Coffee-Mate Natural Bliss Almond Milk Creamer

I have a confession to make, I have a bit of an attachment to coffee. I have a hard time starting my day without it. There was a few years where I swapped a cup of coffee for a green smoothie, but sweet aroma of coffee called me back. When I see a vegan creamer, I try it out because I love knowing my options. I would prefer not to just have a vegan milk, but an actual creamer because it is thicker and creamier than a milk. When I saw that Coffee-mate was coming out with a line of non-dairy creamers, I was intrigued. I prefer my coffee without sugar or sweet creamers, but it is nice for a treat every so often. I have fond memories of drinking coffee-mate flavored creamers when visiting my sister-in-law. It was always a treat for me since we bought unsweetened creamers. Up until recently, the world of vegan creamers was mostly limited to unflavored soy. I was ok staying in that world, but so many options have been popping up that I have been venturing out.

coffee-mate bottle with seal

 

ProductNatural Bliss Almond Milk Creamer by Coffee-Mate

Overall Grade: B+/A-*

Pros:

  • This tastes very similar to coffee-mate dairy creamers, from what I can remember.
  • There are several flavor choices in non dairy: caramel, vanilla, hazelnut, sweet creme
  • They are easy for me to find locally at Target and Kroger.
  • They were comparable in price to other flavored vegan creamers.
  • No gluten, soy, or GMOs.
  • I did not taste an overwhelming almond flavor that I do in almond milk and creamers. I do not prefer an almond milk flavor in coffee, so this was a nice change.
  • Usually almond creamer takes quite a bit of product to lighten my coffee. This creamer lightened it with about the size of a listed serving on the bottle.
  • The creamers were $2.37 on sale at Target. They seemed in line with, if not a little cheaper than other vegan creamers.

coffee-mate and coffee

Cons:

  • I tried the caramel one and it is very sweet. This could only make an appearance in my coffee on occasion. This could be a pro if you like your coffee extra sweet.
  • I didn’t see a plain or unsweetened flavor in stores or on the website. I really wish they come out with that option as I would be more likely to buy it.

 

*I struggled with grading this creamer. If you are looking for it to taste like a sweet creamer, then this gets an A. The sweetness in this creamer was a bit much for me, but I enjoyed the flavor. My grade leans more toward a B for this reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Chocolate Holiday Treat!

Do you remember those popular chocolate hazelnut truffles? They aren’t vegan. Pretty disappointing, I know. I’ve been longing for a vegan version and finally Sjaak’s has come through.

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Product: Sjaak’s Melk Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Overall Grade: A+

Pros:

  • These are incredible. They have a smooth milky-chocolate hazelnut taste just like I remember.
  • Organic
  • Gluten free
  • Soy free

Cons:

  • I don’t know if this is a true con, but they don’t have the delicate crunchy shell that I remember the non-vegan version had.
  • Slightly pricey ay 11.99 for a box of 9, but you get what you pay for. These are definitely worth it for a gourmet, nostalgic holiday treat!
  • I wish they were more widely available. I purchased from VeganEssentials.com but I would love to see them in Whole Foods some day!

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Square Bars

I love a good vegan snack bar. Bonus points for it being organic AND gluten free! Square Bars have definitely made it to my favorite list.

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Product: Squarebar
Overall Grade: A
Pros: 
  • Delicious! They taste like a less sweet version of a candy bar
  • Organic
  • Gluten-free
  • They have great flavors – the peanut butter and mint are the best
Cons: 
  • On the pricey side ($3 each at the store, however if you order a case on their website and use a coupon code, it can be less than $2 each depending on the sale or coupon code)
  • Not easy to find locally. The only store that I have seen them at is Whole Foods
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What Cookie Monster Would Eat – Day 24

When I was in the third grade, I had this obsession with Sesame Street records.  Yes, third grade…stop judging. Our local public library had two of them.  You were allowed to check out one record at a time for a week.  So I alternated between the two of them.  I’m not sure how long this went on, but I’d guess about six months.  My parents probably felt like it was six years.

Of course, one of my favorite songs was the classic “C is for Cookie” by Cookie Monster.  Just in case you’ve been living under a rock since the 70s, you weren’t allowed to watch TV as a child, or you just want to reminisce with me for a few minutes, here’s the video.

Despite Sesame Street’s later attempts at giving Cookie Monster a little more self control, we know it’s all about the cookie for him.  So, if Cookie Monster were a (gluten-free) vegan, I think he’d be eating the Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunchy Cookie.

C is for Cookie (vegan, gluten-free ones!)
C is for Cookie (vegan, gluten-free ones, of course!)

I have this theory that the choice to have cookie monster eat regular chocolate chip cookies was purely a cinematic one*.  That blonde color shows up against his blue fur much better than a dark brown cookie would.  But in real life (no, I’m not completely crazy, I do kinda know he’s a puppet), I think he’d have been all about the double chocolate.

It’s no secret to people that have talked to me about vegan, gluten free products for more than 20 seconds that I’m not typically a fan of boxed vegan, gluten free cookies.  I waiver between thinking the companies don’t have taste testers and the taste testers have been without gluten for so long that they’ll eat anything round that has a little sugar in it.  My homemade ones are better any day.

I’m not a fan of the soft Enjoy Life cookies.  I was hesitant to try the crunchy ones.  But, the first time I saw them, it was a little 2-cookie pack at a discount store, so I figured I’d give it a whirl.  I’m sure glad I did.  YUMMY!

The double chocolate ones have a deep rich chocolate taste, just bordering on too sweet for me (but not for my sweet-toothed sister).  I can bake a soft cookie, but I’ve never gotten the crispy chocolate chip cookie down.  Enjoy Life has.  It’s crunchy without being dry and crumbly.

My sister even had the crazy idea to heat it up. I predicted either a disintegrated mess or a hockey puck.  I was wrong.  Wrapped in a damp paper towel and heated for 10 seconds, you get a softer cookie with ooey gooey chocolate chips (you lose a little bit of them to the paper towel).  I prefer room temperature or even cold baked goods, but if hot is how you roll, it’s not completely out of the question here.

Despite whatever issues you’ve had with prepackaged cookies in the past, try the Enjoy Life Crunchy cookies (be careful, some varieties have honey).  I predict you’ll be glad you did.

*Ok, in the interest of honesty, while I do have *a lot* of theories, this isn’t really one of them.  I just had to make up some reason that this was a double chocolate cookie since the store was out of the originals 😉

 

 

Day 23 – Autumn Eats

It’s that time of year! I’ve finally found some autumn-y products to try! This is a review of 2 awesome vegan autumn eats/drinks… Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice Latte and Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate in the Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt flavor.

 

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First up is the Califia Farms Pumpkin Spice Latte. I really love this one. It tastes more like pumpkin than coffee, so if you’re not a huge coffee fan, don’t let that scare you away. It’s spiced perfectly, too. I love that it’s sweetened with pure cane sugar, instead of stevia like many of the other seasonal non-dairy drinks. (I’m not a fan of stevia)

 

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Next is the Bark Thins Snacking Chocolate in the Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Seed with Sea Salt flavor. At first I thought the combination of chocolate and pumpkin seeds was strange, but I decided to buy it anyways. There were 3 taste testers and it was a big hit with all 3 of us. The chocolate was rich and dark and it worked perfectly with the pumpkin seeds.

 

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Happy MoFo’ing!

Day 16 – Easy Strawberry Shortcake

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Strawberry shortcake is one of my favorite summer dishes (not just late summer, but ALL summer!)

These 3 products make it simple enough for anyone to whip up (no pun intended) this awesome dessert! I was going to save it for the end, but why wait? Here’s what my end result looked like. It tasted pretty fabulous.

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I started out by making the Eat Pastry Gluten-Free Biscuit Mix. The biscuits had a really good flavor, but they were a bit on the crumbly side. For strawberry shortcake, that was not a problem. However, if I had had my heart set on using them for biscuit sandwiches, it would not have met my expectations. I should also mention that I used almond milk in the mix. I wonder if soy milk or a different non-dairy milk would have made a difference. The mix itself was very easy to make. All you need to do is cut in some Earth Balance, add some non-dairy milk, and then bake.

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My next step was the strawberry mixture. I cut up some fresh strawberries, added about 3/4 of a jar of Organic Bionaturae Strawberry Spread, and a few tablespoons of water. The spread sweetened the strawberry mixture and gave it the perfect flavor. The water thinned it out a little bit so that it soaked into the biscuit.

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Last but not least… the whipped ‘cream’. I used Soyatoo! Soy Whip. This is a whippable soy cream that comes in a box. Here is what the product looked like right out of the box.

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After about 2-3 minutes of whipping in my stand mixer, it looked like this!

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The Soy Whip was light, fluffy, and slightly sweet. Perfection! I do want to mention that it’s important to use the whisk attachment. I started out by using the regular stand mixer paddle and it was not whipping up. Once I switched attachments, it was magic.

I layered all three of these together and it was a great success. The strawberry mix soaked into the savory biscuits and the cream was a much anticipated treat!

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Happy MoFo’ing!

My Favorite Cookbook (and more Peanut Butter) – Day 12

Happy Saturday, everyone!  When I read the Vegan MoFo prompt for today was writing about my favorite cookbook, I immediately thought I should write about Appetite for Reduction.  It’s full of hearty, healthy recipes made from real food and are pretty easy to make. Some of my favorite dinner recipes come from that book, including Arabian Lentil & Rice Soup and Unfried Rice, so clearly that must be my favorite cookbook.

But then I took a good, long look in the mirror (figuratively) and realized if I wrote about Appetite for Reduction, I’d be a big ol’ liar.  You can see the truth about someone by looking at how they live, not by listening to what they say.  So, if you were to take a look through my cookbooks and checked for the number of recipes I’ve used and repeated and the number of pages that are stained from being dripped on, you’d find that my actual favorite cookbook is Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar (VCIYCJ) by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero.

 

You see, I have a very specific sweets hierarchy.  From the bottom up, it’s cake, pie, candy, ice cream and way at the top is cookies.  When you’re vegan and have allergies to gluten and soy, good cookies are hard to come by.  VCIYCJ and some experimenting with gluten free flours changed all that for me.

My sister and I now have a big pre-Christmas baking day where we bake about 15-20 dozen cookies of all different kinds.  There are people who wait for their basket every year now and get so excited when delivery day arrives.

 

Christmas Cookie Basket
Christmas Cookie Basket from 2013. Most of them are gluten-free versions of recipes from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

 

VCIYCJ doesn’t just sit around waiting for the holiday season.  While I don’t bake a ton just for me, for pretty much any occasion I’ll say “I can bring cookies”   Any excuse will do to try a new cookie or to break out a favorite.

This week I had three reasons!  It was time for another product review, it was my 8 year veggieversary, and my office just moved and I’m trying to take a little something for each of our new neighbors to help form good relationships…cookies fit the bill for all of those.

I recently had my food allergies/sensitivities retested and after several years, I no longer have a sensitivity to oats.  Hello, reason number four: oatmeal cookies!  I went to my trusty (and might I say adorable) VCIYCJ in search of the proper recipe.

 

It's not just filled with yumminess, it's so cute with it's glossy cover and nearly square format.
VCIYCJ is not just filled with yumminess, it’s so cute with it’s glossy cover and nearly square format.  She’s got two equally adorable sisters that focus on pies & cupcakes.

 

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the reviewers here at Veggie Product Reviews are big peanut butter fans, and we’re always ready to try a new one.  Could it be that VCIYCJ even has a peanut butter oatmeal cookie recipe?  YES, it does!  No fancy name for them either… just Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.  If you haven’t purchased this book yet (why?), you can find the recipe in the Amazon “Look Inside” feature on the book’s listing.

I picked up a peanut butter that is new to me: Earth Balance Coconut Peanut Spread.  I tasted it in my typical manner of eating peanut butter…on a spoon.  I had a little brain/taste bud disconnect at first because it looks like peanut butter but it tastes like coconut.  I moved past that pretty quickly because I actually really like peanut butter and coconut together.  My only complaints in eating it this way were that it felt a little dry (nothing a drink of water wouldn’t cure) and occasionally I got small sugar granules instead of a perfect creaminess.

 

Earth Balance Coconut & Peanut Spread
Earth Balance Coconut & Peanut Spread

I also tried it sandwich style (ok, it was a folded over pancake) with a little jelly.  It was delicious this way.  The coconut wasn’t overpowering and I didn’t notice the little problems I’d had earlier in texture.

But, in these cookies, oh, in these cookies…this peanut butter was exactly perfect.  They would now be Peanut Butter – Coconut – Oatmeal Cookies.  Oh, I’m there.

It’s super simple, use the original recipe* and just replace the regular pb with the Earth Balance Coconut & Peanut Spread, leave out the cinnamon, and add some unsweetened shredded coconut to the chopped peanuts for the topping so people will know what they’re getting.  They are getting a cookie that is crispy, almost caramel-y from the brown sugar, coconutty, peanutty and altogether delicious.

 

Peanut Butter Coconut Oatmeal Cookies, adapted from VCIYCJ using Earth Balance Coconut and Peanut Spread
Peanut Butter Coconut Oatmeal Cookies, adapted from VCIYCJ using Earth Balance Coconut and Peanut Spread

 

While the Earth Balance Coconut and Peanut Spread won’t replace plain peanut butter in my pantry, it has won a spot right next to it if for nothing other than baking.

 

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*If you’re gluten free like me, the flour mixture I used that worked so well is 2/3 cup of sorghum flour (my go to when whole wheat pastry flour is called for), 1/3 cup brown rice flour, 2 Tbsp Arrowwroot and 3 Tbps Potato Starch.

 

Day 9 – Retro!

The theme for today is retro.
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My recipe is not very fancy or exciting, but I do think it falls into the retro category. And it was fun! and nostalgic.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve eaten Jello. When it comes to desserts, I usually favor rich and decadent, as opposed to fruity and sugary. Despite that, I thought it would be fun to give the vegan BaKol Natural Foods JEL a try.

First of all, like the well-known gelatin based version, this stuff was VERY easy to make. All you have to do is boil water, pour it into a bowl and mix it with the powder, then stick it in the fridge for a few hours. Piece of cake. I would like to note that when I opened the powder packet, it smelled strongly of sweet cherry goodness.

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I took it out of the fridge 5 hours later. The color was on the lighter side but it DID set. It wasn’t as firm as I remember Jello, but it worked.

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It tasted just as I expected… very sweet and cherry flavored! Here’s a glob of it on my plate:

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Overall, I’d say this is a pretty cool product. No animals products needed to get that familiar jiggly sweetness that we were so found of as children. Also worth noting – the front of the package reminds you that this product is vegan, gluten free, non-GMO, and free of any artificial flavors or colors. Even better!
Happy Retro Day!

 

 

 

Let Them Eat Pastry!

I’m not going to lie, I’m a sweets fan. Maybe a little too much of a fan. My breakfast is normally a bit boring, but sometimes I like to have a little something special. Enter the delicious Eat Pastry quick vegan and gluten free mixes. I tried the muffin mix first adding organic blueberries and mini vegan chocolate chips. The mix was easy to use and only required a couple of ingredients. The instructions were clear and the end product was delicious, moist and satisfying. I cut my muffin open and smeared vegan butter on and noshed on my little blueberry delight. I allowed myself to have one a morning until they were gone. I did have to share with the hubby though. Boo!Muffins

My only complaint with this mix is that it made six muffins. I stretched the batter to make seven so that they would last longer, but then my muffins were smaller. I like to make 12 muffins at a time. In my mind, more sweets is better!