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Warm Wilted Salad with Roasted Pear and Feta

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What I used:

  • Sweet Kale Vegetable Salad Mix (I get mine from Costco but if it’s not available to you then you can just use any other winter greens)
  • red onion, sliced thinly
  • pear (I used Bartlett), peeled, cored and sliced
  • olive oil
  • feta cheese crumble
  • walnuts (optional)
  • pepper

What I did:

  1. Preheated the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, I mixed the sliced pears with some olive oil then placed them flat side down on a pan with parchment paper. I roasted the pears for 10 minutes, flipped them over and roasted for another 10 minutes. I set them aside to cool slightly. 
  3. While waiting for the pears, I cooked the onions and the greens in a pan with olive oil until they’re wilted. On another pan, I toasted the walnuts (or you can also throw them in the oven but keep an eye out since they can burn quickly.)
  4. In a salad bowl, I combined the wilted greens, onions, and pear slices together, sprinkled the crumbled feta and walnuts and finally seasoned with pepper. 

*Dressing suggestion: balsamic vinegar

On Making Fried Calamari Lettuce Wraps

Earlier this month, my mom left for the Philippines and my dad and I were stuck with mostly leftovers for 10 days. Don’t get me wrong, I love my leftovers, and some are even better eaten that way. Take lasagna for example. As much as I enjoy a freshly baked one, I’ve noticed that the dish is less soggy when you reheat it the next day. The excess water seems to be absorbed overnight, reuniting all of its components into one big savory cake. I also like how the cheese is nuked in the microwave. The highly concentrated heat “crisps” the gooey top layer which I always end up saving for my last bite. (You know what I’m talking about, right?) 

But all good things come to an end and my love for leftovers turned into frustration. By the 4th day, I didn’t want to open our fridge anymore because I knew I’d have the same set of Ziploc containers staring back at me. I’d just be forcing myself to eat if I reheated something and that wasn’t acceptable for me anymore—that’s when my culinary creative kicked in.

It was a Tuesday then and I thought it would be fitting to make tacos but I realized that 1) we had no taco shells at home, and 2) we hadn’t left any meat out to thaw. Lettuce is a staple in our fridge and I knew I could use that as my taco shell alternative but when you’re hungry (and pumped up to cook), waiting for frozen meat to defrost is certainly not an option. Luckily, I came across a bag of frozen calamari rings. What’s great about these pre-breaded babies is that you can just fry them (straight from the freezer) in a deep pan full of oil, and after a minute or two, they’re already brown and crisp. If anything, I probably took longer building my “tacos” than cooking it. For the fillings, I chopped up onions, red cabbage and tomatoes. I used broccoli slaw as well but thankfully that was already shredded for me. Plate with some Spinach and Greek Yogurt Dip, then serve. 

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In life, most people think there’s just Door A and Door B. But how do we choose when neither option appeals to us? We could go for the one that we dislike the least but we know deep down we’ll just be forcing ourselves in opening it. Why put ourselves in a losing situation? We must remember that we are not stuck with the choices that life throws at us. I know we like to see it that way to avoid blaming ourselves but that way of thinking is not going to get us anywhere. It’ll just be one wrong door after another, pushing us further from being truly happy.

Whether it’s choosing what to have for dinner or just something in life in general, if you don’t want it, then don’t have it. Make your way around the situation and build your own doors, i.e. Door C, D, E, and so on. Don’t force one to open; just create new possibilities that you’ll be more than willing to push through. Because in the end, you  (not the universe) make your own choices thus your own happiness.

A Renewed Perspective

“Even if I were not able to find my sword, the pilgrimage along the Road to Santiago was going to help me to find myself.” ― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

Hi, everyone! Sorry for not being active for over a month! After my breakdown on my last post, ironically, things started to pick up and I’ve actually had my hands full! Well, at least it seems like I have a lot going on? I mean, I still don’t go out as much and I’m still caught onto my home-work-home routine but each day feels different somehow. Previously, I would feel defeated since, in my mind, I wasted yet another day doing the same thing as the day before. Lately, however, my days seem fuller and I feel as if I have accomplished a lot by the time I get to bed. I guess [publicly] revealing my frustrations provided me with some fresh air and renewed my perspective of everyday life. Yesterday, today or even tomorrow may be identical but I’ve been reminded that they actually have a separate and distinct function towards the whole. Each day contributes to a process; each day ends only to give way to a bigger and more significant purpose.

My breakdown also allowed me to open up myself to failure. It was the step I needed to take to finally start accepting my “weaknesses” and to [re-]acknowledge my humanity and the limitations that come with it. Since then, I’ve stopped blaming myself for what I did/didn’t do in the past, which I had believed was the root of my current situation. I’ve stopped comparing myself to others as well, wishing I was more of this and/or less of that, which did nothing but rob me of happiness. Once I let go of such external and self-imposed expectations, I began to truly see and appreciate myself in the present: who I have become, what I have got, and what I actually can do. 

Life is not a competition of who is more productive nor is it a race of who can get to the finishing line faster. Life is a pilgrimage and the path is towards you. You are the finishing line.

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More Than Just A Coffee Break 
I went on an afternoon coffee date with myself earlier—something I haven’t had in awhile. To be honest, I don’t really go out. I am one of the many people who’s stuck with a 9-5 job but what’s worse is that I let myself get sucked into it even on the days I’m off work. I would just stay at home, further excluding myself from society as well as from my own individuality. 
Except today. 
After seeking help and finally opening up my frustrations, it was clear that I’m the one that’s making myself unhappy. Over and over, I would feed myself into my own misery. I mean, I knew what I was doing but I refused to acknowledge it; I was stubborn and let my thoughts destroy me. As they say, we are our own worst enemies. 
If you’re on the same boat, then I want you to join me in changing your thoughts and releasing your judgments. The circumstances given to us may be unpleasant but that doesn’t mean they have to be. We forget that it’s all in our minds and that we have the very power to change it. We need to take a step back and stop letting expectations rule our lives because we are only setting ourselves up for more failure and disappointment if we don’t. The thing is, expectations come from external factors that distract us from looking within ourselves. Once we stop focusing on these distractions, we’ll see that the answers we’ve been searching for have been with us all along—that what we pray for when we’ve lost our way is actually right inside of us. There is nothing else to figure out. 
Our minds can destroy us but they also hold the keys that can heal us. So take yours and use it to open another door. Your guide is right there waiting for you.

More Than Just A Coffee Break 

I went on an afternoon coffee date with myself earlier—something I haven’t had in awhile. To be honest, I don’t really go out. I am one of the many people who’s stuck with a 9-5 job but what’s worse is that I let myself get sucked into it even on the days I’m off work. I would just stay at home, further excluding myself from society as well as from my own individuality.

Except today.

After seeking help and finally opening up my frustrations, it was clear that I’m the one that’s making myself unhappy. Over and over, I would feed myself into my own misery. I mean, I knew what I was doing but I refused to acknowledge it; I was stubborn and let my thoughts destroy me. As they say, we are our own worst enemies.

If you’re on the same boat, then I want you to join me in changing your thoughts and releasing your judgments. The circumstances given to us may be unpleasant but that doesn’t mean they have to be. We forget that it’s all in our minds and that we have the very power to change it. We need to take a step back and stop letting expectations rule our lives because we are only setting ourselves up for more failure and disappointment if we don’t. The thing is, expectations come from external factors that distract us from looking within ourselves. Once we stop focusing on these distractions, we’ll see that the answers we’ve been searching for have been with us all along—that what we pray for when we’ve lost our way is actually right inside of us. There is nothing else to figure out.

Our minds can destroy us but they also hold the keys that can heal us. So take yours and use it to open another door. Your guide is right there waiting for you.

Grilled Eggplant-Spinach Salad
1 small eggplant kosher salt olive oil 4 garlic cloves (peeled) 1/4 cup chopped walnuts 4 cups fresh spinach  1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1. Cut eggplant into round slices then sprinkle it with salt. Place slices in a bowl with water and leave for 10 mins.  2. Rinse slices then pat dry with paper towels. Place onto baking sheet and brush/coat with oil. 3. Place garlic on a small foil square and drizzle with olive oil. Place your chopped walnuts on another foil square. Set both aside. 4. Preheat grill then coat it with oil. Once the grill is heated, place eggplant spices and cover for about 4 mins. each side or when tender.  5. Remove eggplant from grill and let it cool before cutting into 1 inch pieces. (I simply cut mine like a cross: once horizontally then vertically.) 6. Place foil squares with garlic and walnut on grill for 3-5 mins. Remove walnuts when lightly roasted and remove garlic when soft. Finely chop garlic. 7. In a large bowl combine eggplant and garlic then toss lightly. Add spinach and walnut then toss again. Sprinkle goat cheese, drizzle with vinegar and more olive oil. Serve. :)

Grilled Eggplant-Spinach Salad

1 small eggplant
kosher salt
olive oil
4 garlic cloves (peeled)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1. Cut eggplant into round slices then sprinkle it with salt. Place slices in a bowl with water and leave for 10 mins.
2. Rinse slices then pat dry with paper towels. Place onto baking sheet and brush/coat with oil.
3. Place garlic on a small foil square and drizzle with olive oil. Place your chopped walnuts on another foil square. Set both aside.
4. Preheat grill then coat it with oil. Once the grill is heated, place eggplant spices and cover for about 4 mins. each side or when tender.
5. Remove eggplant from grill and let it cool before cutting into 1 inch pieces. (I simply cut mine like a cross: once horizontally then vertically.)
6. Place foil squares with garlic and walnut on grill for 3-5 mins. Remove walnuts when lightly roasted and remove garlic when soft. Finely chop garlic.
7. In a large bowl combine eggplant and garlic then toss lightly. Add spinach and walnut then toss again. Sprinkle goat cheese, drizzle with vinegar and more olive oil. Serve. :)

Take a break and enjoy it

If we’re friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Twitter, then you know I started the first day of 2014 by having my early morning workout. I got up, had my cup of chai, then hit our basement/home gym just like any other day. It was a good jumpstart into the new year but that was all it was because, to be honest, I actually ended up going on a two-week break the following day. Usually I can go for 5-6 days without a good fat-burning session but once another week rolls in I make sure, as a habit, that I put my ass right back to work—figuratively and literally.

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During my hiatus, I didn’t eat as “clean” either. While some of you vouched to “get back on track” or to “detox” right after the holidays, I kept treating myself to anything that I wanted including fast food—something I haven’t had for months. (Definitely missed that Frosty ice cream at Wendy’s!) I also went to a brunch buffet with my boyfriend and I didn’t bother restricting myself from the waffles (with strawberry syrup and whipped cream) nor the dessert station. I don’t regret it and I am not ashamed to say that I enjoyed every single bite. It was the perfect way to end our weekend getaway.

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You may think I’m a hypocrite to my “healthy holistic lifestyle” now that I’ve revealed all of that but I don’t see it that way. My hiatus wasn’t an excuse for me to slouch around and eat anything and everything I wanted (even if it sounds exactly like that). I wasn’t tired of my morning routines nor was I deprived of certain foods due to my dietary preferences; my way of healthy living has given me nothing but comfort, confidence and security. I simply took a break from my current lifestyle (eating clean with working out 6-7 times a week) because I knew that was what my body and my mind needed. I took a break from not giving myself a break. It was for me to relieve myself from being in control, with no fear of the consequences, and to genuinely enjoy having that time off.

Just like anything else that we do in our lives, whether it be a good or bad habit, we need to give ourselves a break every now and then. We can get so caught up with our progress, or more importantly, our determination to change our lifestyles that we forget to give ourselves a break from always changing something about it. Instead of starting a new diet, embarking on a 7-day juice detox, or signing up at the gym, I suggest you take some time off from making those kinds of resolutions. I mean, it’s not just you but I’m sure your annual New Year’s Resolutions needs a vacation from all of that pressure too. I believe occasionally breaking yourself away from your “healthy routine” is also an important part of a healthy lifestyle. So take a break and enjoy it!

Banff, Alberta | January 2014

Be it fall, winter, spring or summer, Banff never fails in delivering breathtaking landscapes. When you’re there, it makes you realize how small we humans truly are compared to nature: our presence is insignificant next to the beauty and wonder that nature has come up on its own over the years. You leave with appreciating life in general and your purpose a little more. 

Lessons From My Childhood Eating Habits

I was a picky eater when I was a kid. A very very very picky eater. Being an only child, my parents spoiled me with the food that I got to put on my plate: I could eat whatever I wanted and have as much or as little as I wanted. (Soft drinks, however, are a different matter, which I’ll dive into later.) As a kid, that meant no veggies but a lot of junk/fast fast food and an unlimited access to spam, hot dogs, and bacon—pretty much anything processed, canned, and highly advertised on TV. Of course, I had my Filipino faves like adobo, tapa, tinola, and nilaga but if they “looked” weird to me (e.g. kare-kare, laing, pinakbet) or had liver as an ingredient then no thanks; I’m all set with my pan/deep-fried meat!

In fairness, I did try some dishes first before I “eliminated” them from my food list and that was probably the only time my parents would ever force me into eating something. I had to have a taste and if I didn’t like it then that’s too bad. My loss, right? My parents and our helpers would simply refer back to what I already liked and made sure to always prepare something from that “yes-she-eats-this” group.

I don’t think my parents ever forced me to finish my food either. They never really gave me the whole “don’t-waste-your-food-other-people-are-starving-in-the-world” speech. I mean, there wasn’t really anything left for me to waste since I got to control the food on my plate. I knew exactly what I wanted and how much of it I would eat.

So I was a happy and spoiled little girl growing up with no scary force-feeding episodes of “Eat Your Veggies!”. Instead, I had my never ending meals of spam, hot dogs, and bacon—these staples (with a lot of rice and ketchup!), among others, were all that I needed back then. My parents probably didn’t see that as a problem since they were cheap, fast, and convenient options, and more importantly, they greatly satisfied me. One less tantrum for them to worry about!

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Despite my over consumption of these highly processed and fried foods, I hardly had any fat in my body. I was so skinny and frail that my friends, my relatives and even my teachers would tease me that a strong gust of wind could probably sweep me off my feet and take me far, far away.

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I was never blown away literally but I was swept off my feet by a serious case of fevers. At least once a month, I would get sick and be bed-ridden from 3 to 4 days. I remember how my eyes would burn as my body temperature began to rise up. I was weak and helpless; all I could do was take my meds religiously and waited for my illness to die down— a good illustration of what T. Colin Campbell was trying to point out in his book Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition. My doctors sought to fight the particular disease and not the root of it. They would diagnose me and usually it’d be the same problem as the month before. That’s because no matter how varied the external factors were, the food I was taking in internally were always the same: they were empty-caloric and nutrient-lacking hence my body became like them as well. The dependency on modern medicine caused my doctors and my parents to miss out on the bigger problem: my poor nutrition.

Logically, the “wholistic” solution would have been for me to eat my veggies regularly cause then I probably wouldn’t have had such a weak immune system. If only my parents didn’t spoil me as much, right? Not exactly. I actually think my parents did pretty well by letting me control my plate and I am grateful that they never forced veggies down my throat. I may have eaten all the poor stuff which got me sick all the time but I did learn to listen to my body. I simply ate according to my needs, giving my body what, when and how much it wanted—I think that is the first thing about food and nutrition that parents should teach their children. They shouldn’t be forced to eat something they don’t want because it actually has the opposite effect: it causes children to eat less and dislike certain foods.

On the other hand, restricting children makes them want to eat more and some end up binging. For example, the only thing that my parents were strict about was coke (as in the coca-cola drink, not cocaine). My dad banned me from having any until I was 10 years old because it had caffeine in it. Luckily, he was always out of the country so I would just binge on coke then. However, when I turned 10 and my “coke ban” was officially lifted, my addiction started to die down. I guess it was just a case of you-want-what-you-can’t-have.

A healthy lifestyle is so much more than just eating what’s “good” and avoiding what’s “bad”. It is also about understanding your body, its wants and needs, and creating a mutual relationship with food. Forced or restricted food consumption does not encourage that kind of relationship therefore it is not a basis of healthy lifestyle. The best thing parents can do is to provide children with better and healthier food choices to cater to their needs and as they arise. It’s not about forcing or tricking children to eat what’s in front of them, but creating a positive relationship with food first.

These practices apply to anyone really, not just kids. If you’re looking to adapt a “healthy” lifestyle, don’t jump into some strict diet plan. Start by implementing small changes like eliminating junk food/fast food but don’t restrict yourself from them forever. You can base most of your diet on a healthy one but don’t be scared to have something “bad” once in awhile. You have to listen to your body—what, when, and how much it wants—and work with it. If you’ve been eating healthy 6 days in a row but suddenly your body starts craving for chocolate, then go for it and don’t punish yourself for having it. You have to eat to live AND live to eat. Once you have established a better relationship with food, you’ll see that making healthier food choices becomes easy and it’ll be a more natural habit.

(P.S. I am still a picky eater but with preference to raw, whole and unprocessed foods. Take note that these are simply preferences and not self-restrictions. I enjoy ice cream and cookies every now and then—all in moderation, of course!)

Egg “Crepe” 
Ingredients
1 large egg
leftover chicken, shredded
2 slices bacon, nuked in microwave then broken into bits
spinach
cheddar cheese (optional)
mayo (optional)
 pepper to taste
Directions
Whip eggs in a bowl with a tablespoon of water.
Pour scrambled egg in to a pan on medium heat then quickly move the pan around spreading the egg out entirely and as thinly as possible
While the egg is cooking, sprinkle the cheese on top if using and let it melt.
Use a turner to loosen the egg’s hold from the pan, slowly scraping it to prevent it from braking.
Transfer to your plate and top with your veggies and meat.
Add mayo and pepper to your liking, or any other dressing (but I suggest keep it light!). Tabasco also works if you want some heat!
Fold in the sides of the crepe and devour!
Remember you are free to choose your fillings/dressings. Just make sure it’s not too big or heavy or else the “crepe” will break.

Egg “Crepe”

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • leftover chicken, shredded
  • 2 slices bacon, nuked in microwave then broken into bits
  • spinach
  • cheddar cheese (optional)
  • mayo (optional)
  • pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whip eggs in a bowl with a tablespoon of water.
  2. Pour scrambled egg in to a pan on medium heat then quickly move the pan around spreading the egg out entirely and as thinly as possible
  3. While the egg is cooking, sprinkle the cheese on top if using and let it melt.
  4. Use a turner to loosen the egg’s hold from the pan, slowly scraping it to prevent it from braking.
  5. Transfer to your plate and top with your veggies and meat.
  6. Add mayo and pepper to your liking, or any other dressing (but I suggest keep it light!). Tabasco also works if you want some heat!
  7. Fold in the sides of the crepe and devour!

Remember you are free to choose your fillings/dressings. Just make sure it’s not too big or heavy or else the “crepe” will break.

No recipe needed! This is simply a bowl of spinach topped with bacon, sunny side up, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese.

No recipe needed! This is simply a bowl of spinach topped with bacon, sunny side up, grape tomatoes, and goat cheese.