Making kind choices in your everyday life.

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October Bushfires

Posted by on Oct 20, 2013 in Topical | 0 comments

“The predictions on climate change are for worse bushfires with greater intensity as we go down this century. That means that if we are looking to minimising these tragedies in the future we very much have to turn around this catastrophic potential of climate change and take action now in our own time.” Bob Brown

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Photo from Blue Mountains Australia facebook page – taken in Winmalee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I am finding the current bushfires burning around NSW to be so upsetting. The loss that people and animals in the affected areas have suffered is heartbreaking and I can’t stop thinking about some of the personal stories I have read about and seen on the news. I am so worried that this is a sign of what is going to be “normal” in our future.

If you are feeling as helpless as I do right now, there are some good ways to help out. The NARGA Disaster Response Team is a fantastic facebook page to “like”. It has so many suggestions on ways to help out – from volunteering to drop items to places in need, how to prepare for a bushfire, ways to donate money and how to sign up to offer your services as an animal minder for people needing temporary homes for their animals.

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Another wonderful organisation is WIRES who are obviously inundated at the moment and would benefit greatly from donations.

Woolworths are generously matching any public donations for the next 2 weeks to the Salvation Army too for the bushfire appeal. This can be done at the check out.

 

Please, weather gods, bring some rain.

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Animal Testing – Sun Screen

Posted by on Oct 13, 2013 in Animal Testing | 4 comments

“I am not interested to know whether vivisection * produces results that are profitable to the human race or doesn’t…The pain which it inflicts upon unconsenting animals is the basis of my enmity towards it, and it is to me sufficient justification of the enmity without looking further” – Mark Twain

* Vivisection means “experimentation on live animals”.

 

Unfortunately, cruel animal testing is still wide spread throughout the world on everything from cosmetics to household cleaning products to weed killer to pet foods. I don’t think that anyone reading this page would knowingly use any product which has been tested on animals but, as with so many animal welfare issues, it can sometimes be hard to do the right thing. Companies can be misleading and duplicitous, there is a distinct lack of truth in labeling and information can be hard to source if you don’t know where to look.

I am intending to do a few posts on this very important topic of animal testing to break it down into easily digestible topics. So, what better product to start my anti animal testing vent on yet another unseasonal 30 degree  October day in Sydney but….SUNSCREEN. Something my heat fearing,  freckled skin needs a constant coating of.

Luckily, the world of the internet makes it easy for us all to find kindly sourced products, once we know where to look.

However,  it is not always as simple as seeing the “not tested on animals” logo on the packaging of a product.  The product itself may not be tested on animals but it’s ingredients may be. Companies do not always tell the truth and are aware that being “not tested on animals” is desirable among most consumers. And then, there is China (and Brazil to some extent) – who’s government requires all cosmetics to be tested on animals prior to being them sold there.

These are the universally respected lists to use when you want to find a product which has not been tested on animals. These lists remove any ambiguity when searching for an ethical sunscreen and they are regularly updated and companies are booted off if they waiver in their ethics. I have targeted sun screens in the links but they are useful for most products.

The Australian independent and not for profit Choose Cruelty Free.

The internationally recognised Leaping Bunny.

Peta’s Beauty Without Bunnies

Each of these sites has useful information about animal testing, the alternatives etc.

Not necessarily concentrating on sun products but interesting all the same, Animal’s Australia provide a good guide on companies to avoid as they DO test on animals (or advertise as being cruelty free but sell to countries where animal testing on products is mandatory – ie: China). Quite a few surprises (like Clinique and L’Occitane) appear on the list.

We have a stash of sunscreens in our cupboard which has formed the initial part of my research for this topic.  There are mixed results in terms of their virtuousness in respect of animal testing.

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* Banana Boat, Le Tan and Sothys are iffy. They do not appear on any of the credible lists as being tested or not tested on animals. Sothys has the “Not tested on animals” claim on it’s packaging but this is open to ambiguity as discussed above.

* UV Natural and Natio get a big tick of approval from Choose Cruelty Free so they will remain on my shopping list.

* Nivea – the Ethical Consumer Guide have criticised them for selling to China (despite being marketed as being cruelty free) so they are off my list big time for putting profit over ethics.

* Wotnot – appear to be a highly ethical company but do not appear on the Choose Cruelty Free list. I have written to them to find out why not (which is a good idea if you are unsure…..by contacting a company, you are reinforcing to them the importance of this issue to the consumer).

I have yet to purchase sun screen products from Moogoo and Dermalogica but intend to in the future. They should be rewarded for their refreshing display of integrity by refusing to sell to the lucrative Chinese market (in the case of Dermalogica, they pulled out of the Chinese market when learning of the animal testing requirement). Jurilique, Avon and Estee Lauder are on my “never again” list for doing the exact opposite and selling their soul – paying for animal experimentation to allow their products to be sold in China (despite being marketed as being “cruelty free” in Australia).

As of this year, the EU have banned the sale of cosmetics which have been tested on animals. Israel’s ban came into effect on the 1st January 2013. Animal testing for cosmetics has recently been banned in India (and they are looking towards a sales ban, such as is present in the EU and Israel, on products which have been tested on animals in other countries). Once again, Australia is lagging behind. Although Australia does not conduct animal testing for cosmetics (although it does for many other things), products from overseas which have been tested on animals can be sold here. Similarly, Australian companies can still market their products as being “not tested on animals” but use ingredients that HAVE been tested overseas to create a loop hole. Labour’s Tanya Plibersek was pledging to end the sale of cosmetics in Australia that had been tested on animals to keep up with the tide of sensibility around the world but, unfortunately, Tony Abbott came into power and I can’t see this issue being close to his heart.

On a final note, remember not to wear any sun cream near coral reefs as, no matter how kindly sourced your sunscreen is as it can be damaging to reefs.

Would love to hear your feedback on how your sunscreens at home stack up !

PS : Have had some feedback from a few companies :

Le Tan – “Thank you for your recent email and for taking the time to write to us. Le Tan is currently in the process of becoming reaccredited to rejoin the Choose Animal Cruelty Free list. The process is proving to be more lengthy than expected as a result of external information required from our suppliers and manufacturers.  At Le Tan we do not believe in the testing of products on animals, nor do our manufacturers and we are currently in the process of collecting the external information required.”

As positive as this response sounds, I note from my internet research that this exact response was given to somebody else back in May 2012, nearly a year and a half ago. Hmmmmm ! I cannot imagine the re-accreditation process being so arduous and have written back to them advising them of this and the fact that Le Tan is off my list until they are back on the Choose Cruelty Free list.

Cancer Council “I have spoken with our National Licensing Manager and he has confirmed that our sunscreens do not have animal products in them, nor are they tested on animals – only humans. However, he informed me that we cannot categorically speak for the individual componentry that comprises a tube of sunscreen – e.g., whether or not the glue that is used to stick the label on the tube of sunscreen was ever tested on animals or contains an animal product.”

Again, sounds promising but they successfully dodged my question about why they do not appear on any of the cruelty free lists so….I have my suspicions about the transparency of their claims.

Banana Boat – “Banana Boat do not test on animals.”

No further explanation about why they are not on any lists etc so I remain dubious.

 

 

 

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“Sausage Rolls”

Posted by on Oct 6, 2013 in Recipes - Savoury | 3 comments

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My good friend Kylie has been asking for suggestions on what easy meal she can whip up for her vegetarian friend for dinner. Kyles, even your meat loving taste buds will find this one hard to distinguish from the real thing. There are two versions for you here – one vegetarian and one vegan (as seen above in the photo). Both equally as delectable. My vegan version has been tweeked from that supplied by “Where’s The Beef”.

The vegetarian one is thanks to Ange who tricked a group of meat loving men into guessing what kind of meat was in them. Lo and behold, there was indeed none and the men were none the wiser  !

My Animal Product Free Version 

125 g pecans

1 brown onion

1/2 cup of bread crumbs

300g silken tofu

1 cup rolled oats

1 Massel beef-style stock cube

1-2 teaspoons garlic powder

4 tablespoons soy sauce

Vegan milk to brush top (I used Bonsoy)

1 cup of baked, mashed up pumpkin

Sesame seeds

Frozen puff pastry 

 

What to do :

Process pecans in food processor until well chopped. Tip into mixing bowl. Put breadcrumbs in with pecans.

Chop onion and further chop in food processor. Add to mixing bowl.

Whiz tofu in food processor. Add to mixing bowl along with rolled oats, baked pumpkin, crumbled stock cube, garlic powder, soy sauce and pepper. Mix together well.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius and lightly grease a baking tray. Take out one square of pastry and cut as required (I made 2 from one square). Place ingredients down centre and roll into sausage roll shape. Tuck in ends. Brush with soy milk or water and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake for about 30 mins.

Makes about 6 greedy sized rolls.

 

Ange’s Version

1 onion

1 Tbsp freshly chopped herbs

100g pecans

95g rolled oats

Chop above in food processor before adding the following :

3 eggs (organic free range of course)

150 g feta cheese (using a kind dairy type like Barrambah)

1 Tbsp soy sauce

45 g breadcrumbs

Frozen pastry

Assemble in same manner as vegan version and pop into oven for 30-ish minutes. Should make about the same number of rolls as vegan version.

 

Serve with a simple salad. (Chopped tomatoes, artichokes, Lebanese cucumber, red onion, rocket, capsicum, avocado drizzled with balsamic vinegar is my usual caper) and lashings of BBQ or tomato sauce on the side.

 

 

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All things Cheesey

Posted by on Sep 21, 2013 in Dairy | 2 comments

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That is the essence of inhumanity” – George Bernard Shaw

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Kite Hill vegan cheese

Cheese, or should I say, the absence thereof in it’s conventional form, is a tricky topic. The removal of dairy from ones diet due to ethical reasons has, at first glance, a whiff of hippy extremism about it. (“I can understand about the pigs in the cages but, not eating cheese, WHAT ?!? You have completely lost me on this one” – quote from my dad). That is, until you start researching the reasons why people choose to give it up. I do believe that if we all watched videos of mother cows running and bellowing after their calf being taken away on the back of a ute, viewed rows of immobile, miserable calves in veal crates or watched footage of baby cows who are barely able to walk being stunned and pushed down a shoot to be slaughtered just like rubbish into a bin, any compassionate person would or should question the origin of cheese (or any other dairy product).

The facts are basic. Cows need to give birth to a calf each year to produce milk which humans use for yogurt, milk, cheese etc. The calf is taken away from it’s mother at the tender age of around 5 days of age. Male calves are considered waste products of the industry and are killed. Our laws to protect them from suffering are woefully inadequate (for example, baby calves on their way to the abattoir can be legally denied food for up to 30 hours). Their mum’s are killed when their milk production wanes.

The silent suffering of these most vulnerable of animals – mothers and babies in the far away land of sale yards, dairy farms and abattoirs remains hidden from most of us. Which makes it very easy for us to forget about what really does happen out there.

I have room for improvement in my cheese eating habits. I still eat a bit of Barambah Fetta and Cheddar Cheese (see my  “kind dairies” post). I also sometimes come up with excuses to eat a bit of “ordinary” cheese now and again but I want to be stronger in my resolve. I want to think about where my food comes from and what animal has suffered for my greed, desires, laziness or lack of thought. I am trying to be a kinder, more thoughtful eater.

Thankfully, I am on the path of discovering the world of non diary cheese and, much to my surprise,  it is tasty learning curve.  Non dairy cheese can be made at home with recipes varying in their complexity. I have made a couple – see my ricotta recipe here. I have many more waiting in the wings.

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Botanical Cuisine vegan cheese

Non dairy cheese can also be bought with relative ease. I have made some recent delectable discoveries, some of which I even prefer to “normal” cheese. Botanical Cuisine’s range is out of this world – the Lemon and Dill is blissful. Also it is Australian which is appealing. Most other non dairy cheese on the market is made overseas.

Here’s a few brands which I would recommend to Buy :

Tofutti – regular or sour cream is a good replacement for cream / sour cream cheese and can be found in supermarkets and health food shops. Affordable and can always be found in our fridge. Was not so keen on their “better than ricotta” and much preferred my home made version !

Vegusto No-Moo cheese – expensive – around $10 for 200g but so convincingly “cheese like” that I will continue to buy it. I also like the fact that it is palm oil free which seems a rarity. I found it at Dr Earth in Newtown but it can be bought online too (including Cruelty Free Shop and Vegan on line). I spied it on the weekend too for sale in my favourite Blue Mountains bakery / café – Rubyfruit (which, by the way, has the best pies and cupcakes I have ever tasted – all completely free of animal products).

Redwood Cheezly. Great variety of types such as “Blue Style” and “Melting Mozzarella”. Can be found at the Cruelty Free Shop and Vegan On line. Affordable and dependable.

Sheese – have spied these cream and hard cheeses in a few places like Harris Farm and Thomas Dux. Great to mix through pastas. Have the “Smoked Cheddar Style” waiting for me in our fridge (I bought it at Dr Earth in Newtown).

If only Dr Cow and Kite Hill (see top photo) would make their way to Australia. Kite Hill does the full on, aged camemberts and the like with such authenticity and rave reviews that I am having the worst of kind of vegan cheese envy possible.

Learn to make your own dairy free cheese

Here are a few recipes to get you tantalised !

Parmesan made With Cashews

Almond “feta cheese’ spread with herb oil

Another Feta Cheese version (thanks Bed and Broccoli for this one)

Vegan cheese – good for on crackers 

Non-dairy Baked Nut Cheese

Dairy Free Brie

Cashew Cream Cheese

Soft Cheese Platter

Marscapone

Rustic Pumpkin Cheese ravioli

Macaroni Cheese

The health issues surrounding the consumption of dairy are beyond the scope of this little post but I have read as many articles denouncing the health benefits of dairy as those promoting it so the jury is out. Calcium does not only come from dairy products but is found, in high doses, in the following foods – soy, nuts, seeds (especially sesame seeds), sardines, tinned salmon with edible soft bones, legumes, dried figs, whole grains and broccoli and kale.

A few suggestions on how to make some kinder choices

Say no to dairy cheese. Buy or make a vegan cheese and be baffled by how convincingly cheese like they can taste (not all of them, mind you !)

If you want to continue to eat conventional dairy cheese, try and buy from the “kind dairies“. These dairies treat their cows and environment better than conventional ones. Usual story, yes, it is usually more expensive but just eat less or it and / or try a vegan cheese here and there. Remember too that most cheese contains rennet which is an enzyme derived from the stomach of baby cows. Become a label stalker and ensure that  “non animal rennet” is listed as an ingredient.

Instead of cheese, try a delicious diary free dip / spread on sandwiches, pasta etc. I made this delicious pesto yesterday. Hummus is always a great, protein rich option too.

Sponsor a bobby calf at Edgars Mission, Brightside or one of the other wonderful sanctuaries around the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Spicy Hummus

Posted by on Sep 21, 2013 in Dips/ Spreads | 0 comments

Thank you Jamie Oliver for this recipe. I have devoured it many times now and thought it about time that I shared my slightly amended version.

Ingredients

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

Sea salt and pepper

1 dried red chilli (easy to find in Asian grocery shops – otherwise, am sure that chilli flakes would do the trick)

2 peeled cloves of garlic

1 drained 400g tin of chickpeas

1 tablespoon of tahini

4 tablespoons of olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 red onion

Create by doing the following

1. Fry cumin seeds.

2. Remove cumin seeds and crush using a mortar and pestle with a pinch of salt and the chilli.

3. Put following in food processor : garlic, chilli/cumin mix, chickpeas (minus about 10 of them) and tahini. Once smooth, mix in olive oil before adding salt, pepper and lemon. Put in a bowl.

4. Slice red onion and fry in frypan in olive oil with the remaining chick peas. Place on top of the homous.

Makes a medium bowl sized portion. Use the resulting irresistible hummus as  a dip and on sandwiches / rolls. Great protein fix.

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