Sunday, June 5, 2016

Nocciolata Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Have you noticed that spreads are a thing now? It seems every grocery store, bodega, and convenience store is stocked with all sorts of spreads for you to smooth onto toast, dunk a crudite into, or eat straight from the jar. In fact, I already reviewed a dark chocolate peanut butterwhite chocolate peanut butter, and roasted red pepper hummus, if you would like to see. The nut butter-tahini-infusion-raw cacao-whatever spread game is strong, my friends.

Usually, this is no problem as there are a variety of a brands from which to choose that are soy-free. But, what isn't soy-free? Nutella! Grab your box of Kleenex stat because this is one of the saddest stories in food history. Those who suffer from a soy allergy are unable to gorge themselves in what is one of the best snacks ever: chocolatey, hazelnuty, Nutella goodness.

That is why I am thrilled to have discovered +Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread. This is almost identical as Nutella but it contains no soy at all, and is organic, too. Perfect! But, how does it perform in the Sans Soy test?


Quality: Velvet and smooth. Thick and creamy. Sweet and nutty. All are adjectives I use to describe Nocciolata organic hazelnut spread. In fact, I dare to say this is the perfect soy-free Nutella alternative. The thick texture makes it perfect to eat on toast, dolloped on oatmeal, out of the jar, or however you please. Although it doesn't use soy to stay emulsified, there is no separation between the chocolate spread contents and minimal stirring is required before consumption. 

Taste: There is little difference between Nocciolata chocolate hazelnut spread and its more well-known cousin, Nutella. The chocolate level is high but the Nocciolata brand is less sweet than Nutella, which I found that to be welcome change from the saccharine taste of Nutella.

Price: The price of Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa & Milk varies depending on vendor. You can buy it for about $4.00 from Amazon here, but it is a bit more expensive at local, organic stores such as Yes! Organic Market in Washington, D.C.

Overall grade: A. Order a jar - or two or three or four! - ASAP. This stuff is the best and probably won't last long in your kitchen cabinet. Nocciolata is the perfect addition to top a banana, sweeten up oatmeal, spread on a crepe, or use on whatever you decide. The possibilities are endless. Although the jars are smaller than a standard tub of Nutella you may be accustomed to buying, the jars are glass, limiting exposure to harmful plastic toxins. Brownie points because the Italian Nocciolata chocolate spread is organic, GMO-free, hydrogenated oil-free, and of course, soy-free! 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Restaurant Review: Shake Shack

This is not a review about burgers and fries from the beloved +SHAKE SHACK . Yes, the juicy hamburgers and crisp French fries may be what many people salivate over at the fast food joint. I am not one of them.

However, I do really like hot cocoa during the cold winter months as seen here and here, and I stopped in for a salted caramel hot chocolate during the latest winter storm in D.C. Shake Shack makes a mean hot cocoa, in addition to its famed selection of meat patties, hot dog variations, two types of fries, several creamy shakes, frozen custards, and soda floats.

Are you drooling yet?

It may not be healthiest food option, but the chain restaurant does do an excellent job explaining allergen information contained in each menu item. On its website, the company lists menu items based on vegetarian criteria, and if it contains milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, shellfish, tree nuts, fish, gluten, sesame seeds, soy, or sulfites. To indicate that the ingredient may not contain an allergen but was processed in a facility where possible cross-contact occurs, a “P” is clearly displayed. 

As for the salted caramel hot chocolate: soy-free with a possibility of cross-contamination during processing.

Overall grade: B. Not all of the menu items at Shake Shack contain soy. Yet, to be truly soy-free it’s best to avoid the famous hamburgers and fries, because their website shows them to contain the allergen. Most of the frozen custards, shakes, and beverages or soy-free.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Beautiful Kitchenware

Recently I was sidetracked by some gorgeous plates, bowls, and other kitchen utensils. Does anyone else like to browse and daydream about new, handmade serving platters and cups? No, just me?

Provisions, the online store of Food52, has an array of serving bowls, knives, and other dinner party-worthy items. They're all gorgeous, many are made in the U.S.A., and are simple enough for casual and fancy dinners alike. These pieces in particular caught my eye.

Make some pasta or a big, green salad to serve in this beauty.

porcelain serving bowl
Here in D.C., the weather is cool and crisp, a harbinger of winter. Wouldn't it be cozy and relaxing to drink some warm tea out of these tea cups?

Chopping up fruits and veggies would be even more enjoyable when preparing them on this walnut cutting board. Alternatively, it would make a lovely platter for cheese and fruit.


Are there any glasses or anything else you found yourself lusting after?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Vanilla Cultured Milk

Raise your hand if you like yogurt. Raise your hand if you like coconut milk. Raise your hand if you make impulsive purchases at the grocery store. I raised my hand for all four of those questions, which is how I bought vanilla cultured coconut milk during a recent visit to Trader Joe's.

Technically not yogurt, this vegan, cultured, milk product is sold in the refrigerated section along with milks and butters. It's a quick and easy breakfast when on a vegan kick and craving a creamy yogurt. Combine it with fruit, chia seeds, or even as a base to make vanilla-flavored overnight oats.

How does the vanilla cultured coconut milk hold up in the Sans Soy test?

Trader Joe's Vanilla Cultured Coconut Milk

Quality: Similar to many generic, vegan products sold at food stores, the packaging is great, but the item itself has much to be desired. After initially opening the vanilla cultured coconut milk (not yogurt!), a layer of liquid is present. Not a big deal when stirred into the rest of the product. If not, a coating of vanilla-flavored fluid with a consistency similar to slime is the initial texture to reach the tongue. After mixing, the rest of the cultured milk is runny and gummy, the result, I suppose, of  tapioca dextrose, organic rice starch, and additional thickeners.

Taste: I enjoyed the floral and fragrant taste of this vegan pudding-yogurt-like cultured milk product. Despite it's name, the coconut flavors are barely noticeable and exist more in subdued undertones. The star of the show is vanilla and sugar, baby! I happen to love vanilla flavor, and the intense notes don't bother me. Yet, this stuff is sweetened with cane sugar, and one 6-ounce tub contains 19 grams
of sugar!

Price: One individual container of vanilla cultured coconut milk is not expensive. I can't state the accurate price because I threw out the receipt; I believe it was no more than $1.25, if less.

Overall grade: C. This vegan yogurt, I mean, vanilla cultured coconut milk did not live up to my expectations. The texture and consistency was too gooey and sticky for my preference. Although I found the vanilla flavor to be lovely, it was saccharine sweet. Palatable when paired with a plain grain, I wouldn't recommend it to a friend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Whole Foods 365 Vanilla Almond Milk

Wow. Can you believe it is the end of September? I can't. It seems like yesterday that sandals, swimming, and sunscreen were a common denominator of the season. Now, autumn decorations are for sale, pumpkin-flavored everything are in grocery stores, and leaves are changing. Here's a fun fact. Did you know the color of which leaves change is based on the amount of sugar found in each tree? The next time someone comments on fall foliage, you can whip out that tidbit like the boss you are.

Speaking of fall and sugar, it's time for warm beverages to replace the cold. Why not use some vanilla almond milk to knock your tea up a notch? It's full of calcium, tasty, and makes you feel good when you talk about how healthy you are with friends. Because, who still drinks cow's milk? That is so old school. Just kidding, I still love getting a latte created with bovine milk, organic, of course.

Let's see how the generic brand of almond milk from +Whole Foods Market , 365 Vanilla Almond Milk, performs on the Sans Soy taste test, shall we?

Whole Foods Vegan Vanilla Almond Milk

Whole Foods 365 Vanilla Almond Milk

Quality: Compared to cow's milk, the almond milk is thick with a yellow tinge. The thickness and texture is not as smooth and lustrous as premium brand almond milks such as Silk or Pacific Foods. This almond milk is sweetened with organic cane sugar, and it is necessary to shake the box before pouring to ensure the  contents are properly mixed. Nobody would like a glob to plop out into their newly brewed tea, would they? The liquid easily combines with others. When added to chia seeds, it makes a great vegan pudding. The emulsifying ingredient is sunflower lecithin, not soy lecithin.

Taste: This almond milk is sweetened and enhanced with vanilla extract. It is delicious, and will give you a slight sugar high if you drink too much. However, who says that is bad thing. I find the sweetness to be just right, yet others I know believer it to be too much. A one cup serving contains 15 grams of sugar.

Price: I can't say the price of this almond milk because I took it from my mother's pantry. What? Sharing is caring, people. However, I suspect it costs around $2.00 based on the price of other generic brand non-dairy beverages.

Overall grade: B. Yes, this almond milk was good. Will I buy it again? yes. Why doesn't it deserve an A? Well, the thickness and texture could be better. I would like the almond milk to have a rich texture that adds a creamy element lacking in the Whole Foods 365 Vanilla Almond Milk.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Back in Action

I'mmmmm backkkkk! Okay, okay, I know I was MIA for a while. But, trust me, I have a long list of excuses reasons for not blogging.

First, I began a new job. Woo hoo! This job is awesome and 1000% more challenging, positive, engaging, and exciting than my old position. Next, I had a few business trips around the country. And traveling for work isn't all fun and games. You have to, you know, work! The work days on these trips typically run longer and busier than at the office. Afterwards, I was tirrrreeeddd and decided to laze about doing nothing for a while.

Then, I watched season two of Orange is the New Black on Netflix, because how could I NOT see what happened to little miss Piper after beating the heck out of Pennsatucky?! Then, Pretty Little Liars started with a new season, and I JUST HAD to see if the tyrant behind A would be disclosed (Spoiler: The person behind A is still unknown. Shocking.) And then it was summer and I decided to ride my bike around the District of Columbia a whole lot.

To prove I wasn't just slacking (okay, I was), I made some elaborate pictures in Photoshop to show my activities that kept me from blogging about soy free food products.

Highlights include: 

I took a nice, long trip to Japan. And it was awesome! So sorry to brag. #sorrynotsorry
My time was spent traveling around Tokyo, eating sushi, avoiding soy, and hanging out. Japan is a gorgeous country, and I can't wait to return. 
Tokyo, tokyo tower, japan

Lady Gaga
I splurged for floor tickets when Lady Gaga performed at the Verizon Center in D.C., on her #artRAVE tour. Her show was incredible and impressive, quite possibly one of the best concerts that I have ever attended. Lady Gaga sang all the songs from the #artRAVE album, in addition to other well-known hits to include Bad Romance, Just Dance, Poker Face, and Telephone.

Lady Gage #artRAVE

San Francisco
I went on a little trip to the west coast for my first visit to San Francisco. Technically, this was a work trip, and I did quite a lot of professional stuff there. But, this was my first business travel in a new position, and I was able to squeeze in additional time to sight see and soak in the ambiance of the city. I know I didn't do enough or eat at any of the trendy restaurants, however I now have a long list of establishments and activities to check off my list when I go back.

San Francisco, Alcatraz
So, now that my guilty conscience has been cleared, I promise to keep up more with blogging. Let's get to it!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

3 Ways to Enjoy the Cherry Blossoms

Wow! The unthinkable has happened: spring has arrived in Washington, D.C. Woohoo! No more (hopefully) snowy days and layering up to venture outdoors. Now, days can be filled wandering streets, dining on patios and even picnicking. Coinciding with this gorgeous spring weather is the annual debut of the cherry blossoms. Although the blooms still have a few days before the flowers really burst with pink, it is relaxing to take an early morning stroll around the circumference of the Tidal Basin at the National Mall to appreciate the blooming trees.

In D.C., it feels like the cherry blossoms have invaded and moved from just flowers on trees. Many shops and restaurants boast cherry blossom-themed food and beverages. However, it can be difficult to decipher if prepared food contains soy allergens. Here are three soy-free products to relish along with the cotton candy-like blooms.

1. Harney & Sons Cherry Blossom Tea
Warm up on a crisp spring night by sipping a warm cup of cherry blossom tea. This tea from British tea empire +Harney and Sons Fine Teas, has a slightly sweet and floral fragrance that will leave you content. The plump cherry blossoms are added to green tea, and are available only in sachets. If drinking tea at night is not your cup of tea, why not brew the cherry blossom green tea in the morning and enjoy while appreciating the sakura on an early morning stroll?

2. Prunotto Cherry Blossom Honey
Honey paired with a cherry backdrop is a heavenly combination! This Italian honey magically combines the honey and sakura flavors so well you will wonder where it has been your whole life. Add the cherry blossom honey to your cherry blossom tea, drizzle on yogurt, or top a warm biscuit with the sticky stuff. 

2. Capitol Kombucha, Cherry Blossom Flavor
For those wishing to detox from an indulgent lifestyle or would just like to stay healthy, kombucha is a beverage with superpower benefits. Kombucha, a fermented tea drink infused with enzymes, amino acids and probiotics, helps the body detoxify toxins. Capitol Kombucha is made with organic tea, and the cherry blossom flavor also has ingredients of cherries, rose water and honey.