Tuesday, October 27, 2009

31.  Barley-Cabbage Soup, pg. 205

Ahhh, October:  The days of cabbage.  Such a lovely crop to watch grow, but the minute it hits the kitchen countertop, each head seems to double in size.  It's understandable that fermented cabbage dishes such as sauerkraut and kim chi are made in vat (or vast...) quantities.  Unfortunately, I don't have the patience for fermentation (beyond a day or two).

Aside from borscht, I've rarely had cabbage in soup.  I'm such a fan of pearl barley though, that I was pretty sure this would be a fairly successful dish up.

This recipe could use a few changes.  First, the barley really only needs to cook for about an hour, instead of the 2 written.  Check it starting at 45 minutes for doneness, and take off heat when the grains are done.  Next, for the veggies, do sauté the onions until they lightly brown before adding the cabbage.  I sautéed them with the cabbage for the same amount of time (and just until they were soft), and in the final product, I found the onions to be a bit too strong.  Cooking them longer will mellow them out a bit.  Lastly, for the white sauce, I used butter for fuller flavor.  Oil could definitely be used, and I think olive oil would even be fine.  Tweak to your needs or preference.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Surprisingly flavorful and hearty.

Monday, October 26, 2009

30.  Oatmeal Cookie Mix, pg. 286

Because I enjoy having some baked goods around to satisfy my sweet tooth, I figured making this mix might be a good way to have half of the mixing up completed whenever I needed to bake again.

After one attempt at baking, I am a bit disappointed at the final product.  Halving the final combination, I substituted one small banana for one egg (which has been met before with mixed results), dropped in a few chocolate chips, and then followed the rest of the recipe.  The outcome was a never-done cookie that lacked any personality.  The cookies spread out a good bit, and even after baking for over 15 minutes (versus the stated 12), were quite gooey and wouldn't stay together.

So, the verdict isn't out yet.  I think I should try it again, using egg instead of banana, and then I'll give it my final score.  Stay tuned.

Has anyone else ever tried this recipe with different results?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

29.  Cream of Cauliflower Soup, pg. 205

As I read through some of my recent posts, I'm re-reminded that fast and easy doesn't always fill a Kitchen Creator's need for making culinary delights.  I do like finding dishes which can be pulled together with what most people stock in their pantry, but trying something completely new and a bit more complicated can, at times, feel more rewarding in the end.

This recipe is not so complicated, though, and stays within the fairly simple and less-than-an-hour prep that my dishes have been lately.  It is nice to find recipes full of veggies, but aren't complex.

I modified this recipe here and there to try to create a slightly different, less-predictable end product.  First, when cooking the cauliflower, I added some turnips -- maybe a half cup or so -- in place of a small chunk of cauliflower.  After they were all done cooking, I fished out the turnips and processed them in the blender until they were smooth, hoping that they would add a little thickness to the soup.  Next, I split the sautée fat between butter and olive oil, and used about 1/2 c. (versus 1/4 c.) of diced onions.  When adding the liquids, I went light on the stock, as you're supposed to add the cauliflower water, and I was afraid if I added all the stock, the soup would be too thin.  I highly recommend adding some ground black pepper (or white if you have it on hand) towards the end of the cooking, and season with salt if needed.  I didn't have worcestershire sauce, and instead put a touch of some steak sauce and a dash of soy sauce.  To top it off when serving, add color by sprinkling grated cheddar (or other yellow) cheese on top with a pinch of parsley.

The end result was very middle-of-the-road-consistency: neither thin nor thick.  If you like a thicker soup, use a tablespoon or two more of flour, definitely blend some of the cauliflower, reduce the amount of veg/meat stock, and possibly use a higher fat milk (I used soy milk). If you like a thinner soup, follow the recipe as written.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Room to personalize, but its "basicness" can be pleasing to most.  Serve with salad or green veggie for a more complete color palatte.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Catching up...

After a lovely long weekend in Kansas, full of many opportunities to over-eat amazing, Mennonite soul foods, it's back to the grind. The air is officially crisp, and when we arrived back to our house last evening, the thermostat read 51.5. We had hoped not to turn on our heat until at least November, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Baking is so much more enjoyable in the fall and winter than in summer, and letting the warm oven air heat the kitchen and dining room always feels so cozy. Here are two recipes to warm you up!

27. Broccoli Rice, pg. 128

An incredibly simple recipe to pull together, with few ingredients to mess with. For color and spunk, I used a medium red onion and at the end of the sauté time, added about 3-4 oz. of fresh, sliced mushrooms. (I would imagine you could just dump a can or partial can of mushrooms in, if you like). I mixed the onions/mushrooms with the cooked broccoli and rice and put it into my baking dish. I simply poured the milk over top and then sprinkled the grated cheese on top of everything.

It turned out lovely! If you have lots of broccoli that needs to be used, this would be a great recipe to double and stick one pan in the freezer.

Overall: 4 out of 5 Tasty, fast, colorful.

28. Skillet Cabbage, pg. 225

Another easy and fast concoction. This recipe is easy to modify to meet the number of people you are serving - and odds are that if you've got a head of cabbage, the 3-4 c. this calls for will barely take care of any of it :) Slicing the carrots into coins keeps them slightly crunchy.

We tend to like our spices to be cooked into our foods (versus being simply on the surface), so I added the paprika, pepper and soy sauce just after adding the cabbage and carrots. (Since I used soy sauce, I didn't add salt.) When serving, I topped with roasted, unsalted cashews. Delicious!

Overall: 4 out of 5 Same as above.

I feel like I'm not telling much about these recipes, but they're both so simple and straight-forward, that there is not much to tell. If you like these vegetables, you will like these dishes. Period. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Waltzing into fall, I am noticing a distinct urge to eat carbs. We have salad greens, kale, and the like stuffed into our fridge which need to be eaten...but all I want are noodles and potatoes and rice. I can't say I've necessarily been so keenly aware of this drive before (though I'm sure it's been there), and it catches me a bit off guard in my attempt to eat a well-rounded diet.

Alas, two more carby recipes!

25. Peanut Granola, pg. 93

Another theme seems to be starting -- peanut butter! I'm trying to think of new things to say about all these granolas, and I feel like I end up saying the same thing. :) I liked this granola because of the peanuty-factor, but felt it a bit heavy. I see this recipe as a more parfait-friendly or apple crisp topping granola. Alone, it might weigh you down for the day. It stays together well in clumps, which is always a plus in my book, opposed to the everyone-for-themselves, scattered granolas.

Do leave it in for at least 30 minutes. I left it in for nearly 40 before I was satisfied with its dryness.

Overall: 3.4 out of 5 Use as an accessory, not a main breakfast cereal unless you've got a strong stomach.

26. Cinnamon-topped Oatmeal Muffins, pg. 71

More oatmeal! Quite simple, with likely no need to run to the grocery, these little guys come together in a jiffy. But beware: the batter is seriously runny. I was extremely skeptical that these would turn out as I stirred everything together at how juicy it was. Since we're not huge fans of lots of raisins in baked goods, I supplemented the raisins with a small handful of chocolate chips. Next time, I might just leave all the raisins out and go straight to the chocolate, but change it as your preferences demand. Any dried fruit would be tasty, I think.

A few changes: The topping was dreadfully scant, and I would recommend doubling the topping if you want to be able to taste the cinnamon at all. Now a day old, these little guys aren't nearly as good as they were fresh out of the oven yesterday morning. I found the recipe only made 9 muffins, as opposed to the dozen stated. As these are runny to start, they may need up to 20-25 minutes to bake (versus 15 stated).

Overall: 2.6 out of 5 I've had many a better muffin. Make these only if you love SUPER moist muffins which need a lot of recipe attention when you're making them.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

24. Pot of Gold Peanut Soup, pg.217

Wow. That's all I'm saying. After two nights of this soup, I'm still not tired of it. I'm still wanting more even after I'm full. I've been my happiest in the last two days when I was eating it. Amazing. (I should stop slobbering on my keyboard now...)

To the recipe! I used about 5 oz. fresh, sautéed mushrooms (could have put in more). I had sautéed first them in about 2 T. butter, 1/2 t. cayenne pepper, and 1 1/2 t. lime juice. I nearly ate half the pan while I waited to put them in the soup. Instead of pearl barley (lost my last bag to a pack of rodents, it seems), I used wheat berries. Give these guys a little extra time to cook if you try them -- mine cooked for just over an hour before they were done. Lastly, because I didn't have broccoli on hand, I used some pre-baked delicata squash cubes for more veggieness. I tossed them in with the mushrooms for about a minute at the end of the cooking time, just to give them some kick as well. Lastly, if you're going the dried hot pepper route, if you want your soup to be spicy, cut open the peppers into halves (so they can still be removed before consumption). I neglected to do this until pretty late in the cooking game, and missed the spicy-ness I was expecting. Though lacking in color (which the broccoli would have added), I couldn't care less as I was simply overwhelmed by the tastiness factor!

Overall: 5 out of 5 Tester Husband declared this one of the best soups he's ever had. If you like peanut butter like I do (i.e. can eat tablespoon after tablespoon of it out of the jar), you're going to LOVE this recipe!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

23. Scrambled Eggs and Noodles, pg. 151

As I was skimming through the pages this morning in search of a recipe for dinner, I stumbled upon this wondrous little recipe. Without knowing that MWL had a recipe for it, I made some last week one day for lunch. I first learned about this concoction from a German housemate I had during my time in Service Adventure, and then later had it again with a Swiss girl I met in Spain. Perhaps, then, this is one of those 'old country' recipes...? :)

What a simple, hearty lunch or dinner! Comparable to rice and beans, or chapati and lentils, or a range of so many other ethnic pairs, Eggs and Noodles provides that sturdy complete protein. Hard to go wrong with this dish, easy to please, and can be cooked up in 20 minutes or so.

Overall: 4.4 out of 5

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hold on tight!

Though I may have been neglecting to write this week, that does not mean I haven't been cooking from MWL. Life was a bit busy this week with extra work, and a lot of the free time I had ended up being directed towards my 14-day free trial of Cooks Illustrated and all the AMAZING information, recipes, and videos they have. It might just be worth the 15 bucks to keep the membership. I really do recommend trying the trial, if you are interested in cooking and the way food works.

So, now, hold on tight as I try to run through the dishes I've made this week.

19. Stir-fried Broccoli, pg. 224

Having made this recipe before, I knew generally that it is a simple dish, an easy meal with rice, and fairly fast to whip together with no super-special ingredients.

I didn't measure my broccoli -- but I used one medium-sized head, with part of the stalk. I think I should have increased the amount of sauce, as not all the broccoli got some to soak up. So, perhaps, if you're guesstimating, a small head of broccoli including stalk is probably about a pound. Also, make sure to cut the stems small enough so that they fry fast and evenly, without cooking them to a mush.

For a meal, I recommend either adding cashews or peanuts at the very end of the cooking time or sautéing a bit of extra firm tofu in after the onion is done and before the broccoli.

Overall: 4 out of 5

20. Whole Wheat Rolls , pg. 64

Straight from the MCC Dining Hall, these rolls have likely pleased many taste buds. A standard, low-frills recipe that is predictable and predictably yummy.

This recipe is easy to halve, and can be whipped up in about 20 minutes, including kneading time. I think I said this before, but I tend to shy away from bread recipes that have non-fat dry milk powder and eggs in them. I like to keep my bread dairy free and I typically don't like the taste that eggs make in the dough. However, for these dinner rolls, I decided to let them be, and just go with it.

By halving the recipe, I got two nearly over-full 8" round pans full of rolls. I would probably suggest two 9" round pans. One pan, after shaping them into rolls, rolled them in cinnamon-sugar (as "easy" cinnamon rolls). The other pan, just before baking, I brushed them with an egg wash and sprinkled sesame seeds on top for a more sandwich roll approach.

Overall: 3.8 out of 5 Super tasty when fresh and eaten with a meal, but goodness wanes after the first day

21. Chunky Granola, pg. 92

Another day, another granola! Not to be confused with "Crunchy Granola" across the page, chunky granola was my latest attempt at finding the perfect granola ratios.

I don't know what it was with people in 70's and 80's, but this gol-dern powered milk is EVERYWHERE. It simply seems wrong to make milk into powder just to increase the protein in everything. I don't know. What do you all think?

Anyways, what a simple, straight-forward recipe! I liked the pre-toasting of the oats. Seems like a really good idea to let them retain their own flavor before dumping sweeteners and oils on top. I had run out of wheat germ, and so used coarsely ground whole wheat flour instead, with no ill-effects. I decreased the amount of honey to about a half cup, thinking that 2/3 c. seemed a bit much (though, looking at Crunchy Granola over there with 1 c. seems even worse...), and Tester Husband still (independently) commented on how sweet it still was. We liked the hint of vanilla.

With a short baking time, this recipe is great for an after-dinner bake without worrying about having to stay up late to stir it every so often.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5 Fairly frill-less, fast and easy to make, but just a little too sweet

22. Vegetable Chowder, pg. 200

If you're looking to make a standard veggie soup/chowder and have lots of random veggies to use up, this might just be your recipe.

I strayed for this recipe, basically just following their guidelines to create a recipe that suited what we already had. You'll want to use a longer-cooking rice (no white rice!) as it cooks for 45 minutes. I used a red rice which gave a great, nutty flavor. Veggie stock easily replaces chicken. I used a red onion, a pint of corn, and about a cup of cubed sweet potatoes as my veggies. Unless you're using salt-free bouillon, don't add the extra salt. Once everything was cooked, I added a little less than a cup of soy milk, and stirred in some cheese.

Overall: 4.3 out of 5 Very easy, very tasty, versatile, and a perfect Fall meal!