Monday, January 7, 2008

All good things...

Nine things I learned while on vacation:
  • Sixteen days is long enough to slip into a completely different sleep pattern. My natural pattern happens to be going to bed around midnight and getting up around 9am.

  • Vietnamese food is way easier to cook at home than I ever imagined, thanks to this book. More to come on our adventures in cooking.

  • You can't go to a movie anymore without someone in the audience talking throughout most of it.

  • Sudoku is easier with two people.

  • Thank goodness I know how to make pumpkin scones, because Starbucks stopped carrying them. Grr...

  • William Shakespeare is responsible for the earliest recorded usage of thousands of words, including the following:

    • accused • addiction • alligator • amazement • anchovies • assassination • backing • bandit • bedroom • bump • buzzers • courtship • critic • dauntless • dawn • design • dickens • discontent • embrace • employer • engagements • excitements • exposure • eyeball • fixture • glow • gust • hint • immediacy • investments • leapfrog • luggage • manager • mimic • misgiving • mountaineer • ode • outbreak • pageantry • pedant • perusal • questioning • reinforcement • retirement • roadway • savagery • scuffles • shudders • switch • tardiness • transcendence • urging • watchdog • wormhole • zany

    Also, one of my favorites: excellent.

  • Hot chai latte + coconut syrup + a shot of espresso = crazy delicious.

  • Hollister Co. stores smell like a guy's dorm room.

  • Facials really are worth the time and money. If you haven't experienced one lately (or ever), make sure to get one soon.
What else... now that the vacation is over, it's time to get back into the normal routine. But not quite the same normal routine as last year. This year, we resolve to cook at home more. Hence, the Vietnamese cookbook.

Here's the thing: we don't cook. Let me rephrase that... we didn't cook. We would cook something every once in a great while, but for the most part, we really, really love to eat out at restaurants. So I got to thinking, what is it that we like to go out for the most? Sushi and Vietnamese. Since I'm not quite brave enough (yet) to tackle home sushi, I figured we could attempt our favorite Vietnamese dishes. So we spent some time at the ol' bookstore and found a book with recipes that looked easy enough to follow. I took the book with us to the grocery store and to the Asian market, and we got everything we needed for lemongrass chicken.

Our first attempt at the dish went off really well, except for the rice noodles. We bought dried rice sticks from the grocery store, and followed the package instructions, but they didn't get cooked enough. So we cooked them some more, and then some more, and they eventually turned into a sticky glob of grossness. Thank goodness for Minute Rice, because that saved our meal.

We made Jasmine rice in the rice cooker on the second go-round, and it was way better than the Minute Rice (go figure... ).

Since we were (are) lemongrass chicken experts, it was time to tackle another Vietnamese favorite: Spring rolls. This meant conquering rice noodles, however. After much research, I concluded that there are just as many ways to cook rice noodles as there are people who cook rice noodles. In other words, we were still lost. So, we bit the bullet and bought another package of dried noodles to practice with.

Here is the best advice I can give you about rice noodles: Buy Thai Kitchen brand thin rice noodles. Bring some water to a boil, and as soon as it starts to boil, put in your dried rice noodles and remove the pot from the heat. Let the rice noodles sit in the pot of hot water for 8-10 minutes, until soft. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Voila! Perfect rice noodles. For reals.

So now rice noodles were mastered, it was time to attempt making spring rolls. The hardest part was figuring out how long to soak the rice paper (about 30 seconds or so). We put a butter lettuce leaf, some pickled carrots, cilantro, rice noodles and a couple of cooked shrimp in the roll, and went to town. We set up a little assembly line and before we knew it, five rolls were ready for consumption. I made a really easy and delicious peanut sauce using the recipe in my trusty cookbook to accompany the spring rolls.

How did our Vietnamese meal turn out, you ask?

Yums!

Tonight, we might attempt another favorite, Pho Ga. I don't know if it will be more difficult than the lemongrass chicken or spring rolls, but since we're having so much success with this cooking thing lately, I'm not afraid to try.

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