Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A break from all of the sweets

Mushroom-Stuffed Beef Roll-Ups
Complete Slow Cooker Cookbook Copyright 2003

4 thin beef round steaks (about 3 ounces each)
olive oil cooking spray
4 ounces mushrooms, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 cup seasoned stuffing mix
2 cups fat-free beef broth I used a lower-sodium broth
1 tablespoon dry red wine
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons corn starch
freshly ground black pepper, garnish

Using a meat mallet, pound the steaks to ¼-inch thick.

Coat a nonstick skillet with the cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, onions and celery and sauté until the mushrooms and onions are lightly browned.

In a bowl, combine the mushroom mixture, stuffing mix and ½ cup of the broth. Place a spoonful of the stuffing mixture in the center of each steak; roll up and fasten with a toothpick.

Heat the nonstick skillet again; add the roll-ups and cook until they’re browned on all sides. Transfer to the crockery pot. Pour in the wine and remaining broth. Add the bay leaf. Cover and cook on LOW until the beef is cooked through and very tender, about 6 to 8 hours. I didn't have that kind of time so I cooked them on high for a few hours. They were still nice and tender.

Remove to a platter, reserving the broth; keep the beef warm. Discard the bay leaf. Pour the broth into a saucepan.

Combine the cornstarch and cold water in a measuring cup. Pour into the broth and cook, stirring, over medium heat until thickened, about 2 minutes. Serve the roll-ups with the thickened broth. Sprinkle the pepper over each serving.

This recipe caught my eye a long time ago. The picture in the cookbook was a lot more attractive. I had trouble slicing my roll-ups as prettily since the meat was so tender. I was pleased with this recipe. It was very easy to put it all together (I ran the veggies through the mini-chopper) and I thought they were delicious. I used a lower-sodium broth and didn't add any salt yet I didn't miss the extra salt at all. I'm not a saltaholic but I do miss it if there's not enough there. This recipe didn't knock me off my feet but it was something I would make again since they were so easy to prepare and not too heavy or rich.

Question of the Day: Do you use salt? A little? A lot?

Monday, May 29, 2006

No wonder she goes on and on about these

Gooey Butter Cakes (pineapple variation)
The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook Copyright 1997,1998

One 18 ½-ounce package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients and mix well. Pat into a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Prepare filling.

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
One 16-ounce box powdered sugar
20-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla. Add butter; beat. Add powdered sugar and pineapple and mix well. Spread over cake mixture. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes. You want the center to be a little gooey, so do not overbake. It comes out looking like a full cake but shrinks down. I might have overbaked these - it was hard to tell. The crust was quite firm but the filling was still nice and chewy. I have no idea if they were supposed to be gooey-er or not. I thought they were great this way.

Paula Deen raves about these 'Gooey Butter Cakes' and I finally had to see what the big deal was. All I can say is, YUM! I always pictured something sloppy when she talked about these but these cut very cleanly. They were like chewy little brownies. They were nice with a dollop of Cool Whip on top too.

She gives several variations and I opted to add the pineapple. I think they'd be great plain too. I'm sure every variation is good because they all have the two sticks of butter and 8-ounces of cream cheese in them - what could go wrong?

I don't reach for this cookbook too often because my waistline can't handle it but since these were being taken to a gathering (another cookout - not the one I brought the Easy Cream Puff Dessert to), I went ahead and splurged. Well worth it. Oh, and super-simple. These come together in no time. You could do this all in one bowl - just wipe the bowl out after you finish the crust.

These were easy to transport and not overly perishable which was good because this cookout was at a state park and it was hot. I can see that many of you choose picnic dessert recipe based on ease of transportation and perishability. Usually we hang out in the back yard so a refrigerator is close by. After attending a picnic at a state park on Monday, I'm all for staying close to home (where the bathroom is always close, you can come inside for some cool air, where it's easier to keep the food safe, where your toddler can take a nap when he has a complete meltdown, etc).

Question of the Day: How badly do you want to try these Gooey Butter Cakes right now??

Where have you been all of my life?

Easy Cream Puff Cake
Helping Our Kids Grow (fundraiser cookbook) Copyright 2000

1 c. water
1 stick butter
1 c. flour
4 eggs

Crust: Boil water and butter together. Add flour. Mix well on low heat. Dough will come away from the pan. Remove from stove. Add eggs one at a time. Beat until egg disappears. Spread in ungreased 9x 13-inch cake pan. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes. Press out bubbles when cool. Various recipes have this timed at 25 to 40 minutes so go with your instincts. It will look done on the outside before it's cooked through.

2 small boxes vanilla instant pudding I used French vanilla
2 ½ c. cold milk
1 8-oz pkg. cream cheese
1 8-oz container Cool Whip

Cream cheese until smooth. Add pudding and milk until thick. Spread on cool cake. Top with Cool Whip. Optional: Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

For family cookouts, I usually find myself looking for the 'classics' that I've missed. I'm talking about Cool Whip/pudding/Jell-O/cake mix/sweetened condensed milk/cream cheese/etc conconctions that have made the rounds of pot lucks and other social gatherings. There are so many of these recipes, I just haven't been able to sample them all. I still haven't tried the pretzel/Jell-O/strawberries/cream cheese recipe which I'm pretty sure I would really like.

The best place to find these recipes are fundraiser cookbooks. Not only will you see the same recipes in several cookbooks, you'll see variations of the same recipe in the same cookbook. This recipe was all over the place. I love cream puffs and eclairs but I never feel like sitting around and piping these out individually or filling them individually. Making this as one big dessert was so easy and it was definitely a hit. I can't believe I've never made this before now. That piece in the picture was the last one. It wasn't the prettiest piece of the dessert (it had survived two 2-hour car trips in a cooler by the time this picture was taken) but I still think it looks pretty good.

And heck, if instant pudding and Cool Whip is not your thing, use a from-scratch custard and real whipped cream.

Question of the Day: What type of desserts do you usually serve at cookouts (or barbecue or picnics - whatever term you might use)?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Odds and ends

Turkey-Cheese Wraps
Betty Crocker Easy Family Dinners Copyright 2004

1 container (4 ounces) herb-and-garlic spreadable cheese
4 flour tortillas (8 to 10 inches in diameter) I used whole wheat wraps from Costco
8 ounces thinly sliced smoked turkey
4 ounces thinly sliced provolone cheese
1 cup shredded lettuce

1. Spread herb-and-garlic spreadable cheese over each tortilla. Top with turkey, cheese and lettuce to within 1 inch of edge.
2. Roll up tortillas tightly. Serve immediately or wrap securely with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours to grab ‘n go.

French Dressing
Better Homes and Gardens Salad Book Copyright 1969

½ cup salad oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon paprika
dash cayenne

Combine all ingredients in screw-top jar; cover and shake. Chill. Shake again just before serving.

Makes ¾ cup.

I'm a little burned out so all I can offer today is two recipes that really aren't that exciting individually but together, well together they aren't very exciting either but at least you get two recipes. These were both good, just nothing special.

The first cookbook, Betty Crocker Easy Family Dinners is ill-named. They include many breakfast and lunch recipes in the book. I think this would be a great book for a working mom with a couple of kids since these recipes are super-easy. They do rely on convenience products but these days that often means pre-cut veggies and pre-cooked meats, not sodium and fat laden processed products.

The salad cookbook is one of the vintage cookbooks that I picked up at a yard sale last week. I love this book because it has quite a few salad dressing recipes. I recently searched through my cookbooks for salad dressing recipes and surprisingly I couldn't find many of them, probably because there are so many commercially prepared ones on the market these days.

As an extra bonus, I'll direct you to some of the best cupcakes that I've tried. I like dense cakes but I also like a lighter cake too. I've never been able to duplicate the lightness of boxed cake mix but this recipe for Almost Cake Mix Vanilla Cupcakes over on Cookies, Cupcakes and More made the lightest yellow cupcakes I've ever made. I only needed one cupcake for my son to take to school since he couldn't eat the bakery cupcakes another child was bringing to school for his birthday. So I treated my co-workers to the excess and they scarfed them down. I used the Easy Buttercream on them.

Question of the Day: What kind of sandwiches or wraps do you make at home?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Not as good as Marlen's

Spanish-Style Couscous
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

1 pound lean ground beef
1 can (about 14 ounces) beef broth
1 small green bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
½ cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced
½ medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1/3 cups water
1 cup uncooked couscous I used whole wheat couscous

Heat skillet over high heat until hot. Add beef; cook until browned. Pour off fat. Place broth, bell pepper, onion, olives, garlic, cumin, thyme and beef in slow cooker. Cover and cook on LOW 4 hours or until bell pepper is tender. I actually did this on the stovetop - I sautéed the peppers and onion with the meat and then let everything simmer for a while..

Bring water to a boil over high heat in small saucepan. Stir in couscous. Cover; remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes; fluff with fork. Spoon couscous onto plates; top with beef mixture.

Makes 4 servings

This was basically picadillo but not as good as Picadillo a al Marlen. Still good, just not as flavorful as Marlen's recipe. I had a box of whole wheat couscous waiting in the cupboard, which is what made this recipe jump out at me.

I feel burned out. Last night was my regular recipe planning night and instead I watched the American Idol finale and I didn't even crack open a cookbook. Next week might be a week of rerun recipes since we have some travel and family gatherings going on this weekend.

Question of the Day: Do you ever make couscous?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Not pretty, not at all

Sweet Jalapeño Mustard Turkey Thighs
Favorite Brand Name Slow Cooker Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

3 turkey thighs, skin removed I used 4
¾ cup honey mustard
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoon jalapeño peppers, chopped I used 1 1/2 peppers, seeds and membranes removed
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon grated orange peel

Place turkey thighs in single layer in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients in large bowl. Pour mixture over turkey thighs. Cover and cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours. I think I only cooked these about 4 1/2 hours and they were almost overdone by my standards and I like poultry falling off the bone. I ended up glazing these with some honey mustard, honey and Worcestershire sauce.

Makes 6 servings. How can 3 thighs make 6 servings? Turkey thighs aren't that big - not the ones I used. I ate one and hubby ate three!

This was truly the most unattractive dish I've made. Well-cooked poultry isn't easy on the eyes. Also, there's a problem with cooking meat in a crockpot, in that the meat releases it's juices and you don't end up with a thick sauce or glaze, just a liquid-y mess. The trade off is that the meat stays moister. Sometimes I'll reduce the sauce down or thicken it before serving but in this case I cooked the dish ahead of time and I didn't reserve enough of the liquid. Pure laziness on my part. So when I reheated this I added a honey mustard glaze and then some parsley, mostly for appearance purposes. It didn't help that the meat was practically falling off the bone - I could barely keep the thighs intact. However, the meat wasn't stringy. I think I was very close to ruining these - I like falling off the bone poultry but not stringy poultry.

I thought these turkey thighs were delicious. The flavor was subtle and there was no heat from the jalapeños really but these were quite tasty. Maybe I'm just sick of chicken but these seemed so much more flavorful than chicken thighs. I don't know if it was the recipe that made these good because I've never made turkey thighs before this. Only the small grocery store carries fresh turkey thighs in my area and I just discovered them. Maybe they were good in spite of the recipe. I really don't know about this recipe. At first I thought I wouldn't make these again but a day later I'm craving more. Hmmm. If anyone is brave enough to try this recipe, please let me know what you think.

Question of the Day: Do you cook turkey, besides ground turkey, very often?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Back in the ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday Game

Artichoke Salsa
Home For The Holidays Volume 7 – Holiday Recipes Copyright 2002

1 jar artichoke hearts (not marinated), drained, chopped I used a can of artichoke hearts
½ cup chopped black olives I used Kalamata olives - I think they're much more flavorful
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 medium tomatoes, chopped I used organic plum tomatoes and took the seeds out
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves I used a sprinkle of dried - fresh was too $$$
salt and pepper to taste
pita bread I used whole wheat pita

Mix all of the above ingredients together, except pita bread; refrigerate.
Cut pita into triangle slices. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 to 8 minutes.
Serve pita chips with salsa.

I haven't participated in Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday in quite a while, due to poor planning on my part. However, I couldn't resist with this veggie-packed recipe. I was actually worried that this wouldn't have much flavor but the canned artichokes have a lemony flavor from the citric acid that they're canned in, and then the garlic added quite a punch (a serious punch - don't make this if you have any romantic intentions whatsoever). Fresh basil would have been great in this but it's pricey in my local grocery and it was also really sad looking this week so I passed.

I loved the lightness of this recipe. You could dress this with a little oil and lemon juice but it was fine as it was. Let's face it you could do a lot to this recipe - heck, you can make 'salsa' out of just about anything. I'm not sure why I see the same varieties over and over when there's an endless amount of possibilities. A light salsa is a great thing to keep on hand for snacking.

This was a pamphlet cookbook, part of collection put out by the VFW. I picked this up at a yard sale this weekend, along with a similar one from a different year with different recipes. I wonder what happened to the other volumes in the collections. I also got a couple of vintage Better Homes and Garden cookbooks and a 1986 fundraiser cookbook. No one ever seems to put out any really good cookbooks at yard sales but for 25 or 50 cents each I took a chance on these not-so-interesting-looking books and was pleasantly surprised. Well, I was interested in the Better Homes and Garden books. Those I was excited to see.

Question of the Day: Do you make salsa? What kind?

Not muffins

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook Copyright 2006

1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola oil
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup reduced-fat sour cream
½ cup low-fat buttermilk
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon five-spice powder or cinnamon I used cinnamon
1 ½ cup fresh blueberries I used frozen organic wild blueberries
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons butter

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 7x11-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
2. In a small bowl, combine the egg, oil and granulated sugar. Whisk until pale yellow, then whisk in the sour cream and buttermilk. In a large bowl, mix together 2 cups of the flour, the baking powder, and five-spice powder. Mix in the egg mixture. Pour the batter into the baking dish and scatter the blueberries on top.
3. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, orange zest, butter and the remaining 1/3 cup flour. Mix with the back of a fork until crumbly, then sprinkle over the batter. Baked until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly.

Makes 12 servings. Per serving: 225 calories, 6 g fat, 27 mg chol, 145 mg sodium, 40 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g protein, 101 mg calcium. 5 Points.

I didn't want to make muffins again but I admit this recipe isn't all that different than making muffins. You could probably make muffins out of this recipe. At least this recipe was a breath of fresh air after all the oatmeal/oat bran/whole wheat/carrot/apple/etc muffins I've been making recently.

I really like this coffee cake. The blueberries formed a nice gooey layer over the cake, like pie filling but not as sweet. Next time I might try to swirl them in a bit. I used frozen blueberries since I would have had to pay $9 for 1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries (on sale!) this time of year. I paid about half that for the organic frozen blueberries. Personally I haven't had any really good fresh blueberries in years and I think that the frozen ones have a lot more flavor.

This is a Weight Watchers recipe but 5 points is a lot for a treat and a piece of coffee cake isn't a very filling breakfast. However, it's lower in fat than most coffee cakes yet still flavorful and moist. You could probably play around with the fruit on top - chopped apple would probably work well.

This cookbook was a little disappointing, as most Weight Watcher cookbooks are to me. Except for the 5 ingredient, 15 minute books, the recipes always seem too cutting edge for me. By that I mean they use a lot of the latest trendy ingredients which I can't easily acquire and/or I'm just not familiar with so the recipes don't usually appeal to me right off. I don't think I can truly judge a WW cookbook without being on the plan. If I were really counting points, I would probably appreciate this cookbook a lot more.

I went to a Tastefully Simple party this weekend. Honestly, the products aren't bad but the prices - yikes! A tiny jar (8.8 oz) of red bell pepper sauce was $10.99! Okay, that was the highest priced item but that's ridiculous, even for an organic product (well, 95% organic, whatever that means). A few hours earlier I paid almost $6 for organic uncured nitrate-free beef hot dogs in the grocery store and I thought that was pricey. I did order a couple of things at the Tastefully Simple party because I don't go to many of these parties and I had a good time. But when I think of what I could have bought with that $30 in the grocery store!

Question of the Day: Do you attend direct sales parties? Do you buy anything?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

It doesn't get much easier than this

Quiche Lorraine
Big Kitchen Instruction Book Copyright 1998

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack or Swiss cheese I used Swiss
1 tablespoon flour
1 (3-ounce) can real bacon bits I used a bag of real bacon pieces and it was bigger than 3 oz
1 prebaked pie crust for 9-inch pie
4 eggs
1 cup half and half I used light cream because that's what I had
nutmeg I omitted this

In a mixing bowl, toss cheese with flour and bacon bits. Spoon into the prebaked pie crust. Beat eggs with half and half and pour over cheese mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 30 minutes or until set in center. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.

Makes 6 servings.

Quiche is one of those things I don't make because I perceive it as something very rich and indulgent. That's true to a degree, however, who are we kidding? I make lots of rich foods. This one just happens to put up a mental block.

But, I had a crust that I wanted to use for something savory and quiche seemed like the logical thing to make. This was so simple to make. These would be great for brunch. I made this the night before we ate it, when I had the oven running for the Baked Chicken With Honey and Mustard. Then we just reheated it gently in the microwave and I served it with salad with Honey French Dressing.

Question of the Day: Has anyone actually ever read the book, Real Men Don't Eat Quiche? Do real men even read books?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Who cares about this chicken??

Baked Chicken With Honey And Mustard
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2005

4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, trimmed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
salt and pepper
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon brown sugar

1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a broiler pan with foil and lay the slotted broiler pan on top.
2. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and arrange, skin-side up, on the broiler pan top. Brush the chicken with melted butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Roast until the breasts register 160 degrees or the legs, thighs and drumsticks register 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 30 to 50 minutes. Mix ¼ cup Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar together. Brush over the chicken several times during the last 5 minutes of cooking. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


This chicken was delicious. The chicken was perfectly roasted and the glaze was wonderful.

But who cares? Elliott Yamin was voted off American Idol last night and that made me very sad. Very sad. Although I suspected it was coming, it was hard to watch. Especially after he gave the best performance last night when they performed songs from the AI CD and his sing out was fantastic.

I've heard no buzz about Katherine McPhee and she had only a lukewarm hometown reception compared to Taylor and Elliott. Why do I have a vision of Mr. McPhee hiring a warehouse of unemployed actors to text message votes in for his precious daughter (à la Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)? You would think with their show biz experience, her family could have at least acted thankful and humble when they announced Elliott's departure instead of beeing gleeful. My votes will go to Taylor next week.

Back to our regularly scheduled blog. This chicken was really good and I'll definitely make it again. It's amazing how a few simple differences in how I usually roast chicken made such an impact. The chicken was so crispy from the butter and from roasting it on a broiler pan (which I never think to use as the only one I have was left behind by the previous owners of our house).

Question of the Day: How do you roast chicken?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Beef tacos, deconstructed

Beef Tacos
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2005

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
a pound (90 percent lean) ground beef
½ cup smooth tomato sauce
½ cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
8 taco shells

1. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Stir in the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce, broth, vinegar and sugar and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.
3. Divide the filling evenly among the taco shells and serve, passing any desired accompaniments separately.

Serves 4.

I made tortilla triangles instead of using shells. I was going to try to fry up my own shells but quickly decided I wasn't going to stand over hot oil and maneuver each corn tortilla into a taco shell. Besides, we prefer nachos to tacos and hubby would probably have broken the shells up onto a plate anyway.

Here's the thing: I can't really enjoy anything fried at home. I should have just purchased chips or shells because I'm always turned off when I do my own frying. I just become overwhelmed with the desire to take a shower after working with hot oil.

These were pretty good but coriander just isn't one of my favorite spices. I don't hate it but it makes me think twice when I smell it. It didn't ruin these tacos and my husband and son certainly enjoyed them.

Oh, I did have one little problem - I started making the wrong recipe. There was a recipe for tamale pie on the same page with similar ingredients and I actually started making that. I caught myself in time, before any real damage was done, but I did end up adding a jalapeno pepper to the meat before I realized what I was doing. Luckily they were similar recipes or I may have ended up like Rachel on Friends, when she made a trifle with beef and peas after the pages of her cookbook got stuck together.

I love this cookbook. This is THE cookbook to give new cooks. Glorious pictures, spiral bound, lots of basic cooking information. I got it from the library but I'm going to be purchasing this one for my own collection.

Trouble today. A book sale in the lobby. Not the best prices but not awful enough to stop me in my tracks either. They have a lot of the Favorite Name Brand books which I love. I'll go back down at lunchtime and take another look.

Question of the Day: Do you prefer tacos or nachos?

Monday, May 15, 2006


Pasta Caesar Salad With Chicken
Prevention’s Ultimate Quick and Healthy Cookbook Copyright 1998

3 tablespoons nonfat mayonnaise I used half light/half full-fat mayo
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons Italian parsley springs
1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon defatted reduced sodium chicken broth
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 ounces cavatappi pasta
8 ounces thin-sliced chicken cutlets, cut into 1-9inch pieces
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 bunch arugula or watercress, washed, tough stems removed I used baby arugula

1. Bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat. Preheat the broiler. Spray a jelly-roll pan with no-stick spray.
2. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of the Parmesan, the parsley sprigs, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, the broth, half of the garlic, the anchovy paste and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth.
3. Add the pasta to the boiling water; return to a boil and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander and cool briefly under cold running water; drain again.
4. Place the chicken in the prepared pan. Drizzle the remaining 1 teaspoon lemon juice over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining crushed garlic, the remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper and the salt and toss to mix. Broil 3 to 4 inches from the heat for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from the heat. I pan-fried the chicken in a nonstick skillet.
5. Transfer the pasta to a salad bowl. Add the arugula or watercress, the dressing, the chicken and any juices that have collected in the pan, and the remaining Parmesan. Toss to coat water.

Makes 4 servings. Per Serving: 274 calories, 3.9 g fat, 39 mg chol, 394 mg sodium, 2.1 g fiber.

I've had my eye on this recipe for a long, long time. Usually, that means disappointment, as my expectations seem to grow too high if I wait too long to make a recipe. A few years ago, when I first purchased this cookbook, it wasn't always easy to find cavatappi or anchovy paste in the local grocery stores. Yes, I could have used any pasta shape but sometimes I'm funny about that.

I was a bit worried about the arugula or watercress because I'm not a fan of bitter greens. I was thinking about just using Romaine lettuce but when I saw baby arugula leaves, I thought they would be perfect. I don't believe in nonfat mayonnaise and I wasn't brave enough to use only light mayonnaise but I think I could have gone with all light. The other flavors are so strong, I think it would have worked well enough.

So for once I wasn't disappointed. Arugula isn't my favorite thing but the dressing was tasty enough to make up for that. I'll probably use the dressing on Romaine sometime in the future.

Question of the Day: Which salad greens do you prefer?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Okay, muffins are getting boring

Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins
The Essential Eating Well Cookbook Copyright 2004

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar I wasn't paying attention and used dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) I omitted these
1 10-ounce can pineapple slices I used chunks cut in half - tidbits would have been perfect

¾ cup whole-wheat flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¼ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple (not drained)
1 cup grated carrot (1 large)
½ cup old-fashioned oats
¾ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional) I omitted these

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray. I made 6 jumbo muffins and about 19 mini muffins (the mini muffins weren't 'upside down').
2. To prepare topping: Sprinkle ½ teaspoon brown sugar into each muffin cup. Sprinkle nuts, if using over the sugar. Stack pineapple slices and cut into 6 wedges. Place 2 wedges in each muffin cup.
3. To prepare muffins: Whisk whole-wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.
4. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in oil, juice and vanilla. Stir in crushed pineapple. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in carrots, oats, raisins and nuts, if using. Scoop the batter into the prepared cups (they’ll be quite full).
5. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and firm to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes. Immediately loosed edges and turn muffins out onto a baking sheet. Restore any stray pineapple pieces and nuts. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve upside-down, either warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 dozen muffin. Per muffin: 211 calories, 6 g fat, 35 mg chol, 36 g carbs, 4 g protein, 3 g fiber, 185 mg sodium


I made 6 jumbo muffins with pineapple bottoms and then I just made mini-muffins out of the rest of the batter. My son ate about 4 mini-muffins in a row. The upside-down muffins were more exciting than the plain mini-muffins but the batter stands well on it's own without the pineapple 'topping'. Sorry about the picture- my camera died while I was trying to get a good shot.

So I think I'm tired of muffins. There's an endless variety of muffin recipes, except most of the 'healthier' ones with whole wheat flour all seem to taste sort of the same in the end. I really need to find something different that can double as a quick breakfast and a treat.

I can't think of a Question of the Day today. Feel free to ask me a question LOL.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A close call

Millionaire’s Shortbread
Complete Baking Cakes, Puddings and Pastries Copyright 2000

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup butter, cut into small pieces
3 tbsp soft brown sugar, sifted

10 tsp butter
3 tbsp soft brown sugar
14 oz can (sweetened) condensed milk
5 ½ oz milk chocolate

1. Grease a 9 inch square cake pan.
2. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the sugar and mix to form a firm dough. (My dough is usually crumbly but it still works.)
3. Press the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan and prick with a fork.
4. Bake in a preheated oven, 375 degrees F, for 20 minutes until lightly golden. Leave to cool in the pan.
5. To make the topping, place the butter, sugar, and condensed milk in a non-stick saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
6. Reduce the heat and cook for 4-5 minutes until the caramel is pale golden and thick and is coming away from the sides of the pan. Pour the topping over the shortbread base and leave to cool.
7. When the caramel topping is firm, melt the milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Spread the melted chocolate over the topping, leave to set in a cool place, then cut the shortbread into squares or fingers to serve.

I've made these shortbread bars several times in the past few years with no problems but this time I almost messed them up. I started cooking the filling, absent-mindedly forgetting that I hadn't even put the crust in the oven yet. So I turned off the filling but left it on the burner. The bottom started to carmelize and I had specks of caramel in the filling. It wasn't attractive. Even after straining it, there were still some specks left but they weren't noticeable in the final product. At least I didn't burn it because all would have been lost - I didn't have any more sweetened condensed milk on hand.

This cookbook comes out of Europe and even though it uses American measurements, sometimes the ingredient names are confusing. I've had this book for years and I'm not sure if I've tried any other recipe besides this one but it doesn't matter. There are beautiful full-page color pictures of each recipe - this is food porn at it's best. They even include step-by-step pictures for some of the recipes.

Question of the Day: Do you even mess up recipes that you've made several times before with no problems?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A quick and tasty lasagna

Country-Style Lasagna
Passport To Flavor Copyright 1993

9 lasagna noodles (2 inches wide) I used Dreamfields
2 cans (14 ½ ounces each) Del Monte Pasta Style Chunky Tomatoes*
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1 cup diced cooked ham
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese I used a mozzarella and provolone blend

*I don't think they make this style of tomatoes anymore. I used the diced tomatoes seasoned with basil, oregano and garlic(?) and omitted the basil - next time I'd use the petite diced

Cook noodles according to package directions; rinse, drain and separate noodles. Drain tomatoes reserving liquid; pour liquid into measuring cup. Add to measure 2 cups. In a large saucepan, melt butter; stir in flour and basil. Cook over medium heat 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in reserved liquid; cook until thickened, stirring constantly. Season to taste with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in tomatoes. Spread thin layer sauce on bottom of 11x2-inch or 2-quart baking dish. Top with 3 noodles and 1/3 each of sauce, ham and cheese; repeat layers twice, ending with cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees F 25 minutes. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and green onions, if desired.


I never thought of lasagna as something I can whip up after work but now I do. This was practically a Rachael Ray meal. Not quite but it definitely made it to the table in under an hour, maybe closer to 45 minutes.

I loved the creamy tomato sauce and the Dreamfields lasagna noodles had a great texture (I'm not sure if it was the noodles themselves or if I just managed to cook them perfectly). I added too much ham though, thinking more was better, but it ended up being on the salty side. I would have preferred smalller chunks of tomatoes and next time I'll try the petite diced ones. The ham was not key in this - this would have been great meatless or with veggies. I think this recipe has lots of possibilities.

My son LOVED this. LOVED it. So I'll be making some version of this again.

This was from a small pamphlet cookbook put out by Del Monte, with recipes for their tomato products. I think they've made changes in the product line in the past 13 years and I couldn't find the product they called for but diced tomatoes worked fine.

Question of the Day: How do you usually make lasagna?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Poor George III

Aisle 6 Beef Burgers
George Foreman’s Indoor Grilling Made Easy Copyright 2004

1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef
1 small onion, minced
¼ cup teriyaki sauce
3 tablespoons Italian-flavored bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
4 Kaiser rolls, toasted

1. Preheat grill to high and spray with nonstick spray.
2. Put beef in a medium bowl and add the onion, teriyaki sauce, bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Using a fork, mix the seasonings into the meat and then form the mixture into 4 patties, each about 1 inch thick.
3. Grill the patties for about 3 minutes for medium-rare (or a minute or two longer if you prefer a medium or well-done burger). Top each burger with a spoonful of sweet pickle relish before sandwiching between a bun. Serve immediately.

The lead-in to this recipe explains that George III came up with this recipe, and named it after the condiment aisle at the Foreman's local grocery store. I get a little tear in my eye, thinking about George III, desperately trying to distinguish himself from the other George's by coming up with crazy burger recipes.

I'm generally a burger purist - just ground beef in my burgers, nothing else. Sometimes I'll grill an onion slice right into the side of the burger but technically that isn't 'in' the burger. But I always salivate a bit when I see commercials where they add teriyaki sauce, worcestershire sauce, onion soup mix, etc to burgers so I've been wanting to experiment with some burger add-ins.

Frankly, I wasn't too impressed. I think just the teriyaki sauce would have been enough. These came out like meatloaf burgers, and I love meatloaf but that isn't what I want for a burger.

I'm having one of those weeks where I had big ideas going in, but not enough time and energy to execute them.

Question of the Day: Do you mix anything into your burgers?

Monday, May 08, 2006

I'm not sure what's Greek about this

(Makeover) Greek Spaghetti
The Ugly Binder, Taste of Home’s Light and Tasty Magazine May 2006

1 package (16-ounces) spaghetti, broken into 2-inch pieces I used Dreamfields
4 cups cubed cooked chicken breasts
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 can (10 ¾ ounces) reduced-fat, reduced sodium condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
¾ cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
¾ cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup chopped green pepper
I chopped the veggies quite finely with the chopper attachment of my stick blender
1 jar (2 ounces) diced pimientos, drained
½ teaspoon salt-free lemon pepper seasoning I substituted pepper and a bit of lemon juice
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups fat-free milk
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon granules
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
½ cup soft bread crumbs I used crumbs made from the Whole Wheat Bread I made last week
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

Cook spaghetti according to package directions; drain. Return spaghetti to saucepan. Stir in the chicken, spinach, soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, celery, onion, green pepper, pimientos and lemon-pepper. In a small saucepan, whisk flour and milk until smooth. Bring to a boil over medium heat; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in bouillon. Pour over spaghetti mixture and mix well.

Transfer to a 13x9x2-inch baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray (dish will be full). Top with mozzarella cheese, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 10 servings. Per serving (1 1/3 cups): 442 calories, 13 g fat, 67 mg chol, 565 mg sodium, 49 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 31 g protein.

I usually try to resist cooking magazines but sometimes I'm weak. I have an older copy of Taste of Home's Light and Tasty Magazine that has many good recipes in it so it was hard to resist when I saw the current edition on the stands. I can fit a few more magazines in my Ugly Binder but not many so I need to control myself.

One thing this magazine has changed is that they don't give the original recipes in the makeover section anymore. I think that's a smart idea, since comparing the full-fat recipe to the makeover recipe was sometimes kind of of depressing and I usually was tempted to make the full-fat version. This was a makeover recipe but I wasn't familiar with the original recipe. I did a little research and I think the original recipe had two cans of soup, and a full cup each of regular mayo and sour cream and it was topped with Montery Jack. Damn, I bet that's wonderful stuff. But this lighter version was quite good too and I didn't have to feel guilty after eating it.

I didn't realize this called for chopped spinach and I bought the leaf spinach which clumped up a bit in the recipe. I didn't mind it but I think it frightened my husband. I chopped the other vegetables quite finely since the casserole is only baked for about 30 minutes and I didn't want crunchy chunks of veggies.

This recipe is huge! I don't know what I was thinking making the entire recipe. I should have cut it in half and just used the soup, or just the white sauce (although I think the soup would be more flavorful). I used my baking dish that's a little larger than 9x13-inch. It might be 11x15-inch. This would really fill a 9x13-inch dish to the top, as they warn you. Oh well, this reheats well and it should freeze well enough for quick emergency meals.

Question of the Day: Were casseroles popular in your house while you were growing up? Do you make many of them now?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Okay, so this one isn't that exciting

Strawberry Cake
A Little Byte of DISA (fundraiser cookbook) Copyright 2000

1 pkg. white cake mix
1 small pkg. strawberry Jell-O (dry)
1 (10-oz.) box frozen strawberries (save ½ cup for icing)
½ c. oil
¾ c. water
4 eggs
1 stick softened butter
1 box powdered sugar

Stir oil, water, and eggs into dry cake mix. Add Jell-O. Stir strawberries in gently. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Icing: Blend 1 stick softened butter with 1 box powdered sugar; slowly add ½ cup strawberries. Cook cake before icing.


I know I said I was going to try to pick out some exciting recipes, but obviously this one isn't that exciting. Unless, maybe you're a 6-year old girl. But my husband asked me to make a couple of cakes for some guys at work since their wives have baked for him in the past. Since I had two boxes of white cake mix that I needed to do something with, I decided to make this strawberry cake, which I've made in the past and I made a Brown Mountain Cake with Easy Buttercream. Since the cakes were being given away, I cooked some of the batter of each in custard cups, as 'testers'. This strawberry cake is very sweet. I asked hubby if he wanted another chocolate cake but he said the strawberry was fine and he scarfed the tester right down. I think it's sort of funny that he's giving this girly-pink cake to a guy at work.

Basically I choked under pressure. So many cakes in the world, I'm not sure why I chose to make this one. I think it had something to do with my husband mentioning another strawberry cake I've made in the past (yellow cake with fresh strawberries and a pudding/cool whip filling) but I didn't want to send anything that was too perishable. I still had strawberry on the brain though. The cakes that were made for my husband were pretty standard so I wasn't feeling the need to spend my weekend in the kitchen baking. At least I got rid of one of those boxes of white cake.

I know I don't sound very excited about this but I wasn't at all in the mood for cake so I couldn't judge it properly. I once made this recipe into cupcakes for a bake sale and I topped each one with a gummy strawberry and I remember being more excited that time. I think I used cream cheese in the frosting that time and that cuts the sweetness a bit. This would be a great recipe for a young girl's birthday cake.

Question of the Day: Did you have a standard birthday cake flavor while you were growing up?

Friday, May 05, 2006

A recipe from the bench

Apple-Oat Muffins
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003 Copyright 2002

2 cups shredded peeled McIntosh apple (about ¾ pound) I used Gala
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup fat-free milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) carton plain low-fat yogurt I used vanilla Activa
1 large egg
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Place apple on paper towels, squeeze until barely moist. (I missed this step but the Gala apples weren't very watery so I don't think it mattered.) Light spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients in a medium bowl; stir with a wire whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk, oil, vanilla, yogurt and egg; stir well with a whisk. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in apple.
3. Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Remove muffins from pans immediately; place on a wire rack.

Yield: 1 dozen Per muffin:190 cal, 3.9 g fat, 4.5 g pro, 34.6 g carb, 1.9 g fiber, 20 mg chol, 238 mg sodium, 96 mg calcium

This was one of those scavenger recipes. I had two apples in the bin, for who knows how long. Apples are quite the hearty fruit, aren't they? They last forever. Anyway, I had those apples and two days in a row my son insisted he wanted yogurt but only took one bite before changing his mind. So instead of tossing the uneaten yogurt I made use of it in this recipe. I also had some quick oats that my husband brought home once when I sent him out for oatmeal without specifying the old-fashioned variety. Generally I prefer the old-fashioned variety for eating and baking.

These muffins had a different texture than the other muffins I've been making. They were sticky and kind of spongy. At first, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I really didn't prefer it right away. But these muffins stayed moister for longer than most other muffins which counts for a lot since a batch of muffins lasts about a week around our house.

I didn't like that these used all white flour. I've made a few other apple-oat muffins that were stronger, nutrionally.

I actually made these two weeks ago but I never got around to posting about them. Last night I didn't make anything new. I picked up a few marinated boneless pork roasts for $1.49/lb last week. I wouldn't touch these at full price but I'm all over them for $1.49/lb. They aren't anything to rave about, taste-wise (these were Garden Herb flavored) but what I like about them is that they're practically indestructible. Even though they're lean, I can put one of these in the crockpot without worrying about it getting tough and dry. I can slice and grill one for quicker cooking too.

Nobody answered yesterday's Question of the Day so I'm not straining my brain trying to think of another one. Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Cooking through the pain

Herb-Garlic Marinade
The Woman’s Day Cookbook Copyright 1995

1 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2/3 cup olive oil

1. In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients except the oil and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until well blended.
2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

I'm been suffering from neck pain for a week now and yesterday it was the most painful. This started when I was just sitting at my desk. Sitting at my desk! You would think my body would hold off revolting until I turned 40 but no.

So I'm glad I had this simple dinner planned. Before blogging, I bought a lot of bottled and packaged marinades but it's so easy to whip up marinades and rubs if you have a decently-stocked pantry. (Thank God for proofreading - I don't think anyone wants me creating marinades out of well-stocked panties.) I throw the chicken together with the marinade in the morning and then I just have to toss it on the George Foreman when I get home from work. What could be easier?

I think this marinade would be great on pork too.

Question of the Day: How do you prepare meat to grill? Rub? Marinade?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

This is all I've got today

Whole Wheat Bread
Breadman Instruction Manual

¾ cup water (80 degrees)
2 TBL oil
2 TBL brown sugar
1 tsp salt
2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast

Use Basic Mode and 4 Wheat menu

Makes a 1 pound loaf

It decided to make some bread on the spur of the moment. I use my bread machine to make pizza dough every week but I've only tried to make bread a couple of times so far.

The flavor of this bread was very good but the texture wasn't. It came out very crumbly. It could have been user error, since I didn't measure as carefully as I should have and I could tell that the dough was too dry but I didn't see that until it was too late to do anything about it. My double loaf machine makes two small 1-pound loaves and that just isn't optimal for breadmaking - you end up with mostly crust.

Well it's been quiet around here and I doubt this recipes is going to ignite any fires. No Question of the Day - my mind is blank. Tonight I plan my next batch of recipes. I'll try to come up with some exciting ones.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A yummy meat sauce

Spaghetti Alla Bolognese
Favorite Brand Name 365 Pasta Recipes Copyright 1997

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound ground beef
½ small carrot, finely chopped I used a handful of baby carrots
½ rib celery, finely chopped I used closer to a full rib
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup milk
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 can (14 ½ ounces) whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 cup beef broth
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 pound uncooked dry spaghetti I used Dreamfields
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces) I only used about 1/3 cup, maybe less

1. Heat the oil in large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir onion until soft. Crumble beef into onion mixture. Brown 6 minutes, stirring to separate meat, or until meat just loses it’s pink color. Spoon off and discard fat.
2. Stir carrot and celery into meat mixture; cook 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Stir in wine; cook 4 to 6 minutes or until wine has evaporated. Stir in milk and nutmeg; reduce heat to medium and cook 3 to 4 minutes until milk has evaporated. Remove from heat.
3. Press tomatoes and juice through sieve into meat mixture; discard seeds.
4. Stir beef broth, tomato paste, salt, basil, thyme, pepper and bay leaf into tomato-meat mixture. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, 1 to 1 ½ hours until most of the liquid has evaporated and sauce thickens, stirring frequently. Remove and discard bay leaf.
5. To serve, cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water 8 to 12 minutes just until al dente; drain well. combine hot spaghetti and meat sauce in serving bowl; toss lightly. Sprinkle with cheese.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This recipe had a few steps but it wasn't too complicated. It was definitely worth it - this was a very flavorful meat sauce. I made the sauce the night before and reheated it before adding it to the pasta. All three of us enjoyed it. Next time I'll double the recipe and try freezing half.

Tonight we're having Ham and Egg Enchiladas again. I used sweet onion, green and yellow peppers this time. I also boosted the nutritional content by using whole wheat tortillas. I can't wait. I just wish I didn't have to run the oven since it's getting warm here. But they're so good.

Question of the Day: Do you spend less time on the internet in the spring and summer?