I Ate This: Thai Basil with Lemongrass

It looks like “Nua/Gai Pad Krapao” (beef/chicken variants) is popular around the globe because Liore beat me to this recipe only two months ago! I made this dish for the first time myself last night and it was both easy and incredibly yum. Here’s what I used in addition to Liore’s ingredients in case you’re looking to add some extra vegetables and flavors to this excellent recipe:

  • Baby-corn x6, sliced in half
  • Okra x6, sliced in half
  • Green beans, chopped
  • Thai eggplants x4, quartered
  • A small handful of fresh green peppercorns
  • A small stalk of lemongrass and 4x Kaffir leaves (both to be removed before serving)
  • About 1.5dl (5 fl.oz) of meat/veggie stock

I started off frying the shallot, garlic, chilli, pepper, lemongrass and ginger for about 2mins before adding the rest of the vegetables. Stiry-fry for 5 more minutes before adding the meat/veggie stock and Kaffir leaves and let simmer for an additional 10-15mins. Once you added the meat and Thai basil towards the end, don’t forget to remove the stalk of lemongrass and Kaffir leaves. Optional: 2 spoonful of coconut milk before serving – I am a sucker for that stuff!

thainomsSyl writes over @ mmogypsy.com – a blog about video game design, MMOs, RPGs and high adventure. She also co-hosts the Battle Bards VGMusic podcast and can be contacted via twitter @Gypsy_syl.

I Drank This! Mountain Dew Dewshine

2015-03-17 22.52.20I don’t smoke, I rarely drink, and I can avoid dessert most days, but a cold (or even warm) soda is always welcome. I almost never have coffee, so sodas often provide my only caffeine kick. Despite the danger of high calorie liquids, sodas are one of my guiltiest pleasures.

Of all the sodas, Mountain Dew is one of the more in-your-face drinks you can buy. Its thick with High Fructose Corn Syrup, saturated with a ton of sugar and calories, and only comes in hypnotic colors like radioactive green. Until now; until Mountain Dew Dewshine.

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It’s a dumb name, but the packaging is charming. It hearkens back to the good ole days when Mountain Dew wasn’t some rad X-Games sponsor, but a not at all subtle reference to moonshine. When pitted between ’90s levels of x-treme or a moonshine your kids can drink, I’d rather have intoxicated preschoolers! At least the box and the bottle have the courtesy to tell you that this is not an alcoholic beverage (though I wish PepsiCo and Coke would start making premixed ‘rum and ‘s).

As soon as I read the announcement for Dewshine, I knew I had to try it. For starters, I love Mountain Dew in almost all of its forms. It’s the perfect blend of bite and fizz, plus it also reminds me of Halo LAN parties when I was a kid. I’ve had it with real sugar before: Mountain Dew Throwback is a really good variant. However, unlike Pepsi Throwback or a Mexican Coke, I still prefer the mouth-feel of corn syrup in my Mountain Dew.

I have been wanting a soda flavor I am familiar with sans the artificial coloring for the longest time. I missed out on the Crystal Pepsi phase, but in an era where we are all a lot more aware and wary of the added chemicals we consume, I say why have those that offer no real value? As much as Mountain Dew identifies with being Toxie-levels of green, I just want to drink it, not stare at it. It’s even more bizarre when you consider energy drinks, which are all to my knowledge exclusive to cans and never come in glass or plastic bottles. I love my Orange Mountain Dew Kickstarts, but I had to spill one to realize they too had a cyberpunk bar’s neon glow about them.
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In a perfect world, I’d have a mid-calorie soda ala Pepsi Next, Pepsi True, or Coke Life that didn’t feel the need to be artificially colored or only come in pretentious, tiny cans. Mountain Dew Dewshine has made me rethink that perfect world altogether.

First, it isn’t bad. It’s very similar to a Mountain Dew Throwback, only it lacks the same kick of a regular Mountain Dew. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of a knock-off Sprite. It has the same boring, sort of lemon, sort of lime flavor. Some of you may love Sprite, but it’s a soda I rarely want. I certainly don’t want a Mountain Dew equivalent to it that costs a lot more to get a lot less.

As much as I don’t hate it, Mountain Dew Dewshine has left me severely disappointed. Perhaps the artificial coloring adds more flavor than I assumed, the look changes my perception of the taste, or Dewshine is more than just Mountain Dew without HFCS and coloring. I’ll assume the latter, but that leaves me thinking this was a wasted opportunity to make sodas a little more appealing.

Repairing Relationships…with Vegetables

In my previous post, I mentioned that I haven’t always gotten along with mushrooms. Things have gotten much better between us, but that doesn’t mean I reach for new fungi every time I’m in the store. In fact, during my last weekly grocery run, I realized that mushrooms aren’t the only vegetable this vegetarian had avoided until recently, “recently” meaning within the past five or so years. (This revelation kind of made me think that I’ve been subsisting on iceberg lettuce, baby carrots, green beans for the past twenty years – bland, boring, and American, by golly!) And I’m not talking about utterly fantastical veggies like kohlrabi, salsify, and fiddleheads. I’m talking about fairly run-of-the-mill produce that I spent a long time skipping over simply because I didn’t know any better. Thankfully, vegetables tend to be quite forgiving after being long ignored, and here are five veggies with which I’m currently making, or trying to make decent inroads.

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Brussel sprouts

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Long the butt of jokes concerning their taste and general odiferousness, the first time I ever had brussel sprouts was three years ago. And I’m really not kidding about that. My parents never made brussel sprouts (that I can recall), and I never sought them out on my own. But then, a few years back I was looking expand my traditional holiday dinner fare and found a recipe for roasted brussel sprouts that couldn’t have been simpler. Sprouts, olive oil, salt pepper. Clean the sprouts, cut them in half, toss them in the oil and seasoning, roast a 400 degrees from 15 or so minutes. I was amazed at the tender, nutty, and flavorful results! I’ve since tried to make brussel sprouts more regularly. Granted, the smell from cooking them does linger, but the immediate deliciousness of eating them is worth the price of a few air fresheners.

*****

Olives

olives

Unlike my childhood that resided with the lack of with brussel sprouts, I did grow up with olives, LOTS of olives because my Dad really, really likes them. If there was one thing that was always, without fail, in our fridge, it was olives. And particularly the green Spanish olives with the pimento centers. (Perish the memories!) And because of that, olives ended up in so many recipes…so many recipes that I avoided because I hated olives! Oh my, how I couldn’t stand them as a kid! To me, they smelled bad and tasted worse, all sour and salty and yucky! Since becoming an adult, I have tried very hard to rectify this hatred, but it’s tough. Though I now don’t mind the way olives taste, their texture just doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve managed to accept sliced black olives, and only sliced black olives, on pizza and in pasta salad. But that’s as far as it goes…for now.

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Asparagus

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Asparagus is another vegetable that simple wasn’t around in my house growing up. As an adult, it was never on  my grocery radar – green beans, peas, broccoli – those were my “green” staples. But asparagus? Don’t you have to prepare it in some complicated manner? Doesn’t it smell funny? Isn’t it hard to cook? No, no, and no were the answers I discovered when I made my first batch of roasted asparagus about five years ago. Since then, it’s become my first “green” staple, when it’s in season, that is. (And even when it isn’t, the imported stuff isn’t that bad.) I’ll admit that I haven’t strayed too far in terms of asparagus recipes as I just like it roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper, but there’s plenty of time to get more esoteric.  Asparagus Lemon Gelato, anyone?

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Avocados

o-FREEZING-AVOCADOS-facebook

In my early years of vegetarianism, I discovered that avocados were good for more than just guacamole. They were just as excellent in their naked form cut to top a salad or mashed and spread on a sandwich. Helping the situation tremendously was that, at the time, I lived in a place where avocados were local produce and were always guaranteed to be ripe and ready to use. When I moved to a place where that wasn’t the case, I remained spoiled, and it didn’t help that the avocados in the big ol’ chain grocery store were hard as rocks and never seemed to ripen properly. Eventually, I stopped buying them altogether. What’s brought me back to them in the past couple years is hope…and maybe a few health concerns – fiber, vitamins, triglycerides, all that adult stuff.  And this tip about finding ripe avocados from Lifehacker has saved me from bringing home bad ones.

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Okra

fresh-okra

Like brussel sprouts, I couldn’t haven’t identified okra in a vegetable line-up until I was in my twenties. My husband, being the good southerner that he is, took great delight in introducing his Yankee wife to okra. The results? Um…ewwww, and that was with the fried variety! Worse yet was having it in soup or stew when the okra turned gooey.  Over the years I have gotten okra (usually frozen, sometimes breaded) at my husband’s request, but you couldn’t have gotten me to eat it, no way, no how. But considering how my palette has calmed down and matured (I guess), it seemed only natural that someday, eventually, I have to try okra whether I wanted to or not. And that time came last year when I reluctantly agreed to make a vegetarian version of a gumbo recipe that was already in our arsenal. Substitute veggie stock as needed, omit the seafood and chicken, and voila! I’ll be honest, it wasn’t half bad. Really, it wasn’t, and that was despite the gooey okra (which was nearly as gooey as I remembered it.)  Though I don’t feel ready to fully accept okra into my life, we’re going to try growing it in the garden this year. If we get a decent crop then I won’t have a choice. Okra or bust!

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What foods (vegetables or otherwise) have you gotten to know better, and for the better in recent years? Any suggestions as to other oft-overlooked vegetables that should undoubtedly be in my kitchen?


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

Recipe Challenge: Fried Rice with Mushrooms

Mushrooms and I have a…well…rocky relationship. That’s to say I’ve spent the better part of my life avoiding them. For many years, they simply struck out in both the taste and texture departments. (Unless they were hidden so deeply in a dish as to be completely unrecognizable.) But some years ago I learned about the nutritional benefits of mushrooms, and since then have been trying to accept them into my life. I can now eat mushrooms on a pizza without wincing and can make a suitable mushroom gravy when needed. I’ve also been cooking with them more as I would any regular vegetable. The results have been…not the worst, but I still have a long way to go in become the world’s greatest mushroom chef.

Part of this re-examination of mushrooms has involved trying different varieties. For the most part, and thanks to their explosion of the 2000s, portabella mushrooms have been my go-to. But our local grocery store has upped its game in the produce section, and now all sorts of mushrooms are readily available. One of the newest things now for sale is this:

mushroom mix

“Exotic blend?” Erm, well…okay. Save for the portabellas, I guess shitake and oyster mushrooms still count as exotic these days. I brought them home with no plan of what to do with them. Only then entered in a challenge put forth by 8bit’s ringleader Liores: create a recipe using three chosen ingredients — peppers (hot or bell), mushrooms, and eggs. Well now…suddenly my fancy, exotic mushrooms took on a whole new meaning.

In thinking of meals that might include mushrooms, peppers, and eggs, my thoughts naturally turned towards breakfast — omelets, scrambles, fritattas, and such seemed perfect for such ingredients. Well, that is if the thought of eating mushrooms for breakfast didn’t give me pause. I needed something where the mushrooms would be suitably cooked and “disappear” into the dish. With that in mind, one meal jumped out: fried rice! Oh yes, what better way to incorporate different vegetables into one dish with (usually) good results? Hence my newest creation: Fried Rice with Mushrooms!

Now, to say that I have a fried rice “recipe” would be a lie. Fact is, fried rice is one of those nice dishes where you can throw in a little of this and a lot of that and smidge of something else, and most of the time, things turn out okay. So instead of a traditional list of ingredients and instructions, I’m going the sorta kinda play-by-play route, which, you should know, is unheralded as I’m perfectly awful at taking pictures of my cooking while it is happening. Apologies here for any blurry images.

Fried Rice with Mushrooms

First up in prep, the veggies. Here we have (going counterclockwise from bottom left), the mushroom mix (portabella, shittake, oyster), a large serving of broccoli spears, half a white onion, a few baby carrots, one egg, one bunch of scallions, and a bell pepper. Taking half the mushroom mix (about 4 ounces), I chopped everything up into bite-sized pieces.

ingredients - veggies

Next, we have the oil and spices. From left to right, teriyaki sauce, rice vinegar, canola oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

ingredients - spices

And finally, the cooked and slightly cooled rice. (In this case white jasmine, because it was all I had.)

rice

Now onto the stove. First, heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large pan or wok over medium high heat. Then add in onion, pepper, and carrot. (If you like, you can also add in some chopped garlic.) Sauté until the carrots have softened a bit — about 8 minutes.

friedrice1

Then throw in the broccoli and mushrooms. Keep on stirring and cooking until the mushrooms have browned – another 5-6 minutes.

friedrice2

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. In the wok, create a small well in the center of the pan by moving your veggies out and up the sides a bit. Drop the egg into the center of the pan. Let it cook from about 2 minutes before incorporating it into the mixture.

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Once the egg has been stirred in, fold in approximately 1 1/2 cups of the cooked rice.

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Season the mixture with 3-4 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar, a couple good shakes of garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and let the rice and veggies cook over heat for 3-4 minutes more.

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Sprinkle scallions over the rice and let them warm through.

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Serve the fried rice warm on its own or with your favorite Asian-inspired meat dish and/or egg rolls and/or whatever else you like.

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As a postscript, I must say that this recipe considerably changed my opinion of mushrooms. They lent delightfully hearty and earthy flavors to the fried rice, which were quite appealing, and which made the meal all the more filling. Needles to say, this dish is going into regular rotation, mushrooms and all!


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

 

How to Drink Like a Canadian: the caesar

Canada and America share the world’s longest undefended border, and as you can imagine there are plenty of cultural similarities between the two countries. But beware if you visit Canada and order a caesar — you’re probably not going to get a salad. Instead, you’ll be served a big icy glass of delicious vodka spice. Yessss.

The caesar was invented in 1969 by a restaurant manager in Calgary, Alberta and it’s been a Canadian hit ever since. Similar (but importantly different) to the bloody mary, caesars are traditionally tangy and spicy and often served at brunch or in hot weather. As with any cocktail you can make it in a number of different subtle ways, but the caesar has one essential ingredient and that’s Clamato. Clamato, for Americans not in the know, is a combination of (wait for it)… tomato and clam juice. Hey, where are you going?

For the uninitiated “clam juice” sounds kind of terrifying, I know. But in Clamato it just adds a lovely salty umami taste to the tomato juice. Clamato is also heavily sweetened. Look, I know it sounds weird, but trust me. An entire nation of brunch-goers can’t all be wrong!

caesar

Everyone has their own recipe, but this is how I make my perfect caesar:

1. Fill a big glass with ice.
2. Add 1.5 oz of cold vodka
3. Add about 3 shakes of Worcestershire sauce
4. Add about 3 shakes of Tobasco sauce
5. Give a quick squirt of lime juice
5. Add cold Clamato to fill the rest of the glass
6. Sprinkle just a shake or two of salt and some good twists of fresh ground black pepper
7. Stir and enjoy

The caesar is best a few minutes after preparing once a bit of the ice has melted. I like to drink it with a straw.

Much like America’s bloody mary in the last few years caesar garnishes have gotten more and more elaborate, growing from just a celery stick to monstrosities that require their own salad plate to manage. For heaven’s sake, don’t do that. If you want a garnish, I suggest a nice pickled bean, a stalk of pickled asparagus, or just a lime wedge.

Now you’re drinking like a Canadian, eh!

I Ate This: Old El Paso Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the nacho cheese (a la Doritos) taco shell is a staple at most Taco Bells, yes? I don’t frequent the joint, but after all the fuss that surrounded the introduction of such creations a few years ago, I imagine it became a menu standard. But if it’s not a thing at your Taco Bell, then you might want to head to your grocery store, because there you may be able to pick up this product with a loooong name: Old El Paso Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells.

NEW! and BOLD — what could be wrong with that?

When Taco Hell Bell introduced the Doritos Locos taco, we had to head to the nearest establishment to scoop up a couple. While I did not indulge in them, I was assured by my husband that they were quite delicious. After the meal, we wondered how long it would be before we’d be able to get nacho cheese flavored taco shells in the grocery stores. The gods of taco shells must have heard us that day; however were seemingly too busy (with stand-up flour tortillas, perhaps) to answer our call right away. Yes, it took a couple years, but eventually we were enabled by the people of Old El Paso to recreate the Doritos Locos taco at home, safe from the trappings of Taco Bell’s “food.”

Old El Paso’s Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells, aside from having the least user-friendly name in the history of taco shells, are just like regular taco shells, except that they are each infused with a coating of neon-orange nacho cheese.

Awaiting the oven’s fiery glow…

As far as I know, they only come in the “stand and stuff” variety. No harm done there except that you only get 10 shells per package as opposed to 12 that generally come in your regular packages of regular taco shells.  So is the content cut and intense color worth it?

Yes…for the love of Tex-Mex, YES!

In fact, these nacho taco shells have become our new staple, and they are the only taco shells I currently purchase. Let’s review the pros and cons (if I can think of any while I’m typing).

PROS

  • They are a tad bit thinner than normal taco shells, which means they crisp up nicely in the oven and stay crispy once filled.
  • Though the box claims a BOLD flavor, the cheese flavoring is actually subdued with hints of bell pepper, black pepper, and onion. They are spicy, but not hot. (They have more taste than regular taco shells, but they don’t taste like Doritos.)
  • Because the nacho cheese doesn’t overpower the shells, the flavoring lends a lot to your own ingredients. So if you don’t like super spicy taco meant and/or beans, these shells would be just the ticket to add in some spice without getting too risqué.
  • The cheese is not super powdery, so you’re not left with orange fingers after eating a round of tacos.
  • Though you get fewer shells per package than you might with normal taco shells, the price for the nacho cheese shells is comparable to other products. No wallet strain.

CONS (okay, I did think of a couple)

  • The cheese flavoring is a little salty, so you may have to experiment with the spicing of your fillings accordingly.
  • Once in the oven, they crisp up very quickly – in about 3-4 minutes in a 375 degree oven as opposed to 5-7 minutes with normal taco shells. If you leave them in too long, they’ll absolutely burn, so you have to keep a very close eye on them while they are warming up.

I highly recommend Old El Paso’s Bold Nacho Cheese Stand ‘N Stuff Taco Shells, especially if you fancy those Doritos Locos tacos but don’t want to hassle with actually going to Taco Bell. They won’t break your grocery budget, are very tasty, and will easily spice up any “Taco Tuesday.” Even if you try them for novelty’s sake, I bet they’ll become a regular addition to your pantry too.

Homer *drooooools*


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

Desserts Down Under: Chocolate Ripple Cake

I believe that Arnott’s is the best-known, most beloved brand of biscuits in Australia. They are the makers of the famous (amongst my foreign friends) Tim Tams, and many of their products have been Australian icons for decades. Today, I want to share a popular Aussie dessert, the Chocolate Ripple cake.

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This is one of the easiest desserts you will ever make. No cooking required, and infinitely customisable, it’s great for BBQ’s as well as dinner parties.

Ingredients:

Pack of Choc Ripple biscuits (or other hard biscuit if you can’t get these)

500ml Thickened cream

2 Nestle Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars

The Backbreaking Work:

Whip the cream with an electric beater until stiff peaks form. Then, simply make a log by sandwiching cream and biscuits until you have enough or run out of biscuits. A long, rectangular or oval platter is best. It can help to lay a snail trail on the platter first, both to help the first few biscuits stand up and so that you don’t have to move the log to make sure it is covered.

Image courtesy of http://www.chocablog.com/recipes/chocolate-overload-ripple-cake/

Image courtesy of Chocablog

Use the remaining cream (you should have plenty left over) to cover the outside. Crush the Peppermint Crisp bar(s) and sprinkle the top of the log with as much as you think is appropriate. Then cover with aluminium foil and refrigerate overnight for best results, although 4-6 hours may be enough. Slice diagonally to serve, with fruit as a garnish or on the side. As it is fairly rich, you usually don’t want the slices to be more than about 3-4cms thick.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of Taste.com

That is the very basic recipe. As I said, very much customisable. My usual tweak is to fold one of the crushed Peppermint Crisp bars into the cream before I build the log. You could try coffee, crushed nuts, all sorts of candies, different flavours of biscuits – I think ginger snaps would work really well – even alcohol like Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, Tia Maria, or Frangelico. Or let your imagination run wild!

 

Food Fears: Scallops

Scallops terrify me. Oh yes, they do.

scallops

Oh sure, they look innocuous enough, but five scary monsters lie beneath the glossy sheen…

Generally speaking, and without sounding too full of myself, I tend to “win” in the kitchen. I welcome just about any challenge to cook anything, even the stuff I don’t eat. And most of the time, the results are palatable. Or, at least, no one has suffered dearly. (Not that I know of, anyway.) But much like me and a handful of video game genres that make me think twice about life, there are a some food items—and we’re talking run-of-the-mill grocery store stuff, not offal and crickets—that scare me.

Take scallops. I did not grow up in a seafood-loving household. I can only surmise that my parents didn’t care for the stuff all that much outside of seafood that was canned, or breaded, fried, and usually frozen. For instance, as a kid, I consumed my share of fish sticks, tuna, and breaded shrimp. And the older I got, the less I enjoyed such fare. Once I went vegetarian, I finally had my excuse to avoid seafood altogether.

Skip ahead several years to a post-college me eating lots of spaghetti and poorly designed veggie burgers, when my husband enters the mix. Though my meat-eating days are behind me, it’s not like I’ve forgotten everything I learned from the cooks in my life. Together, and with inspiration from his grandmother, we build a solid repertoire of dishes that we both can enjoy. Though chicken, beef, pork, and turkey enter the equation, seafood remains on the back burner. I try my hand at the occasional fish filet, but am more prone to reach for the ready-made popcorn shrimp from the freezer when the moment strikes.

Only then, our diets mature, and frozen, prepared foods, especially fish and shellfish, lose their appeal. Also, I grow to speak with my wallet. Why spend $8.00 pound on a box of frozen (for who knows how long), breaded fish filets when I can get a fresh filet for more than half that and prepare it myself for pennies? Take that factory-produced-frankenfish!

If only reality was so chivalrous.

While I have managed to conquer or bravely face some seafood (I’m good with most white fish, have the occasionally win with salmon and swordfish, tuna remains iffy, shrimp/crab/lobster – passable when need be), anything that comes in an actual shell, and especially scallops, turn me into the petrified chef. Even now, just thinking about cooking scallops makes me wish I was not thinking of them. (And I’ll be honest, though I’ve cooked scallops, I’ve never cooked clams, mussels, or oysters. And frankly, I never want to.)

Part of the anxiety comes from the fact that they are really expensive, and I’m talking about the big sea scallops, not the little bay scallops (which are still just as scary). In my local stores, sea scallops can run nearly a dollar a piece, if not more. That’s a ridiculous price per pound when compared to fish! If I buy a serving of five scallops, the thought of loosing even one to bad technique is horrifying.

Then there’s the preparation and actual cooking of them. Unless I’m forming ground beef into meatballs or hamburgers, I really prefer to touch meatstuffs as little as possible when preparing them. In terms of fish, you’re never going to find me dealing with anything other than a cleaned filet. In terms of crustaceans, I will devein shrimp (though gross)  if I must, but dear god, nothing with heads or legs please. As for those dastardly scallops, did you know that most have a little extra piece of tissue on the side that should be removed prior to cooking? Just doing that makes me think I’m going to squish them into nothingness with my giant, clumsy hands.

And then, unfortunately, when it comes to meat, I am an unabashed overcooker. Now, my anxiety concerning undercooked meats has lessened some with time, but I still tend to cook things too long for their own good. I’ve read scallop recipes that literally yell “ONLY COOK FOR TWO MINUTES PER SIDE. NO MORE, YOU HEAR ME!!” And when I abide, the scallops turn out undercooked. But if I let them go for even 30 seconds more, they turn to rubber. [Le sigh.]

With scallops, I feel like I’m going to lose the battle before I even start.

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Do you have any awesome scallop tips or recipes, or special secrets when it comes to preparing shellfish? Or how about this: are you scared of any foods? What items would you rather leave to the professionals or leave alone altogether?


While Cary’s happy to talk food here, she’s also pretty good at doling out words about video games at United We Game while simultaneously maintaining her own blog, Recollections of Play. You can also find an archive of fun, geeky articles from her and like-minded souls at Geek Force Network.

Recipe: Light Cheese Quiche

This is a healthier take on the traditional egg and cheese quiche. It is very light and fluffy, yet still plenty filling. I use store bought pie crust, but you can make your own crust if you are into that kind of thing. I also like to add diced ham or crumbled bacon along with the onion. If you add a salty meat, you can leave out all but a pinch of the salt.

Ingredients:

1 refrigerated pie crust or pie dough for single crust (deep dish works best)
2 teaspoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup shredded hard cheese such as Asiago, Romano or Parmesan (I like using a blend of all 3); or Gruyere
1 1/2 cups low fat (1%) milk
1/2 teaspoon salt (you can cut this in half if you use one of the saltier cheeses like Asiago)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
pinch of ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Press dough onto bottom and against side of a pie plate, crimp edge. Instead of pricking the crust to keep it from bubbling, line the dough with a sheet of foil and fill with dried beans or rice. Bake 10 minutes. Remove foil with beans/rice then continue baking for another 5-10 minutes until crust is golden. Set aside on wire rack to cool.

Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Melt butter in non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Whisk together eggs, egg whites, 1/4 cup shredded cheese, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Spread onion (and added meat if desired) over bottom of pie shell. Pour egg mixture over onion and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.

For a more tender edge, carefully cover edge of crust with foil for half the remaining cook time. Bake until quiche is golden and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. If you use a foil pie plate, you may want to bake on a light cookie sheet. Glass pie plates work fine directly on the oven rack.

Gai Pad Krapow, or chicken with basil

January is an odd month for food. After a few weeks of festivities around the holidays I’ve usually eaten my fill of decadent meals. Enough with the chocolate, with the gravy, with the rich stuffings and bread puddings. And along with my stomach, after the holidays my wallet is usually also going through a bit of a downsizing. Cheap, healthy food is certainly the order of the day.

But on the other hand I’m still a little worn out from cooking over the holidays, so I don’t really feel like an epic undertaking. And man, even if health and budget are concerns I’m still not going to suffer through eating something that tastes like cardboard. I want flavor, and freshness, and I want it now. I want.. Thai!

Gai Pad Krapow gets top marks in everything I’m looking for in a weeknight post-holiday dinner. The main ingredient is ground chicken, a healthier alternative to beef or pork. It’s amazingly simple to make, with most of the work being done chopping aromatics, and tastes delicious. Pair it with a bowl of rice for a heartier meal, or with a spicy cabbage salad for a lighter, lower-carb experience. You can change the exact nature of the sauces and peppers to create the flavor you want — I tend to go with a sweeter sauce to offset a really spicy salad.

Weeknight Gai Pad Krapow

Ingredients:

a head of butter lettuce
a package of ground chicken
a big (big!) bunch of Thai basil
4-ish garlic cloves, finely chopped
roughly the same amount of ginger, finely chopped
a large shallot, finely chopped
hot peppers to taste, finely chopped (fresno peppers are my favorite)
fish sauce
sweet Thai chili sauce
vegetable oil
salt and pepper

Preparation:

aromatics and basil for gai pad krapow

Pretty colors!

  1. Finely chop your garlic, ginger, shallot, and peppers.
  2. Chop the big stems off of your basil, but keep the leaves and little clusters whole.
  3. Put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a pan on about medium heat.
  4. Once the oil is hot, throw in your garlic, ginger, shallot, and peppers. Saute them until tender, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the ground chicken to the pan.
  6. Once the chicken has a little sizzle on it, turn the pan down to medium-low and add the fish sauce (don’t be shy!), chili sauce, and salt and pepper.
  7. While you’re waiting for the chicken to cook all the way through, break the head of butter lettuce into a pile of full-sized leaves.
  8. Once the chicken is cooked, add all of the basil. Stir it in and cook until the basil is wilted and green, about 2 minutes.

You’re done! Go family style with a big bowl of chicken mixture and a plate of lettuce leaves for wrapping. Serve with rice or a spicy cabbage salad or both.


Jessica, aka Liore, can usually be found griping about video games on her blog and podcast at Herding Cats, or on Twitter. She likes saying “flavor profile” and dislikes measuring things. Jessica is currently super into Asian cuisines.