New in Review: Chai & Chocolate

I have a problem. A problem with starting too many post series that I never stick to. I did keep my College Vegan on a Budget series going for several months and obviously I can’t go back to it now as a post-grad. But several other series I had big plans for died an early death.

I’m hoping I can keep this one going for awhile. See, I like product review posts a lot. I read them when I spot a new product on the shelves and I’m wondering if it’s worth a purchase, or if I just bought something and want to see what other people think. Either way, I think they’re informative and fun, so I wanted to bring something like that to AlmostVegGirlie.

I’m calling this new series New in Review, and it will be my honest thoughts about products (not just food!) that I’ve recently tried. Everything I post will be products I bought myself, so no sponsored posts here. And I hope you find them to be interesting!

  • Quinn Kale & Sea Salt popcorn

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I spotted this at Whole Foods, and even though I eat grain free a lot of the time by default, I’ve been craving popcorn lately. Plus it’s gluten free and sounded interesting, so I bought it. When I opened the bag, I was surprised to see that the popcorn was green. Like spinach green. I love all things green, though, so it didn’t scare me away, though some picky people might be thrown off by it. But then, it is made with dried organic kale (and carrot), so it’s basically like salad 😉 

The ingredients list is stellar–non-gmo popcorn kernels (corn is a heavily GM product so non-gmo is important), sunflower oil (healthier than most veggie oils, though coconut oil is best), dried organic kale and carrot (seriously, veggies in popcorn is incredible), sea salt, onion powder and garlic powder. That’s it…just popcorn and spices and a little oil. The best part is how tasty this popcorn is. It’s got a slight veggie flavor but not overpowering, with the perfect amount of saltiness and tang from the spices. And it’s a little addicting, but in a good way, because one serving of popcorn (4 cups) is 150 calories.

Pros: organic/non-gmo, clean ingredients, good flavor

Cons: I wish there was more popcorn!

  • Maybelline Volum’ Express Mega Plush mascara

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I’ve been partial to Maybelline mascaras since I discovered their Illegal Length mascara. My lashes are fairly voluminous, so I’m mostly looking to add length and darkness. I like Maybelline’s mascaras because they last a long time (I use it daily) and are fairly inexpensive and available at regular stores like Target.

This mascara is gel mousse, so the texture is a bit different, but it doesn’t clump at all. It also has a flexible brush, which makes it easier to apply. I prefer washable mascaras so I haven’t tried the waterproof kind, but the washable one is easily removable with soap+water or makeup wipes but it doesn’t smudge either.

Pros: inexpensive ($7 ish for a tube), goes on smoothly, feels light

Cons: I wish it added length as well as volume

  • Fearless Chocolate

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This is officially my go-to chocolate brand now! So far, I’ve tried 4 flavors: Superfruit, Green Tea Mint, Exploding Coconuts, and Super Seeds Crunch. All of them are good, but the Exploding Coconuts is my favorite so far. It’s got great little chunks of coconut in it! Though I can’t wait to find their new coffee flavor–I love coffee+chocolate!

Fearless Chocolate has one of the simplest ingredients list of any chocolate brand. They’re soy free (no soy lecithin, which is hard to find in chocolate), gluten free, vegan and certified organic & fair trade. Best of all, they’re made with raw cacao instead of cocoa butter, making them purely chocolate, and organic cane sugar is the last ingredient, so the bars aren’t too sweet.

Pros: Basically everything I’m looking for in dark chocolate

Cons: I didn’t love the mint flavor as much as I thought I would, a little pricey

  •  Trader Joes Spiced Chai Tea

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I went to Trader Joes for the first time about a month ago, and while I’ve already finished off most of the things I’ve bought, I’ve still got plenty of pink sea salt and this chai tea left.

With the warm days we’ve been having lately, I decided to use these tea bags to make iced tea over the weekend. I cold-brewed them in a pitcher for 10 minutes or so, and then taste-tested. This tea has a great, complex spiced flavor but it isn’t too bold. It also pairs well mixed with a bit of stevia and some coconut-almond milk over ice.

Pros: budget friendly, good flavor

Cons: No TJs near me anymore so I can’t buy more 😦

  • Kevita Probiotic Drinks

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I still haven’t gotten on the kombucha train, but I loooooove Kevita! It’s a little fizzy, sweetened with stevia and comes in a bunch of tasty flavors (I’ve tried the lemon cayenne, strawberry acai coconut, mango coconut & mojita lime mint).

This stuff is about the same price as GT Kombucha (though generally cheaper at Sprouts and Whole Foods when on sale) and it boasts the same probiotic qualities. But there’s no weird aftertaste or floaties that come with some kombuchas. Plus it’s organic and made with reverse osmosis water. It’s almost like a light, refreshing soda but so much better for you and won’t make you all bloated like diet soda does.

My new favorite flavor is the lemon cayenne cleanse–it tastes like lemonade!

Pros: tasty, health benefits, lots of flavors

Cons: a bit expensive when not on sale

What new products have you tried lately? 

Currently: June

I’m off on vacation from tomorrow afternoon through Wednesday, so I probably won’t be doing much blog commenting or posting over the next few days but I do have a couple planned posts in the works and I’ll be back at the end of next week with regular posting, and a vacay/internship recap!

Before I go, I’ll leave you with my “Currently” post for the month…enjoy!

Current Book: This sucker. Summer classes aren’t the best, but at least mine’s online and only 4 weeks long. I’ve got about a week left and I’m so ready to be done…but the class is pretty interesting, I love human geography!

intro to geography

Current Music: Another alt song, but what can I say, it’s my fave genre of the moment! Vampire Weekend was on SNL a month or so ago and I loved their live rendition of “Diane Young”. I also scored the song for free on the Google Play Store a week or so ago.

Current Guilty Pleasure: The mini shopping spree I had last week. Two pairs of shorts (one of them my first pair of high-waisted shorts!), a lacy bralette and a printed romper, as well as some items ordered online that just arrived. I love summer clothes, and giving some old ones away means more room for new ones, right?

Current Nail Color: Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear in fuschia power, with a coat of disco ball on my ring fingers for a ‘party nail’. I love this brand because it’s a lot cheaper than most other brands, but the Hard as Nails kind lasts longer than OPI! I really want to try Essie though.

Current Drink: Homemade iced tea, with or without stevia. And of course, Starbucks unsweetened passion iced tea!

Current Food: I’m loving all things raw, from ‘French toast’ to ‘coconut bacon’, to fruit and veggies (cauliflower is even better raw than cooked, especially dipped in salsa or guac) to raw desserts. Seriously just so good, and so energizing.

Current Favorite Show: I’m loving the Little Couple on TLC right now, because their new little adopted son is adorable, and I think they’re seriously the best parents. So different than most reality shows (with b*tchy people, letsbehonest) and that’s why I love it.

Current Wishlist: A Yonanas maker (seriously, it would make banana softserve so much easier to make), an ice cream maker and a spiralizer. I’m really getting into the whole raw thing, and having these (relatively) inexpensive appliances would make it so much more fun.

Photo courtesy of Unclutterer.

Photo courtesy of Unclutterer.

Current Needs: More time to pack…and catch up on assignments for my summer class!

Current Triumphs: Not taking constructive criticism personally. I’m learning a lot at my internship, and it’s making me check my pride at the door in terms of what I know and what I don’t. It’s really humbling learning from professionals who’ve been on TV for 10+ years and I’m improving every day. It helps having someone who’s so understanding and willing to work with me. Hopefully I’ll be ready for my first real job in 6-ish months!

Current Bane of Existence: Worrying about not getting in as much exercise + eating out a lot over the next few days on vacation. I think it’ll be a good test to see how I’ll do when my family flies out to visit our extended family in August and I have to deal with a lack of vegan food in restaurants and relatives who think meat and dairy are nonnegotiables. This upcoming trip will be a piece of cake, as I’ll still be pretty active (tennis and hiking for sure!) and have more vegan options.

Current Celebrity Crush: Macklemore. I swear, Can’t Hold Us is even better than Thrift Shop (ok, mayyyyybe not quite) and his hair is legit. Also, I’m kinda upset that I probably won’t get to see him in concert when he comes to my school in August. Not cool. Maybe I’ll just sneak in 😉

Current Indulgence: These raw flax pancakes I whipped up the other day. No dehydrator or food processor needed, and plenty of protein+fiber and sweetness from raw honey.

raw flax pancakes

Topped with more raw honey, raw coconut ‘bacon’ and a doughnut peach.

Current Blessing: A great forecast just in time for vacation. Can you say 80s and sunny every day? Perfect for tennis, hiking AND laying out by the pool!

Current Slang: Uh…I’m starting to say ‘real’ in place of ‘really’, like “That was real bad.” My sister got me into it 😉

Current Outfit: Wednesday I was wearing a sweater and cropped jeans (for real…this is summer?) and yesterday I wore a skirt with a short sleeved tee and a scarf. Can you say bipolar weather?

Current Excitement: Vacation! And possibly getting to go to Native Foods for the first time on the way up or back 😀

Current Link: This Rawsome Vegan Life. Told ya I’m getting into this raw foods thing! But really, they have the most drool-worthy photos of things I’d never think to make raw, like s’mores and knockoffs of the cranberry bliss bars Starbucks sells.

Current Mood: Excited for the next few days!

Answer any of the above!

WIAW: What I Ate (& Made) Monday

Most of my WIAW posts are a random assortment of food pics I happened to take through the week. But not this week, no, I was actually on top of things and managed to take a picture of everything (well, basically everything) that entered my mouth on Monday. Plus I’ve got a recipe to share with you so it should be one of my better WIAWs in awhile. Let’s do it to it!

[from left] Leftover pumpkin”water”. Pumpkin chip buckwheat waffle topped with real maple syrup, Vega chocolate protein frosting and pumpkin spice latte quinoa granola.

Most people are either “pancake people” or “waffle people”. I am most definitely a waffle person. Not frozen waffles, of course, but I love whipping up a homemade waffle for breakfast. I like pancakes, but I am horrible at making them turn out perfectly fluffy and circular. So I’m sticking with waffles, which are more foolproof. Except that one time I tried making a coconut flour-based waffle and it got majorly stuck to the waffle iron. Let’s just say that vegan pancakes and waffles don’t work so well made with coconut flour. This waffle was amazing though and it didn’t get stuck to the iron at all. Win win. Yes, I am obsessed with all things pumpkin. But it’s even better combined with chocolate.

[from left] Kelp noodles. Spicy peanut sauce. Shredded carrots. Steamed edamame. Alter Eco dark chocolate with quinoa crisps. Black Mission figs. Justin’s vanilla almond butter.

Lunch was faux stir fry with a side of figs dipped in AB and a square of chocolate.  The stir fry was faux because it wasn’t really stir-fried but it tasted like a peanutty stir fry. Kelp noodles are amazing, because they totally soak up the flavors of whatever sauce you pour on them, and they are pretty similar to noodles, without the calories and carbs but with all the nutrients of sea vegetables. The chocolate, well, I swear, I can’t not eat chocolate in some form for most of my meals or snacks. It’s kind of a problem.  Oh, and BTW, if you have access to fresh figs and Justin’s vanilla AB, please try them together. It’s a magical combo.

[clockwise from left] Chocolove raspberry dark chocolate square. Apple nachos topped with Udi’s g-free cranberry granola, almond peanut cashew butter, chocolate chips, pumpkin seeds. Cookie dough inspired protein microwave muffin.

Those apple ‘nachos’ are my favorite snack discovery. They are a million times better than regular nachos, obviously health wise, but they also taste great for being so simple. Basically you slice an apple (I used a Pink Lady, my fave) really thin, microwave it for 30 seconds and then top it with whatever you like. I went with drippy almond butter, chocolate chips, granola and pumpkin seeds. So. Good. And then there are the usual suspects, a microwave protein muffin (easy to make and a great way to get in some extra protein) and a square of one of my favorite chocolates. Missing from the pictures is a little bit of some dry roasted edamame I ate during my late class.

Almost raw granola inspired by a classic Starbucks drink.

I was obsessed with making rawnola (raw granola) over the summer when I got my dehydrator. But since being at school, I’ve only lugged it out once to make some kale chips. That obviously had to change, since I missed homemade granola. Like everyone else, I’ve been loving pumpkin lately (which is weird ’cause I didn’t like it much last year) so I decided to make a pumpkin-y rawnola. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can totally make this in an oven, set to a low temperature.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Quinoa Rawnola (vegan, gluten-free, raw)

1/2 cup dry Alter Eco organic royal rainbow quinoa, soaked for a few hours

1/2 cup rolled oats (can sub buckwheat groats to make raw)

1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree

2 tbsp raw agave or maple syrup

1 tbsp ground coffee (I used Archer Farms caramel apple coffee)

2 tbsp raisins

2 tbsp chopped nuts and seeds

In a large bowl, mix oats and soaked quinoa until combined. Add in coffee, raisins, nuts and any other mix-ins you’d like. Stir in agave and pumpkin until mixture is a little sticky and thick. Spoon granola mixture onto wax paper lined dehydrator trays (or use reusable dehydrator liners, if you have them) and dehydrate for 4-6 hours. Turn off dehydrator and let rawnola sit uncovered for several hours or overnight. Serve with almond milk or on top of fruit. Makes about 1 cup.

[clockwise from top left] navy striped sweater (Hollister), navy lace pencil skirt (Gilly Hicks). Mom-made veggie chili. Spiced yellow squash, red grapes, giant corn coconut microwave muffin. Celestial Seasonings tropical iced tea.

Like how I threw in a random outfit shot there? Yeah, it looks so dark ’cause I forgot to take one until it was already nighttime. Oops. Dinner on Monday was a winner, though. I reheated some spicy veggie chili my mom made a couple weeks ago and sent with me to freeze for future dinners. So if I can’t make it to the grocery store, I guess I’ll be set for a few days! Lately I’ve been loving yellow squash–I bought it randomly at Target and I can’t get enough of it sauteed with a little coconut oil and seasoned with chili powder and cinnamon. But the giant corn muffin was the best part of the dinner, obviously. I don’t know how it turned out so giant, I just made it with 2 tbsp of corn meal, 2 tbsp of coconut flour, some water, salt, stevia, baking powder and flax. Whatever, I’m not complaining. It was so good, especially for being thrown together, and it actually wasn’t too crumbly for a grain-free vegan microwave cake.

Are you a pumpkin fan or not so much? Are you a waffle person or a pancake person?

This post was submitted for Healthy Vegan Friday #10.