Are there pigs in Israel?

As I was flying into Tel Aviv from Germany, we were served dinner on the plane. “lamb or poulet?” the stewardess asked. Not sure what poulet was, some sort of chicken apparently, I opted for lamb. The label on the lamb had “NO PORK” stamped on it. Uh oh…no pigs in Israel? No bacon, sausage, ham…say goodbye to standard fare in the American breakfast.

When I landed, I asked some people if there were pigs in Israel, or if they ever saw any pigs. So far, answers have all come back negative. I will be keeping my eyes out for any pigs on a kibbutz somewhere.

I wonder if they ever heard of Charlotte’s Web? Perhaps that book is sacrilegious here?

Lamb

Lamb...it's what's for dinner.

Chips vs. Crisps

Hands down, the UK has the best selection of chips (or crisps) as they call them here. (“Chips” in the UK = fries in the US. Hence if you order the classic “fish and chips” it’s not going to come with a side of Lay’s or Fritos.) Sure you can argue its all about the same potato and the same kind of crunch but these chips are amazing!

Once upon a time, I came to the UK to hang with amydoug while they were in Oxford…Amy worked and Dougin worked on his scripts of sorts. We had our own advenutures back then visiting Wales and Llandudno…but since then we made it a point to try every Walker’s crisp flavour we came across.

Perhaps a decade later the tradition will continue…but lets just hope the metabolism is even better at this point…about a decade later. :) Time will tell. But it was sure nice to munch on during a wet intermittently thunderstormy summer stroll along the Thames river in the small suburbia type town of Kingston upon Thames with the Sacewicz’. Besides, it’s practically “law” that it’s impossible to gain weight while you’re travelling so you are allowed to eat anything and everything. At least in all my travels over many moons, I’ve eaten to my heart and gut’s content and I’ve stayed pretty much the same size since I was in high school!

Today, I found two at the local Sainsbury’s:
1. Thai Sweet Chilli
2. Caramelised Onion & Balsamic Vinegar

Have you found other interesting flavours? If so, please let me know via a comment below so I can keep an eye out for it!

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What is the NATO phonetic alphabet?

With all the advances in technology these days, you can do most everything online without ever having to bother with interacting with people (i.e. depositing checks, buying airplane tickets, shopping for shoes on Zappos to baby gifts on Amazon…and everything else). Have we completely lost the art of social interaction?

I will leave that to debate for another day….

But every so often when technology fails you and you just need help to get the online accounts sorted out or there’s some discrepancies needing human customer service, you’re relegated to verifying all manner of your existence, often over some poor phone connection or just being plain deaf. (Hey, whoever came up with closed captioning for the hearing impaired was a genius.) …and sometimes the customer service agent gets annoyed with your for not enuncuating or sometimes you have to play a 3-round repetition game (i.e. your email address) to get through the call.

In such cases have you ever resorted to some sort of word game to make sure the other party hears you right? My name is P as in pearl, E as in egg, G as in good, G as in good, and Y as in yes. And sometimes the person who’s trying to help you ends up correcting you in your letter to word association. Hrmph! Well not all of us are trained in the NATO phonetic alphabet. Seriously, how many of us even knew that this language existed? I mean pig latin…yes…but shouldn’t NATO be left to politics and world affairs?

For all those who find yourself in this kind of situation, perhaps you might want to join me and brush up on your NATO alphabet skills. :)

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It’s all soup to me.

So I got a bug from my travels to Boston. But the Boston Bug blew up in my brain (gross! I know!) after a 6.5 hour plane ride back to LAX on jetBlue. (My new favorite airline, got a row to myself two flights in a row and in the same month. January must be a low travel month.) All the muckety muck of a minor cold entered ever crevice of the noggin and I never could to “decompress” after landing.

So, a week later, after lots of rest, 2 boxes of Kleenex, sinus rinses, a whole jug of mucinex…I’m still on the mend. While every day has shown a minimal degree of progress, I’m hesitant to call the doc for those antibiotics. Those things supposedly kill everything good and bad in you!! And it seems drugs don’t have the most effect on me anyway. Last time, the antibiotics didn’t work either and once, I had to take Vicodin and didn’t even get sleepy. This time, the mucinex doesn’t seem to do much either but I keep thinking the next dose will help…nothing notable yet.

Come on little body…you can do it…pull through ‘cuz what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Why do kids these days have all these allergies? They say it’s ‘cuz we’re too clean. Probably because at any sign of weakness (or inconvenience), we load up on the antibiotics. My theory is, taking them antibiotics probably has the same effect as scrubbing the kitchen floor or even bathtub clean enough to eat on it. Sometimes, we probably need a little dirt in small doses…as with everything else and build up the tolerance levels.

Oops, I never mentioned anything about soup. Guess I really am sick. Will have to blog about the recipes later, but I’ve been loading up on the soups…week 1, your typical chicken soup and week 2, chicken tortilla soup. Then of course there’s the spicy beef noodle soup from A&J to help break up the chicken-ness of it all and throw in some miso soup from Fukada too. One good thing about being sick is for some reason I haven’t gotten sick of all this chicken soup business because normally, leftovers kill me (more than a cold)…and no matter how many different soups I make to keep things interesting…sadly, it’s all soup to me. Oh well. Soup’s on!

What is selah?

You never realize that you’re tired and that you’ve been running on empty until you finally stop. Then when the closest of friends lovingly mentions how you look so tired at 9:30 pm and you insist you’re not that tired (as your days typically wind down at midnight), it makes you wonder if perhaps you’ve been running a little too long on overdrive. Well, perhaps its days like this where you really do need a selah from life–life that is but a crazy flurry of a whirlwind around you, and you’re deceived to think all is fine when you are really just in the eye of the storm for a moment. Good luck getting out of that one, right?

Well, I’ve heard selah defined as stop and think about it, or to take a pause. While a difficult word to translate, perhaps deep down we have a deep sense of the meaning and feeling behind the word–like a soft and gentle whisper inside that nudges you to just give yourself a moment to stop, rest, think, and ponder.

So find a way to take a selah whether it be a trip to the hot tub or aimlessly wandering around a Target or Costco (with no intention of purchasing anything) for a while to decompress from long days, or taking a stroll on a beach somewhere.

A perfect place to stroll...

If we plan to live as long as our tough farm-raised grandparents, we probably need to find more times to selah. How would you selah?

One-dish-wonder: Paella

Whenever someone says I’ve perfected a recipe over the years, it makes a bell go off in my head…I want to know your secret recipe! For Mama Su, that’s her amazing mochi’s, tea eggs, sponge cake, and yo fan…after 20 years of trial and error (where I had to consume lots of the unpleasant errors), you definitely want to know those recipes. But today is not the day for those recipes.

The only tricky thing about secret recipes is the chef often cooks by their gut versus an actual recipe…having made it so many times.

Alas, I attempt to capture Nancy’s paella today…and will leave the freestylin’ up to you so one day it becomes your one-dish-wonder too. I guess we all get to put our signatures on our dishes and that’s what makes them even tastier. (Technically, this is dish requires 2 pots to make, so not exactly a one-dish-wonder, but close enough…you get the picture).

Servings: Approximately 6-8

Prep and Cook Time: ~ 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 3 Fresh sausage links (i.e. chicken varietals)
  • 1 Red bell pepper, slivered
  • 1/2  Large onion, slivered
  • 1/2 Large onion, uncut for seafood stock
  • Garlic, minced
  • Mussels (a healthy 2 handfuls)
  • Shrimp (a healthy 2 handfuls)
  • 3 c. Rice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Saffron (cheaper alternative includes a mix of turmeric, paprika, and cumin)
  • Cilantro
  • White wine
  • Olive oil

Directions:

1. Boil your seafood broth in a pot with 1/2 a big onion, mussels, salt and pepper.

2. Chop your bell pepper and onion in slivers. Chop the sausages into bite-size chunks.

3. Stir fry the onions and minced garlic in a big pot with olive oil. When fragrant, add bell peppers and stir it up, add more oil if needed. Add the sausages. Add some salt and pepper and let it all cook until the veggies are soft and the meat is cooked through.

4. Add shrimp to the seafood stock pot and let it all boil up. Remove the seafood from the pot when shrimp is pretty much cooked through (about 90% done) and let it cool a little and peal the skin of the shrimp (if it has some). Note: I was the sous-chef for the night and had the job of peeling shrimp. It was HOT when I did this, so you may want to peel the shrimp before you cook it. I’m not sure if that makes the shrimp more tough to cook without its skin, but anyway, you can decide what order to do all this based on your preference).

5. Add three cups of rice to the main pot and add 3 cups of seafood stock to the main pot. Note: If you want to make less, use less rice and keep water to approximately equal parts with the quantity of rice. It’s up to you how you adjust your rice to other ingredients ratio. Stir it up and add some more salt, pepper, and saffron spices (or cheaper alternative of turmeric, paprika, and cumin blend), a splash of wine and let it cook up. Stir every so often so it doesn’t stick to the pot. Add more seafood stock as necessary until the rice gooey glue-iness is to your liking. When the rice is almost done, stir in the shrimp and mussels, and add more seasoning to taste.

6. Take it off the heat when all is mixed in and flavors are to your liking. Stir in fresh chopped cilantro if you’d like and serve! The quicker it’s served, the better, or it gets even more gooey-gluey over time instead of a more Nancy-preferred thick watery-ness. Buen provecho! (as they say in Spanish).

Paella is served! Buen provecho!

Beverage Pairings: Blood Orange Soda (or on special occasions, a drink of clear nature containing fresh mint leaves is a nice complement).

Da Bing

Based on personal experience, it seems the Chinese scallion pancakes can refer to the da bing (big pancake), xiao bing (small pancake), zua bing (pull-apart pancake), tsong yo bing (onion oil pancake)…but it all boils down to the same essential ingredients of flour, water, scallions and oil. I believe it just depends on the method which probably has to do with geographical origin (i.e. Northern China, Southern China, or any regions or provinces in between and around China) that determines the delectable outcome. This particular da bing was a delicious treat made by my neighbor that even had some black pepper rolled into the dough and was coated with sesame seeds. Spicy! It’s not every day the Lord blesses you with neighbors that share the joy of cooking where it goes beyond just borrowing a cup of milk or sugar when you happen to run out mid cooking. :) No recipe to share on this one though…you’ll just have to pay a visit to my neighbor.

Mint & Chip

…muffins that is, and who says it doesn’t snow in Irvine? Well, after three batches of a mint & chip derivative of a basic muffin mix, this was the outcome in order to supply 30 college students with a tasty dessert that challenges your tastebuds to “ice cream” that’s outside the box.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

 

Chicken on my mind!

$0.99/lb for chicken! Now that is a steal when you want to cook for 30 voracious college students.  But when I got to the store, I realized that was for split chicken breast with the bone in. Being ambitious, I thought I could make something out of 15 lbs. of chicken, but once I got the chicken home, I thought, “who was I kidding? The bone-in makes it hard to work with…next time I’m going to pay $1.97/lb. for the boneless/skinless chicken breasts!”. In the end, my housemate and I decided to go with 3 chicken pot pies (from Costco), rice, and broccoli to feed 30 college students – all you have to do is throw the pies in the oven, throw the rice and water in a cooker, and dunk the broccoli into boiling salted water until they turn bright green, strain it, and salt and pepper it. Much easier than cooking chicken. But since I already bought the chicken, I still had to figure out what to do with it.

Needless to say, it was a long day of cooking still in the end! So, I experimented with baking chicken resulting in honey baked chicken and poaching chicken so I could save the chicken for a future chicken enchilada meal. Results were not too shabby I must say. Moist baked chicken and resilient/juicy poached chicken. In the poached chicken experiment process, I also discovered the anatomy of raw chicken breasts and figured out how to carve out chicken breasts and chicken tenderloins off the bone…but after all that, I think I’m done playing with slimy chicken for a good few months. Friends, please remind me never to buy that much chicken at one go ever again. :)


Good Morning, America!

A morning view of the Empire State Building (in the light, on the left)!

At least, this is what it looks like to wake up in NYC if you ever got to sleep that is. It really is a city that doesn’t sleep. The horns are honking all night long (it’s 11:24 pm). The fire truck sirens blare at night and in the morning. Your neighbors might see into your place from across the 14th floor. It’s definitely not a place to be if you’re noise and light sensitive (which I am). But after a full day of Bibles for America (BfA) distributions at the World Trade Center and Columbia University and an evening of Christian fellowship on The Economy of God by Witness Lee with 31 people squeezed into a little studio, and the all-fitting life (2 Corinthians 6:1, footnote 1), all I have to say is NYC is awesome!! :) It’d be so fun to live here…though I think my favorite place would be Central Park for some peace and calm away from the hustle and bustle of city life.