A Blissful Week of Cooking

I got to take a break from my drama teaching, directing, and producing hats this weekend and cook!

I organized a Week Without Walls cooking experience called Hot, Spicy, & Sasse. Yeah, I like the name too. I had twelve students, most of which had never cooked before, and I helped them build their cooking skills and techniques over the course of the week. It was a blast, and we ate a ton of good food.

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Here’s a look at our set-up. We had four booths installed in our loading dock. They were wired for lots of small hot plates, an oven, refrigerator, and, of course, rice cooker. Then I started with a demonstration and let them go at it, walking around to give them guidance as needed.

It was fun to see students who had never cooked before gain some experience, and more importantly, confidence that they don’t have to rely on anyone else for delicious food. They have the power! And now the skills.

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Here are two students making our final dish of the week: garlic butter stuffed crust pizza. Yeah, it was phenomenal.

Here’s the menu boards of ingredients we used for the week. I hope to do it again next year.

 

 

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Another Recipe: My Take on Thai Curry

I LOVE a flavorful curry.  Thai curries are some of my favorite. When I’m out of Southeast Asia, I miss it tremendously and typically have to make my own if I am to be satisfied.

Here’s a recipe I whipped up today and it turned out fabulous, so I thought I’d share.  It tastes remarkably similar to a curry my Thai lunch lady in Penang would serve me often. It’s incredibly easy, very fast to prepare, and super delicious.  Try it out and let me know what you think!

First, create the spice paste:
1 inch ginger
1 inch galangal
large handful of thai basil leaves OR mint leaves
4 cloves garlic
1 red onion
1-2 stalks of lemon grass (white part)  (NOTE: I didn’t have this today, but still awesome!)
1-3 red chili peppers (per preference)
Put ingredients, along with a little oil, into food processor and mix thoroughly until nearly a paste consistency.
NEXT:
Put paste in frying pan and let simmer until fragrant.
ADD:
1 tablespoon Tom Kha paste (THIS IS OPTIONAL. I HAPPENED TO HAVE IT SO I ADDED IT. CAN BE MADE WITHOUT IT)
3-4 kaffir lime leaves
1 can coconut cream or coconut milk
1 chicken bullion mixed in a cup of hot water
1 pound thinly sliced chicken breast
Simmer until chicken completely cooked.
Serve over white rice.
Enjoy!

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My Hobby – Cooking (Today’s recipe: chicken broccoli stir fry)

When I’m not writing or doing drama-related stuff, I cook. Here’s one I did yesterday.: chicken broccoli stir fry. Super easy. Super delicious and very nutritious! Skip the Chinese take-out and try this. It doesn’t take long to prepare. Here are the ingredients:p_20190104_163940

Listed from left to right: green onions, chopped garlic (4 cloves), chopped ginger (1 inch), 1 medium chopped onion, 1 chopped chili pepper, 1 med head broccoli. In the bottles: sesame oil, oyster sauce, chili sauce, and go ahead and add some soy sauce.

You’ll also need a pound of thinly sliced chicken breast.

Cooking:

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Large wok: add sesame oil and all chopped vegetables. Let stir-fry on high heat for a minute or so. Add broccoli. It will start to steam and turn dark green.

Once mainly cooked, push to side, add more oil to empty side of pan and add half chicken. Stir fry to mainly cooked, push to side with vegetables and cook other half of chicken.  (That’s what is happening in the photo above.)

Now for the sauces: splash in some soy sauce, a couple table spoons of chili sauce (I use an Indonesian variety, but something like Siracha would work as well) and about 1/4 cup of oyster sauce. (if you want to thin out sauce, add a little chicken broth)

Stir fry on high heat until well mixed. Remove from heat. Add green onions and lightly stir. Serve over white rice. (I like Thai rice, personally.)

Enjoy! It’s super delicious and very easy. Here’s my meal from yesterday.

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All right, now back to book editing.

 

Another Food Blog Entry – Thai Basil

I’m in such a foodie mood lately. Yesterday’s post on the amazing Vietnamese dish “Bun Bo Nam Bo” got me thinking food, so here’s a short follow-up on an essential ingredient in many southeast-asian dishes – Thai Basil.

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Thai basil makes itself known in a couple ways. First, its smell. Just bringing it into the house or fridge gets the minty-goodness of it fragrantly sharing itself with everyone. And if you start chopping it, get ready for comments like, “What’s that smell? It smells so good.” “Thai Basil” is the answer.

Thai basil is stronger. It doesn’t have the more delicate sweet flavor of sweet basil or Italian basil. Thai basil commands to be recognized, and when you try it for the first time, it may slightly overpower you. But the flavor becomes intoxicating and addicting.

The first time I ordered “padprik chicken” here in Malaysia, the flavor took me back a little because it was so flavorful. But oh my, it has become one of my favorite dishes in the world. Many westerners order the tried and true “cashew chicken” from my favorite Thai lady, but I keep insisting for them to upgrade to real Thai taste and try the padprik chicken with its delectable basil.

Ways to eat Thai basil:

Vietnamese soups and salads

Any Asian stir-fry – add it in right as you finish

Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, and other noodle dishes

Salads – add some leaves to a regular tossed salad to add some zest and taste

Curries – wonderfully good in a variety of curries – yellow, red, and every color in between

 

Here it is in my favorite: Thai Padprik Chicken

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If you don’t live in Asia, you might need to track it down at your local Asian mart. Enjoy!

Writing: It’s Kind of Like Garlic Butter

A local chain pizza shop here sells their pizza with a garlic butter crust, but one taste confirms that, most likely, it contains neither garlic or butter.

To me, the crust tastes like nail polish applied on top of a thin layer of artificially flavored garlic powder. It’s kind of nauseating actually.

The reason for my repulsion is simple: I love garlic butter, and here’s the best recipe in the world for making it.

RECIPE BREAK: Add chopped cloves of garlic to melted butter.

That’s it. That’s how simple it is to make incredible garlic butter. I put it on my homemade pizza crusts all the time. If I want to go wild, I might even sprinkle some dried oregano over top of it.

Real. Simple. I’m beginning to think that these two words hold many of the keys to a good life. Keeping it real. Keeping it simple.

Here’s another recipe for you. I once had someone ask me how to make honey-mustard sauce.

RECIPE BREAK 2: Take honey. Add mustard. Mix.

It’s really quite good just like that. Some might add some mayonnaise or brown sugar, but just a simple combination of honey and mustard is outstanding.

Real. Simple.

I say all this as a way to keep constantly reminding myself to have that same approach when I am writing.

Keep it real. Keep it simple.

Don’t try to write like someone else. Be yourself.

Don’t try to sound pretentious and use big words that you actually feel uncomfortable using. Your readers will find you out!

Don’t think that every plot and story has to be extremely complex. Focus on what the point is. If your writing doesn’t have a point, I suggest stop writing until you discover the point of what it is you want to write. Then stick to it. Drive it home. Focus. Be real. Be authentic.

Be the honey to your mustard or the garlic to your butter. Don’t inflate your writing with high-octane chemicals which provide cheap thrills and nauseated stomachs.

So I try to keep my writing as simple as my cooking. This approach has treated me well thus far.

What about you?