Finally!

Finally!

I had no trouble getting back into my routine after returning from Las Vegas, but one piece of news threw me for a loop.

Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.
Freebies from the IDEA/BlogFest Expo! An RX Bar in Chocolate Chip flavor! Too much nuts IMO, but not too shabby of a flavor.

One of my undergraduate assistants informed me that the week would be his last, even though he originally had plans to stay and help me out for a longer period of time.

A new-to-me Trader Joe's find I picked up that week---
A new-to-me Trader Joe’s find I picked up that week—Greek Whole Milk Yogurt (Avocado Citrus) mixed with peanut powder. It fueled me through a 12hr day x-x

Even though his change of plans was a disappointment, he still came in over the weekend, and so at least I had one solid weekend free from the constraints of lab. I definitely took advantage of this.

Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee...the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
Another cool freebie! La Colombe Coconut and Vanilla coffee…the coconut flavor was pleasantly surprising in taste, like a splash of coconut water was added to some iced cream coffee!!
 
I was able to take the car out to Encino, and from Santa Monica it was an (almost) easy drive up the 405. I was also able to avoid paying for street parking by finding a neighborhood to park at and from there walk over. 
 
Veggie Grill, Encino
Veggie Grill, Encino
 
Veggie Grill was my destination since they sent me a $5 off birthday coupon that I couldn’t resist… 
 
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
Mondo Nachos, Veggie Grill (Encino)
 
…and the dish I couldn’t avoid ordering, despite having it before AND the fact that their summer menu had a mouth-watering array of options. A plate of Mondo Nachos sounded just perfect at the time. 
 
Compared to the plate I had at the WeHo location more than a year ago, I felt like it lacked a lot of guac and soy crumbles (they replaced it with grilled chik’n this time around). This was more of an observation than a complaint, however. I also brought my laptop and did some work at the restaurant for a few hours after eating. I guess it’s more “normal” to set up shop like that at a Starbucks or a cafe,but Veggie Grill had a jammin’ playlist so I wasn’t too pressured to get up and leave! 
 
I headed out a little after 1 and my next stop was in Grocery Outlet in Burbank. I inevitably had to face traffic, and it took me almost thirty minutes to get from Encino to Burbank. 
 
Burbank Grocery Outlet
Burbank Grocery Outlet
 
When I did arrive however, I was ecstatic to finally be stepping into one of GO’s newer So Cal locations. Ah, it had been too long! 
 
I made out with a week’s worth of food with plenty of change to spare, so it only made sense to drive by Glendale and finally get me some Yoga-Urt! They had been on my radar for quite some time now, and I’ve actually been following them on Instagram since their opening two years ago in 2015! Getting there by public transit always posed a challenge, but with a car handy it’s really not that impossible to get to. 
 
__yoga-urt__
 
The shop is very small, with a few patio chairs and tables in the front. There’s also a huge blackboard wall near the entrance, the contents of which are frequently changing. 
 
 ♥

They offered a lot on their menu, but their flavors of soft serve were limited for the day.

 ♥

A turmeric/gold rose flavor sounded unique, and was listed as one of their offered flavors, but unfortunately not on the day I visited.

♥

A small cup of froyo with one topping proved to be pricey (~$6!), but since it was vegan-friendly and a hand-crafted kind of place, I thought it was a worthy treat to splurge on. I ended up going for the Peanut Butter Prana topped with dried mulberries.

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

I enjoyed my cup outside, and marveled at how thick the soft serve was. It was like those So Delicious ice creams I rave about, except smoother and creamier. The mulberries added some varied crunch, but to be honest they weren’t a vital component.

 ♥

After spending the day driving and eating through North LA, I made the drive back home, and spent the remainder of the evening napping and catching up on some work. I was squeezing every minute out of this “free” weekend, because who know when my next one will be!

A new Nuts 'n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more blanaced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The vanilla flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn't have those crystalized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
A new Nuts ‘n More flavor for me to try. I picked it up from the Vitamin Shoppe near the Veggie Grill in Encino. Definitely found it more balanced in the oil-to-butter ratio. The white chocolate flavor was mixed throughout, and it didn’t have those crystallized sugar pieces at the bottom like I observed with Cookie Butter.
 
 Is there something you finally got done recently?

Veggie Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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?

Turkish Delight!

Turkish Delight!

The semester is coming to a close for most, but I technically don’t become a “fourth year” until after this summer. And this summer is gonna be a doozy with all the work I have planned and have to get done, oh boy.

There’s so many things to do for trip prep and managing work here, I’m proud of myself for not going absolutely crazy and still finding the time to go about my usual daily tasks without worrying too much.

Lab was a necessary task that needed to be addressed on both Saturday and Sunday. E had to come by Saturday morning to help me get into the building since I forgot my set of keys in my desk (lol), but after I finished up, we made plans to have lunch.

She had been mentioning that we check out this Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills sometime, and I thought it would be perfect to finally do so.

The bus we took that was supposed to drop us off at Beverly Blvd cut its route down by Fairfax near Little Ethiopia, so we ended up walking for another 45 minutes due to construction and having to take the most roundabout way to our destination.

Needless to say, we had rallied up a strong enough appetite to chow down on some mouthwatering Turkish food. Our appetites would be appeased at Cafe Istanbul.

inside
Cafe Istanbul

It’s hard to believe I passed by this joint without much thought. I used to frequent this street a year and a half ago, visiting the likes of Panera Bread, Creamistry, Momed, and Beverliz Cafe. I had been meaning to come back, but time flew by!

chips
Pita bread chips and sauce.

Now I was here with E, and I was making the most of this experience. E is Turkish-German, and so she volunteered herself to order in Turkish for the both of us. The servers spoke English, but E wasn’t going to miss out on an opportunity to show off, haha!

pita rolls
Pita bread and grape leaf rolls

We were served some crisped flat bread with a tomato-based dipping sauce as an appetizer. We also got vegetable dolmas, and for our entree, the Imam Bayildi.

imam_bayidli
IMAM BAYILDI ~ Fried whole eggplant, stuffed with onion, tomato, garlic and slowly baked in the oven, served with tzatziki sauce and with pita bread.

Our entree featured three eggplant strips topped with tomato, onion, and pepper. We were able to cut through the soft, chewy boats, and top them on some pita bread after adding some tzatziki.

I thought we were done after this meal, but E insisted that we finish off the right way—with Turkish tea and Kunefe.

tea-kunefe
Tea and Kunefe

The tea was a dark crimson liquid served with sugar cubes. It paired well with the soft, sticky dough pastry that is Kunefe. It was like a sticky bun rolled in pistachio grounds. The small, rich dessert was the perfect way to complete the feast. I’m glad I trusted E, haha!

We walked around for a bit, and then departed to commute home. I made a stop at Sprouts for groceries, and decided to pick up a pint of Nada Moo to try later as a night snack.

nadamoo
Birthday Cake Cookie Dough

I picked out Birthday Cake Cookie Dough, and for my first time trying Nada Moo, I was mad at myself for not trying this fluffy goodness packed in a pint much sooner! Birthday Cake Cookie Dough has a bright white base of fluffy coconut milk-based ice cream, mixed in with thick chocolate chips and sizable pieces of cookie dough. If you are looking for a pint-sized cloud with a varied texture of mix-ins, look no further!

Earlier in the week, I tried some new items I picked up from Trader Joe’s. One of which was one of the three new RX Bar flavors—Mixed Berry!

mixed_berry
RX Bar Mixed Berry

The eye-catching bright pink wrapper was what caught my eyes first, but the taste of the bar was quite interesting. It had the usual density of an RX Bar, but the flavor reminded me of fruity pop rocks, and it really hit the back of the mouth in regards to flavor intensity. Not sure if it’s my favorite, but the bright pink color made it seem like it would match well with a cute pink dress!

The second item was the Birthday Cake Bar from Trader Joe’s! I first saw it on Instagram, and was ecstatic to find it sitting on the shelf with the other chocolate bars 🙂 !

birthday-cake
Birthday Cake Bar

Sprinkles and cookie crumbs gave the bar its full textured appearance, and the chocolate had a smooth flavor profile. It’s definitely a treat that can’t be missed out on!

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

Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

Race Recap – 32nd Skechers Performance LA Marathon

I find it SO hard to believe that a week ago, I ran my third marathon—and it ended up being a sub 4:00 one as well! So many things went well with this training cycle, and even though the race is over, this particular marathon has given me the encouragement to keep pushing my training to the next level and conquering more goals associated with this distance.

In the days leading up to the race, I actually wasn’t too hyped up for it. I had other things on my mind (lab work + lab “social” life), but I still made time to go down to the expo at the convention center late Friday afternoon on race weekend.

My third marathon expo.
My third marathon expo.

It was really just a routine visit. I wasn’t too excited about sticking around. To keep up with tradition, I found and photographed my name on the runner’s wall, picked up my race bib/shirt, and walked around the booths for just long enough to gather some freebies.

Trying to find/get all the samples I can.
Trying to find/get all the samples I can.

I didn’t gather much despite it being a MARATHON expo (just a couple mini Larabars and a coconut water), but one of my favorite booths was Clif bar’s. They had samples of their newest nut butter-filled bars and ginger ale/spearmint shot bloks!

Hello, Clif!
Hello, Clif!

After taking a picture with my bib at one of the booths, I decided to head home. I was actually feeling pretty hungry so the “carbo-loading”, you could say, commenced that night—with a Spicy Lentil Wrap from Trader Joe’s.

spicy_lentil_Wrap
Friday night turn down 😴 with a Spicy Lentil wrap from Trader Joe’s. I put this right up there with the grilled eggplant wrap!

Tahini sauce brings everything up a level, just sayin’.

The day before the race was a relaxing one, but because I was with E in Glendale, we did plenty of walking. I did try to keep hydrated and made sure to get home early enough to set aside my stuff for race morning and get into bed by 8:30pm.

I woke up the next morning at 3:30am (yes, it’s true), got my race gear together, and called for a Lyft since the rest of my teammates were taking a ride share service/staying at a hotel near the start with family. From Santa Monica, the drive was less than 20 min.

I got to the start with a good 2.5 hours to spare before we had to toe the start line. I had plenty of time to collect some free shot bloks and Clif bars, fuel up with “breakfast”, use the restroom, and warm-up. It was still very breezy and cool outside, so I stayed warm by huddling in a corner of one of the open women’s restrooms.

Waiting at Dodger's Stadium...
Waiting at Dodger’s Stadium…

I was waiting solo for a long while…my teammates did not show up until about 5:30am. Even then, it took me a while to find/get to them at the seats on the ground level. There were a a few of us who met at this point, and after a group picture, we immediately went to bag check and then the start.

I decided to start in the open corral with three of my teammates since I wanted to pace with someone from the beginning. Looking back, I feel like this strategy helped me immensely in getting that sub 4:00. It took us a while to get to a sustainable race pace since we were slowed down by the crowds of the open corral, but once we made it past downtown, I kept up with one of my female teammates for the majority of the race.

Everything felt great for the first half of the race. We were running down Sunset and I felt comfortable enough to talk with my teammate at an 8:47/mi pace. Once we made a turn in Hollywood however, things started to shift.

I felt a sharp pain in my right foot as we made our way down a steep downhill. I had a feeling that I got my first black (big) toenail, and despite knowing this, I tried to ignore it for sanity’s sake.

The next slip-up was my fueling strategy. I was so focused on hydration that I wasn’t sure when to start chewing on my bloks. In my last two marathons, I busted out the plastic bag between miles 11-13, but this time, I was more concerned about keeping up with my teammate. I also didn’t feel too hungry (in fact, my stomach felt a little bit “mixed”…in that, a bathroom stop would have been nice).

When we reached Beverly Hills, I began to second guess my earlier actions of not fueling up. I was starting to feel slightly fatigued, and felt like I had to push quite a bit to keep holding on with my teammate. I surprisingly managed to make it through miles 17-20 without giving up or writhing on Rodeo Dr!

Once we reached UCLA/West LA territory though, we were hitting the Mile 20 mark. My teammate took off, but I listened to my body and just kept my pace. I stopped to take out my bloks and began to fuel up at this point.

Once I reached Mile 21, I felt a little bit better. Mile 22 was when we began to approach Brentwood/San Vicente—the last four miles of the race towards the SaMo finish! Honestly, this was the worst part of the race for me (up until 25.5!!) because I felt tired (mentally mostly), and irritated by anyone that said we were “almost there”. My pace wavered in the 8:50/mi range until it settled at 8:55/mi. I didn’t want it to dip into the 9:00/mi range, so I made sure to keep my walking breaks incredibly short.

By the time I got to Ocean Ave., I tried to let the crowds around me give me the final push I needed to finish fiercely. The finish line felt incredibly far away, but once I hit 25.5, I started to kick things up and go, go, go! The shot bloks were finally kicking in I suppose! When I crossed the line, I had run the race at a solid time of 3:53:57. I didn’t know of this time exactly until I read a series of texts from my Dad since he had been tracking me the entire run.

Bag check was much better this year!
Bag check was much better this year!

I was able to slow down to a walk, gather a medal and my gear at bag check, huddle up with a heat sheet, and take some fun post-race photos. I also collected as many protein bars as my arms could carry, and met up with my teammates at our designated family reunion area meeting spot.

People around me were still in a daze...
People around me were still in a daze…

I waited with my team for about an hour and a half just to congratulate, commiserate, and photograph the moment. The teammate I had ran with up until mile 20 ran a 3:46 marathon, and considering it was her first, she did a great job.

All of us took the train back to our destinations, and I got off pretty quickly. It felt so nice to be able to get back home at a decent time, unlike how it was the past two years fighting traffic to get to downtown! Now I had enough time to attend to my battle scars…

One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!
One ripe blister and gunmetal-polished toenail, came right up!

At least this small gem reminded me that I just did something pretty amazing that morning??

3rd time's a charm!
3rd time’s a charm!

Out of all the 26.2 distances I’ve raced, this one was the most painful, but also the most accomplishing. I had a goal, and luckily was able to meet it. It was a challenge, but a challenge worth giving up a smooth heel and big toe nail for. And if I only want to get better and faster at this monstrous distance, it’s only going to get more eventful from here!

Have you ever run a marathon/had a great marathon experience?

Would you ever consider running a marathon?

Have you ever had a black toe nail?

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…

IMG_9104
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

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

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

A Visit to Novel Cafe (Before Writing My Own Novel…)

I have a huge 12 page proposal due soon, and with this on my mind the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was anxiously-driven to put in some concrete hours working on it.

picmonkey-collage
Tried a new RX Bar flavor from Trader Joe’s—Maple Sea Salt! I love how it has salt speckles that sparkle like diamonds!

Fortunately, I didn’t have to go into lab that weekend, so it also gave me plenty of time to sleep in for a bit, and then set up shop at a local library.

apple-caramel-yogurt
Tried this interesting new seasonal greek yogurt flavor —> Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt? Tastes more like cream cheese with apple pieces…uh, I guess that could be appetizing but when you expect yogurt and taste cream cheese, it’s quite a surprise 🤔 .

I also had a hankering for pizza, so I made it my first priority to get myself a warm, hearty tomato-based pie before working. This meant waking up around 8 (because that’s my definition of sleeping in) and then heading over to Novel Cafe because I heard they had pretty good pizza, among other things.

vegan-pizza
Novel Cafe

The outside was covered in calligraphy and murals, while the inside had an interesting layout. There were one (or two?) shops within the restaurant selling what I assume was jewelry, but they also didn’t seem to be affiliated with the restaurant.

teninthemorning
Casual seating area

I sat at a table in the center, and in my view was an empty juice bar, and bakery cases full of pastries and bread. I was handed a long, laminated menu and my eyes immediately gravitated to the pizza section. I had to go for the organic vegan topped with zen buddha cheese…

vegan-pizza
VEGAN PIZZA,COME TO ME!

…it also came with other goodies like rich tomato sauce, zucchini, and mushrooms!

melt
That melty “cheese”

My pizza was a medium, but it was the perfectly-sized personal pizza. It took me a while to finish, but that’s because each bread-y bite took some work to chew. Each slice was thin enough to fold NY style.

I left with a full tummy and gathered enough energy to get to work on my paper for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. I spent a good three hours at the library, hard at work, before I decided to venture home and crash into a carb-induced coma of a nap.

The next day, I continued to put those carbs to use when I ventured out for a fourteen miler with my marathon team. My running buddy and I kept a consistent pace the entire time, making us enthusiastic about our marathon prospects. If all goes well, I may be significantly PR’ing come March 😉

veggie-wrap
Trader Joe’s Veggie Wrap w/ Hummus – The wrap itself is so soft…and each bite is chock full of hummus!

I did some grocery shopping after the run and before heading home, all on now-tight quads! I picked up a new-to-me wrap from Trader Joe’s for lunch while watching the latest SNL episode.

hummus-wrap
What I had to say about this wrap —-> Is it actually raining in So Cal today 😱?? I thought it was pretty good timing on my part getting back home after a 14mi run JUST before the downpour. I wanted to get a lot of my written proposal done, but a lot of napping, SNL watching, and veggie wrap with hummus eating happened instead 😛 But at least I did catch up in the sleep department 👍

I had my fair share of hard work and relaxation in the weekend immediately preceding Thanksgiving, but I am more excited to type out my Thanksgiving recaps! That is…if I ever finish this proposal 😛

Novel Café 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

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Getting into the Fall Spirit: Help from Pumpkin & Ube

Despite it STILL feeling like summer in LA, I have made my best attempt to make it seem more like fall…at least with the foods I eat!

Trader Joe’s makes this easy to do, since almost all of their featured new items right now are pumpkin/cinnamon/orange color-themed. During last weekend’s grocery trip, I left with a jar of Pumpkin Spice Cookie Butter, and two cups of Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt.

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt
Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt

The latter isn’t really “fall-themed”, but the color of the packaging reminded me of autumn leaves. Plus, when I mixed it as part of a weeknight proyo bowl and topped it with the pumpkin spice cookie butter, it could have easily been mistaken for a pumpkin or cinnamon-flavored greek yogurt!

 Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe's Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfate Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter
Proyo Bowl Left: Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter & Jelly with Nonfat Greek Yogurt, protein powder, and TONS of coconut almond butter // Proyo Bowl Right: Blueberry soygurt, protein powder, and a generous portion of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

But the true pumpkin favorite find as of late was the limited edition Quest bar flavor I was able to get a hold of. Honestly—the best purchase I’ve made from my campus bookstore, ever 😛

 I found it!
I found it!

After a suuuuper long day in lab (and an incredibly long week if we want to be specific!), finding the pumpkin pie Quest bar flavor on Friday night was just the treat I was looking for.

 So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!
So orange, so crispy, so beautiful!

I’ve seen lots of mixed reviews for this flavor, but I would say I am a proponent of this flavor. I personally liked the crunchy bits on the top, and the overall orange/pumpkin coating. It may have been too crumbly (I was spilling crumbs everywhere as I was walking :P), but I thought the bar stayed true to the Quest bar reputation of not tasting dry or chalky like most other protein bar brands. The bar also is 220 calories, which is higher than the usual flavors, but there’s gotta be a little wiggle room when designing a creative flavor 😉

Over the weekend, I decided that I wanted—no, needed—to head over to any Sprouts for my grocery shopping this week, and since I had not paid a visit to Pasadena in a while, I decided to head over there for a bite to eat after my morning lab duties.

It still felt like a hot summer day, but I did my best to keep things cool as I made the ~1 hour trek over to Old Town Pasadena. UCLA had a home game that day I assume, because I was seeing Bruin t-shirts, and blue & gold all around me as I was walking to my tea time destination 😛

 Cafe 86's newest location in Old Town Pas.
Cafe 86’s newest location in Old Town Pas.

I learned about Cafe 86 a couple weeks back, but added it to my ever-growing foodie bucket list as a “someday” kind of item, since their only location at the time was in Chino. However, they recently opened a location slightly more west in Pasadena to my delight. So recent in fact, that I had to put in the location of the poke restaurant they are right behind because they aren’t recognized by Google Maps yet!

After being awkward with my camera phone outside the cafe, I continued my awkward-ness inside. It was hard being subtle…I had to pretend I was “looking at the menu” while I took some of the interior pics 😛

 Front counter area.
Front counter area.

Their baked goods selection rotate daily, and Saturday’s offering included Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcakes and Ube truffles. I was sort of hoping they would be offering their crumbled chip cookie, but only the cupcake and truffle were available. It was warm enough to also splurge on a boba milkshake or iced tea, but I wanted to balance out the sweetness so cold water sufficed.

 Baked goods with a key ingredient---UBE!
Baked goods with a key ingredient—UBE!

I found a seat in the corner, and marveled at the cozy atmosphere around me. Cafe 86 also offers free Wi-fi, so obviously this would be a good study spot for those who are able to concentrate in coffee shop/cafe settings.

 Cozy atmosphere here.
Cozy atmosphere here.

I tried the Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake first, eating the flan on top separately.

 Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake
Ube Dulche de Leche Flan cupcake

The flan layer was soft and creamy, and the texture reminded me of sliced mozzarella. The cake itself was a dark shade of purple, a reflection of the purple yam that made up a large percentage of it.

 Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake :(
Creamy flan layer, but dry ube cake 🙁

The cake itself was quite dry, and I suppose if eaten with the flan there would have been a balance, but there wasn’t much flan to go around in my opinion. The bottom of the cake was unusually sticky too.

Next was the Ube Truffle!

 Ube Truffle.
Ube Truffle.

I couldn’t tell if it was dusted in chocolate or crystallized sugar, but it seemed like the latter after I had to cut through it with a (plastic) knife.

 Shiny rock of a truffle!!
Shiny rock of a truffle!!

Again, the ube sparkled through, and its appearance reminded me of a purple crystal (amherst or something like that?)

So the truffle trumped the cupcake, and neither were overly sweet. Still, I sipped on several cups of water to tone down the sweetness that was there.

Even though October has just started, I feel like my goal to “make Fall happen” in a forever-sunny city is off to a great start. Speaking of which, my Sprouts trip led me to find some more fun, pumpkin-themed items! Operation: Pumpkin Everythang is a go 😉 !

Have you been able to easily get into the Fall spirit?

Cafe 86 Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

February Foodie Finds

February Foodie Finds

This past month was quite a busy one for me—growing long runs each weekend, work starting to pick up in school/lab, taking a trip home to see family, and trying some new, random food products! Because of the random nature of the photos I collected, it only made sense to feature these products in a single post as my “foodie finds” for the month. Enjoy! 🙂

Saturday Night Dinners

Saturday night dinners this month have been on the simple-side, only because my Saturday evenings in general have been all about resting up for Sunday morning lonnnnnng runs. Simple means popping in a microwave steam-able bag of veggies, pairing it with a new-to-me carb-o-licious side, and rounding off the meal with dessert before heading to bed at a time no later than 10pm.

I did have a pretty busy Saturday the first week of the month though, and because of the duration of the event I was volunteering at, I came home right at dinner time. Fortunately, I was able to do my grocery shopping the Friday before since class was cancelled, and “planned” what I wanted to have ready for my simple dinner.

I found this at Sprouts during that Friday afternoon grocery trip, and resolved to try something new as part of my Saturday night dinner—Garden Lites Kale and Quinoa Souffle!

SAMSUNG
A delicious souffle of hearty Kale blended with Quinoa, whipped egg whites, and select spices.

I looked forward to the prospect of trying a product from the Garden Lites brand for the very first time. The souffle was fit snug in a recyclable plastic tray, and I popped it in the microwave with the plastic seal still on (as per box instructions) for about 3 1/2 minutes. After that, I heated it for another minute, and then flipped over the tray so that the souffle sat perfectly atop some steamed veggies.

gardenlite_kalequinoa_souffle_egg

The souffle texture was quite soft, and fell apart easily. I also feel like it may have needed to be heated for a longer time since it wasn’t cold, but not exactly hot ‘n’ fresh either. The surface that was facing the microwave (but now face down on the pile of veggies!) had a crispier taste to it since it had more exposure to the heat, I suppose. To be honest, this souffle actually reminded me of some Dr. Praeger burgers I had a while ago—they even look like them close-up!

The following Saturdays kept with the same food theme, but during these weekends, I used the opportunity to try some new-to-me burritos.

I’ve had plenty of Amy’s Kitchen items in the past, but this was the first time I tried one of the ‘Light in Sodium’ products…specifically the Cheddar Cheese Burrito!

Amy's Kitchen Cheddar Cheese Burrito (Light in Sodium)

I microwaved each side for ~45 seconds, and the tortilla ended up being pretty flimsy after the microwaving (which is not surprising). I planned on unwrapping it anyway so I could mix the bean + cheese filling with bites of my steamed veggies.

The other ‘burrito of the month’ was this one that I picked up on a trip to Sprouts:

Sweet Earth - The Curry Tiger Burrito

It was my first time trying a Sweet Earth product, and was intrigued by the eco-friendly, brown sandwich paper wrap packaging. It easily warmed up after 1 minute in the microwave on each side, and the spicy filling mixed well with my side veggies. If this flavor is a true representative of their other products, I think I’ll be eating my way through some of their other flavors in the future 😉

Fun Finds

I picked up this South Beach Diet box-o-bars only because I had a freebie coupon for it from Ralph’s for their Friday Freebies promotion (I also redeemed a free Chobani yogurt on the same shopping trip 🙂 !). Out of their South Beach Diet bar selection in the particular Ralph’s I visited for my grocery shopping that week, I was intrigued by this flavor:

southbeachdiet_proteinfit_darkchocolatecoconut_barzzz

I had it as fuel before my 18 miler (the toughest long run of my marathon training plan…), and they proved to sustain me through that ordeal, even though I didn’t “properly” fuel during the run. Texture/flavor-wise, I love how I could taste the chocolate coating AND pieces of coconut mixed into the “crunchies” part of the bar. I would say that these bars were definitely one of Ralph’s best Friday Freebies 😉

Keeping with the theme of chocolate and protein, I was able to reach my protein requirements for each day this month with a little help from this canister:

naturade_peaprotein_chocolate

My Dad found this Naturade brand of protein powder at Grocery Outlet for about $8, and was thoughtful enough to bring it down for me when he was in the city back in January. I saved it for after I annihilated my jar of PlantFusion powder, and I actually found myself to prefer this protein powder over the prior.

I found it easy to mix into yogurts and milk…which is pretty much what I used it for 😛 . Each serving is about 140 calories, 3 rams of fat, and 20 grams of protein. A serving a day, plus 2 Quest bars, certainly helped with getting in my protein this month 😉

Another (cheap) protein find from Grocery Outlet was this Nature Valley Protein Oatmeal. Since they were 2/$1, my Dad surprised me with two cups of the mixed berry crunch flavor for those days when my protein goals were just out of reach.

naturevalley_proteinoatmeal_mixedberrycrunch

It was actually quite easy to prep. Each cup comes with a pack of granola that is separated from the oatmeal within the cup. You fill the oatmeal with milk or water, microwave for about 45 seconds (or you can steep it), top with granola, and then enjoy! For some added fats, I included a dollop of almond butter when I tried it for the first time.

I love the fact that there were actual, plump dried cranberries in the oatmeal, and since I don’t like my oatmeal with too much liquid, I was able to enjoy the mix of oats and granola without having the risk of getting a “soggy spoonful”. Annnnd, the almond butter…how can you go wrong with oats and almond butter 😉 ?

My final ‘fun find’ of the month was hard to resist opening as soon as I bought it! I like to have one open jar of a nut butter/spread at a time, so when I bought this Trader Joe’s brand Cookies & Creme cookie butter, I made sure to have at least a spoonful of peanut butter every day from the jar that I was currently making my way through at the time, just so I could open this gem:

TJC&C-traderjoes_cookies&creamecookiebutter

When the time had come, I rejoiced! Haha…by rejoice, I mean slathering it on Quest bars, using it as a spread and making sweet paleo bread sandwiches, adding it to yogurts, brownies…and of course, eating straight out of the jar.

ways_to__Eat

Trader Joe, you did good here 😉

Cause I’m a Yogurt Collector…

…I definitely did not miss the opportunity to try some new yogurts this month!

A while back, I bought some Voskos yogurts since there was a promotion going on at Ralph’s. When I opened one of the cups I had bought however, I noticed a mold spore…and the cup still had two more weeks till it’s ‘best by’ date!

After sending an email to the Voskos folks, they kindly apologized, and sent me some VIP coupons to make up for it. So as a result, I ended up being able to try some new-to-me flavors for free! And the one flavor I absolutely fell in love with was this one:

voskos_coconutcream

This Fruit on the Bottom Coconut Cream yogurt rocked my world! I used it to fuel up before my 16 miler, but I had tried it once beforehand with one of the coupons I received. It literally has dessicated coconut medium on the bottom (the jelly-looking substance, haha) and the 6 oz. cup is packed with 15 grams of protein! I guess I owe a thank you to that mold spore 😛 ?

When I went back to visit my family during President’s Day Weekend, I didn’t leave without stopping by Grocery Outlet. I was able to pick up three new Chobani products—Chobani Oats Apricot Ancient Grains, and two new limited batch flavors (Grape and Green Tea)!

chobani__grape

Out of the three, I would say the Grape flavor matched up most with its name. It had a somewhat sour/tangy taste, but at least it reflected it’s title. I can’t say that about the Green Tea flavor. To me, to tasted mostly like pain vanilla yogurt. After looking at the ingredients, I can see why since the only green tea in this cup was captured through its “essence”, haha.

chobanigreenteablended_with_proteinp

Because there was no noteworthy flavor to try and taste, I decided to mix the Green Tea flavor with some of my Naturade Chocolate Pea Protein powder.

The Apricot Chobani Oats didn’t blow me away either. Apparently the ingredients list chia seeds as being in a cup, but I couldn’t detect them when mix with the grains. At least I could see some apricot chunks?

chobanioats__apricooot

What were some of your February Foodie Finds?

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