Kitchen Ramblings

Chinese-Inspired Dinner of Mee-Sua Noodles and Three-Cup Pork and Chicken

Chinese-Inspired Dinner of Mee-Sua Noodles and Three-Cup Pork and Chicken

So yesterday, I found a bag of Mee-Sua Noodles (Longevity Noodles, was what the packet said) and thought what would be a great dish to go along with it?

I looked back a few posts ago when I did my Asian-inspired lunch (which I did blog about), I thought of the Taiwanese Three-Cup Chicken. That recipe, I followed to the letter, this time though, I figured that I should just eye-ball it more or less. Which I did! Starting off with instead of just chicken, I added a kilo of pork belly!

It wasn’t so bad, I must say. A bit too oily for my taste, but then again, I did threw in pork belly!  So yesterday’s kitchen lesson? No pork belly, especially when cooking with sesame oil!

So that was my discovery, just thought I’d share!

Snippets of Hume Lake Thailand 2013

There’s just something about watching young people draw closer to God that really pulls at my heartstrings. Mind you, it’s the first time that I’ve experience it firsthand from the other side, but it’s definitely a feeling that swells up an inexplicable joy deep down. I say this because just last week, I was privileged to be a part of a team of counselors that helped out with the Hume Lake Camp that was held here in Chiang Mai. Let me tell you in all honest truths: I’ve never been so blessed watching the youth grow in their walk with the Lord.

A team from Hume Lake, a Christian camp based in California, have been coming up to Chiang Mai, Thailand every other year long before I’ve been here (at least way before 2006) to host a summer-like camp for the MKs and TCKs of Thailand. The week would normally be split in two separate camps (the high school and middle school camp). Knowing that I’m still partially hung-over from my statistic exams and endless thesis proposal (not even a bit of alcohol was consumed during those times, I assure you), I knew I wasn’t going to last a whole week. So I volunteered to be with the older students.  After much praying with God and prodding the camp director, I was placed as the cabin counselor to fourteen 9th-11th graders from my alma-mater.

Let me tell you, we had fun! From a bit of sugar-high from cookies, to awkward questions and competitive board games, God opened the door for me to know these girls in a new light. I’ve known most of them more or less since I was in high school (they were in elementary!!!), but God broke the ice and not only was I able to connect with them, they were able to build stronger relationships with each other those 4 days and 3 nights.

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I’ve always been partial to camps, as a bit over a decade ago, I accepted my relationship with Jesus Christ as my own while I was in one, namely Centrifuge. It was no longer the faith of my parents, but it was between me and God. It was a raw inner struggle that I probably would’ve been broken if I figured it out on my own. But God is faithful. At that point in time, He gave me the most beautiful youth pastor, Christina, whose joy and love for God just exudes out of her being. She held me when I cried and comforted me with the Truth when I blubbered out in frustration as any confused 8th grader would when smacked in the face with this ‘God thing.’

So when camper applications for Hume Lake came along, I was ridiculously excited. Maybe this time round, as a counselor, I could do what  Christina did for me and help guide the girls along in their walk with the Lord. What I got from Hume was something completely different.

It was amazing watching these kids pour their hearts out to God and crying out for Him to forgive them and accept them. It was beautiful, seeing them find His grace for them and that He has chosen them to be a part of His kingdom. And that was mostly what I did, watching and seeing. Because from how everything turned out, that was how God arranged for me to be, to stay put, stop talking and let go.

I was so excited! I brought cookies, games and nail polish. I hung out with the girls and asked them questions. However when it came down to the core discussions during our cabin group time, God laid in my heart to split my group up and ask the four older girls to lead. While I was praying during their small group time, I made it a point to visit each group and it was heart-warming to see these high school juniors take the mantle and share their struggles and experiences with those in their groups.

I was so excited to do something, to make something happen, to be a part of each of their journey. But then God reminds me, it’s not about me. I’m not the one who would impact their lives. I’m not the one who would guide them throughout their journey. It’s God.

It doesn’t mean though that I was insignificant. I like to think of it more of  I was one of the minor stage hands, pulling up and down all the levers on set, while God was the main actor and director in this play called ‘A Young Christian’s Life’ and it’s a beautiful masterpiece.

Hume Lake 2013 is just prologue for many of these young people. For some, it’s still the trailer of their Christian life. I don’t know how the story ends, but I’m sure it will be a deep and challenging ride, filled with plot twists, drama and intrigue, because hey! Who ever said being a Christ-follower was easy?

An Asian-Inspired Lunch

I suppose technically, I should write up East Asian-Inspired Lunch since the dishes I cooked for lunch today were all Chinese/Taiwanese-inspired dishes rather than other parts of Asia’s eclectic cuisine like Filipino, Sri-Lankan, Indian, Thai, etc…

But yes, last night, my little Hipster found what Thais call “Mee-Yok” or Jade Noodles (Rice Vermicelli) at the local super market. Now apparently, these things are hard to find so my momma picked up a pack. Now I’m picky about my Asian noodles, but I must say I love these green noodles! Especially when stir-fried. Never cooked them in my life, but my mouth was watering at the thought of them this morning.

a.k.a. Jade Noodles

a.k.a. Jade Noodles

 

So as you can see, I convinced the little Hipster to figure out how to make it (she called her old nanny who lives hours away to learn how) and whip it up for me. Typically, people eat these noodles with like a boiled dish. However, I practically screamed “STIR-FRIED!!!” So I thought what would be good with this?

A couple of days ago, after my Orange Chicken post, I went browsing and found a recipe for the Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken on Simply Vicky‘s blog. Again, I had the same problem as earlier where I didn’t have all the right ingredients, but conceptually, her recipe helped me out a lot! While mine probably tasted nothing like hers, she was quite the inspiration! So I made my own form of  Three Cup Chicken.

Also while at the grocery store this morning, trying to decide what to eat with the noodles, (I haven’t fully sold myself to making the Chicken yet) I grabbed a pack of pork sirloin and and just cleaned, chopped and stir-fried it with olive oil, Japanese Spring Onions, oyster sauce and Char Sui sauce (dunno what that is, first time to use it. We got it at the Asian sauce aisle and it is good I must say), and it was a happy surprise!

I will honestly admit to you that I wouldn’t know what to call any of my dishes since I doubt they’re fully Chinese/East Asian, but they’re definitely inspired and cooked with classic ingredients that celebrate quintessential Asian flavors and we had a great lunch!

Weekend Kitchen Musings

As you all know, I’ve craving to bake all week long! Well, guess what!? After drooling over my newsfeed on Pinterest and stalking… browsing through Your Cup of Cake, I’ve finally baked!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Blueberry Cupcakes with Orange Cream Cheese frosting!

Blueberry Cupcake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

Blueberry Cupcake with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

And they were delicious! I must say, I got my recipe Your Cup of Cake, if ya’ll don’t already know her, check her out! She’s got pretty and inspirational cakes going on! I did have to use my own frosting recipe (I really don’t like buttercream) and I had to  tweak and adjust a few things on the cupcake recipe just because I was missing some ingredients.  The Results: They weren’t as pretty as I hoped they would be, but really, for a first time experiment, I count it as a success!

And of course, for some strange reason, pancake recipes have been popping up everywhere! So of course, I gave in to peer pressure and jumped the bandwagon so Voila!

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So that’s a wrap for my kitchen musings these past couple of days… But can you keep a secret?

My daddy’s birthday’s coming up, so you know what that means!??

CUPCAKE PANDEMONIUM COMING UP!!!!

Well, at least I hope so!

So stay tuned! I’ll definitely let y’all in if I get to whipping up something good!

🙂

Home-made Orange Chicken

Yesterday, I talked about how much I wanted to bake.

Unfortunately, we’re out of butter…

And Chocolate Chunks…

And Cream Cheese…

And Cream…

And I think Baking Powder too…

So in other words, no baking for me. 😦 However, I try not to let that dampen my mood, so I made do with what we got: Meat! Specifically, chicken! If you must know, one of my favorite food that I miss in America is the local Chinese restaurants’ Orange Chicken.

I know! I know! It’s ironic how there’s no orange chicken in Asia!!!

So I figured, hey! Let’s give it a shot. And mind you, BEAUTIFUL!

Orange Chicken

Grace-styled Orange Chicken

As much as would love to share the recipe for this, I pretty much eye-balled the whole process.  I can tell you though that the sauce was a mix of orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, oyster sauce, ketchup (a tad bit), ground black pepper and a bit of water when it was too rich.

I’m still planning to bake sometime soon! So keep your eyes out! It’s gonna be EPIC! Whether it would be an epic success or failure has yet to be determined, but we shall see… we shall see…

Testing Cookies

So while we were in the States a while back, I had the opportunity to munch on the most wonderful cookies ever! While I strongly hold Starbuck’s Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies, anything Mrs. Fields and Pepperidge Farm soft cookies on to high esteem, I like to think I can whip up a couple of great batches too!

The point is, while in Virginia, I had the chance to bite on a variety of cookie flavors that are very rare here in Chiang Mai. (Mind you, finding great locally baked cookies is very rare, but Butter is Better  has AMAZING chocolate chip cookies!) So with that inspiration in mind, there came a point in time a month ago where I decided move straight on and try mixing and matching some flavors!

I ended up baking four flavors (an original and three experiments) and they turned out great! Well reviewed by my Little Hipster and Little Confucius, I posted them up on my Grace Bakes‘ FB page. I was a bit bummed that my Little Hipster ate the last Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I’m uber happy that I was able to save the pictures for two!

White Chocolate and Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies, all ready for Christmas! :)

White Chocolate and Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies, all ready for Christmas! 🙂

 

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies (With Real Reese's Peanut Butter Chips from America!!!)

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies (With Real Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips from America!!!)

Honestly, after looking at these yummies and remembering my browse on Your Cup of Cake‘s cupcake selection yesterday, I’m itching to bake me something this afternoon! Unfortunately, the water is off (some leak at the main line a few neighborhoods down) and I have to work on my finals so I probably won’t be able to do so until this weekend… -_- ;;;

I do hope it’s sooner though! I’ve got me quite a list of ideas! 🙂

Trekking for School

In my grad school, we trek in the jungle for class.

Deep in the Jungle

Deep in the Jungle

While not the most common form of instruction for higher education, the Dean of my department, the School of Tourism Development deems it best for us students to get out of the classroom and visit villages that are potentially marketable for tourism development. We survey the villages, listen to their ideas for business and advise their council accordingly as to how they can go about in expanding this community venture.

So a bit over a week ago, we went to Pongyaeng, a bit further up the mountains of the MaeRim area of Chiang Mai. Asides from us, ten graduate students and the Dean trudging off to the middle of nowhere, we had to semi-babysit about 50 of the brattiest kids that ever walked the university grounds undergrad students. Ugh! They make hyperactive first grade boys look positively angelic!

What do you call this? Pseudobulb? Plantlet???

What do you call this? Pseudobulb? Plantlet???

The main activity the villagers have planned is what I would call, “Orchid Releasing.” Derived from the traditional Thai custom of releasing birds and fish to make merit, the community is trying to integrate their village project of growing orchids into the tourism aspect of their society. What happens is, visitors will assemble the ‘psuedobulb’ (I think that’s what it’s called) from their community nursery and will exchange their plantlet for one that is about three months older and take this new one with them during their trek.

And then off we go! Of all my trekking experience, I’ve gone through worse, this was actually pretty short. While it took us about 2 hours going up and back, it was still quite the work out. (Mind you, I’m fluffy and literally out of shape, no joke)

Gently hammering their orchids up the trees

Delicately hammering their orchids up the trees

So while roaming through the cleared and muddy path, we scattered throughout the trek and hammered (very gently, I assure you) our orchids to the trees. While most of oldies attached our flowers at eye level, the little punks scrambled to borrow the villagers’ ladders and climbed up to higher elevations.

 

 

Speaking of higher elevations, we did find, in the middle of the jungle, a couple of adventure contraptions made specifically for tourists to enjoy in the middle of the jungle.

 

And yes, it's as if they've never been on a slide before...

Yes, it’s a slide…
And yes, it’s as if they’ve never been on a slide before…

We were also rather fortunate that we were passed by a group of tourists off to zip-line. No, we didn’t get to zip-line with them, but hey! I got a few decent shots (rather blurry, mind you!) that I could at least post up the blog for ya’ll to see the different things you can do in the middle of a Thai jungle.

Don't blink! There is guy zip-lining across the trees like Tarzan in this picture!

Don’t blink! There is a guy zip-lining across the trees like Tarzan in this picture!

 

All in all, it was a good day. I’m no where near those rugged adventure-enthusiast, if anything, I’m one of those more- sloth-like individuals who enjoyed being curled up with a good book, munching on something good and fattening. But unexpectedly, I truly enjoyed that trip. While I’m hoping for a short respite until the next time, I can’t wait to see what the next village trip would have in store.

 

This is us, tricked into finding a waterfall... We found nothing, but joy!

This is us, tricked into finding a waterfall… We found nothing, but joy!

A Tale of Two Pairs of Shoes

A pair with a story

A pair with a story

So this weekend, my little Hipster’s old nanny came up to Chiang Mai to visit her and her (the nanny’s) daughter. During lunch, we asked them if they were  going out today and they said yes, they needed to buy her daughter (we’ll call her “N”) a new pair of sneakers for school.

 

Now please understand, N goes to the same university I went to for undergrad and even now for grad school. However, this school gets just weird as it takes uniform-wearing rules to new heights. While wearing uniform in college is common (even a form of pride) in Thailand, my alma mater takes freshman orientation/initiation to extremes. Nothing incriminating, I assure you, but it’s enough to drive anyone batty!  From bag colors to types of undershirt to hairstyles to hair tie! It’s insane. So of course, shoes are included in this list of conformity. For Physical Education and casual uniform, first year students have to wear the black sneakers together with their usual ensemble. Mind you, you can get ones for very cheap ($10!), like the pair shown, but the agony! When I bought that pair (fitted perfectly!) 5 years ago, my leg muscles cramped up after less than an hour of wearing it. I don’t know why most people are fine with it, but not me!  I think I’m allergic… -_- ;;; So I chucked that pair in its box and hid it under the bed never to be seen again, more or less remembered. Though my mom did took it out from under the bed a few months back and kept it in the store room.

 

So when N said sneakers, I thought of my old pair (the ones that I’ve actually worn during my freshman days). They weren’t in terrible shape, but they well-worn. I figured I’ll just find it and let her decide if it was still considered wearable. In my quest, I found a very-dusty old pair of well-branded black pumps that I had to buy for an internship a couple of years ago. I wore it for less than 6 weeks and I knew I was never going to wear them again, but I didn’t want to throw them away. They were rather pricey!  So I called N and asked her to try them out and lo and behold, perfect fit! A minute or two later, my mom came out of our (rather disorganized) store room and claimed, “it’s on top of the pile!” all the while carrying out the shoe box. And yes, that pair was a Cinderella fit too! And unlike the pumps, these were worn twice! Once when I was trying them on and the second when it gave me cramps!

So we asked N if she wanted them and yay, she did! I like to believe that we had an awesome win-win deal this afternoon! N got 2 new pairs of shoes. I think her mother was rather pleased that she didn’t have to spend on a new pair of sneakers. My mother was glad that these two pairs of old shoes wouldn’t be wasted away and I’m super happy that our over-crowded store room is one item less!

I like to think that this was a God-given moment, an opportunity in which we we were given the chance serve and help others in unexpected situations. And I suppose that is why, I thought I’d share this little story to you today!

Grace