» review Don’t Eat Off The Sidewalk!

Boxes, boxes, everywhere.

Hey, 2013! [insert non-blogging excuse here] Actually, I purposely waited to write about it until I had positive things to write. So let’s start with the happy things that are happening!

Last summer, my husband had a great internship that ended with a full-time job offer when he graduates, which he will this spring. If you don’t know, Brian got out of the army three years ago and has been going to school on the GI Bill since then. It’s been three years of limbo and waiting, and that’s finally about to end. We’re not moving out-of-state or to a bigger city (it’s actually smaller than where we live now), but a well-paying, steady job is more important than moving to a place that’s more vegan-friendly. I plan on focusing on the positives of small town living, like having room for a decent garden and trying to make more of my own foods like jam and shit. Our new house has a large pantry basement so I can finally live out my dreams of becoming a vegan extreeeeeeeeeeeme couponer!

Like the title implies, I am surrounded by half-packed boxes. But this is more about subscription boxes, which are all the rage right now, and me procrastinating. Since i’m moving to a smaller town, AND I really like getting mail, I decided to try out a few. I really wanted to find an all-vegan beauty box, but that hasn’t happened yet, but here’s what i’ve tried so far (apologies for the lack of pictures):

Conscious Box: Let’s get the big diss out of the way first. Conscious Box is not an all-vegan service and they’ve made it clear that they don’t really care much about their vegan customers. I ordered the box that was put together by The Vegan Zombie, and it came with a brand of eyeliner I wasn’t familiar with, so I checked the ingredients and it had beeswax (The Vegan Zombie did not actually pick that product out so it’s not their fault at all). When I mentioned it and asked them to announce it so other people could be aware, they didn’t. I canceled my box, but next month they had a lotion that also had beeswax in it, and when someone complained they replied on facebook that it was from ‘magic bees’ and therefore vegan (and then someone smarter than them removed the comment). They also did not feel the need to let their customers know about this mix-up. That same month, a lot of people got their standard box instead of the vegan one.

I know some people don’t have a problem with bee products, but I do and most people I know do, so I don’t trust Conscious Box. I also think their customer service is shit, and that’s the bottom line for two big thumbs down. It’s okay for companies to make mistakes, it’s how they handle their mistakes that make me decide if I want to continue buying from them or not.

Healthy Surprise: I actually got this for my father-in-law as a Christmas present, because I knew it’d be right up his alley (and that he’d share it with me). If you like to try new snacks all the time and don’t have any interest in household or beauty products, this one is for you! Healthy Surprise is always vegan (no honey here!), gluten-free, soy-free, and corn-free. There are sometimes nuts and grains, and there is always something chocolate, apple chips, and either a kale snack or a seaweed snack. We don’t like every single thing we get, but that’s the beauty of a snack box: you only get one so if you don’t like it, no big. Please note the Healthy part of the name, there aren’t any Tings or Go Max Go bars in here, but they are still snack foods. The price seems kind of high, but as long as you don’t get the smallest box you get free shipping, and these are full-sized products that aren’t cheap.

Vegan Cuts (affiliate link): Some people were disappointed in the Vegan Cuts box when it first came out, so I held off getting one. But after a few boxes, they said they were going to make it better and put more things in it, and at $20 shipped I couldn’t really argue against one box.  Vegan Cuts boxes aren’t all full-sized products, which is fine with me because if I really like something, i’m going to order the full-sized version anyway, and i’d rather get to sample 10 items than get 5 full-sized products.  I actually have pictures of these from instagram:

So far, i’m pretty pleased.  The only thing that i’ve either not totally loved (Eli’s Earth bar, zomg) or at least liked was that Barre…bar.  No one is going to make me like spirulina, sorry!  If you live in a big city you probably won’t find the Vegan Cuts box super exciting.  But if you’re like me and you’re always jealous of your internet buddies who get to try all of the new vegan products right away or live within an hour of a Whole Foods, I think the Vegan Cuts box is a good choice.  It’s a little bit smaller than the smallest Healthy Surprise box, but they’ll send you junk food and it seems like one or two non-food products to try.  It’s also very affordable.

Final thoughts:  I can’t recommend Conscious Box to anyone, but if you don’t care about beeswax, a lot of people seem to like it.  Healthy Surprise is fun, but I wouldn’t get it if I wasn’t splitting it with someone, they repeat a lot of items which is good or bad depending on how much you like kale and apple chips.  So far Vegan Cuts is my favorite, but i’d still like to find a beauty themed one, since vegan/organic beauty products can be expensive and it sucks to commit to a $30 bottle of moisturizer only to find out you hate the smell or it breaks you out.

(All boxes were paid for by me, no freebies here.)

posted: April 10, 2013
under: food, review

Most Awesome Vegan Cookbooks – 2012

Oh man, 2012 was a grand slam year for vegan cookbooks. I feel like we got so many interesting new ideas, recipes, and niches filled. We got some many beautifully designed books with pictures. Obviously this is a little late to be a holiday gift guide (unless you want to call it a ‘how to spend your gift cards’ guide), BUT you could still get stuff with Amazon Prime two day shipping OR OR OR Herbivore is having a last minute sale, and tomorrow is their last day to order and get your stuff by Christmas!

Now as i’ve stately previously, I don’t cook from recipes a lot. I just love cookbooks and like to read them. My comments are almost solely related to the design, the interesting-ness of the recipes (like I don’t care about you trying to reinvent the basic tofu scramble), the pictures, etc. That is why I rarely write amazon reviews and just blog my thoughts instead. Onward, in order of how they’re stacked next to me:

Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats, Allyson Kramer: This is at the top because I just got this book in the mail yesterday. I’m not gluten-free and since it’s not necessary for me or anyone I cook for, i’m pretty terrified of gluten-free baking. But I got this book because I know kittee is nuts about it, and I can see why. This book has a great design, a picture for every recipe, and these aren’t just ‘oh this happens to be gluten-free pretty much already so i’ll stick it in here’. Allyson includes a recipe for gluten-free homemade pasta that you can use to make things like Walnut Ravioli with Vodka Sauce. Fancy! There are baked goods that do have a long list of ingredients, but there are plenty of simple and short recipes that still are interesting (Cinnamon Roasted Cauliflower, whaaaaaaat). I’m probably going to get this book for my sister-in-law, she’s been eating a lot of vegan meals lately and her BFF is gluten-free so I think the two of them would get a lot of use out of this.

Vegan Food Gifts, Joni Marie Newman: Joni sent this book to me as a gift during VeganMoFo, and since I haven’t made my vegan food gifts for the holidays yet I haven’t used it enough to give a proper review, but I will still talk it up like a mug. First off, you can tell that so much work and love was put into this book. There’s a crafty section for making your own treat packaging and loaf pans, ready-made gifts (like cookies and sweet breads), mixes for people to make soup, brownies, etc. with, themed gift baskets, a whole section on canning with step-by-step photos, and homemade fancy booze gifts. Damn, girl. If that weren’t enough, Celine Steen took all of the photos and Kurt Halsey did the illustrations for the book and the gift tag templates in it (omg fangirl squee [fun fact, Kurt Halsey kind of made me vegan]!!!!!!!!!!!). Brian and I used the TVP Pepperoni from the pizza gift basket, which is an excellent quick pizza topping, and i’ve made the Pumpkin Bread with white chocolate chips several times (I even made it into a bundt cake for one of our Thanksgiving desserts). So even if you aren’t making gifts, you can take a lot of the recipes and make them for your dinner that night or snacks. I love making food for holiday gifts but I often have trouble thinking of things outside of chocolate something-something, so this book is definitely a very valuable addition to my collection.

Artisan Vegan Cheese, Miyoko Schinner:
I said I wasn’t going to buy this book because I really don’t have the set-up to ferment things right now, and it seems like if you’re going to buy a book about making fancy vegan cheeses, you should probably use it. Although i’ve heard the recipes can be difficult to work with, Miyoko herself posts a lot in the book thread on the ppk, helping people figure out any issues they have, so I know she’s really dedicated to these recipes and she wants them to work for people. I think this book is a game changer, especially for people who live in smaller towns and don’t have regular access to vegan cheeses, and certainly don’t have access to fancy fermented cheeses like Dr. Cow. Book Publishing Company books don’t generally have my favorite layouts, but there are some pictures in the book and the pictures are very nice and make me want to make and eat all of the cheeses.

Vegan A La Mode, Hannah Kaminsky: Yes, even as my toes are cold, I still want to talk about an ice cream book. Honestly, I don’t think Hannah is capable of making a bad book because she is a creative person and she takes amazing photos. This book isn’t just your basic chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and then some variations. There are recipes like Sweet Corn Ice Cream, Red Hot Ice Cream, and a Purple Cow Ice Cream that is only three ingredients. ALSO HOMEMADE MAGIC SHELL RECIPES. Some require a little more work, some contain pre-packaged vegan ingredients, most do not. Although there have been other vegan ice cream books, I feel that like the above book, if you’re a small town vegan and you want to make your eating life more interesting and delicious, investing in an ice cream maker and this book is a big step in the right direction.

Let Them Eat Vegan, Dreena Burton:
I’ve said more than once that I want Dreena to be my vegan mom, and I think she is really good at making healthy recipes and using kind-of-hippie ingredients in a way that doesn’t seem boring or gross. There are a lot of alternative sweeteners, grains, and flours here but Dreena isn’t one of those people who completely shuns fat, salt, soy, or gluten. But she also seems to try and please as many people as possible and if something can be made soy or gluten free, she does it. There’s a very large selection of cookies, pies, cakes, and ice creams and overall it’s a very well-rounded book. When I bought this I said I was interested in seeing how Dreena’s recipe style had adapted to the many advances in vegan cooking that had been made since her last book, and I think she’s kept up pretty well.

Vegan Eats World, Terry Hope Romero: Strap on your big person panties, ladies and gents, because this is a serious book. I got it and as I flipped through it, I felt a little intimidated. This isn’t a watered down, americanized version of international recipes. This is serious business, and if you’re one of those people who thinks that no one should ever write a recipe with more than ten ingredients and everything should be available at the corner store in a tiny town in the midwest, go home. I don’t mean that as a diss to the book, quite the opposite. These recipes are genuine and Terry isn’t willing to sacrifice flavor just to make recipes reach the lowest common denominator. That’s not to say that every recipe requires a trip to the international market to get fancy spices and weird produce. There are recipe icons for shorter recipes, recipes for a novice, and cheaper recipes, so if i’ve scared your pants off, rest assured that there is something in here for every budget, schedule, skill level, and…access-to-ingredientness. Includes many gorgeous photos.

Barefoot and in the Kitchen, Ashley Rowe: Do you miss zines? Do you not need fancy pictures and complicated recipes? Do you like super-cute drawings? I have all of the Barefoot zines and enjoyed them immensely, and to be honest I do miss the more carefree writing style that comes with zines. This compilation book is full of Ashley’s illustrations and humor.

>Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day, Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes: I already word vomited my tiny heart out about this book, but to sum up: vegan + sandwiches = awesome!

Wild About Greens, Nava Atlas:
As someone who doesn’t really like leafy greens that aren’t spinach because they taste bitter to me, any book that is dedicated entirely to greens piques my interest! Since I see a lot of people say that they don’t know how to incorporate kale into their diet in interesting ways, i’d say a lot of people would benefit from this book. The photos by Susan Voisin are too few, but the vintage style greens prints make for a nice visual throughout the book. I also like that the book doesn’t have any plain lettuces in it because, really, we all know how to work iceberg lettuce into our diet: go out for a meal at a chain restaurant with your omnivore family, heyooooooooooooooo!

And with that tacky joke, I will end this list. I hope everyone has had or will have a happy holiday season, and if you are a scrooge I hope everyone leaves you the hell alone. Happy Festivus!

posted: December 21, 2012
under: books, products, review

Pre-MoFo kickoff: Christy Robinson review/giveaway!

You may have noticed a few vegan bloggers posting about being contacted by Vegan Cuts to review products – I was one of them (thanks Melisser!). I was very excited when I learned I would be receiving some jewelry from Christy Robinson. Despite my foul mouth, when it comes to wearing vegan message items – t-shirts, buttons, etc., I don’t like wearing anything with a confrontational message. I already knew that Christy’s jewelry was the posi message kind, so right up my alley.

I got my package two weeks ago, and opened it up to find this cute package:

Obviously what it comes in doesn’t change the contents of a box, but opening a shipping envelope and seeing that someone took the time to wrap your stuff in a cute little bow makes the package getting more exciting. It’s the little details, guys.

Inside I found not one, but two cute little necklaces! I don’t know how in depth one can really review a necklace, but if you like things that are cute and simple, you will like these. If you are shy about wearing any kind of vegan message, she has eco-centric jewelry, spay and neuter pieces, and ones like ‘I heart kale’. If you’re in the mood for something seasonal, check out the cute bat necklace! In addition to the necklaces themselves being made out of recycled materials, so are the boxes and even the baggie is biodegradable! Despite what is surely more expensive packaging than other people would use, you can get one of Christy’s pieces for as little as $16, and most of the standard necklaces are $20.

And like most people, I can’t open mail without my cats wanting to investigate the contents, so here is Gozer with everything I got, including a recipe card!

I don’t know if I was expected to give one of the necklaces away, but since I got two I thought it only seemed right to share. So i’m going to give one away, and i’ll let you pick!

I’m doing dinner and a movie for my VeganMoFo theme again, but not just horror movies. So to enter, just leave a comment saying which movie you would like to see a menu for! If it’s realistic I might make it happen (don’t say The Human Centipede). You don’t have to follow me on twitter or anything else. I’ll pick a winner on Sunday, October 7th.

An finally, if you mosey on over to Vegan Cuts any time this month, you can get 10% off with the code ‘BLOGFRIEND’.

posted: September 30, 2012
under: pictures, products, review

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