Monday, October 31, 2005

Something easy tonight

Hot Muffuletta
Food & Wine Magazine’s Quick From Scratch One-Dish Meals Cookbook Copyright 1997,2002,2004

1 10-ounce jar green olives with pimientos, drained and chopped
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
4 large crusty rolls, split
½ pound sliced hard salami
½ pound sliced ham
½ pound sliced provolone

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the chopped olives with the oregano, garlic, oil and parsley. (My jar was only 5.75 ounces but it was plenty for 4 sandwiches – I decreased the oregano, oil and parsley a bit but I probably didn’t need to. Also, I used the chopping attachment to my stick blender to chop this.) Spread some of the olive mixture on the bottom half of each roll.
2. Top the olive salad with salami, ham, and provolone. Cover with the tops of the rolls then wrap each sandwich in aluminum foil. Bake until cheese melts, about 15 minutes. You can also serve these unheated, which is more traditional.

My husband’s favorite meal is probably hot Italian subs. A light brush of mayo, some hoagie spread (basically chopped cherry peppers), cappacola, Genoa salami, pepperoni and Provolone cheese on a nice bread, wrapped and foil and heated in the oven. I’m sick of those subs so I thought this would be a nice variation and it was. I wanted to use the ciabatta rolls from Costco but I hate it when they put hot rolls in a plastic bag and the bag steams up which was the case on Saturday when I was in Costco so I used Kaiser rolls.

I think this cookbook from Food & Wine Magazine will be a standout in my collection. The recipes have a bit of class yet they aren’t complicated. I love cookbooks that have a photograph of each recipe.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A pumpkin patch

Classic Yellow Cake
The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Copyright 2003

12 tablespoons ( 1 ½ sticks, 6 ounces) butter
1 ¾ cups (12 ¼ ounces) sugar
¾ teaspoon salt
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs, plus 2 yolks
2 ¾ cups (11 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) milk, buttermilk or yogurt I used milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder and vanilla until fluffy and light, at least 5 minutes.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly blend one-third of the flour into the creamed mixture, then half the milk, another third of the flour, the remaining milk and the remaining flour. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally throughout this process.

Pour the batter into greased and floured or parchment-lined 8- or 9-inch round pans, or a 9x13 –inch pan. Bake for 23 to 26 minutes ( for 8-inch pans), 25 to 30 minutes (for 9-inch pans), or about 35 minutes for the 9x13-inch pan. Remove the cakes from the oven, cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out on a rack to cool completely before frosting.

I made mini-cupcakes and jumbo cupcakes. I got 24 mini-cupcakes and 12 jumbo cupcakes out of this recipes. At first, I just though the cake was okay but after tasting them with the Creamy Frosting, I’d have to say they were more than just okay. I gave my son a mini-cupcake (plain) and he kept begging for another so they must have been pretty good.

Creamy Frosting
Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook Copyright 1997

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine flour and milk in medium saucepan, stir over low heat until thickened. Cool. Beat butter in large bowl until creamy. Add powdered sugar; beat until fluffy. Blend in vanilla. Add flour mixture, beat until thick and smooth.

In the 9th or 10th grade, Paula Bonavitch (one of the few other Paulas I’ve ever known) baked a cake for French club and I loved the frosting. Paula gave me the recipe which I lost before I ever made the frosting. I lost touch with Paula Bonavitch too. I remembered the gist of the recipe but it was years and years before I found a similar recipe in print (this was long before you could Google a few ingredients and find any recipe your heart desires). Paula’s recipe and others I’ve tried use granulated sugar. Many use shortening and/or margarine. This one intrigued me since it used all butter and powdered sugar. I really like this, it’s buttery but not overly sweet. I have to wonder why this method isn’t more popular. Other buttercreams are either too sweet or too complicated (the ones with the meringues, eggs, etc.). Some stiffen up but this one stays creamy at room temperature.

Cutout cookies are evil

All-Purpose Cutout Cookies
The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Copyright 2003

½ cup (3 ¼ ounces) vegetable shortening
8 tablespoons (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter
½ cup (4 ounces) brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 ½ cups ( 10 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces) white rice flour or cornstarch

In a large bowl, beat together the shortening, butter, sugars, salt, baking powder and vanilla. When well blended, add the egg, beating until fluffy. Whisk the flours and/or cornstarch together and stir in. Divide the dough in half, form into disks, wrap well and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the chilled dough from the refrigerator and roll it 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. (I rolled the dough out between sheets of parchment - no flour needed). Cut with cookie or biscuit cutters, place the cookies on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re very lightly browned on the edges. Remove them from the oven and cool on racks.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

NEVER AGAIN! I’ve said that the last few times I attempted cutout cookies but I never learn (many would be surprised to know that I’m an optimist). I have no problem making the cookies, it’s decorating where it all falls apart. Last year I used Toba Garrett’s glaze and everything worked wonderfully. Two more attempts at that glaze have now failed. I was going to do a buttercream but opted to coat these with almond bark and honestly, I wasn’t happy with the results. It was easy to work with but I’m just not cut out (ha ha) to decorate cutout cookies.

BUT, if you are, this is the recipe for you. The cookies were delicious. Tender yet sturdy. Great taste. King Arthur knows best.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Ah-ha! The key to good potato salad

Old-fashioned Potato Salad
The Gourmet Cookbook Copyright 2004

2 pounds boiling potatoes
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup celery
½ cup chopped white onion
3 hard-boiled large eggs, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
Freshly ground pepper

Combine potatoes with well-salted cold water to cover by 2 inches in a 3-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until potatoes are just tender, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size. Drain and cool slightly.

Meanwhile whisk together vinegar and salt in a large bowl until salt is dissolved.

When potatoes are just cool enough to handle, peel and cut into 1-inch pieces, adding to vinegar mixture as you cut them, tossing gently with a rubber spatula to coat. Cool to room temperature.

Add celery, onion, eggs, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste to potatoes and stir gently to combine. Serve room temperature or chilled.


I would usually wing potato salad but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to try a new recipe. There isn’t anything unusual about this potato salad recipe but potato salad doesn’t need to be unusual. I’ve heard of the method of adding vinegar to the warm potatoes but I’ve personally not tried that before now. That is really the key to good potato salad, I now believe. My potato salad always seemed a bit flat and now I know why. I thought for sure I would miss the bit of yellow mustard I usually add but I really didn’t.

The recipe intro suggests which types of potatoes to use to avoid mushy potatoes but I happen to prefer mushy potatoes in my potato salad so I used russets. They suggest Round Maine, Yukon Gold or long whites.

I was actually surprised to find such a basic recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook. The intro to the recipes expresses a bit of shock that the ‘unfashionable’ cider vinegar was the vinegar testers liked best. I love cider vinegar and I had no idea it was ‘unfashionable’ . Which vinegars are ‘fashionable’? Why am I always the last one to know about these things?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Just like Mamma makes

Breaded Chicken
Cooking and Canning with Mamma D’Amato Copyright 1997

¼ cup breadcrumbs (I may have used a little more and I used seasoned breadcrumbs)
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 whole boneless chicken breasts, totaling about 1 ½ pounds ( I used chicken tenders.)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 37 5 degrees.
Combine bread crumbs and cheese.
Butter a large baking dish and set aside.
(I rolled chicken in melted butter first.)
Halve chicken breasts and roll in breadcrumb mixture.
Place in buttered baking dish.
Put a pat of butter on top of each chicken breast and season to taste with salt and pepper. (I added salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs and cheese mixture.)
Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes. (Yes! this is what Mamma D’Amato said but obviously I didn’t have to bake my chicken tenders nearly as long.)

I’m not sure I can stretch it and say I followed this recipe Why can’t I follow a recipe these past few days? I could swear I was supposed to roll the chicken in melted butter first. I looked at several similar recipes, hence the confusion I guess.

Of course this was good. And simpler and less messy than flour, eggs, breadcrumbs – the method I grew up on. The cheese was a good addition to the coating. Just breadcrumbs is usually too boring to stand alone but this was good on it’s own.

I like this little cookbook from Senator (is he still a Senator?) Alfonse D’Amato’s mother, an authentic Italian grandma. The recipes are surprisingly simple and I doubt anyone who bought this cookbook is turning out food like Mamma D’Amato’s because we lack that Italian grandma magic. You can’t put that in a cookbook.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

So long, pork

Stir-Fried Pork Teriyaki
Big Kitchen Instruction Book Copyright 1998

1 ½ pounds pork tenderloin (I used some pork loin too)
1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon oil
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Cut meat into bite-size pieces. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over meat in a non-reactive bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. (I marinade in the fridge overnight.) Spray a skillet with non-stick spray, and heat over medium temperature. Transfer meat and a little of the marinade to skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring to brown meat on all sides. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10-15 minutes, adding a little more marinade from time to time to keep the meat from drying out. Serve over rice. (I made fried rice.)

Makes 4-6 servings.

This isn’t an attractive recipe and it isn’t fancy but it only has a few ingredients and it tastes good. I’ve actually made this several times. I probably won’t make it again as my husband informed me tonight, after over five years of eating pork together, that he doesn’t like pork. This was said before eating this so don’t blame this recipe.

The Big Kitchen Instruction Book isn't really all that big. It does cover a bit of everything but it's not really all that extensive. The recipes are down-to-earth, nothing out of the ordinary but good. That's just what you want sometimes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A simple salad dressing

Oregano Salad Dressing
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook Copyright 1959, 1972

¾ c. vinegar
1 tblsp. salt
1 tblsp. sugar
1 tsp. oregano leaves
2 tsp. pepper
1 ½ tsp. sweet basil
2 cloves garlic, split
¾ c. salad oil

Combine all ingredients except oil. Let marinate overnight. Strain vinegar (I didn't do this.) and add oil. Shake vigorously.
Makes 1 ½ cups.

I just wanted a simple salad dressing and this fit the bill. I think it's important to mix up the vinegar mixture ahead of time. I didn't find it necessary to strain it - to be honest I missed that step. I served this over a simple iceberg salad mix with croutons. It rounded off an easy meal of frozen lasagne and garlic bread.

Another solid recipe from the Farm Journal's Country Cookbook.

Monday, October 24, 2005

You'd think I could follow a recipe by now

Sour Cream Muffins
Good Housekeeping Baking Copyright 1999

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder I forgot this!
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream I used light sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts I used toasted walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease twelve 2 ½” by 1 ¼” muffin-pan cups or line with paper liners. (I made jumbo muffins and bakes slightly lower and slower.) In large bowl, stir together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
2. In medium bowl, with wire whisk or fork, stir together sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until flour is just moistened.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin-pan cups. In small bowl, stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Sprinkle over muffins; sprinkle nuts on top (I didn't see this and added the nuts to the batter). Bake 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Immediately remove muffins from pan; serve warm. Or cool on wire rack to serve later.

I COMPLETELY screwed up this recipe. I left out the baking powder and I did not see where it said to sprinkle the nuts on top (even though I looked several times to see where the nuts came in) so I added them to the batter. And I made this to use up sour cream I had in the fridge and it was light (!) sour cream. These aren't very sweet but I really don’t believe I left the sugar out (although, I wouldn’t be surprised!). I don’t know where my head was tonight. Considering all this, these muffins are surprisingly still quite edible but nothing I’ll be offering up to co-workers in the morning.

These are from the same cookbook as the Lemon Ricotta muffins which were out of this world. I’m sure if I followed the recipe correctly I would have ended up with a much better result.

Even better than Zatarain's

Jambalaya Stir-Fry on Cajun Rice
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

1 ¾ cups water
1 cup uncooked converted rice
1 can (16 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained my can had under 15 ounces in it
½ cup finely chopped celery
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1 bay leaf
8 ounces andouille sausage, cut into ¼-inch rounds * if unavailable use kielbasa sausage I used kielbasa
1 ½ cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
½ pound raw large shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ pound boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground red pepper
½ teaspoon paprika
hot pepper sauce

1. Bring water to a boil in medium saucepan. Add rice, tomatoes and their liquid, celery, bouillon granules and bay leaf. Return to boil; reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove and discard bay leaf.
2. Meanwhile heat large skillet over medium-high heat 1 minute. Add sausage, onions and bell pepper; cook and stir 10 minutes.
3. Increase heat to high; add shrimp, chicken and thyme. (I only added the chicken and thyme at this point. I added the shrimp at the very end, to avoid overcooking it.) Cook and stir 5 minutes. Add parsley, salt and ground red pepper and paprika. Stir to blend thoroughly.
4. Place rice on platter. Spoon shrimp mixture over rice and serve with pepper sauce.

Makes 4 servings.

I chopped everything the night before so this wasn’t too hard to throw together after work. There was way too much liquid in the rice. I had to boil it off and then I added Creole seasoning for more flavor. If I made this again I would use the tomatoes seasoned with celery, green peppers and onions and skip the chopped celery, adjust the water so there is just about 2 cups of liquid, and again probably add the Creole seasoning.

The stir-fry part of this dish was more successful. It had enough heat to make my nose run but it was still enjoyable. The only hot sauce we had was hot sauce with lime and it worked well with this. I don't know if I'll retire the Zatarain's boxed jambalaya mix completely, because that stuff is fast and good, but I would probably make this again. I say 'probably' only because there are so many other jambalaya recipes out there. In fact, there are several recipes for jambalaya just in this one cookbook.

I think I could cook out of this cookbook everyday of the week. I should put it aside for a few weeks so that some of my other cookbooks have a chance.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Attention chocoholics!

Fudge Drops
The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Copyright 2003

12 ounces (about 2 cups) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips I used semisweet
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter
¾ cup (5 ¼ ounces) sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoon espresso powder (optional) I added this
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (3 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a double boiler or in the microwave, gently melt together the chocolate and butter. To avoid heating the chocolate too much and possibly burning it, the best method is to heat until the butter has melted and the chocolate has partially melted, then remove from the heat. Stir until all the chocolate melts.

In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until they’re thoroughly combined. Add the espresso powder, vanilla, baking powder, and salt, then stir this mixture into the melted chocolate, mixing until well blended. Stir in the flour. Let the batter sit for 5 minutes to thicken; it should be the consistency of thick cake batter. (It was still pretty loose after 5 minutes, almost too loose to put on the cookie sheet. By the time the last batch went in the oven, it was thicker than your average chocolate chip cookie dough yet there wasn't a whole lot of difference in appearance between the batches.)

Drop the cookie dough in round blobs onto a parchment-lined or greased baking sheet. (I used parchment.) They should be a bit smaller than a Ping-Pong ball. Using a cookie scoop (or a small ice cream scoop that holds about 2 tablespoons of liquid) makes this task extremely simple. Leave about 2 inches between the dough balls, as they’ll spread as they bake. (They spread a lot.) Place a nonpareil or chocolate kiss in the middle of each, if desired. (Personally, I think nuts would be good but not nonpareils or kisses. They suggest 1 cup of toasted nuts if you choose to add them.)

Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until their tops are shiny and cracked. You want these baked all the way through, but just barely; additional baking will make them cakey rather than fudgy. To make sure they’re baked take the pan out of the oven and use a spoon or fork to gently cut into a cookie; it shouldn’t have any raw-appearing or liquidlike batter remaining in the center, but should still be moist.

Remove the cookies from the oven , wait five minutes, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

These are a VERY chocolately cookie. After putting them together I realized that these were quite similar to the chocolate snowflake cookies I often make for Christmas. For those, the batter is chilled and then rolled in powdered sugar. They’re higher and rounder and a lot messier.

These Fudge Drops are a little bit classier (no powdered sugar falls onto your clothing). They’d be great on any cookie tray. They don’t look very fancy but after one bite any chocolate lover would be satisfied.

My first recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. This was a birthday present. I used to draw a blank when family members asked for gift suggestions but now I keep a list of cookbooks handy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sweet, tangy AND spicy

Sweet and Tangy Barbecued Chicken
Better Homes and Gardens Chicken Cooking For Today Copyright 1993

1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup apple cider
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
½ teaspoon pepper
6 chicken legs I used thighs and drumsticks

For sauce, in a 1 ½ quart saucepan cook onion and garlic in hot oil till tender. Stir in tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, Dijon-style mustard, thyme and pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Sauce can be made ahead; cover and chill till needed).

Skin chicken, if desired. (I didn't.) Rinse chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Arrange chicken in a 15x10x1-inch baking pan. Pour half of the sauce over chicken.

Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree over for 50 to 60 minutes or till chicken is tender and no longer pink, basting occasionally with additional sauce. Serve chicken with any remaining sauce.

Makes 6 servings.

I made this the night before we ate it for dinner, as I often do since there isn't much time to prepare dinner after work. The night I made it, I felt the vinegar in the sauce was overpowering. When I heated it up the next night, I didn't feel that way anymore. The sauce was sort of like a nice onion relish. It had a bit of a kick, from the pepper and mustard.

Another recipe from my little chicken book. I have a bigger chicken book, which is a bit older and none of the recipes really entice me but this little book is full of great chicken recipes.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

'Fascinating' pork chops

Honeyed Pork Chops
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook Copyright 1959,1972

6 pork chops ¾” thick
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tblsp. ketchup
½ c. water
3 tblsp. honey
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tblsp. toasted sesame seeds

Brown chops in small amount of fat; place in 13x9x2” baking pan. (Don’t salt chops; soy sauce does the job.)
Combine remaining ingredients except sesame seeds. Pour over chops, sprinkle on sesame seeds.
Cover baking pan and bake in slow oven (325 degrees) for about 1 hour, or until chops are tender.
I thickened the sauce with a cornstarch slurry before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

The Farm Journal's Country Cookbook says that this is an 'adaptation of a fascinating old Chinese recipe'. I don't find this recipe particularly 'fascinating' but it was surprisingly good. Not too exotic so great for family dining. I didn't try it on my 21-month old but I think he may have liked it. I used bone-in pork chops and I may never buy the Costco boneless pork loin again. This pork had a much better flavor. Heck, it had flavor.

So far this cookbook is showing itself to be a hidden gem in my collection. I don't think I'll ever recall where I purchased it which is bothering me because I haven't picked up used cookbooks very often.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fancy schmanzy?

Swiss Chicken
The Best of Mr. Food Copyright 2000

6 skinned and boned chicken breasts halves I used tenders
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
6 (4-inch square) slices Swiss cheese

1 (10 ¾ ounce) can of cream of chicken soup, undiluted
¼ cup milk
2 cups herb-seasoned stuffing mix I used about 3 cups
¼ cup butter, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place chicken in greased 9”x13” baking dish; sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper. Top each breast with a cheese slice; set aside.
2. Combine soup and milk, stirring until smooth; pour over chicken. Sprinkle with stuffing mix, and drizzle with butter.
3. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until chicken is done.

I've been seeing this recipe for years and I finally decided to try it, since I had the herb stuffing leftover from the meatloaf I made a while back. I wasn't disappointed, this was quite good. I don't know that I agree with Mr. Food's assertion that this is a 'fancy schmanzy' dinner, but it was a great family meal. My 21-month old even enjoyed it.

This is my only Mr. Food cookbook but the man is a marketing genius, isn't he? He's like a male Sandra Lee. Some quick and tasty recipes and a catch phrase (Oooo, it's so good!) and the man is probably a millionaire.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Egg-ceptional enchiladas

Ham and Egg Enchiladas
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
3 green onions with tops, sliced
½ cup diced ham
8 eggs
8 (7 to 8-inch) flour tortillas I think mine were bigger - I only made six
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Colby-Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers, divided
1 can (10 ounces) enchilada sauce
½ cup prepared salsa
Sliced avocado, fresh cilantro and red pepper slices for garnish I didn't garnish

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
2. Melt butter in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add bell pepper and onions; cook and stir 2 minutes. Add ham; cook and stir 1 minute.
3. Lightly beat eggs with wire whisk in medium bowl. Add eggs to skillet; cook until eggs are set, but still soft, stirring occasionally.
4. Spoon about ½ cup egg mixture evenly down the center of each tortilla; top with 1 tablespoon cheese. Roll tortillas up and place seam side down in shallow 11x7 baking dish.
5. Combine enchilada sauce and salsa in small bowl. Pour evenly over enchiladas.
6. Cover enchiladas with foil; bake 20 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Continue baking 10 minutes or until enchiladas are hot and cheese is melted. Garnish, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

I never have the occasion to serve brunch and we never have big breakfasts so I thought why not make this recipe for dinner? It’s economical and it was delicious. I would definitely do this again. It doesn’t have to be red bell peppers and green onions – green peppers and sweet or yellow onions would work just as well. The cheese could be varied too.

I’m loving this cookbook, Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More. It was always great eye candy but now that I’m actually cooking from it, I can truly say it’s a great cookbook. I don’t think it’s in print anymore but you can find it new from private sellers on Amazon. From what I’ve seen it’s over $25. Worth it, but I still can’t believe I only paid a measly $7 for this treasure.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Peanut Sesame Noodles

Peanut Sesame Noodles
The Gourmet Cookbook Copyright 2004

For Dressing:
½ cup smooth peanut butter
¼ cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh garlic
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

For Noodles:
¾ pound dried thin linguine or spaghetti
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch wide strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch wide strips
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, about 2 minutes. (I used my immersion blender and it took no time at all.) Transfer to a large bowl.

Make the noodles: Cook pasta in a 6-8 quart pot of boiling salted water (1 tablespoon salt per ever 4 quarts water) until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.

Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, and sesame seed to dressing, tossing to combine. Serve immediately.

This was a nice blend of flavors. That teaspoon of red pepper flakes scared me but it wasn't too much. The dressing had a nice kick but it wasn't 'hot'.

Another good recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Back in the saddle

Chicken and Linguine in Creamy Tomato Sauce
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into ½-inch strips
1 jar (26 to 28 ounces) Ragu Old World Style Pasta Sauce
2 cups water
8 ounces uncooked linguine or spaghetti
½ cup whipping or heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped or ½ teaspoon dried basil leaves, crushed

1. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat and brown chicken. Remove chicken and set aside
2. In same skillet, stir in Ragu Pasta Sauce and water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in uncooked linguine and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until linguine is tender.
3. Stir in cream and basil. Return chicken to skillet and cook 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink.

Make 4 servings.

I wasn't crazy about the texture of the pasta cooked in the sauce. It was pretty good, just not as good as it would have been cooking the pasta the traditional way. I think this might be a better dish cooking the pasta separately in salted water and leaving the water out of the recipe. It was the first meal I've eaten in days besides saltines, toasted cheese and farina and it hit the spot. I grated a bit of parmesan on top.

[Edited to add: This was really good leftover the next day. It was still saucy and the texture of the pasta was just fine. Usually my pasta soaks up all the sauce when it sits in the fridge but I bet you could make a pan of this and heat it up in the oven for a nice cook-ahead meal. My 21-month loved this too. Maybe I would make it this way again! Maybe it just needed to cook a bit longer.]

Another recipe from one of my 'Favorite Name Brand' cookbooks. I really like these cookbooks, published by Publications International. I have this one, one for appetizers and one for baked goods and all three are excellent. They don't cover the basics of cooking or baking but they each have a great variety of recipes and they all sound great. I just noticed the retail price on this book is $59.95! Was that USD, I wonder? It is a hardcover book with heavy pages and glossy photos, over 500 recipes on almost 400 pages but $60 for a cookbook?? I paid $7, cheap even for the discount place I purchased it from, because it has some superficial damage on the cover. I got a great deal!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Saturday, October 08, 2005

My favorite oatmeal cookie recipe

Wholesome Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Moosewood Restaurant New Classic Copyright 2001

½ cup light brown sugar, packed
¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter, preferably unsalted, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cup rolled oats
½ cup unbleached white flour
½ cup oat bran
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon I omitted this
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup raisins I added chocolate chips and walnuts instead of raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil two baking sheets.

In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, granulated sugar and the butter with an electric mixer or by hand until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the oats, flour, oat bran, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture and stir until blended. Mix in the raisins.

Drop the dough by scant ¼-cup mounds about 3 inches apart, and flatten slightly with moistened fingers. Each sheet will hold six cookies. (I used a 2-tablespoon scoop and had a dozen cookies on each tray.) Bake for 15 minutes, until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. When the cookies first come out of the oven, they’re soft and little delicate so carefully transfer them to racks. Cool for 15 minutes.

I’ve made these cookies more times than I can count. I omit the cinnamon and add chocolate chips and sometimes walnuts, as I do wth all oatmeal cookie recipes. I’ve made these cookies large as the instructions described but they’re just as good using my 2-tablespoon cookie scoop.

This cookbook is interesting. Most recipes are quite different from what I'm used to eating so I can't even imagine what they taste like but oatmeal cookies are something I can relate to.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Something to go with frozen lasagna

Garlic Bread
The Gourmet Cookbook Copyright 2004

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
rounded ¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 (15-by-3 ½ inch) loaf Italian bread

Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a heavy knife, mince and mash garlic to a paste with salt. Stir together with butter and oil in a bowl until smooth. Stir in parsley.

Without cutting completely through bottom, cut bread diagonally into 1-inch thick slices with a serrated knife. Spread garlic butter between slices.

Wrap loaf in foil and bake for 15 minutes. Open foil and bake for 5 more minutes.

I just made up the garlic butter and spread it on the sliced bread and toasted it in the toaster oven. My husband and I were eating separately so it made more sense for us to each toast our bread right before we ate. I usually freestyle garlic bread and I'll admit this was much better than mine.

Another winning recipe from The Gourmet Cookbook.

Not quite KFC

Oven-Fried Chicken
Better Homes and Garden, Chicken, Cooking For Today Copyright 1993

1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons milk
1 cup finely crushed saltine crackers (about 28)
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon pepper
2 ½ to 3 pounds meaty chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, drumsticks)
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted

In a small bowl combine the egg and the milk. In a shallow dish combine the crackers, thyme, paprika and pepper. Set aside.

Skin chicken. Rinse the chicken; pat dry with paper towels. Dip chicken pieces, one at a time, in egg mixture, then roll in cracker mixture.

In a greased 15x10x2 inch baking pan arrange chicken so the pieces don’t touch. Drizzle the chicken with melted margarine or butter.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-55 minutes or till the chicken pieces are tender and no longer pink. Do not turn the chicken pieces while baking.

Makes 6 servings.

This wasn't bad but I doubt it's the best oven fried chicken recipe out there. Maybe leaving the skin on would have helped but it was healthier this way. It was easy to prepare and I like the appearance of this oven fried chicken but I thought the flavor was a bit bland. Enjoyable enough but I wouldn't stop trying other oven fried chicken recipes.

This little bargain book contains only chicken recipes and it's a handy thing to have around when you eat a lot of chicken like we do. It has a nice variety of recipes which aren't too complicated or too heavy. I don't think there's a recipe in the book that I wouldn't enjoy. I'm surprised to see that this book is still available, new on Amazon, for $15.95. It's a small book and I only paid a fraction of that. It seems to be available new from private sellers for much less than $15.95 so I doubt Amazon is selling many of their copies.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

And the Oscar goes to .......

Brown Sugar Meat Loaf
The Recipes of Madison County Copyright 1995

2 pounds ground round
1 cup herb-seasoned stuffing mix
¼ cup chopped onion I used more – I wasn’t paying attention
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
¾ cup milk
2 tablespoons commercial barbecue sauce
Vegetable cooking spray
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine ground round, stuffing mix (I crushed this up) , onions, salt and pepper. Beat eggs, milk, and barbecue sauce; add to meat mixture, mixing well. Press mixture into 9x5x3-inch loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray. (I made two free-form loaves and doubled the glaze recipe.) Combine ketchup, brown sugar and mustard. Spread over top of meat loaf. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in center of loaf registers 160 degrees. (I didn’t need to bake it nearly as long since I made smaller loaves.) Remove from loaf pan immediately. Yield 6 servings.

This was a cheat – I’ve made this recipe in the past. I thought I’d try the exact recipe again because it’s been many years since I’ve followed the recipe for the meatloaf. I usually don’t keep herb-stuffing on hand so I do the meatloaf freestyle and just make the glaze. I have to say this meat loaf was better than most of my freestyle meat loaves. I was afraid it would be bland but it wasn't bland at all. I'd definitely say this is one of the better meat loaves I've tasted.

This is a cute little book of recipes from the caterers who made the food for the movie, The Bridges of Madison County. The foods in the cookbook all appeared in the movie. I’ve never seen the movie so I’ll take their word for it. The authors note that they made this meat loaf with turkey for the movie since the actors preferred it. Hmmm. Even the meat loaf was ‘acting’ in this movie. That’s funny.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The 'Best' Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala
The New Best Recipe Copyright 2004

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (5 to 6 ounces each), fat trimmed I used tenders
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ ounces (about 3 slices) pancetta, cut into 1 by 1/8-inch pieces
8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups sweet Marsala
1 ½ tablespoons juice from 1 large lemon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves Oops! I forgot this

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a large heatproof dinner plate on the rack and heat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Pat the chicken breasts dry. Place the flour in a shallow baking dish or pie plate. Season both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper to taste. Working with one cutlet at a time, coat both sides with flour. Lift the breasts from the tapered end and shake to remove excess flour; set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Place the floured cutlets in a single layer in the skillet and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn the cutlets and cook on the second side until golden brown and the meat feels firm when pressed with a finger, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to the heated plate and return the plate to the oven.
4. Return the skillet to low heat and add the pancetta. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen brown bits, until the pancetta is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels and drain.
5. Add the mushrooms to the pan and increase the heat to medium-high. Sauté, stirring occasionally and scraping the pan bottom, until the liquid released by the mushrooms evaporates and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, and cooked pancetta and cook stirring constantly until the tomato paste begins to brown, about 1 minute. Off the heat, add the Marsala. Return the pan to high heat and simmer vigorously, scraping the browned bits from the pan bottom, until the sauce is slightly syrupy and reduced to about 1 ¼ cups, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the lemon juice and any accumulated juice from the chicken. Whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until incorporated. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

When I first got done cooking this dish, I wasn’t sure about it. Maybe the fumes from the reducing Marsala clouded my judgment. But somewhere between the stove and the table any doubts vanished. This was wonderful. Really, really wonderful. The only think I might change is I might cut down on the lemon juice next time, just a bit. Otherwise, I couldn’t have been more pleased. Excuse the lousy picture- I was in a hurry to eat this.

The New Best Recipe is a cookbook compiled by the editors from Cook’s Illustrated. They must search the world over to for the most anal chefs they can find but in this case their nitpicking paid off. There were many, many paragraphs preceding this recipe describing the pains they went through to come up with this ‘best’ recipe. It is a bit of overkill at times but this is definitely a cookbook that everyone should have in their collection.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Best muffins - ever!

Lemon-Ricotta Muffins
Good Housekeeping Baking Copyright 1999

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/3 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease twelve 2 ½” by 1 ¼” muffin-pan cups or line with paper baking liners. (I used jumbo muffins pans and lowered the heat a bit.) In large bowl, stir together flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder and salt.
2. In medium bowl, with wire whisk or fork, mix together ricotta, milk, melted butter, eggs and lemon peel. Make well in center of flour mixture and pour in ricotta mixture; stir until just moistened.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin-pan cups. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over muffins. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until muffins are golden brown, tops spring back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan; serve warm. Or cool on wire rack to serve later.

These are incredible! I tend to love just about any baked good made with ricotta but I was still surprised how good these were. I probably should have used the zest of one more lemon (I used two and it still didn’t look like 2 teaspoons) but they were still noticeably lemony and they had just the right amount of sweetness for a muffin.

Good Housekeeping Baking is probably one of my favorite cookbooks. It has all the basics plus a few stepped-up recipes, beautifully presented. It even covers pizza and other savory dishes. One look through this book and you’ll be in your kitchen baking, I guarantee.