Little Lab Outing

Little Lab Outing

We recently has a post-doc leave our lab to pursue a new job, and as a result, we’ve been shifting the seating arrangements of our lab personnel…in other words, my lab bestie (E) moved into the office I am in, as well as another person I like talking to in lab! From the two offices our lab occupies, my office became the “loud and fun one” pretty much overnight 😛

To celebrate the new arrangements, me, E, and our other colleague went out for lunch Tuesday afternoon. Azla Vegan Ethiopian was a food court-style restaurant in a mini shopping complex called Mercado de Paloma, but this specific food spot was a place I had on my foodie radar for a while now (like so many places I am realizing, haha)!

azla
Azla Ethiopian Vegan

E and I ended up eating here while our colleague got a quesadilla lunch from one of the other food court stalls. We picked 3-4 side items, and got two rolls of injera with our plates.

deliciousveganfood
Small, but one of the cuter storefronts in the shopping complex.

We were able to pick from dressed lentil salads, curried lentils, greens, cooked vegetables, and spicy tofu to pair up with our injera.

saladstoeat
Salads!

There was also a small assortment of vegan baked goods, but we (well at least I did!) knew our plates would be filling enough.

theressweetstuff
Savory, and a bunch of sweets.

E’s plate was full, packed and looked delicious! I didn’t get the lentil salad, but looking at E’s plate made me second-guess that decision.

friendsplate
E’s plate

My plate had the curried lentils, boiled potatoes/cabbage/carrot, gomen (cooked spinach), and two rolls of injera. The three of us walked over with our plates of food and found a table to sit at, amongst racks of clothes and in front of other food stalls.

lentilsvegspinachinjera
My plate 🙂

We spent the next hour enjoying our lunch and each other’s company. I made this comment on Instagram, but being able to go out for lunch on a Tuesday with lab mates, and not having food be the focus felt so refreshing. It was just another reminder that I am progressing through recovery, and that I’m also improving when it comes to taking advantage of social opportunities. I’m forming relationships, and allowing those to grow while, gradually with each day, I am squashing that eating disorder voice. This is recovery in action, and I’m loving that days like these are starting to occur more in frequency.

We went back to work after lunch, but I felt much more energized from both the food and endorphin burst from all the laughing we did. I’m sure these lunches will become a regular occurrence, and seeing that it took me two years to feel “at home” at work, I couldn’t be happier about this prospect.

Do you hang out with work colleagues outside of work?

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

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

When You Get That Sugar Craving…

Dried fruit. Fruit jerky. Fruit roll-ups. I’ve had all of those at some point in my life, but they were definitely only to fulfill a short-term craving, or because I was following the latest food fad.

When I was introduced to Matt’s Munchies, it was only then that I realized a natural, organic, vegan-friendly dried fruit snack existed.

mattsmunchies
All sorts of flavors to try!

And not only that, but in several flavors as well. Each packet has 2 servings of fruit at least, and the calorie ranges lie between 80-100.

I received the following flavors to try, and noticed a number of similarities and differences among:

Apple-licious
Banana Coconut
Banana
Grape
Island Mango
Mango
Mango Acai
Mango Ginger
&
Tropical Punch

Overall, the characteristics that were shared or varied amongst each flavor made for delightful snacking.

apple-licious (1)
Apple-Licious
apple-licious (2)
Apple-Licious Slices

Some of the smoother, mono-flavored snacks included grape and mango. Each packet had square pieces of dried fruit, were laid side-by-side, and placed uniformly on wax paper.

grape (1)
Grape
grape (2)
Grape Slices
mango (1)
Mango
mango (2)
Mango Slices

For the most part, they were easy to peel off, but they did leave a sticky residue so I’d recommend being near a sink or water source to rinse off your hands when eating these.

banana (2)
Banana
banana (1)
Banana Slices

They’re delicious on their own of course, but their peel-ability makes it easy to add as a topping to various other food items. I could even see these being rolled up into mini fruit roll ups and added to froyo or something similar.

mango__ginger (2)
Mango Ginger
mango__ginger (1)
Mango Ginger Slices

There were also some flavors with added toppings like coconut shreds and seeds. These were my overall favorites because I’m cuckoo for anything coconut.

_banana_coconut
Mango Apricot & Banana Coconut
banana_coconut
Banana Coconut Slices

I don’t remember the fruit roll-ups from my childhood looking quite as exotic as these…

mango_acai (2)
Mango Acai
mango_acai (1)
Mango Acai Slices

The company is also based in Santa Ana, and I’m glad I was able to try and support a local company.

island_mango (1)
Island Mango
island_mango (2)
Island Mango Slices
tropical_punch (2)
Tropical Punch
tropical_punch (1)
Tropical Punch Slices

Along with getting in my servings of fruit the past couple of days, I’ve been getting in some added protein from “dessert” sources as well. I mean, my reason for getting cookie dough and cookies is for the protein after all 😉

I decided to try out the new Brownie Dough and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Dough from The Lion’s Pack. I think if someone were to look at my credit card statements from the past few months, they’d probably think I’m the legit Cookie Monster (or at least his cousin, twice-removed).

IMG_9236
Brownie Dough

Brownie Dough was my favorite from the two. It wasn’t overwhelming at all, and it literally tasted like brownie batter (it had small brownie bites!) that had been left alone for a couple hours after being beaten, just before flattening out into a baking pan.

IMG_9256
Brownie CHUNKS

WCMN was a flavor I grew bored with almost immediately.

IMG_9240
W.C.M.N.

The nuts were toasted and had a brown roasted hue, but that and the white chocolate chips mixed in with a mild vanilla flavored dough got redundant really quickly. I ended up picking out some of the macadamias and just having the dough after a while.

IMG_9280
Lots of macadamias…maybe even too much…

Quest Labs released a chocolate chip protein cookie a while back, and I had gently teased that it looked like an extraterrestrial cookie. They did release three new flavors, and despite being creeped out by their chocolate chip cookie, I couldn’t help but be curious about their versions of a oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia, and double chocolate chunk protein cookie.

IMG_9227
More Quest Labs cookies…

All three came in the established, discreet foil wrapping of Quest Labs products not yet for sale to the general public. I tried WCM first.

IMG_9259
WCM

The cookie was still flat, and did not have the depth of a Lenny and Larry’s cookie. It did however have the moist, compressed density of flavor in the center of the cookie, a feature that makes the cookie chewy and soft.

Oatmeal raisin had a rougher, drier flavor, but was flatter, nuttier, and naturally slightly fruitier.

IMG_9303
Oatmeal Raisin

Lastly, DCC was one of those flavors I was unenthusiastic about, but tried nevertheless only to “check it off my list”. I wasn’t blown away, but I didn’t look at it with a weird look wondering which planet it came from either.

IMG_9310
Double Chocolate Chip

What snack(s) do you reach for when you have a major sugar craving?

Repeat of 2016?

Repeat of 2016?

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

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

crisps
Enlightened saved me from the doldrums!

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

cocoa_dusted
Cocoa Dusted description

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

sweet-cinnamon
Sweet Cinnamon

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

cocoadust
Cocoa Dusted up close & personal

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

sweetgreen
Sweetgreen’s newest—Culver City

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

food_
Order at the counter

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

menu
Lot’s to choose from!

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

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

sideofbread_tofu
Slice of bread, and look at that tofu!

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

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

rx_pb
RX Peanut Butter bar…has exactly 14 peanuts?

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

Have you eaten out since the new year began?

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

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.

re-1
Pecan Braid from Panera Bread

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

re-3
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 😉

2
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.

2-1
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.

re-2
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

Race Recap – Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run 2016

Race Recap – Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run 2016

My last race for this year was one I actually ran two years ago—this time fortunately fared much better in pacing! I also did not have to wake up early in order to have enough time to take a bus or train to get to the race start. I just had to wake up, go out for a “warm-up jog”, and within a half hour I was there!

start
Santa all smiles at the race start.

There was no bag check (of course), so there was no place to keep my race shirt, even though I wanted to keep it because it was a long-sleeve and actually pretty cute! The 10k and 5k race starts were staggered so that the 10k race started at 8am. The 5kers had a head start at 7:30am, and so the majority of the runners from that race were done by the time we started.

Santa cheered us on as we dashed across the starting line. I was able to keep a steady pace between 7:40-8:20 throughout the entire run. At first it felt my lungs were burning from the cold air, and my feet also began to feel numb through my socks, but after ~2 miles in, it began to feel easier to stick to a faster pace the rest of the run.

at-the-end-of-the-race
Bunch of people wondering what to do after the race has finished…and the DJ rockin’ out to his own jamz.

I finished at an average pace of 8:12/mi, and it felt so refreshing! I managed to guzzle down a half a bottle of water, and proceeded to walk by the small number of booths that were present. I also couldn’t help but notice the DJ who was there—he was very much into the music!

finish
Yay…okay, now I’m bored…

I couldn’t find much in terms of samples and post-race freebies…I even had to pass on some intriguing-looking marshmallows because they contained gelatin 🙁

couldnt-have-these-tho
Why is there gelatin in you?!

Since there was nothing much left for me at this point, I ended up walking from the finish point in Venice back to Santa Monica…really it was only a 25 minute walk, and from the beach, it was another 30 minute walk to lunch.

I actually ended up at a Medditeranean/Lebanese restaurant on Pico—Z Garden.

z-garden
I see you…

When I stepped inside, it was as if I stepped inside my best friend’s family’s house. There was a TV playing Arabic music videos and a whole glass counter full of baklava and other Middle Eastern sweet treats.

house
Such ample seating!

There was a handful of vegetarian items on the menu, and I decided to get the veggie kebab plate.

The dining area was in a expansive space, but I was their lone diner at the time. A few people came in for take-out orders while I was there though.

My plate came with a generous portion of Lebanese rice, a side salad, smooth, finely-ground hummus, a sour cheese I’m assuming was labne, pickled radishes, and of course my roasted veggies.

vegkebab-plate
Veggie Kebab Plate—-fit for a vegetarian ready to feast!

ALso had to have pita bread on the side!

pitaaaaaaaaa
Can’t forget the pita!

I was the ultimate fan of this hummus…and cheese side.

sidez
Hummus (and labne)?

I was finished by noon, and continued my walk home. I immediately did some laundry and organizing before crashing into a two-hour long nap. I didn’t leave the house until later that evening to visit a friend, since she’s moving from LA this week with her lab to a different university. It was bittersweet having to send her off, but I have to say I’m proud of myself for going out on a Saturday night for once. I even stayed out late enough to call for an Uber back home, haha.

pace
In good time 🙂

Are you a fan of holiday-themed events?

Z Garden Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friendsgiving 2016

Friendsgiving 2016

I woke up Thanksgiving morning feeling refreshed, despite sleeping on a hard floor in a sleeping bag. My sister got up an hour later after I did, and we talked for a bit until our friend got up. Today was officially Day 1 of our lock down, and I spent the majority of the morning working on my proposal. My friend also had some homework that needed to get done, so we all agreed to start making our Friendsgiving meal around 3pm.

turkey
We saw turkey in my friend’s yard!

My friend also had to attend to some humorous RA calls. There were two incidents where parents couldn’t find their children because their college-age kids overslept and didn’t pick up their phones…it’s like, did they really forget their parents were coming to pick them up for Thanksgiving? There was also a girl that got locked out and called for my friend to unlock her dorm room door for her, but then she asked my friend is she could watch the sunset first. #SantaCruzKids I tell ya!

My sister did the majority of the work when it came to cooking. I was glued to my seat at the kitchen table for the entire day (except for an afternoon run break that killed my quads because Santa Cruz = death by hills), so I have to be honest and say I didn’t contribute cooking-wise, haha.

We didn’t have much to do anyways, just thaw and cook the Tofurky ball, mix and cook the mashed potatoes on the stovetop, warm up the gravy, nuke a single yam in the microwave (lol), and our friend already had buttermilk pie prepared.

friendsgiving
Wine I did not have, Plate #1 featuring toasted sourdough, tofurky, yam slice with vegetarian gravy, plate set-up.

Our friend also invited one of her campus friends to join us. He was a pretty chill guy who also happens to run, so at least I had a good ice breaker topic, haha.

After our dinner, we did some more work/procrastination online, until we decided to play online versions of Catchphrase and Cards Against Humanity. Some of us had some politically incorrect phrases, but they were so on POINT.

We called it a night around 11pm and after our friend’s friend left, the three of us promptly went to bed. Thus, our Friendsgiving 2016 concluded 😉

♥

The next morning, I helped myself to some of my friend’s instant coconut coffee (so good!) and settled myself in at the kitchen table because my 12 page proposal still needed major work. My friend and sister could afford to take a break though, and for them there was nothing standing between them and the Gilmore Girls revival. Even if I could have afforded the time, I don’t think it would have interested me much since I never watched the original series in full.

They started around 10am, which was around the time I seriously got to work. My brain was fried by 2pm, and I desperately needed a break. I went out for a run again, but to try to mix up the route and prevent having to climb a steep cliff back to campus, I ran for a longer time than usual, and ended up tacking an hour-long walk to the end of an 8 mile run just to get back. The temperature was dropping significantly at this time, and part of me felt a little nervous getting back as the sun was setting, but I made it back safely! Needless to say, I was glued to my friend’s heater until we left for dinner 😛

We decided to have dinner at Cafe Gratitude in Downtown Santa Cruz. My sis and friend could not stop talking about the ending of the Gilmore Girls revival as we drove, and I just sat there totally clueless still trying to warm up my body.

downtown-sc
Downtown Santa Cruz

It was absolutely freezing when we got out and walked, but thankfully my friend let me borrow her heavy jacket. Even with that I tried to think warm thoughts. I was so happy Cafe Gratitude wasn’t too far from where we parked.

It’s kind of unusual because this Cafe Gratitude isn’t listed on their website with all of their So Cal locations, so I’m not sure what the deal is. I’m pretty sure they are owned by the same people because the menu looked similar, if not smaller…

cafe-g
Pretty small inside, and while it was bright inside, it wasn’t exactly warm!

I got the Grateful bowl, which was just as warm as any bowl of soup would have been.

grateful-bowl
This bowl had brown rice, fresh baby kale, black beans, steamed veggies, and green tahini sauce.

My sis got a sandwich and I believe my friend got a bowl that had sushi rice in it.

sis-sandich
Sister’s sandwich 🙂

After eating, we braced out into the cold. My sis wanted to get drinks at a bar, so we checked out one bar, but promptly left. It wasn’t our scene so we got out of their quickly! Instead we made a pit stop for ice cream at Penny Ice Creamery.

penny-ice-creamery

It was just a small, local shop with rotating flavors. Very Santa Cruz-ian.

ice-cream

I got a scoop of the Apple Crisp with date, my sis got chocolate of course, and my friend a mint chip scoop on a cone. I could detect the bits of apple but overall I found it to be a bland flavor profile.

red-room

My sis still wanted to check out a bar before we left, and I didn’t really care as long as it was warm! We found a place called the Red Room and it was literally all red. I was surprised I didn’t doze off once I sat in the lounge. My friend and sis ordered at the bar, and then brought their drinks back to our table. We stayed until they were finished, and then I was given the car keys to take us all back home. Designated driver at your service 😉 !

We were all pretty tired by the time we got back…just before 9pm! We are total party animals, I know 😛 . My sis and I had to leave in the morning anyway, so we were okay with sleeping in early and getting as many hours of rest in as possible.

How was your Thanksgiving?

Are you a Gilmore Girls fan?

Cafe Gratitude 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

SoCal Veg Fest!

SoCal Veg Fest!

The last time I went to a vegan food festival, it was when I had recently moved to LA and had learned about the inaugural Vegan Oktoberfest. I enjoyed the experience overall, but I haven’t been back since the event was first held in 2014 (if I were “invited”, perhaps I would reconsider 😉). So obviously, my attendance at a foodie festival was long overdue. I couldn’t have been more excited to attend So Cal Veg Fest!

The event was held at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa on Halloween weekend, but based on the food offerings and other activities planned, I had no reason to fear a thing. Except maybe transportation…

I originally thought about renting a Zipcar for the day, but then I thought about having to drive, rely on Google Maps and keeping my phone charged, crazy So Cal drivers, etc. I then estimated the cost of Uber/Lyft. It’s pretty much $50 one way from LA to Costa Mesa, and an all-day rental from Zipcar would have been around $82. In order to save just a little bit, I decided to take a bus to Downtown, and then from there take the 460 bus to Disneyland. From Disneyland, I got an Uber to Orange Coast College and that only cost me $19. Even though it would cost me a good chunk of money on my return trip, at least overall I would be spending less than if I had rented a Zipcar all day, which ultimately justifies my travel decisions 😉

When I got to the venue, I saw a plethora of tents set up and things seemed to be rolling. Since I wanted to check-in formally with the person who had been contacting me about being an ambassador, I figured the sensible thing to do would be to walk over to the information tent and find her there.

So Cal Veg Fest 2016!
So Cal Veg Fest 2016!

Unfortunately, I realized communication among the volunteers, staff, and media people was very unorganized. I could see everyone was working hard, but not one of the volunteers I spoke to had a clue who my contact person was. One person got so impatient with me that she just handed me one of the goody bags they were selling and some food vouchers said “just take these, I have more important things to deal with right now”, which I found downright rude as I honestly just wanted to formally meet the person who invited me to come. I wasn’t making this up!

Eventually, I thought to call my mysterious contact person since I remembered that she had her phone number in her e-mail signature. I did meet her, and she even gave me some extra food vouchers! I now felt more relaxed and eager to begin exploring all the tents.

samples
Samples!

There were samples at pretty much every tent—vegan egg rolls, protein smoothies, vegan cheese, vegan chocolate, I could have eaten a day’s worth of food in samples alone, but I had a strong enough appetite for many entrees…

wings
I had my eyes on these since seeing them on Instagram…VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS from Clean South!
curry__plate
Strictly Jamaican’s Curry Plate with rice, quinoa, fried plantain, curried tofu, salad with avocado

I did watch part of a cooking demo while munching on my curry plate, but the idea of making second (and third) rounds at all the tents sounded more appealing.

more-samples
More samples!
picmonkey-collage
Vegan cheese sample on a bread piece.

As the day wore on, it definitely got warmer—a drastic change from the cool, breezy morning.

wish-i-got-some-icecream
Vegan Dots that I passed on 🙁 // Sitting at the demo // Follow Your Heart vegan products

I wanted to spend a food voucher on some vegan Dippin’ Dots, but they didn’t take vouchers so I passed on that treat 🙁 …

Since I couldn’t get the vegan dippin dots, I “settled” for some frozen mint lemonade from Scandylicious Desserts. A lot of people had the same idea since as I made my way to the seating area near the main stage, every their person I saw had a frozen lemonade or a similar cool treat in their hands.

mint_lemonades
Scandylicious Desserts FROZEN MINT LEMONADE ah!

I actually sat down mid-presentation of a representative of Farm Sanctuary (or maybe he was the founder lol ?). He made a lot of relevant points in a non-preachy way. One of the points that I was happy to hear he believed was that veganism isn’t perfect, but it’s a lifestyle to aspire to, and that when animals are raised in a kind environment (NOT slaughterhouses) they are able to express their personalities and are such beautiful, sweet creatures. Hearing him compare turkeys to puppies and speak so lovingly about his charming rescue pigs definitely put a smile on my face, and while I’m not a vegan at this point in time, it is something I certainly want to work towards…if only for the animals and environmental conservation 😉

plushie_cupcakes
Adorable plushies!!! And extravagant cupcake entries in a cupcake contest!!

After the talk, I made yet another round of the tents, admiring plushies this time around, as well as using the last of my food vouchers on some vegan Hawaiian pizza. While the toppings and “cheese” were delicious, the dough was extremely chewy and it wouldn’t have hurt if it had spent more time in the oven. Oh well, I surprisingly still had an appetite (and room) for it since I engulfed it within minutes.

vegan_pizza
Two slices of vegan Hawaiian pizza 🙂

I decided to leave around 4pm when I felt full and ready for a nap, haha! It was at this time I braced myself as I dialed for an Uber that I knew would cost me more than a pretty penny.

But I took the perspective of that I was paying for the experience (and saving time). I was home within an hour, and my Uber driver was pretty chill and not that talkative once we were on the highway, which allowed me to listen to music while staring out the window.

When I got back home, I laid out my goods, and then promptly spent the rest of the night relaxing in my room and going to bed early.

veg-fest
SoCal Vegfest goodies!

The next day, I had a morning run with my team and after the run, didn’t feel like going out. Instead, I did some grocery shopping and was back home at 12pm…a 2 hour nap ensued, and so this pint+brownie combo happened as well:

pint
Halloween-themed treat — Lenny and Larry’s Peanut Butter brownie atop of an Eatenlightened Pint 🙂

Speaking of pints, I happened to have three more of the new Halo Top pint flavors. Not vegan, but very much vegetarian-friendly!

Top favorite from these three-

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available---S'mores 🍫 🔥!!! Compared to Cookies and Cream, this one was MUCH better in regards to texture. The graham cracker pieces maintained a nice crunch even when immersed in the ice cream, and I think I found all the chocolate chips that should have been in my CCCD pint, in here 😂 With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 😉
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available—S’mores 🍫 🔥!!! Compared to Cookies and Cream, this one was MUCH better in regards to texture. The graham cracker pieces maintained a nice crunch even when immersed in the ice cream, and I think I found all the chocolate chips that should have been in my CCCD pint, in here 😂 With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 😉

My second favorite –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the 🔟 new ones available---Black Cherry 🍒🍒🍒 S/O to my local Ralph's for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch 😂 I feel like this is what Strawberry would be like if it actually had strawberry pieces mixed in. There are real chewy dark cherry pieces in this pint, which adds texture to the fruity and creamy ice cream base. It's already an underrated flavor, I can tell by how many pints are still in stock compared to the other new ones, but I'm ranking this one higher up there 👆🏽
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the 🔟 new ones available—Black Cherry 🍒🍒🍒 S/O to my local Ralph’s for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch 😂 I feel like this is what Strawberry would be like if it actually had strawberry pieces mixed in. There are real chewy dark cherry pieces in this pint, which adds texture to the fruity and creamy ice cream base. It’s already an underrated flavor, I can tell by how many pints are still in stock compared to the other new ones, but I’m ranking this one higher up there 👆🏽

Least favorite 🙁 –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available---Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰💥 the color of the ice cream was a light pastel brown (lol does that even exist 😝) but upon opening the paper top, it had a weird medicine-like odor? Not sure how to explain it, but it reminded me of a menthol/cough syrup kind of odor that did go away after a few seconds. Overall, the almond slices were nothing special but the ice cream was soft and not overwhelming at all! I'd say get this when Vanilla Bean is too much to handle 😂🍦
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the 🔟 new ones available—Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰💥 the color of the ice cream was a light pastel brown (lol does that even exist 😝) but upon opening the paper top, it had a weird medicine-like odor? Not sure how to explain it, but it reminded me of a menthol/cough syrup kind of odor that did go away after a few seconds. Overall, the almond slices were nothing special but the ice cream was soft and not overwhelming at all! I’d say get this when Vanilla Bean is too much to handle 😂🍦

Are you a fan of food festivals?

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

This is Vegan? Oh Yeah!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

foooooood
Cold foods and hot foods on menu.

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

view
A tangy side slaw with root veggies ; window view

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

whatttt
Um…the painting was…interesting?

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

toffffu
This is vegan?! Oh yeah!!

Literally looked too beautiful to eat.

sandwich-yeaaaa
Good stuff in this sandwich.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...