20 May 2016

Vegan-friendly restaurant review: Montezuma's and E for Ethel

For readers who aren't familiar, Montezuma's is a vegan-friendly Mexican-style restaurant located on Melbourne Street, Adelaide. Back in 2014, I wrote a review for Montezuma's and a neighbouring dessert cafe named Elephant Walk. Recently, Montezuma's changed their menu, opting to add some awesome new plant-based options to please their vegan customers. All vegetarian meals can now be ordered with vegan cheese and/or vegan sour cream. So, of course, I had to go back to review their new additions!

I'll start by mentioning the fantastic customer service. The woman serving me, Cam, was lovely, and was doing a fantastic job of managing the floor on her own. My grandma and I had a great chat with her and she was very helpful in pointing out all of the vegan options, including her own personal recommendations. Thank you very much, Cam!

I had some trouble deciding which meal to get because I'm not used to having so many options to choose from. I'm not complaining, though! I ended up picking an old favourite of mine - the vegetarian Montezuma's Delight. If you're after a vegan option, all you have to do is replace the sour cream and cheese with vegan versions (or just omit them entirely).

I'm not sure what brands of vegan cheese and sour cream are used, but the cheese looked and tasted similar to Daiya and the sour cream was probably Tofutti. Both brands are favourites of mine. I know a lot of vegans don't like Daiya cheese, though, so if you're one of them, the Montezuma's Delight is just as delicious without.

The meal was presented nicely. I love to see a motley of colours on my plate. The Montezuma's salad is the best I've ever tried and I often make my own version at home. It boasts an array of healthy raw veggies, including cauliflower, celery, broccoli, red cabbage, carrot and - the best part - green apple. It's a simple way to add a sweet and fresh crispiness to the salad.

Underneath the salad sits a corn tortilla smothered with frijoles, and it's all topped off with a hearty tomato-based sauce and some black olives.

Taste-wise, my grandma and I both thoroughly enjoyed our meals and will definitely order them again - but we're also keen to try everything else on the menu! The vegan cheese and sour cream were excellent choices and complimented the meals well. The servings were huge and so the food was very filling, but that's what I expect from Montezuma's! The prices are reasonable considering the size of the meals.

Montezuma's isn't a classy, high-brow restaurant with five star-quality meals, but it doesn't need to be. It's simply a fun, well-decorated and affordable place to grab a tasty and filling meal. If you're a vegan, vegetarian or omni looking for a fun place to eat with your family, friends or partner, Montezuma's is my number one recommendation.

On another note, if you like to drink coffee after lunch, there is a nice eco-friendly coffee shop around the corner that Cam showed us. It's hidden away but it's definitely worth going in - they have lots of milk options for vegans as well as some vegan desserts. Their coffee was great! They also sell homemade paintings, toys, sculptures and other little gifts. The cafe is called E for Ethel - check them out on Facebook here.

E for Ethel make great coffee!

If you're reading this, thanks for having me Montezuma's (and E for Ethel) - I'll be back soon (when I'm not too busy with Uni work!)

4 May 2016

Cheese is addictive: how to cut it out for good

For a lot of people trying to transition to veganism, or even just removing dairy from their diet, cutting out cheese is seen as the hardest part of the process. It's one of the most common reasons people give for not switching to veganism and for not giving up dairy. But giving up cheese is so important. More and more now, people are starting to realise how awful dairy production is for cows, for the environment, and for our own bodies. We're simply not designed to consume milk beyond infancy, especially that of another species.

But I love cheese! I can't imagine my life without it! I can't go a day without eating cheese!

I once felt this way, and I know so many others who are facing the same problem. We're accustomed to topping nearly everything we eat with cheese. We can't imagine eating pizza, pasta, sandwiches and salads without it. Have you ever wondered why that is?

Well, recent research has found that cheese is addictive. That's why it's so hard to give up. But cheese addiction, like any addiction, is possible to break. And luckily, cheese addiction is one of the easiest to let go of. There are so many alternatives out there to try, but if they're out of your price range, you can make your own fairly cheap.

Saying cheese is addictive is a pretty hefty claim, but there is a scientific basis for this assertion. Of course, for every scientific study released into the realm of journalism, there will be a conflicting scientific study saying the first was totally false. Personal experience, though, has lead me to believe that the cheese certainly feels difficult to give up at first, whatever the reason may be.

Cheese contains something called casomorphins. Casomorphins are protein fragments derived from the digestion of casein, a milk protein commonly found in cheese. According to some sources, casomorphins have addictive properties comparable to those of opiates such as codeine and morphine.

If you're unconvinced about the addictive properties of casomorphins in cheese, consider the high fat content of dairy products. People suffering from food addiction often gravitate towards foods with a very high fat content, such as fried foods, oily food, meat, chocolate and - of course - dairy. According to some studies, high-fat and high-sugar foods are addictive and, when suddenly eliminated from the diet, may evoke depression-like symptoms.

Despite all of these claims about addiction, it's not impossible to remove cheese from your diet. If you are genuinely concerned about your health, our environment, and the welfare of farmed animals, the following advice may help you cut out dairy products for good. And even if the addiction claims are entirely false, it's still true that people find cheese hard to cut from their diets and that dairy just isn't meant for human consumption.

"In western society, cheese is essentially a dietary staple. Tradition, like addiction, can be hard to break - but the availability of vegan cheese alternatives makes things much easier."

The issue of addiction goes hand-in-hand with the issue of tradition. In western society, cheese is essentially a dietary staple. Tradition, like addiction, can be hard to break - but the availability of vegan cheese alternatives makes things much easier.

For those looking to transition from vegetarianism to veganism, I have another useful article on that exact topic, which you can find here. It offers advice for cutting out dairy products, eggs, honey, and other animal products featured in the average vegetarian diet.

Cashews can be used to make delicious, creamy cheese alternatives

But if you're more interested, specifically, in cutting out cheese, here is a list of alternatives you could try. I have included brands purchasable in the three countries (the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia) that make up my blog's main audience.

United States: Chao, Daiya, Tofutti, Go Veggie!, Follow Your Heart

UK: Violife, Vegusto, Sheese, VBites, Tesco Free From

Australia: Daiya, Cheezley, Sheese, Biocheese, Tofutti

Of course, there are many other dairy-free cheese makers out there. If you're looking for other alternatives, Google is your friend!

If you're looking for a healthier cheese alternative, you could always try making your own. Vegan cheese can be made at home with common household ingredients. There's cashew cheese, almond cheese, macadamia cheese - the list goes on. And there is a seemingly endless list of different flavours and types of cheese to try - chilli cheese, Gouda, parmesan, black sesame, nacho cheese, feta, mozzarella, brie, pepper jack, and much more. Why not give them a go?

You can find a list of vegan cheese recipes here.