Hello, Goodbye

August 24, 2010 § 17 Comments

It seems like it was merely a week ago when I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, ready for my summer to start, excited to be home.

Now, three and a half weeks later (was it really that long already?), I must depart my home country once again.

Hello. Goodbye.

Though I’ve returned and left this country five times before, the leaving is always as hard as the last. It just doesn’t get easier.

I have to leave my family…

…friends…

…the food (yes! the food!)…

…the tiny roads and congested traffic…

…the super-duper easy mass transportation…

MRT (mass rapid transit)

…night markets…

…abundance of fruits…

…and HOME.

So what did I do on my last (full) day in Taiwan? A good meal, a good (sweaty) walk, shopping, and karaoke.

A few of my friends, all of whom I knew since elementary of middle school, and I met up for lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Sababa.

The place, tucked in a tiny alley at the corner of the street, was actually opened by one of the middle school teachers at our school. Ironically, this place has the best falafels I’ve had to date, here in Taiwan. I’ve never been to the Middle East, so I wouldn’t know how they compare to the real ones, but they are good!

While I usually get their falafel pita sandwich, I haven’t had hummus in awhile and all I wanted was to satiate my palate and stuff my belly with butt loads of hummus. So I got a hummus platter with a falafel and their homemade Arabian salsa. Perfect choice.

I got combo D which came with a choice of salad, a drink, and the meal of your choice.

Tomato-cucumber salad.

Cool & refreshing mint tea!

ANnnnnnndddd...the thing I've been waiting for! Served with WARM pita bread.

It doesn't look like much hummus from here, but believe me, there's a HUGE blob of hummus hidden beneath the falafel and the salsa.

My friends, concentrating hard on devouring the deliciousness of their pita sandwiches.

While we were eating, my friend S started talking about Trader Joe’s garlic naan and roasted red pepper hummus. She told me of a wonderful and blog-worthy combo? Toast a piece of garlic naan with a slice of munster cheese till melted, then dip or spread the naan with roasted red pepper hummus.

Meet S. She says "Hello! My name is NINJA."

Her face was in pure bliss when she was talking about it. Although I was already starting to feel full from my meal, I was salivating at the thought of that. Can’t. wait. to. try. that.

Afterwards, we drove over to Dansui to walk off our fully belly and browsed some shops.

Priceless expression.

You have no idea how much I wanted to bring this clock back to college with me! It’ll sure brighten up my stressful days. But alas, it was huge and heavy. Plus, the price kind of made me turn my head away. While we do have cheap stuff in Taiwan, handmade items are still expensive!

Here’s another cute clock:

There was a store that sold all kinds of candies and toys that used to be stars of our childhood.

Naturally, we got a bubble blower. Yes we’re 21, and yes we’re all living independently in college in the U.S. Yes we like bubbles.

The heat got the best of us. So S insisted that she wanted to get a baby-bottle iced milk tea.

Our big baby 🙂

S also couldn’t resist going into claw machine stores. That girl really has talent though!

She won a adorable little porcupine that was fuzzy and not spikey.

Tired, hot, and sweaty, we decided to stack ourselves into the car and make out way to the destination of our evening entertainment: karaoke.

In Taiwan, karaoke (more commonly referred to as KTV) is a popular activity that both old and young people enjoy. There are numerous places and branches of karaoke stores/companies across Taipei, most of them as big as motels.

We got a little room to ourselves, complete with soft leather couches, a touchscreen to browse and select songs, two microphones, a flat screen TV, 3 hours of singing, coupons for complementary buffet and all-you-can-eat salad bar and drinks. All this for about 10 bucks. I love Taiwan.

Time to brush up our dusty Mandarin!

We shamelessly sang Chinese mainstream songs that was popular 3-6, maybe even 10 years ago. It’s hard for us to catch up on the latest Chinese songs when we’re all halfway across the world most of the time! I bet people who were passing by our rooms thought we must be a bunch of moms and grandmas. :mrgreen:

By 11pm last night, it was time to say goodbye. I pretty much grew up with these ladies (and some others who did not come home to Taiwan this summer). Our bond is like water. Flexible, because we went our separate ways to college and met new friends. But Strong, because we can slip over and conquer any boulders or rocks that stand as obstacles in our ways. In the end, we always manage to stay together and goof around as if we were still in school together.

Today will be filled with packing, last minute shopping, and eating :D. Until December, Taiwan!

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+ Do you/did you/will you attend college far away from home?

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10 cheeses in DA HOUSE!

July 19, 2010 § 24 Comments

Any Bieber fans out here? If so, I got a little present for you:

Last night Dmitri followed a How to draw Justin Bieber tutorial online and put this on my bed as a “surprise.” Except that I wasn’t a Bieber fan. He did this just to provoke me because I’m more like a Bieber UN-Fever.

Along with this is also the ongoing case of Twilight. Dmitri had ask me 10 million times before and will ask me 10 million times more which “team” I was on.

Team Anti-Twilight. That’s my answer.

He, however, reacts differently. Dmitri reasons that Edward is Bella’s one true love, and he has been so loyal and protective of her. It’d be cruel and inhuman for Bella to turn against Edward and go for Jacob.

In the end, however, he went for Team Anti-Bella. After all, Bella was the cause of all this chaos. She was the sad, depressed girl that everyone wants, vampires or not.

+ Do you watch Twilight? Which team are you on, or would be?

Anyways, I don’t think anybody wants to listen to me talk about Bieber or Twilight forever! How about some In a Jiffy Curry Chickpea Burger?

I’ve been seeing this over and over again on Angela’s blog, and have been reading about her raves about them. It was time to give them a try on my own!

I followed her recipe to the tee, because last time that I tried making some variations on vegan burgers it was a total disaster. I wasn’t ready to risk it again.

I made these last night after dinner so that they’ll be ready for dinner today. All I did was reheat them in the oven! I love easy peasy dinners :-D. I served mine on a bed of arugula, some fresh beets (also roasted last night), feta, some olives, a blob of TJ’s cilantro hummus, and a drizzle of Walden Farm’s Raspberry Viniagrette.

This was my very first time having fresh beets! And oh my word I have been living in the dark when I thought canned beets were good enough. How very wrong I was! Fresh beets are 10000000000 times sweeter than canned ones. They were also very easy to make. Just wrap them up in aluminum foil as you would for baked potatoes, pop them in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for an hour, and you got your beets! When cooled, simply peel off the skin and enjoy! Never, ever again will I slip back to that darkness of canned beets.

During dinner with Dmitri, the conversation of cheese came up. After the cheese-or-no-cheese on pizza conversation from yesterday, I learned that a few of you are die-hard cheese fans. I love cheese, especially the soft creamy ones, like brie. But sometimes the excess oil and grease on restaurant pizzas are too much for my poor tummy! I do enjoy moderate amount of full-fat cheese from time to time though. Delicious with some crackers and a glass of wine, because I’m classy like that :-).

Dmitri and I listed out the types of cheese we have currently in our refrigerator:

  1. Mozzarella: bought this past weekend for pizza.
  2. Brie: Our all-time favorite.
  3. Gouda: Wanted to try some other cheese besides Brie two weekends ago, but realized we’re still Brie-fans.
  4. Shredded Sharp Cheddar: Bought when the boy made Taco Bake.
  5. Parmesan: Always good on pasta and whatnots right?
  6. Cottage cheese: I’m currently the only consumer.
  7. Laughing Cow Light Swiss: Again, guilty here.
  8. Soy cheese, American flavor: Got these a long time ago, but still good!
  9. String cheese: From Trader Joe’s. Hey they make the perfect on-the-go snacks!
  10. Feta: As pictured above.

Conclusion: I think the types of cheeses above outnumber the type of veggies we have currently in the house. Is that a good or bad thing?

Anyways, for my dessert today I made myself another watermelon shake. These things are soooo good for hot summer days!

Like my new nails? 😀

In other news, I ordered The Yoga Body Diet two days ago from Amazon after seeing it on Crystal’s blog. I’ve been meaning to get it but somehow I kept holding back. When I saw it again the other day, I just went for it. If I’ve seen it 6 times already and have been wanting to get it, this is totally a sign that that book and I are meant to be together. I got to use the 2-day Free shipping because I am now an Amazon Prime member! Amazon is currently giving out free Amazon Prime membership for students who have email addresses ending in .edu. So college students out there, what are you waiting for?

I thought the book would arrive Wednesday, but apparently it was too excited to come greet me. I gave it a very warming welcome when it came to me this afternoon.

My other yoga books were also very nice to this newbie in the collection. They embraced her like she was part of the family already.

Hopefully I’ll have time to dig into this book about doshas (or each person’s body constitutions, how one should eat, live, and exercise based on their doshas) in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be updating you guys on what I’ve learned!

It will have to be goodbye for now my friends. Some local band are holding a concert in a park near us featuring The Beatles covers. Yay parks, crowds, and music! 😀

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+ How many types of cheeses do you have in your fridge right now?

Pizza my heart!

July 18, 2010 § 18 Comments

It seems like everyone’s opting for Plan C with the bike riding. I like that idea too. However, we must take into account that Newport Beach is about 50 miles away from where I live. Dmitri have been doing alot of research all day today, looking up bike trails and roads to take. So I might be able to make it there on bike, but the question is, will I be able to make it back? It would totally be like a bike marathon or something like that.

So-Cal has officially entered summer. I cannot believe how hot it was today! I feel like I’ve been in some sort of semi-heat stroke the entire day–woozy, dizzy, heated, while downing H2O like nobody’s business.

The morning started out nice enough, about mid-80’s, when Dmitri and I headed out to TJ’s and Sprout’s for our weekly grocery run.

Guess what I found at Sprout’s?!?!?!??!

An 18-oz box of blueberries for $1.88!!! This was definitely a steal. I was screaming in excitement to Dmitri when I saw it: “Oh my gosh! A humongous box of blueberries for $1.88?!?! Do you know how rare this is? Look how plump they are!”

Dmitri didn’t answer, but only held out the basket. The end. I couldn’t resist. This week has been such a good week for me in terms of steals, from the $3 locally grown and organic plums to this Hugh Jass box of blueberries. Life is good.

We lounged by the pool for a little while after we got back. Well, it got too hot too soon. Not to mention it was almost noon with the blaring sun right above us. I refuse to get skin cancer!

Once back in our shadier and cooler sanctuary, we whipped up a pizzalicious lunch featuring TJ’s Garlic Herb Pizza Dough. Obviously, I failed at making my pizza “round,” but who said pizzas must be circular? Heck, I can make them heart-shaped for all I want. But again, that’d be too hard for me. 😛

I didn’t go the “traditional” pizza route, i.e., I didn’t do the whole cheese shebang. Instead, I used Mae’s humnut cheese. I’m not a big fan of the uber cheesy pizza, but I am a big fan of hummus! This was delicious!

I topped the pizza dough with TJ’s Pizza Sauce, the humnut cheese, some broc, eggplant, tomatoes and roasted red peppers.

Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps my breakfast was fillin’, but I only ate half of this long pizza. Oh well, leftovers are good 😀

The heat made both Dmitri and I very lazy and sluggish, and we ended up spending half of the afternoon just bumming around the house. Him watching Lost while I blogsurfed and watched one episode of Gossip Girl. We finally decided we couldn’t stay in the house forever, and braved ourselves to step out to the sweltering heat and into somewhere with AC.

Target. Barnes & Noble. Shoe Store (Dmitri needs ’em).

My family has a strange addiction to flavored-water drink powder. Okay, I confess I had one too! But I am trying to limit my intake as I know now that they’re nothing more than just chemicals, fake sugars, and artificial yucks. Nevertheless, while throwing in boxes after boxes of Crystal Light, Propel, and Target-brand drink powders into the basket, Dmitri and I couldn’t help but notice this enticing flavor.

Let’s just assume it somehow creeped into our basketful of Crystal Light too.

It certainly made me drink my water though! I am now well-hydrated 😀

Is this going to turn my tummy red?

It was a tad sweet, and tasted nothing like Strawberry Daiquiri. It’s still a nice way to slurp up ice cold water nonetheless.

We kept dinner simple, with the “main” course as this amaaaazzzinnnnnnggg salad.

I tossed together some sliced strawberries, spinach, arugula, toasted walnuts, toasted pine nuts, and feta cheese. In another bowl I mixed together about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup of olive oil, some salt & pepper, and an overflowing teaspoon of honey. I added the dressing to the salad and tossed tossed tossed.

Voila! Summery salad in minutes! I’m so glad that I made more than enough, because that means I’ll get to eat this again for lunch tomorrow! Yay for leftovers again!

Dmitri decided to go the pizza route again, but this time using toast as the “crust.” I stuck to roasted butternut squash, again leftovers from the other night.

I topped half with leftover arugula pesto and some parmesan cheese, and the other half with marinara and cottage cheese. Both halves were equally yummy!

So now, here we are again, another Sunday night. The dreaded night before the Monday. BUT! Last week of research for me!!! I’ll be at my Home Sweet Home in 1.5 weeks 🙂

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+ What are your favorite pizza toppings? Do you like cheese on top of your pizza?

Oh, Sundays

June 27, 2010 § 10 Comments

= baking + cooking day!

I love it when weekends are relaxing and actually feel like summer! Yesterday’s BBQ was a blast. Well technically it wasn’t a barbeque because we were served corn tortillas, spanish rice, black beans, refried beans, guacamole, salsa, chips, you know the fare. I didn’t feel comfortable whipping out my camera and obsessing over all the angles of the food there, so I didn’t have any pictures to show you. I had two small corn tortillas topped with rice, beans, cilantro, guacamole, green & red salsa, dollop of sour cream. So good! For dessert we had watermelons and homemade chocolate marbled bundt cake!

After a day’s rest yesterday, my body was ready get back and rock ‘n’ roll!!! Haha literally, ’cause I had the best run in a long time this morning! I finished 5 miles strong in about 47 min (best time yet!), and felt I still got energy for one or two miles.

I came home, took a shower, and recharged with this breakfast.

Wrapped some frozen banana chunks in a La Tortilla 100-calorie wrap, smeared with PB2 and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Microwaved till tortilla was warm. Then I decided to whip up some vanilla-scented yogurt to keep the little guy company (and for added protein of course :-D).

Oozing with goodness.

As always, running makes me hannnnngry. But I need to go to lab today to do some work, so I made a quick Green monster smoothie, but with a new twist!

See that beautiful green? It’s from avocado girlies! I added half an avocado to buff up the creaminess and for some healthy fats! That 24-oz tumbler you see is my new find from Bed Bath & Beyonnnnd yesterday. I’ve been meaning to get the Starbucks one, but those are kind of expensive. This one was $7.99!

Lab work –> TJ’s –> Sprout’s –> Home.

It was already 1pm by the time I got home from all the errands. I love simple but satisfying lunches, and I couldn’t think of a better one than an egg wrap!

This wrap totally rocked my day! I even took out my blender to whisk the 1 egg + 1 egg white so that it will be nice and fluffy when I cook it. Haha even Dmitri agreed that the eggs looked “pretty” when I was cooking them. Halfway through cooking the eggs, I threw in a handful of spinach and folded the eggs in half. I then layered the tortilla (La Tortilla 100-calorie wrap) with Laughing Cow Light Swiss, TJ’s spicy hummus, the eggs + spinach, some ketchup. On the last minute, Dmitri suggested I spread on some of his TJ’s Olive Tapenade. I concurred…hahaha. He’s learning to be creative too! 🙂

Eww okay this picture turned out gross and blurr. I love the green sandwiched between the white and beige though!

Lunch was served with some leftover slaw and green beans.

The afternoon was spent with some quality-napping, cooking,  baking, and lounging in the sun!

Sneak peak at what I baked today:

Recipe to come tomorrow! Stay tuned 😉

In other news, I decided to follow the blogworld trend and try out the raved and praised Jenna’s Lentil Walnut Loaf! I’ve been looking for the perfect lentil loaf recipe since…uh..since I can remember? It was love at first sight when I saw these circulating the bloggieworld this past week. It’s somewhat time-consuming, but the results are soooooo worth the effort!

After I dumped the loaf grubs into the loaf pan, I stopped working and accompanied Dmitri to the pool. Poor thing had been cooped up at home all afternoon while I was busy minding my own businesses. I thought I could be his play date for awhile :-D.

To the pool!

Who doesn’t love a warm sunny afternoon with a gentle breeze, the pool, a good book, and plain relaxation?

Dmitri found me a pretty flower! 🙂

It was 6:40pm already when we returned. I quickly made the glaze for the loaf and popped it into the oven. Grumble grumble tummy!

At last, the sweet-smelling loaf was ready for some serious devouring!

Hmm…the results were kind of crumbly, not because it was too dry, but it was actually kind of wet. Perhaps letting the mixture sit in the loaf pan while we were at the pool wasn’t a good idea. Those onions can sure leak!

It was yummy nevertheless. I had a mini 2nd serving for myself, and there’s still some for lunch tomorrow! Nom nom nom.

A night isn’t a night without some sweet endings.

I blended some frozen bananas and frozen strawberries with a splash of soymilk to make this Strawberry-Banana softserve. I then topped this creamy deliciousness with some nonfat plain yogurt, PB2 (yes I eat them just straight up sometimes), Nature’s Path Flax Plus Red Berry Crunch, and lastly some of April’s addicting protein brownie batter! This was so good and made me so full!
What I baked today is supposed to sit in the fridge overnight for the optimal flavor, but that didn’t stop Dmitri and I from sampling a small piece. I got four words for you:

Creamy, smooth, spongey, tangy.

Until tomorrow!

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+ What are your favorite Sunday activities?

Very raspberry

June 23, 2010 § 13 Comments

First of all, I’ve updated my Meet Me page. It’s newer, spankier, more thorough, more detailed, and you can learn more about me now! 😀

This week is one of those weeks when I just feel like I’m running out of steam. I felt like I was just dragging my body around the lab the whole day yesterday! Thankfully, tomorrow I decided to take a “reading day” off. Ever since I started this research thing back in May, I haven’t had the time to really sit down and read primary papers that might be of importance to my project. Tomorrow will be, simply put, “sit-on-my bum-all-day-and-read” day. I’m usually not one who likes to veg out all day, but I am actually looking forward to a day of resting my legs a bit.

What’s a foodie gotta do when he/she is running out of steam?

Cook and eat! (balanced out with exercise, of course)

Lately, I’ve been indulging in foods from all seasons.

From the summery raspberry concoctions…

Raspberry preserve + sliced fresh raspberries, and Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese wedge on cinnamon spice Alternative bagel.

Banana + PB wrap topped with raspberry ricotta sauce (raspberry preserve + fresh raspberries + a scoop of ricotta, simmered on low heat). Cottage cheese and more sauce, raspberries, and cinnamon for dippage.

To some fall flavors.

Homemade Greek yogurt with sliced bananas, Lauren's (Whole Wheat or Bust) pumpkin roasted chickpeas, homemade pumpkin butter, and more cinnamon!

Yum yum chickpeas!

While the boyfriend opted for some wintery cuisine.

Moroccan "Lamb" Stew cooked by the boyfriend. The "lamb" was replaced by TJ's Beefless strips. Served with whole wheat couscous, roasted broc & carrots.

my plate

What about spring? Maybe some cool slaw?

Tossed in Waldens Farm’s Raspberry viniagrette, more white vinegar, honey, and pepper.

Ate the slaw with a quesadilla made with TJ’s spicy hummus and nutritional yeast, pressed in La Tortilla’s 100-calorie wrap.

I definitely like their soft wraps the best. So soft and chewy! But alas, they are the most expensive, and only comes in 6 tortillas per package :-(.

~~~

Okay, so now that you’ve all been pumped with some food pictures, don’t mind me while I go on and whine about my problems lately.

Lately, I’ve been feeling stressed in the kitchen, usually before dinnertime. Mornings are my calmest times, where I can let my creativity flow as I scavenge for my victims in the fridge and pantry to make a delicious breakfast. Come dinnertime, I am cranky, impatient, and lacking creativity (at least for this week). I guess it’s the combination of long work days, coming home to a house that is “messy” (in my definition), a boyfriend that is clearly hungry, and trying to get dinner on the table as soon as possible.

Call me superstitious, spiritual, whatever, but I am a firm believer that good food is prepared with calm minds, gentle hands, and most of all, with love. That is why home-cooked meals outrank any 5-star restaurants dishes, because they are prepared in a household filled with love and happiness.

In yoga and Buddhism, there is a belief that one can taste the mindset of whoever prepared his/her meal when he/she prepared it. If the cook’s mind is disturbed, angry, upset, or frustrated at the time he or she prepares the meal, that same energy is transferred into the food, and whoever ate it will obtain that negative energy. On the other hand, if the cook is calm, grounded, and undisturbed, the positive energy will flow from the cook to the food to the eater.

Now, nobody wants bad energy flowing around do they?

But that’s what I’ve been this past week: a grumpy, grumpy old cook.

Stress definitely is not a good thing to bring into the kitchen. Everything will go wrong if you bring that monster in. I slightly burned one of the omelet on Monday because my mind was distracted. Today, I initially wanted to make some sort of sweet potato hummus quesadilla, but the sweet potato got burnt in the microwave while cooking, which almost set of the fire alarm. Almost.

As for the slaw, I initially wanted to go the creamy route, where I’d mix in some yogurt, honey, mustard, etc. But my creativity was blocked while my stress took over.

Trust me, it’s no fun to cook when your mind is everywhere but in the present–right there, in the kitchen, meditating on preparing your food.

You heard me right, it’s cooking meditation, ladies and gents, boys and girls.

It makes perfect sense, because when you’re preparing your food (in a calm mindset, of course), your breathing is steady, your mind is focused on what is in front of you, whether it be on the stove, the cutting board, mixing bowl, etc. It’s just you, your food, and your kitchen gadgets.

In order to avoid taking my stress with me into the kitchen, starting tomorrow I will take a deep breath, exhale slowly for 10 seconds, shed all thoughts and distractions from the day, before I step into the kitchen.

Stress, be GONE!!!

Because the kitchen is a sacred place where energy is transferred. Cherish it.

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+ Have you been on a raspberry obsession like I have? How are you eating them? I eat them alone, simmered with preserve, or topped on yogurts or ice cream! 😀

+ How do you feel when you are in the kitchen in the morning? Noon? Evening? I am usually the calmest in the morning, because my mind is still free of the distractions that will come throughout the day. I am also usually the only person up at that time, so the house is really quiet.

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