Product Review: LimeCrime Eyeshadow Helper!

So, we’re all devastated over all the controversy over Urban Decay’s eyeshadow primer potion being revealed as not truly vegan (not to mention their shady animal testing/oh no we’re not really policies). At least I am. I wear mildly shimmery shadows pretty much every day, and in order to avoid the creeping creasies and keep that stuff where it should be I relied on that primer like an orphaned piglet on its adoptive mother in my recurring dreams. I rationed the last of my old tube until it started smelling weird and resigned myself to tossing it out with no replacement in sight. Sob. So what’s a vegan to do?

Enter: LimeCrime! I’d never heard of this brand, but I just happened to be searching “vegan eyeshadow primer” on Amazon and it came up. Bam!

Fabulous!

Fabulous!

I ordered it immediately because I have a Prime membership now and it is super dangerous to my credit score. Apparently the formula used to contain beeswax but is now vegan, not to mention cruelty-free! I started using this stuff with wild abandon and I absolutely love it. I’d say it’s even better than the UD primer. It’s thicker, a bit creamier, and doesn’t have quite as much shimmer to it (depending on the UD primer that you used, since they make several). It is a little bit lighter in shade and you have to be a bit more careful where you put it, since it’ll show if you happen to groggily smear it on your general eyeball area with your finger like an animal not that I do that. Of course, I’m pretty brown, so this might not matter as much to you fairer peoples. At any rate, it works fantastically. The first day I used it happened to be a day I worked in a booth at an all-day festival outdoors in the sun, where I sweated profusely and ran around like crazy for many hours. And when I got home and collapsed on the couch, I was amazed to see that my shadow and liner hadn’t budged or smeared one bit.

Here’s the part of the post where you could see the amazing picture of my eyeshadow at the end of this day if I were smart and had gotten the photos off my old phone before getting a new one and could find the cord to connect the old phone to my computer. But hypotheticals aside, trust me, I still looked fresh to death.

Side note: of course, with a more powerful primer potion, you need a bit more power in your makeup remover. I recommend BWC’s removers. Both the lotiony and the watery ones work well with a cotton pad or washcloth and don’t irritate my sensitive eyeballs. I use pretty much exclusively waterproof liner and shadow and those are tougher to remove, but I find BWC does the job best.

I give LimeCrime’s Eyeshadow Helper two enthusiastic makeup-covered thumbs up! Buy this stuff and then buy some more for me, too.

Product Review: Vegan Cuts Snack Box!

I had a really fantastic day last Wednesday. My new dress (for one of many weddings this spring) came in the mail. My new mascara came in the mail. Even the air fresheners I ordered came in the mail. Slightly less exciting, but still, who doesn’t love the thrill of opening a box with STUFF in it? Way more exciting than air fresheners, I also got a box full of goodies in the mall – the Vegan Cuts Snack Box!

It's like Christmas EVERY MONTH!

It’s like Christmas EVERY MONTH!

Vegan Cuts is a great site that we’ve reviewed products for before, and they were kind enough to send me a box full of sunshine to take for a test eating. I had been wanting to try this bad boy ever since I first heard about the service, and this one was perfectly timed. I’m still going through the hell of finals week, and having portable snacks ready for me to devour on the couch or on campus has been super handy. I haven’t made it through the whole box yet, but here’s what I’ve eaten so far:

  • First to get destroyed were the Oloves lemony olives. I am an olive fiend and having a little pouch of olives say, “Oh hi Jessica, I’m all ready for you to eat me, also I’m covered in delicious lemon juice and herbs, let’s be BFFS” is a recurring dream of mine. I’ve had these on flights before in those little snack packs you pay $9 for, and they are absolutely delightful. Portable olives! GENIUS.
  • I also went to town on the Food Should Taste Good sweet potato chips. I agree with their Descendents-esque brand name – food SHOULD taste good, damnit. And these did! They were a little on the salty/oily side for me, but that didn’t mean I didn’t finish the bag. They were thick and crunchy and awesome with a little Pesto Vegenaise on top. (What? Like you wouldn’t do the same if you had some in your fridge.)
  • There was even a teeny little jar of artichoke bruschetta! After squealing for a while about how eety beety it was, I spread that thing on some crackers and it was the perfect snack for an intense study sesh. It was a bit oily, but the flavor was really delightful. I think this would make a great spread for a sandwich or two.
  • The Skinny Pop came in extremely handy on a day when I was in my car for way too many hours and then on campus for even more hours. I really love popcorn, to the point where I start to crave it sometimes, but mostly for the texture. I’m not big on loading it with salt and Earth Balance most of the time. This stuff was just right. Just a little bit of saltiness and oil. Also, it’s nice to have a 100-calorie pack of something that is more than a sliver of food that leaves you with a general idea of what eating it would be like. There were honest-to-glob handfuls of popcorn in there! I proceeded to get it all over myself in the car. I’ll definitely buy this stuff again since I’m lazy and never use my microwave popcorn popper. One criticism I do have, though, is I’m not a fan of brands using words like “skinny” and “guilt” on their packaging. We’re image-obsessed enough already, and equating our food with our feelings is unhealthy! It’s a rant for another day, for sure, but I just can’t help but say that I think it’s high time manufacturers stopped using terms that relate to one’s sense of self-worth to describe food.
  • TEESE! I haven’t gotten to eat this lovely little tube of nacho goodness yet, but I can’t wait. It’s been years since I’ve had it but I remember nothing but good things about it.
  • I am a huge Teecino fan. I can’t handle caffeine much. It’s kind of hilarious how hopped up and insane I get on a latte, and then crash so hard you’d think I was coming off a controlled substance or something. Teecino is great to have around for Sunday morning brunch when you can’t afford to be up all night but still want something hot and bitter and coffee-ish with your tofu scramble. I love that they’ve finally started making it in bags in the last few years! I can bring these to school and just get hot water and boom, instant late-night pick-me-up without the buzz!
  • I wasn’t a fan of the 22 Days chocolate protein drink mix. I’m spoiled by Vega (when I can afford it) – that vanilla chai is so delicious, it makes other protein drink mix powders cry. It’s also, like, $4 a pack, so it’s a treat when I can get it. I had this packet with me one marathon day in the lab, so I was really glad to have something to fit that mid-afternoon snack craving. I didn’t have my blender bottle cup on me so I just had to use a fork to stir this, and EW. It was GUMMY. I looked at the ingredients list and there was a ton of fruit pectin. That struck me as sort of weird. Why would that be in a drink mix? I mean, I can understand a little bit of some gums to provide a little viscosity, but seriously, this stuff was straight up gloppy. I added more water and stirred as best I could, then took a gulp – and tossed the stuff down the drain. I’ve had way worse protein drinks, but this one was a no go for me.
  • I didn’t eat the 22 Days protein bar myself, but Mr. Spice took it with him to work and when I asked him to describe it to me in detail he said it was “good.” A little gritty, but he said the flavor was overall very nice. I wish I had gotten to try a taste! It was a little heavy for me since I usually stick to lighter bars, but for a big strong manly man like him it was great.
  • The Meow Meow Tweet (cutest brand name ever) lip balm was rosemary eucalyptus-flavored. ROSEMARY in a lip balm! So crazy! It sounded delightful, and went on nice and smooth and made my lips feel super soft. The flavor was a little much, though. As in, when I put it on, I immediately exclaimed, “ITALIAN FOOD!” Mr. Spice agreed, and when I tried to go in for a smooch he recoiled saying, “Oh wow, Italian food.” I liked the balm itself but the rosemary flavor was just too strong and weird to be on my lips for long.
Always has to get her face in everything.

Always has to get her face in everything.

I still have the little packet of Parmela parmesan left, and of course the Teese tube. Overall I’d say this was an awesome box, and at $20 a month this is a really fun deal. I imagine the Snack Box subscription to be like the fun of opening my weekly CSA box, without all the disappointment of getting the same damned zucchinis four weeks in a row and lettuce that wilts in two days. It’s a fun surprise when you open the box, and who doesn’t love having portable snacks on hand? I am super pressed for time these days and rarely have time to cook, or even to pack myself snacks, so I really enjoyed having these ready to go. It also threw some much-needed variety into my boring snack habits. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lit review to write up and a tube of Teese to stare at longingly.

Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell Redux

Some of you readers may remember my old blog back on NotPopular.com (Thanks to Josh Highland for the hosting space!) on which I posted a bunch of recipes and ramblings back in the day. One of my favorite entries on it was my Oatmeal Raisin Hell cookie recipe. Raisin haters be damned! (Fine, I’ll give you some tips on how to substitute them. Punks.) These cookies are my go-to when I need cookies in a flash and don’t have time to shop for new ingredients since pretty much everything in it is stuff you most likely already have in your pantry anyway. They’re always a hit wherever they show up, and a batch makes quite a few of them. Sometimes I even make bags or tins of them as gifts for the dudes in my life that enjoy food more than gift cards. And the best part is since they’re egg-free, you can eat tons of the (DELICIOUS) dough without a worry that Salmonella is going to ruin your whole cookie-inhaling experience. My grandma clipped this recipe out of a newspaper in the ’50s or ’60s, and made these cookies for many decades. I’m proud to carry on the tradition, with a somewhat updated and veganized edition!

A few notes:

  • These babies are a tad on the salty side of your average cookie, and I think it gives them a little somethin-somethin’ since these are also nice and sweet and spiced, but you can take it down to 3/4 teaspoon if you like. Try it with a full teaspoon the first time and see what you think.
  • A #40 cookie scoop (completely full and then scraped against the side of your mixing bowl) works great for these. You want smallish cookies, no bigger than a rounded tablespoon or so.
  • I like mine soft so I find that 10 minutes at 375 F is pretty much the sweet spot in my oven. You can go higher, up to 12 minutes (and even turn the heat up to 400) if you’d like crispy cookies to dunk in your tea or something, but I really love these chewy and they can burn pretty easily if you don’t watch them.
  • I also really like using my little mini measuring cup plunger for measuring out the molasses. That way you really get every drop out. I use mine anytime I’m doing syrups or other thick sticky liquids. Not necessary, but nice to have!
  • If you don’t dig on raisins, you lamewad, then any other chopped “plump” dried fruit like chopped dried apricots, craisins (crazy raisins!), cherries, or even chopped nuts or chocolate chips will work just fine.
  • In my old recipe I used Ener-G egg replacer, but over the years I’ve swapped it for flax eggs. Ground flaxseed works great in this crunchy oaty cookie, but I wouldn’t use it in a lighter cookie or cake. I haven’t gotten on the chia egg train yet but I bet it would work great here too.
  • As to rolled oats, you can use whole or quick-cooking (which I prefer just because it’s a bit smaller and makes for easier mixing and more even cookies), but not instant.
  • This is one of those easy-ish recipes that you can actually mix entirely by hand. I use my stand mixer to cream the shortening with the sugar just because it goes faster, but it’s totally not necessary if you have a good sturdy mixing spoon and a strong bicep.
  • You can easily double this recipe! I’ve done it many times. You’ll be in the kitchen swapping out sheets a lot more frequently, but you’ll have dozens and dozens of amazingly chewy gooey hearty cookies at a moment’s notice.

Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell Cookies

makes about 3 dozen cookies (give or take how much dough you eat)

Cat not included.

Cat not included.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 c shortening
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 6 T dark molasses
  • 1/4 c ground flaxseed meal
  • 6 T water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • generous 1/2 c raisins
  • 2 c rolled oats
IMAG1984

Note the all-knowing visage of Her Veganness Isa Chandra Moskowitz looking on in the background. She watches over us all. May she bless every batch of cookies.

Place rack in center position of oven and preheat to 375 F. Grease (or attack with nonstick spray) 3 cookie sheets. (You can use 2 but it just means you’ll have to re-grease one of them after the first batch is done.)

In a small bowl, mix together flaxseeds and water with a small whisk or fork. Set aside while you mix other wet ingredients. Give it a couple of minutes to sit and get funky and weird.

IMAG1990

Girl, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

In a large bowl, with either a stand mixer or a mixing spoon, cream together shortening and sugar as much as possible, then add molasses and vanilla extract. By now the flaxseed sludge should be thick and gooey and pretty much a solid mass. Add it to the other wet ingredients and mix well.

In a separate medium bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon with a whisk until well-combined. (This is a great sifting shortcut! I only use my sifter when I’m working with powdered sugar or cocoa since it’s such a pain to clean. This works just as well for airing out the flour and mixing the dry ingredients.) Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined, then add the rest. Add in the raisins and stir to mix, then the oats one cup at a time. Stir to make sure everything’s well-distributed and no oats are left lonely and dry at the bottom of the bowl.

Drop dough by the rounded tablespoonful (see note) onto greased cookie sheets at least an inch or two apart. These won’t spread too terribly much if you keep them small.

IMAG1991

All the little cookies say ah-ah, I want to

Pop in the oven on the center rack and bake for 9-11 minutes one tray at a time. Let each batch cool on the tray for at least 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely. Store covered in a cool, dry place. Serve with a few shots of almond milk and a smile.

IMAG1992

Best beer/whiskey/almond milk glass ever.

See you at the Crossroads

Ever since Madeleine Bistro went more or less underground, LA has been sorely lacking in gourmet upscale vegan dining options. We’re lucky enough to have a plethora of casual vegan restaurants and even some fantastic new veg-friendly hotspots like the swank  The Village in Studio City, the incredibly delicious STREET on Highland and Melrose, and the ever-scrumtrulescent Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake. But 100% plant-based places are rarely all that fancy, and sometimes a vegan wants to get her high heels on and be able to eat more than three things on the menu, you know?

Enter Crossroads. No, it’s not based on the Bone Thugs-n-Harmony song, nor on the Britney Spears vehicle, nor the used clothing trading company. It was founded by none other than vegan megachef Tal Ronnen, whom I can personally attest to being 100% good dude. The Conscious Cook author/Gardein golden boy has created a beautiful yet unpretentious setting in the Fairfax/Beverly Grove area that serves all-vegan cuisine and gets me that much closer to my dream of being the world’s foremost vegan gourmet restaurant critic. This Friday night the hubs and I were lucky enough to get a reservation on the second night it was in business and I’m so, so glad we did. Forgive the quality of my crappy cell phone photos – it’s dark as a mother in there. Moby was eating there at the same time, NBD. Bottom line: the place has a few kinks to work out, as does any in its early days, but overall it’s fantastic.

The restaurant itself is just gorgeous. Tal and the other founders clearly paid a lot of attention to detail. The bar is the focal point of the main dining room, and I’d be happy to wile away a few hours here chatting it up with the friendly bartenders.

IMAG1967Our reservation (DEFINITELY make one) was for 9 PM, and we ended up having to stand at the bar and wait for a good half hour for our table. I’m pretty forgiving of slow/disorganized service when a place is brand new, and it ended up giving us a few moments to hang out and try the drink options. Some of these beverages were downright crazypants – they were out of the Caprese Smash and I really wanted to try a concoction with 9 ingredients, especially one with Sriracha bitters. I ended up going with the Punch Lyfe and the Mr. got an old-fashioned. Both of us agreed they were THE BEST EVER and immediately ordered a second round. I ended up getting the Sunset & Vine the second time around, which looks super pretty on account of the beet juice, but tasted sorta eh also on account of the beet juice. The Punch Lyfe seriously was amazing and I’d get it again in a heartbeat, and the hubs’ old-fashioned was no joke the best I’ve ever had.

SUNSET & VINE milagro reposado / solerno / lillet rouge / st. germain / rhubarb bitters
blood orange / beet / basil / ginger beer,  and PUNCH LYFE tullamore dew / gingersnap liqueur / orange marmalade / angostura / sparkling wine; both $15

After being seated we ordered about a billion dishes. One thing to note here – the portions are not just small, they are TEENY. Some dishes are bigger than others, of course, but for the most part you’re going to be getting just a bite or two off each plate. Again on the service, it was somewhat poorly timed. We ended up getting four dishes at once, which of course didn’t all fit on the table, was a little uncomfortable, and not to mention made us look like total hogs. First up was the kale spanakopita.

photo (1)

KALE SPANAKOPITA / 8
harissa spiced smoked tomato fondu / mint oil

These were nothing short of goddamned delightful. The little tomato fondu (say that in as obnoxious of an accent as you can for full effect) was creamy, rich and thick, and the little spanakopita (you have to press your fingertips together and move your hands up and down while saying that like you’re in an old racist cartoon) were crisp on the outside and full of creamy, chewy kale on the inside. We both oohed and ahhed over these babies. I could have eaten about twelve of the little two-bite rolls.

Flat bread - PISTACHIO KALAMATA TAPENADE & SPICY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER   / 10

Flat bread – PISTACHIO KALAMATA TAPENADE & SPICY ROASTED CAULIFLOWER / 10

We saw a couple at the table next to us eating this, and had to get it for ourselves. The texture on the cauliflower was just perfect. It was almost like a BBQ chicken pizza, but vegan and for grownups. Definitely would get this dish again. This was probably the biggest dish we had, and luckily one of the tastiest.

KITE HILL CHEESE PLATE   / 14 assorted cheeses / housemade jams / and other goodies -- (GF optional)

KITE HILL CHEESE PLATE / 14
assorted cheeses / housemade jams / and other goodies — (GF optional)

I was really excited about the cheese plate, and ended up being a little disappointed. The serving size was ample, and I enjoyed the accompaniments, but the cheese itself left a bit to be desired. It was just way too springy. Too much agar or carageenan or somethin’. The cheeses weren’t labeled, but from their facebook page I can guess that the red-rinded one in the center was their Costanoa and the one on the far left was the Cassucio. The White Alder (in the foreground, with a mottled white rind) was the only one I really enjoyed, as it was creamy and rich and spread nicely across the little multigrain bread provided. Still, I think they’re all worth trying because new vegan cheese duh.

“CRAB CAKES”   / 8 hearts of palm / apples / beets / horseradish cream -- (GF optional)

“CRAB CAKES” / 8
hearts of palm / apples / beets / horseradish cream — (GF optional)

The mini crab cakes were teeny tiny, barely two bites each. Our only complaint with these was that the texture of the veggies inside was a little bit off – they were just barely too firm and too big, which was a bit distracting, but the flavors were on point. It reminded me quite a bit of a dish that Fatty’s used to serve that I dearly miss. Don’t know that I’d get these again, but they were nice.

IMAG1961

SPICED CHICKPEAS / 8
oven-dried tomatoes / parsley garlic whip — (GF)

The spiced chickpeas were also a bit weird in the texture department. I don’t know if they were undercooked, but they just seemed a bit too firm. The parlsey garlic whip was a lovely complement to the spicy red sauce, but in the end I wasn’t crazy about these garbanzos. And you know how I feel about garbanzos.

PAPPARDELLE BOLOGNESE   / 12

PAPPARDELLE BOLOGNESE / 12

Even though we had ordered enough dishes to keep our waitress busy all night, we agreed we were still hungry after all that and ordered the papardelle. This dish ended up being my least favorite, sadly – the sauce was just way, WAY too salty. And I LOVE SALT. Both of us WHOAED Joey Lawrence-style upon our first bites. The flavors were great, the veggie meat crumbles were great, the pasta was great – but the salt level just threw everything off. I probably would have enjoyed it just fine if not for that. Hopefully it was just a one-time mistake and not the way it’s supposed to be made.

The dude at the table next to us ordered all four desserts on the menu and ate all of them by himself. Not to be outdone, we ordered some of our own (though not all four, which I still regret bitterly.)

IMAG1968

CARROT CAKE ICE CREAM, CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE, both $4

First of all, OMG SO CUTE. The desserts are itty-bitty (and only $4 a pop!) so don’t feel guilty at all for ordering one of them after eating here. Or all of them. The chocolate bundt cake was super rich and dark – in fact, the cocoa level was a little too strong and bitter, and I’m a dark cocoa fiend. But once I got to the ooey gooey caramely center I couldn’t help but exclaim OMUHGAH at that. It was ridiculous. In the best way. And the carrot cake ice cream? GOOD LORD SO GOOD. Absolutely delicious. Also, the little slices of carrot are candied and they’re bunny ears. GET THIS DESSERT.

Overall, I really loved Crossroads. There were a few hiccups but that’s more than understandable during the very early days of a restaurant. I really believe this is going to be the new vegan place to be, and know that my non-veg friends wouldn’t complain about eating here. The atmosphere is really classy, the food and drinks are bomb, the bartenders all wear cute suspenders, and the bathroom sink is mad fancy.

CRAZY SINK!

CRAZY SINK from inside the restaurant’s holodeck.

Well done, Mr. Ronnen and company. I’ll be back soon!

Crossroads

http://www.crossroadskitchen.com/

8284 Melrose Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90046

(323) 782-9245

 

Quick and Dirty Product Review: Earth Balance Vegan Aged White Cheddar Puffs

While wiling away an evening at Whole Foods in a post-workout Mariana Trench-sized carbohydrate ditch, I just about snapped my neck when I saw these babies on the snack aisle.

“Vegan” in tiny letters so as not to scare off the omnis, natch.

Obviously I had to try them. I added them to my already-overflowing handbasket and ripped into the bag the moment I got in the car.

The verdict? These things are basically puffy corn puffs covered in weird non-dairy cheddar-type flavor powder. The cheddar flavor is pretty mild, which is sort of nice, but definitely don’t go into it expecting Chester Cheetah-level cheesiness unless you want to be disappointed. At first I wasn’t into them and enjoyed my cheesy kale chips a lot more (hey, they were on sale), but over the weekend the Mr. and I obliterated the whole bag. I am writing this with cheezy flavor powder all over my shirt and fingers right now. They’re good, but not so great that we ate them all in one sitting (which is how we usually eat snacks). I don’t know that I’d buy them again because they are pretty messy and the texture isn’t my favorite. I’d say they’re worth trying.

Product Review – Yoga Earth goodies

Hey friends! VegSpice here and – What’s that? A POST? That’s right, I’ve been neglecting this blog far too long and am back from the depths of 9-5 working (and now deep in the depths of grad school). Today I’ll take you on a tasty tour reviewing some fancy raw offerings from Yoga Earth. I’ve done yoga a few times and always end up trying too hard to impress everyone else and tearing something. I figure all my Pop Physique classes make me the most flexible badass there, and then for the whole following week I’m cursing every staircase I have to walk up. Anyway, Yoga Earth sells a wide variety of organic, raw, and all-that-good-stuff goodies in eco-friendly packaging. Here you can see my fabulous assistant, Fatty, modeling them:

She’s got style.

 

I’m actually not usually a super big fan of raw foods or the raw lifestyle in general – I mean, I enjoy some of it, but for an all-day-every-day thing it’s hard to sustain. I love some things at Cafe Gratitude but the dreadlock zombie thing doesn’t really do it for me, you know? But I was excited to try these products, because they were entirely new to me. The first up: Raw Almonds.

ooh baby I like it RAWWWWW

 

I don’t usually go for raw almonds because they have that bitter cherry-ish benzaldehyde-y flavor. I prefer smoked or tamari flavored almonds, so I was expecting that I would get the same bitter flavor from these guys. I was totally surprised at how creamy and soft they were, like my best buddy cashews! They had only the slightest taste of that bitter flavor at the very end, so I found myself chewing handfuls of these. Fatty was very interested in them too.

but really, what won’t she eat?

whatenberries?

Up next: Goldenberries. Wait, WTF are goldenberries? Apparently they’re also called Aztec berries, so I have to be down with that. These guys reminded me of big plump cranberries, very chewy and tart at the end with a very interesting almost tropical sweetness at the front of the taste. The texture was my favorite part. As soon as I tasted them I thought, TRAIL MIX COOKIES so I think that’s what these babies will have to go into. Really cool and full of crazy phytonutrients too!

crunchy munchies

Up last was the Meridan Trail Mix. I love trail mix, for real. It has to have: a) cashews, b) chocolate, and c) some sort of dried berry. This one hit all of those requirements and then some. The raw cashews in this were suuuper creamy and delicious. The cacao is a little dusty, but I’m not the biggest fan of cacao – I do like really dark bitter chocolate, but I wasn’t feelin’ this. Goji berries in a trail mix are always cool and make me feel all exotic and cool like I should have my own personal assistant or something. Go get me that latte and do my homework, ok? The mulberries are the really interesting part here. The first time I saw a bag of them at Cafe Gratitude I thought first, what the hell are those? Then, wait, didn’t those always fall off our tree and clog the pool filter every summer? Then, wait, you can EAT those? Turns out you can! They’re chewy and tart. I don’t know that this trail mix is my thing because I’m all about the trail mixes that are practically dessert, and my husband (oh yeah, I got married) wasn’t that big of a fan either. It felt like very good quality stuff, though. The food scientist in me does want to point out that the cacao is described as “[dipped in] coconut nectar” but coconut isn’t listed anywhere on the ingredients list. Food regulations are fun and they can be your friend too! Just kidding, they’re super boring.

Anyway, even this cranky skeptic was won over by Yoga Earth’s goodies, and if raw food is your thing give these a go! Starting Thursday, they’ll be available on awesome site Vegan Cuts, where they’ll be offering a sweet deal- 10% off  EVERYTHING on the site with the discount code BLOGFRIEND –  and you should totally hop on that, as well of all of the other awesome veg deals they have going on. (Umm, I need that caramel sampler inside of me.)

My Standard “So You’re Going Vegan” Spiel

Since it’s the new year full of new starts and resolutions and hopes and dreams and hangovers, many people tend to transition to veganism around this time of year (including me, initially, in 2003 – for about a week before I failed miserably and tried again in a few months). I thought that my lengthy tirade about just how the hell to do it would be appropriate and hopefully help a couple folks out.

I majored in nutrition and food science, so my friends that go vegan often come to me first when they have questions about how the hell to do this giant life change. First, I congratulate them and teach them the secret vegan handshake, then write them novels like this on what it’s all about (mostly, though not entirely, the hokey pokey). Veganism is a pretty big deal in that it changes aspects of your life you’ve never even considered before and makes you a much bigger pain in the ass to your friends and family. You will also get really good at reading ingredient labels, answering questions about whether or not you eat honey, and lecturing fools on just how much more healthy protein you get in your diet than they do.

this was for a friend that had specific questions about protein, energy levels, and weight gain.

*disclaimer – though i did get my degree in nutrition and food science, i’m not an RD and these are my (relatively well-informed) opinions and what i’ve found works for me*

-ease into it. if you haven’t already, start slowly transitioning more and more meals to be veggie. the first time i tried vegan i dove into it headfirst and didn’t last a month. a few months later i had begun eliminating dairy and egg from my diet (i was already vegetarian for a long time) and it was much easier. if you start slow, and build up, say give yourself a month or so, it’s easier to do than doing all at once. at least, it was for me.

-protein is NOT going to be a problem, seriously. if one more person asks me where i get my protein i’m going to start biting them. most americans get WAY too much protein anyway and it’s bad for your kidneys. as long as you’re not eating just fries and chips and bread (the most wonderful things in the world, of course), you’ll be fine. it just takes healthy eating and a little foresight, which everybody should be doing anyway. I highly recommend using this site: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ it’s a good diet tracker, and gives you an idea of how each plate should look. i used it all the time when i was studying and teaching nutrition. easy ways to make sure you’re getting enough protein:

  • BEANS. seriously. they are your best friend. i always have like, four cans of garbanzos in my pantry.
  • nuts. not too many, because it’s easy to eat like 2 cups of them in one serving and realize you’ve just consumed all your fat for the day, but peanut butter is awesome and a really good source of healthy fats.
  • whole grains. i eat almost exclusively whole grains – breads, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, etc. and avoid white bread where i can. much higher in protein than the bleached stuff and better for you in general – vitamin, fiber, energy, and calorie-wise.
  • dairy alternatives like soymilk and soy yogurt. i eat a lot of soy so i try to limit it to one or two meals a day instead of all three and use unsweetened vanilla almond milk by Blue Diamond (everyone’s favorite, you can get it at trader joe’s) on my cereal. but i’m not so much concerned about it being soy as eating too much of one thing. these are also good sources of calcium.
  • our bffs, tempeh, tofu, seitan, and veggie meats like Gardein. learn how to work with all of them. tofu needs to be pressed to not be soggy, tempeh needs to be steamed to get the bitterness out, and seitan can be kind of rubbery. gardein is awesomely meatlike. i use it maybe twice a week or so at the most – i don’t use that many veggie meats too often anymore.

-energy levels shouldn’t be a problem. if you’re eating more fruits and veggies, which you definitely will be, and especially whole grains, you’ll have more energy. exercise is of course super important for that too.

-weight gain? i can pretty much guarantee you’ll lose weight. i lost a good 15 pounds in my first few months of being vegan, and another 30 over the next year or so. and kept it off…mostly, haha. But yeah, you’re going to be eating way less saturated fat and much, much more fiber (get ready to poop at least 3 times a day), so you’ll probably lose weight pretty rapidly. again, if you’re eating like shit and surviving on potato chips and pasta you won’t lose weight, but you’d get sick of that real quick.

-on a side note, you don’t need a lot of supplements. vegans really only need to supplement their diets with B12 (since it doesn’t exist in a vegan diet except for small amounts in nutritional yeast, which is a delicious cheddary cheezy powder that is awesome), calcium (which all women should be taking anyway), and a good omega-3, -6, and -9 fat supplement (most people just need an omega-3 since they get plenty of -6 and -9 in their diets, but vegans need a little extra. helps me a lot with PMS and stuff). i take a cheap multivitamin just to cover my bases on the B vitamins, and since i was a little low in D last time i got a physical. but calcium and an omega fat blend, a teaspoon or two of that oil a day, and that’s it. tastes nasty but goes down easy with OJ or in a smoothie.
i would recommend getting some vegan cookbooks. being vegan means that you’re going to have to cook for yourself a lot, and you’ll enjoy it, too, because it’s so rewarding and gives you a lot more variety than just sticking another Dr. Praeger veggie burger on the george foreman every night (though i fucking love those burgers). my favorite, and every vegan’s favorite author is Isa Chandra Moskowitz. her blog has awesome recipes on it, and links to all her books:

http://www.theppk.com/

Every single one of them is worthwhile. my copy of vegan cupcakes take over the world is covered in stains because i use it all the damned time. i recently got her Appetite for Reduction book, which is low-fat vegan cooking, and have been very impressed with it. the baked falafel, cajun bean balls with cajun spaghetti, baked onion rings, and almost everything else in there have been fantastic save for one or two duds. Veganomicon is great to have because I use it more as a reference. it’s got guides in the front section on how to roast, grill, etc. almost any veggie, prepare any grain, soak any bean, and it’s awesome. veggies are your new best friends – you’ll be inhaling kale, broccoli, and collard greens like they’re air. (which, again, will help boost energy levels and lead to weight loss!) the recipes in there are sometimes a little involved but they’re all winners. the chickpea cutlets are the fucking BOMB. and Vegan Brunch is great for impressing your friends and making them all sleepy full of greasy delicious hash browns and tofu omelettes and coffee cake.

there are a buttload of blogs and forums out there too. vegweb.com is great for whenever you want a basic recipe to go from for a particular food.

I know that’s a novel, but i really get excited when people tell me they’re going vegan…it’s such a great thing to do for yourself, and for the planet. it definitely works for me.

Product Review: Delicious Delights by The Marvelous Food Company

If you must avoid gluten because you have a genuine sensitivity to it or celiac disease, my heart goes out to you. If you’re one of the many people avoiding it because it’s trendy, you’re ridiculous and easily influenced because bread rules. It is because bread rules so hard that my heart goes out to those that must do without the wondrous protein composite that is gluten. I know I love me some seitan and other gluten-y veggie meat products, and my baking forays into the gluten-free world have been less than successful – though many such as The Sensitive Baker do it like it ain’t no thang. And not using eggs to do so is tough!

Enter The Marvelous Food Company. They’re a small mom-and-pop owned bakery that has a really heartwarming startup story. Their products contain a ton of fruit and veggies in prepackaged single serving portions, so I didn’t feel too guilty scarfing them down after a workout-induced hypoglycemic event. The first thing I noticed, though, when reading the ingredients was a pretty huge, glaring error. The products are touted as all vegan on their site. The first ingredient in the chocolate mini-muffins, and the second in the chewy ginger cookies, is honey. I personally eat honey if it’s in small amounts of products I like, but by the strictest definition of the word, honey is not vegan, so they’d better change that right away…or switch to something like agave or Just Like Honey. My advice? Just change it to say allergen-free. Vegan is a whole other thing to be guaranteeing people, and honey is definitely not vegan. Claiming something’s vegan when it is NOT is a way to get a whole bunch of people really mad at you (see: Vegan Supreme Marshmallows, and a million other things over the years).

On to the products themselves. They currently come packaged in these little golden tetrahedral pouches, and are recommended served chilled.

delightful indeed.

 

Unconventional and maybe a little wonky, but for a startup it’s more than understandable. (It is BEYOND DIFFICULT to get a company going these days, let alone one that makes food, so I hand it to them for even figuring out how to package their product in general.)

I was a little leery of the ingredients listing so many fruits and veggies and claiming to be so nutritious…and a little more so when I took the cookies and muffins out of their bags. Not particularly visually stimulating, but hey, that’s the way of the gluten-free for you.

chewy gingerbread cookies doin' the nast

 

I scarfed down a couple of the cookies, and was impressed. The texture was indeed chewy, and with a really nice spice level and sweet tang. I continued on with the little chocolate mini-muffins (they were stuck together, cowering in fear I bet)…

choco mini-muffin pile

 

These babies were delicious too. Aptly named, huh? The verdict: if you’re gluten-intolerant and looking for something sweet AND nutrient-dense, get yourself some Delicious Delights from the Marvelous Food Co. I can’t say that I’d seek these out myself, and they aren’t technically vegan if you don’t eat honey. But considering the massive hurdles in making gluten-free baked goods palatable (I mean, have you SEEN what babycakes tries to pass off as donuts? Atrocious!), I applaud what they’ve been able to accomplish, and with such a healthy roster of ingredients. These are great for those mamas and papas of GF families that want appropriate portions of gluten-free foods with an added health benefit.

…I am none of those things, so I probably won’t be getting them again.

 

 

Sorbetto Heaven at Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffe’

I really love the little Tujunga Village area of Studio City. Aroma Cafe is a super popular breakfast (and lunch and dinner!) spot that makes GREAT lattes and has a few delicious vegan options, along with a cute little bookstore. There’s a great little gourmet shop across the street, and all sorts of kitschy little stores that are perfect places to take your Mom when she’s visiting.

When I’m in the mood for something sweet, though, Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffe’ is my jam. There’s also a location in Los Feliz that I have yet to check out, but if it’s anything like the Studio City store it’s double the awesome.

Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffe' interior (long haired dudes not guaranteed to be in attendance)

 

This place is usually full of locals sipping on lattes and working on their screenplays, not to mention chowing down on some sweet sweet gelato. Let me point your attention to something especially interesting on that archway:

THE LEGENDS ARE TRUE!

 

That’s right, the sorbettos here are all vegan! Dairy-free, what! Their selection is pretty vast, with delicious berry and melon flavors, not to mention, oh, CHOCOLATE SORBETTO. It’s pretty much the highlight of my life.

Half chocolate sorbetto/half blood orange sorbetto/ALL YUM. Bambino size - $3.50

 

Make sure you get a flavor that says “sorbetto” and not “gelato,” as those contain cream. Maybe they can work on a soy or rice gelato someday! That would be even delicious-er; however, the chocolate sorbetto is so incredibly rich and dark and take-a-bite-then-open-your-eyes-to-realize-you’re-naked-and-everyone-is-staring good that I’m more than happy with what they have. And you can have them make you a mix of two flavors! I highly recommend the chocolate with, um, anything.

So many flavors, only one stomach.

 

Studio City is lucky to have such a great artisanal gelato shop, and it’s definitely worth a trip on its own. You can find me there with a bambino size full of ciocolatto with my eyes rolled back in my head. Let’s take one last look at that beautiful sorbetto, yeah?

Heyyyyyyy chocolate. Heyy. You lookin' GOOOOOD.

 

Gelato Bar & Espressio Caffe’

4342 1/2 Tujunga Ave

Studio City, CA 91604

818.487.1717

M-Th 8a-10p, F-Sat 8a-11p, Sun 9a-10p

Dear fellow vegans: STOP BEING JERKS TO OMNIVORES.

This IS why we get a bad rap.

Guys, seriously. Trust me, all the cool vegans I know hate this shit too. (Although this is a hilarious example of it.) It really doesn’t have anything to do with veganism at its core – crap like this is always from “new” vegans that are were self-righteous jerks to begin with. Omnivores just don’t feel the same way you do, or maybe don’t know some of the things you know that made you make the switch.The way to convert people over to veganism isn’t through attacking them and alienating them as if you’re suddenly better than them, nor to constantly over-educate them with “the message” – it’s to be positive and inviting and make people delicious food that makes them say, “Whoa, wait, that was VEGAN?!” I HAD NO IDEA VEGAN FOOD COULD BE SO DELICIOUS!”

Last night, Sugar and I gave out over a hundred free cupcakes to the crowd at Holy Fuck in downtown Los Angeles. I thought we’d have plenty of leftovers, but the house was packed for the inaugural run of the now-weekly show in its current incarnation, and we were swarmed – our babies were gone within about five minutes.

 

Feeding the masses at Holy Fuck at the Downtown Independent Theater!

We had a blast! Who doesn’t love free cupcakes? The crowd really enjoyed it. We got some great feedback on the flavors and fillings, and in my heart of hearts I hope it inspired a few people to eat a little more ethically. At least it’s replacing some nonvegan calories, no? It’s a step in the right direction. Cupcakes bring joy to the masses.