Category Archives: Happenings

5 tips for growing your own food

Top 5 Tips for Growing Your Own Food

In celebration of Earth Day, I’m featuring top 5 tips for growing your own food.

I am by no means an expert in gardening but I do know someone who could share invaluable advice to the rest of us.

My brother-in-law, King Pablo, is an avid gardener who is extremely passionate about growing all kinds of vegetables and fruits -from rainbow chard to artichokes to peppers to grapefruit, and many more. He grows vegetables in his backyard, greenhouse garden, and inside his house. Whenever I visit my sister and her family, I would find all kinds lush plants, blooming flowers, colorful fruits, and sprouting seedlings. I would leave with bags and bags of fresh harvest as well as new plants to grow.

The photos below are just a sneak peek of what he grows in his garden.


growing kale plants


growing cherry tomatoes


growing persian mint


growing food with helpful bugs


growing rainbow chard


growing kale med shot



With all his expertise and passion in gardening, I asked for his advice for a newbie gardener like me. Here’s what he said:



1. What are the things newbie gardeners should know about planting their own food? (ex: soil, etc.)

Newbie gardeners should not overwhelm themselves. We have the tendency to want to grow everything. Start off with the basics and with the easiest things to grow, like tomatoes and cucumbers. If need be, get the ones from Home Depot, Lowes, or a place that supplies non-gmo vegetable starters.

When it comes to soil, it all depends on what you want to grow. The best rule is always make sure that the container or the ground has good drainage so the water could percolate easily.

2. What is your advice with watering plants? When is a good time and how often?

All plants will have an afternoon funk, meaning they will look wilted when they get a lot of sunlight -that is perfectly normal. But if there is too much sun, try to give some shade for it or move to another location.

Take heed that the top will always look dry. If they are in containers, lift the soil to see how much water is left in the pot. You could also simply lift the container to see if it’s light or heavy. If it’s light, it needs watering. If it’s heavy, it doesn’t need watering yet.

If need be, you could always get those moisture meters at Home Depot for about $10 and it will tell you the pH balance, the sun it’s getting, and the moisture level of the soil.

As plants get bigger, they will need more frequent watering.

3. What simple, inexpensive household materials could a newbie gardener use to grow food?

You could use red Dixie cups as planters, they are good starting pot size. Just make sure to put holes for drainage.  You could even use one gallon jugs like a water jug as another pot.

plants in water jug

When it comes to pesticides, you could put salt around the perimeter of the garden bed and that will help minimize slugs and snails from getting to your plants.

4. What are your thoughts in gardening indoor vs outdoor when the climate is not suitable for the plant?

When the climate is not suitable for the plant, you could get away with a hydroponic system. That is easily done by purchasing an AeroGarden; It is a plug and play hydroponic system that has been proven to grow plants rapidly, to allow you to grow indoors all year-long, or to get a head start if you live in the cooler weather. A brand new one is very costly, but if you go on Craigslist, you could find one between $20 to $60.

If you have the time and money, you could set up a grow tent in a garage or a spare room. This way, you could grow plants in a more controlled climate and hopefully, a pest-free environment.  Be mindful that you will need to provide grow lights that you could build yourself or you could buy at any hydroponic shop.


growing kalamansi ripe


5. Is having a “green thumb” a myth? What is your advice to someone who constantly fails at growing plants? 

Anybody could grow plants as long as she/he keeps the soil happy.

Also note that the more varieties of plants you decide to grow, the more varieties of pest you will attract to your garden.

As for NPK fertilizers, they’re all the same; don’t buy into propaganda. The first ingredients that you’ll see in a 10 10 10 fertilizer should be the NPK: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

When it comes to having a “green thumb”, the problem is, we have the tendency to give too much TLC to plants that we sometimes overdo it -like over watering. It is easier to kill a plant by overwatering than it is to underwater them.

What’s my advice to someone constantly failing at growing plants? Just never give up.  Start with the basics and don’t overwhelm yourself. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to produce your own fruits and vegetables either from seeds or from starter plants.

You could also try different methods, different soils, and different fertilizers, then use what works for you. Don’t rely on what others are doing to be successful. Rather, find something that will help you be successful because there are many things that can affect results.


growing tomatoes


growing purple tomatoes


growing in the greenhouse


growing kalamansi




Growing Your Greens
Khang Starr


I hope this post has given you better knowledge and greater confidence to grow your own vegetables and fruits. I sure did learn a lot.

Many thanks to my brother-in-law, King Pablo, for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. I’m sure he has given tremendous guidance to the rest of us newbie gardeners. Salamat Kuya!

Happy Earth Day everyone!

growing purple kale


titlecard natural and vegan skincare for spring

Top 5 Vegan Skincare for Spring

When I was transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, skincare products came last on my list to veganize. I started with food then wardrobe and eventually makeup and skincare. I thought I was doing a good job at it until I recently found out that some cruelty-free skincare products could also be harmful to my health.

I started learning about all the toxic ingredients in our cosmetics from reading the book, “The Green Beauty Guide“. The book has opened my eyes to many harmful yet legal products in the US market. Unfortunately, even some “natural”, vegan products have carcinogenic properties. On the upside, the book has also exposed which ingredients to stay away from.

Carcinogenic ingredients include parabens, dioxane (or products with “eth” in their name), benzyl alcohol, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, and many more. For some companies, these ingredients may extend shelf life or produce a better looking or smelling product.

Armed with this knowledge, I researched for which products to use. I tried them for at least two weeks and kept the ones that worked wonderful for my skin. I especially looked out for products that are perfect for the season, spring. Products that would make my skin glow, give sun protection, and keep my skin soft, smooth, and refreshed.

I’ve narrowed down my list and here’s what I’ve chosen as my top vegan skincare for the season, spring:

natural and vegan skincare wide

ellovi body butter wide

Ellovi Vanilla Body Butter. This body butter has only six ingredients: macadamia Hawaiian coconut, shea, vanilla bourbon, Ghanaian marula, and non-GMO corn starch. Notice that it has no preservatives at all. It also does not contain water which makes its formula concentrated.

I love that Ellovi keeps my skin soft and smooth even hours after application. The natural vanilla scent smells heavenly -not too overpowering but not too faint either.

ellovi body butter cu

ellovi body butter without top

Ellovi body butter comes in a sustainable, beautiful packaging -heavy glass jar, not plastic! It could also serve as face moisturizer and make-up remover, which saves money in the long run.

Generally, chemical-free products should be used within six months of purchase, but it’s nice to know that Ellovi body butter could last up to a year.


mychelle cleanserMychelle Face Sugar Scrub.  I was lucky enough to get a sample of Mychelle’s newest product, the Mychelle Face Sugar Scrub, when I was at Expo West. I’m a fan of DIY face cleansers but I thought of giving this one a try.

The first thing I noticed was that the sugar was not abrasive on my skin. It exfoliated then melted onto my face -giving a nice, gentle lather. The scrub wasn’t harsh but it was strong enough to remove makeup .

mychelle clenaser cu

Mychelle states that its products are “Free of Phthalates, Parabens, Sulfates, Ureas, Artificial Fragrances and Colors, Petroleum, GMOs, and Gluten”. It uses recyclable materials in its packaging and is powered by wind energy.

Mychelle is cruelty-free and about 98% vegan, few are vegetarian. To take out the guesswork and the painstaking task of checking ingredients lists, Mychelle has put together a chart of its vegan products all in one page. You may see that page by clicking here.


thayers wide shot

Thayer’s Face TonerLooking at its size, you could probably tell that I got this one as a sample as well. And yes, also at Expo West, by the kind and accommodating lady who works there named Emily. I almost didn’t go to their booth because I like making my own toner but I’m glad I did get a sample and tried it.

Thayer’s Face Toner was transformative. It cleared and brightened my face, making it look radiant, not pale. Its main ingredients are aloe vera, vegetable glycerin, and witch hazel. It has no alcohol and synthetic fragrances.

THAYERS witch hazel med shot

The natural scent from rosewater smells amazing! Back then, I thought I hated products and perfumes that smell like roses, but I realized that it was the fake rose smell that I didn’t like. The natural rose scent is less pungent; It smells sweeter and reminds me of spring.


ellovi lip butter med shot

Ellovi Lip Butter.  Like the body butter, the Ellovi lip butter also has six ingredients: sunflower, macadamia, Hawaiian coconut, shea, hemp seed, and Ghanaian marula.

It glides easily on my lips and intensely moisturizes for the entire day. Its oval-shaped packaging makes application smoother and more fun.

ellovi lip butter cu

ellovi lip butter wide shot

The lip butter is also easy to carry around and fits seamlessly in my pocket or handbag. I would change handbags from time to time depending on where I’m going -grocery store, photoshoot (aka eating out), or day trip with family and friends; so it’s nice to know that my lip butter could be always around me, ready to hydrate when I have chapped and dry lips.


Devita sunscreen wide shotDevita Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30+Wearing a sunscreen is a must in this warming season. It not only protects you from skin cancer, it also helps you from developing wrinkles. Unfortunately, most sunscreens in the market are laden with chemicals and artificial ingredients. The one thing that I do trust is the mineral sunscreen, zinc oxide, which is all natural.  I found it to be the active ingredient in Devita’s Facial Sunscreen with SPF 30+.

Devita’s sunscreen is not greasy to apply unlike other sunscreens. I apply it first thing in the morning after washing my face and before heading out the door.

devita halfshot

devita sunscreen sideshot

Take heed that mineral sunscreens could form clumps when applied too thick so be sure start with a small amount and gently massage on your face and re-apply if needed.


Disclaimer: Some of these products were provided to me and some I bought myself. All views are my own. I only promote products that I love and would share to family and friends.


Further Reading:


adobo nation thumbnail copy

Full Video of my Adobo Nation TV appearance

Recently, I was invited to appear on the TV show, “Adobo Nation” to talk about my work at Astig Vegan. I’ve been on TV before -promoting theater shows, even reporting the news, but there’s nothing like being on TV to talk about my life’s passion.  I was invited to talk about my own work. I’m still pinching myself in disbelief!

What’s even more surreal was the reception I got from strangers after the show was aired on TV. I received emails inquiring about my vegan shrimp paste and personal anecdotes about their hopes to live a plant-based lifestyle.

The ironic part is, I had always braced myself for the negative backlash of my work in veganizing Filipino Food. I was expecting resistance. I guess the saying is true, “You are your own worst critic”. I should have been less cynical and more open-minded. After all, Filipinos are a diverse group of people with many beliefs and lifestyles. Who am I to say that all Filipinos would entertain only meat recipes? I was firmly corrected – and happily so.

adobo nation guesting behind the scenes

The staff prepping the table. Minutes before the cameras roll.

food spread adobo nation

The spread of the food I made and brought. The hosts and staff were taking photos before the cameras roll.

I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to talk about veganism to many Filipinos across the globe. I won’t take this opportunity for granted.  It was a rare chance not given all the time to anybody. But hopefully, we’ll see more and more vegan representation in the Philippine media and in all media platforms.

Below is the full video of the interview. The producers of the show were kind enough to send me a digital copy to upload on my YouTube channel.

By the way, for those asking about my vegan shrimp paste. I am gearing for a new batch soon. I am including a special gift to go with it. I’m really excited and couldn’t wait for you to find out about it!

In the meantime, please email me at to reserve your spot. I’m waiving the shipping cost for orders of 4 or more. Ok that’s it, no more spoilers!

Thanks so much for all of your support. Your feedback means so much to me.



Two New Changes on the Blog

new announcements

I’ve made two important changes on my blog. One, I updated the page, “Astig Vegan Recipes”  which now features a menu list of my recipes. 

The recipes are neatly organized by courses: Appetizers, Entrees, Breads, Snacks, and Dessert. I’ll keep adding to this list as I feature new recipes.

With the recipe list, you don’t have to feel lost searching for a particular dish or recipe. Just look to the top left of this blog to find the page. This brilliant idea came from a blog subscriber. I don’t know why I never thought of it before but I’m glad someone did!

The second blog update is the page next to the recipe list, “YouTube Show“, which now shows my video recipes. Each video has a title and a short description for your viewing pleasure. Not all my recipes have videos but for those that do, you could find them on this page.

That’s it! If you have more ideas on how to make this blog more user-friendly, just let me know. Thanks so much and have a great rest of the week!


expo west taza chocolates

Most Intriguing and Top Vegan Snacks at Expo West 2015

Out of all the food categories at Expo West, I’d say snacks reigned supreme. Everywhere I looked, I spotted a snacks company handing out samples. The demand must be high for natural and organic snacks. Personally, I’m not a fan of processed food but if I need a ready-made snack, I would go for the natural, organic, and vegan versions. Expo West definitely had plenty of them.

In case you’re reading about Expo West for the first time, it’s an annual natural and organic food expo. This year, it was held at the Anaheim Convention Center March 6-8. For more information about it, feel free to visit my earlier post.

Learning about all the products at the expo was a daunting task. To make things easier, I’ve compiled lists of my favorite vegan finds under these categories: Drinks, Vegan Cheese, Vegan MeatsVegan Snacks, and The Most Intriguing

So what do I mean by “The Most Intriguing”? I found some products at the expo that I had never seen before nor I had expected to exist!  These products threw me off, but in a good way. If there’s an award for being clever, creative, and intriguing, they would take home the trophy. Feel free to scroll down below my vegan snacks list for my “intriguing” list.



My Top Vegan Snacks at Expo West 2015

top faves nutiva snack

 1. Nutiva O’Coconut. I’m a sucker for coconut macaroons; they’re sweet, a bit crunchy, a bit chewy, and a bit nutty. Nutiva’s O’Coconut was one of these delicious macaroons I couldn’t get enough of. It comes in two flavors: “Classic” and “Hemp and Chia”. 


top faves pistachio chew

 2. Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites. I love food companies that don’t skimp on their ingredients. Pistachio Chewy Bites is packed with delicious, California grown pistachios. I looove pistachios so I’m currently obsessed with this product. The company gets bonus points for being environmentally conscious. It recycles water and uses solar energy. Learn more about it on my video highlight below, featuring the adorable Spork Foods sisters.


top faves fava chips

3. Enlightened Roasted Broad Beans. Growing up in the Philippines, I used to snack on fried broad beans all the time. Now I could relive those moments with Enlightened Roasted Broad Beans. It’s good to note that Enlightened broad beans are roasted and not as oily as the ones I used to eat as a kid. If you haven’t tried broad beans for snacking yet, you’re missing out. I highly recommend to give it a shot. They’re crunchy, savory, and highly nutritious.


top faves avocado oil potato chips

3. Boulder Canyon Avocado Oil Canyon Cut Potato Chips. Avocado Oil? Fancy Schmancy! I love avocados and I love potatoes so putting those two together is a match made in heaven. Granted it is avocado oil and not actual avocados, these potato chips have some good avocado essence. It’s an upgrade from my regular potato chips.


expo west taza chocolates

4. Taza Chocolate. I’ve been familiar with Taza Chocolate disks but I had never seen its flavored chocolate bars until I went to the expo. Taza chocolates are stone-ground which gives an interesting, rustic texture compared to other chocolate bars.

Taza is organic, unrefined, and minimally processed. Perhaps what topped it for me was that Taza ethically sources its cacaos through its “Direct Trade Certified Cacao program“. I bet these chocolates would go well with my chocolate rice porridge or Filipino Champurado.


The Most Intriguing Vegan Products at Expo West 2015

top faves color garden

1. Color Garden Food Colors. What?! You mean I could play around with different icing and glazes? I never had any luck finding food coloring that’s 100% plant-based so I was stoked to see Color Garden in my press swag bag. I’m going to have too much fun with this one. 


top faves brads raw broccoli

 2. Brad’s Raw Broccoli Chips. At first glance, I thought it was weed! Doesn’t it look like it? My friends were joking about it when they handed me a sample, which is the one pictured above. The broccoli chips tasted delicious just like the kale chips version. It was crunchier than kale chips, had a mild spicy kick, and tasted “cheesy” which I’m assuming comes from a blend of nutritional yeast and nuts.


top faves munkijo coco nectar

 3. Munkijo Organic Coconut Nectar. I’ve had coconut nectars before but this one from Munkijo blew me away. It’s rich, sweet, and complex. There’s nothing like it. I’m just waiting to finish my agave and maple syrups and I would replace them both with Munkijo’s coconut nectar. I’m looking forward to use it in my pancakes, waffles, and pastries. 

I love that Munkijo sources its products from the Philippines, home to abundant coconut trees. I’ve also tried Munkijo’s coconut water and I included it in my top vegan drinks list. You could also watch the video below which talks about Munkijo products.


top fave pure pb4. Crazy Richard’s Pure PB. I don’t understand why peanuts have to be powdered but I am completely intrigued. I would usually grind peanuts in my high-speed blender or food processor but I usually end up with a peanut butter. Perhaps powdered peanuts would create a better texture in pastries and stews. I guess there’s only one way to find out. I’ll probably try this product in my Kare-kare dish and see how it will go.


And there you have it, my complete recap of my favorite vegan finds at Expo West 2015 starting from Vegan Drinks, Vegan Cheese, Vegan Meats, Vegan Snacks, and The Most Intriguing


On top of those lists, I’ve also shot and edited a short video montage of my trip. 

I hope my recap gave you an idea about what vegan products to look out for at the stores. If you think I’ve missed something or if you agree or disagree with any of my choices, feel free to leave a feedback. 

Thanks for following my Expo West series!







vegan meats at expo west hodo soy

Part 3: My Top Vegan Meats at Expo West 2015

I don’t usually cook with mock meats but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy having them in my meal. I see mock meats as great convenient food when I’m on the go or when I’m eating out at vegan restaurants.

Below is my list of top vegan meats I found at Expo West, a natural and organic food expo. Unfortunately, the expo wasn’t open to the public and it wasn’t all vegan either. I went as press and covered only the vegan products I saw there. To read more about it, feel free to visit my earlier post here.



expo west hodo soy burgers

1. Hodo Soy Tofu Veggie Burger Patty. I’m so excited that this product will be available to the public soon! I once had it during a tour of the Hodo Soy facility. The veggie burger was so good I could eat it by itself. I wouldn’t even need to cook it. The patty was juicy, savory, and flavorful. Hands down, my favorite veggie burger.


gardein at expo west2.  Gardein. To me, Gardein has the most resemblance to meat flavor and texture. I love that Gardein is non-GMO. In the video below, Chef Hiram Camillo shares a cool recipe idea for these Gardein bites.


field roast hand formed burger3. Field Roast Hand-Formed Burger. Field Roast is not kidding around with its hand-formed burger which has the same amount of fat as the regular meat burger -minus the animal cholesterol. This burger was juicy and flavorful, and yes fatty too. 


Have you  had any of these vegan meats before? What do you think of them? 

Please stay tuned for the rest of my lists: Vegan Drinks, Vegan Cheese, Vegan Snacks and The Most Intriguing -products that threw me off but in a good way.

In the mean time, feel free to check out this short video highlighting the vendors at Expo West, including vegan Filipino products!




Part 1: My Top Vegan Drinks at Expo West 2015

Part 2: My Top Vegan Cheeses at Expo West 2015



follow your heart vegan cheese

Part 2: My Top Vegan Cheeses at Expo West 2015

Before going to Expo West, I had promised myself I was only going there to network and find companies to collaborate with. I told myself, I will NOT get distracted nor post about vegan products that were not related to my theme, vegan Filipino recipes. But after three days of exploring the expo, I realized I cannot not share what I found -especially my favorites. So pardon me if I’m going off topic from vegan Filipino recipes here. I think that my lists would help you especially if you’re looking for recommendations.

Expo West is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) natural and food expos in the nation. This year, it has shattered its record of having the most number of attendees -more than 71,000! To read more about Expo West, feel free to check my earlier post: Part 1: My Top 5 Vegan Drinks at Expo West 2015.

The expo was massive and overwhelming. To spare you the same overwhelming feeling I got when I was there, I narrowed down my favorites and divided them into categories: Drinks, Snacks, Vegan Cheese, Vegan Meats, and the Most Intriguing -the ones that threw me off but in a good way.



miyoko cheese1. Miyoko’s Creamery. If you’ve had Miyoko’s Creamery vegan cheese before, then I think you would agree that it’s a no-brainer I have it on my list. Miyoko’s cheeses have the best flavor and texture out of all the vegan cheeses in the market. Miyoko’s cheeses are artisanal so they are a bit pricey at the stores. Still, if you’re looking for the best quality cheese the vegan industry has to offer, look no further than Miyoko’s.


follow your heart vegan cheese2. Follow Your Heart Vegan Cheese. This is my go-to brand if I just want a regular but delicious vegan cheese I could munch on. By munch on, I mean I could eat Follow Your Heart cheddar straight from the package. No bread needed, no other ingredients needed, just the vegan cheese. Mmm, shoot now I want one. Anyway! I spotted their booth which was giving away grilled vegan sandwiches and cubed vegan cheeses like the one pictured above.


daiya vegan cheesecake

 3. Daiya Vegan Cream Cheese. Going further from the usual pizza topping, Daiya sampled out mini cheesecakes made with their cream cheeses. The cheesecakes had three flavors: regular, strawberry, and key lime. All were delicious. I believe Daiya vegan cheesecakes will be available in stores April/May.


Please stay tuned for the rest of my list: Top Vegan Meats, Snacks, and the Most Intriguing.

In the meantime, feel free to watch this video highlight. I hope you enjoy! 



PART 1: My Top 5 Vegan Drinks at Expo West 2015.