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While I am not in love with Crowdtap anymore, they have been trying to butter me (well not me but all of the disgruntled members) up with new offers.  My newest was a sample for Hershey's new chocolate spreads.  They come in three flavors: chocolate, chocolate with hazelnut, and chocolate with almond.  Of course they sent me the one I was hoping I wouldn't get... the one with almonds.  I don't mind almonds but they certainly are not my favorite.  Nevertheless, it IS chocolate.  Our duty was to try the spread with many different items.  The shipments were very delayed so I haven't tried it with many things but its pretty good with cookies (especially Pepperidge Farm's Sausalito) and fruit.  The next time I make waffles, I would love to try making sandwiches with this and sliced banana.  I've done it before with peanut butter and it is soooo good.  The spread is very cream and spreads like a dream.  It's not good for you.  At all.  Not even a little bit.  Use sparingly especially if pairing it with other junk like above ;)
 
 
So today did not start out very well.  I am not a morning person to begin with.  I'd rather stay up two hours later than normal than wake up 15 minutes earlier.  This morning my oldest son was dragging his butt to get ready for school.  I kept telling him to hurry up and leave.  He did leave at at time that would get him to the bus stop on time but we prefer to have him leave a couple minutes early in case it comes early.  Guess what happened today?  Of course it was early.  Of course.  And my son who sometimes surprises me with his lack of common sense didn't realize that "no kids at the bus stop" + "leaving about 2 minutes later than normal" = "you missed the bus!" until a whopping 15 minutes later.  When he walked in 10 minutes before school was set to start (which is a 15 minute drive) I was none too pleased.  Little one was in the bathroom so I quickly packed his lunch into his bag because we would be missing his bus (and really hoping to even have him to his school closer to the house on time) while taking the oldest to school.  Once he ... finished up and threw some clothes on we headed out the door.  I was in my pajamas still but had no time to change.  Then I see the frost on the windshield... of course.  My husband took my ice scraper out of my car a few months ago and never put it back in.  So I scraped it off with an old gift card that I had in my car.  Then we were stuck traffic.  It was awesome (not!) running into the school to sign my son in with pajamas and messy hair especially since I also saw two parents I know... fantastic, really.  We barely got to my youngest's school on time (technically I think he was 1-2 minutes late but I didn't get out and he said they let him to class without going to the office).  I got home and was cold and cranky but went about my day.  As the time went on, I wanted something warm to beat the cold.  

I got this free sample of Gevalia Mocha Latte in the mail last week. It is not something that I had to do a write up on but I decided to share since I was trying it for the first time anyway.  I was always an anti-coffee person.  Not only did I HATE coffee, I could taste the slightest bit in a recipe that claimed you couldn't taste it.  Over the years I have tried some of the heavily flavored/sweetened coffees since the smelled so wonderful but still hated it.  This year it changed.  I now like the heavily flavored/sweetened coffee drinks like mocha fraps, pumpkin spice latte (with some extra sweetener), etc.  My favorite so far is the English Toffee cappuccino from Wawa... so delicious.  Don't tell me how many calories are in them because I don't want to know but I do only have them every once in a while like a liquid dessert.  So back to the sample.  These at home lattes come in two parts.  You pour the packet in the mug first then brew the k-cup in your Keurig like normal.  As it drips, you can see the packet mix start to foam up instantly.  The bottom middle photo is the latte before stirring but after it was done brewing.  It sounded kind of like Pop Rocks as it foamed up.  When I tried it, it tasted too much like coffee for me... shocking right?  I added a squeeze of hot fudge and it made it mocha enough for me.  I'm not sure how much these cost to buy but it wasn't bad so if they aren't too expensive, they would make a nice treat.  I could probably get the same effect using a hand blender and some milk but I've never tried it.  

I get free K-cup samples frequently by following deal blogs on facebook.  They are a "hot" deal so they are posted all over otherwise I would just miss it.  Just in the past month or two I have received a couple packs (2-4 cups each except this latte which just had one) that included a couple different kinds of Lipton tea, Green Mountain coffee, etc.  Since I don't drink coffee or hot tea often, this is a few month's worth for me.  They almost always come with coupons as well.  Some blogs to follow (I follow a ton but these are good to start with) would be Swaggrabber and Moneysavingmom.  And if you like the fancy beverages but not paying full price for them, Starbucks has their holiday drinks for BOGO from today through the 17th 2-5pm.
 
 
When Smiley offered me a campaign for the kids that was a healthy snack, I accepted right away.  I have seen these types of applesauce pouches before but never bought them.  This is mainly because they are so pricey (even the cheap brands) and seem wasteful as far as the thick pouches plus box.  I haven't ever seen this particular brand GoGo Squeez at the store I usually shop so I can't comment properly on availability.  According to the website, they are sold at Target and CVS which I do shop at frequently. ***Edit: I happened to find them at Walmart while looking at canned veggies and they carried about 4-5 flavors!

Pros:
--They are 100% fruit so no added sugar.  This is how I like applesauce in general.  It is sweet enough, why ruin the nutrition with extra sugar.
--It comes in 11! different flavors according to the information they sent me.  They sent us the "appleapple" flavor which is just regular applesauce but the applepeach really sounds yummy.
--It is convenient.  This would be the reason these things are so popular (and pricey).  You can take them anywhere, they do not have to be refrigerated, and the lid is resealable (if for some reason you can't finish a 3oz pouch?). A spoon is also unnecessary which is good if your little one often forgets.
--If your child is in a "nut-free" classroom (this would be my youngest's situation for the last two years), applesauce cups and pouches are on most of the "approved snacks" lists.  
--It is non-GMO, no added colors or flavors

Cons:
--The packaging.  While it's BPA-free so not a health issue, I try to be as green as I can without putting in too much extra effort in.  For snacks away from the home, I prefer to send fresh fruit or use a reusable container to send dry snacks.
--The price.  For the cost of one 4-pack, I could buy two medium jars of applesauce and give my kids a loooot of 3oz bowls of applesauce.  If I really wanted pouches, they do even sell reusable ones now.  These are cheaper than some of the other brands though at about $2.50 (Walmart) per four-pack.  Like I said above, I'd really just rather send fruit or dry snacks and leave the applesauce for at home though.  

If you would like to try them out for yourself, click here for a $.75 off coupon. 
 
 
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The image is from the Tastykake site. For more information on the product, click on it and it will take you there.
One of the items from the Spring Fever Voxbox that I recently got for free from Influenster was the new (I think it's new anyway, I've never seen it before) Tastykake Kandy Bar Kake.  I got the S'mores flavor which at first really bummed me out because I can't eat marshmallows now (gelatin... ground bone and stuff... boo).  But after reading through the ingredients a few times, found that there is no gelatin so they must use a marshmallow fluff/creme type product.  Yay I can eat it!  "You're going to share with me right?" says the husband.  Crap really?!  "yes of course" I say grudgingly.  I grew up loving Tastykakes (I am a Jersey girl after all) then didn't have them in CA and the selection in TX was lacking.  We are back on the east coast for now and let me tell you, they are still as good as they used to be.  When I was in high school, I used to tutor another student who paid me in Butterscotch Krimpets.  I kid you not, I worked for Krimpets.  And Kandy Kakes?  Yuuuummmm.  These Kandy Bar Kakes are light fluffy cakes with a creamy center and covered in the best food group ever ... chocolate.  What?  Chocolate is not a food group?  Crap.  Well anyway, these were delicious.  By looking at the three available flavors online, I think that the Reeses is probably the best but the S'mores were great as well.  They do not take over as my favorite but they are right up there.  The product information that I was given says that they are about $4.49 for the family pack but I have seen the Tastykake packs for as low as $2 on sale.  You can get over to their website where you can see all of their products and where you can buy them by clicking on the image above or here.
 
 
This awesome package that I received today is the "spring fever voxbox" from Influenster.  It came with five products that are all new to me.  Reviews coming soon but I was so excited, I needed to give a sneak peak ;) And if you must know, the Kandy Barkakes is gone.  I did share though :)
 
 
First of all, I told him to be normal.  This is what I got.  But anyway, my husband was excited to try all of the different kinds of soups from the new Campbell's Go line.  I have been buying them combining the $1 off manufacturer's coupons that have been in the papers recently with the $1 off Target coupons that Target has had on their site.  They have them on markdown for $2.36 right now making them $.36 after those coupons (another $.05 using a reusable bag).   The flavors for these soups are very different.  To be honest, even if I was not a vegetarian, they do not sound good to me... coconut curry chicken, spicy chorizo w/ chicken, etc... yeah, no.  But my husband likes strange combinations and was all over the taste testing mission.  He has only tried a couple so far but is on a mission to try them all.  The only one that I can have is the red one which is creamy red pepper with smoked gouda.  The chorizo is the one Smiley360 sent free.  I have yet to receive any feedback on the coupons that I have passed out except for one who is mad at herself for forgetting to use it every time she goes to the store. These  soups have a gourmet feel to them unlike any packaged soup that I have ever tried.  They are easy to take with you (no can opener needed).  Click here for to fill out a funny Mad-lib type story and you'll get a printable $1 off coupon for yourself :)
 
 
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Sorry in advance for the time stamps. These are actually from my camera before I turned it off in the settings.
It is over a year since I was supposed to post this so I'd say "late" would be the understatement of the year. But hey better late then never right?  I got this little beauty from a limited time program that BzzAgent was doing in fall of 2011 (I didn't end up getting it until around New Years last year) called the Daily Bzz.  I had tried for a few of the Daily Bzz campaigns because they had some really neat ones.  This is the only one I got into but it was perfect for me as I had been wanting an immersion blender for a while.  My oldest son helped me win it by starring in my video entry.  He was just as excited as I was when I found out that I had won one of them.  Then came the daily questions on whether it was here yet.  The answer was no for a few MONTHS as they had gotten very backed up.  I was squealing with glee when I opened the package though.  To add to the excitement, BzzAgent sent me the "brushed chrome" color!  I had assumed they were going to send the white because it is cheaper than the colored line but I was pleasantly surprised as this color matched my other small kitchen appliances much better.  Also included is a handy, dandy measuring cup that you can blend in.  It works great for doing protein shakes and smoothies in.  I used it a lot for that when I first got it.  Since then I have gotten a Vitamix that takes care of all of my smoothie needs (and beats the veggies to a pulp).
My first projects were applesauce and apple butter.  I washed the apples and cut them off the core.  Then I just tossed them in a pan with a little water, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  After cooking on low until they were soft, I took them off the heat.  Next, I blended with the Smart Stick right in the pan until smooth.  After separating the amount I that I wanted for the applesauce (it was done), I added more of the spices and continued cooking on low until it thickened into apple butter.  I love this cooking method since it requires no dicing or peeling.  This saves me time as well as leaving the nutrients from the skin in the food.  And lets's not forget that there is not an ounce of added sweetener so it is healthy!  Below is the applesauce (which didn't last until it cooled all the way) and I didn't get a photo of the apple butter as it was later when I finished that.  The boys scarfed both things down though and I thought it was pretty good too if you ask me.
The Smart Stick saved time and dishes.  Without it, I would have had to spoon it into a blender then back in.  Cleanup was an absolute breeze.  The bottom portion pops off with the press of a button and rinses clean very easily.  Thank you BzzAgent, you have made my life easier with this campaign <3 
 
 
Today I got into not one but two product samplings!   My favorite ... a Crowdtap/Old Navy sample share!  This time it is for two of their tees.  It is the smallest (value wise) that I have done but I just love their tees.  I actually have a ton already partially because I picked up several during that amazing January clearance that I mentioned earlier.  The "perfect fit" ones are my favorite and this will give me the opportunity to get some additional colors.  I also got into the Campbell's To Go soup campaign from Smile.ly.  I won't actually eat it because it has meat in it but my husband will love it and it will be one less thing I need to buy when grocery shopping so that makes me happy.  He loves testing new things just like me so he really should have his own account... 

How about you?  Have you gotten into any programs lately?
 
 
Above is a photo of our Meatless Monday dinner.  I have recently (a about 5 weeks now) become a vegetarian.  It actually had nothing to do with the MorningStar Farms campaign though I know the timing looks suspicious.  The MorningStar Farms Bzz campaign introduced me to a lot of foods that I thought I would have to give up though.  I have already done a post on the burgers.  Today I am going to go through some other foods that I have tried afterwards.  I have really been impressed with the taste and texture of everything that I have tried.  The only thing that really disappoints me about the company is that they still use GMO ingredients.  When many competitors out there such as Gardein and Lightlife (I hadn't even heard of these brands before coming a vegetarian) are supporting GMO labeling and all of their products are non-GMO.  This will not stop me from buying MorningStar Farms but it will make me eat it much less than I probably would have.  Anyway, back to what I tried.  Tonight I made sesame, "chik'n" noodles w/ mustard greens, water chestnuts, etc.  It was delicious!  Since it was my first time using the Chik'n Strips, I decided to try a small piece by itself (was cooked in a little bit of sesame oil) before adding it to the rest of the dish.  It was actually good.  Not exactly like chicken but the first meatless "meat" that I actually liked alone.  In the dish, it picked up the other flavors and really did taste like chicken.  My son actually thought it was chicken until he saw me eating it then he said it must be fake chicken since mom is eating it.
When I went back to the commissary to use my $1 coupons, I was very excited that MorningStar Farms products were on sale for $2.50! Score!  I actually used my free coupon on the Three-Bean Chili w/ Grillers Crumbles.  My husband is a chili addict.  He is not a chili snob at all and likes almost every chili he has ever tried.  Of course he has had some favorites but I don't think I have every seen him say that he didn't like chili.  He was very skeptical when I told him I was heating this up for him.  I don't know why.  He has tried so many meat replacement products now (and like them) that he should just treat it like any other new food.  The verdict?  He liked it (big shocker).  I actually heard him talking about it on the phone to his brother.  He likes to complain to anybody who will listen that I have become a vegetarian in hopes that they will "take his side" and try to convince me to give it up lol.  But I overheard him saying "but some of the fake things she gets are actually pretty good" and he went on to talk about how he liked the chili and the burgers and the chicken patties.  HA!  This was one of my least favorite products that I have tried thus far   And actually it was not the crumbles (the fake ground "meat") that I didn't care for, it was just the seasoning.  I am pretty picky when it comes to chili.  Even when I did eat meat, I was never fond of Wendy's chili which so many people rave about.  
My favorite product?  The Italian Herb Chik Patties!  Talk about amazing!  When I made us some "chicken" patty sandwiches, they were devoured too fast to take a photo.  We had them with sliced tomato, lettuce, a little mayo, and swiss (though provolone or mozzarella would have been fantastic as well) cheese on toasted potato bread because we didn't have buns.  They were very delicious and as usual the texture was very chicken patty-ish.   I actually liked them so much that when I went to the store last week, I picked up another pack even though I had no coupons... shocker!   Sorry I could only take a photo of the box for you but you have to admit, their photo on the box is yummy looking.  Have you been entering the meatless monday giveaways on their page every week?  No luck yet but I have been entering every week and you get an extra entry for entering a upc code.  This week is a 17 piece Pyrex baking set.  Next week is a Cuisinart Electric Hotdog Roller ... ok a little weird lol.  Enter here :)
 
 
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The burger looks bigger than it is. That is actually a small dessert plate that it is on :)
Well as I had previously mentioned, I was very skeptical about trying the MorningStar Farms products.  In the past I had tried Boca burgers and I think other brands and thought they were just awful.  They tasted nothing like meat and worse, they had an awful aftertaste.  And Tofu? ... Yeah that doesn't happen unless it is cut small and cooked in something else or blended into something like pudding (so basically any method that covers the flavor!).  However, I am not one to turn down free food unless it were something really unhealthy that we wouldn't like.  I figured that if my husband and I didn't like them, I could at least mask them with cheese and get my boys to eat it.  Before I got my Bzz kit, I got an email from BJ's that new coupons were available (we have a free 2 month membership) and one of the coupons was for $3 off any MorningStar Farms product.  As soon as the Bzz kit got here, I headed to BJ's to see what they had and how much it would be.  The cheapest item they had was a big box of the "Grillers Vegan" burgers.  They were $10 ($9.99 or something like that) so after the $3 BJ's coupon and one of my $1 coupons from the kit, they were $6.  

One of our favorite burgers is a mushroom swiss burger and we were too scared to try a veggie burger plain anyway.  So I grilled up an onion with a can of mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil and minced garlic.  I prepared the burgers in the same skillet since I was using that anyway though you can microwave them as well (and I have tried this since when only making one for myself).  They actually smelled good!  As they were cooking, I sliced some swiss cheese and tomato and got the plates and buns ready.  I put the cheese in between the burgers and hot toppings so it would partially melt.  I put a little mayo on mine.  The above photo is the result.  Doesn't it look good?  Surprise!... they WERE good.  They tasted just like a regular burger.  I did taste a small bite of the patty by itself so that I was a proper product tester.  While it was not gross, I can't say that I would ever eat it by itself.  But the texture was so close to a real burger that I was very impressed.  And when eating on a bun, no aftertaste!  The biggest surprise though was that my husband liked it.  I had been trying to make them for a few nights but he didn't want to try them so he kept being sneaky and starting dinner before I could.  I finally caught him one night and said "NO! I am making the veggie burgers tonight and you ARE going to try them!" at which point he whined something.  The end result was that his burger was gone and he, along with the kids were annoyed that I only made one per person!  I did this so that if we didn't like it (I told you, I was not confident going into this one), I could cook them in a different way the next time.  

My breakdown of the product we tried:

Color: very close to the cheaper burger patties that you can buy.

Size: It is a small (don't remember exactly how many ounces each patty is) patty that fits well on a store bought bun.  They would kind of drown if you were using the fancier burger buns though.  I actually think the size is perfect.  I think that if they were bigger/thicker, it would be noticeable that it was not meat when you bit into it (taste wise).  They also do not shrink since they are not meat.

Texture: Very much like a real meat patty.  By looking at the pictures of some of the other varieties, I think that they might have a different texture (and very different color) so this only applies to this variety. 

Price:  Pretty expensive to my cheap butt.  Veggie products are not cheap to begin with and this line is quite a bit more than the Boca line, though they also taste a lot better.  The bigger boxes at BJ's were $10 and over.  The smaller boxes (which are quite small... less than a half pound) were $3.18 at the Commissary which means that at regular stores they were probably $4 or more. 

Variety:  Amazing!  This is just what I saw (have looked at BJ's and the Commissary)... Burgers (Grillers Original, Grillers Vegan, Grillers Prime, Garden something, Black Bean Chipoltle, Spicy Black Bean), "Chicken" Patties (I think I saw two kinds), "chicken" nuggets, "chicken" (chunks of unbreaded grilled chicken looking stuff), breakfast sausage patties, breakfast sausage links, hot dogs, corn dogs, "meat"balls, chili, and riblets!  That is a LOT!  And this is not all, its just the products from those two stores, they have MANY more at other stores.

I was hoping that I would have tried another variety by the time I did this write up but we have had a pretty busy week so I hope to do another post within the next week.  Today at the store we bought the chili with my free coupon and will use it tomorrow for our Meatless Monday meal with some cornbread and veggies.  My husband wants to try the black bean burgers (either variety) and maybe the riblets.  I might use my other BJ's coupon (with a $1 coupon) to get a box of the chicken patties or nuggets since my kids liked the burgers so much.  Bottom line... These will not replace the occasional thick juicy beef burger.  But they do make a nice quick guilt-free snack.

The MorningStar Farms site has a sweepstakes going on right now where they have a giveaway every Monday in honor of Meatless Monday.  Tomorrow they will be giving away 10 nice looking Cuisinart Toaster Ovens.  I will be entering, will you?  Go here to check it out.