Archive for Reviews

The End of the Great Deodorant Dilemma

Death by Lavendar

Ok, tell me… how many different natural deodorants have you tried? Have you found “the one”? Or like me, did you give up? Seems like an impossible task doesn’t it? You are totally bluffing if you tell me that salt crystal worked for you.

First of all, Kudos to any company trying to spare us from the long list of TOXIC ingredients in regular store bought deodorants and antiperspirants. Even if they don’t work that great. Why? Because:

Aluminum –  Is linked to breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and Alzheimer’s disease

Parabens – Disrupt our hormonal balance leading to early puberty in children and an increased risk of hormonal cancers. Also cause birth defects and organ toxicity

Propylene glycol – Causes damage to the central nervous system, liver and heart.

Phthalates – Cause a high risk of birth defects. They disrupt hormone receptors as well as increase the likelihood of cell mutation.

Triclosan – Is actually classified as a pesticide and is carcinogenic. It brings down immunity so it’s not wise to use disinfectants or hand sanitizers with this hazardous chemical.

All of the above and more can be found in the mainstream deodorants. The dangers are certainly no “SECRET” and I am one of the growing many that are ALL for ditching these types of deodorants, but I just don’t like throwing away money on natural products that don’t work, over and over.

I have tried so many “better” deodorants over the past few years. I either felt the perspiration after a half hour or it just didn’t work well to control odor. The one thing for “SURE” is that my confidence takes a dive if I feel I smell. No one that I know wants to be smelly! Toxic brands make millions of dollars because unfortunately, they work well and are cheap. It may be cheap and easy now to run with these regular brands, but it’s a high price to pay later, when we smell great but can’t remember our family members.

Vegans, you may notice that you smell a heck of lot better in general compared to your meat eating days, aside from deodorant no deodorant. We can attribute this to added greens detoxifying the blood and a lack of animal flesh having a heck of a time trying to be digested in our gut. Vegans tend to eat a ton of fiber which help things move along nicely therefore toxins are being removed easily. Superfood supplements such as Wheatgrass also have known benefits of reducing body odors.

With all that being said, I still enjoy the extra barrier a good deodorant provides. I am an active person who also works out, I happen to be in other people’s comfort zones a lot when I am cutting or coloring hair (my forever side job). My thing is, I don’t like sweaty pits – natural, whatever, I just don’t like it. Nothing had been working for me, so I resorted back to the conventional deodorant for the most part.

This gets complicated… I used the natural brand in the Winter if I were wearing a big sweater or I was staying home, and I would use the preferred store brand in the Summer or if I were actually going somewhere.  Sometimes I would apply the natural deodorant first and then I would apply the harmful one over it. I figured that it would create a barrier. Idk? I was not happy with this system. I became so aware of the dangers of deodorant that I basically just prayed each time I rolled it on. Mostly, I justified it with the fact that I eat well, so I must stand a better chance. Bad. Bad. Bad.

Within the last six months, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I just stated that I will find “the one” and then I let it go…

Fast forward to this past August and the veggie fest here in Naperville, IL. My friend and I came across a deodorant booth. Dare I try this again? They had a travel size, so why not? We both decided to try it.

I’ve been walking around surprised and happy ever since because IT WORKS! I can’t believe that I finally attracted the right deodorant! I know, it seems silly if you haven’t gone through the struggle yourself. When I asked my friend Mel about it, I was expecting her to say that she hadn’t tried it yet. To my surprise she did, and she likes it as much as I do.

I am sharing this review to save you from toxic overload if I can. Our bodies just work better when they are not in a constant battle! Trust me, we have enough to fight without rolling on more chemicals under our arms every single day. I don’t make a penny by reviewing this product or by you buying it. I wish I could/and sell it on my site, because I like it that much, but here is my basic review anyway, just because I care:

North Coast Organics Deodorant

There are two to choose from, Death by lavender and Revolver. At first I wasn’t sure about the lavender scent. It’s a woodsy lavender. Revolver, is more manly but I was told that many women like it. I went with lavender. The scent turned out to be perfect, and is much lighter wearing than you might expect.

It applies fine, now that I figured out I was dialing it up too high, which created a messy application. It needs to be just a tad over the level of the container. Then again, I only bought a mini to try.  My guess is that the regular size applies nicer. I will find out soon, because I placed an order yesterday. Either way, this product rubs in nicely using fingertips if need be, and I personally don’t mind doing that because the product works great!

I have used this deodorant these past few weeks during the heat wave without complaint. It also passed the anxiety test when my car decided to break down on a country road where there was nothing but cornfields. Oh, yeah, it was sweltering! My nerves were racked, but I smelled good. My armpits stayed relatively dry while I sat waiting for help, generally sweating, and pondering all the pros of moving back to the city.

The exciting view

If you compare these 5 simple ingredients – coconut oil, carnauba wax, cornstarch, baking soda, and essential oil to the 5 toxic ingredients I wrote about above,  switching is a no-brainer. My husband has been using Trader Joe’s brand and he says it’s ok. I don’t get it because that one does not keep me dry plus it has added cotton. Does that cotton have pesticides? I’m sure it does. No where does it say organic. Oh yeah, and it contains Propylene glycol among other crap disguised as harmless. Good thing I ordered my husband The Revolver.

I bet one could make their own deodorant with ingredients this simple, but I don’t want to make my own everything. I am a modern girl and I only have so much time in a day. I am happy to support a conscious company who will make a cruelty free product with packaging that is recyclable. They’ve also just been certified organic by USDA along with many other certifications. Good to know.

I am happy to have found North Coast Organics. Looking forward to any new products they may offer. If you know of any other brands of deodorant that amaze you, please share them with me in the comments. If you don’t, and are looking to lessen your toxic load and still smell your best, I recommend trying this product and ditching mainstream deodorant – like NOW.

You may not be used to natural products and you may be inclined to compare this to mainstream products in scent or application or cost or whatever… DON’T, because it is different. But different good. It works fabulously toxin and chemical free.

A friend of mine always signs off with “smell ya later”, I say… noooo thanks.

Good luck!

Find this deodorant at North Coast Organics

Find North Coast Organics on Facebook

 

~The Karmatarian

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Lentil Loaf by The Vegan Stoner – Recipe Review

Great recipe find! How do I know? Because my rather picky 5 year old ate every morsel off his plate last night and deemed me the BEST CHEF EVER… over and over and OVER! I can deal with that.

I am glad I gave this easy recipe a whirl as lentil loaves past, lacked in taste, which made me a little nervous to try again. I’m happy to report that this recipe is worth a try. I also scrolled through The Vegan Stoner blog and it looks like a lot of fun! I am glad that Pinterest led me to it. They have other great looking recipes I want to try. Check it out!

The rundown on lentils

They are filled with Phyto-chemicals… an anti-aging must have in your arsenal! They are packed with protein and very high in fiber. Lentils do not require soaking and cook rather quickly, from 15-20 minutes. Lentils provide the same protein benefits as meat without all the fat, calories and cholesterol. Lentils pack 17 grams of protein per cup!

The review and a couple minor changes

I only made a couple changes, so compare and try the recipe as is or come up with your own twist.

I was waiting to see if I over did it on the onion… using 2/3 of a large onion. But we do like onions around here and luckily it ended up adding a lot of flavor. I would add just as many next time.

I used a LARGE handful of walnuts as opposed to just a handful, and chopped them in my chopper.

My frozen/thawed veggies were Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome with carrots, peas, corn and green beans.

I did not use garlic salt but rather 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder plus 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

I added dried parsley… just a few shakes. I would have added fresh had I not run out.

Let’s talk CRACKERS – Thankfully, my husband helps out a great deal and he does a lot of grocery runs! He likes the 12 grain vegan mini crackers from Trader Joe’s. They are very tasty with buttery flavor, but I do have issues with them. What am I to do? When your husband goes vegan, you just can’t nit pick. I feel very lucky that he is more than on board with this rewarding lifestyle.

… so the crackers

A. Are not organic.

B. They don’t contain whole wheat. Whole is the word you want to look for on the label when it comes to wheat.

C. They contain too many ingredients including sugar and oil. UGH. I didn’t have any other crackers on hand. I wanted to try them because not too many lentil loaf recipes call for them (probably for health reasons. Lol) But I have to say, I think they made this dish taste pretty GREAT!  SOOO if you happen to come across another vegan, buttery, actual healthy cracker. PLEASE let me know, because a flavorful cracker is what made this dish so darn good.

My last note is that when I packed the mixture into the loaf pan, I had a feeling the final product wouldn’t come out sliced firm enough. And indeed, it fell apart, BUT it was mold-able back into shape! Next time I will try my own tip and put some of the mixture into the food processor and add it back, like what I do for my Let’s Stay Together Veggie Burgers. I just want to see the difference, but if it takes the chunky texture away, it might not be as pleasurable to eat.

My sides

I whipped up (literally) some sweet potatoes with a little almond milk, a touch of coconut oil, and a splash of maple syrup. Always a hit – and truly needs very little sweetener if any.

I also cooked up fresh spinach along with minced garlic in veggie broth on the stove top. I sprinkled it with a pasta seasoning blend and gave it a squirt of lemon. Delicious!

I have no pictures. I know. It was gone before I could think to grab my camera. However, it did look a lot like the picture above. It’s always nice when that happens!

So here you have a great vegan meal idea. Keep me posted when you try this and any variations you create. Until next time…

Enjoy the journey,

~The Karmatarian

UPDATE: When we reheated the left overs, the slices were much firmer and held together much more after resting in the refrigerator.  So it would be better to let the loaf settle and cool a bit after you take it from the oven. We were just too hungry.

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Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna – My Review

Raise the Roof Sweet Potato Lasagna

If you happen to be plant-based savvy… you may have seen this recipe, tried it, or thought about trying it. It’s featured in the “Forks Over Knives” original handbook, Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue dvd and on the Engine 2 Diet website and possibly more places.

My post is a little story about our Christmas holiday that goes along with my review of this recipe, which I couldn’t wait until I had a reason to make.

As you may know from my earlier post, our family survived the flu this year, thankfully without antibiotics, and I am grateful for that. I am upset we got it at all. Don’t you think Vegans should be exempt?! All of these super bugs stemming from factory farms which we voluntarily choose to disconnect from! This is why us vegans spread the word! Everyone is affected by factory farms. Back to my story, the bottom line is that we had too much crazy energy happening in the weeks prior to Christmas and I believe it was due to the energetic alignment and 12/21, but it sure had us caught off guard. Luckily, we got over the flu before Christmas and we had energy to clean our house before our friends arrived from out of town. We were pretty excited that good friends of ours were staying with us for Christmas!

I will refer to our friends as T and G… because I have no clue if they want to be named in my blog.

Our friends are so dear to us. We have shared many dinners together, great conversation and a million laughs. We are so grateful to know such good-hearted people like T and G!

My husband and I met our friends when we lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, roughly 6 years ago. We were their first American friends, and what an honor! They had just moved to the U.S. from Croatia and we were happy to welcome them. We made sure that they experienced many of our traditions, including Halloween and an all American Thanksgiving.

Times have changed for us… well… food-wise that is. I still dress up for Halloween!

Our family is now a vegan family and T and G are known to eat similar to their culture in Croatia, where dining might as well be the national sport. And because of this, I was trying to come up with a meal plan (being a holiday with no restaurants open) that  everyone would like. I originally thought that I could make something for them that they would enjoy (meat dish), and something that we would enjoy (vegan dish).

The more that I thought about it, the more I could NOT bring myself to do it. It just affirmed for me how far I have come with this vegan thing. It was by no means out of stubbornness or trying to make a point. I just can’t bring myself to purchase meat and bring it into my home. I really feel it’s a bit of a vibrational/energetic/spiritual thing. I have also conditioned myself to cook the opposite of how I used to. I don’t even really remember how to cook meat. I really don’t want to remember how to cook meat. I prefer my kitchen and my body to be light with energy and my counters free from dangerous bacteria. And then there is the whole plant-based nutritionist thing I have going on… feeding meat to my friends would be criminal in my mind and that’s without even touching upon animal rights.

But what would I make? How can I keep everyone happy? Did I mention that T is almost 7 feet tall and and a good sized guy? He will be the first to tell you, he likes his meat and has to have it.

Racking my brain, I remembered this sweet potato lasagna recipe which has been said to be a winner in the plant-based community according to Rip Esselstyn.  Well, if it’s good enough for firefighters, then it has to be filling and satisfying! I also remember that my Dad made this recipe a while back and he told me it was worth all the work involved. He had so much food left over – this is what I wanted!

I narrowed it down. My menu for the few days our friends were visiting consisted of a beautiful salad, this sweet potato lasagna, a raw pecan pie that I made from the Cafe Gratitude recipe book, Whole Foods brand vegan blueberry and pumpkin pie (hey, it’s the holidays) as well as their 12 grain artisan bread. The next day I added spinach and “cheese” stuffed shells to the menu, using the recipe for the cheese from my Gluten Free – Spinach and “Cheese” Lasagna Bites post, but stuffing jumbo shells instead of making it a lasagna. For breakfast, I baked vegan pumpkin bread two mornings in a row as requested!

The menu, I thought would be filling. I wasn’t thinking at the time that the dinners would be two pasta sauce dishes and I should mix it up a little more, but it turned out that they tasted totally different from one another. I also took a huge leap of faith that this lasagna would be great. For I had no back up plan.

Luck has it and to our surprise, when our friends showed up, they announced that they had given up Dairy products! YESSSS!!!! That was half the battle right there. See? Just another example of how people are surprising me left and right. Smart people are catching on! We had even more to talk about!

The lasagna ended up to be a bit of work, but enjoyable work as I visualized the outcome while preparing it. And Dad was right, totally WORTH IT! I cheated just a smidge. I used a sauce that was not exactly Engine 2 approved. It was a Trader Joe’s Garlic Marinara. I know it to have a lot of flavor and a little bit of oil. I also added a touch of Himalayan sea salt to the veggie mixture because I wanted to be sure this was bursting with flavor. It was perfect and I have to say, it didn’t need the salt. That is how much flavor it brings on it’s own!

My suggestion… When you make this, just pick a sauce that you KNOW has good flavor, oil or not, as the sauce is so important in a dish like this. I also used gluten free lasagna noodles. I feel that they cooked up on the firmer side because I was cutting it close on sauce. Two jars are not exactly enough to cover the noodles. I think 2 jars plus 1/2 would be perfect. I also bought a throw away lasagna tray from the grocery store that was DEEP.  You are going to need that with all these layers. I realize now, that I need to invest in a good lasagna pan!

This lasagna was healthy and satisfying. Full of texture and flavor. It is hard to really explain the end flavors but they go so very well together. T said that he doesn’t usually like sweet potato. Surprise!!! He doesn’t even like lasagna, either! But he just loved this! Phew! Everyone wanted more and we happily ate it for lunch the next day, too!

Not to leave G out, she really enjoyed the meals as well and she got right in my kitchen to help with the dishes. What a doll!

The vegan cheese shells were super filling as well. You really only need to eat a few. Having salad first, bread and then dessert after, we were stuffed.

A million sweet compliments from our friends confirmed that I made a good choice. T said something along the lines of…ya know, I usually have to have meat, but these past few days I really enjoyed everything and haven’t missed meat at all… What a compliment! I hope I influenced them to look at a plant-based diet a little differently and know it can be very satisfying.

We ended up at PF Chang’s on the last night of our visit. I will never forget the nice comment from T. He said, “this food here at this restaurant is good and everything, but it’s nothing like yours, Christa. Look… just the way you cut your carrots vs. theirs…. It’s just different, and so much better”.

When you put love and intention into your home cooked dishes, there is a difference. How many restaurants do that besides some vegan/raw? There is an energy there, and if you are in tune, you can’t deny it. But aside from that, lucky for me, T and G appreciate home cooking, as that is how they were raised. I am not trying to brag here, of course their kind words felt really, really good and it’s always nice to have people appreciate your efforts and support what you do, but much credit goes to Engine 2 Diet for a fantastic recipe!

It meant so much to me to have been able to please our guests and knowing how honest they truly are, I trust that they really enjoyed everything. Food was a small part of the visit of course, we had such a great time catching up and just relaxing. It was so heart warming to hear that this was one of the best Christmases they ever had.

A successful Vegan-Croatian-American-Christmas in the books!

Here are a few pics of the pie. I have made it twice and dream of this one often…

Enjoy the Journey,

~The Karmatarian

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My Thanksgiving Review

Now that I have had a few weeks to rest after clocking 18 plus hours in the kitchen prepping our vegan holiday meal, I wanted to write a quick review and share a few things that I learned. Of course I want to share my photos too ;) I had more fun “digesting” everything in the days after Thanksgiving, (especially the leftovers) because things are always nuts when you are playing hostess!

Check out some of my photos of our dinner together…

How it all went down~

As far as appetizers go… The artichoke spinach dip was absolutely FABULOUS! It’s my new favorite and I will make it often, definitely for Christmas. We found ourselves all fighting over the last cranberry pesto crostini, so those were a hit as well. The stuffed mushrooms were really great, but not as good as I planned. I made the filling the night before to save time. I learned that red onions turn a funny color and turn the filling a bit purple when left overnight! They still turned out looking good but that freaked me out a bit. Next time, I will make these the day of. I also used panko crumbs, but I will stick to using regular bread crumbs for this. They tell me that these were fabulous too, but the cook is always her worst critic.

The soup recipe for butternut squash apple was the Holiday Soup recipe from of the awesome Vitamix cookbook. It was really delicious, but I felt it was a bit too heavy on the nutmeg and not sweet enough. I just made this again two nights ago and tweaked it with more apple, less nutmeg and less white pepper, and it was perfect!! No complaints on Thanksgiving. As far as food, we could have stopped here after the soup. We were so full at this point!

The sweet potato casserole was perfect. The recipe called for a little orange juice concentrate which I had never added in the past. I really liked the flavor boost.

Stuffing… I am not a huge fan to begin with. I liked the fruit and toasted almond stuffing idea, as it was fancy shmancy, but it was SO MUCH WORK and unexpectedly the day of. Maybe I could have made it the day before and let it soak in the veggie broth.  I took the tinfoil off near the end of baking to give it a crispier outside. I guess I prefer mushy stuffing and this wasn’t the best idea. Thinking about what it is… stuffing, I have no desire to be stuffed – and that is all that these extra carbs do. Stuff ya! I’ll skip this next year.

Let’s talk main dish ~The roast. I had to have this while I was out shopping one day. Just to try it. It looked so good! It cooked up beautifully. It definitely needs gravy. Thankfully, I made the impromptu mushroom gravy for the potatoes and it was amazing. The roast itself was really good, but with a heavy sausage flavor. I can’t complain because that was as described on the package. It was a little too heavy of a dish for my liking. We had all of this other home cooked food to choose from, so to eat the roast just threw the vegan meal off for me. We don’t do to many mock meats anymore AND I was also way too stuffed for such a heavy dish. When you eat plant-based, you are used to eating lighter and your body is used to being lighter. I don’t regret this choice though. I could have done without it that night, BUT it was AWESOME for leftovers with gravy (when we were hungry) the next few days. The Timbales turned out great per usual. I really love making them and they are a yearly tradition for us now.

Dessert! The cheezecake was sooo very rich, we always love this. The pumpkin pie was heaven with rice whip cream topping. I had a little mishap with the crust though. It stuck to the parchment paper and I wasn’t aggressive enough getting it out when I served it. I know! It could have been that much better had I served it with crust! I discovered this the next day and enjoyed eating just the crust. Extra crust all for me… kind of the best part! The baked pears were fun! Also great with rice whip topping. Although, I was in a hurry to get them out of the oven and they could have baked for much longer. They were still quite firm. Maybe that is how they are meant to be? Still delicious as could be.

My only slight complaint about the holiday was that our dessert guests got lured into eating dessert where they had their Thanksgiving dinner earlier, and came over with full stomachs! That was truly disappointing, oh well, what are you going to do? It only left MORE for us to enjoy later!

What else???  I guess everything else is straight forward.

To choose vegan, it just takes conscious effort. It’s EASY, kind, responsible, and it’s very enjoyable! Replace the butter and dairy milk with something like Earth Balance margarine or coconut oil, almond, rice or coconut milk… There are also numerous raw vegan dessert recipes that will totally rock the show and can be found on the internet.

When you can present a special meal that is colorful and delicious with all the flavors of the Thanksgiving holiday such as Thyme, Sage, Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Rosemary, etc… why do you need to add the violence? And so what that you don’t have Turkey. You are STUFFED by the time dinner is over and you don’t miss a damn thing. I promise you. The artist in me loves the creative challenge of vegan cooking and it will never grow old. The rebel in me loves the idea of showing the world it can be done a different and kinder way. Screw the traditions that include violence, ill health and destruction. It’s so not necessary. Turkey for protein you say? We had a protein overload without it! But who is really worried about protein intake on Thanksgiving? You are really looking for flavor and that is easily achieved without any animal exploitation. It may not have been the ultimate healthy meal but I sure felt the healthiest eating it, compared to any other  “traditional carnivorous Thanksgiving” that I have ever eaten in the past. Besides, when you do something with intention, it makes it that more enjoyable. Our intention was a vegan dinner that compared to what anyone else was eating, but better. We achieved it in my book. However, next year it’s a vacation or take out from the Chicago Diner. Cooking can be exhausting! I cook almost every night, so I could use to be treated out once in a while. Or better yet, maybe one of you will invite us to your next vegan feast!?

The recipes that I picked to make are certainly acceptable to make again for Christmas dinner and that is right around the corner, so I figured it is not too late to share my reviews in case anyone out there wants to try the recipes. You can find my holiday menu by clicking here or find these and more on my Pinterest page. I am thinking of raise the roof sweet potato lasagna by Engine 2 for Christmas. It’s also in the Forks over Knives handbook.

To sum it up, everything turned out wonderful. We enjoyed counting our blessings and sharing a peaceful evening together with delicious food. Everyone enjoys their own recipes and traditions and your own holidays are special and memorable, but it is my hope that more of us will think outside the box, outside of ourselves, and make the holidays enjoyable, memorable and kind for all beings on this planet. Especially factory farmed animals.

I hope you enjoyed a beautiful Thanksgiving day! Please share some of your own traditions, recipes and ideas for a cruelty free, healthier holiday with me in the comments or on my Facebook page.

Now it’s off to plan Christmas dinner and I am hosting two this year, but they will be much lower key! At least I hope, but I know me. I am a bit tired just thinking about it, but I am excited to figure out the menu.

For now, we have one of our trees up and are enjoying the ambiance. I just love getting up early in the morning and turning the lights on!

...And our cat, Cosmo checking out the tree? :)

…And our cat, Cosmo checking things out :)

Enjoy the Journey,

~The Karmatarian

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