JL’s 2017 Favorites

It’s the end of the year, everyone, and that means end of the year lists! For my list, I’ll do a mishmash of media, food, and events that I’ve enjoyed this past year. So let’s get into it! Here are my top five favorite foods, songs, discoveries, and miscellaneous for 2017.

Favorite Foods/Drinks

  1. Starbucks Peach Citrus Infused Iced Tea: As I talked about in my review earlier this year, it’s a very refreshing drink
  2. Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars: I know Halo Top is the cool kid on the block, but I much prefer these amazing frozen yogurt bars to satisfy my sweet tooth.
  3. Cranberry and Almond Japanese Kit-Kat: The more of these Japanese Kit-Kats that I have, the more I think we Americans are getting ripped off of having good candy (Hershey is in charge of Kit-Kats in America whereas Nestle is the owner.)
  4. Sawdust Pie: Up until this year, I’ve never heard of this cool pie with coconut and banana and I can’t believe it took me this long. After getting a slice from a local cafe, I’m totally hooked and can’t wait to try and make it at home!
  5. Fried Tomato Sandwich: If you’re looking for vegetarian options, I definitely recommend this sandwich from Punch Bowl Social.

Favorite Songs

  1. “Heaven” by Shinhwa: A great breakup song to get you into your feelings and a great showcase of Kim Dong Wan’s vocal talents.
  2. “Move” by TAEMIN: If I could use one word to describe this song it would be sensual. It’s the kind of song that gets me up and dancing in no time. Plus, the 3rd version of the music video is superb.
  3. “Charger” by Gorillaz feat. Grace Jones: While short on lyrics, the beats and Jones’ super cool voice creates a great song for those long car drives.
  4. “I’m Better” by Missy Elliott feat. Lamb: Missy continues to be one of the best in the music game. And the aesthetics of this music video makes me want to visit the future that she comes from.
  5. “Super Power” by Shinhwa: Still not sure why this song wasn’t one of the singles instead of Touch (which I enjoy as well). Either way, this song goes hard and features some of the best rapping I’ve heard from the group.

Runner Ups: “Smile” by Sechskies, “The Best Present” by Rain, “The Gate” by Bjork, “Icon” by Jaden Smith

Best Discoveries

  1. Shinhwa: This year saw the expansion of Kpop songs and groups in my Spotify and no group has taken up most of it than the legendary boy band, Shinhwa. With great hits, great music videos, and great personas, these six men are now one of my favorite acts and one of my favorite discoveries this year.
  2. Candy Raptor: This small, yet inviting restaurant in San Marcos, TX was a great find. Their vegan burger was very excellent and their homemade soda was topnotch.
  3. ProPublica: With cries of “fake news” it’s good to find some great organizations doing some great work.
  4. Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers: Look, sometimes you’re feeling a bit lazy and you just want to pop in a veggie burger in your toaster oven. So far, these are the best frozen veggie burgers I’ve had (and for roughly $4 for 4 patties they better be!) with my favorite being the super greens. Would definitely recommend trying these out.
  5. Tous Les Jours: Oh man, this bakery is the bee’s knees! I went with my friend as part of her birthday celebration and they have some of the best baked goods. You can see one of the baked goods I got at the top.

Runner Ups: Sechskies, TVXQ!

Other Things I’ve Enjoyed

  1. Queen Sugar Season 2: The show didn’t suffer from the sophomore slump as it goes deeper into not only our three main characters, but our supporting characters. I can’t wait for season 3!
  2. Neo Yokio: I’m still not sure if I like this show or not. One thing that’s for sure is that it stuck with me as I tried to figure out what was going on in the minds of the creators.
  3. Power Rangers 2017 reboot: I’ve already made a post discussing why it succeeded, but I want to reiterate that this was a great reboot of the franchise. While a sequel seems out of reach, I’m glad this movie exists.
  4. Lady Gaga: Five Foot 2: I’ll admit, it took me two times to finish the movie. Not because it was bad, but because it was struck a nerve deep inside me concerning success, family, and trying to cope with forces outside of your control.
  5. Samurai Jack: I hesitated to put this show on here because it faltered severely towards the end. That said, it was still a great way to end the show and the adventures of our main character with great animation and voice acting.

Runner Ups: Alice in Paris, Quinta Vs. Everything, Lindsay Ellis’ Video Essays,

Advertisements

JL Updates

This will be a short post as I’m just discussing my future plans for this blog.

  • Yes, I will still maintain at least a post a month.
  • I’m going to add more media-related posts
  • Be on the lookout for my analysis of how Rita and Zordon symbolize teenage anxieties in the Power Rangers reboot
  • Also be on the lookout for my favorite treats that I had in 2017

Life’s been pretty busy for me, but I wanted to let y’all know this blog will still keep on going!

Foodie Friday: Cookie Butter Flavored Oreo (Quick Review)

Y’all, it’s October and it’s that time of the year where sweets are everywhere! One new sweet from Oreo cookies is Cookie Butter Flavored Oreos.

Now, cookie butter is one of those spreads that was just meant to be a taste test and has ended up with me (and my mom) keeping a jar in our respective pantries (which reminds me, my jar is starting to run low…). So of course, I definitely needed to try this new Oreo. And when you compare it to other flavors they’ve offered in the past, it seems downright normal (sherbet, seriously?) and a pretty good idea for a flavor.

So what did I think of it? Ultimately, it was okay.

The execution was much better than Ben & Jerry’s attempt at incorporating cookie butter into their ice cream. For one, the flavors are very simple: a graham cracker cookie with a cookie butter spread. You could do this yourself at home and get the same results, minus the weird grainy texture found in the Oreo.

Of course, that’s the main problem with this cookie. Yes, we can all make homemade Oreo-like cookies at home, but they can be time consuming and sometimes you just want a cookie now and they don’t sell the cream filling in a jar (that I know of). This cookie, however, can be easily replicated and the upside is you still use the graham crackers and cookie butter for other things besides smushing them together in a sandwich.

One thing I appreciate was that it wasn’t super sweet. Despite its name, cookie butter itself is actually pretty tame in its sweetness, thanks to using the speculoos cookie as the base. I’m glad Oreo realized that and didn’t try to add more sugar than was necessary.

I don’t think this cookie will be a crowd favorite like the birthday cake flavor or the red velvet flavored (seriously, why are those good??) Oreo cookies, but it’s definitely not a bad flavor.

 

 

Foodie Friday: Chicken Enchiladas Poblano

I’m going to be real with y’all. The only reason I picked this up was because there was a coupon at my grocery store for $1.50 off. For me, spending $4 for a single frozen dinner is a bit much and I normally would pass over this company. But for $2.50? I’ll give it a go.

One thing that made me pick this item up besides the sale was the nutrition*. The sodium level wasn’t the worse in comparison to other frozen dinners (I saw one dinner that had around 800 mg of sodium!) and the saturated fat wasn’t as high as I thought it would be for this dish. Plus, I was interested in having a certified halal meal.

Enchilada Box side

So what about the taste? Pretty good. It reminds me of Amy’s Kitchen frozen food selection which also touts the same message of natural food. Starting with the sides, the black beans nothing to write about. They tasted like they were popped right out of the can. Nothing wrong with canned beans, but I was hoping for a bit more flavor. Maybe the flavor went to the rice which had a buttery taste with a nice amount of garlic seasoning. It did taste a tad undercooked, but that could have been my microwave.

As for the main dish, the enchiladas are a definite winner. Despite having poblano chile sauce, the dish wasn’t too spicy. More like a hint though sometimes I got bites of something spicier. If you like cheese, you’ll definitely like this one as they didn’t skimp on the cheese. The spinach seemed to be creamy in texture, though that could be due to the sauce and the cheese, that mixed with shredded chicken created a very smooth texture. I would recommend eating the beans with the enchilada so that you won’t be eating bland beans.

And if you’re wondering if there’s a difference in it being halal, I honestly didn’t taste any difference. If you want to understand what halal is, you can read more here.

One potential con for some folks is the price. Like I said earlier, this meal is usually around $4, but I got it for around 2.50 with a coupon. It’s also not the quickest frozen meal. Overall, it took me 7 minutes from start to finish (and that’s not including the time you wait for it to cool off). Not the cheapest frozen dinner out there, but it’s on par with the prices at some fast food places and you’re probably getting less saturated fat and sodium.

Overall, I give it a 3.5/5 and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a halal meal.

*I am not a nutritionist. Please consult a professional about whether this dish would actually fit in with your diet. I’m going off what I’ve read.

Foodie Friday: Return of the O

After a decade and a slew of different flavored cookies (by the way the red velvet ones are great), Oreos are now back in cereal form with Oreo O’s. This time in a box the size of two family size cereal boxes. For those of y’all who were too young or weren’t even born, Oreo O’s was a cereal that launched in 1998 (I’ve seen 1997 on Wikipedia) as a joint product between Post Cereals and Kraft Foods with Post having the recipe and Kraft having the rights to the name. It was discontinued in 2007 everywhere except South Korea (I was tempted to try and order some through Amazon) due to Kraft selling Post off to Ralcorp Holdings and thus losing the rights to the recipe of the cereal and Post not having the copyright of the name.

oreo os1

But on June 23, 2017, Post released the cereal exclusively to Wal-Mart for three months. According to AdAge, the big retailer was the one who pushed for Oreo O’s to make a comeback after noticing high sales in what they considered “indulgent” cereals. If you’re wondering what in the world that means, they’re referring to cereals that aren’t the most nutritious, but are sweet and delicious (think about the time they offered a marshmallow-only box of Lucky Charms). Remember folks, it’s not that us Millennials aren’t eating cereal, we just prefer it as a snack than our breakfast.

For me, Oreo O’s is a more nostalgic cereal of the time when my dad was an active military member and we would have to eat at hotels in between moves. I still remember pouring a bowl into the plastic bowls we used while traveling while watching Saturday morning television next to my brother in our hotel room. It was only natural that I did a review on the product that is said to be “better than ever”.

I don’t know if I can say it’s better than ever, but it’s certainly still good.

 

First thing, this is not a healthy cereal and frankly, I don’t need it to be a healthy cereal. This is a cereal you eat for dessert because you want something that’s both sweet, yet quick and easy, it’s cheat day, or maybe you’re just not in a great mood.  It’s just as sweet as a regular Oreo cookie that you can eat with or without milk. It’s also great for those who like the cookies, but hate the creme in the middle (yes, there are folks who don’t like the creme. I’m related to one of them).

My only complaint is that the box is so huge. I’m guessing they’re trying to gauge the popularity of the cereal, but a smaller 12oz box would have sufficed. (Lord knows I’m not about to eat that cereal every morning!) I suppose if you like to make simple baked goods, you could try to make some cereal bars with the cereal or use it as a pie crust.

Overall, I give it a 4.5/5 and definitely recommend giving it a shot despite the size of the box. I’m pretty sure the cereal isn’t going to expire too quickly.

Sources:

Foodie Friday: Starbucks Iced Tea Infusions

[This is not a sponsored post.]

For those not in the know, I love tea. From the sugared-up Southern style iced tea to the humble hot peppermint tea, I always make it a point to have at least one cup each day. So of course I decided to try Starbucks new products, the Iced Tea Infusion. These teas are infused with fruits and are advertised as not using any artificial flavors or sweeteners. Currently, they have peach citrus infused white tea, strawberry infused green tea, and pineapple infused black tea. You can also get them with lemonade.

So far I’ve only had the peach white tea (which I got for free during their promotion a few weeks back) and strawberry green tea because at $3.25 (without taxes) for a grande, it’s not a justifiable daily expense when you can buy a box of around 20 sachets for the same price. Still, fruit infused tea sounded nice and I haven’t quite figured out how to replicate it myself.

First, things first, I want to note that I didn’t get either of the teas sweetened (which would put the tea at 11 grams of sugar for a grande size). With that out of the way, let’s talk about the peach infused tea.

Of the two teas, this one is currently in the running as my favorite. I’m a huge fan of peach flavored teas and this tea did not disappoint me. The peach was strong enough to remind that yes, this is a peach tea, but isn’t as overpowering as artificial peach flavoring can be (by the way I’m not opposed to artificial flavoring). Pairing it with white tea was a good call as white tea is a lighter flavor than green and black teas. I will admit, I couldn’t taste the citrus in the tea. It could be that the peach was an overpowering flavor. I wasn’t bothered by it and the idea of citrus and peach doesn’t seem like it would yield a pleasant taste. Overall, I give it a 4/5.

Next is the strawberry infused green tea and boy howdy, does it live up to first part of its name! Even the foam at the top tasted like strawberries! Personally, I’m glad I didn’t sweeten this drink because the strawberries provided a good amount of sweetness. It also tasted refreshing and it may be due to the real strawberries used.

One thing that surprised me was how the green tea didn’t stand out. While green tea is certainly more milder than matcha, it’s still has a distinct taste. Maybe the strawberries were too strong for it. I personally would have paired it with a black tea, but I actually like the taste of black tea. Overall, I give it a 4/5.

20170726_133848

I would definitely recommend trying these teas at least once, especially if you’re not the biggest tea drinker. It’s refreshing and a great way to cool off this summer.

Take Me to the Greek!: Review of Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt Bars

[Note: This is not a sponsored post.]

It’s hot in Texas, y’all. Too hot. Hot enough that I almost said something that might have turned my blog less than family-friendly.

And with the heat comes frozen treats and this week I’m reviewing one of those “guilt-free” frozen desserts, but this time it’s Greek yogurt (remember when that was super trendy?)  I’ve done a review of Halo Top ice cream and it only makes sense to continue the trend. The thing is, these treats are so much pricier compared to your Blue Bell and Store brands! If it wasn’t for a gift card, I may have never tried out them out.

 

First things first, look at the back of this box. From my own observations, a lot of alternatives to food products such as ice cream, meat, and milk have been using this kind of marketing. They want you the consumer to know that hey, you can have your just desserts and still stay on your plan (which is one reason why I bought them). The temptation to wonder if this was BS was pretty high but one look at the nutrition facts made me reconsider. As you can see, it’s very low on saturated fat (a fat I try to be aware of) and sodium. The amount of sugar is reasonable when you take into account that the average amount of sugar recommended by the FDA based on a 2000 calorie diet is 50 grams of sugar.* There’s also a decent amount of protein if you’re into that.

So it’s relatively healthy**, but how does it taste? Good news: it tastes great. It’s sweet enough that it feels like you’re eating dessert, but not so sweet that you feel like you need to run two miles after eating it. It’s creamy with a nice bit of tartness from the yogurt. The cookie bites are a bit tinier compared to most cookies & cream treats, but they still taste great and there’s enough of them in each bar. If you like frozen cookies & cream yogurt, you’ll definitely like this flavor.

One problem is the cost. The box I bought was around $4.00 USD and you get four bars that are roughly the size of my palm(3.5″ X 3″). That means you’re spending roughly $1 per bar and for this size, it may not be worth it. The costs are balanced out by being relatively healthy while still delicious. Personally, I’ll probably try one of their other flavors (already have my eye on the coffee chocolate chip) since I was satisfied with the cookies & cream. Plus, I’m a single person so I can spread out my frozen yogurt bars over a month or so.

Yasso6Yasso1

Overall, I give this product a 4/5. Despite its costs, it lives up to its hype of being a healthy(ish) dessert that works great for those watching waistlines while not sacrificing dessert altogether.

*Note: Other sources have a lower number. The World Health Organization suggested that people limit their daily sugar intake to 25 grams.

**Note: I am not a registered dietician. Please see your doctor or dietician regarding whether or not you should include this product in your diet or not.

Foodie Friday: [Insert Witty Title Referencing BIGBANG]

Another day, another trip to the Asian Market to try out some new stuff. This time I tried a Chapai Peach Oolong Tea that featured T.O.P., a member of the Korean Pop boy band, BIGBANG. Other bottles featured the other members, but ultimately decided on this bottle because I dig this dude’s pink hair.

20170603_154731

As for the taste, it was definitely sweeter than I expected. On the back of the bottle it said it had 0 grams of sugar and no added sugar. Yes one of the ingredients is high fructose corn syrup and had 8 grams of carbohydrates. I’m assuming that whoever added the label made the mistake.

20170603_154738

The Label on the Tea

Still, despite the sweetness, it was a great tasting tea. I’m a sucker for teas with peach flavor and it didn’t disappoint me. It’s light and quite refreshing if you serve it chilled. Perfect for this hot weather we’re having now in Texas.

If you want to take it to a whole another level, add sparkling water. You too can feel bougie as you sip on some sparkling peach flavored oolong tea with a boyband member on the bottle.

I’m Still Here

I am here, more present in the world as I walk on the path of adulthood. To anyone following me under the age of 25, I can say for sure that you don’t truly become an adult until your mid-20s. Yes, you’re legally an adult at 18, but your mind hasn’t quite caught up yet. For me, when I hit 25 it was like a light switch was flipped inside my mind and the things I found tolerable in my youth became intolerable and I began to see the nuance in the world.

I’m still here. Still looking like I just graduated out of high school even though I’ve been out for almost a decade. My hair is still curly since my fateful big chop. My weight has changed as I worked out and strive to eat better so I see what my great-aunt saw in her 90s.

I’m just here. It’s a phrase that’s become a bit of a catchphrase for me when faced with an awkward situation. It may sound passive, but I believe the phrase to be one of action. To say I am here is to say I am aware, I am present, and I am ready to do the work.

Readers, J.L. is here and is still exploring the world around her. I am here and will continue to be here for as long as God needs me to be here.

“Together We are More”: How Power Rangers Stayed True to Its Roots

[There will be some spoilers]

It’s been a month since I saw the Power Rangers movie bright and early on the Saturday of its opening weekend and I still can’t believe my childhood favorite was a good time. The most surprising thing is that the film stayed true to its roots. Mainly that teamwork, friendship, and optimism is what’s needed to face the world.

It would have been so easy for the movie to embrace the cynicism of the world and have the team crack sarcastic quips about one another and spout out the ridiculousness of the intellectual property that the movie was based on. And yet, it avoided all of it. The movie decided to be genuine, something that seems impossible in our age of crafting near-perfect online personas, and instead asks and answers an important question: Can friendship and optimism still exist in this world?

The answer is a resounding yes as we see a group of teenagers that, as Kim describes, are a bunch of screw-ups. Yet here they are coming together as symbolized by their morph and the eventual formation of the megazord (by the way, I love that moment). It works even better when contrasted with what we’ve seen of the former team. Zordon, the former red ranger, is a cynical old guy who believes he is right and doesn’t care about this new team. Rita, the former green ranger, is a great example of when people decide to choose selfishness and power over the greater good and their team. Both ultimately couldn’t accomplish what they wanted because they cling to cynicism and forgoing any thought of others. Zordon becomes a greater help when he finally releases of his cynicism and lets Billy have the chance to live.

While I don’t believe it was their intent, the timeliness of this movie’s release couldn’t be any more perfect as we all grapple with what’s going on in the world. We have to ask ourselves, do we become Rita and only go for power? Do we become Zordon and believe only we are right? Or do we become Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Zack, and Trini and come together despite our differences?