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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chuc Mung Nam Moi & Kung Hei Fat Choi!

That is to say...Happy New Year in Vietnamese and Chinese (my two heritages). This entry comes about a week too late...but I figured better late than never.

February 14 was Chinese New Year this year...if you want to learn more about how this is the Year of the Tiger, I'm sure you can Google it. There are plenty of amusing sites out there with all the same superstitions and stipulations that my mom still keeps very much alive to this day.

Any way - this is hands down my favorite holiday (that is - until the day I get married). It's all about food..and receiving "lucky money". Lucky money is money in special red envelopes that "adults" give to "kids" to share their wealth and hope to bestow upon them some luck as well as some luck for themselves. At least that's my understanding of it. I wouldn't totally trust myself since I am pretty much a banana/twinkie, whatever you want to call me. So the day I get married is the day I'm considered an "adult" which is fine by me, because this makes up for the lame taxes I have to pay after college!

I thought I would share some highlights from my Chinese New Year..because ooohhhh so good.

My mommy's slightly modified version of a Beef Chow Fun. She's still using rice noodles, they are just in little funny shapes. It reminds me of asian noodles trying to be Italian and bite size.

Mmmmm so delish! It's greasy but so good. And that's what tea is for right? (My mom always says that jasmine tea is supposed to help "melt" the grease away)

This is my mom's modified version of Drunken Noodles, or Pud Kee Mao...depending on what Thai restuarant you go to. It's a blend of rice noodles, garlic, basil, onions, bell peppers, egg, beef, and lots of sauces and spices. Mmmmmm...

So on Chinese New Year's Eve, my mom makes a bunch of food, and we offer it our ancestors as a prayer sort of thing. We're not allowed to eat it until we've finished praying multiple times, and it's very difficult with so much delicous smelling food! And yes...that is a whole chicken with the head still on. My mom says that things are meant to be whole on Chinese New Year, like we can't cut things off or it's bad luck. I'm not really sure where this superstition comes from but she also won't cut hair or sweep the house or do laundry on the day of the new year and for 3 days following. I'm not sure why really...I just do what she says.

The table is set!

On the day of Chinese New Year, my mom and I went to a temple some close family friends own and started a long morning of cooking...lots of lots of food. Those noodles aren't even all the noodles we used!

Lots of food preparations underway...

Deep frying delicous-ness and my mom's sweet sticky rice w/ taro and sesame seeds.

Kevin cookin' up a storm! Mmm chow mein!

Mixed veggies...on the day of New Year's we're not allowed to eat meat...not sure why other than you're just not supposed to.

Then the chinese dragons came out! Traditionally, these dragon dances are done at all temples to bring the temple good luck in the coming year.

Apparently the dragon eats lettuce and throws it into the temple. My dad says it's for good luck. Apparently anything you do for this day is all about luck. So back to food...

Well I guess there isn't much else to show. We continued to cook and cook and cook. It was a wonderful morning/afternoon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

How to Make Wine (Part 4): Bottling

One word: MESSY

Sanitizing and cleaning 30 bottles of definitely not a good time. So i procrastinated. And ended up bottling the wine three weeks after stablising and clearing (one week later than instructed)...I was just crossing my fingers. Especially since I lost the top that goes on the bung to keep all the oxygen out...

Meghan and I drew some wine out to check for clarity...we were told to go into a dark room and shine a flashlight but it was pretty clear. Probably the lightest red I've ever seen next to a white zinfandel. We even snagged a taste. It was surprisingly sweet with a bitter zing at the end, which we think is from the fermentation.

We had to siphon the wine out which was tricky since we were trying to avoid the sediment on the bottom...and we didn't really think the process through about how to cut the wine off when we wanted to switch bottles....we ended up with lots of wine ll over the kitchen floor, on my pants and on my slippers. :( Eventually we got the process down...but it was pretty tricky and I know we accidentally sucked up some cloudy wine...some wood chip pieces could be seen floating around in the bottle....Troy says good wine has some sediment on the bottom of the bottle. I don't know about that...but if anyone asks, that's what I am going to say. :) It was definitely a tricky process.

Thanks to The Cellar Homebrew, a small brew shop in Greenwood, I was able to find a simple corker, some corks, sealers, and blank labels to finish my bottles. The corker was about $35...which isn't too bad. After the soaking the corks (by recommendation of the guy at the store), we proceeded to take turns corking.

After we finished corking, I placed the bottles in our "secret room" since it was dark and cool there. Now that I am writing this...a good week after bottling...I realized I read the directions a little backwards. I was supposed to leave the bottles upright for three days before laying them down on their sides to allow the corks to seal. Well...I thought I was supposed to lay them down for three days before standing them I just went to check on them and the corks seems to be popping out a little... OOPS! Live and learn I guess...I really hope it doesn't affect how the wine will taste. :(

It's recommended that we wait a month before tasting the in the meantime, I am brainstorming names for my wine and the design of the far I want a tree theme with a name in Italian...and something along the lines of "new beginnings" since this wine has a lot to do with a making a fresh start for me. But italian phrases tend to be a little long so...I'm still brainstorming. After I finish making labels, I'll seal the bottles, and have some wine!

So whatever you do, don't do what I did above right after you bottle...

After I label the bottles and crack one open for taste, I'll write a conclusion about this whole experience, which seems more like a fiasco...but it was still fun. Hakuna Matata!