Ca Kho Tieu (Vietnamese Sweet and Spicy Fish)

Oh, hello.

Please don’t think I forgot about you. I haven’t. I swear!

February has been a chaotic month. It’s the month I decided to finally buckle down and give myself a deadline, so that this hypothetical paper that’s been hanging over my head would finally become un-hypothetical. Which, really, is all part of a grander scheme to make a hypothetical degree become un-hypothetical.

It’s also the month where I’m starting to teach again, at a small, lovely little lab section at a local university. For some reason, this has led to all these thoughts about what to do after graduation filling my head, most of which involve, you guess it, teaching. So when I’m not working on this paper, I’ve been excitedly researching teacher-y things I can do and daydreaming of life post-hypothetical-degree.

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Ragù alla Bolognese (a la Heston Blumenthal)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens…

The summer I was 11 years old, my sister and I overdosed on The Sound of Music. Oh no, I don’t mean we watched it multiple times over a few sunny months. What I mean is that we actually watched it every(!) single(!) afternoon(!) for the entire summer vacation.

Both of us had just finished our first semesters in American schools, having moved from Hong Kong over winter break. I remember starting sixth grade in my all-girls, sort-of-Catholic-but-mostly-in-name-only school on Hong Kong island, surrounded by my Cantonese-speaking friends, and ending sixth grade in a not-all-girls, seriously-Catholic private school in a tiny town in Florida, surrounded by a bunch of non-Cantonese-speaking classmates. To say it was jarring is a slight understatement.

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Corny “Muffcakes” with Honey-Chili Frosting and Candied Corn

I should tell you that I have this terrible (wonderful?) habit of mashing words together. I caught the bug a few years ago when some guy friends of mine joined a fantasy football league and kept referring to it as “mantasy football.” From then on, I saw every pair of words as an opportunity for word play. Buffalos in Yellowstone laying idly about became “loaffalos” and “blogurt” is the only logical term for the unfortunate condition resulting from over-consumption of frozen yogurt (ahem, completely hypothetical of course). Yes sir. Just call me Queen of the Frankenwords. All hail me!

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Thank you, Paris …

… for the baked goods:


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Dirty Rice/Rice Dressing and Pollo al Mattone (Tuscan Brick Chicken)

Some of you already know about my aversion to certain tropical fruits. I have no love for guavas (think smelly fruit on crowded Hong Kong buses in the heat of summer and you’ll begin to understand what I still associate guava with), passionfruits (to be fair, I’ve never encountered the fruit so I can only say I don’t like passionfruit juice which never fails to elicit many incredulous “What about POG?!” lines of questioning), and durians (unlike my mom and aunts, I’ve never acquired a taste for durians for which I believe Nathan and Toro are thankful). Being tropical fruits, these aren’t exactly common everyday ingredients here in Northern California so on most days, my picky-eating ways remain safely hidden away in the closet.

That is, until we talk about chicken.

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Coconut Baklava with Ginger-Lemongrass Syrup

This is an entry to Cathay Pacific’s Art of Dessert contest. Maybe you’d be interested in checking out two other entries from my friends? Marc made Matcha Lavender Trifle and Ken made Orange-Scented Macaroons – yum!

Humor me for a second and picture this: you are your younger self, hanging out with your friends, playing video games or just running around the yard. Maybe it’s a weekend day or just those few precious hours after school before you have to go home for dinner. Someone mentions “ice cream” and all ears perk up. Before you know it, you’re standing inside an ice cream shop, peering at those colorful buckets, pressing your fingertips and nose against the icy-cold double-paned glass, trying to make that most important of all decisions. When all your friends choose Rocky Road, your heart sinks because that is a flavor you can never order.

Welcome to Nathan’s childhood.

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Muffuletta Sandwiches and Cajun Succotash

You guys are just too much. Thanks to your votes, we’ve made it through round 5 of Project Food Blog! This is my entry for challenge #6: pack a full meal to go that looks and tastes great.

[Update 10/30: Sadly, we’re officially out of the competition but thank you so much for all your support, both in terms of votes and sweet comments. More than anything, it’s been really fun meeting so many new-to-me bloggers and discovering lots of great blogs. Good luck to everyone still in the competition!]

Almost a year and a half ago, almost at this same spot, and almost at this time of the day, Nathan and I agreed to go on a little adventure together. We sealed the agreement with a ring before heading off for some celebratory sushi (including, I kid you not, spoonfuls of happiness) and a rawk(!) show at the Hemlock Tavern. We then went home and spent the next six months planning the biggest party of our lives. So this weekend, about a week after our wedding anniversary, it seemed appropriate to take a little stroll over to where it all began.

We had wanted to spend a sunny afternoon picnicking by the lake, watching people float around in paddle boats, reliving the months leading up to the wedding. There was the funny story of how I was originally supposed to skip out of lab early that Friday, a year and a half ago, but a spontaneous meeting called by my boss nearly put a stop to our afternoon by the lake and Nathan’s secret plan to ask me a question. And the one of how we found that gorgeous Tibetan Buddhist center and how lucky we were that they had an open weekend last autumn due to a cancellation.

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Pide (Turkish Pizza)

Yes, it’s true! We made it to Round 5 of Project Food Blog! This is my entry for challenge #5: put our own spin on the beloved pizza.

Oh pizza. You and I, we’ve known each other a long time, haven’t we?

I still remember when we became friends, when I was a little girl in Hong Kong. My grandmothers would take my sister and me to that one Pizza Hut in Central for lunch when we’ve been especially well-behaved. Boy, you sure had some crazy toppings back then. Assorted shellfish? Thousand-island dressing? Together?? But hey, that’s all behind us now, so let’s not dwell on the past. Besides, I was just so thankful you gave us an excuse for those outings and more importantly, the occasional breaks from rice-based lunches.

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Dan Dan Mein (Street Peddler’s Noodles)

Boy, you guys are really something – thanks to you, we made the cut in Round 3 of Project Food Blog! This is my entry for challenge #4: photograph step-by-step instructions for a technique or recipe.

About a year ago, during dim sum with my parents, I wondered aloud whether I can make char siu bao (BBQ pork buns) at home. My mom’s ears perked up and that afternoon, she was digging into a closet, rummaging through boxes, emerging triumphant with a thin piece of paper. She handed me the paper, which had, printed in faded ink, a recipe in Chinese for char siu bao. Coming from a woman who never uses recipes, I knew this was a very, very big deal. Reading through, I saw that it not only unabashedly listed lard as a major ingredient, but also used old-timey Chinese measurements. Oh dear. It had me at catty.

You can imagine my excitement, then, when, as I was swooning over a particularly fabulous bowl of dan dan mein a couple months ago, she told me she would send me a recipe. For the next few days, I checked my email even more compulsively than usual and nearly jumped out of my chair when her message arrived. I opened the email, which contained one simple link – a link to PF Chang’s Dan Dan Noodles recipe.

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Bouillabaisse (Provençal-Style Fish Soup) with Croutons and Rouille

Yay! We made the cut in round 2 of Project Food Blog! This is my entry for challenge #3: host a luxurious dinner party.

There I was, one warm summer night about eleven years ago, eating one of the most luxurious meals of my life – a basket of ham and cheese sandwiches.

My friends and I were backpacking across Europe (as college graduates tend to do) and had stopped in Nice to visit some family friends of Kristen’s. Patricia and her three sons, ridiculously generous hosts that they were, moved into Patricia’s boyfriend Gerard’s house to give us free reign of their own apartment, and more importantly, their washer and dryer. We spent those few sun-drenched days wandering the streets of Nice, reveling in clean laundry, soaking up the sun at the beaches, and eating home-cooked dinners back at Gerard’s house on the hills – pretty much my definition of a perfect vacation.

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