Shrimp & Eggplant Curry + View From the Countertop #2 (video)


Once again I filmed this past week’s meal prep and, since I had a request after the last one, added narration to the video instead of music (maybe next time I’ll do both, depending on time).

(Direct link for the feed readers: View From the Countertop #2)

Meals for the week of 3.21.16-3.27.16

Meals for the week of 3.21.16-3.27.16

With the Luau the weekend before and so many delicious leftovers in the fridge, it’s probably no surprise that half of this week was made up from those.

Monday: Pulled Pork Sliders + Potato Salad
See the Luau post to get the links for the potato salad. I chopped up some of the leftover pork and mixed it with the tart bbq sauce from Fallin’s for our sliders. Easy and perfect for a Monday night supper.

Tuesday: Hawaiian Chicken Legs + Sweet Leilani Luau Salad
As I mention in the video, I’d planned to make chicken salad with the leftover legs, adding pineapple and macadamia nuts into my usual chicken salad recipe. But bad news at work had me seriously considering ice cream for supper, so I feel somewhat proud of myself for eating real food. (And let’s not kid ourselves, I had a good helping of ice cream afterwards.)

Wednesday: Beef Stir Fry + Brown Rice
Freezer meals to the rescue. Yes, we could have still been eating leftovers but I figured we needed a change of pace so pulled out one of the recent freezer meal additions. It’s a pretty simple kit: vegetables, beef, and sauce (a few tablespoons of sauce is added to the packet of beef as a marinade). I added half a head of cabbage we had in the crisper and it was a good thing I did. I’ll be adding that to the notes on my freezer meal spreadsheet–the meal would have been a little light without it!

Thursday: Luau Leftovers
They pick up our trash on Friday mornings so it was a good idea to eat, freeze, or toss anything left from the party at this point. Plus, the work news from Tuesday was/is the type to hang out all week, so a night with no cooking duties was appreciated.

Friday: Shrimp & Eggplant Curry with Cellophane Noodles
A kitchen experiment that totally worked, we enjoyed it so much that I’ve transcribed it from memory/video so you can try it, too. This is a Thai-style curry so it’s a little sweet, a little spicy, and totally delicious. The basic cubes are the little freezer cubes of chopped basil I’ve found at Trader Joe’s. They’re nice to keep on hand for recipes like this when you can’t always count on having fresh basil in the crisper. The lemongrass paste is another quick tip, found in the produce section by the fresh herbs, we also buy cilantro and ginger in paste form from time to time.

Shrimp & Eggplant Curry

serves 4

2 T olive oil
1 T garlic olive oil
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 package cellophane noodles plus water to cover
2 T Thai red curry paste
2 T grated ginger
1 T lemongrass paste
2 basil cubes (or 2 t dried basil)
1 can coconut milk
12 oz medium shrimp

Pour hot water over rice noodles in a bowl large enough to hold the bricks of noodles and an inch of water above. Let the noodles soak while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Heat olive oils in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat.

Add bell pepper and eggplant to pan and saute until peppers start to soften slightly and eggplant edges start to brown.

Stir in curry paste, ginger, lemongrass, and basil, then stir in coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer until vegetables are fully cooked.

Add shrimp, simmer and stir for about a minute, then turn off the burner and let the heat of the coconut milk mixture to finish cooking to shrimp (this helps prevent over cooking the seafood). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain the cellophane noodles (I find a pasta scoop works best for this, as the noodles are so small as to slip through most colanders with ease) and mix them into the shrimp and vegetables, stirring to distribute the sauce throughout.


I think I’ve stumbled upon the perfect combination in eggplant and coconut milk. Usually you’d salt and press the eggplant to draw out any bitterness but, I admit, I was lazy this time and skipped that step. But the slight sweetness of the coconut milk seems to have counteracted any bitterness in the eggplant because it was the second best eggplant I’ve ever had and Todd really enjoyed it as well! (The best being this sweet eggplant dish that Bahn Thai sometimes has on their lunch buffet, it’s absolutely amazing; they leave the skin on and it’s still the best eggplant ever.)

Saturday: Corned Beef Hash + Eggs
Lazy Saturday, I slept in, it rained all day, Todd napped in the afternoon. Yeah, we did nothing much of importance and it was just fine, so a late supper of breakfast seemed like a good idea to both of us.

Sunday: Zuppa Toscana
It rained almost all of Easter Sunday as well, and since we’d all just gotten together for Todd’s birthday last weekend we’d decided to forgo a family Easter event. I grabbed the pouch of Zuppa Toscana from 12tomatoes was a good answer to an unplanned Sunday supper. Rainy weather is perfect soup weather and this one was pretty tasty. It’s been so long since I’ve been to Olive Garden I really can’t say whether it’s a convincing copycat recipe or not, but we definitely enjoyed it. Maybe next time I’ll actually plan ahead and make some fresh bread sticks to go with it.

And that work news I keep mentioning, it does deserve an explanation, but this isn’t the right post for it. I’ll try to organize my thoughts about it for the next one.

MxMo LXXXIII: Preserves | Strawberry Shot-Cake



This month’s Mixology Monday, hosted by Craig of A World of Drinks, is Preserves.

Even though fresh-everything is the clarion call of cocktail enthusiasts today, back when cocktails were fresh and new, themselves, it wasn’t necessarily feasible to have fresh everything at the tip of your barspoon. Sure, that makes the cake for seasonal cocktails, but let’s face it–we’ve all had a craving for something at the absolute worst time for it, so why would imbibers be any different?

In the spirit of those bygone days, the idea was to use an ingredient that had been preserved by drying, canning, freezing, syrup-ing, candying or any other preservation method you like and make a cocktail with it.

My inspiration actually came from an episode of Extreme Cheapskates that I watched sometime last year (thank you, Netflix, for preserving–hah!–all kinds of weird and wooly goodness for those of us who are otherwise eschewing cable). In one episode, the gentleman being profiled actually had a great idea for using up the dregs of the jelly jar: add oil and vinegar and whatever else you like to the jar, give it a good shake, and suddenly you have a vinaigrette for your salad for pennies of what a fancy bottled version would run you.

Well, if you can do it with salad dressing, why not do it with a cocktail?!

Making King Cakes a few weeks ago used up almost a full jar of Welch’s Natural Strawberry preserves, leaving just the right amount of dregs for a cocktail (I’d estimate, for the sake of repeating the cocktail later, about 2 Tbsp or 1 oz of jam clinging to the sides of the jar). And when life gives you strawberries, you make shortcake!


Strawberry Shot-Cake

2 Tbsp Strawberry Preserves
1 oz Whipped Cream Vodka
1/4 oz Butterscotch Schnapps
2 oz Coconut Milk

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass half-full of ice. Or skip the Boston shaker and add the ingredient to your almost-empty jelly jar along with a couple handfuls of ice. Either way, shake until the last dregs of  jam have released from the sides of the jar and the mixture is a nice pink color. Strain (you may have to get creative depending on the size of the mouth on your jar) into a cocktail glass.

An ounce and a quarter may not seem like a lot of alcohol, but I maintain that it is a well-balanced drink, very smooth, and one you could sip after supper without being hit over the head with a sledgehammer the moment you rise from your seat. If you’re just not convinced it’s enough, though, a barspoon of strawberry vodka floats nicely on the top of this drink.

There are hints of daiquiri here–if you were to blend it instead of shake it I think it would do quite well in that form–and the coconut milk (use the full-fat canned variety, not coconut cream or the diluted coconut milk in the shelf-stable cartons) gives it a hint of a pina colada, as well.


AlcoHOLidays | Banana Cream Pie Day | Banana Cream-Tini


Banana Cream Pie-inspired Martini against a striped yellow background, copyright 2013 Jennifer "Scraps" Walker, Sips & Shots

You gotta love it when the holidays lend themselves so easily to a cocktail, right?

March 2 is Banana Cream Pie Day and I’m having trouble coming up with any objections to such a day existing. Banana pies and banana cream custards go back to the late-1800s, but the first written record specifically for the banana cream pie is found in 1906, courtesy of The Blue Ribbon Cook Book. Every pie maven surely has their own version of the pie these days, a favorite for pot lucks and spring holidays, and there are plenty of cocktail versions around, too.

Of course, I wanted to play around and come up with my own.

Banana Cream-Tini

2 oz Coconut Milk
1 oz Banana Liqueur
3/4 oz Vanilla Vodka
1/4 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

Combine all ingredients over ice and shake until rich and frothy. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and enjoy.

We’ve been using a lot of coconut milk in our house, lately, and had a hunch that it would give this drink a richer feel and flavor than regular milk without being as cloying as sweetened condensed milk or even Irish Cream would have been. My hunch proved correct and this is a delightful twist on the original. The coconut milk makes for a very opaque cocktail, of course, so this is a perfect candidate for serving in something decorative.

Garnish for a cocktail like this is tough. Banana would be the obvious choice but there’s little more unappealing (!) than a browning banana slice resting on the rim of your glass. While most banana cream pies are poured into a standard pastry crust that have been baked blind (unfilled), I suppose you could take a half-step to the left and rim your glass with graham cracker crumbs. Some demerara sugar might make a nice rim, too, come to think of it.

Bottom line, making a banana cream pie takes some effort. This cocktail? All the flavor and less than a minute of real work.

Not such a tough decision, is it?


Creating a Cocktail


That same party that sparked the Menu Planning and Quantity discussions (not to mention reminding me of the fun side of catering) also gave me a chance to try out a new service I’m offering: custom cocktail creation. Because it’s an interesting process (and a yummy drink), I thought I’d share how I went about designing the cocktail to fit the event.

First some background: the party was a Mary Kay Holiday Open House hosted by a trio of consultants, one of which is a good friend from high school, who requested a non-alcoholic drink because people would be coming and going, plus there’d be young ones around. My friend and the other two consultants, lovely ladies all, are fun and bubbly so I had a pretty good feel for their personalities in relation to the type of party they wanted this to be.

So right off the bat I’m thinking pink (I mean, Mary Kay: what else is there?) and possibly cranberry since it’s a fairly popular flavor and a good base for a mocktail but where to go after that? I could do a cranberry-orange mix that’s sorta like a virgin Cosmopolitan, but that wasn’t special enough; this drink needed to be truly unique so a non-alcoholic version of any regular cocktail just seemed like a cop-out to me.

Another thought flitting through my mind is the skin-care  classes the consultants host, so if I could make the drink frothy or milky, reminiscent of a lotion maybe, that would be even better. Being November a smoothie seemed a little much and most frothy cocktails involved egg whites and that’s a tough sell to a stranger even if it is a component of many classic cocktails. I briefly considered experimenting with the powdered pasteurized egg whites but ditched it just as quick. That leaves milk, but with potential diary allergies or intolerance, was that really the best option? And would it even combine nicely with the cranberry juice?

I let this mull over in my mind for a few days when I suddenly had an epiphany: Bubble Tea! For those who’ve not tasted it before, bubble tea is an Asian drink (I’m honestly not sure which culture truly claims it, I’ve seen references to Japanese as well as Vietnamese origins), a sweet combination of tea and milk with, usually, a fruit flavor added and large black tapioca pearls (the bubble part of the equation) in the bottom of the cup. It’s served with a wide straw so that the pearls, which are cooked to a gummy consistency, can be sucked up and enjoyed as well. Now, I’d never seen a cranberry bubble tea and I certainly didn’t want to use the powders (both for the tea and flavorings) that seem to be the norm, but I really liked the idea and thought it had potential.

Thinking Asian got me thinking about another milk alternative: coconut milk. Not coconut cream like you use in a Pina Colada, but the type used in Thai curries. I considered using other dairy alternatives (almond, rice and soy milks) but when I started to do some digging into the health properties of each, coconut milk was the surprising winner. Even though it contains saturated fats (usually a bad thing), the saturated fat of the coconut is unusual in it’s makeup and not harmful like the ones from animal sources. Plus I found out that coconut milk is anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic, anti-bacterial and has been used in studies to lessen the viral load of AIDS patients!

See, I’d already named this drink The Facial, at least as a working title, and thought that if regular facials are good for our skin, a drink named as such should be somewhat good for our bodies. So, as I experimented with the various ingredients (green tea and cranberry juice, both good things!) I tried to keep that in mind. And experiment I did. It took several trials combining different teas (regular green and flavored), the coconut milk, juice and brown sugar syrup to get a drink that was tasty and had the right color and consistency. And, of course, the tapioca pearls I found were the small white kind so as I cooked them I tinted them black with icing paste (both to match the color scheme of the party–pink, black and silver–as well as resemble the micro-beads that are in various scrubs and serums the company sells) and then stored them in the recommended brown sugar syrup.

Here’s the resulting mocktail, renamed The Miracle after the company’s core skin-care set.

The Miracle Mocktail

2.5 oz brewed Cranberry-Pomegranate Green Tea
2.5 oz 100% Juice Cranberry Juice
.5 oz Brown Sugar Syrup*
.5 oz Grenadine (mostly for color, can be omitted)
1 oz Coconut Milk
1 Tbsp Tapioca Pearls, tinted

Place the Tapioca Pearls in the bottom of a sugar-rimmed cocktail glass.

Combine the tea through coconut milk in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake for a good count of 10. Pour over the tapioca pearls and enjoy!

* Brown sugar syrup is made by combining 1 part brown sugar, 1 part white sugar and 2 parts water in a saucepan and heating until the sugars are completely dissolved. Can be made ahead and store in the fridge for more than a month. Also good in rum-based cocktails where regular sugar syrup is called for though it can change the color of a drink.

The drink was a hit, both with the hostess trio and the guests and I had so much fun creating it and playing bartender throughout the evening. I did get asked if it was harder coming up with a non-alcoholic cocktail and I had to admit that, yes, it was a little more challenging to come up with something different enough to justify the effort but it was definitely rewarding and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity to create a custom cocktail!

If you’d like to find out how to get your own custom cocktail creation, email me at