Gina Chong

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This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #FreeandCleanLiving #CollectiveBias



Say hello to Hana and Kuku again! I love featuring them on the blog because all of my fellow cat-lovers come out of the woodworks and share their own cat stories with me, it's the best. Did you know that my kitties were adopted in Texas? We lived there for a year and a half and that's where we met our cats. Just last week we started a road trip from California to our new home in Oklahoma, and got in two days ago. So my kittens are back to their Southwestern roots for a little while and they don't hate it. But of course, they're just happy to not be in the car >.< . If anyone has road trip tips for cats please let me know. We have no clue how to make car trips easier for them, but we sure know how to spoil them before and after. Before embarking on our trip we stopped by Target to take advantage of their Buy One - Get One 50% Off cat litter deal, wanting to try the New Purina® TIDY CATS® Free and Clean Unscented Clumping Litter which is 99.9% dust free (!!). But you know how Target trips go - we ended up walking out with more than we came for, deciding to pick up a handful of other new products to spoil our kitties with over this trip. Target always has interesting items that you can't find anywhere else, and their cat section did not disappoint. We're real excited about all of our new finds, so I'm sharing Hana and Kuku's experiences with all the new products below, check out their reviews! Tell me if you've tried any of these with your own cats or which ones interest you the most!



We found a yucky fur ball on the rug not long before starting our road trip, and it made us realize that we were not doing a good job of grooming them. So we perused the brushes at Target and decided to try out their most expensive one. It was inside of a security lock so we had to ask an employee to unlock it for us, and it was $25, so we were extremely curious whether it was that much better than the cheaper brushes or not. Well, I totally think it is. The cats never actually enjoyed us brushing them before, they would run away or try to bite the brush, but they kind of enjoy this one and it does an amazing job of pulling out all of their shedded fur. Two thumbs up from our 6-toed Kuku.


Our Kuku looooves kitty treats so we made sure to stock up on those. If anything can make him feel comfortable in his new surroundings it is comfort food. We've tried all kinds of different treats, including new ones that look like beef jerky sticks, but he prefers the ones that are crunchy with soft centers. Does your cat have a favorite?



Our cats have famously not taken to new toys, always preferring strings and ribbons, so I didn't have high hopes for this stick with a shuttlecock-looking thing attached to it. But they are obsessed with it! Both of them perk up and chase it everywhere when I pull it out. Kudos to Target on their cat toys. 


So here is what we originally went to Target to buy: cat litter. I always get the Purina Tidy Cats 20 LB jugs because they have those nice handles that are so easy to carry, refill, etc. They have a new one with charcoal in it called TIDY CATS Free and Clean. It has no added fragrances or dyes and is unscented, with the charcoal doing the odor control work. The best part for me is that it is 99.9% dust free! We honestly hate the dust that comes from most litters. Hana and Kuku say it's a real steal, especially if you can get the BOGO 50% off deal at Target like I did. 


Of course we picked up a few new wet cat foods as well. Target has a great collection of new, healthy foods. Kuku is the treat-eater in our family, but Hana is a lover of wet food. She eats and eats and eats, and meows for more. She has been happy with every single grain-free food cup we picked up for her and hasn't voiced any favorites. Do you have a favorite for your cats?


Overall the cats are real excited about all of their new spoils. The only thing they were picky about was their cat treats. Hana especially gets pretty motion sick on car rides, and Kuku is skittish in general, so they're happy to be settled down in their new home with lots of new toys, foods, and litter. Make sure you check out Target to find this new TIDY CATS Free & Clean litter, it's a big recommend from us. You can get it in both the traditional clumping litter (what I got) or the lightweight version. And find more cat-lovers and cat inspo HERE.


This shop/post has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #ItsAMatch #DietCoke #CollectiveBias


Is anyone else legitimately sad that the Olympics are over?? I had such a blast following the games every day, it was like a roller coaster of emotions feeling a little bit of what each athlete goes through. If I absolutely had to choose a favorite moment it would have to be seeing Shaun White in tears over his gold medal, and later him tearing up again watching fans' reactions to his monster run. So awesome. Earlier this month I was super lucky to be able to attend the Team USA Olympics viewing party in Park City. It was a weekend event held by Team USA for a big group of their official sponsors like Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola made sure to have plenty of their beverages available throughout the weekend, so we got to try some of Diet Coke®'s yummy new flavors. They're the ones in the tall, sleek new cans and the flavors they're offering are: Diet Coke® Classic, Diet Coke® Feisty Cherry, Diet Coke® Ginger Lime, Diet Coke® Zesty Blood Orange, and Diet Coke® Twisted Mango. Our pantry is always stocked with the classic Diet Cokes, so it's real fun having some new flavors to mix things up, we love them! Any other Diet Coke loyalists out there?? I love that it's getting a facelift while maintaining the same taste. Today I'm pairing up the wild Diet Coke Twisted Mango with a new recipe of mine for coconut crusted chicken. I put together this meal for a Sunday night dinner with the rents and loved how it turned out, the Diet Coke Twisted Mango is a perfect pair for this recipe.

Check out my recipe below and find these new flavors at Smith's. They have them in 8-packs, but if you start with the single cans then you can try all of the flavors! Have you tried these yet? Which ones are your favorites? If you take this fun quiz HERE then you can find out which new flavor is your match as well as more pairing recipes!






Coconut Crusted Chicken Fingers
Serves 5-6
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 lbs. chicken tenders, sliced to half thinness
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • sweet Thai chili sauce for dipping

Directions:

In a large bowl whisk together the buttermilk, salt and pepper. Place chicken tenders in the buttermilk mixture and set aside in fridge for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F and line two pans with aluminum foil.

To prepare the dredge, place the flour in a shallow bowl, in a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, and in a medium bowl combine the panko and coconut. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour, then the egg, then the coconut mixture, and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the center of the chicken reaches 165F. Turn your oven to low broil and place each pan on the highest rack for 2-3 minutes. Keep a close eye on them until they reach your desired brownness before removing from oven. Serve warm with sweet Thai chili sauce.



If you don't follow my Instagram then let me recount the story of these cupcakes. So they totally weren't for anything specific, I just wanted to make a Valentine's Day inspired treat and I also wanted to learn to pipe buttercream flowers. I took a class on Craftsy and bada-bing-bada-boom, they weren't the best roses but they were better than I expected! I learned some great tips from that class, I'll share them below! I put a lot of care and effort into my first ever buttercream roses and was quite proud of them. As I set up to take a photo, though, guess what happens?? My reflector comes crashing down right onto my cupcakes *crying emoji*. So I have zero photos of my unscarred cupcakes and nothing to show for all that work. I literally would have cried if my mom hadn't been in the room. Fortunately the one I'm holding in my hand was seemingly unscathed so I decided to continue my photos and tried to focus on that cupcake and bokeh all the rest. Looking at my flatlays you can see where all the other ones are smudged or flattened. They were the survivors. So these photos are not ideal, these cupcakes are not ideal, but the recipe is worthy of sharing. I stuffed as many raspberries as I could into these and I love how they turned out. I actually keep rosewater on hand for some odd reason, but because I've been a nomad for the past year I didn't have my normal kitchen supplies and my store didn't carry rosewater. So my substitute: rose tea! It worked quite well, but it's such a subtle flavor that you can honestly scratch it altogether (no need for a liquid substitute).

More tips: I learned from my Craftsy class that adding browns and yellows to pinks really help make them look more natural, and it's true! And one thing I forgot to pick up at Michael's was a flower lifter. I used chopsticks instead and oh how I wish I had some flower lifters!




Raspberry Rose Cupcakes
Makes about 30 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
  • 2-3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup rose tea
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 bag (12 oz.) frozen raspberries, slightly thawed
Frosting:
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup egg whites (or from 4 large eggs)
  • 3 sticks + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • gel food coloring (opt.)

Directions:

For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each addition. Then add the rose tea. Reduce speed to low and add the flour in three batches, alternating with the milk. Mix until just combined. Fold in the raspberries. 

Fill your cupcake liners until nearly full. Bake for about 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let sit in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

For the frosting:
Fill a small saucepan with about an inch and a half of water. Bring it to simmering. In a heat-proof bowl, combine your egg whites and sugar and set on top of your simmering pot. Whisk continually until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture has reached 160F. Remove from heat and pour into a clean stand mixer bowl, careful not to let any of the condensation into your egg whites. Using a clean whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks. Add the vanilla and continue to beat. Then while still beating, add the butter half a stick at a time. Whip until it comes together, and add food coloring as desired. Pipe onto your cooled cupcakes.


Cupcake recipe adapted from HERE. Frosting recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.




Usually these posts are meant for reflecting on the past year, learning from mistakes, remembering precious moments, and planning for an even better new year. My 2017 was a difficult one-the worst really-and one that I hoped to bury and forget. But hindsight is a funny thing, and looking back now I can notice and appreciate that in my darkest moments there were slivers of sunshine. I'm closer to my family than I have been in several years, and have received so much support from them, as well as from my parents-in-law, brother-in-law and many sweet friends. I've read in my finance books that it's ideal to have several sources of income so that you're never dependent on just one. I'm grateful that I have many sources of support and love in my life so that I haven't had to stake my happiness on just one.

This blog has been a great source of happiness for me, and I've met so many awesome people through it. Many thanks to all of you for giving me a platform to share my creations and have an extra source of income <3 I was asked what my New Year's Resolutions were the other day but I hadn't made any yet. It's usually my favorite thing to do, but this year I just have some simple, loose goals and hopes: 1) create some sustainable healthy eating habits, 2) create a business, whatever it is, and 3) be happy. What are your goals, hopes and dreams for the new year?? I would love to hear them.

Below I'm sharing my annual tradition: my most popular recipes of 2017 as well as my personal favorites. I combined Instagram and blog engagement and these are the winners, check them out! You can find the best recipes of past years under my Recipes tab, and PS I don't have a recipe for the bear cookies but they are just a gingerbread cookie recipe I found online, and I linked to my recipe for the lemon royal icing I used on top (decorating tips included). Happy New Year!!


Most Popular Recipes of 2017:
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5
6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10

My Favorite Recipes of 2017:
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5
6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10


This shop/post has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #ServeWithACoke #BowlGames #CollectiveBias

I'm pretty proud of these little guys. They turned out just as delicious as I dreamed them to be, and washed down so nicely with my Coca-Cola™ Zero Sugar. Now that the Christmas frenzy is over, I'm so happy to have a smaller to-do list and more time to kick back with good food and drink and the game on. Football season is upon us, so today I'm sharing my first game day recipe!

My fam bam came into town a few days before Christmas, and to give my mama a break from cooking I volunteered to fill everyone's bellies. While they all had a game playing, I was in the kitchen frying up these crispy chicken sandwiches, and set them out along with bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. I felt like I had reached umami with this meal. The salty chicken on the sweet rolls, offset by the refreshing apple coleslaw and a Coca-Cola to wash it all down made me quite proud of myself. Today my pops went searching for and finished off the last leftover slider, so I know I did good.

What are your must-haves for game day get-together's? For us it's literally two things: meat and Coca-Cola. Those are the two things my hubby can't live without, and two things that go together quite well, so they are necessities for us. Bit sad that hubs couldn't partake of this meal, but I sent him photos and he made me promise to recreate it all for him when he returns from deployment. He should be home just in time for the big game!

What are your guys' favorite Coke pairings? Do you have your own must-haves for tailgating parties? You can find some pretty mouth-watering inspo HERE, and share your own with #ServeWithACoke.






Crispy Chicken Sliders with Apple Coleslaw
Makes around 24 sliders
  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to about 2.5-inch pieces
  • 24 sweet rolls
  • apple coleslaw (recipe below)
Chicken Brine:
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Chicken Coating:
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1-2 cups buttermilk
  • canola oil, for frying
Directions:

Pour 1/2 quart of the water into a large pot. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer on your stove, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, then add the rest of the cold water and give it another quick stir. Place your chicken into the brine and let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours. 

Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse off the pieces so that there are no stray peppercorns or large herbs sticking to them, and pat dry. Let them warm to room temperature while you prep the coating and oil.

For the coating, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and kosher salt. Divide into two shallow bowls or containers. Pour your buttermilk into another shallow bowl. Prep a heavy-bottomed pot to fry in by fitting it with a thermometer and filling with about 2 inches of canola oil. Place over medium heat and bring to 320F. Prep a baking sheet with paper towels, then place a cooling rack over the baking sheet. This will keep your chicken crisp, while letting the oil drip off to the paper towels below. 

When your oil is ready, fry the chicken by first dipping it in the coating, then dipping in the buttermilk, then dip in the coating again, and gently lower into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pot, and try to keep the temperature as consistent as possible. Fry for about 8 minutes until the outside is very brown and crispy, using tongs to flip if needed. When done, remove to your cooling rack. Let the oil return to 320F before frying your next batch of chicken. You can check to make sure your chicken is done by testing with a meat thermometer to see that the inside is 165F. Repeat until done.

To assemble the sliders: use a serrated knife to slice your rolls in half, then spoon a generous amount of coleslaw onto the bottom, top with a piece of fried chicken and your roll top, and secure with a pick. Enjoy!

Apple Coleslaw
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package coleslaw mix
  • 1 Fuji apple, cored and julienned

Directions:

Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. In a large serving bowl, add the coleslaw mix and mix well with the sauce. Gently add in the apple, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chicken recipe adapted from my favorite Thomas Keller's recipe. Coleslaw sauce adapted from HERE.



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