Thursday, 18 June 2009

As if by magic

Just as I was wondering how, as a new vegan, I was going to ever eat ice cream again, a recipe appears!

Vegan Scoop - ice cream bookI can’t wait to get Wheeler’s ice cream over here, but at least in the meantime they have produced a recipe book, The Vegan Scoop. Yay!

Wheeler’s have very kindly given me permission to post one of their recipes on this site. I can’t wait to try it, it looks delicious, unfortunately my local health food shop has run out of soya cream – could it be that the neighbours already know about the book?

I've just realised that the ice cream will have a third less calories approx than a dairy version. How brilliant is that?!! I love being vegan. Thank you Wheeler's.

Cinnamon Banana ice cream

3 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 cup (235 ml) soy milk, divided
2 tablespoons (16 g) arrowroot
2 cups (470 ml) soy creamer (I’m pretty sure this is soya cream in the UK)
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
3 teaspoons cinnamon

In a food processor, puree bananas and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup (60 ml) soymilk with arrowroot and set aside.

Mix soy creamer, remaining 3/4 cup (175 ml) soymilk, bananas, and sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat. Once mixture begins to boil, remove from heat and immediately add arrowroot cream. This will cause the liquid to thicken noticeably.

Add vanilla extract and cinnamon.

Refrigerate mixture until chilled, approximately 2 to 3 hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instruction. I don’t have an ice-cream maker, but it looks like there are plenty of other ways to make the ice cream set.

Yield: 1 quart (approximately 600 g).

Banana and cinnamon vegan ice creamUpdate

At last! the soya cream is back in stock!! Boy was it worth waiting for. This Banana and cinnamon vegan ice cream is simply gorgeous (even when I made it!) and so easy to make even with out an ice cream making machine. The Vegan Scoop book is now officially on my wish list!

A Delicate Balance

A delicate balance, film by Aaron ScheibnerThis year seems to be a year for brilliant independent films. Watching “A delicate balance” by Aaron Scheibner was a life-changing event for me.

So what’s it all about, well it’s about food, nutrition and the escalating health problems we see in affluent countries – not just cancer, heart disease and obesity, but also autoimmune disorders too like diabetes, crohns disease and all the many different ways the body can attack itself.

The film is full of interesting things I hadn’t even thought to think about regarding the food that I eat. The facts are backed up by years of research by medical doctors and scientists at leading educational research institutions across the globe.

Before the film I was vegetarian (but still ate dairy in the form of cheese and eggs). So obviously, I had thought about the animal welfare aspects of my food and with the remaining food stuffs left to me I tried to eat a relatively balanced diet. My main reason for still eating dairy and eggs was so that I could get enough protein (I tried to ignore the welfare aspects of cheese, and eggs were always free-range). But this film isn’t about animal welfare (much). This film made me concentrate on the consequences of my diet on my health and it was incredibly eye opening. The result is that I am now vegan – no meat, no fish, no milk, no eggs. The good news is that I can get all the vitamins, minerals and everything I need, including protein and B12, from a vegan diet. I am about 10 days into the new diet and feeling great!

So friends and family, I will make you watch this film too, you may borrow my copy. Everyone else, I urge to either buy a copy of the film or go to a screening you can also pay to watch in online.

This film is about you and your health, if you care about yourself, you need to watch this film.

You can watch the trailer on the delicate balance website (the film is also covers meat production and climate change).

Seeds of change

I’ve got a bit of catching up to do on the blogging front. First up, the lovely people at Seeds of Change sent me some of their new chocolate bars to try. Whooohoo, free chocolate. Fab.

Seeds of Change logoYou’ll probably recognise the Seeds of Change brand, they’ve been in the UK since the late 1990’s with their organic sauces and soups (amongst other things). It was the American branch though that sent me the chocolate.

But what to do, I could just scoff all the chocolate and tell you that it’s scrumptious but where is the analysis in that?

I decided to rope my friend and chocolate connoisseur B, into a double blind taste trial. Which of course (cough) meant that we had to compare the bars against our favourite chocolate nibbles, which for me is Green and Blacks dark chocolate, and for B is Galaxy (by Mars). I bought the milk chocolate G&B bar too, so that we could compare that in the taste trial.

4 types of chocolateNow, on to the flavours; from left to right,
dark chocolate,
milk chocolate,
dark chocolate with mango and cashew, and
dark chocolate with cherries and vanilla.

3 mini bars in each packWe went “ooooh”, when we opened up the first packet. The chocolate is split into three individually packaged mini bars. Wrapped in plastic though, plastic?! Needless to say, I’d have preferred paper. B thought the three bar idea might help her willpower and resolve not to eat the whole pack in one go!

The results

Milk Chocolate
Seeds of change
B – nice smooth texture, more chocolaty that she would expect from a milk chocolate. Bit of a funny after taste though. Overall rank, second.
Me – Definitely chocolate, but I thought it had a slightly waxy texture. Overall rank, second.
Green and Black
B – creamy, smooth, but tastes of soya. Not bad though. Overall rank, third.
Me – I couldn’t really tell that this was chocolate (but I prefer dark chocolate). Overall rank third.
B – “mmm now we’re talking” – I think that about said it all really. Rank 1
Me – Sweeter than all the other two, honeycomb sugar taste, annoyingly I also ranked this the best of the milk chocolates. Rank 1 (on flavour and texture only).

Dark Chocolate
Seeds of change
B – It was amusing to watch her face as she analysed the flavours. I hadn't thought to ask whether she actually likes dark chocolate and didn't need to now, she spat the whole chunk out complaining that it was bitter and sour!
Me – not as chocolaty as I would expect from a dark chocolate (it’s 61% cacao). I would have said it was more milk chocolate.
Green and Black
B – decided that in the name of science she would continue with the trial. The chunk lasted a little longer before it was spat out, apparently it wasn’t as bitter.
Me – yep my favourite, definitely chocolate.

Onto the other two bars. It was odd that although the base chocolate was the same dark chocolate, B like both the flavours.

Dark chocolate with mango and cashew
B thought the bar was more mango cashew, I thought the opposite. We concluded that was just the way the chocolate chunked. A nice bar.
Dark chocolate with cherries and vanilla
Cherries, raisins, whatever. Fruity. Surprised to read that there was vanilla in there too. A little disappointed because we both thought was the more enticing combination of flavours to read.

Would I buy the chocolate? Umm, not for me (more because of what's happened since than because of the taste), but for a chocolate loving friend who hasn't tried it before as a gift - possibly. I couldn’t really tell from their website whether they have a fair trade policy for the ingredients, but they are organic and the flavour combinations were different. B will probably stick with Galaxy – she has no morals!

I have also discovered that you can now buy Seeds of Change chocolate bars in the UK. Looks like it was only the Dark chocolate flavour that made it over though.

Friday, 12 June 2009

In Transition film - online now

I've just watched the online screening of the "In Transition" film. It's not the final version, but it looked pretty good to me, a little bit of tweaking and I'm sure it will be a brilliant. It's only online for a few days, so catch it now, or else you'll have to wait for the finished product. It's about an hour long.

I'm familiar with the "Transition" concept, so I'd be really interested to hear what anyone who is new to the subject thinks of the film.

The idea of creating a positive vision of the future I think is powerful and necessary, but for me methodology the transition movement is generally using to get people to think about the future is a bit "new age" - but granted it does work (it tends to revolve around group meditation, which, if you are not used to meditation, either on your own or in a group, is uncomfortable - I just can't imagine that going down well with the majority of the people in my town!). The practical aspects, great. Some fantastic projects highlighted in the film.

By the way the film didn't play in Firefox. It was fine in Internet Explorer.

If you want to comment on the film to Rob, post your comments on the Transition Culture In Transition Film blog post.

If you want to watch the full 350 degrees animation, you can find it at

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Paper, paper everywhere

Piles of magazines
but no surfaces left!

I have had just about enough of the piles of magazines that have been building up. Even the wooden stool we made a few months back has somehow changed it's purpose and is now just extra space for stacking magazines on and under. Grrr.

We subscribe to a few different magazines (and read them!). I know we should transition to electronic versions, but for magazines, for me, nothing yet beats paper (if anyone would like to send me an e-book to trial please feel free, I'll happily review it for you!!).

The thing with the magazines is that we just don't want to compost of recycle them, the articles are too interesting and we know that will need to refer to them at a later date.

Time to file the magazines. The thing is how to do it without punching holes in the paper, or squeezing them into plastic sleeves? I didn't want to spend out on fancy embossed magazine archive files they are far too freaky. I found some magazine holder "clips" online that you use with ring binders that looked as if they might fit the bill, but made from plastic and then I'd have to buy some files.

Magazine filesThe answer hit me when I found out that my workplace was going to bin a load of lever arch files. The files were old and the lever arch mechanisms had failed, you know the way they do when the metal pins that goes through the paper holes no longer match up, very annoying. But I didn't need the metal bit, just the file cases. My lucky day.

Here are the first finished magazine storage files.

Magazine bindingAfter I had drilled out the rivets holding the metal mechanism to the board casing the rest was really easy. I wound string around the spine so the middle page of each magazine could be secured into place. Each lever arch file holds approximately 15 magazines. In no time at all, I will have my surfaces back. Hooray!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Feed-in tariffs

We Support Solar logoIf you are in the UK and are thinking about getting photovoltaic solar panels, then a quick step over to Friends of the Earth could pay off, quite literally! They are working on a "We Support Solar" campaign to get feed-in tariffs (ie pay households for any excess electricity their PV panels produce) set at a good rate. A few clicks and you can let your MP know that you'd like them to support the idea. Or you can find out if your MP has already signed EDM 680: Solar Energy first and thank them!!