Thursday, June 29, 2006

Not this American's favorite

America’s Favorite Cheddar Beef Burgers
Favorite Brand Name 100 Best Hamburger Recipes Copyright 2003

1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup steak sauce, divided
1 medium onion, cut into strips
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
4 ounces Cheddar cheese, sliced
4 hamburger rolls
4 tomato slices

Mix ground beef and 3 tablespoons steak sauce; shape mixture into 4 burgers. Set aside.

Cook and stir onion and pepper in margarine or butter in medium skillet until tender. Stir in remaining steak sauce; keep warm.

Grill burgers over medium heat for 4 minutes on each side or until done. When almost done, top with cheese; grill until cheese melts. Spoon 2 tablespoons onion mixture onto each roll bottom; top with burger, tomato slice, some of remaining onion mixture and roll top. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings

I've been on a quest to elevate the burger but that isn't an easy task. Aisle 6 Beef Burgers were too meatloaf-y and disappointed me. Burrito Burgers were enjoyable and made me hopeful for future burger successes. But now we're back to disappointment.

On the day I made these, I was home with a sick child. I had been on a streak of satisfying recipes but first I tried a cole slaw recipe that stopped that streak cold. It was a very basic recipe from a vintage cookbook that looked promising and the failure caught me by surprise. So I moved on to these burgers and while these weren't inedible, they just didn't have any magic in them. Unfortunately, my mind associated the pepper and onion combination with hot Italian sausage, the usual partner in this house, and the comparatively bland burger was a let down to my tastebuds.

Thanks for all of your quick dinner suggestions but I ended up buying a monster Italian sub at the grocery store since I had a very full evening ahead of me. I also bought my son his very first Kid Cuisine meal, shame on me, but I'm sure it was healthier than the sub.

Question of the Day: What are your plans for the 4th of July?

Steak on a stick

Beef Kabobs With Oriental Sauce
Culinary Arts Institute The Outdoor Cookbook Copyright 1975

¾ cup cooking or salad oil
¼ cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 ½ teaspoon finely chopped green onion
1 ½ pounds beef loin sirloin steaks, boneless, cut into 1 ½ -inch cubes

1. Combine oil, soy sauce, honey, vinegar, ginger, garlic powder and chopped green onion in a large shallow dish. Add the meat cubes; turn until all pieces are coated. Set in refrigerator to marinate for at least 4 hours, turning several times.
2. Remove meat from marinade with a slotted spoon and drain. Reserve marinade for basting.
3. Thread three meat cubes onto each 6-inch skewer. I used long metal skewers. Place meat cubes close together for rare; separate cubes slightly for well done.
4. Grill kabobs on a greased grill about 3 inches from coals, turning often for even browning. Baste frequently with marinade. I didn't baste. Grilling period ranges from 10 to 20 minutes, or until meat is done to the desired stage.

About 4 servings.

I made this last week. I still haven't had a chance to try out the new grill.

This is one of those times when the picture doesn't do the recipe justice. Probably because I was in such a hurry to eat this - I wasn't wasting time on pictures. Once again, I showed my grilling talents. The meat was done just right and I LOVED this marinade. So simple yet so delicious.

I nearly didn't make this because beef prices are so high. I rarely buy anything except lean ground beef anymore, in the beef category. Not even in Costco. I used a less expensive cut for these, a sirloin cut that I only find in one local grocery store that's usually pretty tender if you don't overcook it. I forget what they call it, sizzle steaks or something like that. I've never seen this particular cut of meat anywhere else. It's not cheap, but it's probably the cheapest cut I would try to cook medium-rare.

I have nothing planned for dinner tonight! I have no idea what we'll end up eating. That's very unusual for me.

Question of the Day: Do you have quick dinner ideas? (not take-out!)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A fever and some pasta

Spaghetti With Parmesan and Bacon
The Best of Cooking Light Copyright 2004

1 pound uncooked spaghetti I used Dreamfields
12 bacon slices, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs
1 cup frozen petite green peas, thawed
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. D rain in a colander over a bowl, reserving ½ cup hot cooking liquid.
2. While pasta is cooking, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan. Discard remaining drippings and set bacon aside. Add garlic to drippings in pan; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
3. Combine milk, salt, pepper, and eggs, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add reserved hot cooking liquid to milk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add pasta, milk mixture, and peas to pan; cook over low heat 3 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add bacon and cheese; stir to combine.

Yield: 8 servings. Per serving: 359 calories, 11.2 g fat, 18.9 g protein, 44.6 g carbs, 3.3 g fiber, 99 mg chol, 721 mg sodium

I couldn't fully appreciate this since my son wasn't feeling well and that always affects my appetite, worrying what lies ahead. Fortunately, so far this wasn't much more than a fever but it wasn't easy cooking dinner and tending to a sick child at the same time. When my son is well, he demands a 'huggie' about every 90 seconds. That interval is cut in half when he's not feeling well.

This recipe was similar to Linguine Carbonara. It's supposed to be a little bit lighter but comparing these two recipes right now, I'm not so sure about that! The sauce for this recipe was kind of loose but that worked to my advantage since hubby got home later and this was able to sit without drying out.

I'm finally getting some use out of this cookbook. Sometimes I get a mental block against a cookbook for a period of time and I think that's what happened with this book.

Question of the Day: Do you lose your appetite when you're stressed or do you eat more?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Easy clean up

Grilled Cuban Sandwiches
The Best of Cooking Light Copyright 2004

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 (8-ounce) loaf French bread, cut in half horizontally
6 ounces reduced-fat Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
6 ounces deli-sliced ham
8 sandwich-sliced dill pickles I used dill chips
Cooking spray

1. Spread mustard evenly over cut sides of bread. Arrange half of cheese and half of ham on bottom half of loaf; top with pickle slices. Repeat layers with remaining ham and cheese; cover with top half of loaf. Cut into quarters.
2. Heat a large heavy skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add sandwiches; press with a heavy skillet. Cook 2 minutes on each side.

Yield: 4 servings. Per serving: 335 calories, 11 g fat, 23.1 g protein, 36 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 43 mg chol, 1301 mg sodium

Okay, so this isn't very authentic - a real Cuban would have sliced pork too - but that's just as well. Delis don't sell pork loin in this area. I could buy sliced pork at the deli when I lived in Philly and it's popular in northeast PA where I grew up but I've yet to find it here (and I've lived in this area since 1997). I swear Boar's Head used to have a roasted pork in their product line but they must have discontinued it. I don't see it in their DigiCatessan.

This was an easy dinner that didn't require many dishes or utensils to prepare. I had some deli potato salad leftover from the weekend that I served along side of this.

I'm glad I didn't plan any grilled meals this week. We're getting quite a bit of rain.

Question of the Day: How's your weather? Do you still grill in not-so-nice weather, if you have an outdoor grill?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dangerously good

Bev’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Essential Eating Well Cookbook Copyright 2004

¾ cup rolled oats
1 cup whole-wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter, softened
¼ cup canola oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 35 degrees F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray.
2. Grind oats in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a bowl and stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add oil granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla; beat until smooth and creamy. With the mixer running, add the dry ingredients, beating on low speed until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
3. Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls, at least 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until firm around the edges and golden on top, about 15 minutes. Cool cookies for 2 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 2 ½ dozen. (I got 35 cookies using my small cookie scoop.) Per cookie: 99 calories, 5 g fat, 11 mg chol, 12 g carbs, 1 g protein, 1 g fiber, 64 mg sodium

This recipe uses ground up oatmeal, same as Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies, but these are an entirely different animal. These are more along the lines of what I would think of as a traditional chocolate chip cookie, of the crisp and crunchy variety, not chewy and gooey which I usually prefer but I'm not complaining. Next time I'll cut back on the baking time and see what happens. This recipe just might not give you anything but crispy cookies but they're very good crispy cookies.

I called these 'dangerously good' because although they're from Eating Well and healthier than other chocolate chip cookies, they're still cookies and hard to resist. Very dangerous to have around the house.

Well, no one talked me down so we got a new grill this weekend. It's all your fault! I don't know when I'll get to use it. Noah is due to sail by with his ark any minute.

Question of the Day: Which culinary appliance did you last purchase (for your own use)? Do you remember the first one you ever purchased?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It's-a not so bad, it's-a nice-a recipe

Sophia Loren Chicken
500 More Low-Carb Recipes Copyright 2004

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 lbs) I used tenders.
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (use the cheap stuff in the shaker for this)
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup hot sauce (Frank’s or any no-carb sauce)

Cut your chicken breasts into finger-sized pieces. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine cheese and spices in a bowl. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil.
Combine the olive oil and garlic in a bowl. Dip each chicken finger in the olive oil, roll in the cheese/seasoning mixture, and arrange on the foil-lined pan.
Bake for 45 minutes. (I didn't bake these that long.) After removing form the oven , place the chicken fingers in shallow dish and pour hot sauce over chicken, thoroughly coating each piece.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 364 calories, 24 g fat, 33 g protein, 3 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 2 g usuable carbs

The cookbook explains that this recipe is hot, spicy and Italian, hence the name. I'm not sure how this recipe was really supposed to turn out - was it supposed to be crunchy? I think if I had baked it long enough to get crunchy, the chicken would have been way overdone, so I just cooked this until the chicken was done through. It was hot that evening and I was hungry. I enjoyed it, crunchy or not. This wasn't much different that chicken breaded with bread crumbs and Parmesan but I've never doused breaded chicken with hot sauce before. I served it to my son without the hot sauce and it was good that way too. I obeyed the recipe instruction and used the cheap Parmesan in a shaker but I think this could have been even better with a better grade of Parmesan cheese.

I'm trying to figure out this cookbook. At least half of the recipes were sent in by everyday people. Their names are attached to the recipes but did they get any compensation? How much did the cookbook author make from this book?

Question of the Day: Can anyone tell me why the song 'Shut Uppa You Face' shows up in my head at least every couple of months? I haven't heard the song since I was, oh, probably about 10 years old and it constantly comes back into my head. Am I insane? I'm not even Italian.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Me likey, me likey a lot

Easy Italian Spiced Pork
Pillsbury Good For You Copyright 2006

1 package (.6 oz) Italian dressing mix
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil
4 boneless pork loin chops, ¾ inch thick
Paprika I forgot this

1. In a small bowl, beat dressing mix, vinegar, Italian seasoning and red pepper with wire whisk until mix is dissolved. Beat in oil until well blended.
2. In a shallow glass baking dish, arrange pork chops in a single layer. Spread oil mixture over both sides of pork. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes to marinate. I marinaded these all day long.
3. Meanwhile, heat gas or charcoal grill.
4. When grill is heated, remove pork from marinade; discard marinade. Place pork on gas grill over medium-high heat or on charcoal grill over medium-high coals. Sprinkle pork with paprika. I forgot the paprika and I didn't miss it. Cook uncovered 4 minutes. Turn pork; sprinkle with paprika. Cook uncovered 3 to 6 minutes longer or until slightly pink in center and thermometer inserted into center of pork reads 160 degrees.

4 servings.

Were these pork chops ever yummy! This recipe is definitely a keeper. Although it's very important that you use a good balsamic - not expensive, but good. I found a good store brand one that comes in a fancy bottle but it's only between $3-$4. It's very mellow and flavorful. I've tried brands like Progresso that are just too acidic and don't have much flavor. Just find one you like - your taste might be more expensive than mine or maybe you happen to like the Progresso brand.

I opted to marinade these all day long, instead of just 15 minutes so I can't vouch for the 15-minute marinade. I recommend the longer marinade. These chops were from the same package of chops I used for the Mustard-Glazed Pork Chops last week but these were so much more flavorful and tender. I can't let the recipe take all of the credit - I grilled these perfectly, if I do say so myself.

Speaking of grilling, I really don't like my grill anymore. The heat seems so uneven. It's been so long since I used it regularly, I don't know if that's normal or not (for this grill). Or maybe this is a symptom that the propane tank is finally near empty? I really want a nicer grill but this one is only four years old. Somebody talk me down.

Question of the Day: What kind of outdoor grill do you have?

A colorful side dish

Orzo-Broccoli Pilaf
Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook Copyright 2003

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
2/3 cup dried orzo pasta
1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
½ cup shredded carrot
1 teaspoon dried marjoram, crushed I only had ground so I added less
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups small broccoli florets

1. In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook and stir the mushrooms and onion in hot oil until onion is tender. Stir in orzo. Cook and stir about 2 minutes more or until orzo is lightly browned. Remove from heat.
2. Carefully stir in the chicken broth, carrot, marjoram, and pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until orzo is tender but still firm. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in broccoli. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 83 cal, 2 g fat, 0 mg chol, 184 mg sodium, 13 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein

This wasn't bad at all. It was a colorful, healthy side dish that I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand to make. This recipe is also in the BH&G New Diabetic Cookbook.

My son and I ate it as is, but since my husband was eating later, I added a pat of butter to his so it wouldn't dry out and it's amazing how just a small pat of butter rounds out the flavor. So if your diet allows, I would suggest a pat of butter or your favorite substitute, which really elevates this to 'pretty good'.

Question of the Day: Which do you use - butter, margarine or something else?

Monday, June 19, 2006

My picture looks just as good

Burrito Burgers
Favorite Brand Name 100 Best Hamburger Recipes Copyright 2003

6 tablespoons steak sauce(regular or bold and spicy), divided
1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles, divided
3 tablespoons dairy sour cream I used lite sour cream
1 pound ground beef
4 ( 6 ½-inch) flour tortillas
1 medium tomato, sliced I omitted this
1 cup shredded lettuce
½ cup shredded Cheddar cheese (2 ounces) I used a cheddar-jack blend

Blend 2 tablespoons steak sauce, 2 tablespoons chiles, and sour cream. cover; refrigerate until ready to serve.

Mix beef, remaining ¼ cup steak sauce and chiles. Shape mixture into 4 (4-inch) oval patties. Grill burgers over medium heat or broil 6 inches from heat source 5 minutes on each side or until beef is no longer pink in center. Place each burger in center of 1 tortilla (I heated my tortillas in a skillet to soften them) ; top evenly with tomato, lettuce, cheese and chilled sauce. Fold edges of tortillas in like a burrito. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

I've had my eye on this recipe for quite some time. They just looked so good in the picture in the cookbook. I'm a sucker for a creamy burger sauce. I wasn't disappointed. This isn't a 'call-all-your-friends-and-tell-them-about-it' recipe but personally I found that it hit the spot last night. The chiles and steak sauce added flavor to the meat but they still tasted like burgers (not meatloaf, like the Aisle 6 Beef Burgers). I used the GF grill because the weather was questionable and I'm glad I did because the meat mixture was quite soft and the patties would have been hard to handle on the grill.

I freestyled some great rice with this too. I cooked up brown rice the night before, then when it was time for dinner, I steamed/sautéed some red peppers (straight from the freezer) and then added green onions, leftover corn, the rice and some taco sauce. Oh, and about a teaspoon of butter to round out the flavors.

Everything I've made from this cookbook has been quite tasty. That's why I love the Favorite Brand Name cookbooks. They have a website too. There have a large selection of recipes on there.

Question of the Day: Do you have any favorite websites for recipes? (besides this one LOL!)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

He couldn't keep his grubby little hands off of them

Sour Cream-Bran Muffins
The Gourmet Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream
¼ cup robust molasses (not blackstrap) I used 'full flavor'
½ cup raisins
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup wheat bran (unprocessed, not cereal)

Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter muffin cups.
Beat together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 mintues. Beat in egg, sour cream, and molasses. Stir in raisins.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and bran in another bowl. Add to sour cream mixture and stir until just combined (batter will be lumpy). Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them two0thirds full. Bake until golden brown and springy to the touch, 15 to 20 minutes. Turn muffins out onto rack to cool.

Makes 12 muffins.

I've made so many muffins, it's hard to remember which ones are in the category of 'really, really good'. Definitely Lemon-Ricotta Muffins and Easy Spicy Apple Sauce Muffins. There are a few other great ones that I can't recall off the top of my head but I'm adding this recipe to that category. The cookbook authors claim these are better if you make them two days ahead but I defy anyone to bake these and not immediately dig into them. I can't tell you how many times I've opened up the container just to take a whiff of these muffins, they smell so good. The flavor is predominately molasses and I don't know how to describe it but these just taste so 'smooth'. I'm definitely, definitely going to make these again.

I haven't used this cookbook as much as I thought I would. The lack of photos and the poor choice of font color combined with their penchant for using expensive and/or hard-for-me-to-find ingredients have led to it's lack of use. I have to force myself to sitdown and take a closer look at this book.

Question of the Day: Do you prefer cookbooks with pictures or don't they matter to you?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I'm working that grill hard this week

Mustard-Glazed Pork Chops

Pillsbury Good For You Copyright 2006

2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ cup beer or ginger-ale I used Sierra Mist Free
2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon canola or soybean oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
6 boneless pork loin chops, ¾ inch thick

1. Heat gas or charcoal grill. In small bowl, mix brown sugar and onion powder. Stir in beer, mustard, oil, and soy sauce until well-blended.
2. When grill is heated, place pork chops on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill over medium coals; cover grill. Cook 10 to 15 minutes, turning and brushing once or twice with mustard mixture, until pork is slightly pink in center and thermometer inserted in center of pork reads 160 degrees.

These weren't bad but the 'glaze' only added minimal flavor. I put glaze in quotes because I don't consider these watery mixtures (same as in another Pillsbury recipe, Honey-Mustard Chicken)to be glazes. Glazes should be a bit viscous, leading to a sticky and/or shiny coating. Most of this mixture ended up on the bottom of my grill.

I had actually already mixed up a rub recipe to use on these chops but this recipe looked more appealing so that might have had in part in intensifying my disappointment in this recipe. I think using this mixture as a marinade would have made a world of difference.

I used my grill twice in one week - amazing. I really want to get this tank emptied before the big cookout since I don't want to run out of propane while cooking for 30 people. We have another tank on standby but I'd still rather that it not come down to that (changing it in the middle of our cookout).

I bought this cookbook online and it's a bit of a disappointment. Something about seeing the words 'fat-free' over and over that's a real turn-off. I can handle most lite products but 'fat-free' just doesn't make my mouth water. I'm sure I can get past this mental block eventually.

Another 'repeat recipe I made this week was the second version of Cheeseburger Macaroni. There wasn't a scrap left if that tells you anything. I used a cheddar blend this time (last time I used a mozzarella blend). That recipe is definitely a keeper.

Question of the Day: Do you have any special plans for Father's Day this weekend?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Not-too-sweet-not-too-garlicky salad dressing

Sweet Garlic Dressing
Simply Delicious Too Copyright 1989

½ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
few dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 ¼ tsp. ketchup
1 tsp. prepared mustard
¼ tsp. paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, halved

Combine in a jar and shake to mix well. Allow flavors to blend for several hours before servings. Shake well and remove garlic clove before tossing with salad.

This dressing really isn't really sweet, not by my standards. Only one teaspoon of sugar and maybe a bit of sweetness from the ketchup doesn't really make this all that sweet. Not is this very garlicky. It's a well-balanced recipe - none of the individual ingredients really stand out but they work well together.

This cookbook is a great mystery to me. Where the hell did it come from? I honestly don't know. My best guess is Ollie's Bargain Outlet but there's no price sticker. The book cover is slick enough that I may have been able to remove the sticker cleanly. But that's just a guess - no bells are ringing. This really bugs me. What really bothers me is that it may have been a gift and I'd feel lousy if I didn't remember someone giving me something.

I mean, no, I can't remember exactly where every single one of my cookbooks came from but for the most part I have a clue. I have lots of pamphlet cookbooks I pick up when travelling and I may not remember exactly which cookbook was picked up where but I almost always remember some of the details. This is the only book I draw a complete blank on. Maybe the Cookbook Fairy left it. Ah, if only there were such a fairy.

It's a great little cookbook and I'll always wonder what recipes were included in Simply Delicious, the first book this author put out, since Simply Delicious Too was her follow-up.

We had Sausage andMushroom Pasta again this week. It's one of my son's favorites and definitely something I'll be repeating often. It helps that condensed tomato soup seems to be breeding in my cupboards. Where is it coming from? No matter how many recipes I make with this, there's always a can (or two) left in the cupboard and I don't recall buying more.

Question of the Day: Do you know where all of your cookbooks came from?

I grilled!

Peppery Teriyaki Marinade
Betty Crocker Grilling Made Easy Copyright 2005

¼ cup soy sauce I used low-sodium
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon packed brown sugar
¼ coarsely ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1. In shallow glass or plastic dish or resealable plastic food-storage bag, mix all ingredients. Add a bout 1 ½ pounds meat (pork, chicken, beef); turn to coat. Cover dish or seal bag and refrigerate at least 8 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
2. Remove meat from marinade; reserve marinade. Grill meat as desired, brushing occasionally with marinade. I didn't baste. Discard any remaining marinade.

Wow, I grilled. That's quite a rarity. We've been on the same tank of propane for 4 years. When we first bought the grill, my husband worked nights so I only grilled on the weekends and then when he switched to days, I had the baby to contend with and I couldn't be leaving him to tend to the grill (hubby doesn't get home until after dinner is done). We only have one big shindig every summer and I never grill anything that takes a long time, such as beer butt chicken, mainly just burgers, dogs, boneless chicken and pork, and shrimp.

This was a really nice marinade. Not much different than the Grilled Chicken Marinade I've tried before but I really liked that marinade too. This one tasted a little heavier towards the soy sauce. It was salty enough with the low-sodium soy sauce, full-sodium might be too much but personally I think full-sodium soy sauce is too salty for just about everything. The chicken was nice and tender too. There is a huge boost of flavor from using the outdoor gril that you just don't get using the contact grill.

In case anyone else was curious about Claire's selection of Mississippi Sin as her favorite dip yesterday, here's a link to a recipe for it. This recipe lists cheddar cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, ham, green onions, chilies and Worcestershire sauce but I bet there are many variations. I'm shocked that I've never heard of this before now. It sounds fabulous.

Well I picked the date for our annual summer cookout so now I can start planning and worrying about the weather. We only host two annual events, my son's birthday party which isn't that large of a party since it's in January and we have indoor space issues, and a summer shindig for family and friends. Not an immense amount of guests, maybe 25-30, but we expand the guest list every year (I get braver). Since this is my only big event, I like to do it up.

Question of the Day: How many large parties or family gatherings do you host each year?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A little bit healthier

Dill Dip
Big Kitchen Instruction Book Copyright 1998

2/3 cup mayonnaise I used 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayo and 1/3 cup regular mayo
2/3 cup sour cream I used lite sour cream
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 teaspoon dill weed
½ teaspoon onion salt I used onion powder
½ teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon parsley flakes

Combine all ingredients. Chill. Serve with raw vegetables.

Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

I like to pick up a veggie tray from Costco every now and then but they come with full-fat dips that I just can't resist. And of course, I prefer the dill dip over the ranch dip and the dill dip has more calories than the ranch dip. So I thought I'd try making my own dill dip and this was every bit as good as the one from Costco's veggie tray. My son loved it. I sliced the carrots up into small strips for him so he couldn't choke on them but he basically uses the veggies as a spoon to eat the dip and sometimes he forgoes the veggies all together. I wish I could get away with that.

Gosh, I was silly enough to order a similar dip mix from Tastefully Simple for $6. I just remembered (I didn't get my order yet). Six dollars and I'll have to add my own mayo and sour cream. Yeah, I'm a sucker.

This cookbook is like my local dollar store. Both aren't very large but somehow I usually find whatever I'm looking for in them.

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite dip?

Shame on me

Key Lime Pie
The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Copyright 2003

One 9-inch single vanilla cookie crumb crust I preferred a graham cracker crust
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 (14-to-15-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup ( 2 ¾ ounces) Key lime juice, fresh or bottled I used fresh
1/8 teaspoon lime oil (optional, but good) I zested the limes then soaked the zest in the juice before straining it
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese until soft. Add the condensed milk and beat until well-blended. Stir in the Key lime juice and the lime oil. Add the sour cream, mixing until smooth. Pour the filling into the crust and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Garnish it with whipped cream and lime slices.

I shouldn't be making anything this decadent but I've never seen fresh key limes in my grocery store before and for $2 they just had to come home with me. I had every intention of making the traditional sweetened condensed milk/egg yolk/lime juice version but then this recipe caught my eye.

This was great - it was creamy and tangy (from the lime juice and from the sour cream). I loved it but was it worth juicing all those little limes? Honestly, I doubt it. I mean, I bet it would have been just as good with bottled Key lime juice or juice from a 'regular' lime. This tasted a lot like the lemonade pie my MIL makes with lemonade concentrate so there are several less labor intensive routes you could take here. It doesn't get very firm so it's hard to get a neat slice but it scores high for flavor.

I didn't try to lighten this up because I knew this wouldn't be very firm and I worried that lower-fat products might not work here but if anyone tries them and it works (or doesn't), let me know.

I fell in love with Key lime pie on a Royal Caribbean cruise years ago. Unfortunately, it's been too long for me to recall any of the details of that pie except that it had a thin top layer, like sour cream on a cheesecake. I remember I loved it but I just can't recall exactly why. Years later my mother clipped a recipe out of a magazine that supposedly was RC's recipe but it wasn't what I had on my cruise. I'm tempted to take another RC cruise, just to see if that same version of Key lime pie is being served. I don't even order Key lime pie out anymore because I've been disappointed too many times. This version here was great but not like RC's.

Question of the Day: Is there a particular food you remember from your travels?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

More of the same

Zesty Swiss Steak

Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook Copyright 2003

1 pound boneless beef round steak, cut ¾-inch thick
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon fajita seasoning
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons cooking oil
1 ½ cups bottled salsa I accidentally bought the Sante Fe version with corn and black beans but it worked
½ cup water
1 cup yellow and/or green sweet pepper cut into thin bite-size strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups hot cooked rice I was in the mood for mashed potatoes
snipped fresh cilantro (optional) I didn't use this

1. Trim fat from steak. Cut steak into 4 serving-size pieces. In a large plastic bag, combine flour. fajita seasoning, cumin, and cayenne pepper; set aside. Place meat between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using the notched edge of a meat mallet, pound meat lightly to ½-inch thickness. Remove plastic wrap. Add meat pieces, 2 at a time, to flour mixture in bag. Seal bag; shake to coat evenly. I didn't pound my meat due to sheer laziness. The meat was still tender.
2. In a large nonstick skillet brown meat on both sides in hot oil. Drain off fat. Add salsa. the water, sweet pepper strips, and garlic. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, about 1 ¼ hours or until meat is tender. Skim off fat. Serve with hot cooked rice. This actually worked very well with mashed potatoes. If desired, sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Makes 4 servings. Per serving: 312 calories, 8 g fat, 66 mg chol, 305 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 28 g protein.

I ended up planning this week's meals as I went along and that didn't work out very well. Tuesday I made chicken quesadillas with peppers and Wednesday I made meat sauce and then Thursday I made this Zesty Swiss Steak with had the same seasonings and peppers as the quesadillas and like the meat sauce this had beef and tomatoes (from the salsa). I like variety and this week just didn't have enough for my tastes.

This was a decent dish. I enjoyed it (but the potatoes might have been the key for me) and my son liked it. It isn't something I'd be racing to make again but if I had all the ingredients on hand and nothing better planned, I might make this again. That's about how I feel about traditional Swiss steak - it's enjoyable but nothing I crave or dwell over after I eat it.

Swiss steak was something that showed up for Sunday dinner on occasion in our house while I was growing up so it always brings back memories.

Question of the Day: Did/do you have 'Sunday dinners'? What was/is served?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A simple meat sauce

Spaghetti Meat Sauce
Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook 1959,1972

1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ c. salad oil
1 lb. ground beef
2 ½ c. tomatoes or 1 (1-lb.) can I used a 28-ounce can or organic tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 c. water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 bay leaf

Sauté onion and garlic in hot oil. Add meat and cook until browned. Add remaining ingredients; simmer slowly about 1 hour.

Makes 6 servings

I know, this is rather simple. But I wanted to show everyone that sometimes simple works. I wanted a recipe that captured the basic essence of a good meat sauce. I wanted something that wasn't over-adorned. Okay, I just didn't want to make another trip to the grocery store and I had everything to make this.

This was simple and good, what more can I say? Not much different from what I might have freestyled in my pre-blogging days. I probably would have thrown in more spices but I didn't really miss them. I thought this had a nice clean flavor, with a nice sweetness from the tomatoes but not overly sweet like some jarred pasta sauces. I put it over some Dreamfields linguine and topped it with some freshly grated Parmesan.

The Farm Journal has not disappointed me yet. I need to find more of their cookbooks for my collection.

So last night was recipe planning night and I didn't get very far but I realized my problem is that I focus too much on main courses. I'll probably be repeating a lot of old recipes next week for the main course and posting about other things. This week I made Ham Steak with Spicy Mustard Sauce again, not because it knocked my socks off the first time but because I had everything to make it and it was pretty good.

Question of the Day: What recipe/product do you use as your basic pasta sauce?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trust me, this is good stuff

Cauliflower with Garlic and Bread Crumbs
500 3-Ingredient Recipes Copyright 2004

1 head cauliflower
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup seasoned dried bread crumbs I used Rienzi brand, Italian-style

Core the cauliflower and cut it into florets. Put the cauliflower into a 2-quart pot, season with salt and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then drain.

While the cauliflower is cooking, prepare the garlic: Slice the garlic cloves thin. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a wide sauté pan or skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, add the garlic.

Sauté the garlic for a minute, add the cauliflower, and toss to coat with the oil Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle the crumbs into the pan and toss to coat the cauliflower (the crumbs will not fully cover the cauliflower). Continue to cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned.

Yield: 6 servings

I've actually been eating cauliflower with bread crumbs for years. My mom used to make green beans with bread crumbs too. I think it's a wonderful way to eat my veggies. This is the first time I added garlic, which is a great addition, and sticking to a recipe helped me to control the fat. When I freestyle this dish, I have a tendency to add too much oil (and I usually add butter too but this was delicious with just oil).

I was in a hurry the day I made this. It was hot but I paid $3.50 for a head of cauliflower to make this and it didn't have much quality time left so I braved the heat and cooked this up. I didn't take enough time to cut the cauliflower into small florets like I prefer and I could have browned this a little longer but it still came out fine. Hubby even had some.

Now I wish I had fussed with the picture more but this is the best I could manage when I was hot and tired.

I bought this cookbook because I thought it might have some easy recipes in it, which it does, but I'm not really a fan of the 3-ingredient gimmick. There's a recipe for Beef in Chianti Mushroom sauce. The three ingredients are beef, flour and a bottle of chianti mushroom sauce. Is that really a recipe? Where do you get chianti mushroom sauce? Next to the Ragu? That's like making Chicken Tonight (a product I loved in the early 90s BTW).

I have the desire to keep cooking and blogging but I'm having a lot of difficulty with recipe selection. I feel as if I've made everything already! Just a few restrictions make it even harder (no nuts, no shellfish right now either).

Question of the Day: What's for dinner tonight?

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Look, Ma! No peanuts!

Unbaked Caramel Cookies

Better Homes and Gardens Cookies and Candies Copyright 1966

In a large saucepan, combine 2 cups granulated sugar, ¾ cup butter or margarine and one 6-ounce can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk. Bring mixture to a rolling boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add one 3 5/8-ounce or 4-ounce package instant butterscotch pudding mix and 3 ½ cups quick-cooking rolled oats; mix together thoroughly. Cool 15 minutes; drop dough from teaspoon onto waxed paper-lined tray.

These take a while to firm up - I stored them in the refrigerator.

Makes about 5 dozen.

The boiled cookie recipe I see most often (and the one my mother has always made) contains chocolate and peanut butter. Since we are nut-free due to my son's peanut allergy, I decided to try this recipe which doesn't contain any nuts or peanuts. For some reason, I had two boxes of instant butterscotch pudding in the cupboard and I still had quick oats in there from a hubby screw-up so that made this recipe even more enticing. Do I even need to mention the benefit of not having to turn on the oven? I loved not having to run the oven.

These were definitely extremely sweet but I thought they were extremely good too. It's hard to eat more than one at a time, but it isn't hard to keep coming back for another one every couple of hours. I'm definitely going to make these again. I may add them to my Christmas treat list.

This cookbook is another one of my yard sale finds. I think I paid an entire 50 cents for this beauty but it was well worth it, even though the pages have started to come loose. I love old cookbooks.

Question of the Day: Do you have any no-bake cookies suggestions for me?

Unsloppy Joes

Hamburger Special

Home For The Holidays Volume 7- Holiday Recipes Copyright 2002

1 (14-ounce) bottle ketchup
1 ½ cups water
½ cup sweet pickle juice or ¼ cup cider vinegar I used the vinegar and a sprinkling of brown sugar
1 ½ cups finely chopped onions
¼ cup prepared mustard
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
3 pounds ground beef
2 tablespoons salt Yikes! I used one teaspoon and that was plenty
1 teaspoon pepper

Combine ketchup, water, pickle juice or vinegar, onions, mustard and Worcestershire sauce in large saucepan. Place over low heat and cook slowly while preparing hamburgers. Mix ground beef, salt, and pepper and shape into 12 hamburgers. Place hamburgers in hot sauce and cook gently for 2 hours or more. Serve with buns, coleslaw or salad, potato chips and pickles.

My husband's family has mentioned a recipe his late paternal grandmother used to make, 'hamburgers in sauce'. When I saw this recipe in one of the cookbooks I purchased at a yard sale last week, I thought this might be what they were talking about and I decided to try it. It's basically a version of beef barbecue or sloppy joes made with hamburger patties instead of ground beef. I've blogged about ground beef versions here, here and here.

Beef barbecue is a popular casual dish in this area. You'll often find it served at family parties and outdoor festivals. The problem is that you're often required to eat with you plate on your lap or while standing up at these events so it can be difficult to eat one of those sandwiches without making a mess. This recipes takes the sloppy out of sloppy joes. You still get great flavor from the burgers basically stewing in the sauce but you won't have any errant pieces of ground beef landing on your pants. I didn't find that these needed any condiments besides a little extra sauce soaked into the bun.

My son scarfed these down (bun-less). He's become quite the carnivore lately. Normally I love to see him eat heartily since he's on the small side but this time I was selfishly wishing he would lose interest in these so I could finish his burger too. No such luck.

This little book was the same on that had the artichoke salsa recipe. I think I got my money's worth (25 cents).

Question of the Day: Beef barbecue, sloppy joes, wimpies, Manwiches? What name do you know these sandwiches by?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Okay, one more sweet

Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies
Better Homes and Gardens New Dieter’s Cookbook Copyright 2003

1 cup rolled oats
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 8-ounce container plain low-fat yogurt I used vanilla Activa
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces (12-ounces) I used chunks

1. Place oats in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 375 degree oven about 10 minutes or until toasted, stirring once. Place oats in a food processor bowl or blender container. Cover and process or blend until ground; set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking soda and salt; beat until combined. Beat in the yogurt, eggs and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the oats and any remaining flour. Stir in the chocolate pieces.
3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake in 375 degree oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Makes 90 cookies. Per cookie: 82 calories, 3 g fat, 12 mg chol, 54 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 2 g protein. I only got about 54 cookies.

I usually go for chewy chocolate chip but I like all versions. I really liked this recipe. I took them to a cookout and they went over well. They look different than most chocolate chip cookies but I thought they tasted great and they stayed moist for days. This is definitely a recipe I would make again.

I picked this cookbook up at the book sale they had in the lobby at work one day a few weeks ago. It's packed with recipes and pictures. The layout is a little confusing - there are chapters on kids' favorites, quick weekday meals, entertaining, etc along with the usual chapters broken down by appetizers, meats, desserts, etc so if you're looking for a chicken recipe, it might be in about 6 dfifferent chapters. Thank God for the index.
These cookies were actually in the Kids' Favorites section and my son did enjoy them.

Most of the recipes aren't as basic as this but they aren't complicated and the ingredients can probably be found in your local grocery store. They use lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains.

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?