Saturday, March 03, 2012

Move over Ragu

I recently made a pasta sauce that wasn't half bad, courtesy Alton Brown. I halved it and used a 35 oz can of Tuttoroso tomatoes. We don't have sherry vinegar so I used apple cider vinegar and we don't have oregano or basil (though the canned tomatoes were supposedly basil infused). We also didn't have celery, so I omitted it. Despite all the changes, it turned out ok.

Pantry Friendly Tomato Sauce

Prep Time:
10 min
Inactive Prep Time:
Cook Time:
1 hr 15 min
1.5 quarts


  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


In a sieve over a medium non-reactive saucepot, strain the tomatoes of their juice into the sauce pot. Add the sherry vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil to the tomato juice. Stir and cook over high heat. Once bubbles begin to form on the surface, reduce to a simmer. Allow liquid to reduce by 1/2 or until liquid has thickened to a loose syrup consistency.
Squeeze each tomato thoroughly to ensure most seeds are removed. Set the tomatoes aside.
Cut carrot, onion, and celery into uniform sizes and combine with olive oil and garlic in a non-reactive roasting pan over low heat. Sweat the mirepoix until the carrots are tender and the onion becomes translucent, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers to the roasting pan.
Place roasting pan on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Tomatoes should start to brown slightly on edges with light caramelization. Remove the pan from the broiler. Place the pan over 2 burners on the stove. Add the white wine to the tomatoes and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes over medium heat.
Put the tomatoes into a deep pot or bowl and add the reduced tomato liquid to the tomatoes. Blend to desired consistency and adjust seasoning.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Composing compost

I am trying to grow worms, or more like, make compost. We have the chicken wire structures for leaves in the backyard, but we haven't harvested any compost yet. The leaves are from last fall but admittedly we left them scattered about the yard throughout the winter and didn't gather them for composting until this spring. So we wait.

But today, as I was expanding the garden beds (still need to get large stones or some other edging material), I found a bunch of worms. I have the general idea that our yard is really unhealthy so I'm surprised that there's actual life! Ever since my friend shared her compost setup with me, I've wanted to try the same thing. So I made a mini version of using those rectangular plastic takeout containers. I only put in maybe 5 worms with the hope that they'll reproduce and if things don't quite work out, I won't be responsible for a major worm massacre. I also don't want to undo the good work that these worms have been doing outside. Hopefully I don't commit worm-cide or track unwanted pests with this but we'll see how it goes.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Service

I watched parts of the royal wedding yesterday, mostly recapped through news features. While people focused on the bride's dress, how beautiful the wedding was, the many different parts of it, the important people that attended, I was focused on the groom's attire. I thought he looked a bit ridiculous but then a news feature talked about how he was wearing his armed services uniform and he will actually continue to work in the force for the first two years of their newlywed life together. Now, here is the prince of Wales, 3rd in line to the throne, proudly serving his country for just 40,000 pounds ($65,000) a year. Prince Harry, a partyer, is also in the armed services and he actually served in Afghanistan until the tabloids found out and made it unsafe for him to serve.

Why is it different in the U.S., where it seems like anyone of any importance to the media does all they can to avoid serving? Celebrities, congressmen and their families, sports figures -- few serve. It is the poor and the "ordinary" people in middle America who often serve. In New York City, it seems to me that the recruiting centers are often in impoverished neighborhoods and people have to be "bribed" with a free education to get people to serve. Is it because the "royalty" in the U.S. -- the Hollywood celebrities -- are all imported from Canada?

Speaking of our "royalty", and red carpet events, the UK just outdoes us completely. Talk about class and elegance. Hollywood celebrities and their celebrations just do not compare.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sew fun!

An under-appreciated and oft-overlooked skill is sewing. I wish that I had the option to learn to sew in addition to the introductory cooking lessons in junior high home economics. Luckily, I learned to hand sew during arts and crafts in sixth grade (with some tips from my mother) but I never had the privilege of learning to sew on a machine. A few months ago, after much debate and research, and just a few borrowed experiences on my MIL's machine, I bought myself a sewing machine. Out of the box, it was/is so fun to see things come together within hours. I still have much to learn, but I love that the machine sews faster, neater, better, and more variety of stitches than I could ever achieve by hand.
Singer® Touch & Sew (TM) 7462 Electronic Sewing Machine

Recently, rather than dreaming up projects and trying to execute them with scribbled calculations and diagrams, I started to follow the Sewing for Dummies book. I was previously just using it as a reference guide because the projects seem dated and a bit quirky (some pictures remind me of tacky flea market sells). But within the dated projects and mostly black and white instructions, there are a lot of tips, tricks, and basic sewing knowledge to be had. I am slowly cobbling together sewing skills!

Even though things still don't come out perfectly, it is much easier (with better results) to follow step-by-step instructions than to do things my way (at least for now, while I don't have much experience). And I would've never imagined how much goes into getting good results (like the need for ironing before turning a piece inside out). Now the next step is to move somewhere where I can have a sewing room -- constantly moving things onto and off the dining table is getting old.

Friday, December 19, 2008


My friend passed on a recipe from Chinese Feasts and Festivals (a Cookbook) since I mentioned in a previous post that I wanted to make my own Salted Preserved Eggs after receiving a pair from my aunt-in-law.

Salted Preserved Eggs
1 cup (300g) coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
6 cups (1 1/2 liters) water
2 tablespoons rice wine
10 duck or chicken eggs, cleaned

1) Combine salt, peppercorns, water, rice wine in a large pot. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly until salt has dissolved (about 5 min). Remove and set aside to cool
2) When cool, pour brine into a clean, non-metallic jar (a glass, ceramic or earthenware jar). Carefully lower the eggs into the brine, making sure the eggs are totally immersed. Cover the jar and leave at room temperature for 30 days.
3) After 30 days, the salted preserved eggs are ready to be used. Remove the eggs from the jar and dry on a rack. Store the dried eggs in a cool, dry place.

After I got the email from my friend, I immediately rushed to make this. It has been almost 2 weeks and the brine (possibly the eggs too) has changed slightly in color. The brine is also cloudy. I'm worried because there is some sediment that has settled to the bottom of the jar. I wonder if it's related to my halving the recipe (wasn't sure if I'd like it, and Dear doesn't like this, so I just made 5). Guess I won't know until another 2 weeks.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Happy anniversary!

It's been a year and two weeks (been too busy to blog) when a cadaver and I became one: I received its tendon for my left ACL. A year and two weeks ago (give or take a few days), I was in pain, sweating in bed or on the couch with my leg wrapped up in a bandage and forced to move and bend while strapped into a knee bending machine. When not in the machine, I had the brace that took as much time to put on as it did to get dressed. I remember the pain and torture of physical therapy over the past 12 months: being electrocuted to jump start my muscles moving, making a first full revolution on the bike, getting used to putting weight on the injured leg, having my leg forcefully bent to the point of tears, and then all the strength training that made me probably the fittest I've ever been. Throughout the year, I regret not taking pictures of the progression of my knee, from being swollen, atrophied, and stitched-up to having some of the stitches removed, to the swelling decreasing gradually, and then the strengthening.
The one year mark was when I was supposed to stop my thrice-weekly exercises, but in reality I haven't been doing them since my vacation two months ago. I haven't really noticed much difference, but I don't think things will ever be the way they were before the injury. I've come to accept that some days my knee will feel weak, or sore, or achy. I've also accepted that I may never be able to fully kneel and that I can't live my life completely inconsiderate of my injury and rehabilitation. For instance, if I want to go skiing or skating, I really should prep by doing my exercises six weeks prior. I am also much more conscious of my shoes now. Or I am at least conscious of the effect of my shoes -- I still wear "bad" shoes because you really can't just wear sneakers every day and I have yet to find comfortable, supportive shoes that are not sneakers or ugly.

But I am glad that I have the reconstructed ACL because most of the time I don't feel it or think about it. I do wonder, though, if I didn't get injured, would I have a better Wii Fit score, or would I have a better center of balance instead of shifting my weight to the right so much (a flaw that the Wii balance board has pointed out to me)? Or was I always like that, and maybe that's why I got hurt?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sharp as a razor

My current obsession is my new (and first) Global chef's knife. I've never bought my own knife but I finally decided that you need the right tools for the right job and rather than buying lots of mediocre and inexpensive knives (something Dear has a penchant for), I'll just invest in a few good ones. I spent an inordinate amount of time testing out knives at Sur La Table and questioning the very knowledgeable salesperson. The Global felt very comfortable in my hands and I love how light it is. It is also cheaper than the Shun (my runner up) and the Wusthof, which is also nice, but not as comfortable for me as the Japanese knives.

So far my first "fancy" knife foray has been amazing. I now understand what Alton Brown means when he says you can cut faster depending on what your cutting surface is. I always thought that didn't apply to me because I am slow anyway, but when I used our plastic board (because it fits in the dishwasher), I felt like the board was working against me. I can't wait to try on the composite board.

I have to say that I loved shopping at Sur La Table also. It is to cooking what B&H is to photography. I love that I can get a good chunk of my research done in one place in person, rather than searching through the Internet reading anonymous reviews for which you can't read into whether or not they contain falsities. It is also great to be able to test things out in person too.

The salesperson reiterated a lot of what I've read/heard/watched on TV about knives, but I did learn some new things:
- You need to hone your knife with the steel specific to your knife. Since different companies use different alloys to create their knives, you can't use a steel from another company because that steel will be of a substance complementary to its own knives, which could be damaging/too abrasive to another alloy.
- Global knives are recommended to be honed only with ceramic. There is the option to get the ceramic steel for the same price as the knife, or as the salesperson suggested, to get a Japanese sharpener for half the price and just use the second wheel for honing.
- The harsh chemicals and high temperatures of the dishwasher could alter the chemical composition of knives, hence you should only hand-wash knives.
- The electric knife sharpeners (such as from Chef's Choice, which I had contemplated buying for Dear) can NOT be used with Japanese knives because the angle of the blade is so different between European and Japanese knives. It would be like sticking a different-shaped pencil into a pencil sharpener.
- The salesperson recommended storing knives with magnets because they allow knives to fully air dry and also keep them within easy reach.

On a somewhat related note, I have noticed more fallibility with Alton Brown lately (though he's still one of my favorite food information sources). His knife line with Shun is not all that. I don't see a real need for such a high-angled handle, even if you have large knuckles. Plus it looks weird. And I recently tried out his recipe for vanilla ice cream, which is quite good but still needs tweaking. I find it almost diabetic-coma-inducingly sweet. From the sound of this post, it seems like I'm cooking more. But, I'm really not. I do think I am more inclined to though....

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hawaii recap

A while ago, I wrote an outline of my Hawaii/LA experience before the memories got too mucked up in my mind. I was hoping to flesh out everything, but I think an outline with pictures is good enough. I'm still trying to decide on which photo service to go with (any suggestions on that are welcome!) so that I can post all the pictures.

Day 1
  • Fly to LA and meet up with Dear's cousin for lunch and short tour
    • Eat at Cholo's (Mexican food)
    • start with fresh tortilla chips (still warm!) and cool guac
    • sweet corn tamales
    • Dear has chicken chimichangas
    • Tour Venice and other parts of LA by the shore
  • Dear's cousin goes back to work and we sit in airport for a few hours to wait for next flight
  • Land in Honolulu dead tired b/c awake for 24 hours (surprised and disappointed by the humidity that hits you as you walk out of the airport)
  • Take Robert's Hawaii shuttle to hotel
  • Stay in Executive Suite (got upgraded for some reason) of Hilton Prince Kuhio in Waikiki but hardly get to enjoy it because we check out less than 24 hours later
  • Take shuttle to airport and driver asks if we're on honeymoon -- we say yes :)

Day 2
  • Have haupia (coconut)-flavored cream puff at Beard Papa's for breakfast
  • Take bus to Chinatown for $2 per person, each way
  • Look for good dim sum and settle on Golden Palace Seafood Restaurant (disappointing but seemingly larger portions than in NYC)
  • Buy bag of fresh lychees (so sweet and juicy, with a small pit)
  • Fly to Kona on Hawaiian Air
  • Pick up rental car and on way to hotel, eat at Denny's because everything else is closed (10pm)
  • Try moco loco (Hawaiian specialty of hamburger patty and egg on top of rice, covered in gravy) -- surprisingly good
  • Check into Kona Tiki Hotel
Honolulu's Chinatown

Fresh, juicy lychees that we enjoyed on our lanai (patio) in Kona

Day 3
  • Have fresh papaya, banana, pineapple for breakfast at the hotel; POG (passionfruit, orange, guava) juice
  • Visit farmer's market up the road
  • Buy sweet, crisp mountain plums, green apple bananas (that never ripen), lillikoi (aka passionfruit)
    • Plums are rare in Hawaii because they need frost, hence they only grow on the mountain
    • Plums were about the size of large cherries
  • Dear suckered into buying sandals b/c the ones he brought from NYC feel loosey-goosey
  • Go to Wal-mart to get snacks, beverages
  • Visit Costco and have lunch there; they offer coffee smoothie but regretfully we do not try
  • Drive past lava rock terrain on way to Hapuna white sand beach
  • Dinner at Big Island Grill for dinner
    • Big bowl of saimin (ramen-like noodles) with shrimp tempura (lots of thick batter)
    • Dear has mixed plate of fried seafood; comes with potato salad and rice
  • Walk around touristy parts of Kona
  • Snack: Scandinavian Shave Ice with macadamia nut ice cream
White coral graffiti against black lava background of North Kona Coast

White sand of Hapuna Beach

Day 4 (July 4)
  • Visit Puuhonua O Honaunau NP
    • See sea turtles and explore tide pools in lava rock
    • Park exhibit is a bit boring but scenery is nice
    • Eat lunch bought from KTA supermarket at picnic area overlooking ocean
      • Fried chicken with Spam musubi
  • Attend luau -- big disappointment because felt like a very touristy, historically inaccurate dinner show
  • Tried poi (taro paste), lau lau (meat wrapped in ti leaf), kalua (Hawaiian roast) pig, poke (marinated, raw fish) for first time
  • Drive to old airport to watch fireworks in the rain (bummer for the convertible)
View from Puuhonua O Honaunau

Firethrower at commercialized luau

Day 5
  • Drive to Hilo, passing Waimea, cowboy country, and scenic mountain passes
  • Explore Hilo Farmer's Market
    • Buy fresh, cheap lychees and sweet, juicy mangos with little fiber and small pit
  • Search for recommended sushi restaurant and shave ice place but everything closed for July 4 long weekend
  • Exchange cars at airport because trunk won't close
  • Settle for local lunch place recommended by guide: 1lb. beef and pork lau lau -- stuffed!
  • Find Two Ladies Kitchen by accident and get freshly-made mochi with traditional fillings like red bean and also non-traditional fillings like chocolate, peanut butter, and candy
  • Pick up dinner from KTA supermarket
    • Eel over rice
    • Dear has seaweed salad and something I don't remember
  • Drive to Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station, up steep, desolate road with moon-like terrain on either side
  • Mountain is probably 20 degrees cooler than ground level and we put on long pants, jacket, socks, closed toe shoes
    • I put on additional 2 layers of long sleeves and still feel a bit cold
  • We eat part of our dinner with the convertible's top down as the sun sets
  • I fall asleep during astronomer's presentation but wake up in time to get a piece of a meteorite he found
  • We wait for sky to darken to stargaze -- we see Jupiter and the moon through the telescope
  • Drive down dark (unlit but for moon), windy, steep road down the mountain in low gear but brakes still overheat
  • Drive unlit, windy 2-lane Saddle Road back to Kona
Soft mochi from Two Ladies Kitchen

View of top of clouds from Mauna Kea at 9000 ft

Day 6
  • Head to Volcano NP
  • Stop at Tex Drive-In for malasadas (very light, filled donut-like treats) and buy lunch to go
  • Eat lunch at Akaka Falls SP in convertible
    • pineapple burger
    • Dear has shrimp burger
  • Short walk to Akaka Falls, take pictures and head out
  • Pass through Hilo with a quick drive by the shave ice place, with no luck
  • Arrive at Volcano NP and attempt to hike Kilauea caldera before noxious gases make us head back
    • Ranger Joe teaches about Ohia trees and ferns
    • Ranger's monitor goes off and we feel burn of sulphuric acid in our lungs
  • Drive to lava flow about 1hr away
  • See town covered in lava
  • Wait for hours to watch glow of lava flowing down the mountain and gushing into the ocean
  • Leave right after dusk and walk over lava rock in dark
  • Sight to see line of flashlights of people leaving behind you
  • Traffic jam to leave and only place left to eat when we return to Kona is Denny's
Malasadas from Tex Drive-In

Akaka Falls
Waiting for dusk on hardened lava trail

Watching lava flow at dusk

Day 7
  • Do laundry at grungy-looking place down the road but get a good bit of reading done
  • Eat lunch from Ba Le (Vietnamese) by hotel's pool
    • pork sandwich
    • special sandwich w/ pate
  • Snorkel with SeaQuest tours by Captain Cook's monument
    • great guide taught a lot about history of the island and showed us a lot of neat stuff
    • hard-bottomed raft -- really fun to go at fast speed and to see gorgeous scenery by water
    • see spinner dolphins (about the size of a dog!)
  • Visit marketplace in Keahou and try shave ice there -- friendly woman gives it to us for free because we're last one there
  • At sunset, light 7 tiki torches at Kona Tiki hotel while Dear blows on conch shell
  • Dinner at Huggo's (expensive and not that great)
Following tradition, I light tiki torches after Dear blows conch shell

Day 8
  • Visit Kona Joe coffee farm, where they grow coffee on trellises like grapes for wine
  • Eat lunch at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue (local chain)
    • lau lau w/ kalua (delish but couldn't finish huge portions)
    • Dear disappointed by bbq sampler mix plate because he was expecting Southern U.S. bbq, not Asian bbq
  • Visit Hamakua Macadamia Nut Factory (a bit lame, but got to crack a few nuts and bought nuts)
  • Finish souvenir shopping and even stop by a sewing store to get recommendations on sewing machines
  • Dinner at Kenichi in Keahou disappointing and way overpriced; realize you don't go to the Big Island for food
  • Get dessert from KTA

Day 9
  • Fly back to Oahu very early in the morning
  • Surprised how many birthday messages I get -- maybe I should always travel on my birthday! :D
  • Deja vu: take shuttle to Waikiki; drop off luggage at hotel
  • Walk to Eggs N' Things for brunch
    • Mozzarella omelette with side of pancakes
    • Variety of syrup: pineapple, coconut, boysenberry, maple
    • Dear has eggs and hash; declares best meal he's had so far in Hawaii
  • Try surfing in Waikiki
  • Dinner at Sansei
    • Omakase menu was delicious from beginning to end
    • White tuna sashimi and a half-price roll
    • Service was stupendous: waiter not intrusive but very attentive, had recommendations like he really knew the menu
    • Only regret: not that hungry after the huge brunch
Various pancake syrups at Eggs N' Things, plus salsa for hash

Resting in the waters of Waikiki -- surfing is hard work! (I am in red)

Day 10
  • Take bus to Pearl Harbor (takes forever, but just $2)
    • Do self-guided audio tour while waiting
    • Run into Dear's co-worker on his honeymoon
  • Take long bus ride back to hotel
  • Walk to Waiola Shave Ice (yummy goodness that makes my mouth water as I think of it)
    • 3 flavors: lillikoi, melona, mango(?) with condensed milk on top
  • Dinner at Hakone
    • Australian Kobe beef
    • fresh AYCE sushi

Day 11
  • Finish fruit from farmers' markets for breakfast, except for unripened bananas
  • Lunch from Me Bar-Becue
    • bimimbop
    • Dear has beef ribs, I think; he likes the pickles
  • Flight to LA delayed; 3 remaining plums and bunch of bananas confiscated
  • Arrive in LA and it is actually cool and a jacket would've been nice
  • Pick up ghetto rental car
  • Dinner at McDonald's in San Gabriel :(
Started second box of mochi from Two Ladies (small, candy-like and unfilled) while waiting in airport

Day 12
  • Meet up with Dear's cousin again for dim sum at huge restaurant in San Gabriel
  • Target stop to get drinks
  • Attend friend's Wedding

Day 13
  • Lunch from In N' Out Burger: each get Double Double, and share strawberry milkshake and fries
    • Everything is made to order, so it's very fresh and yummy
    • To boot, it's pretty inexpensive
    • Fries could use a double-fry
  • Return to heat and humidity of NYC
  • Dinner at Georgia Diner (options limited at 1am, but at least there are options past 10pm!)

Monday, August 04, 2008


It's been TWO months since I've written anything. That's what happens when you're on TWO softball teams, go on a TWO-week vacation, followed by a TWO-night trip to Cape May, go to TWO weddings (with TWO more to go), and overall get bogged down with the TWO busiest months of the year at work. So instead of the fancy post about Hawaii that I imagined this would be, I will blog/brag about my health report.

After TWO years of not seeing a regular doctor for an "annual" physical, I finally went to the health center at work since I got a letter about qualifying for a free one. And I'm glad to say that even after eating massive amounts of seafood and bacon (my two favorite food groups), everything is normal. I can continue eating with reckless abandon! But I suspect that like everyone and everything else, unhealthful eating will eventually catch up to me, just probably slower than average people. I have a theory (that I don't know how to prove) that I actually age slower than most people. I am always mistaken for being younger than I actually am, once in a while even passing for high school age. At the age of 25, I felt like I finally turned 18. I felt like I was 16 for the longest time, except when I was actually 16 (I felt like I was maybe 12). Right now, I feel like I just turned 25.

To quote Monk, It is both a blessing and a curse.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Recent firsts

Hanami at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Truly one of the treasures of NYC, the garden is so peaceful and refreshing -- every time I walk into the garden, through the gates and away from the grimy, noisy city streets, I feel a calm settle into me. And when it's cherry blossom time, it is especially gorgeous (albeit more crowded than usual). We strolled through rows of the pink blooms, so fresh and vibrant against the green of the leaves. To walk amongst the trees and be surrounded by delicate pink petals above and to the side of you, and to watch the bloom-laden branches sway with gentle breezes, to catch some petals that flutter past you as they settle towards the grass -- I can't think of a more beautiful way to spend a crisp Saturday morning. A few steps over were also some fragrant lilacs and hyacinths, in swaths of purple and lavender. Overall, spring at the BBG is just awesome. And to get there, I was reminded of the wonderful architecture and classy history of Brooklyn, my favorite borough. We drove past wide streets with brownstones on either side and past the Brooklyn Museum with its own cherry trees out front.
Prunus 'Kanzan,' one of the most showy cherry blossoms; view more from our BBG visit on this Flickr photostream

Crawfish etouffee, alligator. I had never had Cajun food before and crawfish (never had that before either) was a good introduction. The texture is like a cross between lobster and shrimp, with a little bite to it. Alligator I was not so crazy about. Or maybe it was just the preparation of it -- I mostly tasted batter.

All-you-can-eat blue crabs in Delaware. We usually drive through this tiny state on the way to other destinations, but I think we've found enough reason to stay: outlet shopping, nearby beaches, and succulent, sweet crab. There's just something about the spices in Old Bay that remind me of the ocean and when mixed with the warm, sweet crab meat, I am in ecstasy.

5 Borough Bike Tour on a tandem bicycle, as a marshall. The 42 miles were grueling for my poor, out-of-shape self and there were times I really wanted to call it quits. But I stuck through it all, fighting crowds of cyclists entering picturesque Central Park, crossing over the Queensborough Bridge, avoiding the bumpy potholes of the FDR Drive and DUMBO, pushing over the long steep incline of the Verrazano, into Staten Island and onto the ferry. I really appreciated the downhills for the first time (I'm usually scared of losing control going downhill and often ride the brakes -- so bad, I know!) when I could stand on the pedals and give my butt a break from the skinny, hard seat. The worse parts, surprisingly, were the relatively flat stretches -- it was a difficult for me to keep up pace and there is no break for the butt. There's even something about going uphill (vigorous pumping of the legs?) that relieves your gluteals from the hard seat. I was also glad for the few long breaks when we had to walking the bikes because of bottlenecks or other traffic issues. It was also interesting to ride a tandem -- once you get used to the balance issues, it's kinda fun, especially when you're biking with someone who has way more experience and expertise. I wish I could say that I learned how to properly shift gears and steer through traffic from him, but I forgot most of it already. :(

Elote (Mexican corn). I've always wanted to try this but never knew where I could buy this delicious grilled, buttered, cheese and spice-coated comestible.

Inner workings of a recording studio
. It was cool to see how a voiceover is produced, all the audio equipment and how it's used, and to sit in a soundproofed room. I also think doing freelance voiceover work is a good, fun side gig.

Conflicting funerals from both sides of your family means that you shouldn't send a wreath to one side. I don't understand the logic of this at all, and which side is ignored. In this case, we were told not to send for my yee paw's funeral because Dear's grandmother passed away too. Also, my mother told us to forget Mother's Day this year because of the passing. Weirdness....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The good earth

This weekend yielded some surprising food finds. On Saturday, we stopped by a new Asian market somewhere between Bayside and Flushing. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary in terms of Asian markets, but this time I decided to finally try this form of mushroom that I've seen before but never actually bought. Unfortunately I have no idea what it is called but next time I will take a pic before I eat it! It is about 5-6 inches long and looks like mostly stalk growing into a mini cap. It reminds me a bit of squash in terms of size and shape. There were also organic enoki mushrooms, which we bought, with the idea of making a mushroom ragu with pasta sometime during the week (which we did and was delicious and quick).

On Sunday, we happened to be in Flushing again and decided to just pick up some roast pork for dinner. On the way back to the car, I saw a woman by a vegetable stand on the sidewalk. She had set out ceramic plates piled with produce in front of each box of her goods. What really piqued my interest was that she was selling purple mini-potatoes. She also had regular Yukon golds, onions, and a bunch of brightly-colored sweet bell(?) peppers. But we just needed potatoes and the purple ones looked very enticing. In exchange for just $1, she poured the plate of potatoes (felt like about a pound) into a bag and then scooped up another plateful in anticipation of the next customer. Who would have thunk that there would be an old Chinese woman selling fresh purple potatoes in the middle of bustling Flushing? Buying fresh seasonal produce, passing by delicate blooms on my walk to the subway station -- I am loving Spring!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The race card

I consider myself a pretty typical young, urban professional but I guess all my social circles are at least 25% minority (primarily Asian), so it's a bit of a shock to be around non-minority, mainstream Caucasian yuppies. It's neither good nor bad, but just different, and definitely a sign of being quite sheltered (even in multicultural NYC -- maybe it's too multicultural?).

Random current design idea roiling in my head: sliding doors with barn-type hardware.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Time and time again

For all the things that I claim that I don't have time for, I sure do spend a lot of time doing seemingly unproductive things. One of the biggest time sucks is social networking, though I fully advocate the use of these for all the benefits of them.

So what else have I been doing for the past month? Researching/debating/pondering storage solutions, ranges, refrigerators, "honeymoon" options. I also have this weird hankering to drive. I was in someone's car (female Asian, of course) that just inspired me to get behind the wheel (if she can drive, I can -- I wouldn't take my eyes off the road to talk to anyone).

I'm glad that we finally settled on a range (GE Profile with warming drawer) and it works so beautifully! Now that we have a working oven again, I'm planning on baking lots of things : cookies, tres leches cake, no-knead bread variations.... If I only had time! :P

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Giant Fat Tuesday

It's a big week. Today was the primary election in New York. It was also the ticker tape parade for the world champion Giants (the first football game that I actually sat through). And don't forget that it is also Mardi Gras, before the start of Lent, which is also Chinese New Year Eve. I have not participated/prepared for any of these activities. *sigh* And I anticipate being busy the rest of the week (and not for these activities, unfortunately) so happy rat year!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Breakfast of champions

Breakfast is probably my second-most favorite meal of the day because its many sweet offerings are as close to dessert (my most favorite meal!) as you can get. Of course, I enjoy the savory offerings of breakfast as well (bacon... mmmm... eggs... mmm...) but that's for another post. Breakfast also intrigues me because it's a very efficient meal -- relatively short yet filling and it needs to be quick and easy to prepare and eat in order to fit into my daily schedule (with exceptions for occasional weekends). When Dear returned, he mentioned that he used to have a bowl of oatmeal daily while away. But I stopped having oatmeal because all the convenient versions of it (packets with more sugar than oats or instant one-minute variety cooked in the microwave because I can't stand making it at the stove) were just nasty and/or a bother. Then I thought about using either a slow cooker (still haven't cracked that one open yet) or a rice cooker. Googling it turned up lots of recipes that I wanted to try.

They are basically the same -- throw oats, a liquid, dash of salt, optional dried fruits or nuts, and a flavoring if you'd like, into the cooker and press on. Whenever the cooker shuts off or turns to "warm", you have piping hot, smooth and creamy oatmeal. The trick is to figure out the ratio of liquid to oats. RealSimple says "add a little less milk or water than you would for stovetop cooking (and some chopped nuts and dried fruit if you want)." I ended up taking bits of several recipes but mostly followed this from Cuisinart:

2 cups (Rice Cooker) rolled oats(not quick cooking)
3 cups (standard liquid measure) water (according to measurement on inside of rice cooker bowl) liquid, which was a combination of apple juice and water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon1 stick cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons raisins used handful of golden raisins and cherries for following serving two days later in the microwave, since I didn't have any at the time

Insert bowl in Cuisinart® Rice Cooker/Steamer. Place oatmeal, water, cinnamon and salt in bowl; stir. Sprinkle raisins over top. Cover and turn on; cooking time will be about 12 to 18 minutes as long as your rice cooker deems necessary -- mine was maybe 30 minutes? When unit switches to Warm, Cinnamon Raisin Apple Oatmeal is ready to serve, or it may be kept on Warm. Stir before serving. Serve hot as is, or sprinkle with a sweetener such as brown sugar, honey or maple syrup. A dollop of yogurt (plain or vanilla) or milk to taste may be added.

Note: Other dried fruits may be substituted for the raisins. Try dried cherries, cranberries or blueberries,slivered dried apricots or plums or chopped dried apples.

Note 2: Leftovers can be refrigerated and microwaved (with the addition of some extra liquid) during the rest of the week. I added some water and milk, stirred it up, dropped in dried fruit, and microwaved for 3 minutes (stirring once between). The second time around it didn't taste as apple-y, and it wasn't very sweet, but the dried fruit was a great addition. The next time I have leftovers I want to cut them into squares and pan-fry them in some butter and see what happens.

Our ricecooker is a generic 10 cup version with a non-stick bowl (if you have an old rice cooker, you may have use some non-stick spray on the inside of the bowl). I'm also not sure if this works with smaller ricecookers which may bubble over, from what I've read. I've also read about the amazing results from the "porridge" setting on Zojirushi Fuzzy Logic cookers but the results are great with our simple one button cooker that I don't feel the need to buy a new one nor would I want to spend so much for one.

My next try is Irish oats, aka steel cut. I think it's chewier, which Dear would probably like because he thinks this version is mushy. And because they need to be soaked, I can put everything in the rice cooker the night before and set the timer to start an hour before I get up (so that I don't need to wait around, like I did this time).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Next stop: last century

I had the pleasure of riding on an old-time train (more like a few old subway cars from various eras linked together) today. It was the last weekend that the MTA would be running this special train for the year (it ran on the "V" line, which is on my way home anyway) and I'm glad that I got to experience it, even though it took a while to wait for it.

There were three types of cars. The signs said they all originated in the 1920s and were in service until the 1970s but they all had a very different look and feel. The first car I walked into was very dim, with yellowish lightbulbs and rattan-like seats. The walls were a greenish olive and the seats were configured in "L" shapes, much like the trains today (not the long benches on either side).

The second type of car that I walked through was similar to the first in dimness but had red vinyl-like seats. The third car was very bright, with fluorescent lights, blue and yellow designs painted onto the floor, and rattan-like seats. The walls were monochromatic gray and blueish-gray, like the newest trains on the "L" and "N" lines. I overheard someone say that this train was gutted and re-done as a prototype for something and so, is most unique.

I think every car had fans screwed into the ceiling for those hot and humid NY summers. Every car also had ads from through the ages (fifth anniversary of UN, admonishments against spitting, 200th? anniversary of Columbia University, Campell's passing off their foodstuffs as from chefs when now they are viewed as machine-processed canned food). The TA ads back then (like about spitting) were as cheesy as today's (I think they are inspired by these old ones) but back then it didn't seem so cheesy.

Some observations:
- The cars all smelled. It didn't stink of bums or greasy food like modern subway cars often do -- it was like a smell of diesel mixed with some burning rubber.
- Some people were afraid to board the train. I guess they didn't see the posters about this special train and thought they were in some strange world, traveling back in time.
- For every person who was surprised (pleasantly or not) about this old-time train, there was a person who purposely waited around for it. There were more than a few train buffs (some wearing subway/train-related clothes) spewing off trivia.
- Lots of people were taking pictures (some with disposable cameras, obviously not as prepared as those who planned for the train, with SLRs or video cameras).
- Some people got really into it, dressing up in old-time clothes. I don't know if they planned it or not, but people were taking pictures of them, as if they were models. Interestingly, I found it difficult to tell the woman was wearing period clothes because wearing vintage clothes and platform peep-toe shoes are in fashion now. Her hairstyle was a bit old-fashioned but there were no dead giveaways, as with the man who wore a bowler hat, suit with wide tie, and had a handlebar mustache.
- There are a lot of of weirdos who enjoy trains. Aside from the geeks that you might mistake for sci-fi nuts, there are some real wackjobs. I couldn't tell if they just really enjoyed trains or had a screw loose: guys who imitate the conductor by reciting all the stops and connections at each stop and make the sound of the closing door chimes; people that refer to trains by their model numbers; people who mutter train facts (or is it fiction?) with a stoned look; people who got really, er, passionate about certain trains not being in the lineup; or a certain person who would act like a regular geek but every once in a while exclaim "Stay away from the dictator!" If we were on a normal everyday subway car, I would have avoided all eye contact for fear that they would lash out in violence.
- There were moments when the train passed through a section of track and the lights would blink or go out completely. I had forgotten that that used to happen. Do trains still do that?
- The seats, though softer, were not very comfortable. For one, they were a lot narrower so that it could only fit 1.5 butts in the two-seater. There was also a lot less legroom in the corner of the "L" seats. One guy sat in the seat perpendicular to me with the typical macho position of legs spread out wide (I hate it when people feel like they have to do this to prove something) and I had no room whatsoever. The smaller seats did make the car did seem more spacious. The seats are also straight-backed and flat-seated (the slight curve in today's seats make a huge difference). The seats also felt flimsier. When people plopped down in the seats behind, I felt it move. It makes me think that even though today's subway interiors are so ugly, it is a lot more comfortable (but is it worth the $76, soon to be more, per month?!).

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Belated merry Christmas

Christmas has come and gone and I barely feel it. This year has felt holiday-less to me. First, it was too warm to even think about and when it did get colder, I was inundated with commercials rather than Christmas carols. There were weekly/daily emails for Black Friday deals (nothing good enough for me to take part in), free shipping, express shipping, last minute shipping, last minute express shipping, and then the not-too-late for gift cards. I thought there was also a lot of emphasis on holiday entertaining this year too, from buying fancy clothes, to preparing sumptuous feasts (does anyone really throw holiday parties when everyone is harried with all the other aspects, like shopping, etc.?).

From Thanksgiving on, there were glimpses of Christmas cheer beginning to settle in (when it snowed for the first time this season and it looked like a wintry postcard of New York with the snow falling onto the Christmas trees being sold in the street or when I finally decided to line up all the colorful Christmas cards we received this year) but that warm fuzzy feeling just didn't stick around for me.

This Christmas, needless to say, had been very different without Dear around. I was unmotivated to shop since I knew we wouldn't see all the relatives until next year and we wouldn't have those big gatherings with lots of hub bub (boo hoo!). Even more different is that I didn't plan to be around for Christmas either (until JetBlue decided to be the arses that they are and cancelled my flight, causing me to fly out in the darkness of Christmas morning). And it was very different to be driving around in an unfamiliar (albeit beautiful) city (Savannah, an hour from the compound that Dear is staying at) on a rainy night to make it to one of the two restaurants open in the entire city on Christmas night. And to experience the "Southern hospitality" of said city while vacationing for a short while was different as well. But no matter how different (good to start new traditions, not that we ever really had any to begin with), it was just good to see Dear again. He has just 8 more sessions to survive before he's back home! With New Year's and graduation, that brings him back in about two weeks. Yay! (Zoiks, I gotta clean up the apartment!)

I visited the campus/compound that Dear is at and it is seriously just a step above prison. It was as if they got a huge vacant field and then thought, "We need a classroom and some offices" so someone took a bunch of cinder block and dropped it in boring rectangles or they took bunches of trailers and connected them together. Everything is beige or gray (even the grass is beige). Dear's drab room has a chintzy curtain that looks like it was on deep discount that even a fleatrap motel rejected. The front door is scuffed and has visible handprints on it (is it so difficult to put on a new coat of glossy paint?). I can't imagine there being worse rooms than Dear's (but there are).

Moving on from the ugly and depressing horror that is the compound, upcoming, I'll provide a brief overview of our trip to Savannah.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ode to Oxi

I swore off the white powder long ago
But with dirt the enemy and stains the foe,
I knew that I had to try the new cleanser Oxi Clean.
It's all over TV, in commercials I know that you've seen.

And indeed, at first try some whites did look whiter.
But hark! Its true strength is as a stain fighter.
There were new stains: food, blood, makeup, and sweat
And even those I thought had already set --
But the Oxi gently lifts all and washes away.
If only it could keep new stains at bay!

I scrubbed and I rubbed one stain of ink
Ready to bid the shirt good bye
So it was with amazement I did blink
That Oxi worked with nary a sigh
Oh my dear Oxi
You sure are foxy!

This rhyme is getting old
So just let it be told:
For bathrooms, kitchen, and laundry
Use Oxi, it really is extraordinary!

Monday, December 10, 2007


I am just a bucket of ailments lately. This weekend I couldn't open my jaw (again) and it seriously cut down on my food intake. With my small bites, I felt full by the time I finished half a plate a food. (With my laziness to cook, I am truly withering away!) The big mystery is how I got to such a state. The quack dentist I go to kept asking me if I had recent wisdom teeth work done (yeah, like three years ago!). He prescribed a muscle relaxant and said he couldn't do much else. Another dentist at the office, who checked my nightguard for proper fit, wondered if maybe I clench my teeth and mentioned the possibility of TMJ*, which would require the help of a specialist. I then went to see the doctor and he said I had the classic signs of TMJ (pain at the joint, inability to open the mouth wide). He guessed that the cause was stress (very likely) and that sitting hunched over a desk/computer screen would cause my upper body to tense up, even my jaw to possibly clench (I noticed some signs of this when working on a project launch). He prescribed an anti-inflammatory and said sometimes physical therapy can help. So I asked my p/t about this -- all three of the staff said it sounds like TMJ (they were eavesdropping plus I am such a fascinating patient). The head p/t was most helpful of all. He said most cases you can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory (no need to spend $10 on prescription meds) and since the joint is so shallow, you can just rub an ice cube over the joint and the surrounding area, though ultrasound and shock therapy (which I get for my knee) may help too. He simply iced my jaw and it felt 100x better! Why couldn't the other medical professionals tell me something so simple like this?! The p/t's explanation was that in your jaw joint there is a disc that sometimes moves out of position when you bite on something hard or open your mouth really wide to eat something like an apple, or even to yawn. Bingo! The first time this happened, I was yawning like crazy. So he said to prevent yourself from yawning too wide, just touch your tongue to the top of your mouth (again, really simple and effective). Besides icing, avoiding chewy foods like bagels should help too. Worst case scenario: if I'm not able to open my mouth wide after a while, he could force it, which sounds awful and makes me feel like fingers down a chalkboard at the mere thought of that happening.

So, what have I learned through all this? I'm gonna try to stress less at work, avoid hard and chewy foods (I've always preferred soft foods like soup, yogurt and congee anyway), try to sit properly at my desk, and avoid dentists at all costs.

*TMJ: really TMJ dysfunction, as TMJ is the name of the joint

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Congee comfort

After a brief morning cycle through the neighborhood this past weekend (chilly but refreshing), I used some leftover rice and made a pot of congee for a very satisfying and warm brunch. For those unfamiliar with this Chinese dish, it is a guilt-free version of risotto. You can make plain congee (like I did) with just water, or you can flavor it with stock or other ingredients that you add either in the beginning, or when serving. The thickening is done purely through the starch of the rice (no cream or butter, as with risotto).

I made the plain version without even salt or oil because I knew that I would be using the homemade preserved salted eggs from my aunt-in-law. I never thought a warm, heaping bowl of thick, creamy white rice could be so comforting on a cold fall day. But the eggs were the star of the show. The egg white was really concentrated and salty, the texture like gelatin, while the yolk was a bit grainy but very rich. The yolk was the color of gold. One egg was enough for a giant bowl of congee. If only I had the recipe for the salted eggs (even my MIL doesn't know it)! In the middle of the week, I finished the rest of the congee and egg for dinner. It wasn't as good the second time around because I overcooked the egg, hence the sulfurized yolk in the picture (I don't think the refrigeration helped either). I also threw in some leftover chicken hearts at the end (unfortunately also heated a little too long). Chicken hearts and egg -- what a way to make congee more of a guilty pleasure. :)