Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Week 5: Barb's Breakfast Bonanza

The Month 1 challenge involves cooking a new breakfast recipe. I did the cooking on Sunday but just managed to recover enough to actually blog about it.

Here's the evidence.

Don't let the dishes scare you, though. These are actually dishes from Saturday's dinner (beef stroganoff), Saturday's dessert (chewy chocolate chip cookies), and Sunday's breakfast extravaganza. Poor Brad!


We began breakfast with our very own pumpkin spice lattes.

Adapted from
"Pumpkin Spice Lattes"
posted September 21, 2009 on Apartment Therapy: The Kitchn

Makes 1 - 2 servings

2 C milk
2 Tbsp. canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup of strong brewed coffee

In a saucepan combine milk, pumpkin, and sugar and cook on medium heat, stirring, until steaming. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and spice. Whisk really well with a wire whisk. It takes lots and lots of whisking to get all the pumpkin chunks out.

Pour into a large mug or two mugs. Add the espresso on top.

Top with whipped cream and sprinkle pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, or cinnamon on top.

They weren't as good as Starbucks.


We had brown sugar bacon and pumpkin waffles after the lattes. (Not exactly a photogenic breakfast but really tasty!)

Adapted from
"Brown Super Bacon"
Paula Deen for Food Network

1/4 C firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. chili powder
8 slices thick-cut bacon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set a cooling rack inside the prepared pan and set aside.

In a shallow dish, combine the brown sugar and chili powder. Dredge the bacon slices in the brown sugar mixture and arrange the bacon on the rack. Bake in the preheated oven until crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

This is the second brown sugar bacon recipe I've tried. The first one is from Gina Neely. I preferred the spicy taste of Gina's recipe (cayenne pepper) to the smoky taste of Paula's (chili powder).

Once the bacon hit the oven I started the waffles.

Adapted from:
"Pumpkin Waffles with Maple Walnut Apples"
from Food Network Kitchens

Makes 8 4-inch waffles

1 C cake flour
1/4 C wheat germ
1/3 C granulated sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp fine salt
3/4 C milk
1/2 C pumpkin puree
1/4 C melted butter
1/4 C melted shortening (transfat-free)
1 large egg
1 large egg white

2 to 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 crisp apples, peeled and sliced thinly
1/4 C pure maple syrup
1/2 C toasted walnuts

For the waffles:
Preheat a waffle iron to medium heat.

Whisk the flour, wheat germ, sugar, baking powder, spice and salt together in a large bowl.

Beat together the milk, pumpkin, melted butter, and melted shortening, egg and egg white, in a large measuring cup. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Whisk together to make a slightly lumpy batter.

For the topping:
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the apples and let cook until slightly browned, but still crisp, about 4 minutes. Add the maple syrup and walnuts and toss to coat. Set aside.

Pour and spread about 1 cup batter into the waffle iron. Cover and cook until crisp and a rich golden brown, about 7 minutes. (Try to resist the temptation to open the waffle iron too soon. Steam will puff out of the iron while the waffles cook, when this stops the waffle is cooked.) Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve hot with the apples.


Here are a few more breakfast recipes that didn't make the cut:
Breakfast Skillet
Mascarpone Stuff French Toast with Peaches
Baked Caramel French Toast (from an all-breakfast recipe site)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Week 4: The Chewy Recipe

There have been far too many real meals cooked around here. It's time for something fun, right?

Adapted from:
The Chewy Recipe
Alton Brown, for Food Network

Makes 2 1/2 dozen (or 2 dozen if you eat lots of dough) cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tbsp. milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 C semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. (In retrospect, I'd wait to do this. The dough has to chill later. That's the perfect time to preheat the oven.)

Melt the butter. (Yup. That's right. It says melt the butter. Weird, no?) Dump the flour, salt, and baking soda in a big bowl and stir around with a fork. Set aside.

Use a mixer to cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, milk and vanilla and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough. (This is an important and easily overlooked step - I speak from experience.)

Scoop dough (the globs were about 1" round) onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Much to my dismay and despite lots of experimentation with the oven (two sheets at one time, one sheet at a time, moving oven racks, reducing cooking time to 12 minutes) the bottoms of every single batch burned. Alton would probably blame the gear - wrong brand of parchment paper or cookie sheets that didn't distribute the heat evenly. The non-burned part of the cookie was really tasty, though. I only tried them warm out of the oven - will see how they are on Day 2.

And, if chewy chocolate chip cookies aren't your thing, be sure to check out these recipes:
The Thin
The Puffy

Friday, September 25, 2009

Week 4: Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese

I'm a big Giada de Laurentis fan. I like her for different reasons than my husband; I watch for the food while he watches for other reasons which I won't go in to here.

Many of my favorite recipes come from her cookbooks - especially Everyday Italian. You have to try the shrimp diavolo or the penne with asparagus, smoked mozzarella or prosciutto or salmon in a foil pouch with tomatoes.

But, I've had her most recent cookbook for almost a year and haven't made even one single recipe from it. That's how I picked this one. It seemed like time to spill some stuff on the pages of an unused cookbook.

Adapated from
"Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese"
in Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites
by Giada de Laurentis
p. 131

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 1/2 C very hot water
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 C olive oil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
5 oz. assorted mushrooms, stemmed and chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 C red wine
1/2 C mascarpone cheese
1 lb. rigatoni pasts
1/4 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with the hot water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.

Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped but still chunky. Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook over medium-high heat until tender, about 6 minutes.

Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid. Use the food processor to chop the porcini and assorted mushrooms.

Add all of the mushrooms and tomato paste to the vegetable mixture. Continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the mushroom soaking liquid and the red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Add the mascarpone cheese and stir just until the cheese is incorporated.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender. Drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 C of the cooking liquid, and add to the vegetable mixture. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce. Toss with the Parmesan and serve.

Brad and I both enjoyed this. It had a really distinct taste - from the mushrooms, I think. I might try a different type of dried mushroom (instead of porcini) next time. Overall, I was amazed at how "meaty" it tasted. Definitely comfort food.

I also should have used my time better. A smart girl would have started heating the pasta water at the same time she started cooking the vegetables. This would mean the noodles would be cooked at about the same time the sauce is finished.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Week 4: Pork with Brussels Sprouts

I have spent my entire life thinking I didn't like Brussels sprouts, yet I don't remember ever actually eating even a single Brussels sprout. My mom makes them every Thanksgiving - except the year I hosted Thanksgiving. I wouldn't allow the Brussels sprouts in my house.

Honestly? I've always been unwilling to try them because they make me think of Cabbage Patch dolls. It didn't seem right to eat something that made me think of eating Xavier Robert or Edie Erna or some other yarn-haired, puffy-plastic-faced doll that I coveted every Christmas from ages four through six.

Anyway, I decided I owed it to Brussels sprouts to actually try them before continuing to declare that I do not like them.

Here's the Brussels sprout infested dish I made before I ate.

Here's the same plate after I ate.

Turns out I do not, in fact, like Brussels sprouts. (And, that barbecue sauce can fix even the blandest of pork tenderloins.)

Adapted from
"Roasted Pork with Brussels Sprouts and Apricots"
in Real Simple, October 2009, p. 204

Serves 4
Ready in 25 minutes

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 pork tenderloin (1 1/4 lb.)
Salt and Pepper
12 oz. Brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
1/4 C dried apricots, chopped
2 Tbsp. roasted unsalted almonds, chopped

Heat oven to 400. Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the port with 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the skillet to oven and roast until the pork is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. (Note. It took my pork almost 20 minutes to cook.) Let rest before slicing.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in second large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts, aprcitos, almonds, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and cook, tossing, until the Brussels sprouts are just tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve with the pork.

I was forced to wash it all (meaning the few slices of pork tenderloin I actually ate) with a chocolate malt from our newly-opened Sonic.

I won't be making this one again. Ever.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Week 3: Beef Enchiladas

Brad picked this meal. I set him loose with the latest Healthy Cooking and a pack of Post-Its to mark what he'd like me to make. (He picked this, a sausage and pasta toss, Mexican chicken meatballs, and coconut-pecan sweet potatoes--completely different choices than I would have made.)

Adapted from
"Makeover Gourmet Enchiladas"
Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking, October / November 2009, p. 21

Makes two dishes (6 servings each)
35 minutes of prep
35 minutes of baking

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. extra-lean ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 C (12 oz.) 2% cottage cheese
1 1/2 C (12 oz.) reduced fat sour cream
2 cans (4 oz. each) chopped green chilies
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
1 C salsa
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
12 whole wheat tortilla (8 in.), warmed
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1. In a large skillet, cook the beef, turkey, and onion over medium heat until the meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in the cottage cheese, sour cream, chilies, cumin, and coriander; set aside.

2. For sauce, in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, saute onion until tender. Stir in the tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder, oregano, garlic powder, and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until slightly thickened.

3. Place a heaping 1/2 C meat mixture down the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place seam side down in two 13" x 9" baking dishes covered with cooking spray. Pour sauce over the top.

4. Cover and freeze one dish for up to three months. Bake the remaining dish, uncovered, at 350 for 30 - 35 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with 6 Tbsp. cheese; bake 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

5. To use frozen enchiladas:
Thaw in refrigerator overnight. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking. Cover and bake as directed.

1 enchilada equals 358 calories, 12 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 3 g fiber

This was tasty. The enchiladas got a little crispy on the bottom (maybe I baked it too long?). And, the portions (only 1 enchilada per person) were a little skimpy for my unhealthy eating habits. And, it was a lot of prep and many, many dishes. But, I did like it enough that I'd gift the extra tray to a friend next-time around.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Week 3: Apple Walnut Ravioli

Not a lot to say about this one. I was looking for something quick, simple, and different.

Adapted from
"Ravioli with Apples and Walnuts"

in Real Simple, October 2009, p. 208

Serves 4
Ready in 20 minutes

1 pound cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 C walnuts, roughly chopped
1 crisp apple (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into matchsticks
1/2 C fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and Pepper
1/4 C grated Parmesan (1 oz.)

Cook ravioli according to package directions.

Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the walnuts and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add the apple, parsley, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper and toss to combine. Spoon over the ravioli and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

My first mistake was to substitute spicy sausage ravioli for cheese. I thought the sausage would taste good with the apples. It didn't.

I did, however, also add some cheese tortellini. That tasted much better.

The 1/2 tsp. salt was also way too much for me.

Overall, I'm not so sure I'd make this again. It was quick, though, and a surprisingly good combination of flavors.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Kitchen Challenge 1: Breakfast Bonanza

I had a stellar breakfast recently. It seems some of my most favorite breakfasts are eaten out. This particular favorite was at Yolk on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

I had Fruit and Nut Pancakes.

Brad had Banana Nut Bread French Toast. (And, yes. That's a side of peanut butter instead of syrup. YUM!)

There was plenty of plate trading going on.

In honor of my recent eating-out breakfast triumph, I'd like to pose a challenge to you, our readers. (We have at least a few readers out there, right?)

Cook something new for breakfast.

Sometime between now and October 11 (Sunday). . .

Option 1: Blog about it
Cook a new breakfast item. Take a picture of the breakfast creation. Create a post on your own blog that includes the recipe and the picture. Add a comment on this post linking us back to your creation.

Option 2: Email us about it
Cook something new for breakfast. Take a picture of it. Email the picture and the recipe to CookEatRepeatChallenge@gmail.com

I'll randomly draw a name from those who participate and send some kitchen-related mail love to a lucky reader.

And, we'll all learn lots of great new breakfast recipes.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Week 2: Creamy Rice with Roasted Shrimp

Stephanie loves shrimp. I love shrimp. Karl does not. So, tonight Stephanie came over for shrimp. (Brad's relationship with shrimp is too complicated to go in to here.)

But, tonight's shrimp was - if I do say so myself - a big hit.

Adapted from
"Creamy Rice with Roast Shrimp"
in Real Simple, October 2009, p. 206

Serves 4
Ready in 35 minutes

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 C Arborio rice
1 C dry white wine
2 C broth (I used chicken)
Salt and Pepper
1 lb. frozen peeled and deveined medium shrimp, thawed
2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 oz. Gorgonzola

Heat the oven to 400.

Warm but do not boil broth in a saucepan to be added to rice later.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the rice. Cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring, until the wine is absorbed.

Add 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Add 3/4 C broth. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until broth is absorbed. Repeat with remaining broth. Heat should be medium low. After about 20 minutes the broth will be absorbed and the rice will be tender.

Meanwhile, on a rimmed baking sheet, toss the shrimp, tomatoes, thyme, garlic, 1 Tbsp. oil, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Roast until the shrimp are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Toss rice with shrimp and tomato mixture (including liquid from roasting). Stir in most of the Gorgonzola. Sprinkle remaining Gorgonzola on the top.

If I was going to do it again. . . I'd use fewer tomatoes and add another vegetable like asparagus or zucchini. Oh, and I served it with broccoli. It would have been good with a salad, though, too.

And, I should probably tell you that there was some cookbook reading and kitchen scheming going on while Stephanie and I shared dinner. Stay tuned, dear readers. Things are going to get interesting around here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Week 2: Chocolate Torte with Nutella Mousse

I take absolutely no credit for this week's recipe. I found it posted on Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen by bell'alimento

1 container (8 oz.) Heavy Whipping Cream
½ C Sugar, Divided
1 box(8 oz.) Cream Cheese (Softened)
2 Tablespoons Honey
½ C Nutella, Melted
1 box Chocolate Cake Mix + Ingredients to prepare
Fresh Raspberries, For Garnish

Use an electric mixer to mix whipping cream and 1/4 C sugar until it becomes whipping cream. Move to a separate bowl.

In its own bowl, mix cream cheese and 1/4 C sugar until creamy. While mixing, add honey.

Melt Nutella in the microwave for about 30 seconds or until warmed through. Add to cream cheese mixture. Fold whipped cream in to cream cheese mixture. Refirgerate for 30 minutes or until set.

Prepare cake mix according to box directions. Pour into a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 10 - 15 minutes. When cool, cut into circles with a large cookie cutter.

Finally, assembly the torte: cake, mousse, cake, mousse, raspberries.

For what it's worth. . . I did use a reduced-sugar cake mix and low fat cream cheese. And, the recipe called for three layers of cake and mousse, but I only used two. That's healthy eating, right?

Overall, this is a dessert that looks impressive and tastes great but is very easy to make. I did all the preparation and baking the night before and assembled just before eating.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Week 2: Chicken and Bacon Pasta

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat. This is NOT, I repeat NOT a healthy cooking recipe.

I present to you Exhibit A:

A stick and a half of that butter went into this recipe. Along with 3 cups of cream and a pound of bacon. Light and tasty this is not! In fact, if you are currently on a diet, it is possible just reading this recipe might cause weight gain.

Another thing you need to know about this recipe: to quote my friend Barb, it is very "dish intensive." Exhibit B:

This would be my sink full of all the dishes that would not fit in my dishwasher after preparing dinner. I used: my crockpot, my broiler pan, a pasta pot, a colander, a large pot, a large casserole, two mixing bowls, and a cutting board.

So now that you know this recipe will make you fat and result in lots of dishes, I'll share one more tip. When a recipe say it makes "a lot" or "serves a crowd" it is probably NOT a good idea to make it on the night before the only other adult in the house leaves on a business trip. There is NO WAY I will finish an entire casserole dish myself, even if I did eat it for lunch and dinner for the rest of the week.

Chicken and Bacon Pasta

from the blog: Taste and Tell

erves 8 - 10

6 chicken breast halves
1 12-ounce bottle Mesquite Marinade
1 lb bacon, cooked and diced ( I used slightly less than 1lb...the dog stole a couple slices)
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons pepper
3/4 cup butter
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for the top
1 pound small cut pasta, cooked and drained (I used penne)
a few handfuls of frozen peas (I used 1/2 a small bag)

Put the chicken breasts and the marinade in a crockpot. Cook until chicken is done, then cut into bite sized chunks. (This took about 3 hours in my crockpot on high. I think next time I would just marinate the chicken in the fridge and then bake the breasts. Dragging out the crockpot just seems to be one extra step)

In a large pan, combine the cream, pepper, butter, garlic and Parmesan cheese. Whisk over medium heat until combined and thickened.

Combine the pasta, bacon, chicken and sauce. Toss in the frozen peas and stir to combine everything. Pour into a baking dish, top with more Parmesan, and cook in a 350F oven until the cheese is melted. (I baked mine for about 4o minutes so the top was nice and crispy.)

A funny little side note about this baking dish: It was a wedding gift from a nutritionist I used to work with in my former life as a tv producer. I'm pretty sure she would have a panic attack if she knew I used her gift to make such a NOT healthy dish.

This one definitely gets filed under "everything in moderation." Consuming it more than once a year may be detrimental to your health! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Week 1 (Part 2): Meat and Potatoes

I eat to feel better. I know this about myself. Today was a day that I needed food. It was a bad day. Tears were involved. So, I came home and cooked. I snapped green beans and grated potatoes and whisked. It felt good.

"Lemony Green Beans"

Taken from Simple Suppers
from The Moosewood Collective

Serves 4 to 6 people
Ready in 20 minutes

1 tsp. salt
1 pound green beans
1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil or butter
salt and pepper

Bring 3 or 4 inches of salted water to a boil. Rinse the green beans, and trim the stem ends. When the water boils, add the green beans and cook until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

While the beans are cooking, grate the lemon peel and juice the lemon and set aside. You'll need about 1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice and 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest.

When the beans are tender, drain them and return them to the pain. Add the olive oil or butter and the lemon juice and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve sprinkled with lemon zest.

I liked this. It was easy enough to make and tasted great - really lemony.

"Two Potato Gratin"
Taken from Simple Suppers
from The Moosewood Collective

Serves 4
Takes 55 minutes

2 eggs
3 C grated sweet potatoes and white potatoes
1/2 C chopped scallions
2 Tbsp. white flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 C grated dilled Havarti cheese
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 375.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the potatoes, scallions, flour, salt, pepper, and half of the cheese and mix well.

Heat the butter and oil in a large ovenproof skills (10 to 12 inches) on medium-high heat. Spoon the potato mixture into the skillet and spread evenly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bottom is nicely browned. Do not stir.

Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the top is golden. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and continue to bake until the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Cut the gratin into wedges and serve hot.

I expected this was going to be like cheesy potatoes; I guess they're called scalloped potatoes. It was more like hashed browns. But, the mix of sweet and regular potato was nice, and the onions added some crunch. I'd eat it again.

"Mustard Horseradish Sauce"
Taken from Barefoot Contessa Family Style
by Ina Garten

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 1/2 C mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1/3 C sour cream
1/4 tsp. kosher salt

Whisk together. Serve at room temperature.

Ina's original recipe was meant to accompany a rib roast. I served it with beef tenderloin cooked on the grill.

I didn't have two different kinds of mustard and just used about 4 Tbsp. of Dijon mustard. I also would have added a little more horseradish for some extra kick. Oh, and I would recommend remembering to put the sour cream on your shopping list to avoid an extra and last-minute trip to the store.

Week 1: Hearty Salisbury Steak

This project is all about trying new things and learning, so before I get down to the recipe here's a snippet of what I learned this week:
  • Salisbury steak doesn't photograph well. There's a reason why the picture was really really small in the magazine.
  • My husband will always suggest ways to make a "light" recipe better. Those suggestions will always make the recipe much less "light."
  • I hate chopping onions. Particularly when the recipe calls for finally chopped onions and actually means minced onions.
So now that I've prepared everyone for the horrible salisbury steak photo, here it is in all its glory:

While it resembles something you'd get in a school cafeteria on mystery meat day, this recipe was actually both "Light" and "Tasty" as the magazine implies. Salisbury steak happens to be one of my husband's comfort food favorites and this recipe provides a nice, healthier alternative to the Banquet patties!

My very favorite mashed potatoes are based on a Tyler Florence recipe and fondly referred to as "heart attack potatoes" because the taters are boiled in milk and cream instead of water. I'm pretty sure it would be a sin to put them on the same plate as a recipe from Healthy Cooking Magazine, so I opted for your basic mashed. We should have had another veggie as well but I forgot to put it on my grocery list.

Hearty Salisbury Steaks
Taste of Home Healthy Cooking Magazine
August/September 2009

  • 1/4 cup egg substitute
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped (I used 1/4 of a large onion and still felt I had too much onion in this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 1/2 a sleeve)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 envelope reduced sodium onion soup mix
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 cups water.
1. In a large bowl combine egg, onion, saltines, and pepper. Add beef and mix well.
2. Shape into patties. (Recipe says it should make 5. I wound up with 8)
3. Cook patties in oil over medium heat, 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove patties from pan and drain drippings.
4. In small bowl combine soup mix, flour, and water. Heat until boiling in skillet.
5. Return patties to skillet, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until meat is no longer pink inside.

According to the nutritional information 1 patty with 1/4 cup of the gravy is 233 calories and 10 grams of fat....much better for you than the salisbury steak out of the box.

Next time I will use less onion and make my patties a little thinner. The good news is there will definitely BE a next time. Week one recipe is a definite REPEAT!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Week 1: Mac and Cheese (with a side of Broccoli)

Started with this at 4:00.

Ended with this around 5:45.

I couldn't have done it without a little bit of help from one of tonight's dinner guests, though.

And, all of it got a thumbs up from the other dinner guest.

Tonight's dinner started with Post-It Notes. I marked all of the most promising recipes in Barefoot Contessa Family Style. From there, Brad picked one--mac and cheese. (I should say that mac and cheese wasn't Brad's first choice. His first choice required some kitchen gadgets I don't have and some research. I will make it another week, though.) I decided to add the broccoli to make the meal a little more well-rounded.

I've only made mac and cheese once (with lots of help from Josie and Katrina), so I was a little nervous about getting the cheese sauce smooth and tasty instead of lumpy and burnt. But, Ina's directions were easy to follow, and I was happy with the final product.

I do have to warn you, though. . . this was a dish-intensive meal. The mac and cheese alone required three pots and a baking dish. The pots all needed to be washed before the broccoli was made; it needed two pots.

"Mac and Cheese"
Taken from
in Barefoot Contessa Family Style
by Ina Garten

Vegetable Oil
1 pound cavatappi (corkscrew noodles)
1 quart (4 C) milk
8 Tbsp. (1 stick)unsalted butter, divided
1/2 C flour
12 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated (4 C)
8 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 C)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 lb. fresh tomatoes (4 small)
1 1/2 C white bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Drizzle oil in a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to directions on the package. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don't boil it. Melt 6 Tbsp. of butter in a large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1/2 Tbsp. salt, pepper, and nutmet. Add the cooked macaroni and stir well. Pour into a 3-quart (9 x 13) baking dish.

Slice the tomatoes and arrange on top. Melt the remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, combine with fresh bread crumbs, and sprinkle on the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on top.

NOTE: The mac and cheese looks really soupy right before you put it in the oven - so soupy that you will wonder if you added too much milk. Don't worry, though. It's comes out of the oven 30 minutes later absolutely perfect.

ANOTHER NOTE: I didn't use all Gruyere. It was too expensive. I used 7 oz. Gruyere and 5 oz. Swiss.

Modified from "Broccoli and Bowties"
in Barefoot Contessa Family Style
by Ina Garten

Kosher Salt
8 C broccoli florets (4 heads)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 C pine nuts
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the broccoli for three minutes in a large pot of boiling salted water. Remove the broccoli from the water, place in a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small saute plan, heat the butter and oil and cook the garlic and lemon zest over medium-low heat for one-minute. Off the head, add 1 tsp. salt, the pepper, and lemon juice and pour this over the broccoli and pasta. Toss well. Sprinkle with pine nuts and cheese.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'll Bring Dessert

Confession: When I first started baking, I had ulterior motives. You see I learned a long time ago that it's very hard not to like the person who's supplying you with tasty treats. So what better way to difuse a hostile situation than with fresh baked brownies? I may not be the richest friend, or the prettiest one...but I can be counted on to pull through in the dessert department.

True Story: The first time Barb invivted me for lunch she suggested I could either bring dessert or a salad. When I offered to bring dessert she informed me I had made the right choice and that she couldn't be friends with someone who would bring salad when given that choice. And that is how I knew we were destined to be bffs.

And now here we are, embarking on this little culinary adventure together. I hope to broaden my horizons into the realm of "healthy food" or at the very least cook more than desserts all year. My husband is hoping he doesn't get stuck eating cereal for dinner too often. And my son hopes I can get all this cooking done during nap time. I guess only time will tell.

Here's to a year of new recipes as well as familiar favorites.
Here's to learning new things and sharing secrets.
Here's to two foodie friends inviting others to join in on the fun.