Vegan red velvet white chip cookies (February Recipe Writers)

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I admit I’m a day late with this delicious Valentine’s recipe, but when I got home from work yesterday and got out my mixing bowl I realized I didn’t have an essential ingredient: cream cheese (vegan, natch). And there was no way I was going back out to the store for one item.  So apologies for the delay, and I hope the deliciousness makes up for it!
I first got to thinking about red velvet when it started popping up all over my Pinterest board for Valentine’s Day. Chiefly in mind was this recipe from the blog New Mama Diaries–it looked so simple to prepare (always a good thing). But of course, I had to veganize it before I could try it…so here are my results. I bet if you serve these to family and friends, they’ll never guess that they lack eggs and real cream cheese!
What you’ll need:
One package of red velvet cake mix
1/2 cup coconut oil
One 8-oz. package cream cheese
Two cups (or one package) white chocolate chips
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Use a hand mixer to cream together the coconut oil and cream cheese. Add in the red velvet cake mix and beat until ingredients are thoroughly blended; stir in the chocolate chips. Drop onto cookie sheets in rounded spoonfuls; bake at 375 for ten to twelve minutes. Allow to cool before serving (the cookies will be too gooey to pick up when they’re fresh out of the oven!).
A note on ingredients: Many vegans find the Duncan Hines cake mixes to be acceptable, but if you’re looking for a brand that says “vegan” on the box, check the baking aisle of your local health food store (mine has tons of such items that I have not found through online sellers). Alternatively, you could whip up a from-scratch recipe–it will take a little longer than using a box mix, but it will still taste good. Just remember that a wet cake batter won’t need added coconut oil, and you’ll need to adjust the wet-to-dry ratio so the batter won’t be super-runny.
Vegan cream cheese is pretty easy to find at health food stores and even some regular grocery stores. Vegan white chocolate chips can be harder to find, but if you don’t have any on hand, regular chips will work fine too–the taste will be slightly different, but the cookies will still be delicious!

My Zoya promo order arrived!

My Zoya order (from the 2014 Color Your World promo) finally arrived! I ended up ordering three extra polishes to get the free shipping, so I now have a total  of six lovely polishes waiting to be worn. Zoya is my favorite polish brand–the formula is great, the color selection is massive, and the polishes are all vegan–plus they release tons of trendy new fashion colors each season that you won’t find in the drugstore.

 

I tried to order with an eye toward the polishes I’ll want to wear this spring and summer, rather than snagging more glitters and “winter” polishes. To that end, I grabbed “Charisma”, a neon orchid shade, to fit with the Pantone color of the year: Radiant Orchid! I also picked up “Darcy”, a warm yellow, and “Destiny”, a coral PixieDust that I’ve been craving since last summer. I think both of these colors will make great pedicure colors once the weather warms up.

 

I also picked out three wild card colors. I don’t normally go for blues, but “Song” was too pretty to pass up. “Purity” is a solid white that should be great for nail art, while “Rue” is a blush nude from the spring “Natural” collection that was just recently released.

 

Here are some shots in cooler light. I think you can see the shimmers in Song a bit better. I’m wondering what Charisma will look like on the nails, because it’s insanely bright even in the bottle! I’ve heard it has a semi-matte finish, so I might have to use a high-gloss topcoat with this one.

 

 

Now the swatching begins… :D

Healthy eating: kale, quinoa & sweet potato soup

Today I have an easy, healthy and tasty recipe to share with you: kale, quinoa and sweet potato soup. This dish requires only four ingredients, freezes easily, and is not only vegan but also free of soy and gluten. The combo of ingredients stuffs a ton of protein, fiber, iron and other vitamins & minerals into a fairly low-cal package, making it a great healthy option for “diet” days or anytime you need to get the maximum nutrients possible from your meal.

You’ll need:

  • Three quarts vegetable stock (about twelve cups)
  • Several cups washed chopped kale
  • Five or six large sweet potatoes
  • Cooked quinoa–I cook a 26-oz. package of Bob’s Red Mill Organic Quinoa, which yields about twelve cups

 

Peel and chop up the sweet potatoes and add them to the vegetable stock. Cook over medium high heat until potatoes are nearly tender; add kale and cook an additional ten minutes. Dish quinoa into bowls and ladle soup over the top; add salt & pepper or other seasonings to taste.

Obviously this makes a LOT of soup. If you’re cooking for one or don’t plan on freezing any of the soup for a later date, then you might want to halve this recipe to avoid soup burnout. I prefer to store the soup and quinoa in separate containers in the fridge so the quinoa won’t soak up all of the broth overnight, but if you’re ladling this into single-serve Ziploc containers to freeze for later then I wouldn’t worry about separate storage.

So now you know what I’m eating this week! Do you have a healthy dinner recipe to share with me? (Don’t forget, you still have time to add your healthy recipes to the January Recipe Writers link-up!)

Product review: Crown Brush HD Set (video)

(Disclosure: I was provided with the products mentioned in this blog post for the purpose of review. However I was not compensated for writing a review and as always all opinions are my own.)
Today I’m doing something a little different…a vlog review! I received this lovely Crown Brush HD Set from iFabbo and Crown Brush and thought it would be fun to do a video of my review instead of a typed post with pictures.

The Crown Brush HD Set is available in orange, purple or white/blue and contains six brushes: a large powder, tapered blush, small contouring, eye shadow blender, crease brush, and liner brush. These brushes are super-soft, rivaling my favorite Ecotools brushes! They are vegan-friendly and come in a zippered case with a large mirror and tweezers, so you’re all set for applying makeup on the go. The set typically retails for $69.99 but has been on sale on the Crown Brush website for a little while for just $27.95, which is a great deal for six brushes. However, today I logged on again and saw that the price had been slashed even further–down to $19.50! So if you want to snap up one of these kits for yourself or another makeup lover in your life, don’t wait! You don’t want to miss out on this deal.
(Disclosure: I was provided with the products mentioned in this blog post for the purpose of review. However I was not compensated for writing a review and as always all opinions are my own.)

Unboxing: Conscious Box December 2013

Unboxing: Conscious Box December 2013

My Conscious Box arrived a little late because of the holidays, so I’m just now posting the contents. I honestly had really mixed feelings about this month; there were lots of items included, but some were repeats, some were just not that interesting, and a couple were just “nopes” for me. If you’re interested in Conscious Box, it’s a monthly subscription box that brings you samples of natural health, food, beauty and lifestyle products for $19.95; choose from a classic, vegan, or gluten-free subscription. There are no preview or skip windows with this subscription. You can cancel anytime. When you rate the products received in your box, you earn points to spend in the Conscious store. Learn more at their website.

Right away, I have two repeats from last month: the African Black soap and the three-pack of Mighty Leaf loose leaf teas. I have no complaints about getting soap and tea in boxes, but I don’t think you should send someone a carbon copy of an item two months in a row. It’s bad for business and irks paying customers who want to try new things.

This Floating Soap, in a brown sugar and sweet potato scent, sounds interesting. I actually tuck most of my soaps in my dresser drawers to scent my clothes, but I might try this in the bath to see what it’s like.

They really went bonkers with the soap samples this month. I’m just sayin’. This seaweed soap from Earth’s Enrichments sounds really nice, though.

The Truly You amber candle is a welcome addition to the box; I love candles. I don’t get into the whole thing about burning to purify chakras and whatnot, but it smells good.

The idea behind this Blue Avocado java sleeve is that you’ll use it instead of the cardboard sleeve that comes on your takeout coffee cup, thereby cutting down on waste. You know what else cuts down on waste? Brewing your own coffee at home and toting it in a washable reusable cup instead of hitting the drive-thru. I know, that’s snotty, but I just don’t see myself using this, ever. Maybe if your lifestyle called for lots of take-out coffee because you were on the go and couldn’t brew at home…then it would be handy. But knowing me, I’d forget to stash it in my purse anyway.

These three samples are okay, but disappointing. (Left to right: Mountain Green laundry detergent, Natural Homelogic dish soap, BumBoosa baby wipe.) I just don’t get all “woohoo” about samples of cleaning products.

Finally! A cosmetic item! This mini bottle of Piggy Paint doesn’t have a color listed on the bottom, but it’s a pretty shade. These polishes are all non-toxic and safe for pregnant ladies or small children.

I’m always up for more protein shake samples. It’s hard to find ones that taste good. This veggie protein pack from APS is in a berry flavor, which should be interesting (I normally buy vanilla or chocolate).

I didn’t like these roasted chickpeas (The Good Bean). To be honest I’m not a big “nut” person anyway, so maybe if you were, you’d like them more…they’re certainly a great alternative to roasted peanuts. Just not my taste.

I really liked this Two Degrees bar, I just didn’t like getting bits of quinoa stuck in my teeth. Kind of problematic, since I usually eat this type of bar on the go or whilst running from one office to another at work, and I really felt the need to floss as soon as I’d finished eating it!

I wasn’t sure about this Numi tea. Beet cabbage? For reals? But it was good, light and slightly spicy–a nice savory tea to go with a meal, as opposed to a sweet dessert tea. I would repurchase this in the future, once I’ve worked through my Christmas stash of tea!

The MegaFood vegan vitamins are a good sample for me, since I’m thinking of getting a multivitamin to add to my diet for the new year. You don’t realize until you go vegan that there are sources of dairy and other animal products lurking everywhere, even in vitamins!

(Slight pause) This Florax DS is, in my opinion, just a weird sample to include.

Extras. A BioBag, for picking up pet waste, and some coupons. There were also coupons included on a couple of products in the box, like the soap and the Numi tea.

Here’s a rundown of everything I got and the approximate item/total box value:

African Black soap: $0.79
Mighty Leaf tea: $1.50
Floating Soap: $1.00 (?)
Seaweed soap: $1.00 (?)
Tea light: $3.00
Java sleeve: $3.00
Laundry detergent: $0.40
Dish soap: $0.10
Baby wipe: $0.10
Piggy Paint: $4.00 (?)
Veggie protein: $2.00
The Good Bean: $2.00 (?)
Two Degrees bar: $2.00
Numi tea: $0.60
MegaFood supplement: $0.80
Florax: $14.27
BioBag/coupons: N/A
Total: $36.56

Overall I liked quite a few of the items–the teas and soaps, candle, nail polish and snack bar–and I would say out of seventeen items, ten were good, five were okay but not for me, and two were just “bleh”. I feel like the inclusion of the Florax DS bumped up the box value and that’s why they felt okay putting in the super-cheapie samples of dish soap and the BioBag, as opposed to other food, beauty or lifestyle samples.

Once again I did find some new items to try out that I would not have purchased off the store shelf at full retail price, but the total value of those items doesn’t exceed the box price, especially if you don’t count the two repeat items. That could be a deal breaker for some people. I do still feel like the box offers a nice mix of items for someone who’s new to vegan and/or green living and needs a place to start before they start buying full-sized items, but I would like to see them improve the “lifestyle” items and start offering more beauty items that are not bar soap.

In any case, while this box had a mixed value for me, I already knew before it arrived that I would be canceling most of my existing subscription boxes on the first of this month as part of my 2014 goal to reduce my unnecessary spending. While these boxes are certainly fun, they’re not a necessity and I know I could put that $20 each month toward something else, so is the last one I’ll be unpacking for some time.

Do you subscribe to any monthly boxes? Any favorites? Any you’re quitting this year, or picking up brand-new? Tell me in the comments!