{Recipe} Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Paleo-Friendly)

It’s May already? Where has time gone?! I’m checking in with my blog *dusting it off* today to share a recipe. Before sharing the recipe, please allow me to divulge a bit about what’s happening behind the blog land here. As I’ve conferred several times in my last few blog posts, I’ve been away from my blog writing because I wanted to focus on living in the present moment, moving with the ebbs and flow in my-day-to-day life, meeting the challenges yet experiencing life as it comes. I dedicate my time to focus on healing myself from the core and improving my quality of life. From several major accumulated life changes in the last five years, I’ve been struck in certain senses: mentally as with my creativity and passion for writing, physically as experienced through my anxiety-induced debilitating symptoms, and emotionally as I became aware through my subtle body being out of sync and disconnect to my whole being. The great news is, I’m feeling a lot better, embracing my life and simply experiencing it so much more with joy and peace. As evidenced by my consistent progress in my strides going back to school last year, feeling healthier and sleeping better over the last several months, I am now able to identify with that sense of clarify, confidence, and care, the “Three-C’s” I referred to earlier this year. These three words are my mantra for this year. They are the words that I seek to resonate with my whole being as part of who I am. Now by just being able to say that I can understand those three words is so powerful.

Ok, here is the recipe ;)

I was so excited that I had been waiting to say these words since last summer. So lately when I found those two gems in my local grocery store, I said loudly (in my head), “I’M GOING TO MAKE STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRISP! YAY!!!” Yes, it deserves all cap. That’s how excited I was.


As spring season is in full swing, many delicious fruits and vegetables are in full season. Now it’s the time to savor the fresh and ripened goodness of those nature’s gifts, like strawberry and rhubarb. They are best friends in this healthy yet down-home, sweet and tart, fruity dessert. Underneath the slightly gooey fruit filling, the best part is the crisp topping. It is not heavy at all as typical crisp topping which uses a lot of butter, flour or sugar. Keeping up with the natural, gluten-free, good-for-your-body and soul healthy dessert theme, this crisp is made with almond meal, honey roasted almond slices, coconut oil, maple syrup with coconut cane sugar as the crunchy factors.

I love the already mouth-puckering tang and fruity sweetness interplay between strawberry and rhubarb, but to make it even more pronounced, I’m generous with the addition of fresh lemon juice. I want the crunchy yet deeply nutty, caramel-y flavor of the warm crisp on top without the doughy, sugar-laden, greasy heaviness. I got the perfectly light yet satisfying paleo crispy topping. This recipe is paleo-friendly, gluten-free, and packed with wholesome flavor of strawberry and rhubarb. If you feel fancy, top the crisp topping (can’t get enough toppings!) with some whipped coconut-cream. Mmm… now that is a restaurant-order worthy dessert.

P.S.- I apologize for the quality of photo below because it doesn’t do its justice. The angle view from top-down doesn’t allow you to see the filling at the bottom of the dish, which is a thick layer of gooey fruity strawberry rhubarb goodness.



{Recipe} Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Paleo-Friendly)
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
For the Filling:
  • 1½ cup fresh strawberries halved
  • 2 cup rhubarb, chopped in 1-inch chuncks
  • 3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or juice of 1 whole lemon)
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated lemon zest
  • 1-2 tbsp arrowroot powder, depending on how much lemon juice you use
  • pinch of salt
For the Crisp Topping:
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • ⅓ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup honey roasted almond slices
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp coconut palm sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Layer the strawberries and rhubarb in a lightly oiled loaf baking dish
  3. Squeeze the lemon over the fruit mixture and add the grated lemon zest
  4. Add arrowroot powder, pinch of salt and mix well with a spoon
  5. In a medium bowl mix together the almond meal, almond slices, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and stir to combine making sure to break up any chunks
  6. Melt the coconut oil with the maple syrup and add to the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly
  7. Crumble the topping evenly over the filling mixture
  8. Sprinkle the coconut sugar on top
  9. Bake for 40 minutes, let cool for at least 10 before serving
  10. Serve alone, or with ice cream!

{Recipe} Grain-Free Banana Protein Muffins —Two Ways

I created this recipe back in December last year, and have been making this at least twice a month since then. M’beau loves this as it satisfies his sweet muffin cravings, boosts nutrient contents with banana goodness, almond flour, coconut flour and protein powder, and it’s grain-free.

Also, I love banana. I always have at least a dozen of banana on my kitchen counter on stand-by. I eat them as is, but in part I ripe half of them for baked banana recipes or for freezing later to create sweet frozen treats (i.e., in my morning smoothie, frozen banana pop or vegan ice cream recipes). Banana is a wonder food. It’s great for replenishing potassium for this bikram yogi, part of my breakfast in smoothie or just slathered with almond butter as on-the-go snack. What’s better is when they are made into delicious banana muffins that are good for you and delicious as snack or breakfast on-the-go if I’m in a hurry to get out the door.


I knew I wanted to make the muffin delicious, but wasn’t sure how to mix grain-free or gluten-free flour mixture together to create fluffy yet moist texture, the same way that gluten flour would make in typical bread and muffin recipes. After a few trials and errors, reading lots of different gluten-free bread/muffin recipes, I got this down. The secret is tapioca starch. It gives the airy-ness that counterbalance the heavy denseness of almond flour and coconut flour. As with any baking recipe, the ratio between wet and dry ingredients are important. I’m so happy that this turns out so well.


Grain-Free Banana Protein Muffins — Two Ways

Email, text or print this recipe

(makes approx 11 muffins)


For the Base Banana Protein Muffin

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch
  • 2 scoops (35 g each scoop) of vanilla protein powder of your choice
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup ripped banana, mashed (about 3 medium bananas)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk

Additional Ingredients for Banana Chocolate Muffin (for 6 muffins total)

  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Additional Ingredients for Banana Blueberry Muffin (for 5 muffins total)

  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup dried wild blueberries, separated



For the Base Banana Muffin

  • Preheat the oven at 350 F degrees.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients (the first 7 on the list above) in a bowl.
  • In a separate large bowl, whisk one egg. Then add all the rest of the wet ingredients. Mix well.
  • Add the dry ingredients to wet ingredients in small batches. Combine the mixture well between batches.
  • Place muffin liners (paper or silicon) in the muffin tin. Ready to make two different muffins or choose one of your preference from below.

For the Banana Chocolate Muffin

  • Using a 1/4-cup measurement cup for each muffin, pour the batter into the lined muffin tin for a total of 6 muffins.
  • Top a few chocolate chips to each of the six muffins that you want to make for this recipe. Slightly press them down into the muffin mixture, so some of them are inside the batter rather than on top.
  • Save the rest of the batter for the Banana Blueberry Muffin recipe below.

For the Banana Blueberry Muffin

  • Put the fresh lemon zest, ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup of the dried blueberries into the rest of the batter mixture. Mix well.
  • Using a 1/4-cup measurement cup for each muffin, pour the batter into the lined muffin tin for a total of approximately 5 muffins.
  • Top the rest of the 1/4 cup dried blueberries on to each muffin.
  • Bake all the muffins in the oven at 350 F degrees for 25 minutes. The top of the muffins should be slightly brown and smell fantastic!



New Year, New Beginnings {one month later}!

Oyyy. Every time when I look at my blog dashboard on and off since the last few weeks, I thought to myself, “gotta ssssstart writing somewhere… but SO.MUCH.TO.SAY! Where do I start?!!” Then I got sidetracked or distracted by something. Ahh! But it’s better late than never, right? ;)

Since there are so much happenings around here, I’ll do a highlighted version post to round things up. Here we go. Since the beginning of 2014 started, I have:

1) Resumed back to school for Spring 2014 semester.

Truthfully, school is kicking my butt. This semester is heavy with science classes like chemistry and microbiology, plus lots of reading and exams. Not to say that this is a good excuse, but being so busy with school work is the primary reason why I haven’t been able to spend quality time blogging , writing in journals, engaging in social media, using my dSLR for better photography—basically doing all my favorite things related to blogging. Because school is clearly my top priority right now, I’m still adjusting and finding my rhythms in amongst various things, such as teaching and practicing yoga, staying somewhat organized at home, writing and reading, taking care of my loved ones and myself in cooking/meal prepping—which are all impactful to having a sense of good well-being and dear to my heart. However, I still have to gain some traction in finding clarity of how I want to put forth the best version of myself going forward beginning this year (and this is a separate topic, called my “three C’s” in 2014, with clarity being one of the C’s. I hope to write and share more about this later.)

Never ending studying

Never ending studying

2) Continued to teach and practice Bikram yoga at my lovely home studio here in Cincinnati.

Since I had taught a bit more during the holiday seasons, I felt like I’m truly getting know most students better, and I love that connection with students. From learning their names to knowing their bodies, from understanding what they’re working on to actually seeing what is happening for the students as they develop in their own practice, this is another layer of excitement, passion and growth to experience for me as a teacher. However, since January started I have to dial back both my practice and teaching because school takes so much more of my time now.  Well, it’s okay. At least I still get to do what I love to do! Yoga, nutrition, health, food… It’s all about constant balancing and adjusting to life, it’s all yoga baby, both on and off the mat. Oh, I also got to visit and teach at a brand new hot Bikram yoga studio nearby (about 2 hours away) in the neighboring state, The Hot Room Indianapolis! If you’re traveling through Indiana, make sure to stop by this beautiful hot studio. Not because it’s just beautiful from the exterior, but it’s filled with love and compassion for everyone who walks through the door.

Hottest place in town in Indianapolis

Hottest place in town in Indianapolis


3) Started a Whole30 program for the first time.

Yes, this might sound very much of a change in dietary lifestyle for someone like me, who had been flirting with vegetarianism and was never much of a heavy carnivore to begin with. I still believe in eating real and wholesome foods, vegetarian or not. But during several conversations with Chelsea (my dear friend and studio owner of Bikram Yoga Cincinnati) when we often talked about food, delicious recipes, and more specifically about what to eat for fuel and energy in yoga and in life, she told me about her Whole30 experience, the ideologies and reasons behind doing a Whole30 program. Since Chelsea and I share similar passions for eating good food, clean and well, I was so curious that I bought the book and read through the whole thing in two weeks. The book was a fascinating read. It opened my mind to explore more possible ways to improve my health and eating habits, which I must admit have been all over the place and not as consistently clean as I would like. So I decided to go for Whole30—in the spirit of self-exploration and for better health. It was a bit intimidating to start, but then I thought to myself, if eating whole real foods and resetting my body hormones back to normal should go hand-in-hand together, why not? I have really nothing to lose. So how was it? It was better than I expected. Way better. My energy level is constant and my sleeping has improved. I don’t feel lightheaded or moody as often. There are so much more benefits that I can write here. Here is a post about 30 reasons for doing Whole30, which I vouched to say all those reasons are true from my experience, and I didn’t stumble upon this until after I was through week 2 in my Whole30 program. As of writing today, I’m coming toward the last 3 days of my whole 30 days! And I think I’m going to keep this up after the 30 days. As you may see from my Instagram feeds, I’ve been cooking and trying a lot of different new recipes—all thanks to Whole30′s inspirations. I’m simply a happy girl with this way of eating!

Breakfast: Sweet Potatoes, Smoked Salmon, with my Bacon, Lemon and Greens Egg Muffins

Breakfast: Sweet Potatoes, Smoked Salmon, with my Bacon, Lemon and Greens Egg Muffins

Moroccan Spiced Meatballs with Ground Lamb and Beef

Moroccan Spiced Meatballs with Ground Lamb and Beef


4) Got engaged!

I’m still wrapping my head around this (and the ring around my finger). Although we have been together for a long time, and we both felt like we’re already “married” to each other by living together, I try my best to remind myself to never take this relationship for granted constantly. Even though sometimes I feel as though I still did take him for granted, because he has gone through so much with me in the last several years when I was going through difficult times. So this notion of being officially engaged still felt kind of surprising to me, in a very positive way. He did a very great job at timing and the planning part of proposal. With La Creuset, he knows the way to my heart. I’m lucky to have my best friend to also be my partner in life.



That’s the short version of what’s happening here and should serve as a good warm-up for more what’s ahead… I hope your new year has started off great as well!


How I Can Eat Clean During Holidays & Raw Chocolate Hazelnuts Truffle {Recipe}

It’s been a while… Let’s catch up.

This year feels like the first true Christmas for me in many years. Though I’ve been in white snowy Christmases in the last few years in Arkansas, what makes this year’s Christmas special is the fact that I’m surrounded with love, filled with positivity and happiness that I never felt before.


{Pepper closely watching the rabbit that is outside the frosty bushes… so close yet so far}

I’m doing what I love in my yoga community, making new friends and building a home with my love.


{Playing Santa by preparing and delivering an post-op care package for a friend: Raw pad thai salad with dressing jar on the side; Ginger snap cookies; and a cute little frosty fern}

I am more grounded in my whole being, and also compassionate toward myself. My mind is focusing on the present, yet steadily open to the new positive possibilities in the experiences I’m having. This is saying a lot, because I’m finally feeling some of the palpable anxieties that have weighted on my shoulders for a few years now coming off.

With a sense of positive wind beneath my wings, I’m also making changes in my dietary lifestyle. I’m listening closely to what my body wants to eat and do. I have a sensitive body. Since it’s been cold outside, I’m craving lots of warm food and good healthy fats. So I welcome and honor them. And I love cooking especially during winter because I’m not as a “hot head” after cooking up a storm in the kitchen. ;)

Since school fall semester ended, I’ve been experimenting in this renewed clean eating dietary lifestyle. I’m not about overhauling a brand new “diet” or eating drastically different foods, as I’m already a huge proponent of eating lots of vegetables and fruits with a sense of good balance for everything else in between. For me, it’s about planning and creating delicious food from my kitchen, lots of them, that supports my sense of well-being in the grand scheme of the day-to-day energy level needed (p.s. my apology for the lack of recipe updates, even though I posted snippets on my Instagram. I’m joyously playing a haphazard mad scientist in the kitchen.). I’m happy that the last few weeks have been a very positive experience so far, and I’ve been learning tons right now about the nutrition knowledges based on my experience. Will share more on this later in a separate post.

The bottom line is, it’s true—by embracing a “cleaner” diet with more whole foods and less processed foods, particularly more emphasis on quality protein and good healthy fats than what I had been eating before, I feel much less cravings for sweets and treats. And that perhaps is one of the best things that has happened to me, especially during holiday seasons right now.

I’m not frequently distracted or enticed by the abundance of holiday treats, cookies from parties or other rich seasonal offerings, but I’m definitely still enjoying them with joy and spirit of the holidays—in proportion of my body’s cues for tolerance. That’s the difference.

And as I practice that “listening” and observing my body’s reactions, I get better with making food choices. My body hormones seem to agree. Because I sleep more soundly more frequently now, and feel more at ease, and my energy level is more leveled throughout the day—in doing whatever I do, i.e., teaching and practicing yoga or running errands in and out of the house for hours at a time.

Also, I cannot forget to mention that another factor for this sense of better well-being is attributed to consistent yoga practice. I’ve amped up my yoga practice this month since school semester ended in between teaching. I knew that I definitely needed to fuel up my energy and rest enough to keep up. It’s a balance, remember. I knew this before but right now, I’m embodying this statement more than ever:

Consistent yoga practice and eating clean reinforces each other and reflect through each other.

I’m actually feeling much more energetic in between with my increase in both practicing and teaching. It’s wonderful, and it feels right. Like a revelation that all of a sudden, something just clicks. This all makes sense and that’s how I am supposed to feel. And it can only get better when I stay tuned in and present going forward.



With all that eating clean and yoga talk, did I forget to mention that you should enjoy the holidays? :)


{Mmmmmm….. “Ferrero Rocher”…. but better!}

Rest assured, there is room for desserts and sweets in my tummy—including chocolate hazelnut truffles. And it’s raw, easy to make, and good for you. What??!!! Yup, you heard that right.


{A labor of love and sweetness in progress}

If I don’t tell you why and how is it possible, you wouldn’t even notice or taste the difference from the typically known rich taste and flavor à la “Ferrero Rocher”. Yes, it’s that good. In fact, I made this as a Christmas treat bag in the form of takeout box for all the teachers from my yoga studio. They all gobbled them up and didn’t know it’s “healthy”. I love recipes like that, don’t you?


{Perfect Christmas take-out treat box, sparkled with bow}

I cannot take credit for this recipe, but I can tell you that it’s one of the best desserts I’ve ever made. Hands down. Go make this. Now.

Thanks to Secret Squirrel for her ingeniousness, with my additional notes written in the instruction below.



“Ferrero Rocher” Black Bean Chocolate Truffles

{by Secret Squirrel}


Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/2 cup medjool dates
  • 1/3 cup roasted hazelnuts (skins removed)
  • 2 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)

Raw Chocolate Glaze

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (or agave syrup)
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder

Roasted Hazelnuts Topping

  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts (roughly chopped – for decor)



Chocolate Truffles

*Note: roast all the hazelnuts in a 300 F degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Turn 2-3 times in between. Watch them as they can burn quickly.*

1. Add dates to a food processor and process until the dates become a paste. Remove and place into a small bowl.
2. Add roasted hazelnuts to the food processor and process for a few minutes until it becomes a nut butter.
3. Drain and rinse black beans and pat dry with a paper towel.
4. Add all remaining ingredients, including the 1-tbsp maple syrup, oil, date paste and black beans to the food processor and processor until smooth.
5. Put the chocolate truffle mixture into the freezer for 1 hour to set.

Raw Chocolate Glaze
6. Combine coconut oil with maple syrup.
7. Add raw cacao powder. Whisk with a fork until combined and chocolate mixture is smooth.
8. Set aside.

9. Mix roasted hazelnuts in a small bowl.
10. Roll 1 tbsp of mixture into a ball and poke a roasted hazelnut into the centre. Roll into a perfect ball.
11. Dip into raw chocolate.
12. Roll into the hazelnut bee pollen coating.
13. Repeat with remaining chocolate truffles.
14. Freeze for 3 hours to set and enjoy! (If you can wait that long!!!)
15. These chocolate truffles keep really well in the freezer. Perfect eaten straight from the freezer with a lovely cup of green tea.

Mmmmmmmm… delicious! Enjoy and feel good about it!



Cooking My First Thanksgiving at Home


As much I enjoy cooking, I had never done a home Thanksgiving dinner from scratch—and start to finish. And I certainly don’t mean just making a single dish, or buying something prepared in some ways from store for this holiday.

This year being at my new “home” here in Cincinnati and craving homeward-bound domestic warmth, I decided to make my own Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish. Yes, it means roasting a whole turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and dessert—The Whole Works.

Did I mention I never roasted a whole turkey before? The idea sounded daunting to me because honestly, I don’t enjoy touching and handling raw meat much, while the whole process seemed particular and time consuming. At least that was mostly from what I heard and read in the past, though my problem with it was rather the kind of beginner chef’s apprehensive talk.

If you never tried doing something different and new, how could you be really sure that it’s ______ or in my case, “time consuming”?

To say the least, my culinary curiosity got the best of me this time. Plus, part of the Thanksgiving joy is to enjoy the present moment—my expression of gratitude for blessings through whichever activities I choose to reflect. Particularly, I know I also wanted to slow down and enjoy the process. So I decided to go for it.

I started doing my Thanksgiving menu research two weeks ago online by looking through various recipes and menu ideas. Here is the menu I ended going with:

Whole Roasted Turkey: As a food nerd, I love Alton Brown’s Good Eats series on Food Network. I trust his culinary taste and applied techniques with sounded knowledge base in science. Watching his show I always learn so much about the “why” behind cooking and baking. So for my first time roast turkey, I abided by his recipe to the “T”—in the specificity of instructions and techniques used. Also, I like his reasoning and method of brining the turkey, rather than rubbing dried spice mix on the skin before roasting as some other turkey recipes I came across suggested, because the flavor would be more pronounced and balanced throughout the whole bird upon brining.

I watched the below video for several times before I started the whole roasting process to ensure that I understand each necessary step.

Yes, I really studied this video and the part two of it because I don’t want to eat a dry turkey. A critical component of making a beautifully roasted outside skin and moist meat inside of a bird is the roasting time and technique. So I bought myself a remote meat thermometer with temperature alert feature, which is very important to read the correct cooking temperature deep inside the meat while it’s baking in the oven but you don’t want to open the oven door at all to stick a thermometer at any given point of time. I also followed the “turkey triangle” tip from Alton. The name of it kind of made me chuckle, as it reminded me of the Triangle pose in yoga for some reason. #yoganerd :D


The only short cut I made from this recipe is that I use a ready-use turkey brine spice mix which my boyfriend helped me score at  TJMaxx. Having this ready-use brine mix cut down my time of mixing my own brine. All I needed to do is to follow the package instruction to boil it in water, and I don’t need to buy a brining bag. Score! I was just praying that the spice mix would taste good. And it was excellent! Oh I also bought a 5-gallon tub to brine the turkey for 12-16 hours. This was kind of fun trying to figure out where to put the brining tub because it doesn’t fit in our frig. So we ended up putting outside our front door when the overnight temperature hovered under 20 F degrees that night. Nice and cold like a frig. Perfect!

Brining the raw turkey into the bag inside the 5-gallon tub

Brining the raw turkey into the bag inside the 5-gallon tub


Result: The turkey turned out beautifully golden brown on the outside, moist on the inside. The flavor of the brine is excellent, not too herby or heavy but just right. Right before baking in the oven, I also stuffed the turkey cavity with two lemons halved and one clove of garlic to give the cavity extra flavor. It’s the best turkey meat I’ve ever had and made. I’m so proud of myself!

The Whole {Roasting} Turkey
Pear, Prosciutto & Hazelnut Stuffing: Truthfully, I did not love eating stuffings in all the years I’ve had during Thanksgiving in the past. They were too dense in texture and heavy in calories, and I didn’t love the idea of adding sausage to soft mushy bread. I wanted to create a stuffing recipe that I will love to eat. I stumbled upon this recipe on google search for healthy stuffing recipe. Since I love prosciutto, hazelnuts and adding fresh fruits and herbs to food, this recipe piqued my interest. I also love the fennels in the recipe. The two modifications I made to this are: 1) I added 2 cups of chopped cremini mushrooms to give more meaty body and earthy taste; and 2) I used dark rye bread (idea courtesy to Chelsea from our Bikram yoga studio!).

Result: Oh my, this stuffing tasted even better than I imagined. Prosciutto gives the salty and meaty taste without too much fat and heaviness. Sweet yet tangy, firm Bosc pear is beautifully balanced with the licorice-onion flavor of fennel and savory-earthy mushrooms. Hazelnut lends some nice crunch and texture without too much competing flavor. Of course, this has the customary fresh herbs of Thanksgiving including thymes, sage, rosemary and some parsley. This stuffing is my favorite dish of everything I made for Thanksgiving!



Cranberry, Gingered and Orange Chutney: I found that typical Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipes are too sweet for my taste, so I like this recipe for the nuanced flavor of ginger and balsamic vinegar, dotted as a “chutney” rather than sauce.

Result: Delicious, I love it. It definitely has more depth in flavor, a balanced profile of sweet, tang and slight savoriness. I nudged down the sugar portion from the original recipe (because I love taste-bud-super-zingy tartness!) Perfect for dipping in between bites of turkey and cutting through any heaviness throughout the meal. I didn’t get to snap a picture of it but think of it as thick chunks of cranberries with orange rinds and fresh ginger slices. Mmm… tangy and zesty!


Reduing the Turkey Giblet Stock into Gravy

Turkey Giblet Gravy: I didn’t plan on making this until the day I brined my turkey. Looking at the turkey neck and giblet, I knew if I tossed them away I would never make turkey gravy from scratch again until maybe next Thanksgiving, if I choose to roast turkey again. Out of culinary experimental spirit, I decided to make use of those giblets, and maybe it’ll be one of those purist meat gravy recipe to refer to or ponder upon in the future.

Result:  Very delicious. Not too thick or heavy, but I definitely could taste the meaty turkey flavor. Nonetheless, I could do without gravy since my turkey is already so yummy on its own. As my boyfriend agreed, we didn’t even need gravy to go with the turkey. We can use this gravy for mashed potato or something else we make that needs more meat flavoring.



It was absolutely a delicious meal and well worth the effort! My boyfriend and I really enjoyed it together. I would definitely do it again next year… but maybe making my own turkey brine next time, and different flavor profile for stuffing and cranberry sauce. Simply because I like to experiment in the kitchen ;) The whole dinner preparing took about two days. Not too bad for my first time! I’m most surprised that roasting turkey doesn’t take as long as I expected, and with the right brining mix and technique, it’s fool-proof. (Thanks Alton!)

My plate (plus a second)

My plate (plus a second)

Now I’m looking forward to next year’s Thanksgiving… and I’m also grateful for delicious Thanksgiving leftover for days ahead!


Happy Thanks-giving

As I’m taking a break now after teaching the Thanksgiving class earlier today at the Bikram yoga studio, I’m also taking a moment to reflect the meaning of today’s holiday—Thanksgiving. I never really felt that I truly connected with this holiday in years past, but this year, my gratitude tank has been filled to the rim because honestly I just have so much to be thankful for. I have to write it down here as a reminder for myself, so that maybe years later looking back some days, I can refer back to what gratitude and being thankful is, each and every day.


1. My boyfriend. He is my rock, my support and the main catalyst for my own self-growth. I’m most grateful for his unconditional love and unwavering acceptance for methrough many phases in the ugliest to the brightest glimpses. Words can sound cheezy here, but I don’t care. Sometimes I’m still in awe that he can tolerate me.


2. My body. It took me over a decade to truly appreciate how amazing and incredible my own body is. It’s been through a lot with me. As a young woman, I didn’t know how to appreciate it enough. It never judged me but I always did. My body always embraced what I set forth itself to do while I often second guessed it or felt lacking in some ways. Taking good care of my body takes a new meaning as I march into my 30s. I’m starting to realize that if I love my body wholeheartedly, it will love me back and more.


Lovewhatyoudo 3. My Bikram yoga family at the studio. Since I moved to Cincinnati earlier this summer, I’ve quickly fallen in love with teaching and practicing Bikram yoga again. It’s no longer just a place for my yoga practice and teaching, it’s where I continue to grow and meet many wonderful students, amazing staff, fellow teachers, owner, and new friends. I couldn’t be more proud and happy to be a part of this Bikram yoga family.


4. Having access to school (or knowledge base), tools (books and teachers) and opportunities (explorations outside school system) of becoming a RD. I’m having a great time going back to school now that I am just basking in all the knowledge I’ve learned. Being a student is a privilege. For me, being one in the second time around (as I already have a bachelor degree) makes me feel very fortunate and appreciate it even more because I’m loving what I do and know what I want.


5. My cat, Pepper. Pepper was 8 months old when we adopted him in early October from a local animal shelter. I never had cats before in my whole life and was so nervous about caring for animal in my hands. I’m truly blessed to have met Pepper. He is any cat owner’s dream. He purred when he first met us at the shelter, and he still does every day—in between his naps (sometimes on our laps), eating, chasing toys and bird watching.




I do truly believe that one of celebrating Thanksgiving means slowing down, or taking the time to be in the present moment. Sometimes it may feel challenging to think of something you’re grateful for right now at the very moment because of some circumstances, but there always is.

Contemplate on what makes you feel happy, alive, and excited. Once you notice that sensation, keep it very close to your heart. Allow its way to occupy your whole being, and express itself through which ever way you choose to celebrate—with the most sincere and heart-felt attitude of gratitude.

May this day be a reminder of that spirit of giving thanks—each and every day.


{Recipe} Pumpkin Tofu Lasagna


A friend of mine who is vegetarian came over for dinner last night. I wanted to give her a delicious vegetarian dinner that is balanced, healthy and “meaty”. Staying true to my pumpkin obsession theme so far this season, this is the perfect dish.

By adding tofu to my past season’s pumpkin lasagna recipe, dare I say I think this is even better than any meat lasagna. As I savored this dinner last night, I kept wondering in the back of my mind, “Why didn’t I make this more often before??” Pumpkin is the perfect vehicle for lasagna recipe. Its puree is smooth, moist and stackable as layers.  Then tofu acts like the cheese filling for more texture and nutrition boost. Boy, am I glad I made this. It was epically good! So good that means I’m not going to change this recipe anymore. Yup. *Walking away and leaving the perfect recipe alone now* It’s officially another of my favorite fall pumpkin recipes!

Enjoy this pumpkin tofu lasagna as a main dish. This lasagna is loaded with fall season flavors. It’s savory, but you will definitely smell and taste and smell the comforting aroma of pumpkin spices while cooking and baking outside the kitchen! Mushroom is meaty and earthy. Tofu adds substance and protein nutrient. It’s flavored with nutritional yeast and turmeric, added extra nutty-ness and crunchy texture with chopped walnuts. This can be easily vegan-ized with soy cheese for a vegan crowd.

A little note on the recipe: It may look a bit daunting at first because it reads long (organized by different layers).  It truly doesn’t take long to make; just only the preparing part takes some organization. Then once you get the flow of the instruction sections below, it’s simply a matter of cooking by each layer, assembling, and baking.

Since the weather turned much cooler over the last several days, I was itching to turn on my oven to bake or cook something comforting. So it was the perfect cold rainy fall weekend dinner! My kitten, Pepper, kept close by both of us while my friend and I enjoyed ourselves over a good comfort meal and conversations, it was a good night in my house.



Pumpkin Tofu Lasagna

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(makes 13 x 9-inch tray)


    Mushroom Layer

    • 16-oz sliced fresh mushrooms (I used combination of cremini and button mushrooms)
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
    • 2 tsp cooking oil
    • pepper to taste

    Tofu & Spinach Layer

    • 1 pack of 15-oz extra firm tofu
    • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
    • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1 bag of 12-oz frozen spinach leaves
    • 1 clove of garlic, minced
    • 2 tsp cooking oil
    • 1/4 tsp salt, divided
    • 1/2 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

    Pumpkin Layer

    • 1 can of 29-oz pure pumpkin puree
    • 3 tbsp light brown sugar
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1.5 tbsp vegan butter or buttery spread
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 to 1.5 tbsp fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1/8 tsp chili powder (less if desired)
    • pinch of ground clove
    • pinch of white pepper

    Lasagna Layer

    • 8 regular lasagna sheets (I used non-boiling kind to save time)
    • 1 to 2 cups of light shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese or vegan soy cheese




      For the Mushroom Mixture Layer

      • In a large skillet on medium-high heat, saute the mushroom, onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt in cooking oil until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a separate bowl.

      For the Tofu & Spinach Mixture Layer

      • In the same large skillet on medium-high heat, saute the frozen spinach, garlic and cubed tofu in cooking oil. Use a spatula to further finely separate or chop any larger frozen spinach or tofu chunks until everything is about the same size while cooking in the skillet. Add salt, nutritional yeast flakes, turmeric powder and fresh sage leaves. Stir the mixture well and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Lastly, add the chopped walnuts, then cook for another minute. Remove from heat and set aside in a separate bowl.

      For the Pumpkin Mixture Layer

      • In a medium-sized pot, melt butter on low heat. Add garlic and brown lightly. Stir in pumpkin, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, fresh sage leaves, chili powder, salt and white pepper. Stir until it’s all warmed through for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside in a separate bowl.

      To assemble everything together in the Lasagna

      • Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.
      • Spray your baking dish with cooking spray.
      • IMG_7854 Smear a thin layer of the pumpkin mixture on the bottom of the baking dish (use about 1 cup of total mixture).
      • Top with 3 lasagna noodles going lengthwise and 1 going widthwise (you may have to break/shorten this in order for it to fit).
      • Layer on one half of the mushroom mixture, and then with one half of the tofu & spinach mixture.
      • Repeat this process again starting with pumpkin mixture layer (use half of the remaining portion), lasagna noodles, mushroom and tofu & spinach mixture layer.
      • Top the final layer of the rest of pumpkin mixture with the shredded mozzarella cheese (or soy cheese to make it 100% vegan).
      • Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
      • Enjoy!




      {Recipe} Pumpkin Pie Brownie Cupcakes

      Here we go. Pumpkin madness continues! I made this last weekend for a special baby shower party, and due to the overwhelmingly delicious responses, I had to post this recipe!

      This is the exact reason why I found myself making this every fall season for friends gathering. Pumpkin pie and fall season and with chocolate brownies? You really can’t go wrong. Two desserts in one? Yes please! Another bonus: no one could tell it’s vegan.

      Individually on their own—pumpkin pies, brownies, and cupcakes—these sweet treats already bring out some of our best memories of fall season holidays, parties and perhaps even our childhood.  So it makes sense to have them altogether in one bite—a perfect bite of all the goodness it reminds us why we love savoring them. I feel like a kid again.

      I love to bring this to Thanksgiving parties or share with my friends and family. Watching others (and noticing myself as well) eating this with wide, goggly eyes and hearing “mmm yummm wow…” sounds while eating this cupcake make the perfect memories.

      Make this soon for yourself and your next Thanksgiving gathering!


      Pumpkin Pie Chocolate Brownie Cupcake S&P.jpg

      Pumpkin Pie Brownie Cupcakes

      Email, text or print this recipe

      Adapted from Oh She Glows

      (makes 12 cupcakes)


        For the Chocolate Brownie Layer

        • 1 cup canned pumpkin
        • 1/2 cup + 4 tbsp regular granulated sugar
        • 1/4 cup canola oil or any unflavored cooking oil
        • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
        • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
        • 1 tbsp tapioca flour (or arrowroot/cornstarch)
        • 1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
        • 1/2 tsp salt
        • 1/2 tsp baking soda
        • optional: a few dark chocolate chips as topping for each cupcake
        For the Pumpkin Pie Layer

        • 1.5 cup canned pumpkin
        • 2.5 tbsp tapioca (or arrowroot/cornstarch)
        • 1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
        • 1/2 cup brown sugar
        • 3 tbsp almond milk
        • 2 tsp pumpkin spices


        • Preheat oven to 350F. Place muffin liners and/or grease a muffin tin with oil spray.
        • For brownie layer: mix together the wet ingredients together — oil, pumpkin, vanilla and sugar until blended well.
        • In a separate bowl, add together the dry ingredients — flour, cocoa powder, tapioca flour, baking soda, and salt.
        • Sift through the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients slowly in few batches.
        • Take about 2 tbsp of the mixture for each muffin in the muffin tin.
        • Add the chocolate chips on top of each muffin, if desired.
        • For the pumpkin pie layer: in a bowl mix together the pumpkin puree, vanilla, and milk. In a separate small bowl, mix together the tapioca, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spices. Mix slowly the dry ingredients to the wet until all clumps are gone.
        • Now add approximately 2 tbsp of the pumpkin pie mixture on top of each brownie in the muffin tin.
        • Bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven and cool for another 20-30 minutes. Then chill in the fridge for at least 1.5 hours.


        {Recipe} Pumpkin Hummus

        Just when I thought I might be “over” with my pumpkin obsession streak from the years past, I don’t think pumpkin and I are ready to part ways yet. I’m falling in love with pumpkin again. How much I love my pumpkin? Let me count the ways… every year in the last few years, I ate pumpkin practically every meal every day for months during fall and winter. From breakfast, lunch, snack, dessert to dinner, you name it. From pumpkin pie, muffin, bread, ice cream to pumpkin curry, sandwich, and lasagna! I wish I had started my recipage years ago to collect my pumpkin recipes. Well, it’s better late now than never, right? ;)  Anyway, I ate soooo much pumpkin in the years past, every single year, and this year I thought maybe I’m finally over my pumpkin obsession.  Well, I’m certainly not going to hoard cans of pumpkin puree and cleaned out the stock of my local grocery stores like I did a few times (there was a national outage of pumpkin puree then, I swear!) but I think pumpkin is still part of my comfort food no matter how much I ate. Plus, it’s good for you! Pumpkin is high in Vitamin A and Beta Carotene. It’s so versatile to create with many types of dishes. Here is an quick and easy recipe to start—pumpkin hummus!

        You can eat this with pita chips, tortilla chips (like I did yesterday, and it works!) raw veggies, smear it as a spread in a sandwich, or a spoon! A healthy snack in between meals or an appetizer. If you love pumpkin and hummus, you will definitely love this!

        If you’re concerned about the taste, whether sweet pumpkin flavor would blend well with the hummus, the trick is to make sure that that pumpkin spices are well balanced with all the ingredients typically in a good hummus recipe (i.e., lemon, garlic, tahini and chickpea). If you choose to use pumpkin pie spice mix, that’s fine too. But I prefer to use those individual spices rather than from the pumpkin pie spice mix altogether. Because I can control which flavor nuances to enhance and taste in my pumpkin hummus. I prefer my hummus to be on the more savory side, so I don’t need any sweetener as the pumpkin is already slightly sweet. Also, I find that adding some heat really enhance the pumpkin-y taste from the tangy and nutty flavor of the hummus. Ginger powder provides the sultry, lemony and sharp undertone of heat. Smoked paprika lends that subtle smokey hint without the bite.

        In terms of texture, the slightly sweet profile of pumpkin is almost already blended beautifully smooth as the hummus. Hmm. Sweet, savory, nutty, smokey, dreamy and creamy! Enjoy.


        Pumpkin Hummus


        Pumpkin Hummus

        Email, text or print this recipe

        (makes approx 2-3 cups)


          • 1.5 cup cooked chickpeas (or one 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed)
          • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree (or half of a 15-0z. can pumpkin puree)
          • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or juice of one lemon)
          • 1/4 cup tahini
          • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
          • 1 garlic clove, minced
          • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
          • 1/2 tsp salt
          • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
          • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
          • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
          • 1/4 tsp all spice
          • pinch of ground clove


          • Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth.
          • Enjoy with sandwiches, raw vegetables, crackers, bread or a spoon.


          {Recipe} Raw Oatmeal Raisins Cookie Balls

          Fall is in the air, and nothing is better than warm and comforting food. One of which I am starting to crave more as the chill air sets in during fall season is oatmeal cinnamon raisins cookies. I love everything about each of those ingredients in typical cookie recipes, except for the sugary and buttery sweetness. I am a texture cookie type of girl. So I want my oatmeal raisins cookie chewy, moist and good for me. And of course I want it FAST! So I made this out of the blue one day, and it is now my staple of quick yet sustainable energy snacks.

          What makes it sustainable as an energy refueling snack? It’s in the oats, and the combination of added fiber in ground flax seeds and healthy fats in almond butter. Naturally sweetened by medjool dates, golden raisins and some maple syrup to bind this raw treat together beautifully and to stay moist. I love the tangy burst of golden raisins wrapped with deep sweet flavor of cinnamon spice. There is nothing more comforting than the smell of cinnamon in fall desserts.

          Texture? Checked. Nutrition? Checked. Flavor? Oh yeah. Besides being totally portable and snackable, it is also my grab-and-go breakfast when I have head out the door in early mornings.

          Do make those. Tell me if you still miss oatmeal raisins cookies.


          Raw Oatmeal Raisins Cookie Balls

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          (makes 10-11 cookie balls)



          • 1 cup oat flour (I process my own flour with regular rolled oats)
          • 3/4 cup rolled oats
          • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
          • 4 medjool dates, chopped, pitted
          • 1/4 cup hot water
          • 1/4 cup maple syrup
          • 1/4 cup raw almond butter
          • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
          • 1/8 tsp salt
          • 1/3 cup golden raisins



          • Soak the chopped, pitted medjool dates into a small bowl of 1/4 cup hot water. Let it sit for 5 minutes to soften.
          • In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients together: oat flour (or process it if you’re using regular rolled oats to make your own), rolled oats, ground flax seeds, salt and ground cinnamon.
          • Using a small food processor, process the soaked medjool dates with its liquid for about 10 seconds. Scrap down the sides of the food processor and pulse it a few more times until the mixture looks like a chunky paste.
          This is what the date paste  should look like.

          This is what the date paste should look like.

          • Add the chunky medjool dates paste, raw almond butter, maple syrup to the dry mixture.
          • Use a spatula, incorporate the dry and wet mixture well so it forms a slightly sticky raw cookie dough ball.
          • Add the raisins to the dough mixture.
          • If the raw cookie dough mixture still feels too dry, add a little bit of hot water and combine it well again.
          • Use your hands, separate and roll the cookie dough into small individual balls (Mine is about the size of a golf ball).

          A big raw cookie dough ready to be rolled into small individual balls

          • Refrigerate if not eaten right away.
          • Enjoy!

          Shine On!

          I’ve been nominated by my fellow blogger and lovely friend, Tatyana, from The Vegan Glutton for the Shine On award for blogging. First, I’m very thrilled to be nominated, especially as the first time ever in the blogging community. Secondly, I’m even more honored by the fact that said nomination came from my friend Tatyana, whom I met in person last month during my recent travels. Tatyana is an incredibly passionate and intelligent woman, beautiful inside and out. She is a happy vegan and animal lover. Plus, she is health and fitness fanatic like me!

          As part of the Shine On Award, I’m to share seven things about me and this blog:

          1. I strive to take good care of myself by ways of balancing all facets of my health—of the body and soul.

          2. One of the biggest joy of my life is immersing my senses through eating, cooking and sharing delicious yet healthful food and recipes with others, while being a conscious eater.

          3. I gravitate toward evidence-based and well-sounded research studies particularly on nutrition. Though I enjoy learning about different dualities and holistic approach to all things related to health and wellness, I am also a bit of science geek.

          4. My yoga practice makes me a better yoga student who happens to be a certified Bikram Yoga instructor. Teaching is about sharing the love for the practice (on and off the mat), and knowledge of yoga as part of our everyday living.

          5. I’m a vegetarian-inspired foodie. I’m making changes to eat less animal protein while learning to understand what my body needs.

          6. Though I’ve had an undergraduate degree in Business and worked in corporate industries for a long time, I’m now back in school pursuing my other passion (aside from teaching yoga)—on the road to becoming a Registered Dietitian! I’m loving every minute of it.

          7. Though I enjoy cooking, I love baking more because it’s technically science made into art. I like the precisions required in measuring, understanding the chemistry involved, and the artistic mastery of baking (note to self: need more patience).

          Just because. I’ll share one more: I tend to collectively improvise recipes and make new ones on my own. It’s always delicious science experiments for me in the kitchen! ;)


          I nominate, in no particular order, the following blogs:









          Best of luck everyone!


          New Town, New Home, New Beginnings

          Whew! My apologies for being absent on the blogosphere in the last few weeks. Such transition was a needed unplug to focus solely on starting a new life here. A quick update on the last few weeks of happenings.

          I’m very grateful that our moving transition had gone smoothly—much to the credits of my boyfriend’s well executed planning. None of those would be possible without him. Also, the summer weather this year has been generously temperate, which made all the moving about and traveling more enjoyable. I am extremely grateful for it.

          Since we moved out of Arkansas in late July, our road trips in conjunction of our move since then through the end of first week in August were absolutely blissful and memorable. Not only we made our footprints on the map eastbound, we were comforted by the goal of meeting an old friend who also recently relocated like us, and making new friends too!


          Photo 6

          Eating well in extended hotel stays. Still got my healthy fixes ‘n tricks in while traveling!

          Photo 2

          Our mutual old friend from Arkansas who also relocated to her new city

          Showing up for and meeting friends who are near and dear in my heart like these are the best. Though I had knew them over online social media outlets, I was very excited to finally have met Danielle and Tatyana each respectively in person. Meeting them both was definitely one of the best events in my life this year! <3


          The lovely Danielle and I.

          Photo 5

          The best Nicoise salad I’ve ever had from La Bouche Cafe in Hoboken, NJ.

          Photo 4

          Eating mouthwatering vegan burgers and chatting away with new friend (Tatyana- sorry I didn’t get to snap a photo w/you!) was the best thing I did during this trip. Must visit again this place, Hip City Veg in Philly!

          I’ve now moved in to our new home for about ten days, and started teaching bikram yoga already for about a week. My yoga practice also returns, finally—which deserves another blog post on another day. Today, my yoga practice is completely different from years past. Physically, all the weight lifting that I had done in the last 3 months started with Jamie Eason’s 12-week Livefit program definitely helped. Again, this is something I will share more on that later! Mentally, it’s like I am starting all over again, as in I‘m a new beginner student to yoga again! It’s actually liberating and exciting, to say the least. Ahh! More on that later too.

          So far, my yoga practice allows me to peel into another layer of unfolding and journey inward. It’s incredibly rewarding.

          Oh, did I also mention that I’m starting school again next week? :D I already bought my textbooks and met up with my program director in person last week discussing my courses toward becoming a Registered Dietitian! The giddiness I feel now reminds me of myself in grade school back then—anxiously awaiting fall school starts soon again. Yes, I love school, learning, fall season, and new beginnings.

          Unpacking frenzy finally died a bit down this weekend as the opened empty boxes are collectively stacked up almost touching the ceiling before they are tossed away. We now have more room to breathe, more routines to settle into, and most importantly, more memories to create in our new home and surrounding neighborhoods and metro area! I want to do and see everything right now while putting my hands in ten other things (hence, a bit of distraction from focusing and writing on my blog ;), but I think at this point, it’s good for me to balance out by first living a full and content-ful life in the physical world— where I’m still getting used to, and then I can bring more new, fresh and insightful contents to write and share on my blog. I can’t wait to share my new life in the new city!

          I just have to remind myself to be patient, and take it slow. Enjoy the moment. Be in the present moment. Try focusing on one thing at a time.