Finding My Voice

Hi everyone,

I feel like I owe all of you an explanation as to why I haven’t posted in the past couple of months. First, I wanted to attribute it to my being busy in Cambodia working for a NGO, but it became evident that it was more than that. I started to realize that this blog no longer was bringing out my creative side, and I always felt like I was forcing myself to think of the next thing to post, rather than what I felt passionate about posting.

What started out as me writing about my volunteer experiences on Blogger eventually turned to writing recipes and reviews, which was fun for a time, but when I went back to working in the field for my graduate experience, that was where I felt the most inspired. I wanted to write about my experience in the field, about public health. I feel the most passion when I think about public health issues, such as why the US industrial food animal industry needs work, how we can address world hunger if we shifted our grain production to humans rather than to animal feed, why we should move towards renewable energy and a more plant-based diet for the sake of the environment and our own health, to name a few.

I’m still in the process of working out the kinks to what I want to write, and I’m chastising myself because I’m giving myself more excuses and delays to writing my next blog post. I have a list of ideas of what I could be writing, but I don’t have the motivation to do so because I am lacking the inspiration, and that honestly sucks. I used to enjoy writing and engaging with my readers and I want to be fully invested when I come back to this.

This February, I started a full-time job working for an advocacy organization for girls’ and women’s health, rights, and wellbeing, and am feeling some inspiration being around so many like-minded individuals. I hope that my colleagues can spark the fire that used to be there and get me back into writing. It’s possible that I will shift my focus toย my public health blogย as I try to find my voice again and keep this blog for my recipes and DIYs because cooking is something I still very much enjoy doing! I have also taken up bullet journaling as you can see from my instagram and have found some passion in that as well.

Thank you for all of your support and your patience during this time.

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Recipe: Vegetarian Dumplings

Hope everyone in the Northeast US stayed safe from the bomb cyclone this past week! Those of us in NYC experienced heavy winds and snow, and temperatures that felt like it was below 0 degrees Fahrenheit ๐Ÿ˜ฆ These record cold temperatures and extreme weather events we’ve been seeing over the course of 2017 are likely due to climate change and humans’ neglect for the role we play on our planet. But I’ll save that spiel for another time…

Vegetarian Dumplings

Since my family and I were stuck indoors, we decided to make some homemade veggie dumplings! When I was in grad school living away from home, I had already moved towards a less meat-centric diet, but when I lived in Mexico and Cambodia, I found it very difficult to regulate my diet when I was living with a host family and also living on a budget. Now that I’m finally (mostly) permanently back home in NY, I’m introducing more vegetarian-friendly meals in the household and sharing some of the benefits of eating less meat i.e. so we can eat healthier and make a lesser environmental footprint as a family.

Ingredients (quantity of each is up to your preference–we had an equal proportion of carrot, tofu, lettuce, and mushroom):

  • carrots
  • extra firm tofu
  • lettuce
  • Chinese mushroom
  • dumpling skin
  • 1-3 eggs (as a binding agent for your dumpling filling)
  • corn starch

Steps:

  1. Soak the Chinese mushroom in water. As the mushroom is soaking, scrub the carrots realllly well.
  2. Shred the carrots and lettuce using a grater.
  3. Dice up the tofu and mushroom into small pieces, approximately the same sizes as the grated carrots and lettuce.
  4. Mix the carrots, tofu, lettuce, mushroom, and eggs together to make your dumpling filling ๐Ÿ™‚
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  5. Lay out some plates and dust them with corn starch.
  6. Pour some water and corn starch together (they act as the sealing agent for your dumpling skin).
  7. Lay the dumpling skin open in your hand and put a small dollop of filling in the center, dip your finger into the corn starch water and trace the edges of the skin, and seal the dumpling.
    **Tip: You can seal it by making folds by hand and overlapping each fold,ย orย you can cheat and take the easy way out by folding the skin precisely in half and using a fork to press the edges firmly until it’s completely sealed!
  8. Repeat the process until you’ve used up all of your filling or skin. You can save the filling to make some stir-fry dish with noodles or soup! Depending on how many dumplings you’d like to cook, you can put the rest in the freezer until you’re ready to use them.
  9. Boil a small pot of vegetable stock and throw in your dumplings and keep an eye on the pot, stirring occasionally so the dumplings don’t stick together. When you see the skin start to become transparent, you’ll know they’re ready! Since they are fresh, unfrozen dumplings, they should take approximately 3-5 minutes to cook.

You can now enjoy your healthy, homemade veggie dumplings in vegetable broth on a cold winter day ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Recipe: Candied Bacon

When you’re home for the holidays, it’s the perfect time to prepare something delicious with your loved ones. This weekend, my mom taught me how she makes candied bacon with just three ingredients! Fair warning though, it can be quite sweet, so ration your sugar intake for the day or week if you’re gonna be snacking on this ๐Ÿ˜›

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of thick sliced bacon
  • brown sugar
  • maple syrup

Steps:

  1. To drain as much fat from the bacon slices as you can, we lined a flat plate with paper towels and stacked the bacon and microwaved it for about 5 minutes, in 2 1/2 minute intervals. We let it sit so the fat could drain.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While you wait, prepare a baking tray and line your slices. Pour brown sugar and maple syrup to your liking!
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  3. Pop the tray into the oven and keep an eye out for it…we waited about 10-15 minutes, took it out, flipped it so both sides could be evenly marinated, and stuck it back into the oven for another 5 minutes.
  4. Get another baking tray (a deeper baking tray is preferable), line it with aluminum foil to catch extra fat or sugar, and put a cooling rack on top. Place the bacon slices onto the cooling rack, and pop them back into the oven again.
  5. Now this is entirely up to you how long you want to leave it in the oven, but watch for it to change to a nice golden brown. Be careful because sugar can burn easily so you don’t want to end up with burnt sugar bacon (unless that’s what you’re going for!)
  6. When you are finished, shut off your oven and take out the baking tray to let your bacon cool individually so when you take them out they aren’t all stuck together.

candied bacon

Enjoy your sweet treat!

 

 

7 Habits to Adopt in 2018

Can you believe 2018 is already here?! These past few months have whizzed by so quickly and I don’t think I’ve registered that we’re starting a new year already :O My time in SE Asia has really changed my perspective and outlook on life, and I want 2018 to push me forward and help me succeed personally and professionally. I’m sharing 7 habits I’d like to begin for the new year and hope that I can finally stick to them this time around hehe. Enjoy!

  1. Make my bed every morning.
    I read somewhere that people who don’t make their beds are more driven in the workplace and have better things to do than to waste time making their beds, and as much as I’d like to agree with that, I think doing one small organizational thing in the morning can set the tone for the day.
  2. Read before bedtime.
    I am a chronic social media addict, and I used to track the number of hours I’d use my social media apps…it was pretty scary. For the new year, I want to set aside my phone at night and just get back into reading a good book to end my day.

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    It’s taking me way longer than I want to finish this book, but it’s really good! A must-read for those who are interested in Public Health
  3. Practice meditation at least 1x a day.
    I have heard the benefits of meditation for managing stress and anxiety, and promoting relaxation and a healthier lifestyle. There are plenty of apps to help you get into meditation, such as Headspace! If you’re short on time, there are meditations that are as short as 1-5 minutes.
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  4. Purchase responsibly.
    Because we live in a developed country, it’s easy to take for granted our ability to buy things on a whim. We often buy fast fashionย when something catches our eye and we don’t consider whether we’ll still love it when years pass. I’ve really cut back on shopping at the quick and cheap retail stores because

    • I don’t want to own a million articles of clothing and not wear them later on
    • cheap clothes wear out and don’t last AKA their quality usually sucks
    • many of the clothes are not produced responsibly
  5. Cook at least 3x a week.
    When I was in Cambodia, I never had a fully functional kitchen to work with for over three months! I didn’t realize how much I missed cooking and being able to be creative in the kitchen and make things up as I go and surprise myself by the flavor profile of my dishes. It brings me joy to make something that others can eat ๐Ÿ™‚ Also, I have cookbooks gifted by my friends that have been dying to be used: Vegan, Jack’s Wife Freda,ย  But I Could Never Go Vegan!
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  6. Embrace creativity.
    When I was younger, I used to take art classes in and out of school, and thought it was kind of a chore…but as I grew up, I realized that I did enjoy when I would make some semi-decent pieces and received positive feedback for them! Now, I’m not limited to just a paint canvas or sketch book, but I like to bullet journal and blog as another way to share my creativity with the world and with you! ๐Ÿ™‚
  7. Work on my handwriting.
    In my immediate family, I supposedly have the “best” handwriting, but that’s only when I’m trying. When I am in a rush to take notes in class or jotting down information from a phone call, it can quickly go downhill to start looking like scribbles on a piece of paper. Bullet journaling has given me the opportunity to be more conscious of how I write, and to make improvements when I see that changes can be made ๐Ÿ™‚ I just need to keep up with it regularly and see the transformation over the year!

Thanks for reading! I hope that by sharing my 2018 goals that I will stick to it and maybe inspire some of you to set some goals for yourself ๐Ÿ™‚ What changes would you like to make for the new year? Comment below!

 

 

 

 

4 Ways to Give Back this Holiday Season

As 2017 is coming to a close, we look back on the accomplishments we have made, and also think about the things we could have done differently. My experience working in Cambodia has reaffirmed my passion to work in the field of public health. Knowing that I can contribute meaningfully to a community is rewarding in and of itself and I feel like I’m a changed woman! My mother visited me when I was working in Cambodia and reminded me that in the past, I used to say that I wanted to make six figures so I could live comfortably, but seeing how people can be so happy with so little has really changed my life goals.

So how can one give back this holiday season if they can’t commit to working abroad for free for three months? I have some suggestions!

  1. Volunteer at a local organization. This can be anywhere from a homeless shelter, hospital, soup kitchen, food pantry, animal shelter, charity etc. Time is priceless…especially when you live in a big, bustling city like NYC. If you are willing to give up your time, even if it’s as little as one hour, you are making a difference to the people that you’re serving and helping.

    cool soup kitchen volunteer collection
    I’ve volunteered at soup kitchens and food pantries before, and it’s so fun! It’s great to meet the people you are serving and to let them know you are rooting for them!
  2. Donate to a charity. We are constantly bombarded by television ads to donate to this organization, or that organization, but how many of us go the extra step to actually call the number or visit the website to donate? There are plenty of organizations that could use your help! If you are unsure where to donate and if an organization is legitimate, you can visit Charity Navigator to look up each organization’s work and its rating before you make your decision.
    • (this is my shameless plug because of my transformative experience working in Cambodia this fall heh) I’ve had the pleasure to work for the Cambodian Community Dream Organization these past three months and see the great work they do in three main areas: Clean Water, Education, and Health and Wellbeing. By working in the field and seeing where the donations are going, I can personally vouch for the integrity of this organization whose goal is to transform the lives of the people living in rural Siem Reap.

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      Here is the CCDO’s water well construction crew hard at work to build a water well within a day! These water wells are shared between 2-3 families (approximately 10 people), increasing water access and reducing the amount of time it takes to fetch water from another source. With each water well donation, the CCDO also provides a ceramic water filter so the families may drink safe, potable water ๐Ÿ™‚
  3. Purchase a stranger’s groceries. I haven’t gotten around to doing this yet, but I can imagine how happy this stranger would be if they are struggling with the bills and making ends meet, and a kind individual such as yourself helps to lessen their burden just a bit and brighten their day or week.
  4. Buy a meal for and talk to a homeless person. For all of us who are not rich, we legitimately can be one paycheck away from being homeless. People are faced with unfortunate circumstances that can lead to them losing their homes and being pushed onto the street. Not all homeless people are drug addicts or alcoholics. Many are down on their luck and are seeking just a little bit of kindness from passersby. No one wants to feel invisible or that they are subhuman. If you can afford it, try to buy someone on the street a meal or two, and have a small chat with them. A little kindness can go a long way.

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    My friend snuck a photo of me a few years back giving food to someone in the city

I am happy to share a few below that I’ve heard great things about or have personally been involved in the past ๐Ÿ™‚

  • New York Cares – tons of opportunities to volunteer in a variety of areas in the five boroughs
  • Project Sunshine – a nonprofit that is in four countries that provides free recreational programming to pediatric patients to brighten their days ๐Ÿ™‚ If you are in the US, Canada, Israel or Kenya, you can apply to volunteer with PS!
  • Housing Works – its mission is to end the dual crises of homelessness and HIV/AIDS through advocacy, provision of services, and entrepreneurial businesses. I volunteered at their thrift store back in undergrad and their retail staff is great!
  • UBELONG – I volunteered with them twice before, and had amazing times during both of my experiences. You can volunteer at an international location in a variety of different projects, spanning from as short as one week to as many as multiple months!

Happy Giving! I hope everyone has a happy and healthy holiday season ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Local Craftsmanship in Siem Reap

It’s amazing how you can find opportunities to learn about the local culture for free; you can simply visit the restaurants shops and talk to the locals, take advantage of the free guided walking tours, or if you have the time, live in that city for a month or longer ๐Ÿ™‚

Because I spend most of my days in the CCDO office or in the field, I haven’t taken advantage of all that Siem Reap has to offer, and I only have a few weeks left! My time here in this wonderful city is coming to an end soon, and I want to start doing more than dining at as many places as possible ๐Ÿ˜› I came across Artisans Angkor, a company that provides vocational training to rural people in the form of craftsmanship and promotes fair trade and development in Cambodia. When I visited this place, I was able to see some of the craftspeople hard at work etching beautiful sculptures using wood and different stones!

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Steps to carving a wooden sculpture
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Craftspeople hard at work carving stone!
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Paying close attention so they don’t miss any special details
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Polishing the stone in water to make it smooth and develop a shine
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Some examples of completed work

5 Traditional Khmer Dishes to Try in Cambodia

Before I arrived in Cambodia, I had no idea what kind of food I would be looking forward to. I knew from looking at maps that Cambodia bordered Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam, but wondered what kinds of influence surrounding countries and immigrants had on the countryโ€™s cuisine. It turns out that Khmer food uses a variety of spices and herbs that make dishes light up your taste buds!

Here are five traditional Khmer dishes that you should try when youโ€™re in Cambodia:

  1. Amok is a very popular dish in Cambodia where a protein (usually fish) is stewed in a coconut-based curry along with some vegetables.
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  2. Prahok is fermented fish paste that is a huge staple in Cambodia. For many people, prahok is the protein in meals because when other fresh proteins are not in abundant supply, this paste could be created and preserved for a long time. I hear itโ€™s not a palatable flavor for Westerners, but Iโ€™m determined to try it once before I leave ๐Ÿ™‚
  3. Num mi jup (forgive me for my poor Romanization!) also known as Khmer noodle soup, is typically a noodle soup with fish and a bunch of other ingredients concocted together to make a delicious soup. My boss took us to this local restaurant in the village to try the authentic soup!
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  4. Any dish with Kampot pepper! This pepper is grown and produced in the Kampot province. This pepper is grown on a little stalk and looks kind of like the musical instrument of a bunch of bells on a stick
  5. Street food is kind of a big category, but I couldnโ€™t just pick one. There is a large variety of street foods that are sold, such as noodle or rice dishes, preserved fruit, boiled peanuts, insects, skewers, and more!