Learning How to Cook…Again

Ugh, cooking has been a little difficult for me over the past month. It was partially due to changes in my schedule and not knowing what to cook. Have you experienced this? Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. I love trying new recipes and experimenting with old ones, but this past month has been full of recipes that were just okay. I had some good vegan recipes, such as my vegan taco bowls that I need to post the recipe for, but I’ve had some not so good recipes too. I’ve been a little afraid to fail and show my cooking failures.

Last week, I posted on my Instagram that I wold cook through The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School cookbook. I’ve never really used a cookbook. I made a few French recipes from a cookbook that my boyfriend bought me when I was in high school, but that’s about it. To me, cookbooks are scary. I don’t know how to use them properly. It’s like reading an encyclopedia.

I chose this cookbook because I liked how technical it was. I am good at cutting vegetables and fruits. Seasoning meat doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve found a few good mixtures that work well. I always salt my food and add fresh herbs when needed. However, I’m not the best at layering flavors and knowing what works on the technical side of cooking. It’s something that I have to learn how to do. I’ve been avoiding it for a while now, and I wish I would’ve started earlier but it’s okay.

All of this to say, I will be posting about these recipes I’ve tried from The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School cookbook. Some will be successful and some won’t, but that’s okay. Let’s see how this goes!

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Becoming an Expat

By:Y. Shinnell Copeland

The first time I told my friends and family that I was moving to China many people were ecstatic. I’ve always expressed my desires for living abroad so when it came to my dad…he tried to deter my enthusiasm my recanting all the dangers happening in Asia at the time. However, after realizing that his efforts were futile he helped me book my tickets.

I think a big fear for people of color who decide to take the plunge into living abroad, is the idea that they’ll be alone. Many make the move to experience something new, find new opportunities, some even in the pursuit of a “less” toxic environment.

I’ve found one of the best resources for meeting like minded people, to actually be through Instagram. I’ve met alot of great women and have also had women moving to Asia (especially China) referred to me. It feels great being able to help someone. Three years ago, when I was preparing to move abroad, I didn’t have anyone to advise me.
Behind a lot of vivid pictures of beaches and life many seem not to need a vacation from, are genuine people, enthusiastic in sharing the good and “real” side of living abroad.

When I moved to Shanghai, China, I was pleasantly surprised to have another, black, female coworker. I didn’t expect to have one. She has connected me to literally hundreds of other black and brown expats and even other expats who are not people of color. They added me to groups that had people who could help me find hair products, great places to eat or even someone who were free during my random schedule to go shopping.

The Expat community, especially in Shanghai, is one of the densest and unique I’ve come across through my travels. I have truly made my transition into being a black expat here. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

If you are a POC and thinking about moving to Asia, here are some pieces advice:

1. Start decluttering your life & be open.
Don’t pack more than you can carry. For me, I use two checked bags and a carry on. Regarding decluttering that goes for your mental and spiritual well being as well. Don’t anticipate moving to another country and expect to have the same “luxuries” you would at home. Traveling in general is a very humbling experience, especially when you find yourself trying to order vanilla ice cream not knowing that “vanilla” doesn’t translate.

2. Do some research but don’t overwhelm yourself.
You can spend literally hours on the internet trying to find the most informative post on what to expect in your new city or new country. I did this but don’t do it! At the end of the day everyone has a different experience abroad. However, knowing whether or not you will need a VPN to access the internet and social media needs is something pretty useful to know. You don’t want to be scrambling at the airport before your flight trying to download one.

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3. Use social media to connect.
This is actually very important, like I’ve mentioned earlier. The best way to have your questions answered is to ask them directly. Many expats are still connected via Instagram and are usually willing to help “induct” newbie’s into the expat club.

4. Don’t skimp on grooming purchases.
Don’t expect to find all of your daily hair and body products abroad. I personally like to pack my favorite toiletries and hair products in “semi” bulk before traveling for long periods of time. If all else fails, and your nerves and anxiety begin to completely take control of your life, at least you’ll smell fresh and be well groomed.
Most importantly, keep your expectations low and your spirit and enthusiasm for life high. Moving abroad is a big deal so the best way to go into it is to enjoy the process as well.

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Follow Y. Shinnell Copeland on Instagram @elleisfab and check out her site Elle is Abroad.

If you interested in being featured in the We Are Abroad section of BMV, send an email to bettermyveggies@gmail.com.

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Spicy Vegetarian Chili with Quinoa

For a little over a month, I have been eating vegetarian meals for breakfast and dinner. I’m considering becoming a vegetarian, but I have to figure out how to make most dishes that I regularly eat vegetarian-friendly. It’s been a little difficult, but I like the challenge.

Recently, I made a spicy vegetarian chili. One of my favorite comfort foods is chili. Chili can be eaten by itself or put on a hot dog. I think it’s important to have a good chili recipe on hand, because it’s not very expensive to make and it can feed a lot of people. If I am honest, it has taken me a while to create a good chili recipe. I’ve made chili’s with little to no flavor,some were too spicy or they didn’t taste like other vegetarian chili’s I’ve had in the past.

When you try this recipe, please note how much spice I added. If you like your chili to be mild, cut back on the the cumin and cayenne pepper. If you like it really spicy, add more cumin and cayenne pepper. Make it your own and I hope you enjoy.

Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Print Recipe
6 people
6 people
Spicy Vegetarian Chili
Print Recipe
6 people
6 people
  • 1 cup quinoa uncooked
  • 3 cans fagioli beans kidney or black beans are okay
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
  • 2 bell peppers diced
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 white onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cumin, oregano,cayenne pepper and paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 lime juiced
Servings: people
  1. In a large pot on medium heat, add the grape seed oil and swirl it around the bottom of the pot.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the the onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper, corn and quinoa to the pot. Sautee the veggies and quinoa for five minutes.
  3. Next, add the spices, salt, pepper, sugar and lime to the pot. Cover the veggies with the spices and lime.
  4. Then, add the vegetable broth to the pot. Allow the broth to come to a simmer.
  5. After the broth comes to a simmer, add the beans and diced tomatoes. Stir the ingredients around and place the top on the pot. Allow the chili to cook for thirty minutes.
  6. When the chili is done cooking, place a serving in a bowl and add the toppings.
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A Small Guide to Moving Around Japan

Over the past month, I quit my old job and started a new one. I am so happy to be free from my previous position. I did not like working there. The hours were horrible and the pay was just okay. I am glad that I met the people that I did, but it’s great to have a life again.

Anyways, I started a new job and I’m enjoying it. I’m able to learn new things, my work hours are way better and the pay is better too. Before I started my new position, I had to move from Tokyo to Shizuoka. This was the sixth time I’ve moved in my life, and the second time I’ve moved within the same country. The first time was when I moved from Longyou to Nanjing.

Moving was a process. Two peoples worth of clothing, shoes, kitchen appliances and other miscellaneous items had to be moved from Tokyo to a small city in Shizuoka. Before doing some research, I had no idea how we were going to do it. Unlike China, the fast train here is mainly used for travel. In China, people will move large suitcases and boxes on the fast train.

All of this to say, if you are trying to move from city to city in Japan, here are some tips on how to make your move smoother.

1. Yamato Transport

Yamato Transport will save your save your neck, literally. They will pick up your boxes and suitcases and ship them directly to your new apartment for a reasonable price. Also, they have an English helpline where you can schedule your pickup. The day before we moved, we were able to ship 4 large suitcases, 1 small suitcase and about 10 boxes for $180. The amount is based off of the weight and size of the items. You can expect to spend about 1500 yen per item, about $15. Below is a photo of the numbers you can use to set up your pickup and a link to Yamato Transport’s website;


2. Nitori

Nitori is like Ikea, however, they have more options that are suitable for a Japanese home. Most items are fairly priced at Nitori. However, some items are a little overpriced. Nobody needs to pay 600 yen for a small trashcan for their bathroom. We were able to get different organizers for the closet, living room and kitchen, as well as a few appliances. To set up the whole apartment, beds included, we spent about $700.

3. Registration Paperwork

When I was moving, I had a limited amount of time to get all of my paperwork finished. Something that you will have to do, especially if you are changing jobs, is to go to your local city hall and tell them that you are moving. If you don’t do this, you won’t be able to register in your new city. Then you will have to wait up to two weeks to get your residency removed from your former city and registered in your new city. Trust me, try to do this before you leave.

4. Make a Friend at Your Bank

The bank that I use is great and foreigner-friendly. The majority of the staff speaks English and are quite helpful. If you do plan to move and keep the same bank account, make a friend at your bank. One of the bankers is someone I spoke to often and she was able to send me important documents that I needed for my new job. Make sure to get their card and ask them the best people to contact in time-sensitive situations.

That’s my small guide to moving around Japan. If you have any tips, please feel free to mention them in the comments below. You never know who you might help!

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Beading Dancer

The Black-Owned Businesses Abroad series is a recurring installment of interviews, photos, videos, promotions, and/or article contributions covering black entrepreneurs making their way in a society away from home. This article is spotlighting Beading Dancer, an alternative lifestyle brand based in Japan.

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How would you describe your business?

Beading Dancer is an alternative lifestyle brand. We make products that help the body, mind and spirit. At the moment, our products are jewelry, skin products and digital artwork.

How did you decide to start selling your line of personal care products?

In 2009, I made a simple design from a book and my friend encouraged me to sell them. She also suggested I try different designs…the rest is history.

How do you feel that making these goods has affected you and society around you?

Making these items is a form of therapy and sharing for me. I notice that some items have a specific person for them…it’s like there’s an attraction. I feel good knowing that my products help someone and I think they change people’s thoughts around skin products/ jewellery.

Have you been surprised (either positively or negatively) by any reactions to your products or your business?

My items have no frills or extra stuff,so, people seem surprised that you don’t need so many things to make something nice and simple.

If someone wants to come to Japan to live and to work, what are some key pieces of advice you would offer?

Know yourself and your limits, because if you aren’t careful, you might sell your soul for two pieces of gold.

What is one thing you want people to know about Japan, Japanese culture, or your experience of Japan?

Being in Japan gave me the break I needed from Johannesburg and helped me look at my business in a different way. Also, I was able to engage with suppliers,unlike back home, so I’m grateful for that.

Please share anything you’d like to about your products, your business, or yourself.

My most popular products have been beaded earrings because they give you just enough pop with almost any look. I think people should use more natural skin products. I started making salves as natural alternatives to petroleum jelly. My hope or wish is for black people/ Africans to realize that they deserve good products and to let go of getting cheap products to save a buck. We are beautiful.

If you’d like to be a part of the BOBA series, leave a message in the contact section of the blog.

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