Tag Archives: bread

Shrimp and spinach alfredo

Just some quick pictures and a recipe today. No story associated with this one. (Which I supposed is good, because it means there were no catastrophes worth reporting, yes?)

Shrimp and spinach alfredo (on a budget)

Makes enough for a meal for 2-3 depending on how hungry your eaters are.


1/2 lb frozen pre-cooked shrimp (you can add more if you’re not on a budget; or use fresh shrimp, but cook them before adding to the sauce)
4 cups fresh spinach
2 cups chopped or sliced fresh mushrooms
Alfredo sauce:
3/4 stick of butter
1-2 tbsp flour
2 cups of cream or milk (Paul and I usually just use 2%, or whatever we have in the house – we’ve even used soymilk)
4 oz. shredded cheese of your choice (our favorite is gruyere)
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste


Melt butter in saucepan on medium heat (make sure to not let it bubble). Add flour and stir until a rich caramel color (I think I heard them say that on Food Network once). Add milk and heat while stirring constantly (bring to not quite a simmer but until you see steam coming off the pot). Make sure not to let the milk scald. When milk is steaming, add cheeses gradually, mixing as you do. Stir until mixture begins to thicken and is slightly thicker than the final consistency you’d desire your sauce.* Add (thawed) shrimp (tails on or off, your preference), and spinach, and mushrooms. (If you desire, you can saute the mushrooms in butter or olive oil and garlic first to draw off some of their liquid and speed up the whole process.) Stir until all ingredients are heated and cooked through. Ladle sauce over your choice of pasta and enjoy!

*Tips for sauce that won’t thicken: First, ALWAYS thicken the sauce before adding anything else, e.g., chicken, mushrooms, spinach, shrimp, veggies, chunks of anything. Otherwise it won’t thicken properly and the following solutions can’t be used. Second, BE PATIENT. It can take upwards of 30 minutes of stirring for sauce to thicken properly sometimes. Finally, you can add more flour to speed up the thickening process. This can be done two ways: (1) Sprinkle in sifted flour directly into the sauce in teaspoon increments until the sauce starts to thicken. Sprinkle in no more than 4 or 5 teaspoons, however, otherwise the sauce will start to taste doughy, like bread. Gross. (2) Mix up 3 teaspoons of flour with 1 teaspoon of water (or white wine, if you like that flavor in sauce), and pour into sauce slowly. Repeat up to 3 times until sauce has reached desired consistency.

More pictures of the sauce to tickle your taste buds. And some of the bread I made to go with the meal.


Alllllll byyyy myyyy seee-eh-eelf

FYI, you’re supposed to sing (go to 0:58) the title of the post.

Well, it’s crunch time at school. And I’m alone tonight, trying to cram down some food between doing the massive amounts of paper writing, presentation making, and number crunching I have to do before the semester winds to a close in two weeks. BUT that doesn’t mean I don’t have time for a good meal. Or sorta.

Here is what I’m eating right now:

Looks yummy, huh? A pile of farmer’s market mixed mustard greens grilled cheese on homemade sourdough bread. Except those of you with a keen eye might recognize that orange-yellow goo oozing out of my sandwich as none other than – no! Can it be!? Oh yes, it is. – Kraft American Singles Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product!

Now, I’m well aware that just even having this stuff in the fridge soils our reputation, and that reporting it here is close to food blogger suicide. But what can I say? Paul occasionally cooks for small children at work, as you all know, and sometimes they have leftovers. And a few months ago, they made grilled cheese on the cheap (a.k.a., out of Paul’s pocket, because they didn’t have cooking club funds) and had 3 packages of leftover Kraft Singles. Lucky us! And, because this stuff lasts forever, I only just tonight opened up the last package.

And you know what? It was absolutely every bit as delicious as the kids on the commercials make it look.

So there.

We’re ba-ack! With black bean, corn and okra soup

We’re back! After a long hiatus from writing recipes for this blog, it’s almost summer and we have more time again to cook and write. So, with no further ado, this week’s challenge is cooking from things left over in our house. The task: How many meals can we cook from miscellaneous things already in our kitchen without going grocery shopping? I was feeling creative last Friday and so I scoured around and made a list of 17 main dishes, 9 starch-y side dishes, and 5 vegetable side dishes, and this week we’ll be picking and choosing from the list. Today is black bean, corn and okra soup and home made corn bread from scratch. Here are the recipes:

Black bean, corn, and okra soup
Spice mix:
1 1/2 teaspoon each: ground coriander, ground sweet or smoked paprika, ground cumin seed.
1 teaspoon (or less, if you’re not one for spice) ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, crushed bay leaves (or 1 whole bay leaf and then remember to take it out at the end)
1 cup tomato sauce
3-4 cups chicken broth/stock
8+oz beer
2 cans black beans
1 bag frozen corn
1 bag of frozen okra, sliced
1 whole diced onion
4 cloves chopped fresh garlic (or 2 tablespoons jarred garlic)
1/2 – 1 cup orzo, large cous cous, or cooked rice (optional, mostly for bulk and texture)
1 tablespoon olive or cooking oil.

Dice onion and sauté in the bottom of a soup pot in the oil for 3-4 minutes. Mix together spices while onion is softening. Add garlic and spices and continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce, chicken broth and beer. Bring to a boil, and then simmer covered for about 10 minutes. Add corn, okra and black beans. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add orzo, cous cous or cooked rice (optional). Simmer until orzo or cous cous is cooked, or rice is heated through. Serve with corn bread or whole grain bread for dipping.

Homemade Corn Bread

1 1/2 cup each: coarse ground corn meal (or polenta), all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 medium eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together dry ingredients in large mixing bowl. Mix together wet ingredients in a separate mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix well. Pour into 8×8 in baking pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes. Bread is done cooking when a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Back to Bread

So, the semester is nearing to a close, and I finally have a little bit of breathing room, and so I thought I’d write a post. I know, we’ve been a little lax on posting lately, but we’ve actually been making very good food. This week alone we made: a spinach, mushroom and feta sandwich loaf, clams in a white wine sauce over homemade bread, beef stroganoff, Mushu pork, bruschetta pasta, tofu and egg scramble with cheesy potatoes and probably more things that I can’t remember right now. This post is going to cover just the bread and the sandwich loaves, because it turned out very well, and I have nice pretty pictures of it.

The recipe for the sandwich loaves and the loaf of sweet french bread I made last weekend came out of the first bread book I ever bought, sold by the beautiful delicious pictures and simple single-page instructions: Margeaux Sky’s Beautiful Breads & Fabulous Fillings. I made her sweet french loaf, which I hadn’t tried before, but was enticed by the promise of the most delicious french toast we’d ever taste. I also liked the idea of a sweeter loaf to go under the clams and wine sauce we had planned. So, I made Sky’s sweet french loaf last Saturday for dinner the following night, as well as two of her sandwich loaves (bread, rolled around fillings) for Saturday’s dinner as well as freezer food. Here are the results!

Spaghetti: 100% Organic and Homemade…almost

I have a confession to make. Although I talk and write about sustainability, and laud the morals of eating sustainable, local food, we don’t buy local except when the farmer’s market is in season. Or even organic. Until my most recent round of books on food sustainability, I used to justify this decision by saying that organic is too expensive. I can’t afford to buy organic or local stuff now, I thought. I’ll make up for it by buying locally and organically as soon as I’m grown up. As soon as I get a real job. Right?

Well, enough waiting already. I did a lot of thinking and a little pavement research and realized that with the way Paul and I buy food – raw vegetables, whole grains and flours, few processed foods, no packaged dinners or side dishes a la Hamburger Helper – we actually could probably afford to buy a little more organic, for the few pennies more that it would cost us.

This week, Paul and I made our first foray to our local coop grocery store, Bloomingfoods. It’s a small grocery store, with mostly organic, all natural or local products. Bloomingfoods’ produce is much fresher, greener and healthier looking than the normal spread of vegetables we see weekly at Kroger. Past the produce, it gets a little trickier to take in. Because they carry different brands and products from what you’ll find in a conventional grocery store, the shelves and refrigerated cases look different from what we’re used to. It’s mesmerizing, looking at all the different organic, all natural, brands. It’s like being in a grocery store of another country. And instead of the aisles and aisles of dry goods, theres a bulk foods section, where you can put just as much as you need of spices, grains, dried beans, or more into a container or baggie, eliminating all the excess packaging of conventionally-packaged foods. But, while all these new things may at first seem overwhelming, in fact shopping at the coop is much easier than shopping at a conventional grocery store.

For one, having a grocery store with only organic, local or all natural products takes all of the stress out of shopping. Instead of having to look at the ingredients and nutrition label of every product to see just how many unrecognizable additives or chemical preservatives there are inside, or wondering whether or not a product was made with genetically modified organisms, Bloomingfoods has already pre-sorted the products for me. Instead of comparing flours to see which one is actually whole grain and to see which volume of flour yields the best value, at Bloomingfoods, I can simply measure out as much as I need of the organic flour, at a simple price per pound rate. It’s much easier, and much less stressful than shopping at a conventional grocery store.

So Paul and I left Bloomingfoods armed with, among other things, a healthy selection of organic vegetables, some local cheese, and some canned organic tomato sauce, all the ingredients for a healthy, organic, homemade spaghetti sauce. At home, I diced up the onions, green peppers, green zucchini, mushrooms and a chili pepper and sauteed them in olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and some Italian seasonings. Then I added them to a 14.5-oz can of diced tomatoes, a 8-oz can of tomato sauce, and a 6-oz can of tomato paste in a crock pot on low and let the flavors combine all afternoon.

But spaghetti sauce was only part one of my homemade meal. I also baked two loaves of homemade white bread to go with our homemade feast, and Paul made another one of his Caesar salads with the fresh organic lettuce, vegetables and shredded parmesan. It was a delicious meal. And, I think, the pasta sauce tasted better than any I’ve made with conventionally-grown vegetables before. It was gratifying, too, to know that the food we’re eating directly benefits local farmers, producers and – because the coop is member-owned – the community as well.

I think we’ll continue shopping at Bloomingfoods Coop. The cost of some items is slightly higher, but of others is slightly lower, so it all evens out in the end. And it’s healthier for us and for the planet to not eat food produced with tons of pesticides and chemicals and artificial additives. We won’t be eating 100% organic right away, of course. We’ll first have to work through the freezer and pantry food we already have – such as the processed, pre-cooked, frozen meatballs Paul had leftover from Cooking Club at work, and that I, with some chagrin, added to the spaghetti sauce last night. But I think we’ll be able to do it. By the time the farmer’s market returns in April, and my little garden on the deck gets underway, we’ll be eating truly sustainably!

Jess’ (Nearly) Veggie Spaghetti Sauce


2 small green zucchini, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1 medium-to-large onion, diced
2 cups diced mushrooms
1 tablespoon minced garlic
olive oil
Italian seasonings (Basil, Rosemary, Savory, Oregano, etc.)
Red pepper flakes
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 8-oz can tomato sauce
1 6-oz can tomato paste
Optional: 1/2 lb ground meat (or tofu or seitan, I suppose) of your choice (that’s the “Nearly” part in the title)

Sautee vegetables in olive oil and minced garlic for no more than 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, Italian seasonings and pepper flakes to taste. Combine with canned tomato products and meat, if desired, in crock pot on low and allow to simmer for 1 to 3 hours. Serve over your favorite pasta. Goes particularly well with tri-color rotini. Enjoy with salad and bread for a complete meal!

Cramped Kitchen: the lighter side

It’s been awhile since I have made a post here.  Part of the reason for this was that Jess and I got to go home, both to Appleton and St. Paul over Winter Break.  Even though we have only been in Bloomington for four months it was great to get home, relax, and spend time with our families.  We got to visit with some old friends, celebrate the holidays, and even saw a comedy show.  But the best part about this two-week vacation (and pretty much my favorite part of the holidays) was the amazing food.  Both Jess’ and my parents served us meal after meal of delicious food.  We had lamb, roast beef, and mounds of potatoes.  It was fantastic, but as an unfortunate side effect I was consuming like 4000 calories every day.  Definitely a food coma every day.

That was all great, but when we returned to Bloomington we decided we needed some lighter meals before we went all Augustus Gloop.  I personally wouldn’t have minded, I mean who wouldn’t love to die in a chocolate waterfall, but Jess thought we should take it easy for a bit.  With this in mind we planned a couple of dinners that would help me fit back into my pants.

The first was french onion soup with a chicken Caesar salad.  I know my sister loves french onion soup and she would probably have been jealous if she hadn’t spent the whole day in the sun at Disneyland.  While I was at work.  In the cold.  I hate pretending to be an adult.  Anyways, she would have been proud of the effort we put forth.  We started by simmering the onions in beef broth and red cooking wine.  We seasoned it with just a bit of salt, pepper, and thyme, and just let it sit all afternoon on low heat.  Right before we were ready to serve we topped with some nice bread and fresh shredded mozzarella.  A quick broil in the oven and we had restaurant quality french onion soup.

We also decided to do a Cobb salad.  I had never had a Cobb salad, but I thought it would be fun and tasty.  I also like the fact that every website I looked at had a different origin history for the Cobb salad.  It’s like Stonehenge, but you can eat it.  Anyways, we had hard-boiled eggs, chicken, avocados, tomatoes, blue cheese, and bacon on a bed of romaine lettuce, served with bread and humus.

It’s not that complicated, so not much to write about, but it was delicious and easy on the waistline.  After this week I was able to get back in my pants.  In fact, not only could I get in them, but they fit like this (I had to fit this in somewhere).

A-to-Z Bread

The thing about baking is it’s pretty temperamental. The reason we rely on recipes, or the box of Betty Crocker cake mix, is that bakers have experimented for years to find the exact ratio flour, water, eggs, and more that yields the perfect baked good, of the perfect crumb (the baking word for texture) and flavor.

So, experimenting with recipes for baked goods, and realizing you can get away with it, is a particularly gratifying experience in the kitchen. I made a particularly good invention the other day, and I’m calling it A-to-Z Bread (or cake, whichever appeals to you more).

After Paul’s adventure with pumpkins with the kids at the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, we had lots of leftover shredded pumpkin in the fridge. And even after Paul made pumpkin bread for us at home, we still had leftover shredded pumpkin. And we had dying zucchinis in the fridge from the farmers’ market a while ago. Oh, what to do with such an abundance of leftover, sad-looking fall vegetables.

I have a favorite recipe in one of my bread books for Orange-flavored Zucchini Bread. I’ve made it a couple of times, substituting whatever combination of gourd-like vegetables are abundant at the farmers’ market for the shredded zucchini in the recipe: yellow squash, yellow zucchini, green zucchini, . This seemed like a good way to get rid of the floppy zucchini and pumpkin in our fridge. And because I was in the mood for apples, I added a diced apple to round out my collection of fall produce.

After grating all the zucchini, adding the diced apple and the remainder of the diced pumpkin, I had 4 1/2 cups of vegetables. The original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of grated zucchini per loaf. Paul and I are two people. Anyone want some apple-orange-pumpkin-zucchini bread? I’m not sure how well it mails. However, it was delicious. Especially served as cake with a vanilla-orange frosting.

Sound good? See the recipe below. But by all means, no need to stick to it! 😉
A-to-Z Cake with Orange-Vanilla Icing
A-to-Z Bread

Ingredients (for 1 loaf):
1 1/2 – 2 cups grated or finely diced zucchini, pumpkin, apple (or other fall produce) in any combination you desire (I used approximately 1/2 cup pumpkin, 2/3 cup zucchini, and 1/3 cup apple)
1 small orange (peel and juice – dice half the peel, save the juice for the frosting later)
1 1/2 cups flour (white or wheat)
1 (rounded) cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, allspice, or cinnamon (or a dash of each)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (or 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger)
2 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup plain (or orange-flavored) yogurt (I decided to add this for and extra moist bread, and because we had a large tub of plain yogurt in our fridge)

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices (keep out fresh ginger if you decided to use it). In a larger bowl, mix eggs, yogurt, and oil together. Add in zucchini, pumpkin, apples or whatever vegetables you used. Add fresh ginger (if used), and chopped orange peel (chopped, not grated, because it adds a nice crunch that way). Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, 1/3 at a time. Scrape the batter into a buttered 9-inch bread pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack or serving plate. If desired, frost with icing (recipe follows).

Vanilla-Orange Icing
A-to-Z Cake, still in the glass bread pan (for easier storage)

Ingredients (icing for one loaf):
1+ cup powdered sugar
1+ teaspoon milk, half-and-half, cream, soy milk, whatever
1+ teaspoon juice of an orange (from orange used for bread)
1 capful vanilla

Mix together 1/2 cup of powdered sugar with milk, juice and vanilla. Stir with a fork or whisk, adding more of the powdered sugar or milk/juice until the icing is the desired consistency. Remove loaf from pan and place on a serving plate. Depending on the consistency of your icing, you can either spread it over the top of the bread with a knife or spatula, or pour the icing over the top of the bread, allowing it to drip down the sides. Serve when bread is still slightly warm from the oven, or chill and serve cold. Wonderful!