Dubai Trip!

Hai.

I’ve been taking a little break from blogging. Between work and personal life, I haven’t had much time to update. But I’m back!

Lately I’ve been really counting my blessings. I’m so grateful for the things I have in life – my family, my job, and instances where I can take an overseas vacation. My mom came up with the idea of going to Dubai, and I couldn’t say no. We packed our bags, and went to Dubai for 5 full days, with 2 days of traveling.

To simply describe Dubai – extravagance (at least in the modern areas of Dubai). Everything is grand, large, and beautiful. This city is continually being built as construction was everywhere. In 5 years, this city will be a different kind of beast.

If you’re thinking about going – definitely check it out. You don’t need more than a week in Dubai for tourist attractions. To be totally honest, I don’t necessarily think that Dubai should be a trip on it’s own, but it would be a fun pitstop if you’re on your way to Europe or Asia.

Here are some of the things we did on our trip. Feel free to use this list for your own vacation!

  • Shopping! The Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall are some of the world’s largest shopping malls
  • Ski Dubai (this was my favorite activity)
  • Burj Khalifa – Tallest building in the world
  • Visited the public beach near the Burj al Arab
  • Walked the Souks (this is the marketplace) for gold, spices, and tourist goods
  • Private boat tour
  • Camel riding!
  • Cruised in the sand dunes
  • Visited the Jumeirah Mosque
  • Went to the Palm Islands to walk around the Atlantis hotel
  • Hired a private driver to take us to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Incase I didn’t sell it enough, here are pictures to prove that this trip was amazing!

First off, this was the view from our apartment on the 43rd floor. Every morning we would wake up to the Burj Khalifa. Isn’t that awesome? We stayed in Downtown Dubai, right across from the Dubai mall. Is it recommended to stay here? Absolutely. It’s the center of town.

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Inside the Dubai mall, you’ll find an ice rink, an indoor theme park (it’s an arcade and there are also rides!), and an aquarium. Right outside, there is a fountain show that occurs daily, every 30 minutes in the evening.

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In the Mall of Emirates, you’ll find Ski Dubai! I’m not a snow activity type of person; I don’t know how to ski/snowboard. But I know basics for skiing, and Ski Dubai was perfect for me! It’s basically 1 slope which bends in the middle, and it has 2 levels of steepness. For about $50 USD, you can ski/board for 2 hours and the cost includes equipment and gear. We knew about this indoor ski arena but never thought to go, until we found out the cost. We can’t even ski in Tahoe for that amount! The snow is beautiful and perfectly groomed. It’s cold but consistent. And really fun to look up to see ceiling and lights. What a great experience!

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My second favorite activity was the Burj Khalifa. The elevators will take you up to the 124 floor in 90 seconds. MG, my dad, and I all decided to go to the very top (because when are we ever going to do this again?); the very top is 148 and employees provide refreshments and snacks. We went in the evening, saw the day-view, saw the sunset, and then was able to capture the night-view as well.

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MG and I also took an afternoon to enjoy the beach. The waters are crystal clear, and the sand is made with a million seashells scattered across the sand. One word, gorgeous.

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One of the mornings, we visited the local mosque to experience the culture. We also walked the marketplace to do some local shopping too. Spices, fabrics, and gold oh my! Lots and lots of gold…

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After walking around all day, we were tired and found a private boat to take us around for an hour so we could relax. For about $6 a person, this was totally worth it. However, you can easily get across the water on water taxis for $0.36 a person!

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Some of the desert things that we did – camel riding. This was a lot of fun! I can now say I’ve been on an elephant in Bali, and now a camel in Dubai! We also rode a Land Cruiser and went off-roading in the desert. What’s amazing is the background. The view is miles and miles of desert. My parents really enjoyed this part of the trip.

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On the very last full day of our trip, we were able to hire a private driver to take us to Abu Dhabi for a day trip (only $45 per person). It’s about a 1.5 hour long drive between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The most awe-inspiring part of the trip was the Mosque. It’s so grand and every detail is beautiful.

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^^^ And yes, we had to wear hijabs into the Mosque and dress appropriately to enter (women had to cover up their shoulders and dress to cover up to their ankles/men must wear shorts below the knee).

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^^^ This is the world’s second largest chandelier, made with Swarovski crystals.

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^^^ See how there’s a man’s forehead next to my mom? The security was coming over to let us know to stand further apart. Displays of affection are frowned upon in a religious environment. Whoops!

And then the city line near the water in Abu Dhabi is breathtaking! I love water, and can’t ever get my toes quick enough into the sand.

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Just some funny tidbits:

You know how in the US, you take a road trip and you see cows alongside the road? Here you see camels! Haha! Can you spot them?

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This was also my first time smoking with my dad. Everyone does shisha there!

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If you have to ask me about a downside of Dubai, I would say the food. There is no local food there. Dubai is a city of mixed nationalities. They flourish on having a bit of culture from everywhere. In that aspect, we were only able to eat Indian, Lebanese, and Syrian food. All very delicious, but I was hoping for something more “local.”

But my all time favorite thing about this trip – experiencing the difference in culture. Most of the city is of Muslim culture; prayer calls happen 5 times a day, and you can hear the reminder to pray throughout the city. Women are conservative, while men are more prominent. Men can have up to 4 wives, and for every wife you receive an apartment and 50,000 Dirhams. With government supporting their locals, we didn’t come across any crime or homelessness. It was a major culture shock! These kinds of things always prove to me that other countries in fact do live differently, and it’s always nice to be placed into a new environment and learn.

I’ve been so lucky to travel to many countries this year; First our Europe to trip, to Rome, Florence, and Venice, then Barcelona, Dublin, Paris, and London. Then we went to Asia to visit Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Hong Kong. And now the UAE. I am ever so grateful to have the life I live now.

Count your blessings every day. What are you thankful for today?

Bai!
Jay

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Simple Strawberry Crumble Pie

It’s the Friday before Good Friday! Are you prepping for Easter yet?

In my household, we’re not big on Easter candy or baskets. If we’re going to use up calories on candy, let’s go ahead and go all out with dessert. Cookies. Cake. Pie. Now I’m down for that!

After dinner, I was craving something sweet but like I said, no candy. I just want dessert. I looked around my pantry and fridge to see what was going bad. I came across these things – super ripe strawberries, almost expiring heavy whipping cream, and graham crackers from when we went camping. Hmmm, I like the combination of ingredients.

This resulted in a simple strawberry crumble pie! It takes 20 minutes to make and 1 hour to freeze and will result in an ear-to-ear smile!

Title

Simple Strawberry Crumble Pie
8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pack of strawberries, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • Whip cream (Can be purchased, but I make my own whip cream by simply whisking heavy cream until it forms peaks)
  • 1.5 cups finely ground graham crackers
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • Brown sugar

Directions:

1. Combine the lemon juice, sugar, and sliced strawberries. Place into the fridge while you work on the other ingredients. This helps soften the strawberries and adds sweetness.
2. Combine the melted butter with the graham crackers. Press 1 cup of the graham cracker mixture onto the bottom of a baking pan. Put the other half cup into another baking pan, spread evenly, as this will be used to top the pie. Bake at 375° F for 7 minutes. Then let it cool.
3. Spread whip cream onto the graham cracker crust, then layer on the sliced strawberries. Finally, sprinkle on the remaining graham cracker crumbles. To top it off, sprinkle a bit of brown sugar.
4. Freeze for 1 hour before serving.

Macerating
Macerate the fruit so that it’s juicy and sweet

Layering
Layering on the goods

Top
^^^ This is half the recipe

Cut
Yum!

Done

It may not be the prettiest slice of pie, but it sure is delicious! It’s a nice treat for a warm day. Or a nice treat when all you want is dessert!

Is this something you can recreate? What are some good strawberry dessert recipes you love?

Have a great weekend!
Jay

  

Jay’s Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe

If you could only choose one ice cream flavor for the rest of your life, what would it be? Mine… easy, vanilla. You can’t get sick of the flavor, and it can always be paired with something else (cookies, brownies, cake, pie, coffee).

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Even Chubaloo wanted something sweet!

I bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker this past summer and have been making my own ice cream since then. I’ve made an assortment of flavors including strawberry, avocado, coffee, and vanilla. Making your own ice cream is a little pricer than purchasing ice cream from the store since you’re using raw ingredients. Also, the ice cream cannot last you months in the freezer, like store bought. But homemade ice cream tastes so delicious and creamy. It’s also bit healthier too since there are no artificial additives or preservatives. Plus it’s fun to make up your own recipes!

I’ve been trying to perfect my vanilla recipe so that it’s not too sweet but extra vanilla-y. After batches of batches of vanilla ice cream (too much ice cream? darn. first world problem), I’ve finally accomplished it! Time to bust out that homemade vanilla extract again.

ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of whole milk
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream

Directions:

1. Beat eggs until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).
2. Add sugar and mix well.
3. Combine vanilla and mix.
4. Add the whole milk, then add the heavy whipping cream. Mix it all together.
5. Pour mixture into your ice cream maker. Follow your ice cream maker’s instructions (I simply turn on the machine and leave it churning for 20 minutes, then put the ice cream in the freezer for a few hours).

So simple!

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Do you have an ice cream machine at home? What kind of flavors do you make?

Pie a la mode

With pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and all kinds of other sweet treats, ice cream is a must!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Jay

  

Yummy Fruit Tart Recipe

Fruit tarts are like little delicate bites of goodness – flakey, sweet, creamy. Yum! No only are they tasty, but also eye candy, so pretty!

Delicious

My sister shared with me this amazing recipe and now it’s your turn to try it out. Typically I make one large fruit tart, but it can’t be easily served. If you have an amateur server, you sometimes get cheated of custard or fruit. I’m sure you know what I mean. You saw that strawberry fall off your piece but then it was served to the next person or worse, your server ate it! And you could have sworn that part of that custard was yours because you can see straight to the pie crust on your plate… The frustration. I get it!

Big tart
A big one is so pretty though!

For this recipe, I made mini fruit tarts because its easier for large parties (especially with Thanksgiving coming up). More importantly, you feel like you had your fair share, all the custard and all the fruits!

By the way, remember that homemade vanilla extract post? It’s time to use it!

Ingredients for vanilla custard:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, divided
  • 4 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1.5 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Directions:

1. Combine milk and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until it’s simmering.
2. Whisk egg yolks and the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in a separate bowl. Then add cornstarch and mix until pale yellow and thick.
3. Slowly add milk into the yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Return to medium heat until mix is thickened.
4. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla extract.
5. Place custard into a bowl and cover the custard with plastic wrap, making sure that the wrap touches the top of the cream so skin does not form. Refrigerate until cold throughout (can last up to 2 days).

As the custard is cooling, work on the crust!

Directions for the pie crust: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar (aka powdered sugar), 1.5 cups of flour, 3/4 cup of unsalted butter (softened and sliced). Knead until the dough feels tacky. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Spray the muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray. Roll out dough, and flatten it  across each cup of the muffin pan (keep in mind that this recipe is for mini tarts). Bake for 10-12 minutes until light brown. Pop each pie crust out and cool on a rack.

mini piesI flattened each cup with my finger tips

crustTake a butter knife and pop each of these tarts out, one by one

Now put everything together! Scoop custard into the little pie crusts. Decorate with fruits. I also glaze the tops of the tarts with apricot jam (simply microwave the jam until it’s spreadable, let it cool, then brush it onto the tops of the tarts). Glazing is totally optional.

Fruit
Don’t use fruits that brown (fresh apples, fresh pears, fresh peaches, and bananas)

Glazed
Glazed. Told you, eye candy.

YumEnjoy!

What’s your favorite dessert? Are fruit tarts on the top of the list? If you’re making this, who will you be making it for?

I love little delicate bites of goodness,
Jay

  

Halloween Potluck 2013

Halloween is now over… boo (pun intended, har).

If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know that I mentioned that the Lams were hosting a Halloween Potluck here. Here’s a recap of the fun food we had during dinner!

Post-Halloween 2013

Potluck

Ectoplasm Pasta
Ectoplasm Pasta – Pesto/Alfredo wheat pasta, thanks Jon!

Mac and Cheese
Onion Mac & Cheese with finger meats

Monster Balls
Monster balls (brussels sprouts recipe here)!

Mashed Brain Potatoes
Mashed potatoes were dyed and then piped into a brain

Ribs
Yum!

Mummy dogs
These little guys are so cute. Great job Jess!

Peppers
So talented, Dave!

And then there’s dessert:

Guts Jam
It’s my strawberry chia jam recipe!

Scream Cheese Brownies
Cheesecake brownies! Recipe to come soon. These are so pretty for the Fall

Eyeballs on a stick
Of course, red velvet cake pops!

Hope everyone had a great Halloween.

With love,
The Lam Minons

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One more thing: It’s the first day of November. How is it that we only have 2 more months until 2014? Only 2 months!