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.

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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.

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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.

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Close-up shot of my Vitality Bowl 🙂

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.

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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. 🙂

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

Vegan Glory

Vegan Glory

Oh wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted! That’s what a 20-page paper and a presentation can do to ya—make you disappear, haha.

Now that the work and deadlines have simmered down, I no longer have to stay up until midnight and can go back to sleeping early like a GMa…and I can also go back to posting about delicious weekend food outings 🙂

Two weekends ago, the anxiety started to build up knowing that I had plenty of work to do on the horizon. Even though I knew that I should probably get started on all that work, I still went out for a late lunch before doing some grocery shopping errands.

Vegan Glory was my destination, since it was fairly close to the Grove and many of the stores I like going grocery shopping like Trader Joe’s and Vitamin Shoppe. I was actually quite hungry when I arrived, and my hunger cues were pushing me towards something very carb-heavy 😉

Simplistic, sleek gray interior!
Simplistic, sleek gray interior!

After looking at the menu, I ended up choosing to get the soy fish yakisoba. I thought it was an intriguing choice since I’ve had both before, but never together. Plus, it was said to be spicy so that obviously means it’s bound to be full of flavor!

Menu!
Menu!

The serving size was fairly large, as everything came on a massive plate. The noodles were stacked high, and veggies were tossed in and out and all around.

Soy fish very chewy and layered; oiled noodles with lotsa flavor
Soy fish very chewy and layered; oiled noodles with lotsa flavor

There’s no doubt that everything was quite filling, and by the time I got to the last noodle, I was truly full. The people at the table in front of me had saw my dish come to the table, and one of the ladies in that group pointed over to my dish when the waiter asked her what she wanted 😛

Soy fish yakisoba!
Soy fish yakisoba!

After a nourishing late lunch, I was able to go about my regularly scheduled business for the day…and even get going on the 20 page paper that would consume any free time I had over the next week and a half…

Have you tried soy fish?

Vegan Glory Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lunch with the Roomie

Lunch with the Roomie

This past weekend, my roommate and I finally had some time to hang out together—at least for lunch!

She wanted to check out UCLA, and even though I wanted to get some grocery shopping done (I can’t miss an opportunity to shop at Westwood’s Sprouts!), she was able to meet up with an old friend.

Prior to Saturday’s plans, I made my usual crockpot dinner much more satisfying with the addition of a Trader Joe’s pretzel bagel. I’ve also been taking them to school/lab smothered in hummus and a slice of cheese. The combination is definitely a satisfying mid-day snack!

Crockpot Veggies with a pretzel bagel <3
Crockpot Veggies with a pretzel bagel <3

On Saturday, my roommate and I took the Metro train and a bus to head on over to Westwood. For lunch, we made our way to TLT Food: the brick-and-mortar location for The Lime Truck food truck.

TLT Food ~ The Lime Truck
TLT Food ~ The Lime Truck

I remember first passing by this restaurant one day early last year, when I spent a whole day strolling through Westwood. It was because of its bright green walls and eye-catching colors, inside and out…

It took me almost a year to actually venture inside, and at least my first visit was with company! There were a few, ready-made vegetarian menu options listed, but I wanted something classic, like nachos or fries.

Pork Belly Nachos was listed, but I was able to have the pork belly subbed with spicy tofu cubes. I love it when restaurants don’t hesitate to be accomodating. My roommate got the steak fries. We were both given buzzers (like the ones they give at Olive Garden when you have to wait 20 minutes for an open table on a Saturday night…), and in the meantime, found seats.

Seating area.
Seating area.

When our buzzers lit up, we had to go to the pick-up counter to get our food.

Pick-up counter
Pick-up counter

My nachos looked classy…slightly fancier than what you’d get at a ballpark 🙂

Pork Belly Nachos (minus the pork)!
Pork Belly Nachos (minus the pork)!

Even though they didn’t put my tofu cubes IN the nachos, I happily ate all eight cubes individually, appreciating the spices and texture of each boxy bite.

Spicy tofu cubes!
Spicy tofu cubes!

Without the pork belly, my nachos were comprised of crisped, puffed triangular tortilla chips (that were also slightly spiced), creamy queso, and fresh pico de gallo. I ate them by hand and with the help of a fork 😛

After lunch, my roommate and I parted ways. I headed to Sprouts for some grocery shopping, and even stopped at Bristol Farms to pick up some edible cookie dough for snacking later.

I made it home before my roommate did (haha), and dove into the cookie dough when I was all settled into my pjs, robe, and a collection of recorded tv shows I needed to catch up on.

Edoughble -
Edoughble – Chocolate Chip Off the Ol’ Block

Compared to the birthday cake flavor, I wasn’t a real fan of this chocolate chip one. It reminded me of the chocolate chip one by Cookie Dough Cafe, which I didn’t like that much…oh well!

Have you tried Trader Joe’s pretzel bagels or any of the Edoughble flavors?

If you ever had a roommate, were you friends/enemies?

TLT Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

President’s Day Weekend Fun

President’s Day Weekend Fun

The holiday weekend actually started off on Thursday night for me, when I met up with some of my girl classmates for a potluck/movie night. I brought these brownies, and helped my friend set-up before everyone else arrived.

 Chips on the table, but we had the rest of the food set up in the dining area.
Chips on the table, but we had the rest of the food set up in the dining area.

Our get-together went on until about 10:30pm, and after getting back to my apartment, I finished packing up for my trip back north to visit the fam! I had an early morning bus to catch, so I went to sleep immediately after getting everything ready.

My bus left a little after 6am on that Friday morning, and while I did plan to do some studying, I ended up sleeping (or trying to sleep), making use of the free Wi-Fi even though I had to do a lot of squinting (phone problems…), and eating whatever snacks I packed for the trip.

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View from the bus as we approached SF.

I made it to SF around 2pm, and after figuring my way through other modes of transit, I finally met my Dad and sister (who also came up for the weekend) waiting for me at a BART station. From there, we had to drive our way through Friday-late-afternoon-end-of-the-work-day traffic, and so I literally did not get home until 5pm. But once I did get home, I was excited to finally have a home-cooked meal and for some bonding time with the sis. We both “studied” while playing Toy Story 3 in the background. Definitely a good way to spend a Friday night! 😉

Saturday morning was my half marathon, but we spent the rest of the day with my cousin since we were in her neck of the woods. We met up in Jack London Square, and had lunch at a spot of my choosing—Souley Vegan!

The small, homey restaurant was not hard to find, since the bright turquoise paint made it visible from a block or two away. We had to park that far away because, you know, that’s just one of the perks of city life 😛

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All of the items were Southern-inspired, and most importantly, VEGAN!

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We found a table at the corner of an elevated floor, so we had a great view of our surroundings. We took some time looking over the menu before ordering at the cash register.

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While we waited for our food, my cousin realized that they had a cup of samples with pieces of one of their featured desserts. It was peanut-ty appetizer—a piece of their Peanut Butter Brick!

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While my family got combo plates with items like BBQ tofu (sooo good!), mac n cheesz, cornbread, and mashed potatoes, I had the Southern Fried Tofu Bowl as my main entree, and also had some of the spinach dip with fried tofu chips.

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My bowl was comprised of battered and fried tofu (mimicking fried chicken), which sat atop a sea of salty gumbo and a warm bed of grits. I wasn’t a major fan of this dish, but I thought the fried tofu was pretty delicious. I feel like the gumbo + grits tasted somewhat bland, even though I could detect the salt. Perhaps if there had been a spicier and thicker sauce in this dish (like the BBQ sauce used for their tofu cubes), it would have been more palatable for me.

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BBQ Tofu cube poking out from underneath my fried tofu (thanks Dad) // close-up of gumbo + grits // piece of fried tofu chip with dip

We did a nice job of tackling everything…

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As the afternoon rolled on, the weather continued to be clear, bright, sunny, and just overall perfect. It would have been wasteful to not take advantage of the beautiful weather conditions, so we decided to take an after-lunch stroll. We first stopped inside World Market, where I found this cute poster that reminded me of the periodic table, but the “elements” were major cities. We then walked over in the direction of a Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, but ended up waiting across the street for a good ten minutes because a train was passing through!

It was quite a sight though 😉

At the scoop shop, I was able to try Phish Food for the first time. I opted for the kids’ scoop…and I was glad I did. I guess it was the little chocolate fish pieces that persuaded me to choose the flavor initially, but it was just waaay too much chocolate. I mean, I love chocolate, but this scoop and this flavor…it was just too much for me. I’m pretty sure my sister would have liked it though 🙂

highlights

We ended up feasting on our ice cream selections while looking over the water. There were a couple ferries going in and out, shuffling people too and from SF. Ah, let the pictures speak for themselves…

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After we finished dessert, we walked through a local crafts fair and took in all the sights and sounds. There were so many dogs out and about, and plenty of intriguing items from plushies with vampire teeth to figurines made out of scrap metal.

From the fair, we drove over to my cousin’s for a siesta (I think being out in the sun made me more sleepy rather than my morning half marathon!), and snacked on some apples/coffee/tea after waking up an hour later. My Dad and I left as it approached evening, and I was more than ready to get some more zzzz’s!

On Sunday, I was able to spend more quality time with my sis. Since she wasn’t able to spend the day with us on Saturday (the poor girl had to study for an upcoming exam…), my Dad and I wanted to be able to go out for lunch with her. So after stopping by the gym and running some errands in the morning, we picked her up and visited Noodles & Company for the first time.

n&co

As of right now, there are no Noodles & Company locations in the LA area (only Orange County and San Diego I believe…) so when I learned that they were opening this one in the Nor Cal area, I wanted to check it out during one of my family visits!

n&co2
Giant cookie or rice treat to accompany your bowl?

The inside layout of the restaurant reminded me a lot of the Boudin SF set-up (which was also nearby): an entrance has you line up single file all the way to the register, a large menu that spans the wall as you approach the register, and central/outdoor (crowded) seating.

After placing our orders, we were lucky to find a table during the lunchtime rush hour. Our bowls came to us in minutes despite the bustling activity.

I dug into my small-sized (it was indeed pretty small…) bowl of Japanese Pan Noodles with chopsticks

 Japanese Pan Noodles - Caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro
Japanese Pan Noodles – Caramelized udon noodles in a sweet soy sauce, broccoli, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, Asian sprouts, black sesame seeds and cilantro

I was definitely a fan of the caramelized noodles/soy sauce combination. Each noodle had a fair coating of sauce, and they were still easy to pick up with chopsticks!

My sister had the Penne Rosa, and my Dad the Thai Curry Soup:

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Penne Rosa – Spicy tomato cream sauce, penne pasta, mushrooms, tomato, spinach, wine and parmesan
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Thai Curry Soup – Yellow coconut curry broth, spinach, cabbage, mushrooms, tomato, red onion and rice noodles

Both dishes looked just as delicious as mine, but I was satisfied with my selection. Sure, it could have been spicier, but I guess wanting to try their spicy Indonesian Peanut Sautee gives me a reason to come back to another one of their other locations in the future.

After lunch, we returned home and did nothing productive in particular 😉 . After a glorious nap, I had dinner and then watched Boyhood with Dad and sis after doing a little homework. Monday was spent prepping for my return on Tuesday, as well as sending my sister off, and Tuesday was my tired travel day. Kind of wish I could redo this weekend all over again, because I don’t see myself doing anything but work for the next week or so…

How did you spend your holiday weekend (if you had one)?

Souley Vegan on Urbanspoon Noodles & Company on Urbanspoon

Lyfe on Labor Day

Lyfe on Labor Day

Labor Day weekend was both a productive and relaxing one for me. I woke up on Sunday morning still feeling the excitement from the group run with Nike the day before. I was all geared up to go for a long run (longer than 6 miles…aiming for 10), but since I woke up later than planned, I ended up going only for 6 miles. Still though, I made it a priority to do some running on paths not yet traveled. I even found $0.10 along the way and stopped to pick it up—comes in handy when you are shopping in the city and forgot your reusable bags 😉 !

After some afternoon studying and study sheet making, I hopped on the Metro Rail to head over to Culver City for an early Sunday dinner. It was simply the best thing I did that day—taking the short walk from the station to downtown, soaking some sunny Sunday rays, and admiring my surroundings. Will definitely be considering Culver as a possible place to live in next year…

 Nothing like the sunny outdoors on a Sunday afternoon.
Nothing like the sunny outdoors on a Sunday afternoon.

My dinner destination was at the corner of the central plaza area—Lyfe Kitchen!

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Upon entering, the theme of wood and orange hit my eyes. It reminded me of a more upscale Native Foods, even though here they serve non-veg items as well as veg/gluten-free items. I was able to order and pay at the front, and then find seating for one in the middle of the restaurant—which surprisingly was already busy with other patrons at what I thought what was early-ish time. 

lyfekitchen

I freshened up in the bathroom while my order was being prepared, where I was hit again by the orange and wood theme:

bathroom

After about 20 minutes, my order came out on a carving board—the roasted mushroom and goat cheese flatbread!

 Includes roasted onions, fresh herbs, and pomegranate-balsamic drizzle.
Includes roasted onions, fresh herbs, and pomegranate-balsamic drizzle.

I thought the bread would be softer, chewier, and even thicker, but it was more like a flatbread crisp. Despite not meeting my expectations in the bread, I absolutely loved the pomegranate-balsamic sauce. I probably would have dipped my flatbread as-is into a cup of that sauce if they gave it to me on the side!

So since my early dinner was not as hearty as I thought it would be, I still had that empty feeling inside. Seeing Menchie’s across the way immediately gave me the idea to satisfy that empty feeling with some soul-nourishing froyo.

After a family with 4+ kids under the age of 12 finished ringing up, I was finally able to chow down into this:

menchiessunday-lemon meringue, iced coffee, cookie dough, hazelnut, and poppers, mochi, carob chips, cd pieces
A Menchie’s kind of Sunday – lemon meringue/iced coffee/cookie dough/hazelnut froyo flavor mix with poppers, mochi, carob chips, and cookie dough pieces

After dessert, I took the Metro Rail home and was home when the sun was still out. The only thing I have yet to do since moving to the city is to go out at night. Obviously, it’s not a good idea to go wandering on the streets on your own when the sun’s down, especially if you don’t have a car and rely on public transport/walking, but I feel like there is a whole other aspect of city life adventure that can only be experienced past 8pm, like going to events, concerts…even evening running group meet-ups! Definitely hard to do if you are going solo 100% of the time!

So in true independent nature, I spent the rest of the night unwinding from the day at home, talking with family on the phone, and turning in at 10:30pm.

Monday morning’s events were a repeat of Sunday’s. I managed to hunker down after another morning 6-miler, and accomplish my homework goals set for the day (love it when I don’t have to play catch-up!). Even though Saturday’s groceries were ready-to-go for the week, I didn’t feel like cooking, and since my roommate was still with her family for the extended weekend, I decided to head out to Beverly Boulevard again to check out the Veggie Grill in that area…mostly because they had enticed me with a “try our summer menu item on us” coupon. 

I arrived in time to have a late lunch, and as I was walking, noticed that people were standing outside of the CBS building to get free tickets for the Late Show with Craig Ferguson or something like that. They were even giving away free umbrellas 😛 !

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Never have seen the show, so I wasn’t about to get in line. Also, I had to be practical and remember how exactly would I get home after attending a late show viewing? 

Instead, I kept trucking towards my original destination. 

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It seems like time isn’t an issue for LA folk when it comes to lunch or dinner—the place was packed even at the “odd” eating hour of 3pm.

 This picture is contrary to what was the real deal. Those tables were all full as I was standing in line!
This picture is contrary to what was the real deal. Those tables were all full as I was standing in line!

The two customers in front of me probably came in for the same reason I did, since they both whipped out their phones to show they had coupons for the free summer menu item—which was the sweet char-grilled corn! It was funny to watch the cashier yell “CORN!” at the cooks both times she saw the coupon.

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Along with my free corn, I ordered the B-Wing Salad without the creamy ranch dressing, and found a seat outside so I could soak in the sun…and people watch 😉

going out on labor day to veggie grill (5)

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Even after waiting a while for my food, I had to wait longer when my order did come out since the waiter didn’t bring utensils with him the first time. I had to wave him down and ask him personally, though he seemed a bit surprised by my request since I guess everyone knows utensils are inside. I didn’t want to leave my bag (or food!) out in the open (the issues of eating out solo), so he did grant my request after realizing this.

With a fork finally in hand, I was able to chow down on my B-Wing Salad:

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The b-wings were coated in a spicy sauce that added a kick when mixed with the salad. There really wasn’t a need for extra ranch, but that probably would have made it a fuller and more savory meal. I wasn’t remorseful however, since I also had my corn waiting on the side!

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It was drizzled with some sort of spicy mayo, which I also used to the my b-wings for some additional flavor!

The rest of the week was routine in regards to my meals—mostly crockpot dinners and Quest bars—but I did get a chance to try Julian Bakery’s Coconut Paleo Bread which I have fallen in love with. It’s very pricey though (at $11.99 from Erewhon!!), so it will definitely be one of those “indulgent” purchases going forward 😛 !

Julian's Bakery Paleo Bread Coconut

It’s great with peanut butter, but I mostly had the slices on their own—even though it has that characteristic of feeling “dry” when it goes down your throat, but it is pretty moist since it is supposed to be kept refridgerated? Odd, but the bread was delicious nonetheless.

I also bought ready-made vegan pumpkin rice lunch on campus one day before meeting with my study group. Surprisingly, it was pretty good—with a decent amount of pumpkin cubes tossed in for added texture and flavor!

eatingduring the week

The featured crockpot in the picture above includes the plantains I purchased at the Farmer’s Market. I think that’s what contributed to the more-brown-than-usual-looking broth, but the added flavor was phenomenal. Definitely will be experimenting with this starchy fruit (or vegetable?) in the future.

How did you spend the “last 3-day weekend of summer”?

Lyfe Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Veggie Grill on Urbanspoon

Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. Product Review

Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. Product Review

Two years ago, it was a kitchen scale. Last year, it was a bountiful collection of food bars.

This year (well, technically last year, but I’m still in a 2013 mindset 😉 ), a dehydrator was my “foodie gift” for Christmas:

I can't wait for the fun times I'll have with this cutie!
I can’t wait for the fun times I’ll have with this cutie!

The first thing I said was, “I can’t wait to dehydrate tofu!”.

That would be the first thing I would say, since I am a fan of the vegan and tofu jerky I have tried to date.

Before I fully immerse myself in the world of dehydration, and before making a mess of the kitchen but saving bundles of money that would otherwise be spent on store-bought dried fruit, veg, and tofu jerky, I thought it was the right time to “get some inspiration” from Louisville Vegan Jerky Co., a vegan jerky company that truly knows their stuff.

(source)

Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. was established in 2012, and everything from the jerky to the product labels are made in Louisville (so there truly is some meaning behind the name!). The main ingredient of course is textured soy protein, but from there, there is a branching out into three differing flavors: Bourbon Smoked Chipotle, Sriacha Maple, and Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper.

Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper sounded mouth-watering, so I tried that first.

By the way, I just so happened to have a Victorian-esque blanket lying around in my house and it made the perfect backdrop for my pictures! :D. I also love the distinct faces on each flavor’s packaging.

Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper Jerky

It kind of looks like fried chicken (or fried something!) though, doesn’t it?

Vegan marinated and slow dried NON-GMO soy jerky. Subtly sweetened with real Kentucky Sorghum syrup. Tossed in bourbon smoked black pepper, nutmeg, onion and garlic powder.

The jerky was incredibly chewy, and not that tough at all. The texture reminded me of Trader Joe’s Chickenless Strips, but with added sweetness and smokiness of course.

My favorite was Sriracha Maple:

Siracha Maple Jerky

Vegan marinated and slow dried NON-GMO soy jerky. Subtly sweetened with real Kentucky Sorghum syrup. Tossed in spicy sriracha, Indiana maple syrup, nutmeg, onion and garlic powder.

The texture was the same as before, but the flavors were out of the park. The Sriracha and maple syrup simply brought harmony to my tastebuds!

Bourbon Smoked Spicy Chipotle Jerky was the final flavor, and it did not disappoint.

Bourbon Smoked Spicy Chipotle Jerky

Vegan marinated and slow dried NON-GMO soy jerky. Subtly sweetened with real Kentucky Sorghum syrup. Tossed in bourbon smoked red peppers, chipotle, adobo, nutmeg, onion and garlic powder.

This one was the spiciest of the three, and I could definitely distinguish the chipotle and adobo kick in here!

Overall, I was very much satisfied with the quality, smell, texture, and taste of the product, and would even go so far as to use it like meatless strips in recipes. They are certainly delicious on their own as a snack though!

I’m also a fan of this sticker they sent along with the samples 😀

Free Sticker =)
Free Sticker =)

Now that I have some inspiration, it’s time to start my own adventures in dehydration—vegan jerky included! That will be a topic for another post, for sure ;).

Have you tried Louisville Vegan Jerky before?

Would you go out of your way, if you had to, to purchase products that support local businesses?

Chilly Days, Chili Idlis

Chilly Days, Chili Idlis

Chilly days call for chili idlis. There’s no doubt about it.

Warm, spicy goodness.
Warm, spicy goodness.

I guess you could call an idli an Indian rice cake. By itself, it has a soft, chewy texture, but it is quite bland. No wonder it’s usually paired with an assortment of chutneys, sambars (soups), and vegetable side dishes.

Idlis in sambar (spicy soup)
[source] 
When I was younger, I preferred to have mine with ketchup…and maybe sometimes chutney :P. Idlis were never a true favorite of mine, as I preferred other, richer Indian carbohydrates—dosas, chappatis, pooris—and my Westernized taste buds seemed to fit ketchup as the only fitting condiment to pair with these bread goods.

My friends ate Heinz. I used Maggi like all the other cool Indian kids 😉
[source]
But as I grew older and into the foodie I am now today, I’ve come across interesting ways to turn a traditional classic into something…well, more fun. I first had chili idlis at a mainly South Indian restaurant a couple months back. I say mainly because chili idlis are far from being a South Indian delicacy. Rather, they’re an Indo-Chinese fusion creation.

Get ready for some flavor, blandies!
Get ready for some flavor, bland-ies!

The kind I had at the restaurant was surprisingly delectable, since the restaurant itself was not exactly what comes to mind when you think of fine dining. We were literally the only people eating dinner there that day, and the boss was yelling away on his phone in a corner office by the front door. The employees—cooks, wait staff, and all—were standing in another corner watching us curiously munch away at our food. It was awkward and completely unprofessional to say the least, but the chili idlis tasted good enough for me to distance myself from the awkwardness.

Putting the "chili" in chili idli!
Putting the “chili” in chili idli!

I couldn’t take a picture because the situation wasn’t right (obviously), but my chili idlis were photo-worthy. They were cut into quarters, fried, infused with spices, and garnished with greens. The dish was so fabulous that I wouldn’t mind being dragged into that restaurant again if it was necessary ;).

Idlis in quarters, measured in a cup.
Idlis in quarters, measured in a cup.

I did remember about this dish a few weeks ago when we were going through chilling temperatures, and I was trying to brainstorm some good ideas for warm winter meals. This is what I ended up going with to get the result you see in the first pic ;)!

Chili Idlis 
Note: this version is not fried

Ingredients

  • 6 small idlis cut up into cubes (day old refrigerated preferably)
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • ½ bell bepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Serrano pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp corn starch
  • curry leaves
  • chili powder
  • cilantro for garnish
  • salt
After baked and browned.
After baked and browned.

Directions

  • On cookie sheet lay out the idli pieces (idlis cut in quarters)—coated in oil or sprayed with cooking spray.
  • Broil or bake until pieces are crisp and browned.
  • In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil.
  • Add brown cumin seeds and garlic to brown.
  • Add curry leaves to toast.
  • Add chunky pieces of onion and bell peppers, and sautée until tender.
  • Add all condiments, cook a bit and add the quartered idlis, and toss.
  • Dissolve cornstarch in water, and add to pan and stir until all the pieces are coated and the liquid is taken up.
  • Garnish with cilantro and serve.
The stir-fry pre-idli toss!
The stir-fry pre-idli toss!

Do you like fusion cuisine?

What are your favorite cuisines to mix together?

“The Finest Faux”

“The Finest Faux”

I remember becoming aware of the “mustache trend” when I was in the 10th grade. I was on a school trip one year, and was in a group with a girl who would always have these inside jokes about faux mustaches with her other friends. It was around the time when doodling different mustache designs on your index finger and then holding it on your upper-lip became extremely popular. Pictures of these different mustache designs were always taken by cell phone, but I don’t think the mustache trend reached the crazy heights of popularity that it could have at that time since Instagram and Snap Chat were pretty much nonexistant (how I miss those days…)    

So why am I bringing up the topic of facial hair on a food-related blog? We all know that hair and food is not an appetizing mix…

Recently, I had the chance to try two seitan products by Upton’s Naturals, a company that was established in 2006 and specializes in creating flavorful seitan products. It is vegan and vegetarian friendly, packed with protein, and is referred to as being “the finest faux”. I guess that’s where the mustache comes in, since Upton (the fancy guy on the box) likes to sport faux mustaches depending on the seitan flavor!

The nearest store where I could find Upton’s Naturals was the Whole Foods near campus, so I made my way there one afternoon before spring break. Ofcourse, I could not leave the store without a free-item-freakout from the cashier. It wasn’t a big deal until he commented to his manager “I DON’T KNOW IF THESE ARE LEGIT” (referring to the coupons) right in front of me. As a former summer job cashier, I understand the importance of making sure a coupon is not counterfeit, but I also understand that it’s important not to make your customer feel uncomfortable.

Despite that little occurence, I couldn’t wait to try out my Chorizo Seitan and Ground Seitan!

Upton's Naturals - Chorizo Seitan
Upton’s Naturals – Chorizo Seitan

I think the difference between the “Chorizo mustache” and “Ground mustache” are hilarious!

Upton's Naturals - Ground Seitan
Upton’s Naturals – Ground Seitan

I immediately thought the seitan would taste amazing in a stir-fry and as a pizza topping! Both recipes turned out successfully in my book, with the pizza being a favorite of mine.

Seitan Stir-Fry
Ground Seitan Stir-Fry

Ground Seitan Stir-Fry

Ingredients

  • ~4 cups of raw vegetables (I like the combination of bok choy, broccoli, carrots, onion, mushrooms, and celery)
  • Chopped onions and garlic
  • Salt and sugar
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Upton’s Naturals Ground Seitan (2 oz. is a serving according to box)

Directions

  • Chop ~4 cups of vegetables.
  • Add chopped onions and garlic into a wok or pan for stir-frying. Sautee until softened.
  • Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. sugar to pan.
  • Add apple cider vinegar (two tablespoons) to pan.
  • When pan is hot, add 1/4 cups of water. When sizzling, cover with a lid and cook until tender.
  • Add two servings of Upton’s Naturals Ground Seitan (4 oz.). Stir in pan until warm.
  • And serve! (makes two servings—great over rice or favorite noodles 🙂 )!
Chorizo Seitan Cheese Pizza (for One)
Seitan Chorizo Cheese Pizza (for One)

Seitan Chorizo Cheese Pizza (for One)

Ingredients

  • 2 or 3 oz. of pizza dough
  • 2 or 3 oz. of pizza sauce
  • Three sliced mushrooms
  • ¼ onion, sliced thin
  • Sliced olives and jalapenos
  • Upton’s Naturals Chorizo Seitan (2 oz. is a serving according to box)
  • 2 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  • Preheat toaster oven to 400ºF.
  • Roll out pizza dough into an 8-inch circle, and place in oven.
  • Bake until it puffs.
  • Turn over the dough, and cook until it is crisp (but not browned).
  • Warm up the seitan (if frozen) in a microwave for ~30 seconds to a minute.
  • Spread pizza sauce and vegetable/seitan ingredients over the pizza dough, now crust.
  • Cook all of this until the cheese bubbles.

I could totally fake out my meat-loving friends into thinking this was a sausage pizza ;).

Some other ways I made use of the seitan:

Chorizo Seitan Salsa Salad
Chorizo Seitan Salsa Salad
A Veggie Meat Lover's Bowl - Tofurky Pep. Slices, Hardboiled Egg Whites, and Upton's Naturals Ground Seitan
A Veggie Meat Lover’s Bowl – Tofurky Pep. Slices, Hardboiled Egg Whites, and Upton’s Naturals Ground Seitan

I would highly recommend using these seitan products in any recipies that require “ground meat” or sausage. The Chorizo Seitan also had a crumbly-like texture which made it perfect as a spicy pizza topping.

Upton, not only do you have great facial hair, but your seitan products aren’t that bad either ;)!

Have you tried seitan or seitan products?

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