Soulmates.

I was out, but at a computer, missing the Artist. I was studying for a midterm, and of course full of stress and anxiety about it. I am waiting to hear if I got into the MA program I applied to and interviewed for, and I am really stressed about that too. Stressed if I don’t get it, yet anxious if I do. If I don’t get in, that is a lot of hard work applying (and applying for a scholarship) that didn’t pay off, and my plans will have to change. But if I do get in, that is 2 more years of what I know will be really hard work. I want to take on the challenge, but still, I know that lots of hard work would be in my future. Not to mention the stresses of daily life, trying to find time to do laundry and cook and all that.

I had been feeling particularly stressed at that moment, my body feeling restless and anxious, and I was yearning (and still am) to take a vacation with the Artist. We took an amazing week long vacation to the Dominican Republic in 2010, and we went to Chicago for a few days exploring in 2015, but that is it. We have bee talking about wanting a vacation together for so long, even just a few nights away somewhere within driving distance where there is a cheap motel where we can watch a “movie on TV” and order all kinds of takeout and junk food for a few days while we enjoy an outdoor pool, restaurants, sightseeing, a beach, etc. Even that seems impossible when you are broke AF, let alone going somewhere tropical or otherwise expensive like NYC or Florida.

But, my number one way to redirect my anxious thoughts it to think about my love, and how we get to share our lives together, no matter what. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we get to be together. Master’s program or no Master’s program, vacation or no vacation, money or no money, we will make it. We will figure it out. And then I checked my email. The Artist sent me an email with nothing in the body or subject line, just a link to a video. The video was of a car commercial, and the song of that car commercial has become associated with our lives. I was just saying that every time I hear that commercial, I think back to last summer. We had just moved, it was a hard, hard move with lots of obstacles. We were even more broke than we are now. I had classes start the day after we moved in, I didn’t know my way around and had no phone to use GPS, on top of the nerves of just going back to school after 5 years off. The summer was spent in a realm of anxiety and stress, with boxes everywhere as we tried to balance school, job searching, and unpacking. I was so stressed that I had no appetite and didn’t sleep well, and if you know me, you know that this is VERY unlike me. And somehow, with that commercial always coming on, the song somehow became associated with that period of our lives.

But now, the song is a reminder that no matter how stressful life gets, I have this guy by my side making me laugh, supporting me, and enriching my life on a daily basis. He sees beauty in such ordinary things that I never would have noticed before, and it reminds me to stop and smell the roses. So we would stop the craziness for a few hours, go exploring in our new city, and have some laughs.

I teared up watching this video, it was like he knew exactly my stress levels and that I was thinking of him, and sent this video to let me know he was also thinking of me, and that whatever happens, we will find a way to flourish, together ❤

Better Than Takeout Homemade Chicken Pad Thai.

A great opportunity has come up for the Artist and his painting career (it’s not official, so I am going to wait to tell you about until it is!), and I am so excited for him!  When I heard, I was so excited I was literally jumping up and down like a toddler, I couldn’t contain myself.  I couldn’t sleep that night either, I just lay awake thinking about it all, and how proud of him I am.  Now, you know me, I have never in my life had trouble sleeping.  I can fall asleep and stay asleep in just about any conditions.  So as I lay there in my first ever insomnia experience, I was thinking about how this is a perfect example of how excited I felt- so excited I couldn’t sleep.  It was a first.  Even as a child on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep no problem!  Just when I think I know exactly what love is, and that I couldn’t possibly love the Artist any more, I fall even deeper in love with him.  Being this excited, proud, and happy for him, for something that will change his career and have nothing to do with me, is truly a selfless feeling.  Being that happy for something that has nothing to do with yourself.  And I know the Artist is even more excited about it, he has worked incredibly hard for this for many years.  And because he more then deserves it and has worked so hard, when I thought about if something happened and this opportunity didn’t work out, the hypothetical disappointment he would experience would just break my heart in two.  I don’t think I could stand seeing him being disappointed.  We have been married for almost 4 years now, and somehow, we fall deeper in love with each year.  If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is ❤

So now onto the main topic of my post….haha.

The Artist has been making pad thais at home for awhile now, trying to master something similar to takeout.  The main problems that have been occurring include; the rice noodles are extremely sticky and are even worse the next day as leftovers, there isn’t a coating” of sauce on everything, it seems to get all soaked up, and the flavour just isn’t the same as takeout.  But he has cracked it- and has figured out solutions to all of these problems, creating THE most delicious pad thai at home.  He is the main chef, and I am the helper 😉  I don’t have exact measurements for the following, because we made a larger batch of it and constantly were adjusting it to our taste.  So be sure to taste often.  Very often.

First things first- most restaurants use a tamarind sauce for the pad thai, and this is usually in the description of the dish in the menu.  This is the key, well, one of them.  We have used both a liquid form of tamarind concentrate in a jar, and the kind that is like a sort of squishy brick.  In the end, the brick is best.  But be sure to boil it in a little water first to soften it up, and even though it says seedless, there are little “bits” everywhere.  So once the tamarind is all separated, use a fine sieve to strain out the bits and collect the tamarind “water” or juice or whatever you want to call it, in a bowl.  A lot of online recipes do not even include tamarind at all, but if you want a restaurant copy-cat version, tamarind is the way to go.

The next important thing to remember is that there needs to be sweet, sour, and salty flavours, with some spice.  Like I said, I don’t have the exact measurements because we added the ingredients to taste.  Most recipes we found said to have equal parts of each flavour component (except spice), but we didn’t necessarily do that, again, it was all to taste (the Artist was tasting the sauce every few seconds and after each ingredient was added to adjust it).  We used chili powder, but mostly red chili flakes for the spice portion, as this is the most easily adjustable flavour you can change after it is on your plate, so we just added a little at first.  All the other ingredients won’t work really once the dish is plated, so be sure to taste as you go!  I added extra chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper to my plate.  We didn’t do equal amount of the sweet, sour and salty, because that is a lot of salt.  For the salt, we used a bit of fish sauce, and a bit of soy sauce.  For the sour, the tamarind you prepared as above.  And for the sweet, brown and/or white sugar.  Since that is a lot of sugar, another reason we didn’t do equal amounts.  And we both like our pad thai on a bit of the sour side, but by all means, add more sweet or salty to suit your taste.  We also added a little garlic powder in there too, and a little extra water.

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For the rice noodles, don’t get a noodle that is too broad or thick, and not use anything else other then rice noodles.  Soak them in warm-hot water until they are pliable, but not mushy.  They will seem like extremely al dante, and seem not ready to eat, but they will soften up in the pan with the sauce and stuff.  Do not boil them.  That is how we got those super sticky noodles I was talking about above.  I think we soaked ours for 30-40 minutes to get the right texture.  The first time the sauce was perfected, the noodles were still a little too firm, so we soaked them a bit longer.

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For the protein, we like chicken, but shrimp of tofu could be used too.  Cut raw chicken breast into relatively thin slices, and saute in a pan with a little oil and some of the sauce, and a little water.  Add a clove of freshly pressed (or smashed and sliced) garlic.

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When the chicken is cooked, add some noodles, and more sauce.  Note: in your pan, make only 1 serving at a time.  This is another key part so the dish, it needs lots of space or it will get sticky and just not turn out.  If it is sticking, add more oil to the pan.  This come together quickly at this point, so doing 1 serving at a time isn’t too bad, and with just the 2 of us, there isn’t any waiting or in-between time.  Even if there were more people to serve, it will be worth the wait to do it only 1 serving at a time.  When it is almost done, push it to the side of the pan and add an egg, scramble it up, and then combine it altogether.  After the first dish is plated, I chopped up some green onions and peanuts, the Artist made the next serving and we garnished with each.  Another good topper is mung beans.  Another important thing to remember is to not over cook this.  When the noodles, chicken, egg, and sauce are all in the pan, if it is over cooking, you will notice it getting sticky and maybe smoking a little because the sugar is getting caramelized or burned.  You don’t want that “gummy” texture to start at all, so plate it promptly.

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I personally prefer loads of peanuts on my dish, and the Artist loves to have his with a fresh lime wedge to squeeze over it right before he eats.  You can also add the green onions into the pan in the last minute or 2 of cooking, which we like to do.

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This seems like a hassle, and it kind of is, haha.  It can be time consuming, and it has taken us many, many tries to get it to the taste we want.  So you might need to try a few times and adjust as necessary.  But if you make a large batch of the sauce, you can store it in the fridge for later use.  The sauce is the most time consuming part, everything else comes together in good time.  So we found that making a big batch of sauce to keep in the fridge works well for a homemade chicken pad thai dinner in about 30 minutes.

Good luck.