color by numbers

mindless musings of a semi-creative guy

Tasty Tuesday – ไข่ยัดไส้

I.
Love.
This.
Food.

One of the first meals I ever had in Thailand way back in 2005 was ไข่ยัดไส้ (say it like: khai yat sai).  Simple, delicious food that is made quickly and eaten probably just as fast.  It’s just that good.

So, what is it?  It’s basically a paper-thin egg omelette (reminiscent of crepes) stuffed with minced meat, chopped veggies, and a sweet-savory-slightly spicy sauce.  Put it on top of a mound of rice, add a sprinkle of fresh cilantro (coriander), and drizzle it with a bit of Sri Racha (the legit stuff, not the insanely hot imposter Huy Fong Rooster Sauce that most Americans think of), and it becomes a fabulous meal.  Mmmmmmmm.

Click here for a great tutorial, including both a recipe and how-to photos, if you’d like to make one for yourself.  The only notes I would make regarding this recipe – if you want to eat it the way we do here – are as follows…

  • Bacon, although included in this recipe, is not used in the omelettes here.
  • You can use whatever minced meat you have on hand (chicken, turkey, pork, beef), but my favorite is pork.
  • Usually, street vendors use thin sliced baby corn instead of kernels, and chopped raw green beans instead of snow peas – though a frozen veggie blend as stated in this recipe will work just fine.
  • Don’t worry if you don’t have any fish sauce or oyster sauce.  They are wonderful and do add beautiful depth of flavor, but if you are making this for yourself at home and only have soy sauce, just use that and go for it anyways!
  • If you like a little kick (like me!), feel free to toss in some chopped chilies or jalapenos and some garlic.

Now, go make this and enjoy!!!

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May 24, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays, Thailand | Leave a comment

The Process of การเลือกชื่อ

One thing every new parent faces, regardless of where they live, how much money they have, what kind of baby will be born… is figuring out what to call their child once it arrives.

The process of การเลือกชื่อ, choosing a name, varies in difficulty from person to person. Some have had a name picked out for years before even becoming pregnant. Others like to decide in the moments after birth, once the face of their new little baby has been seen. Some couples agree right away, and others go through a timely process of writing down possible names and making lists for each other to go through for the purpose of either approving or vetoing certain selections.

Our little poser.

I’ve been making baby name lists, altering them every now and then, for a few years now. Brook, on the other hand, has not.  In fact, he told me early on in this pregnancy that he didn’t want to officially start thinking of names until we found out the gender of our soon-to-be little human.  Now that we have finally found out what little Sarver is going to be, the process has begun!

But still, it’s not as simple as that.

Since we live in Thailand, and the language of the people, of course, is Thai – a highly tonal, very much pronunciation-sensitive language – we need to take that into account when choosing what to call our new addition.  Every name we consider goes through the usual “Do we like it? Can we say it a million times and not get tired of it?  Does it flow well with our last name?” tests… but, it must also be run through an extra filter, if you will:

  • Does it sound the same as any Thai vocabulary, and if so, does it have a meaning?  Is the meaning acceptable or will we be inadvertently cursing every time we call our kids in for supper?
  • How will it sound when a native Thai speaker pronounces it?  If they say it differently, does it sound like any other Thai words which could also be wildly inappropriate not only for naming a person, but also for everyday speech?
  • How will it be spelled in Thai, so others will know how to say it?

There have actually been a few names already taken off of the docket, as all we can do is laugh when we ask some our Thai friends to say them.  They come out completely different – either because it is too difficult to say, or their pronunciation changes the name’s implied gender drastically.  It’s quite humorous, actually, to hear some of the things that come out of names we’ve chosen.  (And yes, I know there are more than plenty enough Thai names that I butcher mercilessly when attempting to say them as well.)

All that said, we have not officially chosen a name for our baby yet, but there is one that we are currently testing out seriously for the next couple of weeks.  Am I going to tell you what it is?  Nope.  Not until a final decision has been made, and a middle name assigned… and that probably won’t be for at least another month or so.  🙂  We’ve still got somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 weeks left, as far as we know, and we intend on using that time fully!

May 22, 2011 Posted by | Personal, Thailand | 1 Comment

Tasty Tuesday – Lofthouse Cookies

You’re probably wondering what in the world a Lofthouse cookie is, aren’t you?

If you’ve ever been to WalMart, Kroger, or whatever your local grocery store is in the States, it is likely that you have encountered (and possibly overdosed on) these.

Look familiar?  Super soft, fluffy, almost bendy, brightly frosted sugar cookies.  They are thicker and softer than your average cut out or drop cookie, which is the only kind I’d ever made before.  I think they taste and feel like a sugar cookie that meets white cake and the outside of a marshmallow.  If that makes no sense to you at all, then you’ve obviously never eaten them, and you need to do so right away.

Alone, I don’t think the cookies taste like much – so if you’re not into really sweet or flavorful things, a plain one just might be right up your alley.  (Brook prefers his plain with just a sprinkle of sugar on top.)  However, once you add some frosting, boy do they become decadent.

Brook’s grandmother makes old-fashioned sugar cookies very much like these every Christmas, and they are his favorite thing in the world.  I’ve been trying for a few years now to replicate hers (as there is no written recipe, since she has been trying to perfect it for many years as well), and this is about the closest I’ve ever gotten.  How do I know this?  Brook, the one not known for eating sweets at all, ate 7 of them over the course of a couple days.  That’s my proof right there.

So, here’s the recipe.  And, let me say this now – DO NOT eat these fresh from the oven, or even right after they’ve finally cooled, or you will be severely disappointed.  They won’t taste bad at all, but they will not have reached the proper texture yet.  Coming from one who is known for burning herself by nibbling straight from the hot box, the patience required for these cookies is totally vital and more than worth it.  If you can, once cooled and frosted (or not, if that’s your thing), put them in an air-tight container and wait until tomorrow…. or at least 6-7 hours if you really can’t stand it.  Seriously, just trust me – I tried them both ways, and the wait makes the difference between night and day.

As you can see, buttercream gets metly pretty quick in our climate. Better reason to eat these babies fast!

Lofthouse Cookies
via Runs With Spatulas

1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light sour cream
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 cups flour, divided

  • In a large bowl, cream together butter and granulated sugar until light in color and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing each until fully incorporated before adding the next. Stir in sour cream and vanilla.  (**Sara’s note: I only had 1 cup of sour cream, so I used a half cup of soured milk to round it out and it worked just fine.)
  • In a medium bowl, stir together 5 cups flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Slowly add in flour mixture, beating until all the flour is fully hydrated. Dough needs to obtain the right consistency for rolling, so add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until this is achieved (up to 1 cup more flour). Dough will still be a bit on the sticky side. Divide dough into two sections. Flatten into rectangles about 1 1/2 inches thick, then wrap with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats, set aside.
  • Generously flour a work area and rolling pin. Remove one section of dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on your work area. Roll dough out until 1/4 inch thick. Dough will be very sticky, so continue to dust with flour as you need it. Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter (or an equivalent juice glass dipped in flour, as I did), cut out circles and transfer to a baking sheet. (If choosing not to frost the cookies, go ahead and sprinkle some granulated sugar on top of them at this point.) Bake for 7-8 minutes, until set – bottom of cookies should be a very pale golden brown. Immediately transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough, storing any extra in the fridge while not in use.

Meanwhile, prepare either your favorite buttercream frosting recipe, or use the one below.

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons milk
Several drops food coloring

  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and vanilla. Slowly beat in the powdered sugar.
  • Once smooth and creamy, add in milk, 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency is achieved. Frosting should be easy to spread, but not runny. Add in the food coloring, if desired.

Once cookies have cooled, frost and add sprinkles, if you like. Allow frosting to set, then store in an air-tight container. Let cookies sit for several hours before serving to allow the flavors and proper texture to develop.

Makes: about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

May 10, 2011 Posted by | Food, Just for Fun, Tasty Tuesdays | 2 Comments

Mother’s Day

Back in the States, today is Mother’s Day.

The above picture was taken nearly two years ago, about a week before Brook and I moved to Thailand.  We had so much going on, and so many things to get taken care of, that I drove out to visit with family on my own while he stayed back in Indiana to continue wrapping up the life we’d built there.  He knew it was important for me to see them once more before we met for the last time at the airport, as over the previous 3 and a half years my time with them had already been limited due to distance.

And, I’m so glad I did.

As soon as our sell-everything-but-a-few-boxes-of-stuff yard sale was over on Saturday afternoon, I hopped in my little green car (also, for the last time) and made the 3 hour drive out to my Mom’s.  We spent the evening talking, looking at photo albums, eating amazing stuffed pizza, spinach fettuccine alfredo, salad, garlic bread… I had to get in as much good food as possible, ya know?!  Just the two of us, and all the puppies.  It was nice.

The next day, we spent the afternoon at my brother’s house with his family and one of my cousins who was in town.  We grilled out for lunch, played games with my niece and nephew, took what seemed like a million photos and videos in photobooth here on my trusty Mac, did a few family portraits in the yard, and had an all around wonderful day together.  Since we still had a few more speaking engagements and other responsibilities to take care of in that final week (seriously, we were travelling and speaking up until 2 days before we left… talk about craziness), I ended up needing to drive back to Indiana from my brother’s house.  That was a tough drive, as I knew the next (and last) time I would see them would be at O’Hare, right before boarding a plane to Thailand – for what we had thought at that time would be a 4 year stint before returning to see them again…

You see, my parents were missionaries for several years before I came into the world.  My big brother, Tim, was born out on the field.  They lived in a pretty remote fishing village in southern Alaska, a place where you needed to order your groceries 6 months at a time from a catalog.  Because of this, my mom has been even more of a help to me as Brook and I have begun building our life over here in Asia.  Sure, Alaska and Thailand are nothing alike – but, it’s still far away, still a world totally foreign to us, we get lonely, we miss home, we have to deal with raising support and everything that entails, we face all kinds of ridiculous challenges each day… and she gets it.  We all count on our moms for advice, encouragement, friendship, love, and the fact that my mom can actually relate to what I’m going through over here just sends her that much higher in the awesome category.  We chat via phone or Skype every couple of weeks, and there have been times where I only begin to tell her something and she already knows what I’m going to say, because she’s been there, too.  It’s really kinda neat how that works, and I’m so grateful for it.

So, you can only imagine how fun it was for me to call my mom, totally out of the blue, on what just so happened to be Halloween night, and ask her what kind of cookies we were going to make together for Christmas this year.  I took great joy in her confused pause and accompanying “wait, what?”, followed by repeating my question until she realized what I was really saying to her.  We weren’t supposed to be home for 4 whole years, and when the opportunity to fly home at only 1 and a half arose, we jumped on attacked it.

Ever wonder where my love of food, cooking, and hosting comes from?  Yeah, my mom.  You have no idea how fun it was for me to just hang out in the kitchen with her baking, making candies, and just enjoying one another’s company.  Sure, we weren’t home for very long, and it was super busy, but I wouldn’t trade the time we had for anything in the world.  We cooked together, baked together, hugged, looked at old family slides (yes, I’m the annoying little nerd who begs for the old projector and carousels of photos to be drug out whenever I’m home), wrapped Christmas presents, hugged, went grocery shopping, talked about the baby, ate Spumoni ice cream, hugged, and I did mention how many times I hugged my mom yet?

I love my momma.

It stinks to know that it’ll be another 2 and a half years before I get to fly home to see her again.  It’s hard to deal with the fact that she won’t be here to hold my first baby as soon as it arrives.  It’s tough not being able to know I can just hop in the car, and within a few hours be there to hand her a big bunch of flowers today.  But, it’s okay.  I know my mom always loves me, and is always thinking about me, no matter where I am, and that’s a wonderful thing…

Happy Mother’s day, momma.  Thanks for helping me become who I am.  Love you!

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Just for Fun, Personal | 1 Comment

Tasty (not) Tuesday – Cinco de Mayo Edition

I haven’t been so great at posting in the last month or so, and that stinks. Between the coming baby, language studies picking back up, and the whirlwind of meetings/events/everything else under the sun continuing through the next couple of months, I’ve been lacking on time and motivation to sit down and write. Not to mention it being the hot HOT season in Thailand, which leaves me with little desire to cook anything to write about either.  Blech.

But, this week, I just had to. I mean, it’s Cinco de Mayo, people. I may not be Mexican, and I may not have any real ties to the holiday whatsoever… but we do celebrate the holiday all throughout the States, and I am an American. Thus, we are having burritos for supper.

If you’re from Indiana, it’s likely you may have heard of (or been to many times!) a Mexican restaurant chain called Hacienda. They’ve got fantastic food, an unlimited supply of chips and salsa, and they are the ones who make Brook’s favorite burrito in the whole wide world (and, considering where we live, I mean that literally) – the Wet Burrito.  Lucky for him, he just so happens to have a wife that enjoys the challenge of recreating the things we miss from home, and has actually gotten pretty good at it.

So, tonight we’re having Wet Burritos – the Thailand edition.

Hacienda offers a choice of shredded beef, pork, or chicken, ground beef, black beans, or red potatoes – Brook always orders the chicken.  So, that’s how I make them, too.  I will tell you now, that my version may not be exactly like Hacienda’s (as I am basically going on a memory from the States here), but I’m getting closer with each time I make them and they still taste pretty dang good.

For me, it all comes down to tender chicken and a good mole.

I start out by poaching the chicken (skin on) in plain water (2 breasts makes about 4-6 regular size burritos, depending on how much you fill them, to give you a reference) until it’s nice and tender, reserving the fresh broth for sauce making.

This is the easiest recipe for me to make, as different kinds of chiles (outside of Thai varieties) are impossible for me to find.  It’s a good base to work from, as it isn’t spicy at all and doesn’t have an overwhelming flavor.  It would be easy for you to customize by adding some heat, chopped green chiles, or whatever other flavors you happen to like.  Of course, if you’ve already got another recipe you like, or a jarred variety you enjoy, then go ahead and use that!  The recipe, as is, makes 3 cups of sauce – I tend to cut the recipe by 1/3 since there’s only 2 of us in this house.

Once you’ve added the broth to the mole, let it simmer for just a minute or two, then add your chicken (cooked and shredded or broken up by hand) and let it reduce until it’s however thick or saucy you’d like it to be.  I had just added my meat in the photo above, and let it cook for about 10 minutes from there.  After your filling has reached your desired consistency, let it sit a few minutes to cool down and stiffen up a bit – this will keep your tortillas from tearing when filling and rolling them for the oven.

Once ready, lay out all of your ingredients, and get ready to roll – refried beans, meat filling, shredded lettuce, finely diced tomatoes (seeds removed!), and of course, warm flour tortillas.

Begin by spreading a thin layer of beans across the tortilla, adding a thicker strip down the middle if you so desire – I like beans, so I always add more to mine!  Next come the tomatoes and a sprinkling of lettuce down the center of your tortilla.  Finish it off by piling your chicken on top of the lettuce, being sure not to add so much that you can’t roll it up and tuck in the ends.

Once everything is in place, fold one end of the tortilla over to cover your filling.  Next, tuck in the ends on both sides.  Then, finish rolling the burrito (holding the ends in securely!) until sealed.  Make sure you place burritos seam down, and close together, into whatever baking dish or casserole you are going to use.  From here, you can cover them in your favorite taco or enchilada sauce, top with cheese and/or salsa, or whatever else you happen enjoy on your burritos.  (We tend to just cover them with cheese, then add sour cream and salsa after they come out of the oven.)  Go ahead and pop them in a hot oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is all melted and bubbly and burritos are heated through.  (I’m not sure what temp to tell you, as my oven does not have a temperature control on it… I just turn it up as high as the gas will go, and during our current season – my oven is outside – I know that will put me somewhere between 375-425F most evenings. 🙂

Last step – eat!

Mmmmmm……. burritos.

May 5, 2011 Posted by | Food, Tasty Tuesdays | 1 Comment