Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Magic S'more Bar Recipe

Here is the recipe:

10 ounces graham crackers (18 whole crackers, or two cellophane wrapped stacks)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 pinch of salt
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups mini marshmallows

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large resealable bag (or in a food processor), smash graham crackers until finely ground. Stir in melted butter and salt. Press into a 13×9″ pan.
2. Drizzle can of condensed milk over graham crackers. Sprinkle on chocolate chips; follow with marshmallows.
3. Bake for 30-35 minutes until marshmallows a lightly browned.

From blogger:

Food Blogs

So lately I’ve become totally engulfed in all that is cooking!

Everyday the DVR records Emril Live and I’ll record select episodes of: 30 Minute Meals (Rachel Ray), Quick Fix Meals, Guy’s Big Bite, and Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee.

I’ve pulled a lot of recipes off the Food Network website lately.

I’ve also recently been subscribing to more food blogs. I signed up for Google Reader so that I can track all of the blogs that I read and it will show me when someone has update their blog. It even suggests other blogs that you might enjoy, who knew!

About a week ago I read this lady’s blog and saw a picture and recipe for Magic S’more Brownies. Drool almost came out of my mouth! It looked delicious! I immediately thought, “I have to try this!” I went to the grocery store right after work and picked up the ingredients. Not only did they look yummy, they tasted great! Plus, the blog author was giving away some goodies from William Sonoma for a random winner who tried her recipes.
Now, my picture doesn’t look delicious, but the blog author’s did.



I *heart* egg rolls

I finally worked up the nerve to try the frozen egg rolls that Cuong’s mom bought for us a little while back. I love Vietnamese egg rolls, but I had never tried to fix them before. Granted, all I had to do was pull them out of the freezer and fry them in some oil…I was worried. I’m not a big “fryer”.
Nevertheless, I plopped them into the oil and crossed my fingers. I knew that the filling inside had not been cooked, so I was trying to figure out how to know the inside was cooked, without burning the skin.
Taaadaaaa! I just winged it, and they turned out fantastic! They were yummy, just like the fresh egg rolls you can buy. We had them with some shrimp and teriyaki noodles (straight out of the Lipton/Knorr brand package). Yum! Shrimp are generally quick and easy to fix. They have their own built-in thermometer to let you know when they are ready!

Shades of Summer

When we got back from vacation and picked up our mail, there was a package for Shades of Summer. For those of you who don’t know about it…The 2007 Scrapbooker of the Year, Elizabeth Kartchner, started this activity called Shades of Summer. She bought about 10 pairs of funky, yellow sunglasses and looked for people who would want to create somewhat of a chain-scrapbook. She sent the package to the first person on the list. They would have to take a picture of themselves (or someone else) wearing the sunglasses and then scrapbook the picture…and send the package on to the next person on the list.

She started this at the beginning of summer, so I had been anxiously awaiting the package. My sister in law, Connie, had already gotten hers about a month or so before I got my package! Elizabeth took the first 150 people who wanted to sign up. (Can you believe that many people read her blog and wanted to participate!?)

So here are my pictures…and my scrapbook page!

Bowtie Pasta with Salami and Italian Squash

On Monday evening, I decided to make a quick & easy, but delicious, dinner. Now, it’s nothing fancy, but it’s tasty!
This recipe is now somewhat of an oldie, but a goodie. We were trying to remember the first time I made it. We think it was probably after Cuong bought the house in Norwalk, but before we got married.

Bowtie Pasta with Salami and Italian Squash
Serves 2 (but can be multiplied to feed any amount)

½ package of store-bought salami
1 Italian squash (a.k.a. – zucchini) cut into matchsticks or "moons"
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Bowtie pasta
Salt & pepper

In a skillet on medium-high, heat oil and add garlic. Cook until slightly browned and fragrant.
Add zucchini to skillet and season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, boil water and cook pasta (per box directions).
Once zucchini is softened, add salami to skillet. Lower heat to medium and continue to heat salami.
When pasta is cooked, drain water. Add pasta to skillet with zucchini and salami. Toss to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
I was really hungry on Monday, so I ended up cleaning my plate. We ate it along with a green salad and some French bread with oil/vinegar…while watching Family Guy on tv. (as you can see in the reflection of the table).

Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting Ready!

Yesterday I sat down for about an hour or more to start getting stuff together for the Survivor Crop. I got together photos, embellishments, papers, etc. and got them each into their own page protector and ready to be scrapped.

It actually took a lot of will power to not scrap them...I was just so ready! In the next few weeks I plan on printing out some more pictures, organizing some more, packing up my stuff, and buying any last minute items/goodies that I might need!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Where were you the morning of September 11, 2001?

I was 18 years old and working at Jamba Juice at Metro Pointe in Costa Mesa. I was the shift lead and had opened the store at 6:30am. It was a normal day, just like any other. The usual customers came in and got their morning smoothie before work, we had our “Jamba Music” playing over the store speakers….

Then a customer, a professor from Orange Coast College came in. He heard the up beat music playing in the store and then in a loud, stern voice said to me, “How can you play music like this right now?! Do you know what just happened!? Two planes just slammed into the World Trade Center!”

I was shocked! First of all, why was this total stranger yelling at me? And secondly, why would someone fly into buildings?

Nevertheless, the man got this smoothie and left. My co-worker and I were in shock. We didn’t have access to a tv or a radio, so we were really clueless about all of the mayhem going on in the country.

When I got off work at about 11:30am, I headed home to eat lunch and get ready for school. I turned on the tv and saw the re-plays of everything that had happened earlier in the day on the east coast. Seeing the planes made my stomach turn and tense up. It was all so surreal, like it was a movie and not real life.

My class in the afternoon was a Political Science class. Most of the students were present, although a few decided not to come to school. Instead of holding a formal class, the teacher let us talk about what had happened that morning. I remember asking him, “What does this mean for the country and the economy?”. At this point, no one really knew what the future held and what to expect next.

These 7 years have just flown by. I still remember watching the memorial held on the 1-year anniversary. You can’t help but get a little emotional when you hear the children and loved ones of the victims speak, even 7 years later.
So, today marks the 7th anniversary of a turning point in the United States. Our world is still uncertain and the U.S. is nearing another possible turning point. With this being an election year, all eyes are turned to the presidential candidates to see how they can better our nation and keep its citizens safe and living healthy, productive lives.
I hope you are planning on voting. I know I am.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

South America Trip - Day 1

Day 1 – Wednesday 8/20 – Thursday 8/21

We left LAX this morning (Wednesday) at 10:00am and flew to Atlanta, Georgia. From there we had a 3-hour lay over. We then boarded a large plane to head to Brazil. About 9 ½ hours later, we arrived in Rio de Janeiro. As we were approaching the airport, I looked out the window and saw little black mountains poking out of the misty fog.

We landed at 7:00am local time (Thursday) in Brazil and then had to go through Customs/Immigration. By 8:00am we had gotten all of our luggage and met the driver who had a sign with our names on it.
It took about an hour to get from the airport to our hotel, about 15 miles away. Along the way, the driver was telling us about driving through the “slum” areas, or favelas, before getting to the ritzier and well-known downtown area.

We arrived too early to check in, so we dropped off our luggage at the hotel and headed off to eat breakfast. We ate at the restaurant right next door to our hotel, both of which were located across the street from the beach.

After breakfast, we walked around the town of Copacabana a little and then headed to the beach area. We probably walked about 3 miles before we reached the town of Ipanema. The beaches were packed! We were really surprised to see how many people were there. This time of the year is their winter, but it was still in the 80’s!

While in Ipanema we went to the bar called “Girl of Ipanema” named after the song. Cuong, Paul & Yolanda all tried the light and dark beers that they had there.
For dinner we went to an all-you-can-eat Brazillian BBQ restaurant that the hotel concierge recommended. It had some of the weirdest bathrooms we had ever seen! Rocks on the floor. Rocks in the sinks. Ice in the men’s urinals, keys on the door. Apparently the restroom is known as the Pipi Room! How fitting!

South America Trip - Day 2

Day 2 – Friday 8/22

Today we woke up early and ate at the breakfast buffet at the hotel. After breakfast we headed off on our tour to the Christ the Redeemer statue.
It was about a 20-minute ride in the bus to get to the bottom of the hill (Corcovado Mountain).

Once we had our tickets for the electric tram, we were all aboard! It was about a 15-minute ride up the steep hill to the plateau. Along the way, you go through the largest urban jungle. You got little peeks of the city below on the way up.
From the plateau you climb a few more stairs to reach the top. While we were still on the tram ride up, we made a quick stop and some local musicians came on board. They played us some tunes on our way up the hill and then were looking for tips afterwards.

The statue of Jesus was massive! They had a large platform that you could walk around. It gave you a 360 degree view of Rio de Janeiro. You could see Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon, and all the way to the airport! It was a spectacular view! There was even a small chapel underneath the statue.
The statue was built after Brazil gained its independence.

We were so high up that sometimes a cloud would be passing by and you'd be stuck right in the middle of it!
The tour was only half day, so afterwards we returned to Copacabna. We walked around to find a place to eat. We found a local Italian restaurant to try. For the most part, we weren’t too impressed.
We went back to the hotel and hung out in the pool area for a while. Then we took a nap to try and get us back to normal from the jet lag! Around 8:00pm we headed out in search of a place to eat dinner. We stumbled upon a local restaurant that specialized in rotisserie chicken. It was really good!

South America Trip - Day 3

Day 3 – Saturday 8/23

It rained pretty hard last night and continues to rain sporadically today. We woke up late this morning, which was nice!
For lunch we ate pizza…in grocery store! We had previously stopped into the grocery store to buy some bottled water and noticed that they had a little mini restaurant inside the store! They had a real brick oven and everything. The pizza crust was almost paper thin, so Cuong and I had no problem finishing off a whole pizza by ourselves!
After lunch we headed to the movie theater across from the grocery store, since it was still raining. They played movies in English with subtitles in Portuguese. We saw “Flashbacks of a Fool”, which I don’t think will play in the U.S. It was a very odd movie.

When we got back to the hotel, we asked the concierge about seeing a Samba show. They recommended a dinner/show combination. The package included transportation for the night. We went ahead and booked it. The van picked us up at the hotel, along with a few other guests and headed to a Brazilian BBQ restaurant. We had an hour to eat and then needed to head back into the van to the Plataforma in the neighborhood of Leblon.

It was kind of like a Vegas show with dances and outfits from Carnival, Portuguese dance, Samba, etc. The show was about 2 hours long and ended around midnight.

The grand finale ended with all of the ladies out in their HUGE dresses for Carnival. Each dress just kept getting bigger and bigger!
They even had guys doing Capoeira - Brazillian fight-dancing.

South America Trip - Day 4

Day 4 – Sunday 8/24

On Sundays they shut down one side of the main highway in Rio so pedestrians can easily stroll along the different beaches of the city. We had heard about something sort of like a swapmeet called the Hippie Fair. They had tons of booths with different vendors selling handmade goods. They even had a large section for art.
After the Hippie Fair, we walked along the beach and took in the scenery on a busy Sunday afternoon.
For lunch we headed back to the rotisserie chicken place! Yum!

Someone picked us up from the hotel at 2:00pm to go to the airport. Our flight left at 5:00pm and landed in Iguazu Falls at 7:00pm. A driver named Elio picked us up. We landed on the Brazillian side and then had to cross the border into Argentina. It was about a 5 mile ride to the border.
From the border we stopped at the local Casino to go to the ATM to take out some money on Argentinean pesos. We liked the exchange rate the best in Argentina. For every US dollar, you got 3 pesos.
From there we drove into the National Park, where our hotel was located. The Sheraton we stayed in is the only hotel within the National Park. We had very nice rooms, like a high class American hotel. From our hotel we had the jungle view.

South America Trip - Day 5

Day 5 – Monday 8/25

Check out the jungle view from our room in the morning!
This morning we woke up and ate breakfast in the restaurant’s buffet.

Elio picked us up again at 8:30am and drove us short distance to the entrance of the waterfall area. We were put into a group with about 10 other people and we were lead by our guide, Carlos.
We had a short walk to a train boarding area and then rode a small train to the next station.

From there we walked a little ways over foot bridges towards the “Devil’s Throat” waterfall. We crossed over about 5 bodies of water that fed the huge waterfall. It was unlike anything we had ever seen! There was so much power and so much water! There were tons of birds flying through the mist of the waterfall to bathe.

After about 15 minutes, we headed back towards the train and back to the original station. We then walked on a path through the rainforest and saw SO many other waterfalls. It was like an endless amount.

The tour guide asked us if we wanted to go on an optional tour where we would go on a motor boat right near the falls and then on a jeep tour through the jungle. We went for it, figuring it was a once in a lifetime deal. Paul, Yolanda, Cuong and I walked down closer towards the river area and then boarded small motor boat. We were each given a waterproof bag to put our belongings in, as well as a life vest. Talk about exhilarating! The driver took us almost under 2 different water falls! Needless to say, we were pretty soaked by the time we got off the boat!

From there we had to climb some steep stairs up to a waiting area for the Jeep ride. The large “jeep” held about 20 people and headed through the jungle. The guide from the National Park told us about the animals in the jungle (monkeys, pumas, jaguars, etc.). She also told us about the sad reality of the Hearts of Palms. I have never eaten them before, but I’ve seen them on menus in salads. She said that the “heart” of the palm couldn’t be cut out until it’s a few years old…and then the palm tree dies. So the certain kinds of palm trees are close to extinction. They aren’t being replanted once they are cut down.
While we were on our tour we met an older lady from Japan. She told us that she was retired and doing lots of traveling. Iguazu Falls was her last stop on her 28-day long trip! I can’t imagine taking a trip like that! She had traveled all over South America. Surprisingly, she didn’t speak much of any Spanish!

Here is the view of the Devil's Throat from the grounds of our hotel!! AWESOME!