Friday, August 31, 2007

Tasty but not very exciting
--Chicken Breasts with Tomato-Basil Butter

Chicken Breasts with Tomato-Basil Butter
Better Crocker’s Best Chicken Cookbook Copyright 1999

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons garlic pepper
½ cup margarine or butter, softened I used butter because I was out of light butter and margarine
1 tablespoon chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried basil leaves I used dried
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Brush grill rack with vegetable oil. Heat coals or gas grill for direct heat. Sprinkle chicken with garlic pepper.

Cover and grill chicken 4 to 5 inches from medium heat 15 to 20 minutes, turning once, until juice is no longer pink when centers of thickest pieces are cut. Mix remaining ingredients. Serve chicken topped with margarine mixture.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 285 cal, 19 g fat, 115 mg chol, 230 mg sodium, 2 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 27 g pro

This was another simple grilled dish. The Tomato-Basil Butter is the star here. I can imagine it on all sorts of things. I had a lot left over which I'll freeze.

I know, it' s been a boring week. I was super tired this week and it was my own darn fault. I know I should go to bed earlier but every single night I stay up past my bedtime. Shame on me. And my blood pressure started creeping up so I cut back on caffeine several months ago. I was only drinking one cup per day but I increased that to two cups a few weeks ago. I really need to get more sleep - it's as simple as that. Why do I torture myself?

Next week will probably be a short week. I don't think I'll be posting on Labor Day. I have two cookouts to attend this weekend and I can't decide which desserts to make. Banana Cake has been requested already. I was surprised - I thought they were getting sick of it.

I'll probably have to drive through hoops to get to auction tonight. A bicentennial is going on in the town I usually drive through. A road is closed on the alternate route. But I'll get there!

Don't forget today is the last day to sign up for the August Cookbook Giveaway. You could be the lucky winner. It's Bobby Flay, Boy Meet Grill. I haven't tried it yet. This book is for when you feel like cooking something that you would order in a restaurant - of course. What else would you expect from a restaurant chef? He's not going to spend his time on recipes that you could easily make at home. He's going to give everything a twist that makes it worth coming to one of his restaurants. The recipes aren't too far out there that you couldn't or wouldn't make the recipes at home though. Don't be afraid.

Blast From The Past: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes from February 2006. I'm in the mood for pancakes. Maybe I'll make some this weekend.

Question of the Day: How much sleep do you average each night?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

An easy meal
--Texas Two-Step Pork Chops

Texas Two-Step Pork Chops
Weber’s Real Grilling Copyright 2005

¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons apple juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon prepared chili powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt

6 bone-in pork rib chops, about 1-inch thick I used boneless loin chops

1. To make marinade: In a medium bowl, whisk the marinade ingredients.
2. Place the chops in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Press the air out of the bag and seal it tightly. Turn the bag several times to distribute the marinade, and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
3. Remove the chops from the bag and discard the marinade. Allow the chops to stand at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before grilling. Grill over direct medium heat until barely pink in center of the meat, 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Makes 6 servings

I've been wanting to grill more often so I picked up this really nice grilling book, probably my favorite one out of the handful of grilling books that I own. It has gorgeous photographs and the recipes fall right into my comfort zone.

These chops were simple and flavorful. The marinade flavored and coated the meat nicely. Bone-in chops do tend to have more flavor than boneless pork chops but I had to work with what I had on hand. The boneless loin chops seem to do well when marinated and grilled.

It was nice to have a simple meal last night. I made pasta salad ahead of time and just needed to grill the pork chops. It was as close to having the night off as I get.

Blast From The Past: Pasta Caesar Salad With Chicken from May 2006. I remember that dressing as being very good.

Question of the Day: Are you looking forward to the change of season? (Do you actually have a change of season where you live?)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Not as good as my mom's meat loaf
--Mom’s Meat Loaf

Mom’s Meat Loaf
175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics Copyright 2006

2 lbs lean ground beef
1 can (10 oz) condensed tomato soup I used reduced-sodium
2 onions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp salt
½ tsp cracked black peppercorns
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups fine dry bread crumbs

1. Fold a 2-foot piece of foil in half lengthwise. Place on bottom and up sides of slow cooker stoneware overlapping at the top.
2. In a large bowl, combine beef, tomato soup, onions, celery, garlic, parsley, salt, peppercorns, eggs, and bread crumbs and mix well. Shape into a loaf and place in the middle of the foil strip on bottom of slow cooker stoneware. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours, until juices run clear when meatloaf is pierced with a fork or a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F. Lift out loaf using foil strip and transfer to a warm platter. Pour juices into a sauceboat and serve alongside sliced loaf.

This was okay. It was satisfying enough but it left sort of an aftertaste from the soup which reminded me of something but I can't quite place it. I won't be making this again but it doesn't fall into the failure category either. The leftovers will make a nice sandwich.

I made it the night before, sliced it and reheated it in the oven. I think it would have been difficult to slice it neatly if I had served it right after cooking it. It was in quite a delicate state at that point. And very strangely, even though the recipe calls for serving the juice along with this, there was no juice! None. Nada. I mean, just about anything I've cooked in the crockpot has given off juice but there was no liquid at all in the crockpot with this when it was finished cooking. I'm not sure if there was anything gained by cooking this in the crockpot. It worked but I think I prefer a baked meat loaf.

I'm struggling this week. It's just one of those weeks.

Blast From The Past: Brown Sugar Meat Loaf from October 2005. That's a better meat loaf. I prefer a meat loaf with a topping.

Question of the Day: Do you like cold meat loaf sandwiches?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A tasty treat
Asian Pork Ribs

Asian Pork Ribs
The Pampered Chef More Stoneware Sensations Copyright 1999

4-4 1/2 lbs. country-style pork loin ribs
3/4 cup apricot or peach preserves I used peach
3/4 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, pressed I used jarred
2 tsp peeled fresh gingerroot, finely chopped or 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger I used jarred grated ginger
1 tbsp thinly sliced green onion with tops I didn't bother with these
2 tsp sesame seeds I omitted these

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Trim excess fat from ribs. Place ribs, bone side down, in 9x13-inch Baker. Cover with Rectangular Lid/Bowl. Bake 1 hour. Meanwhile, mix preserves, barbecue sauce and soy sauce in 1-Qt. Batter Bowl with 10" Whisk. Press garlic into bowl using Garlic Press. Finely chop ginger root using Food Chopper; add to sauce mixture. Carefully remove Rectangular Lid/Bowl from Baker. Using Nylon Tongs, remove ribs from Baker and place in Lid/Bowl. Generously brush ribs with half of the sauce mixture using Pastry Brush. Continue baking, uncovered 30-45 minutes or until fork-tender, brushing with remaining sauce after 15 minutes. Remove ribs to serving platter. Using Magic Mop, skim fat from top of sauce. Sprinkle ribs with green onion and sesame seeds; serve with sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

I picked up another Pampered Chef cookbook at a church rummage sale a few weeks ago. They actually have some really good recipes in their cookbooks and they're constructed well (spiral binding, sturdy pages). There's more to Pampered Chef than taco rings and brownie pizza (which are both very good which is probably why I think they've been served at every Pampered Chef party I've ever attended.)

I was drawn to the picture of this recipe immediately since I love sticky sweet sauces. The clincher was seeing that the recipe uses peach preserves, which I made a few weeks ago. Pork ribs being on sale helped too.

I made these the night before since they do take some time to cook. They were fine the next day reheated but probably a tad more dry than they would have been if eaten immediately. I couldn't wait to eat these and I wasn't disappointed. They were delicious albeit very guilt inducing. They weren't really all that fatty but still fattier than what I'm used to. It was a nice treat but I couldn't eat these every week.

This recipe was also on the Pampered Chef site but it was different. They boiled the ribs first, then grilled them. I wonder why they changed the method. So they could use different Pampered Chef products in the recipe? It doesn't really matter which way you do it, the cooking time is about the same. The boil/grill methods avoids the oven but you'll really have to be careful not to burn the sweet sauce on the grill. My mom always boiled her spareribs first.

BTW, I did use Pampered Chef tongs and their pastry brush for this recipe but that's it as far as their equipment suggestions. I cooked the ribs in a covered pan in the oven then transfered them to a baking dish (you could just drain the first pan to save on clean up). You can easily make Pampered Chef recipes without their products, at least in these older cookbooks. Some of the newer ones might ask for their spice blends and food products, which might be more difficult to substitute.

Blast From The Past: Marinated Flank Steak from May 2007. I had to pass on the flank steak this trip to Costco (although I think it was 'only' $6.89/lb). I thought my membership was due but it wasn't. I should have checked first - I could have spent more money.

Question of the Day: Have you ever been to a Pampered Chef party? Do you remember any of the recipes that were made during the demonstration?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Maybe I should rename this the Chocolate Chip Blog
--Chocolate Chipper Bars

Chocolate Chipper Bars
The Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese Cookbook Copyright 1981

1 8-oz. pkg. Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese
½ cup Parkay margarine I used butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup old-fashioned or quick oats, uncooked
2/3 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 6-oz. pkg. semi-sweet chocolate pieces
½ cup chopped nuts I omitted these

Combine softened cream cheese, margarine and sugars, mixing until well blended. Blend in egg and vanilla. Add combined dry ingredients; mix well. Stir in chocolate pieces and nuts. Pour into greased 13x9-inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees, 30 minutes. Cool; cut into bars.

I know, chocolate chips again? Well, the menfolk here really liked that last batch of chocolate chip cookies I made, and I had a surplus of cream cheese and oatmeal so that's how I ended up making this recipe. This recipe was kind of odd, although not in a bad way. They fell somewhere in between cheesecake and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They didn't cut very neatly so they lose some points for appearance but they were tasty. These are not something I would make again because my standards for baking something more than once are high but we'll enjoy these while they last.

I really like this cookbook. What I like about it is that the recipes don't use a lot of convenience products, like Cool Whip or pudding mixes. Nothing wrong with that but it's nice to have a choice. There are plenty of savory recipes in this book too and it's well-made too (a spiral binding with a sturdy hardcover).

I used to have a cookbook that was exclusively chocolate chip cookie recipes but it's gone. I have a vague recollection of lending it to someone, so vague that it might not have happened! It was small so maybe it just got lost. I miss that cookbook.

Today is going to be a long day. I made tonight's dinner last night because it required a long cooking time and I think it's going to be really good. I could barely sleep with something so good sitting in the refrigerator. I hope I'm not disappointed. I'll tell you how it turns out tomorrow.

Blast From The Past: Apple Oat Bran Muffins from February 2006 - these are one of my favorite muffins. I haven't been baking many muffins but I will when the weather cools down again.

Question of the Day: Do you prefer cheesecake or chocolate chip cookies?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Something lighter
--Oven-Baked Carrot Fries

Oven-Baked Carrot Fries
Williams-Sonoma The Kid’s Cookbook Copyright 2000

1 ½ pounds carrots (10 medium)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary I used dried rosemary, crushed
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line the jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil.
2. Using a sharp knife and cutting board, cut away the tip and end of each carrot. Place 1 carrot on the board and hold with one hand. Holding a peeler in the other hand, run it over the carrot, always peeling away from you. Turn the carrot as needed to peel completely. Repeat with the other carrots. Using a sharp knife, cut 1 carrot in half crosswise. Next, cut each half in half lengthwise. Finally, cut each half in half lengthwise again. You will end up with 8 sticks from the carrot. Repeat with the other carrots.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the carrot sticks, olive oil, rosemary, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir with the rubber spatula until the carrot sticks are evenly coated with all the other ingredients.
4. Dump the carrots onto the foil-lined jelly-roll pan, scraping out any herbs clinging to the sides of the bowl. Spread the stick out as much as possible. Bake until the carrots are tender and well browned, about 20 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the pan from the oven. Serve the carrot fries hot or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings.

I was the only one who ate these. My son didn't even try them and I don't think my husband did either. That's not because they weren't any good - those two just don't like to eat their vegetables unless I sneak them into the main dish. Oh well, more for me.

I liked these carrots but they still don't live up to my favorite roast carrots. My mom gave me a vegetable rub from Harry and David a couple of years ago that was perfect on roasted carrots. I was never able to find it again (we don't have any Harry and Davids in the area and it was never on their website) and I threw out the container so I have no idea what was in it.

TGIF! It's been a long week. I even have a trip to Costco to look forward to this weekend. I put it off as long as I could but the freezer is almost bare.

Blast From The Past: Orange-Honey Glazed Carrots from January 2007. That's probably my favorite carrot recipe.

Question of the Day: Have you ever had anything from Harry and David? Did you enjoy it?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best yellow cake I ever made!
--All-Purpose Buttery Yellow Cake

All-Purpose Buttery Yellow Cake
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2006

2 ¼ cups cake flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups whole milk, at room temperature I used 2%

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 340 degrees. Lightly coat two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans or 1 9x13-inch cake pan with vegetable oil spray, then line the bottoms with parchment paper. I used a disposable 1/2-sheetcake pan. I actually made 1 1/2 times this recipe and had some batter left over. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.*
2. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until incorporated, scraping down the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the vanilla. *
3. Reduce the speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture. Beat in half of the milk. Repeat with half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining milk, and finally the remaining flour mixture.*
I mixed the dry ingredients and sugar together. Then I beat in the softened butter until it was like sand. Then I mixed the eggs, milk and vanilla together and added some of that and mixed until smooth. Then I added the rest of the wet ingredients.
4. Give the batter a final stir using a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake(s) comes out with a few crumbs attached, 20 to 25 minutes for the sheet cake, rotating the pan(s) halfway through baking.
5. Let the cake(s) cool in the pan(s) on wire racks for 10 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake(s) to loosen, then flip out onto the racks. Flip the cake(s) upright, discard the parchment, and let cool completely before frosting 1 to 2 hours.

Okay so this, the cake in the picture, isn't the best yellow cake I've ever made. The cake in the picture is the cake I made from the extra batter I had. It was still very good but since it baked on the bottom rack of the oven, in a glass pan, it got a bit browner on the bottom and didn't rise as evenly as the primary cake, the cake I made to say farewell to a co-worker. Now that cake was awesome. AWESOME! Cooked just perfectly, so tender and light, I couldn't believe it. I wish I had a picture of a piece of that cake to show you.

I had a killer chocolate cake recipe that I made for the last farewell party but when I asked the co-worker who was leaving this time what she preferred, she picked yellow cake. So I checked the site I found the chocolate cake recipe on and I swear, I could read the recipes one day but I got distracted and when I came back the next day you had to register to see the recipes and that just ticked me off.

So I searched around more online and saw that Nic over at Baking Bites used this unusual (to me) method of mixing a cake, where she mixed the butter with the dry ingredients first. Something about coating the flour with the fat makes a fluffier more tender cake. I was intrigued and I trust her yet I was a bit hesitant to try such a new idea (to me) on a large cake that I was making for a group.

Then I saw that America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook used this method for their white cake. So I took the leap and used it on their yellow cake (although, as you can see, this cake was not that yellow). OMG - the texture was wonderful. It reminded me of something that came out of a good bakery - a GREAT bakery. It had a fine crumb and it was very light and fluffy. It had baked until it was just done, perfectly. Almost everyone ate two or more pieces and they wouldn't let me set the leftovers out for the rest of the floor and insisted I put the cover on it and save it for just our team.

I really like making large cakes in those disposable lidded shallow sheetcake pans that I pick up at the local Amish store. They're not deep so it's easier to control the baking. They're easier to decorate and transport. I think cake stays moister in those pans too.

I hope I can duplicate this cake someday. I wasn't very scientific about measuring the ingredients and I had to do the math (not my strong point) to make 1 1/2 times this recipe in order to make sure I had enough to fill the pan.

Blast From The Past: Classic Yellow Cake from October 2005. One of the many yellow cake recipes I've tried that were good but no where near as good as this.

Question of the Day: Do you prefer homemade or bakery cakes? Do you have a favorite bakery?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A failure
--Eggplant Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan
The New Holly Clegg Trim & Terrific Cookbook Copyright 2002, 2006

2 eggplants, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
1 (28-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
½ cup white wine
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano leaves
3 egg whites
¼ cup water
1 ½ cups seasoned bread crumbs
2 ½ cups shredded reduced-fat Mozzarella cheese

Preheat the broiler.
Soak the eggplant slices in water to cover for 30 minutes. Pat dry.
In a large saucepan, combine the tomatoes with juice, tomato sauce, tomato paste, white wine, garlic, basil and oregano. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, mix the egg whites and water with a fork. Dip the eggplant slices in the egg white mixture, and coat in the bread crumbs. Place the eggplant on a non-stick baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray, and broil 5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Watch closely. Remove and set aside.
Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
In a 2-quart oblong baking dish, layer half the sauce, half the eggplant, half the Mozzarella cheese. Repeat the layers. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. Serve.

Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 296 cal, 18g pro, 41g carbs, 6g fat, 8g fiber, 21mg chol, 1520 mg sodium

This was not very good for a couple of reasons. Some of the eggplant did not soften enough even though I broiled it as long as I could without burning it and I cooked the completed dish for a bit longer. In retrospect, I should have just baked it like Eggplant with Crispy Coating.

That could have been forgiven but the sauce wasn't very good at all and I can't forgive that. I should have just used a jarred sauce. There are several jarred sauces available that don't contain corn syrup or other odd things.

So I was really PO'd since I took the time to make this and it was edible but really missed the mark. Then I had to clean up and bake a cake which thankfully turned out better.

What a night - I made the eggplant parmesan, some spaghetti, a salad with homemade croutons and homemade dressing. Then I made a cake. Then I went to the gym. Then I decorated the cake. With a shower and kitchen cleanup thrown in there, I was beat!

Blast From The Past: Caramelized Pork Slices from May 2007. I should have planned something that simple for last night.

Question of the Day: Who's responsible for kitchen cleanup in your home?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

These did NOT agree with me

Our Favorite Meats Copyright MCMLXVI

3 tbsp. flour
4 tsp. chili powder
3 tbsp. oil
2 c. water
1 lb. hamburger
½ c. chopped onion
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
½ tsp. garlic salt
1 lb. grated Cheddar cheese I used Monterey Jack cheese
12 tortillas

Brown flour and chili powder in oil. Gradually stir in water; simmer for 30 minutes (I added some cayenne, cumin and salt). Brown hamburger and onion. Season with salt, pepper and garlic salt. Dip tortillas in sauce until softened. Fill center of tortilla with meat and cheese; roll and place in baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Pour sauce over enchiladas. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted. Serve hot.

Yield: 4 servings

There was really nothing wrong with these. The sauce was a bit bland but I added some things to spice it up. They ended up rather delicious actually but I really paid for them later on. I don't know what it was and they only seemed to have that effect on me.

I chose this recipe because I only needed some tortillas and cheese to make it. I've learned my lesson and I don't think I'll be making anything this heavy for a while!

I have to make a cake tonight. I have when I have to do anything, when it comes to cooking. I really want to do it but I'm just running low on energy this week. If I don't have a post tomorrow, I just got overwhelmed, that's all.

Blast From The Past: Chicken Enchiladas from October 2006 - my favorite enchiladas. I was actually going to make those but I came across this recipe while I was looking for something to make with ground beef.

Question of the Day: Are there any foods that you avoid because you know you'll pay for them later?

Monday, August 20, 2007

Yes, another chocolate chip cookie recipe
--Chockfull-Of-Chips Cookies

Chockfull-Of-Chips Cookies
Williams-Sonoma The Kid’s Cookbook Copyright 2000

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
¾ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil.
2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Using a table fork, stir together the ingredients until well blended.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, shortening, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Using a electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the mixture until it’s smooth. Turn off the mixer a few times so you can scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed until well blended. Add the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, stir until the flour is almost mixed in. Pour in the chips and stir until completely blended.
4. Using a table spoon, drop the batter into mounts onto the foil-lined baking sheets, spacing the mounds about 1 ½ inches apart.
5. Place 1 baking sheet in the oven and bake the cookies until they’re golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven and set it on a rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Carefully slide a metal spatula under each cookie and transfer it to another rack to cool. Repeat with the second baking sheet. You can store the cookies in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

You wouldn't think that something as simple as a chocolate chip cookie could have so many variations but of course they do and I think I'm on my way to trying them all. I've made Bev's Chocolate Chip Cookies, Big Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cakey Chocolate Chip Cookies, Light Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Ruth Wakefield’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Except for the Light Chocolate Chip Cookies, which got too crispy the next day, I enjoyed all the variations enough to probably think they were my favorite while I was eating them.

This recipe was no different - I think it's my new favorite! They were so light and crispy with a bit of chewiness. I had some trouble with lumps in the brown sugar so perhaps all the beating I did in an attempt to get rid of the lumps is what made these so light.

I have several kid's cookbooks but this is probably the best one that I've come across so far. It's more geared towards kids doing the cooking themselves but it uses basic ingredients and doesn't overdo the presentation. I don't know about the children in your lives but while my son might be swayed to try a treat just because it's cute, he's not going to eat anything that doesn't taste good. So many products on the market today try so hard to be 'cute' but they're practically inedible. Those gummy treats that come in every shape and character come to mind. They all taste the same and my son wouldn't eat them and either could I.

Other kid's cookbooks that I have use a ridiculous amount of convenience products but this one doesn't. It also spends some time teaching the basics of cooking and it lists what utensils, pans and bowls will be needed at the top of every recipe. Definitely a good starter cookbook for kids.

I picked up a LOT of cookbooks this weekend. Between my guy at the auction and the rummage sale at a church picnic, my collection has increased quite a bit for a small amount of money. The auction guy even sold me a 40-year old Ugly Binder. For $2, I couldn't resist (and he started throwing in all sorts of small recipe pamplets). He kept saying that the woman 'collected this stuff for 40 years' and I have found clippings dated from 1964 to 2002 so far. I just wonder if she made any of these recipes or if I now own all the recipes she never got around to trying. I even found a handwritten recipe for Lulu Paste. I'm seeing recipes for that everywhere now that I've started acquiring so many older cookbooks.

Blast From The Past: If cookies aren't your thing, Chocolate Chip Brownies from October 2006 is one of my favorite chocolate chip recipes. I used red and green chips and made these for Christmas too. They're surprisingly good.

Question of the Day: Do you have an Ugly Binder (a place where you store your recipe clippings, small recipe booklets, etc.)?

My Ugly Binder took a tumble and it's uglier than ever. I really need to sort it out.

Friday, August 17, 2007

August 2007 Cookbook Giveaway

It took a long, long time for Bobby Flay to grow on me. A very long time. He still doesn't always sit well with me. The other day I watched him make hot dogs with homemade bbq sauce and cole slaw, hot dogs with guac and salsa, and grilled sweet potato fries. He made the bbq sauce and cole slaw first, then the hot dogs, then the guac and salsa, then the sweet potato fries. Wouldn't the hot dogs be ice cold by the time he was done? He just had too much going on but damn the hot dogs looked good (although, I think completely impossible to eat unless you have a hippo-sized mouth).

I never even considered buying one of his cookbooks before seeing Boy Meets Grill while scouting for a giveaway book. In the past, I wouldn't even have picked it up, but like I said, his constant appearance on the food network has finally wore me down. I noticed a few streamlined recipes in there, but I think most of them require a bit of adventure. You can head over to and have a peak inside.

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'll mail the book! I'll pay the shipping, of course (I'll probably send it media rate - postal rates have gone up again). Unfortunately, I'm going to have to limit this to mailing to US mailing addresses only. Postage is just getting too expensive. My apologies to all of my foreign readers but blame the postal service

I've received some some weird hits, resulting from queries on common e-mail extensions, hitting the cookbook giveaway posts. Probably someone trolling for e-mail addresses so feel free to modify your e-mail address when you leave it, using 'at' instead of @ and 'dot com' instead of '.com', etc.

****The winner is tdwilson.**********

An oldie but a goodie
--Beef Patties With Tomato Cheese Topping

Beef Patties With Tomato Cheese Topping
Cutco Cook Book Copyright 1956

1 ½ pounds ground beef
½ cup soft bread crumbs
¾ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ tablespoons prepared mustard
6 slices onion I used red onion
6 slices American cheese ¼ inch thick
¾ cup condensed tomato soup

1. Combine meat, crumbs, salt, pepper, egg; shape into 6 patties; place in shallow pan.
2. Spread patties with mustard; place one slice onion, cheese on each.
3. Pour tomato soup over top.
4. Bake 35-40 minutes in moderate oven 400 degrees F.
5. Six serving.

Gosh this cookbook is over 50 years old but as much as cooking styles have changed in that time, a lot has stayed the same. I think most of the recipes could be made today without raising any eyebrows. Although, variety meats certainly don't appear on our tables as often as one might think they used to from looking at old cookbooks. I occasionally see a heart but I don't think I've ever seen brains or sweetbreads in the store (as an adult). I think only the choice parts of the animals get near a supermarket these days. I'll have to check the auction tonight and see if any of the butchers have anything interesting for sale (although I am NOT buying, just looking).

This book also has the most delightful illustrations. The spine is damaged but it was still a great deal for $2. One puzzle is that I often see 'bottled thick condiment sauce' included in the recipes in this book, usually just a small amount. What could it be? I'll have to look the recipes over but I think ketchup is mentioned so I don't think it's that. Chili sauce? Steak sauce? BBQ sauce? Something that they no longer make? Anyone have a clue? From looking at some of the recipes that include it, it could be just about anything.

This recipe wasn't bad either. A little bit too salty from the soup but very homey and comforting. It was kind of like meatloaf, but not quite. Sort of like a cheeseburger, but not quite. It cooks up pretty quickly too, which is always nice. My son really liked these so I wouldn't be surprised to find myself making them again. I might try tomato sauce or something else with a bit less sodium to top them off with next time.

Blast From The Past: Chicken Olive Calzones from February 2007. I amost forgot about those.

Question of the Day: Have you ever eaten any variety meats? Besides whatever they hide in hot dogs, I think chicken livers are probably the only type of variety meat I've eaten. Oh and whatever's in liverwurst and Braunschweiger. Not straight beef liver though.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

I have no idea where the name comes from
--Gallant Knight Chicken

Gallant Knight Chicken
Holiday Inn International Cook Book Copyright 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1972

6 6-oz. boneless chicken breasts I used tenders
2 tablespoons sweet basil I used dried, less than 2T
¼ pound butter I used light butter and only a couple of tablespoons
1 small can mushrooms, pieces & stems
1 cup white wine (sauterne) I probably used less
8 slices mozzarella or white American cheese (2-oz. slices) I used mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken in shallow pan. (Do not flour chicken.) Sprinkle sweet basil over chicken. Dot chicken with butter. Place in a preheated 375 degree oven until brown. Remove from oven and add mushrooms and wine. Put back into reduced 325 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, them place sliced cheese on top of each piece of chicken. Put back into oven until cheese is melted. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 to 8.

This cookbook has recipes from Holiday Inns all over the world. It's got quite a variety of dishes in it. This recipe is from the Holiday Inn located in Marshall, TX (well, it was there in the 60s-70s, I'm not sure if it's still there). It was simple but tasty, and even with all that cheese (I definitely could have used less) it somehow didn't seem too heavy. I could see making this again.

Now that grocery night has rolled around again, it's safe to tell you that I spent less money on groceries this past week than I have in a long time. I hit my main store and the auction for produce and that was it. Well, I picked up a head of cauliflower in Wal-Mart for a buck but I usually hit the other local grocery store at least once on the weekend or during the week but I didn't. I forgot to buy croutons but I made some out of hamburger buns I had in the freezer and they were great. I'm really trying to spend less money on groceries. Hopefully I'll do as well this week.

Blast From The Past: Crunchy Baked Chicken from April 2006. I can't believe I haven't made it again since I loved the recipe.

Question of the Day: Have you ever stayed at a Holiday Inn?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's a personal thing
--Scalloped Potatoes

Scalloped Potatoes
The Boston Cooking School Cook Book Copyright 1896, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904, 1905, 1906, 1912, 1914, 1915, 1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936

4 potatoes, pared, cut into ½-inch slices
Salt and pepper
Flour for dredging
1 tablespoon butter
Milk I used 2%

Put layer of potatoes in buttered baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, dredge with flour, and dot over with half the butter; repeat. Add milk until it may be seen through top layer; bake 1 ¼ hours in moderate oven (350 degrees F) or until potato is soft.

Growing up my favorite meal was probably breaded pork chops and scalloped potatoes. I'm not quite sure what the appeal of scalloped potatoes was since it's a very plain dish but scalloped potatoes were without a doubt one of my favorite things to find on the dinner table (and generally they only appeared at Sunday dinner).

This is the first time I've seen a recipe for scalloped potatoes like my mother made them. I've made them myself at least once, way back when, but it was long enough ago that I didn't trust my memory. I was always hoping to run across a recipe that made them like my mother made them. I know, why not just ask my mother? Well, her memory is as bad as mine and it's possible she hasn't made them in a very, very long time. When we discovered Betty Crocker Au Gratin Potatoes in a box, I think these scalloped potatoes may have been permanently retired (it's been years since I've had those potatoes in a box too).

Tasting these was very nostalgic. They needed more salt, and I wish I had whole milk in the house to use for this but otherwise that old familiar taste was there. It wasn't quite the same since I didn't have breaded pork chops along side them but maybe next time.

I still can't tell you what the appeal is. There's no cheese, very little butter and no other seasoning besides salt and pepper. It's a mystery to me. Since this is the first time I've come across this recipe, I'm thinking that maybe not too many people feel the same way about this type of scalloped potatoes.

Blast From The Past: Russian-Style Chicken Cutlets from August 2006. That was the recipe that reminded of another childhood favorite (which I have had since I was wee little), City Chicken. I still have to tackle that recipe.

Question of the Day: What were some of your childhood favorites?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Great sauce
--San Francisco Sole (Flounder)

San Francisco Sole (Flounder)
The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining Copyright 2006

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, preferably unsalted I used light butter (and much less)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons lemon-flavored oil or vegetable oil
2 ½ to 2 ¾ pounds petrale sole fillets, preferably 6 to 12 fillets or 6 flounder fillets I used flounder
Coarse salt, either kosher or sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges

Fire up the grill, bringing temperature to medium-high. Place a well-oiled small mesh rack over the grate.

While the grill heats, warm the butter in a small saucepan with the mustard and lemon juice, stirring to combine. Keep warm.

Pour the oil over the fillets, coating them evenly. Drain off any excess oil. Salt and pepper the fillets.

Place the fillets on the grill rack. Presuming fish are between ¼ and ½ inch thick, cook for about 2 ½ to 3 minutes per side, moving them only to turn once with a spatula. The fillets are ready when white and flaky throughout.

Serve the fillets hot, topped with some of the butter, and arrange lemon wedges on the side.

This picture isn't very enticing but trust me, this fish was delicious. I somehow overlooked the fact that recipe called for an entire stick of butter but even with using only 3 tablespoons of light butter (and adjusting the mustard and lemon juice accordingly - I just mixed it to taste), this was a great sauce. This recipe went great over rice.

You could just as easily pan fry or broil this fish if you didn't have a mesh rack for your grill. This was a grilling cookbook though so of course that's the only option they suggest but this fish cooks so quickly, it doesn't really how you cook it, it ends up pretty much the same. I'm trying to use my grill a lot more because we finally put a gas gauge on our propane tank and now we know that the tank is practically full. Our last tank lasted four years but that was a smaller grill. I was afraid this 3-burner, larger grill was sucking up a lot more propane but apparently it isn't.

I've really been enjoying the flounder but maybe it's time to try something else. It's time to renew my Costco membership so I'm putting off that trip as long as I can but next time maybe I'll get some cod.

Blast From The Past: Baked Lemon Chicken from April 2007. I really, really need to remember to make that again. I loved it. (Funnily enough, I just saw that Brilynn posted about Lemon Chicken today.)

Question of the Day: How often do you grill food? Do you grill outdoors all year round?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Baking out of necessity
--Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes
Maida Heatter’s Book of Chocolate Desserts Copyright 2006

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 1/3 ounces (10 2/3 tablespoons) sweet butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 cup milk

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two pans of cupcake forms, each pan with twelve forms and each form measuring 2 ¾ inches in diameter. Sift a bit of flour over the pans, invert, and tap to shake out excess. Or line twenty-four 2 ¾ inch forms with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa, and set aside. In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the vanilla and sugar and beat to mix. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition, and scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary to keep the mixture smooth. On the lowest speed, alternately add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions with the milk in two additions. Continue to scrape the bowl with the rubber spatula and beat only until smooth. Do not overbeat.

Spoon the batter into the prepare pans, filling the forms only two-thirds to three-quarters full. There is no need to smooth the tops – the batter will level itself.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops spring back lightly when pressed with a fingertip. Do not overbake.

Cool the cakes in the pans for 2 or 3 minutes; then cover each pan with a large rack and invert. Remove the pan and turn the cupcakes right side up to cool on the rack.

Since my son is allergic to peanuts, he needs to bring his own cupcake whenever other children bring cupcakes for their birthday at his daycare center. I keep a stash in the freezer but I realized that the ones I had in there had been in there since my son's birthday in January. So it was time for a fresh batch.

I had to keep it simple although it really didn't matter. He rarely eats the cupcakes - just whatever frosting and candy I put on top (which is a dilemma in itself - you don't want to outshine the birthday kid's cupcake but you don't want your peanut allergic child to feel like they got shafted). I went with this plain chocolate cupcake from Maida Heatter - an icon in the dessert world. The copyright date says 2006 but this was first published in 1980. Her lead-in says that if called upon for a bake sale item she usually made these cupcakes or brownies. For someone so involved in dessert making, I thought that said a lot.

These were good but not out-of-the-ordinary good, but ordinarily good chocolate cupcakes are still pretty damn good, you know? I froze a bunch for my son, plain, and topped the rest with a basic frosting made with light butter. They were best fresh.

I really need to really dig into this cookbook but it just seems so dangerous! She certainly presents a large variety of chocolate recipes. It's not a very visually stimulating cookbook but it still has a very drool-inducing effect.

Thanks for all of the kind comments on my 500th recipe post. I appreciated every one of them.

Blast From The Past: Creamy Frosting from October 2005. I almost made a version of that recipe since I thought I was out of powdered sugar and you can also use granulated in that recipe. But I found some powdered sugar in the cupboard.

Question of the Day: Did you get a lot of treats in the classroom in school?

Back in my day we may have been given a treat (by the school, sometimes the teacher - never parents) for a Halloween or Christmas party, not for birthdays. Why is it so common for parents to send treats now? Where do teachers find the time to stop and have a 'birthday party', if the parent sends in treats to be eaten in school?

Friday, August 10, 2007

More special than it looks
--Baked Bean Sandwiches

Baked Bean Sandwiches
Better Homes and Gardens Heritage Cook Book Copyright 1975

Mash 2 cups chilled baked beans; stir in 2 tablespoons chopped onion, 1 tablespoon prepared mustard, and enough mayonnaise or salad dressing to make of spreading consistency (it doesn't take much mayo). Butter 8 slices sourdough or whole wheat bread; set aside. Spread 8 more slices of bread with bean mixture; top with lettuce. Cover with buttered bread.

I didn't have any good bread, just leftover hamburger buns. I left out the butter and lettuce.

Makes 8 sandwiches.

Everytime I've come across this recipe I'd tell myself that I need to remember it the next time I had leftover baked beans. My leftover baked beans are usually pretty thick, perfect for this. So, of course, this time my beans were nice and saucy which made the sandwich spread a bit looser than it should be ideally but the flavor was there. The baked beans recipe I use is very flavorful. I know it looks, um, interesting, but I really liked it. It's an inexpensive protein for lunches too.

So what is so special about this recipe? It's my 500th recipe! That's right, I've planned, prepared and documented 500 recipes out of about 180 cookbooks so far. Not too shabby.

So hey, I went through all that effort, you can leave a comment for me today even if you don't usually leave a comment. While you do that, I'll start working on the next 500 recipes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

--Fudge Brownies

Fudge Brownies
The All-American Dessert Book Copyright 2005

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 cups sugar
¼ cup brewed coffee or water I used 1 T espresso powder and 3 T water
11 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped I used bittersweet
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 cups chopped walnuts (optional) I left these out

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing the foil to overhang the two ends of the pan by about 2 inches. Coat the foil with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour and salt; set aside. In a large saucepan, bring the butter, sugar and coffee just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring. Remove from the heat. Stir the chocolates into the sugar mixture until completely melted. Let cool to warm. Stir the vanilla into the chocolate mixture, then add the eggs and mix thoroughly. Stir the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture just until the batter is evenly blended. Stir in the nuts, if using. Turn the batter into the pan, spreading it evenly to the edges.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the center is barely firm when tapped and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean except for the bottom 1/8-inch, which should have wet crumbs clinging to it. Transfer pan to a wire rack. Let cool to warm, about 20 minutes.

To prepare the brownies for cutting, cover and refrigerate until well chilled and firm, at least 30 minutes. Using the overhanging foil as handles, carefully transfer the brownie slab to a cutting board. If desired, trim away the uneven edges using a sharp knife. Cut the slab in half crosswise, cutting through the foil. Carefully peel off and discard the foil.

The slabs will keep, stored airtight, in the freezer for up to a month. Let thaw partially before cutting into bars.

This picture isn't that great but I think it shows the true fudginess of this brownie. Holy Hannah are these chocolately! If you compare them with Rick Katz's Brownies for Julia, they have the same about of butter, sugar and eggs, 3/4 cup more flour and 7 ounces more chocolate. They were so easy to cut after spending the night in the refrigerator (but let them come to room temperature before you eat them). There were also options to glaze these but personally I think that would be overkill. These have enough chocolate for even the most serious chocoholics.

Is this my first recipe from this book? I think it is. It's actually a pretty good cookbook but I just don't get to make desserts all that often. I did have a request to bake more often when I brought the leftover treats to work this week so maybe I should step it up. When the weather cools off, I'll start making more things to take to work.

I don't think I could ever go back to my old ways of cooking by the seat of my pants. Eating leftovers and scrambling for dinner this week has been really unsettling. I like to have a plan and I really don't like eating the same thing over and over, even in different forms.

Blast From The Past: Holiday Vegetable Dip from September 2006. I was going to make this for my cookout but it got cut from the line-up, due to my being overwhelmed by doing other things.

Question of the Day: Can you eat the same foods over and over or do you like variety?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Another cookout recipe
--Strawberry (Peach) Streusel Bar

Strawberry (Peach) Streusel Bars
Best Recipes From American Country Inns and Bed & Breakfasts Copyright 2004

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (10-ounce) jar strawberry jam (raspberry or apricot is also good) I used peach

1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cold butter
¼ cup sugar

Icing: I didn't use the icing
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

In medium mixing bowl beat butter and sugar with electric mixer or by hand until fluffy. Beat in egg. Add flour gradually until fully incorporated. Press this mixture into bottom of greased 9x13-inch or 10x10-inch baking pan. Spread jam to within ½-inch of the edges. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make streusel by combining flour, butter and sugar with a pastry blender or forks until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over jam and bake 40 to 45 minutes until top is lightly golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

When cool, combine icing ingredients until very smooth and drizzle over bars. Let sit 1 to 2 hours before cutting into bars.

Yields: 24 bars

I had some peach jam that I wanted to use in something. I made bars similar to this once and for the life of me, I have no idea what happened to the recipe. It was in one of the cookbooks I had before my collection really took off but I'm never been able to find it again. When I saw this, it looked like it might be the same recipe or close to it, but after making it I'm not too sure. I remember liking the other recipe more than I liked this one, although I used strawberry or raspberry jam that time so maybe that was the reason.

These were still pretty good although I thought the crust was a bit thick. I left off the icing because the other recipe didn't have icing and I really didn't feel like making it. I didn't find the bars to overly sweet so the icing would have been fine. I'm really not sure if I missed it or not. I had a lot of leftovers and took them to work and the entire container that included these and two other baked goods disappeared in record time.

This cookbook is filled with wonderful recipes but it has one of the worst indexes. You can't count on it at all to find recipes and the book is organized by state, not by recipes, so it's a bear to find recipes.

I can't wait to get back on track next week. I'm sick of leftovers and repurposed food.

Blast From The Past: Peach Crumble Tart from January 2006. That might be a good one to try about this time of year.

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

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The recipe that stood out
Tomato Salad

Tomato Salad
The All-New Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 2006

2 (8-ounce) packages mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
3 large tomatoes, chopped I used small tomatoes
1 cucumber, chopped
1 cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup whole kalamata olives, pitted
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced I used jarred
½ to 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¾ teaspoon salt

Combine first 6 ingredients in a salad bowl; toss gently. Combine oil and remaining ingredients; whisk until blended. Pour desired amount of vinaigrette over salad; toss well. Serve at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

This is the recipe I got the most comments on at my cookout. I enjoyed it but personally I'm not a huge raw tomato fan. I loved the rest of it but tolerated the tomatoes. The cookbook actually pictured this made with small red and yellow tomatoes but I've yet to see those small pear-shaped yellow tomatoes anywhere locally. I used some 'grape' tomatoes that I bought at the auction. They were larger than the grape tomatoes in the supermarket so I don't think they were the same exact variety but I'm not a tomato expert.

I was a bit willy-nilly with this recipe. I used all of the ingredients it called for but I didn't really measure anything (except the vinegar and oil). I specifically used jarred garlic because it's milder. I usually find raw garlic in a salad very overpowering.

This is my contribution to Sweetmick's ARF/5-A-Day Tuesday this week. This recipe is loaded with antioxidants.

Blast From The Past: Washington State Granny Smith Apple Pie from September 2006. Fall is just around the corner. I should start lining up apple recipes.

Question of the Day: What is your favorite type of salad (lettuce? pasta? potato? vegetable?)

Monday, August 06, 2007

Damn this was great
--Martha Turner’s Carrot Cake

Martha Turner’s Carrot Cake
Perfect Cakes Copyright 2002

Cake batter:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil, such as corn or canola
2 cups peeled and finely grated carrots
One 8-ounce can crushed pineapple in juice
¾ cup pecans, coarsely chopped I omitted these

Cream Cheese Icing:
Since I made a 9x13-inch cake in the pan, I used 8 oz cream cheese, 1 stick butter, 1 box confectioner's sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla (no nuts) to frost the cake. It was plenty of frosting.
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped and lightly toasted
6 cups confectioners sugar, sifted after measuring

1. Set racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Prepare three 2-inch deep 9-inch round cake pans, buttered and bottoms lined with buttered parchment or wax paper. I greased and floured a 9x13-inch pan.
2. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a bowl, mixing well.
3. Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the sugar and continue whisking briefly until light, about 1 minute. Whisk in the oil in a slow stream.
4. Stir in the carrots, the pineapple with its juice, and the pecans, then fold in the dry ingredients. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans and smooth the tops.
5. Bake for about 45 minutes, switching the position of the pans top and bottom and back to front, once during baking, until the cake layers are firm and golden and a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean.
6. Cool the cake in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto racks to finish cooling. Remove the paper before icing.
7. To make the icing, in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla on medium speed until very soft and light, about 5 minutes. Decrease the mixer speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar. Once all the sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium and beat for 5 minutes longer.
8. To assemble the cake, place one layer on a platter or cardboard round and spread with one-third of the icing. Top with another layer and spread with another third of the icing. Place the last layer on top, bottom side up, and, using a large offset spatula, frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining icing. Sprinkle the toasted pecan pieces on top of the cake, and press into sides.

This cake was wonderful and if I'm not qualified to decide that after eating about a ten pieces of it, I don't know who is. I just couldn't stop eating it. This is a very dense, moist cake. I made a 9x13-inch cake instead of layers so I had to wing the cooking time. I tried to follow the same baking instructions of the banana cake recipe I make. Both the banana cake and carrot cake dipped in the middle for me. I used the same frosting recipe as the banana cake and covered that dip right up. The recipe is the same as the one listed here, just a smaller amount since I didn't make a layer cake.

This is the second cake I've made from this book. I wasn't thrilled with the Buttermilk Cake Layers that I made into cupcakes. They were fine, but plain. I wasn't rushing to try another recipe from this book but this carrot cake recipe has earned this book a treasured spot in my collection.

So the cookout is over and I can relax. It was so hot on Saturday. I tried to enjoy it as best I could but the heat really brought me down. It's very difficult to serve food outdoors in the high 90s. Not the best year although I think worrying about rain is worse than melting in the heat.

So it will be leftovers all week for us. It's weird not to be cooking from cookbooks this week although I'm sort of looking forward to it.

Blast From The Past: Greek Beef & Rice from July 2006. That was very simple, very good. A good use of zucchini too.

Question of the Day: Do you like carrot cake?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My first (canned) dills
--Kosher Dills

Kosher Dills
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 1999

4 pounds pickling cucumbers
14 cloves garlic, halved
¼ cup pickling salt
3 cups water
2 ¾ cups white vinegar
14 fresh dill sprigs
28 peppercorns

Wash cucumbers; cut in half lengthwise.

Combine garlic and next 3 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove garlic, and place 4 halves into each hot jar. Pack jars with cucumbers to ½ inch from top, adding dill sprigs and 4 peppercorns to each jar.

Pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers, filling to ½ inch from top. Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims.

Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands. Process in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

Yield: 7 pints

I broke open these pickles to see if they were good enough to serve at my cookbook and I think they are. This was one of the first recipes I canned and I may have overprocessed them a bit but better to be safe with a slightly mushy pickle than poisoned by an underprocessed pickle. I think that's probably highly unlikely but I don't want to take any chances. It's a real challenge to make crunchy dills using the latest approved canning method. Pickle Crisp probably would have helped but I couldn't find any locally. I'll have to order it online next year.

I was very pleased with the taste. They were salty and tangy but the vinegar flavor wasn't too harsh. The texture was a bit soft but I'm used to my crunchy refrigerator dills (I've made two batches of those so far but I don't have any left to serve at my cookout and it's too late now- they're really best the second week).

I probably won't be posting tomorrow. I have too much to do for the cookout. I'm trying plenty of new recipes so stayed tuned for those next week. Have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just what I was looking for
--Celery-Stuffed Flounder

Celery-Stuffed Flounder
The New York Times Menu Cookbook Copyright 1966

2 pounds flounder fillets
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 ½ cups finely chopped celery
¼ cup butter
2 cups soft fresh bread crumbs
¼ teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary
Fresh lemon slices and parsley for garnish

1. Preheat oven to moderate (350 degrees F).
2. Wipe the fish with a damp cloth. Mix together one teaspoon of the salt, one-quarter teaspoon of the pepper and 3 teaspoons of the lemon juice. Rub over both sides of the fish. Let stand for twenty minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and celery and three tablespoons of the butter. Stir in the bread crumbs, remaining salt and pepper, the rosemary and remaining lemon juice; mix well.
4. Grease a one-and-one-half quart long shallow baking dish. Place half the fish in the dish. Cover with the bread-crumb mixture. Top with the remaining fish. Melt the remaining butter and brush over the top. Cover and bake for thirty to forty minutes.
5. Remove the cover and place under the broiler to brown. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley.

This cookbook is a 'companion' to the New York Times Cookbook which I also own. I own four Craig Clairborne books and I trust his recipes. They've held up well through the years.

I've been looking for recipes using flounder, especially a simple stuffed flounder, so this caught my eye right away. I like that the ingredients are very basic. I used some leftover dinner rolls that I had in the freezer for the breadcrumbs. I admit I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I didn't vary the ingredients, just the amounts. I know I didn't use two pounds of flounder and basically didn't measure anything else. It didn't take very long to bake since I used a large dish so that the heat could better circulate around it.

This was something I would make again. It was simple and tasty. I love crab-stuffed flounder but we avoid shellfish since my son hasn't been tested for shellfish allergy yet. This was a nice substitute. It was worth turning on the oven, even in this heat. (Thank God for A/C.)

Blast From The Past: Shrimp Scampi from December 2005. I can't make it right now but you can.

Question of the Day: Do you spend less time on the internet during the warmer months?