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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Costa Rica Trip - August 2012

It's been awhile since I have updated. Just have been so busy with life lately. A lot has been happening from moving, to studying for GMAT, to applying for grad schools but I am happy to add that I was able to add a trip in between all this!

I just came back from Costa Rica (and I know I've been using this blog to write about food but my initial intention was to use it as travel AND food blogging so here goes my first traveling post!) To be honest, I'm guilty of wanting a break from looking at grad school applications so that is why I am here, in my little world of blogging! It's almost like a stress reliever to write on this thing! :)

So, as you all may know, Costa Rica  ("Rich Coast" in Spanish) is a country in Central America, between Nicaragua and Panama, and should I add that I had an amazing time there with my friends! We stayed at a resort called Riu Guanacaste but honestly we spent more time outside the resort than inside. When we booked the trip, we had a couple of things in mind that we wanted to do. I knew there was one thing that I must do in Costa Rica and that was zip-lining! After booking this trip, all of a sudden, I had an immense craving to do this.

One of the excursions we did was the canopy aka zip-lining and hanging bridges in the middle of the Cloud Forest. The view and the adrenaline created an experience that will never be forgotten. We also walked the cloud forest and we saw some things that we never saw before. We saw a tiny mushroom the size of the "*" on your keyboard pad (I am not exaggerating). In addition to the hanging bridges, we also visited a butterfly garden and a separate hummingbird garden.



@ the Butterfly Garden

Hummingbirds and as my friend described it, she felt like she was in a "video game" as these little birds fly so fast you can hear the whoosing sound as they fly by you. It is said that they can flap their wrings about 12-80 times per second, depending on the type of hummingbird.
Long pointy beaks as seen in bird on top
One of the eight hanging bridges we walked through in the cloud forest

Baby Mushroom. Can you see? This is a zoomed up picture.
Side view
 Another excursion we did included the Baldi hotsprings, which is located in the middle of the rainforest. Costa Rica has a lot of hot springs (a result of volcanoes heating up the water). These hotsprings are each very unique in size, shape, and most interesting, their temperature. We also came across hotsprings with added water slides and others with a wet bar. This is definitely a place to unwind and absorb what nature has to offer you. We were surrounded by trees and I actually felt like I was somewhere in Southeast Asia. It amazes me how hot the water can get (up to about 100 degrees F) and all coming from a natural source. 

We also went white water rafting (Class 3 and 4) in the Teniorio River. While rafting, there was actually a baby frog that jumped on top of my knee and I am almost embarrassed to write this but I screamed. Wish I had a picture - as I am writing this, thinking back, he was rather cute. :)




We did not flip!!

Frog in raft!!
@ the resort


Wish we had an extra day just to relax at the resort!


View from room
Pink Bananas, only edible to animals, not humans

Costa Rica is one of the world's top eco-tourism destinations and I absolutely loved it - great resort, great company, great activities, and great weather (even though it rained everyday we were there, I can now understand how the rainy season is like. After all, we did visit a country known for it's rainforests!). Oh, I must add, I have, never in my life, had such juicy, sweet, pineapples! Their tropical weather near the equator produces such fruits that are new to my taste buds!!!

Can you spot the little green lizard camouflaged into the grass? This was at our resort.
Hiking through the forest - the white light is actually the Catarata Waterfall (La Fortuna Waterfall). According to wiki, "It is fed by the Tenorio River, which travels through the rain forest in the Arenal Mountain range until it plunges over the cliff, forming this waterfall"
Catarata Waterfall
Random insect spotted while walking - looks like twigs

View of the Arenal Volcano from the Altamira restaurant we were having lunch at

Arenal Volcano


My new friend

Pure Life!!!!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coconut Macaroons

After going to Borgata a few weekends ago, we went to eat at the Borgata Buffet. Now if you happen to go, can I recommend one thing you must try before leaving that place? It is their Coconut Macaroons! Now coconut macaroons are always so good but the ones here are just truly amazing (trust me)! Borgata's official website describes their buffet as a place where "dazzling assortment of delicacies awaits, from hearty entrees to tempting desserts that'll send your sweet tooth swooning." I totally agree with the tempting desserts part (mainly the coconut macaroons)!

Apparently, I am not the only one that fantasizes about their macaroons as I came across a review on Yelp and I am quoting, "... the dessert bar was probably the best part...the Macaroon's were the sh*t! Probably my favorite thing in the whole buffet. So if you can stomach (no pun intended) spending $$$ just to get some good ass macaroons then this place is for you!" (again, I am quoting!) :)

So of course I decided to make some myself. I did a quick search for an easy recipe and found one on Foodnetwork.com (see recipe below) but I tweaked it to make mine smaller. What interested me about this recipe was the usage of condensed milk instead of sugar and it actually turned out pretty good! I do have to admit though, they were not as good as the ones from the buffet but they will do for now until I find that secret recipe of theirs! ;)

Awesome, soft, chewy deliciousness! :)

Simple ingredients


Pour the bag of shredded coconut flakes in big bowl.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla extract.

Mix!

Mix two egg whites on high speed mixer so it is white and frothy and can form peaks (can see when you lift mixing beater)

Add the egg whites to the rest of the coconut mixture (don't wait too long as the egg whites will liquify). Fold egg white into coconut mixture.

More parchment paper for second baking pan.


Evenly space them out. They do spread a bit on the bottom due to the condensed milk so do leave some spacing between them. The runny part is actually my favorite!


Makes about 40 macaroons (need two baking pans)

Pop them into the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. They smell so good my sister can smell it in another room while they were baking in the oven!

Nice and toasty and very chewy! :)


Recipe
Servings - 40 macaroons

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla extract. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they become white and frothy and can make peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto baking pans lined with parchment paper (about 1 tsp size each). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Side Note: To spice it up a notch, you can drizzle chocolate over it or even dip half or the whole macaroon in chocolate (kind of like an Almond Joy)! Yum Yum!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes Stir Fry

Happy Mother's Day!!! Now, before my parents are back from church, let me squeeze in some blogging time as this has been in draft status for awhile. We are planning on taking mother out to an "all you can eat" Japanese restaurant called "River Japanese Cuisine". Now, I need to work up an appetite for a buffet! :)

Now I love simplicity and I love good food, especially if it is easy to make. Eggs and tomatoes is a dish that my mother and grandmother had always made when I was growing up. The scrambled eggs with tomatoes tastes very fresh as there is an abundance of original flavor. This dish is like the American version of spaghetti and pasta sauce (hm...maybe bad analogy, but you know what I am trying to say - basically that it always tastes good but yet so easy to make!) :) Tasty, filling, and definitely a dish that will not take a lot of your time to prepare. Best if eaten over white rice. Enjoy! :)


Beautiful fresh colors

 
 
Scallions - separate end (green part) and head (white part) of scallion

Slice up 3 tomatoes

Use about 6-8 eggs. Scramble and mix eggs.

Add oil, white part of scallions and tomatoes first.

Pour scrambled eggs over and let set for about 3 minutes.

Add the scallions (end, green part). See the egg slowly starting to set.

Using chopsticks, start stirring and mixing.

Recipe
Servings: 4-6

A bundle of scallions
3 tomatoes, sliced
6-8 eggs
1 TBSP fish sauce
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp salt, pepper, sugar

Chop up scallions and separate the head (white part) of the scallions apart from the end (green part). Slice up the tomatoes. For the 6-8 eggs, scramble the eggs in a bowl.

Heat up oil in skillet and add the head (white part) of the scallions. Add the tomatoes and add fish sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper and sugar. Cook the tomatoes for about 3 minutes (close lid). If there is a lot of liquid after the 3 minutes, scoop it up first (save for later) and then pour the scrambled eggs over the tomatoes. Do not stir for about 3 minutes. Add the rest of the scallion ends (green part) and start stirring. Add the liquid back in and continue stirring.