Flora afghan month #2

I just started this new CAL by the Crochet Crowd. Love it so far! Can’t wait to see the finished product.

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Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Lower Antelope Canyon

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything. Life kinda gets the best of me sometimes… Anyway, I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon with my friend Phil in April and I wanted to share some of the pictures. It was a wonderful vacation but it felt so so short! I really enjoyed it and hoping that I can come back in the near future.

1st day we flew out from Houston to Vegas, stopped at Hoover Dam and then drove 4 hrs to Williams, AZ, which was an hour away from Grand Canyon.

2nd day, (Easter Sunday!) we drove to our campsite, set up our tent and went out to explore Grand Canyon.

3rd day we woke up early to chase sunrise, drove to Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell. We couldn’t tour Lower Antelope Canyon because all of the tours were sold out that day so we ended up went to Horseshoe Bend.

Last day: we were lucky enough to be able to buy a 9:45am tour the night before and so we went to see Lower Antelope Canyon. Let me tell you though, you will not be disappointed! Best decision I’ve ever made and so worth the 50 dollars plus tax that we spent.

After the tour we came back to the hotel, showered and then drove 5 hrs back to Vegas to catch our 7pm flight to Houston.

Next time I wouldn’t do everything so close together like this because that drive back was so long and I felt rushed. Thankfully we made it in time!

As a bonus, here are some pics from the scenic drive:

Phở bò or Vietnamese beef noodle soup with Instant Pot

Houston’s weather has been so weird! One day it’s warm, the next day it’s freezing; it also doesn’t help that it rains all day long. Anyway, because of the cold weather, I’ve been craving a really good bowl of phở. I love a good phở! I could definitely eat it everyday but it always take forever to cook it. On average, it takes around 5-6 hrs to cook a good broth and who really has time for that?

Soooo when I heard of the instant pot, I was really interested in it. Amazon had a sale and I couldn’t resist. It was one of those impulse purchase, but one of the best thing that I ever bought myself. It took me about 2-2:30 hrs from start to finish, this includes the time for preparation, the instant pot’s time to build pressure and cooling down.

Today I’m sharing with you my own recipe. I watched several youtube videos before perfecting this so I hope you’ll enjoy it!

• 2 lbs of beef brisket

• 1-1.5lb of beef bones and bone marrow

• Ginger, garlic, shallots, white onions, scallions

• Pho spice bag

• Fish sauce, crystal sugar, salt, hoisin sauce, lime, veggies (basil, mint, bean sprouts (optional))

• Dried noodle or fresh noodles

Put all the meat and bones into a big pot, add water to cover the bones and meats and boil for about 20-25 mins to “wash” all the imperfections out and then rinse with cold water. 

Wash white onions, and ginger then cut them in half. Peel garlic, shallots. Wash and cut scallions into small pieces.

Turn on the saute function in your Instant pot, add ginger and onions into the pot and “grill” them for a few mins. Then add the meats, bones, crystal sugar, garlic and shallots. Hit cancel. Close the lid, make sure you have the vent closed, then press the broth button, change the pressure to high and change the timer to 1 hr. 

And now you wait and let the pot do its thing. Once its done, let it cool down for 20 mins before you release the vent. Take the meat part out but leave the bones inside, you can add 4-5 cups of water now for extra both if you want. I didn’t because I only cook for myself so I don’t need that much broth. And then add the pho spice bag, fish sauce, press the saute function, change the timer to 20 minutes. I left the bag in for about 20 mins because I want a stronger and flavorful broth, but if you don’t want a stronger taste then just leave it in for 15 mins. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Cook the noodle and cut the meats, eat with hoisin sauce and veggies if you want to. Enjoy!

I also made a vegetarian version of pho and it took less an hour to make. If you’re interested, please comment below and I will post my recipe. 😀

Here’s a sneak peak at my veggie pho:

Home

I went home for Vietnamese new year or Tết this year. It’s been 9 years since I got to experience Tết at home with my family. We don’t really celebrate Tết here, it’s just a normal day for us. My mom doesn’t give any offerings during Tet, and now that I’m an adult I don’t do it neither. Most of the time it doesn’t really feel all that special anyway.

Everything looks interesting to me.

So for anyone who doesn’t know, I moved to the States about 18 years ago when I was a teenager. I have fond memories of Tết, but if you don’t celebrate it often, you don’t remember how to do things.

Anyway, here’s grandma’s offering table on New Year’s eve:

After the offering, she burned the papers.

Bánh chưng!

We were on our way home and I saw these people cooked bánh chưng behind one of the temples, so naturally I had to take pictures. 😛

There were 6 or 7 big pots like this to cook them! You don’t see this often anymore in a big city like Saigon.

Saigon at night is soooo pretty! It has gotten so big and so different since I went back 3 years ago. It changes every year and I often find myself getting lost.

I came back to Houston 2 weeks ago and was so sick and jet-lagged. It was so good to be home though. I miss my grandma a lot. Hopefully I will get to see her next year.

Grandma Vu’s fried rice

I don’t make this dish often, I only make it when I crave for it or when I miss her…

My grandma is a wonderful, kind and awesome woman. If you ever get a chance to meet her, you will understand. Let’s go back 32 years ago, my mother had me and didn’t tell her that she had a baby so she rented a house and left me with a caregiver, who apparently kept giving me sleeping medications. You have to imagine Saigon 30 years ago when it’s not ok to have a child out of wedlock. So for my mom to give birth to me and raise me by herself that was very brave and a huge sacrifice on her part as well. Anyway not sure how grandma Vu found out about me but she made mom moved home and took me in. I was a premie, nobody expected me to live but she took such good care of me that only did I survive, I caught up pretty quickly to other kids. She continued to raise me because my mom works and had nobody to help.

I was 9 when my mom decided to move to the USA, so I stayed behind and lived with grandma and tata, my other aunt. And so she continued to raise me for another 6 years.

I had a pretty awesome childhood! I was so spoiled, I didn’t have to do anything, she didn’t teach me to cook or clean so I learned it the hard way when I moved to the US to live with my mom. Nonetheless the time I spent with her is the best time ever. Tata worked, she took over mom’s jewelry business when she left so tata was not home that often. Grandma fed and got me ready for school, brought me to tutoring after school and waited outside until classes are done.

On weekends, I stayed home with her. She would make this fried rice for me. Grandma can’t cook all that well actually, the only 2 good dishes she makes are a sweet and sour beef soup and this fried rice. It would taste soooo good! It’s really simple, just left-over rice, eggs, salt, pepper and sugar. I don’t know why her rice is always soooo good!

When I make it, I added butter, garlic, shallots and onions for a stronger taste. It is good, but her dish is always the best.

I miss my grandma. She just turned 84 this year, I know our time is limited so I try to come home often to see her.