Brunch & Beach

Brunch & Beach

My sister needed me to check out a potential housing option in the OC, and so I thought it would be the perfect reason to head down to the area for a brunch & beach day. Lucky for me, one of my undergrad assistants was able to take care of some small things for me that Sunday, and so I did not have to step into lab. It feels great to delegate work sometimes, haha.

I picked up E from a nearby Expo line station after my morning run and shower. From there, we got on the freeway and it was pretty much an easy Sunday drive down to Aliso Viejo.

Bagels & Brew
Bagels & Brew

I suggested we eat out at Bagels & Brew, mostly because of their unicorn bagel, but they had other enticing options as well.

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We decided to eat inside at a booth, but ordered first at the counter. E got a sandwich of course, and a grande sized coffee. I went for the unicorn/rainbow bagel with jalapeño cheddar cream cheese, avocado, tomato, and lime juice…otherwise known as “Aliso Viejo” style.

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For my drink, the agave nectar latte sounded warm and sweet, so I had that to accompany my meal.

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Everything was piled on so high since it was served open face, so I needed the help of a fork to ensure no avocado slice or cream cheese drop was left behind.

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We sat for a good half hour at our booth after eating, and then got up and walked around the shopping plaza. This Bagels & Brew was actually near the Native Foods we went to for my birthday last year, so I was circling familiar territory.

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E and I had fun walking in and out of stores like Michael’s, Lowe’s, and B&N, joking about what we could get to decorate our lab office, picking up some Drain-O, and browsing through aisles of overpriced books. After killing some time at the shopping plaza, we headed out towards Aliso Beach. The temperature was starting to creep up without warning, so driving with the A/C on was much needed.

Walking to the beach
Walking to the beach

We parked on a slope in a residential area, about 10 minutes away by foot from the beach. The walk down was easy to navigate, and when we got to the sand, we took our socks and shoes off only to be burned by the sun-exposed sand.

At the beach
At the beach

The water had a truly beautiful blue hue though, and even though we didn’t bring a towel to sit down on, we managed and found a nice little spot to sit down at and enjoy the relaxing view.

After about an hour of sun-bathing and self-reflecting, we got up and made our ascent back to the car. Dusting the sand off our legs and feet was quite the task, but we did the best we could before getting in the car and driving off to Mission Viejo.

Several entrances on freeways and u-turns later, we stopped for a smoothie/acai bowl break. That helped cool off our beach-raised core body temperatures!

A PB acai bowl to help cool off...
A PB acai bowl to help cool off…

And finally, we made it to the house that could potentially house my sister. The current tenant seemed friendly, and E and I took a look around while I took some pictures for my sis. There were two cute fur babies (a black and a gray/white cat!!) who apparently took ownership of the domain. My sister had been wanting this place to work out, and when I sent her the pictures, she was definitely sold. I mean…I couldn’t argue about her decision. With a backyard looking the way this place’s does, how could anyone say no?

I thought she should say yes based on the view alone...
I thought she should say yes based on the view alone…

We immediately drove back to LA after, and after dropping E off, I surprisingly didn’t feel as exhausted as I did last weekend. In fact, I felt reenergized! Just comes to show how a full day off can work wonders! The pint of the weekend was So Delicious’ Soymilk Peanut Butter Zigzag, and to me it was yet another disappointment.

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I had my eye on this flavor for a while, but never thought about getting it because of my love for Snickerdoodle and Cookie Dough like I previously mentioned. It had a number of peanut butter chunks and chocolate pieces, but there just wasn’t enough PB to balance out the chocolate. In other words, a flavor worth missing out on in my opinion…

What do you think of the rainbow/unicorn foodie trend?

Bagels & Brew Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

One Weekend in Cardiff…

One Weekend in Cardiff…

If it weren’t for the stiff warm weather and having a heavy-feeling in my legs, I would have said that my 10 mile run through Cardiff the next morning was a great one. It was a 5 mile out-and-back, with the turnaround point being (Cardiff University). Having the roads transition from gravel, to cobblestone, to lawn made my run even more exciting. If the weather had been cooler that morning and my legs less sluggish, I would have run countless laps around this place! 
 
When the rest of the family got ready for the day, we traveled forth to the Opera House building, which was by some other landmark government buildings and statues. They were building a football arena, and so construction zones got in the way of the beauty of the area, but we were only outside for just enough time to walk inside the opera house—to escape the cold and to stop into the gift shop. 
 
The opera house and government buildings in Cardiff.
The opera house and government buildings in Cardiff.
 
And let me tell ya, out of all the souvenir shops we went to on this trip, Wales has some of the best shops with the most unique offerings of tourist trinkets. And of course, I didn’t buy anything, haha!
 
My cousin’s husband is a doctor and had to work in the evening, so he dropped us off at one of the shopping centers in the area.
 
There was a "Kissing Wall" at the cosmetics section of one store!
There was a “Kissing Wall” at the cosmetics section of one store!
 
My cousin took us around to all of the stores that were popular there, like Joe Malone and Cath Kidston.
 
Joe Malone perfumes and Cath Kidston bags
Joe Malone perfumes and Cath Kidston bags
 
The Cath Kidston store especially caught my eye because it reminded me of a mix between Vera Bradley and Betsey Johnson. We didn’t buy anything at these retail stores since my cousin assured us we could go to the outlet mall later and probably get better deals.
 
Shopping!
Shopping!

We did end up going to the outlet mall, and while I did find a shirt to my liking from a British brand (only 10 pounds, yay!), the winning store was the Cadbury’s Outlet. We were able to stop by a few minutes before closing, but I was overwhelmed by all of the chocolate…I seriously could have bought the whole store because it was two years of my childhood ;( .

We made a stop at Sainsbury’s a grocery store chain in the U.K., to pick up some items for making a veggie-friendly British breakfast in the morning. My sis and I had fun walking down the aisles with the girls, talking about our favorite ice creams and which products we wish we had in the US.

They were also giving free Lego trading cards with every $10 purchase and of course the girls were already collecting them. When we got to the counter for check out, the cashier handed them a packet that was supposed to have four cards. When they only found three in their pack as we were leaving the store , Little P remarked that “This whole thing was a scam”. Maybe I’m biased because they are family, but I was so impressed by how sharp and perceptive the girls were!

When we got back home, we quickly changed into pjs and relaxed in the living room, enjoying Muffin’s antics. My cousin had already prepped dinner (chappatis and all the fixin’s) and after eating, we decided to watch a movie. Our movie night choice wound up being The Arrival with Amy Adams, but I was disappointed (and confused, lol) especially since the ending had been hyped up by the media. I went to bed soon after (around midnight), and quickly fell into the kind of sleep you can only fall into after a busy but lighthearted day with loved ones.

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The next morning I woke up incredibly sore. My back and arms felt like they were going through DOMS, even though I didn’t do any strenuous workouts with those parts of my body the day before. I was so tired that I decided not to run that morning. After taking a shower, I went downstairs and hung out with Little M. She was showing off her subjects workbook and we went through some writing exercises together.

Then my Dad offered to show her how to make mashed poh-tay-toes and she went nuts! Her mashing, scooping and presentation skills were on point, but my Dad forgot to add one ingredient and so she had to take it all out of the pan again. She was happy all the while though!

{Veggie} British Breakfast
{Veggie} British Breakfast

Our British breakfast included veggie sausages and tomatoes, buttered toast, scrambled eggs, seasoned button mushrooms, baked beans, and potato mash. After consuming our feast, we immediately got on our feet and headed for the car, just so that we wouldn’t fall asleep from a food coma! A hike at Ystrafallte was our plan for the day, and we had to put these carbs to work 😉 !

The drive was a bumpy and windy one due to the roads, but we were entertained by sheep (finally!) along the way.

sheep
Peep at that sheep!

We parked near a little inn and restaurant, and then found a map of some of the best paths to follow to find the waterfalls.

Ystrafallte
Ystradfellte

To be honest, we weren’t prepared to walk on those paths…at least I wasn’t! I didn’t pack any sturdy hiking boots, and I was walking in my platform sneakers. Every step was made with hesitation, haha!

Into the woods, like a fairytale.
Into the woods, like a fairytale.

We did make it to one of the (closer) waterfalls in one piece, and stopped to rest while taking in the natural beauty.

There were some people down below us, almost inside the waterfall!
There were some people down below us, almost inside the waterfall!

The girls were having fun climbing over some smaller rocks, but when someone suggested we head back, there was no retaliation. The hike back up was hard though, I was holding onto my Dad’s hand for dear life, haha!

When we got back to the car, we drove to a beach that had a carnival set-up and all of the beach food you could think of—we indulged in ice cream and chips with curry sauce, and then went for a walk on the sand.

beah carnival
Coney Beach? Mimicking Coney Island is the way to go here 😉

It started to sprinkle a little bit, so we got back in the car and headed home to rest/freshen up for a proper dinner out. Between the British breakfast and the carnival eats, you’d think eating is the only thing we do as a family, but who’d complain about that?

Las Iguanas was our dinner destination, a South American food restaurant that reminded me of Chevy’s back in the States.

Las Iguanas Quinoa Ensalada
Las Iguanas Quinoa Ensalada

For my meal, I chose to get the Quinoa Ensalada, described as a dense salad with “quinoa, black beans, sweet potato & charred corn with molho à campanha salsa served on top of crushed avocado with a cranberry & chilli salsa & roquito pepper drops. Topped with purple Peruvian potato crisps & sprinkled with fresh coriander.”

iguanas
Quinoa Ensalada 🥗 from Las Iguanas 🦎 last night. Totally beats anything I’ve ever gotten at a chain Mexican/Spanish/Tex-Mex (or the like) restaurant, and I’m additionally surprised that I didn’t fall alsleep in it after trekking Ystradfellte💧!

It came out tasting as delicious as it sounded. The cranberry and chilli salsa with pepper drops were my favorite part. And of course the purple potato crisps!

When dinner ended, a tinge of sadness came over me because I knew that our blissful weekend was about to come to a close…our trip was pretty much almost over too! We still had one more day in London and then we were off to France, but the weekend in Wales was hands down the best part of the whole journey. Reconnecting with family—no matter where they are—is bound to turn into a good time had 🙂

What are some activities you like to do at large family gatherings?

Las Iguanas - Cardiff Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A Hiatus from Life

A Hiatus from Life

Last year, I only had the chance to spend one full week with my family over the winter holidays. I had to fly back to LA a few days after Christmas in order to take care of things in lab that were time-sensitive. I spent New Year’s alone, and everything just felt out of place and deserted because others were lucky enough to spend all the time they could with their loved ones—my labmates included, haha.

Fortunately, I have some help this year and so I don’t have to rush back for anything. I am able to spend two whole weeks with my family to completely recharge, rest, run, and relax. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much relief departing LA! Even city girls need their sleep.

This whole week has been full of catching-up, and falling into a routine similar to how things used to be when I lived at home. Mornings have been spent sharing a coffee with my Dad at 7am, and splitting desserts and egg sandwiches at Panera.

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Pecan Braid from Panera Bread

I’ve been able to enjoy the fresh air during runs alongside the Arkansas River.

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Breathing in some cool, crisp air while running by the river.

The flat terrain and cold temperatures have allowed me to run at faster paces without TOO much effort 😉

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Pleased with my pace on this particular run 🙂

It’s also been nice to have access to a car, and just drive where I need to go. My sis and I went out a few times, just to run some errands, but even those moments have been so freeing! Blasting the radio and driving around town singing in the car with my sis has inevitably resulted in non-stop laughter and a dopamine high.

We’ve been splitting ice cream pints while watching stuff on Netflix, including this Confetti Cake ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s from Wal-Mart. It had a vanilla base, but there were chunks of birthday cake throughout and colorful bead-like sprinkles. I tried to cut the pint in half, but instead we did the safe thing and just scoop out half into a bowl.

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Pint night with the sis gets better when you find a cake-based flavor of ice cream!

I ate what was left in the carton, and that night we started Fuller House.

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Just look at the top of this thing!

We also went out to eat one night with my Dad before watching Moana at a discount price ($4/ticket!). We ended up going to Qdoba since neither of us have ever been, even though they have locations all around the country. 

re-4
First time trying Qdoba…

The set-up reminded me of Freebirds, but the options were limited to what could be found at Chipotle. They didn’t have a veggie protein option though :/

qdoba
So orange + brown in here…

The three of us each got different things. My item was a “naked” burrito bowl with cilantro rice, black beans, greens, onions, tomatoes, corn salsa, hot sauce, and regular salsa.

qdoba_bowl
“Naked” Burrito Bowl

My sister and Dad got three veggie tacos and a veggie burrito respectively. My sis loved her tacos, but since my Dad found a long strand of hair in his burrito mid-way, it made sense that he lost his appetite and had his burrito refunded. I thought my burrito bowl tasted alright, but I felt the rice lacked flavor and overall, wished there was some veggie protein available to add some body to the bowl.

qdoba_food
Dad’s burrito and sister’s tacos.

The week concluded with some holiday dinners/lunches spent with family and friends which I’ll probably touch upon in the next post. We also have a quick trip to Texas planned, and then a few days left in Tulsa before I’ll have to fly back to LA! I’m definitely going to do my best to make the most of every single minute 😉

What’s your favorite part of the last two weeks of the year?

Qdoba Mexican Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Closed Door to Open Sesame

Closed Door to Open Sesame

After two fun half-days at Blogfest, and a full day of work in lab on a SATURDAY, I was more than ready to take back one day of the weekend for myself: Sunday!

Chocolate proyo with loads of granola crunchies :)
Chocolate proyo with loads of granola crunchies 🙂

After a long run of 13 miles, I made myself a proyo mug and filled it to the brim with granola, all of which were free to me thanks to my expo haul!

This was enough to help me refuel and make it though a few hours of lab in the morning. I was out by 1pm, and immediately got on a bus to head out for lunch.

I only had to walk about 10 minutes from the stop to the restaurant, but I felt like my skin was melting off. Fortunately, I found it before my muscles started to peel off…haha.

What's behind door #1?
What’s behind door #1?

Behind the house-like door, I stepped into the brightly-lit dining room of Open Sesame, and since no one else was dining at 3pm, it was only me face-fo-face with three servers. It was awkward at first since no one out of the three said anything at first, but eventually I was given a place to sit and a menu.

Open Sesame
Open Sesame

I knew that I wanted a platter (what else is new??), and the next task was finding something that fit the vegetarian description. The menu was bound in a red, leather-like cover and was pretty much a book full of entrees, apps, drinks, and desserts. I found the vegetarian platter under the “Entrees II” section. I ordered that as soon as one of the servers came by, and it came out within minutes.

The Vegetarian Platter!
The Vegetarian Platter!

The plate was a colorful piecing of babaganoush (all-time fav), hummus, pickled peppers, fresh tomato slices, two falafel, one grape leaf roll, tabouli, and tahini in a cup.

The cutest thing though was the Open Sesame tissue paper.
The cutest thing though was the Open Sesame tissue paper.

It was almost as if the server read my mind, because just as I thought about how I would be able to mop up the hummus and tahini sauce, she came by with a crispy flat piece of pita bread. I also downed several cups of water to combat the heat I would have to face after leaving the restaurant.

My plans to take a nap that afternoon didn’t make sense since I made it back home closer in the evening. After organizing my plans for the week, I hit the pillow around 9pm and it never felt so good…

Open Sesame Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sub-par Salad

Sub-par Salad

After almost two weeks of hyperactivity and hyperstress, I’m glad to be typing this after my midterm day has passed 🙂

But to keep my sanity during the week prior to exam day, I had Muscle Pharm’s Combat Crunch Birthday Cake bars to keep me pushing through:

 Look at that pop of color!
Look at that pop of color!

Dare I say it tasted better than a Quest bar? Haha…it also took me a while to eat these, since they have a super chewy consistency. I love how the rainbow crunchies looks like pieces mixed in funfetti icing :9

By the time the weekend rolled around, I had to remain in study mode, but that didn’t stop me from going out for lunch and dessert! If it meant walking down Larchmont with a folder full of notes and powerpoint slides in hand, so be it.

 Larchmont Bungalow
Larchmont Bungalow

I had to wait around twenty minutes for a table, because the Saturday lunch crowd was already settled in. When I did get inside though, I was able to order at the counter right away, and then was free to find a table.

 Inside of Larchmont Bungalow.
Inside of Larchmont Bungalow.

I ended up sitting outside on the patio anyways, since the cozy tables inside were all taken up :/

 How could the lighting be this bad outside in the sun??
How could the lighting be this bad outside in the sun??

There was some shade, but it would have been nice if there was a fan in the vicinity as well. The air was quite still, warm, and ended up being the perfect condition for unwelcome flies. Eww…

I had ordered the Vegan Cobb Salad, which was described as containing smokey-maple “bacon” tempeh, vegan mock chicken, avocado, shopped tomatoes, vegan mozzarella, and creamy vegan caesar dressing. When it came to my table, I was more than disappointed with the mediocre portion size.

 In full view.
In full view: I paid $12.95 for this folks, -.-

The vegan cheese was bland, and the mock meats/tempeh/bread roll were super dry.

 View from a different angle.
View from a different angle.

The dressing was the “best” part, adding a little bit of flavor to an otherwise boring, I-could-have-made-this-at-home dish.

 Hmm...I guess the dressing helped.
Hmm…I guess the dressing helped.

I guess no one comes to Larchmont Bungalow for their salads…when they offer red and blue velvet pancakes and full-size handholds, I can understand why.

Good thing I was able to make up for this sub-par lunch with a refreshing walk down Beverly Blvd…all the way down to my first donut sundae…

Have you ever paid way too much for a salad?

Larchmont Bungalow Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

June’s Jumpin’ Start

June’s Jumpin’ Start

This past weekend was one of those weekends that went from being unplanned to booked! I was already looking forward to being able to wake up when I wanted to on Saturday—without having to worry about rushing to lab—but other than that, I didn’t have much planned other than checking out a cafe in the area I was grocery shopping, and then just relaxing at home.

But when one of my friends texted me Friday morning about her birthday celebrations the next day, and how she would be glad if I could make it, I couldn’t deny the opportunity to connect with my class friends over some birthday dinner. After all, it had been a month since we last met up at our professor’s end-of-the-year gathering!

I continued on with my Friday doing some low-key data analysis in lab. Before heading home, I stopped by Ralph’s and happened to stumble across the Arctic Zero flavor I thought I would never come across…

artic zero key lime pie

The Key Lime Pie Chunky Pint! Though, to be honest, this flavor didn’t meet my high-to-the-sky expectations. I found the lime flavor to be a bit too tangy, and the graham cracker pieces to not have much flavor. I guess after sampling all of those Ben & Jerry’s Core Pints as of late, my standards for the perfect pint of ice cream have risen to a higher standard. But to be fair, Arctic Zero is technically a “frozen dessert”, and for being only 300 calories, it’s certainly not something to brush off..

On Saturday morning, I tried another new-to-me product that I’ve been waiting ages to try—Chobani’s Salted Caramel Crunch flip yogurt!

chobani salted caramel crunch

I actually sort of liked this flavor, though it was mostly due to the candied pecans more than anything else. Promptly after having this snack, I went back to sleep for two more hours. It was glorious…

After waking up again, I got ready quite slowly, and left the apartment in the late morning to buy my friend a gift for her birthday. I then hopped on the train to Pasadena to grab my Quest bars for the week from Vitamin Shoppe before heading over to Alhambra. At first I thought I would have to walk an extra half an hour from Vitamin Shopped to downtown Pasadena in the hot sun (and was not looking forward to that…), but since a music festival was happening in the heart of Old Pasadena, the local bus system was offering a free shuttle for the day! I took advantage of this, and used it to get to the bus stop that would take me straight to downtown Alhambra.

The bus ride was about an hour long, and I could feel myself drift in and out of sleep. Fortunately I did not sleep through my stop, and got off on Main St.

on main st.

I had half an hour to spare once I arrived at the restaurant.

gen K

I used that time to quickly freshen up in the restroom, and then rested in the front waiting area until my friends and the birthday girl arrived.

inner decor

Once the gang was all together, we were taken to booth seats near the back center of the restaurant, and divided ourselves so there was 5 people for each of the two grills. I wasn’t the only vegetarian fortunately, and I was able to share some of the grilled veggie goodness with another girl. I also didn’t feel too guilty about having the carnivores wait when they changed out our grill to cook the veggies 😉

 Starting out with oils, seasoning salt, chopstick, and a too-empty plate!
Starting out with oils, seasoning salt, chopstick, and a too-empty plate!

To start off, we were able to help ourselves to different kinds of kimchi, potato salad that looked like vanilla ice cream scoops, and salad dressed in a sweet-n-spicy type vinaigrette. Then the meats came and my friends got to work. My veggie pal and I sat patiently, using our chopsticks to pick at the little pieces of kimchi left until our veggie plates arrived.

Once our veggie plates did arrive, our server switched out the grill, got us some new tongs, and we were free to pack on as many peppers, onions, pineapples, and mushrooms our veggie-lovin’ hearts desired. We also helped ourselves to some glass noodles and rice cakes shaped like cylinders and topped with hot sauce.

 Some of the samplings from dinner -
Some of the samplings from dinner – Kimchi and dollop of potao salad -> more kimchi and salad -> raw mushrooms and rice cakes -> spread of grilled veggies and some glass noodles

Despite “only having vegetables”, I got full pretty quickly. Fibrous, spicy food can do that to ya, and it’s a lesson I’ll never learn! But I can’t imagine how STUFFED my carnivorous friends were feeling…we had a 2-hour limit, but we were all had our fill before the first hour struck! And despite feeling full, most of the party was still up for bar hopping…

I however, was ready to head back home. It would take me another hour after all, and drinking away the night isn’t exactly “my thing”. Ironically, the birthday girl was feeling tired herself, but she had to keep on going for the sake of her guests 😉

After giving my friend her gift, she waited with me at the bus stop until my bus arrived. It was nice catching up with her since we’ve both been busy with lab and other things…it’s hard to believe that just a little over six months ago, we were rotating in labs that shared lab meetings, and that we used to take a little too many coffee breaks over those eight weeks 😛 !

Once I got back to the apartment, my sweet tooth kicked in, and I decided to have my B&J’s pint that evening as a nightcap/pre-long run fuel 😉

ben and jerry's salted caramel core

Oh yes…I managed to include another core sampling in this “unplanned” weekend. Two things won me over with this pint: A) 100% of the ice cream was one flavor (sweet cream), and while I do love variety, I don’t find myself a fan of B&J’s chocolate, and have found that flavor to be somewhat of a “nuissance” when paired with another flavor in a pint & B) the caramel core that surprisingly kept its sticky consistency. How this core filling manages to avoid getting frozen/damp is a mystery to me, but whatever it is eems to work!

The next morning, I woke up and went out for a 12 mile long run an hour later than usual! While I enjoyed getting up leisurely, I realized that the benefit of running at 6AM on a Sunday—not having to stop for traffic while running on city streets—should not be taken for granted! I ended up finishing close to 10AM due to my later start, and the inevitable stop lights I had to take heed to :/

After my run, I cleaned up around the apartment before heading out for a late lunch. I initially thought about checking out a donut shop near Eagle Rock in honor of (late) National Donut Day, but decided that the trip out and back wasn’t worth the voracious hunger I was starting to feel…I needed a substantial meal!

So that’s how I ended up walking alongside the railroad tracks in sunny Glendale.

walking rail road

The bus ride was another sleep-inducing, hour-long one, so taking a walk to the restaurant from the bus stop was quite refreshing—especially with the sun out!

My destination that day was Golden Road Brew, a pub/restaurant that was nestled close to the railroad tracks, and off the beaten path.

the bright outside

I didn’t come for the alcohol like some though…

LA beer hop lol

I came for the vegan food. It took me a while to find a seat though, since the restaurant was packed both indoors and outdoors! I ended up sitting in the middle of a long table outside, and surprisingly was able to garner the attention of a waitress as soon as I sat down.

soaking in that sun

I wasn’t sure what to order first–whether to go with a vegan appetizer and hearty salad, or bet it all on a carb-o-licious sandwich and fries—but I chose to try the Fried ALT to start off with, since fried avocado sandwiched between a baguette lathered with sun-dried tomato aioli sounded appetizing enough!

fried altttt

Um, yeah. The appearance surely made an impression.

fried ALT

BUUUUT…it just wasn’t enough for this runner girl. I was craving more carbs, and so when the waitress came around to me again and asked if I needed anything else, I replied with, “Can I get the pub pretzel?” and did not feel an ounce of guilt/embarrassment for placing an order just after having my “meal” 😛 .

When the pretzel arrived, I knew there was no question about this being enough to fill me up…

oh yeah pretzzzzzel

It was a grand vegan pretzel, with the perfect outside crunch and soft, chewy texture on the inside. The saltiness was spot on, and came with two small cups of vegan pimento-cheese-like sauce and a solo cup of spicy Dijon mustard.

Even though it was meant to be an appetizer item, it worked as great way to complete my meal. I had a renewed sense of energy, and enjoyed soaking in the sun’s June rays while walking back to bus stop. I made it home close to 7pm, and went to sleep soundly that night. 

Just one weekend seems to have done the trick—I’m ready to take on the rest of June, and the start of summer!

Click to add a blog post for The Pub at Golden Road Brewing on Zomato

Exotic Oats and Subpar Noodles

Exotic Oats and Subpar Noodles

Move over Apples & Cinnamon.

Step aside, Maple & Brown Sugar.

Cause these three exotic flavors of Quaker Oats have come all the way from India, ready to take on the “normal” flavors.

3 Exotic Oats Flavors
3 Exotic Oats Flavors

The first flavor I tried was the Kesar with Kishmish (Saffron with Golden Raisins).

Saffron with Golden Raisins
Saffron with Golden Raisins

The oats were bright yellow in color from the saffron, and I noticed a few raisins peeking through the small pile of oats. I decided to cook the oats with 1/2 cup of chocolate almond milk, and added some carob chips and honey peanut butter to top it off. I think I should have added some more milk, or mixed it with some extra water because it came out slightly coagulated/overcooked. I also think the extra toppings clouded the real flavor from the oats…oh well.

Cooked oats, with chocolate almond milk, carob chips, and honey peanut butter added in.

The next flavor to try was Classic Elaichi (Cardamom) and Raisins.

Quaker Oats – Classic Elaichi & Raisins

I also added PB and carob chips to this…as well as a bit too much water (about 1 cup almost, yikes).

Classic Elaichi (Cardamom) and Raisins Oats with Honey PB and Carob Chips

The soupy “mess” resulted in blandish flavor. I couldn’t taste a hint of cardamom, and the raisins that I saw initially in the dry packet disappeared from my tastebuds 😛 . The only good thing about this bowl was that at least my spoonful of PB stayed partially intact.

Would the third packet of oats (Homestyle Masala) be just right? I was somewhat hesitant since it was a savory flavor, but immediately after opening the packet, the masala hit my nose and the bright yellow color hit my eyes—perhaps this would be the bowl…

Quaker Oats - Homestyle Masala
Quaker Oats – Homestyle Masala

I cooked the oats with 3/4 cup water, since milk wouldn’t be the most desired liquid of choice for this flavor, and also cooked up a sweet potato on the side with a dollop of PB.

Wholesome Lunch
Wholesome Lunch

It was seriously the best lunch of that week! This flavor was the best from the three, in my opinion, and the spices really came through. It almost compared to a bowl of masala Maggi instant noodles when it came to the flavor. And of course, a sweet potato with nut butter made for a perfect pairing 😉

These vegetarian instant noodles however, did not deserve much praise.

I got two cups of Nissin Cup Noodles, both of which were vegetarian flavors I have never found here in the States: Tomato and Pani Puri.

Nissin Cup Noodles Tomato
Nissin Cup Noodles Tomato
Nissin Cup Noodles Pani Puri
Nissin Cup Noodles Pani Puri

Kind of hard to make out what it says in the below picture, but basically it is a short little biography of the brand: “THE INVENTORS OF INSTANT NOODLES ~ Dr. Momofuku Anda, Nissin’s founder, invented instant noodles in Japan in 1958. He came up with the idea after World Was II when he saw the plight of people suffering from lack of food. Today, the invention had evolved into a favorite meal of millions across the globe.”

Nissin Cup Noodles Tomato (2)

The noodles in dry form:

Tomato on the left, Pani Puri on the right
Tomato on the left, Pani Puri on the right

I had the tomato noodles by itself, and followed the instructions as described on the cup (boil water for three minutes, pour into the cup, and let sit).

Tomato noodles after cooking. They even had random corn kernels mixed in there which I thought was interesting!
Tomato noodles after cooking. It even had random corn kernels mixed in which I thought was interesting!

I could not detect the tomato flavor at all, and even though I may have added more water over the fill line than intended, I don’t think less water would have solved the issue.

At least with the Pani Puri flavor, I had some more fun. I cooked it in a bowl this time with water, instead of the cup:

Nissin Cup Noodles Pani Puri (3)

I then poured it over some steamed veggies—that made for one satisfying weeknight dinner!

Nissin Cup Noodles Pani Puri over veg.

Are you a fan of savory oats?

Do you like mixing noodles with veggies for a hybrid salad?

Nopales (Cactus) Stew

Nopales (Cactus) Stew

I think summer is the best time to try new foods. Fruits, vegetables, breads, food bars… and cactus?

Nopales (Paddle Cactus)
Nopales (Paddle Cactus)

I’ve always wanted to try cactus, but since it’s one of those plants not commonly placed among the potatoes and the tomatoes at the local supermarket, it has taken me a while to come across it. Who would have thought it would be patiently waiting for me with a clearance price tag at the 99 cent store? And with spines already removed?

Since it was my first time working with cactus, I thought why not play it safe and mix it with some flavorful veggies for a summer stew of sorts?

The Nopales Stew I had on Sunday, with a side of flatbread.
The Nopales Stew I had on Sunday, with a side of flatbread.

Nopales Cactus Stew

Ingredients

  • ¼-½ cup of onion
  • 1-2  leaves (or paddles?) of cactus
  • 1-2 cups of tomato
  • Spices: cumin seeds and cayenne
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • Optional: Spinach leaves or kale

Directions

  • Roast 1 tsp. of cumin seeds in a spoon of oil into a stove-top pot/curved pan.
  • Add onion and brown.
  • Add chopped cactus, and cover with a lid and steam cook.
  • After a few minutes, add chopped tomatoes (and spinach or kale if you want).
  • Cook covered for two or three more minutes.
  • Add salt and cayenne to taste.
  • Dig in!
Close-Up of Cactus
Close-Up of Cactus

This really doesn’t need any outside flavors because when cooked, the cactus tastes lemony! Like it was seriously doused in a bottle of lemon juice! But when mixed with the onion and tomato, it made for nice, citrus-y summer stew.

Close-Up of Stew
Close-Up of Stew

It’s like summer in a bowl ;)!

Have you ever eaten cactus?

Vegan Paradice

Vegan Paradice

Last weekend, my family and I finally got a chance to visit a local vegan-friendly establishment, and spend the Sunday of our three-day weekend eating out. Our appetites were certainly raging!!

Our restaurant of choice? Vegan Paradice. Yes, spelled with a “c”.
Vegan Paradice Menu

The place opened up about a year ago, and I discovered its location last summer and promised myself that I would make time to check it out. That promise was fulfilled last Sunday.
Vegan Paradice Decor

Vegan Paradice is a mom-and-pop establishment, and is literally run by two people: a husband-and-wife team. The menu has a good variety of burgers, wraps, chili dogs, and desserts. Everything that is served at the restaurant conveniently fits on a singular sheet of paper, front and back, so deciding on what to eat is relatively simple…unless you come in wanting to eat everything!

We found some seats under a tree (no, really!)…
Vegan Paradice Tree

…and studied the menu.
Menu

The menu is (mostly) resonably-priced, but I felt better about spending the money anyways since we were supporting a local business.

Once we ordered our food, we had to wait about 20 minutes for all of our dishes to get ready. Even though the wait was long, I could understand that there was no way around it since there were only two people cooking, cleaning, cashiering, managing—you get the picture.

Even so, our meals came out presentable and ready to be devoured.

I ordered the Surprise Me! Chili Dog, and was drooling on the table (okay, not really) by the time it was ready for pick-up.

I was in amazement at how filled-to-the-top it was…I had to attack it all with a fork!
Surprise Me! Chili Dog

The dog is basically a grilled (and fantastically seasoned) juicy carrot in a sprouted whole wheat bun, topped with meatless crumbles, vegan cheese (or cheez), onion, vegan mayo, ketchup, relish, and this yellow rice topping which I found irresistible!
Surprise Me! Chili Dog 2

My sister really took a bite out of the Ranchy Chik’n Wrap, one of the more popular items of the establishment. It’s basically chik’n, avocado, ranch sauce, lettuce, sprouts, olives, tomatoes, and onions that are wrapped up in a hefty whole wheat tortilla.
Ranchy Chik'n Wrap

Sis let me have a bite, and even though the flavor combination was amazing, the winning dish for me was still my chili dog.
Demolished

Which was totally demolished with the power of a plastic fork! (Don’t worry, the soaked bun was scarfed down too…the best part ;)!)

My Dad had the All Beafy: a burger with everything BUT beef.

All Beafy

Thanks to my Dad’s super awesome phone ninja photo-taking skills, he was able to get a pic of the burger behind the counter :P. I also had a bite of this packed burger, and to be honest, it didn’t strike me as an exemplary burger. I do appreciate the time and care that was spent in crafting this burger however…you can tell by the subtle addition of the olive on top ;).

And you bet we didn’t leave without having some dessert!
Carob and Raspberry Vegan Donut and Vegan Cupcake

Vegan Paradice is also well-known for their vegan softserve, which I was hoping to try during our visit. Unfortunately, the machine wasn’t up and running so I would have had to wait another 10 minutes for some good ol’ vegan ice cream.

But the donut/cake display was very tempting. So tempting, that each of us decided to get a different donut/cupcake and split them among the three of us. I picked out the carob donut, Dad the raspberry donut, and Sis the nut-paste (most likely walnut) frosted cupcake.

Everything was bursting with sweetness, and while it was a bit much, it wasn’t too overpowering. My favorite was the raspberry donut because I could truly taste the flavors of raspberry and visually see the specks of raspberry gleaming through the glaze.

The overall visit was a wonderful one, since I got to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon with my family eating delicious and nutritious comfort foods that were all prepared for the vegan appetite. The restaurant had a small, local feel to it, and even though it wasn’t as elaborate as say, my darling love Native Foods, just having this restaurant in the vicinity makes me feel like I can indulge in vegan restaurant meal cravings anytime.

Plus, I have an excuse for coming back…I still need to try the soft serve ;)!

Vegan Paradice on Urbanspoon

Have you dined at an all-vegan/all-vegetarian restaurant?

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