December 2, 2016

Finally Friday: shrimp and (cheesy) grits

It’s almost embarrassing to admit this but I buy my shrimp from Safeway. My Asian card just caught flame. But there’s a good reason, I swear! One, the nearest Asian market is 99 Ranch and that parking lot is, if possible, as terrible to navigate as any parking lot in Rowland Heights back in Southern California. I’d rather walk to the store. Except it’s ten miles away so that’s not happening either. Two, their shrimp are deveined! This was revelatory.

I can devein shrimp, I’m good at it. Or rather my 13-year-old, pre-fibromyalgia hands were great at it. Now? Hah! I save my fine motor control for things like not slicing off more than just the tip of my finger. That’s not hyperbole, by the way, I did slice off the tip of my index finger two weeks ago. It got better.

Anyway, shrimp from Safeway, saving fingertips, and even more importantly, time across America!

(If you don’t know why I’m mocking myself, it’s because I’m probably the only person in my family who buys their seafood from a not Asian market. Growing up in Southern California nearish to LA meant that Asian markets abounded and growing up in a traditional immigrant family meant we never cooked anything but our home country cuisines. And no non-Asian market carried Asian food fixings beyond soy sauce, so we always always always went to an Asian market. And stopped by for a passel of banh mi on the way home.

My shrimp were destined for a decidedly non-Asian ending though, because I adore this dish!

I keep this one super simple, just as it was intended.


1 cup polenta (grits)
3 cups water
Swish of salt
Half a small onion, halved again and sliced
Several cloves of garlic
1/2 pound of shrimp, deveined, shelled

Doing it right

Boil 3 cups of water, swish your salt in, and when it’s boiling, stir in the cup of polenta. Let it boil at medium to low heat, stirring every 20-40 seconds to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pot. This is something I forget every other time I make it and end up scraping regret off the pot. Actually no, I cheat and boil water with some baking soda which lifts off almost all burnt-on guck. So don’t burn your grits.

Mince your garlic and slice the onion while the grits are cooking, unless you’re smart and/or had a sous chef do this already. I shooed my sous chef away to chase JuggerBaby around so I had to do the dirty work. Toss garlic and onions into a hot pan and let them cook for a few minutes. You could also toss in your tomatoes now, if you’d diced any. I always err on the side of cooking a little longer at this stage because I don’t want raw onions or overcooked shrimp when I realize I’m going to have raw onions. Because the next step is tossing on the shrimp and on medium heat shrimp cooks through really fast. I hate overcooked shrimp, it’s rubbery and awful. As soon as your shrimp are starting to curl up and the split deveined side turns outward, it’s nearly done. Usually it goes from translucent to solid white too but some don’t, and you don’t want to overcook it seeking that solid white. A few minutes will do the trick.

In the meantime, your grits. Once the pot is hot and smooth when you’re stirring, it’s just about done. If you want (and I usually do), throw in your cheese at this point, stir it well so none is sitting on top and turn off the heat. It’ll thicken in no time. (Actual time: one to two minutes)

To serve: a generous dollop of your cheesy grits on a plate, with a little hollow for your grilled onions and shrimp on top.

I added a handful of too-crispy, slightly burnt kale chips to our plates for our brown-greens. Still edible but those should have come out if the oven a few minutes earlier.

Total time to serve: 45 minutes, and only that long because I was poky and inefficient. Normally I’d have gotten it served in 25-30 minutes. 

November 11, 2016

Finally Friday: a fish fillet dinner

My absolute favorite fish dinner is a whole oven roasted fish, with the skin on, crispy on the outside, moist and flaky inside, flavored with a homemade tamarind sauce, served on a bed of lettuce with a side of cucumber, rolled in rice paper wraps, and dipped in a lemon fish sauce. We would have that at home and it was culinary heaven.

That is not this recipe. Sorry.

Someday it will be. But I tried making it once without a recipe or guidance ten years ago, it was a horrid failure, and I haven’t had the nerve to waste another fish trying it again.

This is a suitable substitute, JuggerBaby approved.


2-4 fish fillets, I like tilapia or catfish
oil, salt, pepper

Baby bok choy
Sesame oil
Diced garlic

Steamed white rice


I usually steam the white rice first, earlier in the day, since we use a rice cooker and that’s just an easy win. If you need help making perfect white rice, let me know in the comments and I’ll do a little snippet on that later.

The fish and bok choy are ridiculously easy – the fish fillets are placed on a large sheet of foil, sprinkled with oil, salt, pepper, layered with sliced onions (sometimes tomatoes or lemons if I feel like it), and the foil is pinched shut like a little packet. This goes into the toaster oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. It’s my cheater version of Fish en Papillote.

Meanwhile, the bok choy is washed and cut up into smallish pieces. This is tossed into the saucepan after cooking the garlic for a minute, tossed to coat the bok choy with a bit of oil and garlic, and covered for a few minutes on medium-low heat. I add a little drizzle of sesame oil and toss again, then leave it on medium-low heat for a few more minutes. Since JuggerBaby seems to think that ze can’t chew up vegetables that aren’t a bit on the soft side, crunchy like I prefer them, I cook it a little longer than if I were just serving it to adults. Cooked this way, ze will happily munch on bok choy all through dinner.

Total time from prep to serving: 35 minutes.

October 28, 2016

Finally Friday: shepherd’s pie

I love food, and I love cooking for my family now so by somewhat popular vote, I’m sharing some of our family-approved meals here with you, on Fridays.

How I generally try to cook: 3-5 ingredients per dish; use fresh ingredients if possible; time from prep to table goal is 1 hour or less. I aim to serve a starch, veggies, and some protein. Sometimes dessert if I’m feeling incredibly motivated but that’s pretty rare.

It’s cool weather again so I’ve hauled out the Le Crueset for a stovetop to oven dinner. I’ve never made a classic shepherd’s pie, so don’t be surprised if this all looks a bit weird to you. The important thing is that the family will happily eat it.

Our little Le Crueset is one of my favorite kitchen staples. I wouldn’t have splurged on it but it was affordable some years back with a combination of coupons, gift cards, and not being picky about colors. Cherry seems to be the current unpopular color, and therefore cheaper, right now but I can never tell why certain colors are more or less popular than others. I can’t imagine picking white cookware, though, not the way I cook. I don’t need my cookware to advertise my cooking mishaps, thank you very much.

1 lb of ground turkey
2 diced zucchini
1/2 diced tomato
1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
1/4 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
2 potatoes and 2 cups of beef broth to make mashed potatoes topping

I started the mashed potatoes in a medium pot first. I boil my diced potatoes in broth for extra flavor so I can skip the butter and milk or cream. Nothing against them but I prefer to save those fat calories for something really delicious, like butter filled pastries. Mmmm…..

While that was bubbling away, I start to saute the ground turkey with the spices, experimenting with not using black pepper to see how that changes the flavor, over medium heat in the Le Crueset. While that’s cooking, I cut up my vegetables, deciding against adding carrots and onions because that’s ten more minutes of sous chefing on my feet. Once they’re ready, in go the vegetables, including the frozen ones, and everything is cooked through in about ten more minutes.

The heat gets shut off while the potatoes finish cooking through, and I wash all the dishes that were waiting in my spare five minutes. That done, the potatoes are ready to be smashed with a wooden spoon, added to the Le Crueset, and topped with a sprinkling of cheese. Ten minutes at 350 degrees in the oven finishes it off while I prep some broccoli to steam on the side – if JuggerBaby rejects some of the shepherd’s pie veggies, ze will nom on the steamed broccoli. If ze doesn’t, then the broccoli goes into zir lunch for tomorrow.

Total time from prep to serving: 1 hour.

:: What’s your favorite filling combination for a shepherd’s pie?

April 3, 2015

Just a little (link) love: eat your veggies, REALLY, edition


I was all misleading last time I did an Eat Your Veggies edition so I’m really going to share some veggie recipes this time 🙂


Female angel investors

Patreon is an interesting new business model (I love Kylee’s products so if you want to support her: have at it!)


Dog earns a home after 430 miles (and quarantine)

Star Wars in IttyBitty

Alan Tudyk is back, with ConMan

I would like this in a weekender size but I wouldn’t mind this one either. Or this, that would be good too.

This is silly: men describing menstrual pain


I really need people to pay attention to the racism that exists today because when cops come under fire for supporting equality, there’s something wrong.

How Can You Be Mad at Someone Who’s Dying of Cancer?

When a generation declutters

You’d think we’d have figured out government email protocols by now


I am terrible at vegetable side dishes, so I always look for the easiest way out possible. Proportions for my veggie recipes are pretty flexible. I don’t tend to measure much, and I skimp on oils and butters to just the minimum necessary to get the job done.

Sugar snap peas

1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 pinch sea salt to taste
1 pinch freshly cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
*optional: 1 teaspoon chili oil

Heat the sesame oil (and chili oil if desired) over medium-high heat. Toss the snap peas until they turn bright green and start to become tender, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper as they cook. Sprinkle peas with sesame seeds, and toss before serving.

Other variations: saute bacon (cut strips to approximately 2 inch pieces) first and toss the snap peas in the pan with the nearly cooked bacon. Because everything is better with bacon. Unless you don’t like bacon….

Green Beans

1 lb green beans, trimmed and cut to 1.5 inches
minced garlic

Blanch green beans in boiling water, about 3-4 minutes, until they’re bright green. Toss in a small pat of butter, let it melt and coat all the green beans. Mix in as much minced garlic as you like.

November 26, 2014

In the Kitchen: Turkey Meatloaf


1-1/4 pound ground turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
1 zucchini squash, chopped fine
2 large garlic cloves, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
1 egg
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly, create 1 or 2 loaves. Prepare a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 40 minutes.

An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).


This was a halfhearted attempt to use up the ground turkey I’d defrosted for another recipe and sneak in some vegetables as well – surprisingly, it was really good!

Bonus points for being incredibly easy to toss together and cook. It just takes a while to actually cook.


October 31, 2014

In the Kitchen: Drop biscuit chicken pot pie

Chicken pot pie: Filling


Cooking spray
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lowfat milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup peas, thawed if frozen
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves


Add 2 more teaspoons of oil to the same pan and heat it over a medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the green beans, garlic and remaining salt and pepper and cook for 2 minute more. Add the milk. Stir the flour into the broth until it is completely dissolved and add to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes more. Return the chicken with its juices back to the pan. Add the peas and thyme and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spoon the mixture into the baking dish or individual dishes.

Drop the batter in 6 mounds on top of the chicken mixture (1 mound on each individual dish, if using) spreading the batter out slightly.

Bake until filling is bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Adapted from Food Network’s Ellie Krieger

Drop Biscuits


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup fat-free milk
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 450º.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl; cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk; stir just until moist.
Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from pan immediately, and place on a wire rack.


I’ve finally found some decent uses for the Dutch oven and one of them is heaven on the stovetop.

June 7, 2014

In the Kitchen: Stuffed Mushrooms and Pot Pies


If I had to toot my own horn, I’d say that my cooking skills are progressing nicely. Luckily, I have PiC here ready and willing to proclaim my experiments successful. I know, this is meant to be a money-life blog so why do I keep sharing recipes? Because good food IS life!

I have to thank Kristen for helping me make a few basic decisions, since I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to dealing with mushrooms AT ALL.

Small Bites: Stuffed Mushrooms

This was adapted from the Pioneer Woman’s classic recipe.


24 ounces, weight White Button Mushrooms
1/3 pound Hot Pork Sausage***
1/2 whole Medium Onion, Finely Diced
4 cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1/3 cup Dry White Wine**
8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese
1 whole Egg Yolk
3/4 cups Parmesan Cheese, Grated
Salt And Pepper, to taste
* Added a strip of fried bacon. It’s the right thing to do.
**Left this out.
*** I use any sausage, really.


1. Wipe off or wash mushrooms in cold water. Pop out stems, reserving both parts.
2. Chop mushroom stems finely and set aside.
3. Brown and crumble sausage and bacon. Set aside on a plate to cool.
4. Add onions and garlic to the same skillet; cook for 2 minutes over medium low heat.
5. Pour in wine to deglaze pan, allow liquid to evaporate. (Deglazed with water since I didn’t have white wine handy)
6. Add in chopped mushroom stems, stir to cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set mixture aside on a plate to cool.
7. In a bowl, combine cream cheese and egg yolk. Stir together with Parmesan cheese.
8. Add cooled sausage, bacon and cooled mushroom stems. Stir mixture together and refrigerate for a short time to firm up.
9. Smear mixture into the cavity of each mushroom, creating a sizable mound over the top.
10. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

Allow to cool at least ten minutes before serving; the stuffed mushrooms taste better when not piping hot.


Allow to cool before serving – hahaha. I tried to try one almost immediately. Of course. And nearly burnt myself. Of course. Who doesn’t do that?

I’ve never loved mushrooms, but I’ve been trying to learn to like a new thing every few years, so this was my entree to not-in-soup mushrooms and I’m pretty happy with it.

Comfort Food: Chicken Pot Pie


1 pound chicken breasts – cubed*
1 cup sliced carrots (1 1/2 carrots)
1 cup diced potato (1 small potato)
1/2 cup sliced celery (1 celery rib)
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion (1/4 small onion)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts
1/4 teaspoon celery seed**

* I roast my own chicken so I used two cups of shredded roasted chicken instead.
**Left this out.
Makes 1 9-inch pie. 8 servings.


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)
2. In a saucepan, combine carrots, potatoes, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.
3. In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper (and celery seed).
Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk.
Simmer over medium-low heat until thick.
Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Mix chicken (and 3-4 strips of cooked bacon if you’re so inclined) into the vegetables.
5. Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust.
6. Pour hot liquid mixture over.
7. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
8. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly.
9. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.


I could have made my own pie crust but between roasting a whole chicken (about 1 hour, 40 minutes) and prepping the whole pie recipe, it seemed wiser to just use a prepared pie crust. As it was, I totally wiped myself out roasting the chicken, breaking it down and cooking up the pie in a three hour whirlwind. At least I didn’t defrost the pie crust too late and half melt it again. (See, ugliest pie ever.)

This recipe actually worked out a lot better than the previous one that I couldn’t find. The liquid was actually gravylike and held together the dry ingredients really nicely.

I’d estimate the cost of this pie to be around $5 without breaking down the actual use cost of each ingredient I already had (butter, flour, salt, pepper, milk) or will be able to use in more than one recipe (potato, celery, onion, broth, chicken).

It’s not all about the cost savings though, I just like the taste of homemade better, where I’m able to control the use of butter, salt, etc., to precisely what’s needed and not overdo it.

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