My Lobster

Today is January 26th. Here are some facts about January 26th that I just learned right now from Wikipedia:

January 26th is Republic Day in India.

On January 26th, 1838, the state of Tennessee enacted the first probition law in the United States.

On January 26th, 1958, Ellen DeGeneres was born. (Happy birthday Ellen!)

On January 26th, 1998, President Clinton went on television and declared that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinksy.

On January 26th, 2004, a sperm whale exploded in Tainan, Taiwan.

And on January 26th, 2012, completely unrelated to all of the above facts (and thank goodness for that, especially with regard to that last one — yikes), I went on my first date with this studly guy right here:

 
Sean and I celebrated our 3-year anniversary on Saturday night — he surprised me with dinner reservations at Mokomandy, a super unique local restaurant that offers both Korean & Cajun cuisine! It was really sweet that Sean remembered me mentioning this place, because I’ve been wanting to try it for forever.

 
We feasted on a true smorgasbord of both Korean and Cajun/Creole foods — I can’t say that I ever thought I’d have jambalaya and bulgogi (or beignets and mochi cake) in the same meal, but somehow, it all worked! And their cocktails are seriously boss. I sipped on the Black Rose Fizz during dinner, which had blackberry & rosemary ice cubes (!!), gin, soda, and some other deliciousness. Good stuff, man. Gooooood stuff.

Aaaanyway, right! Anniversary. Heh.

Our time together thus far has been chock-full of exciting things — my brother Ben’s wedding, my niece Mia being born and turning one, starting my job at Yelp — and has been marked with amazing trips — Ireland, Cabo, and, of course, Harry Potter World (twice, actually!) — but it’s still kind of hard for me to believe that it’s been three entire years since Sean and I started dating. Believe me, I know how cliche it is to say so, but time really does fly!

  
Since my relationship is probably of very little interest to, um, every single person on the planet other than Sean and myself, I will attempt to spare you the mushiest and gushiest bits of the mushy gushy stuff. I will say, though, that I just feel very lucky to have someone who compliments me so well.

 
Sean is like a calming wind amidst my ocean of neuroses and emotion. He knows how to bring me back to reality when I’m going off the rails, and he keeps me grounded while still encouraging me to aim high. He has always been super supportive — of my job (he’s actually the one who pointed me towards Yelp back when I was job-searching!), my interests (he barely even complains when I plaster his face all over my blog, bahaha), and even my various hair colors. What can I say? He’s my lobster.

So, see? For anyone who might be skeptical of whether you can meet anyone of substance on OK Cupid, now you have at least one moderately successful relationship to use as an example, haha.

Okay, okay, I think that’s enough saccharine reading for your Monday morning. I hope you all had a fantastic weekend — as you can probably tell, I definitely did! My only regret is that it flew by too quickly, of course. This week is pretty much my last week of semi-sanity before Yelp’s Fit Club takes over my entire life (which, local friends, you should totally sign up for, by the way!) and so here’s to hoping I’m able to make the most of it!

Jet Setting and Home Cooking

Hello there! Or, should I say, welcome aboard!

Last night I helped out my fabulous coworker (and the Yelp DC Community Manager) Kimberly at Yelp’s Jet Set Fête, a Mad Man-era travel-themed explosion of local businesses and amazing times. I won’t bore you with too many details (just check out the link above if you want to find out more!), but suffice it to say that Kimberly definitely out-did herself on this one!

As always, it was a bit of a family affair, not only because I was there working with my entire DMV Yelp Family/Flight Crew, but because my own family got to join in on the fun! Both my dad and my sister-in-law are members of the Yelp Elite Squad, and my whole fam really brought their A-game outfit-wise, hehe.

This week is actually a bit of a madhouse event-wise. Kimberly’s big Yelper Party was on Tuesday, tonight I have an Elite Event of my own (at a pottery studio! I’m so excited!), and Friday is a double-header with meeting a visiting coworker for lunch and then attending the James Beard Taste America Dinner (!!) that night. I know, I know, my life is really hard.

Obviously I lovelovelove getting to host and attend such awesome events, but hopefully none of you are rolling your eyes too heavily when I say that it can also be a bit draining. I am definitely what I would consider to be a social and extroverted person most of the time, but even so, being constantly “on” can be hard to keep up night after night!

Which is why I think I tend to go in kind of the opposite direction on those nights that I do have to myself. You know, nothing but laying on the couch bra-free, catching up on missed TV, a couple of schnauzers in my lap? Hehe.

Fortunately, while it would also be oh-so-easy just to order pizza or Chinese on these nights, I have been doing pretty well with upping my cooking game lately. Last night’s night “off,” in fact, led to the creation of a pretty spectacular feast, if I do say so myself!

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Sean’s pomegranate short ribs that he’s been sous vide-ing for days (no, seriously, they’ve been cooking for two whole days! Crazy!) were finally ready, so I whipped up a couple of sides to go alongside ’em.

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I whipped up some mashed potatoes (well, smashed potatoes, since I was too lazy to peel them, haha) with a little bit of butter, sour cream, and some spices, and maple roasted brussels sprouts, too!

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Now, I’m no stranger to cooking brussels sprouts. I love ’em! I mean, I’m not kidding when I say that I can easily take down an entire pound of roasted b.sprouts in a single sitting. Of course, I try not to do that often as they are a particularly, er, fibrous veggie, but still. It’s happened.

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What can I say? Those little baby cabbages rule my world. I did do something a smidge different this time, though, that I ended up being very happy with.

See, normally I go through the process of cutting the stem off of the bottom of every single sprout, before halving them. While this method completely eliminates the possibility of biting into an undercooked (and thus, bitter), stem part, it’s very time consuming and also results in lots of the little leaves of each sprout flaking off and potentially burning.

So this time, I simply quartered each sprout, stem on! By doing it this way, they stayed intact, and they also cooked faster AND I got even more of all the delicious caramelized browned bits, which are obviously the very best part.

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For this “recipe” (I use that word loosely, since I use zero measurements and pretty much just wing it every time I roast brussels sprouts), I tossed them in olive oil, salt and pepper, and some maple syrup. Just make sure everything is coated evenly, spread them into a single layer on a baking sheet, and pop ’em into the oven at 375* for about 30-minutes! If you’re impatient, you can do 400* instead, just make sure you keep an eye on them.

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Before long, you’ll have an entire baking sheet full of deliciousness! Of course, roasting the sprouts with maple syrup is super delicious, but they are just as good done plain with just oil, salt, and pepper, or maybe adding a little brown sugar in there instead. Also, adding bacon is always, ALWAYS an excellent idea. There’s just something about bacon and everything brussels sprouts that goes so well together.

Anyway, that covers my latest cooking creation. See, nobody has an excuse not to eat brussels sprouts, because now you know just how easy it is! And I say, if you think you don’t like b.sprouts, it’s just because you haven’t had ’em done RIGHT. So just let me know if that’s the case, and you’ll come over and I’ll cook them for you, and you’ll be converted, k?

As mentioned, tonight I’m hosting an event at a pottery studio, so send me lots of good, Ghost-y vibes in the hopes that I end up creating something magical (slash actually worth sharing with you), and I’ll see you soon!

Panda’s Gettin’ Married!

Oh, hey.

This is awkward.

Two weeks, huh? I guess I probably should’ve called. Or at least texted. I mean, it’s OCTOBER already, for cryin’ out loud! My bad.

It’s not you, I swear. It’s all me. After my last long, declarative, overly verbose post, I really did intend to come back to blog again the very next day. And when that didn’t happen, I meant to come back the day after that. And, well, here we are, two weeks later.

But the good news is, that kind of statement USED to be reserved for making excuses as to why I didn’t go to the gym. And for, like, the first time in my life, that hasn’t been necessary. I’ve been maintaining a pretty regular gym schedule for the past couple of weeks actually, and I think it’s already paying off! My clothes are fitting a little bit better and, more importantly, I’m feeling pretty dandy too. So hooray!

Alas, though, the past few days have been woefully absent of any fitness activity. Or any activity at all, really, except for slowly dying in my bed. And sometimes on the couch. I’ve been crazy sick since the weekend, and it hasn’t been fun. My throat feels like I basically swallowed a razor blade, I’ve been running a temperature for the first time since high school, and just the simple act of going up or down the stairs has made me feel totally wiped out.

Soooo yeah, not so great. And since my beautiful sister and Mia are coming up to visit tomorrow (I know, it seems like I I just went to visit them, but this is why life is amazing!) I’ve been trying to get on the fast-track back to health. Lots of green tea, water, drugs, schnauzer cuddles, and REST. I am feeling much improved today (although it does still hurt to swallow), and hopefully this is the last bit of it.

Anyway, so that also has contributed to the distinct lack of blog-age this week, which was especially lame because I actually, miraculously had something to blog about! On Saturday (before I realized I was truly down-and-out sick), I attended my good friend Amanda’s bridal shower.

And because she is already oh-so-aware that I am that friend I took a few obnoxious photos while I was there!

Of course, as with most things, this is mostly a thinly veiled excuse for me to show off my new dress to those of you who don’t follow me on Instagram. Isn’t it pretty? $40 at Nordstrom Rack, baby!


Amanda’s bridesmaids threw a beautiful shower that was perfectly themed around her. Not only were there classic Bridal Shower games like toilet paper bridal gown making and “How Well Do You Know the Groom?” trivia (complete with video-recorded responses from her fiance!), but there was also one that I would ONLY ever get to experience at a party for Amanda, who is a huuuuuge history nerd. I mean, history buff.


Yep, there was Presidential Trivia at this shower. Well, First Lady Trivia, to be specific. Suffice it to say, I did not do great on this challenge. In my defense though, they didn’t exactly make it easy on us! There was not one single “Jacqueline,” “Michelle,” “Hillary,” or “Barbara” on there.

I tried not to be too obnoxious with my camera during present-time, so I only snapped a couple pics as Amanda opened my gift, which was OBVIOUSLY a wok set. I mean, c’mon.

In addition to adorable and delicious-smelling candles (pumpkin-scented!) as our bridal favors, we each got to go home with our own chalkboard champagne glass as well. Such a great idea! I gotta remember to Pin that after this is posted, hahaha.



So there you have it: definitive proof that I still have some semblance of a life outside of Yelp, hahaha. Hopefully by the end of today I’ll be back in tip-top shape health-wise and will have even more fun stuff to report on throughout the next week! And if by some unlucky circumstance another couple of weeks goes by between now and when I see you again, just remember: it’s not you, it’s definitely, definitely me.

And remember: if nothing else, I am almost certain to be back here on Friday, if not solely to express what I’m sure will be CONSIDERABLE FEELINGS after watching the season premiere of Vampire Diaries tomorrow night. OMG I AM SO EXCITED OK BYE.

Spicy Peanut Sesame Noodles

I am half-Chinese.

Some of you know this, but, understandably, some of you may be unaware of this fact. You know, even though I obnoxiously try to work the word “Whasian” into conversations and blog posts on an alarmingly frequent basis. I know, it’s a whole thing. I’m working on it. ANYWAY. It’s understandable, of course, due to the fact that at 5’9″ and 200 libbies, I am not exactly Lucy Liu-like in stature. Or, as it happens, in face…ness, either.

I woke up like this.
#iwokeuplikethis

Now, while this may have caused me untold emotional damage in high school (I tell ya, going to high school in Taiwan my genetically petite classmates wasn’t easy on the ol’ self-esteem), I’ve begun to make peace with my lack of outward Asian-ness. Because what I may lack in physical features, I certainly make up for when it comes to the interior stuff. And I have the Tiger Mom to prove it.

But I’m not here to talk about my cross-cultural upbringing, any of my weird Chinese traditions, or the like. Not today, at least. Today I’m here to talk about the single most important aspect of my Chinese heritage: the food.

Many folks can identify with eating spaghetti, chicken nuggets, and hot dogs for dinner when they were younger. I, on the other hand, grew up eating sweet and sour pork, handmade spring rolls, watercress soup, and bok choy. Of course, because the “norm” for me was eating all of that soulful Chinese goodness, on the days when we DID get to eat hot dogs or mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner (read: the days that Dad was cooking), were superduperextraspecial. It was like the rare occasion I got to to bring a Lunchables to school — it did not happen often, and it was AWESOME.

So, yeah, unfortunately, my attitude towards dinner was a little bit skewed as a kid. I was suuuper jealous of my friends that got pasta and hamburgers and meatloaf on a daily basis, completely oblivious to how good I had it. Of course, I now recognize, with the perspective that being an adult no longer getting free home-cooked meals on a daily basis provides, how lucky I was to grow up with my mom making all manner of delicious, authentic dishes for us. Because she really is an awesome cook.

And while I may not have inherited my mom’s height (she’s 5’2″) or many of her traditional sensibilities, I am proud to say that there are quite a few things she has passed down to me. Her love for karaoke, for one. Her flair for the dramatic (who, ME?!), perhaps. And, of course, her love of cooking.

Now, I might not be quite as accomplished as my mom is in preparing authentic Chinese cuisine (yet!), but I’m certainly working — and eating — my way there. And while I look forward to continuing to learn her traditional recipes from the master herself, I know how to put my own spin on things too.

So here, today, I’ve got some absolutely delicious, spicy, creamy, oh-so-awesome Peanut Sesame Noodles. They’re more Whasian than Asian, given my use of regular ol’ spaghetti noodles instead of something more, er, authentic, but hey, tasty is as tasty does. So read on for the reipe 不客气. (“You’re welcome.”)

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Spicy Peanut Sesame Noodles

Makes 8 servings

This creamy, hearty noodle dish is the very best way East could possibly meet West. Add as much or as little chili sauce as you like for a slight kick or of a full-on wallop, and enjoy it hot or cold. I promise, it’ll be delicious either way!

Ingredients: 

  • 1 box thin spagetthi, soba noodles, or pasta of choice
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce (low-sodium preferred)
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce, or to taste (I used Huy Fong brand, the same company that makes sriracha. You can find it in any Asian grocery store.)
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder, or 1 fresh clove, minced very finely
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, as needed
  • 1 finely sliced green onion, for garnish

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta according to the direction on the box. Make sure to salt the water to give your noodles flavor.
  2. Combine all other ingredients in a bowl or blender, and blend or whisk together until completely combined. It should have a runny consistency.
  3. Remove the noodles from the water and toss with the sauce in a large bowl. I like to put a little sauce on the bottom of the bowl and then dump the rest on top for easy distribution.
  4. Eat hot or chill in the fridge and enjoy cold. Top with sliced green onion and enjoy!

Nutritional info per serving: 380 calories, 17 g fat, 43 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 15 g protein

Change Your Diet, Change Your Results (Guest Post)

Hi folks! Apologies for being AWOL this week, but as you know, I’m up to my ears in daily Yelp events for my big Passport to Mosaic marketing promotion, so time’s been a little tight lately. But for those of you who are itching to get their eyes on something new, I have a guest post from Andrea Singer with IHM today!

So without further adieu, I’ll let her take it away with her tips and advice for changing your diet to see better health results!

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I am a firm believer in nutrition. I think we spend too much time looking at what we “can’t” have, and not enough time thinking about all of the great foods we can eat and still see results.

For Weight Loss — Watch Your Macros

Cutting out entire food groups is not the answer for weight loss. It may help you drop a few pounds initially, but it is generally not sustainable. Once you go back to your normal habits, you gain all the weight back.

Instead you might have better luck counting your macronutrients — calories, carbs, proteins, and fats. That way you hit all of the major nutrients, but can create an overall calorie deficit which will allow you to lose weight and enjoy small treats that might otherwise be “forbidden”.

There are programs like IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), or if you need more structure, the HMR Healthy Solutions program is a low-calorie nutrition plan that allows you to enjoy all of your favorites in moderation.

For More Energy and Strength — Time Your Nutrition Better

Night snacking is a common mistake in weight loss. It’s not a terrible thing if you eat past 8pm, but you will have better results if you eat the majority of your nutrition during the daytime. Eating too much too late can also make it more difficult to fall asleep, and whether you are trying to lose weight, gain strength, or both, a good night’s sleep is vital to either.

What you choose for breakfast may make or break your nutritional success for the day. If you start out with sugar and refined carbs your insulin will spike and crash, setting you up to become hungry more quickly and make poor choices later on. Starting your day with protein and fats, however, will give you steady energy throughout the morning.

You should also plan on eating around your workouts. Eating a combination of carbohydrates and proteins an hour or two before working out can help you perform better and work out longer, and eating a similar combination within half an hour after working out will help your muscles recover.

For Everyone — Don’t Fear Saturated Fats

For optimal strength and energy, try starting your day out with proteins and your saturated fats in the morning — a few eggs cooked in coconut oil or a hamburger patty with vegetables would be good choices.

It has been long thought that saturated fats have negative effects on your health, but new studies are showing that that may not be the case. Saturated fats can keep you fuller for longer as opposed to carbohydrates, and assuming that it is a part of a healthy diet, can aid in weight loss and building strength.

In weight loss, what we eat is very important, but how much we eat is important as well. Knowing how much of which nutrients will help you reach your goal no matter what you are looking to do, and considering adding in more fats might help both for weight loss, and to increase energy.