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back roads and mason jars

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back roads and mason jars

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!

It takes 21 days…

Ever since I could remember, I have never been a fan of “the most important meal of the day” and I believe my health has suffered some as a result.  I was never a huge fan of the buffet style with bacon, sausage and eggs, but I do like a waffle topped with fruit on the weekends every once in a while.  I simply would just drink water or a diet soda until lunch time.

I’ve tried pretty much every “diet” on the market over the years starting as early as the 6th grade from what I remember and even took more drastic steps to improve my health.  There’s a huge problem with that statement.  They were all diets.  Diets don’t work.  They kept me in a vicious cycle of starting over every Monday morning.

I was sick and tired of starting over every Monday so I took a chance and joined a challenge group for 21 days of eating clean and committing to working out in the convenience of my own home.  What could I lose?  (Hint – it’s inches!)

It takes 21 days to change a habit.

Three Mondays.

Three weekends.

That’s it.  If I can make it through three Mondays in a row without starting over, that could change everything.

In July, I started changing my eating habits by focusing on a portioned eating plan.  Nothing complicated.  I just followed one simple rule – if it fits, I EAT it!  I refocused on whole, plant based foods while planning my meals.  I prepped most of my meals on Sunday to make dinners easier for my family as well.  I never once felt deprived during the challenge.  I even had my favorite vegan sushi with no guilt at all.  I had the flexibility to make the program work for me.

At the beginning of August, I added fitness into my days as well as a better breakfast option.  The 21 Day Fix Program was suggested as a good starting point for my journey by my coach, but was plenty challenging for my fitness level!  At the beginning of the month, I had to modify most of the movements, but I gave it 100% of my effort.  By the end of the program, I was able to do all of the moves with weights!  By the end of August, I was down a total of 24 lbs from July 1st and 19 inches were lost in August alone!  As I’m writing this, I have gotten heavier weights to use during my round two of the 21-day fix program which started Monday.  That’s right – I didn’t stop after three Mondays!

During this time, I tried having breakfast every day for 21 days and it made all the difference in my lifestyle and how I felt.  I had more energy, felt lighter and the shake was just a great tasting way to start my day.  I purchased a one-month supply of Vegan Vanilla Shakeology which allowed me to have a combination of protein, healthy carbohydrates, and fiber along with a variety of nutritious superfoods all in one shake that I could grab and go with no hassle to keep me full for hours.

 

Maybe this would be the thing to get me to enjoy the most important meal of the day.

 

In addition to the one month supply, I ordered a single packet of each of the four vegan varieties offered by Beachbody – Vanilla, Chocolate, Tropical Strawberry and Café Latte.  The vanilla base is pretty much great with any additions you like to add like frozen fruit, greens or even coffee.  The chocolate version is sure to fix any sweet tooth addict and is delicious with a little bit of peanut butter. Tropical strawberry is a fruit lover’s dream and can trick you into thinking you are having that milkshake you love.  Café Latte is sure to replace that crazy-high-calorie version you know you like drink way too much.

Below are a few of my favorite recipe creations so far!  If you would like to follow my journey or are interested in learning more, check out my Beachbody page here.

Recipes

Blueberry Muffin

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 cup of frozen blueberries

1 cup spinach

1 scoop of vegan vanilla Shakeology

 

Peanut Butter Cup

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 tbsp of peanut butter (or your favorite nut butter)

1 scoop of vegan chocolate Shakeology

 

Cherry Vanilla

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1 cup of frozen dark cherries

1 scoop of vegan vanilla Shakeology

 

 

Café Frappe

1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

1/2 of cold brew coffee

1 scoop of vegan vanilla Shakeology

A handful or two of ice cubes

 

Daytime Daiquiri

1 cup unsweetened vanilla coconut milk

1 cup of frozen pineapple

1 scoop of vegan tropical strawberry Shakeology

Bye y’all!

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