Monday, July 31, 2006

Another good chicken marinade

Marinated Barbecue Chicken
The Ugly Binder, Taste of Home’s Light & Tasty Magazine 2004

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
½ cup lemon-lime soda
½ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon salt
8 bone-in skinless chicken breast halves (7 ounces each) I used tenders
2 tablespoons commercial barbecue sauce

In a bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. Pour 1 ½ cups marinade into a large resealable plastic bag; add the chicken. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate overnight. Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade.

Coat grill with nonstick cooking spray before starting the grill. Drain and discard marinade from chicken. Add barbecue sauce to reserved marinade. Grill chicken, covered, over indirect medium heat for 35-50 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees, turning and basting occasionally with marinade. (Obviously boneless chicken requires much less cooking.) Before serving, brush with reserved marinade.

Yield: 8 servings. Per serving: 205 calories, 3 g fat, 79 mg chol, 590 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 30 g protein

This recipe was high in sugar but there was no oil, so it was a tradeoff. Most of the marinade is discarded so the sugar content isn't really that high in the end product. I only made half of this recipe since I used a small amount of boneless chicken. I could have cut it down even more if my math skills were better.

I was drawn to the recipe since the submitter claimed that it never fails that someone asks her for this recipe whenever she serves it. I had to see if it was that good. The chicken was tender and I liked the touch of sweetness. It was definitely something that I would make again, in some form. The powdered garlic taste was a bit strong. I think I'd like to try it with fresh garlic and a bit of ginger would be great too. Does it need all that the sugar on top of the soda? Those are some elements I might tinker around with.

I just didn't have the time to make the bone-in chicken and I worry that skinless, bone-in chicken would end up dry by the time the chicken is cooked through to the bone. Bone-in chicken can be tricky. Chicken BBQs are big around here, as fundraisers. They usually cook half-chickens. When the chicken turns out well, it's a heavenly thing. But more often than not, I'm praying that someone around me knows the Heimlich maneuver because overcooked chicken is a dangerous thing.

Continuing the grocery discussion, I do try to plan my meals around sales. I buy just about all my meat at Costco or on sale in the grocery stores, even marked down if I'm lucky enough to come across a great deal. I used to use coupons more but now I'm pickier about what I buy so maybe that's what adding up, but I figure it's an investment in our future health. I buy mostly Dreamfields or whole wheat pasta (although I do buy those when they're on sale). I'm buying more organic products but I haven't reached the point where I'll spend $5-$6 dollars for organic butter or $6/lb for organic chicken breasts (although fresh organic meats only started appearing locally this week so I may start working that into our diet). I try to make the healthiest choice when selecting a product, at least when I can stomach paying the (usually) increased price for the healtiest choice.

I went to two other grocery stores this weekend. I spent about $165 total in all three stores since Thursday. That does include an 80-pack of diapers, wipes, some medication, toothpaste, and cat food but all that only adds up to about $40. I didn't buy any cleaning products this week. $10 on soda for hubby which should last almost 2 weeks. $15 for organic milk for my son. So that leaves about $100 for food which included 2 London Broils ($1.77/pound - I regret not buying more), 1 ham slice, 3 packages of lunchmeat (that will last longer than a week) and a large box of chicken fingers so maybe it isn't as bad as I thought it was.

Question of the Day: Do you buy the least expensive product, the healthiest product, the tastiest looking product? Do you buy certain brands out of habit when you shop?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A quick, healthy, somewhat ho-hum stir-fry

Pork and Pineapple Stir-Fry
Pillsbury Good For You Copyright 2006

1 ½ cup uncooked instant rice I made regular brown rice
2 cups water
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper, if desired
3 tablespoons soy sauce I used low-sodium
1 can (20 oz.) pineapple chunks or 16 fresh pineapple chunks, drained, 2 tablespoons liquid reserved
¾ lb. boneless lean pork, cut into thin bite-size strips
1 bag (16 oz.) coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)

1. Cook rice in 1 ½ cups of the water as directed on package. (I just cooked brown rice my normal way, the night before.)
2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the cornstarch, ginger, red pepper, if desired, the remaining ½ cup water, the soy sauce and reserved 2 tablespoons pineapple liquid; set aside.
3. Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add drained pineapple chunks; sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Cook 5 minutes, turning chunks occasionally.
4. Remove pineapple from skillet; set aside. In same skillet, cook and stir pork over medium-high heat 2 minutes.
5. Add coleslaw mix; cook and stir 3 to 6 minutes or until pork is no longer pink in the center and cabbage is tender.
6. Stir pineapple and cornstarch mixture into pork mixture; cook and stir 3 minutes or until pork is glazed and sauce is slightly thickened. (I added more soy sauce and cornstarch - for flavor and thickening. ) Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

This was one of those recipes that was perfectly enjoyable yet I probably won't bother making it again. It was good yet nothing special. The sauce was mild but tasty, the dish was healthy overall (well, low-fat but it did have all that brown sugar), and it was quick to prepare. It was a nice weekday meal but nothing to add to the do-over list, considering all the similar recipes that are out there, waiting for me.

So far, this cookbook has one winner (Easy Italian Spiced Pork) and now two nothing-specials (this and the Mustard-Glazed Pork Chops).

Last night was grocery night. I've really got to figure out a way to cut down my grocery bill. I try, I really do. I make a list, try not to overbuy and I try to take advantage of sales. I don't use as many coupons these days since I'm just not finding coupons for the items I'm buying. It's not my blog recipes that are killing my budget, it's everything else. But it's all basic stuff - why does it add up to so much? Have prices really gone up that much? I know I'm feeding one more person (but one less cat - RIP sweet Mookie), but my son isn't a big eater.

Question of the Day: Have you noticed a sizeable increase in your grocery bill over the past few years?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Turning into the Cooking Light Junkie

Grilled Sausage, Onion, and Pepper Sandwiches
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2005

Cooking spray
4 cups thinly sliced Oso Sweet or other sweet onion
4 (4-ounce) turkey Italian sausage links, halved lengthwise I used the hot variety
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 (7-ounce) bottle roasted red bell peppers, drained and thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (8-ounce) French bread baguette, halved lengthwise I served this over whole-wheat egg noodles

Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat. (I just used a sauté pan.) Coat pan with cooking spray. Add onion and sausage; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with vinegar; cook 14 minutes or until sausage is done, turning occasionally. Add bell peppers; cook 1 minute. Sprinkle with black pepper. Arrange sausage mixture evenly over bottom half of bread; top with top half. Cut into 5 sandwiches.

Yield: 5 servings (serving size: 1 sandwich) Per serving: CALORIES 388(26% from fat); FAT 11.4g (sat 3.2g,mono 4.5g,poly 3.3g); PROTEIN 23.4g; CHOLESTEROL 76mg; CALCIUM 121mg; SODIUM 900mg; FIBER 6.1g; IRON 3.3mg; CARBOHYDRATE 48.2g

What? That doesn't look like a sandwich to you? I can't get anything by you, can I? The recipe lead-in suggested that this was also good served over egg noodles and that appealed to me more than making this into a sandwich so that's what I did.

I didn't think that this recipe was going to work. Turkey sausage is very fragile. When I sliced them into two pieces, the casing came off so I almost ended up with crumbles of turkey sausage but by cooking the sausage alone for about a minute on each side first, they set up enough to hold their shape. Then I thought that the onions would not cook properly since they aren't sautéed in oil but cooking them in the balsamic worked out very well. Using the jarred peppers was a nice touch. They add color and they're a lot less expensive than fresh red bell peppers. Great for a quick meal.

I just wish I had a better selection of turkey sausage, locally. This sausage was labeled hot and had the pink color of a hot Italian sausage but it really wasn't much spicier than your typical sweet Italian sausage. It wasn't bad, just not as flavorful. A fair trade-off, I guess, since the turkey sausage is much lighter.

Since I've been trying to keep things light around here, I've been relying heavily on my two Cooking Light Annuals. I went through the 2003 issue and came up with over 50 recipes that I would consider making. That's the best thing to do with a book like that - it's arranged by how the recipes appeared in the magazine, not appetizers, entrées, desserts, etc. If you're just skimming through the book, looking for something to make for dinner, it can be overwhelming. So now I can just skim my list.

I'm definitely going to be getting my hands on the 2004 and 2005 annuals. I'm in love with Cooking Light and I'd go blind trying to work my way through all their recipes on the internet. I may spend too much money on cookbooks but I'm saving my eyesight.

Question of the Day: What is your method for finding recipes on the internet? (Do you print them off right away? Do you bookmark them?)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Very yummy green beans

Garlic-Mustard Green Beans
Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter's Cookbook Copyright 2003

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed or 16-ounce package frozen whole or cut green beans
2 slices bacon
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion (1 small)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1/4 teaspoon lemon-pepper seasoning or 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper I used the pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. In a large covered saucepan, cook green beans in a small amount of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender-crisp. (Cook frozen green beans according to package directions.) Drain beans; rinse with cold water and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, in skillet cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Drain bacon on paper towels, crumble and set aside. Cook onion and garlic in drippings over medium heat 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in mustard, seasoning, and salt. Cook about 30 seconds more. Toss beans with onion mixture; heat through. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Serves 6. Per serving: 65 cal, 4 g fat, 4 mg chol, 212 mg sodium, 7 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 2 g carbs

In an effort to avoid later regret, I'm trying to work more fresh veggies into our menus. I just don't feel as if I'm getting enough out of this summer's produce. Before you know it, it will all be gone and I'll be kicking myself. Well, that won't happen if I keep making recipes like this.

I'm not a huge fan of fresh green beans, due to the prep work. I hate trimming beans. One at a time or trying to line up several beans to trim at once, it doesn't matter - I find it tedious. But even though this recipe took a little bit of effort, it was worth it. The smokiness of the bacon and the spice from the mustard really kicked these green beans up a notch. They were even better left over, after the flavors melded together a bit more. I think that the onion mixture would even be great on it's own over bratwurst.

So hubby went to his asthma doctor yesterday and came home with the news that his blood pressure is high so hubby said that he wants to start eating healthier. Last time he went there his blood pressure was ridiculously high and hubby came home all panicked, actually doing cardio (he worked in a gym at the time but he's a former powerlifter who never touched the cardio equipment) but after visiting his GP and hearing that his blood pressure was fine, everything went back to normal so we'll see how long this current panic lasts. I've already started cooking healthier which is what makes this really funny - he was sitting there eating these green beans, brown rice and (oil-free, skinless) marinated grilled chicken and he's telling me he needs to start eating healthier. Yeah, I'll get right on that.

Question of the Day: What fresh veggies have you eaten in the past 24 hours?

A cake for ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday

Lemon-Blueberry Bundt Cake
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2005

Cooking spray
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) container reduced-fat sour cream
2 cups fresh blueberries

1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Set aside.
3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk.
4. Place 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar. butter and rind in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition (about 4 minutes total). Beat in vanilla and sour cream. Add flour mixture; beat at medium speed until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
5. To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over cooled cake.

Yield: 16 servings. Per serving: 299 cal, 7.8 g fat, 5 g pro, 53.2 g carbs, 1.1 g fiber, 71 mg chol, 1.5 mg iron, 172 mg sodium, 68 mg calcium

I saw a gorgeous blueberry bundt cake on a magazine cover recently. I resisted buying the magazine for that recipe but when I came across this recipe in my new Cooking Light annual, I knew I had to make it. I thought I had everything I needed except the lemons, which I picked up, but here's a good lesson for you - always check your containers! I thought I had an untouched container of light sour cream but when I got to the point in the recipe where I needed to add the sour cream, I only had half of a container. Although I could have added yogurt, I chose to send my husband to the store instead. Disaster averted.

I loved the texture of this cake. It was so smooth and moist. Personally, I could tell this was a lightened up cake, but that isn't a bad thing. It just wasn't as sweet as a 'regular' cake - that's really a very good thing. The blueberries were really sweet and flavorful and honestly they weren't that great before they were baked into the cake. I tried eating them with yogurt for breakfast and they were way too tart. I haven't tasted really good fresh blueberries in years. I know they're out there somewhere but they're not ending up in my produce bin. I still have another container of blueberries I need to find a use for.

Why oh why can't I conquer the art of glazing? My glazes are either too thick or too thin. I thought this runny glaze did a good job of flavoring the cake but just once I would like to have a picture perfect glaze on a cake (where the glaze miraculously stops running well before it hits the plate). My glazing gene must have been left behind with the pie crust gene.

After I made this I realized this would be perfect for Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays. Blueberries are definitely making a name for themselves, nutritionally speaking. They're loaded with antioxidants and studies have shown them to help vision and memory, lower cholesterol, protect the brain after a stroke, protect against colon cancer and too many other great things to mention here (read the link!).

Question of the Day: Have you had any good blueberries lately? What did you do with them?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Another use for zucchini

Savory Zucchini Bread

Mom’s Big Book of Baking Copyright 2001

Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup peeled and grated zucchini (use large holes of a box grater) I didn't peel it
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ cups whole or lowfat milk
1 ½ cups grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese I used the canned blend
1/3 cup pitted and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives
¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves I used some dried

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the inside of a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Squeeze the grated zucchini over the sink to remove any excess moisture. Set it aside.
2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, oil and milk. With a wooden spoon, stir until all the ingredients are moistened. Stir in the zucchini, cheese, olives and parsley.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the loaf until it is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 65 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pan for about 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on the rack to cool completely.

I was planning on making a sweet zucchini bread or cake when this recipe caught my eye while I was perusing the cookbooks in the library. I had the Kalamata olives so I just needed to pick up some cheese and fresh parsley (which I ultimately forgot to buy). I bought the canned grated cheese since I wasn't going to spend a fortune trying to use up about a dollar's worth of zucchini. I'm famous for that - spending a fortune on other ingredients just because I couldn't bear to see a few cents worth of something go bad.

At first I thought this was going to go into the failure file. The lead-in called this a wet batter and unless 'wet' is a baker's term meaning 'so stiff one can hardly work in all the dry ingredients', I think that was misleading. This was a very dry, stiff batter. It worked though. I was pleased with the texture. As for taste, this bread wasn't much on it's own, but toasted with some butter it was pretty good. The author suggested it toasted along side canned tomato soup and I think that would be great. It was a bit too salty to handle in large doses.

I brought this cookbook home from the library solely for this recipe. It's a nice collection of basic recipes, which they promise to be foolproof, of course. It's a bit boring without any photographs, though.

It was only (lol) in the 80s on Saturday so I had the oven on quite a bit. I hate the weather people. They said it was going to rain all day and it didn't. Sounds like a good thing but I was set for a rainy day. I felt guilty spending most of the day inside cooking, but that's what I get for believing the weather people.

Question of the Day: Did you do any cooking this weekend? What did you make?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Another quick and easy recipe to cap off a great week

Pasta With Chicken and Prosciutto
America’s Quick Cuisine Copyright 2004

½ cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth or dry white wine I used wine
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried basil
8 ounces dried spinach spaghetti I used Dreamfields spaghetti
2 teaspoon olive oil
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 ounce prosciutto, cut into thin strips
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into ½-by-2-inch strips

1. In a small bowl, stir together broth, mustard, lemon juice, and basil. Set aside.
2. In a 4- to 5-quart pan, cook spaghetti in about 8 cups boiling water until just tender to bite (8 to 10 minutes); or cook according to package directions.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wide nonstick frying pan or wok over medium heat. When oil is hot, add onions, garlic, and prosciutto; stir-fry until prosciutto is lightly browned (about 3 minutes). Increase heat to medium-high. Add chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink in center, cut to test (3 to 4 minutes). Add broth mixture to pan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
4. Drain pasta well and place in a warm bowl; spoon chicken mixture over pasta.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 399 cal, 37 g pro, 45 g carbs, 6 g fat, 72 mg chol, 670 mg sodium

Another quick and delicious dinner. What a great week I had. I enjoyed every meal and never felt overwhelmed or rushed. I hardly spent any time in front of a hot stove either.

Out of all of this week's new recipes, I was most concerned about this one because I was worried it would be too-mustardy but it was really a nice tangy sauce. The flavors of the wine, mustard and lemon juice melded together really well, although I thought the basil was a bit overwhelming. I love basil but the dried basil taste was a bit strong. Fresh basil would be great in this.

This is from one of my newest cookbooks from Ollie's Bargain Outlet. Only $6.99 for over 800 'easy-to-follow' recipes. Recently while surfing around, I remember reading a cookbook review from someone who said they don't care for books that are just full of recipes, with no 'story' going along with it but I'm a sucker for those types of books when the recipes are good, especially when there are glossy pictures involved.

I hope next week goes as well as this week. The weekend weather forecast is looking pretty lousy so maybe I'll actually cook something over the weekend. Maybe.

Question of the Day: Do you cook more over the weekend or during the week?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rachael Ray couldn't put dinner on the table this quickly

Spicy Orange Beef
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2005

1 (3 /12-ounce) bag boil-in-bag brown rice I used regular brown rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic I used fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound boneless sirloin steak, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
3/4 cup (1-inch) slices green onions

1. Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Combine rice and salt, tossing well.
2. Combine garlic, pepper, and beef, tossing well.
3. Combine rind, juice, cornstarch, and soy sauce, stirring with a whisk.*
4. Heat oil* in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture and onions; sauté 2 minutes. Add juice mixture; cook 2 minutes or until sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Serve beef mixture over rice.

*I added the sesame oil to the sauce. It's not usually used for frying, just flavoring, I thought. So I added a small amount of canola oil to the pan.

Serves 4. Per serving: 274 cal, 6.8 g fat, 26.5 g fat, 24.9 g carbs,
2.1 g fiber,69 mg chol, 3.7 mg iron, 627 mg sodium, 25 mg calcium


This was a little bit confusing (ingredients should be listed in the order they're used!) but still super-simple and personally I loved it. It had just the slightest burn, perfect for me - enough to notice but not enough to distract me from the rest of the flavors. This took no time at all. The night before I sliced the beef and added the minced garlic and crushed pepper to it. I also cooked the rice the night before. After work I just had to slice the onions and mix up the sauce. Grating the orange took the most time and that didn't really take long at all. The dish was completely cooked in under 5 minutes. I nuked the rice and made a simple salad of (English) cucumber sprinkled with rice vinegar and sugar to accompany the dish, as the lead-in to the recipe suggested.

I was always a fan of orange beef but Chinese food is a little risky to order out anymore, due to my son's food allergies. This was much lighter and healthier and did I mention how simple and fast this was? With no prep work and 90-second rice you could have this on the table in 20 minutes.

BTW, we didn't have rice two nights in a row. I made Sweet Jalapeño Mustard Turkey Thighs and an odd-and-ends pasta salad in between. I'm still not sure about that turkey recipe. It may just be the slow-cooked turkey that's so good, regardless of the 'glaze'. Next time, I'm going to try using barbecue sauce and see how that goes.

Last night was the night to plan next week's recipes and I wasn't feeling very inspired but I think I've got the entire week planned. That extra hour I stayed up late to watch Project Runway really helped. This week has been going so well because I planned it out thoroughly ahead of time. My husband is enjoying having the weekly menu posted too. Usually he has no idea what he's eating but now he just checks the menu.

Question of the Day: What is your quickest, cooked meal that you make?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Five things meme

Mixed Salad Annie tagged me for a meme. Here it is:

Five things in my freezer
- burger patties (44 of them)
- hot dogs (approximately 70 of them)
We have a big cookout coming up!
- mini-pancakes with cinnamon chips (a product I need to wean my son off of)
- yeast in a canning jar, from the huge bag I bought at Costco. Even if I don't use most of it, it was still a good deal. Much cheaper than the supermarket and 'yeastier' too.
- an extremely well wrapped dead squirrel (my husband is an aspiring taxidermist and his freezer is on the fritz)

Five things in my closet
- my wedding dress - dark blue, only $34 and I wore it a couple of more times
- a leather vest I never wore but it was so cheap when our J.C. Penney's went out of business I couldn't resist
- giant stack of my husband's t-shirts, most of them gifted to him, most of them quite tasteless. I sometimes throw one on to work around the house without thinking and find myself talking to one of the neighbors while I'm wearing a shirt with a picture of a woman with huge exaggerated hooters and some crude saying on it.
- a pair of black sandals that I'll probably never wear again but I can't seem to part with
- lots of camouflage on my husband's side

Five things in my car
- a tricycle
- a toddler-sized bicycle helmet
- a pair of (pre-pregnancy) dress shoes from the last wedding I went to (I drove home in sneakers)
- sunglasses
- a John Berry cassette

Five things in my purse
- 2 epi-pens for my son
- cell phone
- credit card
- AAA card
- Slim Mints (um, yeah, they don't work very well)

Five people I'd like to tag
- no one. This is where memes come to die.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Simple, inexpensive and delicious

Greek Beef & Rice
Favorite Brand Name 100 Best Hamburger Recipes Copyright 2003

1 bag Success Rice I used regular brown rice - 2 cups cooked
1 pound lean ground beef
2 medium zucchini, sliced
½ cup chopped onion
1 medium clove garlic, minced
1 can (14 ½ ounces) tomato sauce I used canned crushed tomatoes
¾ teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Prepare rice according to package directions.

Brown beef in large skillet, stirring occasionally to separate beef. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings. Add zucchini, onion and garlic to skillet; cook and stir until crisp-tender. Add all remaining ingredients except rice; cover. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add rice; heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Garnish, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

I chose this recipe simply because I was looking for a ground beef recipe and when I saw this one, I remembered there were a few zucchini languishing in my produce bin. I also had crushed tomatoes in the freezer, left from a 28-ounce can when I made the Rigatoni (Penne) with Chorizo and Tomato last week. So this was a recipe of convenience but the bonus was - I loved it! We all did. It really reminded me of the way I cooked back in my single days, when I was on a budget. I would have used white rice back then but rice is cheap, ground meat is cheap (any ground meat would be good here), canned tomatoes are cheap, onions are cheap, zucchinis are cheap right now but you don't really need them. You can leave them out or add other veggies of your choice.

I love the combination of tomatoes and rice. I don't know why I don't put the combination together more often. I used to work with a woman who was never happier than when they served rice and spaghetti sauce in the cafeteria on the same day. She called it rice and 'gravy' and it was something she grew up on.

Another co-worker from that job put ketchup on steamed broccoli. I actually like that combination but now I usually dip my steamed broccoli in Tiger Sauce.

I cooked the brown rice the night before but you can use any rice, even the ready-to-use rice, which can be a Godsend when you want to put a meal on the table, superquick (but it costs quite a bit more than regular brown rice). I added 2 cups of cooked rice since I wasn't sure how much rice was in a bag of Success Rice. Two cups seemed just right.

My son loved it too. He loves rice so I've been making it a lot more than I used to. I had really gotten out of the habit since regular rice (white or brown) takes too long to cook after work but I just solved that problem by cooking my rice the night before, while I'm doing chores or watching my shows. If you boil it, you might lose some nutrients but the rice isn't sticky and keeps well in the refrigerator until I'm ready to use it the next night.

Question of the Day: Do you ever cook anything the night before you're going to serve it?

Maquechoux for ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday

America The Beautiful Cookbook Copyright 1990

6 ears of corn
2 bacon strips
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup light cream or half & half I used fat-free half & half
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cut kernels from 2 ears of corn into a bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut the kernels from the remaining ears to only half their depth. Then, with the back of the knife (I used a corn scraper), scrape up and down each cob to remove all the pulp and ‘milk’. Add to the bowl. The mixture will resemble scrambled eggs.

Sauté the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the bacon drippings and cook for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and sugar. Cook for 3 more minutes. Stir in the corn and cream. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with the bacon. I crumbled the bacon right in.

Serves 6.

Phew! I just had a bit of a scare. Mixed Salad Annie e-mailed me that my blog was blank and indeed it was. I re-published and there it was. And then my heart started beating again. It was there yesterday and I didn't add any posts since then. I did save a couple of drafts last night - you wouldn't think that would affect anything but apparently it did. There's no understanding Blogger.

Well, I finally got my act together and I have another contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday. It's a good one too. Corn is rich in a couple of the B-vitamins (B1 and B5), folate (1 cup provides 19% of the daily value), vitamin C, phosphorous and manganese. It also has lots of fiber. One cup has over 18% of the daily value for fiber. Along with the onions, green bell peppers and tomatoes, I think we can all pretend we didn't see those two strips of bacon in there.

Maquechoux or maque choux (pronounced 'mock shoe') is a dish from Louisiana, a recipe from the Native Americans introduced to the Cajuns. I've also seen it referred to as 'smothered corn'. There are many variations of this recipe but corn, bell peppers, onions and tomato seem to be standard. Cream isn't always added and sometimes butter or oil replaces the bacon but personally I thought the bacon was really important to this recipe. Other variations add celery, green onion and I may even have seen some add jalapeño peppers. You can also add cayenne and make this as spicy as you want it.

This was a nice way to use some of the fresh corn that is just coming out here. I wasn't happy with my corn. It was local and I was excited to see it was white corn, which is usually much sweeter than the yellow, but it wasn't as sweet and flavorful as I had hoped. Luckily, this recipe made up for the sub-par corn - it would have made for some really disappointing corn on the cob.

This got a bit grainy, probably from using the fat-free half&half, but that didn't affect the taste.

One of the best things is that I got to use the corn scraper an online friend sent me a while back. It looks like a potato peeler but she assured me that it wasn't. It was great for getting all of that corn milk out of the corn.

I love this cookbook. It's gorgeous, it has a great variety of recipes, it has wonderful writing and information about food in America and the few recipes I've tried have been great (I can't wait for cooler weather to make Old-Time Beef Stew again). BUT, they really fudged the pictures to make them look prettier. There was a corn salad picture that showed not a trace of the creamy dressing that was part of the recipe. The picture of the maquechoux was beautiful, but again, it didn't look anything like the finished product really looks. I really hate when they do that.

Question of the Day: What's your most unusual kitchen gadget?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Even the Cookbook Junkie doesn't always understand the Cookbook Junkie

Molasses Cookies
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2005

1 cup packed brown sugar
½ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup molasses
1 large egg
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
¼ cup granulated sugar
cooking spray

1. Combine brown sugar and shortening in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended. Cover and freeze 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
3. Place water in a small bowl. Place granulated sugar in another small bowl. Lightly coat hands with cooking spray. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip one side of each ball in water; dip wet side in sugar. Place balls, sugar side up, 1 inch apart, on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

I scooped the dough (with my larger scoop) without freezing it since I didn't have the freezer space to freeze it. Then I sprinkled the dough with sugar without using any water. My sugar was very uneven.

Yield: 4 dozen. Per cookie: 66 cal, 2 g fat, .7 g protein, 11.8 g carbs, .2 g carbs, 4 mg sodium, .5 mg chol, 67 mg sodium, 12 mg calcium

Sometimes you probably wonder 'why on earth did she pick that recipe?' I admit, sometimes I wonder myself. Why on earth was I making spicy molasses cookies in the middle of summer? I honestly don't know. As soon as I mixed the dry ingredients, I came to my senses but it was too late to turn back.

Maybe I was trying to recreate my first molasses cookie experience - a huge, soft, bakery cookie that was probably not that spicy, now that I think about it. It has never been lived up to, not even now. These were wonderful, chewy, flavorful molasses cookies but nothing like that first molasses cookie. I'll have to keep trying to recreate those.

What's nice about this recipe is that one cookie is satisfying and I don't feel the need to keep shoveling them in. Make Big Chocolate Chip Cookies if you want to wow a crowd, but save this recipe for your cookie jar or even to add variety to a cookie tray.

We're having a heat wave starting today, so I hope I can stick to my menu this week. Nothing is planned for the oven, except Fridays pizza, which I really hate to skip since we eat the leftovers from that all weekend.

Question of the Day: Did you think these were chocolate cookies before you read the post?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And you thought rice pilaf was boring

Quick-Braised Carrots with Butter
How To Cook Everything: Quick Cooking Copyright 2003

1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices I used petite baby carrots
2 tablespoons butter or 1 tablespoon canola or other neutral oil I used butter
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon sugar or 1 tablespoon maple syrup I used sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
minced fresh parsley, mint, chervil, or cilantro leaves for garnish I omitted this

1. Place the carrots, butter or oil, water, sugar, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan over high heat; bring to a boil and cover. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Uncover and raise the heat a bit. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid had evaporated and the carrots are cooking in butter or oil. Lower the heat and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, a couple of minutes longer.
3. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, then garnish and serve.

Makes 4 servings.

I warned you it was going to a lame week, didn't I? Next week should be better. I'm still trying to clean out my freezer and I came up with some (hopefully) good recipes for next week but right now all you get is carrots. But hey, they were good carrots. This is a good technique. In the past I've boied or steamed carrots then added brown sugar and butter but cooking them this way seems lighter (definitely much less sugar) and the flavor was cooked right in. I had this with the Easy Italian Spiced Pork and Rice Pilaf the other night. Last night we had Ham and Egg Enchiladas again - one of the recipes I've made most often since starting this blog. I used whole wheat tortillas.

I'm still overwhelmed. The biggest issue I have right now is that I can't make everything I'd like to make because I don't have the time to make it all and we just can't eat it all. It's okay to bring in brownies or cupcakes to work but I'm not sure if they're up to anything fancier.

My pantry is overflowing. It wasn't that long ago that all-purpose flour was the only flour I ever used. Now I have all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour, bread flour and cake flour. At one point I had self-rising flour too. I also have cornmeal, two types of oatmeal, oat bran, unprocessed wheat bran and wheat germ. I really need to work with what I have for the next couple of weeks.

Question of the Day: How many different types of flour do you use?

Too gooey

Rice Pilaf
How To Cook Everything: Quick Cooking Copyright 2003

2 tablespoons butter or oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups chicken, beef, vegetable stock, or store-boughr broth, preferable warmed I used beef
Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Place the butter or oil in a large, deep skillet which can be covered and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts or the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook,stirring, until the onion softens but does not begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add the rice all at once, turn the heat to medium, and stir until the rice is glossy-and comp;etely
coatedd with oil or butter, 2 to 3 minutes. Season well, then turn the heat down to low and add
the boiling stock, all at once. Cover the pan.

Cook for 15 minutes, then check the rice. When the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, it's done. If not, cook for 2 to 3 minutes and check again.

Makes 4 servings.

This recipe did not turn out very well but I believe it was all user error. My son likes to push the button on the mini-chopper and I started out with practically pureed onion. I think this prevented the butter from coating the rice properly. Then I decided it needed more liquid and ended up stirring this way too much because I had a 2 1/2 year old at my feet, screaming for his rice. This came out mushy and I wasn't crazy about the flavors (predominately onion and black pepper).

I know that Mark Bittman is much reverred by some for his cookbook, How To Cook Everything, but I must admit that I pass up that book each and every time I go to the library. I'm not sure why. It has no pictures yet that doesn't usually stop me from checking out a library book. For whatever reason, the book has never come home with me.

It seems that they have broken down the original How To Cook Everything into smaller books. When I saw this book in Ollie's for just $3.99, I bought it. I was very much in the quick cooking mood while I was picking out books that day. I think Ollie's had other books from this collection but this is the only one I picked up.

This is a nice collection of quick recipes, recipes that don't rely heavily on convenience products. The recipes aren't outlandish - I've probably seen each and everyone of them somewhere else, but they aren't all ordinary and boring either. This recipe wasn't too exciting but it seemed like it would be a step up from boiled rice (althought I'm not sure it turned out that way). It accompanied Easy Spiced Italian Pork, a recipe I couldn't wait to make again. I had to make it on the GF grill but it was still really good.

Question of the Day: What are some of the ways you prepare rice?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

It's just cole slaw

Cabbage Slaw
Holiday Gift of Recipes, 2005

½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbs. vinegar
1 carrot, shredded
3 Tbs. sugar
½ head cabbage, shredded
salt to taste

Mix together mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar. Add to shredded cabbage and carrots. Add salt to taste.

I was in the mood for some good old-fashioned cole slaw. I tried a recipe last week that was awful - it ended up in the trash. The recipe was from a vintage cookbook and it seemed basic enough - evap milk, sugar, vinegar. It was an unexpected failure but I had half a head of cabbage left to try again. I considered a few fancier slaw recipes but I really just wanted a simple cole slaw, one with real Hellman's mayo this time. Here it is - simple, delicious, mildly-creamy cole slaw. Even using a hand grater I was able to put this together in just minutes and it's so much better than the cole slaw from the supermarket deli. I served it with sloppy joes and fries but I love it on pork barbecue sandwiches and also on turkey, roast beef or ham sandwiches too. I've even been known to scoop up cole slaw with Pringles. Actually, I do that when no one is looking so no one knows I do that. Well now you know, but I'm sure you won't tell anyone.

I made the sloppy joes using a jarred sauce from Del Grosso's and it was really good. They make spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, sloppy joe sauce and they have their own amusement park, of course. Makes perfect sense, right? I can't believe Ragu never thought of that.

This 'cookbook' was actually a pamphlet with about 50 pages that a local Christian bookstore gifted to the public by including it as an insert in the local weekly newspaper around the holidays last year. What's special about this booklet is that it includes one of my husband's 'not-really-a-secret' family recipes. Every year at Christmastime, my mother-in-law makes 'dip'. That's all they call it, just 'dip'. Although, honestly, it's more of a spread but who am I to argue with family tradition? We get a container of it to take home on Christmas Eve and then sometimes, not every year, we get more about a week later. Then dip season is over. My mother-in-law is not so secretive as her mother so she would probably give me the recipe but as long as she keeps making it, I don't really need it. But I like knowing I have it 'just in case'. It seems the rest of the world calls this stuff Lulu paste. Without knowing that, I was never able to Google the recipe, but this little freebie cookbook unlocked the mystery. Now, if I could only find out why it's called 'Lulu paste'.

Question of the Day: Do you know anyone who is stingy about sharing recipes?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Something new

Rigatoni (Penne) with Chorizo and Tomato
The Essential Pasta Cookbook Copyright 1998

1 onion, sliced
8 ounces chorizo sausage, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
14 ounces crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2-1 tsp chopped chili (optional) I omitted this
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste I didn't add additional salt - the chorizo was salty enough
12 ounces rigatoni I used Dreamfields penne
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, for serving
2 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese, for serving

Peel onion and slice. Cut chorizo sausage into slices. Heat oil in a frying pan. Add onion and stir over low heat until tender.

Add sausage to pan; cook turning frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Add undrained, crushed tomatoes, wine, chili, salt and pepper. Stir. Bring to boil and reduce heat. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.

While sauce is cooking, add rigatoni to a large pan of rapidly boiling water; cook until just tender. Drain well and return to pan. Add sauce to hot pasta with half of combined parsley and parmesan cheese. Toss to combine well. Serve sprinkled with remaining parsley and parmesan cheese.

Makes 4 servings.

Just a day or two ago, Mixed Salad Annie asked her readers how they felt about changing recipes. I mentioned that I have trouble substituting pasta types. It's irrational for the most part. I don't necessarily think sitting down to a plate of elbow macaroni and meatballs is equivalent to eating spaghetti and meatballs but for the most part there is always a comparable shape that can be substituted. I think what really bothers me is using a different pasta shape when the shape name is part of the title because I draw the line when it comes to changing recipe titles. These are not my own recipes, after all.

But changing pasta shapes happens. In a perfect world, Dreamfield would make every pasta shape but they don't so I substituted penne here. They have recently expanded their line to include rotini and lasagne, so perhaps some day they'll make rigatoni but for now penne seemed like the closest substitute.

I first started hearing about chorizo many years ago yet only a few weeks ago did it make an appearance locally. Well, a few months ago, I saw fresh (uncured) chorizo only one time in a local store and then it was gone as it quickly as it arrived. I was more interested in the cured variety anyway and now I finally got my hands on some.

The problem here is that I've never had chorizo before now. I wasn't crazy about this chorizo but how am I to know if it tasted like chorizo is supposed to taste? I've been around pepperoni, salami and other cured meats of course and I know that different makers use different spices and amounts of spices. It wasn't bad at all, but something lingered on my palate that I couldn't quite make out. Is their coriander in chorizo? That's a spice that I can only handle in very small doses. Maybe it was the paprika since I think they used the smoked variety that I'm not used to. Like I said, this wasn't bad, just new for me. You can subsitute pepperoni in this recipe.

This recipe is from my beautiful pasta cookbook that's sadly starting to fall apart.

Another cookbook arrived! Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 was waiting for me on my doorstep yesterday. I spent the whole night looking through it. It's packed with great recipes and this book has more pictures than the other annual I own, 2003. Ollie's had some of the older annuals, 1996 was one of them. There were hardly any recipes in the older ones and the recipes that were there didn't seem too exciting. I'm only familiar with Cooking Light since 2003 but I've heard rumblings that the magazine 'used to be so much better' but to me it seems to have improved quite a bit.

Question of the Day: What's the last 'new' food that you've tried?

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Still trudging along

Banana-Bran Muffins
The Essential Eating Well Cookbook Copyright 2004

2 large eggs
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup mashed ripe banana (2 medium)
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
¼ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon I omitted this
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips (optional) I used these
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional) I didn't use these

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in bananas, buttermilk, wheat bran, oil and vanilla.
3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, if using. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they’ll be quite full). Sprinkle with walnuts, if using.
4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly, 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Makes 1 dozen muffins. Per serving: 196 calories, 6 g fat, 36 mg chol, 32 g carbs, 5 g protein, 4 g fiber, 182 mg sodium.

I really wanted to make another batch of Big Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I knew I should make something healthier. These definitely aren't as decadently good as the chocolate chip cookies but for a healthy muffin, they're not bad. Bran can be drying so I'm not sure if these will stay moist until we're done eating them but so far, so good.

I realized this weekend that I've not been feeling uninspired, the fact is that I'm overwhelmed. In a perfect world I could sit down and choose whatever recipes appeal to me but I have too many constraints right now. Time is always the big one. I don't have the time for any complicated recipes right now and by complicated, I mean anything that requires more than a few minutes of prep work. Money and resources complicate things too of course - the pantry, fridge and freezer are packed right now and I feel I should be making use of what I have on hand before too much of it ends of in the trash (I waste so much!). Health is another constraint - I can't make too many rich dishes or treats. Heat - I can't make anything that takes a lot of baking time due to the heat outside (and inside) this time of the year. Hormones - they reek havoc on my energy level and my appetite. ADD - there is no method to my madness. I really need to get more organized. I did pick up a package of Spongebob Squarepants weekly calendars to help plan my menus.

Also, I've made a lot of good recipes in the past ten months and I could easily fill up my menu with repeats but then what would I blog about? There's nothing I hate worse that not seeing new posts on a blog.

As if I wasn't overwhelmed enough, I bought five new cookbooks this weekend. I hit Ollie's Bargain Outlet for the first time in a while and there was definitely a big turn around in cookbooks since my last few visits. You just can't beat the prices. I also bought a book for my son (with magnets) and an Elmo toy cell phone for him and my total was only $31. I probably would have done a lot more damage except I made the mistake of bringing my son along. It's hard to imagine, but a 2 1/2 year old doesn't want to sit patiently in the cart while I pick out cookbooks.

So this week will probably be more of a muddle-through-it kind of week but next week will be better. My new cookbooks have a lot of great recipes.

Question of the Week: Where is your favorite place to buy new cookbooks?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I know, all these salads look the same

Italian Dressing
Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book Copyright 1969

1 cup salad oil
¼ cup vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
dash bottled hot pepper sauce

Combine all ingredients in screw-top jar. Cover and shake well. Chill thoroughly. Shake again just before serving.

Makes 1 ¼ cups.

When all else fails, make salad dressing. I had planned on making a new sweet and sour chicken recipe but I really wasn't in the mood for it and ended up making Buttery Herbed Chicken again. I didn't want to be post-less today so I shook up this easy dressing which I really enjoyed. The freshly minced garlic really made a difference. The dressing doesn't have much color but it is very flavorful.

It's so simple to mix up salad dressing, I'm amazed that there are so many salad dressings on the market. Not that I don't enjoy commercial dressings, because I do, but there are almost always loaded with stuff you can't identify. Despite the many preservatives, I still end up tossing more bottled salad dressing than we eat because we don't eat salad that often.

I felt like I had a good streak of recipes going before this week but I'm struggling again. Hopefully I'll find some inspiration soon.

No Question of the Day today. That's how uninspired I am.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Chocolate chip cookies, take three

Big Chocolate Chip Cookies
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Copyright 2001

¾ cup butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour I used all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons water
2 cups chocolate chips I used chunks
1 cup chopped walnuts or raisins, optional I didn't use these.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together the white flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, mixing well. Add the vanilla and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and, if you wish, the nuts and/or raisins.

For 3-inch cookies, drop the batter by scant ¼ cups onto the baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between the cookies. I made these smaller. I used my larger cookie scoop, which I believe is 2 tablespoons. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms are light brown and the tops golden. Check after 8 minutes to avoid overbaking.

Remove cookies to a rack to cool. I cool them on foil for a softer cookie.

Recently I've made Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies and then I made the crisp and crunchy Bev's Chocolate Chip Cookies. This latest recipe is soft and delicious. These cookies literally melt in your mouth. I've made these with regular whole wheat flour and they're much better with the whole wheat pastry flour. I use Bob's Red Mill brand.

This is one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes, probably my all-time favorite. Sure, other recipes seem great when they're all you have in front of you but if you lined them all up together, these would win every time.

Sorry for all the sweets this week. I'm having trouble getting back into a groove after a busy weekend and the holiday. I haven't picked out a one recipe for next week yet. I need a real vacation.

Question of the Day: What are your vacation plans this year?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Yes, another cake

Banana Cake VI
The Ugly Binder, from

¾ cup butter
2 1/8 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 ½ cups mashed bananas I used organic bananas

½ cup butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar (1 box)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan. In a small bowl, mix mashed bananas with lemon juice, set aside. In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream ¾ cup butter and 2 1/8 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternatively with the buttermilk. Stir in banana mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted into center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place directly into freezer for 45 minutes. This will make the cake very moist. I didn't do this and the cake was still very moist.
4. For the frosting: In a large bowl, cream ½ cup butter and cream cheese until smooth. Beat in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add confectioners’ sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high until frosting is smooth. Spread on cooled cake.

I debated trying a new banana cake recipe from one of my cookbooks or pulling this tried-and-true recipe out of my 'ugly binder', and the tried-and-true recipe won out. It got rave reviews at the 4th (well, 3rd) of July picnic I brought it to and I didn't come home with a crumb of it (much to hubby's chagrin) so I think I made the right decision.

This is a dense, moist cake. The picture is of a 'sample' cake made in a custard cup. The frosting was much thicker on the actual cake. The cake was uneven, and I suspect maybe the low baking temperature caused that, but I also think that helped keep the entire cake very moist (there were no crunchy edges). You might want to read through the reviews to see what others say about the temp, which I'm sure I did when I originally made this cake but there are almost 250 reviews for this cake - too many for me to go through again. My cake cooked perfectly in exactly 1 hour at 275 degrees (well, perfectly except for the lumpy surface which the frosting covered).

I'd been craving banana cake for a while and I'm glad I got that out of my system.

Question of the Day: What have you been craving?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I wonder if they all circle around and sing too

Chocolate Sheet Cake
The New Best Recipe Copyright 2004

¾ cup cocoa, preferable dutch-processed I used natural
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a 13x9-inch baking pan.
2. Sift together the cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Heat the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl covered with plastic wrap for 2 minutes at 50 percent power; stir until smooth. (If not fully melted, heat 1 minute longer at 50 percent power.) Whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Whisk in the buttermilk until smooth.
3. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Whisk in the dry ingredients until the batter is smooth and glossy. Pour the batter into the prepared pan; bake until firm in the center when slightly pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack until room temperature, at least 1 hour; ice with frosting, if desired, and serve.

Serves 10 to 12.

I baked this lovely birthday cake for Don. If you knew Don like I knew Don, well, you wouldn't know Don at all. I have no idea who he is. In fact, I think his name is Dan. There's some sort of ritual at my husband's workplace where the guys bring in cakes for each other, definitely on their birthdays and perhaps for other reasons that I haven't quite pinned down. The wives bake the cakes, not the men, as far as I know. It's sort of funny because these are guys working in a warehouse loading trucks all day. I don't mind since I like to bake birthday cakes and I really only get to make one for my son.

Usually I bake a sample cake in a custard dish when I'm trying a new recipe and sending it off somewhere. I did it with this recipe but, well, I was weak and I ate it without photographing it or even frosting it. (I used the Easy Buttercream, BTW.) I thought this was a great chocolate cake - quite chocolately with great texture. I'll definitely pull out this recipe next time I need a chocolate cake on the fly.

Question of the Day: How many birthday cakes do you generally make in a year?