Summer Winding Down

Summer Winding Down

The weekend my sister arrived to settle in the OC was also the weekend one of my lab mates was hosting a potluck at his house. It’s been years since anyone in our lab has gone out of their way to organize a lab get-together outside of lab, and so I have to give credit to my friend for taking on the challenge, haha!

Since my sister had the car now, she was invited so she could give us a ride ;).  Nah, she was welcome too. 

We carpooled with E and another lab mate and drove to West Covina east of LA. It took us an hour in headache-inducing traffic, and we were the last group to arrive. My friend who was hosting (let’s call him J) and his wife greeted us, and led us out to the backyard where the pool and food spread was. 
 
We got settled in with some plates of food, and sat by the pool while we ate. Everyone except E, my sister, and I made it to the pool sometime during our stay, but I was too lazy to even dip my feet in. 
 
We left around 4 in order to avoid traffic, and still faced stopped cars on all sides. By the time we dropped off my lab mate and E, it was almost 6! My sis wanted to get dinner since she wasn’t able to properly eat over the week due to stress from moving and settling in, and I was eager to oblige. I knew how much she liked Tocaya, so we paid their Venice location a visit. 
 
Tocaya, Venice
Tocaya, Venice
 
We found free street parking a few blocks away, and didn’t hesitate to park and power walk. Our hunger had caught up to us at that point, and we couldn’t afford to look at the menu for too long. 
 
A much cozier vibe.
A much cozier vibe.
 
I ended up getting a Shredded Kale and Quinoa salad, while my sis ordered the bowl she fell in love with during our last visit
 
Shredded Kale and Quinoa
Shredded Kale and Quinoa – quinoa & shredded kale tossed with white beans, avocado, chipotle-dusted almonds, chile lime pepitas seeds, pico de gallo & red-wine vinaigrette with chipotle-dusted tofu & vegan chipotle jack

My salad bowl was decent, but if it had not been for the dressing, it would have fallen flat. Even the tofu was slightly rubbery (and I prefer chewy tofu over the soft white kind!).

After dinner, we walked home with the humid beach air clinging over us, and despite there being no cooling beach breeze that night, we were able to sleep pretty soundly just from pure exhaustion.

The next morning, the weather was too great to pass up the opportunity to do something, so my sis and I hurried to lab soon after my long run. I had a ton of work to do, but she was willing to help me out and we were done in the afternoon. 

Destination O.T. Pasadena!
Destination O.T. Pasadena!
 
I let her pick where we should go for lunch, and after reading my “foodie bucket list” excel sheet (yes I have one, lol), Slater’s 50/50 in Pasadena sounded the most appetizing.
 
She drove, and while we did hit traffic passing by downtown, it was an easy, sunny drive to Pasadena once we got past all that. We found parking in Old Town on a side street, and walked over to the restaurant which was already packed with Sunday afternoon lunch-goers. 
 
Odd decor!
Odd decor!
 
We were able to get booth seating, and started off with Vampire Dip as an appetizer, and then decided to split the Veggie Burger because we predicted it would be a lot of food. Annnnd, we were right, haha!
 
Menu
Menu
 
The Vampire Dip was a cheesy, garlic concoction that was super thick, and its consistency was more like a melted cheese ball than a smooth bowl of dip. It came served in a bread bowl, with some flatbread crisps and veggies for dipping. 
 
Vampire Dip!
Vampire Dip!
 
I think the crew at Slater’s 50/50 knows how big their portions are, because our burger came to us already cut in half! 
 
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun
Eat Your Veggies ~ veggie patty, red peppers, avocado mash, cucumbers, sage & garlic aioli, honey wheat bun

My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue 😛

Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!
Half a burger was enough, not sure what my sis was thinking when she thought she could finish the shake!

After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.

GOYO
So much yes.

Of course, I asked if we could stop by a nearby Grocery Outlet (this time the one in Rosemead), so I could get my cheap groceries for the week! My sis didn’t argue, seeing that she could benefit from the trip as well. Cheap food to off-set gas costs, haha!

Slater's 50/50 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Coconut Oil Cookie Butter Brownies

Coconut Oil Cookie Butter Brownies

My friends and I decided to have a girls/movie night to kick-off the three-day weekend, and when planning for the night, figuring out who would bring what food-wise was just as important as deciding on the movie. We chose to use a random number generator to pick our movie, with each of us ladies ready with out movie choice if our number was selected, but there was no surprise regarding our menu.

I volunteered to prepare dessert, since I had purchased a new-to-me box of brownie mix from Sprouts a few weeks before. I’ve had it perched on my cupboard shelf since then, waiting for the perfect time to get baking.

European Gourmet Bakery Organics - Chocolate Brownie Mix

This box of European Gourmet Bakery Organics Chocolate Brownie Mix has a simple ingredients list of organic brown sugar, organic wheat flour, organic cocoa, salt, and baking soda, and once I opened the bag, the strong smell of cocoa filled my kitchen (along with a chocolate-sugar cloud 😛 )

brownie__batttter

I still had my Neat Egg Substitute, so I used that instead of eggs. And since I had a full jar of coconut oil and a tempting jar of cookie butter, it only made sense to incorporate those in for some knock-out brownies.

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Coconut Oil Cookie Butter Brownies
These brownies taste more like coconut fudge (with a "hint" of chocolate), but don't worry...that's a good thing!
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
55 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. - Box of brownie mix (~360 grams)
  2. - 2 large eggs or egg substitute (I used Neat Egg Substitute Powder)
  3. - 3 tbsp. of coconut oil
  4. - 5-6 tbsp. of cookie butter (I used Trader Joe's Cookies & Creme cookie butter)
  5. - Water (to add after all of the above ingredients are mixed, and until you get a moist, dense batter)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix wet and dry ingredients.
  3. Add water and keep mixing until you get a moist, dense batter.
  4. Pour batter onto a pan sprayed with PAM or onto a sheet of non-stick parchment paper.
  5. Bake in the oven for about 50-55 minutes, checking every 20 minutes with the "toothpick test".
  6. Take out of the oven, and let it cool down for 10-20 minutes (you may see the brownies start to bubble, but it will reabsorb back into the brownies).
  7. Put the pan in the fridge to cool down the brownies faster (30 minutes is good).
  8. Cut the brownies into squares, and enjoy the melty, gooey, delicious-ness of each bite!
Will Study for Food http://www.willstudyforfood.com/
After taking the pan out of the oven, I was immediately hit by the strong smell of coconut. I had my roommate taste a piece, and tried them for myself the next morning before plating them for the get-together. Since I love chewy, fudgy desserts, I absolutely loved how the brownies came out, specifically the melty, fudge center. They were somewhat sticky, but they didn’t fall apart, and they still had that “brownie crust” on the top.

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The ladies seemed to enjoy them too. I ended up coming back home with a few, but it was understandable since with all of our contributions, we had enough snackables to feed twice as many people than were present! Our movie choice that night was Horns starring Daniel Radcliffe…it was an interesting story, but some parts were downright creepy/awkward. We had to end the night with an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos  just so that we would leave on a happier note 😀 !

What do you like to cook/bake for potlucks?

Crunchy PB Cornbread

Crunchy PB Cornbread

Happy Thanksgiving to all the US readers out there! I thought I’d share a simple recipe for today that I also was able to share with my “guinea pig” classmates last week. Since it passed that trial, I think it’s worth putting up here 😉

I am actually pretty glad with the decision I made regarding whether or not I should return “home” for Thanksgiving. I didn’t think it would be a good idea at first since my last set of exams for the semester are looming near, but then I realized that seeing my family and friends again for a couple days would most likely do more help than harm. 

Despite how beautiful LA is, and how much I adore the city life, I think a small break from it all is necessary. In fact, I think it may actually strengthen my love for the more—at least I hope! 

So even though a couple of my classmates and I are planning to spend the “real” Thanksgiving with our families, we decided it would be an awesome idea to throw a pre-Thanksgiving get-together for just our class. We had a potluck that consisted of a variety of foods—enough to stuff everyone into a food coma that affected attention spans in lab for the rest of the day 😛

My contribution was cornbread with a twist. I did use Fleishmann’s mix, but with some alterations, ended up with something sweeter and nuttier.

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Crunchy PB Cornbread
Serves 12
A sweeter and nuttier take on classic cornbread.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. Fleischmann's Simply Homemade Cornbread Baking Mix
  2. 2/3 cup of almond or coconut milk
  3. 1/3 cup of crunchy peanut butter
  4. 1 Neat egg or egg substitute
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix to get a moist batter going.
  3. Add water if necessary to add extra moisture.
  4. Line pan with non-stick parchment paper.
  5. Pour in batter into pan.
  6. Bake for 45 min.
  7. Take out, cool, and bring to a potluck!
Adapted from Fleishmann's Cornbread Mix Box
Adapted from Fleishmann's Cornbread Mix Box
Will Study for Food http://www.willstudyforfood.com/
I swapped out butter and regular ol’ milk with a mix of almond/coconut milk, and some crunchy peanut butter that I wanted needed to finish so that I could have a jar for YIAJ later 😉

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The peanut butter I was using also had raisins and cinnamon pecan pieces, so the extra additions only added to the sweetness!

When it came out of the oven, it had the appearance of a golden brick, but the inside was soft and chewy.

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Someone brought a bean/chili type dish to the potluck, and I noticed someone else pairing this bread with that. How often do potluck dishes pair up so well? 😉

How are you celebrating Thanksgiving 2014?

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