Monday, October 29, 2012

Cleaning House

Yep, I'm un-apologetically briefly returning to my abandoned blog.  At the urging of many of my friends to purge certain folders of my computer, I'm finally doing that.  But, there is one piece in my collection that I didn't exactly want to outright delete.  I wrote this piece 2 years ago, as a gift to the baby that I hoped to one day have with R.  I'm posting it and sending out this energy into the world, in the hopes that I'll still one day have this baby with the one I'm meant to be with.  So, without further ado:

"Today, I found myself Googling gamete formation, fertilization, and mitotic cell division.  It's evident that every step in the reproductive process has been researched, observed, and documented.  But, we don't need to take AP biology to get pregnant; sometimes you just need to show up for $2 Corona night at the bar. And honestly, I was conveniently sick that day in Bio Class when we reviewed reproduction with the birthing video.  I prefer my lunch to travel in a one-way direction, not two.  Besides, I figured that when I was ready to have a family, I could just follow the pre-determined steps and magically create one minus physical complications; or so I thought when I was 15.  And then I realized I was gay.  Oh well, there went my supposedly easy no-nonsense cheap approach to procreation.  But now that I'm ready to start family planning, I'm overwhelmed with the options.  

By nature, I like systematic approaches to everything.  Breaking down large hurdles to small and manageable steps.  That's why I went into engineering.  When I pedantically code a solution to the problem at large, it should work. That's how most people view computer programming: input and output, black and white, cause and effect.   But few realize its subtlety and artful nuances.  To me, programming is more akin to music; it's like a symphony.  Every programming solution has multiple instrumental factors, and I conduct their collaborated intersecting harmonies with my own personal style.  As I've learned with work, there is more than one way to play a piece.  So why am I still struggling with choosing an alternative family option?  

Well, call me old-fashioned and sentimental, but I'm still bitter that we can't bring a child into this world just based on love.  Shouldn't it be that simple?  I selfishly want our baby to have her face shape and my eyes; her smile and my hands; her hair and my ears.  I want to walk hand in hand with our son to his first day of school and notice for the first time that he waddles like me, but then he'll giggle and get overly excited like his other mom.  And I want to watch our daughter starting in her first highschool volleyball game, gliding onto the court with the same athletic grace as her other mom; but then she'll comfort her teammates like me when they lose that game.  I want all these things, but that child is ultimately impossible to create.  This bone-deep yearning gets so intense that it robs me of sleep, and I lie awake wondering if I can will this pipe dream into reality.  But sadly, the strength of my will can't produce sperm.  So as the Japanese say, "Shikata ga nai", it can't be helped.  By now, I should be used to my life not following a set equation. 

The first time I truly embraced that concept was out surfing.  My friend Kevin, who's also an engineer, began our lesson with explanations of tides, ocean floor geography, and aerodynamics.  And then a wave surged around his feet, picked up his board and slammed me in the face, resulting in my first shiner.  That's when I felt a moment of clarity through the throbbing pain.  We can't cerebrally break down such a visceral experience.  Instead, we need to literally let the wave grab us, willingly let go, and just see where it takes us.  So after half a day of failed attempts, a wave effortlessly lifted me on its shoulders and brought me back to shore.  It had an immeasurable magnitude of power, like most things in life, and that day I learned how to be present; ride life as it rolls towards you; and try not to get pounded into the sand.  

And appropriately following that wave of entropy, I found a woman who met almost none of my original criteria for a girlfriend.  So naturally, she makes me happier than I've ever been.  She adds even more chaos to my life, and I greedily suck in every minute of it.  Every day she challenges my opinions, my methods, my waddle.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but I'll never change the waddle.    In many ways, she's my opposite.  She's a do-gooder, who wants to save the world.  And via Angelina Jolie-style, she wants to save it one kid at a time from every country.  When she speaks about these kids and their strife, her altruism is infectious.  I have no doubt that she will be an incredible mom, because with her instinctual empathy those kids could just as easily come out of her womb.  And curiously, I feel that bone-deep yearning slowly being fulfilled.  Our child may not have her bone structure and my eyes, but he will have her humor, and my gentleness; her courage, and my stubbornness; her playfulness, and my determination.  But, most of all he'll have our love.  How could I look at him and not see us reflecting back?  So maybe my will can't make sperm, but apparently it can one day bring my Pinocchio to life. "

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Lately, I've been meeting a very large influx of vegetarians and picky eaters.  Now, I have nothing against any of those except that I don't like limiting myself when it comes to food.  And, I've always subscribed to having a very balanced diet especially if I'm in the middle of training.  That being said, as much as I love fresh fruits and vegetables, most of the time I prefer to eat them very simply prepared and unprocessed.  So, my own experience in vegetarian cooking is limited to say the last.

So, keeping with the whole balanced philosophy; I decided to cook a vegetarian meal after the meat fest that was Thanksgiving.  I took advantage of being within walking distance of a fantastic farmer's market, where the fruits and veggies are always in season, fresh, and colorful.  And most people don't realize that if you treat your vegetable dishes with the same care as a main course meat dish, then you don't really miss the meat.  I truly didn't miss it, then again, sometimes I can be oddly vegan myself.  At least I'm ready to cook these new vegetarians dinner if they decide to come over.  Stay tuned for the slow-cooked pot roast that balances this last meal out.

Pan-Roasted Mustard and Sage Cauliflower; Caramelized Lemon Brussel Sprouts with Pecorino Romano

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ok gang, time to revive the dead blog a little.  A lot has happened since the last post 2 years ago.  I've been to hell and haven't quite made it back yet, but I'm working on it.  It's true that life never turns out the way that you plan it; and the true test of character comes post disaster.  Picking up the pieces of your life; remembering to breathe, and rising again has always been my definition of strength.  And most of the time, I remind myself that I'm a survivor.  Even still, the first holiday after your life seemingly falls apart will never be easy.  

That's when I was faced with two choices.  1. Succumb to the urge to crumble.  Spend the 4 day weekend weeping on the ground, drunk and constantly thinking about how just 5 months ago my life made sense.  Letting the waves of pain grow, mutate, and continuously pierce the deepest hidden parts of my psyche that I just spent the last 5 months healing. OR 2. Be present.  Bury the pain that I know I have control over, and protect my still-healing wounds.  Open my eyes, and do my best to surround myself with love and do something I really love to do: cook for hours.  And at the very least, run a couple miles every day, not only to symbolically run from my self-imposed torture, but to chase the giant light at the end of the tunnel.  

Well, I can't say that I really chose an option.  In my opinion, I did a little bit of both.  But luckily, much more of #2 than #1, as evidence proves from the photos below.  Yes, I suppose that I got carried away with making an 8 course meal for just 2 people.  But, that's what happens when you have a quirky roommate who will randomly crave many things.  One day, hopefully soon, I'll feel like myself and a whole person again.  Until then though...I thankfully won't be hungry.  Hope you all had a good thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Day Menu - Pumpkin Waffles, Cranberry Compote, Pumpkin Mochi, Herbs de Provence Turkey/gravy, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Gouda Macaroni and Cheese, Maple Bacon Brussel Sprouts, Sauteed Kale with Garlic

Monday, March 29, 2010

Grilled Pizzas

What better way to end an adventurous puppy weekend full of dog park dates, dog brunches, and dog training than inviting my friends over to play with Kaika while I grill them home-made pizzas? My cousin, Jenny (Jeff's sister), has very graciously given me the secret to her home-made pizza dough, here. And if there is anyone to trust for a good pizza recipe, it would be Jenny. Jeff was an extremely well-versed pizza aficionado and it seems to have run in the family. Jenny has gone through several recipes and experiments to find the perfect pizza dough recipe, and I'm reaping the fruits of her labor.

Knowing that I have no skills in forming a good pizza, I made enough dough to allow for mistakes. In fact, you can tell from the photos that I posted, that my pizzas went from a thicker crust (the top photo) to a crispy, thin, and chewy in the middle crust (the bottom photo), after I started to get the hang of it. Here's the method that worked for me (with a few tips from Bobby Flay):

Grilled Pizza

Pre-heat the grill to high. Generously flour your work surface. Begin stretching out your pre-made dough on the surface using gravity and sort of shaking it mid-air. I try to make an oblong shape. If you're comfortable spinning/flinging the dough in the air, give it a try. Once the dough is as evenly thin as you can get without seeing through it, place it on a pre-oiled cookie sheet. Brush olive oil on both sides and further stretch out the dough on the cookie sheet to your thickness preference.

Here's the tricky part: Try to gently place the dough directly on the grill without breaking it or mucking it up. Let it grill for a minute or two and it will be relatively easy to flip over. There should be grill marks on the first side. Remove after another minute or two of grilling.

Place the finished dough on foil, then top it with toppings. Place it back on the grill with the foil and cover for about 3 minutes till cheese melts. The dough is already cooked, so the foil helps to keep it from cooking more, but it will crisp the bottom. And trust me, it truly does crisp because it will give you a very satisfying crunch as you cut through it.

For our toppings, I used goat cheese (dotted in an artful blob distribution on the dough), prosciutto, figs, grilled asparagus, and arugula on one pizza. For the other, I used shredded fontina cheese, goat cheese, grilled chicken, grilled asparagus, grilled peppers, and home-made pesto. The verdict for this recipe: hands down the best grilled pizza I've ever made. Thanks Jenny!

P.S. With all this cooking, I often wonder why I don't make my darling little puppy boy some of his own organic gourmet food, since I always go through that effort for me and my friends. And then I watch him lick dirt, sniff other puppies' poop, and swiftly stop him from eating dead animals on our perhaps not.

Chicken Mole Enchilada

I just finished a fun little weekend bonding with my new puppy, Ikaika, while Raquel was out getting dirty in the wilderness on a climbing trip with her friends. For the most part, we had a good time except for some minor hiccups, ie. Kaika puking in my car, and me slamming my finger in the car door. I think my motherly instinct is starting to kick in, because I didn't even feel the pain of my finger when I "saved" my pup from getting run over by a car. Oh well, at least I can still type, sorta.

So, I spent Friday night doing what any other young, swinging, single-for-the-weekend woman would do. I stayed home, crate-trained my puppy, watched TV, and made Chicken Mole Enchiladas. Alright I admit it, my party days are long gone and I get tired by 9. It's ok, I gave up the illusion that I can still live like a college student a long time ago. And thank goodness, because I was either starving or eating crap back then. This home-made quick mole sauce was much more enjoyable than a night of getting wasted and watching bad decisions being made around me. I've always wanted to truly make mole from scratch, and some day I will. This recipe doesn't exactly count, because I only used one type of chile and took some short cuts. The process of making a genuinely complex and traditional mole takes days of toasting, grinding, and simmering a million ingredients. But, for a shortcut, this recipe was fantastic!

And as I sat there post-dinner, watching bad reality TV and reminiscing my old party days, I fully embraced beginning this new chapter of my life. Because, I can't describe the huge satisfaction I felt when at the end of the night, Kaika gave me a sleepy look and walked into his crate and laid down to sleep by himself. Here's hoping that I can keep up a good job as a new dog mommy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Seafood Feast

You ever have one of those days where you stand at the seafood counter and want to buy everything, because it's on sale and looks fresh? This day was that day for me. I came home with Mahi Mahi filets, a whole-intact Sea Bass, and a dozen raw oysters but with no plan to prepare any of it. So, I fell back on the motto that simple is best, which definitely turned out true for this meal. And despite the fact that there was only 3 of us, we polished the majority of the platter and all of they oysters.

Firstly, I seasoned the Mahi Mahi with cumin, sea salt, pepper, and olive oil. Then, grilled it for 3-4 minutes per side to juicy, flaky, done-ness. Then, I tackled the whole sea bass. Now, don't let a whole fish intimidate you. Because, if you have the seafood monger de-scale and gut it, you'll have the most flavorful tender fish ever. The skin crisps up nicely, and meat is flavored by the bones that it's still attached to. All you need to grill it is olive oil, sea salt, pepper, a good pair of tongs, and a long spatula. Grill it on medium heat for 6 minutes per side, and be really careful when you flip it. And since, it makes a prettier presentation, and Raquel is a wuss about eating fish off the bone, it's a cinch to gently remove the head, tail, and bones once it's finished. Lastly, I didn't realize how easy it is to bbq oysters. Wash them, and pop them on the grill at high heat, then cover it. As soon as they pop off their own shell (about 3-4 minutes), they're done. Grill up a couple of lemons, and sprinkle a bit of juice on the finished platter. Serve it with a side of arugula salad, grilled bread, guacamole, mango pico de gallo, and a bottle of chilled white wine and you've got yourself a happy little dinner party. The only thing that would've made it more perfect would've been to eat it on the beach, barefoot.

Lamb Kebabs, Saffron Rice, and Yogurt Sauce

Spring is most definitely here. And what better way to celebrate than to break out the grill with refreshing spring produce and grilled meats! I'm not going to post this recipe, because I still want to perfect it. First of all, the quality of the lamb wasn't that great and came out overly gamey. And, the spices that went into the yogurt sauce wasn't a great combination. All in all, my favorite part of the meal was the arugula salad with avocados. But, it still made for a pretty picture. Looks yummy, huh? wasn't. Oh well, lessons learned. I'll post a recipe when I figure it out.