Easy Vegan Sweet Potato Tacos











National Taco Day is October 4, so I decided to make some easy sweet potato tacos using ingredients from Trader Joe’s. I actually used mini organic Mission brand tortillas, but you can use Trader Joe’s regular size corn tortillas. This recipe is easy since it features Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar, which has corn, black beans, red bell peppers, onions, jalapeño peppers, and other spices.

Prep Time: 20 minutes; Cook Time: 30 minutes; Total Time: 45 minutes; Yield: 2 servings


  • 2 cups sweet potato chunks (about 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into ¾ inch slices, which are then cut into quarters)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil (enough to coat the pieces)
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 mini corn tortillas or 4 regular size tortillas
  • one half avocado, diced
  • 4-6 Cilantro sprigs


  1. Roast the sweet potatoes: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the chunks of sweet potatoes in a baking pan or baking sheet and toss with the olive oil, paprika, cayenne (optional), and salt. The potatoes should be arranged in a single layer. Cook for 30 minutes,mixing halfway through to cook evenly, until tender.
  2. While the potatoes are cooking, wash the cilantro and dice the avocado.
  3. When the potatoes are done, heat the tortillas over a low gas flame or on a comal (flat griddle used to cook tortillas) or a large dry skillet (don’t add oil).
  4. Place some of the Cowboy Caviar on each tortilla, add about 8 sweet potato chunks for each of the mini tortillas, then top with avocado chunks and cilantro sprigs. If you like your tacos spicier, you can add some salsa, such as Trader Joe’s Hatch Valley Salsa.

My Layover at Incheon International Airport

With a long layover at Incheon International Airport, I had to decide whether to go on one of the free transit tours, venture out into Seoul on my own, or explore the airport. (There are seven different transit tours of varying length: LEARN MORE.)  After considering the options, I decided to stay in the airport and write about the experience on my blog.

First I studied the airport map and then started investigating. There is a “nap zone” and a place to take free showers—towels are extra, so bring your own if you don’t want to pay for one. (LAX doesn’t offer free showers or most of the other amenities offered at Incheon. According to the LAX website: “Unfortunately, LAX lacks many of the specialty layover services present in other international airports, so travelers hoping to use a spa, day room or salon would be best advised to visit the nearest hotel to enjoy these facilities.”)

Incheon has a number of member-only lounges, like the Sky Hub Lounge, for members of the Asiana Star Alliance club (you can also pay at the door if you are not a member). But the thing I really enjoyed was the “nap zone”! I was somewhat fearful of taking a nap in public, but tiredness overtook me. I napped with my purse and backpack under my arms, and all was well! (I read later that padlocking your items down to something is a good idea.) After my nap, I went to the “work zone” where I got online and checked my email. For longer stays, there are two transit hotels that you can access within the airport without the inconvenience of going through security again.

For more interesting things to do at the airport, the site Sleeping in Airports has a great list: LEARN MORE

My favorite thing to do is eat, so I had two meals in different restaurants in the food court in Terminal 1. I actually discovered later that I missed a lot of dining possibilities since there are more restaurants in Terminal 2 and even in the basement of Terminal 1! My first meal was Japchae, a Korean dish made of sweet potato starch noodles and vegetables. When I have had it, it is often vegan, but this version had very small pieces of meat. The photo was misleading! (See my photo below – I bet you can’t see the meat.)

For dinner, I went to a different place (not sure about the name—I didn’t write down the names of the places, and unfortunately the receipt is all in Korean!), and I had Bibimbap, a rice dish with various vegetables, meat, and sauce that eventually get all mixed up together, but I asked them to hold the beef. It was delicious and very filling, even without the meat! (See photo below.)

After eating, I strolled around. I noticed a stage where musicians sometimes perform, although no one was performing when I went by. There were lovely gardens with real flowers and even a small historical museum! At one point, I saw a robot roaming around, and wide-eyed children were eagerly following it. The most surreal thing, however, was the Alpaca Garden in front of a store selling eyeglasses (see main photo above). The men in the corner moved up and down, and the visor of the one in front featured the words “Alpaca Garden.”

Next time I pass through this airport, I will probably take one of the transit tours!

Special Meals on Asiana Airlines

As a vegetarian and wannabe vegan (hard to kick the cheese habit!), I wanted to be sure to order vegetarian meals ahead of time for my flight. On my recent flight to Thailand, I flew Asiana Airlines. They have a number of special meals, including an “Asian/Hindu Vegetarian Meal” and a “Vegetarian Oriental Meal,” which is actually vegan and was described to me as being “like Chinese food.” (Visit this link for all the meal options: CLICK HERE)


I am glad I ordered the “Vegetarian Oriental Meal,” since the main dishes were delicious, and the people with the special meals get served first! The one shown in the main photo above was the first and best meal. The main dish was stir-fried vegetables and tofu on a bed of rice. Also mixed in were some ginkgo nuts, which I had never had before, and they were delicious! The cucumber salad came with a fat-free vinaigrette, which was terrible. I am not sure why they think that vegetarians or vegans would also need fat free dressing (the person next to me had a regular vinaigrette for their standard meal), although perhaps the other dressings had some milk products in them. A nice basic oil and vinegar dressing would be preferable. The meal also came with a roll (with butter substitute) and dessert was cut fruit. The later meals I had all had great main dishes, but the side dishes could be better. For example, one side dish was a salad of chickpeas and red bell peppers with a very bland dressing that could have used some lemon. Olive oil and lemon would have been great as a vegan dressing. So aside from the side dishes, I would recommend the “Vegetarian Oriental Meal.” Next time I think I will try the “Asian/Hindu Vegetarian Meal” for comparison. Bon appétit!

How Can a Person Become a Cultural Tour Guide?

Ever since the dawn of the 21st century, more and more people have started to travel than ever before. People from China, Pakistan, and Malaysia, as well as some places you have never heard of,  have started to travel to different parts of the world in search of something new.

Rise of Cultural Tourism

Unlike in the past where people did not have a specific focus for their travels to be about, these days, people are starting to focus on cultural tourism. There is a huge market for cultural tourism as people have become curious to learn about different cultures. Globalization has made it easier to travel to countries which could not have been possible in the past. Countries like Pakistan have opened up their doors to the world and offer e-visa or visa on arrival to people who want to experience the culture.

Now, this has led to many tour companies propping up, and some of the best are Smithsonian Journeys, The Nation, and Spain and Portugal Vacations, which provide interested travelers with a unique experience. Stride Travel provides a search feature for hundreds of tour companies with reviews. Cultural tourism is a gold mine, and if you want to become a tour guide for these tour companies, there are certain steps you can take.

Speak a Different Language

It is important to be able to communicate in different languages. In addition to English, some of the languages that can be useful include Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Urdu/Hindi, and even Afrikaans. If you want to become a tour guide for some of the cultural tourism companies, then it pays to speak a different language. You would be able to guide the tourists on a unique experience and even teach them some of the basics of the language.

Get a Hospitality or Tourism Degree

In order to become a tour guide, it is helpful to get a hospitality or tourism degree. The degree teaches you about the hospitality or tourism sector and how to satisfy the needs of travelers. The tourism industry is one of the largest and if you want a piece of the pie, you need to have the relevant knowledge and expertise.

Get Training

Another great way to become a tour guide is by enrolling in the well-known guide program offered by the International Tour Management Institute (ITMI) in San Francisco. Two-week training periods are provided in the program. There is also an annual symposium in which you would be able to connect with tour companies with guides.


One of the easiest ways to become a tour guide is by interning. It immediately puts you in a position in which you are able to work and gain hands-on experience. Summer is here and most of the tour companies offer interns with a position and even offer a permanent job after completion of the internship program. This is why it is a great idea to give it a try and learn about the tourism industry.

Get Hired as an Expert

If you have an advanced academic degree, you may be able to apply to one of the established tour companies to lead a tour based on your area of expertise.

Negroni Week

June 24-30 has been designated as Negroni Week by Imbibe magazine and Campari to raise money for charities around the world. LEARN MORE!

Now celebrating its 100th year, the classic Negroni cocktail is equal parts of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari. I decided to enter the Beefeater Negroni contest this year, and this is my submitted recipe:

Negroni Pompelmo: 1 ounce Beefeater gin, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth, 1 ounce Pompelmo San Pellegrino (grapefruit soda), and pink grapefruit twist for garnish. This is my first attempt at photographing a cocktail, and judging by some of the wonderful photos submitted, I have a ways to go before being a finalist!

In Honor of Anthony Bourdain Day

On Saturdays, I like to cook while listening to KCRW’s “Good Food” show, hosted by Evan Kleiman. It has become something of a ritual that I miss when I have a gig and can’t listen. This morning (while cooking Omani lentil soup from the book by Felicia Campbell, also on the Good Food blog), I learned on the show that June 25 has been declared Anthony Bourdain Day, established by chefs Eric Ripert and José Andrés, in celebration of Bourdain’s life and in commemoration of his tragic death by suicide last year on June 8, 2018. Not having cable TV, I was rather late to get to know about Bourdain. (Although I have since seen a few episodes of his Parts Unknown show, including the one on the food of Iran that I saw while eating in a Persian restaurant. Coincidence?) I am sorry it took me so long to get to know his work since he is now one of my role models for living the bold life. I love his sense of humor and taste for adventure, combined with his integrity and respect for the people he featured in his show. He was truly living the bold life. Peace and Happy Birthday, Anthony! #BourdainDay

[Note: the photo in this post is of the famous Raouche (Rawsha) Rocks in Beirut, Lebanon. Bourdain featured Beirut in two episodes of his Parts Unknown. Click here for the one from 2015.]