“Ita daki mas” – summer in Japan

I have always been skeptical of the old adage that travel is the best learning experience. However, after traveling to Japan for a two-week cultural immersion program, I have become a firm believer that travel is indeed the best learning experience.

Get ready for a¬†photo overload, especially of food since I’m a foodie ūüôā
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On the flight to Japan. Despite all the bad news of United recently, this 14 hour trip actually went pretty well. I had so many cups of green tea during the flight which I oh-so regretted later.

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My first breakfast in Japan – guys they have¬†green tea granola. Let’s just say that I was¬†obsessed.

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Visiting the aquarium – the jellyfish were so cool!

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The Big Buddha – little did I know when taking this trip that I would be in for a long hike in the nearby mountains.

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The hike was only half as bad as its length because aren’t these hydrangeas beautiful? These flowers were peppered all throughout the hike. Apparently, they are called the June flower in Japan.

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After a long and tiring hike, and an even tiring hour-long wait for the restaurant, we ate udon. Oh. my. goodness. The wait was definitely worth it because the udon was so good. There was also tempura and the chefs just made it right in front of you. Warm tempura is always the best.

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To cool ourselves off after the long hike, we got green tea and sweet potato ice cream. I know, the combination sounds weird, but guys, it was so good!

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Here is Takoyaki. It’s a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special moulded pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion. It was delicious, but very hot! I could have watched the chefs making takoyaki all day long, it was such carefully methodical process.

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Apparently this is a hit-or-miss not only with foreigners but with local Japanese. It’s something called¬†natto. It is fermented soybeans that can be eaten by mixing it with rice. I actually enjoyed the taste which my host family was very impressed by as only a few Japanese people actually enjoy it! Of course, as a foodie, as long as it’s healthy and relatively tasty, I’m always good ūüôā

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On one of the nights, my host, my host sister and their cousin met up and ate out for dinner at a Hawaiian restaurant. It was so much fun hanging out with them – so much laughing and fun while with these three. The pancakes for dessert were equally as good, although we all regretted eating them because we became so full afterwards.

It wasn’t the healthiest option, but these days, I’m all about balance and moderation and that being mentally healthy is as equally as important as being physically healthy.

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My host introduced these to me, but apparently, these chocolates help reduce how much fat and sugar you absorb. My host and I both being foodies, ate a few of these chocolates just for good measure!

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Japan was just beautiful. Here are a few non-food pictures that are so beautiful.

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One of my favorite dinners while in Japan.

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I’ve always heard that you never know the taste of matcha unless you try it yourself. So I tried to try matcha as many times as I could. It’s definitely not as sweet as the matcha we taste at Starbucks or in the States. It’s a much more bitter taste but somehow has some charm to it. I actually brought home a matcha kit so I could continue making it at home! Once I’ve mastered it a bit, I’ll write up a post for those interested!

Japan was in short, such an amazing trip. I can’t wait to go back there someday!

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After two weeks in Japan, I took a two hour flight to Korea and stayed there for a week. My parents were already in Korea at that time so I met up with them at Incheon airport. After a quick week of meeting up with old childhood friends and family, we left Korea and finally headed back to home sweet home!

 

P.S.: In nod to the title of the post, “ita taki mas” is what Japanese people say before they start their meal. It’s kind of like saying “Thank you for this meal, I will eat it gladly!” I loved saying this every time before I ate because literally every time I ate something, it looked and¬†was super delicious!

P.S.: If my host and her family or any of her friends are reading this, thank you for letting me have such a memorable trip!

 

 

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

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 ūüėČ

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. ūüė¶

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

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 ūüôā

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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 Рwe 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‚Äôd like to see me do, leave the suggestion in a comment!

Enjoy!

 

How do you like to eat your avocados?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

Lately Obsessed #5

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 ūüėČ ).

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 Рthe 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

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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

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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!

What are your latest obsessions?

xoxo,

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

Winter Roasted Veggie Bowl

After seeing hundreds of amazing looking roasted veggie bowls on Instagram, I have been craving a good one for the last couple weeks. Well, I finally got to making one this weekend and it was sooo satisfying!

Honestly, you can put anything in roast veggie bowls. Potatoes, squash, mushrooms, cucumbers, tofu, the possibilities are endless! For mine, I put roasted organic sweet potato that I baked in the oven for 35 minutes and 425 degrees.

I drizzled some olive oil so that the potatoes would crisp up, and added cinnamon for a boost of added nutrients.

Also, I’m not sure what kind of sweet potatoes these are, but they have a slightly milder sweetness than conventional orange sweet potatoes.

Next, I roasted some zucchini and carrots in s&p for 20 minutes.



Finally, I added a bed of spinach, the roasted veggies, and a fried egg to the bowl and dug in!


This bowl turned out so delicious, especially with the runny yolk from the egg. You definitely need to give it a try cause I’m telling ya it was GOOD.

What are your favorite ingredients for roasted veggie bowls?

Love,

Serena

3 Overnight Oats Recipes

Whenever I have a really late night spent doing homework, I know I won’t be able to sit down and enjoy a long breakfast in the morning because I’ll likely wake up late. My solution used to be to make a really simple breakfast that morning to eat in the car, like an almond butter banana sandwich. But that still took too much time in the mornings. So, my solution this year has been to make overnight oats!

Most of the time, I’ll make chocolate banana oats. I love the banana chocolate combination so much!

Ingredients:

2/3 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 banana mashed

1 tsp sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)

1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all of the ingredients in a mason jar or Tupperware and leave in the fridge overnight. The oats will soak in the almond milk, making them soft. In the morning, you can grab it and go, or you can heat it up too. Also, you can add additional toppings. Some of my favorites include  pomegranate seeds, dark chocolate, almond shavings, and blueberries.

  


Sometimes I even mix in chia seed pudding (3/4 cup almond milk with 1/4 cup chia seeds 1 tsp vanilla and sweetener of choice.

When I don’t have banana or cocoa powder at home, I ¬†make¬†vanilla overnight oats.

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Here I layered chia seed pudding, chocolate banana overnight oats, strawberries, vanilla overnight oats, and blueberries.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup almond milk

2/3 cup rolled oats

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

3 tbsp apple sauce

Procedure:

Same as above! I add applesauce to bind the oats, but they’re optional. I also add cinnamon because it’s a nutrient-packed super food! It’s filled with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, vitamins, minerals, and so much more. Even 1 tsp can have positive impacts on your body!

Finally, chocolate peanut butter overnight oats.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup rolled oats

2/3 cup almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

1 tbsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp peanut butter

1 tsp sweetener of choice (honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)

1 tsp cinnamon

Procedure:

Again, same as above, so easy!!

Overnight oats are my GO-TO breakfast. They’re fast, simple, and nutritious, and they give me something to look forward to in the morning!

What is your favorite flavor of overnight oats??

Love,

Serena

What I Ate Over Winter Break

It’s been a tradition now that after every break, I do a post about what I ate over break. While some other blogs talk about what people did, my break (and my life actually…) is defined by the food I eat.

Of course as you usual, there will be a food overload!

For the first four days of winter break, I drove up to NYC with a couple of close friends to celebrate Serena’s birthday! We hung around the city for a while and then had dinner at Hangawi, a Korean vegetarian restaurant.

The restaurant was darkly lit and you had to take off your shoes to get in. There was a deep pit that you put your legs underneath the table. The atmosphere of the restaurant and the service was great!

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LOL…my friends in the bottom of the picture leaning over so they don’t get in the picture.

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The foods were vegetarian so it was mostly bibimbap or any bowl with mixed ingredients. My friends ordered the hot-pot bibimbap while I ordered the gluten-free zen noodles. They were sooo good!

 

After the dinner, we went to a Korean bakery and had a walnut banana butter bread (or something like that – I feel like these days, restaurants put so many names to ONE thing..)

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After that night, my parents, who drove up to NYC, and I spent two more days in NYC. The next night, my parents took me out to a celebratory dinner for completing turkey term (the term in between Thanksgiving and winter break) successfully. We went to a Korean restaurant (of course) called Gaonnuri. ¬†The special thing about it was that it’s on the 39th floor so you could see all of NYC while eating Korean food. Can anything beat that?

The restaurant was a lot more modern than Hangawi, but nevertheless, a great environment to eat it.

It was so nice to be sitting at the restaurant, with winter break just starting, with my parents, and outside of the freezing cold (I think those days, like December 15-18th were one of the COLDEST and WINDIEST days I’ve ever experienced!)

My family ordered a pajeon (a vegetable pancake), my mom ordered bibimbap, I ordered galbi-gim, and my dad ordered some combination of fish and soup. But they were delicious! It was so nice to have two nights in a row eating Korean food after three weeks away from it!

The galbi-gim (left) was so good that I was commenting about its texture, richness, and flavor upon every bite. My parents got so annoyed that my mom promised me she would make her famous galbi-gim when we got back home.

We also had dessert. It was a combination of three ice cream flavors: black sesame, green tea, and caramel. They were oh. my. goodness. This was a whole new level of ice cream. Apparently, the head chef at this restaurant makes the ice cream from scratch. But either way, the ice cream was insanely delicious. My parents and I licked that dessert plate clean despite the cold weather outside.

Who wouldn’t want to eat delicious Korean food while observing the NYC skyline? Look at that view..

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After a couple of days in NYC, my family drove back home. Of course, by home, that means California roll (aren’t you guys sick of my obsession for make-your-own California roll? I’ve probably featured it in every one of my what I eat in a day over break posts.

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I mean so much goodness in my meal…ya know?

I also followed my dad to work before the Christmas season. I have a hard time working at home since my mom and I talk a lot to each other and we always have fun impromptu plans to go outside. Thus, I went to work with my dad for a couple of days just to get some work done. But let me tell you, this might have been one of my best decisions as his workplace has the BEST salad bar.

And then one more…because on the 23rd (the last day I went to my dad’s work) it was a half day, so my dad (and I) could technically have left and eat lunch at home. However, I wanted to make as much use for the salad bar so I got a to-go.

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My family also ate out a bit. We’ve been going to a peking duck place. I’ve never really LOVED LOVED this place, but for some reason, after I left for home, I started craving eating at this place. So we go every time and every time, I leave the restaurant full and satisfied. No other better feeling, right?

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Sorry about those hands at the top of the picture.

My family and I also met up with Serena’s family. It was a great way to catch up and rewind WITHOUT having the stress of school. I got a vegetarian meal. It was a cauliflower steak with I believe dahl (tell me if this is wrong) and some greens on the side.

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My mom also cooked some of my favorite Korean side dishes. I loved the side dishes so much the table looked like (aka had the same food) this for a solid three days.

img_4704And last but not least, on my last day home, my mom and I went out for a lunch-date at Le Pain Quotiden. It was sad (as it was my last day) but also great (because I had such a fun time with my mom).

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Exact same picture from our instagram (@avolicious_blog)

So that sums up my break! Hope you enjoyed getting a sneak peak at my eating habits!

What did you eat over the holiday season?

xoxo,

Stephanie

My 2016 Health and Fitness Faves

2016 is over in a couple of minutes (or might be already over by the time you read this), BUT I wanted to share a couple of my 2016 health and fitness faves.

ONE// Wearable tech

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While I personally don’t have any wearable tech items (as my mom fears about radiation…) I think 2016 was the year for wearable tech. I’ve seen from Jawbone, FitBit, Polar, Garmin and more on the arms of fitness junkies and ordinary people alike! It’s great that these wearable tech items are slim, pretty discreet, and easy to use. I really hope to persuade my mom to let me get one!

TWO// Foam rolling

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Now this is something I’ve personally experience and reaped benefits of. I had extremely tired quads at the end of summer after a sudden increase in running mileage. My old running coach (that I still contact to this day) recommended that I take a break from running and instead, foam roll for a good 40 minutes. 10 minutes for quads, 10 minutes each for side of the leg, and 10 minutes for hamstrings. While it was a mundane motion, foam rolling definitely helped me recover quickly!

 

THREE// Yoga

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While yoga has always been touted as a healthy practice for the body and mind, I feel like it has gotten a lot of hype this year. I’ve personally love to do yoga as a nice way to stretch my body and challenge my body in a different way.

 

FOUR// Healthy and cute food restaurants

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from my What I Ate in Korea blog post 1 and 2

I personally am so happy about this! I feel like recently there’s been so many healthy restaurants that are both cute and popular, although they are on the expensive side. When visiting NYC or Seoul this year, I’ve definitely seen a lot of places to eat where there are green-colored and fresh foods instead of brown and fried ones. Especially, meals with avocado has been getting the hype recently!

 

FIVE// Superfoods

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from Serena’s “detox” juice

My maternal grandmother and my mom is a huge fan of superfoods, so I’m definitely one as well. I think during 2016, we’ve seen a lot of acai, goji, maca, noni, and cacao from the media.

In addition, not really a superfood, but chia seeds and hemp seeds have been getting a lot of praise as well.

 

SIX// Green juices/smoothies

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Oh. my. goodness. How could I not list green juice? I think this is a pretty self-explanatory item.

But one thing to note: some green juices can have a lot of sugar so watch out. It’s always best to make your own one (check out my green smoothie recipe from this year)!

SEVEN// Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten-free …

There’s also been a lot of encouragement, support, and development into diets and lifestyles that are necessarily the standard carnivore or American diet. I love taking a peek into “What I Eat in a Day” videos where the eater has a certain/specific diet.

I personally still eat red meat and all, but I truly respect all who make the choice to eat a certain way.

Check out Serena’s blog post about her diet switch!

EIGHT// Body confidence

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I feel like during 2016, the media as well as celebrities spread messages about body confidence and body image. So necessary in this day and age. #preach

Check out some of my body image posts here and here.

 

Hope 2017 can be another health and fitness filled year!

How did you ring in the New Year?

xoxo,

Stephanie