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Fruit Trees

Thanks to my husband’s green thumb, we have two fruit trees starting to grow:  a Meyer Lemon Tree and an Ambarella Tree (it took us forever to find out what kind of fruit it was in English–we both only knew the Vietnamese word “Trai Coc”).  The trees are just sprouting, but we are excited nonetheless.  I took some pictures this morning of our little plants, so here they are for your envious viewing!  😉

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The top pictures are the Trai Coc tree (Ambarella).  The fruit from this kind of tree is really good!  It reminds me of an apple.  I can’t wait for it to mature so we can have this fruit whenever we want.  Here’s what the Trai Coc (Ambarella) fruit looks like:

Trai Coc

The bottom pictures are of our Meyer Lemon trees.  And yes, that is supposed to be plural.  We bought some organic Meyer Lemons from Whole Foods earlier this year, and my husband saved a bunch of the seeds.  He did a water test with them to see which ones were viable.  If the seeds float, then they probably won’t sprout; however, if they sink, then they should be good quality seeds.  We only had 2 viable seeds, and it was slightly too early in the year to plant them, so my husband wrapped the seeds in a wet paper towel and put it in a ziploc baggie.  He stored it in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks until the weather was warm enough to plant them (no more frost outside for the year).  He planted both seeds in a large pot with quality soil, but we weren’t sure if they would grow or not.  In fact, my husband noticed the soil had small holes in the two spots where the seeds were planted, so we thought maybe the squirrels had gotten to them already (the squirrels in this area ate all my mom’s tomatoes just before they were ready to pick the last time she planted them).  But, to our pleasant surprise, a couple of weeks ago we went outside to discover two little sprouts–BOTH of the seeds actually worked!  Assuming they both survive, we’ll have to put them in separate pots once the roots get too big to fit in the shared pot.  Oh, and I should have mentioned earlier for those not familiar with Meyer Lemons–they are a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange.

Do any of you have fruit trees?  We don’t own a house yet, which is why we have ours in pots, but hopefully one day we’ll be able to have several fruit trees growing in our yard.


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Independence Day

For those of you who live in the United States, what did you do for the 4th of July?  We had such a wonderful day!  We left in the morning to drive one hour to Pere Marquette State Park for a hike and picnic lunch.  I haven’t been there in years, so it was really nice.  And we saw several fun things along the way, which you’ll see in the pics.

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I packed us a yummy lunch to replenish us after our hike.  We had stir-fried sweet potatoes, sliced strawberries, a banana, and a broccoli salad that consisted of shredded broccoli, shredded red cabbage, shredded carrots, raisins, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and a homemade dressing.

After our hike, Xanh and I napped the whole way home, leaving my poor husband to drive in silence for an hour.  Then, we rushed to pick ticks off Xanh (he had 6!!!), give him a bath, feed him dinner, and get ourselves showered and ready so we could go to a party with my in-laws.  A family friend owns a Vietnamese restaurant in the area, so oftentimes they will host holiday parties up at their restaurant so there’s plenty of seating and a big kitchen to prep all the food.  And the female owner was so sweet and made a couple of special vegetarian dishes just for us.  🙂  Another plus of that party is my husband won $10 playing blackjack with the kids!  Haha.  After that, we came home, watched fireworks, and fell fast asleep after our packed day.

By the way, before I bring this post to an end, I need to pause here to tell you about the strange thing we saw when we were leaving the restaurant party.  We almost hit a turtle in the road!  My husband immediately did a u-turn and went back to get the turtle out of the road.  As we approached the turtle, a man came running out of nowhere to pick it up and told us it was his pet turtle.  He explained that he had his turtle out with him for the 4th so he could “play in the grass” and didn’t realize he was capable of making it out to the road so fast.  We thought it was kind of weird…  Who takes a pet turtle outside to “play”?  What if something ate it or a car ran over it?!

So what did you do for the 4th?  Did you grill anything good?  Share your 4th of July food ideas in the comments section.

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Chocolate Beet Cake with Dark Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Beet Cake

If you love chocolate but feel guilty after gorging on it, then this recipe is for you!  Many people know beets are supposed to be good for them, but they don’t like the way they taste; however, you can’t even tell they are in this cake!  It just tastes like an incredibly moist chocolatey cake.  And the best part is you’ll still reap the health benefits associated with beets.  Just take a look at the list of health benefits beets give you from

  1. “Beets contain high amounts of boron, which is directly related to the production of human sex hormones.”  So basically, it’s an aphrodisiac.
  2. “Potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron; vitamins A, B & C; beta-carotene, beta-cyanine; folic acid. These are but a few of the many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that can be found in beets and beet greens.”  Enough said.
  3. “They are a wonderful tonic for the liver, works as a purifier for the blood, and can prevent various forms of cancer.”
  4. “Beets help your mental health.”
  5. “Nutritionists use beets and beet juice to test stomach acid levels, so stay ahead of the curve by adding beets to your diet now.”  And if nutritionists use beets, they must be good for you!
  6. “Beets are a high source of energy.”

I think that list from pretty well sums up why you should be eating beets.  And if you don’t like beets but have a big sweet tooth, then give this recipe a try.  You won’t regret it!  I based my recipe off of a Martha Stewart recipe (which was not vegan) and topped the cake with a rich chocolate frosting recipe I got from ohsheglows.


4 medium beets, trimmed & peeled

2 cups flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat & 1 cup all purpose)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

3/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup oil (the recipe calls for safflower oil, but you could also use canola or vegetable oil)

1 tsp vanilla


Cover beets with 2 inches of water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, turn the heat to low and allow the beets to simmer for 30 minutes.  Check to make sure they are done by piercing a beet with a knife–it should go right through.  Remove from heat, drain, and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Set aside for now.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium to large size bowl.  Whisk in the applesauce, water, oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cup of the pureed beets.

Coat a 9 inch cake pan with oil, line it with parchment paper, and spray the parchment paper with oil as well.  Pour batter into the lined pan and spread evenly.  Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes, and then turn the cake pan upside down so the cake will come out onto a flat pan or platter.

If you like dark chocolate or rich decadent desserts, then frost the cake with the recipe below, or you can sprinkle the top with powdered sugar or a chocolate glaze (or eat as is).

Chocolate Frosting Ingredients

1 can full fat coconut cream (make sure you buy coconut cream and not coconut milk, because some coconut milk brands do not separate the cream from the milk and you’ll only need the cream for this recipe)

1 (12 oz.) bag dark chocolate chips (I used 60% cacao)

1 Tbsp pure maple syrup


Scoop the coconut cream into a medium sized sauce pan, and then stir in the entire bag of chocolate chips.  On low heat, melt the chocolate chips into the cream, stirring frequently so nothing burns.  Once everything is melted and blended smoothly, pour the mixture into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2-3 hours (you can also do this the night before you plan on baking the cake).

When the 2 hour minimum is up, use an electric beater to whip the frosting until it’s nice and creamy.  Add 1 Tbsp pure maple syrup and whip a bit longer.  Now use this incredibly decadent frosting to frost your chocolate beet cake!


As a side note, you’ll need to keep this cake refrigerated, because the frosting tends to melt a little when left out for too long.

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Rau Muong (Sauteed Water Spinach)


My husband and I LOOOOVE rau muong (water spinach).  Water spinach is also known as “swamp cabbage” because it grows in ponds or damp ground in tropical climates.  Water spinach is packed full of nutrients; it’s high in B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.  Water spinach actually has double the calcium found in regular spinach!  And, as icing on the cake, water spinach happens to taste really good, too!  We typically saute our rau muong, but my mother-in-law also likes to spiralize it and add it to soups, specifically bun rieu (her version is far from vegetarian!!), which is a tomato based soup with rice noodles, tofu, pork, and crab.  (I’m hoping to try out a vegetarian version of this soup in the near future.)

Anyway, when I was on Pham Fatale’s website for her bi chay recipe I recently made, I found a recipe she posted for rau muong.  She uses ginger in her rau muong (water spinach), probably to make it Buddhist friendly since Vietnamese Buddhists who follow a strict vegetarian diet do not eat garlic, shallots, etc.  I have never used ginger with my rau muong before, so I gave her recipe a try and we loved it!  I’ll definitely be making it this way again.  If you like spicy food, be sure to make the Nuoc Mam Gung recipe at the end of this post to dip your water spinach in.  This sauce is amazing!



1 lb rau muong (water spinach)

1 (2 inch chunk) ginger

1 (1 inch chunk) ginger

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/8 tsp turmeric powder

3/4 tsp salt

black pepper, to taste


Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, peel the chunks of ginger, grate the 2 inch chunk, and then mince the 1 inch chunk (keep them separate).  Then, wash the water spinach thoroughly and drain as much water as possible (either use a salad spinner or gently squeeze out the water and pat dry with paper towels).  Cut water spinach into 5 inch segments (you’ll eat both the leaves and the stems, so no need to do anything before cutting it other than wash).  Blanch the water spinach in the boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and immediately place in a cold water bath.

So as not to dirty too many dishes, I heated the same pot I used to blanch the water spinach over medium high heat to saute the greens.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan, and then add the minced ginger.  Stir it around for a minute or two, then add the water spinach plus 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger.  Toss it around in the pan for 2-3 minutes.  Add the turmeric, salt, and black pepper and saute another minute to make sure all the flavors mix well.  Transfer to a platter, and if you like spicy foods, make the sauce to serve with your sauteed rau muong.

Tip:  If your local grocery store does not sell water spinach, you can almost always find it at an Asian market this time of year.  If you are in a Vietnamese market, it will say Rau Muong on the bag; if you are in a Thai market, it will say Phak Bung; if you are in a Filipino market, it will say Kangkong.  Some markets have English printed on their produce as well, in which case it may say Water Spinach, Chinese Spinach, or River Spinach.

Rau Muong

Nuoc Mam Gung

In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tsp of sugar in 1 Tbsp of hot water.  Squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl along with 2 Tbsp of nuoc mam chay (vegetarian fish sauce) or soy sauce if you don’t have nuoc mam chay.  Finely mince 1 Thai chili pepper and add to the bowl.  Add in 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger you have leftover from the rau muong and stir the mixture together.  This sauce is very spicy and full of flavor.  Dip your rau muong in it, or drizzle a little bit of the sauce over your rau muong.

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Dogs who are Scared of Shots

Our baby dog, Xanh (pronounced Sahn), recently turned a year old, so we took him earlier this week to get his annual vaccines and a 6 month exam.  This was our first time seeing this vet, because we moved here from out of state this past winter.  This was also Xanh’s first time getting shots since last summer when he was still a tiny puppy.  Fortunately/unfortunately for us, the vet is Xanh’s favorite place to go, because when we lived in Alabama, we took him to our friend who’s a veterinarian, so he knew her outside of the vet office as well (and knew her dogs, and I’m sure had their scent on her regularly).  I say fortunately/unfortunately, because I’m glad he isn’t afraid of seeing a vet, but he gets SO excited.  It’s actually quite embarrassing now that we have to see a vet we don’t know personally.  We take Xanh with us everywhere a dog can go, so he’s very well socialized, and we started training him at 8 weeks and he is a GREAT dog.  People compliment us everywhere we go with him…except the vet’s office.  As soon as we walk through the door, he is uncontrollable with excitement.  That was all fine and well 6 months ago (sort of), but now that he’s 80 lbs and still growing, it’s a bit of a problem.  This vet sees pit bulls a lot, so she knew he would be high energy and was okay with it, but it’s still embarrassing for us, because he acted like he had never been trained a day in his life.  Sigh…

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Anyway, all that to say, we had an awful time with him at the vet.  He was so excited that he wouldn’t stop spinning in circles when the vet tech tried to take his temperature and check his eyes for glaucoma, because he wanted to see her face and lick her, etc.  We had to bribe him with treats.  A LOT of treats.  Thank God they were low fat (and I might add that he wasn’t too hungry for dinner that night).  Then, my biggest nightmare happened.  Well, maybe not my biggest nightmare; I mean, it could have been far worse, but I never thought of the fact that last time Xanh had shots he still had saggy puppy skin and baby fat.  He used to never even notice needles going into him.  Well now he does, and he hates them!  He has a bruised arm that he doesn’t want us touching, because when they drew his blood to check for heartworm he jerked his arm away and the needle came out fast and at a bad angle.  Then, the nightmare–he started growling at the vet when she was giving him shots.  He had to have 4–one in each leg.  One vet tech straddled him to hold him still for the shots, and another vet tech tried to distract him with affection and treats, but he was NOT happy.  He didn’t try to bite anyone or anything like that, which is why I say it could have been far worse, but I’ve never seen him respond this way to anything!  I know it was all out of fear, because as soon as each shot was over he turned around and started licking the vet and getting up in her face so she would pet him, but I still hated to see that kind of reaction from him.  I would say thank God it’s over and we made it through ok, but apparently lyme disease is a common problem for dogs in the Midwest but not in the South, so he was never vaccinated for it as a puppy.  That means we go in for 2 more booster shots in 3 weeks.  Lord, help us…

Do you have a dog, and if so, does he/she not like shots?  What do you do to keep your dog calm and relaxed for them?

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Vietnamese Shredded “Pork” (Vegetarian)

There is a popular Vietnamese dish called thit cha bong.  It’s basically crispy shredded pork.  Well, last night I made its vegetarian counterpart: bi chay.


I based my recipe off of Pham Fatale’s, and it turned out really delicious!  However, I already have plans for making it differently next time, because Pham Fatale’s recipe (and my slightly altered version of her recipe) took WAY too much time!  Plus, I think she uses too much oil in her recipe.  She fries a lot of the contents, so next time, I’m going to save my time and my health by cooking some parts slightly differently.  I’ll post my version of Pham Fatale’s recipe, and then I’ll give you my tips below, which is what I plan on changing in this recipe for next time.


1 (12 oz) package of firm tofu

1 jicama

2 oz dried bean thread noodles

fried onions

6 yukon potatoes

1/2 cup white jasmine rice

1 1/2 tsp garlic salt (or mushroom seasoning salt)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt & pepper, to taste


Dry Roasted Rice Powder:  Add rice to a small skillet over high heat on the stove and stir around until all the rice is golden brown (about 5 minutes).  Allow to cool, and then grind the grains into a fine mill, using a food processor.

Dried Bean Thread Noodles:  Soak noodles in cold water for 30 minutes (can leave soaking for up to one hour, so just soak while you prepare other parts of this recipe).  Drain, and chop into one inch threds.  Set aside.

Tofu:  Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels.  Slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Heat oil in a pan (1-2 Tbsp), and cook all the tofu slices until they are golden on each side.  Transfer to a plate, and once cooled, cut tofu into long thin strips.  Set aside.

Potatoes:  Peel and shred all the potatoes, and place in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with water along with 2 Tbsp of lemon juice.  Mix it up and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Drain the liquid, pat dry, and then, using the same skillet you fried the tofu in, add a little bit of oil, and place a few handfuls of potato shreds in the skillet and allow to brown on one side (about 2 minutes), then flip to the other side and allow that side to brown.  Set aside on a plate.  Repeat this until all the potato shreds are cooked.

Jicama:  Peel the jicama and slice horizontally into 1/2 inch thick pieces, and then cut into strips (like fries).  Fill a sauce pan with a couple inches of oil and fry all the jicama until golden brown.  Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the oil.

Assembly:  In a large bowl, add the jicama, potatoes, tofu, dried bean thread noodles, and fried onions.  Season with garlic salt, salt, and pepper.  Toss well, and then sprinkle with the dry roasted rice powder.  Serve on a platter.

Bi chay can be eaten with rice and vegetables, on top of rice noodles with vegetables and sauce, or in a sandwich.


1.  If you aren’t sure where to get some of these ingredients, check out your local Asian market.  They should carry everything on the ingredients list.



Photo from detailorienteddiva.

Dried Bean Thread Noodles. Photo from detailorienteddiva.

2.  To save time and oil, I recommend baking the jicama strips rather than frying them.  Before you start prepping anything else, just preheat your oven to 400, line a baking sheet with foil, put the jicama strips on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil (or toss jicama strips in about a Tbsp of olive oil in a bowl before placing them on the baking sheet), and bake for 30-40 minutes.  You’re basically making unseasoned jicama fries.

3.  If you want to save even more time, you can buy fried tofu instead of frying it yourself.  Asian markets always sell fried tofu either in the case next to the fresh tofu or in a large bag in the freezer section.  Just buy that and cut it into strips.


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I’m back! Plus, try Vietnamese Chè Chuối.

If you follow my blog, you’re probably wondering where I’ve been these past few weeks.  I must confess:  I was considering putting Eat.Pray.Heal to the side and forgetting about it.  I have a fairly successful blog about my husband and my experience with infertility–a topic I know VERY well after these past 2 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments.  My husband and I originally became vegan because we were hoping it would help cure me of my fertility issues, but then in researching the vegan diet, we learned that there is so much more to being vegan than just eating healthy.  We are still pretty new at the whole vegan thing, but we are learning and loving it more and more, which is why I started this second blog.  I wanted to share what I learn about animal cruelty, about how my Catholic faith affects my decision to be vegan, about nutrition and exercise, about homemade and/or natural products, as well as recipes I try and love.  But for some reason, the more I wrote, the more self conscious I became.  What do I know about being vegan?  We’ve only been vegan for half of a year.  Now infertility–THAT I know!  I’ve been barren for 2 years.  I’ve seen several doctors, took a gazillion different medicines, had tons of different tests run, been through intrauterine insemination a few times, tried natural remedies and alternative medicine, etc.  I can write about that with confidence, but veganism?  What do I have to share with people?  However, I’m reminded that when I first started blogging about infertility, I technically hadn’t even been diagnosed yet.  My first blog post was published the night before I was to go in for a hysterosalpinogram (HSG).  I won’t go into the details of what an HSG is or what I have been through since then, but you can feel free to check out my first blog post or look around that blog, which is called This Luminous Road I Travel.

Anyway, all that to say, if you actually enjoyed reading Eat.Pray.Heal and maybe even learned a thing or two, then I am sorry I let my anxiety get the best of me.  I do that sometimes…  But I’m back and looking forward to sharing more with you!  I hope you’ll keep reading.  Here’s a quick preview of this upcoming week:  In honor of my husband’s aunt who just had a baby (and asked us to be the baby’s godparents!!), I’m planning to write about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in infant formula (you may have been hearing some talk about this lately because the nonprofit group, As You Sow, asked Abbott Laboratory shareholders to remove GMOs from their Similac products, which is a very popular brand of baby formula), and I’ll be trying 2 new recipes this week–a traditional Vietnamese dish made vegan and a pasta dish.  If they both turn out as delicious as I’m hoping they will, then I’ll post the recipes with pictures. 

Speaking of recipes, I made a really yummy Vietnamese dessert over the weekend.  I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll share the recipe.  It’s very simple.  Vietnamese people eat a lot of something called chè.  Chè refers to any sweet beverage or pudding, which is the most common type of dessert eaten by Vietnamese people.  There are many kinds of chè, and I have too many favorites to list!  The nice thing about chè is it’s always vegan friendly, because most people don’t have access to dairy products in Vietnam, so people typically use coconut milk instead.  Also, Vietnamese desserts are not as sweet as Western desserts tend to be.  This recipe is for Chè Chuối.  (Chuối means banana.)  Here is the recipe:



2 cups water

1/2 cup small tapioca pearls

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (the kind in a can)

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

5 ripe bananas, pealed and cut into 4 parts per banana

2 Tbsp roasted, chopped peanuts to garnish (optional)



Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the tapioca pearls and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the tapioca pearls turn clear.  Be sure to stir often so the tapioca doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Then, add the bananas and cook for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into small dessert bowls (we use rice bowls, if you happen to have those) and if you like peanuts, you can sprinkle some on top of each bowl of dessert.  Serve warm or cold. 

Tip:  You won’t use the whole can of coconut milk, but unless you serve all of the chè at once, you’ll want to save the coconut milk in the fridge, because if you serve yourself a bowl of leftover chè later on, you’ll want to add 1-2 tsp of coconut milk to help soften it back up (even if you reheat it, which is how I like to have it).