Fegg: the fake egg has finally been created!

I know that egg replacer has been around for ages and it a pretty decent alternative to the real thing in terms of baking, but I never expected that science could replicate the true uniqueness of an actual egg.

Science has done just that: there will soon be such a thing as a vegan boiled egg. There have been several attempts at cornering this much-anticipated market of egg-desiring vegans, but the most recent news this week seems to offer a very promising effort.

A group of students scientists based in Italy spent 18 months perfecting their vegan egg until they matched the texture, consistency, and flavour of the real thing. It is made from protein from a mystery vegetable and, most significantly, it has a yellow yolk.

You don’t even have to be vegan, veggie, or a science fan to be intrigued; health freaks will be impressed by the lack of cholesterol. The students have patented their product and will be looking to get food companies on board.

There’s plenty of other methods of consuming eggs to get on with replicating in the meantime: scrambled egg, poached egg, fried egg… they had better get cracking! (Ho ho ho ho….)

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For the Love of Quinoa – Indigo Herbs Review

After a week of unhealthy dinners it has been an inspiration to receive three huge packs of quinoa from the kind souls at Indigo Herbs, who asked me to review a few of their products on my blog.

Indigo Herbs are a family-owned business based in the alternative town of Glastonbury in Somerset, selling an vast range of superfoods, herbs, wholefoods, and even gift sets and tea. They have a formidable knowledge of how to create healthy, nutritious, plant-based meals, and are all about empowering consumers to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

Quinoa has enjoyed a vogue in recent years amongst trendy metropolitan hippie types, and you can see why – the health benefits are well-documented and really quite extensive, as any foodie can tell you. Hailed as a superior alternative grain to couscous and bulgar wheat, it actually fulfills a different function in our diet similar to chard or spinach, and is technically a seed.

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This week I jazzed up my diet using the huge bags of quinoa varieties that Indigo Herbs kindly sent me to blog about.

Organica Red Quinoa Grains

Organic Puffed Quinoa

Organic Quinoa Flakes

Firstly, I used the red quinoa to create a lentil and quinoa feta salad. The product came in an air-tight resealable foil pouch that fits comfortably in my kitchen cupboards. I rinsed the quinoa and added to a saucepan of boiling water and left it to cook for 10-15 minutes until the seeds split. I combined it with cooked green lentils, added some chopped veg (red pepper, spring onion, cucumber) and some garlic and oregano to flavour, plus a generous crumbling of feta on top. I never now how to judge how much quinoa to use; it deceptively expands in water in the same way that pasta and rice does so I always end up making enough to feed a passing hungry squadron, but at least that’s lunch sorted for the next day. Helpfully, the packaging offers a serving suggestion of “use as much as you see it” – now that’s my kind of brand!

The puffed quinoa also came in the same attractive and practical packaging. If you’re not sure what puffed quinoa is or how it differs from the more recognizable varieties, basically it is created by a process of gently heating quinoa seeds until they pop, then allowing them to cool. The puffs can then be used in cereals, puddings, muesli or granola, so quite a versatile ingredient. I used the puffed quinoa to create these chocolate-covered, maple-syrupy protein snacks.

Finally, we come to the quinoa flakes, which are often used in baking as a gluten-free alternative, but also in cereals or granola or sprinkled on salads. I used them to make these pancakes and they provided a healthy addition of protein to this otherwise indulgent weekend breakfast treat. The batter held together really well and the quinoa provided a really tasty nutty flavour.

If you want to read a bit more about the history and health benefits of quinoa, have a read of Indigo Herbs’ page on the benefits of this amazing seed. 

I was really impressed with the quality and quantity of Indigo Herb’s quinoa range; the branding and packaging is thoughtful, with plenty of helpful nutritional information. Their products are organic and often vegan and/or gluten-free so this brand is an invaluable resource to those following a gluten-free or plant-based diet.

To summarise the extensive health credentials of quinoa:

  • Double the protein content of rice
  • Contains vitamins B and E
  • Source of calcium, magnesium, manganese, fibre
  • Contains all 9 essential amino acids
  • High level of anti-inflammatories
  • Source of omega 3 fatty acids (promotes heart health)
  • Slowly digested carbohydrate

 

 

 

Autumn skin and hair care

1st of September and the weather changes and I need to dig out my scarves and winter boots. Rain, wind, and it’s all got a bit gloomy. As seasons change, I find different skin products assemble themselves in my cupboards and I need something more substantial to get through the cold, dark months.

This is the time of year I started noticing my skin drying out and my hair getting dull. So I’m looking into some pre-emptive product buying as I’m bored of all my other stuff. These are a few that I’m looking at experimenting with; all vegan, all cruelty free and natural. I found the Alba Botanica range in town and sampled a few things so I’ve narrowed it down to these.

Alba Botanica Deep Sea Facial Mask

 

I’m really into clay masks. They’re pretty much the only type of mask that truly refreshes my skin. This one uses Chinese kaolin clay and contains aloe vera and a blend of sea enzymes (which sounds intriguing). I’ve heard great things about the Alba Botanica brand as a whole and have come across people who use only their products.

Alba Botanica Anti-Frizz Serum – Haiwaiin – So Smooth Gardenia

My hair is always a monster of frizz and nothing ever, ever seems to work. I’ve tried so much and virtually given up but the good reviews of this product have made me optimistic.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Hair Conditioner Coconut Milk

I do like my coconut products. They smell so great and natural and I dislike products that smell too floral or sweet so coconut is perfect for me – it has a certain neutrality. Coconuts are just amazingly beneficial for our health in general but coconut milk has so much in the way of nutrients and vitamins that it probably makes all the other fruit jealous. (Note: coconuts are not, in fact, a fruit; nor are they are a seed – they are a drupe. Whatever that is.)

Maybe you’re wondering why I’m so focused on cruelty free products? Am I just a self-righteous snob? Or is it actually really important – and easy – to make ethical consumer choices every day that make a difference? I don’t want to go into too much depth today and have already expressed my views here. There’s also a detailed article on the merits of going cruelty free on the Cruelty Free Kitty site that explains the position succinctly.

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A September day at Strumpshaw fen

Today we went for a trip out in the windy autumnal weather to Strumpshaw fen in Norfolk. It’s an RSPB reserve famous for its bitterns, kingfishers and swallowtails (though of course no swallowtails this time of year). It’s largely a broadland habitat, with reedbeds and marshes, loved by bitterns, marsh harriers, otters and wader birds, but it also has an extensive woodland area and large meadow grazed by cattle.

Today in the Fen Hide we watched a bittern flying for quite a few minutes, marsh harriers circling way up ahead, and a water rail scuttling around in the shallows in front of the hide. Later in the Tower Hide we were impressed by a juvenile cormorant stretching its vast wings out. Fleetingly we saw a kingfisher flying along the river Yare and a few hobbies in the sky. Finally, near the end we came across a delightful little mole, who looked a bit lost on the gravel path and was trying to find out way back to the safety of the soil.

 

 

That time I saw a stoat

So last month I ticked off another wildlife first: I saw a stoat. An actual stoat. In real life.

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I’ve never seen any mustelid and barely any wild mammals apart from foxes and badgers so seeing a real stoat in front of my eyes was such a thrill. We didn’t even have to track it down; we weren’t even treading softly through the woods but chatting happily and noisily until we stopped dead.

And there is appeared on the path. It walked up to the fence and perched itself on it to get a view, then it turned around and promptly wandered back into the hedgerow. I managed to get a photo but I only had my phone to hand and the zoom wasn’t great but you can make it out so it definitely happened and I have proof if anyone dares to challenge me!

I could tell it was a stoat because I had a black tip to its tail – this I learned from Springwatch. And, unlike weasels, who run close the ground, the stoat ran along the ground like it was jumping. Since then, I’ve learned a few more things about the stoat. Their fur is pure white in winter. They kill rabbits even though they are much bigger than them. That to encounter a stoat before setting out on a journey is considered bad luck.

It was at Pensthorpe in Norfolk that we saw it, a nature reserve that is home to rare wildfowl, breeding programmes for rare species, several impressive gardens, open countryside and a range of wildlife. And two awesome playgrounds!

You want to see a David Attenborough film of some cute stoats playing together? Of course you do. Yet with every cute video of wild animals comes a darker side, as the video below shows this cutiepie turned vicious killing machine. That’s nature.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bus Papers…part one

Citizen science at its best!

The Arty Plantsman

I hope this might amuse.

Back in 2005 I was not in a happy place. When I’m depressed my closer colleagues can usually tell because I act out a bit and my humour gets reckless. Not cruel, just a bit off-the-wall. I started writing a series of spoof scientific papers based on my discomfort of sharing a double seat on public transport (we all know that feeling). The papers became rather deranged by the time the third one appeared, with my bitterness and loneliness becoming quite obvious. Before you ask – yes I genuinely did carry out the experiments described. This is the first:

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USE OF DOMESTIC FOODSTUFFS ENHANCES PROBABILITY OF DOUBLE_SEAT RETENTION ON PUBLIC SERVICE VEHICLES.

D.Sleep, Lancaster, UK

Abstract.

We present a possible solution to the awkwardness of sharing a double seat with a stranger on public transport. The only tools required are easily obtainable comestibles.

Materials &…

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August – Cruelty Free Skincare Favourites

Hello! It’s another monthly favourites post and this one of about some cruelty-free skincare products I’ve discovered recently.


For years I eschewed the idea of expanding my limited beauty and skincare collection for several reasons: fear it was tested on animals; a general mistrust of trying to look one’s best; and a basic laziness and absence of interest in make up. But since the Leaping Bunny stuff really took off I find I’m happy to put some time and effort into finding reliable cruelty free products. And today I’ll share a few that I’m loving.

Superdrug Oatmeal Vitamin E Exfoliating Facial Scrub: vitamin E, I’m told, is a vital antioxidant that can help to protect my skin from sun damage. This one uses oatmeal to help exfoliate and it does feel good, like I’m working my skin. It smells nice but the only downside it does take a while to rinse it all off.

Superdrug Tea tree cleanser and toner: this has a nice feel and is minty and refreshing. It certainly brightens up my skin and leaves it feeling smooth and with clean pores.

Superdrug Vitamin E Moisturizing SPF 15 day cream: I’m a big fan of Superdrugs Vitamin E range (can you tell?) and having read a bit about it I now find it has horse chestnut extract, which sounds very unusual and interesting. This is a great facial moisturizer and I can still feel that my skin is soft by the end of the day so it definitely does the job. It has added SPF 15 sun protection as well.

 

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