vegetarian

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.

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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: Neutrogena Naturals Purifying Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes

(Disclosure: I received a sample of this product for honest review as a member of the Influenster community.)

How did my face feel after the Neutrogena #WipeForWater experiment?

Neutrogena Naturals and The Nature Conservancy launched a large campaign this spring to encourage consumers to reduce water usage in the U.S. The numbers on water waste are pretty shocking: the EPA estimates that the average American household uses 400+ gallons of water daily and wastes over 10,000 gallons of water per year. Obviously there are lots of things you can do to reduce your wastefulness–shorter showers, ensuring your pipes don’t leak, etc.–but for the #WipeForWater challenge Neutrogena asked consumers to replace their regular cleansers with cleansing towelettes, saving an average of five gallons of water per day.

That’s a lot of water, especially added up over the course of multiple days. However, I’ve always been a little leery of replacing a cleanser with a makeup wipe–I feel like they just don’t clean as effectively–so when I received these wipes in the mail with an invitation to go waterless for three days, I was hesitant. Neutrogena claims these wipes leave skin looking “purified, fresh and healthy-looking”, but would they really work on my temperamental skin?

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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.

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: Steamcream

Disclosure: I was sent a product in exchange for a review. However I was not compensated for writing a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.

Hey beauties! Are you enjoying your winter? We got several inches of snow here yesterday and I’m loving it. If there’s one thing I don’t enjoy about winter, though, it’s the fact that colder temps and drier air turn my skin super-dry and sensitive, and my regular body and face lotions just don’t cut it anymore.

Hence, I was pretty excited when Katie from Steamcream contacted me to ask if I’d like to try a tin of their all-in-one moisturizer, suitable for use on face, body, hands and feet ($20/75ml). After a couple of weeks of testing, I’m finally ready to share my thoughts with you! Steamcream is vegan and natural and contains ingredients like almond oil to soothe and moisturize without piling on heavy synthetics that can actually do more harm than good. You can learn more about Steamcream’s ingredients and sourcing here

The Steamcream formula comes packaged in your choice of a variety of different beautiful tins. I opted for Thalia, with a pretty orange and white floral design, but if you browse their design gallery you’ll see they have nearly two hundred tins to choose from, meaning there’s something there for everyone! The metal tin is very sturdy but small enough to fit in your hand.

Steamcream has what I would describe as an earthy fragrance, due to the combination of almond oil, lavender, chamomile and neroli. It’s not terribly strong and doesn’t linger long, but if you prefer preppy or uber-fresh scents to what I like to call “hippie” scents, you might be disappointed with the fragrance. Just an FYI. Personally I love natural scents, but I’ve also gotten the side eye for saying I like patchouli, so to each their own. I like that the scent fades away quickly so you can add your own perfume or body spray without creating a competing mix of fragrances.

Surprisingly, the formula is very thin–I expected it to have the consistency of a body butter, but it’s thinner than even a facial lotion. Obviously if you’re used to piling on heavy moisturizers in the winter, such a thin consistency seems odd; it’s hard to imagine how Steamcream can moisturize so heavily when it feels like there’s nothing on your skin. However, when I tested out the cream on one side of my face and body versus a thicker face cream and body butter, I found that there was no noticeable difference in moisturization even after several hours. At the twelve-hour mark, the side with Steamcream actually felt like it was retaining moisture better without reapplication–no dry or itchy patches!

The really lovely thing about Steamcream is that it’s truly an all-in-one product: it moisturizes my dry legs and hands like a much thicker product, but it’s still lightweight enough to use on my face without triggering a breakout. Also, since it’s so light and non-greasy, it’s very good for layering under makeup. I think it would be great for someone who didn’t like using very thick products, or for someone who wanted to layer products without feeling that they were slathering a layer of buttercream frosting over their limbs.

If you’re looking for a new cream to add to your winter skincare routine I highly recommend heading over to the Steamcream website and browsing their tins–it’s a great way to treat yourself this holiday season!

Full ingredients: Oatmeal infusion, orange flower water, almond oil, cocoa butter, glycerine, stearic acid, triethanolamine, organic jojoba oil, lavender oil, chamomile blue oil, orange flower absolute, rose absolute, neroli oil, cetearyl alcohol, coumarin*, geraniol*, citronellol*, limonene*, linalool*, perfume, methylparaben, propylparaben. (*Occurs naturally in essential oils)

Disclosure: I was sent a product in exchange for a review. However I was not compensated for writing a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
 

Product review: Immortal Herbs Immortal Sleep

Disclosure: I got this product as part of an advertorial.

Happy Saturday everyone! I hope you’re all having a great December, enjoying the holidays and the snow. (I love it.) Today I have another short product review for you–the Immortal Sleep deep sleep formula from Immortal Herbs. Vegan, gluten-free and GMO-free, this blend of Chinese herbs works to decrease anxiety and stress, help you relax, and promote a deeper, more restful sleep.

Like a lot of people, I’ve tried plenty of different “deep sleep” over the counter medicines over the years and I’ve never found one I really liked. Too much melatonin seems to make me have nightmares (not an uncommon side effect, I’m told) while the regular Tylenol PM type of sleeping pill just doesn’t do enough to help me fall asleep and stay asleep. When I do find something that lets me sleep through a full eight hours, I inevitably wake up groggy and feeling drugged.

Immortal Sleep is different. It worked well to help me relax and fall asleep, and I was able to stay asleep through the day. I’m a very light sleeper and once I’m awake, I have a lot of trouble falling back asleep, so being able to sleep through the day is kind of a big deal for me. And happily, once my alarm went off for work, I was able to get up and get going without any of the usual draggy incoherent after-effects of a sleeping pill.

Overall I really liked this, and while I still try to avoid taking supplements no an everyday basis, I would definitely take this if I was having trouble sleeping and needed something to ensure a good night’s rest!

Immortal Sleep can be purchased through the company website for $54.95 (90 capsule bottle), but it’s currently on sale for $34.95. You can find Immortal Sleep here.


I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.