vegansaurus!

Oct 09

Chocolate Inspirations: the vegan toffee-lover’s dream come true!

If anything resembling a vegan Butterfinger makes its way into the world, you better believe your friend Megan Rascal will be all over that, like brown on rice! So of course I had to try these “peanut butter pillows” (at about 6 o’clock in the photo) from Chocolate Inspirations. I wrote the company to get a sample, and as you see, they sent me all kinds of goodies! Toffee galore! 

Chocolate Inspirations specializes in English toffee. They aren’t a vegan company, but they have a whole line of delicious vegan creations (with bone-char-free sugar and everything!):

In 2009 after a suggestion from a Vegan who missed English Toffee, Pam developed a Gourmet Vegan English Toffee. The vegan community pronounced the Vegan English Toffee an immediate success and inspired Pam to create an entire line of Gourmet Vegan confections. In 2010, Marcy, a huge advocate for animal adoption, started Chocolate for Charity where a portion of the proceeds from selected chocolate items are donated to animal shelters around the country.

Yay! Letting vegans join in on the toffee party! And yay for chocolate that helps animal shelters. But, you prob want to hear about the chocolate now, yes? Hint: yes!

Well, the chocolate-topped vegan peanut butter pillows are AMAZING. They are sort of like Butterfingers but much much lighter in texture, like…pillows! You know I always share my vegan swag with my work pals but in this case, I could not. I kept all the peanut butter pillows to myself! I’m terrible! But they’re so good! Salty, sweet, and peanut buttery. YUM!

But I did share everything else with my workmates. The chocolate at about 8 o’clock in the picture is very interesting—it’s cinnamon toast toffee! It sounds odd but it’s very good. Really sweet though, so you can’t be sugar-shy with this one. 

imageI don’t have my own pic, this is from their site, but they also sent this super pretty Italian orange chocolate bar! The office manager went cray for this one. It was popular. 

But my favorite thing, AFTER THE YUMMY YUMMY PEANUT BUTTER PILLOWS OF COURSE, was the chocolate-covered cashew brittle (2 o’clock in the top picture). I’ve never been super into brittle, but it turns out, if you cover it in chocolate, I’m all for it! The chocolate is just so good with the buttery brittle. 

imageAND they sent these adorable chocolate cups! Nice and bitter-sweet. We mixed them with warm almond milk and it was great but I like the suggestion to mix the lil’ one in a cup of coffee—mmmm! These are so cute too. I think they’d be a nice treat for kids. Much more fun than dumping a little bag of powder in a mug!

You’ll also be happy to know that Chocolate Inspirations is on the Food Empowerment Project’s recommended list. And their prices are not even cray! Any toffee-lovers out there? Are you so excited?

Coffeebars: healthy, vegan, coffee you can eat!

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New Grounds Food is a startup by two college kids with a very important mission: coffee you can eat! Enter the Coffeebar. The bars are made with dates, oats, chia, nuts, and fairtrade espresso! They are vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, there’s no honey, no refined sugars, no preservatives, and they’re made with all-natural ingredients. I know you kids love that kind of shiz! 

The creators sent me some free bars to try so I can give you the lowdown. Survey says: yummy! It’s not like a candy bar or anything, mind you. I wouldn’t use it as a treat type of food. It’s like a good, coffee flavored energy bar. It has that moist, dense texture mixed with oats that you should be familiar with if you like energy bars. But it has a great coffee flavor! I’m super in to coffee flavored things. So I approve.

You may wonder why not just drink your coffee—I say do both! If you want a hot cup of coffee, grab one. If you want an energy bar, get one of these! imageThey are now holding a Kickstarter fundraiser! They already reached their Kickstarter goal but they have a stretch goal to get new flavors (well, they already had a stretch goal to source directly from family farms but they already passed that…). 

Oct 08

A peek inside The Compassionate Closet: your new source for gorgeous vegan products! Plus 15% off for Vegansaurs!

imageWhat a suave, ethically fancy belt!

Stephanie Boyd is the owner of the brand-new gorgeous vegan online store The Compassionate Closet! Vegansaurus spoke to Stephanie about how and why she decided to open the store, where she finds her inspiration, and more.

Vegansaurus!: When did you start The Compassionate Closet, and where is the HQ located?

Stephanie Boyd: We launched in July 2014, making our debut at the VegFest CO and launching the website later that same month. We’re based in colorful Colorado.

What inspired you to start the store? What were you doing before Compassionate Closet?
My inspiration came from my very own closet. After going vegan and sort of “mastering” what’s on my plate (a task that’s never really done with new veggie food brands, new restaurants, and endless recipes to try!), I turned my attention to my wardrobe and realized that my closet was 
a cemetery! Full of wool, cashmere, leather, and silk—I was shocked and disappointed by the lifetime of cruel choices I had made. So when I set out to turn over my closet, I quickly realized that—although there are vegan, cruelty-free, and fair-trade choices out there—you really have to search them out. That is when I decided to help bring vegan fashions to the marketplace and launch The Compassionate Closet! 

imageDamn these shoes are fine.

Why did you choose to make Compassionate Closet online-only? Will there be a physical store in the future?
Although we’re primarily online, we are working hard to open a physical store in the Denver-Boulder area soon. Meanwhile, we’re making our way around to meet-ups, pop-ups, and festivals to promote and to connect with other like-minded, and inspiring people.

How do you choose which products to feature and sell in the store?
Great question! There is a lot of thought that goes into which brands and products we carry. We look for designers with the same values—ethical, sustainable, vegan, cruelty-free, and that give back—and with awesome style, of course! We look for both well-known and aspiring brands, but brands all must be trusted brands. We want to support designers that are leading the way in creating sustainable styles! 
imageVegan forever! So cool.

You feature some truly amazing, unique vegan products that can’t be found elsewhere (like the Colorado-Vegan sweatshirt I love!) Were you frustrated with other vegan stores’ limited offerings, or did you have a personal “aha!” moment that prompted you to create your own?
All of the above. I love so many of the vegan styles out there, but few one-stop vegan apparel stores exist, and I have a lot of ideas and inspiration spilling over! For example, I am a proud native of Colorado, and as one of the healthiest states in the country, a Vegan Colorado shirt 
seemed like an essential for fellow Coloradans to show off their state pride and their vegan values. Now a best seller! Stay tuned for more original styles coming soon! 

imageCute mini goat bling you can buy from The Compassionate Closet!

Who are your vegan inspirations?
In this meat world, I am inspired by the growing community of fellow vegans and activists! No matter how long or the reasons that led you to veganism, we all have something in common (a core value that shouldn’t be downplayed): we strive to make compassionate, peaceful choices. We all have our own stories of struggles, transition, limitations, and support (or lack thereof); I am inspired by every vegan that has persisted, lives by example, and goes out of their way to educate others of the benefits! 

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This sweatshirt is great if you’re a vegan who lives in Colorado, or you happen to love Colorado vegans!


How has the reception been to Compassionate Closet? Are you finding it easy to spread the word about it?
A-MAZING!! Feedback and demand have been overwhelmingly positive! I get so many compliments on the website and, most often, “thank you for starting this business! We need more vegan apparel options!” The vegan community has been very supportive helping spread the word. Thank you for your continued support! 

Is there anything else you’d like to add for readers?
Yes! We are committed to providing a better life for animals in need. Toward that goal, 5% of all purchases supports the admirable work being done for animal welfare by the people of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary. WEAR NO HARM really means something and we want you to know every time you shop with us!

Vegansaurus readers! Save 15% OFF your shopping excursion on The Compassionate Closet with discount code SAVE15 through October 31st!

Oct 07

Secret Vegan Breweries and other News from the Great American Beer Festival

The Great American Beer Festival wrapped up on Saturday, but I’m just crawling out from under my hangover to report on the amazing things I found there. With over 3,500 beers from 700 breweries, there’s a lot to discover, and it turns out that walking around in a Vegansaurus t-shirt with a badge that says “vegan blogger” is a good way to discover the secret vegan levels in the beer-tasting game. Here are some of the best things I spotted in that cavernous, booze-infused hall.

Modern Times Brewery, San Diego, CA

Modern Times Brewery in San Diego might be the coolest.

One of the cofounders of this place is vegan. He doesn’t want to sell anything he wouldn’t eat. So they don’t, and they bother to tell you about it on the can!

In addition, the beer was delicious—and that’s my sober opinion, as this was one of the first things I tasted on Saturday. They’re the only brewery around that roasts their own coffee to put into an oatmeal coffee stout, and it’s hella creamy, basically beer dessert. I want a scoop of vanilla coconut ice cream floating in that, aww yeah.

The bad news: You can only get this beer in southern California. The good news: You can buy their coffee online! And t-shirts. I want one.

Kamala Brewing, Austin, TX

Kamala used to be called Namaste, but apparently another brewery owns the trademark on that name so made these guys change it. Namaste as fuck, right?

Who cares, because this was definitely the most interesting and mind-blowing beer I tried. My fave is one called Bitterama, an ESB brewed with wild rice and bergamot. That’s like EARL GRAY BEER, yo! They also had a rad one called the Smoked Austoner, that my notes say tasted “like Scotch yogurt.” But in a good way. I may have been drunk.

They’re based in a former gas station in Austin that’s also an Indian restaurant and you can bet it’s first on my list of places to hit when and if I ever make it to that great city. And speaking of road trips…

Infusion Brewing Company, Benson, NE 

You’ve got your trip to Omaha all planned out, right? You know, to eat at Modern Love, Isa’s new restaurant? Well, I found you the beer to drink while you’re there: Infusion Brewing Company. It’s a tiny place, and you can only find the beer right there, so it’s perfect. The Vanilla Bean Blonde is one of their most popular, but they’ve got the regular assortment. Go to Omaha, vegans!

Still looking for more delicious ideas? I suggest you cross-reference the list of 283 GABF medal winners with the fine list at Barnivore.com and have a little festival of your own! Just don’t forget the pretzel necklaces, those are important.

4,000 Piglets Die in Factory Farm Fire (alternate title: vegan girl writing this post drowns in a puddle of her own tears…)

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Cute piglet from a Google search, hopefully safe and sound somewhere.

My friends, both vegan and omni alike, seem to be crazy for little piggies these days (BECAUSE HOLY CRAP THEY’RE ADORABLE!!!). My Facebook feed is wonderfully full of pictures and videos galore of these sweet babies, which, I believe, made this news even harder to bear. All I could picture in my mind’s eye when hearing about these piglets were all these adorable faces. Well, theirs’ and the glorious Esther

Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection of The Humane Society of the United States issued the following statement: 

“As tragic as this calamity is, what’s perhaps even more disturbing is that it was easily preventable. The National Pork Producers Council has fought tooth-and-nail to block commonsense rules that would require factory farms to install sufficient fire suppression systems like sprinklers. More than 400,000 animals have already died in American factory farm fires this year, and the lives of hundreds of firefighters have been endangered. The National Fire Protection Association has the opportunity—starting at a meeting this Tuesday—to implement meaningful rules that would help prevent these disasters in the future.”  After this fire killed nearly 4,000 piglets in a North Carolina factory farm, the National Fire Protection Association should require similar facilities to have ceiling sprinklers. (FREAKING DUH, PEOPLE!!!!)

I haven’t seen anyone else write about this news, besides The Humane Society, which makes me think that either people don’t think it’s really newsworthy, or that it’s been swept under the proverbial rug of news. Either of which is a bummer. 

It’s Fall! Here Are Some Comfort Food Makeovers!

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When I first went vegan, I wasn’t worried about a lot of things. I wasn’t concerned about where I would get my protein, and I didn’t stay up at night wondering if I’d die from lack of B12. I did my research and was fully prepared to eschew meat and cheese and knew I wouldn’t get scurvy from a lack of Vitamin Steak. (A real thing.) (Not.) No, what I worried about was how my family would take it. Would my mom be bummed that I didn’t want to eat her spaghetti and meatballs? Would I have to turn away from my grandmother’s beloved roasts? Would the fact that I didn’t eat Corned Beef and Cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day drive my dad crazy?

Well, as it turns out, yes and no. At first, my family didn’t love that I couldn’t eat the same foods they held so dear, but after a while, they saw I was serious about this transition, and they got on board. Together, we adapted and developed old family favorites. In fact, it turned into a fun (and delicious!) challenge; each of us trying to figure out whether cashews or coconut milk made the best creamy soup base. Food once again became a bonding experience and I no longer felt left out—and they no longer felt like they were losing their daughter/granddaughter to the dark (read: tofu) side! Even better, we found some new and exciting dishes that we’ve integrated into our rotation as part of our new family traditions. Here are some of the best ones:

Mac and Cheese. Everyone is obsessed with a good mac and cheese. Rich, creamy, and decadent, it’s the perfect food. You know what’s better than traditional Mac and Cheese? This light and delicious version made with silken tofu. So. Freaking. Good.

When it comes to lasagna, I am basically Garfield. Give me a giant pan of the good stuff, and leave me alone for a few days. This version is so tasty that my cheese-loving dad begs me to bring it on holidays. Dig in.

Comfort food to me means something I turn to when I want a hug. Something familiar and guaranteed tasty. My go to dish before I went vegan was Chinese Chicken Salad. Man! I loved it so much! Well, it turns out when you sub in tofu, it’s just as scrumptious! This recipe is the bomb dot com (sorry, not sorry).

This recipe was brought to you by Nasoya!

Oct 06

Helloooo nurse! Califia Farms has a vegan almond milk pumpkin spice latte! Of course The Spooky has already reviewed it. Anybody else? I gotta get my hands on this! Before maximum pumpkinpacity!

Helloooo nurse! Califia Farms has a vegan almond milk pumpkin spice latte! Of course The Spooky has already reviewed it. Anybody else? I gotta get my hands on this! Before maximum pumpkinpacity!

Check out these cute vegan ankle boots from Blowfish Alms Shoes!

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In celebration of their new vegan store, the kind folks at Planet Shoes sent me over a pair of adorbs faux-leather ankle boots from vegan brand Blowfish to wear around and report on for y’all. You know I’m a professional shoe reviewer, right?

After about a month of extensive scientific testing, I now deliver the following insights:

1. Everyone should have a pair of cute brown ankle boots with buckles. These go with literally everything I own, including my pajamas and wedding dress. Can we create a program to issue a pair every couple years to everyone ever?

2. If you plan to walk in these a lot and are old and broken like me, get some nice insoles, because the arch support is only meh.

3. The buckles are decorative. REPEAT: You do NOT need to unbuckle the buckles to use these shoes. As a lazy person, this pleases me.

4. Apparently faux leather is kind of delicate? This is my main gripe with the Alms. A month in, I’ve already managed to scratch up the heels and toes like a college student who’s never getting her security deposit back because you can’t actually drag your desk across hardwood floors like that, who knew?

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Will these tragic scars keep me from wearing the boots? Obviously not. But would I be kind of upset about them if I’d paid the $69 the boots cost? Obviously. 

The Blowfish blog has some tips on caring for their boots that advise using leather conditioner, so maybe I’ll try that next. Anyone else have tips on dealing with such issues, other than just yelling at my feet to toughen up until my shoes start crying?

Oct 03

Animal News You Can Use: Major breaking news for chickens!

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Six years after California passed Prop 2 to ban battery cages, our opponents are still suing over it and the subsequent law banning sales of shell eggs from hens locked in battery cages. Last night, a judge threw out a key challenge, bringing a major victory to chickens. Huge props to the awesome attorneys working on the case, including many of my coworkers.

Are you one of the unfortunate souls living in a state in which Chipotle hasn’t yet rolled out Sofritas? Good news! Your suffering will soon be over.

Did you hear the one about Butterball turkey getting a “humane” certification? No, for real. Mother Jones has the story, asking whether this a marketing stunt just in time for Thanksgiving.

Pigs won a big vote yesterday in New Jersey, with a key committee approving a bill to ban gestation crates there. More to come!

And finally, no, this isn’t from The Onion. Hundreds of people were recently poisoned at food safety conference from eating chicken there.

Paul Shapiro
Vice President, Farm Animal Protection
The Humane Society of the United States
Follow at http://twitter.com/pshapiro  

P.S. Video of the week: If you’ve ever wondered what your party would be like with a cat DJing it, wonder no more.

Planet Shoes Launches New Vegan Online Shop

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Today, Rachel pens a letter to Planet Shoes in appreciation of the vegan-only section they’ve added to their store. 

Dear Planet Shoes

Thank you for taking the time to gather all the vegan shoes into one subsection of your website! I especially appreciate your mix of fully vegan brands, like Blowfish, with the vegan options from brands I might not think of, like Patagonia or Sanuk or Merrell.

Your browse function is well-designed and easy to use, which a lazy person like me truly appreciates. One sad: you currently have no metallic or silver options, which is going to put a damper on my metallic shoe collection. Can you get all the metallic shoes please? 

Your reviews are a bit thin right now, but luckily The Rest of The Internet can help me overcome that, until such time as the world discovers your vegan shoe shop and leaves oodles and oodles of reviews.

I will tell all my friends at Vegansaurus that you have launched your new shop, I bet they’ll want to check it out.

-Rachel

PS: Also, thank you for letting me pick out a pair of free shoes! (check back for the shoe review next week!)