8 Vegan Substitutes for Common Pantry Cooking and Baking Items


One of the nasty pitfalls of becoming vegan or pursuing a more plant-based, healthy lifestyle is the allure of vegan or low-calorie products. These packaged goods mock the “real” thing with often not so forgiving preservatives, colorants, and other additives. That’s why one of the biggest challenges is finding simple, within-hands-reach ways to replace the most common ingredients with their vegan or healthy (and just-as-real) counterparts.

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Facial Skin Care

True health (and beauty!) comes from within. Your skin is a reflection of what is going on inside. Breaking out is a product of hormone imbalances, a poor diet, stress or a combination of all these factors. If you aren’t eating right or dealing with stress properly, your skin may show it. And while some people eat fast food and drink sugary sodas on the reg and still have “perfect” facial skin, it just means the damage is affecting them internally and expressing itself in different ways. Don’t compare yourself!

If you aren’t happy with your skin and want to steer clear of antibiotics and dangerous chemicals that promise clear skin (but through sketchy means), try taking the truer approach that, albeit may take longer, will ensure lasting, natural results.

By eating a plant-based diet and becoming more “regular” through improved digestion, your cells will cleanse, revealing a more beautiful, glowing complexion as a reflection of your cleaner internal terrain. Prescription drugs, creams, and other external remedies will only mask the problem, not fix it.

However, once you get your diet in check, it is NEXT important to shield your facial skin from external factors that you can’t necessarily control – pollution, allergens, sun exposure, tap water, other people touching it, pillow cases, dry weather, humidity, etc. Plus, as you cleanse from the inside out, your skin will eliminate toxins through the skin, and it is crucial that you keep your skin as clean as possible so these toxins don’t clog your pores. You’ll need less make-up (but if you do continue to use make-up route, use this for reference: Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Natural, Everyday Make Up Look.

I recommend keeping it as simple and cheap as possible. The following five elements to facial skin care have transformed my complexion from one that was sensitive and blotchy and annoying to deal with to one that is now clear of a single blemish and consistently glowing!

** Click images for source **


No need to dish out the big bucks for this step. A simple $5 vegetable oil-based soap bar is all it takes. Look at the ingredients and make sure they are as crude as possible.

South of France soaps smell great and have many different scents – my favorites are the almond, green tea, pomegranate, and verbena varieties. They are great for the entire body and all you need to get rid of surface dirt.

Check out how pure and basic the ingredients are in these soaps.


This is a new addition to my facial regimen. I never used a toner until I moved to Turkey, where rose water is widely sold and heralded for its aromatic and pH benefits. You can find rose water easily online. If the rose water you find doesn’t come in a spray bottle form, just buy an empty spray bottle at a local pharmacy and fill it up to use. Or, you can pour a small swig in your palm and pat your face with the water prior to moisturizing.

This organic rose water is made from Alteya, a Bulgarian source. You will love the way your skin smells after applying this! It’s also a great refresher throughout the day, uplifting your complexion and your senses.


Seriously, there is absolutely no need to buy into these expensive exfoliator on the market. Yes, they’re organic and awesome and smell wonderful, but they are super expensive and not nearly as potent as what you can make in your own kitchen with some sugar and a drizzle or dab of something else, depending on your skin type.

The basic recipe is as such:

2 tablespoons of table sugar

+ 1 tbsp of honey for moisturizing


+ 1 tbsp of cooled green tea for anti-aging and tightening


+ 1 tbsp of  yogurt for soothing and cooling


+1 tbsp of lemon juice for detoxing/cleansing

Try to exfoliate at least 2-3 times per week to release dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, which will allow for deeper cleansing and clearer, more glowing skin!


My favorite body moisturizer is from Derma-E. The company keeps their products as natural and organic as possible and adhere to strict quality requirements.

My favorite facial moisturizer has changed over the years, as I find it to be THE. MOST. IMPORTANT. element of facial skin care, since it stays on your skin with you all day and your skin essentially absorbs it, so it’s important that it’s as high quality as possible. I used to pay a lot of money for Tata Harper’s serum, which I find smells amazing and is really effective, but at first it was far too much money to justify ($150 for 50 ml) .

However, because of its potency, you only use a little (dime size) at a time – not like pharmacy story brands where you passively lather on loads and loads. This stuff works and you notice the difference in your skin tone and texture after first use. The rebuilding moisturizer costs $100 for 50 ml, but my skin works well with just using the serum as a moisturizer. If your skin is drier, opt for the moisturizer. Both work great!

I am a Tata Harper fan, but I know there are many organic moisturizers on the market that are similarly effective and cheaper. Check out these websites for your fit in philosophy and cost.







Before I go to bed, I spare excessive use of my Tata Harper products and apply an essential oil. Argan oil is by far the most effective and least oily and clogging feeling oil I’ve found yet. It’s praised for its healing effects, especially if you are dealing with wrinkles or scars, and it has sincerely changed my skin and done away with any scars from past break outs or that scar left behind from when my sister bit my nose when we were kids.

There are many organic argan oils on the market. Just be sure that the one you buy is 100% argan oil and not mixed with other things. It’s a slight expense, but the supply lasts awhile since you are supposed to be modest with application.

I hope this list inspires your facial skin care regimen. Keeping it consistent and basic will cut costs and avoid surprise skin break outs and acne scares. Keep in mind that because these products are so pure, they are potent – a little goes a long way!

In the name of beautiful skin, I wish you all fabulous summer complexions!

xo Aylin

Homemade Green Tea Facial Scrub

You only need to wash your face with a cleanser once per day just before bedtime, because it detoxes while sleeping and should be dirt-free when this happens. In the morning, you only need to use a gentle exfoliant (and moisturizer after) to help remove dead skin cells and freshen up for the day – cleansing is not necessary.


In addition to your daily skin-care regimen, it helps to set aside one day per week to apply a homemade facial scrub. With sugar as the base, the exfoliant is a bit more intense than your daily ritual and will set the stage for the week to come. And while it is mild enough for the face, it can be applied all over the body! Your skin will be silky smooth and glowing afterward.

There are so many ways you can play with the ingredients to personalize the treatment to your skin, but the basic recipe is as such – sugar + lukewarm water. The sugar only exfoliates and smoothens the skin, so by replacing the water with an effective liquid or oil, you’ll get even more benefits.

For this exfoliant, I used green tea, for its glowing promise:

Green Tea: has an extremely high antioxidant content with anti-aging effects. When applied to the skin, it repairs scar tissue and prevents wrinkles, blemishes and other impurities. When used as a sunblock, green tea can actually reduce or completely erase sun damage. It also helps with warts, psoriasis, acne, and rosacea.


2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp brewed tea (1/3 cup + 1 bag)

1 tbsp sugar


Brew 1 pure green tea bag in a cup filled 1/3 with water. Let sit until the water has cooled from steaming to lukewarm.


In a small bowl filled with 2 tbsp of sugar, pour 1 tbsp of the brewed tea. Mix with a spoon. The sugar will not dissolve since the concentrated green tea is not hot enough.


Add one more tablespoon of sugar, and mix again.


That’s it!


You could use a cotton pad to apply it to your skin if you’re proper like that, but I find it best to just rub the mixture with my hands in circular motions all over the face, avoiding the eyes and nose. Also, when exfoliating with your hands, use your finger tips and fingers, not the palms.


lemon to cleanse – juice of half a lemon

honey to moisturize – 1 tbsp

yogurt to soothe – 1 tbsp


Enjoy your baby bottom face!

xo Aylin

GoKolate Cake

I was going to dub this vegan, but it really doesn’t need a disclaimer like that, so why hint that it possibly does? No excuses necessary–it stands alone.

Not to say that vegan is an understood compromise–because it isn’t–but more times than not, you can tell when something has been veganized or healthified or whatever-ized. It has that aftertaste about it, that crunch, that “hm….I like it, but only because I subliminally know it has been altered to be healthier, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt” subtext. Not in this kitchen. NEVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It rivals your traditional chocolate cake, and the topping is hands-down the creamiest, lick-worthy icing I’ve ever had…and icing?…that, my friends, I have had much of. The great part is you can actually sit there and eat the icing alone…for breakfast. It’s good-for-ya stuff.

Some of the ingredients are healthier (surprisingly enough, not anymore expensive) versions of the traditional ones.  Nothing you can’t find at your local grocery store if you’re looking for it.

Gokolate Cake w/Gokolate Icing


– 1 cup spelt flour
– 1/4 cup of sugar
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
– 1 tsp kosher salt
– 1/3 cup cocoa powder
– 4 tbsp of maple syrup
– 1/3 cup coconut oil
– 1/2 cup homemade almond mylk

– 2 avocadoes
– 1 tbsp almond butter
– 1 tbsp arrowroot powder
– 1/4 cup cocoa powder
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup almond mylk
– 3/4 cup maple syrup
– 1/4 tsp kosher sea salt
– 1 bar dark chocolate, melted


Assemble the dry ingredients for the cake.

Clockwise from 9 o’clock: burgeoning cup of spelt flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp arrowroot powder, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/3 cup cocoa powder.

Into a large bowl they go!

Set this big bowl aside.

In a smaller-sized bowl, combine all the liquids for the cake. Now, coconut oil will harden if in a slightly cooler temperature, so I set this smaller bowl  atop a double broiler to melt the coconut oil and allow it to evenly distribute throughout the liquid mixture.

4 tbsp of maple syrup, 1/4 cup (actually 1/3 cup) coconut oil and 1/2 cup homemade almond mylk.

A double broiler works like this: smaller saucepan with boiling water, a larger saucepan that fits on top with whatever you want to melt in it. It indirectly melts/warms sensitive things such as chocolate, candy, milk, and basically anything that you do not want to burn.

Add this liquid mixture to the previously prepared dry mixture.

Whisk whisk whisk.

I used my clean hands to coat the bottom of a 10-inch round glass pan with coconut oil.

Then, popped the cake batter in the oven for 25 minutes at 375 degrees F.

While that sweet Jesus bakes, prepare the icing/filling/creme.

Assemble the ingredients: the meat of 2 large avocados, 1 tbsp almond butter, 1 tbsp arrowroot powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 cup homemade almond mylk, 3/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup cocoa powder and 1/4 tsp kosher sea salt (unpictured).

And, of course, 1 bar of your favorite dark chocolate melted on the double broiler.

Combine all together in the food processor until well combined to creamy craziness.

Check the consistency: thick, yet fluffy.

When the cake is done, it’ll look as such:

I placed this in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up its cooling down trajectory.  Then, when cool enough, I layered the icing on top.


I know you’ll enjoy this one!