vegan

Spooky OREO Spiders and Eye-Popping Fanta Punch

(This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #SpookySnacks #CollectiveBias)

Spook up your Halloween bash with these Spooky OREO Spiders and Eye-Popping Fanta Punch! #SpookySnacks #CollectiveBias

I’m at a weird time in my life when it comes to planning holiday parties. Some of my friends are still child-free, while others have five-to-ten-year-olds in tow. Planning a holiday get-together, then, means coming up with a balance that will keep adults and kids alike entertained, and that’s especially true with holiday recipes! I want to serve items that look and taste good, but they still need to appeal to kids who might have a picky palate.

Since Halloween is around the corner and I’ve been thinking about having a party, I decided to test-drive a couple of fun recipes that would be kid-friendly for little guests. The best part is that you have kids of your own and they want to get involved with making snacks for a Halloween bash, these recipes are simple enough that the kids can help out in the kitchen! Read on after the jump for step-by-step instructions and more photos.

(more…)

Giveaway: Aloha Superfood Dark Chocolate

Win a six pack of Aloha superfood chocolate!Yay, it’s the weekend! I’m excited to spend some time curled up on the couch with a good book and some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately I can’t give away a plate of cookies here on the blog—I’m pretty sure they’d be fuzzy before they made it through the post to the winner!—but I’m giving away something else delicious instead: a bundle of Aloha Superfood Dark Chocolate bars.

If there’s a way to make these bars better for you, I’m not sure what it is: they’re vegan, kosher, USA-made, non-GMO, free of soy and gluten, and made with fair trade ingredients. They’re loaded with superfoods like wheatgrass and moringa for a nutritional boost. Oh, and they’re pretty tasty, too!

One reader will win a six-pack of original dark bars; you can enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Impatient? Head over to the Aloha website and order your own six-pack in original dark, hazelnut & fig, macadamia & coconut, tropical twist, or cereal crunch. You can use the code “MARTHA37” to get $20 off your first order!

The giveaway is open internationally and will close next Sunday. Good luck!

(more…)

Product review: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

(Disclosure: I was sent a sample product for testing purposes; however I was not compensated to write a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Can you guys believe it’s July already?! We’ve had nothing but sun lately and temps near 100, and it’s been intense–even driving in the car you’re liable to get a sunburn if you don’t slather on SPF first. Kelly from Block Island Organics got in touch recently to see if I’d like to review some of their new mineral sunscreen and of course I jumped at the chance to try it out–here’s what I thought after a long, bright weekend!

Check out my review of the Block Island Organics natural mineral sunscreen! It's SPF 30 and free of parabens, sulfates, dyes, and other nasty ingredients. Plus it's vegan and goes on super-sheer, so you won't feel greasy by midday!

The product: Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30; $19.99/3.4-oz. through the company website, BlockIslandOrganics.com. (Currently on sale for $16.99!)

What it does: A lightweight, fast-absorbing sunscreen free of nanoparticles, gluten, animal ingredients, artificial fragrances and dye, parabens, phthalates, sulfates and petrochemicals. (Whew, what a mouthful!) Suitable for face and body. Block Island Organics is family-owned, USA-produced, and committed to producing simple, effective, affordable formulas without the harmful ingredients found in traditional skincare products.

I tried it: Hands-down, my biggest pet peeve with sunscreen is that it feels and smells like, well, sunscreen. You know: greasy and chemical-laden, and not at all pleasant. You can’t exactly forget you’re wearing it. Luckily, sunscreens have come a long way in recent years and now we have products like this one, which are so light you might mistake them for regular moisturizer. In fact, I would say this is one of the nicest sunscreens I’ve tried recently in terms of weight, texture and scent. The formula is super-thin, so it absorbs quickly and without that infamous white cast left behind by some zinc sunscreens. My skin felt dry to the touch afterward. The scent is nearly undetectable, too, and the dye-free/fragrance-free formula didn’t irritate my sensitive skin.

I also have to say that I really, really love being able to tote one bottle in my bag for face and body alike! I’ve found some sunscreens that were fine for my body, but couldn’t be used on my face because they stung my eyes, turned my skin slick or made me break out. Not so with this sunscreen! You could easily layer this with makeup if desired; I used it over my regular facial moisturizer.

This sunscreen isn’t waterproof, so you’ll need to reapply after swimming or if you’re sweating heavily, but since you’re supposed to be reapplying your sunscreen frequently anyway, I don’t feel like this is a big deal. It’s so light, and a little goes a really long way–no need to goop it on–so it doesn’t feel like you’re suffocating your skin.

Overall I love this sunscreen; it takes all the “yuck” out of daily wear, so I can stay protected from the sun without feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. Block Island Organics has generously offered readers a 15% sitewide discount, so you can try out their products for yourself! Just use the coupon code “Martha” at checkout, now through July 7th!

Check out Block Island Organics on social media: Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Twitter

Ingredients: Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 22%. Inactive Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf (Aloe Vera Gel) Juice*, Aqua (Deionized Water), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Eucalyptus Globulus (Eucalyptus) Oil, Gluconolactone, Glycerin*, Lecithin*, Octyl Palmitate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Laurylglucosides Hydroxypropylsulfonate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Xanthan Gum, Zemea Propanediol. (*Certified Organic)  

Product review: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream

I’ve struggled with dry hands all winter and have tried a few different hand creams, without finding one I really love. Now that spring is here my skin isn’t quite so dry, but I still need something, so I picked up this fresh-smelling hand cream from my local natural foods store.

Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream review from I'd Rather Be Reading blog

What it is: Andalou Naturals Lavender Shea hand cream; $8.95/3.4 ounces. An organic, vegan and gluten-free hand cream designed to nourish dry hands and cuticles.

What it does: It’s a fairly thick cream that absorbs quickly and smells strongly of lavender, without that baby powder tendency found in some lavender-scented products. It’s less sweet and more earthy, which I like.  I do feel like the scent fades quickly.

I like how this feels on my skin, but it’s still not quite thick enough for the winter months. You still have to reapply every couple of hours or after washing your hands, and I’ll be shopping for something a bit thicker for the colder, drier winter months. That said, I feel like this will be a good hand cream for the spring-to-fall period, when I want something with a medium thickness and a clean scent. I also really love that the profits from this hand cream support projects to benefit women’s education–I feel that it’s important for companies to find ways to give back to society, and human rights and education are important to me.

Ingredients: Aloe Barbadensis Juice (organic), Aqua, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil (organic), Stearic Acid, Prunus Amygdalus (Sweet Almond) Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter (organic), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter (organic), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Butter, Vegetable Glycerin, Calophyllum Inophyllum (tamanu) Oil, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Malus Domestica (apple), Solar Vitis (grape), Vaccinium Myrtillus (Bilberry) (Fruit Stem Cell Cultures and BioActive 8 Berry Complex. Organic), Allantoin, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis Extract, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Extract (organic), Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil (organic), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Oil, Xanthan Gum, ethylhexyl glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Lavandula Officinalis (Lavender) Oil (organic).

Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe (book review)

'Vegan Holiday Cooking from the Candle Cafe' (book review)(Disclosure: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review. However I was not compensated for writing this review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Vegan holiday cooking doesn’t have to be hard; it can be fun and tasty and please everyone at the table, meat-eaters and gourmands included! This book makes it simple. Crafted by the chefs at the trio of Candle eateries in New York City, this cookbook is divided up into ten menus: Super Bowl (or gametime recipes), Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, Passover, Easter, Cindo de Mayo, Fourth of July barbecue, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. At first glance covering so many different holidays throughout the year might seem a little odd: many cookbooks only focus on the traditional trifecta of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

However, there’s always been a big gap between the recipes available for non-vegan vs. vegan holiday cooking. I get a variety of magazines that feature seasonally-themed recipes and entertaining guides, and they’re seldom easy to adapt to a vegan table. Easter is all about eggs; Memorial Day and Fourth of July barbecues mean burgers; game time means cheesy nachos; and so on. This cookbook gives you recipes for those events and more.

Plus, lots of the recipes feature here would be great for everyday dinners and will impress even your non-vegan friends. Black bean tacos? Sweet fried dumplings? Roasted squash soup? All would be easy enough to whip up for a weeknight dinner yet look and feel fancy enough for a special occasion.

Lots of big, bright photos will make you hungry just flipping through this book. The recipes are laid out in an easy-to-follow format and the ingredient lists are largely made up of items that can be found at any well-stocked grocery store. (A few, like seitan or arrowroot powder, will require a trip to a natural health food store.)

This cookbook is a must for anyone who loves entertaining, whether you’re totally new to the world of vegan holiday cooking or are a seasoned pro. There are even seasonally appropriate cocktail recipes, and of course some cookie recipes for the Christmas cookie exchange! Yum!

Vegan Holiday Cooking from Candle Cafe (hardcover, 176 pages), by Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda. Published 2014 by Ten Speed Press. Genre: cooking, vegan food, entertaining. Five out of five stars.

Vegan waffles (recipe)

Waffles with strawberries

Egg-less waffles are a bit of a challenge, and while I won’t claim that these waffles are as light and fluffy as a feather, they do a pretty good job of imitating regular ol’ waffles for those of us who don’t eat eggs or don’t want to run to the store in a pinch. I’m still tweaking my recipe, so you might see an updated version on the blog in the future, but for now this is how I make waffles that aren’t tough and won’t stick to the waffle iron like some of my older eggless versions tended to do.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1.75 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup melted vegan butter or oil
  • 2 cups flour
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Strawberries and syrup for topping

In a mixing bowl, combine the banana, milk and oil. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix well; add to the main mixing bowl and mix lightly. (Overmixing will yield tougher waffles.)

Mist a hot waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and pour in the batter, about 3/4 cup at a time. (The amount will depend on the size of the waffle iron that you’re using.) Cook until there is no longer steam escaping from the waffle iron or until the waffle is nicely browned and slightly crispy at the edges (about five minutes). Serve topped with butter, syrup and sliced strawberries. Enjoy!

Review + GIVEAWAY: Hurraw! lip balm

Hurraw lip balm

Today I have a review and a giveaway for you! I’m going to tell you about my favorite lip balms and then give you a chance to win a few of your own. You can enter using the Rafflecopter widget at the end of the post!

The product: Hurraw! vegan lip balms, $3.79-$4.29; available in 22 flavors at hurrawbalm.com or in select natural foods stores.

The claim: Smooth, not too sweet or sticky, free of animal ingredients or harsh chemical additives, and won’t melt in your pocket. It’s (take a deep breath) raw, organic, vegan, and fair trade, and it’s free of gluten, soy, shea, petroleum, parabens, preservatives, artificial flavors and colors, and GMOs. Whew!

Core ingredients: Almond oil, coconut oil, cacao butter, jojoba oil, olive oil, castor oil, sesame oil, and candelilla wax; flavors and colors are naturally extracted or distilled.

I tried it: I’ve gone through several tubes of this lip balm and somehow never got around to writing up a review. As you can see from the above picture, my current faves are chocolate, grapefruit, mint and chai, all of which taste exactly as you’d expect. The formula is super-smooth and not too slippery or tacky. I slather it on all day long and even use it under lipstick to keep my lips comfortable. I feel like the formula is far superior to some other lip balms I’ve tried that turn gritty or slick halfway through the tube.

The balms have a faint scent and taste pertaining to their flavor, but it’s nothing artificial or overpowering. I love knowing that I’m not putting nasty chemicals on my lips when I use this lip balm. The lip balm comes in a flattened oval tube with bright, cute, simple packaging. I like that these tubes fit well in pockets and also that the product doesn’t melt in the heat or turn hard when it’s cold out.

There is an SPF lip balm (made with zinc) for the summer months if you want sun protection for your lips, but I love the flavored non-SPF tubes the rest of the time, especially in the winter. They really make my lips feel great and I love that I can layer them under other lip products without my mouth turning into a slippery mess. (Chronic chapped lip sufferers know: if you can’t layer it with a lip balm, you’re not wearing it during the winter months! Great lip balm is a must for wearing bold lipsticks and lip glosses when the weather turns dry and cold.)

Speaking of the winter months–I like that this balm is really gentle. When my lips are dry and sore (or heaven forbid, cracked), the last thing I want is a balm that’s going to irritate them further. This stuff moisturizes without stinging, no matter how thickly or how often you apply it.

My final rating: 10/10. I could not be happier with this balm. It feels great on my lips and comes in so many yummy flavors that I can keep a different one in my purse, my car, my desk, my nightstand, etc. and sample several at any given time! I also love the company’s commitment to natural and green business practices (read more on that here). I love the price. I love the cute packaging. In short, I love everything!

 

And now on to the giveaway!

Visit the Hurraw! website and choose your own trio of flavors, then use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the giveaway. It’s open worldwide through the 20th. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway