January 10
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I love eating bo tai chanh. We make it at our house often and I also grew up eating it in quan nhau places in Little Saigon with my grandpa and uncles. It’s a great staple dish when I’m craving a lot of Vietnamese food and is always a hit with lunch or dinner guests. It also is a favorite next day lunch too. Just make sure to bring mouthwash or gum because of all the onions you’re eating raw!

This recipe is mostly from the Ravenous Couple.  I don’t change it up much, if at all, and I really like the way they blanche the meat just a bit beforehand to get that extra citrus taste.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of beef (thinly sliced beef eye; I get mine at HMart)
  • 1 cup lemon juice or lime juice
  • 2.5 tbs sugar
  • pineapple juice or mango nectar
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 bunch of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped (substitute with basil or mint if not available)
  • 2 tbs fried shallots pre fried, found in Asian groceries, known as Hanh Phi
  • 2 tbs roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • ~2tbs nuoc mam cham, that I also use from Ravenous Couple. I store in in the fridge and use it whenever I need to in Vietnamese cooking.
  • 1 jalapeno (finely sliced)

Directions:

Mix lime or lemon juice with sugar until dissolve and set aside.

Fill half of a medium size sauce pan with pineapple juice and heat to a rolling boil. Quickly “blanch” some of the beef a bit at a time, no more then a few seconds or so removing it as it turns slightly opaque but still quite rare. Place in large mixing bowl.

Add the lime or lemon juice mixture and mix well, letting the acid do the rest of the cooking about 15-20 minutes, but use your judgement as to when to remove it from the acid. We like it pretty rare. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid from the meat. Mix in the onions, rau ram, mint and/or basil and drizzle with just a spoonful or two of  the nuoc mam (don’t over do it as you don’t want to overpower the fresh citrus taste) and mix well and adjust to taste. Transfer to serving platter and top off with crushed roasted peanuts, fried hanh phi, and jalepeno.

 
December 22
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Atlanta Botanical Gardens – The Holiday Lights.

I’m loving the lights at the gardens, but wanted to experiment with the light trails instead of just the regular photos of holiday lights.

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October 29
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Fall is here so the weather is crisp and just beautiful. We spent a day at Stone Mountain Park this past weekend. The pumpkin festival has been going on for weeks at Stone Mountain, but we finally made it out to catch the end tail of it.

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October 17
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Inspired by my best friends at [Sargeant Creative] back in California who built an urban farm in their front yard, and the stores bursting with new herbs, I decided to give gardening a go and would ask for help along the way. Little did I know that it would become that great home project that would provide me with delicious herbs in full abundance. I don’t think I’ve purchased any store bought rosemary, mint, basil, chives, oregano, thyme, and aloe vera since April!

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First off, I cannot say that I am an expert on this at all. I only started gardening in containers this year when I moved to Georgia because the spring was so lush and beautiful. It’s one of the perks of living in the “forest” in Georgia! There is nature all around me, the squirrels are always running about, the hummingbirds looking for feeders, the tree canopy over my home lend tons of shade on hot summer days. This blog post is only from my experience and consistent learning from YouTube videos and the helpers at Home Depot.

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TIPS:

Start small. I only started with a few herbs in case this hobby didn’t pan out. I bought rosemary, mint, sweet basil, and chives at Home Depot. Each cost me $3.65 and I also bought containers with good drainage holes for each one, and a good bag of potting soil.  These herbs are the most hardy in cold and they don’t need great soil to survive. Once we got the hang of it, I expanded to jalapenos, sweet basil, thyme, parsley and cilantro.

Don’t buy seeds. Buy the pre-grown plants with a stronger root holding. I HIGHLY recommend for new gardeners to start off with pre-grown plants from Home Depot or Lowes. Don’t start from seed if you’re new to gardening and/or impatient. I like to start the planting process with a small plant in a larger container so that it can establish roots and grow into the pot. All three of my pants grew really fast and in abundance, filling up my containers within a few months, so I already had to split and repot them twice since then!

Feed the soil. Amine likes to take the hose and just do a once over spray of water over the plants. For trees and bigger plants, this would be fine. Herbs, however, need good soil, so make sure to water the soil of the plants well and let it drain all the way through. I also add coffee beans to the soil and occasionally throw in crushed egg shells to keep pests away. My friend juices a lot so she’ll throw in the juice rinds and that seems to make her vegetables thrive like crazy!

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MY HERBS:

Basil: My basil plant had three stems on it and was quite small in the picture shown above. Now, it’s grown over 2 feet and I need to cut it down to size! Basil is quite hardy but needs good soil, so I add a lot of coffee beans and egg shells to the coals. I learned that you have to prune it often right on top of the nub where the plant splits. That way, the plant will develop more bushy leaves and produce more lovely basil to eat!

This picture below is right before I cut it down to half the size. I also took it out of the container and repotted it with fresh soil. I took apart the stems and separated the pant into 4 pieces. I cut a lot of the top stems off to propogate more basil in the kitchen window. From this one plant, I plan on propogating at least 10 more basil plants to grow by fall. It also makes for a great housewarming or “just cause” gift.

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Mint: Mint is more fickle and needs attention, but when it grows, it grows fast!!! It will sprout new vines within the week and you’ll see buds almost immediately.  I put my mint in a separate container and it constantly overflows over the container. The vines grow horizontally so leave enough room for it to expand. Tend to the soil constantly with good compost and/or pest control. Pests will get into this plant no matter what I do so I change the soil up a lot. Egg shells help and I’ll add compost.

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Aloe Vera:  I bought this aloe vera plant after the others and it grows quite fast! Aloe vera is great for soothing minor burns, scars, and is also great for moisturizing skin.

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Thyme:  Thyme is awesome with steaks. That’s why I grow thyme. It’s a pretty easy growing herb, and I just snip off the long strands when it gets full. Throw them on a cast iron steak for extra flavor, or just strip off the leaves and use as seasoning.

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Thai basil:  It isn’t an Asian household without Thai basil. I propogate this in abundance because we eat so much of it! Snip the purple flowers that grow on the tip so that it keeps growing and prune them to keep it bushy and full of leafy goodness. If there are yellow leaves, it might be that it needs more watering, or that pests have gotten to it. Break some egg shells and spread them at the base of the plant to help prevents pests and fertilize the soil.

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Jalapenos:  We love jalapenos in our household. We throw them into most things that we cook, so it’s important that our jalapeno plants stay healthy! In the beginning, they were very slow to flower, but when the first bud came through and I could see the tip of the jalapeno, it just didn’t stop after that! They grow in abundance and I’ve split the plant into two, planting one into the ground, and the other in a container close to my kitchen. My container plant started to turn yellow the last month when I was traveling a lot so I’ve been nursing it back to health.  If the leaves turn yellow and have white spots on it, it might be diseased so cut the leaves off and change the soil. Hopefully it will come back strong again.

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Rosemary:  Nothing smells better than fresh rosemary. My plant is actually quite small and hasn’t grown in size much. I’ve seen rosemary just take over it’s territory and overgrow into this crazy bush. Mine, however, stays close to its size and I’m not quite sure why. It produces and grows, but not as fast or abundantly as I see other rosemary bushes grow in my friends’ gardens. It’s enough for our household, but if I needed more, I think I’d plant another one in the ground.

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PROPOGATING: I started propogating for the fall around late summer, when I realized that my plants might need some more help recreating. I snipped off long stems and put them in water for a few weeks to get them to grow roots. Once I saw they had significant roots that might survive in a container, I planted them into the soil.

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September 11
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I’ve been on the hunt for an amazing leather tote all summer. I’ve been traveling a lot and the need for it grew and grew. I checked out so many…Madewell, JCrew, Etsy, and a few others. They are all amazing….but this one takes the cake on first sight. I saw it on Pinterest and I went directly to the site. I watched all the videos offered, looked into the tanning process, and bought it a week later when I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The minute I opened the box, the beautiful leather smell sold me. I absolutely love the color of the leather, a deeper brown than I anticipated, but very beautiful. The Whipping Post logo is understated which is what I really wanted and the size was quite big, fitting everything I have into one convenient bag.

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September 10
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The Lantern Parade is on its 5th year and it’s getting bigger and bigger each year. This is my first year going, so my lanterns were no where up to par as what I photographed here. Next year, I will be more ready! Since it’s such a huge thing in the Asian culture, and I grew up attending the Mid-Autumn festivals at my church every year, this was a must see festival for me! According to Wikipedia, the mid-autumn festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese and Vietnamese calendars, during a full moon, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar, within 15 days of the autumnal equinox. The festivals celebrate family, community, a good harvest, and a prosperous life.

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The walk on the Beltline is absolutely amazing. There are no cars, so everyone is a pedestrian or cyclist. There are lots of dogs and puppies walking the path with their owners and plenty of restaurants/bars to stop in for a bite to eat or a good cocktail.

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 Atlanta Beltline Lantern Festival

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August 25
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Poker nights are a lot of fun. Everyone comes over, and we all stay up so late, chatting, eating, and of course, playing poker. I’ve only played once or twice since I’ve been here, but it’s going to become a regular thing now that everyone is pretty much getting the hang of it. Sometimes, it’s just the adults if babysitters can be found, other times, it’s whoever isn’t able to play the round! It’s always so much fun and the kids get a kick out of seeing each other after a long week of school!

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August 18
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Bo Luc Lac in Vietnamese basically translates to “shaking beef”.  I posted a bad late night picture of this dish awhile back on my Instagram and I got a lot of questions and requests for the recipe…along with just requests to come over and eat it! So today I finally had the chance to not just make the dish, but also photograph it in nice daylight just before the rain came.

This is a dish I grew up eating. My mom doesn’t make it as often as I’d like, but when she does, it’s a big treat and we’re all over it!  This recipe is adapted from my aunties and mom, and is a standard and really easy recipe that I use very often on a cast iron skillet.

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