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
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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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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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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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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.

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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

Eat Enlightened Ice Cream Pints 2.0

Eat Enlightened Ice Cream Pints 2.0

Disclaimer: I was not provided compensation except for product samples for review by Eat Enlightened, and all opinions are my own.

I rent a room in a house of an elderly couple, so I usually feel slightly embarrassed when packages arrive addressed to me. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want them assuming things if a large box arrives that says “keep on ice” or “handle with care”. Haha, they’ve never brought up their curiosities surrounding my packages, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were holding such thoughts back.

Anyways, regardless of what they thought, I was extremely excited to open up a box I received a few weeks ago to find all seven of the Eat Enlightened ice cream pints, all in brand new packaging.

pints
Eat Enlightened Ice Cream Pints: 2.0

I tried 6/7 flavors in earlier times, but I had not tried Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. Obviously, I used this opportunity to try the flavor that has been most elusive to me all this time.

pbcc
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip. I love the bright orange color, and the cute little peanut butter jar doodle πŸ™‚

The ice cream base definitely tasted thicker, and had a peanut flavor of course. The chocolate chips were more like small chocolate chunk bits. To be honest, I got tired of this combination very quickly, but I still had the whole pint in one sitting. I am now certain that this flavor isn’t one of my top favorites, but I am so happy to have finally tried it!

pbcc_2
One pint = 400 calories, 32g of Protein, and 18g of Fat. GIMMEEEE.

Back in April, I first tried Caramel Oatmeal Cookie Crunch, and it left me with these thoughts:

“Caramel Oatmeal Cookie Crunch on the other hand, made my Monday evening pleasant. After a long day in lab, coming home to this pint mixed with cookie pieces and oatmeal flakes in a caramel base was super comforting.”

carameloatmealcookiecrunch
Hello polka-dotted cutie!

The new version is just as comforting as before. On first glance, I didn’t see an abundance of cookie crunch pieces, but the swirl was still there and once I got into the pint, the cookie pieces made themselves known.

carameloatmealcookiecrunch_lookatdatswirl
LOL, obviously that laptop peep indicates I was eating this while analyzing data—okay, maybe it was actually while watching Netflix πŸ˜‰

I first tried Frozen Hot Cocoa the same weekend as COCC, and even topped it with a bar that did not spark the enlightened (he he) thoughts that occurred after tasting my first spoon of this pint:

“Frozen Hot Cocoa blew me away…probably because the ingredients listed GHEE as an ingredient (which I have never seen as an ice cream ingredient before!!) and the swirls were insanely delicious. Of course I soon got tired of the chocolate, but those swirls!!”

frozenyassss
I wonder how this would taste alongside a cup of hot cocoa. Would it be too much?

Yup, those swirls still had me. I can go through miles of chocolate ice cream if cream swirls are involved!

wut
The marshmallow is not gelatin-based, so this is vegetarian-friendly!

Apparently, I appreciated the “earthy mint” flavor of Mint Chocolate Chip in my prior tasting of it.

mint
I called it an “earthy” mint, but “refreshing” sounds just about right!

I knew that I would continue to like this flavor, unless there was a major change in its formulation. Fortunately, that was not the case. This time around, I topped it with a D’s Natural Mint Cocao Bar. Delicious times all around!

makingitminty
A Minty Match!

“But Sea Salt Caramel absolutely took my breath away. Some would argue that the caramel swirls might be too sweet, but it was all too perfect for me…ahh, if they weren’t almost $6 a pint, I would have stocked up for sure.”

I have been in awe of this flavor from the very beginning. The bright blue packaging and cursive font has only made this admiration stronger.

caramel
A classic favorite. If you are trying any of these ice creams for the first time, I highly recommend that this be your first!!

Since I’ve also picked up an infatuation for RX Bars, I topped it with a Coconut Chocolate RX Bar. I say, this is a tropical combo (sea + salt + coconut) that can’t be argued with πŸ˜‰

caramel-with-an-rx-bar
don’t remember the caramel swirl of the Sea Salt Caramel flavor being as salty as it is now (a pleasant change IMO) but I thought I’d go along with this ocean theme and top it with a chocolate COCONUT RX Bar. This made for some happy snacking πŸ‘ŒπŸ½

I tried Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough a few weeks before this box arrived, and it was a good pick-me up after learning about the election.

“I seriously had a loss of appetite after Tuesday’s events, so I’m glad its back and roared up again, haha. Despite the sadness that creeped up over me yesterday, I had to be happy about one small thing…finding the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Eatenlightened pint! I’ve been complaining about how it’s been hard to locate anywhere in LA, but I happened to find these stocked on the shelves at a Bristol Farms in Santa Monica (on Wilshire, right across from Petco, for those who are local and have been trying to find this elusive flavor yourself)! Sometimes it helps to eat your sorrows away, if it involves cookie dough chunks and a smooth, creamy ice cream πŸ˜‰”

cookiedoughakamyfave
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Not sure I like a medium yellow color for the packaging of this pint, but this doesn’t take away from what’s inside…

In the past few weeks since first trying it, my thoughts haven’t changed. I may have had the newer pint when it didn’t completely thaw (so it wasn’t completely smooth), but the taste was still spectacular, and the chocolate chip/cookie dough ratio was just right.

awwwthatadorbscookiechunk
Yup, cookie dough checks out!

I subconsciously saved the Triple Chocolate flavor for last, as I wasn’t too fond of it when I first tried it:

 “I found the Triple Chocolate Enlightened pint to be too overwhelming after a few spoonfuls (too much chocolate for me, but perhaps suitable for a choco-holic)”

tc
Love the chocolate bar doodle!

For some reason, the chocolate ice cream wasn’t too overwhelming this time around, maybe because I was too focused on the chocolate fudge sauce swirl πŸ™‚ ? Like I said, contrasting swirls balance everything out.

fugeisthatu
Oh that fudge!

Overall, all of the flavors have stayed consistent in their formulation and tasted how I remembered (with the excpetion of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, since this box allowed me to try it for the first time). I also think the switch from plasic to paper-based packaging was a good decision, as it’ll make recycling them a simpler task.

Which of these flavors are your favorite, or which would you like to try?

November DegustaBox!

November DegustaBox!

November’s DegustaBox arrived on my doorstep the afternoon I returned from So Cal VegFest, and this month’s goods was a good mix of cooking ingredients, snacks, and drinks. I had to forgo the jerky and Haribo gummies, but everything else I dove right into.

degusta
November’s DegustaBox

There were two flavors of Beanitos white bean chips included in this month’s box.

nacho-cheese
Beanitos – Nacho Cheese

Of the two flavors, I liked nacho cheese the best. The chips reminded me of the Doritos of my childhood class parties and picnics, but had a much smoother texture (in other words, no risk of mouth abrasions except for if the corners hit the gums!)

hint-of-lime
Beanitos – Hint of Lime

Another fun savory snack a part of this collection was a small packet of oLOVEs

oloves-basil-garlic
Oloves ~ Basil & Garlic

I thought the packaging was adorable (the olive in the bottom corner is saying “kids & adults love ’em”), and the olives themselves come without pits and coated with flavor. These were lathered in basil and garlic.

The Honees Drops were one of the first things I tried when I began my DegustaBox partnership.

honees
Honees – Honey Lemon

I liked them then, and I certainly like this honey flavor now. If you feel a cold-weather induced itch in your throat, pop one of these in your mouth and let the menthol take over!

sharwood
Sharwood’s Tikka Masala – Creamy Tomato

I was also excited to incorporate another cooking sauce into my meals. Sharwood’s creamy tomato tikki masala sauce honestly could have been eaten on its own, but it made my vegetable dinner bowl taste that much better. I do recommend that it’s used to flavor drier vegetables, since I had some watery vegetables in this bowl and the sauce became slightly watery as well.

cherry
Nib Mor – Cherry

To compliment the savory, I also received two sweet snacks. Nib Mor’s superfruit chocolates in cherry and blueberry flavors had a good mix of dried fruit on the inside.

blueberry
Nib Mor – Blueberry

I noticed this especially with the blueberry flavor. I wasn’t too keen on the dark chocolate, but I can’t argue that this chocolate is highly heart-friendly.

As for drinks, I received two cans of his beverage…

ginger-beer
Bruce Cost GingerBeer

This Bruce Cost Ginger Beer tasted so refreshing after spending a few hours in our lab office refridgerator. It had a spicy ginger kick, and I actually enjoyed it despite not being a fan of ginger ale in the past.

The Ponti Balsamic Vinegar sauce was a pleasantly surprising addition.

ponti
Ponti Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

I knew right away that I would be using it to coat crockpot veggies, but I had no idea how THICK the consistency was! I was practically in awe, and two servings coated my veggies generously. Obviously one of my prettier crockpot bowls to date πŸ˜‰

toriani
Toriani Salted Caramel Medium Roast Coffee

I was the happiest to find K-Cups for coffee in this month’s box! I’ve been spending more than I’d like from outside coffee shops lately, and seeing that my lab office has a Keurig, I knew that these Toriani Salted Caramel Coffee K-Cups would save my wallet as well as make use of our little coffee machine πŸ™‚

*As a side note, DegustaBox subscribers will receive either coffee or vinegar in their box, based on their preferences!

They taste a whole lot better with creamer and some stevia, but in it’s black form, it has a strong caramel scent that tends to waft through the entire office and has everyone wondering where the smell is coming from, haha.

poppyseed
Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing

I did not get to a chance to try Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing just yet, but part of me feels like I can only do it justice if I get some peaches to pour this on…apparently it tastes good on peaches? I think I’ll pack it with me to take on my Friendsgiving trip this week!

Would you incorporate any of these products into a Thanksgiving recipe? I’m thinking I’m going to use the poppyseed dressing to top some mashed potatoes or sweet potato rings!

Alwheys Good Protein Cookie Review

Alwheys Good Protein Cookie Review

Disclaimer: I was not provided compensation except for product samples for review by Alwheys Good, and all opinions are my own.

When it comes to cookies, I feel like everyone has their own opinion on what is the best cookie. For me, I prefer soft and chewy cookies, ones with not a lot of nuts (or none at all), and if there is frosting on top I won’t complain!

My favorites growing up used to be those frosted sugar cookies that are in almost every supermarket. I knew to always expect them (with excitement of course!) when someone in my elementary school classes had a birthday. I also remember my Dad baking store-bought chocolate chip cookie dough from time to time, and I preferred eating them right away when they were out of the oven. Warm, gooey, chocolate chip cookies that practically crumbled in my hands were >>> day-old, hard, crisp chocolate chip cookies that I tried to pass on to friends.

Nowadays, I like to keep things simple as sugar (or snickerdoodle) when it comes to cookies. I don’t really care that much for chocolate chips or other chunky additions anymore, but that also depends on how I’m feeling. Obviously I didn’t mind when it came to sampling these Alwheys Good Cookies:

Alwheys Good Protein Cookies
Alwheys Good Protein Cookies

I was sent samples of their three flavor to try out, and couldn’t wait to bite into these soft and dense-looking cookies. The are made for cold-processed whey protein, which are ideal conditions for preserving amino acids. The company also donates part of its profits to spinal cord injury research and related charities. Hmm…reminds me of this race I ran a while back. Maybe both groups should connect and work together? I’m sure anyone running Wings for Life in the future would love to see Alwheys Good cookies in their post-race goodie bag πŸ˜‰

VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP
VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP β™₯

Each pack comes with two cookies approximately the size of the palm of your hand. All of my cookies stuck together on their flat sides, so it actually looked like a huge Madeline cookie except larger in size!

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP β™₯
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP β™₯

All of the cookies were extremely soft, and tasted more like a sponge cake than an actual cookie. I actually liked this chewiness, but the people out their who like crispy cookies or thick shortbread may not favor this texture.

BLACK & WHITE β™₯
CHOCOLATE BLACK & WHITE β™₯

This flavor was surprisingly my favorite seeing that the base was chocolate versus vanilla. I’m guessing because I found it to have the most “character” from all three flavors—white chocolate chips in a chocolate cookie, how’s that for a spin on things? πŸ˜‰

Which of these three flavors would you like to try?

A Local Among Tourists

A Local Among Tourists

In the week I came back from Tulsa, work continued as usual…as if I never even left! I was glad I had enough things to keep me occupied so I wouldn’t have to spend too much time longing to be back hanging with my Dad.

On my way to lab my first day back, I snacked on two new-to-me Picky Bar flavors: Smooth Caffinator and Ah, Fudge Nuts! Surprisingly, I wasn’t blown away by either one, but both had a smooth, chewy texture and a rich, nutty flavor. I just don’t think I’ll be gravitating towards these bars again and again.

smooth_caffinator
Smooth Caffinator
ah_fudge_nuts
Ah, Fudge Nuts!

The rest of the week kept me extremely busy, since I had experiments to take care of, reports to write, and people to train. One good thing is that I was able to snag an undergrad to assist me in my daily duties…perhaps I’ll be able to snag a few more free weekends as a result πŸ˜‰

When Friday night rolled around, I was an exhausted noodle. Funny I say that, as I had an interesting meal for dinner that night before scarfing down a pint of Halo Top. This bowl of cauliflower rice and soybean noodles in a succulent, sweet sauce (that I wish I remember the name of now, since I threw the package away πŸ˜› ) was out of this world! It was a package my Dad brought over when he came out to help me move, and happened to be one of those unique foodie finds at Big Lots. Hmmm…I’ll just have to keep an eye out for it if I’m ever in a Big Lots in suburbia…

The next day, I wanted to stay local since I still felt tired and not in the mood for traveling. I decided to finally check out True Food Kitchen in Downtown Santa Monica, since I’ve heard rave reviews about it, and because I’ve always walked past it whenever I was at the Promenade.

true_food_kitchen
True Food Kitchen

Big mistake to venture out on a Saturday afternoon though—even at 2pm! The place was packed with tourists (British, German, Italian accents all-around)! And when I made my way to the front of the restaurant (I made the mistake of entering through the back, again), stating I was looking for a seat for one, I was told I could sit at the bar or at the communal tables, since all of the “regular” seating areas were taken…

ladyhair
LOL that lady with her hair πŸ˜›

I was hungry (on the verge of hangry), so to the communal table I went. On my left was a pair from Russia, and on my other side, a few individuals from across the pond. Was I the only local dining at this place?!

I wasn’t too excited by the menu, so I decided to go for the menu item that looked the most filling. Under the bowls section, the Teriyaki Quinoa sounded the tastiest, but when it arrived, it looked like something I could make at home…not something worth $15.

teriyaki_quinoa
Teriyaki Quinoa Bowl, True Food Kitchen

The bowl had a quinoa and brown rice base, coated in dark teriyaki sauce. Sauteed vegetables were mixed in, and to balance out the carbs, some creamy slices of avocado were added on top along with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

avo
When creamy + carbs clash…

I mean, the bowl was good, but why were these poor tourists spending their hard-earned lunch money here? My meal with tax and tip came to just under $20…for a bowl that could be made for less than $3 with ingredients bought from Wal-Mart. Just goes to show that hype sells I guess!

Do you like seeing tourists spending $$$ in your hometown, or not so much?

True Food Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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