Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Stroganoff vs strogonoff

Meatballs Stroganoff

The Essential Pasta Cookbook Copyright 1998

1 lb macaroni I used gemelli since this called for non-elbow macaroni which I could not find
1 ½ lb lean ground beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-3 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons oil
1 ¾ oz butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
8 oz small button mushrooms, halved
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup white wine
½ cup beef stock
¾ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1. Cook the macaroni in a large pan of rapidly boiling water until al dente. Drain; keep warm.
2. Combine the beef, garlic and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Use your hands to mix well. Roll 2 heaped teaspoons of the mince into balls. Combine the flour, paprika and some freshly ground black pepper on a clean surface or sheet of greaseproof paper. Dust the meatballs in the seasoned flour.
3. Heat the oil and half the butter in a frying pan. When foaming, cook the meatballs over medium heat, in batches, until brown. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels.
4. Melt the remaining butter in the pan, add the onion and cook until soft. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms are tender. Pour in the combined tomato paste, mustard, wine and stock. Return the meatballs to the pan and gently reheat. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Stir the sour cream through until smooth. Sprinkle with a little parsley and serve with the pasta.

One of the first recipes I made on this blog was Meatballs Strogonoff (yes, that’s how it was spelled in that cookbook). I deemed it okay at the time. This recipe, however, was so much better. Much more complex yet quite easy to throw together. My son even liked this (well, the noodles and sauce). Once again, though, the meatballs weren't as tender as I would have liked them to be. Lean beef with no fillers is just not going to give you a tender meatball.

Another good recipe from this gorgeous pasta cookbook. Sadly, after years of drooling over the food porn in this cookbook, I think the binding is starting to go. I hope it doesn't start losing pages.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

She must own stock in butter

Sausage-Rice Casserole
The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook Copyright 1997, 1998

One 6-ounce box Uncle Ben’s long grain and wild rice
1 pound ground sausage
2 small onions, chopped
One 4-ounce can mushroom pieces
One 10 ¾ ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of butter I omitted this

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook rice according to directions on box. In a heavy skillet over medium heat, cook sausage until thoroughly done, about 4 to 5 minutes; drain. (I cooked the sausage and onions together until sausage was completely cooked and onions were translucent – more than 5 minutes.) Combine all ingredients except butter and our into a casserole dish. Dot top with butter.(or don't!) Bake until bubbly, about 25 minutes.

Serves 4

I love Paula Deen to death but her recipes tend to be excessive. I can’t imagine what that ½ stick of butter would add to this recipe. It was delicious (and quite rich from the pork fat) without it. And most nutritionist would probably agree that this would serve more than 4 people but it is too good to stop eating after a proper portion. This is definitely a keeper.

I’ve had this cookbook for almost a year and this is the first recipe I’ve tried. I have faith that these recipes are all delicious but just reading this cookbook will harden a few arteries, never mind cooking from it. She adds a cup of sour cream to a meat loaf recipe! Her Pineapple Casserole (a side dish) has 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of cheese and a stick of butter. I plan on trying many more of her recipes but I’ll have to ration them, maybe one per month.

You're fired!

Devil's Food Cake
The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion Copyright 2003

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) soft butter
1 3/4 cups superfine or granulated sugar I used superfine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk or water I used milk

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and salt till fluffy and light, beating for at least 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. If lumps remain, sift the mixture. Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix together the milk or water and the vanilla. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, then add half the milk, another third of the flour, the remaining milk, and the remaining flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally throughout this process. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans, three 8-inch round pans, or a 13 x 9-inch sheet cake pan. Wrap the pans with Magi-Cake Strips(r), to prevent doming, if desired. Bake the cakes in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes (a bit longer for the sheet cake), until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove the cake(s) from the oven, cool them for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan (leave the sheet cake in the pan, for easiest serving). Yield: Two 9-inch or three 8-inch rounds, or a 13 x 9-inch sheet cake.

I used the yellow cake recipe from this cookbook for my Halloween cupcakes and it was great. So I tried their Devil's Food Cake recipe for my mother's birthday cake. It came out kind of dry. I think I may have overbaked it. It wasn't acceptable and I decided to bag it and try another recipe. I ended up making a recipe (very good!) off of the box of cake flour that I had in the cupboard. I froze this cake and took it out to bring to my co-workers. It wasn't so bad I was going to throw it out, just not good enough for birthday honors. I thought freezing it might have helped but it still wasn't as moist as I would have liked. I frosted it with my mother-in-law's peanut butter frosting recipe (nope, I'm not sharing that!) and that made up for the lackluster cake.

I'm surprised to be disappointed by a King Arthur recipe so I really do think this was user error. Never bake a cake while watching the Apprentice, especially if it's due to come out of the oven around the time the candidates are in the boardroom.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Mmmm good

Horn and Hardart’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Great American Food Almanac Copyright 1986

1 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
1 ½ cups milk
2 tablespoons light cream I had some heavy cream left over from pie making
1 ½ tablespoons butter
1 ½ tablespoons flour
1 ½ cups shredded Cheddar cheese I used a pre-shredded blend of American and Cheddar Jack
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and white pepper
¼ cup finely chopped canned tomatoes I used petite diced
½ teaspoon sugar

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cook the macaroni, uncovered, in 6 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water for 8-12 minutes until al dente. Drain well.
3. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. I nuked it.
4. While the milk warms, heat the butter in another saucepan over low heat for 1 minute until foaming. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. I didn’t let this go 3 minutes, more like 1.
5. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture, and cook, stirring with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for a few minutes, until thickened.
6. Add the cheese to the white sauce, about ¼ cup at a time, stirring until the cheese has melted and the sauce is smooth. Add the cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt and white pepper.
7. Stir the tomatoes and sugar into the cheese sauce.
8. Combine the cooked macaroni with the sauce, and pour into a buttered 1 ½ quart baking dish.
9. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until the top is nicely browned.

Serves 4.

I don’t know if this really tastes like Horn and Hardart’s Baked Macaroni and Cheese but this is darn good. It could be the best I've ever made. Nice and cheesy. When left to my own devices I tend to add to much macaroni but following a recipe forces me to do it right. I like the addition of the tomatoes.

This isn’t really a cookbook. It describes itself as ‘an organized scrapbook of food facts, fancies, and foibles, useful, diverting and full of surprises’. Now we have the internet and Food TV but in 1986, most people still read books to discover food facts, fancies, and foibles. There are only about 20 recipes in the book. There’s one for a chicken covered in 24K gold. I don’t think I’ll be trying that one anytime soon but I’ll be making this one again.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Yet another Thanksgiving pie

Butterscotch Pie
The New York Times Cookbook Copyright 1961

6 tablespoons butter
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 ¼ cups water
1 egg yolk (I always use 2 because I’m paranoid that one little egg yolk isn’t going to do the job)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ cup cold water
1 pint vanilla ice cream (must be Haagen Daaz or this recipe is at your own risk)
Almond Crust*
½ cup heavy cream, whipped I let everyone top with whatever they prefer (whipped cream, Cool Whip, etc)
Slivered almonds, toasted I omit

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the sugar and water and heat to boil. Combine a little of the mixture with the lightly beaten egg yolk, then add to the mixture in the saucepan. (This can be tricky and sometimes I have to strain out a few strands of cooked egg yolk.)
2. Soften the gelatin in cold water. Stir it into the sugar mixture until gelatin dissolves. Add the ice cream, cut into pieces, and stir until melted.
3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator until slightly thickened but not set. Turn into the prepared pie crust and chill until firmly set. When read to serve, garnish with whipped cream and sprinkle with nuts.

*NOTE- I’ve always used a graham cracker crust. Homemade is better - if you use store bought you won’t fit in all the filling. The Almond Crust recipe from this cookbook is 1 ½ cups blanched almonds, finely chopped, 1 stiffly beaten egg white and ¼ cup sugar baked until lightly brown in a 375 degree oven (for 9-inch pie).

I’ve been making this recipe for years on Thanksgiving. It’s my brother’s favorite and over the years it’s become one of mine, something I didn’t realize until this year. I believe the secret to this pie is that I always use Haagen Daaz. What wouldn’t taste good with a pint of Haagen Daaz vanilla ice cream mixed into it?

This isn’t an attractive pie in it’s unadorned state (this year it had a scar from the plastic wrap I used to cover it) but everyone in my family has different preferences when it comes to pie toppings so I leave it plain. The filling has quite a jiggle to it, from the gelatin, so it’s difficult to cut a small slice but it has a wonderful creamy texture and a delicious flavor when you taste it. Look at the ingredients – butter, dark brown sugar, vanilla ice cream (I insist you use Haagen Daaz which is always on sale the week before Thanksgiving) – you can imagine how good this is.

The New York Times Cookbook is a classic. It was one of my first cookbooks, purchased from the return bin for $1, at the book warehouse where I had a summer job in college. Truth be told, this may be the only recipe I've ever tried from this cookbook but it makes the book well worth the buck. I assume many of the other recipes were popular in the 50s and 60s but seem a bit outdated now.

Another Thanksgiving pie

Peanut Butter Pie
Sugar Bitches Copyright 2004

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 ½ C. peanut butter
1 ½ C. sugar
1 C. heavy cream
1 graham cracker pie crust, cooked I used a chocolate cookie crumb crust

Mix the cream cheese, peanut butter and sugar. Beat the cream until stiff. Fold into the cream cheese mixture. Place in the cooked crust. Pour the topping over the pie and refrigerate uncovered for at least 4 hours.

½ C. sugar
½ C. heavy cream
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ t. butter
½ t. vanilla

Place the sugar and cream in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat and simmer without stirring for 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate and butter until melted. Add the vanilla.

I thought it was time to retire the Reese’s Pie I’ve been making for the past several years. That one has a firm peanut butter layer topped with chocolate mousse in a pastry crust and while it’s wonderful, I’ve just made it so many times, I was ready to try something new.

Well, this recipe isn’t going to be a permanent replacement and I may go back to the Reese’s pie next year. This was very good but just way, way too rich for the occasion and it didn’t present very nicely. I made it about 24 hours ahead of time so maybe that’s just too long with the whipped cream in the filling. It was messy to serve – the topping wasn’t firm either. It was popular, as any peanut butter pie would be on our Thanksgiving table, but I still think I prefer the Reese’s recipe.

My sister gave me this cookbook for my birthday this year. From what I can gather, two women came up with a bit of schtick surrounding the word BITCH– Babe In Total Control of Herself – and self-published a few cookbooks, in that basic fundraiser cookbook style. This one has a cute pink animal print cover. They sell aprons and mugs too. Maybe there was a better explanation of their philosophy in the earlier books, but that’s as much as I can gather from this one. All I really know is that this is a good collection of dessert recipes, especially if you’re looking for something for a potluck or family meal. Many recipes are attributed to other people. I wonder if they get a piece of the profit?

A Thanksgiving pie

Double Chocolate Cream Pie
The Best of Cooking Light Copyright 2004

1 cup reduced-calorie vanilla wafer crumbs (about 30 cookies)
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Cooking spray

¾ cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 ½ ounces semisweet chocolate, grated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups frozen fat-free whipped topping, thawed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. To prepare crust, combine first 3 ingredients in a bowl, tossing with a fork until moist. Press into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, cook crust on a wire rack.
3. To prepare filling, combine sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, salt and milk in a medium saucepan; stir well with a whisk. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, until mixture comes to a full boil. Gradually add 1/3 cup hot milk mixture to egg; stir well. Return egg mixture to pan. Cook 2 minutes or until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; add grated chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Stir in vanilla. Spoon mixture into pastry crust. Cover surface of filling with plastic wrap, spread whipped topping evenly over filling. (I grated some semi-sweet chocolate over top.)

Yield 8 servings. 265 calories, 7.3 g fat, 3.9 sat fat, 4.8 g protein, 44.8 g carbs, 38 mg cholesterol, .3 g fiber 237 mg sodium 95 mg calcium per serving

My sister-in-law seems to prefer low-fat desserts so I made this for her but she didn’t show up for Thanksgiving dinner this year. I couldn’t fairly critique this pie since I was incredibly full by the time I tasted it. I did think the crust was a bit soggy, even for a cookie crust. The filling was firm and intensely chocolately which wasn’t something I could appreciate after a full meal and several other pie samplings, but I do think the filling was good, the best part of this pie. I usually don’t go below Lite Cool Whip but I stuck to the recipe. I think this would have been better with Lite Cool Whip or better yet, whipped cream, even lite or fat-free whipped ‘cream’ from a can would have been an improvement.

Another recipe from the Best of Cooking Light. I do believe that their recipes are very good for light recipes but at the end of the day, they’re still light recipes.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Almost a winner

Cinnamon-Cider-Cranberry Cake
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too Copyright 1993

Butter-flavor no-stick spray
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries, picked over, rinsed and patted dry
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 cup apple cider or apple juice I used cider
½ cup unsulfured molasses

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F. Generously coat the baking pan (9-inch bundt pan) with cooking spray. Dust with flour and tap out the excess flour. (Be sure to grease and flour the pan very thoroughly so the cranberries do not stick.) (I used Baker's Joy and the cake flew out of the pan.)
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt onto a sheet of wax paper or into a bowl. Combine about 3 tablespoons of the flour mixture with the cranberries in another bowl, and toss well. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, oil, butter, until well-blended. Add the egg and beat well.
4. In a small saucepan, bring the cider or apple juice to a boil. Remove from heat and add the molasses, stirring until it dissolves.
5. With the mixer on very low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and molasses mixture to the beaten sugar-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir in the cranberries. The batter will be quite thin.
6. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the top is springy to the touch and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert onto another rack and let cool.

Makes 12 servings. (221 calories, 3 g protein, 5 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 43 g carbs, 166 mg sodium 23 mg cholesterol per serving)

You should make this cake if for nothing else but to scent your house. It’s perfect for this time of year, which is why it caught my eye. I was concerned about how the cranberries would be in this recipe and I was right to be concerned. The tart cranberries just don't work, in my opinion, although they did mellow out after the cake sat (I tasted it about an hour after it came out of the oven and then had another piece the next morning.) I chose the smallest cranberries but maybe chopping them would have been better. Or maybe dried cranberries, raisins, apples or something else could be substituted for a better result but these ingredients would probably sink to the bottom of the thin batter. The cranberries floated as if they were still in the bog.

The cake itself is delicious (NOTE: To agree with this statement you would have to be a fan of molasses.). I think it would have been fine on it's own, like a gingerbread. I could tell the difference from a full fat cake but it still had a pleasant texture. And I likely overbaked it since I was tending to my son when I should have been checking on it.

I’ve had this cookbook for several years. I’ve made other recipes from it and they weren't disappointing. The author was a pastry chef who published a few full-fat dessert cookbooks. When her mother developed health problems that prohibited any more fatty desserts in her diet, the author reworked previous recipes and developed new ones with the emphasis on lowering the fat (not necessarily calories, definitely not sugar). She definitely put a lot of effort into maintaining the quality of the recipes and her methods aren’t complicated.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

It might be a little quiet around here

As it turns out, the reason nothing seemed quite right this past week is that we had a stomach bug circling the perimeter. It hit my husband first, then me and now I'm sitting back waiting for it to hit the little guy.

Needless to say, I'm not up to looking through my cookbooks nor would it be fair to try anything new before our appetites can fully appreciate a new recipe.

There will be pie recipes at the end of the week!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The joy of leftovers

Leftover Noodle Dish
The Joy of Cooking Copyright 1931,1936,1941,1942,1943,1946,1951, 1952,1953,1962,1963,1964,1975

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Have ready:
3 cups Boiled Noodles I had leftover linguini and spaghetti
Grease a baking dish. Place in it layers of noodles sprinkled with:
¾ cup diced cooked roast beef, chicken, crab, shrimp, chipped beef, mushrooms and other vegetable
I used roast beef
( 1/2 cup shredded cheese) I used more
( 1/2 cup shredded green pepper and diced celery) I used only green peppers
1 ½ cups milk
1 or 2 eggs I used 2
¼ teaspoon paprika
½ to ½ teaspoon salt
Pour this over noodles. Cover with:
Bread or cracker crumbs I used cracker crumbs
Bake about 45 minutes.

Since I had to toss that disgusting (and expensive!) corn and crab casserole, I had to balance the budget so I decided to use up some leftovers. I found the perfect recipe in the Joy of Cooking of all places. This is a variation of Ham Noodles (just use ham in place of the beef, chicken, etc). The lead-in to the recipe advises that the dish is open to interpretation and ingredients and amounts can vary widely. Basically - use what you've got.

This wasn't a company dish, that's for sure. But it was economical and tasty. I only added the green peppers for color but I think they were really what made this dish so good. I wouldn't go out of my way to make something like this but if I had the right leftovers again, I would certainly make it again.

Okay, this is probably an unpopular opinion but I’m not a huge fan of the Joy of Cooking. I can accept the lack of pictures. I can live with the outdated and obscure recipes. But what turns me off is the design of the recipes. It’s really confusing to follow the variations sometimes. I can’t deny that it’s a wonderful reference for any cook but it just doesn’t excite me.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

On a losing streak

First the Orange Hoisin Chicken was overcooked in the slow cooker. I didn't even serve it for dinner - we had chili dogs instead. It was edible though. I chopped the chicken up and mixed it with the brown rice and the sauce and had it for lunch and it really wasn't that bad. I just had too much pride than to serve that sawdust chicken to my husband.

Then there was my worst disaster since starting this blog. I put together a corn and crab (well, imitation crab which the recipe gave as an option) enchilada casserole that I really don't think anyone is going to eat. The 'spicy' sauce included cinnamon and cloves. I left out the cloves but I should have left out the cinnamon since I think that's the big turn off. There were at least $10 worth of ingredients in that dish that will end up in the trash. I was amazed to put together something inedible. It was from my one of my favorite cookbooks too, Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More. This was the first time I didn't feel a recipe was worth sharing.

That casserole has really made me lose my confidence in my recipe choosing abilities. I threw sausage in the crockpot for tonight's dinner. Which means the Fiesta Sausage and Rice recipe I was going to make for tomorrow night won't happen. I hope I can find a good replacement.

Ingredients - great. Method - terrible.

Orange Hoisin Chicken

Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook Copyright 2005

2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 slices peeled fresh ginger, about ¼-inch thick
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon sesame oil
6 individually frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (do not thaw)
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons cold water
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional), toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant

1. In a zippered-top plastic bag, combine the orange juice concentrate, honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil. One at a time, put the chicken pieces in the bag, seal, and gently shake to coat with the sauce. Transfer the coated chicken to the slow cooker, then pour the remaining sauce over the chicken. Cover and cook on LOW until the chicken is tender and cooked through, 5 to 6 hours.
2. Transfer the chicken to a warm platter. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan. In a cup or small bowl, stir together the cornstarch and cold water. Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat, add the slurry, and cook, stirring a few times, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken and pass the rest on the side. If desired, sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

I know better than this. Chicken breasts do not work in a crockpot. When I mixed up the sauce for this, it was delicious. After several hours in the slow cooker, it just didn’t have the same zing. I don’t know what I was thinking – why would chicken breasts need to be cooked in a crockpot?

I would do something with this sauce again – a stir fry, a marinade for grilled chicken, a dipping sauce for shrimp. Anything outside the crockpot.

This was a library book and it looks like a very comprehensive slow-cooker cookbook and the recipes look promising but this one just wasn’t a winner. We had chili dogs for dinner and I took this for lunch.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Roast beast

Deviled Roast Beef
Better Homes and Garden New Diabetic Cookbook Copyright 1999

1 2-2 ½ pound beef eye of round roast I used bottom round
¼ cup Dijon-style mustard
¼ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup beef broth
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
¼ cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
¼ teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
½ cup fat-free milk
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1. Trim fat from beef. In a small bowl stir together 2 tablespoons of the Dijon-style mustard and the pepper; rub onto the beef. Place the beef on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Insert a meat thermometer. Roast beef in a 325 degree oven until thermometer registers 140 degrees for medium-rare (1 ½ to 2 hours) or 155 degrees for medium ( 1 ¾ to 2 ¼ hours). Cover with foil; let stand for 15 minutes before carving. (The temperature of the meat will rise 5 degrees during standing.)
2. Meanwhile, for sauce, in a medium saucepan combine the mushrooms, beef broth, onion, water, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and thyme. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. In a small bowl stir together milk and remaining Dijon-style mustard; gradually stir into flour. Add to mushroom mixture in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.
3. To serve, thinly slice beef across the grain. Arrange on a serving platter. Spoon some of the sauce over beef. Pass remaining sauce.

Makes 8 to 10 servings. 217 calories per serving. (9 grams fat, 5 grams carbs, 28 grams protein , 0 grams fiber)

I rarely take the time to make roast beef but I had the day off and I had a roast in the freezer that I bought on sale for $1.99/lb so today we had roast beef. As you can probably see, I like mine pretty rare. I don’t have a good meat thermometer but I think the above guidelines are good ones. My roast was 2.41 pounds and I cooked it for 1.25 hours and it was still rare, yet warmed through. another 15 minutes and it probably would have been perfectly medium rare. My roast was a rather square piece of meat, quite thick so a narrower roast might cook a bit faster.

The sauce had good flavor and would have been great over mashed potatoes but I didn’t feel like going through the trouble of mashed potatoes and made baked instead.

I really need to start working more diabetic recipes into our diet since both of our families have a history of the disease, especially my husband’s. This is what I would describe as a ‘modern’ diabetic cookbook. Not much different from any other cookbook featuring healthy recipes. I actually bought this for my mother quite some time ago but realized that the recipes were too complicated for her. She likes simple recipes with short ingredient lists and these recipes are a bit more complicated than she likes but I think this would be great for a diabetic (or anyone into healthy eating) who loves to cook.

One thing I don’t like about this book is that there is no lead-in chapter describing the philosophy behind the recipes. There are small paragraphs scattered throughout the book underneath the recipes but I’d rather see all that information in one place.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

One bright spot

Cranberry-Sauced Chicken Thighs
Minutemeals 3 Ways To Dinner Copyright 2002

3 tablespoons butter
4 large (roaster-size) skinless, boneless chicken thighs ( 1 1/3 to 1 ½ pounds total weight) I used smaller thighs than this
1 teaspoon herbes de Provence or dried thyme I used thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion
1 can (8 ounces) jellied cranberry sauce
1 cup fat-free reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a heavy medium ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken thighs with ½ teaspoon of the herbes de Provence and salt and pepper. Place the thighs in the skillet and lightly brown on both sides, about 3 minutes.
3. Transfer the skillet to the oven. Bake the thighs for 10 minutes or until cooked through and the juices run clear, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 160 degrees to 165 degrees F.
4. While the chicken is baking, chop the onion.
5. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet. Add the onion an remaining ½ teaspoon herbes de Provence and cook, stirring, until the onion is slightly softened, about 2 minutes.
6. With a fork, partially break up the cranberry sauce. Add the cranberry sauce, chicken broth, and 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar to the skillet. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring, until partially reduced, about 5 minutes.
7. Transfer the chicken thighs to a serving platter and cover loosely to keep warm.
8. Add the cranberry sauce mixture to the skillet used to cook the chicken and stir to incorporate the juices and browned bits. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the cranberry sauces over the chicken.

Raisin Couscous
Minutemeals 3 Ways To Dinner Copyright 2002

1 box plain or flavored couscous (enough for 4 servings)
¼ cup dark or golden raisins

Prepare the couscous according to the directions on the package.(I prepared it using low-sodium chicken broth.) If using unflavored couscous, season with salt and pepper. When the water is fully absorbed, fluff with a fork and stir in the raisins.

Well, what can I say? The chicken wasn't bad but it wasn't something I would ever make again. I've made a recipe with onions and raspberry jam that's similar but better. This didn't have much eye appeal either.

The chicken was just so-so but at least I discovered couscous. Not that I've never heard of couscous before but I don't recall ever making it . It was so fast and simple and the raisins played off of it so nicely. I just caution that couscous is dangerous in the hands of a 22-month old.

This cookbook is supposed to contain gourmet meals in 20 minutes or less but even though I used the small chicken thighs, it still took much longer. The larger thighs the recipes called for would have taken even longer.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A hit with the husband

Sweet-Sour Meatballs
High Plains Country Cooking Copyright 1993

1 lb. ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper, optional I added this
1 cup cracker crumbs
½ cup milk
¼ cup cider vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
½ cup catsup
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Combine meatball ingredients and shape into small balls. Place in baking dish and cover with sauce made by combining ingredients. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Makes 4 servings.

My one complaint with this recipe is that the sauce barely covered the meatballs. I doubled it (twice what is printed above) and it still wasn’t saucy but the meatballs were completely covered. I used lean beef and the meatballs didn’t really give up any juice. This recipe makes a good amount of meatballs. It’s only one pound of ground beef but a cup of vegetables are added and a cup of cracker crumbs.

I made these the night before I served them, something I often do due to time constraints. I really think it helps with dishes that use vinegar in the sauce. They always seem much more mellow the next day .

My husband liked these enough to ask if I was making them again anytime soon. He actually ranked them with his other favorite – hot Italian subs.

This is a nice little cookbook sent to me by an online friend in Iowa. Nice glossy pages, spiral bound (love that – no worry about the book slamming shut while you’re preparing a recipe). It’s a nice collection of homey recipes. I plan on trying many more of them but I don’t think I’ll be making fried rattlesnake anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Does it get any simpler than this?

Sautéed Shrimp and Vermicelli
Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook Copyright 2005

2 tablespoons butter or stick margarine
1 (0.7 –ounce) package dry Italian Dressing mix
¾ pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
4 cups hot cooked vermicelli (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta), cooked without salt or fat I salted the water

1. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; stir in dressing mix. Add shrimp; sauté 5 minutes or until shrimp are done. (I added some pasta water to the shrimp mix to make it 'saucier'. ) Combine shrimp mixture and pasta; toss well.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size 1 cup). 7 points per serving. 320 calories.

It couldn't be any easier and this was really, really good. But, come on, 7 pts per cup, 320 calories? It's hard to stop at one cup. Anything can be a WW recipe if you only eat a small portion, I guess. But trust me, this tastes so good, it will be hard to stop eating it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Trying to eat lighter this week

Jalapeño Chicken
Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook Copyright 2005

4 teaspoons 40%-less-sodium taco seasoning (I used a homemade blend)
4 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts halves
Cooking spray
½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers (I used Cabot's 50% Light)
2 tablespoons sliced jalapeño peppers

1. Sprinkle taco seasoning over both sides of chicken.
2. Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Coat chicken with cooking spray, and add to pan. Cook 7 minutes on each side or until chicken is done. (I cooked the chicken on the George Forman Grill)
3. Remove pan from heat; sprinkle chicken with cheese. Cover and let stand 3 minutes or until cheese melts. Top each chicken breasts with jalapeño slices.

Yield: 4 servings 6 points per serving, 250 calories

Spanish Rice and Beans
Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 (8.8 ounce) package ready-to-serve cooked Spanish rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
¼ cup salsa

1. Combine rice, beans, and salsa in a 1 ½ quart microwave-safe casserole; toss well. Cover with lid; microwave at HIGH 1 ½ minutes or until hot.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size about ¾ cup). 2 points per serving. 133 calories.

These are so simple, they practically don’t qualify as recipes. I wasn’t expecting much but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't feel deprived at all. The beans really made this a filling dish. Even the 22-month old liked the rice and beans. I do take issue with the name of the chicken recipe. You don’t name a dish after the garnish.

Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook is one of those magazine-style cookbooks that they display on the magazine rack for almost $10. It seemed like a rip-off until I compared it to the regular paperback-style Weight Watchers cookbook I borrowed from the library, a book that retails for almost $14. The ‘smaller’ magazine-style cookbook has around 70 more recipes, recipes that are much easier (and realistic) to prepare, and the cookbook itself takes up little room on the bookshelf (an important consideration these days). This particular cookbook takes advantage of a lot of the newer convenience foods on the market too. When you’re trying to lose weight, you still want to be able to put dinner on the table quickly. The book from the library is filled with complicated recipes with ingredients lists miles long. I've said before, I'm only willing to go through so much trouble for a 'light' recipe.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

I love anchovy paste

Spanish-Style Linguini
Sunset Books Low-Fat Pasta Cookbook Copyright 1994

8 ounces dried linguini
1 jar (about 6 oz) marinated artichokes, quartered
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon anchovy paste
1 can (about 2 ¼ oz) sliced black ripe olives, drained
½ cup chopped parsley
freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Bring 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-5 quart pan over medium-high heat. Stir in pasta and cook until tender to bite (8 to 10 minutes) or cook according to package directions. Meanwhile, drain marinade from artichokes into 1 ½ to 2 quart pan. Place over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until pale golden (about 3 minutes). Add anchovy paste, olives, and artichokes. Cook, stirring gently, until hot (about 2 minutes).
2. Drain pasta well and return to pan. Add artichoke mixture and parsley. Lift with 2 forks to mix. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl. Offer pepper and cheese to add to taste.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This is so good! I love anchovy paste. I made this for my lunch but it would make a great side dish too. Or with a bit of protein added (shrimp, chicken, almost anything really) it would make an excellent main dish.

This unassuming cookbook is actually full of great recipes. Such a variety of flavors, and the recipes have just the right amount of complexity for me.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A simple ground beef dish

No-Fuss Salisbury Steak
The Best of Mr. Food Copyright 2000

1 pound ground beef
¼ cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons fine, dry breadcrumbs (store-bought)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

1 (8-ounce) package sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
1 (14.5 ounce) can beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl; stir well. Shape mixture into 4 patties.
2. Cook patties in a large skillet over medium heat 5 minutes on each side. Remove patties from skillet, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in skillet. Set patties aside.
3. Cook mushrooms and onion in drippings over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until tender. Add broth and Worcestershire sauce to skillet. Return patties to skillet; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove patties from skillet with slotted spoon; place on a platter. Set aside and keep warm.
4. Combine water and cornstarch; stir well. Add to broth mixture. Bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until thickened. Spoon over patties.

This wasn’t bad. Simple fare. A decent meal but nothing I'll be rushing to make again. I think a fattier ground beef would make for tastier Salisbury steak but I only buy the lean ground beef these days.

This recipe was chosen for convenience reasons but Mr. Food has plenty of more interesting recipes to chose from in this book.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A simple chicken dish

Chicken Cacciatore
Minutemeals 3 Ways to Dinner Copyright 2002

1 large onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 package (8 ounces) sliced mushrooms
1 pound skinless boneless chicken breasts halves
1 jar (16 oz) good-quality basil-and-tomato marinara sauce (about 2 cups)
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes I couldn’t find my pepper flakes so I substituted chili garlic paste

1. Coarsely chop the onion.
2. Place the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the onion is tender.
3. Meanwhile, cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch chunks.
4. Push the vegetables aside, add the chicken and cook, turning the pieces often, for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is lightly browned.
5. Add the marinara sauce and pepper flakes, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

I wanted a quick, light recipe and this fit the bill. Nothing special about this recipe but it was good.

This cookbook promises 20-minute gourmet meals and gives you a shopping list and preparation schedule for each meal. I just made the entrée and served it with pasta but they served it with garlic bread, a salad and fruit for dessert. This cookbook could be useful for a busy person who doesn’t have time to plan meals. I like that the recipes have few ingredients and steps which is just what you want sometimes. I picked it up for $1.99 in Ollie’s.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A simple shrimp dish

Dirty Shrimp With Rice
Food & Wine Magazine’s Quick From Scratch One-Dish Meals Cookbook Copyright 1997,2002,2004

2 tablespoons cooking oil
½ pound ground pork
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 ¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 ½ cups long-grain rice
3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock (I ended up using almost 4 cups because my rice was still crunchy with only 3 cups)
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and halved
2 scallions including green tops, chopped

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over moderate heat. Add the pork and cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 2 minutes.
2. Reduce the heat to moderately low and add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cayenne, paprika, oregano, bay leaf, salt, black pepper, and rice. Cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered for 15 minutes.
3. Raise the heat to moderate and stir in the shrimp. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, until the rice and shrimp are just done, about 5 minutes longer. Remove the bay leaf. Stir in the scallions.

This was simple yet delicious and I bet it would be just as good with chicken. I chopped the vegetables the night before so I was able to whip this up after work about as quickly as a box of Zatarain’s.

I like this cookbook so much, I’m going to look for other cookbooks from Food & Wine Magazine.