Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A stew for a new event

Texas Stew
Delicious and Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes Copyright 2002

2 pounds sirloin tips, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 can (14.5 ounces) Mexican-style tomatoes or stewed tomatoes
1 can (10 1/2 oz) condensed beef broth, undiluted
1 cup mild picante sauce
1 1/2 cups frozen whole kernel corn, thawed, or canned
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 medium onion, cut in quarters then sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water

Combine sirloin tips, tomatoes, beef broth, picante sauce or salsa, corn, carrots, onion, garlic, cumin, and salt. Cook, covered, on HIGH setting 3 to 4 hours, or until meat is tender. Stir together flour and water. Stir flour mixture into stew mixture and cook on HIGH setting 1 hour or until thickened.

Serves 6.

This stew was okay. I really don't know why it was just okay instead of pretty good. Maybe because I wasn't really in the mood for these flavors or maybe because practically every stew pales when compared to my favorite stew recipe, Old-Time Beef Stew. Maybe this just isn't a great recipe yet I can't pinpoint anything wrong with it (meat was tender, veggies weren't mushy, it was flavorful) so I don't think it was the recipe's fault in this case.

Cyndi from Cookin' with Cyndi has started a new event, Soup or Stew Thursday. This is my first contribution. The poor gal has been sick with a stomach ailment so she's a real trouper for going through with the event this week. I know the last thing I would want to be looking at would be soups and stews. Hopefully no one submits pea soup this week.

They've downgraded the potential for a substantial snow. Instead of 2-4 inches, now they're calling for 1-2 inches, which probably means we'll get practically nothing. Frankly whether it snows 1 inch or a foot, I don't want to be driving in it so I don't regret going to the grocery store last night and while it wasn't crowded with shoppers, it wasn't very crowded with groceries either. Huge areas of the produce section were bare, as were many of the shelves. Not due to panicky shoppers expecting bad weather, they were just behind on stocking.

New Blogger is giving me pains already this morning. There are definitely more quirks and bugs than the old Blogger but being that I didn't have a choice to stay on old Blogger permanently, I can't really regret making the move. It seems like most of the system was fried this morning based on messages on the help board.

Blast From The Past: Sweet-Sour Meatballs from November 2005. This recipe is one of my husband's favorites.

Question of the Day: Are you having any trouble with Blogger today?

Another experiment with Splenda

Cinnamon Swirl Coffee Cake
Splenda No Calorie Sweetener Copyright 2004

Cake Batter:
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups Splenda
1 large egg
1/4 cup egg substitute
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups light sour cream

3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10-inch tube pan (angel food pan) or nonstick bundt pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
Sift the cake flour, baking powder, and soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add Splenda and egg. Beat until smooth. Add the egg substitute and vanilla. Beat briefly to incorporate. Add applesauce and half of the sour cream. Beat until smooth. Add the sifted flour mixture and beat at medium speed just until smooth. Add remaining sour cream and blend just until incorporated and batter is uniform. Set aside. I added a bit of salt.
Make Filling: Place 1/4 of cake batter in a small bowl. Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir well.
Place 1/2 of the remaining cake batter into prepared pan. Top with filling. Swirl with knife. Top with remaining batter.
Bake in preheated 350°F oven 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Makes 16 servings (slices). Nutrients Per Serving: Serving Size 1 slice, Total Calories 200, Calories from Fat 72, Total Fat 8 g, Saturated Fat 5 g,
Cholesterol 25 mg, Sodium 180 mg, Total Carbohydrates 28 g, Dietary Fiber 1 g, Sugars 5 g, Protein 4 g.


I think we all know enough about sugar and carbs to know that just removing the white sugar doesn't make a cake healthy but it's one step in the right direction. I thought that this cake was pretty good. It was moist with a strong hit of cinnamon (even though I used two very skimpy tablespoons because I was worried that this recipe might be a dud and I didn't want to waste all that cinnamon). I don't think the Splenda aftertaste can totally be avoided but it wasn't overwhelming here.

This is one of those recipes I've had my eye on for a while and I was very pleased that it wasn't disappointing.

I have to do my grocery shopping a day earlier this week since they're calling for snow on Thursday night. I hate when snow coincides with my regular grocery shopping night. The store will be swamped with people. It's only a forecast of 2-4 inches, yet people in this area tend to start stockpiling as if we were expecting a blizzard.

Blast From The Past: Chicken Piccata from March 2006. I've been craving this so maybe I'll make it next week.

Question of the Day: Do you run for groceries when they're calling for bad weather?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A little sweet, a little sour

Broccoli with Pan-Roasted Peppers
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2005

4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 3/4 cups (1-inch) red bell pepper strips (2 medium) I only used 1
1 3/4 cups (1-inch) yellow bell pepper strips (2 medium) I used 1 orange pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook broccoli in boiling water 4 minutes or until crisp-tender, and drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and red wine vinegar. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook 15 minutes or until peppers are tender, stirring frequently. Uncover; sprinkle with sugar. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates and bell peppers begin to brown, stirring constantly. Add broccoli; cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, tossing to combine. Remove from heat, and stir in salt and black pepper.

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup) NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 65(39% from fat); FAT 2.8g (sat 0.4g,mono 1.7g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 2.5g; CHOLESTEROL 0.0mg; CALCIUM 31mg; SODIUM 311mg; FIBER 1.4g; IRON 1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.9g


Well I did it. Welcome to The Cookbook Junkie on the new Blogger. It was painless to convert but when I first brought up this post to edit this morning, I couldn't see the picture, which upset me but fortunately it was only a brief disappearing act. Frankly, I would never have made the switch if I didn't have to but the threat is that they're going to start forcing blogs to make the switch. So, here we are.

This is a recipe I started making a few weeks ago but stopped because I wasn't sure I wanted to waste my precious colored peppers on it (I stock up on these when they're on clearance but otherwise colored peppers are $4-$5/pound here). I ended up basically freestyling the recipe anyway (with fewer peppers) and we really liked it. This is actually the third time I've made it. I just use fewer peppers and when freestyling I tend to add a bit more sugar and sometimes more vinegar. We really like the sweet and sour flavor of this recipe. The veggies have a lot of flavor without adding much fat.

This is just perfect for Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday. Broccoli, peppers - no surprise that this is a healthy dish.

I served this with chicken and as soon as my husband came home he checked the fridge and he informed me that after he ate the chicken, he was going to eat the half of the Hot Italian Sub that was still left in the fridge. He must have been thinking about that all day.

Only two more days to sign up for a chance to win this month's cookbook giveaway. I can't believe it's still January to tell you the truth. I'm not complaining but it was a long month.

Blast From the Past: Broccoli Salad from September 2005 (one of my first blog posts!). I love Broccoli Salad but it's not the healthiest salad to eat and it's not as good when you try to lighten it up.

Question of the Day: What veggies did you eat with your dinner last night?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Showing off my pretty new mug

Champurro (Mexican Cocoa)
Mexican Family Favorites Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 cup evaporated milk I used lowfat evaporated milk
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. flour
4 Tbsp. cocoa
dash salt
8 tsp. sugar

Heat milk and water to a fast boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat.

In a mixing bowl, mix flour, cocoa, salt and sugar with ¼ cup water. Blend until smooth and creamy. Add cocoa mixture to milk mixture and blend in well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick. Allow Champurro to come to a carefully-watched bubbly boil. Serve in mugs. Sprinkle with a dash of nutmeg. I skipped the nutmeg and added whipped cream.

Makes 2 cups.

This was kind of nice but it may not be for everyone. It wasn't that sweet on it's own (you could add more sugar if you like) but I thought it was just perfect with the whipped cream. The thickness (it's like a thin gravy) allowed it to be sipped slowly - I have a tendency to chug cocoa as soon as it gets cool enough to do so safely. I was able to get a chocolate fix without overdoing it. Of course, I found myself mixing small amounts of the cold leftovers with larger amounts of whipped cream, making a quick chocolate mousse so there is always the opportunity to overdo things.

I actually planned on posting about something else I made this weekend but I didn't get around to getting a picture or typing out the recipe yet. I was feeling very lazy this weekend.

On Saturday, I made chicken cheesesteaks with the Italian rolls I made last week. They came out perfect, if I do say so myself (just seasoned chicken and onion with cheese, mayo and a bit of romaine). I thought that was a good use of the Italian rolls since I didn't want to make the Hot Italian subs again so soon or we'd get sick of them.

Well right after we ate the chicken cheesesteaks, my husband came in with that look on his face that he gets when he wants to ask me if he can have some action later on. But instead, he asked if I would make the Italian subs the next day. And he quickly followed that by also asking for some action later on. So I ended up making the Italian subs on Sunday and going through all of my Italian rolls this weekend. I'll have to make more next weekend.

I have a problem. I can't seem to stay motivated without buying new cookbooks. I know there are plenty of good recipes in the books on my shelves but it's so much more exciting buying new cookbooks. I guess it's a healthier addiction that cigarettes or alcohol (and I can buy a nice cookbook in Ollie's for the price of a pack of cigarettes these days).

I'm going to have to change to new Blogger soon. Why am I so afraid?

Blast From the Past: Café Rico from November 2006, also from this cookbook. There are lots of good recipes in this book so I have no idea why I've only made two beverages from it so far, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

Question of the Day: If you walked into a typical sub shop (with subs, sandwiches, salads, etc), what would you order?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Well at least I had those wonderful carrots

Mini Greek Meatballs
The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 pound lean ground beef
½ small onion, minced
½ cup finely crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese I used regular
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine beef, onion, cheese, garlic, egg, 1 tablespoon of oil, oregano, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Knead to combine, being careful not to overmix.

Lightly oil a 9x13-inch baking dish. Shape meat mixture into 40 (1-tablespoon) meatballs. Place in a single layer in the baking dish and bake until cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

I wasn't crazy about these meatballs. They weren't bad, but they weren't anything special. They didn't brown up very much. There was too much moisture - stuffed kind of oozed out of them. Then they ended up kind of dry, not an uncommon problem when using lean ground beef. I liked the flavor from the feta and vinegar but since these don't cook very long, the onion and garlic was a bit too intense for me. These weren't something I would make again but they made an acceptable dinner with some whole wheat couscous and my favorite carrots ever. My husband didn't leave me any meatballs for my lunch the next day so he must have enjoyed them. I'm sure he slathered them with some condiment.

Here's a meme that Red Dirt Mummy tagged me for:
Three people/things that make me laugh: my son, good sitcoms, my family
Three things that scare me: illness, death, torture
Three things I love: good health, my family, cooking
Three things I hate: food allergies, cancer, getting older (but it beats the alternative)
Three things I don’t understand: politics, war, parents who kill or hurt their children
Three things on my desk: frog prince, coasters, basket of pens
Three things I want to do before I die: see my son grow up, feel satisfied with my life, have a nice picture of myself taken
Three things I can do: cook, fix things, run for several miles at a clip
Three things I would like to learn: how to concentrate, how to use my time more wisely, how not to worry
Three favorite foods: pizza, donuts, steak
Three beverages I drink regularly: coffee, seltzer, decaf unsweetened iced tea
Three TV shows/Books I watched/read as a kid:The Donny and Marie Show(watched), Wonder Woman (watched), Little Women (read) I watched a lot of TV and read a lot of books and those were just the first that came to mind, not necessarily the shows/books that I enjoyed the most

I'm stumped on next week's menu. I have a couple of meals planned but I need a few more. I want to do something with those Italian (hoagie-shaped) rolls that I made last week but I'm not sure what. I think I might end up freestyling some chicken cheesesteaks.

Blast From The Past: Crunchy Baked Chicken from April 2006. That was probably my favorite 'oven fried' chicken recipe and I've tried a few.

Question of the Day: What would you make with the Italian rolls?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ina, you're forgiven

Orange-Honey Glazed Carrots
Barefoot Contessa At Home Copyright 2006

2 pounds carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
kosher salt
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger I used jarred grated ginger
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cut the carrots diagonally in 1-inch-thick slices. You should have about 5 cups of carrots. Place ½ cup water, the butter, honey, 2 teaspoons of salt and the ginger in a large sauté pan and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, cover, and simmer over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until all the water has evaporated.

Add the orange zest and orange juice to the pan, tossing with the carrots. Simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes, until the carrots are al dente and the sauce glazes the carrots. Add the pepper and another teaspoon of salt, to taste. I forgot the pepper and last bit of salt and I didn't miss it.

I had an awful experience with a rice salad recipe from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, so bad it wasn't even bloggable. I love Ina Garten and I still enjoyed watching her show after that disaster but I wasn't anxious to reach for that cookbook again, even though I'm sure that disaster was a fluke. I picked this cookbook, Barefoot Contessa At Home, up at the library. I think the theme is awfully similar to the Family Style cookbook and like all of the other Food TV celebrities, I believe she is cranking out books as fast as she can to reap the profits but who can blame her? Strike while the iron is hot.

Ina's recipes aren't anything you haven't seen before but she's got great style. I've said it before and I'll say it again - she's the sexiest woman on the Food Network. Forget Rachael, Giada or Sandra - they can flash all the cleavage they want to but something about Jeffrey's grin tells me that Ina's not just pleasing him in the kitchen.

Anyway, these may have been the best carrots I've ever had. I LOVED them. So much so that I couldn't go to bed with the leftovers in the fridge - I had to finish them off as a late night snack. I scaled the recipe down to about half but next time I'll make all 2 pounds of carrots.

Blast From The Past: Porcupines from August 2006. I'm thinking about making these again soon. I have a buildup of brown rice in the freezer (I always make too much).

Question of the Day: Are there any former food 'celebrities' that you miss (that don't currently have a show in production)? Extra credit if you name someone besides Julia Child - she's a given.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Some issues

Chicken Jambalaya
The South Beach Diet Quick and Easy Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 bunches scallions, white and green parts, chopped (2 tablespoons reserved for garnish)
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup whole-grain quick-cooking brown rice
1/8 teaspoon sugar-free Cajun seasoning or cayenne pepper I used a lot of Cajun seasoning
2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes I used Glen Muir organic
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, straight-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, scallions, bell pepper, and garlic; cook stirring often, until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Stir in rice and Cajun seasoning. Add broth and tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed, about 30 minutes. If jambalaya has excess moisture, cook uncovered for 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved scallions and serve.

I had some issues with this dish. I never use instant rice but I could see that the directions on the box call for one part rice: one part water. This recipe called for two cups of broth, the juice from the tomatoes and only 1/2 cup of instant rice. It was very soupy but since I suspected it would be, I made extra rice and threw it in and then boiled off the excess moisture. Was it supposed to be that soupy? I've made other jambalayas (well, lots of Zatarain's!) and they weren't soupy.

The flavor was very good, not as flavorful as a recipe using smoked sausage but still very good. I wasn't crazy about the instant rice. I didn't think I would be but I thought I would try it out since a lot of cookbooks with the quick and healthy theme use instant brown rice since regular brown rice takes so long to cook. I prefer to cook regular brown rice the night before. I can still get dinner on the table quickly and it's healthier and has a better texture. Since most recipes that call for instant rice, cook the rice right in the liquid in the recipe, it can be hard to know how to substitute regular brown rice.

The other issue I had is - what is a 'bunch' of scallions? That's not a very specific amount. I usually consider the bulb and it's shoots to be one scallion . I can buy them in a bag or bunched together and twistie tied or wrapped in a styrofoam produce tray, all very different amounts, depending on where I buy them. I think I ended up using 4-5 scallions.

I pulled out some of the extra garlic bread that I had frozen after my son's birthday party. It was made with the Italian Bread and it was so good! I wasn't able to appreciate it the day of the party since I was on overdrive. Then I had a small piece of Italian sub made with the bread but it was overshadowed by the spicy sandwich fillings. It wasn't until last night that I realized how good the bread was. Not bad for a novice.

I'd also like to report that the Orange Bran Muffins are still very moist and delicious after a few days in a large ziploc bag.

Blast From The Past: Jambalaya Stir-Fry on Cajun Rice from October 2005. You really can't go wrong with jambalaya. Even when it's not that good, it's still pretty good.

Question of the Day: What kind of rice do you usually use?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An easy salad for ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday

Chilled Corn Salad
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 1999

1 (12-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients. Cover and chill at least 4 hours.

Yield: 4 servings

I like canned vegetables. No, they aren't the best tasting vegetables or the most nutritious form of vegetables but they sit on the shelf patiently waiting for me to use them instead of rotting in the produce bin or getting freezer burned in my freezer (I've had the worst luck with frozen vegetables). It's nice to be able to make up a salad even when you're low on fresh veggies. I used to freestyle a salad very similar to this using rinsed canned black beans.

Okay, if you want to get technical, corn isn't a vegetable, it's a grain. But research has shown that whole-grains such as corn have health-promoting activity equal to or even higher than that of vegetables and fruits. They contain a different (bound) form of antioxidants that hasn't been the focus of as many studies as the (free) form found in fruits and vegetable. This is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday.

This was part of a very economical dinner too. I served this with 59 cents/pound chicken legs (with bbq sauce) and about 50 cents worth of potato cakes (on sale for 99 cents), mostly for my husband. It was easy too - I needed a break after all that cooking this weekend.

Yesterday I had too much to say and today I have nothing to say. I have to learn to stretch out my observations!

Blast From The Past: Green Bean Salad from December 2005, another salad that uses pantry ingredients.

Question of the Day: What did you have for dinner last night?

Monday, January 22, 2007

A muffin and several other things

Orange Bran Muffins
Living The G.I. Diet Copyright 2004

1 whole navel orange
¾ cup skim milk
½ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup nonhydrogenated soft margarine I used Smart Balance
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole-wheat flour
½ cup wheat bran
¼ cup sugar substitute I used Splenda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Cut the orange into 8 wedges. Place in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped or almost puréed. Add the milk, orange juice, margarine, egg and vanilla and pulse until combined.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, bran, sugar substitute, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Pour the orange mixture over the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Divide the batter among 12 greased or paper lined muffin cups. Bake until golden and firm to the touch, about 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Word on the street is that we'll be paying sky-high prices for oranges soon since California has experienced some devastating freezing weather. Since this recipe uses the entire orange, there's no waste and when you're paying $3 per orange, you'll feel good about that.

These muffins are only mildly sweet. Somehow they tasted slightly sweeter the second day, yet still not overly sweet. I happen to like just the hint of sweetness. I don't like feeling as if I'm eating a cupcake for breakfast. If you like your muffins sweeter, you can play around with these, maybe add some raisins or other dried fruit or even chocolate chips. I thought they were good as they were and so healthy too.

I made the BEST CAKE I EVER MADE last week and I didn't even get a picture. It wasn't a cookbook recipe anyway. It was this chocolate fudge cake recipe from, a great site for baking tips and recipes. I made it in a disposable 1/2 sheet cake pan and I made 1 1/2 times the recipe which filled it perfectly. For the chocolate I used Ghiardelli's bittersweet baking chips. I didn't use the frosting recipe, I used a rich buttercream frosting (all butter, no shortening) to frost the top and then decorated with a chocolate frosting. It was for my boss's last day and out of the 8 people I actually saw eat the cake, 6 people ate two pieces (and they were nice-sized pieces). It was definitely the most perfect chocolate cake that I've ever made.

I did a lot of cooking this weekend, compared to the amount I've been doing on the weekends. I made my husband's favorite this weekend - Hot Italian Subs. I used the Italian Bread I had in the freezer. I smear the bread with a tiny bit of mayo and then Hoagie Spread (which is basically chopped up cherry peppers). I then add Provolone, Capicola, Pepperoni, and Genoa Salami. I wrap them in foil and heat them in the oven. I used to use the GF grill but sometimes they're too thick so I switched to the oven. Someday I'll own a proper pannini grill.

They were so good, I made another double batch of Italian bread for the freezer yesterday, this time making the recipe into smaller rolls. We have to avoid bakery items with my son's peanut allergy so it feels good having these on hand for the next time I want to make the Hot Italian Subs. The subs are very spicy so my son didn't eat them but he may ask for a bite someday.

I also made Out-of-This-World Waffles, using 1 cup AP flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1/2 cup wheat bran. I figure I will slowly make this recipe healthier.

And last but not least, I finally tried the organic, uncured, nitrite-free hot dogs I bought quite some time ago. They were expensive yet I still feared they would taste funny so I kept putting off eating them but they were pretty good. Unfortunately I noticed that the frozen organic food section of the store I bought these in had dwindled and seemed to be fading out, however they still had these hot dogs so I may have to pick up a few more packages before they disappear. Actually, I could order them from the Applegate Farms website for not much more and I'm sure they would be fresher. We don't eat hot dogs that often but if you have kids who live on hot dogs I would definitely switch to an uncured variety since studies have linked the consumption of cured meat to cancer. I'm not sure if there's any concrete evidence but if my child was eating hot dogs several times a week, I'd rather be safe than sorry.

Blast From The Past: Spicy Orange Beef from July 2006. I may have mentioned this recipe recently so forgive me if I'm repeating myself but I put it on the menu again this week and I'm really looking forward to it.

Question of the Day: Was this post too long? I usually don't wander around so much but I just had a lot to say today.

Friday, January 19, 2007

I stuck to the plan

Pork Chops with Country Gravy
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007 Copyright 2006

¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dried marjoram
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried rubbed sage
Since I realized I had no sage, I used poultry seasoning in place of the three seasonings called for
4 (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about ¾-inch thick)
1 tablespoon butter
Cooking spray
1 ½ cups 1% low-fat milk

1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour, salt, and next 3 ingredients in a shallow dish. Dredge pork in flour mixture, turning to coat; shake off excess. Reserve remaining flour mixture.
2. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add pork to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until done, turning pork once. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.
3. Combine reserved flour mixture and milk in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add milk mixture to pan; place over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. I seasoned it with additional salt and pepper. Serve with chops.

Yield: 4 servings Per serving: 252 cal, 9.6 g fat, 28.9 g protein, 10.6 g carbs, .3 g fiber, 83 mg chol, 584 mg sodium

To be honest, I wasn't looking forward to these pork chops. I don't know why, but as dinnertime approached I thought about doing something else with the chops. For lack of any other ideas I did end up making this recipe and I enjoyed it too. It was a nice simple, homey recipe. What's nice is that if you have the pork in the freezer, you could make this dish out of pantry ingredients.

Why do short work weeks always end up feeling longer? I'm ready for the weekend. I buckled down and figured out most of next week's menu last night so I think I'm getting my groove back.

Blast From The Past: Easy Cream Puff Cake from May 2006, just because it's so pretty.

Question of the Day: Do you ever change your mind about your planned dinner at the last minute? Do you tough it out? Do you make something else?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Cornbread and a slump

Sour Cream Corn Bread
Taste of Home The Complete Guide To Country Cooking Copyright 1998

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed I used about 3/4 teaspoon
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients. In another bowl, beat egg, sour cream, milk and butter; add to cornmeal mixture and mix just until moistened. Pour into a greased 8-in. square baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

Yield: 9 servings

I wanted something to serve with the Texas-Style Chili that I made a few days ago so I searched out a cornbread recipe. I really wanted more of a Tex-Mex style cornbread with chilis and corn (creamed or kernels) but I seemed to be missing ingredients for most recipes I found so I settled on this one. I was hesitant about the rosemary so I added a bit less than a full teaspoon but it really did add a nice background flavor to the cornbread.

This was nice, better than the Cornmeal Cheddar Muffins. Of course, these has a cup of sour cream in them. That definitely gave them a nice moist texture. Although, I sort of mixed the chili and cornbread together so did it really matter how moist it was?

I froze the rest of this for another time but come to think of it, I believe that there are still a couple of those Cornmeal Cheddar Muffins hiding out in the corner of the freezer. I might have to try my hand at a cornbread stuffing recipe soon.

I'm in a slump. I want to cook, I just don't know what to cook. Last night was menu planning night and I didn't even pick up a cookbook. I had to bake a cake for my boss who's leaving for a new job and I just wasn't in the mood to look at recipes. I had several days off and I tried to do my planning early but I couldn't come up with anything. I'll come up with something. I always do.

Blast From The Past: Quick Tamale Casserole from October 2006. I used some of the Cormeal Cheddar Muffins as a topping for this.

Question of the Day: How far ahead do you plan your menu?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An oldie but a goodie

Caramelized Onion Chicken
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003 Copyright 2002

1 pound chicken breast tenders
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
½ cup sliced onion
½ cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon bottled minced ginger
½ teaspoon dried rosemary

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add chicken to pan, sauté 8 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove onion and chicken from pan.
2. Add jam and remaining 4 ingredients to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Retune chicken mixture to pan; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Yield: 4 servings Per serving: 246 cal, 2.6 g fat, 26.6 g protein, 28.5 g carbs, .5 g fiber, 66 mg chol, 521 mg sodium

I've actually made this recipe a few times before, pre-blog. It's not that it's so incredibly good, although it is tasty, but it's just a good way to use up the seedless raspberry jam that I always have left after Christmas. It does have an odd appearance due to the pink sauce. If you don't like sweetness in your savory dishes, you won't like this. I actually ate the leftovers for breakfast this morning and it was very good reheated too.

I really enjoy the Cooking Light Annuals. They don't have a lot of pictures and they can be a bit difficult to deal with, since they're organized by month but they do come with several good indexes to help you find recipes.

Blast From The Past: Out-of-This-World Waffles from just last week. I made another batch for my husband yesterday and used a cup of whole wheat flour in place of one cup of the AP flour. I ran out of AP flour but I think they were even better with the whole wheat flour. They were more flavorful. Next time, I'll add the ww flour and cut back on the oil a bit.

Question of the Day: Do you ever eat leftovers for breakfast?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Chili and panic

Texas-Style Chili
365 Favorite Brand Name Hamburger Copyright 1997

1 ½ pounds ground beef or cubed round steak
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 onion, diced
1 can (2.25 ounces) diced green chilies, drained the smallest can I found was 4.5 ounces - I used the whole can
1 package (1.48 ounces) Lawry’s Spices & Seasonings for Chili I used the chili seasoning blend I used for tacos
1 ½ tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 can (14 ½ ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
¾ cup water
sour cream (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

In Dutch oven or large saucepan, brown beef in oil until crumbly. Drain beef, reserving fat; set beef aside. Add bell pepper and onion to Dutch oven; sauté 5 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Return beef to Dutch oven. Add chilies, Spices and Seasonings for Chili, cornmeal, chili powder, sugar and cayenne pepper; blend well. Stir in tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover. Simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve topped with sour cream or Cheddar cheese, if desired.

I'm working under many restraints right now, trying to use what's on hand. I have lots of leftovers from the party but I stuck those in the freezer, to prevent us from eating the same thing several days in a row. However, that didn't leave me many options since I didn't want to spend another small fortune at the grocery store (something I've doing a lot lately). I had just about everything to make this chili and it really hit the spot.

Believe it or not, this is my entry for Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays. This was loaded with peppers, onions, chilies and tomatoes.

Oh damn, I keep forgetting that I said I would make the cake for my boss's last day Friday. I was going to make it today and freeze it for a few days but looking at the packed state of my freezer, I'm not sure if that's doable. I really don't want to be scrambling at the last minute but it keeps slipping out of my mind that I need to do this. Why or why did I open my big mouth? Well, I really do want to do it. She's always appreciated my baked goods and that's a high compliment because she's a twig who really watches what she eats. It's just that I'm all caked out after making my son's cake.

Blast From The Past: Caucasian Eggplant Caviar from August 2006. I almost made this as an appetizer last weekend but I just never got around to it. I've been craving it.

Question of the Day: Do you like chili? How do you usually make your chili?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Kinda yucky

Wheat & Oat Bread
Better Homes and Gardens New Diabetic Cookbook Copyright 1999

nonstick spray coating
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup regular rolled oats, toasted
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cup fat-free milk
¼ cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ

1. Spray bottom and sides of an 8 x 1 ½ inch round baking pan with nonstick coating; set aside. I used my Pampered Chef mini baker and the bread stuck to it.
2. In a large bowl stir together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, toasted oats, the 3 tablespoons of wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl combine milk, egg product, and oil. Add milk mixture all at once to dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon wheat germ.
3. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from panl; serve warm.

Makes 16 servings. Per serving: 116 calories, 3 g total fat (o g sat fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 108 mg sodium, 20 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein

I was really at a loss over what to make for today. We’re up to our eyeballs in leftovers (that God for my Foodsaver) and after eating cake I really didn’t want something particularly sweet. Most importantly, I wasn’t buying any more groceries so I had to work with what I had on hand. I decided on this recipe.

I have many, many Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks and it’s funny that some I run to and some I’m a little bit hesitant to use. This is one that I don’t quite trust, probably after the Mushroom-Fontina Strata that was pretty much inedible, even though that was due to a mix up on my part. Once again, I wasn’t crazy about a recipe from this book, and it was at least partly my fault. I overtoasted the oats yet I still used them hoping I wouldn’t notice in the final product but I can notice it. It tastes bitter and a little bit stale. I know the flours were fresh but the oatmeal and/or wheatgerm may have been the culprit, or maybe that taste is just from the overtoasted oatmeal. Whatever is what, it wasn’t pleasant. This will probably end up in the trash.

It finally happened. I got the notice that I can move to the new Blogger. I know I have to go eventually but it scares the hell out of me. If my blog disappears, it was Blogger, not me.

Blast From The Past: Dirty Shrimp with Rice from November 2005. This is another recipe from the cookbook I'm giving away to one lucky winner this month. I've been avoiding shrimp since my son was diagnosed with food allergies, out of paranoia since he hasn't been tested for it and the allergist suggested we hold off on giving any to him. It wouldn't be fair to eat something he can't have. I miss shrimp.

Question of the Day: Do you hesitate to throw failures in the trash?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Quick chops

Apricot Pork Chops
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006 Copyright 2005

Cooking spray
4 (4-ounce) boneless loin pork chops
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic I used fresh garlic
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sliced green onions

1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Remove from pan; keep warm.
2. Add chopped onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in preserves, soy sauce, garlic and salt; cook 3 minutes or until thickened. Add pork to pan, turning to coat. Sprinkle evenly with green onions.

Yield: 4 servings

These didn't have a strong apricot flavor but they were very good. This was one of Cooking Light's 'Quick and Easy' recipes and it doesn't get much quicker or easier than this. You can make these pork chops faster than you could make frozen pizza. I got to use the apricot preserves I had left over from making Apricot Cream Cheese Thumbprints for Christmas. I threw out last year's jar when I bought this year's jar so I keeping up with my resolution of wasting less food.

I baked one layer of my son's birthday cake last night. I don't know if I added the sugar. I used the same recipe as last year, which is just a doctored up cake mix so they're sweetened from the cake mix, I just don't know if I added the sugar. I started to make the cake and my elderly cat started getting very sick so I was distracted. I also made a batch of cupcakes with the same batter and I ate 2 1/2 cupcakes trying to figure out if I added the sugar. It's not really the sweetness that concerns me - the cake doesn't seem as dense as I thought it was going to be. No matter - it tastes fine and will be covered with frosting (and I'll make sure to add the sugar to the other layer). I'm certainly not making another cake when there are half a dozen eggs in that layer but it's really bugging me.

Blast From The Past: Spicy Orange Beef from July 2006. This is another 'Quick and Easy' recipe from Cooking Light that was very good. I've been wanting to make it again but we haven't had beef (other than ground) in quite a while.

Question of the Day: Are you still keeping up with your New Year's Resolutions, new routines, etc, now that it's almost 2 weeks into the new year?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A last minute smoothie

Blueberry & Buttermilk Falls Drink
Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Copyright 2001

1 cup buttermilk
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries I used frozen
2 teaspoons sugar or pure maple syrup, or to taste you might not even need this if your berries are sweet

Purée the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth. I used my stick blender.

Serves 1. 167 calories, 8 g protein, 2.3 g fat, 30 g carbs, 7.9 mg chol, 242.7 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

I've been wanting to make buttermilk ice cream for the longest time but I just haven't gotten around to it. It seems as if there's never room in my freezer for the freezer bowl of my ice cream machine. This smoothie gave me a little preview of the flavor of buttermilk ice cream and I liked it, I liked it a lot. I wasn't sure what to expect. I use buttermilk quite a bit but I don't drink it straight. This smoothie just had a hint of tang from the buttermilk and I don't think I would have realized I was drinking buttermilk if I hadn't made the smoothie myself. I'll definitely try this again, with other fruits too.

I usually stick to low or no-calorie beverages (coffee, tea, seltzer, water and the occasional diet soda) but I might have started something with this smoothie. I can see myself making a lot of these.

Whew! I almost thought I was going to have to skip posting a recipe today. I planned on making blueberry muffins last weekend but I never got around to it and I didn't feel like making them anymore. I didn't really have time to devote to a new recipe and I don't have any posts on stand-by but luckily I found this simple recipe, which happens to be a winner too.

Blast From The Past: Hot Muffulettas from October 2005. I love those sandwiches. I've made them several times. This recipe is from the cookbook I'm giving away to one lucky winner this month.

Question of the Day: Do you drink smoothies? Do you make them at home?

Waffles, waffles and more waffles

Out-of-This-World Waffles
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 1999

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar I used 2-3 tablespoons
2 large eggs, beaten
2 ½ cups milk
¾ cup vegetable oil

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine eggs, milk, and oil; add to flour mixture, stirring with a wire whisk just until dry ingredients are moistened. Cook in preheated, oiled waffle iron until golden.

Yield: 22 4-inch waffles

These were really, really good waffles but I wouldn't want to get into the habit of making these all of the time, since they use only white flour and a lot of oil. Although this recipe really did make at least 22 waffles. I wasn't even done making them when I took this picture.

I added a smidgen more sugar because I like waffles a bit sweet so I could skip the syrup. That's probably not fair because I ate one waffle plain and my husband will eat the only 20-something waffles with syrup but, hey, I'm the cook.

Blast From The Past: Baked Chicken With Honey And Mustard from May 2006. We had this last night. It's very good.

Question of the Day: When was the last time that you ate a waffle?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Roasted potatoes with a little something extra

Balsamic Roasted New Potatoes
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 1999

1 tablespoons olive oil or butter I used a little of both
2 pounds new potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme I used a lesser amount of dried thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary I used a lesser amount of dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add potatoes and next 4 ingredients. Toss. Remove skillet from heat; place in oven. (I transfered the potatoes to a roasting pan since I don't have an ovenproof skillet big enough for 2 pounds of potatoes.) Roast potatoes, uncovered, at 425 degrees for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add vinegar, and toss well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, 6 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Roasted new potatoes are good just about any way you make them but the balsamic vinegar added a really nice touch, if you happen to be a fan of balsamic vinegar, which I am. Ever since I found a great balsamic vinegar, I love using it whenever I can. I wish I could recommend the brand but it's a store brand, from Weis Market if you happen to live near one here in PA.

This is my contributions to Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday. Potatoes have many nutritional benefits and roasting them this way ensures that you get all the fiber, which is located mostly in the skin.

I apologize for what has been and will be an uninspired week but I have cleaning and cooking to do for my son's birthday party this weekend and I'm really not making any new recipes for that. I'm looking forward to next week when I can finally relax. My 'holiday rush' doesn't really end until after my son's birthday.

Blast From The Past: Balsamic Chicken from January 2006. Gosh, has it been a year already since I made that? I need to make that again.

Question of the Day: When did you last eat potatoes? How were they prepared?

Monday, January 08, 2007

The bread making continues

Italian Bread (New York Style)
Easy Bread Machine Recipes Copyright 1997

7/8 C water
2 ¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T whole wheat flour or rye I used rye
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar or honey I used brown sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1 T olive oil I used canola oil
1 ½ tsp yeast rapid rise - use 25% more for regular active dry yeast
cornmeal for baking sheet

egg wash (1 egg beater with 2 T water)
sesame seeds for top I omitted these

1. Put all ingredients except the topping in the machine, and set it on the dough cycle. When the beeper sounds, remove the dough from the pan and put it into a bowl in the refrigerator to chill and rest for about 15 minutes.
2. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough to a 10x14 inch oblong; then fold the long sides over into a log-shaped loaf. Pinch the seams and ends closed.
3. On a baking sheet. sprinkle cornmeal. Set the loaf on it, seam-side down. Sprinkle water on top. Let it rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in bulk.
4. Brush with egg wash made of 1 egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. With a sharp knife, make 4 diagonal cuts, about ¼ inch deep, across the top.
5. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden. During the last 5 minutes, spray water into the oven.

The recipe makes one loaf. I made two loaves since I have a dual bread machine which can make two 1 lb loaves at once. The book also has a version of this recipe for larger machines.

I made these for my son's birthday party (for family - not kids) coming up this Saturday. I wrapped them well and stuck them in the freezer. I'm going to make garlic bread so I figured covering it in garlic butter would hide any imperfections if it wasn't that great. I only got to taste a dime size piece of it, that stuck to the pan and I think this bread is going to be pretty good. I'm more familiar with Italian bread than I am with the classic baguette so I could judge this recipe a little better than the baguette recipe. This bread does seem to have the proper texture and flavor that I would expect. I have to learn to be more thorough with my egg wash but I'm think I'm getting the hang of this bread thing.

Normally I would wait until I got a good taste of something to blog about it but I'm desperate today. I didn't get a chance to make anything else this weekend.

So I thought this would be a good time to fulfill Randi's request to see where I keep my cookbooks. This is my collection - the whole shebang, minus the Ugly Binder which really needs to be reorganized after a nasty fall.

The shelf is 5 feet tall and 39 inches wide. I wish I had the luxury of ordering them by subject, author, or anyway other my heart desires but instead I just have them organized so that they fit and so that the shelves don't bend under the weight (it's just a cheapy, laminate bookcase). Because of outlets, thermostats and light switches, the only place I could fit the bookcase was in one corner of my spare room so I had to do some funky manuevers to get the entire shelf in the picture. The angle's a bit odd.

It's not the most impressive collection but it gets bigger all of the time. So far I've blogged about recipes from 141 books, a handful of which were library books. I can't remember how many books I had last time I counted, maybe 175 or 200? And I've acquired a few more since then.

Blast From The Past: Garlic Bread from October 2005. I guess I was desperate for something to post about that day too!

Question of the Day: Do you collect anything, cookbooks or otherwise? Where do you store your collection?

Friday, January 05, 2007

My first Rachael Ray recipe

Hamburger and Onion Stuffed Bread
Rachel Ray 365: No Repeats Copyright 2005

1 baguette (day-old is fine)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound ground beef
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Dijon or spicy brown mustard, to dress the bread
4 slices deli Swiss cheese, folded to cover the bread or 6 ounces Gouda or smoked Gouda, sliced to fit the bread I used Swiss
Chopped fresh chives or flat-leaf parsely, for garnish I omitted this

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.

Crisp the bread in the low oven, split lengthwise, then cut in half again to make 4 bread boats and hollow out the bread. I used 1 1/2 baguettes and made 6 boats. Switch the broiler on.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the EVOO. Add the meat, season liberally with salt and pepper, and brown and crumble it, 3 minutes. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add the Worcestershire and remove from the heat.

Spread a little Dijon or spicy brown mustard across the bottoms of the breads. Fill with the meat and onions and top the filled breads with the cheese. Melt the cheese under the broiler and garnish with the chives or parsley.

Yes, this is what I needed the baguettes for. I'd have to say it was worth baking my own baguettes. I really liked these stuffed breads, as simple as they seem. I loved the toasted, crunchy, chewy bread and the simple toppings enhanced it without overpowering it. The mustard was pretty key - if you don't like mustard, I put something else with a bit of zip on the bread. This recipe is very basic but she offers more involved versions of stuffed bread too. I just love the concept. I thought they were a nice change of pace from hamburgers or sloppy joes.

I picked this recipe because it was the simplest one in the book. I don't know what it is about Rachael Ray's recipes but they seem complicated to me. It's one thing to watch her whip something up on her show - it looks simple. But when I see the recipes printed out, my head starts spinning. Maybe it's all the fresh and sometimes unique ingredients (which is great but sometimes pricey) or the fact that her recipes are usually for entire meals and designed to be cooked as a meal (the directions jump from one thing to the next and back so it's hard to separate the elements of the meal if you don't want to make the entire meal).

The recipes are all designed with her usual 30-minute constraint and the methods aren't complicated so it's perplexing why so many of them seem like a lot of trouble to me. I really don't think they are - this is just my initial perception when flipping through this book (and also her other books in the local library). When I'm faced with a cookbook like this, I find it helps to go through the book page by page and list every recipe that I would ever possibly want to make. That forces me to look at the recipes more closely and I usually come up with a good list of recipes that I can refer to without wading through the entire book again.

I have to say this about Rachael Ray - her recipes, at least the ones in this cookbook (I can't vouch for the others), are somewhat unique. I love Paula Deen but her recipes are not exactly original. A good percentage of them probably appeared on a product package at one time or another. Giada DeLaurentis is wonderful too but her cooking is pretty standard fare for the most part. RR manages to offer recipes that are different, yet still very appealing. I want to eat most of her recipes, I'm just a bit overwhelmed by the thought of gathering all of the ingredients and preparing them myself.

One thing that bugs me is that many of the recipes are variations of a main recipe and she will just tell you to omit this, add that, etc. My brain is too scattered to absorb that kind of information. She doesn't include many pictures either but otherwise, I'm happy to own my first Rachael Ray cookbook.

Blast From The Past: Sour Cream Cake from my son's birthday a year ago. I think I'm going to use the same recipe this year. We're having a family party next weekend.

Question of the Day: Rachael Ray - Yay or nay?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

January 2007 Cookbook Giveaway

I have another Food and Wine Quick From Scratch cookbook to give away to one lucky reader this month.

Food and Wine's Quick From Scratch One-Dish Meals, which contains the following recipes I've blogged about:

Barbecued-Pork Burritos with Chopped Salad
Dirty Shrimp With Rice
Hot Muffuletta

If you want to know what other recipes are included, look here.

Just like the chicken cookbook, this has pictures of every recipe and the recipes are rather straightforward.

This is how it works - just leave a comment on this post. 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 draw the winner. Then I'll contact the winner for a mailing address and then I mail the book! I'll pay the shipping, of course.

I'll open this to everyone - in or out of the U.S. It will have to go by the least expensive method if an international reader wins.

Good luck!

*********Chrispy is the winner!*******************

Homemade baguettes? Oui, oui!

French Bread (Baguette)
Easy Bread Machine Recipes Copyright 1997

2 ½ C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 T rye flour
1 ½ tsp yeast (rapid rise – increase by 25% for regular active dry yeast)
1 C water
2 tsp salt
cornmeal for the baking sheet

Topping (optional) I didn't use the topping
1 egg yolk, beaten with 2 tsp water
poppy or sesame seeds

1. Load the ingredients in your machine (except the topping) and set it on the dough cycle. When the beeper sounds, remove the dough to a bowl, cover it and let it rest for 30 minutes.
2. Dump it out onto a lightly floured surface. The dough may be rather wet and sticky. It’s supposed to be. You may even want to wet your hands to handle the dough. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions (or make one long loaf; it depends on your oven). Use a rolling pin to roll each piece into an oblong about 4 to 5 inches wide, and maybe 14 to 16 inches long, and ¼ inch thick. Fold one long side over the other, press the sides together tightly, pinch the seam to seal it, and lay it, seam side down on a cornmeal-covered cookie sheet (or baguette pan). Taper the ends, pinching to seal them.
3. Sprinkle or brush the top with water. Ooops! I forgot this. Let the bread logs rise in a warm place until nearly doubled in bulk.
4. You can either leave the outsides plain or brush the tops with the egg wash topping and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Heat your oven to 500 degrees F.
5. With a sharp knife or razor blade, make 3 or 4 cuts about ¼ inch deep diagonally across the top of the risen bread logs. These are the ‘jets’ that help excess gas to escape during baking.
6. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until golden brown in a 500 degree F oven, with a pan of hot water in the bottom, or toss in some ice cubes after 5 minutes of baking. I only baked mine for 18 minutes. I might have been able to stand a few more minutes but it was cooked through.

I needed a baguette for a recipe and well, with my son's peanut allergy bakery items are pretty much off-limits. So I made my own baguette - two baguettes actually.

I was pleased with the results. I'm not a baguette expert so I don't know if this was exactly a true baguette but I liked it. It was chewy and had excellent flavor. The breads from the supermarket bakeries around here all tend to be the same, just in different shapes. They have very little 'body' to them - if you have even a bit of moisture in your sandwich filling, the bread practically disintegrates.

I picked up this cookbook for $1.99 in Ollie's because it included recipes that fit my bread machine. I have a dual loaf bread machine and each loaf pan can only handle a 1 lb loaf, and I've found that many bread machine recipes start at the 1 1/2 lb size making it difficult for me to find recipes but this one either has recipes like this one that fit into any size bread machine or they give more than one version of the recipe if it needs to be scaled differently, for different sized machines. Well, they consider three sizes 1, 1 1/2 and 2 lbs. I'm not sure if bigger machines exist or not.

I'm definitely going to be baking more bread, that's for sure.

Blast From The Past: Picadillo a la Marlen from January 2006. I put this on the menu for next week since I have everything to make it. It's one of my favorites.

Question of the Day: Do you bake your own bread?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Handmade noodles

Homemade Noodles
Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book Copyright 1975

1 beaten egg
2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon salt
all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)

Mix egg, milk and salt. Add enough of the flour to make a stiff dough. Roll very thin on floured surface; let rest 20 minutes. Roll up loosely; slice ¼ inch wide. Unroll. Cur into desired lengths. Spread out; dry 2 hours. (Store in covered container until needed.) To cook, drop noodles into boiling liquid; cook, uncovered, 8 to 10 minutes. Makes 3 cups uncooked noodles.

Even though I made this on the last day of 2006, it was much in keeping with my 2007 Culinary and Blogging Resolutions, particularly making things from scratch and not wasting as much food. After making the Crispy Herbed Chicken a couple of weeks ago, I used the carcass to make stock (although due to time constraints the stock was nearly as rich and flavorful as I would have liked). I had this stock and chicken in the freezer and carrots and celery (which was nearly past it's prime) in the fridge. I even had some fresh parsley.

But I wasn't excited about making soup. I haven't been excited about soup in a long time. You could blame the mild winter we're having but I haven't been in the mood for soup in a few years. Sure, I make a batch, order a bowl or even pop open a can of soup every now and then but not with any real enthusiasm. The thought of homemade noodles in soup actually got me excited about soup again.

Making noodles was super easy, it just took a bit of waiting time. Not really a problem since homemade soup usually cooks for at least a couple of hours. I'll definitely be making my own noodles again.

I just love this cookbook. I've owned it for years but I have so many cookbooks, even my favorites sometimes get pushed in the background but eventually I rediscover them. I had this one in my hands most of last weekend. The recipes are mostly traditional, yet they're not all 'everyday' recipes.

I don't know if they still do this, but way-back-when we sometimes had to bring dishes to school for a history or language class. This book would have been a great help, especially since we didn't have the internet back then. I still think this book would be great for a homeschooler or teacher to use since it combines history and cooking and there are recipes from many different ethnicities. This is a great book for people who like to 'read' cookbooks (like a novel).

It can still be found on ebay and used book sites. Better Homes and Gardens also has a 'Heritage of America' cookbook that came out in the 90s so don't get confused.

And the moment you've all been waiting for..............

Hilary (from Nosh With Me) is the winner of the Food and Wine Quick From Scratch Chicken Cookbook from the December Cookbook Giveaway. Stay tuned for another giveaway announcement soon.

Blast From The Past: My Mother’s Tuesday Night Meatball Soup from February 2006, one of the few soups I've made since starting this blog.

Question of the Day: What is your favorite soup?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Starting the year off right

Multigrain and Cherry Muffins
Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook Copyright 2003

1 cup seven-grain cereal
1 cup dried tart cherries
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup cooking oil
1 ¼ cups buttermilk or sour milk I used sour milk (lemon juice + milk)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon crystallized ginger, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger I used ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 slightly beaten egg

1. Grease 12 muffin-top cups or sixteen 2 ½-inch muffin cups; set aside. In a medium bowl combine seven-grain cereal, dried cherries, brown sugar, and oil. Pour buttermilk over cereal mixture; let stand for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine whole wheat flour, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.
3. Stir beaten egg into buttermilk mixture. Add buttermilk mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy). Spoon batter into prepared muffin-top cups or muffin cups, filling each muffin-top cup almost full or each muffin cup ¾ ways full.
4. Bake in a 400 degree oven until golden. (Allow about 12 minutes for muffin-top cups or 15 to 18 minutes for 2 ½-inch muffins.) Cool in cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from cups; serve warm.

I thought I would start the year out right and make an antioxidant rich food for Sweetnick's ARF Tuesdays. I bought these dried cherries to use in the White Fudge but decided against that. I think they were better suited in these muffins. I had the seven-grain cereal in the freezer for a while since I bought it to use as a hot cereal and really didn't care for it.

These muffins had good flavor, but they were a little bit gritty from the cereal. Maybe it would be better to soak the cereal mixture overnight instead of just 30 minutes, like with the Overnight Oatmeal Muffins. They were still pretty good, you know, for a 'healthy' baked good. With the cherries, the grains and the ginger, these muffins are practically guilt-free.

Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook is definitely one of my favorite cookbooks. I think this is the ninth recipe I've tried from it and I have a mile-long list of other recipes I want to try from this book. The book has about 500 recipes, each one with a picture. There are recipes for practically everything - brunches, kid's favorites, appetizers, breads, entrées, desserts, sandwiches, etc. I think anyone who is into healthy eating would love this book. I think they could have given it a better name - something focusing on the healthiness of the food. This book isn't just for 'dieters'.

Blast From the Past: Memphis-Style Pork Chops from November 2006, from this same cookbook. I'm making these again this week. I've been craving them.

Question of the Day: Would you buy this book as a gift or would you be afraid that the recipient might be offended by the term 'dieter'?

Monday, January 01, 2007

My 2007 Culinary and Blogging Resolutions

Here we go again:

1. Respond to comments more regularly. I read them all, that's for certain, but I haven't been responding to most comments personally because I wasn't sure I could keep up when I get busy. I had sort of an all-or-nothing attitude about it but I'm just going to try to do the best I can.
2. Participate in more food blog events.
3. Spend more time describing the cookbooks I'm using. They kind of get lost in the background but I'll try to spotlight them a little bit more.
4. Make homemade marshmallows. Carried over from last year's resolutions.
5. Can something. Anything. Maybe jam, maybe pickles. Carried over from last year's resolutions.
6. Use my electric smoker. Carried over from last year's resolutions.
7. Make homemade pierogis. I tried it once and the result wasn't too spectacular but I'm going to try again.
8. Cook from scratch more often. Try to make things I normally might buy if it's healthier or more frugal or maybe just for the heck of it to see if I can make something from scratch.
9. Waste less. I waste too much food.
10. Experiment with more yeast breads. Last year was really the first year I worked with yeast and I did use it a lot but I'd like use it even more this year, maybe even break free from the bread machine.

Hopefully I'll be more than 50 percent successful this year. I think this list is pretty doable but I thought that last year too.

Happy New Year!