Ravenous

Ravenous

Last Sunday, I didn’t run any marathons, but I felt hungry to the point as though I did run one. Of course a trip to lab was on the agenda, but as soon as I was done, I was ready to fill my belly with all things delicious.

I truly craved a hearty, Mediterranean meal because I knew it would have all the nutrients I was craving as well as taste amazing. But having to wait for 30 minutes or so on the train with a growling stomach was not going to cut it. I got off at Westwood, just to dive into the mall and get some snacks…

fitjoy_cooksncream
@fitjoynutrition , I think you’re getting better at this protein bar thing 😉

One of which was a new FitJoy protein bar flavor. I had no idea FitJoy released some new flavors recently, but since one of them was a “Cookies & Cream” flavor, I could not let it get away! The bar had three distinct layers, with the top being a chocolate fudge-like flavor with small crispy chocolate pieces. The bottom layer was coated with a chocolate shell, and overall the bar was a good mix between crunchy and chewy (though not too chewy—what I liked about it overall was how firm it ended up being)!

I took a bus back to Santa Monica and stopped right in front of my lunch destination—Mediterranean food at Crimson sounded so mouthwatering at that point.

crimson
Crimson, Santa Monica

When I stepped inside, it felt like the A/C was on full blast, but no energy was actually being “wasted” since it was just the cooling blacks and greys on the wall that allowed the restaurant to help keep patrons feeling refreshed.

crimson_inside
Eating inside on a hot day…

I saw that it was an order first, then sit down kind of set-up, so I walked over to the front and grabbed a menu. The Falafel Veggie Plate sounded appetizing of course, but there was plenty of room for customization and add-ons.

menu
Got the ‘Falafel Veggie Plate’

My plate ended up holding a gargantuan volume of eats. I was shocked, but happy, with the food that lay before me, and I was eager to tuck in.

thewholeplateandgrilledveggies
The complete plate :: the gorgeous array of grilled vegetables <3

Since it was mostly veggies and healthy fats, I got full pretty quickly.

dawholeshebang
Tahini -> kale salad and hummus -> falafel in garlic sauce -> ricccceeee

But I’d say I did a decent job getting to all of the good stuff…only some rice and a bit of kale salad, along with half of a tahini cup was left.

alldone
So much good stuff on one plate…couldn’t finish it all!

After my hearty meal, I immediately felt my eyes droop. Obviously it was time for a nap. Home was a short ways away, so I wasn’t too far from falling into a cozy Sunday afternoon nap. After my nap, I woke up ready to eat some more! I was feeling ravenous for some reason that day, and I just went along with it. Spoonfuls of this Gooey Bananas Foster D’s Naturals Fluffbutter did the trick.

gooeybananasfoster
I was skeptical at first when I saw the Gooey Bananas Foster @dsnaturals Fluffbutter on sale at GNC for 50% off it’s retail price. It made me think “what’s wrong with the flavor?”, but no such answer exists. It definitely had the taste of bananas, but it wasn’t overpowering at all. In fact, it tasted as if the nut butter was made from finely mashed caramel-coated bananas. Bananas are my least favorite fruit, so take me seriously when I say this flavor was GOOD.

I was well-fed that Sunday indeed. Later on in the week, I indulged with other new-to-me treats that included the following…

Two more new FitJoy nutrition bar flavors: Homemade Pumpkin and Raspberry Chocolate Truffle:

Homemade Pumpkin
Homemade Pumpkin

Homemade Pumpkin bar reminded me of a giraffe based on the looks of the top! It had orange splotches and a light swirl on the top, with crispy wafer pieces scattered over the surface.

The Raspberry Chocolate Truffle bar had a slightly sour flavor (which isn’t that surprising), but it had a chewier and denser taste/texture in comparison to the pumpkin and cookie flavors I tried above.

Everything I love, all in one mug.
Everything I love, all in one mug.

There was a thin chocolate shell on the bottom, and its appearance actually reinded me of a Luna coconut bar. I broke the bar in half, and added it to a yogurt blend with pumpkin spice Amazing Grass mix. For good measure, I added a Lenny & Larry’s Snickerdoodle cookie!

Goodie Girl Cookies - Mint Slims
Goodie Girl Cookies – Mint Slims

I also came across these cute, mini Thin Mint-like cookies by Goodie Girl Cookies. I found these at Starbucks one day, and they made the perfect accompaniment with a coconut milk cappucino, on my walk to the train station.

For Ralph’s Freebie Friday promo this past Friday, they were giving out free Larabars! I used the opportunity to snatch up a Key Lime Pie bar flavor, and didn’t regret it.

Key Lime Pie Larabar
Key Lime Pie Larabar

I hadn’t had Lara Bars in quite some time, so having this flavor made me realize I was missing on out on something so naturally delicious. I think I’ll keep coming back to this flavor, especially as the summer months approach.

On days when you feel ravenous, do you eat whatever you crave or try to reign it in?

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

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

President’s Day Weekend ’17 – Part 1

The last time I saw my cousin and her wife was in the summer of 2015…just before my parents moved from Cali and before I began my second year of grad school.

I didn’t think it would be another year and a half before seeing them again, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that my sister and I had a chance to visit.

A little guide dog that boarded the train :)
A little guide dog that boarded the train 🙂

I left on a Thursday afternoon just so that I could spread out my travel time. I took the evening Amtrak bus/train, and my sister picked me up at the station. My bus arrived in Bakersfield an HOUR early, so waiting to board the train ended up being an uncontrollable waste of time. I did eventually get on and get to Fresno around 8:30pm. My sister and I immediately went to Sprouts to get snacks, chill, and got to sleep around midnight.

The next day, I woke up to go for a run, despite the intermittent showers. I ended up running a little under six miles, while my sister finished up her morning class. From there, we left for a late breakfast at her now all-time favorite brunch place Benediction. Seeing as it was my third time visiting the location, I didn’t think about taking pictures of my food. I left my phone in the car, and fully enjoyed some piping hot coffee, potatoes (still have a craving for the starchy goodness ever since my visit to JFAT), and my sister’s company.

From there, we left for Walnut Creek. It ended up being just about 3 hours of a drive and my sister was a trooper, driving through some horrid rain spots as we got closer to the bay. I offered to take over towards the end but she had it under control. We did have some bladder-related tasks to take care of, so when we finally got to my cousin’s apartment, we fled upstairs with the luggage still in our car. The first question we asked was “where is your bathroom?!”

Once we were settled in, we chatted for an hour our two while snacking on a slice of coffee-spiced cheese, apple slices, and oranges. I forgot how good the apple/cheese combo is!

We originally had plans to eat in for dinner, but then my cousin’s wife offered to pay for dinner since she got a bonus and wanted to treat all of us.

Welcome to Babalou's!
Welcome to Babalou’s!
Overview
Overview

Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.

Menu
Menu
Fun artwork!
Fun artwork!

I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.

Veggie Plate
Veggie Plate

There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.

Baba & Hummus
Baba & Hummus

After dinner, we made our way to the nearby theater to watch Lion. It was incredibly packed, more so than when I saw a movie out in LA on a Friday night.

Friday night at the movies!
Friday night at the movies!

All of us pretty much teared up or held our tears back by the time the movie was through. It was such a good story and the meaning of the title makes so much sense at the end.

We got home around 10:00 but we were all pretty tired to stay up and do anything. Dinner and a movie was all we could handle for the day!

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

A Brief Bar Break?

A Brief Bar Break?

I’ve made it clear on this blog time and time again that I am a self-proclaimed bar queen. But I’ve been thinking about cutting back on the bars, and exchanging them with breakfast meals I’ve been missing—like a hot piece of toast smothered with nut butter or oatmeal with nutella and granola. Every time I do think about going on a “bar break” though, I ended up learning about a new flavor of a bar or a new bar brand, and FOMO sets in. I immediately have the desire to try it!

That’s what happened this past week when Quest Labs released a new trial flavor that they restocked after first selling out—Mocha Chocolate Chip.

mocha_chocolate_chip

I got a box, and when I tried bar one out of twelve, I was actually very pleased with how it tasted and its chewy, soft texture. It has a subtle coffee smell, and crumbly chocolate chunks are mixed throughout. While it was appreciation at first bite, I grew bored of the bars as the week wore on. I felt “compelled” to eat them because I didn’t want them to go to waste, but I feel like it also got in the way of me being flexible with my morning foods.

Along with this MCC bar box order, I decided to get one bar of the waffle-flavored cereal bar since I missed out the first time Quest Labs released it.

protein-crunch-waffle

It smelled a lot like maple syrup and the cereal part of the bar did not cause my mouth to go dry like many cereal bars I have had in the past tend to do. Overall, I like the flavor and it was of a decent size, but I was relieved I didn’t have a box of them to worry about!

As much as I love bars, I think I’m going to take a break from my “box a week” pattern. There are some days I do honestly crave a protein bar, but I want to see if I can get away from being constrained to specific ones over the course of a week. I think it’ll be good to change things up like this, as it will be more of a mental relief than a physical one…though I don’t think my body would mind the change either. I’m not making promises though—I just want to try to see if I can relieve myself of this thing that has become routine.

When Saturday rolled around, bars were the last thing on my mind. I spent the majority of the day in downtown SaMo and was especially hungry for Mediterranean food at Hummus Bar Express.

hummus_bar_express_

Downtown SaMo surprisingly wasn’t packed. My guess was that everyone was heading in the direction of DTLA for tailgating and the football game. I took this golden opportunity to my advantage, and ordered myself a veggie plate that came with hummus, babaganoush, 8 falafel pieces, and a large slice of not pita, but laffa bread.

hummus_bar_express_2

All was good at this moment—the falafel was green and crispy, the hummus smooth and thick:

hummus_bar_express_1

And the bread…the bread I could eat for days

laffabread

It was a flat, pliable piece of bread that tasted good with everything. Even the falafel! If I ever come back to Hummus Bar Express, I don’t think I would object to ordering just the laffa bread with maybe some babaganoush on the side…it was that good!!

Have you ever felt the need to take a break from a food routine?

Hummus Bar Express Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I’m Exhausted (An Understatement)

I’m Exhausted (An Understatement)

I’ve been sooo behind on blogging, but I have my legitimate reasons…how’s about moving, a birthday, and 24 hr+ working day/night for starters?

The week before my birthday/last week in my now-ex-apartment was a very rough one. My emotions were raw, and dealing with certain people with these already broiling emotions had me on the verge of waterworks. I did end up crying, but one of my co-workers was there to talk me through it and calm me down.

Even though tension was at an all-time high, I had some comforting snacks to get me through the tormenting week.

A Promax bar mixed with four flavors of froyo and mochi pieces because mochi is life <3
A Promax bar mixed with four flavors of froyo and mochi pieces because mochi is life <3
Bar + pint
Bar + pint
Green pro-frosting made with a free tub of Vega protein powder I got from the blogger expo, mixed with a crumbled L&L birthday cookie.
Green pro-frosting made with a free tub of Vega protein powder I got from the blogger expo, mixed with a crumbled L&L birthday cookie.
A Lenny & Larry's lemon Poppyseed Cookie---so underrated, yet soooo good!
A Lenny & Larry’s lemon Poppyseed Cookie—so underrated, yet soooo good!

A shipment of ANSI Nutrition’s newest protein cheesecake bar flavors was a pleasant surprise to receive in the mail. Funny thing was, I first tried these on one of the worst work days of the week, so they just so happened to be the highlight of that particular day 😉

The Birthday Cake flavor was soft, and had a mild vanilla flavor to it. It could have used some sprinkles, but it was not overwhelming.

Birthday Cake
Birthday Cake

Chocolate Coconut was my favorite flavor from the three newest flavors. It had a tougher texture with the coconut flakes and chocolate coating, and to me, was more pleasant than the Chocolate Banana flavor.

Chocolate Coconut
Chocolate Coconut

The latter was decent, but since I’m not a fan of raw bananas, there was only so much banana flavor I could handle.

Chocolate Banana
Chocolate Banana

So it was no surprise Chocolate Coconut was my winner 😉

When move out day finally came around, I was successfully able to round up an army to help me move out…well, a one man army a.k.a. my Dad, who I hadn’t seen in 8 months!! Honestly, I don’t know how I would have moved OR cleaned my apartment without him.

Before any of the hard work though, we had dinner together at Yalla Mediterranean in Culver City. It replaced Daphne’s Greek, which I had intentions on visiting someday but I guess that just won’t happen.

Yalla Mediterranean
Yalla Mediterranean

Yalla was great though. After waiting in line behind a lady who wanted to sample everythannnnng, my Dad and I were finally able to order our plates. We both got the falafel plate and got to choose from plenty of sides colorfully placed alongside eachother at the counter bar. I picked the steamed veggies to pair with my falafel, along with a slaw, babaganoush, and a dressed beets and kale salad. There was some unpictured pita side, and a whole lotta YUM.

My beautiful platter
My beautiful platter

Our trays were incredibly nourishing, and enough to get us started with cleaning my apartment…at 9pm. We even managed to get my roommate to work, with all of us retiring at midnight. BUT, we continued to work as soon as we got up the next morning…

Aided by baby falafels
Aided by baby falafels

Have you ever had to move? What was your experience like?

Yalla Mediterranean Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Door to Open Sesame

Closed Door to Open Sesame

After two fun half-days at Blogfest, and a full day of work in lab on a SATURDAY, I was more than ready to take back one day of the weekend for myself: Sunday!

Chocolate proyo with loads of granola crunchies :)
Chocolate proyo with loads of granola crunchies 🙂

After a long run of 13 miles, I made myself a proyo mug and filled it to the brim with granola, all of which were free to me thanks to my expo haul!

This was enough to help me refuel and make it though a few hours of lab in the morning. I was out by 1pm, and immediately got on a bus to head out for lunch.

I only had to walk about 10 minutes from the stop to the restaurant, but I felt like my skin was melting off. Fortunately, I found it before my muscles started to peel off…haha.

What's behind door #1?
What’s behind door #1?

Behind the house-like door, I stepped into the brightly-lit dining room of Open Sesame, and since no one else was dining at 3pm, it was only me face-fo-face with three servers. It was awkward at first since no one out of the three said anything at first, but eventually I was given a place to sit and a menu.

Open Sesame
Open Sesame

I knew that I wanted a platter (what else is new??), and the next task was finding something that fit the vegetarian description. The menu was bound in a red, leather-like cover and was pretty much a book full of entrees, apps, drinks, and desserts. I found the vegetarian platter under the “Entrees II” section. I ordered that as soon as one of the servers came by, and it came out within minutes.

The Vegetarian Platter!
The Vegetarian Platter!

The plate was a colorful piecing of babaganoush (all-time fav), hummus, pickled peppers, fresh tomato slices, two falafel, one grape leaf roll, tabouli, and tahini in a cup.

The cutest thing though was the Open Sesame tissue paper.
The cutest thing though was the Open Sesame tissue paper.

It was almost as if the server read my mind, because just as I thought about how I would be able to mop up the hummus and tahini sauce, she came by with a crispy flat piece of pita bread. I also downed several cups of water to combat the heat I would have to face after leaving the restaurant.

My plans to take a nap that afternoon didn’t make sense since I made it back home closer in the evening. After organizing my plans for the week, I hit the pillow around 9pm and it never felt so good…

Open Sesame Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fala Me to Fala Bar

Fala Me to Fala Bar

Last week was crazy busy, and on more nights than usual, I ended up coming back to my apartment close to 8pm, even with my early morning start to the day. But I’ve always preferred being busy over being too relaxed, so while at times it did feel exhausting, at least it kept my mind occupied.

Because we have a couple students graduating/people leaving from my lab this year, we decided to go out as a lab for lunch on Thursday. It was the first time we had everyone together (well, almost…since my boss was out of town and we were missing one person…haha, the day we actually have EVERYONE together in the same room will be some kind of miracle!!). Spicy Indian buffet food was on the menu, and surprisingly, I didn’t nod off in class later despite it!

One of the plates I had on Thursday...super spicy, and used unpictured naan to mop up all of that!
One of the plates I had on Thursday…super spicy, and used unpictured naan to mop up all of that!

When I got home that night, I decided to kick-off the weekend earlier than usual with a THURSDAY night pint, a So Delicious one in fact. I’ve gotta say…this pint rocks! Since it’s made with coconut milk, you can actually taste the slivers of coconut mixed in with the cookie dough chunks. How have I gone this long avoiding these So Delicious pints?! I’m glad that even though I took a break from Snickerdoodle, this flavor was right up there with it!

Coconut milk + cookie dough = perfection
Coconut milk + cookie dough = perfection

Friday ended up being less busy, and I got home at a decent time. To celebrate the end of this busy week, I made myself a protein-rich snack plate featuring some of my favorites (once warmed up in the microwaved for ~20 seconds).

Friday Night Snack Plate featuring: Lenny & Larrys, Quest, and Combat Crunch. Melted for 20 seconds <3
Friday Night Snack Plate featuring: Lenny & Larrys, Quest, and Combat Crunch. Melted for 20 seconds <3

On Saturday, I had to go into lab for just two hours, and from there made it over to Melrose to see what little food shop was causing excitement on the ‘gram. Fala Bar, a Mediterranean food place that has locations on Melrose and Abbot Kinney in Venice, offers five varieties (!!) of falafel, but is popular because of their falafel burger offerings. Not only are they creative in their menu items and falafel flavors (original, sweet potato  what??, spicy, crunchy, and kale), they also are all-vegan, giving all the more reason to go falafel-crazy!

Fala Bar: vegan-friendly, and in a happening part of town!
Fala Bar: vegan-friendly, and in a happening part of town!

Because I rarely ever stray from ordering similar types of foods at restaurants, I got the fala plate even though the falafel burgers sounded mouth-watering. Definitely getting that when I visit the Venice location (yes, when 😉 ). For my plate, I had to choose one flavor of falafel for the four falafel balls that came with the plate. I went with ‘crunchy’, even though looking back, it would have been more fun to try sweet potato or kale. Maybe my intuitive choice for ‘crunchy’ meant I had some pent up anger I needed to get out? Haha, or maybe I just wanted some crunchy falafel!

Fala Bar's menu
Fala Bar’s menu

Since the storefront is very small, there is no indoor seating…just a couple tables outside under some shade. At least it was all taking place on Melrose Ave., so people-watching was at its prime.

GIGI---they have your snack mix, haha.
GIGI—they have your snack mix, haha.

One of the employees was nice enough to bring out my plate, and it was not skimpy by any means! Underneath my artistically-placed falafel were two kinds of cabbage slaw, and tabouli. Tahini and hummus were in the corners, and a soft, warm pocket of pita bread was served on the side.

Fala Plate ft. crunchy falafel
Fala Plate ft. crunchy falafel

At first I was saving the spreads for the falafel and pita bread, but in the end I just mixed everything all up because it was all so good, and good together. For the price, the plate was very filling and substantial. I did notice that the burgers were cheaper however, and I wonder if they would be just as filling. That’s my mission for next time!

Close-up of this flavor-packed plate.
Close-up of this flavor-packed plate.

Just like last weekend, pints were raised up (for pictures) and dug into 🙂

Because the So Delicious pint from Thursday blew me away, I decided to keep venturing into the flavor offerings of this brand. The almond milk offering of cookies ‘n cream had me very excited about trying at first, but unfortunately it was a disappointment. The cookie chunks were small, sparse, and did not carry much flavor. I’m not even sure what flavor the ice cream was supposed to be because it was lacking that much! Oh well, not everything can be a winner!

Eh, not worth the price...
Eh, not worth the price…

The Caramel Coffee Fudge flavor Ben & Jerry’s from their non-dairy frozen dessert line was also something I was looking forward to, after PB & Cookies proved itself, but was another disappointment as well. One unsual thing about this flavor was the crunchiness of the fudge blocks. They were fudge chunks, but they made a potato chip-like crunching sound when I ate them. It was odd, but very intriguing, haha.

I'd pass on this one.
I’d pass on this one.

Have you ever tried a falafel made with the not-so-normal ingredients?

Fala Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

First Meal Out in 2016

First Meal Out in 2016

Even though I was back to work after my week in Tulsa, my lab mates were still taking advantage of their break, and I literally had the entire lab floor to myself 😛

I did have work to do though, and kept my energy levels up with some Vitamin Shoppe purchases I made prior to my trip…including two of the newest Lenny and Larry’s cookies!

Coconut Chocolate
Coconut Chocolate
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl
Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl

From these two flavors, my favorite was Coconut Chocolate. It had pieces of dried coconut mixed in, along with the classic chocolate chip cookie base. The DCPBS flavor was delicious too, but in comparison, was softer and more mundane in its flavor profile.

Along with these insanely addicting cookies, I ended up getting a canister of Quest protein powder with the same Vitamin Shoppe order, since it was on sale. Of course, I’ve been mixing it with yogurt and topping it with interesting cookie butter flavors (like this one—a macaroon cookie butter!!), but I also tried it mixed in with a hot bowl of oatmeal which wasn’t too bad!

Quest Strawberries and Cream
Quest Strawberries and Cream

By the time the weekend rolled around, I was able to make it out to the Grove and walk not too far to reach Sweetgreen. I actually learned about its existence that day while looking for places to eat lunch as I was in-between experiments in lab.

Sweetgreen, by the Grove
Sweetgreen, by the Grove

The restaurant is in a two-story building, so while the width was small, the height of the space was the exact opposite. At the front of the restaurant, a chalkboard listed farms and local partners that Sweetgreen gets its produce and food goods from.

That color though...
That color though…

The ordering-style is set-up so that you build your salad bowl like you would a sandwich at Subway. There are combinations all set and listed on the menu, or you can create your own.

Everything fresh and from modern farms.
Everything fresh and from modern farms.

I decided to get the Hummus Tahina, and from there the process was very simple. The girl who was helping me knew exactly was to put in, how much, and I even ended up “skipping” the person in front of me because my bowl was just done that fast 😛

With bowl, water, fork, and napkins in tow, I climbed upstairs and found plenty of seats.

Upstairs seating!
Upstairs seating!

As soon as I was settled in, I was more than ready to dig in!

shredded kale + chopped romaine, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, pita chips, local feta, housemade hummus, baked falafel, cucumber tahini yogurt
shredded kale + chopped romaine, tomatoes, red onion, cucumbers, pita chips, local feta, housemade hummus, baked falafel, cucumber tahini yogurt

Everything was perfectly dressed with cucumber tahini yogurt, and just like I save my dollop of nut butter/nutella/cookie spread in my proyo bowls for last, I did the same with my hummus dollop. What took me by surprise the most was how creamy the small pieces of feta tasted, and how doughy the falafel was. Even though this falafel wasn’t green, I actually liked its consitency—at least in this bowl.

Even though it felt like just another week and weekend, at least my first meal dining out for 2016 was a success!

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

Night Out with the Fam

Night Out with the Fam

Over the summer, my family made the move back to Oklahoma, leaving our Nor Cal abode behind. Even though Nor Cal was where I did most of my growing up—elementary through undergrad—my baby/early childhood all took place in the middle of the country…the humble heartland.

It was so nice being able to spend a week full of laughter, company, and of course great food, with my family and our close friends. Yeah, I felt like I had to leave too soon (#responsiblegradstudent), and even though I wasn’t able to spend NYE with them, I’m grateful I was able to spend the most important part of the holiday season with them.

I arrived on Monday evening, and after getting picked up at the airport by my Dad, I was introduced to our new home and had a home-cooked curry stir-fry for dinner. I caught up with my sister since last seeing her during our Thanksgiving break.

On Tuesday, I went for a 6 mile run, and ran some errands with my Dad. For dinner, we ate out as a family at something we all were able to agree upon—Mediterranean food!

leenas_mediterraneangrill
Leena’s Mediterranean Grill 🙂

The layout was similar to a place my sister and I ate at back in September.

menu
Menu

At the counter, there is a large menu on the wall, and everything starts out with a variety of hummus. 

hummusbar___
Starts out with the hummus bar.

When you order the veggie plate, you can pile on the plate with anything offered down the line. Start with hummus/babaganoush, add some of the salads, and then rice/grains or pita bread. By the time I reached the cash register, my plate was packed with babaganoush, spicy harissa hummus, fattoush salad, cabbage slaw, tabouli, italian squash, and roasted veggies…with falafel + tahini and pita on the side. 

One note about the pita though…they forgot to give it to us, and by the time we reminded them the second time, we were practically finished with our plates…meaning, what was there to dip the pita in? And the falafel was less than stellar. Even though it has a nice crisp texture, the inside was chewy, dry, and NOT green. When a falafel isn’t green on the inside, I doubt it’s gonna be a good one 😛 !

veggie__plate
Veggie plate with falafel and pita bread.

But I suppose the plate itself was good enough!

close-up
Veggie plate goodness!

After dinner, we drove by the Rhema Christmas Lights: a grand display of holiday lights that people from all over Oklahoma make the trip to see. We were too lazy to get out of the car, but we enjoyed what we were able to see from the car. 

rhemalights
Rhema Christmas Lights

When we finally got home, I introduced my sister to the beauty that is edible cookie dough, and we tore into the cookies and cream flavor that I found at a local grocery store while running errands earlier in the day.

thecookiedoughcafe_cookies&cream
Coming home to cookie dough!

The cookies were perfectly swirled into the cookie dough, and meshed with the dough quite well. This made up for the overwhelming, chunky chocolate chip flavor I had a few days earlier, and hopefully the other flavors left to try will be just as good 😉 . But when I think about it, this flavor may have tasted 10x as good only because I was sharing it with family, haha.

Leena's Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

OC Thanksgiving

OC Thanksgiving

When I asked my sister what we should do for Thanksgiving this year, since we couldn’t hop on a flight to see our family in the middle of the country, she had the brilliant idea of doing something local with Airbnb.

With some careful planning and some luck (apparently the place we booked is pretty popular), we were able to score a clean, roomy 1-bedroom in Costa Mesa.

 Digs in Costa Mesa.
Digs in Costa Mesa.

The first thing we did was unpack and nap. It felt so good to be able to control the thermostat and crank it down to the lowest it could go (I try to take advantage of these situations since my current living arrangements with my roommate involve A/C wars -.- ).

After our little nap, my sister and I only had to walk about fifteen minutes to get to NATIVE FOODS at the Camp, where they were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner!

We couldn’t get dine-in reservations since they sold out, but we did find seats outside, since the other establishments in the Camp were closed for the holiday.

 The Native Wellington being rationed.
The Native Wellington being rationed.

The buffet line started off with the Native Wellington, which was a stuffed pastry filled with seitan and veggies and all that veggie good stuff. The line followed with a polenta-type dish, creamed asparagus, cornbread, waldorf salad, kale, and a breaded cranberry dish. We got to take out two trays, a drink, and dessert (pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake). My sister and I both got pumpkin cheesecakes which came with a nutty syrup topping.

 DA FOOD.
DA FOOD.

We enjoyed our meal outside, and while it was all filling and delicious, we both didn’t think it was worth the $30/person price,…at least for the amount of food we got. If we had dined in, we could have taken some to-go if we had wanted.

We spent the rest of our Thanksgiving curled up with our respective assignments (I had a proposal and presentation due the Monday right after the holiday weekend, yuck…), but then spent a few hours watching a few episodes from a Lisa Ling series on Netflix before going to bed.

On Friday, we woke up casually and headed out towards South Coast Mall for Black Friday…well, that wasn’t the main reason for our excursion. Rather, we headed further north towards the border of Santa Ana.

What made Santa Ana so magical and worth visiting was Cauldron Ice Cream—the home of the “puffle cone”.

 Black FRIDAY shopping requires proper ice cream fueling.
Black FRIDAY shopping requires proper ice cream fueling.

I had been wanting to come here since seeing the magical puffle rise in popularity on Instagram. I have to be honest and say that was partially the reason why I booked the place we ended up staying…since it was so close to Cauldron, haha!

At first I was overwhelemed by the menu, but after spotting Speculoos—BAM, my decision was done-decided. My sis took her time and ended up getting Smores, which came out much fancier than my simple scoop.

 Puffle cones for sisters.
Puffle cones for sisters.

I was expecting the cone to be crisp like a regular ice cream cone, but it was actually chewy and hot, just like a regular waffle fresh off the gridle. I’m not sure if I really liked how chewy it was, but I had a puffle cone in my hands so I was going to enjoy it regardless.

 Why, hello there puffle!
Why, hello there puffle!

After ice cream, it was then time for shopping. We literally waddled around the mall for hours, and to make matters worse, my legs felt like lead so walking felt unbearable. The crowds were insane, so I’m surprised we managed to stay for so long AND make it out of there with stuff!

 Shopping tree!
Shopping tree!

We even had the patience to walk around in the evening, admiring the holiday lights already on the trees.

For dinner, we were walking distance away from Halal Guys. Dinner wouldn’t be so easy to get though…just like in the mall, we had to bear through the crowds and wait in line.

 The Halal Guys // Cute wall painting when we were standing in line // watching people eat while we are waiting ;-;
The Halal Guys // Cute wall painting when we were standing in line // watching people eat while we are waiting ;-;

We made it inside within 20 minutes and I was beginning to feel ravenous and emotionally hangry. When my turn came up, I asked for the falafel plate, and the employees were slightly stunned since most people come for the chicken and gyro. There was even some discussion between the employees about whether or not the falafel was cooked enough!

 Inside the Halal Guys
Inside the Halal Guys

Everything was alright in the end though, and while my sister chose to wait to eat when we got back to the apartment, I could not wait to dig in. I needed the energy now just to walk back.

The plate itself was a beauty. Unlike other falafel plates I had in the past, the falafel were moderately-sized, topped with a mayo-based sauce, and a drizzle of HOT sauce.

 Falafel plate!
Falafel plate!

It took me about 20 minutes to finish the plate, and I felt stuffed. My sis even knew I was now satiated, and I had tamed the hunger beast. She has an incredible amount of patience I tell ya!

When we left, there was still a line out the door! Our routine that night was similar to Thursday’s. For our final day in Orange County, we planned to go to Tustin…this time to visit a place my sis had been dying to go to!

Did you eat out or have a home-cooked meal this Thanksgiving?

The Halal Guys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

In the Weekend Before Thanksgiving

In the Weekend Before Thanksgiving

After my weekend in Las Vegas and running one of my best half marathons to-date, I was not surprised by the fact I felt extremely exhausted. I tried to run my usual weekday runs, but each run left me feeling sore and fatigued. It was then that I decided that a full week off from running was just what I needed, and scheduling it to coincide with Thanksgiving week didn’t sound like such a bad idea!

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I tried to keep things easy and stayed close to DTLA that Saturday. I ventured out to LA Cafe in the east side of downtown.

LA Cafe (1)
LA Cafe

Like many downtown eateries, the space was small, and the only seating was outside. There was so much bread decorating the walls!

LA Cafe (2)
Loads of bread, lolz

Lots of to-go items were close by as well, but I felt like sitting down and nourishing my sore muscles with a hearty entree of some sort.

LA Cafe (3)
Stuff to-go? Nah…

Of course, I chose to get their version of a falafel plate, and found a table outside.

LA Cafe (4)
Sitting at the table outside.

The sun was out and the sky was as bright as ever. It was too beautiful to be a day in November…

LA Cafe (5)
People enjoying the weather and food!

My plate was just as beautiful, stacked high with falafel, hummus, pita chips, pita bread, tahini, and feta crumbles.

LA Cafe (6)
Seems like I have falafel once a week nowadays…

The falafel was the best part, and green on the inside. I have a theory that green falafel >>> brown falafel…at least based on my countless encounters with falafel 😛

LA Cafe (9)
Close-up of a fantastic plate!

Later on in the week, before Wednesday night and the start of Thanksgiving festivities, I treated myself to two new-to-me snacks.

I tried Lenny & Larry’s cookies for the first time, and they have been taking place of my weekly Quest bar purchases. Chocolate chip is such a classic flavor, and while I like how filling these cookies are, this flavor was too chunky for my liking. Maybe I would have appreciated them more if I had microwaved them?

lenny & larry's chocolate chip (1)
Lenny & Larry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie!!

I also decided it was time to try the B&J flavor Everything But The…

everything but the.. (1)
Surprisingly liked this one!

I was hesitant to try it at first because I thought it would be like the disappointing New York Super Fudge Chunk, but I surprisingly found it to be a pint full of creamy deliciousness! There was a fair mix of PB cups, toffee pieces, almonds, and my favorite rectangular white chocolate chunks 🙂

By the time Wednesday rolled around, I was getting used to the whole “rest and relaxation” thing. My sister had arrived, and we were ready to have a fun few days away in the OC together—more on that in the posts to follow 😉 !

L.A. Café Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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