4th of July What?

4th of July What?

For me, 4th of July weekend was non-existent. I was in lab every single day that weekend, two of which were spent as over-nighters due to the nature of the experiments I was running. It was exhausting, but I felt so productive and accomplished by the end of it…and when I saw co-workers walking in on July 5th looking super depressed, haha!

The weekend after, I still had to go into lab but lunch in downtown with E was a given. I had an eye appointment I had to attend to first, but after that, E and I walked into the depths of downtown—under the hot LA sub—looking for Two Boots Pizza. We were covered in sweat by the time we saw the small stand by an old-style theater and Urban Outfitters.

Two Boots, DTLA
Two Boots, DTLA

One thing that intrigued me about this place is how they have a lengthy line-up of some veggie/vegan pizza options! The green-bordered menu had E and I excited to dig into a late lunch.

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Despite the long list of pizza options, the guy behind the counter disappointed us by saying the only flavors available that day were displayed through the front window.

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In that case, we both ordered a slice of the Night Tripper. She got another spicy slice while I got the veggie-topped V for Vegan.

♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥
♥ Night Tripper & V for Vegan ♥

We sat at some stools next to the little stall and munched on our slices. The Night Tripper was indeed a spicy one with a soft layer of cheese and basil drizzle. V for Vegan was milder in comparison, but put artichoke hearts on anything and it just takes it to the next level.

After talking for a bit, we headed back to catch the train and from there I headed home. I stopped by Ralph’s to get a pint for the night—this time a new So Delicious flavor to try: Dark Chocolate Truffle.

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And…despite wanting to love it, the DCT cashew milk ice cream just wasn’t those flavors I fell in love with. Snickerdoodle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Cookie Dough had me feeling differently, but I guess this flavor is perhaps best suited for a vegan who loves her chocolate!

On Sunday, I went out for a 14 mile run before heading to lab. Since San Diego, I’ve just been trying to maintain my weekly mileage, since I plan to start fall marathon training (back with a coach) in August. July seems to be the perfect month to be a little lax with training…since “slow” times and “sluggish efforts” can always be blamed on the heat 😉

After the run, I hurried to lab just to get my errands out of the way. With my sister out of the state for the next couple weeks, I’m car-sitting her automobile and so I was able to conveniently drive over to lab that morning. I finished up by early afternoon, and so E and I took the car out to Melrose to dine at Fratelli Cafe. Of course, we parked too soon at La Brea since E thought she knew where the restaurant was. We were off by a couple blocks, and so we literally ended up having a warm-up walk before eating, haha!

Fratelli on Melrose
Fratelli on Melrose

When we entered the restaurant, we could tell the place was a local favorite based on the crowds, but getting the attention of the wait staff proved to be difficult. We weren’t sure if we had to wait to be seated, or seat ourselves, but we eventually figured out that we order first and then find a place to sit. There weren’t enough menus at the front where we had to order, and so E and I waited awkwardly behind a group of three who had all three menus…

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When we did get our chance to order, I ordered the Huevos Rancheros off the breakfast menu while E went for a veggie sandwich and chips. There was no difference sitting inside versus outside since there was no evidence of an A/C, so we found a table outside.

It took a while for our food to arrive, and the dishes that passed us in the meantime were a real tease for our exhausted, overheated bodies. When our plates did come though, I took a moment to admire the layers of my brunch plate.

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I had a well-balanced, hearty plate in front of me, if I do say so myself…

"I've been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn't surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn't make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it's pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife"
“I’ve been craving eggs 🍳 like crazy lately, so I wasn’t surprised that I ended up getting Huevos Rancheros for a late lunch on Sunday at Fratelli Cafe with the lab bestie. Besides getting food in our systems, it didn’t make sense to do anything else because of the heat wave 🔥🔥🔥 and after dropping her off at home, I was knocked out 😴 by 7:30pm. The next thing I know, I wake up and it’s pitch black at 9pm 😱😂. I guess I must have been really tired in addition to being really hungry 😅. Working through the Fourth of July holiday weekend does that to you I guess 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😉 #PhDStudentLife”

We finished our late lunch by 4pm, and while the sun was still high in the sky and we could have easily done something else thanks to the convenience of a car, we decided to call it a day since it was too hot. I dropped E off at home before doing some grocery shopping, and on the way, finally picked up a jar of Nuts’n More to try.

Nuts'n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread
Nuts’n More Cookie Butter High Protein Spread

In comparison to D’s Naturals, I found that the oils mix much more evenly throughout the jar so that the bottom isn’t a flaky, dry paste. There were some tiny, crystallized sugar pieces in the mix too, but the cookie butter flavor was still detectable.

My 4th of July “holiday weekend” was something I missed out on, but I’d say I do a pretty decent job of finding the time to give myself a break, even if it doesn’t coincide with the rest of the world’s! It also helps to have a colleague/friend who pretty much lives at work just as much as you do. At this rate, with all of the places I drag her out to eat at, E will probably become just as much of a foodie as I am!

Did you have a long 4th of July holiday weekend, or just a day or two off?

Fratelli Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

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

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

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All sorts of flavors to try!

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

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

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

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

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Apple-Licious
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Apple-Licious Slices

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

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

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

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Banana
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Banana Slices

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

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Mango Ginger
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Mango Ginger Slices

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

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Mango Apricot & Banana Coconut
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Banana Coconut Slices

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

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Mango Acai
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Mango Acai Slices

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

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Island Mango
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Island Mango Slices
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Tropical Punch
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Tropical Punch Slices

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

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

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Brownie Dough

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

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Brownie CHUNKS

WCMN was a flavor I grew bored with almost immediately.

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W.C.M.N.

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

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Lots of macadamias…maybe even too much…

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

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More Quest Labs cookies…

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

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WCM

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

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

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Oatmeal Raisin

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

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Double Chocolate Chip

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

Netflix & Chill

Netflix & Chill

I consider myself an expert when it comes to staying in. It’s pretty much what I do every weekend night, and rare are the occasions when I actually have plans to go out on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night. Last weekend was one of those rare moments since I was able to celebrate my sister’s 21st with her and our two best friends, but my plans for the coming weekend include nothing more than long runs, lots of rest (naps!), Netflix/Youtube/TV and snacks to accompany all of it!

I was inspired by AdoreMe to share what my perfect “Netflix & Chill Night” would look like, from snacks to sleepwear. And because food ranks supreme, might as well start with that:

When it comes to snacks, it goes without saying that bars are the first thing that come to mind for me. Bringing home new bars to try alone, or along with an ice cream pint, are one of my favorite things to put together in regards to a weekend snack I can cozy up with.

Recently, I tried three new-to-me flavors of bars that were mostly misses, but at least I knew which ones I would not be obsessing over in the future.

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Combat Crunch – Chocolate Cake

One of these major disappointments was this Combat Crunch Chocolate Cake flavored bar. It was dry, too crunchy, and left an icky aftertaste. It was like a Crunch bar desiccated on the inside and left a stale chocolate shell…gross.

The two FitJoy bars I tried afterwards were like chocolate truffles encrusted with gold flakes in comparison, but when not compared to anything else they were pretty mediocre.

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FitJoy – Chocolate Iced Brownie

The Chocolate Iced Brownie would have been perfect has it not been for the random nuts.

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FitJoy – Frosted Cinnamon Roll

Same thing with Frosted Cinnamon Roll. While the bar was soft and looked decadent, the nuts mixed in threw me off.

If I want to make sure I’m going to have a perfect Netflix & Chill kind of evening, I’ll probably stick with an RX Bar or a Combat Crunch flavor I do like, such as Cinnamon Twist.

I hinted at this earlier in the post, but it also goes without saying that ice cream is one of my weekend necessities. Over the summer however, my acai/smoothie bowl cravings overthrew my ice cream ones, and I had a few weekends where it was all about the smoothie bowls.

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Juice Crafters, Santa Monica

The picture above suggests it was a foggy, cool morning, but on this particular Sunday, I wasn’t feeling the whole ice cream thing. Turns out I wanted something colder, fruitier, and healthier??

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So much wood going on!

This led me to my first encounter with Juice Crafters. It promptly opens at 7am and closes at 6pm. If I had thought about my weekend plans in (in advance), I could have ordered a bowl to take back home.

I know this now for the future…this particular bowl however, was enjoyed at a local park before embarking on a weekend stroll.

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Time to demolish this.

I’m not sure why I did not think of bringing home smoothie bowls earlier…my weekend nights in have become so saturated with ice cream (not like it’s a bad thing…), but a Protein Acai Bowl is not such a bad option either. When you have an acai blend base mixed with vanilla protein, a whole lotta walnuts and almonds, almond BUTTER, strawberries, and a raw banana (not exactly my most favorite part, but I somehow managed to eat and keep it down when I mixed it completely into the bowl), it’s a combination that can’t be beat.

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Absolute YUM.

So now that I’ve established I need bars and some sort of frozen treat for a night of chillin’, what would be a cozy & fun ensemble to wear? My sleepwear drawer looks almost identical to that of my workout clothing drawer to be honest. Given that confession, it makes sense that I would pick something along these lines from AdoreMe’s current collection:

A sleeveless blue top with crossing straps is in trend with the criss cross strap bras of late, but obviously has more coverage.

An on trend, but soft-looking sleep top!

Normally I’d pair this kind of sleep top with shorts because it gets so hot in LA (and stays that way even at night). Plus I tend to overheat when I sleep! But sometimes cute overrules convenience…

Looks super cozy, but probably very warm! Too warm for LA even.

…these pants look incredibly comfy and warm, but realistically I’d probably wake up the next morning sweaty as if I completed a long run in my sleep!

With snacks on hand, comfy PJs on, and something entertaining to watch on Netflix/YouTube/TV, it’s difficult for me to imagine that I could—or would even want—to do something else to relax. Isn’t this honestly what we all wish to do every weekend 😉 ?

Do you prefer weekend nights out or in?

Juice Crafters 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!

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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…

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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

BenADDICTs

BenADDICTs

When you have the chance to take it easy on a Sunday morning, you force yourself to sleep until 10AM (even if it means waking up three times between 6AM and 10AM, and having to read while lying down in order to get sleepy again) and obviously take advantage of Sunday brunch.

My train/bus back to LA was leaving at 2PM, so my sister and I wanted to have one more meal together before I had to go. We soon learned that a lot of restaurants and cafes are closed in Fresno on Sundays, at least the ones we wanted to go to, but there was an ample selection of breakfast/brunch destinations. Benaddiction was one of them (a brunch place that actually began as a food truck), and we ultimately decided on them based on their variety of Benedict plates.

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Strip mall location…

It was another strip mall find, but based on inside appearances, you probably wouldn’t guess that.

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…But cozy and perfectly-themed on the inside!

We found booth seating by the wall, where we also had a great view of this music-themed collage.

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Music album wall.

The tables were also chalkboard-style, and there were small buckets at each table with chalk. The chalk sticks were too large for drawing fine artwork though, I tried! When we asked for water, we were given two large, open mason jars filled with ice.

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Chalkboard table and mason jars filled with water.

There were a couple of vegetarian options for us to choose from in the Eggs Benedict—I mean, Eggs BenADDict—section. Each option also could be served as a closed sandwich (Benaddiction) or open-faced (Benaddict). I chose to get Blaze of Glory while my sister got the delicious-sounding Alive, both of us opting for the Benaddict plates.

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Blaze of Glory & Alive on the menu.

Even though we were in a semi-time crunch, our orders were prepared and received promptly. My sister’s Alive plate was to die for. Those crispy hashbrowns alone made me second guess my decision to go with fruit as my side…

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Alive Benaddict ~ Crimini Mushrooms, Peppers, Onions, Avocado, and Tomato

My plate was pretty gorgeous too, but looking at all of the sauce already spilling on the plate, I realized that a side of roasted potatoes or bread would have helped 😛 . But, you can’t go wrong with grapes, watermelon, and (one) strawberries!

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Blaze of Glory ~ Pesto, Fresh Mozzarella, and Tomato

The stacked layers impressed me the most: tomato -> mozzarella -> tomato -> egg (with runny yolk), all perfectly placed atop a crisp English muffin.

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Those layerzzzz tho.

My sister and I wished we could have the time/patience/and skill to make such a filling, nutritious, and delicious breakfast everyday, but at least for our last brunch together for a while, we chose wisely to have it at Benaddiction.

What’s your favorite way to eat/cook eggs?

Benaddiction Brunch on Wheels Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Fun in Fresno – Part 3

Fun in Fresno – Part 3

Saturday night was without-a-doubt the best part of the trip. We didn’t even need to change our outfits when we got back from our adventures during the day, since a visit to 1920 Tea Station Club was on our minds from the get-go.

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This was our answer for “goin’ clubbin'” alright. No alcohol here—just boba tea, fantastical desserts, and strobe lights. Obviously the latter was not from the 1920’s…

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Everyone inside was either on a date, or in a group with friends or family. This place was just as much a social club as it was a trendy place to grab some grub.

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We found a paper menu near the counter, and had more time to look through it after we got seated. One of their trademark delicacies was a brick toast dessert that was offered in several different ways. My sister was craving a boba milkshake, so she got that as an appetizer of sorts (chocolate of course), while our ‘main course’ would be a honey-flavored brick toast with an assortment of fruit.

We could. not. wait.

My sister’s boba shake was quite the knock-out, and it sort of kept us from thinking about the toast while it was being prepped.

 Hello, delicious.
Hello, delicious.

When our toast cube did arrive, it truly did hold our attention. It was as stunning as a birthday cake topped with scoops of various-flavored ice creams and sparklers—perhaps even more.

honey-toast-with fruit and ice cream

We were enamored by the outside of the brick itself—with a fanfare of fruits at the top and two scoops of ice cream in the back—all of which was drizzled with chocolate! But on the inside, we figured out why it was called brick toast. There were literally columns of toast lined tightly against each other!

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We also realized that despite the sweet, honey taste the toast had, it was still dry if eaten by itself. No wonder there was ice cream to help us out in this regard. The ice cream may have quickly melted, but none of it escaped from of us because the toast was able to absorb all of it. Nothing went to waste here!

We drove back to my sister’s apartment close to 10pm, and ‘recuperated’ from that exquisite experience! If you’re going to have a load of carbs before bedtime, make it worth something 😉

On Sunday morning, I traded in my usual long runs for another 6 miler. I needed to save time to pack up for LA, and so cutting the run short was necessary. Once my sister got up and ready, we were out of the dorm by 10AM.

Before grabbing lunch, I got my eyebrows waxed (after way too long, trust me!), and stopped by my long-distance love: Grocery Outlet ♥. I stocked up on some $0.50 Chobani (why can’t it be like this in LA?!) and some produce like onions and zucchini that could easily be tucked into my already over-stuffed rollerboard.

After those necessary but fun errands, we made our last foodie-related stop of my trip at Grilled Chz.

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I’ve heard of grilled cheese-focused restaurants popping up here and there, but the décor was over the top and right on theme inside this location!

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Even though they had a make-your-own option with lots of toppings and cheeses to choose from, my sister and I kept it real and simple by going with one of the suggestions listed on the menu.

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My sister ended up getting the Borderbob, which had pepper jack cheese, fritos, salsa, cilantro lime butter, all inside two slices of crusted white bread. It usually comes with chili, but since it had meat, she was able to get that taken out.

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I got the Veggie Chz, which ironically had no veggies whatsoever! It did have sharp cheddar cheese, pitted dates, walnuts, and raisins all mixed in between two slices of crispy and toasty multi-grain bread.

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This seriously had to be one of the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve had in a long time. I know that dried fruits and cheese tend to make a great food pairing, but I never actually thought of it in grilled cheese form! Thankfully these guys did, and I got to experience it!

veggiechz_closeup

After our cheesy lunch, we stopped by Kohl’s before driving over to the Amtrak station. I ended up leaving Fresno around 2PM and getting back to my apartment about five hours later—after a train, bus, and Metro Rail ride. Can’t complain, it comes with city life!

I still can’t believe that I saw my sister a week ago from today…this week went by crazy fast, and I have a feeling next week will go by at just the same rate. With classes finishing up and things in lab kicking in, I’m thankful for finding some time to spend with my best friend by blood 🙂

1920 Tea Station on Urbanspoon Grilled Chz on Urbanspoon

Cool Down Walk

Cool Down Walk

I thought running 18 miles would leave my legs dead and useless for the rest of the day on Sunday, but they actually felt less sore when I walked back to my apartment than when I got up from sitting down in the car I carpooled in from the run site.

I also thought I would be back later in the day, but ended up home two hours earlier than I had planned! This meant I could take my sweet time getting ready (not leaving until I was 100% sweat-free!) before going out and celebrating my latest personal distance record.

The past two long runs both started off chilly, but I was a sweaty & sticky mess by the end of each. It was no wonder I was craving something cold to eat sometime during each run, and I knew I had to resolve this matter immediately by heading to Koreatown and checking out the closest establishment to Wilshire and Western serving pat bing soo, or Korean shaved ice.

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Empty streets on Super Bowl Sunday, while I’m celebrating long-run Sunday…

A quick search on Yelp in the days prior to long-run Sunday helped me locate Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee, which was carefully tucked away at the corner of a block. I wasn’t even sure if they were open since it was so dark inside, at least through the windows!

When I did enter the café, there was what looked like to be a group meeting of elderly Korean women at one corner of the café, and I wasn’t sure if I was interrupting a private event. The owners, who I assumed were a husband-and-wife team, approached me and asked if I had a computer. My first thought was, huh? But then I realized that many people visit the café not only for the tea, coffee, and pat bing soo, but for the free wi-fi and the quiet, elaborate study space.

hjs_interior

I let the owners know that I was there just to eat, and asked for a menu even though I knew exactly what I wanted to get. I “pretended” to look at the menu with great concentration, but asked for a bowl of pat bing soo without hesitation after a couple of seconds of acting like I had no idea of what to order.

I seated myself at a table close to the window, and took in the calm environment that mimicked the emptiness of the streets outside.

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I could hear the shave ice machine whirring in the background, and couldn’t wait for the bowl to arrive to my table. I was glad I wasn’t the only one dining when I saw two other groups come in as my bowl was being prepared.

The group meeting that I thought I was interrupting when I first came into the café had all of a sudden become a birthday party, since I heard the group clapping in unison and quietly joining in song, singing “Happy Birthday” in Korean. Since they were all elderly Korean women, it was an adorable sight to see. I almost wanted to walk over and join the party—but that definitely would have been awkward!

I don’t think I was missing out though, because I was celebrating my own accomplishment with my very own bowl of pat bing soo. Party for one, don’t mind me!

 shaved ice dessert with sweet toppings such as chopped fruit, condensed milk, fruit syrup, and red bean paste
This bowl had shaved ice mixed with condensed milk, chopped fruit (I believe melon), red bean paste, and topped with green tea ice cream, mochi, and peanut powder!

The female owner also came by with some complimentary tea cookies, and hot tea.

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It was fun dipping the cookies into the ice cream!!

SAMSUNG

The only other awkward moment I had while dining was follow-up service. I usually prefer not to have waitstaff check in on me every five minutes when I’m eating out, but I found it odd that despite being one out of three customer groups in the café at the time (with the exception of the meeting-turned-birthday-party group), the owners didn’t come by until it had been at least twenty minutes after I had finished eating.

I guess it gave me the time I needed to contemplate over whether or not I should order another bowl. The first and previous time I had pat bing soo, I split it with my sister and friend when we were visiting LA 2 ½ years ago, and I remember it being a giant-sundae-sized kind of deal with all the mochi in the world and three different kinds of ice cream! This bowl was a baby in comparison, and even though I was hesitant to ask the owner for another, I went ahead with my decision to do so because hey, I ran 18 miles and one bowl was not going to cut it! 😉

 My second bowl looked identical to the first...looks like their is a little more fruit though  :)
My second bowl looked identical to the first…looks like their is a little more fruit though 🙂

I ate the second bowl in similar fashion as with the first: eating through the ice while also mixing in spoonfuls of bean paste/melon, and saving the scoop of ice cream for last with the tea cookies.

I almost waited half an hour after finishing my second bowl before receiving the check. I suppose the owners don’t mind giving their customers time to ponder over life while sipping on tea. Needless to say, they were very lenient with offering their space. Perhaps I should return on a day when it’s much busier outside, to see if the calm atmosphere is really an everyday thing here!

Have you ever had pat bing soo?

Hwa Sun Ji Tea & Coffee on Urbanspoon

Natural G Foods Wave Bar Review

Natural G Foods Wave Bar Review

When I came back from Chicago, I was literally shivering until I took some Tylenol and went to bed. I didn’t even notice that a package had arrived for me while I was gone. I had forgotten that Rick and Monica of Natural G Foods were kind enough to send me their Wave Bars to review.

Even though I was suffering from a bacterial sinus infection—fever, coughing, and fatigue—I fortunately still had my appetite, and was able to sample both bars the next morning.

Wave Bar

They sent me their baked apple and mixed berry soft-baked granola bars to try, and even though the fruit ingredients were obvious, the fact that veggies like carrots, pumpkin, beets, broccoli, and kale were mixed in with the apples, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries was a well-kept secret since I couldn’t taste them at all!

In addition to the half daily serving of fruits and veggies, these bars contain anywhere from 430-440mg of omega-3’s. As a vegetarian who doesn’t consume fish, I appreciate it when snack products go out of their way to include such ingredients for the benefit of the consumer.

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Baked Apple Bar

Both bars have a soft texture that reminded me of a soft oatmeal-based cookie. Vegetable glycerin works as the binding agent, and the sweetness that hits your tastebuds is derived from ingredients like monk fruit extract and agave.

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Mixed Berry

These bars are intentionally targeted towards kids as a mid-meal snack at 170 calories per bar, and while a singular bar may not sate an adult’s appetite , who says you can’t eat more than one at one time? Just keep an eye on your budget ;)!

Do you eat foods meant for kids? Sometimes I wish I could still order off the Kid’s Menus at restaurants because they oftentimes have a better selection than what’s offered for adults!!

Smart for Life Product Review

Smart for Life Product Review

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

At the start of the new year, I got a pretty hefty box waiting for me at my doorstep. Upon opening, everything was wrapped up in thick tissue paper and a kind letter was on top:

Smart for Life (2)

Smart for Life is best known for their cookies and protein bars, but since they contain gelatin, they were thoughtful enough to send me their vegetarian items. These included two flavors of their shake bottles, zero calorie creamer, and two flavors of water enhancers. They also sent two soup packets, but unfortunately I couldn’t have those after a second look at the ingredients…

Shake Bottles

The shake bottles jumped out at me first, of course. They come in the flavors below, as well as strawberry.

Smart for Life Shakes in 'Chocolat' and Vanilla.
Smart for Life Shakes in ‘Chocolat’ and Vanilla.

There was a fill line on the inside which gave a guideline as to how much water to add. After filling up the bottles with the appropriate amount of water, it was time to shake things up—literally!

SFL SmoothiesFrom the two, I preferred the vanilla flavor. It had a nice, distinctive vanilla aroma, and even though it had a sharp aftertaste, it wasn’t so sharp as the chocolate flavor.  I wasn’t expecting the such boldness from a shake, but you get used to it after the first couple sips.

Tomato Soup

Smart for Life (4)

I was all set ready to try the soup packets, planning on mixing both packets and adding some cubed tofu, but noticed that unfortunately, one of the ingredients was Chicken Stock Base. I was disappointed, but I knew someone in my lab building could make use of it, so it didn’t really go to waste.

Liquid Samples: Creamer and Water Enhancers

I am not a big fan of creamer, so my opinion on this specific creamer may be biased. I like good old fashioned milk in my coffee (even almond and soy milk I don’t mind), but I did give this Smart Coffee Creamer a try one morning.

Smart Coffee CreamerTaste-wise, the addition of the creamer caused it to have a bitter aftertaste (probably from the coffee since there wasn’t any milk to mask it), but appearance-wise, it looked almost identical to my regular morning cup.  It’s a good fake-out, but unless you are a creamer fan, you may not enjoy the taste (they do have a French Vanilla and Hazelnut flavor, however, and those may taste better).

Smart for Life (1)

To be honest, I was somewhat hesitant to try the water enhancers, the newest in their product line. I’m not a big fan of sugary or sugar-free drinks—including Gatorade. I don’t mind fruit-infused water (cantaloupe-infused water tastes phenomenal!), but overall, I prefer my water as is.

Smart for Life 'Water Enhancers'!

But everything deserves a chance, and even though the Acai Pomegranate flavor looked way too similar to cough syrup, I poured and mixed 3mL (the suggested serving size–approximately 0.6 of a teaspoon) into a glass of water.

Acai pomegranate water enhancerThe verdict? Even though it was powerfully sweet, I actually liked how it tasted. I wouldn’t recommend drinking this before going on a run though. That’s what I did, and my stomach didn’t feel too well as a result.

Peach Mango water enhancerPeach Mango tasted like a toned down/carbonation-free version of Fanta. I have a preference for the Acai Pomegranate from the two.

Even though these products are marketed as ‘diet’ products, they can be supplemented with other foods to make a more substantial meal. I could easily see the water enhancers as a substitute for Gatorade (at least in terms of flavor), and the shake bottles could be paired with an english muffin with PB or a nutritious omelette for a go-getter’s breakfast. It would have been nice if the soup was made with a vegetable base versus chicken, as it could have made for a nice broth for some soft tofu cubes or stock for a vegetable stew!

‘Enhanced’ water or plain water—what’s your preference?

Are you a fan of creamer?

My Unplanned Weekend, and a Pizza Recipe!

My Unplanned Weekend, and a Pizza Recipe!

Hey everyone! I hope your weekends were relaxing and refreshing :)!

My weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but that is neither good nor bad…just how it happened to turn out.

I had the goal to finish strong with 30 miles this week, and originally planned to get the bulk of my miles in within the first half of the week. Due to my self-imposed “pressure” about my math final, I ended up taking Monday and Wednesday off (even though I could have easily squeezed in 3 miles on both days). Most people say that working out during times of stress can be relieving and a necessary break, but I find myself more relaxed when I have no constraints, and can design my workouts around the schedule I want. That’s why it’s hard for me to log the miles or great workouts during times of exams!

But when Wednesday afternoon arrived, I knew I had some serious mileage to make up on if I wanted to reach my 30 mi/week goal. I ran ~8 miles total on Thursday and managed to squeeze out a 4 mile run on Friday towards the end of the day…oh Friday.

Remember how in my last post I was all excited about volunteering at a robotics regional this past weekend? Well that was what didn’t go exactly as planned.

When I initially signed up, I was disappointed that I (thought I) couldn’t apply for a certain position because I assumed I wouldn’t get the job. Turns out, a girl around my age (probably even a year younger) got that position, and it just made me frustrated that I made assumptions and could have easily volunteered for that position.

The position that I did end up with was supposed to keep on my feet, active, and make me “feel useful”. The problem was that the lead volunteer who was supposed to train everyone in my position acted like he didn’t even need me, and I totally felt useless. I ended up going in circles to various spots on the playing field, and at one point, I was literally just watching the game and then standing up when the robots had to exit the field “safely”.  In other words, my duties included zilch, nada, and zero!  I was working with some people that were rubbing me the wrong way with their attitudes, and I just couldn’t take it anymore!

So at lunch, I took a looooooong lunch, and didn’t come back.

It sounds kind of harsh, but it was either act like I was doing something useful for the next four to five hours, or actually do something that engaged my brain and body a bit more. I didn’t leave the vicinity entirely since my dad was a Judge, so I took a power nap and went by Trader Joe’s.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this program and what it stands for, but the organization of this specific event, this year irritated me, even though I wish it didn’t. At least I can apply next year for the position I really want knowing that there is no age cap/restrictive qualifications involved.

Moral of Friday’s story is, let them say no. Don’t assume anything when it comes to something you really want to do. And if they do say no, you can always go out for an awesome run…which is what I ended up doing that evening (even though I thought I had no energy left)!

On Saturday, I decided to go back with my Dad, but just to spectate during the elimination rounds and awards. Since those took place in the afternoon, I came equipped with a copy of Runner’s World, read that for the first hour in the car, and then went out for some “chopped up” runs to visit a local grocery store I’ve been planning on going to (turned out to be nothing special) and then to Trader Joe’s.

I decided to treat myself to one of my favorite happy foods, a Greens Plus protein bar, and had a clerk who commented on my frequent purchases of these bars. Funny thing was, I was trying to avoid him for that reason, but life doesn’t let you avoid such situations! I forgot what I said, but it probably wasn’t very intelligible since I knew my secret love of energy bars was revealed to this stranger, haha!

I ran a total of 5 miles since the new-to-me grocery store was ~2.5 miles away from the event. I changed into some “regular” clothes (didn’t want to look odd in my running shorts…although there was a team sporting some hot pants and liquid gold spandex leggings!!) and then watched alliance selection—which is a nerve-wracking experience for these students since only 24 teams get to participate…

Top 8 teams get to pick two more teams to form an alliance...and then it's time to RUMBLE!
Top 8 teams get to pick two more teams each to form an alliance…and then it’s time to RUMBLE!

The rest of the afternoon was spent watching the elimination rounds, and was full of excitment, cheering, and dancing…including Gangnam Style. At the end of the day, my high school team did really well, and I felt extremely proud to call myself an alumni of that team. I felt like I was a mother watching her kids grow up! Haha…

Sunday was much more lax. I went to my first ZUMBA class in over a month, and was pleasantly surprised that my fav instructor from Mondays was substituting for the regular Sunday morning instructor. It was fun to get back into the ZUMBA groove with songs and choreography that I like. Finished off my gym visit with some of my usual weight exercises, and then went home.

After an early lunch, I ran some minor errands, and then my Dad and I went out for fro-yo. It was an unplanned outing, but I wanted to treat myself, and even though I didn’t quite hit 30 miles for the week (about three miles off from the original goal), I shrugged it off, and decided to go all out anyways:

A coffee/banana mix (despite being a raw banana-hater!) with carob and yogurt chips, mango poppers, cherries, rainbow mochi, blackberries, and mango
A coffee/banana mix (despite being a raw banana-hater!) with carob and yogurt chips, mango poppers, cherries, rainbow mochi, blackberries, and mango

 Plus, it was a nice, warm day yesterday—perfect for fro-yo feasting ;)!

So that’s pretty much how my weekend went down, but I wanted to end this post with a random (but delicious!) pizza recipe. The featured topping is the Pepperoni Tofurky Deli Slices by Tofurky, which my sister and I have been going gaga over for the past few weeks :3!

I had this for dinner two Sundays ago (I think) and it was the perfect pizza for one. Enjoy!

Tofurky Pepperoni Thin Crust Pizza
Tofurky Pepperoni Thin Crust Pizza

Tofurky Pepperoni Vegetable Pizza (for One)

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. storebought pizza dough
  • your favorite pizza/marinara sauce
  • sliced olives
  • sliced jalapeno peppers
  • chopped onions
  • shredded mozzarella cheese (I used the low-fat part-skim type since that’s what we had in the house)

Directions

  • Roll out the pizza dough into a nice round disc (I made mine thin in order to get a thin crust).
  • Bake the dough in a conventional oven for ~10 min at 400°F (may need to watch it so it doesn’t burn).
  • Add a nice coat of pizza or marinara sauce onto the now-baked dough.
  • After chopping or getting pre-sliced olives, jalapeno peppers, and onions, use these to top the pizza in progress.
  • Bake all of this for ~5 min at 400°F (may need to watch it so it doesn’t burn).
  • Take out of oven, and cover with the shredded mozzarella cheese.
  • Add 6-7 slices of Tofurky Pepperoni slices. Go ahead and take out an extra and munch on it as an appetizer ;).
  • Bake again until the cheese bubbles.
Yup, another pizza recipe! Coming soon ;)!!
Yup, another pizza recipe! Coming soon ;)!!

Have you ever volunteered and felt like you were wasting yours and everybody else’s time?

What was your best volunteering experience?

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