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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
My sis also felt like getting a shake, but finishing it was a whole other issue 😛
After getting our fill, it was mid-afternoon and I wanted my sis to have enough time to drive back down to the OC.
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!
The last time I saw my cousin and her wife was in the summer of 2015…just before my parents moved from Cali and before I began my second year of grad school.
I didn’t think it would be another year and a half before seeing them again, but it wasn’t until this past weekend that my sister and I had a chance to visit.
I left on a Thursday afternoon just so that I could spread out my travel time. I took the evening Amtrak bus/train, and my sister picked me up at the station. My bus arrived in Bakersfield an HOUR early, so waiting to board the train ended up being an uncontrollable waste of time. I did eventually get on and get to Fresno around 8:30pm. My sister and I immediately went to Sprouts to get snacks, chill, and got to sleep around midnight.
The next day, I woke up to go for a run, despite the intermittent showers. I ended up running a little under six miles, while my sister finished up her morning class. From there, we left for a late breakfast at her now all-time favorite brunch place Benediction. Seeing as it was my third time visiting the location, I didn’t think about taking pictures of my food. I left my phone in the car, and fully enjoyed some piping hot coffee, potatoes (still have a craving for the starchy goodness ever since my visit to JFAT), and my sister’s company.
From there, we left for Walnut Creek. It ended up being just about 3 hours of a drive and my sister was a trooper, driving through some horrid rain spots as we got closer to the bay. I offered to take over towards the end but she had it under control. We did have some bladder-related tasks to take care of, so when we finally got to my cousin’s apartment, we fled upstairs with the luggage still in our car. The first question we asked was “where is your bathroom?!”
Once we were settled in, we chatted for an hour our two while snacking on a slice of coffee-spiced cheese, apple slices, and oranges. I forgot how good the apple/cheese combo is!
We originally had plans to eat in for dinner, but then my cousin’s wife offered to pay for dinner since she got a bonus and wanted to treat all of us.
Because of her sweet offer, we dined at Babalou’s for some fresh Mediterranean food.
I had the veggie plate, which came with two falafel, two dolmas (grape leaf rolls), a lentil salad, babaganoush, hummus, and tahini.
There was also of course some pita bread on the side to mop up any excess condiments.
After dinner, we made our way to the nearby theater to watch Lion. It was incredibly packed, more so than when I saw a movie out in LA on a Friday night.
All of us pretty much teared up or held our tears back by the time the movie was through. It was such a good story and the meaning of the title makes so much sense at the end.
We got home around 10:00 but we were all pretty tired to stay up and do anything. Dinner and a movie was all we could handle for the day!
My last race for this year was one I actually ran two years ago—this time fortunately fared much better in pacing! I also did not have to wake up early in order to have enough time to take a bus or train to get to the race start. I just had to wake up, go out for a “warm-up jog”, and within a half hour I was there!
There was no bag check (of course), so there was no place to keep my race shirt, even though I wanted to keep it because it was a long-sleeve and actually pretty cute! The 10k and 5k race starts were staggered so that the 10k race started at 8am. The 5kers had a head start at 7:30am, and so the majority of the runners from that race were done by the time we started.
Santa cheered us on as we dashed across the starting line. I was able to keep a steady pace between 7:40-8:20 throughout the entire run. At first it felt my lungs were burning from the cold air, and my feet also began to feel numb through my socks, but after ~2 miles in, it began to feel easier to stick to a faster pace the rest of the run.
I finished at an average pace of 8:12/mi, and it felt so refreshing! I managed to guzzle down a half a bottle of water, and proceeded to walk by the small number of booths that were present. I also couldn’t help but notice the DJ who was there—he was very much into the music!
I couldn’t find much in terms of samples and post-race freebies…I even had to pass on some intriguing-looking marshmallows because they contained gelatin 🙁
Since there was nothing much left for me at this point, I ended up walking from the finish point in Venice back to Santa Monica…really it was only a 25 minute walk, and from the beach, it was another 30 minute walk to lunch.
I actually ended up at a Medditeranean/Lebanese restaurant on Pico—Z Garden.
When I stepped inside, it was as if I stepped inside my best friend’s family’s house. There was a TV playing Arabic music videos and a whole glass counter full of baklava and other Middle Eastern sweet treats.
There was a handful of vegetarian items on the menu, and I decided to get the veggie kebab plate.
The dining area was in a expansive space, but I was their lone diner at the time. A few people came in for take-out orders while I was there though.
My plate came with a generous portion of Lebanese rice, a side salad, smooth, finely-ground hummus, a sour cheese I’m assuming was labne, pickled radishes, and of course my roasted veggies.
ALso had to have pita bread on the side!
I was the ultimate fan of this hummus…and cheese side.
I was finished by noon, and continued my walk home. I immediately did some laundry and organizing before crashing into a two-hour long nap. I didn’t leave the house until later that evening to visit a friend, since she’s moving from LA this week with her lab to a different university. It was bittersweet having to send her off, but I have to say I’m proud of myself for going out on a Saturday night for once. I even stayed out late enough to call for an Uber back home, haha.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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…
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 😉
Not having to go into lab for TWO CONSECUTIVE WHOLE DAYS called for a celebration. I could have spent these days in a deep sleep induced by an ice cream coma, but instead chose to make a day trip pit of it.
So on Labor Day, I did sleep in till about 8, got ready around 10, and took a very short train ride to downtown Santa Monica to board a Metro bus that would take me to Malibu.
The 534, or the Malibu line as I like to call it, drives alongside the beach up to Pacific Palisades and then Malibu. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive depending on traffic, which made its strong presence the morning I left and when I got back around 5.
I got to Malibu at the perfect time: when I was hungry and ready for a proper lunch. I got off close to the Malibu County Mart/Mall, and then walked over to another strip mall where Ollo Restaurant was located.
I had to wait 15 minutes for a table, but once I was seated I was able to appreciate the decadent decor.
Morning talk shows were playing on a TV across the room, and every table was packed with couples, families, and brunch enthusiasts (identified by their penchant for plates of pancakes, eggs, and coffee mugs).
There were plenty of veggie friendly options, which made it hard to choose, but ultimately I decided to get the Tumeric Tofu Bowl.
If I had to describe the bowl, I would definitely say it was like a rice bowl with salad on the surface. It was as if I ordered a rice bowl and salad bowl, and decided to combine them on my own!
Everything was dressed in a green goddess dressing, which seemed to be a creamy avocado dressing if I had to guess. The tofu was soft and lightly spiced, but my favorite aspect of this dish was combining the crisp romaine lettuce along with a spoonful of rice that was already doused in dressing. Texture at its finest!
The bowl was pretty pricey ($17 after tax and tip), but I thought of it as paying for the experience vs. paying for a solitary bowl.
The lagoon/beach was just a 10 minute walk away, so my meal went to work for me right away. I was totally unprepared for the beach, but I didn’t mind not packing a swimsuit/towel/sunscreen/etc.
I came, I saw, I took selfies by the lagoon, and then headed back toward civilization…because gelato was calling my name!
After finishing up our final rounds of apartment cleaning on Sunday morning, my Dad and I were ready to drop off my keys by noon. It was hard to believe that it was two years ago that I moved into my first apartment, and while there were some things I would miss about it, I was very much looking forward to living in and exploring a new LA neighborhood.
I had to drop into lab even though I was starving, and during this time, my Dad helped to move the remainder of my boxes to my new place. When I finished up two hours later, my Dad was ready to pick me up and was just as hungry as I was! We ended up in Culver City again, checking out another vegan spot in the area.
The Vegan Joint has been on my list for a while, but it was a little out of the way for me/never really a sole spot of interest to make it a worthwhile trip. And after finally going there, I realized I probably didn’t miss out on anything for not dining there sooner…
After getting our table, my Dad and I were given PLENTY of time to look over the menu…and at least ten more times over. I literally had to get up after almost twenty minutes to walk over to the counter and remind the lady who had seated us that we were ready to order. I was pretty hangry at that point so I’m glad I didn’t bite off her head for not coming sooner…
My order was actually not so great. I chose to get the Tofu Larb not truly knowing what it was, and I guess that was a decision that backfired on me. Normally, Larb is a meat-based salad of Laos origin—marinated meat grounds mixed with greens and lemon juice. My tofu version was certainly marinated and over-flowing, but it was far from being an aesthetic, picturesque example of a delicious vegan meal.
After two bites, I was thinking “eww, why did I pick this??”, but since I was hungry/didn’t want to make a big deal over it, I finished the dish and definitely felt full afterwards (soy protein’s effects I suppose)!
After our very late lunch, my Dad and I drove to my new place to unpack. It took me almost 3 hours to get everything in order and in place. From there, my Dad and I made the long-ish drive to Cerritos for Indian grocery shopping and for a free dinner!
Luna Grill, a fast casual Mediterranean restaurant contacted me a few weeks ago to check out their Cerritos location. I knew that the perfect time to stop by would be when my Dad was in town, since he’s always wanting to go to Cerritos whenever he is in town!
We had dinner close to 8pm, and there were still people inside enjoying large platters of kebabs, rice, and all of those tasty Medi-fixin’s.
My Dad and I were able to enjoy two entrees on the house, and we paid for the grape leaf roll appetizers to share between the both of us.
For my entree, I ordered the Veggie Kabob which came with rice, spicy cilantro hummus, pita bread, boiled carrots, and salad.
My oh my was this good, and it certainly made up for my disaster of a lunch that day…my Dad loved his crisp, refreshing salad, but was in love with the basmati rice. I had to agree with him, as the rice was so fluffy and flavorful.
After finishing up dinner close to closing time for the restaurant, we were on the road again to our hotel to finally meet up with my sister and our friend. Both of them made the trip down to LA to hang out with me for my birthday, and I was beyond excited to meet them!
If you ever ordered something disgusting from a restaurant before, were you so hungry you ate it or did you remedy the situation?
The day before running the Hollywood Half, I was running around all over the place, just trying to make it to the end of the week. When I got a notice from my apartment complex saying I had a perishable package waiting for me to pick up, I had no idea what it could be…
I then realized when I went to go pick it up that evening, that it was a sample box from Del Real Foods, a company that specializes in Mexican meals, spices, and mixes. I wasn’t expecting the sample box to be a gargantuan package though! I had to haul it up several floors, and it looked as if I had ordered a small desk table or some other piece of bulky furniture.
Upon opening the box, I had four sealed items ready for me to try: cheese & bell pepper pupusas, cheese tamales, and two salsa tubs. I was excited for two main reasons: 1) I wouldn’t have to spend money on buying food for lunch that week, and 2) I was finally getting the opportunity to try a pupusa!
And because I have been dreaming about having a pupusa for years now, that’s exactly what I had first. The package includes five pupusas, which are round, doughy discs with a gooey cheese filling inside and a slightly oiled consistency on the outside. The directions say to warm them up in the microwave or on the stovetop, but I had them chilled and they tasted just fine…like a mild corn cake with cheese filling!
The cheese tamales tasted fantastic too. For these, I followed the instructions and wrapped the tamales in a damp paper towel. I heated them up in the microwave for two minutes, and then cut them up into blocks to stuff into one of my glass containers for lunch.
I even made sure to add a layer of one of the salsas at the bottom (fire roasted red salsa!!).
For a filling, hearty-but-fresh meal to take to lab one day, I warmed up two tamales as instructed…
…and then chopped them up, and…
…mashed it into some fire roasted green salsa!
I then mixed it into some greens for a complete salad to munch on when I had a break in lab 😉
Cheese Tamale Salad
A vegetarian-friendly substitute for chicken or tunas salad...plus, it's cheesy! 🙂
Last Friday, I was bit by the social bug yet again! Instead of a thrilling blogger meet-up though, I ended up going out for some gourmet pizza with some marathon teammates.
But before stuffing my face with all the pizza (you could say quite literally, after seeing the pics!), I stuffed my face with two, new-to-me bars. I ended up paying bookstore prices for these bars (in other words, much more than what I would pay at GNC) by Oh Yeah!
I was finally able to try two of their new “One” bars—Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Cookies & Creme.
I like how the bars are fully coated, but since I have become used to associating cookie dough-flavored protein bars to actually looking like molded cookie dough, I was thrown off by the chocolate coating at first.
I grew to like the bar as I continued eating. Cookies & Creme on the other hand, could have tasted so much better. Nice try though Oh Yeah! folks?
Fridays tend to be slow days in lab since everyone is exhausted by the end of the week/anxious to find an excuse to leave early, but I held on until ~6pm, when I headed out to meet my running mates for our pizza dinner! Apparently we had 20 people RSVP, but including me, there was only six of us total! Bring on the pizza now!!
We carpooled to DTLA, and reserved the top floor of Pitfire Pizza…
…even though we really didn’t need that much space after all…
To start of the meal, we were given full-size pitchers of lemonade, coke, water, and tea. Among the six of us, we literally could have sipped out of our own personal pitcher if we really wanted, haha.
Before there was pizza, we helped ourselves to plentiful servings of salad. It was hard to resist having more than one plate because the salad was actually pretty good—dressing, onions, shaved parmesan, and all!
We were also able to cut down the order from the original EIGHT pizzas to just four, which included two vegetarian and two meat-eater pizzas. They took a while to make it up the stairs to our “knight’s table”, but when they did arrive, we dove right at them as if we had just finished a Sunday long run 😛
The veggie-friendly pizzas included a simple marinara & mozzarella pizza which was mostly sauce. I ended up having more slices of this pizza because it was right next to me, easy to pull apart, and simply delicious. The second veggie-friendly pizza was covered in greens, but underneath it all was swirls of creamy red and white sauces. It was definitely the more “gourmet” of the two.
After stuffing ourselves silly (we demolished the food pretty well for six people!!), we thought it would be great to finish off our carb-o-licious Friday night with a cookies-and-ice-cream dessert. We split chocolate chip cookie ice cream sundaes with chocolate or caramel sauce with the person across from us.
I ended up sharing one of the chocolate sauce sundaes 🙂
Our dinner ended around 9pm, and I was more than ready to go to sleep! We had an exhilarating time getting home (driving home clown-car-style, trying to avoid any tickets!!), but we certainly made it home safely. Even though I was content enough to fall into a deep sleep, I was also content with the fact that I would have plenty of energy for my next day’s impromptu 10k race!
Sunday was just as hot as Saturday, and so after my group run in the morning (with a new team for a race I’ll be running in November—details to come soon!), I came back to my apartment around mid-morning to freshen up before heading out again for lab-related work.
I finished up with my duties around 2pm, and decided to head downtown since I knew the skyscraper-like buildings would make things feel 10 degrees cooler 😉
It still took me at least an hour to get from Point A to Point B, but at least Point B was the Arts District.
And Point B-1 was none other than The Springs.
The Springs is more than a simple eatery. Food is just a part of the space that includes a shop of natural, wellness-inspired home goods & clothing, a juice bar, and a yoga center. I obviously came for the food though…
The seating arrangements were also quite relaxing as well. I sat on a booth-like bench covered in pillows, and my table had a mini candle. My hostess also brought over a small shot glass and matching jug for water. I also didn’t need time to order since I had done my research beforehand, yet again 😉 . One whole-sized falafel salad, please.
I think the staff began to feel an aura of impatience slowly surround me as time went on, since they stopped by to let me know the “status” of my salad. I thought this was thoughtful of them, but when my hostess brought my bowl out, she looked just as happy as I was! She said that I was about to feast on one of the most gorgeous salads ever made—or something along those lines 😉
How could I disagree with her? Just look at that falafel…and the way the hummus was artistically “painted” along the side of the bowl. It’s something only a vegan artist in DTLA could think of, haha.
I took my time savoring this salad, and saved my favorites (the falafel, crackers, and hummus) for last. I did love the dressed mixed greens too though, and the harissa was definitely not missed by my palate!
I left The Springs feeling reenergized, but I needed to conclude the day (and weekend) with another pint of ice cream. I had another B&J’s Target exclusive—Brewed to Matter.
It turned into more of a frozen yogurt rather than remain its ice cream consistency by the time I ate it. Even though I wasn’t a fan of the Coffee-Buzz flavor, I was able to tolerate the coffee ice cream this time around. Perhaps it was because of the decadent brownie batter swirl (how do the folks at B&J’s even come up with things like batter swirls and what not?!).
Salad, ice cream…I’d say this Sunday was complete in my book 🙂
We had a massive heat wave pass through LA this past weekend, so without hesitation, I was all about ice cream and salad consumption for three days straight!
It all started Friday night with a B&J’s pint—Half Baked to be precise!
This pint was much more creamier than its froyo version (although both are quite good!), and had a plethora of cookie dough gobs and brownie pieces.
I was a little sad when the pint was fully demolished, but I knew I still had Saturday and Sunday left for ice cream revelry!
Speaking of Saturday…after stopping by lab in the morning, I made my way over to Mid-Wilshire (slowly, but surely through the heat wave and via public transit). At least what awaited me inside of Powerplant Superfood Cafe was a salad I thought I could only dream about.
Once inside, I pretended to take my time making a decision by looking up at the menu, but I already knew what I was going to get.
I found a table by the wall, where I could people watch while waiting for my colorful salad to arrive.
For salad prep, you’d think it would be pretty quick but I ended up waiting for what seemed like forever. I couldn’t complain when I finally chowed down on it though. But first—I had to let my eyes take it in.
I’m really not sure why this BBQ Cauliflower Salad is not called the Rainbow Salad. It has blue tortilla chips with black beans, slices of green avocado, orange carrots, red & spicy cauliflower, and charred yellow corn on top of even more greens.
I also can’t forget the creamy BBQ sauce dressing, and sliced cherry tomatoes!
The one thing I love about salads—good ones that is—are that because of their complexity in texture, flavor, and ingredients, they take a long time to eat. I was digging through this rainbow salad for at least twenty minutes, and I didn’t get tired of it at all. I cleaned my bowl like a good cafe patron, and continued on with my day feeling refreshed and ready to take on the heat of the 3pm sun!!
After a late afternoon of grocery shopping and errands, I came home close to 6pm, and managed to snag a B&J’s Target exclusive to treat myself to for Saturday night. ‘A Swirled of Difference’ made a difference to how my Saturday night turned out!
Peanut butter ice cream with a peanut butter AND raspberry swirl…it was like PB&J in ice cream form, people!
I went to sleep earlier that evening since I had a morning group run scheduled the next day, but even though the heat raged on during the night, I had had enough cooling foods during the day to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.