Thursday, August 31, 2006

Satisfying a craving

The Original Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Treats Recipe
Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook Copyright 1997

3 tablespoons margarine the generic version calls for 4 tablespoons butter or margarine - I used 4 tablespoons of butter
1 package (10 ounces, about 40) regular marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
6 cups Kellogg’s Rice Krispies Cereal the generic version calls for 5 cups, I eyeballed it, probably just a little short of 6 cups
vegetable cooking spray

1. Melt margarine in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
2. Add Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.
3. Using buttered spatula or waxed paper, press mixture evenly into 13x9x2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cut into 2-inch squares when cool.

Makes 24 treats

I just got it into my head that I wanted to make rice krispie treats. They're so simple to make, there was nothing to stop me. Certainly not money or time since these are inexpensive and quick to make. These are a much better choice than buying something, those times when you really don't feel like baking (or have the time or energy) but you want to have something sweet on hand.

I'm a purist when it comes to rice krispie treats. I prefer them without peanut butter (even before peanut butter was off-limits here) and without other adornment. You can buy these prepared now (how lazy and/or crunched for time have we become?) but they're just not the same. I like my rice krispie treats on the gooey-side, mixed a little bit unevenly so that I get a semi-unexpected pocket of marshmallow goo every now and then.

I had the original recipe ready but the generic cereal I bought had a slightly different version. Were they trying to avoid copyright issues? What I made was actually closer to the generic version, which called for more butter or margarine and less cereal. Rice krispie treats are not an exact science.

These may not exactly be healthy, but they're better than a lot of other sweets (especially store-bought). The inventor of the Rice Krispie Treat, Mildred Day, lived to the ripe old age of 92 so how bad can they be?

Question of the Day: What kind of sweets do you usually keep on hand?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shakey execution, solid finish

Pasta with Sweet Peppers and Ham
Prevention's Ultimate Quick & Healthy Cookbook Copyright 1998

1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large red bell peppers, coarsely diced
l large onion, coarsely diced I used about 1/2 of a large sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano Oops! I forgot this
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 ounces boiled ham, diced I used 8 ounces
1/2 cup defatted low-sodium chicken broth I used more
8 ounces penne pasta I used the entire box of Dreamfields
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated I didn't measure this
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/8 teaspoon freshly groun black pepper

1) Bring a a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat.
2) Meanwhile in a medium sauce pan over high heat, warm oil until very hot but not smoking. Add bell peppers, onions, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Sauté, stirring, for 2 -3 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften and relase their juices. Stir in the ham, then add3 tablespoons of broth and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 8 - 9 minutes, or until vegetables are very tender. If the pan gets too dry, add another tablespoon of broth.
3) Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water, return to a boil and cook for 10 to 12 minutes or according to package directions until al dente. Reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid, drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to a warmed serving bowl.
4) Add the remaining broth and reserved pasta liquid (I forgot to reserve the liquid so I added more broth) to the vegetable mixture. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes, until liquid is reduced slightly.
4) Pour sauce over pasta. Add parmesan, parsley, and black pepper. Toss to coat well and serve.

I took a few liberties with this dish, some on purpose and some accidentally. I added more ham and pasta to stretch it (I have leftovers for lunch!), I used less onion because I needed to save some for tonight's recipe, I used more chicken broth because I forgot to reserve the pasta liquid and I forgot the oregano. It's really a simple dish to prepare but I was trying to do too many things at once (make this pasta, make a salad, make the dressing, make cheese bread). No harm done - the result was good.

I liked the 'light' sauce on the pasta. It's funny to think that growing up, the only thing that we put on pasta when it was the main course was spaghetti sauce. It's so versatile and it doesn't need to be drenched in a heavy sauce.

It feels so good to be cooking and eating home-cooked meals again. I can't wait to plan next week's recipes tonight. I hope some of my new cookbook arrive today. Don't ask me how many I'm waiting for - I'm too ashamed to say. It's a sickness.

Question of the Day: How much time to you generally spend preparing a weeknight dinner?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

More eggplant

Caucasian Eggplant Caviar
Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book Copyright 1975

1 large eggplant ( 1 ½ to 2 pounds) my eggplant was only about 14 oz
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 6-ounce can tomato paste I used Del Monte organic - make sure you use a good one!
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Assorted crackers I tried this on whole wheat Ritz crackers

Cook whole eggplant in boiling water till tender, about 25 minutes. (This is not easy - eggplants float!) Cool; peel and finely chop. In medium skillet cook onion and green pepper till tender but not brown. Add tomato paste, salt and pepper. Simmer 5 minutes. Add chopped eggplant; simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring often. ( I only cooked it about 20 minutes.) Add more oil if it sticks. Chill. Serve with crackers.

Makes 2 ½ cups.

I've been eyeing recipes for eggplant caviar for years. It's just one of those things that I've inexplicably haven't made. I bought a deep-colored eggplant at the auction last Friday, planning on experimenting with the Eggplant with Crispy Coating recipe. However, when I saw this recipe, I changed my mind and decided it was finally time to make eggplant caviar. We've been suffering from a dearth of good snack foods around our house.

This is a very bare bones recipe, which is exactly what appealed to me. I just needed to pick up a green pepper and some tomato paste and I was good to go. It was a bit of a perplexing recipe, as tomato paste isn't exactly a liquid that simmers, but I persevered and I was happy with the results. I didn't add any more oil so this was light for an eggplant dish. The caponata recipe from Entertaining With The Sopranos has been on my to-make list but it calls for the eggplant to be fried in oil. That scares me, eggplant being the sponge that it is.

Tomato paste is very rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. In fact, I've read that the lycopene in tomato paste is more readily absorbed by the body than lycopene in fresh tomatoes. Usually tomato paste is not consumed in great quantities - more often, it's a minor ingredient in recipes. This time it's the star of the show, perfect for Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday. Just be sure to use a good tomato paste in this, obviously.

I really enjoyed this. My final product was heavier on tomato than it probably should be because I only bought one puny eggplant but I liked the strong tomato flavor. I even tasted it without a cracker just to be sure I gave it a fair review since, we all know, everything tastes better sitting on a Ritz.

Question of the Day: What do you like to put on a Ritz?

MacGuyver muffins

Honey Maid Graham Muffins
Favorite Brand Name Bake Sale Cookbook Copyright 1997

3 cups Honey Maid Honey Grahams, finely rolled into crumbs I used Keebler Original Flavor
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup skim milk
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons honey

In a medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and baking powder. Stir in milk, egg and honey just until moistened. Spoon batter into 9 greased 2 ½-inch muffin-pan cups.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 15 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes; remove from pan. Serve warm.

Makes 9 muffins.

No flour? No problem. You can whip up some muffins with some crushed up graham crackers. For some reason, I keep buying graham crackers although we really don't eat them. I've been on a streak of using up excess so when I saw this recipe, I thought it would be a good way to help clear out those graham crackers. I was a little concerned that there was no added fat but these were moist enough without it. In hindsight I wish I would have added some raisins. Or, ooh, I just thought of this, a dollop of jam in the middle! Obviously, without any of these add-ins, these muffins simply taste like graham crackers.

I hit the auction alone last Friday. It's not a big place but there are probably at least 15 stands selling produce and comparing prices and quality was overwhelming, even without a husband and whiney child along. I bought plums, strawberries, red peppers, garlic, parsley, another eggplant, asparagus, and a sweet onion. And then I kicked myself after I got home, regretting all the things I passed on. Oh well, there's always next Friday!

I can tell fall is coming. I actually cooked quite a bit over the weekend. I'm just plain sick of all the other options. We've eaten at McDonald's way too often this summer.

Question of the Day: What cool weather dishes are you looking forward to?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Using up leftover cheese

Macaroni and Cheese
Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book Copyright 1975

1 ½ cups elbow macaroni I used Dreamfields
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups cubed sharp American cheese I used a mixture of leftover cheese
½ cup finely chopped onion (optional) I didn't add this
1 tomato, sliced

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water till tender; drain. In saucepan melt butter; blend in flour, ½ teaspoon salt and dash pepper. Add milk; cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Add cheese and onion, if desired; cook and stir till cheese melts. Mix cheese sauce with macaroni. Turn into 1 ½ quart casserole. Sprinkle tomato slices with salt; arrange atop macaroni. Bake at 350 degrees till heated through, 35 to 40 minutes. (Well, you just mixed hot cheese sauce with hot macaroni - it's already heated through. Just bake until bubbly and as browned as you like it. I was in a hurry so mine isn't as browned as I would have preferred.)

Makes 6 servings.

I had a bunch of cheese leftover from the cookout. I only bought one average-sized looking tray of sliced cheese from Costco which didn't look very big but the slices were huge so I cut them in half and ended up with a huge tray of cheese. There was sharp cheddar, havarti, gouda and Swiss on there. To make this cheese disappear, I pulled out this old recipe that I've used several times over the years. I made 1 1/2 times the recipe for the cheese sauce and used an entire box of macaroni. I thought that would use up all the cheese and I could freeze some but there was barely enough left to fill one small container.

My son and husband really seemed to like this. Personally I preferred the Horn and Hardart version I made a while back but I think if I used the same cheese blend in this recipe, they would be very similar (except for the tomato being on top in this one and blended into the H&H recipe).

This is probably one of my very favorite cookbooks, although I haven't cooked from it nearly enough. They start with the Indians (I think they were still calling Native Americans Indians in 1975) and work their way, recipe by recipe, all through the history of America. There are also sections on cookbooks, appliances, how we shop for food, etc. Since America is made up of people from so many different countries and cultures, they also included quite a variety of ethnic recipes - Italian, Irish, Japanese, Jewish, Russian, Mexican, etc. There are over 700 recipes!

Question of the Day: What is your favorite cheese?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Close to perfect, but not

Eggplant with Crispy Coating
America’s Quick Cuisine Copyright 2004

1 large eggplant
2 eggs
½ cup fine dry bread crumbs or yellow cornmeal I used seasoned breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon oregano I skipped this since I used seasoned breadcrumbs
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil or salad oil

1. Peel eggplant, if desired; then cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick slices. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, lightly beat eggs. In another shallow bowl, mix crumbs, oregano and cheese.
2. Pour oil into a rimmed baking pan large enough to hold eggplant in a single layer; tilt pan to coat with oil. Dip each eggplant slice in eggs, drain briefly, and then coat with crumb mixture; shake off excess. Arrange eggplant slices in pan and bake in a 425 degree oven, turning once, until browned and very soft when pressed (20 to 25 minutes).

Makes 4 to 6 servings

The coating on this eggplant was really crispy, just like deep fried if you ask me. The eggplant underneath the crispy coating was perfectly creamy. So this should be declared a winner, no? No. This was bland. Claire at Cooking With Medicine did a comparison of the deep colored eggplant versus the light purple variety, which I used here, and she declared the light purple one to lack flavor. I think I agree, although while eating it, I mainly thought my eggplant needed salt. The cheese added some salt to the coating but the eggplant was really flat. But I worry adding salt at any point before the finish might cause the eggplant to give up water and hinder the crisping of the coating. I did sprinkle some salt on the finished product but that didn't do the trick.

All in all, this was quite heartbreaking since this was so close to being perfect. I'm going to use this technique again, maybe with a deep-colored eggplant, maybe with zucchini. It was nice to get that deep-fried flavor without all that oil or odor.

I ordered three new cookbooks yesterday. I tried to stop myself. I SERIOUSLY tried to stop myself from hitting that submit button. But I'm so weak.

Question of the Day: Can you think of any other veggies I could use in this recipe?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Disappearing brownies

The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Copyright 2003

6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup (optional) I did add this
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
optional add-ins: 1 ½ cups chopped walnuts or pecans, 1 ½ cups mini marshmallows, 1 cup melted caramel, 1 cup chocolate chips I didn't add any of these

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla, salt, sugar and corn syrup together until light and fluffy, which takes a few minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan.

Stir the flour into the chocolate and butter mixture. Fold the chocolate batter into the egg mixture, stirring to combine. Stir in optional ingredients, if using.

Spread the batter in the pan. For and extra-glossy top, brush with 1 tablespoon milk. Bake the brownies for 35 minutes; the top should be crisp, but a toothpick inserted in the center will come out coated with chocolate. Remove the brownies from the oven, and let them cool for several hours before cutting into squares. I cooled them overnight.

Makes 2 dozen 2-inch square brownies.

Sorry for the awful picture. I thought I would get a better picture of the leftovers but they didn't last long enough. I wasn't thrilled with these myself but everyone else seemed to like them. They were good enough, but far from the ultimate brownie as far as I'm concerned. I didn't really have time to search out the best brownie recipe. I just grabbed the first one I saw.

After baking these, it looked like I had a cake in the pan. I didn't brush the top with milk so maybe that might have helped but these didn't have that crackly brownie top I'm used to. The edges burned a little but that was probably because I used a cheap, thin baking pan since I used my better glass one for something else (Pineapple Gooey Butter Cakes - they were a big hit too). I added the corn syrup mainly because I had a huge bottle of it that my husband bought when I sent him out for some in a pinch at Christmas-time. It did add chewiness to the brownies, I just wasn't sure if I liked it and they disappeared before I could better analyze them. From what I can recollect, these were right in the middle of fudgy and cakey. They were definitely very chocolately. They easily cut into neat bars too (I used a plastic knife).

I can't wait to hit the cookbooks tonight and plan next week's menu. We'll probably be eating hamburgers and hot dogs at least once a week for the next few weeks since I still have a bunch of them in the freezer.

Question of the Day: What is your idea of the perfect brownie?

A crowd pleaser

Angie's Dad's Best Cabbage Coleslaw
The Ugly Binder, from

1 medium head cabbage, shredded
1 cup grated carrots
(I used the bagged cabbage and carrot mix)
1 large red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped I added celery seed instead
1 cup white sugar
1 cup white vinegar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon dry mustard
black pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, onion, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle with 1 cup sugar, and mix well. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, oil, salt, dry mustard, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Pour hot dressing over cabbage mixture, and mix well.

Note:This is best if made a day ahead to 2 weeks ahead. If you make it far ahead, drain juice prior to serving. (I thought it was tasty a few hours after I made it. I made it two days ahead and it was fine. Two weeks might be pushing it, in my opinion.)

This was the last recipe I decided on for the cookout and it received several compliments from my guests. I was making a creamy potato salad so I didn't want a creamy cole slaw, although I usually prefer creamy slaws. This reminded me a lot of the ever-popular ramen noodle salad. It had a similar tangy dressing. Very good for such a simple recipe to prepare. The cabbage/carrot mix was on sale too! To top it all off, this is perfect for Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday. Cabbage is good for all sorts of things.

By the way, I went with the red potatoes for the potato salad and I was very pleased. I thought the texture of them was just right. Usually I end up with mushy potatoes and crunchy potatoes. These came out perfectly tender, through and through. I paid the premium for the better looking local potatoes.
I basically followed the recipe for Old-Fashioned Potato Salad from the Gourmet Cookbook, but I also threw in some green onions for even more color.

I'm so 'fooded out'. I can't take anymore leftovers. Tonight I'm going to make quesadillas with the leftover chicken, pepperjack cheese and salsa and serve that with the leftover corn but not another spoonful of potato salad or any of the other leftovers (okay, except that last piece of tiramisù) will pass these lips. I felt so horrible last night from too many days in a row of overindulging. I can't wait to get back to 'normal', more healthy eating.

Question of the Day: Do you like your cole slaw creamy, not creamy or not at all?

The party's over


The Ugly Binder, clipped from the ladyfinger package

To make Tiramisù, begin by making zabaglione cream as follows:
5 egg yolks from Large Grade eggs
¼ cup sugar
½ cup Marsala

In the top part of a double boiler, beat eggs and sugar together until the mixture is pale yellow in color. In the bottom part of the double boiler, bring water to a boil then reduce heat to simmer. Place egg yolk mixture over water and gradually add Marsala, beating continuously. Scrape bottom and sides of pan occasionally and cook 6-10 minutes or until soft mounds can be formed. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

1 cup whipping cream, chilled
4 Tbsp. sugar, divided
1 lb. Marscapone Cheese (if unavailable, substitute two 8 oz. packages cream cheese combined with ½ cup whipping cream and 5 tbsp. sour cream) I always use Marscapone
1 recipe Zabaglione
2 cups (16 oz) freshly brewed espresso or other strong brew coffee
½ cup Brandy or Marsala I usually use Brandy but this time I used rum
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 14 oz. package Alessi Savoiardi Cookies (or any crunchy ladyfingers you can find)
3 Tbsp. cocoa powder

Whip cream with 2 Tbsp. sugar until soft peaks form. Fold in Marscapone and Zabaglione and mix till well blended. Cover and refrigerate one hour. In a separate bowl, mix espresso, 2 Tbsp. sugar, Brandy and vanilla. Arrange 16 cookies on the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Carefully spoon about 1 Tbsp. of the coffee mixture over each cookie so they are saturated but not falling apart. Spoon 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the cookies and sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cocoa. Repeat two more times ending with cocoa. (I only put the cocoa on top this time - I forgot to add it between the layers. ) Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 5 hours so that cookies can soften as they absorb moisture.

Makes 12 servings.

A couple of years ago when I first decided to make Tiramisù for my annual cookout, I spent hours searching the internet for that perfect tiramisù recipe. I wanted the eggs cooked but I also wanted to stay close to the traditional version. After all that time wasted searching, I bought the ladyfingers and the perfect recipe was right on the bag. Luckily I clipped it and saved it in The Ugly Binder because the ladyfingers I use are getting hard to find around here. I don't even remember where I bought the ones I used this time since I bought them a while ago when I saw them somewhere in my travels, knowing I would need them for my cookout.

I tripped up a bit this year, probably because I was making 1 1/2 times the recipe since I bought a bigger dish for this year. I forgot the cocoa between the layers and accidentally added all the sugar to the whipped cream instead of separating it. I usually dunk my cookies but they were getting too soggy (and I was running out of coffee because I was short on that and I didn't feel like making any more) so I decided to brush on the coffee mixture after the first layer and I didn't add enough as you can see in the picture. (This was a picture of the leftovers - it's a little crooked but it's all I had to work with.)

None of these indiscretions seemed to impact the final product. It was still the most popular dessert. The extra sugar wasn't needed but it didn't hurt since there isn't a whole lot of sugar in the recipe compared to many desserts. I used rum instead of Brandy this time since I had a wonderful version made with rum in a restaurant sometime this past year. It was very good with rum but not a huge difference (although I wasn't tasting the two versions side-by-side). Personally, I wouldn't use marsala in the coffee mixture, but that's just my own preference.

So it's over. We had a few raindrops but we did our best to ignore them. By the end of the event, it was actually quite nice out and that's how I'm going to remember it. As usual, I was too busy to take any pictures and as usual, I regret that. I think the final total was 25 adults and older children, plus 4 little ones. Not a bad turnout.

I'm not cooking this week again but I have a few other recipes from the cookout to share.

Oh yes, since we were both off Friday, I finally got to go to 'The Auction', a local farmer's market that's only open on Fridays that my husband has been talking about for years. OMG! Such gorgeous produce and I didn't need anything (well, I bought the corn on the cob for the cookout there). My son was in a terrible mood too since we interrupted his nap to go. I did buy two gorgeous light purple eggplants since they were only 75 cents each. What am I going to do with them? I swear, this Friday, as soon as Hubby gets home from work, I'm heading off to the auction alone.

Question of the Day: Do you have any good eggplant recipes?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Going through withdrawal

I'm out of recipes for now. I'll be posting about a few of the things I'm making for the cookout but since we'll probably be living off leftovers for a few days, next week might be a light week too.

I really miss not cooking. There just doesn't seem to be any good 'grab-and-go' food around. Last night I put a little effort into dinner and made Suzie's Sloppy Joes again. I don't have a single clue what we're going to have tonight. Something I grab in the supermarket after work.

Between eating crappy food and being stressed out about this cookout, my appetite hasn't been very good but I've been stress eating, which coupled with a poor appetite, really makes me feel really awful. I actually have the cookout under control except the weather isn't going to be perfect, like it was last week, and I can't seem to get over that. I just don't want it to rain. The forecast has been everything to partly cloudy to chance of showers and isolated thunderstorms (the latest forecast). We had great weather four years in a row - the streak had to end sometime.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Last of the leftover posts

Wartime French Dressing
Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen Copyright 2000

1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup lemon juice or cider vinegar I used the lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated onion
½ cup melted chicken fat or vegetable oil guess which I used!

Stir together the paprika, mustard, sugar, celery salt, garlic powder, and pepper in a ½ pint jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add the lemon juice and onion; cover and shake. Add the chicken fat or oil; cover and shake until combined.

About ¾ cup

Many of the salad dressings I've made are all basically the same so there isn't much to say about this recipe. That's okay because I really wanted to talk about the book. It was from the library and I loved it.

The book is filled with wartime (WW II) recipes and discusses rationing and how Americans made do. Despite the war and rationing, the author concludes from her research and interviews that Americans really didn't feel deprived. This really wasn't long after the Depression, convenience foods did not exist, and Americans were still used to eating modest portions so I'm sure they adjusted well. Can you imagine how we would cope now? Back then, I bet an entire family could make a meal out of one of today's typical chain-restaurant entrées.

I learned a few surprising things from this book. For instance, soy was used as a protein during this time. Some of the recipes called for soy beans, some for soy flour. I knew soy wasn't new to the world, I'm just surprised that Americans were using those soy products in their homes back then.

Refined sugar was notoriously in short supply for home use but there was certainly no lack of sugar in other forms and from commercially prepared products, some more readily available than others. Molasses, corn syrup, brown sugar, marshmallows, sweetened condensed milk and other commercially-sweetened products were all used to replace sugar.

One blurb mentioned a mother sending a daughter a cooked chicken through the mail, salted to prevent spoilage. The daughter said it was delicious. We hesitate to eat raw eggs anymore, I can't imagine being brave enough to eat chicken that spent at least a couple of days going through the postal system. Although I probably shouldn't be suprised. My mom claims they would eat hard-boiled eggs that stayed out for weeks. Of course, she also claims that none of her children ever cried. The memory gets a bit fuzzy over the years.

I had more to say about this book but I had to return it to the library last weekend, before I finished this post.

I have no more posts in the queue, so it may get quiet around here. Maybe not, as I still have no clue what we're having for dinner the next two nights. But I have finalized my cookout menu! Well, I have a completed menu. I reserve the right to change my mind.

Question of the Day: How strict are you, when it comes to food safety?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

More leftovers

Cucumbers with Dill
Cooking With Herbs and Spices Copyright 1963, 1970,1984

2 large cucumbers I used one large English (seedless) cucumber
½ cup vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh snipped dill I used 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried dill

1. Peel cucumbers or score lengthwise with fork tines. Cut into very thin slices.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumber slices. Marinate at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving.

I wanted something easy and light to go with the Russian-Style Chicken Cutlets and Mushrooms Paprikash that I served last week. Cucumber salad is one the easiest salads to make. I don't make it very often because my mother-in-law serves it a lot. You could add slices of sweet onion to this too.

I've always thought of cucumbers almost as a non-food. Few calories but little nutritional value. I was surprised to see them included on this list of the World's Healthiest Foods. I'm grasping at straws here for a contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday, but, hey, I'm not cooking this week.

Last night we just had store-bought roast beef subs and salad with a simple balsamic/oil/honey dressing. I actually miss cooking but there was just no time to plan or cook this week. I need to save my energy for all of the cooking I'll be doing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

I still haven't finalized the menu. It's traditional cookout food but it's hard to streamline the menu. I'm torn between macaroni salad and potato salad. I really want potato salad, with a creamy dressing, but the thought of peeling hot potatoes doesn't appeal to me. I've seen recipes for creamy red potato salads but I've never used reds for a creamy potato salad. Do you think that would work?

Hey, that's the Question of the Day: Do you think I could use red potatoes in my potato salad?

Monday, August 14, 2006

We're having leftovers this week

Pasta Pilaf
America’s Quick Cuisine Copyright 2004

1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
6 medium-size pear-shaped (Roma-type) tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil I used dried
8 ounces dried riso, stars, or other small pasta shape I used alphabet-shaped pasta
¾ cup frozen peas
½ cup half-and-half I used fat-free half-and-half
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Melt butter in a wide nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft but not browned, about 5 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, basil, and ¼ cup water; reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 6 cups water to a boil in a 4-to-5 quart pan over medium-high heat. Stir in pasta and cook just until tender to bite (8 to 10 minutes); or cook according to package directions. Drain well.
3. Add peas and half-and-half to pan with tomato mixture. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil; stir in pasta. Remove from heat and stir in ¼ cup of the cheese. Transfer to a serving dish. Add remaining ¼ cup cheese to taste. (I threw in all of the cheese and I felt it needed all of it.)

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

We're not eating leftovers this week but I'm posting all my leftover posts since I'm not cooking anything worth blogging about this week.

I made this pasta pilaf a couple of weeks ago to use up some alphabet pasta that I had sitting in the pantry. It was good but I felt something wasn't quite right. It could very well have been the fat-free half-and-half but more likely it was the flavorless tomatoes. I don't know why but I haven't been finding any good tomatoes. Aren't you supposed to be able to get good tomatoes in the summer? Where the heck are they?

I will say that this looked exactly like the picture in the cookbook except they used a different pasta shape (riso). I appreciate 'honest' photographs in cookbooks.

I'm so distraught. This past Saturday was gorgeous. I had toyed with the idea of changing my cookout to that date and I didn't. It was the nicest day of the year. This upcoming Saturday, the date I insisted on sticking with, isn't looking so good. That sound you hear? That's me kicking myself.

Question of the Day: Have you had any really good tomatoes yet this year?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Chicken and pasta after a day of cleaning

Chicken Pasta Italiano
America’s Quick Cuisine Copyright 2004

¼ pound sliced bacon, chopped I used a little bit less
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into ¼-inch wide strips I used more
4 medium-size tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ cup dry sherry or regular-strength chicken broth I used the chicken broth
1 tablespoon Italian herb seasoning or ¾ teaspoon each dry basil, dry oregano, dry thyme, and dry marjoram
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
6 ounces dry spaghetti I used more and I used Dreamfields
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. In a wide frying pan, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp. Lift out, drain, and set aside. Discard all but two tablespoons of the drippings.
2. Add garlic and chicken to drippings in pan. Cook over high heat stirring, until meat is lightly browned (about 3 minutes). Remove chicken from pan and set aside.
3. Add tomatoes, sherry, herb seasoning, and red pepper to the pan; boil over high heat until mixture is thickened (7 to 10 minutes).
4. Meanwhile, in a 4 to 5-quart pan, cook spaghetti in 2 quarts boiling water just until al dente (10 to 12 minutes); or cook according to package directions.
5. Return chicken to tomato mixture; stir until heated through. Drain spaghetti and arrange on a warm platter. Spoon chicken mixture over pasta and sprinkle with bacon. I added the bacon to the tomato mixture instead of sprinkling it on top. Offer cheese to add to taste. I sprinkled it all on top.

Makes 3 servings.

While I was making this, I was thinking this might be a disappointment. Once the tomatoes broke down, I started to have hope. It actually turned out pretty well. It was flavorful but not too heavy. Bacon always makes food taste better. There were no leftovers.

I spent the entire day cleaning my kitchen yesterday - top to bottom, inside and out. Now I don't want to cook in it! I filled the garbage can up about three times. Wow. It wasn't all food - I also tossed plastic containters, shoddy baking pans that have long been replaced, old cat food that got pushed to the back of the cupboard, etc. I still can't figure out how I filled up so many trash bags. On one hand, it felt good to clear things out, but on the other hand, I feel incredibly guilty about throwing all that stuff in a landfill. But what's done is done.

Question of the Day: How often do you give your kitchen a thorough cleaning?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

This pork hasn't lost it's mojo

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mojo Sauce
The Gourmet Cookbook Copyright 2004

4 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 pork tenderloins (1 ½ pounds total), trimmed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill. If using a charcoal grill, open vents on bottom of grill and on lid, then light charcoal. Fire is hot when you can hold your hand 5 inches about the rack for just 1 to 2 seconds. If using a gas grill, preheat on high, covered, for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to moderately high.

Using a mortar and pestle, mash garlic to a paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt (or mince and mash with a large heavy knife), Whisk garlic paste together with orange juice, 2 tablespoons oil, and 1/2 teaspoon oregano in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pat pork dry. Rub each tenderloin with 1/2 tablespoon oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon oregano.

Lightly oil grill rack. Grill pork, covered, turning once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into center of each tenderloin registers 150°F, 10 to 14 minutes total. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let stand, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes. (Its internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees as it stands.)

Slice pork and serve drizzled with mojo sauce.

I don't use this cookbook as much as I should. My technique is to browse through cookbooks and see what recipes jump out at me but they used a yellow font color for the recipe titles and I can barely read them. The only think that jumps out is a major headache if I spend too much time reading this cookbook. Which is a shame because I believe there are many wonderful recipes in this book just waiting to be tried.

This is one wonderful recipe that isn't waiting anymore. It wasn't a showstopper, but it was simple and delicious. I wonder why lemon is so much more popular in savory cooking - I loved the milder citrus taste of the orange in this. Even though my garlic ended up kind of chunky, it wasn't too strong, as it almost was in the Summer Couscous a couple of days ago. I may have grabbed from a less-pungent head of garlic this time, or could the oil and orange juice have tamed the garlic so much?

I'm glad I splurged on some pork tenderloin last time I went to Costco. I didn't have freezer room for the loin. The tenderloin has a lot more possibilities since it doesn't need to be babied as much.

I started doing a deep-cleaning in preparation for the cookout. I'm working on my kitchen cupboards and I can't believe what I'm finding. I have 6 boxes of baking chocolate (different varieties). Why do I have 6 boxes of baking chocolate? Brownies went on the menu for the cookout. I have 3 different bottles of celery seed. How the heck did that happen?

Question of the Day: Do you know any recipes that use a lot of celery seed?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A new recipe triggers an old memory

Russian-Style Chicken Cutlets
Food and Wine Magazine’s Quick From Scratch Chicken Cookbook Copyright 1997, 2001, 2004

2 slices good-quality white bread, crusts removed I used a soft whole grain bread
¼ cup half-and-half I used fat-free half-and-half
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried dill
5 tablespoons butter, 3 of them at room temperature
1 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons cooking oil

1. Break the bread into pieces. In a large bowl, soak the bread in the half-and-half until the liquid is absorbed, about 2 minutes. Mix in the chicken, egg, salt, pepper, dill and the 3 tablespoons room-temperature butter. Put in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up.
2. Remove the chicken mixture from the freezer; it will still be very soft. Form the mixture into four oval cutlets and coat them with the bread crumbs.
3. In a large, nonstick frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and the oil over moderate heat. Cook the cutlets until golden brown and just done, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Just to be safe, I finished these off in the oven to make sure they were fully-cooked.

Serves 4.

I had some ground chicken in the freezer, something I don't usually have on hand. I knew there were lots of good recipes for ground chicken in my books but you know how it goes - I couldn't remember where they were. Finally the light bulb went off and I remembered this cookbook. I had looked at this recipe longingly several times when I didn't any ground chicken around but now not only did I have ground chicken, I also had some fat-free half-and-half leftover from another recipe AND I had a brand-new bottle of dried dill.

This recipe was definitely not 'lite' (oy, all that butter and oil) but it was certainly delicious. I really liked the flavor. The butter kept the meat moist and wonderful. I think this reminded me a bit of the city chicken we used to eat growing up. My memory is fuzzy since we ate city chicken when I was very young but I think it was probably made with veal - it was probably the breading that reminded me of it. For those who aren't in the know, city chicken is fake chicken made with veal, pork or beef (I think), cubed or ground, put on a skewer (the 'bone'), breaded and cooked. I guess at some point, chicken was more expensive that the other meats. Probably not by the time I was a child because city chicken was a rare treat for us. We stopped having it when the local grocery store we bought it from when out of business.

I served these with Mushrooms Paprikash (made with lite sour cream) and a simple cucumber salad that I'll probably show you some other day.

If my posting gets a bit sporadic, don't panic. I have to start cleaning and preparing for our cookout. Next week will probably be all re-runs for dinner.

Question of the Day: Do you have a childhood food memory to share?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Couscous for ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday

Summer Couscous
365 Ways To Cook Pasta Copyright 1988

1 cup couscous I used whole wheat couscous
1 ½ cups boiling water
¼ cup finely chopped carrot
¼ cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
6 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
generous grinding of black pepper

1. Place the couscous in a medium bowl; add the boiling water; cover and let stand until all water is absorbed and mixture has cooled slightly, about 20 minutes.
2. Add the finely chopped vegetables. In a small bowl, whisk the oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Add to the salad; toss to blend.

I found this recipe when I was searching for a pasta salad recipe to go along with some meatballs subs. Since I had some whole wheat couscous to use up, I decided to try it, figuring it would be a light and a good Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday recipe, if nothing else.

Once I tasted this, I realized this was practically the same as the Confetti Salad that I made a while back. That salad was better because my whole wheat couscous in this one had a stale taste that I just couldn't get past but I loved everything else. I've never had pasta that tasted stale - why would couscous taste stale? It wasn't expired or anything.

This salad would not be a good choice for a romantic dinner - the garlic taste is strong (although the garlic clove I used was huge and the recipe calls for a 'small' garlic clove). But if you don't like garlic or you have romantic intentions in your near future, skip the garlic. I'm sure it would be good without it too.

Question of the Day: Do you like the taste of raw garlic or is it too strong for you?


Broiled Flank Steak
America’s Quick Cuisine Copyright 2004

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/3 cup salad oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons each Worcestershire, soy sauce, and dry mustard
¼ teaspoon pepper
few drops of liquid hot pepper seasoning
1 to 1 ½ pounds flank steak, trimmed of fat

1. In a shallow dish, mix garlic, oil, vinegar, Worcestershire, soy sauce, mustard, pepper and hot pepper seasoning. Place steak in dish; turn to coat with marinade. Let stand for 30 minutes, turning over several times. I marinated this overnight.
2. Remove steak from marinade; drain briefly, reserving marinade. Place steak on lightly greased rack of a broiler pan. Pour marinade into a small pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Broil steak about 4 inches below heat, turning once and basting several times with marinade, until done to your liking; cut to test (8 to 10 minutes for rare). I grilled mine.
3. To serve, cut steak across the grain into thin, slanting slices.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This was rather basic. I think I have an almost identical recipe in the Ugly Binder that I've made a few times. It enhances the meat but it doesn't overpower it. It was too hot to make anything complicated when I made this so that's why I chose this recipe.

Well, actually this wasn't the recipe I chose but I didn't realize it until I after I made it. I got confused. There was actually another similar recipe I was planning on making but, well if you saw the explosion of cookbooks in my spare room, you might understand how I get confused. It wasn't until a few days after I made this that I figured out that I used the wrong recipe.

I don't know what to serve at my cookout this year and it's now less than 2 weeks away. Usually I do burgers, dogs and something else grilled for the main dishes. So far that something else has been chicken every year. I was going to grill shrimp but now I'm avoiding shellfish since my son wasn't tested for shellfish and I really don't want to find out he's allergic to that too. Red meat is expensive but I could do the Beef Kabobs with Oriental Sauce. As much as I absolutely love the Easy Italian Spiced Pork, I don't think anyone generally gets excited about pork unless it's ribs (too expensive for large crowd) or smoked pork (and although I have a new, unused smoker, I've run out of time to experiment with it before the cookout). It will probably be chicken again. I can always use one of the chicken marinade recipes I've tried.

Question of the Day: Does anyone have any ideas on what other meat I could serve at our cookout?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sometimes simple works

Cooking Thin With Chef Kathleen Copyright 2002

¾ cup diced onion
1 teaspoon oil
1 tablespoon water
1 pound lean ground beef
2 cups cooked brown rice or long-grain white rice I used brown rice
coarse-grained salt and cracked black pepper
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with juice (or crush canned whole tomatoes yourself)
1 bay leaf

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place onion and oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat and stir until onion is coated with oil. Add water to pan, cover, and cook until onion is completely softened, 15 to 20 minutes. (I skipped all that and just chopped my onion very finely.) Place meat and rice in a mixing bowl; add onion, season with salt and pepper, and mix to combine. Form into 8 sleeping porcupines (round balls) and place in a baking dish just large enough to hold but not squish them. Pour tomatoes with juice over porcupines; season with salt and pepper, and bay leaf. Bake 1 hour. (I cooked them on high for about 3 hours in a crockpot.) Remove bay leaf before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

I've ignored Chef Kathleen's cookbook at the library many, many times. I've seen her show on the Food Network and it's not one that I really enjoy. The setup is that she counsels a person that needs to lose weight, analyzing their eating and offering substitute recipes. Her suggestions always seem unsatisfying to me. The overweight guest will describe gorging on too many rich, but delicious looking, family recipes and Chef Kathleen will counter with a simple 'just chew on a piece of leather and suck on ice cubes all day and the weight will come off'. Okay, she might offer slightly more appetizing suggestions but they usually don't seem comparable to what the guest has to give up.

But something stopped me on my last library visit. Maybe it's because I've been checking out cookbooks faster than they can get new ones in and my choices are getting slimmer but I took a longer look at this cookbook and decided to bring it home. After all, Chef Kathleen is a professional chef who was a chef long before she started cooking healthy - her recipes should be decent, I started to think. She gave up everything to move to Hawaii for a dream chef job but when she got there, they had given it to someone else and she had the choice of being the spa cuisine chef or being jobless. I imagine it's not easy to find good chef jobs in Hawaii so she taught herself a new way to cook and a new way to eat, losing a bunch of weight since she says that she was quite overweight when she arrived in Hawaii.

I was very pleased with this cookbook. Her recipes seem much more appetizing in this book than on her show. Maybe I won't turn the channel next time her show comes on, if Food Network is still airing it - I have no idea. I will say I'd rather sit through her show than most of the other 'healthy' shows they've aired.

When I went to make this recipe, I had second thoughts. This was simple - too simple. How flavorful would these porcupines be? Surprisingly flavorful. Although I have to give credit where I believe credit is due - I think the Glen Muir tomatoes I used made a difference (and at the price I paid, they should have!). Hubby and I both come from families with Eastern European roots and grew up on stuffed cabbage and this is basically what stuffed cabbage is filled with. In fact this mixture can also be used as a filling for stuffed cabbage.

These did cause a big dilema - what to serve with them? They were probably at least half rice so I didn't really want another starch on the side but I ended up with corn and (whole wheat) garlic bread as sides, and a salad so this meal did end up kind of starch heavy but at least it was heavy with brown rice, corn and whole wheat bread and not the white stuff.

I'm so tired, I'm having trouble thinking up a Question of the Day and finishing this post. This week I reverted back to my pre-child schedule of working out in the morning (and getting up just before 4am). It actually suits me a lot better than working out in the evenings (which even after 2 1/2 years on that schedule, was a still a struggle for me) but the first week takes some adjustment. TGIF!

Question of the Day: Do you exercise regularly?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Never judge a loaf too quickly

Sour Cream Raspberry Swirl Loaf
Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2003 Copyright 2004

1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, toasted I omitted these
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 1/8 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1 large egg
1 large egg white
3/4 cup fat-free sour cream I used 'lite'
Cooking spray
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons 2% reduced-fat milk

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine raspberry jam and walnuts in a small bowl.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine sugar, butter, lemon rind, 1 teaspoon vanilla, egg, and egg white in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add flour mixture and sour cream alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Spread half the batter into an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Spoon raspberry mixture over top, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Spread remaining batter over raspberry mixture.

Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Combine 1/8 teaspoon vanilla , powdered sugar, and milk in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle over loaf.

I made this recipe because I had everything on hand to make it. Right after I made it, I felt that it wasn't bad, but since I made it the same day as I made the Whole Wheat Blueberry Kuchen and that recipe blew me away, this recipe paled in comparison. I had also just made the Lemon-Blueberry Bundt Cake the week before and this recipe is very similar - lemony cake, fruit and glaze.

So it ended up sitting wrapped in the fridge for a few days until the kuchen was gone and when I finally tasted it again, I was pretty impressed. Timing is everything, I guess. I'm glad I didn't blog about this right away or it may have received an unfair negative (well, neutral) review. This was simple to put together, looks pretty (at least I think so) and can be held in the fridge for a few days. I bet it would freeze well too (although I'm not sure about the glaze). It's delicious too. You could make this with any flavor of preserves that you preserve but it would be hard to top the raspberry.

Question of the Day: What's your favorite flavor of preserves?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Another new pasta recipe

Spicy Ham & Cheese Pasta
Favorite Brand Name 365 Pasta Recipes Copyright 1997

½ (16-ounce) package corkscrew pasta I used Dreamfields rotini, more than 1/2 package
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips I used yellow peppers
1 small red onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed
8 ounces cooked ham, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 cup ricotta cheese I used part-skim ricotta
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon Tabasco pepper sauce I used Frank's
¾ teaspoon salt

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add and cook bell pepper, onion and garlic until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Add ham; cook 3 minutes longer, stirring occasionally.

In large bowl, toss cooked pasta with ham mixture, ricotta cheese, parsley, Tabasco sauce and salt; mix well.

Makes 4 servings.

This recipe caught my eye when I was looking for something to make with Dreamfields new rotini (new to me, at least). I didn't think this recipe would be bad (of course, or why would I have made it?) but I wasn't expecting to enjoy it as much as we did. Even my son scarfed down a good-sized serving of it. Very impressive considering I also served salad and he usually forgets about everything else when there's salad around.

Since I used Frank's Hot Sauce, this wasn't very spicy but I didn't feel it needed to be. It had plenty of flavor. I used some yellow peppers out of my freezer stash and I really liked them in this.

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

So freakin' good!

Whole Wheat Blueberry Kuchen
Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too Copyright 1993

butter-flavor no stick cooking spray I used non-flavored canola spray oil
1 large egg
½ cup skim milk I used 'Better 'n Skim'
3 tablespoons canola or safflower oil I used canola
½ cup nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt I used lowfat, Banilla flavor and added a few drops of vanilla extract
1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour
1 cup unsifted whole wheat pastry flour
3 tablespoons toasted whole wheat germ
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups fresh blueberries, picked over, rinsed, and gently dried on paper towels, or frozen (unthawed) whole unsweetened berries I used fresh

3 tablespoons granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts (optional) I omitted these

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees F. Coat the baking pan (8x8 or 9x9) with cooking spray. (I used an 8x8 pan.)
2. In a large bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil and yogurt. Whisk to blend. Set a strainer on top of the bowl and add all the dry ingredients. With a spoon, stir and sift them onto the liquid mixture. Stir just to blend; do not overbeat. Stir in the berries. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
3. To prepare the topping, stir the sugar, cinnamon, and nuts together. Sprinkle on top of the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (40 to 45 with frozen fruit), or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares and serve warm, or slice the squares crosswise in half and toast before serving. I stored this in the fridge since we're having a heat wave. I think slicing and toasting it would be difficult while this is fresh.

Makes 9 servings. Per serving (with nuts): 248 cal, 7 g pro, 7 g fat, 42 g carbs, 303 mg sodium, 24 mg cholesterol

This was just one of those recipes that really impressed me. I was reminded of something but I'm not sure what. Blueberry pie? Maybe a great blueberry muffin out of my past? All I know is that I found this to be heavenly. It was so moist and tender and the blueberries were bursting with flavor. I could have eaten the entire pan of these in one day, if it wasn't for those pesky calorie thingies. I'm definitely going to make this again and experiment with other fruits. It would probably be quite good without any fruit.

I didn't want to make another cake or muffin with the rest of my blueberries, but I just couldn't come up with a better idea. I'm not too excited about blueberries in savory recipes and I need my sweets to be practical - they have to be able to sit around for a few days or be frozen. I need something I can take to work. I didn't want anything too decadent. So I kept coming back to breads and muffins. This recipe was perfect - I had everything I needed to make it. I had some Stonyfield Banilla yogurt that I needed to use up - the banana flavor in that wasn't enough to show up in the final product (that probably wouldn't be bad though). Just in case, I added a couple of drops of vanilla extract to the recipe. I wouldn't suggest substituting regular whole wheat flour for the whole wheat pastry flour since I think you would lose some of the tenderness of this cake by doing so.

Sorry the photo isn't that great but I had already tasted it and I didn't have the patience to get a good shot before diving into it again.

So, another blueberry submission for Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesdays. Blueberries are such a nutritional powerhouse, you can't use too many of them.

Question of the Day: Are you as dumbfounded as I am that it's August already? Are you enjoying your summer?