Got Almond Breeze?

Milk is among my favorite foods (or 'drinkable' foods). Peanut butter...chocolate...bananas...and milk. It's a little more complicated to drink tons of milk in Canada because of the whole bag situation, but I still drink a lot of it.

I'm not turning my back on cow's milk, but I've decided to start sampling non-dairy milks. I'm not sure where this desire came from. I guess I love milk, so if I find more I like, then so much the better. I've also decided to write a little review of each of my finds. First up: Almond Breeze.

I've never had almond milk, I'll say that up front. I'm not sure (yet) how this almond milk compares to other brands or to the homemade version (which I hope to try very soon), but it was really good! It's creamy and has a hint of almond flavor.

Let's try out some criteria for how to rate the fake milk I'm going to include in this series.*

Texture: Milky. Thinner than cows milk, but creamy enough not to taste like water.
Color: a little darker than cows milk, but I attributed that to the almond aspect of it. Personally, I love almonds, so this wasn't a problem.
Cost: 2.99 CDN per carton (not sure exactly how many litres, and it's been tossed). A little pricey, if it were to be a permanent milk alternative. Since it's just a treat for me to try out, I justified spending the money.
Content: It had less than half the calories than the soy milk next to it on the shelf, which is a good benefit. It has about 2.5 grams of fat per serving, which isn't so bad, except that I'm accustomed to skim milk, and I'm not a fan of increasing my fat intake because of milk. Still, it's not the worst kind of fat, if it's coming from the almonds. And if the cost keeps it from being a regular part of my diet, then the fat content isn't quite such a big problem (it's a calorie treat, and a budget treat).

Here's a shot of the nutrition info (not the greatest picture, my apologies). I tried to find it on their website, but didn't have any luck, which I find irritating. Still, their website does have a lot of almond-themed-lactose-free recipes.

If you strain your eyes, you can see that they've added calcium, vitamin E, and iron (among other things) to make it more appealing, in terms of nutrition.

Out of 10, I'd give it a 8.5.

It's a little pricey and slightly fatty, but over all delicious. I'd buy it again, but not on a weekly basis.

*You'll notice I didn't mention how it does on cereal. I'd imagine that, like a lot of milk alternatives, it's fine on cereal (where most people don't pay a ton of attention to milk anyways). Since I mostly drink milk by the glass, I've mostly centered the criteria around the experience of drinking it straight up.

The Friendly Fox

During this visit to Fort Wayne we went with my mom to The Friendly Fox, her new favorite lunch spot in the neighborhood where she volunteers.

This was our second visit, and I have to say that everything I've tasted there has been outstanding. They have at least 5 or 6 kinds of quiche available every day - Lord knows I'm partial to quiche (I've now sampled two, both awesome).

My mom had this chicken club pasta salad (which is what it sounds like). It was really good and the portion was generous enough that John and I helped her finish it.

This was the sausage, green onion, and red pepper quiche that I ordered. The thing on the bottom is the scone that comes with it. I also want to say that I have no idea how they make their scones so well. It was perfectly baked.

This is the raspberry brownie that my mom ordered. Sweet, light, raspberry cream between chocolate layers. A+.

What is going on in this picture? Ugh.

They didn't even look at us weird when this was going on.

This is the kind of place that makes me think twice before dissing the poor restaurant choices in Fort Wayne....or it could be the exception that proves the rule: Fort Wayne can't compete with Bloomington in terms of cool local restaurants. Still, The Friendly Fox is proving me wrong.

Tres Leches Cake

Two summers ago (or so), I tasted tres leches cake for the first time. It was Carla's birthday.

It's so delicious, I wanted to make it right away, but I somehow put it off for two years. It seemed like a good compliment to our etoufee for the Fat Tuesday meal that John and I wanted to make in Fort Wayne.

I used Pioneer Woman's recipe for it (surprise) because I feel like most things I make from her blog come out right on the first try. And I didn't want my first tres leches to turn out to be a flop, since there were other people eating it than just me and John.

It was great! It's not difficult, but pouring all the milks on and letting the cake absorb them does take a few hours, so we started early. I'd definitely make it again. It'd be great for entertaining.

Tres Leches Cake
from Pioneer Woman

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • 5 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Sugar, Divided
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • ⅓ cups Milk
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
  • ¼ cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 pint Heavy Cream, For Whipping
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.

Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip 1 pint heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with whole or chopped maraschino cherries. Cut into squares and serve.

Chili Cheese Shrimp Etoufee

One of my favorite restaurants in Bloomington is Dats (formerly Yats), a place that makes Cajun/Creole food. They would make a few big batches of food per day and had a limited menu. But everything they made was delicious and it was the perfect place to go for lunch.

Like a lot of Bloomington restaurant foods, I tried to create their Chili Cheese Etoufee, which had crawfish in it. Since we were in Fort Wayne and there were no crawfish to be found, we made it with shrimp. This was part of a really good Fat Tuesday meal we made for my parents and ourselves. Part two of the meal was tres leches cake, which will follow shortly.

That's a picture of the roux that you make at the beginning. I don't think we browned ours quite enough, but it didn't pose any problems.

I was thrilled a year or so ago when Kira posted this recipe on her blog. I knew I'd miss that etoufee, and that I'd need her recipe to recreate it.

The recipe calls for cooked shrimp or other meat. I sauteed our shrimp in a little olive oil and garlic until they were golden.

In the end, it didn't taste 100% like the one at Dats, but it was So. Freaking. Good. Like Kira says, it makes a lot of food, and there were plenty of leftovers. John and I took a lot of the spices home with us, and I hope we make it again soon.

A brief note: John and I recorded ourselves as we cooked this, and we're hoping to cut the file into the first ever Sounds Like Canada podcast (woo!). I'll post about that again later, if and when it pans out.

Chili Cheese Etoufee
from Food alla Puttanesca.


1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1 cup chopped green onions, plus more to garnish
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced bell peppers
1 cup diced onions
2 tsp. minced onion
1 cup Rotel Original diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups shredded aged cheddar
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1 tsp. chili powder
Pinch ground coriander
Pinch groun cumin
Pinch ground cloves
Dash Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce
Dash Tabasco sauce
1 pound cooked shrimp (or crawfish, chicken, or some combination of the three)
Cooked white rice, to serve
Dry sherry, to garnish


1. Make a roux by melting the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat and then blending in the flour, consistently stirring and scraping the bottom of the skillet. Cook until the roux is a golden color.
2. Add the green onions, celery, bell peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes and cook until the onions have browned.
3. Add the thyme, tomato paste, basil and peppers (black, white, cayenne).
4. Add the stock, bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the mixture becomes thick.
5. Add the cheese, half-and-half, chili powder, coriander, cumin, cloves, Worcestershire, and Tabasco and stir until the cheese and half-and-half are blended in well.
6. Gently stir in the crawfish, shrimp, and/or chicken and serve over fluffy white rice. Garnish with chopped green onions and drizzle with dry sherry.


Going Rogue

Before Christmas, my mom went where no Klickna/Shupe democrat had gone before.*

She stood in line for hours to buy a couple autographed copies of Sarah Palin's books, to give to John and to my Aunt Becky as gag gifts, for Christmas.

The look on Palin's face tells me that my mom wasn't honest with her specifically about why she was there, or what she thought of Palin. But "lite and polite" is probably best in those situations.
*I later learned my cousin Keith did the same thing, with the same motives.


Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

These were almost ready for Valentine's Day. I ended up making them the day after. Red velvet whoopie pies are good any time, right?

Did some of them look like piles of dog poo? Yes. Did some look like hearts? Sort of. But good enough for me.

I don't consider myself a proficient piper, even on a good day, and this recipe involved a lot of piping. What's more, I didn't bring the Martha Steward cake deco kit to IN this time, so I took a page out of Alton Brown's book. I put the batter in a zip lock bag, cut off a corner, and piped away.

I took some photos of the assembled pies that looked the most like hearts.

And let me tell you, they tasted fabulous. I was really pleased with them, even if they were a little more intense to make than regular cookies.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
from Annie's Eats

For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 oz. red food coloring


For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.

Using a heart template cut out from card stock, trace evenly spaced hearts onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets. Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Blend in the vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated. Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients. Do not overbeat. Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip. Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide. Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack. Repeat with any remaining batter. Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip. Pair the cookies up by shape and size. Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.* Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges. To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

*I didn't pipe the icing, since I'd had enough ziplock-piping for one day. But they were just fine with icing applied to them with a spatula.

Molly and Toby

My parents' dogs, Molly and Toby, always provide a lot of entertainment when I'm in Fort Wayne.

That's Molly. Sort of a scaredy-cat, but really sweet.

And curious.

She's sizing up those blankets as she prepares to build herself a fort with them.

This is Toby. He's...big boned.

But still a gentleman. I'm excited to try taking them running with me when I'm in town over the summer.

Indiana Mexican Bakery

When I come to Fort Wayne, I like to go with my dad to Hyde Brothers Bookstore.

It's on Wells St., which is apparently trying to market itself as a kind of step-into-the-past kind of part of Fort Wayne.

Across the street from Hyde's is the Indiana Mexican Bakery, a place I've always meant to go in, to see tome local color, as my brother would say.

They had TONS of stuff, and I would have taken a lot of pictures, had the owner not been watching me (the only customer) from behind the counter.

I chose two empanadas (I think?) from among their pastries, donuts, churros, etc., and I tried to find odd flavors. One was sweet potato, above.

The other was guava. They were both really great, with delicious dough. I wish I had eaten them the day I bought them, instead of the day after, but they were well worth the .75 a piece.

Another Night at the Improv - Pizza

John and I love to make pizza at home. While I'm impressed and inspired by other bloggers' homemade crusts, I haven't ventured to make my own...yet. We often buy the canned crust and make pizza with whatever toppings we have in the fridge (or others that we keep in mind for a quick, fun meal).

Our favorite ingredient of the moment: goat cheese. It's good in so many things, especially pizza with other vegetables.

There's no standard recipe here, just a few thoughts. We used these ingredients: 2 tomatoes, about 2 cups of mushrooms, 1-2 cups of spinach (depending on how many we had left), and abotu 1/3 or 1/2 cup goat cheese. We drizzle olive oil on the crust and forgo a sauce. I've noticed our oven is a little on the speedy side, so I decided to increase the time and decrease the temperature when using this crust. This pizza is a great way for us to end the cooking for the week.

Night at the Improv Tortellini

And by the "Improv," I mean our kitchen.

We had some store bought tortellini to eat last we prepared to go out of town for Reading Week. This recipe is based on one for spaghetti or other plain pasta shape, but the cheese tortellini were easy to combine with the other ingredients. Basically the sauce is a grown up version of macaroni and cheese, where the cheese is Pecorino Romano. It was delicious! We add some vegetables in order to clean out the fridge and bulk it up somewhat: red pepper, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and garlic. It will probably be my weeknight pasta back up plan from now on.

Tortellini with Cheese and Pepper
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 package of cheese or other tortellini
1-2 cups of spinach
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 cups of mushrooms, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup plus 2 tsp olive oil, divided
4 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
2 tbs butter
1 1/2 tsp finely ground black pepper
Salt (optional, or as needed).

Cook tortellini according to the package directions, al dente. Meanwhile, add 2 tbs olive oil to a sauce pan over medium heat. Saute red pepper, mushrooms, and garlic. Set aside.
When pasta is cooked through, drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups of pasta cooking water. Rinse and dry pasta pot, and add 1/4 cup olive oil. Heat until almost smoking, then add 1 cup of reserved water. Stand back, since this will splatter!
Add butter, 3 oz of cheese, and pepper, and stir to combine. Add cooked tortellini, sauteed vegetables, spinach, and tomatoes. Toss everything to combine it. You may need to add salt (but probably not, since this is salty already), or more pasta water, if too thick. Sprinkle extra cheese and/or pepper on top of each serving.

Lake Huron

John and I are in Fort Wayne this week for Reading Week. That means lots of recipes and pictures of the dogs. But first, Lake Huron.

Our border crossing took over an hour this trip, which gave me a lot of time to take pictures of the frozen lake.

Here's a photo from May 2009, for comparison.

It's a beautiful sight.

I'm not so great with heights, and the bridge is kind of scary when there's a lot of traffic.

I have to distract myself by admiring the lake and taking lots of pictures.

I love the lakes. This summer I intend to spend a lot of time with them.


Atlanta, June Oh-Ten

I mentioned in my last post that John and I are making preparations for our Summer Road Tripstravaganza Oh-Ten!, which will include a long list of stops, including but not limited to:

Fort Wayne, IN
(check out how homey it looks on that website)*

Oxford, OH

Nashville, TN

Cookeville, TN (love the train picture on that homepage).

Chattanooga, TN

Alpharetta, GA

Atlanta, GA (Yay, Gibsons!)

Many aspects of the plans are still in the works. So far we know that we'll be staying at The Artmore Hotel for the latter part of our week there. It's close to the Woodruff Arts Center, where John will be doing the bulk of his work, and it's near by a whole bunch of other fun downtown things to see and do. I'm going to entertain myself by walking around the area, shopping, going to an art museum, and finding good things to eat while John is interviewing people and conducting experiments.**

And so I will from time to time ask you this type of question: If you had 3 days to keep yourself busy in downtown Atlanta, what would you do? I mean, besides eat Chick Fil'a.

I'd love to hear some suggestions, though the internet tells me there will be plenty to do.

*We're headed to Fort Wayne on Saturday to visit my parents. I hope to tell you more about it than I did during Christmas.
**Actually, he has to swear that he will not be conducting experiments of any kind.


Is it summer yet?

So, a lot of the things John and I have been eating lately haven't been very blogable. You might say we're in the Feburary blahs...or blahgs...or what have you. I've got the itch for it to be summer already, so we can go swimming in the Great Lakes and visit people we like in America.

Instead, here's a less than thrilling list of things that have been going on, including some cooking failures.

We tried to make these Crash Hot Potatoes. Problem: I don't own a potato masher. Turns out that was a key tool. I may try to make them while we're in Fort Wayne next week, because they look delicious.

John and I had a couple of friends over to watch Miss America. I made red velvet cakes, which I already told you about, and I also tried to make cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers, wrapped in bacon.

Epic fail. It turns out that vegan cream cheese and regular cream cheese act really differently when heated up. Vegan cream cheese is great in grits, but doesn't do the trick when baked inside a pepper. It kind of melted into a marshmallow-like paste, and didn't cut the heat of the peppers at all, rendering them inedible. Blech.

But sometimes I improve something and it goes really right! I made this smoothie with frozen strawberries, mangos, and blue berries, added non-fat, plain yogurt, and a little apple juice. What came out of the blender was sort of like a lazy man's sorbet. I don't have an ice cream maker (yet), so this is as close as I can get in my kitchen so far, and it's delicious.

John and I have been having breakfast for dinner about once a week for the past month. Yesterday we had Edna Mae's Sour Cream Pancakes from Pioneer Woman's cookbook, and we ate all of them before I could even get a good picture. Thumbs up.

This week I got a cold, and we're heading out of town next weekend, so the food in our kitchen has been decidedly unfancy lately. Hopefully we'll come back from Fort Wayne refreshed and ready to charge on with the rest of the semester. And, since we'll be hanging out with my parents, we're almost guaranteed to make some blogable dinners, and I'll share them as soon as I can.

Side note: John and I are already gearing up for our Epic Summer Road Tripstravaganza Oh-Ten! You can read about the recording equipment he's been ordering (on UWO's dime) on his new music blog, here. We're going to try some of it out in Fort Wayne and make a mock version of This American Life. Stay tuned.


Miso Soup

John and I love all kinds of Asian food, especially Japanese food.

So when we happened to try a new grocery store last week that had a much better Asian food aisle, I jumped at the chance to get soybean paste.

And yeah, a lot of you people on facebook were haters and wrinkled your dainty noses at my soybean paste. Well, you're entitled to your opinion, but you're wrong. It's delicious! And you've probably eaten it without knowing before.

Also last week, I saw a lot of recipes for miso soup, which is made from soybean paste. The recipe I used was easy, delicious, and took about 10 minutes total to make.

That said, I have one critical thing to say, and it's really about context. This soup is really flavorful, but not so filling. To be fair, I've never ordered it at a Japanese restaurant as an entree, but it's often a starter (or, you know, a soup). It's great when paired with a salad or sandwich or another small food of some kind. And the next time I'm sick (which, knock on wood, doesn't happen that often these days*) I'm definitely going to make this. It would be simple, warm, and flavorful.

I played with the recipe a bit, so I'll try to reflect that below.

Simple Miso Soup
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

4 cups of water

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

3 ounces dried vermicelli noodles
4 - 6 tablespoons miso paste (to taste)
2 - 3 ounces firm tofu (2 handfuls), chopped into 1/3-inch cubes
2 cups (or more, to taste) spinach
3 green onions, tops removed thinly sliced
a small handful of cilantro (I omitted, I'm out)
a pinch of red pepper flakes (I forgot)

In a medium sauce pan bring water and stock to a boil, add noodles. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Pour a bit of the hot water into a small bowl and whisk in the miso paste - so it thins out a bit (this step is to avoid clumping. You may have to do this several times, depending on how much miso you use). Stir this back into the pot. Taste, and then add more (the same way) a bit at a time until it is to your liking. Also, some miso pastes are less-salty than others, so you may need to add a bit of salt. Add the tofu, spinach, cilantro, and red pepper flakes and let simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

*Since I initially wrote this, I got sick. Go figure. But since we just had this soup last week, we're making Thai Style Chicken Soup instead. It's one of my favorites that we made last semester.