Current Progress

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


So on the plane ride back from Beijing I happened to sit beside this nice old lady from Vancouver. She's in her 70s or 80s for sure. She had help walking to her seat and then getting her insulin put into a bag of ice.

Seeing the insulin, I immediately steered our conversations towards health. I wanted to hear what someone who's been through it all had to say. So she has had Type 2 Diabetes for about 30 years and she was 40 when it happened. She used to do a lot of swimming and aquatics exercises. Also started a seniors club to exercise every day for an hour. About a year ago she got a foot infection and now she can hardly walk. She was on a cruise around asia and while her granddaughter and husband could go tour around, she was stuck in her cabin.

She started taking insulin last year because she couldn't keep her blood sugar down anymore. After starting to take insulin, she eats even more since the insulin controls her blood sugar for her and she doesn't have to watch what she eats. She talked about loving food - loving the medium rare beef and noodles and potatoes and bread. She said if she had the will power she would've gone vegetarian but she personally can't. She said on her cruise all she did was eat the buffets and sleep.

She's had cataracts growing in her eyes but they're not riped, so the doctors cant operate yet. She has all the symptoms I've read about for Type 2 Diabetes and frankly it scared the jeepers outta me.

I'm not judging since I know how hard it is to completely change your lifestyle. I'm not one to talk about self control. But I don't want to be blind or not be able to use my legs. I dont wanna be on drugs everyday and prick my finger everyday only to eat some more animals and carbs. My motivation against wasting away immobile, blind or or dying of a heartattack trumps any love for food. There's still so much of the world to see, so many new things to learn and people to meet.

She seems to have had a good life - a great husband, 4 kids and lots of grand kids. She said she wouldn't have lived any other way. She did recommend me to take a good look at her and keep trying to get back to my ideal weight and be vegetarian to save all the doctor visits, pills and pain that she's gone through.

Thanks Jean, you're my first in-flight friend that's really touched my life.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Great Wall at Badaling

If I had more time to plan things out I would not have taken the hotel recommended tour to the busiest section of the Great Wall at Badaling. We got off to a rough (2 hour) start of lineups and crowds and pushing up to...a slide car. What's a slide car you ask? Well a slide car is the following:

It's like Thunder Run at Great America/Wonderland. I'm not a fan of the tacky souvenirs, constant haggling, pushy lineups and the tour company trying to get you to spend 60 RMB to go on this ride instead of hiking up. He said that we only had an hour, but we spent 2 hours in the lineup and then had an hour at the top. In hindsight, I'd definitely skip the "optional" slide car.

Anyway after finally getting to the top, it was AWESOME!!!

We hiked up to the 8th watch tower and the views were incredible. I couldn't feel my fingers by the end of it and didn't take nearly as many pictures because of the frost bite and snow, but it was totally worth it. I just can't imagine the 2000 years it took to build and how much history has taken place here. It definitely is one thing I've been meaning to check off my list.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


As a self proclaimed vegetarian for the year, I surely have done a terrible job at avoiding meat here in Beijing. It's very tough to just order vegetables - meat seems to be the center of attention and part of every dish. Ok, well when in rome...right?

It didn't take much to twist my rubber arm to eat...

Beijing Duck. Gosh, I can't get enough of it. The perfectly crispy skin. The lovely wrap and toppings. The tender duck. At Quanjude, they served us their 110009th duck. Tonight, we had it again at Wangfujing. They roast it when you order and it comes fresh outta the oven in 40 min. Instead of the rottiserie chickens you get at Safeway in north america, you get the roasted duck at any supermarket here. Damn, I wonder if the US customs will let me in with a duck.

A wild turtle.

This took succumbing to peer pressure and curiosity. The plastic gloves were a nice touch. I must have had a few bites before I saw the head...and couldn't eat the rest.

I also had Frog, Beef, Pork, Chicken and whatever they have inside of them. Gosh I have no idea what other animals made it into my tummy, sometimes you can't tell with the spices and oil. But whatever arm you twist there ain't no way I ate that:

It was still moving!!!!!

The food here was so good this week - I'm not used to ordering 5-10 plates every meal, it seems normal here! The one complaint is all the oil everything is soaked in. Today I was able to convince my kind hosts of more simple steamed vegetables and soups as some of the dishes! I am definitely craving a nice fresh salad and fruits that are not soaked in sugar.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Healthy travels?

I'm torn. Having a healthy routine and lifestyle has been the goal of 2009 and beyond. However, I also love the excitement of the random life of living every minute to its fullest, in a new place, trying new foods, making new friends or catching up with old, and learning new things. Why is it the year I decide to change my life around, I've flown to 7 cities and 4 countries in 3 months?

What a long winded justification for my week of unhealthy behavior! Did I mention that I LOVE the food here? I just had Schezuan food for lunch which included some American favourites such as Kung Pao chicken. Except it tasted SOOO good and I couldn't recognize it as that until they told me. I have no idea what I've been eating - I can describe it as hot pot or rice + stuff or appetizers of crunchy stuff. Oh and meat. Laser keeps pointing out turtles and random things like lamb pen!s on the menu. We haven't braved into that stuff yet but since I can't read, I can't order anything anyways.

I've slept in spurts of 2-3 hours, waking up to sync up with the mother ship. Also living inside of a "conference room" which looks pretty much like a storage room has been a grueling 12+ hours a day.

Maybe I should consider a different line of work that doesn't take me to exciting new countries I've never been. Maybe I love this job more than I realize though I just need to exert some boundaries of where it ends and where my life starts.

At least I'm more aware of how badly I treat my body when I eat with my eyes. As long as I make it to the gym everyday and do a 10km on the great wall this weekend that should make up for it right?

Anybody have any recommedations of what I should do if I had the weekend here? I've narrowed it down to these things:
- Olympics - Birds Nest and Cube
- Tiananmen Square
- Great Wall of China
- Temple of Heaven
- Forbidden City

Sorry for the lack of pictures. At times where I have way too much equipment to lug around, I'm less ambitious to bring my camera.

Monday, March 23, 2009

all you can eat breakfast

Oh Asia business travel hotels, why do I have such a weakness for you. Fresh dim sum, congee, steamed goodness, sushi, western breakfasts, fruits. How many breakfasts am I here again? 10 days of it? ah crap.

Did I mention how much I LOVE the food here! :)

At least there's a decent gym here!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

how NOT to lose weight

So I dropped 4 pounds in 4 days. This is how NOT to lose weight. I stuck to packing lunch/dinner and the exercising early in the morning this week. What I didn't anticipate was the long hours I'd be awake - I might as well start bringing a sleeping bag and pillow to my cubicle.

Basically if you are awake and use up every second of 20 hours a day, it does wonders for weight loss! I don't recommend this. Nor do I think that this way of life is sustainable.

Anyway off I go to Beijing! I'm not sure I'll know how to say no to authentic peking duck if it happens to present itself on my plate.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


:) I find that in times of lots of work and stress, it's so very hard to wake up early to hit the gym or pool, cook/pack breakfast, lunch and dinner and not want to grab a beer or light one up when you get home so late. It's definitely a hurdle that I need to overcome and I'm doing ok. If anything, I'll use this stress reduction kit before I cave.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Alice Waters - Chez Panisse Vegetables

I was up in Berkeley this weekend after a great lunch at Zachary's Deep dish pizza. This post could easily be about how perfect the asparagus and red peppers and garlic deep dish pizza was. It could be about how this is my favourite pizza place in the world. Or how fresh the tomato sauce is. But it's not.

It's about the bookstore next door that B and I wandered into. I couldnt stop looking at the shelves of (vegetable) cookbooks. Of course I happened upon Alice Waters' series of books, my favourite chef of my favourite restaurant in the bay area, Chez Panisse.

I couldn't put any of the books down so I ended up walking out with the Vegetables book. Then I saw The Art of Simple Food and A platter of Figs. Exerting a little bit of self control I left the store before I went broke.

I'm so excited about this vegetable cookbook!! Recipes/chapters are indexed by vegetables. Alice goes through a little background about the vegetable, how to pick out what's good, what to do with it early in the season, late in the season, how to best prepare it if it's large or small, thin, thick, etc.

I'm going to try out the Butternut Squash Pizza, Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Vinegar and the Chard Stem Gratin this week.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale

I got more Kale from the farm! I was thinking of making Spinach/Kale Saag but decided to look on the web for something new. Found this from food network and since I had exactly all the ingredients (cremini mushrooms, green beans, kale, spinach, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes).

First throw in some garlic in the olive oil and add onions. When it's translucent, add the mushrooms and green beans. Added the red pepper flakes, ground black pepper and sea salt. The recipe called for wine but I just put in some water. Mixed it up and covered it until most of the water had evaporated. Then I added some Kale and Saag until it was all wilted. I topped the hot salad with some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Oh and I found some tofu in the fridge as well so decided to heat up the tofu and put in some spicy garlic sauce. Good for lunch tomorrow too.

Merit Vegetarian Restaurant

Can you believe I've been to this restaurant 3 times in the last week? Merit is my new favourite restaurant!

I have been looking for a vegetarian place on yelp around my area and this one had good reviews and is very close to work. Friday, I had fake fish which was essentially tofu wrapped in seaweed topped with ginger fish sauce. It was sooo good. Sunday, when my friend visited and lost to me in a weight challenge, I took him here. I had the Vietnamese hot and sour hot pot soup which was so yummy (pictured here).

Today I didn't pack lunch so we headed there and I got the Vietnamese crepe. Next time will definitely be the Vegetarian Pho.

It's nice inside, affordable and there's never been a lineup yet. I guess there's not that many Vietnamese Vegetarians in the area :) I'm definitely impressed with this place.

Menara Moroccan Restaurant

Two weeks ago we headed to Menara Moroccan restaurant for G-Lady's birthday. I've never had Moroccan cuisine or knew what to expect for the belly dancing entertainment. It was such a great time!! First, you're seating on comfy couches along the sides of the restaurant. The dancer had amazing energy and amazing stomach muscles! She danced for at least 45 min.

The food was a set course, family style. Everyone in your group has to agree on the same set course. However there's an exception for vegetarians! So I got the Vegetarian courses. Before eating, they make you wash your hands together at the table.

Gosh, the food was so good. The first course was the moroccan salad which included this tomato mixture (like salsa). It was awkward eating with just with our fingers and because we weren't managing that well, we opted for forks.

They had forgotten my vegetarian order so the next course was a chicken pastry pie. Cinnamon and chicken on a puff pastry, a strange combo but oh so good. (It's pictured above). The next course they finally remembered the vegetarian meal so I got some chick peas and potatoes while the others had a curry chicken ( I can't imagine them eating that with their bare hands!). Then the next meal for me was another vegetable dish while they got lamb. The end was couscous and chick peas and other veggies which was delicious! I'd like to try to make this!

To wrap it up we had the famous Moroccan mint tea and something that looked like baklava.

I highly recommend this place as a fun group outing and for its delicious healthy and tasty food.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dear Pho

Gosh, watching this youtube video makes me miss the little stalls of Pho I used to have in the mornings while living in HCMC. Even on weeknights, I'd get takeout pho to enjoy from the "original" Pho Hoa in NKKN district. Plus who can forget my grandma's pho - seeing the huge pot boiling for 24 hours, seeing all the condiments and ingredients spread out all day in anticipation for dinner. Ah, Pho you've given me such good memories. Remember the 3am XL #1 bowls at Pho Train Head in Torotno? Ah and the joys of Kingsway in Vancouver and Pho Van? Ah even more recent memories, you've taken me to Milpitas, San Jose, Sunnyvale where you're all over the place. But nothing beats the chicken version of you at Pho Kim Long. Or the 3am version of you at City Restaurant.

Oh giant bowl of carbs and meat how I miss you. Times were good with you but all good things do have to come to an end :( Sadly I have to bid farewell to you until I set foot back in Vietnam.

As a side note, it's awesome making breakfast, lunch and dinner for a whole week. I lost 2 lbs this week alone and dropping faster than I expected. I get comments about my dorky lunch box everyday but its so worth it. Oh and now I have a new workout rogram: P90x! It is actually a pretty jam packed hour a day of work outs that I started this week. I've been sore every single day discovering new muscles I never knew I had.

Plan for the weekend: boot camp, full moon snow shoeing and snowtubing! I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Goal #2 - Lose 20 lbs reached :)

30 more to go!

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2

Like my new tupperware? :)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Spring Asparagus Spinach Pesto with Brown Rice Spaghetti

I just made this and am so excited with the results that I had to share it. It's not often that I post 8 times in a day! Hopefully that makes up for the 2 week break.

I took the Asparagus Puree from Heidi Swanson's book. First thing I did was I blanched the asparagus. Ah what is blanching? Yes, I've only heard this this term recently in my adventures of cooking vegetables. Blanching is bringing water to a boil, add salt, put the vegetables in for about 2-3 min - enough time to turn its colour but not enough time to soften the vegetable. In the case of asparagus you can see that it turns greener but it's still firm and not limp. Take it out and shower it with cold water.

Ok in the food processor, add the asparagus, garlic, spinach. Also add some lemon and olive oil. Then I hand grated some parmesan cheese (From Italy!) - the recipe calls for a cup, I think I put in half a cup. The recipe also called for pine nuts but I didn't have any. Anyway, puree it until its a nice and creamy paste. Added a bit more olive oil when I transfered it to a plastic container for storage for the rest of the week.

I had bought some brown rice spaghetti last night from Trader Joes. It took a while longer to cook than other pastas. But boy the texture and taste was soooo goood. As the side dish for the pasta I sauteed some minced garlic, yellow and orange bell peppers, mushrooms and green onions. Then I mixed in the pesto and the pasta. I garnished with some cherry tomatoes and cucumber. And grated some more parmesan cheese. Shoot. Definitely the best pasta to come out of my kitchen. I'm willing myself not to go for seconds right now.

Meal Plan WW10

I've been meaning to do this for a while now but since my company is no longer giving out free food, it means I finally have to fend for myself 7 days a week. I used to only cook on the weekends and once or twice during the week. These are available in my fridge this week

Breakfast choices

- Mango/Strawberry/Banana smoothie with fat-free organic soy milk
- Free range chicken egg white omlette with green onions/spinach/mushrooms
- Granola cereal with soy milk
- Cottage Cheese

Lunch choices
- Spinach or lettuce salad with mushrooms + cherry tomatoes + yellow/green peppers + tofu + smoked salmon
- Soy shitake balsamic vinegar dressing
- Fat-free dairy-free mayonnaise
- Hummus
- Falafel
- Pita or Sprouted Bread

- Carrots
- Almonds/Cashews
- Bananas
- Mushroom Brie

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday Dinner:
- Spring Asparagus Puree (Pesto) with: brown rice spaghetti, whole wheat fusili, pita bread.
- Sides of mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach

Wednesday: not my turn to cook :)

Thursday: Left over fridge day.

Friday: New shipment of farm fresh vegetables! And Tahoe weekend :)

Bok Choy with 8 grain rice

A friend of mine told me about getting this 8 Blend Whole Grain Rice at Ranch 99. It comes in a 5lb bag and is of course expensive. It's ALL nutritious fiber from short and long grain brown rice, black rice, maple rice, red rice, red wheat and barley.

I was intimidated to cook it so it's been sitting in the pantry for a month. I made 1/2 a cup inside the microwave with 2 cups of water. I first put it in for 15 min but that barely made a dent. Another 10 min and it was the tastiest rice with so many textures that I've ever had!

I whipped up some bok choy which the farm gave me. Used the same recipe as we did a month ago. What a delicious late lunch - a reward after my toughest bootcamp session and biking before/after chinese class. Honestly anything would taste good with that rice. Don't be intimidated by the black/red colours.

Kale Chips

So I was looking up recipes on what to do with Kale this time. I found this great suggestion so I jumped on it!

I followed her recipe but it turned out a lil bit burnt and too oily for my liking but it overall it tasted REALLY good!!! I think this will be my backup plan with veggies that I don't know.

I've modified the recipe so that I know next time: Preheat oven to 350 (400 was too hot too fast). Wash kale thoroughly in Water and Salt. De-stem the kale and rip into small 3 inch pieces. Combine about 1 tbl spoon of olive oil and 1/2 tbl spoon of balsamic vinegar. Soak the kale into the mixture maybe pat it down to ensure that it's not "too" soaked. Baking for 10 min was way too long in my case, I'd suggest maybe watching it until it's hardened but not black.

Soba Stir Fry

I tried out Heidi Swanson's Otsu recipe. Well actually I've been making something similar a couple times now, never knew it was called Otsu :)

I fried slices of tofu in olive oil. Then sauteed mushrooms. Then mixed soy sauce + peanut oil + rice vinegar with garlic and ginger. Boiled 3 bundles of Soba noodles. Mixed it all up. Garnished with cucumber and sesame seeds.

This portioning I felt was too little for 5 people. But maybe it was because I left them starving since dinner was so late.

Butternut Squash Soup with Saffron

So I got my first butternut squash in the farm delivery last friday after setting foot back in SFO. Panda volunteered me to cook dinner so I did! I followed this recipe from bobby flay

I must say that Chris' soup was waay better and more flavourful and better blended than mine. But boy was I in love with the Toasted Almond Baguette croutons that the recipe called for.

So I got a sourdough baguette and sliced it up. I put some olive oil and paprika on them and sprinkle blanched sliced almonds on top. Bake it in the oven for 5 min at 350F and it was DELICIOUS.

One unsuspecting butternut squash lasted through dinner on Saturday night (4 ppl). Sunday lunch. Monday morning. Wednesday dinner (5 ppl).


Oysters - Oh how I love thee. I couldn't make it out to the picnic at Pt Reyes last weekend so Gordinsky brought 10 oysters back from Tomales Bay. He preserved it in ice for a night before it got to me. But it was ridiculous fresh.

After the painful hour of shucking - I enjoyed 10 tasty raw oysters with lemon and garlic.

Random fact: When Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, sprang forth from the sea on an oyster shell and promptly gave birth to Eros, the word "aphrodisiac" was born.
read oyster history