Gone Vegan

vegan

This salad of Philippine-grown organic brown rice, summer squash, and French beans is healthy, delicious, and ridiculously easy to prepare.

If you’ve been following my Instagram posts, you might have noticed a change in the type of food photos I’ve been sharing lately.  Yup, I’ve gone vegan!  It all started in February of this year, when I stopped eating beef and pork.  I did it in part because I wanted to start making healthier food choices, and also because I’ve always felt a bit of nagging guilt about eating animals, especially pigs.  It wasn’t something I made a big deal of, and in fact I would still occasionally eat meat during special dinners (like omakase at Sensei Sushi) and when traveling.  But for the most part I ate only chicken, fish and seafood, grains, and of course, lots of vegetables.

And then just a couple of months ago, I got sick, and that was when I decided to take things to a whole other level.  I gave up all meat and dairy products.  In the beginning I was really heartbroken about having to give up my favorite things: grilled cheese sandwiches, Korean bbq and pajeon, and ice cream.  I was eating boring steamed vegetables with rice for lunch and dinner everyday, until I got so sick of vegetables I had to down them with water, like medicine.  That was when I realized what I was doing wasn’t sustainable; I had to teach myself how to cook.

And no, I haven’t turned into any kind of kitchen goddess, but I am slowly learning how to have fun with food again.  I’m a lazy girl by nature, so I’ve taken to preparing simple yet flavorful meals, preferably with visual impact.  Breakfast is usually a bowl of oatmeal, lunch might be something as easy as a salad, along with avocado on toast, and dinner might be a large platter of roast vegetables along with a baked potato.  We try to buy all organic as much as possible, and we source our vegetables from Holy Carabao, The Green Grocer, Organicus in Rustans and SM supermarkets, and the Legaspi Market.

For my succeeding posts, I plan to share tips and tricks for newbie vegans like myself,  pantry staples and ingredients to have on hand, and the simple meals I’ve been whipping up.  If you’re vegan or vegetarian, I’d love it if you could share any of your favorite recipes, too.  It’s going to be loads of fun, promise

God will take away your fears

So, I disappeared again for awhile, because as it turns out, I was sick and didn’t even know it.  This is just a quick post about how being sick made me see, in a very real way, how much God loves me.

I’ve always been the type who is scared of things like blood and needles.  Just imagine, even after going through childbirth twice, I would still get the shakes and cry during blood tests.  This is how duwag I am.

Fast forward to last week, when I had to have an operation.  I was so afraid of being put under, being opened up, all that stuff.  In the days leading up to my procedure, I had so much anxiety and tried as much as I could to block it all out, because I feared that if I let it sink in, I would be too scared to go through with it.

I prayed hard, real hard, for God to take away all my fears.  It might seem impossible for someone as duwag as I am, but still I begged and I prayed.  And you know what?  God took away all my fears.  I’m not kidding.  ALL MY FEARS!

And from the time I was admitted into the hospital up to the time they wheeled me into the operating room, I had NO FEAR.  This might be a small thing to a lot of you brave folks out there, but to me, it was nothing short of a miracle.  Thank you Lord God for staying by my side and for filling me with courage and a sense of calm that could only have come from you and your grace.

Dear reader, if there is anything in your life that fills you with a crippling fear, pray and believe that all things are possible through God.

God loves you.

Weekend Snaps

Here are some snaps from a few weekends ago.  The kiddos took a dip in Sabrina’s inflatable pool.  Jacob loooooved the water slide.

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Summer’s almost over.  We need more days like this in our life!

Balesin Weekend

Last month, we spent Holy Week in Balesin with the family.  I was a bit nervous because it was the very first time we would be taking our 6-month-old, Naomi, away on a trip.

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Walking around Resorts World while waiting for our flight

We had lunch at Tao Yuan in Resorts World, then walked around a bit before going to the Alphaland hangar.

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Apparently a LOT of people were headed to Balesin for Holy Week because the lounge was like an evacuation center.

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After a brief delay, it was finally boarding time.  Free seating on the plane, so when they call your name, you go go go.

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Naomi cried a bit; it was her first time on a plane.  Check out below photo where she looks a bit harassed upon our arrival at Balesin.

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We were there with my cousins and our Uncle Jun, who invited us all to go with him.  Thanks so much Uncle Jun! xx

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Here are Jacob and Sabrina checking out the map of the island.  The Pacific Ocean is on one side, and Lamon Bay on the other.

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Balesin Island is made up of 8 themed villages, and they usually have only one village open for occupancy.  But since it was peak season, they had all eight open for Holy Week, and we stayed in St. Tropez.

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This was our villa.  St. Tropez is very family friendly!  We felt safe enough to leave our veranda doors open all day.

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Naomi loved sitting outside, too!  She would stare out at the water and seemed to enjoy the breeze.

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Here’s what our room looked like inside:

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All the villas are pretty much identical.  The one below is Uncle Jun’s, with Jacob and Sabrina hanging out on one of the extra beds.

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There is a CBTL espresso brewing machine in each room, and this is where we set up Naomi’s milk warmer, too.

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One of life’s simple joys — enjoying a cup of coffee outdoors…

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…with a view of the Pacific Ocean!

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Jacob spent most of his time swimming.  He was suddenly able to swim all by himself, for the very first time!  Just a short distance of course but it is such an achievement!  So proud of him!

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Meanwhile, Naomi mostly sat under an umbrella by the pool.

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Everyone was just swimming in the pools, really.  The waves of the Pacific Ocean were just too strong.  But it was still nice to be by the water.

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Day 2 was spent swimming in Mykonos village.  They have very nice pools, plus an outdoor jacuzzi, but no beach.

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Food choices were somewhat limited.  We chose to have breakfast in St. Tropez every morning because we were too sleepy to go anywhere far.

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The buffet was blah, but at least it included fresh crepes prepared on the spot!

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John and I had 3 crepes each every morning!  My favorites were the 4-cheese and the spinach and mozzarella.

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Dinner options at St. Tropez are even more limited.  We ate there the first night, and the only mains on the menu were steak and salmon.  Naomi’s yaya chose salmon because she doesn’t eat beef.  And she wanted rice, but the restaurant only had potato gratin.  And then when Yaya’s salmon arrived, she took one bite and ran straight for the toilet.  She was throwing up all night, hindi raw sanay sa smell ng salmon!  John had to take a golf cart to the Balesin village where he ordered a whole fried chicken and asked for it to be chopped into serving portions for Yaya.  But when we tried to give it to her, she refused to eat it, saying the salmon had totally grossed her out.  ***STRESS!***

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Yaya vs Salmon

Thankfully, Yaya felt better by the next day.  We decided to have lunch in Balesin, the main village.

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The dining area has view of Lamon Bay, where a lot of people were swimming.  The waves are a lot gentler on this side of the island.

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We had sandiwches and silogs all around.  Naomi’s yaya had daing na bangus, and no more nausea.

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Dinner was at Costa del Sol, where it was nice and festive.  Food shots were all blurry since it was dark, so I won’t be posting them here.  We had tapas, cochinillo, and paellas.

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We also wanted to try the Japanese restaurant, but they were fully booked for lunch and dinner the entire weekend.

Here’s my little girl out by the beach with Uncle Jun.

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And this is us about to board a tiny plane and fly back home.

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There were some things I had to clear up with Balesin staff prior to our trip, and I’m posting them here now, in case any of you might need to know too:

  • What was the baggage limit per person for the flight?  Most people bring only duffel bags, or at most, small wheelies.  This worried me because as you can imagine, it’s not easy to travel light with a 6-month-old!  Anyway, Balesin reps emailed me to confirm that they allow full-sized luggage to be checked in, so long as we stay within the limit of 10 kilos per person.  Yay!  (At the hangar, they actually just took all our bags without even weighing them first)
  • Would they allow us to put Naomi in her baby carrier and put the carrier on its own seat for the flight there?  No.  Babies under 1 year old must be carried on an adult’s lap, but they fly for free.
  • Aside from extra beds, would it be possible to borrow a crib or playpen for the baby to sleep in?  Yes!  The resort has a limited number of Graco Pack ‘n Play playpens that guests may request for (better to do this in advance).  We were able to get one for our room, but sad to say, it was very dirty and we ended up not letting Naomi use it at all.
  • Are there sterilizers guests can borrow?  No, but you can request for hot water kettles, and clean your bottles and pump parts in boiling water, which is what we did.
  • Would it be advisable to take a stroller?  No.  Not with all the sand and the steps and the golf carts you will be riding.
  • There is a day care center / children’s play room at the Balesin Island Clubhouse where you can leave your kids with their yayas, but why would you do that when you’re at the beach?

And if you’re traveling with your yaya, you might want to consider packing easy-to-eat food and snacks for her, such as bread, supermarket-bought pastries, potato chips, cup noodles, and 3-in-1 coffee, just in case she doesn’t like what’s on the menu.

And that’s it!  Can’t say it was easy traveling with a 6-month-old, but it was worth it.  Beach over theme park,  any day!  We all had a lovely Holy Week weekend, and  I hope you did, too.

Earth Kitchen

Yay! Have I told you that I’m back to my pre-pregnancy weight?  Not that my pre-pregnancy bod was all that bodacious but hey, it was definitely better than my post-pregnancy one!  I never thought I’d say this but the weight loss had nothing to do with crash dieting and everything to do with making healthier food choices.  I hope to do a post all about that soon, but in the meantime, here is one restaurant that John and I have been frequenting for their healthy menu.

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Earth Kitchen is a partnership project between the Got Heart Foundation and Hizon’s Catering.  The restaurant’s dishes were crafted to showcase the natural and organic produce of the Got Heart Farms in Tarlac, which support the livelihood of marginalized communities.

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John and I always start our meal with some salad.

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Salad of melon, watermelon, organic arugula, edible flowers, pili nuts, homemade kesong puti, and balsamic vinaigrette

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See how pretty and colorful!  I would like this even better if they used all-watermelon instead of a combination of melon and watermelon.  The melon tastes a bit off, and I usually just pick them out and don’t eat them.

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The Tempura Salad is delicious, and it’s basically an ebi tempura and fish tempura on a bed of organic vegetables with roasted sesame dressing

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If you enjoy crunchy things like we do, I would also recommend the Fish and Mango starter, which is loro fillets with sweet mango, cilantro, and chili plum sauce.  Yum!

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Earth Kitchen’s soft tacos are popular with most diners, and this is the Mushroom Taco.  Although we love mushrooms, John and I didn’t really enjoy this much.

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We prefer the Fish and Roasted Sesame Taco, which is again Loro Fillet, with salad greens, edible flowers, seaweed, and sesame dressing

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We’ve tried both the Shrimp Spril Rolls and the Mushroom Spring Rolls, and they’re both fresh and clean tasting.

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And I’ve heard that they serve a really good Beef Kebab, but since John and I avoid eating beef and pork these days, we usually order one Chicken Kebab each.  You can have it with rice or tortillas, but we always ask for tortillas because we both love wrapping food and eating with our hands.

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Sometimes the side salad comes with edible flowers, and sometimes it doesn’t, so if flowers are important to you, be sure to ask.

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The husband and I are always happy campers after a healthy and delicious meal such as this.  We wash everything down with a one of Earth Kitchen’s teas (they’ve got sencha green tea, genmaicha, hojicha,and guyabano).

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And then we go somewhere else for dessert, because when it comes to dessert, I still prefer the unhealthy variety :0

EARTH KITCHEN, along White Plains Avenue, Katipunan, QC, TELEPHONE (632) 961.0572 / (632) 577.9138 / (+6397) 584.3278

http://www.facebook.com/TheEarthKitchen

Hong Kong, March 2014

A few weeks ago, I had to fly to Hong Kong for work.  It was supposed to be just one quick meeting, so I was thinking of taking an early morning flight there then flying home the same day.  But then, my mom suddenly said she wanted to go with me, and we decided to stay a few days.

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I haven’t traveled with my mom in years!  It’s funny how she doesn’t seem to realize I’m in my late 30s now and still makes me pose for solo pictures at every corner.

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Seriously, Mom? ;)

We mostly shopped for toys and other stuff for the kids… had to get a balikbayan box for all our purchases from Wise Kids!

One thing we did differently was to take the Star Ferry instead of the MTR to go back and forth from Central and TST.  The harbor views were really refreshing, and it was sooooo cold!

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Aside from the shopping, we also enjoyed all the eating we did.  Nothing fancy, just walked into a bunch of places with our shopping bags in hand and no reservations required.

Our first stop was the Crystal Jade just across the street from our hotel, where had a quick snack before I rushed off to my meeting.

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Crispy eel, xiao long bao, and my favorite veggies at Crystal Jade

I love Crystal Jade’s xiao long bao!  I was so excited when they opened in Manila, but sayang that it’s not the same.

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Modern China’s spicy eggplant appetizer

For dinner, Mom and I decided on Modern China in Times Square.  The minced pork is really good.  I always enjoy wrapping food and eating with my hands, but I would have preferred having lettuce cups instead of the sesame pockets, which were a bit oily.

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Roasted King fish

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Minced pork and pickled vegetables in sesame pockets

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Vegetables in lobster bisque with shredded ham

For dessert, we walked to my favorite Cong Sao Star, which used to be located on the ground floor of Holiday Inn Express just across Times Square.  They relocated to a new location just a stone’s throw away, and even if it’s not as easy to find, there’s always a line.

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We decided to get our desserts to go.

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Cong Sao Star’s cold mango sweet tofu and hot almond cream, both so yummy!

The next day we had breakfast in our hotel.  Meh.

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Far better to take the Star Ferry to Kowloon for yum cha at Ye Shanghai!

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The dimsum selections are delicious, but I also love Ye Shanghai for the XO sauce on every table.  I’m addicted to XO sauce!!

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After shopping at Harbor City, we headed over to the Ikea on Causeway Bay where I wanted to check out the high chairs.

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I considered getting one of these for Naomi, but it wouldn’t be able to fit into our balikbayan box, and I didn’t want to have to carry a high chair to the airport!  We stocked up on small kitchen and picnic stuff instead, and after shopping, grabbed some quick snacks at the Ikea bistro.

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And then after hauling back our loot to the hotel, we decided to a quick and cheap dinner at Tai Hing before calling it a night.

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Tai Hing is well known for their iced milk tea, but to me it’s just all right.  I really like their sweet and sour pork, though.

 

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The next day, we had our last lunch together at Cafe Landmark.  The lines can get really long during lunch time, so it’s best to go early.

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Mom and I decided to spit one pasta and one sandwich between the two of us.  The lobster linguine is so delicious and portion size is generous.  They also have a daily set lunch, but that day it was chicken curry and we weren’t in the mood for that.

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My mom loved Cafe Landmark despite having to line up for a bit

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Gorgeous and colorful innards of my Cafe Landmark club sandwich with avocado

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My favorite lobster linguine!

My mom had to catch an earlier flight back to flight due to a last minute embassy interview early the next day.  I took her to the airport soon after lunch, then took a long nap back at the hotel.

Later that night, I did some last minute shopping at Muji, and ended up having dinner at Muji Cafe&Meal right inside the store.

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Muji Cafe is set up canteen-style, where you line up and point to your choices. They have set meals that come with rice and miso soup.

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Roast squash, seaweed salad, and sesame salad with Japanese rice and soup

I chose 3 different salads and ate them with yummy Japanese rice.  Who knew salads with rice would actually be good?  This was my last meal before flying back home.