Nog-Off, 2021

Eggnog is to Christmas what pumpkin spice is to autumn; the flavor that embodies a moment in time, lingering as a taste memory inextricably linked to merriment, lingering with sweet resonance long after the cup has been drained. Originating sometime around the Middle Ages, it was an opulent indicator of wealth, being so laden with expensive spices, sugar, and rich dairy products. Today, as the popularity of eggnog continues to rise, it’s become a widely available indulgence for everyone to enjoy. Greater demand means more options, which follow perfectly in step with an explosive profusion in eggless, milkless nogs.

Oat milk has forever changed the dairy-free landscape which means that this year, we have more vegan options than ever to raise a glass with. Clearly, we’re due for another Nog-Off.

For this fiercely festive showdown between heavyweights, we have fourteen contenders in the ring. Both the bottom and top selections from the previous round have bowed out, setting the scene for a fierce battle on a level playing field.

I soon found myself drowning in a sea of nog. Mercifully, there are no complete losers in this game, and I wouldn’t be upset to have any of these cartons in my fridge again. Different situations call for different drinks, however, so I thought it would be best to break it down accordingly.

Probably the Same Product: Natural By Nature Oat Nog and Sprouts Oatmilk Nog. I noticed after judging, they both had the same lurid yellow color which was notable by itself. Flipping them over to compare labels, the nutritional facts matched exactly, as did the ingredients. Oops. The only difference? Sprouts’ costs $1.50 less.

Most Like Coffee Creamer: Milkadamia Veggnog. The only commercial macadamia nut nog in existence, it’s exceptionally smooth and rich but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was drinking French Vanilla coffee creamer. There’s not a hint of spices nor eggy flavor to speak of. You could doctor them with an extra pinch of nutmeg for an instant fix, but they’re not winning awards straight out of the container. Strikingly, I found this more suitable than the actual coffee creamer made by Nutpods, which is unsweetened and flat out bland.

Most Natural: Fronks Vegan Eggnog. If you want every ingredient to count, you can absolutely taste it in this blend of whole foods. Cashews, almonds, and dates are the foundation, lightly kissed by a touch of cinnamon and cardamom, for a more nuanced spice blend. It tastes pure and fresh because it is! Made by hand in small batches for local distribution, it’s the closest you can get to homemade without pulling out a blender.

Best for Sipping Solo: Califia Holiday Nog Almondmilk. Light but not watery, rich yet low in calories, I could drink this one all day long without any trouble. Thank goodness it also happens to come in the largest bottle of all, with a total of twelve half-cup servings.

Best with Booze: Chobani Oat Nog. Coming from a long line of oat milks and creamers, it should come as no surprise that this thick oat blend is perfectly engineered to balance out the bold, sometimes harsh edge of rum, bourbon, or brandy without tasting watered down. Also, it has a notable malted, toasted, earthy flavor that would harmonize beautifully with additional spirits.

Most innovative: Good Karma Holiday Nog. Allergens, who? Made with cold-pressed organic flax, this is the nog for everyone. No nuts, no soy, no funny business. While it doesn’t carry the same weight as genuine eggnog, for that same reason, it’s exceptionally drinkable and even refreshing.

Best for Baking: So Delicious Coconut Milk Holiday Nog. The last remaining coconut option on the list, this nog has a powerful, candy-like sweetness that puts it squarely in dessert territory. Strong seasonings ensure that it won’t just fall into the background like any other non-dairy milk if employed to make festive cupcakes, cheesecakes, and more.

Best on a Budget: Trader Joe’s O’Nog. The most affordable option on this list, one generous quart will only set you back $2.99. Every dollar counts when budgeting for holiday gifts, and the most expensive option on this list, by contrast, will set you back $12.99 for a pint.

Best for Most People: Good & Gather Oatmilk Holiday Nog. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but if there was only one nog I could celebrate the holidays with, to take back home to my family and impress the widest range of palates, after much deliberation, I think it has to be… The Target house brand. I’m still struggling with such a shocking outcome. It’s not the best of all categories, as is made clear above, but those mad food scientists managed to hit the ideal balance that could appeal to the widest audience. Spiced gently, sweet but not sugary, rich but not cloying, it stands out by virtue of… Not standing out.

It’s both a relief and a disappointment that there’s no clear winner, standing tall above all the noise. I wish it was such an easy judgement, but that means it’s hard to go wrong. Where ever you are, whatever you have access to, you can pour yourself a glass of holiday cheer. Isn’t that the real meaning of a Nog-Off?

When all else fails, don’t forget, it’s not so hard to make your own from scratch, too.

What is your personal favorite here? Is there a local specialty in your neck of the woods that would have swept the floor with these national brands? Leave me a comment, and maybe next year, they’ll make it into the rematch!

Water You Waiting For?

Why is it so hard to drink enough water on a daily basis? Such a fundamental element of survival should come as naturally as breathing, and yet the majority of people suffer through perpetual dehydration, without even realizing it. The excuses are pitiful, but plentiful:

  • I’m too busy to remember.
  • Plain water doesn’t taste good.
  • It’s too cold/not cold enough.
  • Bottled water is wasteful.
    I can’t drink straight from the tap.
  • Public fountains are grimy.
  • Caffeine is necessary in the morning.

Attempts at increasing any sort of fluid intake usually end in poor compromises for me, using sugary sodas, sports drinks, and juices as a crutch. I know I’ll feel better if I just swallow my pride along with a big swig of pure, clean, fresh water, but it’s never the most compelling option in the kitchen.

That’s all changed now that I have a Vitapod on the counter. This formidable machine works like a single-serve coffee maker with individual pods containing nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and most importantly to discriminating drinkers like myself, FLAVOR. Formulated by a panel of experienced doctors, the overall goal is to supplement up to 15 under-consumed vitamins and minerals that leave 9 out of 10 Americans under-nourished. The recyclable pods contain 90% less plastic than single-use water bottles, and will be 100% biodegradable by 2023.

Choose between 11 different flavors that include watermelon, raspberry hibiscus, green apple, and even cotton candy. In case you need an extra kick of caffeine, you can get your fix from the Iced Tea+ (60mg), Sports+ (100mg), and Energy+ (200mg) options, too. There are no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners in any of the beverage mixes.

The real beauty of the Vitapod system is that it doesn’t even need a flavor pack to function. The built-in multi-pass filtration system purifies water better than market leaders. Plus, the machine cools water to 50 – 59 degrees, which is the optimal temperature for hydration, allowing the body to absorb water quicker than water that’s too hot or cold. Simply dispense your drink over ice if you’d like it cooler.

Infuse your brew and take it to go in a reusable bottle and you’ll never go thirsty again. Now if that doesn’t solve all your dehydration difficulties, I don’t know what will.

Save $15 on a Vitapod Machine or Vitapod Machine Starter Pack at vitapodworld.com when you use code MOM15. Expires 9/30/21.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Moms Meet and Vitapod. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!

Rice, Rice, Baby

Young vegans today don’t even know how good they’ve got it. Back in my day, dairy-free milk was still a rarity, available only in niche health food stores. Even there, your choices were limited to only soy or rice. Oat? Almond? Cashew? Forget about it! Who knew there were so many potential sources of creamy liquid back then?

Shelf stockers at mainstream markets would either scratch their heads, dumbfounded by the request, or haplessly led you to the lactose-free cartons. For a compassionate eater living in the suburbs, without a driver’s license, that meant stocking up and paying obscene prices for the luxury of access, or getting a bit more creative.

Guess which path I chose?

When sold in watered down cartons, rice milk was usually my least favorite option, but at home, I found a crafty loophole to create a thicker, richer blend. Creating a dense rice milk concentrate, not entirely dissimilar to wallpaper paste, I could better control the viscosity, flavor, and sweetness, all while building up a stockpile to easily whip up another cup, quart, or gallon at a time if I so desired. It was cheap, effective, and highly satisfying to beat the system.

Over time, my own means of access improved along with a boom in widespread availability. Once an essential staple, that formula that served me so well fell to the back of the digital recipe box. Collecting virtual dust, forgotten until an unfortunate computer crash forced me back onto an old laptop, it suddenly popped up like a long lost friend.

Today in 2021, I don’t need to make my own rice milk in bulk (thank the stars) but the concept spoke to me in a whole new way this time around. With a few little tweaks, a little polish, and some modern upgrades, I had a beautiful, brilliant instant horchata concentrate on my hands.

Perfect for sweltering summer heat when all you need is a tall, icy drink to keep your cool, horchata is the ultimate agua fresca. Creamy but not thick or rich, subtle notes of cinnamon and almond play in the background with in delicate, balanced harmony.

By skipping the time-consuming step of soaking whole grains of rice, prep time is slashed by an eighth or more, and it’s ready to reconstitute whenever a profound thirst strikes. Whether you’re serving a solo drinker or making a pitcher for a party, this stuff is like liquid gold for a quick fix.

We may not need bulk rice milk anymore, but you can never have too much horchata.

Continue reading “Rice, Rice, Baby”

Bravocado!

What’s better than bulletproof? Avocajoe is your indestructible, unbeatable, ironclad warrior in a sleek aluminum can. We’ve met this caffeinated champion before almost a year ago, before his greatness was fully realized. Answering the cries for truly upgraded coffee, without saturated animal fats, Avocajoe has finally arrived to save the day!

Forget the costly morning coffee run; this amber elixir delivers a lush latte experience at home, at work, or on the go. Velvety smooth and lightly sweetened with monk fruit, each sip lingers pleasantly, like a gentle, loving kiss. Easy to drink down in seconds, savor the moment before getting back to work, buoyed by the focused, slow burning energy that can only come from balanced nutrition. While a straight shot of espresso will send me flying at first and crashing later, this is one smooth trip, not a wild roller coaster ride to endure.

Available in three flavors, the Dark Roast could be considered the original; naturally sweetened coffee enhanced by whole avocado goodness, the flavor is straightforward but far from simple. Bold, woodsy, dark, and slightly mysterious, layers of flavor set this blend apart from the pack.

Taking that lustrous base note and adding bright, floral hints, Vanilla is the sweet, milky latte of third wave coffee shop dreams. Intensely flavored yet soft in texture, the experience is akin to a gentle wake up call for all the senses. Imagine using a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream as your coffee creamer, and you’d come pretty close to the luxurious taste contained in each slim aluminum can.

Saving what I think is the best for last, Mocha is my personal favorite of the trio. Leading with a creamy cocoa flavor, it reminds me of leftover hot chocolate that’s been chilled overnight, allowed to mature and deepen in complexity, then spiked with a concentrated shot of espresso.

Bolstered by avocado rather than typical alt-milks, Avocajoe is completely allergen-free; no nuts, seeds, dairy, or gluten to speak of. If you’re keto, diabetic, or just want a damn good iced coffee, it’s one-stop shopping here.

If you’re expecting drinkable guacamole blended with cold brew, you’ll be relieved to know that the green fruit only manifests as a rich, but not thick texture, leaving any objectionable savory notes out of the can. Served properly chilled, poured into a tall glass, you’d never guess the secret ingredient, but you can tell from the first taste that this is not your average Joe.

This post was made possible as a collaboration with Avocajoe. My opinions can not be bought and all content is original. This page may contain affiliate links; thank you for supporting my blog!