Turkish Delight!

Turkish Delight!

The semester is coming to a close for most, but I technically don’t become a “fourth year” until after this summer. And this summer is gonna be a doozy with all the work I have planned and have to get done, oh boy.

There’s so many things to do for trip prep and managing work here, I’m proud of myself for not going absolutely crazy and still finding the time to go about my usual daily tasks without worrying too much.

Lab was a necessary task that needed to be addressed on both Saturday and Sunday. E had to come by Saturday morning to help me get into the building since I forgot my set of keys in my desk (lol), but after I finished up, we made plans to have lunch.

She had been mentioning that we check out this Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills sometime, and I thought it would be perfect to finally do so.

The bus we took that was supposed to drop us off at Beverly Blvd cut its route down by Fairfax near Little Ethiopia, so we ended up walking for another 45 minutes due to construction and having to take the most roundabout way to our destination.

Needless to say, we had rallied up a strong enough appetite to chow down on some mouthwatering Turkish food. Our appetites would be appeased at Cafe Istanbul.

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Cafe Istanbul

It’s hard to believe I passed by this joint without much thought. I used to frequent this street a year and a half ago, visiting the likes of Panera Bread, Creamistry, Momed, and Beverliz Cafe. I had been meaning to come back, but time flew by!

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Pita bread chips and sauce.

Now I was here with E, and I was making the most of this experience. E is Turkish-German, and so she volunteered herself to order in Turkish for the both of us. The servers spoke English, but E wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to show off, haha!

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Pita bread and grape leaf rolls

We were served some crisped flat bread with a tomato-based dipping sauce as an appetizer. We also got vegetable dolmas, and for our entree, the Imam Bayildi.

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IMAM BAYILDI ~ Fried whole eggplant, stuffed with onion, tomato, garlic and slowly baked in the oven, served with tzatziki sauce and with pita bread.

Our entree featured three eggplant strips topped with tomato, onion, and pepper. We were able to cut through the soft, chewy boats, and top them on some pita bread after adding some tzatziki.

I thought we were done after this meal, but E insisted that we finish off the right way—with Turkish tea and Kunefe.

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Tea and Kunefe

The tea was a dark crimson liquid served with sugar cubes. It paired well with the soft, sticky dough pastry that is Kunefe. It was like a sticky bun rolled in pistachio grounds. The small, rich dessert was the perfect way to complete the feast. I’m glad I trusted E, haha!

We walked around for a bit, and then departed to commute home. I made a stop at Sprouts for groceries, and decided to pick up a pint of Nada Moo to try later as a night snack.

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Birthday Cake Cookie Dough

I picked out Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, and for my first time trying Nada Moo, I was mad at myself for not trying this fluffy goodness packed in a pint much sooner! Birthday Cake Cookie Dough has a bright white base of fluffy coconut milk-based ice cream, mixed in with thick chocolate chips and sizable pieces of cookie dough. If you are looking for a pint-sized cloud with a varied texture of mix-ins, look no further!

Earlier in the week, I tried some new items I picked up from Trader Joe’s. One of which was one of the three new RX Bar flavors—Mixed Berry!

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RX Bar Mixed Berry

The eye-catching bright pink wrapper was what caught my eyes first, but the taste of the bar was quite interesting. It had the usual density of an RX Bar, but the flavor reminded me of fruity pop rocks, and it really hit the back of the mouth in regards to flavor intensity. Not sure if it’s my favorite, but the bright pink color made it seem like it would match well with a cute pink dress!

The second item was the Birthday Cake Bar from Trader Joe’s! I first saw it on Instagram, and was ecstatic to find it sitting on the shelf with the other chocolate bars 🙂 !

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Birthday Cake Bar

Sprinkles and cookie crumbs gave the bar its full textured appearance, and the chocolate had a smooth flavor profile. It’s definitely a treat that can’t be missed out on!

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

Spiraling Out of Texas

Spiraling Out of Texas

We left Houston on Thursday morning, and since we left in the late morning, the four hours to Dallas seemed longer than it actually was. We got to Dallas around 3:30pm, and we were all ravenous. My sister and Dad had taken turns driving during these four hours, but I had a lingering headache which grew as the hours ticked on.

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Spiral Diner on Beckley Ave., Dallas

We stopped at a vegan diner on Beckley Ave, just outside of downtown Dallas—Spiral Diner! Once we were inside, I was immediately reminded of Saturn Cafe in both Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

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Have a seat!

We were seated right away and my sis and I ploughed through the menu trying to figure out which entree would satisfy our raging appetites. For me, I had to go with the nachos. I was craving some chips and faux queso like crazy! My sis got a faux Philly cheesesteak and my Dad a pesto pasta dish with toasted bread.

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Just guess what I got…

All dishes came out beautifully presented, and close-to-perfection in taste.

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Oh hello nachos…

I ate every single chip (plus some of my sister’s) drenched in vegan queso, sour cream, beans, olives, jalapeños, and guacamole. It hit the spot, and with several gulps of water, my headache magically went away 😉

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Guac!

Whatever headache my sister may have had prior to this sandwich must have gone away too, no doubt about it!

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Sis’s gorg sandwich

I also had some of my Dad’s pasta dish. It wasn’t packed with flavor but it definitely tasted rich and filling with this particular sauce and pasta. The pasta was like a version of rigatoni that was smaller.

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The vegan parmesan & peas made it pretty.

For the next four hours on the road, my Dad agreed to drive since it was getting dark and I did express my tiredness from lack of sleep from the past couple of days. We made it back to Tulsa close to 10pm, and I went to sleep right away.

My sis and I only had four more days back in Tulsa, and ended up having to pack in more errands than “fun” things, but I didn’t mind too much since at least we had each other’s company. We did see Fences with a family friend, but it was too long and slow for me. We also didn’t do anything exciting for New Years…on the agenda was wearing fuzzy robes, watching whatever was on TV, and sleeping before midnight struck!

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Post-run requirements – fuzzy socks and a snack. Tried the Oh Yeah! One Cinnamon Roll Bar: “NYE snack from yesterday was the Cinnamon Roll Oh Yeah! One bar. The swirl and caramel ombré color of this bar were 😍 but the taste not so much 🙁. Was it too much cinnamon? That’s my guess because something was overpowering the sweetness. Okay, next time at @vitaminshoppe it’s on to the next one!

I also went back to running on a trail I grew fond of over the past two weeks. I hit 40 miles total for both the weeks I was away, and was even running at faster-than-normal paces. I had to stop and take a picture on my last run on Monday. I literally can’t believe that two weeks went by so fast…

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“I’m going to miss running on this trail! I was able to run 40 mi/week for two weeks (consecutively!), most of which was done on this trail by the Arkansas River. I also had to include some muggy Houston runs 😅 haha but I’m so excited to see my mileage ramping up, and to be running faster paces that look to be consistent. Ready to head back to Cali and keep up the work!!”

This trip was special in so many ways, and I think that’s why I felt pretty blue in the days leading up to my departure and my departure day. Time is so, so precious, and it’s trips like these that make me wish we could pause frames in time to replay over and over again. While I do plan to see my sis before her graduation, I may not see my Dad until then…so not for at least another five months! But at least it will be an exciting time then as well…Europe is in our future!

How did you enjoy the last days of 2016?

Spiral Diner & Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Thanksgiving this year ended up being a Friendsgiving celebration. I am so grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to schedule my travel plans around time sensitive experiments, and that I could just enjoy being in the company of my sister and our close friend in Santa Cruz.

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I had this the night before my trip, so spicy! —> Next time you have a movie night, get like 5 bags of THIS. Bollywood Popcorn from Trader Joe’s is bound to bring the party…IN YOUR MOUTH

My weekend began Tuesday afternoon (lol, earliest weekend ever), and I left from lab in order to catch the Amtrak to Fresno. It was a painstakingly long ride, due to the fact that the train had a late start by one hour. Pairing that with a rowdy family that would not shut up for the next two hours, it was no surprise my head was throbbing beyond its limits.

I finally arrived around 9:30pm and insisted that my sister drive me to Sprouts before it closed at 10pm. I was hungry at this point and needed some food to make up for dinner time I lost.

The both of us went to sleep immediately after eating some ice cream and watching SNL (it was not boring at all watching Kristen Wiig’s skits over again with my sis, we were cracking up)!

The next morning, I went for a run around my sister’s campus before heading into the car for our 3 hour drive to Santa Cruz. The last time I visited Santa Cruz was ages ago…I’m thinking like fourth or third grade? I barely remember it though since we passed by it briefly, only making it down to the boardwalk. Since I have yet to visit my friend during a time when she is on campus, Thanksgiving presented itself as the perfect opportunity to pay her a visit.

The drive was scenic once we made it past Madera and headed west. As we got further and further into the woods, and closer to the coast, we knew we had arrived. There was also a chill in the air so we knew we were in Santa Cruz country.

My friend, who is a Resident Advisor, had to stay on campus from Wednesday evening through Friday evening, so we used the afternoon hours as soon as we arrived to get some lunch off campus.

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Saturn Cafe, Santa Cruz

We knew we had to hit up Saturn Cafe, a vegan staple that I visited two and a half years ago (!!!) in Berkeley. My friend made a comment about how she took her parents to this place so much that they got tired of it, but who on Earth gets tired of vegan food?!

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So cosmic!

There are those that don’t like it to begin with, but vegan food is just one of those things where there is a magical little substitute for everything in the meat and dairy world…how can you tire of that?

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Got my eye on the Peanut Royale

But I digress. The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we entered. Unfortunately, we had a wait time that was longer than it should have been. The cafe wasn’t packed at all, yet it took the wait staff 15 minutes or so to just get us seated! The waitress looked like she’d rather be anywhere but in a pink vegan diner, and this poor attitude showcased itself when she came around to ask for our orders.

I remember the portion sizes being huge from my Berkeley visit, but I just felt like having something manageable for lunch and warm…definitely warm!

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It shimmers with orange and sparkles with tofu!

I ended up going with the Peanut Royale, while my sister got a delectable-looking sandwich and our friend, her favorite Mexican-inspired bowl. We also split some onion strings with a ranch-like dressing for dipping!

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Onion strings and sister’s sandwich with chips 🙂

My sister also got an overflowing chocolate shake that thy actually brought over BEFORE her entree. After eating we waited another eon before getting our checks. They at least were able to split our checks, but didn’t take Discover credit cards (who doesn’t take Discover anymore??).

We were finally able to leave and made a stop into Safeway before heading back to campus. My friend had an allowance for food since she had to be on “lockdown” so we got our Friendsgiving meal staples and snacks. We had to make a special stop to get a lil Tofurky ball at a co-op, but at least we were in Santa Cruz and could count on some place having it ready the day before the holiday!

When we got back, we unpacked a bit more and rested up from our morning drive and afternoon errands. I tried to get some work done but our friend’s wi-fi was only picked up by our phones and not our computers.

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Friend’s cute window wall.

After some downtime, our friend whipped up her latest specialty—Gordon Ramsey eggs!

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Gordon Ramsey eggs!

They were scrambled eggs whipped with butter and olive oil, all piled high on crisp sourdough toast. I think this is something we are going to be asking our friend to make every time we see her now 😉

We tried to all watch something on Netflix later that night, but I was so tired that I dozed off right when we picked out something! Haha, I certainly had great sleep that night 🙂

Have you tried Bollywood Popcorn or Gordon Ramsey eggs?

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

President’s Day Weekend Fun

President’s Day Weekend Fun

The holiday weekend actually started off on Thursday night for me, when I met up with some of my girl classmates for a potluck/movie night. I brought these brownies, and helped my friend set-up before everyone else arrived.

 Chips on the table, but we had the rest of the food set up in the dining area.
Chips on the table, but we had the rest of the food set up in the dining area.

Our get-together went on until about 10:30pm, and after getting back to my apartment, I finished packing up for my trip back north to visit the fam! I had an early morning bus to catch, so I went to sleep immediately after getting everything ready.

My bus left a little after 6am on that Friday morning, and while I did plan to do some studying, I ended up sleeping (or trying to sleep), making use of the free Wi-Fi even though I had to do a lot of squinting (phone problems…), and eating whatever snacks I packed for the trip.

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View from the bus as we approached SF.

I made it to SF around 2pm, and after figuring my way through other modes of transit, I finally met my Dad and sister (who also came up for the weekend) waiting for me at a BART station. From there, we had to drive our way through Friday-late-afternoon-end-of-the-work-day traffic, and so I literally did not get home until 5pm. But once I did get home, I was excited to finally have a home-cooked meal and for some bonding time with the sis. We both “studied” while playing Toy Story 3 in the background. Definitely a good way to spend a Friday night! 😉

Saturday morning was my half marathon, but we spent the rest of the day with my cousin since we were in her neck of the woods. We met up in Jack London Square, and had lunch at a spot of my choosing—Souley Vegan!

The small, homey restaurant was not hard to find, since the bright turquoise paint made it visible from a block or two away. We had to park that far away because, you know, that’s just one of the perks of city life 😛

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All of the items were Southern-inspired, and most importantly, VEGAN!

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We found a table at the corner of an elevated floor, so we had a great view of our surroundings. We took some time looking over the menu before ordering at the cash register.

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While we waited for our food, my cousin realized that they had a cup of samples with pieces of one of their featured desserts. It was peanut-ty appetizer—a piece of their Peanut Butter Brick!

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While my family got combo plates with items like BBQ tofu (sooo good!), mac n cheesz, cornbread, and mashed potatoes, I had the Southern Fried Tofu Bowl as my main entree, and also had some of the spinach dip with fried tofu chips.

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My bowl was comprised of battered and fried tofu (mimicking fried chicken), which sat atop a sea of salty gumbo and a warm bed of grits. I wasn’t a major fan of this dish, but I thought the fried tofu was pretty delicious. I feel like the gumbo + grits tasted somewhat bland, even though I could detect the salt. Perhaps if there had been a spicier and thicker sauce in this dish (like the BBQ sauce used for their tofu cubes), it would have been more palatable for me.

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BBQ Tofu cube poking out from underneath my fried tofu (thanks Dad) // close-up of gumbo + grits // piece of fried tofu chip with dip

We did a nice job of tackling everything…

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As the afternoon rolled on, the weather continued to be clear, bright, sunny, and just overall perfect. It would have been wasteful to not take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions, so we decided to take an after-lunch stroll. We first stopped inside World Market, where I found this cute poster that reminded me of the periodic table, but the “elements” were major cities. We then walked over in the direction of a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, but ended up waiting across the street for a good ten minutes because a train was passing through!

It was quite a sight though 😉

At the scoop shop, I was able to try Phish Food for the first time. I opted for the kids’ scoop…and I was glad I did. I guess it was the little chocolate fish pieces that persuaded me to choose the flavor initially, but it was just waaay too much chocolate. I mean, I love chocolate, but this scoop and this flavor…it was just too much for me. I’m pretty sure my sister would have liked it though 🙂

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We ended up feasting on our ice cream selections while looking over the water. There were a couple ferries going in and out, shuffling people too and from SF. Ah, let the pictures speak for themselves…

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After we finished dessert, we walked through a local crafts fair and took in all the sights and sounds. There were so many dogs out and about, and plenty of intriguing items from plushies with vampire teeth to figurines made out of scrap metal.

From the fair, we drove over to my cousin’s for a siesta (I think being out in the sun made me more sleepy rather than my morning half marathon!), and snacked on some apples/coffee/tea after waking up an hour later. My Dad and I left as it approached evening, and I was more than ready to get some more zzzz’s!

On Sunday, I was able to spend more quality time with my sis. Since she wasn’t able to spend the day with us on Saturday (the poor girl had to study for an upcoming exam…), my Dad and I wanted to be able to go out for lunch with her. So after stopping by the gym and running some errands in the morning, we picked her up and visited Noodles & Company for the first time.

n&co

As of right now, there are no Noodles & Company locations in the LA area (only Orange County and San Diego I believe…) so when I learned that they were opening this one in the Nor Cal area, I wanted to check it out during one of my family visits!

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Giant cookie or rice treat to accompany your bowl?

The inside layout of the restaurant reminded me a lot of the Boudin SF set-up (which was also nearby): an entrance has you line up single file all the way to the register, a large menu that spans the wall as you approach the register, and central/outdoor (crowded) seating.

After placing our orders, we were lucky to find a table during the lunchtime rush hour. Our bowls came to us in minutes despite the bustling activity.

I dug into my small-sized (it was indeed pretty small…) bowl of Japanese Pan Noodles with chopsticks

 Japanese Pan Noodles - Caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro
Japanese Pan Noodles – Caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro

I was definitely a fan of the caramelized noodles/soy sauce combination. Each noodle had a fair coating of sauce, and they were still easy to pick up with chopsticks!

My sister had the Penne Rosa, and my Dad the Thai Curry Soup:

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Penne Rosa – Spicy tomato cream sauce, penne pasta, mushrooms, tomato, spinach, wine and parmesan
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Thai Curry Soup – Yellow coconut curry broth, spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onion and rice noodles

Both dishes looked just as delicious as mine, but I was satisfied with my selection. Sure, it could have been spicier, but I guess wanting to try their spicy Indonesian Peanut Sautee gives me a reason to come back to another one of their other locations in the future.

After lunch, we returned home and did nothing productive in particular 😉 . After a glorious nap, I had dinner and then watched Boyhood with Dad and sis after doing a little homework. Monday was spent prepping for my return on Tuesday, as well as sending my sister off, and Tuesday was my tired travel day. Kind of wish I could redo this weekend all over again, because I don’t see myself doing anything but work for the next week or so…

How did you spend your holiday weekend (if you had one)?

Souley Vegan on Urbanspoon Noodles & Company on Urbanspoon

Beans and Rice…in a Chip!

Beans and Rice…in a Chip!

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily paid to write this review. This review is based on the products and information I received from Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips. All opinions are my own.

I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a big chips person. Back in grade school, I liked having a bag of Lay’s from time to time, and I bought into the asteroid trend for a while…

(source)

But after reading about the uncertainty of where some chip ingredients are derived from (as far as animal origins), I stopped consuming chips that ended in “–tos”.

Since then, I haven’t been a “real” chip eater. Even with the boom of Pop Chips and other vegan/”health conscious” chips, I still haven’t found a brand that’s worth its weight in a bag of chips.

However, this did not stop me from giving Beanfields Bean & Rice Chips a chance.

Beanfields Chips comes in five flavors.
Beanfields Chips comes in five flavors.

Beanfields was generous enough to send me five of their flavors to try: Nacho, Unsalted, Sea Salt, Salt N’ Pepper, and Pico de Gallo, and two small snack-size bags of their Salt n’ Pepper and Pico de Gallo flavors.

The chips are a product of blending long grain rice, beans, and healthy safflower and sunflower oils. Their simple ingredient base makes them corn, gluten, soy, and dairy free, as well as vegan. As a vegetarian, I am at ease when it comes to eating these chips since I don’t have to worry about funky animal-derived ingredients.

I tried Pico de Gallo first.

Pico De Gallo Flavor
Pico De Gallo Flavor

I loved the lemon + spicy flavor combination of this chip flavor, which is expected with a name like Pico de Gallo. I wish it had more of the flavor though, since it was somewhat mild to detect, despite the glowing hue of orange.

Nacho was next, and this flavor ended up being my favorite.

Nacho Flavor
Nacho Flavor

I appreciated how the ingredients list for the flavoring was specific enough to say it contained  “natural non-dairy flavor” and “grill flavor” from sunflower oil.

Apparently a lot of other people agree with me when it comes to the likeability of this flavor. VegNews awarded it as the “Best New Vegan Product” at the VegNews Best of Show Awards in 2012, and they even consider it as “The vegan answer to Doritos”. Not too bad for a single chip flavor ;)!

Salt N’ Pepper followed soon after.

Salt 'N' Pepper Flavor
Salt ‘N’ Pepper Flavor

The pepper definitely overpowered in this one, leaving a slightly spicy aftertaste, but since I don’t mind spicy things, I didn’t mind it at all.

Sea Salt was next, but I couldn’t detect an overexpression of salt on these chips visually.

Sea Salt Flavor
Sea Salt Flavor

The saltiness, though mild, was present in taste. Perhaps paired with a cup of hot salsa, these chips would make a perfectly crunchy snack!

The last, and most basic, of the five was Unsalted.

Unsalted Flavor
Unsalted Flavor

As expected, it was a simple flavor comprised of the basic ingredients I mentioned before: beans, rice, and safflower/sunflower oils. These would make the perfect base for vegan nachos with “cheez” sauce, or even regular ol’ nachos!

Overall, these Beanfields chips nailed it on so many fronts. Not only are they made with wholesome ingredients, but they’re packed with protein and fiber. You would think so since they are just beans and rice in chip form, right? They have a crispy and light crunch, yet they don’t leave that empty feeling in your stomach a half and hour later. They are satiating, especially if paired with some healthy fats (hello guacamole!). I could definitely see these as a great substitute for tortilla chips, or if you’re craving chips but don’t want your tummy growling too soon after eating them!

[You can learn more about Beanfields here, or check out their Facebook and Twitter.]

What’s your favorite condiment/sauce/side to dip chips in?

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