Stay Grateful by Admin

Today's inspiration. Saw this cute elderly couple sitting next to me and was fortunate to capture this moment. It reminded to be thankful for everything you have before you.

Transient

Transitioning by Admin

Transient

This is what most of my mornings have been like. Starbucks, wifi, and working remotely. It's been different and nice at the same time. However, I do miss being in an office and seeing my fellow coworkers.

I've still been working on my future digs, and it's been a fun project. It makes me wish I watched HGTV and DIY network more often. Stay tuned for future posts about that!

Technolgy In The Kitchen by Admin

One of my goals this year has been to cook more often.  And so far, I've been doing well and really enjoying it.  It's relaxing, fun while learning new recipes, and challenges my creativity in the kitchen. And because I've been cooking more, I felt like I needed just the right gadgets to aid me in my journey.

So what gadgets have I invested in?  Nope, it's not a mixer or food processor or dehydrator. Actually, I did get all of the recently and it's been great.  But there are other gadgets that are way more important for me in the kitchen.  And thats.... wait for it..... Apple gear!

Ahhh yes, Tom the Apple nerd. One of the most recent things I've bought is the HoverBar for my iPad.  It's a flexible bar that can attach to the back of your computer or a kitchen counter or cabinet, and holds your iPad in the direction you may need.  I have my iPad hooked onto the HoverBar which is attached to my kitchen cabinet.

iPad 3 on a HoverBar

This setup is great whenever I need to follow a recipe via a youtube video I'm watching, a recipe app I'm using, or just when I need to jam out to some streaming music while cooking.  Which leads me to the next gadget, the Airport Express.

Apple Airport Express

An Apple Airport Express is a small device that can act as a router or even extend your wireless network.  It also has a USB port and a 3.5mm audio port where you can even connect speakers so they can be accessed wirelessly via Apple's Airplay.  I've had one for my bedroom speakers for awhile now, but recently picked up a couple more inexpensively on Craigslist.  I have that hooked up in my kitchen with just some basic speakers I got at Microcenter.

Basic speakers hooked up to my Apple Airport Express

So when I get home and start cooking and want to groove to some music, I just use my iPad or my iPhone and start streaming away.  I highly recommend creating an atmosphere where you can truly enjoy what you're about to be doing. This apple ecosystem has definitely been vital to my cooking journey. But if you don't have any of this, a good ole portable radio will easily do the job.  Be creative and have fun setting up your kitchen environment!

A Foggy Washington DC by Admin

Last weekend, my cousins from California and Australia were in town visting. I was playing tour guide, and took them to see all the touristy spots in DC.  However... that day was the dreariest and foggiest days ever. 

 A barely visible Washington Monument by the World War II Memorial

A barely visible Washington Monument by the World War II Memorial

The photo above, if you didn't notice, is a picture of the Washington Monument.  Not too scenic eh? I was feeling pretty bummed out showing my cousins all these barely visible monuments. It then got closer to dusk and we walked towards the Lincoln Memorial.

 The Lincoln Memorial glowing on a foggy night in Washington DC

The Lincoln Memorial glowing on a foggy night in Washington DC

I've been by the Lincoln memorial numerous times.  On sunny days, cloudy days, and also in the evenings. This time though, I've never seen it so mystical and as beautiful as that night.  The glow of the memorial from the lights bouncing off the fog made the trip worthwhile.  It just made me remember... sometimes we need the dreariness and darkness so that we can appreciate the beauty of the light.

Spicy, Bacon, and Bulgogi Jerky, Oh My! by Admin

After making my first batch of home made beef jerky, I haven't stopped. That's probably because that batch was devoured so quickly! I've been experimenting with a couple of different flavors and have enjoyed each and every one of them so far. Here are my recent creations:

Spicy Alton Brown Beef Jerky

The first time, I used Alton Brown's beef jerky recipe and really enjoyed it. I decided to use it again but add a little spice to it.  Actually, when I mean a little, I meant a lot.  A few weeks back, my buddy Dan and I tried creating our own version of Andrea Nguyen's homemade chili garlic sauce recipe. It turned out way hotter then we expected, which was probably due to the thai chiles we were using.  I just added one spoonful of it to the marinade to add the extra kick!

Our homemade garlic chili sauce

Alton Brown's Beef Jerky Recipe with a spoonful of chili garlic sauce

The spicy Alton Brown marinated beef ready to be put on the dehydrator

The spicy Alton Brown beef jerky on the Nesco food dehydrator trays

Spicy Alton Brown Beef Jerky - All done!

This spicy beef jerky definitely had some kick to it.  After you eat a couple, the heat definitely builds up on your tongue.  Which makes it great for me, since I love spicy food.  

Bacon Jerky

Do you guys remember that commercial above? Well, that's pretty much an exact representation of my love for bacon. The only difference in that commercial and reality is that I'm human, I can read, and I will not accept substitutes for bacon! After making my first batch of beef jerky, it got me wondering... is it possible to make bacon jerky?  Why don't I see it really in the stores at all?  Well, I did some research and found that bacon jerky typically doesn't have a long shelf life due to the high fat content.  It usually goes bad quickly or it's been heavily preserved.  I did find some results of people successfully creating bacon jerky.  The interesting thing I learned was that it takes a LONG time to make it.  Beef Jerky usually takes 3-6 hours, just depending on the thickness of the cuts you make on my food dehydrator. From user experiences, they were stating it took 24-36 hours!  

I decided to give it a try.  I had some all natural, uncured center cut bacon from Whole Foods and gave it a shot. I didn't add anything to it and just laid it out on the trays and started to dehydrate it.  

Bacon slices on the food dehydrator

Dehydrating the bacon with a Nesco Food Dehydrator

After about 6 hours, I observed that it did shrink a little bit and was dripping fat like crazy.  I decided to try out a little piece of it and found out that not only was it not done, but it also tasted pretty bland. The fatty part of the bacon just tasted like flavorless oil. So then, I decided to add some kosher salt to it.  After about 24 hours, the bacon jerky was done.  It was crisp, and the added salt made the bacon jerky taste much better.  Was it worth it? Probably not.  However, I only say this in terms of just regular bacon jerky. The flavor just tasted too similar to baking some bacon.  But, this process gave me some hope for future creations.  I think I'll to create a maple glazed/salt bacon jerky next time. 

Bacon Jerky!

Bulgogi Beef Jerky

For this attempt, I decided to use a recipe that I've tried in the past for real Korean bulgogi.  I found the recipe from the Savory Sweet Life website by Alice Currah. Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5 lbs. of thinly sliced rib-eye steak purchased from a Korean market. Or you can slice your own rib-eye or sirloin steak across the grain in paper thin slices. Partially freezing the beef helps with cutting clean slices.
  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce or for a Gluten-Free variation, use San-J Organic Tamari Wheat Free Soy Sauce found in the health food section of your local grocery store.
  • 3 Tbl white sugar
  • 1 Tbl sesame oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 of a medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into medium moon shaped slivers
  • 2 green onions including the white parts, finely sliced into small pieces
  • 2 Tbl toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • 2 pinches of black pepper
  • optional 1/4 tsp. of ginger, finely minced

Instructions

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together in a medium bowl except beef and onions. When most of the sugar has dissolved, add beef and onion slices to the bowl and massage the marinade with your hands into each slice of beef. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. To pan fry, place a few slices of beef in single layers and completely flat on a hot oiled frying pan and fry each side until cooked. Some people prefer to cook the bulgogi until some of the edges have turned dark brown and crispy. Serve with a bowl of hot rice. Enjoy!

Using Savory Sweet Life's recipe for the Korean bulgogi marinade

The meat added to the bulgogi marinade.

Bulgogi Beef Jerky, ready to  be dehydrated!

The final product! Korean Bulgogi Beef Jerky!

This was quite tasty!  I was really happy with the result, and you can bet that I'll be making more of this in the future! I hope you guys give it a try, and let me know how it turns out. Now, it's time to think of some future beef jerky concoctions!

Cooking With Kunal: Cheesy Vegetarian Risotto by Admin

Cooking with Kunal Desai

The title of this post sounds like a new show on the food network, doesn't it?  Well, maybe one day. Kunal is my Indian brother from another mother, and we met when we were both fellow assistant hip hop instructors for our friend Amina, who owns District Groove.  Ever since then, we've been known to bust a move on a dance floor or two, and just hang out when we get the chance.

Interestingly enough, Kunal lives about 10 minutes from me, yet we only see each other every once in awhile. We decided to figure a way to get together more, and at the same time, enhance our awesomeness skills.  That's right, awesomeness.  So, we've decided to take on cooking.  There's one catch though.  He's Vegetarian.  And if you know me, I... am not, but of course, I can eat anything vegetarian friendly.

We figured it would be easy to pick up some cuisines where meat was optional.  First up, Italian!  The recipe we decided to try was a cheesy vegetarian risotto.  The recipe pretty much derived from Rachel Ray's Green Risotto Recipe. The only thing we did was change out the vegetables of our choosing, which were tomato, broccoli, and a green bell pepper. Here is the original recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
  • 1 pound triple washed spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped or torn
  • 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, a couple of handfuls, chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, grated or ground
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, 2 or 3 handfuls

Directions

Bring water and stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low to keep warm.

In a large skillet, heat oil and butter over medium to medium high heat. Add onions and saute 3 minutes. Add arborio rice and saute, 2 or 3 minutes more. Add wine or sherry and allow liquid to absorb, 1 minute. Add 1/2 the stock or broth and reduce heat slightly. Simmer, stirring frequently until liquid is absorbed, then add more liquid, a few ladles at a time. When liquid cooks out, ladle in a bit more.

When risotto has cooked almost to al dente, about 18 minutes, fold in spinach, basil and parsley. Season risotto with nutmeg, salt and pepper and stir in any remaining broth. Risotto will cook 22 minutes, total. Stir in cheese and serve immediately.

Here are some photos of our process and the final result.  It turned out great and I'm looking forward to the next edition of, Cooking With Kunal.

Kunal slicing tomatos, and hopefully not a finger.

Tomatos, green peppers, and broccoli prepped and ready

Getting the pan ready with some butter and olive oil

After we sautéed the onions, we added the arborio rice

After letting the arborio rice soak up the wine we added, it was time to add the vegetable broth.

The vegetables were added towards the end, right before the final ladles worth of broth were about to poured in.

Adding some freshly grated parmesan cheese on top

Vegetarian Cheesy Vegetable Risotto Ready To Eat!

Home Made Beef Jerky by Admin

Recently, I've had this desire to do more things with my bare hands.  From fixing things to cooking things from scratch.  Maybe it's a primal instinct that has taken over my mindset.  I'm not sure the reasoning, but I like it!

One of the things I've always wanted to do was to create my own beef jerky. Besides eating my favorite packaged beef jerky from Wild Bill's, I grew up loving the home made beef Jerky from Laudermilch's in my hometown! It was fresh, tender, and of course, delicious.

I decided it was finally time to give it a try, and bought a food dehydrator.  I looked up a couple of different recipe's, but I decided to try out Alton Brown's recipe.  Here it is:

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds flank steak
  • 2/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Special Equipment: 1 box fan, 4 paper air-conditioning filters, and 2 bungee cords

Directions

Trim the flank steak of any excess fat, place in a zip-top bag, and place it in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours in order to firm up.

Remove the steak from the freezer and thinly slice the meat with the grain, into long strips.

Place the strips of meat along with all of the remaining ingredients into a large, 1-gallon plastic zip-top bag and move around to evenly distribute all of the ingredients. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 3 to 6 hours.

Remove the meat from the brine and pat dry. Evenly distribute the strips of meat onto 3 of the air filters, laying them in the grooves and then stacking the filters on top of one another. Top these with 1 empty filter. Next, lay the box fan on its side and lay the filters on top of it. Strap the filters to the fan with 2 bungee cords. Stand the fan upright, plug in and set to medium. Allow the meat dry for 8 to 12 hours. If using a commercial dehydrator, follow the manufacturer's directions.

Once dry, store in a cool dry place, in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months.

Alton used a fun method of a box fan and air filters, but I used my dehydrator.  Anyways, here are some photos of my process.

The marinade

Freezing the flank steak for easier slicing.

The flank steak sliced up!

The flank steak in the marinade

The flank steak after being marinated over night.  

Removing the excess marinade via a colander.

The meat on the Nesco food dehydrator trays

The Nesco food dehydrator on!

The beef jerky all done!

The beef jerky came out pretty well for my first try. The thinner pieces were done in 3 hours.  The thicker cuts took about 6 hours.  I enjoyed the flavor and tasted the worcestershire sauce a little more then I thought I would.  Also, I decided to not cut the excess fat, only because I knew I would be devouring the beef jerky quickly.  It was pretty delicious! All in all, it was a fun, easy, and a long process. I'm excited to try out a couple different marinades in the future.  Perhaps a fun Vietnamese Thit Bo Luc Lac or a Korean Bulgogi marinade... or perhaps a spicy one!  I'll post about those experiments in the future!

My 2012 Year In Review Video by Admin

Sometimes, you might feel that your year hasn't been going well, but when you take a look back, you'll realize that you have so much to be grateful for. While creating my 2012 video recap, even though I felt like it was a tough year, looking back at the memories made me laugh and smile.  Thanks to all my family and friends for always being a part of my life and helping me grow and expand as a person. I'm looking forward to making 2013 another memorable year!

- Tom

Make It Monumental by Admin

A monumental racket signed by the 2004 US Olympic Table Tennis Trials participants.

You're probably thinking, "DANG! That's a huge table tennis racket!".  Well, you're right. And here's the story behind it.

My last year of college, I had a 3D arts class.  Its focus was to teach students how to open their minds and use different materials to create 3D art.  At that time, I was a pure digital designer, so everything in this class was new to me.  I spent so much time in the art studio working on projects and it became one of my all time favorite classes.  One of our projects was to take a normal, everyday common object, and make it monumental.  Of course, the ping pong nerd in me decided to monumentalize a racket.

I took plywood to create the blade, and used insulation foam to create the handle and the sponge for the rubber.  I spent a lot of time sanding the handle down by hand, and created tons of insulation foam dust!  For the "rubber sheet", I glued cardboard onto the "sponge".  I then painted everything, and BAM, it was done!

Fast forward to the start of the new year of 2004. Our coach, Hank McCoullum, was at that time the chair of the elite athlete committee for USA Table Tennis.  The trials was originally to be held at the University of Pennsylvania, but for some reason, it fell through.  Luckily for us, it was then held at Penn State!  Naturally, as one of the leaders for the school's table tennis club, I was heavily involved with setting up the trials.  

Hank hired North American Table Tennis to run the event, and thats how I met my future employer for the first time.  For a beginner, who never saw all the pro's all in one place competing, it was table tennis heaven for me!  I was a complete nerd about it and brought my art project to the trials.  I had the participants sign it and remember cheesing hardcore.  I'm sure all of the players were probably thinking... who the heck is this nerd? What's funny is, throughout the years, they have become great friends of mine.  

2004 US Olympic Table Tennis Trials Oversized Racket

That racket is now sitting in my office at work, and I look at it and remember the humble times of how I started.  During that competition, those players were trying their hardest to make a tournament turn into something monumental for them, a chance to represent the US in the Olympics.  As a new year approaches, I hope everyone can take a simple thing in their life, and remember that, it too can be monumental if you make it.  Cheers, and let's welcome 2013!

Learning From A World Champion by Admin

 Tybie Thall Sommer.

Tybie Thall Sommer.

One of the things I enjoy most is learning about people, especially elders. I love listening and imagining their stories as if I was there to witness it. At the current 2012 US Nationals Table Tennis Championships, I got the chance to sit down and talk with Tybie Thall Sommer.

At the tournament, I was taking some photos and noticed Tybie sitting down. All I knew about Tybie was that she was a two time world champion and a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall Of Fame. I decided to take a seat and introduce myself and to learn more about her. I was ready for some great stories about her past experiences in table tennis, but was surprised with the life lessons she taught me through those stories.

1. Attitude

One of the first things she talked about was attitude. When it comes down to it, sometimes you can't rely on others to accomplish the task before you. This was in reference to so many kids relying on their parents in the sport. When you're out on that court, it's up to you and only you, to have the right mindset and do the best you can. She's witnessed so many kids lose because they had a poor attitude even before going into the match. You need to stay positive and go out and give it your all right from the start. This translates to everything we do in life.

2. Take it one point at a time.

Often times, we think ahead too much and make ourselves worried, anxious, or nervous. "I just need 3 more points to win this game!" We think about the final outcome, and we forget that we actually need to concentrate just on the point that we are about to play and start losing points. It's good to think about long term plans, but don't let that hinder your focus on the task that is before you.

3. Adapt

Tybie noticed that many players continue their game plan even if they are losing the match.  She recited a story of when nothing was working for her and knew that the current game plan would lead to her defeat.  In her mind, she was going to lose anyways, so why not take the risk to change it up and try new tactics? If anything, it helps you learn and improve new things you haven't tried. Luckily for her, the new game plan was working and her opponent didn't adapt to Tybie's new adaptation. So when things aren't working in life, learn to adapt and don't be afraid to try something new.    

I only got a limited time to talk to Tybie, but the time was quite valuable. She took a photo with me and told me wear her world championship medal. It made me feel like a world champion for a brief second. I'm looking forward to learning more about her and her experiences because, as Bruce Lee once stated, "Life is a constant process of relating". 

The Art Of Shaving by Admin

Shaving. It sucks.  It's a hassle.  However, there is no doubt that it feels DAMN good when you get a good shave. When I was younger, I used an old electric razor my dad gave me.  It worked for a while, but eventually it irritated my skin.

In college, I converted to a regular razor and used some shaving gels/creams.  My favorite was good ole Barbasol, which the scent always reminded me of getting my haircut at the barbershop as a kid.  At the end of my haircut, the barber would always shave my sideburns and neckline with Barbasol.  It's musky, manly, and a scent that brings me back to those times.

I had decent results after the switch, but would get razor bumps every once in awhile.  Annoyed at those occasions, it eventually brought me to the pursuit of the perfect shave.  I went online back in the day and found this article on the wetshave. Essentially, the steps is to open up the pores via a hot shower or hot towel over your face, splash a layer hot water on your face to act as a layer between your skin and shaving cream, apply the shaving cream with a badger brush, shave in the right direction, close the pores with a splash of cold water, then pat down your face with some after-shave lotion.

I wanted to give a try, and went to CVS to look for the products it recommended. I found some cheapo brush, shaving bowl, and shaving soap all in one package.  I bought it, brought it home, and in the end, it worked out pretty well.  My only complaint was that the brush was falling a part quite often, which was quite annoying.

Fast forward to about a year ago.  As I walked around the local mall, I noticed a store called The Art of Shaving.  I was intrigued, and walked in and took a look. The atmosphere of the store gave off a fancy, high end, not only am I a man, but a super baller rich man type of vibe. Just as if I was a part of the cast of Mad Men.  I looked at the razors, brushes, products and couldn't believe the high prices I saw.  Why would anyone be paying so much for these things?!

A salesman did approach me, and I was still curious and asked him what this store was all about.  He explained to me the 4 essential steps to a great shave, and then went on to demonstrate the products.  The methods were pretty much the same as a wet shave, however instead of water as the layer between the skin and the shaving cream, it was a pre shave oil. The other interesting thing I noticed was the amount of shaving cream he used.  It was the tiniest amount, but it lathered into a very big amount. 

I asked him, what's the difference between using your shaving cream and Barbasol?  He explained that the products from the store used all natural ingredients while Barbasol and other creams had different type of chemicals.  The demonstration, the fact that that it was natural ingredients, it all impressed me.  But I just couldn't give it a try due to the prices.

Months and month went by, and whenever I walked by the store, I was always still so intrigued.  About two months ago, I walked in again with my friend Mike to show him what the store was all about.  He got the demonstration, and thought it was interesting too. As I walked around the store, I noticed they had a starter kit for $25. I finally bit the bullet and bought one to try out.  What was also nice is that a $25 off coupon was inside for a future purchase of a full size kit. They had various versions of the kit, but I decided to go with the Sandalwood which smelled great and reminded me of that Barbasol scent that I enjoy.

When I got home, I was eager to test it out.  I took a hot shower, and followed the steps.  I used the pre shave oil first and could tell that it was going to make my shave so much smoother.  Next, I used the mini badger brush to apply the small amount of shaving cream and was really impressed.  The CVS version I had before used some other type of hair and did not spread the shaving cream so smoothly in comparison to the new one.  The mini badger hair brush seemed finer, and felt better.  I then shaved with a fresh new Gillette Fusion Power Mach 5, which sounds like i'm shaving with a nuclear reactor.  It was such a smooth experience.  I re-lathered and gingerly shaved against the grain for a even closer shave without any problems.  I finished up with a cold splash of water and then applied the after shave balm in a patting motion as directed.  

Let me tell you, after that shave, I felt like a million bucks and smelled like it too. For about two months, every time I had to shave, which was about every other day, I was always looking forward to it.  I was excited to partake in the art of shaving.  When looking at the trial size, I didn't think it would last me that long, but it did.

Tonight, I finally joined the brotherhood of shaving.  When I first looked at the prices of a full size kit, I couldn't understand why it would cost so much.  However, after my experience with the trial size kit and seeing how long it lasted, I understood why.  With high quality products that are designed to last a year and a great shaving experience, it made the price worth while.

So if you are interested in a better quality shave, I do recommend checking out a demonstration at the store and trying out a trial sized kit. I think you'll be impressed and I'm looking forward to seeing more members joining the brotherhood!