Galaxy hot chocolate

I am someone who hates the cold weather, so winter is very much the worst time of the year for me. Especially in England, where it is minus degrees, raining constantly and we don’t even have the joy of snow for the most part so can’t even get excited about that! I am also of the age though where any caffeine after about 2pm means I will be awake for the next 12 hours, so a warming cup of tea before bed is out of the question.

Enter the Hot Chocolate. I do not believe that there is anything more comforting on cold winter nights than a frothy and rich hot chocolate. When I first went vegan the hot chocolate options were non-existent, but 2022 seems to be the year that many hot chocolate brands have actually bought out vegan friendly versions. One of my non-vegan favourites was always the Galaxy version, because it genuinely tasted like a melted down galaxy bar. It was rich and creamy and just touched that part of your soul that you thought had been frozen over winter.

I spotted this being advertised for sale at my local Tesco in Veganuary, however they did actually get stock of the product until beginning of February. So I am probably quite late to this party. I have been having a cup a night for past few weeks and unfortunately, it’s a little bit of a let down.

Taste wise it is quite mild. It is definitely chocolate but it doesn’t have that velvet soft creamy texture that I remember from the non-vegan version. However it does mix very well – probably the best of all the brands I’ve tried – and so you aren’t let with that slight gritty texture where some of the granules don’t properly dissolve. So in that sense it is smooth, it just doesn’t have that thickness to it that the non-vegan version did. The chocolate taste is as I say quite mild, however the formula is that you are just meant to add water to it (so no need for warm milk) so perhaps it is the water that dilutes it slightly.

It also doesn’t froth up too well, however again that may be because it is only made with water. Perhaps if you really frothed up milk for this it may be a bit more satisfying. I however do not have such a tool, so this was th best I could manage.

Price wise it is a bit hard to justify – £3 for 250ml worth of powder. The same volume in the non-vegan version is £1.50-£2. So unfortunately you do have to pay that heightened ‘vegan tax’ for this product. I would hope that if it proves quite popular that this would in turn bring the price down, but only time will tell with this. The packet lasted me around 3 weeks, however I have had other packets that were larger volumes and cheaper price that lasted me a good month and a bit.

Overall: 6/10. It is good to see new options available on the market, but I don’t feel much thought was really put into this.

T xxx

Wagamama’s vegan fish and chips

So I am super late to this party. The vegan fish and chips was a special Veganuary exclusive meal released by Wagamama’s and is due to come off of their menu in the beginning of February. I have been trying to go for the entire month of January, but the nearest Wagamama’s to me seems to be heaving with people every single day regardless of when I go. There is always a queue down the street and no doubt at least an hour or two wait. Luckily though, we walked past it on the way home from work and decided to jump in while it still looked somewhat empty.

Oh boy was this worth the wait. To me, Wagamama’s is the level that all other restaurants need to work towards and aim for. They have committed to making 50% of their menu plant based and they do all of the favourites as a vegan version too. It baffles me that in today’s age there are restaurants still saying that the only vegan food they have on offer i a Beyond Meat burger and some sort of salad or spicy pasta dish as if that is supposed to impress us. Then you look at the like’s of Wagamama’s who not only have 50% of the menu vegan friendly, they also have some exciting and delicious meals: The Vegatsu is still my all-time favourite dish of any restaurant and in one of their ramens you can actually get a vegan egg made out of aquafaba and sriracha. Take note every other restaurant!

The fish and chips were lovely. I believe the ‘fish’ part is tofu, with a soft and crispy batter. It was served with sweet potato chunks (rather than chips) which were covered in a bang-bang red onion sauce. They also did a mushy peas type side which was tofu, rice and peas and you got the two sides of ‘tartar’ sauce and some vegatsu sauce too. The fish itself was very light and did flake the same way actual fish does. It didn’t overly taste of anything except, well, batter…but when mixed with the mushy peas or the sauces it was just the right balance of flavours. Which is really all fish and chips ever tasted of anyway.

The sweet potato chunks and the bang-bang sauce really did pack a punch – I was VERY grateful for the tartar sauce as it did manage to calm the sauce down a lot and helped stop my mouth from setting on fire two bites in. I also believe that sweet potato is the best of all potatoes so that was an easy win in my books.

The full vegan menu!

I would say that Wagamam’s is pretty mid-level in terms of pricing: Two mains, a side and two drinks for the two of us cost around £35. You could obviously find somewhere far cheaper but you could also find somewhere far more expensive for no where near as much food. The meals itself was a really good size – I could easily finish the meal and not still feel hungry afterwards, but not so full that I felt like I couldn’t move or that there was too much food on my plate to handle. Also every meal in Wagamama’s is delicious – their standards are high and their food is consistently amazing no matter what you are getting. Pick anything off of their very large menu and you will be in for a very enjoyable meal. It is a shame that the fish and chips isn’t a permanent addition, but they do have such a wide menu perhaps they don’t need any new additions. Maybe they may bring it back later in the year, but for now we shall have to wait and see.

Overall: 9/10. Vegatsu still wins overall, but this was a really fun and exciting addition that I hope we see again!

T xxx

Lush Snow Fairy

This one is bitter sweet…because I did not think it would last me as long as it did and as such it is no longer available at Lush. This soap was part of their Christmas range and is therefore only available during the Christmas period. So this one is on me…

I LOVE this soap. It smells like candy – so much so that I have genuinely wondered if it tastes how it smells. Obviously I have never actually tried to bite into it (because it is soap, so please do not go around trying to eat soap of any kind!) but this soap just screams Christmas and holidays to me. It has scents of pear drops, bubblegum and fruity notes that end up leaving you smelling like Love Heart candies. And what more could you want from a product?!

It also lasted me ages I bought it around the beginning of December as a nice little Christmas treat, and it only ran out about a week ago. And that is with every day use too. It lathered up into lovely fluffy bubbles and left my skin feeling very soft.

As with all things Lush, they are expensive when it comes to soap. Yes you could easily get a decent soap for far less money, but there is just something so decadent and extravagant about Lush soaps that – for me anyway – the price is quite justified. I believe this bar was £5, and seeing as how it lasted nearly 2 months, that to me is really good value for money. The bars are usually 100g (give or take a few grams) so you do get quite a lot of product when you think about other bars of soap. Personally, I support Lush because not only do their products smell good enough to eat, but their ethos as a company is very refreshing: A vast majority of their products are vegan friendly (with all other products being vegetarian friendly) and cruelty free, as well as Lush being one of the big players in campaigning against animal testing.

You can find out more about the Lush ethos here where they discuss the cruelty free, non-animal tested, vegan friendly manufacturing processes of their products and how they are working towards new campaigns against animal testing across the globe. For me, I would rather pay a slightly higher price of the products when I know the company are campaigning for a cause very close to my heart and for an important cause.

Overall: 9/10. This soap is absolutely delightful and is easily my favourite. The one downside it has is that it is seasonal, so unless you stock up massively over Christmas to last you the rest of the year, it is a long wait until it (hopefully!) returns again.

T xxx

Subway TLS

A new addition to Veganaury that actually seemed somewhat disappointing was the Subway Taste Like Steak (TLS). Now I love Subway – their business model is simple but they do what they do well. They make tasty sandwiches (even if their bread cannot legally be called bread in some places!) that feel like a fast food meal without being greasy or heavy. So far as being vegan friendly, they are probably one of the best fast-food chains out there, because their sandwiches by default are vegan and they offer a variety of vegan products like the veggie patty, the Taste Like Chicken and the Meatless Meatballs.

I was sort of hoping that they would therefore come out with something quite new for Veganuary, but we just got steak pieces. Now as someone who has eaten maybe three bites of a steak in their lifetime – I don’t see the hype around steak. It has never looked appealing, it doesn’t taste nice and it just seems like the most basic and boring meal you could ever cook. But for reasons I will never understand, people go nuts for steak. Even going so far as putting steak into a sandwich. Hence the TLS addition.

To give it credit, I feel like I didn’t really prepare the right sandwich in order to really appreciate the steak. I am a big fan of the TLC pieces so thought that these may be very much the same? The TLS pieces were actually quite nice, as they did add an almost smokey flavour to the sandwich and were a bit tougher in texture than the TLC pieces. But as to their overall taste, I feel I had too many vegetables and sauces on top of it to really get the full affect. So perhaps next time I will try it with just the steak, some cheese and maybe some lettuce – keep it simple and plain and see how the steak really performs.

The other downside is that it appears that the TLS has now replaced the TLC – at least in any shop that I have been to near me. So does it really count as a new addition if it is technically replacing an already existing option? Strictly speaking the number of vegan options has not actually changed. I am also unclear whether the TLS will stay past Veganuary as I cannot find a clear answer online. If anyone knows, please let me know!

Overall: 3/10. Although this may need to be amended the next time I try it…

T xxx

Trevor Sorbie curl cream

I am still trying to persevere with my Curly Girl method so am still trying to find the right products for my hair. The Trevor Sorbie range is completely new to me: I have never used them before for anything, and I haven’t seen that much about them on social media before. But they are one of the few products that was labelled vegan and cruelty free so I decided to try something out of the comfort zone and see how it went.

This does not lie when it says that it is ‘firm hold’. It is almost like glue. Which I was very surprised at. It feels like a really light cream in your hands, so being naive I coated my hair a bit too thickly the first time I tried it and my hair was almost concrete once the cream dried. I have since been a lot more sparing with the creme and so far it is working quite well.

Well it works well on wash day. I find that by day two, after sleeping on my hair, my curls are a lot wilder and the cream just keeps their wildness in a more tame way. As I say I am still learning what works best for my hair so this may just be something that I need to practice to really get the full worth from it.

That being said I am quite impressed with it. It is firm hold so on wash day my curls are actually defined, and while my hair is still quite big, it isn’t from frizz. I have also noticed that the reset days seem to work well with this product – I can wet my hair, brush it, scrunch it as normal and there will still be enough product in my hair to keep most of my curls defined and reduce a fair amount of the frizz that I normally have. Now this may just be me still using too much of the product, but so far it is working quite well for me even if it is a change to my usual hair routine.

Price wise, it was £7 (I bought it from Superdrug) for 150ml which sounds expensive, but the way I deal with my hair I would probably go through this whole tube in about 4-5 months. Maybe even longer if I start to use less of the product. Like I have said this does seem like a very sharp learning curve for me as it is a very different product to what I have used before and it is also a lot more heavy duty.

I feel I may have to do an update on this once I have finished the tube of product…I shall keep you updated!

Overall: 5/10. So far it is ok, but I think time will tell as to the longevity of this product.

T xxx

Burger King vegan whopper

Confession time…I have never had a Burger King burger before. This January is actually the first time I think I have ever had a Burger King ever in my life. So I am really branching out now and having what is most likely the first fast-food burger I have had in at least 12 years. I have had McDonald’s burgers before…but again I think the last time I had one was when I was about 12/13? Because I then went vegetarian shortly afterwards.

I have always heard that out of the fast-food places, Burger King was the elite: The fries were the best, the burgers were the size of a baby’s head and the price was a really good value for money. They also tasted ‘not like fast-food’. So we finally decided to test whether that was still true and to see if the burgers lived up to the same level as they had done before going vegetarian.

I decided to go with the vegan whopper, as I think that is the most staple of the Burger King meal. I decided to go for the Whooper over the Royale as the Royale genuinely looked HUGE in comparison and I didn’t trust that I would actually be able to finish it all. I was a little bit nervous of the Whopper as it was indeed….whopper.

The vegan burger patty is a soya based patty, and there had been some controversy around it when first released in 2020 as it was still cooked on the same grill as the meat products were. From reading Burger King’s FAQs and the information available on their website though, they say that they now have separate grill for each type of product, so there is very little risk of cross-contamination. Make of that what you will. I decided to chance it and trust that they were doing all that can to keep vegan products separate from meat products, because let’s be fair – it’s not really that hard. Especially for a multi-billion dollar company that could easily afford the equipment/space/resources.

But I digress…

So right off the bat, this is the perfect meal to justify ‘vegan for the animals’. The burger alone was around 320 calories. Which I suppose on it’s own isn’t the worst meal you would choose but if you include the chips – which are around 385 calories!! – it’s a pretty big meal. Which isn’t bad because 700 calories for a meal is probably considered quite small. BUT – and this was the big issue I had – even after 700 calories of food, I was still STARVING. I could have eaten at least three of these burgers and even then I don’t think I would have felt satisfied.If you were to eat 700 calories of any other food, you’d notice it. But these felt like eating air because I was hungry maybe 5 minutes after finishing.

It also didn’t taste that great. I mean it tasted like a fast food burger. It was exactly how I remembered it tasting: slightly fake while still being quite sweet. Aside from the fact that it looked quite sad and squashed when I took it out of he wrapper, it tasted the exact same. I would like to say that you could really notice the vegan patty, but honestly I didn’t. If you have ever had a fast-food burger, then you have tasted what this whopper tasted like. Pretty basic and nothing special, but exactly what you were expecting.

Price wise it is on the more expensive end for a fast-food meal. Especially when you factor in how it tastes (i.e exactly like every other fast food product). That aside though it is still pretty cheap, at £7.50 for a whole whopper meal, with fries and drink. That is also the price if you pick the large size of everything, otherwise it is slightly less the smaller the meal. But even with the price, you could make a way better burger yourself at home for maybe £5: Meatless farm burgers (for example) are around £3, a 4 pack of vegan brioche rolls from Aldi is £1 and the toppings and sauces maybe work out to be about another £1. This also gives you more than one meal so most likely works out even cheaper in the whole. SO while the whopper scratched a curiosity itch to see what fast-food was like, but I really don’t see what the benefit is to having this over a home made burger? Aside from the time it takes to cook it.

Overall: 4/10. Fine if you’re really stuck but definitely not worth it when you can make far better options at home for a fraction of the price.

T xxx

Squirrel Appreciation Day

21 January marks Squirrel Appreciation Day!

This day was introduced by Christy Hargrove, a wildlife rehabilitator to encourage people to learn more about the UK’s most common wildlife. It is to help promote the welfare and care for our red and grey squirrels. Now I have only ever seen grey squirrels – outside our house we have a number of very large trees which are always being climbed by a group of the little grey guys. It’s quite funny seeing them around this time of year because they are so chubby I am always amazed they manage to make it up the tree in the first place!

But it turns out that grey squirrels are not our native squirrel. The red squirrel is actually our native breed, and the grey squirrels were introduced to the UK by the North Americans in around 1800. Unfortunately the grey and red breeds do not get along, and the grey squirrels forced the red ones to have to move to more remote and uninhabited areas of the UK. Today, there are estimated to only be around 140,000 red squirrels left and they are mainly located around Scotland and very northern parts of the England. There are multiple campaigns currently ongoing by the Wildlife Trust and the RSPCA to help promote squirrel welfare and to help bring the red squirrel populations up.

Threats to squirrel populations

The main issue squirrels face is that, namely, grey and red squirrels cannot live together long term. Due to their sheer numbers, grey squirrels have taken over most of England and the UK and as such red squirrel populations are dwindling. Grey squirrels also carry (but are unaffected by) squirrelpox which is fatal to red squirrels. Hence the main reason why the two species cannot live together long term. There are a number of organisations though that are currently working to help create red squirrel protection zones which would stop their habitats from being lost to deforestation or to grey squirrel populations. I shall leave links to a number of these campaigns at the end of this blog if you want more information on the work and conservation efforts done.

Unfortunately, squirrelpox is still relatively unknown although a vaccine is currently being developed. This vaccine however will not be ready for some time still (mainly due to the issue of how to actually administer the vaccine to red squirrel populations), and so the main way to protect red squirrel populations is to simply keep them away from grey squirrel populations. As it stands, there is very little chance that squirrelpox can be transmitted to humans (and even if it did, there is very little evidence to suggest that it would even be harmful to us) however it is always encouraged to not handle wildlife unless absolutely necessary (due to safety or welfare concerns for example) and if so to always wash your hands thoroughly to avoid any sort of contamination. It probably goes without saying, but this applies to every type of wildlife and not just squirrels – if in doubt, leave them be and call the RSPCA or other wildlife organisation who can advise on how much contact (if any at all) is needed in a situation.

The other issue is the reputation that squirrels have and the lack of knowledge around them. In the winter especially, people always assume that squirrels hibernate like many of the UK’s mammals. But that is not true. Physically a squirrel is just not able to store the amount of fat that would be needed to sustain them throughout the cold winter months and so hibernation is not an option. It also explains why they are known for being bird-feeder thieves, taking all of the best nuts and seeds and leaving very little for the bird populations in your garden. Squirrels are also crepuscular (i.e are most active during dawn and dusk) and so are usually active when most birds are still asleep.

How can you help?

The main way to help look after your local squirrels is to have squirrel feeders in your garden. These should be placed away from your bird feeders, preferably near to trees and higher up than a normal bird table would be. Wildlife World have a specially created collection of squirrel feeders that will help keep them fed and hydrated (as well as entertained) during the winter and colder months. You can find a link to those here.

Another way to help them is to simply enjoy them. Where I live, I have a little gang of squirrels that live in the trees nearby and they are honestly such characters. If anyone has ever visited St James’ Park in London, you will no doubt have seen the incredibly confident and borderline tame squirrels that harass people for some of their lunch, picnic or coffee. As mentioned before, always avoid handling wildlife unless it is an absolute emergency but many may still let you get quite close to them to watch them eat, play and scurry around in the ground looking for their buried nuts. As with all animals, squirrels are complex and adorable animals to see in their day to day routines, and even on my most hectic and crazy days, the little nutters outside my house never fail to make me smile.

For more information see the links below

If any of you do have squirrels, share some pictures on here of your own little neighbourhood clan! Also, if anyone has red squirrels please send as many pictures as you can – I can’t believe I didn’t even know about these little guys until researching for this post! I will definitely be looking out for these guys next time I am up north.

T xxx

Krispee Kreme apple custard pie doughnut

As promised, I have now tried all three of the new Krispee Kreme Veganuary offerings. Don’t say I don’t ever do anything for you guys…

I have to say I think this one is the winner. It really did taste like an apple pie! The doughnut itself was the light and fluffy sponge that we know Kirspee Kreme for, and the topping was a nice crunchy crumble that gave a nice extra texture of the doughnut as a whole.

The inside filing was also really nice. There was the perfect combination of apple and custard, and both complimented each other very well. It wasn’t overly sweet either so didn’t leave me feeling sick or bloated. It also didn’t seem too ‘stuffed’ in that when I bit into the middle I didn’t have filing trying to escape from both sides of the doughnut as can happen with these big doughnuts.

Price wise it is the same as the other two: £2.65. Which in comparison to some offers out there is a bit expensive, but as a special edition, ‘luxury’ flavour it is pretty cheap. It was also very refreshing to see a vegan dessert option on sale from a big company that actually felt quite creative: it wasn’t just simply chocolate or salted caramel as so many options out there are, and it was really nice being able to taste an ‘apple crumble pie’ that I hadn’t had to cook myself.

Now for the real big question though: How do these compare to Doughnut Time? Personally, I still think Doughnut Time is way ahead of the other doughnut companies purely for the creativity of the flavours on offer. However, I would expect their doughnuts to cost double the price when they are a) double the size and b) so niche in their flavourings. I don’t think Doughnut Time will ever be a place you go to for ‘just a doughnut’. It’s somewhere you go to for a decadent and over the top experience. But I am very impressed with Krispee Kreme, it must be said. All of their doughnuts have been pretty high level (we won’t include the caramel review in this), and it is good to see that such a large, worldwide company such as Krispee Kreme is finally stepping up their game to keep up with the vegan demand. Hopefully in the years to come they will also branch out even more and start offering flavours of doughnuts that will be able to give Doughnut Time a real run for their money.

Either way I am excited to see where the next step in vegan doughnuts will take us.

Overall: 9/10. A very good start to the year, and I am excited for what is to come in the next few years.

T xxx

Burger King vegan nuggets

A Veganuary Newbie! BurgerKing have actually had a vegan burger for the last year or so, however there was a lot of controversy around it as it when it came to light that the vegan burger was cooked on the same grill as the meat burgers. I – along with a vast majority of other vegans – were therefore not keen on that offer, and so to this day I have still not tried the vegan burger from BurgerKing. But when they announced their new nuggets, I had to try these.

*While writing this I actually had the panic of whether or not the vegan nuggets were cooked in the same oil/fryer/grill as the meat ones. After some internet sleuthing, it appears that Burgerking have now changed their system so that they have allocated fryers/grills etc for each product. This appears to be more for allergy reasons (still very good though!) but it appears as though all of the vegan products have their own separate fryer. If anyone can find information that is different though, please let me know!

So these nuggets were really good. I would say they were very similar (if not identical to) the Birds Eye chicken nuggets that you can buy in the shops. So if you like the Birds Eye version then you will enjoy these Burgerking versions. They were crispy and fluffy and just exactly what you want a nugget to be.

Price wise, you can get packs of 3, 6 and 20 – quite the jump. They start from £3.99, £4.99 to £6.99. £7 for 20 nuggets!! That to me is Bargain of the Year. Although not sure if I could really eat 20 of these by myself…

Overall: 7/10. A really good addition to fast food, but no different to what you could already buy in a supermarket.

T xxx

Veganuary additions at Starbucks

I am not a coffee drinker, so I don’t tend to frequent coffee shops unless they a) have really big cups of tea or b) they have new vegan options on sale that I have to try. Starbucks would be one of those places. They tend to have quite a good vegan range, and also recently announced that they would no longer charge extra for vegan milk alternatives (about time!!). They also tend to do quite a lot of seasonal treats so I do find myself stopping in every season or so if something takes me fancy.

Until now, I had only ever had soya milk in my coffees because that was usually the only milk alternative that places do not charge extra for (and I include Starbucks, Costa and Cafe Nero in this, although there may be others) so when I saw that Starbucks were doing a whole new oat latte line for their festive new year drinks, I was quite excited! I have heard that oat milk is best in coffees, as it thickens up and froths up the nicest out of all of the non-milk milks.

On offer they have chocolate and orange oat latte and strawberry and vanilla oat lattes. They are also offering a honey and hazelnut oat latte but since I do not consider honey to be vegan friendly (more on this topic to come later!) I don’t include this in their vegan menu. I therefore went with the chocolate and orange latte, as it sounded the nicest option. Plus who doesn’t love chocolate orange??

It was actually quite disappointing. It had the tiniest hint of chocolate, but tasted more like a standard mocha than it did chocolate orange. I will admit the oat milk did seem a lot frothier and fluffy than my usual soya latte, but it didn’t add any flavour to it. Maybe coconut milk would add a little bit of sweetness? I tend to find coffee a bit too bitter to have in large amounts, so anything to sweeten it up is all good in my books. I got zero orange flavouring from this latte, so overall it was just a nice mocha. It wasn’t awful, but it also wasn’t anything to get too excited about.

I also tried the vegan carrot cake that looked way better than it tasted. Carrot cake is probably my favourite type of cake (true vegan choice right there!) and I have still not yet mastered the perfect home baked carrot cake. So I therefore have to make do with what is on offer when out shopping. Surprisingly (to me anyway) carrot cake is not a very popular flavour (???) so I think I have only had carrot cake maybe twice in the 6 years I have been vegan. They also had on offer for Veganuary a chocolate and caramel muffin (groundbreaking), a cherry crown pasty (this did look pretty nice to be fair to them), a pecan and caramel brownie and a caramel and date cookie. So out of those offering, only the cherry crown pastry is even remotely exciting. Unless again you like caramel everything.

This carrot cake was so dry and it was THICK. It was almost like a bread it was so thick. It is actually quite small by snack standards but I was more or less full by about half way through it. You definitely needed a drink with this though as the cake itself managed to find every bit of moisture in my mouth and suck it away, meaning I had to really work to chew and swallow each bite. Combined with the coffee, it wasn’t the worst, but it definitely was not the soft and light spongy cake that I had been expecting.

Now I know that Starbucks are not the best business – they have routinely been outed for paying little to no taxes in the UK and they are also one of the big companies that took a covid bail out payment, despite being a multi-million dollar company. In my high street alone there are 3 Starbucks stores – and all 3 are pretty big with quite a number of staff – so it is not like they are struggling for money as much as they claim to be. That side of the ethics aside, they are one of the more expensive coffee shops out there: I had only a tall latte (the smallest size) and the cake and that alone was around £6. Which personally I could get a way better snack and a way better drink at literally any other store for less money than that. I do feel glad that I am not a fan of coffee because the idea of drinking Starbucks every day would genuinely bankrupt me – £4 every day for a tiny coffee?? What do people have to earn to be able to afford such spending!?

Now I am quite a forgiving person though so I may still go back and try some of their other options. I am also a big believer in supply and demand, so if it takes me trying multiple vegan options in their stores to convince them to create more exciting and readily available vegan coffee and cake options, then so be it. Again though, I will not expect anything special….but hopefully something at least passable.

Overall: 4/10. It’s fine. Definitely not the best option out there but good in a pinch.

T xxx