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back roads and mason jars

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trick or treat

I am for sure one of those crazy ladies that dresses up her dog for Halloween – every. single. year.  Our dog, Brodie, has lived out his wildest fantasies in past Halloweens as a bumble bee, shark, sheriff, and even a pumpkin.  This year he requested a new look that fit in more with his new house in the country.  We found the perfect fit – a Lumberjack!  Our whole family even got into the plaid this year in our support of his dreams.  Yes – that’s Brodie’s happy face in case you were wondering.

This year, we picked up a few vegan candy bars that we thought would be great alternatives to the traditional counterparts.  We actually purchased these at Whole Foods, but we have seen them at other stores like Kroger or Target.  Since my husband has the sweet tooth in our family, you’ll have to rely on his opinion more during this round.

Amy’s Dreamy Bar

I think most people reading this are very familiar with the Amy’s brand, but their more well known products in the frozen department.  I didn’t even know they made any other products until I stumbled upon this one day.  The store I was at sold a variety of chocolate bars, but this was the only one labeled vegan at that time.  The label describes the bar as a dark chocolate bar filled with nougat.  Traditional nougat is not vegan since it is made with egg whites.  Upon reading the label, the bar sounds most like a 3 Musketeers bar.  It is far from it though. The bar is way more dense than the counterpart and has a gritty texture in the filling.  This bar also boasts the highest sugar with 25 grams!

Wannabe Vegan: 2/10  ~  Omnivore:  6/10

Enjoy Life – Dark Chocolate

I was that weird kid that always collected the Hershey’s Special Dark pieces out of the mixed bag.  Most kids hated them and would fight over the Mr. Goodbars, but not me.  Dark chocolate is my personal favorite.  I keep several bars in my fridge ready to eat at all times.  I particularly like the 70% to 85% dark chocolate and bonus points if it has sea salt in it!  This bar didn’t quite live up to the hype in my head.  The texture is very chalky and didn’t have that melt in your mouth quality.  I will say that their cookie products are way better than this bar tasted.

Wannabe Vegan: 3/10  ~  Omnivore:  3/10

Enjoy Life – Rice Milk Chocolate

This bar is a rice milk alternative to a classic milk chocolate bar like Hershey’s for example.  Simple – just a bar of solid chocolate.  It certainly isn’t as dry as the other two Enjoy Life bars and did melt in our mouths a little bit more.  It didn’t have quite the same creaminess as traditional milk chocolate, but it isn’t gritty or chalky like the dark chocolate version.  It is a little too sweet for my taste personally.

Wannabe Vegan: 4/10  ~  Omnivore:  5/10

Enjoy Life – Rice Milk Crunch

Do you remember Nestle Crunch bars?  That’s exactly what I thought it tasted like.  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve eaten one, but I feel like it’s a really good copy cat product.  My husband, on the other hand, wasn’t as much of a fan.  He thought the chocolate still had a dry taste, but he did like the crunch of the rice to break up the flavor more.  I will also state that this product does contain honey in the rice crisps not the chocolate per the nutrition label.  Honey is a subject that many debate over its classification so use your own judgement there.

Wannabe Vegan: 7/10  ~  Omnivore:  4/10

Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

Obviously, we all know what this product is made to mimic – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.  I’m confident in saying that if you never liked Reese’s – you can’t be trusted.  It is a perfect match.  I had very high hopes for this product.  I already know I like the flavor combination and I particularly love dark chocolate the best.  This particular pack is filled with the mini size product, but I have seen them in trick-or-treat sized portions at stores like Target.  Have you ever tried a PB2 product?  That peanut butter that’s a powder form since the fat has been removed.  That’s what it tastes like inside the dark chocolate exterior.  It’s missing that melt in your mouth texture and the creaminess of the peanut butter isn’t there.  Not my favorite treat at all.

Wannabe Vegan: 4/10  ~  Omnivore:  4/10

Happy Halloween y’all!

We are Southern after all.

Grits.

Possibly my family’s favorite carb dish.  As Southerners, grits can be considered it’s own food group for the most part.  You can sugar them if you like the sweeter side of life or season with salt and butter for a savory flavor which is right up my alley.  Some even like cheese melted on top hot off the stove top.  Whatever you like, they can easily be made vegan with little altering.  We can eat them with the whole breakfast buffet spread or simply with grilled shrimp (in a previous life, of course).  I still associate grits with meat even more than two years later after giving up meat, but why I love grits so much is that I NEVER had to give them up when I stopped eating animals.  I just had to make some easy substitutions which I’ll explain later.

Whenever I find a new meat substitute, my first thought is “Does it go with grits?”  Even at my rural, small town grocery chain, I was actually able to find two new varieties of products on my last shopping excursion.  Unfortunately, they are only vegetarian, but with a $3.00 coupon – it was hard to pass up.  The product we tried this week was Quorn’s Meat-free Sausages (Chicken & Apple style).  I used to eat the chicken version frequently for breakfast with grits actually so I immediately thought it would be perfect for a savory dinner.   For the health side of things, each sausage has 140 calories, 6 grams of fat, less than 5 mg of cholesterol (there are egg whites in this product), 10 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber and 9 grams of protein.

Quorn Meat-Free Sausages

We decided to cook ours in a skillet on the stove top with a tiny bit of coconut oil and they were done in about 10 minutes.  I served them along side grits, of course, that I seasoned with vegan butter, salt and pepper.  Grist really are the perfect accompaniment for anything.  I love caramelized onions with mushrooms and they added so much flavor to dish.  No meal is complete without a green so our classic go-to is always broccoli.

Now about the taste, we have tried a competitor (Field Roast) that really holds the market on meat products like this as well as one of two of the best vegan cheeses that I have tried (Chao).  I preferred the texture of the Field Roast sausages over the Quorn.  It didn’t have a lot of that fake smoke flavoring that everyone else is so fond of, but it did hit a lot of savory notes.  My husband thought it had the perfect texture while I thought it was a bit on the squishy side, but the sausages didn’t leave a weird aftertaste or gritty feel in our mouths.  These are attributes that I didn’t really question when I was a meat eater, but now when I recognize them it makes me get a little creeped out by the realism behind the product like when we tried the Beyond Burger.  Overall, it was a good product that we will probably purchase again.

Omnivore Rating: 8/10 ~ Wannabe Vegan Rating: 6/10

Bye y’all!

I Triple-Dog Dare You.

Have you ever bought something because it intrigued you so much, but kind of creeped you out and you were scared to try it?  Maybe if someone dared me – that would be my excuse.  Well, I bought a pack of vegan jerky.   Yes, you read that right – VEGAN jerky.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing!  Now I’ve had the occasional beef jerky, buffalo chicken jerky and even venison from friends, but could a vegan jerky be made with the same texture?  That is the #1 thing that I’m suspect about – not that I’m fond of jerky texture or taste even when I did eat meat.  There’s only one way to know – we are triple-dog-daring ourselves to try it!

Let’s talk about the product itself.  I opted for a brand that had pretty decent reviews already – Louisville Vegan Jerky Co.  It does come in a variety of flavors – Smokey Carolina BBQ, Siracha Maple, Smoked Black Pepper, and Smoked Chipotle.  My personal preference for BBQ is Carolina style with lots of vinegar and mustard so naturally that’s the flavor I chose to experiment with in this review.  In reading the history on the creation of vegan jerky, it appears that it was a mistake (a delicious one they claim) when the creator over cooked his tofu in the oven.  The positives are that the bag is a great source of on-the-go plant protein, only 80 calories per serving, non-gmo, gluten free, and they are still made in small batches with lots of care.

 

So what does it really taste like?  Can soy really taste like beef?  For this review, I had to include my husband who regularly eats jerky since he’s on the road traveling a lot for work.  I haven’t had any in probably 3 years or so.  First off, the storage is a little different.  The product has to be refrigerated after opened, but the package is small so you’d probably eat it in a sitting anyway if you were in a snacky mood.  The jerky isn’t as dry as the traditional counterpart and the evidence of the bold seasoning is left behind on your fingers.  The seasoning was very flavorful and I loved the punch of the vinegar/mustard combo.  My husband felt the texture was pretty close to the traditional, but wasn’t crazy about the flavor.  Maybe a spicier variety would have suited him a little better.  Overall, I think I would purchase this again especially to try other varieties.

Omnivore Rating: 6/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan: 8/10

Bye y’all!

Fall is coming…

Fall is my favorite time of year.  I wait and wait all year for it to get here with its tell-tale signs – my news feed is flooded with families sporting their football team’s logos on their front stoops, the leaves begin to change, and the air turns cool.  One of my family’s favorite things to do is take road trips into the mountains to see the leaves from the sky.  It looks so surreal – almost like a painting.  What’s the first thing you think of when you hear road trip?  Personally, our top items are music and snacks!  This week, I’m going to review a few new snacks I found to see if they are road trip worthy snacks!

Hippeas – Vegan White Cheddar Flavor

These little chickpea puffs are reminiscent of a cheese doodle from childhood.  They come in a variety of flavors – White Cheddar, Far Out Fajita, Sriracha Sunshine, Maple Haze, Pepper Power, and Happenin’ Hickory.  All of the varieties are organic, non-gmo, gluten free, full of fiber and VEGAN!  I picked up this pack on Thrive.com, but you can order them at places like Amazon (I mean really – what don’t they have in stock?), Albertsons, Wegmans, Starbucks, and Whole Foods.  These are a lot heartier than the traditional counterpart with a more subtle flavor.  I really had to eat a few of them to really taste any “cheese” flavor.

Ominvore Rating: 5/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 6/10

Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips – Nacho Flavor

This is the answer for the Doritos lovers out there.  These chips come in multiple varieties like Nacho, Sea Salt, Pico de Gallo, Jalapeno Nacho, White Bean, Black Bean, and Barbecue.  All of Beanfields chips are vegan and gluten free as well as non-gmo and kosher.  This is the perfect road food treat to pack in your car.  The texture of these chips is so good – light and airy with a hint of beans!  We have to confess that we have tried them before, but in a different flavor – Pico de Gallo.  We both agreed that the Pico de Gallo won us over while the Nacho didn’t quite hit the spot for us, but it won’t stop us from finishing the bag!

Omnivore Rating: 7/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan: 7/10

I Heart Keenwah – Dark Chocolate Puff with Himalayan Pink Salt

Finally, now that the cooler air is coming in, we can have chocolate on road trips without fear of coming back to melted chocolate  covered seats!  This is a great snack to pop in your mouth while on a road trip.  This company provides a variety of quinoa products like these puffs, toasted quinoa, hot cereal, quinoa clusters and even tote bags to promote your quinoa pride.  This variety came to me in a previous month’s Vegan Cuts box.  If you don’t get these snack boxes, I highly recommend you check them out here!   It’s well worth the money and you will get to try a lot of new snacks that you may not have found or purchased otherwise.  This was the winner of the day!  Dark chocolate and sea salt is my favorite dessert combination no matter what form it is presented so it was love at first bite for me.  My husband, who hates this combination, couldn’t rate it quick enough though!  This is a MUST HAVE for any road trip!  It may have just become a pantry staple in our household!

Omnivore Rating: 10/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 10/10

Bye y’all!

Happy Birthday!

Back Roads & Mason Jars is officially ONE year old!

As I think about all my past birthdays, they all include one thing – sweet treats.  As a young child, the classic sheet cake decorated with roses, candles, and my name in brightly colored icing was a staple at all of my roller skating parties.  I even had a cat that got into my cake the night before my party because she couldn’t contain her excitement for a midnight snack.  As I grew up, the super sweet cake was replaced by homemade strawberry rhubarb cobbler – still my all time favorite birthday dessert.  In addition to presents, my mom would also wake me up on the morning of my birthday with a card and a small treat for the day.  It was always the same thing, but there were lots of variations over the years.  That thing was gummy treats!  Gummy bears.  Gummy worms. Gummy Sharks.  Gummy coke bottles. Sour Patch Kids. Watermelon slices.  Gummy frogs.  Peach rings.  I loved them all!  What better way to celebrate Back Roads & Mason Jars than with a VEGAN gummy review!  After all, I’ve had LOTS of experience tasting every gummy bear I could get my hands on!

J. Luehder’s of Germany

I picked up this treat at a Starbuck’s inside of a Barnes & Noble.  It was right next the register and is clearly proud of its vegan label!  I got two flavor varieties – Fruity Flowers & Red Berries.  They are free of gelatin as well as artificial colors and flavors.  The flavors are better than the texture.  They are more like fruit snacks than a gummy.  We both preferred the Fruity Flower variety a little more than the Red Berries.  My husband hates cherry flavoring because of some childhood trauma of cherry Tylenol, but they do pack a lot of flavor into each bite.

Omnivore Rating: 6/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 5/10

 

Surf Sweets – Watermelon Rings

These were a late night impulse purchase from Whole Foods to complete my vegan junk food buggy.  I remember eating a peach flavored ring like this as a child.  Wearing them as rings on your fingers was a requirement before you could actually eat them.  I also LOVE all things watermelon flavored even though none of them actually taste like watermelons.  I was disappointed in this product.  The texture was a little weird and mushy with a lot sugar crystals coated on the ring that made it too sweet for us.

Omnivore Rating: 4/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 4/10

 

Trader Joe’s Scandinavian Swimmers

I love that Trader Joe’s has so many vegan treats and most of them are labeled as such.  These mock ups of Swedish Fish are naturally vegan just like the brand name, but with a lower price tag!  I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a bad product from Trader Joe’s so my expectations are high for this one.  Trader Joe’s came through with a win on this one!  The flavor is spot on to the brand name competitor, but they don’t get stuck in your teeth as bad.  It’s the perfect treat for a movie night at home with some of your favorite popcorn!

Omnivore Rating: 9/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 9/10

 

CVS Gold Emblem – Sour and Regular Gummy Bears

I was very surprised to find these in my small town local CVS.  They also advertise that they are  free from artificial flavors, colors, gelatin, fat and GMO’s.  I love traditional gummy bears, but my husband likes the sour side a little more so we thought this was the perfect compromise to try!  The plain gummy bears were nothing like the real thing and made us very sad.  The Sour Gummy candy made up for it though!  This was my favorite product of the day by far.  It’s not overpowering with sourness and has a nice balance between sweet and sour.

 

SOUR Gummy Candy: Omnivore Rating: 9/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 10/10

Gummy Bears: Omnivore Rating: 3/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 2/10

 

Black Forest Organic Sour Heads – Watermelon

Most of the Black Forest product line is not vegan, but their version of “Sour Patch Kids” are naturally vegan.  They appear to be a healthier option with labels like Organic, Non-GMO and natural colors.  This is the watermelon flavor I was expecting with the rings!  This has the watermelon punch you are looking for and provides a nice texture for a gummy candy.

Omnivore Rating: 8/10  ~  Wannabe Vegan Rating: 9/10

 

Bye y’all!

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