Monday, November 30, 2009

The end of a long search

Truffle Pie
The Deen Bros. Cookbook Copyright 2007

Truffle Filling:
2/3 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips I used semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (9-inch) prepared graham cracker crust I used the larger crust they sell now

Whipped Chocolate Filling:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips I used semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1 1/2 ounces milk chocolate
1 1/2 ounces white chocolate
1 1/2 ounces semisweet or dark chocolate
I used chocolate jimmies

For the truffle filling, in a saucepan, bring 2/3 cup cream to a simmer. Place the 6 ounces chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then gently whisk until smooth. Spread truffle filling over the bottom of the prepared piecrust. Freeze for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the whipped chocolate filling, in a double boiler or a microwave set on low power, heat the 6 ounces chocolate chips with 1/2 cup of the cream until the chocolate is just melted, stirring often. Let cool to room temperature. In a chilled bowl, beat the chocolate mixture, remainint 1 cup of cream and the vanilla until soft peaks form (tips curl). Spread the whipped chocolate mixture over the truffle filling in the crust. Refrigerate overnight.

For the topping, just before serving, beat 1 cup cream on medium speed of an electric mixer until it begins to thicken. Add confectioners' sugar and whip until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Spread the whipped cream over the top of the pie. Using a grater or vegetable peeler, make pieces or shavings of milk chocolate, white chocolate, and semisweet or dark chocolate. Garnish pie with chocolate pieces. Serve immediately.

Years ago my sister made a great chocolate pie but by the time I asked her to make it again, she couldn't remember which recipe she had used. I never forgot that pie. It's been so long since I ate that pie, I probably don't accurately remember what it was like but that hasn't stopped me from searching for a chocolate pie recipe that lived up to that one. In my mind it was something fluffy, yet not too fluffy. That's about all I could say about it. Otherwise, it was one of those 'I'll know it when I eat it' kind of thing.

I've tried many chocolate pie recipes and most were good but none could replace that long, lost chocolate pie. I think I have finally found 'the one'. It has the perfect consistency that I wanted - fluffy but firm. It was so simple - basically just chocolate and cream. I even used a premade graham cracker crust which I usually don't do because they seem so small but they make a larger size now. I used semi-sweet chocolate to make it a bit more kid-friendly. My son LOVED this pie. He insisted very firmly that we take leftovers of this pie home. He woke up asking for it the next day. Yes, I will be making this pie again and again and again.

Question of the Day: Do you like chocolate pie? Do you have a favorite recipe for it?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Let's talk pies

Traditionally we usually enjoy many different pies on Thanksgiving. I thought I would review some of my favorites but not as many stood out as I thought might. I don't necessarily think I've made a lot of bad pies but I don't think they get judged fairly after a heavy meal.

These are the few I've made (for Thanksgiving and at other times) that I enjoyed the most.

Butterscotch Pie - my brother's favorite but he won't be at Thanksgiving this year so I won't be making it. It's not the traditional butterscotch pie, instead it's made with melted ice cream.

Chocolate Buttermilk Pie - a Sandra Lee recipe but a from-scratch recipe.

Strawberry-Mallow Pie - tastes like a strawberry sundae.

Key Lime Pie

Washington State Granny Smith Apple Pie

Grandpa Boyen’s Famous Belgium Rice Custard Pie - I didn't like the prune layer but I made a substitution for that so it might be better if you follow the recipe.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Gearing up for the holidays

It's not even Thanksgiving and we've already make our annual trek to Candylane at Hersheypark to see Santa. It seems like we're not the only ones getting an early start this year - many people have already decorated, taking advantage of the mild weather we've been having.

I thought this would be a good time to recap my holiday baking recipes. Last year I had three posts:

Holiday Recap 1
Holiday Recap 2
Holiday Recap 3

And here's a review of the new recipes I made for the holidays last year or discovered during 2009:

Elfin Bites - These are so easy and colorful.

Gingerbread Men - I can't wait to make these again. They are a non-traditional gingerbread man made with butterscotch pudding.

Rum Balls - These are a nut-free version that I loved. They are really rum-spiked brownie bites.

Peppermint Bark and Oreo Truffles

Vanilla Popcorn - This is actually something I tested out recently that I might make this year.

Chocolate Malted Cookies - This was a cookie I tried this year that was very good.

Peppermint Patties - I made these for a bake sale and they were so easy to make and they were fantastic. I may make them for Christmas and add green food coloring.

Brown Sugar-Buttermilk Pound Cakes - These mini pound cakes would make great gifts.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Boring but good

Sliced Steak Sensation
Rachael Ray's Book of 10 Copyright 2009

3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
1 top-round steak (London Broil),1 to 1 1/2 inches thick, about 2 pounds

Preheat the broiler on high.

Combine the Worcestershire, hot sauce, vinegar, EVOO, and some salt and pepper and coat the steak with the mixture. I let it marinate all day. Put the steak on a broiler pan and situate the pan on the rack closest to the flame; broil for 6 minutes per side. Remove the steak from the broiler and all ow to rest for 5 minutes, tented with a piece of aluminum foil. Then slice it thinly against the grain to serve.

This is not much different from any of the other London Broil recipes I've tried, delicious but you've seen it before. It probably wasn't even worth mentioning again except to demonstrate that Rachael Ray occasionally does have a short ingredient list for a recipe. She listed this in the entertainment section of this book. It's a great recipe to entertain with because if you use the proper thickness of meat (and most top round where I shop is cut in the thickness that this recipe calls for), and follow the cooking instructions, the meat comes out beautifully. What you see is 6 minutes per side exactly (and those are slices from the center of the steak - the rarest section).

I was going to say that there isn't really anything else you can do with this cut of meat (besides marinate and cook to medium rare, at most) but then I remembered that I've used it in stir-fries with good results. In an only slight twist, this cut is also good to slice first, marinate, thread on skewers, and then broil or grill. It's too lean to cook it for very long, in my opinion.

I'm not sure what next week will hold for this blog. If I have time to make new recipes, I may not have time to blog about them but we'll see.

Question of the Day: Do you realize that there are only 6 more weeks left of 2009?????

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rediscovering an ignored cookbook

Tangy Pineapple Chicken
Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes Volume 2

1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 pounds, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips
1 20-ounce can pineapple tidbits (juice pack), drained
1 large red sweet pepper, chopped
½ cup bottled barbecue sauce
¼ cup clean Italian dressing
2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed

1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook chicken, half at a time, in hot oil until brown. Drain off fat.
2. Place chicken in a 3 ½- or 4- quart slow cooker. Top with pineapple and sweet pepper. In a small bowl combine barbecue sauce, Italian salad dressing, and oregano. Pour mixture over chicken in slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 5 or 6 hours or on high-heat setting for 2 ½ to 3 hours.
Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 314 cal, 12g fat, 121 mg chol, 436 mg sodium, 20g carbs, 2g fiber, 31g protein

I had sort of put this cookbook (and Volume 1) to the side. I did make a couple of minor successes from them, and one slight but not brutal disappointment. Sometimes a cookbook may not excite me at one point in time, but then I rediscover it later, which is what happened here. I realized these cookbooks had several boneless, skinless chicken thigh recipes. I wasn't interested in recipes for those when I first bought these books but now I'm very interested.

I thought this was going to be an 'eh' recipe but I found it very pleasing after all. Although my red pepper was a bit bitter. I find that to be the case with colored peppers (besides green) every now and then. They are generally milder and sweeter than green peppers but I often get colored peppers with a strange bitter taste. It didn't ruin the dish but I would prefer not to have that taste in my peppers. You could even use a jar of pimientos in this recipe.

This is not Asian at all - I'm not sure why I went with ramen and egg rolls. It just seemed like the right thing to do and it worked. I made it a couple of days ahead of time. I think this is one of those recipes that benefits from being made ahead of time.

So right now I'm stoked about using chicken thighs in the slow cooker. One thing that has never worked for me is chicken breasts in the slow cooker but I may go back and replace chicken breasts with chicken thighs in the chicken breast recipes I used to ignore.

I'll add this to my boneless, skinless chicken thigh recipe round-up.

Question of the Day: Do you know what I mean by that funny taste colored peppers can get or am I the only one experiencing this?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cookbook Suggestions

With the holidays around the corner, I thought I'd put together some cookbook gift suggestions. I haven't seen every cookbook out there so these recommendations are based on books that I personally own or have checked out of the library.

I can't really do this list justice in one sitting. I'll probably tweak this post every so often. This is just a start. Pleast add your own suggestions in the comment sections.

Cookbooks with a little bit of everything:
The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook -This is one of my favorite cookbooks. It's very detailed oriented which makes it great for beginners but more experienced cooks can just ignore the extraneous information.

Taste of Home Cooks Who Care Edition - Any version of this cookbook is great but this particular version sends a nice message to caregivers of any sort.

For Food Network Fans:
I have to warn you that Rachael Ray books can be a bit intimidating. The ingredient lists are long but the recipes themselves usually aren't too involved. I also find that some of her books are much better than others. My two favorites are Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book and Rachael Ray's Book of Ten.

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and More Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. I love these books. They bring the show to book form and there are a lot of great recipes in them too. Not all or even close to all of the recipes they show on screen make it into the book but it's still a good representation.

The Deen Bros. Y’All Come Eat - Great recipes and photographs.

Something from Giada - I haven't seen the New Family Favorite book but her books are usually consistently good.

For people who love to bake:
Dorie Greenspan Baking from My Home to Yours - the hottest baking book of the decade
Martha Stewart Cupcakes - who doesn't love cupcakes?
Martha Stewart Cookies -lots of cookie recipes and organized really well
Any King Arthur book - whether it's the Baking Companion, Cookie or whole-grain version, you can't go wrong
America’s Best Lost Recipes - I love this collection of old-fashioned recipes

Slow cooker cookbooks (maybe you can give a slow cooker and a cookbook. There are lots of slow cooker cookbooks and some are better than others):
Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook - This is a no-nonsense mainly homestyle collection of recipes. It's organized better than the smaller Fix-It and Forget-It cookbook.

anything by Judith Finlayson. Here recipes require more prep work but they are more nuanced than the Fix-It and Forget-It cookbooks - sort of gourmet crockpotting.

For those trying to eat healthier:
Cooking Light Annuals. These are great. I've noticed a difference after 2007 (recipes getting more upscale) but these annuals are still one of the best sources of lighter recipes.

Biggest Loser cookbooks. The Biggest Loser Cookbook and The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook are great for people who are seriously dieting but if you know a person who is a big fan of the show, even if they are in full diet-mode, they may still enjoy these books since they have a lot of pictures of the contestants and other helpful information to get someone started.

The Most Decadent Diet Ever - same author as the Biggest Loser cookbooks. The recipes are a step up from the Biggest Loser cookbooks but still easy to follow and mostly based on common foods most people enjoy, just lightened up.

Just one of my personal favorites:
Food and Wine's Quick From Scratch series - these are some of my favorite cookbooks. The recipes are not run-of-the-mill yet not too fancy and they're not complicated.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

She does it again

Bel Aria Chicken and Pasta
Rachael Ray's Book of 10 Copyright 2009

Coarse salt
1 pound rigatoni pasta I used Smart Taste penne
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/3-1 1/2 lb chicken tenders, cut into large bite size pieces I used breasts and cut them into smaller pieces
coarse black pepper
1/2 lb cremini mushroom caps, thinly sliced, or 4 portabello caps, gills scraped out, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 Italian hot red cherry peppers, drained and chopped, plus a splash of the pickling juices from the jar I used hoagie spread which is just those peppers chopped very finely
1/2 C dry white wine I had no wine so I used chicken broth with a splash of cooking sherry
1/2 C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more to pass at the table
handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped I bought the parsley but then I didn't feel like adding any to this
crusty bread

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. When it comes to a boil, salt it and add the rigatoni.

While the pasta is working, heat a big, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the EVOO and 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the chicken to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and brown for 2-3 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a plate. It will finish cooking through when added back to the sauce later.

Return the pan to the heat and add another tablespoon of EVOO, the remaining butter, then the mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms are tender, 10-15 minutes. Salt and pepper the mushrooms after they brown. Next, add hot peppers and a splash of the pickling liquid to the pan. Add the white wine and scrape up the pan drippings with a wooden spoon. Cook the wine down for a minute, then slide the chicken back into the pan. Cook together another couple of minutes to finish cooking the chicken through.

Just before you drain the pasta, add 2 ladles of the water to the skillet. The starchy water will help the sauce form and adhere to the pasta. Drain the pasta while it still has a strong bite to it, a little shy of al dente. It will continue to cook a little once it is combined with the sauce. Drain the rigatoni well and add it to the skillet. Turn off the heat and toss the chicken, mushrooms, and pasta together for a minute or two, sprinkling in 2 or 3 handfuls of cheese as you go, to allow the pasta to soak up the sauce and flavors. Garnish the pasta with lots of chopped parsley and pass extra cheese and crusty bread at the table.

It took me a while to warm up to Rachael Ray. One of the reasons was probably the inconsistency in her cookbooks. She has so many of them and they are all different from one another. Some don't have any recipes that impress me, others are full of recipes I want to try. I realize that she's been in the cookbook business since long before she was a big food celebrity and I would expect a difference in her earlier cookbooks but I'm surprised she hasn't grown into a particular style by now. That could just be a strategy to sell more cookbooks and it probably works. Some RR fans will buy anything with her name on it and the rest of us can pick and choose the ones we like. When I saw this one in Costco, I immediately recognized it was a good one for me and I brought it home.

This was another winner from RR. I've made recipes like this before but this version really popped due to the cherry peppers. That's such a nice way to add heat to a pasta dish. I put in enough to feel the heat but not enough to get in the way of enjoying this. The cremini mushrooms had a meatier flavor that regular white buttom mushrooms. I might be reaching for the cremini mushrooms more often now that I've realized that.

Am I the only one who feels like time has sped up recently? Where the heck did the first half of November go? This is insane.

Question of the Day: Do you like mushrooms? I've run across many people who don't care for mushrooms but I love them.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Muffins and addiction

Easy Banana-Walnut Bread
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Copyright 2006

1/2 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract (I only increased this 50%, the original recipe called for 1 tsp)
1 1/2 cups (24 oz) mashed very ripe bananas
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 cups (1 lb) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) chopped walnuts I didn't use these

Preheat 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

Beat together the butter, sugar, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the banana, honey and eggs beating until smooth. Add the flour and nuts, stirring until smooth. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and let rest at room temperature, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the bread for 50 minutes. Lay a piece of foil over top and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan onto a rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 servings. Per serving 19g whole grain, 258 cal, 12g fat, 5g protein, 21g complex carbs, 15g sugar, 3g fiber, 56 mg cholesterol, 185 mg sodium, 258 mg potassium,

I made about 3 dozen mini-muffins instead. I baked them at 350 until they were just done, maybe about 15 minutes. I forgot to time them. Sorry.

Here's a tip - the surest way to keep bananas fresh is to buy them with the intention of baking with them. They practically unripen when I do that. If I buy them to eat they all turn black the next day. These were barely in baking territory (some black spots, not very mushy) after over a week but even though the recipe lead-in suggested only using extremely ripe bananas for the best result, I thought these muffins had a lot of banana flavor. I suppose they will just be even better if your bananas are riper than mine were.

I was very careful not to overbake these since I didn't want them to be dry. They turned out moist and delicious but with mini muffins, they can go from just baked to overbaked in a short amount of time so keep an eye on them if you make the mini muffins. I'm sure this recipe makes an excellent banana bread - I just didn't want to bake a loaf for an hour when I could make these mini muffins in about 15 minutes.

I'm done buying cookbooks for the year. Yes, I know, it's mid-November, big deal. I will try to start off the year without buying any for while too but for now I'm going to set my goal to resist just until 2010. I certainly haven't been accumulating as many as I did back when my cookbook guy was around but in the past month or so I bought some books at Borders, I acquired a few freebies, I purchased a few online (the new Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and a Nigella Christmas one), I picked up a Rachael Ray book in Costco. I bought one at the school book fair and then moments later I was handed a fund-raiser order I had placed earlier and two cookbooks were in that. I picked up 2 more on Saturday (one at a farmer's market and one at an antique market).

I must stop the madness. Starting in 2010, I'm going to have to start setting a strict cookbook budget. Although it could backfire - I don't really shop for much else now. It's a lot cheaper than a shoe or clothing addiction.

Question of the Day: What 'extra' do you spend the most money on? Clothes? Shoes? Home decor? Something else?

Friday, November 13, 2009

A chicken wing alternative

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book Copyright 2008

1 pound ground white meat chicken
1/2 small onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 cup parsley, chopped I used some dried parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s)
3 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream I used lite
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
A couple of handfuls celery sticks
A couple of handfuls carrot sticks

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground chicken with the onion, garlic and parsley, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Flatten out the meat in the bowl and score it into four portions using the side of your hand. Shape each portion into four balls – you should have sixteen meatballs in total. I used my scoop and got more.

Arrange the meatballs on a nonstick sheet pan and drizzle them with EVOO. Place in the oven and bake until the meatballs are cooked through and golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.

While the meatballs are baking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the hot sauce and whisk to combine. Toss the baked meatballs in the hot sauce to coat.

Mix together the buttermilk, sour cream, blue cheese and most of the chopped scallions.

Transfer the meatballs to a serving platter and spike each one with a toothpick or serving fork. Place the bleu cheese dressing in a small serving bowl and garnish with the remaining scallions. Serve the meatballs with the bleu cheese dressing, celery and carrot sticks alongside.

I love chicken wings but no matter how you make them (fried, baked, whatever) they are kind of a pain to make at home. This meatball version is much friendlier. It's easier to make these for a party (I made the meatballs ahead of time, froze them, then reheated them in the oven while I made the sauce). While I would never make a weeknight meal out of chicken wings, I served these for dinner, even though they were designated as an appetizer in the cookbook.

If you are looking for lighter appetizers to serve, these are a good choice if you make this dressing with light ingredients or buy a light blue cheese dressing. They are not super-light (there is butter involved) but definitely a step up from regular wings and that delicious but decadent buffalo chicken dip that is so popular. Also, these have less sugar than most meatball appetizer recipes.

I wasn't thrilled with this blue cheese dressing. It was okay but not the best. I prefer this one that my baked chicken wing recipe used. Not surprisingly, when I went to RR's site, the recipe called for prepared blue cheese dressing which I would also prefer. That is one thing I've noticed about RR's recipes - they always seem to be slightly different between her books and her site.

I almost forgot to add this to my ground chicken recipe list.

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite hot sauce? As much as I love Frank's, I've been buying most Crystal since it's less expensive.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Afterschool special

Cream-Filled Cupcakes
Taste of Home Annual Recipes 2000 Copyright 1999

2 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa I used mostly natural cocoa but I ran out and had to finish off with Dutch process cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup shortening
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
Chocolate frosting

In a large bowl, beat the sugar, milk, oil, water, eggs and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into egg mixture until blended.

Fill paper-lined muffin cups half full. Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat the butter, shortening, confectioners' sugar, milk, vanilla and salt until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Insert a very small tip into a pastry or plastic bag; fill with cream filling. Push the tip through the bottom of paper liner to fill each cupcake. I went in from the top. Frost cupcakes. Yield: 3 dozen.

Nutrition Facts: 1 serving (1 each) equals 195 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 16 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 27 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 2 g protein.

My house was getting out of control so I told myself that my day off yesterday would be strictly for housework - no cooking or cookbooks. Yet, around mid-day I found myself making these cupcakes. For a while when I was in grammar school, my mom had one day off from work during the week and that was the only day I might expect to find some kind of dessert when I got home. Since my older son had school yesterday, I thought it would be nice to have something waiting for him when he got home since I know how much I used to enjoy that.

They didn't take long. I only made a half batch (18 cupcakes). I was a little short on the 'cream' so 2-3 cupcakes got short-changed. It was super-simple to fill these using my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator. I love that thing. I do not work for Pampered Chef.

The cupcakes themselves were very good. I did have to use some Dutch process cocoa since I ran out of the regular stuff. It doesn't act the same as regular cocoa powder but it seemed to work. My cupcakes were a bit more rounded on top than usual and that might have been caused by using the Dutch-process cocoa since it has a different pH had reacts with baking soda differently (I still haven't figured that out completely). The flavor was great and I managed not to overbake these cupcakes (for a change) so they weren't dry.

I think I would have preferred something other than a buttercream in the middle. Something something a bit marshmallow-y maybe. The buttercream is good but it wasn't much of a contrast from the frosting which I made basically the same as the filling except I added cocoa. Alternatively I could have used a different type of frosting for a contrast.

Now that I've discovered how easy it is to fill cupcakes, no cupcake will be safe around here.

I bought this cookbook for 25 cents at a yard sale! Great deal. There are a ton of great recipes in it.

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite kitchen gadgets?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A pretty one

BBQ Chicken Twister
The Pampered Chef More Stoneware Sensations Copyright 1999

3 cups cooked chicken, chopped I used raw chicken and cooked it with the veggies
¾ cup celery, sliced
1 cup onion, chopped
¾ cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 ¼ cups barbecue sauce
¼ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornmeal, divided (optional) I didn't use this
1 package (11.5 ounces) refrigerated cornbread twists I used bread sticks. The cornbread twists have been discontinued.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces and slice celery using 8” Chef’s Knife. Chop onion and bell pepper using Food Chopper. Melt butter in Generation II 12” Family Skillet over medium heat. Add celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic pressed with Garlic Press to skillet. Cook and stir 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add chicken, barbecue sauce, salt and black pepper. Cook 5 minutes or until mixture comes to a boil, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into Deep Dish Baker. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal over 18” x 12” Grooved Cutting Board. Unroll cornbread twists over cornmeal. Sprinkle with remaining cornmeal. Separate dough into strips using Pizza Cutter to cut along perforations. Starting at center of Baker, twist and place half of strips over chicken mixture in spoke-like fashion. Pinch ends of strips together at center. Twist and place remaining strips around edge of Baker. Bake 20-25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Obviously, use the equipment you have if you don't own the Pampered Chef products called for in the recipe. I baked this in a deep dish pie plate.

Yield: 6 servings. 400 cal, 16 g fat, 1030 mg sodium, 2g fiber

I love cornbread topped recipes so I was disappointed when I realized that they had discontinued the cornbread twists. I could have used a box of Jiffy cornbread but the 'twist' seemed integral to the recipe so I went with the bread sticks and it worked out.

Sorry about the picture but I was rushed and only got two shots and this blurry, non-flash picture looked better than the other one. I thought this recipe was cute and pretty much a meal in one dish. We had some green beans on the side.

This was easy since I chopped the onions, pepper and garlic in my mini-chopper. I made the chicken mixture Sunday for Tuesday so the chicken absorbed a lot of flavor. I reheated it and then topped it and baked it.

Question of the Day: Is today a holiday where you are? It's Veteran's Day here. My older boy has school but I have off work. Hopefully I can catch up around the house.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

More venison (and more on the way)

Barbecue Venison
301 Venison Recipes The Ultimate Deer Hunter’s Cookbook Copyright 1992

2 pounds boneless venison
½ pound bacon I used applewood smoked bacon
1 cup onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup ketchup
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
Rice, salt and pepper

I marinated the meat overnight in water, vinegar and salt.

Cut venison into pieces no larger than 1-inch cubes. In the bottom of a Dutch oven or large frying pan, cook bacon until crisp.

Remove bacon, crumble and set aside.

In a bowl or other container, mix all ingredients except venison and rice. Salt and pepper to taste.

I didn't add the vegetables straight to the sauce. I sautéed them with the meat for awhile after it had browned.

Brown venison in bacon drippings. Add bowl of ingredients to venison. Stir well. Cover tightly and simmer about 1 hour or until meat is tender (it took me quite a bit longer becauseI realized my element had come loose during the cooking process so this was actually turned off for who knows how long.). Stir occasionally. Serve over rice.

I was down to just a couple packages of deer meat left in the freezer and then my husband shot another deer yesterday (archery). This last batch wasn't bad - I hope this next batch is okay. Although, he didn't really mention the size of this deer at all which leads me to believe it wasn't that impressive. There might not be much meat left after the bologna (he always orders a good bit of deer bologna when he gets a deer processed).

Venison is growing on me yet I still approach it with a bit of hesitation each time. I was pleased with this recipe but I think I could have cut the bacon down by at least half. I had applewood smoked bacon which I like but it's stronger than other bacon. The sauce was pretty strong, which is why I chose it. I might get daring and start to pick recipes that don't mask the venison flavor as much. I'm not giving up marinating the meat first. I'm not that brave.

I will add this to my venison recipes round-up.

Question of the Day: Do you have a favorite bacon? Thick? Thin? Maple-flavored? Peppered?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Quick preparation, simple and delicious

Golden Lemon Bread Recipe
The Taste of Home Cookbook Cooks Who Care Edition Copyright 2009

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice

In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Pour into a greased 9-in. x 5-in. loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack.

Combine the glaze ingredients; immediately pour over warm bread. Cool completely before removing from pan. Yield: 1 loaf (16 slices).

Nutrition Facts: 1 slice equals 165 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 28 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrate, trace fiber, 2 g protein.

This was one of those simple yet surprisingly good recipes. Glazing the cake warm makes it so good. It's a mild lemon flavor yet very pleasing. I would definitely make this again. I didn't even use a mixer, just a wooden spoon. I had it in the oven in just a few minutes.

My bread did get a little bit more brown than the bread pictured in the cookbook but that is quite possibly just because I have an old, decrepit oven. Next time I might cut the temperature down to 325 degrees F.

I can't say much more about this. Mondays are definitely not my best day. At least I can start getting to bed earlier on Sunday nights now that Mad Men has wrapped up its season.

Question of the Day: I'm too tired to think of one today.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Venison recipes

With deer season here or about here (depending on where you live and your choice of weapon), I thought I'd list my tried-and-true venison recipes. Okay, I didn't love them all but I didn't find anything inherently wrong with any of them, I'm just not a huge fan of deer meat. Occasionally I really enjoy it but mostly I just tolerate it. I think it's more of a mental thing than anything else.

There are some people who like venison without any hesitation, which is great. In that case, there is little problem in substituting venison for similar cuts of beef in any beef recipe. I'm not that daring. I have to get as much of the deer taste out of the venison as possible first. I do that by marinating it (in buttermilk or a water, salt and vinegar mixture) or, in the case of ground venison, I will either boil it or rinse it with boiling water after browning it before proceeding. Sometimes butchers mix pork into ground venison, in which case you might not want to wash out the pork flavor.

You'll also find that every deer doesn't taste the same. Some have more of a gamey taste than others. Farm-raised venison probably doesn't need any 'pre-treating'.

Barbecue Venison:

Hunter’s Favorite Chili:

Venison Au Jus:

Venison Eugene:

Venison in Sauce:
(a hideous picture but this is my favorite venison recipe that I've made over and over)

Venison Paprika:

Venison Stroganoff:

Big Game Baked Round Steak:

American Chop Suey:

Italian Venison Sausages:
(I did not care for this at all but I really don't know why. It might work well with ground venison that has been mixed with pork.)

Purist Chili:

Friday, November 06, 2009

Once again, excuse the bad picture

Chicken and Bok Choy Stir-Fry
Real Simple Best Recipes Easy, Delicious Meals Copyright 2009

1 tablespoon canola oil
4 6-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
kosher salt and black pepper
4 heads baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup store-bought barbebue sauce
4 scallions, thinly sliced I forgot these!

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Add the bok choy and 1/4 cup water to the skillet. Cover and cook until the bok choy is just tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, barbecue sauce, and scallions. Add to the skillet and bring to a boil. Return the chicken to the skillet and cook, tossing, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.

I know this isn't the most enticing picture but you can see a prettier shot here on the Real Simple site. That's the picture in the cookbook.

I had not cooked with baby bok choy before this. It was surprisingly tasty and tender. Even my husband seemed to enjoy it. My local grocery store didn't have it and I ended up getting in Wegman's so I'm not sure if it's a hard-to-find item or not. I didn't check the other three local stores. I would think you could substitute regular bok choy, just cut it into smaller pieces.

Don't ask me how but I forgot the scallions. This recipe only has about 5 main ingredients and I forgot one. Oh well, I love green onions so this could only be better with them but nothing felt missing when we ate this without them.

I think the sauce would be too strong so I probably wouldn't substitute regular or dark soy sauce for the low-sodium soy in this recipe. There is a good reason they are calling for the low-sodium. If regular or dark is all you have, cut it with water or I think it would be too salty. Unless you have some rare low-sodium barbecue sauce (they're usually pretty salty).

This recipe called for cooked white rice but I substituted ramen since we all love it, especially the guys. This would have been very good with rice too though - there was plenty of juice (I wouldn't call it a sauce - it was thin). I cut my chicken into slices instead of chunks. Keep the pieces small since they will absorb more flavor that way.

This is something I would make again, maybe not with baby bok choy (since I don't always have that in my produce bin) but with whatever veggies I had on hand. That simple mix of the low-sodium soy and barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's) was so good.

Another good recipe from this new Real Simple cookbook that I discussed more in depth here.

Question of the Day: Have you ever tried Bok Choy? I think this was my first time trying it but it won't be my last.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Too good to feel any guilt

Maple-Barbecued Pork Burgers
The Bon Appétit Cookbook Copyright 2006

8 ounces pork sausage (preferably hot breakfast sausage) I used Bob Evans Zesty Hot
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

2/3 cup bottled barbecue sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 onion rolls, split
1/2 cup purchased coleslaw

I used 1 pound of hot breakfast sausage and 1 medium green pepper and made 4 burgers. I did NOT double the sauce - this makes plenty for 4 burgers. I used non-onion rolls and homemade coleslaw.

Gently mix sausage and green bell pepper in medium bowl. Form into two 1/2-inch-thick patties. (Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk barbecue sauce, maple syrup, and vinegar in medium bowl to blend well. Reserve 1/3 cup sauce to baste patties.

Grill rolls until lightly toasted. (I didn't grill the rolls.) Transfer to 2 plates. Grill patties 5 minutes. (I used my Griddler.) Turn patties over. Brush with sauce. Grill until cooked through, brushing occasionally with sauce, about 5 minutes longer. I would wait until the burgers are completely cooked before brushing on the sauce since the sauce burns easily. Place burgers on bottom halves of rolls. Top each burger with 1/4 cup coleslaw and top half of roll. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.

I thought these were awesome. I loved the heat, loved the sweet. I'm a huge fan of coleslaw on sandwiches. This burger was just what I like.

They reminded me of a Rachael Ray burger but they were a bit less work. Which reminds me - it really bothers me when people lump Rachael Ray with Sandra Lee and other shortcut cooks. RR is fast but she doesn't use a lot of convenience products. She would have built the sausage from scratch and the coleslaw from scratch. I did actually make my own coleslaw since I had some cabbage in the produce bin that I needed to use up anyway. I winged it but I basically made this recipe.

This is one of those meals that you can pick up the ingredients for on the way home and have dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. It's something a little different than your average hamburger. If I were the perusing the supermarket for a quick dinner, it wouldn't have occurred to me to pick up breakfast sausage.

Of course, this is a once-and-a-while kind of recipe. Although these didn't look that fatty when I cooked them, it is pork sausage and not something you want to make a regular part of your diet. But if you're going to eat something bad, make it something good like this.

If you're not into pork sausage, I don't see why this recipe wouldn't work with turkey breakfast sausage if you can find some in loose form or in large link form (you can remove the sausage meat from the casings). I've only seen the small links around here and it would take all the fun out of this recipe if I had to remove all those casings.

Question of the Day: What do you think of Daylight Saving Time? Do you think the person who came up with the idea had small children? I think not.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Boneless, skinless chicken thigh recipes

Just for the heck of it, I thought I'd centralize my boneless, skinless chicken thigh recipes. They're one of my favorite things to cook with lately. Recipes specifically calling for boneless, skinless thighs are getting more popular but they are still a bit of a challenge to find. This is a short list but I expect it to grow.

I didn't care much for this style of chicken at first because they seemed to have a lot of 'yuck' on them that I felt the need to remove. However, the ones I buy in Costco now don't require any extra work - I use them as is.

I think the thighs have much more flavor than breasts. True, they have more fat but as a commenter pointed out recently, they have more iron and other nutrients too. And, although dark meat has more saturated fat than white meat, two-thirds of its fat is healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. It's not the evil option that many think it is. I still cook with white meat of course, but the dark meat is a nice change of pace.

I'm also discovered that chicken thighs are so much better than breasts in a slow cooker. They don't dry out in a crockpot like breasts tend to do.

Molasses-Glazed Chicken Thighs:

Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs:

Korean Style Chicken with Green Beans:

Oven-Fried Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Thighs:

Orange-Ginger Grilled Chicken Thighs:

Sweet and Sour Chicken Thighs with Wilted Baby Spinach (I used bone-in thighs with skin but the recipe calls for boneless, skinless thighs which would have been better):

Bayou-Style Pot Pie:

Bourbon Chicken:

One-Dish Chicken and Kielbasa Rice: (Calls for thighs but I used white meat. It would be much better with thigh meat).

Tangy Pineapple Chicken:

Smoky Paprika Chicken Thighs:

Balsamic Garlic-and-Herb Chicken Thighs (good without the balsamic too):

Sweet Maple Chicken:

Brazilian Chicken and Rice with Olives:

Chicken and Chile Pepper Stew

Vietnamese-Style Caramel Chicken with Broccolini