Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween: Healthy Pumpkin Spice Zucchini Muffins

Happy Halloween everyone! It's officially pumpkin spice season, so today's Thursday Treats' recipe is inspired by my love for pumpkins and all-things fall. That includes pumpkin spice treats, as well, but some of the store options are loaded with sugar and too much artificial seasoning. I played a bit with my Apple Cheddar Muffin recipe to create today's Healthy Pumpkin Spice Zucchini Muffins. I am quite pleased with the result and so are my kids - to me, that's the ultimate testament to the success of my cooking efforts. Take a look:
These mini muffins are healthier than a regular muffin because I used:
  • Whole wheat flour
  • One medium low-calorie anti-oxidant rich zucchini
  • Organic agave syrup to substitute part of the sugar
  • Organic plain yoghurt to substitute part of the vegetable oil
If you are intrigued, take a look at the ingredients and super easy prep.

Ingredients (makes 24 mini muffins):
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pumpkin spice mix
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp agave syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup plain yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium zucchini - peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree - I used the organic canned pumpkin variety but you are welcome to cook your own
  • 2 tsp diced dried plums - my new obsession
  • 2 tsp mini dark chocolate chips
Heat oven to 350 F and grease the muffin tin or line with muffin cups.

  1. In a bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, sugar and pumpkin spice mix
  2. Beat the egg, then add the yoghurt, pumpkin puree, agave syrup and vegetable oil. Stir well.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture, stirring until moistened
  4. Add the dried plums and mini chocolate chips to the muffin mixture
  5. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups - I like to fill the cups well as it results in a nice crispy top
  6. Bake for ~ 25 minutes
The aroma while these were baking was heavenly. Serve warm, topped with your favorite jam - like... pumpkin butter, for instance! I also enjoyed mine with a cup of my favorite coffee.

What are your favorite pumpkin treats?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

StyleMint Mystery Bag Review Fall 2013

I've been a subscriber to StyleMint ever since I got a coupon in one of my monthly lifestyle boxes (more than a year ago). This is the first time I'm doing a review - I've had an almost love-hate relationship with the sub... the negative coming mostly from the fact that I need to remember to skip a month if I don't want to be charged. However, the few times I received clothes from StyleMint I was pleasantly surprised with their quality. StyleMint ran a friends & family sale last week and, since I had a credit to use, I jumped at the Mystery Bag sale. The bag cost $34.99 and was guaranteed to have at least 3 pieces of clothing. I received it today and I like the style and quality of the clothing.

I received three items and although the dress is a duplicate from my spring mystery bag, I'm OK with that. I will gift it to my sister-in-law as it's totally her style. Here are the pieces in more detail:
Laura Cashmere Sweater ($89.97, currently sold out)
This is a 100% cashmere sweater in a a true pumpkin color (Stylemint calls it 'winter orange'). The photos on the website does not do this justice - so, I would've never ordered based on that. I was pleasantly surprised when I received it. While it's not the softest quality cashmere I've owned, I still like it, especially the color. The cut is classic and fitted.
Parker Vest ($59.98, currently sold out)
This was the other item in the mystery bag I really liked. That is definitely not something I would typically order on my own, but that's a good thing. The vest is playful, soft and flattering. It'll look good over a dress or a shirt, with or without a belt. It is actually perfect over the pumpkin-colored cashmere sweater.
Falls Dress ($29.99, currently sold out)
This is an easy, lightweight dress - goes really well with leggings or on its own. I think the back of the dress is not the most flattering, especially for petite frames, thus I didn't wear it as much as I thought I would. Since I already own it, I hope my sister-in-law likes the duplicate I send to her.

Verdict: Overall, I am quite pleased with the items I received in my mystery bag. The value of the bag is close to $180 which is more than 5 times what I paid for the bag - can't beat that! I can't wait to wear my new pumpkin-colored sweater and my soft fluffy vest.

If you'd like to learn more about StyleMint, you can do so here. If you want to become a StyleMint subscriber and would like to sign up using my referral link, you can do so here. Thank you!

Are you subscribed to StyleMint; did you get a Mystery Bag? What other clothing subs do you use / consider?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

FabFitFun VIP Fall Box Review

After a bit of delay, my FabFitFun box arrived mid-last week. While I had already peeked at the spoilers, I was excited to see the contents in person. As often happens, I was more pleased with the box once I got to see all the goodies for myself. Take a look at what my FabFitFun box contained:
 First look...
... and all the goodies!
Here are more details on all the individual items with photos of the ones I really liked:

Gorjana Canary Scarf ($57) + $25 Gift Card
I am in love with this scarf! I knew I'd like it, but it's so gorgeous - very light (much lighter fabric than I expected), in the perfect neutral dark grey shade, "sprinkled" with pink canary silhouettes - very appropriate for fall. I already wore it a few times and for me, the box was worth it just for this scarf itself. The included $25 gift card makes this even better.

Barre3 Standing Slim DVD and online program ($19.95)
I like when I get workout DVD's in my lifestyle subs. I've heard from my workout-fanatic friends about barre - very hot right now - and I am curious to try this. It'll be a good change from my elliptical-and-strength gym routine

Starlooks 5 Shade Shadow Palette ($41)
I received the St. Tropez palette and it is gorgeous - the colors are warm and seem neutral enough for me to try. It contains brilliant matte, satin and sparkle shadows suitable for a day or night-time look. I visited St. Tropez a few summers ago and the colors do remind me of the sand and sun there - daydreaming...
I haven't tried any Starlooks products and based on some of the raving reviews, this palette sounds like a treat. I'm still deciding whether to keep it or gift it to my mom.

Surface Trinity Protein Cream ($17.48)
This blowout cream is said to smooth, strenghten and protect hair without any harsh chemicals. I've been using Moroccan Oil on my fine hair, but will venture out and try this one, as well.

SpaRitual Nail Polish ($13.95)
I always love when I get nail polish and this true purple shade called "Illume" is gorgeous. I don't own any SpaRitual colors - they are 3-free and 100% vegan, definitely a win!

Orly Nail Polish ($8.34)
This was the "special extra" item that I received because of the double-charging mix-up earlier this month (a note to those of you who were not aware: some subscribers got over-charged and FabFitFun reacted and resolved the issue fairly quickly, I thought, promising a "little extra" in the box...). The sparkly rose gold / pink Orly has the name "You are not alone" - pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, very appropriate; and what's not to like about sparkly & pink nail polish!

Orville Redenbacher Popcorn ($7.55)
I received the sea salt variety. My family likes popcorn and I like the non-butter kind. This one tastes yummy and is healthier than regular popcorn - it's whole grain, fluten-free and half the fat of the regular variety.

Health Warrior Chia Bar ($1.40)
I received the Banana Nut variety and I really liked it. It was chewy and not overly sweet. I use chia seeds in my cereal but have never tried a chia bar before. This one is said to be the only one on the market with chia seeds as the primary ingredient.

Drinkwel ($1.99)
A sample of what is said to be multivitamin for health-conscious drinkers was included. While I won't be using this one, I found it an interesting addition to the box...

There were some Mini Game Cards and, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness, a Bright Pink's Brighten UP Card and Alert Sticker.
Finally, missing from the box was the Bliss Triple Oxygem Instant Energizing Cleansing Foam - FabFitFun informed all of its subscribers that they were sending the Bliss item in a separate package - I already got my notification.

I was actually happy with FabFitFun Fall Box - I absolutely loved the Gorjana scarf and was very pleased with the couple of nail colors and the hair cream. The box had a total value of $176.18 (that is excluding the Bliss product) which is triple of what I paid for it. The FabFitFun VIP box is $49.99 / quarter and if you would like to sign up for one, you can use code EARLYBIRD5 to save $5 off your subscription.

What do you think of FabFitFun Fall VIP box? Are you a subscriber, are you planning to become one?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Free Graze Box Coupon & Review October 2013

I've been Graze-ing ever since Graze opened up its US operations earlier this year. I've switched my Graze boxes to once a month, so every time I get one now, it's almost a surprise (I had one delivered each week at the beginning but, with so many subs, I had to "pick my battles"). Graze had stopped invitations for a while but my October box had four friend invite codes. If you want to try Graze for free - that is you get your first and your fifth boxes free, you can sign up using my friend invite code here (V99C2QCTU). There is no commitment on you part, you can cancel anytime. 

Take a look at the snacks I enjoyed in October:

I received Poached Pear, Hot Cross Yum, Scandinavian Forest and Texan Corn Salsa snacks. 

While I have tried all of these snacks in past boxes, I was still happy to receive them. My favorite by far was the Poached Pear snack - a yummy mix of pear, raisins, vanilla pumpkin seeds and lemon infused raisins. I want to buy a full-size package of that - if they offered!

What did you get in your last Graze box? If you aren't subbed yet, will you give Graze a try? 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Ipsy October 2013 Glam Bag Review

I have been subscribed to Ipsy Glam Bag for the last five months, but October is my first review. I've liked more or less all of my Glam Bags - some I really liked (the May one, for example). The theme this month is "The Art of Beauty" and the writing on the bag reflects that. While this is not my favorite cosmetic bag, I'm still going to use it for little storage. Here is what I received in my October "Art of Beauty" Bag plus a snapshot of all the brands & offers included in the Glam Bag variations:
Zoya Naip Color in Neve
I have been getting quite a few Zoya nail polishes from my subs and I've come to love this brand. It goes on smoothly, is very long-wearing and is 5-free - what more could you want from a nail polish, right! This is a nice deep green / emerald shade with a bit of shimmer (called Giovanna) - just perfect for this season and the Holidays!

Buxom Full-On Lip Polish in Dolly
I am really pleased with receiving this lip product in my bag. I already own one in a different color and I do like it - maybe not for everyday but it's a nice lip polish. The Dolly shade is really natural looking and flattering. 

La Fresh Eco-Beauty Oil-Free Face Cleanser Wipes
I haven't tried these wipes before so was happy to do so.I think they do a very good job cleansing the face (I usually wear mascara and tinted moisturizer on a regular day).

Nourish Organic Deeply Nourishing Coconut & Argan Lotion
While I was hoping to get to sample The Delectable hand lotion, this one is actually pretty good. The brand is sold at Target and it is very nice. I love coconut and this Nourish Organic lotion, in addition to being coconut-flavored, is very light and fast absorbing. It's also the perfect size for my purse.

Sexy Hair Blow Dry Gel
This is the item I'm least excited about. I do not use any gels on my hair, so might gift this to a friend.

Overall, I really liked my October Glam Bag. I got products I already love and also, got to try some new ones. For $10 / month, I'm definitely happy with the value and selection of products. If you want to sign up for an Ipsy Glam Bag, you can do so here.

Are you an Ipsy subscriber? If so, what products did you get this month and what were your favorites?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

PopSugar Must Have Box October 2013 Review + Code

My October PopSugar Must Have box arrived on Friday and while I already knew what was inside, I couldn't wait to see all the items in person. Here is a look of all the goodies inside:
 First look...
... and all the goodies.
This month's theme is around Breast Cancer awareness and Halloween. PopSugar is donating $1 for every box purchased in addition to teaming up with some of the brands represented in this month's box.

Must Have Food:

The Can't Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified by Jessica Seinfeld ($16.79)
I like when I receive books and various themed, as well. I love to cook and the recipes in this book are accompanied by gorgeous photos.

Must Have Beauty and Special Extra:

NYX Cosmetics Liquid Liner ($6) and Smokey Shadow Palette ($7)
While I'm not a liner-type-of-girl, I'll try this out for a new look. The brush seems quite think for an exact application. The smokey palette looks very appropriate for the approaching holidays. I still can't decide if I'll keep it or gift it. i believe I got a sparkly palette in one of my Ipsy boxes, so I'll probably gift one of these.

Special Extra:
$20 Stitch Fix Card
I have heard of Stitch Fix - the new personal styling online service where you receive hand-selected goodies and you get to keep what you like. I personally don't quite see the benefit of paying $20 flat styling fee each time you get to try clothes... I may gift this one.

Must Have Fashion:

Gorjana Charity Bali Bead Bracelet ($45)
While PopSugar has been sending quite a few Gorjana items in its boxes, I can;t complain as I really like the brand's style and the fact that it can be mixed with other pieces. This bracelet is very delicate and feminine, I like it more than I thought I would.

Jane Tran Bobby Pins ($12)
These have a little sparkle to them and I got 2 each of light gray, green and black. Still deciding whether to use them or gift them.

The Wet Brush ($8.98)
I have not heard of that brush before but reviewers say it's amazing. While my hair doesn't tangle a lot, my girl's hair tends to, so I'll definitely try this brush on her.

Must Have Beauty:

Julep for PopSugar Duo, Nail Polish in Coco ($11.20) and Polymer Top Coat ($14.40)
I have not tried the topcoat and am glad I'll have the chance. It's said to dry shiny and smudge-free in just five minutes. I also like the Coco color - very fall-ish.

Must Have Food:

The Crispery Halloween Crispycake ($3.95)
This crispy-cake is huge. I've never been a fan of this type of treat but I tried it and so did my daughter. It's OK, but nothing extra special for either of us... as I said, it's just not my type of treat.

My verdict: The total value of this box comes to $125.32 and that is excluding the $20 Stitch Fix gift card. As always, PopSugar exceeded the price of the box in multiples. While this may not be my favorite box, I do like a few of the goodies - the cookbook, the Gorjana bracelet and the nail polish duo - a lot and I'll happily use them. If you'd like to see my other PopSugar Must Have Box reviews, you can do so here.

Coupon code: PopSugar is increasing the monthly Must Have box price as of 11/4. Use code SQUAD5 to save $5 on a 1-month subscription or SQUAD10 to save $10 on a 3-month subscription.

How do you like October's Must Have box? Are you going to extend your sub?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Neiman Marcus PopSugar Must Have Box: SPOILERS

A few days ago PopSugar announced that there would be a Neiman Marcus Must Have box available on Wednesday, 10/16. I have been very intrigued and was hoping that they would send some spoilers to further stir our curiosity. Well, I received the following sneak peek in my email regarding one of the items that is going to be included in every Neiman Marcus PopSugar Must Have box. Take a look:

I really like chevron-patterns on any home decor item and it is very much on trend. This throw looks very stylish - so, I'm definitely interested and curious to see what the price of the box would be.

What do you think of the spoiler?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Treats: Avocado English Muffin Toast with Feta

While I haven't always loved avocado, I have recently re-discovered this nuetirent-packed treat and have been eating it in salads and on toasts. Today's Thursdays Treat is healthy, super easy to make and delicious. Take a look at the Avocado English Muffin Toasts sprinkled with Feta cheese:

Ingredients (for 2 portions):
  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • 2 English muffins
  • 1 Tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp of Feta cheese
  • Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 400 F.

  1. Separate the English muffins with a fork and toast for 10 min at 400 F
  2. Cut and peel the avocado in four pieces, then cut each piece in slices
  3. Arrange the avocado slices on each of the four English muffin toasts
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and some salt to taste
  5. Mush the avocado with a form just a little bit
  6. Sprinkle with Feta cheese on top. I love Feta cheese (check out some of my recipes featuring Feta here and here) and find the balance between the smoothness of the avocado and acidity of the Feta just heavenly. If Feta is too strong for you, you can substitute with Parmesan or skip the cheese altogether.
Enjoy this delicious toast for breakfast, lunch or dinner - I've had it for every meal over the last week and can't decide what time of the day I like it the most!

What are some of your favorite avocado recipes?

Monday, October 7, 2013

Popsugar MUST HAVE Box October 2013 *SPOILER*

I can never resist peeking at PopSugar Must Have spoilers and, if you are like me, just "dying" to find out what's in October's box, take a peek - thanks to some of the ladies at Makeuptalk who already got their boxes. Here's what is said to be included in this box:

The list of goodies:

The Can't Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolutely Terrfied by Jessica Seinfield
NYX Cosmetics Smokey Eyeshadow Palette and Liquid Eyeliner
Gorjana Bali Bead Bracelet
Jane Tran Bobby Pin Set 
The Wet Brush Hair De-tangling Brush
The Crispery Halloween Crispycake
Julep Nail Polish and Freedom Top Coat
Stitch Fix $20 Gift Card

Once I get my box (hopefully sometime this week), I will post my opinion and more on the actual products. I'm assuming there will be some variations on the colors of some items above, but I'm definitely liking this box!

PopSugar just announced to current subscribers that as of 11/4, they will be increasing the box price to $39.95. You can still lock into the current price of $35 by pre-purchasing a 3, 6 or 12-month subscription. Use code REFER5 to get $5 off your first box.

What do you think of this month's spoilers?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday Treats: Healthy Egg, Ham & Cheese Pita Bread Sandwich

Hello everyone! Today's treat is a healthy, packed with nutrition and yummy Grilled Egg, Ham & Cheese Pita Bread Sandwich. I've been craving a healthier egg sandwich for a while and when I came across the Flax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Soft Pita Bread in my local grocery store the other day, I couldn't start my creation fast enough. Take a look at the result that has only about 300 calories:

  • Your favorite whole grain soft pita bread. The Flax, Oat Bran & Whole Wheat one that I used here is only 60 calories a piece, packed with fiber and absolutely delicious.
  • One egg, beaten; a drizzle of olive oil; a dash of salt, paprika & oregano
  • One slice of turkey ham - you can substitute for your favorite ham, but since I was aiming for a healthier version, I chose turkey
  • One slice of Munster cheese or smoked Provolone - I used Provolone here as I really like the smoked flavor of the one I have and it has fewer calories than the Munster (which I also love!)
  • 1/2 Tbsp of hummus
  • 1/3 cup of mixed baby greens - I used my favorite  Organic Baby Lettuce Mix from trader Joe's.
  • 1/2 spoon of unsalted butter
  1. Beat the egg, add a dash of salt, paprika and oregano to the mixture and cook in a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Butter the surface of the skillet and grill the pita bread for 30 seconds on one side, turn on the other
  3. Put the cooked egg on the pita, top with the cheese and finally with the ham
  4. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then fold the pita sandwich and butter each side. Brown each side for an additional 1 min or so. Once the cheese has melted and the pita bread is nicely browned, it's ready.
  5. Put on a place, spread 1/2 Tbsp hummus and top with the baby greens.
  6. Serve with your favorite fruit / veggies. Mine was delicious with Calamata olives and tomatoes.
This simple, healthy and delicious sandwich can be enjoyed in the morning or as a quick lunch. I've packed this treat in my daughter's lunch box one day this week and she said she wished I've packed a second one!

What are your favorite healthier sandwiches or morning treats?