Super Moist Vegan Chia Banana Muffins

Even though I do not eat a vegan diet, I love cooking vegan (especially the baked goodies). I mean, who wouldn’t? No animal by-products which means no butter, no eggs, no milk, no nothing bad! You can eat the sweets guilt-free AND you get good poops the next day.

Yep, I only do real talk.

I don’t know about you but I hate eating overripe bananas. I like my bananas just yellow, even with a little green. When the first brown spot comes out, it’s game over. This recipe gives those overripe bananas an opportunity to become beautiful again.

Packed full with chia seeds, fiber and banana chunks, these muffins are perfect for breakfast or as an after workout snack. And the best part (besides all of it)? It takes only a handful of ingredients and prep time is less than 15 minutes.

Okay, enough talking. Enjoy these muffins! The batch I made this morning is already gone …. 😉

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Super Moist Vegan Chia Banana Muffins
Adapted from: Kitchen Treaty
Yield: 12 standard muffins

Ingredients:
2 tbsp chia seeds + 6 tbsp water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 medium overripe bananas
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with oil.
2. In a small bowl, mix together chia seeds and water. Set aside. The chia seeds will have a goopy consistency after about 7 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt.
4. In a medium bowl, mash bananas until you get a consistency you like (smooth to chunky). Stir in brown sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Add in chia seed mixture and stir until combined.
5. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir together until just incorporated. Batter will be very thick.
6. Divide batter equally into the muffin pan.
7. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick/chopstick comes out clean when inserted into the muffin. Depending on what type of oven you have, the baking time varies.
8. Remove from oven and let the pan cool for about 15 minutes and then …
9. EAT IT!

Chinese and Gay: Part 1

Today is the day I share my coming out story. I’ve never publicly shared my experience before because it’s always been an intimate  struggle for me, as I’m sure you can understand. But now, today, I am ready to be vulnerable; I’m ready to share my story. Let me make this more clear though (through categorizing myself in a box): This is my coming out story as a gay, first-generation, Asian, Cantonese-speaking, American-Chinese queer lesbian. I’ve never read my story anywhere else but I know many others like myself and in their eyes, I can see the reflection of my own difficulties. It’s strange how this world is so full of people , in yet, you can feel so alone.

But my goal today is to let you, my reader, know that you are not alone no matter how alone you may feel. Whether you are gay or straight or Asian or white, we all have our struggles and our own story. This is mine, and I hope you can find strength through my words and courage from my experience.

Deep sigh … and here we go.

My coming out story takes place from when I was 15 and ended when I was 22.

What? 7 years?

Yes, that’s right. Contrary to whatever belief is out there, coming out doesn’t happen over night (at least not for me). My whole process of coming out included many stages: suspecting, finding out, asking, admitting, arguing, convincing, arguing, convincing, believing, convincing, arguing over and over again … until finally, acceptance. Coming out also included many people: my family (mom, dad, brother, sister), my extended family (my cousins), my friends who are my family, my significant other and myself. In all of these entities, not one person had it easy with my coming out experience.

Isn’t that weird? I’m the one who is gay in yet a plethora of people were affected by me realizing who I am. HA, if only they knew to throw me a celebratory party instead, we wouldn’t have had to struggle so much.

Growing up, I didn’t learn English until I was 5 and grew up in a traditionally Chinese environment: I spoke Cantonese, I ate Chinese food every night, I listened to only Chinese music and my dad brought home the BBQ pork while my mom stayed home to cook it. I like to tell my friends that I essentially grew up in a “Chinese cave.” I watched shows that put men and women in their “traditional roles,” respectively. Growing up, I knew what I was taught and I knew that I was supposed to like boys, grow up and marry a dude and have kids with him. Oh, the dumplings that life throws at you …

When I was in elementary school, I had crushes on boys and girls. My little 8 year old brain didn’t comprehend what it meant to really like someone, so  .. whoever was cute (girl or boy), I would avert my eyes out of embarrassment but secretly write their names in my notebook. When I was 13 and in middle school, I started having less crushes on boys and more serious crushes on girls. In fact, my crushes on girls were so serious that I started dating them. The hell? Since when was that allowed? But .. sadly, throughout all of this, my parents and extended family didn’t know. To put it simply, I didn’t tell them because I was scared of what they might say. My relationship with my parents began to suffer: I stopped sharing my life with them and they started to notice.

I had my first girlfriend when I was 15 and that’s when things really started picking up. I lead a double life. At home, I was a quiet daughter who did her homework and ate her meals silently. At school, I was outgoing and out and proud. I started introducing my girlfriend to my friends and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. Even my teachers were supportive! I was so happy to be at school where I could be myself. I was so unhappy to be at home where I had to hide.

Let’s talk about why I hid because now that I think about it, no one told me to hide. I just did.

The pressures of being the first-born, first-generation American-Chinese put heavy responsibilities on my shoulders. I felt like I had to make my family proud (even though they never pressured me) and I felt like I had to fit in a very specific box. If I didn’t, then I would bring shame to my family. My parents’ pride and joy were their children and I didn’t want to let them down. Being straight was definitely one of the boxes I needed to fit into even though I didn’t want to be in it. Surely parents are supposed to love their children through all circumstances, right?

Well, apparently not. As a teenager, I had read horrible coming out stories of kids being kicked out of their parents home, being left on the street, being verbally and physically bullied, being shunned and worst: shamed to the point of committing suicide. I didn’t want to experience any of those even though “family” meant that you shouldn’t have to live through them. I wasn’t brave enough to give them the chance and I sure as hell wasn’t brave enough to give myself the chance. I already knew I had depression, and I didn’t want to make it worse. For my own safety, as a 16 year old kid, I knew that if I told my parents that I’m gay, I would be broken.

Unfortunately, I was forced to come out at 16. (Damnit! Exactly what I didn’t want!) Since I had a girlfriend, I had started acting even more suspicious than normal. My girlfriend at the time was over at my parents house with me a lot and one day, my mom and dad burst through my bedroom door to find me giving her a kiss. And that is when the shit-show began. I’m not even kidding you: it was a shit-show. The whole family was involved and this is how some of the night went:

My mom sat at the dining table crying into her hands, “Why? Why? What did I do wrong? I didn’t raise you to be this way. Why?”

My dad looking out into the back yard, completely silent.

My  7 year old sister hiding behind a wall, peeking in but not wanting to be noticed.

My 13 year old brother sitting on the couch, listening, trying to understand.

And me: already feeling like I wanted to die. Already feeling like I am the biggest mistake ever made.

And again, my mom, voice coarse from crying, “Why are you punishing us?”

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Wow, shit. I can’t even finish writing this. Even though this was years and years ago, it’s still really difficult to relive my memories.

I’m sorry, but I will have to finish sharing my coming out story later.

Love,

Win

Autumn Caprese Salad

Autumn is the time for heirloom tomatoes and pumpkin spice everything! Whenever I walk into a grocery store, I am bombarded with all kinds of festive foods: butterut squash, spiced apple cider and pumpkin puree.

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Whenever I walk to a farmers market, I am reminded of all the juicy, delicious heirloom tomatoes that are bursting with tender sweetness … and with this, I have to say: even in all of this cold, it is still nice to enjoy a refreshing salad! I even bought a basil plant for this occasion!

My caprese salad recipe is flavorful and tart. My secret (or not so secret) ingredient is garlic, like it frequently is. While I am eating this savory salad, my appetite reacts to the garlic and opens up for more. Great news because autumn requests room for more goodies like roasted vegetables!

In the meantime, take it one step at a time and start with this salad 😉

Autumn Caprese Salad
Serves 2
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Ingredients
2 cups mini heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 cup part skim mozzarella, diced
1/4 cup basil, cut into thin ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
black pepper, to taste

Instructions
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Drain bowl if too much liquid gathers in the bottom.
2. Enjoy!
3. If only everything in life was this easy!

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Love,

Winnie

Making New Friends By Overcoming the “Seattle Freeze”

7pm. Dinner. My place.
New friends. People I’ve never met before.
Crap, what if we have nothing in common?
CRAP, what if we have nothing to talk about?!
Extra crap! They’re going to be in my house!
Panic! Panic!

Wow, just writing that made my palms sweaty! Thankfully, the dinner a couple nights ago went great. But before I go too deep into it (and before giving you my delicious crispy pizza dough recipe), I want to explain why I invited practically strangers into my home.

I am proud to say that I use a dating website called OkCupid.

But wait, Winnie, don’t you already have a girlfriend? The answer is yes, I do! I am happily taken by the love of my life, Macy, but that doesn’t mean I still don’t use a dating website for making friends. Over the last several years of being in the city, I have experienced something called the “Seattle Freeze.” It is this phenomenon that happens only in Seattle where it’s pretty damn hard to make friends. If you’re from here, you know how that conversation goes:

New friend: Let’s go grab a drink sometime!
You: Yeah, I heard of this new bar called Blah Blah in Blergh neighborhood that serves great Blah! 
NF: Oh my gosh, that sounds so good. Let’s definitely go!
You: Yeah, let’s!

And then it ends. That’s it. That’s all. Nada. Finis. OVER. Finish line.

For the next couple days, you think about going to that bar. And then for the next couple weeks, the idea pops in your head once in a while until finally a couple months later, you forget all about it … until you suddenly run into that friend at a grocery store and the whole cycle starts over again!

Trust me, it’s not because Seattle-lites are mean people. It’s not because we are flaky and it’s not because we are unfriendly. My suspicion is that we are just too shy to make the first move. Except for me 😉

Okay, flash forward. My new friend Jules messaged me on OkCupid saying that she’s new in the city and wants to make new friends! Plus, in her message, she wrote that I seem cool (schmooze points accepted). As a valiant warrior against the Seattle Freeze, I immediately get this “new friend process” started. Here are some unauthorized, never-before-seen rules on how to overcome the Seattle Freeze:

Rule 1: Say hi.
Rule 2: Give out your number and begin a friendly text conversation. Use proper grammar.
Rule 3: Invite new friend out. Establish solid meeting date and time.
Rule 4: Follow through. 

As someone who is from the Pacific Northwest and and is still a victim of the Seattle Freeze, I can confidently say that these rules have helped me withstand the brutal freeze. Seattle is a great city with many great people. It’s time that we open up and show compassion towards one another.

Well, compassion in means of buying someone a drink or a cup of coffee 😉

Two nights ago, my new friend Jules and her girlfriend Talia came over to my place and together with Macy, we all had a great time getting to know each other and making pizza. Turns out, it really does pay off to take the first step no matter how nerve-wrecking it is. Making friends is hard, I will agree with that. However, in my opinion, having no friends is harder.

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Cheers! To ending Seattle Freeze!

Love,
Win

Sharing My Kitchen

What a great Tuesday it has been here in Seattle! After several days of gloomy grey skies and down-pouring rain, it’s pretty nice to feel the sun on my skin again! Hopefully this will stay for just a little longer … but probably not 😉

With the sunshine came a bright new day for me: I did what I love most! I woke up and slowly wandered my way into my kitchen to begin doing whatever I wanted! In this case, I am entertaining new friends tonight with a make-your-own-pizza dinner. As I am kneading my dough on my lightly floured counter, it dawned on me that I have never shared my kitchen with you.

What?

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That’s right. I have never showed even a little bit of what my kitchen looks like! Crazy, especially with this blog chronicling my journey into self-discovery. And so, after I plopped my pizza dough into the fridge to rise, I called forth my amateur photography skills. I think I did pretty well for having only a smart phone 😉 And here it is! My little kitchen located in the heart of Ballard. 🙂 It is small but it is all I need!

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On the left here are the cookbooks that I own. Most of them are gifts from my loved ones who support my love for cooking … and also a hint for me to cook for them 😉

My personal favorite is Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman. Here is my chance to gush: I love Deb’s cookbook. It’s so practical and so real and most recipes that I adjust myself are based on her recipes. As I sit here drinking my afternoon coffee (haha, Seattlelite!), I daydream for the day that I can do what she does.

Well … I’m kind of doing that right now 😉

Okay, I wish I could write more but I have to go! But hey, don’t worry. I am definitely going to share my pizza dough recipe and pizza night with y’all … tomorrow morning. After all, I don’t want to share pictures of a brown blob when I could share pictures of a delicious homemade pizza!

And in case you haven’t gotten one, here is a smile for you. 🙂
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Love,
Win

Staying Motivated

Like I’ve mentioned before, I am in this part in my life where I don’t know what I want to do. I have a bachelor’s degree and no direction whatsoever. And hey, it’s not because I’m not a good worker or that I don’t have enough experience at XYZ. I feel that I have no direction whatsoever because I haven’t found my passion. 

There is a saying that goes something like this: “Do what you love and money will follow.” 

As naive as it may seem, I am sticking by this saying. It has become my mantra over the last several months to keep myself motivated as I forge onward. 

I’ve dipped my foot into many kinds of job pools. I’ve tried real estate, event planning, and the coffee scene to name a few. I’ve loved it all! … until I seem to lose focus on what I thought I loved. And when I felt like I couldn’t get anymore out of it or I seemed too bored, then I would just leave the job to find another opportunity. 

And here I am. Having left my last experience in real estate just a month ago, I still haven’t found my next open door. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m not looking hard enough or if doing nothing is what I need to do right now.

All I know is this: do what you love and money will follow. 

Without motivation, and without my desire to look for my passion, then surely I will be stuck. Which makes sense for me to say that staying motivated is the most important thing in my life right now. 

This is just food for thought. Words from a recent college graduate trying to tell the world that everything is going to be okay. 

I hope. 

Love,
Win

Comfort Food: Congee

First, I want to say I love jook.

Wait. What is “jook?”

I’m sorry, let me explain:

Congee, or known to me as “jook,” is a rice porridge. Many versions of congee exist in other cultures such as “lugaw” in the Philippines and “chok” in Thailand. It can be made in many different ways, but I am used to the way my mom made it: plain congee, or congee with hunks of pork or congee with strips of fish.  Whenever I got sick as a little girl, my mom would spoon feed me plain congee to soothe my upset stomach. It’s the food I crave when I feel sick and it’s the perfect remedy for a cough or a sore throat! Trust me!

Now, I want you to know: I am blessed to have so many great friends who are willing to try the food I make. 😛
I serve lugaw to my FIlipino sweetheart whenever she’s sick and I serve plain congee whenever I’m too lazy to make anything requiring more than just boiling. 😉

Given the stress of the day, I think today I am too lazy to make anything complex, and so I give you congee.

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Ingredients
1 cup white rice *
10 cups water
diced scallion (optional)
thinly sliced ginger (optional)
salt (optional)

* Please note: In this recipe, I used sticky short-grain white rice to attain that thick consistency you find in restaurants. If you like your congee more watery, then use jasmine or basmati rice.

Instructions
In a medium large pot, bring water to a boil.
Add rice and bring back to a boil. *Watch your pot otherwise, you’ll get a messy spill!
Reduce to medium-low heat and let gently boil for about 2 hours stirring every half an hour.
You have power here to say when you turn off the heat: if the consistency is something you like, then stop. If not, then keep it going! 🙂

For upset stomachs, serve plain.
For a delicious and comforting dinner, serve with a dash of salt and garnish with scallions and ginger.
Enjoy!

Love,
Win