Thursday, April 24, 2014

I have a bad habit of sleeping late, waking up early, and then just powering through the day and sleeping late again. Please excuse me if I start writing gibberish because my brain is rusting. Now onto content (what a horrible introduction)!

I recently went to see the Russian Ravens play in Mitte. I'm not just saying this because I know the band members (okay, Oli is totally the drummer) but seriously, they are great! I definitely had moments of Explosions in the Sky feels the first time around. The only set back is I have no idea what they're saying because the lyrics are all in Russian.

Also, I've been experimenting in the kitchen a lot more.

I bought these soy pellets to test out. You just soak them in water or broth and they become a sort of meat substitute. I'm really used to eating fake meat so it's not out of the norm for me but for any meat eaters out there, don't expect this to taste like what you're used to.

I also have been doing a lot of baking.

Gluten Free, vegan, and sugar free is really tricky if you don't have the right ingredients. In fact, I still don't have the right ingredients (much harder to find arrowroot powder or xantham gum here casually).

I did manage to create an edible sad brick!

Tada! It even has glue on top. Okay, it wasn't half bad (I just need to work on texture). But seriously, doesn't it look tragic?

Finally on Easter (or rather the night before), I went to a huge fire near Oli's house.

It's actually a practice here in Germany to have Easter fires. There are many in the more suburban parts of Berlin and Brandenburg, and they have little shows and play schlager music (it's the music you imagine drunk German people dance to). Definitely a cozy way to spend a brisk evening.

I stick out like a sore thumb.

What did you guys do for Easter?

The Last Few Days

Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's officially the end of the first week of my 21 day vegan challenge and might I say it went smoother than I anticipated. I thought I would go coo coo bananas over not having a bit of something sweet here and there but honestly, fruit is amazing and I've been dropping a few drops of stevia into my lemon water to make lemonade to tote around. I admit there are a few things that I miss but I realize this is all just a way for me to get more creative in the kitchen.

I recently took a trip out to the LPG Bio Market in Mitte. There are many bio stores in Berlin where all products sold are organic (different from America where there are many health food stores but not necessarily everything sold is organic). I really love LPG . . . it's pricier than some of the other bio stores but their selection is great. I can't find another place that has this specific peanut butter I like (without salt, sugar, or oil, but also tastes like the PB I buy in NY).

Here are some of the purchases I made:

Vegan Breakfast Yogurt, Soybeans, and 92% Dark Chocolate.

The yogurt is great! I love to eat yogurt but I can't actually stomach dairy that well. This one happens to also be sugar free.The soybeans are for my fermentation (I make my own fermented soybeans aka natto because it's cheaper, tastes great, and reduces waste). I also found some interesting chocolate!

I see this brand in bio stores a lot and this one particular bar happens to contain coconut blossom sugar instead of refined! Dark chocolate also contains a good amount of fiber and anti-oxidants (if you didn't know why people are obsessed with anti-oxidants, it's because it reduces the risk of cancer and signs of aging)! I like dark chocolate for snacking especially.

Speaking of snacks, my favorite at the moment is smearing peanut butter onto rice crackers and topping it with bananas.

Simple yet satisfying. Try it with a sprinkle of cinnamon and let the goodness sink in.

Finally, I've been really loving the Detox tea from Kusmi.

The first time I tried Kusmi was when my sister got me a sampler pack for my birthday a few years back. I haven't looked back since. I keep a variety of different teas and brands around but when I feel like splurging on myself, I go for Kusmi. This one in particular does exactly what it says and it has an overall cleaning and calming effect. Kusmi has many stores and distributors around the world so if you're ever nearby, definitely check out their selection!

I think that will be all for today. I hope you guys have a lovely Sunday!

New and Old Favorites

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

I'm not one to plan meals way ahead of time because usually I'll get a last minute craving for something else and scrap the original idea. I am aware however, of how important it is to plan when you have a busy schedule ahead of you. I also believe that when doing something like the 21 Day Vegan Challenge, one has to come prepared with food or it'll be a lot harder to stay on track when hunger strikes.

I like to prepare different components of the meal on a free day when I have time. Sundays are great because it forecasts what the rest of the week will look like.

I don't like to prepare for the whole week because it's too boring to eat the same food over and over again. I make it easy though--a lot of the time I pre-chop only veggies so I can quickly make a stir-fry in the morning and then let it cool while I'm getting ready before packing it up. It also helps to give yourself options.

Here I have (from the bottom left counterclockwise) some greens I washed and chopped up (there is raw red cabbage hidden underneath but not everyone likes raw cabbage), some peppers and carrots cut up in strips for easy snacking, choice of pasta or rice (here I use gluten free pasta and brown rice), roasted veggies, chopped strawberries, and homemade avocado dip.

Make enough that when you're also in the house and hungry, you can have some to snack on.

Now when you need to make yourself a meal in advance, all you have to do is take an empty container and layer the different components. Super simple!

I always put the wettest bit on top so it's easier to mix later. Then depending on what I have on hand, I'll also add lemon juice, olive or flax oil, and some fresh herbs. Since I've managed to keep my basil plant alive long enough for it to regenerate new leaves (I swear, I am an accidental plant killer because plants always die at my fingertips welp), I sprinkled some on top.

The finished product:

Pretty to look at, appetizing, and easy on the wallet! I also pack extra snacks for in between meals (comes in handy after working out or carrying heavy trays of food more welp).

My Favorite Snacks:

-Dried Fruits and Nuts: Having a variety works best so you don't get bored of the same taste and texture.
-Fresh fruit: Apples, oranges, bananas, etc.
-Dark Chocolate: Anti-oxidants yes, but mainly because it tastes really good.
-Roasted Seaweed: It's the bomb dot com.
-Snack Bars/Energy Bars: I stocked up on Lara bars, Clif Bars, Kind Bars in college for a midday energy boost. I admit in Berlin, I don't buy energy bars because they are too expensive, but I do make my own Lara bar hybrid.
-Cereal: Some people can't eat dry cereal but I love it.

Anyway, those were a few tips for anyone looking to incorporate meal planning into their lives. Of course, this was an example of a layered salad meal, but you can do whatever you please (you can hard boil eggs, boil/bake potatoes, make chili with rice and corn salsa on top, etc.) I just want to point out that though some people will claim they don't have time to prepare all these different things, it actually saves time because there's no worrying about it later. And I love toting food around because it makes me happy to know there's a meal waiting for me inside my bag, not to mention it's a great conversation starter because most people will be curious as to what you've prepared.

Happy eating everyone~

Meal Planning & What I Do

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Guten Morgen everyone! Well, it's technically not morning here anymore but since it's just becoming morning in America, I'll nab the opportunity.

The weather, albeit some rain and clouds, has been pretty amazing lately and when amazing weather hits, all I want are jazzy refreshments. I've been getting a kick out of the fruit water trend, mainly because it suits my no-hassle personality, and putting slices of fruit in water and letting it sit overnight is one of the easiest ways to make your life better. Not to mention it's just so pretty to look at!

Art in a pitcher.

After taking a few pictures, I knew my tummy needed solid food. A bowl of oats always fills the void (not to mention it fits the requirements for my 21 Day Vegan Challenge!)

I like it thick so I continuously add water and stir until I reach a desired consistency. Mix-ins while cooking include the following: flax flakes, ground hazelnuts, cinnamon, and raisins.

Then I topped it with strawberries, lemon zest (I love the multiple uses for citrus), more cinnamon, and some maple syrup. Guten Appetit!

By the way, this is my favorite bowl. I bought it in Paris the second time I went because I was completely obsessed with the idea of getting a giant bowl for cappuccino (as I saw in this one travel show). I realize now it serves no purpose for coffee in my hands because I seldom drink it. But the cats! Boy, are they cute.

The brand of the bowl is Comptoir de Famille. I am in love with their stuff.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed having breakfast with me. Ciao for now!

Strawberries and Lemon for Breakfast

I recall a time my friend Vicky and I went out for Apfel Strudel after work. We were talking about various things and the topic of food came up. After talking about my plans to cut something out for a while, Vicky laughed and said I love to do experiments on myself because I'm always trying something out to see if it "works."

Yes, I am my own lab rat.

In my defense, I've mentioned before that I love trying out new things to see whether it "works" for me or not. The term "works" is in quotations because it's hard to define what that means, but generally it relates to whether I feel good doing it. For example, I can't seem to do any fluid cleanse because not eating is not an option for me (how do people willingly live off of liquids for longer than a week?) But incorporating parts of the blood type diet does work for me, and I notice the difference when I stray away from it a lot more than usual.

This moment's experiment seems to be the 21 Day Vegan Challenge. Not gonna lie, I told myself "If Beyonce can do it, so can I." But I've adjusted it a bit further, and decided to also cut out gluten and refined sugars. Vegan is not so hard and I feel similarly about being gluten free, but I have a feeling the refined sugar thing will kick me where it hurts (do people know how much I love sweets?)

Anyway, this is just a small notice to let you guys know I'm starting it tomorrow and we shall see how long it lasts. I decided that 21 days is nothing compared to the rest of my life, so hopefully I can stay strong (even through Easter).

Wish me luck, and updating will commence as usual (which is not very reassuring . . . haha). Oh, and I will be posting photos from before the challenge, so don't be alarmed if the food I post is not related to the challenge (at least in the next few days). Ciao ciao!

21 Day Vegan Challenge

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Some days I wake up in the morning and take time to cook oats or cut up a bunch of fruit for a layered yogurt parfait. Other days, I pour cereal into my bowl and stare into the distance until my cornflakes get soggy.

Then there's my lazy fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt that comes in between. Easy and involves no cooking, you can make it with fresh or frozen fruit (the difference will be in the texture--frozen will produce an icier, thicker product).

Lazy Aya's Fruit-on-the-Bottom Yogurt
Serves 1

1/4 cup Yogurt of Choice
1/4 cup of Frozen or Fresh Fruit
1 tbsp Ground Flax* (or whole, as it will grind in the blender)
3-6 drops of Stevia**

Blend your fruit and flax together with 2 tablespoons or so of water until smooth. Drop stevia into the fruit blend and mix. Place it in a bowl and top with a layer of yogurt.

*The flax is added for extra fiber and as a thickener. You can omit it if you don't have it on hand.
**Depending on how sweet your fruit is, you may not even need the Stevia.

I personally don't like my fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt fully mixed because swirled just looks so much more appetizing.


Lazy Aya's Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hello everybody! I've been on a little break from work over the past few days and I feel incredible! It's so nice to just chill out sometimes with absolutely no agenda.

Speaking of chilling out, I hung out with a new friend today and talking about travel and meeting people on the train really inspired me to watch this movie tonight:

I've never watched it before. I know it's a favorite of many but somehow it slipped through the cracks and now to make up for it, I've paused all human contact for the next 100 minutes because I want to be sucked into what seems to be a charming love story (yes, I'm in that mood).

I also cleaned out the fridge. Well no, there is still a ton of stuff crammed in there, but I had to make a huge dent and what better way than just putting everything in a pan with a spoonful of Go Chu Jang?

I also ordered Stevia and put in a few drops for added sweetness.

Ta-da! A very unappetizing picture but I swear it was just the opposite.

Back to movies (there is no cohesion in my brain today), I just watched this a few days ago:

I tend to gravitate towards American/European movies for no particular reason other than they're just easier to watch with friends, but once in a while I remember there's a Japanese movie I really wanted to see. Hyakuman-en to Nigamushi Onna is a great example of one of those movies since I've been wanting to see it since it came out and just kept putting it off/forgetting about it. There is a girl who is charged of a petty crime and due to the gossip and strong push from her brother to stand on her own two feet, she saves up a million yen (about $10,000) and moves to another city. There she saves up the same million yen, and keeps repeating it, going from city to city.
I admit I chose to watch this because I LOVE Moriyama Mirai and Aoi Yuu is someone I find aesthetically flawless, but it was better than expected. I found myself pretty invested in the characters' lives. So if you're curious, I would give it a go!
That's all for today in terms of updates. I have some restaurant reviews and random city pictures coming up, so keep your eyes peeled for those. Ciao ciao~

Fridge food, Before Sunrise, and a Japanese Movie