Xyla Review and Vegan Delish Giveaway

Before I get to the post, I want to express my sorrow for the people involved in the Boston Marathon tragedy. 

I know I promised this review and giveaway a few weeks back but I just received my products to review from Xyla (along with a really sweet note from them!) and I wanted to do the review and app giveaway in the same post. Better late than never, right?

Xyla is a company that sells a variety of xylitol products. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sweetener often found in some fruits and vegetables. It is lower in calories than sugar and is good for your teeth, which is why it’s often used in toothpastes and gums. It’s a safe sweetener for diabetics to use as it stabilizes both insulin and hormone levels. Best of all, it’s very similar to sugar in appearance and taste, so it can easily be used in place of sugar in most recipes.

xyla blog review

Xyla sent me a few of their products, including their original crystals (I like that they source their xylitol from North American hardwood, rather than GMO corn), mints, candy and gum. I think it’s great that they have such a wide selection of mints and candies sweetened with xylitol with pretty natural ingredients. I have mints or gum on a regular basis, and it can be hard to find them without scary additives. The mints and candies all tasted great, and had no weird aftertastes. The watermelon ones are my favorite and remind me of Jolly Ranchers!

I’ve had other brands of xylitol before, so I knew it would taste a bit different than white sugar. It has more of a ‘cool’ flavor to it, which makes it really great for mints and gum. But this ‘cool’ flavor doesn’t effect it in baking at all–I used it in 1 to 1 ratio in a coconut flour microwave cake (in place of my usual Truvia) and it tasted the same. I really want to try Xyla in a homemade sugar-free maple syrup…I’ve just gotta find an all-natural maple extract!

Now onto the Vegan Delish giveaway. Carrie, co-host of Healthy Vegan Fridays and blogger at Carrie on Vegan, is the creator of this recipe app for iPhones, iPads and iTouches. I always love vegan recipe sites, so having an entire app based on them is a dream come true!

For new and veteran vegans and vegetarians, plus those wanting to explore the benefits of a plant-based diet, Vegan Delish is a recipe app available for iPhones and iPads featuring innovative tools such as a digital shopping list and searchable categories including quick & easy, kid-friendly and slow-cooker. Listed as one of the top 20 Food & Drink paid iPhone apps, Vegan Delish inspires users to make whole food, plant-based meals that are as delicious as they are nutritious. 

A screenshot from my iPod touch.

A screenshot from my iPod touch.

First of all, I love that the recipes are all pretty simple, with easy-to-find, whole food ingredients and most if not all the recipes are also gluten free. The beautiful photos for each recipe is one of my favorite parts of the app–don’t you just love being able to actually see what the recipe you’re about to make is supposed to look like?

So far, I’ve made the Cashew Curry Sauce (subbing almond milk for the soy) and it was so good I couldn’t believe it only called for 5 simple ingredients! I have plans to make many more of the recipes, including the Chocolate Buckwheat Brittle pictured above, the Curried Tempeh Tacos, the Parmesan Noodles and Kale and Tropical Watermelon Slushy. There really is a recipe for everyone, whether you’re vegan or not!

You can buy this app on the App Store for just $1.99 (I can vouch for it working on iTouches as well, in case you don’t have an iPhone or iPad) but since Carrie is so nice, she’s offering a free code for one of you guys to download it for FREE! To enter, just leave a comment below telling me what kind of app you would create if you could. You can get additional entries by following me on Twitter @fashion_ash or subscribing to my blog (I can’t use the cool Rafflecopter thing since I have a WordPress.com site, sorry!) I’ll announce the winners next Wednesday. Thanks, and good luck!

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Alter Eco Giveaway WINNER!

Hey guys! Hope you all had a wonderful weekend. I have a quick recap of mine later in the post but first I want to announce who won my Alter Eco giveaway.

And the winner is… Sabrina @ Living, Learning, Eating! Congrats girl! Shoot me an email at ashlauren711@gmail.com so I can have Alter Eco ship out your goodies!

This weekend was Homecoming/Family weekend on the CSU campus so my dad made the drive up to spend the weekend with me. Two years ago my mom and sister were also able to come up but since I was still living  the dorm life then, we had to stay in a hotel. But now that I’m in a single lady pad (aka a one bedroom apartment) I can actually have people spend the weekend with me. We had tons of fun, despite the less-than-stellar weather. And by that, I mean it was literally in the 30s for most of the weekend. Not normal for October but it was still a good weekend.

On Friday night, my dad and I had a late dinner at Tasty Harmony, a mostly-vegan restaurant downtown. It was our first time eating there, but luckily it won’t be our last because it was so good! My dad isn’t a vegan or even vegetarian but he’s definitely willing to eat more plant-based foods. He got a garlicky hummus and veggie sandwich but I went with something a little more adventurous–the raw enchiladas. It was my first time eating a raw entree in a restaurant and it definitely didn’t disappoint. It was made with flax tortillas and filled with raw pepita “cheese”. It came with guacamole, salsa, cashew cream, a side of “rawfried” beans and a really good mixed greens salad. The beans were the real star of the plate–they literally tasted like refried beans, but our waiter said they were made with a mix of nuts and seeds.

Not my picture, but they looked pretty similar to this!

Now normally I don’t order dessert in a restaurant, partly because they rarely have a vegan option but also because it’s a big ED fear of mine. Well, I was really wanting one of their desserts because they all sounded so good, plus they were all wheat and refined sugar free. So my dad and I split a piece of carrot cake and it was literally the best cake I’ve ever had! Carrot cake is the only kind of cake I really like but I’d never had a vegan version until Friday. It was so cinnamon-y and just fresh tasting, plus not heavy at all. Well, that makes sense because Tasty Harmony makes everything from scratch, uses purified water to make their food and drinks (they even have a bar!) and most of their menu is vegan and gluten free. So it was definitely my kind of place and I hope to go back soon. My dad even wants to go back again!

Saturday morning we ran a bunch of errands, like filling up my car tires with air (sooooo fun, especially in the cold…NOT!), getting gas and grabbing some snacks at Whole Foods for the tailgate. Of course I couldn’t go a week without going to Whole Foods 😉 I got a few really tasty things, like black bean dip and veggie chips, plus some old favorites I was running low on. Then we had a quick lunch (Whole Foods’ sweet spinach salad is a total winner!) and headed out for the tailgate. Little did we know how cold we’d be! I was wearing a pair of skinny cords, a sweatshirt, a jacket, boots with thick socks and I brought mittens but I was still freezing, even with a thick blanket over me for the entire game! It didn’t go below freezing but it almost did. Of course, today it was back to the 70s…that’s Colorado for ya!

I look pissed…I wasn’t, but I was cold!

You could see “The A” from the parking lot of the stadium. There’s a big A on the mountain because CSU used to be the agricultural school, aka the Aggies.

The game itself…well, let’s just say that CSU sucked. As usual. I’ve only been to two of their games (the other one being the homecoming game 2 years ago) and they only won that first one. They only win a few games each season but it was still fun to cheer them on. The stadium was probably halfway full (since it was so cold out) but by the 4th quarter it felt more like a high school game by how few people were left! CSU was playing against Fresno State and both teams had pretty awful offensive lines so Fresno only got a few touchdowns, but CSU was scoreless until the end of the 4th quarter. They finally made a touchdown, so it was totally worth it to see them get a score right at the very end.

Go Rams (even though you aren’t the best team)!

On Sunday we ran a couple more errands, went for a long walk around campus and checked out some flowers (that were sadly dead) and had gelato for lunch. Yep, sometimes it’s totally acceptable to skip lunch in favor of the best gelato in the world. At least in my opinion! Guess what flavors I got? Pumpkin and soy chocolate. I am so predictable 😉 But seriously, I couldn’t not get pumpkin this time of year, and it was just begging to be paired with chocolate. My dad also got pumpkin and we agreed that it was perfect. We even got to eat them outside since it was way warmer, like in the mid 50s. Yeah, totally not warm but it felt like a heat wave after Friday and Saturday!

One of the best gelato flavor combos!

Before my dad had to head back home, I made dinner for the two of us. I used some Whole Foods multigrain pizza dough (love that stuff) to make us a pizza. It was half red sauce with artichoke hearts, half vegan creamy garlic sauce with navy beans and kale. My dad went for the red sauce side and I went for the garlic side. He loved it, so I got him to eat two meatless meals this weekend and he loved both of them. I’d call that a major win!

Now it’s back to normal…or maybe not. I have a lot to do this week, like a midterm on Wednesday and a group video project to work on. Plus my fridge has been acting up and not keeping things cold enough. A repairman came by earlier and said he fixed it but I haven’t noticed much of difference yet. We’ll see though. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon since I can’t live without a fridge!

What was the most fun thing you did this weekend? Have you ever gone to a cold football game?

Alter Eco (Review+Giveaway)

I can’t tell you how excited I am to do my first official review and giveaway on my blog! I’ve always loved entering giveaways on other blogs so now’s my chance to give back…and one of you gets the chance to win some really delicious stuff. Let’s get to it!

Alter Eco is a company that works with small-scale farmers all over the world to produce the products they sell. All their products are responsible–socially, environmentally and health-wise, and they’re organic, fair trade and minimally processed. I love supporting a company that does the right thing for people and the environment, no matter the cost. October is actually Fair Trade Month, so what better way to celebrate than with a fair trade product?

Of course, the food has to taste good if I’m going to buy it. I actually have bought Alter Eco products before I was contacted by them to do a review and giveaway, so I knew ahead of time that I like what they have to offer. However, I had no idea that they had so many products, including grains and sugar.

In my review box, I was sent royal rainbow quinoa, Hom Mali jasmine rice, mascobado cane sugar; dark coconut toffee, dark quinoa, dark blackout and dark almond chocolate. Can you say yum?! I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get my favorite dark mint chocolate bar but I was excited to try their new-to-me products.

The goods. Thanks, Alter Eco!

I started with the chocolates, being the chocolate lover that I am. Unfortunately, I couldn’t try the coconut toffee chocolate bar because it’s not vegan (it has butter and whole milk powder) but it sounded delicious and I’m sure my family will enjoy it! As far as the other bars go, they were all great. I’ve had the quinoa bar before but it never gets old, with its little crispy bites of quinoa mixed throughout. The almond bar was good with a hint of sweetness, and I think it would have been even better with a touch of sea salt. And the blackout bar was really rich and fruity, and not too bitter for an 85% cocoa content bar.

The quinoa was really delicious and nutty, but my favorite part was the color. I’ve only ever had pearl quinoa before (the beige kind) so it was cool to try quinoa with shades of red and brown. So far, I’ve used it to make breakfast quinoa bowls (mixed with almond milk and protein powder and topped with nut butter and fruit) and also the pumpkin spice latte quinoa granola I shared with you last week. I’m planning on buying this quinoa from now on because it’s so colorful and I like that it’s organic.

The color makes this quinoa granola even better!

I really love Alter Eco and their mission to be fair and sustainable while still making tasty products. The best part is, their stuff is fairly inexpensive and can be found at Whole Foods and other health food stores. If you want to know more, you can check out their Facebook and Twitter pages!

The winner will be chosen on Monday, October 8th at 12 pm using a random number generator so you have until then to enter! All you need to to do to enter is leave a comment on this post telling me what Alter Eco product you’d like to try most (check out their website to see all they have to offer). For extra entries, you can follow me on Twitter @fashion_ash or follow my blog on WordPress and just leave a comment saying you did that. Good luck!

Coach’s Oats Review!

So who’s ready for the weekend? I know I am! I’ll be back next week with what will hopefully be a recap of a fun weekend, but in the meantime, I wanted to give you guys an unofficial review of Coach’s Oats.

I mentioned in my last post that I won a giveaway on Facebook through Coach’s Oats page. Now, let me just tell you that I was beyond thrilled that I was one of their winners. #1, I never win anything. Like literally never. And #2, I was a winner of oats, aka one of my favorite foods. So yep, definitely happy to win that giveaway. Anyways, little did I know that they were going to be sending me a Hugh Jass bag of oats! I was surprised by that, but in a good way, of course. I was expecting some sample packets or something, so getting a giant package in the mail was awesome.

Before I get on with the review, I need to let you know that I was not in any way paid or compensated by Coach’s Oats to do this review–they actually didn’t even ask me to review them, they just sent them for free. This review is 100% my own opinion of the product.

When I first opened the bag, I thought something was wrong. Coach’s Oats don’t look like the typical thick rolled oats that I always buy; they’re kinda cracked and look a little like those pieces of popcorn shell that you get stuck in your teeth. I was skeptical at first, but I mixed some in with my usual oats and whipped up a serving of voluminous ‘overnight’ oats.

Coach's Oats/rolled oats topped with raisins and peanut flour paste.

So how did they taste? Honestly, they actually did taste a little nuttier than normal oats, just like the bag says! Also, despite their small appearance in the bag, they fluffed up really nicely. I like my oats super-thick and not watery at all, which is why I make them the voluminous way and then let them sit for a few hours to thicken up, and these definitely did that!

Apparently, they are similar to steel-cut oats (which I’ve never had) but cook much more quickly, just like quick and rolled oats. This is definitely good for people like me, who don’t have access to a stove or want to make a bowl of oats really quickly.

Next up, I tried them in a bowl of savory oats. Yes, savory. This was actually my first bowl of savory oats ever–I have such a sweet tooth that I normally have them topped with all sorts of sweet toppings (even for dinner!). But I’ve heard a lot of good things about savory oats, so I finally took the plunge. I made a bowl that I call Chipotle-inspired oats, because it’s similar to their naked burrito bowls, with oats instead of rice, but topped with grilled peppers, guacamole, plain Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream) and refried pinto beans.

Naked savory oats.

 

Chipotle oats topped with organic refried pinto beans, guacamole, a little plain Oikos, grilled pepper strips and crushed multigrain chips.

How did I like my first experience with savory oats? They were actually pretty good. My only complaint is that the oats themselves were pretty bland; when I make sweet oats, I add a packet of Truvia to sweeten them up, but obviously I wouldn’t do that with savory oats. Next time, I’d just add a pinch of salt to the oats before making them to really bring out their flavor. However, again, they did have a subtle nutty taste and I loved all the toppings I put on the oats. I’m already thinking of more combos, like curry-raisin or Mediterranean (with hummus and falafel)!

The nutritionals on Coach’s Oats are pretty stellar as well. They have 160 calories, 3 grams of fat (0.5 gram saturated), 4 grams of fiber, 0 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein in 1/3 cup, which is about the same as 1/2 cup of rolled oats. However, these fluff up enough that I think 1/3 cup would be a decent serving size, especially with toppings.

Overall, these are a very good alternative to regular oats, or just a way to mix it up. I personally think I’ll use them mixed in with my usual rolled oats just to add in a different texture. I definitely recommend them if you’re an oats lover like me! And thanks again, Coach’s Oats!

Have you ever tried Coach’s Oats? What combination would you try in a bowl of savory oats?