January Sunshine

January Sunshine

This past weekend turned out to be better than I expected. I didn’t have a slew of things I was planning to do to begin with, but despite just checking off mundane errands and staying close to home due to lab responsibilities, it was a pretty pleasant Saturday and Sunday.

My shins have slowly been cooperating, as I have been trying to ease back into my normal mileage while giving them recovery time between days I do running workouts. That meant doing cross-training every other day last week, and while I hate feeling like a hamster at the gym, I gritted my teeth and got through it. I also managed to get some strength training in.

When my sister was here the weekend prior, I was able to snag a bunch of great clearance deals at Sprouts, including $3 jars of soybean spread, $6 protein bar boxes, and limited edition RX bars for $0.50 a pop!

It’s funny how last year around this time, seeking out new RX bar flavors was one of the things that kept me sane when I was preparing for quals. Now, these bars aren’t really my jam anymore…

RX Bar - Iced Gingerbread
RX Bar – Iced Gingerbread

And despite everyone one the ‘gram raving about this flavor, I couldn’t get on board with the dry texture. The cinnamon and ginger spice pretty much made this a a dense slab of fruit cake. Eh, not too appetizing. But it was $0.50, so not too much of a loss 😉

My Saturday morning consisted of a short, easy run to get my blood flowing for the next day’s team long run. I eventually made my way to lab, but was too tired/hungry to venture out too far for something to eat. Despite it being early January, the sun was out and bright as ever, meaning the smoothie/juice/acai bowl craving I had was absolutely justified.

Sunlife Organics, USC Village
Sunlife Organics, USC Village

It was my first time trying Sunlife Organics. I first came across the name two Labor Day weekends ago when I made a day trip to Malibu. The one I visited in the relatively new USC Village definitely had that pretentious LA juice shop vibe, but I let it slide.

Juice shop vibes
Juice shop vibes

When it comes to visiting “chain” restaurants or restaurants with more than one location, I like to try whatever is special to that location or seasonal specials so I feel like I have a reason for going to a location that is farther out than where I need to go.

So I got the "Trojan Bowl".
So I got the “Trojan Bowl”.

So I got the Trojan Bowl, which was a coconut butter/hemp milk/whey protein/banana/mango blend base topped with granola, strawberry, peanut butter, goji berries and bee pollen. Being the nut butter fan that I am, I was enamored by the PB and goji berries alone. 

<3
♥♥♥♥♥

I ate this while people-watching and soaking in some of the sun’s rays. There were plenty of student’s already studying in the vast courtyard (the semester started about a week ago), and looking at their stressed facial expressions made me so relieved that I was no longer in that boat, haha!

 

I was slightly nervous going into Sunday since it was my first team long run in a while (since I took time off for my shin splints). I stretched as much as I could and hoped for the best. We had originally planned to drive to Pasadena for our notorious 12 miler that everyone gets lost from, but due to lack of cars, we opted for a run close to downtown LA.

To my pleasant surprise, I was able to run pain-free with my teammates! I felt pretty good for about 75% of the run, and the last 2-3 miles felt tougher than usual, but I think it’s due to the lack of consistent running over the past few weeks. I’m hoping my endurance comes back at a roaring pace, but I’m also trying to be cautious and take things at a pace comfortable for my shin recovery.

After the run, I spent the morning catching up on some work, but I made sure to get some time in to get lunch in downtown. For some reason that day, I felt like walking down those DTLA streets I’m so fond of…

Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA
Panini Kabob Grill, DTLA

I used to pass by Panini Kabob Grill all the time when I lived near DTLA and was walking between the Pico and 7th Street Metro stations. The patio seating was always full, but I got myself a seat this time around.

A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.
A seat where I was able to appreciate some views.

Their menu selections includes plenty of veggie-friendly items, and as soon as I saw the charbroiled organic tofu kabob platter, my mind was made up.

tofu-kabob

I was expecting thick blocks of baked tofu to be skewered with grilled veggies, but my plate came to me skewer-less. But there were bright orange soft squares of tofu, plenty of grilled veggies, a side salad with avocado, a lil cup of hummus (def. not enough for the food that was there to dip it in), and fluffy bulgar pilaf.

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Charbroiled Tofu Kabob

Even though the tofu looked worthy based on its color, it was quite bland and lacked flavor. The salad was doused in a dressing with too much vinegar in my opinion, and the bulgar pilaf also lacked flavor. I will admit that the portions did make for quite a filling meal.

I felt like walking a couple blocks after my meal, and definitely felt the effects of the sunshine. I was feeling warm under the sun, but certainly very happy. It was one of those perfect, “winter” LA days.

How is the weather currently where you live?

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Despite it STILL feeling like summer in LA, I have made my best attempt to make it seem more like fall…at least with the foods I eat!

Trader Joe’s makes this easy to do, since almost all of their featured new items right now are pumpkin/cinnamon/orange color-themed. During last weekend’s grocery trip, I left with a jar of Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter, and two cups of Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt
Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt

The latter isn’t really “fall-themed”, but the color of the packaging reminded me of autumn leaves. Plus, when I mixed it as part of a weeknight proyo bowl and topped it with the pumpkin spice cookie butter, it could have easily been mistaken for a pumpkin or cinnamon-flavored greek yogurt!

 Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

But the true pumpkin favorite find as of late was the limited edition Quest bar flavor I was able to get a hold of. Honestly—the best purchase I’ve made from my campus bookstore, ever 😛

 I found it!
I found it!

After a suuuuper long day in lab (and an incredibly long week if we want to be specific!), finding the pumpkin pie Quest bar flavor on Friday night was just the treat I was looking for.

 So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!
So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!

I’ve seen lots of mixed reviews for this flavor, but I would say I am a proponent of this flavor. I personally liked the crunchy bits on the top, and the overall orange/pumpkin coating. It may have been too crumbly (I was spilling crumbs everywhere as I was walking :P), but I thought the bar stayed true to the Quest bar reputation of not tasting dry or chalky like most other protein bar brands. The bar also is 220 calories, which is higher than the usual flavors, but there’s gotta be a little wiggle room when designing a creative flavor 😉

Over the weekend, I decided that I wanted—no, needed—to head over to any Sprouts for my grocery shopping this week, and since I had not paid a visit to Pasadena in a while, I decided to head over there for a bite to eat after my morning lab duties.

It still felt like a hot summer day, but I did my best to keep things cool as I made the ~1 hour trek over to Old Town Pasadena. UCLA had a home game that day I assume, because I was seeing Bruin t-shirts, and blue & gold all around me as I was walking to my tea time destination 😛

 Cafe 86's newest location in Old Town Pas.
Cafe 86’s newest location in Old Town Pas.

I learned about Cafe 86 a couple weeks back, but added it to my ever-growing foodie bucket list as a “someday” kind of item, since their only location at the time was in Chino. However, they recently opened a location slightly more west in Pasadena to my delight. So recent in fact, that I had to put in the location of the poke restaurant they are right behind because they aren’t recognized by Google Maps yet!

After being awkward with my camera phone outside the cafe, I continued my awkward-ness inside. It was hard being subtle…I had to pretend I was “looking at the menu” while I took some of the interior pics 😛

 Front counter area.
Front counter area.

Their baked goods selection rotate daily, and Saturday’s offering included Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcakes and Ube truffles. I was sort of hoping they would be offering their crumbled chip cookie, but only the cupcake and truffle were available. It was warm enough to also splurge on a boba milkshake or iced tea, but I wanted to balance out the sweetness so cold water sufficed.

 Baked goods with a key ingredient---UBE!
Baked goods with a key ingredient—UBE!

I found a seat in the corner, and marveled at the cozy atmosphere around me. Cafe 86 also offers free Wi-fi, so obviously this would be a good study spot for those who are able to concentrate in coffee shop/cafe settings.

 Cozy atmosphere here.
Cozy atmosphere here.

I tried the Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake first, eating the flan on top separately.

 Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake
Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake

The flan layer was soft and creamy, and the texture reminded me of sliced mozzarella. The cake itself was a dark shade of purple, a reflection of the purple yam that made up a large percentage of it.

 Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake :(
Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake 🙁

The cake itself was quite dry, and I suppose if eaten with the flan there would have been a balance, but there wasn’t much flan to go around in my opinion. The bottom of the cake was unusually sticky too.

Next was the Ube Truffle!

 Ube Truffle.
Ube Truffle.

I couldn’t tell if it was dusted in chocolate or crystallized sugar, but it seemed like the latter after I had to cut through it with a (plastic) knife.

 Shiny rock of a truffle!!
Shiny rock of a truffle!!

Again, the ube sparkled through, and its appearance reminded me of a purple crystal (amherst or something like that?)

So the truffle trumped the cupcake, and neither were overly sweet. Still, I sipped on several cups of water to tone down the sweetness that was there.

Even though October has just started, I feel like my goal to “make Fall happen” in a forever-sunny city is off to a great start. Speaking of which, my Sprouts trip led me to find some more fun, pumpkin-themed items! Operation: Pumpkin Everythang is a go 😉 !

Have you been able to easily get into the Fall spirit?

Cafe 86 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Birthday Week!

Birthday Week!

It’s that time of year again—birthday week! We all know one day isn’t enough to celebrate the best event of the year, and so obviously having a week devoted to the occasion makes absolute sense 😉

The week was filled with freebies…including a first-time freebie! I began the celebrations with a visit to Which Wich, a rival to Subway, and known for their unique sandwich toppings like crispy onion strings and dried cranberries!

It was my first time visiting a Which Wich location, and I probably would not have visited any time sooner if it had not been for my free ‘wich coupon! 

1
The friendly front.

Even though I stopped by around 5PM, the place was pretty empty. Even though it was located under a collection of lofts right above it, there didn’t seem to be that much of a demand for custom sandwiches on a weekday evening I suppose…

2
Emptiness…

I needed some help getting started since it was my first visit after all. A friendly employee stepped out from the back to find me staring at the wall, and gave me some guidance on how to order. I first had to pick out a bag, which displayed a theme for what the sandwich would be based on, and then I had to color in the bubbles for what fill-ins I wanted in the sandwich.

3
Wall with the paper bags // I picked the vegetarian’ bag, and filled in circles for the things I wanted to include inside my sandwich.

I then handed the bag over to the employee who had helped me, and he assembled the sandwich while I waited at the end of the counter.

4
Two TVs on the wall, some newspapers…I guess you could have a good dine-in experience if you want!

I grabbed a plastic bag since I was taking this birthday ‘wich to go, and couldn’t wait to try it at home for dinner!

5
Convenient for the grab-and-go!

I could have eaten it by holding onto the foil and paper wrapping, but since I was at home, I thought it would feel more like a dinner when unwrapped and placed on a clean plate.

6
Wrapping

It was cut perfectly through the middle, diagonally of course.

7
My small 7″ Which Wich on skinny wheat, stuffed with artichoke hearts. Also included sauerkraut, BBQ sauce,  banana peppers, black olives, cucumbers, lettuce, mushrooms, red onions, and tomatoes.

My base was artichoke hearts, with the other fill-ins just for show. The BBQ sauce tasted more like ketchup, but apparently it was vegan!

8
Artichoke heart, and other stuff.

I think for my first complimentary Which Wich, I did pretty good 😉

The freebies continued that week with a free scoop from Baskin-Robbins. I ended up getting the Oreo Cake Batter flavor (this month’s featured flavor!), and had the patience to save it for after dinner. It made the perfect topping for my dessert proyo bowl that evening. 

Oreo Cake Batter Ice Cream on top of proyo!
Oreo Cake Batter Ice Cream on top of proyo!

Even though the ice cream scoop was melting at record-speed where the ice cream met the proyo, the flavors paired well together and I certainly felt a little melancholy when it was all gone. I was scraping at the sides of the bowl with my spoon!

But my favorite birthday freebie of the week was my free entree from Veggie Grill! I used it as an excuse to check out the latest location in Pasadena, one I had not paid a visit to until now!

 The front of VG, Pasadena----right across from Vitamin Shoppe in fact!!
The front of VG, Pasadena—-right across from Vitamin Shoppe in fact!!

Dad was in town for the weekend, and so I had a great time sharing the meal with him. We did have to take some time to glance over the menu of course, as usual.

 Summer menu & summer signage.
Summer menu & summer signage.
 A spacious interior with nice lighting. We found a table by the window which meant more light...obviouly great for picture-taking!
A spacious interior with nice lighting. We found a table by the window which meant more light…obviouly great for picture-taking!

There was a good turnout that evening, but despite it being busy, our food came out very quickly. I decided to finally try the VG-Cheeseburger, which was a good ol’ veggie burger with a beautifully melted slice of cheese on top of the patty. Three pickle slices were carefully placed on top, so I couldn’t pull a Bubble Bass and complain that they “forgot the pickles!!!” (<—Spongebob, anyone?)

 VG-Cheeseburger with a side of steamed kale.
VG-Cheeseburger with a side of steamed kale.

My Dad got one of the bowls, along with crispy cauliflower for us to share. I remember first trying it back when it was a promo item, but this time the sauce is served alongside the cauliflower, and now it’s up to you whether you want it glazed or not.

 Crispy Cauliflower: the vegetarian and vegan answer to popcorn chicken...
Crispy Cauliflower: the vegetarian and vegan answer to popcorn chicken…

So I definitely got my birthday’s worth in freebies, and once the weekend rolled around, I had a blast visiting even more new places and trying new foods with my Dad while he was here—more details to come!

And while the next item wasn’t exactly a freebie, I didn’t care because I thought I would never find it in the first place…

 PEANUT BUTTER Half Baked!
PEANUT BUTTER Half Baked!

I found this limited edition guy in Haggen of all places! Along with other elusive flavors I thought I would not be able to find in my neck of the woods…it must have been that extra dose of birthday luck sticking around 🙂

 Chocolate + PB ice creams---but I had to go digging for those brownie pieces and peanut butter 'gobs'.
Chocolate + PB ice creams—but I had to go digging for those brownie pieces and peanut butter ‘gobs’.

This flavor was amazing, and was a birthday surprise itself! There were so many peanut butter gobs, but not enough cookie dough pieces. In fact, I’m not sure if I even found any in the end 😛 !

What are your favorite restaurant/store birthday freebies?

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