Winter Self-Care: Warm Drinks for the Body and Soul

Winter Self-Care: Warm Drinks for the Body and Soul

Instead of resolutions, I'm setting an intention this year, and that is to prioritize self-care. New Year resolutions have never really appealed to me because I believe that you can make resolutions anytime of the year. And isn't it a wonderful thing to know that we don't have to wait for that one day in the year to start taking charge of our lives? We can start right now, this very second, wherever we are!

In the past couple months or so, since returning from a five-week trip to Europe, I took a break from work (and blogging) to take care of myself. I joined a gym, hired a personal trainer, and made the effort to do yoga every day and meditate. After several tumultuous years in which I moved from Malaysia to the United States and started a new life far away from home and my family and friends, I decided to take a breath. A deep breath. 

I ended the year by putting myself on the path of healing and started the new year with the mantra that I am strong. I resolve to take actionable yet manageable steps to take care of myself and choose to be kind to my body and honor my health. Quite simply, that translates to eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. When it's cold, I make a warm drink using ingredients that support my health.

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Monk Fruit Tea + Asian Food Trends at the Winter Fancy Food Show

Monk Fruit Tea + Asian Food Trends at the Winter Fancy Food Show

I'd like to talk about an ingredient I always pick up when we go to Chinatown: monk fruit. Hard, dry, and rather featureless on the outside, it is understandably a mysterious fruit even though it is a common ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine. I grew up having it as a tong sui (sweet soup) or tea to help suppress coughs and cool down on a hot day. 

Like goji berry, another age-old ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, monk fruit has entered the Western market in the form of monk fruit sweeteners. Though seeing it on the alternative sugar section of my local grocery stores piqued my curiosity, I didn't get a chance to try it until I attended the recent Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. 

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A Cup of Gratitude (Holy Basil and Rose Tea)

A Cup of Gratitude (Holy Basil and Rose Tea)

On New Year's eve, we stayed in and had sushi with Japanese whisky mixed with coconut water, watched two episodes of Black Mirror over popcorn and ice cream, and fell asleep at 11.30pm. The next day, we woke up without a hangover nor that feeling of regret in the pit of our stomachs. It was the best countdown ever, and the most obvious sign of um, graceful aging. 

Another day, another year. 2017 is here. I slept through its arrival, but I have a whole year to catch up so I'm not going to worry too much about it. Around the same time last year, I was standing on an old wooden ladder to put a fresh coat of paint on our kitchen walls. This year, on the first day of the new year, I was standing in the same kitchen making a cup of Gratitude Tea and counting my blessings.

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My Time Capsule + Salted Kumquat Tea

My Time Capsule + Salted Kumquat Tea

A year ago, I filled up several jars with layers of sea salt and fresh kumquats from the backyard. I placed them on the shelf, checked on them every few weeks, and eventually forgot about them. Patience is an essential ingredient in this recipe. 

Salted kumquats are one of those things that get better with age, and I've been told they keep for years, in fact the longer the better. Almost every Chinese household keeps a jar, or knows someone who does, because salted kumquats in hot water with honey stirred in are a long-held Chinese remedy for sore throat. Add some ice cubes and you have the perfect sweet-sour-salty cure for a hot day. 

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Asian Kitchen + Jujube Tea with Cacao Nibs

Asian Kitchen + Jujube Tea with Cacao Nibs

I'm happy to report we're settling in nicely at our new place, but the work is not done. My project for March (can you believe March is right around the corner?!) is the kitchen. I asked myself what are the essential ingredients and tools for cooking with a twist of Asian flavor no matter where I am in the world. And I made a list of key items, which I am excited to write about in the coming weeks. 

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Spiced Hot Carob Drink + Why I Write about Food

Spiced Hot Carob Drink + Why I Write about Food

The sun is about to set one last time this year. And a new chapter will rise the next day. I find myself, as one naturally does, reflecting thoughtfully about the year that was and thinking intentionally for the year to come. It goes on in the back of my mind like it's a part of my autonomic nervous system, and my internal monologue is pressing me for the answer to one question: Why have I started writing about food? I've had to draw from various posts on this blog in my attempt to answer this question, so this post has also inadvertently turned into a compilation of some of my 2015 favorite moments and recipes. 

I write about food because...

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Lemongrass Ginger Barley Tea

Lemongrass Ginger Barley Tea

There's a fire in my belly and I'm slow dancing to a hum in my head. It probably doesn't make perfect sense to you, but certain flavors in food transport me to the unchartered territories of my senses. I suppose I could describe it as exotic, but I much prefer beguiling you with fantastical imagery of the effect lemongrass ginger barley tea has on me. It soothes me and it invigorates me at the same time, a combination that thrills me much, especially during the transitional days of Autumn. 

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