Monday, January 30, 2012

Good end to a good first day!

It felt so good to be back in a classroom teaching! I've missed it so much. I have three students as of right now, and we're expecting a few more at the beginning of next week. So far, we all get along great! We had class and went out to lunch together; the weather in Santa Barbara was beautifully perfect, so it made everything that much better!

I am quite tired though, so I'm going to keep this post short and update you more on my teaching adventure soon.

I am one thankful teacher. This job is such a reminder of God's faithfulness and timing.

Pictures: how I ended my day/view from my classroom onto Santa Barbara St.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh My Pad Thai Recipe

Dave and I got a wok for our wedding, and since seasoning it, I don't think we've used it very much. In any case, I really wanted to work more on my ethnic (I think I'm on the road to discovering more of my Vietnamese roots) dishes and challenge myself with new ingredients, so Pad Thai seemed like the way to go. (Sidenote: For any of you who know what fish sauce is, this was my first time using it in a dish of my own (not including times i've helped my mom cook)--pretty big deal!) Another bonus to cooking this dish on your own is that I'm sure it's way cheaper to make it and consume its deliciousness at home than ordering a plate for 12 bucks in a restaurant.

I've tasted some deee-licious Pad Thai's and some that had a strangely (and unfortunately) ketchupy sweetness. Not OK. I actually found this recipe on the Big Girls Small Kitchen blog. One of the main contributors, Pheobe, spent some time in Thailand and actually went to a local cooking school over there. When she came back to the states, she found that most of the Pad Thai dishes she ordered were too sweet or too Americanized. Restaurant after restaurant, she went looking for one that was traditional and reminiscent of the ones she had eaten in Thailand--the one that evoked all the memories of Chiang Mai. Her roommate urged her to find the recipe that she was given while she was at the cooking school; thankfully, she found it:

(serves 2; I suggest doubling it, so you can have yummy leftovers :))

½ pound rice noodles
3 tablespoons oil (I used canola oil)
1 shallot, sliced
2 scallions, sliced (white and green parts divided)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce

-lime wedges
-crushed peanuts
-bean sprouts
-sugar (I love that it's traditional to serve the sugar as a condiment to this dish--whodathunk?)
-cilantro leaves (Some say these are optional. I think they are mandatory!)


Soak the noodles in a bowl of warm water for 30 minutes. In a large wok or non-stick skillet, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Make sure you let the oil heat up before adding anything. Once hot, add the shallot and white scallions and saute until beginning to brown (about 3 minutes). Add the garlic and cook until golden (about 1 minute). Pour in the egg and quickly scramble. Toss together with the noodles, sugar, green scallions, fish and oyster sauces until well mixed. Continue to stir fry until the noodles are cooked through (about 3 more minutes).
Top with bean sprouts, ground peanuts, cilantro leaves, and a lime wedge. Serve alongside the garnishes.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Tweaked Recipe: Apple & Cheddar Quick Bread

If you saw the previous post, you'll know that that post and this post were made to be friends. This quick bread recipe goes along great alongside the lentil soup recipe.

Check out the melty cheese bits--yum!

(adapted from a recipe from Chow)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can use all all-purpose if you prefer)
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
3/4 cup medium-dice Irish cheddar cheese (typically branded Dubliner or Kerrygold) (about 3 oz)
3/4 cup grated Irish cheddar cheese (or more if you like an even cheesier taste)
3 large eggs
2/3 cups reduced fat milk (you can use whole if you'd like)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups grated Granny Smith apples (about 2 medium) grated on the large holes of a box grater

1. Heat the oven to 350 and place one of your oven racks in the middle of the oven. Spray your 9x5 loaf  (or a 12 muffin tin) cooking spray (or you can butter your pan).
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and sage together in a large mixing bowl (or stand mixer) until aerated and any large lumps are broken up. Add the diced and shredded cheese and toss until the pieces are separated  and evenly coated w/ the flour mixture; set aside.
3. Place eggs, milk, and melted butter in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the apple mixture and stir until combined.Add the egg mixture to the flour-cheese mixture and stir until the flour is just incorporated--don't over mix.
4. Pour your mixture into your loaf pan or divide your batter into the muffin tin. Bake until your bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (test several spots b/c you might hit a pocket of cheese)--about 45-50 minutes.
5. Place pan on wire rack to cool for 15 minutes (I had one warm :)). Remove from pan, and continue to cool on rack for another 30 minutes before slicing (if you made a loaf).


Lentil Soup Recipe: Good and Good For You

It was insanely windy today; in fact, the wind is still whirring like crazy outside--making our screen door open and shut, open and shut repeatedly. This weather got me craving a warm bowl of soup, so what did I do? I made a whole pot. This recipe is easy to execute and delicious to eat. It's packed with vitamins, it's hearty, and it's low in fat. Perfect combo if you ask me.

(adapted from a recipe I found on Chow)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium celery stalk--small dice
1 medium carrot--small dice
1/2 medium yellow onion, small dice
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 quart+1 cup low sodium vegetable stock (you can add more if you'd like at the end. lentil soup can thicken up pretty quickly)
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes w/ juices
1 1/4 cup lentils (any color but red--red cooks in half the time and will become mushy in this recipe), rinsed
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme (about 1 1/2 sprigs; remove from sprigs, of course)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (a little less if you want less acid in your soup; I like the brightness it adds)
2 handfuls of collard greens (or spinach)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until simmering--about 2-3 minutes. Add the celery, carrot, and onion and cook--stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened (about 8-10 minutes). Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Season with several general generous pinches of salt and pepper. 

2. Add the broth, tomatoes w/ juices, lentils, bay leaf, and thyme and stir to combine. Cover and bring to a simmer (about 15 minutes). Once simmering, reduce the heat to low and continue simmering, covered, until the lentils and vegetables are soft (about 15-20 more minutes).

3. Taste and season with more salt or pepper, as needed. Stir in vinegar. Add the collard greens and stir until wilted. 


P.s. If you don't finish this off right away and store it in the fridge, you will notice that the lentils will absorb a lot of the liquid. I just add more broth or water the next day as I reheat. If you add water, be sure to taste it to see if you need to add some more seasoning.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Forget-the-boxed-brownies Brownie Recipe

I got a Facebook message from an old college acquaintance about wanting a from-scratch brownie recipe. I knew exactly which one to share! Jennifer, I hope you like it! :D

So... i'm going to kind of cheat on this post.  I don't have a picture of the finished product (I do, but it's not on the computer i'm using, so i'm going to take some creative liberties). Instead, i'll show you a picture of the person who gave me the recipe--my friend Natalie :). She gave it to me at my bridal shower--taped to the bottom of an 8x8 baking pan (genius gift idea, by the way!). The recipe is super easy and deee-licious. You'll really never need to get boxed brownie mix again.

It's crazy--it seems like yesterday that Natalie gave me the recipe, and Dave and I just finished taking Natalie and her man's engagement pictures over the weekend. Oh how the time goes! Here's the sneak peek shot (stay tuned for the whole blog post from the shoot):

And here's the choco-heavenly delicious brownie recipe:
(I adapted it just a smidge--for the extra chocolate kick!)
3 tbl. unsalted butter
2 1/2 tbl. canola oil
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips 
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 tbl. cold brewed coffee
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-pupose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. Put oil, butter, and the semi-sweet chips into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for two minutes at 75% power (80% works fine)
2. Stir in brown and white sugar, vanilla & salt into the chocolate mixture. Add eggs & coffee. Beat vigorously.
3. Add cocoa, flour, and baking soda. Mix well.
4. Bake for 30 minutes in an 8x8 or a 9x9 pan.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stunning Santa Cruz Island Camping: Our New Year's Getaway

Dave and I--along with some other friends--really wanted to get away for New Year's Eve. We weren't really in the mood for the typical get-dressed-up-count-down-get-together (not that there's anything wrong with that). I think that because our holidays were so busy, we really just wanted to relax and start off the new year in a slowed-down mode.

Days before New Year's, we decided to go on a camping trip; our friends scored us a sweet camping spot on Santa Cruz Island (part of the Channel Islands), and we were really excited to use some of the new camping gear we had gotten for Christmas. Our friends got their tickets three days before the weekend came around, and Dave called the Island Packers people two days before our trip. They were...SOLD OUT! Out of the six of us who were planning on going, everyone had their tickets except for Dave and me. I was praying for a New Year's miracle--mostly because Dave seemed very resolute about us camping over the weekend and because camping with some of our best friends would be a-mazing. There was no Plan B. We showed up to the dock early that morning to get to the front of the standby line, and as God would have it: We got our miracle. Enough people cancelled five minutes before the boat departed, so we were able to lug our gear onto the boat for our camping adventure.

Santa Cruz Island is probably one of the most beautiful places we've ever gotten to set up camp in. Its rolling green hills slightly hidden by the late December fog seriously made it seem like something out of a fairytale--or like something out of the Shire ;) (Like the LOTR reference? The husband would be so proud =p). Hikes along the high cliffs overlooking the multi-shaded blue ocean and the clean air made this trip just what the doctor ordered.

& some phone photos:

A Lucht Holiday Wrap-Up: The humbling, the holy, the happy stuff.


The holidays are over. From November until New Year's, it seems as though everyone goes into a haze of scratching off things off of  their to-do lists. I had lists everywhere--on the fridge, on my phone, on my nightstand, in my purses--everywhere! In the flurry of them all, Dave and I were really blessed to experience some real life in the midst of the holiday hoopla.

Life is back to "normal"--whatever normal means. It was our first holiday season as a married couple and we had our share of busy, overwhelming, joyful, humbling, and surprising. We had opportunities to spend time with friends & family --making new new memories and new traditions as Mr. & Mrs.

My one regret is wishing that we had made more time to really soak in the advent in preparation for Christmas. We got so busy that--at times--there was more stress than reflection--more "ugh" than awe. When we found ourselves completely still and reflecting on the beautiful scandalous night that Christmas is, we regained focus and were completely humbled. Christmas is not what we've made it. In fact, Christmas is very much real life--a life of uncertainty, a life of glory, a life of humility, a life of heaven meeting earth, and a life that is to mimic that of the transformation of baby Jesus into Jesus--Christ our Lord.

In the midst of mall-mania and insane amounts of money being spent on gifts, Christmas happens alongside real life. It doesn't pause real life. It needs to be a part of life. It's not a time to slap on some  happy faces; it's still very much a time to be real, and that's what we experienced this Christmas. It's not a time when we pretend everything is OK; it's a time that a parent can tell us on Christmas Eve about a serious sickness and get prayer next to a kitchen that's in the middle of fixing a fine feast. It's a time when we talk about the hard stuff that we're going through. It's a time to be reminded of our desperate need for the Savior that was given to us as a means for real life. Christmas is one of the biggest reminders of the greater reality of life that's really life. This Christmas--we were reminded of the fragility of life--but the strength found in His life. 

We are so thankful, and we are desperate for you, Jesus. Thank you for giving us more than we could ever imagine. We bless you, Lord. 

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