30 April 2007

. . . and I will walk 500 more . . .

** a little bit about food, but mostly about the walk


HAHAHHA!! yeah right!

Way back - a few months ago - my friend Karen had asked me to do this walk with her (www.onedayhike.org). It's 100K in one day (starting from Georgetown and ending in Harper's Ferry, WV). It seemed like a good idea at first, but as time went on, we stopped training and decided to do the 50 K instead (this one starts in White's Ferry). So.. that's what I did this past weekend: walked 50 K (for you American's, that's roughly 31 miles) in under 10 hours. OMG, do my feet (and legs, and body, and everywhere else) HURT!!

As with all things that include lots of vigorous activity, you have to make sure you eat well, and often. So, the night before (Friday) we carb'd up with pasta, potatoes, corn, carbs, carbs, carbs, etc. For breakfast, we split a bagel and made potato & egg burritos. Along the walk itself, they had water and snacks and sandwiches and soup and "feet aid" and chairs and gatorade and paramedics and nurses and motivational sounds and people sitting on the ground.. and it goes on and on and on...

Here's a picture of me waiting to use the port-o-potty at the start of the race, while they were still relatively clean. The walk itself was exactly what I was expecting. It was long and tiring, but we kept up a pretty good pace and finished, which is the most important part. Anyone that ever says, "Oh, you're only walking. . . blah blah . . . " has never walked 31 miles with minimal stopping before. It's killer, especially with little or no training beforehand. I have to say that the last mile was killer. Most of the trail is nice and flat, but gravelly (stupid rocks!) which is killer on the feet. The last "mile" however, which takes us through the historic town of Harper's Ferry, is the mile from HELL! When you get off the trail, you need to cross a bridge over the Potomac River to get into West Virginia. Then there's a nice person at the end of the bride telling you that the end of the walk is just up over this hill. Now, let me tell you about this hill. It's not a 5 degree incline hill, but more like a 15 degree incline hill. And after walking 30 miles, it feels like a mountain. It's a bit relieving on the legs since your work different muscles, but your feet are still dying from the ordeal, so no good. You reach the top of the hill and then go down hill (which is even worse feeling than the walking on level ground), then there's someone at the bottom who tells you to just go up another hill to get to the end. But you go up the second hill, and there's no end! There's a bit more down hill and then you have to go UP an inclined driveway to get to the end (maybe some more hills in between, but I was so out of it that I can't recall). We were lucky to finish when we did, because it started pouring rain five minutes after we made it to the center. Here's a picture of me forcing a smile at the Bolivar Community Center (the end!). The other guy in the picture is this hard-core Marine that we met upwith (named Greg). He was doing the full 100K. Apparently, he didn't realize that there were going to be stops along the way, so he packed 23 pounds of water with him at the start, and he ran the first 23 miles in about four hours. Then he got wiped out, I suppose anyone would, and walked the rest of the way. We met him at around Mile 39 (for him - Mile 6 for us). He was pretty cool. Kept calling us "yous guys", and he gave us a ride home from DC to the apartment so we didn't have to take a cab or the Metro (because I couldn't walk anymore even if I had to - maybe if someone was chasing me with a knife).

They had some food at the end point, but I just couldn't eat. Something gave me a really bad stomach ache at the end (I think it was the Gatorade). I forced down some yogurt and chili, but I felt like crap. Karen was doing surprisingly well, and didn't have any blisters. I ended up with two - one the size of a nickle on the ball of my foot (which still hurts now) and a little one at my heel (which isn't so bad). It was pretty gross when I drained them.

Next day, we had brunch at Filomena's in Georgetown. Karen tricked me and got everyone to say that they weren't coming to brunch, but they all showed up. SUPPLIES!!! This was supposed to make up for the fact that no one will be able to come down to visit me for my birthday (IN TWO WEEKS!!!) It was really fun. A good way to lift my spirits after the walk. I ate so much, since I was starving and didn't eat much the night before after the walk.

photo album here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2055135&id=7404083

25 April 2007

food in a bag?

Last night, my newly created cooking club had our first official meet-up (I'm not counting the very first one because we just sat around and introduced ourselves and brainstormed ideas for events). Unfortunately, not everyone who had signed up to go showed up. Lucky for us, the owner of the DreamDinners franchise that we went to was nice enough to let us assemble our dinner even with only five people.

If you've never heard of DreamDinners before, it's rather ingenious. It's the brainchild of Stephanie Allen and Tina Kuna, out of Washington state. Basically, you get all the fun of cooking the dinner without any of the prep work, and everything is frozen and can be stored for a few months. Just pop it in the fridge to defrost a few days before you want to eat it. Here's how it works:

First: Go online to dreamdinners.com. Find a location near you. Sign up for a session. Sign up for your meals (36-servings or 72-servings) - ranges from $2.50 - $5.00 per serving, depending on how many you buy and which meals you choose. Pay online.

Second: Show up at the store on the date of your session and assemble your dinner. Each meal has it's own station. You just go around to the station and follow the instructions given at each one. All the ingredients will be there, as well as everything you need to pack it all up. You'll even get nifty labels to place on the outside of your packages so you know how to cook it when you get home.

Third: Take your meals home and stick them in the freezer. When you want to eat them, just pop the package in the refrigerator a few days ahead to defrost. Then follow the directions on the package as to how to cook the meal. ENJOY!

I think it's pretty cool, since you still get to cook everything, just all the prep work is done for you ahead of time. It saves a lot of time and energy. Also, it's equivalent to going to the grocery store once a month (if you have a large family) or every couple months (if it's just you alone). You get great meals, and healthy, meals to make at home - and you would only have to go to the grocery store to get drinks and snacks, and maybe some side dishes.

24 April 2007

water, water... EVERYWHERE!

My sister is wonderful. Whenever she's out and sees something that she thinks is cool and that she thinks I'll like, she'll buy it (granted it doesn't cost some obscene amount of money). For instance, she got me this wickedly awesome water bottle from Hydracoach. It calculates your ideal water intake based on your weight (mine is 54 oz. in 24 hours) and then monitors how much water you've drank during the day and what percentage of your goal you have reached. It's really cool. Unfortunately, since it's sitting here, I keep drinking out of it. As a result, I usually have to visit the john every thirty minutes or so. At least I know that I'm getting enough water. That's always a good start to a healthy lifestyle.

23 April 2007

So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish!

My good friend Jeremy has recently quit his job at CRDF to move back home (to Kentucky) for the next few months before starting the next chapter of his life (as a male gigolo, making house-calls in the Bible Belt - coming to a town near you!). He was also participating in a half-Ironman race this past weekend our at Lake Anna, so we all decided to camp out to support him (and to take advantage of the first warm, beautiful weekend we've had in a while). As with all camping experiences (without a Dutch oven), food is hardly gourmet, but we managed to put together a decent menu. I wasn't able to get pictures of everything (since I didn't have a camera), but here are some shots from Sharon and Karen.

What's camping without a nice fire and s'mores. The picture above is of the biscuits we made on Sunday morning. Jeremy had the bright idea of making biscuits over coals by wrapping them in foil. The burned a little bit, but they still tasted delicious (or atleast as delicious and Pillsbury biscuits can taste).

Here's Karen making us breakfast. This is after Jeremy had already left to start his race. No one was up in time to see the start, but we all headed out there for the finish (and to just chill on the "beach"). We had eggs and bacon that first morning. Some of us had woken up before everyone else, and the camping stoves weren't out yet (or the spatula) and we didn't know where they were. We ended up using a pan on top of the fire and cooking eggs and bacon that way. And, without a spatula, we had to flip the bacon with sticks. It was rather caveman like (but interesting nonetheless). Once everyone was up, we found the camping stoves and the spatula and were able to make scrambled eggs and bacon. And Tom even made French Toast. YUM! (I didn't actually eat any of the french toast, but it looked good.

Oh. Here's a collection of some of the alcohol that we brought along. This doesn't even account for the cases and cases of beer that is stashed away in the coolers (or in the tents). I don't even know if we put a dent in the amount of alcohol that was brought. I'm sure people had to take home cases of beer and bottles of wine (I took home two). We did bring a bear out to Jeremy for when he finished the race (6 hours and 40 minutes after he started) per his request. Dinner consisted of burgers and hotdogs cooked either over fire or over coals.

Dinner Saturday night consisted of hotdogs and hamburgers and a Sharon's classic rock on shuffle (with an interjection every few minutes or so of "Where's the mustard?"). It was a good time, considering everyone was actually together for a meal. Lots of interesting conversations about all sorts of things came up.

Here's a picture of me and Ben, eating breakfast on Sunday (egg sandwich) with Jeremy's two dogs (Maggie and Carly) trying to catch fallen scraps. Jeremy has them on a strict diet though, so no human food for them. All in all, it was a fun camping trip. I got to go mountain bike riding with Ben, and I even have a battle-scar to show for it (I fell on top of my bike - not even off it - trying to get back on AFTER we had gone through the hardest part of the trail). We'll definitely go camping again before the summer is over and I have to move back to Cali.

17 April 2007


For all Catholics, Easter is a HUGE DEAL!! First, one must endure the forty days (not counting Sundays) of fasting and self-sacrifice and prayer, starting with Ash Wednesday. The end of it is a GLORIOUS Celebration, which includes a three hour + mass on Saturday night (which my sister and I endured in Vietnamese) and Sunday mass (one is required, but attending both is optional). That is, after Holy Week, which really is Holy Thursday and Good Friday, a lot of prayer and reflection and fasting. In any case, Easter is a big TO-DO for all Christians, considering that there'd be no point in Christ-based faiths without Easter (you can disagree, but I'll never give up my stance on this point), so, as you would expect, lots of food is involved.

After mass in Saturday (a three hour ordeal that we spent standing at the back of the church because we were nice enough to let a few old ladies take our seats), we all went to eat at Cali - which just so happens to be the only Vietnamese restaurant worth eating at that is open at that time of night. Family style dinner is something that I miss now that I live away from home, so it's always nice to sit down to it: canh dau hu (tofu soup), can chua ca (fish soup with tomato and pineapple), mam heo (I guess it's pork, but I'm not sure how it's made), thit tom kho (slow-cooked pork and shrimp), ca chien (deep fried fish), bo luc lac (sauteed beef on watercress), ca kho (slow-cooked fish), and some other stuff that I didn't eat.

Next we have Easter Brunch. Opting out of cooking two big meals on Easter Sunday, we all went to Mimi's Cafe after Mass. Of course they don't take reservations, and it was as crowded as all-get-out (a term I know the meaning to, but never really understood the origins). We were seated an hour after calling in, and sat down to a nice meal with the family. I had pan-seared scallops over fettuccine. I couldn't get pictures of everyone else's food, just because everyone was pretty famished once we got the food, and dug right in. Everyone else got various breakfast items (like the crabcake eggs Benedict my sister ordered) or spaghetti.

Easter Dinner was a bit more work for me than just ordering food. I had decided to make an Easter dinner I read in the latest Food&Wine. It was a Chilean dinner with herb-crusted leg of lamb, fried mashed potato balls, tomato and onion salad, green and white beans salad, and some other things that are Nguyen family staples at all dinner (canned corn, garlic bread). It turned out really well, and mom, Anni and I were able to finish leftovers for lunch the next day.

And that was Easter. Much of the rest of the week went unphotographed, much to my dismay. I never seem to remember to take the camera when I really want it. Random meals include: Bengal BBQ at Disneyland (skewered meat and veggies including bacon-wrapped asparagus), Gyros from Daphne's (because In-n-Out was flooded), drinks at Dave and Buster's (cosmos and lemondrops), wonton soup from Mr. Fong's (thanks to Angie), dim sum at Mr. Fong's, dinner and drinks at Nectar Wine Lounge (delicious, but small, portions of pancetta-wrapped prawns, kobe beef, and affogato), beef tenderloin (a la Mrs. Woo via pre-marinated Costco), and afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay (which I DO have pictures or and will post in a later entry).

return from the other side

It's been quite a while since I've last posted something (two weeks or so). It's mostly because I've been: a) lazy and b) away on holiday in California. In any case, I'm back at work now, and will post something soon. . . BUT I left my camera in MTV's car before I left for SF, and Angie still needs to send me pictures from my weekend with her. So, the next post will be on Easter (since I got those pictures off my camera before leaving it in a locked car - like an absent-minded mother on her way to feed her gambling addiction). The following posts regarding my eating adventures in California will have to wait until the pictures actually come - via snail- or electronic-mail.

02 April 2007

smoked paprika... I LOVE YOU!

Ben is starting a new diet to help him get back into shape. Unfortunately, he's dating me and decided to start his diet on a Saturday. We did follow breakfast (pancakes with butter and syrup and an orange), but we had it at 11am rather than 7am, which is what was recommended. Anywho, to help his diet get stomped further into the ground, I decided to make duck for dinner. Turned out pretty good, but it was extremely hard to carve.

Smoked Paprika Duck (adapted from Simply Recipes)

1 whole duck

2 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp honey

zest an
d juice from half a lemon
1 tbsp softened butter

1 tbsp
Essence (by Emeril)
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix all ingredients and slather all over the duck. Roast duck in the oven until cooked though (an instant read thermometer yields 170 degrees F when inserted into the breast or 180 degrees F when inserted into the thigh).

Sides: Sauteed Broccolini and Roasted Zucchini

1 bunch broccolini

zest and juice of half a lemon

2 cloves of garl
ic, minced
olive oil

Heat oil in a saute pan. Add garlic and broccolini. Add lemon zest and juice. Saute until cooked to desired done-ness (about 10 minutes).


2 zucchinis, cut into 1/2 inch thick
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced

salt and pepper

Toss all ingredients and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake to desired done-ness.

Dessert: Chocolate Mousse

2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
8 oz chocolate (at least 52% cacao)

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tbsp confectioners sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat 1 cup of cream in a small sauce pan over med-low heat. Add chocolate to melt. Stir a little bit of chocolate mixture into eggs to temper, then slowly pour the rest of the chocolate in. Add salt and cinnamon, and beat to mix and thicken. Refrigerate. Beat remaining cup of cream with vanilla and sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold chocolate mixture into whipped cream and refrigerate until ready to serve. You may want to whip longer to get the texture that you like.

Last night, Ben and I went to go see the Decemberists at the Norva, in Norfolk. It was an awesome show, and he really enjoyed himself, which was a bit surprising to me. In any case, I made dinner ahead, but I had forgotten my camera at home. Still, you can have the recipe. It was really easy and turned out really good.

Braised Pork Chops

4 thick cut pork chops
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cups mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1 can diced tomatoes
1 lemon, zest and juice
chopped parsley

Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Sear in oil in a large sauce pan over med-high heat, three minutes per side. Remove from pan and tent with foil. Add 1 tbsp oil to pan and saute onions, garlic, lemon zest, and 1 tbsp chopped parsley. Cook for about four minutes. Add peppers and mushrooms, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another four minutes. Add lemon juice and diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer. Nestle pork chops in the pan and simmer, covered, until pork is cooked through (about ten to twelve minutes). Garnish with chopped parsley, and serve with crusty bread.