An Expedited Thanksgiving

It’s amazing how time flies these days. It’s already November!

Even though my favorite time of the season is fast approaching, I find myself a little sad, because I’m caught up in this whirlwind of “adult” things (this will be reserved for a separate post… if I ever find the time for it). How did Halloween sneak up on me?? Then again, I really didn’t do it much justice – instead, I scheduled our family’s Thanksgiving 2014 Dinner the very next night.

This was mainly because I would be leaving the country the week of the actual Thanksgiving Day and I refuse to not have Thanksgiving Dinner this year. My family didn’t really care too much – they just enjoyed the fact that we would be getting together over food so they were pretty excited. Who am I kidding? I was most definitely excited as well. Food: the magic word. Now, I wouldn’t say our Thanksgiving Dinners are terribly traditional, but they are most definitely epic on their own level. Okay, quite honestly, they became more epic starting last year, because it was my first Thanksgiving with me married (Hah! That still rings odd in my mental ears.) and I wanted to have a legit Thanksgiving Dinner. Plus, it turns out that my other half never had a real Thanksgiving celebration and I was determined to change that. Before this, they were small, normal dinners with my immediate family and we might even have dessert (I live in a family of health nuts). Even before that during my childhood in California (and before my family became completely vegetarian), my parents would buy ready-made Thanksgiving Dinners and we would eat at home.

Last year’s Dinner was ridiculous. I put it together so I did most of the cooking and, of course, I insisted on making everything from scratch (except for the veggie “meat”). I don’t quite remember the menu but I remember cooking from the day before up until the actual dinner itself. There was vegetarian “turkey” (it was disturbingly in the shape of a chicken mold including the head), biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy, veggie meatloaf, Cornbread stuffing, Grapefruit tart… my Asian family also brought over more Asian fare.

This year, we all had our roles, which is a big relief when you work full-time and my family Thanksgiving dinners means you cook for around 15 people. (The sad thing is that if we had one with all of my family members not in town, we might as well be a restaurant.)

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Korea 2012 Tour: A Taste of Seoul

I’m currently back in the States, which is where I finally find some time to catch up on the many posts on my trip back to Korea. Originally, it was supposed to be 26 days of me reminiscing and catching up with my old life and old friends, but when one of my friends (then two and, finally, three) caught wind of my impending trip, I found myself with travel buddies and I planned a cross-country tour:

I was rather excited, though slightly apprehensive; I was showing them where I had lived and grown to love. The pressure was on, especially since 1/2 of them are strict vegetarians who don’t eat onion or garlic and Korea… well, Korea’s not very good with the vegetarian portion of their restrictions, never mind that last part. Good thing I like challenges. Either way, the Korean tour itself centered on the 12.5 days one of my friends would be there for as he was there for the shortest period, from the night of October 8 to the morning of October 20. We would start from Seoul with a day trip to the DMZ and then make our way through some of the highlights of Korea…

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Spiced Beondegi??

I went out with my sister today at our usual and favorite vegetarian Indian restaurant. We piled on the food and sat down, while waiting for the steaming naan to come out. Then, we shoveled it in, as if regular breaths were not necessary for survival. The flavors were extraordinary and as I wiped my nose – though Korea has increased my tolerance of spicy foods exponentially, I’m still far from being immune from it’s effects (i.e. pink tint to the face, runny nose) – I took another bite of the palak paneer, my favorite Indian dish… only to encounter a crunch.

Palak paneer is basically paneer, or Indian cheese, in a curried spinach puree. At the most, the only resistance my teeth should be feeling is the slight texture change of the cheese, which is reminiscent of extra firm tofu. Being as this is my favorite dish, I’ve had it multiple times before and it was one of the main reasons I return to this restaurant. They always have it on their buffet menu. There’s nothing in it that should be that crispy or crunchy – like a frito chip. I suddenly felt like something was wrong so I froze and stopped chewing after that first chomp down.

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Vegetarian in Korea

It’s exactly three months until I’ll find myself in Korea once more. This time, it’s just an opportunity to travel and explore the rest of the Korea experience while I can; I honestly don’t know when’s the next time I can visit. This is also a trip where I’ll be taking two friends of mine over and I will be the unofficial tour guide. I’m rather excited: Korea’s a great place. It’s beautiful, the people are nice (for the most part but this is normal for most people), the culture interesting, and the food delicious.

I’m not entirely biased, because as a vegetarian, I know that in Korea, you’re going to have to work a little harder than others to get food. After all, when I think of Korean food, I think of flavorful soups, rice, fermented vegetables (i.e. kimchi) and meat (and when I listed ‘meat’, I also meant seafood) – not to mention alcohol and their love for spicy things. When other people think of Korean food, they think of Korean barbecue. This is where things can get a little complicated. I’m a semi-vegetarian. I’m mostly vegetarian but when I go somewhere that’s less-than-friendly to vegetarians, I loosen up my restrictions a bit: I might take a sip of the soup broth that I know was cooked with some meat, I will pick out the meat and eat the rest, etc. However, one of my friends who will be going is a strict vegetarian. As such, I found myself compiling Safe Foods for him to eat and decided that it would be nice to make a post on it. Why not, right?

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Wheatgrass: Bring on the Green!

The first time I heard of it, a bunch of question marks popped up in my head. Wheat… grass? I decided that it must be one of those new-fangled foods that’s been proven in studies to be beneficial for one’s health. I also decided it didn’t sound remotely appealing.

In truth, it really does resemble the grass in my front lawn, though perhaps more on the delicate side. Then one day, the enthusiastic health nut that my mom is, she decided to order a shot of wheatgrass at Jamba Juice. She made the most disgusted face (at the taste) ever, which was interesting, because she’s one of those people who will eat anything that is good for one’s health – no complaints. Well, her facial expression said enough, I thought. Thereon after, I didn’t hear much about this plant until my mom somehow wanted to buy a box of fresh wheatgrass because she saw them at our local Central Market (the more up-scale version of HEB) – about 8 bucks for a good amount of those little, organic green sprigs.

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Liquid Happiness

When I was a baby and through my younger years, my parents had to force me to eat. Much later, I got into the habit of finishing everything on my plate, but I still have a soft spot for drinks. Sure, food is amazing and I constantly think about it, even following an eat-a-thon at a buffet (though the amount of times that I’ve been to one have dwindled within the past years), but there are just some things that food can’t do and that’s when these guys step in (in no particular order)…

Milk. My favorite drink since birth (literally, hah) – I prefer the skim milk variety. It’s so versatile in that it’s great alone, ingested with other things (cookies and milk anyone?), flavored (walnut and breakfast milks in China and banana milk in Korea completely rock my socks, in addition to the classic chocolate milk and bedtime milk that’s steeped with fresh ginger and spices), and used in food. It also helps because though my tolerance for spicy food has considerably risen after my year in Korea, it’s still not all that great. That’s when Milk comes to the Rescue!

There are a ton of healthy drinks out there. My favorite, by far, is Odwalla’s Superfood Fruit Juice. It is amazing. The only thing stopping me from buying it as much as I’d like is that it’s a bit pricey, usually going for around 8 USD per 64 fluid ounces (2 quarts), or around 3 USD per personal-sized bottle. It’s a green concoction that’s a bit thick – good thing I love green drinks, as my usual breakfast consists of a green smoothie – but the smell’s unique.. smelling fruity but more mellow. The texture is smooth and the taste is an amalgamation of exactly what, I couldn’t tell you, but with the amount of purees in there, I won’t try to think too much of it. And it’s full of vitamins! Continue reading