Sweet Blog Friends & Salad Traditions

Sweet Blog Friends & Salad Traditions

Two weeks ago, I went back to my food product reviewing roots and contacted a couple companies to see if they showed interest in having their products reviewed here and on the ‘gram. I know I don’t have the largest following in the world, but I love getting the word out there to whoever pays attention to my humble little space in the webverse, especially if a product is THAT good.

I also appreciate the tried-and-true blogger connections I’ve made over the years. I’ll admit that the number of blogs I read has dwindled, but the ones I do keep an eye on are my absolute favorites. Allie’s is one of them, and when I was reading one of her posts a few months back, she posted a picture of some decadent-looking chocolate-covered pretzels. I wrote a comment saying I would love to try them if I ever get the chance, and she graciously offered to send me some. 

the
Sarri’s Candies Milk Chocolate Covered Pretzel Rods

Her sweet gesture ended up being sweeter than I expected! I was expecting a small envelope, but I came home one night to this large heavy box filled with all sort of thoughtful gifts. Allie, you really shouldn’t have, but thank you so much! I’m working on something for you too πŸ˜‰ 

As far as bars are concerned, I got the opportunity to try a few flavors of Redd bars. I first spotted them at Sprouts (they have the most diverse bar aisle, btw!), but I never got around to trying them until now. Each bar has 9+ grams of protein, is made of 11 superfoods, and has way too many vitamins to pronounce and count!

Redd Bars! They were sweet enough to add a bright red beanie :D
Redd Bars! They were sweet enough to add a bright red beanie πŸ˜€

They sent over three flavors (Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Mint Chocolate) and it just so happened that the first one I tried was my absolute favorite—Salted Caramel πŸ™‚

Salted Caramel
Salted Caramel
The bar had a chewy texture with a subtle caramel scent, and there was a slight crunch from the chia seeds. The bar also features pumpkin seed protein, cashews (I’d say my favorite type of nut), and white (vegan) chocolate chips. Yup, this fabulous bar also happens to be vegan πŸ˜›
 
The other two flavors didn’t rank as high as SC, in my opinion. Peanut Butter was firmer than SC in its texture, had mini chocolate chips scattered throughout, and is “plant-based” but not vegan. I found the surface of the bar to be a lot more “rugged” vs. the smooth, glossiness of SC.
Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter
 
I did get a little dramatic with my description of Mint Chocolate on Instagram, but I did immediately think of an Andes mint.
 
"ou know those Andes mints they give you at the end of your meal at Olive Garden? Imagine the softest brownie ever made with those mints, and that's how you pretty much describe a Mint Chocolate @reddbar 🍫🍫🍫"
You know those Andes mints they give you at the end of your meal at Olive Garden? Imagine the softest brownie ever made with those mints, and that’s how you pretty much describe a Mint Chocolate @reddbar 🍫🍫🍫

This bar flavor was soft and had a sharp mint smell. Definitely would be what an Andes mint brownie would taste like if they sold them.

 After getting in touch with Petit Pot, they were sweet enough to send over some vouchers so I could sample their French-inspired custard creme pots.

"Had the chance to try two flavors of @petit_pot pot de crème jars the other day, and they certainly made for an interesting sweet Sunday afternoon snack. The salted caramel flavor had a "gel-like" consistency in comparison to Madagascar vanilla. It definitely had a caramel color but not the flavor. Madagascar vanilla on the other hand had a texture similar to that of regular yogurt (not like thick Greek yogurt), and a very subtle crunch from the flecks of vanilla bean!"
Had the chance to try two flavors of @petit_pot pot de crΓ¨me jars the other day, and they certainly made for an interesting sweet Sunday afternoon snack. The salted caramel flavor had a “gel-like” consistency in comparison to Madagascar vanilla. It definitely had a caramel color but not the flavor. Madagascar vanilla on the other hand had a texture similar to that of regular yogurt (not like thick Greek yogurt), and a very subtle crunch from the flecks of vanilla bean!

I managed to only find Madagascar Vanilla and Salted Caramel at Whole Foods so far, and the two varied so much! MV tasted much like regular yogurt—very runny, but the flavor was a rich vanilla with a mild crunch from tiny specks of vanilla bean. SC was more gel-like, and to me did not have any flavor. It looked like a caramel Jell-O, but it carried no flavor with it.

Even though it seems like I was subsisting on “free” things, I did eventually have to spend my own money to eat, haha. I kept it local that weekend, and also went back to a “New Year’s tradition” that I sort of made up about two years ago.

Sweetgreen, SaMo
Sweetgreen, SaMo

I first visited Sweetgreen back in 2016, after learning about it by accident. It was after a week of toiling in lab while everyone was still on vacation. I felt so lonely in my deserted city of LA, and I wanted to go out to get my mood up on the first weekend of the new year. Then when 2017 rolled around, I ended up eating at Sweetgreen again as my first meal out for the year—totally unplanned!

This year was quite different, brunching it up in Las Vegas with my friends, but I did manage to make it to a Sweetgreen before January ended. This time, the location in my current city of habitation, in good ol’ SaMo. In the past I indulged in their warm bowls with some type of grain or noodles, but I got their Thai Cashew Salad this time around:

"I'm surprised there was a crowd at @sweetgreen pretty much all afternoon, since you'd think with the cold weather people wouldn't be craving salads πŸ₯—...but then again they do have some pretty delicious warm bowls 🍲. I had the Thai Cashew Tofu salad this time around, and was head over heels for the cashew dressing."
I’m surprised there was a crowd at @sweetgreen pretty much all afternoon, since you’d think with the cold weather people wouldn’t be craving salads πŸ₯—…but then again they do have some pretty delicious warm bowls 🍲. I had the Thai Cashew Tofu salad this time around, and was head over heels for the cashew dressing.

It was a particularly hot day when I had this, so it was fittingly refreshing! I had plenty of energy to keep walking afterwards, and I picked up some groceries and more new-to-me snacks to try out.

I’ve officially given up on Lenny & Larry’s because their cookies now will never be as great as their old formula Snickerdoodle or Birthday Cake. It’s a shame that they had to make changes that actually made their product taste worse, but oh well, their loss. 

No Cow’s Snickerdoodle is definitely not stepping up to the “Best Snickerdoodle Cookie Challenge”. Dare I even say that it tastes even worse, than Lenny and Larry’s new formula Snickerdoodle??

Seems like all the protein bar companies are getting into the cookie game as of late πŸͺ! Since I've given up on @lennyandlarrys (can't STAND their new formula and I'm not going to pretend to...the new Snickerdoodle is just horrendous πŸ˜– and makes me miss the old formula so bad 😭), I thought I'd try @nocow cookies because why not? Of course, I tried their version of snickerdoodle, and I'm sorry to report that it tasted like a dry hockey puck made out of corn πŸ˜‘πŸ€¦πŸ½β€β™€οΈ. Yeah, it's vegan and all that, but apparently that doesn't help the fact that it tastes gross. Just being honest πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ
Seems like all the protein bar companies are getting into the cookie game as of late πŸͺ! Since I’ve given up on @lennyandlarrys (can’t STAND their new formula and I’m not going to pretend to…the new Snickerdoodle is just horrendous πŸ˜– and makes me miss the old formula so bad 😭), I thought I’d try @nocow cookies because why not? Of course, I tried their version of snickerdoodle, and I’m sorry to report that it tasted like a dry hockey puck made out of corn πŸ˜‘πŸ€¦πŸ½β€β™€οΈ. Yeah, it’s vegan and all that, but apparently that doesn’t help the fact that it tastes gross. Just being honest πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ

Their Peanut Butter cookie wasn’t too bad, but let’s just say that Buff Bake’s Cookie Dough spread (with cookie dough bits mixed in the spread might I add!) certainly helped this cookie reach new flavorful heights.

"Okay, so the @nocow Peanut Butter cookie was better than Snickerdoodle, at least it had some chew to it and crushed peanut pieces, but I would suggest topping it with a good ol' slather of nut butter. @buffbake Cookie Dough should do the trick πŸ˜‰"
“Okay, so the @nocow Peanut Butter cookie was better than Snickerdoodle, at least it had some chew to it and crushed peanut pieces, but I would suggest topping it with a good ol’ slather of nut butter. @buffbake Cookie Dough should do the trick πŸ˜‰”

And because I have been obsessed with the Birthday Cake Oh Yeah! One bar as of late (the newer formula is MUCH better than what I had first tried two years ago), I thought why not try the latest flavor:

"The Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake πŸ₯œ 🍫 πŸŽ‚ @one1brands bar definitely looked the part, but it tasted just like its Peanut Butter Pie flavor. Where was the chocolate? Or the cake? Still a pretty satisfying bar nonetheless."
“The Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake πŸ₯œ 🍫 πŸŽ‚ @one1brands bar definitely looked the part, but it tasted just like its Peanut Butter Pie flavor. Where was the chocolate? Or the cake? Still a pretty satisfying bar nonetheless.”

It was a pretty dense bar for its nutritional content, but I was disappointed by the fact that it tasted more like a block of peanut butter than a block of peanut butter mixed with chocolate, haha! I think I’ll probably just stick to Birthday Cake when it comes to this particular brand.

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 πŸ˜‰

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
β™₯β™₯β™₯β™₯β™₯

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.

c
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?

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__
β™₯
 
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. 
 
 β™₯
β™₯

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

 β™₯
β™₯

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

β™₯
β™₯

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.

 β™₯
β™₯

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

Chilling in Walnut Creek

Chilling in Walnut Creek

The next day, I woke up earlier than everyone else (6am of course) but forced myself to go back to sleep just for a little bit. My cousin got up to make coffee a little over an hour later. I wanted to get a run in, so I opted to have coffee when I came back.

I ran along the Iron Horse Trail for 10 miles, and when I came back my cousin and her wife had left for the gym, haha. My sister and I spent the rest of the morning just chilling around the house.

Quiet Saturday morning
Quiet Saturday morning

When my cousins came back, we wanted to go out for some fresh air while they caught up on house errands/work. My sis and I used that time to go into downtown to pick up snacks and walk around.

Walking around downtown Walnut Creek
Walking around downtown Walnut Creek

I noticed that they had an acai bowls shop by the name of Vitality Bowls, and I remember I had bookmarked it years ago as a place I wanted to visit if I ever stopped by in the East Bay. My sis also wanted to get a bowl, so we stepped inside.

Vitality Bowls
Vitality Bowls

There was ample seating inside, and despite the cold temperatures outside, there were many groups of people inside eating away at fruit-filled concoctions that were held in wavy-shaped stainless steel bowls.

whaisgraviola
My sister and I spent a good amount of time pondering over what is graviola…

My sister was craving a bowl that had ample amounts of banana and peanut butter. I wound up getting a classic Vitality Bowl.

bowlz
On the left ~ a Nutty Bowl with an almond milk base, apple juice, PB, banana, strawberries and flax seed topped with granola, (more) bananas, almonds and honey // On the right ~ a Vitality Bowl made with organic acai, bananas, strawberries and flax seed and topped with granola, honey, bananas, strawberries, and (not enough) goji berries

I loved my bowl, but wish there had been more goji berries. The base was also somewhat more watery than I expected, and my sister’s bowl base seemed to be as thick as ice cream. The stainless steel bowl kept things nice and cold however.

close up
Close-up shot of my Vitality Bowl πŸ™‚

After finishing the bowls, my sister and I headed back to the apartment. We just worked on our computers and enjoyed the company of my cousin and her wife. One of

their friends came over for tax help, and my cousin got started on cooking dinner while the NBA All-Star game played in the background. My cousin ended up making a “less spicy” version of Pad Kee Mao. The original recipe called for 22 chili peppers, but she generously cut that down to 7.

pad_kee_mao
Pad Kee Mao that wasn’t supposed to be spicy, but still was!

Even so, everyone commented on how spicy it still was! I however like spicy food, and didn’t find it off-putting one bit.

After dinner, we played a card game called Judgment that my cousin’s wife was a pro at. She beat us all by a wide margin. Soon after that, we called it a night and retreated back to our rooms. We had plans to go into the city the next day, so we had no problem turning in early to save up our energy for that. πŸ™‚

Vitality Bowls Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

Once Wednesday morning rolled around last week, I felt much less anxious, but I did have some lingering adrenaline because I could not sleep. Post-presentation jitters? I guess that’s a thing.

I did treat myself to a latte in the morning: the new Cascara latte from Starbucks.

As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.
As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.

I saved my celebrations for the weekend though. My friend from lab and I snuck out a little early Friday evening to head downtown and see Hidden Figures. It was my friend’s second time seeing it, but she loved it so much that she didn’t mind seeing it again with me.

She ended up buying both of our tickets even though I insisted she didn’t. Ah, now I owe her—if she’ll ever give me the chance πŸ˜‰ !

I absolutely loved the movie, though I will admit I love movies and books about people and their stories. I loved reading biographies as a kid, and even now I prefer memoirs over anything else literature-wise.

On Saturday, I gave myself a rest day knowing that the next morning I would have to get up and run 15 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my day, knowing I had it all to myself with no impending items on my to-so list…

IMG_9104
Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

I ended up walking around Santa Monica in the morning because I woke up ravenous, and I wanted to get donuts from DK’s. Unfortunately, my debit card wasn’t working and I couldn’t withdraw any cash to buy any donuts from the cash-only shop. I don’t understand why they can’t take credit cards at this point with all their success/recognition, but one day I’ll be able to see what the hullabaloo is about…when I have cash in my pocket.

In the meantime, I had to find something pronto because my stomach was growling…

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

I totally forgot about SuperFood Cafe’s existence, even though I had been planning to check this place out a while back. They have an incredible amount of vegan and vegetarian items, hinted by the size of their large laminated menus.

At the counter, I ordered a warm bowl called Chef Tofu and a coffee because that morning I desperately needed one. I then found a seat and admired the high ceilings and warm, cozy color tones.

coffee and art
Nothing says comfort like a giant mug of coffee

I added two packets of brown sugar and one serving of creamer to the coffee, which made it taste much more magical. My bowl came in a very interesting-shaped bowl—it looked like something you’d find in an art gallery.

chef_tofu
That crazy looking bowl though.

The bowl itself contained organic tofu, hemp seed, organic broccoli, kale & spinach, and organic tomato-corn-chipotle salsa. The tofu had a nice spice to it, being coated with a light curry sauce and all.

chef_TOfuuu
Ah, a bowl of yum!

With my hunger satisfied, I decided I might as well do something fun, but cultural, with my free day. I took the bus (which stopped right in front of SuperFood, conveniently!) to Westwood, and decided to check out the Hammer Museum since I hadn’t been yet!

hammer_museum
Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

The museum was actually pretty small. From the outside it looks enormous, but then I realized that the bulk of it was a parking garage…so much for culture! While it was gorgeous on the inside, there were only TWO art displays open, and so my visit was drastically cut down to a fifteen minute walk-through…

interior_
Pretty, but small & quiet

So, I ended up doing what I pretty much do on my weekends when not in lab…grocery shop, and then head home to nap! At least at my grocery stops over the weekends, I treated myself to some delicious new finds:

I had this Falafel Wrap from Trader Joe’s on Sunday, after a 15-mile long run with my team. After having the Veggie Hummus and Grilled Eggplant wraps though, I found this one to be awfully dry even with the provided tahini sauce. It didn’t help that all the falafel were to one side (it made it harder to dip that side into the sauce cup)…maybe if they had been assembled in a staggered arrangement, it would have helped with the dunking?

falafel_wrap
Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

I also used some Vitamin Shoppe points I had to go towards my first jar of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter!

I tried D's Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It's a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S'mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that's balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!
I tried D’s Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It’s a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S’mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that’s balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely πŸ™‚

backofjar
I will be on the hunt for the others!

I would say that my post-exam jitters finally went away Monday morning. I woke up feeling much more refreshed than I did last Wednesday, and so far, that feeling’s been holding up pretty well πŸ™‚

Does it take you a while (psychologically) to get back to your normal routine after a long stressful event is over?

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

Peanut Butter & Cookie Dough

Peanut Butter & Cookie Dough

This month has been stressful and extremely busy for me to say the least, and finding outlets of comfort has been quite a challenge! I do feel like I have been able to give myself self-care when absolutely necessary, such as when a 20 min power nap turned into a deep sleep session of 2 hours on Thursday, but working through two rigorous powerpoint presentations non-stop for a month can wipe ANYONE out…

Needless to say, my weekends have been uneventful for the most part, since I’ve been having to devote all the “free” time I have to staying close to lab or home. I’m hoping I can fill my weekends up with more restaurant outings and LA exploratory activities, but right now I am powering through the home stretch!

At least I’ve found a some source of comfort from some new foods as of late.

Hello nut butters!
Hello nut butters!

Reginald’s Homemade was kind enough to send me four flavors of their unique nut butters. Of the four jars, I tried the cashew butter first, atop some Siggi’s yogurt.

cashew butter opened
Siggi’s topped with cinnamon molasses cashew butter!

The cashew butter was flavored with cinnamon and molasses, and you could tell molasses was definitely mixed in due to the thick consistency of the butter.

cinnamonmolasses_cashewbutter
Cinnamon Molasses Cashew Butter

The nana honey peanut butter was just as smooth, but a bit more runny than the molasses flavor. It definitely had a banana scent, but it wasn’t overwhelming in the taste. Honestly I thought this flavor tasted mostly like regular smooth peanut butter, but it was fresh and creamy nonetheless!

cashew butter in yogurt
So smooth!

The wedding pretzel crunch peanut butter said it had “lite crunch” on the jar, but this flavor was ALL crunch. There were tons of salted pretzel sticks thrown in, but I couldn’t not any distinct white chocolate flavor. While I was hoping for a decent mix of chocolate chips mixed up with all those pretzels, I wasn’t too disappointed considering this jar was maxed out when it came to varying textures.

wedding_pretzelcrunchpb__
Lot’s of pretzels here!

My favorite flavor in regards to texture was the bourbon pecan flavor. This jar was literally glowing, and the pecans were ground up just right so that the pieces were just the right size.

bourbonpecan_pb
Bourbon pecan peanut butter

This was one jar I could easily eat by the spoonful, but I also added it to a mug cake with yogurt mixed with amazing grass greens.

greensmoothiepecanbutter_
Topping some mixed yogurt!

I also ordered some more cookie dough from The Lion’s Pack, and had ordered it while I was in Tulsa so it would be waiting for me when I got back to LA earlier this month. I had fun reviewing the flavors on Instagram:

Campfire Cookie – one of my favorites! It had chocolate chunks and graham cracker dusting. It looked sooo pretty, and the good looks matched in good taste!!

When it's not summer but you miss campfire nights πŸ”₯ πŸͺ
When it’s not summer but you miss campfire nights πŸ”₯ πŸͺ

Cereal Bowl Cookie Dough – So, Cereal Bowl Cookie Dough…I found the Cap’n Crunch pieces to be stale-tasting, and overall didn’t help the cookie dough taste any better. The colors were fun though.

Cereal Bowl Cookie Dough
Cereal Bowl Cookie Dough

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough – Good ol’ chocolate chip. A classic that often is taken for granted. But I have to say that The Lion’s Pack chocolate chip cookie dough is insanely good! The chocolate chips are small and melty, and not overwhelming at all! Sometimes sticking to the basics is good πŸ‘πŸ½

I gotta say that this might actually be my top fave!!
I gotta say that this might actually be my top fave!!

Snickers Bar Cookie Dough – Too many peanuts, and not enough nougat/caramel with this “Snickers bar” flavor cookie dough.

This flavor was obviously not my favorite!
This flavor was obviously not my favorite!

Monster Cookie Dough – The Monster Cookie dough actually tasted awful. The cookie dough itself was fine, but the “monster” candy pieces tasted somewhat bitter, chalky, and just did not fit. I literally had to pick them out in order to enjoy the rest of the dough.

monster_cookie
Eh, not my fave!

Gingerbread Cookie Dough – It certainly had some spice, and some white frosting strings. It was a pretty good flavor, which I think could have tasted even better with some other holiday-themed add-ins…oooh, gum drops and candy cane pieces perhaps??

ginger
Gingerbread Cookie!

Unfortunately, the packaging wasn’t so well put together with this shipment—one of my jars came cracked at the lid!

crackedjar
Ugh cracked jar…

Ah, January is almost over, and I’m hoping that with it, I’ll have less stress on my plate and more comfort with not just from food, but in life overall!

Which of these peanut butter flavors would you try?

Which of these cookie dough flavors would you try?

Repeat of 2016?

Repeat of 2016?

I returned to California early last week, and I was in a deep funk for a couple days. My two weeks off from lab, spent with family, was JUST what I needed and my only regret was that it wasn’t longer!

At least I had a surprise package waiting for me…I tried Enlightened Roasted Broad Bean Crisps for the first time thanks to a little box with some fun-flavored goods:

crisps
Enlightened saved me from the doldrums!

They were the dessert flavors: Cocoa Dusted and Sweet Cinnamon.

cocoa_dusted
Cocoa Dusted description

I had both flavors straight out of the bag. Out of the two, I loved the cinnamon-flavored ones the most since they reminded me of those churro twists from Taco Bell I had long ago…

sweet-cinnamon
Sweet Cinnamon

Cocoa Dusted was good too, I just preferred cinnamon over chocolate coating πŸ˜›

cocoadust
Cocoa Dusted up close & personal

I decided to keep close to West LA since I knew DTLA would be abuzz with the LA Fit Expo going on. I also had to go into lab, which would have cut into any day plans if I had scheduled any. So after lab, I came back to Culver City and had lunch literally across the street from the train station…at Sweetgreen! I find it hilarious that my first outing to a restaurant for 2017 is Sweetgreen once again…I dined at a Sweetgreen in Mid-City last year as my first outing in 2016! I wonder if it will become tradition…

sweetgreen
Sweetgreen’s newest—Culver City

They recently opened up shop here in a complex called The Platform. It was already in full swing with customers eating outside even though it was cloudy out.

food_
Order at the counter

The seating arrangements inside were too small, and if everyone in line had decided to dine in, there would have been no way. I did get a seat however, by the window. It was just a table that wasn’t wiped clean since the last customer, and only had one chair so I had to sit with my bag on my lap, haha!

menu
Lot’s to choose from!

When it was my turn to order, I decided to get a warm bowl. The Shroomami sounded amazing, with glazed tofu, rice, kale, …, and it was vegan so even more of a plus!

lookatdatbowl
My Shroomami bowl [vegan] ~ organic wild rice, shredded kale, raw beets, bean sprouts, basil, spicy sunflower seeds, roasted sesame tofu, warm portobello mix, miso sesame ginger dressing
I also got a slice of bread on the side, and enjoyed the bowl while people/train watching through the window.

sideofbread_tofu
Slice of bread, and look at that tofu!

After eating lunch, I got grocery shopping done at Sprouts. I love it when restaurants/grocery stores are all in one area since it makes running weekend errands so much easier.

While picking up staples for the week, I came across another RX Bar flavor I have yet to try—Peanut Butter! When I was checking out in line, there was a guy in front of me who noticed my purchase-to-be, and asked where he could find them. As soon as I told him, he dashed over to the bar aisle while the cashier began to check out his items!

rx_pb
RX Peanut Butter bar…has exactly 14 peanuts?

I tried the bar as I was waiting for the train to go home. I like the smooth texture of the bar, and it kind of made me think of the Chocolate Coconut flavor without coconut, and with a mild peanut scent reminiscent of how the maple scent defined the Maple Sea Salt flavor. I guess I could understand why that guy at Sprouts was in such a mad dash to get those bars for himself?

Have you eaten out since the new year began?

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

Race Recap – Hard Rock Cafe 10k 2016

Race Recap – Hard Rock Cafe 10k 2016

Last Saturday, I ran the Hard Rock Cafe 10k once again. I paired it with a weekend voting adventure that ended up being more memorable than I thought it would. The turmoil I faced in the afternoon did not make me regret the race though!

halo-top-peanut-butter-cup
Over the weekend, I also tried the last Halo Top flavor I needed to try out of the ten new flavors! Caption from Insta —> The day has finally arrived! I tried out the last of the new Halo Top flavors—Peanut Butter Cup! Honestly I was expecting for there to be peanut butter CUP CHUNKS, but there was a hardened peanut butter swirl. In my pint, it was mostly at the bottom, and surprisingly didn’t have much flavor even though it looked like PB. While I did expect this pint to be more fantastic than it actually was, it was not too bad. If you were at the store and this and Oatmeal Cookie were your options, get THIS first!! Haha. πŸ‘‰πŸ½ Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough > Pistachio & Black Cherry & S’mores > Sea Salt Caramel >> Red Velvet & Peanut Butter Cup >> Chocolate Almond Crunch > Cookies and Cream & Oatmeal Cookie. 🍦 And there you have it, my opinion on all the new Halo Top! Now please excuse me while I stock up on all the Cookie Dough pints 😏 .

I woke up incredibly early in order to catch a 5AM train. Ugh it was far from what I wanted to do in regards to getting to the race start, but I did make it to Hollywood and Highland, fortunately all in one piece!

walk
Early morning start!

I picked up my race shirt and bib, and seeing as there was no packet pick-up YET AGAIN, I had to wear the shirt over my current shirt. I also got a cappuccino from Starbucks in the meantime, before assembling with the other runners at the race start.

shirt
Race shirt and walking around the start/finish

The race began at 7AM, and the path was pretty much a 3 mile out and back in regards to the 10k. It was a run down Hollywood Boulevard, and we turned around at the border of Los Feliz. I honestly felt so light and free for the first three miles. My pace was sub 8:00 for a while and then slowly crept up after mile 3.

My breath and legs were catching up to me, but I didn’t feel so exhausted to the point that I had to slow down. I had a major dip at mile 5, but then had enough energy to kick it to the finish.

I ended up with a pace of 8:12/mi ! My current 10K Race PR!

Like last year, there wasn’t much in terms of goodies.

shorts
Bai and Nesquik were here this time…but something new were the Turkey Trot LA 2015 shorts!!

They had the Nesquik truck again, but they also at least had Bai and this guy giving out LA Turkey Trot 2015 shorts! Obviously I thought the shorts were the best of all the race goodies being given out, even if they were more like bloomers, haha!

medal
Ohh shiny medal!

I left for North Hollywood soon after since I wanted to get voting out of the way (lol) but overall I was glad with how the race ended up. My last race experience in Hollywood was terrible so Saturday’s race definitely made up for that ordeal!

What would be a cool post-race freebie for a company to hand out?

Race Recap – Santa Monica Classic 5k/10k

Race Recap – Santa Monica Classic 5k/10k

On Sunday, I ran the Santa Monica Classic, which happened to be a sold out event catering to 4K people! In the days leading up to the race though, I snacked on some new-to-me bars that refueled me after my weekday runs.

Sprouts was having a sale on Perfect Bars, so I tried two different flavors even though my first experience with the brand was horrible. Looks like their revamp of the brand and flavors had made a huge difference!

perfectbar_pb
Perfect Bar – Peanut Butter

The Peanut Butter flavor tasted like a cold, peanut version of cashew burphi.

perfectbar_ac
Perfect Bar – Almond Coconut

The Almond Coconut flavor had a mixed texture, and even crumbled a bit, but the flavor was still subtle and sweet.

The FitJoy bars have been a recent hit on social media, and even when I stepped into GNC a few weeks ago they were trying to promote the bars with free samples. I caved in and bought a box of chocolate chip chip cookie dough from Vitamin Shoppe the week after.

fitjoy_cccd
Fit Joy – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

This flavor was particularly chewy, and gave my jaw a workout for sure! It had some crunch to it as well from the small chocolate chip chunks. I didn’t notice any weird after taste, and another added bonus is that these bars don’t have sucralose!

Back to the race though—itt was a celebration indeed! How could you ask for better running weather with cloudy skies overhead and a fair ocean breeze drifting in the from the west?

dogs
The health festival the day before the race where I had to pick up my bib. They also had therapy dogs and oh were they adorable!

I ran to the race start since it made for a nice ~2.5 mile warm-up run from where I live.

smc_schedule
Running to the race start…

The starting area was already buzzing with activity, and since I had at least another hour before the 10k start, I found a patch of grass to sit on for people watching.

waiting-on-the-grass
Now to find a piece of grass to sit on.

I watched the 5kers take off, and soon after, the 10k runners made their way to the start line.

For the first mile, I was averaging a 7:45/mi pace even though my legs felt heavy. I wondered to myself if I would be able to pull this off the entire way, but that’s when the mental struggle butted in. If I was running the 5k, I think I would have been able to maintain that pace the whole way through, but knowing that I had double the distance of a 5k, one of my most immediate thoughts was “pacing, pacing, pacing“.

At Mile 3, just like I had expected, the heaviness caught up to me and I settled in at a 8:30/mi pace. Mile 4, which was on San Vicente, created an incline which slowed my pace quite a bit, but by Mile 5 on the turnaround, that “feeling of fatigue” seemed to vanish! Maybe it was because I was no running down an incline, but at least it helped.

I pushed through all the way until the finish, and ran under the arch with a final average pacing of 8:27/mi. I grabbed a hold of the first water bottle I saw in the hands of a volunteer, and guzzled it down within 10 seconds.

walking-o-pier
Walking to the pier to get those freebies!

The race organizers where sneaky in that the runners had to head down to the pier to get their race shirts. To tide us over during the walk down to the pier, we were able to have Clif Nut Butter filled bars, bananas, and water.

After getting my shirt, I managed to only get a handful more of race goodies. For the race registration fee, I didn’t get much as far as snackables.

fruit_and_fruit
Fruity freebies!!

Meb was there for a meet-and-greet, but I didn’t stop to stay hello. He was taking pics with the high school winners of the high school challenge between Santa Monica and Malibu high schools.

I needed to go into lab that afternoon, so I made my way home around 10:30. I got back 45 minutes later, and quickly got ready to go about my day.

Overall, I was very proud of my pacing and final time. There were a lot of competitive runners, and I believe the women’s top finisher in the 10k was an LA Marathoner top 10 runner/definitely elite status.

smc_medal
Medal πŸ™‚

I only hope that as I continue my training, I’ll become more competitive, faster, and stronger especially endurance-wise. I know I have it in me, but my recent injuries and mental mindset play a big role as well.

One thing I’m looking forward to is receiving help from a coach. I’m in the process of finding someone as I write this, and we’ll see how that turns out soon enough!

My First Degusta Box

My First Degusta Box

Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Degustabox. All opinions are my own.

Two weekends ago, I surprised my roommate by dropping a huge box on the floor of our apartment with a loud THUD! I had carried this box for ten minutes straight, as it made its was from apartment mail center to elevator to apartment door. But it was a box worth having an extra arm workout πŸ˜‰

My hefty Degustabx filled with lots of goodies! The box was heavy and bulky, but I can't complain too much because it had full-size bottles and cartons of tasty products!
My hefty Degustabx filled with lots of goodies! The box was heavy and bulky, but I can’t complain too much because it had full-size bottles and cartons of tasty products!

Degustabox is a monthly box subscription that is currently active in five European countries and is now starting up in the United States! Each box is packed with food products featuring all sorts of brands, and if the regular monthly boxes are like anything the box I received, then you will be getting a workout carrying it back to your apartment/house from the mailbox.

Degustabox also offers a points system through friend referrals and completing surveys about products that come in the box. There are many ways to collect points in order to get to 100 points to redeem for a free box πŸ˜€ . I had to lay out all of my products in one picture because I couldn’t believe the amount and variety I had before me…

Degustabox Products for June
Degustabox Products for June

The featured product of the month was Topo Chico, sparkling mineral water straight from Mexico!!

Topo Chico Mineral Water
Topo Chico Mineral Water

I tried both Topo Chico bottles on my long run day, one right after and one later in the evening. I had the lemon-flavored one right after my run and it felt SO refreshing! If you are someone that needs an incentive to drink water because it’s “too boring”, carbonated water is the way to go. Sure, you may be burping for a while afterwards, but a sip from each of these bottles was a party in the mouth!

Jif Cinnamon Peanut Butter Spread
Jif Cinnamon Peanut Butter Spread

The item in the box that I was most excited to try was the Jif Cinnamon peanut butter spread. Nut butters and spreads (especially new brands and flavors) always make me go weak at the knees, and this jar of cinnamon-y wonder was no exception. I had little more than a dollop of it with a Fage Crossover yogurt I’ve been meaning to try, which featured a coconut curry yogurt and cashew topping. Everything together, mixed in, was just…ahhh. I probably would have been able to enjoy it more if it was a post-run treat versus a way to get in some pre-run fuel. It was just that good!

Vita Coco Coconut Oil
Vita Coco Coconut Oil

I received the coconut oil by Vita Coco in three small sachets. My mom used to rub it on my scalp and in my hair when I was younger, and while I hated the smell and going to school with slicked hair, I truly think that’s what’s helped my hair remain so thick. I don’t condition it like that anymore, but having these sachets in hand reminded me of those times, so I actually rubbed up my hair with one of them before showering. It also helped that I got a haircut, so one sachet was plenty πŸ™‚ . I’m not sure how big of a difference it made, but at least it made the shampoo I used easier to lather, allowing me to used less of the shampoo! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown fond of the coconut oil smell, so that didn’t bother me as it lingered in my hair into the next day.

Wise Popcorn
Wise Popcorn

The Wise popcorn bags I received came in lightly salted and Cinnabon flavors. I made my usual weeknight after-dinner snack of protein powder mixed with yogurt (proyo), and topped the bowl with popcorn. In this bowl, I topped it with the Cinnabon flavor and snacked on the lightly salted flavor on the side. The Cinnabon flavor was not very strong to my disappointment, and the popcorn of both flavors tasted somewhat stale (as in they didn’t have a robust crunch to them).

Another fun topping item included in the box were packages of Cranberry Almond Cashew Trail Mix and Cashew Halves and Pieces from Orchard Valley. I was a fan of the trail mix since the cranberries tasted especially sweet and the almonds were salty and crunchy. The cashews were flavorful too, but the single note grew boring after the first two spoonfuls.

Orchard Valley Nut Packs
Orchard Valley Nut Packs

One versatile product I received was a carton of Elmhurst Harvest’s walnut milk! I have yet to try walnut milk…yes to almond and cashew, but walnut was a new one to me! Even though it was unsweetened, it helped make a rockin’ snack:

elmhurst
Elmhurst Harvest milk-alternative

Into this cup went:
– 4 oz. of Elmhurst Harvest’s walnut milk
– two scoops (~56g) of chocolate protein powder
– a little over two tablespoons of cashew butter

I also added a little extra water to completely dissolve the powder, but the walnut milk certainly help bind things together and also maintain a nutty flavor in this protein smoothie of sorts πŸ˜›

I didn’t get two taste these two dressings/sauces in time for this post, but I could at least comment on the packaging!

Brianna's Home Style Italian Vinaigrette & Veri Veri Teriyaki Marinade
Brianna’s Home Style Italian Vinaigrette & Veri Veri Teriyaki Marinade

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find a bottle of Brianna’s dressing in my box, seeing that it costs ~$5 a bottle at Whole Foods! I’ve been having salad packs mixed with tofu and some kind of sauce/marinade/dressing for my weekday lunches lately, so I know I will make great use out of this once I open it. I’ll just have to remember to keep this in the refrigerator once I do!!

Bottles from the side.
Bottles from the side.

The Soy Yay Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce also looks appetizing. This bottle is packed with sesame seeds (at least from what I can tell looking at the neck of the bottle), and it probably fetches its spiciness from the ginger puree and dried ginger mixed in. I know I will go through this bottle quickly when it makes its initial appearance one of these days in my weekday lunch salads.

Even though I wasn’t sick (thankfully) this week or the week before, I had to give the Honees honey menthol cough drops a try. Each lozenge has liquid honey on the inside, and while the outer layer reminded my of the Halls lozenges I used to have long ago, the flavor was more refreshing due to the liquid honey on the inside infused with menthol. 

HONEES cough drops
HONEES cough drops

One product I will unfortunately be unable to try are the Haribo SOUR Gold-Bear gummies. If only they didn’t have gelatin! But I do plan on bringing them into lab since we will be having a potluck this week, and I’m sure my (mostly) European lab-mates will enjoy them.

You can learn more about Degustabox on their website, Facebook or follow @Degustabox on Twitter/Instagram!

Which of these products would you be eager to try?

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