Tag Archives: China

Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas

I used to think I wasn’t a huge fan of Chinese food.  If it was the only thing available, I would eat it, but I never craved it or suggested going out for Chinese.  Then one of my friends told me about this Chinese restaurant here in Okinawa that I had to try.  She told me I would love it—even if I don’t love Chinese food—because if for nothing else, it’s worth a trip to the restaurant just to meet the owner.

Not long after she suggested this place, my husband and I went to check it out with three other friends.  The owner—who calls himself “Dragon”—definitely lived up to the hype.  He is very outgoing and so funny.  Although we could only understand about 40 percent of what he said to us, we found out he is from Shanghai, goes to Tokyo once a month to buy fresh ingredients and “do other things” (whatever that means), and gets super excited to talk about Chinese food.  He was talking so fast about the food that we could hardly understand what was going on.

We had spent a few minutes perusing the menu before he came over to talk to us, but that didn’t matter because after he was done telling us his story he said, “Ok so you’ll have two orders of this, one order of that, two of this, oh and you have to try at least one order of that…”.  We weren’t really sure what had happened, but we went with it.  We also all ordered the “Biiiuuutty Biiiuuutty” (aka Beauty Beauty) cocktail because as my husband thought he said, “I command you to get this”.  He really said I recommend you to get this, but hey—a command is a command.

Amanda and Me with our Byuty Byuty cocktails

Dragon (Source: Okinawa Hai)

The food—and Dragon—did not disappoint.  We all agreed that it was excellent and some of the best Chinese food any of us had ever had.  And that is saying a lot coming from five people who don’t particularly like Chinese food.

After that experience (and one subsequent visit) at Dragon’s, I was much more excited about the food in China.  It tasted nothing like the Chinese food you get at most places in the States (go figure) and I loved it.  We ate many delicious stir-fried dishes, noodles, dumplings, etc. but by the end of the two weeks, we were pretty sick of eating Chinese food and had pizza for our last meal :).

Buying bread from a local baker in the Hutong

Some delicious dumpling soup

Not quite sure what this is....

Can you guess if I ate any of this stuff??

At the Night Market

Not everything at the Night Market looked completely unappetizing....unfortunately the smell was so overpowering that I couldn't have eaten anything!

Seahorses anyone?

How about starfish or scorpions?

We did eat delicious dumplings and dim sum in China.....but not from the Night Market

Although I think we’re both Chinese food converts—as long as it’s real Chinese food—we are both not ready to eat it again for a while.  So for dinner, I’ve been making anything that does not resemble Chinese food—Italian and then Mexican.  These quesadillas were fabulous—I hope you enjoy them too!

Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas

*Recipe adapted from Food Network Kitchens

Chicken and Scallion Quesadillas with a side of Roasted Cauliflower and Broccoli

Ingredients

Beans:

  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 to 2 pickled jalapeno, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup water or chicken broth

Toppings:

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 scallions (white and green), trimmed
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken, about 8 ounces
  • 2 teaspoons minced chipotle peppers en adobo
  • 1/4 cup prepared salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (Pepper Jack or Monterrey Jack are good choices)
  • 4 (10-inch) flour or corn tortillas
  • Optional garnishes: sour cream, cilantro, salsa, avocado

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

To make the beans: Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, add the spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the beans, jalapeno, and broth and bring to a simmer.  Using a potato masher or a large fork, smash the beans into a rough paste. Season with salt (if needed) and transfer to a bowl.

Heat EVOO in a pan over medium-high heat and sauté the scallions until slightly charred.  Coarsely chop and transfer to a small bowl.  Combine chicken and the chipotle with the scallions.

Toast the tortillas directly over a medium gas burner, turning occasionally until slightly blistered on each side. (If you have an electric burner, do this in a dry cast iron skillet.)  *You can also heat the tortillas in the oven for 5-10 minutes as I did.

Place the tortillas on the prepared baking sheet. Depending on the size of your tortillas, spread the beans on half (for larger tortillas) or the whole tortilla (for smaller ones).  Top with the chicken, salsa, and cheese. For larger tortillas, fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling, to make a half moon shape.  For smaller tortillas, cover the filling with another tortilla.

Lay another sheet of foil over the top of the quesadillas.  Bake until the cheese melts and the filling hot, about 12 minutes.  Serve with optional garnishes.

**These quesadillas were delicioso.  I used chipotle-flavored tortillas, which gave our quesadillas a little extra kick.  The only thing that would have made these better is fresh slices of avocado for garnish.

Question: What is your favorite kind of ethnic cuisine?  Have you ever become a convert like we have with Chinese food?

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Main Courses, Mexican, Travels

One Month Down

June 30th marked one month that we’ve been doing this challenge and I didn’t even realize it until it had already passed!  I’m going to take that as a good sign because it means I’m not counting down the days until I can eat sugar again (as I thought I would be).

If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, you know that when we first started this challenge I was curious to see how not eating sugar would affect my sugar cravings and energy levels.  I am happy to report after one month that I think both have definitely improved.

It seems like I have only noticed these changes in the past couple of weeks.  Maybe it was going to China and breaking away from my normal routine, or maybe it is just that it takes that long for results to start showing, but I’m finally starting to feel a difference in my body.  Honestly, in the beginning I felt terrible.  For the first couple of weeks I was actually feeling worse than I had been feeling before I cut processed sugar out of my diet and was wondering if it was really worth it to continue.  Perhaps I was eating more of something that I hadn’t been eating much of before (such as soy or more grains), but whatever it was, it has gone away now and I’m feeling much better.

I’m actually feeling really good about myself right now.  There were only a handful of times that I craved sugar in the past month and those times are becoming fewer and further between.  I have also noticed that certain foods that did not taste that sweet to me before, now taste much sweeter.  I first noticed it in China when I bought what I thought was unsweetened tea and it turned out to be sweetened.  I thought it was disgustingly sweet, but my husband said it tasted normal.  I noticed it again when I got home and ate a handful of Kashi Go Lean cereal.  I used to think Go Lean tasted pretty much like cardboard when I ate it dry, but the other day I could actually taste some sweetness in it.  Each of these little improvements give me motivation to keep going….we’ll see how I feel in another month :).

I know I have already said it many times before, but it’s worth repeating for any of you who are thinking about giving up processed sugars—it is liberating to pass up sweets and desserts altogether rather than battle with myself not to eat too much.

As far as my energy goes, I mentioned in my last post that while I was in China I noticed a significant improvement in my energy levels.  Even though I was walking around for hours and hours each day, I still felt like I had a lot of energy.  Despite the fact that I am a pretty active person and get plenty of sleep, I normally get really tired during the day and often feel like I could fall asleep at any point.  I only felt like that once or twice in China and I think those feelings were justified from all of the sightseeing.  Hopefully this trend continues :).

I think it’s important to put a little disclaimer here.  By sharing with you my journey, I am not trying to say that cutting out processed sugars are the answer to everyone’s dietary woes.  Every body handles foods differently—some people can eat diets very high in fat while others can eat a lot of sugar without seeing any noticeable difference in their weight, energy levels, or overall health (more on this later).  Just because I have noticed a difference in how I feel does not mean I think cutting out processed sugars will ‘fix’ everyone’s problems.  However, I would encourage you to play around with what you eat to find out what works best for your body.

On that note, I’ll leave you with some more pictures from our trip :).  These were all taken in Beijing.  I’ll share some from the other cities in the next couple of days.

This adorable lady invited us into her home. I wish I could have taken her home with us!

Spinning the prayer wheels at one of the local temples.

A little shrine at one of the gardens I visited.

I loved the architecture and the vibrant colors everywhere.

Such a relaxing place amongst the hustle and bustle of the city.

Hmmm not sure I trust the food in this clean "environment"

What a happy guy!

One of the watchtowers at the Forbidden City

Houses along the moat at the edge of the Forbidden City

Some Chinese delicacies I did not try.....

Archway to the Great Wall

This was at the bottom of the Great Wall! Globalization at its finest.

Nighttime view of Houhai Lake

Question: Have you ever cut anything out of your diet?  What was it and for how long did you do it?  Did you notice any improvements?

5 Comments

Filed under Milestones, Travels

Mindful Eating in China

We’re back from China!  Before I get into what I ate while we were in China, I have to tell you that we had a fabulous time.  After living in Japan for the past three years, I thought I had an idea of what to expect from the Chinese people, but boy was I wrong.  The Chinese people are very different from the Japanese.  Don’t get me wrong, we loved it there, but it was definitely crazy and reminded me of being back in Peru in a lot of ways.  Once I got my elbows out and remembered how to fight the crowds, touring around was much more enjoyable :).

Our first week was spent in Beijing where my husband had a class.  Since he was busy all day, I spent the time getting to know the city on my own.  I went on a group tour one day, but the other days I was on my own.  I’m happy to admit that I only got lost once!  I thought touring on my own would be boring, but I actually had a lot of fun.  I really wish Giff could have come with me because I saw a lot of really cool things that I know he would have loved, but c’est la vie, right?

At a Chinese garden.

One of the many streets I walked in Beijing.

Some peanut noodles that were out of this world!

With the Forbidden City in the background.

At the "Bird's Nest" (one of the stadiums from the Olympics)!

After his class was over, we got to visit The Great Wall together with many of his classmates.  The Great Wall exceeded my expectations.  It was awesome—totally worth a trip to China!

At The Great Wall!

So many steep stairs....

The next day we left for a mountain town called Yangshuo.  We took a two-hour boat ride down the Li River to get to Yangshuo.  It was really beautiful and another place we would highly recommend to anyone planning a trip to China.  Yangshuo was touristy, but we still really enjoyed it.  It was very different from both Beijing and Shanghai so we’re glad we got to see it.

Our bamboo boat

Cruising down the Li River

Hanging out in Yangshuo

Shanghai was the last stop on our trip.  It is a really cool city—very modern with a Western feel.  Shanghai has an awesome skyline!

Shanghai Skyline

At the Vue Bar

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from China, but I have to admit that the trip was even better than I imagined it would be.  With that said though, it’s always nice to come back home.

Anyway, on to my food adventures in China.  Before Amanda and I started our naturally sweet summer, I told her that I wasn’t going to worry about what I ate while we were on vacation in China for two weeks.  Since I don’t speak Chinese or really know much about what goes into Chinese cooking (i.e. sugar), I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about it while on vacation.  Vacation is usually a time when we allow ourselves to splurge a little anyway, right :)?!?

Even though I said I wasn’t going to worry, I still didn’t want to go over the top because I really want to reach my goal of not eating sugar until August 20th.  For the most part, I steered clear of sugar (as best I could) with a few exceptions:

  • I ate bread.  Bread is almost always made with sugar (though not very much).  I didn’t eat bread that often, but sometimes it was my only option (like on our flights when I thought the main entree wasn’t very good).  I know I could have passed it up altogether, but I get pretty crabby when I’m hungry and for Giff’s sake, I thought it was better to eat the bread than be crabby :).  Other times we ate bread because we wanted it….
  • Shanghai Steamed Pork Buns...Delicious!

  • We found authentic Neapolitan pizza.....I was in heaven!

  • I had Chinese Bubble Tea…twice.  I LOVE Chinese bubble tea and I can’t get it that often.  The first time I tried it was in college and I loved it.   Almost every time I see it, I treat myself to it so I thought I had to try it in China.  I tried it twice just to be on the safe side J.  I’m sure it has sugar in it, but it was worth every sip!
  • Proof of my Bubble Tea

  • I tried one bite of Giff’s dessert.  This was the only bite of dessert I had in the two weeks we were there.  This is definitely a vacation record for me.  I always treat myself to dessert on vacation, but I passed it up every time except this once.  It was actually at a German pub and looked too good to pass up (fried apple rings….yum!).
  • The one and only dessert I tried.....and some delicious German beer.

  • I drank beer and had some cocktails that may or may not have had sugar.  I have been drinking wine since we started this challenge.  I’m not sure if wine has added sugar or if it’s just sweet from the grapes, but I decided it was something I would allow myself to have since I only treat myself to it on the weekends.  I had not been drinking beer though because I thought it had added sugar, or any cocktails.  I’m not sure if beer does have sugar or not, but I had some on vacation and I had some fancy cocktails at some of the fancy bars we went to in Shanghai.
  • Chinese food.  I’m guessing that some of the foods I ate had sauces that were made with sugar.  They were all savory dishes, but some of them tasted slightly sweet.
  • I ate “plain” yogurt that I’m pretty sure had sugar in it.

Other than that, I think I did a pretty good job of not eating sugar.  Believe it or not, I actually lost 3 pounds on vacation!  That is definitely a first for me.  I worked out three times and walked A LOT.  Despite all the walking, I actually felt like I had more energy than I’ve had in a long time.  Perhaps not eating sugar is a good thing for me.

Lessons Learned

  • Despite the fact that I ate sugar, I was conscious of it every time—more so than I ever have been before.  This challenge has taught me how often I eat sugar during the day without even realizing it.  Although the sugar I consume throughout the day might be consumed in small quantities, it adds up over the course of a day/week/month.
  • It is possible to watch someone eat dessert without having to try it.  (You can ask any of my friends…I am notorious for asking for bites of people’s food so it’s quite a feat for me to not ask for a bite.)
  • Is it really worth it?  There were many times when I wanted to try a bite or sip of something Giff was eating or drinking, but I would ask myself, is it really worth it?  The only time I decided it was worth it was for the German dessert.  I ate my one bite, without any remorse, and didn’t feel like I needed any more.
  • My motto is not “all or nothing”.  I have said before that I do not plan on giving up processed sugar for the rest of my life, but I’m doing this challenge to see how giving it up makes me feel.  Just because I ate sugar a few times on vacation, I don’t feel like a quitter or that I should give up the challenge altogether.  It was good for me to see that I can have it here and there without overdoing it.
  • Cravings will go away.  There were some nights when I was really craving something sweet—especially chocolate.  If I were home, I would go to the kitchen to try to make something or eat something to satisfy my craving.  Since we were on vacation though, I didn’t have that option.  The cravings went away every time.  This is something I need to remind myself now that I’m home again.

I’ll wrap it up here since I have already written a novel.  If you made it to the end, thanks for sticking with me J.

Questions: Do you usually ‘splurge’ on vacation?  What are your tips for staying healthy while traveling?

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized