Good Things Come in Twos

Good Things Come in Twos

Over the past few weeks, I came across some new-to-me food products, but I was stuck trying to figure out a way to get them featured in a blog post.

Then I realized that all of them came “in twos”, and at least for each product I tried, I was able to compare and contrast two different flavors. I didn’t have a strong dislike for one flavor over another for each of the products, so then it hit me—“good things come in twos”!

A developing veggie chip brand, protein bar company, and well-known greek yogurt company with novel “flip” creations are all featured here for your reading enjoyment!

Crunchables are dehydrated veggie snacks that are flavored with an intriguing spice mix, and right now, the company is going through its first steps as a start-up! I was excited when Michelle and Cindy (founders of Crunchables) asked if I could sample two of their products:

The BBQ chips had a mild cheese-like flavor, and the dehydrated veggies used here were broccoli crown pieces. They actually were coated with a dark red powder, and had a sweet taste with a spicy kick of an aftertaste.

BBQ
BBQ

The Nacho cheese chips were thick, flat pieces of dried eggplant. Even though the flavor was titled as “nacho cheese”, these chips actually reminded me of buttered toast!

Nacho Cheese
Nacho Cheese

Beyond the fact that the snacks are just seasoned dehydrated veggies, gluten-free, raw, and vegan, the veggies that are used for the snacks can be traced back to “ugly veggie” origins. The company is focused on a food waste reduction angle, and by working with local farmers to use veggies that would otherwise go to waste, they’re able to lower costs and reduce food waste. I think that’s a pretty cool!

When I heard there was a protein bar that was branded as Too Busy To Eat, and when I confirmed its existence because the name sounded hilarious, I was fascinated and knew that I had to see what these bars were all about.

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These bars were bigger than I had expected, given their nutrition facts!

I was sent the Double Chocolate Chip and Cookie Dough flavors to review. I immediately fell in love with the DCC flavor, as I found it dense, but very chewy. It had a slight crunch, and if I had to compare it to another common protein bar, I’d say it’s like the Double Chocolate Chunk Quest bar except TBTE’s flavor is much more palatable in my opinion 😉

Even if I wasn't "too busy to eat", I'd eat this Too Busy To Eat Double Chocolate Chip Bar. It has a fudgy texture with chocolate crispies mixed in, and it is outstanding at maintaining a mild chocolate flavor despite it literally being all chocolate! I couldn't detect any of that "protein flavor" that is usually common in these kinds of bars (I often found it an issue with the Chocolate Chunk Quest bars...), and I highly recommend this bar by itself, or cut up and added as a dense topping to yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
Even if I wasn’t “too busy to eat”, I’d eat this Too Busy To Eat Double Chocolate Chip Bar. It has a fudgy texture with chocolate crispies mixed in, and it is outstanding at maintaining a mild chocolate flavor despite it literally being all chocolate! I couldn’t detect any of that “protein flavor” that is usually common in these kinds of bars (I often found it an issue with the Chocolate Chunk Quest bars…), and I highly recommend this bar by itself, or cut up and added as a dense topping to yogurt, oatmeal, etc.

The cookie dough flavor wasn’t too bad, but it didn’t remind me of anything related to cookie dough. It had a milky flavor, light crisp texture, and overall had more of a vanilla flavor rather than cookie dough.

This Cookie Dough flavored Too Busy To Eat Bar did not remind of cookie dough to be honest. It tasted more like a vanilla fudge bar with crispier mixed in. I mean, it tasted alright as a protein bar, but I wouldn't compare it to cookie dough, even in its raw form.
This Cookie Dough flavored Too Busy To Eat Bar did not remind of cookie dough to be honest. It tasted more like a vanilla fudge bar with crispier mixed in. I mean, it tasted alright as a protein bar, but I wouldn’t compare it to cookie dough, even in its raw form.

They also have a Vanilla Coconut “superfood” bar flavor, and the bars have about 20 grams or protein, 20 grams of fiber, and 3 grams of sugar. They are grass-fed whey protein-based (so while not vegan, they are vegetarian), gluten-free, contain organic cashew butter, and do not have any artificial preservatives or colors. Like I said, even if I wasn’t “too busy to eat”, I’d be pretty happy munching on these TBTE bars 😛

Kroger had a Friday Freebie deal a few weeks ago for any free Chobani Flip. I had been wanting to try the new Cinnabun Fun flavor ever since I learned about four of the newest flavors being released. Other than the random toss-in of pecans, this flavor met my expectations. I always wish that there is a greater topping-to-yogurt ratio for these yogurts though 😝

Cinnabun Fun Chobani Flip
Cinnabun Fun Chobani Flip

I’d be the last person to confess my love for carrot cake, but I was flipping over this Carrot Cake Creation Chobani Flip!

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Carrot Cake Creation

The yogurt was actually “sweet carrot”-flavored, and had a good amount of cake pieces glazed with cinnamon, walnuts, and white chocolate. Of course, I wouldn’t argue if Chobani decided to add more toppings to balance out the yogurt 😛

Which of these food items would you most like to try?

Buff Bake Protein Cookie Review

Buff Bake Protein Cookie Review

Disclaimer: I was provided samples from Buff Bake and all opinions are my own.

I’ve had Buff Bake spreads before, but when I tried my first Buff Bake protein cookie, I wasn’t sure what I had put in my mouth…

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I thought a cup of coffee would work well with this Buff Bake WCPB protein cookie, but sadly this cookie was pretty stale 😑… definitely does not have soft status like @lennyandlarrys

I didn’t want to waste it, but as I was eating it I couldn’t help but think I had made a mistake in my choice of a morning snack. I thought I was being adventurous for trying a protein cookie different from the likes of Lenny & Larry’s, but to my disappointment, I regretted not picking up their white chocolate macadamia flavor from the campus bookstore…

I expressed my dissatisfaction on Instagram, and to my surprise, Buff Bake actually reached out with a response to immediately send over some fresh cookies to try! They commented that the cookie I had purchased had an older packaging, and that I needed a proper introduction to their product (okay, so I added the last part, but I’m sure they wanted to redo the first impression…)

They immediately sent over five different cookies in crisp, colorful packaging. I was shocked by how quickly they came too…within two days of their commenting on my Instagram! Oh, which flavor to begin with?!

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The colors just popped out at me!!

Because the snickerdoodle Lenny & Larry’s has my heart, I had to try Buff Bake’s version for comparison’s sake.

snickerdoodle
This Snickerdoodle one immediately became a favorite of mine. To me, it looks more like a dense, puffy cake than a cookie (like one of those Pfeffernusse cookies), but it’s incredibly chewy and has a nice cinnamon/nutmeg aroma to it. Oh, and then there’s the nice addition of a thin glaze on top! I’m glad I got the opportunity to give these cookies-more-like-cakes another shot 😉

I would say the Lenny & Larry’s version is still my favorite (specifically if it comes out dense and chewy in the middle, because sometimes even they come out with fluke cookies…), but Buff Bake’s version was pretty good too. Definitely could see this paired with a glass of hot chocolate—the perfect sitting-by-the-fireplace holiday snack.

I then moved on to the birthday cake flavor. This one came with frosting on the top as well, but only a little in the middle? I don’t have an explanation…

birthday_Cake
I love it when birthday cake-themed foods are colorful, mixed with sprinkles, and come with a generous amount of frosting on top. The birthday cake @buffcake cookie is another dense, puffy cake-like flavor. It had a slight dry flavor (wasn’t as moist as snickerdoodle), but the frosting on top helped to some extent 😀🍰🍪

I’d say my second most favorite was Chocolate Donut.

chocolate_donut
I’m a bit surprised as to how this is not the @buffbake Birthday Cake protein cookie flavor. With frosting and sprinkles like this, this is Chocolate Donut?! Well whatever its name is, I’ll take it 😉🍩🍪 #teamfrosting

If I have to pick between team vanilla or team chocolate, I’d go with vanilla only because I can’t handle dark chocolate or chocolate on chocolate on chocolate. That was the case with Chocolate Chocolate Chip. While it had a dense texture and was full-flavored, it was just too much chocolate. There, I said it.

chocolate-chocolate-chip
There is such a thing as too much chocolate, sorry!

And finally, I gave WCPB another shot. I still found it slightly drier and stiffer compared to the other flavors, but compare to the one I originally had, it fared much better.

WCPB
Alien cookie, 😛

It had a quirky shape and lotsa chocolate chips, but it added character.

Which of these cookie flavors speaks out to you?

Active But Lazy…

Active But Lazy…

In the days leading up to this weekend, I was making plans and shuffling things around for work, thinking I actually would have the energy to go out and do things on a day I was running 18 miles with my marathon team…

I’ve done it before, so I didn’t think I would be as tired as I was Sunday at 12pm, but I was falling asleep in the car I was getting a ride in…so that must have indicated something!

Speaking of marathon team, things have been going great training-wise. In fact, we ran one of our classic routes yesterday in Palos Verdes, and I even wrote about the experience two years ago, haha. Even with the challenging hills and after-burn in my thighs, I really cut down on my course time—by at least 1.5 minutes/mile! Hopefully this is a sign that I’ll be PRing in my third marathon come March…

This has to be my favorite sweatshirt that I own. My sister got it for me over the holidays, and I just love how soft it is, and of course the title labeled on the front ;)
This has to be my favorite sweatshirt that I own. My sister got it for me over the holidays, and I just love how soft it is, and of course the title labeled on the front 😉

After Sunday’s run, the idea of showering + sleeping sounded more enticing than getting on a bus and checking out a new restaurant. If I plan things better for next weekend, perhaps I can make it happen. I do miss using my weekends to go out exploring!

I did at least try some new food products this week. Devotion Nutrition sent me over some protein powders and “Flex Flavorings” packets to try.

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Samples from Devotion Nutrition

I was able to get some samples for the Angel Food Cake and Brownie Batter protein powders and found both flavors to have an appealing scent, no icky after-taste, and a texture that allows for easy mixing in liquids or yogurt.

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Angel Food Cake & Brownie Batter protein powders // Flex Flavorings

I’ve literally been having these as yogurt-thickeners and just mixed with water for “faux pudding”.

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A hefty packet of protein that contains a smooth powder for easy mixing!

I prefer them as “yogurt enhancers”, but they really are good on their own too.

brownie batter in yogurt
Extremely thick brownie batter yogurt—yum!
faux_pudding
“Faux pudding” – literally just added enough water to keep a thick consistency. Pulls apart like pudding!

I used some Flex Flavorings to add some flavor to some Trader Joe’s Coconut Cream Greek Whole Milk Yogurt. And then topped it with a full amount of cookie butter 😉

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Monkey Bread and Coconut Biscotti flavors!

Keeping up with the theme, I added the flavorings to yogurt and topped some of it on a Lenny & Larry’s birthday cake cookie and a FitJoy birthday cake bar.

The makings of an exciting, birthday-themed dessert bowl...
The makings of an exciting, birthday-themed dessert bowl…
Ended up nuking the birthday cake @lennyandlarrys cookie and the birthday cake @fitjoynutrition bar (probably my only, and number one favorite of this brand!), while flavoring some Trader Joe's whole milk coconut Greek yogurt with @devotionnutrition Flex Flavor powders (Birthday Cake and Italian Cookie). What a way to conclude the end of January 2017 😉🍰🎂🍰🎂!!!
Ended up nuking the birthday cake @lennyandlarrys cookie and the birthday cake @fitjoynutrition bar (probably my only, and number one favorite of this brand!), while flavoring some Trader Joe’s whole milk coconut Greek yogurt with @devotionnutrition Flex Flavor powders (Birthday Cake and Italian Cookie). What a way to conclude the end of January 2017 😉🍰🎂🍰🎂!!!

I also tried two flavors of the new Optimum Nutrition Cake Bites: Chocolate Dipped Cherry and Red Velvet Cake. I bought them at Vitamin Shoppe, and then munched on these while walking to get errands done.

optimumnutritioncakebites_redvelvetcake
These red velvet cake bites weren’t too bad! Honestly I expected the “cake” filling to be more moist and fluffy (as would be expected of a cake), but it was more like a chewy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. In other words, these bites are just circular protein bars: definitely not petit fours status, but good nonetheless.

You know those cherry cordials? These cake bites were reminiscent of that. I particularly wasn’t a fan of this flavor (I think it was the dark chocolate…), but they did have the same soft, chewy texture as the Red Velvet bites.

optimumnutritioncakebites_chocolatedippedcherry
18 miles of running 🏃in Palos Verdes and my thighs are fried 🍗🔥 (thank you, hills! 😒), and I kind of wished I saved these chocolate dipped cherry cake bites from yesterday to snack on now, as I lay in bed for the rest of the day…haha, I’m SO not getting any work done today 😂

I am thankful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about midterms or finals or any of that undergrad/early grad school stuff, haha! There were some people on my team who were dreading the fact they had to go home and study despite running 18 miles/it being Superbowl Sunday.

Do you put sleep above everything else?

Matcha Cha Cha

Matcha Cha Cha

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

There was once a time I used to be OBSESSED with matcha green tea. When I was in undergrad, the only drink I would get at Starbucks would be a matcha green tea latte. There was something about that earthy green color, combined with a milky tea taste and warm froth that was just so comforting. I must add however that this was all before I developed a liking for coffee. I actually had my first cup of black coffee during grad school interviews and (with two packets of sweetener) it didn’t taste as bitter as I’d imagined.

I bring up coffee because it sort of got in the way when it came to my drink choices for some time. There was a whole world of coffee and coffee drinks that I was eager to try, that I left green tea and tea drinks to the side.

tenzo__tea-3

But the reach of green tea has expanded a lot since then. Now there are matcha shops in LA and probably other major cities. Matcha green tea is staking its claim, and companies like Tenzo Tea are aiding the effort.

tenzo__tea-4

I was able to sample and review a variety box last month, featuring a number of flavors. All of the packs have matcha green tea powder, but some are even flavored. In my box, I had Premium, Latte, Raspberry, Blueberry, Blend, and Organic flavor packs.

tenzo__tea-5

On the back, it gives simple instructions on how to use the packs to make a hot cup of tea. I had to go to lab the weekend before leaving to Tulsa. As a pick-me-up of sorts, I mixed a Blueberry pack with some hot water, and put it in a ceramic thermos my friend gave me for my birthday.

tenzo__tea-6

To be honest, I was expecting a blue powder and a blueberry flavor to totally overwhelm any hint of green tea, but the powder was pure green, and one would not suspect any added blueberry. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste any blueberry either.

I brought some packets with me to incorporate in meals when I was on vacation. All of them happened to be breakfast meals too!

tenzo__tea-7

I had some mixed with some waffle mix, and as a result, had waffles with a green hue. I think an extra packet of matcha would have made this waffle as green as grass.

tenzo__tea-1

I already knew protein powder mixes so well with yogurt, but what about matcha? To answer that question, I mixed the blend with key lime Chobani. Topped with some Krave cereal, it made for a delicious morning treat.

cereal_yogurt

Then there was oatmeal. The latte blend (one packet) made this bowl beautifully green. I added it in after cooking the oats in some milk. I also topped it with some craisins.

tenzo__tea-2

I gifted some of the duplicates I got to family friends, and they were definitely intrigued. They are tea drinkers, so I’m sure they’ll enjoy these Tenzo tea packets as much as I did!

Are you a tea or coffee drinker? Or both?

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.

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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…

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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?

November DegustaBox!

November DegustaBox!

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

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November’s DegustaBox

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

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Beanitos – Nacho Cheese

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

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Beanitos – Hint of Lime

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

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Oloves ~ Basil & Garlic

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

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

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Honees – Honey Lemon

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

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Sharwood’s Tikka Masala – Creamy Tomato

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

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Nib Mor – Cherry

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

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Nib Mor – Blueberry

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

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

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Bruce Cost GingerBeer

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

The Ponti Balsamic Vinegar sauce was a pleasantly surprising addition.

ponti
Ponti Balsamic Vinegar Sauce

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

toriani
Toriani Salted Caramel Medium Roast Coffee

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

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

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

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Brianna’s Poppyseed Dressing

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

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

Alwheys Good Protein Cookie Review

Alwheys Good Protein Cookie Review

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

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

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

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

Alwheys Good Protein Cookies
Alwheys Good Protein Cookies

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

VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP
VANILLA CHOCOLATE CHIP ♥

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

PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP ♥
PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP ♥

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

BLACK & WHITE ♥
CHOCOLATE BLACK & WHITE ♥

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

Which of these three flavors would you like to try?

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

Roundabout Ways

Roundabout Ways

Two Sundays ago, I realized that if I plan to move out of the DTLA area by the end of the summer, I probably should devote more time to exploring my as-of-right-now urban backyard. One area in particular that I haven’t really spent much time exploring is the Arts District, besides the occasional visits to hidden-gem restaurants (I’m talkin’ about The Springs and Urth Caffe 😉 ).

It also doesn’t help that getting to the Arts District via public transit is a very roundabout process. I had to go all the way to Union Station, just to hop on the Gold Line to get to Little Tokyo, and walk a little southeast…Google Maps also gave me a couple other ideas, but all of them required at least one transfer even though the trip shouldn’t take THAT long.

Anyways, when I did get into the heart of the Arts District, I knew right away by the enveloping murals and vibrant paint colors on the buildings.

Art!
Art!

My destination was Café Gratitude, so even though I was among a variety of restaurants (many of which I have on my foodie bucket list and have yet to visit…) and shops, I still had a ten minute walk to get there.

Located on Santa Fe Ave and within the One Santa Fe apartments complex, Café Gratitude was disguised fairly well. But those lucky ones living in the One apartments…they had Café Gratitude at their disposal! Too bad the rent for a STUDIO ≈ my monthly paycheck.

Cafe Gratitude, DTLA
Cafe Gratitude, DTLA


At least Café Gratitude was open to the public, and this visit would be my fourth time visiting CG (my first was in Venice almost a year and a half ago…followed by Larchmont, and the happenchance meeting with the SD location that opened over the summer).

So fresh and clean inside.
So fresh and clean inside.

My eyes immediately went towards the “bowls” section. I guess I still has sushirito on the brain, because the Accepting bowl sounded quite appetizing.

Sounds good...
Sounds good…

My bowl came within minutes, and at first glance it seemed small but it was perfectly-sized for a late lunch. Underneath all those sea-based greens was “sprouted probiotic” brown rice, mixed with wasabi dressing, and greens like kale, avocado, cucumber, and other greens for flavor. Because the blackened tempeh cubes were obviously the best part of the meal, I was successful in saving them to savor for last.

So much goodness in here, I accept!
So much goodness in here, I accept!

I could have added kimchi to this already delightful bowl, but it would have cost another $4…how much kimchi did they plan on adding for that price??

Accepting!
Accepting!

I didn’t want to leave after eating only because it felt cold outside, and I had to make my roundabout trip back just to get home. At least the gold line train I hopped on to get back to Union Station was one of the new ones, as it still had that “fresh train” smell (is that even a thing?).

It would have been 100% clean if someone had NOT made a crumbly mess...
It would have been 100% clean if someone had NOT made a crumbly mess…

In addition to my nutrient-packed meal on Sunday, I enjoyed some weekend pints of course! On a grocery trip to Ralph’s over the weekend, I came across another B&J core that I have yet to try, and the last new-to-me flavor Arctic Zero from their recent new flavor release.

My sister gave me the heads-up review about this flavor, saying that it wasn’t her favorite, but she thought I would like it since the chocolate flavor was mild and the core was creamy and frosting-like. I took her word for it, and even though I didn’t want to gag after eating the chocolate side of the pint, I was not blown away. This flavor was mediocre, despite the cookie chunks and creamy core. Actually, the core was pretty disappointing. It didn’t seem to have any substance to me…just a bland insertion of what tasted like vanilla frosting. Boring.

No too outstanding...
No too outstanding…

The fruity Arctic Zero that I took home was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t think it would stand a chance to some of the sweeter flavors like Cake Batter or Sea Salt Caramel, but it held its own. I truly liked the mild tartness of this flavor, and I may have enjoyed this more if I had not eaten it that Sunday (since it was unusually cold on Sunday). Needless to say, I was shivering by the end of this pint!

Fruity and tart!
Fruity and tart!

What area (near where you live) do you wish you visited more often?

Cafe Gratitude 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 🙂

What’s your favorite waffle topping?

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

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