#WhatVegansEat

A lot of people have been asking me for vegan recipes on Instagram, so I thought I’d do a post about it here.  Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on vegan cooking or eating, and I’m also kind of a kitchen klutz.  So this is really a post for lazy girls like me, who want to try going vegan.

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I don’t cook, but I did have to learn how to whip up a few things in order to keep myself fed.  Here are my essentials for vegan eating:

AVOCADOS.  I was never into avocados until going vegan, but now I’m obsessed with them!  I prefer using Haas avocados, they’re just so creamy and delicious.  For an easy breakfast or snack, simply spread some Vegenaise on toast, top with mashed avocados, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Soooo good!

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Avocados are also great for making dips.  Just mash and season to taste (try Vegenaise or evoo, sea salt, and chili flakes), and serve with nachos or baked cut-up tortillas.

VEGAN PESTO.  This is one of two things I taught myself how to make.  I use organic basil, pine nuts or walnuts, a bit of garlic, and nutritional yeast to replace Parmesan cheese.  I always have a big batch on hand and use the pesto to make sandwiches, wraps, and pasta!

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HUMMUS.  This is the other thing I taught myself how to make, and I’m so glad I did, because I looooove hummus!  I don’t like to follow recipes or measurements, so I just did a quick google search and followed the ingredients listed on this BBC food recipe, with a bit of improvisation. Instead of canned chickpeas, I use the dried organic kind, which requires a bit more work as you have to soak them overnight, then boil until they soften.  But they’re so much healthier which makes it worth it.

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I use my hummus as a dip or a spread for all kinds of sandwiches and wraps.  Even my husband loves my homemade hummus, so I make a big batch every few days.

VEGETABLES FOR ‘ROASTING’ + AIRFRYER.  Did you know that airfried vegetables are great for sandwiches and wraps?  I’ve always loved vegetable sandwiches, even when I was a meat-eater.  My favorite one was the Panini Verdure at Cibo; too bad their pesto is made with cheese.  I usually use a combination of zucchini, red, yellow, and green bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms.  Just slice them up, massage with olive oil and sea salt, put them in the airfryer, and you’re done.

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I also use my airfryer to make sweet potato and carrot fries, which make a lovely side dish for a sandwich or wrap, and I alternate between making them sweet and savory.

HOMEGROWN VEGETABLES.  Lucky for me, I love a good bowl of monggo or mung bean stew!  I don’t know how to make it, but our cook whips up a big batch for me about once a week, and I enjoy it piping hot with organic brown rice.

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Being Chinese, we have fresh lumpia made quite often.  I enjoy it because I love wrapping food and eating with my hands, I just have to ask for it to be made without pork or shrimp in it.

I also enjoy our dirt-cheap kangkong, simply sauteed with garlic and tomatoes.  Kangkong is particularly delicious when cooked with gata or coconut cream, but I don’t really cook it that way anymore, since coconut cream is high in fat.  And just recently, I discovered alugbati, which my friend Ross told me is a considered a Pinoy superfood!  Rich in vitamin A, calcium, potassium, and folic acid, alugbati also reduces your risk of osteoporosis, anemia, cardiovascular diseases, and colon cancer.

SNACKS.  I’ve pretty much given up on chips, even vegan or supposedly health ones (they’re still processed).  But I always have trail mix on hand.  You can make your own using your favorite nuts, and my favorite store-bought one is a mix of dry roasted almonds, sunflower kernels, pepitas, raisins, spanish peanuts, and cashew nuts by a brand called Health Best, available at Healthy Options.  I snack on my trail mix straight from the bag, or sprinkle a bit over my oatmeal in the morning, or on my salad or my wraps for a nice crunch.

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Another thing that we often snack on at home are baked kale chips.  We used to buy kale from the Legaspi market, but now it’s widely available in local supermarkets.  Kale chips are so good that even my 5-year-old loves them!

SALAD.  A lot of people think vegans and vegetarians graze on salads all day, but the funny thing is, I hardly ever have salads anymore since going vegan.  And to think I used to crave salads all the time as a meat-eater!  (I think it has something to do with not being allowed cheese and eggs, two of my favorite salad ingredients.)

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But another thing I’ve taught myself is to make my own salad dressing.  It’s the easiest thing ever, so much better for your body and cheaper than the store-bought kind!  So yeah, some nights, I’ll have a salad as a side dish, and my favorite vegan-approved things to put in it now are mixed greens, arugula, cherry tomatoes, red or yellow bell peppers, mangoes, nuts, and croutons.

GRAINS.  I find it impossible to go carb-free when following a vegan diet, I’d always be hungry!  So I always have organic Philippine-grown brown rice, whole wheat bread, whole wheat pitas and tortillas, and pasta (just the regular kind since I don’t like the taste of wholegrain varieties) on hand.  Some have said that wheat causes the stomach to bloat, and I’ve found this to be true in my case, but I still have bread all the time.  Can’t help it!

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Of course, now there are things like wheat-free, gluten free, sugar-free, and dairy-free bread, but not only are they hard to find here in Manila, the ones I’ve tried haven’t tasted like bread at all.  The search continues, but my goal is to someday bake my own bread at home.

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I was on a strictly vegan diet for awhile, but for personal health reasons, right now I’m what you would call a weekday vegan.  On weekends I allow myself one or two meals max with fish in it (usually sushi or sashimi).

If you’re contemplating going vegan or vegetarian, I hope this post has been helpful to you!  Vegan eating can be easy and enjoyable if you teach yourself how.  If you have any easy vegan recipes to share, I’d love to try them too!

Gone Vegan

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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 with avocado on toast, green juice, and coffee;  lunch might be a grilled vegetable wrap with sweet potato fries or a side salad; and dinner might be mung bean stew and a roast vegetable platter with brown rice.  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