Thursday, September 28, 2006

Experimenting with a new ingredient

Glazed Lemon Loaf
Cakes: 1,001 Classic Recipes From Around The World Copyright 2003

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup potato starch
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest I only used about 1 tbsp. lemon and orange zest
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Lemon Glaze

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9x5-inch loaf pan. My pan was more like 10x4. Line with waxed paper. Butter the paper. Sift the flour, potato starch, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until just blended after each addition. With mixer at low speed, gradually beat in the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a rack. Carefully remove the paper. Drizzle the glaze over the cake while it’s still warm.

Lemon Glaze
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4-5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice I used lemon and orange juice
1 ½ teaspoons finely grated lemon zest I used about 1 tsp orange and lemon zest

Place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl. Beat in 4 tablespoons lemon juice and zest until smooth, adding the additional tablespoon of lemon juice as needed to make a good spreading consistency.

I was drawn to this recipe because of the potato starch. I was anxious to see what the result would be using this ingredient, since I had never used it or even seen it in a recipe before now. I'm not usually a huge fan of lemon cake but curiosity got the best of me. I actually used lemon and orange. I think any citrus would be fine. BTW, how many lemons would one have to zest to get 2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest? I grated one orange and 4 or 5 lemons and I only netted about 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of zest. And that was plenty.

There was definitely a difference in the texture of this loaf, compared to loaves I've made with other flours. I don't know how to describe it. It was a bit more crumbly, almost seeming dry but it melted in my mouth. Next time I would poke the entire loaf with a long skewer before pouring the glaze on. The parts where glaze met cake were the best parts.

I got my groceries last night and I think I got everything I needed for next week. I saved a lot of money last week by not making multiple grocery store visits. Well, I did end up going back only once, to get diapers, and amazingly I walked out of there with only the diapers, a newspaper and some Pez for my son. Actually I went back twice - the other time I walked out of there with just the rolls I needed. Truly amazing. Oh wait, I had to go back a third time because I dropped my cell phone in the parking lot and I didn't buy anything that time. Wow! Who knew I could restrain myself? It's not easy, that's for sure.

I almost forgot, this is my last chance to remind you about this month's cookbook giveway. Saturday is the deadline.

A Blast From The Past: Brown Sugar Meat Loaf from October 2005. I made little meat muffins using this recipe the other night.

Question of the Day: What's the last new (to you) ingredient that you worked with?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Simple and delicious

Chicken Piccata
Everyday Italian Copyright 2005

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, halved crosswise I flattened them a bit too
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
all-purpose flour, for dredging
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
¼ cup drained capers, rinsed I omitted these
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Sprinkle the chicken with the salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour to coat lightly. In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter with the 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the broth , lemon juice, and capers to the same pan. Bring the broth mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for extra flavor. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken, garnish with parsley, and serve. I strained my sauce before I poured it over the chicken.

4 main-course servings

This wasn't the first recipe for chicken piccata I've tried. I made a version back in March but this version was much simpler to get on the table. I left the capers out of this recipe since the other recipe was fine without them and I was really trying not to add to many extras to my grocery cart last week. I still haven't gotten over breaking that last jar of capers I bought.

This is really a simple dish - basically some broth, some lemon juice, some butter - but, wow! I really like this stuff. I served it over Dreamfields spaghetti. The sauce is so good over pasta.

I test drove both of Giada's cookbooks by checking them out of my local library. I went on to purchase both of them. I have to admit, when I first saw her on Food Network, I wasn't that into her show. You know what they say - never trust a skinny cook. I've grown to love her recipes but, as someone pointed out to me, why are there so many pictures of her in this cookbook? Page after page of Giada and 'her girls' peeking out at me. She is not featured as much in Family Dinners but both cookbooks, while loaded with pictures of Giada and her friends and family and pictures of recipe elements, lack pictures of the finished dishes. Why include all those photographs and only throw in a few handfuls of pictures of the actual recipes?

A Blast From The Past: Easy Spicy Applesauce Muffins from April 2006. A really good muffin that would be great for this time of year (just think of how wonderful your how would smell after making these).

Question of the Day: Who are some of your favorite 'celebrity' chefs?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Delicious beef and stale noodles

Braised Beef with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
The Good Carb Cookbook Copyright 2001

1 pound extra-lean stew beef
½ cup water
1/3 cup dry red wine
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons instant beef bouillon granules
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 cups halved fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Rinse the meat with cool water and pat it dry with paper towels. Set aside. Place the water, wine, brown sugar, rosemary, bouillon granules, and black pepper in a small bowl, stir to mix well, and set aside.
2. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook, stirring frequently, for several minutes or until the meat is nicely browned. Remove the skillet from the heat, add the mushrooms, onions and sun-dried tomatoes, and stir it mix well. Add the wine mixture and stir to mix well.
3. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and bake at 325 degrees for 1 ½ hours or until the meat is very tender. My meat was perfectly tender after 1 1/4 hours.
4. Serve hot over brown rice, noodles or whole-wheat couscous, if desired. Sprinkle some of the parsley over each serving.

Yield: 4 servings Per serving: 213 calories, 12 g carbs, 64 mg chol, 4.2 g fat, 2 g fiber, 28 g protein, 391 mg sodium, 32 mg calcium

The Good Carb Cookbook is a picture-less, rather plain informational cookbook but the recipes look surprisingly good. This first recipe surely was a winner. The only negative was that there was hardly any liquid when this was done cooking. I cooked it the day before and I just added more water when I reheated it and that worked out fine. If you were eating it right away, the lack of liquid would probably not be a real problem.

I had a problem outside of the recipe - my noodles tasted stale. This is the third time I've had a stale pasta product recently. The whole-wheat couscous, some Dreamfields macaroni and now these whole wheat egg noodles. None of the products were expired or even close to it. And because I didn't know the noodles were stale-tasting until after I cooked them, I combined what was left in the bag with another partial bag of the same noodles. Now I'll have to toss them all. I'd take them back but I don't think I kept the bag from the stale noodles. Grrrrrr.

A Blast From The Past: Old-Time Beef Stew from February 2006. Another one of my favorites but much heavier than this recipe.

Question of the Day: Do you return 'bad' grocery products?

Monday, September 25, 2006

I have to start checking the extended forecast

Sauerkraut and Sausage
Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook Copyright 2006

1 (32-ounce) jar sauerkraut
3 large garlic cloves, pressed I just peeled the cloves and added them
1 onion, chopped
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and coarsely chopped
¾ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 (14-ounce) package smoke beef sausage, cut into 2-inch pieces I used turkey kielbasi

Combine first 10 ingredients in a 3-quart slow cooker. Add sausage. Cover and cook on LOW 7 hours.

Makes 4 servings.

Last Wednesday, when I was planning this week's menu, a cold front had just come through. I thought that fall had finally arrived and I selected a few cool weather recipes. Well, summer wasn't quite finished and the temps have creeped back up into the 70s. I should be grilling, but I'm sticking to the menu.

Being of Polish ancestry, this type of dish is no stranger to me. Although, if my mother had put this together it wouldn't have included caraway seeds, apples, apple cider and probably not even garlic or brown sugar. But you know, it would have been good even without all the extras. A good smoked sausage cooked with just good kraut and onions is still pretty flavorful.

I wasn't sure if I should rinse the cabbage or not. The instructions didn't mention it and the package didn't mention it. I know some people do rinse it but I didn't. The kraut was a bit on the tart side but that's what the mashed potatoes are for - to balance out the tartness of the sauerkraut.

This is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays. I just learned an interesting tidbit from the World's Healthiest Foods Site - "the breast cancer risk of Polish women triples after they immigrate to the U.S., rising to match that of U.S.-born women". Polish women who consumed 4 or more servings of cabbage or sauerkraut during adolescence,were 72 percent less likely to develop breast cancer as adults. So feed your young daughters lots of cabbage. You'll protect their health and their innocence (since after eating all that cabbage, boys probably won't want to get to close to them).

That statistic is kind of scary. Although I know that anyone can get breast cancer, I've always felt a bit of relief that there was no family history of it, yet my parents were the first generation raised outside of Poland. They still ate a lot of cabbage while growing up. I probably ate more than the average non-Polish American in my lifetime but not several times a week, not even every week.

Only one more week until the the drawing for the cookbook giveaway!

A Blast From The Past: Here's another good cabbage recipe, one for Cole Slaw from July 2006.

Question of the Day: Is there a history of breast cancer in your family?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Welcome, Fall

Maple Walnut Cupcakes
The Artful Cupcake Copyright 2004

7 ½ oz. flour
5 oz. brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup milk
I also added 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring
1 cup chopped walnuts I omitted these

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and prepare a muffin pan with paper baking cups.
2. Place the first four ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle blade.
3. Cut in the butter, and beat until combined.
4. Add the eggs, maple syrup and milk.
5. Once mixed, add the walnuts.
From here, the recipe in the cookbook became Maple Walnut Streusel Cupcakes so I summarized how I finished them.
6. Fill the muffin cups and bake 15 to 20 minutes.

Maple Frosting
Favorite Brand Name Old-Fashioned Holiday Recipes Copyright 2004

4 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup maple or pancake syrup
I also added approx. 1/2 teaspoon of maple flavoring
3 cups powdered sugar

In small bowl, beat butter and syrup until blended. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth.

Makes about 3 cups.

I bought these little leaf-shaped sprinkles last week and I had it in my head that I wanted to make maple cupcakes. I bought some maple flavoring so I knew I could turn just about any cupcake recipe into maple but I really wanted a recipe that also used maple syrup. Surprisingly I couldn't find anything in my cookbook collection (although I didn't search in every single book of course, just the obvious suspects). I did find this recipe at the library but it was for a streusel topped cupcake. I definitely wanted frosting so I just used the base and left out the walnuts, since we can't have nuts here.

I found several maple frosting recipes in my cookbooks. Several were for cooked versions and I admit I chickened out on trying one of those. I've never made a recipe like that, where everything is basically cooked and then cooled to spreading consistency, and recently I've read a few semi-horror stories of this frosting being difficult to work with (hardening too quickly).

For some reason, they only gave ounces for the flour and sugar yet in just about every other recipe, they're measured in cups. Sorry, I should have measured it out into cups after I weighed it but I didn't think of it. There are probably sites out there that will convert it for you if you don't have a food scale. I find a food scale to be valuble tool, though.

The leaves aren't very tasty, as pretty as they are, but I liked everything else, especially the frosting. These are very maple-y, since I used maple flavoring and maple syrup. The frosting is so flavorful, that it would have worked well over a plain yellow cake too. The frosting recipe actually went with a spice cake. That seems to be a popular match - maple frosting and spice cake. Personally, that doesn't appeal to me.

A Blast From The Past: Maple-Glazed Salmon from March 2006. A very different maple syrup recipe yet also very delicious.

Question of the Day: Do you own a food scale?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Something to go with the Spanish Rice and Ground Beef

Cornmeal Cheddar Muffins
Old-Fashioned Muffin Recipes Copyright 1993

1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 Tbsp. sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese I used Cabot 50% Light Cheddar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk I used Super Skim
¼ cup vegetable oil

In a mixing bowl sift together first five ingredients. Stir in shredded cheddar. In separate bowl combine liquid ingredients. Make a well or large indention in center of dry ingredients. Add liquid mixture and stir until barely moistened. Do not overmix. Fill greased muffins cups 2/3 full. Bake at 425 degrees F 15-20 minutes. Mine seemed to cook up superfast - in under 15 minutes.

I chose this recipe because I had all of the ingredients on hand. These were just okay. I wanted something to go along with the Spanish Rice and Ground Beef. Although this recipe wasn't spectacular, I will make cornbread or corn muffins as a side with something like this again. It's something I just never think of but I think it will be on my radar from now on.

I did my grocery shopping last night and I got everything I should need for next week, except rolls for my husband's sandwiches. I like to get those on Saturday or Sunday so they're possibly fresher. But you know what will happen if I walk in the store for just rolls? I'll come out with at least $30 worth of groceries. I'd better send him for his own rolls because I don't want to spend any more money on food this week. Usually I end up running to the store a couple of more times over the weekend to pick up things I couldn't get at the first store or things I forgot to buy at the first store.

Blast From The Past: Classic Yellow Cake which I may be making again this weekend (but not as pumpkins). I'm not sure yet. It's tough to know when to stop searching for a new yellow cake recipe.

Question of the Day: How often do you visit the grocery store?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Not too proud to cook with Rice-A-Roni

Spanish Rice with Ground Beef
The Busy Mom’s Make It Quick Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef
1 ½ tbsp. onion powder
2 tbsp. nonfat beef broth I used 2 teaspoons of canola oil
1 6.8-oz. pkg. Spanish rice I used Rice-A-Roni
2 cups water
1 16-oz. jar chunky-style salsa

Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add ground beef and onion powder; cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned and crumbled. Remove from skillet and set aside. Respray skillet with cooking spray; add broth and heat over medium-high heat. Add rice mix and cook, stirring frequently, until rice is golden brown. Add water, seasonings from rice package, and salsa. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 15-20 minutes. Stir in ground beef and heat through.

I don't often use boxed mixes but I had a busy week last week. This was quick and quite tasty. I grew up on boxed mixes so I think some of my tastebuds will always be happy too see them show up on the menu, as long as it's only every now and then. My son loved this - always a plus.
This will probably get made again. The reality is that I'm more likely to pull out a simple recipe like this again, rather than some other perfectly delicious yet more time-consuming recipes that I've tried.

Blast(s) From The Past: Deep-Dish Chili Pie (February 2006) and Deep-Dish Taco Pizza (April 2006) are two versions of basically the same recipe that also uses convenience products. I'm making the Deep-Dish Taco Pizza next week.

Question of the Day: Did you eat a lot of boxed mixes while growing up?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sweet beef sandwiches

Marinated Beef Sandwiches
Taste of Home Celebrations Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 ½ cups water
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup soy sauce I used low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 small onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 boneless beef rump roast (about 4 pounds)
12 to 14 sandwich rolls, split

In a gallon-size resealable plastic bag, combine the first seven ingredients; add roast. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally. Transfer roast and marinade to a Dutch oven. Cover and bake at 325 degrees for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until meat is tender. I cooked it in the crockpot. Thinly slice; serve beef and juice on rolls.

Yield: 12-14 servings

This was pretty good and made a nice dinner last night but it won't be the last marinated beef recipe I try. I think it was a bit sweeter than it needed to be, for a sandwich. It would have been better suited over rice.

I used the 'natural' beef for this. I didn't notice a difference in taste. They've been having some good sales on the natural meats - actual sales, not marked down for quick sale. Although quite of bit of it does end up marked down. Even when I was in a larger grocery store in Harrisburg, I noticed a lot of it was marked down. Shoppers need to start paying the premium so that they'll keep supplying it. I paid full price for natural ground beef last week so I'm doing my part.

Tonight I plan next week's menu and I'm really going to try to spend as little as I can on groceries for next week. We'll see how that goes.

Blast From The Past: Hamburger Special from June 2006, another slow-cooked beef sandwich. I've been wanting to make these again.

Question of the Day: When did you last eat a sandwich? What kind of sandwich was it?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Not spicy but still delicious

Spicy Vegetable Quesadillas
Favorite Brand Name Mexican Copyright 2003

1 small zucchini, chopped
½ cup chopped green bell pepper
½ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
8 (6-inch) flour tortillas I used Mission multi-grain tortilla wraps
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese I used a blend of odds-and-ends 50% Light Cheddar, regular cheddar and American
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro I omitted this

1. Spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat over medium heat until hot. Add zucchini, pepper, onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin; cook and stir 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Remove vegetables and set aside; wipe skillet clean.
2. Spoon vegetable mixture evenly over half of each tortilla. Sprinkle each evenly with cheese and cilantro. (I like to stir the shredded cheese right into my quesadilla filling for even cheesiness.) Fold each tortilla in half.
3. Spray same skillet with cooking spray. Add tortillas and heat 1 to 2 minutes per side over medium heat or until lightly browned. I used my GF grill. Cut into thirds before serving. I cut them in half - I'm a rebel.

These quesadillas weren't spicy but I loved them anyway. These could easily be spiced up adding a bit of chopped jalapeños, using a spicier chili powder or substituting pepper jack for the cheddar cheese. I would definitely increase the heat and spice next time because I think that would play off the sweetness of the vegetables very well.

I freestyled chicken quesadillas along side this for my husband and I thought I might resort to eating a chicken one too if these veggie quesadillas weren't satisfying but they were very satisfying.

This is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays. I think everything in this recipe except the regular cheese that I blended with the low-fat cheese is on the list of the World's Healthiest Foods. And I only added the regular cheese to stretch out my cheese since I forgot I used half of the Cabot 50% Light Cheddar on a pizza a few days ago.

Anyone (in the U.S.) who hasn't jumped in can still enter the cookbook giveaway. We still have almost 2 weeks until the drawing.

A Blast From The Past: Ham and Cheese Enchiladas from October 2005. I've made these enchiladas several times since then, taking liberties and still getting great results. I use any color of bell peppers and if I don't have green onions I use sweet onions. I throw in jalapeños if I have them. I use any whatever appropriate cheese I have on hand. It's a brunch dish but I make it for dinner. The leftovers are great for breakfast.

Question of the Day: How spicy do you like your food? (I almost asked 'How spicy do you like it?' but that might open the door for inappropriate comments!)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A pie from Pie

Washington State Granny Smith Apple Pie
Pie Copyright 2004

1 recipe Basic Flaky Pie Pastry, Single Crust, refrigerated I used a Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust

1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 cups peeled, cored, and sliced Granny Smith apples I used Rambos
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Crumb Topping:
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. If you haven’t already, prepare the pastry and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.
2. On a sheet of lightly floured wax paper, roll the pastry into a 13-inch circle with a floured rolling pin. Invert the pastry over a 9 ½-inch deep-dish pie pan, center, and peel off the paper. Tuck the pastry into the pan, without stretching it, and sculpt the edge into an upstanding ridge. Place in the freezer for 15 minutes. I didn't freeze my crust because I was using a glass pie dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside. Combine the apples and lemon juice in a large bowl. Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture evenly over the chilled pie shell. Arrange a single, compact layer of apples, flat side down, in the shell. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture. Arrange a second layer of apples over the first and sprinkle with another tablespoon of the sugar mixture. Continue until all the apples and sugar mixture have been used. Place the pie on the center oven rack and bake for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, make the crumb topping. In a medium-size saucepan, melt the butter over very low heat. As it melts, combine the flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium-size bowl. Pour the melted butter over the flour mixture and mix well with a fork, Using your fingertips, rub the mixture gently until it forms more or less even, damp crumbles. Set aside.
5. Remove the pie from the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees F. Carefully dump the crumb topping in the center of the pie and spread evenly over the surface with your hands. Tamp the crumbs down lightly. Return the pie to the oven, placing it so that the part that faced the back of the oven now faces forward. To catch any spills, slide a large aluminum-foil lined baking sheet onto the rack below. Bake until you see the juices bubbling thickly at the edge, about 35 minutes. If the top starts to get too brown, cover loosely with aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes.
6. Transfer the pie to a wire rack and let cool for at least one hour before serving.

First of all, I don't make my own pie crusts. I just don't have the knack. I will probably tackle it someday, but not the day I have to peel and slice a bunch of apples too.

Last time I went to the auction, pickings were slim. There were lots of apples but they were mostly eating apples. The Rambos were marked as good for baking so I bought those with an apple pie in mind.

Since they looked like Granny Smiths, I gravitated towards this recipe. I knew I wanted a crumb topping. This turned out pretty well. The apples were tart and soft and I prefer my apples in apple pie a bit tart and a bit soft. I'd say though that these were slightly too tart and slightly too soft, but it was still a very good pie. Not as good as my sister makes. I'll have to get her recipe before I tackle another apple pie. Although, I'll probably just leave the apple pie making to her. I think she has one of those apple peeler and slicer thingies. I couldn't even find the apple corer I know I owned at one point.

A Blast From The Past: Sugar-Top Coffee Cake from September 2005. I'd like to take the base of that cake and top it with the crumb topping from this pie. I think that would be a match made in heaven.

Question of the Day: Do you make your own pie crusts?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Not bad, surprisingly

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook Copyright 2003

½ cup chopped onion (1 medium)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ cups reduced-fat milk I used Super Skim
2 teaspoons snipped fresh thyme or ½ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed Oops! I forgot this
1 ½ pounds potatoes (4 to 5 medium)
5 ounces low-fat, reduced-sodium cooked ham, cut into thin strips I used more, about 8 oz.

1. For sauce, in medium saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot butter over medium heat until tender. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Add milk all at once. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Stir in thyme.
2. Scrub and thinly slice potatoes. Arrange two-thirds of the potato slices in a 2-quart casserole; cover with two-thirds of the sauce. Top with ham. Top with remaining potatoes and remaining sauce.
3. Bake, covered, in a 350 degree oven for 55 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more or until the potatoes are tender. Let potatoes stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 side-dish servings. Per serving: 145 calories,
5 g fat, 19 mg chol, 399 mg sodium, 20 g carbs, 2 g fiber,
7 g pro


This turned out a lot better than I started to think it would. I had to bake it the night before and when I took it out to reheat it, it looked sort of gray and unattractive. I wasn't hopeful at all. Surprise! It was fine. Nothing to rave about exactly, but a perfectly tasty and filling weeknight dinner, that didn't use a lot of meat (ham was on sale so this was less than $1.50 worth of meat). Obviously these potatoes weren't as creamy as a more traditional scalloped potato recipe but I felt they were creamy enough. I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Last night was grocery night and I didn't enjoy it. I had to shop at my 'B' store since I needed a prescription next door to that grocery store and it would have been silly to drop off the Rx and then trek all the way to my 'A' store in the next town to do my shopping and then go back to pick up the Rx. So I bit the bullet but I didn't like it. Even though the 'B' store looks nicer and there's not a huge price difference between the two, I prefer the other store and I regretted not trekking over to my preferred store.

Blast From The Past: Cavatappi with Pepperoni, from January 2006. Gosh, I didn't think I made this that long ago. This was another dish that doesn't need a lot of meat and we really enjoyed it.

Question of the Day: Do you have any meat-stretching recipes or hearty vegetarian recipes that even a meat-lover would enjoy?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Crumb-Coated Dijon Chicken
America’s Quick Cuisine Copyright 2004

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs)
1 tablespoon each grated Parmesan cheese and minced parsley
2 whole chicken breasts (about 1 lb each), skinned, boned, and split
Dijon Sauce (recipe follows)

1. In a wide, shallow bowl, blend butter, mustard, and garlic. In another bowl, mix panko, cheese and parsley.
2. Dip chicken in butter mixture to coat, then dip skinned side of each piece in panko mixture. Place chicken in a single layer, crumb sides up, in a shallow rimmed baking dish.
3. Bake, uncovered, in a 500 degree oven until crumbs are golden and meat in thickest part is no longer pink when slashed (about 15 minutes). Meanwhile, prepare Dijon sauce. Serve breasts whole or cut crosswise into thick slices. Accompany with sauce.

Dijon Sauce
Mix ¼ cup mayonnaise with 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving of chicken: 211 calories, 27 g pro, 6 g carbs, 8 g fat, 80 mg chol, 422 mg sodium.

Per tablespoon of sauce: 72 calories, 10 g pro, 99 g carbs, 8 g fat, 5 mg chol, 200 mg sodium


These were some of the best baked chicken breasts I've ever made. I think it was the high-heat or maybe it was the chicken - I don't usually buy Purdue breasts. But for $1.19/lb I couldn't resist. The chicken was so moist and delicious. The coating was not as crispy as I had expected it to be but it was very flavorful and delicious. I had never used panko before but I'll use it again.

I thought I might have trouble with the high heat because the chicken breasts were so big. Forget Dolly Parton, think Ice-T's wife, Coco. I'm used to the smaller individually frozen breasts, and I hardly ever buy those either. I usually buy the tenders. I thought the outside would burn before the chicken could cook through but that wasn't a problem. I did have to cook my chicken longer than 15 minutes but I didn't time it. I think it was more like 30 minutes but I'm sure for smaller breasts it would be closer to 15 minutes.

I'm not sure if I would try this recipe with toasted breadcrumbs. The panko starts out stark white and you can see how brown it got. However, if you had smaller chicken breasts and a shorter cooking time, the toasted breadcrumbs might be okay.

Don't forget about the cookbook giveaway. I'm leaving it open until the end of the month.

Blast From The Past: Confetti Orzo Salad from January 2006. This was very good and healthy but I mainly remember it because it was one of the most photogenic recipes I've ever made. I also remember that the garlic was very strong.

Question of the Day: Have you ever used panko?

Trusting my instincts

Mushroom Pork Scallopini
Taste of Home Celebrations Cookbook Copyright 2005

3 to 4 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), cut into 1-inch slices I also pounded the slices
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup butter
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup white wine or chicken broth I used chicken broth
½ cup water
1 large onion, chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ teaspoon each dried thyme, oregano, and rosemary, crushed
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
hot cooked fettuccine I used whole-wheat egg noodles

Dredge pork slices in flour. In a large skillet, heat butter and oil. Brown pork on both sides in batches; remove and keep warm. Stir wine or broth, water, onion, garlic and seasonings into drippings. Return pork to skillet, layering if necessary. Top with mushrooms. Cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until meat juices run clear. Serve over fettuccine.

I did things a bit differently. After I browned the meat, I removed it from the pan and sautéed the onions, garlic and mushrooms for several minutes. Then I added the broth and seasonings and cooked that for a few minutes, to reduce the broth a bit. Then I added the pork back and heated it through.

Yield 8-10 servings.

After a recent disaster, I decided that I would start listening to my instincts more often. After a year of (usually) following recipes as closely as I could, I've learned a few things or I least I think I have. I selected this recipe based on the ingredient list. My perception was that the pork slices would be pounded thin, since when I see 'scallopini', I think thin. Even though there was a picture, I missed that the pork was supposed to be kept thicker until I went to make this. I decided to pound it anyway.

And I didn't like the instructions to throw the onions, garlic and liquid straight together with no sautéeing and then add the meat and mushrooms. The veggies would end up boiled or steamed and my thin meat would have turned to rubber long before the mushrooms cooked so I couldn't possibly use that method. So I did it my way, the more conventional way. I thought it turned out great.

So, about the disaster. It really pains me to talk about it. I haven't have many true 'throw-it-right-in-the-trash' disasters since starting this blog. What really hurts is that it was my first Barefoot Contessa recipe, from her Family Style cookbook. It was a recipe for Brown Rice, Tomatoes and Basil, a room temperature salad. First of all, I should have boiled the rice since I knew that I don't have the gift to cook rice by the traditional absorption method. Then there was no mention of cooling the rice before adding the dressing and tomatoes (and it doesn't say to seed the tomatoes). I was left with a pink, soupy, mushy mess. If I had only boiled and rinsed my rice, I believe the result would have been entirely different but we'll never know. I'll try another recipe from that book but I'm not giving this one another chance.

Mixed Salad Annie recently tagged me for a meme, 5 Things You've Eaten and Think that Everyone Should Eat at least Once Before They Die. I won't force my culinary opinions on anyone so my take on this is:

Five Things I'd Like To Eat Again (It's too morbid to bring death into this)

1. A good porketta sandwich. Roasted, seasoned pork on a good kaiser roll.
2. Key Lime Pie from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. I think this was actually a square, not a wedge of pie. If anyone takes an RC cruise, please take a picture of this and send it to me. My memory has faded over the years. I just remember loving this but the details of the dessert itself have faded.
3. Pizza from Lorenzo's on South Street in Philly. Most people miss the cheesesteaks when they leave Philly - I miss the pizza.
4. Bassett's banana ice cream. The other Philly-centric food I still long for, almost ten (ten?!) years after I left.
5. A really good crabcake. There's nothing like a great broiled crabcake, loaded with lump crab meat.

Blast From The Past: Meatballs Stroganoff from November of 2005. The sauce was great but I think I'll add some breadcrumbs and liquid to the meatballs to make them a bit more tender next time I make them.

Question Of The Day: Do you cook by-the-book or trust your instincts?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My new favorite cookbook

Whole-Wheat Strawberry Muffins
Cakes: 1,001 Classic Recipes from Around the World Copyright 2003

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar I used light brown sugar
1 cup milk I used Super Skim
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped I would definitely use 1 1/2 - 2 cups next time

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour a 12-cup muffin pan, or line with foil or paper baking cups. Sift both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the brown sugar and make a well in the center. Beat in the milk, eggs, and butter with an electric mixer at low speed. Stir in the strawberries. Spoon the batter into prepared cups, filling each ¾ full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (I think 15-20 minutes is probably more accurate.) Cool the muffins on racks.

Makes 12 muffins.

I'm in love. Not with these muffins, which were excellent, but with this cookbook, this wonderful cookbook. Recipe after recipe after recipe. And about half the recipes have glorious photographs. Chocolate cakes, pound cakes, fruit cakes, sponge cakes, nut cakes, cheesecakes, ice cream cakes. Anything that can remotely be called a cake is in this book. They even threw in some recipes for tarts, icings, fillings and ice creams. From the simplest plain loaf cake to complicated fancy pastries. This was a 2004 IACP award nominee in the Compilations Category. I haven't seen the other nominees but I'm sure this book was robbed. This is the kind of cookbook that you don't need to use - just looking at it and dreaming about all these cakes makes owning it worth it.

These muffins were just a chance to put my toe in the water of this book, since I'm still recovering from Labor Day weekend and I have to resist making anything too extravagant right now. So I had to skip past the fancy cakes for the time being. This wasn't too much of a sacrifice - I really liked these muffins. They were only slightly sweet. The aroma from the strawberries was wonderful. I would say these definitely needed more strawberries. Don't try to pass off too-tart berries in this recipe. You probably could substitute with another berry or fruit but I don't think you could top strawberries. These were best straight out of the oven with some butter but the strawberries kept the muffins moist for a few days.

I replaced my baking powder and I can see a difference. I don't know why I waited so long - baking powder isn't that expensive. I didn't even realize I wasn't using an aluminum-free baking powder. I had the Rumford but I'm not sure what happened to it. Not everyone carries that brand here so maybe that's why I ended up Clabber Girl. I bought Bob's Red Mill brand this time.

This is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays, as strawberries are high in antioxidants and they're one of the world's healthiest foods.

Blast From The Past: Seared Salmon with Balsamic Glaze from September of 2005. I love salmon and I loved this recipe but I hate the way my house smells after I cook salmon. I keep forgetting I could cook this outside. My grill has a side burner.

Question of the Day: What is your favorite cake? (Have I asked this question before?)

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 2006 Cookbook Giveaway

I was thinking of ways to shake things up around here for my second year. I thought it was kind of serendipitous that there was a mix up in one of my cookbook orders and I ended up with two copies of the same book and they told me to keep the extra copy with their compliments. I immediately knew what I was going to do with it - give it to one of you!

I think a cookbook giveaway is very much in keeping with the spirit of this blog. You can find recipes anywhere and everywhere but you know very well that I favor cookbooks. They're sturdy, portable and available for duty 24/7 regardless of power outages or computer viruses. They'll still be sitting on your bookshelf long after your computer crashes and you lose all your favorite food blog links.

Here's how it works - just leave a comment on the giveaway post pledging that you'll use the cookbook for your own pleasure (cooking, reading, staring at it on your bookshelf) and you won't turn around and sell it on E-bay, at a yard sale, etc. No, you don't have to write that out - if you comment, I'll assume your motives are pure. I just need an e-mail address (if your profile links to an e-mail, you don't need to type it out, I'll find it). Entry is open until the last day of the month. First chance I get after that, I'll put all the names in a hat and pick two names. The winner will have a week to give me their address after I contact them. If I don't hear from that person, the book goes to the second name I picked. I'll pay the shipping, of course.

It pains me to say this, but I'll have to limit this first giveaway to readers in the USA since as far as I can tell from the postal service site, it would be too expensive for me to ship this book outside of the USA. Some months I may have smaller, pamphlet type cookbooks to give away that I afford to send anywhere but not this 2+ pound monster.

So what cookbook am I giving away this month? Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen. Many of you probably know the author, Lida Matticchio Bastianich, from her PBS show. She also owns several restaurants. I have not had a chance to cook from this book yet but the reviews on Amazon are quite postive. The recipes are pretty standard Italian-American fare but if you don't have an Italian Nonna in your kitchen, this cookbook might be for you. Even if you already cook these dishes, it's always interesting to see someone else's take on them, especially when that someone is Lidia Bastianich.

This isn't the most visually stimulating cookbook I've come across but there are a couple of sections of color photographs. She also has family pictures dispersed throughout the book and instructional black and white photographs accompanying some of the recipes (if you don't know how to clean squid - here's your chance to learn.)

So, just a leave a comment if you're interested. Again, I can only ship within the US this time.

****Update: Tina was the lucky winner.******

Sunday, September 10, 2006

One tester loved this, one was undecided (well, undecipherable)

Holiday Vegetable Dip
Taste of Home Celebrations Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon grated onion
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chili sauce
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons minced chives I only had dried but they were past their prime so I omitted this
Assorted raw vegetables or potato chips

In a bowl, combine the first six ingredients; cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Sprinkle with chives. Serve with vegetables or chips.

Yield: 1 cup

First of all, thank you for all the lovely blogiversary comments. I started this blog with the attitude that I was doing this for my own pleasure and if people read it, great, if not, oh well. But let's be real, I probably wouldn't have kept blogging without an audience. It's great fun (and great motivation) to know that people are reading.

Today's recipe was meant to be a replacement for the Dill Dip that my son has been eating quite a bit of lately. However, I wasn't able to determine whether he liked this new dip or not. He's only a bit over 2 1/2 years old and not always easy to understand. It sounded like he was saying that he didn't like this dip yet he kept eating it, with a pickle face (he likes pickles). This does have a tang from the cider vinegar. To be safe, I mixed up another batch of the dill dip for my son's lunch and I've been eating this Holiday Vegetable Dip, mostly with fat-free Pringles. I tried it with carrots too. I didn't have the chance to try it with any other vegetables.

I really liked this. Although, I made it with real full-fat mayonnaise so what's not to love? My son is thin as a rail and a light eater which is why I went full-fat, thinking he would eat this. If I had made it for myself, I find I get good results using almost all reduced-fat Hellman's and only a tablespoon or two or real Hellman's.

This cookbook is my favorite out of the three Taste of Home cookbooks I recently bought. It has recipes for all sorts of holidays and celebrations yet most of the recipes can be made just about any time.

I'm adding a couple of new features. First of all, I'm adding 'A Blast From The Past' to each post where I'll just remind you (and myself) of a recipe from sometime in the past - last year, last month, last week (well, probably not last week). I get so caught up with making something new all of the time, that I find myself forgetting about some of the great recipes I've already tried.

And (this is really exciting!), I'm going to start a monthly cookbook giveaway. Details will be posted soon (hopefully later today).

A Blast From The Past: I was blown away by these Lemon-Ricotta Muffins back in October of 2005. I've never made them again! I have no idea why, since I have thought about them quite often. I think maybe part of me is afraid they won't live up to my memory of them. But I'm going to try them again soon.

Question of the Day: How often do you eat dip? Just at parties? Never?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A recipe and a blogiversary

Beef and Potato Tex-Mex Hash
The Busy Mom’s Make It Quick Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef I used natural 90% lean ground beef
1 tbsp. onion powder
1 tbsp. nonfat beef broth I used a couple of teaspoons of canola oil
3 cups frozen Potatoes O’Brien I threw in the entire bag
1 cup chunky-style salsa
2 tsp. Mexican seasoning I used my homemade taco seasoning
1 ½ cups nonfat shredded cheddar cheese I used Cabot's 50% Light Cheddar

Spray medium nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and onion powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until beef is browned and crumbled. Remove beef and set aside. Respray skillet with cooking spray; add broth and heat over medium-high heat. Add potatoes; cook, stirring frequently 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. (I added some salt and pepper to the potatoes at this point.) Add salsa, Mexican seasoning, and ground beef to skillet; cook over medium-heat 10-12 minutes until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese over top; cover skillet and cook over medium-low heat until cheese is melted.

I bought this cookbook without realizing it was written by 'America's Healthiest Mom' Jyl Steinback, the same author of another cookbook I own, Superfoods. She's written many cookbooks and she's hardcore into fat-free cooking. I admit that I'm not attracted to recipes that use a lot of fat-free products and methods but hey, it's easier to 'fatten up' a fat-free recipe than it is to lighten a fat-laden recipe. All I changed here is that I used a bit of canola oil to cook the potatoes, added some salt and pepper and used a 50% Light cheddar instead of fat-free (although fat-free cheddar is a much better product now than it was a few years ago - it even melts!) I used the entire bag of potatoes, thinking leftovers would be great for breakfast the next day. However, my husband scarfed it all down and there were no leftovers. My son enjoyed it too.

I used some of the organic (well, 'natural') beef that I picked up on clearance a few weeks ago and stuck in the freezer. I really thought it tasted a lot better. At least two of my local grocery stores are carrying 'natural' meats now. So far I've only purchased it when I found it marked down but I'm going to start using it more and paying the premium. I worry that since meat is already expensive, that they won't sell enough of the natural meat to make it worth their while to keep stocking it. I have to start doing my part to see that doesn't happen.

Onto the important stuff.....

A year ago today, I started this blog with an introduction post. I did it on impulse. Two days later, I started cooking. Over a 100 cookbooks and over 270 recipes later (there are too many of each to be exact), I'm still here. That's HUGE! You have no idea. I never stick with anything.

I can't even remember what we ate before I started blogging. Even though I didn't use my cookbooks very often, I still thought of myself as somewhat of a good cook but what I was cooking, I have no idea. I have a vague recollection of George Foreman-grilled meats, jambalaya from a Zatarain's mix and other simple meals. Even if I stopped blogging today, our menus would continue to benefit from all the great recipes I discovered this past year.

I don't know how much longer I'll continue this blog. As long as I enjoy it and I still enjoy it quite a bit. I still have quite a few cookbooks to get to. Blogging is quite addicting but it's also quite exhausting. And expensive. One reason I started this blog was to assuage the guilt I felt over spending so much money on cookbooks that I rarely used yet the blog turned out to be a great excuse to buy more cookbooks. Even cookbooks that I actually use come with a bit of guilt.

But let's face it - most hobbies cost money. At least I'm able to multi-task - I have to feed my family anyway, regardless whether I blog about it or not.

So, onward to the second year of The Cookbook Junkie.

No Question of the Day today. I'd just ask that if you read this, you leave a comment today, even if you usually don't. Don't be shy. Hey, I just devoted a year of my life to this blog.

Saucy dogs

Hot Dogs Delicious
Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book Copyright 1975

1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon shortening
1 1/4 cups hot-style catsup I used regular ketchup and added hot sauce
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
1 pound frankfurters (8 to 10)
8 to 10 frankfurter buns, split and toasted

In a skillet cook chopped onion in the hot shortening till tender but not brown. Stir in the hot-style catsup, sweet pickle relish, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Score the frankfurters and add to catsup mixture in skillet. Simmer till frankfurters are heated through, about 10 minutes. Serve franks and sauce in hot toasted frankfurter buns.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings.

I've always liked the idea of hot dogs in sauce. I must have experienced a hot dog like this sometime in my past. I still had a surplus of hot dogs in the freezer so I decided to try this recipe.

This didn't end up too saucy, probably because I used Hebrew National 97% Fat Free hot dogs. Regular dogs would have released more juice (okay, fat) into the sauce, making it looser. I enjoyed these but I happen to love ketchup. I know there are purist who don't think ketchup belongs anywhere near a hot dog and that's fine for them but no one tells me what belongs on my hot dog!

I have a strong desire to cook right now but I'm having trouble selecting recipes. Too many new cookbooks - I'm overwhelmed.

Question of the Day: Ketchup on hot dogs - yay or nay?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cake - great! Topping - too sugary

Lazy Daisy Cake
Taste of Home The Complete Guide To Country Cooking Copyright 1998

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk

1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons half-and-half cream

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla on high until thick and lemon-colored, about 4 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture. Beat on low just until combined. Heat milk and butter in small saucepan until butter is melted. Add to batter; beat thoroughly (batter will be thin). Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool slightly. Combine frosting ingredients; spread over warm cake. Broil about 4 in. from heat for 3-4 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. (Keep an eye on it!) Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Yield: 9 servings

I had planned on making an Easy Cream Puff Cake for my parent's Labor Day cookout but that would have meant a trip to the grocery store. I had everything I needed to make this Lazy Daisy Cake, including the coconut that had an expiration date of late September so I was happy to find a use for it.

This was my first attempt at a broiled frosting. I don't think anything went wrong but I didn't really care for the topping. The flavor was good, it was just too much brown sugar - it was like putting a spoonful of sugar in your mouth and chewing on it. I think I would try this with less brown sugar if I ever felt inclined to make it again. The cake underneath the topping was fantastic however. The recipe lead-in emphasized the light and airy texture of this cake and so it was.

The base cake would be great to make a Tandy Takes knock-off (or Kandy Kakes for the younger generation). Tandy Takes (now known as Kandy Kakes), are a product from Tastykakes Bakery that I grew up eating. They're little round pieces of cake with peanut butter spread over top and enrobed in chocolate. Knock-off recipes typically just make bars of cake topped with peanut butter and then chocolate. If we weren't a peanut-free household, I would use this cake recipe for Tandy Takes.

This is from one of my newest cookbooks. I can't believe Taste of Home had cookbooks out there and I didn't know about them before now. I love Taste of Home magazine. I love that the recipes are from real people and not from a test kitchen (or sometimes, in some magazines, I think the recipes strictly came out of someone's imagination and have never actually been prepared). I love the pictures. But I resist buying it because it's too hard to find recipes in magazines, once it's filed onto my bookshelf. It's much easier to pull out a book that's been organized well. I should have realized they would have cookbooks out there, I just never looked for them. All of the cooking magazines seem to put out annuals and other cookbooks. I haven't purchased any of the Taste of Home annuals yet but I'm thinking about it.

Question of the Day: When did you last eat cake? What kind of cake was it?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A (pre) Labor Day treat

Bobbie’s Bars
Helping Our Kids Grow (fundraiser cookbook) Copyright 2000

32 caramels
5 T. evaporated milk
1 c. flour
1 c. oatmeal
¾ c. brown sugar
½ tsp. soda
½ tsp. salt
¾ c. butter or margarine
6 oz. chocolate chips

Melt, cool and set aside: caramels and evaporated milk. Combine crumb mixture: flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, soda, salt and butter or margarine. Press half in 9x13 pan. (This must be wrong. For this amount use an 8x8 or 11 x7 pan) Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Then sprinkle with: chocolate chips and nuts (what nuts? no nuts mentioned in ingredient list). Spread with caramel mixture then sprinkle with remaining half crumb mixture. Bake 15 to 20 minutes longer. Chill and cut into bars.

I've been trying to think of how I could explain what I did here without confusing you too much. I always try to give you the recipe exactly how the cookbook presented it. However, when I found this recipe, even though it sounded good, my gut told me that the pan size was wrong. And nuts are mentioned in the body and not the ingredient list. As much as I love fundraiser cookbooks, they often have inaccuracies. So I did a little more research.

It appears that these bars are more commonly called 'Oatmeal Caramelitas'. The recipe in the cookbook (the recipe above) was probably for an 11 x7 or 8 x8-inch pan. I doubled the recipe for the crumb mixture for a 13x9-inch pan. I used a 14-ounce bag of caramels and a 5-ounce can of evaporated milk but my caramel was on the loose side - not too loose but you might want to cut back on the milk by a couple of tablespoons. I used an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (milk chocolate would have been great here too). We can't have nuts but other recipes call for 1/2 cup of pecans or walnuts for a 13x9-inch pan. Nuts would be great in these but they were great without the nuts too.

I made these to take to a Labor Day cookout (well, a Labor Day weekend party). These are way too decadent to make and leave around the house (unless you're the Duggar family). Besides unwrapping the caramels, these were pretty simple to put together. They were lost in a sea of way too much food and way too many other desserts but they still went over well. I know one person loved them and I know at least one person was disappointed that I didn't bring my banana cake again. There are just too many desserts to keep making the same thing over and over.

I tried to confiscate some of the leftover bars but I failed. I was really sad about that. I'm still thinking about these.

Question of the Day: Do you have any 'standards' that people expect or want you to make over and over?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Oh well, I took a chance

Asparagus with Garlic and Parsley
500 3-Ingredient Recipes Copyright 2004

1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced parsley
4 tablespoons butter I used about 2 tablespoon, you could probably get away with even less
1 pound asparagus

Mix the garlic, parsley and butter in a small pan and melt over low heat. Set aside.

Trim the asparagus, either by peeling the stalk at the woody end, or by snapping the stalks off at the point where they seem to want to snap. Heat 1 to 2 inches water in a pan or skillet large enough to accommodate the asparagus in one layer. Salt the water, and when it comes to a boil, put the asparagus in the pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the asparagus is tender but still crisp. Drain the asparagus and toss lightly with the butter mixture, until it has coated the asparagus.

Yield: 4 servings

Well, I should know better than to buy asparagus out of season, but for a buck, I took a chance. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised by out of season produce, but not this time. It wasn't inedible, just certainly not as flavorful as asparagus at it's peak. It might have been less obvious had I roasted it, which is really how I prefer to cook asparagus.

The combination of garlic, parsley and butter was nice, though. It would probably be good tossed with some boiled potatoes and/or steamed green beans too. A little bit of lemon juice might have brightened this up a bit too.

It looks like that bastard Ernesto will be keeping me from the auction tonight. The price of the strawberries in the grocery store was double what it is at the auction and they didn't look as good either. I passed by almost all of the produce last night, hoping the rain would hold off until late this evening but the sky is rather menacing already.

Question of the Day: Is Ernesto disrupting your weekend plans?