Remembering [Food From] College

So back in college I was heavily involved in a co-ed community service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega (APO). The mission and the people really blew my mind and made my college experience what it was. There are a lot of awesome things I could talk about with APO but, you know me, I’m going to talk about food.

marinating shrimpspinach

I don’t remember the reason, but one evening during our normal meeting time we had a pot luck. One person made the most delicious shrimp and pasta dish that I’ve ever had. That’s right, I’m still thinking about it to this day.

It wasn’t a cream sauce or fettuccine type dish, it had angel hair pasta, lightly spiced shrimp and a nice amount of kick. I’d ask for the recipe, but last I heard this person was on a fishing boat in Alaska?

So I did some searching and found Emeril’s Shrimp and Pasta with Chilis, Garlic, Lemon and Green Onions. Unfortunately I was pretty underwhelmed.


Changes I made to it include leaving out the green onions and fresh parsley, adding spinach, replacing linguini with angel hair and steaming the shrimp rather than cooking them in a skillet. I thought steaming the shrimp would cut down on a little fat and also hold in the flavor more – maybe I was way off base?

What do you all think – Do you have a great pasta & shrimp recipe? Should I have stuck with the skillet instead of steaming? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’d really love to eat a delicious pasta & shrimp dish again 🙂


You can find Emeril’s recipe by clicking here.

My New Favorite Way to Cook Shrimp!

I’m still obsessed with my Anheuser-Busch Great Food Great Beer cook book. I know, it doesn’t look like much… but it really has great easy recipes that you can throw together on a weeknight (and isn’t that what you’re here for?).


This cook book led me to my new favorite way to cook shrimp – drenched in beer. It’s not the first time I’ve cooked or baked with beer and had success… Check out my previous posts:

Guinness Beer Brownies And [photos of] Babes

Taco Salad with Drunken Black Beans

You don’t need to use a fancy beer, a bottle of Budweiser will do just fine. I adapted the recipe from the cook book a bit, adding a few extra spices to give it more depth of flavor.

greenbeanscooking shrimp in beer and garlic

I also cooked the shrimp in a grill pan instead of a heavy skillet, but because you’re drowning the shrimp in beer it probably doesn’t make a difference. Morgan and I enjoyed this dinner over couscous and spicy Szechuan style green beans (spice-phobes beware!).

drunken shrimp and szechuan green beans

Drunken Shrimp with Szechuan Style Green Beans
(makes dinner for 2)

Drunken Shrimp
16 frozen shrimp, thawed and peeled according to package instructions
1 bottle (12 ounces) beer of your choice
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 turns of salt, 12 turns of pepper

Measure and combine cayenne, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small ingredient bowl. Heat large skillet on medium high heat. Add a little bit of oil when hot. Add garlic and stir quickly so that garlic doesn’t burn. Add shrimp, followed by spice mixture, and stir.

Immediately pour 1/2 bottle of beer into pan and cook for about 3 minutes. Turn the shrimp and add remaining 1/2 bottle of beer. Cook until shrimp are firm, pink and curled. Serve immediately.

Szechuan Style Green Beans

approx. 1 pound green beans, washed and ends broken off
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Heat medium size skillet on medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon of oil, followed by green beans. Stir, adding spice mixture and soy sauce. Cook until desired tenderness is reached (about 7-10 minutes).

D’oh! As I started to type I noticed that my hand felt sticky. I looked down only to find that my wedding ring is covered in cake! This is a pretty typical day in the life of Ghost Baker… actually this is a good day – normally if cake’s involved it’s probably also squished into my clothes or in my hair.

fermented black beans

The reason for today’s mess is that I’m working on a fairly detailed birthday cake for my mom for this weekend. I’ve even drawn specs for the cake to compare what different decorations might look like. We always want to impress our moms, right? Please keep your fingers crossed for me, and I’ll let you know how it goes!

Today’s recipe, however, features dinner, not cake. I was given Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook for Christmas (are you sensing a pattern? I was lucky enough to receive many excellent cookbooks!). Though I’d flipped through the book and oogled things several times before, this was the first time I tried a recipe. I was drawn to Martha’s “Stir-Fried Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce.”

black bean sauce

This recipe does require a trip to your local Asian grocery store, but if you haven’t been to one before consider this your special invitation! You can find great deals on certain things at Asian grocery stores (rice in bulk, various sauces, etc).

Let me warn you that fermented black beans smell a bit strong, but they’re just soybeans that have been preserved in salt. They are not the same thing as typical black beans. They give the dish a distinct flavor. If you like Asian food then you will likely enjoy this dish.

This would also work really well with tofu – either replacing the shrimp with tofu or adding tofu in with the shrimp. I didn’t alter Martha’s recipe too much, but I did try to make things a little simpler and take the edge off the salty black beans. I eliminated the soy sauce and scallions and added a little more hoisin sauce. If you try this with tofu, please let me know how it goes! Aside from a trip to the Asian market, this dish comes together very quickly and requires little prep.

shrimp with black bean sauce

Stir-fried Shrimp with Fermented Black Bean Sauce
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook
serves 2

5 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and crushed with the back of a spoon (found in Asian market in a small, usually clear bag)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger root, minced (be sure to lightly peel the papery covering off)
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (found in Asian market, or if you have to you can substitute dry sherry or white wine)
3 teaspoons hoisin sauce (found in Asian market, or the international food section of your grocery store)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
12 medium frozen shrimp, peeled and dethawed under cold running water
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup white rice, cooked in a rice cooker or according to package instructions

In a medium bowl, whisk together garlic, peanut oil, black beans (don’t forget to mash them first with the back of your spoon), ginger, Chinese wine, hoisin sauce and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

Heat wok on medium high until it sizzles when you sprinkle a few drops of water on it. Add oil to the wok (never add oil to an unheated wok… remember what my Chinese cooking instruction said, “hot wok, cold oil”). Right before adding the shrimp to the wok, toss it with the cornstarch to coat it. Add shrimp to the wok, count to 5 and then press down on the shrimp with your wok utensil for a few seconds to sear it. Stir it quickly a few times, then let it sit for another few seconds. Continue this pattern until your shrimp turn pink and curl up, just another minute or two. Shrimp cook quickly. Pour in the sauce mixture and turn the heat up on the wok. Cook for just under a minute without stirring to let the flavor lock in, then stir before serving to coat.

Serve shrimp immediately over rice.

Spicy Shrimp and Couscous

I’ve mentioned my dad’s strict dietary restrictions before, but it wasn’t until he began eating that way that I noticed how misleading healthy eating cookbooks, guides and restaurant menus can be.

garlic cloves

I’ve opened new “healthy dinners” cookbooks to find macaroni and cheese and beef stroganoff, or soups thickened with heavy cream and butter. If these are lightened up versions of the original, then I’m truly terrified of the original.


Restaurants like Panera want to showboat as healthy alternatives for lunch, but some of their salads rival fast food cheeseburgers. Most people know that a caesar salad packs in the fat with cheese and heavy dressing, but what about Panera’s Orchard Harvest salad? It sounds absolutely incredible, boasting “field greens, crisp romaine, dried cherries, fresh pears, Gorgonzola, toasted pecans & our cherry balsamic vinaigrette.” Lovely leafy greens combined with fruit and just a hint of nuts, right? The Orchard Harvest salad contains 540 calories and 33 grams of fat, including 8 grams of saturated fat and 0.5 grams of trans fats. Don’t worry, you can also get 48% of your daily value of sodium, or 1140 milligrams. Yikes!

leaf salad

I’ve been eager to share my Spicy Shrimp and Couscous recipe since the last time I made it earlier this week; it’s one of my favorites – quick, easy, spicy, healthy and full of flavor and zip. Buy a bag of frozen shrimp and just use it as needed (and if you’re like me, you can get your husband to remove any legs or tails still on the shrimp… Ghost Baker does NOT mess with shrimp parts!). Couscous smells wonderful when cooked, and did I mention that cooking it only takes five minutes?

cooking shrimp

If you’re like Chef Edwin and can’t handle spice, then try toning down some of the spice either by decreasing or removing the cayenne and chili powder. If you love spice like I do, then please don’t wait to add this healthy dish to your dinner rotation!

shrimp and couscous

Spicy Shrimp and Couscous
(serves two people)

12 frozen shrimp, thawed (by running under cold water)
1 tablespoon oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika and garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 box plain couscous
1 bag leaf salad of your choice

Begin to cook couscous according to package instructions. Mince garlic and set aside. Combine and stir cayenne, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and cumin together in a small dish. Fluff couscous when it’s done cooking and set aside, covered.

Heat wok on medium heat (you can use a skillet if you do not have a wok). When hot, add a little bit of oil to the wok. Add half of your garlic, stir for 30 seconds, then add peeled and thawed shrimp. Stir for 10 seconds and add remaining garlic along with spice mixture (it’s okay if you decide not to use all of the spice mixture). Cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are pink and curled.

To serve, add leaf salad of your choice to a plate along with couscous and cooked shrimp.