Monday, August 29, 2011

Something New

As you know, I love cooking and trying new recipes. While my current living situation is not always conducive to culinary experiments, I do enjoy creating new dishes from time to time.

My inspiration this past week came from my new favorite website, Pinterest. It deserves its own blog post, but if you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's an amazing collection of recipes, decorating ideas, party inspiration, DIY tips, crafting tutorials, and so much more. You can "pin" images to your own boards and view others' boards as well. But more on that later. One afternoon, I discovered a recipe for baked zucchini with a sweet onion dipping sauce. Amazingly, I had just bought a zucchini at the store a few days earlier, and had everything else for the recipe on hand. Caramelizing the onions was the longest part, and I didn't have quite a whole onion, so I guessed at the amounts for the remaining ingredients. The zucchini sticks definitely get soft if you don't eat them right out of the even, but it was a delicious recipe, none the less. And as much as I love zucchini that's been breaded and fried, I might like it baked even more. (Bonus: It's healthier that way, too!) And a lovely dipping sauce doesn't hurt either.

Dinner that night also included seasoned, roasted potatoes and a roast cooked in the crock pot with a few things I had on hand - beef broth, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and an onion soup mix packet. Did I tell you that I have a crock pot now? I bought it from my friend, Vanessa, at the end of last term. It has been a lifesaver for meals that require more than one thing to be cooked in the oven. I can put the meat in the crock pot during the day, and everything is still finished at the same time.

On Saturday, I was finally able to try a recipe that I found a few weeks ago for goat cheese and apple tarts. Goat cheese is usually common in the grocery store and is fresh from Belmont Estates here in Grenada. Apples, however, are quite expensive, and I had to make a second grocery run this past week since they were all out on my normal shopping day. A bought 3 Gala apples for about $6 total. It was definitely a splurge, but sometimes you just get tired of eating the same few things over and over. Plus, I had a fantastic new recipe to try! The tarts were extremely easy to prepare. Once you peel and slice the apples, the tarts are in the oven within minutes. I didn't have any thyme, so I substituted a little dried rosemary and added a sprinkle of cinnamon on each tart. The flaky pastry combined with the creamy, tart goat cheese and sweet apples was amazing. This would be a fantastic appetizer or served at a party as you can make quite a few tarts very quickly. We ate ours with an omelet, maple syrup-glazed bacon, and a cup of coffee for dinner.

It's always good to try new foods, new cooking techniques and broaden your horizons. You never know what new favorite thing you'll discover next. Tonight, I'm going to attempt to make rice pudding for the first time! Have you tried any new recipes recently?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Homemade Thai Food

I don't think you can enjoy more tropical flavors than mango and coconut. And since I've had a seemingly endless supply of mangoes these past few weeks, I decided to look up some new recipes where I could use these delicious fruits in a new way.

One of the first things I found was a recipe for a mango custard. The instructions called for unflavored gelatin, but I could only find a package of custard powder at the grocery store. I combined a few recipes and improvised to come up with tonight's dessert.

I pureed about 4 mangos with a dash of sugar. Then whisked together 1/4 cup coconut milk and a couple Tablespoons of the custard powder. Blend that with the mango puree for a few seconds. Bring 3/4 cup coconut milk to a boil, then combine in the blender with previous ingredients. Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until thickened. Just about as easy as making pudding from a box! And the possibilities are endless.

So now that I had the most important part of a meal complete, I had to find something to cook for the main course. Since I already had coconut milk, I decided to try a Thai coconut curry chicken dish.

I browned some chopped chicken breasts that had sat in the fridge for about 30 minutes mixed with ground ginger, curry powder, garlic, and salt. Next, I added chopped scallions and onions, a Tablespoon of tomato paste, and a cup of coconut milk. I let everything simmer for about 5 minutes. And in about 15 minutes (of cooking time), dinner was ready! I served the chicken with brown rice and steamed edamame (which I know is more a part of Japanese cuisine than Thai, but we love edamame, and I couldn't pass them up in the store this past week).

After a filling and flavorful dinner, the smooth and creamy mango custard was the perfect dessert. And the best part is, I have enough leftovers for another complete meal this week!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Myrtle Beach Vacation

Now that I am (mostly) caught up on blogging about recent events in our life, I can finally post about the second half of our beach trips from this past summer.

This vacation was in honor of my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. So my entire extended family stayed in one large, 12-bedroom house at Myrtle Beach for the week to celebrate. At one point there were 26 of us all there together! The house was right on the water, and we took full advantage of that fact.

Taken from the back porch of the house:

On the Friday morning of our Edisto Beach trip, Ryan and I drove back to Greenville. That evening, we attended his 10 year high school reunion in Anderson, SC. It was great to meet several of his classmates and reconnect with friends we haven't seen for a while.

Back at home, we unpacked our suitcases, washed a couple loads of laundry, and repacked our bags. We drove down to Myrtle Beach early on Saturday morning with my sisters. We were the first ones to arrive, but only had to wait a few minutes before my grandparents arrived with the key. It took us quite awhile to unload the cars, and during that time, more family arrived. Grandma made beans and hot dogs for dinner that night, and we enjoyed a relaxing evening of just catching up with each other.

My dad is the second of four boys, and all but the oldest brother live in SC. We were especially excited that all the Massachusetts' Reimers were able to join us, as we have not all been together since our wedding more than three years ago.

My sister, Rachel, took excellent pictures of the family one evening. Here are just a few:

My parents (in the green shirts), aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Aren't they a good-looking group?

All the Reimers' cousins. Christina (in the orange dress next to me) is pregnant here! We all found out a few weeks later.

And my immediate family (minus Rachel's fiance, Kyle, who had to be back at school that week):

During the week, my mom and aunts each took turns cooking the meals, and the food was absolutely incredible! The entire week was such a special time of being together, hearing about how the Lord has led in each family throughout the years, and praising the Lord for His goodness and faithfulness to us.

We all spent almost every day at the beach. The weather was perfect, and we had the best time in the water, playing soccer, and building an amazing sandcastle. The cousins just couldn't get enough of each other! Here is Ryan with my two youngest cousins next to our sandcastle:

One evening, we all went miniature golfing together. The next day was a little overcast. So Dad, Ryan, Uncle Jay, and Jason went golfing, and Uncle Steve took most of the rest of us cousins to the arcade across the street and back to the miniature golf course. By the afternoon, the sun was back out, so of course, we spent the rest of the day at the beach.

Evenings were spent playing games, eating snacks, and watching movies. I wish we had more candid photos from the week, but we were all too busy having fun to take pictures! It was one of the best weeks we've ever had, and I hope it's not too long before we are able to do it again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Our First Hash

During our time here in Grenada, I have heard of several friends going on hashes. From what I understood, it was basically a walk (or run) through various parts of the country on a Saturday with maybe 100 other people. Our friends, Beth and Tanner, have been on a couple of hashes, so this past Saturday, Ryan and I decided to join them. We piled onto one of the school's buses with around 45 other students and drove about half an hour north to the mountainous little town of St. Paul.

There was already a large crowd assembled when we arrived, so we signed our names on the clipboards and listened to our instructions. There was a runners trail which they said was a little longer and more strenuous, and a walker's trail that included a few good climbs but was mostly paved. Ryan chose the runner's trail, and I, of course, opted for the walker's trail. Paved roads sounded like my kind of hiking!

The walkers left first, so away we went. The trail is marked by piles of shredded paper. We followed the trail up a paved road into the mountains. About 15 minutes into our walk, the pavement stopped and we were on a gravel path. The scenery was beautiful, and there was a cooling breeze. Next we came to a field and continued walking through the grass. Before too long, we came to a wooded area and were greeted with a muddy trail over rocks, rusted water pipes, creeks, and ditches. I kept thinking this part was only going to last a few minutes. After all, they did say that the walker's trail was mostly paved, right? I lost track of time as I was concentrating on not sliding down the steep parts or grabbing onto to a prickly branch on the side of the path.

Before too long, I gave up trying to keep my shoes clean. I had mud half way up my legs, covering my hands, and smudged onto my face from wiping away the sweat. The breeze had ended long ago. I ignored the dozens of small scratches on my arms and kept walking. The hike itself was either straight up or straight down (it seemed) for the rest of the time. No more level, paved roads for us! At one point we came to a little village and thought we were at the end. But it was just a teaser, as the path led us right back into the woods for a final climb through even deeper mud towards the finish line.

An hour and a half after starting, we made it to the end (which is also the beginning point). I signed out on the clipboard, and waited just a couple minutes for Ryan to finish his trail. Fortunately we were all at the front of our respective trails, and made it back a lot sooner than most people. We found a spigot on the side of the road and waited in line to rinse off our legs. But not before getting a couple pictures of us covered in mud!

There is usually a big party at the end of a hash involving lots of beer, so we obviously weren't interested in staying for that. The four of us took a taxi back to town. We waited at one of the bus stops in the pouring rain for about 15 minutes before giving up on a bus coming. By this time the rain had stopped, and we walked the last mile back to campus. We stopped at one of the restaurants and picked up a couple of yummy wraps for dinner. While eating in Beth and Tanner's room, we put all our shoes into the washing machine. Amazingly, they all came out great! Usually we play games or stay up late talking with them, but we were all so tired that as soon as dinner was over, we went home and went to bed.

In talking to other people who have been on many hashes, this was not only the longest one they had been on, but also one of the most difficult. I guess if we survived this one, we should be able to do any of them!

I was curious as to the origination of the hash, so I looked up some information online this weekend. Come to find out, there are hash groups (called kennels) in 110 different countries! The hash was founded in 1938 by a few Brits living in Malaya. They wanted an energetic, physical activity, and one that allowed them to see the beautiful countryside as well. Every two years, several thousand people participate in an International Hash. In 2012, hashers will meet in Indonesia. From what I understand, the hash is also an excuse for people to get together and drink. In Grenada, the hashes all begin and end at a rum house. You can, however, participate in the actual hike without the drinking afterwards. The US has several hundred kennels, so if you have some free time and enjoy exploring new areas, look up the kennel closest to you. There are even a couple kennels in Antarctica. No mud and sweat there!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sea Glass

I have a new favorite activity here in Grenada - searching for sea glass! I'm not sure how I didn't even know this existed, but it's gorgeous, lots of fun to collect, and plentiful on Grand Anse Beach.

Yesterday, my friend Beth, and I spent a couple hours walking along the beach, collecting sea glass. There is a small section of the beach where the glass is plentiful, and we spent most of our time there. My collection consists mostly of green and clear glass, two of the most common colors. (Red, pink, purple, and black are some of the rarest colors to find.) I came home with a good amount (about half a Cool Whip container), but Beth's was almost full! And she has two similarly-sized containers back at home. She said I'll get better at finding sea glass the more I'm out there. This is definitely something I wouldn't mind praciticing.

Sea glass is formed from shards of glass that have been smoothed out by the waves and sand. The longer it is in the water, the more rounded the edges become. And the once-shiny glass turns into a beautiful frosted, muted color. Here is some of the sea glass I collected yesterday:

I have found so many ideas for turning sea glass into beautifully-crafted items. Most of the projects will have to wait until I can get home. But I see necklaces, earrings, candles in glass jars filled with sea glass, and mosaic-tile trays in my future!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

It's Getting Busy!

I have quite a bit of updating to do since I have been absent from this blog for so long. Somehow the past 6 weeks have already come and gone. Ryan took his final exam for third term yesterday morning. Which means he starts fourth term on Tuesday. And then he'll start fifth term in January, and then we'll be flying home in May! But that's still a few months away. And to keep us occupied in the mean time, I have plenty to do with our new role as Resident Assistants.

Yesterday, I sat through a 4-hour orientation meeting while Ryan took his exam. We learned all kinds of exciting things - like the fact that students should not break the lock on their door with a hammer just because their key doesn't seem to work. Yes, that has happened in the past. After our meeting, they had sandwiches and cookies for us. Somehow, Ryan made it in time for that part.

When we arrived back at our room, we were greeted with 60 bales of toilet paper (48 rolls per bale) that had been delivered that morning and stacked in our kitchen. The previous RA's told us we should order about 60 bales at the beginning of each semester, but my friend in the housing office said that was quite a bit more than we will need. Usually there are a few empty rooms in our building that can be used for storage. However, this semester there are over 800 new students living on campus, and every room is filled. So for the present, this is what our room looks like:

I've had about 5 students check in this morning, had two or three students stop by with questions, answered many phone calls, tracked down a missing key, and arranged for us to switch storage duty with another RA so Ryan doesn't have to miss church tomorrow. It's already 11:30, and I haven't had a chance to shower yet! This must be what it's like to have kids.

Ryan is completing his last research paper this weekend. He's looking forward to just studying and not writing anymore. But it's been a good experience, and to have several papers published while in medical school will look great on his resume.

Thank you for your continued prayers. We are excited to see what the Lord has in store for us this semester!
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