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SWIRL KITCHEN: BING BOX SNOW CREAM, EAST VILLAGE


SWIRL KITCHEN: BING BOX SNOW CREAM, EAST VILLAGE via Swirl Nation Blog

In my quest to find authentic Hawaiian Snow Cones in NYC my bestie Carol took me to Bing Box in the East Village. Sadly not Hawaiian shaved ice but dare I say just as good? Granted it has been several years since my last vacay in Hawaii.

Bing Box is a modern take on Korean shaved ice or bingsu, and I love it! I’ve been twice now. They use low-fat milk for their shaved ice.

My first time eating a Bing Box my friend Kavin and I split: Mango, Lychee, Vanilla Wafers and Condensed milk.

 
SWIRL KITCHEN: BING BOX SNOW CREAM, EAST VILLAGE via Swirl Nation Blog

So refreshing and light! Perfect for a hot summers day!

Carol ordered: Tarro, Vanilla Wafers, M&M’s and Nutella.

 
SWIRL KITCHEN: BING BOX SNOW CREAM, EAST VILLAGE via Swirl Nation Blog

Dewey got the Sesame Bing Box: Milk, Sesame Powder, Red Bean, Mochi, Almond Flakes, and Condensed Milk.

 
SWIRL KITCHEN: BING BOX SNOW CREAM, EAST VILLAGE via Swirl Nation Blog

My second time around I made a Bing Box out of Strawberry, Mochi, Lychee, and Condensed milk. Isn’t it pretty!?

 
SWIRL KITCHEN: BING BOX SNOW CREAM, EAST VILLAGE via Swirl Nation Blog

Warren ordered the Taro Bing Box: Taro, Strawberries, Caramel Popcorn, and Condensed Milk.

 

This is a great spot for dessert in NYC! Hope they make it through the winter and competing against Snow Days. Both spots have very similar deserts. I’ll let you guess which is my favorite!

For more info check our their website.


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SWIRL KITCHEN: Kappo Honda – Fountain Valley, CA


SWIRL KITCHEN: Kappo Honda via Swirl Nation Blog

One of my go to places to eat when I’m home in Cali is Kappo Honda in Fountain Valley. This is probably my favorite place to eat when I come home (besides In N Out). Kappo Honda serves up delicious Japanese comfort food, something I have yet to find in NYC.

We started with two different skewers: Beef tongue and Chicken Skin. 

Beef tongue can be so tender, just like pot roast. This was a bit chewier, but the flavor was wonderful.

I mean how can you go wrong with crispy chicken skin?

 
Mixed Tsukemono

Mixed Tsukemono

We also ordered:

Mixed Tsukemono, I love me some Japanese pickled veggies.

 

Tarakasu – AKA butterfish

Melt in your mouth like butter. Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion serves this up and both are equally good, (one is just more expensive than the other… Guess which one?)

Tarakasu – AKA butterfish

Tarakasu – AKA butterfish

  • Sesame Chicken, Crispy fried chicken goodness.
  • Nasu Miso – Stewed Eggplant in Miso with ground beef. This is my favorite way to eat eggplant. It’s so savory.
  • Yaki Onigiri with Ume (salty plum). I love rice balls, especially grilled rice balls. Comfort food.
  • Braised Pork Belly with Spinach and Mustard. This pork belly is fall apart tender. The broth is light and the spinach really brings a nice balance to the whole dish.
  • Chawan Mushi. It’s a savory hot egg custard. Very light in flavor and the texture is like soft tofu.
  • Cold Soba – buckwheat noodles. Perfect for a hot summer day

SWIRL KITCHEN: Kappo Honda via Swirl Nation Blog

Look at the side eye my grandmama gave me for eating pork. She should talk, she will eat bacon.

 

I know a lot of the food might seem a bit crazy for those that have never had it. Try it. I bet you’ll love it.

For more info please visit their website.


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SWIRL KITCHEN: THE BOBA GUYS NYC


One of my favorite things to drink is boba milk tea or as I like to incorrectly call it bubble tea.

There is something magical about little balls of tapioca being slurped through a straw and the sweet taste of your choice of milk tea.

The Bobo Guys in the Lower East Side are game changers when it comes to traditional boba tea shops. Part of their philosophy is to “break cultural barriers” and they are doing just that. It is a melting pot of consumers sucking up their boba’s or homemade jelly. Their drinks are free of any artificial flavors or additives and they don’t use any powders! Real tea people! You really can taste the difference!

Three of my wonderful friends joined me on this adventure.

I tried the Rose Black Tea with Boba.

I love rose tea, but I would never have thought to turn into a boba tea. Fragrant and light and those are some grade A Boba balls!

Alison ordered up a Strawberry Matcha Latte.

Brian got a Salted Honey Cake with Thai iced tea with Almond Jelly!.

Kavin had Horchata and Almond Jelly Tea.

These boba teas were great. I just wish The Boba Guys had a location closer to me.

For more info please check out their website.


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HAPA FOOD TRUCK IN STAMFORD, CT


You guys! There’s a Hapa Food Truck! I was, and still am, so freaking excited about it! Not only is the food stupid good, but I love how they are combining the whole East meets West cuisines! Ergo Hapa!

It was a balls-hot Sunday afternoon, and two of my dear friends, Brian and Alison, and I were bored. So we decided to jump on a train and head for Stamford, Connecticut and try out the Hapa Food Truck I’ve been obsessing over. Total spur of the moment foodie adventure!

HAPA FOOD TRUCK via Swirl Nation Blog

Between the 3 of us we ate:

Philippine Chicken Adobo Taco – Chicken Slow Cooked in Cane Vinegar and Soy Sauce, Shredded, topped with Pico de Gallo and our House Aioli.

HAPA FOOD TRUCK via Swirl Nation Blog

Korean Short Rib Taco – Braised Beef Short Rib, Sesame Asian Slaw, and House Aioli.

HAPA FOOD TRUCK via Swirl Nation Blog

The Adobe Chicken and the Short Rib Taco’s were so good! Bold flavors wrapped in a corn tortilla.

The Hapa Burger – Grass-Fed Beef Topped with Pork Belly, Vermont Cheddar, Caramelized Onion, Lettuce, Tomato, House Aioli, on our Signature Ube Bun.

HAPA FOOD TRUCK via Swirl Nation Blog

Let’s just take a minute and admire this beauty. One of the best burgers I have ever had –  the Pork Belly melts in your mouth like candied pork goodness. Oh, and that Ube (Purple Yam) Bun, soft and sweet, and totally bringing umami to this gorgeous burger.

Furikaki Fries – Shoe String Fries, House Aioli, and Furikake (Japanese seasoning).

HAPA FOOD TRUCK via Swirl Nation Blog

I have a jar of Furikake and am already planning on what else I can use it on!

Crispy Brussel Sprout Salad – Pico de Gallo, and Papaya Seed Dressing.

HAPA FOOD TRUCK via Swirl Nation Blog

I love brussel sprouts. I think anyone who says “ew” to them obviously hasn’t had brussel sprouts properly prepared, and these were perfection. Nice and crispy just how I like them.

The lovely people of Hapa Food Truck were so nice! I even got to interview George who is one of the owners!

Good food and good friends. What more could a gal want? Oh, I know. How about Hapa Food Truck opening up a location in NYC so I don’t have to take a train and an Uber to get to them.


 

 

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SWIRL KITCHEN: HALVA


Date – fresh and so good!

Date – fresh and so good!

A new food stall just opened at Chelsea Market, and it’s the first of it’s kind. Seed & Mill serves up one thing and one thing only, Halavah or Halva, which comes from the Arabic word Halwa – aka sweet.

For those of you don’t know, Halva is it is a dessert made out of tahini and sugar. It’s delicious and it’s stupid good. I have been to that stall 3 times now. They are so nice there and always willing to hand out a sample of whichever flavor you want, and there’s a crap load of flavors to choose from, including marble, cardamom, chai, dates, and lavender, to just name a few.

Seed & Mill’s flavors are always changing! Vegan and/or Gluten free? Seed & Mill has got yo back. All their tahini is gluten free and they have several vegan-friendly flavors . Oh, and it’s Kosher! Everyone wins!

I have tried Coffee. Probably my least favorite. Sweet and yummy, but lacking in the coffee flavor.

Sea Salt and Dark Chocolate – All I can say is yum. I mean you cannot go wrong with chocolate and salt.

SWIRL KITCHEN: HALVA via Swirl Nation Blog

Last but not least, Salted Caramel. My favorite. Holy mother of God! This is so good! I love anything with salt on it and this Halva has a beautiful layer of caramel on top with sea salt mixed throughout and it is perfection! Boom.


For more info check out their website


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MY FALL FROM KOSHER


MY FALL FROM KOSHER BY ALEX CHESTER via Swirl Nation Blog

Hi, my name is Alex and I use to be Kosher. You’re probably thinking what the hell is she talking about? She doesn’t look Jewish. Firstly, that’s racist, so shame on you, and secondly, I am in fact Jewish. I am actually a JAP squared, that’s Jewish American Princess and Japanese American Princess for your information! However, I just think of myself as Hapa (half Asian, half something else).

I am a Japanese, French, Russian Jew who grew up in a Kosher household. My mom and grandmama aren’t crazy extreme, no separate ovens or refrigerators, but they do have separate flatware and dishes. For those of you Gentiles, Kosher means you don’t mix dairy products with meat products and no pork or shellfish. That steak you like seared in butter or how about a cheeseburger? Yeah, those are big no no’s. Sorry, not sorry.

At school, kids would eat their ham sandwiches with mayo, and there I’d be eating my Hebrew National salami sandwich on rye with mustard. Kids are assholes, and many times the kids would tell me I was going to Hell cause I am Jewish. I just told them they were unclean eating their stupid pig.

My family and I kept the High Holidays. During Passover you’re not allowed to eat any products made with leavened flour. Mmmm matzo salami sandwiches. Matzo is unleavened bread aka a cracker. You want to eat cake? Better use some matzo meal. Ever had a cake made of matzo meal? I don’t recommend it.

Like I said, my family isn’t crazy extreme Kosher. I was allowed to have the occasional cheeseburger out and pepperoni pizza, just no pork. Occasionally I’d get to have bacon at a restaurant. My grandmama secretly loves bacon. I mean, who doesn’t? Though bacon never came into our household. Instead, we ate beef fry.

Flash forward, I grew up, and moved to NYC. There temptation got the better of me. I love food and I love trying new things. I became emboldened, took a road trip to Maine and tried Lobster for the first time. Holy Mother of God. What have I been missing out on my whole life?! I think picking out that live lobster to get boiled was my first step in shunning my culture.

Next I found myself in Boston for a show (I’m an actor), and I tried oysters for the first time. Dear lord, that slimy brimmie goodness just slid down my throat like heaven.

I realized there is way too many foods and food combinations I had been missing out on. I made a choice then and there to try everything deemed “unclean”.

Back in NYC I ran wild with the Gentiles. Shrimp? Yes please! Crab Legs? Hell yes! My family was oddly supportive. They knew of my downfall and didn’t ridicule me too much. Though my grandmama likes to tell me I’m a bad Jew, she doesn’t have room to talk. I got her to try pork belly once… And she liked it!

I have now become a connoisseur of all things’ pork. My Japanese side is in heaven with pork bone ramen soup! Though I still find myself at a ramen restaurant asking the waiter to “please hold the pork meat in my soup.” As if that will actually make a difference to the pig based broth I am slurping.

I now know how to make the best damn pulled pork thanks to my boyfriend from South Carolina, and I have bacon in my fridge.

Maybe I should blame my fall from kosher on peer pressure, but really I blame it on the food itself. Seriously people, one word. Bacon. Have you ever had a bacon maple cookie from Smackeries? Get one. It will make a believer out of you.

I love food, and life is too short to limit yourself from so many yummy possibilities!

If I do find myself in Hell it’s not going to be because of my Jewish heritage (sorry classmates), it will be because I am a glutton.


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A VERY KETOGENIC 2016

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A VERY KETOGENIC 2016


New year, new eating plan! I plan on spending 2016 in a state of blissful Ketosis. What is Ketosis you ask? To keep it super simple, it is when you limit carbs so that your body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. When you are in ketosis you feel less hungry and at least in my case, you are full of energy.

For me this goes beyond just wanting to slim down (although that is one of my goals), but my primary goal is to reduce overall inflammation in my body. I have 2 autoimmune disorders: Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis I have been battling these for over ½ my life (one day I will write a blog specifically about this journey), but one thing I have found for sure is that seriously limiting carbs and sugar from my diet makes a huge difference.

In fact there is a lot of evidence that a Ketogenic lifestyle can also help people who have seizures, epilepsy, cancer, chronic systemic yeast, and diabetes. So if you fall into any of those categories I would encourage you to do some research and see if this might be helpful for you.

I was originally encouraged to ditch the sugar and carbs about 8 years ago by a doctor I was seeing for acupuncture to help with my autoimmune disorders. So I followed the Atkins Diet and ended up feeling much better. I have continued to stay relatively low carb and gluten free through the years, but recently have felt like I wasn’t doing enough and it was time to get strict with my diet and pay more attention to exactly what I am putting in. So I chose Keto! It is basically the same as the Induction Phase of Atkins. Induction is the strictest phase, recommending 20g of carbs per day. The difference is that with Keto you stay at this level forever! I am staying at 20g, but different articles you read say you can go up to 50g- all just depends on your body I suppose.

In my opinion it is a fairly easy diet to follow if you like meat, eggs, fatty dairy, and certain veggies. The hardest part is the first few days. You can feel the sugar kicking and screaming out of your body and it isn’t fun. Since I started at the beginning of the year there were a lot of evil Christmas treats still lingering in my body so I had a dull headache and low energy. But by day 4 I felt amazing!

I use the Carb Manager app just to make sure I am on track with achieving somewhere near 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs. Eventually I won’t need it because I’ll know what I need to eat to keep the right balance but for now it is reassuring and kind of fun for me to see visually what I’m doing. I know that seems like a lot of fat and it is! But changing the way you typically eat can make a huge difference, particularly for those with medical issues like myself. 

You might be wondering what exactly can you eat on this plan?! Think about it this way, if it is in the middle aisles of the grocery store- you CAN’T eat it. If it is around the perimeter of the grocery store - you MIGHT be able to eat it. I skip the middle entirely, because it is not worth the temptation. This Keto Diet Food Pyramid does a great job of graphically breaking down the “Keto Food Groups”.


KETO DIET FOOD PYRAMID
Nuts, seeds, berries
Lower-carbohydrate fruits include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries. My absolute favorite berry is something you probably don’t think of as a berry at all… the AVOCADO! It is technically a single-seeded berry. Avocados provide rich amounts of fiber, antioxidants, such as vitamin E, and heart-healthy fat. 
I don’t eat a lot of nuts. They can be high in inflammatory Omega- 6s. This includes almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, and oils like sunflower and corn. If I were going to eat nuts it would be Macadamia nuts which have healthy fats. 

Raw, Full Fat Dairy
Dairy products are valuable sources of calcium, vitamin D and protein. Much of the fat in classic ketogenic diets derive from high-fat dairy products, such as cream cheese, sour cream, butter and heavy whipping cream. You can also get your dessert fix by mixing cream cheese or cream with Stevia. And then who can forget CHEESE! I need to try and slow my roll with cheese, but it is SO GOOD! Cheddar, mozzarella, brie etc…

Vegetables (and just say no to Nightshades) 
The best choices for vegetables are those that are high in nutrients and low in carbohydrates, so of course anything dark and leafy scores high (kale, spinach). Also veggies that grow above ground like lettuce, cucumbers, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Sweeter veggies should be avoided (carrots, squash, onions, peppers). Which leads me to Nightshades. I had never heard the term Nightshades until I started researching the Keto lifestyle, but there is a lot of talk about them online because it seems that they can trigger a variety of chronic conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia and IBS. This include tomatoes, eggplant, red and white potatoes, and all peppers. 

Lean Meat and Fish
You need to be careful not to eat too much protein when you are following a keto diet, because it can kick you out of ketosis. But the easy protein options include chicken of course and lean fish like cod, catfish, mahi mahi, and tuna (a full list can be found here: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/types-fish)
Fatty Meat and Fish, organ meats, eggs
Bacon! My favorite food group:) Uncured of course. Steak, lamb, and pork are examples. I stay away from organ meats all together… yuck! But to each his own. 
Fatty fish is defined as fish with over 5% fat by weight and includes anchovies, eel, salmon, and chilean sea bass (a full list can be found here: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/article/types-fish). I eat lots of salmon!
Healthy fats and oils
This includes denser fat sources, such as butter and mayonnaise as well as flaxseed, canola or olive oil. Saturated and monounsaturated fats are more chemically stable and less inflammatory in people so they are preferred. 

Herbs and spices
Stay away from pre-mixed spices, they have sugars added to them. Sea salt is better than table salt. Beyond that fresh herbs are always best and then stick to the individual spices and make your own mixes without the unnecessary sugar.
Water!
I am a huge water person. Drink your water!!!  I drink anywhere from 100oz to 130oz a day normally and I think I may even need to up that a little. It is extra important to drink a lot of water on a keto diet because it has a natural diuretic effect. I don’t drink coffee, but a lot of people do and some do that bulletproof coffee or mix coconut oil into their coffee to get some extra fats in.

As you can see there are plenty of options and you can make a lot of delicious meals with these ingredients. It is definitely a challenge, especially if you have family members in your house who are not following this plan (like I do). Because temptation is everywhere! But in my experience if you can stick with it for a few weeks you will start seeing results very quickly and that always makes it easier to stay on track.

It is also easier if you like to cook because there are a lot of great Keto and low carb recipes out there, I have a whole Pinterest board of them on my personal Pinterest page. Here are a few I came across recently that I will definitely be testing out in my own kitchen! Click on each to link to original recipe.

Skillet Roasted Bacon Brussel Sprouts with garlic Parmesan cream sauce
Jalapeno Popper Egg Cups
Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Parmesan Cups
Bacon and Guacamole Fat Bombs
Avocado Deviled Eggs

If any of you have had any of your own experiences with going Keto, especially if you are also suffering from autoimmune disorders or other medical challenges, I would love to hear your story!  As for me, I will definitely continue to share as I learn more and start seeing some real results!


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MOM HACK: Blue Apron or Plated?!

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MOM HACK: Blue Apron or Plated?!

Trying to decide between Blue Apron and Plated? I think I can help!

I LOVE TO COOK! Ever since I discovered Pinterest about 4 years ago I have become really passionate about finding new recipes and cooking dishes I had never tried before. After pinning thousands of recipes (and actually making hundreds!) I was burnt out on spending tons of money on unique spices and ingredients when I only would use them for 1 recipe. So that is when Blue Apron came into my life and I fell in love!

Then a few months ago there were a couple weeks when I wasn’t crazy about the weekly menus on Blue Apron so I decided to try Plated. Since then I have been switching between the two depending on whose menu I like better that particular week.

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