4 01 2014

I have a bunch of posts and pictures backlogged – but let’s start with this one.

One weekend in November, I began cooking on a Saturday afternoon and didn’t stop until the wee hours of Sunday morning.  I certainly didn’t plan to be cooking as much as I did, but I just kept cooking and cooking and cooking!  So by Sunday evening, I began playing tetris in my freezer to be able to fit everything in my freezer.

Reasons for my cooking spree?  December and January are really hectic months between school and running the musical, and I didn’t want to have to be thinking about food as much or preparing my lunches for school on Sundays so I could focus on other things.  So while I was making beef stew on the stove, I had chicken tikka masala in the oven and a beef barley soup in the crockpot. And after the chicken tikka masala, I roasted a pumpkin and made a puree out of that.  More posts to come in the future of these cooking adventures.

Here is what my freezer looked like after a lot of rearranging: (Can you see the row of tupperware behind the soups? That’s beef stew.)

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And since I didn’t label any of my containers before putting in them in the freezer (silly me…), I made myself a list of what’s in the freezer.

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So how will I decide what to eat?  It’s pretty much whatever I can take out of the freezer first without making anything else fall down.  I’m looking forward to a month full of not cooking [as much] and eating out of the freezer.  It definitely takes a load off while I have so many other things on my mind.

Happy eating!


I’m backkkk!

7 02 2013

Taken with my phone, I promise to get back to taking better pictures with my good camera soon!

My loyal readers (are you still out there?), I have returned from what seemed like an endless hiatus from my food blog.  But I’m back, with a determination to start cooking new recipes for myself again, and to share those great meals with you!  

The picture above is for this version of penne rosa.  Now, I am NOT a fan of regular Greek yogurt – I don’t like the taste or the consistency, but I found this recipe and had to give it a try. I used a ten-ounce bag of frozen shrimp (on sale, which is why I decided to try this recipe) and the other components of the dish made it a filling meal for both lunch and dinner. Even as a non-Greek yogurt fan, the other flavors were strong enough that it didn’t bother me, and I wouldn’t have been able to use heavy cream if I wanted to.

My life is constantly busy and I’m always looking for easy pasta dishes to make like this one. Pasta dishes fit really well into my schedule and dietary restrictions, so I’m glad to add this one to my repertoire!  Next time I’ll consider adding some other vegetables that I can eat (so really .. zucchini, or maybe some broccoli or cauliflower are my options) or a different kind of protein.

Happy eating! 

The Elephant Chase

18 02 2012

I can’t believe we are leaving so soon.  I’ll be stepping foot on United States soil (er, floor..) in two weeks time.  It’s crazy!  I’m going to try as much as possible in the next week or so.  We have one week left of teaching – we end next Friday February 24.  Then Friday night we’re off to Cape Town, where we’ll stay in a self-service apartment for 6 nights.  We’ll fly back to Johannesburg Thursday morning (March 1st) and then head out that same night for the United States!  We have a 9 hour layover in Munich so we’ll hopefully get to see some stuff while we’re there.

So as you saw from the title of this post, this is about an elephant chase!  About two weeks ago we went to Pilanesberg, which is a Game Reserve and a National Park.  We left Friday a little early from school and arrived at our campsite – we had 12 people with us, including the five student teachers and other teachers/friends.

Township we passed on our way to Pilanesberg


Our tent!


Once we put up all of our tents, we hung out for the rest of the night.  We had brought coolers of food, with lots of snacks and meat, and had a braii (barbecue). It was a nice relaxing night and great to just hang out with everyone.

Saturday morning we got up at 5am (earlier than I get up when teaching!) and got ready to go on our game drive.  We had 12 people split up into two cars – I rode in our friend Kaitlyn’s car with Kaitlyn (fellow student teacher) and Jeannie (teacher at the school).  The rest of the girls rode in the van and we lost them early on in the ride.

Sunrise over our campsite

Now we continued along on our game drive, seeing a few animals.  Then, we found one elephant eating. We immediately pulled over to the side of the road to watch him eat since he was not too far from the path we were driving on.  After following him walking a little bit, he met up with another elephant and we watched the both of them eating some trees.  The elephants started coming closer to the road, and we realized that they were headed right for our car. The elephant came through the bushes and stared right at us. We started to pull the car forward so the elephant could pass and then he started heading towards us.

Watching the elephants eating

Elephant heading towards us!



He finally passed us and went back to eating, which was a relief.  But then he started coming down the road towards us again, and the second elephant joined him in the road.  We continued to pull forward but tried not to make a lot of noise.  That didn’t go so well .. at one point Kaitlyn (teacher) tried to drive but the parking brake was on so she revved the engine instead .. whoops!  While one elephant went back to the side of the road to eat, the first elephant stopped in the middle of the road, whipped out his extremely large elephant penis and started peeing (apparently this is a sign of aggression).  Then the elephant pooped, and started walking towards us again.

Elephant peeing

Finally, both elephants went onto the side of the road and left us alone, but MAN were we scared.  On top of that we didn’t want to make a lot of noise so we were whispering to each other the whole twenty minutes that the chase was going on.  It was pretty crazy when the elephant was walking right at us, but we were all laughing about it.

That’s all for now! I’ve been uploading photos to my Flickr account so I’ll include a photoset from the rest of our game drives at Pilanesberg in my next post. Until next time!

Travels abound!

5 01 2012

I’m so excited!  In just under five hours, I’ll be boarding a plane from Newark International Airport to start my two-month study abroad.  While I’m gone, I’ll be using this blog as a travel blog to keep you up to date on my travels! 

Here’s what I’m doing – I’ll be going with four other women from TCNJ with the Global Student Teaching Program.  We’ll be teaching at the American International School at Johannesburg – a private, American-curriculum-based school.  The grades we’ll teach vary from Kindergarten to 8th grade, and since the schools run on an American curriculum, it’ll be very similar to teaching here in the states.  On the weekends we’ll get a chance to travel and see South Africa (and maybe other parts of Africa!) and before we return in the beginning of March, we’ll be taking a few days to travel to Cape Town and possibly other parts of South Africa.

We’re all really excited and I’ve been doing a lot of research on South Africa as a country as well as where we’ll go and what we do.  If you know anyone that has been there (or lives there), feel free to email me suggestions (truclan.vu@gmail.com).  I’d love to hear any and all suggestions. 

As far as contact, we should have pretty regular internet access since we’ll be living at the boarding school.  I’ll be blogging as much as possible, as well as updating pictures and checking email and Facebook (and other social media).  We will have a temporary phone while we are here, but only for local calls and international calls in case of emergencies.  My US-based cell phone number will be disconnected while I am gone, so I won’t be able to receive texts or voice messages.

I look forward to sharing my travels with you!  First stop- the flight! We’ll be flying Newark to Frankfurt and we have a 9-hour layover in Frankfurt.  The plan is to travel into the city to see the sights a little bit, then get back to the airport in time to catch our evening flight to Johannesburg.  We’ll get picked up Saturday morning in Johannesburg by our contacts at AISJ (American International School at Johannesburg) and then probably spend the day shopping, settling in, and getting over our jet lag.

Bon voyage!

Tilapia Cakes with Couscous

27 10 2011

Sorry, all. I haven’t been blogging AT ALL lately!  Mostly because I haven’t been cooking anything new.  I’ve been so swamped with work, grad school, and starting preparations for South Africa, that I’ve marked plenty of new recipes but I keep falling back to old ways.  I’ve been working off of recipes I already know, since I don’t really have more time to invest in trying out new recipes.  But I’m trying to get back on the new food train.  Here’s something I pulled together somewhat recently.

I found a recipe for tilapia cakes in Real Simple and knew I had to try it!  It was pretty simple – I cooked the tilapia through (and I pretty much always keep tilapia in my fridge), then cooled it, shredded it, and then combined it with some dill, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, panko crumbs, and salt and pepper.  Then I cooked it for 2-3 minutes on each side.

While I was doing all of that, I cooked up some couscous and heated up some frozen brussel sprouts.  To make the brussel sprouts a little more exciting, I then sauteed them in a pan with some minced garlic.  It turned out really well and made 3 servings which was a nice surprise.  It was all really flavorful, and even writing this post, reminded me how easy it was, and that I should make this again sometime soon! Here are some pictures:

Happy eating!

Broad Street Run 2011

6 05 2011

Maybe not very food related … but figured I’d post this here so I can put pictures and video in.

I didn’t train enough.  I didn’t get a good night’s sleep. I woke up late. I was rushing to Philly. I didn’t eat a good breakfast. I didn’t even have time to stop for coffee in the morning.  I was running alone.  It seems like everything had gone wrong.  So I pulled in the Wells Fargo Arena parking lot Sunday morning at 6:15am with one goal:  finish the race.

I honestly had run 4.5 miles as my longest run before Sunday, and that was a week and a half before (cringe, I know).  I just wanted to make it through the race and cross the finish.  I knew my training wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been and wasn’t even setting a time expectation for myself.    I bought a Fuel Belt right before the race, but because I hadn’t trained with it, Sunday morning I decided to ditch it because I was afraid of the impact it may have on my running.

Once I got to the parking lot, I put on my number [#24376, in the pink/last corral] and followed the crowd of people towards the subway station.  One guy was walking near me and commented on the weather.  He also mentioned that he had done the race a few times, saying, “I hope I finish this time.”  Now this got me worried.  He was a super fit guy, a little older, and definitely looked like a guy that could easily run ten miles.  We bid farewell, even though we were heading towards the same subway.  I waited for the train with a bunch of other people, and kind of felt like the people in this video when we were getting on:  

There were SO many people on the train.  Luckily I was in a spot where I could hold onto a pole, but other people were just crammed in the middle and held onto other people (that they knew) for the ride.  25 minutes later we piled out of the subway and followed the mass of people to the ground level.  I didn’t have a watch, so then I wandered for who-knows-how-long, since the race didn’t start at 8:30. I went to the bathroom. I got some water.  I walked around. I put my stuff on the gear bus. And then I sat on a sidewalk for what felt like forever.  I stretched and watched people pass by for a long time.  The variety of people that come to this run is fantastic.  The group I liked the most was a program called “Students Run Philly” which is a citizen development program for Philly youth, and so there were a bunch of middle/high school kids in matching shirts with their coaches.  I told myself, if these kids can run 10 miles, so can I.

Finally when it seemed like the streets were starting to get a little more crowded with the runners, I turn around and see this very familiar man.  I approach him and he seems to recognize me too, and we figure out that he’s the neighbor of some of my dance friends and we had met twice before.  He introduced me to his friend, who had also unexpectedly run into him, and we talked for a while and then the race was starting.  The guys left to run in the yellow corral (they said the pink corral was ‘too slow’ for them) and so I was at the start of the pink corral.

Here’s what the start looks like.  Look at all those people!  There were 30,000 total for 2011.

Since the pink corral was last, we started about 25 minutes after the first corral.  Corrals are grouped by anticipated finish times, and the pink corral was the “finishing 2:00 or later” group.  I stood near the front and all I could see ahead was a sea of bobbling heads.  “That’s so awesome,” I said to the woman next to me.  She asked if it was my first time, to which I responded yes, and she told me it would be like that the entire race.  Finally, after the yellow corral was a little ways away, they blew the horn and the speakers played “Gonna Fly Now” – the Rocky theme song.  Ironically, this was the first song of the playlist that I put together for the run.  And BOOM, we were off!  I was passed by many people, but was keeping pace with this one guy for a while. After a while he moved to the other side of the street and I lost him within the ridiculous sea of people.

And then two hours, 8 minutes, and 46 seconds later, I crossed the finish line.  It was a hard journey, but if anything, my music, the other runners, and the crowd kept me going.  The adrenaline I felt during the race was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.  There is nothing like hundreds of complete strangers telling you that you can do it, you’re doing great, and cheering you on.  People had great signs, like “halfway there” and “Where are you going? Not too late for SEPTA tokens,” and one woman even stood outside her row-home giving out orange slices to the runners.  The run through Philadelphia was beautiful, and it was a gorgeous day to be running, about 70-75 degrees once the sun came out in full force.  When we ran past Temple University Hospital, there were patients outside in wheelchairs with staff members cheering us on, and this was truly a sight to be seen.  Just seeing the children in wheelchairs gave me so much motivation to keep going.  Towards center city and south Philly, there were so many little kids on the street helping to hand out water, high-fiving runners, and cheering along with their parents.

Running-wise, I did much better than expected.  I tried to go for a 2.5/1 running/walking ratio, but after a while I got pretty tired.  For the most part, the only times I walked was during water stations and maybe a few other times, but I wouldn’t let myself walk for more than half a song and then told myself I had to just keep going.  Besides the people, my music playlist helped me keep going.  A few highlights from the 2 hour playlist of general exciting music and music that I like:

  • “Gonna Fly Now” – Rocky Theme – played at the start of the race
  • “Totally Fucked” from Spring Awakening – during the first uphill of the race
  • Cheer Up” by Reel Big Fish – after the first 2.5 miles and the first time I walked
  • “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk – second big uphill, and got me from walking to running
  • “Baby can dance” by Carsie Blanton – somewhere around mile 4, got me from walking to running
  • You are Loved” by Josh Groban – came on right as I passed mile 5 marker.  Don’t give up!
  • Country Roads” [techno version] – came on right as a guy yelled “Take it home! Halfway there”!
  • “Moving Too Fast” by Jason Robert Brown – while I was running around City Hall and trying to keep up with everyone, but realized I didn’t need to keep up with them. Also the point where my foot started hurting so I walked the next half mile.
  • “Beat It” by Michael Jackson – Start of mile 8.
  • “One More Time” by Daft Punk – Start of mile 9!  I knew I didn’t have much more to go and was determined to run the last two miles of the race.
  • “Blue Jeans” by Sqeezer – this is a song my mom used to listen to so it always reminds me of her.  Came on during the last half mile.
There were a bunch of other songs, but as these songs came on I just had to smile and reflect on how perfect they all were.  A photography company was at the race, but it’s super expensive to purchase the prints so I won’t.  My finish line picture isn’t even that good.  But this picture is cute, taken around mile 7.  I’m super happy because I surprised myself by even making it to mile 7, let alone finishing the whole race.
All in all it was a fantastic experience and a great thing that happens in Philadelphia.  I will train better next time and am SO excited to do it again next year, hopefully with some friends.  I ran into one friend from TCNJ near the finish line and she was impressed that I did the race, especially since I was by myself.  I would highly recommend the race to anyone and everyone, and hope you can run it with me next year!

December munchies!

26 11 2010

A plug for my baking business – Mama TL’s Munchies of the Month!

Visit the site here to order some fresh baked goods 🙂