Monday, February 28, 2011

Tom Ka Gai + Kathryn = Love At First Slurp

God I love soup.  It may be because it's an easy excuse to eat whole loaves of bread and say it was necessary.  I mean, there was soup involved!  I can't really say that about Tom Ka Gai, which is a traditional Thai coconut and chicken soup.  When was the last time you got a bread basket at a Thai joint?  But that doesn't really matter: I still adore its milky goodness.  Slurp.  Slurp.  Slurp.

Here's a dumbed-down version I found on All Recipes.  Not to say I'm dumb, or you're dumb, but when are we going to have time to track down kaffir leaves and galangal?  Anyway, it's still delish and I bet more exotic than what your neighbor is making.  Enjoy!

Tom Ka Gai (Thai Coconut Chicken Soup)
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cans (13.5 oz) coconut milk
  • 1-inch piece ginger, thinly sliced (or galangal, a distant cousin of ginger)
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and chopped (expose the essence-y white part!)
  • juice of one lime (or 10 kaffir lime leaves, torn) plus 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 Tb. fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (start with a bit less and add more to taste)
  • 1 Tb. curry powder
  • 2 Tbs. diced scallions
  • 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
***I also added tons of chopped cilantro (see photos) because I can't get enough of the stuff.

  1. Saute chicken until done.  Set aside.
  2. Pour the coconut milk and 2 cups of water in a large saucepan; bring to a simmer. Add the ginger, lemon grass, and lime juice (or kaffir leaves) ; simmer for 10 minutes, or until the flavors are infused. Strain the coconut milk into a new pan and discard the spices. Simmer the shiitake mushrooms in the coconut milk for five minutes. Stir in the lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar. Season to taste with curry powder.
  3. To serve, reheat chicken in the soup, and ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with green onion and red pepper flakes (and cilantro if so inspired).

Greek Dip with a Dollop of Grief

There is not much more demoralizing than applying to jobs that cap out at half your current salary (and that isn't too high), and still not getting a call.  I know, I know - "Welcome to the recession, Kathryn!" I say in a droll voice.  It's a race to the bottom in terms of benefits and income, and still jarring to see 30K admin jobs in Philadelphia that require an advanced degree and 5-8 years experience.  It's things like this that make me just sit and stare at my computer screen, exhale, and cry.  And I'm technically not even unemployed.  How's that for such a pathetic sense of self-pity?  My last day is this week but we're still waiting for the axe.  We just want to know.  We want finality to it all.  We want to leave the building with purpose.

I had my IVF transfer yesterday and was told to rest.  When I feel tears coming on I take deep breaths, curse my soon-to-be-former CEO and eat jelly beans.  I'm like a badass seven-year-old.  On a good note, the transfer went fine as did this cycle.  And fine is just what I need right now.

We froze 10 fertilized eggs, and implanted two eight-celled critters in my uterus yesterday.  Saucy and sizzlin', I know!  It was the most fruitful sex I've ever had.  Sorry - I lack a sense of boundaries when it comes to my nether regions.  But in all seriousness: this may be the closest to being pregnant Matt and I may ever get. And that's a startling thought.

After a morning of whimpering over admin jobs I'm not qualified for, I'm determined to relax.  And by relax I mean eat a big bowl of chana masala, light my lavender candle, and watch some Whose Wedding Is It, Anyway?.  I also think I'll share a delightful little ditty of a recipe I made a few weeks back for our neighborhood get together.  I know, I know - I never even mentioned it!  It came and went and it was a lackluster week: I was sick, found out I'm losing my job and we just started our fertility meds for this cycle.  I had grand visions of kicking culinary ass at this thing and showing these neighbors what us Hopkins can whip up, but life got in the way and I made due with a big veggie tray and dip, some bought tomato pies, and this number: a layered Greek dip (stole shamelessly from Closet Cooking).  There was still too much food - everyone brings a dish so I don't know what the heck I was worried about anyway.  I always make too much food; it's just my way.  Anyway, who doesn't like leftovers?

So here is a super simple Greek dip comprised of hummus, tzatziki, and diced cucumbers, tomatoes, feta and kalamata olives.  I want everyone to notice my artful arrangement, because, really, it's all I got at this point.  Since I piled high all the fixins', you can't really see the hummus, but it's there and makes the basis of the dip.  In the middle is a good cup of tzatziki, and then I sprinkled the rest like a feign.  It made a great presentation, and an excellent alternative to a staid ol' layered taco dip - you know what I'm sayin'?

Layered Greek Dip
courtesy of Closet Cooking
(Note: I did my own "non-recipe" recipes for the hummus and tzatziki but you can find links to both here.)
  • 1 1/2 cups hummus
  • 1 cup tzatziki
  • 1 cup tomato (diced and mixed with 1 tablesoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon oregano)
  • 1/2 cup cucumber (cut into small pieces)
  • 1/4 cup red onions (diced)
  • 1/4 cup feta (crumbled)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (pitted and coarsely chopped)
  • 1 handful mint (chopped)
  • 4 whole wheat pitas (cut into triangles and toasted until just crispy)
1. Assemble dip starting with the hummus and stacking each ingredient on top of the last.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Don't Get In My Way

When you find out unemployment is eminent, you do crazy things.  My last day will be today or Monday. Last Thursday our CEO - glib and removed - said although making payroll may be questionable, we should all be professionals and come into work with a smile.  Since we are on deferred pay, that could mean one month of work without pay.  And that makes me incensed.  I have thus decided the only reasonable action is to steal anything I can use during unemployment: having Crohn's, toilet paper tops that list.  I'm also eyeing paper and pens, file racks and cleaner, and I'm so low that even feminine hygiene supplies have made the list.  Hey; they take my money, I take their tampons.

I've also taken other immediate actions: on Thursday I called three eye doctors until I found one who would see me the next day (no less, on his lunch hour).  He was cute to boot and smelled of soap - I was smitten.  Then yesterday I raced to Target's pharmacy before it closed to fill a much-need prescription because I had three coupons - fill a prescription, get a $10 Target gift card.  With two $10 gift cards in hand, I feel like I'm rolling in the dough.

I'm also going through IVF and yesterday had our egg retrieval.  There's not much to tell: it went fine, we had lunch afterwards, and I ate a gyro.  Well, come to think of it, that was a really slammin' afternoon.  But things, on a whole, have been hard.  My neighborhood has a horrible rush hour traffic problem and I want to move, which is idiotic on many levels, except that I feel like a prisoner in my own home.  The shades are down and loud music is often on so I can go about my business without having to hear the stop and go of all the vehicles.  It sounds silly, but it's driving me crazy and I longingly look at houses online that we cannot afford (especially now).  I don't want a big house (smaller would be fine!).  I just want it...removed.  This morning I was beeped at several times for going the speed limit in my neighborhood.  I find this particularly noxious: here are drivers who are cutting through a quiet, suburban street and they have the gull to beep.  So I gave them the finger.  That's pretty much how I take matters into my own hands.

This is a reenactment of the angry, honkin' driver behind me.  I love it when their faces turn red.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Will Work For Sushi

Well...that's one way to put it.

The most praying I do is on the scale at the doctor’s office and walking into work: “Let’s hope this will be a good day!” Both of these pseudo-prayers are most definitely futile, unfortunately.

But lately something peculiar has been happening. Take last Saturday. It was raining and cold and Penny had to go for a walk, so I donned two sweatshirts, a canary yellow rains slicker and my trusty Eskimo boots and off we went to the river trail. The snow was still about 10 inches thick and we trudged slowly and silently (well – I did, she more or less hopped gracefully). The air was clear and crisp and the rain pitter pattered on my jacket. Penny trounced from one snowy mound to the other, looking back every thirty seconds or so at her pathetic owner (and if a dog can roll their eyes, she surely has the gift).

And even though it was cold, and raining, and I was huffin’ and puffin’ (and, yes) grunting, it was rather lovely, peaceful, and affirming. And it was the closest I’ve come to prayer in years.

These little moments have been positively delightful. Take Valentine’s morning: at 5:45 am I heard Matt shuffling around like a drunken moose. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m making you breakfast!”, he replied. Never mind I occasionally meet a friend at the gym with this morning being one of them. No worries, he said, we’ll have a quick breakfast. Which is what I did at 6:10 that morning in five minutes flat. Banana pancakes, coffee, and a quick kiss goodbye. It couldn’t have been sweeter.

I think of these quiet moments in times of strife, and this is one of them. It is confirmed: I am being laid off. No one knows when, except “soon”. When you are told your company is out of money during a last-minute night conference call, and that there are no other choices because no bank in their right mind will refinance us, and when your boss’s boss cries at this news, you know it’s bad. I saw the writing on the wall a while ago in unpaid bills, tales of excessive spending, and other dirty secrets that trickled down to my desk. No controls in place, no leadership, no fortitude, and this leaves us little people scrambling. When you know you’re going to be laid off you sulk, lose motivation, and wait…and wait. You wait for the ball to drop. For the other shoe to drop. You wait for another nighttime last-minute conference call announcing the inevitable.

There's not much I can do. (Well, except cry and then bitch and then sulk, all of which I do often.) I want answers - when? Is there severance? Will we even make payroll and will my PTO be paid out? I have almost 100 hours of PTO saved up (and for this, I now laugh) to add onto a maternity leave. Yes; big, boisterous laughs. And next week I have my IVF egg retrieval, followed by (I hope) the transfer. I'm trying not to complain, but it's not in my makeup. I am fortunate: if I give up the fertility stuff, going out to eat, and other extras, we will be fine. Maybe it's high time I practiced some big time budgetary restraint (But there is sushi to be eaten! And new dresses to be bought!) I am lucky I have a significant other who is employed, who has insurance I can jump onto, and who tolerates my aforementioned crying, bitching, and sulking.

But between all this crying, bitching, and sulking, I swear, I am having those little, transcendent moments. I'm not saying I'm having deep thoughts or anything, but it's a start. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some jobs that need apply'n.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Robots, Heartache, and Chocolate Cake

Watson is silently laughing at these humanoid fools.

 It's just been too long since I last posted, and this simply will not do!

First things first: I have a terrible crush on Watson.  As in the IBM robot currently kicking ass on Jeopardy.  Matt doesn't fault me for this, as he has his own burning desires for that bot.  Ah...young nerds in love.

Speaking of love, Valentine's Day has come and gone and we celebrated with wonton soup and egg rolls - the only thing that rivals my love for Matt, is (of course) my love for food, which is worn on the plump slope of my belly- it's a mid-section that has seen it's share of shrimp pad thai, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken pot pie.  And since we're not a couple for grand displays of romance (well, that one year I did sort of demand flowers at work but that ship has sailed), we celebrated quietly.  Not that I didn't demand anything: I requested a card that he didn't "just sign".  I wanted verbiage, damnit!  And dot those i's with hearts!  He wrote me a lovely note that makes me cry every time I read it.  It may be the wacky fertility meds, but, hey, it just might be love.

It's been a trying few months for us, but how lucky we are.  This is what I repeat when I hear troublesome news.  Take last week: it was announced our consulting company is going belly up and we'll either being going bankrupt or will be bought in an acquisition.  Since I work in corporate, we - almost certainly - will be laid off.  The question is when.  This, of course, will end our fertility treatments.  We also just started a new IVF cycle and are forging ahead as most of it is paid for by the practice due to the last cycle's mishap.  But then that's it.  I'm upset, but I've even more upset it's making me so upset which, in turn, makes me even more upset.  Or something like that.  It's upsetting I can't even figure out that sentence!

Now it's chocolate cake time.  Yes - I got cake too, because just Chinese food isn't fattening enough, and well, I deserve it!  (That's what I say, at least.)
PS: Watson will be on Jeopardy tomorrow, too.  Tune in to check out my boyfriend!  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Moroccan Munchies

I never really understood the movie Casablanca. What can I say: maybe it’s Humphrey Bogart. I just can’t get behind someone with the name Humphrey. Do they call him Hump for short? “Hey, Hump!” I have the problem of not being able to disconnect between a celebrity’s personal life and on-screen persona. I refuse to see any Tom Cruise movie because of his wackadoo Scientologist views. And Christian Bale? He’s known to be the biggest verbally abusive prick in Hollywood, but damn if he doesn’t make good movies (sadly).

Regarding Casablanca, I know I’m speaking romantic and classic movie blasphemy right now, but this post isn’t really about my sorry cinematic views, but FOOD! Doesn’t it always involve food? I love Mediterranean food so this weekend I whipped up several Moroccan favorites: baba ganoush, a tasty carrot salad (parve), zaulook, which is an eggplant dish served hot or cold, and a big bowl of roasted vegetables with Israeli (aka pearl) couscous. Lots of eggplant, lots of olive oil, lots of parsley, and lots of chowing down.

There is something innately sensual about Mediterranean food: the aromatics of it all, the fact you eat so much of it by hand. Unfortunately the Hopkins household version include sweatpants and football games, but hey, that’s just our flavor. I can’t imagine Matt feeding me olives and fruit with a crackling fire behind us – yuck!

I was inspired because we visited a Moroccan restaurant with our in-laws a couple weeks back and I was in love with the first course, which had an array of cold salads/spreads: hummus, baba ganoush, parve, zaulook, and a wonderful and cool diced cucumber and tomato salad that I’ll have to replicate soon. Moroccan food just has so much character – I could give a FIG (get it, get it?!) about meat and potato entries, but when chicken is covered with apricots or vegetables are roasted on a smoky hearth I go gaga. I also liked that our waiter, who went by Moses (we did not ascertain if that was his real name) looked like a pirate, and that Matt and his father had to dance with our female belly dancer, their faces flush with embarrassment. (The male belly dancer – and oh, yes, there was one and Omar was his name– did not come near my mother-in-law and me. I’m not sure what to make of that.)

A few of my favorite things (and colors)...
That gorgeous globe on the left is a Sicilian eggplant.
Refreshing, bright, and vibrant.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
  • 7 carrots, sliced into rounds
  • 3 Tb. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring salted water to a boil (enough to cover the carrots). Boil for approx. 8 minutes, and then drain and rinse under cold water. (Carrots should have a slight crispness to them still; not mushy.) In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and pour over the carrot salad.

Olives are a nice touch to add a certain saltiness and brininess (is that a word) to the dish. I didn't add them because I'm not a fan, but we later chopped some up and mixed in, and I have to admit, it was pure delight.
Baba Ghanoush
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 2 Tb. sesame seeds
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 Tb. olive oil
Preheat over to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the eggplant on it. Be sure to make holes in the skin of the eggplant with a fork before baking. Roast for 30 to 40 minutes, turning, until soft. Remove from the oven and cool the eggplant in ice water. Then peel the skin off (should be easy if the eggplant is well-roasted).

Place the eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, sesame seeds, and garlic in a blender or food processor and puree. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl and slowly mix in the olive oil. Refrigerate for about 3 hours before serving.

May not look that enticing, but it is.

Moroccan Eggplant Dip (Zaalouk)
  • 1 large eggplant, peeled and chopped
  • 4 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro and parsley, mixed
  • 1 Tb. paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a large skillet or pot and cook over medium to medium-high heat for approx. 30 minutes. Using a spoon smash the mixture until smooth and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold with pita.

We then finished our feast with a big bowl of roasted veggies with Israeli couscous. Divine!

Music To My Ears

One of my favorite bands, with long awaited new material: I've been listening to this on repeat all afternoon.  Just had to share with any readers, who I know have equally fab taste! 

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues by subpop