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. 

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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.

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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?

Lotsa Snackin’ and the Expo

Lotsa Snackin’ and the Expo

In the days leading up to my second marathon (!!!), I honestly did not feel as amped or excited as I did for my first marathon. Part of it was due to the fact that it all felt rushed. The race itself (LA Marathon) was pushed up to Valentine’s this year instead of its usual date in March. I also felt like my training runs didn’t feel as accomplishing (even though I should have felt accomplished!) because I was going through a lot of changes with my body in regards to my eating disorder recovery. I plan to write a more detailed post about this in the future, when I have more time to organize my thoughts and piece everything together.

But even though I wasn’t feeling 100% positive about this race, I did my best to enjoy the fact that I was opening new doors for myself, and that by going through the tough challenges now, I (and my body) would be so much more grateful in the future.

So in the few days before the race, I munched on some new-to-me bars and tried new snack combos.

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D’s Naturals – No Cow Bar – Blueberry Cobbler

I tried No Cow Bars for the first time, in two different flavors.

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D’s Naturals – No Cow Bar – Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

Upon opening each flavor, I found that the bars were quite limp! Peanut butter chocolate chip had a chunky texture to it, while blueberry cobbler had a smooth, but grainy aftertaste. I ended up liking PBCC more, but I’m looking forward to trying this brand’s other flavors!

I mixed in this Mission1 protein bar with an Arctic Zero pint and a generous serving of macaroon cookie butter from Ralph’s, which made for the most excellent Monday night dessert! The bar was supposedly “chocolate chip cookie dough”, but it mainly tasted like a chewy chocolate protein bar throughout. It was nothing spectacular, and actually may have tasted slightly better if it had been warmed up in the microwave for a little bit.

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Mission1 – Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Other snacks during this week included a jar of Buff Bake Cookie almond spread, chock-full of chia and flax seeds, which meant it was supercharged with protein.

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Buff Bake Cookie Almond Spread

Another bar also made its appearance later on in the week—Combat Crunch’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup. When I had this bar before, I believe prior to a team long run actually, I found it too hard to chew on and less than appetizing, but this time around it wasn’t too bad.

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Combat Crunch Bar – Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup

When the weekend finally arrived, the first thing I did was dash on over to the race expo. There was a line that curved around the entrance area, but when the expo officially opened at 8:00am, we were able to enter in an orderly fashion.

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LA Marathon Expo

The first thing I did was collect my bib, shirt, and bag, admiring this year’s shirt design inspired by Valentine’s Day.

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Race shirt

I then ventured into the expo, and took in my surroundings. I noticed a life-size piece of Quench gum casually walking around πŸ˜›

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Quench gum walking.

The first booth I visited was the KT booth. They were applying one free taping, and I asked for one for my right foot, since the “top of my foot” tendinitis migrated to the top-middle of my arch…weird. The taping seemed to help at first, but when I bent my foot outwards to see if I still felt sore, the soreness was still there…oh well, at least now my feet were shiny pink?

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KT Tape!

After doing some more exploring, I got my picture taken and tacked it onto the photomural board. We even got two Polaroid copies so we could keep one. Last year, it was a board with all of the participants names.

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Photo-mural

I soon got bored with the expo (within an hour…shows how my attention span really is!!), and ventured outside onto Figueroa. The Olympic Trials were about to begin, but I still had to pop into lab that day! I didn’t get to see any of the celeb elites in action, but I did see some runners warming-up down the street. It was refreshing to see a race taking place on the downtown LA roads I frequently run myself…yeah, I may not run as fast as these elites (yet), but one can hope and dream about it πŸ™‚

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Olympic Trials about to start!!

After finishing up some morning lab work, I immediately got myself out to get some grocery shopping done. I obviously wouldn’t have time on Marathon Sunday, and since I had to go into lab on President’s Day, it was just easier to get the grocery shopping done and in bed all by 7pm.

Since I wanted to go to Sprouts, I ventured to the Westwood location and even sat down for a quick bite to eat at Tacos tu Madre. It was more like a little food shack than a restaurant, but there were some veggie-friendly options on the menu.

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Menu

Because the inside of the “food shack” was incredibly small, I was awkwardly standing by the door for a few minutes before finding a seat and actually sitting down.

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Inside Tacos tu Madre

I could have sat outside, but I also wanted a break from the hot sun.

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Decorations!

My huevos rancheros dish came out in a small tin bowl, and featured two stacked fried tortillas with beans, cheese, and guac, and two fried eggs. It was satisfying enough to get me to Sprouts a few blocks up ahead.

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Huevos Rancheros in a bowl

When I finally made it home, it was almost 5pm! I quickly got all of my race gear for the marathon ready, and had a pint of Arctic Zero that I picked up from Sprouts. It was a new exclusive chunky flavor, Snickerdoodle Dandy. It was a cute flavor idea, but I wish there had been more sugar cookie chunks. I feel like it’s a similar issue with the cookie dough flavor. Still, it’s a flavor worth trying!

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Arctic Zero – Snickerdoodle Dandy

What have you been snacking on lately?

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