Sunday, June 14, 2015

When in Rome and Finding My Merchant of Venice

Hello.  It’s been – whoa, two years since my last post?  Apologies, apologies.  I know my Italian post is nearly two three years overdue.  And since then, I have traveled extensively to other parts of the world.  I will be adding my adventures very soon.  I promise.  Until then, here is my Italian post. 

Three years behind - but better late then never, I suppose.
Two girls in Venice

One of the joys and thrills of traveling is to not only explore a new culture and way of living but certainly a way of eating.  When we (S - my partner in crime) both made our way to Italy – I have to admit, our expectations were a tad high.  Three things I blame for these higher expectations:  American TV, American cinema, and Woody Allen.  Mainly due to the glamorization of the country - nostalgic meet cute scenes which we as Americans are fed from Hollywood - and partly to.......well, it's Italy.  

Don’t get me wrong – what everyone says about Italy is true.  It is beautiful.  It is historic.  It has a personality and even quaintness that is certainty what you would expect of what Italy should be.  Cleanliness?  Not so much.  

Granted I’m making these judgments based upon my experiences while in Rome and from some of the less then stellar accommodations to which we stayed.  Venice, albeit oversaturated with tourists – was beautiful.  No words can truly describe this city.  You will just have to check out my photos and hopefully one-day experience the beauty yourself.  

All in all, my experience in one of the two most frequently visited cities in Italy was as you might have imagined: overwhelming, majestic, gobsmackingly (is that even a word?) historic, and oversaturated with tourists.  If you can look beyond the overabundance of travelers/tourists taking pictures (I was certainly partly to blame of said act) and vendors trying to peddle every type of Italian tchotchke trinket known to man (all of which usually manufactured in China) – then you will absolutely experience the awe-inspiring beauty of these two cities.  

One major tip I do encourage if you decide to venture to Italy – is to research your stay at an Airbnb.  This is by far, the best tip I can give to you.  It provides a home-like feel in the midst of a strange and unfamiliar city.  And if you are lucky, you will find places with friendly people opening their homes and cities – happy to play a small part in your traveling experience.  This is part of the experience – to inject yourself into the culture – even if only for a brief moment. 

Ok, now let’s just take a moment to reflect on the beauty of Italian food shall we?
Morning coffee
Simple breakfast and coffee
Golden macarons!
Carbonara pasta

When in Rome
Rome car
Spanish Steps
Trevi Fountain
Vatican City
Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
Inside the Colosseum
Being a tourist

The Merchant of Venice
Home in Venice
Venice canals
Piazza San Marco
Market boat
Daily Venice life

P.S.  For more pictures from my Italian travels - go to my Flickr page.


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Salt and Pepper Squid

One of my main go-to Chinese food staples when ordering at a Chinese restaurant – is salt and pepper squid.  This delectable goodness combines three of my favorite textures: salty, spicy, and deliciously fried.  Before actually cooking this for myself at home – I would frequent (regularly) various Chinese restaurants within the Boston area.  Some would be way too salty, some way to greasy, and some the batter seemed completely unappetizing overall.  Every now and then – I would come across that magical balance of all three textures that would culminate into absolute heavenly goodness.  After trying (read: fatty) so many different variations throughout Boston and even in New York City and San Francisco – I came to the realization that I could actually replicate exactly how I wanted it.  Surprisingly enough, the recipe itself is extremely simple and easy. 

While home for the holidays, I taught my family and cooked up these bad boys.  Pre fry – the kitchen was a deserted area.  Post fry – I had to beat them away from the kitchen area.  It practically went from frying pan to mouth.  So be forewarned, if you decide to prepare these goodies – plan to buy a little more than normal (squid and even shrimp) - as the "post fry left on the plate" time is little to nothing. 

Here is what you will need.

1-2lbs Squid (a mix of body parts and tentacles)
Optional: 1-2lbs shrimp (deveined with shells/tails on)
Sea salt – coarsely ground
Ground black pepper
Chili Flakes
Frying oil

Take the squid (or shrimp) pieces and rinse thoroughly to remove any outstanding “fishy” smell.  Then set aside and pat dry with a paper towel.  Once dry, cut the squid body into small ¾ inch pieces.  Then set aside.

Take a large bowl and eyeball enough cornstarch to coat your squid (or shrimp) pieces.  Add sea salt and black pepper to the cornstarch.  Ok, now listen carefully because this particular step will separate delicious tasting salt and pepper squid from mediocre flavored.  While seasoning the cornstarch, I often dab a bit of the mixture on my finger and taste.  I know, gross – right?!  It sounds completely disgusting but its how I know if I’ve added enough salt.  BUT if you opt out from my weirdo tasting method – then you can adjust the lack of salt post fry (see the end of the recipe).

Next, take squid (or shrimp) pieces and coat in the cornstarch.  Heat up the oil and test a few pieces.  Drain the fried pieces on a raised cooling rack – and allow the oil to drain onto a baking sheet.  You can also drain the oil using a paper towel.  

Here is where you can adjust -- taste the first few fried pieces and tweak with more salt or pepper.  Finally, sprinkle chili flakes on top and squeeze a bit of lime as well.  Serve and watch it all disappear.  Bon appetite! 


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Slow Your Pork Spring Roll

It's that time of year folks:  a time to feast, rest, and spend time with loved ones.  This is how I typically end my year.  I slow down.  I reflect on another quick year gone by.  It seems like yesterday (literally) we were celebrating the coming of 2013.  And now that I’ve finally gotten the hang of dating 2013 – here comes 2014 to taunt me with starting all over again.  Actually I’ve accidentally been signing my dates as 2015 – how odd is that?  Premature much?  True story.

Anyways, this time of year (if I’m home home for the holidays) – I take advantage of eating home cooked foods.  Some of it being native Thai food – some of it typical of good ol’ American cuisine.  We do not discriminate in this household.  No sir!  In fact, this year I’ve cooked a few items for my parents – middle eastern derived, Korean derived, healthy (and some not so healthy) derived, and my own specialties or as I like to call it Emily derived. 

Today’s post is a special one.  This particular food isn’t anything revolutionary or novel (scientist verbiage leaking through – sorry!) but its something I definitely look forward to on the #homefortheholidays food list (yes, I just hash tagged that).  So what does a household with a seasoned engineer, two scientists, and an accountant make this time of year? 

Spring rolls!  It can also be considered as egg rolls as well depending on how large you make it or the contents of the filling.  In this case we made pork spring/egg rolls.

Here is what awaits you -- your final product.  
You won’t be sorry you took the time to make these bad boys. 

Here is what you will need.  Keep in mind, you can substitute some of the ingredients to accommodate taste preferences, food allergies, and availability.  This is how we make it in the Emily household though. 

Spring roll wrappers (any brand you can get is fine)
Mushroom flavored soy sauce (thin or light soy sauce can be used as well)
Garlic powder
Bean sprouts
Vermicelli noodles (we used mung bean vermicelli noodles)
Ground pork – we used ¾ to ½ a pound of meat.
Eggs (to bind the filling) – we used two.
Fresh ground pepper
Frying oil
Optional:  You can add crabmeat or shrimp as well.

This recipe is super easy and is all contingent on your personal taste and preference.  So let’s get started.

First soak the vermicelli noodles until tender and drain.  Set aside to allow to air dry and eliminate additional water.  You don’t want your noodles to add more moisture to the filling as adding soy sauce will do that already.  Once dried – transfer to a large pot to begin your filling mixture. 

Add ground pork and incorporate with the vermicelli noodles.  Next, add your bean sprouts and mix.  Add your seasonings: garlic powder, soy sauce, black pepper and two beaten eggs.  Make sure to mix thoroughly. 

Take your spring rolls and begin to add the filling.  Then wrap (like wrapping a gift!) – taking care to seal the ends with water and making sure they are rolled tight!

Roll and fry 2-3 test runs to make sure your filling is well seasoned.  Add soy sauce, garlic, or pepper if need be.  Wrap the rest of your rolls and fry.  Fry until golden brown all around.  Set aside to drain any lingering oil.  Allow to cool (if you have self control) -- otherwise consume!

You can also make a dipping sauce to go with your delicious fried goodies.

Dipping sauce ingredients (not pictured)
Fish sauce
Ground peanuts
Chili sauce

Add all of the above ingredients to taste and you have a delicious dipping sauce that’s spicy, sweet, salty, and tangy!  Bon appetite!

Also look at what we had lying around on our basement bookshelf.  Nerds!


Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Post-Apocalyptic Post

A few days ago someone surprised me and said, "Your skin looks great! What are you using?"  As I began to rattle on how my daily skincare routine was part scientist-driven part novice product whore, I came to the realization that I should share my discovered riches with the interwebz (that's you).  And so today's post is going to be somewhat driven by excitement of sharing my discoveries coupled with sheer boredom of post cabin fever.  

You see, I am currently posting this blog in my warm cozy apartment while I look outside my window to blindingly white snow that is crippling New England (more specifically Boston).  Its true.  Here is a picture to prove it. 
** moments upon snapping this picture - I looked out my window to see someone ski by my apartment.  To say pissed that I didn't capture that shot - doesn't begin to describe the feeling.

Anyhoo, the products.  Right.
When starting (this is with the assumption that I have had a full faced makeup day) 
the regimen goes as follows:

I usually use whatever facial wipes I've bought on the cheap at the local drugstore (not shown).  Then recently, I'll follow up with Bioderma which I purchased in Turkey (for a pretty penny I might add) when looking to get the last traces of waterproof mascara.  This bad boy I found to be a workhorse and well worth the  sticker shock price.  The one I'm currently using is Sebium for mainly combination and oily skin.  Another alternative product I find to be wondrous at removing feisty waterproof makeup (especially but not limited to the eyes) is Josie Maran's Argan Cleansing Oil.  

Once, I've remove some of the traces of the day's makeup -- only then does the real work begin.  Next, I wash my entire face with Cetaphil (or the savior of my skin -- as I like to call it).  This simple product cleaned a severely ravaged acne prone skin -- the result of years living in sunny Florida plagued with sweat and humidity.  For years, I've reached for the Daily Facial Cleanser as its mainly for combination and oily skin.  Then I wash with Cetaphil again using my trusty Clarisonic (not shown) and this tool will get the dirt off a babies bum (not that I've experimented).  But its absolutely fantastic!

Now that all the cleanin' is done and my face is spankin' brand new -- now begins the pampering.  Recently, I've started my routine with dabbing a bit of vitamin C eye serum (not shown as I used the product to oblivion and wasn't careful enough to save the bottle as evidence).  So far eye serums and eye creams are currently being discovered, investigated, and tested.  Results to follow soon (hopefully). 

Now the best part occurs mid routine -- spraying of the Claudalie's Beauty Elixir.  *sigh*  This little bottle of loveliness packs a humongous punch containing grape, orange blossom, rose, balm mint, and rosemary oils.  Once, these oils ooze into my skin -- I apply a moisturizing serum.  Currently, I've been using this lovely little bottle (Aesop's Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Serum).  Maybe this is a product of me being such a consumer whore (or a sucker - take your pick) but when they say using this stuff overnight will actually produce glowing skin -- I'll try it!  And honestly, I've noticed my skin is definitely benefiting from this serum.  Of course, its the dead of winter and anything moisturizing my skin will soak up like a sponge.  But that's just me.

And finally, I finish with any daily moisturizer with some form of SPF.  In the past, its been Cetaphil's Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15 but right now I'm experimenting with various new daily moisturizers that I've received in sample form.  And one can't forget the lips -- I've been reaching for Josie Maran's Argan Lip Treatment.  I also received this in sample form and its definitely an excellent moisturizing product for your lips.  Honestly, for lip treatments on the cheap -- nothing really beats good ol' fashioned Carmex -- there I said it.  

But wait, there are three products in this photo that you haven't mentioned - you say.  Well the Peter Thomas Roth's Max Complextion Correction Pads -- is essentially my liquid gold in pads.  You see, if it not for this little beauty -- I think my skin would have aged as rapidly as an Asian's face would age.  If that makes any sense.  In a few words -- this bitch stopped time for me.  Not only that, it reworked and reversed what sun-damaged skin I had.  It helped to minimize my pores as well.  This is my holy grail.

Laura Mercier's Oil-free Tinted Moisturizer is included in this photo because I found it to be the best (thus far) at giving me just enough coverage to even out my skin tone without being or feeling like full on makeup.  I positively loathe foundation and I absolutely abhor (yes, that's a word) powder foundation.  Plus, it provides more moisture with SPF to combat daily sun damage.  Albeit today of all days, it would be nice to have a little sun damage and not snow blindness.

Lastly, Trader Joe's Coconut Body Butter.  Double *sigh*.  I discovered this little gem while trying to rationalize an unhealthy decision of buying a bag of organic corn chip (during a desperate salt craving) one week.  Made of coconut oil, shea butter, and vitamin E this concoction has brought my body and feet back to life.  And as most of you (or the one reader out there) know -- I've used coconut oil in the past for both cooking, hair, and my skin.  So I was over the moon when I saw this -- and it smells like a pina colada!  Yum!  

Alright, I've babbled on about useless skincare shit for long enough.  Until next time!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I done gone and did it....

This year will be a year of change.  A year to get organized.  A year to read more.  And a year to maintain if not up my exercise regimin.  I would be remis if I did not admit to being a bit lax in those above statements since the 1st of the year.  BUT I promise to try to do better.  I am a creature of habit and laziness.  This I will admit.  And with that breeds so many regrets and wishful promises to myself.  Therefore, in order to become a highly functionally organized individual -- I have purchased.......wait for iPad.  

Yes folks -- my Apple collection just might be complete.  I harped and hounded whether this was a need I should invest in.  Since it is -- let's be honest, a luxury item and probably not REALLY necessary.  I mean who REALLY NEEDS an iPad - right?  No one seriously needs a tablet when they have a laptop and a fully functioning smartphone.  Therefore, I came prepared with a list of reasons this purchase will eventually make good on my return as an asset via productivity and portability usage. 

1.  Emails and blogging I can do more frequently and consistently (hmmm also can do this on said laptop and iphone).
2.  Reading more frequently such as ebooks, newspapers, blogs, publications, etc (ok, I can do that on the others as well).  See my current selection below.  Granted half of these books I have in its physical form -- but due to time constraints (i.e. laziness) or my ever present A.D.D (i.e. excuse for laziness) -- I may have read each and everyone of these here and there only.

3.  Satisfy my increasing YouTube fascination for vlogs and the like.  Perhaps potentially venturing into my own one day -- that is if I can motivate myself in recording something worth editing.
4.  Minimize the destruction of trees via downsizing on printing of class syllabus, powerpoint slides copies, notes and taking notes in general on an old fashioned piece of paper.
5.  Hinderance of carrying a clunky laptop will no longer be an issue when traveling is concerned.

I do have to be frank though -- having this larger iPhone (because that's essentially what it is ya know) -- breeds this incessant addiction for downloading Apps.  Or what I like to call "mini time sucks".  They draw you in -- you play and tap on things -- minutes, hours, days.......I mean a day (just one, just one) go by.  And then you find yourself realizing you have work the next day when you quite literally sat yourself down on a Friday night to "check your email".  Argh!

So my new mantra is this:
If I get my shit done -- I can play with you, you stupid iPad.  
Um, I mean you tool of productivity!

On another front -- I celebrated yet another birthday a few days ago.  Am I a little wiser, healthier, stronger, happier?  Well its all relative I suppose.  I would venture to say yes -- and be thankful as such.      But as the years tick by I've learned to never make any claims because whom am I to judge on the barometer of my progress in life.  Just doing my best to be kind to people, loyal to friends, and thankful for my healthy family.


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Nostalgia and the New Year

Well New Year's Eve has come and gone and it got me thinking - what makes NYE so glamourous that we inherently try to find and be with the ones we love for that particular moment in time?  Think about it.  There is no other time in history that seems to be so special minus any form of religious connections or affiliations.  We try to create this idyllic moment where the ones we care about -- surround us.  Embrace us.  Can't wait to be with us.
I was trying to wrap my brain around the concept of time slowly ticking away little that is left of a year gone by -- its romantic nostalgic properties which seem to be more exaggerated at the finale of the year.  We all watch with bated breath as this bright and illuminated ball slowly makes its way to the botton during the count down.  And during those last few seconds of its descent -- we (or at least I do) remember whether we opened ourselves to adventurous chances or closed ourselves off for fear of disappointment.  We remember promises made, broken, and fulfilled.  We remember accomplishments and setbacks.  But most of all -- during that tiny moment in time -- we reflect on the possibilities of the new year to love, to give, to accomplish, and most importantly to forgive.  Because that's what that moment in time should really be about.

Unexpected Expectations
Every year I try not to set any expectations because I find those can be met with disappointments to some degree.  One of my mini goals toward the finality of every year is this: to look into the new year with fresh eyes - filled with hope and happiness.  I know to most people that just seems so simple and trivial.  But I find that by minimizing one's grandeur expectations -- we are often surprised with what occurs in the process.  And its this process that makes life so special.  The unexpected outcome.

I was combing through old blog posts (I know I've been lagging behind in the ol' updates lately) -- more specifically posts for the new year and holiday time.  I tend to blog more often during times of nostalgia.  I relive old memories.  Go figure.  I think back and peruse old photos.  It both warms my heart and reminds me that time is fleeting and one should never take it for granted.  Hold fast to those irreplaceable friends and family members is definitely a winning theme.  Cherish the time with everything you do and do everything with the best of your abilities and excellence.

This year.
This year was certainly different and unexpected -- which I suppose is the very definition to which I was talking about.  To abstain from setting grandiose expectations and to just live with gumption.

This year I began with one job and ended with another job.  Very unexpected but relieved for the outcome nonetheless - even though some days were trying.
I met new friends and have enjoyed every fascinating moment whilst learning about them.

To say I traveled would be a tad understated.  I saw the beautiful country of Turkey and traveled to Italy (Italy post still coming -- sorry) with my endearing Turkish host Selen. 
I traveled down south to Nashville -- to rehash whatever southern roots I might have developed while in college at Emory -- courtesy of my southern host JC Deen.
I traveled to San Francisco and enjoyed all the foodie nuggets the city had to offer while catching up with family. Blog post coming - I promise!
I began the year slowly getting into fitness and weight training -- courtesy of my trainer and friend Andrew.

I cooked enthusiastically and frequently.  I took a baking class and learned techniques that are now engrained in me.
I bought and have been in love with my new Macbook Pro.  And now consider myself a Apple toting-Kool aid drinking convert.
I saw multiple shows: Artic Monkeys, The Black Keys, Radiohead, Grouplove, Two Door Cinema Club, Cake, Fatboy Slim, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beirut, AWOLNATION, and Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Most importantly.
Overall traveling abroad this year -- made me (once again) appreciate cultures that I have yet to discover and crave for experiences outside of the United States.  Almost hunger for it.  Likewise, while traveling one certainly learns a great deal about oneself.  You realize how much you can tolerate as a person.  How fascinating human beings are living, breathing, and interacting with one another.

And so my only resolution (if you can call it that) is simply this:  to love more, to live more, to laugh more, to give more, as well as accomplish more, and most importantly - to forgive more.  The end.

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