Author Archive: huntingandbargaining

things that must happen: spicy turkey burgers

As much as I have enjoyed and been challenged by eating a mostly-vegetarian diet this summer, I’ve been cheating – I made turkey burgers this week. I’ve been craving a charred, grilled burger for a while now – it’s one of those things that is quintessentially summer to me. Grill + apartment dweller + subletter doesn’t exactly go together, however. What’s the next best thing? Turkey burgers: a healthy alternative, accessible in price (ground turkey meat can be the same price as or just slightly more than ground beef), convenience, and flavor.  They freeze amazingly well, and my favorite way to serve is over a bed of tortilla chips (see here how to make chips in the MICROWAVE, what!), topped with salsa and cheese. Below is a variation on my mother’s recipe, much beloved by my family:


1lb ground turkey meat

1 jalapeno

1 egg

1 heaping tbsp cornmeal

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp canola oil

salsa, frozen corn, and fresh cilantro for topping/garnish

Slice the jalapeno lengthwise and use your knife to seed and then mince the jalapeno into very small pieces. Combine the meat, the egg, cornmeal, and all the spices in the bowl; combine until well blended and the egg is evenly distributed throughout the meat. Pat down the meat and divide into five even sections; shape each section into burger patties and place on a plate. Heat 1tbsp canola oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet; add all burgers at once. Let the burgers simmer for 3-5 minutes; watch closely. The burgers should be lightly browned on one side before flipping – you’ll want to minimize the flipping in order to maintain the flavor from the juices. In total, depending on your stove, it should take about 10-15 minutes to completely brown them on medium heat.

While the burgers are browning, heat salsa (I used basic bottled salsa just for convenience), corn, and cilantro on the stove on low heat. Cover and let simmer.

Serve burgers on a bed of tortilla chips, and top with salsa/corn mixture and cheese! Yum.




“greek-style” shrimp scampi

As a part of my love affair with pasta, I am forever trying to find new ways to make different sauces and combinations to avoid constantly eating the same old “red sauce” pasta dish. Enter my recent obsession with pesto, of course! Pesto also gets old too, though – so, “greek-style” shrimp scampi, using a can of diced tomatoes and other flavoring in place of the butter and oil, was born.

Because of my complexion and hair color, I’ve been asked throughout my life: “are you Italian?” “are you Greek?” “are you Mediterranean?” No, no, and no – but my affinity for certain flavors in food does tend to stray toward the Italian/Mediterranean side. Like this dish, I guess, I can “fake it.” :-).

This dish is simple enough to make for a quite night at home – but it’s also different enough – and bursting with flavor – to bring out when expecting guests. Enjoy!



1lb vermicelli/angel hair pasta

1 14oz can petite diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil

12-16oz frozen shrimp

3 cloves garlic

1 handful fresh basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

olives, if you like them!

feta cheese, for topping

salt to taste

(note: I made this dish with frozen white fish and mozzarella cheese in place of the shrimp and feta – at the one small grocery store I have access to right now without a car, they did not have feta cheese, and shrimp only came in huge bags of 120+ shrimp. This girl can’t eat 120+ shrimp during the two weeks left this summer in D.C.! You may also want to make these substitutions for budgeting purposes as well.)

Put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. While the water is boiling, chop up the 3 cloves garlic and basil so the garlic is minced and the basil is roughly chopped. Break the pasta and cook according to package directions once the water is boiling. Heat the 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan on the stove over medium-high heat for one minute; saute the garlic in the pan until fragrant for 1-2 minutes. Empty the entire can of tomatoes into the pan (do NOT drain); add the pepper, salt, and oregano, and stir. Distribute the shrimp throughout the pan, lower the heat,  cover, and let the entire mixture simmer for five to seven minutes. When the pasta is done cooking, strain the pasta and let cool but reserve the starchy pasta water. After the shrimp mixture is done simmering, add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the mixture to make a little more “sauce.” Make sure the shrimp are cooked through. Serve the shrimp mixture, with 5-7 shrimp per plate, over the pasta, and top with olives and feta cheese if desired. Serves four.


maple-tea flavored “coffee cake”

Coffee cake reminds me of home. It reminds me of Christmas mornings, visits to the grandparents, and my mother letting me “help out” by stirring the dry ingredients together while she taught me how to measure flour and sugar.

So, naturally, while missing home tonight, I felt the urge to make a coffee cake. My roommate was coming back tonight after three weeks away, and I wanted to have something to welcome her home here. I faced one issue, though – I’m subletting this in D.C. this summer, and all of my prized garage-sale-acquired baking supplies are back in Cleveland – along with close proximity to an inexpensive grocery store. I had milk and margarine in fridge…but could I make a coffee cake without cinnamon, real butter, and eggs?  I knew I could get by substituting oil for eggs (it’s worked before!), but I’ve always learned that real butter is  unfortunately expensive – and unfortunately essential to baking adventures. Here in D.C., a pound of unsalted butter can run you $4.50 – whereas, in Cleveland, I can get it for $2.50 on sale if I’m lucky (it’ll keep for a while in the fridge unopened). So, I had a predicament – I’m not going to buy a pound of butter when I’m here in D.C. for three more weeks.

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of baking with tea for a while now; I had an AMAZING lavender-earl grey tea flavored cupcake at the famous Georgetown Cupcake during my first week in D.C. this summer, and I was astounded by the complexity of the flavor. So, inspired by this recipe for applesauce coffee cake, I decided to improvise. A unexpectedly delicious “missing home, but welcome home” coffee cake was born:


  • 1-1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda (I only had baking power, so I used 1-1/4 tsp baking powder to substitute for the soda)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 teabag, cut open (I think dark teas would work best for this – I used dark English breakfast tea)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup applesauce (I used one of the pre-packaged applesauce cups that I usually eat with my lunch)

I ended up topping my cake with just oats and sugar sprinkled over the cake before baking (because of my lack of butter), but this would be ideal for a real crumb topping) 

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a small baking dish (a small cake pan, or a 8×8 or 9×9 square pan). Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, including the flour, sugar, baking powder, and tea. In another bowl, mix the applesauce, oil, milk, and syrup until blended. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients all at one time, and stir just until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle desired topping over the batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the top of the cake cracks and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Enjoy with coffee in the morning, tea at night, or any time of day. -M

pesto potato bake: welcome, here’s a casserole.

Hello–and welcome to Hunting and Bargaining!

As students, adventurous cooks, and vegetarian/”flexi” tarians (I don’t know if I can ever not eat chicken!), we hope to write about our adventures “hunting and gathering” food in our twenties–food that tastes good, is healthy, has variety, and doesn’t break the bank. No ramen allowed, of course.

And with that, my first foray into broadcasting my kitchen adventures begins with a casserole: the perfect “welcome home” food, comfort food, I-know-you’re -sick -and-here’s sustenance food.

But do all casseroles have to be calorie-laden cream of mushroom/chicken concoctions? Of course not. Add starch + veggies + some type of sauce + cheese = casserole. That’s it.

BY FAR the best investment my kitchen this summer are my $3.00 basil and cilantro plants. I’m obsessed with putting fresh herbs on EVERYTHING–my wraps for lunch, pasta, chips, etc. Think about it–it usually costs $3.00 at least to buy a package of fresh herbs in the grocery store – for the same $3, I’m enjoying flavorful freshness all summer. I make this “Beggar’s Pesto” with my basil plant – but I wanted to use the pesto on something different than pasta. The pesto potato bake was born.



2 large russet potatoes

1/2 vidalia onion

1/2 green peper

handful of fresh spinach

1 batch Beggar’s pesto


salt, pepper, and oregano to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Make the pesto first and set it aside. Wash and slice the potatoes thin, like you’re making scalloped potatoes for a big family dinner. Chop up the onion and green pepper (or whatever other veggies you desire!) roughly. Then –  make a “potato parfait”! Lay one thin layer of the potatoes over the bottom of the dish (I used a small round one); then add some onion and pepper. Next, layer a few spoonfuls of pesto over the veggies. Then add another layer of potatoes, the spinach, and more pesto. Repeat until the dish is full! Top with shredded cheese. (one way to cut calories and add flavor – cut the cheese from the inside of the recipe and only top the casserole with cheese!) Bake for 45 minutes or until potatoes are not crunchy.

Serves 4 – or is the perfect recipe for packaging up in individual portions and freezing for later!