Friday, February 26, 2010

Seven years of college down the drain

It seems like just a funny line out of "Animal House," but I'm living it right now. I never thought a master's degree would hinder my job search, but I'm beginning to realize that it may be doing just that.

I've talked to several human resources people, and several have made comments about being "overqualified" or "out of our salary range" and I've had to practically beg for an interview.

I'm almost to the point where I want to lie on my resume, but that really presents a moral and ethical dilemma. If I only say that I have a bachelor's degree, that could open a few more doors, but if a company that hires me discovers the lie, I could be terminated.

The problem is that I'm at a serious crossroads in my career path. I've got experience in my chosen profession, but I took a few years off to pursue other interests. Now I want back in, but some prospective employers have thought that my skills are rusty or outdated. There are those who think that I would have higher salary demands.

I have seven years of top quality education, and I'm sitting on the sidelines and my most productive years are in danger of being wasted. I don't know what to do. There's a faint voice, coming from far away.

"Toga... toga... toga..."

Monday, February 22, 2010

Pad Thai recipe

I’ve experimented with a couple of Pad Thai recipes and I’ve come up with that hits the sweet, sour and spicy notes that I love about Pad Thai. You can make this as spicy or as tame as you wish, simply by adding to the recipe, or taking away the hot stuff. It will still be good.

  • 2 or 3 chicken breasts, depending on si
  • 1 package rice noodles
  • 6 Tbsp fish sauce - This is essential. I found a 16 oz bottle for $3 at a grocery store.
  • 5 Tbsp rice wine vinegar - this adds the sour or acidic flavor
  • 6 Tbsp soy sauce - I use the low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp creamy peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce - This is completely optional. I keep it around all the time and use it instead of Tabasco. It has a much better flavor and adds good heat.
  • Lime - juiced
  • Crushed red pepper - to taste
  • Ginger - about 3 inches, grated
  • Garlic - 5 cloves, minced
  • Red bell pepper, julienned
  • Cabbage - I use Napa, but green or red cabbage will do. It adds texture. Whichever you use, slice it thin. Use as much or as little as you want, but I always use a lot.
  • Green onions - a whole bunch, lop off the white part and dice them. Coarse cut the green part
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • Shrimp - a small package of salad shrimp will do, but you can use any kind
  • Peanuts - crushed

Prep the Chicken
I start off by baking the chicken breasts. It takes about 45 minutes if you use the IQF breasts, or 20 minutes if they’re already thawed. You can do this whenever you have time and set aside the breasts so they’re easier to handle. Slice the chicken fairly thin.

Make the Sauce
In a small bowl, add fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, peanut butter, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, lime juice and crushed red pepper. Stir with a fork until peanut butter is liquefied. Set aside.

Prep the Vegetables
Grate the ginger. Mince the garlic. Julienne the bell peppers. Dice the white parts of the green onions. Slice the cabbage.

Make the Noodles
Boil water in a saucepan big enough for the rice noodles. When water boils, remove from heat and add noodles. Let them soak for 8 minutes and drain.

Heat the Wok
I recommend wok oil. You can use vegetable oil, but I don’t recommend olive oil because the temperature gets too high. Let it get good and hot. Medium high (7 or 8 setting) for a good 10 minutes to get it hot enough.
Note: Don’t worry if you don’t have a wok. Use a dutch oven or big saute pan.

Putting the Pad Thai together
1. Add ginger, garlic, red bell pepper and white parts of the onions and saute for a minute or so. Then push this up the side of the wok to get away from direct heat.

2. Add beaten eggs and cook all the way through. Then slice up the eggs and combine with vegetables.
Key: Cook the eggs without getting anything in them if possible. This keeps the eggs from acting as a thickening agent and lets them do what they’re supposed to do; keep everything separated. 

3. Add cabbage and green onions.

4.  Add chicken, shrimp and noodles and combine.
Key: You can make it spicier by adding crushed red pepper here.

5. Add sauce and combine. Keep the whole thing moving to marry all the flavors.

Add some crushed peanuts. This adds texture and flavor.

This will serve four with enough for leftovers. Making Pad Thai is fairly involved, but it will go easy and quickly if you prep everything beforehand. The second time you make it, you’ll knock it out it no time.