Finally!

Finally!

I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.

Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.
Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.

One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.

A new-to-me Trader Joe's find I picked up that week---
A new-to-me Trader Joe’s find I picked up that week—Greek Whole Milk Yogurt (Avocado Citrus) mixed with peanut powder. It fueled me through a 12hr day x-x

Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.

Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee...the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee…the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
 
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over. 
 
Veggie Grill, Encino
Veggie Grill, Encino
 
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist… 
 
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
 
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time. 
 
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave! 
 
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank. 
 
Burbank Grocery Outlet
Burbank Grocery Outlet
 
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long! 
 
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to. 
 
__yoga-urt__
 
The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing. 
 
 ♥

They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.

 ♥

A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.

♥

A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.

 ♥

After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!

A new Nuts 'n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more blanaced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The vanilla flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn't have those crystalized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
A new Nuts ‘n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more balanced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The white chocolate flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn’t have those crystallized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
 
 Is there something you finally got done recently?

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

ALDI Product Finds Review

ALDI Product Finds Review

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by ALDI as part of Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

After hauling home a massive collection of ALDI goods almost two weeks ago, and as I stacked everything atop my living room table to get a good scope of my haul, I could not believe what I had come out with that was valued at $101.78! My table was overflowing with fresh vegetables, colorful packaging, and delectable-looking snacks/desserts that I could not wait to dig into!

Like I said in my previous post, ALDI does offer some name-brand items, but approximately 90% of the products sold at ALDI are ALDI-exclusive brands, and they are tested frequently to ensure quality. Some of my most favorite products from this haul are from the in-store SimplyNature® brand, which also includes items that are certified to be organic by the USDA and free of GMO ingredients, and one of the snacks I purchased that I truly enjoyed is part of the in-store gluten-free specialty brand, liveGfree®.

First step in making a simple, easy-to-prep dinner: a bag of steam-able veggies.
First step in making a simple, easy-to-prep dinner: a bag of steam-able veggies.

The first thing I put together since I was hungry after a long day of shopping was a simple dinner using Mann’s Family Favorites Vegetable Medley steam pack, with a Boca Flame Grilled Meatless Burger, and swirls of Burman’s  Sriracha Mustard draped over everything.

Easy peasy dinner!
Easy peasy dinner!

This mustard became one of my favorite purchases right off the bat! It’s packed with flavor, so you don’t need to add too much, but I love spicy food so I went crazy with swirling this all over my dinner!

This mustard is so spicy and flavorful!
This mustard is so spicy and flavorful!

I even had a similar dinner the next night, since I stayed in the apartment the entirety of Memorial Day, resting up from traveling the week before.

A similar dinner the next night.
A similar dinner the next night.

Each mouthful was so flavorful, and it was not too filling of a dinner so I could have just enough room for dessert…

The makings for a 'mazin' dessert.
The makings for a ‘mazin’ dessert.

I love my weekend ice cream/dairy-alternative pint indulgences, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a pint of Double Rainbow Vanilla Bean Soy Cream at ALDI! I topped the pint with Berryhill Hazelnut Spread…and now as I write about it, I wish I had the same exact dessert right next to me, right now!

Yes, this was delicious and so much more...
Yes, this was delicious and so much more…

The pint was smooth, creamy, and had a soft vanilla flavor. It didn’t have a heaviness to it like ice cream would, but it was pretty much identical in taste to any vanilla ice cream pint out there! The Berryhill Hazelnut Spread was thick and had a robust chocolate flavor, even hardening over the pint like a chocolate shell!

My other ALDI finds made for great ingredients to utilize in breakfast and lunch dishes! One of my favorite yogurts that I picked up was the Fit & Active® Yogurt in Boston Cream Pie flavor. The yogurt itself has a liquid consistency, but the flavor matches that of a cream pie. It’s as if someone blended the filling of a Boston Cream Pie to the point it turned into a liquid smoothie, and poured it into a cup. I topped mine with some of Peanut Delight Creamy Peanut Butter I picked up as well, and had together had this before a morning run!

Yogurt and PB!
Yogurt and PB!

With the canister of Milville Steel-Cut oats I purchased, I made a microwaveable oat cake that I then added dollops of Peanut Delight Creamy Peanut Butter to. Can you even see the cake? 😛

An oat cake with tonnnnns of creamy PB!
An oat cake with tonnnnns of creamy PB!

Some of the items I purchased were so irresistible, that eating them straight out of the jar/bag was frankly, quite mandatory! SimplyNature® Creamy Cashew Butter is hands-down one of the best nut butters I’ve ever had. It does have a saltier odor and taste to it compared to the other nut butters I purchased, but that did not stop me from slathering it over oatmeal bowls and licking it straight off the spoon.

Creamy cashew butter...perfect just straight off the spoon!
Creamy cashew butter…perfect just straight off the spoon!

These liveGfree® Gluten Free Yogurt Dipped Pretzels also made for some tempting snacking. I did add it to a yogurt bowl one evening, but eating them out of the bag obviously makes the most sense. The coating isn’t too light or chunky, and the pretzels still have a sturdy crunch to them, even with the yogurt coating. I also saw these in chocolate flavor as well, but I’ve always preferred vanilla and strawberry yogurt-covered pretzels/raisins/almonds for some reason!

liveGfree yogurt pretzels...get some!!
liveGfree® Gluten Free Yogurt Dipped Pretzels…get some!!

During the work week, I utilized this giant jar of Deutsche Küche German Style Sauerkraut in salads, mixed with beans, and even as a side with lentil soup.

Sauerkraut!!
Deutsche Küche German Style Sauerkraut!!

Since I bought a bunch of salad packs from the produce aisle, I was coming into lab everyday that week with a humongous salad mixed with Deutsche Küche German Style Sauerkraut or Tuscan Garden Artichokes, Southern Grove Deluxe Oven Roasted Almonds, a Boca Flame Grilled Meatless Burger, and Burman’s  Sriracha Mustard. After mixing well and carefully plating them on paper plates available in our kitchen area at work, this salad fueled me through many of that week’s lunch periods, since I had so much work to do…

When you have to work during your lunch, your marinated artichokes don't fit your plate so you need a cup, and all the almonds you mixed in ended up at the bottom of the plate!
When you have to work during your lunch, your marinated artichokes don’t fit your plate so you need a cup, and all the almonds you mixed in ended up at the bottom of the plate!

I even had to put part of my lunch in a pour-over cup because my salad was THAT huge. You can’t even see the almonds cause they are at the bottom of that giant heap of greens! Everything was so gratifying though!

Of course, I had to buy a substantial amount of produce to create my easy-to-prepare crockpot dinners for weeknights after long days in lab! One night I cut up cabbage, all of my brown mushrooms, and an onion for a flavorful and humble-looking bowl of cooked veggie goodness. I also had this on a day I felt particularly exhausted so it really hit the spot.

A tasty (if not beautiful) crockpot dinner! Cabbage, mushrooms, and onions...
A tasty (if not beautiful) crockpot dinner! Cabbage, mushrooms, and onions…

Even if it means bring a suitcase or a handful of reusable bags, the trip to ALDI is definitely worth it! Your dollar really goes a long way, and you definitely walk out feeling like a winner with what you purchase.

You can find out more about ALDI via the website, or stay updated about openings through their Facebook page!

Which of these products have you tried, or would you like to try?

ALDI Haul

ALDI Haul

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by ALDI as part of Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

I am the biggest fan of discount grocery stores that offer quality items at insanely low prices. That was one thing I thought LA lacked when I first moved here, since I always came home from visiting my family in NorCal (when they still lived there) with a suitcase stuffed with discounted yogurts, nut butters, and other staples I wouldn’t spoil myself with in LA since it was not worth the price to me.

But along came ALDI, and a store of its kind arriving in SoCal is exactly what I had been waiting for: a one-stop grocery shop that offers deep discounts on quality food products! Even though ALDI originated in Germany, they now have locations across Europe, Australia, and the US. I actually first learned about ALDI when I took German in high school, and my teacher used to rave about the store.

When I visited my family over winter break in Tulsa, I checked out the location there so that was my first time stepping into an ALDI. A lot of their current California locations seem to be in Orange County and the Inland Empire, but there are at least two within reach of those who live in LA: Inglewood and Arcadia.

Information about the stores, giftcards (!!), and a quarter for cart rental.
Information about the stores, giftcards (!!), and a quarter for cart rental.

I was given two $50 giftcards and a quarter for renting a cart in order to facilitate my haul. I chose to go to the Arcadia location since it gave me an excuse to ride the Gold Line extension. From there, it was about a 50 min. walk, and while I could have taken a connecting bus, I just wanted to go! I did get mocked along the way for hauling a suitcase, but I didn’t allow it to get to me because I would be the real winner in the end 😉

Tucked within a shopping complex right next to a CVS, I found the ALDI of Arcadia.

I'm almost there...ah!
I’m almost there…ah!

I was able to rent out a cart once I inserted my quarter (putting it back was another story…needed help with that!), and there was plenty of room to stuff my roller board underneath the cart.

Rent a cart.
Rent a cart.

Once inside, I was met with all the color, lights, and a clean, fresh display of goods.

Groceries on a Sunday...let's go!
Groceries on a Sunday…let’s go!

First thing I did was stroll casually down the cracker/nuts/protein bar aisle to see if anything caught my eye. I stocked up on some Southern Grove Chia Seeds and Southern Grove Deluxe Oven Roasted Almonds, grabbed a tub of steel cut oatmeal and a box of instant oatmeal, and proceeded forward towards the back where the produce was. There, I got a hold of some salad packs, my usual veggies for weeknight crockpot dinners and some “splurges” (mushrooms and brussels sprouts!).

I could list in detail how many minutes I spent in each aisle, how many times I threw things in my cart trying to estimate if it would fit my gift card budget, but that’s why I listed a detailed list of my haul at the end of this post! And since I had the opportunity to stock up on staples, I gave myself the freedom to really load up my cart. I even went so far as to purchase three bottles of SimplyNature® Creamy Almond Butter 😮

Once at the checkout line, I felt a little nervous and excited. Wonder if this is how the folks on that couponing show feel? Haha, actually my final balance ended up being $123, but my cashier was helpful in voiding some things out for me.

Checking out at ALDI!
Checking out at ALDI!

I still felt like I made out with quite a hefty haul. It’s not like you can leave any grocery store with an overstuffed suitcase, a bulging reusable bag, and your own purse that could fit a laptop with $100 worth of goods, but I would say I was successful in doing so 😉

This is what happens when you spend $1.78 on groceries…with a $100 off discount 😉 . I have to say that this is probably my biggest grocery haul ever completed in one trip since moving to LA, which justifies me hauling my roller board all the way to Arcadia.

ALDI grocery store haul!
ALDI grocery store haul!

Good thing my roommate wasn’t home because I literally had to clean off the dining table in order to fit everything for one picture! Also forced me into cleaning said dining table since it was empty for once!

While the store does offer some name-brand items (a pint of Double Rainbow Vanilla Bean Soy Cream and I did fetch myself a box of Boca Flame Grilled Meatless Burgers), approximately 90% of the products sold at ALDI are ALDI-exclusive brands, and they are tested frequently to ensure quality.

Most of my products from my my haul are from the in-store SimplyNature® brand, which also includes items that are certified to be organic by the USDA and free of GMO ingredients. They also have a wide variety of gluten-free items under the liveGfree® brand (I got someliveGfree® Gluten Free Yogurt Covered Pretzels from this brand to try out!!).

Breakdown of my haul:

Produce
Veg. Steam Packs (2)
Salad Packs (4)
Carrots
Kale
Brussels sprouts
Brown mushrooms
Onions
Head of cabbage

Dairy and Dairy-Free
Fit & Active® Yogurt and Friendly Farms Greek Yogurt (12)
Double Rainbow Vanilla Bean Soy Cream Pint
Friendly Farms Almond Milk carton
Boca Flame Grilled Meatless Burgers

Staples
Milville Steel-Cut oats
SimplyNature® Organic Black Beans
SimplyNature® Organic Garbanzo Beans
Organic Lentil Soup (2)
Stevia (2 boxes)
SimplyNature® Instant Oatmeal Assorted Varieties
Southern Grove Chia Seeds
Deutsche Küche German Style Sauerkraut
Southern Grove Deluxe Oven Roasted Almonds
Peanut Delight Creamy Peanut Butter
Berryhill Hazelnut Spread
SimplyNature® Creamy Cashew Butter (2)
SimplyNature® Creamy Almond Butter
Tuscan Garden Artichokes
liveGfree® Gluten Free Yogurt Covered Pretzels
Fusia Asian Inspirations Sriracha Sauce

Random necessities
Handsoap
Women’s products

Overall, I would say my first solo shopping experience at ALDI was a fun one (minus the time it took via my mode of transportation, and actually having to haul my haul). Even though it was a Sunday afternoon, I feel like everyone was entranced by the products and having a good time pointing stuff out to family members rather than be in a rushed or impatient mood. ALDI has already opened 25 total stores and will have a total of 45 stores up-and-running by the end of 2016, I’m hoping some of those locations will be in the city of LA itself! I can easily see ALDI becoming an instant hit among students and other urban folk 😀

You can find out more about ALDI via the website, or stay updated about openings through their Facebook page!

Have you heard of ALDI or shopped there?

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