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? 

WIAW: Photo Dumpage

Wow, I’ve been gone for awhile! Obviously, it’s that time of the year–midterms. Luckily I’ve just got one more left and then tomorrow afternoon starts my spring break! I won’t be doing anything too exciting (unless you consider going home for over a week to be exciting) but it’ll be great to see my family again…and possibly mooch off them for groceries? Haha it’s the little things!

Anyways, I’ve just got a photo dump of a WIAW for you…so enjoy!

Leftover chocolate chili yam from Tasty Harmony.

Leftover chocolate chili yam from Tasty Harmony.

One of the best vegan restaurant meals ever. How can you go wrong with chocolate chili+sweet potato+cashew ‘cheese’+tempeh bacon?

My new fave Kevita flavor.

My new fave Kevita flavor.

I just noticed this for the first time this weekend at Whole Foods, and I had to snag this flavor. Um, this is spot on like a sparkling mojito!

Outfit of the day (Monday): navy striped crop tee (Hollister), white watch (American Eagle), burgundy jeggings (Hollister).

Outfit of the day (Monday): navy striped crop tee (Hollister), white watch (American Eagle), burgundy jeggings (Hollister).

I had to take advantage of the nice weather and wear a tee without a sweater for the first time in months. Rumor has it it will be in the 70s on Friday…hell to the yes!

It's hard to tell, but that's a pink car next to mine!

It’s hard to tell, but that’s a pink car next to mine!

The car doesn’t look so pink in this picture, but it was most definitely a raspberry color. I want!

Fresh pineapple.

Fresh pineapple.

Eating fresh pineapple makes me want to take a beach trip real badly. Too bad I’m a college student with no extra money.

Kelp noodle stirfry. Kelp noodles, fresh pineapple, red cabbage, spinach, peanut flour curry sauce, raw pumpkin seeds.

Kelp noodle stirfry. Kelp noodles, fresh pineapple, red cabbage, spinach, peanut flour curry sauce, raw pumpkin seeds.

I can’t get enough of kelp noodle stirfrys. You can just make them so many different ways it’s impossible to get bored with them.

A new dinner: homemade edamame burger crumbles topped with spinach, jalapeno slices and pineapple, side of eggplant 'fries' and homemade BBQ sauce.

A new dinner: homemade edamame burger crumbles topped with spinach, jalapeno slices and pineapple, side of eggplant ‘fries’ and homemade BBQ sauce.

This was actually a pretty successful dinner, though the veggie burger didn’t hold up too well. The eggplant fries were sooooo good though–coated in almond flour, sprinkled with sea salt and dipped in homemade BBQ sauce (basically unsweetened ketchup mixed with stevia and liquid smoke).

My more fun Whole Foods buys.

My more fun Whole Foods buys.

There was no budgeting post this weekend, but I managed to stay around $50 for the week, buying just stuff from Whole Foods with a few splurges! I’m excited to try the new Vega One bar, 15 grams of clean vegan protein in a chocolate-covered bar!

Have you ever seen an unusual colored car? What warm weather foods are you loving right now?

College Vegan on a Budget: A New Low

One college vegan’s mission to save money while still maintaining her clean eating standards.

I’ve really been needing to reign in my spending habits lately. Between a $40 iHerb purchase last week (mostly necessary, but some were impulse buys to get the free shipping), picking up a few personal care items at Target the other day that set me back $30 (including some heavier free weights–woohoo, I’m progressing!) and going out to eat a few times with friends (not a bad things, since I need to get more comfortable with this), the last thing I needed was a giant grocery bill this weekend. And luckily, I was smart with my spending and walked away spending just over $80 for the week. This has become my new weekly goal, so let’s see if I can hit it more often than not!

Sprouts buys under $30.

Sprouts buys under $30.

*=organic

Sprouts

What I Got: dried apple rings, Medjool dates, hazelnuts (for vegan healthy Nutella–stay tuned!), Kevita strawberry acai coconut probiotic drink*, raw cacao powder* (this brand was much cheaper than my fave Navitas Naturals), poppy seeds, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, Wholly Guacamole avocado verde salsa (one of the best salsas I’ve ever had!)

What I Spent: $26.86

Verdict: Again, Sprouts can be a big money saver. The salsa was literally $1–and it’s the best $1 I’ve ever spent! They have the cheapest nothing-added dried fruit and nut selection and their produce is dirt cheap, but is just as good as anywhere else. 

Whole Foods haul under $55.

Whole Foods haul under $55.

Whole Foods

What I Got: Kale Krunch cheezy chipotle kale chips*, 365 brand light coconut milk x2*, cashew butter, liquid smoke (for eggplant “bacon”), WFM brand almond oil, Hail Merry vanilla maple almonds, Hail Merry raw chocolate macaroons and chocolate tart, raspberry balsamic vinegar, Thai curry cashew mix, raw cashew pieces (on sale!), raw vegan brownie, pineapple chunks (also on sale), eggplant*

What I Spent: $53.47

Verdict: One of my cheapest Whole Foods trips for weekly staples ever! I even bought a few splurge-y items (ahem, raw desserts!) but still stayed under $60 and got a lot of things that will last awhile and stuff I needed for recipes I want to try out. 

What’s the best salsa you’ve ever had? What new recipes have you been trying out? 

WIAW: Almost Wordless Weekend

Yep, I’m back for another WIAW. This one isn’t focused on one day of eats, but mostly recaps my weekend and past week or so, almost wordless style. I wish I had better content for y’all but it is what it is–I’m super busy right now and I still want to blog!

Me and my sissy at the annual Father Daughter Dance.

Me and my sissy at the annual Father Daughter Dance.

Cheesin' solo at the dance.

Cheesin’ solo at the dance.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.

It’s a 9-year strong trend…our city’s annual Father Daughter dance. I’ve been going with my dad since the 7th grade and my little sister joined in a few years ago. It’s always an extremely enjoyable night, full of dancing, photos and bonding. And I also had an excuse to enjoy some Whole Foods salad bar goodies–yep, I’m ‘that’ girl who snuck in food to a catered event! #veganproblems

Lunch: green smoothie (vanilla u/s almond milk, spinach), green chia seed pudding made with Vega protein powder/coconut shreds/Justin's vanilla AB, frozen pineapple.

Lunch: green smoothie (vanilla u/s almond milk, spinach), green chia seed pudding made with Vega protein powder/coconut shreds/Justin’s vanilla AB, frozen pineapple.

Dessert for breakfast: chocolate PB chia pudding made with Vega chocolate protein powder and peanut flour, topped with coconut shreds, cacao nibs and Kit's Organic chocolate coconut bar.

Dessert for breakfast: chocolate PB chia pudding made with Vega chocolate protein powder, coconut flour and peanut flour, topped with coconut shreds, cacao nibs and Kit’s Organic chocolate coconut bar.

I can’t get enough of chia seed puddings now that I finally understand the secret to making them turn out thick. I eat them for breakfast, lunches and snacks because they’re so nutritious, well-balanced and great for toppings and different flavor combos. The combo above was particularly dessert-like but definitely not a splurge.

Kevita stevia-sweetened coconut probiotic drink.

Kevita stevia-sweetened coconut probiotic drink.

Breakfast for dinner: side of carrots, maple syrup for dippage, tirsmisu-inspired buckwheat-almond flour (GF) waffle topped with Sunwarrior protein frosting, coconut shreds and coconut whip.

Breakfast for dinner: side of carrots, maple syrup for dippage, tirsmisu-inspired buckwheat-almond flour (GF) waffle topped with Sunwarrior protein frosting, coconut shreds and coconut whip.

Raw vegan chocolate ganache for dessert.

Raw vegan chocolate ganache for dessert.

Obviously I have a love for all things coconut. Funny how scared I used to be of it–I used to claim I hated it to avoid its saturated fat content. Boy, was I wrong! It’s so delicious, and actually super healthy. The Kevita drink didn’t taste particularly like coconut, but I’m starting to really love their acidic taste and bubbly mouthfeel.

I accidentally made coconut whipped cream from light coconut that had been chilling in my fridge for a few weeks. Who knew? It was just as good as the full fat whip, and made for a great waffle topper.

And my newest obsession: (expensive) raw desserts from Whole Foods. Guys, I have a problem. I can’t stop drooling over these amazing desserts in the frozen aisle–they’re made from raw superfoods and taste so decadent. The only issue is the price, at least $3 per dessert, yikes. But since they’re so rich, I make them last a couple days despite their small size, so I guess it’s not too expensive.

What were you up to this weekend? Do you like chia puddings or coconut?