Posted by: gargupie | March 22, 2014

Changing Season…

Finally! Spring has arrived! It has been a gruelsome, long, harsh winter here in NYC. We got snow, sub zero temperature, and winds. Sure, we get all of the above almost every winter, but never as prolonged as this year. Temperatures are also way below average. Frankly, I am so over hearty meals and fireplace warmth. Bring on the shorts, blossoms, and sun! Although Spring’s official day (3/20) has already arrived, the weather is still acting like a fickle teenage girl, can’t decided between staying in the 50F or going back to the 30F. Today was the rare occasion that 50F is reached, so in order to celebrate the arrival of (albeit temporary) springtime, I drank a refreshingly cold all-green juice (cucumber, collard green, celery) to spring cleanse my body and soul. It was actually rather nice to ‘drink’ my green than a bowl of steamed broccoli. As the liquid quenches my thirst, my stomach feel s a bit at ease from digesting fiber and solid foods. I don’t juice often, since I prefer to ‘chew’ my meal, but once in a while, it is nice to be ‘lazy’ and ‘drink’ to my health.

Happy spring to you all! :)BjX_8QOIQAACrae

Posted by: gargupie | February 1, 2014

Happy Lunar New Year – the Year of the Horse

ImageI know, I know. I have been really lax with my post lately. During the past few months, my jobs, health, and personal life have been on a roller coaster ride. Found and lost. Recovered and relapsed. Misunderstood and…still misunderstood. The past year has not been a time of joy, but that’s life, right? Obstacles that we learn to overcome or at least bare with. So, with the coming of the new lunar new year, the Year of the Horse, I hope better luck will come my way. I am not greedy, I just want to secure a steady job and have good health. That is all. :)

On the first day of the Lunar New Year, my mom always keep a vegan diet. That’s just her tradition. So for dinner, instead of the opulent display of steamed fish, roasted meats, and other decadent savors, she cooked a simple, yet fulfilling vegetable dish using woodear, Chinese cabbage, mung bean thread, umami mushrooms, and broccoli. It was still very satisfying, especially knowing that no animals were harmed during the process. :)

Happy Lunar New Year! May the new year bring you joy, prosperity, and good health.

Posted by: gargupie | December 22, 2013

Shrimp Fried Rice – A homey Cantonese dish for mom.

ImageWhile I do not consume any animal products (as a vegan), I have no problem cooking meat-based dishes for my family.  I do not believe in imposing my diet onto others, although most of my home cooked meals are mostly vegetable-based, sometimes my mom do incorporate a piece of fish or chicken here and there, just to vary her meals a bit.  When she had too much meat in one week, she just consumes more greens the following days, and vice versa; so, when I see that she hasn’t been eating much seafood, I tend to ‘treat’ her to a cooked dish that includes either shrimps or fish.  Just no mollusks, since they are not her thing.

I was intrigued in the making of fried rice. Sounds simple enough, right? Just dump some day old rice into a wok, drizzle in some soy sauce and seasoning, throw in whatever proteins and mixed vegetables, give everything a stir or toss and it is ready for plating.  However, if you want to make a balanced dish, you do have to invest in several steps.  First, you have to cook the protein, vegetables, eggs (if used), and vegetables all separately as each component has different cooking time.  If you just blend everything together simultaneously, some most be cooked to death (mushy), while others are ‘al dente’.  I started off with cooking the proteins by sweating a bit of garlic, diced onions, and then add in the shrimps.  I cook the them until they are just pink and remove them.  Then, I cook the rice, as in just ‘dry stir fry’ them, just to break up the grains a bit.  After I remove the rice off the fire, I cook the eggs until barely solidified.  Like a scramble. Take that off as well.  The finale step is to add in some more oil, first put in the rice, then the defrost vegetables, proteins, and finally the eggs.  Drizzle in some soy sauce, a bit of oyster sauce and chili sauce if you want to kick it up a notch.  Stir fry everything in high heat for ‘wok hei’ (a term in referring to the flavour, tastes, and “essence” imparted by a hot wok on the food) for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle in some cilantro or green onions and you’ve got a dish that suggests carbs/proteins/vegetable all compacted into one balanced plate. Best of all, it just taste so much healthier than your local take out version because you could control the amount of vegetables, oil, and sodium to your heart desire.

Posted by: gargupie | November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

1422544_10152006015183232_68191158_n 1452191_10152006014928232_526612755_n 1480664_10152006015078232_724444298_nWhile Thanksgiving is a popular time to indulge in copious plates of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pies (all flavors of pies…), it is also a decided moment to think about those who do have the opportunity to put hot meals on their tables.  This morning, I was among a great number of good-hearted people who, despite the blast of wintry chill, left the warmth of their beds and head out to pack and deliver Thanksgiving meals to homebound seniors and under-income people.  As I arrived, there was a big gathering already, all waiting patiently to pick up their care packages that would eventually put a smile (and a full stomach) for strangers that we have never met before.

Along with two other volunteers, I was assigned to deliver 7 set of packages.  I encountered elders who had to have a caregiver answer the doors to a wheelchair lady who could not even use her own bathroom because her vehicle could not fit through the bathroom door.  These people have to depend on others assistance and they were all extremely grateful for our deliveries.

It felt nice and fuzzy to be able to help others, especially since we have the power to do so.  With just a little effort, we can all make a difference.

Posted by: gargupie | November 24, 2013

A Trip to My Homeland

BZelefDCAAAkjux BZORlocCIAA3zLbI may have grew up in New York, but I was born in another city.  A city that is just as vibrant and busy as New York City.  A city filled with trends, both old and new.  It is a place where international companies clamor to build businesses in, people welcome exotic and fresh flavors, and an inch of space is might be more expensive than a mansion in a small island in Europe.  That city is Hong Kong.

I still have many relatives living there, so this was more of a ‘family visit’ than a leisure travel.  But I enjoyed every moment I spent with my cousins and aunts and also remembered my piety to visit the alters of my grandparents.  Despite the brief visit, I managed to revisit some of my childhood favorites, even though my diet of snacks and sweets is no longer followed.  One of my old time favorite is street vendor’s fish balls.  A pool of imitation fishy balls bobbing up and down in a pool of red sauce, just waiting for a skewer to ‘fish’ them out. Spicy please.  Always.  That afternoon indulgence always ruined my dinner appetite, which resulted with interrogation and reprimand from my mom.  Oh, those were the days…

 

Posted by: gargupie | November 10, 2013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

My gosh! What’s this can of pumpkin hiding in the back of my pantry? When did I purchase this??? The expiration date is this month! I gotta use it up! What should I bake it with?

Yes, baking was the first thought that popped into my mind.  Not pumpkin ravioli. Not pumpkin smoothie. And most DEFINITELY not pumpkin soup. Yep. It was either bread or cookies. I decided to reserve the bread option for later (post will come soon) because my mom is travelling to visit relatives and I wanted her to bring something sweet for them.  I thought portioned treats are better for division. While I was ‘rummaging’ the rest of my kitchen, figuring out what else I could add to the cookies (since just plain ‘ole pumpkin is just, well, boring), I found a half bag of chocolate chip in a container, next to random tea bags and jello mix. Please don’t judge). So, why not add that for some sweetness as well? So there you have it, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. These are chewy, moist, and very wholesome. Aside from the chocolate chips, it’s really quite good for you.  One or two would make a worthy snack to plow through the afternoon or midnight munchies.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, blend together the dry ingredients.

3. In another bowl, , whisk together sugar, oil, pumpkin, vanilla and beaten egg.

4. Gradually combine dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just combined, then stir in the chocolate chips. Do not over-mix.

5. Drop the dough by the spoonful. Bake 10-12 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch. Take tray out and cool.

PS My cousin ate the last three of the cookies today.  He texted me from afar. :)

Posted by: gargupie | October 27, 2013

Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Image

Doesn’t the DOUBLE chocolate adjective catches your attention?

I can’t believe that I’m actually going to use these cookies as bribery…to get senior citizens to attend my workshop.  Guess when there’s food available, the feet shall lead you there. I have been having difficulties getting senior residents to come to my Asian Club, a weekly event that I lead at a senior center.  Perhaps some, who are non-Asian are intimidated? Like if you’re not Asian, then you would be awkward? But what about the Asian population? Most are just very inactive and their only passage is from the dining hall back to their room.  I feel defeated when the attendance is sparse.  Now, I’m being more proactive – hanging up poster to promote upcoming event and yes, baking goods hoping to lure some to come.  Kind of like the Pavlov theory, right?

The reason I made these chocolate cookies vegan is more for convenience than dietary or ethical reasons.  Sometimes I just despise whipping up butter because it just get really messy, slippery, and well, buttery. And yes, I actually don’t like the smell and taste of it and that was before I became a vegan.  So when this recipe only calls for oil, I was all up for it.  Though let’s be real, nothing beats a REAL cookie (made from eggs and butter and sugar), but each is unique in their own, special way, so there’s a market for both palate.  Hey, it’s chocolate, what’s not to like?

Ingredients:
2 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant coffee
3/4 cup of vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup water (you can substitute soymilk/almond milk or other non dairy milk if you want a slightly richer flavor)

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Mix dry ingredients together in a big bowl.

3. In another bowl, combine wet ingredients.

4. Gradually blend the wet into the flour mixture. Also slower add in chocolate chips. Don’t over work the dough.

5. Carefully spoon about a quarter size onto a baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Posted by: gargupie | October 5, 2013

Fried White Fish. Yes, the little guys.

1380318490834The excitement of the success of my certification exam has passed, now the subsequent anxiety is to finding a job.  It is actually a bit difficult to find a position in the city I live in only because the turnover is low (unlike the restaurant business, where you might see a different server at the same restaurant every few months), would could be interpreted as this job has high satisfying rate, but also the lack of openings.  There are some part time opportunities, but most are in random locations that would either be a 2+ hour commute on public transportation (each way) or the requirement of a car.  In the meantime, I am still searching, keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, I am experimenting in the kitchen, ironically not sweet related, but mostly with savory dishes.  Partly because I have been cooking dinners for my mom since she has been doing overtime work. As her daughter, of course I take on the domestic role of running errands, such as cleaning and cooking.  It is the least I could do.

I realize a package of frozen white fish got hidden in the back of the freezer.  Don’t you just surprised yourself with the things you ‘rediscover’ in your fridge? Frying has never been my cup of tea.  It stinks up the entire place with burning oil and just really messy to clean up.  But I decided to give it a try anyway.  I just justify that I will use an inch of oil instead of an entire pot.  I limited the amount of fish in my pan to a minimum since I did not want to overcrowd the fishes. So I made small batches at a time to compensate for the ‘lack of oil’ I used.  So just be patient.

I mixed a cup of flour with salt and pepper and some garlic powder. Drop the white fish in and coat them, then dust off the excess flour. I heated the oil till bubbling, drop the fish in and fry for about four minutes or until golden brown.  Drain off excess oil on paper towel.  Once plated, sprinkle some sea salt on top for last minute seasoning.  You could eat these little guys as is.  Great bar food, really. :)  Or pair with some rice or as vehicles for dips.

Posted by: gargupie | September 14, 2013

I DID IT! I’M CERTIFIED!

congratulationsIt has been an intense month, boosted by my laziness and procrastination-ish personality.  I have been neglecting my blog because of my priorities to 1) enjoy the last of the summery weather; 2) lack of interesting stuff to report about; 3) studying for my certification exam.  For some of you in the know, this was not my ‘first’ try. This is an expensive exam that I had taken, taken, and one more taken in the past year.  The first failure, fine. I could deal with blowing $300 down the drain. It was just a ‘practice test’.  But the second time, I started to doubt myself.  But heck, maybe third time is the charm.  I really thought I had it in the bag for good. I felt good the day I took it.  My mindset was all ready tuned to a triumphing mode, all prepared to add the additional ‘letters’ right behind my last name.  As luck tricked me once again, I left the door with tail down.  Perhaps I was not meant for that profession.  The profession does not want me.  This past year, my job luck is negative zero. I am either unemployed, got hired but the business went down under, or just never got back a second interview.  If my EQ is not high, depression might have been upon me.

I wanted to twist my fate.  Break the curse.  So, I purposely chose to take my exam on Friday the 13th.  If fate wanted to play trick with me, so be it.  I will not be defeated.  You wanted me to lose? Well, let’s play hard ball.  I kept all my routine, did not veer away for a sec.  I still exercised the morning of, still ate the same food, and I was even surprised I slept well.  I also ‘felt right’ when I have been encountering small ‘luck’ the past few days, like finding dimes on the street, meeting friendly strangers, or just getting my way around things that I did not normally experience before.  Sure, these are miniscule events (dimes? Please, tell me when you find a hundred-dollar bill), but I saw these as signs of fortune.  Call me superstitious, but I do believe in these things, especially when you are desperate.  Not many people supported me in my study.  I did not make many friends academically and one of my ‘close relative’ never believed in my work.  However, there are still plenty of supporters who I knew still wanted me to succeed.  The night before, I was fortunate enough to chat with a fellow colleague on Facebook.  She passed her exam just recently (and she graduated a year after me), but she was so supportive and comforting and guided me on test taking tips and provided sound advice.  Just the chat online comforted me.  Gave me a positive outlook.

To fast forward the story a bit, I did not look at the result right away.  With the printed sheet handed faced down to me.  I immediately folded it in half and stuffed it into my backpack.  I was still, too scared and nervous to read the results.  Fourth try. Almost a thousand dollar commitment.  Do I really need a 5th? Do I even WANT a 5th? What would happen if I did not make it? My future is ruined.  Finished.  Finito.  I relieved myself in the restroom, then determinedly unfolded the ‘life contract’.  YAY! This time, the wordings are different! That’s a good sign.

CONGRATULATIONS! The paper read.  I screamed out. Silently.  I almost cried on the street. Almost.  Although I passed just by a few points, still, I won.  I have defeated my demon.  There is finally a closure.  I am now a certified professional.  Something to be proud of.  I shared my joy with my family and friends and they are all happy for me.  I wanted to thank everyone who believed in me.  Who never put me down and is selfless enough to say I should own my success and not just their support.  But really.  The late night colleague chat, the online conversation with my far-away relatives, and my own mother at home, who provided me financially and emotionally, they are my rock.  They ‘egged’ me on because if not, I would not be where I am right now.

I want to use my knowledge and experience purposefully and professionally.  I am actively seeking jobs in my health field. While full-time employment is difficult to come by, but I do see some contract opportunities.  One caveat is the commuting.  Without a car, public transportation is all I have.  But I will stay positive.  I cannot disappoint myself or my loved ones.  I want to do good to the community.  I just need to take baby steps.  I learn a lot daily.

Posted by: gargupie | August 6, 2013

It’s my [birthday] party and I will cry if I want to…

The title to this post is actually lyrics from an oldie song. I am also shocked that I haven’t posted since early July! Shame on me. :*( Well, not that I have been occupied saving the world, but somehow, random events manage to pop up and surprise me.  I had a terrible stomach flu that warranted a doctor’s visit with an IV injection; relative hospitalized; or just taking every opportunity to enjoy the sun while summer is still here.  I was loving it when the sun was burning up the ground, which was two weeks ago. I would take summer over winter in a heartbeat.  And now? It feels more like early autumn than early August and I am not a happy camper.  Where did the summer go???

Well, there WAS a significant event last week. It was my birthday! I won’t reveal my age, haha, but as ‘lucky’ as I am, it was filled with ‘unexpected’ events.  First, I made a restaurant reservation for a celebratory lunch with mom.  Really, on our birthday, we should be thanking our mommies. They are the ones who suffered through intense labor to bring us to this world.  So I chose this really popular New American restaurant for their famous Southern fried chicken.  She thoroughly enjoyed it, but I didn’t. Besides me being a vegan and there was a lack of vegetarian/vegan options on the menu, we sat in a secluded corner and a mosquito apparently hid himself there and I got five enormous bites on my legs.  Instead of me having a delicious meal, I became an insect’s feast. Then, I suspected that these bites caused me allergic reactions because the very next day, my eyes were tearing and nose was running and that never happened before.  Crying on my birthday. Not a positive omen.  Just to add a cherry on top, a mousse that I bought for my birthday melted in the heat.  What was left was a big puddle of chocolate inside a fancy gift box.  Needless to say, I just wanted to cry.  Fortunately, things did turn around for the better. I took some medication and the allergies eventually went away. My mom took me to a local bakery and bought a slice of black forest cake so I could blow a candle and make birthday wishes.  I also tweeted my ‘mousse catastrophy’ to the bakery and the manager responded back and offered me a complimentary pastry! So the nebulous cloud did dissipate, so the moral of the story is never give up hope! :)  Here are just some photos of these events. Nothing I created, but I sure ‘worked’ for them. :)

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