Chilling in Walnut Creek

Chilling in Walnut Creek

The next day, I woke up earlier than everyone else (6am of course) but forced myself to go back to sleep just for a little bit. My cousin got up to make coffee a little over an hour later. I wanted to get a run in, so I opted to have coffee when I came back.

I ran along the Iron Horse Trail for 10 miles, and when I came back my cousin and her wife had left for the gym, haha. My sister and I spent the rest of the morning just chilling around the house.

Quiet Saturday morning
Quiet Saturday morning

When my cousins came back, we wanted to go out for some fresh air while they caught up on house errands/work. My sis and I used that time to go into downtown to pick up snacks and walk around.

Walking around downtown Walnut Creek
Walking around downtown Walnut Creek

I noticed that they had an acai bowls shop by the name of Vitality Bowls, and I remember I had bookmarked it years ago as a place I wanted to visit if I ever stopped by in the East Bay. My sis also wanted to get a bowl, so we stepped inside.

Vitality Bowls
Vitality Bowls

There was ample seating inside, and despite the cold temperatures outside, there were many groups of people inside eating away at fruit-filled concoctions that were held in wavy-shaped stainless steel bowls.

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My sister and I spent a good amount of time pondering over what is graviola…

My sister was craving a bowl that had ample amounts of banana and peanut butter. I wound up getting a classic Vitality Bowl.

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On the left ~ a Nutty Bowl with an almond milk base, apple juice, PB, banana, strawberries and flax seed topped with granola, (more) bananas, almonds and honey // On the right ~ a Vitality Bowl made with organic acai, bananas, strawberries and flax seed and topped with granola, honey, bananas, strawberries, and (not enough) goji berries

I loved my bowl, but wish there had been more goji berries. The base was also somewhat more watery than I expected, and my sister’s bowl base seemed to be as thick as ice cream. The stainless steel bowl kept things nice and cold however.

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Close-up shot of my Vitality Bowl 🙂

After finishing the bowls, my sister and I headed back to the apartment. We just worked on our computers and enjoyed the company of my cousin and her wife. One of

their friends came over for tax help, and my cousin got started on cooking dinner while the NBA All-Star game played in the background. My cousin ended up making a “less spicy” version of Pad Kee Mao. The original recipe called for 22 chili peppers, but she generously cut that down to 7.

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Pad Kee Mao that wasn’t supposed to be spicy, but still was!

Even so, everyone commented on how spicy it still was! I however like spicy food, and didn’t find it off-putting one bit.

After dinner, we played a card game called Judgment that my cousin’s wife was a pro at. She beat us all by a wide margin. Soon after that, we called it a night and retreated back to our rooms. We had plans to go into the city the next day, so we had no problem turning in early to save up our energy for that. 🙂

Vitality Bowls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

The last time I saw my cousin and her wife was in the summer of 2015…just before my parents moved from Cali and before I began my second year of grad school.

I didn’t think it would be another year and a half before seeing them again, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that my sister and I had a chance to visit.

A little guide dog that boarded the train :)
A little guide dog that boarded the train 🙂

I left on a Thursday afternoon just so that I could spread out my travel time. I took the evening Amtrak bus/train, and my sister picked me up at the station. My bus arrived in Bakersfield an HOUR early, so waiting to board the train ended up being an uncontrollable waste of time. I did eventually get on and get to Fresno around 8:30pm. My sister and I immediately went to Sprouts to get snacks, chill, and got to sleep around midnight.

The next day, I woke up to go for a run, despite the intermittent showers. I ended up running a little under six miles, while my sister finished up her morning class. From there, we left for a late breakfast at her now all-time favorite brunch place Benediction. Seeing as it was my third time visiting the location, I didn’t think about taking pictures of my food. I left my phone in the car, and fully enjoyed some piping hot coffee, potatoes (still have a craving for the starchy goodness ever since my visit to JFAT), and my sister’s company.

From there, we left for Walnut Creek. It ended up being just about 3 hours of a drive and my sister was a trooper, driving through some horrid rain spots as we got closer to the bay. I offered to take over towards the end but she had it under control. We did have some bladder-related tasks to take care of, so when we finally got to my cousin’s apartment, we fled upstairs with the luggage still in our car. The first question we asked was “where is your bathroom?!”

Once we were settled in, we chatted for an hour our two while snacking on a slice of coffee-spiced cheese, apple slices, and oranges. I forgot how good the apple/cheese combo is!

We originally had plans to eat in for dinner, but then my cousin’s wife offered to pay for dinner since she got a bonus and wanted to treat all of us.

Welcome to Babalou's!
Welcome to Babalou’s!
Overview
Overview

Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.

Menu
Menu
Fun artwork!
Fun artwork!

I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.

Veggie Plate
Veggie Plate

There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.

Baba & Hummus
Baba & Hummus

After dinner, we made our way to the nearby theater to watch Lion. It was incredibly packed, more so than when I saw a movie out in LA on a Friday night.

Friday night at the movies!
Friday night at the movies!

All of us pretty much teared up or held our tears back by the time the movie was through. It was such a good story and the meaning of the title makes so much sense at the end.

We got home around 10:00 but we were all pretty tired to stay up and do anything. Dinner and a movie was all we could handle for the day!

Babalou's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

Dried fruit. Fruit jerky. Fruit roll-ups. I’ve had all of those at some point in my life, but they were definitely only to fulfill a short-term craving, or because I was following the latest food fad.

When I was introduced to Matt’s Munchies, it was only then that I realized a natural, organic, vegan-friendly dried fruit snack existed.

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All sorts of flavors to try!

And not only that, but in several flavors as well. Each packet has 2 servings of fruit at least, and the calorie ranges lie between 80-100.

I received the following flavors to try, and noticed a number of similarities and differences among:

Apple-licious
Banana Coconut
Banana
Grape
Island Mango
Mango
Mango Acai
Mango Ginger
&
Tropical Punch

Overall, the characteristics that were shared or varied amongst each flavor made for delightful snacking.

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Apple-Licious
apple-licious (2)
Apple-Licious Slices

Some of the smoother, mono-flavored snacks included grape and mango. Each packet had square pieces of dried fruit, were laid side-by-side, and placed uniformly on wax paper.

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Grape
grape (2)
Grape Slices
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Mango
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Mango Slices

For the most part, they were easy to peel off, but they did leave a sticky residue so I’d recommend being near a sink or water source to rinse off your hands when eating these.

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Banana
banana (1)
Banana Slices

They’re delicious on their own of course, but their peel-ability makes it easy to add as a topping to various other food items. I could even see these being rolled up into mini fruit roll ups and added to froyo or something similar.

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Mango Ginger
mango__ginger (1)
Mango Ginger Slices

There were also some flavors with added toppings like coconut shreds and seeds. These were my overall favorites because I’m cuckoo for anything coconut.

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Mango Apricot & Banana Coconut
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Banana Coconut Slices

I don’t remember the fruit roll-ups from my childhood looking quite as exotic as these…

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Mango Acai
mango_acai (1)
Mango Acai Slices

The company is also based in Santa Ana, and I’m glad I was able to try and support a local company.

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Island Mango
island_mango (2)
Island Mango Slices
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Tropical Punch
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Tropical Punch Slices

Along with getting in my servings of fruit the past couple of days, I’ve been getting in some added protein from “dessert” sources as well. I mean, my reason for getting cookie dough and cookies is for the protein after all 😉

I decided to try out the new Brownie Dough and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Dough from The Lion’s Pack. I think if someone were to look at my credit card statements from the past few months, they’d probably think I’m the legit Cookie Monster (or at least his cousin, twice-removed).

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Brownie Dough

Brownie Dough was my favorite from the two. It wasn’t overwhelming at all, and it literally tasted like brownie batter (it had small brownie bites!) that had been left alone for a couple hours after being beaten, just before flattening out into a baking pan.

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Brownie CHUNKS

WCMN was a flavor I grew bored with almost immediately.

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W.C.M.N.

The nuts were toasted and had a brown roasted hue, but that and the white chocolate chips mixed in with a mild vanilla flavored dough got redundant really quickly. I ended up picking out some of the macadamias and just having the dough after a while.

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Lots of macadamias…maybe even too much…

Quest Labs released a chocolate chip protein cookie a while back, and I had gently teased that it looked like an extraterrestrial cookie. They did release three new flavors, and despite being creeped out by their chocolate chip cookie, I couldn’t help but be curious about their versions of a oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia, and double chocolate chunk protein cookie.

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More Quest Labs cookies…

All three came in the established, discreet foil wrapping of Quest Labs products not yet for sale to the general public. I tried WCM first.

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WCM

The cookie was still flat, and did not have the depth of a Lenny and Larry’s cookie. It did however have the moist, compressed density of flavor in the center of the cookie, a feature that makes the cookie chewy and soft.

Oatmeal raisin had a rougher, drier flavor, but was flatter, nuttier, and naturally slightly fruitier.

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Oatmeal Raisin

Lastly, DCC was one of those flavors I was unenthusiastic about, but tried nevertheless only to “check it off my list”. I wasn’t blown away, but I didn’t look at it with a weird look wondering which planet it came from either.

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Double Chocolate Chip

What snack(s) do you reach for when you have a major sugar craving?

February’s Degustabox

February’s Degustabox

This month’s Degustabox didn’t feature any snacks directly-associated with Valentine’s day, but could have easily fit the profile of sweet-flavored snacks and savory ingredients to make a meal worth making a loved one.

February's Degustabox
February’s Degustabox

Among the savory snacks, there were two packets of PopChips Ridges that I quickly picked to try first.

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Popchips Ridges – Salted

Salted had a drier texture, and Tangy Barbecue had a similar texture except flavored so slightly to help with the unpreventable dryness.

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Popchips Ridges – Tangy Barbecue

Definitely felt like I needed dip with these to make them more enjoyable, but perhaps I should have used the two packets of Bandar Spicy Mango Chili Sauce for a quick fix…

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Continuing to add flavor & spice to crockpot dinner bowls!

I instead used them to flavor a crockpot veggie bowl with cooked bell pepper, zucchini squash, and cabbage, also topped with pepper.

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Nando’s (Hot) Peri-Peri Sauce

I also had a bottle of Nando’s Peri-Peri Hot Sauce, and used it douse some cooked sweet potato discs in a similar crockpot dinner bowl I had one night.

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Favorite meal from the week!

On nights I don’t have a crockpot veggie bowl, I usually throw shiritake noodles into soup or a stew for a quick meal followed by a yogurt bowl or a protein-rich sweet snack. I have not heard of the Slendier Calorie Clever brand, but was eager to try it cooked with a grilled eggplant wrap (that I also happened to pair with another Degustabox item last month).

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A texture-varying combo!

The wrap came with a tahini sauce cup that I used to coat the noodles after nuking them to a warmer temperature in the microwave. I then added the wrap halves into the bowl for a filling, texture-varying meal.

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Literally just like candy.

I got a box of Ricola lozenges in last month’s box, but seeing that people are still getting sick around me, it made sense to get another box. This month’s flavor was Citrus Herb, didn’t have an overbearing menthol taste, and was easy on the palate.

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I’ve always loved the plaid packaging

These Walker’s shortbread rounds were also easy on the palate. They’re dense, buttery biscuits that I actually remember from my childhood. I lived in England for two years when I was 4-6 years old, and I remember having these around (the Scottie dogs especially). They were probably made for the intention of having them with tea, but they carry a soft, melt-in-your-mouth flavor even when consumed on their own.

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Even the shortbread biscuits have a seal.

I am not a fan of dark chocolate, so I wasn’t particularly blown away by the Green & Black’s pure dark chocolate sea salt bar. It had a beautiful ombre design on paper packaging…

degusta_february (8)
Such a pretty blue ombre.

…and golden foil encasing the chocolate, but I just couldn’t stomach more than half the bar. I can handle dark chocolate in small increments, but 70% dark cacao, no thank you.

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Gorgeous packaging…I just don’t have the palate for dark chocolate 🙁

A chocolate-based snack I could handle was this PR Bar in chocolate peanut flavor. PR Bar stands for “personal record nutrition bar”, contains 15 grams of protein/bar, and is gluten-free.

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Hello, peanut 🙂

The texture reminded me of that of a brownie-flavored thinkThin bar, and had a soft, chewy consistency. It was easy to chow down on, perhaps due to the thin chocolate coating and smooth filling. The peanuts were also finely ground, so there weren’t any off-sized peanut chunks.

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“I’m in love with the coco…”

When I saw this bag of Grace Coco Chips, I immediately was reminded of the song lyric “I’m in love with the coco”…this coco is MUCH healthier, and less dangerous, compared to the one fawned about in the song though 😉 . I’ve had coconut chips before, but these had a sweeter flavor and a rougher texture. I had them on their own, but they could have easily been sturdy as flavor-holding toppings atop yogurt, oatmeal, or baked into bread or cookies 🙂

degusta_february (1)
This bottle is literally glowing.

I am not a sugar-soda drinker, and have even only recently started to enjoy carbonated water drinks like La Croix and Zevia. But since a bottle of Jone’s soda was once again provided in the box, I had to try it out. It didn’t have a strong orange punch of flavor like that of the Fanta I used to drink in the past, rather the flavor was smoother, certainly frothier/creamier, and had a mild orange scent. Not sure how I could fit this bottle into a Valentine’s theme though…with a strong orange hue emanating from it and all 😛

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Bottlecap wisdom ~

Would you use any of these items to make a Valentine’s Day-themed dish? What would you make?

Eggs & Taters

Eggs & Taters

Last Sunday, I ran my second-longest long run for LA marathon training: a 20 miler from Dockweiler to Palos Verdes and back. I was pleasantly surprised with the personal improvements I noticed with this run when compared to how I performed in the past. I used to hit the physical/mental wall between miles 17 and the end, but this time around I actually found myself feeling more refreshed and kicking up speed! I averaged an 8:48/mi pace at the end of the ordeal, and raced the last 0.5 miles back with two of the faster guys on my team. It felt great, and it’s exciting to notice this improvement now…if it’s any indication of how the marathon will go in March, I can only imagine how happy I’ll feel with a solid PR.

After the run, I was able to get dropped off home around 12:30, quickly shower, and then head to downtown SaMo for some late brunch eats at a new spot that opened—Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (JFAT). I was given an invite to come out for a Sunday brunch, and certainly did not want to turn it down!

JFAT (4)
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern

I met with the manager Chris, and he was eager to let me know about their mimosa and drink options, appetizers, and featured menu items. A lot of their stuff is intended to please the extreme appetites of bacon/waffle/egg/potato carb lovers, and the vegetarian options are slim, but I was able to find the Veggie Bennie on the menu, and chose to try that for my meal.

JFAT (2)
Time to brunch, hard.

In the meantime, I sipped on some cold water to get myself back on the hydration track, while enjoying the gorgeous sunny weather and view from my patio booth. The restaurant is at a prime location on Ocean Ave., minutes away from the Metro station, 3rd St. Promenade, and of course the Pier.

When my plate came, my eyes grew wide. Everything looks so colorful and the tater tots were a surprise too! When Chris asked if I’d like some hot sauce, I knew it would only enhance the flavors of everything on the plate. Once I added a drizzle of Tapatio’s, I was all set.

JFAT (7)
The glorious Veggie Bennie

The tater tots were the stand-out of this dish. They have an extra crispy exterior and are seasoned with a bunch of salt and thyme. I used hot sauce for dipping, but they tasted out-of-this-world when dipped in poached egg yolk!

JFAT (5)
Tater tots seasoned with sea salt & thyme

And the English muffin-poached egg creation—-man, this makes me wish I had some skills with cooking with eggs. The layering of egg, spinach, tomatoes, onions, and of course the chive hollandaise sauce was perfection. There was no doubt at all that my plate would be wiped clean by the end of it!

JFAT (1)
Perfectly poached

It was, and I actually was pretty full from that one plate. I had no room for dessert/trying other entrees, so I left soon after letting myself digest. I was thankful for the opportunity to have this meal, especially after a 20 mile long run! I can safetly assume that all those fats, carbs, and nutrients from the eggs/veggies were happily taken up by my muscles for post-workout recovery!

JFAT (6)
Tearing into perfection

Earlier in the week, I took advantage of Vitamin Shoppe’s BOGO 50% off D’s Naturals products by purchasing two of their fluffbutters: Vanilla Maple Frosting and White Choolate Mousse. Out of the two, I was infatuated with VMF.

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Vanilla Maple Frosting Fluffbutter

The oil-to-nut butter ratio was perfect. There was some separation at the top, but I was able to easily mix it up so that enough oil got to the bottom of the jar where it was drier. I topped it on yogurt bowls throughout the week.

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Perfect proyo topping

With the WCM flavor, the oil was mixed in more thoroughly. For both flavors, I was able to detect the respective scents, so despite there being no added toppings to make these distinct by appearance, these nut-based butters could be differentiated if placed side-by-side if only through scent/taste.

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White Chocolate Mousse Fluffbutter

I was most excited to try Zevia this week. I picked up a 6-pack of the Cream Soda flavor, and I was so enthusiastic about taking a picture of the can that I dropped my phone. I panicked/had a “can I go back in time?” moment, and basically now my phone looks like it has a permanent gray scale/rainbow stripes across the screen.

foodz (3)
The last picture I took BEFORE dropping my phone :'(

The phone is still functional in all other aspects, so I’m not sure I can justify a new phone purchase…at least not just yet…

Tater tots or French fries?

Have you ever dropped your phone and damaged it in some way? Did you repair it or replace it?

Jimmy's Famous American Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saucony Women’s Cohesion 9 Running Shoes

Saucony Women’s Cohesion 9 Running Shoes

As a runner increases her weekly mileage, the monthly miles quickly add up as well. Since marathon training began, and since I have been genuinely wanting to increase my weekly mileage, I’ve also been keeping a close watch on my shoe wear and tear.

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600+ miles

The outer appearance of my shoes are usually fine, but I ended up feeling the effects of their overuse as soon as they reached the 450 mark.

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The bottom looks good, but the inside was getting flatter and my feet were giving my signs to switch out.
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Evidence of picking up dirt 😛

I got these Saucony Women’s Cohesion 9 Running Shoes as a gift from my Dad over the holidays, and now, they almost have 200 miles on them…

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Hello new shoes!

I was wearing my New Balance Vongos from August to December of last year. They had hit the 600 mile mark by the time I made the switch.

shoes (2)
Since my @newbalance Vongos now have about 600+ miles on them, I thought it was time to break in a new pair before grinding out the next few months of marathon training. Hopefully these from @saucony can keep up! 😉

I broke the Sauconys in on Christmas, with a short 3 miler at River Park. They’re definitely less bulky and more snug than the Vongos, but they also have some extra room at the top of the toe box. This would be good, but like most other running shoes, they taper along the side so the “extra” room at the top would only be accessible to my big toe if it were big enough!

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I love the blue/teal/white color scheme of these shoes!

According to my Dad, they were priced at a good deal of $35. Honestly can’t do much less than that when it comes to a brand-name running shoe. Considering I dropped $120 on my Vongos as an emergency attempt to fix the posterior shin splint pain I had been suffering though late summer of last year, the Sauconys WERE a steal!!

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Fresh feet.

I plan on using these well into training and running with them in LA. They’ve already tread rainy grounds and the muddy hills of Palos Verdes, so might as well continue their adventures trekking across the entire city of LA.

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Ready to run

How much would you spend on running/workout shoes?

Buff Bake Protein Cookie Review

Buff Bake Protein Cookie Review

Disclaimer: I was provided samples from Buff Bake and all opinions are my own.

I’ve had Buff Bake spreads before, but when I tried my first Buff Bake protein cookie, I wasn’t sure what I had put in my mouth…

buffbake_wcpb
I thought a cup of coffee would work well with this Buff Bake WCPB protein cookie, but sadly this cookie was pretty stale 😑… definitely does not have soft status like @lennyandlarrys

I didn’t want to waste it, but as I was eating it I couldn’t help but think I had made a mistake in my choice of a morning snack. I thought I was being adventurous for trying a protein cookie different from the likes of Lenny & Larry’s, but to my disappointment, I regretted not picking up their white chocolate macadamia flavor from the campus bookstore…

I expressed my dissatisfaction on Instagram, and to my surprise, Buff Bake actually reached out with a response to immediately send over some fresh cookies to try! They commented that the cookie I had purchased had an older packaging, and that I needed a proper introduction to their product (okay, so I added the last part, but I’m sure they wanted to redo the first impression…)

They immediately sent over five different cookies in crisp, colorful packaging. I was shocked by how quickly they came too…within two days of their commenting on my Instagram! Oh, which flavor to begin with?!

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The colors just popped out at me!!

Because the snickerdoodle Lenny & Larry’s has my heart, I had to try Buff Bake’s version for comparison’s sake.

snickerdoodle
This Snickerdoodle one immediately became a favorite of mine. To me, it looks more like a dense, puffy cake than a cookie (like one of those Pfeffernusse cookies), but it’s incredibly chewy and has a nice cinnamon/nutmeg aroma to it. Oh, and then there’s the nice addition of a thin glaze on top! I’m glad I got the opportunity to give these cookies-more-like-cakes another shot 😉

I would say the Lenny & Larry’s version is still my favorite (specifically if it comes out dense and chewy in the middle, because sometimes even they come out with fluke cookies…), but Buff Bake’s version was pretty good too. Definitely could see this paired with a glass of hot chocolate—the perfect sitting-by-the-fireplace holiday snack.

I then moved on to the birthday cake flavor. This one came with frosting on the top as well, but only a little in the middle? I don’t have an explanation…

birthday_Cake
I love it when birthday cake-themed foods are colorful, mixed with sprinkles, and come with a generous amount of frosting on top. The birthday cake @buffcake cookie is another dense, puffy cake-like flavor. It had a slight dry flavor (wasn’t as moist as snickerdoodle), but the frosting on top helped to some extent 😀🍰🍪

I’d say my second most favorite was Chocolate Donut.

chocolate_donut
I’m a bit surprised as to how this is not the @buffbake Birthday Cake protein cookie flavor. With frosting and sprinkles like this, this is Chocolate Donut?! Well whatever its name is, I’ll take it 😉🍩🍪 #teamfrosting

If I have to pick between team vanilla or team chocolate, I’d go with vanilla only because I can’t handle dark chocolate or chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. That was the case with Chocolate Chocolate Chip. While it had a dense texture and was full-flavored, it was just too much chocolate. There, I said it.

chocolate-chocolate-chip
There is such a thing as too much chocolate, sorry!

And finally, I gave WCPB another shot. I still found it slightly drier and stiffer compared to the other flavors, but compare to the one I originally had, it fared much better.

WCPB
Alien cookie, 😛

It had a quirky shape and lotsa chocolate chips, but it added character.

Which of these cookie flavors speaks out to you?

Active But Lazy…

Active But Lazy…

In the days leading up to this weekend, I was making plans and shuffling things around for work, thinking I actually would have the energy to go out and do things on a day I was running 18 miles with my marathon team…

I’ve done it before, so I didn’t think I would be as tired as I was Sunday at 12pm, but I was falling asleep in the car I was getting a ride in…so that must have indicated something!

Speaking of marathon team, things have been going great training-wise. In fact, we ran one of our classic routes yesterday in Palos Verdes, and I even wrote about the experience two years ago, haha. Even with the challenging hills and after-burn in my thighs, I really cut down on my course time—by at least 1.5 minutes/mile! Hopefully this is a sign that I’ll be PRing in my third marathon come March…

This has to be my favorite sweatshirt that I own. My sister got it for me over the holidays, and I just love how soft it is, and of course the title labeled on the front ;)
This has to be my favorite sweatshirt that I own. My sister got it for me over the holidays, and I just love how soft it is, and of course the title labeled on the front 😉

After Sunday’s run, the idea of showering + sleeping sounded more enticing than getting on a bus and checking out a new restaurant. If I plan things better for next weekend, perhaps I can make it happen. I do miss using my weekends to go out exploring!

I did at least try some new food products this week. Devotion Nutrition sent me over some protein powders and “Flex Flavorings” packets to try.

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Samples from Devotion Nutrition

I was able to get some samples for the Angel Food Cake and Brownie Batter protein powders and found both flavors to have an appealing scent, no icky after-taste, and a texture that allows for easy mixing in liquids or yogurt.

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Angel Food Cake & Brownie Batter protein powders // Flex Flavorings

I’ve literally been having these as yogurt-thickeners and just mixed with water for “faux pudding”.

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A hefty packet of protein that contains a smooth powder for easy mixing!

I prefer them as “yogurt enhancers”, but they really are good on their own too.

brownie batter in yogurt
Extremely thick brownie batter yogurt—yum!
faux_pudding
“Faux pudding” – literally just added enough water to keep a thick consistency. Pulls apart like pudding!

I used some Flex Flavorings to add some flavor to some Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream Greek Whole Milk Yogurt. And then topped it with a full amount of cookie butter 😉

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Monkey Bread and Coconut Biscotti flavors!

Keeping up with the theme, I added the flavorings to yogurt and topped some of it on a Lenny & Larry’s birthday cake cookie and a FitJoy birthday cake bar.

The makings of an exciting, birthday-themed dessert bowl...
The makings of an exciting, birthday-themed dessert bowl…
Ended up nuking the birthday cake @lennyandlarrys cookie and the birthday cake @fitjoynutrition bar (probably my only, and number one favorite of this brand!), while flavoring some Trader Joe's whole milk coconut Greek yogurt with @devotionnutrition Flex Flavor powders (Birthday Cake and Italian Cookie). What a way to conclude the end of January 2017 😉🍰🎂🍰🎂!!!
Ended up nuking the birthday cake @lennyandlarrys cookie and the birthday cake @fitjoynutrition bar (probably my only, and number one favorite of this brand!), while flavoring some Trader Joe’s whole milk coconut Greek yogurt with @devotionnutrition Flex Flavor powders (Birthday Cake and Italian Cookie). What a way to conclude the end of January 2017 😉🍰🎂🍰🎂!!!

I also tried two flavors of the new Optimum Nutrition Cake Bites: Chocolate Dipped Cherry and Red Velvet Cake. I bought them at Vitamin Shoppe, and then munched on these while walking to get errands done.

optimumnutritioncakebites_redvelvetcake
These red velvet cake bites weren’t too bad! Honestly I expected the “cake” filling to be more moist and fluffy (as would be expected of a cake), but it was more like a chewy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. In other words, these bites are just circular protein bars: definitely not petit fours status, but good nonetheless.

You know those cherry cordials? These cake bites were reminiscent of that. I particularly wasn’t a fan of this flavor (I think it was the dark chocolate…), but they did have the same soft, chewy texture as the Red Velvet bites.

optimumnutritioncakebites_chocolatedippedcherry
18 miles of running 🏃in Palos Verdes and my thighs are fried 🍗🔥 (thank you, hills! 😒), and I kind of wished I saved these chocolate dipped cherry cake bites from yesterday to snack on now, as I lay in bed for the rest of the day…haha, I’m SO not getting any work done today 😂

I am thankful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about midterms or finals or any of that undergrad/early grad school stuff, haha! There were some people on my team who were dreading the fact they had to go home and study despite running 18 miles/it being Superbowl Sunday.

Do you put sleep above everything else?

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

Once Wednesday morning rolled around last week, I felt much less anxious, but I did have some lingering adrenaline because I could not sleep. Post-presentation jitters? I guess that’s a thing.

I did treat myself to a latte in the morning: the new Cascara latte from Starbucks.

As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.
As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.

I saved my celebrations for the weekend though. My friend from lab and I snuck out a little early Friday evening to head downtown and see Hidden Figures. It was my friend’s second time seeing it, but she loved it so much that she didn’t mind seeing it again with me.

She ended up buying both of our tickets even though I insisted she didn’t. Ah, now I owe her—if she’ll ever give me the chance 😉 !

I absolutely loved the movie, though I will admit I love movies and books about people and their stories. I loved reading biographies as a kid, and even now I prefer memoirs over anything else literature-wise.

On Saturday, I gave myself a rest day knowing that the next morning I would have to get up and run 15 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my day, knowing I had it all to myself with no impending items on my to-so list…

IMG_9104
Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

I ended up walking around Santa Monica in the morning because I woke up ravenous, and I wanted to get donuts from DK’s. Unfortunately, my debit card wasn’t working and I couldn’t withdraw any cash to buy any donuts from the cash-only shop. I don’t understand why they can’t take credit cards at this point with all their success/recognition, but one day I’ll be able to see what the hullabaloo is about…when I have cash in my pocket.

In the meantime, I had to find something pronto because my stomach was growling…

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

I totally forgot about SuperFood Cafe’s existence, even though I had been planning to check this place out a while back. They have an incredible amount of vegan and vegetarian items, hinted by the size of their large laminated menus.

At the counter, I ordered a warm bowl called Chef Tofu and a coffee because that morning I desperately needed one. I then found a seat and admired the high ceilings and warm, cozy color tones.

coffee and art
Nothing says comfort like a giant mug of coffee

I added two packets of brown sugar and one serving of creamer to the coffee, which made it taste much more magical. My bowl came in a very interesting-shaped bowl—it looked like something you’d find in an art gallery.

chef_tofu
That crazy looking bowl though.

The bowl itself contained organic tofu, hemp seed, organic broccoli, kale & spinach, and organic tomato-corn-chipotle salsa. The tofu had a nice spice to it, being coated with a light curry sauce and all.

chef_TOfuuu
Ah, a bowl of yum!

With my hunger satisfied, I decided I might as well do something fun, but cultural, with my free day. I took the bus (which stopped right in front of SuperFood, conveniently!) to Westwood, and decided to check out the Hammer Museum since I hadn’t been yet!

hammer_museum
Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

The museum was actually pretty small. From the outside it looks enormous, but then I realized that the bulk of it was a parking garage…so much for culture! While it was gorgeous on the inside, there were only TWO art displays open, and so my visit was drastically cut down to a fifteen minute walk-through…

interior_
Pretty, but small & quiet

So, I ended up doing what I pretty much do on my weekends when not in lab…grocery shop, and then head home to nap! At least at my grocery stops over the weekends, I treated myself to some delicious new finds:

I had this Falafel Wrap from Trader Joe’s on Sunday, after a 15-mile long run with my team. After having the Veggie Hummus and Grilled Eggplant wraps though, I found this one to be awfully dry even with the provided tahini sauce. It didn’t help that all the falafel were to one side (it made it harder to dip that side into the sauce cup)…maybe if they had been assembled in a staggered arrangement, it would have helped with the dunking?

falafel_wrap
Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

I also used some Vitamin Shoppe points I had to go towards my first jar of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter!

I tried D's Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It's a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S'mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that's balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!
I tried D’s Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It’s a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S’mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that’s balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely 🙂

backofjar
I will be on the hunt for the others!

I would say that my post-exam jitters finally went away Monday morning. I woke up feeling much more refreshed than I did last Wednesday, and so far, that feeling’s been holding up pretty well 🙂

Does it take you a while (psychologically) to get back to your normal routine after a long stressful event is over?

Superfood Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Yes, It’s Done!

Yes, It’s Done!

It’s so hard to believe that the past couple of months had me so anxious/stressed all over one little day. Well, on Tuesday I passed my qualifying exam, and it literally felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I had been working on it for so long that I forgot what it felt like to go out on the weekends and explore the city.

Now the only major thing left in this whole grad school thing is getting to the end—defending a dissertation and graduating! That won’t be for at least another 2.5 years, but I honestly think the hard part is over, at least in terms of academic requirements.

Last week however, I was feeling 10x more stress and anxiety compared to how I feel now.

Last Thursday, I stayed home to work from home. I was glad to save time from commuting, and I even squeezed in a run and Whole Foods/Vitamin Shoppe stop before heading home to work.

barz
RX Bars

To my surprise, I found two new-to-me RX bars at Whole Foods, and snacked on them at the store.

Coffe Chocolate had a rough texture and the chocolate chips against the coffee flavor was strong, and overall I thought it was alright. I truly loved Apple Cinnamon though—tasted like Apple Pie if one added nuts into the crust!

coffee_applecinnamon
Coffee Chocolate // Apple Cinnamon

I also had a Smores flavored Combat Crunch bar that I picked up from Vitamin Shoppe, and it tasted like a higher-quality Milky Way bar. Basically a Milky Way bar with a thicker, crispier, crunchier chocolate-coating shell.

smores
Smores Combat Crunch

On Saturday, we got a day break from the rain. I used that to my advantage and went out for a ~11 mi run. I was thinking about attending the women’s march taking place in downtown, but my priority was working on my PowerPoint presentations.

out_
Uplifter’s Kitchen

Before heading to work, I had to get some breakfast in me. I ended up going to Uplifter’s Kitchen for a quick, small bite in a cozy atmosphere. Despite it being sunny, the temperature was still chilly from the rain.

inside
Where to order

I ended up getting a seasonal mixed berry scone with a cafe latte on the side made with almond milk. I could have consumed this on the go, but I truly did want to give myself a break before transitioning to work mode.

scone_
A seasonal mixed berry scone with juicy fruit!

This scone was encrusted with sugar crystals, and the blackberries and strawberries were so juicy!

scone_latte
Also got a latte with my scone 🙂

The latte on the other hand, was sub-par. Maybe because they hadn’t sweetened it themselves, and when I got it I was too lazy to figure the right amount of sweetener to add. At least the frothy part looked pretty, and it was made from locally-sources almond milk? That is a plus, right 😉 ?

tapatio
Picked a seat by the wall.

I also later found out that my scone made a difference! Haha, apparently, the proceeds that Day were going towards organizations that support women’s reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality and protection from discrimination for immigrants. I was thrilled to hear that, and safely came to the conclusion that I was able to contribute to the day despite my own personal to-do list 🙂 !

Well—since my quals trials are over, I am overwhelmed (with happiness) thinking about what I could do this weekend! Ah, it feels like I need to catch up with the entire world, haha.

Uplifters Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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