Team Philippines at the Darden International Food Festival: Take Two

IFF 2014

A more organized, prepared and polished crew this time around. We improved our lumpia, adobo and pancit recipes, along with our clothing and decor, from the prior year and felt much more confident and united this time!

Team Philippines reunited in SY for the Darden International Food Festival to not just attempt to defend our 2013 title, but more so to learn from last year’s (in)experience and embrace our heritage with more confidence.

Perhaps participating in the IFF held more meaning for me this year, as my time in Charlottesville has been the most distance and time away I’ve had from my immediate family in my adult life. With determination, I re-made the dish I vowed never to make again last year after enduring the meticulous process. I ditched the Allrecipes.com instructions and tried to go more traditional from the filling (no potato this year!) to the wrapper (explicitly labled “lumpia” not “spring roll” paper). After a few batches, I came up with the following tried and true recipe for lumpia (AKA Filipino-style egg rolls).

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Lumpia Recipe

(adapted from my mom’s recipe and a few Pinterest suggestions)

For the filling:
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil – for cooking the filling
1 lb ground pork
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced very finely
1⁄2 cup white onion, chopped
1⁄2 cup carrots, shredded (can buy pre-packaged)
1⁄2 cup green cabbage, shredded (can buy pre-packaged)
1⁄2 cup green onion, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
1 large egg, beaten

For the filling’s seasoning:
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp soy sauce

For wrapping and frying:
~ 30 lumpia wrappers (28 came in the package I found) -> Make sure to go to an oriental market and find “Filipino lumpia” wrappers not “spring roll” or “egg roll” wrappers in order to get the right crisp, papery texture.
2 cup vegetable or canola oil
A couple beaten egg whites with some water

For the dipping sauce:
Lumpia traditionally goes with sweet-chili sauce -> Find a bottle of this in an oriental market as well.

Directions:
1) Coat a wok on medium-high to high heat with a tablespoon of oil. Break up and brown pork, stirring often and cooking until no pink shows. Remove pork from pan and set aside. Drain the grease from the pan, leaving a thin coating. Cook down the white onions, along with fresh garlic, for a couple minutes until  white onions are soft and translucent. Stir in the carrots and green cabbage and cook for another couple minutes so that they wilt and meld with the onion and garlic. Stir in the green onion. Finally, add back the cooked pork. Season with soy sauce, pepper and garlic salt. Once the mixture is well-combined and the seasoning is distributed, set aside so that it will be cool enough to handle. Stir in the beaten egg to hold the mixture together and maintain consistency.

2) Place about one and half heaping tablespoons of filling onto the edge of the lumpia wrapper. Roll tightly to the thickness of a cigar. Wet the sides with the egg white mixture. Fold in the edges and roll over with the crease side down to seal it all in. Check out this Youtube video that shows you how to wrap it.

3) Cook the lumpia. Select one of the following methods:

  • Frying method: (w/o deep fryer) Heat deep skillet over medium heat, add 1/2 in. oil and let it heat up for five minutes. Put four to six lumpia in the skillet at a time – however much the skillet can hold with some room around each one. Fry one to two minutes, turning when necessary, so all sides are a golden brown.
  • Baking method: (easier for larger quantities, slightly healthier) Grease a baking sheet and place lumpia with the crease down in rows with room around each. Brush oil over the top and sides to ensure crispiness and a golden brown color. Place baking sheet in a pre-heated 400-degree oven for 10 minutes. Then, take the sheet out and carefully, using tongs, flip the lumpia over to the other side. Bake again for another five minutes until evenly cooked.

4) Let sit for five minutes to drain on a paper towel and cool slightly. Make sure to cut in half before serving (to let the hot steam out so it doesn’t burn your tongue). Add green onion as garnish and the dipping sauce on the side. This is best served immediately to fully experience the crispiness!

P.S. You can freeze your pre-formed lumpia and cook them later, if you so desire to portion out the servings.

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This dish is a little piece of my childhood that my mother still cooks for me when I come home to Michigan. For the ultimate Filipino feast, fit for a special occasion, don’t forget the pancit (noodles are meant to be eaten on your birthday to represent a “long life” you’ll live) and the lechon (whole, roasted pig) as pictured below from my dad’s uncle’s recent birthday party.

Filipino Party

My dad is one of 17 so we have a lot of extended family. Many of them happen to reside in nearby Norfolk and Virginia Beach. I was so grateful to spend time with relatives at this special party in honor of my dad’s uncle’s 89th birthday.

Serene swimming options

My ideal vacation always includes a beach. I love the warmth of the sun, bare feet and the rushing sound of water. In the past month, I’ve found a few new places to swim other than the usual Virginia Beach.

Sandbridge Beach

When my family from Michigan visited me, we made the three-hour drive to reunite with my dad’s aunts and uncles who live in Virginia Beach. Based off of suggestions from my co-workers, we tried out Sandbridge Beach.

My family and I were so happy to find it a lot less crowded and a lot more clean – and just 10 or so minutes away from the beach all the tourists visit. I enjoyed not bumping into people as I was playing in the waves and having plenty of room to spread out on the sand.

And during an impromptu trip to Richmond, my friend and I discovered the James River at Belle Isle Park is another area to swim. It’s a very different experience than being at the shore of a lake or ocean, but equally as scenic and a much closer drive (one hour away).

Belle Isle Park

There are lots of large flat rocks on which people will set up blankets, towels and even folding tables for picnics and sunbathing. In the more still and shallow part of the river, little children will swim.

In the more rapid portion, we saw adults who were more daring with rafting and kayaking. We spotted one couple on a more peaceful part of the river, who sat on some rocks, partially submerged in the water, with the river current flowing over and past them.

We weren’t prepared for this outing as we didn’t know what to expect, so we sat near the edge – our feet in the water. I hope to return with a swimsuit next time I’m in town.

 

I’m still curious about Virginia’s swimming holes. Any suggestions on which are the best, or are there other nearby (not too crowded) places to swim?

 

Missing Michigan

Last week, I enjoyed the perks of Michal’s summer internship location in Dearborn, MI.

Yes, you read that correctly.

The Detroit suburb may not be as glamorous or appealing of an area to visit during the summer like Cali or NYC, but we were excited to simply be close to people we’ve missed while living in Cville and Chicago. In the week I visited Michal, I was grateful to be able to witness almost every type of life-changing moment within our circle of friends and family:

  • Helping Michal move into his apartment before he started his new job
  • Co-hosting a baby shower/going-away party
  • Dancing the night away at a wedding with friends from undergrad
  • Surprising a friend on her 30th birthday
  • Celebrating the engagement of one of Michal’s former college roommates
  • Visiting friends who just had their first baby
  • Checking out my parents’ and Michal’s sister’s newly renovated homes, as well as my cousin’s recently purchased home
MichiganVisit

Highlights from my visit to Michigan

In a stage in which there is so much transition and uncertainty, it is so reassuring to know some parts of life can still remain the same and that we can always “come home.” I’m looking forward to my next visit to obviously see my husband, but to also spend more time with all of our loved ones.

Not to mention, Michigan is best experienced in the summertime. (HINT: A topic for a later blog post.)

I appreciate any tips on how to answer the question: “Why come back to Michigan?”

 

Part 2 of Family in Cville: What’s ‘Fun’ in Undergrad vs. Grad School

My cousin April and her husband Jake drove from Metro Detroit to Charlottesville the weekend after my in-laws visited. This family weekend had a different twist: April, Jake, Michal and I went through undergrad together at Michigan State University, so Michal and I were excited for them to experience another sort of college town.

The infamous Foxfield horse races could not have been better timed. We each anticipated this event as if we were preparing for Halloween by scouring for outfits we’d never normally wear, classified as “country club prep.” It was a total cultural experience for us to transform our usual, casual T-shirt and jeans combos to pastels and floppy hats.

All photos are courtesy of my cousin April (except for the group photo on the top left that a friend's husband took on my phone).  My husband Michal and April's husband Jake had actually bought the same shirt. Michal found a new pink one to match my searsucker dress.

All photos are courtesy of April (except for the group shot on the top left that a friend’s husband took on my iphone). Fun fact #1: My husband Michal and April’s husband Jake actually bought the same shirt in different stores. Michal later found a pink shirt to match my searsucker dress!

While we embraced the wardrobe change, we were a bit more wary of the actual event as we heard it would be similar to all-day tailgating. In the end, we were grateful to experience the races from the more civilized grad student area tents where Darden and the Law School were side by side in front of the tracks. The backdrop was breathtaking in the sun, the food was classic Southern BBQ, the bartenders made drinks to our liking, the music started with a live band, there were no lines to the bathrooms, and the tables had fresh, floral centerpieces.

Needless to say, the atmosphere was a lot different on the undergrad side.

Again: All photos are courtesy of April. Fun Fact: Michal worked with Three Notch'd this school year as a member of the Community Consultants of Darden.

All photos are courtesy of April. Fun Fact #2: Michal worked with Three Notch’d this year as a part of the Community Consultants of Darden. Jake enjoyed the beer there so much that he bought a growler!

Michal and I also spent some time showing Jake and April the differences between undergrad nightlife at the dive bars on The Corner vs. the local breweries in the more upscale Downtown Mall area. Although it was fun to be outside at the picnic tables at The Biltmore on a warm night, we decided relaxing in lounge settings with board games and higher quality craft brews at Three Notch’d, Champion and South Street was overall more enjoyable. We’ve each definitely grown more discerning with two home-brewers, Michal and Jake, at our side.

Ultimately, what we discovered is that we still like to have good time just like in the glory days … but now we just have higher standards.

All photos courtesy of April. We managed to include a hike to Elliott Knob and a walk around Grounds. Fun Fact #3: We purposefully picked out one of the highest peaks in Virginia to tackle with April and Jake because they're so adventurous!

All photos courtesy of April. We managed to include a hike to Elliott Knob and a walk around Grounds. Fun Fact #3: We purposefully picked out one of the highest peaks in Virginia to tackle with April and Jake because they’re so adventurous! At the top, Michal and Jake started a fire right before the rain hit.

Part 1 of Family in Cville: Blending past with present

When Michal's parents visited, we had a lot to celebrate: the Easter holiday, Section B's back-to-back Darden Cup win and Michal's first time in a brewing competition.

When Michal’s parents visited last month, we had a lot to celebrate: the Easter holiday, Section B’s Darden Cup back-to-back win and Michal’s first time to enter his home brew in a competition.

With Polish and Filipino heritage, my husband Michal and I have religious and cultural traditions associated with Easter. However, with limited vacation days for me and the onslaught of final exams for Michal, we decided to spend yet another holiday away from home.

Thankfully, my in-laws made the approximately nine-hour drive from Metro Detroit to Charlottesville with maintaining tradition as the major motivation.

In addition to celebrating Easter Sunday with a Polish brunch of kielbasas, stuffed/fried eggs and pastries, we celebrated Section B’s back-to-back Darden Cup championship with a crab feast.  My in-laws and I also supported Michal in the first home-brewing competition sponsored by Darden’s Wine and Cuisine Club. It was the perfect blend of old and new, family and friends, as my in-laws attempted to understand our daily life with Darden, with a reminder of where we come from.

Remembering the Glory Days

This past weekend, Michal and I went from one college campus to another – University of Virginia in Charlottesville to our undergrad alma mater, Michigan State University in East Lansing, for the wedding of my cousin April and our friend, Jake.

Michal and I have been a part of several ceremonies at the same church in the downtown area and attended receptions in the same hotel on campus, including our own wedding, in the last three years because a majority of our friends met their significant others around the same time.  These weddings inevitably end up being like “the glory days” when we return to campus, celebrating and reminiscing in the place we called home for four years.

As the matron of honor, alongside my other cousin (April’s sister) Arra, we did the requisite toast that regales the audience of our past. I was nervous because I’m used to speaking in my classroom of no more than 30 high school students, not in front of almost 200 adults.

However, once I locked eyes with April and Jake, along with our mutual friends and family, I felt reassured with their engagement and smiles. Their loyalty and faith in me encouraged me to keep going, despite my anxiety. It was just another moment, among countless other ones from the weekend, that reminded me of what makes those undergrad days so “glorious.”

Below is our speech in its entirety. (Hopefully, a video will be up soon!)

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We got ready in our hotel room at the Kellogg Center and in the Bride’s Room of St. John Student Parish. April and Jake did an amazing job with all the beautiful details of the wedding!

MOH Speech for Toast at April and Jake’s Wedding

Agnes: For those of you who do not know me, I am Agnes, April’s older cousin and matron of honor…

Arra: And for those of you who have not met me, I am Arra, April’s younger sister and maid of honor.

Agnes: Since April and Arra moved to the U.S. about 20 years ago, the three of us have been inseparable…

Arra: Yet, oddly enough, each of us are very different.

Agnes: Our friendship is what many would say encapsulates the phrase “Opposites Attract.”

Arra: For example, I am more of the “shy girl type” (look at April for inside joke) but I have a passion for culinary school, while April has made “interesting” decisions in the kitchen like putting ranch dressing in Ramen soup …

Agnes: And, while I was the nerdy newspaper kid in high school, April was the athletic, outspoken cheerleader and cross country runner who would encourage Arra and me to work out on lazy Sundays and to count our calories.

Arra: However, to go along with the phrase “Opposites Attract,” another phrase that would best describe our unique friendship is how “You fill our weaknesses with your strengths.” (Look at April.)

Agnes: April always manages to have the most energy and enthusiasm – like when it would be 5:30 in the morning during one of our infamous slumber parties, and she would still want us to stay up, talking about boys, or continue our marathon of “Dawson’s Creek” episodes.

Arra: And April also has an innate friendly nature, with the ability to get anyone out of their shell. Agnes and I can truly say we have become more outgoing and daring because of her, and she has helped us become more proud of the unique individuals that we are because of her constant affirmation.

Agnes: And we see this same type of balance and support in the relationship she has with Jake.

Arra: And that’s how we know they work well together.

Agnes: For instance, Jake’s definitely a better cook than her. He will make them a hearty, meaty meal – like the pizza that could barely fit into the oven at my husband’s apartment in college because Jake had to put so many assorted meat toppings on it.

Arra: But April is always willing to do her part – with taking care of the dishes, of course.

Agnes: While, April is definitely more of the intense athlete in the relationship. For instance, she continued to run after high school in marathons, 5Ks and other races, with most recently completing the Warrior Run this summer.

Arra: Jake has tried running with her, but that effort quickly ended after he was done impressing her in the beginning of their relationship. He instead emotionally supports her athletic pursuits – like how he drove her to Flint for the Warrior Run, took photos of her trudging through mud and crawling under barbed wire, and cheered her on to the end.

Agnes: Jake and April are opposites in many ways, but alike in what’s most important.

Arra: They met because of their common faith. And anyone who knows them will say they are perpetually positive, friendly and loyal people.

Agnes: Although as individuals, they have distinct personalities, desires and interests, when they are together, they are even stronger than they are individually.

Arra: So, at this point, let’s raise a glass to toast the couple who has inspired us many ways… To Mr. and Mrs. Karl!