Monday, April 15, 2013

Meatless Monday

The idea of going on a meatless diet isn't new to me.  I've toyed, dabbled and somewhat succeeded on several occasions once or twice before.  It's safe to say that being a vegetarian isn't in my foreseeable future.  It is the kind of commitment that thrives on a great deal of conviction, requires a solid mindset and change of lifestyle.  Frankly, I am nowhere near ready for that. However, I do like the idea of cutting out meat, one day a week.  

Reason being? I owe it the "crew" that runs my digestive system to allow a much needed day off.  It may seem insufficient considering the amount of not-so-healthy stuff I consume but it is a good start nonetheless.

As a personal quest, I started Meatless Mondays.  This is what I ate today...

Breakfast: Matcha oatmeal with granola and black coffee
Snack: Banana, apple and spinach smoothie
Lunch: Minestrone
Dinner: Tofu and veggie stir fry

I hope your week is off to a great start wherever you are.

See you soon!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Year That Was

So, it's 2013 or shall I say, it has been for over a month.  Apologies for the long hiatus.  Life got in the way, blah blah blah.   No excuses.  The past couple of months have been focused on spending time with my fiancé, family and friends.  A much needed break if you will.  I couldn't have asked for a better experience.  Inevitably, it had to come to an end.  Thankfully for me, the end of this vacation marked a starting point to an exciting new life.

Before launching into the new year head first and arms wide open, allow me to share with you the highlights of the year that was.  It hosted countless moments of self discovery and reflections.  Surely, mistakes made were more than a few.  But, that only meant learning valuable lessons.  Though, I am nowhere near "living my dream", I am closer to it now than I was last year.

At the very least,  I hope you enjoy the photos.   Grab a cup of tea as there's plenty.

First visit to the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne.  My favorite park in the entire world.
Trips to Bangkok for some R&R.  Priceless.
Visiting the Grand Mosque for the first time.
My brief experience in Libya.

Dipping my toes in the sea.  Dead Sea that is. 
Spending time at the Movenpick hotel in Amman, Jordan overlooking Jerusalem.  Magical.  
Coming back to India.
Walking the streets of Madras.
Spring in New York
Falling in love with Nepal
Witnessed my first Sakura in Japan
Street food in Shanghai
Coming back to Nepal and falling in love all over again
Enjoyed the busy streets of Dublin
Had the best Gelato in the world.  Dublin.
Yup, my favorite coffee place opened last year in Abu Dhabi.
From the busy shopping district of Korea... the serene and peaceful parks.  
White water rafting in Bali
Sunset in Boracay, Philippines
Standing right on the top of one of the world's smallest volcano.  Taal, Philippines
Traveling with my family.
Singing The Sound of Music each time we looked out the window.  Graz, Austria
This is by far the most amazing experience not only for me but my entire family.  If I had to choose one highlight of the year, it would be the day that my little sister got married.  

I hope you guys are off to great start.  Here's to a wonderful 2013 for all of us!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ackee and Saltfish

Side note: This one is also a re-post from my previous blog.

Three days off and home with my fiancé simply means spending serious amount of time in the kitchen making home cooked meals.  That's just the way it is and there's no two ways about it.  So take out, delivery and frozen food...we'll save that for lazy days.  For now, here is what's on our plate for breakfast.

Ackee and Salt Fish w/ Boiled Dumplings.  Say what and salt fish?  Now, I am far from being a food expert and my vocabulary when it comes to describing food is very limited.  The fact that I often fight the urge to use the word "yummy" means I am not the right person to shed some light into the unfamiliar.  Here's a description from a reputable source. 

Ackee and Saltfish, Jamaica

Despite ackee’s unhappy origins as slave food, Jamaicans have reclaimed it as part of their national dish. A nutritious fruit with a buttery-nutty flavor, ackee resembles scrambled egg when boiled. Jamaicans sauté the boiled ackee with saltfish (salt-cured cod), onions, and tomatoes. Sometimes the dish is served atop bammy (deep-fried cassava cakes) with fried plantains. 

To make this you'll need:

  • 2 cans of Ackee
  • 1 lb bag of salt fish (cod or pollock)
  • 4 sprigs of thyme (fresh or dry)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, salt to taste
  • 1 medium onion, 1 small tomato
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • vegetable oil
scotch bonnet (optional)

3 cups of plain flour, 1 cup of water and a tsp salt.  Mix them all together and knead like you would a pizza dough. Boil water in a medium sized pot.  Break off into pieces and form the dough into a flattened biscuit.  Place the pieces into the pot and cook for about 25 mins.  Set aside.

Ackee and Saltfish:

It is very important to soak the salt fish for at least 4 hours or even overnight.  After soaking, boil for 15 mins to get rid of all the salt.  Once cooked, flake the fish using a fork.  Set aside.

Saute garlic, onion, tomato, thyme and salt fish for about 5 mins.  Add butter, scotch bonnet pepper, season with garlic powder and cook for another 5 mins. 

Add Ackee and mix VERY carefully making sure not break it up so much.  Cook for another 10 mins. Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper. And that is it!  Easy.

Yummy! (oops!)

If you find yourself having a difficult time finding canned Ackee in stores you can also buy it online. Here!

Cheesy Beef Lumpia

Side note: This post was exported from my previous blog.  I plan to move some recipes on here to share with you guys. There might be a few more in the next couple of days so please check back.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Beef Lumpia

To make this you'll need:

500 grams minced beef
1 packet of  taco mix
1/4 cup water 
3 tbsp onions chopped
1 tbsp garlic chopped 
3 tbsp spring onions chopped
3 tbsp cilantro chopped 
lumpia wrapper (I used rice wrappers from the Vietnamese spring rolls I made weeks ago)
sour cream
salsa (store bought or homemade)
1/4 cup of mozzarella
strips of cheddar (cut from cheddar slices)

1. Sauté garlic, onion and beef.  Cook until the meat is browned.

2. Add taco mix that is dissolved in 1/4 cup water into the pan. Let it simmer until the liquid is completely absorbed .  Let cool. (at this point you can serve the meat as a filling for tacos which is what I originally made this for.)

3. In a bowl, mix spring onions, cilantro, beef, mozzarella.

4. Place a strip of cheddar on the wrapper, put the meat mixture on top, roll and seal the sides.

5. Serve with salsa and sour cream. 

I paired it with Watermelon Cooler.  It's basically 2 cups of fresh watermelon, 2 mint leaves, crushed ice nicely blended into a glass of deliciousness.

PS. Here is the link to the original recipe in case you're interested. link!  Happy cooking.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Crisp White Shirt

Think Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday- crisp white shirt, iconic, elegant and timeless.  Not to mention easy and versatile. Personally, my thing with white shirt is somewhat of a standard affair.  Mainly because it is hard to mess up.  If it fits well, that is.

If I were to make a blogpost about fashion, it might as well be about the White Shirt.  Why? Because, it is a crime not to!  I am by no means an expert in fashion and my style can be defined in two words.  Safe and predictable.  That's when I'm at my most comfortable and confident simultaneously.  It is, in my humble opinion, the pinnacle of simplicity and sophistication.

Onto the topic- I love white shirts for a few different reasons:

  • White is always a great shade to wear all year long.  
  • it is the best way to showcase a statement necklace or any accessory for that matter.
  • you can make it look as sexy or conservative depending on your mood.  
  • a red lip and white shirt is a match made in fashion heaven. 
  • it's easy to mix and match therefore you only really need a few good pieces in your wardrobe.
  • it looks good on both pale and tan skin.
  • you can choose to buy expensive ones but the cheaper ones look virtually the same.

I said this about food and I'll say it again this time.  The possibilities are endless.  It's perfect for people who are looking to downsize their wardrobe to just the essentials.  Otherwise, a great piece to own if you're more into playing with different looks.  Are there any rules to wearing it?  Yes!!!

  • keep it stark white
  • always, always iron it neatly!
  • wear it proud and most importantly, have fun with it.

Take care everyone! :)

How to Plan a Weekly Menu

It is very important to have control over the meals that we eat at home.  I find that it saves me time, energy and money whenever I go to the grocery store well prepared in advance.  With proper planning, you can assess the needs of each family member, accommodate their requests and favorites and look out for ways you can save money.

There are a few simple methods to keep everything organized. This way, you refrain from buying things that you don't really need or probably already have in your pantry.  Don't you just hate it when you come home from shopping only to find out you're missing a few important ingredients for dinner?  Let those days be a thing of the past.  Here's how...

1. Check the family schedule.

It is important to know when to make meals that are quick and easy for days when no one is around and what day everybody is home.

2. Make a note of what you already have in your pantry.

When you know what you have at home, you can build your menu around that. You may already have the main component for certain dishes, so all you need to buy are the missing ingredients. This is also the best way to use up your supplies before expiration.

3.  Keep your meals simple.

I do believe in varieties and trying out something new once in a while.  But by sticking to what works and what the family likes, you don't end up with a lot of waste.  So consider that when you plan out your menu.

4. Plan for leftover meals.  Make certain dishes in big batches. 

There is nothing wrong with eating leftovers.  It gives you time to do other things.  Also, there are a lot dishes that taste better over a period of time.

5. Make a list and stick to it.

This is an effective tool to save both your time and money.  It takes no more than 5 mins to write down the things that you need.  Trust me, it makes shopping faster and more efficient.

6. Watch out for sale items.

Take advantage of coupon books that are displayed by the entrance.  Take a minute or two to check what's on sale and stock up on those.  I usually keep my eye out for canned vegetables like corn, peas, water chestnuts, canned tomato sauce etc.

7.  Stay within your budget.

It is very easy to get carried away at the grocery store but keep in mind, that it is a weekly trip and if you don't practice self discipline by sticking to your budget , it will add up.

8.  Eat first before you go shopping.

It's a rule of thumb.  When you go shopping hungry, you end up with a cart full of food that you don't necessarily need.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Peanut Butter Cocoa Ice Pops

Photo: Flickr
It is basically peanut butter hot cocoa made into ice pops.  Isn't it the most creative and delicious oxymoron you've ever heard of?  I am going to be a tad shameless here and admit that this brilliant idea was borrowed from the queen herself, Martha Stewart.  However, I believe that in life, we take what's good and make our own adaptation of it. In addition to that, it is our duty to share it for others to enjoy.  So, here it is dear friends, my very own version of this delicious treat, if I may rightfully say so.

Follow directions of my Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate recipe.  Let it sit for a while to cool. Pour into ice pops molds, insert sticks and freeze overnight.


Easy isn't it?  This might not be the preferred choice of treats while shoveling snow I suppose.  Apologies that the timing for making ice pops could not have been more unusual.  But as mentioned earlier, there is a version of this more suitable for a sit-by-the-fireplace scenario.  This is just a good example that with a bit of creativity, we can easily turn a seemingly odd idea into something that favors us.  That's the beauty of food and life in general. The possibilities are endless.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

Photo by: add a pinch
In the world of make believe, I am walking along the streets of Munich this time of the year while slowly sipping on a cup of mulled wine. Over here in the not-so-cold part of the real world, it is in the mid 20s (celsius).  A shy cool climate far from the kind of cold that seeps into the bones.  Suffice to say, our version of winter is slowly revealing itself. 

Sure, my warm cozy socks are still blissfully tucked away and the portable heater yet to come out from hibernation.  But, not for long.  Our Christmas tree now stands gloriously in the corner of the living room and there is no stopping this fella in setting the mood for the most wonderful time of the year.

Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

2 cups milk
1/4 cup milk chocolate powder
2 tbsp of creamy peanut butter
dash of cinnamon 
whipped cream (optional)

In a medium saucepan over low heat, warm milk until it begin to simmer.  Whisk in milk powder and peanut butter until smooth.  Pour into individual mugs and top with whipped cream.  Make it more sinful by adding a sprinkle of mini reese's pieces or a regular sized reese's cup chopped roughly.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas

...or decorating on a budget would be more fitting for a title.

This year our Christmas will be celebrated in a slightly different fashion.  Unlike the quiet and intimate dinner we had to grace the occasion last year, I  am going to be in Manila to spend it with my family.  Needless to say, there will be an overload of food, friends and family gatherings and everything Christmas-y.

Back in Abu Dhabi, I was thinking, "why bother to put up a tree and decorate our home if I'm not going be around?"  I realized that I have more than a month to spend here and denying myself the joy of sitting next to a little tree wrapped up in a cozy blanket while drinking hot cocoa in a holiday cup is not an option so...bother I will!

Here's the thing:

a. the idea of buying knick knacks and tchotchkes made me sick in the stomach
b. spending a lot of money on decorations doesn't appeal to me either.

Thanks to proper storage, all the stuff that I bought last year still looked half decent.  Mind you, they were meant to be for temporary use and truth be told, I'm surprised that they're joining us again this year.  So, without further ado... Here's my little take on Christmas on a budget.

Instead of jamming my little tree with these balls and snow flakes, I thought I'd put them in these candle holders.  It serves as a center piece on the dining table.
Again, instead of hanging these on the tree, I decided to place them on a metal bowl.
A little touch of Christmas in our powder room.
I try to keep the house as minimal as possible but, in the spirit of Christmas, I inserted frosty twigs with cranberries on one of the vases.  Look! there's our little tree next to my favorite spot on the couch.
I made these bows myself to fill up the tree since the balls (as shown above) were used for a different purpose.  I spent a total of 10 dollars for this entire project.  Oh, how proud that makes me.
Stockings for me and my love.
This is totally irrelevant but it looked absolutely stunning out today.  Here's a little beach shot for you all.
I am feeling very festive and I may a few recipes to share next.  Spoiler chocolate and peanut butter!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Simple Joys: Bangkok

I believe in the abundance of beautiful things that surround us.  We just need to tap into our inner child and allow ourselves to see meaning and humor in them.  After all, it is the little things that make life sweeter:  Walking the dog, taking long baths, holding hands with our loved one and conversations with our mom.  Ironically, these indulgence of such high value cost practically nothing.  As the song goes..."the best things in life are free."

Sure there are days when we ask ourselves, "What can I purchase today that will make me happy?" I certainly have those moments too.  But, it doesn't have to be like that all the time.  Not anymore.  When we take away the longing for material things, we learn to appreciate the happiness that comes in a form of a simple meal shared with a friend.  It is by being mindful and present in the moment that we truly get to savor life.

I thought I'd share with you these small, significant joys I experienced during my recent trip to Bangkok.

Lemongrass water
Sushi and rolls my bf and I shared for merienda.  (light meal)
We've been coming to this restaurant for years and have always ordered the same things.  This time we braved it out and tried something new.  To us, it was an exciting thing. 
Foot massage
Admiring the reflection of the chandelier through a glass table.
Ronald McDonald gestures:  Sawadika.  Funny, isn't it?
A cute little "tuk tuk" display.

"Don't hurry.  Dont worry.  And be sure to stop and smell the flowers along the way." -Walter Hagen