The Cruelty-Free Review

A review of compassionate products, foods, and recipes

Hair SOS


I am what you would call a ‘minimalist’ when it comes to my looks. In other words I try to spend as little time as possible getting ready for the day in order to maximize my sleep time. I’ve never been one to do a lot with my hair or wear any makeup. However, since turning 30 (!) last year I have become a little vainer and I want to look as if I didn’t just roll out of bed.

One change I made was to update my hairstyle. For years I had long hair that I did nothing with except pull it into a ponytail. If you’ve seen my henna hair dye posts, you can tell that I’ve made quite a drastic change to a short bob. This has forced me to actually style my hair each day since a ponytail is no longer an option.

However all that styling (blow drying every day and occasional curling) has taken a toll on my already fine, thin hair. Enter Giovanni Deep Hair Reconstructor.  This cruelty-free and vegan hair repair product has helped keep my hair soft and healthy despite the damage I do to it. I use it about once a week in place of my usual conditioner. What I love about this product is that a little goes a long, long way. For my hair length (right at ear lobe level) I only have to use about a dime-sized amount. It is a very thick formula with a mild scent. It has to be left in for 10 minutes for the best results but I do really notice a difference after I use it. My hair feels lighter and softer and I get compliments from hair stylists on how healthy it is. The only drawback is that because it’s so thick (and needs more time) it can take a little more effort to wash out than regular conditioner so plan your shower length accordingly.

Giovanni has a huge line of hair products and has recently expanded to body and facial care. All their products are vegan except their lip balms and Magnetic hair care line. They use a lot of organic oils from renewable plant sources and are still a family owned company. Their goal is to provide salon-quality products at reasonable prices and they can be found at many large-scale retailers including Walmart and Target.  Check out their entire line of products here.


Pacifica Perfume

During a recent shopping spree research outing at Whole Foods to find new products to try and review, I came across Pacifica Perfumes. I am a sucker for good smells and pretty packaging, and I couldn’t help but try some of the perfumes displayed. I smelled the Island Vanilla, sniffed the Persian Rose, and whiffed the Spanish Amber. Then I picked up the Hawaiian Ruby Guava, and as I put my nose to the nozzle, I was immediately transported to Coronado Beach in San Diego, and the first time I saw the ocean. It was only a few years ago, but the scent just brought back such a strong association to the coast and walking along the shore. Maybe it’s because of the coconut notes in the scent, or just the fact that it was the first day of spring and I really wanted nothing more than to be on vacation.  Either way, the scent, along with the bright, floral colors of the package resulted in a purchase.

The perfumes come in a variety of applications: spray, roll-on, and solid. I chose the roll-on tube because it is compact enough to fit in my makeup bag in my purse for easy reapplication. Although they do use alcohol in the spray and roll-on forms, it is natural and gluten-free, and does not at all have the strong alcohol smell that can ruin even the best of scents. That, combined with natural essential oils makes for a pure, clean scent. You can really smell the fruits in the perfume; the Ruby Guava has guava, coconut, and pomelo. It smells so juicy; I could almost pour it over some ice and add a bit of rum!  My only complaint is that the scent, while it is nice and strong when you put it on, doesn’t seem to last more than a few hours. I apply it to pulse points; behind the ears, wrists, and neck, which in theory helps fragrance last longer on your body. Maybe I just get used to the smell being on my, but after a while I couldn’t smell it any more. However, I can’t really complain about reapplying because every time I did, I got an immediate boost to my spirit, and honestly, I can use a lot of those during a 12 hour work shift! I can’t wait until my current supply of body wash and lotion runs low so that I can have an excuse to try those products as well.

Pacifica Perfumes is an all vegan, cruelty-free company that makes perfumes, body washes, lotions, candles, lip and body tints. Their fragrances are divided into four categories: florals, fruits, herbs and spices, and woods and resins, so you should be able to find any scent that suits your personality and/or mood. I personally like to match my fragrances to the season, so once it gets back to fall I’ll probably switch to the more ‘spicy’ scents. They also have a lot of philanthropic missions, including donating 1% of sales of their Island Vanilla products to the Ocean Futures Society, using 100% recycled packaging, and donating products to local women’s shelters.

Most Whole Foods carry their products but you can also order all their products online. With fragrance products this can be a little stressful since you can’t actually smell it and have to rely on the scent description to decide if it’s right for you, so if you can try them in the store, I highly recommend it. However, there is a lot to be said for taking a risk and with a quality product like this, how can you go wrong?


Lip Service

A few weeks ago I posted a plea for help finding a vegan lip balm after finding out that that the balm I was using contained sheep skin oil. Hannah at Bittersweet suggested Palmers Cocoa Butter Lip Balm, which I will definitely try next time I see it at the drugstore (I knew Palmers was cruelty-free, but I never realized a lot of their products are vegan as well). However, Barb at That Was Vegan? pointed out Hurrawblam to me at a recent dinner at her house. I took one look at their website and knew I had to give them at try.

One factor that drew me in was that they have a night treatment balm, which is what I was specifically looking to replace. But they also offer a sun balm with SPF 15 (just in time for hiking season!) as well as 17 other flavors.

Hurrawbalm’s claim is that they do not melt, become grainy, or are too sticky, sweet, or smelly. They use only raw, vegan, organic and fair trade ingredients, which results in a balm with ingredients that you can recognize! What a novel idea! I ordered the Night Balm, the Sun Balm, and the Grapefruit flavor balm, just so I could try a variety to get a good feel of the product.

Let me start by saying that I am a bit of a lip-balm snob. I have ones that I use only during the day when I’m not outside, ones that I use with SPF for outdoor use, and ones that I only use at night. I carry them in my pocket, so I know what can happen when one basically melts into oblivion. I also know the pain of trying to put on a balm that has hardened a bit and you kind of have to breathe on it to warm it up before putting it on your lips. Maybe that’s just me, but both those situations are annoying, and I have no qualms about throwing out a new tube of balm if it doesn’t fit the bill.

I was a bit skeptical when I got my order that these balms really were that smooth. But wow, are they ever smooth! Since they are made mostly with oils, you get a balm that hydrates immediately, but also last a long time. They are not too sweet at all, and they also don’t leave behind that icky petroleum flavor either. Some are naturally tinted to give your lips a bit of color, and each flavor provides a unique advantage, such as their new Earl Grey which provides a calming effect, or the Mint, which would be most akin to a menthol-type balm.

The night balm, which I put on right before bed, provides a lasting hydration that I still feel even in the morning. It is made with blue chamomile and vanilla, both scents that I associate with sleep, so I love having this right under my nose to smell. I’ve kept both the grapefruit and Sun balm in my pocket for over 8 hours while running around and didn’t notice any melting. It does say to store them between 40-80 F, so I imagine that at higher temps they might get a little melt-y, but I would expect that to happen with any balm.

The prices are great; I got all 3 balms plus shipping for just over $15. Considering there are balms that cost upwards of $8 a tube, that’s an amazing value. And I got them in the mail in less than a week. I can’t wait to try all the other flavors; I have half a mind to just order one of each next time just so I have them on hand and can change them out as I feel necessary. My shipment came with a hand written thank-you on the receipt and an “mmm :)” comment next to my Night balm order; that’s the kind of customer service you don’t get just anywhere, and you can tell the folks who work there love what they do. See if you’re in an area where they carry them in stores here (sadly, none in Colorado 😦  ), or just order online at


Kale Lasagna Diavolo with vegan Tofu Ricotta

This is my first attempt at writing a recipe, so bear with me and if you need any clarification, please let me know!

When Barb at That Was Vegan? posted a recipe for tofu ricotta, I knew I had to try it in a lasagna recipe I had made before. This Kale Lasagna Diavolo recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. Robert is a huge fan of lasagna and this recipe is easy to throw together and fairly healthy. The chili flakes infused the sauce with just the right amount of heat. Of course, you can always add more to adjust to your particular taste; I happen to prefer to be able to still feel things on my tongue after I eat them 🙂 I also love that this dish is made in an 8×8 pan; perfect for a dinner for two.

Barb’s Tofu Ricotta recipe can be found here. The only adjustments I made were adding some fresh rosemary, tarragon, and parsley to the mix (about a tablespoon worth), and that was only because I needed to use them up before they died. I must say, I loved the smell of this ricotta as it cooked and frankly, I thought it tasted better than non-vegan ricotta anyway.

I made a few changes to the lasagna recipe as well. I used no-bake lasagna noodles and when I made this in the past, 2 cups of tomato puree just was not enough. I think the no-bake noodles soak up way more of this sauce than the recipe writers thought because it came out way too dry. So I upped the amount to 3 cups. Even then, there was not a lot of sauce leftover so next time I might go up to 4 cups. I tend to like my pasta saucy, especially with lasagna, so if you make it this way you might find 3 cups adequate or even 2 if you use cooked noodles. Also, I assume tomato puree means tomato sauce, so that’s what I used (3- 8oz cans).

I had a quarter of a white onion left over that needed using so I finely diced that and sautéed it a bit before adding the garlic. It added a nice depth of flavor, I think.

I omitted the goat cheese and parmesan. I know they make vegan parm, but I don’t use parm that often, so I figured leaving it out wouldn’t hurt anything. Of course add it if you have it!

Kale Lasagna Diavolo with Vegan Tofu Ricotta (adapted from a Vegetarian Times recipe, found here)

  • 1 tsp. olive oil, plus more for oiling      pan
  • 1 8-oz. bunch kale, stems removed
  • 1 batch of the Best Tofu Ricotta, or      15oz of vegan ricotta of your choice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • ¼ white onion, diced
  • 3  cups prepared tomato purée
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained,      or 6 no-cook lasagna noodles

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 8-inch square baking pan with oil.

2. Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water 2 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water until cool enough to handle. Thoroughly wring out kale, then chop. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and set aside.

3. Heat 1 tsp. oil in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, then add garlic and cook 15 seconds, or until fragrant. Add tomato purée and red pepper flakes; simmer 5 minutes, or until thickened.

4. Spread 1 cup sauce in prepared baking pan. Place 2 lasagna noodles on top of sauce. Top with half of cheese mixture, half of kale, and 1 cup sauce. Top with two more noodles, remaining cheese, and remaining kale. Top with remaining lasagna noodles, and cover with remaining sauce. Bake 35-40 minutes.

I didn’t think to take a picture before eating, and there were no leftovers, but that should attest to how good it was! Anyway, mine looked pretty much like this anyway:

I have to think that even though the original recipe was fairly healthy, this version is even better since it uses tofu instead of ricotta and goat cheese, but I’m no nutritionist. Just trust me when I say that I can easliy make this for dinner with no grumbles about not using ‘real’ cheese.


LUSH Hair Dye:One Month Later

Well, it’s been a little over a month and it’s time to check up on the Great Henna Hair Dye Experiment.  Aren’t you excited to see? Below are the before and after pictures on the day I dyed it…


And here it is today…


So, there’s obviously still a lot of color in there. Not as much of the red, but it’s still more of a brown color than the muddied-water color I started with. I certainly don’t think this would last 3 months but there are a few factors that could attribute to that. For one thing, I shampoo, condition, and blow dry my hair every day and I’m sure that washes out the color quicker than if I didn’t do that all the time. Also I have very thin, fine strands that don’t hold a style very well to begin with, so I imagine it doesn’t hold color well either.  As mentioned in the original post, I didn’t keep the dye over heat while applying and in the instructions is does say that heat helps the color to be more vibrant.

However, there is no obvious root difference like what can happen with other color as your hair grows out. That was one of the positives I read about in other reviews that the color fades out all at once, so it’s less noticeable that your hair is dyed. And I’m still very happy with how soft my hair is and the pretty shine it has.

I will definitely do this again, probably during spring break in a few weeks as I still have half a block left to use. I plan on making a few changes; using a double boiler for one, and I want to keep the dye on longer than 3 hours. I’m hoping this will deepen the color even more and will last a little longer.

So, has anyone else given these dyes a try? If you have, let me know! I’d love to hear your experiences!


Cupcake Wars

I don’t know if anyone else watches Cupcake Wars on Sundays on Food Network, but even if you don’t, you might want to check it out tomorrow night as they will be featuring 4 vegan bakers in the challenge! A few vegan bakers have been on there before, and a couple have won, but this is the first time that all 4 competitors will be vegan. Pretty cool! Now if they could just do a vegetarian or vegan episode of Chopped…

Cupcake Wars airs on Sunday on Food Network at 6pm MST.


My First (Vegan) Cookbook

Even before I became a vegetarian I was looking for ways to cut back on my meat consumption and try cooking with different foods. Robert and I had adopted Meatless Mondays, but I was often at a loss as to what I should cook besides spaghetti. Then I saw Cherise Grifoni’s The Part-Time Vegan at Barnes and Noble and started thumbing through it. I was surprised; most of the recipes looked easy (a requisite for me) and tasty. So I picked it up.

The first recipe I made was Mexican Spiced Tofu with Cashew Sour Cream. This was for a taco night and was the first time I ever used tofu. I was intimidated at first, thinking that the tofu would be tasteless, but since this recipe called for marinating it before rubbing in spices and baking, it actually came out with a lot of flavor. I was mostly surprised at the cashew sour cream, as I had never tried a replacement dairy food before, homemade or store bought. It had a great sour cream flavor with a nice tang thanks to the addition of apple cider vinegar. The entire recipe called for 11 ingredients, most of them spices, and apart from the 1 ½ hours needed to marinate the tofu and soak the cashews, it took only about 20 minutes to put together.

Since then, I have made many other dishes from this book, most recently a baked eggplant ‘parmesan’, which Robert loved the hell out of. I’m still on the fence about whether I like eggplant (I have a thing about the texture of food and eggplant has an odd texture to me) but I can’t deny that that the flavor in the breadcrumb mixture was great and it gave the eggplant a much needed crunch. Again, the entire recipe had 11 ingredients, most of which I already had on hand and came together very quickly. Although it was funny; this recipe didn’t say what to preheat the oven at so I had to do a quick Google search to see what eggplant parm is commonly cooked at (350 degrees for 25-35 minutes, if you’re wondering 🙂 ). That’s the only omission I’ve seen so far.

The book is organized in a classic fashion, with sections that include breakfasts, tofu dishes, apps, grains and even entire dinner plans.  These are not necessarily elegant recipes. You won’t wow anyone with dishes that feature exotic ingredients or hours of prep. They are recipes that can be made at the end of a busy day, with ingredients that are easy to find and usually very affordable and appeal to vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. Grifoni’s humor comes through in the intros to the recipes and her directions are clear and concise. I know that in a pinch I can find something quick to make for dinner that will taste good.  My favorite recipe is the orange-glazed ‘chicken’ tofu because it tastes just like the orange tofu I get at our local Chinese food restaurant. And I actually know what has gone into it!

I have acquired many vegan cookbooks in the last year, but I will never lose my love for the one that got me started and more comfortable and familiar with vegan cooking. Grifoni has a blog called Your Vegan Zombie, but she hasn’t posted on it in quite some time. I hope she returns to it soon, because I would love to see what she has been up to and what new easy vegan meals she has come up with.