Never Buy It Again Video Series

Never Buy It Again: Tomato Sauce

Guys. I’m starting a video series. Please don’t laugh.

I’ve always wanted to start a video series for Eating Clean in the Dirty City about making really easy things from scratch so that you “Never But It Again”! We so often are willing to pay a premium for pre-made food, even when it means the food isn’t as fresh and nutritious and it doesn’t taste as good, because we think it’s way too much work to do it ourselves. I’m here to prove that making stuff from scratch is a lot faster and easier than you think, and totally worth it.

Video is a new medium for me so the first few will probably be pretty bad. And by first few I mean all my videos for the rest of time. But it’s OK. I’m not a perfectionist and I just want to get my message out. Enjoy!

Health and Nutrition

Labels and Identity At The Dinner Table



Vegan. Gluten-free. Omnivore. Paleo. We can’t help but conjure up images of not only what kind of food someone eats when we hear these terms, but also what kind of people they are. Differences in food philosophy can start the most heated debates and shut down civility and communication between people. It’s silly when you think about it. It’s just what food, right? Yet a food belief different to our own is so threatening because it feels like a judgement of our own diet–they think they’re better than us because they choose to eat differently. Food is personal, so it feels like an attack on our identity.

At the end of the day, I am an omnivore. I eat pretty much everything. I believe my body thrives best on lots of vegetables, some meat and fish, and healthy fats. But I also believe everything else (in moderation) has a place in my healthy diet. I wrote a whole page about my food philosophy yet I’ve avoided calling this an “omnivore’s” blog or identify with one label. Every single person has slightly different food habits to begin with. We all really like and dislike different foods. Every human body is a little different–some people feel strong and energetic eating one way while someone else’s body would feel crappy if they did the same thing. And we don’t usually have a problem with that. But one you slap a label on yourself and identify with one group, suddenly you give something people can easily rebel against.

So, people of the world, I propose a truce. I spend a lot of time listening to the different arguments and voices in food philosophies. It made me realize we went out of our way to choose a specific way to eat for our health, so we already have more in common than we think. We’re all striving to eat clean and take care of our bodies. We’re avoiding overly processed food and trying to eat more whole foods instead. And I don’t think any of us will disagree that vegetables are key in a healthy diet. We put effort into trying different things, tweaking our food habits and beliefs over time, and finding what’s best for our own bodies. Everything beyond that is just noise. Let’s drop the labels and the judgement. Let’s sit down at the same figurative dinner table, discuss our beliefs without hate, and celebrate food.

The blog

Life And Blog Update: Eating Clean In A New Dirty City



Hello from Vancouver! You may have noticed that Eating Clean in the Dirty City has been abnormally quiet the past two weeks. I’ve mentioned leaving New York and moving back to Hong Kong several times on the blog and guess what. That time has finally come! I left NYC earlier this month and am currently in Canada doing a little travelling before heading back to Hong Kong this week.

I apologize for the lack of new posts–productivity and vacation just don’t mix for me. But I’m excited to dive right back into blogging when I get to Hong Kong with new and exciting content for you guys. Living on the other side of the world will bring all kinds of new challenges when it comes to clean eating. And hopefully it will encourage me to finally learn how to cook Chinese food!

In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

If you’re currently using Google Reader, don’t forget that it’s shutting down on July 1. Bookmark Eating Clean in the Dirty City or remember to add its RSS feed to your new RSS reader so you don’t miss anything!



I Finally Tried Bulletproof Coffee


You’re probably not as much of a nerd as I am to follow all these biohackers on the internet, but you may still have heard of “Bulletproof coffee”. Dave Asprey, or the “Bulletproof Executive”, swears by Bulletproof coffee, and so do many of his followers. From the way some people talk about it, Bulletproof coffee has been made out to be the magical elixir that will give you laser-sharp focus, boundless energy, and satiety until lunch time. I was curious about it for the longest time, but it was only when I heard that someone I personally know drinks it (my friend Jeanette), I decided to finally see what all the fuss is about. Disclosure: this is my personal, honest opinion, and it’s just based on a four-day experiment with sample size = 1.

What is Bulletproof coffee? Basically, it’s hot coffee blended with grass-fed butter and MCT oil. Using Dave Asprey’s Upgraded Coffee beans is recommended as they are supposedly free of the toxic molds that cheap coffee has. These molds are tied to cancer, heart disease, and hormone irregularities, and take away from the health and performance benefits that coffee is supposed to have.

I bought the Upgraded Coffee and performed a little experiment. I usually have my coffee black so that’s what I did the first day. The beans don’t really smell like anything and the coffee didn’t taste like much either, which was disappointing. But I had an amazingly productive day. The next day I cold-brewed the coffee and had another pretty productive day. The next two days I prepared it the Bulletproof way with a tablespoon of grass-fed butter and since I didn’t have any MCT oil, I used a tablespoon of refined coconut oil, which I’m sure is a far less superior choice but I use it in my green smoothies and feel fine. I blended it up and the result was a beautiful, frothy, buttery cup of joe. It tasted pretty awesome. As you may have gathered from my blog, I’m a fan of real, grass-fed butter and believe it’s a source of healthy fat. I’m also not shocked at the idea of butter in coffee because I’ve had salty, buttered tea in Tibetan restaurants before and loved how they tasted. But in terms of performance? I wasn’t nearly as energetic.

This isn’t to say I think Dave Asprey is a liar. I will definitely try to purchase some MCT oil and prepare the Bulletproof coffee the way he intended, in the name of experimentation. I don’t think putting butter and coconut oil in my coffee gave me less focus or less energy, I just think the benefits may not be as overwhelmingly obvious as people make it out to be. Why was I more productive the first two days and lower energy the last two days? Could have been the coffee. But more likely, I was well-rested and ready to dive into work in the former, whereas I was extremely sore from bootcamp and the weather was dreary during the latter. Maybe buttery Upgraded Coffee improves performance, but not enough to make up for those circumstances.

Will I keep trying Bulletproof coffee? Sure! The performance benefits might be slightly exaggerated but I thought it tasted good and I like getting healthy fats into my diet. Should it replace breakfast everyday? Probably not. It’s not super nutritionally dense or a balanced meal. As for the Upgraded Coffee beans–that’s a very personal choice. I’m a huge coffee snob. I get expensive, high-quality beans, often organic, that smell and taste a lot better that Upgraded Coffee. If you don’t care for the taste of coffee and are just doing it for performance…or your only other option is Folgers, yeah, buy Upgraded Coffee. I do trust Dave Asprey when he says it is one of the cleaner coffees out there. And in his defense, it’s not as expensive as people make it out to be. I spend the same if not more on my beans–cheap brands are not at the real price that coffee should be, much like the way feedlot meat is not the price real meat should be. If you’re a coffee snob like me, stick to the good stuff. And blend some grass-fed butter and MCT or coconut oil in if you feel like it. I don’t know if it will make you a machine, but it tastes pretty darn good.


Health and Nutrition

10 Guidelines for a Wonderful Life of Eating



I’ve developed my own little food philosophy over the last few years. Nothing new here, but as I love reading about other people’s eating habits and beliefs, I thought I would share my views. Disclaimer: I am by no means a nutritionist, dietitian, or scientist. These are just my personal opinions!

1) Veggies are your no. 1 priority
If I had to name only one way to improve your diet, I’d say eat your vegetables. The recommended daily minimum is 2 and a half cups. So get them in whenever you can! Lunch and dinner is obvious but don’t forget that you can add veggies to certain breakfasts or make snacks out of them. They are low in calories and so high in nutrients. Eat them.

2) Cut out processed food
I know, I know. It’s so much easier to pick up a jar of pasta sauce, a box of cookies with an unnatural shelf life, or full meals from the frozen section. But there’s nothing convenient about the damage all the sodium and preservatives do to your body, even if the packaging is labelled “organic” or “healthy”. You need to eat real food, people. Processed stuff is not real food.

3) Prepare most of your meals
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. But it’s not only important to prepare most of your meals to avoid processed crap, but it’s also important to avoid eating out all the time. If you have the funds to eat at places with really high-quality, healthy food, that’s great. Go for it! But for the rest of us, we’re probably eating at places that do not use quality ingredients, and the meals are probably a lot higher in calories than we think. But the scariest part is that you just don’t know what exactly is in your food and how it was prepared. I have heard horror stories about what goes on in some restaurants’ kitchens!

4) Choose seasonal/local/non-GMO/organic foods when you can
I’m sure you’ve heard enough about what genetically modified foods and pesticides may do to our bodies, and how food that’s traveled a long distance loses most of its nutritional value, so no need for me to go into it. If you’re not already convinced to spend your money on quality food upfront and would rather spend it on medical bills later, at least lessen the damage. Make these two swaps: choose organic when you are purchasing the Dirty Dozen, and please choose organic/non-feedlot dairy and beef. It’s bad, bad news if you don’t.

5) Watch your portion sizes
I’d much rather be heavier but eating tons of healthy foods than skinny but subsisting on junk. Nutrition comes before weight, but if you’ve got the nutrition thing down, tackle your portion sizes. We need to leave behind the ideas of all-you-can-eat, stuffing yourself, and snacking non-stop. It’s not good for you and too much excess weight raises your risks for all sorts of health problems. You know this.

6) Forget the fad diets
I swear, fad diets are an addiction. People cannot get enough of them. Just stop, already. None work in the long-term. It’s too difficult to maintain restrictive and depriving diets. If you want to lose weight, eat balanced, healthy meals, which is how you want to eat for the rest of your life anyhow (instead of cabbage soup or no carbs, for example). There will always be fad diets and they will never be the answer. Just accept it!

7) Eat a balanced diet and switch it up
So what is this balanced diet? Healthy fats, healthy carbs, healthy protein. You need ’em all. There’s no reason to cut out any major food group. And because different foods are higher in different nutrients, you want to switch it up to get all the nutrients you need. Anyway, isn’t that a better way to eat and live? Variety is the spice of life!

8) Don’t judge others
It’s a wonderful thing to have a healthy diet. But there’s no need to judge the eating habits of others. I’m guilty of it occasionally–I giggled when I saw some dude at the supermarket buy nothing but 20 Chef Boyardee cans and 20 Gatorades. But when someone asked me why I “put that garbage” in my body, referring to my home-baked cookies, I understood how awful it is to be judgmental about people’s food beliefs. You can disagree with them, but it’s not your place to judge them. If people want to change their eating habits, they have to want to make a change. Your unsolicited advice will not help.

9) Don’t get neurotic about it and don’t be a snob
I’ve listed a lot of guidelines here but I want to point out that they are not rules. Eat “right” 80% of the time. There’s no need to be difficult, be inconvenienced, or upset others the other 20% of the time. As much as I love making food from scratch and shopping at the farmers market, I enjoy a good street taco or post-holiday discounted Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

10) Enjoy your food
Last thought. Enjoy your food. Savor it. Eat what makes you happy. Try new things. Don’t forego taste for health all the time. I don’t believe in living to eat; there are more important things in life. But there’s no need to purely eat to live, either. Food and flavor is a wonderful gift and we should embrace it.

Lunch and Dinner

When You’re Too Lazy to Make Thanksgiving Dinner, Make Turkey Burgers

Maybe it’s not that you’re lazy. Maybe you’re only cooking for one or two. Maybe you can’t afford a whole turkey. Maybe you’re not into the gluttony of a huge Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe you’re not American and you have no idea what I’m talking about.

Whatever the reason is that you’re not having your typical American Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a way you can have a little taste of it without too much work. I love this burger with baked sweet potato fries. It’s a reasonable size, it’s clean (especially if you buy farmers market turkey), and you’ve got all the delicious flavors of Thanksgiving without the food coma.

But the very, very best part? I feel like I’m eating Ikea Swedish meatballs, for some reason. I love Ikea. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!



Thanksgiving Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

1/2 small onion, finely diced
1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
4 dinner rolls or your bun of choice
1 handful baby salad greens
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Homemade cranberry sauce (recipe below)
Baked sweet potato “fries” (recipe below)

In a large bowl, add the diced onion, salt, and pepper to ground turkey. Mix thoroughly with your hands, then form four equally sized patties. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Place the patties in the skillet and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness of your patties, until cooked through. Keep the heat on, but remove patties from skillet and cover (or place in the oven) to keep warm.

You can start toasting your rolls or buns before this next step. To make the gravy, mix the corn starch with 2 tablespoon of water to make a thin paste. Pour paste into the same skillet and start whisking to mix with skillet drippings. As it thickens, pour the milk and stock, while continuing to whisk. After a few minutes, it should reach your desired consistency.

Now you can assemble your burgers. Cut your freshly toasted rolls or buns. Spread a teaspoon of Dijon mustard on the bottom half. Place a few baby salad greens on top of mustard, followed by the turkey patty, a tablespoon of gravy, a tablespoon of homemade cranberry sauce. Top with the other half of your roll and serve with baked sweet potato “fries”.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 1 3/4 cups

3 cups cranberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup of orange juice
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Add cranberries, both sugars, orange juice, lemon juice, and cinnamon to a small saucepan over medium high heat. When mixture starts to bubble, reduce to low heat.

Let mixture simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When cranberries are very tender, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.

Baked sweet Potato “Fries”

A few sweet potatoes, peeled
Canola oil
Salt and pepper
Additional seasoning of choice, e.g. I like paprika

Heat the oven to 450°F.

Cut your sweet potatoes into “fry”-shaped 1/4 inch-thick strips. Try to keep them all around the same thickness so they bake evenly. In a large bowl, add canola oil a little splash at a time while tossing the strips, until you just coat them with enough oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and your seasoning of choice, and toss until strips are evenly coated.

Like a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread strips in single layer, leaving room between them. You may need more than one baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and use a spatula to flip all the strips. Return to oven for another 15 minutes, or until “fries” are crispy.


Breakfast in the Fall: Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat

Having grown up in Hong Kong, I don’t have that nostalgic feeling toward this old-fashioned breakfast food so many Americans have. In fact, I just tried it for the first time recently because I needed farina for another recipe. I tried it plain at first. Meh, it was OK. But like oatmeal, I figured it could be a wonderful blank canvas for me to play with.

As we’re in the middle of pumpkin-mania, I obviously had to put a pumpkin spin on my Cream of Wheat. So here it is. Fast, tasty, and healthy Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat. I’m weird and enjoy it unsweetened, but feel free to drizzle with some good honey or maple syrup. Bonus points if you make your own pumpkin purée. You’ll never go back to the canned stuff again!


Pumpkin Pie Cream of Wheat
Makes 1 serving

3 tablespoons Cream of Wheat (2 1/2 Minute Cook Time)
1 to 1 1/4 cup milk, depending on how thick you prefer your cereal
1/3 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice or cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Honey or maple syrup for drizzling (optional)

Heat up the milk in a small saucepan until it begins to boil. Add the Cream of Wheat a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly with the other hand. Give it a few more stirs and let it come back to a boil. Lower heat and let it simmer for a minute and a half.

Add the pumpkin purée and stir for a minute until combined. Turn off the heat and mix in spices and vanilla extract. Serve as is, or with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup if you prefer a sweeter breakfast.

Breakfast, Dessert

Ontbijtkoek: Baking Inspiration from Europe

It’s been almost a month since my vacation in Europe and I haven’t talked about it on the blog yet. Life has been crazy! After coming back from vacation, I got sick and spent a couple of days unwell and unmotivated. The next week I found my social calendar out of control, though I love to see people and can’t complain about that. Then Hurricane Sandy came to visit us, leaving a trail of destruction. But better late than never.

I had a fantastic vacation, albeit a short one. We spent two nights in the north of France, near Belgium, for my childhood best friend’s wedding. The reception was at a beautiful farm-chic venue, and instead of a sit-down dinner we got to sample all kinds of delicious treats (pictured above). I didn’t know savory macarons exist! With such great people and good wine, we had a blast. Even if we were hurting the next day. Next, we took a train to Amsterdam. We only had two nights there too, but we crammed in as much sightseeing and Dutch cheese as we could.

I think the best thing I ate this trip was at the wedding: foie gras on a speculaas cookie (yup, the cookie butter stuff) or on a slice of ontbijtkoek. Hot, rich, savory foie gras paired with spiced sweetness…YUM. I used to eat ontbijtkoek quite often as a kid, but had since forgotten about it until this trip. It’s a sweet, almost sticky cake eaten for breakfast, and with cinnamon, cloves, and molasses, it reminds me of gingerbread. Maybe that’s why it feels so perfect this time of year. It’s easy to make, tasty, and not as bad for you as some other desserts. It’s perfect smeared with warm butter. Or foie gras, if that’s how you roll. Smakelijk!



Makes one large loaf

Adapted from My Dutch Baking Blog

Butter for loaf pan
1 cup dark rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, ginger, and/or coriander (optional, if you have them)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 300°F.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix ingredients into a smooth batter with a wooden spoon. Place on a lower oven rack for about 80 minutes or until the cake is done.

Remove the ontbijtkoek and let in cool completely in its pan. Slice and serve with butter. Wrap the rest aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or store in an airtight container


Book Review

Book Review: An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler



I’m glad Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (my Amazon Associates link) was next on my book club’s list. As I hate wasting food and love to stretch a dollar, I’ve wanted to read this book for a while now. Adler’s beautiful message is this: there is no real beginning or end to a meal. The leftover ingredients at the end of one meal are the first step of the next meal. Though I sometimes do not use them, I know that you can cook with things that you might think of as kitchen scraps–bones, beet greens, stale bread. What she talks about that I’ve never thought about using is the oil in canned food, the liquid your jarred olives sit it, the flavorful water you’ve made after boiling food. I noticed I already started incorporating her style into my cooking after only getting through the first chapters. I reserved the oil from my tin of anchovies, as well as the leftover liquid from my stewed collard greens. I threw my neglected pine nuts into a pasta dish that did not ask for them.

But this book isn’t just about being thrifty and using things up–it’s a lovely philosophy on cooking. As long as you have some staples like salt, olive oil, parmesan, and breadcrumbs, you can turn just about anything into a simple, elegant meal. She also gives you ideas on how to elevate your meal with things like vinegar and fresh herbs, and even how to turn food gone wrong into something very right. I’ve always classified my cooking into two categories–recipes I follow or create, or my “ghetto meals”. The latter is when I want to use up leftovers. I completely give up on the idea of making it tasty because I just need to consume fuel and not waste food. An Everlasting Meal has inspired me to never feel the need to make a “ghetto meal” again. With just a little effort, I can take my kitchen scraps and turn them into something delicious that I’m not ashamed to eat. I’m glad I read this book before Hurricane Sandy came to New York–I’ve made surprisingly delicious meals during the hurricane with canned lentils and chickpeas that have been sitting in the cupboard for over a year.

My only issue with the book is also really one of its strengths. I love that Adler floods you with ideas and lessons in beautiful prose. This makes it a lovely read. But on a practical level, my process-driven brain is screaming, ahhh! I need all these ideas and recipes written down in organized bullet points so I can refer to them later. I know that was probably the author’s intentions, but it’s a shame because I’d much rather make everything else she talks about than the actual step-by-step recipes in the book. That’s OK, though. It just means I’ll be coming back to An Everlasting Meal again and again.

Please check out The Kitchen Reader, and Sarah’s blog, Simply Cooked!

Cooking Skills and Tools

How to Love Leftovers

I’ve never had trouble eating leftovers. I don’t just tolerate it, I kind of love it! I know an alarming amount of people who don’t dig leftover food, so I’m here to convince you to get into it.

Why You Should Love Leftovers

  • You get to eat a delicious meal all over again the next day.
  • While your coworkers are paying $7 for a crappy sandwich, you brought in last night’s fancy dinner for lunch.
  • You stretch your dollar and save money in the long run.
  • Some things taste even better the next day.
  • You’re not pressured to eat the whole thing if you’re full.
  • You can feel good about not wasting food.
  • When you have a meal waiting for you in the fridge or freezer, you have no excuse to buy fast food because you don’t feel like cooking.
  • You can have fun turning your leftovers into something else! (see next list)

What To Do With Leftovers

  • Eat it as is. Bring it back to life with a microwave, oven, or toaster.
  • Put it in an omelette or frittata. Or just top with a fried egg.
  • Put it in a taco or a burrito.
  • Make a sandwich.
  • Make soup with it.
  • Serve it over pasta.
  • Put it in the freezer (if it freezes well) so you have a back up plan when there’s no food in the house.

Do you like leftovers? What do you do with them?