The Cruelty-Free Review

A review of compassionate products, foods, and recipes

Jars of Clay

I am a bit addicted to facial masks. I rarely use the same kind twice because I usually have found a different one I want to try by the time I’m finished using the current one I have. I don’t know why I can’t commit to just one; the only exception is LUSH’s fresh faced masks (one of which I reviewed here). My current fave is Catastrophe Cosmetic. Unfortunately since the masks only stay fresh for about 2-3 weeks I don’t always have it on hand and can’t justify a trip to LUSH every few weeks to get more, mostly because I can’t by just one thing there and those trips become expensive.

So I always have a non-perishable mask on hand and most recently it was Evanhealy’s French Rose Clay mask. Another find at Whole Foods, Evanhealy is a line of facial products created by holistic aesthetician Evan Healy. The products are 100% plant-based and vegan. The ingredients are sourced from family-owned farms in the US and self-governed women’s co-ops and village-run farms In Morocco, Ghana, Somaliland, and India. There are three lines of treatment that focus on particular skin conditions; the Rose line is for oily/dry, mature, and delicate skin; the Blue line treats normal, sensitive, allergic skin and is also good for skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis and the Blemish line works for acne-prone, congested, and oily skin. Each line has a full range of products including cleansers, moisturizers, toners, serums, eye creams, and masks.

There are two clay masks available; Rose and Green Tea. The benefits are similar for both; they remove excess oil, draw pimples and blackheads to the skin surface, and reduce the appearance of pores. The Green Tea mask boasts anti-oxidant properties while the Rose mask has exfoliating properties.

The Rose clay mask is just that: clay. Rose clay and Moroccan rhassoul clay, to be exact. It is dried clay that you mix with water to create a paste and apply to the skin. The first problem I encountered with this was finding something to mix the clay in. The jar is 2.1 ounces, and obviously I didn’t need to use the whole amount so I had to find a small bowl I was willing to sacrifice. The directions say only to mix equal parts water and clay so I had no idea how much to use to make enough. In my infinite wisdom I decided to just dump some clay in the bowl and add what appeared to be enough water. I over-estimated though and ended up with an entirely too-watery mix. My next genius idea was to add more clay to thicken the mix up. I was trying to shake just a small amount in and ended up dumping almost half the jar (the $24 jar, mind you) which made the mix too thick. I turned on the faucet to a drip and added water little by little, mixing with my fingers until I finally got a paste-like consistency. I applied the mixture to my face and neck and had almost half the mix leftover that I just had to waste.

After about ten minutes then mask was dry and I went to wash it off.  I’ve never been one to just splash water on my face to remove cleansers or masks; I use a washcloth. The washcloth I was using was light pink and the clay, which turns red when water is added, immediately turned my washcloth red. The problem was that the clay didn’t come out of the cloth immediately. It took a good week or so of regular use for it to return to its old pink color. On subsequent uses I tried rising off using my hands but the water just ran down my arms and dripped onto the floor. Also the clay is so fine that that I had to rinse my sink for several minutes to get all the little particles down the drain. When I rinsed out the leftovers from my first use the clay clogged the sink and I ended up using Draino after it finally drained to make sure it didn’t clog further down.

On the plus side my skin felt wonderful, very soft and clean. While the clay is drying it becomes cool and that felt great on my flushed skin after a workout. Unfortunately I don’t think it provides benefits that I can’t get from other masks and considering the cost and messiness I probably won’t try it again. I would be interested in trying some other products from Evanhealy especially since they promote organic and sustainable ingredients, but the clay masks just are not for me. You can check out the entire product line here and can shop online or use the locator to find a store near you that carries Evenhealy products.


Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

I’ve made it pretty clear that I don’t consider myself a good cook. I especially don’t consider myself a good baker, but after the success I’ve had recently, I might have to change my opinion. The Key-Lime Habanero Cheesecake I made for the Virtual Vegan Potluck was a huge success at work. Robert even took some for his coworkers and they really liked it as well. I am making it again for a BBQ coming up in June and a whole new set of people will get to try it.

So I made one recipe that was successful. What’s the big deal you ask? Well, I have been very encouraged and inspired to try new recipes since the VVP and since I made a commitment to losing weight. I bought a lot of fresh foods but I thought I would also need some healthy snacks. And for this I turned to Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

Cookies really shouldn’t be the first food you turn to for healthy snacks, but these gals made sure to include a Wholesome Cookie section in the book and their Fruity Oaty Bars caught my eye. Loaded with healthy whole grains, nuts, and fruits but without the sticky-sweetness that you get in most packaged granola bars, these cookies (bars, really) are a filling snack that won’t weight you down. They are slightly chewy and contain no refined sugar. One batch yields approximately 16 bars and I found that eating one between breakfast and lunch was the perfect snack to tide me over.

Fruity Oaty Bars-loaded with cranberries, raisins, pepitas, and whole grains!

I was a bit intimidated by the ingredient list, as it calls for spelt flour, brown rice syrup, barley malt syrup, and several other things I’ve never heard of or used before. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? And boy, am I glad I ventured! Despite the unusual (to me) ingredients, these cookies came together very quickly. I actually bought enough ingredients to make two batches, in case one didn’t work out. But the first batch came out perfect, so I made the second batch to take to work. And again, everyone loved them. A few of my favorite comments were “It tastes just like a granola bar!” and “These are great because they aren’t overly sweet”. And “Reia, you are an excellent cook!” Okay, that last comment came from my own head. Still, everyone was impressed that they were vegan and very tasty. I intended to take these as a snack for hiking last weekend but the Colorado weather once again made a fool out of me for assuming it would be nice and rained all day Saturday.

Branching out and trying new ingredients

There are many other cookie recipes from this book I want to make. Obviously coming from these two authors they are all winners. The recipes cover just about every kind of cookie you can imagine, from the common chocolate chip to more unusual like tahini lime. They have a recipe for Minonos, a vegan version of the deliciously decadent Milano cookies from Pepperidge Farm. There is a whole chapter about the different kinds of ingredients used and what substitutes are commonly used for vegan baking, as well as some general tips for cookie success. After reading this I felt much more confident in my baking skills and even the most complicated-looking recipes don’t look nearly as scary. The directions are clear and well-written and helpful tips are provided throughout. You can find the book on Amazon as well as their other compilation Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

I do have almost a whole bag of wheat germ leftover from making these. Are there any suggestions as to what I can do with it? I don’t like having stuff just sitting around my kitchen; space is at a premium so I try not to buy things that only get used once. Any ideas would be helpful!


The Battle of the Bulge

Well, I can no longer deny it—I need to lose weight. The last month has not been kind to my waistline, thanks to finals and being sick. I’m not making excuses—I know full well that I have not been attentive to my diet and exercise schedule. I keep thinking “I’ll make up for that tomorrow.” Tomorrow has come and gone several times now. The final straw was sitting at dinner last weekend and feeling so uncomfortable because my jeans were digging into my stomach. But I kept eating until my plate was empty. Then we went to the movies and I ate popcorn. Not a lot, but I shouldn’t have eaten any after the huge pasta meal I’d just had. And jellybeans. I also had jellybeans. I felt like a pig.

No more. I bought two cute spring dresses today but I will not wear them until I’ve dropped the eight pounds I’ve put on. I know that might not sound like a lot, but I’m only 5 feet tall; any weight I gain goes straight to the gut.  I’m taking small steps like making sure I hit the gym or go for a jog on the weekends. If I have down time at work I got into a room and do a kickboxing or cardio circuit. The most recent issue of Fitness has a killer all-over toning routine that I’ve done twice now. And my quads, though incredibly sore, are thanking me. I know all the right things to do when it comes to exercise, but my diet? Well, that’s another story.

I know what I should be eating. My problem is appetite control. I eat when I’m hungry. I eat when I’m bored. I eat because there is food in my fridge. I eat when I’m mad, sad, glad, and any other feeling you can think of. So while I might be eating otherwise healthy foods, I am eating way too much of it. Pasta is fine, just not 3 cups of it. But damn it if that’s what Macaroni Grill gives me then I’m not going to let it go to waste! And I certainly will not let the giant loaf of free bread go to waste either. Portion control and discipline are not strengths of mine apparently.

But this morning I was inspired. I went to Whole Foods and bought a ton of fresh fruit and veggies for salads. I got the ingredients to make some healthy trail mix cookies for snacks and hiking this weekend. I also bought a container of Vega. If you don’t know what Vega is, check it out here. Basically it is a vegan meal supplement that provides 50% of the RDI for vitamins and minerals, 15g of protein and 6g of fiber, as well as antioxidants, probiotics, greens, and Omega 3. I’m not one to put a lot of faith in the claims of supplements so I did my research and I read a lot of positive things about it. I really plan on using it only once a day, either as my breakfast or lunch and I will be doing a full review in a few weeks after I gauge the results. I am going to be more disciplined in my eating habits, especially when eating out. I tend to not eat breakfast on the weekends so I’m hoping the Vega smoothie will keep me from binge eating in the afternoon. I am ready to make a positive change in my life and willing to put in the effort required. I’m off to a great start today: A healthy breakfast, lots of fruit and a hearty roasted veggie pasta. I measured out 1 cup of pasta then loaded on the veggies. I was surprised at how much 1 cup actually is; to think I’d been eating 3 times as much! I did the kick-butt workout from Fitness and I have my lunch and dinner ready for work tomorrow. I know the hourney back to a healthy weight will take longer than it did to get where I am now, but I think-I know-I’m going in the right direction.

That being said, I will give myself some wiggle room for treats. Starting with this:


So, what should I make? Grilled Cheese? Quesadillas? Something else? Give me your ideas!



Seitan: Mile-High Style

Let me start by saying Thank You to everyone who has visited and posted on my site. The Virtual Vegan Potluck was a huge success and a ton of fun to boot, and I am so glad to have new followers. I know I found a lot of new sites to check out and I will be spending the next few weeks pinning and trying new recipes.  Honestly I wish there was a way we could do the potluck for real. There are so many people I would love to meet in person just based on comments through the blogs. I think everyone would be in a food coma by the end of the day, but it would be worth it!

Now, on to my review.  I hope I don’t alienate anyone by choosing something that right now can only be bought in Denver, but for those of you who do live here I just have to get the word out.

We all know and love seitan, right? Either in its store-bought form (which I don’t find nearly as offensive as some people) or our own homemade loaves, it is the staple of the vegan diet. When you just gotta have something that resembles a meaty texture and tofu just won’t do we turn to seitan. Well Denver now has the option of buying what I consider ‘gourmet’ seitan courtesy of The Denver Seitan Company.

I read about them in the Best of Denver awards in the Westword. I had no idea there was a local company making and selling seitan and the review was glowing so I knew I had to get some. Unfortunately, they do not have a storefront so you have to email your order to them, and then meet one of the three mysterious proprietors to exchange money for seitan. It sounds a bit black-market, I know but really, there’s nothing to worry about.  I ordered a log of chickenseque and a log of sureizo. I already knew what I was going to do with them.

Sureizo seitan log

The sureizo was destined for a brunch tofu scramble. I unwrapped the log and immediately the spices wafted into my nostrils, a good sign that the flavor was going to be great.  What I really loved about this log was that it crumbled nicely, just the way a meat-based chorizo would. While I was mixing it with the tofu Robert picked a piece out and tried it. He still has trouble liking seitan in general so I thought he would appreciate the flavors of chorizo as he loves Mexican food.  He just said “Well, it isn’t horrible,” which in Robert-speak means he’d rather be eating meat, but will make do with what I serve. Really, it’s all I can hope for.  Once I got some Daiya cheese stirred in and he had a bloody mary in his hand, we had a lovely brunch that took me back to the days of eating greasy chorizo and scrambled eggs.  Only this was better. Not greasy, no animals harmed, and delicious, thanks to the spot-on seasoning in the seitan. I honestly think you could fool a meat-eater if you subbed this for chorizo. It had just a little kick from the peppers (3 different kinds are used, according to the DSC website) and a healthy dose of garlic. I got 2 brunches out of one log and it stayed fresh in my fridge for almost a month.

The chicken log became Tandoori seitan.  I used a simple recipe from The Part-Time Vegan to make a marinade. The chicken log was much denser than the sureizo; hearty, but not rubbery. Some people really get turned off by the texture of seitan but this is by far the best when it comes to replicating meat texture.  The chicken seasoning was very savory and it absorbed the marinade nicely while still retaining a chicken-y flavor. Robert liked it, though he wanted thinner slices, so in the future I’ll probably keep the slices to ½ inch or less.

Tandoori Seitan

Denver Seitan is constantly experimenting with new flavors; in addition to the chicken and chorizo flavors they offer a corned beef and Sicilian flavor. Their website says they are developing a pastrami flavor and deli turkey flavor-both sound so good!  I know that it’s cheaper in the long run to make your own seitan, but I don’t think I could ever replicate the flavors the way Denver Seitan does. And the price is actually pretty reasonable; I got 2 logs for $13 and ended up with 3 meals, plus leftovers.  I sincerely hope they become popular enough to open a store soon, but until then, I’ll continue the clandestine pickups. Good seitan is worth looking like a mobster 🙂


Virtual Vegan Potluck: Key Lime Habanero Cheesecake

First of all, let me apologize for my lack of posts the last few weeks. Between school finals, stress at work, and the flare up of a chronic health issue I really have not been in the mood (nor had the time) to put any really thoughtful reviews up. But now that school is over and I have my energy back I promise you will see more steady entries!

On to my potluck entry—Vegan Key Lime Habanero Cheesecake.  I cannot take credit for the recipes, just the inspiration to combine them. Robert and I watched an episode of Bitchin Kitchen a while back and Nadia made an awesome-looking Key Lime Habanero Cheesecake that made my mouth water. After the episode Robert’s immediate reaction was “You need to make that for me.” Unfortunately, Nadia’s version involves making meringues, a water bath, and uses eggs. I’m not a baker. I barely qualify as a home cook so I knew that recipe was way over my skill set. Plus I really didn’t want to make anything that used eggs. I may not be entirely vegan yet, but eggs are a no-no regardless.

I thought maybe I could find a vegan cheesecake recipe and add the key limes and habanero to it. I know, for someone who knows crap-all about baking, messing with a baking recipe was taking a huge risk. But once the idea got in my head I couldn’t let it go. So I did what any self-respecting person does when they need to find anything. I Googled vegan cheesecake recipe, and voila! The first entry that came up was from Hungry Hungry Hippie, a blog I already read on a regular basis. Elise’s version looked super easy to make so that’s the recipe I went with.

Wouldn’t you know that by just replacing the lemon from Elise’s version with ¼ cup of key lime juice and 1 minced habanero I made such a yummy cheesecake that Robert and I ate half in one night (hey, they were fairly small pieces!). I was truly amazed at how much like cheesecake this version tasted. It had the same consistency and look and just the right amount of sweetness. The habanero added pretty little flecks of orange and was not overpowering at all. It built up to a slow burn at the back of my mouth and was balanced perfectly with the coulis from Nadia’s version.

I was so happy with my success that I made it again about a week later. But I tried to take a few shortcuts. WRONG! First of all, DO NOT, under penalty of death (or penalty of a runny cheesecake) use canned or bottled key lime juice. I was lazy and didn’t want to go to several different stores looking for key limes so I bought the bottled stuff. And it came out runny. The taste was fine but the cake didn’t set in the middle and basically disintegrated the crust. Again, I don’t know a lot about baking, but my guess is that the consistency from real key limes is different than concentrated juice so it’s not as runny. Maybe cutting back on the concentrated juice would have worked but maybe not. Plus fresh key limes are nice and tart and you just don’t get that with the bottled stuff.

Second, I couldn’t find raw cashews so I bought raw ones that were lightly salted (again, laziness on my part). I rinsed them really well before soaking then rinsed them again but I can’t be sure that using salted ones didn’t contribute to the runniness of the cake.  I also didn’t press my tofu the second time so that probably didn’t help either.

Basically, don’t get lazy with this recipe! It really is very easy to make (aside from juicing the key limes) and you will be rewarded for your time. For reference (and proper credit to the gals who made this idea possible!)  you can find the original recipe from Nadia G here and the vegan cheesecake recipe from Hungry Hungry Hippie here. The recipe I post below is the combination of the two. I reduced the coulis recipe by half because I think it just made too much and I have no idea where to find hibiscus flowers, so I used dried cranberries I already had on hand. I also used a store-bought chocolate crust but if you have the inclination, certainly make your own!

I hope you enjoy and sorry about the long entry! This did require a bit of explanation in order to really emphasize the importance of using the proper ingredients. I made the mistakes for you so you won’t have to!

Key Lime Habanero Cheesecake

Yeah, it looks plain, but don’t be fooled!


1 cup raw cashews, soaked for minimum of 1 hour

¼ block extra firm tofu (approx. 4oz), pressed

4oz vegan sour cream

4oz vegan cream cheese

2/3 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Approx 7-10 key limes , plus 2 additional for the sauce

1tbs key lime zest

½-1 habanero pepper, seeded and finely minced. I used a whole one and I could handle the heat just fine, but use your judgment and preferred spice preference.

9-inch pie crust (I used Wholly Wholesome Chocolate premade crust), or make your own.

For the sauce/coulis:

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 key limes, juiced

Handful of dried cranberries (or hibiscus flower, if you can find it)


Preheat oven to 350.

Juice ¼ cup of key limes. This takes about 7-10 key limes depending on size and juiciness. If you bought them and refrigerated them, make sure you bring them to room temp before juicing. Roll them before cutting to loosen the juice. Once done, strain out the seeds and set aside.

Drain the cashews and add to the blender, along with the habanero, sour cream, cream cheese, tofu, vanilla, maple syrup, key lime juice and zest. Blend until smooth. The longer you soak the cashews the quicker this will go. Make sure the filling is super-smooth. Just let the blender go for a few minutes then check the consistency and blend more if needed.

Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 for 20 minutes, then turn heat down to 250 and bake an additional 20-25 minutes. This prevents the crust from burning. I also turned the cake 180 degrees when I turned the heat down.

Let cool at room temp before chilling in the fridge.

To make the coulis: Add sugar, water, key lime juice and cranberries to a small sauce pot and bring to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally for about 20 minutes until the cranberries are nice and plump. Nadia’s recipe says to reduce the sauce by half, but it seems like no matter how long I let it simmer, it doesn’t reduce. So I just make sure it’s cooled before putting on the cake.

Slice a piece of cake, drizzle some coulis on top and enjoy! I recommend storing the coulis in a separate container and adding it on an as-eating basis so it doesn’t soak through your crust. Store any uneaten cheesecake (if any remains!) covered in the fridge. I don’t know how long it would store; ours didn’t last more than 3 days and I’m guessing yours won’t either!

Don’t forget to check out the other entries!