vegansaurus!

04/17/2014

Victoria Vegan Pasta Sauces: The Vegan Alfredo-Lover’s Dream!  »

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The lovely family over at Victoria Vegan recently sent me a variety of their pasta sauces for review, and so review them I happily will!

imageThey sent me their Arugula Pesto Alfredo, Artichoke Alfredo, Vodka sauce, Roasted Bell Pepper Alfredo and Original Alfredo to try. I invited my sister over for the fun, as pasta is her favorite food. We called it our “Marinara Tasting Party”, though our party was dominated mostly by Alfredo sauces! 

imageClockwise from top left: My plate, my sister’s plate, sautéed spinach with vegan bac’un bits and my niece Audrey enjoying the Original Alfredo sauce with pasta! I made my sister and I the garlic bread and spinach (veganized), because those were staples on pasta night when we were growing up. 

I had tried the Roasted Bell Pepper sauce a little while ago, so I already knew I was a fan of this brand! It was exciting to be able to sample so many varieties, and though I really enjoyed them all, my personal favorite was the Arugula Pesto. The Artichoke Alfredo definitely came in at a close second. They were so interesting and full of flavor; I thought the creaminess of the Alfredo complimented both the Arugula Pesto and Artichoke so well! My sister’s favorite was the Vodka sauce, so I sent her home with it. (She’s always open to trying vegan food, and it feels like such a victory when we find things she likes.) Audrey just had her 18 month check-up earlier that day, in which she was given the okay to finally introduce nuts in her diet. That was a good thing because Victoria Vegan Alfredo sauces are cashew based (it’s more of a fruit, I know, but you can never be too careful with nut allergies)! The sauces are also non-GMO and gluten-free! REJOICE! Sometimes they are soy-free as well, but be sure to check the labels on that.

After my sister left, I had four open, full jars of sauce to figure out what to do with! Things got creative over here. I had some jumbo shells I was waiting to do something special with, and having the Arugula Pesto sauce was the perfect reason to finally make them! 

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I filled my shells with sautéed mushrooms, garlic, onions and kale. I also added pinches of nutritional yeast, bac’un bits and salt. I was quite pleased with the results! 

By this time I was getting tired of eating pasta, and was racking my brain for something fun to make. I thought fried mac and cheese sounded good, but not quite what I was in the mood for. So instead, inspired by this recipe, I fashioned baskets out of phyllo dough. It’s not as hard as it sounds, I swear! I made mac’n cheese with sautéed onions, mushrooms and spinach, again with a pinch of bac’un bits and nooch. I used the Orginal Alfredo for these, but any of the white sauces would be perfection! [Ed. note: DAMN GIRL GIMME THAT!] 

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Phyllo dough is not impossible or overly intimidating to work with, I swear! My mom’s secret is to keep it covered so it doesn’t dry out, but with a dry towel instead of a wet one. I greased a muffin tin, and then stuffed one folded sheet of dough into each hole. I then filled the dough with a spoonful or two of mac’n cheese, brushed the edges of the dough with olive oil and baked it at 350 until the edges were lightly browned. EASY, SEE? 

All in all, I am a big fan of Victoria Vegan Alfredo sauces! If you see the Arugula Pesto, I’m telling you, pick it up! You can’t go wrong with any of the varieties and seriously, don’t be afraid to dress them up a little when you make them! I don’t live near a Whole Foods right now, but I was daydreaming combining any of the sauces with these ravioli (I can almost taste it!). 

Read more about the Victoria Fine Foods family here! Victoria Vegan products are sold at a variety of establishments, including SproutsRainbow Grocery in San Francisco, and Vegan Essentials.

Full Disclosure: Victoria Fine Foods sent me these jars of sauces, free of charge, to review. All opinions stated above are solely my own. 

04/16/2014

Lulu’s chocolate: organic, raw, vegan, and chocolaty!  »

imageMaca Buttercups. 

Lulu’s is an organic raw chocolate company with not only super exciting wrapping design, but lots of yummy flavors! They are on the Food Empowerment Project’s recommended chocolates list, wrapped in vegetable-dyed, environmentally-conscious packaging, made with fair-trade cocoa, and sweetened with low-glycemic coconut sugar. Basically: EAT WITH RECKLESS ABANDON! Lulu’s sent me a bunch of free chocolate to try and now I will tell you all about it.

imageSexy packaging! Rococo, mother-lovers!

Overall: LOVE. And I don’t know if I’m just gassed from their write-ups, but I felt like I was totally eating something that is good for my body! Chocolate is good for you now, right? Especially raw chocolate!

My very favorite was the smoked sea salt almond bar. Salt and chocolate is the best combination and Lulu’s pulls it off perfectly! I shared all the bars with my coworkers (because I am so nice to them) and they liked everything, but this bar was especially popular with them as well. 

My other favorite was the coffee crunch bar. I also love coffee with chocolate and once again, Lulu’s does it right!

imageSmoked sea salt almond bar.

At the top, you can see the maca Buttercups. Maca is supposed to be super good for you, I think? At least it’s supposed to be an aphrodisiac. Below is the chocolate maca chunk. 

imageChocolate maca chunk bar. 

I have to be honest, I wasn’t that into the maca flavored chocolates. They are fine but just kind of not that flavorful and not as good as the straight chocolate bars. But the Buttercups were pretty good actually! Besides the Buttercups though, I would mostly get the maca chocolates for the interest-factor. I.e. APHRODISIAC SEXY TIMES!

imageLove truffles. 

The love truffles are pretty exciting. They have hazelnut Rawmio! They were a little too rich for me, all truffles are, but my coworkers really liked them. So if you are a truffle person, these are for you. They have a hint of salt too! Yum.

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So clearly I am a Lulu’s fan! If you want delicious chocolate that’s actually good for you, Lulu’s is where it’s at. 

In other Lulu’s news, they currently have an Indiegogo campaign! They want to open a “chocolate lounge” but they need your help. There’s less than a week left and they still have a ways to go! So let’s help them out! I love when we get together and support vegan, socially and environmentally-conscious businesses! And you don’t have to be in Arizona to donate, the perks include LOTS of chocolate! So if you are thinking of buying any of their chocolate to try, think about doing so through the campaign so you get yummy raw chocolate AND you help out a vegan business. Let’s do this!

04/15/2014

Bee Free Honee introduces FOUR new flavors! Vegan honey options abound!  »

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Before we get started here, I just want to say that Bee Free Honee has seriously blown my mind. When I first read about it, I was like, “It’s made with apples and lemon, so it’s probably like a fruity, sugar syrup. That’s cool. At least no bees were harmed.” And yes, Bee Free Honee is made out of apples and lemon, but it is also so legit, it can’t quit. It tastes exactly how I remember honey tasting! The consistency is there too! But you already knew that, because we’ve talked about it here before.

I was never the biggest fan of honey, but I’ve had a special place in my heart for it because my grandpa would eat it with his oatmeal and I just thought he was the coolest! He also ate his shredded wheat with apple juice instead of milk, which was something I just couldn’t get into. Believe me I tried, once, with cornflakes. I like to think he would dig Bee Free Honee, and you know why? BECAUSE IT TASTES JUST LIKE HONEY! No joke!

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Katie Sanchez, the innovator behind Bee Free Honee, sent me not only her Original Honee, but all of the new ones as well: Chocolate, Mint, Slippery Elm and Ancho chile! They are all so good. The flavors are really subtle and herbal. I wish I enjoyed drinking tea more, because any of these would be so great in a hot afternoon beverage! OR A HOT TODDY? I don’t know, I don’t like whiskey either [Ed. note: SQUARE!]. I used the chocolate and mint Honees to make brownies! While you can definitely use these cup for cup in place of sugar when baking, the brownies were a little too floral and herbal for me. I should have consulted the recipe page before proceeding! Oh well, we learn from our mistakes [Not me! -Megan Rascal]

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My two favorites were the Original and the Slippery Elm, because they had the most classic tastes. It’s not because I’m boring, it’s because my favorite thing to make with honey used to be baklava! And by make, I mean what my mom would make and I would eat. I knew when these Honees were on their way that baklava was going down. My mom and I made a batch, and it was WONDERFUL! So, thank you Bee Free Honee, because being able to eat my mom’s baklava again was a fantastic experience! I didn’t think it was going to be a possibility to enjoy it again, so I am beyond stoked. 

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Recipe coming soon! Maybe, someday.  

You find where to purchase Bee Free Honee here! I’ve seen it at Sprouts and Viva La Vegan in southern California. You can also follow Bee Free Honee on Facebook and Twitter

Full Disclosure: Bee Free Honee sent me their product free of charge to review; all of the opinions stated above are my own. 

03/27/2014

Hurraw! vegan lip balm rocks my world!  »

I am so popular at work right night. Even more popular than I already was! Which was very popular. Why? Because Hurraw! sent me a bunch of lip balms to try for free and they sent me so many, I decided to be charitable and see what the omnis around the office thought. THEY ARE OBSESSED. Like, the office manager just ordered 12 more tubes online. And everyone is saying it’s their new favorite lip balm. 

They are very light, not waxy or greasy, and my lips have been so soft. My favorite is the almond one because I love almond smelling things. I also like the cinnamon tint one. It gives you a very subtle tint. I was worried it would sting because it’s cinnamon? But it didn’t at all. Totally smells cinnamon-y though. And I like the Ayurvedic one I tried, Vata. It smells like almond too AND it has a pretty label. 

You can order right from the site. I highly recommend them! Order a few extra for your work friends and boost your social profile. 

03/17/2014

Recipe: Vegan Cream Puffs featuring the Vegg Baking Mix!   »

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Hey everyone! I recently developed a vegan cream puff recipe, using The Vegg Baking Mix, and I couldn’t be more excited to share it with you! We here at Vegansaurus love The Vegg, so of course we wanted the lowdown on this new product! Rocky of Vegg sent me a sample of his new product; Since I am a vegan baker by trade, I asked him if there was anything special he’d like to see done with it. When he said “vegan cream puffs” my first thought was “OH NO, THE HARDEST THING EVER!!!” But after 17 attempts and a very full trash can, I had a success! These delectables are a little cakey, yet still airy, with a flavor that reminds me of the cream puffs from my past omni life. I was determined not to quit until I got them right. My mom and my sister, two very discerning eaters who are not always impressed by my creations or choice of restaurants, request these puffs on a regular basis! That is how I know I’ve succeeded. The pops enjoys them too, but like me, he’s a much easier-to-please and adventurous eater. 

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Alright, enough story-telling, let’s get to the recipe section of this post! One last thing before takeoff: I didn’t have the chance to experiment with anything else besides the cream puffs with The Vegg Baking Mix. If you are curious about it, here is a review by one of our fave vegan bloggers, Bianca of Cooking Crunk! I can’t wait to try that quiche. I haven’t been able to focus on anything except getting my cream puff recipe right! Did I mention I finally watched all the last episodes of Breaking Bad while doing it? That was a trip!

Recipe:

4 tsp The Vegg Baking Mix
1 cup water
1/4 tsp baking soda 

1/2 cup Organic* Earth Balance Buttery Spread
1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk or water
1/4 tsp salt

1 1/4 cup flour

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Adjust cooking racks to the bottom half of the oven. Preheat oven to
400F. 

Blend The Vegg, tsp baking soda and 1 cup water until completely smooth. Set aside. This is the equivalent of about four large eggs. 

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, whisk butter, sugar, soy milk and salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and add flour. With a wooden spoon, stir mixture until it forms one cohesive ball, which should take about 2 - 3 minutes. Turn heat off, remove dough from sauce pan and place in to a large bowl. With a hand mixer, using beater attachments, mix dough on a medium to medium high speed (always start at the lowest and work your way up) just to the point dough isn’t flying everywhere! Slowly add Vegg mixture and beat until fully incorporated. This is the kind of dough that warrants a strong gluten structure, so don’t worry about over-mixing. Turn off mixer, add vinegar, and let sit for a few seconds while it sizzles. On a low speed, mix in vinegar until incorporated. You can also use a food processor fitted with an S-blade for the mixing process, just keep in mind that the dough is sticky and therefore leads to a tedious cleanup. 
 
Line a baking tray with parchment paper, using cooking spray directly on the baking sheet to keep parchment in place. Place 12 rounded tablespoons dough on baking sheet. For uniform puffs, wet a finger and smooth the tops of the dough. Place in oven at 400F for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, lower oven temperature to 375F and bake for another 10 -15 minutes, keeping a close eye on the puffs between the 10 and 15 minute marks. The tops should be golden brown, but you want to keep the bottoms from becoming too dark. 

Let puffs cool completely and decorate!  You can poke a hole through the bottom and fill them with a pastry bag, but I prefer to cut mine in half. My
favorite way to fill them is with a coconut whip cream (if you use the Trader Joe’s canned coconut cream, refrigerated for a few hours, you don’t need to worry about discarding any liquid. Just open the can and go!) You can also use Jello Brand Instant vanilla pudding for the filling! 

Cream puff assembly is pretty straightforward: I cut the puffs in half,
scoop a dollop of whip cream on the bottom layer, place the top back on,
and generously spoon chocolate atop (see ganache recipe below)! As a final option, you can sparingly dust on powdered sugar as garnish! 

Makes about 24 puffs.

Ganache:

1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp non-dairy milk or soy creamer
1 cup vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips

I like to make a homemade double boiler for my ganache. I bring a small to medium sauce pan filled halfway up with water to a boil. I then place a metal bowl atop, lower heat to medium low, then add my chocolate chips and milk. I let the steam melt the two ingredients together, whisking
occasionally. If you do not have a metal bowl, gently warm milk in a sauce pan, being careful not to scald or boil it. Once it is heated, I remove from heat, and add my chips, gently whisking to melt down. 

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The Vegg Baking Mix is available on Vegan Cuts, The Vegg website and at Viva La Vegan in southern California. 

Full disclosure: Rocky sent me The Vegg Baking Mix free of charge to review for Vegansaurus, but I have purchased The Vegg in the past and I plan to do so in the future as well.

*If you’re concerned about palm oil in Earth Balance products and aren’t satisfied with the RSPO certification of their palm oil sources, you may prefer to use their organic Buttery Spread. All of the organic palm oil Earth Balance uses comes from Brazil, an orangutan-less country. 

03/10/2014

Product Review: North Coast Organics deodorant!  »

Trying to find a vegan deodorant that works is the worst, isn’t it? It is! But, I have good news, because North Coast Organics makes vegan deodorant that not only works, it smells fantastic too! 

I bought my Death By Lavender, hand-made, organic, all-natural deodorant on Vegan Cuts, after reading Bianca Phillips’ review on Vegan Crunk! I am so pleased with it, I want to shout from the rooftops, and so this is me trying to do an internet equivalent of that. 

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At first I had to get used to the wetness I felt on my skin right upon contact, as it takes a short period of time to dry, but now I don’t even notice it. I really love the scent of the lavender; it’s like aromatherapy for my pits! (TMI? Too bad!) The weather in SoCal hasn’t been particularly hot though, so I don’t know how this deodorant would hold up on a scalding summer day. I consulted an Instagram friend in Texas, (@veganhouston) who said he uses this brand too, and he replied “Works great in the heat! Probably better than other brands I’ve tried.” So there you have it! Keep in mind there are two other varieties I have not used: Revolver and Naked.

I know the search for a cruelty-free deodorant that actually keeps body odor at bay can be a tedious and disappointing one, so I am stoked to share this find with you! The only time I noticed things starting to get a little stinky was when I tried to go a second day without reapplying it. (I am doing my part to conserve water by not showering every day! I am a very elegant and glamorous hippie, in case you did not know.) 

You can order North Coast Organics deodorant on Vegan Cuts, as well as directly through their website! There are also trial sizes and sets available! Shout-out to Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, where North Coast Organics products are hand-made AND I used to live! It’s a happening place! 

02/04/2014

Product Review: Red Apple Lipstick keeps the toxins out of your makeup!  »

Someone asked about hypoallergenic makeup on our FB page and Red Apple Lipstick immediately came to mind! I had tested a few of their products they sent me for free and now I’m finally writing about them. They are special products—not just lipstick, fyi—because they are gluten-free, among many other things. I didn’t know gluten-free makeup was a thing but I do know I like vegan makeup! And most of their products are vegan. But check ingredients because several of the lipsticks have beeswax, and a few other things. But besides being gluten-free, they are very conscientious about toxins and that sort of thing. They have this chart of all the terrible stuff that you can find in makeup, but not in their products:

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The lipstick I tried which is beeswax-free was Rebel! You can see below:

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Very smooth application and nice and moisturizing! Obviously I liked it because the name has an exclamation point in it. However the color was not as bold a red as I was expecting. But it’s a nice color all the same. The other lip product I tried was their Rallye balm. It’s a “unique Vitamin E suspended in a very special Castor seed oil” and I love the stuff! It’s hyper-moisturizing and I use it all the time. It’s in my purse as we speak. And apparently you can use it in a bunch of ways:

-Nail beds and cuticles.
-Under your eyes - It reduces puffiness!
-The heels of your feet.
-Your elbows
-Dry spots on your face or scalp.
-Under eye shadows for slippery, easy smoky eyes.
-On wrinkles.
-As a lipstick base.
-Heal a pimple.

I haven’t tried those but I’m about to rub the stuff on my cuticles as soon as I’m done typing. 

The last things I tried were these two eyeshadows:

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Very sheer with some shimmer. I applied the Graphite Glam all over my lid and then the Violet Vixen in the crease, heavy on the outer corner. The Violet Vixen and Graphite Glam are their “dynamic duo" but you can also put together a palette on your own, which is fun. 

So if you have sensitive skin and are looking for a new makeup, Red Apple is definitely worth a try. And check out the Rallye balm!

01/28/2014

Product review: Magic curry paste!  »

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Magic Curry Pastes, by Magic Curry Kart, are vegan and naturally gluten-free Thai pastes available in the San Francisco Bay Area. They recently asked me if I wanted to review their pastes, which I very much did, and I was impressed! The pastes, when mixed with coconut milk, are comparable to a curry sauce from your favorite Thai restaurant! This is fantastic news; now we can get delicious restaurant-style food for a fraction of the cost and no delivery fees! You, know the important things in life. 

I made three different entrees, each featuring a different paste, which I will now show off to you. 

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First I made a vegetable stir-fry with fried tofu, using the Mellow Yellow curry paste. It was delicious! I followed the instructions on the jar for making the sauce, and used a 14 ounce can of coconut milk mixed with two tablespoons of paste. I did find myself adding a little salt and pepper, though it’s nice that the pre-made sauce does not come too salty for those sensitive to sodium. The description does not lie, the yellow paste was definitely the mellowest of the three! My favorite aspect of this paste was the fresh ginger taste. If stir-fry isn’t your thing, the Magic Pumpkin Curry soup recipe on their website looks phenom! 

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Next up I used the spicy red curry paste and tried to get all Zante’s by making a pizza with it! I was pleased with the results, but in the future, if i’m going to try and make a gluten-free pizza, I’m nixing the idea of making a crust from scratch and going with my tried-and-true Vicolo’s pre-made crust. (Gluten-free or regular, it’s the best pre-made pizza crust around!) I liked the spiciness of this particular paste; it had a bit of a kick, so if spicy curry is your thing I definitely recommend the Fresh Red Thai paste. Again, to make the sauce I mixed a 14 ounce can of coconut milk with two tablespoons of paste. 

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The third dish I made, using the Fresh Green Thai paste, was a stir-fry featuring vegan “shrimp”. This was my favorite paste for a variety of reasons! First, I nixed the instructions and made the curry sauce with 3/4 of a can of coconut milk and 3/4 of a jar of paste. (You can use the remainder of the coconut milk to make ganache. No waste around here!) Vegan shrimp is also one of the loves of my life, so I’m sure that had something to do with this particular paste being my favorite. I am a fan of spicy and tangy foods, and so the green curry had it all for me. 

My verdict is that these pastes are awesome! They are so easy to use, and you can experiment with the flavor of the sauces to your unique palate by adjusting the coconut to paste ratio. As of right now they are only available in the Bay Area (I always see them at Whole Foods, four ounces for about $6.00, or you can get them wholesale through BFF) and must be refrigerated. May I suggest you pick some up today so you can continue to quantity-watch your favorite Netflix series, with restaurant-style curry sans delivery fee at home? I am a fan of that luxurious life! Don’t forget to check out the Magic Curry Kart website for creative recipes, updates, and backstory

01/10/2014

Fine & Raw: Organic raw chocolate from Brooklyn!  »

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Hey raw chocolate lovers and all the other kinds of chocolate lovers! Fine & Raw is a Williamsburg, Brooklyn-based raw chocolate company that makes yummy organic, vegan chocolates! They sent me some free bars to try and now I will tell you all about them!

Their mission “is to save the world through silliness and chocolate!” They use low-heat techniques and you’ll also be glad to know they make every effort to be environmentally friendly. Plus, reading their site is positively delightful! They are funny. And there’s some good info about chocolate on there like this!:

Cacao has been report to have these benefits:

  • #1 food source of antioxidants
  • #1 food source of magnesium
  • Phenylethylamine (PEA) - the compound which scientists believe is released when you’re in love
  • Anandamide - the ‘bliss chemical’
  • Tryptophan – the precursor to serotonin.
  • MAO Inhibitors – allows more serotonin to flow in your body. read: more fun
  • Appetite suppresant & aphrodisiac
  • None of the above statements have been evaluated by the FDA, although they told us they really love chocolate.

Yay chocolate! Don’t mind if I do!

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Above is one of the truffle bars. Creamy and good! I had the peeps at work try all the chocolate of course because I am so nice to them and this was very popular. It’s not sweet but it’s not too bitter. A good balance.

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Now, my friends, THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! As I’ve said a million times, I love salty chocolate so this epic dark chocolate sea salt bar was music to my taste buds. And just look at that bar, they are not messing around! It’s a solid bar of chocolate. On the bitter side, so this is a grown-up kind of bar. And you can break it into sticks! 

And maybe most importantly, they like dinos too!:

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For you non-New Yorkers, you can order Fine & Raw chocolates from their website. Get your raw chocolate on around the globe!

01/09/2014

The Vegan Cuts Beauty Box: A monthly box of pretty, cruelty-free surprises!  »

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Vegan Cuts sent me a free Beauty Box to try! Now I will tell you all about it!

So you subscribe to the Beauty Box and you will get a package every month with 4-7 sample size vegan beauty products. And they are mostly all organic or natural. The box is curated by the one and only vegan beauty maven Melisser Elliott! I had the pleasure of meeting Melisser a month or so ago and she’s awesome and has an adorable tiny dog who I love very much. Whom I love very much? I’m never going to get that straight. 

Above you can see the contents of the December box. I was totally down to try the box because I love samples. They are the best, right? Hint: right! I was already excited but then the samples were even better than I expected! I pretty much love them all. And I was not expecting the super cute little purse. The standout products were the Ferro mineral eyeshadow, the Soapbox Soap and the super pretty Color Club polishes. This is the Apollo Star polish!:

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It’s pretty awesome. And I love the other colors too—one is just a dark grey! Super-fashion! 

The Ferro mineral eyeshadow color I got is a pretty rose color. It went on smooth and didn’t fall all over below my eye when I applied. It’s very very pretty! It gives an understated warm shimmer.

The Soapbox Soap is cool because every bottle of soap sold funds a year of vitamins for a child in need! Totally rad! I love shiz like that. 

I also liked the LA Fresh facial wipes. Dang I did not realize my face was so dirty! For shame! 

The box is $19.95, which isn’t super-cheap, but it includes U.S. shipping and plus I just love surprises so I think it’s worth it. Boy do I love surprises! And I love vegan beauty products and trying new stuff. So the Beauty Box is pretty much my jam. I know we have some readers in other countries—you’ll be glad to hear they ship world-wide, but there is a shipping cost. 

Another highlight, I love this answer in the FAQ:

Q: How do you make sure everyone gets products that match their skin tone?

A: We understand that our subscribers all have different skin tones and types. To ensure that no one gets a product they can’t use because it doesn’t match their skin tone, we don’t include foundation or other skin tone specific products in the Beauty Box. Not to worry, we don’t shy away from including makeup in the box! We simply try to keep it as inclusive as possible with eye shadows and blushes that everyone can use.

Dope. Love it. 

The January Beauty Box ships on the 20th so you still have a few days to order in time. Go forth, vegan beauty lovers!

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