Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops Review & Giveaway: All Natural Soda Alternative

SweetLeaf_SteviaLeaf_WaterEnhancers_DoubleChinDiaryDisclosure: I received free samples of Sweet Leaf Sweet Drops in exchange for a review.

It’s now been about a year since I gave up my dark master (Diet Pepsi) for good. I still crave it every now and then, but I find if I go for it and order a soda, the first few sips are like “Blech! Why did I used to think this stuff was good?” I now drink a ton of iced tea, perrier, and water, and occasionally I’ll splurge on something delicious and caloric, like a Mexican Coca Cola or Izze. When an announcement about Sweet Leaf ended up in my inbox, I knew I wanted to try it. The problem with so many water enhancers or flavor additives is that they’re full of garbage and chemicals, or if they’re low-cal, they’re packed with aspartame. Sweet Leaf is USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO project verified, gluten-free, and zero carb/calorie.

Upon first tasting, I thought the drops tasted good, but there wasn’t enough flavor. I was putting two drops in per 8 ounces of sparkling water. Then, I read the directions again and realized it was two drops per OUNCE of sparkling water. Duh! No wonder I wasn’t getting the flavor I wanted. I re-did it and was pleasantly surprised at the simultaneous sweet but light taste of Sweet Drops. My favorite of the four flavors I tried (Lemon, Berry, Orange, Cola) was definitely cola, followed by orange. Another small but important thing to me? No gross coloring. The Cola flavor adds a very slight caramel tint to the water, but you’re not getting any hues that will turn your tongue into a rainbow.

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These are affordable ($9.99 for a three pack), and the small size is easy to slip into your purse to have your own flavored water anywhere you go. I liked using the berry flavor in still water with a few smashed raspberries — it felt like a fancy cocktail, but with no calories and no booze. I like, I like. Sweetleaf also carries funky flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Peppermint Mocha, Chocolate Raspberry, Rootbeer, and Grape. Can you imagine baking with these, or using them as yummy flavors for coffee? My friends at Sweetleaf are giving you a chance to win a full-sized bottle of Cola drops (ARV $15.44), and all you have to do is “like” Sweetleaf on Facebook. This is on the honor system, and I will be checking that the winner has “liked” Sweetleaf on Facebook. Once you’ve “liked” them on Facebook, please leave a comment on this blog post. I’ll give you two extra entries each for sharing on Facebook or sending a tweet — let me know if you do those actions in the comment you leave. I’ll pull a winner a week from now, next Sunday at 8:50 p.m. GOOD LUCK!

Enter for a chance to win! Simply Like Sweetleaf on Facebook and leave a comment.

Enter for a chance to win! Simply Like Sweetleaf on Facebook and leave a comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Define Brave: Katie K. Active Wear Review

Do you guys remember that time I raved about Taffy Activewear? Taffy is a stylish boutique clothing line with super high quality athletic wear for curvy chicks like myself. A few months ago, I found out that the creator of Taffy, Katie K. herself, also had another activewear line called Katie K. Active. I was offered the opportunity to be a #definebrave ambassador, and I’m excited to tell you more about this cool line of clothing.

Defining Brave with Katie K. Activewear

Katie K. Does something I wish all clothing lines would do- offer the same pieces in standard and plus sizes (Sizes 2 – 24, to be exact)! One thing I’m looking forward to about getting out of plus sizes is having better variety in clothes. Last week at Kohl’s, I saw an adorable t-shirt with bicycles all over it. Had I wanted to squeeze myself into the large, sausage style, I could have, but that’s not my jam. I want to feel comfortable in the clothes I’m in, not constantly be worried about an escaping muffin top. I was delighted when I was browsing the Katie K line online and was able to pick a plus version of every style they offer. I ended up choosing: The Katie K. Signature Capri,  the Signature Jacket in Black,and the Signature Racer Back Tank in Coral. As a bonus, I also received a Signature Headband to match my cute coral tank.

AlyssaCurran_KatieKaCtive3One of the first things you’ll notice about this line is the quality. As someone who usually wears Old Navy activewear, I’m not used to athletic clothes that actually have great fabric quality. The fabric on all three pieces is tough, yet soft, and the seams are all strong and even. The capris are perfect because they smooth out my wobbly bits, sucking in my tummy to give me the sleek look I’m working out for. The capris also have a nice reflective design on the lower leg (that match the same design on the sleeve of the jacket), a nice nod to visibility safety.

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The jacket might be my favorite because it has thumb loops!!! This is great for lifting weights or walking in less than desirable weather, because you can keep your wrists and upper hands covered. I was so jazzed about this I had to take a picture of this feature alone. You also have pockets with zip closures, and a hood. The jacket seems to be the same material as the pants, so you have a nice stretch but also a flattering cut that streamlines your silhouette.

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The top is sweat wicking and comes in a criss cross racer style tank. My next purchase is definitely going to be this adorable coral cowl neck top (in fact, I’d probably wear this for a night out – not to the gym! It’s that cute!).  I’d really recommend you look into Katie K., and the time is right, because they’re running a 40% off sale right now only with code ALYSSA40! I may have to get myself a few items… Who can resist a sale?

Have you heard of Katie K. Active? Be sure to check them out on social media and say hi!

Correction: An earlier version said the capris do not have pockets. The Capris DO have pockets, they’re just so slim and sleek I missed ‘em!

Stuff my lawyer made me say: This outfit was provided to me free of charge in exchange for accepting an Ambassador role with Katie K., helping to share news and information on social media. This post contains affiliate links, which might make me a few nickels if ya click ‘em. (So click ‘em!) ;) Please let me know if you have any questions!

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Taffy Activewear for Plus Sized Gym Goers

Happy Monday, everyone! Can you believe there’s just three more days until Thanksgiving?! Yikes — I need to get my butt to the grocery store to load up on Turkey and all the fixins. Matt and I are hosting this year; but that’s another blog for another day. Today, I’m excited to tell you about Taffy Active Wear, stylish activewear for women with curves. My love affair with Taffy began a couple years ago when I won a pair of workout pants from Taffy on Authentically Emmie. These pants quickly turned into my every-day-after-work pants and my all-the-time-on-weekends pants. They were soft, but had enough structure to suck in the less than desirable pouchy parts of my belly. Plus, they had the perfect amount of flare in the leg. As a tall gal, I like a basic flare, but I don’t need bellbottoms nor am I looking for a straight-legged taper. These are the best pants ever, basically. (I’m so obsessed with these pants I wore a hole into them. Don’t worry – a fresh new pair is on its way. My weekend wardrobe requires these pants. For serious! Pssst. They’re on sale for $22.99 right now too!)

In conjunction with the Latina Lifestyle Blogger Collective (I am an honorary Latina!), I was sent a full Taffy outfit to review. Here’s my review in one word: excellent. You know how sometimes you buy exercise clothes and they’re cut like normal clothes? That doesn’t work for activewear. Especially when you’re plus sized. You need clothes that move with you, that bend and crease, that don’t give you horrible wedgies or VPL. You also want them to be cute! Case in point: the Taffy Wide Waistband Fitted Capri, the Essential Tank Top and the Taffy Essential Jacket.

Rockin' my Taffy Activewear at the Shoulder Press

Rockin’ my Taffy Activewear at the Shoulder Press

1) The Capri pants are perfect for basically any kind of exercise, because while they help you suck it in, they also don’t ride up (or worse – fall down). These were so comfy I ended up wearing them the whole night after I finished at the gym. I also like the mesh detailing along the sides, which adds a sporty contrast.

2) The Essential Tank Top is adorable with the dove imagery on the front. I actually would wear this as a normal shirt! It’s super soft. One note is that it has a little bit of sheerness, which was actually sort of sassy and sexy with the neon sports bras I favor. I also like the “Work of Art” messaging, because all of us are truly a work of art!

3) The Essential Jacket is my favorite of all three items. I normally don’t wear white, and this jacket may have converted me (You can get it in black, too). The 2X fit me perfectly – enough to feel like I was downplaying the areas I’m self conscious about (tummy), but enough to be nipped in at the waist and show off my hourglass figure. I really liked this fabric, too – it was warm without being stuffy, and I was able to wear it on the treadmill without feeling too hot. I loved how it tied together the whole outfit, and I’ve actually worn this out shopping several times as just a cute, sporty jacket. You can also tell that ALL of these items are really high quality. The zipper pulls, seams and linings are all deluxe feeling. As much as I love Old Navy activewear, I can tell sometimes that its low price translates into low quality. Not the case with Taffy. One more small thing — each piece has a cute little candy logo on it. My galpal Susannah actually noticed it and pointed it out, saying, “Is that candy?!”. It is, indeed, and it is adorable.

If you want to give Taffy a try (you won’t regret it!), you can save 25% with the code LLBLOG for 25% off entire site until Dec 31, 2013. That also includes free shipping — AWESOME deal. (I may need to do a little more shopping. Don’t tell my husband. I mean, how can I resist this adorable tunic tank? It’s only $14.99. Old Navy prices — Taffy quality!) Taffy would be perfect for a gift for YOURSELF (don’t forget to gift yourself this season — we all need a lil’ pampering) or for a wonderful, health conscious gift for plus-sized ladies in your life. I happen to know somebody who’s getting a special Taffy gift from Santa this year! One other thing I also really love about Taffy that you’ll read more about in my upcoming Double Chin Diary giftguide is that from now until December 31, Taffy is giving back 10% to Philippine relief via UNICEF. Giving your money to a socially-conscious company is a great way to give back this holiday season.

Do you have any questions about Taffy? What activewear do you usually find yourself wearing?

FTC Disclosure: I was chosen for this opportunity by the Latina Lifestyle Bloggers Collective in conjunction with their annual Holiday Gift Guide. All opinions expressed are my own.

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lyssaloves

Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free Cookbook Review and Giveaway

doublechindiary_almondcookie

Hi everybody, happy Friday! A few months back I had the opportunity to sign up to review a new cookbook by Ricki Heller called Naturally Sweet & Gluten-Free.  I knew back then that following the PCOS diet would mean making healthier choices in regards to sweets, and trying to eat as close to low-glycemic as possible would be a huge puzzle piece in my efforts to get fit. The book first attracted me because of the gorgeous cupcakes on the front cover. Although I can get down and dirty in the kitchen, I don’t consider myself a great baker… EXCEPT for making and decorating cupcakes. A few cake deco classes later, and I’m pretty confident with my swirly-topped creations. I have to admit that sometimes, the words gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan make me skeptical. Is it *possible* to have delicious tasting treats without butter, cream, eggs, or sugar? The answer is yes, and I know from both Lenny & Larry’s Vegan Protein Cookies and this new cookbook that vegan, sugar-free, and gluten-free CAN mean delicious!
As a highly visual person, one of my favorite things about this book is the gorgeous photography by Celine Saki. There are more than 60 full-color photographs in the book, which makes me happy because I think the most important part of any cookbook, besides the recipes, are the pictures. Doesn’t this picture of Cinnamon Buns make you drool? I’m a sucker for gorgeously styled food photography, and I must be the daughter of a photographer because today I was even pondering buying one of those mini light boxes for amateur food photographers.

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Heller also spends some time discussing how she came to be a food blogger and natural foods baker. She struggled with IBS and various tummy ailments her whole life, until she learned to start eliminating wheat, sugar and processed foods from her diet. Her story is similar to so many people I know, including my best friend, and I always appreciate it when authors give personal context to their work. Heller also provides a handy breakdown of the different types of non-wheat flours and sweeteners, which was helpful to me as I cheated a little bit in the upcoming recipe and used pre-ground Almond Flour by Bob’s Redmill. Shhhh.

The recipe I decided to test first was the “Easiest Almond Cookies”. The relatively short ingredients list appealed to me, and other than flax seed, I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. I was slightly intimidated by the process of grinding my flax seeds at first, because my food processor wasn’t seeming to “grind” them — just whirled them around helplessly. I finally realized if I jiggled the processor a little bit as it spun, it hit the seeds just right to turn them into crumbly, coarse meal.

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

Once I got past the step, the recipe lived up to its name, and they were pretty darn easy to make. I especially like that these are “smush” cookies, meaning you get to roll the dough into little balls with your hands, which I always think is fun. What can I say, I’m still six years old in a lot of ways :) After a brief visit in the oven for just eight minutes, my cookies were delightfully firm around the edges but still chewy and soft. I barely let them cool, took a bite and was pleasantly surprised by how clean they tasted. Most cookies are so sweet that you’re kind of sugar-shocked with the first bite. These have a very delicate, light taste with a fragrant almond after taste. The texture would be lovely with a dark British tea like PG Tips. I did make one small substitution by using coconut oil instead of the suggested sunflower oil, as I had it on hand and am loving all things coconutty.

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You can find the recipe at the bottom of this post, but because you guys are awesome and so is Ricki Heller, she’s graciously offered one copy of the book to one lucky Double Chin Diary reader. To enter is pretty straight-forward — just leave a comment on this post telling me which recipe from the book you’d most like to try. You can read about a few more recipes at this webpage. For an extra entry, “like” Ricki Heller on Facebook or follow Ricki Heller on Twitter.  Just let me know in the comments if you did either, and I’ll count your entry twice. This giveaway will end one week from now, on Friday, October 4 at 11:59 PM PST. GOOD LUCK!

Easiest Almond Cookies by Ricki Heller

This recipe is from Naturally Sweet & Gluten Free by Ricki Heller. Recipe re-printed with permission from Sellers Publishing, 2013.

Yield: 15 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (12 oz or 340 g) natural raw skin on almonds, preferably organic
  • 1/4 cup (25 g) finely ground flax seeds (from about 2 Tbsp or 30 ml whole)
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp (30 ml) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) pure almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) water, if necessary

 

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
  • 2. In the bowl of a food processor, whir the almonds, flax, baking soda, and salt until you have a very fine meal (it should be the consistency of a coarse cornmeal or fine breadcrumbs, with no large pieces of almond visible). Watch that you don’t blend so long as to obtain almond butter, however!
  • 3. Add the agave nectar, oil, and extracts, and process again just until the mixture holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl. It should look like a moist dough. If the mixture is too dry, add the water and pulse quickly to blend.
  • 4. Using a small ice-cream scoop or tablespoon (15 ml), scoop the dough and roll into balls; place them about 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Wet your palms (or use a silicone spatula) and press down to flatten each ball to about ¼ inch (6 mm) thick.
  • 5. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheets about halfway through baking, until the edges are barely golden brown and the cookies are dry in the center (the tops will still be light). Allow to cool completely before removing from the cookie sheets; the cookies firm up as they cool.

**** A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes, and an affiliate link to Amazon is included above. As always, all opinions are always 100% my own!

lyssaloves

No Sweeter Than the Ripest Cherry — Cookbook Review

Hi Friends! Today I’m sharing a review of my friend Suzie’s comic-cook book, No Sweeter Than The Ripest Cherry. Suzi and I met about 7 years ago when she and my husband attended the UCLA Film School. When I found out Suzie was a raw food chef, I was instantly intrigued by her career, thinking that raw food must mean ALL YOU CAN EAT IS SALAD. Thankfully, I was wrong, and when Suzi’s book came out, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy to explore.

No Sweeter Than The Ripest Cherry is a seasonal, fresh food inspired comic book recipe guide designed to fuse foundational, science-based nutrition concepts with a non-dogmatic seven-day culinary exploration of exciting, practical, and bowl-licking-good meals… that are mostly raw, mostly paleo, and made 100% from scratch with whole food ingredients and superfoods.

This is not your ordinary cookbook. The design is incredible, filled with comic book style illustrations, mouth watering photography, and clever typography and text placement that has you reading each page in depth to make sure you don’t miss anything. Look at these gorgeous pages!

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I also really like the style of writing. To me, cooking is FUN — so when things get a little too stuffy (cough cough, Mastering the art of French cooking), I get bored. Ripest Cherry is filled with personality, from the cutesy images of the character Ingrid on her 7-day health transformation, to great tongue-in-cheek quips such as “Like a wild primate, bang the empty coconut on the ground until it breaks.”

For my first Ripest Cherry adventure,  I decided to tackle The Blueberry Hawaiian, a yummy raw smoothie with Avocado, Celery, Cucumber, Lime, Wild Blueberries, Ginger, Honey and greens.

Photo from EssentialLivingFoods.com

This was my first time making a smoothie that had (GASP) vegetables in it, so I was a little nervous about what I’d end up with. For “greens”, I used a handful of spinach. I also added some Spirulina, because I got some at FitBloggin’ and it’s been staring at me from my pantry since June because I had no idea what to do with it.  For the record, wild blueberries are so cute and tiny, and their color is an amazing purple! Also for the record, raw honey is so much more robust than its boring sibling. I got mine (a sage citrus blend) at the Calabasas farmer’s market and it’s so good!

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The end result is perhaps not the most photogenic smoothie, but I have to say – I’m impressed! I was nervous it would taste grassy from the spinach and spirulina, but instead, the sharp ginger was really complemented by the honey, and the texture had a creaminess from the avocado that was only accentuated by the cooling cucumber.  This recipe makes a very large amount, so much in fact, that I had one full glass for dinner and have a blender-bottle of it for tomorrow’s breakfast. SCORE! What I liked about this smoothie was that not only did it taste super fresh,but it was incredibly filling.

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Besides having super yummy recipes like Guacatacos, the other huge benefit to Ripest Cherry is the health and nutrition information. Almost every other page is packed with an easy-to-read essay about topics like how digestion begins, the benefits of fermentation, and the importance of exercise. This is the type of information that you simply won’t get in your Glamour magazine — it’s the kind of information you get from that super-smart friend who teaches cooking classes at the local Ashram. (Suzie does that too!) For example, I loved this passage from the piece about exercise: “Remember, beginnings, however humble, are still beginnings. Everything in nature begins with a singular impulse. From the tiniest germ of being, life manifests outward into the universe. Where ever you may be in your journey, you can always take the first step towards reinvention.”

There’s also a super nutrition appendix that lists the health benefits and properties of all of the ingredients in the book. Did you know that celery is sometimes used as a treatment for rashes, and that bee pollen can help reverse the effects of obesity?
These tips, along with the amazing photography, innovative recipes and informative health knowledge earn the Ripest Cherry the Double Chin Diary seal of approval. You can buy your own copy at RipestCherry.com for $14.95.

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Because a review just ain’t a review on the Double Chin Diary without a giveaway, Suzie has graciously agreed to offer a copy to one lucky Double Chin Diary reader. For your entry to win, all you need to do is visit RipestCherry.com, and tell me which recipe out of the four sample pages shown you would be most inclined to try (Leave a comment).  The winner will be picked next Tuesday at 11:59 PM. US Only, please — and GOOD LUCK! You can earn an additional entry by “liking” Ripest Cherry on Facebook, sharing a tweet or Facebook post about this giveaway! If you do those things, just let me know in the comment. Viva la ‘Raw’volution!

 

Foodie Finds & a Quick Giveaway

You guys know by now that I’m a sucker for delicious food. I want to start sharing some of my favorite foodie finds with you, because it feels criminal not to!!! Some of these items were provided to me for review purposes but some came out of my own pocket. Let’s start by talking about the thing that’s been kicking my “kravings” to the kurb (ha!) all weekend.

1) Krave Jerky. I’ve always liked beef jerky, but usually, I stay away from it because of the price tag. It’s also high in sodium, but as an occasional treat, I think it’s fine for people like me who tend to skimp on protein. Krave Jerky makes artisanal jerky from beef, pork and turkey – and by far, my favorite is the amazing lemon garlic turkey jerky. A whole pouch of this stuff is only 200 calories and 15 grams of protein, so it’s an awesome and filling snack. Because Krave kindly sent me several packs to try, I’m going to give you a chance to win one! Comment on this blog post after visiting their website and tell me which flavor you’d most like to try. Next week I’ll pick one random commenter to win a pack of Krave and a couple Soya fishes. Anyways, back to the Krave. As of today I’ve inhaled the lemon pepper flavor and the smoky grilled teriyaki. Both were insanely delicious, and I’m thinking about subscribing to their Jerky-a-month club so I always have a protein-rich, low GI snack on hand when I start my PCOS Diet (Countdown – five days! I’m seeing my doctor on Friday and once I get to go-ahead, will begin the new plan).

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2) Little Soya Fishies. I was browsing Cost Plus on a lunch break and instantly my eye was drawn to these adorable fish shaped packets of soy sauce! Soy sauce is a hot commodity in my household because we’re constantly using it to marinade meats. I bought these little fishies thinking they’d be perfect to have on hand for the days when we’re out of soy sauce and our meal needs a salty little kick. Little Soya’s fishies are MSG free and have a robust, more full flavor than most soy sauces I’ve tasted. Deeeeeelicious! The problem is, they’re so darn cute I don’t want to use them. PS: Visit their website and fill out the pop-up form to receive a free fishie of your own to sample!

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3) Chobani FLIPs. I got serious yogurt-envy when I saw some of my other bloggy pals had received Chobani FLIPs to try out, because I’d been seeing them mentioned everywhere and I could not find them for the life of me!! Thankfully, the kind people at Chobani recognized a serious craving when they saw one, because they sent over two FLIP flavors to try – the Almond Coco Loco and the Raspberry Choco Fix. I would have taken a picture of the Coco Loco’s, but um, they were all gone. These are seriously intensely awesome – at 230 calories, 12 – 15 grams of protein and the TEXTURE! Holy cow, the texture. The yogurt has these amazing coconut flakes in it, and when you dump in the chocolate chunks and almond slivers, it’s like eating sort-of-healthy ice cream. I had to seriously keep my hands off of them because they were that good. Now looking at their website, it looks like they’ve come out with some other new flavors, like Honey Bee Nana and Key Lime Crumble. Yum, yum, yum. Don’t eat that artificially-sweetened dessert yogurt junk when you can have something a lot closer to the real thing. I’ll definitely keep these around as a sweet-treat every now and then. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.

Lovin' my Chobani Flips

Lovin’ my Chobani Flips

Those are my top three favorite finds of this week – what new food products have you discovered? Share them here, I’m always game to try new and awesome things!