Animal Ingredients and E-numbers

A lot of animal additives that are used in foods and cosmetics go by a different name so you may not know they are not vegan. Look out for these ingredients:

  • Beeswax/E-901: A wax made by bees. Some vegans don’t see beeswax as not-vegan because it didn’t come from the bee itself, while others avoid it because it exploits bees. Can be found in some foods as a glazing agent (jelly beans, candy coated sweets, etc.); found in other products such as candles, lip balm, and lotion.
  • Carmine/cochineal/E-120/Natural Red 4: Made from crushed cochineal beetles. Used in red food colouring. Often found in food and sweets that are red and pink.
  • Casein: A milk protein that is mostly found in dairy products. It was once widely used in many soy cheese alternatives. That is rare now but always check the label as it has been in the ingredients of some foods labelled “dairy-free” before.
  • Collagen: Made from skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals. Often used as lip fillers, as you may already know.
  • Gelatin/E-441: Made by boiling the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals. Found in a lot of gummy sweets, including Haribo and marshmallows. I have found Beef Gelatine in strong mints, and Fish Gelatine in those silver ball cake decorations.
  • Honey: Similar to beeswax, it doesn’t exactly come from bees but is made by bees so can be seen as exploitation. It is found in some cereals, granola bars, and various other sticky/sweet foods.
  • Keratin: The protein that is the main constituent of hair, feathers, wool, horns, claws, hoofs, etc. Found in a lot of hair products.
  • L-cysteine/E-910/E-920/E-921: An amino acid synthesised from hair, feathers, horns, etc. Used as a proving agent and preservative in some factory made breads.
  • Lactose: A sugar found in milk. Not to be confused with Lactic acid, which is vegan friendly.
  • Lanolin/E-913: A waxy, greasy substance found on sheep’s wool. Can be found in moisturisers and cosmetics, and some multivitamins and fortified food.
  • Lard: Animal fat. Can be found in baked goods.
  • Shellac/E-904: A resin secreted by the lac beetle. Found on the coating of sweets (Jelly beans and tic tacs come to mind).
  • Tallow: Animal fat. Can be found in soap, crayons, candles, and a small amount is present in the new UK bank notes.
  • Whey: A milk by-product. Found in some cereals, protein bars and powders, and crackers.
  • Vitamin D3: can be made with Lanolin. If the product doesn’t specify that it is vegan, it probably isn’t.

If I have missed any out, please let me know in the comment section.

I will soon be doing a series of lists of vegan alternatives to certain foods like different types of meat and cheese. Let me know what you would like to see on those lists.

Farewell, until we meet again.


Sources and further reading

Unicorn cake

A more extensive look at the steps I took to make this cake. I completely made it up as I went along.

Check out the video I made of the process here!

To start, I drew out a quick sketch and added colour and annotations to say how I wanted it to look.

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I wanted a rainbow for the layers and silver icing in the middle to be like unicorn blood from Harry Potter. It was a good in theory but did not turn out so well in practice. The icing just turned a pale grey.

After I figured out all the details, I had to find a good vanilla cake recipe because all the cake recipes I have used in the past have ended up being crumbly and dry. I needed one that would hold up 7 layers. I found one from Gretchen’s Vegan Bakery. This recipe is the best cake I have ever had! Highly recommended!

So I had the plan and the cake, all I needed was the right sized cake tins, colour for the layers and icing, and fondant icing for the ears. I used regular fondant icing from Tesco. I knew that the colour would have to be strong and not too thin a liquid otherwise it would mess up the mixture (been there before with a red velvet cake). I opted for some gel food colouring from amazon which judging by the pictures, was decent quality. I also ordered 8-inch sandwich tin, silver gel colouring, and gold powder colouring. By this point, I decided to do a chocolate-filled ice cream cone for the horn, instead of icing, as it was easier and had a really cool pattern on it.

I had everything prepared so I waited for my birthday to come.

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I made the cake layers one mixture at a time so I wouldn’t have cake mixture sitting around with nowhere to put it. It worked out better that way because I had time to prepare the next thing and do some cleaning up.

As the cake layers were cooling, I made the “silver” icing (100g butter, 200g icing sugar, too much silver colouring which didn’t really make a difference) and melted a bit of jam. I put jam and icing on each layer, just enough to make it stick together, any more then the cake would have been unnecessarily sweet. I assembled the cake on a cake board on a Lazy Susan so it could spin while I was decorating it. Whatever icing didn’t go in the middle, I used to kind of cement any holes or breakage and left it overnight to set because decorating was another day of work.

To decorate, I started with a layer of white buttercream icing all around. To do that, I used about 100g TREX and 100g stork with 400g icing sugar (I may have put more, I didn’t really measure it), and a tiny bit of soya milk (possibly about a teaspoon). I used a palette knife to smooth it out, something I hadn’t done prior to this cake and it didn’t go spectacularly well.

Next, I melted some chocolate to fill up an ice cream cone, that I would use as the horn. I put a bamboo skewer through it and put it in the fridge. Once it was set, I covered the cone in some gold powder (which didn’t really come out very gold, unfortunately) and placed it in the middle of the top of the cake.

I then used royal icing to mould the ears and eyes. This was actually pretty fun because I like to sculpt. I broke off two bits of icing about the right size and cut off bits to make it into the right shape. Then, I smoothed out the surface and coloured the front bit with gold powder. I put a cocktail stick through them both and placed them next to the horn.

Finally, the hair. It was so hard and it didn’t come out the way I wanted it to, to be completely honest. But it still looked good so whatever. I made some buttercream icing (1 part margarine, 2 parts icing sugar) and mixed some colours in with it. I think I did 50g margarine to 100g icing sugar per colour. I put them into a piping syringe, like this one, and just piped some spirals all over the place. My hands were very tired by the end of it.

The final result:       20181030_214544.jpg20181030_214616.jpg20181030_214915

If you want me to keep making fun cake projects, be sure to like this post. If you have any ideas of what cake I could make next, or any other recipes you want me to try out, leave a comment below.

Farewell, until we meet again 😄

 

Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

I have always been trying out different ways to relax and reduce stress and one of the things I tried is using essential oils.

Believe it or not, aromatherapy can have a huge impact on your body and mind, affecting the way you think and feel. There are many ways in which to use essential oils, and many benefits you can receive from them.

Make sure that any oils you use cosmetically are therapeutic grade, otherwise they may irritate your skin.

Burning Them

How: To burn essential oils, you can get an oil burner or an oil diffuser (see links at the end of this post).

Benefits: Easier breathing – reduces inflammations and congestion, improves cognitive function, freshen the room.

Oil diffusers and burners tend to be cheaper than candles, so you would be getting more for your money. Oils are also more potent than candles so you would be using a lot less, and the smell would fill the room more efficiently.

Room Spray

How: Essential Oils and water into a glass spray bottle (there is a recipe in the links below, I will also be working on some of my own).

Benefits: Simple and easy to make, it doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of extra chemicals. You can freshen up the room and decide what you want the room to smell like. There are no foreign chemicals that are dangerous to inhale, like a lot of other room sprays and air fresheners.

Perfume/Body spray

How: Essential Oils with either an oil base, or an alcohol base. Into a glass spray-bottle. There is a recipe in the links but try to be adventurous and use different scents.

Benefits: Much better for your skin. There aren’t any toxic ingredients that irritate your skin. It will smell a lot nicer and be your own personal scent. It is much, much cheaper than the fancy perfumes that usually don’t smell that nice anyway.

Hair

How: You can mix different oils together, or use just one oil. Simply rub a few drops into your hair (on their own or with your shampoo/conditioner).

Benefits: The main benefit is that you can target specific problems your hair may have. For example:

  • Thinning hair – Peppermint, tea tree
  • Fine hair – Aloe Vera
  • Dry hair – Shea Butter, avocado oil
  • Dry scalp – Chamomile, rosemary, thyme

Side note: Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap is very natural, with lots of essential oils. There are many scents to choose from (my favourites are green tea, citrus, and lavender, to name a few) or you can choose the plain one and add your own oils. You can use it on hair, skin, even to wash dishes.

Lotion/Body Butter

How: 75% solid carriers (coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, etc.) with 25% liquid oils. There is a recipe in the link below with a method on how to make it.

Benefits: Specific to your skin’s needs, with no irritating or toxic ingredients.

Massage

How: Just rub oils into your skin. When you get a massage, ask the masseuse for a specific oil or bring your own blend.

Benefits: You can target specific muscle and joint pains, certain oils decrease pain. Makes a massage more smooth and relaxing, and leaves your skin feeling soft and hydrated after.

The added benefit to using homemade products is that you know that there is no animal products and no animal testing going into the things you use. Making any product you make vegan friendly.


QOTD: What essential oils work best for you? How do you use it? Where do you buy it?


Sources and further reading:

Victoria Sponge (gluten free): Oat Flour Experiment

Recently, after a few messages my body was sending me, I had a thought that I may be intolerant to gluten, so I have decided to give it up for a few weeks to see if there is any difference to how I feel. Of course I decide this the day before I planned to make a Victoria Sponge cake.

Unable to do the shopping in time to get some gluten free flour, I decided I would experiment with using ground oats. I found a random recipe and, instead of all purpose flour, I replaced it with oat flour.

To make the oat flour, I got some porridge oats and ground them up to a fine powder. The recipe says to use 1 3/4 cups of flour, I used about 2 1/3 cups (a decision I would later regret) as I had read that using oat flour makes the cake more moist so you should use an extra amount to absorb the wet ingredients.

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Results:

Structure: I wish I hadn’t put so much oats. It came out very dry and crumbly. One of the layers broke in half. Next time, I will put less and maybe use a different binding agent, like no egg or ground flaxseed, to make sure it holds together.

Appearance: It came out really bubbly. I’m not entirely sure why. For the filling, I just used a jam layer. I didn’t have any cream to put in it. Come to think of it, I was really low on ingredients when I made this; I’m not entirely sure why I went through with it today.

Taste: Funny enough, it had quite an oaty flavour. Although the outside was a little crumbly, the inside was moist and sweet and held together. I put the right amount of jam so that it wasn’t too sweet but also not too dry. I’d say this one was a pass.

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In conclusion, I’m glad I tried this out. It wasn’t the best cake attempt but I have never been all that good at making cakes anyway. I appreciate the practice. I am willing to try out more experiments and see what works best for me and I will probably figure out my own recipes in the future.

 

Update: As it happens, I am not gluten intolerant. However, I will still be trying out more gluten free recipes for those who are.


QOTD: What are some of your favourite gluten free recipes?