Skipping Town

I’m currently on a solo trip in the ancient minority village of Feng Huang, also known as Phoenix town after the mythical bird. It’s beautiful here and the train ride was what might come to mind when you think of the mystical side of China. The view from the window was captivating. Completely opposite from the industrial town that I live in which was deemed the most polluted city in all of China just a few short years ago. Anyway, turns out this town is tourist central!! But Chinese tourists, not foreign tourists which is really cool.

The town offers really cool shopping, tons of walking and endless amounts of snacks. AYYY I always thought I was a snack person but recently they’ve been making me feel like hell. I guess once you get on a set eating schedule, messing with it isn’t the best. I also usually eat raw food for at least 2 out of 3 meals these days so heavier food throughout the day is a bit difficult. Good thing I brought carrots, apples, a can of beans and some almond butter because I tried some of the street food and was not feeling so hot. Love the looks people give me when I walk down the street eating a giant carrot.

I’m in the most bizarre situation right now. Sitting in an adorable cafe overlooking the river, drinking an Americano. The waitress just convinced me to order a tiramisu which I reluctantly agreed to since I knew I’d be here for a while and got lingerer’s guilt. WHERE AM I?? This does not feel like China at all. There are tons of young couples walking around, holding hands and making out which I haven’t really seen since I’ve been in here. Hundreds of people are walking by looking confusedly at my setup, leaning over my computer to read what I’m writing and screaming the usual “HELLOOOOOOOOOOOO” a la Mrs. Doubtfire. I usually can’t stand that but today has been so relaxing and the people here are so pleasant that it’s not even phasing me. A group of five elderly gentlemen just stopped next to my table and are currently snapping pictures of me. Ridic.

MMMM Americano

Cafe Overlooking the River

Feng Huang seems to be somewhat famous for ginger candy, peanut candy, and dried kiwi….they sold it every 5 steps.  Watching them make the ginger candy and pound the peanut candy was pretty sweet. See Below!

Making Ginger Candy - Looks like Gold!

Pounding Peanut Candy

Death by Kiwi

These things completely KO’d me. I’m not good when dried fruit is around because I go way overboard. These are the snacks I was referring to that made me somewhat ill.

More pics from the town:

Down the River

Menu at a Local Restaurant

Another great thing about this weekend is that I started reading a really great and inspiring book. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Sounds kind of weird and slightly maniputlative but it’s not about tricking people into being your friends or doing what you want, it’s about the intricacies of human interactions and how people react to negativity, etc. I also listened to the entire audio book of Freakonomics. Highly recommend both.

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Cold Weather Food on a Warm Day

I absolutely love using up all of the vegetables in my fridge without having to throw anything away. Not wasting food or money is such a great feeling! I suppose I end up letting stuff go bad when I go out to eat a lot, but since I won’t be doing that for the next two months or so I’m in the clear. This also means that my groceries for one week of breakfast, lunch and dinner cost $15.00. Out of control.

Although today was sunny, warm and all around beautiful, I ended up making the heartiest of cold weather meals: Chili with cauliflower mashed potatoes. This meal has practically zero fat (tiny bit from the beans) and has a ridiculous amount of vitamins and nutrients from the veggies. On top of it all a small amount will feel you up FAST. It’s also carb free (if we aren’t counting veggies as carbs) so for anyone harboring a carb fear its perfect.

Veggie Chili with Mashed Cauliflower

Easy Vegetarian Chili-

If I had my pick of ingredients I would have added roasted poblano peppers, black beans and avocado but beggars can’t be choosers eh?

1 medium onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

2 cans peeled tomatoes

2 cans kidney beans

2 tsp oregano, 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp cayenne pepper, S&P, dash of cinnamon (adjust to taste), cilantro

1. In a large pot, sauté onions, garlic and peppers for about 5 minutes, stirring every so often.

2.  Add tomatoes, beans and spices and stir to incorporate all of the flavors.

3. Let simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When it has thickened, spoon into a bowl, garnish with cilantro, and if you’re a fast eater like me, inhale.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

1 huge head of cauliflower cut into florets

1 garlic clove, chopped

S&P

1. Steam cauliflower until florets are soft.

2. Put in blender with S&P and chopped garlic clove.

3. Blend.

4. Be amazed at how much it tastes like mashed potatoes, especially if you add milk (soy, nut, cow, etc) and butter.

I got something amazing in the mail today. Can’t wait to put it to use:

Hemp Protein

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Too Much Food For One Person

Dinner tonight revolved around trying to make the vegetables in my refrigerator interesting. Result? Carrot ginger soup with chopped cashews and dill / peas stir fried with garlic, scallions and bean sprouts.

Carrots, Ginger, Onions, Lemon Zest

Carrot Ginger Soup with Chopped Cashews and Dill

This soup is impossible to mess up unless you’re starving and are so impatient that you don’t let the carrots cook long enough.

1. Dice about 1 tablespoon of ginger (more if you want a spicy kick) and 1 medium onion and let them sweat in a pan with some lemon zest and sea salt until the onions are translucent and pretty limp.

2. In another pan, sauté 2 large, chopped carrots (with some sea salt) for about 5-7 minutes.

3. Add carrots to onions and ginger, add about 2 cups of water or vegetable broth and let simmer until carrots are suuuuuper soft.

4. Throw everything in a blender along with S&P and a dash of curry powder and blend until you have something resembling soup. While the blender is still on, slowly pour in about 1 cup of milk. I used soy milk here but you can use anything from nut milk to skim to heavy cream depending on your preference.

5. Top with cashews and dill and enjoy!

Peas, Bean Sprouts, Scallions and Garlic - Stir Fried

Plus a simple stir fry. Veggie overload. As if I didn’t have enough food already I decided that this meal needed some protein and complex carbs.

Spanish Tortilla with Onions and Cilantro

I attempted to make this Spanish Tortilla, but I only had 2 eggs and 1 tiny potato….and no broiler…so it turned into a not-as-beautiful scramble.

Deconstructed

Nothing that a little hot sauce won’t fix.

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Curious

PB&J with a tall, ice cold glass of milk. Quintessential childhood meal. One that I have never enjoyed in my entire life. I only started eating PB about two years ago after swearing it off for over 10 years because I got a flu one year at camp and blamed it on a PB&J. Yeah. Years before that, in preschool, the same thing occurred with milk and I haven’t had a sip of the stuff since. Oddly enough at the same time I named my favorite stuffed animal Milky. I was weird.

I don’t even feel like I’m missing out, but a weird curiosity struck me this morning. Since my reintroduction to PB went well (a little too well), why not give milk a try with some cereal? It seems to be pretty popular. Most people recoil in horror when I tell them that I hate milk and always eat (and love!) dry cereal…and then they  laugh at the fact that I still eat it in a bowl with a spoon. HOW else would you eat it??? Anyway…this morning I tested it out with some Muesli, banana, and plum.

Success??

You see the shadow on the left side of the photo? Very symbolic of the other dark cloud that permeated my apartment as I took my first, and last bite. I even made another bowl with soy milk. Not happening either. On the bright side, at least this is one dairy product that I can officially cross of my list! Luckily I had a fall back that never fails me:

Egg White Oatmeal with Cinnamon, Banana and Raisins

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Victory

Two huge personal victories today….one completely based on the other.

A few weeks ago I picked up some chocolate soy milk at Metro, thinking that it would be a fantastic addition to shakes now that my chocolate protein powder is sadly gone. This morning I put some of the soy milk in oatmeal thinking that I would make some delicious chocolate banana thing, but instead was horrified at the processed, chemically taste that exuded from the ruined oats. WHY is this a personal victory? Well I used to eat just about anything as long as it was low calorie and had a decent amount of protein and fiber. We’re talkin anything. I once bought calorie free chocolate sauce…..and may or may not have spent an hour one day trying to find the lowest calorie bread product in the supermarket (which had about 40 ingredients). Insane. Miraculously, however, anything processed that I’ve tried in the past few weeks just hasn’t satisfied me in the slightest and has instead completely grossed me out. Yes! Who knows if this will last when I get home but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Which leads to personal victory #2! If this isn’t a case for a natural,  vegetarian, plant based diet I don’t know what is: I definitely gained some weight in China which lead to some pretty debilitating depression. I really didn’t know why I had become so lethargic and gross feeling until I gave up all processed food and meat. Within two months of my diet change I lost a significant amount of weight and my energy skyrocketed.  HOW is this possible?? I’m amazed.

Some daily staples:

Stick a straw in it.

Young coconut water is incredible right after finishing a run. This stuff has tons of electrolytes and is super refreshing. I usually crack one open right before running, stick it in the fridge, and chug it right when I return.

After School Snack

Crunchy. Delicious. Surprisingly satisfying. Vitamins and nutrients.

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We’re Jammin’

It has rained every single day in April. Without fail. The rain here in Hunan Province is bitter cold and of course both of my heaters are broken. Heater #1 is connected to a shoddy wall outlet and when I turn it on my room fills with smoke. Heater #2, space heater, was used so much that the bulbs burnt out. SO without the option of being a troll in my bed I decided on a different rainy day activity: making jam. I’m an old lady.

Boiling Berries

I didn’t try these berries before throwing them in the pot, and turned out these particular berries  had massive seeds/pits in them. FAIL. I ended up with maybe two tablespoons worth of super tangy jam since I didn’t add any sugar. Luckily it was the perfect amount for an afternoon snack:

Wasa Crackers with Homemade Jam and Almond Butter

Saturday and Sunday turned into a three day weekend after a class cancellation and somehow I was bored enough to recreate what I made for Saturday night’s potluck (plus some pineapple fried rice). I had a ton of leftover ingredients so I thought why not whip something up in case someone wants to come by and eat it….I ended up force feeding the guy I tutor and Jeff, the other volunteer at my school who lives upstairs.

Pad Thai

Closer

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/22/dining/21minirex.html?src=me&ref=homepage (without the oil, tofu, shrimp or peanuts)

Oil-Free Thai Style Pineapple Fried Rice

YES feeding my student counts as tutoring, its called food education people. I didn’t really feel like eating rice or noodles so I whipped up a steamed egg vegetable frittata like thing. I have no idea what to call this, but it was awesome. I’m really diggin’ open faced, steamed omelets since the vegetables and spices are dispersed throughout the eggs.

Steamed Omelet with Garlic, Scallions, Bean Sprouts and Cilantro

Followed by a little glass of heaven:

Mango Lemon Smoothie

1 mango, squeeze of lemon, 4 ice cubes. Blend.

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Filed under Almond Butter, Dinner, Shake, Snack

How It Should Be

One thing that I really really love about trying to come up with things to make in China is the availability of seasonal fruits and tons o’ veggies. There is a fruit stand just down the hill from my apartment that I hit up at least once a day and it’s always exciting when a new in season fruit pops up. YES I said it’s exciting. Fruits and vegetables in China are also NORMALLY priced, unlike the US where fresh produce can cost an arm and a leg. I bought everything in the photo below for the Chinese money (RMB) equivalent of $15.00. Crazy!

So Cheap!

Thats: A bag of almonds, eggs, tofu, mangoes, kiwi, carrots, onions, garlic, ginger, lemons, cauliflower, brocolli, bean sprouts, peppers, scallions, cilantro, corn and noodles for $15.00. Reverse sticker shock.

Most of this went towards a potluck at my apartment last night where I made coconut curry with peppers/sugar snap peas and Pad Thai…but cooking for other people made me crazy stressed so, alas, no photos. Katie brought Velveeta, Lucy brought Mashed potatoes, Micah and Rob brought Chinese takeout (hehe) and Jeff brought potatoes. AND Sarah, other Sarah, made brownies. I usually can’t drink when I’m feeling sluggish or out of shape, but since that situation has drastically improved in the past 2 months, I was able to drink the delicious apple vodka that Katie brought back from the Philippines. MMm that foreign feeling sure felt like home. Also gave me the motivation to trek out in the pouring rain to kill some Copacabana with Katie at karaoke.

Dinner tonight was 100% imported goods:

Wasa Crackers with Tuna, Rosemary and Emmental Cheese. Nuked.

Followed by a taste of summer:

Back to the Islands!!

Took me about 5 mangoes to finally figure out the correct way to cut them. Slice vertically going along the sides of the pit (on each side), then cut mango crosswise and lengthwise making sure to not go through the peel. Either stick your face in it and chow down, or cut away the pieces from the peel like a civilized person =).

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Filed under China, Dinner, Fruit, Groceries