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.

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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)!

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…

Pre-baby Pantry Plunder, part 1

Over the past few months, I have been making gradual progress toward getting the house ready for Baby H’s arrival, which will be any day now (my actual due date is tomorrow-eek!).

Obvious important projects, such as assembling the crib, have been checked off the list:
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And I have been hard at work trying to use up/clean out older items from our freezer and pantry in order to restock them with prepared meals that we can turn to in our first few weeks as new parents.

This has been an ongoing project, and I’ve been keeping track of some of my fun (and sometimes, surprisingly delicious!) concoctions so that I can share them here.

For part 1, I’ll start with some of the packaged, brand name foods that had been taking up residence in the freezer for quite some time. All of these were simply heat-and-eat, so very easy and convenient, but nothing too creative or earth-shattering.

Gardein meatless buffalo wings:
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I had exactly three of these, most likely left over from some lazy football Sunday, most likely in the 2013 season (yeah I need to clean out my freezer more!). They still tasted awesome, but three tiny “wings” do not a meal make, so note to my future self: if you’re going to open the package, use it all in one go!

Tofurky pepperoni pizza pockets:
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I bought these months ago because my curiosity was killing me. They taste eerily similar to the Hot Pockets I used to heat up for an after school snack back in the day (so healthy, I know), and definitely benefit from the liberal addition of hot sauce.

Trader Joe’s stir fried vegetable rolls:
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These are delicious and filling and I love them. This might be one that I buy more of to restock the freezer for baby time.

Amy’s baked ziti bowl:
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As you can see from the state of the box in the photo, this one had been bashed around in the freezer for some time. It was really, really yummy but unfortunately (as seems to be the case with many such frozen entrees) rather small. You’d want to pair it with a side salad or some bread to make it a more complete meal.

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Pakoras:
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I absolutely love this tasty, spicy appetizer and tend to keep some in the freezer to serve if company should happen to come by. But, since I don’t expect to be entertaining much in the coming months, I’m using these up as well.

Stay tuned for part 2!

Lemony Red Lentil Vegetable Soup

Happy New Year everyone!!!

A few days ago I got a hankering for lentil soup and decided that my very favorite Easiest Lentil Soup would be on the menu for dinner.

It had been a while since I made the recipe so I pulled up the blog post on my laptop for reference (kind of a cool feeling cooking from your own recipe!).  Then I went to gather my ingredients and realized that somehow, some way, I was fresh out of brown lentils.

I’m pretty sure this has never happened before.  What to do??

Rather than nix my lentil soup plan, I decided to make one with red lentils.  If you’ve ever cooked with red lentils you know they have a slightly different flavor and a much different texture than brown or green lentils, so I also adjusted the flavor profile of the original recipe.  Here is what I came up with (and it’s really good!):

Lemony Red Lentil Vegetable Soup
Serves 8-10
Vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free
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Ingredients
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cups red lentils, rinsed
4 cups vegetable broth (check to ensure it is soy-free and/or gluten-free if these are concerns)
4 cups water
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. sea salt  (or to taste)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
3-4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (from about half of a lemon)
Optional: additional veggies! (see Note)

Directions
Line the bottom of a large stockpot with water and begin to warm it over medium-high heat.  When the water begins to steam slightly, add garlic and onions and saute until onions soften, about 5 minutes.

Add carrots and celery and saute another 2-3 minutes, until softened.  (If anything is sticking, add a few splashes of water or broth to unstick it.)

Add the remaining ingredients (except for the lemon juice), stir to combine, and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, stir, lower the heat, and simmer, covered, for 20-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Note: Additional vegetables such as fresh tomatoes, zucchini, or spinach would also be delicious in here.  For tomatoes or squash, I’d go for about 1 1/2 cups and add them about halfway through the simmering time (otherwise they’ll turn to mush).  If using spinach, add 1-2 cups at the same time as the lemon juice and stir until wilted.

This makes a ton of soup which is great for leftovers!  I also froze a couple of portions to have on hand for after Baby H makes his or her debut.  Not long now…

That Festive Feeling

It’s Christmas Eve!

I decided to be extra festive by pairing a red cardigan with a bright green smoothie (orange-peach-mango juice, frozen banana, frozen strawberries, and spinach).  The 38-week bump makes it extra sassy, no?
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Now it’s almost time to get ready for Mass followed by dinner with H’s family. It’ll be a really nice night, although I’m a little bummed to have to spend the holidays away from my family this year. Traveling 5+ hours to New Jersey just really isn’t wise this close to the end of my pregnancy.

I made myself feel better by baking some Chai Spice Snickerdoodles from Isa Does It, which made my house smell extra wonderful and Christmasy!
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I cannot wait to eat these. I guess in the spirit of the season I will share *some* of them.

Wishing a very merry Christmas to all who celebrate!

Vegan Life Magazine

I love good vegan reading material, especially magazines.  I mean really, I keep all of my old VegNews issues in chronological order on a special shelf!  It sounds pretty dorky, but whether it’s articles on important issues like animal rights and environmental issues or lighter topics such as great vegan restaurants, I always come away feeling inspired and newly enthusiastic about veganism.

I was excited recently to learn of a new, digital vegan magazine called Vegan Life, which is based in the UK (and if you live in the UK, it is available in print too!).  With two issues currently under its belt, and the third set to be published December 23rd (tomorrow!!), this magazine is creating some serious buzz.  Their tagline is “Bringing Vegan into Vogue” and it’s not hard to understand why,  with each issue containing over 100 pages of articles ranging from raising vegan children to managing health conditions with a vegan diet to celebrating cruelty-free holidays.

For instance, check out the Table of Contents from the first issue (September/October 2014):
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Unsurprisingly, my attention so far has been most captivated by the food.  Oh, the food!   The September/October 2014 issue has a five-day cleanse that I cannot WAIT to do after Baby H arrives.  And I want to make these Mean Bean Taco Cups (from the November/December issue) immediately if not sooner:
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I download and read the magazine right on my phone (a tablet would probably be better due to screen size, but sadly I don’t have one).  The photography is vibrant and gorgeous and the content is really substantive, covering a wide array of issues important to vegans and others who are interested in an ethical lifestyle.  I’d definitely recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free subscription to Vegan Life magazine for review purposes.  I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.  And as always, I do not agree to publish reviews unless I feel confident that it’s something you guys will actually love!

Favorites from the 2014 Virtual Vegan Potluck

As always, this past weekend’s Virtual Vegan Potluck was a ton of fun, with so many tantalizing dishes and beautiful photos to peruse!

It’s an honor to participate but selfishly I also LOVE the VVP because I always discover so many new blogs and come away with dozens of new, amazing recipes to try!  In case you didn’t have a chance to browse the 85+ dishes that were presented this weekend, I’ve collected some of my personal favorites for your viewing pleasure.  It was tough but I narrowed it down to two from each course (except in courses with less than seven submissions, in which case I chose only one favorite).

Please note that all photos are the property of the bloggers whose dishes they show.  I am reposting them ONLY so that you can appreciate the talent and hard work of the bloggers, and in the hope that you will give them a visit to check out the recipes for yourself!

Appetizers
Lemon-Thyme Polenta Bites with Arugula Pesto and Mushrooms from Seasonal Veg Head
Vegan Dilled Ceviche from Veggie Inspired
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Beverages
Festive Spiced Tahini Hot Chocolate from Bunny Kitchen
Cranberry-Grapefruit White Wine Spritzer from Glue and Glitter
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Salads
Tropical Fruit Salad with Raspberry Dressing from Parsley in my Teeth
Rosemary Infused Grapefruit and Kale Salad from The Glowing Fridge
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Breads 
Rosemary and Meyer Lemon Focaccia from Yup, It’s Vegan
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Soups/Stews
Creamy Lemon Asparagus Soup from Helyn’s Healthy Kitchen
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Sides
Lentil Sweet Potato Salad with Grapefruit Vinaigrette and Crispy Shallots from Veganizzm
Cranberry Pomegranate Pear Sauce from A Journey with Tiffany
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Mains
Mushroom Duxelle Ravioli in Cashew Cream Sauce from Astig Vegan
Seitan Marbella from Fried Dandelions
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Desserts (aside from my own Spiced Maple Butternut Crisp of course!)
Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Truffle Tart from My Darling Vegan
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Pretzel Frosting from Veggies Don’t Bite
Lemon Curd Tiramisu from Marfigs’ Munchies
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Okay…I couldn’t pick just two desserts…

Another VVP in the books.  Now, off I go to get started on recreating some of these delights!