hugs to allison’s gourmet

Artisan Vegan Caramels from Allison's Gourmet

Artisan Vegan Caramels from Allison’s Gourmet

Are you familiar with Allison’s Gourmet? You should be. Allison, maven of mmmm, is all about chocolate. Award-winning, artisan, organic, dairy-free, fair-trade chocolate. Oh, and it’s out of this world delicious too. Do yourself a favour and get acquainted. May I suggest the pure vanilla caramels? I’m a fan. Take a look at Allison’s site and feast your eyes. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices there—with cookies, brownies, toffee, brittle, fudge, chocolates, caramels, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate—there are endless gift-giving possibilities. Why not include yourself s a recipient?

A longtime admirer,  I had the pleasure of meeting Allison in person at last summer’s VVC in Portland–so when she recently asked if she could interview me for the Friday With Friends series on her blog, I was chuffed. Check it out here, blush. It’s short and sweet and focuses on my enthusiasm for vegan baking and my massive sweet tooth.

*photo used with permission from Allison’s Gourmet

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nature’s gate organics.

We expose ourselves to so many chemical nasties on a daily basis, whether it be in the food we eat, the water we drink or the air we breathe. We have created a toxic environment for ourselves.

The very least we can do is not compound the problem by slathering more chemical goo onto our fragile bodies. I’ve been making a gradual toiletry switch as I go through my bathroom shelves – out with the harsh chemical old and in with the safer, natural, cruelty-free organic new.

In the spirit of sharing I wanted to tell you about one of my new favourite product lines, Nature’s Gate Organics.

Nature’s Gate uses all natural herbs and botanicals in the creation of their extensive line of pH-balanced products. The company is as dedicated to being environmentally friendly and cruelty-free as it is to bringing the public a selection of quality, pure, natural, organic products.

Their handsome bottles have taken up residence in many of my shelves, from shampoo to lotions, but my favourite thing of all has to be that indispensable item I use on a daily basis, deodorant. It contains certified organic botanicals and is free of the parabens, propylene glycol, and aluminum chlorohydrate that plague commercial deodorants and put our health needlessly at risk.

It is also produced without animal testing, with no animal byproducts, and is certified vegan. It comes in several pleasing scents – my favourite is the Chamomile & Lemon Verbena.

And it’s effective. I smell great.

organic vegan wine.

So many of the food and beverage choices at our disposal today are quietly pervaded by animal products – and wine, beer and spirits are no different.

Apart from the obvious inclusion of cream or eggs in some libations, animal products primarily make their appearance in the filtering or fining (clarifying) stage of alcohol production – not dissimilar from some sugar refining. In fact, as with some sugar, bone char is often used to filter spirits. Other filtering agents used in the making of some wines and beer include isinglass (derived from fish), gelatin (animal bones), egg whites, and clay. Wine in some countries may still be fined (clarified) using blood which was once a commonplace practice, although this is now illegal in the U.S and France. Trace elements of these fining or filtering agents are left in the beverage. For most of those against the use of animal products the fact that they are being used at all is reason enough to want to avoid certain products.

What can you do if you want to avoid alcohol that has been filtered using animal bits?

The best thing to do is write a polite email or call the customer service department of the makers of the wine, beer, spirits, etc that you’re interested in and enquire.

My personal favourite is red wine – unfortunately for me I have a huge sensitivity to sulphites and tannins, a.k.a big headache makers. Hearing that it was made with less of these nasties, I started looking to organic wine. My first organic wine purchase consisted of three varieties from an Italian vineyard, the Botter Family. After approaching the vineyard with my questions they sent me confirmation that their organic line was in fact vegan. The three wines are each named after one of the Botter siblings – they are:

  • Botter Alex Sangiovese – light ruby red colour; aromas and flavours of fresh red berry fruit, plum and herbs; dry, light to medium bodied with vibrant acidity and hints of spice.
  • Botter Anna Pinot Grigio Chardonnay – pale straw colour; slightly floral nose with notes of citrus, melon and almond paste; dry, light to medium bodied, soft and flavourful.
  • Botter Luca Nero D’Avola - light purple red colour; aromas and flavours of cherry and blackberry with hints of chocolate; dry, medium bodied, soft and fruit driven style.

The Alex Sangiovese is now discontinued near me unfortunately, but perhaps it’s still available elsewhere. I keep the white, Anna Pinot Grigio Chardonnay, on hand for guests and for cooking – but my absolute hands down favourite is the Luca Nero D’Avola, a rich dark red. All three sell for about $12, so jackpot.

They also come in aseptic tetrapaks so they’re very easily recyclable. What I really love about the tetrapaks is that, as you use up the wine, you can squeeze the extra air out before capping it which keeps the wine fresher longer – not that it’s going to last that long because it tastes so damn good.

There are some great online resources that will identify some vegan wine, beer and spirits for you – like Taste Better!’s Vegan Booze List.

Salute.