Easy Spanish tapas style olives and cashew nuts (vegan)

With the weather so warm, little tapas dishes are perfect for picking at when you don’t have an appetite for a big, heavy meal. It got to 33.5 here this afternoon, so since this isn’t an air-conditioned country, we’ve been eating big salads for lunch and trying to graze through the evening.

This olive and cashew nut recipe is peanut free as my child has a peanut allergy. It only uses three ingredients and is SO easy to make! It’s a great addition to a dinner party or just a nice snack for summertime comfort food. If you prep this alongside your main meal it can share the oven heat so it’s more environmentally friendly. No oven? Microwave for 30 seconds instead (although this will result in softer nuts)!

Ingredients (serves 1-2 as a snack depending how hungry you are):

1/2 jar of olives (I use garlic stuffed olives as these are my favourite)

1/2 cup cashew nuts

1/2 tsp paprika

Mix everything up in a bowl then pop in the oven for 5 mins until nuts are slightly golden.

Serve with other Mediterranean favourites such as patatas bravas, pasta aglio olio, spanish chicken (or tofu) or a big old Greek gyros.

Dairy-free cheesy potato gratin recipe

This is a super-cheesy, super-saucy variant on the traditional potato gratin which can be served as a filling accompaniment to a variety of dishes. This follows on from yesterday’s cheesy vegetable bake recipe, as I made this a day later (once we finally had some potatoes).

What’s the difference between potato boulangere and potato gratin? A boulangere is a dish where thin slices of potato are put in an ovenproof dish, drowned in a sauce of cream and chicken stock, and baked until the potatoes at the top are crispy. A gratin, traditionally-speaking, is a boulangere with cheese on top. As you can see, the traditional version needs some big changes to make it dairy-free and vegan!

Every Sunday, and at Easter and Christmas, my aunt used to do a stunning roast dinner, and one of my favourite things on the dining table was a big bowl of potato boulangère with the delicious crispy slices of potatoes on the top and soft, saucy potato slices underneath. I loved it. When I had to cut out dairy many years ago after developing CMPA, I thought I’d never get to eat it again.

Sometime in 2012, my aunt gave me a dairy-free potato boulangere recipe and I was very happy to be able to enjoy one of my favourite dishes once again.

Since then, we’ve had four house moves across three countries (and two continents) and I have lost my potato gratin recipe. In the absence of a structured recipe, I devised this dairy-free cheesy potato bake a few days ago as a vegan side dish to go with the Lidl vegan Christmas roast they were selling very cheaply in January. It would also work well with Linda McCartney vegetarian quarter pounders, although you would need to add the quarter pounders to the oven about halfway through cooking this potato bake.

Ingredients:

5 medium-sized potatoes

Dairy-free white sauce (recipe here) or cheese sauce (recipe here). I recommend the white sauce.

100g grated cheese

You can totally cheat on the sauce and use one of plenty of options, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).

Method:

Peel the potatoes. Chop into thin slices. Fill a medium-sized glass dish with them.

Make up the white sauce (or cheat and open a jar of it) and cover the potatoes with it.

Cook on 150 degrees for 30-35 minutes then cover with grated cheese. Turn up the temperature of the oven to 180 and put the dish back in the oven and cook for the last 10 minutes, until the cheese has melted a bit and is starting to go crispy.

If you mess this up (as I did this one time) and put the cheese on too soon, just put the food in the oven and keep the oven at 150 for 20 more minutes.

To check if it’s ready, try sticking a fork into one of the slices of potato. If it feels hard, it’s not ready so put it back in the oven. If it’s soft, it’s ready to serve!

Dairy Free Cheesy Vegetable Bake

Being dairy-free, the thing I miss the most is cheese. When I first became a vegetarian back in 2007, I didn’t much care about cheese, but over the next twelve months, I really discovered it. Wensleydale. Stilton. Halloumi… I’d never tried such delicious things. I grew up in a house where “cheese sauce” came out of an instant Bisto tub with some hot water added. So the world of proper cheese was a huge discovery for me (and a double-edged sword, when I found out it actually makes me ill as I have non-IgE CMPA).

Despite being dairy-free, I do still try to enjoy cheese (soy or coconut cheese, these days) and I still create recipes that include it. The biggest thing you need to know about dairy-free cheese is it’s not a source of protein (unlike animal cheese) so you need to compensate for that by including protein in your daily diet.

One of my favourite foods is cauliflower cheese, and that’s what this dairy-free vegetable bake is based on (but using more veg for variety).

Thankfully, this recipe is both gluten-free and dairy-free (and vegan) so it’s perfect for anyone with those dietary requirements. It’s also low-carb.

Originally, I wanted to make something resembling a potato gratin, but I’d forgotten the recipe and couldn’t find it anywhere (it’s probably on this blog somewhere). Then it turned out we had no potatoes so I gave up on that, and did this sort of cauliflower cheese vegetable bake thing instead. It uses broccoli, cauliflower and peas, but if you only have broccoli or cauliflower you can use one instead of both.

This takes about 10-15 minutes to prep (it might be a little slower if you do the white sauce from scratch using my vegan white sauce recipe but you’ll get faster at the white sauce the more times you make it) so it’s great as an addition for a dinner party, Sunday lunch or a special occasion, or just to liven up weekday meals, if you’re doing something that takes a little longer to cook than usual, such as a nut roast. If you’re dairy-free but non-vegan, you could serve with salmon or another oily fish.

This could also be a lunchtime main if you added some chopped vegetarian sausages or a healthy sprinkling of sunflower seeds to add protein, if you’re looking for vegan recipe ideas or inspiration.

Dairy free cheesy vegetable bake recipe

Ingredients:

100g broccoli

100g cauliflower

50g peas

250ml dairy free cheese sauce or white sauce

about 100g grated cheese

This recipe is super-easy, and there are plenty of options if you want to “cheat” at making the sauce, such as Asda’s bechamel sauce (white sauce), or Sacla’s Vegan Ch**se sauce, both of which are sold in jars, or Tesco’s instant dairy free cheese sauce mix sachets (do NOT buy the ASDA cheese sauce sachets; they are NOT dairy free, only gluten free).

To make a “proper” dairy free white sauce, use my easy three-ingredient recipe available here.

Method:

First, chop any large broccoli florets and cauliflower florets in half. Now put all the veg into a large saucepan and boil for about 10-15 mins until it’s soft.

While the veg are cooking, make your dairy-free white or cheese sauce.

Drain the veg and put into a large glass oven-safe dish (such as a Pyrex one).

Pour the sauce over the top.

Cover with grated cheese and bake at 160 degrees Celsius/gas mark 5/350F for about 15 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serves 4.

Vegan white sauce recipe

White sauce is the foundation of most milk-based sauces, including cheese sauce, peppercorn sauce, bechamel sauce, parsley sauce and soups such as clam chowder (the white one).

I know this because, when I was 11 and learning Home Economics (now called the much edgier “food technology”) at school, I spent most of my time copying pages and pages out of textbooks while my classmates were busy cooking.

At my school, the teacher would buy the ingredients for us and we just had to bring in the money (usually about 80p-£1), or we could bring in the ingredients if we preferred. My mum refused to give me the money for the ingredients OR to buy the actual ingredients, which often left me not able to participate in home economics. The teacher, thinking I was just lazy, made me copy out of textbooks as a “punishment”.

I think I learned more from this than my classmates did. In my experience of attending 13 schools and 3 colleges, home economics teachers are singularly oblivious to the social issues that prevent children from learning. They all seem to be jolly-middle-class women who think everyone has “tagliatelle” at home.

I had been cooking for the whole family since the age of 9, but because I had never eaten a fairy cake, let alone made one, I was seen as “bad at cooking”, a label I internalized and carried with me into adulthood until I finally realized, at 27, I wasn’t bad at cooking, I just didn’t know how to cook the standard middle-class British dishes of the 1970s (which people still seem to judge us on today).

That’s fine, because people like that home economics teacher who think there’s one true way to cook “properly” are usually the first people to get upset about catering for dairy free guests, on the basis that they only know how to follow a bunch of recipes they learned at school or from Delia Smith (sorry, Delia, but you have some unimaginative readers).

So I took great pleasure in subverting white sauce for the vegan agenda and I hope you enjoy the fabulous results of using this sauce as a base for all your dairy-free milky sauce dishes that Western cuisine seems so obsessed with.

This dairy-free white sauce is very customizable, because it’s the base for so many other sauces. Leave it as-is for béchamel sauce (for lasagne/lasagna), or add things to make cheese, parsley, peppercorn sauces etc. It only requires three ingredients to make the basic sauce.

Ingredients:

25g Dairy-free butter

250ml Soy milk (other milks such as almond also work)

25g Flour

This will make enough sauce to cover two servings of cauliflower cheese. As you can see, the measurements are a ratio: For every gram of butter you need one gram of flour, and 10ml of dairy-free milk (add a bit more milk for a thinner sauce). This makes a very easy-to-scale recipe and I often measure my ingredients by eye, adding one part flour to one part butter, then I add the milk slowly from a big carton until I hit the right consistency.

Method:

Put the vegan butter in a saucepan and put it onto a medium heat. Melt the butter.

As the butter turns into a puddle but before it starts to bubble, add the flour gradually, stirring constantly. You are currently making something called a roux, which is the base of most thickened dishes.

Keep stirring (it might start to feel quite dry) until the roux turns crumbly and very slightly golden yellow (don’t let it burn). The quality of the roux will determine the quality of the finished sauce. If the roux turns brown, throw it away and start again.

The flour and butter should look like this.

Gradually add the non-dairy milk, a dash at a time (about a tablespoon’s worth, or a shot, if that’s easier to eyeball), stirring continuously. Only add more when the milk starts to thicken. I usually take the pan off the heat for this part because it’s easy to burn the milk. If you add the milk too quickly, you will get a LOT of lumps (some lumps are inevitable). Squash the lumps out with your fork.

Keep stirring the mixture until it’s a nice, thick, saucy consistency.

Now you’re done! It’s time to either serve it, if you’re making this as a béchamel sauce, or to add the other ingredients such as dairy-free cheese, if you’re making cheese sauce, or peppercorns, if you’re making pepper sauce.

Has your sauce gone lumpy? Fix it!

The main way this sauce can go wrong is if you end up with lots of lumps in a fairly watery sauce. There are two ways you can fix this:

Either use a fine-meshed sieve (if you have one; the sort with holes small enough to drain rice without any grains falling through) or a hand blender.

Lump Removal Method 1: With the sieve, get the bowl ready, put the sieve over it (bowl must be wider than sieve, unless you tilt the sieve so all the sauce falls from one place, or you will have cheese sauce everywhere), pour the cheese sauce into the sieve, and wait for the sauce to drain out, then throw away the lumps that are left.

Lump Removal Method 2: With a hand blender, leave the sauce in the pan and just blend out the lumps.  It usually thickens a LOT when you do this (because the lumps are the flour and butter that is also the thickener that gives the sauce its consistency).  If it’s too thick, stir in more milk, a little at a time, until it reaches the right consistency.

Vanilla dairy-free choc-chip ice cream recipe

Gordon Ramsay’s advice is that the best way to do homemade ice cream is to buy a really good vanilla ice cream then add toppings to it at home. Only, there’s no good dairy-free vanilla ice cream available here. So I decided to do my own. Also, I like the texture of chocolate chips, so I decided to add them during the churning.

This vanilla dairy-free choc-chip ice cream recipe was created out of necessity. I had dabbled at making ice cream at home before, when I lived in China, where there is no such thing as dairy-free ice cream (or even dairy-free sorbet). Every food of western origin gets milk added to the recipe over there. I think they think it makes it more authentic.

I had been a little spoilt living in America for 6 months, where a certain Mr. Ben and Mr. Jerry have created the most incredible range of dairy-free ice creams that are available in every one-horse (and thousand-horse) town I visited. I’m not proud of it but I developed a taste for American dairy-free ice cream. And in the UK, the supply of dairy-free ice cream was reasonable. Even in Malaysia I had no issue getting dairy-free ice cream.

But in Ireland, dairy-free ice cream is overpriced and there’s almost none of it available. Literally over the (non-border) in Strabane I can get 3 ASDA dairy-free imitation Magnums for £1.50 or a tub of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough dairy-free ice cream for £2.99 (on offer) or £4.50 (normal price), which I think is quite a lot to pay. But in Ireland? That same tub of cookie dough costs €7! SEVEN EUROS! Seven. Euros. Or as I like to call it, daylight robbery. If you can even find a shop that sells it.

As I am currently pregnant, and it’s summer, I need ice cream like I need air to breathe. My attempts to make ice cream in China were okay, but not great. It turns out those recipes to make ice cream without an ice cream maker are blarney. So, since I am now in a country where it’s harder and more expensive to buy electricals, I decided I needed an ice cream maker. I crunched some numbers and it cost £32 (+ free delivery) for an ice cream maker, which is 4.5 tubs of Ben and Jerry’s at Supervalu prices.

So as long as I make only 2 litres of ice cream with my ice cream maker, it’s paid for itself.

This recipe comes out a little bit less vanilla than I’d like, but it works from ingredients you can find in your local Supervalu, Centra, or most small rural Irish shops (maybe not the local chipper), so I’ve sacrificed a little bit of flavour for making this a recipe you can make ANYWHERE in Ireland.

To vanilla it up some more, you do something with vanilla pods. Good luck finding vanilla pods in the arse end of the West Coast because I couldn’t.

Vanilla choc-chip ice cream recipe

Ingredients:

1 tin coconut milk (the type for making curries)

1 tsp vanilla essence

100g honey or other sweetener (don’t use granulated sugar, it will not dissolve at this temperature)

1 packet of chocolate chips (Sainsbury’s dark chocolate chips were dairy free when I last bought them)

Method:

Refrigerate the coconut milk overnight.

If you have a cheap ice-cream maker without a compressor, freeze the ice cream maker’s bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions (I recommend leaving it in there overnight).

Put the coconut milk, honey and vanilla essence into a blender and blend for 30 seconds (don’t add the chocolate chips yet).

Take the ice cream maker’s bowl out of the freezer, assemble the ice cream maker and add the mixture. Add the chocolate chips to the mixture. Let the mixture churn, it should take 7-12 minutes depending on your ice cream maker.

When the mixture starts to thicken into a texture that’s thicker than a dough but not quite completely solid, turn off the ice cream maker and immediately transfer your mixture to a freezable bowl. I have a pottery bowl with a plastic lid which I brought back from my two years in China. Freeze the mixture for an additional hour or two (or longer) and take out of the freezer for 10 minutes before serving. Makes about 500ml (just under 1 pint) of ice cream.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen people make in the reviews of cheap ice cream makers is they leave the mixture in the machine too long, expecting the machine to freeze it completely. If the mixture gets too hard, the electrics will break. A motor turns the paddles, and it doesn’t know to stop, so even when the mixture gets too hard to mix, the motor will still try and turn the paddles, until something snaps and then your ice cream maker won’t work. So it’s better to take it out a little early and freeze it the rest of the way. Remember, you only need the ice cream maker to churn your mixture, you have a perfectly good freezer that can freeze it (if you don’t have a freezer, you can’t make ice cream this way)!

Ice cream stores for up to 1 month.

How to make vegan yogurt without yogurt cultures

While living in rural China, one serious problem I had was that it was impossible to buy dairy-free or vegan substitutes to dairy products. There’s a good reason for this. Chinese food uses ingredients differently, and is not a dairy-based cuisine. Dairy products are now widely available in China, and dairy additives have sneaked their way into a lot of modern Chinese snack foods, but there are no vegan alternatives to these, because as far as Chinese cooking is concerned, dairy is the alternative.

A lot of the time, the Chinese approach to dairy meant I could usually eat worry-free in most of China. And it was great to try so many new foods.

Of course, being British and Irish, I like to start my day with a lovely yoghurt (if you’re American you spell it “yogurt” lol) drenched in fruit (my faves are fresh County Wexford strawberries, the best strawberries in the world, or when they’re out of season, fluffy Spanish blueberries from the supermarket). While I’m fairly open-minded, there are some days when I just crave home food from my own country. Especially when I became pregnant and suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme pregnancy sickness… I’m basically allergic to the first 3-4 months of pregnancy).

Yoghurt is also integral to some homemade curry recipes like tikka masala.

Of course, the main problem is every recipe claims to require yoghurt cultures. It is impossible to get vegan yoghurt cultures in rural China (you could get this in the cities or on Taobao but I wouldn’t know enough Mandarin to check the origin or ingredients). In the past, people didn’t need yoghurt cultures to make yoghurt, it’s a modern complication. Could you imagine the Ancient Greeks trying to buy or sell “yoghurt cultures” in the market? They instead used natural alternatives, and you can, too.

With that in mind, I found out how to make yoghurt from local ingredients. Two things which are abundant in China are tofu and chillies (hot peppers). Don’t worry, you won’t make spicy yoghurt with this recipe (weird).

Here’s what you will need (keep scrolling for substitutions/adjustments e.g. soy free):

A block of tofu (about 200g or 1 cup, but don’t get hung up on the size, it largely doesn’t matter).

1 cup of soymilk. In China, you can buy a soy milk maker (on Taobao or in a store) to make your own if you can’t get a carton (Vitasoy in the blue carton from any shop, or Silk from Epermarket are also fine, dependent on your need for organic/no additives etc).

The juice of 2 medium fresh lemons (or 1 very large one).

Half a cup (about 100ml) of boiling water.

A blender or smoothie maker.

12 chili peppers with stems attached.

Method:

Put everything in the blender except the chili peppers. Blend until you get a silky smooth texture then pour it into a flat dish like a pasta bowl or the lid of a casserole dish (not a plate).

Take the chillies and remove the stems. Place the stems into the mixture so the part that joined the chili is now slightly beneath the surface of the yoghurt. These will work in place of yoghurt cultures.

Leave the mixture to culture in a warm spot for about 8 hours (a room without air con or an oven on about 30-40 degrees celsius/90-100 Farenheit is great). If it gets too hot or cold, it won’t culture properly, so take care. If you have a yoghurt maker, that will work, too.

Remove the chillies and store your yoghurt in the fridge in a sealed container for food safety.

This makes a very plain yoghurt that works for overnight oats, tikka masala recipes or you can add honey and chopped fruit to sweeten it.

Adjustments:

If you only have silken tofu, don’t add soya milk, instead use 2 packs of tofu.

Soy allergy? You can use coconut cream (the canned stuff for curries; don’t add the water from the bottom of the tin) and cornflour/cornstarch as a thickener if needed.

If you have no lemon, try lime or apple cider vinegar. You need the acidity level to be right otherwise the good bacteria in the chillies can’t thrive to turn the tofu into yoghurt. In my experience, lack of lemon juice is the only reason this recipe has ever failed for me.

Photo (with the chillies in):

Have you tried this? Let me know in the comments!

Vegan Meaty Stuffed Bell Pepper Tacos

I love stuffed peppers! They’re such an easy way to get more vegetables into your diet and this recipe is super-healthy. This was an experiment in changing things up, because I usually make stuffed peppers with rice, but today I wanted something different, so I filled my peppers with a taco-style filling of soy mince (TVP), sweetcorn and salsa, and topped with my vegan no-blend guacamole but you could also add grated vegan cheese if that’s your thing (or if you have any… I don’t, because my local Sainsbury’s has mysteriously stopped selling all vegan cheese since the lockdown began). This recipe is also perfect for when you are craving tacos but don’t have any taco shells.

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And finally, top with my easy no-blend avocado:

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Ingredients:

  • 2 bell peppers
  • Half a cup of dried TVP (soy mince)
  • Half a cup of sweetcorn
  • A pinch of cilantro (leaf coriander)
  • A pinch (or three) of garlic
  • A big dollop of salsa (you can substitute this for some chopped tomatoes and a teaspoon or two of Piri Piri sauce or a teaspoon of any other hot sauce if you don’t have salsa)
  • A teaspoon of Vegemite (or another yeast extract)

 

Method:

  1. Cut the bell peppers in half and remove the seeds.
  2. Reconstitute the TVP with boiling water and add the Vegemite, garlic and cilantro. Mix thoroughly to avoid any Vegemite lumps and leave the mixture to sit for 10 minutes to absorb the hot water fully.
  3. Drain off the excess water from the TVP and mix with the sweetcorn.
  4. Put the TVP and sweetcorn mixture into the halves of the bell peppers, taking care not to knock them over. If you have peppers that won’t lie very well in the oven, balance them carefully against each other for support.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a fan oven at 180 degrees/gas mark 6.
  6. Serve with chilled guacamole and salsa.

What’s your favourite thing to put in stuffed peppers? Let me know in the comments!

 

Vegan Homemade No-Blend Guacamole

Serves 2 as a dip or 1 as a big dip. Scale for the number of people you’re feeding.

I looked through some fancy recipes for guacamole but they all needed ingredients I didn’t have, namely, fresh avocado, fresh cilantro and lime juice. So I’ve come up with this recipe to work with the ingredients I actually have, because I’m not the sort of person to keep limes in my house unless I want to specifically make something unusual with them.

I wanted guacamole to top off my vegan meaty bell pepper tacos, because I can’t get vegan cheese right now and tacos without cheese OR guacamole is just crazy talk. Of course, I only thought about guacamole after the bell pepper tacos were already in the oven, so this recipe is quick and easy.

The bell peppers for the taco recipe take 15 minutes and this guacamole recipe took the time after the peppers were in the oven, minus the time it’s taken to write this article. I can’t put the blender on right now, because the baby is asleep and my Ninja sounds like a Harrier Jet when it’s running, plus I really can’t be bothered to clean the thing, so this is a no-blend recipe, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Avocado or about 1/2 a mug of frozen avocado (I did this because lockdown).
  • 3 fresh cherry tomatoes. You could substitute this with a tablespoon of tinned chopped tomatoes if you needed to, but it will lose the texture of the fresh tomato skins.
  • A sprinkle of cilantro (aka leaf coriander), I used dried because lockdown but fresh will give a more fragrant result.
  • A teaspoon of lemon juice.

 

  1. Defrost the frozen avocado in a mug. I used the defrost setting on the microwave for 2 minutes, stand for 1 minute, microwave on defrost for 1 more minute, and then I drained the excess water out of the bottom of the cup.
    If using fresh avocado, cut around its long equator, twist, and separate the two halves. Dig out the stone with a dessert spoon. Chop into medium-sized chunks.
  2. Chop the cherry tomatoes into fine pieces. The seeds will come out as you do it. Scrape the seeds, juice and pieces into the cup.
  3. Add the cilantro and lemon juice to the cup.
  4. Mix everything with a fork, mashing the avocado and making sure it’s well-mixed.
  5. Chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it. It should be chilled when served, so make it at least an hour before you want it.
  6. If you’re like me, you didn’t make it an hour before you wanted it. So instead of the fridge, put it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to bring the temperature down, especially if you used a microwave to defrost the avocado. Don’t forget about it or you’ll need to defrost it again. Maybe write a note or something.

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Which Easter Eggs are Vegan 2017?

For the third year running, I decided to go to all my local supermarkets and find out which Easter eggs are dairy free and vegan, so you don’t have to waste as much time tearing your hair out over ingredients. I did discuss the US options last year, and they don’t seem to have changed so you can find that post here.

Morrisons:

Most Improved 2017

The prize for Most Improved Vegan Easter Egg Collection 2017 has to go to Morrisons; they have really worked hard to develop a vegan Easter Egg range and you can find them amongst the normal eggs in the seasonal aisle (not in the Free From section) which I always prefer because then I don’t feel like a leper. If I had any money, I’d send Morrisons a trophy. They have 4 vegan eggs this year, including three from Moo Free; the “milk” chocolate one, the “bunnycomb” (honeycomb) one which has chunks of honeycomb in it, and the “orange” one which has chunks of orange-flavored confection in it, as well as the standard Kinnerton one. Full points for interesting and unique eggs this year:

A fantastic selection of Moo Free vegan milk free eggs from Morrissons.
A fantastic selection of Moo Free eggs from Morrissons.

morrisons moo free orange easter egg vegan

morrisons moo free chocolate vegan easter egg

morrisons moo free unnycomb honeycomb toffee vegan easter egg

morrisons kinnerton dairy free vegan easter egg

ASDA

ASDA have a nice set this year, there’s their Easter Egg with Choc Buttons for the kids, a nice looking one with orange discs for millennials, and a serious dark chocolate fancy egg for people who like a bit of luxury. Take a look:

ASDA free from dairy free egg vegan milk free chocolate

ASDA free from dairy free egg vegan milk free chocolate
This one has chocolate orange discs.

ASDA free from dairy free egg vegan milk free chocolate

Sainsbury’s:

Sainsbury’s had their usual lovely collection (and I’m pleased to tell you they also now do the most DELICIOUS dairy free Wensleydale cheese AND a vegan microwave lasagne). The highlights were  the white chocolate egg and the Choices egg (I love the caramel chocolates that come with that one), both of which I bought. There were others, too, but I can’t seem to find the photos to show you (really sorry; if I find them I will add them to this article):

sainsburys vegan easter egg white chocolate easter egg dairy free

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Tesco:

Tesco’s dairy free range has been a bit disappointing this year, and I noticed their Christmas range was lacklustre for milk-free as well; they seem to prefer to fill their free from range with gluten free stuff (and there’s a lot of stuff that they’re selling as “gluten free” when there’s a normal, cheaper version that doesn’t actually contain gluten). So their range was relegated to the mainstream eggs that didn’t have dairy in. Here’s the set I found (with ingredients as they’re not explicitly marked as vegan or dairy free):

Tesco ff green and blacks egg mint vegan

Tesco ff dairy free egg vegan dark chocolate

Lindt dark chocolate bunny dairy free vegan
Everyone’s favorite Lindt dark chocolate bunny is dairy free again this year. Thank you Lindt, I love these bunnies so much!!

The Hall of Shame:

And now, for the third year running, it makes me sad and a little angry to discuss those eggs that look vegan and dairy free, but aren’t, in Invoke Delight and Inspire’s traditional Easter Egg Hall of Shame:

Tesco not vegan dark chocolate bunny.
Not Vegan.

Lindt not vegan dark chocolate egg.

Green and Blacks not vegan dark chocolate egg.

And the prize for the least vegan friendly Easter chocolate, 2017, goes to Nestle, for THREE eggs that contain gratuitous milk. Again. Why do I suspect that someone in Nestle has a grudge against dairy-free chocolate? Now, Cadbury’s seem like they’ve been pretty vegan-unfriendly, but I will remind y’all that they own Green and Black’s, which has at least 1 dairy free egg, even if some of their others are not, so each year they make at least some effort in this department, whereas Nestle are stuck in 1982:

Nestle, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Again. And don’t bother to contact me if you’re just going to spout some spiel about needing butteroil in your After Eights or that “consumers tell you they like milk in their chocolate” because I’m a consumer and I don’t want milk in my chocolate, and given how popular this “Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan” series of articles has been, year on year, I know I’m not alone. BTW, readers, unbranded After Eights are dairy free and they taste great; most supermarkets sell them as “after dinner mints.”

I shouldn’t be surprised by Nestle, they have always been a bit regressive. After all, they did run that Yorkie “it’s not for girls”, and later, the “this one is for girls” (get in your freaking corner, girls, OMG, like what are you doing trying to eat chocolate?) advertising campaigns.

Has anyone spotted any other vegan Easter eggs in shops? Let me know in the comments!

9 Lip Plumpers Reviewed: Get Bigger Lips

This is my ultimate guide to lip plumping: I’ve reviewed 9 lip plumpers to show you how to get bigger lips quickly, safely, and on the cheap!

If you’re anything like me, you wish you were born with plumper lips, like Kylie Jenner lips, or Angelina Jolie lips – those voluptuous levels of plump. I hear you. I’ve spent loads of time trying all those “natural” lip plumping ingredients such as mint and cinnamon, as well as store bought products. I didn’t have as much success as I could until I formulated a method to get bigger lips whenever I wanted them.

lips mother pucker b4 after

I found out after trying loads of different lip plumpers that it requires a bit of strategy to get bigger lips, you see – just putting plumpers on your lips and checking them in the mirror won’t actually help. In my experience (and I’ve been plumping my lips since 2005), the absolute best thing for lip plumping are two ingredients: Sodium Hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid, a natural substance that your body produces) and Maxi Lip (a peptide blend; peptides are naturally found in the body). Read on to find out how to use these for the very best results. After my lip plumping method, I’ve reviewed the 9 lip plumping products that I’ve tried and tested: Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Gloss; Collection (was Collection 2000) Plumping Lip Gloss;  Collection Volume Sensation Lipstick; Avon Anew Lip Plumping Conditioner; Lip Venom; Physician’s Formula Plump Potion Needle Free Plumping Cocktail; Boots 17 Volumizing Lip Gloss; Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker XL and Rimmel Volume Booster Lip Gloss.  Then I share links to the evidence that lip plumpers can and do work. Who needs fillers when you can do this instead?

Contents (click to go straight there):

Method for Plumping Lips
My top picks for plumping
The “plumpers” that didn’t work
Products I want to try
What about natural lip plumpers?
How do lip plumpers claim to work?
Does lip plumping really work? The evidence.

Method for Plumping Lips:

Lip plumpers alone won’t give you bigger lips. Why? The skin on your lips needs to stretch and grow to accommodate more lip. We don’t live in a world of magic, and our bodies can only do so much. If you don’t let your lips gradually stretch, they won’t stay plumped, even with the best products. Not only that, but they’ll become incredibly uncomfortable and you’ll probably start getting dry crackly bits on them, and your lips will start splitting when you use plumping products. This isn’t a sign that the plumping products aren’t working, it’s a sign that you need a better lip care regime to enable your lips to plump to their largest.

How do you stretch them? If you’re totally new to lip plumping or you haven’t done it for a few months, start with using a lip plumping product once a day. What do you do the rest of the time? Lip balm. To get plump lips, you need to keep your lips moisturized with lip balm at all times. I take mine off only when I’m eating and drinking. Why? Because dry lips don’t stretch properly when you put a plumper on, they crack. You need to moisturize the lips with balms to get them to plump instead of cracking. By doing this, you are making sure there’s enough room inside the lip for them to get bigger. Additionally, many plumping products dry your lips out, so you need to keep them moisturized for that reason as well. I also recommend taking vitamin E supplements so your lips are well-conditioned inside and out (if you’re currently using vitamin K to banish blue circles, take the vitamin E and the vitamin K at least 4 hours apart; consult your physician before taking supplements).

On well-moisturized and cared for lips, increase the frequency of using the plumper to 3 times a day. You should be using it directly on the lips, not (like one confused customer on Amazon) over lipstick and lipliner. How is it going to get to the lips to give you a great result if there’s loads of lipstick in the way? That’s like trying to drink from a bottle with the cap on (obviously in this analogy, if the lipstick is a plumping lipstick, that’s like drinking from a bottle through a sports cap)!

Once your lips are as big as they’re going to get, you need to keep going with your lipcare routine, keeping them moisturized, and continue using the plumper once every day or two. Lip plumping requires a little bit of effort (if you can call it effort to use a plumping product and lipbalm regularly) to maintain bigger lips, but I think it’s worth it because I like how my lips look when they’re plumped.

To keep lips moisturized, I use Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Lip Balm because it’s the only one I’ve found that seems to moisturize the lips more deeply for a longer lasting result.

What’s the best product to use to plump lips? I’ve had a lot of disasters and a lot of success with a few different products. The best lip plumping products contained either Sodium Hyaluronate (which naturally occurs in the body and as an ingredient it is certified vegan and is gluten-free) or a patented ingredient called Maxi-Lip (a natural peptide blend; these peptides aren’t on any animal-derivative lists but I couldn’t 100% guarantee it’s vegan). The best strategy would be to use a product that contained both, or to alternate two separate products containing Sodium Hyaluronate and Maxi-Lip. Both Sodium Hyaluronate and Maxi-Lip are ones that tingle when you put them on.

Unfortunately, all that tingles is not a plumper, and I’ve also had some bad results from a few products that claimed to be plumping but didn’t actually do anything apart from tingle a lot (I’ll name and shame them further down). There’s a lot of inflated claims on the market regarding lip plumping, and some companies choose their words very carefully to mislead customers. On the other hand, I’ve also had some really good results from some products that surprised me. I’ve reviewed 9 different lip plumpers, and unlike other articles where they have huge lists of these, I’ve actually personally tried all the ones I talk about, so I can say what actually worked instead of what the packaging claimed.

Reviewed!  Here’s my top picks for lip plumpers:

1. Soap and Glory Sexy Motherpucker plumping lip gloss. It now comes in a range of shades but I’ll always love the shade Half Naked because it was the original one and I think it’s the nicest, I’ve been using it on and off since late 2009. It contains sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid) and I’ve found it to be really effective. It costs $14-15 at Amazon where you can buy it direct from the manufacturer, and is also available in the UK at Boots for £9. I didn’t like the Silver Tubed XL version because it doesn’t work the same way and only produces a temporary plumping result. I liked this Soap and Glory Sexy Motherpucker plumping lip gloss because it’s easy to apply and in my experience one tube lasts a long time, as you don’t need to use much of this to get a plumping effect. Currently this Sexy Mother Pucker plumping lip gloss is my favourite plumping product. 9/10
Plumping ingredient: Sodium Hyaluronate. See it here

Plump lips
My bare lips after 3 days of following my lip plumping routine, using the Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker Plumping Lip Gloss.

This was after 1 full week of using the Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker gloss
This was after 1 full week of using the Soap and Glory Sexy Mother Pucker plumping lip gloss and following my lip plumping method. As you can see, the results speak for themselves.

2. Collection Plump Up The Volume Lip Gloss (aka Collection 2000). This was the first plumping product that I ever tried and I loved it so much! They discontinued it about 4 years ago, and I started buying their Volumizing Lipstick instead. 8.5/10 Plumping ingredient: Maxi-Lip.

3. Collection Volume Sensation Lipstick.  This lipstick was a bit less effective than the Collection lipgloss, but it gave a better result than the Rimmel Volume booster (below).  Collection changed the active ingredient in this lipstick from Maxi Lip (a peptide blend) to Sodium Hyaluronate, then they discontinued it completely 6 months ago as well! Now Collection don’t sell any products that contain Sodium Hyaluronate or Maxi Lip, or even anything that plumps lips.  You can still find an abundance of these on eBay, but I don’t know if I’d trust them to be sealed.  I’ve still got 2 tubes of this that I bought last summer.  I use it as a maintenance to keep my lips plump after they’re as plump as I like, and also as a gentle way to start plumping my lips when I haven’t plumped for a few months (steady does it).  Since it’s been discontinued, I’m looking at alternatives (see below). 7/10. Plumping ingredients: Maxi-Lip, then Sodium Hyaluronate.

Plumping Volume Sensation
I got this plumping result from the Collection Volume Sensation lipstick on lips that hadn’t been plumped for several months. If I use it more frequently, I get more of a result.  As you can see, I haven’t gone over the edges of my lips with the lipstick – this would get an even stronger plumping effect.

Collection Volume Lipstick
This is what my lips look like after using the Collection Volume plumping lipstick 3 times a day for 2 weeks.

4. Physician’s Formula Plump Potion Needle Free Lip Plumping Cocktail: This stuff was quite nice because it was fairly cheap and it contains a few different lip plumping ingredients for a show-stoppingly plump pout when you use it. I really liked how my lips looked with it on. I didn’t like the fact that it wasn’t a very long lasting result, however, and while it contained the all-important Sodium Hylauronate, I don’t think there was very much of it in there because the plumping result should have lasted longer. 6/10. Plumping ingredients: Caffeine, Hyalauronic Acid, Menthol. See it here.

Physicians formula lip plumping potion
This was the effect while I was using it, but my lips went back to their normal size within minutes of it coming off, so definitely not a long term fix but good for an extra boost for a special event.

5. Rimmel Volume Booster Lip Gloss: This stuff didn’t claim to work miracles – it says “up to 40% bigger” on the tube and I would agree that it didn’t go beyond this. If you’re looking for a subtle plump rather than a show-stopping plump, go for this one. If there were no other lip plumping glosses for sale for some reason, I’d buy it again, because it worked a little, but really I wasn’t that impressed. 4/10. Plumping Ingredients: Unknown. See it here

 

Reviewed:  Products that didn’t work for me:

6. Lip Venom: I used this in 2009 until it was empty. Absolutely terrible, it tingled and stung more than some other ones, and made my lips redder due to irritation, but it didn’t plump or increase my lip size at all. It probably works if you have poor circulation. It is a perfect example of a beauty product that got a lot of hype but didn’t deliver results. 2/10. Plumping Ingredients: Nothing.

7. Boots 17 Volumizing Lip Gloss: This did nothing, not even a tingle. I don’t think it even had any active ingredients in it to plump lips. 1/10. Plumping Ingredients: Nothing.

8. Sexy Mother Pucker XL (the silver tube): It does say to finish 2 tubes of the Sexy Mother Pucker lipgloss before using this, and while I had definitely done that in the past, I bought the XL in 2012 after I hadn’t used anything else for about 6 months, so perhaps that’s why it didn’t have much effect on my lips, but I found it to be like Lip Venom – all tingle and no plumping action! 3/10 (because it might work for someone else). Plumping ingredients: Collagen, Menthol. Warning: Contains Sodium Chondroitin Sulfate (shellfish).

9. Avon Anew Plumping Tinted Lip Conditioner: This was basically a tinted lipbalm type product shaped, packaged and priced like a lipstick, that you spread on your lips and it’s supposed to make them bigger. I used it in 2014 for the three months leading up to my wedding and while it was very conditioning of the lips, it did nothing to make my lips bigger, so I didn’t care when I lost it at work. In hindsight I would have spent my money on a better product, especially since it was in the run-up to my wedding. 3/10 (because it was quite moisturizing but didn’t plump). Plumping ingredients: Nothing.

 

Plumping products that I plan to try (but haven’t tried yet):

1. Elizabeth Arden Plump Perfect Lipstick: I do like a good plumping lipstick; I’m hoping this one will be at least as good as the Collection Volumizing Lipstick because now that’s discontinued, I don’t have a go-to volumizing lipstick. I have ordered the Elizabeth Arden Plump Perfect so as soon as it arrives, I’ll add my review. Active ingredient: Maxi-Lip (a peptide blend).

2. Too Faced Lip Injection Power Plumping Lip Gloss: This looks like it’s got some really good reviews and it’s available on Amazon, so when I next have some money to spend on cosmetics, this is what I’m going to try out! Active Ingredient: Unknown.

What about natural plumpers?

Unfortunately, while I’d like to live in a universe where there’s a plant that plumps lips, I don’t, and neither do you. Here’s my thoughts on the main things being labelled “natural” plumpers:
Cinnamon: That tingling sensation is the cinnamon burning your skin. Avoid. It’s become trendy to tell people to use this as an all natural ingredient that magically re-grows lost unicorn horns, because the tingle makes people feel like it’s working, but it’s not. It is classified as an irritant for a reason, and it’s highly allergenic (i.e. that swelling is caused by histamines and can cause permanent disfigurement).
Peppermint/Mint Oil: Less allergenic and dangerous than cinnamon, it will cause a local reaction of swelling but it won’t provide any long term results.

The most natural lip plumper is sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid, which naturally occurs in the body anyway), and you can find it along with menthol and some other natural ingredients in the Physician’s Formula Plumping Potion.

How do these plumpers work?

If it contains sodium hyaluronate (certified vegan hylauronic acid), it will have a similar effect to the hyaluronic acid fillers, but it will take time for this to happen, because you’re putting the plumping lip gloss on the outside of your lips, and the fillers go on the inside. They both do a similar job, though. An even better set of ingredients to use are the Maxi-Lip quartet: Ethylhexyl Palmitate (and) Tribehenin (and) Sorbitan Isostearate (and) Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1. These naturally occurring plumping peptides have been clinically proven to stimulate collagen growth and used to be available in the Collection Volumizing Lipstick. It is the best set of ingredients for long term lip enhancement. This ingredient is now available in Elizabeth Arden’s Plump Perfect Lipstick.

With Sodium Hylauronate, you get two results – there’s the short term when your lips get plumped for a couple of hours, but there’s also the long term – your lips will grow bigger over time as the skin stretches more.

For an even more long-lasting plump, when you use a product containing Maxi-Lip at least three times a day for 28 days, studies show your lips will become plumper longer term because it stimulates collagen growth. Obviously, if you completely stop using it after that, they will gradually go back to their normal size because it doesn’t change your DNA, and that’s what tells your body how plump your lips should normally be. But if you stop using fillers, your lips would eventually go back to their normal size anyway, so in my view the plumping lip glosses are preferable because they’re cheaper and you’re in control of them.

 

Where’s the evidence for these plumpers?

As a science teacher, I think evidence is pretty important. Luckily, patents can’t be awarded without evidence, so while there’s not much about plumpers in the published scientific literature, there’s plenty of evidence for plumping that’s been submitted to the patent office! A patent is given for a new invention (including a cosmetic formula) that does what it claims to do, when an application is filed. All applications have to be made public. This means some of the patent applications are a little vague but it’s easy to see which plumpers have been tested and shown to work, because patents aren’t issued for things that don’t work. Here’s some of the scientific evidence relating to lip plumping (click the links to read original reports):
Use of peptides (e.g. Maxi-Lip) for lip plumping using the collagen stimulation method. (L’Oreal parent company).
Patent for immediate effect lip plumper, 2007 (Arbonne parent company).
Patent for a temporary lip plumping gloss (one that plumps while product is applied) (JAFRA parent company).
A patent for a lip balm containing sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid. This also contains other ingredients) which will plump lips and stimulate collagen production in the area for anti-ageing purposes (Supersmile parent company). This patent clearly states: “Hyaluronic acid maintains tissue hydration and helps retain water within the skin tissue…The swelling of the sodium hyaluronate particles increase the volume of the lip tissue, reducing wrinkles and plumping the lips.”
The first patent that was filed that applies to wonder plumping ingredient Maxi-Lip (Sederma Parent Company).
The patent that explains how Maxi-Lip can stimulate collagen production by using a very specific newly-invented (by Sederma) peptide chain to plump.
The most recent patent that was filed that relates to Maxi-Lip’s method of action (this isn’t the patent for Maxi-Lip, which is above, this is a patent that protects the method of action) (Sederma Parent Company).
As you can see there’s quite a body of evidence that, while it’s not easy to find, definitely exists and does show that some lip plumping serums, glosses and lipsticks really do work, if you choose the right one. As these patents show, sodium hyaluronate and Maxi-Lip are the two best plumping ingredients for long term lip plumping effects.

Future ingredients to look out for:
This patent has very recently been granted to use bee venom in a lip plumper, and the evidence is looking pretty exciting.

back to reviews of lip plumpers.