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.

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 🙂

Vegan pesto with walnuts and vegan parmesan in the food processor.

Vegan Pesto Recipe with Walnuts and Basil

Nothing says spring like pesto — the burst of fresh basil awakens the mind and stimulates the senses. This vegan pesto recipe uses walnuts instead of pine nuts. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1. Walnuts are what I happened to have in my cabinet. 2. Pine nuts are mad expensive and this was not for a special occasion 3. Walnuts have tons of nutrients the body needs (omegas, b6, vitamin e, etc). and 4. You don’t always have to play by the rules! Cooking is often about tradition, but it’s also very much about spontaneity and convenience.

Jump to Recipe

Why is pesto not vegan?

Pesto is traditionally not vegan because it has parmigiano reggiano cheese mixed into it. For this reason, it’s very hard to find vegan at the supermarket or out at a restaurant. Luckily, if you have a food processor it’s super easy to make pesto at home, and more delicious too. Plus, there are no cows tortured to make your vegan pesto sauce, which is a huge bonus in my book.

Vegan pesto without nutritional yeast

Another variation is that this vegan pesto recipe does not have nutritional yeast. I love it with nutritional yeast but, in the name of convenience, I only had vegan parmesan on hand so that’s what I used this time. This worked out wonderfully because the original nonvegan pesto uses parmigiano reggiano. I realize some people try to avoid nutritional yeast so this recipe is a great option for you.

HOWEVER, to be honest I think it’s even better with nutritional yeast than vegan parmesan. It lends more of a cheesy flavor and marries perfectly with whatever nut you are using. For this reason, I will be putting a note about switching parmesan for nutritional yeast.

Pesto Without a Food Processor

I assume every person on the planet has a food processor because it’s my favorite kitchen appliance in existence. However, I’m shocked by how many people don’t. Many times I plan to make this at a family member’s home or AirBNB or close friend’s house and realize they don’t have a food processor! So there have been countless times I’ve had to make pesto without a food processor.

Actually, not using a food processor is the way that the old Italian grandmas used to make it once upon a time. Food processors didn’t always exist, so sometimes I really enjoy making pesto with a good sharp knife and mad chiffonade skills. It connects me to the ancestor spirits.

To make pesto without a food processor, all you need is time, patience and a super sharp knife. Here’s the method:

  1. Get a good, large, very sharp knife like a mezzaluna knife or similar.
  2. Chop very fine the garlic and a portion of the basil leaves. As you chop, continue to add the basil leaves until all are finely chopped. about 5 minutes.
  3. Next, add half of your walnuts and chop. Then add the rest of the walnuts and chop until all it incorporated and tiny. The whole chopping process will take about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Now, transfer the basil, garlic and walnuts to a bowl, add parmesan and olive oil, and mix to incorporate.

Vegan Pesto Recipe with Walnuts and Basil

Ingredients
  • 4oz (114 g) Basil, rinsed and removed from stalk
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (I used raw but roasted is fine)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp vegan parmesan (I used Follow Your Heart brand)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Method
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor
  2. Process until smooth and combined. Do not over process or it can bruise the basil and create a bitter flavor.
Serving

There are countless ways to use pesto, here are some ideas:

  • Use as sauce for 10 oz of your favorite pasta with veggies. For this, reserve 1/4 cup of pasta water and mix in when adding the pesto to your cooked pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve as appetizer dipping sauce for veggie meatballs with toothpicks
  • Use on toasted Italian bread to make a pesto bruschetta topped with some chopped tomato
  • Spread on any of your favorite sandwiches
  • Use as a drizzle on vegan white pizza

Notes

  • Subbing nutritional yeast. You can sub nutritional yeast by putting 4 tbsp of nutritional yeast rather than vegan parmesan.
  • Adding water. To make it more smooth, light and creamy, add 3 tbsp of water

Calories in Vegan Pesto

This vegan pesto recipe contains 786 calories in total. It can serve 6-8 people, making each serving 98-131 calories per serving. Most of the calories come from olive oil, so if you are looking to cut calories, feel free to cut the amount of olive oil in half and sub with water.

Can you Freeze Vegan Pesto?

Yes, you can freeze vegan pesto. To freeze, place in an air-tight container and cover with a thin layer of olive oil before covering. This will minimize the browning of the pesto. It can be stored for up to 6 months. This is actually a great idea, especially if you have an herb garden with tons of basil that would otherwise go to waste.

To thaw and use pesto after freezing, simply defrost in the fridge overnight and mix with fork to smooth. Or you can use defrost setting on your microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until ready. After thawing, be sure to use within 5 days (do not re-freeze).

What’s your favorite way to use vegan pesto? Share your thoughts and enjoy this spring favorite!

Vegan easter candy, like chocolate bunny and peanut butter eggs on table with blue background.

Best Vegan Easter Candy (2021)

Easter is just around the corner, which means 2 things: bunnies and chocolate (oh, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ). I’ve been lucky enough to try lots of vegan Easter candy, so I wanted to share the list of my very favorite chocolates for this colorful occasion. I recently bought a ton of Sjaak’s Easter chocolate this year at ION Natural Market in Connecticut when visiting my sister. It’s sooo good! Thanks for stocking up, ION!

Spring goes hand-in-hand with chocolate eggs, peanut butter eggs, hollow and solid bunnies, and more vegan Easter candy wonders. Here are the best cruelty-free, non-dairy chocolates for Easter for you and your loved ones (kid-approved):

Sjaak’s

Sjaak’s has been making high-quality organic, vegan chocolate since 2004. They have chocolates for all occasions, including their extensive easter chocolate selections. For Easter, Sjaak’s sells:

  • Melk® Chocolate Bunny Filled with Gummy Bears
  • “Paleo Bunny” Coconut Milk Chocolate Bunny
  • Chunky Peanut Butter Filled Dark Chocolate Eggs
  • Caramel Filled Melk® Chocolate Eggs 
  • Vegan Egg PB Filled with Bunny Bites
  • Peanut Butter Crunch Egg
  • White Chocolate “Bunny Pop” on Coconut Milk Chocolate Egg
  • Coconut Lime with Coconut Milk Chocolate Easter Bunny Bite
  • Cinnamon Churro with White Chocolate Easter Bunny Bite
  • Cherry with Dark Chocolate Easter Bunny Bite
  • Mini Almond Butter Bunny in Melk® Chocolate

Buy Sjaak’s vegan Easter candy here

No Whey

No Whey’s vegan easter confections are soo indulgent, and all their products are 100 percent milk-free, peanut-free, tree nut-free, gluten-free, egg-free and soy-free. Here are their Easter candy options:

  • Milkless Easter Bunny
  • Milkless White Bunny
  • Hollow White and Milk Chocolate Bunny
  • Mini Cream Eggs
  • Milkless Surprise Eggs
  • White Chocolate Bunny Pops
  • “Milk” Chocolate Bunny Pops
  • Easter Truffles

Buy No Whey vegan Easter chocolate here

Lagusta’s Luscious

Lagusta’s Luscious is based in New York so I would visit them in New Paltz whenever I was heading upstate and their shop is a-ma-zing. This fine vegan chocolatier has a unique and impressive selection of absolutely scrumptious vegan Easter chocolate:

  • English Cream Eggs
  • Peanut Butter Eggs
  • Milk Chocolate Marble Eggs
  • Strawberry Marble Eggs
  • Peanut Butter Bunny
  • Solid Chocolate Bunny
  • Chocolate Nougat Bunny
  • Strawberry White Chocolate Bunny
  • Woodstock White Chocolate Bunny

Buy Lagusta’s Luscious vegan Easter chocolate here

Rose City Chocolatier

Rose City Chocolatier sells vegan, belgian artisan chocolates. They have lots of wonderful Easter options from bunnies to eggs to truffle sets. Here’s their fine chocolate delights:

  • Chocolate Easter Shape Minis
  • Vegan Petite Eggs
  • Easter Chocolate Bunny Box
  • Vegan Easter Gift Sets

Buy Rose City Chocolatier Easter candy here

Lake Champlain

Though not a fully vegan company, Lake Champlain has a nice selection of vegan chocolate for easter. This Vermont-based chocolate shop sells the follow for Easter (all organic and kosher):

  • 5-inch Classic Dark Organic Bunny
  • Dark Chocolate Carrot
  • Semi-Solid Dark Chocolate Baby Bunny
  • Hoppy Easter Dark Chocolate Bar

Buy Lake Champlain Easter chocolate here

Moo Free

Moo Free hails from across the pond in England, and offer up a yummy selection of dairy-free chocolates for all occasions, including Easter. Here’s what they’ve got:

  • Organic Mint Chocolate Easter Egg
  • Vegan Milk chocolate Egg with Sour Cherry
  • Milk Chocolate Mini Eggs
  • White Chocolate Mini Eggs
  • Bunny Bar

Buy Moo Free vegan Easter candy here

Get your vegan Easter candy fix by browsing the options at these chocolate company’s websites or if you’re lucky you’ll find some in stock at your local natural market. Be sure to order soon to get them in time for Easter, and order in advance each year so you get your favorites before they sell out.

What’s your favorite vegan Easter chocolate? Be sure to share in the comments and Happy Easter to all!

Women with brown hair and tan shirt holding bunches of spinach and herbs in front of her face.

Why I Turned Veggan After 16 Years of Being Vegan

Why in the world did I become veggan — a vegan who eats eggs — after 16 years of being vegan? First, I turned vegan for ethical reasons in 2004, when I was just 14 years old. I couldn’t bear the thought of contributing to animal suffering, and so I gave up all animal products. For 16 wonderful years, I indulged fully in the vegan diet trying all the vegan ice creams, cheeses, mock meats, chocolates and baked goods in existence. There wasn’t a vegan restaurant in New York that I hadn’t tried (Peacefood Cafe is my fav, btw). However, dealing with various health issues that affected my quality of life, I made the difficult decision to become veggan in 2020.

Why veggan?

The reason I became veggan was due to health reasons. First off, I want to say I believe it is absolutely possible to be 100 percent healthy on a vegan diet, and I am so happy for those who are. However, every body is different! We need to recognize this. For me, being 100 percent vegan meant that the whites of my eyes weren’t white, my hair was losing volume and I was chronically fatigued. I couldn’t make it through a day without feeling absolutely exhausted.

And I was not a “junk-food vegan” — I always ate tons of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, quinoa, beans, legumes, seeds, whole proteins like seitan and tofu, healthy oils like olive and coconut, and superfood powders like spirulina, maca, hemp and more. That’s not to say I didn’t gobble up vegan donuts and fried chik’n every now and again, but my every day diet was clean, healthy, colorful and balanced.

Supplements

Vegans might be thinking, well what about supplements? Trust me, I tried! 16 years is a very significant amount of time to experiment with supplements. I got my blood tests and saw my nutrient levels, and was low in iron, D and B vitamins. I tried many different brands of B12, D3, chia and flax oil, iron, biotin, zinc, and multis at the recommended doses in the recommended ratios for years at a time to no avail. It helped but it certainly was not eliminating my issues. I will say Garden of Life has my favorite B12 and D3 (which I still take). But, it was very frustrating to try and spend all this time and money with minimal results. I was getting very upset and, though I didn’t want to believe it, I knew I needed to take another step.

How I took the leap to veggan

It wasn’t until 2016, 12 years of veganism, that I started to debate adding eggs to my diet. When I did research about foods for hair health and energy, eggs kept coming at the top. It made sense, since what I lacked (biotin, protein, B12, D and more) eggs contained in significant quantities in a super bioavailable form. However, I was stubborn and absolutely hated the thoughts of adding eggs to my diet.

For 4 years, I kept going back and forth in my mind about whether or not to add eggs. Sometimes I’d think to myself, “Gina, just STFU and deal with it and continue being vegan.” And other times I’d think “but you’re physical and emotional wellness, G! Eat eggs!” I thought I was being superficial and petty by adding eggs just because of feeling tired and not looking the way I wanted. But, it was starting to affect my mood and quality of life.

Ultimately, I decided my health and happiness matters and in 2020 found a brand of local, humane, pasture-raised eggs, hard boiled them, said a prayer of acknowledgment and gratitude and ate two. Though I cried hysterically the first several times eating eggs, I knew I was making the right decision. And now I can say I’m rarely tired, the whites of my eyes are white as can be, and my hair has regained its strength and volume.

How I maintain ethical standards as a veggan

Choosing eggs. The number one thing I make sure of when choosing eggs is that they are humanely-sourced. I eat only pasture-raised eggs (108 sq feet of pasture per bird) that have either a Certified Humane of American Humane Certified label. Plus, I prefer organic and non-GMO where possible as well. I also trust the Certified Humane label more than the American Humane Certified so I opt for those wherever possible. There are many pasture-raised egg brands I trust, and I always opt for ones that are local when possible. I also contact/call the farm when in doubt. I avoid caged (conventional), cage-free and free range as they do not meet my ethical criteria. That being said, I do know there are some trustworthy free range brands out there but be sure to do your research.

Consuming eggs. When it comes to consuming eggs, I make them only at home (so I know that they are humane eggs), and only in whole form. I primarily eat them hard-boiled tho occasionally consume in other ways (like veggan omelets and scrambles). Because I eat eggs for health reasons only, I do not use eggs in any baked goods or for binding. It is extremely easy to bake vegan so in my opinion there is no excuse to use eggs for baking — I consider that to fall under overconsumption and unnecessary consumption. I eat only the amount I need for health reasons, which is 1-2 every day or every other day.

Takeaway

As I mentioned, everyone is different. Some people can be totally healthy as a vegan and others can’t. However, this is not an excuse to mindlessly eat animal products. Eat only what you need at the frequency and in the portions appropriate for your body. Overconsumption is the real tragedy of this society, so we want to steer clear of that in all areas of our diet and life.

It was a very difficult and emotional decision for me to add eggs. But I had to honor my body. I still sometimes hate myself and feel like a bad person for eating eggs, but I know I do so as mindfully and humanely possible. And my body so needs and appreciates every last pasture-raised, humane-certified egg I consume. You need to ask yourself, what is the very least amount of harm I can do to the animals and the planet, while providing the most health benefit to myself?

Being an ethical veggan was an amazing solution for my health challenges with veganism. For you, the solution may be different. But I thought it was important to share my story. Be mindful, know your body, and eat as humanely as possible considering both your health and the wellbeing of all sentient beings.