easy recipe : Tom Kho Vietnamese Caramelized Prawn

prawns cooked with fish sauce and cane sugar

This one is my husband's favorite dish.  I make it every so often at home and for our group of friends when we get together for "Com Gia Dinh" (loosely translated as "family dinner").  Each of us would bring our favorite dish to the host's house and dine together.  Less work for the host and comfortable for those with kids (we're the only one with 2 so it's best for us).

Without further adieu, here is how to make Vietnamese tom kho:

- 1 pound of fresh/thawed prawns (If use black tiger prawns, remove the shell as it's too rough to chew.  If use white prawns, you can choose to leave the shell on or remove it) 
- 1 1/2 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon of sugar (I use organic cane sugar as I like the light and smooth taste)
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
- 1/4 of yellow or white onion, diced (about 2-3 tablespoon) > I like to add some purple shallot !
- 4 tablespoon of water
- black pepper to taste

OPTIONAL - chilli (sliced or minced)
Garnish:  sliced green onions


- In a pan, heat up some vegetable oil, then add the garlic and onion. 
- Sauteed until fragrant, then add the prawn and cook until pink.
- Add the water, fish sauce and the sugar (add chilli if you like)
- Lower the heat to med/low and let it simmer for 7-10 min, stir every so often and let the water reduce (I like it dry so I add in less water and cook until liquid all evaporated)
- Stir the prawn around until golden then sprinkle with a few dashes of black pepper.

Add more fish sauce or sugar as per your liking.

This is awesome with  rice.  At our house, we make eat mixed-rice.  We use half white rice, half brown rice and 1/2 to 1 cup of quinoa.  It has a nice nutty rich taste.  It goes quite well with the salty peppery prawns.  Now you just need a veggies dish to eat this with.  Enjoy !
Depending on the type of prawn you used, you will get different result.  This one is with butterflied prawns.
This one is made with white prawn.  Because the shell is softer than black-tiger prawn, I like to leave the shell on.

easy recipe : Sweet & Sour Fish

We bought some tilapia the other day and my mom told me I need to try something new because she has had enough of the usual poached peppery fish. Abeit it being tasty, she said too much of something good is no longer good.

So, I decided to try out sweet and sour a top the tilapia !  I've made sweet/sour chicken before but never fish !  Why not try it right ?  :)

Here's what I did (use the same technique as I would with my chicken)

Serving 4 adults, 1 toddler & a baby :-)

Pan fried talapia fillet:

- 4 fillets of tilapia (or any other white fish)
- 2 egg white
- corn starch (about a cup to coat the fish)
- pinch of salt

Sprinkle a bit of salt on each tilapia fillet.  Dip each fillet in egg white then roll in the corn starch to coat the fillet.  Pan fried on medium heat til golden (~6-8 min each side for me).   

Sweet & Sour sauce:

- 1/2 of small fresh pineapple, cut into chunks or bits
- 1/2 red pepper, cut into strips
- 1/2 yellow pepper, cut into strips (you can use green or orange pepper too)
- 1/2 white onions, slice any way you like !
- 3 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced (more or less as per liking)
- olive oil
- 1/2 tablespoon of honey
- 1 tablespoon of raw sugar
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce (can be omitted, add 1 more spoon of soy sauce instead)
- 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
- 4 tablespoon of water

- 4 tablespoons of ketchup (don't like ketchup ?  (my husband hates ketchup in food, it's for dipping fries or hash, he said !) you can use 1 med. tomatoes (sliced), 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tablespoon of raw sugar).

- a dash or two of sesame oil if you have it !

* You can adjust the sweetness, sourness, saltiness to your liking by adding more sugar/honey or vinegar or salt when done.  

In a non stick pan, add some olive oil then add garlic and onions.  Stir until fragrant *if use tomatoes, add them now*   then add the pineapple bits and peppers slices.  Measure and pour in the sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, honey, and ketchup.  Stir to thicken sauce.  Pour oven the pan fried fillet !  Enjoy !

The whole family enjoyed this dish very much.  We cleaned the fillet and sauce.  I highly recommend adding more pineapple as it was really nice with the fish !  Yum !

where our hearts are

Taken hours before entering into Valentine's Day !  Love these girls !

REPOST: The Promise You Can't Keep in Marriage

By John Mark Comer, February 11, 2014
John Mark Comer is Lead Pastor of Bridgetown; A Jesus Church in Portland, Ore., and author of Loveology: God. Love. Marriage. Sex. And the Never-Ending Story of Male and Female, which released Feb. 4, 2014. 

That’s why you get married. That’s why God created marriage.

Here’s the problem—that’s not why most people get married.

At least, that’s not why I got married. I got married to be happy.

Don’t get me wrong. I was into all that other stuff. She was my closest friend. There was a calling on our life together that we were excited about. Sex ... uh ... yes. And we both wanted a family one day. But none of those reasons were the reason.

Like millions upon millions of other Americans, I married for happiness.

That sounds innocuous at first glance. Heck, it sounds romantic. But the trouble is that happiness is the result of a healthy marriage. It’s not the reason for marriage. Happiness is a great thing, but it’s the by-product, the afterclap of marriage. It’s not the point.  Happiness is the result of a healthy marriage. It’s not the reason for marriage.

God doesn’t look down on Adam and say, “He looks sad. He needs a lift. He needs another human being to quench the thirst of his soul. I will make him a helper to satisfy his deepest longings. Eve, the pressure’s on.” Of course not. Only God can do that.

A spouse is not a substitute for God.
The point of marriage isn’t to find our missing half. It’s to help each other become all God intended. Our future, real selves. In marriage, two people partner to that end. They see the best in each other—the person God created them to be—and they push and pull each other toward that goal.
Don’t get married because you think he or she is “the one.” Trust me, they’re not. There’s no such thing! But do get married when you see who God is making somebody to be, and it lights you up. When you want to be a part of that story of transformation, that journey to the future. When you are well aware it will be a long and bumpy ride, but you don’t want to miss one mile. Because you believe in God’s calling on them, and you want in.

My wife makes me a better person. She calls out the best in me. She calls me to live up to who I really am, to who God is making me to be.

She also brings out the worst in me. What Paul calls “the flesh.” The ugly, nasty part of me that doesn’t want to change. She exposes my selfishness and my pride.

That’s why marriage is humbling. I thought I was a pretty decent guy—and then I got married. Turns out I’m kind of a toolshed. It’s easy to be a decent guy when you live in a bubble. But when you step into marriage, your true colors bleed out. It’s like squeezing a sponge. Whatever is on the inside comes out, for better or for worse.

I cringe when I’m at a wedding where the guy says, “I promise to make you happy.” I want to stand up and scream, “You can’t keep that promise. It’s impossible. You aren’t God!”

Is it any wonder that the number-one justification for divorce is “I deserve to be happy”? If you put your faith in your spouse to make you happy, it’s only a matter of time until they let you down.
Our whole mindset on happiness is deeply flawed. “I deserve to be happy.” Really? I’m not sure that’s right.

All of life is a gift from the Creator God. We think we have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but contrary to what the American propaganda machine says, happiness is not a right. It’s a gift. God doesn’t owe you anything. And neither does your spouse. It’s all a gift.
If you go into marriage searching for happiness, all you will do is walk out filled with disillusionment.

You have to get this before you get married. Sadly, I didn’t, and it caused me so much pain. Not to mention how it hurt my wife.

If you go into marriage searching for happiness, all you will do is walk out filled with disillusionment. Don’t get me wrong. Marriage is incredible! But it’s not heaven on earth. It’s two broken people coming together to follow God’s calling on their lives.

Let marriage be marriage, and let God be God. Let marriage be for friendship and support and sex and family and re-creation. And let God be the well for your soul. Your source of life.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be happy in marriage. I am. Most of the best memories of my life have my wife attached to them. Our honeymoon in Europe, moving to Portland, starting a church, the birth of our first child, that vacation in Kauai—we did all of that together. And it was fun. If I were to edit her out of my story, it would be flat, anemic and boring.

Here’s what I’ve learned over the last few years. God is the source of my life, not my wife. She’s an amazing gift that I don’t deserve, but she’s not Jesus. It took me a long time to get this. And to be honest, I’m still pounding away on living it out. Hopefully, you’ll get this sooner than I did. Because the beauty of this way of living is that if and when happiness shows up on your doorstep, it’s icing on the cake.

Repost from RelevantMagazine.com

repurpose: how to make a girl's dress from man's dress shirt

Twice a year my husband would go through his closet and remove shirts that are stained, ripped, no longer fit or he just doesn't wear.  We would pack them all and drop off at one of those  Children's Foundation's donation bin.

One day, a friend of mine sent me a pic. of a shirt that was repurposed into a kid's shirt and tagged me on it.  I saw it and thought it was such an awesome idea !  I asked C to give me one of his dress shirt and he gave me one that he no longer wear as it's worn around the neck line.  I decided to make Bee a dress out of it !  With little time on hand, like 20 min., I decided to make the easiest dress I can think of :-)  Since it's a shirt, a shirt dress it is !  Since it's gray color, I added white lace around the neckline (case a stretchy band around the neck to easy slip on/off) for added touch of softness.  I then cut one of the sleeve open and sewn onto the dress to make it into a pocket.  Bee ADORES pocket !!!  She likes to fill it up with her baubles :-)

girl's dress made from man's dress shirt !
I will be doing this with all of hubby's clothes going forward.  If they're in good shape, they'll go to charity.  Rip or stained, it'll be repurposed into something useful for our little ones :-)  I'm trying to buy less and re-use more !  Our landfill is growing by the minute, I want to contribute as little as possible. 

a praise worship experience

Last night I dreamt I was at a church service.  Famous speakers then a skit with famous actors (I remember seeing Kirk Cameron !), putting on an almost perfect service.  However, no one responded.  I look around at all the expressionless people around me.  Dead but not dead.  You can see the deflated faces of all the people involved in the service.  They were expecting something great to happen, but nada.  They're baffled at how their great production yeilded nothing.  Then we all was asked to stand up for a last worship song.

I closed my eyes singing to the tunes of Worthy is the Lamb.  Then there I was, though my eyes were shut, I can see I was in a different place.  Like when you close your eyes and they are opened to another world.  It feels as though I was standing infront of the airplane turbine engine.  I'm not being blow away, but the pressure was of that great.  It was the sounds of millions and millions of voices joining me in worship (no people, just beautiful voices and the feeling of being lifted up).  It was so overwhelming.

Then I turned back (eyes still closed but I can see the people around me), I saw the people in the church service, dead, stale, and lifeless faces.  These people are moving their lips but they are not really praising.  They were just there, killing time, filling time, showing faces.  No one notice anything.  Don't they know that when they're praising God, they are joining forces with the voices of angels praising ?  No one went to where I went.  I cried. 

I sensed an urgency, so I screamed out loud between words, hoping the people can hear me, "DON'T YOU KNOW HOW MUCH JESUS LOVES YOU ?  HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR YOU !" I was thinking, this is all you can do for a god who has done so much ?  I don't get it.  I was mad and sad at the same time.  These people showed up to a church service but they're not really there. 

The voices of praises around me grew louder and louder, like powerful thunder, and I was swept in. It was beyond words, it was amazing.  I don't know what song we were singing but we're praising alright.  The voices around me viberated through my core, shaken me so violently.  It was so overwhelming that my earthly self couldn't handle it.  It was just too big, too great for me, if it makes any sense at all.  I can't handle it so I opened my eyes.  And I woke up.


It was early, not yet 6 am.  I lay in bed revisiting the dream I just had.  Then I thought about churches, about the big churches that put on major productions every Sunday, glitters and all ! with all the "right" ingredients, like beautiful stages, lightings, plush seatings, and sounds and sermons and music...Then I thought of all the people there getting all pumped up, excited for Jesus but are they really "there" or do they just go with the flow ?  When we think we're winning people to Christ but really we're just loosing them to all the pretty sights and sounds ?  Churches nowaday is so grand, so "glamous" !  pardon me for a lack of better word.  Some church makes me feel like I'm going to a concert, a musical production.  Some churches have so many attendees that I wonder why they don't open another location.  When a church is that grand, the lost who wandered in there can easily get lost and go unoticed, unseen, un-cared for. 

People needs Jesus.  We all need God to heal and restore our brokeness.  They don't need all the pretty decorations and sounds.  They need to be seen.  Christians are Christ's arms and feet on this world.   IF we don't extend His love to this hurting world, who is ?  I don't know what God wants me to do with is.  Maybe just a reminder to be faithful, to do my small parts.  Maybe He has a bigger plan and it's yet to be revealed to me.  Whatever it is Lord, ready am I.  Ready I am Lord.