October Degustabox Review ’17

October Degustabox Review ’17

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Degustabox. All opinions are my own.

First off, Happy (belated) Halloween! I’ve made the decision to not dress up as anything—just drop by a department Halloween party, and then head home. I know, I am such a partier I have no control 😛

With November here, and Thanksgiving (and my first FALL marathon) coming up, it’s time again for another Degustabox review!

October Degustabox
October Degustabox

Unlike last month’s box, October’s offerings were much more appealing to me. It contained old favorites, and new brands I’ve been meaning to try!

I was ecstatic to see a bag of Hippeas chickpea puffs thrown in. I first spotted them at Starbucks, and then I happened to pass by their warehouse near downtown Santa Monica since it’s right along the Expo Line! I was beyond ecstatic to try the new and local vegan-friendly alternative to cheese puffs.

Hippeas -
Hippeas – Vegan White Cheddar

These were beyond crazy delicious. They had a firm texture, a nice crisp crunch, and each puff was coated with just the right amount of vegan cheese flavoring.

Since it was a box arriving in time for candy’s famous holiday, it made sense that a bag of Cow Tales made a comeback. It’s always been a childhood favorite of mine, but Degustabox has partnered with them before in the past. I also noticed the new colorful, cartoon-y packaging.

Cow Tales Minis
Cow Tales Minis

Then there were two cups of original SunButter…I was certainly awestruck. Fortunately, I can have peanuts and foods with peanut-based ingredients, but I think I still prefer sunflower butter over peanut butter. It has a much smoother consistency in my opinion, while still keeping peanut butter-like thickness.

I had one cup serve an unconventional purpose: as a dip for plain Boboli pizza crust, which was also a featured product in this month’s box. Honestly, it was a pretty good combo!

Sunflower butter and pizza crust
SunButter cup and Boboli Original Mini Pizza Crust

I had the other cup scooped into a cottage cheese chocolate proyo bowl, which is something along the lines of what I’m normally used to as an after-dinner snack.

Just like old times
Just like old times

The Bush’s White Chili Beans contained “chicken base” as one of their ingredients, so I had to pass on trying it. I don’t see why it did though…I’m sure the recipe would have been just as good—if not better—without the addition of a meat product.

Does it have to have chicken in it?
Does it have to have chicken in it?

I was however able to try the Bush’s Kidney Beans in a Mild Chili Sauce, after thorough examination of the ingredients for any meat source. I initially thought about adding it to one of my crockpot dinners, but then I thought why not try it on its own? I warmed it up for lunch in lab one day, and it was definitely nourishing through its well-mixed flavors of ripe tomatoes, chili peppers and cumin. It had enough fiber to keep me satiated as I worked the rest of the afternoon.

Suitable for a lunch break.
Suitable for a lunch break.

The Quadratini Raspberry-Yoghurt wafer cubes were an interesting snackable. I normally don’t prefer wafers over other types of cookies and biscuits, but these wafers were certainly an exception. Each cube has four layers of raspberry-yoghurt flavored cream, sandwiched between mini crunchy wafer squares.

Quadratini Raspberry-Yoghurt Wafer Cubes

They definitely had a yogurt-like aftertaste, but that did not detract from their delicious taste.

Unlike other wafers I've had!
Unlike other wafers I’ve had!

When I saw a small cup of overnight oats, I was reminded of my early blogging days when overnight oats and OIAJ (oats in a jar) were super trendy. Now that brand name companies got a hold of this one-time, food-bloggers-only secret, I wasn’t surprised to find this container from Dave’s Naturals in this month’s box.

Dave's Naturals Overnight Oats - Apple Nut
Dave’s Naturals Overnight Oats – Apple Nut

This flavor had dried apple cubes, chia seeds, and dried oats. All I added was enough almond milk to soak the oats in, and after letting it sit in the fridge overnight, I pulled it out and it made for THE best stuck-in-lab-analyzing-data-all-morning snack.

The Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt snacks were light, poppable, and had a creamy yogurt coating that worked well with the chewy cherry flavor. These were able to keep a gummy-like texture due to pectin. No gelatin was seen in sight, which was a mark of approval in my book!

Welch's Fruit 'n Yogurt Snacks
Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks

I didn’t get a chance to try the two Kernal Season’s Popcorn Seasoning bottles (White Cheddar and Kettle Corn), since I gifted them to my sister, who is a greater consumer of popcorn than I’ll ever be, haha!

Which of these October Degustabox products would you try?

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise 🤔 .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…


…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March 😉

Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead 😛 But at least I did catch up in the sleep department 👍

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal 😛

Novel Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Speedy for Smoothie (Bowls)

Speedy for Smoothie (Bowls)

Last Sunday proved to me why running in a group or with a team makes all the difference. I ran a little under 6 miles at a solid 7:30/mi pace, and was able to maintain my pacing without completely blowing out of steam! Marathon training has picked up yet again, and I’m trying to make all of the runs with my team high quality workouts.

Also working to not get left behind of the pack is a good motivator too 😉

I was really proud of my efforts, and for lunch had to walk at least another three miles once in Santa Monica. It was way too hot to be October, and I had to get to a place that offered something cool and refreshing pronto.

Kreation Cafe on Montana Ave.
Kreation Cafe on Montana Ave.

My first visit to a Kreation Cafe/Juicery was a great one. I cooled off with an irresistible bowl full of nutrient-dense fruits and healthy fats, on what was an extremely hot day. Made sense that my second visit was on a day just as hot.

Crowded quarters.
Crowded quarters.

Unlike my first visit, there wasn’t any seating on the inside…only patio and back seating. The line for ordering and pick-up also got scrambled since there were too many people waiting inside! I wanted to try a different bowl this time around, so from the two options I had left I went with the Jungle Bowl.

Random crystal rock by the cash register!
Random crystal rock by the cash register!

The wait was ridiculosly long however. I think I was standing for at least 20 minutes until my bowl was ready. I saw that three people who ordered after me got their meals before I did, so I thought that was a bit frustrating. I let that go when I did get my bowl though!

A green swampy soup of sorts!

I sat at a table outside on the patio to enjoy this fully.

Jungle Bowl – Coconut milk, kale, spinach, mango, apple, almond butter

The color of the bowl reminded me of a swamp, with fruit bobbing throughout it of course. While it was a pretty bowl, the diced apple caught me off guard since I was expecting pineapple as originally stated on their menu. I didn’t really taste any hint of almond butter either. In all honesty, the bowl was less of a smoothie bowl and more of a slushie bowl—in other words, a disappointment. Looks can only take you so far…

Kreation Kafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

That Bread Place

That Bread Place

My sister, who came up for a weekend in the last week of March from school due to it being a three-day weekend (her school takes Cesar Chavez Day off), had absolutely no clue what I was talking about when I first texted her about having lunch “at that new bread place”.

Once I filled her in on the details, she was excited about going of course. What exactly is “that bread place” we were talking about?

Boudin SF. I say Bo-din, you say Boo-deen, she says Boo-din—it doesn’t matter how you pronounce it. In the end, it’s all about the food. And our experience? It was alright.

Entrance to Boudin
Entrance to Boudin

This location is settled right next to I-80, which attracts those making their way in from Tahoe, or up from the Bay Area. Good thing we came in just before noon to avoid the crowds!

Cases of clam showder while waiting in line.
Cases of clam showder while waiting in line.

The line wasn’t very long…yet. Like I said before, we made it in before Sunday lunch rush hour, where we watched from our seats the line growing OUT the door!!

On the left wall was a glass window where you could get a behind-the-scenes look at where the bread was being made.

A look into the bakery.
A look into the bakery.

At the front counter where your order and pay, my sister and I noticed the large animal-shaped loaves—crabs, bears, and turtles galore!

The front counter.
The front counter.

When we went to get some water, we noticed a familiar face from high school and said our hellos. Then we met my Dad at a table in the center of the dining area. Bad idea, as we would soon realize, since the place was small already and the seating arrangements didn’t help mitigate the already cramped quarters.

Waiting for food.
Waiting for food.

About 15 minutes after ordering, our meals came out.

My Dad and I got butternut soup in sourdough bread bowls, while my sister got a grilled brie sandwich with apple slices and jam.

Grilled Brie with Apples & Fig Jam---says it was too sweet for her liking.
Grilled Brie with Apples & Fig Jam—says it was too sweet for her liking.

My sister was not too enthused with her sandwich, since she wasn’t a fan of the fig jam which made the sandwich too sweet for her liking.

Sourdough Bread Bowl with Butternut Squash Soup---took me forever to finish, but I did.
Sourdough Bread Bowl with Butternut Squash Soup—took me forever to finish, but I did.

I actually preferred my soup over the bread bowl. The bread bowl of course was a great vessel for the soup, but the soup by itself is worth ordering on its own.

My Dad got a side salad with his order of the soup.

Butternut Squash Bread Bowl with side spring salad
Butternut Squash Bread Bowl with a side serving of Spring Salad.

My Dad and sister agreed that they prefer Panera over this place, citing the variety Panera tends to have with its menu. I was busy figuring out how to “properly” demolish my bread bowl, and when the knife and fork trick didn’t work, I went for it with my hands. Yes, it was awkward having to get through what seemed like miles of crowded tables to get to the bathroom and wash up at the end of the meal 😛

After lunch, we ran around to do some last-minute gift shopping for relatives who we plan to see on our trip. In the early afternoon, we headed out for some fro-yo. It seemed like the perfect thing to do after feasting on carbs, after all 😉

It's a fro-yo party!
It’s a fro-yo party! I got a pistachio and strawberry mix with mochi, poppers, fruit, carob and yogurt chips. Sis got the usual chocolate fro-yo with similar toppings.

Would I visit Boudin SF again of my own volition? Probably not, but at least I can say I did go, and that I did have a pretty good bowl of butternut squash soup in a mediocre-tasting bread bowl. In my opinion, it looks like Panera doesn’t have too much to worry about in terms of competition…

Boudin SF on Urbanspoon

Are you a fan of bread bowls?

A Sunny Way to Wake Up

A Sunny Way to Wake Up

I had the biggest crush on oatmeal for the longest time.

It became my staple breakfast for almost two years before I realized I could have oats in other shapes and forms…and still enjoy it as much as a beloved piping hot bowl of craisin and blueberry oatmeal.

When breakfast/fiber/oat cakes entered my life, I was convinced that oats didn’t need to be cooked beyond repair to taste good. When molded and baked at the right temperature with just the right amount of spices and sugar, oat cakes can definitely be a satisfying breakfast any morning.

I was fortunate enough to receive a sample of The Healthy Baking Co. oat cake products, which they fondly name California Suncakes and Heart-Thrives. Both products are made similarly, but the Heart-Thrives are fortified with calcium and are shaped as hearts!

1 - Heart Thrives - Chocolate

I have to say, food is more fun to eat when it’s served in cute shapes!

The California Suncakes and Heart-Thrives have gotten rave reviews from nurses, doctors, and nutritionists who recommend them as ready-to-eat meals (if you have a whole Suncake or two Heart-Thrives it’s about 320 calories) or snacks. The Heart-Thrives are especially recommended for those who want to up their calcium, as well as women undergoing menopause or dealing with osteoporosis. The cakes are low-glycemic, and packed with fibrous whole grains. AND to top it off, they’re gluten-free and vegan!

The ingredients list is quite short: oats, brown rice syrup, brown rice flour, soy protein concentrate, soy flour, inulin, rice bran, natural fruit juice, calcium citrate, and dried fruits. Nothing weird going on here!

Upon arrival, I noticed a “freeze me” note included in the package. Since they thaw quickly (in about and hour), it’s suggested that you freeze the cakes if you don’t plan on gobbling them up within 30 days. That wasn’t the case for me, but even so, I froze the cakes just to be safe.

I was able to sample 8 of their flavors, five of them Heart-Thrives and 3 of them California Suncakes.

1, 2 - Heart-Thrives and California Suncakes sampled

I tried chocolate first, and was blown away.

2 - Heart Thrives - Chocolate

I microwaved both hearts for about a minute (even though 20-30 seconds is recommended) so the chocolate chips came out melty and the oat cake was delicate enough to be crumbled in a full-to-the-brim bowl of strawberry Chobani.

Next up was lemon poppyseed.

3 - Heart Thrives - Lemon Poppyseed

I absolutely loved the spotted pattern of the cakes due to the poppyseed. Really brought a POP to my morning :P!

4 - Heart Thrives - Lemon Poppyseed

They tasted great crumbled in strawberry Chob too.

Apple was the best microwaved.

5 - Heart Thrives - Apple

Just look at how flaky and warm they look after a spin in the microwave.

6 - Heart Thrives - Apple

They made a great mix-in for my blood orange Chobani yogurt cup! I felt like a true blue food blogger munching on this while watching the Monday morning news.

Date tasted just as great, texture-wise!

7 - Heart Thrives - Date

I couldn’t detect the date taste, but it crumbled easily after being microwaved, just like its brothers and sisters. Perfectly paired with pineapple Chobani.

8 - Heart Thrives - Date

Then it was time to tear into one of the Suncakes.

Cranberry was chosen first.

9 - California Suncakes - Cranberry

After being microwaved, the kitchen smelled as if I actually baked cranberry bread from scratch. I had this round mound of goodness join a dairy party with some egg nog gelato and pineapple Chob. Insane flavor combination, I know, but trust me it tasted amazing!

The last Heart-Thrive was Raisin Spice.

10 - Heart Thrives - Raisin Spice

It tasted awesome with some mango Chobani and a Fiber One Brownie. I even let my Dad try one of the hearts warm from the microwave and he enjoyed it with his cup of coffee :).

11 - Heart Thrives - Raisin Spice

But I think my favorite Suncake had to be Chocolate Orange.

12 - California Suncakes - Chocolate Orange

The cake was chock full of chocolate chips and the orange aroma could not be disguised. Although not pictured, this was soaked in yogurt (which you probably could have guessed…)

And last, but not least, I had Apricot thawed and without yogurt. I thawed the cake overnight so I wouldn’t have to wait in the morning.

13 - California Suncakes - Apricot

What I love about this cake is that the apricot used is unsulphured and that the pieces of dried apricots were generously sized.

I felt pretty fancy eating this with a fork :P.

Needless to say, I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to have for breakfast or scavenge for mix-ins in my pantry for my tubs of Chobani when I had these cakes around…but now that I ran out, I guess I’ll have to order another batch very soon…

Thank you Healthy Baking Co.!

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nurse, or RD, and this review is based on the products and information I received from The Healthy Baking Co. All opinions are my own.
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