The Spot, Sand, & Sun

Two weekends ago, I found my way back to Manhattan/Hermosa/Redondo Beach again. Funny how I ended up in the place I was exploring by foot a little over a year ago, basically doing the same thing :P 


I took the Metro Green line down to the South Bay area, and got off at Redondo Beach Station.


My Sunday morning walk was quite pleasant. Sure, there was not much to look at at first—except manicured lawns and secluded corporate buildings—but things got better about 30 minutes in as I made my way toward the coast.


A 1 hour walk just to get to the beach.

But since I made the trek in the early afternoon, I had to stop for lunch. Good thing The Spot was in the right spot ;) !


It’s apparently LA’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, and the outside reminded me of a little beach shack.


The inside was dimly lit, but had a homey feel to it.


I guess the ambiance influenced my meal choice, since I decided to try the “Garden Corny”. What food symbolizes home cookin’ more than cornbread ;) ?

I didn’t have to wait to long for my plate to arrive, but to pass the time, I forced myself to review lecture slides on heterochromatin. I’m sure my server thought it was strange for someone to be looking at a slide of mutant Drosophila just before chowing down…

 Garden Corny - cornbread smothered in pinto beans, brown rice, salsa, red sauce, and garden veggies!

Garden Corny – cornbread smothered in pinto beans, brown rice, salsa, red sauce, and garden veggies!

I certainly had no issues though! My plate came out still steaming hot, and I had to push aside the mountain of pinto beans and rice to find two square pieces of cornbread tucked in the middle.


The food did fill me up, and I was left feeling warm and re-nourished from my long walk from the station. Still, the seasoning needed improvement. Everything from the vegetables to the cornbread tasted quite bland. Things could have been a lot better with a flavorful sauce…or perhaps just some more salt!

After paying and tipping for my lunch, I made my way to The Strand—where I observed the houses, volleyballers, bikers, runners, and walkers I “met” a little over a year ago…


 Weekends at the beach. Gotta love it.

Weekends at the beach. Gotta love it.

The clear blue skies, inviting pier, and gentle crowds put me in a pleasant mood on my walk back. Since Halloween is approaching, it was fun to see many of the fancy-schmancy beach houses get into theme. These gargantuan spiders were popular with the passerby. This one certainly caught my attention!


Yeah, beach days are nice. Too bad it can’t be like that every day unless you’re one of the lucky Strand denizens living in a beachfront house.I finished a few shopping errands before making my way back to Douglas Station.


When I got home later that evening, I don’t think I got up for several hours. My feet reminded me that despite making my brain and body happy, the power to do all that walking and exploring was provided by them, and now they needed REST! :P

The Spot on Urbanspoon

High Brew Coffee

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid to write this review. This review is based on the products and information I received from High Brew Coffee. All opinions are my own.

It’s hard to believe that I am midway through my first semester as a grad student, and while the time seems to have flown by, the days themselves don’t always feel that way—especially on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I have two-hour classes in the morning and late afternoon.

I have been having at least two cups of coffee a day during the work week, and am usually able to manage without it on the weekends. Even though the caffeine doesn’t have a “real” effect on me, I think that the act of sipping on a warm beverage during a 3pm lecture is what keeps me semi-awake.

But even though I have long-associated a warm cup of coffee to be my afternoon-pick-me-up, I wasn’t afraid to give cold-brew coffee a try. I was sent over some samples from High Brew Coffee a few weeks ago, and was eager to give all four flavors a go!


At first, I thought cold-brew just meant cold coffee (like iced coffee?), but I was naively in the wrong. After a little bit of research, I discovered for myself that the cold-brew process involves coffee beans to be soaked in water for a lengthy amount of time. The water can be chilled or at room temperature, and after being filtered, the coffee is ready to be used as one wishes. You can get more details about High Brew’s version here.

The result is a less bitter, and naturally sweeter beverage.



I had Dark Chocolate Mocha before heading out to the musical last Friday, and after trying all flavors, I would say this one was my most favorite. It didn’t taste like coffee, but more like a rich, dark liquid chocolate drink.


Double Espresso on the other hand didn’t score so high for me. Despite having sugar AND stevia in the mix, it just tasted too bitter to me and I could not detect much flavor.


I had Salted Caramel before going out for a morning run, and I was able to taste the salty ‘n’ spicy caramel. Definitely what I needed to hold me over until I could get a Quest bar in me post-run ;)


Mexican Vanilla sounded pretty exotic, but it actually was quite tame—with just a hint of sweetness and smooth taste. This flavor seemed to be the most like iced coffee from the bunch, since it tasted perfect ice cold!


With my second set of exams coming up next week, I’ll probably have to restock on these! And I guess it wouldn’t hurt to perhaps experiment with the process myself…if I have the time ;) !

Have you tried High Brew Coffee, or cold-brew coffee in general?

Getting Cultured

The last time I saw a musical was in high school. My sister and I were part of our school’s music honor society (basically an excuse to go to an annual musical on the school’s dollar), and had the opportunity to see the fantastic show that is Wicked at the Orpheum Theater in SF. Have no clue what I’m referring to? Get cultured, now. 

I’m so glad that Wicked was my first “real” musical (I count it as real if Playbill pamphlet is given out), but I was beyond excited when I learned that my campus’ graduate student council was selling discount musical tickets to Jersey Boys at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood. People were selected based on a lottery system, but if we were selected, we only had to pay less than half of the retail ticket price!

After learning I was one of the lucky ones to score a ticket, I immediately knew what my plans were on Friday night.


I left my apartment around 7, and used the Metro to get to Hollywood and Vine, since the Pantages was right across the street from the station. I was somewhat nervous about going out solo (at night, in the city) for the first time, but I was glad to see that the Metro was as busy as any other time of day—probably even more so.

The theater recommends you arrive about 45 minutes before the start of the show, but we couldn’t get up to our seats until later…at least for us mezzanine folk.


I used the time to walk around the halls, use the restroom, and people watch.


My seat was near the back, but nonetheless, I loved the view.



As more and more people began to arrive, I noticed that my section ended up being the “grad student section”. It was probably because the person who was in charge of purchasing tickets just bought out the back rows to make life simpler, haha.

The show was about 2 and 1/2 hours with an intermission, and the acting was great! There were quite a few F-bombs though, which surprised me since I’ve always had the assumption that musicals, while sometimes can brush the borderline, never really “cross” the line. I let it pass though, since I found many of the songs to be catchy and up-beat—which is the one of the main reasons for attending a musical in the first place ;)

The show ended some time after 10, and I was able to take the Metro Red line on the way home with no issues at all. I was glad to be able to observe what the surroundings are like at night, so now I don’t have to feel too anxious about that part of city living anymore. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to throw all safety precautions out the window!!

Since we are on the topic of fine arts and culture, I also wanted to share some other new “cultural” events I experienced that week. Culture, being in the form of yogurt, that is. I was able to get my hands on two of the Chobani seasonal flavors for fall—pumpkin and apple cinnamon—and found both to be quite sensational!

{Apple Cinnamon}

Chobani Apple Cinnamon

Sweet with hint of spice
Chunks of apple add body
No need for PB


Pumpkin Chobani

No need for a can
Pumpkin pie, yogurt filling
Fall is in the air

Like my classy haiku descriptions? Even science majors can be creative and appreciate the “finer” things in life ;)

Have you seen a musical?

Two More Days

Even though I had to bid adieu to my sister once the end of her visit rolled around, I was glad I was able to spend some time with my Dad for two more days after the weekend of their visit. Since we were both busy during the day, our only time to meet up was for dinner—so that’s exactly what we did! We decided to head over to Lemonade in Pasadena since neither of us had ever been, and the fresh-take on cafeteria food the local chain specializes in sounded appetizing at the time. 

Lake Ave. in Pasadena is another one of my favorite locales---I love it just as much as the exciting Colorado Ave!

Lake Ave. in Pasadena is another one of my favorite locales—I love it just as much as the exciting Colorado Ave!

We were kind of stumped as to how and what to order when we arrived, but since we didn’t have to worry about crowds on a weeknight, the staff behind the counter were at ease and were patient in guiding us through the process.

We could choose from one to six portions from the Marketplace, where there were many salad-like items and hot pots. There was also a meat section, breads, and luscious-looking cakes. 

salad bar and pots


We made our way down the counter with a 6-Portion plate, a veg pot, and some bread for the side. The 6-portion plate was quite hefty, and seriously landed with a thud on the tray!


Lime soba noodles, beets salad, tomato & farfalle salad, crunchy lentils of some sort, curried cauliflower, spicy corn salad // pumpernickel roll and cranberry nut bread <— YUM! // braised kale, tomato and white bean veg pot

My favorites from the food we ordered included the cranberry nut bread and the beets salad. I loved the soft texture of the bread, as well as the mix of bite-size cranberry pieces and slivers of almond, I believe. The beets salad though…it had a hint of sweetness and crunchiness not from the beets, but from something small, orange, and sticky in consistency. Orange-glazed walnuts? Not too sure, but it made the salad worthwhile for sure! 

Before leaving, my Dad and I decided to split a macaron cookie. We split a generous-sized lemon macaron that was super soft and filled with lots of cream! It almost fell apart in my hands as I was taking the picture and trying to split it into two halves.


The next day was another busy day for the both of us, especially me! I had a two-hour lecture in the morning, spent a couple busy hours in my rotation lab, and then followed that up with an afternoon lecture for a class that requires me to make the trek to our campus health center for free coffee. Anything to stay awake! My lecture that day that went 20 minutes over schedule, since we were being rushed through a 75-slide power point presentation on one of the most detailed aspects of genetics. My brain was fried, and in dire need of glucose :P

Since my Dad wanted to stop by Little India in Cerritos for some Indian groceries to take back home, we decided to have dinner at a local spot in the area.


The Sahara Restaurant was pretty much like any other Indian restaurant you’d find in a city strip mall, but they apparently served a pretty tasty Gobi 65 and Cauliflower Manchurian—I would be the judge of that!


We were the only ones in the restaurant, other than a couple of police officers who came in to place a carry-out order. It was comical to watch them transfixed on the Bollywood music videos playing on the TV hanging in the corner of a wall. Our server was a sweetly awkward guy who had a hard time explaining the true difference between Gobi 65 and Cauliflower Manchurian. It was okay though, since he did make the effort and asked the chef for his input :P

So along with the Gobi 65, we ordered the Baingan Bharta with a side of roti and long-grain rice. For an appetizer, we snacked on papadum and my Dad had a mango lassi.


I passed the time by looking up my exam scores for one of my classes (which took forever to do on my phone), and by the time it loaded in full, our food had arrived to the table.

Gobi 65 - Cauliflower deep fried in exotic Indian spices & Baingan Bharta - Smoked eggplants and potatoes cooked in tomatoes, onion sauce and exotic spices.

Gobi 65 – Cauliflower deep fried in exotic Indian spices //  Baingan Bharta – Smoked eggplants and potatoes cooked in tomatoes, onion sauce and exotic spices.

Roti & rice.

Roti & rice.

The Gobi 65 was spicy and full of flavor, but far from having the crispy texture I associate with a well-cooked version. In fact, it was quite chewy and almost seemed soggy from the sauce/spices. The Baingan Bharta was delicious on all fronts though, and I used it to coat my slices of warm, crisp roti.

After dinner and shopping, I was dropped off back at my apartment. My Dad had a long drive that night and so after getting him a cup of coffee from my apartment complex’s coffee machine, we said our good-byes. It was semi-difficult to get back into my regular routine the next day, but I reminded myself that a new weekend was not too far away ;)

Lemonade on Urbanspoon

Sahara Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Showing Off My City

After reuniting over pizza and dragging my Dad to a 10 mile race on the Saturday morning of my Dad and sis’s weekend visit, I planned to take both of them to some of my favorite places in the LA area so far—more so for my sister’s sake, since she had never been to Santa Monica. So after some homework and nap time, we left my apartment around 3pm and headed over to the Pier/Promenade area.


We found $5 parking underground…a few blocks from a parking lot that had the nerve to charge $20 for a spot. Guess we showed them! My sis was feeling peckish, so she had some appetizer-size tacos from one of the food stalls at the food court in the upper-level.


After having the chance to quell her munchies, we walked around the Promenade, and browsed a couple shops—including Urban Outiftters and Crossroads Trading Co. She’s more of a thrifter than I am, but I was the one that ended up making purchases that day (two jeans, one of which was a pair of dark wash Free People flares for only $25!) Yay!

After shopping, we found our patient Dad waiting for us outside. He was able to entertain himself, and us later, by showing us photos of the “interesting folk” that passed by. I (sort of) seriously recommended that he should make it a thing—could get an art book deal or something out of it :P !

 Crossing the street to get to dinner!

Crossing the street to get to dinner!

For dinner, we headed over to Real Food Daily since I was craving a huge bowl of wholesome food. My sister was surprisingly still ravenous, but I knew that RFD was the perfect solution!


The SaMo location would be pretty easy to miss, if it were not for the square hanging sign humbly displayed outside. We entered the dimly lit restaurant, and asked if we could sit upstairs.


We found a cozy spot in the back corner, and after settling in, we looked at the menu and decided to order family-style since it was the perfect opportunity to get a taste of all sorts of crazy-delicious RFD menu items. In the end, I picked the Not-Chos, my sis the Club, and my Dad the Basic Five, from which we selected five items from the categories of veggies, beans & grains, and one plant protein. After much convincing and a guarantee from our server that “yes, the golden gravy is flavorful, Dad”, we chose as a group our five selections to be the sea vegetables, garlicky greens, soba noodles, mashed potatoes w/gravy, and the almond “tuna”.


After placing our family-size order, my sister and I climbed downstairs to wash our hands in the restroom. My sister didn’t lock the door since she was just washing her hands, but it was still awkward when one of the kitchen staff shot by me and opened the door to the bathroom without even knocking.

 The kitchen area where a member of the kitchen staff flew right by me!

The kitchen area where a member of the kitchen staff flew right by me!

After that awkward incident, we went back upstairs and chatted amongst eachother while we waited for our food…which, despite our growing hunger, was well worth the wait…

 Not-chos ~ Melted cashew cheese, black beans, pico de gallo, tofu sour cream, guacamole

Not-chos ~ Melted cashew cheese, black beans, pico de gallo,
tofu sour cream, guacamole

The Club ~ triple decker  or in a wrap w/ crispy seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, aioli, sourdough

The Club ~ triple decker or in a wrap w/ crispy seitan, tempeh bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, aioli, sourdough

 L-to-R going clockwise ~ almond "tuna", sea vegetables, soba noodles, mashed potatoes with gravy, garlicky greens---they forgot the golden gravy at first, so they brought it in a little bowl off to the side...

L-to-R going clockwise ~ almond “tuna”, sea vegetables, soba noodles, mashed potatoes with gravy, garlicky greens—they forgot the golden gravy at first, so they brought it in a little bowl off to the side…

I mostly attacked the nachos, but I wasn’t a fan of the chips. They tasted a bit too stale for me—but when topped with the almond “tuna”? De.licious.

So obviously I was using the almond “tuna” as an additional topping for my nachos because I couldn’t get enough of it. I also found the sea vegetables, garlicky greens, and soba noodles all flavorful and filling (very filling). My sister finally felt full after (almost) getting through all four sandwich quarters.

rfd_samo (11)

Don’t let vegan food fool ya…it can be quite rich!

My Dad and sis were both pleased with the meal, with my sis saying she hasn’t had anything that tasty and delicious for quite some time, since her dining commons at school has nothing in comparison. I was glad that I was able to share another one of my favorites with them, and thought about taking them to the RFD in WeHo next time.

 Fancy art shows.

Fancy art shows on Ocean Ave.

We left with our bellies full (no room for dessert!) and semi-waddled over to Ocean Ave. We were too stuffed tired to make it down to the Pier, but I didn’t mind since we could always save that for another day. 

 The SM Pier @ night.

The SM Pier @ night

On Sunday, I let my Dad and sister sleep in while I went out for a morning long run with the group I’m training for the LA Marathon with. After the run, I came back to an apartment smelling like omelettes, coffee, and freshly-washed dishes. Gotta love parents!

My Dad had been wanting me to give him a campus tour, so that occupied the rest of our morning after running some last-minute in-house errands and helping the fam pack up. After walking around my campus (very slowly, in heels nonetheless), we decided to have a late Sunday lunch at the Urth Caffe in DTLA. When I told my sister about the amazing green tea tiramisu I had, she looked up the menu and had tre latti on the brain all weekend. I couldn’t deny her the indulgence after letting her in on the secret ;)

I have got to be honest and say it was hard to find, since it was in the middle of the Arts District downtown.

 Nice art!

Nice art!

It was also the only “edible” location in the area…


While my Dad looked for parking, my sis and I found our spot in the queue that was (not surprisingly) already out the door.

waiting outside

When we made our way inside, we still had to face some crowds…


…but, at least our eyes weren’t bored!

 Tea and mug wall // dessert goods // cool mural

Tea and mug wall // dessert goods // cool urth-y mural

There were a lot of seating options, and so we found a table in the indoor patio dining area.

 Beautiful room, not so beautiful display of wasted food.

Beautiful room, not so beautiful display of wasted food.

^ If I wasn’t wary of infectious diseases, I would have grabbed that tiramisu. Pity it had to go to waste :(

We ordered family-style again, but we ordered platter-style entrees that would be easy to split among three people. It was a long wait, but all of our food (and teas!) came out at once so it was like a feast:


The Mediterranean Platter – a plate of feta cheese, grape leaves, hummus, tabouli, roasted peppers & mixed olives (with pits) garnished with mint, grilled artichokes and pure olive oil served with pita bread.

-  nori sheet stuffed with avocado, organic brown rice, carrots, broccoli, green onions, umeboshi plum paste, and five spice tofu served with a mixed greens salad and wasabi.

Nori Plum Rice Wrap -  nori sheet stuffed with avocado, organic brown rice, carrots, broccoli, green onions, umeboshi plum paste, and five spice tofu served with a mixed greens salad and wasabi.

Pita bread on the side :)


I split the Moroccan Mint Tea with my Dad, while my sister indulged in the English Tea Latte with her Tre Latti!

Moroccan Tea Latté - made with organic green tea and cool creamy mint

Moroccan Tea Latté – made with organic green tea and cool creamy mint

English Tea Latte - a rich creamy organic tea latte perfect for high tea!

English Tea Latte – a rich creamy organic tea latte perfect for high tea!

Tre Latti - vanilla sponge cake soaked in FOUR different sweet milks, a layer of chantilly cream and iced with a caramelized meringue

Tre Latti – vanilla sponge cake soaked in FOUR different sweet milks, a layer of chantilly cream and iced with a caramelized meringue

The description itself sounds like it flew over from Italy personally, and landed on my sister’s plate!


 Helpin' myself.

Helpin’ myself.

We were able to clean our plates (in other words, no excess food was ordered or wasted), and we left the restaurant happy with our family meal out, yet again.

I was dropped off at home while my Dad headed up north with my sis to drop her off at her college before Monday classes. My Dad actually ended up seeing me the next two days since he had to come back for business, but it was a real parting between my sister and I that afternoon since I wouldn’t be able to see her until Thanksgiving!

But for the time being, I would say we had a pretty swell time ♥

Real Food Daily on Urbanspoon

Urth Caffé on Urbanspoon

Mr. Pizza

I recently got to play hostess to my visiting Dad and sister, and we certainly had a blast. At least I’m pretty sure they did, with all the eating out/exploring/napping we did ;)

 Driving over to Koreatown.

Driving over to Koreatown.

Since traffic is always so insane, I didn’t get to see both of them until around 8pm on Friday night. We were all pretty hungry, so I immediately met them downstairs when they arrived at my apartment. There was no time to unload and unpack when three ravenous tummies were concerned!

Despite being only two miles away from the heart of Downtown, I haven’t explored it as much as I should have to-date. I guess I consider it an adventure if it takes a long time for me to get to my destination, and two miles doesn’t seem to fit the criteria. Even so, I will have to make more time to explore Downtown—especially since Koreatown and Little Tokyo are nearby.

At least I was able to convince everyone that we should have dinner in Koreatown that night. It wasn’t too hard to convince them though, since we were heading towards Mr. Pizza: Korea’s #1 pizza chain!


It wasn’t too crowded for a Friday night, and as soon as we stepped in through the doors, we were greeted by three employees. One of them handed us menus and the other led us to our table. The third employee was poised like a bouncer at the staircase, haha.

 The fun interior. What a pizza restaurant is supposed to feel like :)

The fun interior. What a pizza restaurant is supposed to feel like :)

We sat in a booth near the window, and I was able to get a good view of curious passersby wondering what in the world Korean pizza was.


I heard about how they make a special “gold” crust with sweet potato filling or something like that, but we ended up ordering a large thin crust vegetarian pizza to split among the three of us.



Appetizing wall decor.

My sister, feeling super hungry since she was in the car pretty much all day, attacked the crispy garlic bread crisps that came out as an appetizer.


I attacked the pizza once it landed on our table.

 Vegetarian pizza - mushrooms, onions, corn, bell peppers and olives meet tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on our signature crust.

Vegetarian pizza – mushrooms, onions, corn, bell peppers and olives meet tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on our signature crust.

Even though we didn’t get the special gold crust, our pizza crust still had a distinct, freshly-baked bread taste and texture to it that we all liked.

 In single slice form.

In single slice form.

I have to admit that I ate my first two slices with a fork, but then gave up when the toppings kept sliding all over my plate. I still prefer eating with pizza with a fork though, haha!

After dinner, we drove back and my sis and Dad were finally able to unpack and rest up. I wanted to get some laundry and cleaning done, so I did that while they made themselves at home on the couch. I ended up going to sleep close to midnight, and despite having to wake up at 5am the next day for this race, I’d say the pizza was a great way to fuel up!

How do you like to eat pizza?

Mr. Pizza on Urbanspoon

Race Recap: Rad Runs Reyes Adobe Days 10 Miler

In exactly a week and a half from today, I will be running my 5th half marathon, and my first second race in So Cal. While I originally planned for my 5th half to be my first So Cal race, my impromptu registration for a 10 miler fit my training schedule (and personal schedule) too perfect to resist signing up. Since my family was visiting, I was able to get a ride up to Agoura Hills for a great Saturday morning long-run race interspersed with hills. 

This race hit all the right notes on many accounts: 

The price – I found the price tag of $30 for a 10 miler to be quite a bargain, and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that all participants got a medal. I have participated in races where you have to pay extra for a medal (which I can say I have not done before…), so having that included in the (cheap) race registration was pretty awesome.

A great race for locals.

A great race for locals.

The size - The race was held for the first time I believe, and for being a first-timer, it had a pretty solid turn-out for both the 10 miler and 10k. I liked the small-ish, local crowd—even one of the vendors at the booths was amazed when I told her I had come “all the way from LA” to come up for the race in Agoura Hills. 


The weather - The weekend of this race was a particularly cold one compared to what it’s been like in LA for the past two months. When I arrived at the race start around 6:30am, I had to borrow my Dad’s jacket because I was freezing (first time I’ve felt cold in a while)! The coolish, 59°F weather did benefit me though in the end, since my pace for the first five miles was quite fast for me. 


Mile markers – I have been frustrated quite a few times during races that had inaccurate mile markers (it really does get you from a mental standpoint if you are running the last 2 miles of a half or 0.2 of a 10k, and the mile markers don’t match up with your watch!!), but this race was certainly an exception when compared to my past experiences. I appreciated the fact that every time I saw a mile marker during this race, my Garmin would beep with my pace in agreement.

The finish feels more fantastic when your watch matches up with the mile markers!

The finish feels more fantastic when your watch matches up with the mile markers!

But like anything else, there’s always room for improvement!

 The freebies – The freebies were not bad…and that’s about it. I did finally get a chance to try the Strong & Kind savory bars, a soft (but wide) race shirt, a pack of band-aids, a random protein bar, water bottles, and varied pamphlets (including a Quest Bar recipe book) <— though I would have appreciated actual Quest bars…


They had a good amount of vendors, but not a lot.

They had a good amount of vendors, but not a lot.

(Lack of) division ranking – I like looking at things through lists and categories, so the fact that there wasn’t any age/gender division ranking was kind of a bummer. This is obviously a very minor issue though.

 What they lacked in timing organization they made up for in water and bagels.

What they lacked in timing organization they made up for in water and bagels.

Boy, am I glad to be part of the racing scene again—and to come back when the weather is starting to cool is a major motivator to keep racing! I was also happy with my 9:27/mi pace, and am excited to see what the half will hold for me in a couple days’ time!

How do you stay motivated to run/exercise?

Neat & Sweet

I believe the best gift anyone could give a (grad) student is a crock pot. It’s simply the best vessel to get the cooking job done when a weekday schedule is just too busy. 


While I do have interest in using my stove top a bit more than for just hard-boiling eggs, most of the time it is just easier to just chop out exactly what I need, throw, and go. Even so, these Neat Meat Replacement mixes did help me venture out beyond the slow cooker boundaries…at least in the latter part of this post ;)


Egg substitute, mexican mix, & original mix.

The mixes come in powder form, and consist of ingredients like garbanzo flour, ground pecans, and chia seeds (in the case of the egg substitute).

 Mexican mix.

Mexican mix

 Egg substitute

Egg substitute

On the back of each bag, it gives instructions as to how much water to add per bag of mix. You have to do the math for anything less ;)


I tested out the original mix using both the egg substitute and real eggs. I ended up cooking both “experiments” with a crock pot since I was curious about how that would turn out…

The patties I made using real eggs turned out more dense, almost reminiscent of a brownie, but of course not sweet!

Crockpot Neat Burger Patties with Shredded Cabbage and Quinoa Salad

Crockpot Neat Burger Patties with Shredded Cabbage and Quinoa Salad

The patties I made with the egg substitute and original mix turned out to be much softer, but I think I may have added an extra tablespoon or two of water!

Crockpot Neat Burger Pattie with Green Beans and Lentils

Crockpot Neat Burger Patty with Green Beans and Lentils

Again, I couldn’t help but conduct some more crock pot experiments with these mixes, so I continued to do so with the Mexican Mix.

Neat Mexican Mix with Egg Replacement

Neat Mexican Mix with Egg Replacement

 Patty ready for cookin'!

Patty ready for cookin’!




But I did save enough in the end for the “recommended” cooking instructions, and was able to get a crisp patty out of it!


Which complimented the veggies that were simmering all day in my crock pot of course ;)


Since my Dad and sister were visiting me for the weekend, I felt like it would be a good idea to whip up something for them, baked-goods style. When I saw this in Trader Joe’s pumpkin-themed section while grocery shopping one weekend, I picked it up with the intention of baking them using the Neat Egg Substitute.

 Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bar Baking Mix

Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bar Baking Mix

With some alterations to the recipe provided on the side of the box, the result was something that all three of us couldn’t get enough of! I told my roommate she could help herself to some, but unfortunately, I don’t think she reached for them in time, since my Dad, sis, and I pretty much feasted on what seemed to be the entire pan!

Tahini Pumpkin Bars
Yields 20
Replace butter with tahini, and you have a nuttier, fudgier pumpkin bar!
Write a review
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
  1. 1 box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bar Baking Mix
  2. 2 Neat Egg Replacement “Eggs” (or two regular eggs)
  3. 4 oz. of Tahini
  4. Optional: extra chocolate chips or chopped nuts
  5. Water
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix wet ingredients (tahini and eggs) together.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry mix in a bowl.
  4. Add chocolate chips or nuts (if you prefer, this is optional)
  5. Mix all ingredients together until you get soft dough. Add ¼ cup of water as you go, so you add just enough to get a dough-ball consistency. (I ended up using about four ¼ cups of water in the end).
  6. Pour batter into a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Use non-stick spray if you prefer (I used a parchment paper that didn’t require it) and spread the dough into a flat square that is thick enough to cut into bars later on.
  7. Bake for about 55 minutes, checking every 10-20 minutes to adjust for variances in ovens.
  8. Cool bars before cutting. Enjoy!
Adapted from Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bar Baking Mix Recipe
Adapted from Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Bar Baking Mix Recipe
Will Study for Food

Using the Neat Egg Substitute and replacing the butter with tahini caused me to feel trepidatious at first, but when my sister went back for seconds, I knew I had done something right, and for once, it wasn’t something made using a crock pot (but I do wonder how that would turn out…)


Cooling off before digging in!

Have you used any of Neat’s products?

Do you often find yourself sticking to a certain appliance most of the time when it comes to cooking?

Ten Things Over Tiramisu

1. I am so glad Urth Caffe has 5 locations for me to check out and that they have such an extensive menu. I’ve already crossed the WeHo location off my list, where I was thoroughly impressed by my Sunday afternoon dessert. 

 Urth Caffe in West Hollywood.

Urth Caffe in West Hollywood.

2. Speaking of which…this tiramisu? Out-of-this-world-insanely delicious.

 If love could be defined in terms of tiramisu, this would be it.

If love could be defined in terms of tiramisu, this Matcha Green Tea Tiramisu would be it .

 Matcha Tiramisu matcha infused mascarpone cheese layered in between matcha soaked ladyfingers topped with whipped cream & garnished with matcha powder.

Matcha Tiramisu = matcha infused mascarpone cheese layered in between matcha soaked ladyfingers topped with whipped cream & garnished with matcha powder. [in other words, SO GOOD...]

3. Everybody in WeHo had the same idea as I did: 3pm tea time on a sunny Sunday afternoon

 Busy day at Urth Caffe.

Busy day at Urth Caffe.

4. I may have taken more than my share of stevia packets. Sorry, I’m not ashamed. 


5. All I was missing was a leisure-reading book and a sun hat. I’m also surprised I didn’t go back for seconds…


Okay, now for some things non-tiramisu-related ;)

6. In about 5 months time, I’m going to be doing this. I never thought about doing it so soon, but there is really no time like the present. The topic most definitely deserves a post of its own…

7. I busted out the baking pan and made these last night. Shhh—it’s a surprise for my Dad and sis ;) . Also plan a separate post detailing what they are/what’s in it!


8. Speaking of family, they are arriving tonight and I still am not sure what to do with them for the weekend (haha). How do you pick when there is somuchstuff going on in LA? 

9. I’ve finished week 2 of my first lab rotation, and have been feeling completely exhausted. Like, napping-at-6pm-seems-like-a-good-idea exhausted. The work itself is not tiring, so I guess it’s just because my routine is changing again, and that’s causing some form of subconscious stress?

 Yeah, so I may not be driving, but even commuting by bus can add exhaustion...

Yeah, so I may not be driving, but even commuting by bus can add exhaustion…

10. This week has been crazy in terms of free stuff. We had a vendor show on campus the other day, and I was able to pick up some things that always come in handy (reusable shopping bags, pens, etc.). We also got to go around to different booths and get a card stamped for an entry to win an iPad mini. And of course, there was free food. My favorite was a small bottle that looks like something you’d find in a lab cabinet, but it actually had Hershey’s Kisses in it! 


Are you a tiramisu fan?

What’s the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon?

Urth Caffé on Urbanspoon

Vegan Oktoberfest

When I took German in high school, my teacher would always recount his favorite Oktoberfest stories around October-time. Since I was in high school during the whole health- food-reform-in-schools situation, we weren’t really “allowed” to have potlucks or parties unless they were “approved”—but my teacher was the kind of guy who always put a spin on things to make things seem educational. I mean, celebrating Oktoberfest in a high school German class makes absolute sense if you think about it (minus the beer). 

Unfortunately, my food options were quite limited being a vegetarian and all. My plate consisted of German cookies, Black Forest cake, and the one thing that had potatoes, and no meat. Based on my plate, you could say I may have not truly celebrated Oktoberfest for what it is, but things do change for the better as time goes on. Options like Vegan Oktoberfest  provide a solution for us plant-based eaters who want to partake in the fun of their meat-eating chums.

It was a bright, sunny day in Santa Monica on the day of the event.


My legs were already pretty burned out by mid-afternoon. I had run a 10 mile long run in the morning, taken the bus, and bought my weekly stash of Quest bars before heading over to Barnard Way. In other words, my morning was pretty active with all the running and walking I had done. At least I had a legitimate excuse to chow down at the fest ;) .

When I saw the tents and heard the Bavarian tunes, I knew I was in the right place.


I just didn’t expect to wait in this incredibly long line.


When I finally made it to the back of the line, I was hoping it wouldn’t take too long to get inside.

 Back of the line.

Back of the line.

And fortunately it didn’t, even though we were being teased by the fence.


Getting a sneak peak…

We were first asked for IDs since it was an alcoholic event (but I purchased the non-drinker’s admission ticket), and then we had to give up our tickets for entry. Beer drinkers got to wear a cool yellow band, but I just got a Chuck E. Cheese-style, puny-looking stamp.

 Welcome to Vegan Oktoberfest...

Welcome to Vegan Oktoberfest…

Once inside, I headed straight toward’s the Sage Vegan Truck. Since I have not visited their brick-and-mortar in Culver City yet, I treated this order as a “preview” of what to expect from their real menu. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t excited to get my hands on vegan fish ‘n’ chips! Fried jackfruit is the secret…


$13.14 after tax is a bit pricey for this tray if you ask me, but it wasn’t bad at all. The garlic fries were not that stellar, but the jackfruit made up for it. When you think about it, it does make sense to use it as a substitute for fish, given its flaky, peel-y texture. 


Vegan fish’n’chips with garlic fries, a mayo-type sauce and a sweet tomato sauce.

I sat at a long table, joining other folks who were feasting on other forms of vegan fare (and drinks!).


After wiping my tray clean, I was on the look-out for my next food to sample. I ended up avoiding the Southern Fried Vegan Truck line, only because the line never died down!


Before buying anything else, I scoured for freebies, and managed to get a can of this alcohol-free & natural energy drink.


I gulped this mango ginger drink down since I felt incredibly thirsty. While it didn’t help the parched feeling in my throat, it was satisfying taste-wise. It was like I was drinking “fake soda” due to the carbonation as well :P

Beyond Meat had a booth, and along with $1.00 off coupon, gave out vegan Bierocks made with their beef-less crumbles.



Tofurky also had a booth set-up, and had their freebies of buttons and coupon books spread out on a table. A lady from behind a curtain was handing out vegan sausage samples.


After finding my share of free things, I decided that perhaps I could finally allow myself to shell out some more bucks for dessert. One of the dessert trucks had some pretty cool (literally) vegan treats, but they only took cash so that was out. I decided to head back to the Sage truck area, and get myself a scoop of KindKreme in mixed berry.


When I handed the cashier my card, he tried swiping it against one of those card readers you attach to an iPhone, but for some reason, it wouldn’t pass through. In the end, he said it was on the house because they were having trouble on their end.

After indulging in my small (but free!) refreshing treat, I was tempted by the vegan baked goods that were displayed and being sold. Babycakes NYC was also present at the fest, but they were selling a limited amount of goods, and you had to purchase them in packs. I ended up visiting their booth neighbor, Life is Sweet Bakeshop, and getting a pumpkin velvet cupcake.


It was supposed to cost $4, but again, I was allowed to have it for free since they too were having issues with reading credit cards. While I did feel a little guilty about snagging another “on the house” item, I took it as a lucky gift and took the time to truly enjoy it. The cake was indeed moist, and fit the description of red velvet’s autumn cousin ;) .

It was around 4:00pm when I decided that I had enough revelry for one day…never mind the fact that I was attending a party later that night. Overall, I found the festivities to be superb even though it was the first time the event was held! It would have been nice if there were more food vendors (and samples!), but I certainly cannot complain about my outcome ;) 

Would you attend an event like Vegan Oktoberfest?

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