Recipe of the Week: Gazpacho

I’m trying to make one new recipe each week, so I might as well share them with you, right?

The temperature here is nearing ninety degrees, so I decided to make gazpacho, a stew of raw vegetables. I only had to boil water for a few minutes in order to peel the tomatoes. Upon reflection, I could have avoided that step by just using tomato juice and/or canned tomatoes.

Anyway, here’s Alton Brown’s gazpacho recipe. I didn’t make any alterations this time, other than doubling the recipe.

I’m serving it with some Rosemary Olive bread I picked up from Market Basket, and some Chèvre (French goat cheese).

Continue Reading

Mushroom Matzo Stuffing Recipe

matzo stuffing

We had an interfaith Seder this afternoon. Roasted chicken, corned beef, quinoa salad, steamed carrots, and noodle pudding. I was taking care of the mashed potatoes, when I thought, “hey, I like having stuffing with my chicken.” I checked to see if we had any Stove Top in the pantry, when the thought occurred to me – regular stuffing probably comes from leavened bread. I wondered to myself, “could I make stuffing with matzo?”

matzo stuffing
Spoiler alert: Yes, yes I can.

It turns out that I’m not the only one who’s had that thought, because there are quite a few matzo stuffing recipes out there. I ended up going with this one from Bon Appétit, with a few alterations.

  1. To accommodate a vegetarian, I swapped out chicken fat for EVOO, per the recipe, and used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.
  2. I used matzo farfel instead of whole matzo, because all the store had was six pound multi-packs of matzo. I found a message board in which someone found that one matzo sheet crumbles into roughly a half cup, so I went with that ratio.
  3. I couldn’t find dried shiitake, so I used some fresh, as well as some dried black mushrooms. I think I ended up with 1.5 times the mushrooms the recipe called for, but is there really such a thing as too many mushrooms? I also was too lazy to slice up the reconstituted dried mushrooms, and just ran all the mushrooms through our mini Cuisinart.
  4. On a minor note, I doubled the recipe.

To be honest, I was expecting it to taste like matzo, kinda bland and crappy for a bread substitute. However, it turned out great! I think it would have been even better if I’d used chicken fat and broth, especially since the one vegetarian who could eat gluten didn’t show, but eh. Next year, with schmaltz, in Jerusalem!

I have reproduced the original recipe below, as seen on Bon Appétit, for reference:

Matzo Stuffing

Ingredients
SERVINGS: 8
1 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
6 tablespoons chicken fat or olive oil, divided
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 sheets lightly salted matzo, broken into 1- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
3 1/3 cups low-salt chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme

Preparation

  • Place mushrooms in medium bowl; add enough hot water to cover. Let soak until mushrooms are soft, at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. Drain mushrooms; slice. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons chicken fat in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and garlic. Sauté until celery is soft and beginning to brown, about 20 minutes. Add matzo; pour 3 cups broth over. Simmer until broth is absorbed and matzo is very soft, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons chicken fat in another large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until heated through, about 3 minutes. Add remaining 1/3 cup broth. Simmer until most broth evaporates, about 3 minutes.
  • Add remaining 2 tablespoons chicken fat to mushrooms. Scrape matzo mixture into skillet with mushrooms. Cook over high heat until stuffing is golden brown, turning over in sections with spatula, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and thyme.

Recipe by Brian Bistrong, Chieun Ko Bistrong
h/t Bon Appétit

Continue Reading

Amiibo and GameStop: F*ck That Noise!

Picture of the Wave 4 Amiibo

At first, I didn’t care for Amiibo, because I didn’t have a Wii-U. Then I got the New 3DS, and found out that Codename: Steam allows you to enter Fire Emblem Amiibo. I immediately ordered Marth for an obscene amount of money, and started the lookout for Robin and Lucina.

Picture of the Wave 4 Amiibo
Wave 4 Amiibo. Good luck getting your hands on one of these!

I searched like a woman obsessed. I regularly hit up local GameStops, Toys R Us stores, Targets, and Best Buys, asking if they heard any news about pre-orders for Robin and Lucina. I signed up for the text alerts at NowInStock.net. I even rushed to the computer at midnight a few times, only to be shut out of pre-ordering on Amazon.uk.

Today, I was lying in bed, nursing a cold, feeling guilty for skipping work, when I got a text about Best Buy. The listing for Lucina said "Coming Soon." Then I saw Twitter, and the announcement that GameStop would start taking pre-orders web in-store orders at 3pm Eastern. I looked at the time. It was 2:48. I made sure the kid was still napping, told my husband I had to go to the drugstore to get more Theraflu (fact), and rushed to GameStop. I got there right about 3, and was the fifth person in line. The lone clerk was having difficulty getting on the proper website, and explained that he had no idea about the availability until we customers told him.

I struck up a conversation with a the family ahead of me who wanted two sets of Charizard, Robin, and Lucina. A second worker came in and started checking his register. The young man in that family kept checking Reddit and giving everyone updates. The mother and I discussed everything under the sun, from previous fad toys (anyone remember the pet rock?), to childbirth, to my current cold. Around 3:45, he started getting antsy, and his phone started dying.

Right before 4, the first order in our store went through.

Then the second and the third customers were up. More difficulties. The computers were being slow. Around 4:05, I heard the dreadful news:

"The bundle, Robin, and Lucina are sold out."

"Well, fuck." I said. The young man silently walked out. His mom, dad, and sisters seemed conflicted. I let out a few more "fucks" as I walked out the store and headed to the nearby supermarket for the aforementioned Theraflu. I heard the mother call out "feel better!" I half-heartedly waved.

While grocery shopping, I started thinking. I thought about how ill-prepared GameStop was. The workers weren't warned of the highly-anticipated figurines' availability. The servers weren't capable of handling the increased traffic. They didn't let you order from home; you had to go into the store. There's just so much wrong with the situation.

But it's a First World Problem. And I examined the situation some more. I can't put the blame completely on GameStop. I'm responsible for my own feelings. What responsibility did GameStop have? I was the one stupid enough to wait in line for an hour for them to take my money and promise me an item in two months' time. They hadn't yet made a promise to me. So why did I feel so betrayed? What are customers' legitimate entitlements? I'm probably better off for not having ordered the figurines anyway. I'm going to put that $30 into my son's 529 college plan.

Continue Reading

LttP: Final Fantasy Record Keeper

"shut up and take my money!"

Logo for Final Fantasy Record Keeper

The mobile game Final Fantasy Record Keeper was (finally) released in the US last week (for iOS and Android). Since it’s already been established that I have a “shut up and take my money” approach to things from Square-Enix, I downloaded this game as soon as I got the notification email.

"shut up and take my money!"
Dee’s approach to anything S-E comes up with

But wait… this is a mobile game. It’s free-to-play! Square-Enix doesn’t have to take my money! Record Keeper turns out to be a fun nostalgia trip through the main Final Fantasy games (excepting XI and XVI), and you don’t have to pay a single cent, unless you’re either impatient, or really want a certain rare item.

Let me break it down. You’re a scholar in an art museum of sorts. The paintings depict key scenes from different Final Fantasy games. For some reason, the paintings are fading, and your world with them. Your job is to hop into the different scenes in the paintings to restore them to their glory.

However, there are limitations. You only have a certain amount of “stamina” with which to fight. It can be replenished in one of three ways:

  1. Using Mythril, which itself can be gained in one of two ways:
    • As a reward for completing dungeons restoring paintings
    • By purchase, with Gems, which are in turn, purchased with real-life money.
  2. By gaining five stamina shards, which are gained in battle.
  3. By waiting it out. You gain one stamina point every three minutes.

The game also encourages you to repeat dungeons in order to level up your characters. Not only do you have the scholar (aptly named Tyro), but as you continue to restore paintings, you meet up with player characters from the various Final Fantasy games, including some generic ones. Right now, my party consists of Tyro (renamed Dee),
Cloud, Rydia, Kain, and White Mage. You get bonuses if you match characters and equipment with their respective games. For example, if you put Cloud in the Final Fantasy VII paintings, he gets a boost in HP and EXP. Give him his Buster Sword, and it gets even better!

Speaking of the Buster Sword, let me get to the second way S-E tries to get your money: rare artifacts, or , in other words, fancy equipment. There’s a gatcha system for chances at rare items. You get one free draw per day, but if you pay roughly $3US, you get another crack at it, but this time, you’re guaranteed an item above 3-stars in rarity (out of five). However, you can also use 5 Mythril for the same drawing, and, as previously mentioned, you can gain Mythril from battles.

There are events where you can get certain characters to join your party, or an increased chance at a certain item. For example, as of this writing, you have an increased chance of getting Cloud’s Buster Sword in the premium drawings.

There are also daily dungeons; each day of the week has a different bonus, such as elemtal orbs, EXP, or gil.
I’m clearing FFVI right now, but it’s a fun little game, and I haven’t yet felt the need to actually pay in.

I’ll try to keep you posted as to whether I get tired of it, or I hit a virtual paywall. For now, when I’m chilling, I switch it out with Pokemon Shuffle, which also has a time barrier.

Continue Reading

Autism and the Measles Vaccine Debate

Really, there is no debate. As Neil deGrasse Tyson said, “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” My opinion, which is based in decades of scientific research by people way more qualified than I am, is that unless you have a compromised immune system, have an allergy to a vaccine’s ingredients, or have some other contraindication based on actual medical science, you should get your ass vaccinated. On time.

I know this is an unpopular opinion in some circles; I’ve lost friends over my resoluteness in this matter. When people cite Andrew Wakefield, my response has always been this:

“Even if vaccines did cause autism, I’d rather my kid be autistic than dead.”

My recent discovery of a decades-old autism diagnosis does not change my mind one bit. And it looks like I’m in good company. Sarah at The Archipelago wrote about the very topic of autism vs. measles. She took the words right out of my brain. I wouldn’t be surprised I’ve said exactly the following at some point:

Vaccines don’t cause autism. But even if they did, is being like me really a fate worse than death?

Please read it, no matter which side you’re on.

Link: The Archipelago – I’m Autistic, and Believe Me, It’s a Lot Better than Measles.

Continue Reading