Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Zatik Deodorant Review!

I discovered Zatik's deodorant by pure chance. I tagged along with my mom when she went to Winners one day, and while browsing the horribly cluttered Bath & Body section, did a double-take to confirm I was reading the word Zatik correctly on a bottle of deodorant. It means Easter or ladybug in Armenian, and sure enough there was a picture of a ladybug on the bottle, and it was manufactured in Los Angeles. Verdict? 100% Armenian.

Not only was the deodorant Lavender-Sage, it was also vegan and cruelty-free, and since I am always on the search for a natural yet effective deodorant, I bought it for $5.99 CAD, skeptically, but still hoping for the best (many deodorants have failed me).
I tried it out for a week, and not only loved the light scent, but was very happy with the results. It worked great, and as long as I wore it first thing in the morning or right after drying up after a shower, I continued to have a light Lavender-Sage scent situation going on in the pits of my arms. I even bought an Orange-Vetive option for my mom when I saw it again on another trip to Winners (I'm rarely at Winners but this post makes it seem like I live there) and she loved it too, although she prefers the Lavender-Sage one.
The only negative I can say about this deodorant is that I usually avoid roll-on options solely because during the winter I find the liquid gets too cold and it ends up taking longer to dry, making me want to wear them less. Not a big deal, and although on a few exceptionally cold mornings this winter I still found myself wondering if I could avoid wearing deodorant (spoiler alert: no), the results are well worth the minor inconvenience.

I checked out Zatik's website soon after and saw the variety of products they carry (all vegan, all cruelty-free) and decided to get in touch with them, and Ovsanna Mkrtumyan, Zatik's Director of Sales/Marketing, let me know more about the company and how it was founded. In 2005, her husband Garik made the decision to use his scientific background to create things that were useful, healthy, and environmentally-friendly, and Ovsanna left the financial firm she worked at to join her husband and focus on the cosmetic world. Garik educated himself on ancient herbs, Chinese and Ayurverdic medicine, and used his scientific expertise to create organic and vegan skin care, and in 2007, they begun selling products at local farmers markets. When I asked why it was important for Zatik to be vegan and Leaping Bunny certified, Ovsanna stated:

"We both wanted our product line to be different from what is currently available in the market. It wasn't going to make sense for us to make products that didn't have unique qualities. Which is why we use raw, unprocessed, unfiltered oils in all of our products. We also care about animal cruelty, the cosmetic companies are not regulated by any governing agency, which means they can get away with many claims, use any ingredient, then by torturing animals test them and then make it available for humans. We wanted to make sure that in our mission we make a point that we care about our environment and animals. We didn't want to just sell products but wanted to educate and create awareness to the issues that are currently putting out future in danger. We want to set an example that such a quality, high standard cosmetic company can exist which is in fact, organic, cruelty-free, gluten-free and simply uses food grade ingredients. After all, skin is a big organ and anything that is applied to it within 26 seconds 60% absorbs internally."

When I asked Ovsanna what Zatik's best-selling product is, she said it is their Dragon's Blood Cleanser, named after the tree. A "natural resin," Ovsanna states it has antibacterial and healing properties suitable for oily and/or acne-prone skin. She adds that while many products meant for acne contain high amount of alcohol, which dries the skin, Zatik uses a different approach focusing on extracts and oils to "clean, heal and preserve the skin without damaging the top layer."
I also asked what new products customers can get excited about, and Ovsanna stated that Zatik has added a new category to its line--Internal Health Options. They launched Black Cumin Seed Oil as a supplement since "it is known for centuries that our internal health is a mirror reflection of our skin." As the oil is known for its benefits in terms of immunity and easing inflammation, Zatik now offers the oil--which can also be applied topically or purchased as vegan softgels (for those who do not like the taste)--to its customers.
2017 is also the year that the Zatik team will aim to have 90% of their ingredients made themselves, and Ovsanna adds that they are looking forward to their "own raw material coming soon," which means "better color, scent and more stability."

Those interested in checking out Zatik's products can find them in almost every health food store in Southern California, including Whole Foods Market, Jimbo's Naturally and Mother's Market and Kitchen. Anyone outside of Southern California can purchase the products on their website (or randomly at Winners like me!).

Zatik is offering a promotion until the end of March, where $5 will be taken off all orders over $20! They also offer free shopping for orders over $50. The promo code is newstart.

All photos taken from the Zatik website

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Favourite Places for Falafel in & Around Toronto

This post is inspired by going to a "falafel joint" in downtwon Toronto several friends recommended to me, eating their supposedly incredible falafel, and it ruining my entire day as a result of how bad it was. And also because of that time in Germany they put MAYONNAISE on our falafel sandwiches.

It made me really appreciate the few places I go to for good falafel and I wanted to share this knowledge with the world. When I was a kid I remember never really liking the taste of falafel, but as has been the case with cinnamon, celery and ayshekaden, it has really grown on me. So without any further adieu, here are my top choices for falafel in and around Toronto:

Armenian Kitchen:
Go with your family, go with your friends, go with everyone, but make sure to go hungry. I have never been disappointed and I have been going here for a good chunk of my life. The lentil soup and veggie platter are my top choices, with the latter coming with hmoz, baba ghanoush, falafel, tabouleh and labneh. You can easily veganize it by asking for the labneh to be replaced with anything else on the plate (I always ask for more hmoz). It comes with pita, pickles (the BEST), hot sauce and that tahini sauce I always forget the name of. One of my all-time favourite meals and every single thing on it is made perfectly:
So good, so filling, and I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't leave there absolutely stuffed and happy. That includes Bjorn, Shaghig and I on our most recent trip there (we were so full):
Even though falafel is best hot & fresh, my mom and dad recently went to Armenian Kitchen together, and assuming (rightfully so) that I would be very jealous of this little dinner date, they brought me a bag of falafels:
Armenian Kitchen's falafel is so good, it can actually stand on its own feet. Although I already had a very filling dinner, I still devoured a few:
No regrets!
Another one that has never disappointed, and again, I've been going since I was a kid. It used to be a regular restaurant, but now there is only a buffet available OR you can go to the separate section and get a sandwich and other things to eat there or to go. There are a few booths if you want to eat any of their sandwiches, and the falafel one is perfection, and their tabouleh and hmoz are very delicious too. I have eaten in the restaurant, buffet and in the side booth, and while I prefer the restaurant days over the modern buffet, the food is still incredible. I don't have a photo of the sandwich but for my dad's birthday we went for the buffet and this was one of my 48 plates:
The meneyish, pickled veggies, hmoz, tabouleh and lentil soup (not pictured) were great, and the falafel is always made the same and super fresh. So delicious.

Rifca's Mediterranean Kitchen:
Disclaimer: I've been here two or three times for the falafel sandwich, which was always delicious and packed with the perfect toppings, but since my last visit the owners have sold it and I have not eaten there since. I have no idea if it is still the same fantastic place I remember but I really hope it is since it was delicious. Here is a photo of the falafel sandwich from my last visit:
So while this very short list highlights just a few of the many falafel spots in and around the city, after seeing what counts as "falafel" in Toronto and abroad (looking at you, Germany), I am so happy they exist and continuously offer high-quality, perfectly fried and delicious falafel every single time!

*Three different people have told me Sababa on Steeles has great falafel and lentil soup & should be added to this list, so I will make an effort to eat there soon and possibly extend my super short list by one!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Juice Beauty | Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Organic Makeup & Skin Care Giveaway!

Hello my little blog babies! Clearly Veg is doing an awesome contest giveaway, where the prize is a $200 Gift Card with Juice Beauty, a vegan, cruelty-free and organic makeup and skin care line! The contest runs until February 14 and you can follow this link to enter to win! Good luck!
*Participants must reside in the United States or Canada

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Vegan Peanut Butter Cups!

I have been meaning to post the recipe for this delicious treat for a few months now, but instead have just made it about three or four times and eaten way too many. That ends today!

I guess the most famous form of peanut butter cups is Reese's Pieces, but as we all know, they are definitely not vegan (unlike oreos) and way too sweet once you pass the age of 13. I have tried many different recipes for vegan peanut butter cups, and have settled on this, as the others were way too complicated. They are a perfect treat, and I make a bunch and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer in a container for easy access, safe keeping, and good ol' fashioned sharing.

What you need:
-1 cup of dark chocolate chips (make sure they are not pseudo-dark, aka milk chocolate in disguise). You can also use a dark chocolate bar or chocolate chunks/nibs instead
-1.5 cups natural and smooth peanut putter
-Small or medium cupcake/muffin wrappers (note: we had a lot of these in the house we rarely use so I felt okay using them, but I'm sure there's a beautiful and eco-friendly way to prepare these VS going out and buying wrappers. I once made this recipe into a huge chocolate/PB "cake" and that was also delicious but slightly hard to cut)
-Toppings (optional, but they make the PB cups so fancy and dressed up)

What to do:
-So we are going to double boil one cup of chocolate chips MIXED with a 1/2 cup of peanut butter. How do you double boil? I just added the mixture into a bowl and then poured hot water to a small pot, and placed the bowl on top at medium heat. This mixture will be the bottom and top of our cups:
-It takes a few minutes for this to become nice and smooth, just make sure to stay by it and stir it so everything melts. While it melts, do some prep work!
-All the chocolate chips should soon melt and the mixture should be smooth. I personally believe I need to taste-test it at this point "to make sure," but you do you:

-Use a spoon to put some in each and every wrapper. Use half of what you melted since you will use the rest of this mixture to cover them up. I transferred my cups to a tray to make moving them around easier:
-This will now have to cool, so if it's winter it should be okay leaving it around anywhere, but if it is summer, I would put it in the fridge to speed up the process. You will now melt the 1 cup of peanut butter, and I used the measuring cup I measured it in to boil it with VS using a new bowl (two birds...):
-As long as the initial chocolate/PB mix has hardened somewhat, you can add the peanut butter on top. Note: I love this recipe as is, but if you really want to make it taste exactly like the peanut butter cups you grew up with and are using natural peanut butter, you can add some salt to give it that extra pizzazz.
-Now you will let these set. I became distracted and left the room so when I returned (approximately 20 minutes after) they were fine. The remainder of the initial chocolate/PB mix will now be used to cover them up. Mine still had a good liquid consistency, but if yours has hardened, just warm it up using the same double boil method until it's a thinner consistency.
-Done! So now you can either put this tray in the fridge, or add some toppings to really UP your game. I picked a few and decorated them with extra chocolate chips, pistachio chunks, walnuts, almonds, and sprinkles. I used coconut flakes too but forgot to take a picture of that one aka I ate it:
I initially thought, as a result of the lack of added sugar and salt, that these would not really impress too many people, but they have been a huge hit with everyone--vegans and non-vegans alike! They are so delicious and creamy, and satisfy every craving you could possibly have. While they will definitely taste (and look) different than the standard Reese's Pieces version, your taste buds have probably matured a little since then anyway, and these are a perfect match for those upgraded taste buds:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Vegan Recipe Videos!

Hello dear blog-babies! Just wanted to link here to Clearly Veg's awesome new YouTube page filled with delicious, easy & vegan video recipes!

Some of the videos include Cauliflower Buffalo Bites (pictured above), Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie in a Jar, Spicy Coconut Pasta, and Vegan Carrot Hot Dogs!

Make sure to check it out and subscribe to the page to get all the latest recipe videos! 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Chicory Root as a Coffee Substitute

I swear to the heavens above every other day there is some new study about how coffee is either really good for you or the cause of all the problems in your life.

While I side with a much less dramatic version of the latter option, this post is more focused on an option for those who either want to stop drinking coffee for whatever reason, or just want to decrease their overall consumption. Or for those who want to enjoy a cup in the late evening without staying up all night thinking about past mistakes or scenes from horror movies that feature ghosts and/or aliens.

While I used to never drink coffee regularly, due to my time in Armenia and surprisingly Germany, I became a lot more accustomed to a morning Armenian/Middle Eastern/Turkish/Greek style coffee (no one can get offended!) and really like adding some cardamom pods in there (Syrian style?). While I never get any of the notorious caffeine-withdrawal headaches when I don't drink it, coffee still usually makes me more hyper (in a negative way), makes my heart beat faster, leaves me super dehydrated, and I become a non-stop peeing machine. 1/84 times I become slightly more focused and productive though, just like in the commercials.
"You gonna die"
I do, however, like the taste of coffee. And since I know many people who feel they are addicted to it, or want to enjoy it late in the evening without becoming an owl, I am going to highlight chicory root as a substitute.

A friend had mentioned chicory root to me a while back, and it always stayed in my head. It is caffeine-free, helps with digestion (stimulating flow of bile), supports healthy intestinal flora via inulin, and is anti-bacterial. Apparently it grows like a weed and is found in Armenia, too!

In terms of taste, smell and even appearance, it is one of the best coffee substitutes I have ever tried and you can modify it easily to make it stronger/weaker/sweeter/more bitter. You can prepare it like a tea or add it to your coffee machine. I've found it at a health food store and in a Russian market a friend recommended for Georgian spices. Here are the types I found:
The first one is similar to instant powdered coffee and has some cowberry and blueberry in there, making it more mild than the second one. You can legit make this one as a tea with no steeping necessary (1 heaping tbsp to one mug, stir, and voila!). The second is from the health food store and requires a little steeping if made tea-style. Both, however, are a-okay for coffee machines.
When I use the coffee machine, I add one spoon for each cup of water (powdered: heaping, non-powdered: a little less) and add cinnamon and cardamom. It is absolutely perfect and although I have had some fails when I go too wild with experimenting, when made right it tastes exactly like coffee. Only my dad did not get fooled but it was because I added too much cinnamon that time and he knew something was up. I will trick him.
You can enjoy it plain like this (look at that colour!) or add what you usually add to coffee. In my case, it is Silk's coconut milk, which I am a little obsessed with (I wish this was a paid advertisement). Soon I will just use oat or almond milk! Not today, though:
So good. And whether you crave coffee for its taste, out of habit, or for the kind of addiction that makes you buy weird coffee-themed mugs, chicory root is the best substitute I have ever come across. Just experiment a little and find your perfect recipe!

Note: When buying chicory root, make sure to check out the ingredients! It is sometimes added to coffee to enhance the flavour, which of course means it is not caffeine-free!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Toronto's Garlic Festival!

Being downtown for a month means that I can finally be less sketchy in attending all of the events that are always happening in Toronto.

With a German by my side, it also means I have to be everywhere on time--if not earlier. Against my true nature, I rebel whenever possible. For the Toronto Garlic Festival that took place on Sunday September 18 from 9 to 5, I convinced Bjorn we should go later on in the day cause no one really wants to smell like garlic at 9am. We arrived around 3 after a long walk, but before entering decided to cool off in the shade and of course play backgammon:
The Little Prince!
We went in shortly after and were impressed right away by the cute stamps, and it took me about four photos to get this one because I am an artist:
It was just $5 to enter for the day, and the crowd was quite impressive, all surrounding the various booths inside and outside:
We were promised garlic shots, garlic popsicles, garlic beer, garlic fudge, and a lot of other garlic-based foods and drinks. We prioritized:
Shortly after, we were offered our complimentary garlic shot. I assumed it would be shots of juiced garlic but boy was I wrong. A full garlic clove was crushed directly on our wrists and we were instructed to eat cilantro and then suck on a lemon sliver, like a tequila shot. We both did it and grew stronger immediately:
After realizing that we missed all the workshops, we went inside to see some of the different booths to try some samples. Bjorn tried black garlic and I tried garlic fudge and we were both really impressed and lived vicariously through each others' experiences. We ventured back outside and I saw the booth selling vegan garlic pospsicles with grapefruit and gamay wine. Absolutely delicious and I even tasted a hint of the garlic in it!
He doesn't look impressed but he was!
After that we just walked around more, checking out the different areas but had to leave shortly after to meet a friend, who we felt bad for since we had both just taken raw garlic shots. The festival was fun and the stuff we tried was delicious and next year I would actually come earlier to make it to some of the workshops!