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 πŸ˜›

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)!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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My plate πŸ™‚

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

January Degustabox

January Degustabox

Having a hefty box of goods from DegustaBox to start the new year was something I was very excited about!

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January’s DegustaBox

It was a half miss/half win for me this month in regards to these products. I couldn’t have a couple due to the ingredients, but the ones I could consume were good (despite some of my critiques, haha) on many accounts!

β™₯

I normally don’t think about buying microwaveable popcorn from the grocery store, but having the option to have it as a snack for three weeknights was a nice change in routine! This kind was lightly buttered, but had quite the kick of salt. It made procrastinating with Netflix a whole lot easier and fun, haha.

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Jolly Time – Healthy Pop Butter Popcorn

I also got a small pack of Entenmann’s Little Bites in Party Cake flavor.

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Entenmann’s Little Bites ~ Party Cakes

The cakes were super moist and glistened at the top, and took their calorie density seriously. Only four are provided in a pack that’s 190 calories. They are called “little bites” for a reason, but I think only putting in four miniature cakes in a packet is disappointing. And no frosting either…ah well, at least each “bite” was delectable πŸ˜›

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Soft little bites.

The Berry Good Smart Kids bar I had wasn’t one of my faves. The bar was a cereal-type bar, dusty with berry pieces mixed into the bar. I think the powdery coating is what made me not appreciate this bar. The texture was just too rough for something you’d think would be chewy, especially if berries are involved.

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Smart Kids Bar ~ Berry Good

Unfortunately, I had to skip out on trying three products this month. These Organic fruit chews were one of them, as they contained gelatin.

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Go Organically Fruit Snacks ~ Fruit Medley

These Welch’s fruit chews might have tasted nice, and while they didn’t have gelatin, they did have confectioners glaze/lac-resin, which is derived from secretions from the lac insect. So I had to pass on these as well…

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Welch’s Fruit ‘n Yogurt Snacks ~ Strawberry

Then there were the Cello Parmesan Whisps. Their website was actually very informative about their cheese making process and what types of rennet they use as far as if it’s vegetarian friendly or not. They even had a descriptive FAQ page, but unfortunately for me, their parmesan cheese wasn’t listed under the list of their cheese products made with microbial rennet. So, I had to pass.

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Cello Whisps ~ Parmesan Cheese Crisps

I’m pretty fortunate to have always-hungry co-workers though! I brought the packages to lab one day and everything was eaten by the time be day was over. I guess I should also add that one of my lab mates is a six-foot tall guy…”always hungry” is an understatement I suppose!

The ginger sugar was an interesting addition. I think it’s made by the same company as tiger balm because the ginger tea box came with this handy dandy promo flier.

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A flier for Tiger Balm?

The crystal packets were packed individually, and contained a generous amount of honey crystals to mix into hot water for a satisfying cup of tea.

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Ginger Honey Tea Crystals

The crystals themselves look like rice puffs close-up, but they had a sharp, sweet flavor.

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They look like rice puffs!

When I first saw this box, I immediately thought my breakfasts for the month were set…well, if not breakfast, then at least after-dinner desserts!

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Hungry Jack Complete Pumpkin Spice Mix

This box is the complete package—you just need to add water to get the mix going. For convenience sake, I scooped a quarter cup out and mixed it into a mug with water until I got a thick batter. I then microwaved it for about 2 minutes. The result was a soft, doughy cake that I then proceeded to top with coconut milk-yogurt mixed with pumpkin spice-flavored greens. Ah, twas delicious!

I absolutely loved the Alo Light drink, and didn’t expect it to be so refreshing! It had aloe pulp, and it had a jelly-like consistency, so it reminded me of those jelly cups or jelly cubes that they add to drinks at boba places. I had the whole bottle within minutes, and shared my love for it on Instagram, even though I was on my way to lab all stressed out. 

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ALO Refresh Light

The same day I felt stressed, I came back needing a nourishing dinner. I had the option of using either one of these two spice or sauce mixes.

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Time to season and spice things up!

I chose to have the One & Done seasoning mixed in with my crockpot cabbage bowl with squash and red bell pepper. I also added in a grill pressed eggpant wrap from Trader Joe’s. It came with a cup of tahini sauce that I added into the bowl, and with the seasoning + sauce, it was an instant flavor party.

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Trader Joe’s Grilled Eggplant Wrap with seasoned cabbage, squash, and pepper

I’m sure when I try the McDonnells Indian Korma Curry Sauce (an Irish product suitable fr vegetarians, based on the package!), I’ll love it as well.

Which of these products would you try to kick off the new year?

A Hiatus from Life

A Hiatus from Life

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

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

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

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Pecan Braid from Panera Bread

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

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

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

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Pleased with my pace on this particular run πŸ™‚

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

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

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

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

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Just look at the top of this thing!

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

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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 :/

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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.

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“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.

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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 πŸ˜‰

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

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

December Degustabox!

December Degustabox!

With all the cooking ingredients in last month’s Degustabox, I was elated that this month’s box featured a lot more snack-ables—including some sweet treats (hellooooo cookies πŸ˜€ ).

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December’s Degustabox Delectables

The Purely Simple baking mix and frosting pack were an interesting find in this month’s box. I haven’t seen this in stores yet, but I’m glad to see that global brands like Pillsbury are attempting to make products that stray away from using artificial ingredients.

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Pillsbury Purely Simple White Cake & Cupcake Mix and Pillsbury Purely Simple Buttercream Frosting Mix

I didn’t have time to bake with them personally, but I thought it was a good idea to drop it off at a holiday cookie decorating party my running team was having. I did try a bit of the frosting mix though…in some oatmeal.

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Frosting oatmeal…? I try πŸ˜›

For some reason, I thought that the frosting mix would “magically” turn into frosting…because that’s what it’s supposed to do right? Haha…I honestly did not notice any difference to my oatmeal after adding a tablespoon or so of the mix. So now you know.

It was the first time I tried roasted fava beans, thanks to Kala Beautiful Beans. These were crisp, salted, and peppered, and added SO much texture to my crockpot bowl already full of shredded cabbage, eggplant, and bell pepper. The whole bag didn’t fit the bowl, so I had to add more as I ate through the contents of the bowl πŸ˜›

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KALA Beautiful Beans – Simply Peppered Beans

I’ve seen the Good Thins brand around lately, the last time being when someone from the next door lab had the sweet potato ones for lunch. This box was “the oat one”, specifically the sweet oat and flax.

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Good Thins – Sweet Oat & Flax

Each crisp was perfectly square, and had bits of flax seeds peeking out. They definitely had a malty, sweet flavor to them, and while they made for the perfect snack on their own, I’m sure they would have tasted spectacular with some dip.

A lot of people have been getting sick in my workplace, but these Ricola lozenges weren’t something I was too keen on sharing.

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Ricola Herbal Immunity – Honey Herb Lozenges

They were Honey Herb flavored, and the packaging went on forever, haha! And while each lozenge has no artificial colors/flavors or GMOs, as well as being packed with Swiss herbs and ginseng, they could be treated and eaten like candy.

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Really, it’s just like candy.

I actually can’t recall the last time I had jam or jelly…it’s been all nut butter for me lately. If you don’t eat PB&J sandwiches regularly, the thought of buying jelly or jam from the grocery store doesn’t seem to stick around (pun intended!).

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Smucker’s Fruit & Honey – Strawberry JalapeΓ±o Fruit Spread

I received a small jar of Smucker’s Fruit and Honey fruit spread in strawberry jalapeno (yes, jalapeno), which has been sweetned naturally with honey. I think that because of the honey, the spread wasn’t as thick as a regular jam. It did taste sweeter though, which for this flavor was off-set by the jalapeno bits. While at first this mix of flavor profiles was fun, it got annoying pretty quickly. After a while it seems like a chore, having to avoid the jalapeno pieces once they start to get tiring.

The Loacker biscuits were insanely delicious!! Overall, I preferred the coconut flavor over Noir Orange, but both flavors rocked.

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Loacker Gran Pasticceria Patisserie – Noir Orange

I love how the coconut flavor had a generous amount of coconut flakes over each biscuit, and that the coating was milk chocolate. The noir orange coating was a dark chocolate, and even though it was a wafer cookie, it had a bumpy puffed rice texture. The nutrition was not as “bad” as one would expect either—120 calories for 3-4 biscuits, but nothing stopped me from eating more than that in one go.

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Loacker Gran Pasticceria Patisserie – Coconut

I’ve always preferred cookies to be chewy, so I never was a huge fan of Chips Ahoy! growing up. When they came out with the chewy version, I was all about those, but it’s been a while since I first had them in elementary school!

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Chips Ahoy! Thins – Cinnamon Sugar

Many years later, the brand is still going strong with a “thins” version of their cookie, which are flatter and crispier, almost like thick, kettle-cooked potato chips. This particular flavor was cinnamon sugar, and it was impossible to complain about there being a LACK of cinnamon sugar! There were even white chocolate chips thrown in. Overall, I liked the flavor, I just wish they were chewier of course.

Another sweet treat was a small bundle of Honey Acres honey straws. There was an assortment of flavors that included clover, lemon, orange, raspberry, and mint chocolate. The mint chocolate was my favorite since it had the thickest consistency of all the flavors.

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Honey Straws, yum!!

I ate them on their own, but they could easily be added to tea or on top of oatmeal for some extra flavor and sweetness.

I first tried Wise popcorn when I received my first ever Degustabox back in June. This month’s box included a giant bag of their white cheddar popcorn, but I couldn’t confirm if the enzymes used to make the cheese they use to flavor the popcorn were microbial or rennet based. So unfortunately, I couldn’t sample the popcorn myself, but at least my lab-mates got some free food out of it.

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Wise Popcorn – White Cheddar

One odd product in this box was a microwaveable 3-minute meal with a mix of flavored grains. The flavor was noted as “beef burgundy”, but I looked at the ingredients list multiple times and did not see the words “beef” or “meat”. I was certainly surprised, but I didn’t want to take a chance on it in case the natural flavors were of animal origin.  Yet another product left for my co-workers…

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A meat-less meat product?

There were honestly many great finds in this month’s box, which made up for the few products I couldn’t fully enjoy. Well, I must say that if there are at least three different dessert items that are equally great-tasting, then my needs are met πŸ˜‰ !

Are you a cookies or crisps/chips kind of person?

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!

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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.

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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!

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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 πŸ™

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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.

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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.

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

ALso had to have pita bread on the side!

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Can’t forget the pita!

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

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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.

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In good time πŸ™‚

Are you a fan of holiday-themed events?

Z Garden 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 πŸ˜‰). 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 πŸ˜‰

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.

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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…

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I had my eyes on these since seeing them on Instagram…VEGAN BUFFALO WINGS from Clean South!
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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.

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More samples!
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Vegan cheese sample on a bread piece.

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

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Vegan Dots that I passed on πŸ™ // 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 πŸ™ …

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.

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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 πŸ˜‰

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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.

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Two slices of vegan Hawaiian pizza πŸ™‚

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.

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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:

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Halloween-themed treat — Lenny and Larry’s Peanut Butter brownie atop of an Eatenlightened Pint πŸ™‚

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 πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---S'mores 🍫 πŸ”₯!!! 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 πŸ˜‚ With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 πŸ˜‰
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 7️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—S’mores 🍫 πŸ”₯!!! 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 πŸ˜‚ With seven down and only three remaining, my preferences are becoming clearer and clearer with each pint consumed 🍦 πŸ˜‰

My second favorite –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---Black Cherry πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ S/O to my local Ralph's for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch πŸ˜‚ 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 πŸ‘†πŸ½
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 9️⃣out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—Black Cherry πŸ’πŸ’πŸ’ S/O to my local Ralph’s for carrying everything so far except for Peanut Butter Crunch πŸ˜‚ 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 πŸ‘†πŸ½

Least favorite πŸ™ –

Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available---Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰πŸ’₯ 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 πŸ˜‚πŸ¦
Trying out Halo Top flavor number 8️⃣ out of the πŸ”Ÿ new ones available—Chocolate Almond Crunch 🍫 🌰πŸ’₯ 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 πŸ˜‚πŸ¦

Are you a fan of food festivals?

All Aboard the 534!

All Aboard the 534!

Not having to go into lab for TWO CONSECUTIVE WHOLE DAYS called for a celebration. I could have spent these days in a deep sleep induced by an ice cream coma, but instead chose to make a day trip pit of it.

So on Labor Day, I did sleep in till about 8, got ready around 10, and took a very short train ride to downtown Santa Monica to board a Metro bus that would take me to Malibu.

welcome_tom_alibu
Welcome to Malibu!

The 534, or the Malibu line as I like to call it, drives alongside the beach up to Pacific Palisades and then Malibu. It’s about a 30-40 minute drive depending on traffic, which made its strong presence the morning I left and when I got back around 5.

I got to Malibu at the perfect time: when I was hungry and ready for a proper lunch. I got off close to the Malibu County Mart/Mall, and then walked over to another strip mall where Ollo Restaurant was located.

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Ollo Restaurant, Malibu

I had to wait 15 minutes for a table, but once I was seated I was able to appreciate the decadent decor.

barrr
Seating at the bar.

Morning talk shows were playing on a TV across the room, and every table was packed with couples, families, and brunch enthusiasts (identified by their penchant for plates of pancakes, eggs, and coffee mugs).

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Ollo Menu

There were plenty of veggie friendly options, which made it hard to choose, but ultimately I decided to get the Tumeric Tofu Bowl.

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Tumeric Tofu Bowl

If I had to describe the bowl, I would definitely say it was like a rice bowl with salad on the surface. It was as if I ordered a rice bowl and salad bowl, and decided to combine them on my own!

tumeric_tofu_closeup
Tofu bowl close-up BECAUSE!

Everything was dressed in a green goddess dressing, which seemed to be a creamy avocado dressing if I had to guess. The tofu was soft and lightly spiced, but my favorite aspect of this dish was combining the crisp romaine lettuce along with a spoonful of rice that was already doused in dressing. Texture at its finest!

The bowl was pretty pricey ($17 after tax and tip), but I thought of it as paying for the experience vs. paying for a solitary bowl.

lagoon
Off to the beach!

The lagoon/beach was just a 10 minute walk away, so my meal went to work for me right away. I was totally unprepared for the beach, but I didn’t mind not packing a swimsuit/towel/sunscreen/etc.

lagoooooooooooon
BEEEEAAAACCCCCHHHHHH

I came, I saw, I took selfies by the lagoon, and then headed back toward civilization…because gelato was calling my name!

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

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

Fala Me to Fala Bar (Again)

I’m wondering if I should rename this blog “Will Study for (Mediterranean) Food” because that pretty much seems to describe what I eat when I go out on the weekends…but I mean, what’s there to be defensive about? The cuisine speaks for itself—it’s balanced, wholesome, flavorful, and pretty much can be found anywhere you look in LA.

Fala Bar, Venice
Fala Bar, Venice

Moving to Santa Monica has made it much easier for me to check out all the places (by foot) that were inaccessible to me before, due to the long travel time of public transit or, in some cases, because public transit did not pass through those areas. The row of shops and restaurants on Abbot Kinney was one of those areas. When I had a sudden craving for Medi-food on Saturday, but I didn’t want to venture too far east of West LA, I decided to stop by this hidden gem of a neighborhood for a late lunch.

I first tried Fala Bar >back in April at their Melrose location. Since I was in the Fairfax/Grove area most weekends when I lived in DTLA (DTLA to Mid-City is easy to travel back-and-forth by bus), visiting this location was not a problem. Now that it’s a little out of the way and the Venice one isn’t anymore, I was eager to dig into some familiar food in a new locale.

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Need help deciding what to get?

I have plans to explore Abbot Kinney more in the future, as there are so many cute shops and eateries lined up side-by-side. The area reminded me of a small district in Disneyland—the sidewalks were small, and the buildings were close together as if it was a movie set for a small town.

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Abbot (Kinney) that Fala Life πŸ˜›

I found Fala Bar nestled between Blue Star Donuts and a cafe serving up acai bowls. Last time I visited Fala Bar, I proposed to have one of their burgers if I ever visited again, but I truly wanted a hearty plate. I ended up getting the Baba Plate, which didn’t come with falafel but instead a fluffy, round piece of soft pita bread.

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Unpictured Tahini and Babaganoush -> Cucumber&Tomato Salad + Cabbage + Tabouli -> Pita Bread

I carefully carried my compostable tray outside, and sat at the counter positioned just in front. It was an awkward seating arrangement because it was literally on the sidewalk, and my back was facing those that were walking by. Funny thing was, people would slow down their stride to take a look at what I was eating. Some even went inside Fala Bar after seeing my plate of colorful cabbage and creamy tahini.

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Plate of beauty in full view!!

Everything was eaten until only drops of lemon juice colored purple were left on the tray. I could have spent the rest of my afternoon checking out the shops, but the heat/crowds got to me, so I chose to save that as an adventure for another day. I also wanted to get home and just completely relax since I didn’t have to make plans to go to lab (for once!) for the remainder of Labor Day Weekend! I needed to make time to plan my adventure on Monday…;)

What cuisine do you tend to mostly gravitate towards when eating out?

Fala Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

P’s (Birth)day Off

P’s (Birth)day Off

After coming off a tumultuous and stressful week, I was more than ready for my birthday to come around! After meeting my sister and our friend at the hotel close to 10:00pm, we all went down to the hotel’s jacuzzi to soak our legs, relax, and spend some time together since we didn’t want to go to sleep just yet.

We soaked for ~20 min, and then went back upstairs to get some serious shut-eye. I still woke up early around 7am the next morning, but it was my birthday and I didn’t want to waste a minute of it πŸ˜‰ . The girls woke up a little while after, and we were all ready and out by 11am. We missed the hotel breakfast hours, so by the time we hit the road for Aliso Viejo/Laguna Beach, we were already discussing lunch options!

I knew right away that Native Foods was my #1 pick, since I’ve made it my personal mission to visit all of the Native Foods locations. I’ve pretty much accomplished that goal for their Cali locations (just need to somehow get to Palm Springs to officially do it), thanks to our stop in Aliso Viejo.

nativefoodsaliso
Native Foods in Aliso Viejo

I captured more photos of the restaurant and our food orders, but in the middle of transferring pics from my phone to laptop, I somehow managed to delete a bulk of them. Definitely made me irritated, but at least I was able to salvage a couple thanks to posting earlier on Instagram.

I didn’t feel like trying anything new or new-to-me, but I also didn’t feel the need to get my all-time favorite platter of vegan nachos. Instead, I stuck to another ol’ favorite of mine: the Soul Bowl.

Made me soulllllfullll
Made me soulllllfullll

I’ve seen this dish morph over the years. Back in 2012 when I first stepped foot into a Native Foods, the bowl was drenched in sauces and had two fried “chik’n” skewers pierced through the top and center. Now a little over four years later, the presentation is a little less extreme…it’s more elegantly-styled, but still full of flavor. It’s hard to see in this pic but the soulful-ness from this bowl comes from what’s underneath all those greens. The quinoa and beans at the bottom were just as satisfying and filling as I remembered them!

My sis and friend shared a Soul Bowl and a burger+fries kind of dish, while my Dad had a Thai “meat” ball salad (and after looking back at this post from last year, he basically ordered the same exact thing as last time!!). When we got our fill, we drove out west towards the coast, and pretty much hopped out of the car once we knew we were as close to the coast of Laguna Beach as we could get.

I mean, look. at. that.
I mean, look. at. that.

After being awestruck for a good 30 minutes, we finally asked a local how to get down to the sand where the real action was. When we made it, we spent a good portion of the afternoon appreciating the liveliness of our surroundings and the excitement of the ocean.

Ahhh so pretty...
Ahhh so pretty…

I didn’t bring my swimsuit so I couldn’t get more than knee-deep into the ocean, but it was fun enough to run to/from the waves every time they splashed onto the shore.

After soaking in enough sun, we took an ice cream break (sadly no pictures since I accidentally deleted them πŸ™ ), and made the long trip back to LA since we all had to get up early the next day. We had dinner once we got back, which consisted of chips+cheese dip and a large veggie pizza split amongst the four of us. Of course, we couldn’t fall into a deep slumber without a few minutes of jacuzzi time.

I did my best to fully take in every single minute of my birthday since I knew the next day would be a grueling one for me. I had to wake up at 4am in order to go into lab and begin a procedure that kept me up until 2am the following day…it was FAR from fun, but at least I did get my birthday off? Hmm…I’m just glad that I’m taking next week off to visit my family in Oklahoma. I see that as my ultimate birthday gift.

Native Foods Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Gross & Great

Gross & Great

After finishing up our final rounds of apartment cleaning on Sunday morning, my Dad and I were ready to drop off my keys by noon. It was hard to believe that it was two years ago that I moved into my first apartment, and while there were some things I would miss about it, I was very much looking forward to living in and exploring a new LA neighborhood.

I had to drop into lab even though I was starving, and during this time, my Dad helped to move the remainder of my boxes to my new place. When I finished up two hours later, my Dad was ready to pick me up and was just as hungry as I was! We ended up in Culver City again, checking out another vegan spot in the area.

veganjoint_menu
A hole-in-the-wall kinda place.

The Vegan Joint has been on my list for a while, but it was a little out of the way for me/never really a sole spot of interest to make it a worthwhile trip. And after finally going there, I realized I probably didn’t miss out on anything for not dining there sooner…

veganjointtt
Calming greens?

After getting our table, my Dad and I were given PLENTY of time to look over the menu…and at least ten more times over. I literally had to get up after almost twenty minutes to walk over to the counter and remind the lady who had seated us that we were ready to order. I was pretty hangry at that point so I’m glad I didn’t bite off her head for not coming sooner…

My order was actually not so great. I chose to get the Tofu Larb not truly knowing what it was, and I guess that was a decision that backfired on me. Normally, Larb is a meat-based salad of Laos origin—marinated meat grounds mixed with greens and lemon juice. My tofu version was certainly marinated and over-flowing, but it was far from being an aesthetic, picturesque example of a delicious vegan meal.

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Tofu Larb…so gross

After two bites, I was thinking “eww, why did I pick this??”, but since I was hungry/didn’t want to make a big deal over it, I finished the dish and definitely felt full afterwards (soy protein’s effects I suppose)!

After our very late lunch, my Dad and I drove to my new place to unpack. It took me almost 3 hours to get everything in order and in place. From there, my Dad and I made the long-ish drive to Cerritos for Indian grocery shopping and for a free dinner!

Luna Grill, a fast casual Mediterranean restaurant contacted me a few weeks ago to check out their Cerritos location. I knew that the perfect time to stop by would be when my Dad was in town, since he’s always wanting to go to Cerritos whenever he is in town!

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Luna Grill entrance

We had dinner close to 8pm, and there were still people inside enjoying large platters of kebabs, rice, and all of those tasty Medi-fixin’s.

lunaaaa
Ordering at the counter. The lamps are beautiful!
luna_grill
Luna Grill in Cerritos Menu ~ Veggie Kabob

My Dad and I were able to enjoy two entrees on the house, and we paid for the grape leaf roll appetizers to share between the both of us.

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Grape leaf rolls

For my entree, I ordered the Veggie Kabob which came with rice, spicy cilantro hummus, pita bread, boiled carrots, and salad.

veggie kebab platter
A gorgeous, full plate and Dad’s salad.

My oh my was this good, and it certainly made up for my disaster of a lunch that day…my Dad loved his crisp, refreshing salad, but was in love with the basmati rice. I had to agree with him, as the rice was so fluffy and flavorful.

After finishing up dinner close to closing time for the restaurant, we were on the road again to our hotel to finally meet up with my sister and our friend. Both of them made the trip down to LA to hang out with me for my birthday, and I was beyond excited to meet them!

If you ever ordered something disgusting from a restaurant before, were you so hungry you ate it or did you remedy the situation?

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

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