Enlightened Pints from Summer

Enlightened Pints from Summer

I admit, this post is extremely overdue, but as you can probably guess from how delayed my posts have been, it’s obviously because I’ve been very busy, haha! But as the year comes to a close, I seem to have a need to catch-up on a lot of things in my life, blog posts included! And writing about ice cream pints that Enlightened graciously sent me over the summer? I’m glad I finally have some time to put together a review post!

The review box I received upon my return from Europe in early June contained the following flavors: 

Butter Pecan
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate
Snickerdoodle
Toasted Almond
Vanilla 

My sister was visiting me that week, and so I was happy to share some of the flavors with her as well πŸ™‚

Butter Pecan – This flavor had a nutty flavor, with slight maple undertones. The pecan pieces had a roasted, crunchy texture despite being mixed into soft ice cream. 

Butter Pecan
Butter Pecan

Chocolate – My sis had the privilege of trying this flavor. Of course, she was a fan. I suggested she wait a couple minutes to let the pint soften after taking it out from the freezer. She agreed that it had much creamier texture after doing so!

Chocolate
Chocolate

Toasted Almond – With Toasted Almond, the creamy ice cream with bite-size nut pieces was perfect enough as a simple treat—but then I added a mini Lenny & Larry’s chocolate chip cookie on top. A flavor explosion ensued πŸ˜›

Toppings make things better.
Toppings make things better.

Chocolate Peanut Butter – I forgot to take an “inside-the-pint” pic, but it was literally a smooth chocolate base with HUGE peanut butter chunks. It reminded me of Halo Top’s Peanut Butter Cup with the hardened peanut butter pieces, so this flavor was a winner in my book. 

Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate Peanut Butter

Snickerdoodle – Ahh, I had high hopes for this one…maybe I should have added a Snickerdoodle cookie as a topping. The ice cream itself was smooth and had a light cinnamon flavor, but maybe the addition of cookie pieces or cinnamon cake pieces would have done the trick to make this flavor a stellar one. 

Snickerdoodle
Snickerdoodle

Vanilla Bean – I absolutely loved the smooth and creamy texture—literally like velvet! I even added one of my favorite bars from the summer, GoMacro’s Protein Replenishment!  I’m still on Team GoMacro, but I was obsessed over the summer, haha!

Vanilla Bean + GoMacro Protein Replenishment
Vanilla + GoMacro Protein Replenishment

I also happened to try two other flavors that I wasn’t sent, but were also new-to-me at the time. Found them at Sprouts, my all-time favorite grocery store (besides Grocery Outlet, haha):

Red Velvet – I found this to be a “dark” flavor, if that makes sense, haha! It looked like a dark chocolate, but it definitely had a lighter, milder flavor than a bitter dark chocolate (so, better than I expected!). I also liked the cream cheese swirl, and it reminded me of  Frozen Hot Cocoa without the chocolate bits. It would have been cool however, if there were cake pieces thrown in!

Red Velvet
Red Velvet

Black Cherry – This was a flavor I definitely did not expect to be a favorite of mine, but it was smooth, had a light and fruity taste, and a fair mix of small chocolate chunks and chewy cherry pieces. It’s soft lavendar color was appealing too! Another cookie topping proved useful here too!

Black Cherry topped with snickerdoodle :)
Black Cherry topped with snickerdoodle πŸ™‚

It feels good to get caught up on this review, haha! Looking back at all these pics is making me crave some ice cream now, and seeing that it’s going to be in the mid-80’s today by afternoon, it doesn’t seem like too crazy of an idea to have some πŸ˜›

Which of these flavors would you try?

November Degustabox

November Degustabox

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

This month’s Degustabox came full of many items I was excited to try—everything from savory, sweet, crunchy, salty, melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

November Degustabox Goods
November Degustabox Goods

The sweet stuff always catches my eye, and the Bauducco Mini Panettone stood out to me a alot because it reminded me of my childhood. I didn’t like the cake as a child, but my mom was fond of the stuff. We’d always have a giant box in the kitchen around the holidays, when they were sold at Trader Joe’s or some other store.

mini-paanettone
Panettone for one? Don’t mind if I do…

But trying this mini version as an adult? I had an immediate liking for it! It was a sweet treat one weeknight after consuming a crockpot veg bowl and winding down with a show on Netflix :P. The bread seemed crumbly and flaky, but it actually held its own and had the appropriate amount of stiffness while still having a chewy texture. 

Then there was this Goya Pico De Gallo Mild Salsa. 

"Just another @degustaboxusa find making my humble weeknight crockpot veggie bowls a little more flavorful"
“Just another @degustaboxusa find making my humble weeknight crockpot veggie bowls a little more flavorful”

I’ve been using to coat my crockpot veg bowls of course! Although, as stated on the label, it’s supposed to be an all-purpose salsa that’s perfect for burritos, fajitas, tamales, pasta, salads and even eggs, haha. 

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This salsa is delicious with potato, pepper, and eggplant!

Degustabox first sent some caramels from Lovely Candy Co. in April of this year, but these sea salt ones definitely had a saltier kick! I was still a fan of the brand after chewing on these—so flavorful!

caramels
Lovely Candy Co. – Sea Salt Caramels

Not gonna lie, I was ecstatic to find this Milka Oreo bar in this month’s box! I’ve actually been seeing a lot more of the Milka brand making a presence in US supermarkets. I think my local grocery store (Ralph’s) even offered a Milka bar as a free promo item a while back!

oreo-milka
Milka Oreo!

The Walkers Shortbread Scottie Dogs also brought up some fond memories from my childhood! We used to have Walkers shortbread around the house too, especially when we lived in the UK for two years when I was younger.

sortbread
Walkers Shortbread Scottie Dogs

I had these scottie dogs as a pre-run snack, before heading out for a long run one Sunday with my marathon team.

I brought the CafΓ© Bustelo CafΓ© Con Leche Instant Coffee packs and Bell’s All Natural Salt‑Free Seasoning to Tulsa to share with my Dad.

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Coffee and seasoning

We had the coffee one morning during my visit, but we weren’t huge fans. We found it to be too sweet, and slightly burnt, after preparation.

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Eh, too sweet for my liking.

As for the seasoning, it added so much flavor to some wild rice stuffing we brought over for a Thanksgiving dinner at a family friend’s house. It was simply a mix of rosemary, oregano, sage, ginger, and marjoram, but it was all that was necessary to elevate the flavor profile of this dish.

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Just perfect for Thanksgiving!

The Goya Soft Taco Flour Tortillas were a perfect side for my dinners—especially with a lentil bean chili I had one night.

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Dinner comfort

I also received a bottle of Arteasan Yerba Mate tea. I let it sit in the fridge for a while to get it ice cold, and had it with one of my dinners. It wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be, but it was certainly refreshing. I think it would have lacked any flavor if it was at room temperature…it was as if the cold temperature helped to emphasize the mild peach and rosemary flavors. 

degustabox (5)
Arteasan Yerba Mate

I couldn’t have the Country Archer Turkey Jerky and Aneto Chicken Broth for obvious reasons, but one of my labmates (J.) was happy to have them! I left them on his desk in the morning and I forgot I had put them there when he found me later in the day and thanked me. I had no clue what he was talking about until he mentioned them, haha!

Turkey jerky & chicken broth
Turkey jerky & chicken broth

Which of these November Degustabox would you have been excited to try?

More Things From October

More Things From October

After spending a Saturday together in Hollywood exploring the history of broken relationships, I didn’t get a chance to see my sister for another two weeks. She soon got busy with work, classes, and…a boy?

Also finally tried some new-to-me flavors of Square Bar, as it's been a long time since I had them! Not a big fan of the dark chocolate coating though...the cherry filling was alright, but overall just wasn't to my liking.
Also finally tried some new-to-me flavors of Square Bar, as it’s been a long time since I had them! Not a big fan of the dark chocolate coating though…the cherry filling was alright, but overall just wasn’t to my liking.

Haha, yes. She’s yet another one of my once-single friends to get herself a BF lol. I briefly met him the night of her graduation when they were just friends, but since it was 11pm and I was suffering from deep exhaustion after the day’s celebrations, I fell asleep under my sister’s dorm bed soon after he arrived. No shame—I needed my beauty sleep!

I also got my hands on this new Halo Top flavor: Mochi Green Tea! It had a smooth green tea flavor ice cream base that was quite mild, and actual Mochi pieces that held their own. Most of them sunk to bottom, but it was good overall!
I also got my hands on this new Halo Top flavor: Mochi Green Tea! It had a smooth green tea flavor ice cream base that was quite mild, and actual Mochi pieces that held their own. Most of them sunk to bottom, but it was good overall!

I met them for brunch on a Saturday, soon after getting my morning long run in. He had come into LA to drop off a friend at the airport, and my sis picked him up on her way from the OC. They picked me up from my place, and we had our brunch at a local favorite—Truxton’s American Bistro.

Menu
Menu

My sis and I were crazy for their monkey bread when we visited their Westchester location two summers ago, but this time around, we were looking for something that wasn’t 100% carb.

The poor BF had to spend the night in the airport so he was literally falling asleep at the table. I used the time to catch up with the sis, and also figure out which brunch item to get.

Truxton's American Bistro
Truxton’s American Bistro

I ended up going for a squash and Brussels sprouts hash topped with a fried egg. The other two got sandwiches.

Oh my hash...
Oh my hash…

I think the pictures can speak for themselves, but it was definitely a mouth-watering dish. The crostini on the side wasn’t super necessary (actually, it was hard to bite into and didn’t help with mopping up any leftover sauce), but it helped somewhat.

Sister's Berkley Burger and my side crostini
Sister’s Berkley Burger and my side crostini

They were both pretty tired after that, so my sis dropped me off after taking me to Sprouts for a quick grocery trip. I invited them to check it Cold Rolled with me, but apparently her BF doesn’t like sweets (I was personally in shock), so I let it be and let them head back to get some rest πŸ™‚

The following day, I made plans to check out the Body Worlds exhibit with E.

Body Worlds
Body Worlds

It was actually an intriguing display…actually, everything looked so cleaned, polished, waxed, fixed, etc. to appear “real”, but they did have a video explanation of how everything is preserved and that, in fact, all of the displays were donated human bodies…

Nervous system // scoliosis
Nervous system // scoliosis

It was also a really hot day for October in LA (felt more like July…), so retreating inside the California Science Center where it was cool and air-conditioned was a smart idea.

Have you seen a Body Worlds exhibit?

Truxton's American Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

August Degustabox

August Degustabox

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

This month was full of pleasant surprises and reunions. I kicked it off with a low-key birthday with lab mates, a fun weekend with a long-time friend, and my sister’s arrival and permanent move to SoCal (at least for the next two years!)

I’m so behind on posts—including my monthly Degustabox review! And this month surely did NOT disappoint!

August Degustabox
August Degustabox

This month’s box included snack items made with unique ingredients, a throwback to a childhood favorite, a creamy sauce for stirring into warm dinners, a nut butter brand I’ve been longing to try, and an item I was able to easily prepare and bring to my lab potluck.

The pasta chips were the most unique items in the box this month, at least in my opinion…as well as the most flavorful! I received a bag of flat Rosemary-flavored Pasta Chips, as well as “Meatball Parm” flavored Pasta Bow-Ties. Both flavors are vegetarian though, and are made with semolina flour (just like pasta).

Pasta Chips - Rosemary
Pasta Chips – Rosemary

Of the two, I liked the bow ties the best due to their sharp crisp and hollow center. The Rosemary ones had a much more herb-y smell (not surprisingly), they had a nice crisp to them as well.

Pasta Bow-Ties - Meatball Parm
Pasta Bow-Ties – Meatball Parm

I love how there is always something in these boxes—at least one—that can be incorporated in my crockpot dinners. Sharwood’s cooking sauces was something I came across before, but I absolutely loved the Sharwood’s Creamy Coconut Korma.

Sharwood's
Sharwood’s Creamy Coconut Korma topped on steamed vegetables

These Welch’s berry-flavored fruit rolls brought me back to my elementary school days for sure! I do remember the ones I used to have had a thicker consistency. These were harder to peel off the paper…

Welch's Berry Fruit Rolls
Welch’s Berry Fruit Rolls

Of course, I can’t ignore the chocolate goodies! Goya’s Maria Cookies were previously included in a Degustabox, and this time around, the classic biscuits were used to make a chocolate cookie sandwich.

Goya Golden Maria
Goya Golden Maria Sandwich Cookies

I wish they had some more of the chocolate cream filling, but these would definitely work well paired with a hot cup of tea or coffee or hot chocolate!

Cream filling, but where is more of it??
Cream filling, but where is more of it??

When I saw this sample pack of NuttZo in the box, I pretty much jumped for joy.

N
NuttZo 2go – Chocolate Peanut Pro

I have been wanting to try NuttZo for the longest time, and this sample pack was the answer! This flavor was definitely slick and oily, but that made it easy to squeeze out of the packet. I hate it when nut butters get stuck to the sides of their containers—such a waste of material and money, haha!

And these Nature’s Bakery Apple Cinnamon Fig Bars were another snack product I’ll oftentimes pass by in the grocery store but never think to buy. They definitely had a heartier, grainy texture and a dense amount of filling. Nothing like those generic flat Fig Newtons or even those Nutri-Grain bars.

Nature's Bakery Apple Cinnamon Fig Bar
Nature’s Bakery Apple Cinnamon Fig Bar

I’m not a big M&Ms fan, but when I spotted this bag of Sunspire Sun Drops, I couldn’t resist but eat them right out of the bag! Sure, I could have shared them with my landlords (the lady loves to make chocolate chip cookies and these certainly could have made her next batch pop with color), but I enjoyed popping them into my mouth one by one.

SunDrops
SunDrops Milk Chocolate Candies

Before coming across this bag of tostones chips, I was not aware of their existence. Apparently they are twice-fried plantain slices, and are pretty much the definition of a chip. I love how the back of the bag emphasizes that THEY ARE NOT BANANAS.

Goya Original Tostones Chips
Goya Original Tostones Chips

I had to give up trying the Dole Peaches in Strawberry Gel Cups, due to an ingredient I usually avoid, but one of my labmates helped himself to two for breakfast the day I brought them in.

Dole Peaches in Strawberry Gel Cups
Dole Peaches in Strawberry Gel Cups

That same labmate also held a lab potluck a few weekends ago, and along with some store-bought tortilla chips, I “made” some hummus…with some help from Hummustir that is.

Mediterranean hummus ready to-go!
Mediterranean hummus ready to-go!

It was really simple to prepare since the ingredients were all included and fit into the container. It all even came with a small wooden spoon! I basically added the large packet of chickpea puree first, then the tahini, followed by the spice packet. And since I received the Mediterranean flavor, the flavor mix provided a gentle blend of lime and garlic. Even though it joined the ranks of many other bowls of dips and bags of chips at the actual venue, it was still a top-notch quality spread given that it was made with convenience in mind!

Which of these items makes you think of summertime the most?

Americans in Paris

Americans in Paris

Paris, Day 2.

Were we ready to try conquering this rough city this time?

My body still felt sore, but my hesitations about running on the city streets are what really held me back from running in Paris. To be honest though, I was in a taper week for my marathon and, I just did not feel like running. I did feel like doing some stair climbing though, and used the six floors of ’em just outside our apartment to my advantage. My legs were warmed up for the day/knocked out at the same time by the end of it, haha!

My sister wanted to have Creme Brulee in Paris before the end of our trip, so we spent the morning stopping by some patisseries and giving them a look. No luck, but the pastries were mouth-watering enough for us to fetch some macarons.

Can't go to Paris without stopping inside a Patisserie.
Can’t go to Paris without stopping inside a Patisserie.

We braced ourselves as we headed for the Metro, but we were okay this time. We figured that as long as we stayed away from Gare du Nord and avoided getting on jam-packed train cars, we would be okay. Our first stop for the day was the iconic Eiffel Tower.

<3
β™₯

The weather was hot with no sign of a breeze, so taking an elevator to the top made the most sense. Plus, I already met my stair-climbing threshold for the day πŸ˜›

At the top, we were treated to a lovely, well-coordinated layout of the city.

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β™₯

It was a chore to get down (elevators going down were running incredibly slow), but by the time we reached the ground, we were ready to eat and were looking forward to the unique concept of our next destination. We walked over to the closest Metro stop, finally feeling slightly more comfortable with our surroundings.

Until we met the ticket police.

A guy in a ratty Nike hoodie and a beat-up nose walked over to us ordering us to hand over our tickets. He then exclaimed that the tickets we used to just get through this station were invalid. He spoke in broken English/French, so it was hard to understand—and communicate clearly—with him. It got to the point where he was asking for my Dad’s passport/to pay a fine, and we were getting pretty heated up/scared. This guy wasn’t in uniform, but his collegues were, and it all just seemed so confusing.

I tried to get the three of us to leave, but that just ended up with me running down the stairs while my Dad and sister kept arguing back and forth with the officers. I stood from the bottom floor staring awkwardly back up, both feeling worried and bored by the wait…

Eventually though, one of the guy’s colleagues came to his senses and let us go. It ended up being a misunderstanding about how to use the tickets and discard them when they were marked by the machine. The fact that they wouldn’t/couldn’t explain how the tickets were read was what caused us to be held up.

Another moment showcasing the hospitality of Paris…

Once we were let go, we continued on our journey, and got off at a station near the Pasteur Institute. We were looking for something much fluffier than pasteurized milk though…

Chat Mallows Cafe
Chat Mallows Cafe

How can one go to Paris without stopping by a cat cafe? It was an opportunity we couldn’t miss, and Chat Mallows Cafe was perfectly designed to achieve cat and customer comfort.

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We had to sanitize our hands first, but then one of the employees (who were easily distinguished from customers due to their cat ears) opened a door to the seating area/cats play pen. We found a table by the window, and were immediately greeted by some furry friends.

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β™₯

We quickly found our favorite furries! Mine was the fat little white one (who was also the most shy/aloof)…gah, so cute!

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I wish I could have packed them all in my suitcase and taken them home!

The menu wasn’t extensive, and there weren’t a lot of savory options, but we did get an omelette salad plate with some egg omelettes shaped like cat heads.

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β™₯

And for our desserts, I got a “blue milk” shake and my sister, who thought she ordered a chocolate milkshake, ended up with this giant brownie-fudge sundae thing that I ended up devouring more than she did! Her choice was much more delicious than what I chose, since mine just tasted like sweet milk topped with whipped cream. It wasn’t milkshake-thick at all…

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After our meal and cat-bonding time, we made our way back to the Metro (now knowing how to use our tickets properly…) and made our way over to the Arc De Triomphe.

We weren’t able to get physically close to it since you had to pay to enter the ground perimeter is was in the center of, but we did take some nice shots across the street.

 β™₯
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I was done playing the role of ‘tourist’ by that time, and suggested that we should carve out some time to check out some shops, and get gift/souvenir shopping out of the way. That ultimately led us to Galleries Lafayatte, which apparently according to our Airbnb host is where all the locals shop…but if that’s the case, the locals are making some serious BANK because everything there was designer brand and anything under 50 Euros was a rare find…

…we were able to afford macarons, haha!

Maison Pradier, 3 macarons = 10 Euros
Maison Pradier, 3 macarons = 10 Euros

We were out pretty late, or at least late in regards to French time because we got kicked out by one of the stores we were at by 7pm! Before heading back to the apartment, we had to rush to get food/snacks for the evening since the grocery stores were also closing up quickly!

I used it as an opportunity to pick up some European snackables:

I immediately picked up this Milka “Melty” bar as soon as I saw it, because I remember having some of this chocolate in lab when one of the post-docs came back from a conference in Australia. The Australian version is marketed as Milka “Collage”, but despite the difference in name, the creamy chocolate and varied, crunchy texture from hazelnuts and biscuit pieces was perfectly the same.

milka_melty
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I couldn’t resist picking up these milk chocolate dinosaur-shaped biscuits from Lotus (the makers of Biscoff spread). European biscuits seem to have a way with being much more rich in flavor (butter perhaps?), and these were no exception.

Lotus Dinosaurus Milk Chocolate
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We were all back and settled in by 10pm, just as the sun was setting. I guess traveling to the most northern areas of the globe in the summertime is not the best when you want to go to sleep soundly. Unlike the locals, we weren’t waiting for sundown for any parties to begin—we were too American for that, haha!

But at least the following day, our last day in Paris, wasn’t too dramatic…

‘Ello London!

‘Ello London!

We left for London bright (oh so bright…) and early on a Wednesday. There wasn’t time for a decent breakfast so I had some coffee and then helped pack all of our luggage into the car. The hour drive back to KEF seemed to go by quickly, perhaps due to the fact I pretty much dozed off for a good portion of the drive. Actually, I woke up right as we were pulling into Avis. 
 
Going through security was a chore. They took my bag for “examination”, but literally only took a piece of paper to “swipe” it, and then let me go. I guess I couldn’t have been be too surprised by this happening, considering the things going on, but I just found it very odd and unnecessary to hold up my time for no explicit reason. 
 
After making our way through Duty Free, we found our gate. We were flying with EasyJet, a British-based airline that had a very retro feel. The inside of the plane was literally transplanted from the 1970s. 
 
Before boarding, I had to do something about my gnawing stomach. Snacks were going to cost us on this flight, so I picked up a European candy bar to try. 
 
Lion candy bar!
Lion candy bar!
 
This Lion bar had a thick chocolate coating, nougat, and crunchy nut pieces. It could have totally been a breakfast bar…I mean, you’ve got your nuts…and then chocolate and caramel for taste πŸ˜‰ 
 
The flight was about 3 hours long, and my face was getting more oily by the minute. I arrived in London in much more of a tired-looking state than when I arrived in Iceland! 
 
We flew into Gatwick, and from there took an express train into London.
 
Gatwick Express
Gatwick Express
 
When we got off, we found a black cab to take us through the city up north to West Hampstead. What should have only been a ten minute drive took almost an hour due to traffic. With the heat, humidity, and dust, it was pretty tortuous. 
 
Seen on my ride.
Seen on my ride.
 
Good thing there were enough landmarks and people to watch to keep us somewhat distracted during our drive. 
 
We stayed at a hotel in the area for our first two nights in London. For dinner, we didn’t want to travel too far so we walked a few blocks over into the food/shopping neighborhood of West Hampstead. 
 
West Hampstead, London
West Hampstead, London
 
We were about to have Lebanese, but then I spotted Nando’s from afar. I had been wanting to go there since learning their only US locations were on the east coast and Illinois. Funny thing was, Nando’s practically ruled the U.K.—it was pretty much in every neighborhood! 
 
Nando's menu
Nando’s menu
 
There were a good amount of veggie options to choose from. I went for the quinoa salad topped with feta crumbles. My sis and dad got veggie and portobello mushrooms.
 
Nando's famous sauces.
Nando’s famous sauces.
 
My sister also got a side of mash that we were all intrigued by. My dad even asked one of the employees if he could know what was in it and they brought over a recipe book!
 
Yum, yum, YUM!
Yum, yum, YUM!
 
I was a fan of the halloumi cheese, and gobbled up the leftovers of my Dad and sis. 
 
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The next morning, I decided to go for a run, even though I knew the weather wasn’t going to be the best…and of course, it wasn’t. I ran 9 miles, but the entire my time my legs felt heavy, I was sweating profusely, and I was craving water. I can’t imagine how London runners do it, but if I ever want to live here in the future, I have to keep this in mind…
 
Running through hot and muggy London in the morning!
Running through hot and muggy London in the morning!
 
I made it back in one piece, quickly showered and got ready, and then headed out with my Dad and sis. We took a double decker bus into the heart of the city since a stop was near our hotel. We got off on Bond Street, and found a Selfridges to walk into. 
 
Selfridges Food Hall!
Selfridges Food Hall!
 
I headed straight towards the Food Hall, but had no idea what to get given the food stalls present. Ultimately, we decided to pick out some things from a bakery in the corner right near the entrance. Honestly, I wanted EVERYTHING. 
 
Oh. my. what. to. choose.
Oh. my. what. to. choose.
 
I was able to pick out one thing for myself, while my Dad and sis split a huge loaf of olive focaccia and a mini cake. My heart was full just looking at the pink-glazed, pistachio-topped chouxnut that lay before me. The texture was chewy,  and the cream filling had a vanilla flavor. My only regret was that it was tiny, and it was gone within a handful of bites. 
 
Strawberry and pistachio chouxnut
Strawberry and pistachio chouxnut
 
After breakfast at Selfridges, we began our tourist adventures. Our first stop was Trafalgar Square, and we made it there successfully via the Tube. If there’s one thing I learned from this trip, it’s to “mind the gap”, haha! 
 
When we reached TS, my Dad immediately noticed how there was a scarcity of pigeons. Apparently they used to rule the grounds, but there wasn’t one in sight. Also, there are a number of Bollywood movies that have had the romantic meeting of hero/heroine here. 
 
What pigeons?
What pigeons?
 
After taking some touristy pics of statues and next to them, we decided to go inside the National Gallery since it was right there. I was feeling very exhausted, and my legs felt super sore, so I sat out the exploration part. I was also very hungry, and found it was best to listen to my body even if it meant “missing out on art and culture”. 
 
But I was embracing the culture, in a way, by snacking on these U.K.-based Nakd Bites. I was expecting crunchier pieces, but each mini bite was soft and flavorful! I tried Coconut Bliss and Salted Caramel, both of which were rich in their respective flavors.
 
Nakd Nibbles
Nakd Nibbles
 
When my Dad and sis were done, our next destination was the London Eye. We were able to get advance tickets and save some time not standing in line. Ultimately, this spot is hyped up more than it should be. It was like riding on the slowest ferris wheel ever. The views were great, but the constant Coca-Cola plug wasn’t. 
 
London Eye
London Eye
 
When we reached the ground again, the three of us were more than ready for a late lunch. Out lunch plans turned out different than planned, but we ended up making a very popular choice in the end…
 
London: love, hate, or indifferent ?

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

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.

inside
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!

chips
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!

pita rolls
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.

imam_bayidli
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.

tea-kunefe
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.

nadamoo
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!

mixed_berry
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 πŸ™‚ !

birthday-cake
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

March DegustaBox

March DegustaBox

How is March ALREADY AT ITS END?! How is my visit to see my cousin an event that occurred a little over a month ago, and did I really just run a sub-4:00 hour marathon only this past Sunday

Well, I guess we truly are approaching the end of March, seeing as I’m writing up another DegustaBox review! My box for March came packed with a bunch of goodies!

DegustaBox for March '17
DegustaBox for March ’17

There was a a good balance of sweet snacks and savory staples. Of course, I went for the sweet-flavored stuff first! This time, I went straight for the Loacker biscuits—“Gran Pasticceria Tortina Dark”

tortinadark-noir
A “Hazelnut Tartlet?”

This wafer-based biscuit is described as a “hazelnut tartlet” and has a smooth, creamy dark chocolate shell over a melt-in-your-mouth wafer cookie.

The chocolate is so smooth, you can read the lettering on the shell!
The chocolate is so smooth, you can read the lettering on the shell!

The other cookie-based snack was this bag of Mrs. Thinster’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Thins. Apparently more exotic flavors like Key Lime Pie and Cake Batter are available, but these chocolate chip crispy cookies irresistible.

cookie-thins
Mrs. Thinster’s Chhocolate Chip Cookie Thins

The chocolate in these cookies had a mild, sweet flavor, and a buttery, crisp cookie base.

cookiethins
Mrs. Thinster’s Chhocolate Chip Cookie Thins Close-Up

I was pleasantly surprised to find a full-sized, peanut butter and jelly-filled croissant among this month’s mix of items! The bread itself was sweet and soft, and reminded me of a cake you’d find in an Asian bakery.

7-days
7 Days Croissant Peanut Butter and Jelly

The filling on the inside didn’t look like a lot, but it was just enough.

croissant
A PB&J Croissant?? Which master genius came up with this idea πŸ’‘?!

I remember having the Sweet Oat & Flax Good Thins crisps as part of my December DegustaBox, and so I was elated to see that the sweet potato flavored ones were included in this month’s box.

sweet__potato
Nabisco Good Thins The Potato One ~ Sweet Potato

The sweet potato chips were light, crispy, sweet, and extremely light in density.

Boboli Pizza Crust was also included, and at first I was like, what am I going to do with this? Since I share a kitchen with an elderly couple (my landlords), I don’t do much heavy cooking. Plus, I wanted to see if I could utilize this large, dense disc of bread for a meal besides pizza…

boboli_crust
It’s hard to tell but there’s about half of a 12″ Boboli pizza crust at the bottom of this (what seems like) a veggie-dense bowl!

As a result, I added it to my usual veggie-dense crockpot dinner bowl, as well as into some split pea soup that also had tofu cubes thrown in.

soupand veg
Boboli crust in soup and with veggies (topped with mustard)

The crust was soft, chewy, not super cheesy (even though cheese strands were clearly visible), and I even had portions of this 12″ crust on its own when not thrown into the dinners seen above.

One item I didn’t particularly favor was this Lemoncocco drink:

lemoncocco
Lemoncocco

It has Italian origins, but the drink itself has a “milky” appearance. It is essentially coconut water with a hint of lemon, but I thought the citrus flavor was overwhelming and made the drink taste slightly bitter.

Another product I had an adverse reaction to were these Energems. At least I did at a previous time. With this in mind, I decided not to give these a try. I brought and left them in lab, and my co-workers made use of them—I think some of them benefited from the caffeine boost!

energems_
Energems, eh no thanks!

These quinoa bars were a favorite of mine!

barssss
Such pretty packaging colors & font!

They were lightly sweetened, and had a mix of textures, but they were still easy to eat. Not only were they easy to consume, but they were also colorful and the box had the most gorgeous packaging!

quinoabar
This Paul’s Finest Quinoa bar dazzles like a gem. And the fact that it’s sweetened with honey 🍯🍯🍯 ??? Aw man, so good!

The small box of Goya Quinoa Blend that contained black beans, bell peppers, and spices mixed with white quinoa and brown rice held enough grains to make four weekday lunches.

quinoablend
Goya Quinoa Blend

It was very simple to prepare with the microwave. I simply added a serving of the mix into a bowl, filled it to the level of the grains with water, and simply microwaved it from 7-12 minutes. I added a small, sliced Yukon gold potato that was also microwaved ~2 minutes. I cooled off the mix in the fridge in lab, took it out around lunch time, and any excess water that was there right after microwaving had been absorbed by the rice.

quinoa-and-potato
Taking some days off from running has helped me in regards to gaining some free time for meal prep! Vegetarian quinoa by Goya, mixed with a boiled potato has been working as a satisfying lunch πŸ˜‹ helping me power through the rest of my work day πŸ’ͺ🏽

The potatoes did a good job of absorbing the flavors, and overall made for a nourishing lunch!

The last product in this month’s box I have yet to try is this chickpea pasta:

chickpea-pasta
Tolerant Foods Organic Chickpea Pasta

I plan to soak a serving in water overnight before I plan to use it for lunch, so that it can respond well to a spin in the microwave. I’ll have to add my own spices and toppings, but I think this pasta will be a new favorite of mine since I expect it to have a naturally nutty, rich flavor thanks to those baby chickpeas πŸ™‚ !

Which would you rather try from the following: the quinoa snack bars or the quinoa-rice mix?

Good Things Come in Twos

Good Things Come in Twos

Over the past few weeks, I came across some new-to-me food products, but I was stuck trying to figure out a way to get them featured in a blog post.

Then I realized that all of them came “in twos”, and at least for each product I tried, I was able to compare and contrast two different flavors. I didn’t have a strong dislike for one flavor over another for each of the products, so then it hit me—“good things come in twos”!

A developing veggie chip brand, protein bar company, and well-known greek yogurt company with novel “flip” creations are all featured here for your reading enjoyment!

♦

Crunchables are dehydrated veggie snacks that are flavored with an intriguing spice mix, and right now, the company is going through its first steps as a start-up! I was excited when Michelle and Cindy (founders of Crunchables) asked if I could sample two of their products:

The BBQ chips had a mild cheese-like flavor, and the dehydrated veggies used here were broccoli crown pieces. They actually were coated with a dark red powder, and had a sweet taste with a spicy kick of an aftertaste.

BBQ
BBQ

The Nacho cheese chips were thick, flat pieces of dried eggplant. Even though the flavor was titled as “nacho cheese”, these chips actually reminded me of buttered toast!

Nacho Cheese
Nacho Cheese

Beyond the fact that the snacks are just seasoned dehydrated veggies, gluten-free, raw, and vegan, the veggies that are used for the snacks can be traced back to “ugly veggie” origins. The company is focused on a food waste reduction angle, and by working with local farmers to use veggies that would otherwise go to waste, they’re able to lower costs and reduce food waste. I think that’s a pretty cool!

When I heard there was a protein bar that was branded as Too Busy To Eat, and when I confirmed its existence because the name sounded hilarious, I was fascinated and knew that I had to see what these bars were all about.

toobusy
These bars were bigger than I had expected, given their nutrition facts!

I was sent the Double Chocolate Chip and Cookie Dough flavors to review. I immediately fell in love with the DCC flavor, as I found it dense, but very chewy. It had a slight crunch, and if I had to compare it to another common protein bar, I’d say it’s like the Double Chocolate Chunk Quest bar except TBTE’s flavor is much more palatable in my opinion πŸ˜‰

Even if I wasn't "too busy to eat", I'd eat this Too Busy To Eat Double Chocolate Chip Bar. It has a fudgy texture with chocolate crispies mixed in, and it is outstanding at maintaining a mild chocolate flavor despite it literally being all chocolate! I couldn't detect any of that "protein flavor" that is usually common in these kinds of bars (I often found it an issue with the Chocolate Chunk Quest bars...), and I highly recommend this bar by itself, or cut up and added as a dense topping to yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
Even if I wasn’t “too busy to eat”, I’d eat this Too Busy To Eat Double Chocolate Chip Bar. It has a fudgy texture with chocolate crispies mixed in, and it is outstanding at maintaining a mild chocolate flavor despite it literally being all chocolate! I couldn’t detect any of that “protein flavor” that is usually common in these kinds of bars (I often found it an issue with the Chocolate Chunk Quest bars…), and I highly recommend this bar by itself, or cut up and added as a dense topping to yogurt, oatmeal, etc.

The cookie dough flavor wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t remind me of anything related to cookie dough. It had a milky flavor, light crisp texture, and overall had more of a vanilla flavor rather than cookie dough.

This Cookie Dough flavored Too Busy To Eat Bar did not remind of cookie dough to be honest. It tasted more like a vanilla fudge bar with crispier mixed in. I mean, it tasted alright as a protein bar, but I wouldn't compare it to cookie dough, even in its raw form.
This Cookie Dough flavored Too Busy To Eat Bar did not remind of cookie dough to be honest. It tasted more like a vanilla fudge bar with crispier mixed in. I mean, it tasted alright as a protein bar, but I wouldn’t compare it to cookie dough, even in its raw form.

They also have a Vanilla Coconut “superfood” bar flavor, and the bars have about 20 grams or protein, 20 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of sugar. They are grass-fed whey protein-based (so while not vegan, they are vegetarian), gluten-free, contain organic cashew butter, and do not have any artificial preservatives or colors. Like I said, even if I wasn’t “too busy to eat”, I’d be pretty happy munching on these TBTE bars πŸ˜›

Kroger had a Friday Freebie deal a few weeks ago for any free Chobani Flip. I had been wanting to try the new Cinnabun Fun flavor ever since I learned about four of the newest flavors being released. Other than the random toss-in of pecans, this flavor met my expectations. I always wish that there is a greater topping-to-yogurt ratio for these yogurts though 😝

Cinnabun Fun Chobani Flip
Cinnabun Fun Chobani Flip

I’d be the last person to confess my love for carrot cake, but I was flipping over this Carrot Cake Creation Chobani Flip!

carrot
Carrot Cake Creation

The yogurt was actually “sweet carrot”-flavored, and had a good amount of cake pieces glazed with cinnamon, walnuts, and white chocolate. Of course, I wouldn’t argue if Chobani decided to add more toppings to balance out the yogurt πŸ˜›

Which of these food items would you most like to try?

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ˜‰ ?

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 πŸ™‚ !

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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