Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Congratulations Card

I made this card using my new stamp and punch set that I got for Christmas. (Thanks mom!) It's simple and yet elegant with the rounded edges. The cool set from EK Success Brands comes with sentiment and background stamps along with a large flower punch that lines up with the stamps. It's really good for creating layered effects.


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Stay tuned for more ideas using my new sets from EK! I think they are so cool. Here's a link to their cite if you are interested in getting your own: http://www.eksuccessbrands.com/
 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beet Hummus

I was recently informed that the Super Bowl is coming up this Sunday. I don't keep up with football, nor does it interest me at all. (I actually thought the Super Bowl took place in November. Whoops...) I do love a good party, though, and a good party cannot happen without some good food. Why not bring a healthy and colorful dip to your Super Bowl party wherever you may be celebrating it. Your friends will definitely thank you, and it will make a good change to all the Chex mix, cookies, and  wings. 


beet hummus (1)

Beet Hummus
makes 2 cups
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
1 ½ cups sliced beets, cooked
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until completely creamy. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Enjoy with crackers, carrot sticks, celery, or pita chips.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Thai Table

I consider myself an experienced chef of the Southeastern Asian cuisine now that I have completed Thailand, my fifth country from this region. Thailand is the only nation in Southeast Asia to have not been colonized, and their current monarch is the longest reigning surviving monarch in the world. Bhumibol Adulyadej became king in 1946, and at 87 years old, he is still in power. The Thai people love their king, or at least they say they do. Criticizing the king results in incarceration. I guess freedom of speech is not widely practiced in the "land of freedom". This Thursday a group from my church will be traveling to Thailand to spread the love of Jesus to a country that is so very lost. Almost 95% of the people are Buddhist and practically all of the remaining 5% are Muslim. Thailand could definitely use your prayers. I pray that the truth of Jesus could take hold of these beautiful people and that they may grow to know and love Him.

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Recently, Thai food has gained a lot of popularity here in the United States. Thai restaurants are popping up as fast as Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, and Mexican it seems like. (The US has yet to discover that there are hundreds of more cuisines out there to uncover.) The cuisine of Thailand is a mixture of five tastes: spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Every meal is a balance of all five. Most meals include a soup, salad, curry, sauce, and fried dish with no tastes repeated. I tried to recreate this for my Thai table, and I think I did the best I could. Everything is rounded out with a nice healthy serving of Jasmine rice. It helps to cleanse the pallet and cut the heat. Thai food is complex and beautiful.

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My first dish is a light bamboo salad from the Northeast. Unlike in the West, there is no soup and salad course in Thailand. All the food is served at once with rice being the center. I found this salad to go well with the rest of the meal. It was slightly salty and a little sour from the canned bamboo, a perfect balance to my spicy nam prik and creamy soup.

Sup No Mai
1 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots (from a can)
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp toasted rice
½ tsp ground chili pepper powder

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and cook the bamboo for a couple of minutes. Drain and allow the bamboo to cool. Toss all the ingredients together to serve.

 
 
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Tom kha gai is the quintessential Thai soup. If you know anything about Thai food, you know this coconut soup and pad thai (which turns out to be a street food, not something found on the table at your average Thai home). Chicken is the traditional filler, but it can also be supplemented or replaced with mushrooms. The name would change if the chicken is taken out, though, as 'gai' is the Thai word for chicken. This soup is both spicy and sour. I loved the creamy texture and the delicious and complex taste.
 
 
 
 
 
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Tom Kha Gai
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded or 1 tbsp lime zest
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2” pieces
1/2 cup cubed chicken thighs or breast
1- 2” piece galangal, cut into rings
2 shallots, chopped
½ -1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of one lime
red chili powder, to taste
1 hot chili pepper, seeded and sliced
cilantro leaves

Bring chicken broth, coconut milk, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken and onions. Cook covered for about 20 minutes. Serve topped with sliced chilies, chili powder, lime juice, and cilantro.

 

 
Literally "everything mixed together", pad phak ruam mitr is a vegetable stir fry that incorporates a ton of fresh produce. You will feel super healthy eating this along with a side of Jasmine rice. The chili gives it just the right flavor but does not overpower the crispy and fresh taste of the veggies. Simple and delicious!
 
Pad Phak Ruam Mitr
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
½ cup snow peas
½ cup sliced bell pepper
1 large shallot, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 bunch spinach
1 red hot chili pepper, julienned with seeds removed
1 green hot chili pepper, julienned with seeds removed
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 tbsp chili oil
4 tbsp water

Heat a wok over medium high heat with the oil. Add the shallot and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the water and remaining vegetables except for the mung bean sprouts and cook until crisp- tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, lime juice, and bean sprouts. Remove from the heat and serve.




 
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Wow this sauce put my mouth on fire! I love spicy food, and this was right up my alley. I caution you to wear gloves when working with the chilies. I didn't, and my poor hands faced the consequence. And whatever you do, do not touch your face! Not even 3 hours later. It burns! Traditionally you would pound this out with a mortar and pestle, but I found a food processor to be a quicker and still efficient substitute. Some version of a nam prik is always served with a Thai meal to flavor things up a bit. (If you can taste anything once your tongue is burned off.) Proceed with caution.
 
Nam Prik Kiga
½ cup chopped red chili peppers
½ cup chopped green chili peppers
¼ cup chopped shallot
2 tbsp minced garlic
5-6 sprigs of cilantro, leaves and stem
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
½ tbsp oil

Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chili peppers, garlic, and shallot. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the shallot is tender. Allow the pepper to cool. In a food processor, process all the ingredients together until finely chopped. Serve with meats, rice, seafood, and lots of milk to cut back the heat!




 
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This curry is the bomb! The short ingredient list does nothing to demonstrate the complexity of the flavors found in this easily put together curry. I guess I can attribute it to the curry paste, but I have never tasted anything quite like it. I'm already planning on making it again sometime this week. It was that good. The Thai have these awesome little eggplants that they use along with chicken to ad sustenance to the sauce. They look like little peas and are impossible to find in the middle of Tennessee. I read that peas were a good substitute, so I had to use them. Another version uses bamboo shoots, so if you have any leftover from the salad, feel free to throw them in! I chose to do a red curry, but the number of different curries found in Thailand is too long to list. I'd like to eventually explore some more of them after having such success with this one.

Gaeng Phed Gai
2 large chicken thighs, cubed
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp red curry paste
1/3 cup Thai eggplants or green peas
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded or 1 tbsp lime zest
6 basil leaves
1 tbsp fish sauce
cooked jasmine rice, to serve

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the curry paste. Cook, stirring constantly for a minute before pouring in the coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer, add the chicken and lime leaves, and cook for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the eggplants and cook for another 5 minutes. Lastly, stir in the fish sauce and basil and serve with rice.


I have hit the Southeastern Asian countries fast and hard. First I cooked Laos, then Vietnam, followed by Myanmar, Cambodia, and now Thailand. I have not been a fan of some of the exotic flavorings nor the excessive use of fish sauce. For this reason and the fact that Thai food seemed quite daunting, I was pretty stressed out about this meal. I would have to say that I definitely spent the longest time researching Thailand. I was excited to do it because it was so complex and new, but at the same time I was really intimidated. My meal had to be perfect. I had to find the correct dishes that correlated with one another to mesh together my Thai table. Nothing could go wrong. This was a very unrealistic expectation, especially considering my lack of experience with Thai cuisine, and the lack of many authentic Thai ingredients at the grocery store. In the end, I had to make a few substitutions, my meal was not perfect by far, and I spent a little too much time researching, but I was quite pleased with the results. Either I am growing to like fish sauce or I am learning how to better blend the flavors of Southeastern Asia together, but I liked (if not loved) all of the dishes I made for Thailand. It was a rough journey, but my trip to the country of enchanting temples and beautiful orchids.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Celebration Card

I have gotten quite a bit of interest in my new card making business, and I think this is cause to celebrate! What better way to celebrate than by making some new cards?

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It looks like I will be making a lot of cards in the near future. If the orders keep coming in, I will need to keep up. Bring them on because I'm ready to get crafting! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chopping it up island style!

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States situated in the Pacific Ocean. It's a little bigger than Washington DC with almost 78 square miles spread out over 5 islands and 2 atolls. Most of the people live on the largest island of Tutuila. One of the atolls is actually an uninhabited wildlife sanctuary. The other atoll has a whopping population of 17 people who apparently live on it to harvest coconuts. (?) Just about all of the 55,500 inhabitants are fluent in English and Gagana Fa'asāmoa (Samoan). One quick historical fact about American Samoa is that it avoided getting the Spanish flue epidemic in the early 1900s. A good decision from the governor of the time (John Martin Poyer) to quarantine any incoming ships from America saved the people from the pandemic disease. Neighboring Samoa lost 62% of their population while there was not one death in American Samoa.

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The food scene in American Samoa is not very well advertised here in the states. There are only a couple of Samoan cooking sites online, and I had to be careful to save enough recipes to cook for the neighboring independent country of Samoa. (They have very similar traditions, cuisines, and backgrounds.) Taro, rice, coconut, breadfruit, and fish are staples from the islands. There is not all that much variety in fresh fruits and vegetables or other products, so canned goods are frequently used. It is not uncommon to find dishes of corned beef, canned vegetables, or other processed items.

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For my main, I decided to make the Samoan version of chop suey. Often made from canned veggies, this stir fried noodle dish is super simple and economic to make. Chicken and corned beef are the two most common protein additions. I went with chicken because I had some on hand, but you can totally swap it out with corned beef if you are feeling more adventurous. Also, feel free to mix up the veggies you use in it. You can go totally canned for a more "authentic" feel, or use up the rest of those vegetables sitting in the back of your fridge. It's all up to you.

Sapasui
2 large chicken breasts, cut into ½” cubes
8 oz clear cellophane/ mung bean noodles
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp oil
½ cup soy sauce
1 ½ cups chicken broth or water
½ cup each chopped red bell pepper, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, chopped carrot, snow peas, and corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
sliced green onions, to serve

Soak the noodles in water for 10 to 15 minutes to loosen them up. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a wok or large skillet with a lid. Add the ginger, onion, and garlic. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is tender. Add in the chicken and brown on all sides for about 5 minutes, making sure not to cook it all the way through. Pour in the broth and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the veggies and noodles. Mix well, bring back to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve topped with sliced green onions.

 



 
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I read that a common sides to the sapasui were taro with coconut sauce or coconut rice. I went with the latter option because, sadly, I have never came across taro at my local Kroger. Coconuts are very important in American Samoa and used often like in many island nations.


Alaisa Fa’apopo
1 ½ cups rice
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup coconut milk
salt, to taste

Place the water and rice in a small pot with a lid and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 18 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and remove the pot from the heat. Let the pot sit for 10 minutes with the lid still on it before fluffing with a fork, seasoning to taste, and serving.

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My Samoan meal was perfect for a weeknight. Besides chopping up all the vegetables, it was quick and simple to put together. The coconut milk gave the rice a light island feel without overpowering it, and the sapasui was healthy and delicious. I learned a thing or two about mung bean/ cellophane noodles too. I had to order them off of Amazon because Kroger failed me yet again. I planned on using them two separate times, so I tried to break the bundle of noodles in half. My hands now hold the battle scars. Mung bean noodles are not forgiving. Before you soak them, they are strong little buggers! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your brief visit to the island of Samoa this January. Just think, it's summer for them right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

What is better than a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread? A customizable recipe for chocolate zucchini bread!

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Customizable? What does that mean? Well, I am so very glad you asked. This zucchini bread can be adapted to serve any tastes or occasions. You can go the decadent route by using oil and chocolate chips, add in an extra serving of fruit with some applesauce, make it gluten free, boost your calcium and probiotics with yogurt, or bring down the caffeine level with carob powder. The options are for you to decide based off of your own needs and wants. The result? A yummy quick bread that is sure to satisfy.

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Customizable Chocolate Zucchini Bread
2 cups rolled oats, blended into a flour
½ cup whole wheat, all purpose, or gluten free flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1 cup cocoa powder or carob powder
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil, applesauce, or yogurt
2 ½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
¾ cup milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or carob chips (optional)
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a large loaf pan. Mix together the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together, folding in the chocolate chips (if using). Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to sit in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Infinity Scarf #2

Here is another infinity scarf that I knitted modeled by none the less than beautiful Miss Harper. I like this one better than my last one. I made it a little thicker and longer to make a more cozy scarf for a friend.


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I am just so thankful to have my little model. I cannot wait to see her again over spring break. I miss you Harper!