Foodie Friday: [Insert Witty Title Referencing BIGBANG]

Another day, another trip to the Asian Market to try out some new stuff. This time I tried a Chapai Peach Oolong Tea that featured T.O.P., a member of the Korean Pop boy band, BIGBANG. Other bottles featured the other members, but ultimately decided on this bottle because I dig this dude’s pink hair.

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As for the taste, it was definitely sweeter than I expected. On the back of the bottle it said it had 0 grams of sugar and no added sugar. Yes one of the ingredients is high fructose corn syrup and had 8 grams of carbohydrates. I’m assuming that whoever added the label made the mistake.

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The Label on the Tea

Still, despite the sweetness, it was a great tasting tea. I’m a sucker for teas with peach flavor and it didn’t disappoint me. It’s light and quite refreshing if you serve it chilled. Perfect for this hot weather we’re having now in Texas.

If you want to take it to a whole another level, add sparkling water. You too can feel bougie as you sip on some sparkling peach flavored oolong tea with a boyband member on the bottle.

I’m Still Here

I am here, more present in the world as I walk on the path of adulthood. To anyone following me under the age of 25, I can say for sure that you don’t truly become an adult until your mid-20s. Yes, you’re legally an adult at 18, but your mind hasn’t quite caught up yet. For me, when I hit 25 it was like a light switch was flipped inside my mind and the things I found tolerable in my youth became intolerable and I began to see the nuance in the world.

I’m still here. Still looking like I just graduated out of high school even though I’ve been out for almost a decade. My hair is still curly since my fateful big chop. My weight has changed as I worked out and strive to eat better so I see what my great-aunt saw in her 90s.

I’m just here. It’s a phrase that’s become a bit of a catchphrase for me when faced with an awkward situation. It may sound passive, but I believe the phrase to be one of action. To say I am here is to say I am aware, I am present, and I am ready to do the work.

Readers, J.L. is here and is still exploring the world around her. I am here and will continue to be here for as long as God needs me to be here.

“Together We are More”: How Power Rangers Stayed True to Its Roots

[There will be some spoilers]

It’s been a month since I saw the Power Rangers movie bright and early on the Saturday of its opening weekend and I still can’t believe my childhood favorite was a good time. The most surprising thing is that the film stayed true to its roots. Mainly that teamwork, friendship, and optimism is what’s needed to face the world.

It would have been so easy for the movie to embrace the cynicism of the world and have the team crack sarcastic quips about one another and spout out the ridiculousness of the intellectual property that the movie was based on. And yet, it avoided all of it. The movie decided to be genuine, something that seems impossible in our age of crafting near-perfect online personas, and instead asks and answers an important question: Can friendship and optimism still exist in this world?

The answer is a resounding yes as we see a group of teenagers that, as Kim describes, are a bunch of screw-ups. Yet here they are coming together as symbolized by their morph and the eventual formation of the megazord (by the way, I love that moment). It works even better when contrasted with what we’ve seen of the former team. Zordon, the former red ranger, is a cynical old guy who believes he is right and doesn’t care about this new team. Rita, the former green ranger, is a great example of when people decide to choose selfishness and power over the greater good and their team. Both ultimately couldn’t accomplish what they wanted because they cling to cynicism and forgoing any thought of others. Zordon becomes a greater help when he finally releases of his cynicism and lets Billy have the chance to live.

While I don’t believe it was their intent, the timeliness of this movie’s release couldn’t be any more perfect as we all grapple with what’s going on in the world. We have to ask ourselves, do we become Rita and only go for power? Do we become Zordon and believe only we are right? Or do we become Jason, Billy, Kimberly, Zack, and Trini and come together despite our differences?

 

 

Foodie Friday: Japanese Kit-Kat

I’ve done quite a few reviews about Japanese Kit-Kats on this blog. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that I think the candies are better made overseas because Nestle does the Kit-Kats rather than Hershey who does the American Kit-Kats. You can especially see the difference here with this Kit-Kat inspired by the Chocolatory, a store in Japan that specializes in Kit-Kats.

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This candy is made with milk chocolate and has cranberries and almonds embedded on the top. It doesn’t have a big wow factor like the ones with pepper, but it’s a satisfying treat when you’re craving some chocolate.

What stood out to me was how different the candy was from American Kit-Kats even when you account for the almonds and cranberries. Despite having milk chocolate, the Japanese Kit-Kat is not as sweet as its American counterpart and you could be forgiven for thinking it was dark chocolate.

To see if it was just me, I’ve had a few others try the candy. My mom, who vastly prefers dark chocolate over milk chocolate, found the candy to be enjoyable and not as sweet as American Kit-Kats. I found the same response with others who tried the candy.

That made me wonder if we Americans are getting cheated from quality Kit-Kats because Nestle decided to lease out the name to Hershey (you can read about the deal here). Or perhaps it was just this particular Kit-Kat inspired by an even fancier Kit-Kat one can only get from Japan. Whatever the reason, my quest to sample Kit-Kats and other candies from around the world continues.

P.S. I purchased this bag from MT Supermarket in Austin, TX. Check your local Asian food store or try Amazon or eBay.

J.L.Tries To Make A Veggie Burger (And Succeeds!)

Something that I’ve been itching to try was a veggie burger. Last year, I unintentionally started a journey of trying various veggie burgers at restaurants and comparing them. One day I’ll write a post highlighting the best veggie burgers, but for now I’m here to show y’all my attempt (this isn’t a recipe post as so much showing my attempt at making a veggie burger).

Since I had leftover mashed sweet potato and needed to get rid of it, I decided to make sweet potato a big part of the burger. A quick search took me to this interesting recipe for a sweet potato and black bean burger from a blog titled Minimalist Baker. My version replaces the rice with rolled oats, omitted out the walnut/pecan meal (which is a thing I just have heard about), and I cooked them on the stove top rather than baking them.

First things first, I drained and rinsed a can of unsalted black beans before mashing them. I then added the sweet potato mash* along with my seasonings and some oats.

Once everything was mixed, I formed them into patties and put them in a lightly greased pan. The patties held up for the most part, though I think an egg would help it stick better, and they cooked quite well. I cooked them until they brown on both sides.

Now comes the assembly. I didn’t go full on vegan with my patty  because I like cheese way too much so you’ll see I have a slice of Colby jack. I added some spinach for some iron and leafy goodness and jalapeno ranch dressing for that creamy, spicy kick. All of it sandwiched between a cut and toasted English muffin. Let me just say that I had a good Friday night when I made this!

The amount I made had enough for at least two or three more patties and trust me, they still taste good! I’m quite proud of myself for making this burger. I do want to experiment more with ingredients such as replacing the sweet potato with mushrooms or do a combination of beans. Either way, I have another recipe in my cooking repertoire.

*To make mashed sweet potatoes, wash and peel your potato, cut into fours and boil them until you stick a fork in them. Then drain the water and mashed them together.

**And to show the trial and error, here’s a patty that broke while I was cooking it. Still tasted great.

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Foodie Friday: Favorite Foodie YouTubers

I get a lot of my inspiration from Foodie YouTubers, be it new recipes or new foods to try for myself. Here are my top favorite YouTube channels to watch for all of my foodie needs.

Just Eat Life

Of all the YouTubers listed, they have the least amount of subscribers. A shame really as people are missing out on the impossibly bubbly personality of Jen who makes a variety of food with influences from her Thai and Filipino heritage.

Peaceful Cuisine

While I’m not a vegan myself, I do try to look for ways to reduce my meat consumption (in particular beef consumption) and Peace Cuisine has some of the best-looking recipes that I’ve encountered on the web. What really made me stay was the production quality of the video. Ryoya Takashima turned cooking videos into an art form that invites the viewer to slow down and enjoy the process.

Fit Men Cook

This is the man who inspired my quesadilla recipe and has helped me to be more conscious of my eating habits while still focusing on the taste factor. Doesn’t help that he’s a Longhorn (hook ’em!).

Cooking With Dog 

This channel is a simple cooking tutorial video reminiscent of Julia Child if Child had a dog companion. But its simplicity is its charm as we watched the unnamed chef cook delicious Japanese food with easy to follow steps from her dog, Francis who passed away in 2016.

Gemma Stafford

What’s a list without some desserts? From no machine ice creams (which I keep telling myself I’m going to try) to mug cakes, Gemma Stafford is a creative baker and a joy to watch. What makes her stand out is her ability to explain the process that even a novice like me can understand.

Ochikeron

One of the first channels I watched regularly, Ochikeron is similar to Cooking With Dog with her simplistic explanation and style of Japanese cuisine. Her everywoman style makes the tasks less daunting.

Emmy Made In Japan

This channel was the one that inspired me to try Japanese Kit-Kats and to really blog my foodie adventures. Emmy’s attitude towards trying foods, even one she doesn’t like, is refreshing to watch in a sea of critical videos wanting a laugh rather than seriously discussing the flavors.

Alice in Paris

Last, but not least, we have the ever so charming web series Alice in Paris. This little show does a great job of showing off the culture and various restaurants in Paris, France. Alysse Hallali is charming in the role as the curious and always hungry Alice with a fabulous fashion sense. If you prefer a more narrative approach, this is definitely the series to watch.

Honorable Mentions: TabiEats, Dining on a Dime, Food Wishes, Divas Can Cook, and Honeysuckle.

Favorite Things I’ve Watched & Read in 2016

 

It’s the last day of 2016, but dang it, we’re going to have a list of my favorite media! Real quick, here are some of my favorite things I’ve read and watched in 2016.

Jughead

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I’m a big Archie fan. Since I was a little kid buying the digests from Wal-Mart, I loved reading the cheesy adventure of Archie and his gang. When I heard about the reboot and a focus on Jughead, one of my favorite characters, I had to check it out. I was not disappointed. Funny, cute, and thoughtful, this was one of the best comics I’ve read in a while. Check out my more detailed review here.

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers comic

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Need something to tide you over while waiting for the movie? Always wished Mighty Morphin’ could do more with their characters? Then check out Boom Studios’ Power Rangers comic book that hosts new stories involving our six spandex clad teenagers.

Queen Sugar

This show is killing me with how its goodness. From the cinematography to the story to the acting, this is a show that really should have been talked about next to Atlanta and Insecure in showcasing the varied lives of modern Black Americans. I can’t wait for season 2 to grace our presence.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

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The second book from Mindy Kaling is arguably better. While the first was more about Mindy herself, this book was more insightful about the Hollywood machine while simultaneously being a self-help book.

Voltron: Legendary Defender

I think I found my new favorite animated show with this reboot of the 1980s classic. The show does a great job of freshening up the characters while still paying homage to the original and the Japanese anime the show adapted. It’s got great humor and stories and I can’t wait for season 2 in January!

Honorable Mentions: Power Rangers Dino Super Charge, Archie comics, Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show by Tara Bennett, Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Pink

Thai Tea Inspired Snow

Foodie Friday: The Best Food (and Drink) I Had This Year

It’s popular to say 2016, for a lack of a better word, sucked. But I choose to look on the brighter side of things and I have to say this has been a good year of food and drinks for me. Some weren’t winners, but I found some amazing restaurants and products this year and I would definitely recommend these to y’all. Here are some of my faves for 2016 in no particular order:

1.Halo Ice Cream, Birthday Cake flavorhaloThis ice cream made me into a believer. If you ever wanted to get a “healthy” ice cream, Halo Top will probably be your best bet.

 

2. Vegan Vanilla Ice Cream from Rhea’s Ice Cream:20161126_133633Up until this point I have never had vegan ice cream. I’ve been tempted but never had the desire to spend up to $5 for a pint of frozen dessert. I may never do it after eating this delectable vegan vanilla and agave ice cream from Rhea’s in San Marcos. I also enjoyed my scoop of Goat Cheese and Raspberry Jam (don’t knock it til you try it), but it was that vegan vanilla that kept me silent as I savored the creaminess of this ice cream.

3. Pieology pizza:20161126_113823

Do you like pizza, but wish you could order one like a Chipotle burrito? Pieology Pizzeria has you covered in San Marcos. My friend and I went here and were impressed by the thin crust pizza and ingredients. On my half, I had spinach and kalamata olives.

4. Shwarma from Peace Bakery and Deli in Austin peace-schwarama2

Yes, I’m four years too late since the infamous scene from The Avengers but better late than never, right? And boy, was it worth the wait! Warm, greasy, and packed with flavor. This is a perfect item to have during your lunch.

5. Shaved ice from Snow Monster

Thai Tea Inspired SnowI’ve already been to this location twice this year and wrote about my first experience. The last time I went I made a Thai tea inspired ice with Thai tea syrup, mochi, tapioca balls, and condensed milk. It’s the best kind of treat during the summer

6. Swiss Mocha Almond Coffee from Coffee Beanery20161125_184550

This may seem like an odd choice, but folks, this is the best coffee. It’s so good that I can drink it straight black. It’s nutty and goes down really smoothly.

7. Bean Pie from So Natural Organic Restaurant20160827_190607Before you freak out, this was a very tasty pie. It’s a vegetarian pie that was sweet without being sickly sweet like some pecan pies (sorry fellow Texans) with a great texture and crust. If you’re in the Killeen area, definitely give this pie a shot.

8. Bienenstich from the Walburg Restaurantbienenstich

One of the best desserts I’ve had this year and it wasn’t even chocolate! The bienenstich had a sweet, but not too sweet cream sandwiched with two pieces of sweet cake with the nuts adding a lovely crunch. If you don’t mind searching for a minute, head down to Walburg, TX for some bienenstich.

Bonus: 20161108_175723

My favorite condiment that I discovered this year is the Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce. It’s got the right amount of kick with a nice peppery flavor reminiscent of Tabasco sauce. I would recommend giving this sauce a try.

What foods looked good to you? What were your favorite foods from this year? Please leave a comment about them. I’ll continue to share any foods and drinks that I come across for 2017!

 

Foodie Friday: Review of Halo Top Birthday Cake Ice Cream

The leaves are changing and Starbucks has unveiled their brand new cups and holiday drinks. What better way to celebrate the full swing of Fall than by buying a pint of ice cream?

Despite being a Southerner, I actually prefer Ben & Jerry and Haagen Daaz to Blue Bell (that’s the sound of all my Southerner friends disowning me). Blue Bell is good, but I like the cake chunks of Ben & Jerry and find Haagen Daaz’s ice cream to be better tasting. So when I heard of an ice cream that was just as creamy as Haagen Daaz without the calories, I was intrigued by this mythical ice cream. When I found out they had a birthday cake flavored, I knew I had to try the ice cream out for myself.

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Opening up the container, I could tell it was definitely birthday cake. Or rather funfetti cake with the white color and colorful sprinkles. Or even Dunkaroos (who remembers Dunkaroos?)

But really, y’all want to know whether it tastes good. It is an ice cream that’s trying to be the healthy alternative to other ice creams like Haagen Daaz, so you would assume it wouldn’t taste as good. Lo and behold, Halo Top has managed to find the winning formula for this ice cream. And yes, it does taste exactly like birthday cake. And without the weird aftertaste, you would find in a lot of diet products, you can feel a bit better eating this ice cream compared to the usual suspects.

One thing to note is that you need to keep the ice cream out for a few minutes like it suggests on the carton. It is really hard when you take it right out of the freezer. I’d also recommend having a sturdy metal spoon or ice cream scoop for this ice cream. Even when I left it out for a few minutes, it still took a minute to get a good scoop of ice cream.

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Some of the things that didn’t wow me about the ice cream included the price and being a healthy alternative. The ice cream is comparable to Ben & Jerry and Haagen Daaz and certainly pricier than Blue Bell. I will say it’s worth the price, but I can also see being hesitant about buying this ice cream. As for being a healthy alternative, while it’s healthier than other brands, I wouldn’t eat the whole pint like the ice cream implies. Yes, it’s 280 calories a pint, but you’ll notice on the nutrition facts that the actual serving size is 1/2 cup. I also can’t say if the other flavors would be good. I might have been lucky with the birthday cake flavor.

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Overall, I give it a 5/5 and would definitely recommend checking out Halo Top.

Foodie Friday: Oh Joy, La Croix!

I think we can all agree that soda is pretty worthless. Oh sure, it’s tasty, but what does it do for us? It provides no nutrition (with loads of sugar to boot) and it doesn’t even satiate our hunger like other junk food. And it looks like the rest of America is realizing that too if the falling sales are any proof. Is it any wonder some are switching to sparkling waters with French sounding names? I know I’m now one of the converted of La Croix (pronounced La-Croy).

Like any good foodie millennial, I discovered La Croix at my local Target. They had the individual cans near the checkout area in a few different flavors. As someone who ahs been watching my sugar intake, but misses the fizzy goodness of soda, I decided to give the fruit flavored sparkling water a try.

It was a shock to my system when I took my first sip. Maybe it was my association of fruit with sweetness or its appearance looking like Sprite, but my face screwed up at the lack of sugar. It wasn’t necessarily bitter as so much different. I would have given up on the beverage if it wasn’t for my plan of having a healthier lifestyle so I continued to try more La Croix drinks.

My tip for those who want to give sparkling water a chance is that you have to keep drinking it. Try a can per week so you can get acclimated to having a fizzy drink without sugar. When I drank the stuff frequently (along with limiting my intake of sugar), I found myself enjoying the drink more.  If continual exposure isn’t working for you, I’d suggest adding some fruit into your drink to sweeten it up. I’d also suggest looking into different flavors. I’m a fan of the peach and pear La Croix.

Overall, I give La Croix as a brand an A- with points taken off for the pronunciation.