Friday, September 30, 2005

Flat but good

Peanut Butter Jumbos
The Great American Cookie Cookbook Copyright 2001

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ cup peanut butter
3 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 ½ cup uncooked old-fashioned oats
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup candy-coated chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

Beat butter, sugars, peanut butter and eggs in large bowl until well blended. Blend in baking soda, vanilla and oats until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips and candy pieces.

Scoop out about 1/3 cup dough for each cookie (I used my 2-tblsp cookie scoop). Place on prepared cookie sheets, spacing about 4 inches apart. Press each cookie to flatten slightly. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until firm in center. (My smaller cookies took about 12 minutes.) Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 1 ½ dozen cookies. (I got 4 1/2 dozen)

I didn't realize these were flourless cookies until I started making them. But it was too late to turn back so I gave them a try. These are very flat cookies. I don't mind the structural flatness but I think they could have used a touch of salt to perk up the flavor. I wasn't sure that I would make these again when I first tasted them, after baking them. But when I ate one (okay, two) for breakfast the next day, I decided that I would probably make these again, with a touch of salt added to the recipe. These are chewy and filling so they'll make a nice snack too. Oatmeal is healthy, right?

Another recipe from The Great American Cookie Cookbook. Previously I made the Cherry Butterscotch Bars. This cookbook is great for finding a recipe for just about any type of cookie or bar you could possibly want.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Better than a highball

One-Pan Whiskey-Flavored Pork Chops
The Best of Cooking Light Copyright 2004

2/3 cup fat-free sour cream I used light sour cream
½ cup water
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops, trimmed I used boneless loin chops
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 (8-ounce) package presliced mushrooms
½ cup whiskey

1. Preheat over to 300 degrees.
2. Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl.
3. Sprinkle the pork with ¼ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork; sauté 5 minutes on each side until golden. Remove pork from pan. Add onion and mushrooms to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Carefully add whiskey to pan and cook 1 minute or until liquid almost evaporates. Stir sour cream mixture into pan. Return pork to pan; spoon sauce over pork.
4. Wrap the handle of the skillet with foil. Cover and bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour. Serve immediately.

This recipe is definitely a keeper. It has a spicy, peppery taste which I think is from the whiskey since there isn't an unusual amount of pepper in these. There isn't a pronounced whiskey taste either so I'm guessing the whiskey brings that peppery flavor to the table.

I didn't have the guts to use fat-free sour cream but Cooking Light is usually pretty good about not sacrificing taste over fat so I don't think they would have called for fat-free if it wouldn't work. I just couldn't bring myself to buy fat-free sour cream.

I have a year's worth of Cooking Light magazine in my collection but it's difficult to track down recipes in the individual issues. The Best of Cooking Light is much easier to work with. What I like about the people at Cooking Light is that I really believe they try to make food that tastes good, first and foremost. They'll use higher-fat ingredients in moderation when necessary. This is a very usable cookbook for anyone, not just dieters. We should all be cooking like this, most of the time anyway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Lemon in meatballs - yay or nay?

Meatballs With Fusilli
The Essential Pasta Cookbook Copyright 1998

1 ½ lbs pork and veal or beef mince I used beef and pork
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley I used dried parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 clove garlic, crushed
rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
¼ cup plain flour, seasoned
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 lb fusilli I used mafalda, mini lasagne

14 oz can tomato purée
½ cup beef stock
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 clove garlic, crushed

1. In a large bowl, combine the mince, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, onion, parsley, egg, garlic, lemon rind and juice and salt and pepper, to taste. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and roll in the seasoned flour.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs until golden. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Remove the excess fat and meat juices from the pan.
3. To make the sauce, in the same pan, combine the tomato purée, stock, wine, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil.
4. Reduce the heat and return the meatballs to the pan. Allow to simmer 10-15 minutes.
5. While the meatballs and sauce are cooking, add the fusilli to a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water and cook until al dente. Drain and serve with meatballs and sauce over top.

There was no fusilli to be found in my grocery store so I settled on mafalda, mini lasagne. And I did something I rarely do, I overcooked my pasta. Shame, shame.

I'm not sure how I felt about these meatballs. They weren't my favorite. I wasn't crazy about the lemon. But I loved, LOVED, this sauce and I loved the tang. Was that from the lemon in the meatballs? If it is, I think I would just use the juice next time, not the zest of the lemon.

The Essential Pasta Cookbook is one of my two favorite cookbooks as far as photography goes. The other is The Essential Appetizers Cookbook. They're both the same basic design - large, gorgeous glossy paperbacks. Pure food porn. The few recipes I've tried from them haven't been half-bad either.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Stinky but yummy

Seared Salmon with Balsamic Glaze
The Gourmet Cookbook Copyright 2004

¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup water
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
4 (6 oz) center cut pieces salmon fillet with skin
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

Stir together vinegar, water, lemon juice and brown sugar in a small bowl.

Pat salmon dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a 2-onch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Increase heat to high, add salmon skin side up, and sear until well browned, about 4 minutes. Turn fish over and sear until just cooked through 3-4 minutes more.

Transfer salmon to plates and carefully add vinegar mixture to skillet (liquid will bubble vigorously and steam). Simmer, stirring, until thickened and reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 2 minutes. Spoon glaze over salmon.

Since my husband was having leftover Peasant Goulash tonight (see previous post) I had to scrounge something up for myself. I keep salmon portions on hand so I pulled one out of the freezer this morning. I quartered the recipe. This was wonderful. If I didn't hate the way my house smells after cooking salmon, I would make this more often. I think the glaze might be good with chicken too.

I paid more for The Gourmet Cookbook than any other book in my collection, $25. For that reason, if no other, I plan on trying plenty of recipes from this book. Most of the recipes are probably a bit too sophisticated for us but there look to be plenty of winners buried in there.

Cooking for Oscar Madison

I spend a good deal of time planning meals, choosing recipes to try, grocery shopping and actually cooking of course. All that effort is lost on my husband who immediately covers his food in condiments - bbq sauce, hot sauce, steak sauce, etc. If he doesn't recognize what I'm serving, he doesn't ask 'what is this?', he asks 'what can I put on this?' It doesn't matter if what I make has a sauce of it's own, it still gets covered up. I can hardly take this personally as he does this without even tasting the food.

Last night when he came home from work, there were egg noodles on the stove and the peasant goulash was in the refrigerator (I had cooked in overnight in the crockpot). I heard him open the refrigerator door and he called to me in the other room 'do I just put this on top?' and I answered 'yes'. When I came back into the kitchen, he had put together a plate of egg noodles, topped with the pasta with cauliflower and cheddar cheese that I made for my lunch this week. Pasta on top of pasta bubbling away in the microwave. I told him he was supposed to take the goulash but apparently it required to much thinking and/or effort to fix his mistake and he ate the pasta and cauliflower on top of the egg noodles for dinner (covered in condiments, I'm sure.)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Do peasants eat this well?

Peasant Goulash
Complete Slow Cooker Cookbook Copyright 2003

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound beef bottom round roast, cut into ½-inch cubes I used about 26 ounces
4 onions, cut into thin wedges
3 ounces button mushroom caps I used 8 oz of sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup fat-free beef broth
1 can stewed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon cocoa
2 tablespoons paprika
½ teaspoon marjoram
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon browning and seasoning sauce
8 ounces wide noodles

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, onions, and mushrooms, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until beef is lightly browned and the onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the beef mixture to the crockery pot. Pour the broth into the same skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring and scraping constantly, for 2 minutes, to deglaze the skillet. Pour into the beef mixture. Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, cocoa, paprika, marjoram, and pepper. Cover and cook on LOW or HIGH until the beef is very tender, 6 to 8 hours on LOW or 4 to 6 hours on HIGH. Stir in the browning sauce.

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain well and divide among 6 plates. Top with the beef mixture.

Makes 6 servings.

Right up until I ate this, I didn't think it was going to be as good as it was. This reminded me of something, probably the beef noodle soup my mom used to make which I think also had tomatoes in it. I really enjoyed it. A bit of sour cream would probably make this even better.

This was from the Complete Slow Cooker Cookbook. The world of cooking is so vast, what cookbook could rightfully be called 'complete'? Not this one. There aren't any basic recipes in it - these are more interesting recipes, most of them a bit more upscale than your average slow cooker recipe. But that also means more prep work and fancier ingredients. Still, one of the better crockpot cookbooks I've come across.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Finally, I used that damn cauliflower

Pasta with Cauliflower and Cheddar
Prevention’s Ultimate Quick and Healthy Cookbook Copyright 1998

8 ounces whole-wheat linguine I used rotini and macaroni because that's what I had on hand
3 cups small cauliflower florets
1 ½ cups 1% low-fat milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
¼ teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup thinly sliced scallion greens

1. Bring a large covered pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the pasta; return to a boil and cook for 9 to 11 minutes, or according to package directions. Four minutes before the pasta is done, stir in the cauliflower and cook until the cauliflower is tender and the pasta is al dente. Reserving ½ cup of the cooking liquid, drain the pasta and cauliflower in a colander.
2. While the pasta is cooking, in a heavy medium saucepan, whisk together the milk, cornstarch, mustard, pepper, thyme, hot pepper sauce and salt until smooth. Place the pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, or until the sauce is quite thick; remove the pan from the heat.
3. Transfer the pasta and cauliflower to a warmed serving bowl; add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and toss to mix well.
4. Add the cheddar and parmesan to the sauce and whisk until smooth. Pour the sauce over the pasta and cauliflower and toss to mix. Sprinkle with scallions.

I made this to take for lunch this week. I had cauliflower that I've been meaning to cook for quite some time but there aren't many exciting cauliflower recipes out there. I finally used it for something and there is still probably at least half of it left.

I would have prefered the taste of regular pasta (or perhaps a pasta with some color would be nice against the cauliflower- veggie or spinach pasta) but whole wheat pasta is healthier and sometimes you have to make sacrifices. I always hope that in a dish like this, the more decadent ingredients (in this case, the cheese) will overpower the healthy ingredients (in this case, the whole wheat pasta) but that doesn't always happen. Besides the whole wheat pasta, which just something that will never be as good as regular pasta to my tastebuds, this turned out to be a nice dish. This recipe begs to be played with - just think of the other pastas and veggies you could substitute here. The possibilities are endless.

I took this picture next to the picture of this recipe from the cookbook. I didn't use fettucine, nor were my cauliflower florets that small. My end product looked very different. This cookbook obviously included a photograph of every recipe because otherwise who in there right mind would choose to photograph cauliflower and whole wheat pasta in a white cheese sauce?

This cookbook, Prevention's Ultimate Quick & Healthy Cookbook, is nice, visually, since it has a photo of every recipe. But it seems that every recipes calls for two or more ingredients that I don't keep on hand. These are light recipes, meaning emphasis was on healthiness first, taste is further down the line. There is only so much trouble I'll go through for light and healthy.

Sugar-Topped Goodness

Sugar-Top Coffee Cake
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook Copyright 1959,1972

1 egg
¾ c. sugar
1 tblsp. melted butter or regular margarine
1 c. dairy sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ c. sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
Brown Sugar Topping

Beat egg until frothy; beat in sugar and butter. Cream until light and fluffy. Add sour cream and vanilla; blend well.

Sift dry ingredients together; add to the sour cream mixture. Blend well. Pour into a greased 8” square pan. Sprinkle with Brown Sugar Topping.

Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees F) 25 to 30 minutes, or until cake tests done. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings.

Brown Sugar Topping: Mix ½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed, 2 tblsp. flour, ½ tsp. ground cinnamon and 2 tblsp. softened butter until crumbly.

This was just what I wanted from the cake part of this coffeecake. I prefer a crumb topping that isn't as crunchy as this but that was forgiven, the cake was so good.

I have no idea where I acquired this cookbook, Farm Journal's Country Cookbook. The jacket is missing so it often gets overlooked but I think I'll be trying other recipes from this book. It may become one of my favorites.

Friday, September 23, 2005

One for now, one for later

Big Blast Oatmeal Cookies
Small-Batch Baking Copyright 2004

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons old-fashioned rolled oats
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cinnamon I omitted this
1 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon egg substitute or well-beaten egg
3 tablespoons raisins I substituted dark chocolate Dove Promises, chopped

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Place the flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium-size mixing bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Add the butter and vanilla, and blend with the fork until moist crumbs form. Add the beaten egg and blend it in with the fork, or with your fingers, until a stiff dough forms. Use your hands to mix in the raisins.
3. Divide the dough in half and place the halves 4 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet (the cookies will spread during baking). Bake the cookies until they are lightly browned, about 20 minutes.
4. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and transfer the parchment to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then peel the cookies off the parchment, place them on the rack, and let them cool completely.

Makes 2 large cookies.

I love oatmeal cookies but I prefer to omit the cinnamon and add chocolate chips or pieces instead of raisins. These were good but I think they could have used a bit of brown sugar to make them even better.

This was another recipe from Small-Batch Baking. It made two large cookies, perfect for sharing or even better, eat one and save one for later.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wimpies, Barbecue, Sloppy Joes, etc.

Derry Street United Methodist Church 100th Anniversary Cookbook Copyright 1987

1 lb. hamburger
chopped onion to taste

1 tsp. mustard
½ c. ketchup
1 Tbsp. vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Brown hamburger and onion in frying pan. Combine all sauce ingredients and pour over fried hamburger. Simmer for 10 minutes.

Growing up we called these sandwiches wimpies. In the area I live now, they're known as barbecue. There are probably several other regional names but I think, universally, everyone knows what a sloppy joe is.

I usually make these freestyle but it's been hit or miss. I pulled out a local fundraiser cookbook to whip these up for dinner. The local fundraiser cookbooks are great for finding regional recipes (and regional interrpretations of recipes). These sandwiches are bit sweeter and less tomato-y than I grew up with but that's the way I like them now. They're best on soft white rolls but I used soft whole wheat kaiser rolls since I rarely buy white bread products anymore.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Taking a chance

Honey-Mustard Chicken Wings
Favorite Brand Name 100 Best Appetizer Recipes Copyright 2004

3 pounds chicken wings I used thighs and drumsticks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ cup honey
½ cup barbecue sauce
2 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
3 to 4 thin lemon slices

Slow Cooker Directions

1. Rinse chicken and pat dry. Cut off wing tips; discard. Cut each wing at joint to make two pieces. Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides of chicken. Place wing pieces on broiler rack. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat about 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking. Place broiled chicken wings in slow cooker.
2. Combine honey, barbecue sauce, mustard and garlic in small bowl; mix well. Pour sauce over chicken wings. Top with lemon slices. Cover; cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours.
3. Remove and discard lemon slices. Serve wings with sauce.

This recipe was for wings but I thought it might work for thighs and drumsticks. Well, maybe it would have worked if I hadn't overcooked the chicken. The chicken was dry and stringy but the sauce was very tasty, although I think the lemon flavor was a bit too strong. I would only toss in a few slices next time. I would try this again but with wings and maybe add a little heat with some garlic chili sauce.

I almost didn't make this recipe because I realized it was from yet another Favorite Brand Name Cookbook. This time Favorite Brand Name 100 Best Appetizers. What can I say, these are nice books with simple but good recipes in them. And also lovely photographs which are always nice to have when you're looking through a cookbook. The publisher usually hides the 'Favorite Brand Name' part of the title way up high, where you can barely see it. I didn't buy all of these 'favorite brand name' cookbooks on purpose. Honest.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Thank you, Barbara

Barbara’s Pork Chop Dinner
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 bone-on pork loin chops I had 4 boneless loin chops
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted cans have been downsized to 10.5 ounces
1 can (4 ounces) mushrooms, drained and chopped
¼ cup dijon mustard
¼ cup chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried basil leaves
¼ teaspoon black pepper
6 red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into thin slices
1 onion, slices
chopped fresh parsley

Heat butter and oil in large skillet. Brown pork chops on both sides. Set aside.

Combine soup, mushrooms, mustard, chicken broth, garlic, salt, basil and pepper in slow cooker. Add potatoes and onion, stirring to coat. Place pork chops on top of potato mixture. Cover and cook on low, 8-10 hours or on high 4-5 hours. Sprinkle with parsley.

Makes 6 servings.

Another 'favorite brand name' recipe but there was nothing close to a brand name mentioned in this recipe. Maybe a relative of Barbara worked for the publisher.

I'm always game to try something new with my Costco pork loin. I haven't had much success slow cooking it but this turned out well. The pork wasn't stringy at all. I know some people would rather stick a hot poker in their eye than cook with a 'cream of' anything soup but as you may have noticed, I don't claim to be a gourmet. I like the creaminess and flavor the soup provided. The sauce was delicious. As if my word wasn't good enough, I did a quick Google of "Barbara's Pork Chop Dinner" and there were 333 hits! This is a popular recipe. Barbara must be very proud.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Chicken enchi-way-too-much-as

Chicken Enchiladas
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

2 cups chopped cooked chicken I used more, probably 3-4 cups
2 cups shredded Wisconsin cheddar cheese, divided
2 cups shredded Wisconsin Montery Jack cheese, divided
1 cup Wisconsin dairy sour cream
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
10 (6-inch) flour tortillas my tortillas were bigger, maybe 8 inches. I used 7-8 of them.
1 ½ cups enchilada sauce
½ cups sliced black olives
½ cup minced green onions

Combine chicken, 1 cup cheddar cheese, 1 cup Montery Jack cheese, sour cream and seasonings; mix well. Spread ¼ cup chicken mixture on each tortilla, roll up tightly. Pour ½ cup sauce on bottom of 12x8-inch baking dish, seam side down; top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese and 1 cup Montery Jack cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F, 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with olives and green onions.

Makes 5 servings.

One word describes this recipe - excessive! Four cups of cheese?! One cup of sour cream?! And only 2 cups of chicken?! These enchiladas were good of course but hard to enjoy knowing your arteries were hardening with every bite. I liked the bones of the recipes - the creamy, cheesy chicken filling worked nicely with the spicy enchilada sauce but I wouldn't duplicate this exact recipe in the future. I would halve the cheese, add more chicken (which I did this time), maybe cut back on the sour cream and use corn tortillas. I prefer corn tortillas for my enchiladas and I wish I hadn't been trying to follow this recipe faithfully and used them instead of the flour tortillas here.

This was another brand name cookbook but again, lots of scratch recipes are included. I guess the brand here was Wisconsin dairy products but I didn't check if my cheese and sour cream came from Wisconsin. I sort of hope not as I'm sure we have plenty of cows in this state.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Something a little different

Golden Pineapple Rice
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Copyright 2001

1 ½ cups brown rice
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 ½ teaspoons grated fresh ginger root I used jarred grated ginger
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 ½ cups water
1 cup fresh or unsweetened drained canned pineapple chunks
¼ cups minced fresh cilantro or scallions I used scallions
½ cup chopped toasted cashews, optional I did add the cashews

In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, combine the rice, oil, garlic, ginger, turmeric and salt. Sauté for a minute or two, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Add the water and bring to a boil.

When the water boils. reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir in the pineapple, cilantro or scallions, and the cashews, if using.

Serves 6 to 8.

I thought I should try something a bit more exotic. This recipe is for my lunch this week. I only added the ½ teaspoon of salt and it could have used a bit more but otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing.

This is the only Moosewood cookbook I own. Before this, I believe the only recipes I’ve tried from this cookbook were for cookies and muffins, all very good. I think the reason I haven't tried more of these recipes is that although they're mostly uncomplicated, they usually call for ingredients that I don't keep on hand.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Because I had cherries and I had butterscotch chips

Cherry Butterscotch Bars
The Great American Cookie Cookbook Copyright 2001

2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup butter, softened
2 eggs
¼ cup butterscotch chips, melted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chopped drained maraschino cherries
½ cup butterscotch chips
Maraschino cherries, butterscotch chips and powdered sugar for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 13x9 inch baking pan.
2. Combine 2 cups flour, brown sugar, butter, eggs, melted butterscotch chips, baking powder, vanilla and salt in large bowl. Beat at low speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl often, until well mixed, about 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Mix chopped cherries and remaining 1 tablespoon flour in small bowl. Stir cherries and ½ cup butterscotch chips into butter mixture. Spread batter into prepared pan.
4. Bake 24 to 25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely. Sprinkle with additional cherries, chips and powdered sugar if desired. (I sprinkled extra cherries and chips on top before baking.) Cut into bars.

Makes about 3 dozen.

Once again I chose this recipe based on ingredients I had on hand. I didn't realize how odd it was until I started making it. No creaming of the butter and sugar? No separately mixing the dry ingredients? It went against everything I thought I knew but I followed the instructions and it all worked out in the end (although I had my doubts in the middle). I'm not always a fan of butterscotch chips but they worked in this recipe. I've noticed I'm a sucker for most any recipe with maraschino cherries.

These are bar cookies. I think I would have actually preferred drop cookies made from this recipe. My oven is not exact and bar cookies are one of the worst things to cook evenly. And I usually have a devil of a time cutting neat bars.

The Great American Cookie Cookbook has many of the same recipes as in the Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook that I baked from last week. That's something you have to watch out for - you can easily buy basically the same cookbook published with only a slight variation of you're not careful. These two books are different enough but I think I might have a couple of small paperback versions of these that are completely redundant.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Broccoli Basics

Broccoli Salad
Helping Our Kids Grow (local church cookbook) Copyright 2000

4 c. broccoli, uncooked, chopped
½ cup. onion, chopped
8 slices bacon, cooked
1 c. mayonnaise
½ c. sugar
2 T. vinegar
½ c. raisins
½ c. cheddar cheese, shredded

Combine broccoli, onion, and bacon. Mix dressing, add to broccoli. Add raisins and cheddar cheese. Refrigerate.

Now this is a nice, concise recipe. I bet most people don’t even need a recipe for broccoli salad but this is the first time I ever made it. It's one of my favorites and super simple. I had some broccoli that was looking for work and I was making bacon for something else so on a whim, I threw this together. I wonder how this salad was invented. Pork fat, mayonnaise, sugar, cheese – what else could you possibly add to broccoli to cancel out it’s health benefits?

This is from one of your typical local fundraiser cookbooks - there were four variations of this broccoli salad. That's one of the things I like about these cookbooks, comparing the variations. For the broccoli salad, there were two recipes with raisins, two without. One with sunflower seeds. One with Miracle Whip, three with mayonnaise. Two with red onion, two with unspecified onion. I'm sure each woman thinks her recipe is the best. I'm sure they're all good.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Portion control

Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies
Small-Batch Baking Copyright 2004

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
pinch of baking soda
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 teaspoons well-beaten egg or egg-substitute
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup extra-chunky peanut butter I used smooth peanut butter so I guess these were 'Smooth Peanut Butter Cookies'

1. Place the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and whisk to blend.
2. Place the granulated sugar, brown sugar, butter, beaten egg and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl and beat with a hand-held mixer at low speed until blended, about 1 minute. Beat in peanut butter until blended, about 20 seconds. Ad the flour mixture and beat on low speed until the dough is blended, about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a piece of plastic wrap and press out to form a thick disk. Wrap it well in the plastic wrap and refrigerate until it is pliable, about 30 minutes.
3. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Set aside an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Shape the dough, by tablespoonfuls, into mounds on the baking sheet, spacing the mounds about 1 inch apart. Using a fork, flatten each one to form a 1/3 inch-thick round, making grooves in the surface with the tines of the fork. Press the fork lightly in the opposite direction to make a crisscross pattern in the tops of the cookies. Bake the cookies until they are golden, about 13 minutes.
5. Remove the baking sheet from the over and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the wire rack, and let them cool completely.

Makes 8 cookies.

They must have been paying this author by the word. I always try to copy recipe instructions verbatim but I was extremely tempted to edit this recipe. I certainly didn't follow the instructions as written. I did not drag out the hand-mixer for this. I used a spoon and some elbow grease.

I didn't expect anything unusual from this combination of ingredients - they're just peanut butter cookies afterall but the perfect-sized batch of fresh, warm peanut butter cookies. Very tender and peanut buttery. As good or better than any other peanut butter cookie I've ever eaten.

This cookbook, Small Batch Baking, was actually not picked up off the bargain table. I read about it and then ordered it from Amazon. I've had it for quite some time but this is the first time I actually tried any of the recipes. I'm sure I'll be trying many more. I love the concept - small portions of all sorts of sweets. I love to bake but I usually stop myself from making a full recipe because I know I'll end up overeating. This book has all the basic recipes (yellow cake, chocolate cake, brownies, etc) plus some creative ones ('Candied Cranberry Chocolate Tart', 'Blood Orange Tart With Raspberry Orange Sauce'). The quality is not lost when the recipes are downsized. Sure, anyone could probably do the math and cut down any recipe but why not have someone else do it for you?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The 'other white meat' - you know, the tough, chewy one



Pork Adobo
Weight Watchers Simply Delicious Flexpoint Cookbook Copyright 2002

1 pound boneless center cut pork loin, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
1 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce I had to use low-sodium teriyaki sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Combine the pork, water, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaf, and salt in a medium saucepan. Let stand 30 minutes.

2. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the meat is very tender, about 1 hour. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

Makes 4 servings. 5 points per serving.

At Costco I can get pork loin for $1.99/lb but I have a devil of a time coming up with things to do with it. It has little flavor and is easily overcooked. It was not a good choice for this Pork Adobo recipe, although it is what the recipe called for. I should have known better.

Cooked as directed (with the exception of finding out I was out of soy sauce mid-recipe and having to substitute low-sodium teriyaki sauce), what resulted was basically boiled meat with meat scum floating on top. I just could not accept this so I filtered out the scum, thickened the liquid with a cornstarch slurry and mixed the pork and sauce with brown rice. The sauce didn't help flavor the rice much and it looked as bland as it tasted. Maybe white rice would have been better but all I had was brown rice, and this was a Weight Watchers recipe after all.

My plan was to have this ready for my husband to heat up the next night because I was going to be late. Thank God my plans changed and I was able to doctor up the pork and rice into a more enjoyable pork fried rice. I picked up some soy sauce and green onions on the way home and also added some eggs and a bit of sugar. It turned out to be very good.

This recipe was from the same book at the Cabbage Soup with Kielbasa. It's going back to the library but maybe someday I'll borrow it again. This recipe (in it's original form) was an abysmal failure but I still have hope for some of the others.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Soup maybe only a Polish girl could enjoy

Cabbage Soup with Kielbasa
Weight Watchers Simply Delicious Flexpoint Cookbook Copyright 2002

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 ounces low-fat kielbasa, thinly sliced I actually used about 8 ounces
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups water I used 3 cups of chicken broth and 5 cups of water, just because I had the broth on hand
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 small head cabbage, shredded (8 cups)
1 large carrot, coarsely shredded I used pre-shredded cabbage and carrots (cole slaw mix)
1 (8-ounce) all-purpose potato, peeled and coarsely shredded I didn't read this closely enough and cubed instead of shredded
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan, then add the onion. Sauté until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the kielbasa and garlic; sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the water, bay leaf, salt, thyme, marjoram and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered about 15 minutes.

Stir in the cabbage, potato, carrot and vinegar. Return to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer; partially covered, until all of the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

Makes 6 generous 1 cup servings (2 points per serving for those on WW)

I thought this would make a nice filling lunch soup. As you can see, I jarred it up to transport it to work (BTW, never try to carry homemade soup to work in anything less secure than a screw-top jar - Ask me how I know.). I think I got much more than the 6 generous 1 cup servings the recipe said I would get (do the math - how can you end up with only 6 cups???). My only complaint is that all the kielbasa flavor is in the broth now. The kielbasa itself ended up rather flavorless. But I think it will get me through the afternoon nicely. Would I make it again? Perhaps some variation of this recipe, maybe with a different smoked sausage or maybe even ham.

This cookbook was borrowed from the library. This may be the first time I borrowed a cookbook and actually made something from it before I returned it. If I ever saw this cookbook on a discount table, I'd buy a copy. This is probably not the only recipe I'll try from this book. The recipes are uncomplicated yet very tempting and good for you too. Can't beat that.

Vintage Meat Balls

Meat Balls Strogonoff
Great Ground-Beef Recipes Copyright 1965, 1966, 1971

1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves Yuck! I don't own cloves
dash of pepper
1 tablespoon salad oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 envelope instant beef broth or 1 beef-flavor bouillon cube
1 cup water
1 cup (8-ounce carton) dairy sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped parsley I thought I would use dried parsley but I couldn't find any
I also added mushrooms

1. Mix ground beef lightly with onion, salt, nutmeg, cloves and pepper; shape into 36 balls. (These are seriously small meatballs)
2. Brown, half at a time, in salad oil in a large frying pan; remove and set aside. Pour off drippings, then measure one tablespoon and return to pan.
3. Blend in flour and mustard; stir in instant beef broth or bouillon cube and water, crushing cube, if using, with a spoon. Cook, stirring constantly until sauce thickens and boils 1 minute.
4. Return meat balls; cover; simmer 5 minutes or until cooked through.
5. Mix sour cream and parsley; blend in about ½ cup of the hot sauce, then stir back into remaining in pan. Heat slowly until just hot.
6. Serve with hot cooked rice, noodles, or mashed potatoes, if you wish.

Makes 4 servings.

I know this is a basic recipe but I've been trying to work with ingredients that I have on hand. It's times like this that I realize why I don't usually use a recipe. I think if I had thrown this dish together on my own it would have been better. The meatballs certainly would have been. The sauce was very good but the meat balls weren't. I think some breadcrumbs would have helped make the meat balls more tender.

The cover of this cookbook boasts 1,900,000 million copies in print. Ground beef must have been really popular in the late 60s. There are a lot of interesting ideas in here, certainly more interesting than the one I chose.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

So that they did not die in vain

Ever since my son started eating bananas, my freezer has become a graveyard for overripe and half-eaten bananas (not half-chewed, BTW). NOTE: Do not believe 20-month old when he insists that he wants a banana and promises to eat it all. Also, DO NOT store bananas on top of the microwave!

So in order to reclaim that space in my freezer, I chose a couple of banana recipes to start things off.

Upside Down Banana Pecan Muffins
Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook Copyright 1997

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup chopped pecans I only had 1/2 cup
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In small bowl, combine brown sugar and butter. Stir in pecans. Place 1 tablespoon nut mixture into 14 greased muffin cups; set aside. In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In small bowl, beat together eggs, oil, bananas and vanilla. Stir oil mixture into flour mixture just untill all ingredients are moistened. Fill prepared muffin cups with batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until muffins test done with wooden pick. To serve, invert muffins onto plate.

Makes 14 muffins. I only made 12 although I could have make 14 but who makes 14 muffins???

Black Magic Banana Cupcakes
Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook Copyright 1997

2 extra-ripe, medium bananas, peeled
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk I had no buttermilk on hand so I did the vinegar and milk trick
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa I was down to my last 4 tablespoons so that's all I used
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place bananas in blender (1 cup)
Mix bananas, egg, buttermilk, oil and vanilla
Combine sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt; add banana mixture. Stir until just moistened.
Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Lightly coat with vegetable spray. Fill two thirds full with batter.
Bade in 350 degree oven 25 minutes.

Makes 12 cupcakes I made 6 jumbo cupcakes and I filled a custard cup with the excess batter.

So how were they? Both were good. I'm not sure I understand the point of the upside down muffins. They might have looked better if I had used my straight sided jumbo muffin pan but they look sort of silly made in regular muffin cups. They taste just like you would expect. They were enjoyable but not probably something I would make again, mainly due to their appearance.

The Black Magic Banana cupcakes were very moist. This cookbook doesn't include nutritional info but these only have 1/4 cup of oil so I think they're probably healthier than many other cupcake recipes. They would be wonderful with a cream cheese or sour cream frosting. I left them unfrosted and they really are tasty all on their own. I would definitely make these again.

I've made many recipes out of this cookbook, The Favortite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook. Even though it's a brand name cookbook, most of the recipes are from scratch, although there are many that start from cake mix and such. I left out the brand names in these recipes but they were just Dole bananas and Wesson oil. I didn't use either and the recipes turned out fine. Imagine that!.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Just one more, then I promise I'll quit

Okay, I lie. I can't stop. One of my New Year's resolutions was not to buy any new cookbooks. I stuck to my resolution for a few months and then I fell off the wagon. I don't even know how many cookbooks I've purchased so far this year. Today I bought four of them. I found some in the cupboard the other day that I barely remember purchasing.

I've tried to feed my habit with library books but it's just not the same. It's like trying on clothes and then not buying them. No satisfaction. Except cookbook never make your ass look fat. Well. Perhaps that's not exactly true.

I'm still in control. We aren't going hungry while I spend all our money on cookbooks. Luckily bargain books usually satisfy my urges. However I have noticed I'm beginning to get a taste for the finer cookbooks. How long will it be before I pay full-price for a cookbook?

What bothers me most about my habit is that I rarely use a recipe. So to justify my habit I'm going to start trying some new recipes and sharing the results here. If I can just spread some cookbook joy to just one other person, it will be worth it!