December 16, 2009

BLT Orzo

Posted in Pasta: salad-like tagged , , , at 5:49 pm by jenniec00ks

This is a JENNIE original!  I was reading about BLT recommendations on twitter and I thought it’d be a great way to use up the leftover bacon in the fridge.  But alas, I didn’t have any bread or lettuce on hand so I worked with what I had and came up with this.  This recipe makes about 3 large dinner portions, so adjust to your liking.


~5 oz. fresh baby spinach
~10 oz. grape or cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic, sliced
6 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 pieces
5 cups chicken broth (to boil the orzo in, you can use water)
1/2 lb. (8 oz) orzo pasta

For the baby spinach and tomatoes, just get some package close to the weight suggested, a little more or less of either won’t hurt.  2 regular sized cans or 1 box of chicken broth equals about 4 cups, and I added an extra cup of water so the orzo didn’t burn or stick to the pot.

1. Boil the orzo in the chicken broth (or chicken broth+water or water) for however long the package says.  Mine was 8-10 minutes, I’ve used brands that were 6-8 minutes, so expect somewhere in that range.

2. Preheat a pan (mine was a regular frying one, about 12″) to medium high heat and slice up the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces if you haven’t already.  Then toss ’em in the pan once it’s hot.

3. Let them sizzle away, giving them a stir 2-3 times over the next couple minutes so they get crispy on all sides.  In the meantime, slice the cherry or grape tomatoes in half.

4. When the bacon is crisp to your liking, put it on a paper-towel lined plate on the side.  Then pour out any excess bacon fat from the pan.

5. Turn the heat down to medium-low and return the pan to the heat.  Toss the halved tomatoes in. Let them work a minute while you slice up the 1 clove of garlic, then add that to the tomatoes.  Let the tomatoes cook for about 5 minutes, or until they’ve softened up.  Move them around the pan so they don’t burn though.

6. Add the spinach to the bottom of a large bowl.  Then put the hot tomatoes/garlic pieces on top, and add the bacon on top of that.  Finally, drain the orzo and immediately pour it in the bowl while it’s still piping hot!  Else the spinach won’t wilt nicely!

7. Add the drizzle of olive oil (1 tsp) and then stir everything together and ENJOY!!  This recipe even tastes great at room temperature!  Haven’t tried it cold yet.


November 3, 2009

Roasted Mini Tomato Pasta in Photos

Posted in Pasta: salad-like tagged , , , at 2:48 pm by jenniec00ks

grapetompasta 020This pasta recipe is SIMPLE and is great for many reasons aside it’s wonderful flavors.  It’s very low maintenance (in contrast to the orzotto I made at the same time!)  Tastes great hot or cold, keeps well for lunch the next day, and doubles easily for groups.

*As for the quantities listed of basil and garlic, plus or minus a bit won’t hurt. Adjust to your liking, I grabbed what was in the fridge.

Serves 3.

1 pint of mini tomatoes (grape, cherry, whatever)
~8 fresh basil leaves* see note above
~8 garlic cloves* see note above
8 oz short pasta (1/2 box, I used shells)
1/2 bag of baby spinach (~3 oz, but it could have used more)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (I really used a parm/romano blend)

1. Crack the garlic cloves but don’t remove the casing. You can do this by laying it on a counter and pushing it down with your palm, or laying a knife across it and hitting the knife (carefully) with your fist as if you WERE trying to remove it from the case.

2. Foil down a baking sheet (preferably with sides so that the tomatoes can’t roll off) and start the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Spread out the mini tomatoes (I used grape, 12 oz for $2 on sale) and the cracked garlic on the foiled pan. Drizzle them with the 2 tbsp (estimate!) of olive oil, salt, and pepper to your taste. Give ’em a little toss with a spoon to make sure everything’s covered.

grapetompasta 0014. Pop them in the oven for ~18 minutes, the tomatoes will burst in the oven so don’t be alarmed.  Also get a pot of water boiling about now for the pasta, as it has to come to a boil and takes ~7-10 minutes to cook depending on the kind you choose.  Cook the pasta al dente, but reserve a  half cup of the starchy water.

5. After you pull the pan out, use tongs to squeeze the garlic out of the paper into a bowl.  Then take a fork to them and mash them as best you can.

grapetompasta 003grapetompasta 006

6. Add a ladle (1/2 cup) of pasta water to the garlic.

grapetompasta 0117. Then toss the roasted tomatoes in with all the wonderful oil and juices from the pan. Not all of mine are wrinkley and burst because I pulled them out too early (~15 mins, so I recommend about 18 mins).

grapetompasta 009grapetompasta 012

8. Take a fork again and mash up the tomatoes as best as possible, doesn’t have to be perfect, the whole dish has a slightly rustic feel to it.

grapetompasta 014grapetompasta 0189. Throw the cooked pasta and the baby spinach in and give it a toss to let the heat of the pasta wilt the baby spinach.  Then tear up the basil leaves (no knife necessary) and add to the mix.  The picture to the left is obviously missing the greenery in it.

10. Top with the shredded hard cheese – I used a Parmesan/Romano mix because it was cheaper at the grocery store and I think it gives a good punch of flavor.


grapetompasta 020

YUMMMMM & healthy too!

October 25, 2009

Easy Onion Soup in Photos

Posted in Soups & Stews tagged , , at 1:18 pm by jenniec00ks

frenchonionsoup 014Phew. This took much longer than I thought, so I wouldn’t recommend this for a weeknight. It goes slowly, so I could watch some Texas football at the same time. I’m not claiming this to be terribly authentic, as it’s just a mish-mash of different french onion soup recipes that I’ve seen. It looks to be about 3 servings, and this soup is a LOT more filling than I thought.


4 medium sweet yellow onions
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3/4 cup sherry
4 cups beef stock
4 tbsp butter
French bread + gruyere cheese if you want to be fancy, I used garlic/cheesy frozen texas toast.


So peel the onion (the steps before Step 1) and cut it into thin slices.  I chopped it just like in Step 1, but I went all the way through to make half-moon shaped slices.  Then melt the butter over low heat and add the onions.  It’ll look like a lot, but lemme tell you, these things cook down like nobody’s business.

frenchonionsoup 002frenchonionsoup 004

I added the several dashes of dried thyme, roughly 1/2 tsp, and just kept the onions moving.  It took at least 30 minutes before I saw some color and added the 3/4 cup of sherry. If you want a strong sherry flavor to it, add it when the onions are golden, close to browning. By the time my onions got browned, all of the sherry had been cooked off. So after this, it took about 20 more minutes to get them browned, and once they become golden, it’s a fast track to brown, so that’s when you really need to watch them.

frenchonionsoup 010frenchonionsoup 007

Above on the left are the onions very close to golden, I didn’t get a picture of when they were brown because once they begin to brown, they move super fast.  Once they’re brown, add the 4 cups of beef stock.  Above on the right are the beef stock & sherry brands that I used, the Kitchen Basics stock was slightly stronger in flavor than the traditional broth. Since it was less than 50 cents more expensive than the Swanson beef broth, I decided to go with it.

frenchonionsoup 011frenchonionsoup 012

On the left is right after I’ve added the broth. Turn the heat up to help it come to a boil, then turn the heat back down to keep it at a simmer. After it’s simmered for about 30 minutes, it should look like the right side and be a bit thicker.  French onion soup recipes ask you to load the soup into oven proof bowls, top with the french bread and cheese, and then broil.  Since I lack the oven proof bowls, I just baked some cheesy/garlic flavored texas toast (frozen bread aisle) according to the box, and popped it on top!  Et voila!

frenchonionsoup 015


October 12, 2009

Mushroom Spinach Lasagna

Posted in Pasta: baked tagged , , , , at 10:26 pm by jenniec00ks

food 005Finally!  The weather in Atlanta is super chilly and I need to use my heater, aka my oven!  So I made this super easy 9″x9″ lasagna that makes ~3 large portions.  It’s currently meat-less because I didn’t have any cooked chicken on hand this week.  I think it would easily feed 4-5 if some shredded chicken meat was added (just buy a rotisserie from the store, shred ~2 cups your favorite parts, I like a combination of white/dark meat.)

This is similar to my garlic alfredo recipe from a while back, but even easier, if you can imagine.  In a nutshell, this is mushrooms, frozen spinach, milk, cheese, and pasta.  But here’s a more exact recipe for those who don’t have much luck tossing arbitrary amounts of food in a pot 😉


2.5 cups of milk
12 oz. mushrooms, white or cremini, washed & sliced
1 cup of your favorite white cheese shredded (parm, romano, asagio, mozz)
1 box frozen spinach
6 lasagna noodles, I used the wider (~4.5 inches) no-boil kind.  If you only have the traditional kind, go ahead and boil 6-7 according to the time on the box.
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter, your choice.  I used 1 tbsp of each.
2 tbsp all-purpose white flour
Salt, pepper, nutmeg

1. Cook the spinach in the microwave per the box instructions.  Drain as best you can. Doesn’t have to be bone dry, no worries.

2. Mince the garlic and set aside to have ready.

3. Start heating your choice of fat (olive oil/butter) over medium heat in a saucepan (pot).

4. While your pot is warming up, slice up the mushrooms.  Drop them in after you’ve chopped a few so that they don’t have the chance to turn pink.

5. After all the mushrooms are in, toss the garlic in on top.  Cook for 6-7 minutes, until the mushrooms are softened and there’s quite a bit of liquid in the pot.

6. Add 2 heaping tablespoons of flour to the pot and stir.  It should absorb all of the liquid in the bottom of the pot and make the mushrooms sort of sticky.  Add a dash more if necessary.

7. Turn the heat up to medium high, and pour in the 2.5 cups of milk while stirring gently.

8. Stir until it boils, then turn the heat back down to medium and let simmer until it thickens a bit.  During all this stirring, season with a tsp of salt, pepper to taste, and dash of nutmeg.  Be careful, nutmeg can be overpowering.

9. Add 3/4 cups of cheese to the sauce and turn the heat off once it melts.

10. Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of 9″x9″ pan, then 2 lasagna noodles.  If you have the narrower kind that you have to boil first, then you’ll probably need to tear them up to fit 2 in one layer.

11. Add a layer of sauce, then noodles, and repeat 2 more times.

12. Sprinkle the last 1/4 cup of shredded cheese on the top.

13. Bake in a preheated 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 35 minutes or until bubbly and brown.

Y’all enjoyyyyyyy!  ❤ Jennie

September 24, 2009

What to do with this blog?

Posted in Rambling at 12:54 pm by jenniec00ks

So, I haven’t posted in a long time because I haven’t cooked much in a long time.  Grad school is less time consuming than crazy hard classes @ UT ECE / last semester of undergrad, but too difficult to handle by myself.  The last time I had this much schoolwork to do, I had a *fabulous* roommate who did the dishes and (sort of) cooked with me and apparently that made things manageable.

FYI to any UT ECE, I don’t recommend 360N, 360R, 379K, and 440 in one semester.  440 is only time consuming if someone in your session sucks up the spin-dry.  You know who you are.

So I think this blog is going to have to migrate to a  ‘weekly food survival’ blog.  First up, I haven’t been to the grocery store in a while (couple weeks) but was quite hungry last night around midnight.  I had some delicious egg noodles I had bought in bulk and decided to resort to mom’s chow mein method.

I chopped up 3 cloves of garlic, half a vidialia onion, and some asparagus bottoms that needed to be used up.  Tossed them in a pan with canola oil on high heat and added some preshredded carrots I had lying around.  I found some canned corn in my pantry and thew that in with the softened noodles (2-3 minutes in boiling water), since they both needed only a little time in the hot pan.  Seasonings were simple, a dark mushroom soy sauce and salt.  Pulled that out the pan and looked in the freezer.  I had some extra seafood blend from that spicy seafood soup I made, so I stir fried about 1/3 of the bag and topped the noodles off.  Voila, I had my next 3.5 meals!

More grad school (cheap and efficient) survival posts to come!

August 28, 2009

Spicy Seafood Soup!

Posted in Soups & Stews tagged , , at 10:45 pm by jenniec00ks

Yum yum yum!

Yum yum yum!

So I was just making myself a typical weeknight dinner (so Friday is sort of a weeknight!) and it was so good I decided to post it.  I found this recipe by Giada her latest cookbook, Giada’s Kitchen.  I sort of took the comments into consideration (about the Trader Joe’s frozen seafood mix, I happen to have just discovered Trader Joe’s after moving to Atlanta.)  I had a craving for tater tots, so I ate that with my soup instead of the garlic toast recommendation. Here goes!

2 servings that need an accompaniment (garlic bread, crusty bread, tater tots, whatever you’d like):

1 cup white wine (I used Starborough Sauvingnon Blanc, New Zealand, 2007, I’d recommend it.  ~$12/bottle)

1 cup Hunt’s garlic & herb spaghetti sauce (the kind I always use)

2/3 lb. Trader Joe’s Frozen Seafood Mix (Squid, scallops, shrimp)

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 dash of dried red pepper flakes (this is for a mild soup, 2 if you like it spicy)


1. Heat the olive oil over low heat.

2. Add the finely chopped garlic, sautee for 2 minutes.  Do not let it brown!

3. Add the cup of wine and turn the heat up to medium.

4. Let it bubble for 3-4 minutes.  It should reduce by only about a third.

5. Add the cup of tomato sauce and stir in along with the red pepper flakes.

6. Let it come up to a simmer and let simmer 6 minutes.

7. Add the 2/3 lb. of frozen seafood, let it come up to a simmer again for about 2 minutes or until all the seafood is cooked through.  Shrimp turn pink and curl, squid turns from clear to opaque, and scallops get a whiter color and feel bouncy to the touch.

ENJOY!  I did.

August 27, 2009

Simple Spicy Shrimp in Photos

Posted in Appetizers tagged , , , , at 7:15 pm by jenniec00ks

((Remember: all pictures are clickable so that you can see the larger image and be hungrier!!))

springvegmas 020So this is actually a triple-hitter because I’ve got 3 (w00t!) fantastic seasonings of shrimp to go with pretty much anything or to become an appetizer by themselves.  First up, the one in the photos.  To the left is a rosemary & red pepper flake shrimp!  You can swap out the rosemary for ground dried sage and have a whole new flavor palette.  I’ll also be giving you the recipe for a sage & bacon shrimp.

I think these simple seasonings are an easy throw together since you should always keep shrimp on hand, and they’re SUPER quick to dethaw!  Check out my shrimp basics post for the rundown on the kind I use!!

1. Allocate 10 to 12 shrimp (31/40 count) per person for a dinner portion.  Preheat a skillet with about a tablespoon of olive oil (per portion)!

springvegmas 0092. Version 1: Season each portion of shrimp with two pinches of finely chopped FRESH rosemary (1/2 tsp) and a dash of dried red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp, you can up this a bit if you like it spicy).  Salt & pepper to taste, but I don’t think these shrimp need either.

2. Version 2: Season each portion of shrimp with two pinches of DRIED ground sage (1/2 tsp) and a dash of dried red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp, ditto with the make it YOUR spicy tolerance)

springvegmas 0113. Cooking time depends on the size of the shrimp.  I’d say these shrimp need 2-3 minutes on the first side, and 1 minute on the other side.

Version 3

1. Preheat a skillet over medium high heat.

2. Season each portion of shrimp with two pinches of DRIED ground sage (1/2 tsp).  S&P to taste, but I don’t add either.

3. Add 2 strips of bacon, chopped up into small (1/4 in) pieces per PORTION.

4. Cook the bacon to your liking (I like mine just crisp)

4. Drain all the oil you can pour out of the skillet without losing the bacon pieces.  You should have the equivalent of a teaspoon per portion scattered around the skillet.  Sorry, this step is more of an art than a science.

5. Add the shrimp.  Cook for 2-3 minutes on the first side in the bacon fat (YUM) and 1 minute on the otherside.

Final note! You want them just barely pink and curled.  If you let shrimp overcook, then they’ll be tough and rubbery.

Basics: Working with Shrimp (Jennie-style)

Posted in Basic Techniques tagged at 6:34 pm by jenniec00ks

This is by no means the only way to work with shrimp, but it’s just how I do it to keep things as inexpensive and simple as possible.

Shrimp Facts:

1. The U.S. has standardized the packaging of shrimp.  You will always see a “shrimp count” on the package, and sometimes a relative name to go with it (“large, small, jumbo”).  The “shrimp count” is the approximate number it would take that size of shrimp to weigh a pound.  For example, (some) “Extra Jumbo” shrimp are labeled “16/20” and it takes 16-20 of thses shrimps to comprise a pound.

2. Typically, the smaller the shrimp, the smaller the price.  Unfortunately, the greater repetitions of peeling you must endure.

3. The more processing that has been done on the shrimp, the more expensive it is.  Processing ranges from: Raw head-on, raw head-less, raw deveined shell-on, raw deveined and peeled, cooked tail-on, cooked peeled.

4.  Raw, whole, fresh shrimp have the most flavor.

5. Shrimp have a black string-like thingie down the back – it’s a digestive track.  It does not HAVE to be removed, but usually is because it’s gritty in texture and aesthetically unappealing.

springvegmas 007

Shrimp Rules, Jennie-style:

1. Raw 31/35 or 31/40 ez-peel shrimp (usually correspond to about “Large”) are the most cost-efficient for the amount of work needed to be done.  “Ez-peel” shrimp are raw and sliced down the back to make them easier to peel and usually the vein is removed.

2. If the shrimp in the case looks good & inexpensive and you’re going to use it in the next few hours, go ahead and get it.  But I always, always, keep a FROZEN 1 or 2 pound bag of 31/35 ez-peel shrimp around.  In Texas & Atlanta, I try to keep the cost to no more than $5.50 per pound.

3. To thaw shrimp, soak them in COLD water for 5 minutes, then peel/wash them under running cold water (the running water makes it easier.)

4. Unless you can throw out the shells somewhere far away immediately, pour some boiling water over them and tie them up in a plastic bag until you can throw them out.  An alternative for the extra savvy, you can freeze them raw and wait until you have enough to make shrimp stock.


August 25, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce in Photos

Posted in Pasta: stovetop tagged , , at 8:53 pm by jenniec00ks

This recipe requires a few simple ingredients but yields a sweet sauce full of depth and flavor.  It’s roots are based from Rachael Ray’s Gemelli with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  However, it does require a food processor in order to get the full incorporation of the bell peppers.  If you don’t have one, chop the bell peppers as finely as you can and try this recipe out anyway.

This serves 2-3 people, and for those who must have their meat – try pairing it with the spicy shrimp recipe to come!

2 fresh red peppers (see below for details/jar substitutions)
1/2 lb. of any kind of pasta you like, Rachael Ray uses spirals, I anything lying around
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
2 shallots
14.5 oz. crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine or chicken/vegetable broth

PS, click any picture for a larger view!

roastedredpepper 005I’m starting with 2 fresh red bell peppers that have been blistered under a broiler, peeled, and sliced which you can replicate for special occasions.  The whole process only takes maybe 10 minutes plus cooling time.  On the weeknights that you’re pressed for time, go ahead and start with some roasted red bell peppers in a jar.  I believe they’re usually packed in water with some preservatives, so you might want to give them a rinse before you start.  And if you’re using the jarred kind, I’d estimate about a cup sliced and 1/2 cup after it’s been pureed (8 oz? if anyone tries this, please report back!)

roastedredpepper 007roastedredpepper 008

We’re starting off high powered with the food processor to finely chop these bell peppers.  Use the pulse option – the roasted peppers will have a lot of water in them and we don’t want to make soup.  No more than 5 pulses should do the trick.

If you only have a blender (which is a staple in many college kitchens for frozen drinks, e.g. smoothies of course), you can add some chicken (or vegetable) broth or white wine to help it blend (no more than a 1/2 cup, less if possible, you can always add in but you can’t take liquid out.)  If you don’t have either a blender or a food processor, guess you’ll be working on your knife skills!

roastedredpepper 009roastedredpepper 010Speaking of knife skills, chop up a couple shallots and a couple cloves of garlic (more or less to your taste, I went a bit heavy on the shallots).  And before you tell me I can’t count, there were 2 smaller shallots inside each of the paper casing.  Heat up a tablespoon of oil on medium heat in a skillet/saucepan.  The skillet I used was clearly a bit large for this application.  Oops.

Anyway, after everything is chopped, toss it in the pre-heated pan and saute for ~2-3 minutes.  Then add the roasted red peppers and give it a stir.  If you had to add the liquid earlier (wine/veg broth/chkn broth) then let this simmer for ~4-5 minutes to concentrate the flavor.  If not, then saute the red pepper mixture (bottom right) for 2-3 minutes.  Right about now it should be smelling fantabulous in your kitchen.

roastedredpepper 011roastedredpepper 012

If you still haven’t added the liquid of your choice (wine/veg broth/chkn broth) it’s time do it now and let the liquid reduce for 2-3 minutes.

roastedredpepper 013We’re definitely going for flavor than to let the wine/broth water down the sauce.  The crushed tomatoes will provide plenty of liquid to create the sauce.  Speaking of which, time for the tomatoes to come to the party.

roastedredpepper 015

Et voila! Dress up any pasta with this fantastic sauce!

August 20, 2009

Recipe: Hoisin Tofu

Posted in Asian Inspired at 11:46 pm by jenniec00ks

hoisintofuAnother tofu and veggie recipe.  I wasn’t going to post it because it was an experiment and I wasn’t counting on it being so delicious.  It’s also sort of college-y because I’m getting back into the quick and cheap school routine.  Here’s the unrefined recipe (makes 2 servings):

7 oz. extra-firm tofu (half a typical package)
Handful of pre-shredded carrots (1/3 cup)
Half head of broccoli florets (1/2 cup)
1 heaping tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp water, canola oil (each!)
1 tsp soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch (each!)
Pinch of sugar
3 packages of ramen noodles (or rice noodles or egg noodles, whatever you’ve got) – JUST the noodles, not the seasoning.

1. Heat the canola oil (or other high-heat tasteless oil, e.g. vegetable) in a wok on medium high heat.

2. Add the broccoli, tofu, and carrots to the wok.  Keep everything moving around so nothing burns.  Stir-fry for ~5 minutes.  **Note: if you’ve got onions & garlic, which I normally have around, toss about 1/2 an onion (diced) and 4 cloves of garlic (minced) in here too!

3. Add salt & pepper to taste.

4. Combine the hoisin sauce, water, sesame oil, soy sauce, and cornstarch in a little bowl.  Mix and add to the wok.

5. Cover for about 1 minute to help the veggies soften.

6. Uncover, add the pinch of sugar.

7. Stir for a minute or two more or until the sauce thickens to your liking.  Cornstarch works pretty quickly, so if it’s not tightening up well, mix a little more cornstarch + water and add it to the wok.

Enjoy!  I’ll update this post later when I do it neatly.

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