Family Reunion

Family Reunion

Even though I spent a blissful weekend in south OC with the sis, I could NOT avoid returning only a few days later, because Dad was in town.

I immediately got myself over to Union Station on a Tuesday evening when I was able to leave lab for the day. I was not looking forward to the long weeknight train ride (daily commuters, I feel ya…), but I was able to get off at an earlier stop in Irvine, where my Dad was waiting for me.

After a big hug, we drove for a short while to Mission Viejo to have dinner with my sis. She was coming off a long day of classes so we picked a local, veggie-friendly place so she wouldn’t have to drive too far.

Barbonzai, Mission Viejo
Barbonzai, Mission Viejo

We got to Barbonzai earlier than she did, but she came a few minutes after us, after figuring out the strip mall parking lot.

Thought this poster was adorable <3
Thought this poster was adorable <3

Barbonzai had a small staff, but one of the employees had a really bubbly personality and was super helpful in explaining the menu to us. At the end, we decided to get some tabouli (Dad’s fave) as a starter. My sis and Dad got wraps, and I got a falafel bowl with their yellow falafel.

Tabouli // sister's spicy red falafel
Tabouli // sister’s spicy red falafel

My sis and I were pretty exhausted from each of our long days, and so we had to get some food in us first before we could have a nice conversation with Dad. Once I took a couple bites of my yellow falafel bowl, I felt a little bit more chatty 🙂

Yellow Falafel ~ made with the delicious flavors of curry and coconut! Served with tomatoes, parsley, radish, pickles and our unique turmeric tahini sauce.
Yellow Falafel ~ made with the delicious flavors of curry and coconut! Served with tomatoes, parsley, radish, pickles and our unique turmeric tahini sauce.

Barbonzai closes at 8pm on weekdays, and while we didn’t want to hold up the staff with accommodating us, we tried to get as much time in all-together with the three of us before having to leave. We ended up stopping by Albertson’s which was across the way, and got some night snacks/morning munchables. My sis and I spotted the new Breyer’s low cal pints, and since they didn’t have Halo Top (I got my sister hooked, lol), I persuaded her to try the Breyer’s chocolate version while I got cookies and cream.

She took hers to go, and after saying goodbye to my Dad and I, drove back home since she had another long day the next day. I left with my Dad, and was able to stay with him that night and the following night, just like old times. We stayed in a hotel in Mission Viejo, and as soon as we checked in I crashed. I did not want to leave—just chill, eat ice cream, and sleep.

This: nah. Don't waste your money on it.
This: nah. Don’t waste your money on it.

This “ice cream” though—a HUGE disappointment. It was literally ice, chalky, and a chore to get through. Much like the Ralph’s version of Halo Top I had a while back…

The next morning, I went for a short (but painful—oooh those hills!) run, and when I came back, my Dad prepped some coffee from me from the hotel. He was driving up to LA for the day, and so we were able to spend a good hour together in the car since he dropped me off in lab. He picked me up later in the day, and we spent another good hour and a half driving back to the OC. We may have spent most of the time we had together in the car, but at least it was time spent together.

My sister had a closing shift that day, so it was just the two of us having dinner. We decided on Lemonade in Irvine since my Dad liked their cafeteria-like set-up based on our visit to the Pasadena location a while ago.

Lemonade, Irvine
Lemonade, Irvine

It’s a bit frustrating that they have yet to introduce any veggie-friendly proteins, but their veggie sides are pretty flavorful…so it’s not like we had absolutely nothing to choose from when making a plate of five different sides.

Mouth-watering veggie sides
Mouth-watering veggie sides

There was a colorful array to choose from, but I think I did well with my plate:


It had curried (crunchy!) cauliflower, soba noodles, a sweet potato and corn succotash, and cheese-sprinkled broccoli florets. Despite the extra layer of salt and whatever else added to make this taste so heavenly, it was a quite a nutrient-dense meal especially for its size!


My Dad’s plate was no exception:


His plate differed from mine with the slaw, tortellini and tomatoes, and gorgeous beet red salad.

Needless to say, our dinners hit the spot, and after eating, we were both pretty full and tired to do much else. The hotel had a working pool and jacuzzi, so I was able to put my legs in and just relax. It reminded me of the times when I used to live at home, and my Dad and I would end our gym sessions with some time spent relaxing in the jacuzzi. It’s now only a few years ago since then, but so much has changed…

I took the 7am train back to LA the next morning, with it being my final day being a “nomad” carrying things to-and-from the OC over a few consecutive days. I didn’t mind though—if going the extra mile meant extra time with family and being in a city I truly love, it’s all worth it right 😉 ?


Do you prefer to save your relaxation time for the weekend, or try to have it spread out throughout the week?

Lemonade Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Protein Treats of the Last Few Weeks

Protein Treats of the Last Few Weeks

*EDIT: WHOOPS! Meant to schedule this post for earlier this week, but better late than never! As you can see, I survived my first all-nighter, and the long days after it, haha!

This will most likely be my only post this week, as I have to get to packing…for lab. Yup, I’m going to be living up to my title as a grad student and will be pulling an “all-nighter” this coming week.

Actually, I hope it won’t take me ALL night, but I do know that there won’t be a point in going home after finishing up, since I’ll have to be back the next day bright and early for another experiment!

I just hope hope HOPE that it will pay off though… work hard now, play hard later I suppose?

Since I’m most likely slaving away at my lab bench as this post is live, I thought I might as well finish up this review of sorts (more like a collection of food product photos that didn’t fit in posts from weeks ago), featuring products from Quest, D’s Naturals, and P28.

These were all finds from Vitamin Shoppe, purchased in order to help me get my protein up, as well as rack up enough points before July so I could get my member award certificate.

In an effort to get my protein intake up and consistent, I thought I’d finally try the Quest protein powders that are now available in a variety of flavors.

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Salted Caramel is my favorite so far, with a whopping 22g of protein for a 100 calorie serving. To get the most bang for my buck, I mixed it into some yogurt, and topped it with an ANSI Cheesecake bar and L&L birthday cookie. It was an amazing treat for sure!

quest (5)

I mixed Banana Cream and Vanilla Milkshake with cottage cheese and oats respectively. The former came out more liquidy than I cared for, but I’m surprised the banana smell didn’t knock me out! The oat cake was fine, but not surprisingly, was quite dry. It was more of an experiment rather than an intentional meal…obviously this needs a lathering of nut butter…

quest (6)

quest (1)

quest (2)

quest (3)

When I tried the Cookies & Cream flavor, I once again had cottage cheese on hand.


A serving of this, plus a rapsberry truffle D’s Naturals No Cow Bar and a dollop of Signature Blend P28 Spread for a fulfilling bowl after a weeknight dinner. The mixture of textures was picture-worthy in my eyes.


When I bought the Signature Blend, I got another P28 jar for free due to a BOGO free deal. The Peanut flavor was the one I ended up with, and while I enjoyed it for the first couple days, I grew tired of the flavor and texture later on. Compared to regular peanut butter, it is less creamy, but there are still enough oils to get a fluid mix going. It was still good enough to flavor an otherwise plain owl of steel-cut oats!



When the exhaustion gets real, it helps to get nutrition in check. Products like these feature here help with not having to worry about getting enough protein for those long, hard days. I’m all about whole foods and getting my fill of fruits and veggies, but sometimes it doesn’t work out when you have to pull all-nighters in lab! At least we have microwaves to cook our food if necessary…just have to make sure I use the right one 😉

Do you sacrifice a lot for your job?

Just the Usual

Just the Usual

Last weekend was a weekend like any other…ya know, new food and new pints 😉

I got a hold of the non-dairy Fudge Brownie B&J’s flavor, and was not blown away at all when I tried it on Tuesday. It tasted like a milder version of Arctic Zero’s Brownie Blast without any brownie chunks or mix-ins for that matter! Ugh, I bet the even the froyo version is better than this!

B&Js Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Treat!
B&Js Fudge Brownie Non-Dairy Frozen Treat!

On Saturday, I decided to travel a ways north to check out Leonor’s in Studio City, because they had been on my radar for some time with their all-vegetarian Mexican food options!


They offered pretty much any Mexican item you can think of, and if it usually had chicken or beef in a “regular” restaurant the soy version was the only one available here at Leonor’s. I chose to get the soy chicken tostada, since I wanted something crunchy but still wanted to get my greens in.

Soy Chicken Tostada
Soy Chicken Tostada

The tostada only took up a small portion of the plate, as most of it was greens, and a light sprinkling of cheese. Even though the tostada wasn’t as big as I thought it would have been, at least it had a generous layer of beans and slices of breaded soy chicken.

Leonor's interior
Leonor’s interior

Along with countless cups of water, I was nourished enough to get back on the road and grocery shop at Vons before heading home.

For dessert that night, I had a new-to-me Oikos Greek frozen yogurt pint in Cookies & Cream. It actually tasted something along the lines of oreo cookie soft serve, and was quite delicious.

Oikos Cookies & Cream
Oikos Cookies & Cream

I also had the mint chocolate chip flavor that weekend, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much more like ice cream it tasted than yogurt 😉

Oikos Mint Chocolate Chip
Oikos Mint Chocolate Chip

Another Vons find from the weekend allowed me the opportunity to try PB Crave for the first time. Cookie Nookie was the flavor, and was a PB base with cookie dough flavor, chocolate chips, and honey. I scooped some in a small bowl to get a taste, and while I could detect the sweet swirl of honey (that complemented the PB well), the chocolate chips seemed to have dissolved/be non-existent because I couldn’t taste any chocolate…and the cookie dough flavor? Nothing. I had high expectations for this flavor, but sadly it did not rise to the occasion.

PB Crave - Cookie Nookie
PB Crave – Cookie Nookie

Hmm, at least if I ever have a craving for honey-infused PB, I’ll know where that stems from!

Tostadas, tamales, or tortas??

Leonor's Vegetarian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bars of the October

Bars of the October

Yes, we are already approaching the middle of November, but I happened to try many bars for the first time throughout the month of October that I couldn’t hold back on sharing! For some reason, many of these bars were able to distract me from the clutch of Quest, haha…at least for a little while 😉

One of these brands was Oh Yeah! I was used to staying away from them in the past since I knew that many of their bars contain gelatin, but not their Quest-like Victory Bars!

Victory Bar Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (1)
Victory Bar Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

The Victory Bars are longer, more rectangular, and have clear-cut corners compared to Quest Bars, but their chewy texture makes them a contender in the protein bar world.

Victory Bar Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (2)
Simply, cookie dough.

The cookie dough flavor tasted better to me than cookies n cream, perhaps because it was less chunky (and less overwhelming), but cookies n cream was still a decent flavor!

Victory Bar Cookies N Cream
Now let’s add some WHITE chocolate chips.

I got a hold of some Honey Stinger bars from Fresh & Easy one weekday morning, since they were deeply discounted. Since the store is closing its doors for good, a lot of well-known bar brands were fiercely marked down, but the PB and chocolate Honey Stinger bars were calling my name for some particular reason, so I just went for it.

Honey Stinger Bars!

The bars are thinner in width than I prefer, but I love how the bottom is a solid chocolate layer. And because of their bargain price, I didn’t feel like the purchase was a complete waste!

Peanut Butter n Honey and Rocket Chocolate

The brand I was most anxious to try was Robert Irvines’ FitElite bars. I know that his crunch bars contain gelatin so I have been staying away from those, but after double and triple-checking the ingredients of the FitElite bars, they looked pretty safe to me!

FitElite Cookie Dough (1)
FitElite Cookie Dough

Obviously these bars are punch towards Quest, but their smaller, dough-ier appearance makes them look like a peppy distant cousin of currently-popular low-carb protein bar.

FitElite Cookie Dough (2)
FitElite Cookie Dough Chunks!

The chunks looked irresistible!

Cookies ‘n’ Cream also had a similar appearnce, but toned it down with the chunk amount.

FitElite Cookies 'n' Cream (1)
FitElite Cookies ‘n’ Cream

I was on the way home from one of my weekend adventures, and ended up having this bar on the Metro! When have I ever exhibited patience when it comes to bars 😉 ?

FitElite Cookies 'n' Cream (2)
I couldn’t wait till I got home to eat it, haha.

Have you tried any of the aforementioned bars?

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