Cocozia Coconut Water Review and 3-Ingredient Pina Colada Smoothie

Recently the nice people at Cocozia offered to send me some of their original organic coconut water to try, and of course I said yes!  
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Disclaimer: While I received a complimentary case of Cocozia for review purposes, I was not compensated in any other way for writing this.  All opinions are my own, and as always, I only publish reviews of products that I think my readers will actually enjoy!

To be honest, in the past I have not been a huge fan of coconut water.  The first time I tried it was after one of my half marathons, and despite knowing how super-healthy it was and how much it would help in my recovery, I was put off by the sickly-sweet flavor and watery consistency.

Turns out I still do not love the taste of coconut water straight up.  However, I came up with many other fun and delicious uses for my Cocozia!

The first, best, and most obvious use is in smoothies!  You get all of the hydrating benefits of coconut water plus a boost of sweet coconut flavor.  My favorite is this 3-Ingredient Pina Colada Smoothie.
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Ingredients
1 cup Cocozia original organic coconut water
1 frozen banana
3/4 cup frozen pineapple chunks

Directions
Blend and serve!

Remember that when creating smoothies, you can add coconut water as-is (like in the recipe above), or you can freeze it in ice cube trays (a la Kathy Patalsky) so that it’ll be ready for you to drop in to any smoothie at any time.

–x–

I have also had fantastic success replacing plain water with Cocozia in recipes!

For example, I tried out Isa’s Banana Flapjacks (from Vegan Brunch) using Cocozia and ended up with the fluffiest, most delicious batch of pancakes I’ve probably ever made.
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H and I were amazed by how awesome these came out. If we really tried, we could detect the slightest hint of coconut flavor, but the main thing about these was the texture. I may never make them with regular water again!

I also subbed Cocozia for regular water in a batch of muffins I made out of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread mix (which I have veganized many a time), also with fantastic, moist, fluffy results!
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To this particular batch I also chose to add some fun stuff (dark chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and chopped walnuts) to boost their nutritional and caloric value a bit (because, you know, breastfeeding). [And as a side note, these are very special muffins! They are the first thing (at 15 days post-partum) I have been in the kitchen to bake or cook since Baby H was born. It made me feel a bit like myself again.]

I definitely recommend Cocozia as a way to boost the nutrition and flavor of smoothies and baked goods, or just to enjoy as a post-workout or anytime drink (if, of course, you are someone who enjoys the taste of plain coconut water)!

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It’s a Boy!!!

Some of you may have guessed from my extended recent absence that Baby H has made his debut!
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He was born the morning of January 8, 2015, weighing a sturdy 8 pounds 5 ounces and measuring 21.5 inches long.  We have been home from the hospital a little over a week and it’s been quite a whirlwind!  He’s an amazing baby; really sweet and snuggly, and also alert and really strong!  We are quite taken with him.

I experienced some extensive blood loss following delivery and was severely anemic for a few days afterward, so I’m taking an iron supplement and have been trying to get lots of rest (the ultimate catch 22 with a newborn!) and eat as healthfully as possible.

Impossibly large bowls of oatmeal (also good for lactation!) and green smoothies have been lifesavers.
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Plus a big batch of Becky’s Spinach Artichoke Dip with Garlic Cashew Cream is great for one-handed dipping 🙂
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Blogging is definitely still something I intend to do, albeit with somewhat less frequency as I adjust to my new life as a mother.  My goal is going to be once a week but please don’t hold it against me if it turns out to be a bit less here and there.  I do have some fun posts pre-scheduled in the next few weeks so do look out for those!

Oh and I hope to be back to reading and commenting on all of your blogs soon too! Don’t be surprised if the majority of the comments are timestamped in the wee hours of the morning…

It’s Still Pumpkin Season! Pumpkin Pie Smoothie Recipe

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend!  Knowing that next year there will be a new little human in the mix had me really cherishing the time we spent with family and friends this time around.

I can’t be the only one who feels that pumpkin season shouldn’t end with Thanksgiving, but should continue through the entire fall and holiday season.  My taste for pumpkin is still going strong, in any event!

Remember those wisdom-giving pumpkin pancakes?  The leftovers got me through several breakfasts last week.  I had them rolled up with a bit of White Chocolate Wonderful and they were divine.
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Once those were gone, I put the leftover pumpkin puree to good use in delicious smoothie form.  There are a thousand and one pumpkin pie smoothie recipes on the Internet, and now I’m throwing mine into the mix as well!
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Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Serves 1
Vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free

Ingredients
3/4 – 1 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond-coconut)…add less milk for a thicker consistency, more for thinner
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 frozen banana
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Small pinch of ground cloves

Directions
Blend and enjoy!

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Are you still getting your pumpkin fix? Let me know how!

Sunday Morning Pumpkin Pancakes and Life Lessons

I woke up yesterday with a one-track mind: must. make. pumpkin. pancakes. A craving like this is one of the only things that can break through the wall of laziness and exhaustion that currently surrounds me at all times. I haven’t cooked in like a month, but this was an emergency.

I broke out Vegan Brunch and set right to mixing and measuring. Almost immediately, I noticed that the batter looked a little thin.

But I got my griddle nice and hot, sprayed my cooking spray, and added the first scoop of batter. When I eventually tried to flip it, however, it basically completely crumpled, and started to tear. Even after cooking for a few more minutes, it was really hard to get it off the griddle and onto the spatula, and it still seemed kinda gooey.

Immediately I started running through possible causes for the problem. Did I somehow not measure my ingredients correctly? Is my flour too old? Was the first pancake too big?

For round 2, I tried making two smaller pancakes. Still no dice. I ended up with these too-soft, crumply messes:
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At this point, I figured I had just done something wrong, but I was determined to finish cooking the rest of the batter (waste not!). And I decided that I was NOT going to settle for mediocre pancakes. I would keep trying different tweaks and approaches. If they turned out mediocre anyway, at least I’d know I tried.

My first fix was to switch out Earth Balance for the cooking spray the recipe recommends. I noticed an almost immediate difference in the way the pancakes were cooking. The edges were getting golden and crispy and, while still very thin, they were much easier to flip over without crumpling.
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Second fix was to use slightly less batter. Third, let them cook longer than I had previously been doing.
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I ended up with a plate stacked with beautiful pumpkiny goodness, which I served with a dab of vegan cream cheese and some dried cranberries. It was absolutely perfect.
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At some point, I realized that this pancake-making process was like a little analogy for so many of the things I’ve experienced in life so far, and so many, many things that I will experience in the near future when I become a parent.

Life lessons, people. Sometimes you just have to adjust your approach. Follow your instincts. Sometimes the instructions you are given aren’t the be-all and end-all.
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Adjusting your approach won’t always necessarily yield the result or reward you initially were going for, but maybe you will be pleasantly surprised when you find that you end up with something just as good, or maybe even better, than what you set out for.
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Bottom line: don’t be so hard on yourself if things aren’t perfect, but also don’t just throw up your hands and give up–take action and make it better!

Return of the Green Smoothie

Green smoothies are back in my life.  Life is good.

Green smoothies played a big role in the early days of my pregnancy. I was blending them up almost daily with plenty of fresh ginger (remember the Tropical Ginger Smoothie with a Secret Ingredient?) to help combat my nausea while also giving Baby H a nice dose of fruit and veggie goodness to start the day.

But after first trimester I found that I lost my taste for smoothies for a while (ironic since this coincided with the middle of summer!). It was one of those situations where the thought of one brought me back to the queasy, unpleasant feeling I had had for those first few months. Just…not appealing.

Miraculously, however, over the last two days my taste for green smoothies has come back with a vengeance!

Last week H picked up some Orange Peach Mango juice from Trader Joe’s (sooooo good) so I used that for the base. On Monday I made one with 1 cup of OPM juice, 1 frozen banana, 3/4 cup frozen strawberries, and a large handful of organic baby spinach.
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Yesterday I did the same thing but used 2 frozen bananas because I was out of strawberries.
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So sweet and frosty and delicious–I can’t get enough!

And I swear you cannot taste the spinach at all. Not that I personally mind the taste; I just think this would be a great starter smoothie for people who feel weird about drinking their greens.

Just a reminder: today is your LAST CHANCE to enter my Ecolissa infinity scarf giveaway! Don’t miss out!

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bread – Veganized to Perfection!

It’s no secret that I enjoy taking shortcuts with my cooking from time to time.  Usually I’ll only do it if the shortcut way is just as good as, if not better, than its more labor-intensive counterpart.

For me personally, pumpkin bread falls into the shortcut category.  I’ve made it from scratch a bunch of times and it’s really good, but I have to say, Trader Joe’s boxed mix yields an equally-delicious result.  It’s one of my favorite fall treats!
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The box instructions tell you to combine the boxed mix with two eggs, 1/2 cup of oil, and 1 cup of water.  Fortunately, quick breads like this are ideal candidates for veganizing with egg substitutes, because their dense texture and full flavor easily mask the fact that substitutions have been used.
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I used to do this bread with two flax eggs (1 tbsp ground flax + 3 tbsp warm water), but over the weekend I tried it with one flax egg and one mashed banana, and I have to say it was WAY better.  I’ll go as far as to say that it’s the best combo for veganizing this particular product (of course, if you have an even better way, I’d love to hear it in the comments!).

The banana flavor is undetectable but it gives a gooey, sweet consistency that is just sooooo appetizing and pleasing to the palate.
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Oh, and you’ll notice that I also added half a cup of chocolate chips, of course 🙂  I have my priorities straight.

BOWLS! by Becky Striepe – Review and Recipe for Chai Spice Oatmeal

Hi there!

Today I am super-excited to share with you my thoughts on BOWLS!, a brand new cookbook by my friend Becky Striepe.

You may already be familiar with Becky’s amazing blog, Glue and Glitter, where she shares mouthwatering recipes, beautiful crafts, and lots of tips and tricks for living a simple, green, vegan lifestyle.  Becky is also the author of 40 Days of Green Smoothies.

In this new book, we are promised a collection of “mix-and-match recipes to fill your favorite vessel,” and BOWLS! certainly delivers!
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BOWLS! starts out with a genius, yet foolproof, formula for constructing the perfect meal: a bottom layer (consisting of potatoes, grain, pasta, or salad greens) + a middle layer (of raw or cooked veggies) + a top layer of protein, and then an optional “tippy-top” layer of add-ons and sauces.

From there, you get a chapter full of Breakfast and Brunch bowls (such as Chai Spice Oatmeal [get the recipe below!] and Cheesy Stovetop Grits).  Next are Lunch and Supper bowls (like the Roasted Veggie Bowl with Tahini-Miso Sauce and Peanut Butter Tofu Bowl), followed by Soups & Stews (including such gems as Creamy Curried Tomato Soup and Green Lentil & Potato Stew).

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Sort of Cheesy Broccoli Bowl (so scrumptious!)

After that, there is an entire section devoted to Sauces and another to various Layers.  The Layers section is particularly invaluable, because it not only contains recipes for toppings that can be used in multiple way (such as Vegan Bacon and Perfect Mashed Potatoes), but also instructions on Basic Grain Cooking and Cooking Dried Beans.

I love this, because not only does BOWLS! give you a bunch of great recipes as a starting point, but it also arms you with everything you need to be able to mix and match components to create your own bowl of vegan goodness at a moment’s notice.

Becky’s friendly, approachable style shines through in every page of BOWLS! This book is a treasure trove of quick, simple-to-prepare yet insanely tasty recipes and meal components that you can and will use over and over again.  The bold, colorful photos only add to its appeal.  I’ll also add that it displays absolutely gorgeously on a tablet.

Becky has generously offered to share a recipe from BOWLS! with you all today.  I’ve chosen the Chai Spice Oatmeal, a recipe I’ve made probably about a dozen times since receiving the book for review, because it is so incredibly delicious, without being too sweet, and perfect for fall of course!

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Chai Spice Oatmeal
reprinted with permission from BOWLS! by Becky Striepe, copyright 2014 by Cattington, Inc.

Ingredients for 1 serving
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup water or almond milk
1 small handful dried cranberries
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar

1. In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

2. Alternate cooking instructions: Combine all of your ingredients in a very large bowl with high sides.  Microwave for 2 1/2 minutes, stir, and microwave for 2 1/2 minutes more.  Serve immediately.

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Dry ingredients, measured ahead to be microwaved at work–how’s that for convenient?

BOWLS! is available in print or as an ebook.  Details on how to order BOWLS! can be found at the bottom of this post.

Do yourself a favor and snag a copy today!