Black Friday: Dinner with Family and Friends

I had an absolutely amazing Thanksgiving weekend. Since we were serving at the Salvation Army on Thanksgiving Day, my Aunt, Uncle and I cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal on Friday. We left early on Thursday morning for the shelter, so I recorded the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade to watch while I helped cook. I wish my little sisters could have been with me to watch it, it’s kind of our thing, but I made due without them.

Derek was with us- he made a sweet potato pie (his specialty- I waited two years before I had the opportunity to try it). My grandparents came with green bean casserole, turnips and pecan pie. Uncle B’s daughter Jackie, his son Jon and girlfriend and his sister Deb were here. And two good friends of my Aunt, Tony and Donnie, also joined. So twelve total.

There was plenty of food, as there should be, and most of it was really delicious. My Aunt bought a local, farm-raised turkey and apparently it was quite good although I can’t speak to that. The mashed potatoes were up to par and the yams I made received a few compliments. Jon made a sweet and sour pumpkin dish that was new to me and pretty tasty. Some of the food that my mom usually serves was missing (deviled eggs, corn, green salad) but I had a full plate nonetheless.

Before eating the meal my Aunt asked everyone to say what they are thankful for this year. And she made us both cry when her turn came. Then we commenced the over-eating.

The group played a game of Apples to Apples between dinner and dessert. I don’t think I’ve ever played with such a large group before but it was a lot of fun. And then we feasted on sweet potato pie, pecan pie, cheesecake, apple pie and chocolate peanut butter cookies. It’s no surprise to those that know me that dessert is my favorite course and I was thoroughly satisfied with the abundance of options.

Some people left after dessert. Those that stayed partook in a session of Wii bowling. Before bed I finished watching the parade then went to sleep oh-so-happy with the entire day. I give my first East Coast Thanksgiving a 10 out of 10. It was perfect.

Now bring on Christmas!

Thanksgiving Day: Serving at Salvation Army

Today, on actual Thanksgiving, my family and I served at the Salvation Army. Tomorrow we’re having a meal together, but today we gave to others. I wasn’t sure what to expect, never having donated my time in this way before, but it was really special. The people in need were very thankful and appreciative. And I think the day was even better for me because my Aunt, Uncle, Grandma and Grandpa were with me and we got to share this experience. I would definitely help again next year, but I also want to look into volunteer opportunities throughout the rest of the year.

We got to the Salvation Army building at 8:30 this morning and started by helping prepare bread baskets and cutting/plating the pie. When we finished there was time to spare before the guests starting eating at noon, so we had a chance to step outside to watch the annual road race that starts and ends right in front of the Salvation Army. I guess it’s kind of a Thanksgiving-kickoff tradition in the area and I was amazed to see the mass of 15,000 racers. It’s only 4.8 miles, so the winner completed the loop in about 15 minutes and we stayed out long enough to cheer on at least a 1/3 of the finishers. Our fingers and toes were frozen at this point, so we went back in to warm up before the meal was served. (Aunty and I are determined to run it next year!)

At first I was on door-duty, greeting people as they arrived and helping them find a seat. Then I helped serve pie. I only served dinner to one lady, who arrived as we were cleaning up. Her graciousness was touching. And I made sure that she, and the two men sharing her table, had plenty of pie to take with them. It was such a small thing, but I know our help made their days much brighter.

Here’s some photos of the day:

Aunty S and I

Gramps, Jon (Bryan's son) and Uncle Bryan

pie!

Grandpa and Grandma

table set-up

 

the dining hall

 

Happy Thanksgiving my dear family and friends! I hope your day is filled with food, laughter and love. Tune in later this weekend for a recap of tomorrow’s dinner.

What’s Cooking: Red Curry with Potatoes and Fried Tofu

I must admit that I made this dish last week. With Thanksgiving tomorrow, I just didn’t feel like creating anything new. And this was delicious so it needed to be shared. I was inspired by a meal I had last spring at a Seattle Thai restaurant- it was actually a yellow curry but the soft potato pieces were so good that I wanted to try something similar on my own. I used this recipe as a guide.

Shopping List

curry and veggies-
3 large potatoes
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 can of coconut milk (14 oz)
2 poblano peppers
carrots- I chopped two large handfuls baby carrots
1 head of broccoli
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/3 cup water

tofu and batter-
1 package of extra firm tofu
4 tbsp canola oil
1 cup flour
1 egg
2/3 cup water
1 tbsp cooking oil (I used canola again)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt

rice-
1 cup of rice
2 cups water

This is probably the most involved meal I’ve cooked for my blog. I started in the afternoon by prepping all the vegetables. I cut the carrots and broccoli into bite size pieces. Then peeled, cut and cooked the potatoes. I sliced and de-seeded the peppers. Oh and I also cut the tofu at this time too. And cooked the rice. I put all of this away until a little later so that the cooking would be a little faster.

After my Aunt got home from work, I started by frying the tofu. I was excited to try this because I prefer tofu that has a little crunch and I thought this method would do that quite nicely (and it does). Start by mixing up the batter- stir up the flour, egg, water, oil (just 1 tbsp), baking powder and salt. Put some extra flour in a bowl or a plate to roll the tofu pieces in before battering. Pour the 4 tbsp of oil in a shallow pot and let it start warming. When it’s hot enough, roll the tofu pieces in flour and the cover generously in the batter. Drop gently into the hot oil and turn occasionally until all sides are golden brown. I had 4 or 5 pieces frying at a time. Be super careful because the hot oil will try to splatter and burn you. Set the cooked pieces on a plate covered by paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

Now, it’s time to make the curry. First, I steamed the carrots and broccoli until they were slightly soft. Then, in a big pot because you are going to add everything,  saute the pepper bits in canola oil. After they have cooked for a few minutes, add the coconut milk. Then add the curry paste. Stir until it has dissolved completely. Now add the soy sauce, brown sugar and water and mix until dissolved. Toss in the potatoes to warm them and add the carrots and broccoli to coat in the curry sauce. I did not add the fried tofu in the pot because I didn’t want them to get soggy.

Serve the veggie curry over rice and add tofu pieces to the top.

I was really happy with how this meal turned out. It tasted and smelled just like a Thai restaurant and I definitely enjoyed the fried tofu. This recipe makes a lot of food, though. Even with my Aunt and Uncle eating the curry, I had leftovers for a week. So if you’re making it for one of two you can could cut it in half and still have plenty to eat. If you’re reheating leftovers, the rice and curry warm well in the microwave but I put the tofus under the broiler because I wanted them to stay crisp.

I’ll be adding this recipe to my mental list of go-to meals, even though it takes a bit of prep and there are several steps. I know Derek would enjoy it and I loved the fried tofu so much that I’m thinking of other ways to serve it.

Thankful

Dear Aunty Sharon,

I could never have moved without all your help and support. You’ve given me so much (so much love, so much time, so much stuff) as I figure things out and settle in to East Coast life. This Thanksgiving I am most grateful for our beautiful relationship. And now I can be even more thankful because I get to see you everyday. You’re one of my favorite people and I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for me. I love you and I’m looking forward to spending the holidays together.

Love,
Arikka

What’s Cooking: Pumpkin Oatmeal

I love pumpkin and I love oatmeal, especially for breakfast on cold, stormy days, so when I found this recipe (from a new favorite blog She Said. She Said.), I knew I wanted to try it right away. The results are AMAZING. I’m going to eat it every morning until I run out of ingredients. You need to eat this ASAP.

Shopping List

1/2 cup quick cooking oats
3/4 cups water
1/3 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. brown sugar
cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg to taste
sliced almonds for garnish

Mix oats and water in a bowl large enough that it won’t overflow and pop in the microwave for a minute and half. Stir in milk and pumpkin and cook another minute and a half. Add honey and brown sugar (you might like maple syrup or other sweeteners instead). Sprinkle desired amount of spices and toss a handful of almonds on top. Eat.

It’s ridiculous how easy this to make and even more ridiculous how great it tastes. I’m in love. Try right away- it will make your autumn day so much better.

Balloon Project = Complete

My dear friend Katie has finished her Master’s thesis! And now I can share it with you (proof that I really was filming/photographing the gas balloon race in Albuquerque). The completed project is a multimedia article that uses photos and video to help tell the story of the 2010 race. After a canceled race last year, a co-pilot pulling from this year’s race, many weather-related obstacles and a horrible tragedy in the ballooning community, she had a lot to work with and did an incredible job putting this together. I hope you all love it as much as I do.

You can read/view it HERE.

Katie Kalk- You’re amazing! Thank you for letting me be a part of a such a fascinating and unforgettable experience.

My Pursuit of Happiness

More than once I’ve written a post that suggests how frustrated I am with the job search and adjustment phase that comes with a cross-country move. The hardest aspect is finding things to do everyday in order to feel productive. But I’ve also been dealing with a range of emotions stemming for the fact that I haven’t found a job yet.

However for the last week or so, I’ve been in a much better place mentally. In an effort to maintain this positive attitude, I’m sharing some of the things I’ve been doing lately in order to stay happy in my state of unemployment.

Practicing yoga 4 times a week- I’ve been doing a great job of starting most of my days with at least 30 minutes of stretching and poses. Yoga really helps put me in a good mood. I find balance and strength when I practice.  And the ending meditation relaxes me and puts my goals into focus. Starting my mornings with yoga has put me in a positive mindset that carries throughout the day.

Looking for jobs/sending out resumes 3 times a week- When I first moved, I was looking for work every day (usually searching the job listings several times a day) but I was often multi-tasking and distracted. I found it frustrating to spend so much time looking with so few results. And I constantly felt pressure and guilt if I wasn’t applying for jobs. I’ve since decided on a schedule- spending the morning and/or afternoon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday sorting through the listing and sending my resume out. Since I’m giving myself a substantial break between searches, there are typically several opportunities I’m interested in. And by designating a specific time to job-seek, I free myself from the guilt. I log in a few hours of focused searching and then I feel comfortable spending the rest of my day doing other things.

Listening to Seattle radio stations online- I can’t find any radio stations that interest me in Connecticut so I listen to KUBE and KISS on my computer. I feel a little more connected to Seattle this way, hearing the DJs I used to listen to everyday on the way to work is familiar and comforting. And I get some tidbits of Seattle news which I like.

Crafting with my Grandma- I can’t get too specific about the crafts, because I may or may not be making Christmas gifts for friends that read this blog, but spending time with Grandma (and Grandpa, although he doesn’t craft with us) is so wonderful. One of the reasons I moved was to spend more time with my extended family and I feel great when I do. It’s a nice change of scenery from my Aunt & Uncle’s house. But more than that, I just really enjoy the conversations and company of my grandparents. And I’m learning a lot of crafty things from my G’ma.

Pen-paling with my little sisters- One of the hardest parts of my decision to move was the fact that I wouldn’t be close to my little sisters as they grow up. I was worried about missing all the milestones, and even the stupid, little things. But since I’ve moved, I feel like I’ve had better communication with the Littles than when I was living in Seattle. We text, facebook, talk on the phone, and even write letters back and forth. An “I love you” from one of my favorite persons goes a long way in brightening my day.

Wine tasting with my Aunt- My Aunt has been one of my biggest supporters for a long time and living with her just makes her love and advice that much more accessible. Last weekend we spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday wine tasting and I loved every second of her company. I feel comfortable sharing anything with her so our conversations can help me sort out my feelings or vent.

Cooking, baking and eating- Food is a great source of pleasure for me. And rather than dwell on the fact that I don’t have a job yet, I’ve been using my time to make and eat food I love. I’ve been sharing some of those recipes here on Wednesdays as I get more creative, I’ll start sharing more.

Napping and reading- Knowing that my unemployment will be temporary as long as I continue to allow for jobs every week, I am indulging in naps when I want. And I’m reading good books when I can’t think of anything else to do. Once I start working, I know I’ll miss having time for both of these so I’m doing it while I can and not feeling guilty for it.

Here’s to hoping that this positivity sticks and I can manage to keep myself occupied and happy until I find a job,

A

What’s Cooking: Sweet Tacos

*This is my older brother’s concoction. And his name.

Sweet tacos = tacos made with baked beans

I have to admit, at first mention I was not interested. The idea of mixing sweet beans with cheese and sour cream (among other taco stuffings) did not appeal to me. It wasn’t until after Mego confirmed their deliciousness that I decided I could give them a try. And I liked them so much I added them to my mental list of go-to meals. And now I’m sharing them you.

They are super easy, cheap, filling and tasty. Pretty much what I look for in a meal I prepare myself (especially when I’m cooking for just me). Derek refuses to eat them, but I hope you’ll give them a try.

Shopping List
soft tortilla shells
can of vegetarian baked beans
sour cream
cheddar cheese (shredded)
tomato (diced)
lettuce (cut into small pieces)
salsa or hot sauce if you desire

I’m sure you could figure this out on your own, but I’ll explain how to put them together just in case.

Heat the baked beans until hot. While they warm, grate the cheese and chop the veggies.

When ready, pile the beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream and whatever else you like on your tacos onto the tortilla.

Fold and eat.

You’ll probably want a napkin or two- these can be pretty messy. But so yummy!

Next week I’ll try to post something that requires a little more effort, but no promises. 🙂

First Snow of the Season

It snowed yesterday! Just a little bit and it was gone by lunch, but it was snow nonetheless. Sorry for the picture quality- it was too cold and windy and yucky to actually go outside so these pictures are from the front and back doors.

I love it! I’m still need a decent (and cute) winter coat but I am definitely looking forward to having a real winter.

Finding My Way

When I first got to Connecticut, I was a little concerned about getting around. The freeway system is much more twisted and complicated than what I dealt with in Washington and Oregon. And it’s easy to make a mistake and end up in a different state (a problem that was foreign to me). But, my friends, I’m getting the hang of it.

Recent Accomplishments:

  • Last week I drove from Aunt & Uncle’s house in Connecticut to an interview in Rhode Island and then to Derek’s house in New Hampshire- without GPS. Just my sense of direction and some scribbled notes from Google directions.
  • Today I navigated from Derek’s back to my Aunt & Uncle’s without notes. I just knew where to go!

And I also recently received my own Easy Pass tag to breeze through tolls like I’m a native New Englander.

Small steps, yes. But steps nonetheless. I’m getting accustomed to my new surroundings- starting to settle in. I’m no longer perpetually lost and it feels great.

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