color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – Jackfruit

Boy, has it been busy around here again this past week, and it will continue to be for at least the next 10 days.  Why?  Well, we were in a part of Thailand called Khao Yai from this past Thursday morning through Sunday afternoon (without internet, thus, no blogging)… Spent all of Monday running around Bangkok pricing household items, buying a mattress (at a 60% discount – hooray!), and signing papers on our new house.  Yes, our new house!  More on that to come as we move in… 8 days.  Whoa.

Today was full of final classes, tonight full of studying (from which I am taking a short break to write this and eat a bowl of Carnation brand almond ice cream) for my module 9 (Christian communication) and final Year-One exams tomorrow.  Then, it’s a week of cleaning, packing, and seeing everyone and their brother for the next week while the Mr. completes his studies and exams (ending Wednesday, July 7th)… final Fellowship Group meeting next Wednesday night… and then we move the 8th!  Is your head spinning from that?  Again, I say whoa.

So, here we are chatting about food.  That makes me happier than studying books of course.  So, what will I introduce you to this week?  Jackfruit.  Why?  Because our new house (oh, how I LOVE to say that!) has its very own little – well, quite big, actually – jackfruit tree at the back corner of your yard.  (Yes, we have a yard, too!  Ok, I’ll stop – you have to wait until we move for more info.)

Here's a whole jackfruit.

Here's a whole jackfruit.

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June 29, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Chicken Salad

Remember when I told you about discovering celery, for the very first time in a year, at the new store in town a couple of weeks ago?  Well, I have been rationing it out so well between egg salad sandwiches, as a snack with a bit of peanut butter, and so much more, that I’ve still got a few stalks left.  (Did you know that if you wrap it up in aluminum foil, your celery can last up to 4 weeks without going limp?)  Wanna guess what else I’ve made 3 times in two weeks, simply because I can?  Chicken Salad.  And seriously, the presence of celery makes all the difference.

chicken salad 1

I promise this looks yummier in person. We have funky fluorescent tube lights in our house.

If you know me well at all, then you know I love pretty much any type of salad, whether it goes on a sandwich or it’s the kind that’s all green and eaten with a fork.  I’m a rabbit by nature, and when it’s hot outside, I prefer to eat things that are chilled rather than hot and steamy.  What better way to end yet another day in the 100’s and full sun than with a cool, light, and refreshing supper of chicken salad croissants.  Mmmmm.

So, for this week’s Tasty Tuesday, I thought I’d share with you how I make my chicken salad here in Thailand.  There are certainly other variations that I use from time to time (like adding crushed pineapple, walnuts, or finely diced cucumber), but this has to be my most frequent recipe.  It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit tart, a wee bit salty, and has a nice light crunch.

Another thing you may already know is that I don’t really measure much when I’m preparing food.  I just kind of eyeball everything, and keep that amount in my mind for the next time I cook.  So, I’ll just tell you what I use (giving amounts when I actually know what they are) and let you take it from there, ok?  This recipe makes enough for about 6 medium sized croissants.  Here goes…

  • 1 pkg. (8) chicken tenders or 3 chicken breasts, poached and shredded
  • 3-4 stalks of celery, split and diced
  • about half of a large yellow/white/red onion (whichever you like best!)
  • a generous handful of RED grapes, seeded and split (green ones just don’t have the right sweetness)
  • start with a few Tablespoons of mayo or Miracle Whip (I like the MW), then adjust it to however creamy you want it to be
  • a few dashes of lemon juice
  • salt and black pepper, to taste Continue reading

June 22, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment

Remembering

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June 20, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 2 Comments

Eew, eew, eeeew!

Indiana Jones would NOT have wanted to come into our house this morning.  No, sir!  Why?  Because we had a snake in our living room.  Yes, INSIDE the house.  I am still shuddering at the thought of it.  Yes, I love all creatures great and small, but when it slithers and I don’t know enough about it to know whether or not it’s bite will kill me or cause great pain just for looking at it the wrong way, my opinion changes for the moment.

As I opened the door and stepped outside to head for classes this morning, apparently, a snake took that as his invitation to come inside.  I have no clue where it came from, I didn’t see it at all… but, Brook did.  Not more than 2 steps out the door, he hollered to me that a snake had just come in the house.  What?!  No way!  I didn’t see anything of the sort.  Thinking perhaps it was a ball of dust, or a stray thread falling from our curtains, I asked him repeatedly if he was sure (while remaining briefly outside the threshold of the door, of course)…

We both got down on our hands and knees (after I decided to come back inside) looking under the bench, the desk, the book shelf in the corner… and nothing to be found.  He was sure he saw a bright green snake slither in past me, and we were determined to find it.  5 minutes later, he saw it under the bookshelf in the corner.  So, with him keeping an eye on the creature, I ran to get a my heaviest pot to use to smash its head.  You see, at this point, we didn’t know if it was poisonous or not – so, we figured killing it and getting the chance to examine closer after it was no longer moving would be the best course of action.  After all, only a few months ago, friends of ours just across town discovered a big bad cobra in their kitchen.  (They lived on the edge of a rice paddy, so not a huge surprise… but, still unexpected!)

Anyways, it kept playing hide-n-seek for nearly 20 minutes, before it decided to come out from under Brook’s camera bag (on the lowest shelf of the book rack) and climb straight up the wall.  Wait a second.  What?!  YES, this snake slithered straight up a sheer, smooth, painted wall with little to no effort at all.  I have NEVER seen anything like it in my life!  It was frightening and awe-inspiring all at the same time.  After making its way up to the top of the window frame, it lifted its head and first several inches of its body off of the wall as it poked around the window looking for an opening, I assume.

That’s when my hero made his move, knocking the serpent in the head with the crooked handle of my big umbrella.  Just the right length to reach it, and heavy enough to knock it senseless to the ground.  Once on the ground, Brook (my aforementioned hero) finished him off quickly with the umbrella, and I stood there watching in amazement as the body continued to writhe, curl, extend, and slither on its own after it was already done for.  Snakes are beautiful creatures, yes… but also very dangerous, and we couldn’t take that chance.

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June 15, 2010 Posted by | Just for Fun, Thailand | 4 Comments

Tasty Tuesday – Massaman Curry

If you like potatoes and beef, you will probably like Massaman Curry. Check it out.

I forgot to take a shot of my own bowl, so I've borrowed this one from the internet.

I forgot to take a shot of my own bowl, so I've borrowed this one from the internet.

Let’s start with the name – Massaman Curry.  The term Massaman actually comes from an old word meaning “Muslim.”  Though known as a Southern Thai dish, the spices that are used to make the curry paste for this meal are thought to have come to Thailand long, long ago by way of Muslim traders from India.  Thus, the name Massaman Curry.

When you hear the word “curry,” do you automatically think of Indian food as I also once did?  The term essentially means to stew or cook something slowly in a pot.  That’s exactly what you do in both Indian and Thai curries.  However, the thing that sets each set of flavors apart are the spices typically used in the pastes and powders used to create these dishes.  Curries throughout both Thailand and India, of course, vary from region to region – even family to family – but there are some common spices included in each, no matter what the type of curry.  Here’s a list of typical spices and seasonings present in each country’s curries:

  • India – cumin, fenugreek, coriander seed, fennel, cardamon, asafoteida, turmeric.
  • Thailand – galangal, kaffir, lemongrass, basil, fish sauce, shrimp paste, chilies, coconut milk.

Sadly, the inclusion of cumin (especially fresh ground or whole seeds) makes me unable to eat the copious amounts of Indian food that I would like to.  Large amounts of that particular spice cause a rather unfriendly reaction in my body.  I can take it in smaller amounts, such as in homemade Mexican food (pre-ground or spice mixes that have naturally lost their intensity), thankfully!

Ok, so back to the Thai food.  Thailand has a wide range of curries that are classified by color – red, green, or yellow – depending on the type of chilies used in making the curry paste, or the addition of turmeric (as in the case of the yellow curries).  Massaman tends to fit moreso in the yellow category, as the spices used to make its paste are different in nature from the rest of Thai curried dishes.  The Massman paste is comprised of dried chili, black peppercorns, coriander seeds and roots, cloves, cardamon, (a small amount of) cumin, lemongrass, galangal (similar to ginger), shallots, garlic, tamarind, and shrimp paste.  It’s a sort of fusion between Thai and Indian food.  Can you smell it already?

Massaman Curry Paste

Massaman Curry Paste

To make the curry, all you need to do is add a bit of Massaman curry paste to coconut milk and simmer it along with some cardamom pods, a cinnamon stick, and your choice of Thai basil or dried Bay leaves.  Add in some onion, chunked up beef, and diced white or sweet potatoes and let it cook for a couple of hours.  Some people even add in some star anise for an added boost of flavor.  This really is a very aromatic meal, mixing so many flavors together.  Surprisingly though, it isn’t overwhelmingly spicy or hot.  It’s just right, and just plain delicious.  You can either eat is straight from a bowl, or do like I do and spoon it over a plateful of rice.  Either way, it’s really good.


June 15, 2010 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | 1 Comment

The New Store in Town

Wow is all I have to say.  Seriously.  Wow.

Now, to the rest of you, to whom I may sound like just another a blabbering girly girl hyped up over something insignificant, I say “whatever.”  With the kindest smile, of course.  🙂

Today, Brook and I had a few hours to kill between lessons and decided our time would be best spent checking out a new store on the other end of town.  It just opened on Wednesday, and we decided (after the last Grand Opening we tried to attend) it would be better to wait a few days until the curious crowd died down a little bit.  Even better, we decided midday would cut down on the masses even more.  Yes, this plan worked, and off we went to check out this place called Makro just outside of the city.

Makro, for those of you who don’t know, is a more simplified Thai equivalent to Sam’s Club.  They sell many items in bulk (cooking oils, snacks, some fresh produce, etc.) at a discounted price, and shoppers are asked to have a membership card.  This week, they’re letting people in without a card though, so they can start shopping and get hooked on it first.  Ha.  I’ve heard about these stores, and driven by them many times during the course of the past year, but had never been inside one.

I was in sheer awe of their produce section and frozen items, the dairy case (yes, there was a dairy case!!!!!) and the bakery.  I don’t expect any of you to understand, but after living in our city for a year, lacking many food items that I’ve been accustomed to having for the past 25 years, this place about made me cry.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Thai food!  But, it’s nice to have something more familiar every once in a while, ya know?

So, what did I see that I haven’t seen before (well, sometimes in Bangkok, but not in Lopburi)??  Massive blocks of cheese (one mozzarella, one white cheddar, one yellow Australian cheddar, one gouda and one parmesean)!  Real sour cream!  Ground beef, frozen pizza dough, yellow corn tortillas, dried bay leaves, Canadian bacon in chunk form, Prego spaghetti sauce, both black and green canned olives, lasagna noodles, Granny Smith apples, balsamic vinegar, real navel oranges, fresh strawberries, lemons (very rare), real sweet corn, frozen blueberries (berries are pretty non-existent here), frozen spinach (oh my goodness!), and both red & white wine vinegars.  It took most of the power I have within me to resist grabbing some of everything and shoving it in my cart as we walked the store (though it did help reminding myself that it was all a bit expensive on our Thai budget, and these sort of things would have to limited to an infrequent “treats” basis.  Ha!).  I simply could not believe my eyes.

celery-calmBut the biggest thing to me, the thing that made my eyes well up with tears for some inexplicable reason, was celery.  Real, fat, bright green, large bunched, crispy, refreshing, glorious celery.  I have been wanting for this simple pleasure for a year now – chicken salad just isn’t the same, egg salad lacks that fabulous crunch, peanut butter is lonely without it… and today I found it.  I’m not kidding about how happy I was to pick it up, see the stamp from California, and take it to be weighed.  And it wasn’t too expensive either!  Only about $1.00 US for a good sized bunch.  I was like a little kid proudly carrying a new toy around throughout the store. I just couldn’t stop smiling.

I know, I know.  I’m a silly girl.  But, it’s those little things in life that help refresh this girl when day to day life in Thailand gets to be just a little bit too much.  That celery made my day.  I ate a few sticks with peanut butter for lunch, and I made the most delightful chicken salad for supper.  It was wonderful.

What’s one of your “little things” that can cheer you up or make everything all better?

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Food, Just for Fun, Personal, Thailand | 7 Comments

(Tardy!) Tasty Tuesday

Yes, Tasty Tuesday on a Wednesday. Such is the life of a missionary in transition – more about that tomorrow!

For this week’s Tasty Tuesday, I thought I’d share with you a few of the places I like to go online when searching for ideas on food, recipes, creativity and what not. Living in Thailand has surely forced me to be even more resourceful when it comes to meals (and everyday life, for that matter) and food shopping. I’ve always been one to enjoy cooking and making things myself, but boy was I surprised by how little what I made back in the States was truly “from scratch.”

Back home, I used canned tomatoes, cream soups, packaged tortillas, and pre-mixed spice blends for certain things.  I got used to having things like English muffins and bagels at the store, buying a package of ricotta or sour cream, picking up a bag of hamburger buns, or buying various types of broth for cooking and soup making.  Yes, I made meals myself and rarely used a boxed something-or-other… but, I still used things (like what I just listed) that were already prepared in order to do so.  Here, it’s a whole different ballgame – none of these things are anywhere to be found.

I now make my own cream soups, sauce bases, roux, stewed/crushed/peeled tomatoes, tomato juice, tortillas, spice blends, English muffins, bagels, hamburger buns, reconstitute various dry beans, dinner rolls, broths, sausage, pickles, salsa (which I did before sometimes, too), chicken strips/ buffalo wings, pasta/pizza sauces, various breads and doughs, and so much more.  Right now, I’m even working on making sour cream and ricotta!  It’s tough work, too, when I don’t actually have a kitchen either.  I’ve got a table out in our living space, and a strip off the back of the house with an old gas range in it.  Imagine how funny I look when doing prep on one side of the house, then running to the other with something in hand for a pot on the stove.  Ha.  I do enjoy it, but it takes a LOT of time to do here in Thailand.

Seeing as I had to leave my cookbooks back in the States (all but one my mom made for me when we got married, with family recipes in it – that one HAD to be here with me!), I’ve had to begin turning to the internet for help when I need it.  Since doing so, I’ve discovered a handful of reliable food bloggers that have enabled me to learn new ways of cooking, how to make more “pantry items” from scratch, and enjoy watching them cook certain meals that I would love to make, but simply can’t find the ingredients for around here.

That said, I’d like to share with you a few links to the sites I check most often for help, inspiration, and new ideas.  I hope you enjoy them, too!  Just click on the name, and it will link you straight to the site.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks – fabulous step-by-step photo tutorials on nearly every recipe.  Good home cookin’ type food.

Tasty Kitchen – a pretty reliable recipe-sharing community developed by the previously mentioned Pioneer Woman.

Annie’s Eats – a working mom in the medical field, from Indianapolis, who does a fabulous job of entertaining and trying/developing new recipes.

FoodGawker – a collection of food photos with links to various original blog posts containing recipes and cooking tips, updated daily.

Taste – an Australian recipe collection filled with light, refreshing, healthy meals.

KitchenDaily – sure, they’ve got lots of good recipes… but, my favorite part is the How-To’s section that features lots of short instructional videos on basic kitchen and cooking techniques from the Culinary Institute of America.

CIA Intelligence – from the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), comes recipes, instructional videos, and a whole lot of knowledge, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I sure am!

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Food, Just for Fun, Tasty Tuesdays | 2 Comments