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back roads and mason jars

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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!

“I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt…”

Summer means taking family vacations.  It means spending time with friends and family over food and an ice cold beer.  It means Saturday morning trips to your local farmer’s market.  It means singing your lungs out at an outdoor concert to your favorite artists.  Whether it is with a pool party, lazy beach days or outdoor barbecues, summer is sure to bring out your family, friends and your favorite foods.  This summer I was fortunate enough to discover a brand new product from a friend that inspires me to be a better vegan.

 

During her event, I tasted one of the best vegan products I’ve tried to date.  That product was Morning Star Farms Veggie Pulled Pork.  As soon as I got home from the trip, I immediately started looking at store locations that sold this product.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t available in my small town, but my husband was able to finally find them at our closest Wegman’s.  This is probably one of the easiest products to cook as well.

 

Place your frozen Morning Star Veggie Pulled Pork in your Crock-Pot with a jar of your favorite BBQ sauce.  It really is that simple.  I recommend cooking it on high for about 4 hours.  I used a Carolina style sauce with a punch of vinegar and spice.  You could serve this with all the BBQ sides like baked beans, cole slaw, etc.  We decided to keep dinner simple this night and just serve it alongside some baked Alexia Onion Rings.

Bye y’all!

I Scream, You Scream…

We all scream for Ice Cream!

Who doesn’t love ice cream?!  As a kid, I loved having ice cream treats on the weekend while watching TGIFriday’s sitcoms with my Mom.  My favorite treat was always vanilla or strawberry ice cream with Magic Shell.  With the summers in Virginia starting to heat up, I couldn’t think of anything better than a cool, ice cream treat.  There have been a lot of vegan ice creams on the market lately including Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen Dazs, and Breyers.  Some companies have made huge announcements while others just released their products into stores without anyone knowing.  Breyers did latter when releasing their two vegan, dairy free ice cream options.  Breyers’ options are both almond milk based ice creams in Oreo and Vanilla Peanut Butter flavors.  In case you didn’t know already, yes – Oreos are vegan.  You’re welcome.

My husband and I decided to try the Vanilla Peanut Butter flavor since I’m not a big fan of Oreos.  We have tried some other vegan ice cream options and they’ve been hit or miss on flavor, but more importantly, they’ve lacked the right texture.  In our experience, the texture tends to be icy and not creamy like the traditional counterpart.  Breyers did not miss anything in their vegan treat.  The vanilla flavor is very strong while the peanut butter swirl adds a flavor twist that begs to be paired with a vegan chocolate magic shell.  So that’s exactly what we did!

To make a vegan version of magic shell, melt a 1/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips with 1/2 a teaspoon of coconut oil over a double boiler on your stove top.  Keep stirring as it melts to keep it from burning as well as not letting the bottom of the bowl touch the boiling water.  Once it is fully melted, pour over your ice cream and enjoy!

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

Bye y’all!

Thriving with Online Shopping

I have seen a lot of information about Thrive Market lately – Facebook ads, YouTube videos and blog reviews.  I finally decided to see what the hype was about it and if it was really worth it.  I mean – I love saving money especially on products that I know are good quality for my family.  You’ll even ship it to my house where I can shop in my pajamas? Sign me up!

The Fine Print

Thrive Market advertises to sell you the same products you currently purchase, but at drastically lower prices.  It is a membership – kind of like Amazon or Sam’s Club.  The annual membership is currently $59.95, but you do have the option to sign up for a FREE 30 day trial membership which you can cancel at anytime.  Thrive Market advertises FREE shipping on all orders over $49 too!  I don’t know about you, but Amazon Prime has totally spoiled me on the actual cost of shipping.  Thrive Market also has a Savings Guarantee on their membership cost versus your dollars in savings.  If you don’t save the whole membership fee throughout the year, Thrive Market will refund you the difference so you really have nothing to lose!

The Website

From the moment I saw the website, I was impressed.  The first click that caught my eye was the option to search by Values.  Thrive Market has already divided up all their product offerings into these Values – Gluten-Free, Moms, Paleo, Raw, Staples, and VEGAN!  No thinking is required.  No reading through every ingredient trying to determine if it’s vegan.  I know that all the products in that value category are indeed vegan.  I can’t tell you the amount of time I’ve wasted in a grocery store trying to decipher ingredient lists and allergen labels to find out if I can buy something.

In addition to the ease of use, the company is centered on good values as a whole.  They give back to families that can’t afford a membership to allow them access to good, quality products.  In their Thrive Gives program, for every membership that is purchased – one is donated to a low-income family where the assistance is needed.  A stipend to spend on groceries is also granted in circumstances that are appropriate.

My Experience

Since this was my first order and experience with Thrive Market, I took my time and looked through every product offering on the Vegan Values.  I had a small list of items that I knew I was running low on in my pantry, but I found so many more products that I wanted to take advantage of especially for future blog postings!  I was really impressed with the selection that they offered from skincare to junk food to baby products and aluminum foil.  The big difference from other websites I’ve used like VeganEssentials.com (which is amazing too!) is that Thrive Market doesn’t appear to carry cold or frozen products.  I submitted my order at night on July 11, it was shipped to me on July 17 and it was on my doorstep on July 18.  Below are photos of all 20 products that I purchased in this order for a total of $79.41 and a savings of $70.15!  Not too bad for my first experience!

Desert Essence Coconut Hand/Body Lotion, Everyday Coconut Body Wash & Everyday Coconut Face Wash
Mary’s Gone Crackers Super Seed & Herb Crakers
Bragg Nutritional Yeast
Annie Chun’s Pad Thai Rice Noodles
Purple Potato & Brown Rice Ramen and Millet & Brown Rice Ramen
Spectrum Organic Ground Chia Seeds, Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts, Spectrum Organic Ground Flaxseed
Vegan White Cheddar Hippeas, Louisville Vegan Smokey Carolina BBQ Jerky, Beanfields Nacho Chips
Upton’s Naturals – Bar-B-Que and Chili Lime Carnitas Jackfruit
Deva Vitamins – Multivitamin, Cal-Mag Plus, B12

 

Based on my savings so far, I think that a membership will be extremely beneficial for my family living vegan/vegetarian in a small town.  Some of these products are very hard to find in such a rural area and this will eliminate pricey shipping when I order online in the future or gas to drive to the nearest city for these essentials.  If you would like to give Thrive Market a try as well, use my link below to save 15% on your first order!

http://thrv.me/backroadsandmasonjars

Bye y’all!

 

But first…coffee.

It’s 6:30 a.m.

Your alarm is going off and you’ve probably already hit snooze once (Who am I kidding? At least 3 times!).

The dog is snuggled up so close to you that you can’t move without waking him – which you wouldn’t dare do.

The husband is still asleep with his own alarms buzzing as he quickly hits snooze himself.

In your head, you run through all the things you want to accomplish for the day and then it stops.

Immediately you realize, you need coffee.

“I can’t stop drinking the coffee. I stop drinking the coffee, I stop doing the standing and the walking and the words putting into the sentence doing.”

-Lorelai, Gilmore Girls

Admittedly, I am not a huge coffee drinker.  In fact, most of my habits are on a yearly rotation.  I like coffee for a few months, but then I’ve moved on to smoothies and before I know it, I’m starting my day with tea.  The rotation is a cycle that repeats itself year after year.  In the summer, I love to have an iced coffee most mornings.  That’s another thing – I don’t drink my coffee hot ever, but I will drink my tea iced or hot.  This is a lot to remember if you are married to me – thankfully my husband can keep up!  I haven’t used or purchased dairy milk for any purpose in probably 2 years now.  However, my husband still uses a dairy coffee creamer for his daily coffee.  Since he is a coffee addict, we thought we’d explore some vegan options that are newer to the market.

Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss Almond Milk Creamer – Hazelnut Flavor

In early 2017, Coffee-Mate announced that it would be releasing a few vegan coffee creamer alternatives.  According to their website, they make 3 almond milk based versions and 1 coconut based versions.  The flavors are Sweet Creme, Caramel, Hazelnut and Vanilla.  The Hazelnut flavor is a Target exclusive item so we picked one up on our last trip.  Hazelnut is also my husband’s favorite flavor.  I personally feel like I would have to use too much of this to get the flavor I like in my coffee.  I prefer my usual iced coffee with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and a little bit of sugar sprinkled in.  We did taste a hazelnut flavor though.  I would like to find the Sweet Creme Coconut based version to try sometime in the future though!  My husband still prefers his non-vegan version that’s a bit stronger so we’ll be on the lookout for more options.

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

 

Califia Farms – Salted Caramel Cold Brew Coffee

Confession time: I have purchased this product several times so I already knew what my rating would be, but I’ve never told you!  I love anything and everything salted caramel flavor.  I love the creaminess and sweetness that this coffee brings to my mornings.  My husband, on the other hand, hates it.  He humored me for this review and did try it though. He did ask where the coffee was in the drink, because he said the salted caramel flavor overpowered the coffee which I don’t mind one bit.  Since this item is a little pricey for an everyday purchase, I do buy it every now and then.   Keep in mind – for companies to keep producing these items, we have to let them know that we want them and like them.  The easiest way to do this is through your purchases.  To learn more, check out their website.

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

 

Ripple – Chocolate Milk

I know there are tons of people out there that don’t enjoy coffee or maybe have kids that need a morning pick-me-up.  We decided to also check out a new line of dairy free milk that’s been released to the marketplace called Ripple.  It’s a pea protein based milk product and all of the varieties offered are vegan!  This product boasts 8 grams of protein, less sugar than traditional milk, and nut free which can be a challenge for vegans with nut allergies.  We weren’t too crazy about this product.  The mouth feel and weight is similar to that of traditional chocolate milk (from what I remember), but it has a protein shake aftertaste that we just couldn’t love.  This is our first experience with pea protein with the exception of the Vega smoothie powder I add in my shakes from time to time.

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

Bye y’all!

 

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