vegansaurus!

04/29/2014

The Gnarly Whale: Skincare and haircare to keep you sweet-smelling and vegan!  »

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The biggest thing you’ll notice with The Gnarly Whale is that everything smells amazing. From lemon to papaya, all the products have a strong, usually fruit-inspired scent. But there is so much more to Gnarly Whale than meets the nose! 

The all-vegan line sent me many free products to try so I can give you the lowdown. I was VERY impressed with the haircare. The shampoo was the consistency of water so it was a little hard to actually get to my head (like some would leak through my hands) and I was worried it wouldn’t clean my hair—totally wrong! It cleaned my hair very well. And I NEVER wash my hair, so I really put it to the test! I was also really impressed by the hair detangler. I asked my friend Jess, vegan fashion genius, if she uses the detangler with conditioner or not, she says she uses conditioner and the spray. But I went ahead and tried it sans conditioner and it softened my coarse hair! And it smells SUPER.

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The Beach Waves is also a great product. It’s not as beachy as other similar products I’ve tried but it also didn’t make my hair so stiff as those other products have. The only thing I didn’t like was the body spray. It was was not subtly scented like promised and it didn’t really moisturize like it suggested. But the lip balm gets an A+. And I love the oatmeal & honey soap! I double checked, no honey in it! It smells more like oatmeal and almond and you know I love anything almond scented. But my most favorite thing was the face and body scrub! It uses sugar to scrub off dead skin cells and then immediately adds moister with olive oil. Kind of genius. I was worried it would be too oily but it’s actually perfect. And I didn’t break out or anything. Just smooth, moisturized skin. And as with everything, what lovely scents it comes in!

The company also donates 10% of their profits to charity every month. Half of the monthly donation goes to Earth Justice, which seems super cool, but the other half goes to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I’m a bit torn on this, I thought it was a regular aquarium (i.e. awful!) but they say they just do rescue, rehab and release, only keeping animals at the aquarium if the animal would likely not survive on its own. But I can’t find much info on them other than self-reported. But lord knows there are all kinds of sea animals getting injured due to human bullish! Anyway, this portion of this post was updated after I read on CMA’s website more. I’m still not totally sure though. 

Final pro-tip if you plan on purchasing, they have dope sales! So check that out for a bargain. And try the sugar scrub! It looks like you can pick whatever scent you want for the sugar scrub. I liked the coconut and I never even like coconut!

04/25/2014

Dude it’s VEGAN BACON GREASE. How long has this isht been around and NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT IT?! Heads (of vegans!) will roll!!!!
It looks like it’s pretty widely(-ish) available and we all need to get at it now. I’m about to fry up all the things in my house. Watch out, common household plants and curtain rods. Things are about to get heated!

Dude it’s VEGAN BACON GREASE. How long has this isht been around and NOBODY TOLD ME ABOUT IT?! Heads (of vegans!) will roll!!!!

It looks like it’s pretty widely(-ish) available and we all need to get at it now. I’m about to fry up all the things in my house. Watch out, common household plants and curtain rods. Things are about to get heated!

04/23/2014

We totally heart Cocomels: delicious coconut-milk vegan caramels!  »

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Guys, I’m happily OBSESSED with Cocomels vegan coconut milk caramels. Like, completely OBSESSED. JJ’s Sweets sent me a bunch of free stuff to try and as usual, I shared these goodies with my coworkers. Everyone absolutely loved them and multiple coworkers said these are the best things I’ve ever made them try. 

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I was never much into caramels but I thought I’d give these a try anyway and boy am I glad I did! They are nothing short of awesome. And totally addictive. 

As they are made with coconut milk, some of them have a bit of a coconut flavor. People were comparing the vanilla Cocomels to Samoas Girl Scout cookies. I’ve never had those but that’s what everyone said they tasted like.

The coffee and sea salt have less of a coconut flavor. The coffee is my most very favorite of all the flavors! It tastes like rich coffee, like when you get coffee ice cream—not a subtle cappuccino flavor. The sea salt was my second favorite as you know I love the salty and sweet combo. 

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Now, don’t die! They also sent me a few of their chocolate-covered varieties!* I gave my mom the chocolate-covered vanilla ones and she pretty much died. These were all good but I actually prefer the straight up caramels. The chocolate seemed a little minty almost? Maybe I’m being cray but that’s what it tasted like to me. Loved the sea salt one of course! Here’s a picture of the chocolate-covered sea salt Cocomel, in all its glory:

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Jeez, don’t drool on the computer! OK you can because it’s your computer and you can do whatever you want. Unless you are at the library (NERD), in which case do not drool on your computer and keep it down over there. 

Other exciting bits of info:

-I love the packaging design! (Reminds me of the sidewalks in Rio. Why yes, I am fancy. Thanks for noticing.)

-Cocomels are made in copper kettles, all old-school like!

-They are gluten free, organic, non-GMO and corn syrup-free!

-The boxes are made with wind power for freaks sake!

-The chocolate they use is fair trade!

I know, it’s all so exciting! You can buy Cocomels online at their siteFood Fight Grocery, and Abe’s Market. You can also get them at Whole Foods Market stores in the NorCal, SoCal, CO, NM, UT,  NY, CT, NJ, TX, LA, AR, OK, KS, NV;  Select Sprouts in AZ and CA, Vitamin Cottage, The Fresh Market, New Leaf, and numerous smaller chains, COOPs and independent grocers. I cannot recommend these enough! I want more!

*UPDATE!: Several people have found the chocolate-covered caramels are sold-out on the Cocomels site! JJ’s Sweets just put this note on our FB:

The Chocolate-Covered Cocomels are available in a two pack only in a few select locations right now, but you will be able to order the larger bags of them on the site in the next few days…. making a fresh batch now! 

04/22/2014

Product review: Vegan Cuts Beauty Essentials Kit!   »

imageI love vegan cosmetics! In a past more recent than I’d like to admit, I got tripped up by the term cruelty-free on cosmetics, thinking it was an all-inclusive term meaning vegan. That, my friends, couldn’t be farther from the truth, as cruelty free cosmetics often have animal ingredients in them. If I, a long-time vegan, am having trouble with this in the store, how must new vegans feel? It’s overwhelming! With lists and lists of animal ingredients to memorize, these waters are not often easy to navigate—not only in food but in products for our faces, bods and hair as well! 

Thankfully, the Vegan Beauty Essentials Kit exists, curated by Vegan Cuts! This box is filled with such fun and luxurious products, I believe vegans of all experience levels, from rookies to lifers, the curious to the die-hards, will enjoy receiving it! I excitedly tried most of the products immediately, but am saving a few for weekends on the go! Most of the products, if not all of them, are the perfect size to get through TSA, and wouldn’t take up much room in an overnight bag. I enjoy having fancy products to travel with, it adds a bit of excitement and glamour to an on-the-go routine. I can’t just waltz into the drugstore for all my trial-size, traveling needs anymore.

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Let’s be real: vegan products do not come cheap, definitely not as affordable as their cruelty-full counterparts. In this respect, I enjoy having an assortment of sample sizes to try, in order to make informed decisions about which full sizes to purchase in the future. After all, what works for you may not work for me and vice versa. The Beauty Essentials kit comes with 10 -15 surprise items, and while most are sample size, a couple of them are full size! 


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

I couldn’t recommend this kit more! And what a deal: it’s a $50 value for $27.95. Everything smells so fresh, and is catered to most skin and hair types! (Please, can someone come teach me how to use the eyeshadow, because I have never gotten the hang of that one?) [Ed. note: Megan Rascal’s adorable sister can!]

Full Disclosure: Vegan Cuts sent me the Beauty Essentials Kit to review, free of charge, but all of the opinions stated are my own. I will be purchasing many of these products after sampling them in the kit. I wouldn’t waste your time, nor mine, writing posts that do not reflect my personal experience! BECAUSE I AM THE WORST AND DROPPED THE BALL ON GETTING THIS REVIEW UP, VERSION 2.0 IS WHAT IS AVAILABLE NOW. Looks just as awesome!  

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! 

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