Tag Archive: readers request

Readers request: Hippie Hygiene / Natural (non-food) Products

I got a request to do this post a while ago.  A long long while ago.  So here it is…a compilation of the things I use to keep me and my household clean and toxin free. [FYI, this is not sponsored]

Face wash: Avalon Organics Lavender Luminosity facial cleansing gel

Face lotion (moisturizer): Avalon Organics Lavender Luminosity moisture plus lotion broad spectrum spf 15

Shampoo & conditioner: Avalon Organics Nourishing Lavender shampoo & conditioner (the big 32 oz ones with the pump are $19 at Target or when they go on sale at WF)

Hair spray: Andalou Naturals Lavender & Biotin

Hand & body wash: Jason Calming Lavender Hand & Body wash

Hand soap for kitchen & bathroom sinks: Dr. Bronner’s Lavender hand soap or EO Lavender hand soap (in bulk for refilling)

Make-up: Bare Escentuals Bare Minerals eye shadow & Urban Decay eyeliner (I use the color underground, which is vegan)

Sunscreen: Alba Botanica Hawaiian sunscreen and Carribean Solutions

Chapstick – for daily use, Dr. Hauschka Skin Care lip care (this is ridiculously pricey but it’s awesome and lasts a long time); and for color, Burt’s Bees (I like them all but right now I have papaya shimmer)

Body lotion: Costco’s Kirkland 100% pure plant extract lotion (I know it sounds crazy, but it’s paraben free, smells nice and neutral, and is a great moisturizer)

Deodorant: Tom’s of Maine mountain spring (this is the men’s deodorant, which I guess is stronger than the other one, it’s okay for daily use but not great for intense exercising)

Cleaning supplies: we use Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyer’s, and EO products for various household scrubbing (ie kitchen, bathroom, window, laundry, etc.) and water + distilled vinegar for cleaning the hardwood floors

Dish soap: right now we are using Ecover (but we usually go with whatever green product is on sale at WF)

I guess that’s it.

FYI; these sites are great resources: Safe cosmetics database & Paige Padgett online – plus this link has all vegan and gluten free cosmetic info

As you can tell I like Lavender (I’ve tried the citrus Avalon Organics shampoo & conditioner too but prefer the soothing lavender smell)

Other brands I’ve tried:

Alba Botanica hawaiian facial cleanser – I used this stuff forever & I love it, but it’s hard to find at times.

Yes to Carrots shampoo & conditioner and chapstick – I like all of them.

Kiss My Face hand soap – this used to be our #1 but now we just do the bulk Dr. Bronner’s and refill them all with that.

I’ve tried (and didn’t like) both 365 brand and Alba Botanica natural shampooo & conditioners.

Tom’s of Maine Lavender deodorant – this kind didn’t cut it for me (hence my switch to their “men’s strength” deodorant).  Additionally, their toothpaste is mediocre, and while I still use it intermittently with conventional (chemical filled) toothpaste, I don’t love it.

Seventh Generation dishwashing detergent – I haven’t had any success with natural dishwasher products.  Biokleen is awful, too, by the way.

Stay tuned for the next installment with baby products…

And of course, feel free to offer up your own favorites in the comments section!!

Staying savvy at Costco

How smart is Costco?  I mean, they charge for membership.  Then they entice you with samples.  And they have EVERYTHING.  All for a cheaper price than you’d find (almost) anywhere else.

But here’s the downside.  You don’t need a 10 pound block of cheese or 50 veggie burgers at once.  Unless you’re about to cater a party, for vegetarians, that’s an insane amount of food to have at your house.  And really, who has enough fridge/freezer space for that? 

So how do you use Costco (or Sam’s Club or whatever bulk store you shop at) to your advantage and not get sucked into the fun of saving? 

Make a list.  And stick to it. 

The idea of going to Costco without a list gives me heart palpitations just thinking about it.  It’s the biggest recipe for disaster (and overspending) ever.  So before you leave the house, take stock of your fridge, freezer, and pantry.  Think about what you’ll be making for meals in the coming week(s).  And then write down the things you need.  Just the things you need.  Not the stuff you may need (aka want).  And you know which things I’m talking about…

And once you get in the store, stick to the list.  Seriously.  Don’t let yourself get sidetracked.  Don’t go down aisles you don’t need to go down…you will only find more things to buy.  Just put your head down and get your items and get the eff out!  Check your list before you check out and compare it to your cart – do you have more than you came for?  Put.  It.  Back. 

If you go to the store without something on your list, and then you see it in the aisles looking oh so inexpensive, chances are you DO NOT NEED IT.  It wasn’t on your list.  You wouldn’t have even known about it 5 seconds ago.  So don’t buy it. 

The two main ways to fall prey to this can be divided accordingly (1) the items you frequently buy at Costco that you didn’t add to your list and (2) the items you don’t buy at Costco that you didn’t add to your list. 

Example 1: Organic quinoa.  The last time I was at Costco I saw a 4 lb bag for ONLY $6.99 (which is a really good deal).  But I still had quinoa at home.  So why buy more?  Because it’s “such a good deal”?  No, that doesn’t make sense.  Buying something you already have simply because it’s inexpensive and in front of your face is not economical.  When I run out, then I can go back and get more.  Costco isn’t going anywhere.  Restocking food in anticipation of running out is a slippery slope…and soon you end up with enough stuff stockpiled in your pantry to feed an army.  Use what you have before buying more.  You will surprise yourself at how much longer you can stretch things when you cook this way.  It’s way more economical, I promise. 

Example 2: Frozen lasagna.  No offense to Amy’s vegetarian lasagna, I’m sure it tastes amazing (all Amy’s products do), but the convenience of having frozen food is not worth the freezer space.  I make lasagna almost every other week.  It’s really easy.  It’s really cheap.  And I know exactly what’s in it.  But the thrill of having (lots of cheap!!) individual lasagnas is so enticing, sometimes the fact that I prefer my own cooking escapes my brain.  I’ve never actually bought these frozen lasagnas, but I’ve been close (and I imagine others feel the same pull to the rest of the frozen fare – like Lean Cuisine meals and such).  In the moment, try to remember this – even though that item may be cheaper than it is elsewhere does not mean it’s a good deal.  You probably wouldn’t even buy it elsewhere!  Would you?  No.  Because it wasn’t on your list!

Consider the size and how long it will last before going bad. 

I am shopping for two people.  Just me and Kyle. 

So many times I have been thisclose to buying massive tubs of greek yogurt and cartons of berries and bags of green beans and…I could go on and on…

But these things go bad.  And my fridge is only so big.  So I have to force myself to be practical.  And selective.  4 pounds of organic carrots is actually something I will go through.  It’s on my grocery list every single week.  It’s cheaper than I’d find elsewhere.  It won’t go bad anytime soon.  And I won’t go through it at a faster rate just because the supply seems endless (like I might with a family sized bag of pita chips). 

And once I commit to that (massive) bag of carrots, I mentally block off the (entire) produce drawer it will take up.  That way, I don’t buy a million other equally huge veggies that will have no place in the fridge. 

How many green beans can two people eat before they go bad?  Not multiple pounds, that’s for sure. 

Most produce will be better bought and eaten when it’s fresh; and it won’t go bad that way.  Wasted food is obviously not economical.

Other random little tips:

Shop with a buddy and make a pact to not let each other splurge on extra things.  It’s easier to be strong when you have someone looking over your shoulder as you add things to your cart. 

Shop with a buddy and split the bulk things that you both want.  Maybe you can’t make it through 8 pounds of spinach before it goes bad, but splitting it between two households makes it totally doable (and even cheaper).

Go to the store an hour (or less) before closing time.  That way you only have a limited amount of time to shop and you can’t afford to get distracted or lured into extra aisles in the store. 

Cool deal? 

Now let’s discuss all the ways that Costco is awesome. 

First off, the Kirkland brand is amazingly cheap and it’s basically the copycat of another beloved brand.  Can’t beat that! 

And even the non-Kirkland brands are ridiculously inexpensive.  On my last Costco visit I wrote down the prices of everything I have bought in the past or will likely buy in the future to do some price comparing back at home.  I searched online – bulk grain websites, nut.com, amazon.com and anywhere else I could find that sold wholesale items.  And every. single. time. Costco came out WAY cheaper.  Not just a little cheaper, WAY cheaper.  Nut butters, quinoa, brown rice, almond milk, maple syrup (and we’re talking organic here people!)…the list goes on and on.  Costco annihilated the competition.  So the moral of the story is: wait until you run out, then hit up Costco.  Diapers and wipes and other baby stuff wasn’t as huge of a savings as food was, but it was still a few dollars off.  We are amazon prime members though, so there’s the benefit of having free shipping (that arrives at our doorstep) at our fingertips that may cause amazon to slightly edge out Costco in a diaper emergency. 


Here are some of the things I personally think are excellent scores:


  • toilet paper (19.99 for a TON)
  • paper towels (19.99 for a TON)
  • green laundry detergent (12.99 for 160 oz)
  • toothpaste (6 large tubes for $9.99)
  • hand lotion (it’s plant based & paraben free, 2 22oz for $10.99)
  • shaving cream (6 6.25 oz for $10)
  • trash bags (200 for $14.99)


  • Almond Breeze almond milk (6 32 oz non-refrigerated boxes for $8.79)
  • organic quinoa (4 lbs for $6.99)
  • organic eggs (24 for $7.29)
  • organic baby carrots (4 lbs for $5)
  • organic maple syrup (1 liter for $13.99)
  • organic garofalo pasta (6 17 oz. packs of pasta for $7.99)
  • brown rice (10 lbs for $5.39)
  • almond butter (26 oz for $5.99)
  • organic peanut butter (2 28 oz for $7.69)
  • organic oats (10 lbs for $9)
  • Clif bars (24 bar variety pack for $21.99)
  • organic tomato sauce (12 15oz for $7.15)
  • Sabra hummus (16 2oz mini tubs for $7.45 or 2 lbs for $5.99)

Extras (only buy if these are on your list!)

  • electronics (TVs, computers, cameras, etc.)
  • sonicare toothbrush heads
  • memory cards
  • printer ink cartridges
  • vitamins/drugs

Great vegan & gluten free finds:

  • Sabra hummus (vegan, gluten free)
  • Falafel Republic falafel & wraps (vegan)
  • Crunchmaster gluten free crackers (vegan, gluten free)
  • Boca burgers (vegan)
  • Clif bars (vegan)
  • Corazonas bars (vegetarian, gluten free)
  • gardein frozen meatless chik’n (vegan)
  • soy milk, rice milk, almond milk (vegan, gluten free)
  • produce (vegan, gluten free)
  • roasted nuts (trail mix blends, cashews, almonds, mixed nuts, etc.)
  • oats, brown rice, quinoa (vegan, gluten free)

I’m tempted by a few other things but have yet to buy them (because they are things I’ve never tried before).  And it is completely illogical to buy a massive amount of something I don’t know if I like or not.  Let me know if you’ve tried any of the following:

  • organic rice milk (12 quarts for $13.59)
  • baby diapers (we are cloth diapering, but it might be nice for the early weeks – cloth diapers are huge!)
  • baby wipes
  • Seeds of Change organic quinoa & rice (6 8.5 oz for $11.49)

These lists are just a small sample and selection and prices vary by location.

Your turn to share!!!  What have you tried and loved (or tried and found not worth it)?  Favorite Costco purchases?  Other cheap baby items I should be aware of?  Tips to avoid impulse buys? 

Tips for road trips

I’ve done drive after drive after drive up and down the I-5.  I’ve been doing it for my entire life.  At least ten times every year.  That’s a LOT of time in the car.

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Packing for hours on the road is actually fairly similar to packing for work (another one of my areas of expertise).

So I figured I’d pass on my tips for travel.

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1. Pack more than you think you’ll need.

I don’t care if my trip is only supposed to take 3 hours, I will still pack enough food for double the commute time.  LA has notoriously horrible traffic, so it never ceases to amaze me when I’m in the middle of a bumper to bumper mess.  It’s almost a given that it will happen.  I’ve also been detoured due to snow (in Los Angeles!!) so if you’re in any area that has unreliable weather, be sure to account for possible added time.

2. Look up areas that have healthy food options along your route.

I never buy rest stop food, but that’s because I’m a pack-rat (and there are often very few veg friendly places on the I-5).  However, it’s always a good idea to know what’s around you, just in case you’re in dire straights.  By now I’ve memorized the food at every exit along the I-5, but I also use an app called “road ninja”.  It tells you upcoming rest stops and lists the food/beverage options at each place.  The Starbucks app is another good tool, for the coffee addicts.  But in the event that service is poor and you can’t rely on your smart phone, it’s definitely a good idea to look things up in advance.

There are a few fast food chains that cater to vegetarians and vegans.  Chipotle offers a few options for lunch and dinner (and they’re on the more sustainable end of the spectrum, too).  Starbucks has a few food items, including wraps, snack platters, and oatmeal.  For smoothies, you can hit up Jamba Juice.  And if you’re lucky, there may be a Pita Pit somewhere nearby.

And don’t forget to look up traditional grocery stores.  I’ve relied on plenty of Safeway stores in the past (baguette, baby carrots, tub of Sabra hummus, done and done).

3. Stay hydrated.

We have to stop for gas anyway, so there’s no reason to dehydrate myself in order to minimize bathroom breaks.  Drinking water prevents me from mindlessly munching on other stuff so I feel much better (not bloated and blah).

4. Take advantage of breaks.

Even if I don’t have to pee, if the car is stopped, I get out and walk around.  I stretch my legs, arms, and back.  I actually do lunges and jog around a bit (high knees, butt kicks) just to get blood flowing.  I don’t care how ridiculous I look doing a full on stretching routine – quads, hamstrings, etc. – it’s so nice to get back in the car feeling loosey goosey.

5. Bring your own.

I’ve posted several times on this subject, so rather than repeat the same old spiel, I’ll direct you to the links that will help you out.

This post gives a break down of what I stock in my work locker.  A ton of the same principles will apply to road trips because there’s no fridge, so most of the stuff will be pantry stuff.  Remember that hot water at the gas station is free (for instant oats, tea, coffee, etc.).  Health bars are always a good option because they take up no room and last forever.  Trail mixes can satisfy your sweet and savory cravings.

This post discusses how I packed for two international flights.  Breakfast bakes and breakfast quiches are awesome portable options.  So are individual hummus tubs, especially when paired with fresh veggies.

This post has a ton of vegetarian snack ideas.  It’s a list I refer back to often.  So if apples and bananas are getting old, check this list out for more ideas.

Have any of your own tips to share???

And with that, we’re off to Nor Cal for the holidays 🙂

Here’s what we have for our trek…


  • cuties
  • string cheese
  • carrots
  • granola packet
  • Clif bar
  • KIND bar
  • 4 sandwiches (for both of us for breakfast & lunch)
  • hummus
  • tortilla chips
  • Tazo ginger tea packets (rest stops offer free hot water)

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I didn’t take photos of the breakfast sandwiches because they were simply PB&Js.  Well, actually they were soynut butter & jam (both home-made) but whatever.

For lunch I made the (above) BLTs with tempeh bacon, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and spinach (mine on WF light GF bread, his on sourdough).

I’m sure we will only eat a fraction of these snacks, but at least we won’t be stuck without anything healthy in the middle of nowhere.

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Feel free to tweet me while I’m on the road with your own tips so I can give them a shot! If you include the #kiaholiday hashtag you’ll get a bunch of other road trip tips too.

Readers request: My Go-To Dinners (Five Fast Meals)

Some of these may seem lame or boring, but when you want a semi-home-made (healthy) meal lickety split, you can’t be too picky. 

While I mostly prep for the week in advance, I do leave some days open.  These "wing it" dinners are typically made from either leftovers (revamped to be something else) or various ingredients I know I have ready in the fridge.  As I’ve shared before, I keep certain staples on hand at all times for exactly these scenarios.

1. Stir fry
2. Pasta with veggies
3. Veggie burger
4. Hippie bowl
5. Big salad

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Stir Fry.

With a stir fry, you have the option to add your grain into the mix, or keep them separate and serve the fried portion over it. 

You can also switch up the grain – quinoa, rice, millet, couscous, whatever.

If you’re vegan, you can use tofu, tempeh, edamame, or beans.  And if you’re vegetarian, you can scramble in eggs. 

My favorite veggies are greens (spinach & kale), peas, and carrots.  But you can buy frozen mixes too. 

Here are some stir fry recipe posts:

green beans & tofu

broccoli quinoa & mandarin orange chik’n

Asian hummus tempeh & edamame

peanutty tofu & veggies

Italian fried couscous

squash seitan & greens

Thai tofu & veggies

Asian tofu with quinoa

Etc.  Etc. 


Pasta with veggies.

Doesn’t matter what kind of past you choose – spaghetti, penne, rice noodles, fusilli, whatever.  Cooking pasta is fast.  And toppings can be anything you have in your fridge – TVP with tomato sauce, lemon & vegan butter, or just plain old veggies. 

Keep your pantry stocked with marinara at all times.  And if you make pesto or some other sauce, make a ton and freeze the extra.  And if you get really desperate, just use canned soup as a pasta topping (a minestrone over fettuccine is a pretty decent meal, as is coconut Thai soup over rice noodles).

noodles with the works

penne pesto / oat pasta pesto

orange sesame noodles

creamy tomato greek yogurt summer pasta

spaghetti with marinara & meatless “meatballs” 

pasta with TVP marinara


Veggie burger.

Yeah you could make your own and freeze them, but that’s not really what this post is about.  I’m trying to give you last minute quick meal ideas.  Given that, it’s always wise to keep a box of burgers in the freezer, just so you aren’t stranded when your fridge and pantry supplies are depleted.  I seriously can’t remember the last time I didn’t have a veggie burger in my freezer.

Rather than point out the obvious (there’s more ways to eat a burger than on a bun/in a sandwich), I will just tell you a few of my favorite kinds of veggie burgers. 

Amy’s – this company makes the best veggie burgers; with a ton of different kinds they something for everyone (mock meat-like, vegetable packed, bean based, etc.); my favorites are Amy’s California veggie burger (vegan & soy free) and the Sonoma veggie burger (vegan, gluten & soy free)

Trader Joe’s – they have a veggie burger (contains wheat, soy & eggs) and a masala burger (vegan, soy free); I like both  [FYI, they also have an organic tofu burger (in the refrigerated section, not frozen) which I’ve never tried]

SoL cuisine – they have a large selection of veggie burgers; my favorites are the Mushroom Rice burger (vegan, gluten free) and Spicy Black Bean burger (vegan, gluten free)

Sunshine burgers – these are fabulous but expensive; the original (vegan, gluten & soy free, FODMAPs free) and the falafel are my favorites

Boca – these were the first veggie burgers I ever tried so I have a loyalty to them, but they aren’t my favorite (be careful, some have cheese!), on the plus side, they’re often the cheapest available and can be found in most conventional supermarkets; the vegan burger made with non GMO soy is the only one I buy

I’m not a fan of GardenBurger or Dr. Praeger’s – too mushy.


Hippie bowls.

If you search the phrase “hippie bowl” on my site, you’ll get more than you bargained for.  So rather than direct you to a million combinations of grain + veg + protein, how about some basic posts on the concept.

Here are a few days of hippie bowls.

And another play by play of the formula is here.

My #1 is quinoa + carrots + seitan.  I swear, I feel like I’ve eaten that exact meal hundreds of times in the last year alone.  Never gets old.


Big salads.

Not much of an explanation needed here, right?  Take every vegetable you can find in your fridge and chop it up and put it in a massive bowl.

I often have things pre-chopped, but even when I don’t this really doesn’t take very long.  Avocado and hummus are the best ways to top off massive salads, but a simple oil & vinegar mix will work too (the rule with dressings is fat plus acid equals yum). 

Here’s my post on how to make a salad a meal.

Hope those ideas help!

Quick ways to revamp leftovers:

  • Bulk up the canned stuff.  Add extra veggies, greens, grains, whatever to canned soup.  I call it the cheater soup method
  • Add greens.  Pasta last night?  Make it a pasta salad the next day for lunch.  I did this recently with orzo salad.
  • Make a sandwich.  Everything can be reworked by getting stuffed into a pita or smooshed between bread.  I did this recently with leftover buffalo cauli wings (see photo below).
  • Soup-ify it.  Odds and ends that can’t cut it as a full meal can all merge together and make a fantastic stew.  Even mashed potatoes can transform into a soup’s base.  If you have a crock-pot and haven’t tried this yet, what are you waiting for!!


For another post that gives lots of simple weekday dinner ideas, click here.

Readers request: Breadmaker bread

This is the recipe I use time and time again (I’ve strayed but none are as good as this simple whole wheat loaf).


Whole Wheat Breadmaker Bread [vegan]

For a 1.5 lb loaf


  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp Earth Balance
  • 1/4 cup sugar (I usually use coconut sugar, but I’ve used cane sugar too)
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast (1 packet)


Add to breadmaker in the order listed above.  For the yeast, make a small indentation in the flour and pour it into it so it doesn’t contact the water.

Turn machine on, set it to wheat bread and 1.5 lb setting, select light/medium/dark color setting (I pick medium), and start.

With my machine, it takes about 3 1/2 hours until it’s done.

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I have this breadmaker.  I think it’s fantastic.  It’s relatively inexpensive (as far as breadmakers go) and works great.  I’m definitely not an experienced baker (after I got this machine was the first time I even attempted using yeast), so I feel comfortable calling the appliance idiot proof.


This bread makes perfect sandwich bread.  It’s soft in the middle with a nice crust.  It’s also great toasted, piled high with Earth Balance, and dipped in yolk.

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The reason I make this wheat bread is because it comes out every single time.  I’ve tried gluten free breads, but they’ve all been mediocre at best.  The ones with the best texture (bouncy and fluffy) contain chickpea/fava flour, which really messed with my GI system (and caused way more symptoms than wheat flour).  And so I’ve given up with gluten free yeast breads. 

If anyone happens to know a good breadmaker recipe for GF yeast bread I’d greatly appreciate it.  Especially if it doesn’t call for 8 different rare flours. 


In the meantime, I’m happy to keep eating this lovely stuff.