food

International Goodies: Shopping at New Grand Mart

In my hometown, there is an international grocer named New Grand Mart. New Grand has a couple of locations, and, prior to me visiting one of the stores, I usually got my international foods from a different seller in town. However, that seller tended to focus solely on East Asian foods (specifically Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese items). New Grand, however, is a truly international store, with foods hailing from East Asia, India, the Middle East and even Mexico and Central America!

My latest trip to the store resulted in me getting lots of tasty items, but these four were my favorites.

Vegetarian ramen noodles

I love ramen noodles, especially since it’s easy to add additional ingredients and make a a hearty meal. These noodles are the perfect base for my ramen creations.

Frozen sticky rice with mango

I have a review that I’m planning for this frozen sticky rice with mango, so stay tuned for that!

Vegetable mushroom buns (please ignore my nutrition supplements in the background!)

I am a HUGE fan of Chinese buns, and these are by far the tastiest that I’ve ever gotten from a grocery store. So yummy.

Strawberry KitKat candy

I love KitKat candy, especially the limited edition specialty flavors. Strawberry flavored KitKats were available stateside for a short time, but they are very difficult to find. Imagine my excitement when I saw that these are regularly offered at New Grand Mart! I’m delighted that I will always be able to get the strawberry flavored ones, so long as New Grand carries them.

Those are my favorite international goodies! Do you have any favorite items that you like to purchase from international grocers? Let me know all about it in the comments!

food

Fun New Recipes to Try

Happy Monday! This weekend, I found some great free food and drink workshops, as well as some creative, tasty menu ideas for when we are able to be social without the need to do much distancing. Here are the fun ideas I’ve found recently: enjoy!

Freedom Fruit Cocktail and Mocktail (presented by the US Botanic Garden)

Zuke Alors! Zucchini Salad (also presented by the US Botanic Garden)

Garden Tea Party Menu (TeaTime Magazine)

The Perfect Martini – Three Ways (Robb Report)

I hope you all have fun with these recipes! I plan to experiment with a few of them in the weeks to come. If you decide to give any of them a try, please let me know: I’m dying to see how it turns out for you!

health

Fibro Fridays: My Five Favorite Spoonie Essentials

Happy Friday! I hope you all had an amazing week and an amazing weekend ahead! It’s Fibro Friday, so I’m sharing some more tidbits from my fibromyalgia journey. One of the things I’ve noticed is that there are a few items that I keep nearby (especially during flares) to make my life a little easier and more pleasant. Here are five of my favorite “spoonie” essentials (if you want to know more about “spoonies” and Spoon Theory, you can read my post here). If you have some essentials that you think should be on my list, please share in the comments!

If I had to toss my spoonie essentials into a backpack, these are the ones I would include.

Knee pillow – Sometimes, my trigger points can be especially sensitive, to the point where it hurts for the insides of my knees to touch one another. When this happens, I love using a knee pillow for relief. There are knee pillow designed for side, back, and stomach sleepers. I have two knee pillows, but this one is my favorite.

Magnesium cream – I’ve written about this before, so if you want more information, you can check out this previous Fibro Friday post.

Ginger candy – This is one that I suspect a lot of spoonies keep nearby, because they are so handy and effective. Sometimes, even if you don’t have a digestive condition (such as IBS or chronic nausea symptoms), you will still find yourself feeling a bit nauseous. Fibro is a condition of nerve dysfunction and improper nervous perception, so there’s an element of unpredictability with the symptoms. In any case, nausea can flare up unexpectedly, and ginger candy can be great for soothing upset stomachs. I’m including the link to my current preferred ginger candy (you can probably find it for a much better price in stores, but if you can’t find it, this Amazon link may help). I prefer a stronger ginger flavor, so ginger mints are my favorite. However, I’m also including the link to a milder version that I used years ago, which are also effective.

Kindle E-reader – When I’m spending a lot more time in bed, I like having my Kindle e-reader nearby. My Kindle is OLD (LOL!) but it still works well. The most economical Kindle available right now is less than $100 USD but it is a great item to have, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me. I love that Kindle e-readers retain their charge much longer than my cellphone, and it’s far more portable than my laptop. Here is the basic black Kindle e-reader.

Easy-to-prepare foods – Some days are more exhausting than others. When I simply don’t have the energy to prepare an elaborate meal, I enjoy having a few easy-to-prepare foods around the house. I love instant soups, noodles, and even protein shakes that take less than five minutes to prepare. The local international grocers have a lot of healthier quick meals than typical grocers, so I generally prefer to shop there. However, one of my favorite meals is by Tsubi Soups (I’ve written about it here) and I can only order it online.

That’s all for this week! I hope your weekend is spectacular, and I’ll be back on Monday. Take care and be safe!

*This post contains affiliate links.

beauty · food

5 Ways to Enjoy Tea Without Drinking It

If you enjoy tea as much as I do, you will probably find yourself with quite a tea collection at some point. It’s also inevitable that, the more teas you try, the more likely you are to come across a tea that you don’t enjoy. Whether it’s too bland, too bitter, too strong, or just not very tasty, getting a tea that you don’t enjoy drinking is always a bit disappointing. And let’s face it: some of us just don’t enjoy the flavor of tea.

That being said, I have good news! All hope isn’t lost when you purchase a “dud” tea, or when you find yourself the proud owner of a tea that you won’t be drinking (whether you purchased it or it was gifted to you). In fact, it’s possible to use tea in quite a few different ways around your home and within your beauty routine. Of course, you’ll want to pay attention to the ingredients: certain teas shouldn’t be used near your eyes or allowed to sit on the skin unless you don’t mind having some discomfort (“hotter” tea ingredients, like ginger and cayenne come to mind). As always, use wisdom and discretion with any of these recommendations.

Without further ado, here are five ways that you can re-purpose tea leaves. Enjoy!

Bath/bath bomb additiveIf you make bath bombs (like I do), you can add some dry tea leaves to your recipe before you put the mixture into molds. It adds a little additional fragrance and beauty to your bath bombs. If you don’t make bath bombs, you can always just add the leaves directly to your bath. Certain teas, like mint and lemon balm, have invigorating scents and can be a refreshing addition to your bath. These teas can also be mixed with epsom salt for an especially relaxing soak.

Herbal facial steam – Similar to baths, you can use tea to make an herbal facial steam. Some teas (like rose and lavender) are known for their relaxing and beautifying properties. Do a little research on your tea and see if the ingredients are suitable for a face steam. Keep in mind, simple black, green or white teas (without added herbs or florals) are perfectly fine for most skin types. Of course, always proceed with caution, even when using “safe” teas.

Face tonic – Just like herbal facial steams, you can steep the tea in hot water then use it as a toner. Camellia sinensis (the scientific name for tea) is generally considered an astringent natural product. The tannins in it constricts body tissue, making it perfect for pore-tightening and giving the face a very toned appearance. The higher the amount of tannins (generally, these are more numerous in cheaper teas), the more astringent the tea will be. Try using a full strength tea tonic on your skin, then, if you find it is too strong, add water to reduce the potency.

Oil infusion – This is actually my favorite way to use teas that I don’t want to drink. Infusing tea into oil can create a luxurious natural product that can either be applied to the skin, the hair, or added to vinegar or another acidic item (like lemon juice) to make dressing. Infusions are simple: add herbs to as many ounces of oil that you want, let it sit in a dark (preferably cool) area for at least four weeks, and shake the mixture occasionally. Personally, I love adding inexpensive chamomile tea and other herbs to coconut or olive oil, then letting them infuse over a month or two. Once these are infused, I strain the oil, put it in a lovely bottle, then apply it to my hair and skin.

Hair rinse – Certain teas are great for rinsing the hair. You brew the tea as normal, then pour the cooled tea onto the hair after shampooing and conditioning. Chamomile is great for lighter colored hair, while sage is fantastic for dark hair. Also, teas that contain rosemary and lavender can be beneficial for dry, itchy scalp, so keep that in mind. You can also just add dried rosemary and/or lavender to the tea that you’re brewing, then you get the added benefit of those herbs for scalp health.

These are some of my favorite ways to use teas that aren’t so tasty. Do you have any recommendations for re-purposing tea leaves? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

culture · food · international

Snack Review: Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls

While quarantined, I haven’t been enjoying takeout as much as I used to. However, I still enjoy trying new foods, especially snacks. So when I saw this food that combines two of my favorite snacks – spring rolls and Thai mango and sticky rice – I couldn’t resist. I had to try it!

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Mama Wu Mango & Sticky Rice Spring Rolls were easy to prepare. The rolls had a crispy exterior after baking, and I was excited at how the texture of the baked spring roll was similar to a fried roll. I was concerned that the roll would be a tad bit soggy, but it was crispy, crunchy and delicious.

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A perfectly crisp spring roll

Now, when it comes to the filling . . . Let me qualify this by saying I’ve had many different mango and sticky rice desserts. I’ve eaten at over a dozen different Thai restaurants in different cities and I usually have my mango and sticky rice at each one. So, I feel really comfortable saying that I know what the dessert should taste like. This interior was not as tasty as I’d hoped. It was especially chewy, and the mango flavoring wasn’t as prominent as I’d like. So the filling wasn’t as delightful as the exterior, unfortunately.

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The interior wasn’t as tasty as I hoped

Here’s the rub: I was looking forward to the filling more than the outside, yet the outside was the best part of the snack. But, I don’t think that this product is a complete fail: in fact, I can think of a few ways that it can be improved. First, the company should tinker with the rice recipe to see how to prevent the rice from getting too “tough” when baking. Also, a little more mango would be wonderful. Finally, this needs COCONUT SAUCE! These rolls practically begged to be dipped into a creamy, sweetened coconut sauce to amp up the flavor and to add a contrast to the crisp exterior.

Would I try this again? Sure, especially if I had my own coconut sauce (or if the company started including sauce with the rolls). I’d be sure to have some additional mango to accompany these rolls, too.

Have any of you tried these before? Or, do you have another Thai dessert that you prefer? Let me know all about it in the comments below!

food · life curation · luxury

Learn About Tea – For Free!

On Facebook, I recently saw an ad from The Republic of Tea, offering a free email course about tea. Tea 101: An Educational Email Series promised to deliver, over a 6 day period, information about the “nuances and complexities of premium tea”.

I’m a sucker for nuance and complexity, so I happily dove into the emails as they arrived.

Mustard and Olive Chic Lifestyle Blogger Blog Post Social Media Graphics

The lessons cover the different aspects of distinguishing between and enjoying tea. The lessons are brief and to the point, so they are perfect for busy people.

I especially enjoyed the emphasis on the fact that herbal teas aren’t true “teas” (the only true “tea” is the leaf of the camellia sinensis plant). However, the company still took time to explain the benefits of herbal “teas” and blends. I also liked the description that Republic of Tea provided, regarding the caffeine levels in varying tea varieties. It was good to see which teas provide light, medium and heavy caffeine.

 

food

Food Review: Tsubi Soup

Hi everyone! It’s Friday, so let’s have a little fun and do a food review.

I recently ordered some vegan miso soup from Amazon because so many of the instant miso options available in stores contain bonito (a type of fish that is a traditional miso ingredient). Previously, I tried Miyasaka miso soup, which was tasty but lacked the flavorful “punch” I craved.

While searching through the miso mixes, I came across Tsubi Soup, a soup company that prides itself on using simple, fresh, authentic ingredients to create superbly flavored soups. I was really impressed by the fact that the company has such high standards for its ingredients, so I decided to give it a try.

I ordered the spicy red miso soup with mushrooms (the company offers several other flavors). The soup mix arrived in two days because I have Amazon Prime.

I made the soup by adding hot water and allowing the ingredients to re-hydrate. After about two minutes, it was ready to eat.

OMG, this was delicious! I didn’t miss the bonito flavor at all. This has to be one of the most delicious vegan miso soups I’ve ever tasted. I ended up each the entire box within 3 days LOL! The spice is abundant but not too hot. The mushrooms plumped up perfectly and give the soup great variety in texture.

Now, one major difference with this and the previously reviewed miso soup mix is the price. Tsubi Soups has 4 packets for $12.99, while Miyasaka Soups has 12 packets for nearly the same price ($14.28). But, you get what you pay for. Tsubi Soups are far tastier than Miyasaka Soups and, in my humble opinion, worth every penny.

I haven’t tried the other Tsubi Soup flavors but I intend to. If the spicy red miso with mushrooms is any indication, the other flavors are probably excellent, as well.

That’s my review for today. If you love Japanese foods or curious about them, let me know in the comments below. Thanks, and have a great Friday!

 

food · life curation

What Happens When You Take a Break From Intermittent Fasting

Hey friends! This is my post to tell you a bit about how my body reacted to a recent deviation from my intermittent fasting (IF) eating plan.

As you recall from my first post about my recent cruise, I couldn’t stick to IF for the entire trip. There was so many good food options! I wanted to try everything and I couldn’t do it in my 8 hour window without being parked all day at the different eateries. So I put IF to the side while I vacationed.

When I got back home, I noticed several differences in my appearance. Firstly, I put on 4 lbs. That wasn’t too surprising: I was eating anything that my heart desired, and I was eating my favorites whenever I wanted. However, I noticed that I was also bloated and just had a general icky feeling when I came back home. I wasn’t sleeping as well and I wasn’t as satisfied when I ate.

yummy

I love food so much LOL!

Most of that yucky feeling resolved when I went back to IF. Now that I’m back on schedule, the bloat is pretty much gone and my energy levels are starting to return. I’m mentioning this because it’s important to note how your body reacts to dietary changes. For me, abruptly stopping IF really made me feel less healthy. So, if I ever decide to stop eating this way, I would probably choose to wean myself off of the plan and increase my eating window incrementally instead of going crazy and eating however I want (like I did on the cruise). The more you know, right?

That’s all for today. If you have any experiences with IF and changing your diet after doing IF for a period of time, let me know in the comments below. Talk to you all tomorrow!

 

 

food

Restaurant Review: Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar

Last weekend, I got together with a few friends for lunch. It’s been a few months since our last get-together, so I was ready for some time with the ‘gang’.

We decided on Travinia Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar, since they appeared to have a little something for everyone. The restaurant is conveniently located right off of Interstate 64 West in Henrico County, Virginia. I’m glad that this one is so close to my home because, while the chain has a few other locations, most of them are over one hour from my home.

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The restaurant describes itself as contemporary Italian food, and I’d have to agree. There wasn’t an abundance of traditional Italian dishes on the menu, but what I did notice was a focus on giving a fresh take on an otherwise simple dish. I ended up trying the zucchini frite (fried zucchini slices) and the shrimp messina with a side of Brussels sprouts.

Travinia’s Shrimp Messina

Both dishes were tasty albeit not strikingly unique. The flavors were good and, while the restaurant puts a new spin on traditional Italian cuisine, they don’t stray so far away from the standard seasonings and flavors that the food doesn’t fit the Italian flavor profile. I appreciate the adherence to tradition while still injecting creativity into the dishes. Good job, Travinia, for walking a thin line and doing it well!

I would return to the restaurant, though I’d probably choose to go in the evening as opposed to lunchtime. I’m curious about the wine list and I generally prefer pairing wine with dinner over pairing it with lunches. It’ll be nice to see how the after-five crowd differs from the lunch crew.

That’s all for my quick review of Travinia. I have to get back to my writing (NaNoWriMo calls!) so that’s it for today. Talk to you all tomorrow.

international · travel

Cruise 2018: Dining on the Sea

If you all didn’t know, I love to dine out. I actually think I like eating out a bit too much, which is why I’ve cut down significantly over the past few months. That being said, I still got excited at the dining options available on my latest cruise.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

The Allure of the Seas (a Royal Caribbean ship) has multiple restaurants on board, as well as several cafes, wine bars, and snack bars. My family and I dined regularly at the main dining room at American Icon Grille. This restaurant  published a luxe menu every evening, featuring various appetizers, entrees and desserts. The restaurant changed up the menus every day, so there was always something new to try. There are also a few other themed restaurants, such as Silk (Asian foods) and The Grande (American foods).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A typical breakfast that I’d order from room service

There is also a buffet located near the pools (the Windjammer Cafe), which has a few of the food items featured in American Icon Grille but also other dishes that aren’t available in any of the dining rooms. To be honest, I had the best time dining at the Windjammer in the evenings. The buffet had a different chilled fruit soup every night which were delicious and I could literally eat every day without getting tired of them (think the world’s smoothiest, most delicious smoothies . . . yes, it was as tasty as it sounds).

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A menu from one evening at American Icon Grille

Oooh, not to mention, there is a Sorrento’s pizza, which makes fresh pizza until 3 AM. Who doesn’t love pizza? And the room service has lots of delicious fresh options available all day long.

I won’t continue to talk about the foods: let’s see some pictures, shall we?

Lobster bisque and Tiger shrimp

Left: Shrimp ceviche; Top right: Shrimp and potato salad; Bottom right: Lobster

Desserts!!!

Enjoy your Friday, and I’ll talk to you all tomorrow!