Monday, August 18, 2014

Sangeet 101 for Non-Indian People

I had the honor of attending my first Sangeet this weekend, as my friend and neighbor, Neha, is getting married next weekend. This was a great new experience, but I wish I had been more prepared.

Being the nerd I am, I tried to do a little research before I went to the event. Most of what I found lead me to believe that I was going to a bridal shower with singing and dancing, so I left Joe at home.
Woohoo! Girls night!...Except Not.

That was my first mistake.

While they are traditionally for the women - nowadays both men and women are invited.

I decided to wear a black dress, since the event was at 7, I thought cocktail attire would be appropriate. The actual appropriate wear is a Sahri. If you can, try and get your hands on one - and you should try because everyone else will be wearing one. If you can't, then you should wear bright colors, not black.
Amy wearing a lovely bright colored dress and her handsome date, Zach.

Lizzy and John looking great!

Lizzy, Amy, and I with the beautiful bride.

The event started with a cocktail hour with some great hors d'oeuvres of lentil pancakes, tikka chicken, and marsala chickpeas. Before the main event even started I had already stuffed myself.
Giant plate of chicken!

Chana Dal aka Indian pancakes!

Then we moved into a dining hall where the bride and groom to-be sat on top of a stage on a "throne" while their family and friends performed dances for them. In the middle of the dance that the nieces choreographed for Neha and Sameer, one of the older uncles danced his way into the middle of their dance and started showering the dancers with dollar bills.
Bride and Groom on the throne ready for performances!

Friends dance for the bride and groom.

I know, I was confused/shocked as well. Turns out though, that is the guests' way of showing their appreciation for a wonderful performance! All the Aunties and Uncles soon joined in as well to shower the dancers with appreciation - they deserved it as they were all very good, especially Neha's sister who performed a special solo number for Neha.

Then all the women were asked to join Neha in the center of the dance floor for some clapping and singing by one of the older ladies. All of sudden, some of the Aunties got very into the rhythm and stood up and started dancing. Since I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or if I was supposed to join, I just held my seat at the outer edge of the circle and continued to clap along. (Side bar: Neha's family can really dance!)

Finally it was time for dinner - I thought I was full, but it seems I can always stomach more Indian food. Though, I learned to beware of the "pickles" - they're not meant to be eaten alone, but more as a sauce for other food (they're very salty).
Delicious dinner, but beware those pickles on the left side of my plate.
I had to head out early, but when I was leaving the party was in full swing! Can't wait for the big show next weekend.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Granola Recipe (Gagnon & Yu Family Blends)

Caution: Extremely delicious and addicting, eat at your own risk of being addicted to deliciousness.

I've adapted this recipe from Alton Brown's Granola Recipe, and have customized it into two blends. One for my father (余 家 "Yu-Family" Blend) and one for Joe (Gagnon-Family Blend). Once you have a base, it's pretty easy to customize.

Ingredients

  • 3 C Old-fashioned Oats (be careful not to use quick oats)
  • 1 C Shredded (unsweetened if available) Coconut (3/4 C if you're making the 余   Blend)
  • 2 C Seeds & Nuts
    • Gagnon-Family Blend: 1 C Slivered Almonds, 1/2 C Pumpkin Seeds, 1/2 C Sunflower Seeds
    •  家 Blend: 1 C Slivered Almonds, 1 C Chopped Walnuts
  • 1/4 C Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 C Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 C Vegetable Oil
  • 2 tsps Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsps Cinnamon (  Blend) or Pumpkin Spice Mix (Gagnon-Family Blend)
  • 1 healthy pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 250°F. Combine oats, nuts, coconut, cinnamon/pumpkin spice, and brown sugar in a bowl and mix well. Combine syrup, oil, salt, and vanilla extract in a separate bowl and mix until uniform. Slowly drizzle the wet mixture into the dry as you stir. Mix until oats are evenly coated and pour onto 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper (divide evenly between both and spread out evenly).

Bake in the middle of the oven for 60-75 minutes stirring and rotating the trays (up and down) every 15 minutes. You're oats should be golden brown and your nuts should be toasted but not dark brown. If it looks like your nuts are starting to burn - pull them earlier.

Let cool, enjoy and try to exercise self control!

*Note: For a base you just need the oats and all of the wet ingredients. The coconut can be omitted (but I suggest you don't) and the nuts/seeds just need to add up to 2 cups (I would highly recommend you do at least 1/2 a cup of slivered almonds).

Monday, July 28, 2014

Gags: 29 going on 45. Older man, even older soul.

This past Saturday, I forced Joe to celebrate his birthday (which he shares with his younger brother Dave). Joe never wants to make a big deal out of it, but I still try to make it special.

It's become a 'tradition' in our household that if it's your birthday, you get to dictate breakfast. I think Joe may miss Hawaii because he requested an Acai Bowl with Homemade Granola.
Birthday Boy reminiscing of waves and warm beaches.
After breakfast we were off to Boston to attend our friend Katie's housewarming party. Before we got to Katie's we stopped for lunch in Boston. Joe chose our lunch spot and naturally he chose Mei Mei's Street Kitchen. They now have a brick and mortar, but when we worked in Boston, Joe would go every Friday to their food truck for lunch. If you go, Joe suggests the Double Awesome (two poached eggs on a scallion pancake with pesto) with Spicy Ketchup.
Traditional dumplings, scallion pancake sandwich, corn fritters, and kale salad.
After lunch we headed over to Katie's condo for some drinks and fun.
Our wonderful host and bartender!
Trying out Katie's delicious Mojito Concoction
Discussing interns.
Can't wait for their wedding in the fall in Portsmouth!
A great spread complete with the most addicting artichoke dip.
Enjoying some pizza.

Learning about why interns are BS.
Gags looks intrigued.
Adorable!
College Roomies!
Post our delicious snacks, drinks, and pizza we headed to the beach for some fun.
Ben introduced us to Waboba? A water skipping ball.

But Gags skipped a little too far and Ben had to go retrieve it.
Team work to catch the ball! Another one our fall weddings we're looking forward to!

Ladies looking lovely with the sunset behind them.

Kudzma showing off her ultimate frisbee skills.

Claire being adorable as usual.

Craig showing off his best Tom Brady (too bad Brady is a baby)
All of us, enjoying our time together :)
We finished the night off with a fruit tart and some sweets from Flour Bakery in Boston. Thanks Kudzma for letting me crash the party and make everyone sing to Joe.
Happy Birthday Gags!

<3 td="">
Gags had an awesome birthday and we had a great time seeing our BC friends.

Bonus recipe: Acai Bowl

Acai Bowl (for 2!)
Acai bowls are super easy to make and super healthy for you. We had them a couple of times in Hawaii and we're hooked on them. How could something so simple taste so delicious?

Ingredients

  • 2 Unsweetened Acai Smoothie Packs (by Sambazon, found in the freezer section at Whole Foods)
  • 2 Bananas
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries/raspberries
  • 1/2 cup almond/soy/regular milk (we typically drink almond)
  • Honey
  • Granola (Recipe to come shortly!)
Put the 2 Acai packs (break up slightly with hands before squeezing out), 1 banana, 1 cup frozen blueberries and 1/2 a cup of milk into a blender. Blend and add more milk if too thick (but should be fine) - you want it the texture of a thick smoothie. Top with a drizzle of honey, the other banana sliced, and granola (homemade if you have it!). Easy and refreshing!


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Maui: Where You Swim with Fish and then Eat Them

I love Maui. Everything about it makes me happy: the food, the people, and the views.

We started off by making a pit stop in the Haiku shopping center, with promises of tacos, but apparently Island Taco is not always a taco stand - on certain days it serves Indian food. A little disappointing since I wanted tacos, but the dosa itself was decent.
Not the fish tacos Gags promised me.
If you're staying a week in Maui, I'd split my time between Haiku and Lahaina. We only had a couple days so we stayed at the Windward Garden B&B in Haiku, which I highly recommend. The downside is that they're "off-the-grid" so there's no air conditioning (to be fair its only hot during the day and theoretically you're out exploring), but the upside is that it's "off-the-grid" so it's peaceful and cozy and Susan and Chris (the owners) make you feel at home.

The first day we explored the grounds. Chris had told us we might find some passion fruit we could pick and eat so we were on the look out! On our walk to the cliff that overlooks the water, we found some passion fruit! We're not sure we ate it correctly, but the juice was fragrant and delicious.

Gags checking out some unripe passion fruit (which we originally thought were limes).

The inside of a passion fruit.
That night for dinner we went into the town of Paia, which is about 20-25 minutes from Haiku. It's a small town, but filled with cute little stores and great eats. We ended up at the Paia Fish Market for dinner, which was delicious and made friends with some locals, JW and Cliff, who gave us recommendations for things to do and see while we were in town.
My grilled fish tacos with Mahi Mahi, very simple but super fresh and delicious.

Joe got the Charbroiled Fish Plate with Opah and went 1/2 & 1/2  on the Cajun rice and home fries. Great choice because the home fries were delicious.

I know this isn't the best quality photo, but I promised my new friends that they would make my blog. JW, Cliff, if you're reading this: HELLO!
JW told me he swears by the seafood salad at Paia Fish Market, but I had already ordered my food so there was no going back.

The next morning we were met with an amazing breakfast prepared by Chris. Sometimes the breakfast at B&Bs are only so-so, but at Windward, we couldn't wait for them every morning!
Homemade banana bread and fresh pineapple from the garden (see next photo for proof)!
Cute little pineapples on the property, ready to be picked and eaten!

The best yogurt parfait: vanilla yogurt topped with fresh fruit, granola, and coconut flakes. So addicting that Joe and I started trying to recreate this at home.
Side note: I hate the taste of papaya, but it is awesome in a yogurt parfait.

Red pepper and corn frittata served with taro English muffins. I usually hate when my eggs are scrambled but the texture  was good and flavor was delicious. 
After our amazing breakfast, we headed towards Lahaina for the day. Before we really took off, we stopped by Twin Falls which was right outside our B&B for some views and some fresh pressed sugar cane juice from the farm stand.

Enjoying my deliciously refreshing sugar cane juice!

Despite being full, we had to stop by Leoda's for lunch. It wasn't amazing, but it was pretty good. I'd recommend the seared ahi sandwich and the mini mac nut pie! The Lahaina dog was ok and the corn hand held pie was decent as well. 
I'm not much for sweets so we didn't get a larger slice, but this was surprisingly very good.

Lahaina Dog. I don't do hot dogs. Joe said it was good, but nothing special.
The Seared Ahi Sandwich - great combination of flavors.

We picked up some snorkel gear and made our way over to Napili Bay. I love that in Hawaii you don't pay to get on the beach, you just walk up, find a spot, and go for a swim. This was particularly fun because we got to swim with turtles! Not sure if you can always see them here, but a local didn't seem too impressed when I pointed out where I had seen our sea friend. Following that, we went over to Kaanapali Beach. I didn't go in, but this was Joe's favorite spot to snorkel and he noted that he also saw turtles here.

After a day of playing in the water, we headed over to the Old Lahaina Luau, which I would recommend for anyone who has never done a luau. It's done very well. There's lots of food (not great, but pretty good for a buffet) and the show is amazing! It's not flashy, but it definitely keeps you engaged.

I was strategic with how I assembled my plate so that i could try everything. The highlights were the purple yam and Kahlua pork. The little girl next to me asked for white rice, needless to say - she missed out.

Beautiful views of the water - and how handsome does Joe look in that shirt!

The pig after they dug it up. Delicious Kahlua Pork. The fun fact I learned is that they actually season the meat after they shred it!

I will never tire of a Maui sunset.
Great show!

Our second morning there we drove a little down the road for a hike in the bamboo forest. It's not marked by a sign, but can by located by the little army of parked cars right after mile marker 6. The trail is muddy and requires a little bit of climbing so pack shoes you are willing to get very dirty and bring some water as well. As a note of caution, check the weather for flash floods as you can get stranded and do a little research before you head out. I can tell you to hug the river, but someone told us that, too and we took a short, but very difficult detour.
I'm still smiling here, but that's because I didn't know Joe had taken us on a detour...up this very steep hill.

Even though it's not an official trail, someone added a ladder here for people like me (no upper body strength).
After a fairly good workout we stopped by a small stand on the side of the road to enjoy our first Acai Bowl, which we also got hooked on, and now try to recreate at home all the time.

Acai smoothie topped with honey, granola, and bananas. Refreshing.
Following that we went back to the B&B to wash off all the mud we had accumulated and headed out to Haleakalā. On the way we stopped for some grub at Kula Bistro, which had some solid food. Not pictured is the grilled fish salad Joe had, which was good because the fish was fresh, but nothing to report.
Kahlua Egg Rolls - very good. Let's face it - Kahlua anything is good.

Their take on the Loco Moco. I loved the mushrooms in the sauce.
I fell asleep for the ride up to Haleakala, but when I arrived, I was greeted with beautiful views.
In case you couldn't tell by looking down.

Absolutely breathtaking (literally as well because you're up so high it's harder to breathe).
My final meal in Maui was at the Hali'imaile General Store, where I met up with my friend Tracy. Highly recommended by many people, this was the biggest let down in Maui. I thought it was going to be low key with a local feel since it was called a general store, but it ended up feeling like a tourist trap. Food looked good, but was a bit sweet and not worth the trip or price.

Overall though, Joe and I loved Maui and can't wait to go back. There are so many places we are excited to go see. As a bonus, does one ever get tired of seeing rainbows?
One of the many beautiful rainbows we saw.