Monday, December 12, 2011

One last wrap - for now: Green Olive Hummus Wraps

Green Olive Hummus Wraps
Delicious Wraps Copyright 2007

4 10-inch wraps
4 cherry tomatoes, halved I used grape tomatoes
½ cucumber, seeded and quartered
2 oz baby spinach leaves I used Romaine lettuce
7 oz canned chickpeas, drained
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil I used canola oil
1 tsp tahini
1 tsp lemon juice
2 oz pitted green olives, chopped I used pimiento stuffed olives
A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, shredded I omitted this
Salt and pepper

To make the hummus place the chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, tahini and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, transfer to a bowl and mix in the olives and parsley.

Preheat a nonstick skillet or broiler pan until almost smoking , add the wraps, 1 at a time, and cook for 10 seconds on each side. This will add some color and soften the wraps. I don't find this step necessary.

Spread some hummus over each wrap and divide the tomatoes, cucumber and spinach among them, placing some in the center of each wrap. Fold in the wraps at the ends, roll up, cut in half diagonally and serve.

Makes 4.

I usually end up fighting the urge to barrel through a cookbook when I've made something really good from it.  I'm not sure why I fight it. One reason is that I have so many cookbooks, I don't want to get stalled on one book.  That might be boring and more importantly, it might make my other cookbooks feel left out and sad.  Another reason is that I try not to delve too much into a single cookbook - I'm trying to promote the cookbook love here, it's not my intention to share all of their contents.

This time, however, I gave into my urges and tried three recipes out of this same book, practically right in a row.  I have no regrets either - this book is three for three.

I love hummus.  I love Spiced Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, but I've been wanting to try different versions.  This one was fantastic, since I like green olives.  The salty olives really played off the garlic well.    The overall saltiness of the hummus played off the vegetables in the wrap nicely.

For the olive haters (and I know there are many), leave them out or try something else.  Personally I intend to do a lot more experimenting with hummus recipes since once you spring for the tahini (which isn't cheap but it goes a long way), the rest of the ingredients are very reasonable.  Store-bought hummus is rather pricey.

I did make this with the amount of oil called for the first time.  I won't lie - it's great that way, but I don't think you lose too much by replacing some of the oil with the liquid from the chickpeas or water either, which is what I did when I made it again (and again).

I continue my tradition of falling apart during December.  I am not even stressed out but I am not eating well and I haven't been to the gym in over a week.  I'm trying to conserve my cooking energy for baking.  

Monday, December 05, 2011

More wraps: Turkey Wraps with Brie and Cranberry

Turkey Wraps with Brie and Cranberry
Delicious Wraps 2007

4 10-inch wraps
2 ounces cranberry sauce
9 ounces cooked turkey breast, shredded
5 ½ ounces brie, sliced
Salt and pepper

Preheat a nonstick skillet or broiler pan until almost smoking, add the wraps 1 at a time and cook for 10 seconds on each side. This will add some color and soften the wraps. (I don't find this step necessary since the wraps I have were soft enough.)

Spread the cranberry sauce evenly over the wraps and divide the turkey and brie evenly among them, placing some along the center of each wrap. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fold in the wraps at the ends. Roll up each wrap, cut in half diagonally and serve.

Makes 4.

Normally I like to mix things up and I would wait a few posts to tell you about another wrap but heck, let's stay on wraps for another post (or two).

This would have been a great recipe to have last week but better late than never. I cheated and used prepackaged turkey, the new thicker 'carved' variety, which wasn't that bad. I had hoped to pick up a turkey after Thanksgiving but the store was wiped out.

This is not way out of the box but it's something simple that I wouldn't think to put together on my own.  I can make this for lunch in the morning very easily, which is a good thing. I know I say I'm going to start planning ahead but that never happens.  Brie is pretty easy to find these days.  I normally don't buy it since the local stores only seem to carry the bigger wedges and I know I could make it disappear very quickly.  However I was in a different store this weekend and I was able to get a smaller piece of brie. 

I love cranberry on sandwiches and these three ingredients go together very well.  I might have to start investing in those bigger wedges.

Question of the Day:  Do you like brie cheese?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Using It Up:Salmon

Salmon and Dill Wraps
Delicious Wraps Copyright 2007

11 oz fresh salmon fillet
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 eggs
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp sour cream
¾ oz capers, chopped
Zest of one lemon
A small bunch of fresh dill, chopped I used some dried dill
4 10-inch wraps

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Place the salmon on a nonstick baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. (I nuked my salmon.)

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, add the eggs and cook for 9 minutes, then cool under running water for 5 minutes. Shell the eggs and chop them roughly. (I put the eggs in cold water, brought the water to boil, turned it off for 10 minutes, drained and cooled the eggs.)

Flake the salmon into a bowl, removing any skin. Add the eggs, mayonnaise, sour cream, capers, lemon zest and dill.

Preheat a nonstick skillet or broiler pan until almost smoking, add the wraps, 1 at a time, for 10 seconds on each side. This will add some color and soften the wraps. (I skipped this step.)

Divide the salmon mixture evenly among the wraps, placing some in the center of each wrap. Fold in each wrap at the ends, roll up, cut in half diagonally and serve.

I had some frozen salmon fillets in the freezer for the longest time.  They would not have been there as long had I tried this recipe sooner.  I loved this.  The lemon zest and the dill - yum! 

This book is part of a set of books that I bought at a book sale a while back (my son's daycare received a percentage of the sales).  There's a book on wraps, a book on salads and a book on lunches. I was hoping for lunch inspiration but my problem with lunch is I don't usually plan ahead. I really need to start planning ahead because it's great when I have something really good for lunch (like this). Unfortunately most of my lunches lately haven't been that great.

I did a lot of cooking last week and now I'm afraid I'm going to forget what I made before I get a chance to tell you about it all.  I haven't had much energy for blogging in the evenings.  Oh, I did finally bring the recipe archive up to date.  I was over a year behind!  As of this recipe, I've made 1032 recipes from 346 cookbooks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Quality over quantity

A more professional, on-the-ball blogger would probably have presented you with a multitude of recipes for Thanksgiving by now.  I don't have any Thanksgiving recipes.  (Well, if you peruse the archives, you could possibly find a few recipes for appetizers, sides or pies that appeal to you.)

Better bloggers would at least be at the ready with a list of ideas for your leftovers.  Honestly, I don't think my family has every had an amount of turkey leftover that couldn't be handled by a few turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce-and-mayo sandwiches. However, I do have one recipe suggestion from the archives for leftover turkey to offer you this week - Giada's Turkey Bolognese, a very anti-Thanksgiving use for leftover turkey. If you don't want to get right to it, you could freeze the leftover turkey and make this later.

Turkey Bolognese
Giada’s Family Dinners Copyright 2006

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 ½ pounds coarsely shredded cooked turkey (preferably dark meat)
6 cups marinara sauce she suggest her recipe but I used jarred Bertolli Organic
1 cup water
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ pounds spaghetti
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the celery and carrot, and sauté until the vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add the turkey and sauté 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and water. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 25 minutes, stirring often, to all the flavors to blend. Stir in the basil. Season the sauce generously to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile in a very large pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking together, until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes, Drain, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat, add enough of the reserved liquid to moisten as needed. Serve with the Parmesan.

It's only one recipe but it's a good one. Happy Thanksgiving!

Question of the Day:  Are you cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My new favorite egg salad: Egg Tartare

Egg Tartare
River Cottage Every Day Copyright 2009

6 medium eggs, at room temperature
4 spring onions or 2 small shallots, finely chopped (I used green onions)
3-4 gherkins,finely diced
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
2 tbsp finely chopped parsley (I left this out)
1 tbsp finely chopped dill (optional) (I used a generous sprinkling of dried dill)
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise
Dab of Dijon mustard
2-3 dashes of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slices of wholemeal, sourdough, rye or your favourite bread, to serve (I only had Fiber One Honey Wheat bread on hand)

1. First, boil the eggs. (The author discusses how to cook the eggs and suggests the egg yolks should be soft but I just hard boiled them.)

2. Peel the eggs.  Roughly chop the eggs and mix with the spring onions or shallots, gherkins, capers, parsley and dill, if using. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and Tabasco, if using.

3. Gently combine this mixture with the eggs and season with salt and pepper. Serve on wholemeal, sourdough or rye bread, as closed or open sandwiches.

I've always loved egg salad but no egg salad has ever impressed me as much as this one. I just happen to love green onions, capers and dill. The gherkins add a nice punch. You don't need very much mayo for this - the second time I made it I cut back on the mayo and punched up the Dijon mustard (I made a half-batch to start but it was so good I soon found myself making another half-batch). If you used eggs with a soft yolk as the author suggests, the salad would probably require even less dressing.

Green onions have become the staple onion in my produce bin. Sweet onions had been my staple onion forever but I think I've only purchased two of them since I've moved in August. I particularly like green onions for use in salads. 

This recipe is so named because it uses the classic ingredients in tartare (tartar) sauce.  I love tartar sauce sauce so it's no wonder I love this.  Tartar sauce often has tarragon so you could add that or switch out the dill for tarragon

I checked this cookbook out of the library.  It's a bit out of my league  - not in complexity but this is more for the crowd who buy organic, eat locally, eat seasonally, grind there own wheat, etc, while I am lucky to get food on the table at all these days.  However, I have my eye on many recipes in this cookbook.

I baked for a bake sale this week.  South Seas Cookies, 7 Up Cake, and Peppermint Patties  are my standards.  I should have taken a new picture of the South Seas Cookies!  They came out really nice.  I also made Sweet and Crunch popcorn (in pink), chocolate covered pretzel rods (chocolate with white chocolate drizzle and white chocolate with assorted sprinkles and jimmies) and boxed brownies that I melted and spread a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips on top after they came out of the oven (they were studier to package that way).  Everything sold well. People seemed a bit afraid of the pink popcorn. I used to eat pink popcorn at the zoo when I was a kid but maybe not everyone had that experience. But at least one woman who bought it soon came back for more. It's one of Nick's favorites.  Heidi's got some great recipes.

Question of the Day:  Do you like eggs?  Eggs seem to be one of those foods that many people dislike. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Old-fashioned goodness: Grated Apple Cake

Grated Apple Cake
The New Karo All American Cook Book (undated)

2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup margarine
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar (I used light)
½ cup Karo dark corn syrup
2 eggs
1 ½ cups coarsely grated pared cooking apple

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg together; set aside. Blend margarine and brown sugar in mixing bowl. Add Karo syrup, then eggs; blend until smooth. Add the sifted dry ingredients, a small amount at a time, beating until blended. Fold in grated apple. Pour into greased and lightly floured (13x9 ½ x 2 inch) baking pan. Bake in 350 degree F oven about 35 minutes, or until cake tests done. Cut into squares and serve warm with lemon sauce or sour cream. (I frosted it with a brown sugar frosting.)

I earmarked this recipe quite some time ago.  It was in an old Karo Syrup recipe book.  I think it was the grated apples that appealed to me - I knew that would make a moist cake.  What really made this cake shine for me though was that it was seasoned only with nutmeg and dark corn syrup (which adds a molasses flavor) - no cinnamon.  I love cinnamon of course but it seems like just about every apple cake recipe calls for a bit of it and it turned out to be a nice change to leave it out.  Although, I don't really know if I'd categorize this as an apple cake. The grated apples add moistness more than flavor, similar to using applesauce in a recipe. This is more of a spice cake. 

I chose to put some brown sugar frosting on it. I used the one from this Legacy Apple Cake (if you are looking for a more apple-y apple cake, that's the one to try.) A confectioners' sugar glaze would be a good option too.

This was a real hit with me.  I'm not sure if this type of cake still has mass appeal - you just don't see as many spice cake recipes or baking recipes flavored with nutmeg or molasses in newer cookbooks.  I enjoy recipes like this and they always go over well with the work crowd too.

Question of the Day:  Do you like spice cake?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Just what I needed: Chicken Chili

Chicken Chili
Favorite Brand Names Slow Cooker, Casseroles and More Copyright 2002

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground chicken or turkey I used chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
2 fresh jalapeño peppers,* chopped I used serranos
1 can (28 ounces) tomatoes, cut up, undrained
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) kidney beans, drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Heat oil in 5-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook chicken, onion and bell pepper until chicken is no longer pink and onion is crisp-tender, stirring frequently to break up chicken. Stir in jalapeño peppers, tomatoes with juice, beans, tomato sauce, chili powder, salt, oregano, cumin and red pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes to blend flavors. To serve, spoon into 6 bowls and top with cheese.

I've been in the mood for chili and it was also about time to try another ground chicken recipe.  I had a couple of packages of it in the freezer. Now, this particular recipe would be one where you could use just about any ground meat that you like - turkey, beef, pork or even venison - and you'd probably get good, somewhat similar results. 

I followed the recipe exactly except for having to use serrano chilies instead of jalapeños because that's what the store had.  Also, I used San Marzano tomatoes since I can finally get them here and I wanted to see what all the hoopla was about.  The chili turned out perfect but I can't say for sure if the San Marzano tomatoes made a difference.  They were definitely good canned tomatoes but I'm a little suspicious - I'm not sure if they were true Italian San Marzano tomatoes.  I'll have to do more research and experimenting on them before I decide if they are worth the extra money.

This had the right amount of heat for me - a  kick but it didn't linger too long.  That was just blind luck - I decided to add the two chilies with seeds and all.  I could have regretted that, depending on the peppers.  It had a good consistency and a bit of sweetness even though no sugar was added.  It had a good ratio of meat to beans but I think I could have stretched it with another can of beans.

Another successful ground chicken recipe. I'm going to add it to the ground chicken recipe round-up.

This is a monster of a cookbook. It's always been a favorite of mine. I've gotten quite a few good recipes from it (and one of my worst disasters - a crab enchilada that had cinnamon in the sauce. I still gag thinking about that.)

Question of the Day:  How hot (spicy) do you like your chili?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Something new for me: Five-Spice Roast Chicken

Five-Spice Roast Chicken
Quick & Easy Chinese Copyright 2008

1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons dry sherry or Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 pound chicken legs and thighs or one whole chicken cut-up

In a large bowl combine the soy sauce, vegetable oil, sherry, garlic, ginger, five-spice powder, sugar and salt, and stir to mix everything well and dissolve the sugar and salt.

Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat them evenly. Cover and set aside for 1 hour or as long as overnight.

To cook the chicken, heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the chicken pieces on the rack of a roasting pan, or simply place them on a baking sheet with sides to catch the juices. Cook 25 minutes and them remove from the oven and turn each piece over.

Continue cooking until the chicken is wonderfully and evenly brown and cooked through, about 45 minutes total.

Transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Five-spice powder was one of the few spices/spice mixtures that I did not already have in my cupboard. I saw it recently at a good price in a discount store but I passed it up at first. Then I started noticing several recipes that called for it, recipes that sounded good to me, if I turned out to like the taste of five-spice powder. I decided to go back and get the five-spice powder since at $1.49 for a bottle of the Spice Islands brand that wasn't anywhere near expiring, I didn't have much to lose.

I only made a half-batch of this so I only used 1/2 teaspoon of the powder in this recipe. It added a certain something without being overpowering. The chicken was really infused with the flavor of the marinade since I let it sit overnight (in the refrigerator of course).  It was enjoyable, not a real 'wow!', but it was a good introduction to five-spice powder.

Five-spice powder varies but Spice Islands brand contains cinnamon, anise, fennel, black pepper and cloves.  I was fearful of the cinnamon - I don't usually care for it in savory dishes (chili with cinnamon was one of the worst recipes I've made).   I liked this with the chicken and I'm going to try more recipes using it but I'm going to make sure to use it sparingly.

I have several Chinese cookbooks. Cooking Chinese food at home is really not that hard, especially now when you can easily get just about any ingredient you need from one source or another.  I really like the selection of recipes in this book (many classics, a few not-so-mundane recipes, all very doable) but the layout is a bit funky - I don't like the way ingredient lists are often carried on to the next page.  They could have chosen a layout that prevented this in all but the longest recipes.  That's a minor nitpick though. I would definitely recommend this as a starter Chinese cookbook.

Question of the Day:  Five-spice powder - have you tried it?  Do you like it?  What recipes have you used it in? (Okay, maybe that should have been Questions of the Day.)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Cooking For One: Chicken a la King

Chicken a la King
Cooking For One Is Fun Copyright 1976

1 tablespoon butter (I needed 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup mushrooms
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup chicken broth
½ to 2/3 cup cooked chicken
¼ cup pimientos, diced
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sherry
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in a small casserole and sauté the mushrooms for 1 minute. Remove the mushrooms. Now stir the flour into the butter in the casserole (I had to add another tablespoon since the mushrooms absorbed the first tablespoon) and gradually add the chicken broth. Continue stirring until the sauce is smooth.
2. Add the chicken, pimientos, and mushrooms to the sauce and keep it warm.
3. At serving time, heat the casserole thoroughly and stir in the egg yolk, sherry, and season as necessary. Serve immediately.

I've always loved chicken a la king.  I used to buy it in boil-in-bags.  Yes, I used to eat boil-in-bags.  They were cheap, single serving, and I liked them.  They were a staple in my single days.  Sadly, they no longer make them and canned chicken a la king just isn't the same.  Chicken a la king can be a bit rich (some recipes call for heavy cream) so I've shied away from making a full recipe of it but the moment I first saw this recipe  - a single serving AND it had no cream - I knew right away I would make this someday.  Someday was last week when I had three mushrooms and most of a rotisserie chicken leftover in the refrigerator.  I picked up a 79 cent jar of pimientos and I was in business.

I know it's not the most attractive picture but trust me, chicken in a rich gravy with mushrooms?  Delicious.  I served it over some toasted Fiber One honey wheat bread.  I toasted the bread in the oven.  I didn't have a toaster oven or toaster at the time.(I have a toaster oven now - you'd be surprised how much you could miss toast!)  It was a very satisfying dinner.

I'm not surprised that most of you aren't cooking for one very often.  I'm still having trouble cooking just for myself.  I usually have the best intentions but when I don't have the boys, I'm usually more inclined to use up whatever is left in the refrigerator. I have to start cooking more on the weekends. Don't worry - I won't inundate you with one serving recipes.

Question of the Day: Are there any convenience foods that you miss? That's probably a repeat question but my brain is mush.

Monday, October 31, 2011

More Halloween treats

Crunchy Brown Sugar Shortbread
Cookies 1,001 Mouthwatering Recipes From Around the World

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 ¼ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Sift the flour and salt into a medium bowl. Beat the butter, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients to form a smooth dough. Press the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter two cookie sheets. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of ¼ inch. Use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Gather the dough scraps, re-roll, and continue cutting out cookies until all the dough is used. I ended up making balls of dough and squishing them down with cookie stamps. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, placing the 1-inch apart. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until just golden at the edges, rotating the sheets halfway through for even baking. Transfer to racks to cool.

Makes 16-20 cookies.

I received a set of Halloween cookie stamps for my birthday and I made sure to get a batch of stamped cookies made for Halloween. I'm trying hard to use my holiday-themed cooking items - sprinkles, cupcake liners, cookie cutters, etc.

I knew for the stamp to work, I'd have to use a shortbread cookie recipe and I'm really not a big fan of homemade shortbread. I can't pinpoint why that is since I love Lorna Doones and other commercial shortbread cookies but whenever I've made shortbread, I haven't been that impressed. Maybe because it looks like I keep making the same basic recipe (I just noticed that - I knew I made shortbread before but I just verified that it wasn't a recipe from this book - I didn't think to check if the recipe was basically the same). I know there are variations - I think I'd probably prefer one without brown sugar.

Even though I didn't swoon over these, both boys ate a couple of these right away. Go figure - they don't get excited over most of the baked goods I make. I wasn't expecting these to be a hit with them but they were.

I love this cookbook. I have the cake version too. Both have lots of recipes (1,001 they say but I never counted), which is great, but whenever a book boasts a huge amount of recipes, you can't trust that they were all meticulously tested. Also, these books want to show you lots of recipes - not necessarily the best recipes. For those reasons, every recipe is a bit of a crap shoot but I've had more successes than not.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Just a picture: Halloween cupcakes

No recipe today (I just can't produce the material I used to!) I had a bunch of Halloween sprinkles in my stash and I received some nice greaseproof Halloween-themed cupcake liners as a gift for my birthday earlier this month so I just wanted to make some cupcakes without looking for a recipe. I haven't had a lot of success with from-scratch cupcakes and I'm not really on a mission to find that perfect cupcake recipe either so for these I used boxed mix (yellow with orange flecks). I will still occasionally try more cupcake recipes but if I don't resort to the box more often, I'll never make a dent in my supply of cupcake liners and sprinkles.

I like boxed cake mix. It's consistent. These cupcakes all rose beautifully - the all had the same not-too-high of a dome on top and none of them mushroomed over. They weren't dry although I probably overbaked them slightly. Topped with Easy Buttercream (I'm not as big a fan of canned frosting as I am of boxed cake mix), these weren't half-bad.

(This barely made a dent in my sprinkle stash but what do you want to bet that I pick up more Halloween sprinkles on clearance after Halloween?)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sorry, Mandi

Citrus Cookies
Homestyle Cookies, Muffins + Cakes Copyright 2009

9 tablespoons unsalted butter (125 grams)
¾ cup powdered sugar (90 g)
1½ cups all-purpose flour (185 g)
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest I used the zest of one lime
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest I used the zest of one lemon
1/3 cup sour cream (80 g)
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Orange Icing

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar (150 g)
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest I used the zest of one orange
2 tablespoons orange juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Light grease two baking trays. I used parchment paper.  Place the butter, powdered sugar, flour and lime and lemon zest in a food processor. Process for 10 seconds or until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sour cream and lemon juice and process for 10 seconds or until the mixture is finely combined.
2. Drop level tablespoons of mixture onto prepared trays, allowing room for spreading. Mine didn't spread that much.  I used a cookie scoop and flattened the dough slightly.  Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. I had to bake mine about another 5 minutes longer.  Cool completely on wire rack.
3. To make orange icing, combine the icing sugar, zest and juice in a bowl. Stand the bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring until the icing is smooth and glossy. I nuked it.  Spread the icing over the cookies with a flat-bladed knife. I just dipped the tops of the cookies in the icing.

Makes about 30. I only got  about 20.

This recipe is so positively citrusy.  Great for anyone who loves citrus, but not-so-great for Mandi, who I know is allergic to citrus.  Hopefully there aren't too many others ought there saddled with a citrus allergy.  I think that allergy would be a tough one to deal with.

Zest is really the best way to get citrus flavor in a baked good and Microplanes make it so easy to get fine bits of zest.  The Microplane is definitely one of my most recommended must-have kitchen tools. I have the classic version but they make several different products for the kitchen.  I have no affiliation with Microplane - they just make a great product.  I can't even remember how I zested citrus before I bought this tool.  I remember that zesting wasn't all that easy or efficient but now it's both.  With the zesting out of the way, this recipe comes together very quickly.  It doesn't make a lot of cookies but sometimes you just don't need dozens of cookies. 

As I've mentioned before, I am glazed-challenged.  Anything glazed usually comes out too sticky but this is the first time I cooked a glaze and the results were awesome.  The surface was completely dry yet the glaze did not get tooth-chipping hard.  They did have somewhat of a matte finish which isn't as appealing as a bit of shine.  A sprinkle of sanding sugar would have provided some sparkle.  I really couldn't decide if these cookies were visually appealing or not. I was really on the fence.  I liked the color (that's all natural).

This cookbook is from the bargain book table of one of the large bookstore chains (which has since gone out of business). I was meeting someone for lunch nearby and decided to 'browse' for a while (this was months ago).  It's a big book with lots of color pictures.  It has U.S. measurements but it must have it's roots in Europe somewhere since you can tell by the measurements and the ingredient names (dessicated coconut, sultanas, for instance) that it didn't originate here.  I have plenty of these books in my collection.  It's hard to resist the big color pictures - it's food porn at it's best.  I did start to shy away from them since I find they mostly come from the same publishers, they contain a lof of the same recipes, and I do try to mix things up in my collection.  However, this book was definitely a fresh addition to my collection.

Question of the Day:  What do you use to zest citrus? 

Monday, October 17, 2011

She's back - again!

Marinated Green Beans

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

2 pounds fresh green beans
¼ cup chopped red onion I used green onion
2 cups cherry tomato halves I used grape tomatoes
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook or steam the green beans in a little water in the microwave or on the stove until crisp-tender. Drain. (I shocked them in ice water.) Add the onion and tomato.

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper and toss with the green bean mixture. Serve or refrigerate until serving.

I put this cookbook aside because I really hate to share any single cookbook too heavily but it's been a while and some of you may still need to know about this cookbook.  This is my favorite 'healthy' cookbook.  I have a lot of good healthy cookbooks but I love how well-rounded this one is.  It's not low-carb or high-fiber or fat-free or sugar-free.  Everything is in moderation.  Most importantly,  the recipes are for the kind of food that  I eat.  They are mostly from scratch but there are a few convenience ingredients making appearances.  There are recipes you can serve your family for dinner and recipes that are 'fancy' enough to serve to company.  Nothing is overly complicated.

I had picked up some pre-trimmed, steam-in-bag, fresh green beans at a good price and decided to try this recipe with one bag of them. It was a 12-ounce bag so I added a bit more tomato.  I couldn't find red onion in the store and I already had green onion so I went with that.  It worked for me.  I should have made the full recipe - I loved this.  I will probably make another batch tomorrow.  Of course, as I always caution, you must use a good balsamic.  The one I use is a store-brand, from Weis stores, if you  live and shop in this part of Pennsylvania.  I've tried some nasty ones in the past.  If I had never found one I liked, I would have been scared away from all recipes with balsamic vinegar. 

Question of the Day:  Are you watching anything particular in your diet right now (sodium, carbs, fat, etc)?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cooking For One: Cheese Soufflé

Cheese Soufflé
Cooking For One Is Fun Copyright 1976

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
½ cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 drop Tabasco
1 egg
3 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese

1. Heat the butter in a small pan and add the flour, stir and mix well. Cook 1 minute.
2. Add the milk all at once, stirring vigorously with a wire whisk. Add the salt, pepper, and Tabasco, continue mixing.
3. Cook until the mixture begins to thicken and is rid of lumps.
4. Break the egg and drop the white into a small cup or ovenproof bowl (?? - put it in a bowl or container large enough to beat the eggs white). Place the yolk in another small container.
5. Add a tablespoon or so of the white sauce to the yolk and mix well. Pour this into the remaining white sauce and stir well.
6. Beat the egg white with a rotary beater until it forms stiff peaks. (I used the whisk attachment on my stick blender.)
7. Pour the thickened white sauce into a greased casserole or other suitable vessel; stir in the grated cheese and mix well. (I folded the egg white into the white sauce before putting it in the baking dish.)
8. Carefully fold in the stiff egg white and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top of the uncovered dish is brown.

* Use a small soufflé pan or at least a straight-sided small casserole so that the soufflé can rise unimpeded up the straight sides of the container while cooking.

Cooking For One will be a new  feature around here.  The boys are being very picky lately so I am concentrating on getting them to eat better foods and different foods - I don't want to focus too much on trying new recipes on them.  That leaves just me to eat my cooking (except for my baked goods which I share with coworkers).  I'll still be making larger recipes but I can't really be making several servings of food just for me all of the time.  I enjoy leftovers but some one or two serving recipes will help mix things up. Also, I no longer have a second freezer so I can't just freeze things willy-nilly like I used to - another good reason to cook smaller. (Boy, do I miss that second freezer.)

I shouldn't have any trouble finding material for this although I don't have too many cookbooks that concentrate on small recipes.  I have a few.  Some of my cookbooks devote a section to cooking for one or two.  There are recipes here and there throughout my collection that are just written for one or two.  Many recipes can be scaled down.  Still, it's definitely not the 'norm' to see recipes for one. I find that odd since I'm sure there are many people cooking just for themselves.  It may not be the most effective use of time or energy to make a small portion but you'll certainly get more variety in your diet.

This book was written by a single gentleman and it's a real gem. I picked it up at a library sale for a dollar.  I could probably populate this feature solely using recipes from this book.   It has a little bit of everything and uses mainly fresh ingredients.  The recipes aren't exactly unique but there are recipes that most people wouldn't think of cooking up in a small portion (like a pot roast for instance). 

I've always wanted to make a soufflé but it's one of those things that only I would eat so this single small cheese soufflé was just perfect.  I've never had a soufflé before but I think it came out great.  It wasn't exactly a  'WOW!' but hey, it's basically just eggs and cheese.  A delicious flavor combination with a lovely light texture but, again, it's just eggs and cheese.  Now that I've gotten my feet wet, I'm looking forward to making other soufflé variations.  I'm on the lookout for a nice soufflé dish.  The little dish I had worked fine but something smaller with straight sides would help make a more 'dramatic' soufflé.

I'm going to reinstate the question of the day! That might help to increase the number of real comments over the number of spam comments. 

Question of the Day:  How often do you cook dinner for one?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Please don't call A&E or TLC

Well my cookbooks are all out of boxes, my internet is back and it's time to start cooking again.  I'm still working on a few move-related things around the house so I haven't been spending much time in the kitchen but hopefullly I will get back into the swing of things soon.  I will admit that cooking is not as much fun when I have to wash all the dishes by hand but I'll just have to get used to that.
In the meantime, I thought I'd show you my cookbook collection.

This was my main shelf at one point.  When I bought this shelf, I think it fit all of my cookbooks, just about. 

However, I discovered my cookbook guy about that time and started acquiring more cookbooks at an alarming rate (they were so cheap!) I soon needed another shelf.  I brought this bookcase from my parent's house.  It's very sturdy.  Why can't they make solid bookshelves like this for a reasonable cost anymore?  Those shelves will never bow like the particle board shelves do. 

That shelf got filled up eventually too.  I had another small shelf that I had been using for books but I repurposed it when I moved so now I found myself with several boxes of books and nowhere to put them. I refuse to buy any more fake-wood assemble-yourself shelves if I can help it (although they usually look very nice they are no match for actual books).  I tried to be patient but that stack of boxes was starting to make me itch.  I finally picked this shelf up at a yard sale for $10. I would have liked something larger but this is nice and solid - all wood - and it fit in my trunk.  I will repaint it eventually.

The rest of the books ended up over my kitchen cupboards.  This isn't ideal but it does helps spread the madness a bit and that space really needed something.

I thought that was all of them but oh, then I remembered the books I put in the trunk that I'm using as a coffee table.

I thought that was all of them but wait! I spotted a the pile of children's cookbooks that I had separated from the rest (I need to find a special place for those since the boys like to look at those but I don't want them swallowed up with the other children's books). 

Okay, now that really is all of them.  That's 25 years of collecting cookbooks.  Having them all out in the open has shamed me into not buying more.  Well, I'm trying really, really hard not to buy anymore.  I don't want to end up on an episode of "Hoarding - Buried Alive" (Under a Pile of Cookbooks).

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Waiting waiting waiting

Just to let you know that I'm still here and I'm anxious to start blogging again but I don't know when I will be able to, thanks to Verizon's ineptitude.  I am still without phone or internet service at home even though they were supposed to be turned on two weeks ago. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

I need an intervention

I am in the process of moving. Boy, do I have way too many cookbooks.

The good news is, I will be back blogging, in full force, soon. It will be just in time for my 6 year bloggiversary. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Catching up

Lemon Sour Cream Cake
Reader's Digest Cakes 1,001 Classic Recipes from Around the World Copyright 2003

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
6 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 13x9-inch baking pan. Sifted the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, until just blended after each addition. With mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the dry ingredients, alternating with the sour cream. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cake completely in the pan on a rack. Dust with the confectioners' sugar.

I have so many recipes that I haven't told you about. Here's one of them.

I made this so many months ago that if there were any details I wanted to mention , they are long forgotten. I  remember loving the moist, dense texture of this cake.  It's one of the better lemon cakes I've made and it would have been great with a couple of berries and some whipped cream but it was great plain too. I would make this again.

I wish I had more to say but I don't. Sorry.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Birthday cake

I like to record birthday cakes here on my blog, although I don't try new recipes out for birthdays. I used my all-time favorite yellow cake recipe this time. It's the reverse-creaming method that I use that makes this cake so good. I've tried to duplicate it a couple of times since that first time I made it, but I was always impatient and my butter wasn't soft enough so I didn't get those same great results. The butter needs to be completely soft which it was this time. It came out perfect again.

I made one and a half times the recipe for an 11x15-inch pan. I split the cake after freezing it (so it would be easier to cut). For the filling, I used this recipe, except I opted to leave out the Cool Whip at the last minute and I'm so glad I did. It was just what I wanted - a thick, creamy texture.  I also used Better Bowls pudding mix this time which I find superior to Jell-O or store brand. I discovered it recently when I bought the little single-serving bowls off of the clearance shelf. I thought it mixed smoother than boxed mixed and it tasted better. I have not been contacted by Better Bowls - this is just my honest opinion. I'm not sure about it's claims of being healthy, although I'm sure it's healthier than other pudding since it has some fiber.

Dan is a whipped cream freak so I used whipped cream to frost the cake. I used some gelatin to help stabilize it (it's debatable whether or not that is necessary but the whipped cream never weeped on the leftovers after days in the refrigerator). I added some food coloring and used powdered sugar to sweeten it. It wouldn't whip at first but I was just trying to whip too much cream at once (4 cups). I finally whipped it in batches but I was frustrated and tired so I didn't add any fancy touches (I was going to pipe a border).  Not the best decorating job (when I'm also cooking for a party - I can only do so much with the cake) but personally I thought this was one of the most delicious cakes I've made.  I guess I'm a bit of a fan of whipped cream too. In one of my most unselfish acts of motherhood, I let Dan eat the last piece of this cake.

My go-to chocolate cake recipe does not translate to cupcakes very well so I used this recipe for cupcakes with my Easy Buttercream Frosting. I didn't do a cream filling for the cupcakes and they were okay, not the worst chocolate cupcakes but not the best either. I should have used Duncan Hines.  I really never have much luck with cupcakes, especially chocolate.. No matter how hard I try not to overbake them, they almost always seem dry to me.  Since I decided to frost the cupcakes as soon as I mixed the buttercream,  I ended up with 'dots' on my cupcakes (the color didn't absorb evenly - I try to let colors sit overnight usually).

He knew just what to do with the candles:

Friday, June 17, 2011

More meat loaf? Of course!

Boarding House Meatloaf
Jack Daniels' The Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook Copyright 1988

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup uncooked regular oats
1/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Meat Loaf Sauce
3/4 cup catsup
2 tablespoons onions (chopped)
2 tablespoons green peppers (chopped)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients for meatloaf. Place into greased 9x3 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. Pour off juice and bake about 10 minutes longer. Place on platter and cover with sauce.

For sauce simmer all ingredients over low heat until onion and pepper are tender.

I'm back on my meat loaf kick. I never get sick of it. I wasn't really looking for something really different this time. What I wanted was something a bit different but yet I didn't want to buy any extra ingredients. And, as I knew I was out of bread crumbs and had a surplus of oatmeal, I wanted one that used oatmeal as the filler.

This recipe met those criteria and I ended up enjoying it quite a bit even though I was almost expecting to be disappointed. It seemed too simple, too plain but it hit the spot. One thing I would change is that the 'sauce' would be much better used as a baked-on glaze (I've found the recipe printed that way online). Ketchup and brown sugar cooked together is just a bit too thick and sweet to be used as a sauce - it should stick to being a glaze. Also, next time I would add a little spice like nutmeg, cloves and/or dry mustard to give the glaze a little kick.

It was a bit crumbly in texture but I didn't mind that but be forewarned if you are looking for a meat loaf that behaves well when sliced. This might not be it.

I'll have to add this one to my meat loaf recipe round up.

This is a nice cookbook. It's not just recipes - there are lots of stories and information about the region of Tennessee where Jack Daniel's is produced. There are pictures of people and places. although no pictures of the recipes. It had a lot of great recipes, many that actually use Jack Daniel's but others are just recipes from that area.

I paid $2.97 in Goodwill for this book many months ago. Back then, that was a stretch for me, now I would be lucky to find a cookbook in Goodwill for $2.97. They have started pricing them ridiculously high. Perhaps the increase in cookbook sales since I started shopping there is what compelled them to increase the cookbook prices but I have become much pickier about what I buy there and I notice the cookbooks tend to pile up now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Using It Up: Bananas

Banana Snack Cake
Taste of Home Simple and Delicious Cookbook Copyright 2010

1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 1 small)
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar

In a bowl, combine flour and baking soda. In another bowl, whisk the brown sugar, water, banana, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Transfer to a greased 8-in. square baking dish.
Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners' sugar. I skipped this. Cut into squares. Yield: 9 servings.

I made this because it was fast. I made this because it was easy. I made this because it used up some of my frozen banana stash that is growing all of the time. I made this because my coworkers are happier when I bake and I really didn't have the time or motivation to look for a more interesting recipe.

I certainly didn't make this because I thought it would be anything special but this was quite good. Simple, yes, but very moist and delicious with nice banana flavor. As a bonus, this is egg and dairy free, perfect for anyone with egg and/or dairy allergies or your vegan friends or family. 

Snack cakes always remind me of when my mom bought snack cake mixes that came with their own pans.  Maybe they were called Snackin' Cakes?  How did they get the pans in the boxes?  Were they folded?  Ah, that is one problem of growing up in the age of packaged mixes - many of mom's best recipes were eventually discontinued LOL.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Cranberry Meat Loaf

Cranberry Meatloaf
Wal*Mart Family Cookbook Copyright 2008

1 can (16 oz.) whole cranberry sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 lb. lean ground beef I used ground chicken
1 ½ cups soft bread crumbs
1 medium onion, chopped
½ medium green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup milk
¼ cup egg product I used 1 egg
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp each parsley flakes and thyme leaves
1/8 tsp. oregano leaves

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In small bowl stir together cranberry sauce and brown sugar. Set aside.

In large bowl combine ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, bell pepper, milk, egg product, salt, parsley, thyme and oregano. In large shallow baking pan, shape meat mixture into a 8x4x2-inch loaf. I baked mine in a loaf pan.  Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Spread ¼ cup of reserved cranberry sauce mixture on top of loaf. Bake 20 to 30 minutes more.

In small saucepan heat remaining cranberry sauce mixture over low heat until heated through. Serve with meatloaf.

This recipe caught my eye when I acquired this cookbook (from Goodwill) but I didn't think it would appeal to anyone else in the house. That's really not an issue anymore since when I make a meatloaf it's generally just for myself these days. My older son used to like it but doesn't now - hopefully it will have a rebirth soon, like pickles. He used to love pickles then he wouldn't eat them at all and now I have to ration them since he would eat too many if I didn't stop him.

So I decided to make this but I couldn't help but think that ground chicken would be a great fit for this (or ground turkey but I prefer ground chicken to ground turkey). I decided to make the substitution and I'm so glad that I did. Of course you know I am biased when it comes to ground chicken. I always seem to love whatever I make with it.

This was another great meatloaf and another great use of ground chicken.  I'm going to add this to my ground chicken recipe round up and my meatloaf recipe round up.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sugar cookies made with barley flour - yum!

Soft Barley-Sugar Cookies
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking Copyright 2006

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole barley flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sour cream
extra coarse or turbinado sugar for rolling

Cream the butter, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, vanilla, and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Add the egg, beating until smooth.

Whisk the barley flour and all-purpose flour in another bowl. Add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Beat in the sour cream, then the remaining flour. Refrigerate the dough overnight (important in order for the whole grain flour to absorb the moisture).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place the coarse sugar (or regular granulated sugar, if you don’t have coarse) into a small bowl.

Scoop out ¼-cupfuls of dough; a muffin scoop or large ice cream scoop makes short work of this task. Pick up each ball of dough and dip its top in the sugar, pressing down and rolling it around a little bit so the sugar sticks and coats the top third of the cookie. Place dough balls onto the prepared baking sheets. Cookies will spread to about 4 inches in diameter so leave plenty of room between them. Using the flat bottom of a measuring cup or drinking glass, dipped in sugar, to flatten the cookies to about 3/8 inch thick, Sprinkle cookies with additional cookies, if desired, gently pressing it in with your fingers.

Bake the cookies, reversing the pans midway through (top to bottom, bottom to top), until they’re barely beginning to brown around the edges but still look soft in the center, 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. To keep the cookies soft, store them in an airtight container.

I can't believe I never blogged about this recipe that I made back in February (or did I? - I couldn't find it).  I really loved the flavor of these cookies.  I did have some difficulty getting them cooked through correctly but my oven is old and frail. 

I love the flavor of barley flour. I used it before in Multigrain Snickerdoodles, made from another recipe in this book,  which were also great.  That flour wasn't easy to track down once again.  It seems more and more these days I can't find 'odd' ingredients anywhere locally.  Even whole wheat pastry flour has been a challenge to find.  Wegman's always comes through though. 

I needed the whole wheat pastry flour for one of my favorite chocolate chip cookies, Big Chocolate Chip Cookies, an awesome recipe that you really need to check out if you missed it back in 2006.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Growing up, there were only about three sources for pierogies.

You could buy Mrs. T's frozen pierogies in the grocery store. They were our everyday pierogies. We ate them relatively often and as far as I know there was only one type of filling available - potato and cheese I think. I may be wrong but they certainly did not have the variety of fillings they sell today (no jalapeno, spinach, feta, bacon, etc).

In the summer, most local churches raised money by throwing church picnics, multi-day festivals with music, games, and lots of food. Most of the local churches had members with Eastern European backgrounds so there were usually pierogies sold and they were mainly served deep-fried. Again, they were almost always filled with potato filling.

On Christmas Eve,  pierogies were the star of the meatless meal. You wouldn't serve Mrs. T's at this meal anymore than you would serve Stove Top at Thanksgiving. I'm not sure what resources my mother used but she would somehow contact a pierogi maker, place her order, and usually one night after we were out Christmas shopping, we would stop at some random house to pick up the pierogies. I don't recall ever seeing her walk in a house - it was always dark and she'd just disappear from the car and come back with bags of pierogies. Of course, there were always potato pierogies on Christmas Eve but also cabbage and early on farmer's cheese pierogies (eventually we stopped getting these whether by choice or lack of supply, I don't know). I think at least once we got some prune filled ones.

The pierogi market has really blossomed over the years. Eventually more brands became available, some of them cheaper, mass-made Mrs. T's varieties and others are from smaller companies with better fillings and higher price tags.  You can get store-brand pierogies now. I even bought some pierogies from my son's baseball fundraiser. They were sold along with the frozen pizzas, strombolis, pretzels, etc.  These days, we can buy our Christmas Eve pierogies right in the supermarket.

So, why bother making them myself? 'Cause I wanna.  I've always wanted to master pierogi making.  I had one sort-of-failed attempt years ago.  One thing especially that has been on my 'list' for years was to find farmer's cheese to make cheese pierogies.  You just can't find it locally.  I finally found some - a HUGE package of it in Wegman's. It was almost $20 worth of farmer's cheese, which they probably would have repackaged into smaller amounts if I had asked but I knew with $20 worth of farmer's cheese, I would not be putting off making pierogies.

First, I made the fillings:

To start off, I chopped an onion (a yellow onion, not a sweet onion) very finely in my mini chopper. I sautéed it in butter until the onion was translucent and just about to brown. I set this aside.

For the potato filling, I prepared some Honest Earth instant mashed potatoes as directed (with butter, water and milk). I know, all the work of making pierogies from scratch and I used instant potatoes? Yes, I like that brand (from Costco) a lot so I was brazen. They only contain potatoes, butter and salt. I added about half of a block of Kraft Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp cheese, shredded, some of the sautéed onions, and some white pepper. I felt them mixture was still a bit loose so I opened another bag of the instant potatoes and added more until the mixture was as thick as I wanted. Next time I will make the potatoes with less liquid than the directions call for.

For the cabbage-sauerkraut filling, I removed the core from a head of cabbage and sliced it thinly. I sautéed it in butter and oil, with some salt, lots of pepper and a dash of sugar until it was cooked down well and beginning to caramelize. I drained some sauerkraut really well and added it to the cabbage, to taste. I didn't want it to overpower the cabbage (I didn't rinse the sauerkraut but I should have). I cooked that together for a while and then added some sautéed onions and cooked it a bit longer.I know some people who like all sauerkraut, and some who prefer all cabbage, but I like a mixture.

The farmer's cheese filling was one pound of farmer's cheese, 1 whole egg, 1 egg yolk, a teaspoon of salt and some white pepper.

I don't have any complaints about my fillings. They all turned out to be just what I personally wanted, definitely for the potato and the cabbage but I'm not sure about the farmer's cheese only because I'm not sure what I wanted.  It's just been so long since I last had them, I'm not sure if they were the same or not. The flavors were about the same as cottage cheese and noodles.  Cottage cheese and noodles are readily available and much cheaper so I won't consider it the end of the world if I can't make more farmer's cheese pierogies in the future. If I did want to make more cheese pierogies, as a substitute I would probably use drained cottage cheese, blended until it's smooth. I would describe farmer's cheese as having the flavor of cottage cheese with the texture of ricotta cheese, but dryer.

For the dough, I chose four different pierogi dough recipes. Two of them used sour cream. Two of them I made in the bread machine as an experiment, using the pasta dough setting. I had to run it through twice and each setting was 14 minutes. (Not worth it - I could have mixed them both by hand in that amount of time.)  I screwed up and grabbed the self-rising flour for the bread machine doughs, which I didn't realize until much later.

At this point, I don't know where the other dough recipes are but the 'winner' was one that I found on and made by hand:

Pierogi Dough

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup warm water
1 egg, beaten

1.In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Make a well in the center.
2.In a separate bowl mix together the vegetable oil, warm water, and beaten egg. Pour into the well of the dry ingredients. Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes.
3.Cover dough and let rest for 2 hours. Roll out and fill as desired.

This dough was pretty easy to work by hand, it rolled out nicely, it had good stretch, fried up well. The other doughs weren't failures, even the ones with the wrong flour, but this dough was my favorite. Was it good enough to stop trying other recipes? I'm still debating that. Maybe.

The doughs do better sitting overnight so it was fillings and doughs on the first day and the second day I rolled, cut, filled, sealed, boiled, rinsed, dried, froze and packed.

I used a glass to cut the dough since I didn't have a biscuit cutter the right size.  I used water to seal the dough.  I pressed  the edges together until I was sure it was sealed well and then I pressed the edges together some more.  I'm happy to say that I didn't have any leaky pierogies at all. I boiled them until I thought they were done (I think this part will take more experience to get it right).  I rinsed them, dried them off and froze them flat on a cookie sheet before bagging them and keeping them in the freezer.  From there they just needed to be thawed and pan-fried.  You don't have to pan-fry them - you can just heat them up and top them with melted butter and sautéed onion but I prefer them pan-fried.

**Edited to add that they can be deep-fried too and of course, the freezing stage is optional and not necessary if you are going to eat them right away.

They are a lot of work but it's not that difficult. The ingredients (outside of farmer's cheese, not a necessity) are cheap so companies with big machines can sell them cheaply. But I can see why the smaller operations have to charge so much.

So that was my second foray into pierogi making and I think it was a success.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A quick one so you know I'm still alive

Cream Filling
the Ugly Binder, from the internet

2 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 boxes (3.4 oz or 4serving size) vanilla instant pudding
12oz thawed frozen whipped topping

Mix all ingredients, one at a time, in a stand mixer, in the order listed. the filling should be pretty stiff before you add the whipped topping. You'll need to refrigerate whatever you are filling.

I made this cake for my dad's birthday. This is the piece I transported back with us so it isn't very pretty. I baked a yellow cake (actually two cakes, but that's a story for another post) and used this filling in between the layers and on top. I added sliced strawberries between the layers and strawberry halves around the edge of the top of the cake.

I enjoyed this filling enough that I definitely didn't want to miss documenting it. If you don't like instant pudding and Cool Whip, this probably won't be for you but I grew up with those things and still like them. I think the heavy cream made this a bit richer and denser which I really liked. Both my boys loved this which is what really made this a winner for me.

I have lots of recipes that I haven't told you about but life is crazy and my computer is dying a slow death, I believe. I will try to post at least one or two a week until I can get back on track again.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Add that to the list

Vietnamese-Style Caramel Chicken with Broccolini
The Best Simple Recipes Copyright 2010

1/4 c packed light brown sugar
1 cup water
3 tablespoons fish sauce (you can omit)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 3/4-inch strips
2 bunches broccolini
1 TBSP vegetable oil
3 scallions, sliced thin

1. Heat sugar and 1/4 c water in skillet over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is bubbling and very dark brown, about 8 minutes. Whisk in additional 1/4 c water, fish sauce, ginger, half of garlic, and pepper flakes. Stir in chicken and cook until sauce is thickened and sticky and chicken is tender, 10 to 15 min. It seemed like my chicken was giving off too much liquid. I had to turn up the heat and cooked it a bit longer to get it sticky but I think could have used even more time to get darker and stickier.

2. Meanwhile, bring remaining water to boil in large skillet. Add broccolini and simmer, covered, over medium-low heat until bright green and tender, about 5 min. Remove lid and cook until liquid evaporates, about 30 seconds. Stir in oil and remaining garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to platter and top with chicken. (I just cooked plain broccoli.) Sprinkle with scallions. Serve.

Up until now I have avoided fish sauce. It wasn't that I was afraid of the taste or the smell, I just get a little hesitant with Asian ingredients due to my son's peanut allergy. But, I looked a little closer and fish sauce was probably safe and probably safe is plenty good enough considering my son was not going to eat this.

Fish sauce definitely wins the 'Stinkiest Ingredient I Ever Added To My Food Award'. Did it taste bad? Not really. It was mainly salty. Very salty. But that smell, my God, that smell. I could not really get past it. It smelled like fish bait pellets. I'd just as soon make Bourbon Chicken and have a similar sweet and salty result without the fishy smell. Honestly, I just don't see the point of the fish sauce. I read that you can substitute anchovy paste and soy sauce and I've never had a problem with anchovy paste (I usually love recipes that use it) so maybe I should have just gone that route.

So I guess I can add fish sauce to the list of ingredients I'd prefer to avoid. It's not a long list. Goat cheese is definitely on that list. I don't get goat cheese either. It tastes like goat.

I've been cooking a lot but the blog posts don't seem to be coming that easily. Hopefully I'll catch up soon.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cue the angels singing

Vi Kronon’s 7-Up Cake
Our Recipes Second Edition Polish Women’s Civic Club, Inc. 1979

3 sticks oleo (margarine - I used Land O' Lakes because it had the most fat)
3 c. sugar
5 eggs
3 c. all-purpose flour, sifted two times after measuring
2 Tbsp. lemon extract
¾ cup 7-Up

Combine oleo and sugar in large bowl of mixer. Cream until lemon in color. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each addition. Add flour. Continue to beat well. Add lemon extract. Fold in 7-Up. Pour into oiled and floured 10-inch tube pan. Bake 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool well before serving. Best served sliced in thin slices. (I think nice thick slices are pretty great myself!) Freezes well.

So I bought the margarine and 7-Up to make this cake and then I came home and saw that it called for lemon extract. Why that didn't stick out to me, since I never use lemon extract, I don't know. I had lemons but I wanted to follow this recipe exactly so I checked the Dollar General (it's closer than the grocery store). No lemon extract. Off to the grocery store. Wait! My tire is flat. Off to get air in my tire. Then to the grocery store for the lemon extract - over $4 for one bottle, and you need the entire bottle! Oh well, I've come this far. Home to make the cake. Hey, where's all my sugar? I don't have 3 cups of sugar. Back to Dollar General. Home to make the cake. Sniff. Sniff. What's burning? Why are there flames in my oven? Ooops! Should have put foil around the pan (it has a removable bottom like a springform pan and it leaked a little). I opened the oven so many times to clean that up (didn't want a smoked cake) that I didn't think it would rise properly.

Was it worth all that? YES! YES! OMG YES! One of the best things I've ever made. It was my dream pound cake. Dense, moist, with the most incredible crust. Every piece I ate (and I ate many) brought me great joy. Recipes like this are the reason I keep cooking and baking.

I bought this cookbook off of eBay as sort of a Christmas present to myself back in December (I say 'sort of' because I was going to wrap it up and wait until Christmas to look in it but I couldn't wait). I've been looking for Polish recipes like I grew up with, not the recipes you find in Polish cookbooks, and I figured out my best bet was looking for fundraiser type books in areas with a lot of Polish people or from Polish organizations. There aren't a lot of Polish recipes in this book but enough to make it worth it.