Beauty & Fashion · Tips and Tricks

My Favorite Natural Deodorant Is On Sale

Can I be honest?

As much as I’ve been lamenting the never-ending winter we’ve had here in Massachusetts, a small part of me dreads one part of summer. And that part is sweat.

There’s no getting around it: I am not a dainty person who never perspires, and this has butt heads with my desire to use natural products for pretty much my entire life. Picture a scene: tween Amanda approaches her mom for deodorant after realizing that all the cool girls with straight hair and Co-Ed Naked t-shirts are using Teen Spirit, and not only am I not blonde OR tan, I do not have this essential product. Cut to the next day when my mom comes home with Tom’s of Maine … and eternal embarrassment, plus a not-insignificant amount of crying, ensues.

end scene.

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Nothing against Tom’s or any of the other natural brands I’ve tried over the years, but apart from being horrifyingly dorky for a pre-teen to sport at soccer practice, it just didn’t work that well for me at ALL. Fast forward to today, when many (many) years of trial and error later, I’ve finally landed on a product that smells really good, doesn’t bother sensitive skin, doesn’t require me to dip my hands into a jar of gunk, and most importantly WORKS AMAZINGLY, even on the hottest days. Even for power yoga, or the T without air conditioning, or that moment when you have to ask for a raise or tell off a mansplainer. I’m talking about Schmidt’s Naturals, from (where else) Portland, and it has finally made me a believer in vegan hygiene products. I use it every single day, and have stocked up on multiple scents and formulations so I always have what I need.

My hands-down favorite scent is Bergamot Lime, but I am REALLY fond of both bergamot and lime, to a degree that I don’t think is anywhere near normal. Got sensitive skin? My favorite gentle option is Schmidt’s Coconut Pineapple stick (again, two flavors I borderline freakishly love. See pretty much every post while I was pregnant). Of course, they also have plenty of fragrance-free options, too. jar_fragrancefree_2x_76b3b6df-e4f8-4752-a3f0-aa849e3fec18_500x500They offer a subscription program and select scents are also sold in stores nationwide, including the Target near my house (woohoo!) Their deodorants are free of aluminum and instead use natural ingredients — plant-based minerals like magnesium and baking powder — to neutralize odor-causing bacteria and wetness. I love that it was founded by a mom who was just looking to improve the personal products she used while pregnant!

Now through Saturday, June 3, take 30% off your order at Schmidt’s in celebration of their 7th year in business with code “ANNIVERSARY!”

In closing, I’ll leave you with this fairly unfortunate snapshot of my 90s self at a neighborhood block party. Hopefully, I had some kind of deo on alongside my sambas and bad bangs, but you really never know.

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Sweet Potato Pot Pie

This is an all-purpose vegan recipe that can be made into a Meatless Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie, or turned into the filling for a Vegetarian  Sweet Potato Pot Pie. With crumbled veggie burgers instead of meat, and your choice of vegetables in a creamy non-dairy sauce topped with buttery mashed sweet potatoes, it’s versatile and hearty!

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Even though this turned into a vegetarian shepherd’s pie — with “meat” on bottom, veggies and sauce on top, and potatoes spread in a thin layer, baked until browned and bubbly — I created this filling with the intent of putting it in a pot pie next time. To do that, I’d keep the sweet potatoes cubed instead of mashing them, thin out the creamy sauce on the stove top with a bit of nut milk, then use a puff pastry shell to cover it in a glass baking dish. Let me know if you try it that way! I really liked how this turned out.

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Sweet Potato Pot Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 veggie burger patties (I used frozen)
  • fresh or frozen vegetables of your choice; I used corn and carrots. You need about two 14-oz. cans worth, or two small bags of frozen vegetables.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • cashew cream (eyeball the amount) & water to thin it out until spreadable
  • olive oil, for cooking the diced onion
  • butter, for stirring into the mashed sweet potatoes

DIRECTIONS

Pre-heat the oven to 350 then prep the ingredients. Microwave the four patties briefly, following package directions, then cut into triangles and set aside. Boil water in a large pot; peel and cube the potatoes, then cook in the water once boiling until just soft. Drain and set aside. Once they’ve cooled a bit, mash by hand with a pat of butter. Dice an onion.

In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat until warm, then saute the onion and add the veggie patties until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the onion-veggie burger mixture into the bottom of a glass baking dish — I used a round glass casserole dish, but a square 10×10 or 8-inch glass pan would also work well — and press down so it’s flat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the vegetables (thawing/draining first if frozen/canned) and the cashew cream, eyeballing the amount based on how creamy you’d like the filling of your pie to be. As I noted above, you should add some water to make the cashew cream more liquid-y if you’ll be baking it into a sweet potato pot pie with a pie crust instead of a shepherd’s pie. Pour over the veggie burger-onion mixture in the glass baking dish.

Top with the mashed sweet potatoes, patting down flat so they evenly cover the veggies. Bake uncovered for about half an hour, checking to make sure it isn’t burning, and let cool briefly once out of the oven. To reheat later, I like to put a pat of butter on top! (No surprise there — anyone in my family can tell you what a butter freak I am.)

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This travels and reheats very well, too. I made this in single-serve, miniature ramekins for Mark’s grandfather when he was recovering from surgery a few years ago, and also for friends who’ve just had a baby in winter. It’s just the kind of comforting food that cold days call for, and at least in Boston, we are still having lots of cold, rainy days. Brrr! Hopefully we’ve had our last true deep freeze for the year and we can look forward to warmer weather ahead. It is officially spring now, after all 🙂

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Cashew cream is really easy to make, and if you have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix (let this be yet another reason to justify buying one!) you can make it without even needing to soak the nuts overnight. Of course, you can also make this recipe with a conventional dairy-based white sauce from scratch or by using a can of “cream of” soup such as cream of celery or cream of mushroom or potato. But you don’t need to be vegan to enjoy cashew cream! It takes mere minutes to make, and seasoned with nothing more than a little salt and garlic it’s ready to dress pasta or any number of tasty dishes that would otherwise use dairy. Toss it with egg noodles, cooked spinach and diced butternut squash, or add nutritional yeast to create a “cheesy” sauce for baked macaroni. It can pinch-hit in any casserole you already make, or try it mixed with hot sauce or sriracha and baked with some shredded chicken for a tasty buffalo dip.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Holidays · News

Halloween Pics & Food News

Well. Georgia loved Halloween! Her whole family came over except for my in-laws, who were out of town, and we took her out for trick-or-treating for the second time in her life. The first time, she slept through it in daddy’s arms! This time, she was walking on her own, and she loved meeting all our neighbors! We’ve gone from having zero kids in the neighborhood to families with young children in every other house in the space of three years, which is awesome. I loved seeing all the costumes, the decorated houses, and chatting with some of our older neighbors who we don’t get to see very often. All in all, a feel-good Friday night, and we even navigated Daylight Saving Time unscathed.

Georgia also helped me decorate the house before our visitors arrived! We kept it simple by ordering pizza and wings for the whole crew. Her monogrammed “winged bat” treat bag is from Pottery Barn Kids, and her ladybug costume is Carter’s from Macy’s in Boston.

You better believe I stocked up on clearance candy this weekend for my office!

So what else is new?

Well, I was extremely excited to read about a new Swedish study that shows (in mainstream medicine, anyway) what homeopaths and complementary & alternative health practitioners — not to mention the rest of the world — have known for years: that milk is really not that good for you.

It’s no secret that sales of cow’s milk alternatives like rice, soy, almond, coconut and hemp milk have taken off in recent years, and with good reason: many boast impressive health claims and taste great too. Apparently, the dairy industry has taken notice, and is launching a major ad campaign to reinforce the notion that milk “does a body good.” Of course, it’s easy for me to say avoid milk, because I straight-up hate the taste of it and always have, and I’m lactose intolerant like 80% of humanity. So I understand that true milk lovers will have a harder time accepting that a big industry has lied to them their whole lives, and that milk contributes to higher mortality among populations that drink it most — and that bone health is excellent in populations that don’t drink it at all.

That said, you DO have to do your research when it comes to milk substitutes. It’s not as simple as chugging a bunch of soy or almond milk, and none of those options should be given to babies or toddlers outside a doctor’s supervision. Time ran a decent comparison of some popular non-dairy drinks earlier this year, and Self has a good slideshow that takes you through the options for replacing conventional cow’s milk, including organic milk, which is what we give Georgia every day.

Speaking of dairy alternatives, check out this amazing-looking Vegan Strawberry Orange Julius (whose flavors I’ve celebrated before!)

What else caught my eye lately:

Apparently you should always preheat your baking sheet

Did you know you can still use ingredients that have “gone bad?”

The stark differences between what the rich & poor feed their babies

Even more reasons to love eggs (except when you’re newly pregnant)

A list of the top nutritional powerhouse fruits & veggies you should be eating

This genius idea for remaking school fundraisers that rely on junk food

And, OK, fine ~ I’ll share a couple vegan recipes. This comes from Chloe Coscarelli’s new book on Italian vegan cooking (it IS possible and it’s not very hard). I love how accessible and filling her recipes are. You don’t feel you’re making a sacrifice.

Chloe’s Bow ties in garlic cream sauce and vegan lasagna

Have a wonderful week, everyone.

Oh, and if you haven’t already, get out there and vote!

 

Recipes

Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

I have a great salsa recipe coming soon for Super Bowl Sunday (not that I’m watching, with the Pats out)…but first I have to share this great vegan recipe for Warm Spinach & Artichoke Dip by Chloe Coscarelli. You all know how much I love Chef Chloe, and she’s got another winner here. I devour Spinach & Artichoke Dip, but if you’re like me and you have issues with the heavy, cheesy nature of the traditional recipe, I think you’ll find this agrees with you a lot more. Watch the video & check out the recipe below!

Warm Vegan Spinach-Artichoke Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1 14-ounce package soft tofu, drained
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 ounces of canned, marinated, or frozen artichoke hearts, drained
  • Bread or tortilla chips for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 1-quart baking dish.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and saute the onions until soft. Add the garlic and red pepper and cook for a few more minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Then, add the spinach.

Let the mixture cook, stirring gently, until the spinach is wilted.

In a food processor, blend the silken tofu, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add the artichokes and spinach mixture, and pulse about 15 times. Transfer to your prepared baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.

Let cool a few minutes, then serve with bread or tortilla chips. Yum!

News · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

How to Go Vegan

New York Times (nytimes.com)

The New York Times had a cool article recently about how challenging it can be to “go Vegan” cold turkey. It listed a bunch of tips for easing the transition, broken down by which food type you’re trying to replace or replicate, from dairy milk to ground beef to eggs. 

Here’s the list:

NONDAIRY MILK Taste all of them to find your favorite. Coconut and almond milks (particularly canned coconut milk) are thicker and good to use in cooking, while rice milk is thinner and is good for people who are allergic to nuts or soy. Soy milk is great in regular or vanilla flavor for fruit smoothies and breakfast cereal.

NONDAIRY CHEESE Cheese substitutes are available under the brand names DaiyaTofutti and Follow Your Heart, among others, but many vegans say there’s no fake cheese that satisfies as well as the real thing. Rather than use a packaged product, vegan chefs prefer to make homemade substitutes using cashews, tofu, miso or nutritional yeast. At Candle 79, a popular New York vegan restaurant, the filling for saffron ravioli with wild mushrooms and cashew cheese is made with cashews soaked overnight and then blended with lemon juice, olive oil, water and salt.

THINK CREAMY, NOT CHEESY Creaminess and richness can often be achieved without a cheese substitute. For instance, Chloe Coscarelli, a vegan chef and the author of “Chloe’s Kitchen,” has created a pizza with caramelized onion and butternut squash that will make you forget it doesn’t have cheese; the secret is white-bean and garlic purée. She also offers a creamy, but dairy-free, avocado pesto pasta.

NUTRITIONAL YEAST The name is unappetizing, but many vegan chefs swear by it: it’s a natural food with a roasted, nutty, cheese like flavor. Ms. Coscarelli uses nutritional yeast flakes in her “best ever” baked macaroni and cheese (found in her cookbook). “I’ve served this to die-hard cheese lovers,” she told the Times, “and everyone agrees it is comparable, if not better.”

Susan Voisin’s Web site, Fat Free Vegan Kitchen, offers a nice primer on nutritional yeast, noting that it’s a fungus that is grown on molasses and then harvested and dried with heat. (Baking yeast is an entirely different product.) Nutritional yeasts can be an acquired taste, she said, so start with small amounts, sprinkling on popcorn, stirring into mashed potatoes, grinding with almonds for a Parmesan substitute or combining with tofu to make an eggless omelet. It can be found in Whole Foods, in the bulk aisle of natural-foods markets or online.

BUTTER This is an easy fix. Vegan margarines like Earth Balance are made from a blend of oils and are free of trans fats. Varieties include soy-free, whipped and olive oil.

EGGS Ms. Coscarelli, who won the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars with vegan cupcakes, says vinegar and baking soda can help baked goods bind together and rise, creating a moist and fluffy cake without eggs. Cornstarch can substitute for eggs to thicken puddings and sauces. Vegan pancakes are made with a tablespoon of baking powder instead of eggs. Frittatas and omelets can be replicated with tofu.

Finally, don’t try to replicate your favorite meaty foods right away. If you love a juicy hamburger, meatloaf or ham sandwich, you are not going to find a meat-free version that tastes the same. Ms. Voisin advises new vegans to start slow and eat a few vegan meals a week. Stock your pantry with lots of grains, lentils and beans and pile your plate with vegetables. To veganize a recipe, start with a dish that is mostly vegan already — like spaghetti — and use vegetables or a meat substitute for the sauce.

“Trying to recapture something and find an exact substitute is really hard,” she said. “A lot of people will try a vegetarian meatloaf right after they become vegetarian, and they hate it. But after you get away from eating meat for a while, you’ll find you start to develop other tastes, and the flavor of a lentil loaf with seasonings will taste great to you. It won’t taste like meat loaf, but you’ll appreciate it for itself.”

What are your best tips for easing into Vegan eating? And what do you miss the most, or occasionally even crave?  I don’t eat Vegan all the time, but as a lactose-intolerant vegetarian, I end up finding that some of the most stomach-friendly recipes are vegan, too. Think Avocado Pesto Pasta, or Sweet Potato Soup without the sour cream on top, Creamy Kale Salad, and just about any smoothie made with coconut milk or water instead of dairy (like this one or this one).

Resources

Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Cashew Cream

What is Cashew Cream? It’s a nut-based substitute for dairy cream, which is great for vegans, those who are lactose-intolerant, or anyone who just wants to cut out the saturated fat and calories of heavy cream. It’s a staple in the raw food world, where it originated. Where can you use it? Desserts, sauces, soups, you name it! It reduces very well over heat, and will keep in the freezer for several months (or a few days refrigerated).

I’ve been meaning to try making my own cashew cream for a really long time — ever since a vegan restaurant near my old apartment told me that’s how they made creamy, decadent sauces that I couldn’t believe were dairy free.  Turns out, it’s really easy to make, and a little bit goes a long way.

The first thing you need is about two cups of good quality whole cashews ~ the raw kind, not roasted or salted. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both have good options, but I’m sure many supermarkets do, too. Why whole? Because cashew pieces can be dry, and you want the maximum creaminess.

Step one is to rinse the cashews very well under cold water.

Next, place the cashews in a bowl with enough cold water to cover them completely.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, rinse again under cold water and place in your blender with enough water to cover them by about an inch. Blend on high for a few minutes, until smooth.

If your blender leaves something to be desired, consider straining the cashew cream to eliminate lumps.

Use immediately, or save it in the fridge for up to three days. To keep cashew cream long term, store in a freezer-safe container for several months.

The first thing I made using cashew cream was a vegetarian pot pie (recipe coming soon). I also put it in a pasta dish I was making to mimic a creamy sauce that otherwise might have used cream cheese or bechamel. And since I had a little extra cashew cream in the blender when I first made it, I decided to piggyback on those leftovers to make a creamy fruit smoothie. Check back soon for that recipe, too!

To customize this recipe for your needs, simply reduce the amount of water you put into the blender with the cashews, and you’ll get a much thicker “cream.” Done normally, this recipe yields about 3 1/2 cups.

Recipes

‘Creamy’ vegan pesto with edamame & roasted zucchini

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite vegan chefs, Chloe Coscarelli of Cupcake Wars fame. I made it my own by adding sauteed soybeans and mini zucchini, and by using lime juice in the pesto. Yum!


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta (I love Trader Joe’s garlic-basil linguine, but I’ve also made this with egg noodles!)
  • 1 package frozen edamame (soybeans), cooked and shelled
  • 1 zucchini, chopped, or 1 package baby zucchini, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive Oil
  • salt & pepper

Directions

Set a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. (I never salt water for pasta, but you certainly can.)

Meanwhile, chop the zucchini and set aside, and boil the frozen edamame according to package directions, either on the stove top or in the microwave. Set aside.

While waiting for the pasta to boil, make the pesto! In a blender or large food processor, combine 2 pitted & peeled avocados, juice of 1 lime, most of the basil (reserve some for garnish), garlic cloves, half a cup of olive oil, and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

While the pasta is boiling, sautee the shelled soybeans and chopped zucchini in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned and fragrant. Salt lightly. Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and toss with the pesto in a large stainless steel bowl. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pesto and help it grip to the linguine. (Note: If you use the Trader Joe’s Garlic Basil Linguine, you’ll need two packages).

Serve the pasta topped with the zucchini and edamame. Garnish with fresh basil. Voila!

You’d never know by the taste of this creamy dish that there’s no dairy in the sauce. It tastes rich, silky and indulgent.

Side note: If you do have leftovers, don’t be alarmed that the sauce will turn darker because of the avocados.

Avocado makes an amazing substitute for heavy cream and other thickening dairy products like sour cream or cream cheese. I use them in smoothies, pasta sauces, muffins and more. They’re not only a great vegan option for baking, they are packed with dozens of essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium and folic acid, as well as the kind of heart-healthy “good” fats you want to boost in your diet. They also provide a concentrated source of energy for the body, so if you’re a distance cyclist like me, or any other type of endurance athlete, avocados are excellent fuel.

Need more evidence in favor of avocados? Check out this great recipe for an Avocado Lime Cheesecake Tart.

Recipe & Photo: FragrantVanillaCake.blogspot.com
CSA 2011 · Recipes

Vegan Creamed Scallions

I’ve been wanting to make creamed scallions from my CSA bounty, but I’m lactose intolerant, so heavy cream can be kind of tough on my tummy. So instead I tried it with soy creamer, and it actually turned out delicious! Here is my recipe:

Ingredients:

  • Handful of scallion bunches, about 4, trimmed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water (just enough to cover scallions in pan)
  • 1/2 cup soy cream
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
I snip mine into one-inch pieces, but you can leave them in one piece.

Directions

Combine the scallions in a saucepan with the water and bring to a simmer.

Cover and cook 5-7 minutes or until soft. Add the soy creamer and garlic.

Uncover and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

Finally, season with salt and pepper. I used kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. As for the soy creamer, I use Trader Joe’s version, which is both vegan and gluten-free. It’s very sweet and really replicates the heavy cream texture and taste in a way other brands I’ve tried do not.

This is a rich side dish that can comfortably serve 3 or 4 depending on how many scallions you use. This recipe is easy to scale if you have a large bunch and want to eyeball the amount of liquid up to adjust.

Enjoy!