Frankie & Benny’s vegan mac ‘n’ cheese

I haven’t been to a Frankie & Benny’s in years. There used to be one round the corner from where I lived but since moving there isn’t one within a reasonable distance. However we took a trip into Wembley (London) the other day and decided to see what new options they had added to their menu. I have seen people rave about their pizzas so I wanted to see what else they offered, if anything at all.

They actually have a surprising amount of vegan options and I did take my time deciding which one I fancied the most. In the end I went with a good comfort meal, of mac and cheese. I also decided to try their vegan milkshake as I don’t think I have had a milkshake in years either and I got too excited.

The mac and cheese was…pretty average. It was very creamy but didn’t have any real ‘cheese’ taste to it. It did have some tomatoes in it which did add a nice bit of acidity to the meal and stopped any of the cheese from being too thick or overpowering. I also appreciated that the portion size was smaller than I was expecting and I felt like it was the perfect amount of mac and cheese. Many times places give you such a large portion that the meal just starts to feel stodgy and heavy with every additional mouthful, but this portion of mac and cheese was the right amount that left you feeling comfortably satisfied without feeling bloated or overstuffed.

The milkshake was a letdown, I hate to say. It was basically vegan vanilla ice cream with some chocolate flakes in it. It was advertised as being ‘chocolate chip’ but there were so few chips it may as well have just been called a vanilla milkshake. I am not the biggest fan of vanilla so I only managed about half of it before I started to feel a bit sickly, and it wasn’t even a big glass. As I say the chocolate chips weren’t even chips, they were more like chocolate shavings – those really thin flakes that are mostly used for decoration in cake making. Barely any chocolate flavour to any of it. Very disappointed.

Overall: 7/10, Mac and Cheese is a good option, but nothing overly special or new. The milkshake is a total skip – unless you just want a vanilla milkshake.

T xxx

Cats Protection: Stop the Big Kitten Con

I believe there are many different ways to promote activism and to be an activist for a cause you care about. As such, I do my best to sign as many petitions as I can, in the hope that our government will actually pay attention to the issue at hand and begin making changes to solve it. I am therefore going to share some of those on here in the hopes that more lovely people will sign and raise awareness for these important issues.

My most recent one this week has been the Cats Protection Stop the Big Kitten Con campaign and petition that is currently ongoing. The petition can be found here.

The petition and the campaign is calling for better regulation of cat breeders within the United Kingdom. As it stands, there are none. Scotland has a set of protections but it is the only UK country to do so and obviously that needs to change.

Their CATS 2021 report concluded that 68% of cats purchased in the last year were found online. The online sales of cats and kittens can have heart-breaking consequences, with kittens being separated from their mothers too soon which impacts on their behaviour, health and sometimes even their survival. Mother cats are also at risk of neglect, poor treatment and over-breeding and as there are no regulations in place to stop this behaviour, it is near impossible to know just how many cats and kittens are being affected by the cruel kitten trade.

For more information, please head to the Cats Protection website or check out their YouTube video for more information on the kitten trade.

T xxx

Are pets vegan friendly?

I was on the internet late at night and came across a vegan discussion thread where someone had commented that you cannot call yourself a vegan if you have a pet. Their whole argument was that vegans should not do anything that exploits or causes an animal to be exploited, and by having a pet you were exploiting an animal for your own personal gain – you have a pet because you want one, not because the animal wishes to be a pet.

This whole line of thought just baffled me really. Now I can understand why someone would not buy a pet from a breeder because there could be a degree of exploitation involved, but is rescuing an animal from a shelter really exploitation? By this logic, are rescue centres and animal shelters also exploitative because they rely on animals in need to stay in business?

I can understand why some vegans (myself included for the most part) do not agree with horse riding, dog racing or Crufts. I do not however believe that owning a pet means that you are exploiting an animal. Now I know I am not alone here when I say that my pets have always enjoyed the best life that I am able to give them: They have unconditional love (even when they have chewed through the third set of internet cables), a warm place to sleep, as many cuddles as they will allow me to give them, and a loving family that literally plan their whole lives around them. My partner and I make sure we stick to our routines to ensure that our bunny stays happy and calm, and I would literally cancel plans if it meant my cat was going to be home alone during the night. My pets (and any animal for that matter) have me at their beckon call and I would not have it any other way.

I have also seen arguments that emotional support animals or service animals such as guide dogs are not vegan friendly. I am sure we have all seen the recent news of an animal activist yelling at a blind man because he had a guide dog with him. Now sure it could be argued that there may be a degree of exploitation involved when it comes to training guide animals but you can not convince me otherwise that these animals – guide dogs, hearing dogs, emotional support animals – are not the most loved, adored and cherished of pets in the whole world. I have been working to educate myself more on what life is like for those who have crippling social anxiety – who can’t even go into a shop without suffering a panic attack – or for those who are blind or deaf and I have seen how much trust and love they have in their support animals. I see people who have regained some of their independence thanks to their service animals and I can see the gratitude on their faces that their service animal is willing to help them.

The entire argument as well that all animals should be free and wild is pointless at this point. The reality is, most pets would not last long out in the wild: We as a species have bred these animals to be companion animals – they are bred to have the majority of their wild instincts removed from them a little bit more with every generation. We made these animals domesticated and as such it is now our job to look after them and to protect them in ways they no longer can.

As with most things in the world it is not a simple black and white matter. It really bothers me that there are some people out there who call themselves ‘vegan’ while spouting such nonsense. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan, and in today’s society there is absolutely no way you can live your life without exploiting something along the way. But what you can do is be as kind, empathetic and considerate as you can be to every living being you come into contact with. If a newbie vegan does ask about a certain topic, encourage them to do their own research and sign post them to different opinions, while still reminding them to do what they believe to be the right thing.

What do you guys all think? Do you think owning pets is a ‘vegan’ thing to do? I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter because it could be such an interesting debate.

T xxx

Itsu veggie sushi collection

Another joy of going into London is that I can finally go back to Itsu. If you’ve had a look through my blog you know that I am a big fan of sushi – it is simple and filling while being a light meal. I have tried a lot of sushi in my time but my favourite is always Itsu – it is roughly the same price as the other options out there but their meals just seem to be of a higher quality: The sushi is always light and fluffy and their hot meals are consistently tasty regardless of which option you pick.

My go to meal at Itsu is always the veggie sushi collection because you get a lot of sushi options for a decent price. Also if you have never had sushi before I feel this gives you a good introduction into what options are out there, so if you do not like one option you know not to buy that moving forward. I, however, love all of these and the sushi box is definitely cheaper than buying each plate of sushi by itself.

Me and my partner did actually share this box because you get a lot of sushi. You get:

  • 4 veggie maki (with the carrots and green beans)
  • 6 baby avocado rolls, ginger
  • fresh avocado on a carrot salad
  • 5 veggie dragon rolls
  • some ginger slices, wasabi packet and a little bottle of soya sauce.

My favourite is hands down the veggie dragon rolls – the sauce and the crispy mushrooms flakes just add something special to these rolls that you don’t get with the maki or the baby rolls. Although I do also love the baby rolls because they are just so tasty and so light, and the avocado always refreshes me.

Now this whole tray was £6.50 (although I am not sure if this varies depending on where you are) which to me is really good value for money. The trays of each individual type of sushi are around £4 each, so it is definitely cheaper to buy the sushi tray than to buy them all individually. Now sushi is always more expensive than the other options out there on the high street, so it will never be the cheapest option if that is what you are after. But if you wanted to try sushi, or wanted to splash out a little bit on your lunch break, then I would highly recommend trying Itsu over the other sushi places. As I say the quality of the food is always consistently good and always tasty, and it always seems to be worth the higher price tag for me.

Overall: 10/10. Anything you order will be great and this tray is always super tasty.

T xxx

PSA: Hotel Chocolat Easter sale!

Hotel Chocolat definitely do some of the best chocolate around, which is most likely why it is also the most expensive out there. But I do stand by their chocolate being the best out there. If I ever want a decadent or posh chocolate fix, Hotel Chocolat is my go to.

They also go all out for Easter and have some of the biggest and prettiest Easter eggs I have ever seen. PLUS they do vegan versions of almost all their ranges of Easter eggs which is always good to see. Their vegan ostrich egg, for example, was literally the size of an ostrich egg (hence the name) but for £85 it wasn’t really something I would ever be looking to buy.

Which is why their post Easter sale is so exciting! The majority of their products are 50% off, if not more, so that £85 egg for £42.50 is a little bit more reasonable and affordable. I could not resist a little trip in to see what was on offer.

They had a lot on offer – with little packets of their bunny shaped chocolate pieces for £2. I however decided to get real bang for my buck and picked up the vegan Sleekster packet. It’s been so long since I have had anything from Hotel Chocolat that I wanted to be able to try a wide range of their selection, and the sleekster was stupid good value for money.

£7!! This huge box was only £7. And that was 70% off and there is so much chocolate in it! You also get a good selection of the different treats, so you can find out which ones are your favourites. I have borrowed what they say on their website and the pack contains the following:

  • Peanut Buche – blends deep roasted peanuts with salted Nutmilk and a sprinkle of crispy cornflakes.
  • Salted Caramel – sumptuous caramel with a mellow Nutmilk base.
  • Dark Raspberry – a rich 70% Nutmilk bursting with tart pressed raspberries.
  • Pecan Praline – naturally sweetened pecan and a touch of sea salt are a dream combination.
  • Gianduja – finely blended praline wrapped in deep 70% dark Nutmilk chocolate.
  • Hazelnut Batons – gloriously nutty, perfect for evening nibbling.
  • Orange Batons –  pairs creamy cocoa with zesty Valencian oil.

Personally, the dark raspberry balls are to die for. These are next level chocolates in my opinion. The chocolate is soft and creamy, but the raspberry coulis inside is so tart and refreshing. It is just the perfect chocolate for me. The chocolate batons are just…slim bars of chocolate. Still very nice but nothing too spectacular. The gianduja balls are also one of my favourites, as they are a lot richer than the nutmilk options and are like little truffle balls.

If you have never had Hotel Chocolat pieces before I would highly recommend trying this sleekster pack because you get to try all of their options for a really good price. Even full price this packet is £23.50 (according to their online store at least) which still seems like very good value for money seeing as you get so much chocolate in it. As I say I picked this up for £7 in the sale at my local store, although they did also have smaller versions and bigger versions depending on your budget also on offer as part of the sale. I would therefore suggest taking a look at your local when you next go past, just in case there are any other good bargains!

Overall: 10/10. I think i’ll be eating this collection of chocolate for months with how much is in it!

T xxx

Should pugs be banned?

You will no doubt have seen the headlines this week regarding the Blue Cross’ latest campaign to tackle the ‘vicious cycle of over-breeding’ that is currently seen in pugs, bulldogs and other breeds of flat faced dogs. The increase in use of photos of such flat-faced dogs has led to a spike in popularity and thus more puppies are being bred to meet this new demand. However, aside from the normal health issues that come with any kind of unethical breeding, flat faced breeds are naturally more prone to a number of health issues.

The Blue Cross is asking and campaigning for marketing companies to stop using flat faced breeds in their own marketing campaigns as part of the #EndTheTrend campaign. Blue Cross are asking marketing firms to use a wider range of dogs in their marketing, hoping to showcase more underappreciated breeds and promote more diversity among dog populations. While the Blue Cross hasn’t actually said this, I personally would also like to see more use of rescue dogs, or dogs that are not ‘pedigree’.

The campaign is mostly centred around dogs, however the Blue Cross have also said that the health concerns of flat faced breeds of pet can also be seen in Persian cats and lionhead rabbits. My little bunny is herself part lionhead, so I am all for bringing more awareness to any breed of animal that may suffer niche health problems compared to their non-flat faced peers.

The health issues that come with flat faced breeds (the scientific term for this is brachycephalic, or brachy for short) include spinal problems, eye issues, heart issues and the main one, breathing issues. Due to the nature of their flat faces, the nasal cavities are either too short or non-existent which makes breathing very difficult for the breed. That ‘wheezing’ noise that pugs make is not cute – they literally cannot breathe properly.

Despite what the headlines suggest there is no call to ban the breeds from being owned in the UK, but there are calls to put heavier regulations onto breeders to ensure that their litters and dogs are correctly monitored and the correct health checks are carried out. I personally will never support breeders – it is one thing to adopt a pet who is already pregnant or you get an accidental litter in early days of ownership, but to actively make animals breed purely so you can make a profit just doesn’t sit right with me.

The current legislation

At the moment in England and Wales, a person who breeds 3 or more litters of puppies in one 12 month period must have a licence to do so under the Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018 (LAIA for ease). A person must also have a license if they breed dogs and advertise as a business of selling dogs. There is current guidance released which states that an activity can be defined as a business if the operator makes or carries out the activity in order to make a profit, or if they earn any commission or fee for the activity. In theory therefore, if a person has an accidental litter and gives the puppies away for free, then this would not require a licence.

How this is all regulated however it is hard to tell. Licenses are issued by local authorities, and so it is up to the local authorities to regulate and monitor each licence holder to ensure that they are meeting the correct standards. The Kennel Club also runs a scheme of Accredited Breeders and currently runs the largest database of pedigree dogs and a separate register for crossbreed dogs. However this Accredited Scheme appears to be done through a general application and requires any prospective breeder to pay a fee before they can be accepted. The Kennel Club website does state that they have qualified assessors who carry out checks on the breeder, their premises and their litters and dogs, but it does not explicitly state how often these checks are. I would have assumed annually, but I can’t say for certain.

Enforcement

As mentioned above it is hard to tell just how regularly breeders are checked and how enforcement is dealt with. The Kennel Club seems to have their own process, whereby any breeder who is deemed in need of improvement will be reassessed within a set period of time. However they then do not say what happens if these improvements are not made. It seems to suggest that all the breeder stands to lose is membership to the accredited scheme, but nothing more. At least, not from what I have been able to see.

Illegal trading

One of the big things to come from the COVID lockdowns was the increase in people who bought puppies. Spending the majority of their time inside meant it was the perfect time for people to buy a puppy as they now had ample free time to socialise, train and bond with their puppy, as well as providing many people a good excuse to leave the house for more than an hour a day to provide walkies. However this demand meant that many people were buying puppies – whether knowingly or not – from overseas and in many cases the puppies were not given the correct vaccinations or were taken from their mother too early and unfortunately would not survive for longer than a few months once in the UK. You may recall stories such as this one doing the rounds during 2020, with many families suffering heartbreak.

In 2020 a new action plan was published by the UK government with the help of RSPCA that will seek to limit the amount of puppies that can be imported from other countries. It will also seek to stop the importing of pregnant dogs or those who have had their ears cropped. The RSPCA are currently asking for signatures to support this bill, which will also apply to farm animals and primates once in force. You can find the link here.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think should happen?

Do you think banning a breed would be beneficial or do more harm than good?

What do you think the best solution would be?

I would love to hear what everyone thinks about this topic! Please do leave a comment below or feel free to contact me privately if you have any thoughts on the matter or if you find any other interesting resources related to this.

T xxx

BOL Japanese katsu curry

I finally decided to try the BOL range! I have heard pretty good things about it and their food does always look quite appetising. Unfortunately though, as I don’t have a microwave, that limits a lot of their ready meals – and many other ready meals really. They also tend to be the more expensive option on the shelves so I have always avoided them and gone for something a bit cheaper when needing a quick meal. But I finally decided to just try one.

This one actually could be cooked on the stove which I obviously needed. It took about 5 minutes so definitely an easy meal if you’re ever stuck after a busy day. I also liked that the packaging actually told you to rinse and reuse the pot, which is not something you see very often. My pot is going to be repurposed as a great overnight oats bowl!

Taste wise, unfortunately it did still taste like a ready meal. The sauce especially had that very faint powdery taste to it that ready meals tend to have, although the actual veg contents did seem to be a lot fresher. The rice didn’t end up super sticky and the potatoes didn’t just crumble at the slightest touch. The sauce was not hot at all, which I was quite disappointed about. I definitely did not get an katsu flavour either – it tasted ok but I couldn’t really tell you what the taste was. Mostly just veg…with some kind of sauce? I however did appreciate that the veg that was meant to be crunchy did actually remain crunchy after cooking – it didn’t just turn to mush like most ready meals do.

It was also very filling, so while it may not have tasted amazing, it definitely filled me up for the rest of the afternoon. So effective, but not satisfying.

Now this cost £3 and while that is still expensive compared to some of the other options out there, I suppose it isn’t the worst price? You could probably get this once (or twice depending on your situation) and keep it in reserve for a quick lunch or easy dinner during the week. They do also have a few other flavours in their range, as well as other BOL meals that needed a microwave. I will definitely try the others and let you know which the best one is – although let me know if you have any recommendations!

Overall: 5/10. It’s fine. Not great, but not bad either. A perfectly fine option for an easy and quick meal.

T xxx

Doughnut Time: Lil’ Dough Peep

It was Easter weekend here in England which means a 4 day weekend! The weather has also been surprisingly wonderful (20 degrees?! In April?!) so was the perfect time to take a trip into London. Which means we had to take a trip to Doughnut Time.

Now when I go into London I do walk everywhere: Started at Baker Street, and from there we walked down Regents Street to Leicester Square, wandered around that area for a while and then around Soho, back up to Oxford street and then back to Baker Street to head home. Overall I walked around 27,500 steps so needless to say I was in need of a little sugar kick by the time we got to Soho.

This was actually the store in China Town which has a really good selection of the doughnuts. They are also have the fan favourites, such as Liam Hemsworthy (red velvet based)and the David Biscoff (lotus biscoff spread based) as well as their seasonal specials. Now these doughnuts, as I have said before, are HUGE and we finally decided to share a doughnut rather than have one each.

I chose the Lil’ Dough Peep because it looked the least sickly. It looked like a nice, basic doughnut that would give me just the right amount of sugar and Easter spirit without sending me into sugar shock. It was also the only seasonal vegan option on sale so I thought it best to try a new one.

This was actually very nice indeed. It tasted like parma violets! For those who do not live in England and have therefore never experienced a parma violet, they are little sugar disc candies that taste like…well…violet. It sounds odd when I type it, but trust me they are just refreshing and sweet without being super sugary or over the top. It was also nice to have a doughnut time that didn’t make me feel sick after a few bites. I think I could have actually eaten this whole doughnut myself, as it wasn’t overpowering and was just a lovely little springtime treat. Compared to some of the others on sale it also appeared to be the lightest and most understated, which is just what I wanted.

Price wise they are very expensive. Each doughnut is around £5, with the most extravagant ones nearing £6 and the plainer ones being around £4.50. I do however stand by the fact that these are definitely worth it as a once in a while treat. The doughnuts are always something special and for me are worth the high price tag for the very limited treat. Even though I live about a 30 minute train from London, I still only manage to go into the city maybe two or three times a year for leisure. I would always recommend visiting a Doughnut Time if you are ever in London.

Overall: 9/10. Definitely one of the best one I have had so far. Shame it is for such a limited time!

T xxx

PHD Smart protein mousse

I have tried the PHD range of protein before and they remain one of my favourite ranges out there. The protein mixes well and the taste is very true to what flavour it claims to be on the front. Now that I am starting to work out more and focus on my macros, I decided to start having some protein around the house again for those days when I feel a little bit sore or feel like I need to top up my protein values.

Now the packet does say that you can mix the powder with less water and it will become a mousse. It does actually recommend to do this with milk but I completely missed that part and so did it with just water.

It did thicken up really well and definitely had that mousse texture. It wasn’t as light and bubbly as a mousse, but that may have been my mixing technique and the fact that I mixed it with a fork. Perhaps if I tried it with an actual whisk it may have worked a bit better? Either way the consistency was mousse like.

Texture wise however it did not win. The problem with protein powder is that it is powder – you need a fair amount of water to really make it all dissolve and to remove that horrible grainy texture that so many other powders tend to have. As such, the mousse, while it did taste nice, it was so grainy I may have just been eating spoonfuls of dry powder. Maybe with milk it smooths it out a lot more but the water was definitely not a pleasant experience.

Good news though was that it didn’t thicken it up so much that it wouldn’t mix further once more water was added. I ended up just adding more water and having a regular shake and that solved the grainy issue completely.

Overall: 3/10. Protein good, mousse bad.

T xxx

What is the difference between plant based and vegan?

I do get asked this a lot. When people find out that I follow a vegan lifestyle, they almost always ask ‘oh, so you must be plant based then”. Which then brings the discussion regarding what the difference is between ‘plant based’ and vegan’. So I thought it would be fun to open up the discussion here!

The main difference

After some research online, the general consensus seems to be that ‘plant based’ is a diet, whereas ‘vegan’ is a lifestyle choice. They are not exclusive though, as many people who follow a vegan lifestyle will also follow a largely plant based diet, but there are many vegans out there (and for the most part I would include myself in this) who do not follow a fully plant based diet, just as there are many who do eat a plant based diet who do not also follow a vegan lifestyle.

What does ‘vegan’ really mean?

The Vegan Society’s formal definition is: “Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”

I also want to highlight that the Vegan Society definition is that veganism is a lifestyle – it is not just about what you eat. A plant based diet however is just that, a diet. While some lifestyle changes may be needed to always ensure you are eating a plant based meal, this diet only extends to one aspect of your life – what you eat.

Lifestyle vs diet

I for one will always say that I follow a vegan lifestyle, and not just the ‘vegan diet’ part of it all. I do not eat meat, eggs, dairy, honey or any other product that comes from an animal. I also do not wear leather, silk or fur and do my utmost to ensure that I do not buy any product at all that contains any sort of animal products – this can be anything from the type of glue I use in crafting projects to the type of laundry detergent I use.

A diet on the other hand, is purely the food. Now if you have read even the smallest part of my blog, you know full well that I am as far from p’plant based’ as one could possibly get. Now while this is something that I am working to change for my own health reasons, I do not follow a vegan diet purely for the health benefits that come with it. Quite frankly it has only been very recently that I actually started to take my own health seriously (which can be a discussion for another day). But from what I have been able to see online, those who do follow a purely plant based diet do it largely for their health. While animal welfare may be a concern of theirs, it is not the deciding factor. You will no doubt have seen the stories in the news of athletes and celebrities who follow a plant based diet who make a point of saying that this is purely for the health benefits that come with it. As mentioned above, you can be plant based but not vegan.

I always like to take the opportunity to highlight the part that says ‘as far as is possible and practicable’ because I think that this is very important to remember. There is no such thing as a perfect vegan. It is a myth and a very damaging standard to try to achieve. If you need medication in order to simply get through the day, then take this even if it is tested on animals. If the only thing that gets you through hay-fever season is local honey or bee pollen, then take this. The way I like to think of veganism is that everyone should be doing their best, and this will look very different to everyone involved. At the end of the day, you have to be well enough in yourself in order to promote veganism in the way you want to, so if you don’t look after yourself for fear of being deemed an ‘imperfect vegan’ then you would never achieve anything.

Conclusion

It seems quite obvious that being ‘plant based’ and being ‘vegan’ are not exclusive, and there is of course a large degree of overlap between the two. But I also think that they need to be considered individually when you are first getting started on your own vegan or plant based journey, because the two terms can be used interchangeably and has even confused me a few times!

What do you guys all think? Please do leave a comment or even email me privately if you wish to add any comments or have any other questions you would like discussed.

T xx