7 Days of Salad

Vegan (n.) – a person who doesn’t eat animals and animal byproducts

Last December, after four years and eight months of being vegetarian, I decided to be vegan. That means completely giving up eggs and dairy. That means no more butter in my baking, no more eggs for my sandwich, and no more cheese on my pizza. (No more white sugar, too, since white sugar is generally refined using cows’ bones. Who knew that, right?) Six months later, I am thriving and I still think this is the single bravest decision I’ve made in my life.

Contrary to popular-right-now belief – because if you haven’t been reading the signs correctly the world is going vegan – eschewed by people whose agenda is to sell you their products, vegans and vegetarians do NOT eat only salads. In fact we have veganized everything – from French to Japanese to Filipino to any cuisine you can think of.  (Okay. Mongolia not included.) Most importantly, we eat cake. We’re not particularly healthier, too. We have LOTS of junkfood. Contrary to popular-right-now belief, vegan food isn’t bland and boring.

Having said that, I admit that I am not a huge fan of salads (except of course fruit salad with coconut cream and coconut nectar *drools*). My taste buds haven’t yet adapted to the taste of raw leaves (fruits are not leaves).

But because our office currently has a two-month wellness program and I and Francis have made it our mission to prove you can manage your fat and weight without powdered shakes, I’ve started my personal wellness plan with eating fresh, clean, and whole foods.

This 7-day salad list is the result of that.

Note: There’s not much variety. I make it a point to prefer fruits and vegetables that are readily available in our city. That means Lollo Rosa and Romaine for my greens, cucumber, corn (because my sister from Jeddah sent us lots), and whatever else is in the pantry.

1. Lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin seeds and corn kernels with balsamic-olive oil-garlic dressing

2. Lettuce, raisins, goji berries, sunflower seeds and corncake croutons with dayap juice, balsamic and olive oil

3. Lettuce, cucumber, corn kernels, store-bought salted garlic peanuts

4. Lettuce, black beans, corn, sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds

5. Taco salad with crumbled vegan longganisa with store-bought salsa (best ever!)

6. Boring restaurant salad (Magellan)

7. Lettuce, sunflower seeds, green olives, vegan sausages, olive oil-balsamuc-garlic dressing

The result of my experiment? I lost 1.2 pounds a total of 3 inches around the belly. Not bad for someone whose not counting calories, eh?

Anyway. Angel just got her Nutribullet from Lazada which I’m inheriting when she gets married. Next week I’m going to show you 7 Days of Smoothie. Savvy?

Bonus:

I’m addicted to the dressing I doused on most of my salads and it’s so easy to make. Just mix 1 part extra-virgin olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, 1 part minced native garlic, salt and pepper in a jar, cover tightly, and shake until emulsified. You can use whatever herbs you have but Francis loves garlic and I love Francis.

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Coffee Cake Muffins (Version-2)

In my previous post, I said I hate coffee for two reasons: 1) it makes me palpitate; and 2) it wakes me up. Two hours after finishing that coffee cupcake, I decided on a third reason: I’m acidic. I swore I’m not having coffee again (except of course in chocolate cakes).

But today I found myself baking coffee cupcakes again. Reviewing the recipe from Bosh, I discovered that I made a couple of stupid mistakes:

  • The original recipe calls for self-raising flour. In my excitement, I missed the self-raising part. Thus the absence of a raising agent.
  • I forgot to reduce the amount of flour. Because whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid, 3/4 cup of it should be substituted for a cup of its refined counterpart.

In addition, I discovered that each unfrosted muffin contains a whopping 280 calories! And I doused fudge on Every. Single. Muffin. To add insult to the injury I ate two. And it was breakfast.

Horrible.

And so, as if it could undo the damage, I decided to make another batch. This time, it will be fluffy (I thought if I made it fluffy I could halve the recipe and still have 12 muffins) and lower in the calorie department.

I also decided that this time, I will take my time preparing the ingredients. Here’s the step by step account:

First, I cleaned the entire work area and prepared only the necessary equipment and ingredients. I prepped my muffin tin, too. By necessary I meant the oven, one mixing bowl, 1/4-cup measuring cup and measuring spoons. Seriously that is everything you need. This is Tip 1. Clear the clutter, clear your mind.

Next, I preheated the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (356 degrees Fahrenheit). A pastry chef in the nutrition club I joined before decided to go vegan made me purchase an oven thermometer. It was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life. Tip 2: Buy an oven thermometer.

In connection with that, it’s really important to preheat your oven. That makes the difference between success and favor. That’s Tip 3.

Then, I made my self-raising whole wheat flour. I measured 140 grams of whole wheat flour and added in 1 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. From this mixture I measured 3/4 cup. This is Tip 4, or how to make your own self-raising whole wheat flour. Hahaha. Courtesy of Food Network.

Tip 5 is scooping ingredients into the measuring cups using a spoon. Scooping directly with your measuring cups may result in you getting more that what you need.

The next I did was to measure everything before I start mixing the ingredients. This is a very easy cake recipe with just five ingredients and does not require mixing the dry and wet separately.

Because I don’t have a food processor, I mixed the ingredients by hand. Tip 6: do not overmix. Then, I spooned the batter into the lined muffin tin. Since I expected that the cake will rise during baking, I just filled them halfway. (Plus I intented them to be small to halve the calories so…) Gently tap the tin on the table to get rid of air bubbles.

Once the oven reached the desired temperature, I popped the tin into the oven and patiently waited. Yesterday’s recipe had a baking time of 20 minutes but since this recipe is just half of that, I estimated the baking time to be 12 to 15 minutes.

Since these are muffins, you can tell the cakes are done when cracks form on top but they still look moist. Tip 7 comes from baking goddess Anna Olson: it’s better to slightly underbake than slightly overbake. Using the toothpick test, I removed the cakes from the oven at 14 minutes.

Now here’s Tip 8: Cool the muffins in the tin for just a few minutes, then transfer them to a cooling rack. Leaving it even a tad longer in the tin continues the baking through residual heat, risking overbaking.

The muffins turned out this way:

Observations:

  1. The muffins did not rise as much as I wanted. I wanted them to double but that’s stretching it too far, right?
  2. The coffee flavor was really pronounced this time. Unlike the first version, which tasted more like sugar, this tasted like black coffee.
  3. They definitely are cupcakes, not muffins. Hahaha. Truth is the tops are ugly. (None of the beautiful cracks I was aiming for.) They definitely need frosting but I didn’t care for the extra calories.

All in all, I am pleased with how these muffins turned out.

Healthy Coffee Cake Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour  (measure from mixture of 1 cup flour plus 1 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/4-1/2 tsp salt)
  • 1/2 cup muscovado sugar, lightly packed
  • 2.5 tbsp fine coffee powder, decaffeinated (I used Nescafe instant) – you can use less coffee is you want a subtler flavor
  • 6 tbsp cup soymilk
  • 1/4 cup cup oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line muffin tin with 12 liners.
  2. Mix together all ingredients and divide batter into muffin liners.
  3. Bake at preheated oven for 12-14 minutes.
  4. Cool on a rack.
  5. Eat.

So there you go. Try it and tell me what you think! Happy vegan baking!

P.S. Francis’ verdict:

Q: Regardless of the calorie count, which muffin do you prefer?

A: I prefer this one.

Q: How many of these will you eat without feeling guilty?

A: 5

I so love this man.

Coffee Cake Muffins (Version 1)

In this age of coffee shops, I consider myself an anomaly: I hate coffee. First, because it gives me palpitations. Second, because it wakes me up. Being someone who prefers sleep over everything (yes, even chocolate), I naturally gravitate towards the calming, soothing, sensual route of tea.

Having said that, coffee is indispensible and irreplaceable in my baking arsenal. I love chocolate second only to sleep and coffee plays a huge role in that: in baking, coffee gives depth to chocolate and enhances its goodness. Therefore I always make sure to add coffee even if the recipe doesn’t state it. (Truth is I wouldn’t know if it affected the finished products since I never tried not mixing coffee.)

So to pay my respects to this ingredient (and do a little something for coffee-loving F), I made coffee cake. Which I turned into cupcakes. Because I’m a cupcake person.

I followed the coffee cake recipe from my favorite Facebook page, Bosh, although with some modifications: I used whole wheat flour (because I’ve recently decided to bake only with whole wheat and gluten-free flours for fitness reasons), used muscovado instead of light brown sugar (because I’m just finishing off the remaining muscovado – which I thought was unrefined but turns out isn’t – and then I’d switch to coconut sugar), and used 5 tablespoons of coffee instead of three.  (I know. Five, right?) Also, as I said, I turned it into cupcakes thus reducing the baking time from 25 to 20 minutes.

(I was scared because the recipe didn’t call for any rising agent but I stopped myself from adding in baking soda and vinegar and decided to trust Bosh. Needless to say, naturally, it didn’t rise. Not that it was meant to.)

The finished product are twelve dense yet yummy cupcakes. There’s a nutty flavor and texture from the whole wheat which I love. For the icing I just melted Malagos chocolate in soymilk and coconut butter and whisked it with a little powdered sugar with a hand mixer. It was runny but I’m yet to learn frostings. And a sprinkle of cocoa nibs on top. Because I have to have chocolate.

For a first try, not bad. Not bad at all.

And yes, I’m palpitating right now.

Coffee Cupcakes (makes 12)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup muscovado sugar
  • 5 tbsp fine coffee powder
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 3/4 cup oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line cupcake tin with 12 liners.
  2. Mix all ingredients and whisk.
  3. Pop in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  4. Once done, cool for a few minutes (maximum of 5) in the tin before letting cool on a rack.
  5. Eat as it is or frost as you wish. 😊

P.S. The cake is going to be heavy and dense. F said he won’t snack after eating one. One of these days I’m going to experiment and add a rising agent. Maybe I could double the yield to halve the calories too. For the meantime, I’m going to drink tea to ease the palpilations. Lol.

Date Like a Vegan: Pipino Restaurant

Francis and I have decided that our dates are going to be centered on food. Instead of visiting tourist spots or doing activities the place has to offer, we are going to scout its vegan food scene.

The first product of that mutual decision is this post.

We’ve planned this date since March – since we first learned of the free admission at the National Museum Planetarium – but things always came up on our chosen weekends. So we decided to take a leave from work BEFORE THE FREE ADMISSION ENDS. Anyway what’s one day compared to a serving of vegan karekare, right?

Pipino: Vegetarian Food by Pino, is found at Malingap St., Teacher’s Village, Diliman, Quezon City. It’s from the same group that owns Pino – a non-vegetarian restaurant – which is on the ground floor. Francis and I made the mistake of entering Pino instead and in horror saw animal bones being served. Pipino is on the second floor.

The place is small and cozy and is everything we imagine a vegan restaurant to be. The color scheme, the furniture, the decor – they’re all earthy. There’s no mistaking this is meant to be at least eco-friendly.

We had lemongrass pipino ginger cooler which was very refreshing after being under the hot Metro Manila sun. We loved the warming kick of the ginger, a welcome antidote to brainfreeze.

Next to be served is this pancit canton made of buckwheat noodles. Actually, I wasn’t impressed taste-wise. (Francis makes better pancit and I make better fried tofu. LOL.) The restaurant can use a little seasoning. But the lumpia was so delicious we ordered the trio plate.

Unfortunately, by the time they arrived we were full to our throats so we had them packed for take out instead. Of three variants, the one with the nori – sosy-fied lumpiang gulay – is the best.

The reason we chose Pipino to be the venue of our first food date is actually the karekare. It’s Francis’ favorite food so we were both excited when it arrived that we immediately dug in and forgot to take a picture. I, for one, missed the puso ng saging. The bagoong tasted like Lee Kum Kee garlic and black bean paste. The best thing is it inspired us to develop our own karekare recipe for the vegan restaurant I’m planning to open.

And of course, the highlight of our date: dessert! We had the halohalo. The ice cream was orgasmic (or at least we think because we haven’t had vegan ice cream before… and we haven’t had ice cream in a long time). We didn’t like the leche flan: it was depressing that it didn’t taste like the dairy version. My ultra high expectations for the leche flan were not met. Good thing Francis was impressed with the sweet potatoes and I loved the sweetened coconut and we agreed that overall, the owners should be proud of their summer offering. It was delicious.

Overall, Francis and I were much pleased with our first food date. Not only did we feel we were superheroic eating while saving the planet, we’re now inspired to finish the concept of the 100% vegan, 100% halal and 100% kosher restaurant that’s opening in San Jose City someday.

Thanks, Pipino! Now where’s our next delicious date going to be?
😋

Vegetarian Food: Cagayan de Oro

Truth is I’d rather this trip didn’t happen. There are still moments I wish I didn’t push through with the summer conference. Then maybe Inoo wouldn’t be sick, then he wouldn’t die. Or if it really was his time, at least I would be by his side. But I know that no matter how hard I wish I could turn back time and change everything, Cagayan de Oro happened. I also know that Inoo wouldn’t want to see me unhappy forever because of him – he has always done everything to make me happy.

Also, Cagayan de Oro had been good to my vegetarian belly that forgetting about it entirely is a disservice to the city. So here it goes: my vegetarian (mis) adventures in Cagayan de Oro!

Day 1: April 26, 2017

Since deciding to become vegetarian five years ago, I had become a traveling Girl Scout: I make it a point to do my research prior to the trip on vegetarian restaurants, health stores and markets, and I pack lots of emergency food that would last for days just in case. Just to illustrate how unprepared I was for this trip, I only had a family pack of Grower’s garlic and onion almonds, since I was confident I’d actually have food at the venue because I indicated in the registration that I’m “vegan”.

Unfortunately, there was no vegan food at the buffet. (Apparently there was an instruction to send me to the kitchen to plan my food but I wasn’t told about it until Day 2.) So when the conference started at about half past one, I was so HANGRY I almost cried.

Good thing I brought a box of Yogi Green Tea Kombucha – the best variant I’ve had so far – and I lasted until snack time where they served suman and a slice of mango. It actually came with hot chocolate but I refused it, naturally, since it had milk. (At this point I’d like to thank the waiters at Pearlmont Hotel for being honest and knowledgeable about what’s in their food.)

Before dinner, I went to Healthy Options at Centrio Mall to buy noodles, granola and hot choco mix.

Dinner was great. From Centrio I walked for about twenty minutes to Pilian Cafe at Centerpoint. Pilian Cafe is a small vegetarian restaurant that I found on my research.

The place was actually packed when I arrived. I was pleasantly surprised to know that there’s a market for vegetarian food at CDO.  Because it’s just my second time at a vegetarian restaurant (the first was at Ima’s at Puerto Princesa in 2013), I ordered a lot for one: cucumber shake, fried vegemeat with mushroom gravy, and Veggie Glow rice bowl.


Needless to say, I finished everything. See 4th photo.

Day 2: April 27, 2017

Day 2 was a lot better. The organizers finally realized I hadn’t eaten so I was sent to the kitchen for the very specific instructions for cooking my food. I came up with this:


So by lunch I had a family size serving of chopsuey – which I have to say is really delicious – that I shared with another vegetarian at the conference. For dinner, I had a huge plate of tossed salad which I honestly didn’t enjoy because I’m not really a salad person. Anyway, apologies for forgetting to take pictures of the food because I was too excited to devour their veganized food. I’d just post this instead:
I inserted being vegan with the group activity (linked data or how to connect “Ariana Grande” and “rice”) and got applauded for my genius. Lol.

Day 3: April 28, 2017

I received the news of Inoo’s illness on Day 3 so it was such a particularly hard day. Since my fruit plate didn’t get delivered, I ate Annie Chun’s udon bowl from Healthy Options for breakfast – which was scrumptious, if you’re wondering – and this vegan fig bar I accidentally found at 7 Eleven. Why don’t they have in all their branches?

For lunch, I had another family-size platter of sotanghon guisado. Again, I failed to take a picture – because I was distracted about Inoo. But I swear the chef at Pearlmont Hotel did a great job.

For dinner, despite not feeling hungry at all, I returned to Pilian Cafe and had carrot juice, sisig (which I learned was not vegan too late and it made me guilty that I found it really delicious), brown rice and fried sweet potatoes.

Nevertheless, I tried to enjoy my dinner in between praying that God spared Inoo.

I also bought pasalubong from Pilian Cafe: their guilt-free chicharon and Mookie. Because of Inoo’s illness I didn’t have the chance to look around for vegetarian pasalubong as I usually do. But no regrets: my Inoo is more important.

Day 4: April 29, 2017

Pineapple juice, Fig Bar and Soon vegan ramyun from 7 Eleven was all I ate.  (And it was brunch.) I was not hungry. I was sad.  Inoo died. But…

In another circumstance, I guess being vegetarian in CDO would have been a better experience. Unfortunately I couldn’t be “in the moment” at the time.

So maybe next time.

After all the nice lady at Pilian said I should bring my Significant Other next time. Let’s see. If he wants. And if Cagayan de Oro isn’t traumatic anymore.

Monster Banana Muffins

If I become the president of the republic, my first executive order has to be to make bananas the Philippine national fruit.  My second is to serve bananas at at least one meal in all official functions of all government agencies.  And then I will call the chef and ask her (or him) to bake me the most delicious vegan banana cake in history.

Because the humble, delicious banana is happiness.  There’s even a joke at the office to make anyone in a bad mood eat bananas.  And because my Boy Scout was in a bad mood yesterday, I made banana muffins.  (Okay, okay.  His bad mood was just an excuse to bake since he was already fine yesterday afternoon.  But still… bananas, right?)  Truth is, he told me banana is his least liked bread/cake but because I love banana bread/cake (and it’s the easiest to make), he consented to eating this for breakfast today.  We pretended we joined the city’s fun run and this was our post-run food.  (By the way, bananas are excellent post-run.)

I’ve made countless batches of banana bread/cake/muffins before since as I said they’re a breeze to bake.  And I hate to admit this but my favorite version is those I’ve made back in my lacto-ovo days.  They had a good rise, moist on the inside, and had a crunchy top.

But those lacto-ovo days are definitely over so I don’t even look at non-vegan recipes anymore.  Unfortunately, the recipe I’ve been using since then, my favorite vegan Chef Chloe Coscarelli’s banana bread, was more pudding than cake.  (I’m not sure if I’ve been doing it wrong.  But since mine and hers look the same, I don’t think I was.)

So this morning at 4 a.m., I decided I will make banana muffins.  I pre-heated my oven and made the following changes to my go-to recipe:

  • I sifted the dry ingredients.  Chef Chloe’s recipe doesn’t call for sifting, and in fact I’ve read that I must not if the recipe doesn’t call for it.  But for some reason sifting makes my whole wheat cakes lighter so for now I’m not giving it up.
  • I used whole wheat pastry flour instead of all purpose flour because whole wheat pastry flour is healthier.
  • I used ground cinnamon and omitted nutmeg, cloves and ginger because I didn’t have them at the moment.
  • I used regular soymilk instead of coconut milk because I thought maybe coconut milk is causing the cake to be dense.
  • I used 3/4 cup muscovado sugar instead of 2 cups sugar because muscovado is healthier and 2 cups sugar is just too much.
  • I used a blender to mix the wet ingredients so the bananas are practically invisible when you bite into the cake.  I just thought that will make my cake lighter.

(Mama always reprimands me for attempting to healthify recipes which sometimes end in kitchen disasters but. No. One. Can. Stop. Me.)

I meant to bake my muffins for just 25 minutes but I overstayed in the bath so they baked for 28 minutes.  I inserted a skewer and was pleasantly surprised that they were perfectly baked.

The result of my 4 a.m. experiment?

  • Just right sweetness.
  • Nice rise.
  • Top is crispy.

Beautiful.  And yes, I almost cried.

I’m not saying it’s healthy because of it’s size.  (One muffin has probably 600 calories.)  But all the ingredients are good for you.  It’s vegan, whole wheat, and refined sugar-free.  You can healthify it further by making them smaller but at the moment, I’m happy.

By the way, it’s not yet Christmas.  Pardon the pretty, pretty liners.

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Patti’s Monster Banana Muffins

Yield: 6 monster muffins

Ingredients:

Dry:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup muscovado sugar

Wet:

  • 1 cup overripe lakatan bananas (3-4 medium)
  • 1 cup soymilk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Optional:

  • 6 pcs Malagos 65% dark chocolate, quartered

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celcius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) and line a six-cup muffin tin with large cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon before adding in the muscovado sugar and mix them well.
  3. Add in all wet ingredients in a blender and blitz.
  4. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and stir just until incorporated.  You know the golden rule: Thou shall not overmix.
  5. Pour the batter into prepared muffin tin and if you want, add your choice of topping.
  6. Bake in the oven for 25-28 minutes.  The muffins are baked when a bamboo skewer (a toothpick will not suffice for muffins of this size) inserted at the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool a bit and enjoy!

Here’s the instruction:

Banana Muffins

Tips:

  • The recipe will also make 12 regular muffins, 24 mini muffins, or 1 cake.
  • Pre-heating the oven as accurately as you can makes all the difference in baking.  A local pastry chef advised me to get an oven thermometer and my baking has definitely improved since then.
  • Use overripe bananas.  The ones with some black spots.
  • You may blend your wet mixture by hand.  Of course.  But you’d want to mash your bananas first.  Of course.
  • It is important to work really fast when baking using baking soda and vinegar as egg replacer.  If not, this mad scientist trick will not work.
  • I’ve tried brown sugar and chopped nuts for toppings, too, and they’re amazing!

By the way, here’s the nutritional facts from Spark People Recipe Nutrition Calculator.

monster

What to Take Home from Ilocos Region?

If I wasn’t fasting in preparation for Easter Sunday, I’d say Ilocos starved me.  The menus of roadside eateries and higher-end restaurants were laden with dead animals – it made me sad they didn’t observe Lent – and animal byproducts.  Truth is the only proper meal I had during the three-day, two-night retreat with the family was a cup of plain unpolished rice, atsara (pickled papaya), four slices of cucumber, soy sauce with vinegar, and lemongrass tea.  (Special thanks to Pannzian Beach.)

But what did I expect?  Ilocos Region takes pride in its love for bagnet (deep fried pork belly) – which is bad for animals and bad for you, by the way.  Luckily, I found vegetarian pasalubong to take back to Nueva Ecija.

Here they are:

  1. Chichacorn.  The quintessential product of Ilocos Region, chichacorn is always your safest bet for meat-free (though not necessarily healthy) pasalubong.  It can be found in practically every souvenir store.  It comes in different variants, some of which are not vegetarian. Choose garlic, spicy, and sweet and spicy to be safe.
  2. Namnama’s Garlic Camote Chips.  Namnama has various fried chips but most of them had honey.  I was lucky to find this variant at Marsha’s and it features mountain-grown sweet potatoes, garlic, and vegetable oil as its only ingredients.
  3. Sukang Iloko.  Ilocos is also known for its vinegar.  Cormelfoods (available at Marsha’s) follows century-old tradition and makes theirs from sugarcane juice and dried leaves, bark, and seeds of samak, a medicinal plant.  You can also buy spicy variants at Tiongson’s at Calle Crisologo in Vigan.
  4. Tablea.  Chocolate-e?  Chocolate-a?  Being a self-confessed chocolate addict, I’m really happy that there seems to be no shortage of chocolate in places I’ve visited in the past six months (Davao, Cebu, Tuguegarao, and Ilocos).  Their tablea comes in the form of chocolate balls or discs.
  5. Aling Presing’s Taro Chips.  With native taro, vegetable oil, garlic and salt as its ingredients,  taro chips are a gem amidst the animal- and animal byproduct-laden spread of pasalubong at a souvenir shop beside Paoay Church.

So there.  Hard, but it turns out it’s not completely impossible to find vegetarian food in bagnet country.  I just hope I can say the same for a proper sit down meal.

What to Take Home from Tuguegarao City

Boy Scout and Girl Scout were prepared for our Tuguegarao City weekend trip with the LRMDC Team.  We knew finding vegetarian (not to mention Daniel Fast-friendly) food in street-side eateries and even slightly high-end restaurants in Philippine provinces will be mission impossible so we had our bagful of fruits and nuts (two ways) and oranges to keep us alive for two days.

We were right, of course.  Tuguegarao City in the beautiful province of Cagayan is definitely not your vegan travel destination.  We told Ma’am Sheng not to mind us – there had to be bananas and corn we can buy along the way, right?  But because of traditional Filipino hospitality, the Scouts were fed vegetarian food especially prepared for our discomfort-causing eating principles guised as fasting.  (Not really.  We are really in a fast.  But it was easier to say we are fasting that say we are vegetarians.)

What Tuguegarao City lacked in vegetarian food, it made up for in its array of vegetarian pasalubong to bring back to our loved ones left at home.  (Yes, I’m talking about our families… and our office mates who only found out about our top-secret trip through Facebook.)

Here are some of the vegetarian pasalubong options from Tuguegarao City:

  1. Rice and cassava chicharon.  I’m a junk food junkie.  Made with just rice and cassava flours, oil. seasonings, and optional vegetables like malunggay and squash, this is not just vegetarian but gluten-free as well.  I bought both Chicharice and Chicha-rica brands and they’re both so delicious my family finished three packs in one sitting.
  2. Oven-baked peanuts.  Sir Allan, who unfortunately couldn’t join us, made it a point to tell us about the oven-baked peanuts of Tuguegarao City.  I oven-bake my peanuts so I thought there’s nothing really special about this anymore.  But anything to support the local vegetarian food scene.  Plus peanuts are my favorite.
  3. Coffee coconut jam.  Boy Scout loves coffee but since it’s prohibited in our Daniel Fast, I didn’t buy coffee coconut jam, which is one thing I really regret.  It’s also made with nothing else but coffee, coconut milk, and muscovado sugar.  (There’s also plain coconut jam made with coconut milk and muscovado sugar.)  Sweet!
  4. Tablea and cacao balls.  I’m in love with chocolates.  Tablea and cacao balls, made of nothing but cacao, sugar and a bit of oil, can be easily made into hot chocolate or champorado.
  5. Mushroom seasoning and longganisa marinade.  100% pure organic mushroom seasoning and longganisa marinade are ultimate finds for vegetarian cooks at home.  In our case, that’s us – Boy Scout and Girl Scout.  Although they’re not products of Cagayan, I’m totally raving right now so I have to include it.  One of these days I’m going to make my own longganisa and tell you how it tastes.

We bought these at the gem of a pasalubong center along Luna St., Brgy. Ugac, Tuguegarao City called Lighthouse Cooperative’s Pasalubong Store.  There’s also rice puffs, camote, taro and banana chips, agar-agar, jams, coffee, etc.  Actually half the products are vegetarian friendly so there’s a lot to choose from.

What I also love about these vegetarian pasalubong choices is that they’re not made with too many ingredients and almost no artificial components.  Most importantly, they are cheap.  And vegetarian.

Vegan Mudpie at Mudpie Heaven

For four years we had dinner together.  For four years we talked and laughed about the same things: our crushes, our favorite professors, our crushes.  Then UP was kind to us and we had to say goodbye.

Flash forward to February 4, 2017.  We finally saw each other again after five years – Babes, Camille, Shyne and I.  Aica, being Aica, was missing in action.  Still, we had a blast at Circuit Makati over Chinese food and scrumptious mudpie!

(True friends will look for restaurants that serve vegan food for the weird probinsiyana.)


After a big lunch of rice and stir-fried spinach, I was determined not to have dessert but had an instant change of heart upon seeing the sole vegan offering on the menu.  I had to ‘coz maybe they’d add more vegan options in the future.


Beautiful dark chocolate over dark chocolate over dark chocolate mudpie.  This is mudpie heaven indeed.  With fresh edible snapdragon.  Did I forget to mention I am obsessed with chocolate?


Needless to say, I loved it.  A lot.

They also sell local products like chili and coconut oil.  And I have to mention I super love these:


Thanks, Mudpie Heaven!

Cupcakes for Breakfast?

I’m on a diet. 😭

Seriously.  Because I’m meeting up with my UP girlfriends on February 4.

I tweaked the recipe from the book “Idiot’s Guide to Vegan Cooking” by using brewed coffee instead of water, halving the sugar, and subbing muscovado instead of coco sugar.  Anyway, I’m not very happy with the result – it’s not sweet at all… to the point of tastelessness – so I’m not going to post the recipe yet until I’ve perfected it.  I’ll try again later.  My problem now is who’s gonna want to taste a tasteless cupcake?