Favorite Finds of the Month: April

Beauty, Food

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting my favorite product finds each month. 

Can you believe we’re already more than a third of the way through 2019? Christmas feels like it was forever ago at this point but I still can’t believe how fast this year is flying! I’m not complaining, though, as I have some great things to look forward to this summer (including my golden birthday). Summer is my fav season by far so I can’t wait!

But before we look ahead to the next few months, let’s rewind to April and check out some of the best products I discovered last month!

1) Coco Bakes Gluten Free Sourdough

Bread has been one of my biggest fear foods since my eating disorder but it’s also been one of the foods I enjoy the most. Go figure! I pretty much eat almost entirely gluten free when I’m at home, not because I’m celiac or have been diagnosed with an intolerance, but I just feel better when I avoid wheat (however, I’m down to enjoy gluten when I go out to eat, since I typically only eat out once a week, and sometimes I still seek out GF options if that appeals to me at the time) so it’s hard to find GF bread that’s also vegan and tastes good. I have found a couple brands (Little Northern Bakehouse and O’Dough’s bagels) that are available at Sprouts that are pretty decent, but I was craving real bread, ya know, not just sandwich slices or bagel thins.

Lots of bloggers/Instagrammers I follow raved about Coco Bakes, a small-batch bakery in LA that specializes in GF vegan sourdough. I had had a similar sourdough before (from Bread SRSLY, based in the Bay Area) and wanted to give another, slightly cheaper version a try so I bit the bullet and ordered a loaf.

Since it was coming from LA, it arrived in my mailbox just a few days after it was baked, which means it was nice and fresh when it was delivered. And I gotta say, this bread lives up to the hype! It is perfect for toast (it crisps up nicely in the toaster even after I sliced it and put it in the freezer) and it has a great, chewy texture and that slight sour flavor that I missed from legit bread.

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Honey wants in on the sourdough toast action!

Each loaf costs $20 (plus $7.99 for shipping), which seems expensive for bread, but for bread this good (that’s made in small batches, no less) it’s worth it. I’ve already ordered it twice and I plan to make it at least a monthly purchase.

Also, you should definitely follow Cocobakes on Instagram for serious toast inspo plus the founder of Coco Bakes (Coco Kislinger) is really hilarious and down to earth in her IG Stories!

2) Trader Joe’s Sweet Basil Foaming Hand Soap

I am typically a ride-or-die Bath & Body Works girl when it comes to hand soaps (though I make an exception around the holidays when I stock up on the Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day peppermint soap). I haven’t shopped at B&BW for a few months as I’m saving my last Christmas gift card for their summer scents, so when I ran out of hand soap in my bathroom, I decided on a whim to try one of TJ’s soaps.

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Even the bottle is supah cute!

I’ve loved nearly everything I’ve ever bought from TJ’s, including this soap. It smells just like a fresh bunch of basil, and it foams up just as well as the soaps from Bath & Body Works (I prefer foaming hand soaps). Also, it’s cheaper at just $2.99 per bottle, and much more convenient to buy, since I’m at TJ’s almost every week.

3) Kaleidoscope Juice #LoveUp Sport

Hydrate but make it compassionate. That’s basically the gist of Kaleidoscope Juice’s #LoveUp Sport drink. I’ve already professed my love for Kaleidoscope here but within the last month they introduced a totally new kind of sports beverage. Move over, Gatorade, cuz #LoveUp Sport is way better for you (and for the community…more on that in a sec).

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Even dogs love it (JK, Honey doesn’t get to drink this)!

Whereas Gatorade and most sports drinks are made with sugar, sugar and more sugar (and fake colors/flavors), #LoveUp Sport is made with blue majik spirulina powder (giving it its pretty ocean-blue color), monkfruit (a natural zero calorie sweetener), lime juice, Himalayan pink salt and trace minerals to help you replenish your electrolytes after a tough workout.

The flavor of #LoveUp Sport is subtle, but that’s why I love it. But I also love that it supports the #LoveUp Foundation, which supports kids in the foster care system. Now that’s a sports drink I can get behind!

4) Herbaland Calcium & Vegan D3 Gummy Vitamins

Canada is really leading the way when it comes to vegan gummies (since most gummies are made with gelatin and aren’t even vegetarian). First it was SmartSweets which makes some awesome sugar free gummy candies (2 varieties are vegan), now it’s Herbaland coming in clutch with the vitamins.

Most of us probably don’t get all the nutrients we need from our diet, especially vegans. While many people are hung up on the protein thing, there are key vitamins that vegans can struggle to get from food, namely calcium/vitamin D3 and B12. I strive to eat a balanced diet full of fruits and veggies, but I make sure to supplement so I can stay healthy, and that’s where Herbaland gummy vitamins come in.

I am not a fan of the huge pills you have to swallow or even powdery chewable vitamins (yes, I’m basically a 5-year-old) so gummies it is, but it can be hard to find vegan gummy vitamins that aren’t super expensive. Luckily, I came across Herbaland when searching for vitamins on Amazon, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that none of their vitamin bottles cost more than $20, which is about half the cost of most vegan gummies! I ordered the calcium & D3 variety (because I already take B vitamins in the hair gummies I have).

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Taking vitamins is easy when they’re this yummy!

I love that these are gluten free and sugar free, because many vegan vitamins have glucose syrup, which I’m not a fan of. Plus, they taste pretty good and you can’t beat the price ($16) for a month’s supply.

I plan to try more of their vitamins, including the vegan collagen booster and cold brew energy gummies.

5) Trader Joe’s Jalapeño Sauce

Y’all know I like things spicy. So I’m always down to try a new hot sauce, especially if it’s from TJ’s.

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This sauce pairs perfectly with tofu potato tacos (recipe on my Insta!).

This green sauce is different from most hot sauces in that it’s creamy, but it is in fact totally vegan! It reminds me a lot of dairy-free crema I’ve had at many Mexican places, so it works really well drizzled on top of tacos, but I’ve also used it to dress up a vegan poke bowl. It’s just good on anything.

What new products did you try last month? 

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The 10 Things I Can’t Live Without: Trader Joe’s

Food

Trader Joe’s is the fucking BEST! Like, sorry all other grocery stores, you just aren’t as good. Yes, I still love Whole Foods and Sprouts, but how can you beat TJ’s prices and the unique items they carry that no one else does?

My love affair with Trader Joe’s dates back to 2014, when I first stepped foot in a store. So many bloggers I followed just raved about TJ’s but I never lived even remotely close to a store until the first one came to Colorado in early 2014, and even then, it was more than an hour’s drive away in Denver. This was shortly after I graduated college and was living at home while looking for my first post-grad job, and my mom and I decided to make the trek up there one day a few weeks before I moved to Tulsa. I remember a couple things I bought there: dried persimmon (so good) and some amazing tofu veggie burgers (that they no longer sell). The store and parking lot were a madhouse but I felt something special that day.

It would be nearly 2 years before I went to Trader Joe’s again, because Tulsa didn’t get a store until shortly after I moved to Tucson, where I was delighted to discover not one, not two, not three, but FOUR TJ’s in the city! But my mom supplied my addiction in the meantime by sending me TJ’s products every few months, like their kale chips and sweet & spicy pecans.

When I moved to Phoenix last year, I was disappointed that the closest TJ’s was about 25 minutes away in Mesa, whereas in Tucson, I was within 10-15 minutes of 3 stores. But this longer drive didn’t stop me from going there nearly every weekend for groceries. Thankfully, a new TJ’s just opened about 10 minutes away from me, so the love is still going strong.

I gotta say, TJ’s has really stepped up their game when it comes to offering vegan products. They’re always coming up with new things and many of them are plant-based. I’ve found so many things there that I’m obsessed with, but here are the 10 things I can’t live without, in no particular order.

1) Everything But the Bagel Seasoning

This is the HG of seasonings. Whoever came up with this is a genius, because it’s so simple but so good. It really elevates everything you put it on. I use it in cooking, on raw veggies, and even on plain popcorn. If they ever stop making this IDK what I’ll do.

2) Frozen Cauliflower Rice

Cauli Rice Bowl

The cauli rice makes the best base for all kinds of bowls. 

Honestly, I’ve loved every cauli-based product I’ve tried from TJ’s, but the frozen cauliflower rice is a game-changer because of how easy it is to cook up into something delicious. It keeps forever, so you can stash a bunch in the freezer for stir-frys, burrito bowls and more.

3) Medjool Dates

I don’t know what it is, but the dates at TJ’s are softer than any other I’ve bought. Plus they’re cheaper ($4.99 I think for a good-sized container) than at Sprouts or Whole Foods. I recently started storing them in the fridge (per the instructions on the package) and it makes them even gooier.

I go through a package weekly to make my protein balls (recipe coming soon) and just to dip in nut butter.

4) Creamy Cashew Butter

Cashew Butter

This cashew butter is the move.

Does it make me a bad vegan if I say I don’t like almond butter? I mean, it’s okay but it’s never gonna be my nut butter of choice, which is probably fine because a jar usually costs upwards of $10! Give me some peanut butter (as long as the only ingredients are peanuts and salt) and I’m a happy girl. But give me some cashew butter and I’m in heaven.

TJ’s cashew butter reminds me of cookies, but not in an overpowering way. It has a subtle sweetness that’s complemented by the slight salty flavor. While I usually prefer crunchy PB, I really love the smooth texture of this CB.

5) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Trader Joe’s makes the damn. best. chocolate. chips. Not even kidding. It can be hard to find chocolate chips that are A) vegan and B) affordable but TJ’s slays the game. The ingredients are simple (cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla extract), they aren’t too sweet or too bitter, they are just the perfect size and a 12 ounce bag costs $1.99. Honestly, I eat a handful of them straight up almost every day #noshame.

6) Roasted & Salted Peanuts and Dry Roasted & Salted Macadamia Nuts

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A cart full of my TJs staples, including peanuts and mac nuts.

TJ’s also excels at offering quality nuts at a bargain price. They aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel here, but I just love their nuts and trail mixes. My go-tos are the roasted & salted peanuts (not too salty) and the dry roasted & salted macadamia nuts. No weird ingredients here and the prices are right. I mean yeah, the macadamia nuts are like $9.99 for a 10 ounce bag, but have you seen how much they cost at any other store? Yikes!

7) Just Mango Slices Unsweetened & Unsulfured

Dried fruit game on point! TJ’s has the best selection of dried fruits, including many you don’t see too often (like the aforementioned persimmons). I’m partial to the unsweetened mango slices. Dried fruit definitely does NOT need any added sugar, this stuff is already nature’s candy! These mango slices are always so soft, so fresh and so flavorful.

8) Gochujang Chop Salad Kit

Salad Kit

It’s easy eating green when you have this salad kit.

Some people complain about TJ’s produce but I honestly don’t think it’s that bad. I’m a fan of their cruciferous crunch greens blend, which I cook a lot with, but lately I’ve been feeling the raw veggies more. This is a fairly new addition to Trader Joe’s and I hope it sticks around for awhile.

This is one of their few salad kits that’s vegan but mostly it’s just delicious. If you love Asian salads, you’ll love this. The crunch from the lettuce, the tangy dressing and the added seeds and rice crisps for texture make this salad a winner. I always like to add in some peanuts and sliced jalapenos for extra flavor.

9) Velamints White Gum

This technically isn’t Trader Joe’s brand but I’ve never seen it at any other store so it counts.

I chew at least one piece of gum a day to keep my mouth busy but I don’t got time for gum that lasts for like 5 minutes tops. I need my gum to last 45 minutes to an hour. This gum delivers. It packs a powerful minty punch because it’s actually gum sandwiched between mints, which is the coolest thing ever (literally). Plus it doesn’t have any weird ingredients like most gum does.

10) Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Beverage

The name is hella long, but it’s worth it for an almond milk that’s this good and cheap. Plant milks can be kind of expensive, and I usually prefer to go for the shelf-stable containers because they are smaller (I don’t go through a whole gallon or whatever of almond milk in a week) and I can stash some in the pantry for months.

I always always always opt for unsweetened almond milks and I love when brands offer an unsweetened vanilla option because it adds just a hint of sweetness. TJ’s makes a good, creamy almond milk that’s definitely on par with the pricier brands.

What’s your favorite thing to buy at Trader Joe’s? 

Favorite Finds of the Month: March

Beauty, Food

This is the second in a series of posts highlighting my favorite product finds each month. 

Back again with another round-up of my favorite product discoveries of the month! I don’t know about you, but I am not one of those people who can eat/use the same products all the time and be content. Sure, I have my all-time favorites I come back to over and over but I always love to try new things and mix up my routine when it comes to food and beauty. I hope these posts inspire you to try something new!

1) Memebox I Dew Care Cake My Day Hydrating Sprinkle Wash-Off Mask

This has probably the longest name of any beauty product ever but it definitely lives up to the name. First, what got me to buy this was the fact that it’s cake-scented. Y’all already know my obsession with cake-flavored/cake-scented anything. So it was basically required for me to get this. But I also love how hydrating it is without being too heavy on my face. Plus the actual sprinkles in it are fun.

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The packaging is too precious. 

Let’s talk price, because I typically buy face masks in the $40-$60 range. This is $25. $25. Seriously, for a 3.52 ounce container. What a steal! And before you think it must be poor quality, this mask is cruelty-free, and formulated without parabens, sulfates, phthalates and silicones so it is good for your face AND your wallet.

I got this at Ulta but they also sell it on the Memebox website for the same price.

2) Kaleidoscope Juice

Sorry to any non-Arizona locals who can’t give this adorable juice bar a try, but I had to give it a shoutout because I recently fell in love with it and their products.

There are sooooooo many juice bars out there now. While I generally buy my juices from Whole Foods or Sprouts or Target to save money (and I’m partial to Suja Juice, as you may know), it’s fun to swing by a juice bar to try out their offerings every now and then. It’s even better when you can support a local business. Like I really do love Nekter Juice Bar for their vegan Skoop ice cream, especially now that there’s a location less than 10 minutes from home, but I’d been hearing good things about Kaleidoscope Juice and wanted to check them out.

Me_N_Juice

I love supporting local businesses, especially if they have yummy products!

They have 4 locations in the Valley, all in Scottsdale and Phoenix, which is not convenient for me but the downtown Scottsdale location is about 10 minutes from my office so I stopped by after work one day to see what the hype was about. First of all, it’s a really cute storefront. It seems like the perfect place to hang out with health-minded friends on a sunny afternoon. The baristas are really friendly and offered to help me pick out a juice.

Because it was my first time, I wanted to try a few things so I could really get a feel for their offerings. I got the Pink Illuminating Water, Charcoal Electro-light and because I couldn’t resist, a container of vegan/gluten free peanut butter patty style cookies. I will say that their products aren’t cheap. I got all of these things for about $32, including tip. Not terrible, but definitely not a habit I can keep up all the time. It is definitely worth the splurge every once in awhile though! The two juices I bought were very tasty and refreshing, and I could tell they were made with only high-quality ingredients. And the cookies…damn, those were amazing! I wish there were more than four in a container because I had to spread them out over four days to enjoy them longer.

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Girl Scouts peanut butter patties who?

If you live in the Valley — go check out Kaleidoscope!

3) St. Tropez Gradual Tan Watermelon Infusion Lotion

Living in Phoenix, you’d think I’d be tan year round. Welp, that is definitely not the case. It takes about a week of laying in the sun for half an hour each day to start to build up any color, and I usually don’t get the chance to do this except on weekends during pool season when nothing else is going on. So most of the year, I’m fairly pale. Which is okay in the winter when I’m wearing layers but once March rolls around, I’m wearing alllll the dresses and skirts…and shorts and tank tops while running and I feel like a freaking ghost. Self-tanner to the rescue!

Now I’ve tried a lot of different self-tanning brands: Jergen’s Natural Glow, L’Oreal, even Tarte makes some solid self-tanners. But the HG (holy grail) has to be St. Tropez. I’ve used several of their formulations, and they all add a nice color without being streaky. So when they introduced a new product to the lineup, I knew I had to get my hands on it, especially because it’s watermelon-scented (I also love anything watermelon).

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Even the bottle is beautiful. 

If you’re turned off from self-tanners because of the smell, this one smells just like a lotion you’d get from Bath & Body Works. The scent is light and fruity and not at all like the typical self-tanner. It goes on white and absorbs almost instantly, so you don’t have to wait around for it to dry before getting dressed. It builds color gradually, but you’ll definitely notice a difference in a couple of days, and it moisturizes your skin so you won’t look all scaly.

I always apply it after a shower just like I would a regular lotion, and use it daily. The color doesn’t turn out super dark, so it’s best for those with lighter skin looking for a natural glow (St. Tropez has other formulations that are much darker). And for a high quality, vegan tanning product, it’s actually very reasonably priced at $25 for a 6.7 oz bottle.

4) Quinn Snacks Chocolate Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets

Peanut butter and pretzels are a match made in snack heaven. Throw chocolate in the mix and you’ve got the whole package: sweet, salty, nutty, creamy. Make the pretzels gluten free and you’ve got a crave-worthy but still healthy-ish treat.

I try to eat gluten free most of the time because I feel better eating this way, so when I saw that Quinn made a gluten free AND vegan AND chocolate version of this yummy snack, I knew I had to buy it. And these little nuggets don’t disappoint. They’re like a more grown-up version of the pretzel nuggets you remember growing up — not too salty or sweet.

Pretzels

I am obsessed with salty+sweet combos.

I like that the ingredients list is fairly short and easy to read, and sugar is the seventh ingredient (1 serving has just 3 grams) so it’s definitely not overly sugary. It makes a good dessert option if you’re craving something crunchy.

The pretzel nuggets are sold at Whole Foods for $4.99 a bag.

5) Hard Frescos Brewing Co. Alcoholic Aguas Frescas

Wanna know a secret about me? I hate beer. Okay, maybe that’s not a secret but whenever I would go out for drinks with people from work, most of them would get a beer. I know it’s common for men to drink beer, but even women opted for beer rather than wine or a cocktail in many cases, making me feel like the odd one out. I’m just not a fan of the flavor of beer or how filling it is. Gimme a lighter drink with complex flavors and I’m all in!

I’ve tried hard seltzer before because I love La Croix and Spindrift sparkling waters, but most hard seltzers don’t come in flavors beyond citrus and maybe berry. Enter: Hard Frescos Brewing Co. and their hard aguas frescas.

I first discovered them at the Downtown Mesa Brew Fest in early March. True to the festival’s name, it was mostly beer tents but there were a few offering other adult beverage options, including the aguas frescas. And when I saw it came in flavors like tamarind and cucumber lime, I knew I had to try it.

Agua_Fresca

Alcohol that’s refreshing? Yes please.

I had the hibiscus flavor, and it was so refreshing. I can see enjoying this drink poolside this summer. And I love that their ingredients are so simple (plus the aguas frescas are gluten free and low carb).

If you have a Total Wine near you, you may be able to find this there. When I used their store locator online, it said the closest store to me was in Vegas, but then I found it at the Total Wine in Tucson when I visited for spring break.

 

 

What fun products did you discover in March? 

 

Favorite Finds of the Month: February

Beauty, Food

What can I say — I’m a sucker for blog series. It makes it a lot easier to write a post when there’s a built-in theme, ya know? Plus it’s fun for me to look back and see what I was into during a specific time in my life.

In this series, I’m going to be sharing a few of my favorite product discoveries that I make each month. I love love LOVE trying new things, whether it’s vegan food or beauty products, and I want to share the love with y’all in case you’ve seen these things on Insta or in stores and wanted to try it, but weren’t sure if they’re worth the money. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot more confident buying something if there are good reviews about it. So let’s get to it!

1) KeVita watermelon rose sparkling probiotic drink

I can’t remember when I first tried KeVita, but I do know it was my first foray into the wonderful world of cultured probiotic beverages. As a self-professed kombucha addict/expert, I’ve tried many booches and booch-like products over the years, and KeVita’s drinks rank high on my list of favorites. Whether it’s their Master Brew kombucha or their sparkling probiotic drinks, I haven’t had a bad experience with them.

The watermelon rose version is one of their newer flavors, and being that February is the month of love (I guess?) and roses are a symbol of love, I had to give this one a try this month. I picked my bottle up at Sprouts from the kombucha section for $3.29, which is fairly inexpensive for a probiotic-packed drink.

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I also love the gorgeous packaging. 

I tried it for the first time on Valentine’s Day (of course), pouring half the bottle into a wine glass and enjoying alongside some goodies from the Whole Foods salad bar for a nice single lady V-Day dinner. I was struck by how light and fruity it was — I’ve had floral-based kombuchas before that were definitely a lot more perfume-y and flowery than this, but it definitely had a nice flavor. Not surprisingly, the ingredients include rose water, rose hips powder and rose extract, which give it that floral but not too floral taste. I also detected the watermelon flavor, but it wasn’t over the top.

I really enjoyed just sipping on this, but I think it would make a nice base for a fancy cocktail.

2) Summer Fridays R + R Mask

Going along with the V-Day themed products is my next find. I first discovered the brand Summer Fridays in the fall when I saw them all over Insta and the Sephora app. At the time, they had just two products: the Jet Lag mask and the Overtime mask. I bought the Overtime mask based on reviews saying it smelled like pumpkin pie and it most definitely does. Plus it works its exfoliating magic to make my skin feel refreshed, so it’s definitely a solid addition to my skin care routine (still gotta try the Jet Lag mask).

But when I saw Summer Fridays was coming out with a new mask, I had to jump on it. I literally ordered it the first day it was available on the Sephora app. If it’s rose gold, smells like flowers and is a face mask, you know I can’t say no.

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Definitely worth the $50+ price tag. 

This is officially my favorite mask. It makes my skin so glowy and keeps it from getting dehydrated. Plus it literally smells like a bed of roses.

At $52 for a 2.25 oz tube, it ain’t cheap, but definitely more affordable than some face masks (looking at you, $80 Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Mask) and a little goes a long way. I use it once or twice a week when I want to #treatmyself.

3) Trader Joe’s Neapolitan Puffs Cereal

Oh Trader Joe’s, how I love that you’re always coming out with new products that I have to get my hands on. But I also dislike it because I end up spending more than I planned on…oh yeah, and because your products are so popular, they often go missing for weeks/months after they make their debut so I regret not stocking up.

I’m not sure if this will be one of those cult favorite TJ’s products, but I do know that it’s new (saw it and bought it for the first time the weekend before Valentine’s Day) and it may not be available for long because it seems kind of V-Day-ish. Kind of like how candy cane Joe Joe’s are only around for like the first week of December.

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New cereal plus some old favorites.

I’ve mostly been eating grain free granolas when I want a cereal fix, but this caught my eye because I love the combo of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. Maybe not in ice cream, since I tend to go for more unique flavors, but a good combination nonetheless. But I did like that this cereal was bean-based, with the first ingredient being garbanzo bean powder and some brown rice flour in there for the texture. I’ve had bean-based cereals before and liked them, so I figured this would be a winner. And it is. It’s nice that the ingredients list is fairly short and has normal ingredients in it, plus it’s gluten free and higher in protein (6 grams) compared to most cereals. But it also tastes good too — not overly healthy like you might expect from a cereal with these ingredients but also not too sweet.

Each box is $3.99, which is a steal compared to the tiny bags of paleo granola I’ve been buying. Since I don’t eat breakfast, I’ve been enjoying this cereal as a nighttime snack mixed with vegan protein powder, almond milk and berries.

4) Urban Outfitters UO Nail Polish

I used to be a ride-or-die Julep junkie. Ever since my friend introduced me to the brand in 2014 and I signed up for my first subscription box, I stopped buying the cheap-o Sally Hansen nail polishes from Target and switched to Julep. I loved that they were vegan and free from weird chemicals like formaldehyde and toluene that are in drugstore polishes. Plus the subscription boxes were fun because I got to pick 3 colors per month (or beauty products, but I usually went for polishes) and it gave me points that I could use toward a free box a couple times per year. And the boxes were a good deal — $25 for 3 polishes, vs. $14 per polish on Julep’s website.

I actually just got notified recently that Julep has discontinued the subscription boxes, which is a little sad but not really ’cause I stopped subscribing a year ago when I was first unemployed. I had already stockpiled enough nail polishes to last me awhile and couldn’t spend the $25 a month so I said goodbye to my subscription.

Long story short, I no longer have an unlimited supply of nail polish and I sure as hell don’t wanna pay $14 for new Julep polishes so I started looking for cheaper options. I love Urban Outfitters for their clothes and other beauty products, so when I saw they had nail polish that was 3 for $10, I had to get some.

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Sadly this color is no longer available at UO but it should last me awhile.

I do like their selection of colors because I typically go for the brighter shades, but they also have some decent, non-boring neutral colors too. As for the quality, the nail polish does chip after a day or two but that happens to me no matter the price point of my polish, so I’m not mad about it. I should probably start using a topcoat if I want my polish to last. But it gives me a good excuse to change my color every few days. Also, for a cruelty-free nail polish, it’s pretty cheap!

5) NadaMoo! Marshmallow Stardust vegan ice cream

Usually when I see a new vegan product pop up in my Insta feed, I jot it down in my notes on my phone to remember later, because I know I probably won’t find it in stores for weeks or even months. Not so with this new NadaMoo! ice cream flavor. The very same week I saw it on IG, I found it at my local Sprouts grocery store. Side note: Sprouts has really upped their non-dairy ice cream game, and I. Am. Here. For. It.

When I saw it in the frozen case, I literally had a moment where I was like, “Is this real life?” Because I was totally not expecting to find this brand new product so soon. And mind you, I don’t live in some small town (Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the U.S., and the metro area is the 11th largest) but it seems like new product launches can take some time to get here, which is crazy. Anyways, of course I had to add it to the cart, but not before taking a picture of it in the aisle like a crazy person blogger.

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A+ on the cute packaging!

Because the name isn’t super descriptive (but nice sounding nonetheless…and the packaging is adorable), I wasn’t sure what flavor to expect. I knew it would include marshmallows, which are hard to find in vegan form, let alone in vegan ice cream. Basically, the ice cream tastes a lot like Lucky Charms, or more specifically, the milk that’s leftover at the end when you’ve eaten all the cereal and just have the marshmallows dissolving. Growing up, I had Lucky Charms a handful of times because we were a healthy cereal eating family (think cereals like Basic 4, Cracklin Oat Bran, Great Grains, etc.) and my sister and I only got to indulge in kid cereals when we would go camping and my mom bought those tiny cereal boxes that came in a 6 pack. My sister and I would usually fight over who got the Lucky Charms and the Trix cereal and leave the boring Honey Smacks to our parents. But this totally reminds me of Lucky Charms in a very good way.

The lavender color of the ice cream is beautiful, and there are definitely enough marshmallows to satisfy my tastebuds. As for nutritional content, it’s honestly not that terrible. It’s higher in sugar than some of their other flavors but I like the NadaMoo! ice creams are lower in sugar than most other nondairy ice creams.

Sprouts (at least the ones near me) have many NadaMoo! flavors on sale right now for $4.99 so it’s a good time to try a pint if you’re curious.

What fun new products did you try in February?

Vegan in PHX: The Best Plant-Based Restaurants in the Valley

Food

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (-Michael Pollan)

When I tell people I’m vegan, most respond with something like, “So what do you eat?” Many omnivores, especially those who don’t know vegans IRL think all we eat are twigs and leaves, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Vegan food has come so far even in the 6+ years I’ve been vegan that nearly anything omnis eat can be made vegan. Think: plant-based egg substitutes that actually fluff up and taste like scrambled eggs, veggie burgers that “bleed” like beef and the creamiest nut-based ice cream that rivals any dairy concoction.

Fortunately for the 3 percent (and counting) of vegan Americans, vegan dishes are becoming more common in mainstream restaurants. For instance, fast food bastion Carl’s Jr. just launched the Beyond Burger at more than 1000 locations nationwide. While not all vegans are willing to support companies that are still responsible for animal slaughter and mistreatment, it’s no question that having well-known restaurants offering vegan products will help more people consider veganism or at least reducing their animal product consumption.

Until I moved to Phoenix, my experiences with all-vegan (or at least vegetarian) restaurants were minimal. My college town in Colorado has an amazing spot called Tasty Harmony, which was the first plant-based restaurant my family and I ever went to. The city I grew up in now has a handful of vegan dining options. Tucson has a decent number of vegan spots as well. But not nearly as many as Phoenix, which is a given, considering it’s the 5th largest city in the U.S.

So far, I’ve tried nearly all of the vegan/vegetarian spots in the Valley and I love them all, for different reasons. Here’s my guide to the best plant-based restaurants in PHX.

Green New American Vegetarian

2 locations (north Tempe, downtown Phoenix), open 11 am – 9 pm Monday-Saturday (closed Sunday)

Despite the name, Green is an all-vegan restaurant with plenty of options that will please even meat-eaters. The downtown location was the first vegan restaurant I ever tried in PHX, way back in February 2017 (almost a year before I moved here). I ordered the animal-style fries (now called west coast fries) and even though I’d never tried In-N-Out’s iteration, Green’s version tasted incredibly authentic. I was hooked!

Since then, I have gone back to Green at least half a dozen times, but only the Tempe location since it’s closer to home. Plus they offer tacos, which are bomb. They always have a “beef” and “fish” taco and each week, they introduce a “chameleon” taco which is always changing and totally unique. Green’s menu has a lot of delicious-sounding things on it, but it’s hard for me to stray from the tacos since they’re so good.

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A French-inspired taco with green beans and pears (!) plus my fav fish taco from Green. 

They also have a decent selection of beers (which my parents love), wine and sangria, a margarita or other cocktail, kombuchas and iced teas. But the best part has to be the tSoynami! It’s basically a vegan softserve mixed with all kinds of add-ins, like cookies, flavored syrups, cereal, fruit, nuts and baked goods. I always try to get one of their special seasonal flavors when I go — the pumpkin pie and chocolate monsoon are some of my favorites.

Best For: Taking omnis who aren’t sure about veganism. They really have something for everybody, from healthier options like salads and rice bowls to appetizers and fast food style sandwiches.

The Coronado

Downtown Phoenix, open 7 am – 9 pm Sunday-Thursday and 7 am – 10 pm Friday & Saturday (new hours!)

If I had to narrow it down (which is hard), I would say The Coronado is my favorite vegan restaurant in PHX. Technically vegetarian since they offer eggs and cheese (but pretty much everything can be made vegan or already is), they offer a full menu all day, with weekend brunch specials and amazing cocktails.

I’ve gone twice for brunch and twice for dinner, and I’ve loved everything I’ve gotten there. The first thing I ever ordered from The Coronado was their Good Morning Sandwich (with tofu). The biscuit was so buttery (without being made with butter) and the tofu, veggies and agave mustard sauce went together so well. The next time I went for brunch, I ordered a special — sweet potato waffles, which were heavenly.

For dinner, I’ve tried their cauliflower tacos (the BEST) and their chili and cornbread which is perfect for the cold nights we’ve been having lately. Their cocktails are also incredible. I haven’t gone since they updated the drink list, but I know I’ve had some good ones in the past — a spicy one sticks out to me the most.

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It’s always a good morning when you get to enjoy the Good Morning breakfast sandwich from The Coronado.

They always post about their vegan poptarts (only available on the weekends) on their Instagram — I am dying to get my hands on the s’mores one!

Best For: Boozy brunches. It’s so nice to sit out on their patio on warm days (go before it gets too hot in the summer, though!) and enjoy a cocktail or two and some brunchy bites. For omnis (or vegetarians) who are iffy on tofu, they have the option of eggs. I’m biased though because I LOVE tofu!

Pomegranate Cafe 

Ahwatukee, open 8 am – 8 pm Monday-Thursday, 8 am – 9 pm Friday & Saturday and 8 am – 4 pm Sunday

Also technically a vegetarian restaurant, this cozy space tucked into an unassuming shopping center in Ahwatukee (next to a Trader Joe’s) offers delicious food for any time of day. Pomegranate Cafe is focused on sourcing ingredients from local farms and serving organic food whenever possible. This doesn’t mean their dishes are flavorless, though. They have an extensive menu (probably the largest of all the vegan spots) packed with items ranging from nachos to a raw everything bagel and curry bowls to quesadillas. They also offer a ton of desserts, fresh juices and smoothies, coffee drinks and even some alcohol (as long as it’s organic).

I’ve gone once for brunch and at least 4 times for dinner, and my favorite menu item is definitely the spaghetti squash & ‘meatballs’. I want to go back and try so many more things because they all sound so good!

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I’ve ordered the spaghetti squash with meatballs at least twice because it’s so good!

Best For: Those with dietary limitations. Pomegranate Cafe is really good about marking which menu items can be made gluten free, soy free or nut free and there are plenty of kid-friendly options as well.

24 Carrots

Tempe, open 9 am – 8 pm Tuesday-Friday, 9 am – 9 pm Saturday and 9 am to 2 pm Sunday (closed Monday)

Another great vegan spot convenient for East Valley dwellers like myself, 24 Carrots’ menu is much like Pomegranate’s in that it’s focused on farm-fresh ingredients and offers many gluten free and raw options. Unlike some of the other vegan spots, alcohol is not available.

The extensive menu includes vegan standbys such as a hummus plate, nachos and zucchini pasta but also has ever-changing menu options such as the veggie burger, quesadillas and tacos which are updated weekly.

I’ve only visited once, but the totchos (a special for that night) that I had were delicious and plenty filling, even split with my mom. I’d love to try their brunch items and desserts!

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Hello, totchos special!

Best For: Health-conscious vegheads. 24 Carrots’ menu is definitely heavy on the veggies, but it’s all so fresh and flavorful.

Ruchi

Chandler, open for lunch 11 am – 3 pm Tuesday-Sunday and dinner 5 – 9:30 pm Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday and 5 – 10 pm Friday & Saturday (closed Monday)

One of only two vegetarian spots for Indian food in the Valley, almost everything on the menu at Ruchi is vegan! Growing up, my family and I would go out to eat often at a place called Taste of India in Colorado Springs and my mom would sometimes make Indian food at home (full disclosure: we are totally white) so I grew up loving Indian cuisine. Ruchi is definitely authentic and offers vegan diners the chance to eat traditional dishes like naan and curries without any animal products.

I’ve loved everything I’ve tried there but the vegetable vindaloo is by far my favorite. The sauce is so rich with flavor and spicy but not overwhelmingly so. P.S. I sadly cannot find any photos from Ruchi on my phone, so just picture curry dishes and rice.

Best For: Spice enthusiasts. If you love spicy and flavorful foods, you’ll love Ruchi. They offer different spice levels, but I always say the hotter the better.

The Nile

Mesa, open 8 am – 3 pm Monday-Thursday & Saturday, 8 am – 9 pm Friday and 10 am – 3 pm Sunday

Right in the heart of downtown Mesa is the historic Nile Theater, which was the Valley’s first movie house when it opened in 1924. It’s since served as a clothing store, church and nightclub before becoming a music venue in 1994, which it still is today. The front of the building is home to The Nile Coffee Shop — a hipster-ish venue serving breakfast, lunch, brunch on the weekends and coffee drinks.

The menu is small but packed with classic dishes with a vegan twist, like a Philly cheesesteak sandwich, macaroni and cheese bowl and bagel sandwiches. On my first (and so far, only) visit, I ordered the Caesar salad because I had never had it veganized and it was really yummy. The croutons were the best part!

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Gotta get those greens (+croutons) in!

Best For: Vegan comfort food. If you’re craving meat, cheese and carbs without the animal products, check out The Nile for your fix.

Seed Shack

Gilbert, open 11 am – 9 pm Tuesday-Friday, 10 am – 9 pm Saturday and 10 am – 4 pm Sunday (closed Monday)

Tucked into an unassuming strip mall just off Baseline is Seed Shack, a newer addition to the East Valley vegan scene. The atmosphere inside is pretty chill and calming, if a bit small.

The menu offers plenty of vegan staples (what plant-based restaurant doesn’t offer a hummus plate?) but also has a few unique items that stand out. One of them is the tornado veggie + chili dish, which I ordered. You can opt for either spiraled zucchini or potato, which is then beer battered and served atop a bean-based chili. I’ve never seen chili served like this before, and it was definitely flavorful and fun to eat.

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This was a yummy, if messy, dinner.

Best For: Unique dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Other than the tornado veggie + chili option, Seed Shack also makes delicious-sounding dishes like truffle bacon mac & cheese and a barbecue jackfruit pita. When I went, they also had the Impossible Burger topped with PB&J, but it looks like that’s no longer on the menu.

The Uprooted Kitchen 

Gilbert, open 10 am – 4 pm Tuesday, Thursday & Friday, 8 am – 3 pm Saturday & Sunday and 10 am – 8 pm Wednesday (closed Monday)

One of my favorite spots to hang out in Gilbert is at Barnone at Agritopia, which happens to be about 2 miles away from where I live. I’ve gone there several times to enjoy a glass of wine on the patio outside Garage East and even ate dinner a couple of times at Fire & Brimstone (a pizza place inside Barnone). But it took me several months to finally check out The Uprooted Kitchen, a small vegan eatery also inside Barnone.

Unlike the other vegan spots on this list, The Uprooted Kitchen is primarily a breakfast & lunch place. They are open for dinner on Wednesday nights, but I usually only go out to eat on weekends. I did check them out for lunch one afternoon last spring with my mom. They have a small menu with items that change weekly (check their website or Insta for updates). They also have weekly cold case specials, for grab and go lunch options, and a case full of plant-based desserts and pastries.

I’ve tried their tempeh breakfast sandwich as well as a raw berry cheesecake and I have to say, I’m partial to their desserts. The sandwich wasn’t super exciting but I’m willing to give them another shot and maybe try a sweet breakfast item next time.

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This was soooo much food!

Best For: A healthy breakfast or lunch. Since they’re located within Agritopia, The Uprooted Kitchen sources a lot of their produce right from the farm, which is really cool. This makes them a great spot for a real farm-to-table breakfast or lunch.

Vegan House 

Downtown Phoenix, open 11 am – 8:30 pm daily

This Asian restaurant in the heart of DT PHX offers diners plenty of faux meat options, including seafood, which can be pretty hard to find. I’ve only been once since I heard it was ranked as one of the best vegan restaurants in the Valley but TBH, I wasn’t super impressed and neither were my parents (both omnis). None of us are big on faux meats and the dishes we had weren’t super exciting, though the menu does seem pretty authentic and it has gotten high ratings on Happy Cow. It just wasn’t our thing.

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The orange cauliflower from Vegan House.

Best For: Vegans craving meat. Vegan House has everything from soy chicken to vegan shrimp and ground beef, so it’s great for newbie vegans who still want that meaty texture and flavor sans the animal suffering.

Still on my list to try: The Cutting Board Bakery & Cafe (they recently updated their menu), Casa Terra (Arizona’s first fine dining vegan restaurant), Mi Vegana Madre (I’ve tried their food truck at vegan festivals but have never visited their newish brick-and-mortar location in Glendale), Loving Hut (multiple Valley locations)

Have you ever been to a vegan restaurant? What’s the best vegan dish you’ve ever had?