Friday, March 30, 2007

Sometimes less is more
--Balsamic Pork Chops

Balsamic Pork Chops
Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook Copyright 2005

4 (4-ounce) boneless, center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed (3/4-inch thick)
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
cooking spray
½ cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup fat-free, less sodium chicken broth

1. Sprinkle chops evenly with lemon pepper. Heat oil in a heavy skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat; add chops. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chops from pan; keep warm.
2. Combine vinegar and broth in pan, stirring to loosed any browned bits. Cook over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until mixture is reduced to a thin sauce. Spoon evenly over chops.

Yield: 4 servings Per serving: 242 cal, 13.3 g fat, 24.2 g protein, 4.9 g carbs, 73 mg chol, 1.2 mg iron, 340 mg sodium

These Weight Watcher magazine-style cookbooks have given me some really good recipes but this one was a bit too vinegary for my taste. I ended up just lightly drizzling some of the sauce over the chops but don't worry - these were still very good. Turns out pork chops sprinkled with lemon pepper and pan-fried are great without any further adornment.

I did some recipe planning last night so next week should be a bit more interesting than this week. Have a nice weekend!

Blast From The Past: Sautéed Shrimp and Vermicelli from November 2005. We don't do shellfish right now but I was thinking this might work with chicken too.

Question of the Day: How do you prepare pork chops?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A sick child and a simple dressing
--Honey-Dijon Dressing

Honey Dijon Dressing
Pillsbury Complete Cook Book Copyright 2000, 2006

6 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1 garlic clove, minced I used some garlic powder, just because I was lazy
dash pepper

In jar with tight-fitting lid, combine all ingredients; shake well. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

We moved from sick mommy to sick daddy to sick boy in our house. Luckily I had an easy meal planned last night - the rest of Everyone's Favorite Lasagne from the freezer, some garlic bread and salad. This recipe was actually on the agenda since I'm getting sick of the usual dressing I've been making - balsamic vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper. This was really good - just the right blend of flavors - not too mustardy or too much vinegar. I'll definitely make it again, maybe experimenting with different mustards.

I have no recipes planned for next week, even though last night was my night to do that. Instead, I was cleaning to prepare for my mother-in-law coming to watch my son today. I actually really need that motivation - I haven't done anything more than a light cleaning in way too long - so I guess that's a good thing. Although, trying to clean an entire house when you're only allowed off the sofa for about 2.5 seconds before you hear 'Mommy! Where are you? Come back!' is a bit of a challenge.

Don't forget to sign up for a chance to win the March cookbook giveaway.

Blast From The Past: Honey French Dressing from April 2006. That's another simple dressing I'd almost forgotten about.

Question of the Day: Do you like to try different salad dressings or do you have a favorite that you stick to?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Understudy
--Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic

Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic
500 3-Ingredients Recipes Copyright 2004

4 cups broccoli florets
1 tablespoon minced garlic I used two cloves
2 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter I used about a tablespoon

Put 2 quarts salted water in a 4-quart pot and bring to a boil. In a small saucepan heat the garlic, lemon juice, and butter over low heat, until the butter is melted. When the water boils, drop in the broccoli florets and cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through, but still crisp. Drain the broccoli and toss with the sauce in a large bowl.

I got sick before I could finish planning this week's recipes over the weekend so I had to scramble something up for today at the last minute. It wasn't really anything special, to be honest. I keep forgetting that I'm not all that crazy about broccoli and garlic together. I'd rather dip plain steamed garlic in Tiger Sauce (and I just scored six bottles of it at a grocery store near my parent's house).

I'm having an off week. It happens. It doesn't help that between the cold and the cold medication, my appetite isn't what it usually is. My husband is also sick and I think my son is coming down with it too. I'm just treading water this week.

This cookbook hasn't yielded any great recipes yet. There are 497 recipes I haven't tried yet, so there may be a winner in there somewhere.

Blast From The Past: Creamy Italian Pasta Salad from April 2006. I wanted to make pasta salad this week but I don't think I'm going to get to it.

Question of the Day: How do you prefer to eat broccoli (or don't you care for it at all)?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Missing a key ingredient
--Chicken Marsala

Chicken Marsala
Betty Crocker’s Best Chicken Cookbook Copyright 1999

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves (about 1 ¼ pounds)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley or 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes I used dried
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
½ cup dry Marsala wine or chicken broth I used chicken broth

Flatten each chicken breast half to ¼-inch thickness between plastic wrap or waxed paper. Mix flour, salt and pepper. Coat chicken with flour mixture; shake off excess flour. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Cook garlic and parsley in oil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add chicken and brown each side. Add mushrooms and wine. Cook 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Serve with hot cooked pasta if desired.

I rarely screw up in this manner, but I when I went to grab some Marsala for this recipe, I couldn't find any. The recipe did say chicken broth could be used but then this really isn't Chicken Marsala is it? It's Chicken Chicken Broth.

The recipe seemed a bit screwy to me - I would have sautéed the mushrooms in the oil (adding them with the liquid leaves you with boiled mushrooms). I would have added the garlic to the mushrooms (I couldn't brown the chicken as much as I would have like to because the garlic would have burned since it was added first). Because the mushrooms took longer to cook in the liquid than the chicken needed to finish off, the chicken ended up overcooked. Usually chicken and vegetables are cooked separately in dishes like this, then put together with the liquid to finish off.

As it was, the light sauce was good over some Dreamfield spaghetti - nothing spectacular but perfectly fine. The chicken itself didn't have much flavor.

This was the first recipe I tried from this cookbook. I had high hopes for it but so far, not so good.

Blast From The Past: Chicken Marsala from October 2005, from The New Best Recipe. That was excellent but I was hoping to find a less complicated recipe.

Question of the Day: What was the last disappointing dish that you prepared?

Monday, March 26, 2007

These might be really good

Brown Sugar Drops
Betty Crocker Bisquick II Cookbook Copyright 2004

1 ¼ cups packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter or margarine, softened I used butter
¼ cup shortening (or softened butter or margarine) I used shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3 ½ cups Original Bisquick mix I used reduced-fat Bisquick
Browned Butter Frosting

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients except Bisquick mix and Browned Butter Frosting in large bowl with spoon. Stir in Bisquick mix until blended.
2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. I made mine larger.
3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until light golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 20 minutes. Frost with Browned Butter Frosting.

Browned Butter Frosting

1/3 cup butter or margarine
3 cups powdered sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons milk

Heat butter in 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat just until light brown; remove from heat. Stir in powdered sugar, vanilla, and enough milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable.

Makes about 3 ½ dozen.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to tell you exactly how good (or bad) these cookies are. My tastebuds are on the fritz. I've got a nasty cold again. I remember thinking they were pretty good when they first came out of the oven, when the DayQuil I was taking was working pretty well but I've gone downhill since then. The thought of anything sweet really turns me off right now.

**Updated the next day to say that these are just too sweet. The naked cookies weren't so bad and the frosting is delicious but together, these two components just don't work.

Needless to say, I didn't do much cooking this weekend. There's something very wrong about getting sick right when the weather starts to turn nice. Luckily, I has already planned an easy week of meals.

Blast From The Past: Dari’s Picante Chicken from November 2006. I'm making this again this week, but with some Cabot 50% Light Jalapeño cheese I have leftover.

Question of the Day: Do you have any tried-and-true cold remedies you can share with me?

Friday, March 23, 2007

Couscous is just so-so

Savory Couscous
Pillsbury Complete Cookbook Copyright 2000, 2006

1 tablespoon butter or margarine
¼ cup chopped red onion
2 cups water
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
¼ teaspoon dried sage leaves
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 1/3 cups uncooked couscous I used whole wheat couscous

1. Melt the margarine in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; cook 1 minute or until tender, stirring occasionally.
2. Add water, parsley, seasoned salt, sage and thyme. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff lightly with fork before serving.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm just not crazy about couscous. I loved it the first time I made it but since then, it's just been okay. It always seems a bit too dry. Maybe it's the whole wheat couscous - I'm not crazy about some whole wheat pastas. It's just not one of my favorite side dishes. My husband has made a few comments about it, good comments, so I keep trying more recipes. My son, he just makes a huge mess with this stuff.

I do love this cookbook. I'm often tempted by those check-out line cookbooks but I resist because I always tell myself I can buy a 'real' cookbook for the same price in Ollie's. I picked this cookbook up in Ollie's for $4.99 and it's equivalent to quite a few of those checkout line cookbooks. It has over 1,000 recipes, including a bonus section of refrigerated dough recipes. Score!

I can't believe another weekend has arrived already. This week went by quickly. I'm trying something new tonight - I made the pizza dough this morning and put it in the fridge to rest all day. I think it should be fine, maybe even better. I find that the less I have to do after work to get dinner on the table, the more I enjoy it.

Blast From the Past: Hoedown BBQ Chuck Roast from earlier this month. That was the first recipe I tried from this cookbook but I forgot to talk about the cookbook when I posted it.

Question of the Day: Are there any foods you keep trying, even though you're not crazy about them?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Good pork

Glazed Pork Tenderloin
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 (1-pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, garlic, rosemary, thyme, pepper and honey. Coat the tenderloins with the mixture.

Place the tenderloins on a non-stick baking sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray or on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest portion registers 160 degrees F. Slice the tenderloins, and serve.

Makes 6 to 8 servings. Per serving: 160 cal, 24 g protein, 5 g carbs 4 g fat, o g fiber, 67 mg chol, 138 mg sodium

Yes, more Holly Clegg. Most of you had never heard of her before but I bet you'll recognize her name now. Hey, I wanted to be sure this was worthy of the cookbook giveaway. I'm sure now.

This recipe was definitely a keeper. Even my self-professed pork hater husband proclaimed that this was 'good pork'. I did sort of mess up. I roasted potatoes along side of the tenderloins and I ended up mixing the glaze on the bottom of the pan with the potatoes instead of drizzling it over the pork. The pork was still very good and flavorful but it would have been even better with more of the glazed drizzled over top. The potatoes sure were good though.

Last week my husband came home after visiting his parents and told me that his mother gave us some potatoes. I figured she must have had a few extra but when I looked there were about 10-15 pounds of potatoes! I only managed to salvage a few. Most were green or wrinkled by the time I got to use them, which is a shame but I knew the minute I saw all of those potatoes that I would be lucky to get one dish out of them. My husband isn't big on potatoes but he didn't leave any leftovers this time.

My son has developed a taste for condiments (a real chip of the old block). The other night he begged me for mustard. For stuffed shells. I finally gave in to ketchup. Last night he asked for ketchup again and I relented. I like pot roast dipped in ketchup, why not let him dip his pork in it? Well, it turned out that he didn't actually want to use the ketchup as a condiment but instead he seems to think it's a side dish.

I went on a bit of a cookbook binge yesterday and ordered a few new ones. I really should weed a few out of my collection but it's just so hard. There are only a handful that I can definitely say I'll probably never cook from - a few Diana Kennedy books that are just too authentically Mexican for me and, and - well I'm sure there are a couple more I could part with if pressed and I am getting pressed for space. I don't think I could give up enough of them to make much of a difference.

Blast From The Past: Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Mojo Sauce from August 2006. That's another great recipe for pork tenderloin.

Question of the Day: What's your favorite way to prepare potatoes?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

More success from Holly Clegg

Jumbo Stuffed Shells
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells
1 ½ pounds ground sirloin
2 egg whites I used only 1 egg white, from an extra large egg
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup Italian bread crumbs
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Tomato Sauce
1 cup shredded part-skim Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook the pasta shells according to package directions, omitting any oil and salt; drain and set aside.
In a nonstick skillet, cook the meat until done, 5 to 7 minutes over medium-high heat. Drain any excess fat. Add the egg whites, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Stuff the shells with the filling.

Pour half of the Tomato Sauce in a 2-quart baking dish. Arrange the stuffed shells on top, and cover with the remaining sauce. Bake for 20 minutes, or until well-heated. Sprinkle with the Mozzarella cheese, and continue baking for 10 minutes longer, or until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce

1 medium onion, chopped
½ teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups tomato juice
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
½ teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste

In a large nonstick pot, sauté the onion over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato juice, tomato paste, sugar, salt, and pepper; simmer at least 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

The picture isn't that great but these stuffed shells were pretty good. I never made a tomato sauce using tomato juice before but it turned out really well. These aren't as rich as some stuffed shells but you don't have to feel too guilty eating them either. I wish Dreamfields would come out with a pasta I can stuff. I'll have to look for whole wheat jumbo shells.

I still think that jumbo shells used to be much larger. I must be mistaken though because every brand is this size. There are probably over 30 shells in a box. You might as well be stuffing rigatoni noodles. I filled up a large pan with these and still had about 10 shells leftover. (I probably could have stretched the filling to fill all of the shells but I didn't want to dirty another pan and I was tired of stuffing them.)

After examining this cookbook a little further, I think I might know why so few of us have heard of Holly Clegg. She mentions making at least one recipe on the Phil Donahue Show so maybe she was more popular back-in-the-day, before the world was overtaken by 'food personalities'.

The more recipes I try from this cookbook, the better I feel about giving a copy of it away this month.

Blast From The Past: Sausage-Stuffed Shells With Chunky Tomato Sauce from April 2006. I think those stuffed shells with this sauce would be a wonderful match.

Question of the Day: When did you last eat dinner out? Where did you go and what did you order?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

At least he gave his mother credit

Hamburger Stroganoff
Faster I’m Starving 100 Dishes in 25 Minutes Or Less Copyright 2006

1 large onion
1 tablespoons olive or corn oil
½ pound presliced mushrooms
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic I used fresh garlic
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup sour cream I used lite sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Peel the onion and cut it into ½-inch pieces. Put the oil into a large frying pan or wok and begin heating over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes, or until it has begun to soften. Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt, and black pepper and cook about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms soften. Transfer the onions/mushroom mixture and any juices to a place and then set aside.

Add the ground beef to the pan, breaking it up into small chunks, and let it brown 5 minutes over medium-heat, stirring occasionally. Drain and discard the fat.

Put the onion/mushroom mixture back into the pan with the meat. Add the sour cream, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover and turn down to medium-low heat. I added some flour to the meat first, since I was afraid the sour cream might curdle if I didn't. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately. Or set aside until ready to eat, and then reheat briefly. I served this over whole wheat egg noodles.

I made this a week or two ago when I wanted something without a tomato sauce (since I was making too many other tomato-sauced dishes that week). This was one of those unremarkable yet satisfying dinners. It was simple enough that I would make it again if I happened to have the ingredients on hand.

This book was from the library. It's written by a man and his mother (I'm not sure if she did much of the writing but I think they were mostly her recipes). The premise is that this man and then he and his wife never really cooked until his mother intervened (and until the man and his wife became parents and had to start doing crazy things like cooking their own food instead of ordering take-out all of the time). There's a brief humorous introduction to each recipe, or at least an attempt to be humorous. The graphics are 50s style but there aren't any pictures of the recipes.

This book wouldn't add anything to my personal collection but a beginner cook would probably get some use out of it (although there are better cooks for beginners).

Blast From The Past: Beef Kabobs With Oriental Sauce from June 2006. I can't wait to start grilling again. I could have grilled all winter but I just don't enjoy cooking outdoors in cold weather.

Question of the Day: At what age did you start doing a lot of home cooking? Did you always cook or were you a late bloomer?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Danger ahead

Heavenly Hash
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg white, well beaten
1 (10-ounce) package miniature marshmallows
Chocolate Icing

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, sugar and cocoa in a mixing bowl. In a small saucepan, combine the water and oil; bring to a boil. I missed this step and just added hot tap water and the oil. Add the hot water to the flour mixture and stir well.

In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and baking soda, mixing well. Add the buttermilk mixture and the egg white to the batter; mix well. I added a splash of vanilla and a dash of salt. Spoon the batter into a 15x10x1-inch nonstick jelly-roll pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately top with the marshmallows. Slowly and evenly pour hot Chocolate Icing on top of marshmallows. Cool before cutting.

Chocolate Icing

6 tablespoons margarine
1/3 cup buttermilk
¼ cup cocoa
1 (16-ounce) box confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the margarine, buttermilk, and cocoa in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil, and boil for 1 minute. Remove from the heat, and add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Blend until smooth.

Makes 48 servings. Per serving: 131 cal, 1 g pro, 25 g carbs, 3 g fat, 0 g fiber, 0 mg chol, 52 mg sodium

I thought this was going to be another less-than-stellar recipe from this cookbook. I messed up the cake layer and forgot to boil the water and oil together and then the batter tasted sort of flat so I added some vanilla and salt. I put it all together and set it back to cool. I expected to be disappointed.

Boy, was I wrong. These little squares were like crack to me. I love marshmallow and the marshmallow and chocolate topping reminded me of something - a Mallomar? A S'mores candybar? I can't quite pinpoint it but it reminded me of something I really like. The cake layer was really nice too - good texture and very moist. These were absolutely dangerous to have around. I brought a bunch of them to work.

This recipe is from the cookbook I'm giving away to one lucky winner this month.

I spent way too much time dealing with food and cooking this weekend. I haven't felt like cleaning and organizing which is what I really should be doing on the weekends so I find myself focusing on cooking instead.

Friday we had a snow storm so I came home early and cooked a corned beef and then made two pizzas. Saturday, we went to Costco. I stuck to my list except for a $5 hunk of smoked Gouda. When we got home I made today's recipe and then for dinner I made grilled Reubens using the St. Paddy's Day Bread.

Sunday I made two batches of Italian Bread, stuffed shells for tonight and a batch of waffles for my husband to eat for breakfast all week long. I also had to separate and vacuum-pack the ground turkey, ground beef and pork loin that I purchased in Costco.

Oh well, when the weather gets nicer, I probably won't cook at all on the weekends.

Blast From The Past: Bobbie's Bars from September 2006 - another very dangerous bar treat.

Question of the Day: What, if anything, did you cook this weekend?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Paddy’s Day Rye
The All-New Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook Copyright 1999

¾ cup dark beer I used non-alcoholic beer
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons molasses
¼ cup sauerkraut, drained
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
2 teaspoons dried dillweed
2 cups bread flour
1 cup medium or stone-ground rye flour
2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast

1. All ingredients must be at room temperature. Liquid ingredients should be approximately 80 degrees F. Cut butter into small cubes. Add ingredients in the order specified in your bread machine owner’s manual. Do not use delay bake function.
2. Select basic or whole-wheat cycle and normal or medium crust.
3. Remove baked loaf from pan at the end of the baking cycle and cool on a wire rack at least one hour before slicing.

I made the dough in my bread machine and baked it off in the oven.

This will be quick - there's a storm a brewin'.

I made this bread last weekend and threw it in the freezer. I'm hoping to make some grilled Reubens tomorrow for St. Patrick's Day. I bought a low-sodium corned beef but I don't want to make the traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. That is one meal that I love but it doesn't love me back.

So I just had a taste of this and it was pretty good but not really a bread that's great completely naked. It would have been better if I had used a good dark beer but I decided to use up some non-alcoholic beer left over from a family party. I can't drink that stuff straight and it was taking up space in my refrigerator.

That's it for today. Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The other neutral

Quick Pineapple Cake
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple in its own juice (undrained)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9x13x2-inch nonstick baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix the pineapple, flour, sugar and baking soda. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Frost with the Cream Cheese Frosting while the cake is warm. Cool and serve.

Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and margarine until creamy. Add the vanilla and confectioners’ sugar, mixing until well combined.

Makes 24 servings. Per serving: 133 cal, 2 g pro, 28 g carbs, 2 g fat, 1 g fiber, 3 mg chol, 81 mg sodium.

This was the other 'neutral' recipe I tried from this cookbook. I knew it was a gamble going in but I was intrigued. Not that the recipes in this book are complicated by any means, but this isn't one of those '5-ingredient' cookbooks so I figured if she threw in this very basic recipe, there must have been a good reason.

This was slightly missing the mark. The texture settled in after about a day in the refrigerator but early on it had an odd chewy, spongy texture. I did get distracted and slightly overbake it - whether that affected anything or not, I'm not sure. The taste wasn't bad yet it did seem like something was missing, more than just fat. Maybe it needed a pinch of salt and/or a dash of vanilla.

On the plus side, this recipe is egg-free for anyone dealing with egg allergies. Using a soy cream cheese and dairy-free margarine, you could alter the frosting to make this completely dairy-free. It doesn't use a preservative-rich boxed cake mix. It's a very basic recipe, again, for anyone dealing with food allergies or for anyone who likes to keep to basic foods. It's not exactly 'healthy' since it's loaded with bad carbs but but it is a step up from most butter-laden pineapple cakes.

This is the cookbook I'm giving away to one lucky winner this month. I have at least two more recipes on the schedule from this book so stay tuned.

It was in the high 70s yesterday and now they're calling for 4-6 inches of snow tomorrow! Argh! The grocery store will be crowded tonight. This better not interfere with my Costco run this weekend. I like to go early on Saturday morning, before the crowd.

Blast From The Past: Sour Cream Raspberry Swirl Loaf from August 2006. Just because.

Question of the Day: Do you like pineapple?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Pure comfort food

Chicken-and-Rice Bake
The Guide to Southern Cooking Copyright 2006

3 to 4 boneless chicken breasts halves, rinsed and patted dry
1 ½ cups chicken broth I used low-sodium
½ teaspoon seasoned salt
dash ground black pepper
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
2 ½ cups cooked rice I used brown rice, over 3 cups - I didn't measure
1 cup fresh bread crumbs I used whole-grain white bread
2 tablespoons melted butter

1. Place the chicken breasts in a saucepan with the chicken broth, seasoned salt, and a dash of pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until cooked through. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken breasts to a plate. Cover loosely with foil and let cool.
2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Strain the broth into a large cup or small bowl; set aside. In the same saucepan, melt the butter. Over medium-low heat, sauté the chopped celery and onion until tender. Stir in the flour until well blended. Gradually stir in the reserved chicken broth and milk. Cook the sauce, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Taste and add salt and pepper, as needed.
4. Chop the cooled chicken into bite-size pieces. Add the chicken to the sauce mixture along with the cooked rice. Spoon the chicken and rice mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish.
5. Toss bread crumbs with melted butter; sprinkle over the casserole. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly, and bread crumbs are lightly browned.

This really hit the spot, even though we were having one of the warmest days of the year so far yesterday. The night before we ate this, I made the chicken and the rice and chopped up the onions and celery. After work, I made the white sauce and put it all together.

This is definitely a keeper - it's economical (you can stretch a smaller amount of chicken, turkey or even ham into a main course), it's all from scratch so you can control the salt and fat, and it's versatile (you can vary the meats and veggies).

This cookbook was from the library and I wasn't too sure about it but since it was one of the few cookbooks on the new book shelf, I checked it out. It's sort of insane - they cycle of recipes moving from cookbooks to the internet then back to a cookbook. The book refers you to many pages (the information in the book is complete but the links lead you to related subjects outside the scope of the book). Personally, I don't see myself reading a cookbook and typing links into my computer at the same time but that's just me. I wouldn't buy this book since it includes basic recipes I already have and it's not very visually stimulating but it was worth checking out of the library.

Yesterday I had the strange experience of stopping in a bookstore and not walking out with a cookbook - I wasn't at all tempted. Don't panic - it wasn't like I was in Ollie's. The bookstore I was in only carried bargain cookbooks (which are more expensive that most books in Ollie's AND about 75% 0f them are Favorite Brand Name books which tend to use the same recipes over and over and I already several of their books) and retail-priced cookbooks (and I'm too cheap to buy retail in a regular bookstore). Still, I usually walk out with something. I'm not complaining though - I've picked up quite a few books lately. It's good to have a lull in my sickness.

Blast From The Past: Spanish Rice with Ground Beef from September 2006 - another recipe I'm adding to my 'quick meals list' for the summer.

Question of the Day: What's your favorite comfort food?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

March 2007 Cookbook Giveaway

Since half the month has almost gone by already, I'm going to go ahead and offer this cookbook this month. It's The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook. I'm only hesistant because this cookbook is new-to-me and the jury is still out. I had one recipe I really enjoyed, Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Strips. I also enjoyed the Cheesy Broccoli Soup but it needed more cheese (something that is even mentioned in the recipe lead-in, I noticed later). There was a so-so cake that I'll talk about in a future post.

I originally chose this cookbook because most of us are trying to eat lighter these days. This cookbook ranked number three on a WebMD top ten list of healthy cookbooks in 2006, as decided by a dietician. I noticed some discrepancies between a few of the photos and recipes and I got the feeling that some recipes may have been altered to keep the nutritional numbers down but that's just my personal theory.

Most of the recipes are things we've all seen before, lightened up. There are plenty of recipes that seem appropriate for company but this generally isn't a fancy (i.e. 'gourmet') cookbook. Many of the cake recipes start with a boxed cake mix. She used many reduced-fat versus fat-free products which is always a good sign for me (seeing a bit of both) because that usually means the cookbook author wasn't just concerned with keeping things 'light', and didn't compromise flavor.

It's a hardcover, spiral-bound cookbook with plenty of photographs. I plan on trying more recipes from this book shortly so if you're not sure if you want this yet, hold on until the end of the month. You can also see a sampling of the recipes from this book here on Holly Clegg's site.

Funnily enough, one of the recipes that has a wonky picture in the book, the Taco Rice Salad, is on that page. She mentions in the lead-in there that she likes to add black beans and corn but that information was left out of the book lead-in, although the black beans and corn are in the picture in the book, not the one on her website. I wonder who was in charge of quality control on this book.

This is how it works - just leave a comment on this post. I just need an e-mail address (if your profile links to an e-mail, you don't need to type it out, I'll find it). Entry is open until the last day of the month. First chance I get after that, I'll draw the winner. Then I'll contact the winner for a mailing address and then I mail the book! I'll pay the shipping, of course. I'll open this to everyone - in or out of the U.S. It may have to go by the least expensive method if an international reader wins. Last month's winner was from Canada and I was very pleased to find out that it isn't ridiculously expensive to send a book to Canada. It was actually cheaper to send that book to Canada than it was to ship the last one (same size book) to Washington state (and I never did hear if that book arrived - I hope it did!)
*******************The winner was Mommy Prof.*****************

Maybe's not everyone's favorite, but it's our favorite

Everyone’s Favorite Lasagne
365 Ways To Cook Pasta Copyright 1988

¼ cup olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef I used ground turkey
½ cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 cans (28 ounces each) Italian-style plum tomatoes, drained with juices
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon pepper
15 plain or spinach lasagne noodles I used Dreamfields
1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 egg, beaten
1 pound mozzarella cheese, sliced thin or shredded I only used about 2/3 of a one pound bag of shredded mozzarella

1. Heat the olive oil in a large wide saucepan; add the ground beef, onion and garlic. Sauté, stirring, over medium heat until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce and paste, basil, and oregano. Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until sauce is cooked down and thickened, 1 ½ to 2 hours. (There should be about 4 cups of sauce. There was a lot more - I had extra.) Season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook the lasagne noodles in plenty of boiling water until al dente, or firm to the bite, about 12 minutes; drain. Let noodles sit in a bowl of cool water until ready to use. DUH! After years of struggling with hot lasagne noodles gluing themselves together, I finally learn the secret.
3. Beat the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and egg together; set aside.
4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Select a 9x13 inch shallow baking dish. Add about ½ cup of the tomato sauce to the bottom of the dish. Lift the noodles from the water individually and blot dry on paper toweling. Arrange a slightly overlapping layer of 5 noodles on the bottom of the dish.
5. Dot the noodles with half of the ricotta mixture; add about a third of the remaining sauce and arrange a layer of a third of the mozzarella sauce on top. Arrange a second layer of 5 slightly overlapping lasagne noodles. Dot with the remaining ricotta, half of the remaining tomato sauce, and half of the remaining mozzarella.
6. Top with the 5 remaining lasagne noodles in a slightly overlapping layer; add the remaining sauce and a layer of the remaining mozzarella.
7. Bake until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly, about 50 mi nutes. Let stand at least 15 minutes before serving. I made it the night before I served it.

This is a pretty standard lasagne - similar to the way I've always made it but I used to use a prepared sauce but it was just easy to make it from scratch. I just now compared it to the Light Meat and Cheese Lasagna that I made late last year and I wish I had done that first because I would have used fat-free ricotta. I did use all part-skim products, ground turkey and Dreamfield lasagne noodles so this wasn't as decadent as it looked and tasted. We just had salad along side this. The other great thing about this recipe is that I now have half of it in the freezer to pull out for another dinner in couple of weeks (and I have a piece for my lunch today).

And, in case you're wondering, we had the spaghetti and meatballs last week and the lasagne last night. I should have posted something else today and mixed it up. Believe it or not, I'm actually ahead of myself. For the longest time, I've barely been keeping up around here but I actually have a queue of recipes to post right now.

Since this is loaded with antioxidant rich tomatoes, this is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday.

Blast From The Past: Confetti Orzo Salad from January 2006, from this same cookbook. This was my prettiest recipe EVER.

Question of the Day: What's for lunch today?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Worth the wordiness

Light Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2006

2 slices high-quality white sandwich bread
3 tablespoons buttermilk
1 ½ pounds (93 percent lean) ground turkey
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
1 large egg yolk
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups Light Tomato Sauce
1 pound spaghetti

1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large pot for the spaghetti.
2. Meanwhile, remove and discard the crusts from the bread, then tear the bread into small pieces. Mash the bread and buttermilk to a smooth paste in a large bowl using a fork. They actually referred to a picture on another page to show you how to do this!
3. Add the turkey, Parmesan, parsley, yolk, garlic, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper to the mashed bread. Stir the mixture gently until combined and uniform. Form the mixture into 1 ¼-inch round meatballs (around 18 meatballs). Spread the meatballs out on a large plate, cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
4. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet or sauté pan over medium heat until just smoking. Add the meatballs in a single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard any fat left in the skillet.
5. Return the skillet and any browned bits to medium heat and add the tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer, scraping up any browned bits. Reduce the heat to low, and add the meatballs. Continue to simmer, turning the meatballs occasionally, until heated through, about 10 minutes.
6. While the meatballs are simmering, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the spaghetti to the boiling water. Cook, stirring often, until the spaghetti tastes almost tender yet is still firm to the bite.
7. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the spaghetti, and return it to the pot. Stir in several large spoonfuls of the tomato sauce (without the meatballs) and toss to coat. Divide the pasta among six individual bowls. Loosen the remaining sauce as needed with the reserved pasta cooking water. Top each bowl with the remaining tomato sauce and three meatballs. Seve, passing the extra Parmesan separately.

Light Tomato Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
salt and black pepper

Combine 1 teaspoon of the oil, garlic, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and red pepper flakes in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the basil, remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 550 cal, 13 g fat, 105 mg chol, 73 g carbs, 38 g pro, 3 g fiber, 1270 mg sodium

Meatballs have always been my favorite use for ground turkey. I would never quick-cook beef meatballs in red sauce this way - I like them to simmer for quite a while. Somehow, turkey meatballs work this way though. They're much more tender than your standard meatball.

This wasn't a thick sauce but it went over very well with everyone. My son has become a really big fan of pasta, especially with a red sauce, so I'm trying to make it more often. This recipe isn't as complicated as it looks. America's Test Kitchen seems to write their recipes for the completely uninitiated. I don't know what is worse - that they referred you to a picture on another page that showed you how to properly mash bread and buttermilk together or that I actually turned to that page and looked at the picture.

Spring is on the way! I think I might start planning two weeks of recipes at a time, or maybe even further ahead. I think that will save me some time. I've spent most of the winter with my head in a cookbook but I need to turn my attention to other things.

Blast From The Past: Beef and Potato Tex-Mex Hash from September 2006. I'm going to make a list of recipes such as this, that are quick and easy and don't require the use of the oven. Once I have this list, I can fall back on one of these recipes at least once a week - that will take some pressure off, as far as recipe planning.

Question of the Day: Did you have a nice weekend?

Friday, March 09, 2007

All's well that ends well

Hoedown BBQ Chuck Roast
Pillsbury Complete Cook Book Copyright 2000,2006

1 (4-lb) beef chuck blade roast (2 inches thick) my roast was under 3 pounds

½ cup soy sauce I used low-sodium soy sauce
½ cup ketchup
¼ cup sugar
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced or ½ to 1 teaspoon garlic powder I used garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Trim fat from roast. In 12x8-inch (2 quart) baking dish or resealable food storage plastic bag, combine all marinade ingredients; blend well. Add roast; turn to coat. Cover dish or seal bag; refrigerate 6 hours or overnight, turning once or twice.

GRILL DIRECTIONS:. Heat grill. When ready to grill, remove roast from marinade; reserve and refrigerate marinade. Place roast on gas grill over medium-low heat or on charcoal grill 4 to 6 inches from medium coals; cover grill. Cook 50 to 75 minutes or until of desired doneness, turning once and basting with reserved marinade during last fifteen minutes or cooking. Discard any remaining marinade.

OVEN DIRECTIONS: To bake roast in oven, place in shallow baking pan; bake at 325 degrees for 1 ¼ to 1 ½ hours, turning once and basting with reserved marinade during last 15 minutes of baking.

I used the oven directions but the marinade left on the meat started to trickle out and burn so I added some water, turned down the heat slightly and then I covered the pan with foil because I thought it was drying out. I ended up cooking it about two hours and my roast was under 3 pounds. I uncovered it and poured the reserved marinade over it during the last 10-15 minutes of cooking.

As you can see, I had some issues with the execution of this roast but I was very happy with the results. I made it the night before, stored it in the marinade overnight, and then I sliced it and heated it up in the oven, covered. I loved it but then again, I'm partial to chuck roast. I thought the marinade was really good too. I ended up with a sauce with a nice consistency and great flavor.

I'm starting to look forward to trips to the 'auction' (farmer's market). It's open all year but it's too far of a haul to go when there isn't going to be a lot of fresh, cheap produce for sale. Maybe this year I'll make more local discoveries. There's an organic market a bit north of us that I've been meaning to visit and I just need to remember to do it.

Blast From The Past: Eggplant with Crispy Coating from August 2006 - a recipe made with a beautiful purple eggplant from the auction. It wasn't really a great tasting eggplant but I still mean to try this recipe with the darker colored eggplant in the future. The coating was great.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2007

One of the neutrals

Cheesy Broccoli Soup
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

1 tablespoon margarine
1 onion, chopped
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 cups fat-free canned chicken broth I used low-sodium organic chicken broth
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
1 ½ cups skin milk
4 ounces reduced-far pasteurized cheese spread, cut into cubes
salt and pepper to taste

In a large nonstick saucepan, melt the margarine and sauté the onion over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Blend in the flour, stirring. Gradually add the chicken broth, mixing until blended with the flour. Add the broccoli, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring, and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the broccoli is done and the soup thickens. I didn't cook it this long - I left the broccoli a wee bit crunchy.

Add the milk, stirring until heated and thickened. Add the cheese cubes to the soup, stirring and cooking over low heat until the cheese is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

This soup was a perfectly fine cream of broccoli soup - great texture and flavor, however it was not the least bit cheesy. Now, if I had an entire block of Velveeta on hand when I made this, I would have added more cheese, made a note of that and probably would have loved this but all I had was that 4 ounces, leftover from another recipe so I was stuck with a very un-cheesy soup.

Poor Holly Clegg. No one has heard of her. Well, one person. Supposedly she's been on a couple of the national morning news programs and she's contributed recipes to many magazines. She's written six cookbooks and has her own website. There's a press item on her site that says that WebMD named this cookbook one of the top 10 healthy cookbooks. Maybe it is worth giving away.

This is for Cyndi's Soup or Stew Thursday. I'd actually take a stew over a soup any day but there was no stew on the menu this week.

Blast From The Past: Spaghetti alla Bolognese from May 2006. I think I might make this next week but with turkey.

Question of the Day: How often do you eat soup?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Sure about the recipe, on the fence about the book

Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Strips
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

1 cup picante sauce
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, mix the picante sauce, honey, and ginger. Toss the chicken strips with the picante sauce mixture. Place in a nonstick shallow baking pan. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until glazed and done, turning and brushing often with sauce during the last 30 minutes.

I have no idea who Holly Clegg is, despite the list of accolades on the back of this book. Knowing that many of my readers like quick recipes and they're also trying to eat healthier, I went out on a limb and grabbed an extra copy of this book for the cookbook giveaway.

First I had to test some of the recipes and so far I've made three of them. The first two weren't bad but they weren't great either. Oh no. Panic set in. I don't want to give away a crappy cookbook yet I don't want two of these either, ya know?

Then there was this recipe, from the appetizer section yet also suggested as a main course and more fittingly so, if you ask me. I thought this was great. I really liked the combination of picante sauce, honey and ginger. I suspect this is one of those combinations that have been around for years that I've missed. I didn't let these get to the point of 'glazed' since I think the chicken would have dried out by that time and also, I wanted some sauce to coat the rice.

So right now the score is 1 winner, 2 neutrals. I'm still on the fence. There are visible flaws in the cookbook - the pictures don't quite match up the recipes. For instance, in this case the picture clearly showed tenders, not a cut up breast. Not a big deal but why not mention you can use tenders in the recipe? Another page has two recipes for Mexican-style salads and the picture looks like a combination of both recipes. I clearly see beans and corn but there are no beans listed in one recipe, and no corn in the other. Other times the picture shows nuts but they don't mention them and for me, seeing nuts turns me off right away. I will say that this cookbook calls for less nuts than most.

I suspect (just a suspicion) that maybe they changed some recipes to bring down the numbers, after taking the pictures. This isn't a bare-bones light cookbook, more middle-of-the-road. There are plenty of carbs and she uses more reduced-fat rather than nonfat products.

It is built well - a nice hardcover with a spiral binding. She includes a kid section, too, which is always nice when you have kids or grandkids.

I think I need to try a couple of more recipes before I'm sure.

Blast From The Past: Dari's Picante Chicken from November 2006. That was another good combination of picante sauce and chicken.

Question of the Day: Have you ever heard of Holly Clegg?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What a difference a day makes.

Sandwich Rolls
Easy Bread Machine Recipes Copyright 1997

2 ¼ C bread flour
3/8 C water
½ C milk
1 T butter
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp yeast (rapid rise –use 25% more if using regular active dry yeast)

1 egg beaten + 2 T water and pinch of salt
¾ T poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

1. Load the bread pan with all the ingredients except the topping. Select the dough cycle and start the machine.
2. When the beeper sounds, remove the dough to a bowl; cover it with plastic wrap and rest it in the refrigerator until needed; or empty the dough onto a floured surface and let it rise for 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Then divide the dough into 8 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball. Flatten each to about ½ inch thick with the palm of your hand, stretching it from the middle to the edges. Put the flattened balls on a cookie sheet than is greased or has cornmeal sprinkled on it. Leave space between the circles for the dough to expand as it rises.
4. Sprinkle water on top Let the dough rise in a warm place until nearly doubled (45 minutes usually).
5. Brush the rolls with the beaten egg and sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired. Bake in a 350 degrees oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let the rolls cool before slicing.

This was the only recipe I was really happy with this weekend (although I'm feeling differently about the cooking I did this weekend, which I'll discuss further down). I'm not too thrilled with the height of these (or any of my breads lately) but otherwise I was very pleased with my first attempt at sandwich rolls. I was worried about shaping the rolls but I didn't have any trouble.

These were just a jumping off point for me. While they were better than the bakery rolls in at least one of the local supermarkets, they won't stop me from trying other recipes and I definitely want to work in some type of whole wheat flour.

Last night was a much better night. I really liked the recipe I made for dinner (to be discussed in a future post) and I took Claire's advice and nuked one of those Light Chocolate Chip Cookies and it was like fresh out of the oven. Still not the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever had, but at least it wasn't a rock hard disaster. The real disappointment is that those cookies are still high and calories and I have to jump through hoops to make them soft enough to enjoy but otherwise, not a bad cookie.

Last but not least, after another taste of something else I made this weekend (again, for a future post), I was feeling a little bit better about it. I guess I just needed to step back before I could appreciate those recipes (and I think making something I really enjoyed last night helped too.)

Blast From The Past: Italian Bread (New York Style) from last month. I made another a batch of this recipe, into rolls, while making the sandwich rolls - the advantage of having a dual bread machine. I like to keep these rolls on hand for my husband's favorite hot Italian subs or chicken cheese steaks on the weekend.

Question of the Day: Is it sometimes hard to appreciate your own cooking, right when you've prepared it? Often I don't enjoy something until I've had time to relax and regroup.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Still good for dunking

Light Chocolate Chip Cookies
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2006

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (a generous ½ cup)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the butter, egg and vanilla together. Stir in the brown sugar until smooth, smearing any remaining clumps of sugar against the side of the bowl. Stir in the flour mixture and 3 ounces (a generous 1/3 cup) of the chocolate chips until thoroughly combined.
3. Working with a level tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Lays the balls on two parchment-paper lined baking sheets, spaced about 2 ½ inches apart. Press the remaining chips into the top of the dough (2 or 3 chips per cookie).
4. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are light golden and the centers are just set, 9 to 11 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through (do not overbake). Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and then let cool completely. bake the second sheet while the first sheet cools.

Makes 2 dozen. Per cookie: 100 cal, 3.5 g fat, 15 mg chol, 16 g carbs, 1g protein, 30 mg sodium.

I did a lot of cooking this weekend and suffered a lot of disappointment. Almost everything was 'off'. I tried several 'light' recipes and maybe I just expecting too much. I was really trying to throw myself back into cooking so this was very disheartening.

These cookies were okay. At first they had a crisp bottom and chewy top but in less than a day they were entirely crispy (very crispy). Personally, I think that at 100 calories per cookie, these should have been better. America's Test Kitchen values quality above all else, which is why these still have quite a few calories in them but that's also why I'm surprised these weren't better. I made these mainly for my son who has been talking about 'chocolate chippers' quite a bit lately and he enjoyed one a few hours after I made them but now I think he might chip a tooth on one if I gave him another. I'll have to teach him how to dunk.

This is still a great cookbook. 'Light' just really isn't their thing but I give them credit for trying and including a light section.

Blast From the Past: Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies from June 2006. That was a better 'light' chocolate chip cookie recipe, in my opinion.

Question of the Day: Do you ever feel as if you're swimming through mud? That's how I feel lately.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Don't quit your day job, Katie

Katie Couric's Lemon Chicken Recipe
Today's Kitchen Cookbook Copyright 2005

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups chicken broth
2 lemons, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Pound chicken breasts with meat pounder to a uniform thickness. Dredge lightly in
flour, shaking off excess.
2. In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter and oil until it sizzles. Add
the chicken breasts and sauté, turning once or twice until cooked through and juices run
clear. Remove chicken and set aside.
3. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute until the mixture boils. Boil?! Boil what? - there was hardly any liquid and fat left in the pan.
4. Add lemon juice to the chicken stock and whisk into sauté pan. Now there was way too much liquid in the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer.
5. Return chicken to pan to heat through, thickening sauce to desired consistency.
Season to taste with salt and ground white pepper.
6. Serve the chicken on a bed of Basmati rice, and spoon the sauce over the chicken.
Garnish with chopped parsley and lemon slices. I used Uncle Ben's.

I was hesitant to buy this cookbook but when I saw that it was an IACP Cookbook of the Year finalist in the compilations catagory, I thought maybe I was missing something. It is a visually stimulating cookbook, with lots of photos of the food and also the Today Show stars and guests. There are interviews with those people also. The recipes don't jump out and grab me - either they're too complicated or contain ingredients I have to avoid. This recipe seemed about my speed but it was almost a disaster.

It started off okay, I dredged the chicken in flour and sautéed it. That's when the trouble started. Although it seemed like too much fat in the pan when I started the chicken, there wasn't much left when I added the flour. That was possibly my fault for cooking one extra piece of chicken but I doubt I could have 'boiled' the flour even if I had only cooked 4 breasts.

So I quickly added the liquid, trying to do it slowly to keep it lump free but I didn't succeed. There was just way too much liquid yet I don't think there was an error in the chicken broth amount because it did thicken properly. When I added the chicken back in, it was basically looking like a pot of soup and the coating on the chicken pretty much dissolved into the sauce.

I had to play with the sauce to make this passable. It was very tart so I added a tiny bit of sugar, tried to reduce it down, then added an extra pat of butter. The sauce was fine over rice (thank God I used white and not brown rice because the rice saved this meal) but the chicken was sub-par. It was pretty much naked by the time it came out of the sauce and the sauce just didn't do for the chicken what it did for the rice. This dish looked absolutely nothing like the picture which showed a golden brown and crispy chicken with a spoonful of a darker looking sauce over it.

That was definitely the biggest disappointment of the week - the only disappointment of the week, really. Oh well, sometimes you get a dud. It just kills me considering how many other recipes I have for lemon chicken. And the lemons were 79 cents each!

Blast From The Past: Oven-Fried Lemon Marinated Chicken from November 2006. I think this is more of what I was expecting with today's recipe but as you can see today's recipes pales (literally) in comparison.

Question of the Day: Do you watch Katie Couric? Last time I flipped by her on the nightly news, she looked evil - her eyebrows were 'angry'. Botox gone wrong? I hope it relaxed by now.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Just like in the old days

Savory Spaghetti Sauce
Taste of Home Grandma’s Favorites Copyright 2006

1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cans (15 ounces each) tomato sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons sugar
½ to 1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
hot cooked spaghetti I used Dreamfields

In a Dutch oven, cook ground beef and onion until meat is no longer pink and onion is tender; drain. Add next eight ingredients; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over spaghetti.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

This recipe is probably something I would have made before I started blogging. I would have freestyled it but I'm pretty sure meat sauce was something I would turn to quite often. Nothing could be simpler and it always goes over well. My son loved it.

The woman who submitted this to Taste of Home said she used to feed a lot of children with this recipe. It's easy to prepare, healthy and economical too - perfect for feeding a family.

Last night was meal/grocery planning night and I completely forgot! I guess I was too wrapped up in America's Next Top Model. It's no big deal, I can finish up this weekend but I'd really like to get back to making a strict shopping list and getting my shopping done in in one, maybe two trips, if I need to go to two stores to get it all. When I drag it out like this I sometimes end up making several extra trips and spending way too much.

Blast From The Past: Spaghetti Meat Sauce from June 2006. I didn't even remember making it until I just looked in the archives. Very similar to today's recipe but today's recipe was probably a wee bit better.

Question of the Day: Does a certain type of recipe pique your interest? Sweets? Ethnic recipes? Quick and easy dinner ideas?