Thursday, July 22, 2010

A little bit less...for more, hopefully

Yes, summers are normally busy times of year...with trips, gardening, and general basking in the sun.

No, I've not been posting much.  Partly because of busyness, partly because it's so hot in our kitchen that I never want to cook, and partly because I am finding that I feel like I've personally learned most of what I set out to learn.  More-with-Less was a mostly undiscovered cookbook for me a year ago, save a few bread and cookie recipes, and within a year I've branched in a direction I don't typically branch towards: simple, "home-cooked-tasting" meals (versus the normally crazy what-looks-awesome-with-seemingly-a-long-list-of-ingredients meals).

In brief, I am feeling that my personal journey with blogging about MWL is ending.  Not having to write may even make my life simpler...which, is totally in the spirit of MWL, is it not?

I gladly leave open the opportunity for someone else to pick up where I left off -- drop me a line, and we'll get you started. 

I have enjoyed writing very much and sharing stories with each of you about the food we eat.  I'm grateful for the press I received from Mennonite Publishing House and for the new people that came around because of it.  I hope you are not too disappointed (if you are, see the paragraph right above this can turn that frown upside down!), but that you can appreciate any new insights you've found along the way.

Good luck and good eating to each of you, blazing your own culinary paths!

Monday, June 21, 2010


92.  Formosan Fried Cabbage, pg. 226

It seems slightly culturally insensitive to call this "Formosan" when even the author is not sure if this recipe is used in Taiwan.  I grew up knowing this dish as "Bee Chee" (or spelled something like that...), which isn't necessarily great for describing what's actually in the dish, but at least there are no cultural assumptions. :)

Issues aside, I love the fact this recipe has only four ingredients.  It makes life so much easier.  And then it all is served over rice.  Perfect.

I used bacon that I bought from a farm that sells at the same market that I do.  (It's such a lovely treat to be able to buy food straight from a farmer and go home and cook it! :)) I've used different kinds of cabbage for this dish before, and they all turn out very similarly.

I ain't got much to say other than that.

Overall: 4 out of 5  If you're craving salt, say hello to dinner!

93.  Creamy Cabbage, pg. 226

Yup, I had leftover cabbage, and this is where it all was finished up.  Though I'm very normally a vegetarian, I always think of cabbage alongside a pork dish (like above :)).  Perhaps that's the German in me.  We didn't have meat with this dish, but I can envision it alongside kielbasa or spicy sausage.

After cooking the cabbage and onions for about 7 or 8 minutes, I dumped in the cream cheese and paprika.  I didn't see the need to add more fat in the way of butter, so I nixed that, and I don't have (nor do I like) celery seed.  (Which, again, really only leaves me with 5 ingredients, not counting water.  Yay!)

The dish was simple, but satisfying.  I liked that the cabbage was still crunchy, but had mellowed just a bit.

Overall:  3.4 out of 5  Good, but not particularly beautiful.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm in a rush to clear out some of my canned and frozen goodies from last year before the same things come back into season...But a few things have already gotten ahead of me, like beets.  I still have nearly a dozen pints of pickled beets sitting in our basement, and yet, tonight, I am cooking the first two beets we'll eat this summer.  Ahh, well, I guess that just means I'll not have to can those this year.  I'm also, more than happily, helping clean out my mother's cellar.  I've become reacquainted with my undying love of tart-apple applesauce.  And though a good deal of my fruit servings these days goes towards ungodly amounts of sweet cherries, I've also found space in my stomach for the hearty bowl of cold applesauce on hot nights.  I like food a little too much, it seems...

90.  Bierrocks, pg. 144

A grateful nod to Rocky Mountain MCC Relief Sale for introducing me to this dish nearly 8 years ago.  Before my service group's trip there, I'd never known that hamburger, cabbage, and onion could be enclosed so nicely in a soft, wheaty bun.

So, last night, with meat-eating friends coming over, I dove headfirst into tackling this cultural delight (and tried to gear up my stomach to ingest beef for the first time in a very long time.)

I halved the recipe since there were only four of us.  In the dough, I still used a whole egg, and it turned out fine.  I used one cup of whole wheat, and the rest white.

I used a whole pound of ground beef, since it was frozen and I wasn't patient enough (or had enough foresight) to use just 3/4 lb.  I did end up with extra filling, but I think I could have put more than 2T. in each pocket.  I got 6 large bierrocks out of the recipe.  Be forewarned that the dough really expands when it bakes!

Served alongside hot sauce and ketchup, these bierrocks were very tasty.  Not as good as I remember them from the Relief Sale, but not having grown up eating these, I can't say I did too bad for a first go. :)

Overall:  3.6 out of 5  Good.  A fun substitute to boring ol' hamburgers!

91.  New Potatoes and Peas with Ham, pg. 140

In my opinion, creamed peas and potatoes are The Quintessential Summer Dish.  Their combination signals the beginning of something very good.

When you're getting your veggies together, I don't think it's super important to maintain the proportions listed.  I often don't use onions at all, sometimes use fewer peas (depending on what I have on hand), and will use medium-sized potatoes and cut them up.

Normally when I'm making this dish, after cooking the veggies, I drain all the liquid and just add a little bit of butter and milk.  But I have to say that I really liked making the roux with the extra liquid.  I liked the thick, almost-gravy it made.  I will definitely do this again.

And I completely nixed the cooked ham and cheese.  I suppose if this is your entire dinner, you might want that protein in there, but for a main veggie dish, doing without them is completely understandable.

(The leftovers are great for breakfast, too. :) )

Overall:  4.6 out of 5  Simply Summer.  Yum.

Friday, June 11, 2010

I'm all for changing the status quo, and here in our house, that means involving my husband in making food occasionally.  He does a couple things really well in the kitchen:  chop veggies, season dishes, and make Annie's mac and cheese.  He's also quite good at loading the dishwasher (but rarely unloads it), adding too much garlic to a concoction (just did that last night), and now, as I've come to find out, putting beans on the stove to cook while I'm gone (and I've asked him to).

Unfortunately, with this last "gift", the only part he's good at is the actual physical action of putting the beans on the stove and turning the gas on. :)

I had been gone for part of an afternoon when I asked him to do these things for me when he got home from work.  Upon my return, I smelled something burning.  Now, I've burned a pan of beans before, and so I was more or less (ha!) instantly clued into what was happening.  I run to the stove, find the pan dry, and the beans looking up at me, helplessly.  I performed as much emergency aid as I could, and then let the beans cool down before I would try one to see if the burny smell had turned into burny taste.  (This also gave me time to yell at said husband.  In a kind, thoughtful, and forgiving way, of course.)

Soon enough, we discovered the beans were somewhat salvagable, so all had not been lost in the quest for the night's dinner.

89.  Crusty Mexican Bean Bake, pg. 101 featuring the crust from Soybean Pie, pg. 111

Starting off with the crust:  since I didn't have yogurt or sour cream, and didn't feel like going out specifically for it, I decided to go with the crust for the Soybean Pie, which is a corn-based crust versus the flour-based crust of Bean Bake.  The final crust product reminded me of cornbread, which was nice, as we oft pair cornbread and chili...which takes us to the Bean Bake.

To make it vegetarian, I subbed about 1 c. of cooked soy beans for the ground beef and sauteed them with the onion.  The remainder of the filling is straight-forward, but I used (nearly burnt) pinto beans instead of kidney beans.  Since I didn't have any juice left from the beans, I simply rinsed out the tomato paste can with water and used all of that liquid instead.  As I didn't have chili powder, I subbed 1 1/2 t. cumin, 1/2 t. cayenne, and 1/2 t coriander.

After baking, I sprinkled a little bit of cheese on top as well as a few garlic scapes (for color.)  At the table, I had extra cheese and lettuce available, and had salsa available instead of tomatoes. 

As a whole, it was a good dish, and solid.  I would air on the side of saying it serves 4-5 adults, at least if that's all your serving for dinner.

And I guess we can say that all's well that ends well.  :)

Overall:  4 out of 5, Husband rated.  I would have gone slightly more conservatively in the mid-3s.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

88. Marinated Soybeans, pg. 113

This was my first time cooking with actual soybeans.  Sure, I take in soy in many, many other ways on a daily basis, but this was absolutely The First Time that I cooked up soybeans and then used them in a recipe.  Oh, More-With-Less!  The places you take me! :)

I had high hopes for this dish.  I typically like marinated things and salads in general.  I don't know that I've ever had enough bean salad to be able to compare this recipe to a standard 3-bean I'm quite new to this.

It was pretty.  I used fresh basil from the garden, and combined with the parsley, it looked spunky and fun.  I had to sub here and there...didn't have garlic salt, so minced an extra clove instead and added a dash of salt.  I didn't have dill pickles, so I threw in a tablespoon of sweet relish.  And I didn't have green pepper, so it didn't get any.

Stuck in in the fridge to chill, and got it out to use as my side dish for dinner.  The first bite was okay.  But the more I ate it, I felt that it was ending up:  too sweet, too heavy, and had too many competing flavors.

My advice is to reduce the amount of honey, eat small portions of the stuff, and tailor the spices to your typical delights.

Overall: 2 out of 5  Bearable, but not great. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just a quick plug for the new MPH book, Saving the Seasons:  It looks gorgeous, scrumptious, and full of new ideas!  If you're looking forward to learning how to put up food, I recommend a look into it!

87.  Lentil-Barley Stew, pg. 107

Another rainy day, another soup.

I doubled this recipe to serve a crowd of 9 (just to be on the safe side), and we had plenty of leftovers.  Pairs nicely with a salad, and I even pulled out Simply in Season to make Rhubarb Muffins (with rhubarb fresh from the garden!)

A quick few notes on what I did differently.  Towards the end of the saute time, I added three cloves of minced garlic.  Then, I added a few cubes of veggie bouillon with the water, and then didn't add either the salt or garlic salt.  I actually used less water than what it called for, as the pan looked like it would overflow if I used the full amount -- I probably used about 10 cups instead of 12.  Also, when I added the lentils, since I was using wheat berries instead of pearl barley, I went ahead and added the berries, since they take a little longer to cook.  Other than that, I made the recipe as written.  The smells that gradually filled the kitchen (alongside the cinnamony-muffins) were delightful!  The meal was heartily eaten, and the stew was a hit!

Overall: 4 out of 5  Great for larger groups, and a solid meal even on its own.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Back Again

Now that the two wedding-dessert-fiascos are past, my mind is settling and I'm here to review a few recipes that have been tested recently.

84.  Pakistani Kima, pg. 131

Perhaps surprisingly, I've been familiar with this recipe since high school, as my school's cafeteria tried their hand at this kima occasionally.  I was never a huge fan of it then, but a Pakistani student assured us it was nothing like his mother's ... which left me with hope that my turn at making it might be more successful.

I'll admit I change the recipe fairly dramatically -- instead of beef, I used about 1 1/2 c. garbanzo beans.  Instead of a regular potato, I used a sweet potato, and as I didn't have any peas or green beans (the peas are starting to set on in the garden, though! :)), used about a cup of frozen corn.  The peas or green beans would have given the dish some much-needed color, but we just had to do without for now.  I kept all the seasonings the same as written, which I really think is the kicker for this recipe.  And, really, as long as you like curry, you can tweak this dish in the vegetable arena as much as you like and still really enjoy what turns out.

I served yogurt alongside, since my curry mix is pretty hot.

This recipe was pretty quick to come together, and it definitely was good.

Overall: 4 out of 5  Get yourself a good curry powder and make this!

85.  Zucchini Bread, pg. 82

We're heading quickly into the days of too many zucchinis.  Are you lining up your recipes already, trying to figure out how to not let a single one go to waste?  I'm not.  For two reasons:  the freezer and this recipe.

I generally am a huge fan of sweet breads, especially fruit and vegetable versions.  Last summer, when our zuke supply was unrelenting, I made this bread at least once a week, and also shredded some by the quart to put in the freezer for winter soups...and...bread. :)

I like this recipe because it's fairly simple to pull together.  I typically add about 1+ c. of chocolate chips for an extra antioxidant boost.  (Right?)  I only have 9" pans, which are fine -- you'll just get a squatter bread and might want to check for doneness starting around 50 minutes.

Overall:  4.5 out of 5  Yum...and it's vegetables!

86.  Easy French Bread, pg. 63

I realise most people have it within their realm of realism that there is the occasional mess-up when making a recipe.  I don't have this realism for myself, and when I came to this self-proclaimed "easy" recipe, I figured I would fly through pulling it together and it would turn out normal and right.

Well, I'm mixing it up and, having decided to halve the recipe, was just mentally cutting each ingredient measurement in half before dumping it in.  Except the flour.  I forgot.  I dumped in 2 c. white flour and 2 c. wheat flour before realising what I had done...and why the dough seemed inordinately dry.  After I gave myself a moment to be angry, I dumped the dry dough onto my countertop.  I tried kneading in some extra butter which helped a little bit...but not enough to reclaim the dough.  So, I did what I could, but it was a tough dough.  I still let it rise, baked it, and have been eating it.  The flavor is pretty good, but it looks positively sad.  I really hate messing up on recipes because Food is one thing I really enjoy doing time and time again ... bleh. 

Overall:  Not sure.  Maybe if I try it again, I'll adjust.  (Or, has anyone else made this?)

Until next time...which, hopefully, will not be 2 weeks from now...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I am a person who has struggled to live in the present.  I tend to live in the future, anticipating that the next big thing will be the right fit for me.  Occasionally, even, I will take amazing experiences from my past and push them into my future, in hopes that they will occur again.  One of those things is moving back to my desert home, New Mexico.  Having (realistically, now) loved 80% of my short 2 years there (versus my 50% over 2 years in Lancaster), I keep trying to re-write NM back into my life.  While not physically there, I mostly long for the things I knew there:  the towering Sandia mountains, the ease of public transit, bike paths along the Rio Grande, and then, of course, the food.  Red and green chiles, fresh tortillas, beans and more beans, Frito Pie (picture: a small bag of Frito chips cut open and chili, cheese, and sour cream dumped on top...and eaten out of the bag), and the list could go on. 

So, yesterday, when I was skimming through MWL, and came across my first recipe, refried beans, I had visions of what could very well come together in my kitchen.  After we ate our meal, a lone, bittersweet tear sat in my eye.  It is good to "come home" in brief moments at the dining room table.

82.  Mexican Refried Beans, pg. 101

I started the beans cooking, promptly forgot about them, and went to work outside in the garden.  Awhile later, I came back in, smelled singeing beans, and raced to save them.  They were save-able, and a near disaster was averted.  (This very disaster has happened to me at least 3 times in my life...why is it so easy to walk from a pot of cooking beans??)

I cooked the beans by themselves, knowing that I would want to sauté the onions by themselves later.  After the beans are done cooking, reserve about a cup of their liquid, but dump the rest out.  I don't have a potato masher, so I just plopped them into my mixing bowl and let the paddle take care of it.  (If you have neither, my host mom from a stay in Ciudad Juárez mashed her beans with the bottom of a drinking cup.)  While they were mashing, I sautéed the onions with a teaspoon of cumin and about a 1/4 t. cayenne.  I am of the stubborn opinion that refried beans aren't really refried beans unless they have at least some cumin in them.

Use an amount of oil/fat that you're comfortable with, and when you add the beans, you can always add some of their cooking liquid to thin it out a bit.

I also added about 8 or 10 cherry tomatoes from the freezer for a little extra something-something, but the beans were delightful in taste trials before that addition.

Overall:  4.8 out of 5  If you have the time to make your own refried beans, this is a great starter recipe for you.  Do it!

83.  Navajo Fry Bread, pg. 83

Hellloooo, amazing-tasting-fried-dough.  So do you see where we're headed now?  Do you see the final dish?  Are you drooling yet?

I divided the recipe to get two servings -- 1 1/2 c. flour, dash of salt, just under 3/4 t. baking powder, 1/2 c. water, and just under 1/4 c. milk.  So simple.  While, yes, you will need to knead this dough, try not to overknead it -- I've made a tough fry bread in my time by overkneading.

For frying, I just used my high-walled frying pan, and made sure the bottom was well-covered with a mix of oil and shortening.  When I first learned how to make these from a Mennonite Navajo woman in Farmington, NM, we, of course, used lard and lard only.  Which is fine, if you're into that. :)  (The picture of the three lovely ladies shaping fry bread were my co-horts in Service Adventure in 2002/03 -- Gail (Guengrich) Miller, Anja (Baumgart) Phillips, and Ellen (Bradshaw) Goodman.)

I stretched my dough with my hands, holding the dough up in the air and rotating it so that it's more or less the same thickness.  Definitely punch that hole in the middle -- helps the middle part cook thoroughly.

After we fried them, then came assembly into Navajo Tacos.  Fry bread, then the beans, then lightly steamed corn, (cheese if you want it), lettuce, and salsa.  (Or see page 146 for other ideas.)

Overall:  5 out of 5  The meal was silent, except for sighs of delight after bites.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

You may have been concerned, with this long silence, if I had, in fact, survived the cupcake making.  I did.  Proof:
Meanwhile, in my recovery, I've made a few dishes to update with.

79.  Carrot-Cheddar Casserole, pg. 227

A dairy-lovers dream.  Chock full of milk (I used some leftover cream from the cupcake adventure), super cheesy (used a little bit of cream cheese, also leftover from cupcakes, as well as some herbed cheddar), topped with Cheez-Its...And mix that all with some sweet, mashed carrots.  Pretty good stuff, though I'm not sure it could ever classify as "healthy", unless you're on an all-dairy diet. 

Overall:  3.3 out of 5  I would rate it higher, but felt guilty while eating it ...

80.  Cream of Carrot-Cheddar Soup, pg. 204

Mmmm another carrot and cheddar combo...I had extra carrots that needed to be used up :)  Apparently, I over-ordered a little bit for the cupcakes, but better safe than sorry, right?  Especially when it's for someone's wedding!

I'm a sucker for "cream of" whatever soups.  So, I was pretty excited about this one.  I had a few sweet potatoes on hand, so I decided to sub them for the regular white potatoes.  Shredded the carrots and and potatoes in a food processor (what a time saver!) and dumped everything together.  I had neither Tabasco or worcestershire on hand, so used a spicy steak sauce instead.  Since I was using sweet potatoes, I nixed the added sugar.  (And carrots are so sweet to begin with...not sure why it would need to be in there at all.)

After adding some Old Bay Cheddar (seasoned with Old Bay spices) and milk, the soup was ready.  It was a little disappointing.  Not as thick as I expected, or as creamy.  I'm thinking that it might be good pureed -- breaking up the veggies would make a thicker soup.  Spice-wise, it was okay, but I needed to add more of the hot sauce to be satisfied.

Overall: 3 out of 5  Average, as written, but could be improved upon.

81.  Three-Flour Bread, pg. 60

Nothing like realising at dinner time that there's no bread in the house for your husband's lunch for the next day.  Suddenly you have a choice:  save yourself the trouble and go to the grocery store and buy the most nutritious loaf you can find (while resolving not to feel guilty) or change your evening plans and whip up a batch.  I go back and forth between these options when I find myself in this situation (it's happened a couple times.)  Sometimes, when I'm too tired, I will just go to the store and buy a loaf and resolve to make the next bread.  This time, I decided I had it in me to do some aggressive kneading.  And to even branch out beyond oatmeal bread, no less!

So ingredients started getting dumped in my Kitchenaid.  I left out the dry milk and upped the soy and wheat germ, and added about a 1/4 c. of potato flour and 3 T. vital wheat gluten.  Otherwise, I mixed just as written.  I put the dough in the oven with the light on, hoping to slightly speed up the 2 hour rising time.  At about an hour and a half, I took the dough out and shaped the loaves.  They rose speedily, and after about a half hour, I was happy with their size so I slashed them down the middle and set them in the oven.  Now, I'm not sure I completely understand the 450 start temp, considering it takes my oven longer than 10 minutes to reach 450.  Anyways, it worked out, and I still turned the oven down to 350 after 10 minutes.  The bread looked really lovely, and baked high and light.  It tastes wonderful as toast, and it's definitely worthy of being made again!

Overall:  4.0 out of 5  Solidly tasty.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cooking Occasions

Last week, I had the fortune of being invited by a woman at our church to learn how to make zwieback.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with zwieback, it is a yeast roll with two "layers":  a wider roll on the bottom and a miniature roll on top.  They look, more or less, like this->

The woman who invited me had been a young refugee during World War II in Germany, and escaped with her family to the U.S. with the aid of MCC.  After shaping the rolls there at her house, we had the chance to sit and talk about both of our life stories while the rolls raised and baked.  Sitting with this woman of courage, strong opinions (but accepting at the same time -- leave it to a German), and skills, I found myself wanting to hear more about her than I wanted to say about myself.  And I was reminded again that food not only brings people together, but shapes traditions, cultures, and stories.

This coming weekend, two friends are getting married, and I was asked to make part of the dessert.  We settled on cupcakes, and the search for recipes and quality ingredients ensued.  My friends are greatly invested in having a spread which represents both local produce and local labor, and I'm trying to do justice in my part.  I'll be baking 20 dozen(ish) cupcakes of four varieties.  I'm looking forward to the challenge (never done this before!) and am hoping that I'll live to tell about it.

I'm getting long-winded.  Here's the recipe for today!

78.  Kusherie (Egyptian Rice and Lentils), pg. 108

Craving lentils, I was in search of a recipe that I hadn't tried yet, and after reading the forward to this recipe (regarding its surprising ease of production), decided to take it on.  This kind of recipe always looks fun to me -- what I mean is that when I look at something like this, I see lots of room for variations and experimentation.

I used slightly less than called for on the lentils, but kept the stock at 3 cups.  If you use stock instead of water, consider not using the extra salt.  I used a mix of brown and wild rices, and as you can tell in the pictures, it's pretty dramatic.  While my rice usually takes longer to cook (up to 35-40 minutes), I decided to test at 25 minutes, and it was ready.  While you're not supposed to stir, I think it's perfectly reasonable to test the lentils and rice at the 25 minute mark.  If they're not done yet, put the lid back on and wait another 4-5 minutes and check again.

For the sauce, I used about 3 cups of frozen tomato chunks instead of the sauce/juice/puree, and a whole can of tomato paste.  I omitted the celery leaves.  I did put in all the spices, though when I make this again, I probably won't add the extra sugar, as I find tomato paste quite sweet to begin with.

And then come the browned onions.  My-oh-my, how I love them.  Because I made a full recipe, but knew the two of us wouldn't eat it all in one night, I only sauteed one onion and two cloves of garlic.  Tonight, with the leftovers, I'll sauté another onion and two more cloves of garlic, while just reheating the rest of the dish.

I liked several things about this recipe.  One, the rice/lentil combo gets started first, and immediately after adding the rice, you can go on to the sauce, and then once the sauce comes together, you can start working on the onions.  Then, once the onions are done, everything else will about be ready.  It's nice to have two parts of your meal taking care of themselves while you're getting the finishing touches together.  Second thing that I like is that you can, as the contributor states, nix the sauce altogether.  The browned onions have so much flavor that having them with the lentils is still divine.  And lastly, I like that it's a one-plate, one-dish meal.  I know that cooking this recipe will be all I need to make for that meal.

Overall:  4.3 out of 5  Love the flavors, love the colors and presentation.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

76.  Coconut-Oatmeal Granola, pg. 95

This is not your typical granola.  You might notice that it calls for 3 cups of flour, more than either coconut or oatmeal.  And, in the end, you can expect a floury-wheaty cereal.

The tastes are nice -- it is pleasantly sweet, and the coconut is tasty.  But the consistency makes your mouth feel coated in paste.  Not really our style, but a gander nonetheless at a morning meal.

Overall:  2 out of 5  Did you see how short my review was?

77.  Cauliflower Salad, pg. 252

You're trying to pull together a meal last minute, and you're not quite sure what to do with that huge head of cauliflower in your fridge?  Try this salad.

Fast to make, with ingredients most cooks already have in their kitchen, this light salad makes for a great side dish to most any meal.  I mixed all the liquid ingredients in a pitcher and then dumped the dressing over the veggies.  Instead of scallions, I used a hearty snipping of chives.  Wild spring onions would also work well.

We didn't have time to chill it before eating, but the flavors were still good.

Overall:  3.8 out of 5  Simple and delightful.

Friday, April 9, 2010

You want something sweet, but crunchy.  Healthy, but only halfway.  You arrive at this recipe, and you know that you have met what will become your snack.

75.  Peanut-Butter Popcorn, pg. 306

Exhibit A.  Peanut-y Cracker Jacks without the miniature baseball card.  I experienced only mild disappointment at the latter, and soon forgot it all together when my tastebuds encountered the sweetly-coated popcorn.  It's so simple to make.  Pop popcorn.  Boil some stuff, add a little PB, dump it all together.  Eat.  Yum.

I split the liquid sweetener, doing half light corn syrup, half agave.  Very agreeable.  If your PB has sugar added, lessen the amount of sugar you use to 1/4 - 1/3 c.

Overall:  4.6 out of 5 The next time I watch the Phillies, I might have to make a batch.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Happy Easter to each of you!  I hope your respective Easter Bunnies treated you better than mine did... And if they didn't...then maybe it's time to stop believing in him/her.

A festive day calls for festive food, and I was in a festive spirit.  Thus, breakfast was created.

72.  Grandmother's Russian Pancakes, pg. 75

Growing up in a house where a parent could claim Prussian/Russian ancestory, I was familiar with various and sundry meals which were eaten only at home (while living in VA) and in Kansas at relatives' homes.  I always had a special affinity for that which was not PA-Dutch/Southern influenced, and I was excited to try this recipe.  We grew up eating "rearei", a egg-milk-flour concoction fried and then chopped up, and served topped with pancake syrup.  These pancakes looked similar, and today they were called upon to be tested.  Like Mennonites, they were The Chosen.  (I hope you caught the playful sarcasm :))

The batter is easy to whip up and you're straight to the stove top in less than five minutes.  The recipe tells you everything you need to know beyond that.  They'll look a lot like crépes, only mine were a little bit thicker -- I think I had my fire on too high, and they didn't spread out as much as I had anticipated.  So, don't expect it to resemble an American-style pancake -- they do not get light and puffy.  It's very much an eggy pancake.

I liked it!  A half recipe was perfect for two, and we spread ours with cinnamon and sugar, maple syrup, and blackberry syrup (the next recipe below)...all on different ones, of course.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5  Filling and simple.  A taste of history. :)

73.  Fruit Syrup for Pancakes, pg. 77

I was first introduced to this recipe when visiting my brother during his MVS term in Chicago.  We made mango syrup to top (what I remember as being) very delicious pancakes.  I have used this recipe several times since, and enjoy the colors it adds to a breakfast plate.

Today, we used frozen blackberries, which made a vibrant, deep purple syrup (suitable for Easter, eh?)

The photographs tell it all...

Overall:  5 out of 5  I could eat this stuff plain.  (And I do.)

74.  Potato Pancakes, pg. 233

I realise I get on kicks.  For awhile there, it was soups.  Lately, it's been pancakes.  And it seems that for each one, I have a story.  This one is no different.

Between high school and college, I took a year "off" to serve with Service Adventure in Albuquerque, NM.  I worked at an elementary school as a teacher's aide, and in the kindergarten class where I helped half days, we often had activities based on various culture's celebrations.  It was in this class that I tried Latkes for the first time, the potato pancakes traditionally eaten by Jews during Hanukkah.  We ate them, of course, alternating between sour cream and applesauce.  While I can't remember the kids' reactions, I really enjoyed them.  While similar to hashbrowns, the inclusion of eggs and a little flour set them apart a wee bit.

When I made this recipe, we ate them the more traditional-hashbrown way with ketchup, but would definitely eat them with applesauce if I made them again.  It's a good, straight-forward recipe, and I will definitely be making them again.

Overall: 4.6 out of 5  Fried potatoes.  How can you go wrong????

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Now, I know I can't count this brilliant ingenuity as a new review, but it needed to be shared.

Here she is:  Mini-Loaf Cinnamon-swirl Oatmeal Bread French Toast.  I looked and tasted and said that it was good.  Can I get an "amen"?
And back to the realm of number counting...

71.  Nippy Garbanzo Spread, pg. 308

Every time I skimmed through this page, this recipe always jumped out.  "Nippy" is not a word I typically associate with food (aside from cheese, perhaps), so it always sounded a little funny.  I never really read the recipe, though, in those flip-throughs, and just assumed that it was a recipe for hummus.

Until today.

I had cooked up a bunch of garbanzos, thinking I would make hummus until I discovered that I was plumb (ha!) out of lemon juice.  And, then I remembered this recipe, and decided to give it a go.  The recipe itself puzzled me a little bit because I couldn't imagine how it was going to turn out.  I've never cooked a spread like this one calls for, let alone having to mix eggs in to bind it all together.  I was suspicious, but I was curious.

With a food processor, this recipe is a snap to make.  Dump in onion and a couple cloves of garlic and let them mince.  Scoop them out and start sauteing them while you process the garbanzos and eggs together.  Stirring until "dry" was a bit of a crapshoot.  I just let them go until they turned the approximate consistency of scrambled eggs.

As the mixture cooled, I added salt, pepper, cayenne, and about 3 T. of mayo.  And then I tried it.

It was okay.  Not super, but not as awful as I thought it might be.  If you're looking for hummus, this ain't gonna satisfy you one bit.  If you're looking for a new spread idea for persons with highly sensitive palettes (read: bland), this might be a good bet.

Overall:  2.6 out of 5  If you're looking for nippy, head straight to the freezer aisle and skip the process of making this.  If you're looking for something wet to put on sandwiches, and want to keep it "agreeable", you'll probably like it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

70.  Wheat Germ Griddle Cakes, pg. 74

Saturday morning came around and I had guests to feed.  Having pancakes in our house is a special treat, since it means that we (being the husband et moi) are eating breakfast together.  It is actually a rare occurrence in our house, since one of us is always getting up early for work on the day that the other one can sleep in...

So, having doubled the number of people in our house, I thought it was an excellent excuse to pull something together more elegant than granola for our morning meal.  I often look to MWL for pancake recipes (as I mentioned before here) and this one was chosen.

The batter is mixed up a little differently than normal pancakes, and there is less room for error in this recipe.  Mixing it well will not result in flat, dense cakes.  In fact, these cakes cooked high and light, leaving me in awe of the wonders of wheat germ.

Not only in looks were these pancakes a hit.  They were tasty as well, with subtle nutty flavors and just sweet enough that you didn't feel like you had to dump a jug full of Aunt Jemima on top.  (I don't really use Aunty's corn syrup abomination, but I'll try not to judge those who do...ahem...)

So, if you're looking for something pancake-like, but don't want the same old buttermilk deal, give these a try and you might have yourself a new favorite!  Or, at least, something to get your husband/wife/child/friend/etc. up for on Saturday mornings.  :)

Overall: 4.5 out of 5  Delightful plain, with chocolate chips, or dressed with butter and maple syrup.

Friday, March 26, 2010

68.  Six-Layer Dish, pg. 137

We had plans we had to work around on the night I decided to make this.  Therefore, this dish worked very nicely, as it sat in the oven for two hours while we did all our other stuff.  It's been a long time since I've made something that is along the lines of "fix it and forget it," and it was very nice to think about that the dish could be left to its own devices while I puttered away elsewhere.

On top of the lovely time factor, this dish can easily become a five-layer or seven-layer or whatever-you've-got kind of meal.  If you've got a food processor, the slicing and dicing goes super quick as well!

I used a 9x9 baking pan and didn't measure anything.  I went by looks and catered according to what we like most.  Two potatoes, a couple carrots, skipped the rice, a big onion, a can of black beans instead of meat, and a 15 oz. can of tomatoes. Ba-dah-bing.  Done.  (Mostly.)  I poured a little bit of oil over the top, nixed the brown sugar, covered it, and stuck it in the oven.  When there was about 20 minutes left (I estimated -- maybe an hour and a half into it, when a fork easily pierces the potatoes), I sprinkled a little bit of feta cheese on top.  I left the pan uncovered then, and set it to cook just a bit longer.  And that was all I wrote. (On this one.)

It was good and hearty.  An all-in-one kind of dish.  While I often turn up my nose at casseroles, this one might be a keeper!

Overall:  3.8 out of 5  Simple flavors, and simple to make.

69.  Basic Cooked Lentils, Curried, pg. 105

Now, I realise that I've technically made one of these recipes before, but I decided that I'm allowed to count another one since I'm reporting on it. :)

While I often enjoy making elaborate multi-course meals, especially when we're having friends over, after a long day at work, oftentimes I just want to do something straight-forward and easy.  When in those tight "what do we eat tonight?" spots, my mind occasionally wanders to having rice and lentils.  I appreciate their shorter cooking time, how nicely they pair with any kind of rice, and their nutty flavor.

Basically all I want to say about this recipe is that if you like curry, you will probably like this yumminess.

Overall:  4 out of 5  Spicy, lentily, and satisfyingly delicious.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

You may be wondering why I've not posted in a week (or maybe you don't care...), and let me assure you that I have not forgotten about my ambitions.  My time as of late has been very consumed with work and working on our kitchen.  In fact, we finally have put down our tile, and are waiting for the thinset to cure so that we can finish up with grout.  It's a process, and not one I want to do again anytime soon.  Aside from the fact that I've been tired from all the busyness, we've can't be in our kitchen, so I made only one recipe this week.

67.  Fresh Asparagus Soup, pg. 203

Growing up, I loathed the nights when asparagus was served.  Even the mandatory solo two-inch piece was a chore to choke down.  But, sometime since, I've grown to appreciate and even enjoy the veggie, and with spring on my mind, asparagus wasn't far behind.

Looking at the recipe, I was expecting more of a cream of asparagus soup, and I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.  I felt like there was very little taste of asparagus ... the tang of the sour cream seemed to be the dominant feature.  I probably could have used more asparagus to help it along, but didn't think of it at the time.  I added some garlic with the sauté, which I think gave a nice warmth to the soup, but generally speaking, I think I could find a better recipe to complement the earthy asparagus notes.

Overall:  2 out of 5  Not great, but still edible.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

I have just counted all the recipes in More With Less.  I only counted those which had their own row of bold dots, for a total of exactly 550 (I think.  I only counted once.)  And, according to my calculations, it will take me another 5 years to finish, at the rate I'm going...  So...hang on for a fast and exciting ride...HA! :)  No, what this really means is that I'd REALLY like it if we make this into a community project.  I know a lot of you have a few recipes you repeatedly return to in MWL, and I know I haven't written about all of thosel.  If ever you make something and want to write about it, please let me know!  Otherwise, you'll have to listen to me for a very long time.  And that would be boring.

65.  Onion Cheese Loaf, pg. 82

While it's been many years since I last visited one, this recipe vaguely reminded me of the cheese biscuits served at Red Lobster.  A very savory loaf, this one is, and not your typical slice o' dough.

For the dry ingredients, I didn't have ground dry mustard, so I just put in a teaspoon of mustard seed.  I was pretty happy with the subtlety that they provided, and recommend it if you don't have ground mustard.  You might also add a teaspoon of "real" mustard (the kind you put on sandwiches).  I used pepper jack cheese instead of cheddar, which was very nice.  I omitted the Parmesan, since I didn't have it.  A sharp cheese would be very dramatic on its own, so accommodate to what you've got and what you like.

The onions and paprika on top make a lovely display, and I wish I would have taken a picture of the loaf before we ate it all...My loaf didn't rise very much, but feel like it probably shouldn't have anyways with all the (yummy) fat that is in it.  Baking for 1 hour made for a crunchy crust, so just keep an eye on your bread from 45 minutes.

Overall: 4.3 out of 5  Dangerously good and satisfying!

66.  Corn and Bean Chowder, pg. 202

I served this chowder along side of the Onion Cheese Loaf, and they made a lovely pair.
A fairly straight-forward recipe that doesn't take too long to prepare if your beans are cooked.

I've noticed a couple recipes now that pair corn soups with nutmeg, and I really like the combination.  It is not something that I would have thought of on my own, but, again the subtlety of the spice changes the direction of the soup.

Because I didn't get my corn out of the freezer soon enough for it to thaw, I added all the corn to the pot and once it had cooked a bit, I took out about a cup and a half and sent it through the food processor.  I didn't think it thickened the soup very much, but could have taken out more and I'm sure it would have been quite thick.

Instead of dry milk solids, I used a can of coconut milk, which was delightful!  If you don't have milk powder, you could also put in regular milk instead, but, of course, the soup will be thinner.  I also subbed black beans for kidney.

Overall: 4 out of 5  Very yummy and warm.  Filling.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

[[Thanks again to my momma for submitting a recipe review!!]]

64.  Coating Mix for Oven Fried Chicken, pg. 179
I was a little worried about all the salt so did go a little light on each of the salts.  I didn't have celery salt or poultry seasoning (which is optional) so used Lawrey's Seasoned Salt.  The directions say to mix the ingredients--but my question was "what about the oil"?  The directions imply that you'd mix that with the dry ingredients.  I chose to skip the oil--don't think it is needed.  I used Pam to grease the baking dish.  I did moisten the chicken with water before dipping.  The chicken was well-received at dinner!  Think I will also try this with fish which is listed as an option.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Recipe typo contest results:  So close, Jennifer, but, yes, Emily got it! 

62.  Ginger-Glazed Carrots, pg. 227

I rarely make side dishes of vegetables (other than salad) because more often than not, the main dish already includes a lot of veggies.  However, if you're a more meat-and-potato person, you'll probably like having this colorful, lightly spicy dish to complement your meal.

The sole thing that I changed was the amount of ginger -- I put in 1/2 t. instead of 1/4 t.  If you typically like ginger, go stronger on it.  If you've got picky eaters, put less on, by all means.  I let my carrots cook in the glaze about 7 minutes -- don't let them cook to mush!

Overall:  3 out of 5  Not a special recipe amongst glazed carrots, but I'd choose this over simple cooked carrots.

63.  Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes, pg. 73

When I need a pancake recipe, this is almost always the one I turn to.  In fact, on the morning of my wedding, we had a pancake breakfast for people who had camped out on the farm with us, and we used this recipe to serve the masses!  So, there are definitely some happy moments associated with these pancakes!

Since I almost never have buttermilk on hand, I always drop 1 T. lemon juice in my measuring cup and then fill the rest with regular milk and let it sit for about 5 minutes to make sour milk.  On occasion, I think I have tried using all whole-wheat flour, but of course, as you can probably imagine, that turns out a veritable brick of a pancake.  Keep it lighter by going 50-50.  I usually add 1 T. brown sugar in with the dry ingredients, because I feel like it can turn out bland and/or salty without it.

Add your favorite fillings, too, to spice them up.  We put anything from chocolate chips (of course!) to banana slices to almonds to ... (you get the picture!)

Most simply put:  this recipe rarely fails to deliver, and will stick to your ribs for the better part of the morning!

Overall: 4 out of 5  Not the fluffiest pancakes ever, but the flavors mingle so nicely!

Friday, March 5, 2010

61.  Caribbean Rice and Beans, pg. 103

So I found a typo in this recipe (at least in the original edition that I'm looking at right now).  Can you find it?  The person with the first correct answer (and living in the lower 48 states) may very well receive in the mail (or in person, if you live close enough) a dozen of the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I raved about here.  (I really hope this isn't too easy...I didn't catch it until just now...after having looked many times at this recipe while making it!)

Typos aside, beans and rice are such a lovely combination that when I make them, I always wish I would make them more often.  (So, I'm looking forward to the other recipes around this theme!)

To save time, use two cans of beans.  Drain them and use the extra brine, as written, as part of the liquid with the rice.  I followed the recipe pretty much the whole way through, otherwise, but subbed regular cooking onions for green, and used one cup of stewed tomatoes (using extra liquid again with the rice) instead of fresh.  I HIGHLY recommend using lime juice (or lemon juice if you don't have lime on hand) because it gives the dish a very fresh and lively kick.  Using cloves in a bean dish was a new idea for me, and the flavor was nice.  I tested the dish just before serving and decided to add more cloves and a dash of cumin.  When adding the rice, follow the cooking directions on the rice instead of blindly using 4 c. liquid automatically.  Using basmati, I needed only 3 c., and the result was perfect.

For an extra good time with this recipe, serve with fresh mango bits, cheese, and cayenne.

Overall:  3.3 out of 5 as written(ish), 4.4 with additions of mango, cheese, and spice!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

60.  Cheese Pizza, pg. 142

A tip of the chef's hat to Dean Martin, singing, 'When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.'

I almost feel like writing an ode to pizza right now, thinking how delightful most of my experiences with the food have been.  But I'm going to assume that you're here not to read my bad poetry, and would rather be inspired just to make food yourself (or live/eat vicariously through me.)

The idea of making pizza turned into a nearly all-day venture.  We went shopping at Central Market in the morning, getting a few needed veggies and cheeses.  Mid-afternoon, we started the dough, chopped and sauteed some onions and mushrooms, and made our way into sauce making.

We used 1 c. of whole wheat flour, and then ended up adding less regular white flour than it called for -- when the dough is smooth and elastic, and it's not needing much flour to knead, you can stop adding flour.  I think we shorted the dough about 1/2 c. flour total.  I also used 2 t. agave instead of sugar, which kept the dough lightly sweet.  We kept our crusts pretty thin, and they did bake to a chewy crunch.

Toppings-wise?  We went kind of crazy.  Onions, mushrooms, garlic, artichoke hearts, and then for cheese, we used fresh mozzarella (one ball was plenty for one recipe, unless you're going all-cheese) and garlic chevre.  Trust your inspiration, follow your heart, etc.  You know what you like:  do it.

Sauce.  After draining most of the liquid from a quart jar of canned tomatoes, I dumped the remaining tomatoes into the sauce pan with a small chopped onion, garlic, spices, and salt.  After letting it boil for awhile, I felt it was going to be too thin, so we added about 2 T. tomato paste and left the pan cooking uncovered until we were ready to put it on the crust.  This made a pretty sweet sauce, so adjust to your likes.

Baking.  If you're using a pizza stone, let the oven pre-heat for about 30 minutes so that the stone is good and hot when you put your pie in.  Our first pizza (half the dough) took only about 13 minutes -- cut in half by the pizza stone.  We split the remaining dough into two "personal sized" pizzas, and they took only about 8 minutes each.

We really enjoyed this pizza, and therefore ate a lot of it (and nothing else).  We had about 1/4 of the recipe left over.  I've used this recipe for calzones before, and makes a nice 4 servings.  But as pizza (with hungry eaters), consider this one to be 3 servings.  Three lovely, steamy servings. :)

Overall: 4.6 out of 5  My only complaint would be the too-sweet sauce.  We'll work on it. :)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

As The Man and I have been working on remodeling our kitchen, I have been more and more amazed at how little things can so dramatically change the feel of the whole room.  I'm no interior designer (and neither is Hubby) but our kitchen is slowly becoming both functional and attractive.  The new look and workability of the space also increases my interest in making more of a production out of meal...i.e. spending time in a space which keeps us sated.  The people who lived here before us (for over 40 years) had about 3 feet of counterspace...which was about enough for a stack of dirty dishes and a drying rack.  For the first year that we were here, the washing machine ended up being where I usually kept my cutting board.  It worked fine, of course, but the new workspace just feels so much more inviting! :)  All this to say that an adequate kitchen can help a chef cook better.  (And what would the analogy be for an outrageous kitchen?  Perhaps the owner is trying to make up for their lack of culinary skills?  I don't know. :P)

59. Lentil-Barley Stew, pg. 107

(First off, apologies on the low-quality pictures.  My camera is old and the lighting in our kitchen is fairly awful.  We'll work on it.)

I'm starting to feel a bit souped out.  Yes, the stuff is typically good, filling, and warm, but it is such a symbol of winter that it can be depressing when one eats it too often. 

That said, let's look at this recipe.  It's very easy with things you likely have on hand, if you're reading this blog. :)  I, like usual, skimped on the celery but added garlic to the sauté.  Used a brown/wild rice mix, and left out the garlic salt.  We didn't have carrots on hand, and I didn't have time to go get any, so we just put some cheese on top for looks.  The flavor of the soup is subtle and earthy, and went nicely with oatmeal-craisin-cinnamon muffins.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

57.  Cornmeal Yeast Bread, pg. 61

I was looking for a bread recipe to accompany chili, but didn't want to make a standard cornbread.  (What can I say?  I like to live on the wild side... :))  So, here I ended up, keeping the corny component, but marrying it with our lovely friend, yeast.

I made several changes to this recipe, all being positive.  I used brown sugar instead of white, and would even take a step to make it healthier next time by using 1/3 c. honey or agave instead of sugar at all.  I also used unsweetened soy milk (for the lactose-sensitive among us).  Finally, I replaced the 1 c. white flour with whole wheat, and as usual, added about 2 T. of vital wheat gluten.

The end result was a sweet bread with lovely crunch from the cornmeal.  For less crunch, use finely ground cornmeal.  If you're making these into rolls, bake for only 20-25 minutes.  Will make 14 large rolls in two 8" cake pans.

Overall:  4 out of 5  Will do quite nicely with soups, and will probably fare better eaten as rolls rather than sandwich bread (but I may be proven wrong.)

58.  Minestrone Soup, pg. 210

Often, with an ingredient list this long, I overlook recipes because they seem overwhelming.  Not only that, but this one takes some serious planning, with cooking beans and then a long overall cooking time.

But, a healthy soup was called for, and time miraculously allowed.  And so it came to pass (in those days), that this soup was made.  And fear ye not, vegetarians/vegans/pork haters:  this recipe is and can be for you, too.

I had looked at this recipe before starting, and saw a few places where I was going to do my own thing to accommodate what I had on hand (I must have some disease that doesn't allow me to follow a recipe.)  Subbed cannellini beans for navy (not a huge deal -- just a slightly longer cooking time), dropped the pork completely, and jumped in straight to the veggies.  Double that onion, consider doubling the garlic as well, especially if you're not using meat.  The more flavor, the merrier!  I used only 4 cups of water (and had about 4 cups of bean juice), mainly because the pan I was using wouldn't have held any more.  Because I didn't use pork, I did still use 4 bouillon cubes, even though I added less water.  Instead of cabbage, I tossed in 2 c. of shredded zucchini from the freezer, which made the soup really pretty.  Lastly, I used a pint of stewed tomatoes (another reason to use less water).

Regardless of the fact that it says to simmer soup for 1 1/2 hours, just check it periodically until the carrots are mostly done.  (I can't imagine what simmering it for that long would do...would there be anything left to chew?)  Didn't add the peas or green beans at the end, and threw in a whole cup of whole wheat macaroni.  Again, you've got to be crazy to let macaroni cook for 20 minutes ... I let mine go for about 8 minutes before turning off the fire, because I knew the pasta would continue to cook.  I don't like obliterated pasta, and you shouldn't either. :)  In case you're wondering when to put the beans back in (because the recipe doesn't state it), I added mine just as the macaroni was reaching the perfect "al dente" state.  Because we weren't eating the soup immediately, we tried to cool it down a bit faster by sitting it outside in the cool.  This still gave the macaroni more time to cook, and so we did end up with nearly lifeless pasta, but I can't imagine how bad it could have been had we let it cook for 20 minutes (really! who cooks macaroni for 20 minutes?????)

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Fairly colorful, fairly flavorful, and makes a ton.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A virtual trio of Menno cooks...

Emily Welty -- Extending the Table blog
Wendy Hammond - Simply in Season

We Cook.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

'Tis yet another snowy day here in Lancaster County, and I think I've finally resigned myself to my current, tragic fate of living in a land with (what I consider to be) harsh winters.

And, while you may think that since we've been pounded with snow here in the last week and a half, I should have been posting like a madwoman, alas, some of our lives must go on...The bakery at which I occasionally help out at (Wendy Jo's Homemade) participated in a fundraiser for the organization called Love146, and I helped pull together over 370 dozen heart shaped-sugar cookies with each one being iced and then having "LOVE146" written on them.  It was a painstaking, three-day process, and as my dearest Husband would attest to the fact that I was exhausted and not in the greatest of spirits when I got home each night.

But, here I am again, and with a whopping four recipes to report on.

53.  French-style Lettuce Salad, pg. 248

I will admit that I laughed this recipe in the face when I first saw it.  "French-Style"?  I didn't realise the French held the trademark for a very simple oil and vinegar dressing...And, hey, they already have a dressing named after them!  Tell me -- when will the U.S. get a dressing named after them? :)

No, I am appreciative of French foods and have enjoyed my fair share of crepes with Nutella and other Frenchie delicacies ... but ... dressing?  Really.

I will give them the rub-your-bowl-with-garlic.  Sure.  That's fine.  The rest of it is a fairly Western/Universal attempt at making greens a bit more palatable.  We used olive oil, a mix of red and balsamic vinegars, and nixed the parsley.  Simple but delightful.

Overall:  4.5 out of 5 C'est trés bien, et je pense que vous l'aimerez. Bon appetit!

54.  Spicy Split Pea Soup, pg. 213

Be forewarned that this soup takes awhile to make -- so if you've got a day at home, this recipe will probably fit well into a dinner menu.  It doesn't take much attention, though, so needing to come and go isn't a problem.

After the initial boil, I let the split peas sit for several hours before moving on to the next steps.  The peas are forgiving and don't mind being left on the stove until closer to dinner time.

In the sauté mixture, I added an extra clove of garlic (we thought it could have even had a third), extra onion (maybe another 1/4 c.), and subbed 1/4 t. cayenne for the red peppers.  You do not want the onions and garlic to be browned -- sauté them only until they start to turn translucent.  When it came time to blend the soup, I probably only blended about half of the pot, which made a thick but semi-chewable stew.  Go for blending all of it, if you're wanting to stretch it by putting it on rice.  I think that the milk is semi-optional (sour cream could be put on the table), so this soup is easily dairy-free.

Overall:  4 out of 5  Great flavor, stretched to probably 8 servings.

55.  Pumpkin Custard, pg. 267

Nixing the labor of making a pie crust, this pumpkin custard is simple and can slide in the oven with just 10 minutes of prep and mixing.  It does taste very much like pumpkin pie filling (you could definitely use this recipe if you're making a pumpkin pie), though this one is just a hair less sweet.  (Is there a word that is the opposite of sweeter?  Sweetless? No...)

I used a pie dish, as it seemed like too much liquid to be baked in a deeper pot, and it baked out beautifully.  You can create a dark, attractive top by sprinkling the nutmeg on top (much like a standard custard pie) before baking.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5  Good. Standard.

56.  Vietnam Fried Rice, pg. 130

If you've been looking for a recipe which emulates the super-tasty, MSG-laden fried rice of yesteryear's (and/or today's) Chinese restaurants, look no further.  While starkly MSG-less, this recipe is a doll.  Especially during winter, I get cravings for fatty foods, and while take-out can be just downright greasy at times, this little gem probably won't cause you great digestive distress.  Probably.

Lacking leftover veggies, I just tossed about 4 oz. baby bella mushrooms, halved, and 2 small carrots, sliced, in with the onions and garlic.  Again, I added more garlic than it called for and this made for much happiness in the land.  Use what you've got, though, and don't hold back that adventourous spirit.

I didn't add any additional salt, nor did I add sugar.  Serve with soy sauce for those who want it to be saltier.  I used white sticky rice, but would like to use good ole brown rice in a future trial.

One helpful hint for the eggy time -- make a well in the rice and let the eggs cook in the center of the pan.  Otherwise, you may end up with soggy rice which never seems to "set". 

Overall:  5 out of 5  Leave the greasy Chinese food in the soggy (though waxed) leftover containers, and come home to this delectable treat.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The days fly by and all of the sudden it's been a week since I last put up a recipe.  Winter should be the time when I'm really cranking out all the slave-over-a-hot-stove kind of recipes (cuts down on the heating bill, for one!), but with the oft-waning energy, I'd sometimes rather not worry with cooking.

But times are looking up -- I made a very rudimentary cold frame this morning with some of the scrap wood from our old kitchen cabinets.  And, with seeds being sent through the mail to us, I am eagerly awaiting signs of new life!

For now, sit down with a cup o' joe or tea for ...

52.  Wheat Germ Balls, pg. 291

Hailing from a home about 5 miles down the road from where we live, these little dough balls are a surprise hit.  My personal philosophy often seems to believe that a cookie could never be "healthy" and still satisfy my very demanding sweet tooth.  But, my friends, a venture into More-with-Less may slowly be changing my beliefs ... though I wouldn't wonder so far as to say "revolutionizing" ... :)

Accustomed to making cookies using the creaming method (butter & sugar, then add eggs, then flour, etc.), I decided to mix these my way, versus mixing everything together at once, as stated.  It might be an interesting trial to make them again, mixing everything at once, and then compare the two.  (I'll let you know if I do this and they turn out differently.)  Instead of wheat germ, I only had wheat bran on hand, so I toasted the 1 c. in the oven at 350 for about 6 minutes, tossing it gently in the middle of that time.  If I would have thought through it more, I would have also added the wheat bran/germ that the dough balls are rolled into.

These little guys do not spread much during baking, so you can put them close together on the baking sheet.  It was a bit difficult to know when they were done baking, but at 15 minutes, mine were crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside.  They go really well with tea or coffee, or with applesauce or other fruit.  Don't expect them to be a huge conversation piece, but they do pack a lovely sweet punch.  An idea for a future batch would be to use lemon zest instead of orange -- and more than just a teaspoon.

Overall:  3.5 out of 5  Simple but substantial, sweet but healthier than your average cookie.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thanks for all the helpful hints on bean cooking!  I think I've figured out that my need to always make things differently sometimes comes into play at the wrong time...Some things are meant to always be cooked the same :)

We've reached 50!  Kinda exciting! :)

[[Another review from Mom!! Danke!]]

50.  Basic Corn Bread, pg. 78

I followed the recipe using a recommended substitution of some whole wheat flour.  I used 1/2 c. of white and 1/2 c. of whole wheat.  Since the dry milk powder was optional, I used only 1/2 c.  I'm not sure why I haven't used this recipe before but I'll definitely make it again.  It was great fresh from the oven and served alongside a bowl of ham and bean soup.  Dad ate 3 pieces of the corn bread although the last piece was "small".

51.  Pumpkin Soup, pg. 206

I was first truly introduced to pumpkin soup while staying with a friend in Germany ... and I haven't gotten enough since!

I'm really not much of an accurate measurer when it comes to soups, but with this recipe, it really doesn't matter.  All that goes into this soup is lovely, and when put together, there is little chance for failure. 

Slightly undercooking the onions turned out to be a beautiful idea -- they remained crunchy and pungent in the end product.  Instead of using milk, I always use coconut milk in pumpkin soups.  The rich, fatty flavor lends itself very well to the pumpkin, and the soup is delightfully creamy with it.  For the pumpkin, I had just baked down one small kabocha, and didn't puree it as called for.  While there was the occasional squash chunk, overall the squash was soft enough that it broke up well just by stirring.  Lastly, make sure to add about a teaspoon of ground ginger.  I would never eat this soup unaccompanied by ginger.  If you have fresh ginger on hand, then grate about a teaspoon and toss it in towards the end of the onion cooking.

I really enjoyed this soup, but also felt like it was missing a bit of a kick.  I typically like to add a hearty dash of orange juice to pumpkin soup, but decided to try this one without.  I would definitely recommend adding OJ if you have it, or taking the alternative route and adding cayenne or hot sauce.

Overall: 4 out of 5  Quite lovely, warm, and rich...but needs an extra kick

Friday, January 22, 2010

I've got a double batch of Pot-o-Gold Peanut Soup starting on the stove for a dinner party tonight, and I can't deny that I'm looking forward to it more than a person normally looks forward to a soup...but for more than just the soup! :)

I made a friend once in a land far away who was able to put words to what I intuitively already knew, but had never sat down to process:  eating together with groups of friends nearly always is a meaningful time.  The opportunity to sit around and do such a biological thing together (eat) creates a unique spiritual space which allows for deeper conversation.  So many of the festivities in the Bible are surrounded by feasting, and Jesus concludes his time with his community of disciples by...hiking? umm...Eating together.  Sure, moments of peace and love can happen when we eat alone or with one other person -- I'm not denying that.  But I find that I am often carried through a couple days on the good, meaty conversation and fine culinary delights that I share with friends and family.

[[A recipe review from my very own mother!  Hey, thanks, Mom! :)]]
48.  Fruit Crumble, pg. 272

This was a quick and easy recipe to make.  I used frozen sour cherries as the fruit and followed the recipe as written except for drizzling some honey over the cherries.  It is more of a cobbler than I was expecting from the title.  The dish could have used more sugar on the fruit but think if peaches would be used instead, nothing additional would be needed.  Definitely will make this again.  And the recipe could easily be doubled and put in a 9 x 13 pan.

49.  Black Bean Soup, pg. 209

I've never been good at judging when beans are done cooking (any hints?).  When I think they're soft, I stop them, but then when I add them to recipes, they almost always are still hard...I can't figure this out.

And it happened with this recipe.  I swear I cooked the beans for at least 2 hours (after doing the quick method) if not more, but the minute we sat down to eat, they weren't soft anymore.  We ate them anyways, and tried to enjoy the flavors anyway.  I used probably double both the onion and green pepper, and if making this again, I would sauté the onions and garlic (and peppers, if using fresh) before adding the beans and liquid.  Without doing this, there is no added fat, and I definitely found myself wanting just a hint.  I did not use a smoked ham bone (wouldn't even know what that is), and instead added a couple bouillon cubes to make up for some of the flavor.

A definite must is the vinegar at the end of the recipe.  I forgot to add it at first, and after a few bites of thinking "ehh....", remembered I hadn't put any in.  It gave the soup a much needed kick.  We didn't use any of the toppings, and ate it with bread instead of over rice.  A fairly basic way to cook beans, I'm sure with correctly cooked beans, this should be a foolproof recipe.

Overall: 3.6 out of 5  I would make it again, probably.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Soup...and More Soup

Searching through my freezer last night for strawberries, I came across a loaf of zucchini bread I had made over the summer and frozen, thinking it would be for sometime "when guests come".  Well, apparently, I decided to arrive last night, because I took that sucker out and put it on the table to thaw.  I've already had four pieces today (got up early to take Husband to work...definitely needed energy for that.  And then, breakfast came...), and in my gluttony, have been trying to pinpoint why exactly I was so ecstatic about my discovery.  Possibly the sugar/fat/carb combo...possibly the amount of chocolate chips I so wisely decided to dump in...possibly just the potential of having baked goods with summer vegetables in the winter.  (I like to think it's primarily the last one, but the jury is still out.)  Regardless, the investment of a freezer last summer has given us the ability to store a lot more of our summer reaping (from the CSA box) and in our moody winter nights, we are given a taste of warmer days and happier times.  And I need those memories, as we're barely cresting the month of January...and winter continues for another dreary couple months...

46.  German Potato Soup, pg. 200

At first I wasn't sure why the recipe had to include the identifier "German", but once I ate it, I knew why:  they wanted to provide us someone to blame.

The recipe alone looks bland, the soup ends up boring, and I inevitably deemed this meal a waste of good potatoes that could have been used for mashing.  Perhaps part of the problem was that I actually stuck with the recipe this time -- I made it exactly as it was written.  (I did end up adding cheese, but that really didn't help much.)  It wasn't "bad", per se, but it's definitely not the kind of soup you want to eat as a main dish.  I can imagine it's tastelessness might be hidden if you had some sausage or veg. seiten on the side to distract you.

Sure, the Husband and a guest who happened by gave it 3s, but Husbands have to say these things, and guests often lie when asked about their food.

Overall: 2 out of 5  Leave it be, unless you're trying to embrace "tradition".

47.  Chicken Potpie, pg. 182

Sorry to all you vegets. out there, I went AWOL for this one.

Also found in my freezer was a half of a chicken breast (and no stewing hen), so I tried substituting that for the first part of this recipe.  I found the broth to be quite lacking in flavor, though, once the breast was done, so added some bouillon to "beef" it up (ahem...)  I did halve the water but kept the same amount of vegetables, substituting a carrot and parsnip for the celery and adding a clove of garlic.  Use what you have on hand, and just adjust the vegetable's chopped size according to how quickly it cooks.  Make sure the veggies are covered with water, adding a little extra if needed.

For the noodle dough, though I again halved it, I found I needed all the water it called for in the original recipe.  (I used egg replacer, so was able to use "half" an egg.)  It took a long time to get enough moisture to get it to form into a ball, so if you do decide to halve the recipe, I would recommend keeping the whole egg, and then adding extra water if necessary.  Be sure to roll the dough as thinly as you can, as it states, unless you like a gummy piece of cooked dough (which I do like...just a forewarning if you don't.)

Being more used to ham potpie from my growing up years, I found this soup to be less salty than what I had anticipated.  I'm sure if you make this recipe often enough, you can learn how much and which seasonings to use, but be prepared in the early days to experiment.

Overall:  3 out of 5  Tastes okay, glad I made it, but if you have a recipe from Grandma that you like, stick with that one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Warning: Dangerous Pun Ahead!

Just when you think that life is returning to normal after struggling through a kitchen remodel, your brand-spanking-new oven suddenly quits on you.  And, of course, it has the audacity to stop working in the middle of bread baking.  I'm left wondering if the Cosmos is telling me that I should just give up trying to eat thoughtfully and resort to fast food for the rest of my life...I mean, hey, that kind of food gives you more (calories) with less (nutrition...), too! :)  Fortunately, the burners are still all functioning properly, and as Maya Angelou would say, "but still I rise" (only my bread won't).

44.  Quick Corn Soup, pg. 200

This is absolutely a darling little soup!  I grabbed a pint of corn out of the freezer midday, and with about 5 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of cooking, this soup was on by evening.  I love sauteed onions so much that I took about 1/4 c. chopped onions and let them hop around in 1 T. olive oil just until translucent.  Then, I added the 2 c. milk and salt and pepper, leaving out the seasoned salts.  Dumped the pureed corn and milk in, and (here, Emerill might say BAM!) the soup was done.  Amazing.  As long as your corn is tasty, there is no way to mess this soup up.

Overall: 4.5 out of 5  Yum. Yum. Yum.

45.  Middle Eastern Lentil Soup, pg. 213

If you've ever had the lentil salad in Extending the Table, just think of this recipe as the hot version of it.  Seriously.

When you look at the recipe, it may seem like it's going to be boring with basically just lentils, onions, garlic, and a dusting of cumin...and then you see "lemon juice" at the end and you cock your head to the side because you're not sure you agree with the idea.  But I promise you that if you put it in, you'll understand in the first bite.  We also added a good 1/2 t. of cayenne, which really packed a punch.  There's really not much to say about this soup, other than it's good.  Because it was a bit hot the first day, the second time we had it, Husband added a dollop of sour cream which reminded me a bit of stroganoff.  We also ate it over potatoes the second day because it had gotten pretty thick after it cooled.

Overall:  4 out of 5  Tasty and not too demanding of your time or money. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

43.  Basic Cooked Lentils; Easy Lentil Stew, pg. 105

Recently, with the onslaught (Christmas gifts) of dessert cookbooks, I've been avoiding the predictably most-good-for-you recipes of MWL. It can be tough at times to balance the different medias that the culinary arts allow.  Visual artists can meander back and forth from painting to drawing to sculpting and beyond -- must a cook in her kitchen be limited to those foods which keep our digestive system functioning properly? I say no. :)  Life is short, afterall.  But, of course, we do end up back with those foods which satisfy our bellies for longer than a half hour.

With help from my Mom, we tossed together a version of the Easy Lentil Stew.  We changed up the order of the recipe because we wanted a fuller flavor.  We first sauteed the onions, garlic, celery, and an extra 2 carrots in olive oil.  Then, we added all the water, lentils, all the spices, and 4 veggie bouillon cubes.  We added the extra bouillon cubes because we were not going to add any meat.  After simmering for about 30 minutes, I dumped in one small can of tomato paste.  Though it wasn't quite 3/4 c., I thought it was silly to open up another can for less than a 1/4 c.  The stew continued to simmer for about another 15 minutes, with regular checks on the lentils.  I ate mine on top of a baked potato, which was scrumptious!

Overall:  4 out of 5  Good flavors, very filling, and healthy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

42.  Ruggenbrot (Rye Bread), pg. 59

I enjoy waking up early before my husband and being inspired to make bread in the quiet of the kitchen.  I've probably written this before, but as many people who make bread consistently would tell you, making bread can be a meditative chore.  Bread dough is much more forgiving than a cookie dough and can take non-perfect measurements and still turn out just fine.  The warmth of the dough combined with the opportunity to get your hands dirty go well together, and seeing it all come together in a smooth dough brings great satisfaction.  What's more is that with our current work in our kitchen (still installing cabinets and countertops...), it's a treat to have an extra-cozy and fragrant workspace to motivate us. :)

Knowing there are only two mouths to feed, I decided to halve this recipe and just get one loaf out of it.  This is a simple recipe to change proportions, so change it up according to what you are looking for.

Using molasses instead of brown sugar will give the dough a slightly darker color, but either will round out the flavor nicely with their warmth.  I did mess up on the rye flour bit -- forgot that I was only supposed to put in 1 c., and dumped in 2 c. instead, so I had to adjust the amount of white flour down to about 1 1/2 cups.  Taste-wise, I thought the bread was still great -- probably just a bit heartier than what the recipe states.  I also put in about 1 T. of golden flax seed for spunk and nutritional benefit.

When it comes to making your loaf, don't expect to use a 9x5 and get a "standard" loaf -- the dough doesn't expand much.  For mine, I simply shaped it into a log and put it on a cookie sheet.  Just before baking, slash the top with a sharp (or serrated) knife several times to allow for even baking.

The end result is a hearty bread asking to be served alongside a brothy soup.

Overall: 3.2 out of 5  Standard, healthy, and hearty.