Taiwan -- A Hidden Gem

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My mother was born in Hualien, Taiwan and then raised in Taipei until she was 19 when she moved to the US. My brother and I have always wanted to visit Taiwan, and were finally able to take the trip as a family this past New Year!

I have heard the rumors of the amazing food, and the tropical/sub tropical climate. My mom has told me many times about the tall volcanic mountains, turquoise blue water, the fresh fruits like mangos and guava, and also the amazing food… did I mention the food? Well, it totally lived up to the hype. I was actually quite blown away by how magical this place was, and even how diverse it was in landscapes and climate. The island is divided by the Tropic of Cancer, and so the northern half is sub tropical, and the southern half is beautifully tropical, with wild monkeys and banana trees growing in abundance.

We started out in Taipei. We rented a perfect Airbnb apartment in the Da’an district which is known for being a bit more high end, and also having the best restaurants. My mother, my brother Alan, his wife Jenn, and their little baby son Luca, and I all met in Taipei to start our trip. We went to the night markets to try all kinds of street food, and lots of affordable shopping. We ate at the famous Din Tai Fung, which definitely lived up to its reputation — mouth watering soup dumplings and delicious cold side dishes. We wandered through a giant flower market, and visited some temples. We even climbed Elephant mountain at sunset to see the view of the city, and the majestic 101 building. Almost every morning we’d walk our way to the nearest dou jiang restaurant. (Dou jiang is a savory soy milk soup commonly eaten for breakfast). It rained almost every day in Taipei, but that definitely didn’t stop us from exploring and seeing the city. We connected with some of my mom’s family for meals, and even had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration at a family friend’s apartment in the city where we watched the extravagant firework show coming from the 101 building.

After Taipei we took a train to Hualien, to visit the city where my mother was born. We spent just a couple days there. Hualien is on the coast, and just a couple hours south of Taipei. When we arrived we could already tell the weather was getting warmer. Hualien is known for their pineapple cakes, which we ate just a few of. :) In Hualien we rented a car and started our drive south to Dulan.

Dulan… Wow. This is a small coastal town, with many great surf breaks. There are just a couple surf shops that you can rent boards from, and a handful of restaurants (that were all delicious). This felt like a quiet paradise that no one knew about. There were hardly any surfers on the waves, and my brother, Jenn, and I had multiple surf sessions just us, paddling around in this beautiful 75 degree crystal clear water. The giant green volcanic mountains as the backdrop covered in palm trees was incredible. I honestly felt so lucky, and grateful that I was able to see and feel this untouched natural landscape.

We wanted to stay longer than we did, but we were off to our next destination of Kenting. Kenting is the most southern point of Taiwan. It’s on a little peninsula and surrounded by a National Park. It was beautiful with great beaches and crystal clear water. It’s a bit more built out with more restaurants and shopping than Dulan, and seemed more touristy. We rented another very affordable airbnb near the night market, which we frequented every night for dinner. We spent one of our days at the white sand beach — Baishawan. It was the perfect beach day. They sell fresh coconuts and fruit right by the beach. There were many tourists visiting the beach as well, however we were some of the only people in our bathing suits! All the tourists would come by in full long sleeve pants and shirts, and even jackets. Keep in mind it was around 75 degrees F. (!!)

After Kenting we headed back up towards Taipei. We had planned to make a few more stops on the way there, but realized we had been on the move so much it might be nice to spend our last 3 nights in one place, and in Taipei. We found another great Airbnb that was super convenient to restaurants and shops. There was even a dou jiang place right on the corner. :)

I could write another 5 pages about our trip to Taiwan, but I’m trying to keep it short. I’ll leave you with some photos from our trip. This post and these photos really don’t do Taiwan justice, so I’ll just say this — you should probably go. Every time I travel to another country I always feel like, this might be my ONLY trip to this place. I have so many destinations that are on my list of places to go that it feels like every trip will be the only one. I can confidently say that I will be back to Taiwan, maybe not this year, but definitely soon.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese tea eggs were a staple in my home growing up. My mom would make them fairly regularly and keep them in the refrigerator for a quick snack. It wasn’t until I spent time in China and Taiwan did I realize how popular they were EVERYWHERE. My family recently took a trip to Taiwan over the New Year, and every 7-11 and convenient store had tea eggs just sitting there in a slow cooker, available for sale. We’d grab some tea eggs as a snack before our days adventure. They became a staple of our travels around Taiwan. So when I came home I knew I had to bring this recipe back! I love adding these eggs to my lunch or dinner as a side in one of my Healthy Bowls or even having one for breakfast along with my favorite smoothies. Check out this recipe below and try it for yourself!


Ingredients:

  • 6-8 eggs

  • 2 bags black tea (Lipton tea works great!)

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 star-anise

  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn (optional)

  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce


Directions:

  1. Place the eggs (at room temperature) in a pot of cold water (enough to cover them). Bring water to a boil then reduce the heat. Leave to simmer for 5-10 mins. (You will be boiling them again, so they don’t have to be fully cooked here yet).

  2. Drain the eggs. Cool them in water. Gently crack the egg shells all around using the back of a spoon.

  3. Put the eggs back into a clean pot. Add all the other ingredients and water enough to cover the eggs. Bring water to a boil then turn down the heat and let it simmer for 10 mins.

  4. Transfer everything (eggs and liquid) into a glass container. Leave to steep for at least 12 hours. You may keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

  5. Peel the eggs and eat cold or warm. Below are what they will look like after you peel. Enjoy!



Golden Milk Turmeric Latte Recipe

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Turmeric lattes are definitely popping up on menus everywhere, so I decide to try and make one at home! This latte is perfect to drink at night when you’re all cozy at home on the couch. Reminds me of a delicious chai latte, and it doesn’t have caffeine.

Golden Milk is a common drink in India that has been around for thousands of years. Turmeric is popular for many reasons but especially for its known anti-inflammatory properties. I remember a few years ago my mother started drinking golden milk every day to aid in her arthritis. She swore she noticed a difference in her joints, especially her hands. I’m always trying to eat more anti-inflammatory foods, because I know we are constantly consuming INflammatory foods, like sugar and dairy for example. Anti-inflammatory foods are great for gut health and your immune system. Remember food is medicine, and yes food can effect your health, your mood, your energy, and your entire day! Check out this recipe below to try it yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of non dairy milk, ex. almond milk

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 inch chunk of fresh peeled ginger

  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder

  • 1 Tablespoon honey

  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil

  • 5 whole black peppercorns

  • ground cinnamon on top for serving

Directions: Whisk all ingredients together in a small pot on medium heat until boiling. Simmer on low heat uncovered for 5-10 min.

Holiday Gift Guide!

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First off, Happy Holidays! I hope that you are remembering to breathe this holiday season. :) Sometimes we get swept up in the stress and anxiety of family, complicated dynamics, events, gift giving, decorating, cooking, you name it. Let’s all take a deep breath together, inhale… Exhale… Alright, now go put on your Holiday sweater and enjoy the egg nog and cookies. I’ve got your gift ideas covered!

Check out what I have for you below!


Health Tea Recipe

Health Tea Recipe, for when you’re not feeling so healthy. I got this recipe from a great restaurant in NYC — Westville. So delicious and soothing.

Ingredients

  • fresh sage

  • fresh mint or peppermint

  • cinnamon stick

  • 2-3 one inch chunks of peeled ginger

  • quarter of a lemon squeezed and then put in tea

  • honey to taste

Directions

  1. Put all ingredients into a pot of boiling water. Let boil for a minimum of 5 minutes, add honey and enjoy!

Simple Roasted Broccoli with Garlic

Broccoli is probably my number one superfood! Its high in fiber, vitamin C which aids in absorbing Iron, magnesium, potassium, and many other nutrients! It is a go-to of mine when I want to boost my immune system, and feel good (and its delicious). In the past I’ve loved to steam broccoli, or sauté it. My newest obsession — Roasting it with garlic and olive oil. Yes, its that simple. The taste is amazing with little flavor pockets of roasted garlic, and the crispy edges and soft centers is the perfect texture. Check out the recipe below!

Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of fresh broccoli, cut into florets

  • 3 cloves of garlic chopped

  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • salt & pepper to taste

  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

  2. Mix broccoli florets and chopped garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay separated and flat on a baking sheet.

  3. Roast in the oven for 15-20 min, turn halfway through.

  4. Bake until broccoli is lightly brown on the edges and tender when pierced with a fork.

  5. Squeeze lemon on top of broccoli (optional) and serve warm.

Enjoy!

Root Vegetable Mash

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When the colder weather starts to appear, I start to crave warm and hearty meals. Here’s a way to change up your regular mashed potato side dish. These root vegetables have far more nutrients and vitamins than a white potato. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A, vitamin C, and manganese. Carrots and parsnips have vitamin A, biotin, vitamin K, potassium and vitamin B6. Cold weather makes these root vegetables even sweeter. Go to your local farmer’s market and try this recipe below!

Ingredients:

2 medium carrots

1 medium sweet potato peeled

1 medium parsnip peeled

(rutabaga OR turnip optional)

fresh thyme sprig and rosemary sprig

3 tablespoons butter, or butter alternative (Earth’s Balance)

1 Tablespoon of olive oil

3 garlic gloves minced

1-2 cups water for boiling

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. After peeling the vegetables cut them up in large 1 -2 inch chunks. Place in pot on medium-low heat with olive oil and herbs. Stir and sauté for 5 minutes. Add water, and cover, let cook until vegetables are soft 20-25 minutes.

  2. Strain water and herbs, and place vegetables aside in the strainer. Put the already used pot back on the burner, add butter and the minced garlic. Sautee for 3-5 minutes on low heat until garlic is slightly browned. Add the cooked vegetables, turn off heat, and mash together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy!