Birthday Weekend, Day 2

Birthday Weekend, Day 2

My friend stayed Saturday night, and since she planned to leave on Monday morning, we had another full day we could put to use for our enjoyment.

I let her sleep in while I completed a long run. The coach I’m working with had me transition to a forefoot form style of running, and I was definitely feeling it in my calves! My legs were wrecked for the rest of the day, but since we had a beach visit planned, I knew relaxation was part of the agenda for the day and my legs would get some much needed R&R.

We were off to Huntington Beach around noon, and with traffic, surprisingly managed to arrive around 2pm. Before heading the the beach, we decided to get a late lunch at Vegan Nirvana because we were super hungry.

Vegan Nirvana
Vegan Nirvana

From the outside, VN looked like an unassuming strip mall restaurant…

Stepped into the blue zone...
Stepped into the blue zone…

…but on the inside, the walls were painted a deep blue and had a strong cooling effect. There wasn’t too much seating and the walkways were narrow, and I think the management was confused on whether they wanted the interior to give off a oceanic or cosmic vibe.

Spaceships…or sharks…or both?

We had to wait for about fifteen minutes before getting a table, but my friend and I were able to look at the menu beforehand and decide on what we wanted. I knew from the get-go that their Ultimate Liberation dish was their star entree. It was a vegan fish tacos dish that was described to be an entree of fish-free fillet tacos topped with cabbage, pico de gallo, cilantro, and Chipotle sauce in corn tortillas.

Menu
Menu

My friend went for the chik’n tenders and that crispy dish sounded like a good choice to me.

They were super crispy!
They were super crispy!

We shared our entrees with each other, and agreed that our veggie meats overall were top notch quality. My friend even commented that the vegan fish tacos actually tasted like fish.

These fish-free tacos were delicious..
These fish-free tacos were delicious…

After lunch, we drove a short way to Huntington Beach. Several loops around a residential area later, we found parking. We were also fully prepared with some beach towels, but the closest we got to the water that day was a foot dip. Instead, we lounged on the sand and read/napped for about an hour.

Relaxation at its finest…

Huntington Beach!
Huntington Beach!

When it was approaching early evening, we decided to head back to the car and make our was more inland towards Fountain Valley: the Mecca of all those quirky dessert foodie trends you see on Instagram.

Birthdae Cake
Birthdae Cake

Birthdae Cake was our destination, and it was nestled unassumingly in a strip mall across from Albertsons.

It was a small establishment, and while there weren’t any lines out the door during our visit, the people that were there knew what they wanted and were content with what they got.

The wallpaper :P
The wallpaper πŸ˜›

I knew I had to get one of their iconic creations featured multiple times on the ‘gram. Their cookie dough ice cream sandwich was something I could not avoid getting.

COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.
COOKIE DOUGH ICE CREAM SANDWICH YES IT EXISTS.

My ice cream sandwich was birthday ice cream in-between two slabs of Cookie Monster cookie dough. The cookie dough slabs were sense, thick, and though they weren’t as flavorful as I imagined, they held up and didn’t fall apart/melt.

My friend got a simple ice cream cone, but we were both delighted by our choices. After our dessert for the day, we drove back to LA and spent the rest of the evening relaxing at home.

My friend dropped me off in lab the next morning before heading back on her way to Santa Cruz. Her visit only emphasized how fun and social this summer has been so far for me!

Did Summer 2017 fare well for you?

Vegan Nirvana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Waffle Love

Waffle Love

It’s hard to believe that it’s March, and what’s harder to believe is that even though it’s spring break time, I have more work than ever!! On the agenda is a 20-page paper, getting ready for a meeting involving a number of professors revolving around my lab project, and keeping up with the work I do on a daily basis. But this too will pass…and going out and having delicious dessert plates will make it easier for it to go by!

Before having it really hit home that I have TONS to do in the next two weeks, I actually had a pretty chill week last week, as well as a fulfilling weekend. I treated myself to two new B&J pints that week, including a core and a vegan flavor:

I am so glad PB & Cookies was the first non-dairy B&J pint I tried, because it was insanely delicious! It had legitimately-size cookie sandwich chunks, and thick PB swirl pieces. The almond milk-base was surprisingly tasty as well!

macch (1)
Non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s—vegans rejoice!!

I would even go far as to say that this flavor is part of my top picks! The brownie batter core flavor though…

b&j_browniebatter
Brownie Batter Core

Besides having to “deal with” the chocolate, I was a fan of everything else. It was funny how most of the brownie pieces were on the vanilla side. I also did a pretty good job saving the core for last, when I was able to truly taste the crunchy, yet smooth brownie batter.

On Saturday, I was able to catch an afternoon showing of Zootopia, and I was thoroughly entertained by it. It may be animated, and a product of the Disney factory, but the story, (heart of the) characters, and poignant moments were all too real. I knew I wanted to see it after seeing the sloth trailer months ago, and after my sis saw it own, we spent one morning texting each other all the funny and our favorite parts of the movie.

Sunday was even more low-key, and after morning lab work, I hopped on a bus in downtown and headed towards Monterey Park in east LA. After seeing countless pictures of lattes decorated with classic anime characters and potted plant puddings, I knew I had to pay Macchiato a visit.

Macchiato
Macchiato

Macchiato is just one of countless Asian coffee/tea/dessert shops strung together on the same block. Even so, it was packed on Sunday mid-afternoon, and I assumed it was because so many students who work well in coffee shop settings needed to get their study on for the midterms they needed to take before spring break!

Studying away (and snacking away!)
Studying away (and snacking away!)

I looked at the menu at my seat, which was in the far corner of the cafe close to the employee kitchen. It was by no means the prettier part of the cafe, but at least I was able to get a seat. As other patrons came in after me, most ended up getting their goods to go.

Menu
Menu

The ‘Feed Me Waffle’ section was calling out to me—so I went with the Macchiato Sundae Waffle.

Feed Me Waffle
Feed Me Waffle

After fifteen minutes or so, a plate stacked with waffles, ice cream, and fruit was placed before me.

My Waffle Sundae
My Waffle Sundae

The waffles were crispy, drizzled with chocolate syrup, and had a small schmear of Nutella on the bottom. The ice cream was of the Neapolitan variety, with a small ball of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry and whipped cream in between each!

Ice cream up close.
Ice cream up close.

The fruit was a balanced mixed of berries, mango, and banana.

Crispy, crispy waffle!!
Crispy, crispy waffle!!

I had the waffles first, and tried to mix the berries and ice cream together to add to the waffle, but that ended up being too complicated! The ice cream alone on each waffle was good enough. That meant saving the fruit for last, but that was no problem πŸ™‚

What’s your favorite waffle topping?

Macchiato 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?

Making Do, and Finding New

Making Do, and Finding New

I planned to have the fun weekend with my girls start on Friday night, but due to circumstances out of our control, we had to push back our plans an extra day. That left me with another [lonely] day on my own.

I’m all about organizing and planning, and so when things don’t happen according to plan, it can throw me off guard. But I knew that it would be in my best interest to just treat this day as an extra opportunity for “me” time, before I had to gather up my energy to play hostess.

On Thursday night, I felt sore and achy and just wasn’t in an overall great mood because of all the changes happening, and so after taking some Tylenol, I went to bed early and decided to figure out my Friday solo plans in the morning.

Upon waking, I figured that a nice, long walk starting from Marina Del Rey and ending in Santa Monica would be a super mood booster, as well as a source for light activity, since I wanted to take a break from running due to the achiness I was feeling.

I also wanted Santa Monica’s Vitamin Shoppe to be my final destination because after visiting them on Tuesday, I found a Quest Bar representative living out my dream—she was handing out free Quest bars!!! I was able to grab at least five that day, and overheard her telling some other bar enthusiasts that she would be back on Friday with “more product”. Little did I know that that “more product” meant NEW product…

quest_smoresbar_newflavor
The new flavor does have a lengthier list of ingredients compared to the other flavors—but there is no gelatin (from marshmallows)

Yes, a serendipitous Friday it was. She introduced me to their newest flavor—S’mores! It’s not even in stores yet, and it’s barely a month old.

quest_smoresbar

It was a tougher bar to chew compared to Cookies and Cream or Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but I would say it’s a fair representation of the s’mores flavor without any marshmallows in sight or taste. But then again…I may be biased πŸ˜‰

She also asked if I had been able to try their Protein Chips.

Um, of course not, but I would be happy to if it’s on the house πŸ˜€

quest_proteinchips_salt&vinegar

I tried their Salt & Vinegar flavor, and was intrigued by how thin and extra crispy they were. In fact, they might have been too thin and crispy because they almost had a melt-in-your-mouth kind of effect. There was a crunch, but then poof! All gone! There was no time to really savor them…

SAMSUNG

But perhaps with some salsa or dip on top, they may have been more pleasing to eat.

So even though Friday’s original plans didn’t turn out as I wanted them to, the resulting day’s events weren’t so bad πŸ˜‰

β™₯

Since I had no one to entertain on Saturday morning, I woke up around 8am (which is rare for me…) and as soon as I got ready, made my way to Encino to grab brunch (but what ended up being lunch…) at More Than Waffles.

SAMSUNG

It took me a few minutes to realize that the restaurant was hidden on the ground floor of a mini shopping plaza across the street. On the outside, it looked like any other strip mall establishment.

SAMSUNG

But as I got closer, I could sense the theme of warmth and coziness the restaurant works hard to promote as a family-owned business.

SAMSUNG
Loving the retro font!
not quite noon
So busy at the brink of 11am!

Since it was obviously very busy, I ended up waiting almost forty-five minutes for a table. And since it was in an awkward location, I ended up just standing that entire time. When there finally was a space available for me, I was asked to come inside to sit at a smaller table.

inside more than waffles family restaurant
The indoor decor was adorable—especially the wallpaper!

With all that waiting I ended up doing, I knew exactly what I wanted, and my order landed on my table within minutes! At least I didn’t have to wait that long for my food πŸ˜› !! I ended up ordering a seemingly light, but nutritious Tuscan Benedict. I’ve been on an egg kick lately, and having perfectly poached eggs already done for me seemed like such a treat! Even the fruit tasted sweeter than usual πŸ™‚

tuscan benedict with fruit
Two poached eggs on a 9-grain toast with homemade bruschetta, topped with feta and fresh fruit.

I headed back home soon after to clean up the apartment, and then waited for the arrival of my friends. While it is good to have some quality time of solitude and introspection, too much of it can make one go crazy! I definitely need some friend time, and I’m hoping that the next few days rises up to that…

More Than Waffles on Urbanspoon

How do you react when things don’t go as planned?

When I Don’t Study, I Eat

When I Don’t Study, I Eat

Last week was insane school-wise.

I had two intense exams in both of my classes on the SAME day, as well as a paper that was due over the weekend. Fun times in grad school…

 An hour before one of my exams, and not even free coffee could keep me from being distracted!
An hour before one of my exams, and not even free coffee could keep me from being distracted!

I still managed to have some β€œfun” and gave myself study breaks by making myself go out for some fresh air food. I was able to do just that on both weekends that sandwiched my horridly-scheduled exam week.

I mentioned that after my half, I had a late lunch. It was more like a super late breakfast, since I ended up ordering something to satisfy my sweet tooth from Jacks N Joe—a snug breakfast-centric restaurant tucked behind a strip mall.

SAMSUNG

I arrived about half an hour before their closing time in the mid-afternoon. One of the employees was putting away the outdoor seats and tables, but she pleasantly held the door open for me as I approached the entrance. After declining a spot at the counter, I gladly took a table for one near the cash register, and didn’t mind since it gave me a central view of the restaurant.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

After looking over the menu another time (I looked at it dozens of times online πŸ˜› ), I decided to order one of their signature french toast plates.

SAMSUNGAnd it ended up being a heavenly choice πŸ˜‰

 7 Minutes in Heaven French Toast ~ 3 slices of Hawaiian french (lol) toast with nutella, bananas, and strawberries.
7 Minutes in Heaven French Toast ~ 3 slices of Hawaiian french (lol) toast with nutella, bananas, strawberries, and of course powdered sugar.

The bread was soft and chewy, and can you go wrong with strawberries and chocolate spread? I would have enjoyed this dish even without the bananas, but I’m not exactly a fan of the fruit so I’m a little biased there πŸ˜›

 I tolerated the banana slices because there was chocolate!
I tolerated the banana slices because there was chocolate!

I didn’t even touch the bottle of syrup that my waiter put on the table prior to my french toast coming out. There was truly no need!

SAMSUNG

Despite averaging ~8 hours each day researching/writing for my paper the weekend after exam week, I still managed to get out for some eats. I decided not to venture off too far, since it was chilly as far as LA weather was concerned, and because my “free” time was limited.

I kept things simple by busing over to Fairfax Ave. since I could do some grocery shopping in the same area, while grabbing a bite to eat at Swinger’s Diner.

SwingersDinerHollywood
The parking lot, entrance, and waiting near the door.

 The place was packed at 3pm on a Saturday, and no one wanted to eat outside since it was windy and cold, so I ended up having to wait twenty minutes for a seat. Even then, I was given the suggestion to get a booth at the back of the restaurant, and so I didn’t get to continue people watching. 

interior.
People watching while waiting for a table. Mod art on the wall.

Instead, I ended up facing the cow wall, and had these condiments to entertain me.

SAMSUNG

The menu was…entertaining as well, haha. I just quickly scanned through it to find the vegetarian and vegan options I had read online about, which was easy to do since a “thumbs up” icon next to a menu item meant it was vegetarian, and a peace sign meant it was vegan.

the menu
Had to blur out some non-PG images, which I didn’t notice at first but then was like whoathere

After reading the fine print, I learned that tofu could be subbed in for chicken at no extra cost, so to my pleasant surprise, that opened up a lot more meal options! Because of that, I decided to get the grilled jamaican jerk chicken tofu πŸ˜€ . 

Waiting for my food to arrive took just as long as waiting for a seat. It was probably because the diner was still busy, but since I was literally facing a wall, time seemed to pass by slower than reality. Sure, there was a window to my left, but the view was the back of a hotel, and an obscured view at that since my booth was at a low level. 

When this came out, I wasn’t sure what to think exactly—why were the tofu pieces so thin and pathetic-looking? or plantains that look like french fries?? YES πŸ˜€ 

SAMSUNG
Grilled Jamaican Jerk Tofu ~ jerk-marinated tofu with fried plantains black beans and sauteed quinoa.

Even though the tofu was a disappointment, the plantains picked up the slack—having just enough crisp on the outside, yet chewy on the inside. The black beans added flavor that the “marinade” on the excuse-for-tofu was lacking, and the quinoa added some extra crispiness to the dish, since it was sauteed.

SAMSUNG

So after getting some food in me and doing some grocery shopping at the Grove, I got back home just as the sun was setting and felt refreshed enough to revise another draft of my paper. Sunday’s “adventures” were limited to a long run at Griffth Park with my running group, and then literally sitting at my kitchen table for almost 8 hours total wrapping up the paper that controlled my weekend.

Well, at least it’s done now!

How often do you need breaks when you study/work?

Jacks N Joe on Urbanspoon

Swingers on Urbanspoon

Be There or Be a (Chocolate-Covered) Square

Be There or Be a (Chocolate-Covered) Square

A week and a half ago, there was a triple-digit heat wave that I mentioned in a previous post. During that time, I felt like I could only eat things sitting cooly in my refridgerator (or colder), but I did make an exception when it came to these chocolate-covered squares known as Squarebars.

Three awesome chocolate squares to try!
Three awesome chocolate squares to try! Don’t mind the binder paper and shadow πŸ˜›

The company itself is really small and relatively new, the brainchild of a husband-and-wife (Andrew and Sarah) team who wanted to market a product that was gluten, dairy, and soy free, since Sarah realized she could handle her asthma better without having to deal with these potential allergens.

Squarebar was launched in March of 2012, and they are based in the Bay Area…which means the Whole Foods stores in my area sells them (yeah!), but they are online as well. They believe in selling a product that is nutrient-dense, and place emphasis on ingredient quality over nutrition facts.Β Going back to the bars, they come in three flavors: Cocoa Almond, Cocoa Coconut, and Cocoa Crunch.

When I received my bars during that intense heat week, I noticed this ironic label on the front:

Heat Label

I thought oh boy, it’s probably all melted…

And it was.

Cocoa Almon.

Cocoa Almond

But then I thought isn’t melted chocolate better tasting?

Instead of popping them in the refrigerator and waiting till morning to pop these into my mouth, I gave into my cravings and had all three squares, melted chocolate and all.

Cocoa Almond may have been partially melted, but it was my favorite flavor overall. Perhaps it was because of the blend of almond crunch and hint of cinnamon…

This wrapper was wiped clean!
This wrapper was wiped clean!

Cocoa Crunch was next, and it sure was a double dose of chocolate!

Cocoa Crunc

Cocoa Crunch

There was a subtle crunch between the melting chocolate from brown rice crispies, and even though coconut is not part of it’s name, its sweetness is derived from coconut nectar (I believe all of the bars derive their sweetness from it).

Told ya I wiped the wrapper clean!
Told ya I wiped the wrapper clean!

Last up was Coconut Crunch, with the main ingredients obviously being coconut and chocolate. “A match made in snacker island paradise” as they like to call it!

Coconut Crunch

Coconut Crunch out of wrapper

Coconut Crunch Side View

The bar looks a bit peeled in the pictures because the chocolate peeled off onto the wrapper :P. No worries though, it was still fun to eat!

Despite the heat debacle, I loved how these bars were square-shaped, making it easy for on-the-go eating. Obviously they don’t stand up to very warm temps structure-wise (so probably not ideal in a warm purse either…), but their flavors were unaffected, at least to me. Each bar is loaded with 11-12g of protein, vegan friendly, and are manufactured in an organic and gluten-free facility.

Overall, I think the cute square shape is what sold me on these bars :D.

Melted chocolate: a pain or perfection?

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