Sunday, April 30, 2006

A good way to start the week

Morning Glory Muffins
The Essential Eating Well Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups grated carrots (4 medium)
1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped (about 1 ¼ cups)
½ cup raisins
1 large egg
2 large egg whites (or 4 teaspoons dried egg whites, reconstituted according to package directions)
½ cup apple butter
¼ cup canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts or pecans I omitted these
2 tablespoons toasted wheat germ

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat 18 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in carrots, apple and raisins.
3. Whisk egg, egg whites, apple butter, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling them about ¾ cup full. Combine walnuts and wheat germ in a small bowl; sprinkle over the muffin tops.
4. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched lightly., 15 to 25 minutes. Let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a wire rack to cool.

Makes 18 muffins. Per muffin: 161 cal, 4 g fat, 12 mg chol, 28 g carbs, 3 g pro, 2 g fiber, 145 mg sodium 35% DV Vit A

These muffins are so tasty and moist. They're a bit on the sweet side but I can forgive that. Unfortunately these are so good, I can't stop myself from eating them. I made 12 standard muffins and 18 mini-muffins and I've been popping those mini-muffins like candy. But hey, there are apples and carrots in these - I don't feel too guilty.

I really love this cookbook. I was going to feature it this weekend but I just didn't have the time. Maybe next weekend.

I think I'm getting back into a groove. For a few weeks, I wasn't inspired but I'm excited to cook again. This weekend I visited a small local grocery store that I tend to neglect. They have the best selection of organic food in the area and they've expanded their selection of fresh organic products which excited me. I can't afford to go totally organic but I'm doing what I can. I even got some all-natural chicken wings on sale. They'll be perfect for Baked Buffalo Chicken Wings.

Question of the Day: Do you buy organic?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Look familiar?

Deep-Dish Taco Pizza
Cooking Light Superfast Suppers Copyright 2003

1 pound ground round
½ cup frozen chopped onion I used fresh chopped onion
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles, drained
1 teaspoon salt-free Mexican seasoning I used my homemade taco seasoning - about 1 TB
1 (10-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust dough
cooking spray
1 cup (4 ounces) reduced-fat sharp Cheddar or part-skim mozzarella cheese I used a cheddar/jack blend
salsa (optional)
reduced-fat sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cook beef and onion in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Drain well, and return beef mixture to pan. Stir in tomatoes and seasoning; cook over medium-high heat 1 minute or until thoroughly heated; set aside.

Unroll pizza crust dough. Press into bottom and halfway up sides of a 13x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon beef mixture over pizza crust dough.

Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Top with cheese, and bake 5 minutes or until cheese melts and edges of crust are browned. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Top with salsa and sour cream, if desired.

Yield 6 servings. Per serving: 306 calories, 9.8 g fat, 27.9 g pro, 25.6 g carbs, 1.3 g fiber, 57 mg chol, 693 mg sodium

No, this isn't déjà vu. I've found Deep-Dish Chili Pie's not-so-evil twin. What's so strange about that, you ask? After all, this recipe isn't rocket science -there are probably all sorts of versions of this recipe out there. What struck me as strange is that this cookbook has many of the same EXACT recipes as the Weight Watchers 5 Ingredient Fifteen Minute Cookbooks (magazine style cookbooks I paid $10 each for!). Buttery Herbed Chicken, Jalapeño Chicken and Spanish Rice and Beans are all in there. So are a host of others. Most are word for word. This book is copyrighted 2003, the Weight Watchers books came out later. I never knew of any connection between Cooking Light and Weight Watchers. I ordered this cookbook online so I had no idea of the redundancy before I purchased it.

Rehashing recipes into new publications is popular in the cookbook industry (as common as Food TV rehashing segments into different shows) so it's something I watch out for but I never suspected it here. Live and learn. This Cooking Light cookbook was different enough that it wasn't a complete waste of money but it was kind of disappointing to open it up and see so many recipes from the other books.

Back to the recipe, I think I actually preferred this version, although there was not a huge difference between them. I'm not sure what 'Mexican seasoning' is so I used my homemade taco seasoning, which I leave the salt out of when I make up a batch (it has boullion in it so it isn't salt-free). My son loved this - I don't think he tried the other version of this recipe but he kept saying (and signing) 'More!' while eating this so I think that means it was a hit.

Question of the Day: What would you have used for 'Mexican seasoning' in this recipe?

Lumberjacks aren't big on appearances

Lumberjack Hash
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003 Copyright 2002

2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups frozen shredded hash brown potatoes, thawed (about 1 pound)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces 33%-less-sodium ham, diced
¾ cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese I used a jack/cheddar blend

Heat oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, cook 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and garlic, cook 3 minutes. Add potatoes, salt, pepper and ham; cook 16 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown, stirring occasionally. Top with cheese; cook 2 minutes or until cheese is melts.

Yield: 4 servings Per serving: 276 cal, 9.1 g fat, 16.5 g pro, 33.7 g carbs, 3.5 g fiber, 33 mg chol, 738 mg sodium

This isn't a particularly pretty dish, but it was easy to prepare and we all liked it. Potatoes, cheese, ham - what's not to like? I'm not sure what it is that puts the lumberjack in this hash recipe, but it all works. It's nice having a recipe on hand for an easy skillet meal that doesn't use ground meat or chicken breasts.

This was presented as breakfast for dinner in Cooking Light but it could certainly be breakfast for breakfast but we never do big breakfasts in our house. Never.

So I went to Costco last Saturday and I was unspired. That was disappointing after waiting so long to make that trip. Oh how I wish we had a Trader Joe's around here.

Question of the Day: Do you ever make a big breakfast? What do you make?

Baaaaaaaaa! Moooooooooo! Oinkkkkkkk!

Shortbread Wedges
Martha Stewart Living Cookbook Copyright 2000

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
1 cup packed light brown sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

I quartered the recipe and made it in my farm animal pan.

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F with a rack in the center. Butter 3 8-inch springform pans. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar on medium high until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add the flour, salt and vanilla and mix, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium, until the flour is just combined.
2. Divide the dough evenly among the prepared pans. Using a spatula, spread the dough out to the edges, making sure the tops are smooth and level.
3. Light score the dough in each pan into 12 equal wedges. Prick a pattern into each wedge with the tines of a fork. Bake until shortbread is dry and barely golden, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Using a sharp knife, follow the score marks to cut into neat wedges. Remove from pans. Shortbread may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.

Makes 3-dozen.

I've never made shortbread before but I knew that in order to get the best results from my farm animal pan I should use a shortbread recipe. I just grabbed the first one I found. I quartered this recipe and it seemed to turn out well. My shortbread experience is basically limited to eating Lorna Doones every now and then so I'm ill-equipped to judge this in relation to other shortbreads but these weren't bad at all. They were cute too. Next time I'll try a recipe that uses some cake flour since I've heard that makes a difference.

I finally made something from Martha Stewart's Living Cookbook! I've had this cookbook for over six months so it's about time.

Question of the Day: How often do you bake some kind of sweet (cake, cookies, etc)?

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Cooking Light classic (according to Cooking Light)

Lemon-Garlic Chicken Thighs
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003 Copyright 2002

¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons molasses
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
4 garlic cloves, chopped
8 chicken thighs, skinned (about 2 pounds) I used thighs and drumsticks
Cooking spray
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Lemon wedges (optional)
Parsley springs (optional)

1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a dish; add chicken. Cover and marinate in refrigerator 1 hour, turning occasionally.
2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
3. Remove chicken from dish, reserve marinade. Arrange chicken in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Pour reserved marinade over chicken; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 mintues; baste chicken with marinade. Bake an additional 20 minutes or until chicken is done. Serve with lemon wedges and garnish with parsley, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings Per serving: 258 cal, 11.6 g fat, 27.3 g protein, 9.9 g carbs, 98 mg chol, 268 mg sodium

I went in circles with this recipe. It looked great when I made it but as I often do, due to time constraints, I made this the night before we were having it for dinner. It looked sickly when I took it out to reheat it. Most things I cook ahead, actually reheat quite well but I thought, maybe this will be one of those rare occasions that cooking ahead fails me. But, in the end, I don't think so. It didn't give me the vapors or anything but it was certainly tasty enough for something that required so little effort. Reheating it somehow managed to take away the unappetizing color it developed in the refrigerator.

This was from the Cooking Light 1993 annual recipe compilation but the recipe actually dates back to 1998 - this was presented in 1993 as one of their 'classic' recipes. So that might tell you something - that they thought it so worthy they highlighted it again five years later.

The real highlight of this meal was the brown rice I freestyled. I cooked the rice the night before since brown rice has such a long cooking time. To finish the dish, I sautéed some mushrooms and some veggies (I picked up a huge veggie tray at Costco on Saturday) in a little canola oil and Promise margarine, added some water and chicken boullion, the brown rice and then finished it with one pat of real butter. My son loved this and I'm always thrilled when he likes something somewhat healthy.

Question of the Day: How much rice do you eat? What kind of rice dishes do you make?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

More experimenting with pizza dough

Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough
The Essential Eating Well Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons) I used regular yeast since I made this in my bread machine.
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
¾ cup hot water (120-130 degrees F)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purposed flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Combine hot water and oil in a measuring cup. With the motor running, gradually pour in enough of the hot liquid until the mixture forms a sticky ball. The dough should be quite soft. If it seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water; if too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Process until the dough forms a ball, then process for 1 minute to knead.
2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place it, sprayed-side down, over the dough. Let the dough rest for 10 to 20 minutes before rolling.

(I just threw everything in my bread machine.)

Makes 1 pound of dough. Per pound of dough: 1032 cal, 18 g fat, 0 mg chol, 189 g carbs, 33 g pro, 21 g fiber, 2509 mg sodium

I hate Blogger. I just lost my entire post and I don't really have the time to recreate it in detail. Here's the condensed version.

I've been experimenting with different pizza crusts (see Pizza Crust, Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, Pizza Crust from Martha's Pizza Margerhita recipe) , just for the variety. I'm not on a search for the perfect crust, I just like different crusts depending on my mood. This recipe had a strong whole wheat flavor and it was somewhat thin and definitely the crispiest crust I've made so far. I really liked it. It's likely the most healthful out of the recipes I've tried also.

I'm trying to eat healthier and this cookbook definitely focuses on healthy eating. However, most of the recipes are more complicated than I would like but not all of them. This crust and the
Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Caramelized Onion Gravy have both been winners and both were uncomplicated.

Question of the Day: What kinds of pan (or stone) do you use when making pizza?

Friday, April 21, 2006

Cookbook In The Spotlight: Entertaining With The Sopranos

Entertaining With The Sopranos
Compiled by Carmela Soprano
Written by Allen Rucker
Recipes by Michele Scicolone
202 pages

For my first Cookbook In the Spotlight, I've chosen Entertaining With The Sopranos. This isn't just a cookbook, it's a book on entertaining. Along with fabulous Italian recipes, you'll find tips on just about every form of entertaining and related etiquette advice, mostly given by Soprano family members and friends. Some of it is probably not to be taken seriously (in the baptism section on godfathering '"... godfathering can involve a large cash outlay. In his twenties, the kid may need to borrow ten or twenty grand for an unspecified obligation. Loan it to him, without interest.") but there is actually quite a bit of useful information in this book - diagrams for napkin folding, table setting instructions, bridal shower theme suggestions, etc. Maybe all of the advice would be useful to someone who was actually in the Mafia (if in fact there was such thing as the Mafia - and I'm not saying there is - I don't want any dead fish showing up on my doorstep.)

I noticed at least one warning from an Amazon reviewer, that this book is disappointing as a cookbook (although not disappointing overall) since the reviewer considered the book to contain 'few' recipes. I actually disagree. There may only be about 75 recipes in this book but they represent a variety of foods and I didn't feel the book was lacking in recipes. I don't judge a cookbook by the number of recipes, I judge it by the number of 'do-able' recipes and almost every recipe in this book called out to me to be made sometime in my future.

The recipes aren't complicated and the ingredients called for are pretty standard. So far the only recipe I've tried has been the Crunchy Baked Chicken and it was a great success. I have my eye on just about every other recipe in this book, but in particular I can't wait to make the Spaghetti Pie, Baked Ziti "in bianco" and Caponata. There are only a few recipes I know I would never make - such as Octopus Salad and the Baccala Fritta (fried salt cod). Not that I think these wouldn't be good too, but I know I wouldn't attempt either of those recipes at home.

The recipes would probably not be a challenge for anyone who already does a lot of Italian cooking, nor are they really anything new or novel. However, the recipes combined with the helpful and/or amusing advice make this a cookbook worth having in your collection.

I originally checked this book out of the library but I quickly decided it was worth purchasing and acquired my very own copy. I'm going to rent every season of the Sopranos too!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Not bad for something so simple

Sweet and Sour Beef Stew
The New Woman’s Day Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 Tbsp oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp mustard powder
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 lbs lean beef chunks for stew

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Heat oil in a 1 ½ to 2-qt Dutch oven or other heavy stovetop-to-oven pot. Add onion and cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring a few times, until golden. Add sugar, Worcestershire, mustard powder, vinegar and 2 cups of water; stir until blended. Bring to a simmer.
At this point I threw the mixture into the crockpot, added the floured beef and cooked it on high for a few hours until tender.
3. Meanwhile mix flour, salt and pepper in a large plastic food bag. Add beef; shake to coat. Add beef to pot; stir to coat.
4. Cover and bake 2 ½ hours or until meat is tender when pierced.


I would have liked to have made the Old-Time Beef Stew again but we rarely have beer in the house. This recipe wasn't quite as flavorful but it was still very good for being such a simple dish to prepare. I prefer stews cooked in the oven but since we hit the 80s here this week, I had to make this is the crockpot and that worked out fine. This literally took less than 10 minutes for the prep work and sautéeing of the onions.

You'll all be happy to know that the freezer has basically been cleaned out. There might be one or two things still hiding in there but I'm going to Costco this weekend. Usually I have my recipes for next week planned by now but I still haven't decided on anything. I'm going to wait and see what I bring home from Costco. Maybe it will inspire me.

Question of the Day: If you shop at any of the warehouse stores, what do you usually buy there?

Cookbook In the Spotlight

I'm going to be starting a new feature - Cookbook In The Spotlight. I started this blog for the purpose of using the cookbooks that I've collected over the years. I have certainly succeeded on that front - before September my collection was barely used and almost 175 posts later, I'd say I'd definitely gotten into the habit of using cookbooks and not just looking at them.

Unfortunately, planning and preparing for all of this cooking is time consuming. I also have a 2-year-old son, a husband and a full-time job that require my time and attention. So I haven't been able to spend as much time as I'd like to spend discussing the actual cookbooks. I think this is important since I highly encourage the love and enjoyment of cookbooks. It would be a sad day for me if the cookbook industry dried up and I could no longer purchase my drug of choice and instead had to strain my eyes trolling the internet for recipes (not that I don't dabble in that activity a bit as it is).

So I'll still be posting recipes Monday thru Friday but look for this new feature on the weekends.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another salad dressing zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

French Dressing
Mom’s Cookin’ Copyright 1986

1 cup catsup
½ cup vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups salad oil
2 teaspoons Worcestershire
3 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon paprika

Combine catsup, vinegar, Worcestershire & mustard; - mix well. Add remainder of ingredients (except salad oil) and mix in well. Add oil slowly, beating as you do. Store in refrigerator in air-tight jar. Shake before using.


Yeah, another French dressing. This was a red one, which is what most people think of when they think of 'French' dressing. I'm building up a nice repertoire of salad dressing recipes. As delicious as some of the bottled dressings are, they're all loaded with preservatives, and dressings are so easy to make, why not make them from scratch?

This salad went with a Stouffer's frozen lasagna I made last night. It was free, part of the Easter promotion at one of the local grocery stores. I should have taken the free ham. This lasagna reminded me of canned 'roller coasters' - some Chef Boyardee or Franco-American product I indulged in as a young child. I was surprised - I've always like Stouffer's products. The frozen lasagna from Costco is much better.

This is one of those small pamphlet-like cookbooks. I bought it in the gift shop at the animal park down the road. I reminds me of the local Amish and Mennonite cookbooks but it isn't local -it's from the Lake of the Ozarks region in Missouri.

I should have had my recipes selected and my shopping list completed last night but I found it all too overwhelming for some reason. Probably because I need to switch gears and start picking out lighter recipes that don't use the oven. And I've been in this mode of using up whatever is on hand and well, there's really nothing left. I think it might finally be time for a trip to Costco. Maybe it will inspire me.

Question of the Day: What's your favorite salad dressing?

Monday, April 17, 2006

This might become a classic around our house

Crunchy Baked Chicken
Entertaining With The Sopranos Copyright 2006

2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
1 large clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups plain dry bread crumbs, preferably homemade from Italian bread
½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
¼ cup olive oil
1 chicken (about 3 ½ pounds), cut into 8 pieces, skin removed (or you can used skinless chicken parts)

In a shallow dish, beat together the eggs, water, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper.

On a piece of wax paper, mix the crumbs with the cheese Drizzle with the oil and stir until blended.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Dip the chicken inn the egg mixture, then roll the pieces in the crumb mixture, patting it so that crumbs will stick. Place the chicken on a rack, skin side up, and let the coating dry for 15 minutes.

I made 3 drumsticks and 3 thighs and I had a lot, A LOT, of the breadcrumb mixture left over that I had to toss. What a waste (of Pecorino Romano). Keep that it mind if you make this - at least keep some of the mixture aside so that if you don't need it all, it doesn't all get contaminated with eggs and raw chicken like mine did. Then you can save it for next time.

Oil a baking sheet and arrange chicken pieces on it. Bake 20 minutes. With tongs, carefully turn chicken pieces, so as not to disturb the coating. Bake 20 minutes more, or until the chicken is browned and cooked through when cut into the thickest part.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sometimes a cookbook just sings to me and this is one of those cookbooks. Every recipe looks do-able. I can't vouch for their authenticity, not being Italian, but they seem like the real deal. Of course, the real bonus is all the commentary. I've never even seen 30 seconds of the Sopranos but I still love this cookbook. I checked it out of the library but I'll be buying my own copy soon.

The book is sectioned into different occasions for entertaining. 'Man food' for poker games, lady-like food for all-female get-togethers, holiday recipes, etc. I believe this chicken recipe was in the section of recipes that would be appropriate for baptisms, communions and confirmations. I could just see a big platter of this chicken at such an occasion.

I made this the night before and reheated it. That worked great. This is basically and oven-fried chicken and I'd have to say out of all of the recipes for oven-fried chicken I've tried, this was my favorite. Although next time I might use the seasoned breadcrumbs or add more seasoning to the breadcrumbs.

Question of the Day: Do you watch the Sopranos?

At least as exciting as an egg salad wrap

Beef Barbecue
Helping Our Kids Grow (local church cookbook) Copyright 2000

2 lb. hamburger
1 med. onion
1 c. chili sauce
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. sugar
2 T. vinegar
1 T. mustard
salt and pepper

Combine meat and onion and cook until lightly browned. Drain off fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 1 hour. Serve on warm buns.

This is the third barbecue (sloppy joe) recipe I've tried. I started thinking about how boring this blog is getting but then I watched a woman make her husband's lunch on a new Food Network show. She made an egg salad wrap and sent it along with some dried cherries, baked chips and a frozen bottle of water (that was her big 'tip' - I learned that one in grade school thir-, um, many years ago). This lunch was a special treat for him because it was their anniversary and she wasn't going to see him all day. She used one teaspoon of mayo in the egg salad. Woo hoo! I wonder if he gets two teaspoons on his birthday. Or an entire tablespoon if he gets a big promotion? Okay, I'm just talking crazy now.

Seriously, how much are they paying her to make her husband's lunch in front of a camera? When my husband worked nights, I packed him lunches more special than that every night.

Back to this barbecue. It was good but not as good as Suzie's Sloppy Joes. This one was less sweet but otherwise flavorful so that might suit those of you who like things less sweet. I've had a bottle of chili sauce in the cupboard forever so that's why I decided to make this. It was a lucky choice because I wasn't feeling that great last night and this was fast and effortless.

Question of the Day: Do you pack lunches for anyone? What do you pack?

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A convenient recipe

Easy Spicy Apple Sauce Muffins
Old Fashioned Muffin Recipes Copyright 1993

2 cups whole wheat flour I used whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg I omitted the nutmeg and added another 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 Tbs. brown sugar
1 ½ cups applesauce I used applesauce sweetened with apple juice
½ cup raisins

Mix dry ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Combine eggs, oil, sugar and applesauce separately. Stir liquid mixture into dry ingredients with a few, quick strokes till batter is moist and lumpy. Spoon into greased muffin cups. I sprinkled them with a bit of sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F 20-25 minutes.

Last night when we got home from the Easter festivities, I realized I had no recipe to post today. I was going to take the day off but then I decided that muffins would be simple to mix up and quick to bake. I literally picked the first recipe that I had all the ingredients to make, and one that didn't require and extra effort (such as creaming butter and sugar together), so I didn't really have any expectations for these. It turned out that these were wonderful - moist but not greasy, sweet enough but not overly sweet. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

This recipe didn't really come from a cookbook, it was more of a pamplet. I picked it up in the local Amish store for just a couple of dollars. That's how I get my 'fix' sometimes since there aren't many cookbooks sold locally, and the cookbooks in the Amish store are kind of pricey for what they are.

Question of the Day: Did you eat too much this weekend?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Great meat loaf, despite being too salty

Spicy Glazed Meat Loaf
The New Woman’s Day Cookbook Copyright 2005

¾ cup spicy tomato ketchup (or mix regular ketchup with about a teaspoon of hot sauce)
1 ½ lb lean ground beef
¾ cup seasoned dried bread crumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Put ½ cup ketchup with the remaining ingredients into a large bowl and mix with hands or wooden spoon until well blended. Form into a 7 x 4 ½ x 2-inch loaf. Place in 3-qt or larger slow cooker; spread top and sides of loaf with remaining ¼ cup ketchup.
2. Cover and cook 4 hours on high or 8 to 10 hours on low, or until a meat or instant thermometer inserted in center of meat loaf registers 160 degrees F. If your slow cooker is deep and narrow, cut loaf in halves or quarters before attempting to lift it out.

Serves 6

This meat loaf was so easy to prepare. I used the chopper attachment for my hand blender to process the onions and garlic very finely, tossed everything in a bowl and then into the crockpot. It literally only took a few minutes. I lined my crockpot with two wide strips of nonstick foil, criss-crossed, so I could life the meat loaf out easily. I would suggest you do that because this meat loaf was very soft when it came out of the crockpot.

I made this after work Wednesday to eat last night, Thursday. To heat it up, I used a technique I've seen others use, and I grilled the slices of meat loaf. I used my George Foreman grill. It came out great this way. I think this might have been a disaster had I tried to serve this right out of the crockpot, since it was so soft.

My only complaint was my own fault. I'm usually smart enough to leave the salt out of recipes that have Parmesan cheese and other salty ingredients but I forgot to omit it this time and the meat loaf came out too salty. Otherwise, this was great.

Something I observed is that despite the vast variety of jellies, peanut butters, mustards, pickles, sandwich spreads, etc in the condiment aisle, the ketchup section is oddly uniform. The entire section was basically three brands of regular ketchup (Heinz, Hunt's and store brand) and the only variation was a few bottles of Heinz organic ketchup and Heinz low-sodium ketchup. There was no spicy ketchup, no ketchup with onions, no colored ketchup (wasn't green ketchup in the market for a while?), no small mom and pop gourmet brands. Odd, given America's love of condiments. I have several types of mustard in the house yet I've never bought anything other than the standard ketchup, even thought they used to stock the variations in my local store.

This is one of my newest cookbooks. I have the 'old' Woman's Day Cookbook (1995) too. I haven't cooked from that one too much but I did make a killer chocolate torte out of that cookbook once, so even if I never cook from it again, it earned it's place on the shelf. Hopefully, I'll end up making more than this one recipe from the newer version .

No question today. I was up with a feverish child most of the night and my mind is blank. Have a nice weekend!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Maybe not perfect, but definitely very good

Buttermilk Cake Layers
Perfect Cakes Copyright 2002

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
2. Stir together the flour; baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, mixing well.
3. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until very soft and light. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
I used a hand mixer.
4. Reduce the speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, stopping and scraping down the bowl and beater after each addition. Beat in another third of the flour, then the remaining buttermilk, stopping and scraping again. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture.
5. Scrape the bowl well with a large rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans (buttered and bottoms lined with parchment or wax paper) and smooth the tops.
6. Bake the layers for about 30 to 35 minutes, until they are well risen and firm and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool the layers in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then unmold onto racks to finish cooling.

I made cupcakes and cakesicles (not pictured) out of this recipe, instead of layers. I just topped them with a vanilla glaze and sprinkles. At first I thought there were just okay but they seem to be getting better everyday. I think this recipe would definitely make great layers - especially with a fruity filling.

This cookbook is from Nick Malgieri, a top pastry chef. This is one of those cookbooks that I've owned for quite a while and have no idea why I've never tried any of the recipes since they do look promising. I just don't really bake a lot of cakes and now isn't the time of year to start. I'll get around to more of these recipes, eventually.

Question of the Day: Do you have a stand mixer?

These shells have a great personality

Sausage-Stuffed Shells With Chunky Tomato Sauce
365 Ways To Cook Pasta Copyright 1988

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup lengthwise onion slices
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 medium green bell pepper, cut into thin strips I only had red peppers
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can (28 ounces) peeled Italian plum tomatoes, with juice I used diced tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper

12 large seashell shaped pasta I had 'jumbo' shells which aren't very large - I had many more than 12 of them

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 cup chopped mushrooms
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg beaten
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. For the sauce, heat the oil in a medium skillet; add onion and green and red peppers; sauté, stirring over medium heat until tender and peppers begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté 1 minute. Add the tomatoes; stir, breaking up tomatoes with the side of a spoon. Simmer sauce uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced and slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook shells in plenty of boiling, salted water until barely tender, about 7 minutes. Lift from water with a slotted spoon and let stand in a bowl of cold water until ready to use.
3. For the filling, brown the sausage in a medium skillet; drain off the fat. Add the mushrooms and onion, cover and cook over low heat until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add parsley; season with salt and pepper. Combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan in a large bowl. Fold in the sausage mixture until blended.
4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9x13-inch baking dish. Drain the shells and invert on paper towels to dry. Fill the shells, distributing the filling evenly. Arrange in rows in the baking dish. Spoon the sauce over the top. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

Some foods just aren't photogenic, no matter how good they might taste. I didn't even put any effort into making these look nice in the picture - I knew it was hopeless. Also, I was anxious to start eating.

The stuffed shells were very good but I wasn't crazy about the chunky sauce. Maybe had I used the proper tomatoes, it would have been better but the diced tomatoes I used seemed subpar to begin with. I would definitely make these again but without the chunky sauce, I would just use a basic jarred pasta sauce or other sauce from scratch. You could use anything - alfredo sauce, pesto sauce, or even just a bit of cheese (I might cook the pasta a little further along in that case). They're good enough on their own that they really don't need a heavy sauce. I might add a little garlic to the filling next time I make these. That might not be any time soon, since it's almost time to stop using the oven since the weather is getting warmer.

I couldn't find the large-sized shells I was looking for either. These were 'jumbo' and compared to small, medium and large shells that you might use for pasta salad, I suppose they were jumbo, but I thought there was a shell approximately the size of a manicotti out there. Is jumbo really the largest size? Does the size vary by brand? I didn't use every shell in the box for this recipe - I stuffed about 20 of them.

Woohoo, that was the last of the Italian sausage from the freezer. I had quite a bit of it at one point in time. I also used practically the last of the clearanced red bell peppers that were in the freezer. I used the very last of those in some quesadillas last night - I hope they have more on clearance soon. I refused to pay full price for green bell peppers which is just as well -they wouldn't have saved this sauce from mediocrity.

Question Of The Day: What are some of your favorite warm weather meals?

Back to basics

Honey French Dressing
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook Copyright 1959, 1972

1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/3 c. cider vinegar
2 tblsp. honey
1 c. salad oil

In a small bowl, mix salt, pepper and dry mustard; stir in vinegar and honey. Slowly add the salad oil while beating with a rotary beater or electric mixer. I just shook it all up in a lidded jar.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

This was such a simple, delicious salad dressing. I really love putting together salad dressings from scratch. Sunday, my son got a small hive on his face while eating dinner at my in-law's house. I had looked at the ingredients on the salad dressing before giving it to him, but I looked again to make sure I didn't miss anything. There was quite a list of ingredients on that little bottle of salad dressing, even though it was 'all-natural'.

Sometimes I just want a simple iceberg lettuce salad. Iceberg lettuce was on sale for a buck and I think the croutons were too. I just added some red onion. This hit the spot. My son loved it too. I served it with some stuffed shells that I'll be telling you about soon.

Question of the Day: Do you make your own salad dressings?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

A healthy treat

Cherry Oat Cookies
American Heart Association Low-Fat And Luscious Desserts Copyright 2000

2 ¼ cups dried cherries, dried cranberries, or dried blueberries, or a combination I used cherry flavored craisins and only a 6 oz bag (about 1 1/3 cups)
1 ½ cups water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons light tub margarine I used Promise stick margarine
2 tablespoons acceptable vegetable oil
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
whites of 3 large eggs
1 ½ cups rolled oats, uncooked
¾ cup oat bran

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small, heavy saucepan, bring cherries and water to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 4 to 6 minutes, or until cherries are plump, stirring occasionally. Drain cherries, reserving 5 tablespoons liquid; set both aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream margarine and oil. Add brown sugar and vanilla, beating until light in color, about 1 minute. Add egg whites and beat until smooth, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper. Add reserved cherry liquid, beating until well mixed. Reduce speed to low and gradually add flour mixture with mixture running. Add rolled oats, oat bran, and cherries, stirring just until incorporated.

Using a small-portion scoop or tablespoon, drop cookie dough onto heavy ungreased baking sheets or regular baking sheets lined with cooking parchment, leaving about 1 inch between cookies. Bake for 15 minutes. Transfer cookies from baking sheets to cooling racks and let cool completely, about 20 minutes.

Last weekend my cookies went completely flat. This weekend they didn't spread at all - not one bit. Maybe that was because I used stick margarine since that's what I had on hand.

These were good but I think if the recipe had included a bit of salt, they could have been much better. They were sort of flat tasting due to the lack of salt. This recipe is from the American Heart Association and if you're on a strict diet for health reasons, these would probably be quite a nice treat. If you're not the healthiest eater and used to rich treats, these won't knock your socks off but they're a filling, low on guilt and really, not awful at all (though next time I would definitely add some salt). I forgot to copy the nutritional information but there are about 100 calories in 2 cookies (recipes should make about 72 cookies) .

This cookbook was from the library. The American Heart Association doesn't mess around. They certainly want their recipes to be appealing but health comes first.

Question of the Day: Do you have any health problems (or a genetic predisposition to health problems) that affect the way you eat?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Disaster averted

Honey Mustard Chicken

Pillsbury: The Best of Classic Cookbooks Copyright 1998

½ cup apple juice (Tip:If you don't drink apple juice you can get a 4 oz bottle in the baby food section)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
dash pepper

3 to 3 ½ lb. cut-up or quartered frying chicken, skin removed if desired

1. GRILL DIRECTIONS: Heat grill. In small bowl combine all glaze ingredients; blend well. Set aside. I boiled it until it thickened.
2. When ready to grill, place chicken, skin side down, on gas grill over low heat or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals. Cook 45 to 60 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender and juices run clear, turning often and brushing frequently with glaze during last 15 minutes of cooking. Bring any remaining glaze to a boil. Serve with chicken.
I used the oven directions:
Tip: To bake chicken in oven, place, skin side down, in a 13x9-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove most of pan juices; turn chicken. Bake an additional 15 minutes, brushing with glaze as directed above.

I thought this recipe was going to be a disaster. Well, okay, a disappointment - disaster might be too strong of a word. I mixed the glaze ingredients together and it had very little viscosity and I couldn't see how it would stick to the chicken so I decided to boil it first and all was well. Fortunately I only had 5 small pieces of chicken - I would have ended up short on glaze if I actually had over 3 pounds of chicken.

I thought this was rather tasty. Not too tangy, not too sweet - just about right for my tastes. I think this glaze would be great on boneless chicken or chicken wings too.

I used the pasta odds and ends to make pasta salad again. I've been doing great as far as working with what I have on hand. I think I'm close to a trip to Costco. After this week, there will be very little left in the freezer. If I really want to challenge myself, I can try to stretch it another week, which might not be a bad idea since next weekend is Easter.

So I don't know what to think about this cookbook. Both this chicken and the cookies had some issues, yet they both were enjoyable when all was said and done.

Question of the Day: Are you cooking on Easter? What are you making?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Not-such-a-smash potatoes

Smashed Potatoes
Big Kitchen Instruction Book Copyright 1998

2-3 pounds red potatoes, unpeeled
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped green onions

Scrub potatoes well and cut in half. Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain water from potatoes and return them to the saucepan. Add milk and mash just slightly. Turn heat to low and add butter, salt and pepper. Mash just a little more, but leave them slightly lumpy. Stir in sour cream, and add a little more salt and pepper if desired. Stir in parsley and green onions and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.

I made the Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Caramelized Onion Gravy again, and even though I did everything the same, it wasn't as 'perfect' this time. It was very good, but the meat was a bit stringy, as most pot roasts I've made or eaten in my life have been. It was still enjoyable but not at that perfect point being tender but not stringy. Maybe I had a different roast this time - 'rump', 'round', 'top', 'bottom' - it's all very confusing.

Since the main course was a rerun, I thought I'd make these smashed potatoes to go along with it and they were okay. I could have done without the parsley and the lite sour cream probably took away from some of the richness that I'm used to in mashed potatoes. I usually add some cream cheese. But my husband ate a ton of these and he's usually not really into potatoes so I can't say this recipe is a dud. Minus the parsley, I think I would have really liked these. I thought they had great eye appeal too.

This is a great 'go-to' cookbook when you're looking for a basic recipe. It has recipes for most common veggies, and popular recipes for most main ingredients. Nothing novel about the recipes but a nice choice for someone just learning to cook (someone without fancy tastes).

Question of the Day: What do you usually add to your mashed potatoes?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pasta salad - always a hit

Creamy Italian Pasta Salad

Favorite Brand Name 365 Pasta Recipes Copyright 1997

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced I crushed it with the salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil I used dried
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups spiral pasta, cooked, rinsed with cold water and drained I used about 2/3 of a 1 lb box
1 cup quartered cherry tomatoes I used roma tomatoes, seeds removed
½ cup coarsely chopped green bell pepper
½ cup slivered pitted ripe olives I used a can of sliced olives

In a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, basil, salt and black pepper. Stir in pasta, tomatoes, bell pepper and olives. Cover; chill.

Makes about 6 servings.

Last night was a simple night. I only ate this pasta salad and hubby had a deer steak and pasta salad. I was going to make myself a veggie burger but this salad was filling enough.

I can freestyle pasta salad pretty well but then I couldn't blog about it here so I made this simple recipe. I think I can say with confidence that we enjoyed this since there wasn't even one noodle left. Hubby really loves pasta salad and my son scarfed down quite a bit of this too. I used 2/3 of a 1 lb box of pasta and that worked great since we ate it right away. I'm not sure if the recipe would have been too dry if we didn't eat it right away since I used so much more pasta than it called for. Personally, it doesn't seem to matter what the dressing/pasta ratio is, the pasta always seems to suck up all the dressing when I make any type of pasta salad and then let it sit.

Question of the Day: Can you make a pasta salad that stays creamy?

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ground beef is back in the rotation

Beef Stroganoff Casserole
Favorite Brand Name 100 Best Hamburger Recipes Copyright 2003

1 pound lean ground beef
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup dry white wine
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 cups cooked egg noodles
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 13x9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Place beef in large skillet; season with salt and pepper. Brown beef over medium-high heat until no longer pink, stirring to separate beef. Drain fat from skillet; set beef aside. Heat oil in same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add mushrooms, onion and garlic; cook and stir 2 minutes or until onion is tender. Add wine. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in soup, sour cream and mustard until well combined. Return beef to skillet. Place noodles in prepared dish. Pour beef mixture over noodles; stir until noodles are well coated. Bake, uncovered 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Makes 6 servings.

I finally picked up some ground beef in the grocery store. That trip to Costco may never happen. I had everything else on hand to make this recipe, except the ground beef and sour cream. Oh, and the mushrooms but those were marked down. They looked as fresh as any other mushrooms in the store. I actually had mushrooms when I planned to make this but I ended up using them on a pizza.

We enjoyed this. Cooking the mushrooms with the wine gave them a nice flavor. I didn't feel this was lacking anything but I couldn't help but think of the Meatballs Stroganoff from a while back and wonder how a bit of tomato paste and paprika might do in this casserole.

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

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Thin cookies

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
Pillsbury: The Best of Classic Cookbooks Copyright 1998

1 cup sugar
½ cup margarine or butter, softened I used butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel I omitted this
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 ¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon

1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and margarine; beat until light and fluffy. Add milk; lemon peel, vanilla and egg; blend well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg; mix well. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes for easier handling.
2. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. In small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place 2 inches apart ion ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets.

Yield: 3 dozen

I'm not sure what happened to these cookies. They were quite good but they came out completely flat - they looked nothing at all like the picture in the cookbook. I know I didn't mess anything up ingredient-wise. I omitted the lemon peel but that should have affected anything. Maybe it was the whole wheat pastry flour I used? I used real butter and chilled the dough for a couple of hours (was that too long?). The body of the recipe only mentions margarine so maybe they prepared them with margarine.

I enjoyed them regardless of their flatness. They were chewy and buttery. I happen to love the taste of nutmeg but I'm sure you could adjust the flavoring of these to your liking if you don't. Just the vanilla would have been sufficient but cinnamon in place of the nutmeg would have been great too.

I was eating one while watching television and I actually held the cookie up and was able to watch television through one of the little holes in them - that's how thin these were.

I've had this cookbook for ages but this was the first time I've cooked from it. I'm not sure why since it seems to have a lot of good recipes in it. Sometimes a cookbook gets pushed aside unfairly - it happens when you have a lot of them.

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