Lavender Maple Simple Syrup

lavender maple syrup | fit for the soul

Alright you guys.  This is going to be a somewhat "vulnerable" and embarrassing post.  By embarrassing I mean that I don't feel proud of the things I'm going to share, but we are all human and I hope you understand where I'm coming from; perhaps you can even relate?  Normally I don't like to talk about this type of topic because I can't seem to express my thoughts through writing without sounding like a whiner.  Moreover, I don't want it to come off as a pity post in which I want everyone to feel apologetic and obligated to me in any form whatsoever, so let's be on good terms from the get go.  With that in mind, let's move on to this coffee talk, shall we?

If I had to be completely honest to myself (and to you), lately I'm a roller coaster ride of all sorts.  Hello postpartum that-time-of-the-month hormones!  I'm really sorry that I'm disclosing this topic on a (mainly) food blog but yes, I didn't have to deal with any of that for a whole  year+ after having Selah.  It was one of the YAS! moments which has unfortunately come to a halt, haha.  I mean, all things good and bad come to an end, don't they? But all that unpleasant talk aside....I'm not sure if it's hormonal shifts that are taking place, but I realize these days I'm quite fickle when it comes to making decisions for my own self.  These decisions aren't based so much on life or death, but more of where some of my passions are leading me.  As much as I love to blog and share the ins and outs of life with this amazing community, I also find myself questioning whether or not I'm making a difference.  Like, at all. You see, I'm one of those people who need to do things with purpose and seriousness.  If I don't see something beneficial and purposeful coming out of that endeavor which ultimately should bless others, I automatically want to throw in the towel. Sure, comments and interaction fluctuate as that is the norm for any endeavor we pursue, especially blogging.  And even though I know that doesn't determine the cloud of influence I have on others, one night I'll go to bed thinking "agghhh what's the point?" and wake up the next morning feeling rejuvenated and excited to get in the kitchen--ready to share recipes with the whole world and most importantly, the gift of encouragement I have to offer to my readers.  I've been swayed in that manner back and forth for a few months now, but I've come to the realization that I truly am passionate to be a part of this community and (hopefully) am able offer some insight to that one "lost sheep".  I figure this goes for anything in life.  When we know we are in the right place, then that's all the assertion we need to go ahead and make a difference in one person's life.  So whatever is brewing up in the dark abyss of your brain right now, get rid of those thoughts and turn them to good ones.  Don't give up unless you know you're supposed to! 

As I said earlier, sometimes all it takes to gain inspiration for me is to get a good night's sleep.  You know how it goes.  Lack of sleep can really mess with your emotions and science backs it up.  And there are other times when I go out for a walk at the weekend farmers market and inspiration springs up everywhere, like fresh harvest waiting to be reaped.  That is a really fun feeling, you guys.  :)

When I came across this tiny pot of fresh lavender at the farmers market, I knew right then that I would be soon obsessed with the stuff.  Not only am I day dreaming of making candles and whatnot (we'll see about that, ahem), but I'm really excited to include it in some of my dishes, particularly baked goods.  However, I do not advise that you use lavender from actual nurseries because they can be bitter and probably not good for your health due to pesticides.  After realizing that fact post-excitement of buying said plant, I got these cute little dry buds from Whole Foods so we wouldn't die from chocking on soap flavored food.  It only rends about 3 teaspoons but thankfully it is extremely affordable.  I took the liberty to make a simple syrup out of these lavender buds and it couldn't have been easier!  Here's the recipe that's really not a recipe. 

lavender maple syrup | fit for the soul

Lavender Maple Simple Syrup

Makes approximately 2 cups

Ingredients

1/2 C pure maple syrup

1 C water

1/2 C raw cane sugar (or white)

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp dry lavender buds

Directions

Place a small pot on low-medium heat.  Add all the ingredients in the way they are listed and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Stir often.  When it's cooled down you can pour it into a glass container or jar, making sure it's airtight.  Refrigerate for future use.

lavender maple syrup | fit for the soul
lavender maple syrup  fit for the soul4.jpg

So thank you for your constant support.  Thank you for being you and for allowing me to be a part of this community filled with such talented and creative individuals!  I hope to be a blessing to you as much as you have been to me.

lavender maple syrup | fit for the soul

Have you ever used lavender in your cooking?  If so, how was your experience?

How do you deal with negative thoughts when it comes to blogging?  Or anything in life?

My Recommended Recipes+Inspiring Links

Today I want to briefly share the recipes that I personally recommend from the blog.  People sometimes ask me which recipe they can make for so and so occasion.  Of course, I confidently--errr more like nervously?  Pinpoint at this recipe, that recipe, and oh!  That one too!  If I were to be honest, though, I don't think all of Fit for the Soul's recipes are on point. I started this blog when I was quite young in my ways, and my taste buds have definitely developed and refined themselves over the years.  So it's safe to say that I wouldn't necessarily recommend a few of them, but the other ones?  Well, I've got you covered. 

These GF hazelnut cookiewiches with mocha cream cheese filling are sure to wow a crowd. They've been tested by kids and you know what they say--kids are really honest!  Way too honest sometimes.

Another dessert sandwich that is surprisingly vegan and gluten free.  Snickerdoodle and lemon ice cream sandwiches.

If you want to impress that person you're newly dating with your culinary skills, with a look-at-me-i'm-so-culturally-adventurous factor, you might just want to try making hot stone pot (dohlsot) bibimbap.  Can't go wrong with that one because it is extremely versatile.

If your newly acquired boy(girl)friend starts to wonder why you keep on making Asian dishes like this soba with creamy tangerine honey dressing, you can just blame it on me.  Don't worry, I've learned to grow quite a bit of a thick skin. (Or so I'd like to think)

Keeping traditional buttery desserts healthy, vegan, and gf isn't always easy.  Maybe you'll like the healthy profile of this satisfying berry cobbler!

Your AC just broke down, so you swore that if you have to lay your hands on the oven one more time, you'll go crazy.  No problem.  These no-bake almond butter jelly squares will come in handy the next time the AC techy flakes on you.  Plus, one of the steps includes the fridge so you'll stay extra cool, yay!

Let's get crazy with the flavor combos!  How about some mint pineapple cake with mascarpone frosting?  Sounds strange yet tastes so good.  So good that I didn't eat more than 1/3 of it all by myself.

You can also be all kawaii and oh-so-sweet to your kiddos (or significant other) by packing them bento style food, like these carrot shrimp jeon bites with homemade eel sauce.  Mmmm!

Craving a little taste of France, but don't have energy to bake a whole pie, nor take in the extra buttery, albeit delicious calories?  Look no further with this gluten free green onion and spinach quiche for one.

I hope you enjoy if you give them a try. :)

Inspiring Links

I'm sorry this post is full of links, you guys.  But I really want to share the amazingness that these bloggers are, so I hope you don't mind too much.

Lady and Pups' recipes and photography are simply fantastic.  I also think their About page is pretty cool because it's so unique!

Beth Kirby's courage to open up to the world about her bipolar is admirable.  I am blessed to know that she pursues her passions despite the struggles she faces every single day. 

I think I may be a tad obsessed with Japanese anything because I'm loving this foodie guide to Tokyo, written by the wonderful Sarah!

And the Japanese food obsession continues...with Nami's delicious recipes and most importantly, her sweet and kind personality.

Must try these fun moves from Lindsay--especially the plyo press push to ninja tuck.  My abdominal and trapezius muscles are crying already.

Great reminders to stay balanced while pursuing a fit lifestyle.

Try this awesome cardiovascular yoga routine that targets obliques and inner thighs...and then tell me you're not feeling the burn in those exact areas.  You won't regret it!  Or maybe you will?

Have a beautiful day, and I will be unplugging tonight and most of tomorrow for personal reasons.  But do keep in touch because I will be back soon!


What are some inspiring links you've found recently?

Korean+Japanese Recipe: Carrot Shrimp Jeon Bites & Homemade Eel Sauce

carrot jeon triangles with eel sauce-korean and japanese bento style

When I was in elementary school one of my biggest shames was being Korean, or Asian in general, for that matter.  I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday.  That day in 3rd grade when I blatantly asked my mom to stop packing my school lunch, all because I was so tired of having to hide my food that had this distinct "sour smell".  I really tried to hide it too!  But unfortunately, I just could not stop the smell from permeating through the tupperware and onto my school supplies, causing all the kids to scowl in disgust.  Yep, it was good ol' Korean packed lunches to blame for.  Please tell me I'm not the only one who experienced that growing up!  

I really don't mean this to sound like a poor-me post, but it's really not fun to hear remarks like "ewww that red cabbage stinks! (good ol' kimchi)"  at any age, especially if you're the smallest student in your entire 3rd grade and you're straggling behind the big kids, when you could definitely use a boost of self esteem!  Talk about mustering up confidence, right?  Haha, well...thankfully that scenario hasn't been an issue for many years now, and as I mentioned before, I couldn't be any more proud to have my Korean roots still alive and well.  Thank goodness too, because I don't know if I could ever survive without some scrumptious, albeit strong smelling Korean cuisine...but then strangely enough, I don't think I can go without Japanese food either.  Both are equally good.  Both are somewhat complimentary while being on complete opposite sides of the spice spectrum.  Koreans love explosive must-torture-myself flavors, while Japanese folks prefer that subtle and delicate taste in their dishes.  And that's how this cute little bento wannabe recipe came about!  Aside from craving both styles of cuisine, there wasn't any particular reason as to why I chose to create this Korean-Japanese inspired recipe; I guess I simply wanted to play with my food (kids, don't try this at home) and taste the best of both worlds.  :)  The carrot patties/Jeon remind me of a snack my mom used to make me as a kid, and what better way to re-live good childhood memories? 

What I love about these cute little bites is the slight crunch on the exterior of the carrot patties, and soft texture from the other ingredients.  If you've ever tried eel sauce then you probably share my love for its sweet, smoky, and slightly "fishy" flavor without the wangy taste.  Trust me!  Eel sauce isn't as scary as the name suggests.

carrot jeon triangles with eel sauce-korean and japanese bento style | Fit for the Soul

For the cute triangle shapes I used little molds (about 2.5 in. long on each side) for bento boxes, which you can easily get at places like Daiso, Mitsuwa, Marukai.  I'm not sure how accessible Japanese markets are in your area, but to my knowledge Daiso (a Japanese $1 store) has been popping up left and right here in Southern California.  You can probably just as easily order these online, though.  Even though these carrot and rice triangles look tedious to make, they are actually extremely easy to put together.  The best way to go about it is to grate the carrots ahead of time and keep them in the fridge.  And the rice?  Assuming you have a rice cooker, you will have the work done way ahead of time, so the hardest part is probably grating the carrots and making them into carrot jeon (전).  Now onto the recipe!

carrot jeon triangles with eel sauce-korean and japanese bento style | Fit for the Soul

Carrot Shrimp Jeon  Bites with Homemade Eel Sauce

Makes 8 triangles

Ingredients for rice

  • 1 C uncooked brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 C water

Ingredients for carrot patties/Jeon

  • 1 C finely grated carrots (not like pulp)
  • 1/2 C diced shrimp (raw or cooked)
  • 2 TBSP flour dissolved in 3 TBSP water
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • oil spray for cooking

Ingredients for eggs

  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • oil spray for cooking
  • seaweed paper (unsalted, and optional)
  • sesame seeds (optional)

Ingredients for eel sauce // adapted from Nami's recipe

  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1 TBSP white cooking wine
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP flour dissolved in 3 TBSP water
  • 1/8 tsp Hondashi

Directions

First cook brown rice in a rice cooker if possible.  If you don't have a cooker then cook in a pot over medium meat, stirring often.  Set aside but it's okay to use even if it's still warm.  Spray a large skillet with oil and heat up over medium heat.  Grab a medium bowl and thoroughly mix all the carrot ingredients.  Use the triangular bento mold (or cookie cutter of choice) to fill with carrots about 1/3 of the way up, leaving enough for 8 patties total.  Carefully place triangle on skillet with a spatula, and cook about 2 minutes on each side.  Set to cool.

Oil the skillet again.  Scramble all the egg ingredients in a bowl and fill whole skillet with the mixture so the egg is thin.  Cook about 1 minute on each side over low medium heat.  Transfer to flat surface and use mold to cut 8 pieces and set aside.

Fill the bento mold with rice about 1/2 way up and then place on a plate.  Layer with carrot patties and egg.  For the eel (unagi) sauce, simply simmer in a small pot on low heat for about 3 minutes, while stirring a few times.  You can double or quadruple for future use!  The Hondashi is optional but it definitely gives the mixture a more authentic eel flavor.  Lastly, drizzle sauce on top of the stack and garnish with seaweed and sesame seeds!

korean japanese recipe eggs
bento brown rice triangles

Have you tried bento/doshirak in Korean/Asian picnic food before?  What did you think of them?  Don't worry, I won't judge. ;)

Favorite Asian cuisine?

Regaining Focus over a Sea Salt Coffee Date | Cerritos

at fusion tea bar

Photo credit: little sweet boy with Lizzy's phone

Happy Saturday, guys!  Anyone else looking forward to Fall?  I personally can't wait to start wearing more Fall appropriate clothes and eat my heart out in all things pumpkin and spice.  Although I have to admit that for the very first time ever summer wasn't so bad for me.  Maybe it's starting to grow on me even(crossing fingers)!  And maybe...just maybe...flowy dresses and sleeveless tops aren't so annoying anymore.  There was a time when I used to think that dresses and tank tops were the demons of fashion, but now I figure that you can do so much with those clothing items like layering.  Plus, it's kind of nice not to die wearing a cardigan in 80F weather.  Anyway, I was actually going somewhere with this. 

Oh yes.  This summer has been special in that I've gotten to witness the beginning of toddler years.  And let me tell you, those toddler years are filled with fun and adorable moments as well as busyness everywhere you go.  Yesterday I met up with my amazing, most golden hearted friend, Elizabeth (lizzy) and I could not for the life of me sit down for even a minute.  Selah was as sweet as pie and didn't cry one bit, but she wanted to explore every crack and corner of our meet-up spot--Fusion Tea Bar in Cerritos.  So Lizzy and I were more or less yelling at each other from at least 5 feet away throughout most of the conversation.  Hah!  C'est la vie of a momma. ;) 

sea salt iced coffee at fusion tea bar

She ordered their Peach Please tea with bits of fruit, while I surprised myself with a sea salt iced coffee.  I was so tempted to order black coffee since that's my option pretty much 100% of the time, but the combo of sweet and salty sounded so amazing at the time I couldn't resist.  This was my second time around sipping on that stuff (1st time at 85 Degree Bakery) and this was even better than I remember!  Must. Make. This. At. Home.

Good drinks aside, I had such a blessed time with Lizzy.  Naturally.  There is never a shortage of deep conversations with this girl, and hearing testimony after testimony of what God is doing in hers and others' lives helps me step out of my own bubble and look at the big picture.  I realize that lately my sight has been zooming in on priorities that perhaps God doesn't want me to focus on, and a simple coffee date with a sister in Christ changed all that.  I mean, how can listening to testimonies of mission trips to Russia, India, and communist countries not redirect my focus?  And that's the thing I love about God and godly community.  He never stops trying to regain our attention in places we're lacking and He often uses the fellowship of like minded people to accomplish that.  I think that's so beautiful and empowering because I know that when I'm blinded in my ways, I never truly am left alone. 

bowl of brown rice and taco meat | quick healthy meal

When Selah and I got back from Cerritos, she went down for her nap which allowed a good amount of time to throw this super simple dinner together.  I just reheated frozen leftover brown rice and cooked taco meat with onion, garlic, seasoning, and a tsp of Worcestershire sauce.  (I still can't say that word right, can you?)  Healthy and simple meals like this have been lifesavers for our family.

Perhaps I should do a post on some meal ideas in the near future.  What do you think? Yay, nay?

Have a great weekend and let's talk soon!


What are some easy and fast meals you tend to fall back on?

Ever tried sea salt coffee?

What are some ways that help you step back and see the "big picture"?

Baked Millet with Lychee and Yogurt Lemon Cream

Baked millet with lychee and lemon yogurt cream | by Fit for the Soul
Baked millet with lychee and lemon yogurt cream | by Fit for the Soul

Breakfast, breakfast...Is there anything more scrumptious than breakfast?  Oh wait, there is.  That would be dessert, but I'm beginning to think that breakfast can be its cousin, or more like a healthified knock-off, if you will, because of its extremely versatile and sweet nature.  I know that many people actually prefer savoury flavors in the morning hours, but our household does best with sweet.  Greg loves his breakfast extremely sweet though, which isn't normally my thing because I need that wholesome, healthy nutritional profile in order to keep my stomach satisfied and happy through the day.  In case you're curious to know sometimes our kitchen conversation goes something like this:

Greg:  "Oh no no, my french toast needs more maple syrup than that. It's because we're on rations, isn't it?"

Me:  "Uhhh no?  More like, I'm a nice human being and I care about your health?  *smiles sweetly* You know you're going to sugar crash within the next hour."

Greg:  "Haha...you and your 1 TBSP  of creamer. 

Me:  "B--but! Look at how white your coffee is already.  I think 1 TBSP is plenty."

Greg:  "Here.  Let me see that creamer." *dumps into perfectly brewed coffee*

Okay so that's just the gist of it!  Thankfully we don't bicker to that extent.  Honest! It's more or less like that every now and then but these are certainly some of the differences we've come to find and compromise on.  Yes, we've learned to compromise on breakfast!  And this baked millet dish is an example of how far you can go when you compromise on little things.  It is inspired by the amazingly talented Marta of What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today, and although I took some of the main ingredients into this dish I also substituted the berries for lychee, as well as some of the flavors.  Although Marta used uncooked millet to bake this beauty up, I wanted a softer and fluffier consistency and thus, cooked the millet in water ahead of time.  

Now keep in mind that lychee is one of the most mild fruits out there, though its delicate taste shouldn't be confused with blandness.  Nope, lychee is actually very flavorful on its own, but when added to other ingredients it tends to quiet down a bit and doesn't overpower the rest of the dish--which is what we want here.  Since lychee is so reminiscent of Asian desserts (aka boba, or bubble tea to you east coast folk), I decided to pair it with ground ginger and a zesty yogurt to drizzle on top.  This baked breakfast is mildly sweet yet satisfying like dessert!  Only healthier, of course. :)

Baked millet with lychee and lemon yogurt cream | by Fit for the Soul

Baked Millet with Lychee and Lemon Yogurt Cream

Adapted from this recipe

Makes 6 servings or slices

Ingredients for baked millet

2 C raw millet

4 C water

2 large eggs

1 C milk (or almond milk)

1/4 C honey

1 C peeled and chopped lychee (about 10 lychees)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp lemon zest (skin of about 1/3 of the lemon)

1 C mixed nuts (raising optional)

Ingredients for lemon yogurt cream

1/2 C greek yogurt

1 TBSP honey

1/2 tsp lemon juice

4 chopped lychees

Directions

First preheat your oven to 375.  Grab a medium pot and on medium heat, boil and simmer the millet in 4 C of water by occasionally stirring for about 15-18 minutes or millet has soaked up the water.  Set aside to cool while you peel and chop the lychees. 

Transfer the cooked millet to a large bowl and whisk the eggs in until well incorporated.  Then add milk, honey,  lychee pieces, salt, vanilla, ginger, and lemon zest.  Top with mixed nuts and raisins. Stir thoroughly and bake for about 55-60 minutes.  Let cool on a rack.

In a small bowl (or wash the last bowl you used) mix yogurt, honey, lemon juice, and lychees.  Cut the baked millet and drizzle with yogurt cream before you serve. 


What are some of your favorite breakfast foods?

-I love sweet breakfast like oats, healthy french toast, protein pancakes, but I would never say no to smoked salmon and cream cheese!

In what ways do your eating preferences differ from others around you?

Family Monday at Tender Greens | Santa Monica

Family Monday at Tender Greens | Santa Monica

Now onto the restaurant. Tender Greens Cafe!  It's one of those places that you can easily miss in the busyness of walking around Santa Monica as you're frantically looking for that other cafe you were determined to find.  Tender Greens is one of those eateries where you order, pay, and seat yourself a la Chipotle style. 

Read More

How I've Found Food Freedom+Foodie Finds

How I've Found Food Freedom+Foodie Finds

Freedom is found in the way we handle those thoughts rather than completely do without them.  As humans we can let go of things and grow from the experience, but I find it really hard to actually forget the experience!  Hence, thoughts and temptations may come up, but we don't have to say yes to them.  Nor should we feel guilt from them. 

Read More

Italian Appetizer: Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Figs

Italian Appetizer: Crostini with Ricotta and Roasted Figs

Initially I really wanted to roast the figs in balsamic, but I had my reservations since I'd never done that.  I turned to the internet and fortunately came across David Lebovitz' recipe which was almost what I had envisioned!  He uses alcohol to spice up the dish, but in my opinion there really is no better alternative than balsamic. 

Read More