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homemade almond milk

Honest to Goodness Homemade Almond Milk

    “Honest-to-goodness”, that’s my father-in-law’s fave expression. When I had a sip of this homemade almond milk those words just popped into my head :) If you’re getting tired of your store-bought milk, I dare you to try making your own almond milk. It’s easy. It’s fun. It’s nutritious. And it doesn’t involve milking a cow or any animal for that matter.

Ingredients:

  1. Drinking water (1L)
  2. Almonds (150g)

Steps:

  1. Soak almonds in filtered/mineral water overnight
  2. Drain water
  3. Place almonds in blender
  4. Add water
  5. Blend until almonds are fine
  6. Filter almond milk using fine mesh strainer
  7. Place in a glass jar
  8. Store in fridge

all plump after overnight soaking

a lil bit of patience is necessary


oh so creamy

This homemade almond milk is amazing for veggie and fruit smoothies. You can also use it for making coffee and tea latte.

banana bread and almond milk with chia seeds for morning dessert

Now I just have to figure out what to do with my almond meal.

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handmade chocolate coconut truffle

Homemade: Heart-Shaped Dark Chocolate Truffles

Valentine’s seemed to be the perfect excuse for another kitchen experiment and to get that cute heart-shaped silicone tray set at Gourdo’s. After all, the hubby is the perfect (and willing) kitchen victim.

Ingredients:

  1. Dark chocolate (150g)
  2. Coconut cream (150g)
  3. Maple syrup (2 tsp, add more if you want it sweeter)
  4. Himalayan salt (pinch)
  5. Cocoa powder (50g) for dusting

Tools:

  1. weighing scale (I’ve always taken pride in how I practice accuracy & precision in everything else especially at work. How could I have only thought about this in food prep? If you don’t have one yet, I can assure you,  it’s worth getting it.)
  2. sauce pan
  3. silicone trays or any container
  4. whisk & mixing bowl (or your Kitchen Aid stand mixer)
  5. teaspoon (piping bag/ funnel/ ice cream scoop)

Steps:

    1. Heat your coconut cream in low temperature until tiny bubbles show up. This is what you will use to melt the chocolates. Chocolates are so sensitive. Heating them directly increases the chance of burning them. Some people do it in the microwave but I don’t like that.
    2. Pour hot cream on crushed chocolates. Make it sit for 3 minutes before mixing. The finer you slice your chocolates, the more even it will melt. I slice mine using serrated bread knife or if I’m feeling lazy with my mini food processor.
    3. Add the salt & maple syrup. Taste it and  add more sweetener if you wish.
    4. Pour melted chocolate on your heart shaped silicone trays. This is easier if you have a piping bag or a funnel. If not you can also work with a teaspoon. Scrape off excess.
    5. Place trays in the freezer overnight.
    6. Remove chocolates from the trays. Drop the truffles in your cocoa powder cup and shake them to cover both sides
    7. Place in a cute mason jar and freeze.
    8. Re-dust and thaw for 2 minutes before serving.

melting in progress

more fun way to tone arm muscles!

because I wasn’t ready to buy a piping bag, i used a teaspoon to get the melted chocolate in the tray. patience at test

finally! it’s surprisingly prettier than I expected and it tastes soooo good

Options:

Ok, you can forget about those cheesy heart shapes and go for the more traditional round ones but be prepared to get down & dirty (with hand rolling).

  1. Place the melted chocolate in any container.
  2. After 2 hours in the freezer, take it out and using a spoon or ice cream scoop, scoop out a bit of chocolate.
  3. Roll it in between your palms. Do this quickly to avoid over-melting the chocolate in your hands.
  4. Place round truffle inside your cocoa cup for dusting. Shake container to coat it without touching. Quickly flip to the other side. Truffles are temperature sensitive so avoid touching it too much.

Where to get your ingredients:

Dark chocolates – it’s best to get the ones with 70%-100% cocoa solids. I love the Malagos  all natural 100% dark chocolates produced in Davao. You can buy them in Gourdo’s, EchoStore, or on Malagos’ website. Gourdo’s  has the best price so far (Php 150 for the 153 grams). At EchoStore, they sell it for Php 195. Online, it’s Php 175. Don’t know though if there’s a separate shipping charge when you order via Malagos website.

Coconut cream – try the Fiesta brand which is available in SM supermarkets. It seems to have more of the coconut cream and less of the shit chemicals you can’t even read.

the hubby brought home this coconut cream for me last week for our very first homemade curry. I used the remaining for the chocolate truffles. One of these days, I’ll learn how to make my own.

Here are the coconut cream options you have

Maple syrup we got our maple syrup from healthy options. It’s a bit pricey but well worth it. Other options are coconut sugar, honey, agave syrup. These are better than your refined white sugar.

Cocoa powder EchoStore is a good place to get sustainably produced one. I think healthy options carry some cocoa powder, too.

so far the ones from Davao are my fave

Hope you had fun trying this recipe out and even more fun eating the dark chocolate truffles with your Valentine.

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5 Super Easy & Cost-Free Ways to Keep Your Kitchen Clutter-Free

If you’re like me and spend much of your time while at home in the kitchen, then it makes sense to keep the place reasonably clutter-free (this does not in any way mean perfect). When you’re busy juggling family, work,  and social life, it’s easy to fall off the wagon and resign yourself to a cluttered kitchen for months making it unenticing to prepare and enjoy meals.  I’ve shared some of the things that seemed to work for us, so you may wish to so give it a shot:

  1. Remove duplicates & broken items
  2. Keep your counter & floor clear
  3. Make your food visible
  4. Understand your eating and food prep habits
  5. Clean smart

Remove Duplicates & Broken Items

Get a box, open your cupboard, and place all the duplicates you have.

  • how many set of plates, bowls, glasses, and coffee mugs do you have?
  • how many of them do you really use regularly? Be honest! Don’t think about the what-ifs (what if I might need them in the future; — this is now. you are living in the present)
  • are they all still serviceable?

dishes_cupboard

We found that a single set of plates is enough.  For years, Jeff and I were just living with a single flat round plate and a soup bowl each and we never felt we needed more. Do not freak out when you see more things in the box than in your cupboard. Take a deep breath and remember this is for the better. Trust me. I felt the same way when I cleaned our closet.

cups_containers

Here’s my duplicate box which we’ll be delighted to send to Goodwill. It wasn’t really hard to part with these as I didn’t purchase them. They were left by relatives and friends who stayed in our place before.

 

Keep Your Counter & Floor Clear

By clear, I mean clear enough so that there is actual space to prepare your food and the area isn’t an eyesore. My kitchen is far from perfect. I haven’t had the chance to spruce it up. My next project is to do a functional renovation. But I’m still pleased that it motivates me to make healthy meals regularly.

The hubby was brilliant to recycle an empty wine box and turn it into a cooking essentials box. Here we have our most used spices (basil, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt, cinnamon, vinegar), healthy oils and seeds (olive oil, vegetable oil, chia, flax, sesame, cinnamon), and basic cookware.

spice_box

Another way is storing food in the cupboard. Place similar things together.

  • Canned beans, glassed veggies, and sauces can go together.
  • Baking ingredients and chocolates in another.
  • Coffee and tea on the same shelf

cupboard2

Don’t forget to keep your kitchen floor clear, too. We used to have a simple white floor mat but I realized that it didn’t really add any value. It just caught all sorts of dirt until I get it washed weeks after. I got fed up with it and just ditched it.

Make Your Food Visible

Unopened groceries left sitting on the counter or the kitchen can be an eyesore, so store them properly whether in the fridge or in the cupboard. Same thing for those aluminum or plastic wrapped leftover food that we just toss mindlessly inside the fridge. Try storing them in glass containers so that you have a clearer view of what’s inside.

fridge

Out of sight, out of mind. Food stored in plastic or aluminum containers are also unappetizing. We couldn’t recommend glass containers enough. It’s healthier, neater, and even more environmentally-friendly. In our case, it helped us save money by decreasing food spoilage and increasing our healthy food consumption.

 

Understand Your Eating and Food Prep Habits

At the end of the day it really boils down to knowing what kind of food you eat and how you make them that will determine how you can design a minimalist clutter-free kitchen.

  • what do you normally have for breakfast? lunch? dinner?
  • which are the ones you regularly make at home?
  • what are the most common ingredients?
  • how & when do you prepare them?

For example, I love making matcha banana spinach shake in the mornings. On Sundays, I prepare all the ingredients and place them in separate glass containers.

banana_spinach_matcha

When I wake up I just grab the 3 ingredients from the fridge. Place the appropriate portion for each in the blender and then start blending. It really is that easy. I do not have to deal with peeling a banana and washing spinach every single morning because I already did that over the weekend.

 

Clean Smart 

Surely, you’ve heard of clean-as-you go. Finished eating your breakfast, then wash the plate, utensils, and pans you used. Stow them properly. Wipe the table. Store left-overs in glass containers. Don’t let them “hangout” in the kitchen. Before you going to bed double check that your kitchen sink is pristine.You will thank yourself the following morning. Luckily, the hubby is very good with this.

We’ve also transitioned to a smaller kitchen trash bin and converted the bigger one to a recycling bin. Since we do food prep on weekends, we rarely have kitchen trash the rest of the week.

food_prep

my saturday food prep: wash, slice, and store

Just Do It

There is no-one-size fits all minimalist kitchen. Each of us have unique needs and lifestyle. A vegetarian will have a slightly different minimalist kitchen than one with a paleo diet. Likewise a two-person household minimalist kitchen will look different than that of  a family of 8. What is important is testing different things to see what works for you. Remember, better is not a one-time-thing rather it is an iterative process that requires your involvement.

 

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match green tea 9

Pampering Yourself at Home with Vegan Matcha Green Tea Latte

I finally gave into purchasing the Matcha Essentials set ($35) from Davids Tea the other day. Curious as to whether it would elevate both the taste and the experience of having matcha at home. After all hardworking honey bees like us do deserve that and this extended winter really calls for a nice hot creamy tea latte (without the nasty ingredients).

For the past 2 months, I have relied on my Bamix (which I do love for so many reasons) and a regular mini whisk (such a practical alternative) to prepare my matcha tea. No doubt, these two kitchen tools can do the job. Heck, a regular spoon works, too but requires higher levels of patience than I could muster. My only frustrations are the Bamix leaves a steel-like taste on such delicate tea (a shame if you ask me) while the mini whisk and spoon almost always leave me unsuccessful in dissolving every last bit of this expensive powder despite having already sifted it.

The kit comes with a ceramic bowl, measuring spoon, and chasen (which I think makes all the difference). It really does the job in creating that fine froth and keeping the flavors undiluted. So if there is one thing you should really invest in apart from a high-grade match tea like the ceremonial matcha, it’s really the chasen. Harney’s & Sons retails it for $16.95 cheaper than Davids Tea ($20). Teavana has it for just $12.95. Surely, it is more affordable in a Japanese grocery store. I spotted one back in December for just $10. As for the ceremonial matcha tea, my research tells me that the best ones come from Nishio, Japan which sells at around $25 per 50g or higher in New York.

How to Make Matcha Latte (Vegan-Style)

Ingredients:
  1. Ceremonial Matcha Tea (2 tsp)
  2. Hot water (50 ml)
  3. Hot almond milk (200 ml)
  4. Maple syrup (1 tsp) (agave syrup, stevia, muscovado) 
Tools:
  1. Ceramics bowl
  2. Chasen (bamboo whisk) (or any regular whisk or spoon)
  3. Measuring spoon
  4. Fine mesh strainer for sifting
Instructions:

 1. Set all ingredients and tools on your table.

It’s good practice to have all the things you’ll need before you start making your matcha latte. Same thing goes for baking or cooking. This prevents you from forgetting to add important ingredients, creating too much mess in the kitchen, or burning the food you’re making.

2. Scoop a teaspoon of matcha green tea powder. 

Go for ceremonial matcha powder as it is naturally creamy, sweet, and delicate unlike lower grade ones which are bitter and have darker colors. Lower grade matcha powder are better used for baking.

3. Sift matcha powder to remove clumps.

Look at how fine that match powder is as if I just opened a new can when it has been in the freezer for 2 months.

4. Make a paste by adding just a little hot water (not boiling).

5. Whisk until smooth by making “W” or “M” motion (not circular)

A video demo might have been better but the hubby is asleep already :)

6. Add hot almond milk and maple syrup. 

Now you have this really creamy nutritious low calorie delight

Where did it go? :)

If you prefer iced cold matcha tea latte a-la Starbucks, simply add ice cubes. I guarantee you though my version is healthier and more delicious. :) So what is your favorite tea latte? Do you prefer your tea hot or iced?

Bali - 081

Early Morning Yoga Day 10 : 5 Ways to Sustain Your Practice

Hello, March! And wohoo to my 10th early morning yoga session. For those who thought that I just magically disappeared after my 1st 6am yoga class, sorry to break it to you but I’m alive and kicking. But yeah, I still struggle lifting my booty off bed to get to my 6am yoga class very much like today. The other day, though my new outfit made me really excited to go to class. I came out of yoga practice with my new outfit drenched in sweat. And it wasn’t even a hot yoga class.

nike outfit

Apart from shopping new clothes to keep the motivation up, here are 5 things which I found helpful in staying motivated and disciplined:

  1. Set SMART goals
  2. Create accountability and rewards
  3. Eat well and on time
  4. Read motivating fitness stories and quotes
  5. Keep it simple

Beautiful Mornings in Bali

Remembering how amazing it is to be outdoors with nature in the mornings make it so much easier to get out of bed. Let me share with you some of our February mornings in Bali last year.  These were the few times when I managed to start my day early. The constant sound of waves pounding the beach actually deprived us of sleep!

waking up late means missing breakfast booo

supposedly Bali’s oldest tree

enjoying a lil vitamin D here

1. Set SMART Goals

You’ll be surprised how much difference it makes when you not only set life goals but when you deliberately make them SMART.

S – specific
M – measurable
A – attainable
R – relevant
T – time-bound

Businesses do not just make profit and succeed out of sheer luck. Now let’s use this simple yet powerful tool to achieve something great for ourselves. Here’s how mine looks like:

smart goal health.001

It’s so simple one can remember it even in sleep. Making it a reality is another story.

2. Create Accountability and Rewards

This is where the hubby comes in. No, he will not go to early morning yoga. (refer to SMART goals: Do not set goals which are unattainable) ? And, no he will not want to wake up early. (He finds the claim about morning people simply preposterous. But don’t mind him). I simply made a mutually beneficial deal with the boy. When I workout, he will also have to workout. No excuses. Wherever we are and however he is feeling. So far it has worked wonders for us. He’s in much better shape and people have been noticing how much younger and fitter he looks.

You can also select rewards for every milestone. Hopefully, something that reinforces your good habits. For every 10 early morning yoga practice session, I’d get myself a spa treatment or that cute sports bra or leggings, or that time to blog.

3. Eat Well and On Time

Figure out the best time to have your meals and snacks so that you nourish yourself well to up your performance. Below is what works for me:

  • before 6 am yoga: lemon water
  • 8 am: breakfast
  • 12 pm: lunch
  •  3 pm: snacks
  •  8 pm: dinner
  •  9 pm: tea

Choose whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals instead of processed food. If you can have home prepared meals, it would be best. Otherwise, find places where you can get organic meals even if it costs more. I learned the habit (and the joy if you will) of making homemade breakfast from my dear hubby. This section definitely deserves its own post.

4. Read Motivating Fitness Stories and Quotes

Feed yourself with inspiring fitness stories and discipline quotes before going to bed, I get mine from:

For the ladies out there, check out Nike’s Margo vs. Lily videos. They’re so cute and funny.

5. Keep It Simple

Find ways to make this new habit simple so that when your motivation wears out, your auto-pilot mode still supports you in achieving your goals.

  • I set Mondays to Fridays as my early morning yoga practice days.
  • I picked a yoga studio which is easy to get to.
  • I registered for their earliest classes and even enjoyed 41% discount.
  • I selected 5 yoga outfit to be my uniform so I don’t have to waste time early in the morning deciding what to wear. (there’s absolutely no excuse for looking crappy even if you haven’t had your morning coffee)

Well, at the end of the day (or beginning, in this case) it just boils down to Nike’s brand slogan: Just Do It! :)

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I’d surely wake up early if this is my view and definitely do yoga.

Early Morning Yoga Challenge: Day 1

    If you’re the type who finds getting out of bed at 9am an impossible task, you’re not alone. For some, this is completely acceptable especially for consultants like myself except of course for days when clients request an early meeting (but how often is that really). That’s the beauty of owning your time. Then again, I ask myself, do I really own my time? The constant traveling to various time zones had not been helpful to me as well in terms of setting a more consistent sleeping and waking time. Add to that the demands of finishing my MBA paper.

Reading about famous successful people who say that waking up early is part of their success formula is really motivating. It definitely confirms research findings that early risers tend to be happier and more productive. I quickly looked at what motivates them to be an early riser and most of them said having time to work out before dealing with everything else. There’s US First Lady Michelle Obama who starts her day with a 4:30 am workout to make her feel good. That might be too early for me though. This month I’m challenging myself to do a 6:30 am yoga practice. Maybe when I’m a first lady or a CEO I can try starting my day at 4:30.

I’m glad to report that today I managed to make it to my early morning class. (wohoo)

No pre-yoga selfie :) just borrowed this photo from the yoga studio’s website

Monterey is the perfect place for morning yoga

just look at this view

The timing is perfect for me to justify throwing in photos of Xian since it’s Chinese New Year

2013 XIAN - 153-imp

2013 XIAN - 112-imp

the juxtaposition of the old & new is such an interesting backdrop for regular yoga practice

2013 XIAN - 114-imp

Here’s a quick list of 15 successful people and how early they wake up.

  1. Tim Cook – CEO, Apple (3:30am)
  2. Brett Yorkmark – CEO, Brooklyn Nets (3:30 am)
  3. Indra Nooyi – CEO, PepsiCo (4:00 am)
  4. Sallie Krawcheck – Chair, Elevate ( 4:00 am)
  5. Michelle Obama – First Lady, US (4:30 am)
  6. Padmasree Warrior – former CTO, Cisco (4:30 am)
  7. Howard Schultz – CEO, Starbucks (4:30 am)
  8. Bob Iger – CEO, Disney (4:30 am)
  9. Ursula Burns – CEO, Xerox (5:15am)
  10. Kara Goldin – CEO, Hint Water  (5:30 am)
  11. Jack Dorsey – CEO, Square and Co-Founder, Twitter (5:30am)
  12. Jeff Immelt – CEO, GE (5:30 am)
  13. Tim Gunn – Co-host & Fashion Consultant, Project Runway (5:30 am)
  14. Richard Branson– Founder, Virgin Group (5:45 am)
  15. Van Paasschen – CEO, Starwood Hotels (5:50 am)
Hopefully, looking at this list motivates you and me to start our day early. I’ll catch you again tomorrow after my early yoga day 2.
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Indulging in Georgia

Too much of a good thing

    I tend to overdo things. It’s driven I think by some sort of seize-the-moment compulsion. It introduces complications and challenges of which I’m fully aware but with which, it seems, I’m ready and willing to contend. Take our holiday programs and itineraries. They don’t contain much down-time — it’s always go, go, go! Not very restful or relaxing, little opportunity to develop a sense of or appreciation for the people and places we visit, but we sure do get to absorb a lot more than if we took a less hectic approach to things

    [For example, not too many people would choose to start of the year by spending a week in Greece visiting 4 destinations in 6 days time. That was planned. Sometimes plans turn out to be not nearly aggressive enough. A few months ago, we embarked on a 5-5-5 holiday that was designed to take us to the US, England, and Georgia for 5 days each. Somehow, we worked in a day trip to France and another to Turkey.]

Day 2: Catching the Iron Pigs in action on a Sunday afternoon

Some things never change: the boys resisting the ravages of time

Day 5: Pilgrimage to the Meantime Brew House

Day 6: Dipping back into time

still trying to figure out how they got these d*** rocks here

Day 9: crossing the channel to Calais, France

returning to England with Norman cheeses and a bottle of Bordeaux

The White Cliffs of Dover at sunset

Day 10: Ancient wine making in Tbilisi, Georgia

Day 12: Sighnaghi, Kakheti, Sakartvelo (Georgia)

Day 15: Istanbul

    Absorption can, however, pose the occasional challenge. Take oysters, for example. I love ’em! They always leave an impression! The oyster stew we enjoyed as kids. Oysters on the half shell with cheese fries and Dixie beer at Cooter Brown’s. Smoked oysters out of a tin. Barbecued oysters in California, where just one of those cowboy oysters can be a meal in itself! But that’s where things began to go awry. The body no longer wished to absorb them, it seems. Either that, or the oysters rejected me. Still, I keep going back for more. I’ve visited Paris four times. Two of those four visits featured an oyster feast. Those same visits also featured an oyster rejection. More than the regurgitation, it’s the thought of money spent on a delightful repast going down the drain that causes the greater upset…

    Absorption is just one challenge. Overburdening is the other. I still haven’t figured out how to travel lightly. This inability is compounded by acquisitions while on the road. I am plagued by an affection for books. Books and honey. Books, honey, and libations, to be precise. Cheese too.

Day 9: Cheese shopping in Calais, France. Where is the Gaperon?

Gaperon is not a Norman cheese…

    While I’ve developed a skill at packing fragile items in checked bags so that they are delivered to our destination intact, the increased weight tends to come with an occasional price tag, but more often simply limits our mobility.

limited mobility can yield rewards at the end of a trip. English beers and Georgian wines!

    One time, the diminutive wife was left to manage six heavy bags at JFK as I rushed to return the rental car. She’s gotten better at this, but I don’t see her deriving much pleasure from this sort of challenge…

    Ah, but there is much pleasure to be obtained at the end of the journey. Looking at our photos and recalling what we’ve experienced, sampling honey from Austria or the Kyrgyz Republic, savoring a saperavi from Kakheti or an IPA from England, sharing a case of the Tsar’s Abrau-Dyurso champagne with Dad, and tearing through one book after another to increase our knowledge and understanding: I must object in the strongest possible terms to the notion that there can be too much of a good thing.

    On the contrary, let me suggest that too much is never enough. This is particularly the case when it comes to spending time with friends and family. As we age, we find that longevity is not something that can be taken for granted, so while there are other commitments and obligations that place demands on our time, and we find ourselves demanding moments of splendid isolation, we need to recognize that time is fleeting and that it is the most crucial ingredient for nourishing the relationships we cherish most. Indeed, too much is never enough…and applies to knowledge, understanding, khachapuri, baze, and saperavi just as much as it does to time. Live it up!

Nippon Craft Beer's Far Yeast Sweet Vanilla Stout

Japanese Brewing Revolution

The stereotype concocted to describe Japanese industry asserts that Japan is very good at copying what others have done and introducing marginal improvements and cost-cutting techniques to make quality products at competitive prices. The stereotype suggests, however, that Japan falls short in the area of innovation and that, in recent years, the economy has suffered as a result. The emerging Japanese craft brewing industry, however, undermines this stereotype comprehensively.

During my first visit to Japan five years ago, the beers available reminded me of the bad old days in the US prior to the craft brewing revolution that has reshaped the industry and refined the palate of at least a few of my compatriots. Kirin, Asahi, and Sapporo were the Japanese equivalent of America’s BMC (Bud/Miller/Coors) affliction. I remember wandering around Shinjuku looking for some local brews and resorting instead to a few overpriced imports to satisfy my cravings (Bishop’s Finger at $15 equivalent was more than overpriced, but most certainly hit the spot).

Fast forward five years, and the landscape has changed completely! Craft brewers have carved out a niche for themselves with some adventurous and delicious lagers and ales that are every bit on par with American and European niche market brews.

Tokyo Station offers a conucopia of these brews, but they’re widely available in other cities.

Tokyo station beer

Look especially for Yo-Ho Brewing’s Aooni IPA. There is an excellent trade publication now available to lavish some of these brewers with the praise they so richly deserve, and a pub crawl map can be had in Osaka to guide you from one brewpub to the next (we called on Craft Beer House Molto for dinner and a great view of the city).

If you have any doubts about quality, you can compare with some of the better craft beers brought in from the US at Antenna America, just steps away from Yokohama Stadium, home of the BayStars.

We went up to Japan so that I could share my previous experience with Ms Chris (sakura and baseball) and stock up on yatsuhashi: happily, we can now add craft beer tasting and brewery tours to the itinerary. Prost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

eating with Shino and Akiko in Tokyo

Eat With Shino: A Unique Tokyo Travel Experience

I’m so thrilled to be back online. Can you believe it’s already April? March passed by so quickly that I didn’t even get to write about our romantic Valentine’s Day getaway in Bali. Don’t worry, I promise to make time for that. Now, let me tell you about this incredible experience we had in Tokyo where we were hosted by these beautiful Japanese ladies, Shino and Akiko, who taught us how to make sushi.

kitchen fun in Tokyo

The Inspiration

For some reason, I caught this cooking bug and have been cooking like crazy since we got back here in wild Manila in mid-January. Surely, our neighborhood’s restaurants are missing us already. To my hubby’s delight, this allows him to enjoy a better meal (or so I say) and better beer than dining out .

A few days before our trip to Japan, I came across eatwith.com from a friend’s facebook page. A start-up company founded in 2013 by an Israeli entrepreneur, Guy Michlin, who came up with the idea of connecting tourists with locals for a unique dining experience after being invited by a local Greek family to dine in their own home. His local host served authentic Greek food, which in no way resembled what was served in restaurants. So amazed with the experience, he thought of how this could be shared with millions of other tourists like him seeking authentic travel and dining experiences.

Booking the Food Affair

Fast forward to 2015, navigating their website, I found Shino, a local Japanese lady living in a traditional Japanese home in Tokyo. Together with her husband or sometimes with tea drinking friend Akiko, they host people with itchy feet like us. I booked a sushi-making session and dinner with her. The process was so easy: it only took a few minutes and payment was made through PayPal. Luck was on our side it seems. Even with barely a week’s notice, Shino was so kind to accommodate us. We requested a day other than that offered on the website as it conflicted with our travel to Kobe.

On the day itself, the two ladies — dressed in their beautiful kimonos —  met us in the train station. We stopped by a local supermarket where they showed us some of the most common Japanese household ingredients such as the plant used for wasabi and this sort of jelly with just one calorie per pound of serving. On the way to Shino’s, we picked up 3 bottles of local brews where the owner even gifted us with these lil pouches with samurai printed emblem.

Rolling and Slicing 

Our boy here wearing his apron and with washed hands and clean gloves is ready to learn how to make sushi.

Japanese beer

getting warmed up with Japanese local beer in a sake cup

sushi making guide

here’s a blow up of that sushi making guide Jeff is reading

Being health conscious, Shino opted to use brown rice for the sushi. The first step was to take some rice and spread it on a dark green film made out of seaweed called yakinori. You add cucumber, salmon, cream cheese, and apply a trace of wasabi. The tricky part was rolling it. Mine ended up a bit fat as you can see in the photo below :p

rolled sushi

our very first rolled sushi

That’s me slicing our rolled sushi. I never even thought I’d be preparing food in someone else’s kitchen in a foreign land no less. What a unique experience!

sushi slicing

point, slice, and glide sushi slicing technique

brown rolled sushi

tada…brown rice sushi roll ready to be served

For the Nigiri, we started with slicing the salmon into thin pieces. I was brave enough to attempt it and then later on handed the knife to Jeff to finish the task (and then the first bottle of beer).

Jeff to the rescue

Nigiri

colorful and yummy Nigiri…  some are potent as Jeff applied more than a trace of wasabi

the making of the miso soup

fried tofu stuffed with onions

this onion-stuffed fried tofu was really yummy

look who is eager and can’t wait to dig in

dinner table is ready

my plate

Jeff and Chris ready to eat with Shino and Akiko

Japanese beer

Jeff opens the next bottle of local beer from Shinagawa

Japanese sakura beer

it was so good, I can’t remember it’s name

It was such a delight eating with Shino and Akiko. A unique travel experience that I definitely recommend others to try. Jeff and I felt like we’re visiting old friends. And as Akiko pointed out, good food makes our lives richer.

Here’s the link to Shino’s section on Eat With-

http://www.eatwith.com/offering/1586/

And who knows? Maybe in the future, I will be a host myself, the first one in Manila :p

going old school here with my printed French textbooks and dictionary

Fromage, Baguette, & French

I’m not French but I consume an incredibly excessive amount of Fromage (cheese) and Baguette (a long thin loaf of French bread). It’s so sinful that the only way I can redeem myself and carry on with this overindulgence is by learning French.

So just a month ago together with my overly baked enthusiasm, I signed myself up for intensive French lessons (and with much pain a daily dose of traffic, too).

Imagine how thrilled I was when the professor started teaching us this power phrase “Je voudrais” or “I would like”.

Je voudrais de pain et du fromage, s’il vous plait.

(I would like some bread and cheese, please.)

I felt like I’m almost fluent in French.

Sweetheart, I think I’m ready to go back to France!

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so glad our Gaperon D’Auvergne survived the long haul flight :) although it lost its dome like shape in the process

Apart from using French language proficiency as a license to overindulge on pain et fromage, here are

5 More Reasons Why You Should Learn French

  1. French is a world language spoken by more 200 million people across 5 continents. 29 countries consider it as one of their official languages.
  2. One of the working and official languages of the United Nations, the European Union, UNESCO, NATO, the International Olympic Committee, the International Red Cross, and international courts is French.
  3. French and English language proficiency open you up to international job markets such as Canada, Switzerland, and Belgium.
  4. If you love traveling and dream of going to the world’s #1 tourist destination, Paris, your trip will be more enjoyable and insightful when you speak the local language.
  5. French is also called the language of love and reason. More than any language, it has the most words and expressions related to love. Its melodious sound makes the simplest statement sound so interesting.

Let me share with you some of our photos from Paris, Versailles, and Fontainebleau to get us motivated to learn française :)

A Quick Snapshot of Touristy Paris

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Tour D’Eiffel and a view of the streets of Paris from Arc d’Triomphe

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an evening walk passing by the Louvre

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the Winged Victory of Samothrace is one of the masterpieces of Hellenistic sculpture found in the Louvre Museum

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Notre Dame Cathedral & Pont Neuf

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climbing up the Arc d’Triomphe

A Day Trip to Versailles

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Versailles

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holding the sole of my boots which gave up while touring Versailles

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on self-timer, the era before selfies

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they were about to close the hall of mirrors and luckily Jeff got this shot just right after the tourists were sent away

Friends Exploring Fontainebleau

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If you’re still not convinced about learning French, well at least sample some French cheeses. Sofitel Spiral Restaurant has a great selection of French cheese for tasting. Last year for Bastille Day (July 14) they brought in 101 different kinds of French cheese worth Php1 million. :)

Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila Hotel is just very close to SM Mall of Asia (MOA). Here’s their address and phone number.

Barangay 1, CCP Complex Roxas Boulevard, Pasay – Manila, 1099 Metro Manila  (02) 551 5555

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just in case you’re coming from the airport

That’s it for now. Avoir! A bientôt!

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