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Posted on Oct 10, 2012 in Food | 13 comments

Surprise Feast

Last night Sean and I went over to have dinner with my parents and my uncle & aunt who were in town visiting. Unbeknownst to us, my mom and Aunt Dorothy really pulled out ALL the stops for this dinner. Earlier in the day, I’d asked my mom what we were having. Her answer was simply, “Western food”. I guess that’s technically true, though I have a feeling a meal like this deserved a little more buildup.

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Well, surprise! We ended up with a feast in every sense of the word. It ws the kind of meal that made me tres, tres desole that I forgot my real camera at home. iPhone pics do NOT do it justice!

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There was a dijon glazed pork roast, spanish rice, a cranberry-apple-pear compote, roasted vegetables, and a delicious little caprese salad on the side. Whoo-ee! If I had known that it was going to be such a feast, I would have prepared myself! As it was, however, I’d had a late lunch so I wasn’t able to demolish my plate like it deserved. Sad panda.

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Of course… that didn’t mean I still didn’t have room for dessert. You can’t really see it too well in this picture (fail), but my mom made pears poached in red wine and served it alongside a dollop of vanilla bean ice cream and a li’l slice of apple pie. Random? Maybe. But delicious? Hells yes.

You know, it’s funny, I never really used to consider myself as someone with much of a sweet tooth. I would always prefer an appetizer over dessert, salty snacks over chocolate and candy. But over the past year or so, my appreciation for the sweeter side of life has REALLY increased! I find myself legitimately craving baked goods now, whereas I never used to give them a second thought. Which, of course, is probably a bad thing for my weight loss. But it’s a good thing for my general sense of happiness and wellbeing, hehe.

Do you find that your food tastes change/have changed? This could be a general thing, like my shift in starting to prefer sweets to savories, or something more specific, like my unadulterated love for brussels sprouts now even though I used to fake-gag every time I saw them.

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Posted on Jul 26, 2012 in Food | 14 comments

Greek (Chinese) Mama

Last night was one of the (many) occasions where I wanted to kick myself for leaving my camera at home. I went over to my parents’ for dinner, as they just returned from an amazing and jealousy-inducing Mediterranean cruise vacation on Tuesday. Their cruise departed from Istanbul (not Constantinople) and eventually arrived in Athens, but stopped in Ephesus, Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, Phillipi, Rhodes, and I’m sure I’m forgetting another one. But basically any important historical place in Greece, they went to.

Apparently, my mom didn’t get enough Greek food while there, because when my brother and I went over last night, she was whipping up more Mediterranean cuisine! The spread was so pretty that I was super mad at myself for not bothering to bring my camera. Oh well, I guess it was good preparation for my Healthy Living Summit presentation on photography, eh? Do as I say, not as I do, friends. 😉

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First up was greek salad (which I chopped up) that included cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and was dressed with EVOO and salt & pepper.

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There was also olive oil & balsamic to dip some delicious crusty bread in.

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Then grilled chicken with a spice rub and a Turkish stuffed bell pepper recipe my mom was trying out. They were stuffed with seasoned rice, pine nuts, olives, and spices! Behold, my plate:

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Although I was too full to finish my stuffed pepper. I should always know better than to snack before one of my mom’s home-cooked dinners. Tsk, tsk, Gretchen!


Photo from my mom’s birthday dinner back in February

I definitely inherited my love of cooking from my mom. Somewhat hilariously, she actually didn’t know how to cook until she met my dad, at which point she started feverishly studying my Po-Po (Chinese term for maternal grandmother) so that she could learn! Her specialty is delicious, authentic Chinese food (duh!), but she loves to experiment with all kinds of cuisines. The biggest way in which we differ in our cooking styles is that my mom is very recipe-oriented. She likes to print out recipes when she’s looking for something new, whereas I like to look up recipes more for inspiration. I like to READ cookbooks, not COOK from them (which I know is very counter-intuitive but hey, I’m a rebel.) I’ve tried to learn some of my mom’s recipes, but it really is one of those things where it always tastes better when it comes from her!

My mom’s proclivity for following others’ recipes has always been funny to me, since she doesn’t have any of her OWN recipes written down! They’re locked in her mind like a steel trap, since she’s been making them for so long. So watching her make her amazing sweet & sour pork recipe for the first time went something like this:

“Okay, then you make the sauce. Put in two spoonfuls of this, then pour in some of that, then — oh wait! — whisk in a spoon of that first…”

My poor brain couldn’t quite keep up, and I *still* don’t know how to make it. Ah well, at least next time I know to bring a notepad and pen with me. 🙂

What’s that one dish that mom (or dad) still, to this day, makes best?

PS: Head on over to Healthy Living Blogs today to check out my guest post on why having a “Top Posts” page rocks!

PPS: It’s my sister’s 30th birthday today!!! Also, to a lesser degree of excitement, it’s Sean’s and my 6-month. Kekeke.

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Posted on Jun 28, 2012 in Food | 2 comments

Honey Pig Izakaya

It’s been a little heavy in these parts lately (but thank you all for your awesome and supportive comments!), so how’s about we lighten the mood on this hot and sunny Thursday, hmm?


All photos taken by Taylor!

That’s the spirit!

Last night, the fam, Sean, and I headed out to Honey Pig Izakaya for dinner. I went in full of boastful pride about how I knew aaaaall about Honey Pig from the one time I’d been there before. I was going on and on about how it was a hot-top-style Korean BBQ place, about how we’d have to get there crazy early because there’d be a huge wait, etc, etc.

Well, evidently, Honey Pig Izakaya, while run by the same people, is a completely different restaurant than Honey Pig. (Mind you, they’re like, down the street from each other as well, so you can see how I would have gotten confused.) Instead of offering raw meats cooked on the hot top in front of you, it’s more of a general Asian fusion restaurant. Whoops! Oh well, at least the Living Social deal that my dad had was definitely for this place, so I hadn’t led us all to the wrong restaurant!

Alas, it wasn’t quite the experience I think we were all hoping for, but the food was still quite tasty. It was pretty unique, too, getting to order all manner of cuisine: Japanese, Korean, you name it!

We mainly feasted on yakitori: Japanese-style skewers of meat and vegetables (the fried vegetable skewers were my favorite, hehe). We also nommed on one of their sushi samplers (not bad!) as well as their bulgogi. You can’t have Korean food without bulgogi, no matter if it’s eaten hot pot style or not!

Ben and my dad also got giant beers. What is it about Asian beers that make the serving size so huge, despite the fact that we can’t hold our alcohol for squat? Seriously, if I was to drink one this size, well, you’d probably be carting me home in a wheelbarrow, hahaha.

All in all, the food was good but the experience is much better at the original Honey Pig. That said, if you’re ever craving some Asian flavor in the Annandale area, but don’t feel like dealing with the line or the noise of the other one (it was seriously crazy when I went before!), why not give this Honey Pig a try?

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Posted on Jan 23, 2012 in Food | 14 comments

Chinese New Year 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

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Today marks the first official day of CNY, which as of now it is the Year of the Dragon, friends.

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And you better believe that my Whasian family kicked it off in style this weekend!

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Some of my extended family came up from Virginia Beach to ring in the new year with us. It was great getting to catch up with uncles and cousins alike: chatting together, cooking together, and, of course, eating together!

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So, er, this is supposed to be a weight loss blog, right?

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Bahahahahaha.

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Weeeeell, what can I say? It was a(nother) celebration! Oy, so much food. We had an entire duck, pickled cucumbers, beef and onions, tofu and bean sprouts, mushrooms and bok choy, prawns, new year’s soup, and a whole fish. There was also an unpictured vegetarian dish made with soy and fungus, which sounds gross but was awesome.

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Almost all of the dishes we ate had some sort of significance in terms of what they stood for. The noodle soup had egg dumplings that represented gold bars (for prosperity), the fish represented longevity… or something… you get the idea. It definitely made for both a meaningful AND delicious smorgasbord of traditional dishes. My tough cousin Sidney even took care of the fish eye and duck head, ahahaha.

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It was, overall, a wonderful time with my family that I obviously never see and never hang out with. Ever. Cooking with my mom and learning her secret ninja kitchen skillz is something I always enjoy regardless of the occasion… though admittedly I don’t think I’ll be frying up whole fish anytime soon.

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I was back over at my parents’ place for lunch the next day as well, to eat more. And, you know, spend more time with my extended family. Heh. As a doubleplusbonus, the whole new year-filled weekend was capped off with me getting money! (Don’t worry, it’s legit. Receiving red packets — “hong bao” or “lai see” — from your elders is part of CNY tradition.) Even if you weren’t ringing in the other new year this weekend, I hope you all had a good one. And stayed warm and dry!

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy New Year!

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Posted on Jan 17, 2012 in Food | 19 comments

Making Pasta

Let us try to sweep past the fact that it took me almost 2 hours to get to work this morning (traffic fail), that I’m operating on roughly 4.3 hours of sleep (sleeping fail), and that even with all my exhausted stumbling around the kitchen this morning, all I managed to bring to work to eat today is a Luna bar and a container of leftover Edible Arrangement fruit (bringing food to work fail). Let us instead focus on happier thoughts. Foodier thoughts. Thoughts that bring us back to yesterday, when I spent the day making fresh pasta for the first time with my family!

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I gave my sister a pasta making attachment for her KitchenAid and a pasta drying rack for Christmas a couple of years ago, but she had never even opened them before last night, haha. We figured it was finally time to put it to use, so my parents and I drove up to Columbia and promptly proceeded to destroy Jenny’s kitchen.

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Admittedly, for the first few rounds with the pasta roller, I was starting to feel about making pasta the same way I feel about cake balls: great if you have the patience, but not worth it. It’s a lot of work!

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You put chunks of pasta dough (generally a combination of flour, egg, water, and salt/seasonings) into the pasta roller, fold it in half, then feed it through over and over again, adjusting the settings so the pasta sheets gets thinner and more uniform each time. Then you have to switch attachment heads if you want to cut the pasta sheets into actual noodles (the set I gave Jenny had a fettuccine and spaghetti attachments). We did two kinds of pasta and two sauces to go with!

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My mom and sister found the recipes for a whole wheat pasta and a basil (!) pasta, and they mixed up the dough while I watched clips of Daniel Radcliffe‘s episode of SNL (teehee). Then I came into assist with the pasta rolling/cutting, general cooking, and sauce-making. We made a garlic cream sauce that was so delicious that my arteries are re-clogging just thinking about it, and a rose sauce with tomato sauce, white wine, and a ton of herbs. Delicious!

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Pasta creeper.

So as I mentioned before, I was a little skeptical at first that the end result would be worth all the effort we were putting into the pasta. Well, I’m delighted to announce that I was so, so wrong. Freshly made pasta is amazing. It cooked in like .085 seconds and was chewy, flavorful, and delicious!

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Oh carbs. How I love you.

Along with the pasta itself, there was the loaf of jalapeno-cheddar bread you see above, and we also did up some chicken, mushrooms, and these incredibly gourmet salads that included spinach, vanilla poached pears, glazed walnuts (I die), and herb goat cheese.

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So, uh, yeah, I’d say it was a pretty successful dinner. I think that you could easily spend hundreds of dollars on a meal like this for 5 people in a restaurant!

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And as if all of that food wasn’t enough (there was tons leftover), my mom brought Crepes Suzette to make for dessert. Whoosh.

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So much amazingness. So making pasta isn’t something that I would do regularly, not only because it is a lot of work (and I don’t own the pasta attachments myself anyway), but because I have a very hard time with portion control when it comes to pasta — especially with this degree of deliciousness! That said, I think that it really is an awesome thing to be able to do if you are entertaining or cooking for a special occasion. It just tastes SO much better than the dried, boxed stuff. And you have infinite possibilities, too! We tried to keep the doughs fairly simple for our first time, but we were spinning off tons of ideas for pastas made with pumpkin, butternut squash, spinach, sundried tomatoes… the list goes on.

Have you ever made/do you make your own fresh pasta?

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