Making My Own Kombucha

Kombucha. You’ve probably heard about this fizzy, probiotic drink from plenty of food and wellness bloggers. Kombucha is the product of fermenting sweetened tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Kombucha has been lauded for its ability to

  • Improve Digestion
  • Weight Loss
  • Increase Energy
  • Detox
  • Support Immune System
  • Reduce Joint Pain
  • Prevent Cancer

But, kombucha typically sells for $3-6 at supermarkets, which can really add up overtime! I decided to brew my own kombucha to see if it actually lives up to its health claims.

I started brewing my kombucha in February and I used a recipe by The Kitchn; it’s super detailed and explains everything step-by-step.

Just as a helpful note:

Batch Size: To increase or decrease the amount of kombucha you make, maintain the basic ratio of 1 cup of sugar, 8 bags of tea, and 2 cups starter tea per gallon batch. One scoby will ferment any size batch, though larger batches may take longer. (The Kitchn)

One of my friends’ sister was brewing kombucha as well, and I used a piece of her SCOBY.

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The scoby looked a little something like this! (Improving-SCOBY-Health.jpg)

I kept the kombucha in a dark area and let it sit and brew. Every couple weeks, I would give it a taste test to  make sure it wasn’t too sweet, but it also wasn’t too sour and vinegar-like. Finally, at the end of April, I decided it was ready!

 

 

 

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Look at that scoby!

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So, you can see that the scoby grew to be huge and super thick. The kombucha tasted sweet and vinegary, with just the right amount of carbonation. I drank 1/2 cup of kombucha a couple times every week, so here are my observations:

  • Claims to improve digestion –> From my experience, I was actually more gassy than before!
  • Increases energy –> I guess the vinegary kick from the kombucha did give me more energy…but the drink is super sugary, and the longer it was left in the fridge, the sweeter it got (something to do with the fermentation process…), and for me personally, the kombucha was too sweet.

In conclusion, I don’t really think kombucha is worth the hype based on how it made me feel. I must admit that I do feel very healthy sipping that ice-cold kombucha, but at the end of the day, I don’t think it is worth the money, or effort and time to make it.

What do you think about kombucha?

Love,

Serena

 

Easter Brunch: What I Ate Wednesday! 

For many people, Easter is a day for celebration, complete with lots of scrumptious food.  Here’s a rundown of everything I ate and did on Easter Sunday!

In the morning, I got up early for a 7:30am sunrise service at my church. Following the service, we had a large Chinese breakfast, with four different types of congee (beef, pork, pumpkin, and century egg) with fried crullers, tea-braised hard boiled eggs, steam pork buns, man tou (plain buns), and my favorite, red bean sticky rice cake.

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  Pumpkin Congee
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Tea-braised Eggs

 

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Red Bean Sticky Rice Cake- my favorite!!
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Mantou (plain buns)

 

After church, I went out to practice golf, because the weather was 80 degrees and gorgeous. Around 1 or 2, I came home to have a late lunch. I was sweaty and starving at this point, so I quickly grabbed all the fruit in the fridge, and had a feast of papaya, mango, and jack fruit. The fruit was perfect after a couple hours in the sun. I then had two slices of avocado toast, and finished my meal with some dairy-free ice cream!

  

Almond milk So Delicious ice cream with pistachios

So much good food on Easter, it was seriously #foodgoals!

 

Love,

Serena

Banana Cinnamon Coffee Overnight Oats

I love my overnight oats. Sometimes I think I wake up because my oats are calling my name. You might think I’m a bit overly obsessed but let me tell you they are the perfect breakfast to have in the mornings when you don’t have time to/don’t feel like making anything, but don’t want to sacrifice your health. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you better feed your body right, from the start.

I have so many overnight oat recipes that I’ve created, and I’ll share more of them later. But for now, allow me to introduce my go to, BANANA CINNAMON COFFEE overnight oats. As with many of my recipes, each of the ingredients are selected for a purpose, so that the ingredients list doesn’t contain any unnecessary bells and whistles.

Here it is:

Servings: 1

Time: 5 minutes active (yes, actually 5 minutes I timed it :)), 7-8 hours fridge overnight

Ingredients:

1/2 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp. chia seeds (or sub flax seeds)

1/2 banana

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp instant coffee powder (equivalent to about 1/2 cup coffee worth of caffeine)

1/2 cup + a little bit more almond milk (or milk of choice)

honey to taste

optional toppings: almond slivers, dark chocolate chips, etc.

Instructions:

1.) In a mason jar or some resealable jar, mash the banana. Add oats, chia seeds, cinnamon, coffee powder, honey, and milk.

2.) Screw on the lid and shake until well combined (or you could be fancy and mix with a spoon).

3.) Pop it in the fridge, and enjoy right out of the jar the next morning! (ideally 7-8 hours in the fridge, but the timing is flexible)

Yeah, that’s it. Just a throw everything in a jar and shake kind of recipe. You DO NOT have to have any kind of cooking skill to make this oatmeal, and it turns out creamy and satisfying every time!! You can heat it up in the morning as well, but I find cold/room temp oats to be just fine. I even have overnight oats for snack sometimes 😛

Let me know if you try out this recipe and your thoughts! Happy oatmeal eating 🙂

Love,

Serena

 

 

Asparagus for Any Day

I’ve always loved asparagus because of how fun it is to eat! Asparagus isn’t like spinach or lettuce where I feel like a cow eating it with stems and leaves sticking stubbornly out of my mouth. Instead, asparagus is crunchy and texturally satisfying. Also, fun fact, 1 cup of asparagus has 100% of the daily value of Vitamin K for blood clotting and bone support.

If you follow our Avolicious Instagram, you’ll know that I was sick this past week. I had a fever and I still have a sore throat, but I made this delicious asparagus dish that was both healthy and satisfying. My recipe was based off of my spiced fried rice recipe in that I used similar super healthy spices.

Here’s the simple recipe and I hope you give it a try!


Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Asparagus (duh)

1 tbsp Minced garlic/garlic powder

1/2 tsp Turmeric

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

(That’s it!! only 4 ingredients!!)

Process:

1.) Wash asparagus and chop into 1.5 inch pieces.

2.) Heat 1 tbsp. water in a pan and add minced garlic if using

3.) Once water is hot, add asparagus and cook for 2 minutes

4.) Add turmeric and black pepper

Yay!! All done. This recipe is easy easy you really don’t need to have many cooking skills for it! Plus, the turmeric is amazing for fighting inflammation, and black pepper helps the body absorb the nutrients from the turmeric.

Enjoy!

-Serena 

Foodie Alphabet

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!

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I challenge:

Stephanie’s Foodie Alphabet

Avocado (duh..what did you expect? 😉 )

Banana (I eat one every single day)

Chickpeas

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. )

Eggplant

Fettucine Alfredo (I know…not that healthiest, but in moderation … 🙂 )

Grapefruit

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)

Mango

Nectarines

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie

Persimmon

Quinoa

Rice!!! (I am an Asian by heart, am I right???)

Salmon & Smoked Salmon

Tofu

Udon

Vanilla Ice Cream

Walnuts

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)

Yogurt

Zucchini

What’s your foodie alphabet?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

 

How I Stay Healthy When Eating Out

You’re stuck in a restaurant that you didn’t want to go to in the first place. One look at the menu and you know this will be a major cheat meal-fried chicken, ribs, steak and potatoes, with not a mention of a vegetable in sight!

I’ve experienced this little scenario many times before, I visit my relatives from New York about once a month, and whenever we eat out, they always choose to go to either a chain steakhouse or a Chinese restaurant.

So, over the years, I’ve developed some techniques to staying healthy when eating out. I think these tips can be applied to many different scenarios, like if your friends all decide to order takeout from a restaurant that you know does not have healthy food, or if you are at a fast food restaurant because you have no time to sit down and eat a slow meal.

Also, I just want to note that I am pescatarian, but these tips can definitely apply to vegetarians, vegans, or just health-conscious individuals.

1.) Look at the salad options. Maybe this is a no-brainer, but the salad might be your best bet to eating a plant-based meal. If the salad has an element that you would prefer not to have, just ask for it to be removed or replaced. Since you are still paying for that element of the dish, you could just give it to the people dining with you.

2.) Sides are your best friend. I’ve been to steakhouses that offer no vegetable dish at all. Even the salads contain some kind of meat, whether that be chicken or steak. However, I can guarantee you that you’ll find at least one plant based option among the sides. Take this menu from Outback Steakhouse for example. All of the sides are plant based (with the exception of theFullSizeRender mac and cheese). You can also usually make potatoes healthier by asking for no toppings (getting rid of fatty sour cream) and just add salt and pepper to your taste. You could also ask for condiments on the side, so instead of the Sweet Potato with Cinnamon Sugar and Butter that is on the menu, you could add these two ingredients to your liking.

If none of the main dishes are speaking to you, you can order solely sides, or a combination of appetizers and sides.

 

 

 

3.) Your waiter is your best friend. As I’ve stated before, you can always ask for an ingredient to be removed, replaced, or put on the side. Your waiter or the cashier is your go-to person for making these requests. One time, I went to TGI Friday’s with my family because it was the only restaurant open at the time we wanted dinner. With the exception of a garden salad, there was not a single non-meat item on the menu. I didn’t really want to have the garden salad because it was just lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese. So instead, I ordered the mac and cheese with broccoli and chicken, and asked for all of the chicken to be replaced with broccoli.

4.) When eating a family-style meal, take charge of ordering food. When you are eating with a large group of people (like my extended family, with 13 people) it’s easy to engage in side conversations while the ordering is occurring. There have been many times where other people have ordered, and as a result, I may only have one dish that I can eat as a pescatarian, or as a healthy person in general! So, if you are in charge of ordering the food, you can order what you want to eat because anyways, it will benefit the group to have at least one or two healthy dishes on the table.

So I hope these tips will help you when ordering food! Fast food doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, and steakhouses don’t always have to mean steak. Happy eating 🙂

Love,

Serena

 

Last Weekend Home

I can’t believe my 18 day spring break is already over!!!!! (insert wailing emoji face here)

When I came down home on March 2nd, I was so happy, excited for all the fun and lazy things I would be doing over the 18-day break. The first few days are always spent wasteful, while the last few days are crammed and jammed with lots of events and friends. This weekend was exactly that: my last weekend home was probably the most jam-packed weekend I’ve ever had.

In imitation of one of my FAVE bloggers and girlfriends I’ve been blessed to find through blogging, Mackenzie, I decided to do a little weekend recap. While it’s not as interesting and fun as her weekend recaps, hopefully I can show you how much I crammed it during these last few days.

Throughout the whole weekend, I managed to “finish” one KDrama series. Now don’t think I watched all 16 episodes in a span of two/three days. Nah. I decided on Friday night that I wanted to watch this drama called “Weightlifting Fairy Nam Bok Joo.”I watched in total 4 episodes in total and most of the other episodes I watched clips on YouTube or inferred (it was quite a mental game to guess what happened in prior episodes I didn’t watch haha).

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Here’s the direct link to watch it in Viki. Beware! Warning!

I was intrigued at the plot synopsis as many people praised how it spread such a positive message of just being yourself and never be ashamed of who you are and to love yourself and those around you. As the title shows, the female lead was a collegiate weightlifter training to be an Olympic weightlifter. Due to her athletic commitments, she has a heavier build, has callouses on her hands, does not have a lot of time to spare, and eats a lot – things that make it hard for her to date guys unlike the stick-skinny gymnasts across her dormitory. But her best guy-friend (later turned boyfriend) emphasizes how important the INSIDE is rather than the outside.

This drama was really such a perfect drama for me since I’ve been struggling and dealing with that EXACT topic this week (as you could obviously tell from the ‘deeper’ blog posts I’ve been posting). So all in all, it was a light and airy drama which had characters that were very real and problems that were very real and understandable. If you are a KDrama fan, I highly recommend! (If you’re a newbie to KDrama I recommend “My Love from Another Star”).

Besides walking around the house holding my iPad watching KDrama (I don’t watch TV sitting down, I try to fit in some walking while I watch TV – efficiency my friends!), I did play some golf. I spent the entire Saturday morning from 8am to noon golfing with my dad. Although I’m not the most skilled player, it was a great time to catch up with my dad and have so fun. Oh and the weather was perfect this weekend.

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After our golf round, my dad and I went to my favorite Japanese restaurant. I ordered my favorite meal “chirashi.” It’s a combination of rice and sashimi.

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After our hearty lunch, my dad and I went back home and we relaxed a bit (aka he and my mom took a nap while I did some blog work) and then in the evening we went out to a Thai restaurant with our family friends.

It was great to meet up with one of my first friends I made in the States. While we weren’t exactly close when we were young, I think as time goes by, that one common thread of that we knew each other and went to the same school when we were young, allow us to be much closer now and have such a fun time laughing and talking. We caught up on a lot of things and we promised we would catch up again once I came back home.

Sunday morning was another golf round. It was much quicker because I had church. Church is such a huge and integral part of my life. I was born and raised in a church, yes, but I dedicate all the successful and good things that happened in my life to God and His glory. My church friends are literally friends that I’ve known since 1st grade and while we’ve grown up and changed, it was so great to hang out with them again. We are quite diverse group – but somehow, our personalities match.

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After church, my two of my best friends and I headed to the mall to watch Beauty and the Beast. Oh my goodness. My two friends and I had such a hard time reserving movie tickets last night. The entire back section was taken and there was only the front section open. We were debating whether or not if we would not break our neck sitting in the last row in the front section. During that time, the entire last row in the front section got taken! So we acted fast and sat in the second to last row.

I’m always grateful to these two. These two always had my back when I had a hard time adjusting to boarding school, and these two know my health journey very well (they’ve seen my physical body and my mental state fluctuate back and forth). And of course, they respect my eating habits so much, they always offer to eat at my favorite salad place when we go to the mall. Aren’t they the best?

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Our salads from sweetgreen. Let me tell you, it’s one thing to sneak in food into the movies. It’s another to try to eat it in the dark. 

We even snuck our salads into the theater because we were crammed for time. I love these guys so so much.

After the movie, we hung around in the mall shopping and then we parted ways. It was so sad having to say bye.

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Kimchi + tofu? Always makes for a great dinner 😉

After I got home, I had my last home-cooked dinner, and currently I am writing this blog post. After this blog post, I’ll take my last shower at home and soon after that, my last night at home.

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It’s going to be so long until I eat this salad at work. 😦

A lot of “last” today, but I’m trying not to be too sad because I know spring term will whiz by me and I’ll be on summer break hopefully soon.

How was your weekend?

xoxo,

Stephanie

“Healthy”

Today was sort of a scary day for me.

I had a massive stomach ache.

Now usually, stomach aches are normal for me. I’ve had gas problems as a child so my tolerance for stomach aches are quite quite high.

However, today, after having lunch with my mom, I had a massive stomach ache. Something that I was not used to tolerating.

Initially, I thought it was just that I ate a lot. That what I was feeling was fullness. Like literally as we drove out of the restaurant I was like, “Darn it, Stephanie. Why did you eat so much? Remember: hara hachi bu! Only eat until 80% full. You stuffed yourself.”

But after a couple of minutes, I felt a pang in my stomach. It was different to fullness – no, I’m a common customer for fullness. I literally stuff myself full like every other meal lol. No, it wasn’t fullness.Was it gas? No – I’ve been having gas problems since 5 years old and this was definitely not gas. Then what was it?

It was really hard to diagnose what I had and even looking at water made me want to vomit. I just couldn’t fathom putting anything in my mouth.

Short end of long story, the pain decreased after 30 minutes. By then, I could tolerate it. And this again, remind you, is my high tolerance for stomach pains. But after about 2 hours, it was completely gone.

I still don’t know what that incident was and I probably won’t know in the near future, but what I do know is that my wellbeing is the utmost priority.

It’s at times like this that I realize I take too many things for granted. I nitpick at the thickness of my thighs, the “wings” on my arms, the flab on my stomach. I suck in my stomach whenever I pass the mirror. But at times like this, I realize that I was shallow.

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If you couldn’t tell…my fingers are forming a heart. Giving much love and kisses to those who need love because we are all beautiful.

As mentioned in my self-love post a few days ago, I’m still in the process of loving my body. Loving it truly the way it is right now. That the reason I’m eating healthy and that I exercise is NOT because I hate how my body looks and I want it to look a certain way, but because I want to feel nourished and empowered and healthy. That word, healthy is abused so much here, but today, this incident reminded me what healthy meant.

Healthy does not mean a certain number on the scale. A certain number on the label of your clothes. A certain number of how many calories you’ve eaten. Healthy does not mean your appearance. For the better or worse, healthy means different to everyone. It’s such a relative term which is why I think it’s been abused so much.

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But as I’m slowly moving forward in my self-love journey, I start to build my own definition of healthy. And so far this is what I have: being healthy means to enjoy life without any limitations.

I really don’t want to get that stomach ache ever again – a stomach ache that I could barely sit still with. A stomach ache that I truly felt helpless and out of control with my body.

So yep. That’s what healthy means to me thus far. I’m sure as I add more years and experience to my life, this definition will change. But so far, that’s it: to enjoy life without any limitation. To feel powerful and confident.

What does healthy mean to you?

xoxo,

Stephanie

Nom. Nom. Nom.

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:

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From top left: my mom’s kimchi and kkakdugi and picked perilla leaves; scallops with arugula and pork and vegetable stir-fry

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 🙂

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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!

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So that’s it for this week! As you can see, break so far has been filled with wonderful food and family time.

What are your favorite eats?

xoxo,

Stephanie

VIDEO: Avocado Toast

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!

Enjoy!

 

How do you like to eat your avocados?

xoxo,

Stephanie