To me, summer means the time for cooking, the time to explore all of my culinary ambitions that have accumulated throughout the school year.
So, everyday, I cook dinner for my family, and there are always a couple of essentials (ingredients, kitchen tools, etc.) and things I keep in mind.
When I first step into the kitchen, I always venture into the fridge to figure out what it is that I want to cook. My dinners typically consist of some kind of soup, starch (usually rice), and two main/side dishes: veggies and protein or sometimes more veggies. So, I’ll make the rice first in a rice cooker (takes about an hour) so that the rice will be finished when I’m finished cooking.
Then, with the veggies and/or protein that I’ve selected for the meal, I search for recipes. My go-to resources have been The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen, New York Times Cooking, and Food and Wine. If there’s a recipe that I love, I’ll remember it and make slight modifications to ingredients if necessary. I love going to the farmer’s market and buying exotic vegetables so that I can try out recipes on my family!
My favorite recipes have been these caramelized broccoli “steaks” (so soft and delicious!), brocollini, veggie gratin (minus the cheese, I used nutritional yeast instead), and mashed potatoes with root vegetables.
I find that searching for new recipes every night actually helps me be more adventurous in the kitchen. Now, I’m less intimidated by baking vegetables instead of stir frying, broiling instead of baking, and using a variety of spices.
By the time I’m done with my main dishes, the rice is ready. I simply heat up the soup that my dad makes every weekend for the week, and dinner is done! Cooking every night is the most therapeutic part of the day for me, and I can’t wait to try more cooking techniques for the rest of the summer! I’m thinking of experimenting with more beans and grains.
In this fast-paced world of instant access, it’s perfectly normal that we want change fast. Changes such as losing weight, eating healthier, and being more active. Things I talk about here in avolicious a lot.
We’ve all heard the phrase “Take a leap of faith.” Well actually don’t. I was to be honest tempted to title this post as “Don’t take that leap of faith”
Let me explain.
I took a huge leap of faith, a leap that looking back I realize was completely uneducated and made in blindness. That leap was in the faith that I would become skinner. I don’t what got into that eighth-grade self me. Looking through the pictures now, I was perfectly fine! But at that moment, I felt large. I felt big. I felt like I was that “fat friend” amidst my friend group. Nobody pressured me or treated me differently to lose weight. In fact, it was completely my decision.
I can’t completely say that I regret this decision, as this leap let me become so passionate about proper nutrition and fervent on redefining what “healthy” means to me (which you can read here). However, if I was given the choice and go back in time, I would choose not to go through this arduous journey.
This leap of faith made me restrict myself to consuming a mere 1,200 calories and running an average of 3 miles daily in the scorching sun. Roughly calculating it, I probably lived off of 500-800 calories. In a matter of 3 months, I lost 20 pounds. But most importantly and significantly, I lost my self-esteem and self-confidence which still affects me today.
Yes, that big leap of faith allowed me to get quick results FAST. I was so proud and pleased with my appearance. I was able to fit into those skinny jeans, no problem. I had a thigh gap. I had a flat stomach. I finally looked like those girls on Instagram.
But I was completely miserable. My day was dictated merely on numbers – the number on the scale, the number of calories I ate that MyFitnessPal app told me, the number of miles I ran that day, the number on the size tag of my clothes. These numbers consumed my life and let me tell you, I felt so powerless. I was in such control of my eating, yet I felt so out of control in my life (it’s a hard feeling to describe but I’m sure a lot of those who’ve gone through ED or experiencing one right now can attest to this).
But fast-forward two years now, I am a much better relationship with food now. I don’t necessarily think that I am fully recovered. I still have a long way to go.
But I have made progress.
And through my experience, I can say that I’ve had successful progress when I took small steps.
Small and baby steps.
Give you an example? I’ve been straying away a bit from running these days. I used to love running the past, but these days I dread just thinking of the mileage and the prospect of running. Instead, I’ve been doing so much walking.
I’m a Type A gal so I love keeping track of things. I’ve been recently logging my steps into the Health app on my iPhone. I’ve been average 10,000+ steps daily!
I wake up at 6:30am when the weather is actually bearable and take a 30-40 minute power walk. This gets me to about 4,000 steps. Later in the evening, I take a 60-75 minute walk with my parents after dinner. This second walk allows me to get up to 10,000-12,000 steps.
And the best part? I get to enjoy being active. I sincerely do get excited about the prospect of walking in the morning and after dinner. While yes, walking necessarily may not burn as much calories, I am able to do it more consistently and with a glad heart.
And to be honest, all I’m going for is to develop a sustainable, maintainable, and happy lifestyle. Nothing too extreme – on both sides of the spectrum. Doing things that I enjoy, eating things that I enjoy, and most importantly, enjoying the body that I was born with.
So I challenge you: instead of making your goal to go to the gym for an hour everyday, or go cold turkey tomorrow, pick ONE change and stick with it.
I don’t want to come off as bragging, but I have to admit that I have been blessed with great skin. Serena always asks me about my skincare routine, but to be honest, it’s too simple that I don’t think it will help.
Both my parents never had major acne breakouts – when I look back at their old high school/college photos, their faces look clear (or maybe it looks clear because the photos are not as good quality as today’s haha).
However, my mom continually reminds me to not take my clear and healthy skin for granted. She told me that if there is one regret she has with her skin, it’s that she took her healthy and clear teenage skin for granted and now the slacking is showing up. I definitely know what she’s talking about – nowadays, my skin occasionally breaks out and doesn’t have that glow as it used to.
Here are some of my basic (yet always important to hear again) tips for skin care!
ONE// Drink water – and lots of it.
If you search “water” in the search bar of Avolicious, you’ll find so many photos where both Serena and I talk about the importance of drinking water. Drinking water has so many benefits and is such a quick and easy way to instantly feel and look better!
Our skin is an organ too! A large one in fact. So we need to supply our skin with water so that our skin cells can function properly and at its best.
Unfortunately, water reaches our other organs first before it reaches our skin, so that’s why you have to drink so much water! So go drink up!
TIP: keep multiple reusable bottles (my favorites are Hydroflasks!) in the fridge and take one out to bring around the house or when you go outside. Continually be sipping. It’s going to be hard the first few weeks where you’ll be running to the loo constantly, but once your body adjusts, you’ll be going to the bathroom less!
This is one of my other biggest tips. I tend to over-moisturize (if that even is a word) my face. I make sure my skin is really moist and dewy. This ensures that my skin is both moist and hydrated from the inside (from drinking water) and the outside!
THREE// Wash your face regularly
For the 16 years I’ve been living, I have always, always, without a single day missing, washed my face right after wake up. It’s a habit that my mom has drilled into me since I was young. Before I go downstairs to eat breakfast, I always wash my face. While yes, you’ve only been sleeping, those 8 hours (or less or more), the oils, impurities and other things that are on your pillow and bed have appeared on your face. You want to wash them away!!! I usually wash my face right after I wake up and right before I go to sleep. If I wash my face in the middle of the day, it’s because I came right after a workout.
Make sure to wash your face especially if you’ve been sweating a lot. Your sweat can clog up your pores and not allow your skin to breathe enough and get the air it needs.
FOUR// Apply sunscreen
I know, I know. This is one of my least parts also. But it’s so important. Make sure to apply sunscreen both in the summer and winter. To be frank, I would rather be tan, but my mom is constantly reminding me that I’ll thank her later when I don’t have wrinkles (or even worse skin cancer) from not applying enough sunscreen.
You become what you eat is so true when it comes to skin. You probably know that when you eat very oily or fatty foods, your skin is bound to break out. After a bowl of instant ramen, our faces get bloated. Our skins are a clear indicator of the quality of our diets. Make sure to get lots of nutrients – veggies, fruits, healthy fats, and whole grains. Of course, you can indulge yourself, but in order to have that radiant skin (without the help of make up of course), you need to eat right.
Do you have any skin care tips that you would like to share?
I have a lot of things that I’m not especially proud about. However, there is particularly one big problem that I want to fix because it’s bad for both my physical and mental health.
This big problem is my stress-eating.
Especially during the final season, my eating habits just crumble. I gravitate towards sweet, oily, savory foods that I know should only be eaten as indulgences, but soon become regulars. It’s a vicious cycle – I surrender to stress eat, then when I come back home for break, I get mad at myself for stress eating from all the weight I gained. And then I try to lose some of the weight while I’m back home, but because I get so easily stressed, I easily gain all that weight back.
However, I realized that when I was stress-eating, I was stress-eating because I was trying to cope with my stress. But I was trying to cope with my stress by eating – and eating too much and eating not well. Other people cope with stress and challenging emotions in different ways. Some through drinking, some through exercising (I wish right?), some through getting cranky and venting their anger at their friends, some through shopping (aka retail therapy). It just happens to me that I cope with stress through food.
It might be because I had so much control over food when I had my eating disorder. During those (miserable and dark) days, I religiously counted every morsel and calories. 1,200 calories to be exact. I exercised every day or else I felt guilty. And when I mean exercise, it was mostly running and cardio as I was worried I would “bulk up.” I had so much control over my food and my exercise.
But once I realized that I couldn’t live like this through a number of events and close family and friends, I suddenly lost all that control. I ate so much. I gained back the weight I lost and then some more. I continually kept on eating because I had restricted my body for so long.
So maybe it’s because of this history and background that when I undergo stress or unwelcome feelings, when I feel like I’ve lost control of my day and my life, I continue to lose control by eating.
But this is bad. And I’m not proud of it.
These days, as I’m studying for SATs (as that is the high school life haha), my mind often times wander and starts craving food. But I stop myself and think:
“Stephanie, what do you really want?”
“I want food.”
“Are you sure? But you’re not hungry…”
“I just want something else to do. Something else other than studying. I’m getting so bored just studying so I want to do something else. And that something else is food.”
That’s the key. It’s not that I want to eat because I’m hungry. I want to eat because currently, at the present, I don’t want to do the thing I’m doing. I want to go away from it. I want to take a little breather, a little break, go away from studying. But guess what? As soon as I’m done eating, studying is going to be still there.
Or sometimes, I want to eat because I’m tired. So when I really need to sleep and relax, I want to eat.
While I haven’t figured out the magical key to stop stress eating, I’ve realized that it’s so important to LISTEN to your body. It takes lots of practice. But when your mind wants to eat, wants to do _____, stop and ask yourself: what do you really want right now?
Your body is your temple. If you don’t listen and respect it, nobody else will.
So what are you hungry for? Comfort? A place to hide? Something enjoyable?
Well you can find this without having to eat food. You can find comfort by hugging a close family or friend and telling them your current mood and thoughts. Need a place to hide? I find that a lot of times when I’m in this situation, I like to listen to my favorite music and take an hour long nap. Just to take a break and a breather from life. Something enjoyable? Go watch some YouTube videos, go hang out with friends, go do what you actually enjoy!
I’m known by many to be a Type-A, workaholic, and perfectionist. There are pros and cons to this. The pros are that I get everything that I say I’m going to do, done. The cons are that it’s not necessarily “healthy.”
Having a healthy lifestyle not only means eating healthy, being active, and maintaining your body such as your eyes, but it also means having a manageable schedule and workload, having that balance.
Here are a few of my tips on how I get it all done, without sacrificing my health and happiness.
This is so important. There are a million and one things to do and to be real with you, we’re just not going to have enough time for that.
Rather than being pulled in so many directions, choose a handful of things that are truly important to you and that is worth investing your energy into. To give you a sense, my priorities are: school work, friends, family, health, Avolicious, my faith.
If some work pops up that involves these categories, then I’m willing to stay up later, sacrifice my sleep time and get it done. If the work does not involve these categories, I’ll either put it off to the side to work on it later, OR I’ll say no.
This is said so so so many times, but saying NO is okay. Period. No questions.
Keep your important categories in mind and as you create your schedule/to-do list, make sure those categories are on the top of that list.
As much as hangry (hungry + angry) exists, losing focus when hungry is very much a real thing (do we have a term for this?). I tend to always lose focus when I’m hungry. This is perfectly normal because rather than using our energy to focus on our work, because we have no energy, we can’t focus. The key is that the snacks you eat should help you study and work longer. They shouldn’t drift you away from studying because of their absurd sugar content or some weird chemical ingredient.
The easiest snacks that are both healthy and convenient to carry around are granola bars. My recent favorites are the GoMacro bars. GoMacro bars provide organic, plant-powered and wholesome nutrition – a perfect combination for a little pick me up at around that 3pm/4pm time.
I love stashing these in my backpack during school or even in the summer, when I’m going out and about doing internships and volunteer work.
THREE// 120% Focus
I live by the mantra, “Work hard, Play Hard.” And working hard for me not only means putting in the time, the hours to work, but to be ultra-efficient while doing so. Making sure the concentration between the effort and time is the highest it can be.
Completely hone in on your work. No other thoughts. Put away your distractions, including music. Go all in.
You’ll find that when you have a 120% focus you get much more work done in less time, meaning you get more time to relax and play hard.
FOUR// My non-negotiables
With these three tips above, I get my non-negotiables accomplished. My non-negotiables are: sleeping at least 6+ hours every day, eating healthy (eating at least one meal where it is non-meat and green), and at least 1-2 hours of relaxing and play time.
How to you get everything done (in a healthy way)?
Just when you thought that I was gone, surprise! Stephanie back again!
I just came back a three-week trip and suffering terribly from jet lag. I went to Japan for two weeks for a cultural exchange program and then met up with my parents in Korea where I stayed for a week.
As much as travel is travel, attending a cultural exchange program really allowed me to become immersed into the culture. And of course, the foodie I am, while I was in Japan, I was hyper-aware of the food and the attitude around food.
In the 14 days I was there, I learned for myself why Japan is so well-known for its healthy and slim population.
ONE // portion size
First off, portion size. Even before I went to Japan, I knew from the numerous articles I read on the internet, that Japanese (and French and pretty much the rest of the world) eat much less than us in the States. Those sites weren’t kidding – I don’t know what I was expecting for smaller portion size but I don’t think anything would have gotten me prepared for the ridiculously small portion sizes!
It really may depend on the family, but my host family (oh my gosh, they were the sweetest!) did eat very little. And while it was hard to adjust at first, that adjustment and change was all part of the experience.
To put it in perspective, a meal that looks like it could be served to one person in the States, was shared by four people (two adults and two high schoolers) while I was in Japan. Eating in such a way for two weeks, my stomach and appetite has definitely shrunk.
The other day, I was eating my classic avocado toast meal and I felt so full even though I was only halfway into the meal! Usually I still feel hungry after two pieces of toast, but the other day, I already felt full only after finishing the first piece!
TWO// three square meals, no snacks
Another big thing I learned is that they eat very little if not no snacks. For my host family, we ate three square meals – but usually when we say square, we mean a big meal, but if you look at number one, square meals in Japan are like the quarter of the size of a square meal in America haha. I think the two weeks I was there, my host family’s mom offered snacks around three times. And the after-school snack was three pieces of watermelon with three pieces of melon. Not your usual mini-meal.
Also, because I was there as a cultural exchange, my host skipped her basketball practice and instead just went home with me. However, on usual days, my host and the rest of the student body have clubs from 3:30-6:30. These clubs range from sports (basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, etc) to music activities (orchestra, band). And the average commute time is 90 minutes! So when these students come back home, they eat dinner at around 8pm (when lunch was at 12:30pm!) I was alarmed at how little these Japanese students ate compared to their activity levels.
THREE// they just eat.
One night in my second week staying in Japan, my host family and I started talking about the different cuisine and lifestyles between Japan and the States. My host said that while Japan is known to be healthy from other countries, she claimed that not a lot of Japanese people actually think that they eat healthy. Japanese people don’t make a conscious effort or decision to eat healthy. Unlike a lot of “healthy” people here in the States (I’m putting healthy in quotes because of this blog post) who eat salads everyday and go to SoulCycle, Japanese people just eat what they are given. They just eat. Their cuisine in itself is just healthier. In the two weeks I was there, I think I had red meat once if not at all. However, despite not eating a lot of red meat compared to back home, I didn’t feel like I was nutritionally deficient. They eat the feared carbs – they eat rice every meal – yet, they are still slim. Why? Because they eat everything in moderation and smaller proportion.
I have much more to share about what I learned while in my two weeks in Japan. But the other tidbits are more personal and specific to my body image and self-love. I’ll be sharing tomorrow 🙂
But in all, I never expected to learn so much while traveling. Most of my traveling after 8th grade has been to Korea to visit my grandparents. Going to Korea is kind of like going to Nantucket/Cape Cod for some in the States. I don’t go to explore and discover new places in Korea, but more to just spend time with family and friends and doing the mundane things – eating, shopping, and some R&R. So going to Japan this summer was such a mindblowing and amazing experience. Of course, other than food I learned other things, but I decided to share the food aspects on the blog today.
Have you learned something from your travels before?
I think one of the greatest things about blogging is the community. While at first I was intimidated on commenting on other people’s blogs, to be honest, the conversations I have through blogging have been so invaluable.
One blogger that I’ve been following ever since I created Avolicious is Shadee from Izzie’s Kitchen. Shadee continues to amaze me with the dedication and amazing quality posts she churns up daily (or sometimes multiple posts in a single day!). Particularly, the titles to her blog posts are always SPOT ON. You have to check her out – she’s amazing beyond words.
Anywho, Shadee challenged me to do the foodie alphabet after she posted her alphabet on her blog a couple of days ago. Of course, as the foodie I am, I was excited to take part in this challenge. Thanks, Shadee for this challenge! My hope is that all my 26 favorites are different from Shadee’s!
Durian (fun fact: I used to hate these. When we were living in the Philippines, my mom would buy them at least twice a month. My dad and I refused to eat it. However, a bit older, I guess my tastebuds have matured. – Glad they did, durian is so good. )
Fettucine Alfredo (I know…not that healthiest, but in moderation … 🙂 )
Hummus (I’m not cheating – chickpeas and hummus are independent things. At least for me haha)
Instant Apples & Cinnamon Oatmeal (much needed sometimes on a cold rainy morning)
Japanese Sweet Potatoes
Kiwi (Kimchi is a close second)
Lychees (had so many of these when I was living in the Philippines)
Oatmeal Raisin Cookie
Rice!!! (I am an Asian by heart, am I right???)
Salmon & Smoked Salmon
Vanilla Ice Cream
Xigua (apparently this is the Chinese word for watermelon. I couldn’t find any “x” words so I switched my W – Watermelon to Xigua and put Walnuts up)
Hopefully those who were hit by Storm Stella are all safe and sound with no power outages!
Nothing screams snow days more than food. And lots of food to be exact.
Just like I do over every break, here’s what I’ve been eating lately.
Beware: picture overload
As much as I consider myself a self-educated health nut, I do think that my mom is a health-nut in her own ways. I was never allowed to eat McDonalds, juice was banned from my house when I was in fourth grade, instant noodles were never allowed, etc.
So when I come back home, it’s great that while I crave my mom’s cooked meals, the meals are healthy as well! Here is one meal for example:
I’ve also had a lot of salads coming back home:
My mom and I also tried out this new pizza from the “healthy” aisle of our supermarket.
My mom and I agreed it was a 10/10. It was super delicious and super easy to make (less than 10 minutes!)
I, of course, went to Costco (aka my happy place). I love that feeling when you’re literally giving in all your weight as you push that Costco cart brimmed with good food 🙂
And for miscellaneous: I’ve been having my favorite breakfast cereal/oatmeal combo, lots of avocado.
And last but not least, before Storm Stella hit us, my mom and I went on another much-needed lunch date. I got the salmon terriyaki lunch box and my mom got the pork lunch box. They were very good – we finished it all!
So that’s it for this week! As you can see, break so far has been filled with wonderful food and family time.
I decided during lunch today (while my parents were out attending a wedding), to film a video of how I make my avocado toast lunch.
As you can see from the video, it’s super duper simple to make this lunch! Let me know of what you think of the video. I really want to start doing more video content so if you have a suggestion for a type of video you’d like to see me do, leave the suggestion in a comment!
I’ve been home for spring break for five days now, but these five days have been jam-packed with good food (that’s always the highlight of coming back home 😉 ).
So I decided to share some of the food I’ve been eating in the beginning of break in the “Lately Obsessed” format.
Ready for a picture overload? Let’s go!
ONE // Lunch dates with my mom @ Nordstrom Cafe
Nordstrom Cafe isn’t anything special, but my mom and I have been going there for lunch ever since I was in 3rd grade, so it’s pretty much a staple in our books. Whether it’s lunch after I get let out of break, after a play, after field day, after finals, after a long and tiring shopping trip, my mom and I love to eat at Nordstrom Cafe. There are perennial favorites such as the penne pasta or the vegetable panini. They had a few months ago a kale and mushroom salad special and it was so good! Please bring it back!
This time around (we literally went to Nordstrom Cafe the first full day back home haha), we got the penne pasta but we decided to order the prosciutto arugula salad. We were pleasantly surprised – the pizza was really really delicious! Funny though because both my mom and I took off the prosciutto which we joked was probably why the pizza was on the pricer end, haha.
TWO // Healthy snacking
Some say three solid meals a day, some say five to six small meals a day. I go back and forth, ranging from three to six meals, but the past few days, I’ve been snacking on some crackers. I’ve eaten Terra chips before, but these kale crackers!!!! They are soooo good. They have a lot of flavor and are great to go with hummus. My mom and I finished the entire container that afternoon we bought them from the grocery store, haha (although to be fair, there weren’t a lot of crackers to begin with).
THREE// The salad bar at my dad’s workplace
I’ve definitely ranted about this before in previous blog posts and in my Instagram stories (follow us at @avolicious_blog), but my dad’s office has THE BEST salad bar. Like seriously… Today, I brought an avocado from home since the one thing that the salad bar doesn’t have is avocado, which is understandable (that’s called dedication haha). But otherwise, everything is from this insane salad bar. I have arugula as the base, quinoa, barley, roasted butternut squash, pesto cream chicken, hard boiled egg, tomatoes, and sunflower seeds drizzled with olive oil. <insert face with heart eyes emoji here>
FOUR// Dinner’s at home
Nothing beats mom’s cooking! My mom makes THE BEST japchae (a Korean noodle dish). She made it the first night back (she knows me and my tastebuds too well haha). And also, despite being allergic to crabs and lobsters, tonight we had crab cakes for dinner. Argh…so good! She also got lots and lots of grapefruit for me from Costco (grapefruits are my favorite winter fruit). So yeah…I’m just in tastebud heaven right now.
FIVE// Lots and lots of avocado toast
What did you expect? Of course, I’m chowing down on my avocado toasts! I think I’ve had one at least once every day I’ve come back home. I mean look at that color! Together with the chia seed (and sometimes smoked salmon if we have it in the house) and perfectly toasted bread, ugh it’s a feast for the stomach!