Walnut Glaze is the perfect treat to enjoy on an autumn afternoon plus it’s refined sugar free, so it’s kinda better for you than a regular cake I guess.

Difficulty: Easy

Serves: 8+

Ingredients

  • 3 heaped tablespoons Oh My Chai Organic Masala Chai
  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk
  • 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 1/3 cup plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup sultanas

Glaze

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a cake tin.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring the almond milk and chai to a simmer before removing from the heat, straining and allowing the chai to cool.
  3. Chuck the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves into a large bowl.
  4. Whisk the apple cider vinegar into the chai and allow to sit for a few minutes before adding /3 cup coconut oil and 3/4 cup maple syrup.
  5. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry and combine well so there are no lumps.
  6. Fold in the sultanas and pour into the greased cake tin.
  7. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool completely before removing from the tin.
  8. While the cake is cooling, make your glaze by simply blending the walnuts and remaining coconut oil and maple syrup.
  9. Once the cake has cooled completely, drizzle the glaze onto the cake and serve!
April 8, 2015 0

AWE Cosmeceuticals Review

Price: From $39.00

Where to Buy: www.awecosmeceuticals.com.au

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I love hearing about wicked new vegan products on the market, so when I AWE Cosmeceuticals asked if I wanted to try some of their stuff I naturally jumped at the chance.

Here’s the 411 on AWE:

  • Australian made
  • Australian owned
  • No nasty stuff like sodium lauryl sulphate, parabens, harsh chemicals or known irritants
  • No artificial fragrance or colours
  • Biodegradable formulations
  • Minimal, recyclable packaging
  • All but one product is vegan (the Hydrating Mask contains honey so avoid that one!)
  • A focus on Ayurveda

The first product I tried was the Skin Polish ($29), a combination of light exfoliants, antioxidants and micro jojoba beads and fragranced with rose and jasmine. I tend to go a little OTT with exfoliating and end up with super dry skin but used once a week, this formulation left my skin feeling hella smooth and refreshed. The jojoba beads are SO fine they blows my mind and don’t feel harsh on the skin like chunkier exfoliants I’ve tried.

I then followed that up with the Derma Roller ($69), a multipurpose tool designed to help reduce fine lines, wrinkles, scarring and hyperpigmentation. I had never heard of derma rolling before and was a tad freaked out by the concept but it was actually quite a nice little ritual. Tiny needles are gently rolled over the skin in different directions in order to create itty bitty punctures so that platelets are released. This then stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, resulting in plumper, fresher skin. Derma rolling also opens up the skin so that cosmeceutical products can penetrate deeper and work more effectively. This sounds like an absolute nightmare but is reasonably painless and I did notice my skin looking and feeling a lot fresher after use. I don’t know how effective it is at reducing wrinkles and fine lines but I guess time will tell!

The Calming Serum ($45) is the perfect partner for the Derma Roller as it contains natural anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe the skin after treatments like IPL and derma rolling as well as sun exposure. I have been using this stuff for a couple of months now and absolutely love the way my skin feels after I chuck it on. For a second it feels kinda sticky but it rapidly absorbs into the skin, leaving it feeling soft and smooth.

I’ve been lucky in that I’ve always had pretty fuss free skin but I’ve really noticed a change in the texture of my skin over the past couple of months. I’ve been wearing a lot less makeup and sticking to mineral make up on a daily basis so I can’t give AWE all the credit, but I think the combination of these changes has my face looking as fresh as a daisy (plus a vegan diet helps too!)

March 30, 2015 0

Vegan Pavlova

Difficulty: Medium

Serves 8

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Meringue is one of those things that vegans through the ages have been trying to nail. The current craze to hit the vegan community is the use of canned chickpea juice instead of egg white. While this may seem like a strange concept, I am here to tell you that it freaking works and it’s bloody amazing and you should all give it a try RIGHT NOW! Naturally my first instinct was to make an epic pav but stay tuned because I’m nowhere near finished with this bean juice jive.

Ingredients

  • 2x 270mL cans of coconut cream (placed upside down in the fridge for at least 2 days)
  • 2/3 cup canned chickpea liquid (less salt is best)
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 peach, sliced
  • 2 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced
  • 6 strawberries, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup raspberries

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 120°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the chickpea juice until it starts to turn white.
  3. Add the caster sugar, one tablespoon at a time before adding the xanthan gum and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  4. Once the meringue is firm, pick your jaw up off the floor and carefully pour onto the lined baking tray, making a large disc about 8cm high.
  5. Bake in the oven for 2-2 1/2 hours until the meringue is set and off white in colour (longer if you want it crisp the whole way through). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
  6. Open the cans of coconut cream and drain off the clear liquid. Scoop out the remaining cream and beat with an electric mixer, slowly adding the icing sugar and remaining vanilla extract until whipped.
  7. Once the meringue has cooled completely, evenly distribute the cream over the top before layering with the fruit.
  8. I recommend serving immediately as the meringue will soften over time.
March 24, 2015 2

Vegan Creme Eggs

Difficulty: Easy


Makes 8

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If you’re like me, your childhood Easters were filled with all kinds of chocolate treats but none ever compared to the creme egg. That’s something I thought I had left behind when I went vegan until recently when I saw a creme egg recipe online. With a few alterations, making this recipe vegan turned out to be bloody easy and now creme eggs are back in my life for good! Egg moulds are pretty easy to track down this time of year and can be found at most good baking stores.

Ingredients

  • 200 grams vegan chocolate
  • 1/2 cup glucose syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1-2 drops yellow food colouring

Method

  1. In a microwave proof jug, melt the chocolate in the microwave.
  2. Using a brush, gently brush a layer of chocolate inside each of the moulds before placing in the freezer to set.
  3. Remove from the freezer and brush on another layer of chocolate. Repeat this another two times and keep the melted chocolate on hand.
  4. While the final chocolate layer is setting, make your filling by first beating together the glucose, margarine and vanilla in an electric mixer.
  5. Sift in the icing sugar and continue to mix until a white paste is formed.
  6. Remove half of the filling and set aside. Add the food colouring to the remaining filling and mix well.
  7. Gently pop out each egg from its mould. Almost fill one half with white filling and then a dollop of yellow filling.
  8. Using a skewer, add some of the remaining melted chocolate around the rim of another egg half.
  9. Gently press the two together to create a whole egg and repeat with the remaining eggs.
  10. Allow to set completely in the fridge before serving.
March 16, 2015 0

Kester Black 2015 Colours & Water Based Nail Polish Remover

Price: From $20.00

Where to Buy: www.kesterblack.com

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Finally! Kester Black have dropped the first of their annual colour collection for 2015. In perfect autumn/winter hues, there’s got to be at least one of the four new colours to suit everyone. The legends at KB sent me some of the new colours to try along with their new Water Based Nail Polish Remover.

I haven’t seen a nail colour like Quartz before; a greyed purple polish that goes with just about any warm outfit. The colour itself reminds me of a super comfy jumper or blanket that you just want to snuggle up in.  If you’re looking for a new pink shade, Petra is a sandy pale pink that takes your standard pink polish to another dusty level. There are two other colours in the range; Rust, which is a wicked rich brown polish that’s super on trend and Perennial is a bold salmon hue that will add a burst of colour to your winter ensemble.

These four shades are a welcome addition to the already extensive Kester Black nail polish collection. My favourite things about these polishes is their pigment (two coats and you’re done), their longevity (I can go at least a week without a touch up) and of course the range of colours available. The amazing artwork for the latest collection was created by Anny Wang, Copenhagen Spatial Designer and Visual Artist. Seriously check her out online, she’s amaaaazing.

While you’re checking out the new shades, take a gander at Kester Black’s new Water Based Nail Polish Remover. You would think that this stuff wouldn’t have the power to remove such long-lasting polish but with a cotton pad, a bit of this white peach scented concoction removes your stubborn polish, no problemo! This acetone and acetate free formula also contains aloe vera and vitamin e to nourish and strengthen the nails.

As always, Kester Black products are Australian made and owned and vegan friendly (accredited by Choose Cruelty Free, Cruelty Free International and Vegan Society Approved). The polishes are Five Free, which means that they contain no toluene, DBP, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin or camphor (mate, I hardly know what any of those things are, I don’t want them near me!) so they can be safely used by chemotherapy patients, pregnant peeps and little legends.

I can’t wait to see more colours added to the Kester Black collection in 2015, I’ll keep you posted when they’re heading our way!

March 6, 2015 0

February Vegan Box

Price: From $26.95 

Where to Buy: www.theveganbox.com

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It’s no secret that I absolutely love The Vegan Box. For even the most savvy vegans out there, the box introduces you to new products each month that you’ve never heard of and presents a whole new world of vegan options. The legends over at The Vegan Box chucked me their February Vegan Box to try, so safe to say I was very excited!

The February Box contained:

  • Iris Practice One Bath Wonder Herbal Soak (Value $9.95) – A delightful smelling little pouch for the bath handcrafted in Victoria from local and imported ingredients. Mine came in Detox.
  • Manuko Superfood Truffles (Value $7.90) – Tasty little organic superfood cubes, much like a bliss ball and made in Melbourne. My flavour was Choc Hazelnut Vanilla Bean with Maqui Berry.
  • Your Tea Tiny Tea (Value $2.50) – 3 little tea bags made to aid in reduction of bloating, indigestion and skin issues while increasing energy and reducing weight.
  • East Bali Cashews (Value $6.50) – A bag of lovely cashew goodness, East Bali Cashews are sourced directly from farmers to directly support East Balinese communities. Mine came in Native.
  • Luna Light Voucher (Value $10.00) – Luna Light create cute vegan jewellery. Check out their adorable rings!
  • Pure Sports Hydration Sachet (Value $3.45) – Made from real fruit, carbs and electrolytes, this drink has been scientifically formulated to replenish your body while exercising. One sachet makes 750mL.
  • NutraOrganics Greens & Reds Bar (Value $4.50) – A snack bar filled with vitamins, minerals, alkalising greens, antioxidant rich reds plus pre and probiotics to get you through the day.

Getting The Vegan Box in the mail is like receiving your own little Christmas stocking every month. It’s the perfect gift for a new and well-seasoned vegans alike and continues to showcase some of the amazing products available to us in Australia. The great thing about The Vegan Box is that you can just try one-offs or subscribe for 3 and 6 month stints with added savings. Plus all products are palm oil free and there’s a gluten free option too!

The April Vegan Box is available for preorder now at www.theveganbox.com

March 2, 2015 1

Cheesy Jalapeño Potatoes

Difficulty: Easy

Serves 4

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Sometimes you just gotta treat yoself to a big ol’ bowl of comfort food. The best thing about my cheesy jalapeño potatoes is that they’re not even that bad as far as comfort food goes; the potatoes are baked and the cheesy sauce is nut-based, plus they’ve got jalapeños which are totally a vegetable. They’re gluten and soy free too so just about anybody can tuck into this dish, which is great on its own or as a side (I had mine with hotdogs last night!)

Ingredients

  • 4 large potatoes, washed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1 cup non-dairy milk (soy works best but use whatever you want)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup jalapeños (I just used the ones in the jar)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Par boil your potatoes before slicing into chunky wedges and laying out on the baking trays.
  3. Drizzle or spray with olive oil and allow to cook for 30 minutes, or until crispy and brown.
  4. Chuck the cashews, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, turmeric, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and 1/4 cup jalapeños into a blender and whizz up until super smooth.
  5. Pour into a saucepan and over medium heat, stir until thickened. If you want it even thicker, you can add a little corn flour at this point.
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven and sprinkle with salt.
  7. Serve with a drizzle of cheesy jalapeño sauce and a few extra jalapeños.
February 23, 2015 0

Vegan Bounty Bars

Difficulty: Easy

Makes 12

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Despite the fact I never really ate a lot of Bounty’s in my time as a non-vegan, I somehow felt desperate to make them over the weekend. Lucky I did though because these babies are outta sight! Your fave vegan chocolate provides the casing for the sweet, sweet, coconutty innards. Plus they’re soy and gluten free to boot!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 250grams vegan chocolate (make sure it’s soy and/or gluten free if necessary)

Method

  1. In a saucepan, melt the coconut oil and caster sugar over a medium heat.
  2. Once melted, pour into a large bowl before adding the vanilla extract, almond milk and shredded coconut. Combine well.
  3. Pour the mixture into a small rectangular glass baking dish and press down firmly on top.
  4. Freeze for at least an hour before gently removing from the dish and cutting into 12 even pieces.
  5. Melt the chocolate and dip each bar gently to coat. Place on a tray lined with baking paper.
  6. Allow to set in the fridge before serving.
February 13, 2015 0

Inika Cosmetics

Price: From $25.00 AUD

Where to Buy: www.inika.com.au

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Inika Cosmetics have been on my radar for a while now as I reviewed their foundation over 4 years ago and loved it. Recently Inika sent through some more of their products to try and I’m stoked to report they’ve gotten even better!

Foundation is arguably the most important part of your beauty regime and Inika’s Mineral Foundation Powder (RRP $59.95 AUD) is friggin’ awesome. I’m always a bit wary of powder foundations but I’m genuinely impressed with the results. Coverage-wise it’s quite light but can be built up and while I would usually shy away from a powder with shimmer through it, I do really like it. Free of nasty fillers, this foundation also provides SPF 15 sun protection all while feeling like you’re wearing nothing at all, nothing at all, nothing at all (sorry, couldn’t resist that one). This foundation works best when used in conjunction with the Vegan Kabuki Brush (RRP $59.95 AUD), a super soft, smooth brush that I almost want to crawl inside of it and take a nap.

Admittedly I don’t use a great deal of eye shadow but I was still pumped to try Inika’s Mineral Eye Shadow. It was great to hear that the purity of the ingredients means that it can be used on sensitive eyes because sometimes my peepers can be a little fussy. The shade I sampled (Burnt Sienna) is a great shimmery bronze that glides on like nobody’s business with the help of the Vegan Eye Shadow Brush (RRP $29.00 AUD). You can even transform the powder into a liquid liner by simply mixing with a little water. Bitchin’!

Two-in-one products are always a winner and Inika’s Creme Colour (RRP $39.00 AUD) is certified organic and can be used on both lips and cheeks. I tried the shade Rosehip and while it wouldn’t be my colour of choice for my cheeks, the texture is great and I will definitely use it as a lip tint in the future. You can also build up the colour using a lip brush to turn it into a high-pigment lip colour.

Last but definitely not least, I tried the Ultimate Lip Balm (RRP $25.00 AUD). Full of essential oils like peppermint, coconut and sunflower, I’ve been using this stuff for weeks and absolutely adore it. You can use it on its own or apply over your favourite lip colour for a little extra moisture. The carnuba wax aids in maintaining the shape of the balm so it’s perfect for warm Australian summers.

Inika is certified organic by Australia’s Organic Food Chain meaning that products contain a minimum of 70-95% organic ingredients. They’re also 100% certified Halal and registered with the UK Vegan Society. All tubes, pots and brushes are made from recycled materials and the boxes are recyclable. So you know, all cool stuff going on here!

If you weren’t already dead keen on Inika, here’s a little more info from their website:

  • No petrochemicals, synthetic substances or mineral oils
  • No ingredients of animal origin
  • No talc or bismuth oxychloride
  • No parabens (Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben, Isobutylparaben and Propylparaben)
  • No harmful fillers
  • No genetically modified ingredients
  • No fragrances or colour components of non-organic or synthetic origin
  • No anti-microbial agents produced from non-organic sources
  • No chelating agents based on EDTA and its salts
  • No fatty chain source material of petrochemical origin
  • No sulphonation, ethoxylation or propoxylation
  • No alkyl sulphates (eg. sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium coco sulphate, ammonium lauryl sulphate)
  • No alkyl ether sulphates (eg. sodium laureth sulphate, ammonium laureth sulphate)
  • No polyethylene glycol (PEGS)
  • No polysorbates (eg. polysorbate 20)
  • No ethanolamides (eg. cocamide DEA, cocamide MEA)
  • No chemically synthesized sunscreens
  • No potentially harmful preservatives such as parabens and sodium benzoate
  • No gluten or lactose

It’s awesome to see another vegan make up brand absolutely smashing it. While the products are pricey, you’re getting a great quality product from a brand that cares about our animal friends, human friends and the planet.