Wendy’s Super Green Smoothie

green smoothie

I’m really not a health nut, so originally the idea of a green smoothie was repulsive to me.  Drinks should not be green (except for green tea)!  That all changed when I got my amazing 750 series Vitamix.  I’m not even going to tell you how much I paid for it, but just know that it was major dough, but totally worth it!  It’s true what they say…a Vitamix will change your life.  It’s a super powerful blender that makes everything taste good…including green smoothies and juices. Plus, the blades are so powerful that they break down the cell structure of the ingredients, which allows your body to absorb more of the nutrients.  I definitely don’t get my daily dose of vitamins, so I like to start the morning off right with a smoothie packed with fruits and veggies.  Here’s one of my favorites.  Don’t let the bright green color put you off.  I swear it’s delish.  Even my fiance loves them and he was a hater at first!

ingredients for green smoothie

Wendy’s Super Green Smoothie

(Makes 1-2 cups, depending on how much liquid you put in)

1/2 an avocado

1 green apple

Handful of frozen mangos and/or pineapple

1 thin slice of ginger, optional

2 big handfuls of spinach

8 oz of rice milk (can be sweetened or non-sweetened)

  1.  Throw everything into your Vitamix or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Enjoy your Super Green Smoothie!

NOTE:  You can add more rice milk if you like a thinner consistency.

—This post is dedicated to my friend Jamye who is dying to try to my green smoothie 🙂 Bottoms up!  LMK what you think. 

green smoothie

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Wendy’s Top Eats of Taiwan

If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m a food lover.  I don’t discriminate between high end or street food.  If it tastes good, it tastes good.  And let me just say…..the food taste really f’in good in Taiwan.   Yes, I ate myself silly from morning to night….smiling with every bite, stuffing my lil’ tummy until it was bulging over my jeans.  It was totally worth it!  I was mostly in a food coma while there, but here’s what I remember as my top food picks of Formosa (aka Taiwan, aka mecca of deliciousness).

Tried & True

  • Dirt cheap $1 boba (or less!) on every street corner.  Had one pretty much every day.
  • Traditional Taiwanese breakfast- turnip cake, fresh soymilk, scallion pancake, sesame pastry stuffed with doughnut.

taiwanese breakfast

  • Beef noodle soup- Nothing fancy, just tender beef cooked in a broth with noodles.  You can pretty much get this on any street corner or night market.  I have so many fond childhood memories of my Mom making this for us on a cold, winter day.

beef noodle soup

  • Fried milk-  It’s not really want you think it is.  It’s really more like fried custard/ pudding ball on a stick.  Another night market find.
  • Pineapple cakes-  If you’re looking for souvenirs, look no further.  It’s always a crowd favorite and most come in cute individual packages.  We snagged a few in the free hotel minibar and then bought a few boxes as presents.  Buttery outer layer with pineapple filling on the inside.  It’s not oozy like a jelly doughnut filling, but more like a paste.

Drooling yet?  Read on to drool more…

Once in a lifetime

  • Mountain greens-  My mom is uber healthy, so I’ve eaten a lot of Taiwanese greens in my life; however, I’d never laid eyes on these greens until this trip.  They’re grown in the mountains and have a very distinct curly cue at the end.  Typically sautéed with black beans for a tasty side dish.  I’m usually not one to rave about veggies, but these ones are unique, cute to look at, and flavorful.

taiwanese mountain greens

  • Gakuden Boulangerie in Taipei-  I stumbled across this bakery on accident and it was kismet.  If I were stranded on a desert island, the one thing I could not live without is bread, carbs, baked goods.  What’s even more amazing is that bakeries in Taiwan are typically open late (like think wee hours of the morning).  I wish I had photo evidence of these goodies, but I devoured them too quickly.  Sorry!  You’ll just have to trust me that the chocolate mini soufflé muffin was to die for…that the loaf bread with cubed cheese, cranberries, and nuts had the perfect texture and sweetness.  Really, everything we had was amazing.
  • Din Tai Fung restaurant- If you read any guidebook, than you know that you MUST go to Din Tai Fung.  Sure, it’s totally hyped up, but it lives up to its name. It’s known for handmade dumplings and Xiao Long Bao (dumplings that burst out with soup when you bite into ‘em).  We had pork chop fried rice, Dan Dan noodles, and a bunch of a dumplings and stuff.  YUMMY!

ding tai fung

pork chop fried rice

ding tai fung kitchen

Most interesting and unique

  • Rice flour wraps stuffed with peanut shavings, cilantro, and ice cream…  Interesting combo, right?  Sounds weird and gross, but somehow it works really well together.  It’s refreshingly sweet and kinda makes you wonder what other combos that you’ve overlooked in life that could be absolutely wonderful together.

taiwanese dessert

taiwanese dessert

  • Other odds and ends that were interesting, but not really for me:  pig knuckles, duck’s blood in hot pot, oyster omelet..and these slimy guys below.  I’m adventurous, but something about the looks of these pouches made me want to cringe.  Sorry, maybe next time!

taiwanese street food

Until the next food adventure…

Wendy’s Top 10 of Taiwan

After 2 months of winter hibernation, travel, and eating myself silly…I’m back and fat and happy as ever.  In case you were wondering where I was, I took a short trip to Taiwan for Thanksgiving, pounded work hard in between, and then took on some R&R in Florida for the holidays.  Since it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, I thought I’d start from where I left off…my trip to Taiwan.

chiang kai shek memorial hall

It’s been over a decade since I’ve been to Taiwan (my homeland) and boy has it changed….for the better.  The streets are cleaner because of the subway, the people are as nice as can be, and the fashion has moved beyond the fobby misspelled English words.  Hooray!  It could also be that my trip was cheery overall because I was with 2 of my favorite people in the world- my mom and my fiancé.   (Yes, I just said cheery.  I’ve been watching too many episodes of Downton Abbey, so occasionally I break out in British banter.)  My fiancé had never been to Taiwan, so seeing it fresh through the eyes of a virgin tourist made it all the more special.  In any event, it was a great mix of decadence and natural beauty.  Man bags are way “in” and people have taken a liking to fluffy little dogs and carry them everywhere.  On the flip, there are untapped parts of the island that are pristine, mountainous terrains filled with natural beauty and grace.  Want more?  Then, check out my Top 10 of Taiwan below.

 Wendy’s Top 10 of Taiwan

 10.  Restrooms are EVERYWHERE…

So you don’t have to ever worry about peeing in your pants.  Sure, they are squatters, but the good news is that are you building up leg muscle while you squat…a twofer!

9.  Cute Mascots

If there’s one thing that the Taiwanese are good at, it’s creating really freakin cute mascots.  Look at this fella from the Ding Tai Fung restaurant.  Adorbes!

ding tai fung mascot

8.  Night Markets

You can’t NOT go to a night market if you’re in Taiwan….it’s a staple.  However, personally I feel like they’ve gone a bit downhill.  I think they’ve started cracking down on fakes, so there aren’t as many knock offs anymore- disappointing!  Street food is good, but mostly fried, so get your Tums ready.

taiwan night market

7.  Free Minibar at the Hotel

In the US, hotels charge you $8 bucks minimum for any drink you consume from the minibar.  Not in Taiwan!  Every hotel I stayed at had a FREE minibar.  Can you believe it?  I had pineapple cakes and like a gallon of water at the Hotel Tango in Taipei.  Fruit at the Hotel del Lago at Sun Moon Lake.  The list goes on and on.  Enjoy it while you’re here ‘cause not many other places have it.

6.  Jiu Fen

Translated, the name of this town is called “nine portions.”  It’s somewhat hard to get to and if you can manage to survive the hours of car-sickening back and forth switchbacks, then it’s worth the trip.  The main artery of town is a seemingly never ending staircase, but to the side of the staircase are cute shops and restaurants that you can browse.  Great day trip from Taiwan!

5.  Chung Tai Chan Monastery

This monastery is modern and breathtaking.  You could get lost in here looking at the statues of laughing Buddha, the 4 headed soldiers that are as tall as the building, the decorated Buddhist shrines…It’s in Puli, Nantou Country, in central Taiwan, so if you happen to be near Sun Moon Lake or Taichung, then hop on over.

DSC00316  laughing buddha

 4.  National Palace Museum

This place is epic…like the Louvre of Taiwan…and boasts the largest collection of ancient Chinese artifacts and artwork in the world.  Check out the famous jade cabbage if you are lucky enough to go.  It’s kind of like the Mona Lisa of the museum.  I bought a beer magnet of it as a reminder.  🙂

3.  The Natural Beauty

I’ve never really seen the natural beauty of Taiwan until this trip.  Let’s just say that my last trip was during my 20’s for the infamous “Love Boat” summer camp, so I saw more of the inside of clubs and bars than anything else.  Must see places?  Taroko’s Gorge in Hualien and Sun Moon Lake.  I’ve heard Alishan is cool, too…but we didn’t make it there because we were short on time.  In case you’re wondering what Taroko’s Gorge is, it’s basically a huge passage formed by the river cutting through the mountains (pix below).  It’s crazy the number of butterflies that live here and just flitter and float around.  I’d recommend the Cave of Waterfall Curtain hike here.  There’s a nice surprise at the end, which I won’t ruin for ya.  And Sun Moon Lake is a lake in case you didn’t know!  🙂  It was a bummer that the weather was overcasty and rainy, but we had a few good hours where the sun came out and played.

taroko's gorge

taroko's gorge taiwan

pagoda at taroko's gorge

2.  Nice People

The people are so freakin nice here and polite.  Hospitality is amazing- both family and strangers a like, everybody from our taxi drivers to the people on the streets.  There’s no crowding on sidewalks and people respect your personal space, unlike some other places I’ve traveled too.  And our relatives there were so hospitable.  Every meal was another relative treating us to some amazing food- a local hot spot, the hottest seafood restaurant, you name it!  If we said we craved something, they got it for us right away.  Thank you family for treating us so well.  Yes, it’s expected, but you went above and beyond!

1.  The Food

It’s no surprise that the food was the best part about Taiwan.  What I love about my people is that they eat throughout the day…my kinda people.  They’re always noshing on something.  Bakeries are open all day (not just for half the day) and they are by far the best bakeries EVER.  You can get an entire Taiwanese breakfast for 4 for the same price as 2 cups of Starbucks coffee.  Street food is tasty and cheap.  Boba is $1.  I could go on and on, but I don’t want to ruin my next blog post, which is my top eats of Taiwan.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, drool below.

xiao long bao

steak

taiwanese breakfast

taiwanese street food

Raspberry Crumb Bars…a Bit Too Crumbly

Cold weather always makes me want to eat more…and bake more.  We had a friend’s birthday party this weekend, so I decided to dust off my baking supplies and try a new recipe.  I really wanted to make this blueberry crumb recipe, but blueberries were MIA at our local neighborhood store.  I was too lazy to make the trek to another store, so opted to substitute blueberries for raspberries instead.

The finished product?  See for yourself above.  As pretty as they look in the pictures and as much as I like to toot my own horn, the final bars were just OK.  I think a couple things I would have done differently.  Per other people’s suggestions, I would have used butter instead of the shortening indicated in the recipe.  Texture was a bit too crumbly and messy (could have been the weird vegetable shortening I used, too).  I think butter would have made it more clumpy and rich.  Raspberries were a bit too tart, so next go around, I would either use more sugar, or actually go the distance to get those darn blueberries.  Alas, this did not stop anybody from devouring them.  Clean plate by the end of the night!

Fall Fave: Pumpkin EVERYTHING

They’re everywhere, but I still can’t resist.  Fall is not fall within pumpkins.  Sure, they’re infiltrating every magazine and blog you probably read, every local grocery store display, every porch around the country….but they’re only with us a few months out of the year, so I think that makes it OK to talk about them non-stop and obsess about them.  Don’t you?

Pumpkin Patch

A thing of beauty- warts and all!

Pumpkin Ale

OK, I’m cheating a bit.  These are not liters of pumpkin ale, but you get my drift.  🙂

Pumpkin Pancakes 

For the recipe, check it out here at All Recipes.  I like to add chocolate chips to my batter to add a little oomph.

My Mom, the Fruit Whisperer…and 5 Fruit Picking Tips

My mom never pretended to be a good cook, but there were (and are) a few culinary skills she’s good at.  She excels at making boxed brownies and cake mixes look homemade.  She’s great at fruit cutting, a skill that is just as important as cooking in the Asian culture.  Oh, and she is a rock star when it comes to picking fruit.  That’s why I call her “The Fruit Whisperer.”  In other families, there are secret recipes handed down from generation to generation.  In my family, it’s the art of picking fruit.  Growing up, without fail…after every meal, we’d have a plate of perfectly cut fruit.  And I knew, before even taking a bite into it, that it would be juicy, sweet, and the perfect texture.  So how does one go about picking the perfect fruit?  It’s an art and a science, and takes years of practice, but here are a few tips to get you started:

Apples

Let’s start with the basic apple.  I like mine firm and crispy, and don’t understand people who like them mushy.  That’s just plain weird.  To select a firm and crispy, it should feel and sound like just that.  What does that mean?  Pick up the apple and feel it.  It should feel firm with no mushy spots.  Mushy spots mean mushy apple or rotting.  Ew!  Once you’ve confirmed it’s firm, flick it like you would if you were to flick somebody’s ear.  The sound of it should be crispy, vibrant, and sort of echo (vs. flat and dull).  Check out the demo here (sans noise, which would have been helpful.  Working on it!).

Apple flick

Created with cinemagr.am

Berries

Berries are usually in wrapped packages, so difficult to feel…but usually it’s more about the fragrance and smell.  For example, with good strawberries, you can usually smell them with a simple sniff.  The smell of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are a bit more faint, but still there.

Grapes

Grapes should be firm and you can usually feel them through the plastic bags they come in.

Watermelon

OK, here’s the big kahuna and one that’s taken me years to really “get.”  Watermelons are complex and take a combo of sight, sounds, and touch.  The overall shape of it should be symmetrical and not lopsided.  Color should be bright green (if it’s light green, it’s over ripe) with a spot of yellow (where it used to rest on the ground in the field).  The belly button should be small.  And finally, you need to give it a good slap to really know if it’s the one.  Imagine that you are make believe slapping somebody’s face…palms open, good amount of force.  Whack it and then listen.  It should sound hollow and you should be able to feel a slight vibration.  I was at the Whole Foods the other day slapping away and taught this technique to the fruit guy who worked there.  It works…for real.

Other Melons

Melons are a bit like watermelon.  Their shape should be smooth and symmetrical.  Cantaloupes are better if the surface is smoother/ pattern is denser.

Hope this is enough to get you started.  If you have any other fruits you’re curious about, write ‘em down below in the comments and I’ll ask mama if she has any words of wisdom.

Karen’s Famous Banana Blueberry Muffins

Everybody raves about my friend Karen’s Banana Blueberry Muffins, but I’ve never had them before, so I decided to give it a go.  After whipping them up and scarfing down 4 of them all by myself, I can honestly tell you that they are freakin’ good.  They’re not too sweet and have a nice nutty flavor to them from the oats and flax.  Mine were a tad bit over-baked at 23 minutes, so it might depend on your oven.  Even so, they were still delish. I’d check them at 18-19 minutes.  They should be uber moist.  Oh, and if you haven’t guessed, my friend Karen subscribes to a healthy lifestyle, so the muffins are healthy, too….which means you can eat more of them and not feel guilty.  Happy baking…and eating!

baked goods

Karen’s Famous Banana Blueberry Muffins

3 ripe bananas
<3/4 c. Sugar (slightly)
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup Flour
1 1/2 cup oats
1-2 Tbs (guess) flax meal
1/2 c blueberries (guess to your liking)
1/2 c walnuts (to your liking)

Preheat oven to 350, I like to make muffins. You can put into bread form as well.  I’ve also modified with chocolate chips!

Cook time muffins:  22-25 min  (Might depend on your oven.  Check them at 18-19 minutes.)

non stick muffin cups

Italian Sausage Soup

It’s fall, so you gotta have soup.  Nothing warms me up like a big, hearty bowl.  I prefer the broth-based soups because they’re healthier, lighter…so thus, you can eat more of it!  One of my go-to recipes is this Italian Sausage Soup that I found while browsing AllRecipes.  It’s 5 star rated with over 1400 reviews, so you know it’s good!  I like to substitute the Italian Sausage for a mixture of Lamb Merguez and pork sausage.  Yummy!  Oh, and I omit the beans because I’m not a fan.  Try it and let me know what you think.  We like to make a pot of it and then eat it for 3 days straight.

all recipes

Sick Day: Mini PB chocolate cups and Season 1 Homeland

I’ve been sick as a dog lately….sore throat, dry cough, sinus headache, runny nose, itchy eyes.  I seriously don’t know how my nose has not fallen off yet ‘cause I’ve been blowing snot out of it every other second.  Sorry for the grossness!  I wanted you to get the full visual.  What makes matters worse is this past weekend, the city was full of fun activities- Hardly Strictly Blue Grass festival, Blue Angels, Castro Street Fair, etc.  So while everybody else was smiling in the sun having a dandy time cruising the city, I was stuck indoors nursing a cold.  Boo.  The only good thing about it was I got to keep company with a few pretty awesome distractions.

Distraction #1: Mini PB chocolate cups from Trader Joes

Somehow these lil’ nubs make you feel less guilty about consuming chocolate because  they are about 1/10th of the size of a Reese’s Cup.  My only caution is that they are like potato chips…you can’t just have one.  Not sure why but when I’m sick, I give myself permission to eat more generously to make myself feel better.  I rationalize that my body needs more nutrients.  That’s how I talked myself into feeling OK about eating half the tub!  DANGEROUS.

trader joes chocolate

Distraction #2: Homeland, Season 1

If you watched the Emmy’s, then you know that this show is the new darling of the industry…and for good reason.  It’s amazing and addictive.  Every time I finish watching an episode, I say “whoa.”  Acting is fantastic and I especially love the way all the characters say the F bomb with such gusto and emphasis on the F.   Here’s the synopsis from the official Showtime site:

Hero or traitor? M.I.A. in Afghanistan for eight years and subjected to unthinkable torture at the hands of al-Qaeda, Marine Sgt. Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) is finally coming home. CIA officer Carrie Mathison (Emmy® winner Claire Danes) believes he has been turned and become part of a plot to be carried out on American soil. But the volatile Carrie has some demons of her own. Nothing is as it seems in HOMELAND, an edge-of-your-seat thriller that also stars Emmy® winner Mandy Patinkin.

Watch it and thank me later.