Finally!

Finally!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 ♥

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

♥

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

PBP & Dried Mulberries
PBP & Dried Mulberries

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

 ♥

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

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

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

Weekend One with the Sis

Weekend One with the Sis

The first weekend my sister stayed over was spent apartment scoping, food tasting, and shopping (for her, while I anxiously tried to plan my upcoming week in lab/submit a very important email…). It’s funny how this was a weekend in early June, and this post is only going live in mid-July… #PhDStudentLife

We drove down to Irvine after we went to lab. She was able to help me finish faster and with lab experience of her own, I could tell her to do something without worrying if she knew how to do it accurately, haha. We were on the road before noon, and had enough time to stop for lunch before her apartment viewing appointment. So Veggie Grill at the Irvine Spectrum it was!

♥

Because my visits to Veggie Grill have encompassed many of their locations, I like to visit when they have seasonal specials just so I can make sure I am trying something completely new. Their summer menu was featured this time around, and the Super Rica burger was calling my name…

♥

My sister went with her favorite Southern Fried Chik’n plate, as usual, but I did not regret my choice.

The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made "corn nuts" + crispy fries
The Super Rica Burger, made with Beyond burger, chorizo queso, fire-roasted poblanos, cherry pepper, charred onions, lettuce, tomato, house made “corn nuts” + crispy fries

It had the perfect blend of spicy, creamy, and crunchy. I didn’t have fries on the side, but the coleslaw was not some poorly made side dish—it brought it’s out flavorful punch too!

♥

I guess I was hungrier than I thought, because I finished my plate entirely and helped my sister out with hers.

It was soon approaching 1pm so we made our way back to the car and drove towards the apartment complex she booked a tour at. The visit was alright, but the cons definitely outweighed the pros. Finding a place in the OC that was decently priced and clean was surprisingly not too easy a task, and I could tell my sister was feeling frustrated. I was able to propose a solution for her that didn’t solve the housing problem, but at least it took her mind off the issue for a little bit.

Churned Creamery, Cypress
Churned Creamery, Cypress

We were able to stop by Churned Creamery in Cypress for a tasting of their constantly-churning ice cream (the ice cream is in huge vats that are consistently being mixed through). They had number of options, including their unique CroCream: a croissant stuffed with ice cream and toppings.

.

The servers were all super sweet ladies enthusiastic about ice cream. After sampling a few flavors, I went with one of their recommendations—Whiskey cream ice cream stuffed in a warm, crispy croissant and topped with Mochi cubes.

♥

The croissant was a flaky, golden brown on the outside and edges, but perfectly soft on the inside.

Whiskey Cream Crocone with mochi and strawberries ♥
Whiskey Cream CroCream with mochi and strawberries ♥

My sister of course got her chocolate fix with an ice cold, thick chocolate milkshake mixed with a scoop of Oreo ice cream. She could not deny that it was quite a dense and thick shake indeed.

♥

Looking at all the flavors of ice cream they offered, the possibilities seemed endless! It just so happened that we could have gone by their Irvine location (their grand opening was that day…), but the Cypress staff accommodated us on short-notice without a doubt.

We were back on the road and headed home soon after. Our plans the following day turned out to be similar—woke up, long run before going to lab, getting out and feeling crazy ravenous, and driving up to NoHo only to find out the restaurant we were planning to have lunch at was closed on Sundays…

We ended up getting veggie burgers at a chain restaurant, and then driving to the Glendale Galleria to find a graduation gift for our friend who graduated at the end of June. While at the mall, I made a stop at GNC and picked up the new Quest Hero bars.

Blueberry Cobbler was my favorite, with a vanilla yogurt coating and a fruity, chewy filling.

Blueberry Cobbler
Blueberry Cobbler

Vanilla Caramel was decent, but I thought the texture of the filling was pretty dry.

Vanilla
Vanilla Caramel

I could go without having another of the Chocolate Caramel Pecan flavor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a chocolate lover (such as my sister) found this to be their favorite of the three.

Chocolate
Chocolate Caramel Pecan

Even though apartment hunting was a bust on this particular weekend, at least we made the most of our dining out choices. And just having my sister for company made the weekend all the more enjoyable.

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

Moving Out, Flying Out

Moving Out, Flying Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring seasonal menu!
Spring seasonal menu!

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

Tofu Poke Bowl
Tofu Poke Bowl
Sparkle!
Sparkle!

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

Post-Friendsgiving 2016

Post-Friendsgiving 2016

On our last morning in Santa Cruz, I got up a little bit earlier than everyone else. I made myself some instant coconut coffee, sat by the window, and enjoyed the view outside (baby deer)!

coffee-and-deer
Baby deer // instant coconut coffee for relaxin’

We waited until my friend was up before actually leaving. I was taking a bus from San Jose in order to get to LA, but it wasn’t hitting the road until a little after 1pm. My sister and I were able to use the time in the morning, though limited, to stop by for lunch at the Westgate location of Veggie Grill.

westgate
“You MUST order me” — Sandwich Advertisement

Our intentions for coming to Veggie Grill were to specifically try the vegan holiday specials, which included a holiday sandwich and a southern fried plate.

west
Warm-looking interior—to keep sheltered from the rain!

We each ordered seperately, but we split our entrees between the both of us. My sister got the holiday sandwich, and I ordered the southern spicy fried “chicken” plate.

soup_bars
Zucchini Soup and featured Pumpkin Spice Cake.

There was a mess-up with the order first. The cashier thought I wanted the Santa Fe “Chicken” sandwich, and so asked what side I wanted. Thinking that a side came with the plate, I asked for the zucchini soup. Since they messed up the order, I got to keep the soup while they made my actual order.

turkey-sandwich
Holiday Sandwich – Roasted “turkey”, cauli-mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, side of mashed yams.

The sandwich came out first, and we split the roll down the middle. The plate was more complicated to split up, only because here was so much variety.

veggieplateandportion
Southern Spicy Fried Chickin’ – Fried Chickin’, corn cake, collard greens, cauli-mashed potatoes, porcini mushroom gravy.

Ultimately, my portion looked like this—definitely looks like a Thanksgiving plate!

my-plate
My plate in order.

My sister liked the sandwich, but I thought the bread was too soft, and the filling was cold even though it was advertised as a hot sandwich. Overall, it appeared unappetizing, and unfortunately the taste wasn’t opposite.

The “chicken” plate however was off the charts! The breading on the soy protein was crispy, spicy, and much like what you’d see on those “popcorn chicken” type meals. No pickles were forgotten here (anyone get the Spongebob reference 😉 ??).

After lunch, my sister drove me to the bus stop and I begrudgingly got out in order to get to LA. Even though we left at 1pm, I did not get back to Santa Monica until 10:30pm ?!??! UGH, it was the most horrible, painstakingly long trip. Well, I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been if I left on Sunday!

Are you a fan of Thanksgiving leftovers?

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

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Seattle Adventures – Part 4

Our last full day in Seattle began with yet another bus ride to Ravenna, where we were the previous day drinking tea. This time though, we had brunch at a hipster cafe, and one of my favorite places we ate during the whole trip: Wayward Cafe!

Wayward Cafe
Wayward Cafe

The clientele, employees, and restaurant space all had a hipster vibe going on, so obviously my sis, friend, and I felt out of place but this did not chase us from getting our share of comforting vegan food!

Countertop eating
Countertop eating

We sat at the counter, so in a way, we were somewhat secluded from the rest of the diners. It didn’t matter though, because we were all quite hungry and didn’t mind so much that the view in front of us was a mix of kitchen gear and foggy windows showcasing a highway.

Coffee :)
Coffee 🙂

We each started off with coffee/tea, and you know I took those extra stevia packets for the road 😉

Country Bumpkin!
Country Bumpkin!

For my dish, I was all for the Country Bumpkin. I finally got my biscuits and gravy craving taken care of on this trip!

Friend's dishes
Friend’s dishes

My sis got the Dixie Fried with a circular scone look-alike biscuit, and my friend got a gorgeous enchilada (I think) type dish smothered in sauce and aligned next to seasoned cubed potatoes.

Our grand-in-flavor brunch was also easy on the wallet, and we were able to catch a bus to downtown feeling renewed. On the way there, we rode alongside not one, but TWO adorable animals! The first was a cat “with an eating disorder” headed to the vet. He was a golden, obese tabby who had the most precious meow. The next was this adorable groomed pomeranian who obediently sat on his/her owner’s lap all the way to downtown! I have yet to see an animal board a bus here in LA so I was probably a little too excited upon observing these animals boarding the bus, haha!

LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!
LOOK AT THAT ADORABLE POM OHHHH!

Once we were in downtown (yet again), we actually took the time to go inside Pike’s Place Market (just like many other tourists), walk around, get bored, and then walked further down, ending up at the gum wall!

The infamous gum wall!
The infamous gum wall!

After taking a couple pictures with the wall in the background, doing our best to not LEAN against the wall, we walked back towards our starting point, and then made our way towards the movies to watch the latest Alice movie, since we couldn’t watch it the day before due to my sister not feeling well, and my friend was dying to see it. I never was a fan of the Disney Alice movies (I guess I liked the animated one?), so I found myself getting restless at some parts, but I was glad that watching the movie made my friend happy 🙂

After the movies, we obviously had dinner 😛 . And how could we pass by a Veggie Grill and not go in?

Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle
Veggie Grill, Downtown Seattle

We all ended up ordering hearty meals like burgers, mac and cheese, and even shared my sis’s favorite chocolate pudding from when she tried it the first time we visited a VG.

Friends eat right.
Friends eat right.
Oh man, that pudding.
Oh man, that pudding.

I got the Buffalo Bomber, oozing with spicy BBQ sauce and a side of coleslaw.

How did I not have this before?
How did I not have this before?

Having warm meals in a restaurant with an orange hue made us feel so cozy with the weather starting to get cold and rainy outside.

Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.
Even though it looks the same, this VG seemed cozier than the others.

After dinner, we just wanted to get back to the Airbnb and relax for our last night in Seattle. I actually ended up staying up until midnight, which is something I rarely do, but I had the energy to do so, and I wanted to really enjoy the time I had with my sister and friend because those chances are so few nowadays.

After a long night’s rest, I woke up the next morning, and got everything packed. After getting my sis and friend to do the same, we headed out to the Fremont District for one last adventure before flying out of the glorious PNW.

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

Our destination was a chocolate tour at Theo’s Chocolates!

Welcome to Theo's Chocolates!
Welcome to Theo’s Chocolates!

The cost of the tour was only $10, but there were samples galore and learning about the process of making fair-trade and organic chocolate was quite interesting.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - waiting room
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – waiting room

After putting on hairnets, we were guided into a small green room with benches where our guide explained to us the story of how the cacao plant becomes what we know as chocolate.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - lecturin'
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – lecturin’

During her talk, she passes around samples, and I fell in love with a flavor speckled with raspberry.

Hello, raspberry.
Hello, raspberry.

After the short lecture, we were taken inside the factory, where we saw the vats and got to sample some cacao nibs: the mild and bitter ones! My sis and friend ended up buying a bag of the mild cacao nibs from the gift shop after the tour.

Inside the factory
Inside the factory

Once we made a rotation through the actual factory, we were lead into the kitchen, a.k.a. the best room on the tour. In this room, we were given the opportunity to sample truffles, limited edition chocolate flavors, and other intriguing sweet (and savory!) chocolate items. And immediately after that, we were given coupons and directed straight into the gift shop…where there were even MORE samples.

Theo Chocolates Factory Tour - store!
Theo Chocolates Factory Tour – store!

I literally made laps around the store sampling all the chocolate, even finding myself at one point just pacing near the main wall where the samples for the original chocolate flavors were. When my friend and sis were done picking out their cacao nibs and truffles, I even took some store samples for the road! I guess I didn’t completely overdose on sugar, because I still had some room in me for a small lunch! Flying Apron was just along the way, so we decided to sit down there and munch on something savory.

Flying Apron
Flying Apron

I was able to hit it right with my order of red lentil soup with a slice of their bread of the day (which I believe was multigrain).

They have shirts?
They have shirts?

My friend and sis however, weren’t so lucky. They shared three dishes among the two of them, a pesto salad, mac and cheez (with lots of spinach apparently), and a BBQ tofu pocket, all of which were doughy, and lacked flavor to the point where it tasted completely bland. I had to taste them myself just to believe it, and my sis and friend were absolutely right.

Flying Apron - the good, bad, and ugly
Flying Apron – the good, bad, and ugly

If I wasn’t sweetened out by all the chocolate I had earlier, maybe I could have tried a sweet baked good and could have given the chance for Flying Apron to redeem itself. Oh well, I was happy with my humble bowl of soup.

Maybe it would have been different with the sweets...
Maybe it would have been different with the sweets…

We spent another hour strolling around the Fremont district, and then took the bus back to our Airbnb in order to get our luggage and call for an Uber. My sis and friend were sharing a second suitcase filled with books from their Amazon Books adventure, so it was necessary.

It was hard to bid goodbye to them at the airport, since I was flying back separately to LA and the both of them were flying back to Nor Cal together.

Bye, Seattle. It's been fun :)
Bye, Seattle. It’s been fun 🙂

Overall, I was so happy that the trip happened at the time that it did. Right now I’m already wrapped up again in my work but prior to my vacation, I was running on fumes and felt so burnt out from my work! There’s no doubt that I’ll probably need another week off (at least) by August rolls around, but until then, I think I feel refreshed enough to continue being my normal busy self. The fact that summer is just beginning kind of helps too 😉

Have you been on a food factory tour before?

Wayward Vegan Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Time Needs to Like, Freeze for a Second

Time Needs to Like, Freeze for a Second

The past two and a half weeks or so have been a whirlwind! Each day has been non-stop busy for me, and while I’ve always preferred being busy over being bored, it can get pretty overwhelming when your list of things to-do never seems to end…

BUT, the food side of things have been pleasant (especially the pints!), and over the past two weekends, I got my fair share of vegan eats.

squireel
There was one day last week however when I was snacking after a long day, and a squirrel came very close to me, very hungry as well 😉

Might be easier to go into detail if I break it down…

New Snack Attack:

I first tried Buff Bake spreads a couple months ago (their cookie flavor), and thought I’d give the white chocolate flavor a go. I spread it generously on a birthday cake cookie (♥♥♥♥) and it served as the perfect pre-run fuel. It definitely had a milder, sweeter taste than the cookie flavor I tried before, which had a thicker, drier protein aftertaste. This flavor still had a dryness to it if the oils weren’t mixed fully, but I would say it is the protein spread version of PB&Co’s WCW.

buffbake_whitechocolate
Buff Bake – White Chocolate on top of Birthday Cake Cookie

I’ve seen so many rave reviews for the Oh Yeah! One Almond Bliss bar, and when I saw it fully-stocked at my campus bookstore, I had to try it during one of my breaks from lab 😛 . Upon the first bite, I could have mistaken it for an Almond Joy. I do find it funny how it has exactly three almonds at the surface though 😛

I loved it so much that I paired it with a macadamia cookie for a Thursday night snack plate. I melted both for about 20 seconds, and the bar came out warm and melty, while the cookie stayed put in its consistency. It was still a knock-out snack plate though 😉

almond bliss
Oh Yeah! One Almond Bliss Bar
night snack plate
Winning on a Thursday 😉

Pint Party till Infinity:

I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad trip to Sprouts, but I have had stellar ones. Trips that included deep discounts on soy yogurts, salad boxes, crockpot staples, and even Arctic Zero! Speaking of which, I was enlightened by my Dad that they are having a BOGO deal on them this week…

…and speaking of Enlightened…

I just had to grab and try both the Mint Chocolate Chip and Sea Salt Caramel when I saw them on the freezer shelf during my last grocery trip. I did enjoy the earthy mint flavor of this pint:

enlightenedmint
Enlightened Mint Chocolate Chip

But Sea Salt Caramel absolutely took my breath away. Some would argue that the caramel swirls might be too sweet, but it was all too perfect for me…ahh, if they weren’t almost $6 a pint, I would have stocked up for sure.

seasalt
Enlightened Sea Salt Caramel

For now, they are just weekend treats…maybe Sprouts should have a sale on these in the near future!

That same weekend, I cam across another Mint Chip, but this time it was Halo Top’s version.

halotopint
Halo Top Mint Chocolate Chip

It wasn’t as bright blue/green as Enlightened’s, nor was it as minty, but Halo Top’s texture has always seemed to be just as creamy as the real ice cream guys’, and this flavor was no exception.

Now I just need to hunt down the Birthday Cake flavor…where are you?!

If you aren’t getting tired of my ice cream samplings just yet, my final share from these past two weeks was THIS amazing thing:

soymilk_cookiedough (1)
So Delicious Soymilk Cookie Dough Pint

When I stopped by the grocery store last Friday to pick up my pint for the night and to kick off the weekend, my favorite Snickerdoodle was not in stock. What was the next best thing with dough chunks mixed in? Obviously this guy.

As I make my way through So Delicious’ other dairy free pints, this Soymilk Cookie Dough flavor is occupying the #2 spot for now, and rightfully so!

Vegan ‘Ventures:

My weekend adventures were nothing out of the ordinary, but I was proud of myself for being able to allocate enough time for myself, even while still having to follow through with my other responsibilities.

one_veg_world
One Veg World Inside Restaurant

On the same weekend I went to Sprouts, I stopped for lunch at One Veg World in Pasadena for a nutritious & delicious JACKFRUIT carnitas burrito.

burrito
Jackfruit “Carnitas” Burrito

It was apparently one of their newest menu additions, and while the size was small, the filling was juicy and flavorful. Brown rice + jackfruit + that mysteriously tasty vegan-friendly cream sauce was just a combination that can’t be beat! Oh, and the avocado made it even more refreshing 😉

filll
Brown rice mixed in!

Last weekend, I felt like I was in a tighter time crunch so I didn’t get too adventurous…I went to a tried-and-true favorite, just at a new-to-me location.

veggie grill YASSSS (1)
VEGGIE GRILL 🙂

Nestled in a shopping complex in WeHo, I found another Veggie Grill I have yet to visit.

veggie grill YASSSS (3)
Typical Veggie Grill interior 🙂

I used this visit as an opportunity to get the Mondo Nachos…something I’ve always had my eyes on, but was slightly fearful about getting because of the calorie content.. Something that I struggled with when I had an active eating disorder/was in limbo about recovery because I always wanted to “make it fit” but it never did when my “calorie rules” were strict.

veggie grill YASSSS (8)
This one garnered alotta likes on the ‘gram.

But I made up for that suffering this time around, and I actually, to my pleasant surprise, did not have second doubts when I placed my order. The nachos were soon at my table, and after taking the first bite and hearing that crunch, I couldn’t believe I held back from ordering this for so long…

veggie grill YASSSS (6)
Okay, just look at the guac…

The cheese, the soy bits, the guac,the crema…it was all so, so perfect. Maybe it was meant to be that I waited this long to have them? To stand as another moment of progress and accomplishment in my recovery journey?

Haha, I’m getting emotional over nachos —> typical food blogger right here 😛

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you don’t blog for a while and feel like you have to “catch up”?

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

Birthday Week!

Birthday Week!

It’s that time of year again—birthday week! We all know one day isn’t enough to celebrate the best event of the year, and so obviously having a week devoted to the occasion makes absolute sense 😉

The week was filled with freebies…including a first-time freebie! I began the celebrations with a visit to Which Wich, a rival to Subway, and known for their unique sandwich toppings like crispy onion strings and dried cranberries!

It was my first time visiting a Which Wich location, and I probably would not have visited any time sooner if it had not been for my free ‘wich coupon! 

1
The friendly front.

Even though I stopped by around 5PM, the place was pretty empty. Even though it was located under a collection of lofts right above it, there didn’t seem to be that much of a demand for custom sandwiches on a weekday evening I suppose…

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Emptiness…

I needed some help getting started since it was my first visit after all. A friendly employee stepped out from the back to find me staring at the wall, and gave me some guidance on how to order. I first had to pick out a bag, which displayed a theme for what the sandwich would be based on, and then I had to color in the bubbles for what fill-ins I wanted in the sandwich.

3
Wall with the paper bags // I picked the vegetarian’ bag, and filled in circles for the things I wanted to include inside my sandwich.

I then handed the bag over to the employee who had helped me, and he assembled the sandwich while I waited at the end of the counter.

4
Two TVs on the wall, some newspapers…I guess you could have a good dine-in experience if you want!

I grabbed a plastic bag since I was taking this birthday ‘wich to go, and couldn’t wait to try it at home for dinner!

5
Convenient for the grab-and-go!

I could have eaten it by holding onto the foil and paper wrapping, but since I was at home, I thought it would feel more like a dinner when unwrapped and placed on a clean plate.

6
Wrapping

It was cut perfectly through the middle, diagonally of course.

7
My small 7″ Which Wich on skinny wheat, stuffed with artichoke hearts. Also included sauerkraut, BBQ sauce,  banana peppers, black olives, cucumbers, lettuce, mushrooms, red onions, and tomatoes.

My base was artichoke hearts, with the other fill-ins just for show. The BBQ sauce tasted more like ketchup, but apparently it was vegan!

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Artichoke heart, and other stuff.

I think for my first complimentary Which Wich, I did pretty good 😉

The freebies continued that week with a free scoop from Baskin-Robbins. I ended up getting the Oreo Cake Batter flavor (this month’s featured flavor!), and had the patience to save it for after dinner. It made the perfect topping for my dessert proyo bowl that evening. 

Oreo Cake Batter Ice Cream on top of proyo!
Oreo Cake Batter Ice Cream on top of proyo!

Even though the ice cream scoop was melting at record-speed where the ice cream met the proyo, the flavors paired well together and I certainly felt a little melancholy when it was all gone. I was scraping at the sides of the bowl with my spoon!

But my favorite birthday freebie of the week was my free entree from Veggie Grill! I used it as an excuse to check out the latest location in Pasadena, one I had not paid a visit to until now!

 The front of VG, Pasadena----right across from Vitamin Shoppe in fact!!
The front of VG, Pasadena—-right across from Vitamin Shoppe in fact!!

Dad was in town for the weekend, and so I had a great time sharing the meal with him. We did have to take some time to glance over the menu of course, as usual.

 Summer menu & summer signage.
Summer menu & summer signage.
 A spacious interior with nice lighting. We found a table by the window which meant more light...obviouly great for picture-taking!
A spacious interior with nice lighting. We found a table by the window which meant more light…obviouly great for picture-taking!

There was a good turnout that evening, but despite it being busy, our food came out very quickly. I decided to finally try the VG-Cheeseburger, which was a good ol’ veggie burger with a beautifully melted slice of cheese on top of the patty. Three pickle slices were carefully placed on top, so I couldn’t pull a Bubble Bass and complain that they “forgot the pickles!!!” (<—Spongebob, anyone?)

 VG-Cheeseburger with a side of steamed kale.
VG-Cheeseburger with a side of steamed kale.

My Dad got one of the bowls, along with crispy cauliflower for us to share. I remember first trying it back when it was a promo item, but this time the sauce is served alongside the cauliflower, and now it’s up to you whether you want it glazed or not.

 Crispy Cauliflower: the vegetarian and vegan answer to popcorn chicken...
Crispy Cauliflower: the vegetarian and vegan answer to popcorn chicken…

So I definitely got my birthday’s worth in freebies, and once the weekend rolled around, I had a blast visiting even more new places and trying new foods with my Dad while he was here—more details to come!

And while the next item wasn’t exactly a freebie, I didn’t care because I thought I would never find it in the first place…

 PEANUT BUTTER Half Baked!
PEANUT BUTTER Half Baked!

I found this limited edition guy in Haggen of all places! Along with other elusive flavors I thought I would not be able to find in my neck of the woods…it must have been that extra dose of birthday luck sticking around 🙂

 Chocolate + PB ice creams---but I had to go digging for those brownie pieces and peanut butter 'gobs'.
Chocolate + PB ice creams—but I had to go digging for those brownie pieces and peanut butter ‘gobs’.

This flavor was amazing, and was a birthday surprise itself! There were so many peanut butter gobs, but not enough cookie dough pieces. In fact, I’m not sure if I even found any in the end 😛 !

What are your favorite restaurant/store birthday freebies?

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Charmed by Veggies

Charmed by Veggies

So even though I almost fell into a sugar coma on Sunday, I survived and managed to eat a little bit more “wholesome” in the days following (but I do think treating yourself to oreo pancakes once in a while is indeed part of a balanced and wholesome lifestyle 😉 ).

After spending a few days with my Dad early last month, I didn’t think I’d see him again until my upcoming weekend trip to Nor Cal, but his job changed things up so that he was able to be in town again sooner—even if only for two days!

I met him after I was finished with my data analysis for the day in lab, and we were both feeling pretty beat from the day’s events. It was a mostly silent car ride due to us being so tired, but since we were on our way to dinner, we knew we’d both be in better, more energetic moods once out of traffic and when food was in our bellies.

Not having truly explored South Pasadena to its extent, I suggested we check out Charm Vegan there since our hotel was close by.

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We came in around 6PM, and were greeted by a friendly hostess who immediately handed us menus.

charm vegan

I was used to seeing the similar asian/vegan-fusion options, and worked harder to find the “unique” dish from the many choices listed.

charm vegan interior

To start off with, we had two avocado rolls wrapped with rice paper and stuffed with guac, green leaves, lettuce, and carrots.

My Dad ended up sticking with something tried and true (even though he was the one who suggested I find “something different” off the menu). ‘Pumpkin, Eggplant and Tofu’ is a trusty choice for a reason—-when you’ve got sauteed eggplant, pumpkin, and tofu smothered in garlic chili sauce, paired with some rice on the side, how can you go wrong 😉 ?

fooooood

I did end up picking something different as my entree choice, looking at the Chef’s Specials for some guidance. I got the Sizzling Spare Ribs, made with soy protein and sauteed in a black bean sauce with onion, bell peppers, and carrots.

Since we ate family-style, my portions were quite the mix:

portioning it out

We were able to have a better conversation during dinner (when we weren’t stuffing our faces) and our energy levels were soon back up again. When we were about to leave after receiving our check, the hostess asked how we found out about their restaurant. My Dad just pointed to me, and I ended up saying “oh, online…”. The awkward moments of a foodie blogger 😛

At the hotel, we found more time to relax and recharge, and with my Dad’s help, I finally got my new phone to work! I “celebrated” with a pint of cookie dough Arctic Zero, and after showering, called it a day and went to sleep knowing that the next day would be another productive and exhausting one. 

The next day was a bit rushed all-around—I ended up starting in lab an hour later than usual, and didn’t finish my duties until late afternoon. I met my Dad again near campus, and we made our way to Sprouts so that I could pick up some produce for the rest of my week. We then parked at a Pavillions parking lot, where my Dad took a nap and I found a new-to-me pint to try and hold me over until dinner.

halo top vanilla bean

I couldn’t wait to dig in, and so since I was eating it in the parking lot, an older guy who was parked next to us and unloading groceries noticed my frozen treat and commented with a “that looks good!”. At least I wasn’t in the middle of taking a picture, but still…so awkward 😛 !

But to be fair, the guy was right because this Vanilla Bean flavor of Halo Top Creamery’s ice cream pints was insanely delicious. And with 24 grams of protein in the entire pint, I’d say it was an appropriate dessert snack to consume before dinner. 

For dinner, we headed over to Veggie Grill since it was the last day to try their spring specials (at least according to an email I received). The one in Westwood was close by, but not in terms of traffic…

Even though it was only six miles away at the time, that doesn’t mean anything in LA during rush hour. We still went through with our dinner plans though, even though my Dad was now in a time crunch to make his flight!

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The inside looked relatively smaller compared to other Veggie Grills I’ve visited, but it made sense since it was nestled in a college-busy villa.

veggie grill westwood

I knew what to order right away, and asked for the banh mi salad at the counter. My Dad was pre-occupied with trying to figure out how to get to the airport on time, but his quick decision to get the bombay bowl was still a good one.

The wait seemed longer than usual due to the anxiety my Dad was feeling, but our dishes came within a time frame that allowed us to still dine in.

My banh mi salad was a beautiful mix of vegetables that included chargrilled eggplants, carrots, cabbage, jalapenos, and kale—topped with crispy cubes of organic tofu.

banh mih salad

I am a veggie lover for life, but the tofu pieces truly won me over this time around.

The Bombay Bowl my Dad took anxious bites out of was chock full of colorful herb-roasted veggies—something they left out when I first tried it a year ago. It was a shame that he couldn’t finish it due to time 🙁

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In the end, he made his flight, and I didn’t have to take public transit home in order for him to do so. We also didn’t have to part with a goodbye since we would be seeing each other again soon enough—within days as a matter of fact 😉

Do you find it hard to eat when you’re anxious/stressed, or does it make you hungrier?

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LA (+ Friends) Part 3

LA (+ Friends) Part 3

On the third day I had company, I made plans for us to visit the Santa Monica Pier together, as well as stop by the Hammer Museum. The museum plans never came to fruition, since everyone got up late (with the exception of me, miss early bird!), but we did make it out to the pier…after the bus ride that seemed to take longer than usual!

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Santa Monica Pier…in December!!

It was warmer during the day compared to the previous few days of my friends’ stay. We took pictures on the boardwalk, and sat down for a coffee break while Friend #1 and brother got burgers and fries for lunch. I got an iced Americano from The Coffee Bean nearby, and after taking one sip, immediately poured in some sweetner to mask the bitterness!

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Iced Americano from Coffee Bean –> not bad, after adding sweetener!

We chatted and people-watched: both of which are fun activities to do with friends 😉 . Confident seagulls stood on guard on top of umbrellas, while pigeons did much of their “ruling” on the boardwalk floor.

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Chillin’ at SM Pier. Seagulls rule.

We decided to leave soon after our short break since it was actually getting hotter, and taking a ride on the ferris wheel didn’t seem like such a fun idea after learning about the $6/person price.

Instead, we walked over to the Promenade (which I have come to know well…), so that Friend #2 could finally finish her list of christmas shopping for others.

Time seemed to be going by so slowly though, and we were all counting down the hours until we could finally have dinner at Veggie Grill! I promised everyone we would go there for the day, and so we now had to find ways to kill time 😉 . The museum idea was scrapped after we spent a little too much time than planned at the mall, and so once 2pm struck, we decided to just stick around until it was a more decent time to head on out to dinner. This meant more walking, sitting, standing, and selfie-taking 😛

Around 4:30pm, we took a bus to get closer to Veggie Grill on Wilshire. This saved us some time, and also gave us a chance to rest our feet from walking for another 30-40 minutes. At the stop we were dropped off at, we only had to walk one block to reach the restaurant.

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Veggie Grill, on Wilshire 🙂

I let everyone know that dinner was on me 😀 . The free entree with the purchase of a $30 giftcard promo helped me in that regard 😉

inside_veggie_grill
One of the smaller VG locations.

Friend #2 and I got the all-new Sonoran Winter Bowl. I was excited to try the myriad of textures and flavors in this dish—especially the fire-roasted carrots. We both agreed that the spiciness from the sauce and jalapenos cleared our sinuses!

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The ALL NEW Sonoran Winter Bowl –> this bowl of beauty had spiced and fire-roasted carrots, seasoned black beans, avocado chunks, tomato corn salsa, jalapeños, tortilla strips, roasted red pepper sauce (so hot btw) all of which was stacked on quinoa pilaf with dried grapes & almonds!!

The rest of the group got the burger/sandwich and fries kind of fare, which were nothing short of tasty!

food!
Other food at the table. Friend #2 got the Sonoran Winter Bowl, like me 🙂

Once our meals were eaten, we had another adventure getting back home courtesy of public transit. We were supposed to transfer over to a bus that stops at the corner of my apartment, but when that bus completely passed our stop—right in front of us—we actually had to transfer back to the first bus, and then use the rail to get home! So even though getting home took longer than planned, we still made a fun time out of it. There was a guy on the rail jammin’ it out (and then soliciting tips afterwards, haha), and then when my sister learned that she got straight A’s for the semester (after she deliberately avoided checking her grades online for days…), we made a huge scene congratulating her for it.

The next day mainly involved packing, cleaning up the apartment (Swifer time!), and making the drive back up north to spend some time with our respective families. We got back around 6pm, and even though I had a great time with my best friends in the city, I was glad to be able to fully relax in my childhood home and completely de-stress…if only for a week and a half!!

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Highlights From Last Week

Highlights From Last Week

A yogurt investment:  I haven’t been buying yogurt as much as I have wanted to since moving to LA, only because I cannot justify buying a single cup for more than $1.00. I’ve already been spoiled by Grocery Outlet and NorCal 99 Cent stores (still need to check out SoCal’s offering in these stores though…), and I know how low “they” can go when it comes to Chobani. So when I see places like Fresh and Easy sell these measly cups for $1.69, I can’t help but leave the store in frustration!

But being about four weeks in, and having not made a “real” purchase of yogurt stock for the week, I decided to just do it while browsing through a City Target during the week. I think the fact that this watermelon flavor was limited edition was what broke the straw for me…

Watermelon Chobani...Mmmm

Do I regret paying $1.19 for this? Not really…since I did have a 10% off my entire purchase coupon, I was able to justify the couple of extra cents. Flavor-wise, I found it to have that spicy/bubblegum flavor upon the first taste. My conundrum of the week—can sweet yogurt be spicy??

Fastest mile in a while:  So on the fitness-front, there is something in the works that I am excited/nervous/unsure about, but plan to share if all systems are go. For now, I will say that I find running groups to be awesome when it comes to my pace. I was able to run with a local group on Wednesday evening, and even though it was a quick two-miler, I happened to run my fastest mile to-date at 8:19/mi! It was a fantastic perk for getting myself to go outside after a long day of classes—and to just run.

fastestmile2date!

I hope that as the weather cools down, the struggles I have had to endure while running in the heat will be all worth it. Especially with the two long races I have next month (a 10 miler and a half)!!

Pet therapy : The most random, but cutest thing, to happen on one of the days I was on campus for classes. After our lunch break, my study group and I learned that an organization that trains therapy dogs was on campus with three labs and allowed people to pet them. I wasn’t able to get a picture of the happiest of the three—a golden lab who was all smiles, but this black lab named Harley was just as precious. He even had his own “trading card” (what the lady is holding in the picture), haha. 

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Foodie-mood Friday: Most of my Fridays so far have been chill and low-key, but today felt just as busy as my class days. Probably because I had to go to campus later in the day for a department open house. In the morning, I had a meeting with another potential lab rotation mentor, and fueled up the only proper way there is—with two Quest bars and a warm cup of milk chai tea. Had a simple plate of veggies for dinner, but a delicious dessert/snack was the food-related highlight of the day…

breakfast&dinnerfuuuuuhriday

…these JJ’s Sweets Cocomels in Sea Salt were absolutely, melt-in-your-mouth delicious! I’m a fan of chewy things like caramels, toffees, and gummies, so when I find vegetarian/vegan-friendly versions, I am quick to buy them, or at least let the idea of an impulse purchase simmer in my mind for a bit…if I don’t give in the first time I see such an item, I will the next time! 

Which is exactly what happened with these coconut milk caramels 🙂 

JJ's Sweets Cocomels

Coupon distractions: My restaurant plans for Saturday took a complete turn when I received a coupon for a free dish of crispy cauliflower from Veggie Grill…that expired on Sunday. I used it as an excuse to check out one out of the two VG establishments on Sunset. And since I managed to run 9 miles that morning despite almost backing out completely from running for the day, I decided free, fried, and orange-glazed cauliflower would be a fun way to treat myself 😉

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This location was spacious and cozy, and I guess the (finally) cloudy skies that appeared in LA deterred away the expected crowds? I’m not sure, but I liked the extra room for myself and for picture-taking!

vg-6374 sunset (1)

vg-6374 sunset (2)

To accompany my crispy cauliflower I ordered the Thai Tempeh entree salad (instead of the chik’n). The cashier at first didn’t know what I was talking about, but then he realized I was asking for their “gluten-free option”. Um, I just wanted tempeh instead, but it’s gluten-free? Okay, that’s cool…

I found a seat at an elevated table in the middle of the restaurant, and my dishes came out pretty quickly. My crispy cauliflower had about seven florets with panko bread crumbs, fried, and coated with a sweet-and-spicy orange glaze. The spring onion and sesame seeds added some eye-popping pizzazz 🙂

Crispy Cauliflower - sweet and spicy orange glaze florets with panko breading
Crispy Cauliflower – sweet and spicy orange-glazed florets with panko breading.

A lot of the glaze sunk to the bottom of the cup, but I thought each floret had a fair amount of breading/glaze. Some of the florets could have been cooked a bit longer though, in my opinion. We want crispy— not crunchy, right?

My salad was alright as well. The tempeh seemed a little bland, but when eaten with a huge chunk of veggies and an orange slice, there was plenty of flavor to go around. Like most big-bowl salads I’ve eaten in the past, this one took me a while to finish but this—along with the cauliflower—definitely hit the spot. 

Thai Tempeh
Thai Tempeh salad – romaine, cabbage, corn salsa, green onion, mandarin oranges, sesame seeds, cilantro, quinoa, spicy Thai dressing

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What were some of your highlights from last week?

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