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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vegan Cakes from ‘Navadarshanam’ and a Farm Visit, Bangalore

For more vegan bakery products available in Bangalore reviewed in this blog, you can click this link.

Sometime back we had published a story on the organic-vegan peanut butter available at Navadarshanam. We recently learnt that Navadarshanam makes Vegan cakes as well. We also visited their farm. This calls for a second story!

Navadarshanam’s Vegan cakes are available in two varieties: The Carrot Cake and the Dates Cake. The ingredients are healthier than any cake you will find (unless you bake in your own kitchen) and consists of whole wheat, jaggery, and cold-pressed sunflower oil besides the baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, carrot, and dates. The end product is a yummy, healthy treat.

As they are made of whole wheat, the cakes lend a grainy feeling in the mouth and the pleasure of snacking healthy. These cakes definitely provide some nutrition to the body instead of empty calories and are great as teatime or in-between meal-time snacks. Navadarshanam’s Vegan cakes also dispel a very big myth: that it is not possible to make cakes without eggs! According to the SHARAN website, eggs are used in recipes as “binders, holding the other ingredients together, or as leavening agents, providing lift and affecting texture”. Look closely at the photograph above and see how much the cake has risen! The cold-pressed organic sunflower oil in the Navdarshanam cake acts as the egg replacer. You can also check out suggestions in the SHARAN website for other egg replacers by clicking here.

How to order the Vegan cakes from Navdarshanam

Navdarshanam bakes Vegan cakes on order and the cakes are available in Bangalore only. You need to call up Swamy at 09243091417 to place your order at least 24 hours in advance.

The cakes are available at selected locations on selected days only. Please write at to include yourself in the Navdarshanam mailing list and stay informed about the venue and date of sale. In addition to the cakes, you can also shop for Navdarshanam’s range of organic-vegan products and farm-fresh organic vegetables.

Each cake weighs 450 grams and costs Rs.80/-.

A visit to the Navadarshanam Farm 

You can visit and stay over at the 110-acre Navadarshanam farm and see for yourself all the activities that take place there. However, before going you need to inform in advance so that Navadarshanam can prepare your food and living quarters. The food is organic-vegetarian; you will be served Vegan food if you inform at the time of arranging the visit. Alcohol, drugs, and non-vegetarian food is strictly prohibited inside the Navdarshanam premises. There is no predetermined tariff for the visit; you can donate at will – the amount goes towards the upkeep of the place. Please visit this page on the Navdarshanam website to get the details about how to organize your visit.

The visit was worth it! The trek in the hilly Navdarshanam farm, the scrumptious organic-vegan meals served in the common dining area, the eco-friendly living, and the opportunity to shop at the in-house store were some of the things we enjoyed. Do not forget to carry a pair of good walking shoes, a torch, and warm clothes if you decide to go. And yes, you can even purchase the cakes from the store at the farm by placing your order in advance!

Would you be interested to bake Vegan cakes and prepare Vegan desserts? You can try out these delicious Vegan cake recipes from The Vegan Society and these equally delicious Vegan desserts from SHARAN.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vegan Cosmetics from ‘Ruby’s Herbal’, Bangalore and Pondicherry

For more vegan/cruelty-free cosmetics reviewed in this blog, you can click this link.

Look closely at Mother Nature and you will find plenty of resources that you can use as food, medicines, cosmetics, clothing, and so on. Humans need not abuse Mother Nature to procure these resources as she has made provisions to make them available in plentiful. Plants produce thousands of seeds round the year to make sure every human is well look after. In earlier times when our ancestors lived in harmony with Nature, cosmetic industries using chemicals, other harmful substances, and slaughterhouse byproducts were unheard of. Even from our grandmother’s generation we can easily dig out amazing recipes made from natural plant-based ingredients to tend to our hairs and skins.

Ruby-Mathieu of 'Ruby’s Herbal', our story for today, explain further:
“Our ancestors also knew the medicinal values of all plants: trees, flowers, seeds, roots, fruit, etc. They knew where they were best available and when they could be plucked or harvested... what season and what part of the day… Furthermore, our ancestors prepared their oil, paste, or syrup with consciousness. Their heart communicated with the ingredients while they were preparing and mixing them.”
Drawing from the wisdom of her ancestors, Ruby, in 2006, decided to dedicate her time to preparing handmade herbal cosmetics from the herbs, plants, and flowers grown in her own ancestral farm in South Karnataka. In due course, she developed recipes for several herbal cosmetics and made them available in the market.

Ruby’s Herbal products are not too difficult to spot. Sitting pretty in their lovely handmade paper wrappers, they adorn the shelves of stores. They stand out for another reason as well: Ruby’s Herbal products are 100% cruelty-free. Although the packaging does not carry claims of being ‘cruelty-free’, here is what Ruby-Mathieu had to say about their products:
“Ruby's Herbal products are made with fifteen herbs grown in our little farm. We handpick the herbs in the morning, and process them and bottle them by evening. Our oil, soap, and shampoo do not contain animal ingredients and neither is our products tested on animals.”
Ruby’s Herbal cosmetics line has five products in all: the flagship Herbal Hair Oil, a Natural Shampoo, Neem Soap, Alo Vera Soap, and Papaya Soap.

All of the ingredients in Ruby’s Herbal products are organically grown without using chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The herbs are hand-plucked early morning and combined with pure natural oils over the process of preparation. For example, the soap and shampoo contain vegetable oils at the base added to the goodness of the herb extracts. A wooden fireplace, copper vessels, hand held pressure tools, and the feeling of love are the tools used by Ruby-Mathieu to facilitate the process. By the end of the day, the herbal formula is bottled.

Where to find Ruby’s Herbal products

Ruby’s Herbal products are retailed through Era Organic, Mother Earth, and Thoms Bakery and Stores in Bangalore; and Casablanca, Kasha Ki Aasha, Uptown Fitness Studio, Pour Tous (Aurovile), and Dune Resort in Pondicherry. In case you wish to get in touch with Ruby-Mathieu to learn more, you can write to them at

Animal testing is so terribly unnecessary. Would you be interested to know why? Please read this excellent report titled “Death: The Price of Beauty: Animal Testing and the Cosmetic Industry”, by Kelly Renz McNeal.

Please support chemical-free, cruelty-free cosmetics! Our choices can make the difference!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Animal-bone Free Crockery

Many of us have been using ‘bone china’ crockery for as long as we can remember. However, most of us may not have given a passing thought to the word “bone”. It is disturbing to know that bone china crockery is not as harmless as it appears to be. Rather, it is a deadly cocktail of slaughterhouse byproducts made available through a cruel industrial process. Yes, bone “china” crockery indeed contains the bones of animals. Thomas Frye, who is known to have begun the industrial production of bone china crockery, set up his factory near the slaughterhouses and cattle markets in Essex, England. You can click this wiki link to read more about the history of bone china.  

How is bone china crockery produced?

Bone china crockery is made from clay containing varying degrees of bone ash (25% to 50%). Wondering how the bone ash is produced? Animal bones obtained from slaughterhouses are first processed to remove the flesh and glue from them. The bones are then heated at very high temperatures (1100c to 1250c) until they burn to ash or to a fine powder. This ash or powder is then combined with water and clay to produce a slurry. Finally, the slurry is fashioned into cups, saucers, plates, teapots, bowls of various shapes and sizes… familiar objects in your kitchen and dining table, aren’t they?! (source: Vegplanet)

As compared to pure porcelain, crockery made from ‘bone china’ is easily identifiable from their greater translucence and lightness. And, finer the bone china, higher is the content of dead animal bones.

What are the alternatives?

Here are some cruelty-free ideas for the times you go crockery shopping. Hopefully the suggestions will help you be mindful of the purchase decisions you take.

1) Glass/crystal/opal glass crockery from any crockery store across the country. The glass and crystal range from the LaOpala brand is a popular choice. LaOpala crockery has the ‘green’ vegetarian symbol stamped on its boxes and the declaration that the product is “100% bone ash free”. Some years ago, LaOpala had launched an ad. campaign with the slogan, “Vegetarians love their meal more on LaOpala. 100% bone ash free.” You can view one of the LaOpala campaign ads by clicking this link.

2) Ceramic/porcelain/clay/earthernware crockery with aesthetic looks and designs from standard crockery stores, craft bazzars, tribal art shops, Fabindia, Mother Earth, and Lifestyle stores across the country. However, according to Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) – India, ceramic crockery may be glazed with shellac. Shellac is obtained from kerria lacca or lac insects. It is a resin consisting of the lac insect's larvae, parts, and wings. One lakh insects are killed for 333 grams of shellac. Besides crockery, shellac (E number E904) is an ingredient of an unimaginable number of products used in daily life – gems, nutties, confectionery, dried fruits, crockery, electrical insulation, adhesives, pastes, printing inks, paints, textiles dyes, varnishes, polishes, crayons, optical frames, dental plates, grease-proof paper, jewellery settings, fizzy drinks, and the list goes on! This report by BWC contains all details about cruelty lac production and the alternatives.

BWC recommends querying the manufacturer to ensure shellac-free crockery. 
3) Stainless steel utensils available in any stainless steel outlet across the country.

“If a man aspires toward a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.” ~Leo Tolstoy, Writer and Philosopher~

For information about Beauty Without Cruelty – India, the organization that introduced the 'green' vegetarian symbol, you can click this link.

Friday, October 8, 2010

‘Millie’s’ Vegan Cheese, Bangalore

These days when we speak of the rise of India as a global superpower, we take the early 90s as a reference point and the discussion hovers around industrialization, off-shoring, our burgeoning middle class, and the nouveau riche. One essential byproduct of globalization that we often fail to acknowledge is the rapid change in the pattern of food consumption over the past two decades – with all that is considered junk in the West being methodically passed over to India, year after year. Our recent love for cheese being just a point in case.

Cheese consumption in India, sadly, is growing at 15-20% every year with the European, Australian, and American companies aiming to grab bigger market shares and alter the eating habits of the Indian middle class with their tricky marketing (source). The educated urban population, unfortunately, falls for the bait. According to the same source, the metropolitan cities consume over 60% of the total cheese sold in India. No wonder that health concerns are rampant in the metros with people as young as 30 years falling sick with heart disorders and diabetes, thanks to their acquired eating habits.

Traditionally, cheese has been understood to be made from animal milk. In scientific studies done over the past few decades, animal milk has proven to be detrimental to good health besides being a cruelty product (PETA report: Inside the Indian Dairy Industry). So, why consume milk or cheese made from animal milk? Is it to gratify the acquired taste? If it is about taste, then how about giving Vegan cheese a chance?

Yes, Vegan cheese! Vegan cheese is made from ingredients such as nuts and wheat! This cheese is a great way of enjoying the taste of ‘cheese’ without stealing the milk from the mother animal – her milk which is meant for her young ones only. Nut-and-wheat-based cheese also proves one point: that there is no extraordinary substance present in animal milk that lends the ‘cheesy’ flavor to the cheese; it is rather the process that does the trick. Animal milk can well be substituted with nuts and ingredients obtained from other plant sources to make cheese.

Millie's cheese
Millie in Bangalore has charmed many people with her splendid varieties of vegan cheese. She prepares Vegan cheese from 100% organically-grown cashew nuts and wheat in three flavors: herb, paprika, and garlic. Millie’s Vegan cheese tastes great in a regular burger, as a salad dressing, on pastas, on pizzas, and not to mention on the toasted bread. It is the most awesome Vegan equivalent after Vegan yoghurt and payasam that we have discovered! You need to taste Millie's cheese to believe the claim! To place your order, you can contact Millie at telephone numbers 080-41236539 and 09880288634.

You may want to try making vegan cheese in your kitchens by following the method recommended in the SHARAN website.

“If a group of beings from another planet were to land on Earth—beings who considered themselves as superior to you as you feel yourself to be to other animals—would you concede them the rights over you that you assume over other animals?” ~George Bernard Shaw, Nobel Prize Laureate~