Came for the Dough

Came for the Dough

Before leaving for Tulsa for my marathon and Thanksgiving, I wanted to pay my sister another visit in the good ol’ MV because I certainly needed the mini getaway.

I love how the Metrolink train offers a discounted day pass on weekends. One way tickets on the weekdays are pretty steep so getting a $10 day pass that works all day on a Saturday or Sunday was a relief for my wallet. 
 
So I left on a Saturday afternoon after a morning run and packing right after. When I arrived at the Tustin station around 3, my sister was ready to pick me up and from there we drove over to Dough & Arrow in Costa Mesa. 
 
It's not ice cream in there...
It’s not ice cream in there…
 
One of the latest food trends to hit So Cal is scoopable cookie dough, mimicking that of scoopable ice cream shops. Dough & Arrow was a cookie dough lover’s dream, and them some:
 
Dough & Arrow, Costa Mesa
Dough & Arrow, Costa Mesa

It was a small shop of course, but there was plenty of spacious seating and a giant plastic cookie statue in the center, perfect for Instagramming.

Instagram Cookie
Instagram Cookie

My sister and I took a while to figure out what exactly we wanted, but we were firm with our final decisions. She wasn’t quite feeling the whole straight-up cookie dough vibe, so she opted for two chewy unique-flavored cookies and a latte.

A PB-Cup filled cookie, S'mores Cookie, and my Chocolate fudge cookie dough that had white chocolate chips mixed in just cuz...
A PB-Cup filled cookie, S’mores Cookie, and my Chocolate fudge cookie dough that had white chocolate chips mixed in just cuz…

I went for a chocolate fudge-flavored cookie dough in their smallest size. Even at 8oz, the dessert was quite rich and mouthwatering.

Because we came a few hours before “proper” dinner time, we took our sweet time eating our sweet treats and catching up on two weeks worth of gossip.

When it was getting closer to five, we joined the traffic on the freeway heading south to get some dinner in Mission Viejo before heading home. My sis was cravin North Indian food, so we stopped by a local favorite that she tried before: Tikka Curry Wraps and Bowls.

Tikka Curry Bowls and Wraps
Tikka Curry Wraps & Bowls

Since it was now dark outside with a nice chill, I was definitely craving something warm. A chickpea daal curry bowl with basmati rice did the trick, while my sis feasted on a spicy paneer wrap.

Wrap and bowl
Wrap and bowl

My bowl was an aesthetic piece of art, haha!

Interesting bowl size and shape...
Interesting bowl size and shape…

For the rest of the evening, my sis was glued to her laptop lecture notes while I did some data analysis/procrastinated with the cats. They are my sister’s roomate’s cats, but they are two adorable little guys who come in a demanded to be petted and cuddled with.

The next morning, I managed to go out for a six mile run despite feeling sore all over, and managed not to feel too bogged down by the hills! My sister got ready as soon as I got back, and from there we drove towards Santa Ana to meet up with her lab partner at a cafe for a study session. I continued my lab data analysis while they discussed their class work. All of us got some form of latte coffee.

My order was a ginger snap cookie with a warm Spanish latte. It was also pretty chilly out so I also borrowed my sister’s cardigan since we were sitting outside.

Gingersnap cookie and Spanish latte
Gingersnap cookie and Spanish latte

We finished and left close to noon, and headed back home since my sis was working from 3-7pm at her job at one of the stores in the local mall. After taking a quick lunch break at home, we headed to the mall and I set up shop near the food court.

We actually didn’t leave until 8pm because they held my sis back to recover the store. It was frustrating, as I found myself pacing back and forth through the mall, but I recall how mind-numbing and annoying my retail jobs used to be, and I could only feel for my poor sis.

When she did get out, we had dinner at Native Foods in Aliso Viejo and I surely did not complain. By the end of our meal, we were both more than ready to fall asleep. She of course had to Skype with her BF though, so she ended up going to bed hours after I did, haha.

In the morning, she dropped me off at the train station and I made the long trek to lab on a Monday morning. We didn’t have time to pick up coffee, but I managed to get some of the new birthday cake-flavored Quest bars while at the mall the day before from GNC.

The bar itself was softer than the usual Quest bars, but I was in favor of the chewy consistency. Of course there was some of that slightly grainy protein bar flavor, but overall I liked it more than the original flavors.

Quest Bar - Birthday Cake
Quest Bar – Birthday Cake

The rest of the week was busy with work and prepping things so that I my stuff at work would be taken care of on all points while I was out. Once Friday rolled around, I was more than ready to be pampered at home…and I guess, for the Route 66 Marathon too 😉

Tikka Wraps & Curry Bowls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Last Road Trip of 2016

Last Road Trip of 2016

Last year, we had a Christmas Day lunch since our Christmas Eve dinner was spent with family friends. This time, our schedule was flipped so that Christmas Eve was spent at home and the dinner-turned-lunch on Christmas Day was spent with the same family friends as last year.

dinner
Plate #1 of my Christmas Eve dinner and a bird’s eye view of our feast.

Our menu was usual as years past, but now, it’s given us the opportunity to make up for Thanksgiving (at least in food). While my sis and I enjoyed this year’s humble Thanksgiving, it was nice to have Dad cook for us again, haha!

lemon_meringue_pie
I also did well in eating when I felt hungry throughout the day on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I didn’t “save” all my calories for the evening feast, like I would have in the past. When I felt like having a melty Lemon Meringue No Cow Bar with a melted L&L Snickerdoodle cookie, I did just that.

We exchanged gifts after our dinner, and had a relaxing day the day after. After lunch at our friends’ house, all of us collapsed into a deep nap.

snack
Another bar and snack combo—Chocolate Banana Bread No Cow Bar was a new try for me. Didn’t like the banana odor of course, but the bar texture stayed true in comparison to all of the other No Cow Bars.
dark-raspberry-truffle
I accidentally deleted the unwrapped picture of the Chocolate Banana Bread flavor, but the Dark Raspberry Truffle one pictured here was pretty much identical in appearance. Not a huge fan of this one either!

We had an extra day to run errands/prepare for our short road trip on the day after Christmas. I also stocked up on some bars at GNC, including some new FitJoy bars. I tried the Birthday Cake flavor and immediately was a fan. I haven’t been a returning customer of FitJoy (except maybe for their chocolate chip cookie dough flavor), but their Birthday Cake flavor has a nice balance of vanilla cream coating with confetti crisps in the center. Something I can return to and enjoy!

birthdaycake
I can get along with this FitJoy!

Tuesday was a travel day on the road with a stop in Dallas to see a cousin we haven’t seen in YEARS and her newborn. Before leaving, I had the two seasonal FitJoy flavors I picked up: Iced Gingerbread and Winter Peppermint Bark.

iced_ginger
I love the dark green color on the wrapper!

I was a fan of both, and while Birthday Cake still “took the cake” in comparison, I couldn’t help but appreciate the cinnamon-looking flakes atop the Iced Gingerbread bar, and it’s holiday aroma. The Winter Peppermint Bark bar looked festive, as well as having a minty fresh taste.

winterpeppermint
Pink peppermint pieces! A white icing swirl! Why aren’t all their bars like this??

It was a four hour trip to my cousin’s apartment, but it was so nice to catch up. The last time we saw her, my sister and I were in elementary school and she was 12! Her baby boy was adorable, and we had a humble lunch before leaving for Houston. It was another four hours from Dallas, and I gave my Dad a break from driving by taking the wheel. When we got to Houston that evening, we encountered intermittent but harsh rainstorms! It was an adventure to drive through for sure, so it was nice to have my Dad alongside me to guide me through it, haha.

mall_
A fancy mall/apartment complex in the Upper Kirby area of Houston.

We reached my cousin’s place around 8pm, chatted for a bit, and had some pumpkin chili with bread rolls before going to bed. The next morning, I ran in the humid Houston weather and was drenched in sweat after five miles…was it really still winter? Haha, I did get a bit lost after taking a wrong turn, so I actually ended up having a 30 min cool-down walk before getting back to my cousin’s house.

pondicheri
Pondicheri

We didn’t have any set plans, but we did finally leave for lunch once my cousin’s son and husband were ready. For lunch, we went over to a trendy Indo-fusion place called Pondicheri (not to be confused with Pondicherry, an actual city in India).

interior
Love the India decor!

The interior was colorful, with reds, yellows, and blues thrown everywhere like no tomorrow. The seating arrangements were slightly crowded though, and for a group of six we had to squeeze two small tables together.

curry
Rajma (what I got) description, and a colorful wordy wall by the restrooms.

All of us had a paneer cheese and spinach samosa to start off with as an appetizer. Hot sauce was used for dipping, and added some chemical heat to the temperature heat that was still stored inside the golden crust of the samosa. Steam came out so rapidly that it fogged up my phone camera!

paneer_samosa
Aww, it looks so cute too!

For my entree, I had some rice with spicy vegetable rajma, which was basically a curry type dish that was spicy and bean-rich. I ultimately mixed the rice into this and had is as one combined bowl. I also picked at. T Dad’s morning thali, which had a variety of different sides, including oddly enough, oatmeal topped with pistachio!

bowl
Rajma & tumeric rice

Everyone else had dosa, burgers, or a wrap called a Frankie, which is apparently a common street food Mumbai-style stuffed roti & egg wash wrap with cilantro chutney & marinated cabbage.

After filling up on lunch, we walked back to the van we drove in and made our way to a temple. The drive was long with traffic, so I dozed off along with everyone else in a passenger seat. We spent a good hour at the temple, and even took a moment to check out the peacock garden. There were four fluorescent blue males busy grooming their extravagant tails, and three bored females.

It was 4:30pm when we left, and we stopped at a strip mall with some Indian grocery stores and restaurants for some late afternoon coffee. The coffee was too milky for me, but it was enough to keep me slightly awake until we got back to my cousin’s house. We spent another two hours in the area for some Indian grocery shopping. Then another hour or so in traffic! Needless to say, at least my sister and I were exhausted by he time we got back. I immediately changed into my pajamas and did some data analysis on my laptop until dinner was ready.

We concluded the day with a spaghetti dinner, dessert from the bake shop Pondicheri that my cousin picked up when we were still at the restaurant earlier in the day, and board game playing. My cousin’s son had a board game called “Ticket to Ride” that he insisted we all participate in together. My sister compared it to the game Risk, and while it was a fun game, I honestly wanted to just head to my room and sleep since it had been a long day. We finished up around midnight, and I couldn’t have been more ready to land on my pillow! But at least I was the fun kind of exhausted.

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

Cookie Dough & Fries

Cookie Dough & Fries

With the one and only sit-down final I had to complete out of the way after Monday, the weekend that followed was devoted to some much needed ME time. I spent the rest of the time that week organizing myself in lab, getting myself ready for some upcoming projects I was planning to do after Christmas and seeing my family.

The Saturday of that weekend was a busy one. I was able to make it out to Santa Monica for the first time in months (not counting running-related events), and seek out a new vegan establishment—eLOVate kitchen.

eLOVatemenu
eLOVate menu

The menu was pricier than what I expected, but looking at their decor, and seeing that their prime estate was located near Ocean Ave., I could understand the fact that they had a lot of costs to cover…

eLOVate
eLOVate inside

At least what I wanted to order was under the appetizer menu (and as a result, cheaper). I was more-than-excited about digging into a plate of vegan poutine topped with mushroom gravy and almond cheese curds. 

poutine__fries
Yes it it vegan poutine!!!!!

The fries were shoestring Kennebec fries, and took to holding the gravy with such poise, haha.

curry_fries
Vegan Poutine with mushroom gravy and almond cheese curds.

It was truly a simple enough dish that gave me just enough energy to get some gift shopping done for some family friends at Penzey’s Spices. Along the way, I redeemed a coupon I had for a free pair of running shoes that I had won a few months ago. Even though I was thinking about cashing it in for some Vibrams, the sales lady who was helping me insisted I redeem it for some Newtons…ah well, at least this pair was made and styled for women. I can share more about this pair in a future post 😉

I originally planned on stopping for some late afternoon dessert at one of Santa Monica’s finest cookie/cupcake/donut establishments, but when it started to pour rain and all I had was a small umbrella shielding me from the downpour, I opted to hop on the next bus and hunt for a different kind of treat known to be found at Bristol Farms.

When I saw an array of Edoughble Cookie Dough flavors lined up in the refrigerated aisle, my eyes immediately pounced on the birthday cake flavor. I also bought another cookie dough brand/flavor that I originally came for, as well as a flavor of B&J’s I have a hard time finding in stores closer to me. 

After my purchase, I sat down and dug into the birthday cake flavor, since it was still raining outside. While others around me were munching on warm sandwiches and sipping on soothing soup, my tastebuds were beyond happy with the taste of chewy sugar cookie dough mixed with vanilla frosting and confetti sprinkles. 

edoughble_birthdaycake
Edoughble – Birthday Cake

When I had enough courage, I ventured out into the damp, cold, and turning-dark environment. I was home as soon as it turned pitch black, and found myself hungrier an hour or so later. I used it as an opportunity to try the other edible cookie dough purchase of the day.

thecookiedoughcafe_chocolatechip
The Cookie Dough Cafe – EDIBLE chocolate chip cookie dough :9

Compared to Edoughble’s Birthday Cake, I found the dough to be just as rich, chewy, and sweet, but the chocolate chips were too chunky and overwhelming in my opinion. I found myself scooping them out and placing them to the side after awhile, since they got in the way of having a smooth-consistency dough.

I started off Sunday on a semi-rough note. I was able to go out for a long run in the morning, but didn’t feel too well afterwards. I had a throbbing headache as I worked in lab for a few hours, but fortunately, it faded away by the time I left mid-afternoon. It was a weird feeling and I was worried that it would be similar to what I went through a week earlier, so I’m glad it went away on its own!

Plus, I was looking forward to having a delicious meal that I could appreciate at Cowboys & Turbans (previously Sprouted Garden Cafe) in Silver Lake. 

front
Cowboys & Turbans (previously Sprouted Garden Cafe)

Only outdoor seating is available at this restaurant, and even though it was slightly chilly, there was a fire going and the seating arrangements were beautiful. 

outdoorestaurant
Outdoor seating!

I sat a table in the middle of the area, so that I could get a great view from all angles.

cowboys&turbansmenu
Cowboys and Turbans menu

The menu supposedly has a mix of Mexican and Indian dishes, hence the restaurant name Cowboys and Turbans. I chose to go with an old favorite of mine (Aloo Gobi) with a side of masala fries.

c&t
Aloo gobi, masala fries, curry sauce

Everything came out fresh and piping hot—temperature and flavor-wise! Instead of ketchup, I was given a cup of creamy curry sauce for dipping the aloo gobi and fries into. The side of fries may look small in the pic, but that bowl was anything but! I was quite full at the end of this meal, and even though I had some bloat to deal with, I made it to the bus stop in one piece 😉

smores_b&j
Ben & Jerry’s S’mores Ice Cream ~ Chocolate ice cream with fudge chunks, toasted “marshmallow”, and graham cracker swirls.

Dessert that night was the B&J’s S’mores pint, which was not a winning flavor for me. Too much chocolate, underwhelming marshmallow (actually, it was pectin and not gelatin, so this flavor is okay for veggies 😉 ), and an indistinguishable graham cracker swirl made this flavor far from appetizing. 

How do you like your fries (seasoned with spices, just salt…) and what condiment(s) do you like pairing them with? 

Cowboys & Turbans Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Surprise Visit

The Surprise Visit

I originally thought that the weekend before my spring semester classes started would be entrenched in ennui (besides the usual errands of grocery shopping and LA eating adventures…), but when my cousin and her spouse surprised me with a visit, I was glad to have some different plans to shake up my usual weekend itinerary!

They made their way to my place around 9pm on that Friday, and settled in while we chatted about life and their day’s trip from the Bay. We had a general idea of what we wanted to do the next day (a visit to the Getty and a meal in Artesia), and then turned in around 11pm.

The next morning, we awoke to cloudy skies and non-stop rain. Despite having to walk outside for some part of our museum trip, we were able to stay dry while strolling through the exhibits at the Getty.

 It was a good thing that the exhibits were inside.
It was a good thing that the exhibits were inside.

Even though it was my second time visiting, I still enjoyed the outing. At least I can now say I’ve been to the Getty in two extreme weather conditions (my first visit was two and a half years ago on a super hot day in June…).

getty
Regular museum sculptures // WWI exhibit featured artifacts

We spent our time there looking at the featured Reubens (tapestry man!) exhibit (and the day we were there happened to be the last day it would be featured!), the WWI exhibit, and the general open exhibits that displayed sculptures, oil paintings, etc.

SAMSUNG
Brochure for the Reubens exhibit.

We could only handle three hours of walking and admiring works of art before we succumbed to our hungry tummies 😉 . My cousin was dying to go to a Gujarati restaurant in Artesia (Little India), and seeing that we had traffic to fight, we decided to get a move on.

We had almost an hour of time to kill in the car, driving at speeds as slow as 15 mph at points, but we eventually made it to Pioneer Boulevard—a place I have come to know from the countless Indian grocery shopping trips my Dad would make during his visits to LA.

I never knew about Rajdhani though, which happened to be on the second floor of a parking garage we always use when visiting the area!

SAMSUNG

Given that we left the museum around mid-afternoon in the pouring rain, it was no surprise that we finally ended up at our table around 3:30pm—prime-time for many families taking a food break from running their errands for the week!

SAMSUNG

There was just one “item” being served at this time, which was the $14 all-you-can-eat (up to a certain point…) thali special—which is the exact reason why my cousin was especially set on coming here. The set-up was comparable to dim sum, in that waiters would come around with different components of your meal, and refill them upon request.

We started off with a piece of papadum as our appetizer.

Rajdhani_food

Soon, our five small bowls were filled with daals, stews, and oiled-and-spiced veggies ready to be scooped with rotis/rice/dhokla/puri.

Rajdhani_food_2
My favorite was the blend of eggplant, gold and purple potatoes, and peas (top left) // Can’t go wrong with dhokla (bottom left)

I didn’t have dessert, but I “gave” mine to my cousin, who used it to try the rose ice cream. They also had carrot and besan (almond) halwa.

I found the meal overall to be satisfying and warming (especially on a cold, rainy day), but not necessarily worth driving an hour for. But then again, this is coming from a girl who would spend $$ on vegan fish ‘n’ chips 😉 . I was glad that my company fully enjoyed the meal and experience though.

Next on the itinerary were some quick grocery shopping trips, and then a drive back home. We spent the rest of the night watching movies, and then went to sleep at a reasonable hour.

The next morning, I debated on whether or not I should go for a long run, but since I couldn’t tell if it was raining at the dark hour of 6AM, I decided to get some more shut-eye and (possibly) save the run for later in the day. Cousin and Co. were leaving at noon, so it made sense to spend as much time with them, even if it meant sacrificing a morning run.

Since we did have limited time, we left for SaMo Pier at around 10AM and walked over from a nearby parking lot. Yes, SaMo is becoming quite a regular spot for me, but at least I finally got to go on the ferris wheel, haha.

ferris_wheel

Other than getting some good pictures from high up, the ride was nothing spectacular (which I didn’t expect it would be). An hour before they had to finally leave the city, we stopped for a quick lunch-to-go from Aussie Pie Kitchen.

SAMSUNG

It would have been nice to sit inside among the signage and wood, but all the seats were taken by people or backpacks waiting for people 😉 .

interior

So, it was lunches-to-go for us. At least the paper they put the pies in was cute.

SAMSUNG

I ended up choosing their veggie-friendly Aussie pie: a ‘summer veggie’ pie stuffed with eggplant, green and yellow squash, red bell pepper, onion, and olive tapenade.

SAMSUNG

Summer Veggie Pot Pie - eggplant, green and yellow squash, red bell pepper, onion, & olive tapenade

Although we chowed down our pies in the car, we found the 5’’ pie delectable enough to be filling for a brief lunch before bidding good-bye. I was dropped off in Culver City, and headed back home after wishing my family a safe trip home.

Side note: I was still able to squeeze in a long run later in the day 😉

Rajdhani on Urbanspoon Aussie Pie Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Chilly Days, Chili Idlis

Chilly Days, Chili Idlis

Chilly days call for chili idlis. There’s no doubt about it.

Warm, spicy goodness.
Warm, spicy goodness.

I guess you could call an idli an Indian rice cake. By itself, it has a soft, chewy texture, but it is quite bland. No wonder it’s usually paired with an assortment of chutneys, sambars (soups), and vegetable side dishes.

Idlis in sambar (spicy soup)
[source] 
When I was younger, I preferred to have mine with ketchup…and maybe sometimes chutney :P. Idlis were never a true favorite of mine, as I preferred other, richer Indian carbohydrates—dosas, chappatis, pooris—and my Westernized taste buds seemed to fit ketchup as the only fitting condiment to pair with these bread goods.

My friends ate Heinz. I used Maggi like all the other cool Indian kids 😉
[source]
But as I grew older and into the foodie I am now today, I’ve come across interesting ways to turn a traditional classic into something…well, more fun. I first had chili idlis at a mainly South Indian restaurant a couple months back. I say mainly because chili idlis are far from being a South Indian delicacy. Rather, they’re an Indo-Chinese fusion creation.

Get ready for some flavor, blandies!
Get ready for some flavor, bland-ies!

The kind I had at the restaurant was surprisingly delectable, since the restaurant itself was not exactly what comes to mind when you think of fine dining. We were literally the only people eating dinner there that day, and the boss was yelling away on his phone in a corner office by the front door. The employees—cooks, wait staff, and all—were standing in another corner watching us curiously munch away at our food. It was awkward and completely unprofessional to say the least, but the chili idlis tasted good enough for me to distance myself from the awkwardness.

Putting the "chili" in chili idli!
Putting the “chili” in chili idli!

I couldn’t take a picture because the situation wasn’t right (obviously), but my chili idlis were photo-worthy. They were cut into quarters, fried, infused with spices, and garnished with greens. The dish was so fabulous that I wouldn’t mind being dragged into that restaurant again if it was necessary ;).

Idlis in quarters, measured in a cup.
Idlis in quarters, measured in a cup.

I did remember about this dish a few weeks ago when we were going through chilling temperatures, and I was trying to brainstorm some good ideas for warm winter meals. This is what I ended up going with to get the result you see in the first pic ;)!

Chili Idlis 
Note: this version is not fried

Ingredients

  • 6 small idlis cut up into cubes (day old refrigerated preferably)
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ bell bepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Serrano pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp corn starch
  • curry leaves
  • chili powder
  • cilantro for garnish
  • salt
After baked and browned.
After baked and browned.

Directions

  • On cookie sheet lay out the idli pieces (idlis cut in quarters)—coated in oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Broil or bake until pieces are crisp and browned.
  • In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil.
  • Add brown cumin seeds and garlic to brown.
  • Add curry leaves to toast.
  • Add chunky pieces of onion and bell peppers, and sautée until tender.
  • Add all condiments, cook a bit and add the quartered idlis, and toss.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in water, and add to pan and stir until all the pieces are coated and the liquid is taken up.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve.
The stir-fry pre-idli toss!
The stir-fry pre-idli toss!

Do you like fusion cuisine?

What are your favorite cuisines to mix together?

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