Thursday, February 28, 2008

Don't really need a recipe for these
--Chicken Quesadillas

Chicken Quesadillas
The Griddler A Guide To Perfect Meals

4 8-inch flour tortillas I used multi-grain tortillas
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted I used spray oil
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 ounces reduced fat shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/3 cup sliced black olives
¼ cup finely sliced green onion
1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeño pepper

Lightly brush one side of each tortilla with ½ teaspoon melted butter. Place on the work surface, buttered side down. Preheat Griddler on Low-Medium. Place chicken, olives, green onion and jalapeño pepper in medium bowl and stir to blend. Divide mixture equally among 4 tortillas, placing to one side of the tortilla. Fold each tortilla in half.

When Griddler has preheated place 2 tortillas on the bottom griddle and close. Bake quesadillas for 5-6 minutes – until chicken is hot, cheese is melted, and tortillas are lightly golden brown and crispy. Place on a rack in a low oven to keep warm. Repeat cooking for remaining two quesadillas.

Cut quesadillas into wedges and serve with salsa.

I usually free-style quesadillas but that doesn't give me anything to blog about. So, I tried this recipe from my Griddler recipe booklet. They were very fresh tasting and satisfying. The only think I would change is that I actually prefer to mix the salsa with the filling ingredients so that you get a nice tomato-y cheesey, filling.

My new Griddler seems to be working alright but I'm still not convinced that it's worth what it costs for this appliance. After the replacement came, I realized that the piece that you wrap the cord around had cracked and broken off. Well, I'm not sending back another one but I'm not pleased at all.

I picked up my groceries last night and I didn't do too bad but I had a few extra expenses that even though they were outside of my regular grocery shopping (they were drugstore items), it still bugged me to see the higher total. I will say I got a lot for my money last night. My cart was overflowing.

Blast From The Past: Spicy Vegetable Quesadillas from September 2006. I keep forgetting to make those again but they were delicious.

Question of the Day: Do you buy many non-food items (health and beauty products, paper products, etc) in the grocery store?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

It was okay
--Creole Macaroni and Cheese

Creole Macaroni and Cheese
Passport To Flavor Copyright 1993

½ cup butter or margarine
1 package (12 ounces) elbow macaroni I used Smart Taste
1 can (14 ½ ounces) Cajun stewed recipe tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk I used evaporated 2% milk
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese I used Cabot's 50%

In large skillet, melt butter. Add macaroni, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add 1½ cups water; bring to boil. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until macaroni is tender. Sprinkle in flour; blend well. Stir in evaporated milk and cheese. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cheese is completely melted. Serve immediately.

4 to 6 servings

This is from a Del Monte pamplet cookbook. I couldn't find the Cajun tomatoes so I used tomatoes with zesty mild green chiles and added some 'Cajun spice'. I goofed up a little since I thought this called for a pound of pasta. I had a 14.5 ounce box so I added some pasta rings to make it a pound. Then when I added the water, I thought, this is not enough water and then I realized my mistake so I added more water. I thought the pasta was sort of gummy. It was okay but I wouldn't make it again. Not with 1/2 cup of butter or margarine - I didn't notice that until it was too late. Oh well, we just had this and salad and I used 'healthy' pasta and low-fat mik and cheese.

Of course, I have a head cold so maybe you shouldn't trust my judgement.

I'm supposed to go grocery shopping tonight but I have nothing planned for next week. Last night I sat there in a room with hundreds of cookbooks and came up with nothing. I might concentrate on sides this week and repeat some entrees.

Blast From The Past: Baked Pork Chops from September 2007. Those will be on the menu next week.

Question of the Day: Do you have any ideas or suggestions for recipes I might try next week?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Great glaze
--Quick Maple-Glazed Pork Chops

Quick Maple-Glazed Pork Chops
The Best 30-Minute Recipe Copyright 2006

4 boneless pork loin chops, 1 inch thick I used more
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 shallot, minced
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary I used dried, about 1/2 tsp
¼ teaspoon cayenne Oops! Forgot to add this
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Pat chops dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown chops well on one side, about 4 minutes. Transfer chops to plate and set aside.
2. Add shallot and ¼ teaspoon salt to fat left in the skillet, return to medium high heat, and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, maple syrup, vinegar, rosemary, and cayenne, scraping up any browned bits.
3. Return chops to skillet, browned side up. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and continue to cook until center of chop registers 140 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Transfer chops to clean plate, tent with foil, and let rest until center of chop reaches 150 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, return glaze to simmer and cook, uncovered, until darkly colored and thickened, about 7 minutes.
5. Add accumulated pork juices and mustard to glaze. Reduce heat to low and whisk in butter, on piece at a time. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour glaze over chops and serve.

I went to Ollie's with a 15% off coupon last week, thinking how exciting it was going to be to pick out some new cookbooks after not buying any for two months. I almost walked out empty handed. Their stock hadn't turned over much from two months ago. Just as I was about to walk away I spotted this book. I'm not sure that I'll have even 30 minutes to prepare dinner after the baby is born and I head back to work but I can dream.

This is from Cook's Illustrated and while their recipes can be fussy, they rarely disappoint. I was needlessly worried about this recipe since maple syrup can be overpowering but the final result here was a great sauce that had a hint of maple syrup but it was definitely not overpowering. I loved it and I could have eaten the sauce with a spoon. Okay, I did eat some of the sauce with a spoon but there was plenty left for the chops too.

I'm still pretty healthy but one ear closed up last night and the other seems close behind. Hopefully it won't get worse than that. This is the same thing my son had and decogestant got him through it. Unfortunately I can't just fill myself up with drugs willy-nilly right now but if anything is going to make me break down and take something during this pregnancy, a middle-of-the-night earache will do it. There's nothing worse. Well, labor and childbirth but I'm trying not to think about that.

Blast From The Past: Chocolate Sheet Cake from July 2006. That was from the New Best Recipe and it was a very good chocolate cake.

Question of the Day: How much time did you spend preparing dinner last night?

Monday, February 25, 2008

--Flemish Beef and Beer Stew

Flemish Beef and Beer Stew
Betty Crocker’s New International Cookbook Copyright 1989

1 ½ pound beef boneless chuck or round steak, 1 inch thick
¼ pound bacon I used turkey bacon
4 medium onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 can (12 or 16 ounces) light or dark beer
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon vinegar
Snipped parsley
Hot cooked noodles

Cut beef into ½-inch slices; cut slices into 2-inch strips. Cut bacon into ¼-inch pieces; fry in Dutch oven until crisp. Remove bacon with slotted spoon; drain. Pour off fat and reserve. Cook and stir onions and garlic in 2 tablespoons of the reserved bacon fat until onion is tender, about 10 minutes. Remove onions. Cook and stir beef in remaining bacon fat until brown, about 15 minutes.

Stir in flour to coat beef; gradually stir in water. Add onions, beer, bay leaf, brown sugar, salt, thyme and pepper. Add just enough water to cover beef if necessary. Heat to boiling, reduce heat. Cover and simmer until beef is tender, 1 to 1 ½ hours. Remove bay leaf. Stir in vinegar; sprinkle with bacon and parsley. Serve with noodles.

This was similar to my favorite beef stew according to the list of ingredients but the small differences really made a big difference. I was not that thrilled with this. I will say that I think my appetite was 'off' last night. I feel a cold coming on.

What went wrong? Why did this turn out so differently from that other recipe? Well, first of all, I thought the bacon might 'add something' but it didn't since I used turkey bacon. I had a stock of it in the freezer (from a BOGO free sale) which I tried once and I decided I didn't like. I was going to buy real bacon for this but I was trying to be healthy and decided to give the turkey bacon another shot. Blech.

This recipe uses water instead of beef stock and the meat:liquid ratio is different. The other recipe has about the same amount of liquid and twice as much meat.

The main difference? The other recipe is baked. Baked stews just taste better than those cooked on the stovetop. Live and learn.

I've been surrounded by all sorts of bugs and illnesses lately and I think I've finally been hit. Let's hope it's something mild. I've going to skip the Blast From The Past because I don't feel like looking at any more food right now.

Question of the Day: Have you been healthy so far this year?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

--Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes
Baking From My Home To Yours Copyright 2006

For the cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 stick (8 tbs) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk I used soured milk (milk & vinegar)
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For the glaze I didn't make the glaze.
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (Valrhona bittersweet 70%)
1 tbs confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fit the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan with paper muffin cups, or butter them, dust them with flour and tap out the excess.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is blended into the butter. Add the egg, then the yolk, beating 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the vanilla, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear. Scrape down the bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing until incorporated, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate and mix it in with the rubber spatula. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are dry and springy to the touch and a knife inserted into their centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before unmolding. Cool to room temperature on the rack before glazing.

To make the Glaze
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let stand for 5 minutes.

Using a small whisk or rubber spatula, stir the confectioners’ sugar into the chocolate, followed by the pieces of cold butter. The glaze may be very thin at this point or may be perfectly spreadable. If it is too thin to spread or use as a dip, stir it over ice water for a few seconds – really less than a minute. With a small metal icing spatula, give each cupcake a crown of shiny ganache, and let the glaze set at room temperature (or in the fridge if you are in a hurry). If the ganache loses its gloss and you miss it, give the tops of the cakes a puff of hot air from a hairdryer right before serving.

I've not had good luck with chocolate cupcakes. For my son's birthday, the first batch was a messy disaster and the second batch was dry. I've skipped over this recipe in the past because Dorie describes them as 'adult' but oh my, am I ever glad I finally made these.

These really hit the spot for me. They weren't too sweet and they had a very nice texture that I can't quite describe. They weren't dry nor were they particularly moist but they seemed just right. The tops were a bit chewy like a brownie and I thought they were great plain. I made these to freeze for my son who often needs a cupcake on the fly due to his peanut allergy (he can't have bakery cake or cupcakes) but not many made it into the freezer. I ate five of these! Not at once but over the course of a couple of days.

Blast From The Past: Pineapple Oatmeal Muffins from September 2007. I haven't been making many muffins these days but I should get back into the habit.

Question of the Day: Have you made any of Dorie's recipes?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It grew on me
--Pork Medallions with Olive-Caper Sauce

Pork Medallions with Olive-Caper Sauce
The Best of Cooking Light Copyright 2004

1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cut pork crosswise into 8 pieces. Place each pork piece between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap, and pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Sprinkle both sides of the pork with salt and pepper. Place the flour in a shallow bowl. Dredge pork in flour, turning to coat; shake off the excess flour. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of pork, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove pork mixture from pan, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with the remaining oil and pork. Return pork to pan. Add wine and broth; bring to a boil. Stir in olives and capers; cook 4 minutes. I thickened the sauce slightly with corn starch. Sprinkle with parsley.
4 servings (serving size: 2 medallions and 2 tablespoons sauce)

Nutritional Information
CALORIES 212(34% from fat); FAT 8.1g (sat 1.8g,mono 5.1g,poly 0.9g); PROTEIN 25.5g; CHOLESTEROL 74mg; CALCIUM 30mg; SODIUM 894mg; FIBER 0.9g; IRON 2.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 8.1g

I had a jar of kalamata olives that I bought for another recipe that only called for a small amount of them. They're not cheap so I was happy to find this recipe that also used them. This was one of those recipes that grew on me as I ate it. At first, it was just okay but as I ate it I liked it more and more but I don't think I would rush to make it again. I hate to say that because it was good but lots of recipes are good but they have to be more than good for me to make them again.

I did well at the grocery store last night even though I made special effort not to skimp on healthiness. I must go to Costco this weekend since the meat prices in the grocery store gave me heart palapitations. I've noticed price increases at Costco too but the prices are still easier to handle.

Blast From The Past: Creole-Style Pork Tenderloin Patties from July 2007. Now that is a pork medallion recipe I plan on making again.

Question of the Day: What have you been doing to cut down on your grocery bill? My main weapon is better planning. The more trips to the store I make the more money I spend. I'm looking more closely at sales and coupons these days too.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Something light for a change
--Chicken Stir-Fry

Chicken Stir-Fry
Taste of Home The Complete Guide to Country Cooking Copyright 1998

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (1 pound)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce I used low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup sliced celery (1/2-inch pieces)
1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 small onion, cut into wedges
1 cup water
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules I used no-sodium bouillon

Cut chicken into 1/2-in. strips; place in a resealable plastic bag. Add cornstarch and toss to coat. Combine soy sauce, ginger and garlic powder; add to bag and shake well. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a large skillet or wok, heat 2 tablespoons of oil; stir-fry chicken until no longer pink, about 3-5 minutes. Remove and keep warm. Add remaining oil; stir- fry broccoli, celery, carrots and onion for 4-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add water and bouillon. Return chicken to pan. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Yield: 4 servings.

This is a very basic stir fry but that's exactly what appealed to me. I've been tired and unfocused so I haven't been doing the best job of chosing healthy recipes, although I do try to make things healthier whenever I can (using low-fat meats, low-fats cheeses, high fiber pasta, etc). My taste buds have been all over the place - first I craved 'bad' stuff, then 'good' stuff and now I find myself right in the middle and this recipe fit right in. I couldn't go as far as to use brown rice so I used Uncle Ben's.

I've been spending less on groceries due to good planning and I'm happy about that. I'm way overdue for a trip to Costco but I haven't had room in the freezer. This week or next for sure. I did go last weekend because I needed yeast and I ended up picking up the extra things I needed for the week but no meats. The funny thing was that I spent less than if I had just picked up those few things in the local grocery store because I didn't throw anything extra in the cart since the larger sizes and prices make you think twice about that. I really wish Costco was closer. I used to think that might be a bad thing but not anymore.

Blast From The Past: Stir-Fried Chicken with Chinese Cabbage from January 2006. I think stir-fries will be part of the regular rotation after this baby comes. They're fast and you can usually do most of the prep work ahead of time.

Question of the Day: Do you make stir-fries at home very often?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Muffins for dinner
--Barbecue Cups

Barbecue Cups
Church Potluck Carry-Ins and Casseroles Copyright 2006

1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
¼ cup bottled barbecue sauce
1 7.5 ounce tube refrigerated biscuits

1. Brown ground beef and onion.
2. Pour off excess fat.
3. Add seasoning and sugar and barbecue sauce.
4. Simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Separate biscuits.
6. Pres into bottom and sides of a greased muffin tin.
7. Fill with meat mixture and top with cheese. (They didn't mention cheese in the ingredients - good thing I had some on hand.)
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Serves 8.

I had to buy a 4-pack of biscuits when I made the Easy Biscuit Doughnuts. This recipe seemed like a good way to use up another can however my biscuits were smaller. I rolled them out and made them cover as much of the muffin tins as I could but they still didn't cover the sides so the cheese ended up gluing them in. It took a little elbow grease to get them out of the pan and the pan needed a good soaking afterwards but it wasn't too big of a disaster.

I can see how these would be nice to serve to children instead of a traditional sloppy joe. They're cute and definitely not as messy. If you use the right size biscuit, they should pop right out of the pan.

Blast From The Past: Meat Puffs from June 2007. That's a different kind of meat muffin, also very good.

Question of the Day: How often do you cook for kids?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just like cookies
--Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes with Cinnamon Sour Cream

Oatmeal Raisin Pancakes with Cinnamon Sour Cream
Best Recipes from American Country Inns and Bed & Breakfasts Copyright 2004

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 2/3 cups buttermilk I used soured milk (milk and vinegar)
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup plump raisins

Cinnamon Sour Cream:
1 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts for garnish I omitted these

In medium bowl, whisk oats, flour, baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and light brown sugar. In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, butter, and vanilla and blend thoroughly. Pour liquid ingredients over dry ingredients and mix with whisk until just combined. Don’t worry if batter is lumpy. With rubber spatula, gently fold in raisins. Batter will thicken as it stands. If it becomes too thick, add more buttermilk.

For cinnamon sour cream, combine in small bowl sour cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon and thoroughly mix using rubber spatula. Store covered in refrigerator until ready to serve. Will keep for 5 days in refrigerator.

Heat griddle to 350 degrees and lightly spray with oil. Spoon ¼ cup batter onto griddle for each pancake, allowing space for spreading. When underside of pancake is golden and top speckled with bubbles that pop, flip pancake. Cook until other side is golden brown. Serve immediately, top with a spoonful of cinnamon sour cream and sprinkle with walnuts.

Yields 14 pancakes.

I was in the mood for pancakes and this recipe caught my eye. They tasted just like oatmeal raisin cookies. I wasn't crazy about the sour cream topping although it sounded like it was right up my alley. Then I tried a little bit of maple syrup which was too overpowering. Finally I tried some Country Crock Honey Spread that I had purchased on a whim and that was the winner. Real honey butter would have been the best choice.

I love this cookbook. Someone asked me recently which cookbook was my current favorite and while I'm not really concentrating on any particular cookbook right now, I always enjoy picking this one up, which is strange considering it has no photos.

This is going to be my entry into Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday. She's been on a break and I'm not sure if she'll be back this week. This is the first time in a long time I've been able to jump in so I hope so. This recipe has oatmeal, raisins and cinnamon which are all nice and healthy, especially cinnamon which is supposed to be good for regulating insulin.

I can't tell you how happy I am that the days are starting to get noticeably longer. It makes such a difference when the sun is actually up when we leave the house in the morning.

Blast From The Past: Cheeseburger Macaroni from March 2006. I keep asking myself what we're going to be eating after this baby comes and that recipe is always the first thing that pops into my mind.

Question of the Day: What did you have for breakfast this morning? This morning I had an egg sandwich and then I brought some leftover pancakes for a mid-morning snack.

Not what I remembered
--Strawberry Mousse

Strawberry Mousse
The Ugly Binder, from a church cookbook

3 pkg. (small) red jello I used raspberry
3 cups boiling water
1 pkg. frozen strawberries I added about 10 oz because I think that's how big the pkg used to be
1/2 pint sour cream I used lite

Make jello and let cool. When jello is cooled, beat sour cream well into jello. Add
strawberries with juice into above mixture. Grease mold with small amount of
vegetble oil for easy removal for serving. Let stand overnight.

All through my first pregnancy I thought about a jello mold that my sister made a few times years ago. This time around I finally asked her for the recipe and she couldn't remember of course. She found this one in a church cookbook but it wasn't as creamy as the one I remembered, not in color or texture. I thought it was very tasty so I could be misremembering the color and texture. Oh well, like I said, these were very good and I finally got to use the little molds I bought quite a while ago.

I tried to Google the recipe but there's a very popular jello mold with sour cream on top that keeps coming up. I think I might just need to add more sour cream to this recipe to get what I want.

I've never had jello set faster. I was putting something away in the refrigerator less than an hour later and I moved the bowl that held the leftover jello, that didn't fit in the molds, and I noticed it was already set!

Blast From The Past: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes from February 2006. I've been in the mood for pancakes and I have the day off so I'm going to go make some right now.

Question of the Day: Do you like Jello?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Not zingy
--Honeyed Chicken

Honeyed Chicken
Better Homes and Garden Chicken Cooking For Today Copyright 1993

8 chicken drumsticks and/or thighs (about 2 pounds total)
¼ cup finely chopped green onion
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Dash ground red pepper

Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken pieces in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan making sure pieces do not touch. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine green onion, honey, garlic powder, and ground red pepper. Brush chicken pieces with honey mixture. Return to oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or till golden brown and chicken is no longer pink.

Makes 4 servings.

The lead-in to this recipe calls this chicken 'zingy' or maybe 'zippy' but it's neither, IMO. The onions, garlic and red pepper didn't cut through the sweetness of the honey enough for my taste. I haven't really been feeling the love for chicken-on-the-bone lately either. So I rate this as just okay.

TGIF! I'm drained. I'm looking forward to a 3-day weekend. Maybe I'll finally get the recipe archives caught up.

Blast From The Past:Baked Chicken With Honey And Mustard from May 2006. Now that recipe had enough zing to please me.

Question of the Day: What do you like on baked chicken pieces? Just dry spices? Barbecue sauce? Something else? Absolutely nothing?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Another great pork stir-fry
--Orange Pork with Scallions

Orange Pork with Scallions
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007 Copyright 2006

1 pound pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
2 cups matchstick-cut carrots
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons bottled ground fresh ginger (such as Spice World)I used one clove of fresh garlic
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1/3 cup diagonally cut green onions
Sliced green onions (optional)

Cut pork into 2 x 1/4-inch-wide strips. Combine pork and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a bowl; toss well. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch, broth, and next 4 ingredients (through salt).

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until desired degree of doneness; stir frequently. Remove pork from pan.

Heat oil in pan. Add carrots, 1/4 cup water, ginger, and garlic to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return pork to pan. Stir in broth mixture; bring to a boil. Cook 30 seconds. Stir in 1/3 cup onions. Serve immediately. Garnish with sliced onions, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup pork mixture)

This was a simple, tasty stir-fry. It was colorful and flavorful. I loved using the thin cut carrots (they're marked 'shredded' but they're more like matchsticks) since they cook up quickly and I don't like my carrots too crunchy. I chose this recipe since I only needed to pick up the carrots and the green onions to make it. I'd call it a winner.

Did I mention that my new Cuisinart Griller already bit the dust? I turned it on to use it two weeks ago and even though it wasn't even on high, it kept getting hotter and hotter. It was smoking. That was very disappointing since those things aren't cheap. They sent me a new one that just arrived so hopefully I won't have any more trouble.

Blast From The Past: Stir-Fried Pork with Sweet Onions from June 2007. I love pork in a stir-fry.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had a small appliance replaced by the manufacturer? I don't think I've ever had anything break this quickly. They were very good about it but I will need to pay the postage to return the old one.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's a boy!
--Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells
Everyday Pasta Copyright 2007

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground turkey I used ground chicken
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (8 to 10-ounce) package frozen artichokes, thawed and coarsely chopped I used canned
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves I used a lesser amount of dried
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley I used a lesser amount of dried
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce or marinara sauce (store-bought or homemade) I used a 28oz jar
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. (I had enough filling for 40 shells!) Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella.

Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 25 minutes.

First of all, it's another boy! It would have been nice to have a girl in the family for a change (the grandparents will now have 10 grandsons and no granddaughters between them), you know I'm practical and I have a mountain of boy stuff in our basement ready to spring into action.

I've had this cookbook for some time but I just haven't been able to work any of the recipes into my menu. I'm not sure why but that's just how it goes sometimes. Between working with food allergies and avoidances, pickier eaters and avoiding expensive ingredients, it limits me a bit.

This recipe caught my eye and even though I had no ground turkey, I had some ground chicken which I think worked well. I made some sacrifices in the name of keeping my grocery bill down and used dried basil and parsley and I also used a cheap jarred sauce which was okay but definitely not as good as any of my usual favorite brands.

These were delicious but the chicken and artichokes were so mild that these shells didn't stand out much from other stuffed shells. All stuffed shells are usually rather delicious.

This is Giada's third cookbook and I think the quality is still good. I think celebrity chefs sometimes run out of good ideas before their book or television deals run out but Giada's still got some good material. I think Paula Deen has run dry - the recipes she's making on her show these days don't seem very personal to her. She's a Southern cook and these days she's making schnitzel and paella. She just can't deliver those recipes with the same conviction she delivered Gooey Butter Cake.

Blast From The Past: Sausage-Stuffed Shells With Chunky Tomato Sauce from April 2006. I loved the shells but the sauce wasn't good (lousy canned tomatoes).

Question of the Day: Do you make stuffed shells? What do you stuff them with?

A successful experiment
--Easy Biscuit Doughnuts

Easy Biscuit Doughnuts
The Deen Bros. Cookbook Copyright 2007

½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Vegetable oil, for frying
1 12-ounce tube buttermilk biscuit dough

1. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
2. Fill a wide, shallow pan with 1 inch of oil. Heat the oil to 370 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, arrange the biscuits on a baking sheet. Using a 1-inch diameter round cookie cutter, cut out the center of each biscuit.
4. Drop the doughnuts into the hot oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown, turning doughnuts if necessary. Transfer the doughnuts immediately to a baking sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Serve warm.

Makes 10 doughnuts.

After my last doughnut disaster, I think I mentioned that maybe I should have just fried biscuit dough instead. I came across 'the recipe' in this Deen Bros. cookbook and I still had the oil from the last batch so I thought it was worth a try. Canned biscuits are cheap so there was little risk.

Well gosh these were great. Even the holes fried up nicely. They're soft and a bit chewy. They reminded me of the pizza fritas I ate growing up. They were sold at the public pool and at church picnics - fried dough covered in sugar.

I'll keep trying to make doughnuts from scratch but these were so quick and economical. I think I made 10 for about 50 cents not including the cost of the oil I reused. I made them start to finish before work and I didn't get up earlier than usual either. My co-workers scarfed them down.

Blast From the Past: Asian Pork Ribs from August 2007. Those were rich but very good.

Question of the Day: Boy or girl? Today's the day we (hopefully) find out.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A good use for crushed potato chips
--Crispy Chip Cookies

Crispy Chip Cookies
The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion Copyright 2004

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup gently crushed plain salted potato chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment paper) two baking sheets.

In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening, sugars, salt, baking powder and vanilla. Beat in the egg, then stir in the oats and flour, mixing until well combined. Gently fold in the potato chips. The dough will be stiff.

Drop the dough by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the cookies begin to brown around the edges. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Makes 24 cookies

I was looking for something fast and something simple (i.e. something that could be made with ingredients on hand). I saw this recipe and recalled that we had a partially full bag of chips that was badly abused somewhere along the way and was already 'gently crushed'. I wasn't expecting much but I ate about three of these right away. They were pleasant - not outrageous but a nice simple cookie that you can whip up with one bowl and a wooden spoon.

I got my grocery bill down a bit which makes me happy. The key really is planning. I'm getting back to using coupons the ads a bit more than I have been. I'm making a sacrifice here and there too (buying a brand on sale rather than my preferred brand).

Blast From The Past: Ruth Wakefield’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars from June 2007. These are from this cookbook also and they're awesome! I made them with Christmas Kissables for Christmas and they were one of the my favorites.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had cookies with potato chips in them?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Pretty good actually
--Chili Dog Wraps

Chili Dog Wraps
Home Cooking 200 Recipe Annual Copyright 2005

10 corn tortillas (5- or 6- inches in diameter)
10 hot dogs
1 can (15 to 16 ounces) chili
2 cups salsa
1 cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey jack Cheese (4 ounces)

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease rectangular baking dish, 13x9x2 inches.
Soften tortillas as directed on package.
Place 1 hot dog and 2 tablespoons chili on each tortilla.
Roll up tortillas; place seam side down in baking dish.
Spoon salsa over tortillas.
Cover and bake 20 minutes. Sprinkle with Cheese.
Bake uncovered about 5 minutes longer or until Cheese is melted.

I pushed this recipe towards the end of the week because even though I chose it, I was having second thoughts. When I'm being smart, I remember to look up a recipe online before copying it out of the cookbook so I can cut and paste instead and when I did a search on this recipe, it came up quite a bit so that gave me some confidence.

I don't know what I was afraid of because I love chili dogs and I love salsa and I love corn tortillas and I love cheese. This was great. Yes, it's a bit heavy but I used lite hot dogs and 2% cheddar and we just had a salad with it so really, it wasn't that heavy.

Blast From The Past: A&W Coney Island Chili Dog Sauce from March 2006. That's my favorite chili recipe (for hot dogs) but I used Bush's chili for this.

Question of the Day: Any special plans for Valentine's Day?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kinda sorta
--Hungarian Cabbage and Noodles

Hungarian Cabbage and Noodles
All You Can Eat! All Occasion Entertaining Copyright 2006

1 large cabbage
1 medium-sized yellow onion
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
12 ounces egg noodles
1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1. Core the cabbage and thinly slice until you have about 8 cups. Peel the onion and chop into ¼-inch pieces.
2. Sprinkle the cabbage with salt. Let stand 30 minutes, then squeeze dry. Lay on paper towels to soak up excess moisture.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the sugar and heat until the sugar browns. Add the onions and cook until they start to wilt. Stir in the cabbage. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the cabbage is tender, about 20 minutes. Season with the pepper. Transfer the cabbage and juices to a large bowl and keep warm.
4. Cooke the noodles in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Quickly toss the noodles with the cabbage mixture and the poppy seeds. Serve immediately.

I had recipes planned this week but I didn't have a schedule. I decided to make this last night and then read 'let stand 30 minutes' and well, I didn't have 30 minutes and it was too late to turn back. At that point I basically abandoned the recipe and freestyled cabbage and noodles the way I usually do. I don't usually soak my cabbage. I added a touch of brown sugar and butter. Salt and lots of pepper of course. I never add poppy seeds. I don't know why I don't make cabbage and noodles more often since it's so simple and we love it.

I'm getting a new camera! I'm actually happy with my current camera but it acts up a bit sometimes. It's about 5 years old with an obsolete card so I think it's time. My photos aren't the best but I almost never have daylight and I really don't like to play around with my food too much before I eat it.

Blast From The Past: Chicken-and-Rice Bake from March 2007. This is a recipe I've been thinking a lot about making again.

Question of the Day: What kind of camera do you have? I had an Olympus and I'm getting another Olympus.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

This was okay
--Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy
The Sopranos Family Cookbook Copyright 2002

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound meaty pork neck bones or spareribs
1 pound veal stew meat
2 veal shoulder chops
1 pound Italian-style plain or fennel pork sausages
4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 (28- to 35-ounce) cans Italian peeled tomatoes I used crushed tomatoes with basil
2 cups water
Salt and freshly ground pepper
6 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces I omitted this

***For the Meatballs*** I skipped the meatballs
1 pound ground beef or a combination of beef and pork
1/2 cup plain bread crumbs, preferably homemade
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

***To Serve***
1 pound shells or rigatoni, cooked and still hot
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano

To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Pat the pork dry and put the pieces in the pot. Cook, turning occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the pork to a plate. Brown the veal in the same way and add it to the plate. Place the sausages in the pot and brown on all sides. Set the sausages aside with the pork. Drain off most of the fat from the pot. Add the garlic and cook for about two minutes or until golden. Remove and discard the garlic. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

With a food mill, puree the tomatoes, with their juice, into the pot. Or, for a chunkier sauce, just chop up the tomatoes and add them. Add the water and salt and pepper to taste. Add the pork, veal, and sausages and basil and bring the sauce to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. (I cooked this longer than 2 hours since the meat wasn't tender at 2 hours.) If the sauce becomes too thick, add a little more water. Meanwhile, make the meatballs: Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a large bowl. Mix together thoroughly. Rinse your hands with cool water and lightly shape the mixture into 2-inch balls. (Note: If you are making meatballs for lasagna or baked ziti, shape the meat into tiny balls the size of a small grape)

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the meatballs and brown them well on all sides. (They will finish cooking later.) Transfer the meatballs to a plate. After two hours, add the meatballs and cook for 30 minutes or until the sauce is thick and the meat is very tender. To serve, remove the meats from the sauce and set aside. Toss the cooked pasta with the sauce. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve the meats as a second course, or reserve them for another day.

This was good, not great but I'm not blaming the recipe. With something like a red sauce, even a few changes means that you really haven't made the recipe since the nuances really count. I skipped the veal (too expensive), used crushed tomatoes with basil instead of peeled tomatoes and fresh basil (I don't have a food mill, the organic tomatoes came with basil and fresh basil is expensive). I was going to make the meatballs but I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer and the spareribs and sausage provided us with enough meat.

So do I go grocery shopping a day early to save $10 or just forget about it? My menu isn't planned so I'll need to go shopping again over the weekend and I always spend more when I don't get everything I need at once. Ever since they changed their weekly schedule so that ads and promotions run Thu-Wed, I'm completely thrown off. I also have another promotion that needs to be cashed in by next Wed (5% off total). I think I'll save more if I plan better and go tomorrow but it kills me that I forgot to use that coupon last week.

Blast From The Past: Rigatoni Con Salsiccia (Rigatoni with Sausage) from this past December. Same basic idea as above but I think it was better.

Question of the Day: How often do you visit the grocery store? For me the answer is too often - I always hope the neigbors don't notice me coming home with yet more groceries even though I don't know why they'd care. I don't think I've ever seen any of our neighbors bringing in groceries.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Like hockey pucks
--Raised Doughnuts and Doughnut Holes

Raised Doughnuts and Doughnut Holes
The All-New Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook Copyright 1999

1 recipe chilled Classic Brioche Dough
2 quarts vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional

1. Lightly dust work surface with flour. Roll dough into 16-inch circle, approximately ¼ inch thick.
2. Using a 3-inch-round doughnut cutter, cut out as many doughnuts as possible. If you do not have a doughnut cutter, use a 3-inch round biscuit cutter to cut out the doughnuts, and a 1-inch-round cutter to cut out the holes. Place doughnuts and holes on a baking sheet. Gather the scraps, reroll and cut.
3. Heat 2 inches oil to 360 degrees F in a heavy-bottomed 3-quart saucepan. Fry 3 doughnuts and a few holes at a time, 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. To get doughnuts to really puff up while frying, dunk them under the oil a couple of times with a slotted spoon.
4. Remove with a slotted spoon and let drain on a wire rack resting on a baking pan. Let oil recover to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch.
5. Roll warm doughnuts and holes in sugar. Of desired, mix ground cinnamon with sugar.

Classic Brioche Dough (made in the bread machine)

1/3 cup milk
3 extra-large eggs
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast

All ingredients must be at room temperature. Liquid ingredients should be about 80 degrees.

Cut butter into tablespoonsful. Add ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine owner's manual, adding just 4 tablespoons of butter to start. Do not use delay bake function.

Select manual/dough.

Add the remaining butter during the first kneading, 2 tablespoons at a time after the dough comes together in a ball.

At the end of the program, punch down dough. Let dough rest 5 minutes.

Butter a 3-quart bowl. Place dough in bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Refrigerate 12 to 24 hours.

Happy Fat Tuesday! Around here doughnuts are the big thing and all the bakeries and many churches are busy making fashnachts (doughnuts). Since I don't have a connection to any of the great church fashnachts and the supermarket ones are just so-so, this is the second year I'm trying to make my own. Last year's were just okay, this year's were worse! I don't know what went wrong but these are like little hockey pucks. The dough was so stiff (which makes sense with all that butter and the chilling).

There was plenty of room for error. I bought this cookbook online before I started using my bread machine and the recipes are too big for my 1-pound loaf pans. I had to break this recipe in half. Otherwise, I followed it pretty closely but I ended up with very dense doughnuts. My husband ate these warm and loved them. He asked me to make more but what does he know? Oh, and those darn holes. Absolutely impossible to flip over and even denser.

Oh well. Maybe next year. I have an old Amish cookbook with many doughnut recipes but the instructions are too vague. I'll have to experiment.

Blast From The Past: Salisbury Steak Deluxe from June 2007. I was thinking about making this again this week but never got around to looking up the recipe. Good thing I guess because last night my husband knocked the horseradish off the fridge shelf and it ended up all over the floor.

Question of the Day: Have you had any recipe failures lately?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

More bread
--Cheese and Pepperoni Bread

Cheese and Pepperoni Bread
Easy Bread Machine Recipes Copyright 1997

2 ¼ C all-purpose flour
7/8 C water
1 T olive oil
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
½ C diced pepperoni I used turkey pepperoni
¼ C grated cheddar cheese I used 2% cheddar
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 ½ tsp yeast

Prepare according to your bread machine's instruction manual.

I really wanted more Pizza Bread but if I keep making the same thing, what would I blog about? So I tried a similar recipe. The top of the bread collapsed and I thought it was going to be disappointing but I liked it just as much as the Pizza Bread (a lot!). I wondered about that entire teaspoon of pepper but I think that's what made it stand out. I was pleased.

Someone asked for my taco seasoning recipe and this is the one I use (found many places on the internet):

Taco Seasoning

1/4 cup dried, minced onion
1/4 cup chili powder
3 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon dried, minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin powder
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

Combine all ingredients. Store in an airtight container, in a cool dry place, for up to 1 year.
To use: brown 1 pound ground beef in a skillet and drain. Add 2 tablespoons of taco seasoning and 1/3 to 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil and cook and stir for 2 minutes.

I use low or no sodium boullion and usually leave out the salt or reduce it.

I realized over the weekend that I didn't use a $10 off coupon I had for the grocery store last week. It expires Wednesday and I shop on Thursdays. Should I shop a day early this week? That will throw off my workout schedule but $10 is a lot of money these days.

Blast From The Past: Potato Doughnuts from last year. I was surprised - I thought I made these two years ago. For some reason I thought I missed doing anything special for Fat Tuesday last year. I'm going to attempt a different doughnut recipe this year. Wish me luck!

Question of the Day: Do you have anything special planned for tomorrow? Doughnuts or pancakes? I'm not doing pancakes this year. I didn't remember it was Fat Tuesday until after my menu was planned.