Sophie's Kitchen offers vegans an alternative to seafood

The abundance of vegan-friendly options now available in grocery stores is a delight to compassionate people everywhere. From soy burgers to artificial eggs, the only thing missing was meat-free seafood... until now. 

Sophie's Kitchen, a certified vegetarian food company, has created a delicious alternative to seafood, proving that cruelty is not necessary to eat a tasty seafood-flavored dish. (Contrary to popular belief, sea creatures do feel pain.)

One of my favorite offerings from Sophie's Kitchen is the vegan crab cake. The product is made with Elephant Yam Root (Konjac), a plant found in Asia, to mimic the consistency of seafood. Besides the spot-on consistency, the vegan crab cake is incredibly seasoned, making it an irresistible treat for the taste buds.

Sophie's Kitchen products are available in natural food stores across the country. For more information or to order Sophie's Kitchen online, visit the company's website..

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Sophie's Kitchen

What's that chemical in my food? Find the answer in Veganissimo A to Z

 Remember the Starbucks cochineal extract debacle back in 2012? Most people didn’t know what cochineal extract, a mixture of crushed insects used as red dye, was or that it is utilized in many drinks and food. Wouldn’t some type of reference source have come in handy when looking out for additives like cochineal -- or it's derivative carmine?

Veganissimo A to Z is a dictionary compiled by Reuben Proctor and Lars Thomsen listing ingredients and chemicals found in everyday products and where they come from.

Relatively small in size, the useful dictionary can be easily brought on shopping trips. When buying anything from food to makeup to medicine, Veganissimo A to Z can help intimidating chemical names such as “Glycosaminoglycans” be simply translated to “obtained from the connective tissue or internal organs of mammals.”

In a time period where so many unknown chemicals and hidden ingredients are used in products, Veganissimo A to Z is the perfect book for vegans and non-vegans alike to know exactly what they are purchasing.

Authors Proctor and Thomsen state in the introduction: “We want this book to help people look behind closed doors and recognize where out commodities come from and at whose expense they are made.”

Click here to read more or to purchase Veganissimo A to Z.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Veganissimo Disclaimer: A review copy was provided

Trader Joe's introduces vegan-friendly cheese substitute

 Specialty retail grocery store Trader Joe’s recently added its own cheese shred substitute: Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds.

I had the opportunity to try Trader Joe’s cheese, and loved the rich flavor and soft texture. Note: The shreds do not taste like Daiya, instead it has a similar consistency and taste to Galaxy Nutritional Foods Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds.

Trader Joe’s new cheese is free of casein (milk protein) and completely vegan-friendly.

A company representative told TDIV that Trader Joe’s Vegan Mozzarella Style Shreds will be sold in all Trader Joe's store locations.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: TDIV

Top holiday gift ideas for vegans and vegetarians

The holiday season has finally arrived. Below is the perfect holiday gift guide for the vegans and vegetarians in your life.

I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Kris Holechek Peters
Trader Joe’s is a staple in every vegan’s life. Surprise your loved one with the Trader Joe’s themed cookbook featuring 150 delicious recipes. (NOTE: Although the title says "vegetarian," the author includes a vegan version of every recipe.)

Liz Lovely cookies 
Who doesn’t love receiving a big box of delicious cookies in the mail? For a reasonable price, send your loved ones packages of cookies in an old-fashioned bakery box.

Vegan gelt 
For those celebrating Hanukkah, offers a cruelty-free alternative to chocolate coins.

EZ Bean Cooker 
Everyone’s favorite musical fruit just got EZ-er to make! The EZ Bean Cooker is a wonderful gift for those who love to cook. Click here for a review.

That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals by Ruby Roth
Featuring beautiful artwork, a cute story, and an incredible message, this gift is perfect for young vegans and vegetarians.

Animal Matters: Fur & Feathers board game
While being fun and exciting, the Fur & Feathers board game also teaches useful facts about animals and veganism. Ages 6 and up.

Highland Titles 
Looking for a gift that is truly clever and unexpected? Buy a plot of land in Scotland. This helps contribute to animal and environmental protection—hunting and destruction are not allowed on the plot of land after being purchased. Along with the conservation deed, the new land owner can legally use the prefix Lord, Laird, or Lady.

Adopt a shelter animal 
The holiday season is a time for giving. Why not give an abandoned animal a home? Click here to find a shelter near you.

e.l.f Cosmetics 
The popular cruelty-free makeup company offers a large selection of inexpensive gift sets this time of year.

Whether it's used for shopping (Paper or plastic? Neither-- ChicoBag!), a fashionable purse, or temporary storage, ChicoBag is a perfect gift for anyone. While some bags can be bulky and cluttery, ChicoBag's can be rolled up into itself to save space.

Dr. McDougall's Soups 
Fill up a gift basket with vegan-friendly Dr. McDougall Soup cups for a warm treat.

Tofurky and Daiya 
Buy Tofurky sausages and Daiya’s new vegan cheese wedges for an authentic holiday gift basket feel.

SO Delicious Coconut Milk Egg Nog 
Egg nog is the ultimate holiday drink. Create a gift basket of various flavors of SO Delicious egg nog, such as mint chocolate and pumpkin spice.

Specialty Shop
For vegans who love to shop, gift cards to places such as Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and Trader Joe’s are sure to please.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: cc: SXC pixman

Liz Lovely vegan cookies: A perfect vegan treat for the holidays

With the holidays fast approaching, people everywhere are stocking up on treats such as candycanes, eggnog, and of course cookies. Liz Lovely, a certified vegan cookie business, offers a selection of delicious cookies -- some of which are even gluten-free -- perfect for vegans and non-vegans alike.

Recently, I tried Liz Lovely cookies and was amazed at how rich and homemade they tasted. The wide assortment of delicious baked goods, such as snickerdoodle, cowgirl and chocolate fudge, make it the perfect treat to bring to parties and gatherings, or enjoy at home -- all for yourself!

But Liz Lovely needs the help of compassionate vegans who love sweet treats. The founders of Liz Lovely, Liz and Dan, recently created a Kickstarter to raise enough money to keep their business going strong. The goal is to raise $50,000 by December 14.

This September Liz and Dan appeared on the Shark Tank, an ABC reality show that features a panel of investors who judge small businesses, hoping to be granted $200,000 to fund their operations. Unfortunately, they were turned away, but thankfully the setback didn’t cause Liz and Dan to give up on their vegan cookie business.

"I grew up thinking a day wasn’t a day unless you baked something,” says Liz.

Click here to visit the Liz Lovely website, and click here to donate via Kickstarter.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Liz Lovely

Southeast vegans celebrate: Daiya is now available at Publix

Recently, while perusing my local Publix grocery store's produce section, I spotted a familiar label. I thought to myself, “Could it be? Could Daiya, every vegan’s favorite cheese replacement, be sold at yet another store?”

Sure enough, Daiya  announced that its products are now carried at the southern-based supermarket chain.

While Publix is only located in the Southeast U.S., this is a time for all vegans to rejoice, because alternative cheese options are becoming increasingly available in mainstream grocery stores.

To find your nearest Publix location, click here. If Publix isn’t available locally, click here to find which stores carry Daiya near you.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Publix via Daiya

Vegan sweetness: Wholesome Sweetners offers a wide variety of vegan sugar alternatives

With the weather getting cooler and Thanksgiving right around the corner, people everywhere are making sweet treats and autumn themed baked goods. What can vegans who forego refined sugar do to fill their sweet tooth?

Wholesome Sweeteners, an organic sweetener company, offers many vegan alternatives to sugar, such as raw sugar, Stevia, Coconut Palm sugar, and various flavors of agave nectar. The variety of natural sweeteners is perfect for baking delicious, healthy, sweet delights.

“We strongly believe in the importance of sustainable and organic agriculture; not only to provide the best-tasting, highest quality sugars but also to encourage a safe and beautiful future for the planet,” says Wholesome Sweeteners.

In honor of October’s National Fair Trade Month, Wholesome Sweeteners recently released Fair Trade Organic Agave Syrup.

“We have created a viable economic incentive to protect communities, traditions and the environment,” says Wholesome Sweetener on its Fair Trade dedication. “This means that farmers can compete against factory farms, keep their land (and buy more), send their kids to school, develop the quality of their crops and build community resources.”

To start shopping for Wholesome Sweeteners, click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: TDIV launches cruelty-free product store, an online company offering affordable health products, recently conducted a national survey of nearly 1,300 women and found that 74.6 percent of respondents would purchase a cosmetic labeled “cruelty-free” over one that did not have such label, assuming price and quality are the same.

The overwhelming percentage of women who prefer cruelty-free beauty supplies has inspired Vitacost to launch a section of its website dedicated to beauty supplies that have not been tested on animals.

David Zucker, Vitacost’s Chief Marketing Officer, says, “Marrying together the cruelty-free label and the discount price tag gives today’s savvy cosmetics customer the opportunity to look great for less, while upholding personal morals and values.”

Vitacost’s new cruelty-free beauty product store has been certified by the Leaping Bunny, a program developed by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) to end animal testing.

“We are thrilled to team up with Vitacost to provide customers a simple, affordable way to find products from companies that have made a commitment to eliminate animal testing from their product lines,” said Leaping Bunny Administrator Vicki Katrinak. “We hope our relationship makes it even easier for compassionate consumers to shop cruelty-free.”

 For more information or to start shopping for Vitacost’s compassionate beauty supplies, click here.

Vegans use caution: Cruelty-free does not necessarily mean vegan-friendly. Many of the products still contain honey, beeswax, and milk. Check the ingredients before purchasing.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Vitacost

Vegan talk show host Ellen DeGeneres introduces new charity-based Facebook game

Everyone's favorite vegan talk show host Ellen DeGeneres recently announced that charity-based entertainment company Sojo Studios has launched an animal friendly Facebook game called “Joy Kingdom.”

In Joy Kingdom, players have fun in an adventure-filled game while benefiting animals in real life. For every objective completed, players are given points called “Joy.” With the help of many advertisers, the Joy earned on the game adds up to money that is given to animal charities and spent on water, food, and activities for real animals in need.

"I've always said I like speaking for animals, because they can't speak for themselves. And now I'm going on Facebook for them, because my cat can never remember her password,” said DeGeneres. “Joy Kingdom is fun, and I'm excited about how many animals we're going to help."

The charitable game is sponsored by many organizations including Farm Sanctuary, The Humane Society of the United States and The World Wildlife Fund.

Click here to play Joy Kingdom on Facebook to start saving animals.

For more information, watch the video below.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Screen capture

Drawing made easy: 'The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds'

Artist and naturalist John Muir Laws recently released The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds, an art book giving tips and step-by-step instruction on how to draw birds.

“Birds are wonders of flight, beauty, song, and delightful behavior," says Laws, who has written multiple bird drawing books in the past.“Drawing birds opens you to the beauty of the world."

As someone who often has trouble following the vague artistic descriptions in many how-to drawing books, I found The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds easily understandable and fun.

Once I was finished following the bird making steps, I actually found myself looking down at a bird on my paper. As opposed to my usual frustrated scribbles and lines that have zero similarity to the structure of a bird except for its beak.

Along with the wonderful outcomes, The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds is a great learning experience both artistically and intellectually. Information is given on the nature and characteristics of each bird you attempt to create.

John Muir Laws is also a supporter of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, a California-based chapter of the national bird conservation organization, Audubon.

“Birds are fiercely alive, simultaneously vulnerable and resilient. Study them to quiet your mind. As you grow in patient observation, the world will open and you will be changed forever,” Laws states.

For more information click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Laws Guide to Drawing Birds

Leona Lewis goes vegan for October, Tweets for recipe ideas

Leona Lewis, singer and vegetarian, recently announced via Twitter that she’s attempting to go vegan for the month of October, and is calling out for vegan recipe ideas.

“I've been vegan for a few days now, I'm trying it for the whole month. Any recipes you can recommend?” Lewis tweeted.

The British singer has supported animals in the past, working closely with the Humane Society International and WSPA (World Society for the Protection of Animals).

If you have any vegan recipes, send a tweet to Leona Lewis here. Hopefully with all the yummy food ideas, she’ll decide to stay vegan long after the month of October.

Of course, TDIV offers a wide variety of delicious vegan recipes at

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons -- Matthew Field

Leonardo DiCaprio speaks out against elephant poaching, kicks off 'Animal Action Week'

This Monday was the start of the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s 20th annual Animal Action Week, an awareness campaign educating young people on various topics of animal cruelty, and inspiring them to take action to save animals in need.

Leonardo DiCaprio, animal activist and actor, helped kick off IFAW’s Animal Action Week by spreading the word about the cruel act of elephant poaching and illegal ivory trading.

“In 2011 an unprecedented 24.3 tons of ivory was seized by government authorities worldwide, the largest amount recorded since the 1989 ivory ban. Tragically this trend is continuing in 2012,” said DiCaprio. “Widespread poaching is being recorded throughout Africa, even in areas in southern Africa that were previously considered safe for elephants.”

DiCaprio uses his fame and fortune for a good cause, serving as IFAW’s global ambassador for the Animal Action program.

“We are thrilled to join forces again with Leonardo in our mission to help elephants live safely in the wild,” said Azzedine Downe, Executive Vice President for IFAW. “His commitment to advocating for the wellbeing of elephants is vital in our efforts to educate and inspire the next generation of conservation leaders.”

In 2011, IFAW successfully encouraged over 50,000 young students to sign pledges and create art projects to help spread the word about elephant poaching and habitat loss.

“Elephants are in crisis once again. We must come together to reduce demand for ivory in China and other countries, and to protect elephants where they live,” added DiCaprio. “We cannot continue decimating elephants and other species for products nobody needs.”

For more information, click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons -- Siebbi

Valencia peanut company expands peanut butter recall

Valencia peanut purveyor Sunland Inc. recently issued a voluntary recall of its peanut butter for Samonella contamination.

Originally, only Trader Joe’s had recalled Sunland Inc.’s peanut butter products, but now Sunland Inc. has expanded the recall to other stores nationwide because it may be contaminated with Samonella.

Although Samonella is normally only fatal to young children, elderly, and those with weak immune systems, symptoms of Samonella can be severe, including: fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. 

Jimmie Shearer, President and CEO of Sunland Inc. states:
"There is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our customers, particularly the many families who enjoy our peanut butter everyday. While FDA, CDC, and State Health Agencies investigate to confirm the cause of illnesses reported, as a precautionary step, we have decided to voluntarily recall our Almond Peanut and Cashew Butters, Tahini and Roasted Blanched Peanut products manufactured between May 1, 2012 and September 24, 2012. If you purchased these products, do not eat them. Please return the product to your supermarket for a full refund or dispose of it." 

Click here to check if your peanut butter has been recalled.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons Balceyricm

Dunkin' Donuts to phase in cage-free eggs, eliminate gestation-crate pork

Dunkin’ Donuts recently decided to become more humane -- starting the switch to cage-free eggs and eliminating gestation crates from its pork supply chain, gaining the support of HSUS.

"Dunkin' Donuts is committed to environmental and social responsibility, and we're pleased to announce this commitment to continuously raise the bar for the treatment of animals within our supply chain," said Scott Murphy, Vice President, Dunkin' Donuts Global Supply Chain.

This is a step in a more cruelty-free direction for the company, which serves many products containing eggs and pork.

"We're working with our partners at The Humane Society of the United States and our franchisee-owned distribution and purchasing cooperative to source ingredients that meet high animal welfare standards," says Murphy.

Dunkin’ Donuts claims that 5 percent of its eggs will be cage-free by the end of 2013, and that it will collaborate with its pork supply to remove the gestation crates as soon as possible.

"Dunkin' Donuts' move to procure eggs from more humane sources and to eliminate gestation crates reflects a strong commitment to animal welfare," said Josh Balk, Director of Corporate Policy for HSUS. "We are grateful that the company has exhibited leadership in improving the treatment of farm animals within its supply chain."

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons/ Tianliu

Animation explores a world without meat eating

Vegetarian-food company, Lightlife, recently released a veg parody of the children’s song ‘Old MacDonald’ on YouTube.

The adorable animation, which explores a world without meat eating, has over 1.5 million hits already.

The video comically sings, “A red pepper here and a bell pepper there, and a carrot and a mushroom everywhere. What if Lightlife had a farm? Ee-i-ee-i-oh.”

Watch Lightlife’s video below:

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Screen capture

Nigel Barker teams up with AOL, to help shelter animals recently teamed up with fashion photographer Nigel Barker and AOL to launch the awareness campaign Pics for Pets.

Pics for Pets hopes to help shelter animals find homes by encouraging teens to take pictures of adoptable animals, and post them on DoSomething’s Facebook app.

Around 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized every year because they are not adopted from shelters. DoSomething believes good pictures make a big difference in the amount of animals adopted, and that by prompting teens to visit shelters and take new, adorable pictures of the animals and post them on the Facebook app, more people will be willing to adopt.

DoSomething’s Facebook app is easy-to-use; you simply upload the information and photo of the animal visited, and it spreads the word. The more shares the photo gets, the more money is donated to that shelter, and teens who participate are automatically entered in a contest to win a $10,000 scholarship.

“We are hoping to show people that their next potential pet can be the cute animal down the street at their local shelter,” says Greg Thomas, Campaigns Manager at “By joining forces with Nigel Barker and AOL, we have the chance to make a significant increase in the amount of animal adoptions—and all it takes is a few photos.”

Nigel Barker is offering his photography skills and fame as the spokesperson for the Pics for Pets cause, and stars in a PSA for DoSomething.

"It’s been a really rewarding experience helping bring awareness to animal adoption, and it hasn’t hurt that I’m working with the most affectionate photo subjects I’ve had yet: animals," said Barker.

Watch the PSA below:

For more information or to find out how you can help, click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.


Cruelty-free slices: Growing California pizza franchise offers vegan options

In a society where every corner is another pizza place, serving slices containing cow’s milk cheeses and topped with copious amounts of meat, where do those who exclude animal-based ingredients go?

Thankfully, as years go by, more and more cruelty-free options are made available for vegans craving pizza.

Add Blaze Pizza, currently located in Irvine and Pasadena, California, to the growing list of restaurants with vegan cheese options available!

The artisan style pizzeria, that uses vegan favorite Daiya (confirmed by an employee) on its cruelty-free pizzas, recently announced its plan to build locations in other select cities.

Blaze Pizza addresses vegan options, and what vegans should be aware of on its website:
I am vegan. What can I eat? 
Lots! Our traditional pizza crust is made simply from filtered water, unbleached flour, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and a touch of sugar. (We are still finishing up the development of our gluten free crust. It may or may not contain eggs when we are finished.) We offer a vegan cheese option, and, of course, none of our vegetable toppings contain any meat, egg or dairy products. If ordering a salad, please be aware that our house Italian Dressing, Balsamic Glaze and Caesar Dressing all contain dairy. Stick to the olive oil and vinegar, and you can rest assured that the only mammalian contact your food will have is from our loyal employees. You’ll have to skip dessert, as our S’more Pie graham cookie and milk chocolate contain dairy, and the fire-roasted marshmallow contains gelatin.

For more information, click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Blaze Pizza

Vegan breakfast wrap makes 'Best Packaged Food' list

Women’s Health Magazine recently released its annual 125 Best Packaged Foods list, a compilation of delicious, healthy, convenient foods.

This year, organic, vegan-friendly food company Amy’s Kitchen made the list with its Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap.

The cruelty-free breakfast wrap is tasty, organic, and filled with tofu, hash browns, and vegetables, making it a favorite in the vegan community.

Women’s Health teamed up with nutritional experts and chose to include Amy’s Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap out of many other frozen food options. As Vice President Biden would say, "This is a BFD!"

To see a sneak peek of the 125 Best Packaged Foods list, click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Amy's

Prostate cancer awareness: Blue Friday takes place September 14

Blue September, an international prostate cancer campaign, is reminding people everywhere to partake in their awareness event, Blue Friday, on September 14.

Blue Friday, sponsored by the healthy nut company California Walnuts, is a prostate cancer awareness movement calling upon people to wear blue clothing or paint their faces blue to show support for prostate cancer victims and hopefully remind men over the age of 40 to go in for regular prostate exams.

According to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center oncologist Dr. Howard Sandler, a man dies from prostate cancer every 15 minutes. In 2011, prostate cancer claimed the lives of over 33,000 men, and over 2 million men live with the disease today.

Thankfully, with early detection from regular prostate exams, death from prostate cancer can be prevented.

'Scrubs' star Donald Faison is showing his support for Blue Friday this September, and encouraging others to do the same.

“I will be affected in some way in my life by prostate cancer, whether it is me, a brother, or a friend – it is bound to happen,” says Faison. “Everyone around the age of 40 should have a conversation with their doctor about their prostate and get it checked.”

Other celebrities, such as Anthony LaPaglia and his wife and actress Gia Carides, are raising awareness for the campaign as well.

“I think a lot of men try to avoid talking about prostate cancer and getting checked,” Lapaglia says. “I avoided getting checked for a long time but then realized it was not a wise thing to do. Putting blue paint on my face is me facing up to prostate cancer, and I think it’s time all men faced up.”

For more information about prostate cancer or the Blue Friday event, click here.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

Photo credit: Blue September

Mayim Bialik announces plans to compose vegan, family cookbook

Big Bang Theory actress Mayim Bialik recently announced that she is teaming up with Dr. Jay Gordon, pediatrician and nutritionist, to compose a vegan family cookbook.

The Jewish television star decided to convert her faith-based recipes -- such as potato kugels -- to easy, delicious, vegan-friendly dishes.

“It’s meant for vegan and non-vegan alike!” says Bialik. “I intend to include all of the Jewish recipes I’ve veganized as well as all of our family’s standard beloved recipes.”

The plant-based cookbook is set to be released sometime during the Fall of 2013.

Julia Fortney | email
Julia is a student who has a passion for veganism, animal welfare, and religious studies.

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