Tag Archives: thai

Mexico, Spring Breakers, and Faux Mojitos

21 Mar


With our hat vendor, Pepe

My sister Katie and I spent last week honeymooning beachside at the Park Royal in Cancun, Mexico. We enjoyed a string of lazy days sunbathing, getting our read on, and sipping gin and tonics. Despite being a relatively mellow trip, we feel resort life merits commenting on, especially the week of most colleges’ spring break So, we hope the following survival tips will come in handy if you’re an all-inclusive vacay newbie, or just happen to be over 25 amidst a throng of rowdy, skin-baring, Margarita-sloshing not-quite-adults:

Resist the deep, deep temptation to strangle a sorority girl on your flight who absolutely wants to get along with her roommate, if only she wasn’t so horrible. I mean, who does this roommate chick think she is, trying to be sorority lady’s best friend?! Unbelievable. As American Airlines Flight 2422 progressed, said-sorority chica and her two sorority sisters widened their circle of dislike to envelop pretty much everyone, frequently prefacing their statements with the disclaimer, “I’m not complaining, BUT…” whilst Katie and I coined a term in their honor, “I’m not complaining, but I hate you, and I’m going to kill you.”

Drink the questionably liquored mojitos. That Sprite-induced sugar buzz is merry and imagebright. The resort bartenders will run out of mint leaves come 3 pm, so do like an experienced frat boy and recycle yours.

There’s no such thing as a free dance party. The resort provided minimal nighttime entertainment, exempting one brief, pirate-themed  soirée, because they had relationships with local clubs. Fit a hip shake or toe tap in when you can, unless it’s worth $45 to be immobilized alongside 7,000 Mexicanos at La Ciudad. According to our sources (two Daytonian male college students), the human blockade surrounding your table is no biggie, as long as your bladder’s empty, you’re OK with sharing a bottle of wine, and DJ Marshmello is front and center. Ok, ok, we reluctantly admit that Deej Marsh sounds like the real deal – listen to his remix of ‘Where are U Now’ here – but as we all know I can’t be barred from bathroom access for more than twenty minutes.

Understand the nuances of ‘all-inclusive.’ It doesn’t necessarily mean ‘all good.’ The buffet gets old fast. Pack some nice and dry snack foods, such as pretzels and popcorn, to balance out the buffet’s wet food vibe. The exercise room was an additional $6 per day, but beach walks are still free. There’s cable, but the shows are dubbed in Spanish. Charlotte and Chloe on Geordie Shore taught me some new vocab, but it’s mostly no bueno. Incorporating ‘maldito!’ and ‘rayos!’ into my Spanglish may not prove feasible. We still aren’t sure what 11 am Insanity is all about, but according to the resort’s daily activities board, it’s a regular party:


I probably wouldn’t go back to the Park Royal, but I would go back on vacation with Katie in a heartbeat. Sister time is something beautiful.

Now that we are again stateside, it’s time to eliminate vacation chub-a-lub. Yesterday, my mom and I spent the afternoon cooking. I got to experiment with her gift to me, the Vegetti, to make my slightly modified version of Ambitious Kitchen’s Thai Chicken and Sweet Potato Noodle Stir Fry, found here. Sweet potato noodles are only 25 calories per ounce versus 100 calories per ounce in dry spaghetti. My version of the recipe is below. So that it could be eaten throughout the week, I only prepared the chicken, sauce, and noodles. I am going to add frozen vegetables (broccoli, mixed peppers, etc.) with each serving. Disfrutala!


(Servings: 4)


-2 to  3 small sweet potatoes (want 12 oz., after removing skin) image


-1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast

-Seasoning: salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin

-Squirt of lemon or lime juice


-2 Tbs. peanut butter

-2 Tbs. soy sauce

-1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce

-1/2 Tbs. honey

-1 tsp. crushed garlic

-1 Tbs. chopped ginger

– 1/2 cup 1% milk


1. Sweet potato noodles: Remove skins from sweet potatoes.. Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to soften. Use spiralizer to make noodles. Set aside for now.

2. Chicken: Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Squirt with lemon juice to better coat chicken with seasonings. Spray cooking pan with PAM or lightly coat with olive oil. Cook chicken in pan until completely done. Remove from heat and place in bowl. Put sweet potato noodles into cooking pan, and cook on low heat for several minutes.

3. Sauce: Combine all sauce ingredients.

4. Compile: Add sauce to cooking pan. Cook noodles in sauce, on low heat, until soft, for about another five minutes. Next, add chicken. Remove from heat, and place into storage container for use throughout the week.

CALORIES per serving: 265


Homeward Heartstrings

16 Aug

pgh bridge

I am in-between. I quit my job as a process engineer and skipped out of Jackson, MS, in mid-June. I am now stationed at my parents’ house in Pittsburgh, PA, until I move to College Park, MD, to start a Master’s Program in Food Science at the University of Maryland. Living at home has been wonderful. No rent or bills, a sprawling bedroom, free food. Shopping at ALDI and cooking side by side with my mom, using a combination of her Pinterest finds and my Martha Stewart ones; rigorous, and sometimes explosive due to my poor sportsmanship, tennis matches with my brother; giggling and being straight-up weird with my sister (case in point: she strongly believes touching my right boob cures me of a bad mood); playing beautiful violin-piano arrangements with their author and my dad (or El Maestro, as I’m now fond of calling him in response to his, ‘That was good, but you’re a little flat on the C sharp and the notes need to be played more crisply in measure three.’) And then there’s the two little dogs, family dinners rarely excluding dessert, endless watermelon, insideJane Austen quote_home jokes, Netflix series-watching (waiting for season three of Peaky Blinders with bated breath), and just an extravagant amount of togetherness. So yes, I’m pretty happy, but I’m pretty sad too, because I can’t help but be homesick come August 22. On the one hand, I’m anxious for school to start. But on the other, I am too emotionally attached to four people and two dogs to truly want to leave them, ever. I feel burdened by how transient, and how transitional, life can be. The physical aspects of moving, though taxing, are easily forgotten once settled into the new home. But the emotional aspects, specifically being away from people we care about, linger on.

Why is home so important? The answer to this question likely varies from person to person, but I hope some can relate to mine. It’s because home is where I am loved most. Since my family has always lived in Pittsburgh, there is a certain tangible steadfastness attached to my sense of home. Yet the true comfort of being home, which would continue should my parents move to New Delhi tomorrow, is in the relationships I have with my family. They know me best, tease me the most, challenge my insecurities, point out my foibles, and affirm their unwavering faith in me. Jane Austen wrote, ‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort,’ and I heartily agree.


Oto (left) and Bailey on a diagonal.

In Maryland, I won’t be able to change the setting on my panicked mom’s newly acquired Facebook from ‘Romanian’ (yet presumed to be Spanish) to Icelandic, then finally English. I won’t find two eight-pound fur balls clattering to greet me every morning. I won’t be able to lie on my sister’s bed, and within three minutes be talked into sporting a temporary ‘Hello Kitty’ tattoo on my right arm. I won’t have my brother strongly suggesting I read more classic ancient literature, and likewise take more measures to achieve a Greek God physique. And I won’t get to watch my dad playing with dogs Oto and Bailey, lying on the foyer rug to tickle them.

Is the anticipated nostalgia I’m feeling all bad? Will it prevent me from embracing adventures that lie ahead? I think not, if handled appropriately. In The Odyssey, Odysseus used memories of his son and wife, and of his kingdom, to motivate himself to endure the return trip from the Trojan War. My journey through graduate school will not be quite so epic, but certainly knowing how loved and supported I am by family will help to spur me on. Besides, how long can I really wallow over how loved I am, and how lovely my beloved are?

The following recipe for Thai butter sauce is a true tweak, and a Dolan household treasure. Unable to find a sufficient replacement recipe after losing a Williams Sonoma one, my sister and I have been concocting our own version of this sauce for years. It’s like quirky soul food, and therefore an apt metaphor for my family. We pair it with grilled chicken, rice, and a green vegetable, i.e. broccoli or sugar snap peas.



(Servings: ~10)


-1/2 white onion, finely choppedIMG_0630

-Handful cilantro, finely chopped

-1 Tbs. brown sugar

-1 Tbs. fish sauce

-2 Tbs. soy sauce

-1 Tbs. lime juice

-1 tsp. ginger

-1 tsp. curry powder

-1 tsp. Penzey satay sauce (Pittsburgh store; if not available, omit)

-1 tsp. chili powder

-1/2 tsp. cumin

-1/2 cup peanut butter

-1 can lite coconut milk


Combine chopped onion and 1/3 the can of coconut milk in a skillet. Turn on the heat to medium-low and let sit for several minutes, to cook the onions. Add remainder of milk, then subsequently add the rest of the ingredients minus the cilantro, stirring to combine. Remove from heat once thoroughly mixed. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

CALORIES per 1/4 cup serving: 106