Finally!

Finally!

I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.

Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.
Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.

One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.

A new-to-me Trader Joe's find I picked up that week---
A new-to-me Trader Joe’s find I picked up that week—Greek Whole Milk Yogurt (Avocado Citrus) mixed with peanut powder. It fueled me through a 12hr day x-x

Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.

Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee...the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee…the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
 
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over. 
 
Veggie Grill, Encino
Veggie Grill, Encino
 
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist… 
 
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
 
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time. 
 
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave! 
 
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank. 
 
Burbank Grocery Outlet
Burbank Grocery Outlet
 
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long! 
 
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to. 
 
__yoga-urt__
 
The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing. 
 
 ♥

They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.

 ♥

A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.

♥

A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.

 ♥

After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!

A new Nuts 'n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more blanaced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The vanilla flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn't have those crystalized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
A new Nuts ‘n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more balanced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The white chocolate flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn’t have those crystallized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
 
 Is there something you finally got done recently?

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

June’s Degustabox

June’s Degustabox

I still have my French adventure to spill about, but had to take a short break from the travel recaps to gab about this month’s Degustabox!

When I can back from Europe, my sister stayed with me in LA for two weeks, and for the first week my landlords were out of town vacationing in NYC. We saw it as an opportunity to be flexible cooking in the kitchen, and this month’s Degustabox had all the ingredients and more to help us make some healthy, fresh, home-cooked meals.

june_box

We bought a fair amount of produce and pretty much pan-cooked veggies like broccoli, onions, carrots, and peppers. On one night, we split a head of broccoli and carrots and had it alongside some vegan crab cakes. My sister tried Bibigo’s Gochujang Hot & Sweet Sauce on top of hers, and loved the smoky flavor and thick consistency.

go-chi

I tried the small jar of Sir Kensington’s classic ketchup, and though I didn’t like how thin it was (thick ketchup all the way!), the flavor was a light blend of sweet and savory.

sirkensingtonketchup

I had a can of Brooklyn Organics Coconut Ginger Ale on the side. It reminded me of a more flavorful La Croix coconut sparkling water. It definitely had carbonation, but it was like the coconut flavor had the first punch while the ginger flavor lingered later.

craft ginger ale

I was happy to have my sister around to share the snacks with me. While I was in lab, she tried out the Ritz Crisp & Thins Cream Cheese & Onion flavor while out on he road looking at apartments in the OC. She noted how especially light they were, almost like air when compared to similarly popped chips!!

 

ritz_chips

I was a fan of Pop Corners’  Our Little Rebellion bean crisps in “Salt of the Earth” flavor. Not only did they have a powerful crunch and salty exterior, the chip was a beauty to look at. I remarked how each crisp looks like a kaleidoscope image.

bean_Cris

When I first spotted the bag of Julian’s Recipe Meyer Lemon Waffle Thins with Quinoa, I immediately thought about the stroop waffles I love so much. These however were more like flattened biscuits or shortbreads shaped like waffles. They didn’t have a chewy texture when bitten into like a stroop waffle would.

waffle

Still, they did taste delicious, lemon flavor and all. It would have paired perfectly with a giant cup of coffee, but I smacked on these from the bag the evening after I ran the Rock n Roll San Diego marathon (yes, I have a lot of catching up to do in regards to my blog posts 😉 !)

tiny waffle

My sister and I both were pleasantly surprised by Entenmann’s Mini Apple Snack pies.

I wasn’t expecting something that sounded so banal to be taste-worthy. The crust is lightly glazed, but the filling is incredibly sweet and gooey. Like one of those apple pies from McDonald’s but way better. The box came in a pack of six, and I brought a few to lab only to take one back for myself!

apple

I didn’t get a chance to try the Gochujang Barbecue Sauce, but since my sister fell in love with their Bibigo’s Gochujang Hot & Sweet Sauce, I’m pretty sure this sauce will be a winner and a staple for my weeknight crockpot dinners. We wanted to try and make the Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Apple Cinnamon muffins while the landlords were away, but we didn’t get a chance to. Brianna’s Cilantro Lime dressing sounds curiously fascinating, and by the looks of it, it looks like a little will go a long way on not just salads, but veggie bowl dishes with rice or quinoa.

bottles

The Viter Energy mints, while vegetarian-friendly, are caffeine-boosted so I passed on trying those. I do appreciate the company answering the vegetarian question in their FAQs though!

Which of these products would you try?

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

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

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

mattsmunchies
All sorts of flavors to try!

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

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

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

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

apple-licious (1)
Apple-Licious
apple-licious (2)
Apple-Licious Slices

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

grape (1)
Grape
grape (2)
Grape Slices
mango (1)
Mango
mango (2)
Mango Slices

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

banana (2)
Banana
banana (1)
Banana Slices

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

mango__ginger (2)
Mango Ginger
mango__ginger (1)
Mango Ginger Slices

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

_banana_coconut
Mango Apricot & Banana Coconut
banana_coconut
Banana Coconut Slices

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

mango_acai (2)
Mango Acai
mango_acai (1)
Mango Acai Slices

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

island_mango (1)
Island Mango
island_mango (2)
Island Mango Slices
tropical_punch (2)
Tropical Punch
tropical_punch (1)
Tropical Punch Slices

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

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

IMG_9236
Brownie Dough

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

IMG_9256
Brownie CHUNKS

WCMN was a flavor I grew bored with almost immediately.

IMG_9240
W.C.M.N.

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

IMG_9280
Lots of macadamias…maybe even too much…

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

IMG_9227
More Quest Labs cookies…

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

IMG_9259
WCM

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

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

IMG_9303
Oatmeal Raisin

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

IMG_9310
Double Chocolate Chip

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

December Degustabox!

December Degustabox!

With all the cooking ingredients in last month’s Degustabox, I was elated that this month’s box featured a lot more snack-ables—including some sweet treats (hellooooo cookies 😀 ).

december_box
December’s Degustabox Delectables

The Purely Simple baking mix and frosting pack were an interesting find in this month’s box. I haven’t seen this in stores yet, but I’m glad to see that global brands like Pillsbury are attempting to make products that stray away from using artificial ingredients.

purely_simple
Pillsbury Purely Simple White Cake & Cupcake Mix and Pillsbury Purely Simple Buttercream Frosting Mix

I didn’t have time to bake with them personally, but I thought it was a good idea to drop it off at a holiday cookie decorating party my running team was having. I did try a bit of the frosting mix though…in some oatmeal.

frosting-oatmeal
Frosting oatmeal…? I try 😛

For some reason, I thought that the frosting mix would “magically” turn into frosting…because that’s what it’s supposed to do right? Haha…I honestly did not notice any difference to my oatmeal after adding a tablespoon or so of the mix. So now you know.

It was the first time I tried roasted fava beans, thanks to Kala Beautiful Beans. These were crisp, salted, and peppered, and added SO much texture to my crockpot bowl already full of shredded cabbage, eggplant, and bell pepper. The whole bag didn’t fit the bowl, so I had to add more as I ate through the contents of the bowl 😛

kala
KALA Beautiful Beans – Simply Peppered Beans

I’ve seen the Good Thins brand around lately, the last time being when someone from the next door lab had the sweet potato ones for lunch. This box was “the oat one”, specifically the sweet oat and flax.

good__thins
Good Thins – Sweet Oat & Flax

Each crisp was perfectly square, and had bits of flax seeds peeking out. They definitely had a malty, sweet flavor to them, and while they made for the perfect snack on their own, I’m sure they would have tasted spectacular with some dip.

A lot of people have been getting sick in my workplace, but these Ricola lozenges weren’t something I was too keen on sharing.

ricola_1
Ricola Herbal Immunity – Honey Herb Lozenges

They were Honey Herb flavored, and the packaging went on forever, haha! And while each lozenge has no artificial colors/flavors or GMOs, as well as being packed with Swiss herbs and ginseng, they could be treated and eaten like candy.

lozenge_
Really, it’s just like candy.

I actually can’t recall the last time I had jam or jelly…it’s been all nut butter for me lately. If you don’t eat PB&J sandwiches regularly, the thought of buying jelly or jam from the grocery store doesn’t seem to stick around (pun intended!).

strawberry_jalapeno
Smucker’s Fruit & Honey – Strawberry Jalapeño Fruit Spread

I received a small jar of Smucker’s Fruit and Honey fruit spread in strawberry jalapeno (yes, jalapeno), which has been sweetned naturally with honey. I think that because of the honey, the spread wasn’t as thick as a regular jam. It did taste sweeter though, which for this flavor was off-set by the jalapeno bits. While at first this mix of flavor profiles was fun, it got annoying pretty quickly. After a while it seems like a chore, having to avoid the jalapeno pieces once they start to get tiring.

The Loacker biscuits were insanely delicious!! Overall, I preferred the coconut flavor over Noir Orange, but both flavors rocked.

loacker_noirorange
Loacker Gran Pasticceria Patisserie – Noir Orange

I love how the coconut flavor had a generous amount of coconut flakes over each biscuit, and that the coating was milk chocolate. The noir orange coating was a dark chocolate, and even though it was a wafer cookie, it had a bumpy puffed rice texture. The nutrition was not as “bad” as one would expect either—120 calories for 3-4 biscuits, but nothing stopped me from eating more than that in one go.

loacker_coconut
Loacker Gran Pasticceria Patisserie – Coconut

I’ve always preferred cookies to be chewy, so I never was a huge fan of Chips Ahoy! growing up. When they came out with the chewy version, I was all about those, but it’s been a while since I first had them in elementary school!

thins
Chips Ahoy! Thins – Cinnamon Sugar

Many years later, the brand is still going strong with a “thins” version of their cookie, which are flatter and crispier, almost like thick, kettle-cooked potato chips. This particular flavor was cinnamon sugar, and it was impossible to complain about there being a LACK of cinnamon sugar! There were even white chocolate chips thrown in. Overall, I liked the flavor, I just wish they were chewier of course.

Another sweet treat was a small bundle of Honey Acres honey straws. There was an assortment of flavors that included clover, lemon, orange, raspberry, and mint chocolate. The mint chocolate was my favorite since it had the thickest consistency of all the flavors.

honey_straws
Honey Straws, yum!!

I ate them on their own, but they could easily be added to tea or on top of oatmeal for some extra flavor and sweetness.

I first tried Wise popcorn when I received my first ever Degustabox back in June. This month’s box included a giant bag of their white cheddar popcorn, but I couldn’t confirm if the enzymes used to make the cheese they use to flavor the popcorn were microbial or rennet based. So unfortunately, I couldn’t sample the popcorn myself, but at least my lab-mates got some free food out of it.

wise_popcorn_white_cheddar
Wise Popcorn – White Cheddar

One odd product in this box was a microwaveable 3-minute meal with a mix of flavored grains. The flavor was noted as “beef burgundy”, but I looked at the ingredients list multiple times and did not see the words “beef” or “meat”. I was certainly surprised, but I didn’t want to take a chance on it in case the natural flavors were of animal origin.  Yet another product left for my co-workers…

urbane_
A meat-less meat product?

There were honestly many great finds in this month’s box, which made up for the few products I couldn’t fully enjoy. Well, I must say that if there are at least three different dessert items that are equally great-tasting, then my needs are met 😉 !

Are you a cookies or crisps/chips kind of person?

Ice Creamin’

Ice Creamin’

After scarfing down a beautiful pizza, and before face-planting in bed into a deep sleep, I walked along Main St. back to Venice for an ice cream fix. Before finding Areal, I had walked past Kippy’s, a vegan ice cream shop proudly serving coconut-milk based frozen desserts.

Kippy's!
Kippy’s!

At the front, several cartons of coconut milk ice cream were on display, ready to be scooped as if I were in a vegan Baskin-Robbins.

Ready to scoop!
Ready to scoop!

The “mini” was actually a small, compostable cup with two scoops of coconut milk ice cream.

Yessssss
Yessssss

From the flavors featured above on the menu, I decided that my two flavors would be Coconut Honey and Cinnamon Date, and since I couldn’t forget toppings, I asked for some mulberries even though they were $1 extra.

Toppings & seating
Toppings & seating

I found a seat at a long picnic table inside the shop, where two women were already sitting (though on the other side). One of them was speaking about the place with enthusiasm, and it was fun to inadvertently pick up on pieces of their conversation and their thoughts on veganism.

From the two flavors I purchased, I thought Coconut Honey was actually the blandest. Cinnamon Date was excellent in comparison, with an overwhelming (in a good way) nuttiness and spice to it. The mulberries were a disappointment however. I assumed they would be chewy like the mulberries I first tried last year, but they were surprisingly crunchy and off-putting. So I only found 1/3 of my combination appetizing, but I was glad to support a plant-based dessert shop, since I can only imagine what these businesses have to go through to get started and rally support once up and running.

Later on that weekend, I tried some new-to-me pints even though they were not vegan. After seeing both the Triple Chocolate flavor of Enlightened pints, and the limited edition Empowermint Ben & Jerry’s at Gelson’s Market, I couldn’t resist not purchasing them and giving them a try.

Enlightened Triple Chocolate
Enlightened Triple Chocolate

In brief, 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), but the Empowermint B&J’s was actually pretty good! It was creamy, and had caramel swirl kindred to what you would find in the Vanilla Caramel Fudge flavor, with the base ice cream flavor being a minty vanilla of course (though the pint says its peppermint ice cream). Because the pint displays some political imagery, I imagined this pint would be a fun snack to have while watching the debates this fall. I wonder if this flavor will stick around that long??

Empowermint!!
Empowermint!!

A random snack I had during this weekend as well was my first flavor of Picky Bars! Now that they are at Trader Joe’s, it’s making it easier to purchase them and have another bar brand to keep an eye out for.

I first learned about them through Runner’s World, spotted them at REI, and then the other day noticed them along with other more familiar bars at good ol’ TJ’s. I had to try Cookie Doughpness first, and was intrigued by the sticky consistency and fruity, cinnamon flavor that made me associate this bar with what I think a sticky oatmeal raisin cookie would look/taste like. So the bar wasn’t exactly cookie dough, but it was DOUGHPE!

Cookie Doughpness!
Cookie Doughpness!

Again, I am loving that there is another vegan-friendly bar out there finding its way into the mainstream market, and I’m looking forward to supporting the runners behind the bars.

Kippy's Ice Cream Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Natural Sins Review

Natural Sins Review

When I first heard the term ‘natural sin’, I didn’t think of associating it with something that was actually natural…like fruit or vegetables! But in their flattened out, crisped form, I guess they are playfully given than name to hint at the fact they are the ‘naturally sinful’ snacking option compared to regular fried potato chips.

Packs of Natural Sins Chips
Packs of Natural Sins Chips

I was given the opportunity to try some unique fruit and veggie chips sourced from Costa Rica. Natural Sins chips are available in pineapple, mango, coconut, and beet, and I received samples of all flavors except mango.

I tried the beet chips first and was amazed by how large the crisps were. They were certainly packed with flavor, and even had some juiciness to them!

Beets chips
Beets chips

The coconut chips seemed to be the most dense in packaging, and there were plenty of pieces to go around as yogurt bowl or oatmeal toppings.

Crisp, desiccated coconut chips
Crisp, desiccated coconut chips

They tasted incredibly sweet and crunchy on their own of course! It made me realize how long it had been since I last snacked on some desiccated coconut…

The pineapple chips were truly authentic-looking…almost to the point of being frighteningly real!!

Pineapple chip! Kind of looks like a dried sunflower!!
Pineapple chip! Kind of looks like a dried sunflower!!

I didn’t let the appearance scare me though, because these chips were so succulent and extra crispy. Even so, they had a light, melt-in-your-mouth type of texture as well.

Overall, I throroughly enjoyed my samples of Natural Sins chips! I will definitely keep my eyes peeled (haha, pun intended?) for the mango chips, and maybe not be too hungry/will be patient enough to use them as a topping on a yogurt bowl or other dessert item for an even more appetizing snack?

Are you a fan of fruit and veggie chips? What’s your favorite?

Stax of Sweetness

Stax of Sweetness

I knew that a fun-filled week of free food, beaches, and vegan favorites would eventually come to an end, but at least it ended on a sweet note.

Our trip to Tustin eventually became a trip to Irvine. The day was still gorgeous, bright, and sunny when we pulled up to the parking lot at University Town Center, right across from the UC Irvine campus.

 University Town Center!
University Town Center!

The little shopping and dining area very much gave off a college town vibe, and it reminded me of my undergrad days…

 Beautiful arches...one of which decorates my dessert destination!
Beautiful arches…one of which decorates my dessert destination!

My purpose for the visit that afternoon was to get my cookie-and-ice-cream fix at Stax Cookie Bar, a custom ice cream sandwich shop that also serves up other sweet specialties. I was fortunate to try some of those as well 😉

 Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!
Welcome to Stax Cookie Bar!

I first met Marina, who had reached out to me about coming in for a tasting. She greeted me with a smile and an overview of all their goods—cookies, ice cream, shave ice galore!

cookies!!!!
Stuffed cookies (smookies!) and a wide variety of other cookies!

I was then greeted by another staff member who encouraged me to try whatever I wanted and to make sure I left feeling “full”. How could I argue against that 😀 ?

 Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.
Fun wallpaper to stare at while munching on cookies & ice cream.

I first learned about the Smookie, which is really a warm, shapened piece of cookie dough that can be topped with any flavor ice cream and fudge, caramel, or whipped cream.

 So many ice cream flavors...which to choose??
So many ice cream flavors…which to choose??

I chose to have the Nutella-stuffed Smookie as my base, topped with a scoop of green tea ice cream and whipped cream. Best decision ever.

 The perfect Smookie.
The perfect Smookie.

The Nutella filling was obviously the best part 😉 ! It was also at the right temperature, coming out of the oven after just 3 minutes of warming up.

 The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:
The undeniably good filling with melted green tea ice cream (:

For my other ice cream-related dessert, I was able to customize a ice cream cookie sandwich so that I had birthday cake ice cream (how convenient 😉 ) in between a mocha and snickerdoodle cookie. I had all flavor and color profiles represented here!

 The masterpiece.
The masterpiece.

My Dad liked the birthday ice cream the best, and I could certainly see why. The ice cream was perfectly creamy, and the added swirls of color tasted just like icing. It wasn’t just for show.

 Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form...and sandwiched in between two cookies?!
Who needs birthday cake when you can have it in ice cream form…and sandwiched in between two cookies?!

To add to all the sweet excitment, we were given another dessert to try—a generous portion of green tea shave ice! Topped with syrup and freshly cut fruit.

 The presentation itself was beautiful!
The presentation itself was beautiful!

It tended to melt pretty quickly, so being the resourceful person that I am (haha), I used to top off the leftover cookie pieces from my ice cream sandwich. We weren’t able to completely finish it, but if our stomachs had been large enough, there’s no question we would have annihilated the cup and then some 😛 .

I asked Marina about their vegan options, and she pointed to two of their specially-vegan flavors. I was urged to take one for the road, so I chose to try their vegan (and gluten-free!) coconut chocolate chip cookie. I was also gifted with a beautiful stack of cookies!

 My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered
My stack of Stax cookies // one of the two vegan cookies offered

The vegan coconut chocolate chip cookie was more fragile compared to the regular cookies, but its flavors were just as great, if not better than a standard cookie. It tasted just like a sweet oatmeal bar with gooey chocolate mixed in and rich coconut oil gleaming on the surface.

Stax has plans to open more locations in the future, and I surely hope they do, since I can’t have this be my only visit 😉 . Ice cream sandwich and cookie bars may have started out as a trendy thing, but based on my experience, Stax has taken it to the next level!

Click to add a blog post for Stax Cookie Bar on Zomato

Delighted by Donuts

Delighted by Donuts

My sister and I went out of our way to make 4th of July a memorable one this year. Being the true foodies we are, our day was centered around making it out to a little donut shop all the way up in Northeast LA.

 But first, coffee. Actually, a vanilla latte.
But first, coffee. Actually, a vanilla latte.

I had to stop by lab yet again (yes, even on a holiday, but it was for a shorter time), and then my sister and I boarded the next bus towards Highland Park. It was a good thing the bus was air-conditioned, but we still had to walk another 1.5 miles under the hot sun…and the roads we took were through hilly neighborhoods. I guess we were getting an extra workout before donut chow-down time, but it was supposed to be a rest day weekend for me 😛 ?!

 Even after an hour long bus ride, we had to walk another 30 minutes at high noon!
Even after an hour long bus ride, we had to walk another 30 minutes at high noon!

I stopped whining when we got to York Blvd, and found the shop’s sign in the far off distance.

 Yay...we made it!
Yay…we made it!

Donut Friend, a hole-in-the-wall-but-incredibly-famous donut shop that offers an extensive amount of vegan donuts, was our prime destination for the day. Fortunately, they were open on the 4th of July holiday, and the first thing we did when we entered was stare in awe at the donut case…

 Um, what should we get?
Um, what should we get?

We also had a hard time peeling our eyes away from the mural.

 Very artsy and cute---our friend would appreciate this!
Very artsy and cute—our friend would appreciate this!

Looking at the size of the donuts, we figured one wouldn’t be enough for each of us. So we each picked two, and agreed to split each in half so we both could try four different flavors!

 We ended up getting, from left to right: Smorissey, Angry Samoa, Fudgegazi, and White Chocolate Stripes.
We ended up getting, from left to right: Smorissey, Angry Samoa, Fudgegazi, and White Chocolate Stripes.

I tried Smorissey first, which had a chocolate cake-texture, and was topped with marshmallows, chocolate glaze, and graham cracker crumbs. This donut was apparently vegan though, so the marshmallows must have been gelatin-free!!

 Looks more like a cake than a donut in this picture!
Looks more like a cake than a donut in this picture!

Even though my sister picked Fudgegazi for us to try, I ended up liking it more than she did! This guy was a true glazed donut (chocolate glazed, that is) and had a whipped chocolate cream filling with chocolate shavings on top.

 So fun to chew!
So fun to chew!

After cleansing our palates with water, we tried the other two donuts. I thought I would like Black & White Stripes, since it was a traditional glazed donut with a berry flair, but was disappointed with the lack of berry filling. The single blackberry added some pizzazz, but just not enough to woo me.

 The glaze looks decadent though...
The glaze looks decadent though…

My sister’s second pick was the Angry Samoa, and surprisingly it turned out to be my most favorite from our four selections.

 This one looks more chaotic than angry, but it certainly made me happy!  :)
This one looks more chaotic than angry, but it certainly made me happy! 🙂

It was another cake donut (vanilla-flavored) that was topped with a crazy amount of toasted coconut over layers of chocolate and caramel. Um, no wonder I was in love.

We took our time savoring our sweet treats, since we knew the journey onwards would be a lengthy one. We had plans to head to the beach for the fireworks later on in the day, but things ended up happening differently…

Do you prefer cake donuts or glazed?

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Surviving the Last Week of the First Semester

Surviving the Last Week of the First Semester

It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving was only a mere two weeks ago—newsflash for those of you who are also climbing out of that finals/end-of-the-first-semester study cave that I have been occupying the past week and a half or so: it’s mid-December. Wowza…

This past week has been crazy stressful, and despite the stress, I was able to pound out some quality runs. My sleep did suffer though, since I woke up often as early as 3AM, which was the case the day of my exams. At least when I got home that night, I was able to crash into my bed and sleep soundly (for the most part—the storm did wake me up a few times!).

Despite the fluctuations in my sleeping patterns and the non-stop studying I’ve been doing, I did my best to fuel myself with some new-to-me products (to have at least something to look forward to on those dreaded I-can-only-study days!!).

So I was able to find and feast on some new…

Bars

simplesquaresgingerandcoconut

I found these Simple Squares bars at Whole Foods last weekend after running my Christmas 5k in Santa Monica. I had a coupon for $0.50 off two bars, and so I took that as an opportunity to try the Ginger and Coconut flavors. These bars are paleo-friendly, and are noted as “unfired fare”, meaning that they have not been baked or cooked to achieve the final product. I couldn’t really discern much between the Ginger and Coconut in regards to texture, but I did notice that in the Coconut flavor, the coconut shreds made the main contribution to its flavor. These bars were the perfect morning post-run treat, and were paired with an Americano (with almond milk creamer). The sad thing was having to leave for the library after consuming this 🙁

Bread

juliansbakerypaleobread

A while back, I found and fell in love with Julian’s Bakery Coconut Paleo Bread, and this Plain flavor was no exception. It wasn’t as sweet or quite as moist as the coconut flavor, but paired with some peanut butter, it didn’t make much of a difference. This loaf was literally gone in four days. 

Candy

I am currently mid-way through a jar of Justin’s peanut butter (that I got at a deep discount on because paying $9+ for peanut butter is insane…unless it’s really really worth it 😉 ), so when I got an e-mail for a BOGO coupon for their PB cups, I knew I had to use it ASAP! 

I was able to try the dark and white chocolate flavors, which I picked up during my Saturday WF shopping trip as well. 

justinsdarkchocolatepeanutbutter justinswhitechocolatepeanutbuttercups

From the two flavors, I thoroughly enjoyed the dark chocolate one the best. I felt like the white chocolate layer was too thin in comparison, and for some reason, not as satisfying. The dark chocolate layer, however, had a crisp enough shell to keep it separated from the PB filling, and while not as thick as a Reese’s cup, it was a good enough alternative! 

Dairy

Over the summer, I gushed about finding Chobani Oats at highly discounted prices, and promised myself that even though I had one more flavor left to try in the Oats line, I would wait until I would find it at a discount as well. That time came when I was home for Thanksgiving, and the local Fresh & Easy was going on a price-slashing spree on all of their Greek yogurts—including the Chobani Oats blueberry flavor!  

chobani_blueberry_oats

Only $0.81? Yes please, and thankyouverymuch 🙂  

I lugged this cup (along with 13 other discounted cups) back with me to LA in a little cooler in my rollerboard, and had this cup mixed with peanut butter. I would still say cranberry is my favorite from all four flavors, but now I can say I finally tried all four flavors…even if it took me almost five months 😛

Do final exams interrupt you from following your usual routine? 

GoMacro!

GoMacro!

Disclaimer: I was not monetarily compensated to write this review. This review is based on the products and information I received from GoMacro. All opinions are my own.

After coming home from work one evening several days ago, I was excited to see this box from GoMacro waiting for me in the mail! Inside of the regular mailing brown box was a trapezoidal box made from what looked to be recycled cardboard (it had that rugged feel to it anyways).

gomacro box (1)

I also love the “earthy” art piece on the top. This box was worth saving as an office supply box for my desk, or something!

gomacro box (2)

GoMacro is all about creating products that promote not just a healthy lifestyle, but a sustainable one as well. The bars are USDA-certified organic, gluten-free, vegan, Kosher pareve, and contain non-GMO ingredients.

Speaking of ingredients, these bars are made with unprocessed, organic ingredients and plant-based proteins such as brown rice protein and organic pea protein. This company takes things seriously when it comes to defending the “macro” in their name.

I was given three bars to try, but they have many more flavors in their collection. The variety is even organized by color, from warm to cool. For the spring/summer season, GoMacro wanted to highlight their Sunflower Butter + Chocolate, Granola + Coconut, and Banana + Almond Butter MacroBar flavors, so that was what I received. No complaints on my end!

gomacro bars

In addition the the bars, this “10 Macro Principles to Eat By” magnet was included…

gomacro magnet

…as well as these seed coasters. All I had to do was soak them in some water and place them in some soil. Provided that they are given sufficient water and time, they should sprout some wildflowers 🙂 . I’ve already planted all five in our backyard…

gomacro seed coasters (1)

I tried Protein Purity (Sunflower Butter + Chocolate) first.

protein purity (1)

This bar had to be my most favorite flavor. How can there be any mistakes when sunflower butter and chocolate are involved? The bar was moist and sticky (which can’t be helped in this case), and tasted like a stick of chocolate fudge mixed with sunbutter. Um, super yum!

It’s classified as a high protein bar, with 10g/bar coming from organic sprouted brown rice protein.

protein purity (5)

Prolonged Power (Banana + Almond Butter) was the second to be devoured. It had that moist, sticky feel to it (actually, all three bars were like that as I later found out), and had a strong banana smell (of course). The almond butter seemed to act more like a binding agent than anything else, since the banana flavor dominated this whole bar.  

prolonged power

I was also intrigued by how this bar was sweetened with coconut sugar. The ingredient goes along the sustainability goals of the company, since coconut sugar is derived from the coconut tree crop—which restores marred soils without requiring much water for its own growth. 

The final flavor to taste was Balanced Goodness (Granola + Coconut). While it was a bittersweet moment, the taste was far from it!

balanced goodness

On the website, they like to compare it to coconut/oatmeal raisin cookie dough, and I have to agree. Even though it’s branded as a coconut flavor, this bar was chock full of walnuts and dates, and the brown puffed rice gave it a subtle crispiness. It was low in protein compared to the other two bars, with a humble 4g per serving (1 bar).

I’m all about supporting companies that produce wholesome food that save animals, protect our planet, and nourishes our bodies. After trying these three Macrobars, I look forward to coming across the other eight bars in their collection, which include flavors like Sesame Butter + Dates, Almond Butter + Carob, and Cashew Caramel. I think that qualifies for #6 of the “10 Macro Principles to Eat By”, right 😉 ?

Have you heard about the macrobiotic diet? 

Are you a fan of Macrobars?

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