Thursday, July 31, 2008

Something different
--Chilled Rice Salad

Chilled Rice Salad
The Red Hat Society Cookbook Copyright 2006

3 ½ cups cooked white rice
1/3 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup diced green onions
1/3 cup diced cucumber
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the rice, tomatoes, green onions, and cucumber in a medium serving bowl. Blend the oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well and pour the dressing over the rice mixture. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Stir before serving.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This seemed like a simple, easy and inexpensive recipe, although the price of rice sure has skyrocketed. I doubled the dressing which was fine when I first served it but for leftovers, it was kind of bland and I added some bottled creamy Caesar dressing and I thought that was even better.

Tonight is grocery night and I haven't even started my list yet. It's time to concentrate on economizing rather than interesting recipes, unfortunately.

Question of the Day: Have you ever eaten a rice salad? I'm can't believe that this is my first but at the moment I can't think of any others that I've eaten.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Might be eating this every night
--Hamburger Casserole

Hamburger Casserole
Home Cooking 2005 Recipe Annual Copyright 2005

1 pound ground beef
½ cup chopped onion
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
1 (10 ¾-ounce) can tomato soup I used the lower-sodium version
1 (15-ounce) can cut green beans, drained
1 1/3 cups instant potato flakes
1 egg beaten
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 1 ½-quart casserole dish.

Brown ground beef with onion; drain. Season with salt and pepper; stir in tomato soup and green beans. Place in prepared dish.

Prepare instant potatoes as package directs, omitting milk and adding egg. Spoon potato mounds over casserole. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6. (6 would be a stretch)

I might have to start making this recipe quite often. Not that it was that good (it was good, not spectacular), but because it's a bargain and everyday I get hit with another bill related to Daniel's birth. The hospital bills are my favorite because they're for large amounts of money and they send you absolutely zero information besides the balance. I guess there aren't enough trees in the forest for them to itemize everything.

This wasn't bad. My son really likes canned green beans and he scarfed this down. My husband will sometimes pass on vegetables unless they're mixed right into the main course so this worked out well for him too. I just needed to pick up the soup and green beans to make this and it didn't take much time to make so it gets plenty of extra points for being cheap and easy.

Question of the Day: Do you like canned vegetables? I was raised on them so I actually like most of them - mushrooms, corn, green beans, peas, carrots, beets and even potatoes. One canned vegetable I don't care for is asparagus.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Not a bad start
--Blueberry Pie

Blueberry Pie
The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook Copyright 1999

5 cups fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Pastry for double crust 9-inch pie
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon sugar

Sprinkle berries with lemon juice; set aside.

Roll half the pastry to 1/8-inch thick on a floured surface. Place in a 9-inch pie plate.

Combine 1 cup sugar and next three ingredients; add to berries, stirring well. Pour into pastry shell and dot with butter.

Roll remaining pastry to 1/8-inch thickness. Place over filling; seal and crimp edges. Cut slits in top to allow steam to escape. Brush top of pastry with beaten egg and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 35 minutes or until golden. Cover edges with aluminum foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

Extra-Flaky Pie Pastry (for a double crust)
Pie Copyright 2004
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 –inch pieces
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening, cut into pieces
½ cup cold water

Put the flours, sugar and salt in the food processor. Pulse several times to mix. Scatter the butter over the dry ingredients and pulse 5 or 6 times to cut it in. Fluff the mixture with a fork, lifting it up from the bottom of the bowl. Scatter the shortening over the flour and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture again. Drizzle half the water over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 6 times. Fluff the mixture and sprinkle on the remaining water. Pulse 5 or 6 more times, until the dough starts to form clumps. When it reaches this point, do not continue to process. Empty the crumbs into a large bowl.

Using your hands, pack the dough as you would a snowball. Divide the dough in half, making one half – your bottom crust – a little larger than the other. Knead each piece 2 or 3 times. Put each in the center of a piece of plastic wrap and flatten it into a disk about ¾-inch thick. Wrap the plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, about an hour or overnight.

I've made a lot of pies but I haven't tackled making my own pie crust. The red box is just fine for most things but it's just not the same as a flaky homemade crust. I've had blueberry pie on my mind for a few weeks now and I finally made one.

The result - part success, part disappointment. The good news is that the crust was the success. It was so light and flaky - even the thick edges. It wasn't pretty as I didn't give it enough time to chill and it fell apart on me. I decided to sacrifice looks for texture. I didn't want to overwork it so I just slapped it together.

The bottom crust was a bit underdone. I had the pie plate on a cookie sheet but next time I'd put the sheet on the lower rack. There weren't any drips but there could be next time.

The filling was a huge disappointment but I saw it coming. I had beautiful sweet berries - I knew an entire cup of sugar was way too much but I didn't have the time or energy to search out a different recipe last night so I decided to take a chance with this one and maybe I'd be wrong but I wasn't. Not only was the filling too sweet - it was a liquidly mess, even this morning after setting all night.

Oh well, I was more concerned about the crust and I was just happy about that. This is the first time I used a food processor to make pie crust and that definitely made the difference since I tend to overwork the fat when I use my hands. The cookbook I got the pastry recipe from also gives directions to do it by hand or by electric mixer.

I'll keep working on the filling but I'll use this crust recipe again.

Question of the Day: When did you last eat a slice of pie? What kind of pie was it?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Back to Auction - July 25, 2008

This was my first trip back to auction since the baby was born, and since my cookbook guy left me. I picked up a cauliflower ($2.50), 3 green peppers ($1), blueberries ($6 for local homegrown - there were cheaper options but these looked the best), 2 red peppers and a cucumber ($1.25 for both of those but I was overcharged - should have been 83 cents). I needed a new peppermill so I bought a peppermill, salt shaker set for $14. I have no idea if that's a good price but there's a nice kitchenware stand at the auction and I like supporting it. I saw similar sets on for $19.95 and $29.95 so I'm happy with that price.

I stopped by someone selling 'junk' and saw a collection of McCall's softcover cookbooks (a partial collection, 11 out of 18 from the set). I walked away since I have other McCall books and I didn't see a price - basically I just wasn't in the mood to cookbook shop since it was hot and I had both boys with me. Well, the seller told me to just take them off of his hands and he tossed them into my stroller! I was caught off guard. I wanted to buy something from him but he didn't have anything I wanted. Then later I saw that he only wanted a buck for all 11 books (10 cookbooks and an index). Geez, I would have paid $1!

Not shown is the small root beer snow cone ($1) and pack of cotton-candy flavored bubble gum (55 cents) that I bought my son.

Total: $26.30.

My first cure
--Lightly Cured Pork Loin

Lightly Cured Pork Loin
Weber’s Real Grilling Copyright 2005
Salt Cure:
3 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons prepared chili powder
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 boneless pork loin roast, about 1 ½ pounds, trimmed of excess fat

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard I used Jack Daniels Southwestern mustard
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. To make the salt cure: In a small bowl, mix the salt cure ingredients and rub it all over the roast. Cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. To make the glaze: In a small saucepan, stir the glaze ingredients. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook until the marmalade melts.
3. Rinse the roast under cold water, washing away all the salt and spices, and pat dry with paper towels. Allow to stand at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes before grilling. Brush the glaze all over the roast. Grill over Direct Medium heat until evenly caramelized on all sides, barely pink in the center, and to an internal temperature of 155 degrees F, 40 to 45 minutes, turning every 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before cutting into ½-inch slices. Serve warm.

Serves 4 to 6.

I really wasn't expecting much from this recipe. How much would that short cure do? Well, it turns out quite a bit. I thought this roast was great. It was salty, but not too salty. I did leave it in the cure closer to 2 hours since I was going to try to take a nap before dinner so I decided to put the salt cure on it beforehand. That might have made it a tad bit saltier than if it had spent less than an hour in the cure.

The meat was nice and juicy too. I was out of Dijon mustard so I used a Southwestern mustard that I bought on a whim some time ago. The glaze adds flavor but it's not overpowering so the different mustard didn't make much of difference.

One nice thing about this maternity leave, I thought, was that I could finally make recipes that require a bit more prep time than I have on a work day. What the hell was I smoking? I want fast and easy recipes more than ever right now.

Question of the Day: Have you ever cured meat?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bargain recipe
--Spaghetti with Bacon, Onion, and Red Pepper

Spaghetti with Bacon, Onion, and Red Pepper
365 Ways to Cook Pasta Copyright 1988

4 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, quartered and cut into thin lengthwise slices
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 jar (7 ounces) roasted peppers, rinsed, drained and cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons pitted and coarsely chopped imported black olives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, or other herbs to taste (optional)
1 pound spaghetti I used Smart Taste which comes in a 14.5 ounce box and I held back some to serve to my son with sauce - it was still plenty
Coarsely ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook bacon in a medium skillet over low heat until lightly browned; drain off most of the fat. Add olive oil. Sauté onion over low heat until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add the red peppers, olives and parsley or herbs, if using. Stir over medium heat 2 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente, or firm to the bite, about 6 minutes. Drain. Toss with the red pepper mixture. Sprinkle with black pepper. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

I've been trying to work with what I have in the freezer. I had some bacon I picked up on clearance but it's hard to find relatively healthy recipes that use bacon but this one fit the bill. It doesn't use much bacon, I used Smart Taste pasta and it doesn't call for any cream or eggs. I wasn't sure how my husband would feel about it but he didn't leave me any leftovers .

This is a bargain, especially if you use regular pasta (the Smart Taste is a bit more expensive). It wasn't spectacular but like I said, there weren't any leftovers. I used Kalamata olives because that's what I have but I would have preferred a different olive. We don't have olive bars in our local grocery stores so my options are limited. Even the jarred olive selection is limited - green, black and Kalamata are all that I can get locally. Although I haven't checked out Wal-Mart's selection. Wal-Mart has been a surprisingly good source of rare (to this area) groceries.

Question of the Day: What is one of your favorite bargain recipes? I may have asked that before, but refresh my memory.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Just okay
--Raspberry Peach Muffins

Raspberry Peach Muffins
Williams-Sonoma Outdoor Living Cookbook Copyright 2002

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk I 'soured' some milk
2 eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup raspberries
1 cup peeled and diced peaches

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter 12 standard muffin tins. I got 15.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl., whisk together the buttermilk, eggs and butter until blended.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the buttermilk mixture and then stir quickly to form a smooth batter. Do not overmix. Fold in the raspberries and peaches. Spoon into the prepared cups, filling them three-fourths full. Sprinkle the 2 tablespoons of sugar evenly over the tops.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto the rack. Serve hot.

Makes 12 muffins. Per muffin 190 cal, 4 g protein, 32 g carbs, 5g fat, 47g chol, 267 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

I am happier than I should admit that my 4 1/2 year old went back to school today. That means that I may get to take a nap! Woohoo!

I made these muffins yesterday and I wasn't impressed. They were edible but nothing to rave about. I'm not crazy about the texture of cooked raspberries and although they looked beautiful, they weren't very flavorful berries. I can sometimes get good strawberries but I don't have much luck with other fresh berries.

The peaches were good in these and I liked that they weren't terribly sweet but there are way too many other muffin recipes out there for me to ever make this recipe again.

Question of the Day: Do you like raspberries? I like raspberry-flavored foods more than raspberries to be honest.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bobby comes down to earth
--Apple-Ginger-Glazed Chicken

Apple-Ginger-Glazed Chicken
Bobby Flay’s Grill It! Copyright 2008

½ cup apple jelly
2 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme I forgot to buy this and I didn't want to use dried
1 tablespoon grated peeled fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Chicken breasts Actually the book points you to Bobby's recipe for 'Perfectly Grilled Chicken Breasts' but there is nothing special about how he grills chicken breasts

1. Heat your grill to medium-high.
2. Whisk together the jelly, soy sauce, thyme, ginger, and pepper in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer on the grates of the grill. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, them remove from the grill, and let cool slightly.
3. Brush the glaze on the chicken breasts during the last 2 minutes of grilling. Remove the chicken to a platter and brush with the remaining glaze. Tent with foil and let rest five minutes before serving.

Serves 4.

My book club sent me this book when I forgot to reply to an editor's choice and before sending it back, I looked at it and I was surprised. Bobby Flay's books are usually filled with restaurant quality (i.e. complicated) recipes. These recipes seemed very doable for the average cook, although they weren't mundane either. I still returned the book since the club wanted a ridiculous amount of money for it, but I went to Costco and picked up a copy.

I really liked this glaze but I just don't find that glazes add much flavor to chicken. I don't blame the glaze, I blame the chicken. Those frozen Costco breasts are good for many things but let's face it, it's not like picking up fresh chicken from the local butcher.

Although I planned a full week of posting, I may not actually get around to making every recipe I had planned. From here on out, you can probably expect gaps in my posting. Of course, maybe with my son getting back to school three days a week this week, I'll catch up around here.

Question of the Day: Do you prefer marinades or glazes?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Too sleepy to blog
--Bachelor’s Favorite Ham Salad

Bachelor’s Favorite Ham Salad
High Plains Country Cooking Copyright 1993

2 cups uncooked pasta, elbows or twists
2 ½ cups cooked ham, cut into 2-inch strips
1 cup celery slices
½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 cup firmly packed chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain. Add ham strips, celery and onions. (What onions? There aren't onions listed in the ingredients? I added some.) Blend together mayonnaise, vinegar, parsley, cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss with pasta mixture. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours to blend flavors. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

I made this hearty ham and pasta salad on a night when I made grilled venison because I knew I wouldn't eat the venison. This salad was a meal in itself.

I didn't even realize I didn't post yesterday until it was much later in the day. I'm sleep deprived. Severely sleep deprived. I'm too old for this! I can barely keep my eyes open.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Something lighter
--Skillet Steak Dinner

Skillet Steak Dinner
Make a Joyful Table Copyright 1999

4 (4-ounce) lean minute or cubed beef steaks
1 cup chopped onion
3 cups frozen French-cut green beans
½ cup (one 2.5 ounce jar) whole mushrooms, undrained (I think they meant 4.5 oz)
1 (10 ¾ -ounce) can Healthy Request Cream of Mushroom Soup Iused the lower sodium version
¼ cup skim milk
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

In a large skillet sprayed with butter-flavored cooking spray, brown meat. Stir in onion, frozen green beans, and undrained mushrooms. In a medium bowl, combine mushroom soup, skim milk, and black pepper. Add soup mixture to meat mixture. Mix well to combine. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes or until meat and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Divide into 4 servings.

Per serving: 244 cal, 8gm fat, 27gm pro, 16gm carbs, 449 mg sodium, 3 gm fiber

My mother-in-law likes this cookbook author, JoAnna Lund, quite a bit. She uses a lot of sugar-free, fat-free soups, puddings, milk etc. For $3.99 plus another 15% off, I threw this book in the cart on my last visit to Ollie's, for balance. I wouldn't want to eat recipes like this all of the time but there are lighter and with all the diabetics in the family, the sugar-free dessert recipes might come in handy.

I'm late today. I sent my older son back to school. I'm not used to getting out and about so early. I have to stop staying up so late.

Question of the Day: Do you use many fat-free and/or sugar-free products (you know, things that aren't naturally fat or sugar free)? I really like Breyer's Carb Smart ice cream bars that I started eating when I had gestational diabetes. I drink sugar-free beverages and sometimes buy sugar-free pudding. I generally stay away from fat-free products and choose the lighter versions instead of completely fat-free.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Maybe not 'best ever' but still good
-Best-Ever Egg Salad Sandwiches

Best-Ever Egg Salad Sandwiches
The Bon Appétit Cookbook Copyright

12 bacon slices
8 large hard-boiled eggs, peeled, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped celery
¼ cup chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
½ cup mayonnaise, divided
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
12 slices white sandwich bread, toasted
12 red leaf lettuce leaves I forgot to pick this up

Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Cut bacon slices crosswise in half.

Combine chopped eggs, celery, and olives in bowl. Mix ¼ cup mayonnaise and mustard. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place toast slices on work surface; spread lightly with remaining mayonnaise. Divide egg salad among 6 toast slices. Place 4 bacon pieces, then 2 lettuce leaves atop egg salad on each. Cover with remaining toast slices, mayonnaise side down. (Duh!) Cut sandwiches diagonally in half.

Makes 6.

This egg salad was very good but 'best ever'? Certainly not if you don't like green olives. I do like green olives and I would probably still hold back on such a strong title. That's a real pet peeve of mine - people have different tastes, no recipe is the 'ultimate' or 'best' and words like that just set expectations too high.

I've passed up this cookbook several times. It reminds me of the The Gourmet Cookbook - a classic for some people I suppose, but most of the recipes are a bit high-brow for the crew in this house. However for $9.99 at Ollie's and an additional 15% off during the 'Ollie Day' sale, I decided it was time to add it to my collection.

My dial-up connection was giving me fits this morning. I ordered high-speed internet a few days ago. I finally gave in.

Question of the Day: What kind of internet connection do you have?

Monday, July 14, 2008

These were great
--Lemon Oat Squares

Lemon Oat Squares
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Copyright 2006

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar (lt. or dark)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats I used quick oats
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats(ground for 30 seconds in food processor or blender)I used quick oats
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 T orange juice

1 can (14 or 15 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1-2 T finely grated zest (from 1-2 lemons)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 ½ lemons)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

To prepare crust:
Beat the butter, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Add oatmeal, ground oatmeal, flour, and orange juice - mixing to combine. The mixture will start to clump; as soon as it starts to look cohesive, stop mixing. Sprinkle half the mixture into the prepared pan. Press it into the bottom of the pan, patting the crumbs firmly to make a smooth layer.

To prepare the filling:
Whisk the condensed milk, lemon zest, and juice in a small bowl, stirring until smooth and thickened. Spread the filling over the crust in the pan. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture on top.

Bake until light, golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and place on rack to cool. After about 10 minutes, loosen the edges with a knife. Refrigerate overnight, covered, before cutting and serving.

I know I said I wouldn't bake anymore but I guess I'm a liar. Oatmeal is good for a nursing mother's milk production and I'm trying to get my supply up. I get sick of eating it by the bowl so I wanted to bake something with it. I made a good choice - these were pretty awesome. I messed up though and I thought I had old-fashioned oats in the cupboard but I only had quick oats. I don't think that hurt anything but I wish I had the correct oats. I guess I'll just have to make them again sometime. No problem!

I don't use this cookbook very often but I really should. I should use all of my King Arthur books more often but there's only so much baking I can do.

I didn't go to auction on Friday. It wasn't worth it without my cookbook guy. I can only leave the house for short stretches of time. I went to the gym instead. I've been sneaking in a workout here and there.

Question of the Day: Do you like lemon?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Good but nothing special
--Rosemary Balsamic Chicken

Rosemary Balsamic Chicken
Home Cooking 2005 Recipe Annual Copyright 2005

1 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons rosemary
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup chicken broth
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts halves

Combine Dijon mustard, honey, rosemary, garlic, red wine vinegar, chicken broth and balsamic vinegar. Whisk in olive oil. Set aside.

Lightly pound chicken breasts to a uniform thickness and place in a ziptop plastic bag. Pour marinade over chicken and refrigerate 2 to 4 hours.

Grill chicken breasts over medium-high heat. Marinade can be simmered for 10 minutes and served as a sauce over cooked chicken.

Serves 4.

I had this chicken on the menu and then I decided to also make grilled chicken for my mom and sister when they came earlier this week. I marinaded that chicken in some bottled dressing - some sort of honey dijon vinaigrette. Both versions were equally tasty but nothing to write home about. It was much easier just to open the bottled dressing and pour.

I saw something mind-blowing in the grocery store last night. They have a small cart near the door that they usually display meat specials in but today there was a variety of prepared Italian meals - sausage and peppers, stuffed shells, lasagne, etc. They were in trays that were 9x13 or less and although they each weighed 3-4 pounds, they were priced from $18 to $25! For a family-sized entree (not party sized). You can buy sausage for less than $2/pound and that one was about $25 for 4.5 pounds. It was just cooked with some peppers and onions added. $18 for stuffed shells? How desperate could a person be to put dinner on the table?

Question of the Day: Would you pay those prices?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

So good, so very dangerous
--Oat-Fashioned Strawberry Dessert

Oat-Fashioned Strawberry Dessert
Taste of Home Contest-Winning Desserts Copyright 2008

4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cups quick-cooking oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ to ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Drain strawberries on paper towels; set aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Reserve 1 ½ cups for topping. Pat remaining crumb mixture into a greased 9-inch square baking pan.

In a bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; stir in strawberries. Spoon over the prepared crust. Sprinkle with the reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm.

This supermarket checkout pamphlet cookbook doesn't mention which contest this recipe one but it probably won something like 'BEST THING EVER'!

I loved, loved, LOVED this. The strawberries I used weren't good at all - they were non-local supermarket berries that weren't very ripe at all. However, they baked up just fine. I made this when my mom and sister came to see the baby and I ate the rest of it myself. I'm not baking anything again anytime soon, not unless I have somewhere to take it all.

I imagine you could substitute other fruits or berries for the strawberries but the strawberries were sooooo good. I'll be dreaming about this recipe for a long time. It was great warm with ice cream and great plain too.

Question of the Day: What's the last thing you ate that really knocked your socks off?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Not bad at all
--Chinese Pepper Steak

Chinese Pepper Steak
Americana Cookery Copyright MCMLXXI

1 ½ lb. sirloin steak, 1 in. thick
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. pepper
3 lge. green peppers, sliced I used my freezer stash which included 1 red, 1 green and 1 yellow pepper
2 lge. onions, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. cornstarch
¼ c. cold water
¼ c. soy sauce
½ tsp. sugar
½ c. beef bouillon
1 6-oz. can water chestnuts, sliced
4 green onions, cut in 1-in. pieces

Freeze steak for at least 1 hour; cut into 1/8-inch thick slices. Heat oil in skillet; add garlic, salt, ginger and pepper. Sauté until garlic is golden. Add steak slices; brown lightly for 2 minutes. Remove steak. Add green peppers and onions; cook for 3 minutes. Dissolve cornstarch in water. Return steak slices to pan; add soy sauce, sugar, bouillon, water chestnuts, cornstarch mixture and green onions. Simmer for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve over hot rice.

Yield: 6-8 servings.

This is another cookbook from the home economic teachers but it's an organized effort, unlike the cookbooks on meat and salad which are just large collections of submitted recipes. I picked this recipe since I had most of the ingredients but I wasn't excited about it. Once I started eating it though, I was hooked. It was nothing special but it hit the spot.

It was nice to be able to leisurely make this recipe over the course of the day. I sliced the meat and added the seasoning earlier in the day. Then when I got a chance, I sliced the pepper and onions. I cooked the rice when I had the chance and then I just needed to do a bit of quick cooking to get dinner on the table at dinner time. It's a heck of a lot better than rushing home from work and speed cooking.

Question of the Day: Do you like water chestnuts? I don't find them offensive but I don't know if I would say that I like them. They really don't have much flavor, just some crunch.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

My bad
--Fusilli Salad with Salami and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Fusilli Salad with Salami and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook Copyright 2006

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (8-ounce) jar oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry, and minced I used only about half the jar
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
1 pound fusilli I used a 14.5 oz box of Smart Taste Rotini
8 ounces salami or pepperoni, cut into ¼-inch-thick matchsticks
8 ounces provolone, cut into ¼-inch-thick matchsticks
½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

Whisk the oil, sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper together in a bowl large enough to hold the salad. Cook the fusilli in 4 quarts boiling water seasoned with 1 tablespoon salt until tender, about 14 minutes. Drain the pasta thoroughly, then toss while hot with the dressing. Refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Serves 8 to 10.

I made this with only two changes - using less sun-dried tomatoes since I wasn't sure how my husband would feel about them and I used a smaller amount of pasta. It was a bit bland - bland enough that I added some bottled dressing. Then I realized I was supposed to add the dressing to the hot pasta which I didn't do. I bet that would have made a big difference. Their instructions are usually so long-winded and the one time they are short and concise, I mess up!

It turned out great though. I thought it was one of the best pasta salads that I've had. It was gone within 24 hours and it was only us eating it. I continue to love this cookbook.

Question of the Day: What do you like in pasta salad? Do you like a creamy dressing or a vinaigrette?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Never too old to learn something new
--Glazed Chocolate Chip Brownies

Glazed Chocolate Chip Brownies
Taste of Home Contest-Winning Desserts Copyright 2008

2/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup baking cocoa
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl, combine the butter, eggs, and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to butter mixture. Stir in water and chocolate chips until blended.

Pour into a greased 13-in x 9-in x 2-in baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until brownies pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack.

In a small saucepan, combine the chips, milk and butter. Cook until melted; stir until smooth. Remove from the heat; whisk in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes or until chilled; frost brownies. (I just poured the mixture on the brownies right after I mixed it together. ) Cut into bars.

Yield: 4 dozen

I made these brownies the day I got home from the hospital, in order to take them to my in-law's house on the 4th. They were super easy to mix up since the butter is melted (no creaming, no mixer needed).

When I told my husband's grandmother that I made brownies, the notoriously sweet-loving woman told me that she didn't like brownies! I said, how could you not like brownies since there are so many different kinds of brownies, some very fudge-like and this woman could eat fudge (and has!) for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She insisted she tried brownies once and didn't like them.

Then she saw my brownies and saw that they had frosting. She quickly changed her tune. She asked for two (and I cut them rather large) so I thought she was taking them home as she usually does. No, she started eating them so I figured one was for now and one for later. No, she immediately cut both into pieces and ate both of them. Then, before the others at the party could get to them, she packed up FIVE more to take home. I said but Baba, you don't like brownies, remember? LOL

So even at 80 years old, you can learn something new about yourself.

I kept about a quarter of the pan for home and they disappeared very quickly. My son loved these (the older one of course!)

I bought this sturdy pamphlet cookbook to alleviate some stress before having the baby. I usually resist these checkout line books since they aren't cheap ($4.99) but this one looked so good. It's loaded with fantastic recipes and mouth-watering photos. It's on display until August 5th so I suggest checking it out if you want to have an excellent collection of desserts handy and especially if you don't have a lot of space to store cookbooks.

I think I'm going to retire the Blast From the Past for a while.

Question of the Day: Is there any food you thought you didn't like that you learned to like later on in life? I think I like lamb now but it doesn't matter much since it's so expensive I can't really afford it!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I'm back

Actually I would have been back last week if it weren't for the holiday. I started cooking the day I got out of the hospital. I feel great. I bested my childbirth time by half. With my older son, my water broke and he showed up about 8 hours later. With this one, they broke my water and started the induction at 10:45am and he was born at 2:26pm. But this time, I managed to get my epidural in just under the wire (I was actually fully dialated when it was put in place but no one knew - THANK GOD!). God bless whoever invented the epidural. I pushed for an hour with my older son and 26 minutes with this one.

The biggest difference was how I felt afterwards though. After my oldest, my best friend was an inflatable blue donut pillow. This time I don't even feel like I gave birth (well I didn't until I pushed my luck and walked the baby around our hilly neighborhood twice today).

Here's Daniel (or Baby Dan as his big brother calls him):

Recipes will be back starting tomorrow. I'll probably be posting somewhat regularly until I go back to work. After that, well, things might slow down a bit.