Friday, February 27, 2009

Not a healthy oatmeal cookie but a healthier oatmeal cookie

Hearty Whole Wheat Cookies
Taste of Home Baking Classics Copyright 2008

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons half-and-half cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (12 ounces) miniature semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups coarsely chopped peanuts I omitted these

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the cream and vanilla.

In a blender or food processor, process oats until finely ground. Combine oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and peanuts.

Drop by tablespoonfuls 1-1/2 in. apart onto ungreased baking sheets (I used a cookie scoop). Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 6 dozen.

I know many people are on the lookout for healthy oatmeal cookies and while this recipe certainly isn't healthy, it's healthier than many traditional recipes since it uses all whole wheat flour. However, all that butter and sugar probably nullifies the benefits of the whole wheat.

These baked up nice and even. I like when cookies have a nice uniform shape. They were tasty too. The whole wheat flavor wasn't overpowering. It was there but in a nice way. They're very soft - not chewy. This is a nice cookie.

If you want a truly healthy oatmeal cookie, try this recipe. It has a better balance of carbs and healthy fats.

TGIF! It's been a hectic week. I can't believe that it will be March next week.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My annual attempt at making doughnuts

Mashed Potato Doughnuts
Taste of Home Baking Classics Copyright 2008

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 cup warm buttermilk (110° to 115°)
1-1/2 cups warm mashed potatoes (without added milk and butter)
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
3 cups sugar, divided
4 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
6 cups all-purpose flour
Oil for deep-fat frying
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm buttermilk. Add the potatoes, eggs and butter. Add 2 cups sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Do not knead. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Turn onto a floured surface; divide into fourths. Roll each portion to 1/2-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 3-in. doughnut cutter.

In an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat oil to 375°. Fry doughnuts, a few at a time, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Combine remaining sugar and cinnamon; roll doughnuts in cinnamon-sugar while warm.

Yield: about 2 dozen.

I traditionally make doughnuts for my coworkers on the Tuesday before Lent. This year I mixed up this dough after work on Monday and then went to lie down while it spent the 2 hours it required in the fridge. I never got up. I was down for the count. The next evening, when I felt a bit better, I did roll out the dough and made about 20 doughnuts before tossing more than half the dough. I'm perplexed about that since the recipe is only supposed to make 2 dozen and I probably could have made more than double that but I didn't need all of those doughnuts.

These weren't bad. I made them the night before I brought them to work so they lost their crispness by then, but they had nice flavor. I had to add a LOT of extra flour to the recipe and the dough sat that extra day so I'm not sure if these turned out like they were supposed to but they definitely weren't my worst doughnut attempt. My coworkers liked them.

I'm feeling better now but I'm still pressed for time the rest of the week so we'll see how it goes.

Question of the Week: Did you do anything to celebrate the Tuesday before Lent? Did you eat pancakes? Doughnuts?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When things go from bad to worse

I got hit with a nasty case of mastitis and I'm slowly recovering. At least I got some rest.

I've got a slew of recipes I'll post about as soon as I can.

Monday, February 23, 2009

It might be a slow week

I have a lot of material lined up but I lack the time and energy to create the posts. The baby is getting more teeth which has been a real treat of course. He's also moving around like the Energizer Bunny and he hates to stop to take a nap. Oh, what a fun weekend!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Not what I expected but still great

Nuevo Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Sweeter Side of Amy’s Bread Copyright 2008

2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 large egg
Yolk of l large egg
1 ¼ teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup softened unsalted butter I used salted butter
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 1/8 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1. Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cookie sheets with baking parchment.
2. In a bowl, add the flour, baking soda, salt and ginger and whisk together. In a separate bowl, add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and whisk together.
3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, the sugar and molasses on medium speed for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Gradually add the egg mixture until everything is well-combined.
4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in stages. Mix only until everything is just combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Add the chocolate chips and continue mixing at a low speed until the are evenly distributed (or fold in manually if you’re not using a mixer with a paddle attachment). Fold in nuts if using.
5. Scoop out big balls of dough placing 6 balls on each prepared cookie sheet, Each ball of dough should weigh approx. 3 ounces (about ½ cup). Do not flatten the dough balls. Bake cookies about 18 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through the baking time. They will spread a lot (A LOT!) and be golden brown and just set when down.
6. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to cook completely before storing.

These cookies didn't turn out like I expected them to and I'm not sure why. I'm 99% positive that I didn't mess up the ingredients. The only change I made was using salted butter instead of unsalted. That shouldn't have affected the structure of the cookie.

They looked fine when I rotated the cookie sheets but when they were done they had all run into each other and they were thinner and more chewy looking than the picture in the cookbook and other pictures I've seen of these cookies from Amy's Bread. I never actually had a cookie from Amy's bread in my hand but I expected these to be thicker, not as chewy.

The only possible issue was my oven which is old and might not be regulating the temperature properly anymore.

Anyway, they were actually pretty great. They were very chewy and had a great caramel flavor. I even liked them better the older they got. I really liked what that bit of molasses added to this cookie but I'm sure that the ginger did much of anything.

It's still not what I was looking for in a 'big' chocolate chip cookie. Does anyone remember those Springwater Cookies they used to sell for fundraisers in the 80s? That's what I want.

Question of the Day: What kind of food products were sold for fundraisers in your school? Gertrude Hawk peanut butter eggs (3 to a pack) were the biggest sellers in our school. Big candy bars were sold too. When I was younger, my sister sold Krispy Kreme donuts for a fundraiser and they came warm and it was one of the best food experiences of my life (that was way before the big Krispy Kreme explosion of a few years ago).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Homemade wontons

Chicken Wonton Soup
Complete Chicken Cooking Copyright 2000

12 oz. ground chicken
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated, fresh gingerroot
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp sherry
2 scallions, chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
1 egg white
½ tsp cornstarch
½ tsp sugar
About 35 wonton skins

6 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 scallion, shredded
1 small carrot, cut into very thin slices

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling and mix well.
2. Place a small spoonful of the filling in the corner of each wonton skin.
3. Dampen the edges and gather up the wonton skin to form a pouch enclosing the filling. I made mine into bishop's hats.
4. Cook the filled wontons in boiling water for 1 minute or until they float to the top. I cooked them right in the broth.
5. Remove with a draining spoon. Don't remove if you're cooking them right in the broth. I did and then I moved to the next step and saw that they went right back in the pot! Bring the chicken stock to a boil.
6. Add the soy sauce, scallion, carrot and wontons to the soup. Simmer gently for 2 minutes then serve.

We can't eat Chinese food out due to my son's peanut allergy so this is the only wonton soup I've eaten in quite some time. Actually, probably in many, many years since once I discovered hot and sour soup, that became my soup of choice when eating Chinese food.

This was a bit milder than I remember wonton soup tasting. I think full-salt soy sauce would have been better in the filling. I used low-sodium chicken broth and light soy in the broth, which made it a tad flat tasting at first but I found it got better as time went on (I ate it for lunch over the course of a few days). Unfortunately the wontons didn't hold up well over that time. They started to disentegrate around the edges but most kept their filling.

I liked this recipe but it also got me thinking about how I could use this basic recipe and change the flavors. I could make an Italian-flavored filling and end up with something similar to the cappelletti soup we treasured when I was growing up.

Here's another good ground chicken recipe to add to my collection.

Question of the Day: Wonton soup or hot and sour soup? Or neither?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

More from Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

Mom’s Meatloaf
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Copyright 2008

1 egg
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon dry mustard
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 onion, very finely chopped
1 pound ground beef
¾ cup bread crumbs
¾ cup ketchup

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, mix together the egg, 3 tablespoons water, the Worcestershire, horseradish, mustard, salt, pepper and onion. Add the beef and bread crumbs and use your hands to quickly and thoroughly combine. Gently press the mixture into a 1.5 quart glass (Pyrex) loaf pan. Spread the ketchup over the top and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. I baked it ahead of time then I sliced it and grilled it on the Griddler when we were ready to eat it.

Makes 4 servings.

I already have a few good meat loaf recipes but that doesn't stop me from trying more of them. I like this recipe because it only calls for 1 pound of ground beef and I usually freeze my ground beef into 1 pound portions. Many meat loaf recipes call for 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat.

This was definitely a meat loaf recipe that I would make again. I liked the little kick from the horseradish. My son loved it. He said that I make the 'bestest meat'. I'm beginning to think he's a bit of a kiss-ass.

I always grill my meat loaf so I can't say how this recipe would be straight out of the pan. I like the added flavor that it gets from being grilled on the Griddler.

I hope there are more Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives books coming. I would like to see more recipes in future editions but even though this one doesn't have all that many, the recipes it has are winners.

Question of the Day: Would you ever order meat loaf in a restaurant? As much as I love it, I can't see ordering it in a restaurant.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Doesn't get much easier than this

Baked Ham Slice
The Fireside Cook Book Copyright 1949

Ham slice
1 ½ teaspoons dry mustard
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup liquid (milk, broth, pineapple juice, cider or wine) I used 6 oz of pineapple juice

Select a cut 1 to 2 inches thick, cut from the center of the ham. Make a paste of mustard, brown sugar and just enough water to blend. Spread this over the ham slice, place in a lightly oiled baking pan, pour over 1 cup of liquid, and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) until ham is just tender.

This is the 60th anniversary edition of this James Beard cookbook so the book itself is not old but the content is. I checked it out of the library and it didn't excite me as much as I thought it would but I really haven't studied it that much yet. The illustrations are wonderful but I feel like this is something I've seen before since I own other cookbooks from the same era that have the same look and feel.

This was a simple recipe and nothing new but it worked well. Although my son who used to eat ham and pass up homemade macaroni and cheese decided to eat 2 servings of the macaroni and cheese I whipped up to serve with this and he wasn't at all interested in the ham. I'll never figure him out. He's not picky in the sense that he absolutely won't eat some foods but you just never know what he'll eat and what he won't.

I've been cooking a lot over the past few days. Let's hope I have time to post about what I've been making. The baby has started to crawl and I forgot what a treat that was. If there's something he shouldn't be touching, he's right there trying to touch it!

Question of the Day: Do you cook for any picky eaters?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Here's the beef

Hackney's Inside-Out Burger
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Copyright 2008

2 pounds ground beef
4 ounces bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese I used Monterey Jack
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
4 hamburger buns, optional

Special equipment: 1 (4-inch) round mold (lid to a jar or other round container recommended); plastic wrap

1. Divide ground beef into 8 even portions. Line round mold with plastic wrap. Pat half a portion of the ground beef into the round mold. Top with a quarter of the cheese and bacon, being careful not to go too close to the edges. Cover with other half of the portion of ground beef. Press down edges of ground beef together to seal. Remove patty from mold by the plastic wrap and shape into an even patty. Repeat to make 4 inside-out burgers.

2. Season the burgers with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the burgers, and fry, until the cheese melts and the burgers are cooked to the desired degree of doneness. Serve the burgers solo or on a bun.

Stuffed burgers really aren't nothing new but there's something about Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that makes even mundane things look incredibly enticing.

This is a BIG burger. Rachael Ray's recipes for burgers usually call for 2 pounds of meat to make 4 burgers and I've always been appalled by that but here I found myself making these huge half-pound burgers. Shame on me.

I doubt I'll be making these very often due to their heft but I did enjoy it. It had some flaws. I would have preferred it a bit pinker but by the time the cheese had melted most of the pink was gone. I don't think the bacon was prominent enough but that could have been my fault. I wasn't measuring the fillings so maybe I didn't put a full ounce in each burger. I thought I pinched the edges together quite well but the meat started to separate anyway. I managed not to lose my fillings.

This picture probably looks good if you like burgers but I imagine it's pretty gross looking if you don't. Sorry to those of you that don't care for burgers.

Question of the Day: Can you describe the last burger that you ate? Where was it from? What was on it? Did you enjoy it?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Some pink foods for Valentine's Day

Sorry but that's probably it on new recipes for this week. Last night I had to do Valentine's Day cards for my older son's party which they're having today. When did Valentine's Day cards become so complicated? Putting them together is an exercise in origami (which I was never able to master).

No more 'sign and stuff' but instead:

Step 1. Sign them.

Step 2. Separate them.

Step 3. Form them into little boxes.

Step 4. Form them into little boxes again because I did them the wrong way.

Step 5. Form them into little boxes again because I was right the first time.

Step 6. Stuff with candy.

Step 7. Feel guilty in morning when teacher mentions she will just be happy if the child tried to write his own name on the cards but Bad Mommy didn't think to let him help since it takes him 10 minutes and a giant sheet of paper to write his name once so writing it 21 times in a tiny space seemed an impossibility.

Step 8. Explain to teachers that there was only one favorite teacher valentine included in the box and the teacher who didn't get that Valentine shouldn't take it personally - they are loved equally (and Bad Mommy didn't manage to find time to work around this).

Since I have nothing new, here are a few pink recipes to get you in the mood for Valentine's Day.

Strawberry Cake:

Big, Soft Sugar Cookies with Strawberry Icing:

Cream Cheese Strawberry Mousse:

Strawberry Ice Cream:

Brownie Buttons:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Basic recipe but a crowd-pleaser

Stuffing Topped Chicken Bake
Busy Woman’s Cookbook 3 and 4 Ingredient Recipes Copyright 2000

1 (6 ounce) package stuffing mix I used the 50% less sodium variety
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 (10 3/4 –ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
½ cup sour cream I used lite sour cream

Fix stuffing mix following directions on box. Set aside and place chicken breasts in 13x9-inch baking dish. Mix soup and sour cream. Pour over chicken. Spoon stuffing evenly over top. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. (I covered it when I baked it intially. Then, when I reheated for dinner, I baked it uncovered so the stuffing would get crispy.)

Makes 4 servings.

This was a great recipe to make ahead of time. It was probably even better baked ahead since the chicken had more time to absorb the flavor of the sauce. It was so simple. It took almost no time to put together and it shared oven time with the pork roast on Sunday. I'm getting better at this cooking ahead thing. I wasn't feeling overwhelmed this Sunday at all.

Stove-Top makes a 50% less sodium version of their stuffing which I was happy to see since I somehow ended up with the full-sodium version of cream of mushroom soup. I rarely buy boxed stuffing so I don't know how long the lower sodium version has been out there on the market. They even have a whole wheat version but unfortunately I didn't see a whole wheat, lower sodium version.

I'll be making this again since it was so easy and everyone liked it. I don't want to put canned soup and boxed stuffing on the table every night but a recipe like this will give be a bit of breathing room every once and a while. Hey, it's a starch and protein all in one!

Question of the Day: Do you ever buy boxed stuffing mix?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Yummy pork roast

Roasted Pork Butt with Gravy
Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Copyright 2008

2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried mustard
2 teaspoons celery salt
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

Pork Roast:
1 (5 to 6-pound) bone-in Boston butt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons dried rosemary
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. For the marinade: Mix the sugar, ginger, garlic powder, mustard, and celery salt together in a large nonreactive bowl. Then whisk in the oil, soy, vinegar, liquid smoke, and Worcestershire sauce.
2. For the pork roast: Put the pork in the marinade and turn to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
3. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Put the pork roast in a roasting pan, season generously with black pepper, and scatter the rosemary over the meat. Roast the pork, uncovered, until the meat starts to fall off the bone, 3 ½ to 4 hours, Transfer the roast to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes before slicing. (Reserve the roasting pan.)
4. To make the gravy, pour the pan drippings from the roast into a fat separator and discard the excess fat. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring for 1 minute, to make a paste (or roux). Place the roasting pan over the two burners on medium-high heat. Add 1 ½ cups water to the pan and scrape up any brown bits clinging to the bottom of the pan. Let the liquid come to a simmer, then strain into the saucepan with the roux. Whisk the gravy and bring to a boil; add the reserved pan drippings. Simmer the gravy until thickened and season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Slice the pork and serve with the gravy.

When I saw the episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives that this pork roast appeared on (in the DeWese’s Tip Top Cafe segment), the drool was flowing out of my mouth. I was so happy to see that it was one of the recipes that made the book. There aren't a heck of a lot of recipes in this book but so far the two I've tried (this one and Aunt Nancy's Coleslaw) have been stand-outs.

I thought this would be dry after such a long cooking time. I didn't actually have time for the pork to fall off the bone. My roast was just over 4 pounds and I let it go about 3 hours and it was just about to fall off the bone but it wasn't quite there. That was good enough. It was surprisingly tender. I left the fat on top since I didn't want it to dry out and the fat was charred, deliciously charred. I didn't get any juicy drippings though, just fat. They simply evaporated. They were some bits on the bottom of the pan, some a bit browned, which made for the darkest gravy I've ever made without adding some sort of booster like Gravy Master. That dark, rich color you see is all natural.

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite local restaurant? I have to admit we don't often dine locally. There aren't many options. We have one diner in town but the quality went downhill and I rarely see cars in their lot anymore. We usually only eat out when we're out doing something else. If we're close to home, we eat at home (or McDs). I think I'll make it a point to try visit one of the other local restaurants soon. I feel bad for one that opened just as the economy tanked.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Something for Valentine's Day

Brownie Buttons
Baking: From My Home to Yours Copyright 2006

zest of 1/2 of an orange (optional) I didn't use this
1 tsp sugar (if using zest)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Pinch of Salt
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you’re using orange zest, combine the zest and sugar in a small bowl, rubbing them between your fingertips to blend; set aside. Whisk together the flour and salt.
2. Melt butter, chocolate, and brown sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over very low hear, stirring frequently with a heatproof spatula and keeping an eye on the pan so nothing overheats or burns. When the mixture is smooth, remove from heat and cool for a minute or two. 3. Sir the vanilla, egg, and the zest, if you’re using it, into the chocolate mixture. When the mixture is well blended, add the flour and stir only until it is incorporated. You should have a smooth, glossy batter.
4. Spoon the batter into 16 buttered mini muffin cups (I used liners), using about a teaspoon of batter to fill each cup three-quarters full. Fill each empty muffin cup with 1 tsp water.
5. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until the top spring back when touched. Cool for 3 minutes and then transfer out of the pan to a wire rack to cool fully.

Optional Glaze
1. Melt chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of water. Stir constantly and don’t leave chocolate unattended as white chocolate scorches very easily.
2. One by one, dip the tops of the buttons into the chocolate, twirling the buttons so that you get a little swirl at the center of each one and excess chocolate drips back into the bowl. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the glaze.

Makes 16. She wasn't kidding, I made exactly 16.

I've had these mini-cupcake liners in the cupboard taunting me for some time. I didn't want Valentine's Day to pass me by again so I got to work. I found this recipe in Dorie's masterpiece.

This recipe is a keeper. These are wonderful fudgy little bites and the glaze and sugar pearls made them almost candy-like. They were so easy to make and they don't make a lot which is actually a plus. I'm trying to behave myself. Five of these will go in my son's lunch this week and that only left 11 of them for us to snack on. These truly are brownie 'buttons' (they're quite small) so they come with built-in portion control, perfect when you're trying to be good.

Question of the Day: Do you have anything special planned for Valentine's Day?

Friday, February 06, 2009

No recipe, just a grocery rant

I didn't get a chance to type up a recipe for today so you'll have to settle for this picture. He's 7 months old already - can you believe it?

My question today is why is it that the smaller my shopping list, the more I seem to end up spending? I went grocery shopping last night and even though I hadn't finished my menu planning for next week and I was only going to pick up what I knew I needed so far, I still spent over $140. Okay, I bought batteries as a donation for the daycare center but that was only about $9 (they were buy one get one free so I got 4 packs for that price). I got confused and picked up a pork roast that was on sale in the other grocery store. That was another $9. Yikes! Can I return a roast for no good reason except it was too expensive??

My biggest mistake was making stromboli with my current favorite pizza dough last week. My husband loved it and he'd probably want me to make it every week but it's expensive to buy 3 different meats and two different cheeses to make it. I'm only making it again this week because his nephew is coming. That probably added $15- $20 to my cart (but there will be extra meat to have subs for dinner on Sunday evening).

It just frustrates me that every week I plan on spending less and I don't. I have no grocery willpower.

End of rant.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

This picture is even worse than the last one

Machaca Beef
Fix –It and Forget-It Big Cookbook Copyright 2008

1-1/2 lbs. beef roast (chuck or round) I didn't weigh it but I'm pretty sure I had only about 1 pound of chuck
1 large onion, sliced
4 oz. can diced green chilis
2 beef bouillon cubes
1-1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup salsa

Combine all ingredients except salsa in a slow cooker. Add just enough water to cover. Cover the cooker and cook on low 10-12 hours, or until beef is tender. Drain and reserve liquid.
Shred the beef using 2 forks to pull it apart. It should come apart easily. Combine beef, salsa, and enough of the reserved liquid to make of desired consistency.

This is an ugly one too but stuffed into flour tortillas with some cheese, then topped with a sprinkle of more cheese and baked, this was really delicious. I added a dollop of lite sour cream too. It could have used a bit more heat which is easily remedied by choosing a hotter salsa. I used mild and I should have used medium.

It was a good way to use up a smaller portion of chuck strips that I had in the freezer. There wasn't enough there to make a stew but as a filling this went far. I rolled up 10 taco-sized tortillas with a generous amount of filling and there was more filling left over. You can use this as a filling in tacos, quesadillas, etc.

This was another great recipe from the Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook. I'm really glad I picked that one up in Costco. I've been using my crockpot a lot more lately. Usually anything that can handle being cooked in the crockpot will do well waiting in the fridge or freezer so it's great for the cooking ahead that I've been doing.

Speaking of Costco, I picked up some great instant potatoes there last week. They were instant red potatoes and the best instant potatoes I've had. I sometimes use instant potatoes for convenience but I usually have to doctor them up (with sour cream, cheese, etc). These were excellent as they were (with the addition of milk, butter and salt called for in the instructions). They come in convenient 5-serving pouches too, which work well for us.

Question of the Day: How hot do you like your salsa?
I'm a mild or medium girl. I never buy the hot.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Not a looker but pretty darn good

Harvest Kielbasa
Fix –It and Forget-It Big Cookbook Copyright 2008

2 lbs. smoked kielbasa I used lite
3 cups unsweetened applesauce I used chunky and it was sweetened
½ cup brown sugar I used less
3 medium onions, sliced

1. Slice kielbasa into ¼-inch slices. Brown in skillet. Drain.
2. Combine applesauce and brown sugar.
3. Layer kielbasa, onions and applesauce mixture in slow cooker.
4. Cover. Cook on Low 4-8 hours.

This isn't the most attractive dish but I really enjoyed the blend of flavors. My husband must have enjoyed it too since he didn't even leave any leftovers and usually he leaves something behind for me to take for lunch. My son wasn't into it. He likes applesauce but he just didn't care for it.

I wasn't overly thrilled with the other Fix-It and Forget-It book that I own so why did I buy this book? Who knows? I'm an enigma. I'm drawn to some cookbooks and often I have regrets later but so far I'm not regretting this one. It's not as slapdash as the other book. There's less repetition of recipes. It's organized a bit better. And it's huge!

Question of the Day: Do you eat leftovers? I'm always amazed when people say that they won't eat leftovers. I love leftovers. I especially love when I find some random leftover that I forgot about in the freezer and I get to enjoy it all over again.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Just okay

New England Steak Milanese
Cooking Healthy Across America Copyright 2005

½ cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
6 4-ounce cube steaks
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups hot prepared marinara sauce

In a shallow bowl, combine the bread crumbs and the cheese; set aside. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon water.

Lightly season the steaks with pepper (if you wish). Heat the oil in a large nonstick pan.

Dip the steaks into the eggs and then into the bread crumb mixture, dredging through the crumbs well. Fry in hot oil over medium heat about 4 minutes on both sides or until cooked through. Serve hot with ½ cup marinara sauce poured over each steak.

This is a simple recipe and sometimes a simple recipe is surprisingly good, more than the sum of it's parts. This wasn't one of those recipes. It certainly wasn't bad but it was just cube steak, breading and sauce. There wasn't anything special about it.

Is this a common dish in New England? I wonder.

I did all of my cooking on the weekend again this week. I decided that it's worth the time and effort it takes on the weekend since it makes a HUGE difference in my weekdays. Less stress, less cooking time, less clean up. My husband has been home earlier so he can feed the baby while I heat up dinner and I empty and start refilling the dishwasher. It's nice to finally have some breathing room. I'm back to working out during the week regularly.

Question of the Day: Is the area where you live known for any special dishes? I can't think of anything particularly special. Chicken Corn Soup is popular in this area. Stuffed pig stomach is often advertised as a special in local restaurants but I don't know how popular it really is.

Monday, February 02, 2009

A light snack

Chili ‘n’ Cheese Popcorn
Weight Watchers Five Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook Copyright 2005

2 (3-ounce) packages 94% fat-free butter-flavored microwave popcorn
Butter-flavored cooking spray I only had regular so I used that
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese I used the canned stuff for this
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

1.Prepare popcorn according to package directions.
2.Spray popcorn with cooking spray to coat. Combine next 5 ingredients and mix with popcorn in a large zip-top bag or in a large bowl.

Makes 24 1-cup servings. Per serving: 0 points, 20 cal, .5g fat, .8g protein, 4.3g carbs, 1g fiber, 0mg chol, 89mg sodium

I don't usually make microwave popcorn at home (can't stand the lingering odor of popcorn in the air) but I went ahead and made this thinking it would be a nice snack to take to work. The guys liked it a lot though so most of it stayed at home.

It was a nice way to jazz up the popcorn and I'm always looking for a way to use up my surplus of spices. Seriously, I'm overrun by spices. My husband gave me a nice spice rack for Christmas but it came with spices, which I didn't need. I just needed an empty spice rack. Now I have a cupboard full of spices and a counter covered in spices and a full spice rack. I need to use more spices. I'm going to start sprinkling paprika in my coffee soon.

Question of the Day: What other spices/seasonings do you think would be good on popcorn?