Friday, September 28, 2007

Good food doesn't have to be complicated
--Mini-Rigatoni with Red Wine Ragù

Mini-Rigatoni with Red Wine Ragù
The Simpler The Better Sensational Italian Meals Copyright 2005

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 ¼ pounds ground chuck
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup milk
One 14 ½-ounce can vegetable broth
¾ cup red wine
1 ½ cups crushed tomatoes in heavy puree
1 pound dried mini-rigatoni or spaghetti I used penne

1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over high heat in a large saucepan. Add beef, season lightly with salt and cook away redness, stirring and breaking up meat with the spoon, about 3 minutes. Stir in three-fourths of the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 1 minute. Add milk, lower heat to medium and cook until mostly absorbed, about 3 minutes. Add broth, wine, and tomatoes. It will look very thin at this point.
2. Bring to a strong simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich, 35 to 45 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Return pot to low heat and add remaining 3 tablespoons of oil and remaining garlic. Cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in pasta and heat 1 minute more. Stir in 1 cup ragù and heat together 1 minute. Reheat remaining sauce, if necessary. Divide pasta among plates and top each with a ladleful of sauce.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This sauce had great flavor. It wasn't super-quick but it didn't take hours to cook either. This is great for when you have a bit of extra time to make a weekday dinner or you can make the sauce ahead of time. If you get the sauce started first, you can then make the pasta, salad and some garlic bread while it simmers down to a thick sauce. It starts out very, very liquidy so don't let that scare you. This might not be a 30-minute meal but you can have dinner on the table in about 45 minutes.

It really irks me when I can't find exactly the shape of pasta a recipe calls for (although it does say that you could use spaghetti here). I could have used 'small' rigatoni but since I couldn't find the mini rigatoni, I used penne so I could use Dreamfield pasta.

This week might have been the first time I stuck to my grocery list exactly (plus the three things my husband asked for as I was on my way out the door). My total was a little bit lower than usual but not much. I'll keep trying.

Blast From The Past: Spaghetti Alla Bolognese from May 2005. That's similar to this ragù but it's more work.

Question of the Day: How many different pasta shapes are in your pantry right now?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

You gotta have a gimmick
--Chipotle Pork Medallions

Chipotle Pork Medallions
The Spaghetti Sauce Gourmet Copyright 2006

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 ½ pounds)
1 tablespoon ground chipotle chile
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chicken broth
1 ½ cups refrigerated or jarred tomato sauce with garlic and onion

Slice the pork crosswise into ¼-inch thick medallions. Dust all over with the chipotle chile.

Heat the oil in a large over medium-heat. Add the pork (in batches, if necessary) and cook, turning once, until the pork is no longer pink, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pork to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.

Add the broth to the pan and boil, scraping the pan bottom. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the sauce and any pork juices from the platter. Simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over the pork.

This is one of those cookbooks with a gimmick. Every recipe uses some sort of jarred spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, pesto sauce, and cheese sauce. From scratch recipes are also given as alternative to the jarred sauces.

Even the cover is a gimmick - it was designed to look like a real jar of sauce (sort of) with a plastic area filled with a goo that looks like spaghetti sauce. Only trouble was, the goo leaked or dried up which is probably why I found this book in Ollie's Bargain Outlet.

I have to say, that for a book with a gimmick, there are some good looking recipes in this book. They're well presented with plenty of photos. Other shortcuts are offered but are easily bypassed if you desire (recipes call for prechopped onion, jarred garlic, etc).

This recipe appealed to me because I had a jar of ground chipotle chile that I was itching to use and most recipes call for canned chipotle. This was pretty good but the seasoning from the jarred sauce was a bit overpowering. This might have been better with a plain tomato sauce or seasoned tomato sauce (canned), not a jarred pasta sauce. I ended up adding quite a bit of the chipotle powder to increase the smokiness so it was quite hot yet strangely addictive. That's the draw of chipotle though, isn't it?

The sauce worked okay with the pork but I sort of felt like it wasn't the best match for the sauce. I might have preferred this with chicken.

Blast From The Past: Maple Walnut Cupcakes from September 2006. I meant to post those as the Blast From The Past on the first day of fall but I forgot.

Question of the Day: Do you like spicy hot foods?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Definitely a winner
--Baked Pork Chops

Baked Pork Chops
Our Favorite Meats Copyright MCMLXVI

6 pork chops
Fat I used oil
Salt and pepper
Garlic salt
2 c. milk I used 2% milk
Parsley I omitted this

Brown pork in hot fat; add salt and pepper. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt. Add milk until chops are barely covered. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve.

For some time, I've wanted to try pork cooked in milk. I've seen it done on Food TV I think (maybe Giada?) and I've come across many recipes but I never got around to it. I found this recipe when I was searching for a simple pork recipe to go along with a side dish recipe I was making.

Having thought about it for so long, I prepared myself to be disappointed (if I wait too long to try something, sometimes the build up is just too much). Let me tell you, I was NOT disappointed. These were so tender and delicious. They had that Sunday dinner taste but it was Monday. I used boneless loin chops which can dry out when cooked longer than a few minutes but these were as perfect as they could be for such lean meat. There's some fat around the loin but I don't think that pork has the fat it used to throughout the meat. That's why old recipes can be a risk - the recipes in this book sometimes rely on the fattiness of the meat in MCMLXVI that we don't see anymore.

I know the photograph isn't very attractive but I wanted you to see that the milk basically disappears.

Blast From The Past: Barbara’s Pork Chop Dinner from September 2005. This was one of the few times pork loin chops in the crock pot came out right. It might have been dumb luck.

Question of the Day: Did you have a special meal on Sundays when you were growing up? Do you have one now?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

September 2007 Cookbook Giveaway

I thought I should get this in before the month was over. I've been wanting to give this cookbook away for some time but when I went back to Ollie's there wasn't a copy left anywhere (and I looked and looked and looked). I finally got my hands on a copy of this somewhere else.

This is the ultimate brunch-breakfast-sweets-with-a-bit-of-savory-thrown-in-too cookbook. There are over 1500 recipes organized by state and by inn or B&B. Some are duplicates. The book isn't organized very well and the index stinks but the recipes are there. There are quiches, frittatas, french toast, pancakes, omelets, muffins, biscuits, bread puddings, stratas, scones and so much more. There are no photographs but you won't miss them.

So far I've made from this book:
Cinnamon-Apple Cake
Pineapple Oatmeal Muffins
Strawberry (Peach) Streusel Bars

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.

******meddlingkidd is the winner!***********

Just okay
--Chicken a la Pineapple

Chicken a la Pineapple
Church Potluck Carry-Ins and Casseroles Copyright 2006

½ cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons oil
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon garlic powder
3 pounds boneless chicken

1. Combine ingredients, blending well.
2. Place chicken in greased 9x13-inch baking dish.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Serves 8 to 10

I made half this recipe. I wasn't prepared and I didn't marinate this ahead of time but I let it sit for about 15 minutes before baking. It was still pretty good, although nothing all that special. I can think of better things to do with chicken.

I think this will be a nice go-to book when I'm looking for a homey casserole. It's got all the classics and few fresh (to me) recipes too.

Sorry, I don't have much to say. I had a busy evening. I cooked two new recipes but it's difficult to find the time to document them. I'm trying to catch up while watching The War on PBS but it's hard to do two things at once and there are no commercial breaks.

Blast From The Past: Cheese-Stuffed Jalapeños from April 2007. Someone asked where they could find this recipe. There it is! It's a good one.

Question of the Day: Are you watching The War?

Monday, September 24, 2007

A bit of a healthier banana bread recipe
--Banana Bran Bread

Banana Bran Bread
Best Recipes From The Backs of Boxes, Bottles, Cans and Jars Copyright 1979, 1981, 1982

1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup honey
¾ cup Elam’s Bran
1 cup ripe banana pulp
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Thoroughly blend the first five ingredients in a bowl. Sift together and add flour, baking powder and salt. Pour into a greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½ -inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour, until done. Cool on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf.

I'd like to have something more exciting than this to show you on a Monday but I didn't get any cooking done this weekend. I wanted to cook but sometimes other chores have to come first. This bread was from last weekend when I had a few bananas to use up. I always have plenty of honey (I can't resist the big bottle from Costco) and wheat bran is a staple here too.

The honey gave this a bit of a different taste than something sweetened with sugar. At first I wasn't used to it but it grew on me. I froze this right away, in slices, since I was afraid it might dry out. I'm not sure if a baked good with bran is actually any drier than usual but that's my perception, right or wrong.

This cookbook has been around for a long time. I think an old roommate might have owned it. It's very familiar but it wasn't one that my mother had (she has a 'brand name' cookbook but not this one). I don't know why it's taken me so long to buy this. I think I'll be trying quite a few recipes from this book.

Blast From The Past: Sour Cream Corn Bread from January 2007. Yikes! I just pulled out the rest of this from the freezer to use in a recipe tomorrow. That's probably a bit longer than recommended to keep a baked good frozen but it looked fine.

Question of the Day: Do you freeze baked goods? How long do you feel a baked good lasts in the freezer?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Couldn't be simpler
--Crisp Crusted Flounder

Crisp Crusted Flounder
The Simpler The Better Sensational Italian Meals Copyright 2005

4 flounder fillets, about 5 ounces each
½ cup plain, dried bread crumbs
1 large garlic clove, crushed through a press
½ teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in top third. Lightly oil a 9x13-inch glass or metal baking dish. Season fillets with salt and pepper to taste. Fold each fillet in half crosswise so it forms a triangle of double thickness. Place in one layer in prepared dish.
2. Mix bread crumbs, garlic, and oregano in small bowl. Mix in enough olive oil to make a paste, about 1 ½ tablespoons. Spread a thin layer of the crumb mixture over the top of each fillet. Drizzle with remaining olive oil.
3. Bake until topping is lightly browned and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve right away and lemon wedges on the side.

Makes 4 servings.

Flounder is probably the easiest thing I make. I can take it out in the morning which is great. Since meat is usually frozen around here, most recipes need a bit of planning but not something like this. That's why we've been eating fish on Mondays quite a bit. Monday comes along and I realize I haven't defrosted anything else. My husband hasn't complained about the flounder at all, in fact he scarfs it down. I'm almost afraid to try another type of fish now.

My freezer is packed to the gills. I even have a couple of things that need to go in there but there isn't room (meat that needs to be frozen). I've been finding too many good deals on meat and other frozen things. I told my husband we would buy a chest freezer if he gets a deer this year. I'm thinking we might get one anyway.

Blast From The Past: San Francisco Sole (Flounder) from last month. I was going to say that was my favorite flounder recipe so far but they've all been so good.

Question of the Day: Do you have a second freezer?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I had to make some adjustments
--Wayne’s Beef Macaroni and Cheese

Wayne’s Beef Macaroni and Cheese
I Can Cook, You Can Cook! Copyright 2003

2 lbs of lean pound beef I used 1 pound
2 cups of white onions, chopped I used 1 medium sweet onion
2 cups of green peppers, chopped I used 2 green peppers
1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp of garlic powder, or fresh, chopped I used a couple of cloves of fresh
1 16-oz box of elbow macaroni I used about 1 1/2 cups (cooked) less than a full box of Dreamfield macaroni
2-3 cups of grated cheddar cheese I used a block of Cabot's 50% Light Sharp Cheddar
1 Tbsp of basil I used 1/2 T
1 Tbsp of cumin I omitted this
1 Tbsp of oregano I used 1/2 T
Olive oil as needed
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Boil macaroni noodles, drain and set aside.
2. In a pan, sauté green peppers, onions and garlic in olive oil until soft.
3. Add ground beef and sauté until brown. Drain excess fat.
4. Add crushed tomatoes, basil, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.
5. In a large bowl, combine macaroni and beef mixture. I added some cheese to this and the rest I put on top.
6. Place mixture in a 9x13 greased baking dish.
7. Top with grated cheese and bake for 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6. (!!)

This wasn't anything special but it was delicious. The amounts seemed off though. A pasta recipe with 2 pounds of beef, 4 cups of peppers and onions, and a pound of pasta will feed more than 4 to 6 people. I halved the meat and used a little more than half the onions and peppers. I didn't want to halve the pasta amount because I didn't know how hungry my husband was going to be. I wasn't sure if I was going to halve the tomatoes (since I used almost all of the pasta) so I started with half the spices and forgot to add the other half when I ended up using all of the tomatoes. I didn't miss the extra spices. The pepper and onions provided a lot of flavor.

The amount I ended up with fed one 3 1/2 year old (who really liked it but managed to drop his first serving on the floor), me and one hungry grown man, with a man-sized portion for the freezer and a small lunch-sized portion for me. So I am sure that the original portions could feed more than 4 to 6 (and I don't think they would fit in a 9x13-inch pan either).

The author of this book is Wayne Brokke. I've never heard of him but I think if you've lived in the Baltimore area, you probably have since the book jacket says that he owns restaurants, sells his own brand of food products and does segments on local news shows in that area. I'm only in the next state but he hasn't reached this market.

The recipes aren't too complicated or weird but I see a few twists in this cookbook. What sold me was the price - $2.99! That's cheap even for Ollie's. There are no photographs except for the front cover.

Blast From The Past: Sweet-and-Spicy Chicken Strips from March 2007. I really need to put this on the menu again soon. Maybe after my next Costco run. I'm running low on boneless chicken.

Question of the Day: Does anyone remember Chef Tell ("I wish we had smellevision")?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

These could be dangerous
--Banana Malted Frosted

Banana Malted Frosted
Waring Cook Book For The 8 Push Button Blender Copyright 1968

1 cup milk
1 ripe banana, quartered
1 tablespoon malted milk powder
1 large scoop vanilla ice cream

1. Into container put milk, banana and malted milk powder.
2. Cover.
3. Blend 10 seconds on Button 6 (PUREE).
4. Add ice cream.
5. Cover.
6. Blend 10 seconds longer on Button 2 (WHIP). If ice cream is very hard, blend 5 seconds longer.
7. Pour into large glass.

(I used my stick blender.)

It really irks me when I make something really delicious and I can't capture the deliciousness in a photograph. I have to admit that I don't always try hard enough to get the best picture. It's just hard not to be in a rush sometimes.

This just hit the spot for me. I love banana ice cream but bananas with ice cream is the next best thing. Does anyone remember that ridiculous 3-day diet that went around years ago? The best part was that you got to eat bananas and ice cream one night. Well, that was the only good thing about it.

I was so intent on making this that I went to three stores to get malted milk powder. My regular store only carries the chocolate flavor which would be good but it wasn't what I wanted. I made this on the thin side - add more ice cream if you like a thick shake. This was good with low-fat milk and light ice cream.

Sometimes I'm just posting recipes as I'm making them but I'm developing quite a queue of recipes. It's got to be the cooler weather causing me to hit the cookbooks hard although it's going to warm up again this weekend so maybe I'll take a breather.

Blast From The Past: Blueberry & Buttermilk Falls Drink from January 2006, another great smoothie.

Question of the Day: Do you like thick shakes or thin shakes?

Monday, September 17, 2007

My new favorite cauliflower recipe
--Tossed Cauliflower Salad

Tossed Cauliflower Salad
The Simpler The Better Sensational Italian Meals Copyright 2005

1 small head cauliflower
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil I used dried basil. The author also suggest dried mint or dried oregano

1. Bring a large saucepan of salted boiling water to a boil over high heat. Trim core from cauliflower. Cut enough into 1 to 1 ½ -inch florets to measure 6 cups.
2. Cook cauliflower at a medium boil until nicely tender but not falling apart, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain well. Place in large bowl and while still warm, toss gently first with vinegar, then cream, using a rubber spatula. Toss with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.
3. Serve warm or at room temperature sprinkled with basil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Recipes don't have to be complicated. That's the premise of this book, which I believe is part of a series. The recipes are simple but you don't feel like anything is missing. I can't imagine what would make this recipe any better. It wasn't a 'wow' kind of recipe but it is something I would make again. It's simple, it's delicious and even with the cream and oil, I still think this comes out on the healthy side. This is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF/5-A Day Tuesday.

I forgot all about the cookbook giveaway! I'll get to that tomorrow. I wasn't sure if I was going to continue it for another year but I think I will for the time being. I wish I could afford to give the best of the best away every month but I have to find the bargains. That can be a challenge.

Blast From The Past: Washington State Granny Smith Apple Pie from almost exactly one year ago. Pretty soon apples will be all that I see at the farmer's market. (Have I mentioned that pie lately? I feel like I have. I think I'm starting to repeat myself quite a bit.)

Question of the Day: Which vegetable do you eat most often?

I'll keep trying
--Swedish Potato Cakes

Swedish Potato Cakes
The New York Times Menu Cookbook Copyright 1966

2 cups hot seasoned mashed potatoes
1 egg
1 tablespoon finely minced onions
1 tablespoon finely minced dill or parsley I used parsley
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
¼ cup butter

1. Mix the potatoes and egg and beat thoroughly until mixture is fluffy. Blend in the onion, dill and nutmeg and shape into six flat cakes.
2. Heat the butter in a large skillet and brown the cakes until crisp and brown on both sides.

When I was young the mom of my best friend made great potato cakes out of leftover mashed potatoes. Over the years, I've tried replicating her potato cakes but I always end up with a big pile of mush. Now that I'm a much more experienced cook, I thought I would take a stab at these again. Well, once again I got a big pile of mush. A very tasty pile of mush yet mush still the same. My husband usually passes on potatoes (which is why I had leftover mashed potatoes in the first place) but he ate these so I wouldn't call these a failure. An aesthetic failure but not a taste failure. I think I'm just lacking the potato cake gene.

I used the nutmeg here and it worked. I'm always afraid it's going to be overpowering but this small amount enhanced the recipe without taking over. I think my mistake was that my potatoes weren't hot - I thought that would cook the egg immediately but maybe that's what should have happened.

I think there's a way to make the weekend seem longer by coming up with the perfect ratio of busyness versus lazyness. I just wish I knew what that perfect ratio was. I didn't even come close this weekend - I stayed too busy. I still didn't get nearly enough done which is probably why it seems like it went so fast. I managed to squeeze in more cooking than I've been doing on the weekends lately. I've purchased many, many (many!) good cookbooks lately. That combined with the cooler weather just seemed to light a fire under me.

Blast From The Past: Venison Paprika from February 2006. Hunting season starts soon!

Question of the Day: Is there anything that you just can't seem to make right, even though you've tried several times?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Something different
--Lois’s Best Dressing

Lois’s Best Dressing
Church Potluck Carry-Ins and Casseroles Copyright 2006

1 ½ cups light brown sugar
½ teaspoon paprika
½ cup ketchup
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
½ cup vinegar
½ teaspoon celery seed
½ teaspoon garlic

1. Mix sugar, paprika, ketchup, salt and onion powder.
2. Add oil and vinegar alternately.
3. Add celery seed and garlic.
4. Keep refrigerated.

Makes 1 quart.

I've been winging basically the same salad dressing for quite a while (vinegar, oil, honey, some spices) so I thought I would try something a little different. Just different than what we've been eating lately - I've made similar dressings before. This one was much sweeter than any other 'red' dressing I've made.

I made a half batch of this and everyone liked it (all three of us). It reminded me of bottled Russian dressing that was one of my favorites growing up. Salad dressings confuse me - the names are all over the place. French dressing always meant an orangish-creamy dressing to me but from my cookbooks I can see that it often means a vinegar and oil dressing. A reddish dressing could be called French also, Russian or Catalina (I think). Whatever you call it, this was good, if you like a sweet dressing. This tasted so much better than the jarred version which is loaded with corn syrup, preservatives and thickeners.

It's time for another trip to auction this week. My cookbook guy had disappeared. I haven't seen him in two weeks. His stand looks abandoned. The guy next to him has taken over one of his tables. If I can't get cookbooks there anymore, I think I might call it a season soon and try the other farmer's market that's closer. I don't want to be driving back on those country roads in the dark.

Blast From The Past: Honey French Dressing from April 2006. This is basically the dressing I've been making lately. It's great but I wanted a change.

Question of the Day: What would you call this dressing?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A good slow cooker recipe
--Ranch House Chicken Fried Steak

Ranch House Chicken Fried Steak
175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics Copyright 2006

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 lbs round steak
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup chicken stock
1 tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ cup whipping cream
1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, finely chopped I used 1
Hot fluffy mashed potatoes

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add steak, in pieces, if necessary, and brown on both sides. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions to skillet and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, salt and peppercorns and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Sprinkle flour over mixture and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add stock and cook, stirring, until thickened. (Sauce will be very thick.)
3. Spoon sauce over meat in slow cooker, cover and cook on LOW for 8 hours or HIGH for 4 hours, until meat is tender.
4. In a small bowl, combine paprika and cayenne. Gradually add cream, mixing until blended. Add to stoneware along with jalapeño pepper. Cover and cook on HIGH for 15 minutes, until flavors meld. Serve with hot, fluffy mashed potatoes.

Serves 6.

Okay, this isn't really 'chicken fried' if you ask me but it was still darn good. It had a little kick from the jalapeño and cayenne. I knew this recipe was going to turn out good when I scraped the thick 'sauce' over the meat. Slow cooked meat always gives off lots of liquid so I knew the gravy would end up perfect and it did. I did the first three steps the night before then I reheated the meat and gravy slowly and finished it off.

I've purchased or borrowed from the library quite a few slow cooker cookbooks - Fix It and Forget It, Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes Volume 1 & 2, The Complete Slow Cooker Coobook, Southern Living Slow-Cooker Cookbook, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook and others. By far my favorite slow cooker cookbooks have been those authored by Judith Finlayson. 175 Essential Slow Cooker Recipes, 150 Best Slow Cooker Recipes, Delicious and Dependable Slow Cooker Recipes are the three of her's that I own so far. She has a few more too.

Her books outshine the other slow cooker cookbooks as far as the quality of recipes. Her books also have beautiful photographs. I don't think most slow cooker cookbooks want you to see what the recipes turn out looking like but this author has no need to fear.

Blast From The Past:Mom’s Smothered Pork Chops from November 2006. Another good slow cooker recipe from Judith Finlayson.

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite slow cooker recipe?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A new use for hot dogs
--Hawaiian Franks

Hawaiian Franks
Make and Take Cookbook Copyright 1985

1½ cups long grain rice
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules I used sodium-free so I added a bit of salt

1 pound frankfurters, quartered lengthwise and cut into thirds
1 tablespoon butter or margarine

1 large green pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced

½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 can (8 oz.) pineapple tidbits in its own juice, drained and juice reserved
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce I use low-sodium
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules I used sodium-free
1 jar (2 oz.) slice pimiento, drained

Prepare rice according to package directions, omitting salt and adding bouillon granules to the water. Place cooked rice in a 2 ½-quart baking dish; set aside.

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat, sauté frankfurters in butter or margarine for 7 to 10 minutes or until browned. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

Add green pepper, onion and garlic to frankfurters. Sauté for 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp tender; ser aside.

In a medium bowl, mix sugar and cornstarch. Add water to reserved pineapple juice to make 1½ cups liquid. Stir pineapple liquid, vinegar, soy sauce and bouillon granules into cornstarch mixture until smooth. Stir into frankfurter-vegetable mixture along with pineapple and pimiento. Stirring over medium heat, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute or until thickened. Pour over rice. If making ahead, cover and refrigerate up to 3 hours before baking.

Bake, covered, in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. I didn't bake it since we were eating it right away.

Makes 8 1-cup servings.

I still had hot dogs in the freezer from our cookout last month. I'm always attracted to recipes that use hot dogs but I rarely find one that I think makes better use of a hot dog than putting one on a bun. This is one of those rare ones.

I'm embarassed to admit this but do you see that dish of food? That's not a 9x13-inch dish, that's even larger, 11 x 15-inch I believe. All that was left in there after dinner was a bit of rice, a few slices of pimiento and a tidbit. My husband is almost always gracious enough to leave me at least a lunch's worth of leftovers but not this time.

If hot dogs aren't your thing, you could use chicken, pork, shrimp or even small meatballs in this recipe. I would make this again either with the franks or one of these variations. I liked the sauce a lot. It wasn't too sweet or too tart for my taste.

Everything's going great so far this week. I really think getting more sleep is helping.

Blast From The Past: A&W Coney Island Chili Dog Sauce from March 2006. I've made that several times over the years.

Question of the Day: Did you watch Biggest Loser last night? Am I the only one who gets embarassed seeing the men take off their shirts when their boobs are bigger than mine?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuna casserole for grown-ups
--Orecchiette with Tuna, Lemon and Caper Sauce

Orecchiette with Tuna, Lemon and Caper Sauce
The Essential Pasta Cookbook Copyright 1998

1 lb orecchiette
1 oz butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 onion, finely chopped
14 oz can tuna in brine, drained I used 3 6-oz cans
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained I love capers so I probably added a bit more
¼ teaspoon cayenne, optional I left this out

1. Cook the orecchiette in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and return to pan.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter in a pan and cook the garlic and onion for 1-2 minutes. Add the tuna, lemon juice, cream, half the parsley and the capers. Season with pepper and cayenne, if using. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
3. Add the tuna sauce to the pasta and toss until thoroughly combined. Serve the pasta sprinkled with the remaining chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 4

I had a lovely bag of orecchiette in my cupboard so I immediately grabbed this cookbook, which probably uses the greatest variety of pasta shapes of any of my cookbooks. As soon as I saw this recipe I knew I would be making it. Yes, the cup of cream made me hesitate but I got over it. You might be able to get away with half-and-half or light cream but I really don't think fat-free half-and-half would work. There's only a tablespoon of butter (which you could probably substitute light butter without losing anything) and not really much other fat in this recipe.

I couldn't find a 14-oz can of tuna so I used 3 6-oz cans. Two 6-oz cans would have been sufficient (but the extra can didn't hurt). I used garden-variety chunk light tuna packed in water. You could use the fancier tuna but one reason I'm trying to include a meatless dish in our menu each week is to save a little money.

This went over really well. My husband probably thought it was tuna casserole. He scarfed it down. I had trouble resisting an extra portion myself. I would definitely make this again.

Blast From The Past: Tangy Tuna Melts from April 2007. Wow! I think that's the only other tuna recipe I've made in the past two years.

Question of the Day: Do you like tuna casserole?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Getting my third year off to a good start
--Pineapple Oatmeal Muffins

Pineapple Oatmeal Muffins
Best Recipes From American Country Inns and Bed & Breakfasts Copyright 2004

2 eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup orange juice
1 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple with juice
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine eggs, oil, and juices in large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients and gently fold together with egg mixture until just mixed. Spoon into greased pan. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Yields: 10 muffins

I haven't made many muffins lately. For a while there I was making them practically every week. I was so out of practice that I baked these at the wrong temperature. I set the oven to 350 degrees, meaning to check the recipe and adjust it but I forgot about it. So these were a bit flatter than they should have been but still delicious. They were very simple but the pineapple and orange juice provided just the right amount of flavor. These were too good - I found it hard to stop at just one muffin.

So this is my third year of blogging and I'm actually still excited about blogging. The only part that gets old is typing up the recipes!

Sorry this is a bit short today but my Monday has not gotten off to a good start (a 45-minute drive took over 3 hours!)

Blast From The Past: Pumpkin Muffins from October 2006. My thoughts are turning to fall flavors but summer weather is still full force here.

Question of the Day: What's the worst traffic jam you were ever stuck in?

Friday, September 07, 2007

Forget the recipe - it's my blogiversary!
--Chicken Skewers with Spicy Island Marinade

Chicken Skewers with Spicy Island Marinade
All You Can Eat! All Occasion Entertaining Copyright 2006

For the marinade:
4 scallions
2 garlic cloves
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
1 fresh jalapeño pepper
1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Peel the scallions and garlic. Remove the seeds and stem from the jalapeño pepper. Trim the stems from the mushrooms and clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth.
2. Combine all the marinade ingredients in a food processor and mix until finely chopped.
3. Slice the chicken into 8 equal pieces. Place the chicken in a plastic storage bag with a leak-proof seal. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Refrigerate at least 3 hours.
4. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Thread a rolled-up strip of chicken on a skewer. Add a mushroom and another strip of chicken. Repeat with the remaining skewers.
5. Prepare the charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to high heat. Lightly oil the grill rack. Grill the skewers on each side about 5 minutes or until done. Turn the skewers several times to ensure that all sides cook evenly.

I made this a while ago so I can't remember if I made any changes to the recipe. I know it was good but nothing special. Probably because it was so healthy! There's no oil or any type of sugar in the marinade.

So today's recipe isn't very special but we still have something to celebrate. Tomorrow is my two year blogiversary! Two years! I think the only other thing I've every kept up for two years is breathing. I've made 518 recipes from 190 cookbooks.

I think blogging would be a hard habit to break at this point. I imagine I'll have to move onto something else at some point but that will be a sad day for me.

No Blast From the Past today. Poke around in the archives for a while if you feel like reminiscing.

Question of the Day: How long ago did you first visit my blog?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Still on the fence when it comes to cumin
--Pork with Paprika and Garlic

Pork with Paprika and Garlic
Williams-Sonoma Savoring Meat and Poultry Copyright 2006

1 boneless pork loin, 2-3 lb or 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves I used dried (about 1 teaspoon)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 teaspoon salt, plus salt to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, plus pepper to taste
½ cup dry sherry or dry white wine

1. Trim off any excess fat from the pork and place in a shallow nonaluminum container.
2. In small frying pan over low heat, combine the olive oil, garlic and oregano and heat for 2 minutes to release their aromas. Whisk in the paprika, cumin, thyme, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and the wine and cook for 1 minute over low heat. Remove from heat and set aside to cool to room temperature. When fully cooled, pour the marinade over the meat and rub it in well. Cover and refrigerate for at least overnight or for as long as 2-3 days.
3. Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat the broiler.
4. Lift the pork from the marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle the pork lightly with salt and pepper. Place on the grill rack or on a broiler pan slipped under the broiler and grill or broil, turning as needed to brown well on all sides, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat reads 147 degrees F, about 10 minutes for the tenderloin and 20 minutes for the loin. Alternatively test the pork by cutting into it with a sharp knife; the meat should be slightly pink at the center.
5. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes. Slice and then arrange the slices on a warmed platter. Serve at once.

Although the day might come when I abandon this blog, I don't think I'll be abandoning meal planning anytime soon. I've really been flying by the seat of my pants this week and I'm not enjoying it. This is the only recipe that I made that I planned to make. Everything else that was planned got pushed aside. I've been scrambling.

Even this planned recipe gave me grief. I usually marinate meat in the morning but about an hour before bedtime I looked at the recipe and saw that not only did it need to marinate longer, the marinade needed to cook and cool first. Oy! I used the rest of the jarred garlic I had on hand to make this since I was in a pinch, knowing it wouldn't be as good. Then I stopped when I noticed that tablespoon of cumin. Cumin is a spice that makes me hesitate outside of chili or Mexican food. I forged ahead with some trepidation.

After all was said and done, this was good, although not the best pork tenderloin recipe I've tried (there have been some really good ones). I'm not sure how I felt about the cumin. It's more the smell that bothers me than the taste. I think I may have enjoyed it more without the cumin only because I wouldn't have been distracted by it.

This cookbook is somewhat on the fancy side but it was cheap (from Ollie's Bargain Outlet), has great photographs, and there are definitely a few recipes I want to try in it.

Blast From The Past: Dari’s Picante Chicken from November 2006. That recipe is from the Biggest Loser Cookbook. The new season of Biggest Loser starts next week!

Question of the Day: Are there any spices that you avoid?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Another Labor Day dessert
--Cherry Pudding Cake

Cherry Pudding Cake
Taste of Home Family Collection Cookbook Copyright 2006

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cans (14 ½ ounces each) water-packed pitted tart red cherries, well drained
2 to 3 drops red food coloring, optional I didn't use this
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Whipped cream or ice cream, optional

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 cup of sugar, baking powder, milk and oil; pour into greased shallow 3-qt. baking dish. In a bowl, combine cherries, food coloring if desired, extract and remaining sugar; spoon over batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake portion comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Yield: 10-12 servings

I've seen this recipe all over the place, mostly in church cookbooks and Amish cookbooks. It's essentially a cobbler, although not quite a juicy as most cobblers. The slightly syrupy cherries end up on the bottom and a simple but delicious cake floats to the top.

I didn't get to fully appreciate this since my appetite still had not returned when I served this and I opted to leave the leftovers behind. I did taste it with some ice cream and there certainly wasn't anything bad about it, it was very good, but was it worth the cost? Those can of cherries were about $2.75 each. I think you could get the same effect with a less expensive dessert. I wasn't disappointed in this at all, it just wasn't a stand-out and like I said, I don't think it was worth the expense of the cherries. Oh, and right when I served it I remembered that my husband doesn't care for cherries. Oops! He just had ice cream.

Blast From The Past: Cherry Cherry Cookies from December 2005. I can't remember if I made these without the nuts last Christmas, now that we're nut-free, or if I skipped them. These were one of my favorite Christmas cookies but I think it was the nuts that really helped make them so good.

Question of the Day: Are there any fruits that you don't like?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Good in Pennsylvania too
--Colorado Peach Cobbler

Colorado Peach Cobbler
Taste of Home Family Collection Cookbook Copyright 2006

1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg I omitted this
4 cups sliced peeled fresh peaches

1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold butter
1 egg, beaten
Ice cream, optional

In a bowl, combine sugar, flour and nutmeg. Add peaches; stir to coat. Pour into a greased 11-in. x 7-in x 2-in baking pan. For topping, combine sugar, flour, baking powder and salt; cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in egg. Spoon over peaches.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden. Serve hot or cold with ice cream if desired.

Yield 8-10 servings

I had an attack of the queasies this weekend and my appetite hasn't quite returned yet. I know I really liked this cobbler even if I can't quite conjure up that fondness right at this moment. It was very juicy (perfect for serving with ice cream) and I loved the crispy topping. The peaches weren't as good this week so I was worried but they did all right in this. The syrup was surprisingly flavorful. I had a large selection of cobbler recipes to choose from and I think I picked a winner.

I'm sure my appetite will return soon. It never leaves for very long. It's not really a bad thing. I've been eating too much and not enjoying food as much lately. Everything I think is related to not getting enough sleep so I'm getting strict about an earlier bedtime.

Blast From The Past: Beef and Tortilla Casserole (Chilaquiles) from February 2007. That's what I wish I was having for dinner tonight but I'm not. Boo hoo.

Question of the Day: Do you prefer cobbler plain, with ice cream or with whipped cream or Cool Whip?