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.

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

A Weekend in LV, Part 1

My weekend trip to Vegas was planned on a whim, mostly due to the fact my bestie from Nor Cal moved there recently. BlogFest was also occurring the weekend I planned to visit, and there wasn’t any time-sensitive experiment holding me back in lab, so everything seemed to work out in my favor.

I worked some long days earlier in the week (including a 12hr stint the day before I left), but once Thursday arrived I was ready to for the desert country.

My MegaBus wasn’t leaving LA until 12:45, so I took it easy in the morning. I decided to take the weekend off from running since I knew the 90-110 temperatures in the Vegas heat would be unbearable to run in. After getting some coffee, I packed up the remainder of my stuff at home and then made my way to Union Station.

It was pretty hot in LA as well, so I was antsy until the bus came and we could finally sit down in an A/C regulated area. The bus ride was pretty uneventful, but I was able to fall in and out of sleep pretty easily. My body had been wanting to catch up I suppose!

Protein House, Las Vegas
Protein House, Las Vegas

I arrived in LA around 6, and my friend had just gotten off work so she was able to swing by and pick me up. I was expecting myself to experience a weather shock but the 105 degree temperature difference felt insane. She also looked pretty exhausted, so finding some place to eat for dinner was an immediate priority.

Menu
Menu

I had been wanting to check out The Protein House ever since it was featured on the Food Network in one of those undercover, we-fix-your-restaurant shows.

Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies
Pick-Up Counter and Protein Cookies

Many years later, I was standing in one of their locations with my friend, deciding which plant-based protein entree to get and a smoothie to complement it.

Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack
Counter and Shaker Bottle Rack

I ended up getting their Plant Power Bowl and the Chocolate PB Crush crush shake while my friend got a Spicy Thai Chicken Wrap and a Peanut Butter Dream smoothie. With her purchase, she was able to score a free shaker cup—something she said she probably will not use, haha.

My smoothie, her wrap
My smoothie, her wrap

Our food came out relatively quickly, and while our smoothies were flavorful and thick, both of our entrees were pretty dry. A little mix of some sauce and everything would have been dandy…

Plant Power Bowl ~ Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes
Plant Power Bowl ~
Organic Tofu, Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Quinoa, Chopped Garlic, Sweet Potato, Squash, Red onion, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Black beans, Chickpeas, Siriacha, Pinch Pepper & SeaSalt, Red Pepper Flakes

My friend was still pretty tired after we ate, so we just walked around the Town Square shopping mall a few miles off the strip since she works there. We spent an hour or so walking through Sephora and some of the other boutiques. Around 9pm, she dropped me off at my AirBnB which…was quite an experience.

The listing forgot to mention a few things…like the apartments were in a semi-sketch area (doubt that anyone would say that but…), the private room I was renting was opposite another private room housing two male guests and that there was a shared bathroom for both rooms, and that some rando would be sleeping on a pull-out couch in the living room my entire stay without a shirt on. Welcome to Las Vegas πŸ‘ŒπŸ½

But my room was clean and everything else seemed okay. It was a weird situation, but I could tolerate it for the weekend.

The next day was the second day of BlogFest and since my friend had to work all day, I spent most of the day at the convention center. I woke up at the crack of dawn, and was ready by 7:30. I decided to walk over, and despite the weirdness of the surrounding area, it was a safe walk over. Even though it was early in the morning, it was already hitting the 90s, and I couldn’t avoid sweating despite my attempts at walking slowly and under shade patches.

I was able to make it to the day’s earliest event which was the networking breakfast with a yogurt bar sponsored by Bell Institute.

Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!
Wecolme to Blogfest 2017!

I made sure to get a bowl of Good Culture cottage cheese topped with berries and a large mug of hot coffee with creamer.

Yogurt bar!
Yogurt bar!

I stayed for the keynote speech and the morning sessions, and around noon stopped by the expo to, ya know…pick up as many freebies as I can!

So many booths, gotta catch 'em all!
So many booths, gotta catch ’em all!

I grabbed enough protein bars, protein powders, kale chips, and other random items to fill one large reusable bag and my backpack. I was (mentally) tired to stay any longer, so I made the decision to walk back to my room in the 105 degree heat around 3:30pm. I wanted to rip off my skin and dunk my organs in an ice bath by the time I got back, but I survived. Opening the door and finding a half naked guy sleeping on a pull-out bed in the living room was awkward, but I retreated to my room and counted the hours until I could hang out with my bestie the next day…

Have you ever had an awkward hotel/lodging experience?

Protein House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Make Out Everyday

Make Out Everyday

Last week was a shocker and after Tuesday, it seemed like there was a cloud of sadness everywhere that just would not dissipate. I am glad that people are still talking about politics, since I honestly believe that despite the strong emotions it can bring up, it is extremely important to bring awareness and question things that have a huge impact on how we live our lives.

cccd
Something that picked me up during this somber week ~ I seriously had a loss of appetite after Tuesday’s events, so I’m glad its back and roared up again, haha. Despite the sadness that creeped up over me yesterday, I had to be happy about one small thing…finding the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Eatenlightened pint! I’ve been complaining about how it’s been hard to locate anywhere in LA, but I happened to find these stocked on the shelves at a Bristol Farms in Santa Monica (on Wilshire, right across from Petco, for those who are local and have been trying to find this elusive flavor yourself)! Sometimes it helps to eat your sorrows away, if it involves cookie dough chunks and a smooth, creamy ice cream πŸ˜‰

I also was feeling from physical exhaustion that prevented me from running higher mileage that week. My body craved extra rest, and I obliged. I’ve been pulling long hours in lab as well, so the extra rest was welcomed on all fronts.

mexican-hot-chocolate
Also was happy to find this ~ What could be more thrilling than walking into your local Trader Joe’s and finding that they have the new seasonal Clif Bar, Mexican Hot Chocolate, in stock πŸ˜„ πŸ‡²πŸ‡½ β˜•οΈ 🍫?!? It didn’t have the extreme chocolate profile that is more evident in their other chocolate flavors, but it did have a spicy kick 🌢 to it which I felt about five seconds after the first bite! And with all the overpriced energy bars out there, purchasing this for only $0.99 was such a steal πŸ˜…. I also love how a portion of the sales from this flavor go towards an organization that is working to protect our winters and fight climate change πŸ‘ŠπŸ½πŸ—»

Saturday ended up being a rest day, and a day that my running team and I scheduled as a day for volunteering. We helped organize maternal and baby goods for a non-profit that distributes these items to low income expecting and first-time moms. It was a Saturday morning well spent, and obviously I had worked long enough to build up a strong appetite for lunch.

make_out_everyday
Make Out Everyday, Culver City

Since I did want to go home as soon as I could, and face plant into a pillow for nap time, I decided to stop by a plant-based foods cafe in Culver City since it was on the way. I originally came by Make Out Everyday over Labor Day Weekend, but they were unfortunately closed at that time.

food
Mexican Brown Rice πŸ™‚

I was in luck this time however. I used my ninja photography skills (haha) to capture the elegant interior decor, but the cashier had noticed a man outside who was going out of his way to get the perfect picture capturing the cafe’s logo from outside! I’m so glad that wasn’t me, haha!

every-day
Interior of Make Out Everyday

It took a while for me to decide what I wanted to get, as there were all sorts of smoothies, latte “potions”, wraps, salads, sandwiches, small bites, bowls…I went with a bowl (no surprise) even though I was debating between that and one of the wraps.

My bowl of choice was the Mexican bowl, which had chopped lettuce, quinoa and rice mixed with chipotle crema, sunflower chorizo, and a dollop of mashed avocado. The garnish was fabulous too…I’m not sure what that watermelon-colored root vegetable is called, but it certainly looked pretty!

mexican-bowl
Mexican Brown Rice bowl with guacamole, sunflower chorizo, rice with chipotle crema, salad

The portion sizes are small, so I wouldn’t recommend coming in with a voracious appetite. If you do, you may have to order multiple plates which doesn’t sound bad, but this place isn’t McDonald’s cheap either…

rice
It’s all in the details…

Sunday was a long run day in Santa Monica so I didn’t have to worry about waking up super early to carpool with my running team. After the run, I immediately went home and crashed. I planned to get some work done, but that didn’t happen to the extent that I had wished to. Oh well, I don’t think the time went to waste since I slept so soundly throughout the day and was sleepy enough to go to bed (for real) around 8:30pm.

I’m not surprised one bit that I craved so much sleep this week. I don’t see how anyone could have issue with that πŸ˜‰

Make Out Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Vegan on the Hill

Vegan on the Hill

There is a DTLA route that I like to run that includes a very steep hill, and I first came across it on a group run with my marathon training team last year. I felt like my heart was going to burst the first time I “ran” it, but since that run, I can’t help but include that hill whenever I run DTLA.

au_lac (1)

If you make it to the top of the hill, there is both a feast for your eyes (Walt Disney Concert Hall) and a feast for your hungry, runner belly. There is a tiny strip mall right across from WDCH, and it includes the elegant Γ‚u Lac Restaurant, specializing in plant-based cuisine.

au_lac (2)

It has such a humble storefront, but inside, the vibe is so trendy.

au_lac (4)

The hostess allowed me to sit anywhere, and immediately brought over an classy water pitcher, which apparently held water purified by reverse osmosis.

au_lac (3)

I had to take my time with this menu since everything sounded so good. I chose to have the Sweet & Spicy Tempeh, which was described as a veggie dish with potato and tempeh, all covered with sweet chilli sauce and decorated with melinjo crackers. Melinjo what though?

I would soon learn that melinjo crackers are to die for. My plate took a while to arrive, but when it was all ready, my mouth was watering.

au_lac (5)

The hostess even came by and suggested that I use the crackers to “scoop” the veggies into, kind of like those Tostitos scoops chips!

au_lac (9)

I used the chips to scoop up the veggies as she suggested, but I savored the tempeh pieces individually, since they deserved my full attention πŸ˜›

au_lac (7)

It took me a while to finish since I was using chopsticks, but knowing that my dish was one of the spicier ones on their menu, the hostess came by with a glass of blueberry kombucha (on the house!!) to aid with the digestion process. Could this place be anymore amazing?

au_lac (8)

After many long runs on that DTLA hill, I finally took the time to stop up at the top, and enjoy what was available there. Maybe next time I’ll step inside WDCH, or even The Broad which just opened up!

Are you a fan of running hills?

Have you tried kombucha?

Γ‚u Lac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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