recipe: thai coconut chicken & rice soup

omg, i can't believe this came from my kitch.  i truly say that without taking any credit.  i mean, it's really thanks to God's great creation that these ingredients taste so amazing and go so well together.  for me, this is comfort food at its absolute best.  i think i even commented to eric while we were consuming this crap that i could really eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for the rest of eternity and not get sick of it.  i'm not kidding!  even if you're not normally an asian food lover (which, by the way must mean you are not human), try it.  even if you don't want to go through the process of making it in your own home, go to the best pan-asian food spot in your town and order it.  it will change your life.  changed mine.  true story.

which makes me think of something.  i think it's very cool that across america, food favorites are so very different.  coming from upstate new york, that area was very heavily saturated with Italian food, bakeries, eateries, culture, people, etc.  and i, in my naievety, just assumed that it was like that everywhere.  until i left.  and i saw for myself that things are in fact quiet different as you roam around the country.  in my neck of the woods now, the area is very much influenced by the asian culture.  this was so different for me.  i grew up eating mostly italian everything.  where i am from, the closest there was to asian was plain ol' chinese take-out.  they have broadened their horizons a bit in the past dozen years since i left; there is an authentic indian eatery in the downtown area. 

aaaaaaanyway, i was not so open to trying this foreign food at first.  there was this great local place eric would take me when i first moved here.  i would get boring, safe sweet & sour chicken, but he would get crap like papaya salad, chicken pad thai, etc.  and i was intrigued after a little while.  the moment i decided to try papaya salad was the turning point.  it was AMAZING.  and really, the rest is history!
now, the moment you've waiting for:  the recipe.

thai coconut chicken & rice soup

1 c jasmine rice
1 large root of ginger (about the size of a small banana)
1 whole organic red bell pepper
1 red onion
3 large garlic cloves
4 tb olive oil
2 antibiotic-free chicken breasts
30 oz organic chicken broth
8 c water
8 chicken bouillon cubes
2 cans light coconut milk
1 1/2 c unsweetened coconut milk (such as silk brand)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch of thai basil
2 stalks lemongrass
salt & pepper

prepare jasmine rice according to package directions.
peel the ginger, mince; set aside.  dice red pepper & red onion; set aside. 
in a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  mince/crush garlic directly into pot.  once fragrant, add the ginger, red pepper, and red onion. 
meanwhile, halve the chicken breasts lengthwise and slice into very thin strips.  add to the pot. 
after a couple minutes, add the chicken broth, water, and chicken bouillon cubes. 
cut the lemongrass stalks into 2-3 inch pieces.  add to the pot along with the bunch of thai basil. 
turn the heat up to high & bring to a boil.  turn the heat down to medium-low and add the coconut milk.  add the prepared rice to the pot.  add salt & pepper to taste. 
slice scallions and roughly chop the cilantro.  add as garnish to your liking, and you're done!

as a dessert you must have fresh pineapple.  trust me here, it just completes the whole experience!

there is no great substitute for thai basil.  it is not the same as regular basil.  if there is a local Asian marketplace in your town, that is the best bet as far as finding thai basil.  they will also definitely have lemongrass there, too.  although the local grocery store where i grew up did carry lemongrass, i don't know if that is normal.  it also might have been a seasonal produce item.  if anything, call around before you go looking; it could save you a lot of time and headache.  after all, you don't want anything to deter you from making this!


on friendship & value

as i mentioned a few posts back, my best friend moved the weekend before my birthday.  although i was sad over the reality of not seeing her as much (she's only three hours away), i really didn't expect to be as impacted as i was.  the day i knew we were going to say our good-byes was very very strange.  i was awfully unhappy.  i was trying my very best to tell myself that it really wasn't that big of a deal (who am i kidding?!), i was trying to justify not going, and i put it off until the last second.  i guess you can say i was in some sort of denial??

anyway, i'm so very glad that i didn't give into those ridiculous lies and went anyway.  i made it quick because i really really didn't want to cry; i knew the floodgates would open and never close if i did that.  which isn't a bad thing, i know.  but as i've mentioned before, i'm weird about crying in front of people.  so instead, i cried the second i got in my car and drove off.  the rest of the way home.  but once i stopped i was better.  less burdened.  it was all just exactly what i needed and exactly how it needed to happen.
and bonus:  the next day we had to pick up something from her that eric left at their house.  so all four of us got to say goodbye together.  it was a great moment.  tears, tight embraces, heart pangs (but in the best of ways). 

all throughout the time from when i learned that she was moving up until the moment she actually did, i had to keep retelling myself that just because she's moving it doesn't mean i'm losing my best friend.  it doesn't necessarily have to be an end.  but that's all up to us and the effort we choose to put into our friendship.  we are both dedicated people by nature, so i don't actually have a fear of that.  and, one month into her departure, we've still been keepin' on.  no surprises there.

but the times i miss her the most?  when i'm feeling taken for granted by others in my life.  when i'm feeling like no one sees very much value in me.  when i'm feeling like my presence in their lives isn't treasured even to the smallest degree.  when it's more important to explain & excuse yourself from whatever hurt you've inflicted than it is to just own it, say you're sorry, and move on. 

because although we've had ups & downs in our friendship, i know one thing that was always true was that she found value in me.  being friends with me was worth so much to her, and she fought for it.  and she's one of only three adults in my entire life who have shown me that.  not just say it, but actually prove it by action.  and that is the best gift anyone can give me.  ever.

"how lucky i am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
-winnie the pooh


spring has definitely sprung

ok, so the day of my birthday was the last day it snowed.  and then things took a turn for the better really fast.  all of the snow melted(!!), the sun is out all the time, and temperatures are in the mid-50's.  whaaaaaaat?  i'll take it!

we took a walk at the beginning of the week and it looked like this:
now when we walk?  this:
yes, molly's wearing a sundress & julian's in shorts and a t-shirt.
so we're doing spring things, naturally.  even though it's not even technically spring.
mini road trips.

scooting on the sidewalk & splashing in puddles with our galoshes!

taking pictures of country sunsets at dusk.

sidewalk chalk,

& bubbles!

not rushing indoors to escape the cold, but instead embracing the warm sunshine on our vitamin-d thirsty skin!

iced tea!

buds!  already!

we're spending most of the daytime on the three-season porch.  because it gets sooooooo warm in there!

taking all kinds of photos with sunrays & sun flares.......


bugs!  i have never been so happy to see bugs!
molly even housed one:


refreshing & cold drinks!

playing in the backyard on the swing set.

exclusively hoodies, donuts, and generally more venturing outside.


visiting & walking through our favorite local parks.

skipping school and basking in the sun instead.
new sidewalk paint!

getting the mail without a winter jacket.
life is just so much more delightful in warm light & sunshine.  amiright? 


another year older

we celebrated my 31st birthday this past weekend!
it's kinda weird getting to do what i want to.  especially for one entire weekend.  i'm sure you moms out there catch my drift, huh?  yeah. 
i got to go to the flea market(!!), all the local thrift stores, not to mention several yummy eateries.  so so fun. 
this weekend also just so happened to be the same weekend that my bff moved.  so it was very much bittersweet.  but i'm hanging in there! 

as far as getting older, i have never been that person who fears it.  or who jokingly lies about her age.  i truly consider it one of the richest blessings and privileges to age, to spend that much more time with my sweet sweet family.  as much time as we do spend together i never feel like it's enough.  probably because i just can't get enough of them.  for the most part, obviously.  i definitely have my moments where all i want to do is be alone, or run out of the house.  but those are only moments, ya hur?

something that came with turning thirty last year is that i've been making a conscious attempt to take better care of myself.  i now exercise on a regular basis, eat relatively healthy (although i totally believe in treating yourself sometimes), try to wash my face every night, sit and read for a while (a.k.a. relaxing), etc. etc. etc.  i don't obsess over it.  and if the fitness program i use didn't measure my weight every day, i wouldn't weigh myself.  i have a past of being overly concerned with that number.  to a fault.  but it's been ok.  i feel better which is the most important aspect of it.  at least, i want that to be the most important part.  not how i look to myself or to others.  i never want my kids to have a memory of me getting carried away with how i look.  there is so much more to a person than that.  like kindness, joy, how you generally treat others.......  traits that even when exuded to a small degree can completely eclipse a whole lot of vanity.  very cliché, i know, i know.  but it's true.  and i am very happy and grateful to have that realization at the ripe age of thirty-one.  : D

i didn't expect this post to turn into that but i guess it's something that has been heavy on my heart for a while.  i don't ever want anyone to think that just because i look a certain way that i must have my shit together, or that it does in fact make me better than the next person who might weigh a little more, or not wear fancy clothes, or flashy makeup.  because it doesn't.  and i guess if there's anything i want my kids to reap from my example it's just that.  there's not very much worth in how you appear.  but what is so valuable is the way you love & treat the people who are close to you and people who are strangers alike.

i digress. 
here are some stills from our fun-filled weekend:
i made my own birthday cake.  some people scoff at that, but i love making my own cake!  and i don't think there's anything wrong with that whatsoever.
i found a recipe for oatmeal cake on pinterest.  i wasn't even actively looking for one, but once i saw it, i knew that's what i wanted to make for my birthday.  i love oatmeal.  and this cake was AMAZING. i'll post the recipe soon!

i realized this year that this is a tradition:  me and my babes gathered at the table around my cake/cupcake/dessert of choice.......

.......so i put this together for fun:
oh, my heart!

it snowed for part of the day on my birthday.  although i generally dislike snow, especially in march, i delighted in it this day.  even if it was my birthday and i would have rather been running through a wide open field of wildflowers with my arms outstretched to the hot sunlit sky with no care in the universe rejoicing in my blessed life.  but instead i rejoiced indoors in my humble abode, watched the snowfall from my kitch window, making white chicken chili & homemade bread for dinner, and oatmeal cake for dessert, looking forward to embracing my babes while i blow out my birthday candles and wish for another peaceful year of gentle warmth and happiness.  the end.

this was the sunset on my birthday from my west-facing living room window.  delightful!

some awesome flea market loot!  i've been looking for an old-fashioned fan for forever.  can't wait to use it this summer!  it even sounds old.  i'll have to post a close-up of those weird dolls sometime.  definitely strange & creepy but i can't help but love them anyway.

ric found this for me.  we call it our "banana staircase".  ha!
it's one of the most unique pieces i've ever seen.  and it holds my kinfolk magazines perfectly!  they had been stored away in a drawer for months beforehand.  not anymore!  and see that really cool vintage box on the second step down?  yeah, that's from my mom.  so beautiful and thoughtful; i just love it!

shelby gets me the best gifts ever.  always has. 
feast thine eyeballs upon:
that's right.  this is an espresso/cappuccino maker!!!!!!!  i seriously never thought i would own one.
so, naturally, the next morning i made myself my first real homemade mocha cappuccino.  i'm in love.

and just look at these sun-specs she got me!  i couldn't possibly be more obsessed.
we celebrated all weekend and on saturday i went to mancino's for lunch.  this chicago cheesesteak from mancino's is my favorite sandwich in eau claire.  waaaaaaay too much goodness!

truly, this is one of the best, most enjoyable birthdays i can remember.