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

2014-04-15 16.32.32

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 ūüėȬ†

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¬†ūüė¶

  • 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? 

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!

“But Where Do You Get Your Protein?” (Garden of Life Review)

If you are or have ever been a plant-based eater, you’ll know that the protein question is all too common…and annoying! Many omnivores believe that the only sources of protein are found in animals, and vegans especially are scrutinized for the presumed lack of protein in their diet. My parents, though both omnis, are luckily very open to my veganism (they’ve even tried and loved some vegan dishes) and don’t question my protein content, but I know that I’ve been making more of a conscious effort over the past year to increase my protein consumption without turning to animal-based sources.

When I first started AlmostVegGirlie, I was mostly vegetarian but had never heard of tempeh or peanut flour. As I transitioned into a vegan diet, I eschewed shrimp and Greek yogurt, only to find myself lacking in the protein department. A year ago, I was only getting about 15% of my calories from protein on a daily basis–I know some sources say you only need roughly 10-20% from protein, but I wasn’t feeling as energetic as I knew I could be. So I started incorporating more protein sources: sprouted tofu, nutritional yeast (2 tbsp has 8 grams of protein!), nuts/seeds, tempeh, peanut flour and plant-based protein powders all entered my rotation of food within the last year.

One of my favorite (secret) sources of protein--a 1 ounce serving has 9 grams of protein!

One of my favorite (secret) sources of protein–a 1 ounce serving has 9 grams of protein!

Now, I try to include a source of protein with every meal and snack, and I’m getting between 25 and 30% of my calories from protein–what a difference! I feel like I’m¬†benefiting¬†more from my workouts and I tend to feel less hungry when I get enough protein (though increasing my healthy fats in the last few months has helped too). I’m strongly considering starting a strength training routine soon and I know that having more protein will be beneficial for that.

So what does all this protein talk have to do with a review? Well, about a month ago the lovely people at Garden of Life¬†sent me some samples to review. I’ve mentioned my love of their protein powders before and I’m so glad I discovered them because they’re my favorite plant-based protein powder.

What I love about Garden of Life is that their protein powders are made from sprouted protein sources including quinoa, lentil, flax and chia seeds (instead of the usual soy-based powders), they’re sweetened only with stevia and they are a source of raw probiotics from chlorella. But the best part is, they don’t taste plant-y at all! The flavors are true to life and not overpowered by sweetness.

I was sent the RAW vanilla and RAW chocolate flavors to try. I had bought and tried the chocolate before myself so I knew I’d love it but it was nice that they sent individual serving size packets which are perfect for taking on-the-go. I had never tried the vanilla before but I was excited to see if it was better than other vanilla protein powders I’d tried. Usually, vanilla powders are hit or miss–some are delicious and not too sweet but others just taste fake. Garden of Life’s vanilla was very clean and a little bit ‘green’ tasting but I liked it. The consistency was great for making protein frosting and it works well in baked goods.

Chocolate peppermint buckwheat waffle with Garden of Life RAW chocolate protein frosting.

Chocolate peppermint buckwheat waffle with Garden of Life RAW chocolate protein frosting.

Overall, I would definitely recommend Garden of Life RAW protein powders. They’re well-priced (you can get them for $28 on iHerb, $25 on Amazon and Whole Foods has them for about $30 but they usually have a $5 off coupon for them in their monthly flyer), taste great, are made from plant-based clean ingredients and have great stats (90 calories, 17 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar per scoop). I would recommend any of the flavors, but if you have a Whole Foods near you, be sure to check out the store’s exclusive vanilla chai flavor–it’s my favorite!

Disclaimer: I was given this product to review by Garden of Life. All opinions are my own. 

Have you ever tried Garden of Life protein powder? Do you prefer chocolate, vanilla or other flavors of protein powder? 

WIAW: Tricks & Treats

I’m not the biggest fan of Halloween (can it just be Christmas already?) but I had to tie in this week’s WIAW with it. Well, at least a little bit. I’m not going to be dressing up, other than for my campus TV station’s special Halloween live show (I’m reporting on the weather!), or indulging in any candy, but I do have some product reviews for you this week. How’s that for a treat ūüėČ Plus I’ve been kinda burned out on food lately–some of my favorites haven’t been sounding so appealing sometimes so it’s been kind of boring on the eating front so I decided to do this instead of a usual WIAW.

Spooky Snacks and Healthy Halloween Treats

Whole Foods canned pumpkin.

I usually buy the Farmer’s Market brand of canned pumpkin, because it’s organic and the cans are BPA-free, plus they now come in boxes which is even better than cans. But I spotted the 365 brand of canned pumpkin and couldn’t pass it up since it was a dollar cheaper than my usual brand. When I opened the can, the pumpkin was more orange and a bit runnier than the Farmer’s Market pumpkin, but it tastes about the same. I might just stick with my favorite brand though because I like the fact that there’s no BPA.

I originally took the coffee maker my dad used when I moved into my apartment 2 months ago because he said he wasn’t using it very much. I didn’t mind that one, but it made way more coffee than I needed at one time. So when my dad said he wanted his coffee maker back, I was more than happy to return it in exchange for a brand new one. I got this baby for under $20 at Kohls…isn’t it adorable? ¬†It only makes one serving’s worth of coffee which is great for a single lady like me. And it works perfectly, so I’m happy. Plus I like that it’s green, and not black like the other one. What can I say, I’m a sucker for bright colors!

Saturday’s shopping outfit: grey lace tee (Hollister), fish necklace (American Eagle), burgundy jeggings (Hollister).

I bought these jeggings last weekend because I was in desperate need of some more jeans. I paid more than I would have liked for them, but they fit great and the dark red color goes with a lot. I can’t complain!

Maranatha raw maple almond butter.

My go-to brand of nut butter has been Archer Farms for quite awhile. I love their almond peanut cashew butter, it’s so creamy and nutty. But–surprise–it was one of the recalled nut butters under the salmonella scare. So I’ve been APCB-less for a month or so, and it’s been sad. I especially loved it because it was pretty cheap for an all-natural, nothing-added nut butter. I finally decided to try this Maranatha variety after seeing it on a few blogs. And while it’s no almond peanut cashew butter, it’s really good! It’s not overly sweet, but I prefer it over the Justin’s maple almond butter. And it’s only a couple bucks more than my favorite, so I guess that’s not too bad.

Tessemae’s vegan hot wing sauce.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a buffalo wings fan, not even when I was omni. However, you all know my love for all things spicy. I was in the market for a new dressing, and when I saw this one on the shelf at Whole Foods, I knew I’d love it. It has very simple ingredients, basically just lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and spices. You know it’s good stuff because it separates and hardens up…gotta love all-natural foods with all their quirks! P.S. This stuff is amazing massaged on kale!

Letting my nerdy side show!

I have been dying to get a pair of reader’s glasses since they first came into vogue. I don’t know if you think they’re cute or not, but I sure do! I bought my pair for 15 bucks at American Eagle and it is the best 15 bucks I’ve ever spent. I love the tortoiseshell print and how they add a hipster touch to any outfit. Best part is, I can wear them with my contacts since they’re not real glasses, just a fashion accessory!

So Delicious no sugar added chocolate coconut milk ice cream.

My usual coconut milk ice cream brand is Nadamoo, and I love all their flavors and pronounceable ingredients, and they’re much cheaper than most coconut milk ice creams. But when I saw the So Delicious no sugar added variety for the same price, I had to give it a try. This stuff is a little less creamy than Nadamoo, but it’s only 100 calories for 1/2 cup and has just 1 gram of sugar–the rest is all erythritol, which is a natural no calorie sweetener. It tastes basically like a Fudgesicle, which I loved, but I wish they had had one of their other NSA flavors available for me to try since I usually go for more exciting flavors. Guess I can always jazz it up with toppings though!

Feather print jeggings from American Eagle.

Two new pairs of jeggings within a week?! A year ago, this never would have happened. I was scared to death of tight-fitting jeans because I hated my legs (still kinda do) and I didn’t want them to look big in skinny jeans. But around Christmas last year, I finally caved and bought a pair of dark wash jeggings from American Eagle…and finally fell in love with them. I now have 4 pairs and am definitely embracing the trend. I prefer the pairs with more structure, like pockets and zippers and actually made from denim or a thicker material so they look more like jeans. I love this new pair because it’s very unique but it’ll still go with everything because it’s in a dark color, I think feathers are cool and these fit perfectly. American Eagle is definitely my favorite store for jeggings, they always fit me just right. And they were $15 on clearance, you can’t pass that up!

So Delicious mint chocolate coconut milk.

Too soon for the holiday-inspired drinks? Never! I’d been dreaming of Silk’s mint chocolate soy milk since last Christmas, but now that I don’t do soy milk (too processed) I was excited for a different nondairy version. And So Delicious definitely delivered! I’d never had refrigerated coconut milk before so I wasn’t sure what to expect but this was pretty thick without being overwhelming. The flavor was perfectly sweet and partly sweetened with stevia so that lowered the sugar content a lot! There’s only 50 calories in half a cup which makes it a perfect lower calorie sub for Starbucks peppermint mochas! And as a huge mint chocolate lover, I totally approve of this drink!

What kind of jeans or pants do you like to wear? Do you drink holiday-type beverages?

Trying New Things

Thanks for all the wonderful compliments and suggestions you all left on my last post! You sure do know how to make me smile.

I have some exciting news–another product review! Like I said in my Coach’s Oats review, I really love reading other people’s product reviews and getting to do my own. Trying out new things is always fun, and the worst that can happen is you don’t like a product.

This product review is kind of a continuation from NaNeFoMo that I did way back in December. I still have a few things on my original list that I have yet to try (kombucha and vegan marshmallows) but that doesn’t mean I’m not up for adding new things to the list. Since that post, I’ve tried tons of other new-to-me things, like kale chips and parsnips, and have liked them all. Now I want to tackle two more things that I’ve seen in the blog world many times (and have drooled over) and finally got the chance to try myself: nutritional yeast and flavored liquid stevia!

Nutritional yeast, or nooch, is something I’ve known about almost since I started reading blogs. At first, it kinda freaked me out–a cheesy powder that you can add to things to boost the protein, fiber and vitamin content? Most people seemed to like it, so I finally took the plunge and ordered it from Amazon, after passing it over in the Whole Foods bulk section because it was so flippin’ expensive. Luckily, I only spent about $4 pre-shipping online, and I got a pretty large container of it.

Why did I wait so long to try you?

The brand I ordered was Red Star. I honestly don’t know if there’s a difference between brands. I opened it up, and it didn’t really smell too strongly or anything, so I took a little taste of it. To me, it doesn’t so much taste cheesy as it does nutty, which is maybe a good thing. I’m actually super excited to try it out as a topping on plain popcorn, as well as in some kind of vegan cheeze sauce. Maybe I’ll even give it a whirl in some savory oats or in homemade nut butter cups (I’ve heard nooch adds a texture to the nut butter than makes it like the filling of Reese’s). Anyways, I think it’ll be a good staple in my diet, seeing as I’m mostly vegan and can always use a little protein/vitamin B boost.

I also ordered some flavored liquid stevia from Amazon. When I was restocking on peanut flour last week from iHerb, I was looking through the liquid stevia they sell and they’re pretty expensive–almost as much as what I’ve seen them sell for at WF. When I saw a trial 4-pack of flavors from SweetLeaf for only $12, I jumped on it. When they arrived, I wasn’t expecting them to be so tiny (each bottle is only 4 ml, or about the size of my thumb) but I guess you get what you pay for.

These bottles kinda look like eye drops...

The flavors it came with were vanilla creme, lemon drop, Valencia orange and chocolate raspberry. I sampled a drop of each one on their own, and was surprised by how bitter they were compared to powdered stevia. I’m thinking it’s something I’ll get used to though, especially when using them in things. I tried a few drops of the vanilla creme in my peach tea, and it tasted pretty good, though I probably could have used a few more drops to add some sweetness. I think these will be perfect to add flavor to plain oats and plain Greek yogurt.

So overall, I’m glad I invested in these new-to-me products and I can’t wait to really try them out in a bunch of different things! Oh and speaking of new products…has anyone seen this?

I'm already obsessed, and I haven't even tried one yet!

Yep, I’m a Pure Bar addict and I need to get my hands on this new dark chocolate berry flavor ASAP!

Do you like nooch or flavored liquid stevia? Any suggestions for how to use them?

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?

 

WIAW: Weekend of (Many!) Firsts

First off…thank YOU from the bottom of my heart for your responses to my story. It means so much to me that I’ve gotten so many amazing comments and that you’ve taken the time to read it. You ladies are the best ūüėÄ I’ll be posting part 2 (my recovery journey¬†so far) hopefully on Friday or Saturday.

Peas and Crayons

Now let’s get on to WIAW! I promised y’all some weekend update-age, so here it is! Instead of posting my eats from this week, they’re all from this weekend and best of all, there’s 3 recipes, plus mini product reviews! You guys are so lucky this week ūüėČ

My Saturday morning started out with one of these little suckers. My throat's been bugging me lately, and I hate cherry/honey lemon cough drops so I was pumped to find these when I got home--tropical cough drops!

¬†Mi madre¬†picked me up after classes on Friday and we hit the road…and a bunch of traffic. We planned on going to urgent care when we got back so we could get it over with, but first we stopped at Panera. I love their salads so much, and I ended up getting a new-ish favorite, the Thai Chopped salad without wontons¬†or chicken. The dressing on this is actually delish¬†especially compared to most restaurants and not too overpowering, plus I love the edamame and little cashew clusters.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find these in my drawer. Well...I did order them a week or so ago, but I'd had them shipped home instead of to my dorm. In case you can't tell what they are, they're coral culotte shorts (from A&F). They'll be great for pairing with tights when it gets cold!

¬†We got to urgent care and basically sat around for 15 minutes until the receptionist directed us to the check-in desk for x-rays. We checked in, waited another 5 minutes and then I got x-rayed (for like the millionth fourth or fifth¬†time ever, not counting tooth x-rays). Luckily there wasn’t anyone else in line for the x-ray (who would at like 7:30 at night?)¬†so I got it over with. But of course, if you’ve ever gotten an x-ray, you know you have to wait around for awhile¬†for it to be developed. So my mom and I were stuck in the pediatrics area, watching incredibly lame Disney Channel shows. Never have I been more glad that I am too old to watch these shows. I mean, Disney used to be awesome¬†back in the day, but now? Not so much. Anyway, the x-ray came back and the doctor said there was no¬†fracture or anything, but that I have plantar fasciitis. Apparently, you can’t do a lot to treat it, but it can become a chronic problem that I might have to get injections for. So fun ūüė¶ I actually kinda wanted it to be fractured so it could be fixed, but oh well.

Long name, delicious taste. Can I just say I've fallen in love with Target's nut butters? They are so simple (this one's just almonds, peanuts, cashews and sea salt) but so good.

Apple pie...gum?! I saw this when we were checking out and I had to try it. I honestly wasn't expecting much, but it's so yummy! It doesn't last long, but while it does, it's amazing.

I really wanted a more natural alternative to agave and a cheaper one to maple syrup, so when I found this, I snapped it up. Raw is goooooood!

Ugh, the lighting in my room is legit the worst. I need a lightbox or something. But this was delish nonetheless.

OMG, my new favorite vegetable!

¬†On Saturday, my wonderful daddy and I ran a bunch of errands, which is honestly one of my favorite things to do, especially when it involves Target/Whole Foods. Don’t judge me ūüėČ At Target, I found SO many new-to-me products that–ahem–weren’t on my list, but I couldn’t pass them up, now could I? Especially this seasonal stuff–I’m such a sucker for them. So here’s my honest reviews on them (disclaimer: I bought my¬†dad bought¬†these, I wasn’t given these to review and the opinions are my own).

Archer Farms Almond Peanut Cashew Butter: I’ve had the Archer Farms almond butter before, and it’s really really¬†good. This was also yummy, almost as good as the AB. That’s probably because I’m partial to the AB, but this was very yummy. It’s pretty smooth and drippy, which is perfect for sandwiches/wraps and oats. It’s pretty peanutty, which I thought I wouldn’t like, but there’s also a hint of almond in there which balances it out nicely. I just wish there was more cashew taste.

Extra Dessert Delights Apple Pie gum: I can’t believe this is a sugar-free gum! It’s so sweet, but in a good way. Oh and yes, it does taste and smell exactly like an apple pie. I know, I was shocked too! I thought it’d just be apple, but there is definitely a pie element to it. I don’t know how Extra does it, but this is a winner in my book!

Archer Farms Organic Raw Wildflower Honey:¬†If you’ve gotta have sugar (which I do!), organic and raw is the way to go. I love feeling like I’m treating my body right, while also getting my sugar fix. This will be so good on frozen nanner slices, with nut butter and as an oats topper.

Vitatops Pumpkin Spice:¬†I love Vitatops! My favorite include banana nut, golden corn and bluebran, but there are so many I really want to try. When I saw this, and realized it was already October, I knew I couldn’t leave the store without em. I heated up my first one on Monday night, and I could smell the pumpkin coming from the micro. It was love at first bite. I loved the little pumpkin seeds on top (even though they weren’t well-distributed) but I was surprised to find chunks of candied ginger in the Vitatop. It seemed weird at first but it’s not a bad thing.

Brussels Sprouts:¬†How have I never tried these before? I think it’s probably because they have such a bad rep for being gross. My dad decided to buy them, I said I’d try them and at home, we sprinkled a little olive oil, kosher salt and ground pepper on them and then roasted them in the oven. As soon as I took my first bite, I was in lurrrrve ūüėÄ The outside was crispy and salty and the inside was tender and so good. I had a bowl full of them at dinner, and then at lunch on Sunday, I polished off the leftovers. You could say I’ve discovered my new favorite veggie!

Spicy pumpkin pizza: brown rice tortilla crust, topped with organic canned pumpkin puree mixed with spices, green chiles, orange bell pepper and tempeh bacon.

Close up of my new fave pizza...holla!

¬†Alright, it’s recipe time! First up is my super-simple recipe for spicy pumpkin pizza. I know a lot of bloggers are ob-sessed¬†with pumpkin and I am too. But I wanted to find a way to use it in a savory recipe. Then I thought–why not make a pizza sauce? So I bought a can of organic pumpkin puree and got to cookin’!

Spicy Pumpkin Pizza (vegan, makes 2)

2 brown rice tortillas, whole wheat naan bread or whatever crust you’d like to use

2/3 can organic pumpkin puree

veggies (I used spicy green chiles and grilled orange bell pepper)

spices (I used black pepper, a little kosher salt and chili powder)

tempeh bacon, precooked tofu cubes, whatever protein you’d like to use

Spoon pumpkin into a bowl and mix with spices to taste. Spread “sauce” on your crusts and top with veggies and protein source. Bake in a 400 degree oven (on a baking sheet) for 15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown. Dig in and enjoy!

I had a very orange dinner...can you blame me, it's October! I love getting in the Halloween spirit with my food.

 Creamy Pumpkin Spice Smoothie (vegan, makes 1)

1/3 can pumpkin puree (use what’s left from the pizza!)

1/2 cup Silk soy eggnog (I love it ’cause it’s nondairy¬†but so delish)

ground ginger, cinnamon to taste

Pour all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add xanthan gum if you want it to be really thick, or make it a Green Monster by adding in a handful of spinach.

Corn bread is good, but pumpkin corn bread is even better!

¬†I found this recipe for corn bread several years ago when I was first getting really into cooking. I haven’t baked anything in awhile, but I was really wanting to make cornbread to take back to school with me. But then I thought, why not keep this pumpkin trend going and make it pumpkin cornbread? Genius, no? ūüėõ

Pumpkin Cornbread (makes 12 pieces)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup cornmeal

2 tbsp honey*

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup organic canned pumpkin puree

1/2 cup Silk soy eggnog

*This recipe is vegan if you replace the honey with agave or brown sugar)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray loaf pan (or muffin tins, if you want to make muffins) with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Mix flour, corn meal, baking soda and salt in a bowl til combined. Add in honey, pumpkin and soy nog until blended. You may have to add up to 1/2 cup water to make batter wet enough to stick together. Pour batter into pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until outside is golden brown. Let cool and slice; serve with honey, nut butter or in a yogurt mess.

My first encounter with butternut squash..and I didn't have to prepare it. Thank you, Whole Foods!

I've found a new tortilla love...move over sprouted grain tortillas!

 

Awh, it's all crumbly and broken!

Butternut Squash:¬†I’m pretty new to the squash world. I’ve been hunting down kabocha¬†with no success, but when I saw this package of pre-cut b-nut squash at Whole Foods, I decided to try it. Since I’m such¬†a newbie, I had to guess what to do with it, and since my only heating apparatus thingie is a microwave, I used it to heat up the cubes, since they were kinda hard. After a minute and a half, they were nice and tender and I sprinkled some raw honey and cinnamon on it. OMG, so tasty! Maybe this is my new favorite veggie…?

Food for Life Brown Rice Tortillas:¬†I’m not gluten-free, but I don’t like regular tortillas, so when I discovered Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas, I bought them. I’ve had them all summer and liked them for the most part, but lately I haven’t really been that excited about them. I’ve seen a ton of bloggers have the brown rice tortillas by the same company, so I was on the lookout for them. I love that they’re huge but not so calorie-dense (I’m looking at you, Chipotle¬†burritos!) plus they’re just darn good and make perfect pizza crusts. They remind me of the tortillas EVOL¬†burritos have, and I love those, so these are also a winner.

Sunshine Falafel veggie burger:¬†I love veggie burgers, specifically many of Amy’s, but I wanted to find a new one I could buy regularly. I had my first Sunshine burger on vacation this summer and it was so good and dense. I wanted to try another variety, and I thought falafel sounded interesting enough. And it actually does taste like baked falafel, and it even kinda looks like a giant falafel. I just hate that it’s so crumbly, but I can live with that.

Woo, you all made it through that monster¬†of a post ūüėÄ But I hope you enjoyed my mini-reviews and recipes (and will go out and buy the products I loved…basically all of them, and maybe got a lil recipe inspiration…a girl can dream, right ūüėČ ?)

What is something new you’ve tried lately and loved? Are you into seasonal food items (like pumpkin or apple-flavored things)?

P.S. Check out my Best Of… page for these recipes and all the others that I’ve posted on here–with more to come!