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Guinea Pig Gets a Dip in Harvard Pool

posted on April 3rd, 2009 ·

I spent the last weekend at Harvard University competing in a swim meet with my team from New York. The meet was by far the biggest one that I have ever been to; we saw man teams coming from all over the northeast region of the States.

Day 1

Harvard scoreboard and its records from the swim team.

Left Picture (from the left): Jon, Chris, Dennis, and me.
Right Picture (from the left): Eric, Chrissy, Michael, John, me, JJ (below me), and Kevin.

Left: Shawn, one of our coaches, was putting together our relay teams.
Right: Hanna doing some reading to kill some time before kicking butt in the water.

My first event of day 1: 100 freestyle. I (lane 2 with blue bodysuit) had a great start, but I wasn’t very smooth with my turns. My time was 1:21, which beat my seed time (1:30).

Eric, one of our best swimmers (and he taught himself how to swim), blew by everyone in 100 meter freestyle. His time was 51:72.

Chris, who uses his size and power to his advantage, came in on top of his heat. His time was 57:59 in 100 freestyle.

Dennis, our butterfly specialist, finished the 200 butterfly in 2:47:75. He deserved a round of applause for doing one of the hardest races.

Not only did each swimmer post great individual times, but we also swam great as a team in many relay races. This was 200 Individual Medley Relay. From the left: Sayaka (backstroke), Hannah (breaststroke), Dennis (butterfly), Kevin (freestyle).

This was one of the fastest relay team, from the left: JJ, Jesse, Chrissy, and Eric. Their time was 1:54:82, ranked number 3 out of 12 teams in the mixed 18+ 200 yards medley relay.

Michael, who swam backstroke in our relays, clocked in 1:16:76 in 100 yards. Great job Mike!

Joel, one of our coaches, was swimming backstroke in his 200 individual medley. Joel has helped me to improve my stroke techniques since I joined the team a year ago. Thanks Joel!

My first time swimming 50 yard breaststroke. I placed 4th in my heat with 41 seconds. To check out the video, click on the picture. (I am standing between two blocks in the left picture.)

Stay tuned for day-2 of Harvard Meet with the Bearcats!

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Finding Comfort

posted on March 24th, 2009 ·


picture via

In the midst of economic turmoil, people have found candy or other sweets to be the ultimate comfort food. According to New York Times, candy sales have blossomed in the last quarter. Generic candies, such as bit-o-honey, Swedish Fish, and Hershey’s Kisses that have taken the backseat since introduction of gourmet candies, have found their way back to consumers’ heart.

I, as a health advocate, do not support excessive candy consumption. Nevertheless, I understand people’s nostalgic feelings toward happier times. Please enjoy your candies, but with moderation.

What are some comfort foods that you constantly crave?

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She Can Be My Sweaty Guinea Pig

posted on March 11th, 2009 ·


Michelle Obama has shown off the White House Kitchen on numerous occasions. She praises the chefs for their ability to create healthy meals without losing great texture and taste (creamy spinach without cream!). She also manages to get her kids to eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Although we can attribute her and her family’s healthy diet to their wealth and status, Mrs. Obama’s secret to eating well is to cook with affordable fresh and local ingredients. Michelle Obama has been promoting community gardens as well; freshly picked produce tastes more flavorful, and kids are more likely to eat sweeter and tastier vegetables and fruits. Have you been eating food out of cans (even I am guilty of eating canned tuna few times a month) or snacking on highly processed food? Time to make the change and eat freshly prepared meals!

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Back to NYC Greenmarket: 3/7/2009

posted on March 8th, 2009 ·


Since moving back to New Jersey last summer, visiting New York City’s Greenmarket has been a rare event. However, I’d like to continue my effort of eating locally and sharing my culinary adventure. I took advantage of an excellent weather yesterday and biked down to Union Sqaure Greenmarket (14st. street between Broadway and Park Ave.) to check out new produce and other wonderful ingredients. I saw many familiar faces and I wasn’t hesitant to splurge on this week’s groceries.

Guinea Pig’s Shopping Bag:


  • 1 tomatoe (size of a softball): $3.00
  • 1 handful of salad greens (less than 1/4 pound): $2.60
  • 3 apples (not in the picture): $1.00


  • 1 lb. sliced beef, for cheese steak: 11.00


  • 1 loaf of French baguette: $3.00

Total Spending: $20.60

p.s: I got a little rusty on taking pictures of my grocery. I promise to have better pictures next time.

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Be Fast…But Not on Food.

posted on March 4th, 2009 ·

One of my favorite cheap eats - buckwheat groats.

I don’t have a keen perception on the economy, besides the fact that it’s not doing so well. However, while many sit-down restaurants have gone bankrupt, fast-food restaurants, on the other hand, have been cashing in. Although more people choose to stay home and eat, they choose to bringing home “Whoppers” or “Big Macs” more frequently than cooking comfort and healthy food.

I am a firm believer that anybody could cook with fresh ingredients, even with a thin budget, and not sacrifice his or her health drastically. Few friends and I had lived through February with only 100-dollar budgeted for food and drinks. I did have a well-stocked pantry to begin the challenge. However, many of my ingredients were dollar-worth and can be made into multiple meals (3 to 4 usually). There were few steady items in my pantry: beans, rice, pasta, and whole grains (pearl or regular barley and buckwheat groats). I also had a lot of frozen zucchini and squash from last summer (it’s always good to freeze vegetables for later use). Eating seasonal ingredients, such as potatoes, carrots, and onions, also helped me to get through February.

Have you had the perfect homemade chicken noodle soup? Have you had the perfect apple pie baked by your grandmother? Great food is not made with expensive ingredients; it is made with attentiveness and gratitude. When ingredients are honored and cooked with passion, anything is delicious, even just a bowl of vegetable soup seasoned with salt and pepper (I could’t count how many times had I had potato or cabbage soup with a slice of toasted bread in February).

No one will ever be able to get rid of fast food from the face of our planet. We, however, can change the way we eat and show our support for home-cooked meals. After watching my friends, Peter, Melanie, and Sei-Wook ate and drank with only 100 dollars in February, I am convinced that every one of us can eat and cook with whole foods during hardship.

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Guinea Pig Puts a Spin on His Coffee

posted on March 2nd, 2009 ·


I originally wanted to make Espresso Zabaione, an Italian dessert, for breakfast (who’s going to say no to a cup of coffee dessert?) This recipe is given by one of my faovrite Top Chef cheftants, Fabio. But I ended up with a latte.

I had all the ingredients, but I had to reduce the quantity to make it one-portion. I have never made a zabaione; therefore, I cooked with my instinct, which is always a thrill. The result was excellent; it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and it had a blend of vanilla, coffee, and milk flavor. The texture was silky, rather than custardy that a traditional zabaione would be.


I paired my espresso “zabaione” with savory breakfast food - frittata and buckwheat groats. I didn’t feel guilty about gulping down the calorie laden latte because I made it with 100% natural ingredients and served it with proper portion, 1 cup (no grande please).


Have you try making your own latte?

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Guinea Pig Builds a Home for His Pet(s)

posted on February 25th, 2009 ·

I’ve started a worm bin few days ago. A worm bin can help me compost kitchen scraps and reduce the amount of garbage I produce. My goal is to grow my own food and help reduce greenhouse emission…sounds ambitious? Just a little.

Red wigglers are the common worms used to produce vermicompost; it is the end product of breakdown of organic matter, such as food in my case. Please read on on building an indoor worm bin.

I ordered my worms from Uncle Jim’s worm farm. They ship your worms on Monday and they arrive your house within few days via USPS Priority.

The worms come in a small duffel bag with your worms and moistened soil. But the worms need to be watered immediately.

Any household plastic containers can be used to build a worm bin. Drill some holes on the top (worms have to breathe, too) and make sure the lid can cover the container completely.

Fit a cardboard into the bottom of the bin.

Shred some newspaper (or any used paper) and squirt water all over inside the bin generously. Worms like their bedding wet and cozy…they are very slimy after all, but don’t drown them!

Here they are…my new babies. 500 red wigglers! (You may close the window now if you are disgusted.)

Believe it or not, one of those little worms can consume the same amount of food as its body weight in 24 hours (imagine we consume the same amount of food as our body weight everyday)! I fed them chives, fennel, garlic peels, and savory (a type of herb) for their first meal in my house.

Last step, cover the whole bedding with wet newspaper to keep the worm bin moist.

The manure, vermicompost, produced by worms is rich in nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium; they enhance the quality of soil and provide excellent organic fertilizer. Not only does having a worm bin produce great soil for plants, but it also cuts down the amount of garbage produced.

Start this spring by making yourself a worm bin and harvest unlimited amount of tomatoes by august!

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Few Days in West Virginia

posted on February 19th, 2009 ·

I love traveling, and I also love seeing new houses with unique designs. My friends and I visited a prefabricated house in West Virginia last few days. The house is located just outside of Lost River State Park, WV.

The drive to Lost River, West Virginia was 6 hours.

The deck of the prefabricated house we stayed in; it was a nice 1,900 square ft. cabin that features satellite dish, 3 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, and a medium size kitchen, which is big enough to do some serious cooking.

We stayed in the prefab house for two nights. While we were at West Virginia, we went hiking and explored the outskirt of the town.

Melanie made some delicious and hearty split pea soup and grilled cheese sandwiches (below) for us for lunch before we went on a 3-mile hike at Monongahela National Forest.

via Sei-Wook’s flickr.

Mel’s crusty grilled cheese.

via Sei-Wook’s flickr.

On the way to our hiking destination, we stopped and snapped some photos. West Virginia overwhelmed me with its hilly roads and abandoned houses.

One of many abandoned houses we saw along the way. I was a bit saddened by the poverty of some places we drove by.

Finally, we arrived the famous Seneca Rocks in Monongahela National Forest.

We also brought Chocolate, Melanie and Pete’s mini-poodle, along with us on this trip.

One guy was fishing at the start of our hike.

The hike was nice and easy, even our mini-poodle (he is pretty old) had no problem going up and down.

We got to the top in 40 minutes.

Here we are…from the left: Melanie (holding Chocolate), Peter, me, and Sei-Wook

via Sei-Wook’s flickr

We got back to the house at 7 pm and were ready for a feast. Since we are doing the 100-dollar challenge, we had to bring ingredients from home to prepare every meal.

Melanie and I prepared cheesy fries and curry acorn squash soup for the appetizers.

via Sei-Wook’s flickr.

For entree, we had refried beans with bacon and pupusas.

via Sei-Wook’s flickr.

We left West Virginia the following afternoon.

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The Morning After…

posted on February 13th, 2009 ·


If she stays over…make her this.

Super Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes with Poached Apple and Cranberry Syrup



  • 1 cup whole fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 pinches of salt


  1. Mix the dry ingredients and set them aside. Beat egg yolk with milk, ricotta cheese, and vanilla together.  One the wet ingredients are mixed, combine them with dry ingredients.
  2. In another mixing bowl (or a bowl large enough to whisk the egg white), add a tiny pinch of salt to egg white and whisk the egg white until medium peak*.
  3. Divide the egg white into 3 parts and fold each individual part into the mixture, from step 1, thoroughly.
  4. Let the batter rest for few minutes. Set your griddle over medium heat for several minutes. Test the temperature of your griddle by dropping few drops of water. If the water evaporates right away, then the griddle is ready to cook the pancakes.
  5. Cook the first side of pancakes until the edges are set, which would take about 2 to 3 minutes, and then flip them over and cook until the pancakes are springy when pressing on them.
  6. If not serve immediately, cover them with a clean towel in the oven set to 200-degree.
  7. Use your imagination…serve the pancakes with fresh fruits, syrup, poached fruits, etc.

*Medium peak means the egg white foam is still flexible and can be folded into a batter easily.

Your mate will appreciate your effort for making the best breakfast.


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Sweep Her Off Her Feet with Swedish Meatballs

posted on February 12th, 2009 ·


Table is set, candles are lit, wine is poured, and you look incredible…but that’s not enough! Surprise her with a brilliant hors d’œuvre while she waits for your delicious risotto. Serving a hearty hors d’œuvre shows your attentiveness to details. Swedish meatballs are perfect for hors d’œuvre because of its one-bite size and superb flavor and texture. Best of all…they take less than 30 minutes to prepare! Come on…get excited!



  • 1/2 lb. of any ground meat, you can even combine few types of ground meat
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs, from stale bread, or 1/2 cup crushed water crackers
  • 1/3 cup whole milk, organic preferably
  • 1 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon thyme leaves, freshly chopped
  • 2 teaspoon rosemary, freshly chopped
  • 2 teaspoon paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup chicken stock, homemade preferably
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon clarified butter, and do take the time to make it for the great flavor
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


  1. Soak the bread crumbs (or water crackers) in milk for 3 minutes, and then add the mixture with thyme, rosemary, paprika, few good pinches of salt and pepper, and egg yolk to ground meat. Use your hands to combine all the ingredients by massaging them together.
  2. Make meatballs with your hands or an ice cream scooper. The size of a meatball should be about 1 inch in diameter.
  3. Melt 1 tablespoon clarified butter on medium heat and spread your meatballs around the skillet. Cook the meatballs until they are well-browned on the outside.
  4. Transfer the meatballs to a bowl and cover with tin foil to keep them warm. Add 1 more tablespoon of clarified butter and chopped onions to the skillet, and cook until the onions are softened. Sprinkle flour into the skillet and mix it with onions, for about 30 seconds until the skillet has turned dried. Pour in the stock and bring it to boil, and then turn down the heat and let it reduce half before adding cream.
  5. Once the stock is reduced, add cream and stir it in thoroughly. You should see the sauce will become light brown, like gravy.
  6. Add meatballs back to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds. Coat each meatball with sauce by tossing or flipping them around. Serve them warm on a small plate or bowl.

There you have it…amazing Swedish meatballs. While she nibbles on them, you can concentrate on making your risotto (but still talk to her, assuming you can take it over from here.).


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