Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cookbook Wednesday: Shortcut Cooking

Again, this is a cookbook I think I've mentioned before.  But more and more people these days are finding cooking time extremely limited, while still wanting good food.  Our old friend, Betty Crocker, has the solution for all of us.

circa 1991

I found this at a bookstore while shopping for books for my kids for Christmas, and added it to my pile (the place was much too small to even consider having baskets).  It's been a very good resource for me.

It has both Fix it Fast and Fix and Forget sections, each divided into categories for such marvels as main dish salads, soups, get the idea..

 Some pages just contain recipes.
 Others have glorious pictures, which always make me feel that my finished product is not nearly as attractive as I'd like.  Where are the cookbooks with the "This is what it will look like on your plate" pictures?  (Yes, I know both Pams and Larry put out pretty plates, but I have hungry hordes who won't wait.)

 So, this cookbook comes to mind this week because of this beautiful and delicious (not to mention super easy) dessert.  Seriously, it's right up everyone's alley.  You mix it in the baking dish, and only dirty one fork and one measuring cup.


1-2/3 cups flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp ground allspice (I used 2 tsp whole, which I crushed)
1 tsp cinnamon (my addition, because I felt it was necessary)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup water

Spray your 8x8 or 7x10 pan liberally.  Put the dry ingredients into the pan and stir to combine.  Add the oil, applesauce and water, and stir with a fork until well combined.  Bake at 350F for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.  Top with:


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tbsp whipping cream

Melt the butter, add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil on the cooktop and simmer until the sauce thickens.  Or cook in the microwave in a 2 cup glass measuring cup; cook until the sauce thickens slightly.  Spoon over the warm cake.

I added whipped cream.  Mark hated it (but you all know he hates everything).  Ryan liked it so well that he took Mark's right out from under his nose and ate it.
 (Again, not as pretty as the cookbook picture, but that's OK).
 This is Cookbook Wednesday, and I"m linking up with Louise for this event!
Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Soft Dinner Rolls

Well, back to Ryan's bad tooth dinner, now that the excitement of Kellie's big announcement and visit are over.

To go with his Cream of Spinach Soup, Ryan wanted really soft rolls, which he could eat without much chewing.  And, since I had a tooth go bad on me last Thursday (and went for a root canal on Friday), I pulled this recipe out again.  Nice flavor, very soft, what more is there to say?


1-1/4 cups very warm milk (110-120F)
2 tbsp yeast
4 cups flour
2 tbsp gluten powder (optional)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Add ingredients to your mixing bowl or bread machine in the order given; process according to my directions (see link to the right ------>).  Form into 16 balls, place on baking sheets and flatten.  Let them rise 15 to 20 minutes, then bake at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes, depending upon how dark you want them.

Ryan swore that I kept him from starving to death in the 2 days before he had his tooth pulled with these rolls.  And, having eaten them with a very tender mouth over this weekend, I have to agree that for soft bread, these are the best!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cookbook Wednesday: Ryan Made Me Do It

At the used book sale 2 weeks ago (different from the one last weekend, which I attended with the girls), I picked out a couple of cookbooks.  Then Ryan found this one, and campaigned for it.  So, it would be accurate to say "Ryan made me do it!"

by Nick Malgieri
c. 2000

The cover of this book is enough to make you want it.  And all of the cookies on the cover.
 And the inside of the covers are enough to make you say, "Ah, well, weighing 400 pounds is a fine price to pay for all of these cookies!" (But when you realize YOU have to make them, your resolve will doubtless waver.)
 The table of contents shows that there are a wide variety of cookie categories in this cookbook, from (my favorites) bar and drop cookies, to more elaborate molded, piped and biscotti, and even including savory cookies AKA crackers.
 There are not pictures on every page; in fact, they are on very few pages.  There are about 4 pages similar to the inside of the cover, and that is enough drool inducement for my little corner of the world.  And don't these bar cookies look like something you simply must have now? I'm a sucker for shortbread.
 Ultimate Lemon Squares?  I don't know how they are different from regular lemon squares, but count me in.
 Drop cookies? These look terrific.
 Checkerboard cookies.  These are on the table of contents page.  The illustration tells you how to make them look checkered.  Probably too much work for me, but I'm betting that one or more of my daughters might try this when they are home at some point.
 Virtually all of these recipes call for a ton or butter.  I'm pretty sure that is a 100% guarantee of fabulous flavor.  Ryan will no doubt be campaigning for me to find out.  Soon.
 Macaroons, also known as diet cookies, but loaded with different flavors.
 Vanilla pretzels?  I love vanilla.  And I love their illustration of how to get the pretzel shape.
 Biscotti.  Double baking feels like a lot of work to me, but everyone loves biscotti.
 Sandwich cookies? Of course!
 Pizzelle, in many forms and flavors.  I have an old pizzelle iron, designed to be used on the stove top, which I haven't used since, oh, 1981 or so.  I'm not inspired to get it out.
 And crackers, also known as savory cookies.  These skinny rosemary bread sticks are a lot like the ones you sometimes find in restaurants; they might be a fun alternative to the regular, fat puffy ones I make.
 This is Cookbook Wednesday, hosted by Louise.  Stop by and see her Passover cookbooklet, and then visit the other contributors to this event.
Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Weekend Visitors!

About 2 months ago, Kellie announced that she and her boyfriend were driving up to vacation for a week on April 15th, and everyone should be here to visit with them.  So the sisters and Jeff came up, with their dogs, and the house was fuller, loud and happy.  We first met her boyfriend at Shannon's wedding, and we thought he was a very nice man.  I mean, he and Chris (Shannon's husband) went to watch Mark (or mostly his teammates) play football the Thursday before the wedding; it's a really nice guy who wants to go watch his girlfriend's baby brother play high school football for a team he doesn't know or care about, right? (The team made it to the state playoffs, which is truly remarkable for a private school with only 800 students, and lost in the quarter-finals.)

So, Friday night, Wes explained to us that he and Kellie have been dating for 2 years (which we knew), and that he had spent a year trying to get her attention, finally succeeding when she was promoted into management, and he dressed up better than the other guys, raced to open doors for her and seated himself next to her.  He also said that on their first date, he knew that she was the girl she would marry.  You know what came next: permission from the parents.

So, on Saturday afternoon, he took her for a walk, and secretly asked us all to wait for them out front, with cameras.  And you know what happened.

The pictures tell the story.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Heartier Cream of Spinach Soup

A couple of weeks back, Ryan had a bad toothache.  He went to see Kevin the dentist, who said he had his choice: root canal on his back molar, and have the wisdom tooth below it pulled a year or 2 from now, or have the back molar pulled now, and let the wisdom tooth slide right into its place.  You guessed correctly that he chose the second option.

So, for two nights, Ryan suffered with his bad molar, and we all ate soft foods in solidarity with our suffering son/brother.  One of those nights, I made up a big batch of cream of spinach soup, with a bit less fat and more substance, in hopes of keeping the poor boy filled up through the night.  (There was enough left for him to have for lunch the next day, but barely.)


1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups water
3 tbsp chicken base
1 cup white rice
2 cups frozen chopped spinach
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
20 turns ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large stock pot at medium heat; add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft.  Add the water and chicken base (or use chicken broth) and heat to a boil.  Add the rice and cook for 30 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the milk, return to a simmer, and lightly puree with a hand blender or put through the blender or food processor in small batches (I leave some texture in my pureed soups).  Return to the heat, add the nutmeg, pepper and cream and heat through.  Serve with soft rolls.

The rice thickened up the soup nicely and added some heft to it, plus, it reduced the need for milk and cream, making this soup more "heart friendly" for some of us around here.  It was delicious.  If the weather weren't finally warming up around here, I do expect that Ryan would be campaigning for me to make this soup again, regardless of the fact that his mouth is healed.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Cookbook Wednesday: Weight Watchers, c. 1990

There was a used book sale on Saturday, and Ryan and I got up early to attend.  I didn't really buy myself any books (4 cookbooks, no real books), although I did buy some books for the relative in Denver, but this was one of my purchases.

You all undoubtedly remember my dearly beloved grumbling that he was too fat, and that pretzels have nothing to do with it, because there are no calories in snack food, right? So, he is still grumbling (and still eating pretzels).  I thought this book might help me make him drop a few pounds (and help me in the process, because what woman over the age of 30 doesn't think she could stand to lose at least 10 pounds?).

Naturally, "somebody" in this house wailed that we don't need a stinkin' Fat Watchers Cookbook.  Um, we're all wailing about fat.  It needs to get watched somehow.
 It has all of the usual sections.  One thing I admired is that the index is listed alphabetically, but also by low cholesterol and low sodium.  Bonus!
 These look like some dandy breakfast selections.  And Fat Watchers says they aren't fattening?  Gotta love it.
 There are no pictures on each page, as new cookbooks are now published, just 3 short groups of glossy pages.  Pictures like these always make me feel inadequate; who really puts out a breakfast spread like this anyhow?
 I'm pretty sure this Orange Veal Marsala is in my future, except using chicken.
 I don't quite know why I'd add calories to my green beans, but if you're not a fan, this would be a good treatment.
 This one, not so much.  How do you think my hungry hordes would react to Puree of Green Bean Soup?  I'm thinking revolution would be the order of that day, followed by an emergency pizza.

And one of the truly great features of the book - menus.  There are 14 days of menus, and it looks like these are guidelines you could live with happily.  Of course, that's undoubtedly why the WW program has survived this long.
 This is my entry for Cookbook Wednesday, hosted by Louise!  Drop by and say hello to her, and see what dandy cookbooks she and others have to offer!

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Baby Granddaughter!

Well, I got up Saturday morning and it was snowing fit to beat the band. (I don't know what that means, exactly, but my grandfather used to say it and it sounded really impressive.) We had planned to go visit our son and his new baby girl the previous weekend, but my dearly beloved was still recovering from a cold, and we didn't want to pollute a new baby.  So this weekend I was going regardless of the snow, a decision which was bolstered by the fact that the snow didn't accumulate at all in 3 hours, so travel we did.  It's only 177 miles, after all, and what's a little snow in the northeast?

And the baby is a beauty.  She was born weighing 9-1/2 pounds (a weight her daddy didn't reach until he was nearly 3 months old), so she has a beautiful chubby face, all the requisite fingers and toes, and so forth.  She was awake and alert a number of times, chirping at her Grandpa (study the picture!) and so forth.

She is only sleeping about 3 hours at a clip, but I think that's because she gets cold.  The newest advice is babies should not have blankets because of the risk of SIDS; I think that these ever changing guidelines just scare the sweet bejesus out of parents.  Still, we mitigate risk where we can.  Her mommy is clearly quite pleased with her beautiful daughter.
 She has a lot of red hair, relative to a fair-haired baby.  And I think her little elephant suit was just precious!
 So, we had a wonderful visit, and they will be coming here fairly soon to visit.  Since I am a dunderhead, and realized when I was 20 miles from home that I'd forgotten my camera, I don't have many pictures.  But there will be many when she is here, where my camera lives!
Happy Monday, everyone!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cookbook Wednesday: An Old Standby

Well, Louise is starting Cookbook Wednesday back up, and I want to join her in the fun.  Hopefully, it will help me get back on track after the disruption (still ongoing, albeit to a much lesser degree now) of our house fire.  And so, for this, the first Cookbook Wednesday of 2016, I bring you....

The Red Plaid Cookbook!
AKA The Better Homes New Cookbook

My grandmother had one of these; probably many of your mothers and grandmothers did, too.  Mine is a 1990 edition, and I bought one for my oldest daughter about 5 years back when she wanted a good, general cookbook.  (My grandmother's is long gone, despite my telling my mother I wanted it.)

Do you write in your cookbooks?  I do; sometimes I use pencil, and, when it's a necessary and important notation, I use pen.  Case in point: Lamb.

This was the recipe I consulted for my Easter lamb.  But look carefully!  They give a generalized time frame - cook for 2-1/2 to 4 hours for a 5 to 7 pound leg of lamb?  That's a big enough window to drive a truck through.  So I went to another reference book looked up the time per pound, and wrote in in - in ballpoint pen.

Now, for the Easter lamb, which I know you want to see:

1 Leg of Lamb (mine was 8 pounds)
1 tsp dried minced garlic
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried minced onions
2 tsp salt
6 peppercorns

Combine all of the spices in a mortar, and grind them together with a pestle.  Remove the outer layer of fat from the lamb, and rinse with cold water.  Rub the spices all over the lamb, and roast in a 325F oven for 15 to 18 minutes per pound for medium-rare lamb.  (Reduce to 12 to 15 minutes per pound if you're using a convection oven.)

To make gravy, remove the fat from the pan drippings, add water and 1 tsp beef base to make 1-1/2 cups of liquid   Heat to a boil; whisk together 1/2 cup cold water and 2 tbsp cornstarch; whisk this into the stock and cook until it thickens.  Add a tablespoon or 2 of mint jelly, and stir until it melts in.  Serve the lamb with mint jelly in a dish at the side of the meat.  This is one meal which everyone in the family eagerly anticipates for weeks before Easter.

There was nothing left despite the fact that there were only 7 of us.  The lamb smelled splendid while cooking, and required no attention.  But if I'd followed the guidelines, and presumed that the 4 hour cook time was meant for the large end of the leg of lamb range, I'd have had a dried out mess.

Still, this is a good, general purpose reference cookbook, and I hope that one of my girls will some day appreciate my "corrections."

Happy Cookbook Wednesday, everyone; I'm linking up with Louise today!