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back roads and mason jars

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back roads and mason jars

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!

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!

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