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05/01/2012

Product review: Raw Shakti Single Origin Ecuador Chocolate!  »


Raw Shakti Single Origin Ecuador chocolate has only two raw vegan organic non-GMO ethically-sourced ingredients: cacao beans and coconut sugar. That’s it! It takes some serious confidence to put out a raw chocolate with two ingredients. With so few elements, there’s no room for error—no coconut flakes to mask the flavor of slightly subpar cacao beans, no fancy superfoods to overwhelm the palate and shock any critical senses into submission.

Raw Shakti Chocolate sent me some samples. The single origin raw chocolate is indeed unbelievably intense, and not everyone is going to like it. You might wanna try one of their other varieties if you’re used to 70 percent cacao vegan chocolate or anything around that percentage. But if you like your chocolate as strong as possible, as I do, their Single Origin 85 percent chocolate will be your new mana. A small square of Raw Shakti Chocolate will remind you of that one time you woke up in an unfamiliar bed next to two drop-dead gorgeous roommates wearing B12 patches and nothing else—you’ll experience confusion, and strong sensations throughout your body, and you’ll pray for it to happen again. Get it online and at some Bay Area health food stores.

04/30/2012

Product review: UliMana raw vegan chocolate truffles are totally baller!  »

Remember that 1998 episode of South Park (I’m so old) when Chef told his students to enjoy his chocolate salty balls? The world grimaced, laughed, and I have a hunch that chocolate balls and certain pornographic film sales increased exponentially.

Twenty years later, how is the market for chocolate balls? Are they still culturally relevant? Do they still taste amazing? If you’re a vegan who likes raw chocolate, our answer to all of these questions is UliMana raw vegan chocolate: proof positive that chocolate balls still rule.

The super adorbs packaging of UliMana drew me in immediately. Stacked like gum balls in a jar, each delicate chocolate ball miraculously keeps its shape while pressed against its brethren. How do they do that!? I imagine that’s a well-kept UliMana secret.

UliMana are technically considered truffles. I love that each ball is infused with cacao powder, coconut nectar (which is a much lower-glycemic sweetener than refined white sugar and other sweeteners on the market!), high-quality salt, cacao butter, vanilla beans, and various superfoods, depending on the flavor. The goji cherry and the cacao nib truffles are my favorite, but if you prefer your chocolate balls straight up, then get the dark cacao raw truffles.

Be a baller! Get UliMana online, at local Bay Area health food outlets (including Rainbow and Whole Foods), and your new best friend’s pantry. UliMana sent me some samples, which I loved on thoroughly.

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food.

04/11/2012

Product Review: Endangered Species Vegan Chocolate!  »

Endangered Species was recently greenlighted to Food Empowerment Project’s list of ethical vegan chocolate companies. Note: Only their organic* chocolates make the list.

FEP is run by my friend and former co-worker Lauren Ornelas’ vegan advocacy nonprofit. While I interned at the Center For Environmental Health several years ago, she and I became acquainted through her work at Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. I saw Lauren speak at Vegan Prom in San Francisco, and am pretty much in awe of her dedication to protecting humans, animals, and the planet. Seriously, look her up! I am also so inspired by her work to promote ethical vegan chocolate companies that do not trade in human or animal suffering.

According to the Endangered Species media kit, the company donates 10 percent of net profits to support animal protection and sound environmental practices. And they also identify themselves as non-GMO, and 100 percent ethically traded.

Cacao good for people an animals? Sounds dreamy! But is their chocolate delicious? Yes! Sweetened with beet sugar, which is a better choice than refined white sugar, if you ask me (though I must admit tend to prefer raw cacao and raw sweeteners, being a good Vegansaurus raw correspondent!), the varying degrees of cacao intensity do deliver a punch. My favorite is the 88 percent dark bar, which is pretty damn close to pure cacao. It’s the darkest that ES sells, and comes with information on black panthers inside the package. How convenient! More cacao equals less sugar, and a greater benefit of magnesium, antoxidants. It also satisfies chocoholism. Enjoy whatever vegan (non-milk chocolate) version you wish! Note: Vegan chocolate by ES is very clearly labeled as “vegan,” so just make sure you see that on the label and you’re good to go!

Other great varieties of Endangered Species dark chocolate include their dark chocolate with cherry, dark chocolate with orange, and peppermint squares. They even sell individually-wrapped bite-sized chocolates that are perfect for stuffing in lunches/your unisex handbag/bra. Yay for ethical chocolate!

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food.

*Note: This post originally stated that Endangered Species vegan chocolates were approved by the Food Empowerment Project. In fact, it is Endangered Species organic chocolates that received FEP approval. Vegansaurus regrets the error.

04/06/2012

Clif Bar + child slavery = sad everyone  »


My coworker Andrew’s desk drawer.

As energy bars go, Clif is totally my favorite. Chocolate-dipped coconut Luna bars are essentially dessert, Clif shots and blocks power my running, and those Mojo bars are addictive. Part of the reason I’m such a Clif groupie is that almost everything they make is vegan, holla.

But it turns out Clif may have something to hide [pdf] about where it gets its chocolate. At the very least, the company is being disappointingly closed-lipped about its sourcing. Wanna bug them with me?

Since last May, the Food Empowerment Project has been asking Clif to disclose the country it gets its chocolate from. That’s because some countries, especially in West Africa, have high prevalence of child slave labor on cacao plantations, and no one wants to support child slavery. (Unless it involves getting me a beer, but that’s probably not the kind of stuff we mean here.) Clif ain’t talking. That doesn’t necessarily mean your Clif Crunch bar supports child cruelty, buy wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure? That’s FEP’s stance:

We all know why companies like Nike and Apple took so long to disclose information on their supply chains: because they had something to hide. But does Clif?

How could a company that prides itself on social responsibility choose to not be transparent about an issue as important as child slavery? What does Clif have to hide?

Join us in asking them.

You can email them, call them at (800) 254-3227, and write them at:
Clif Bar & Company
1451 66th St.
Emeryville, CA 94608

Let us know if you have questions and we would appreciate you sharing with us their response.

In the meantime, I’m cutting back to my Clif bar intake, which, as you know if you even read a third of this post, makes me very sad. Which brings me to my PS: what’s your favorite bar for hiking or running or snack or whatever?

06/28/2011

Raw vegan “Jell-O” from Vegansaurus’ number-one raw correspondent, Sarah E. Brown!  Per Sarah, Jell-O, especially of the raw vegan variety, can be flavored with chocolate! I know, it’s a wacky concept, but it actually works wonderfully! Here is a recipe incorporating the magic of Irish moss (gelatin texture, derived from a sea plant source instead of ground-up dead animal bits), the light, summery goodness of blueberries, and a dose of cacao powder, just for kicks.
Last time I sent a Jell-O recipe to Vegansaurus, I made it super low-glycemic, because I was living at a low-glycemic raw vegan retreat center and wanted to create a recipe suitable for those looking to control their blood sugar. Now that I’m living in the Bay Area again (yay!) I added the option to sweeten the Jell-O with dates, but feel free to substitute Stevia, Xylitol, or another sweetener of choice if you prefer. Feel free to leave out the cacao, or add carob or maca instead.IngredientsStevia to taste, and/or 4 to 6 dates (pre-soaked, if possible)Handful of pre-soaked Irish moss2 cups blueberries (or another fresh fruit)1 1/2 cups waterpinch sea salt1 Tbsp. raw cacao powderInstructionsBlend the Irish moss with one cup of water. Add dates, Stevia (if using), blueberries, sea salt, cacao powder and last half-cup of water. Blend until smooth. Put mixture in fridge to gel for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!
This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food. Thanks, Sarah!

Raw vegan “Jell-O” from Vegansaurus’ number-one raw correspondent, Sarah E. Brown! Per Sarah, Jell-O, especially of the raw vegan variety, can be flavored with chocolate! I know, it’s a wacky concept, but it actually works wonderfully! Here is a recipe incorporating the magic of Irish moss (gelatin texture, derived from a sea plant source instead of ground-up dead animal bits), the light, summery goodness of blueberries, and a dose of cacao powder, just for kicks.

Last time I sent a Jell-O recipe to Vegansaurus, I made it super low-glycemic, because I was living at a low-glycemic raw vegan retreat center and wanted to create a recipe suitable for those looking to control their blood sugar. Now that I’m living in the Bay Area again (yay!) I added the option to sweeten the Jell-O with dates, but feel free to substitute Stevia, Xylitol, or another sweetener of choice if you prefer. Feel free to leave out the cacao, or add carob or maca instead.

Ingredients
Stevia to taste, and/or 4 to 6 dates (pre-soaked, if possible)
Handful of pre-soaked Irish moss
2 cups blueberries (or another fresh fruit)
1 1/2 cups water
pinch sea salt
1 Tbsp. raw cacao powder

Instructions
Blend the Irish moss with one cup of water. Add dates, Stevia (if using), blueberries, sea salt, cacao powder and last half-cup of water. Blend until smooth. Put mixture in fridge to gel for at least 30 minutes. Enjoy!

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post! Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Queer Vegan Food. Thanks, Sarah!

01/19/2011

Guest post: Raw adventures in kelp noodle desserts  »

On Saturday, as I was chilling on my eco-friendly bed meditating for peace and waiting for my girlfriend to wake up so that I could tell her about my plans to become a six-figure woman, I had a radical insight about a sea vegetable—a divinely inspired culinary insight. I leaped out of bed, trying not to wake up the hotness still dozing beside me, and knew what I had to do. There was a seaweed that had been inappropriately neglected in the raw dessert world, and it just so happened to be sitting in my fridge! Ladies and bois and grrls and men and trannies, I now introduce you to: RAW KELP NOODLES IN DESSERTS!

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before: raw kelp noodles have practically no flavor after you soak them, have a super-awesome texture and there’s like three calories for a big bowl. They soak up sauces (check out the wonderful Heather Pace‘s delish-looking recipes for savory raw vegan kelp noodles) and keep their form in both hot and cold dishes. Imagine eating raw cacao-coated kelp noodles, oozing with flavor but still light and low on the glycemic index. Yes!

Here’s my first attempt at using raw kelp in desserts. Spirulina genius/partner extraordinaire Courtney Pool enjoyed them, too. I hope others start experimenting with the concept of kelp in dessert!


Raw Cacao Kelp Noodles

Ingredients
Kelp noodles
raw cacao paste (I recommend sourcing from Vivapura)
coconut flakes (optional—also good to get from Vivapura),
water
sea salt
stevia.

Instructions
Soak kelp noodles for a while; 20 minutes is good, or you can do longer if you’d like them to be a bit plumper. Melt the cacao paste (with a dehydrator, or on the stove with low heat, or in the sun…), then add a bit of cold water and immediately stir frantically until it becomes a mousse. Check out Vegansaurus’ chocolate chantilly recipe for directions on achieving this texture. Add in stevia to taste and a dash of sea salt. Then, toss in the kelp noodles and coat evenly. Chill in the fridge. Add a sprinkle of coconut as garnish, or perhaps some other topping you’d like. Enjoy!

This is Vegansaurus raw correspondent Sarah E. Brown’s latest post, a slightly different version of which originally appeared here. Read more by Sarah on Vegansaurus, and visit her personal blog, Spiritual Hipsteria. Thanks, Sarah!

11/23/2010

Guest post: Why are there so many ex-raw vegans?  »

Friends, strangers, vegans at large, please welcome back our official raw food writer—and our favorite eater of raw food in general—Sarah E. Brown!

For more than six months, I’ve served as the Vegansaurus raw vegan correspondent, and I’ve been delighted to report about Bay Area raw food awesomeness in a light-hearted fashion.

But this is a serious post. A very, very serious one. It’s about the very real, growing epidemic of ex-raw vegans. First, I should say that this is not a post aimed at typical vegans who sometimes cook food and sometimes don’t. Please understand, I’m not out to lord raw veganism over anyone trying to live compassionately (and deliciously) as a plain old awesome vegan. This post is directed towards ex-raw vegans, many of whom (though certainly not all)  came into the vegan movement for health reasons, then left it for health reasons that are downright avoidable.

Many find they feel better for a while when they incorporate more raw, plant-source-only food in their diets, and eliminating the dense animal proteins, processed sugars and refined carbohydrates that are endemic to the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Yet it is commonly observed that many raw food vegans eventually start feeling “less-than-optimal,” and begin reintegrating animal products into their diets. So why do many mostly live, plant-source-only eaters switch to animal products? It could be that the typical, raw-cacao-filled, high-glycemic, raw vegan diet is the culprit of this lifestyle conversion. How could plants, especially plants in their raw state, be high-glycemic? Of course fruit sugar is better than processed sugar, but it still affects our bodies. In addition, many of our essential minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids (including the all-important mood and health-boosting Omega-3s) come from lower-glycemic, raw vegan foods. What does this mean? It means the “fun,” dried fruit-filled, agave-filled, high-sugary-fruit-filled raw diets, which initially draw people into the lifestyle and can help them initially get healthier—because they are still taking in less harmful stuff than on the SAD diet—cause them to burn out. Cacao can also fatigue the adrenals when it is not eaten in moderation.

The problem with formerly raw vegans who eat this way is that they often believe their imbalanced diets to be due to the fact that there are no animal products, when many health experts, including Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D., have shown that this is not the case. Instead of eschewing their ethical diets in favor of animal products, raw vegans can feel better by changing the nature of their raw vegan diets. Perhaps that might mean incorporating some more grounding cooked vegan dishes like quinoa or lightly cooked soups and vegetables. It might also mean cutting down on high-glycemic, raw vegan foods and desserts in favor of a more balanced diet.

The secret to sticking with a vegan diet long-term is to focus on longevity. If being a vegan for the long haul means you’ll need to kick ass and take names at every vegan bake sale, then honey substitute, DO IT! But if you’re a raw vegan in it for health, that means eating more mineral and essential nutrient-dense, lower-glycemic, raw vegan foods and supplements. Dr. Cousens has recently published an article that explains how both meat eaters and vegans—raw and predominantly non-raw—need to supplement their diets with essential nutrients such as B-12 and essential fatty acids like DHAs. So we can all keep living this way, it’s good to pop a pill every once in a while and eat some greens. OK? That’s all I’m saying. Here’s to ex-raw vegans realizing you can be healthy and avoid killing and exploiting things, because that means less overall suffering.

This is the latest in Sarah E. Brown’s raw vegan series for Vegansaurus. Thanks, Sarah!

[top photo by joana hard; bottom photo by Urban Mixer]

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