Zion National Park

About once a year, my husband and I take an outdoor excursion trip with another couple to get out of the city. Living in SoCal is wonderful, but it can feel like I’m living in a bubble sometimes. It’s nice to get out to mother nature and see a small part of what she has to offer from time to time. We’ve planned our Zion trip for the past few months and this past weekend, it finally came!

Roughly 6.5 hours drive from where we live, Zion is majestic in every sense of the word. There are countless trails and hikes, but none more famous than Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. On the first day, we took on Angel’s Landing. With a climb of 1500ft in elevation, this hike was strenuous and challenging. It defined vertigo for me! On the second day, we woke up early and went on The Narrows river hike. Taking 6 hours, this hike had us in cold water almost the entire time. The riverbed was lined with sand and large rocks along with the river current made this a challenging hike as well. I’m just happy that I didn’t fall on the rocks!

The days spent here were truly magical. Zion, stay beautiful!

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Pickling

I’m a big fan of pickles. We have a Costco-size jar of whole pickles in our fridge at all times. But my love for salt and sour doesn’t just stop at pickled cucumbers, I love everything pickled. Other than the fact that it’s darn good, it’s quintessential in Vietnamese food and cooking so I grew up with it in my cuisine. There is a unique balance of flavors and textures in Vietnamese food and that’s why I love it so much. In a common bowl of pho, you have the noodle soup with raw onions, the aromatic scent of basil, crispy bean sprouts, and a squeeze of lime for tartness. And it doesn’t stop there, I can take this concept of utilizing the different flavors and textures to nearly every dish.

Pickling plays an important part to make Vietnamese food what it is. The saltiness is balanced perfectly with the sour and sweetness of the pickles, and the soft meats are made better with the crunch of the pickled vegetables. I found a recipe on White on Rice Couple‘s blog and it’s super simple and the outcome is 100% foolproof! On their blog, they use sliced carrots and daikon but I had a huge bag of jalapenos on my hand so I used that instead. That’s to say, this recipe can extend to anything you want to pickle, from cucumbers to okra.

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Pickled Jalapenos and Garlic

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of jalapenos
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 4 cups water, slightly warm enough to dissolve the salt and sugar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 6 tablespoons distilled or rice vinegar

Directions:

  1. In large pitcher or large bowl, mix water, vinegar, sugar and salt till everything is dissolved and combined well.
  2. Place sliced jalapenos and garlic in a clean, sterile jar and fill vinegar till jar is full.
  3. Cover jars and set in the refrigerator to pickle for about 3 days. Pickles can last for about 3 weeks in the fridge.

 

 

Home Envy

My husband and I are no where close to buying a house, both financially and emotionally. The thought of purchasing our first home scares the heck out of me. Not speaking of the financial burden (it’s a big one!) but just the emotional toll of the whole process can be quite demanding on a person. I could just be overly dramatic right now but I’m not ready to take on such a task, especially with nursing school in the next 2 years. However, every time I’m on Pinterest, browsing through my friends’ Instagrams, or reading up on my favorite blogs, someone somewhere is posting amazing photos of home sweet home. So here it is…

Inspirations for my future humble abode.

Swoon. Love. Eye candy, that’s for sure.

Pho Ga

I’ve been eating and making soup like it’s nobody’s business. For some strange reason, when it’s hot outside, I want to eat hot, make-you-sweat-in-your-pants, soup! It’s annoying but atlas, what can you do? I bought a whole chicken for the first time at the grocery store a week ago and had no idea what to do with it. I stuck it in the freezer and promised to get to it as soon as a good recipe comes up. I waited, and waited. Thought about roasting the thing, but Costco does a far, far better job at roasting chicken than I ever could, plus they sell theirs for cheaper than the price I paid for my raw one.

Low and behold, the Vietnamese in me came through and screamed for pho ga (chicken). I feel like the pho scene has taken off in the last couple years nationally and everyone seems to know the famous pho of Vietnamese cuisine. I’m happy that this is the case! It’s nice to see my motherland, in this case, fatherland, cuisine on America’s map. However, most of the pho people eat and know about is pho bo (beef). The stock is made from beef bones, and the protein eaten with the noodles is beef (rare steak, brisket, meatballs). I haven’t muster up the courage to take that on yet!

I love Vietnamese food but never attempted to cook anything because 1) my mom never really required me to be in the kitchen and 2) finding authentic recipes online proves to be a challenging task. Most Vietnamese cooks I know don’t use a recipe or write anything down. They simply know how to make a dish by memory and through tasting as they cook. And the recipes I find online are mostly from American cooks written for American households so the recipe is not…how should I say this, good. But thanks to my husband, I came across a blogger that makes authentic Vietnamese food!

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Pho Ga – Chicken Rice Noodle Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 leeks
  • 2 onions
  • 2 stub of ginger
  • 2 Tb rock sugar
  • 2 Tb granulated chicken base
  • 3 Tb salt
  • 2 Tb fish sauce
  • 6 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon stick
  • 6 cloves
  • chopped green onions, cilantro, sliced onion, bean sprouts, and Thai basil for garnish
  • lime
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha sauce
  • rice noodles

Instructions

  1. Wash your chicken well. Place chicken in an 12 qt. stock pot and fill pot with water.
  2. Let chicken cook on medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of salt.  You’ll want to skim the broth whenever necessary.
  3. Once the chicken has cooked all the through, approximately 1.5 hours, remove the chicken.
  4. Add all the roots vegetables to your broth (ginger, onions, and leeks).
  5. Remove all the chicken meat from the bones, and throw the bones back in the pot.
  6. Add 2 tablespoon of salt, rock sugar, and granulated chicken base. Let the broth simmer for about another hour on low heat.
  7. While you wait for the broth, you can shred the chicken meat and prepare the garnish.
  8. Roast the spices on low heat on a pan. Then throw in the broth. Also, add 2 Tb fish sauce to the broth at this time.
  9. After 15-20 minutes, strain the broth so you’ll only have the chicken broth remaining in the pot.
  10. Follow instructions to cook the rice noodles on the package.
  11. Assembly the bowl with cooked rice noodles, shredded chicken, and garnishes. Pour the broth over and enjoy!

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Chrissy Teigen’s Jok

I’m currently obsessed with Chrissy Teigen. Love love love her! I find her funny, cute, and endearing. Plus, who doesn’t like a paradox? She’s both a model and foodie! Uh, life’s already hard as it is; I can’t even imagine the struggle she goes through haha.

Her blog, So Delushious, is a gem! On it, you’ll find recipes, photos, and best of all, sexual innuendos. Chrissy is half Norwegian and half Thai so her blog does feature some very enticing Southeastern recipes. One very hot afternoon, I decided to take on her mom’s recipe. After much, much sweat that day, I had myself Jok Moo, Thai’s version of Chinese congee, for dinner.

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Mama Teigen’s Jok Moo

  • 1 cup dry Jasmine rice
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch green onion
  • 1.5 tbs kosher salt
 
Pork mixture, marinate overnight:
 
  • 1.5 lbs ground pork
  • 15 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbs coriander seeds
  • 2 tbs black peppercorns
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
 
  1. Mince garlic and grind the coriander and black peppercorns. Add the mixture to the ground pork and mix thoroughly with your hands. Add the fish sauce and incorporate.
  2. For the congee: In a 8-quart stock pot, fill with water 2 inches below the rim. Bring to a boil. Add the dry rice. It will take approximately 1.5 hours to boil the rice down to the right consistency. You want a nice and slow rolling boil. Stirring frequently, particularly when it thickens. You want the consistency of soupy oatmeal when you add the pork. The pork bits should be rough. Take a handful and pinch of little bits into the water, stirring so they don’t stick to each other. Add 1.5 tbs kosher salt (more or less to taste). Cover and allow to simmer on low for another 15-20 minutes.
  3. Garnish with a little fresh cilantro, green onions, slice ginger, fried shallots, fried garlic, Thai chili powder, Thai chili in fish sauce, or pickled Thai chili – to your taste.
 
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Concordia’s ABSN

I’m super excited to share this news with you…I got into Concordia University Irvine’s Accelerated Bachelors of Science in Nursing program earlier this month. I’ve been waiting to blast this news out but I had to wait to give my notice to my current company. Now that the formality is over, I can finally scream it for the world to hear!

The past 4 years have been trying and at times, self-doubting. Working a full-time job and taking classes at night, studying during the week nights and volunteering at the hospital, all added up real quick. I’m a person that can handle multitasking, fast-paced environments and extremely high demand work loads but there were moments when I wasn’t sure this is the right path. But when it came close to applying to CUI’s program, I found myself eager to get in. “Flip a coin, and when it’s in the air, you’ll know which side you’re hoping for”.

I start the program officially next week. Anxious and excited, I can’t for the next stage of my life to start. I’m anticipating hard work, sweat, and tears, but when all is said and done, I’m going to succeed in more ways than I can imagine. There’s always new life at the end of every road.

SUP-ing!

I’ve mentioned it in the “River Rats” post but I tried stand up paddle boarding for the first time at the river a couple weeks ago!

The paddle board is massive; it took my husband and I to carry that thing down to the river. At first I was nervous – I should state for the record that I am not a swimmer. I never learned how to swim and never cared to get in large bodies of water. But after seeing how big the paddle board is, it really calmed my nerves. That thing couldn’t flip over, except if you’re my husband, then it would flip over for you haha!

I didn’t paddle that far up and down the river but it was relaxing out there on the board. It’s quiet and peaceful; at the same time though, it’s definitely a core workout! I felt it in my core, arms, and thighs soon after I was done.

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