vegansaurus!

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!

01/07/2014

Lucky 13 Lacquer makes sparkly vegan nail polish!  »

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Lucky 13 Lacquer is a lovely line of exciting vegan nail polish colors. I say exciting because they are sparkly and spotty and more! They also have THE BEST NAMES. The creator of Lucky 13 Lacquer sent me a few colors to try.

Above is Jinkies! OVER a regular red polish by another brand. I love it. We did have some problems with this drying, it just took a little while. But once dry, it was totes pretty. Without the red underneath, it would just be like a clear polish with red sparkly flakes. Very nice but over the red, it’s like ruby slippers!

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This is my favorite. It’s Ruh-Roh! It’s like leopard print! Without having to do anything special! This dried fine. And it looks like leopard print!!!

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Above is the Teal Me No Lies with Warrior Woman over top. That’s just one coat of the sparkly one so if you want more sparkles, you’ll have to do a few more coats. This is my friend Cait modeling and the blue was her favorite of all the colors. I like the leopard print!

So if you are looking for some unique polish colors, this is for you! Colors come and go quickly so if you see one you like, get it. If you don’t, there will be new colors soon!

12/23/2013

Product Review: Own eye cream!   »

A little while ago I wrote a review on Odacité skin care, an organic, vegan line that I think is just marvelous! I did, however, take issue with their eye cream; it was a little too heavy for my combination skin. As I was trying to wean myself off a former, non-cruelty free line, I found myself in a dilemma of epic proportions: WHAT DO I DO ABOUT MY DELICATE AND NEEDY EYE AREA? 
Enter the mastermind behind Logical Harmony (and my personal vegan beauty and lifestyle guru), Tashina Combs. I tweeted at her in a panic, and she was like “GIRL, I got you! Try Own Lifting Eye Cream!” So I did. I had my mom buy me a tube for my birthday and I’ve been smitten since. This summer romance is going the distance! (Unlike the one I had involving a human being, but oh well!)

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I think Tashina does a great job of reviewing this Own eye cream, so I’ll go ahead and direct you over there, as I agree with everything she says about it! I’ll add that it’s perfect for skin that is a bit on the oily side, as it’s quite light, and it’s perfect for someone who wants their eye cream to absorb quickly. Own is a San Francisco based company —  their products are sold all over the place, including Whole Foods, Ulta, Amazon, and as well as little internet marketplaces all over a quick google search. I am also a fan of the fact it won’t cost me an arm and a leg to replace my tube once it runs out (anywhere from $15 - $25, depending on the retailer). I look forward to trying more of their products in the future!

Hey, and while we’re on the subject of Logical Harmony beauty reviews, check out her “October Empties” video. I love this concept — people show off their empty cosmetics, describe them, and tell the viewer whether they’d buy them again or not. So, a vegan doing one? SOLD! (Vitamin E as eye make-up remover? Who knew?)

I’m always on the hunt for new, cruelty-free, beauty products to try, so please, let me know your favorites!

{Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!}

12/02/2013

We heart Nicobella’s delicious vegan chocolates!  »

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You guys are totes going to love Nicobella! Just read this:

We love animals, therefore do not use any animal ingredients. We donate 5% of our sales to our favorite animal organizations (Mercy for Animals, The Gentle Barn, Noah’s Ark of Locust Grove, GA and The Humane Society of the United States). We also donate any left over chocolates that have not been sold to these organizations to be used in auctions, which helps to raise money for animals in need.

Yay! And not only are the chocolates vegan, they are organic, sustainable and fair trade! I tried the Nicobella truffles above and then the “munch” snacks you see below. I LOVE THE MAPLE NUT MUNCH!!!: “Maple-nut munch is a savory healthy snack made with organic, Fair Trade 75% dark chocolate, maple coated roasted pecans and just a touch of sea salt.” OMG RIGHT? You should know by now that I love chocolate and salt together so this is right up my alley. 

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I shared the treats with my coworkers because I’m so nice to them. Once again, they weren’t that interested in the fair-tradeness, sustainability or vegan…ity? But they were def interested in the chocolate part. The truffles were very popular. I think the green tea drew a lot of interest and the pumpkin chai. I liked them too but it was the Maple Nut Munch that took the show in my book. The other Munch flavors went like hot cakes as well. They are especially nice because they seem a bit healthy but still so yummy and chocolatey. 

In conclusion: Nicobella rules! The I just ordered more Maple Nut Munch today because I’m obsessed. 

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Legal bit: I got these for free from the company to try!

11/12/2013

Product Review: Hampton Creek Foods vegan chipotle mayo and vegan cookie dough!  »

imageHampton Creek Foods is the latest, Bill Gates-backed egg replacer taking over the nation! I think they are coming out with a fake egg at some point? But for now they have used their egg replacer to make vegan mayo AND vegan cookie dough! They sent me some gratis samples to try. 

Let’s just pretend for two seconds that I didn’t immediately eat the cookie dough and had my dinner first. So I hear this is weird, but I grew up eating veggies with mayo. I thought that’d be a good way to test these out. Enter: broccoli! I steamed some broccoli and tried the Chipotle Mayo and the Just Mayo on it. I was scared of the Chipotle Mayo because I’m scared of spicy stuff but I totes liked it! It’s not that spicy, it’s more smokey. Sometimes I find smokey stuff gross and meaty but this wasn’t like that. Just good. 

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I liked the plain mayo too. It had a hint of lemon or something and was less sweet than I usually think mayo is but it’s very good. And it wasn’t super heavy like some vegan mayos and there was no weird aftertaste I sometimes find. I give it all my thumbs up! I can’t wait to try it on my next vegan hoagie

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But more importantly: chocolate chip cookie dough time! Of course none of the dough made it to the oven (hey, it was just a sample!), I ate it raw. Which is the beauty of vegan cookie dough, am I right? It was totally delicious! Not better than Eat Pastry but I’d say on par. 

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In conclusion: why do we ever eat food that’s not cookie dough?

11/08/2013

Product Review: Eat Pastry gluten-free cookie dough!   »

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Hey everybody! Because I am such a selfless person, I ate vegan cookie dough for you! And let me tell you, purely scientifically speaking, Eat Pastry’s gluten-free, chocolate chip cookie dough (when baked) is absolutely scrumptious! I know gluten-free baked goods can sometimes be a little funky, with lingering odd tastes, but the geniuses behind Eat Pastry have figured out a formula that stands up to the rich and buttery Tollhouse* cookies of my former omni life. I’m a huge fan of this product! I also fed the cookies to my friend Britney and my roommate Dan, both to positive reactions. Dan is trying to cut gluten from his diet, and had bought some non-vegan chocolate chip cookie dough to bake for himself. He expressed disdain for the omni dough he bought and when fed one the Eat Pastry cookie his immediate response was “WHERE CAN I GET THOSE?”

The only thing, and I notice this when I make gluten-free pastries from scratch myself, is that gluten-free dough in it’s raw form is not so tasty. Unbaked, garbanzo bean flour really stands out. In my mind though, this is a good thing! This means that when it comes to raw cookie dough, there are cookies to bake after I open the container (as opposed to half of the raw dough sitting in my stomach like a brick).

When I bought the container of batter to try out, I wanted to do something really special with it. What goes with chocolate chip cookies better than anything? ICE CREAM AND CHOCOLATE SAUCE!

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The ingredients were gathered — it was time to have some fun. 

I decided to make an ice cream sandwich, with Luna and Larry’s Cappuccino coconut ice cream and home-made ganache!

HOW TO MAKE AN AMAZING VEGAN ICE CREAM SANDWICH:

COOKIES:

First I baked my cookies, and to be honest, I ran into a little trouble with the instructions on the Eat Pastry label. It read to heat the oven to 350 degrees and measure out teaspoons of dough onto a cookie sheet. I was unhappy with my first batch, as I thought the cookies were too thin, with the edges a very dark brown and raw centers. When I made my second batch, I measured out a tablespoon of dough and was much happier with the size and bake of my cookies. However in the future, I will probably only heat my oven up to 325 degrees, as the edges still got brown fast. A little bit of a disclaimer though: it is best to bake chocolate chip cookies when they are cold, because they tend to spread at room temperature. The label of Eat Pastry does say to bake them directly out of the fridge, and I had just taken my sweet time walking home from the grocery store, put the dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes, couldn’t wait any longer, and baked them.

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The finished product!

GANACHE:

I made my ganache by putting together a homemade double boiler and melting down 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 5 Tbls coconut milk (any non-dairy milk would suffice). I brought my pot of water to a boil, put my metal bowl of chips and milk atop, turned the heat down to medium-low, and let the steam melt down my ganache.

SANDWICH ASSEMBLY:

To make my ice cream sandwich, I waited until my cookies were completely cool, put a couple spoonfuls of ice cream on the bottom cookie and then a placed another cookie on top. I immediately dipped the sandwich in ganache, sprinkled it with mini chocolate chips, took some pictures and stuck it in the freezer. Britney got to eat the final product, as I had eaten most of the cookies I baked that afternoon and couldn’t take anymore dessert food. She was ecstatic and now you know how I make and keep friends.

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In conclusion: Ice cream sandwiches and garbanzo bean flours aside, I LOVED the gluten-free Eat Pastry chocolate chip cookie dough and will definitely be buying it again in the future!

*Easiest recipe to veganize. Sub Earth Balance and egg replacer—that’s it. Most semi-sweet chocolate chips are already vegan. I have used so many vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes that call for such odd and unnecessary ingredients and fortunately for me, those days are now over.

11/04/2013

Lagusta’s Luscious croissant-infused caramels and more!  »

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Did you eat enough candy last week? Me neither! Which works out perfectly because I went totally cray on the Lugusta’s Luscious website the other day and got all kinds of stuff. But rewind: did you see that title? I’m not even kidding! Croissant-infused chocolate-covered caramels!  And let me tell you, they are so totally the new jam. And I let my coworkers try them because I am so nice and everyone agreed they are the new jam. So good. Nice and salty-sweet. 

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I also got these peppermint patty type things above. They are creamier than peppermint patties but they are very good. The chocolate is not very sweet, that is how I like it. 

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I also got this butterfinger type candy bar. This is the only thing I ordered that I’m not super into. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very yummy, it’s just missing something real butterfingers have. It’s not as crunchy or something. I don’t know. But it’s still peanut buttery-good. 

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This is the last thing I got, Matzo Toffee! It’s some kind of craziness! It’s like caramelized matzo with salty dark chocolate drizzled on top. Maybe I’m weird but I’ve always loved matzo. I would totally trade my snacks for matzo in elementary school. I also ate white flour. That’s enough about me for today.

In conclusion: YUM!

10/01/2013

Product review: Odacité fresh skin care!   »

Now, I wouldn’t say I freaked out when I turned 30, but I wouldn’t say I didn’t. I handled it like a champ! Look, I mean, I started noticing some fine lines and omg where DID ALL THOSE GRAYS COME FROM, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN, WHERE DID THE TIME GO, I AM BUT A MERE MORTAL AFTER ALL, but I got through it. Since surviving that breakdown two years ago, I’ve found myself really enjoying my thirties, living life like a forever-angsty-teen from the ’90s and tightening up my skincare routine as to continue being carded when I buy vodka or black-bottle kombucha. While yes, it’s true that I have great genes and a youthful spirit, eye cream and moisturizer are of the essence (my secret weapon). Seriously, the right skin care routine is crucial business!

I have always loved skin care products, an obsession I must give my mom credit for, as she has every serum ever created. I’ve been using anti-aging creams since I was 12, no joke. The second thing I do after scouring the cupboards for food at my parent’s house is go through my mom’s medicine cabinets—it’s like Christmas. So, I was absolutely ecstatic when I asked Odacité if I could sample their vegan skin care line to review for this very blog and when they agreed, I kid you not, I squealed. After a short skin analysis, they sent me their 10-Day Discovery Kit—one that was fashioned to the questions I answered in the analysis. (The kit lasted well over 10 days for me, but I was quite diligent about using small amounts of the products.)

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While using the Odacité kit, I noticed my complexion looked much more even, and I didn’t break out once! Not while traveling, and not during that extra special lady week. My face felt very fresh, clean, and the redness I tend to get on my cheeks faded. I could feel the quality of these products on my skin, and I was impressed. Another thing I like about Odacité is that they have freshness seals on their products, and it’s recommended that they are stored in the refrigerator. Why, you ask? Well, the ingredients are all pure, organic, and raw! These babies are not only cruelty, but toxin-free, with no parabens or fragrances added! But don’t just take my word for it, read the full story here.

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Rejuvenating Cleanser: It’s creamy and doesn’t lather, which I’m not used to in a cleanser. A little definitely goes a long way—my skin felt very fresh and clean afterward, and it even took off my eye makeup! That’s always a challenge with my facial cleansers.

Immortelle Refreshing Toner: I love using toners after washing my face. I love the fresh tingle and my skin care regime never feels complete without using one. I liked the smell and feel of this one; my face felt refreshed and ready for moisturizer. It didn’t sting, or smell of alcohol, and it didn’t bring out any redness or irritation as some toners tend to do.

Day Moisturizer: Moisturizer is a hard one for me. As a teenager, I had very oily skin, and now in my 30s it’s definitely combination—oily with dry patches. The wrong moisturizer can feel too heavy, which I am not a fan. I hate when I can feel it on my skin. This day cream was so light and absorbed instantly! My face felt clean all day, which is quite a feat when covered in frosting all day. In my opinion, the only thing missing is an SPF, but other than that I loved it!

Jojoba Beads Exfoliant: This product was both gentle and effective. When I was a teen, even into my 20s, I thought that the rougher the exfoliator, the better! Then my mom told me that the wrong (cheap) exfoliator will actually tear your skin. Scary! I tend to not like that some brands feel too gentle, like they aren’t doing anything! I liked Odacité’s because it felt gentle, but also like it was actually exfoliating. They recommend you use this product twice a week.

Ultra Effective Eye Cream: This is a very rich eye cream, which I found better suited me for nighttime use. As far as part of my day regime, it was too heavy on my lids, too creamy, and I couldn’t apply any eye make-up. Even on mornings when I didn’t apply make-up, I didn’t like the feeling of it on my skin. I ended up only using it at night, as it didn’t bother me in my sleep and that’s when I want a richer product on my skin (as long as it won’t cause break-outs!).

NIght Time Antioxidants Repair Serum: This cream was slightly richer than the day moisturizer, but still light enough that it didn’t bother the oilier parts of my complexion or feel heavy on my skin. I was quite impressed by how my skin looked the mornings after using it—no surprise breakouts and actually quite fresh-looking for someone who averages about five hours of sleep a night.

The discovery kit also came with two small circular sponges, which are for use on your face after cleaning it. You rub them over your face in a circular motion to get the blood flowing and decrease puffiness. What a fun new addition to my autopilot-esque skin care routine!

OK, OK, now I know you’re like, “Jenny, really? These products are like, a quarter of my paycheck!” I know they don’t come cheap, but if you can shell out, you are definitely paying for top-quality, stellar products. I’m not going to beat around this—it’s high-end stuff and believe me, not in my price range (which is why I’ve used gift-giving occasions to procure my stash*). However, Odacité is definitely one of the superior skin care lines I have ever used (and I have tried a ton of them). I definitely noticed a difference in my complexion, even after using them for only a couple of days, and if you can, I recommend trying out the discovery kit yourself, to see which products suit you and whether or not it’s even for you.

*I actually received the Discovery Kit about a year ago and have LAGGED on this review. But since then, I have added the full-sized toning mist, hydration mask, day cream, and exfoliator to my regime. I LOVE this line, and like I said before, when it comes to my skincare, I don’t play. Fashion choices—well, that’s a different story.

09/24/2013

Product review: Wholesome Chow’s Big Yummy (gluten-free) Brownie!   »

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Okay, here’s the deal you guys: I’m not the biggest sweets fan. In fact, sometimes when I eat too much sugar, my skin gets red, puffy and really warm.* This just happened at my birthday party, and freaked out my entire family. I finished my cake anyway, but everyone kept touching my red, blotchy arm as if I were a science experiment. 

Being the incredibly talented (as well as good-looking, charismatic and hilarious) professional pastry chef that I am, people are often quite confused that I don’t really eat sweets anymore. I’m like, “good thing you guys, this way at the end of my shift there’s actually prouduct available for the public to buy!” I mean, makes perfect sense to me—I go home and gorge on pizza, so everyone wins. 

Cutting to chase here, I usually pass up on dessert samples for Vegansaurus. However, because of my success with, and complete admiration for, Wholesome Chow’s products in the past, I was not willing to give up the opportunity to try their gluten-free brownies! I was expecting to get a dry mix in the mail that I would then bake, so imagine my delight when I opened a package with three BIG brownies encased. I mean, I’m excited just reminiscing about that evening. 

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Let me tell it to you straight: The Big Yummy Double Chocolate Brownie by Wholesome Chow is not playing around. It took all the willpower I had not to eat all three brownies in one sitting. They’re quite sizable, and everything no brownie in the past has ever been to me. To be honest, I eat cake and brownies as vehicles for frosting, and these babies didn’t even need it. I didn’t miss a side of fudgy chocolate frosting AT ALL. 

I’m someone who stays away from sugar, has never really been a brownie person (I mean, usually they can be SO dry) and doesn’t have to eat gluten-free (though I do feel better when I do). On that note, I crave these. I think about them all time. But where can I find these chocolate sensations, since Wholesome Chow doesn’t deliver them anymore? Well, here’s a handy list for you! (Just try to beat me to Rainbow to buy out their stock, I dare you.) Unfortunately for now, they are only available in California, but maybe you can ask your local natural food store to carry them? Of course you can always buy the brownie dry mix online too, as I’m sure it does not disapoint! Chef Veronica of Wholesome Chow also has a recipe for these decadent treats on their company blog!    

*I did not have any type of reaction to the sugar in Wholesome Chow’s brownies, which may have also been because for once I exerted some amount of will power in not eating all three in one sitting. 

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