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My Favorite Things: August edition

August 24, 2011

The time has finally arrived…tomorrow morning, Matt and I are flying up to Portland, Oregon for the first-ever Vida Vegan Blogger Conference! My life has been so crazy-busy as of late that I almost haven’t had time to get excited about it, but now I can’t help but be stoked. Are you going? I spent most of my day yesterday making batch after batch ofhomemade vegan white chocolate peanut butter that I now have to find a way to delicately pack. While I attend various classes and panels over the course of the weekend, Matt will be staffing the Almost Vegan table, selling the white chocolate PB. I only have a limited supply, though, so if you want some, I’d recommend grabbing it on Friday!

You’ll be hearing about VVC all weekend, so I’ll spare you any more chatter about it for now. Instead, here are some products I had the opportunity to try throughout the past month.

Gail from Lifemax sent me a bag of Mila to try. I was first exposed to Mila at Living Light, and had been curious about it ever since. It’s a mixture of chia seeds that has been mechanically processed (ground) using a proprietary system that purports to optimize the bioavailability and increase its nutritional value.

Mila is loaded with omega-3 essential fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and many other nutrients. It’s gluten-free, trans-fat free, sugar-free, and non-GMO. I find it to be a great addition to smoothies! It’s really a cool product, so if you want to learn more, you can check out their site. Thanks again, Gail!

Next, I got to try the new Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread.

It’s made of a blend of tropical oils, with just a mild whisper of coconut flavor. It’s meant to be a substitute for butter, a role it fills very well. I immediately fell in love with its slightly salty edge.

I’ve already made a few things with it. Matt’s and my two-year anniversary was a couple weekends ago, and in celebration, I made him two cakes—one for each year! This Almond Mocha Cake was a moist, dense almond-flour cake with mocha-chocolate ganache filling and cocoa-tinged coffee buttercream frosting. (The recipe is from Kris Holechek’s Have Your Cake And Vegan Too.) I used the Earth Balance coconut spread in both the cake and the frosting.

Then, the very next day, I made this Snickerdoodle Cake (from the same book): cinnamon-vanilla cake, pure vanilla icing, and a dusting of crunchy raw sugar and more cinnamon. I used the Earth Balance coconut spread in the cake and the frosting of this one, too. Amazing!

Abe from GG Bran Crispbread sent me a whole case of their high-fiber Scandinavian crispbread crackers, which I’m quickly plowing through.

These things ROCK. They’re super-low in calories and pack in a whopping 5 grams of fiber per cracker. I’m obsessed!

Besides eating them straight from the package slathered with peanut butter, I’ve been inventing a few healthy treats with them too, including these PB&J Energy Balls. You can get the recipe on GG’s site.

I also created these Pistachio & Chocolate Crusted Banana Ice Cream Patties using the GG Bran Crispbread. They’ll be sharing my recipe in their upcoming newsletter and on their blog soon, so watch out for that!

Here’s a product you might not expect to see me review: Starbucks Ice Cream. Normally, I don’t touch real ice cream, but when I heard “Starbucks,” I was intrigued. When I saw the short ingredient lists and learned they only use rBGH-free dairy products, I decided to put the almost in “almost vegan” and give it a whirl.

I tried the plain Coffee flavor and, for Matt, the Mocha Frappuccino.

I had totally forgotten how rich real ice cream is, so I admittedly gave most of it to Matt. What I did eat, though, was ultra-creamy and had a delightfully strong coffee taste. And I have to say, their packaging – made to look like Starbucks’ ubiquitous white cups – was very cute. Maybe, with any luck, they’ll come out with some nondairy flavors in the future, using that famously-beany soymilk of theirs that I love so much!

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Starbucks.  I received coupons and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

Finally, though this isn’t food-related, I have to show you these bars of soap I received from Co-Soap Cooperative. They’re 100% vegan and made from olive, coconut, and avocado oils.

Matt and I have been using these for the past couple weeks, and I am shocked at how wonderfully they lather up, since they’re made of only oils and water. All the soaps smell great, too, and leave my skin feeling soft and happy. They’ve made my showers feel a little more luxurious lately.

QUESTION: Do you hate me for reviewing a product that contains (ok, is) dairy? I do it so, so seldom, but I can’t help but anticipate some nasty emails about it…even though, after all, this blog is called Almost Vegan! I don’t want to offend anyone, but I also want to be my freewheeling, flexible, almost-vegan self. Know what I mean?

ROLL CALL: Will I see you at Vida Vegan Con this weekend?

3 years ago…
No posts this week
2 years ago…
Almost vegan in EUROPE: the announcement
1 year ago…
Wholesome Chow cake mixes, reviewed

43 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2011 12:40 pm

    Glad you reviewed something that places the Almost Vegan for the titel of your blog. Way to go! At least you are also giving your honest opinion. You have received yummy goodies indeed! Have fun at the conference and I hope you sell all your PB white choco butter!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 12:55 pm

      Thanks for your support, Noelle 🙂 I know you understand the value of dietary flexibility!

  2. August 24, 2011 12:49 pm

    Wow… great products! I’m curious about that coconut spread!

    Wish I was going to the conference, I had originally planned to go, but life got in the way.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 1, 2011 5:31 pm

      You have GOT to try the coconut spread. Don’t delay.

      Hope to see you at VVC 2013!

  3. August 24, 2011 1:05 pm

    I’m not goig to the Vida Vegan Blogger Conference, but I sure wish I was. I can’t wait to hear all about it though. Your white choc PB sounds fantastic! I know it won’t last long. 🙂
    I saw the EB Coconut Spread in Whole Foods the other day and almost bought it, but I decided not to this time. I’ll be sure to get some the next time though.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 12:56 pm

      Seriously, TRY that coconut spread. It may change your life. 😛

  4. August 24, 2011 2:18 pm

    The food looks great! What about the Mila stuff?? It’s CRAZY expensive, like 60 bucks a pound for “special” chia seeds?? When regular chia is so cheap, I can’t imagine that this stuff is SO much better!! What do you think?? I am totally unconvinced!! And I won’t pay that much for a trial comparison!!!!!! Coconut Spread looks GREAT!!

    • August 24, 2011 7:02 pm

      That is a great question. The following video will explain why Mila is a proprietary blend of Chia. It matters where it is grown and you don’t always know that when purchasing from a store. We have 2 independent labs that test our seeds for the highest efficacy. This video should answer some questions and also my website. Anymore questions I am happy to answer.

    • August 24, 2011 7:58 pm

      If you are familiar with the Hippocrates Institute- Dr. Brian Clement is on our advisory board and this is what he has to say about Mila which he endorses.

      While Chia is a great product with the husk on the bio availablity drops as much as 70%. This having been said how much Chia would you have to consume to get the same amount of nutrient in 1 scoop of Mila? Mila is really not much more expensive and you get what you pay for.

      • Sheila permalink
        August 24, 2011 9:04 pm

        Gail is right!!! Mila is so much more than chia seeds. I have been eating Mila for 3 years now, and the Omega 3’s alone make it worth the price. It has hardly any taste or smell and you get 8 times the Omega 3’s in it than you would get from wild Salmon, and it is all plant based. For a vegetarian, what could be better?

  5. August 24, 2011 2:36 pm

    All of those products sound interesting. And no, totally not offended by you reviewing non-vegan products. I hadn’t seen any on the blog in so long though that I honestly forgot you eat them sometimes!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 12:56 pm

      Haha, I think sometimes even *I* forget… 😛

  6. August 24, 2011 2:40 pm

    I don’t mind if you review dairy products. They don’t interest me, so I just overlook them 🙂

    I do like when you review products, though. I learn about new products from your monthly review all the time!

    Have fun at the Vida Vegan Blogger conference! I’m jealous *sigh*

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 12:57 pm

      Good policy! 🙂

      I’m so glad you enjoy my reviews!

  7. August 24, 2011 2:50 pm

    I don’t mind at all, I’m “almost vegan” myself. I do still enjoy some local cheeses and I’m a sucker for that Starbucks ice cream. I think people get too caught up in labels sometimes, and while yes, i realize there are many issues in the dairy industry, I think when you stress too much to be vegan or raw or whatever, when you do have that moment that you eat something outside of that, guilt sinks in, whereas if you just drop the label and eat the best you can, than by golly, enjoy that ice cream! I love that you are yourself, keep it up!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 12:58 pm

      Thank you for your support, Shanna! I love that we’re on the same page with that. I hope everything is faring well with your health – I’m sending many “get well soon” vibes and wishes your way!

  8. August 24, 2011 3:20 pm

    I can’t wait to get my hands on the recipe for the Pistachio & Chocolate Crusted Banana Ice Cream Patties!! Have a great time at the conference.

  9. August 24, 2011 6:34 pm

    I just want to say that you have personally inspired me and my “lifestyle” as far as my approach to food goes. I absolutely love the mostly plant-based diet I currently follow, and desperately wanted to be a part of the vegan community that tends to go along with it. However, I found that I ended up eating lots of vegan junk food just because it was vegan. I’ve started to view myself now as “almost vegan,” like you. It makes sense. By having the occasional, traditional treat with family and friends that isn’t vegan, makes me feel less “deprived” and I stick to healthier, plant-based foods the rest of the time. This is a long way of saying, continue to review whatEVER you want to review. It’s YOUR blog, and I love your approach to food. Please keep doing exactly what you’re doing!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 1, 2011 5:32 pm

      Wow Jamee, thank you for the amazing compliment. I am honored to have been an inspiration to you in any way!

  10. Brad permalink
    August 24, 2011 6:44 pm

    I definitely don’t get offended…glad to see you talk about “almost-vegan” things :). I’m curious about the coconut spread, But I for sure wanna try the Soap. I love natural vegan products and this seems like something I wanna try for my sensitive skin. What exactly is a cooperative?

  11. Jane Van Benthusen permalink
    August 24, 2011 7:05 pm

    It’s always cool to hear/see what you have been up to. I was disapointed in Mila’s price and multilevel marketing platform when a friend gave me some to try. It’s just too pricey. I do love chia seed. I got excited to see the coconut spread product but choose to not eat canola oil so I wouldn’t even try it. Keep up the great work in blogging, traveling, cooking, living and loving! 🙂 Love, Jane

  12. August 24, 2011 7:42 pm

    As someone who’s “almost vegetarian” I like to see dairy, non-dairy, vegg and non-vegg products on blogs. Variety makes the world go ’round 🙂
    I’m WAY excited about the coconut spread!!!!!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 1:00 pm

      Cool, glad to hear we have similar views on that, Jen! 🙂

  13. August 24, 2011 7:56 pm

    Wish I could see you and all the others in Portland–sounds like a wonderful time waiting to happen.

    I’m pleased that you shared your ‘almost’ in ‘almost vegan.’ How’s this for me: I’m a vegan, but my husband killed a bear for meat two days ago and I’ve been up to my elbows making sausage, etc, for the last couple days. I don’t even know how to write about that on my blog, for fear of offending people, but it does mean that my husband, a meat-eater his whole long life, won’t have to rely on imported store-bought meat this winter. I think ice cream is probably far more innocuous and in keeping with most people’s reality.

    Have a great trip!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 1, 2011 5:33 pm

      I can’t even compete with you there, Ela! I don’t know how you do it, but I admire you both so much for living in harmony despite such differences.

  14. August 24, 2011 8:36 pm

    No hate! I’m vegan through and through but you don’t pretend to be anything other than “Almost” Vegan, and I appreciate yr honesty. The crisped “ice cream patties” sound super intriguing.
    Enjoy VVC.

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 1:02 pm

      Thanks for your understanding and support! It really means a lot, and helps me feel less ostracized from the vegan community as a whole. ❤

  15. August 24, 2011 9:44 pm

    I love that you are genuine, honest and you keep it real Amber. Your blogs are always informative and we can all learn something from what you put out there – regardless of where people are on their path. I’m not a ‘label’ girl and so for me it’s all about respecting where we are at as individuals and not placing pressure, or judgement. In my opinion, there is no ‘one size fits all’ in the world – if we looked the same and were built the same then perhaps, but we are not. I love how you continue to keep us all updated and inspired through your fun and very ‘present’ way of writing. Keep up the awesome work Amber. Happy travels and many, many blessings to you xox Priscilla

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 1, 2011 5:35 pm

      I could not have said it better myself, Priscilla. 🙂

  16. Mom permalink
    August 24, 2011 10:55 pm

    Your anniversary cakes look exquisitely appetizing! They’re beautiful. The ice cream patty cookies with the GG Bran Crispbread look mmm good. Of course I see nothing wrong with mentioning a product(s) with dairy….that’s why your blog is called “Almost” Vegan – not “TOTALLY” vegan. Keep your freewheeling, flexible, almost vegan reviews/posts coming – that’s why your fans keep coming back…for YOUR “almost” vegan reviews, recipes, stories, etc. as well as your intriguing writing! And I love that you received those soaps, how cool is that? Have a wonderful, successful trip!

  17. August 24, 2011 11:28 pm

    *sticks out tongue*

    It’s not like I would’ve wanted anything here anyway.


    P.S. Have an amazing time! Can I pre-order your next batch of pb? 😉

  18. August 25, 2011 7:05 am

    Oh wish we could go to that conference!!! maybe next year 🙂 have fun!

    And I think you can review any product you would like and it will be ok, it is all about finding new things and trying things. I feel that helps with making better choices : )

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 1:03 pm

      You should totally come to VVC 2013! Yes!

  19. Vicky permalink
    August 25, 2011 7:11 am

    I like your blog, got here from a Russell James article, but I read somethign that I wanted to clarify about the soap. I am a soapmaker and have taught soapmaking for over ten years.

    I’m not sure from your comments if you realized that soap is not made of “only” oils. It takes something to create the saponification, and that something is usually sodium hydroxide.

    I would guess that the ingredients are (in order of prominence): Olive oil, coconut oil, avacado oil, water, SODIUM HYDROXIDE (lye) and essential oil (could be fragrance oil).

    Some soapmakers don’t like to put the words “Sodium Hydroxide” on the label because it scares people, but real soap cannot be made without sodium hydroxide (or, it could be homemade lye but the strenght could be inconsistant, or potassium hydroxide for liquid soap).

    The “saponified oils of…” is a tricky way to try to get around full disclosure, but if the soapmaker chooses to list ingredients, they should all be listed. It’s not wrong, but can be misleading as demonstrated by you thinking that the soap is made of “only” oils.

    PS: it looks like beautiful soap and I hope you continue to enjoy it. There’s nothing like nice homemade soap!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 1, 2011 5:36 pm

      Thanks for all the information, Vicky! I totally know NOTHING about soap-making, so this is enlightening to me.

  20. August 25, 2011 8:35 am

    Such yummy stuff. I wish I could get some of your white chocolate PB. Hayden and I think it looks scrumptious!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 1:04 pm

      People are trying to convince me to open a PB Etsy store, you maybe in the future, you can! 😉

  21. August 25, 2011 9:56 pm

    Nah, I don’t care if you review dairy. Your blog does say “almost” vegan, and it is YOUR blog!

    I won’t be at the Vida Vegan blog thingy for many reasons. I’m not a well-known enough blogger and school starts Monday (last semester!!!) and I go full-time at work. Lol. I’m gonna be busy the next few months!

    Also, I LOVE your cakes. They look delicious! I really like to bake cakes too, and I do so every chance I get! That vegan cake cookbook sounds like it might be a good investment since I wouldn’t have to do all the veganizing work myself. I don’t usually get to experiment too much with flavor (too many boring taste buds around here, lol), but I’ve got a birthday coming up and I want a pretty epic cake. 🙂

    And finally, I LOVE homemade soap. My mom used to make it. Nothing’s better than vegan, oil-based soap loaded up with essential oils!

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 1:05 pm

      You don’t have to be well-known at all to go to VVC! You should really think about coming in 2013 😀

      If you’re looking for epic vegan cakes, that book is definitely the one to get!

  22. andreadevon permalink
    August 26, 2011 2:06 pm

    i think it’s totally fine to include dairy in your blog if it’s something that is part of your food-life. i have a ‘mostly vegan’ blog, and was conflicted about whether or not to share about the organic eggs from the farm, or about the great butter-miso tempeh I made, but if your readers really like you (I like you!) then they will be supportive of your food choices; this is what i’ve found. In fact, my blog has gotten busier since I’ve started to be more true to myself and my food choices. aloha, andrea

    • Amber Shea @Almost Vegan permalink
      September 3, 2011 1:09 pm

      I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles with that dilemma. I agree, being true to oneself is always the best way to go!

  23. September 9, 2011 12:01 pm

    There’s no coffee flavored vegan ice cream that comes even CLOSE to what Starbucks has done with their ice cream line. The Temptation Hemp version is the most chemically, disgusting tasting crap I’ve ever put in my mouth. I (rarely) will eat a bite of the dairy based stuff.

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