Week One With the Sis

Week One With the Sis

I’ve finally caught up on my travel posts, but coming back meant starting a crazy work schedule in lab. Summer is no time to slack off, haha. 
 
A lot of my time-intensive experiments were beginning at the end of the month, so the the two weeks after my trip were spent planning for the arduous weeks ahead. At least I had my sister with my for moral support. 
 
With no landlords in the house for the first week we were back, we had free reign over the kitchen. Scrambled eggs, with a side of bread and cooked veggies from a pan was our staple dish, and of course we accompanied it with snacks. 
 
Throughout the week, I sampled many of the snacks I brought back from our trip, including these Grenade protein flapjacks.
 
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The original Grenade bars contain gelatin so unfortunately, I haven’t been able to sample those, but these protein flapjacks were a decent option for vegetarians. One of the reasons I love the U.K.? The “suitable for vegetarians” logo…
 
grenade-coconutchaos
I had the Coconut Chaos and Fused Fruit flavors, and while the coconut one was my favorite of the two, I thought the chewy but dense consistency of the bar made it seem more like a slab of dry cake rather than a flapjack (if we are using the word to refer to pancakes here, haha)! 
 
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The Cadbury’s Oreo Mint bar was an immediate favorite of mine, as it had a soft mint cream filling with a slight crunchy texture from the Oreo cookie pieces. 
 
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I also picked up a number of Nakd products, including a bar flavor that was new and some flavor-infused raisins…
 
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I didn’t think the Apricot Crunch flavor had enough “crunch”, as its texture and flavor consistency was similar to other Nakd bars, but it had a mild fruity flavor that seemed to distinguish it from the other bar flavors. Although, I must admit it’s been a while since I had a Nakd bar, so I can’t be too sure, haha! The cherry-infused raisins however were unlike anything I’ve ever had before.

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I’ve never been too keen on raisins, but these seemed to taste as if cherry juice was individually pumped into each raisin to give it a kick of flavor. I wouldn’t mind eating these to fulfill my daily fruit serving!

And then there were the chocolate spreads…

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This Cadbury’s chocolate spread was thinner than Nutella, but it literally tasted like a melted Cadbury’s milk chocolate bar so all was good.

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It made a packet of plain oatmeal much tastier, 😛

 This Malteasers Teasers spread won me over too.
 
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It had small crunchy malt pieces, and my sister and I added it to some yogurt with a broken Wispa bar (a bar I wasn’t too fond of chocolate-flavoring-wise, but it did have an airy, bubble filling.
 
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After a few days cooking and snacking from home, my sister and I had dinner out on a Friday evening since that’s when my landlords came back from their trip. It also happened to be a long, exhausting day for me at lab, so having my sister come pick me up from the train station and drive down to downtown SaMo was such a relief.

We had dinner at Wahoo’s Fish Taco, which surprisingly had plenty of veggie options. You could substitute tofu for pretty much any meat item, and so that made it easy when figuring out what burritos and tacos to get.

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It felt so great to be out on a Friday night with company, chatting about our days and looking forward to the weekend. I was going to drag her into lab with me (just for the mornings 😉 ), but after that we had plans to go to Irvine to check on a potential apartment for her.

We split a burrito packed with tofu, rice, and black beans, and had tacos made to our liking. Mine was topped with a delicately-cut avocado.

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With the taco and half a burrito, my sister and I managed well. The meal was satisfying and just enough for both of us.

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Instead of walking over to the beach (it’s literally a few blocks away), we drove back home and transitioned into couch potato mode. We fell asleep immediately, but got up the next day feeling refreshed. The week had been a great start and welcome for June!

Wahoo's Fish Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Moving Out, Flying Out

Moving Out, Flying Out

My sister’s graduation fell on a Friday and we felt like there was so much to do in so little time! While I went out for a long run at Woodward Park, my Dad drove over to my sister’s dorm to help her finish up with packing. Our close friend also came down for the weekend, and helped out.

After my run, I showered and got ready to meet everyone for brunch. My sister wanted it to be at Benaddiction since that has been her all-time favorite place in Fresno since we both discovered it during one of my earlier visits. We caught up quickly and laughed a lot. The restaurant was already pretty loud so it was no big deal. My friend and sis got their usual favorites while I got a simple potato plate. I also had some of mint chocolate chip pancakes they just had to order…

After brunch, I left with my Dad and the both of us went back to the Airbnb while my sister got ready for the ceremony. We met her and my friend again about an hour before, and my sister left us all to join her class.

After looking at the program though, we were dreading how long everything was going to take…My sister’s major was one of the first ones to step up though, so we didn’t have to wait too long for her to get her spotlight 🙂

After the ceremony, it was blazing hot outside (still…) and I wanted to just head back and cool off but of course we had to take pictures. I headed back with my sister and friend since I was staying in the dorm for the night.

We rested for a bit before making plans to head out to The Cheesecake Factory. It was going to be a late dinner, but surprisingly, not as packed as you’d think it would be on a graduation day.

We met up with another one of my sister’s friends who graduated with a degree in Communications. After dinner (and drinks for some, haha), we were back at the dorm around 10:30. My sister’s friend from lab came over with some friends, and by the time it was 11:30, there were seven people packed into a tiny dorm room. It was a hilarious sight…something I probably would have found humorous at the time if my eyes weren’t so droopy. I retired for the night earlier than everyone else and slept like a baby!

The next day was a day full of packing and driving. We left Fresno mid-morning and got to Irvine around 5pm, and had to quickly catch the sales clerk at the public storage facility my sister was keeping her things for the summer. We had to climb a flight of stairs to unload her stuff into, and by the time we were done, we were all ready to eat before heading back to my place to rest for the night.

Veggie Grill sounded perfect, and we were able to head to the one at The Market Place…a HUGE outdoor mall/shopping complex in Irvine.

Veggie Grill, The Market Place
Veggie Grill, The Market Place
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I wanted to try a seasonal menu item, and the Tofu Poke Bowl seemed like it would be nourishing and flavorful.

Spring seasonal menu!
Spring seasonal menu!

It looked small at first glance, but the flavors were anything but. The rice was sticky and filling (sushi rice!), and along with the pickled cucumbers, avocado, edamame, and tofu cubes, this dish certainly was satisfying.

Tofu Poke Bowl
Tofu Poke Bowl
Sparkle!
Sparkle!

After eating, we had another 40 minutes on the road before arriving in Santa Monica. The drive back wasn’t too hectic, as we weren’t in a race against the clock to see if we could beat the closing time of a storage place. Once we got back to my place, the three of us started arranging our things and emotionally preparing ourselves for our Trans-Atlantic journey the next day—we were hours away from adopting the title of “Tourists” for the next two weeks!

Pending Travel

Pending Travel

This post was written weeks ago, but with all the traveling I’ve been doing and no time to sit down and post, here it finally is with no edits to verb tense, haha!

These past two weeks have been on hyperdrive! Even my efforts in running seemed to be sub-par in comparison to my performance in previous weeks. Stress has been subconsciously hitting me I guess!

I’ve been scrambling putting together stuff at work, as well as prepping for two weeks of international travel. I haven’t packed yet (no surprise) but I do have a list going. Things are going to be coming back-to-back with no pause in between—sister’s graduation, traveling in Europe, my marathon in San Diego—this time off seems to be like it’s a lot more work than intended.

Salted Caramel Cluster...it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete 😋 #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta 😉
Salted Caramel Cluster…it blew me away in a good way. A mild, creamy base with a super salty caramel swirl, rich chocolate chunks and CASHEW pieces. So many more @so_delicious flavors to try 😩 it may take me forever but it should be a fun quest to complete 😋 #WhereIsMySponsorship #JkJk #Sorta 😉

But hopefully the payoff is good. I’m anxious-excited about seeing my cousin, whom I haven’t seen in 17 years, and her 13 and 9 year old daughters I haven’t met yet, at all!

I went to the Westfield mall in Culver City last weekend with E to shop for said daughters. My cousin enlightened me on what they would really like as gifts and I was ready to have fun with it. I bought the younger one two cute dresses from Old Navy and The Children’s Place. I remember my wardrobe was literally all TCP from ages 7-10, and I was taller-than-average for my age lol.

Gifts!
I come with gifts!

For the older daughter, I got two pieces from Hollister…hard to believe (or is it?) that the brand is still popular among teens. Man, I remember feeling SO much unspoken peer pressure to wear Hollister and Abercrombie, haha.

After buying some chocolates from Target, and a cookie butter jar from Trader Joe’s (which I’m hoping they’ll love since Trader Joe’s isn’t available in Wales!), E and I decided to take a lunch break at the happening food court.

I spotted Bibigo down the walkway, and headed towards it while E went next door to Burger King.

Bibigo, Westfield Culver City
Bibigo, Westfield Culver City

A nice, warm veggie bowl with cool toppings sounded so appetizing at the time. So for my base, I had a bowl with salad greens. On top of that went pickled veggies like onions and slaw, and of course kimchi.

Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!
Side of wontons, warm tofu, and fres, cold veggies!

To finish it off, warm tofu cubes added a nice touch along with seaweed flakes. Even a guy who was behind me in line commented on how good it looked, haha.

A fantastic creation.
A fantastic creation.

The bowl was just filling enough to get my energy spent from shopping back up, and to power me to get back home. E and I had a fun bus ride back to the train station, and from there I traveled my usual commute home.

Couldn't resist snapping this pic of my city <3
Couldn’t resist snapping this pic of my city <3

It was too late to take a nap when I got home, but I tried to turn in early enough so that I could catch up on some sleep. At least it was a productive day overall though!

Do you like planning for trips?

Last Day in the Bay

Last Day in the Bay

We spent our last day with my cousin and her wife in the same casual way as the previous day, but with the addition of a drive to the city.

I woke up early again, but went out for my run later than the day before in order to have a relaxing, sit-down chat over coffee with the cousin and her wifey.

After coffee, I went out for a 10 miler and came across this beautiful mural along the way.

10 mile solo run
10 mile solo run

I loved the trail I ran along, and there were two amazing bridges I came across that were pretty much architectural eye candy…

I quickly showered and got ready when I got back, since everyone was waiting to head out into the city. We had plans to go to the Exploratorium and have lunch. Our plans quickly changed when we found out tickets were a steep $30 and $25 with a student ID…our lunch plans didn’t change though.

We parked in Embarcadero, and dined at Osha Thai in the area.

Embarcadero
Embarcadero

It definitely looked like a fine dining kind of place on the inside, but my cousin told me that when she used to work in the area, she would often come down here with colleagues for lunch.

Ready for some Thai food?
Ready for some Thai food?

We ended up ordering everything family-style, and started off with these spring roll appetizers that were dipped in a delectable peanut sauce.

Spring roll with peanut sauce, spicy eggplant, and param
Spring roll with peanut sauce, spicy eggplant, and param

We split bowls of brown rice, Param (a vegetable and tofu dish with everything cooked in peanut sauce), and spicy eggplant. We also surprisingly ordered just enough food for all us without feeling hungry/stuffed. That was certainly a first for us!

Instead of going to the Exploratorium, we decided to head on over to the Jewish Contemporary Museum. We had to only walk for a few minutes back to the parking garage, but it had already gotten freezing-cold and the rain was icy too.

Jewish Contemporary Museum
Jewish Contemporary Museum

We did make it to the car in one piece though, and from there, found parking at a decent area by the museum. Despite finding good parking, we only spent about 1.5 hr at the museum, since there was really only one floor of exhibits, and one special exhibit on the ground floor.

It was time to leave after browsing through the gift shop…because dessert was calling our names. I actually had thought about suggesting to my cousin that we visit The Baked Bear for some ice cream-cookie creations, but he brought up the idea herself!

The Baked Bear, North Beach
The Baked Bear, North Beach

We were all giddy once we got to the food truck in North Beach. It didn’t matter that it was freezing cold out if a cookie bowl and ice cream was involved!

I ended up getting a chocolate chip cookie Bear Bowl with a huge scoop of birthday cake ice cream. My cousin got a cookie bowl as well with coffee ice cream.

The Bear Bowl = Chocolate chip cookie bowl + birthday cake ice cream.
The Bear Bowl = Chocolate chip cookie bowl + birthday cake ice cream.

My sis got a brownie bowl with chocolate ice cream (of course). We all allowed each other to take samples from each of the bowls, but I was fully content with my chocolate chip cookie + birthday cake ice cream combo. I thought the birthday cake ice cream could have had a stronger flavor (it tasted mostly of vanilla), but I had to give it points for its creaminess and color pop from the sprinkles!

We walked back to the car, and drove past the pier. I ended up falling asleep for the second part of the drive and woke up right as we rolled back into the apartment, haha!

Driving past the pier.
Driving past the pier.

After resting up for a bit, my cousin’s wife offered to make dinner and we watched an old Diane Keaton movie.

Roasted cauliflower, daal, and rice
Roasted cauliflower, daal, and rice

Basically, it was another cozy evening spent indoors in the company of loved ones, and the perfect way to end an enjoyable weekend 🙂

The Baked Bear Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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.

whaisgraviola
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.

close up
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

Sit Back and Relax?

Sit Back and Relax?

Once Wednesday morning rolled around last week, I felt much less anxious, but I did have some lingering adrenaline because I could not sleep. Post-presentation jitters? I guess that’s a thing.

I did treat myself to a latte in the morning: the new Cascara latte from Starbucks.

As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.
As a treat for my major accomplishment yesterday, I treated myself to a tall cup of the new Cascara Latte from Sbux. Was it worth a $1.00 extra vs a cappucino? Interestingly, I thought the froth was softer and creamier, and maybe it was the stevia, but it tasted so sweet. I usually have to add two packets of stevia to my cappuccino in order to get half the sweetness I got with this cup.

I saved my celebrations for the weekend though. My friend from lab and I snuck out a little early Friday evening to head downtown and see Hidden Figures. It was my friend’s second time seeing it, but she loved it so much that she didn’t mind seeing it again with me.

She ended up buying both of our tickets even though I insisted she didn’t. Ah, now I owe her—if she’ll ever give me the chance 😉 !

I absolutely loved the movie, though I will admit I love movies and books about people and their stories. I loved reading biographies as a kid, and even now I prefer memoirs over anything else literature-wise.

On Saturday, I gave myself a rest day knowing that the next morning I would have to get up and run 15 miles. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with my day, knowing I had it all to myself with no impending items on my to-so list…

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Except maybe go frolicking around Westwood?

I ended up walking around Santa Monica in the morning because I woke up ravenous, and I wanted to get donuts from DK’s. Unfortunately, my debit card wasn’t working and I couldn’t withdraw any cash to buy any donuts from the cash-only shop. I don’t understand why they can’t take credit cards at this point with all their success/recognition, but one day I’ll be able to see what the hullabaloo is about…when I have cash in my pocket.

In the meantime, I had to find something pronto because my stomach was growling…

SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica
SuperFood Cafe in Santa Monica

I totally forgot about SuperFood Cafe’s existence, even though I had been planning to check this place out a while back. They have an incredible amount of vegan and vegetarian items, hinted by the size of their large laminated menus.

At the counter, I ordered a warm bowl called Chef Tofu and a coffee because that morning I desperately needed one. I then found a seat and admired the high ceilings and warm, cozy color tones.

coffee and art
Nothing says comfort like a giant mug of coffee

I added two packets of brown sugar and one serving of creamer to the coffee, which made it taste much more magical. My bowl came in a very interesting-shaped bowl—it looked like something you’d find in an art gallery.

chef_tofu
That crazy looking bowl though.

The bowl itself contained organic tofu, hemp seed, organic broccoli, kale & spinach, and organic tomato-corn-chipotle salsa. The tofu had a nice spice to it, being coated with a light curry sauce and all.

chef_TOfuuu
Ah, a bowl of yum!

With my hunger satisfied, I decided I might as well do something fun, but cultural, with my free day. I took the bus (which stopped right in front of SuperFood, conveniently!) to Westwood, and decided to check out the Hammer Museum since I hadn’t been yet!

hammer_museum
Hammer Museum—an illusion of size

The museum was actually pretty small. From the outside it looks enormous, but then I realized that the bulk of it was a parking garage…so much for culture! While it was gorgeous on the inside, there were only TWO art displays open, and so my visit was drastically cut down to a fifteen minute walk-through…

interior_
Pretty, but small & quiet

So, I ended up doing what I pretty much do on my weekends when not in lab…grocery shop, and then head home to nap! At least at my grocery stops over the weekends, I treated myself to some delicious new finds:

I had this Falafel Wrap from Trader Joe’s on Sunday, after a 15-mile long run with my team. After having the Veggie Hummus and Grilled Eggplant wraps though, I found this one to be awfully dry even with the provided tahini sauce. It didn’t help that all the falafel were to one side (it made it harder to dip that side into the sauce cup)…maybe if they had been assembled in a staggered arrangement, it would have helped with the dunking?

falafel_wrap
Trader Joe’s Falafel Wrap

I also used some Vitamin Shoppe points I had to go towards my first jar of D’s Naturals Fluffbutter!

I tried D's Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It's a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S'mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that's balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!
I tried D’s Naturals Fluffbutter for the first time last night! It’s a vegan protein-infused peanut butter that comes in a number of flavors, but Creamy Chocolate S’mores caught my eye immediately. It has a thick consistency, but that’s balanced out with a good proportion of peanut oil to make it easy to spread. It tastes like a mild chocolate peanut butter, and comes in the perfect small-sized jar. So excited to get my hands on the other flavors and see how they compare!

As described by my caption so succinctly, I enjoyed this flavor immensely 🙂

backofjar
I will be on the hunt for the others!

I would say that my post-exam jitters finally went away Monday morning. I woke up feeling much more refreshed than I did last Wednesday, and so far, that feeling’s been holding up pretty well 🙂

Does it take you a while (psychologically) to get back to your normal routine after a long stressful event is over?

Superfood Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Repeat of 2016?

Repeat of 2016?

I returned to California early last week, and I was in a deep funk for a couple days. My two weeks off from lab, spent with family, was JUST what I needed and my only regret was that it wasn’t longer!

At least I had a surprise package waiting for me…I tried Enlightened Roasted Broad Bean Crisps for the first time thanks to a little box with some fun-flavored goods:

crisps
Enlightened saved me from the doldrums!

They were the dessert flavors: Cocoa Dusted and Sweet Cinnamon.

cocoa_dusted
Cocoa Dusted description

I had both flavors straight out of the bag. Out of the two, I loved the cinnamon-flavored ones the most since they reminded me of those churro twists from Taco Bell I had long ago…

sweet-cinnamon
Sweet Cinnamon

Cocoa Dusted was good too, I just preferred cinnamon over chocolate coating 😛

cocoadust
Cocoa Dusted up close & personal

I decided to keep close to West LA since I knew DTLA would be abuzz with the LA Fit Expo going on. I also had to go into lab, which would have cut into any day plans if I had scheduled any. So after lab, I came back to Culver City and had lunch literally across the street from the train station…at Sweetgreen! I find it hilarious that my first outing to a restaurant for 2017 is Sweetgreen once again…I dined at a Sweetgreen in Mid-City last year as my first outing in 2016! I wonder if it will become tradition…

sweetgreen
Sweetgreen’s newest—Culver City

They recently opened up shop here in a complex called The Platform. It was already in full swing with customers eating outside even though it was cloudy out.

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Order at the counter

The seating arrangements inside were too small, and if everyone in line had decided to dine in, there would have been no way. I did get a seat however, by the window. It was just a table that wasn’t wiped clean since the last customer, and only had one chair so I had to sit with my bag on my lap, haha!

menu
Lot’s to choose from!

When it was my turn to order, I decided to get a warm bowl. The Shroomami sounded amazing, with glazed tofu, rice, kale, …, and it was vegan so even more of a plus!

lookatdatbowl
My Shroomami bowl [vegan] ~ organic wild rice, shredded kale, raw beets, bean sprouts, basil, spicy sunflower seeds, roasted sesame tofu, warm portobello mix, miso sesame ginger dressing
I also got a slice of bread on the side, and enjoyed the bowl while people/train watching through the window.

sideofbread_tofu
Slice of bread, and look at that tofu!

After eating lunch, I got grocery shopping done at Sprouts. I love it when restaurants/grocery stores are all in one area since it makes running weekend errands so much easier.

While picking up staples for the week, I came across another RX Bar flavor I have yet to try—Peanut Butter! When I was checking out in line, there was a guy in front of me who noticed my purchase-to-be, and asked where he could find them. As soon as I told him, he dashed over to the bar aisle while the cashier began to check out his items!

rx_pb
RX Peanut Butter bar…has exactly 14 peanuts?

I tried the bar as I was waiting for the train to go home. I like the smooth texture of the bar, and it kind of made me think of the Chocolate Coconut flavor without coconut, and with a mild peanut scent reminiscent of how the maple scent defined the Maple Sea Salt flavor. I guess I could understand why that guy at Sprouts was in such a mad dash to get those bars for himself?

Have you eaten out since the new year began?

Sweetgreen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gringo Bandito!

Gringo Bandito!

Disclaimer: I was not provided compensation except for product samples for review by Gringo Bandito, and all opinions are my own.

For the past 2-3 weeks, I’ve been able to spice up the holidays with some wholesome hot sauce!

Gringo Bandito is a hot sauce brand based in So Cal, which has humble origins. The brand was born in 2004, started by Dexter Holland who is a singer for the band The Offspring. It was created as a gift for a friend, but since then, has blossomed into a flavor threesome featuring red, green, and super hot sauces! It’s even ranked in the top 10 hot sauces on Amazon!

sauces
Gringo Bandito Super Hot / Red / Green

The green sauce wasn’t too hot, but it did leave a kick! I added a lot to one of my crockpot bowls one night and had to stop and take a picture because so many colors were popping out at me. Talk about nutrient-dense!

nutrientdense
This bowl SINGS with flavor

I also added some to a supposedly spicy pepper soup with shiritake noodles. Let me just say the soup would not have been spicy if not for the hot sauce that was added in!

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Spicing things up!

I also love the humor in the ingredients list. Of course there is going to be “more peppers”, haha!

green-sauce
“More peppers!”

Of the three sauces, I first tried the Super Hot flavor that had scorpion chili pepper as an ingredient! Make sure you take this sauce seriously and be gentle with the portions!

super-hot
Take me seriously.
scorpion-chili-pepper
Scorpion chili pepper…

When I visited my family over the holidays, I brought all three bottles over to enjoy on home-cooked meals!

About that super hot sauce…I made the mistake of adding a lot to a pot pie crust I had for dinner one night, and my mouth (and stomach!) would not forgive me for it!

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Doesn’t look like a lot but it is!!

It definitely adds a lot of flavor, and a little does certainly go a long way.

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Temperature-hot stew, chemical-hot crust

My sister is one of those people who loves Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but who dislikes spicy food. She tried the “regular” hot sauce though, and thoroughly enjoyed it! She had it on a sandwich my Dad made her.

i-5
Not super aesthetic, but the hot sauce was good according to my sis 🙂

My Dad also treated me to some eye-popping, healthy-licious meals. I gave my stomach a break and tried the regular hot sauce on these:

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Vegetable medley w/ spiced up tofu
i-3
Spicy stuffed pepper!

It harkened the tofu to get up and dance, and my stuffed bell pepper to boogie—in my mouth that is!

Are you a fan of hot sauce?
Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Pre-Friendsgiving 2016

Thanksgiving this year ended up being a Friendsgiving celebration. I am so grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to schedule my travel plans around time sensitive experiments, and that I could just enjoy being in the company of my sister and our close friend in Santa Cruz.

bollywood-popcorn
I had this the night before my trip, so spicy! —> Next time you have a movie night, get like 5 bags of THIS. Bollywood Popcorn from Trader Joe’s is bound to bring the party…IN YOUR MOUTH

My weekend began Tuesday afternoon (lol, earliest weekend ever), and I left from lab in order to catch the Amtrak to Fresno. It was a painstakingly long ride, due to the fact that the train had a late start by one hour. Pairing that with a rowdy family that would not shut up for the next two hours, it was no surprise my head was throbbing beyond its limits.

I finally arrived around 9:30pm and insisted that my sister drive me to Sprouts before it closed at 10pm. I was hungry at this point and needed some food to make up for dinner time I lost.

The both of us went to sleep immediately after eating some ice cream and watching SNL (it was not boring at all watching Kristen Wiig’s skits over again with my sis, we were cracking up)!

The next morning, I went for a run around my sister’s campus before heading into the car for our 3 hour drive to Santa Cruz. The last time I visited Santa Cruz was ages ago…I’m thinking like fourth or third grade? I barely remember it though since we passed by it briefly, only making it down to the boardwalk. Since I have yet to visit my friend during a time when she is on campus, Thanksgiving presented itself as the perfect opportunity to pay her a visit.

The drive was scenic once we made it past Madera and headed west. As we got further and further into the woods, and closer to the coast, we knew we had arrived. There was also a chill in the air so we knew we were in Santa Cruz country.

My friend, who is a Resident Advisor, had to stay on campus from Wednesday evening through Friday evening, so we used the afternoon hours as soon as we arrived to get some lunch off campus.

saturn-cafe
Saturn Cafe, Santa Cruz

We knew we had to hit up Saturn Cafe, a vegan staple that I visited two and a half years ago (!!!) in Berkeley. My friend made a comment about how she took her parents to this place so much that they got tired of it, but who on Earth gets tired of vegan food?!

interior
So cosmic!

There are those that don’t like it to begin with, but vegan food is just one of those things where there is a magical little substitute for everything in the meat and dairy world…how can you tire of that?

peanut-royale
Got my eye on the Peanut Royale

But I digress. The three of us were pretty hungry by the time we entered. Unfortunately, we had a wait time that was longer than it should have been. The cafe wasn’t packed at all, yet it took the wait staff 15 minutes or so to just get us seated! The waitress looked like she’d rather be anywhere but in a pink vegan diner, and this poor attitude showcased itself when she came around to ask for our orders.

I remember the portion sizes being huge from my Berkeley visit, but I just felt like having something manageable for lunch and warm…definitely warm!

peanut__royale
It shimmers with orange and sparkles with tofu!

I ended up going with the Peanut Royale, while my sister got a delectable-looking sandwich and our friend, her favorite Mexican-inspired bowl. We also split some onion strings with a ranch-like dressing for dipping!

onion_strings
Onion strings and sister’s sandwich with chips 🙂

My sister also got an overflowing chocolate shake that thy actually brought over BEFORE her entree. After eating we waited another eon before getting our checks. They at least were able to split our checks, but didn’t take Discover credit cards (who doesn’t take Discover anymore??).

We were finally able to leave and made a stop into Safeway before heading back to campus. My friend had an allowance for food since she had to be on “lockdown” so we got our Friendsgiving meal staples and snacks. We had to make a special stop to get a lil Tofurky ball at a co-op, but at least we were in Santa Cruz and could count on some place having it ready the day before the holiday!

When we got back, we unpacked a bit more and rested up from our morning drive and afternoon errands. I tried to get some work done but our friend’s wi-fi was only picked up by our phones and not our computers.

window____
Friend’s cute window wall.

After some downtime, our friend whipped up her latest specialty—Gordon Ramsey eggs!

gordon-ramsey-eggs
Gordon Ramsey eggs!

They were scrambled eggs whipped with butter and olive oil, all piled high on crisp sourdough toast. I think this is something we are going to be asking our friend to make every time we see her now 😉

We tried to all watch something on Netflix later that night, but I was so tired that I dozed off right when we picked out something! Haha, I certainly had great sleep that night 🙂

Have you tried Bollywood Popcorn or Gordon Ramsey eggs?

Saturn Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

When I lived near DTLA, everything was pretty much an hour away by public transit. Hollywood, Pasadena, Santa Monica…it made choosing where to go on the weekends very, very hard.

My default place to go would be the Grove because all of my favorite food stores were pretty much in the same area, and there was always some new cool restaurant to check out.

Since moving to Santa Monica however, my inclination to go out has gotten smaller. Venturing out to anything past the SaMo seems so arduous! Haha. But, I don’t think I’m missing out at all…since I’ll be living in my current place until at least next summer, I might as well take in all of Santa Monica I can get!

It’s also incredibly easier to explore more of the city without time constraints, now that the Metro Expo line has expanded. I think I’ve stepped foot onto 3rd St. Promenade at least once every weekend this month, and when I lived in DTLA, this area was a destination. Now, it’s a landmark point for me to find other gems in the city. Mostly foodie-related ones, like Erven.

Walking down this classy-looking sidewalk towards Erven.
Walking down this classy-looking sidewalk towards Erven.

I think Erven took the place of RFD’s location in Santa Monica, because The interior was strangely familiar. It seemed to be a matching replacement though, since Erven is a restaurant serving vegan, plant-based cuisine.

For the lunch hours, they had their cold spread of foods like salads, cold sandwiches, and dessert goods at the front with the cashier. You also could order to dine in at the same counter.

foooooood
Cold foods and hot foods on menu.

For my meal, I decided to go with a hot sandwich and get the beer-battered tofu with a side of slaw. I found a table in the next room by a large window, perfect for people watching.

view
A tangy side slaw with root veggies ; window view

At the tables in front of me and in my view, there were groups of women having Saturday brunch. Actually there was a 20-30 year old group and a 30-50 year old group (if I were to guess the age ranges) and not a man in sight…except for the interesting painting on the wall, haha!

whatttt
Um…the painting was…interesting?

When my sandwich came, I was speechless…was this really beer-battered tofu, or a filet-o-fish sandwich?!

toffffu
This is vegan?! Oh yeah!!

Literally looked too beautiful to eat.

sandwich-yeaaaa
Good stuff in this sandwich.

The bottoms of each bun had a spicy tomato-like spread, and above the beer-battered tofu, there was more of the slaw that I originally has as a side. The tofu itself had a perfectly golden crust (as evident by the full picture of the sandwich) and overall I would describe it as tangy, crispy, warm, and hearty sandwich. Definitely hit the spot, and my plate was pretty much clean by the end of it!

I also made away with THREE new Halo Top flavors this weekend. I happened to stop by a Ralph’s in downtown just to see if they had any in stock. Lo and behold they did! They also happened to be the three with the largest amount of crushes on social media, haha.

I reviewed them on Instagram and here’s what I thought:

cookiedough
This pint literally had the texture of butter, as the ice cream was THAT soft…like a McD’s soft serve. It also had cookie dough chunks for dayzzzzz and like, three chocolate chips in the entire pint 😂 😂 😂 haha, #balanced ?
oatmeal-cookie
This pint had a mild scent of cinnamon but that didn’t seem to permeate into the actual ice cream. The flavor itself was pretty bland, and I thought I was about to choke on the oat flakes. Those things are sharper than they look LOL. Not sure how this flavor has been making people swoon…hmmm
 I didn't fall in love with it so hard like others may have, perhaps due to the off-red color that makes it look fruity even though the ice cream base tastes bland. I did like the cubed brownie bites though, and there was a generous amount mixed in! These brownie pieces are what add flavor to this pint. I have to say, even though Red Velvet wasnt' my absolute fav, it's up there 👆🏽
I didn’t fall in love with it so hard like others may have, perhaps due to the off-red color that makes it look fruity even though the ice cream base tastes bland. I did like the cubed brownie bites though, and there was a generous amount mixed in! These brownie pieces are what add flavor to this pint. I have to say, even though Red Velvet wasnt’ my absolute fav, it’s up there 👆🏽

So even though I’ve been spending a lot more time close to home instead of venturing out, at least I have places to go that make staying close worth it 😉 !

Erven Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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