The Art of Cooking.

There is a misconception that the majority of college students these days tend to follow a “microwave only” diet. Wrong. I’m one of those people who believes that the art of cooking is not dead, especially in the younger generation. Recently, I have found myself cooking and baking more than ever. If you follow me on any social networking platform, you have probably seen an increase in Instagram pictures featuring meals I’ve cooked lately. Cooking to me is an art form, something that makes me happy, and a way for me to express my appreciation of the people in my life. Cooking and love are synonymous in my book, hence why I cook for my friends so often – especially my close ones.

fried riceThe Culture Shock. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m Asian. More specifically, I am a Vietnamese American who immigrated to America. Growing up, my packed lunches were never your typical PB&J sandwiches, rice was always a staple, and the number of spices and sauces in the cabinet were countless. Now that I’m on my own and have the freedom to cook for myself, I actually have a huge fear of integrating my culture into my cooking. I always say cooking is one of the main factors that keeps me rooted to my culture, but I am unable to cook “authentic” Vietnamese meals. You see, regardless of who I live with, there’s always that bit of fear of being judged. Sure, people think fried rice and stir-fry smells great, but how will my peers judge me if I were to boil pig’s tongue and start dipping it in fish sauce? What if I decided to whip up some rice poridge with congealed pig’s blood? Liver pate? Delicious. Although I have assimilated into the America culture quite well, one thing remains true: if you list a part of an animal, I have probably eaten it. The “strangest” thing I’ve eaten? Stir-fried silk worms with jasmine rice. It’s a delicacy, or whatever you want to call it.

The College Budget.I’m a college student, which is basically implied that I am poor. Sure, I occasionally splurge on the smoked gouda to have with a glass of red, but that’s not a common practice. I believe one can have a great meal if there is some time and thought put into it. Grocery trips consist of staples ranging from fresh produce to proteins I will actually eat. As much as I love pizza rolls, frozen foods are not my preferred sources of nourishment.

Baking.Y’all, I actually really enjoy baking from scratch. Sure, I’ve had my moments when I see the brownie cupcakesmix that’s on sale for $1 and I immediately make the purchase, but for he most part, I prefer to bake from scratch. Why? Because there’s more thought put into it –  the measurements have to be more precise, the mixing has to be consistent, and other factors that could influence whether your cupcake comes out fluffy or a deflated hot mess. Cupcakes are my forte – don’t you dare try to insult my cupcake baking skills.

If I have offered to cook/bake for you, I probably appreciate you to some degree.


So it begins.

The past few days via Instagram:

  • Cooked pasta
  • Went to one of my favorite cafes with a great friend
  • Baked cupcakes
  • Started my second college internship at an office that looks like it’s straight off Pinterest
  • Got my wallet invaded by Batman
  • Devoured a lot of burgers

It’s been a great 2013 so far.

The Non-Traditional Thanksgiving

Woke up this morning to sounds of my mother dancing around in the kitchen preparing scrumptious meals for this evening’s festivities. I hope everyone is having a safe and warm Thanksgiving, wherever you may be. I will be devouring unhealthy amounts of my parents’ homemade cooking that includes a mixture turkey, pie, egg rolls, noodles, and various Vietnamese dishes that I cannot seem to describe using the English language. Sorry y’all, not all items can be literally translated without receiving a cringe from the general public.

Happy Thanksgiving. Texas fight, beat TCU.

The Under 21 Club.

J.Crew skirt, Banana Republic top, classic pearls, Fossil watch.

Tonight I headed to Buca di Beppo in north Austin for a company dinner. I sported this outfit in the office this morning, and decided to go ahead and wear it for the evening. Since Buca is a fairly casual restaurant, I didn’t feel the need to dress up too nicely. But this wasn’t your average company dinner; this dinner had executive members from fortune 500 companies that just happen to be our company’s clients. So yes, an impression needed to be made.

I walked into the restaurant not knowing what to expect. Everyone was already seated and making dents into their respective meals, while casually sipping on red wine. The environment was casual and it was nice to be able to pick the brains of these top executives without the fear of being judged too much. Of course, there was the question of “Would you like some red wine?” And then the table realized I was underage. The joys of being the youngest person at the office, right? Nevertheless, they seemed impressed and overall, it was a night worth documenting, if not just for my fairly cute outfit.

Early Morning Urges.

I started off the morning making these egg toast cups. This recipe has been on my Pinterest for quite some time now, and I figured now that I am finally home and have all the necessary ingredients within reach, it was the perfect time to attempt it. It was really simple, especially with a muffin/cupcake pan.

Simply tear pieces of bread and line it in the muffin tin to get that round shape, stroke some canola oil or butter to make the bread hold. Then, crack in egg in each pan. Place into the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the whites are cooked, at 375 degrees. Then, voila! Egg toast cups that are easy to serve and even easier to eat.

To finally satisfy my urge to bake, I made these delicious, warm, brownies from scratch. I am a strong believer that desserts and sweets should always be made from scratch, regardless of the fact that they might not look as aesthetically pleasing as the Betty Crocker boxes. Ignore the fact that my brownies aren’t pretty; I swear they’re sweet, moist, and incredibly easy to devour within seconds.

I’m not a fan of using a whisk when I bake, so I always use a pair of chopsticks to mix my ingredients – that haven’t failed me yet. The brownies are pretty easy to make.

1 cup of flour
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1 cup of butter
1 Tsp. of vanilla extract
1 Tsp. of baking soda

Mix dry ingredients, and then wet ingredients. Spread into a brownie baking pan and cook at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the toothpick, or in my case, wooden chopsticks, come out clean.

Cupcakes of Summer.

There is nothing like the simplicity of a lazy day of baking with a good movie playing the background. I spent the afternoon baking these citrus cupcakes with pink lemonade frosting, while watching 500 Days of Summer. It is definitely too hot to venture outside today, but if I did, I would head straight to the mall to pay the Ann Taylor Loft store a visit. Why? Because there is an additional 50% off everything in the store today until 7 PM. So for all you lucky ladies out there that are still looking for a few new additions to the wardrobe, you should definitely stop by. Why am I not stopping by? Because all my money is currently going to buying the necessities for the new apartment I’m moving into in less than a month.

And here’s to the end.

Lately I have been obsessed with eating turkey  burgers over the regular beef burger. I was told the burger was leaner and the majority of places that have the burger do a fairly good job of making it delicious. I headed to Kona Grill at the Domain today and ordered myself a turkey burger and fries. Kona is one of my favorite restaurants,  but I had never been to the one in Austin, so I figured I would give it a try to see if it was good at other locations. For about $12, I got a large burger and fries. Although it’s a bit overpriced compared to the typical P.Terry’s or other fast food burger, it was good and worth the money. I am full, without the heavy feeling you get after consuming fast food.

Tonight I will be heading to Thai Spice for dinner with the academic advisor in charge of the College of Communication orientation program, along with my fellow communication pre-advisors. The burger from Kona will definitely hold me over, so I will probably end up only ordering a plate of sushi, which I have been craving for some time now.

The other night I headed to the AT&T center near campus for a banquet with the orientation advisors. Needless to say, everyone cleaned up very nicely, my committee – Multimedia & Publicity – especially. The hotel is definitely one of the nicer ones near campus that provides detailing that boasts Texas Fight. Unfortunately, the food was only decent. The tortillas used for the fajitas were thin and bland, the meat was a bit on the chewy side, and there just wasn’t anything special about the food overall. The dessert was a bit better – especially the pecan pie.

I wore a simple coral high-low dress from Forever 21, BCBG heels, with a J.Crew belt and Macy’s necklace. I have always wanted to experiment with a high-low dress and the color coral, so this seemed like the perfect dress to do it with. I love how soft this dress is and how simple it is. Plus, it was only about $16 after tax, which made purchasing a banquet dress doable on the wallet. Whoever says you can’t make a simple and inexpensive dress fancy has not met yours truly.

Quiet Sunday.

Happy Sunday everyone! I finally taught myself how to “sleep in” and managed to wake up around 10:40 this morning. I am usually a morning person, even on Sundays, so sleeping in past 10 am is a rare feat that should be publicly documented.

J.Crew top and belt, Anthropologie skirt, Macy’s necklace

Sported this outfit to church this morning. When I purchased this skirt a couple of days ago, I didn’t think I was going to wear it so soon, but seeing that my clothing choices are quite limited this summer because I chose to pack light, it was a perfect time to break out the new skirt. Plus, church is a great excuse for me to throw on a skirt and not have people ask “why are you dressed so nicely?” I’ll be spending my Sunday going to coffee, reading, and writing.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I headed to The Oasis on Lake Travis yesterday for lunch with the fellow Orientation Advisors. The food was decent quality – nothing special, so I have come to the conclusion that I was only paying for this beautiful view of the lake. Unfortunately, the sea level of the lake has been decreasing within the past couple of years and doesn’t look as lovely as it used to, but it is still aesthetically pleasing and worth the drive nonetheless.

Summer Breeze.

This morning I’m heading out to The Oasis on Lake Travis with the other Orientation Advisors. I have been there a few times, but have never with a large group. I’m looking forward to capturing the gorgeous views of Lake Travis to share with the world.

Anthropologie dress, J.Crew belt, Gap bag, Macy’s necklace, Lucky Brand watch

I am in love with this Anthropologie dress; it’s simple, clean, and comfortable. Plus, I think I spent about $20 or so for the dress, when it originally some ridiculous price. Hopefully I won’t spill anything on it today at The Oasis, considering it’s a white dress and all. Be on the lookout for a swarm of new pictures after this adventure is done.

Let Freedom Ring.

Happy 236th birthday America! You’re not my country of birth, but I consider you my home. Yes, contrary to popular belief, I was not born in America, regardless of how fluent I am in the English language. I arrived in America at the tender age of 4 in March of 1997, and unfortunately have not visited Vietnam since then. However, I have loved every minute of being in this country and am so blessed to have the amount of freedom and opportunity that I do by living here.

I started off my 4th of July with a trip to Starbucks where I discovered tall hot coffees were free today. Talk about a great start to an eventful day. I then headed to Half Priced Books to see if there was a ridiculous book sale of some sort; I can honestly spend hours at a book store, regardless of which one it is. After rummaging through the clearance section, I came across A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. I have been meaning to read this book for some time now, especially since I heard about it years ago on Oprah’s reading list. Unfortunately, the last time I heard about the book, it was not positive feedback; something regarding false information provided by the author. However, I heard the overall read was worth it, accurate interpretation or not. And of course, for a $1 + tax, how could I turn down such a bargain?

A Million Little Pieces is a semi-fictional novel about a 23-year-old alcoholic and drug abuser and how he copes with rehabilitation through a 12-step program. Even though it was originally promoted as a memoir, it was later discovered that a couple of the events mentioned in the novel never actually occurred – hence the negative critiques that made the novel go from a bestseller to a target for literary bashing. Although there is some fabrication of the events, I will probably read it as if it was simply another novel, rather than one that is based on “real” events.

Afterwards, I headed to South Congress with a friend to explore what the street had to offer as far as vintage shops and eateries. Our bellies were still full from the campus buffet, so eating was not our main priority. However, we could not leave without grabbing a cupcake from Hey Cupcake! – the cupcake food trailer featured on the Travel Channel. Located on the 1600 block of South Congress, the food trailer serves cupcakes for $3 each. The cupcakes are baked fresh daily with the best ingredients and love, of course. The workers are beyond sweet, and the cupcakes can make anyone drool. I grabbed myself a Michael Jackson cupcake, a chocolate cupcake with white cream cheese frosting, that was decorated with patriotic red and blue sprinkles.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful 4th of July! May your evenings be safe and filled with dozens of firework shows. Tonight, I am heading to Auditorium shores for a musical firework display put on by the Austin Symphony Orchestra; I cannot wait for my first Independence Day experience in Austin!