Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tales of the Culinary-Challenged: Breakfast Oatmeal with a Twist

In my first Tales of the Culinary-Challenged post, I wrote about cooking edamame. For some, boiling soybeans in water is no big deal, but for the cooking spaz that is me, it is. The thing is, I try to eat healthy these days because I'm on my wedding fitness regimen - I'm training hard at the gym and making sure I have a healthy diet. However, I went on a similar regimen like this a year or two ago for a Boracay trip, and I kind of felt diet fatigue then. I rarely cook, and I relied on buying prepackaged stuff or fastfood deliveries, and until now I'm sick of the food I used to eat during that time. This is why I'm now forced to stock healthy food in my apartment as well as learn to cook healthy things I find yummy.

So here's my first try. It isn't cooking per se, but it's preparing food that I normally would not do. I made Overnight Oats - a recipe I got from The first try, I just made up the ingredient quantities and it came out super wrong. (Hello Julls, did you forget that you're culinary-challenged? You can't just wing it and have it turn out okay like how other people do it!) I tried again last night and this time I followed the recipe to the letter. It turned out yummy! I love that it's super healthy, but it also filled me up so much I had a lot of energy this morning. As usual, I took pics!

2/3 cup Cowhead Lite Low Fat Milk

Half-cup Quaker Instant Oatmeal

The recipe called for greek or vanilla yogurt, but greek yogurt is hella expensivo here, and I couldn't find vanilla, so I just got boring, plain, regular yogurt. It's probably tastier with better yogurt, but I'm making do. 
Mixed all the ingredients together and finished it off with a pinch of cinnamon.

The recipe said to put the mix in an airtight jar and leave it in the fridge overnight, but I don't have mason jars so I made do with an old coffee jar haha.

I loved this so much! I'm going to alternate it with my everyday cereal. It gave me the impression that it's super high fiber and high protein though, so just take that in mind. It's so quick and easy too. Mix ingredients in jar, stick jar in fridge, wake up to oatmeal goodness. This morning I mixed in a bit of brown sugar for an extra kick. Next time I plan on putting in some fruit, like a banana or something, plus a little orange honey. Yum!

Recipe after the jump!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beauty Loot: Muji and Aveeno Haul

I'm getting married soon, and over the course of the past year (I got engaged last April), I've been refining my skincare routine. I've tried a bunch of products and let go of some since then. It is only now that I actually think I have the right combination of products for my skin type.

This is the skincare mix I've been using since late last year: Muji Cleansing Oil, Maybelline Makeup Remover for Eyes and Lips, Lush Grease Lightning Tea Tree Cleanser, Clean & Clear Clear Fairness Moisturizer, Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner, Forever21 Love & Beauty Rose Extract Makeup Cleansing Tissues, and The Face Shop Lovely Me:Ex BB Cream.

I wasn't really fussy about skincare before, but now that my skin needs a lot of work, I've been trying out products here and there. I still use the Forever 21 Makeup Cleansing Tissues because they rock - the problem is they are so hard to find! I also use the Tea Tree version when I get them. I also still use the Maybelline Makeup Remover because it takes off my makeup in one swipe - it's really good and really affordable. And I love Lush's Grease Lightning - it takes care of breakouts without drying them up so much. I also surprisingly really liked the Clean & Clear Clear Fairness Moisturizer. It did its job and has SPF too, but I felt like a moisturizer needed to do more than just hydrate skin. 

I'm not using the Neutrogena Alcohol-Free Toner anymore because I felt like it did nothing for my skin. My skin just felt blah everytime I used it. I quit the Muji Cleansing Oil as well. I actually gave my unfinished bottle to my ex-housemate because it works for her, but I think my skin found it too oily. I liked the Lovely Me:Ex BB Cream from The Face Shop, but I think it made me break out. I'm not sure if it was the culprit or the Muji Cleansing Oil, but I tried using one or the other but I still had tiny breakouts on my forehead, so I quit both and the dots disappeared.  

Last Sunday I was at The Fort and decided to check out new products because I felt like my skin wasn't getting enough love. It's crunch time too - I have to do something about it while there's still time before my wedding! So I went to my favorite beauty store first - Pure Beauty in Serendra - and I finally decided to get the Aveeno Smart Essentials Daily Moisturizer. I've heard good things about the brand and I'm actually already using their Pomegranate Body Scrub so I thought I'd try out their face stuff. It has SPF 30, which is a good number for sunscreen, and has Vitamins A, C, & E as well. It's supposed to moisturize your skin, as well as soften it and protect it from harmful elements. Then I hit up Muji at High Street next. I had to let go of their Cleansing Oil but I was still willing to give the brand a try. After all, the Japanese have amazing skin. So I picked up their Light Toning Water - Moist. They have three kinds, and I picked the middle type for combination skin. It's supposed to cleanse and freshen skin, as well as help minimize pores.

I've been using both for a few days now and I really love this product combination. I use the Muji Light Toning Water at night before bed and my skin feels a whole lot cleaner and fresher these days. I use the Aveeno Smart Essentials Daily Moisturizer in the morning after my shower, and my skin has improved so much since I started using it. It feels hydrated and soft and looks a whole lot healthier overall that even the fiance noticed!

I'm still trying to find a daily facial cleanser that works for me, along with some other stuff, so an updated skincare routine post shall find its way into this blog soon. For example, I'm not really sure if Neutrogena Grapefruit Foaming Cleanser is cutting it for everyday cleansing, but I'm happy with Lush's Ocean Salt as an exfoliating cleanser for the weekends. I'm glad I'm on the right track though. Finding the perfect combination of products for your skin is a trial-and-error process, and it's great that my skin is getting loads better now.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tales of the Culinary Challenged: In Edamame Heaven

Back when I was still making bento, I was really obsessed with finding edamame. Edamame is a Japanese word that means cooked soybeans in the pod. It's a popular snack in Japan, and the restaurants serve it as an appetizer. All the cool bento lunches on the Internet had it too, but unfortunately, I could never find it here. Whenever I would go on bento paraphernalia sprees, I would also scour the Japanese groceries accessible to me for it, but to no avail.

Now though, bento boxes can be easily bought at Daiso, Saizen, and Japanese Home, and one of my favorite Japanese restaurants, Yabu, serves edamame in their appetizer sets. I knew it was about time edamame showed up in stores. Yesterday, it finally did. My friend Cielo found it at Kang's - the Korean grocery store at Valero St. in Makati! Since my fiance, Aleq, is her officemate,  she accompanied him to the store and he got me a pack. Thank you Cielo and Aleq!

I already had an idea how to cook it, but Cielo sent me this page with instructions so I followed that today, and wow, was it awesome. I took pics of course! Here's how I did it.

This large pack of edamame cost 160 pesos. It had enough to make 2-3 bowls - pretty good deal. 

Clothes Spin: My Blue Scarves

Remember that very short spate of cold weather we had in January? I took advantage of those rare days to wear scarves. Friends keep giving me scarves, but I never have the chance to wear them. They're pretty cool accessories, but they can look pretty ridiculous in this tropical country. Some people here wear scarves on hot days and I always think that they must be dying inside. So last month, I finally got the chance to wear two - the chilly air didn't last long enough for me to be able to wear all of them - and they were both blue.

The first one I got to wear was this cut-out scarf from H&M that my friend Lean gave me. It's short and stringy, but surprisingly really warm. Thanks Lean!

The other one was a long, thick, floral scarf from H&M again, this time from my friend Emz. I wore it to watch Les Miserables and I was so glad I did because it was freezing inside the theater. It was actually big enough to double as a blanket during the movie! Thanks Emz!

I don't think I will get to wear scarves again until next January. Well maybe I'll get to when I travel or maybe during the typhoon season - but rainy isn't the same as chilly! Oh well. Until next time, scarves!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Random Cravings: For the Love of Soba

I love food and have quite a lot of favorites, but soba is one of the few things in the world that give me an instant jolt of happiness. Yes. Seriously. It's an incredibly simple Japanese dish, but it is also one of the tastiest, yummiest, most scrumptious, delectable things I have ever had the pleasure of eating.

Soba is what the Japanese call buckwheat, and also refers to the thin, grayish noodles that, in my opinion, are one of the best things to come out of Japan. It is usually served with soba tsuyu - a sauce made with  shoyu-based (soy) dashi broth with mirin (rice wine) - along with a variety of condiments.

I first tried soba on a trip to Tokyo, Japan back in 2007. Here's a Tumblr entry about it:

It was actually aboard Japan Airlines on my way to Tokyo in 2007. My flight tray came with a teeny bowl of soba noodles and a cute bottle of soba sauce. The rest of the meal consisted of shrimp salad, a bread roll, butter, Kikkoman sauce, beef with veggies, and an ube dessert. The soba noodles were truly the highlight of that meal. I couldn’t believe noodles could be so good plain! It wasn’t even proper soba at that since it was instant airplane soba. From that day on, soba became one of my favorite foods.
Since then, I've been obsessed. Unfortunately, soba is hard to find in my home country, the Philippines. There are so many Japanese restaurants here in Manila, but only a select few offer it on the menu. Sure, it's probably available at the more high end Japanese places, but I don't want to have to do fine dining every time I want soba. What I'm saying is, it's here, but it's not readily accessible. This is why it's the first thing I check whenever I try a new Japanese restaurant. I'm always on the hunt for it, and I'm totally thrilled whenever I find a place that has it.