Monday, August 21, 2017

Streaming Is The Present

I remember thinking in 2015 how I'll never stop downloading music because I like "owning" and organizing my music. I haven't downloaded a song in more than a year. Never did I think I could have access to any song I wanted for free. There was a time when I wanted a new iPod with more storage so I could fit my entire iTunes library on it. Now there are phones with more memory than iPods. It's amazing how quickly technology has changed in my lifetime (remember floppy disks, guys?) Seeing these changes through the lens of music is pretty cool in my opinion.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Howl To Be Vegan Part II & III

Last weekend I went home solely for eating purposes: my dad's herb and salad garden is overpopulated and my mom needed my sister and I to eat.

She first prepared for us banh hoi with tofu and herbs. The Country Crock and onion dressing is to die for (literally because it's so unhealthy). I also had banh xeo with a chayote, jicama, and cabbage filling served with herbs and soy sauce. Other typical vegetarian fillings include mushrooms, tofu, or carrots. My favorite part has always been the actual crepe (misleading name because there are no eggs in a banh xeo).

In addition to these special meals, I also ate a very simple dish of fermented bean curd, cucumber, and rice. My mom mixed the bean curd with a little bit of sugar to dilute the strong fermented taste. It was actually my first time eating it, but I loved it: I was afraid of its pungency before. 

Fruit (blueberries, strawberries, nectarines, mangos, plums, and bananas) was also a must have. 

Along with leftovers, she sent home with us canh chua made with Chinese water spinach, basil, and bean sprouts. You can also make it with pineapple, tomatoes, and colocasia gigantea (the plant kingdom is so diverse, yet people are satisfied with only eating beef, chicken, or pork all their lives). The canh chua was super sour because she used fresh lime instead of a prepackaged canh chua seasoning, which includes seafood. I ate the canh chua with ramen, and it was so much better. The second dish she made for us to take home was stir fry chives, bean sprouts, and tofu. She also gave us bitter melon, cherry tomatoes, and more water spinach, herbs, and fruit. You can get familiar with the herbs here: 

Today, I simply cooked the water spinach with garlic and cut the bitter melon and cooked it with soy sauce. My mom actually made us the water spinach and stuffed the bitter melon with tofu for us our first week in Charlottesville. I used the box of cherry tomatoes (you'll actually need need two, but I just made use with what I had), basil, and mint in addition to a box of unused whole wheat penne my sister had to make a pasta dish I've made before. The recipe (Bow Ties with Tomatoes, Herbs, and Lemon) is from Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes: Vegetarian Meals. I made it with lime instead of lemon this time because that's what my mom gave me and took out the olive oil for health reasons (we also didn't have olive oil). The oil definitely would have dispersed the salt better, but I think it tastes fine without it. 

My sister contributed by baking tofu ($2 at Kroger) with a Sweet Citrus Marinade from Thug Kitchen. We didn't have ginger, so she excluded it, and she used regular vegetable oil instead of olive oil. I used the tofu as a savory component for summer rolls. I used whole wheat rice paper, the herbs, and added julienne carrots for the crunchy component. I learned from experience that all delicious summer rolls need a savory, crunchy, and herby component. Top it all off with a good dipping sauce. My go-to is peanut and hoisin. I added the chili sauce from Thug Kitchen last time for a spicy kick.

I will be eating the dishes we cooked today all week, which is why now would be a good time to mention that what I cooked in my last blog post did not last me all week (more thoughts on meal prepping here: I did have to supplement with tofu sausages my sister bought and hot dog buns. I cut the sausage into quarters because it was too "meaty" and ate each quarter with a bun. I had two buns per meal garnished with fresh carrot sticks for a less heavy meal.

In conclusion, the moral of this post is be creative with the food available to you. I also saw this Tweet (see below) in a Buzzfeed post, and it really speaks to how my mom has always taken care of me with food. I didn't realize how much work she put in for us to have something new to eat every other day until I started cooking for myself. My parents also don't make that much money, yet, we've always had good food to eat, which goes to show you how much creativity really does help.

Asian parents always ask their children if they've eaten yet because that's how they show love. I've always been annoyed by this question because I thought it was a stupid one: of course I've eaten, but this Tweet really puts their love in a new perspective: nobody will ever love me as much as my mom. She's literally been feeding me my whole life. 

Oh, I almost forgot about dessert! My mom made this delicious silken tofu and ginger soup with coconut milk and sugar. I was lowkey cheating by eating frosted blueberry donuts she bought for my sister before she made this. Vegan desserts are usually really complicated to make because you have to make a lot of substitutions for cakes, etc., so it's really easy to cheat, but the tofu and ginger dish is really simple and easy to make. God bless Vietnamese cuisine for broadening my palette and reminding me that I can be a vegan and have my cake too (okay not literally, but I had to make this joke). I guess another moral of this story is to learn other cuisines because poor countries know how to not eat meat lol. 

Fruit for this week: blueberries, avocados (courtesy of my grandma), bananas, and $0.99/lb grapes from Kroger! My grandma is retired, and she is still able to feed me. Food banks seriously need to step their game up. I can't believe the junk (hello, sheet cakes) I saw delivered to homes on A Place At The Table.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Howl To Be Vegan Part I

Update: I'm still a vegan. I feel the need to say this because I haven't posted any food pictures on Instagram in a while (Did it really happen if you didn't tell the whole world on social media about it?). I don't normally post food pictures for several reasons: 1. I'm way too excited to eat my food to take a picture of it. 2. Just because something looks good doesn't mean it's going to taste good, which is why I need to do a taste test first. 3. Lighting really sucks sometimes.

Because I haven't been posting any pictures of food, I feel like I've failed in showing people how to be vegan. I've been sharing snippets of vegan documentaries and books like What The Health and Proteinaholic on Snapchat, but I haven't been sharing my meals. One of my friends responded to my Snaps saying how he's more interested in how to become a vegan. He has this belief that it costs a lot of money and takes a lot of effort to be vegan, and I want to disprove that. At first, I was going to vlog how I prepare a meal from going to the grocery store to cooking it, but I'm too lazy for that, and a blog post seems easier and more my style. I might someday vlog one of my meal preps, but today, I'm going to tell you what I've cooked since moving back to Charlottesville (I've lowkey been struggling in how to show you guys what I've eaten until I thought of this idea today. My move made it the perfect time to start this series).

A couple of disclaimers first: 1. I know people are more drawn to pictures, but this series will be more text-driven like most of my work because of the reasons I mentioned in the first paragraph. 2. The name of this series was inspired by Lost Dog's Cafe Howl To Be Vegan menu, which some restaurant employees don't even know about.


My sister bought some spaghetti sauce with no intention of using it (that's another story), and she had a bunch of leftover pasta lying around. Spaghetti is also a relatively simple dish to make, so the choice was obvious to make spaghetti for my first self-cooked meal in Charlottesville. I usually make spaghetti with mushrooms and onion, but mushrooms were expensive at Kroger, so I decided to replace them with carrots I had in the fridge instead. I actually prefer it over the mushrooms now. Here's the recipe:

Serves 4

Classico Spicy Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce/your favorite pasta sauce 24 oz $1.98 (according to
Spaghetti $1 or $2 at your local grocery store (any type you want but I suggest whole grain)
2 garlic cloves
4 carrots (You can get a bag for a few bucks at your local grocery store)
1 onion of any kind ($2 for a bag of sweet or yellow onions)
Fresh tomatoes

Chop garlic, carrots, onion, and tomatoes to whatever size you like. Heat up some oil (this is an unhealthy step that I will try to avoid in the future). Add the garlic and cook until brown. Add carrots and onion. Cook for 10 minutes or whenever you feel is adequate. Season with salt, oregano, and whatever seasoning you like. Stir in pasta sauce and fresh tomatoes, and cook until the carrots are soft enough for your liking. Add more seasoning if necessary. Cook pasta separately. Enjoy.

Cucumber, Tomato & Hummus Sandwich

My mom gave me some cucumbers and tomatoes from my dad's garden, and before I didn't know what to do with them. Then, I saw a hummus sandwich on a restaurant menu. The rest is history jk this story's a little more complicated because I needed hummus but wasn't going to spend the money (it's expensive) on it at when I've thrown away the last two or three hummuses? I've bought at the grocery store. Because my sister had a can of cannellini beans left over, I told myself I would just make my own because a girl in one of my fourth year seminars brought in some homemade white bean hummus one time, and it was banging. The only problem? I didn't have a blender. I was about to give up, but then I was like eff it-I'm just going to make a "deconstructed hummus" and see how it goes. I also didn't buy tahini because that shit's expensive, but I did have leftover sesame seeds, which I had to use whole too.

Serves ? idk I'm still eating it

1 can of white beans ($0.99 max)
1 lemon (I bought one for $0.79, but you can get one cheaper)
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
1 garlic clove
1 cucumber
5-6  tiny tomatoes (or 1 big tomato)
Bread (I'm using 6 pita pockets aka pita halves, which I got for $2.50 at Kroger).

Rinse and mash beans. Add sesame seeds and mix. Squeeze in juice from lemon and mix again. Make the garlic clove into tiny pieces somehow and add them as well. Mash and mix some more. Maybe season with salt (I don't remember if I did or not). Toast bread. Spread hummus mixture on bread or inside pita. Add some slices of cucumber and tomatoes, and enjoy.

This ended up being pretty tasty. If you recreate this recipe and it doesn't taste good, then I probably left out an ingredient in these instructions. I've also been eating the hummus with some of my sister's leftover sesame rice crackers, which complement the sesame seeds in the hummus really well.

Breakfast & Dessert
Donut from Moon Maiden

For breakfast, I've been eating my sister's leftover almond butter, which she got for free, with whole wheat bread, and for dessert, I eat fruit. This week, I got bananas and two packages of strawberries for only $3, the special deal at Kroger this week so fruit can absolutely be affordable.

That's all for now! I hope you guys enjoyed. Let's see if I can keep this up, but in the meantime, here's a picture of an okay donut I got at the Farmer's Market yesterday. In addition to being vegan, it was also gluten free, which is probably why it didn't taste that good (it was super dense). It was also $5, so it was definitely a treat.

Edit: A previous version of this blog forgot to include fresh tomatoes in the spaghetti recipe.