Lay aside every weight (and the dairy too): My journey with meat and dairy free products…..

Growing up in Texas, anything containing beef and cheese was a-ok in my book! Nachos, burgers, chicken fried steak with cream gravy- ALL OF THAT was awesome! Yet as a kid, I would burn off those calories by simply running around on the playground. Fast forward to now- I have now realized that all of that meat and dairy aren’t the greatest for optimal health. While I haven’t totally eliminated these things from my diet, I will say that I strive to eat more-plant based foods daily. So…….here are my fave meat-free and dairy-free products:

Gardein– I have to admit, Gardein has consistently put out meat substitutes that are actually GOOD! From the beefless tips to the crabless cakes to the porkless bites (chuckles), I have managed to crank out some pretty tasty meals with their products.

Daiya– So far it is the best cheese substitute out there…..It stretches and melts beautifully. However, the taste is little “off”, but still works for me!

Bragg’s Nutritional Yeast– This stuff has become my best friend! It’s sodium free and helps with the cheesy cravings. It tastes pretty good on popcorn, too! Not to mention that it is absolutely wonderful as taco seasoning (see the pic below).

Earth Balance Buttery Spread– It’s like butter, and a step above regular margarine. I bake with it, scramble my eggs with it, and so on. My kids can’t tell the difference, so why spoil the fun?

Tofutti Vegan Sour Cream– Prior to buying this, I attempted to make vegan sour “cream” with tofu, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of sugar. Of course, it was a culinary disaster, and I vowed to stick with the store-bought stuff. It makes my life easier.

This is just a tip of the vegan foodie iceberg……More to come!

‘Til next time!

I tried it: Sonoma Chardonnay Iced Tea by Republic of Tea

I have a very interesting relationship with booze. Prior to kids, I could count on one hand the number of times that I actually drank – and even then it typically contained an embarrassingly low percentage of alcohol. Since giving birth twice (and subsequently breast fed each child), I have not touched the stuff! But, a FB friend tagged me recently in a pic showcasing this fascinating discovery: V20288 Immediately my interest was piqued! After an unfruitful search at various grocery stores in my area, I decided to order the tea from Amazon. When the first delivery attempt was literally squashed, the company apologized for the delay and shipped the tea ASAP. When I finally received the box, I could not wait to try it out! Upon opening the canister, I noticed a distinct grape-y, floral scent- not quite wine-y, since there was no fermentation (The tea used wine grape skins, bits of pineapple, and “natural wine flavor” for added pizzazz). I followed the brewing directions to a T, and sweetened the concoction with plain white sugar. The end result was decent. Yet I discovered a better way to brew and enjoy this tea. Using my measuring cup, for 2 cups of hot water, I used 2 tea bags, then place the entire thing in the fridge to brew. The stronger flavor came thru when I left the tea steep overnight. Then, as an added kick, I squeezed the juice of a fresh lemon and skipped the sugar altogether. The lemon added the right amount of acidity, while the absence of sugar allowed the tangy yet sweet aroma of pineapple, hints of green apple, and bright notes of the wine grapes to come thru strongly. So, to answer the million-dollar question: does it actually taste like wine? NO! Would I buy it again? ABSOLUTELY! It’s more refreshing than traditional sweet tea and pairs well with chicken and fish. However, it is pricey than the generic box of black tea at your local grocer, so it is definitely a splurge (well-deserved splurge, might I add, but still….). Here are the pics of the tea:

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Til’ next time!

Is it worth buying?: Truffle mac n cheese

Just about everyone who knows me knows that I am a foodie, and that when it comes to cuisine I am willing to try almost anything! (I say ALMOST, because unlike Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern I draw the line at eating stuff such as animal testicles, intestines, brains and bugs.) With that said, as I was grocery shopping at my local ALDI, my little brown eye saw IT: a box of truffle macaroni and cheese!13613365_10104686030359630_2488337853857073116_o
I’m learning NOT to be an implusive shopper, so I left that little package on the shelf as I made my way to the checkout line. Yet, I wondered: “I wonder if that stuff is really good….hmmmmmm….” Two days later, I plunked down $1.80 for this product and couldn’t wait to head home to serve it up! The truffle mac and cheese is actually ALDI’s gourmet line, Carefully Selected (the same line that produced my fave ice cream flavor, Coffee Espresso Chip) and is quite easy to prepare. The shell pasta was parboiled so there was no long cooking time. I added hot water to the powdered cheese-truffle blend, but there was no gritty taste whatsoever. In 5-7 minutes, the dish was ready to serve and it did not disappoint. It was delightfully cheesy, with a lovely buttery finish that was only enhanced by the earthiness of the truffles. In short, it was decadently rich without breaking the bank. Final verdict: I wholeheartedly recommend this product!!

Til’ next time!!

Things that I’m loving now: Summer 2016 edition

It’s been awhile since my last post, so I decided to talk about something fun and NOT about work! 🙂

1.) Coffee ice cream- It’s funny that I’m even adding ice cream to this list, period! As much as I love cheese and other dairy products, I have to have a craving for ice cream in order to purchase some. Well, considering the hot, sticky humidity hovering around my city lately, it was only fitting to pick up something cold and creamy. Behold the Coffee Espresso Chip ice cream at ALDI! Seen here with my glass of Welch’s mock sangria 20160624_204344 (1)

2.) International Delight Iced coffee-13465969_10104618331478730_7395440021902591431_n I love coffee, but the money spent running to Starbucks every morning can add up quickly! Hence, picking up International Delight’s Iced Coffee in Mocha is far more tasty- and economical.

3.) Gardein crabless cakes- For those that don’t know, for religious reasons I abstain from pork, shellfish, and other scavengers. Yet I will not lie: shrimp and crab can be extremely yummy! So, I began to search for alternatives. Behold Gardein’s crabless cakes!13608130_10104669263969610_405078171_n I’m no stranger to Gardein, and while I’m not vegan, I appreciate their beefless tips when whipping up steak tacos or using the porkless bites for my sweet n sour dish. The crabless cakes did not disappoint. Upon opening the bag, there’s a familiar seafood/oceanic smell. Once warmed (pan fried is best), the texture is slightly flaky (reminiscent of real crab) and the taste is wonderful, especially served with mayo!

5.) Black Radiance BB cream- As a dark-skinned African American woman, finding makeup that complements the richness of my tone can be problematic, especially when it comes to tinted moisturizers. More often that not, the ingredient titanium dioxide can create an ashy effect on dark skin- not sexy. Not so with that drugstore gem Black Radiance! Their BB cream in Chocolate goes on light, is not overly greasy, and gives me great coverage in the summer- can’t beat it! To find stores that carry this great product, click here: http://www.blackradiancebeauty.com/store-locator

6.) Thread UP!- I discovered this online consignment store a few months ago via the blog Single Moms’ Income . The referral code came with a $10 credit so I thought “Why the hell not???” Once I started searching thru the site, I was blown away by the quality and variety of labels presented ( everything from Old Navy/Gap to DVF, with some LV thrown in ). I have ordered and enjoyed several items from the site, and now I challenge you to check out Thread UP for yourself by giving you my referral code: http://www.thredup.com/r/UO6SGQ . There’s a $10 credit attached to that, so enjoy yourself! You won’t regret it!

Things that I’m loving right now: Cali edition!!!

I’ve just returned from northern California ( Sacramento to be exact) to visit family and I LOVED it! The weather, family, sights of the city and every where leading to the Bay Area was absolutely wonderful. The best thing about traveling is that you become acquainted with things that are not available back home. So, I decided to fill you in on those yummy things that caught my eye!

1.) Nation’s Giant Hamburgers- My hubby and my cousin had already “warned” me about the deliciousness of this food found at this chain, and the burger was great! Lightly toasted bun, burger piled high with sliced white onion, tomato, lettuce, pickles…..1/4 pound beef patty adorned with nice melty cheese….all that. The blueberry cheesecake that I ordered for dessert was absolutely divine. HOWEVER, if I had to make a choice between Texas-based Whataburger and Nation’s, Whataburger will win out. EVERY. TIME. Check ’em out here: http://nationsrestaurants.com/

2.) Del Taco- Granted, there are a few Del Taco restaurants in North Texas, but they were in great abundance in Sac ( to my delight )! In my opinion, Del Taco is Taco Bell’s more noble and honest cousin. The food is always fresh, none of the greasiness associated with Taco Hell, and more variety. My fave: Turkey Soft Tacos!!!!!

3.) Souley Vegan- Ah, yes…..Souley Vegan: a vegan restaurant specializing in soul food. Me and my crew ( hubby and kiddos) took a 50 minute drive into the Bay Area to Oakland to try this place out. It was well worth it. Keep in mind, it was vegan, so no meat, no refined sugars, no eggs and no dairy…….so how on earth did their mac n cheeze get so “creamy” ( for lack of a better word)????? Was it magic?! While my hubby ordered the broccoli and wild rice “cheeze” casserole, I indulged in the “shrimp” po-boy. Yes, it was diced up marinated seitan, dusted in cornmeal, and deep fried to Southern perfection. It was then laid on pillows of shredded lettuce on nice fluffy-soft French bread. It was further dressed with a drizzle of tartar sauce, and with a generous squeeze of lemon, sent my taste buds into overdrive. (See here: IMG_20160322_105246) I washed all of that down with orange-infused water ( again no refined sugar) and picked up a slice of red velvet cake for dessert. The taste of the red velvet was spot-on, and I could not tell the difference between that and regular boxed cake mix made with the usual stuff. Peep the deets here: http://www.souleyvegan.com/

4.) Roundtable Pizza – Roundtable Pizza came highly recommended by both my hubby and mother-in-law, and it did not disappoint. I had a personal size veggie pizza with garlic alfredo sauce, and it was delicious! The crust had a nice chew to it without being too hard. The cheese pizza was good as well- nice, bubbly cheese browned to pizza perfection on a hand tossed crust. It was definitely a grade above Domino’s! Here’s the link to the company website: http://www.roundtablepizza.com/rtp/