Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thirsty Thursday, and Thoughts on Hurricane Isaac.

So this is just OBVS.  Thirsty Thursday, meet the Hurricane. 

This is based off a pretty standard New Orleans hurricane recipe;  I’ve made just a few modifications to cut calories.  We’ll call this a Hurricane Isaac, since he was a lot lighter than certain people (*cough*Weather Channel*cough*) were hoping for.

2 oz pineapple rum

1 oz Jamaican dark rum
3 oz light orange juice (like Trop 50, or Crystal Light Classic Orange)
3 oz light pineapple juice (Trop 50 Pineapple Mango)
1 tsp grenadine syrup
1 cup crushed ice

Mix ingredients in a blender & enjoy!  Garnish with fresh fruit.  Calories: 230-250 for this 17 oz (with ice) serving (original recipe: 325 kcal)


So now that the hype is starting to die down as Isaac creeps north and wind speeds have ratcheted down to tropical storm force, and I’ve checked in with my local friends to confirm their safety, I have a few things to say.

1. Jim Cantore is a DRAMA QUEEN.  I can remember adoring Jim when I lived in Louisiana.  Unless he was in my town, because it meant we were about to get b*slapped with some nasty weather.  Now, in retrospect, I start to realize that the man is one of the biggest exaggerator’s that station has on payroll.  During the news Tuesday night, he stated that New Orleans sits at 12 feet below sea level, and I did a double take.  Because I sho’ nuff studied an awful lot about elevations in New Orleans, and “twelve” is not a figure I had ever heard before.  But granted, the city IS slowly subsiding and getting lower…  However, when I LEFT Louisiana, the lowest point in New Orleans was about EIGHT feet below sea level, and the fastest subsidence rate was about one inch a year.  So, unless someone’s been digging some big holes… Mr. Cantore, you is a LIAR, or at the very least misinformed.

“Come on, Al, anchor me against this raging wind! Agh!  I lost my hat!  My bald head is exposed to the elements!!! We’re going to DIE!!!”


2. Not all hurricanes are alike.  If you’re not used to hurricanes, then the word “hurricane” just sounds scary.  Sorta like if you’re not used to tornadoes, the word “tornado” is terrifying.  But thankfully, the meteorological community has invented scales by which to classify these scary things.  For hurricanes, we have the Saffir-Simpson scale, which utilizes wind speeds/gusts to itemize storms into seven categories, from Tropical Depression (winds less than 38 miles per hour) to Category Five (winds greater than 157 mph). 

Katrina was a Cat 4 or 5, depending on who you ask.  Fours & Fives are “catastrophic”.  Bad stuff.  People die.  Not funny. 

Isaac was a Cat 1 (possibly a Cat 2, according to Wikipedia, because people like to debate these things). This means winds around 74-95 mph.  Yes.  That’s fast. But if you’re familiar with tornadoes (like I am, since I’ve lived in both Hurricane Alley AND Tornado Alley), you can compare it to an EF (Enhanced Fujita Scale) 1 Tornado, which has winds around 73-117 mph.  If you’ve lived in Tornado Alley, you know that an EF 0 or 1 can happen outside your house & you don’t even know it, because it just seems like crazy-high gusts of winds.  If you have a trampoline, expect to find it in your neighbor’s yard.  Expect a few downed tree limbs and shingles in your yard.  Grab your flashlight & have your phone charged, because downed power lines are also a big possibility.  Expect to be possibly be inconvenienced/without power for 24-48 hours.  It sucks, yes, but you can prepare for it.  Nobody ever died from eating cold Spaghetti-O’s for two days.  And if your workplace has no power?  Free day off from work!!!

If you live in New Orleans (or one of the other low-lying or coastal areas of Louisiana), and your house didn’t get raised after Katrina, you might have to expect a little water in your house.  My cousin Primo, who lives in the Lakeview area of the city, got ankle-deep water in the lower spots of their house, which receded later in the evening.  But he lives on the bottom floor of a house that sits at –6 ft.  He also got water in his house a month ago when they got tons of rain for 4 days straight.  He & his friends/roomates spent the day drinking beer & grilling chicken & happy to have the day off.  My friends in Houma celebrated their “hurricane day” with mimosas. Not exactly the “horror story” The Weather Channel needs for its ratings.

If you’ve never been in a Cat 1 hurricane, it’s like a nasty thunderstorm, except longer.  Scary sounding winds, lots of rain, potential for power loss, high potential for flash flooding, moderate potential for home flooding, depending on where you live.  This is not the type of storm that will break New Orleans levees, although there’s plenty of water that will splash OVER them, and the ground will get saturated and there will be some flooding that way. 


3. Louisiana has other towns besides New Orleans. 

This is what New Orleans looked like yesterday:

(PS—I LOVE that the caption for this picture was “Brave Man Survives Isaac in New Orleans”.)

But the news is showing stuff like this, and referring to it as “just outside New Orleans”:


This is not New Orleans. 

This is Braithwaite, a town of two thousand people, situated 16 miles southeast of New Orleans, in an area outside the federal levee system.  This area has very little natural protection from storm surge, as you can see here:


Yeah…that’s all swamp out there.  Wait…here’s a close up:


Mississippi River on one side, swamp on the other.  Levees holding both back.

People who live in these areas do so knowing that they run a risk.  Maybe they live there because they can’t afford elsewhere.  Maybe it’s close to their work.  Maybe it’s where they grew up.  Maybe it’s because property is dirt cheap (real estate sites show a 3500+ sq ft home on 5.4 acres of land going for $300,000; the same square footage in Metairie will cost you at least $320,000 on a <0.2 acre lot).  Whatever their reason, they make that choice knowing there’s a possibility of flooding.  I’m not saying my heart doesn’t go out to those people who got 10 feet of water in their homes.  But I am saying: look at the math.  Town of 2,000 people, half of them left town, 100 people had to be rescued.  Which means there’s about 900 people who were adequately prepared or had homes built up high enough that they didn’t need to be rescued.


3. I miss Hurricane Days.  An extra day off from work, and I just have to deal with some rain & possibly power loss?  Heck yeah, I’ll take it.  Since I DO have to work today…yes, I’m a little jealous.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

“Texas Style” Chocolate Zucchini Sheet Cake

That was the title when I pulled this recipe off the Interwebz.  Texas Style.  I grew up spending my summers on the beaches of southern Texas, down around Corpus Christi & Port Aransas.  My grandparents on my dad’s side were teachers in Aransas (Go Panthers!) until they moved back to Missouri in 1994. So from the mid-80s until that time, my cousin Manda & I LIVED for that month or two when our parents would ship us off during the summers to stay with Nana & Pawpaw.  We spent 95% of those waking hours outdoors, and thusly came home at the end of every summer looking like crispy critters. 

facebook_31885 (‘Scuse me, I think your 1/16th Native American is showing.)

In my mind, there are certain things that DEFINE Texas, due to my own personal childhood experience:

1. Whataburger. (But only in Texas.  Every burger from a non-Texas Whataburger tastes like sadness.)

2. The Carousel inside the Corpus Christi Mall, that we DEMANDED to ride upon at least once every summer.

3. Schlitterbahn.

4. Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

5. Sandburs.  Our Nana bribed us to eradicate them from her yard every summer, and since we didn’t enjoy getting them stuck in our feet, we were happy to help….for a quarter a pop.

However, “sheet cake” was never included in that definition.  I saw sheet cakes at church functions in Missouri, so what was all “Texas” about them?

After having made this cake, I can see the comparison: It’s Frickin’ Huge.

Seriously.  The BIGGEST cake I’ve ever made.    No matter how well the Hubs & I tried to put a dent in it, it never seemed to get any smaller.  Finally, when there was a little over half left, I conceded & brought the rest of it to work.  My coworkers converged upon it like the Free Territories and after two hours, it finally disappeared. (Thank you, fair coworkers, for your willingness to eat nearly anything that gets left in the break room.)

feaux 053

I modified the original recipe a bit to reduce the fat/caloric content. 


  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup Splenda
  • 1 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded fresh zucchini
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

    For the icing:

  • 1/2 cup light butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 6 tablespoons evaporated milk
  • 1 pound (4 cups) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


    Heat your oven to 375 and bust out your “sheet cake pan”…aka, “the REALLY big cookie sheet”.  Typical measurement is 10” x 15” and one inch deep.  A regular cookie sheet won’t work, because you need that deepness to hold the cake batter.  Lightly spray the pan with cooking spray—you can also lightly dust the pan with flour, which makes the cake easier to get out of the pan.

    In a large mixing bowl (or Kitchenaid):

    feaux 038 The sign of a well-loved Kitchenaid.  …I promise I cleaned it after I was done baking.

    …Add the sugar, yogurt, and eggs; beat until well combined.  Then mix in the cocoa, baking soda & powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Now, add the flour and the milk, alternating back & forth between the two (helps to keep the batter from getting lumpy).

    Once that’s well combined, stir in your zucchini and vanilla.

    Pour the batter into your sheet cake pan, making sure you don’t overflow, since your batter should be JUST ENOUGH to almost totally fill the pan.  Then VERY CAREFULLY move it into the oven.

    feaux 042

    Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  You will want to check on the cake about halfway through for bubbles.  I did not do this, & ended up with lumpy cake.

    feaux 044

    While it’s baking, you can make your icing. 

    Note: This was my first attempt at making icing in a very, VERY long time.  It should not be hard…I mean, when the directions are “combine all ingredients & mix ‘til smooth”, how difficult can it be?

    Apparently, quite difficult.  Particularly when you spend 15 minutes freaking out about why your icing looks HORRIBLE…only to realize you haven’t yet added the powdered sugar.  So remember the powdered sugar, kids.  It’s sorta the main component.

    Once the cake is done, set it on a rack & let cool COMPLETELY before pouring the icing over top.

    Think a lumpy cake top isn’t a big deal?  It is when you’re icing/glaze is thin:

    feaux 047 They’re like little cake islands, in a seaaaaaa of chocolate…

    Allow the icing to set up.  Assuming it does.  Because mine did not.  But I probably jacked it up at some point during that 15 minute panic attack.  But that’s okay, because it still tasted AWESOME.

    feaux 051

    It was a bit dense, almost more like a brownie.  And the gooey icing was pretty well to-die for….probably would have been better if I hadn’t broken it, but it was still deelish.

    A 10” by 15” pan will make 25 servings. (2x3 inch pieces)  And each serving is under 200 calories!


    Calories 191.6

      Total Fat 2.6 g

      Saturated Fat 0.8 g

      Polyunsaturated Fat 1.0 g

      Monounsaturated Fat 0.7 g

      Cholesterol 22.4 mg

      Sodium 70.4 mg

      Potassium 131.3 mg

      Total Carbohydrate 40.1 g

      Dietary Fiber 1.2 g

      Sugars 28.2 g

      Protein 3.8 g

  • Monday, August 27, 2012

    The Marginator’s CrockPot Wings

    When I worked at Martin’s Wine Cellar down in Metairie, my manager’s name was Margie.  Actually, it still IS Margie, since she still works there & hasn’t changed her name.  Our loving nickname for her was The Marginator… Of course, this is coming from a gaggle of gals who have a song dedicated to rare roast beef, which comes in a 20 lb package, vaccum-sealed in it's own “juices” (aka, blood), and makes a HUGE mess when you have to open it, and was thusly named “The Big Nasty”. 

    ANYWAY.  Margie hired me with no real experience in gourmet foods, wines, or cheeses, with the exception of an addiction to Food Network.  And by the time I left a year later, I knew WAY too much about 200 different kinds of cheeses, 8 types of pate (all gross), about 20 gourmet deli meats & sausages, 6-7 types of olives, and was our resident expert in crafting entirely kosher holiday baskets.


    I have tasted 89% of these things.

    Margie also passed along several recipes to me, which incorporated food items we sold in the store.  This bestowal of knowledge was partially for recommending to customers, and partially just because they were delicious and we got a pretty sweet employee discount.  I sincerely miss that discount these days.

    This is my favorite Marginator recipe by far.  It’s extremely easy and has tons of flavor.  And I figured I’d share since Football Season is here and wings are a pretty popular football food.  The Hubs & I don’t do much tailgating, but now that I get free admission to Missouri State games with my new fancy schmancy student ID, we might have to attend a couple. :D

    Another thing I really like about this recipe: A lot of wing recipes are either fried or breaded, which adds a ton of unnecessary fat.  But you can use your broiler to get your chicken all crispy on the outside with NO added fat.



    NOTE: I do this recipe in “parts”, rather than specific measurements, because it’s entirely dependent upon how many wings you’re making.  Just use equal amounts of each of the sauce ingredients.  For example: if we’re making about 4 servings worth, I use 1/2- 1 cup of each. 

    1 part your favorite BBQ sauce (we love KC Masterpiece Smoky)

    1 part honey (as always, I recommend Acadiana Honey, or, if you don’t have that available, buy local.  I guarantee there’s a honey producer at your local farmer’s market.)

    1 part Pickapeppa Sauce

    Fresh or thawed chicken wings & drummies (4-6 pieces make a serving)



    Turn your oven’s broiler on, and spread your wings out on a foil-lined baking sheet.

    Place the baking sheet in the oven, with the shelf a couple notches below the broiler.  Broil on both sides for about 10 minutes each—this gets the skin really nice & crispy, and seals in a ton of flavor.


    In your CrockPot, mix together the sauce ingredients (Note: I occasionally add a few splashes of Cajun Power garlic sauce if I have it in the house), and then toss your chicken into the pot.  Mix so that the chicken is coated.


    Cover, and let cook for 5-6 hours on Low, or 2-3 hours on High, or until the chicken is no longer pink.  Stir once about halfway through cooking to recoat the chicken.

    Serve with some ranch & veggies on the side! 


    NutriFacts (per serving):

    Calories 641.5

      Total Fat 22.0 g

      Saturated Fat 5.6 g

      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.9 g

      Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g

      Cholesterol 244.6 mg

      Sodium 923.4 mg

      Potassium 241.7 mg

      Total Carbohydrate 38.9 g

      Dietary Fiber 0.1 g

      Sugars 34.8 g

      Protein 67.0 g

    Sunday, August 26, 2012

    Roasted Beets & Potatoes


    I have a confession. I have never, ever, cooked beets before. I was one of those people who was exposed to pickled beets at a young age and officially decided, “um…nope.  These are not for me.”  Likewise, I of course assumed that ALL beets tasted like pickled beets.  My husband LOVES pickled beets.  I try not to hold that against him.

    I did start to warm to the idea of beets thanks to Dwight Schrute on The Office.  I didn’t crave them, mind you…I was just enlightened to all the wonders OF beets.  But I still wasn’t cooking them.

    And then Pinterest came along, and showed me this GORGEOUS photo of beet “raw-violi”, which is just precious and gorgeous…and somewhat appealing.  Okay, okay…maybe beets aren’t all bad.

    And then…there was Babsy.  My dear friend who knows all about gardening and composting and making things like kombucha

    This stuff scares the crap outta me.

    She grew beets, and gave me beets.  So I had beets. In my fridge.  Waiting for some sort of revelation from God as to what in the WORLD to make with beets.  Aside from pickled beets, which was entirely out of the question.

    And then finally, I just decided, “you know what?  They’re a root vegetable.  I bet they go well with other root vegetables.”

    Not exactly a revelation, but it’s a step!  And you know what?  Apparently there’s some stock in my “like with like” hypothesis, because it was totally delicious, and extremely easy.



    4 red potatoes, washed & cubed

    4 beets, washed & quartered

    1 onion, cut into 1/2 inch rings, then halved

    1 tbsp olive oil

    1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

    3 cloves garlic, minced

    1 tsp Italian seasoning

    1/2 tsp black pepper

    1/2 tsp salt


    Ya gotta admit…that’s a gorgeous color.  And it pairs well with the red skins on the potatoes.


    Preheat the oven to 475F.  Place your veggies in a 9x13 casserole dish and sprinkle with the seasonings, then drizzle the oil over top, and toss.  The red juices from the beets will probably mix onto your potatoes & onions, but it actually ends up making them really pretty—if you have a finicky kid who likes pink, this could be a good way to get some extra veggies in their system.


    Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then stir, and roast another 30 or until tender.


    I was really happy with the results of this. Roasted new potatoes are ALWAYS awesome, and the sweetness of the onions and the beets really played well off each other.  And, I mean, this color palette is just amazing.


    I totally want to try it again with a larger mix of fall veggies.  Perhaps some sweet potatoes or butternut squash, or some purple potatoes? 

    The texture of the beets is pretty similar to potatoes as well, which makes me wonder… beet fries?  Hrmm…

    NutriFacts (makes 4 servings):

    Calories 203.2

      Total Fat 3.8 g

      Saturated Fat 0.5 g

      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g

      Monounsaturated Fat 2.5 g

      Cholesterol 0.0 mg

      Sodium 373.1 mg

      Potassium 325.4 mg

      Total Carbohydrate 36.8 g

      Dietary Fiber 3.0 g

      Sugars 7.6 g

      Protein 5.0 g

    Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Thirsty Thursday: Early Halloween Edition.

    Have you noticed that the Holiday Influx is already upon us?  On Pinterest, in the retail stores, on the radio…  I can understand the Halloween costumes…I mean, kids just went back to school with crabby teachers and neverending piles of homework—they NEED something to look forward to.  When you’re back to hitting the books, daydreaming about whether Bane or Batman would yield better results for purloining your neighbors’ candy stashes is just a given.

    But apparently the retailers are also already getting geared up for HoHoSeason.  Just. Too.  Soon.  I believe in giving every holiday its due.  And I do love me some Halloween.  So back off, Christmas.  After we gorge ourselves on turducken in November, you can have your turn.

    Back to the holiday at hand. Halloween can be as much for adults as kids…and usually is.  You get to dress up like whatever you want, and no one says a thing?   Normally you have to pay a fortune for Comic-Con to get that privilege.  Living in a college town, I see my share of, “why yes, this lingerie IS a Halloween costume—can’t you see my animal ears?”

    Frankly, I’ve never quite prescribed to that school of thought, because, well, I like to be comfortable, and not freeze my butt off.  (Sidenote: Okay, except that one time when I was a bartender in college. But when you’re working for tips & not candy, it’s a slightly different ball game.  And for the record, I did TRY to be nerdy about it…)


    Drunk customer #1: Nice outfit…are you the devil?

    Me: Actually, I’m a succubus.

    Drunk customer #1: *blank stare*

    Me: …female demon that visits men in their sleep to steal their soul?

    Drunk customer #1: *raises an eyebrow*

    Me: …was the Medieval medical explanation for why men had wet dreams?

    Drunk customer #1: …thanks for the drink.

    Drunk customer #2:  Nice costume.  You the devil?

    Me: *sighs*  Yes.  Yes, I’m the devil.


    ANYWAY, a couple years back, I decided to hit up a friend’s All Hallow’s Eve party as a mad scientist.  I borrowed a lab coat from a friend who didn’t care if I singed it a bit, wore a nerdy tee & jeans (again: COMFORT is key), an official looking badge (my TWIC card, which is expired and has never ACTUALLY been used for any official purpose, but it’s got a microchip, so it looks cool), gunked up some rubber gloves, snagged some safety goggles from work, and after a bit of magic with some black eyeshadow:

    halloween 027_2

    (note: to get the “something just blew up in my face” look, put the goggles on, then use a large powder brush to apply black eyeshadow around the edges of the mask.  Remove the glasses, and voila!)

    I was pretty proud of this entirely-free, thrown-together costume.  But I was doubly-enamored with my drink holder, and the concoction within.

    halloween 002 halloween 004

    Okay.  So that’s only SOMEWHAT impressive.  Just kinda funny, right?  Haha, she found some labels & made some green juice and wrote “TGRI” on her bottle. Meh.


    …Did I mention it glowed?

    halloween 019

    I know, I know.  Your mind is blown.  I’ll wait while you recover.

    This is SUPER easy AND pretty cheap for you to replicate on your own.

    Step 1: Find a container.  I wanted something with a lid & a straw that could look SOMEWHAT like a scientific container, but that the labels would stick to easily.  The answer was this 29 cent water bottle from a thrift store (after being thoroughly cleaned & replacing the straw). FYI—I still use this bottle when I’m out riding my bike, and the looks I get are priceless.

    Step 2: Labels.  Since I work for an emergency spill response company, I have easy access to them, but I’m guessing YOU do not.  Not to worry!  You can print your own for free, and then use clear laminating sheets or clear packing tape to secure them to your container.

    Step 3: The glowing.  This can be achieved a couple different ways.  A: You could use 2-3 glowsticks.  But that made me a little nervous, and I was afraid the glow wouldn’t be bright enough.  So instead, I searched and waited and searched and waited & got a good deal (less than $10) for a set of 4 light-up ice cubes on Ebay.  They only light up when in liquid, and can be set to either blink or stay on constantly.

    Step 4: The concoction.  I wanted green and oozey and toxic-looking…but still tasty.


    Here is my recipe for: The Ooze.

    1 part orange juice (adds some opaqueness)

    1 part green apple Sour Pucker

    1 part blue curacao

    2 parts Diet Mt. Dew

    2 parts white liquor (whichever is your favorite: rum, vodka, gin, etc.)*


    *If you’re a non-drinker, you can omit the booze and still use this as an accessory for your costume.  The glow will still look super-wicked-awesome.


    Mix well, as much as you’ll need. (I filled my bottle before heading to the shin-dig, and brought a 20 oz water bottle filled with refill).  This can be a little sweet, so if you have some sour mix or lime juice in your house, feel free to add it. 

    Fill your HazWaste container, drop in your light-cubes, and then find yourself a dark corner to lurk in, where you can look mysterious and dangerous, drinking your toxic waste with a crazed look in your eye…

    halloween 060

    (My hubs/chauffeur.  Cuz that’s how this scientist rolls, yo.)

    Tuesday, August 21, 2012

    Feaux Pho: AKA, Ramen for Adult Students.

    I first entered college in the fall of 1998 at Southwest Missouri State University (now just called Missouri State University).  I lived in Freudenberger House (aka “Freddy”), one of the older dorms on campus which had only one elevator, and that elevator couldn’t be used unless you had a disability or were moving in/out.  I lived on the fourth floor (4WW, holla!!!), and it was that four-story walkup that probably saved me from the “Freshman 15”.  Our room overlooked the university’s former pool, which was empty and always made me wish it wasn’t.  I think they finally got around filling it in since then.


    My desk in my dorm room.  As you can see, I was a little obsessed with putting crap on the wall.  And check out that antique beige contraption taking up half the desktop… Windows 98, baby!

    I only lived in the dorms for one year, then had an off-campus apartment from then on.  But in the dorms, open flame was not allowed.  So all cooking had to be done using either a microwave or hot plate.  I wish I’d been kitchen-savvy enough at the time to realize that could have also included a CrockPot; I could have been making some seriously gourmet eats.

    Instead, I lived on a steady diet of unlimited cafeteria grub (you mean I can have cereal AND pizza?  Heck yessss…) and I had a stockpile of Goldfish crackers, Ramen, Spaghetti-Os, and canned ravioli in my dorm room, supplied in bulk courtesy of my Nana & her Sam’s Club membership. :D

    And even though my gastronomic skills have expanded greatly since those days, I still regularly have Ramen in my desk drawer at work for a quick lunch if I’m swamped.

    However, in homage to my return to Academia this week (for a class in GeoChemistry, eep!), I figured an Ode To Ramen was in order.

    But not just regular, plain-Jane Ramen.  Heck no, that’s not blog-worthy.

    We need something delicious and grown-up that actually constitutes a full meal.

    We need pho.

    Well…. Feaux Pho.

    Pho typically is served with beef or chicken as the protein, but since this isn’t a traditional pho, I wasn’t too worried about putting my own spin on it.  And I was craving scallops (since I had some in my freezer).

    My very first experience with pho was at Pho Bang in New Orleans, thanks to my friend/coworker Vee.  It’s amazing how such a “simple” food can cover an entire table.  At Pho Bang, all the components are served separately, so that you can “customize” your pho to your exact taste.  It’s a great concept, but when it’s your first time and all of a sudden, your table is covered in small bowls of hoisin, cilantro, bean sprouts, mushrooms, scallions, thai basil, lime wedges, serrano slices, and thinly sliced uncooked beef… you start to wonder exactly what you got yourself in to.

    But here’s how it works:  You get a big bowl that contains your noodles and steaming hot broth.  The heat from the broth will cook the beef and all the other ingredients, making a delicious and filling, yet light beef soup.  The aroma of the thai basil will work its way into your nose, up your brainstem, and lodge this dish permanently in your cerebellum. 

    Anywayyyy…. enough reminiscing.  Let’s make with the food.




    1 tsp olive oil

    1/2 onion, thinly sliced

    4 cloves garlic, crushed

    1/4 tsp ginger

    1 cinnamon stick*

    2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (this was about 3 mushrooms)

    1 green onion, sliced

    salt (if needed)

    2 packages instant ramen, chicken flavor (if you decide to go the traditional beef route, use a beef flavor instead)

    6 oz scallops, fresh or thawed

    1/2 tsp chinese five spice

    Cilantro, lime wedges, thinly sliced jalapeno or serrano peppers, bean sprouts, thai basil (sadly, we didn’t have the last two as I forgot to go to the asian market)

    *The original recipe also called for star anise, but I didn’t have any onhand.



    Prep your veggies (mushrooms, onion, green onion, peppers, etc.) and set aside.


    Then boil your noodles for about a minute less than the package directions.  I used the microwave because…well…it’s Ramen.


    I didn’t break up the noodles because I wanted to be able to easily eat this with chopsticks, because that’s just the way pho should go, yo. (PS—if you suck at chopsticks, you can totally use a fork. No one will judge you.)

    Once the noodles are done, drain and divide between two large bowls.


    In a small stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium, and then add the sliced onion, garlic, and ginger.  Cook until the garlic begins to brown, about 3 minutes.  Add 5 cups of water, the two seasoning packets from the Ramen packages, and the cinnamon stick, and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

    Meanwhile, season the scallops with the five spice and sear in a small skillet.  This is not necessarily because I don’t trust the broth to cook them, but because I think scallops just look tastier when they’re seared.


    Don’t you agree?

    Back to your broth:  Add your mushrooms and green onions and simmer for about 2 minutes.  Then check for seasoning and add salt, if needed.


    Fish the cinnamon stick and garlic cloves out of the pot and discard.  Then ladle the broth into the bowls on top of the noodles.  Scatter the scallops on top.


    Garnish with the cilantro, peppers, lime juice, bean sprouts, basil, whatever you have, ‘til you like the taste.  Some people I know also add hoisin or soy sauce.  It’s really all about your preference.

    Then break out the chopsticks!!!


    YUM!!!! It’s not as genuine as Pho Bang, but it’ll satisfy my craving!  I served it with a pork egg roll on the side.  SUPER filling and not a ton of calories!

    So here’s to all the students headed back to the books this week.  May your pencils (and wits) stay sharp, may your pens not run dry, and may you not doze off in class!



    Calories 295.7

      Total Fat 7.9 g

      Saturated Fat 3.6 g

      Polyunsaturated Fat 0.3 g

      Monounsaturated Fat 0.0 g

      Cholesterol 28.1 mg

      Sodium 971.4 mg

      Potassium 480.9 mg

      Total Carbohydrate 36.5 g

      Dietary Fiber 1.3 g

      Sugars 1.0 g

      Protein 21.2 g