I’ve been experimenting with a couple of standard recipes lately and thought I’d give you an update.
First is the classic Beanie Weenie recipe from the family cookbook. These beans are always, in my opinion, much better the next day when they’ve thickened considerably. Unfortunately, I don’t want to make Beanie Weenies a day ahead and I don’t like eating BBQ soup with some beans and smoked sausage (I substitute for hotdogs). I could either double the amount of beans and sausage and leave the liquid the same, or I could reduce the liquid. Since the quantity is fine, I went with the latter option.
This time, I reduced the BBQ sauce from 1.5 cups to 1 cup, and instead of 1 cup of brown sugar, I reduced to ½ cup. For plain BBQ beans, a sweater bean is fine but for a dinner I could save myself the sugar by halving the amount. Because I’ve made this mistake before, I kept the liquid smoke proportionate to the sugar and started with ½ TBS and added to taste from there.
These Beanie Weenies were more in line with what I like for dinner. They weren’t nearly as runny as previous versions, but neither were they the thickness of cold leftovers. There was definitely less sugar but I don’t think that’s something you really miss in a soup/stew mix. I’ll continue to use two variations depending on how much time I have and what the ultimate purpose will be.
Next I tackled steel-cut oatmeal in a Crockpot. In the past, I’ve generally made the oats on the stove in a big batch on Sundays. As you know, cooking on the stovetop takes at least 30 minutes, and quite honestly, the past few weekends I haven’t wanted to spend any time in the kitchen. And why couldn’t you use a Crockpot? It seems reasonable.
I turned to Google and right away got the answer I was looking for, complete with pictures, from this blog. Use the Crockpot as a water bath! This eliminates the problem Andrea had where the oats formed a crusty shell around the pot.
The method is simple to execute. Combine the oats, water and fruit optional (proportions are the same as the package instructions) in a bowl that will fit inside the Crockpot. Pour water between the oats bowl and the crock, about half-way up the side of the oats bowl. Set the crock on low and walk away for 7-9 hours.
I turned mine off at about the 6.5-7 hour mark and tested. The oats were the softest I’ve ever cooked them, but substantial. The texture was similar to old-fashioned oats and they bordered on creamy. I dished them into individual Tupperware containers and stored in the fridge.
Here is where I need your help. This morning on re-heating, the oats were a bit too gelatinous and gluey. They really didn’t have a spoon-able quality; it was more like eating bread pudding. The texture was mushy yet firm. I know, this is hard to explain. I’m wondering if it would be better if I reheated with some soy milk (or regular cow-juice for some folks) and stirred it around a bit – that might make it too watery but perhaps it would loosen it up a bit more.
The other option would be to cook for less time, even undercook it, since it seems to continue cooking/absorbing water even as it cools in the fridge. I used to do that with the stovetop version as I found with the cooling and reheating process it could actually overcook.
As it stands, the crock method is extremely easy and it seems to make a delicious bowl if you were to set it before bed and eat in the morning. I suppose I could also go with that method – make one bowl at a time overnight. Anyway, if you are one of my steel-cut oats eating, Crockpot using friends or family (and who haven’t I converted at this point?) and you test this method, would you please report back your findings and hopefully, with the power of collective thinking, we can come up with the precise times and methods for this.
For our anniversary this week, Tom and I decided to stay home and make a nice dinner together. We were both really looking forward to this – and we ended up saving quite a bit of money and got to eat in our sweats. J
We decided to make and appetizer of bruschetta and Fettuccini Alfredo with seafood for the main course. For dessert, instead of making something elaborate (read: I’ll be eating it for the next 5 days), Tom picked out some individual treats from the bakery counter of our local higher-end grocery store.
With most things Italian, if I don’t have a family recipe I turn to Giada DiLaurentes. I like her food, and I appreciate that her recipes are simple, don’t require too many exotic ingredients, and aren’t time-consuming. I got both recipes from her section of FoodTV. The bruschetta was awesome. The Fettuccini not so much. And honestly, I was very disappointed.
The Fettuccini recipe called for 2.5 cups of heavy cream and 12 TBS of butter – it’s not heart healthy. Also, it called for ½ cup of fresh lemon juice and 2 tsp. of lemon zest. I always read the comments, and overall, this was a highly rated recipe. The commenters seemed to be split over the use of the lemon juice. Some said that the lemon gave it a lighter feeling, not quite so heavy – which I thought was a plus. Some, obviously, commented negatively on the amount of lemon – there seemed to be a rebuttal that you had to use fresh lemon and not lemon concentrate or store juice. But since it was Giada’s recipe, I decided we should go for it.
Tom bought some lovely seafood – and I regret that it met it’s end in such a disappointing dish. In retrospect, I should have started with a much, much smaller amount of lemon juice and added more to taste. One thing I’m not good at is following a new recipe while carrying on a conversation. I get distracted from independent thinking – I follow the recipe to the exact letter without thinking about what I’m doing. I guess that’s better than leaving out a critical component. In the end, Tom said that the lemon actual grew on him, but I feel that your dinner should not have to grow on you. Andrea, with her love of lemon, might really like this. And indeed, the lemon did cut the heavy taste, but it was too overpowering for me. I think Tom will be eating whatever leftovers he wants and then I’ll toss the rest.
While the lemon was the obvious problem, one of almost equal importance was almost ignored. The sauce did not thicken. The recipe says the sauce will thicken when tossed and warmed, but it never happened. And to me, for Alfredo, that’s unacceptable. Even if the lemon flavor was appropriate, the lack of a thick, creamy sauce would have doomed the recipe anyway. This was soupy, didn’t stick to the pasta, and pooled at the bottom of the bowl. Giada’s recipe did call for FRESH pasta and I momentarily wondered if that would have helped thicken it, but I can’t imagine that the recipe would be limited by an ingredient that 80% of the population doesn’t have ready access to.
Now the bruschetta – that was very good. I have leftover mozzarella and may make a dinner of bruschetta this weekend. Extremely simple to prepare – we used a take and bake baguette, a can of whole tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic and olive oil. I used my mini-food processor and it all came together in about 8 minutes. If I was to do this again, I would first smash the whole tomatoes with the back of a spoon to release extra juice, and I would pulse the garlic first, separately, so that it’s very fine and integrates better. But otherwise…umm.
I bought some of the Chateau Pinot Gris we had at Christmas, a most excellent mid-price wine in my opinion, and Tom purchased two desserts – a cannoli which was delectable and kept with the Italian theme, and a devil’s food cupcake with chocolate frosting. It was the best cake I’ve ever had from a bakery. Soft and moist, but without that oily moistness you sometimes get from bakeries. The frosting was real butter cream and had a rich chocolate flavor – no shortening in this. The desserts definitely made up for the Alfredo.
To recap – Giada’s Alfredo recipe was a bust not only because of the excessive lemon, but the lack of a thicker, creamier sauce. If you have a good recipe, please send it my way. Her bruschetta was divine, simple to make, and would be an impressive appetizer for a dinner party or to eat alone on a Friday night. Byerly’s has yet to disappoint me with their bakery department. It’s probably a good thing that the closest on is in Eagan, and therefore nowhere near my usual errand route.
Oh, my lands. This cake is a new family favorite. Even if it’s just my little family. I urge you to make this cake as soon as you can. It’s not complicated, it doesn’t use exotic ingredients, it smells divine, and tastes delicious.
This recipe comes from the Smitten Kitchen blog. I haven’t tried many recipes off this site, and they seem to be hit and miss. But this one looked promising in part because it uses oil in the cake batter, which I know produces a moist cake. And it uses apples and I’m always on the lookout for a good apple recipe.
Mom’s Apple Cake
6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a tube pan. Peel, core and chop apples into chunks. Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.
Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.
Ok, a few notes about the recipe. First, she’s calling it “Mom’s Apple Cake” but the recipe is also known as “Jewish Apple Cake”, which is what I propose we call it to avoid confusion. Secondly, you might be tempted, as I was, to mix the batter by hand, but resist that urge. When you combine the dry and wet ingredients, it forms a very thick dough and is difficult to stir. Much easier to whip out the old Kitchen Aid to incorporate those eggs, which makes the batter, while still thick, at least pourable. Thirdly, I used a cooking apple called a Harrison. I suggest using a sweet cooking apple and not a granny smith unless you absolutely LOVE tart apples. Fourth, I think you need a tube pan. As I was making this, I was wondering to myself if you could use a bundt pan, but as I watched it rise and rise and rise in the oven, I became convinced that you would need the taller, more spacious tube pan. But don’t despair! Tube pans are cheap and you can pick up one at Target or Walmart. Totally worth it, even if you only use it for this cake. And when it cooled later, it shrunk back down nicely. Fifthly, mine took closer to 2 hours to bake. Time intensive in the baking process, but it only took 15 minutes to throw together.
See, moist, filled with apples and yummy goodness. I didn’t add powdered sugar to mine. I didn’t think the cake needed any adornment, but if you dust the entire cake, the sugar is going to absorb into the moist top overnight. Because it’s so moist, and because it makes a big cake, I froze half this morning. I’m going to assume it will freeze well because of the oil.
I served this with ice cream, but it really didn’t need it. I needed the ice cream so it was all good. I also ate it for breakfast the next morning. Like a melt-in-your mouth fritter. I have a feeling I’ve found a new favorite cake. I hope you enjoy!
I tried three new recipes this weekend and I have a couple more this week. Recently, a bunch were added to my favorite food blood, Simply Recipes, that use ingredients I’m trying to use up. Additionally, I’m trying to eat very healthy in between family visits and these seemed like things that would be healthy, if not completely then in moderation.
First recipe is Sweet and Sour Chicken. This recipe uses a marinade for the chicken pieces consisting of cornstarch and egg white. This really did help keep the chicken moist and smooth during the cooking process. I used leftover pineapple spears from Sam’s Club and I made 1.5 times the sauce. Also, Tom and I ate the whole thing for dinner, so I wouldn’t try to stretch it for more than 3 people unless you are serving something else. I think this would be a good recipe for mom since you have control over the ingredients in the sauce. I used my cast iron skillet and it worked beautifully. I will definitely add this to my heavy rotation recipe file.
This next one is called Apple and Sausage Pie. Now, if you make this for a guy, I strongly suggest you just call is Sausage Pie – the apple part just throws them. All day Tom kept asking me how the apples came into play and in the end, he really liked it. Even had it unprompted for lunch the next day.
I wouldn’t consider this a low calorie dinner, but then I just ate a small piece to compensate. It’s quite rich with all the cheese and sausage. I suppose you could use a lower-fat version of the ricotta if you were concerned. I can’t stand the smell of feta so I only added about 1/8 of a cup, so I wouldn’t be able to taste it. Really, it’s not that unusual of a recipe – it has a base of a pie crust, and who doesn’t love pie crust. Then comes sausage (you could probably use chicken sausage too), then a topping of the cheese mixture which isn’t totally unlike the filling in lasagna or manacotti. Anyway, it was tasty but it’s not a quiche if that’s the direction you’re leaning. One of the longer recipes with a baking time of 40 minutes, but not too bad for a weekend when you fell like something a bit more rich.
Tonight we had Chicken with Mushroom Sage Sauce. Andrea, stop reading here. I chose this one to use up some mushrooms from Sam’s Club. It was easy to put together and it has what I call Restaurant Flavors – stuff that I try in restaurants but rarely make at home. It was quick and didn’t use many ingredients. I think I had everything on hand except the wine.
Now, either I measured the sage wrong or it calls for way too much sage. I did have fresh, and frankly, for the amount you need, or that I can tolerate, I’m going to used dried next time. It calls for 3 TBS of chopped fresh sage. I used three packed TBS. Blech. I was picking out sage during dinner. Once I did that, it was fine. So I recommend adding maybe, at most, 1 TBS of fresh sage and tasting it before adding more. I liked the sauce well enough that I could potentially leave the sage out entirely. Otherwise, it was a good meal. I served it over egg noodles, but totally up to you. Again though, Tom and I polished it off (I used less than 1 lb of chicken though). And there wasn’t quite enough sauce, or maybe juuust enough, so consider making 1.5 times the sauce. But this would make for a great low-carb option, if you like ‘shrooms.
Later this week (with guest taster Samantha) we try Chicken Pasta Casserole, Garlic Chicken, and Winning Hearts Winning Minds Chocolate cake. Stay tuned.
I realized that I need to get moving on sharing some of my new favorite summer recipes before summer is over. This one is hands down my favorite recipe, and Tom’s too. We used the recipe from Simply Recipes Blog, which is my favorite food blog. It’s a blog dad would appreciate – the author started so she could document all her family favorite recipes before her parents are gone. Her mom is Latin, so some of the recipes have a bit of that flair, which is oh, so tasty. And both of her parents help with the cooking, the recipes, and ownership, so it’s really a family affair. Basically, I’m a huge fan because I’ve tried numerous things and IT’S ALL GOOD. Especially the vegetable recipes – have you noticed how hard it is to find new ways of fixing veggies that doesn’t include some sort of fattening cream sauce? Which, don’t get me wrong, is good some of the time, but sometimes you just want an alternative to steaming that is quick, easy, and doesn’t require 18 bajillion ingredients.
Here is the link to the original recipe: Grilled Corn Salad. Mine looks like this:
I’m going to let you click on the above link and use the print button to print your own copy. Much neater that way. I’ll just detail the modifications I’ve made.
Add 1 can of rinsed and drained black beans, cooked shrimp and diced avocado. I also double the cilantro because I like it. I don’t add the hot peppers because I don’t cook with hot peppers. Andrea understands. Also, I use frozen corn and my cast iron skillet. I love my skillet! Love it. You can get such a nice sear on things and I use it all the time because it gets so hot – it’s surprisingly effective at stir-frys. Grilling the corn and zucchini in the skillet works really well, just don’t stir often so you can get the nice grill color and flavor.
Tom loves to put these in soft flour tortila shells, with or without salsa. I eat it right out of the bowl. It’s fast and really refreshing for those hot days. In fact, this is our standard picnic food – I pack it up and take it with us to car cruises or shows, and it’s always better than the sad hamburgers someone is selling.
Try it – use what you have on hand and tweak it for your own tastes. I’ve used yellow peppers instead of red, but then I realized with all the corn, you need some red color. I’ve used lime juice instead of cider vinegar and it didn’t have enough zing. I’ve added the shrimp right before eating, but I like it better mixed in earlier to develop some of the flavors. I’ve had it hot, room temp and cold, and it’s good in all stages. Enjoy!
Today I’m going to shamelessly plagiarize from Smitten Kitten. This is the recipe I found on her site and thought it looked easy enough and tasty. Bear with me because I am actually recommending this recipe even though mine didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as hers. I thought the flavor was good and it was something different. Tom didn’t much care for it, so it’s officially Chick Food.
Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2002
Servings: Makes 6 side-dish or 4 vegetarian main-course servings.
For peanut dressing
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or a splash of the hot sauce or chili paste of your choice
3/4 lb dried soba nooodles (dried linguine fini or spaghetti will work in a pinch)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Half a seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Purée dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.
Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.
Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, cucumber and tofu to dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.
Mmm….doesn’t that just look yummy? Now I’ll tell you my experience.
First, I didn’t use tofu. I’m not sure tofu is allowed in my house. I used grilled chicken but shrimp sounds good too. Secondly, I didn’t used cucumber. Ech. I had some asparagus, so I blanched the asparagus for 2 minutes (actually, I just threw it in with the noodles for the last two minutes of cooking time). You could basically use any veggie combo your heart desired. Snap peas, sweet peas…umm….out of ideas now.
This, however, is not how my dish looked.
I hate to type this, but my dish was kinda, um, dull colored and tacky looking. And by tacky I mean sticky looking. It didn’t have the smooth look like above. It may have partly been due to the fact that my soba noodles, when I did find them (three grocery stores later!), were already a brown color like the color of wheat pasta.
Smitten’s soba noodles are white and that may help brighten the dish up considerably. However, the soba noodles were tasty, regardless of their color, so if you can find them, try it. They are shorter than spaghetti, about 6 inches, so it was easy to eat.
Also, I used tiny red and yellow peppers and sliced them very thin. I would recommend using larger slices of the large size peppers, but the thought of spending almost $5 for TWO peppers broke my heart so I instead spent $5 on 5 tiny peppers and felt I got more bang for my buck. It’s all psychological.
My sauce did look like hers though. Maybe my peanut butter was extra creamy and that’s why my sauce really stuck to the noodles.
I used my Magic Bullet which was great, but a blender or even a stand mixer would probably be fine.
Smitten describes eating this cold. I didn’t want to eat cold noodles, so mine was more of the warm/hot variety. Obviously, I liked it hot. I tried it the next day straight out of the fridge and wasn’t impressed, so I imagine that it might be good at room temp, but hey, do what you please.
Also, it seemed to make a lot. You could try halving the recipe, or make some and freeze, or use for leftovers.
In all, I recommend trying this recipe, even if my dish turned out kinda gummy looking and rather colorless. It tasted just fine. I liked the peanuty flavor (um, who doesn’t) and it wasn’t too spicy for me, but you could kick it up if you wanted. And if you make if for a guy, I would try to throw in some think flank steak or something to appease them. Or do what I did and top it all off with extra cake for dessert!
I had plans of making the above dish (HCHwMS) for Valentines Day. Officially, we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, but I like to get into the spirit by making a nice dinner and I thought this sounded fancy yet do-able. Additionally, I had halibut in the freezer, courtesy of Gail, and a bag of marionberries, courtesy of Dooger’s cobbler from a month ago.
The recipe was easy to follow, and I got it off of on Oregon Marionberry Grower’s co-op website. However, I took about two bites and decided I really, really didn’t like it. The sauce was okay, nothing special, I might have preferred it a little thicker. But the halibut….I didn’t like the texture and I didn’t like the crust. It wasn’t much of a crust because it was fairly soggy. Maybe halibut is naturally a softer fish, but the whole thing just didn’t have a good mouth-feel and the flavors didn’t feel complementary. Tom preformed greatly, telling me that he thought it was good, but eventually when I made it clear I wasn’t going to eat another bite of mine, he stopped eating his too. We’ll be giving the leftovers to the dogs.
The salad was great. It’s a recipe Tom first made for my birthday last year. It’s a spinach salad with homemade poppy seed dressing. The salad contains toasted almonds, sesame seeds, bacon, and cranberries. The salad, rice and bread were enough to get us to the piece d’resistance – a strawberry shortcake layer cake from QFC. It was light and sweet and delectable, and in holiday-themed colors!
For the record, this is the first thing that I’ve made that both Tom and I truly disliked. On a regular night, or if we didn’t have a good salad and dessert, we would have been making an emergency trip to McyD’s. But you gotta try stuff and at least I cleaned out my freezer of two items!