Starbucks Sugar Cookie Latte Review (video)

Excited to see a new dairy-free holiday drink on the menu, I went to Starbucks to try the Iced Sugar Cookie Almondmilk Latte. However, I got mine hot and used oat milk instead of almond milk because I don’t really like iced coffee beverages, and also I prefer the creaminess of oat milk. My usual go-to holiday drinks at Starbucks are Chestnut Praline and Gingerbread since they both can be veganized, but Gingerbread seems to be off the menu this year 🙁 Here’s my full Starbucks Sugar Cookie Latte review.

Let me come right out and say that I did not like the Starbucks sugar cookie latte. It has absolutely no central, discernible flavor (in my opinion) that would pop out and make it memorable. I get a very subtle “baked” sense, nodding to the fact it’s a baked sugar cookie. I also get a bit of a layered sweetness, rather than and in your face sugar taste, which kind of (big emphasis on “kind of”) reminds me of a rainbow cookie. It has little red and green sprinkles on top that give you a couple crunches of extra sugar but it didn’t really add much besides a nice visual touch. Overall it’s just blah and not very enjoyable unless you like drinking sugar for the sake of drinking sugar.

That being said, I have heard that some people like it so don’t take my word for it. Feel free to give it a try if still compelled to do so!

Conclusion

I would not get the sugar cookie latte again. I appreciate the attempt by Starbucks, and especially love that it’s vegan by default, but it’s just not good or memorable. Not only would I not get it again, I couldn’t even finish the one I got. It was just too “blah” and felt like a waste of calories, since I wasn’t getting any enjoyment from it. No idea why there would switch gingerbread latte for this, as gingerbread has such a distinct special holiday flavor. I used to even just get gingerbread syrup in steamed soy milk (before oat milk) and it was SO. GOOD. Like a teddy-bear-hugging-your-heart-good.

Really, best course of action for me (and most likely for others as well) is to stick to a local coffee shop that stocks Fairtrade coffee and espresso (shout out to MOE Coffee in San Diego), and get one of their inventive dairy free holiday drinks. There are some really good ones!!

While you’re here, check out my Starbucks Chickpea Bites review.

Hens roaming freely on big green field to make pasture-raised eggs at Handsome Brook Farms.

Pasture-Raised Egg Brands: Humane Eggs Directory (2021)

If you care about animal welfare, finding out the most humane egg brands is essential. I have done research and reached out to some pasture-raised egg brands to compile this Humane Eggs Directory that you can refer to when looking for kinder, healthier eggs. Some of these awesome companies even collaborated with us and provided a statement about their humane practices.

*Feature Photo Courtesy of Handsome Brook Farms. Thanks, you guys are awesome!


1. Happy Hens Pasture Raised

Pasture-Raised | Certified-Humane | Non-GMO | USDA Organic

Website

Why we love them:

Happy Hens eggs come from hens raised in small flocks with lots of room to roam and live a natural life. All eggs at the farm 100 percent pasture-raised and the hens are fed organic food, free of corn and soy. Plus, they are top-rated by Cornucopia Institute as being the #1 organic egg farm in the nation. The farmers have a commitment to bring consumers eggs in the most humane and sustainable way possible from their Southern California pastures. I actually live in San Diego and eat their eggs frequently.

Statement from Happy Hens:

“We are a TRULY OUTDOOR, Pasture Raised, Family Owned and Operated Egg Ranch in the picturesque mountain of San Diego. We produce not only Certified Organic, NON-GMO Verified + Certified Humane eggs but also have been rated #1 in the NATION in regard to our practices in regard to raising our hens and lifestyle we provide for them!  Unlike most pasture raised farms, our hens actually live in small numbers with mobile barns that we continually rotate through our Pastures creating a biodynamic environment where we get to harsh nature and work with it to REGENERATE the land we steward!”  


2. Handsome Brook Farms

Pasture Raised | American Humane Certified | USDA Organic | Kosher

Website

Why we love them:

Handsome Brook Farms takes the welfare of their hens seriously. All the girls are allowed to roam free on pastures and are fed organic food with no pesticides or GMOs. They are doing a lot of great work to change the system and help shift society away from industrial, numbers-based egg production, to small farms working together with animal welfare and sustainability at the forefront.

Q&A with Handsome Brook Farms:
  • Living conditions for your hens: All of our hens are Pasture Raised (108+ sq feet of outdoor space per hen) on small family farms and fed a 100% organic diet. 
  • Your relationship with the hens: Our choices of how to treat our hens—what to plant on farm, what not to spray, what to feed and how to care for our hens—is at the foundation of Handsome Brook Farms. Our farmers are true stewards of the land and believe that organic pasture raising is the most sustainable and humane way to produce eggs. As part of a regional group, each farm is supported by farm supervisors and experts, to create a community of mutual support, education and logistics.
  • Your location: Handsome Brook Farms was founded in upstate NY and our headquarters is now in New York City. Our network of just over 80 family farms spans three regions of the country: Northeast, Central, and MOARK. 
  • Your philosophy: At Handsome Brook Farms, we strive to act Handsomely in all that we do. This means treating our farmers and animals with dignity and the land with respect, while helping consumers access clean, responsibly-raised protein. Being Handsome means working hard to ensure personal, public, and planetary health are prioritized at every turn. With this at our core, we feel well-positioned to…bring the most sustainable eggs from our coops to your carton. 

3. Vital Farms

Pasture-Rasied | Certfied Humane | Organic Option | Non-GMO Option

Website

Why we love them:

Vital Farms is so easy to find in just about every major grocery store, and the company is committed to making pasture-raised eggs available to all. My favorite thing about them is each egg carton is stamped with the exact farm where those particular eggs are from. You can then go to their website and see a webcam feed of the hens roaming freely on the pastures! So adorable and A+ for transparency and traceability.

Statement from Vital Farms:

In 2007, we started with 20 Rhode Island red hens, a small plot of land, and a strong belief in ethics, from ensuring animals have the freedom to roam on open pasture and supporting small family farms to building a business that prioritizes the long-term benefits of its stakeholders.  More info can be found on our About Us and Instagram page.


4. Carol’s Pasture Raised Eggs

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | USDA Organic

Website

Why we love them:

Carol’s Pasture Raised Eggs come from hens in Virginia who are allowed to roam the pastures all day long and return to their warm, safe barns at night. The company offers pasture-raised eggs, organic pasture-raised eggs and free-range heirloom eggs. I have tried their Pasture-Raised eggs after finding them at Trader Joe’s, and the yolks were some of the deepest orange I’ve personally seen — they were delicious!

Statement from Carol’s Eggs:

We’re so grateful that you reached out to us here at Carol’s Eggs. We’re proud to be Certified Humane. This means our lovely chickens spend their days outside on plentiful grassy pastures or in their spacious barns where they have unlimited access to food and water and we work hard to maintain certain standards for animal welfare in accordance to Certified Humane’s standards. You can find out more about these standards via their website: https://certifiedhumane.org/

We have a few different offerings of our eggs:

  • Our heirloom hens enjoy nutritionally balanced feed that contains whole cereal grains like corn, soybeans, marigold petals, alfalfa grasses, and naturally omega-3-rich flaxseed. They have access to clean, fresh, filtered water whenever they need it. And finally, they can forage for insects, flowers, and other delights in the pasture.
  • Our organic pasture-raised hens are similar, but also Certified Organic. The hens also forage on organic pasture daily, so they also get a nutritious boost from the plants, bugs, worms, and grubs they find there. 
  • We also offer non-organic pasture-raised eggs. The feed has the same rich mix of nutrition as all our hens get but the corn, soy, and other grains are not Certified Organic or GMO free. This helps lower the cost to consumers while still providing them an excellent egg.

Regarding our farm locations and being pasture raised, our pasture-raised flocks are primarily located in Virginia, so nearly year-round they can enjoy their very spacious pastures all day long. 


5. Utopihen Farms

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | Organic Option | Soy-Free Option

Website

WHY WE LOVE THEM

We love Utopihen, not only for their cute name, but their firm sustainability and hen welfare practices. Each of their pasture-raised hens enjoy a vibrant life outdoors with sunshine and 110 square feet per hen of open pasture (exceeding the industry requirement of 108 square feet). The hens enjoy a natural diet of plants and insects, and never receive hormones or antibiotics. The company has both pasture-raised chicken and duck eggs available, and is located in New Holland, Pennsylvania with family farms partners scattered about Central PA.. 

Q&A with Utopihen Farms
  • Living Conditions of Hens. Our Certified Humane Pasture Raised hens have access to the pasture for at least 6 hours every day (weather permitting). They are kept indoors at night for protection against predators and for a safe place to lay their eggs. Animal Care Standards for Pasture Raised requires 108 square feet of pasture per hen. We exceed the industry standards by giving our hens 110 square feet per hen — that’s a lot of open space! They can forage, run, perch, bathe and socialize as much or as little as they choose. Essentially, they can just be chickens. Our hens fill their diet with lots of grass, bugs, worms and anything else they can find in the dirt. This diet is supplemented by a healthy feed specific to whether the hen is organic, soy-free, or original.
  • Your relationship with the hens. All our hens are raised on family-owned farms. This means, that the farmer owns the hens, and can spend lots of time lovingly caring for them and his farm. This model is better for the farmer and the hens, providing both with more independence.
  • Your philosophy. At Utopihen Farms the future is bright. Not because we see it through rose-colored glasses, but because we work on making it so — and we know you do too. It’s why we’re committed to sustainable farming, the humane treatment of animals and bringing you pasture raised eggs. We hope you will join us on the journey to create a better world. After all, there is no Planet B … and there’s no time like now.

6. Alexandre Kids

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | USDA Organic

Website

Why we love them

These eggs that hail from California are pasture-raised, certified humane, and USDA organic. The hens that spend their days clucking and preening and stretching their feathers and legs on the lush green grass. They are free to forage all they want outside and go inside to their nest in the coop to lay eggs. They live a natural life as hens should.


7. Blue Sky Family Farms

Pasture Raised | American Humane Certified

Website

Why we love them

Blue Sky Farms is named as such because their hens get to roam freely beneath the beautiful blue skies. All the chickens are able to do all the things that make them happy, like perching, dust bathing, scratching the ground, and roaming the pasture for a healthy dose of fresh and and vitamin D.


8. Born Free Eggs

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | American Humane Certified | Organic Option

Website

Why we love them

As the name suggests, we love these eggs because the hens are “Born Free.” They are born free to roam grassy pastures and live a healthy, happy life. The pasture-raised egg brand is a leader when it comes to adopting humane farming practices and animal care. Plus we love their eco-friendly and 100 percent recyclable packaging.


9. NestFresh

Pasture-Raised | Certified Humane | Organic Option | Non-GMO Option | Soy-Free Option

Website

Why we love them

NestFresh gets their nutritious eggs from hens on small family farms across the country. They have a range of Pasture Raised Egg products in addition to their free range offerings. Pasture raised options include non-GMO, organic, and soy-free organic options, appealing to people with many different lifestyle and food preferences. They also have adorable blue and brown heirloom eggs that are pasture-raised as well.


10. Chino Valley Ranchers

Pasture-Raised Option | American Humane Certified | Kosher

Website

Why we love them

This is the brand that I find at my local Sprouts in San Diego and I love them! Not only for the taste of course, but this company is committed to providing hens with a beautiful life full of sunshine, fresh air and water on family farms. The hens are free to forage for seeds, bugs and grass.


House-Brand Pasture-raised eggs

Many supermarkets carry their own house-brand of pasture-raised eggs. Grocery chains get their eggs from various pasture-raised, Certified Humane or American Humane Certified farms across the country. Being house-brand, they typically have a lower price than name brand and are so easy to find. It is amazing to see some supermarkets offering pasture-raised eggs as the norm.

  • Natural Grocer’s House Brand Pasture-Raised
  • Kirkland House Brand Pasture Raised (Costco)
  • 365 House Brand Pasture-Raised (Whole Foods)

The purpose of this Humane Egg Directory is to allow consumers to make more ethical choices when shopping for groceries. By choosing pasture-raised egg brands, you support a more humane economy where hens can live happy, natural lives rather than torturous lives in cages. Keep a lookout for these brands next time your shopping for eggs.

Please note this page about pasture-raised egg brands is continuously under construction. Last updated November 19, 2021. To learn more about pasture-raised eggs, click here.

Carton of whole Not Milk with a sip in a clear glass on a tile counter.

NotCo Not Milk review

I tried the NotCo NotMilk today for the first time! It is pretty rare these days that a new vegan item really catches my attention but this just seemed so different from other vegan milks on the shelves so I was very curious to try it. Vegan whole milk sounds so appetizing for some reason, doesn’t it? I haven’t had milk since I was maybe 11 so of course I can’t clearly remember what it tastes like, but I’ll give you a full scope of my experience with this innovative NotCo Not Milk product via my not milk review.

“Whole” Not Milk Review

I got the “Whole” NotCo NotMilk from Whole Foods, which is currently priced at $4.99. They also have 2% Not Milk. On opening it I was intrigued by its milk-like slightly off-white color and lightly milky sweet scent. The first sip was surprising because it doesn’t taste like other non-dairy milks at all — it is totally unique. It really fills the mouth with exactly what I remember milk tasting like, but with a sweet undertone and after taste rather than a sour one.

It’s also surprisingly refreshing. I don’t really think to down oat or almond milk when I’m thirsty, but this has that super satisfying milk drink finish going on. I don’t know if you remember that feeling of drinking milk when you’re thirsty and the satisfaction that brings, but this brought that same satisfaction that I didn’t even remember until I sipped this. It really fills the mouth and quenches thirst.

Not Milk Review from a Milk Drinker

Quote from my hubby who DOES drink real milk. “Milk is my favorite drink and this is delicious. Really good. It feels like milk so if you like that milk taste and drinking milk, you will definitely like this.” So there. You heard it from the horse’s mouth that NotMilk is indeed reminiscent of real milk. (I’m not sure what that horse expression even means really, but I think I used it correctly).

NotMilk Whole Milk Ingredients

Kind of more ingredients than I like to see in my milk, personally. But you be the judge for yourself.

Water, Sunflower Oil, Pea Protein, Contains less than 2% of: Sugar, Pineapple Juice Concentrate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Calcium Carbonate, Gellan Gum, Acacia Gum, Salt, Monocalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Cabbage Juice Concentrate, Vitamin D2, Vitamin B12.

NotMilk Nutrition

Per 1 Cup Serving:

Calories 100

Total Fat 8g

Cholesterol 0g

Sodium 180mg

Total Carb 4g

Fiber 0g

Total Sugars 3g

Added Sugars 2g

Protein 4g

—————————-

Vitamin D 4.6mcg

Calcium 320mcg

Iron .9mg

Potassium 570mg

Vitamin B12 .8mcg

Not Milk Price

At Whole Foods, NotCo NotMilk is priced at $4.99.

NotMilk Review Conclusion

The taste of Not Milk is delicious and even a milk-lover in my home tried and loved it as well, saying it tastes a lot like real milk. Though I really enjoyed it, I am not sure how I feel about all the ingredients. I prefer my milks to be just a few whole ingredients. However, if I’m ever really in the mood for a milky drink, or if I’m having non-vegans staying over my house, I would definitely get this again. Probably a three times a year kind of purchase for me, with oat and almond remaining as my main staples. For hardcore milk lovers though, this is a must-try.

While you’re here, check out my Silk vs. Ripple Half and Half review.

Upton's Naturals Deluxe Cheesy Bacon Mac review with added spinach and broccoli.

Upton’s Naturals Cheesy Bacon Mac Review (Video)

I love mac n cheese!!! I know I’m not alone with that statement. The ooey gooey cheesy goodness brings such comfort, and it’s so exciting that so many brands are making vegan versions. Though my favorite is just making mine homemade, I do try a store bought one every now and again. I’ve been seeing the Upton’s Natural in stores but I am so stuck on my Annie’s Sweet Potato and Pumpkin one that it took me until now to try it — and I’m glad I did! Here is my Upton’s Naturals Cheesy Bacon Mac Review.

Upton’s Bacon Mac n Cheese Review

The preparation.

It’s super easy to prepare Upton’s Naturals Cheesy Bacon Mac because the noodles are precooked and the “cheese” sauce is all pre-made and ready to go in the packet. You simply combine and stir them in a sauce pan for 3-7 minutes. Of course the frozen microwaveable ones are even easier to just pop in the microwave, but I prefer to avoid the microwave as much as possible so this is the next (quickest) best thing since you don’t need to boil noodles or make a powder into sauce.

The flavors.

Very flavorful! Such a nice smokey flavor thanks to the actual liquid smoke. This smokey, bacon-y flavor tends to be the dominant one in this mac n cheese but not in an overpowering way. The first flavor you get is that savory bacon flavor followed by a little rush of cheesy flavor. It is a really nice balance, and it is what I expected since it is a bacon mac n cheese. However, if you are looking for a super cheesy flavor with the bacon flavor in the background, you may be a bit disappointed and may be better off with the regular cheesy one since that one doesn’t have the liquid smoke. Also, it’s worth noting that the ingredients are nice and clean like nutritional yeast and mustard so it doesn’t give a weird artificial cheese flavor.

The consistency.

The noodles are really nice and don’t taste pre-cooked and the seitan bacon is sooo nice and tender and full of flavor. The cheese sauce goes a long way and lends itself well to the dish, but I wouldn’t say it’s super super creamy or anything. I would personally add a little bit of vegan butter, unsweetened almond milk and a touch more nutritional yeast to make it a bit creamier and round out all the flavors. That being said, it is just fine as it is as well and is very complete and satisfying in and of itself.

The nutritional content.

Let me finish off this Upton’s Naturals Cheesy Bacon Mac Review by sharing the nutritional content. I ate almost the whole pack myself although it says there are two servings. It can definitely be 2 servings if it was a side, but not as a full meal. For a full meal you’ll likely want the whole pack. Here’s what’s in it:

Ingredients:

Durum wheat semolina, nutritional yeast, rice bran oil, vital wheat gluten, wheat flour, soy sauce (soybean, wheat, salt), cornstarch, paprika, sea salt, liquid smoke, mustard, onion, garlic, turmeric, sugar.
Contains: Soy, Wheat.

Nutrition Information:


Serving Size: 143 g
Servings Per Container: 2
Calories Per Serving: 270

Amount per serving (% DV)
Total Fat: 6 g (8%)
Saturated Fat: 1 g (5%)
Trans Fat: 0 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg (0%)
Sodium: 270 mg (12%)
Total Carbohydrate: 44 g (16%)
Dietary Fiber: 4 g (14%)
Total Sugars: 1 g
Including 1 g Added Sugars (2%)
Protein: 10 g
Vitamin D: 0 mcg (0%)
Calcium: 50 mg (4%)
Iron: 1.2 mg (6%)
Potassium: 170 mg (4%)

So there you have it! My Upton’s Naturals Cheesy Bacon Mac Review. While you’re here, check out my Atlas Monroe Fried Chicken review as well 🙂 And let me know what your favorite vegan mac n cheese is!

Atlas Monroe Vegan Fried Chicken Sandwich on a bun with tomato lettuce and sauce

Atlas Monroe Vegan Fried Chicken Review

I have been hearing about Atlas Monroe vegan fried chicken for months now. When I was a kid I seriously loved all kinds of chicken, especially fried chicken — so I was super excited when I learned about Atlas Monroe taking the vegan fried chicken game to the next level. In the 17 years I’ve been vegan, companies constantly develop the mock “beef” products but they never seem to develop the “chicken” products, which have remained virtually the same breaded soy protein all this time. Hopefully those days are behind us now thanks to Atlas Monroe!

Finally, this past Memorial Day Weekend they had a popup shop in San Diego so I was able to take the 20 minute drive from where I live to their little shop in a nondescript area of Chula Vista neighborhood where a few people were gathered. Me and my fiance got our food and drove to the oceanfront to have a nice view while we ate it in the car. Here’s our review.

Atlas Monroe Vegan Fried Chicken Review

Okay overall this chicken is sooo tasty and way more substantial and satiating than any other vegan fried chicken I’ve had. There are a few things to note, though, so let me break it down into specifics:

Breading

I missed that crispy breading on fried chicken so much and the outside of this vegan chicken was incredibly crispy and flavorful. The breading was every bit as indulgent (and more!) as fried chicken I remember from my childhood. Irresistibly yummy. It also adhered perfectly to the chicken part, no idea how they pulled that off since vegan breading is hard to do. It was great.

Atlas Monroe Vegan Fried Chicken Sandwich with Substantial Breading
Chick’n

When you get past the breading to the “chicken” part again it’s a really nice consistency and flavor. There are a lot of yummy spices in it that give it a burst of flavor that other vegan chickens simply don’t have (I think there was even possibly a tiny touch of curry powder?). The texture is more juicy and dynamic than other vegan meats. When you pull it apart it looks and behaves more like a piece of chicken. Definitely spongier than meat, but it is a nice departure from the generic texturized soy chicken that is literally always the same — wayy more substantial and satisfying.

Preparation

The one issue is that because the vegan “meat” is kind of spongy, it sopped up a lot more oil than other products would in the deep frying process at the pop-up shop. The oil saturates not only to the breading on the outside, but the meat on the inside too. I maximally enjoyed while eating, but for hours afterward me and my fiance couldn’t move. This may be a normal feeling in general with fried chicken that maybe I don’t remember, but my body was crying for water and handfuls fresh spinach after. For this reason, I would definitely prefer baking or air frying when I purchase the chicken from their website. If it was baked or air fried it literally would have been perfect.

Bite taken of the Atlas Monroe vegan fried chicken sandwich.
Fixin’s

At the pop-up shop I really liked the toasted bun and the fresh lettuce and tomato. The sauces were also good, tho I couldn’t quite distinguish what they were. I think there was a garlic sauce on it, which was too strong for my fiance. For me it was fine. However, the meat is actually so flavorful that I would really put a more neutral sauce, like vegan mayo or ketchup, so I can fully enjoy the flavor of the chicken without any interference from a flavorful sauce. On the side would be better I think. I also got the fries and they were really good. Again, kind of too fried for me but what do I expect from french fries?

Portion

Filling!!! Even just the sandwich on its own was definitely a full meal. The fries were super extra I personally did not need them — a spring salad would have been a better compliment to it actually. Vegan burgers or chicken sandwiches are almost never filling enough on their own. However, this sandwich was big!! and filling!! You will definitely be getting enough food. Even my fiance who is always still hungry couldn’t take another bite by the end. A+ for giving enough food. I appreciate that since it’s true that vegan places often really don’t give enough, especially for what they charge. This was enough.

Atlas Monroe Fried chicken sandwich in to-go box with ketchup and fries.
Price Point

When you think fried chicken or chicken sandwich, it’s really more of a fast food or budget food item typically. So it is kind of against my logic to spend $21 per person on vegan fried chicken sandwich combo. The sandwich was $17 then it was $2 extra for the fries and $2 for a standard bottle of water — plus tax and tip. However, this is all very specific to the pop-up location I went to. I know they sell their product on their website and have their chicken available at other locations, which may have different prices. In my opinion, although it was a great amount of food, $14 for the whole combo would have been a more fair price. As a vegan, I feel I shouldn’t have to pay $20 to have some fried chicken. But I know it’s a pop-up so maybe that factors in to the cost. Anyway, I wouldn’t consider it a very accessible price point.

Digital receipt for Atlas Monroe vegan meal, $52.74 total for 2 combos with water.
Overall

All in all I would say Atlas Monroe’s vegan fried chicken is extremely good. I would definitely be careful to not deep fry, but otherwise it makes for a phenomenal sandwich. It is extremely satisfying in a way that no other vegan chicken is. Fried chicken lovers will absolutely love this product. However, I would love to see it at a more accessible price point. I probably won’t go to the pop-up again, but I would definitely buy from their website and prep myself one day if it becomes available. I hope to see this on the shelves in grocery stores everywhere. I’m excited to see what’s coming up in the future for Atlas Monroe — grateful that they’re stepping up to the plate and innovating vegan chicken products.

Holding Atlas Monroe vegan fried chicken with bacon sandwich after taking many bites.

About Atlas Monroe

Atlas Monroe is a vegan food company that specializes in vegan fried chicken. They have been featured on Shark Tank, and have won the prize for Best Fried Chicken by Extra Crispy at the annual Fried Chicken Festival. Products are sold on their website, though they are often sold out. They also sell at different restaurants, pop-up shops and fairs, which you can learn about on their Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Starbucks chickpea bites opened package, a vegan option.

Starbucks Chickpea Bites and Avocado Protein Box: Review

Starbucks finally came out with a vegan option on their menu. But it’s not a pastry or muffin or cookie or a cute bistro sandwich, it’s falafel with guacamole. I don’t want to sound ungrateful but falafel is not exactly what I was hoping for when I emailed Starbucks several times in the past 15 years to add a vegan menu option. And avocado is kind of a weird thing to pair with it. However, there is something to be said for Starbucks Chickpea Bites and Avocado Protein Box.

Starbucks Chickpea Bites and Avocado Protein Box Review  

Okay, so it took me months to actually try this because I thought it was a ridiculous option at a coffee shop (if I want falafel I’ll go to a middle eastern spot). For this reason, I waited for a moment that I needed an easy on-the-go meal rather than something that I specifically wanted to pair with my coffee. That day came last week. Let me review each element of Starbuck’s vegan protein box: 

The chickpea bites

These are actually way more yummy than I expected. I fully thought they’d be dry, crumbly falafel wannabes. However, they totally had a cafeteria chicken nugget vibe going on. I say cafeteria because since they’re packaged and cold they don’t have that crispy finish. The outside is a nicely seasoned breading, and the inside is soft and slightly moist and holds together nicely. Not dry at all. Really a lot like a casual chicken nugget from my childhood. I enjoyed it a lot. 

The avocado

Even the thought of packaged guacamole makes me sick so I did not expect to like this at all. I opened the container just a tiny bit because I expected to try a little and not have the rest, but I ended up finishing it! It is absolutely nothing like fresh guacamole, but it didn’t have any gross weird packaged guacamole taste. It tasted like the fresh ingredients listed, just a smooth avocado, lime, jalapeno, garlic and salt—nothing else. Somehow it tasted fresh despite being packaged. I didn’t love it but I was definitely able to finish it without getting grossed out.

The veggies

The carrots and snap peas are fresh and crisp. I especially liked how crunchy, juicy and lightly sweet the snap peas were. It was a nice accompaniment to round out the meal. The veggies were also good for dipping in the avocado, because the chickpea bites weren’t quite strong enough to be dipped without coming apart a bit. 

The nuts and seeds

I was full after the meal, so it’s convenient that the nuts and seeds are packaged in their separate little bag for later. I actually forgot I had these and found them in my bag on a camping trip and ate them on a short hike. It’s about a handful or so of sunflower seeds, almonds, pepitas and dried cranberries. Not the freshest or most crisp nuts in the world, but it was a nice, balanced pick-me-up.

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 560

Total fat: 37 g

Cholesterol: 0 mg

Sodium: 710 mg

Total carbohydrates: 43 g (13 g fiber, 7 g sugar)

Protein: 15 g

Ingredients

Chickpea Bites [Chickpeas, Water, High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Breadcrumbs (Whole Grain Wheat Flour, Distilled Vinegar, Malted Barley Flour, Yeast, Sea Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Spice Extractive), Chickpea Flour, Contains 2 Or Less Of Rice Starch, Yellow Corn Flour, Salt, Spices, Sugar, Guar Gum, Vinegar, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Corn Starch, Dehydrated Parsley, Toasted Sesame Oil, Maltodextrin, Cultured Dextrose, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Corn Syrup Solids, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, White Distilled Vinegar, Food Starch Modified, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Tapioca Dextrin, Lemon Juice Solids, Breading Set In Vegetable Oil], Avocado Dip [Avocado, Sea Salt, Onion, Garlic, Jalapeno, Pepper, Lime Juice], Dried Fruit And Nut Mix [Unsalted Roasted Almonds, Dry Roasted Pepitas, Oil Roasted Sunflower Seeds (Sunflower Seeds, Sunflower Oil), Dried Cranberries (Cranberries, Sugar, Sunflower Oil)], Carrots, Snap Peas

Allergens

Treenuts, Wheat

Conclusion

Overall better than I expected but still NOT something I want with my coffee. It’s kind of doesn’t make sense for this option to be at Starbucks, but if I ever want a quick, easy, healthy, on-the-go meal that’s under $7 I would get this again for sure. But the odds of my thinking to stop at Starbucks for lunch is very unlikely so I’m not sure how often I’ll actually think to do it. It’s probably a great option for parents to grab for their kids’ lunches too while they’re ordering their morning coffee. 

Request

Starbucks thank you for the chickpea nuggets but please add a vegan bakery item! It’s seriously not difficult I promise. You’re wayyy behind pretty much every local coffee shop and several chains at this point (Peet’s, Argo Tea, Think Coffee, Whole Foods Cafe, etc.). And also, please switch to 100 percent Fair Trade or Direct Trade! I have no choice but to opt for my local coffee shop (Holsem <3) so that I can have FAIR TRADE coffee with a delicious vegan muffin. Or I just brew my own fair trade coffee and bake my own pastry at home. Make a bold move into a more humane realm, Sbux. These baby steps are appreciated but not enough.

Hands full of cacao beans to supply fair trade chocolate brands.

14 Fair Trade Chocolate Brands: Humane Chocolate Directory

If you love chocolate, you should make sure your enjoyment is not at the expense of someone’s freedom. Many of the most popular chocolate brands out there, like Hershey’s, Nestle and Mars, have cacao beans from sources that are known to use child and slave labor. I’ve done a lot of research and luckily, there are many delicious fair trade chocolate brands to choose from instead. By choosing fair trade, you help ensure that your chocolate is free of human suffering.

If we want to see a better world, we need vote with our money. Being conscious consumers means making purchases that are aligned with our values. In other words, not supporting heartless chocolate companies that have modern day slavery built into their business model. We can help improve this world one fair trade chocolate bar at a time.

Contents

The Problem With Chocolate

The vast majority of cacao beans (aka cocoa beans) used in mainstream chocolate come from the Ivory Coast and Ghana. Unfortunately, the chocolate industry there is highly unregulated, with unthinkably inhumane practices in place to keep prices competitive. Farmers are paid slave wages at a mere $1 per day. This means they don’t have the funds to hire workers to keep up with the demand, so children are forced to work. Children are actually taken from their families in Mali and other nearby countries, smuggled across the border to Ghana and Ivory Coast, and sold to work the cacao plantations. Some children are as young as 5 years old, and conditions are very dangerous.

What do the big chocolate corporations do? They turn a blind eye. They say “I haven’t seen it so I can’t be responsible for it, but if it’s happening that’s unacceptable.” However, they know very well that they are paying slave wages to the farmers, and they know the desperate conditions are directly linked to their refusal to pay fair wages. And though they deny it, they do know about the issues of child labor, but refuse to take responsibility. But no matter how they ignore or deny it, they are responsible for the source of the ingredients in their chocolate bars. Period. And how do chocolate companies get away with it? Us. We buy the chocolate.

If the companies won’t change, we as consumers are fully responsible for boycotting those companies that produce chocolate by way of slave wages and child labor.

Conditions on Chocolate Plantations

The conditions on cacao plantations are harsh for an adult let alone a child. First off, the work is demanding. Children have to carry extremely heavy loads, climb tall trees, use sharp and dangerous tools, and be exposed to hazardous levels of pesticides. The work hours are long and many of them are paid absolutely nothing, despite the promise of money during the initial capture from their home. Instead of being in school, they work the plantations, often in a state of slavery, to keep chocolate affordable for privileged children around the world. See the documentary The Dark Side of Chocolate for heartbreaking insight on the production of chocolate from child’s home capture to plantation to chocolate bar.

What does fair trade mean?

Fair trade chocolate means that the farmers are paid fair, living wages and that there was no child labor involved in the production of the chocolate. Fair trade chocolate brands have a set of standards that they must adhere to to keep their certification. Look for these labels when choosing chocolate:

Five labels to look for when purchasing fair trade chocolate.

Here’s a video from Equal Exchange about what Fair Trade is and why it matters:

Fair Trade Chocolate Brands

Here are some common fair trade chocolate brands that you can find easily at your local Whole Foods, Sprouts or health food store. Even some major mainstream supermarket chains and pharmacies are starting to carry some of these brands, making ethical chocolate choices even more effortless. Some of the brands provided an exclusive statement about fair trade for this blog, which I’m super grateful for:

Theo

Fair for Life | USDA Organic | Non-GMO | Kosher | Vegan options

Website

Endangered Species Chocolate

Fair Trade | Non-GMO | vegan options

Website

Equal Exchange

USDA Organic | Fair Trade Federation Member | Worker-Owned Cooperative | Equal Exchange | Green America Certified Business | Vegan options
Statement from Equal Exchange:

“In 1986, Equal Exchange was founded to challenge the existing trade model, which favors large plantations, agri-business, and multi-national corporations; support small farmers; and connect consumers and producers through information, education, and the exchange of products in the marketplace. With our founding, we joined a growing movement of small farmers, alternative traders (ATOs), religious organizations, and non-profits throughout the world with like-minded principles and objectives. Underlying our work is the belief that only through organization, can small farmers survive and thrive. The cooperative model has been essential for building this model of change.”

Website

Alter Eco

USDA Organic | Fair Trade Certified | Climate Neutral Certified | Forest Stewardship Council | vegan options

Website

Divine Chocolate

Fair Trade | Owned By Cacao Farmers | Organic Options | Vegan Options

Website

Chocolove

Rainforest Alliance Certified | Fair Trade Certified | USDA Organic | Non-GMO

Website

UnReal

Fair Trade Certified Ingredients | Non-GMO | vegan options
Statement from UnReal Chocolate:

UNREAL knows that the best tasting chocolate snacks can be made with clean, responsible ingredients for the good of our health, the planet, and the farmers. It’s essential that the farmers who grow our cocoa have safe working conditions, sustainable wages, and access to the Fair Trade premiums, which are used to invest in community development. We’re proud to say that all of our products are fair trade certified.

Website

Tcho

Fair Trade Certified Ingredients | USDA Organic | vegan options

Website

Lake Champlain

Fair Trade Certified Ingredients | USDA Organic | Non-GMO

Website

Vegan Chocolate

If you want to ensure that your chocolate is free of animal suffering as well, it’s important to choose brands that are fair trade AND vegan. Humans suffer in the production, so fair trade is essential to make sure you are boycotting those practices. However, dairy cows also suffer tremendously and are kept in horrifying, torturous conditions to produce the milk in milk chocolate. If you want a chocolate bar that is truly humane, it needs to be both fair trade and dairy-free (vegan).

All of the Fair Trade Chocolate Brands listed above have excellent vegan options available. Here are some brands that are Fair Trade and 100 percent vegan.

Evolved

Vegan | Fair Trade Ingredients | Rainforest Alliance Certified | USDA Organic

Website

Beyond Good

Vegan | Direct Trade | USDA Organic
Statement from beyond good:

“It’s always been our mission to create high quality chocolate that not only taste good, but is good for you and everyone involved. That process begins with making sure our raw materials are sourced from farms using sustainable practices that also enforce NO child labor, monkey labor or slave labor.”

Website

Lulu’s Chocolate

Vegan | Fair Trade Ecuadorian Chocolate | USDA Organic
Statement from the founder, Lulu:

Beyond it being the right thing to do according to the Golden Rule, there are also energetic reasons to go Fair Trade.  We believe that food carries energetic imprints, which affect the consumer.  We want only good energy going into our cacao…this means from the time the cacao pods are taken from the tree (nature is always good vibes of course) until our product lands in your hand.  This means we have to take care of the farmers and every single person who has a hand in the work that goes into our product.  We want the farmers to be thriving and happy to do what they do.  That goes into the cacao.  We believe this not only serves Love & Unity consciousness, but also makes the chocolate feel and taste even better!”

Website

Taza Chocolate

Vegan | Direct Trade | USDA Organic | Non-GMO

Website

Go Max GO

Vegan | Fair Trade Cocoa | Ethically SourceD Palm Oil | Non-GMO

Website

Opt for these fair trade chocolate brands next time you are craving some chocolatey goodness. With these amazing options, there is no excuse whatsoever to support companies that use slaves and children to produce their chocolate.

Is your chocolate brand fair trade but you don’t see it listed? Email me at theethicalveggan@gmail.com and I’ll be sure to add you!

Vegan aloo gobi, an Indian dish featuring cauliflower and potatoes, on a blue and white plate.

Easy Vegan Aloo Gobi (Restaurant-Style)

Aloo gobi is one of my favorite meals to make and to get at a restaurant. I love cauliflower and this dish glorifies cauliflower in every way that the cruciferous vegetable deserves. And of course, potatoes make everything satisfying and delicious. Luckily, aloo gobi is traditionally made vegan to begin with, so this vegan aloo gobi recipe is a classic crowd-pleaser.

I’ve simplified the recipe with some store-bought ground spices to make it extra accessible to peeps here in the US. I’ve also stirred in coconut cream to give it that creamy restaurant-style finish. I actually made aloo gobi at a cooking class while I was living in Rishikesh, India, and incorporate many of the tips I learned from the chef into this easy recipe (thanks Cooking Masala!).

Easy Vegan Aloo Gobi Recipe

Ingredients

  • Olive oil, for pan
  • 1x large yellow onion, diced
  • 4x cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2x beefsteak tomatoes, diced
  • 1x 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1/2 of a 13.5 oz can of coconut cream
  • 1x tablespoon curry powder
  • 1x tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne for extra spice (optional)
  • 2x medium russet potatoes, diced
  • 1x medium head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne, to desired spice level (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat a medium and large pan on medium heat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on each.
  2. In the larger pan, add the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes, moving often so they don’t stick.
  3. In the medium pan, add the onion and saute until golden, then add garlic and saute until a light golden color.
  4. Next, add the diced tomatoes to the onions and garlic and saute until they start to break down a bit, about 4 minutes. Then, add the tomato paste, coconut cream and spices, bring to a medium-low simmer for at least 10 minutes so flavors can marry.
  5. Meanwhile, in the larger pan, add the cauliflower florets with the potatoes and continue cooking them both together for 15 more minutes until both are getting more tender (about half cooked). Then, add the simmering tomato mixture to the potatoes and cauliflower.
  6. Simmer all ingredients together for 30 more minutes, adding salt, black pepper and cayenne (optional) to taste.
  7. After 30 minutes, turn off yoru aloo gobi and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. Finally, serve alongside basmati rice and/or naan and enjoy! I
Creamy vegan aloo gobi in a pan with a tomato and coconut cream gravy

Notes

  • Want it even creamier? There are three ways to achieve this:
    1. One is to immersion blend or blend the tomato mixture before adding it over the tomatoes and cauliflower. Many restaurants do this, and actually I do it often as well.
    2. The other is to add the whole can of coconut cream rather than half. I’ve done this and it makes it very scrumptious.
    3. Third, you can do both 1 and 2 for the ultimate level of creaminess.

Try this recipe and let me know what you think! What other Indian dishes would you like to see recipes for?

Blue and white floral plate with 2 vegan chocolate chip pancakes on it.

Vegan Single-Serve Chocolate Chip Pancakes

I love pancakes more than your average citizen. Annoyingly, I feel like I’m never around other pancake lovers. Either it’s too many carbs or they don’t like sweets or they prefer french toast or some other nonsense. So, typically I have to make pancakes-for-one (myself). Oh also, I love chocolate hence the chocolate chips, but leave them out if you wish. When you get the pancake craving, these vegan single-serve chocolate chip pancakes will do the trick!

Vegan Single-Serve Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Vegan chocolate chip pancake on the pan fluffing up before ready to flip.

Vegan pancakes for one? No problem! These delicious, fluffy pancakes have the perfect golden buttery finish and are loaded with melty chocolate chips. Eating breakfast solo has never tasted so good.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup nondairy milk 
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon coconut sugar, or other sugar (optional) 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder 
  • Tiny pinch of baking soda 
  • 1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips (optional)
  • Vegan butter, for pan 

METHOD

  1. In a medium bowl, mix the milk, apple cider vinegar, vanilla extract, and sugar. Let sit for 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, mix the salt, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and chocolate chips.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Let sit for 2 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat a pan on medium-high heat.
  5. Melt butter on the pan and pour half the pancake mixture over the melted butter. Let sit and wait for it to fluff a bit and bubbles to start forming on the upper side of the pancake.
  6. Flip the pancake and cook through until it fluffs and is golden on both sides.
  7. Repeat with 2nd half of the batter.
  8. Plate and top with your favorite syrup! I used date syrup but of course, maple is classic and the ultimate.

Enjoy this recipe to the fullest my fellow pancake fanatic, and though you’re probably eating them alone, just know I’m somewhere eating these vegan single-serve chocolate chip pancakes right along with you rn. Craving more? Try these vegan chocolate chip cookies!

Silk vs ripple half and half side by side vegan creamers for coffee

Silk vs. Ripple Half and Half (Video Review)

Vegan Half and Half is starting to become easier to find. Half and half is creamier milk with more fat content, but it doesn’t contain all that sugar that is in creamers. After trying the Silk one and falling in love with it… I noticed the Ripple half and half on the shelves so I was super curious about which is better! In this video I’ll compare Silk vs. Ripple Half and Half so you can see the differences for yourself before you purchase.

Silk vs. Ripple Half and Half Verdict

Overall, I like Silk Half and Half more because I find it creamier. However, both are really really good options! Ripple was even better than expected. Here are some specifics from my comparison:

  • Lightness: Ripple seems to lighten the coffee slightly more in terms of color than Silk. Silk still lightens it a lot but surprisingly Ripple lightened it even more.
  • Creaminess: Silk definitely has a creamier mouth feel than Ripple, but Ripple still does elevate the coffee nicely.
  • Flavor: Again silk has more of a creamy and I’d say almost very very lightly buttery flavor that marries with the coffee beautifully. Ripple doesn’t have much of a strong flavor but it gives just a distant tinge of sweetness which is nice.
  • Calories: Silk half and half has 15 calories per Tablespoon and Ripple half and half has 17.5 calories per Tablespoon.
  • Sugar: Silk half and half contains 0 g of sugar and Ripple half and half contains less than 1 gram of sugar.
  • Silk Half and Half Ingredients: Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Coconut Cream), Oatmilk (Filtered Water, Whole Oat Flour), Organic Coconut Oil, Faba Bean Protein, Baking Soda, Natural Flavor, Gellan Gum. CONTAINS COCONUT.
  • Ripple Half and Half Ingredients: Water, Sunflower Oil, Pea Protein, Organic Cane Sugar, Contains less than 1% of Sea Salt, Sunflower Lecithin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Natural Flavor, Acacia Gum, Guar Gum, Gellan Gum.

What’s your favorite vegan half and half? Try your own Silk vs. Ripple half and half experiment at home and let me know what you think 🙂