FF 05: tips for the struggling [college] student


Yesterday, I participated as a Schwartz Rounds (“caring for the caregiver”) panelist speaker about mental health in nursing.

The audience was my current and new nursing cohort. Although my presentation was catered to nursing students, I feel the content should be shared with ALL college students who are struggling during this horrid time of quarantine! There’s a lot of emphasis on the physical changes of our education system (i.e., moving out of dorms, no wifi, etc.), but what about checking in on students to see how they’re doing emotionally??

So this is me, checking in on you.

This is for the college students who got thrown under the bus when COVID arrived. We were so close to finishing the semester, (some of us almost graduating), and in the blink of an eye: a shit ton of last-minute changes and virtual learning became the norm. *insert sigh* 😪

I’m not here to give you study tips, but I’m here to give you a mental break. If we don’t take care of our mental health now, soon enough all physical things in our life will spiral out of control. And I don’t want anyone to take a ‘W’ this semester or fail!!!

Please note: some tips may overlap from last week’s article, but I wanted this week to be more focused on the college student.

#mentalhealthmatters #normalizetherapy #selfcarereexplained

*this infogram was created by me, but I do not own these images*


  • “Lack of productivity” = non-existent. This is not a race or competition to see who can complete the most things in a day.
  • Give yourself permission to take this time to cope.
  • Accepting the pandemic > laziness
  • You are NOT lazy. You are trying to make sense of all this craziness in the world and that’s OKAY.
  • thE nEw nOrmAL = (lack of toilet paper, sanitizing literally everything, virtual parties, and zoom lectures)


  • Everyone works at a different pace
  • Everyone has unique studying approaches
  • You WILL become a (insert career field here) without straight As.
  • The reason I say this is because I’m a walking example of this! Which means… I’m not jus talking out of my ass, it CAN be done.
  • I have never had straight As in my life, like ever. AND I got into nursing school without it! Please don’t beat yourself up too hard. You’re trying your best and putting in all of your efforts. I know this world turns everything into a competition and we just can’t help it sometimes 😥
  • Ask yourself this: are the people you surround yourself with contributing to your mental health? are they lifting you up or putting you down??


  • It’s that simple.
  • Use the mute button, click unfollow, or block whoever makes you feel uncomfortable or inferior. Life is too short for BS.
  • I made the personal decision to mute people who constantly post about COVID statistics (I don’t need to be reminded of this tragedy during every waking moment). And I don’t follow any celebrities on Instagram (they have access to plastic surgery and I don’t).
See this image I found on FB? I don’t need this type of negativity…. INSTANTLY BLOCKED!


SELF CARE RE-EXPLAINED. Self-care is what ever you define it as. It’s anything that makes you feel instant relief from all of life’s stressors.

  • hobbies: (baking, xbox, animal crossing, exercise, napping)
  • me-time: (bubble baths, meditation, happy hour, journaling)
  • basic needs: (Netflix, showering, eating, going to Target)


  • You need emotional support throughout school. PERIODTTT.
  • I’ve learned the physical acts such as studying and reading is not as difficult as the emotional toll it takes on my body. You need someone who you can talk to about these things. Don’t bottle things up.
  • It’s okay to open up about your insecurities in regard to (insert career field here).

Please keep your head up during these strange times! I’m here if anyone wants to talk or needs a hand with anything.

Love and blessings! @tbh_xtina ❤️

japanese fluffy cheesecake [bites]


I have to admit… I didn’t come up with this recipe all on my own, hehe. I saw a Tasty Japan video on Facebook and used it for reference. By posting this article, I tried to simplify the directions because their website is entirely in Japanese and the video goes SUUUPER fast, (so I hope this helps!) I even added my own twist to this dessert by making my own fresh whipped cream with a tint of caramel and let me tell you…

It’s the perfect amount of sweetness with all that fluffy goodness.

So what makes this different than American cheesecake? It kind of looks like jello because it’s jiggly. The texture is more airy than dense like a regular cheesecake. Before this I never had Japanese cheesecake, but I’m definitely a huge fan now!!

The key to making this correctly is the meringue. This is when egg whites are mixed with sugar and it becomes this stiff, yet fluffy consistency. Reference my photos!

I knew this was going to be a challenge, so it definitely takes time and patience! P.S. I used a food scale to weigh out the ingredients because I didn’t know how to convert them :/ As always, the outcome is ALWAYS WORTH IT 💕


Ingredients for the cheesecake:

  • 1 egg
  • 30g sugar
  • Cream cheese (room temperature) 100g
  • 50 ml fresh cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 6 tart crusts
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
from left to right: cream cheese, fresh cream, 1 bowl of 15 g sugar, bowl with egg yolk + 15 g sugar, egg white.
$2.99 at Safeway/Vons


(1): Crack the egg, but separate the yolk and the egg whites into 2 separate bowls.

Take the bowl with the egg whites. Begin whisking using a hand mixer. Take 15 grams of sugar (half of what you measured) and pour it slowly into the bowl. The goal is to get STIFF PEAKS. This means when you lift the whisk, it stands up (like pointy nipples). This is called the meringue.

Tip: The easiest way to mix effectively is to use small mixing bowls. See my photo. If you use a large mixing bowl, it’s going to be extremely difficult to to whisk.

(2): Put cream cheese and the other half of the sugar you have (15 grams) in a separate bowl. Add the egg yolk, fresh cream and lemon juice. Mix well with hand mixer.

(3): Put the meringue into the cream cheese mix. Using a rubber spatula, FOLD the mixture together. Click this link to see my video or you can always reference the Tasty video.

(4): Before pouring the batter into each tart crust, I melted some butter and brushed it onto the bottom of each tart. THEN I poured the batter in– I just think cheesecake tastes better with a buttery crust.

Use a brush to paint egg yolk on the top.

(5): Bake at 380° F for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is up, the tarts will look like muffins, but don’t worry! Once cooled, they flatten down. Adding the yolk to the top before baking gives it the pretty brown color 🙂

Here’s the Tasty video that I used for reference:

If you’re interested in making a caramel whipped cream… read on! This is my own creation 😍

Directions for the fresh caramel whipped cream:

(1): Pour 1 cup of fresh whipping cream into small mixing bowl.

(2): Add 1.5 tbsp white sugar. Use a hand mixer and whisk for about 2 minutes. It will start to thicken. Once you see it thickening, add 2 tbsp of caramel sauce and continue mixing for 30 more seconds.

beginning to thicken, so add caramel sauce here.
final product will look thick and fluffy like this!

(3): Use a piping bag (for cupcakes) and a cupcake decorating tip (I’m using Wilton 1M) to decorate the tops of the tarts.

(4): Drizzle some more caramel sauce on top of the whipped cream.

with love and blessings! @tbh_xtina

FF 04: 5 things quarantine has taught me


quarantine week 4, day 5.

I heard that LA is extending the “stay at home” order to 05/15! ~


I always thought I had this in the bag honestly… but apparently quarantine has taught me that I’m no where near. I defintely need more practice with this. I spent the last few weeks of March beating myself up about how non productive I’ve been in terms of school, work, and life. Then I realized this “lack of productivity” has nothing to do with me, but has everything to do with my surroundings and what’s going on in the world. I needed time to adjust and to cope with these new changes. Being forced to stay home is WAY harder than it seems and I’m sure there’s some people out there who can agree with me.

Our new normal has become face masks and virtual parties, just so that we can still drink with our friends and feel connected with one another. Confined to the walls of our homes, there really isn’t much for us to do besides WFH and eating. If you have’t tuned in to Insomniac, I highly recommend it! These live streams have been keeping me SANE. Turn off the lights, blast your favorite songs and hey, bottoms up.


Since I have a “forever roommate,” I didn’t think this would change anything, but boy was I wrong. Think about it– you used to live separate lives during the day and reconvene with each other in the evening. But now, we no longer have that luxury.

| It doesn’t matter how much you love that person, personal space is ALWAYS needed and MUST be respected. |

Whether you live with family or your significant other, they need space for themselves. Especially during a time where we are ordered to stay at home, space now feels extra limited.

I’ll give you an example of my life. My bf and I have our own offices. I spend most of my day in my creative corner in my bedroom where all my cute stationary is laid out and this is where I journal, blog, and do my homework. In contrast, he has the space in the living room where he WFH, listens to music and plays video games. Do I need to spend every waking moment with him? I used to think the answer to that was YES… until quarantine happened. Let’s be real here, he definitely does not want me out there bothering him when he’s on Xbox. So I appreciate and value the alone time I get in my room. There’s nothing wrong with some ME-time!

For those who live alone, I can only speak to what I’ve heard from my friends but we also need to allow space for those people who aren’t physically with us. Everyone copes and adjusts differently, so it’s something that we should be mindful of, especially if we’re sending 1000 texts a day, in addition to 5 zoom meetings.


It’s that simple. I honestly don’t think it’s healthy for someone to spend 80% of their day reading the news to learn the day’s new death rate…. like why?? We should be focusing on the positive and thinking of new ways to support one another. If someone keeps broadcasting COVID things on their stories, mute them. If your mom keeps sending you COVID articles, tell her to stop. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR CUTTING OFF THINGS THAT DO NOT BENEFIT YOU.

phew… let me just block out this negativity real quick.


Specifically my grandparents. They are immigrants from Laos so they don’t exactly know the best practice for hand hygiene and the purpose of social distancing. For all we know, their source of information is probably from their friend who heard it from another friend. You don’t have to be in the medical field to understand common language that’s in the news, which is why I’ve learned that taking the time to relay current CDC recommendations about how they can protect themselves is the key. The little things that are often overlooked are usually the things that our grandparents and past generation family members don’t completely understand. And since the elderly are at high risk for contracting the virus, make sure you educate them!


When I mention self care I hope you guys don’t think I’m referring to face masks and bubble baths that will make all of my problems go away. I’m talking about doing things that make you happy , things that you enjoy and it helps you forget about life’s problems for a little while. It is imperative you take care of yourself. This is the perfect time to try out that new hobby, practice a new skill, catch up on that TV show. There is seriously no wrong way to do this, but I can’t stress enough how vital it is to do ONE thing for yourself each day.

I know this stay at home order is driving everyone nuts (or maybe it’s just me), but remember we are not stuck at home. We are SAFE at home.

Love and blessings! @tbh_xtina

Chinese Inspired Salt & Peppered Calamari


Made this on a whim on Friday night because I was running out of dinner ideas…. then I looked in the freezer and saw this whole ass squid and was like omg…. 💡calamari rings!

If you are dismembering a whole squid, there are 2 things to know:

  1. you must pull out the skeleton that’s on the inside and throw that away along with its head
  2. when you are frying it, do NOT move it around or the batter will fall off into the oil!

The chewiness of the calamari will be dependent of how you slice it up. In my personal opinion, the calamari is already chewy in nature and if I make it too thick, it will be unpleasing to eat. So I tried to keep it to a good amount of thickness and of course I will attach some photos for you to see!

Note: 1 squid is sufficient to feed 2 people. If you have a larger party to feed, I’d recommend getting more. I also think this recipe can be done with pre-prepared squid… I think some stores have un-marinated calamari rings available for purchase.

Ingredients for the squid:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine

Ingredients for the batter:

  • 1/2 cup of flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice powder (*this is key*)

Ingredients for the stir-fry (at the end):

  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • chopped onions
  • 2-3 Thai chili peppers, chopped thinly (you can sub it for jalapeños)
  • salt and pepper to taste


Step 1: Prepare your squid! Rinse the squid with cold water. Pull out the skeleton and toss. Using your knife, slice pieces to the thickness seen in my photo (but it’s your preference of course). I kept the tentacles because that’s the best part!!

Step 2: Marinade the squid for 15 minutes by adding 1 egg and the ingredients listed above under ‘squid marinade.’

Step 3: Mix ingredients for the batter. Depending on how large of a frying pot you are using, only batter enough squid pieces to fit for each round. *This means I do not batter the squid and then let it sit until it’s ready to fry. If you bread everything at once, the flour will soak into the squid and fall off and then you will have naked calamari.* So for my small pot, I was able to fit about 7 squid pieces each time.

Step 4: Once you set each calamari piece into the fryer, DO NOT TOUCH IT! If you touch it, the flour pieces will fall off and then your pieces won’t be breaded anymore. I fried them for about 4-5 minutes each time. There were some pieces where I had to flip them over in order to fry evenly.

STep 5: Repeat step 4 until all pieces have finished frying.

Step 6: Prepare stir-fry ingredients! Chop up 1/2 an onion and chili peppers. Chop about 2-3 garlic gloves.

Step 7: In a new sauce pan, add 1 tbsp oil and add in minced garlic, chopped onions and chopped chili peppers. Stir until fragrant. Add in calamari rings/pieces and saute on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Make sure to sprinkle salt and pepper on the top and continue stirring.

Step 8: Serve over white rice and enjoy! This can totally be eaten as a snack! I guarantee it won’t last long.

bon appetit!

Boba Shop Air-Fried Popcorn Chicken


Dude… quarantine life got me mEssEd UP…. I miss leaving my house, grabbing boba and walking around Target for no actual reason. I’ve been craving popcorn chicken that’d I’d normally get from the OG Lollicup back home. See photo.

I had this idea because I went to Costco last week and saw they were selling frozen chicken breast pieces that were already chopped into ~ 1 inch squares! I was staring at the bag like “what can I do with this… and immediately popcorn chicken popped into my head. If I can recall correctly, it was $10.99/bag.

To come up with this recipe, I referenced a Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken recipe that I found online (click to navigate to that site!) I learned the key ingredient was Chine five spice powder and basil leaves! Sadly during this time I didn’t have any basil leaves but I highly recommend adding it at the end if you can! With that being said, let’s get to it 🙂

Ingredients for chicken marinade:

  • 3 boneless chicken thighs or chicken breast
    • Tip: I used the bag of pre-cut chicken breast that I referenced above! Makes everything extremely easy.
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp five spice powder
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper powder
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp sugar

Ingredients for toppings:

  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon msg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder


Step 1: Chop chicken into 1 inch cubes if you don’t have it pre-cut. Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes with the combined ingredients, as stated above.

Step 2: Next you’re going to batter the chicken. Depending on how large your air fryer is, only batter how much your air fryer can fit at a time. If you batter everything ahead of time and allow it to sit there, it will get soggy and the flour slowly falls off 😥 = which means it won’t be crunchy! Dip each chicken piece into egg mixture and coat it with flour.

Step 3: Add chicken into air fryer. Before you start cooking, pour some oil into a small dish and use a cooking brush to dab and coat the chicken with oil. I tried spraying cooking oil, i.e., Pam, but it didn’t coat the chicken with enough oil. From my experience, this is the best way to yield delicious results. This is how you get the “fried chicken” effect without actually deep frying!

Step 4: Set your air fryer between 350-375 F and cook for 15 minutes. After about 15 minutes, it should look like this. Using a fork, separate the individual chicken pieces because they will be stuck together. Cook it again for another 5 minutes.

Step 6: After 5 minutes, flip the chicken with tongs. You won’t need to dab it with oil again because there will be enough oil around the chicken by this time. Cook for another 5-7 minutes and it’s all done! Remember to check it with a food thermometer = 165 degrees for safe eating. *If you have basil leaves, this is where you would add them.

Note: I repeated these steps 2 more times to cook all of my chicken. For those of you who have larger air fryers, you can probably cook everything in one sitting 😛

| As you can see, my air fryer is small, so it takes me twice as long to cook these special dishes… but I promise it’s always worth it! |

Step 7: Remove chicken from air fryer and into a large mixing bowl. Pour the ingredients for the topping (cayenne pepper, chili powder, msg, salt/pepper, Chinese 5 spice) and shake to mix evenly. If you want it more spicy, cayenne pepper always delivers a kick 🥵

Step 8: Make your favorite dipping sauce! I love spicy mayo, so mix 1:1 equal parts of sriracha sauce and mayonnaise.

You can enjoy it as a snack or serve over white rice if you need a quick dinner idea!

Enjoy!! If you ever try one of my recipes, make sure to tag me and shout me out 🥰 Love and blessings, stay safe everyone.

Chicken wings and Tomato Jeow (Laotian dipping sauce)


Ahhhhhh, chicken wings and a spicy dipping sauce. A Laotian staple. This is one of those meals that you eat like once a week with your family with a side of steaming hot sticky rice. Pair it with spicy papaya salad and there’s no other meal like it.

This spicy dipping sauce is called “jeow” and it’s a pretty universal name used for most sauces. The one I made here is the tomato version, “jeow mak-len“. My mom was always the go-to person to make a large batch of these and then she’ll put it in Tupperware and it can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks! I don’t have the luxury of making large batches since there’s only 2 people in this household, so making it fresh each time is perfectly fine with me 🤓

Ingredients for the chicken wings:

  • 12 large chicken wings, with the drum and tail attached
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp chicken seasoning
  • 3/4 tbsp yellow curry powder
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • black pepper
  • 1 tbsp chopped lemon grass
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder or 2-3 cloves chopped garlic

Directions for chicken wings: Very straight forward– just combine all of the ingredients and let it marinate for 20 minutes or overnight. Then I cooked it on broil at 425 F for a total of 45 minutes, flipping the wings to the other side after about 20 minutes. Tip: I lay the wings out on a tray upside down on purpose. So when it’s time to flip it, the top part of it will be nice and crispy (cause’ that’s the best part).

– featured: frozen chopped lemongrass

Ingredients for the tomato jeow:

  • (serving for 2 people, with leftovers)
  • 5 grape tomatoes
  • 3 shallots
  • 3 Thai chili peppers (or more, but mine are very spicy so 3 is a good medium spice for me)
  • 1.5 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 2.5-3 tsp fish sauce
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 lime slice
  • mortar and pestle, OR something to smash the ingredients with i.e., rolling pin and ziplock bag

Directions for the tomato jeow:

Step 1: Slice the grape tomatoes and shallots into halves. Lay out the chili peppers with the stems removed. I cooked this in my air fryer for 5 minutes, but you can do this in anything (i.e., toaster oven, large oven).

But if you’re going to do this in an air fryer like me, you must do it BELOW the basket cover. This is to prevent any vegetables from rising and getting stuck in the heat source, thus causing a fire. Please see photo below! Cook at 400 F for 7 minutes.

– we want to cover the veggies from floating up in the air fryer to PREVENT a FIRE

Step 2: After 7 minutes, your vegetables should look charred a bit. This is exactly how you want it! Remove from foil and throw them into your mortar and pestle. Smash it until you get a thick consistency and everything looks well mixed.

a. charred and beautiful
b. thicccccness

Step 3: Squeeze a lime slice. Add in fish sauce, sugar and cilantro. Mix thoroughly. The consistency of this sauce is supposed to be on the thicker side, but if you like it more liquidy, feel free to add in a tsp of h2o.

Step 4: Finished product!!! I like to dip the chicken into it and scoop some into my rice.

– enjoy!

how to declutter your space and live a more fruitful lifestyle


Since I have ALL this free time at home (#quarantine), I’ve been meaning to share with you guys our “tiny” apartment living. I live in a 6-unit condo complex where each unit has 1 BR and 1 BA. My shared home in San Francisco was much larger, but of course that was split between 2 other roommates so I finally get to call a place my home!

Since the unit itself is about 560 square feet (give or take), it’s imperative that we keep our shopping to a minimal and clean up often. I’ve included a few panorama photos so you could get some insight to the minimal space we have.

– entry way into living room

I’ve come to this conclusion that when I have more open space, the environment looks larger and it helps me feel calm and relaxed. I know there has to be other people who feel the same way! What’s worse is the more physical items that are present, the tinier the house looks. Without further ado, here are my tips on decluttering and I hope you find time to do it this week! Let’s be real here… you’re stuck at home anyways boo.

  • Designation. Choose what area you want to declutter. I don’t recommend doing the whole house or apartment in one day because you’re just going to stress yourself out and end up fighting with the other members of your household. (I know this from personal experience, lol).
  • Clear the air. Get rid of the unnecessary. I’ll use my bedroom as an example: In my desk drawer, there are old receipts… receipts from Target… from 2 years ago. Am I ever going to return those T-shirts? Probably not, so good-bye.  I also had this storage container full of office supplies such as index cards, highlighters, and ugly pens??????? Did I really need these things or were they taking up space? I’m sure you can answer that.
– up close and personal with my workspace ❤️

| Here’s the thing: We naturally hoard things as human beings because we have a difficult time letting things go. |

  • THERE I SAID IT, FIGHT ME. So over time, we end up collecting all of these unnecessary, random items that are just taking up space. And as it continues to fill up the space in your home, we, the individual, begin to feel compressed and overwhelmed about being home. Maybe that’s the reason why some people don’t like staying home?
    • *food for thought*💡If we create an environment that we truly enjoy being in, imagine the peace and balance we’ll feel on the inside!!! (+ improvement on our mental health) and then we will be more inclined to spend time at home AND be emotionally okay with staying home…. (thus, eliminating the feelings of FOMO), and overall improving our well-being!

| So, in summary, think of the unnecessary like it’s pollution and it’s interfering with your breathing. You need that sh*t to go and the remedy ain’t Benadryl, it’s the trash bin, baby girl. |

  • Move things around. Try to find a way to rearrange the furniture so that there is more floor space to maneuver around. Nothing is worse than trying to walk around and tripping over everything in sight. More floor space = larger appearance = happy human 🙂
    • Yesterday I focused on my bedroom. My bed used to be in the center of the wall where the mirror is, but it created this extremely narrow aisle to get around and in result, I kept jabbing my foot at the corner of the bed. Therefore, I decided to push my bed up against the corner wall and now there’s all this lovely space for the kitty to run around in!
– bedroom
– okay this pic isn’t as cute as I originally thought…
  • Narrow down any large items you don’t actually need. Guess what we got rid of? Our coffee table. Did we really need that? Your answer might be “yes you’re insane,” but let me tell you why I didn’t need it: Rather than using it for storing items like my TV remote, maybe a few magazines, something to set my drink on, it ended up becoming a storage unit for a bunch of TRASH and items that needed placement. So without a coffee table in the center of my already very small living room, I have an open space between my lounging area and our TV and I don’t miss the coffee table one bit.
    • “So where do you set your drinks or snacks when you’re watching TV?” — well we don’t need to be eating on that expensive sofa anyways. So we do our eating in the kitchen (this was very hard for my significant other lol)
    • “Do you have something in place of a coffee table?” — yes! I picked up an ottoman/stool thing from Ross ($29.99) and purchased this cute food tray from Target ($5) and it has become the designated place for our TV remote, xbox controllers, etc. It’s small enough to fit a magazine and maybe my cup of Joe, but not large enough to become a junk collector.
– living room/lounge area 🙂
– our new and improved “coffee table”

In conclusion, to get rid of the larger things, I sold a ton of items of Facebook Marketplace. I’m never the type of person to sell things with the expectation that I’m going to get back $100 for this coffee table from Ikea. My intentions are to get some money returned to my wallet, and the satisfaction that I was able to help out another person who’s going to put the item to good use. Since I price my items at a very affordable price, I usually get rid of it in a day or two and ta-da, it’s out of my way and I have no complaints here!

I hope you guys find this article useful and if you have any questions about downsizing, LA living, or decluttering, please do not hesitate to contact me! You know where to find me.

with love and blessings, @tbh_xtina 💕

Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker) Vietnamese Beef Stew “Bo Kho”


Happy self-quarantine recipe #2! Twas’ another rainy day in LA and ya girl was werkin’ that instant pot. This dish is extremely soothing and warms my soul. You can serve it with vermicelli noodles or dip it with baguettes as I did– either way, I love slurping up the broth!

Servings: ~6 bowls Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 35 minutes


  • 1 lb of beef flank (I bought beef that was already cubed for stew from the grocery store)
  • 5 tbsp bo kho powder ($3.99 at Asian mart and there were some left over for another time)
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp chicken powder
  • 1/2 tsp mushroom powder
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1.5 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tbsp beef paste
  • 1 tsp sweet soy sauce


  • 1 tomato, chopped into medium size
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped
  • sliced onions
  • minced shallots (5)
  • minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 2 pieces of sliced ginger
  • 1-2 stalk lemongrass OR 1 tbsp frozen lemongrass


Step 1: Time to prep! Chop up all the vegetables. See photo above ^ Note: The COVID outrage has left my grocery store empty! So I couldn’t get my hands on actual fresh lemongrass, but was able to pick up a jar of frozen lemongrass. I used about 1 tbsp– it’s the middle bowl with the green stuff in it.

Step 2: Get your instant pot, click “saute” and set for 4 minutes. Drizzle 1 tbsp oil and add in onions, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass and shallots. Stir occasionally. Fun fact: I set my instant pot on top of my stove so that I can simultaneously turn on my kitchen vent in efforts to suck up all the steam and aromatics that’s rising from the pot.

*this is the bo kho powder I used. and featured here is my instant pot sitting in the middle of my stove top… #innovative

Step 3: Add in the beef. Set to “saute” mode for another 3 minutes. Salt and pepper the beef as you are stirring. Once the timer is up, fill the pot with water to the 1/2 mark that is right below the 2/3 max line. *we need to leave space for the tomatoes and carrots. Next, add in the carrots + tomatoes and the water should rise to the max line.

Step 4: Add in everything that is listed in the ingredients list above. Click “stew” mode and set your instant pot for 35 minutes and close the lid. Once it is complete, you can choose your form of release; I don’t think it makes a difference here.

Step 5: Toast your baguettes! If you know me by now, I use my air fryer for everything and just to be EXTRA, I brushed butter onto the top and sprinkled some parsley before toasting. I put it in the air fryer at 300 F for 2 minutes.

*bougie af

Step 6: Serve in a bowl and share it with your loved ones! Or not… your choice 😉

with love and blessings, @tbh_xtina ❤

EASY Pressure Cooker Pho Bo (beef pho!)


Hi friends! I’m super excited to share my recipe for beef pho… using the amazing instant pot! Yes, two weeks ago I finally hopped on the pressure cooker train and convinced my bf to purchase it at Costco :3 ($89.99 for anyone interested in getting one).

I can’t put in words how fortunate I am to have a local 99 Ranch close to me where I can pick up the following very helpful ingredients: the beef pho powder mix and the Pho Hoa star anise spice satchel. This saves you SOOO much time and still gives you a very authentic taste. I don’t always agree to short-cutting… but for this recipe, we can! I mean… aren’t we already taking a short cut if we’re using a pressure cooker to make our broth?? Sheesh, I can’t complain there.

Instead of the usual 4+ hours needed to get a rich broth, with an instant pot, we can make it in under 1 hour.

| So go on, invite some guests over and trick them into thinking you spent all day making this with your blood, sweat and tears. I dare ya! |

Servings: 4-5 bowls. Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 45 minutes.

Ingredients for the broth

  • beef bones of your choice, you can use oxtail. I used 4 beef neck bones.
  • 2 tbsp beef pho mix
  • 1 can of beef broth (inside asian marts for $0.69)
  • 1.5-2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 Pho Hoa star anise spice satchel (see below)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ginger
  • 1 tsp beef paste (optional, it’s what made my broth more dark)
  • 1 pack of beef meatballs

Ingredients for your bowl

  • 1 pack of fresh rice stick noodles (16 oz) — good for 4 or 5 bowls
  • hoisin sauce
  • sriracha sauce
  • chili oil
  • jalapenos
  • bean sprouts
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped cilantro


Step 1: Before actually cooking in your instant pot (or pressure cooker), put the bones in a small pot and boil it with water on your stove for about 10 minutes. This is to get all the gunk off the bones and helps to get a very clear broth. See photo below 🙂

– see how dark the water is? we want all that nasty stuff extracted from the bones.

Step 2: Remove bones from the pot. Rinse in cold water before adding it to your instant pot. Cut half an onion and 2 pieces of ginger. Click saute mode and set to 5 minutes. Mix everything around the bottom of the pot with 1 tbsp oil. The goal is to blacken the onion and char the meat that’s on the bones.

Step 3: Fill the pot with water to about 3/4 full. Add in fish sauce, one pho hoa satchel (the star anise packet– DO NOT CUT OPEN. *It will float and release its contents to the broth like a tea bag), and instant beef broth powder (*DO NOT pour entire packet).

Click “soup/broth” button and set instant pot timer for 45 minutes. While the pressure cooker is working its magic, this is when I slice the additional brisket, tripe, onions, green onions and cilantro. Or you can always buy packaged slices of brisket/beef. Make sure to thinly slice everything! Nobody likes choking on onions, okuuuuur.

– don’t forget to wash the bean sprouts and chop some jalapenos and limes

Once the timer is up, you can choose to either do quick release or natural release to alleviate the pressure inside. I like natural release because I’m impatient, hehe. When the broth is done cooking and you’re able to remove the lid, you will notice the meat on the bones are extremely tender and falling off the bones 😀

– okay, not sure if you can tell here but I assure you it’s falling off the bones!

Step 4: Add in your meatballs at the end, while the broth is still scorching hot. I made the mistake of cooking the meatballs with the broth and they came out super mushy and lost its flavor 😦

– see how the beef balls are cracked? I don’t recommend cooking it with the broth, but rather adding them at the end.

Step 5: Get your rice noodles and cut them in half so it’s easier to remove from the bag. I used a metal basket to cook the noodles in the broth before placing them into my actual bowl. I know some people boil their noodles in a separate pot ahead of time, but this is my way of trying to save everyone some time so we can get to grubbin’!

Step 6: Pour broth into large bowl, add in green onion, cilantro and jalapeno. Don’t forget your meatballs and brisket! I personally don’t like tripe, so it’s not featured in this photo lol. Serve with sriracha, hoisin sauce and chili oil!

– note: this photo is filtered to show details of the soup 😉
with love, @tbh_xtina ❤

Hawaiian Garlic Shrimp


This dish is definitely a crowd pleaser. This is my version of the Shrimp Daddy copycat. If you’ve visited LA, you’ll know what I’m talking about! On days I don’t want to fight traffic to get some Shrimp Daddy, this recipe does the job 😉

hawaiian garlic shrimp recipe


  • 1.5 lbs of large shrimp — skin on
  • Flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tbsp Old Bay Cajun seasoning
  • 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 tbsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • 10 chopped garlic cloves (the more the better in my opinion)
  • Lemon slices — your preference


  1. Clean shrimp. Batter the shrimp with shell on using eggs and flour.
  2. You can deep fry, but I pan fried — Add the oil to a pan and cook the shrimp on each side. *this his how the crunchy skin forms!* Remove shrimp from the pan when it’s cooked.
  3. Since I have a small pan, I had to repeat this step 3x to actually finish cooking the shrimp. So during each batch, I applied new oil to coat each round of shrimp.
  4. Wipe your pan down with a paper towel. Add butter onto your pan and lots of chopped garlic! Let sizzle and keep stirring. Add old bay Cajun seasoning, paprika, salt, sugar and black pepper — it should be slightly thickened sauce.
  5. (Note: if you have a large pan and it permits you to fit all the shrimp, then you can do it all at once. But I had to break this up into 3 rounds once again).
  6. Add the shrimp back into the pan and toss around to coat the outer layer of the shrimp for 5 minutes. Eat up!


  • This dish is meant to be eaten WITH the shell on! (it’s weird at first, but it’s pretty bomb)
  • Serve with rice and Furikake seasoning on top.
  • Squeeze some lemon slices if you want it zestyyyy.