Monday, November 6, 2017

"The Pumpkin Cookbook" - Roasted Corn Pumpkin Chowder - Halloween!


Date I made this recipe:  October 31, 2017 – Halloween!

The Pumpkin Cookbook – 139 Recipes Celebrating the Versatility of Pumpkin and Other Winter Squash by DeeDee Stovel
Published by Storey
ISBN: 978-1-61212-833-7; copyright 2005,2017
Purchased at Bibelot Shops – St. Paul
Recipe:  Roasted Corn Pumpkin Chowder – p. 54

Well, it’s that time of year again which is to say it is fall and also Halloween.  I am not fond of either of these two “events.”

Fall is the season of dead things which is to say my allergies just go into overdrive.  It is also the calm before the storm of winter, and it has been gray in these parts now for oh, I don’t know—forever?  Okay, not really.  Let’s say for the past three weeks if not longer.  It’s also been cold which is why Halloween is no fun.  Did you ever hear a kid beg to put a coat on over his/her costume?  No, you did not!

And then there’s pumpkin which I don’t loathe but it’s not something I cozy up to, either.  It’s okay.  The taste is neither here nor there unless you add some spices to it but I’m not exactly fond of pumpkin spice so there’s another problem I have to overcome every year.  Then there’s the smell problem which is to say that once upon a time, real pumpkin spice didn’t really smell but if it did, it was a lovely scent reminding us of mom’s baking and family Thanksgiving.  Once everybody and their mother (but not my mother) got their hands on it though, it is now everywhere and in everything.  Starbucks of course, pushes the hell out of pumpkin-spiced lattes (usually in July which is maddening), grocery stores start carrying pumpkin-spiced everything and of course, stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond (a store I love), choke me out with their fake pumpkin-spiced candles and doodads.  Migraines are not fun, and there’s a special place in hell reserved for companies that trigger one by spraying everything with “that crap.”

Still, whilst shopping a few months back at one of my favorite stores, Bibelot (fun gifts, cool stuff), I spied this book, The Pumpkin Cookbook.  I debated and debated and then finally thought, “Oh, all right then” and so I brought it home, marked my calendar to remind me to use it and proceeded to flag some recipes.

What I really liked about this book is not only the wide variety of chapters/recipes from which to choose, but also because pages 16 and 17 break out all the recipes by how you want to use your pumpkin, to wit: “Baked or Roasted Pumpkin;” “Steamed or Microwaved Pumpkin;” “Raw Pumpkin;” “Canned Unsweetened Pumpkin or Puree,” and “Pepitas” (Pumpkin Seeds).  I think this is a damned fine idea!  They don’t match the cooking method to the Table of Contents, but they do reference page numbers so that helps.

Here then, is the Table of Contents:
  • Starters, Snack & Beverages
  • Soups & Salads
  • Side Dishes
  • Main Courses
  • Breads
  • Pies
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Desserts & Delicacies

 Many of the sweet treats sounded fantastic, but I thought that was too easy and expected so I looked at the savory options.  In the running were:
  • Black Bean (and Pumpkin) Dip – p. 22
  • Holiday Pumpkin Dip – p. 23
  • Roasted Ginger Pumpkin-Pear Soup – p. 40
  • Italian Pumpkin Soup with Crushed Amaretti Cookies – p. 55
  • Chicken-Pumpkin Tacos – p. 102
  • Punkin’ [Sloppy] Joes – p. 130
  • Spaghetti with Peppers, Onions, and Sausage (and Pumpkin) – p. 141
  • Creamy Fusilli, Sausage and Pumpkin [Pasta] – p. 145

Any of these would have been fine although since I am such a fan of Sloppy Joes, I was leaning in that direction.  Then I handed the book off to Andy and asked him to choose something, thinking he would choose one of the recipes I flagged in advance.  Turned out he went “rogue” on me and selected something I hadn’t marked and that is how I came to make tonight’s dinner selection – Roasted Corn Pumpkin Chowder (p. 54).  I did not see that coming!

Since both of us are chowder fans, this one hit all the basic requirements:  corn, potatoes, a creamy broth, bacon (a nice addition) and even cheddar cheese.  The pumpkin was a nice addition, but pumpkin can be rather bland, and so it could have benefitted from more spice in the dish.  Aside from salt, the full recipe called for ½ teaspoon dried thyme and 1/8-1/4 teaspoon white pepper. Plan on using more.

As you might imagine, step one was to find a cooking pumpkin, carve it up which is to say, cut it into chunks, and roast it.  That was easy enough, but you’ll have to watch your cooking times.  The pumpkin was to roast for 35 minutes and then another 30 minutes once you add some, but not all, of the frozen corn.  After 65 minutes, my pumpkin was more than done and it was okay, but I ended up scrapping it off the rind and then pulsing it in a food processor instead of adding it in chunks to the broth.  No biggie.

I also found some “fresh” corn at Trader Joe’s and thought to myself “Wouldn’t this be better than frozen corn?  Of course, it would!”  Andy though, thought I should have used frozen and he was not wrong, but he picked a fine time to tell me which was while we were eating it!

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention that pumpkin does not appeal to a lot of people, primarily because of its appearance which is to say, “not pretty” and/or “completely unappetizing,” and/or “reminds me of baby [you know];” I’ll let you fill in the blanks on what “you know” is. This soup’s appearance is also “not pretty” but the flavor is good and if anything, suffers from not having enough.  That’s an easy remedy in my book.

This then, concludes Halloween, pumpkins and fake pumpkin spice, and hooray for that.  Meanwhile, I’ll have to brace myself before I go into Bed, Bath & Beyond because tis the season for fake evergreen.  Dear Lord, it just never ends, does it?

Roasted Corn Pumpkin Chowder – Serves 8
1 pound fresh pumpkin, seeds and fibers removed, cut into chunks
3 cups frozen corn
4 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
¾ pound (about 8 small) Yukon Gold potatoes
5 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 – ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup grated cheese (for topping)

Heat oven to 400°F.  Grease a sheet pan with oil.  Rub the chunks of pumpkin with oil and bake for 35 minutes or until slightly tender.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.  Add 2 cups (out of 3) of the corn and cook 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the corn is lightly toasted and the pumpkin tender.  Cool.  Peel the pumpkin and cut into ½-inch cubes.  Ann’s Note [of caution]:  If making a half recipe, I suggest baking for 17 minutes or so (half the stated time) and then checking.  Do the same when you add the corn to the pumpkin i.e. no more than 15 minutes out of the 30 that is called for.  My pumpkin overbaked a bit which was fine but not what the author intended.  I also found a small baking pumpkin rather than a large jack-o-lantern (although do NOT use that for baking) and smaller pumpkins cook faster, or so it seemed!

Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a Dutch oven until crispy.  Drain, crumbled, and set aside.  Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and cook the onion in the fat for about 5 minutes, until it is wilted.  Add the bell peppers and continue cooking for 3 minutes.

Add the potatoes, broth, salt, thyme, and white pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.

Add the pumpkin to the soup, along with the roasted corn and the remaining frozen corn.  Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is quite soft.  Add the half-and-half and cook only until heated through.  Don’t let it boil.


Serve topped with the cheese and crumbled bacon.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

"Party Cookbook" (an Australian publication) - Chicken Cacciatora


Date I made this recipe:  October 29, 2017

Party Cookbook by cookery editors Anne Marshall and Elizabeth Sewell
Published by Paul Hamlyn New South Wales (New South Wales is a “state” or section of Australia)
© 1971
Purchased at Bloomington (MN) Crime Prevention Association (BCPA) Annual Sale
Recipe:  Chicken Cacciatora – p. 19

A few weeks ago, I needed to shift a lot of my cookbooks around to make way for ducklings new acquisitions.  I’m going to call this The Great Cookbook Migration 2017.

Let me just say that this was no easy feat.  Not only did I have to deal with years of accumulated dust (I try but you know…), but I had to deal with falling books (jeez, you nudge it just a little) and spatial relations, i.e. figuring out which books fit which way on my shelves.

It didn’t take me long before I had more books on the floor than I did on shelves as I kept arranging and rearranging my collection.  This book managed to slide off the top of its stack to land at my feet in a clear attempt to get me to look at it (Yes, books are sneaky that way), and so I did.

Although I did not have a party planned, it was close enough to Halloween for me to think about Halloween parties, past and present, and so why not, right?  Not that this is an official Halloween recipe because as I’ve said before, I don’t really “do” Halloween, but a party cookbook in the hand is better than none at all.

This book did a pretty good job of hitting a lot of party themes. Here’s the Table of Contents.  Do note that this book was published in Australia which explains some of the British and Maori (New Zealand) party themes.

  • Brunch Party (Brunch is a “party?”  Huh.  I always thought brunch was just…brunch!)
  • Morning Coffee Party
  • Luncheon Party
  • Kitchen Tea (given for the Bride-to-be!)
  • Christening Tea
  • Children’s Birthday Party
  • Open House Party
  • Cocktail Party
  • Dinner Parties
    • Formal Dinner Party
    • Casserole Dinner Party
    • The Man Takes Over [Dinner Party]
  • Buffet Dinner Parties
    • Summer Buffet Dinner Parties
    • Winter Buffet Dinner Parties
  • After Theater Party
  • Patio Party
  • Barbecue
  • Haangi (a Maori BBQ pit)
  • Wine and Cheese Party

 And here’s some sample recipes and again, do note that the cookbook features food from Australia which was once a British colony which is to say, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
  • ·       Brunch Party – “Lamb Cutlets with Tomatoes;” “Liver with Onions and Bacon;” “Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes,” and “Savoury Mince on Toast.”  This looks absolutely nothing like any brunch menu I’ve ever seen, and I cannot say it appeals.  Cannot.
  • ·       Morning Coffee Party – “Cheese Roughs” and “Gingerbread.”
  • ·       Luncheon Party – “Chicken Cacciatora;” “Malakoff” (a cookie and cream concoction)
  • ·       Kitchen Tea – A “kitchen tea” is a tea given for a bride-to-be, and the menu includes “Fish Patties” and “Savoury Eggs.”  Ew.  This is what they serve at a bridal shower? That said, this menu also includes “Chocolate Rum Truffles” which is more than acceptable to moi.
  • ·       Christening Tea – “Ham and Shrimp Puffs,” “Ribbon Sandwiches,” and “Christening Cake.”
  • ·       Children’s Birthday Party – “Sausage Rolls;” “White Mice in Jelly” (hmmm), and “Skippy Birthday Cake.” “Skippy” is a kangaroo and this cake is shaped like one. I have photo proof! I think I need this, children’s birthday or no children’s birthday!
  • ·       Open House Party – This two-page “chapter” does not contain recipes, just dialog about how to throw a large open house party.  Been there, done that.
  • ·       Cocktail Party – Once again, these four pages cover the basics of Hors d’Oeuvres which is to say, “breads and spreads.”  They give you a list of “ideas” so you can build your own but no recipes to follow.
  • ·       Dinner Parties – This category has three parts:  Formal Dinner Parties (“Cauliflower Hollandaise,” “Duckling with Olives,” and “Crepe Suzettes”), Casserole Parties, and The Man Takes Over dinner parties.  As to Casserole Parties, on what planet is “Salmon with Cucumber Sauce” considered a casserole?  I need to know this.  I need to know this right now! I ask the same question about the recipe for “Roulades” which are basically meat rolls.  All I’ll say is that these Aussies have odd ideas about casseroles.  Finally, the very title of this last section – The Man Takes Over – made me laugh but then made me mad.  How sexist! Like what, the woman couldn’t deal with the situation? Naturally, “Minute Steaks” is the key recipe in this section because you know, men are born with a gene that tells them how to grill steaks (and only steaks) and women aren’t.
  • ·       Buffet Dinner Parties – This category includes “Summer Buffet Dinner Parties” and “Winter Buffet Dinner Parties.”  Well that works, doesn’t it?  The recipes also tend to work although my eyebrow raised a bit at the recipe for “Lima Bean and Cauliflower Salad” (summer) and “Prawns in Garlic and Anchovy Sauce” (winter) only because most people would never eat anchovies, or a sauce made from anchovies.  I am not one of those people, but that’s another matter for another day.
  • ·       After Theatre (not to be confused with “Theater) Party – Oh for crying out loud folks, never ever have I thought to eat these awful concoctions after an evening at the theater…or ever: “Fandango Sardines,” “Satanic Sardines,” or this abomination – “Osborne Oysters” made with, I kid you not, oysters, bananas, grated Swiss cheese and lemon juice. Blink.  Blink.  Blink. 
  • ·       Patio Party – Le sigh. We were doing great with recipes for kebabs, risotto and more, and then it all went to hell in a handbasket with this recipe, “Greek Marrow Salad.” I can’t even….
  • ·       The Barbecue, Haangi and Wine and Cheese Chapters don’t really contain recipes as much as they do instructions.

 You know what, the above was a lot of dialog about a book that is a mere 121 pages long, but I would not be me if I didn’t comment about the recipes.  Once again, let me repeat that I continue to be stymied by “British” food, or rather, what members of the British empire consider food.  Edible food.  Maybe this was the real reason the Revolutionary War was fought?  “You Brits take your horrible excuse for food and get the hell outta here!”

Out of the wreckage though, I selected a “winner, winner, chicken dinner” – Chicken Cacciatora. (By the way, I don’t think I ever heard the “winner, winner, chicken dinner” phrase until I moved here but maybe people everywhere say that?  That said, only in Minnesota, and I do mean only in Minnesota, is a casserole referred to as a “hotdish,” and only in Minnesota do the natives say [of a child’s game) “It’s Duck, Duck, Grey Duck” instead of “Duck, Duck, Goose.”)

If you read last week’s blog post highlighting another chicken dish I made, then you’ll know about my incident with the chicken I purchased at Kowalski’s (grocery store).  I’m still rather poleaxed by that spectacular service.

I’m here to tell you though, that Whole Foods (Whole Paycheck) is no slouch in the service department, either.  Since Kowalski’s didn’t have what I was looking for, I went to Whole Foods to purchase just a couple of bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts.  Normally, that chicken is on display in the meat department, but this trip, they were out.

“No worries,” said the lady behind the meat counter.  She walked me over to the pre-packed chicken cooler and said that if I saw what I’d like, she’d be happy to split up a package(s) so that I got exactly what I wanted and also give it to me at the meat counter price which is $1.00 less than the packaged product.  Sold!

The recipe is really easy and can be made on the stovetop if you want (and I wanted) instead of the oven.  The only thing I changed was to add the tomato juice to the dish instead of draining it as directed as you won’t have enough liquid to cook if you do it otherwise.  Also?  “Green capsicum” “translated” is green pepper.  Oh, those Aussies!

Chicken Cacciatora – serves 6
2 x 2 ½ pound roasting chickens (Ann’s Note:  If indeed she meant that I should purchase two 2.5 pounds of roasting chicken, that is a hell of a lot of chicken to feed six people, don’t you think?  I did!  Then I wondered if she meant to buy 2 to 2.5 pounds of chicken but the fact that she said chickens (plural), instead of chicken (singular) made me think she really did want that much chicken.  That’s almost a pound of chicken per person, folks – whoa!) 
½ cup plain flour
Pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ounce butter
1 green capsicum (pepper), diced
1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 carrot, diced
3 cups tomatoes, skinned (tinned tomatoes may be used)
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
6 black olives, and 6 green olives, for garnish

Cut chicken into serving pieces.  (Ann’s Note:  Once upon a time, my dad did this but that was once upon a time. These days, pre-cut chicken is the way to go but by all means, if you have mad butchering skills, have at it!).  Wipe and dip chicken pieces into seasoned flour.  Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based frying pan and fry chicken until golden brown on all sides.  Remove chicken from pan and keep warm in a large heavy-based saucepan or flameproof casserole.

Fry green pepper, onion, garlic and carrot in frying pan, adding a little extra oil if necessary.  Cook until onion is soft and golden.  Add tomatoes.  If tinned tomatoes are used, drain liquid off first.  (Ann’s Note:  I don’t recommend that you drain the tomatoes because your dish will be dry and may burn.  I added the liquid and am glad I did.)  Add bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, simmer a few minutes, the pour sauce over chicken pieces.  Add sherry.  Cover and simmer gently on top of stove or cook in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes or until chicken is tender.  Garnish chicken with chopped parsley and spiral cut olives.  Served with boiled noodles.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

"Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals - A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook" - Leek-y Chicken and Couscous


Date I made this recipe:  Sunday, October 22, 2017

Rachael Ray Express Lane Meals – A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook by Rachael Ray
Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers
ISBN: 1-4000-8255-2; © 2006
Purchased at: Paperback Exchange, Minneapolis
Recipe: Leek-y Chicken and Couscous – p. 22-23

Reader, I don’t know when I’ve been so decisive on selecting a cookbook and recipe, but this was a new a new record for me.  In fact, I wasn’t even trying when I pulled it off the shelf.  This is not normally how it goes for me, but maybe I should try this more often?

To set the stage, I had a couple of other dishes on deck to make this weekend, but when I ran them by Andy, he was rather “meh” about them and so I tabled them for another day.  I was also torn between making something that said “fall” but then our weather warmed up and something warm and heavy didn’t seem appropriate.

That said on Saturday, I attended a pot luck and one of the attendees brought pulled pork (which to me says “fall”) and dang, did that taste good!  So, hmm, maybe a crock pot meal?

At this point, I still had a fairly decent window to make something in the crock pot without going too late into the evening, and so I did a quick scan of my collection, and up on one of my very top shelves, I spied Slow Cooker cookbook.  Alas folks, nothing in there floated my boat, so I re-shelved it and was rethinking my options when I found myself eye to eye with several Rachael Ray cookbooks and decided to look through Express Lane Meals.  To be clear, Rachael Ray is famous for her 30-minute meals, so there went the crockpot idea!  This turned out to be a good thing though, since Andy and I had a few stops to make before we could get to a grocery store and by that time, the afternoon was flying by.

I’ve mentioned before that Rachael’s chipper personality can be grating but her recipes are spot on and Andy and I have enjoyed almost everything we’ve made; this dish was no exception.  In fact, to quote Rachael, this was “delish!”

At this point, I had totally lost interest with heartier and/or slow-cooked fare and decided I needed something “light.”  Not “salad” light, but along those same lines.  Fall may be the season of hearty and comforting food, but I am slow to embrace fall; bring on endless summer!

As you’ll see below, the book’s “Table of Contents” was brief which was fine except I had to take the time to go through each page to find recipes of interest; I prefer a more streamlined approach.  Our chapters were:
  • ·       “Meals for the Exhausted” (76 pages of recipes and instructions)
  • ·       “Meals for the Not Too Tired” (104 pages of recipes and instructions)
  • ·       “Bring it On! (But, Be Gentle.)” (44 pages of recipes and instructions)

 You see?  How were these categories helpful?

Further, I just had to chuckle over the first two categories, “Meals for the Exhausted,” and “Meals for the Not Too Tired.” Let’s break this down, starting with the interpretation of what was written, particularly the “for the” designation as in:  these meals are being made FOR people who are exhausted or not [yet] too tired.  Well, where does that leave the cook?  What if I’m the one who is exhausted or not [yet] too tired? What result?

Assuming then, (dangerous, I know), that Rachael intended these recipes to be made BY me or others who are exhausted or will be shortly, let’s look at how many pages there are for us to review.  If you’re already exhausted, then you must look through 76 pages of recipes and instructions.  If you are merely working your way up to being exhausted, then you need to review 104 pages.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that reading that many pages will change your status from “not too tired” to “exhausted” in a Rachael-Ray minute!

Okay then, since the possibilities of me ending up on my couch instead of in the kitchen cooking were high, I decided to make it easy on myself and look for recipes that were easy and light and concluded that this meant chicken, seafood, or pasta sans heavy sauces.  This meant that I could pretty much tear through the cookbook, saving my strength for the cooking to follow.

Happily, it didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for because right there, on page 22, was the recipe I selected:  Leek-y Chicken and Couscous.  This recipe was very easy, and I did appreciate that it was not too taxing for me to make seeing as how I was already “exhausted” and everything!

Here were some other contenders:
  • ·       Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta) and Spinach with White Beans – p. 30
  • ·       Toasted Garlic and Sweet Pea Pasta (I love peas!) – p. 52-52
  • ·       Cowboy Spaghetti (with fire-roasted tomatoes and Cheddar cheese) – p. 60-61
  • ·       Smoky Black Bean and Rice “Stoup” – p. 64-65 (Rachael likes to call something that is a soup/stew a “stoup.”  I can’t say that word does much for me but it’s her word so she gets to use it.)
  • ·       Everything Lo Mein – p. 114-115


There were a few others of interest and there were some other heartier recipes that I might have made on another day, but I liked the sound (and the taste) of chicken and leeks. 

Once I selected the dish of the day, it was time to go shopping and since I needed to go to Kowalski’s (local, family-owned grocery store) to get a few things, I thought I’d pick up the chicken there, and so I got two packages of chicken tenders and went home to start cooking.

Folks, as I walked into the house, I smelled something rather awful and could not figure it out until I took the [still sealed] packaged chicken out of my grocery bag.  Ew, that did not smell good!  Then I opened it and ew x 2, that really did not smell good. I called Andy over for a second opinion and he thought one didn’t smell too bad, but the other smelled “interesting.”  Well, I am totally my mother’s daughter, and I don’t “do” chicken that smells “interesting” or is “not too bad” so I called Kowalski’s and asked to speak to the meat department.

Folks, if you live in the Twin Cities and are close to a Kowalski’s you need to visit them because here’s what happened next.  I spoke to Brian in the meat department on Grand Ave and said, “Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think this chicken smells right.”  He said, “Well, rather than take a chance that it’s gone bad, if you want, you can bring it back to us and we’ll exchange it for a product that does work for you, no charge, and we’ll give you a gift certificate for your trouble.

Ponder that a second:  Not only did they give me new product for free, no questions asked, but they rewarded me for letting them know and bringing it in.  I LOVE this grocery store even more than I already did! I dispatched Andy to go to the grocery store to do the deed, and he too, came back glowing.  I even posted this on my Facebook page because getting any type of services these days is a miracle, but getting this type of service was outstanding.

Okay then, now on to the recipe and how we fared.  This was a very easy recipe to make and one that seemed healthy and that was what I was looking for.  First, you make the couscous, then you make the chicken and leeks and ta-da, you are done!  That Rachael – when she says “30 minutes” she means “30” minutes!  Enjoy!

Leek-y Chicken and Couscous – 4 servings
1 ½ cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter
¼ cup golden raisins, a couple of handfuls, chopped
1 ½ cups plain couscous
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), twice around the pan
1 ½ pounds chicken tenders, cut into large bit-size pieces
Salt and black pepper
2 medium leeks or 1 large leek
1 cup dry white wine (eyeball it), about ¼ bottle
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat the chicken stock and 1 tablespoons of the butter in a medium pot with a tight-fitting lid.  When the liquid boils, add the raisins and couscous.  Take the pan off the heat.  Stir the couscous and place the lid on the pot.  Let it stand.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add the EVOO.  Add the chicken in a single layer and season it with salt and pepper.  While the chicken browns on all sides, trim the rough tops and the root ends off the leeks.

Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then cut them into 1-inch half moons.  Place the leeks in a colander and run them under cold water.  Separate the layers to release the dirt and grit.  Rinse well, then drain well.

Add the leeks to the chicken and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the wine and let it cook down by half, 3 to 4 minutes. The leeks should still have some color but should be tender and the chicken should be cooked through.  Add the remaining tablespoon of butter and swirl into the sauce.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in the parsley.  Place a bed of couscous on each dinner plate and top it with the chicken and leeks.










Thursday, October 19, 2017

"Good Food Ideas - Kraft Cheese Cookbook" & "Cooking in Door County [Wisconsin]" - Cheddar Meatloaf and Mushrooms and Macaroni a la Creme - Packer/Viking football


Date I made this recipe: Saturday, October 15, 2017 – The eve of the annual Packers v. Vikings game, game 1 of 2

Good Food Ideas – Kraft Cheese Cookbook by Kraft Kitchens
Published by A Benjamin Company Book
© 1977
Purchased at Arc’s Value Village Richfield
Recipe: Cheddar Meatloaf – p. 45

Cooking in Door County (Wisconsin) by Pauli Wanderer
Published by Voyageur Press
© 1985
Purchased at BCPA (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association) Annual Sale
Recipe:  Morels (or another mushroom) a la Crème – p. 51

All right then, so yesterday (Sunday) was the annual [Green Bay] Packers (my team) v. [Minnesota] Vikings game.  It is a game that is always fraught with peril and this year it was a disaster as the Packers quarterback broke his collarbone halfway through the first quarter and the backup quarterback had to finish the game.  “We” as in my Packers lost 23-10.

This was not supposed to happen.  Nope.  You cannot believe the anti-jinxing rituals I go through just to make sure we win each one our games, and as faithful readers know, these rituals extend to my cookbooks and the game day recipes I select to spur my team to victory.

This time around, I found two cookbooks, one, a cheese cookbook from Kraft kitchens, and the other, a cookbook from Door County, Wisconsin.  (Door County is a “resort” area in northeastern Wisconsin, just north of Green Bay.) Since food is love and I love my team, I felt sure that the two recipes I selected would bring good luck their way.  I even made them the night before for an extra good luck push and to free me up on game day. Both recipes even had cheese for crying out loud which is the food of the gods in Wisconsin.  It is not for nothing that Packers fans are called “Cheeseheads!”

All sign then pointed to “yes.”  Unfortunately, the recipes were good but not great and that should have been my first clue to the upcoming Football Apocalypse (2017).  More on that in a minute.

So that was Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, my birthday twin and fellow Packer fan, Deb, and I went to breakfast for a late birthday celebration.  We agreed originally to meet at 11:00 and that was fine by me.  Then Deb texted me asking if we could change that to 10:00 (yes) and switch venues so she could watch the game. 

Ten o’clock was fine but watching the game was a problem for me and so stay with me while I explain it. 

In addition to trying to make food befitting a football game (not all Packers games, just some of the more important ones), I have come to believe that sometimes it is more helpful to the team if I don’t watch the live broadcast.  I always record it and will run it back no matter what, but I have found they win if I’m not watching them.  It’s crazy thinking to be sure, but it seems to work. There are also times, like this past Sunday, when my schedule doesn’t always allow for me to be at home when the game is on.  This week’s exciting task that took me away from the game grouting our new tile for our upstairs bathroom remodel. Three hours and a lot of grout dust later, we finally finished but alas, at that point, it was all over but the crying (and the last 45 seconds of the game).

Anyway, Deb said that if she watches them, they win.  I suggested to her that we just canceled each other out which was not good!  This is also foreshadowing of the debacle that followed.

Okay, so to recap, I made a Packer-related dinner, Deb and I canceled each other out on watching live/not watching live, and this brings us to the third and final nail in the coffin:  team apparel/team colors.

My unwritten rule of “game” apparel is this:  Thou shalt not wear “enemy” (i.e. opposing team) colors three days before game time.  By “apparel” I mean everything from underwear to eye wear.  I say this because for years now, I have had a pair of purple glasses and a pair that is not purple.  I do not wear the purple frames games at all three days before a game, regardless of whether it is the Packers v. Vikings game, because purple is a Viking team color and I don’t want to send any good juju their way, only bad!

You can call me crazy if you like, but all this is mild compared to some fans I know.  It’s all about not jinxing our team so that all they do is “win, win, win, no matter what!” (Thanks, DJ Khaled!)

Okay, so now that you know this, here’s what happened at breakfast:  Deb inadvertently wore a sweatshirt containing lettering in purple and yellow and yellow, the other Vikings color. Vikings colors are enemy colors and sheesh, talk about picking the wrong day to wear that outfit! I learned that Deb does not take things as far as I do but she should because look.what.happened.

In conclusion, and as I mentioned earlier, we were now up to three signs of the upcoming Football Apocalypse (2017):  Bad Juju Moment #1 – Saturday dinner; Bad Juju Moment #2 – Watch/don’t watch, and Bad Juju Moment #3 – Enemy apparel.  We inadvertently doomed our team before they even took to the field.

Our sincere apologies to Packer Nation for these actions.

Let’s backtrack then to the recipes that I made and how they fared.  First up:  Good Food Ideas – Kraft Cheese Cookbook.

This cookbook contains recipes for every type of cheese dish imaginable.  Naturally, Kraft wants us all to use Kraft cheese products, but I cheated and purchased a Wisconsin cheddar at Trader Joe’s. Now for all I know, this private label product was made by Kraft but I didn’t really care because the label said “Wisconsin” cheddar and that’s all I needed to know. 

Okay then, so let’s take a look at the Table of Contents:
  • ·       Social Snacks
  • ·       Hot and Hearty Soups and Stews
  • ·       Feature Attractions
  • ·       Zesty Vegetables
  • ·       Special Salads and Salad Dressings
  • ·       Savory Sweets
  • ·       Wonderful Happenings
  • ·       From Oven to Table – Homemade Bread
  • ·       Sandwiches to Remember
  • ·       Sauce Sorcery
  • ·       Eye Openers – Breakfast and Brunch
  • ·       Microwave Magic
  • ·       Enough for a Crowd
  • ·       Perfect Partners – Cheese and Wine (no recipes)
  • ·       Through the Ages with Cheeses (no recipes)
 I must say that the only chapter that gave me slight pause was the “Savory Sweets,” but I shouldn’t have been alarmed because most of the recipes used other Kraft products such as cream cheese or Parkay Margarine (yuck) and only a few used cheese.  Even then, those that did, such as an apple pie crust made with cheddar cheese in the crust, made sense. 

I finally decided on the Cheddar Meatloaf from the “Feature Attractions” chapter because it had cheddar cheese in the mixture.  I pictured it as a great big cheeseburger with cheese molten like lava flowing out of the middle. Naturally, that is not at all what I got.

You can tell I’ve been watching too many episodes of Food Network’s “Chopped,” because I told Andy “I like it, but the tomato soup flavor overpowers all the other basket ingredients.” 

I am totally qualified to be a judge on that show.

Not only did the tomato soup overpower the other ingredients, but the cheese seemed to disappear in its entirety.  I’m not sure it was supposed to but it did.  This was not a good sign.

Still, we ate it because it was tasty even if it was a tad on the tomato-y side.

And then there’s the second book, Cooking in Door County (Wisconsin) which looked cute and all, but I must tell you that I was hard-pressed to find a recipe in this book to my liking.  Why?  Well, because of a smattering of recipes such as these: “Smelts” (a tiny bony fish, more fun to catch than eat); “Brussels's Belgian Tripe;” “Pickled Pig’s Feet,” and “Head Cheese.”  Now if I was on Chopped, cooking with these ingredients would be one thing but I’m not on Chopped so I was free to ditch those ingredients, thank goodness, and continue my search. 

Sadly, it only seemed to get worse.  Take for instance, this chapter - Water and Shore- and some of the offerings: “Whitefish Liver Pate,” “Mud Lake Mallards,” “Wild Goose and Red Cabbage,” and “Venison Pot Roast.”

Eesh!  I suppose I could be persuaded to eat whitefish but not a whitefish liver pate, nope. As to the duck and the goose, my dad used to hunt and so I’ve eaten both but cannot get past the gamey taste and smell.  Same goes with venison.  No matter how my mom prepared it or what she added to it, I just didn’t like it which of course did not make my dad very happy.

The rest of the recipes in this cookbook was a complete mishmash.  Woods and Byways contains lots of wild mushroom recipes and it’s a shame that morel season is over because I love morels.  My dad used to go and pick them and sauté them in butter and they were delicious.  The rest of that chapter though, is dicey except for a few recipes for wild jams that sounded interesting.

Overall, Orchards and Fields yielded the most edible recipes such as “Door County Cherry Pie,” “Swedish Apple Cake,” and “Zucchini Stew.”  Alas, I just wasn’t struck by any of these enough to go ahead and make them.

Roots is the chapter that yielded some of the god-awful dishes mentioned above although thankfully, other recipes balanced that horror such as “Vivian’s Pea Soup, “and “Swedish Meatballs.”

Since I was in a cheese sort of mood, I decided on Morels and Macaroni a la Crème from the Woods and Byways chapter, only I substituted shiitake mushrooms for morels.

Just like the Cheddar Meatloaf, this recipe had potential to be blockbuster but wasn’t.  Turns out there was an unspecified amount of time to keep this on the stove top so it would stay rich and creamy and I went over that limit (apparently) by just enough to cause the cheese to coagulate.  Damn and blast!  The result was totally edible but the appearance suffered.  We’re talking minutes here people, minutes if not seconds.  Moral of the Morel and Macaroni Mixture? Keep your eye on the prize!

As with the meatloaf, the mushroom flavors got buried under the cheese and macaroni and that irked.  If I made this again, I would cut down on the macaroni, amp up the mushrooms, and definitely add a lot more salt and pepper. Oh well, live and learn.

In conclusion, all my attempts to will my Packers on to victory failed and so now Packer Nation must pick up the pieces and move on. My husband always says “It is so hard to be a Packers fan” and he is not kidding! As I said, the recipes were good, but keep your eye on both the oven and the stove and perhaps adjust your ingredients to bring out other flavors.

Cheddar Meatloaf – 6 servings – from Good Food Ideas Cheese Cookbook by Kraft
1 ½ pounds ground beef
1 ¼ pounds dry bread crumbs
1 4-ounce package Kraft shredded sharp natural cheddar cheese
1 10 ¾-ounce can condensed tomato soup
1 egg
¼ chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley
½ teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Combine all ingredients; mix lightly.  Shape into loaf in 11 ¾ x 7 ½-inch baking dish.  Bake at 350° F, 1 hour.

Ann’s Note:  I made a half recipe and so used half the can of soup and I still thought the tomato flavor overpowered the cheese so you might want to hold off on using the entire can if making the full recipe.

Morels (Shitake) and Macaroni a la Crème – serves 8 to 12, depending on appetites
1 pound macaroni
6 tablespoons butter
1 pound Swiss cheese, grated
4 egg yolks, gently beaten
2 cups cream
1 cup morels, chopped fine (Ann’s Note:  or substitute shitake or chanterelle)
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper

Boil the macaroni and drain.  Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pan.  Frizzle the morels for a minute.  Add the macaroni, the egg yolks mixed with the cream, and the cheese.  Mix the cheese in gradually as you stir and life over a low heat.

When all the ingredients have reached a creamy consistency (this will be in a matter of minutes), stir in the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.*  Heap this delicious mess on a large, deep platter and garnish with tomato slices.

*Ann’s Note:  One minute, the mac and cheese was all creamy and dreamy, but I left it on the stovetop just a hair too long and that made the cheese coagulate.  What the author failed to mention is “Remove from the heat immediately and then serve.”


Friday, October 13, 2017

"Cooking with [Winnie the] Pooh - Yummy Tummy Cookie Cutter Treats" - Piglet's No-Haycorn Pizzas - for my Aunt Mary's 96th birthday


Date I made this recipe:  October 10, 2017 – my Aunt Mary's 96th birthday!

Cooking with Pooh – Yummy Tummy Cookie Cutter Treats by Marlene Brown
Published by Disney Enterprises, Inc.
© 1995
Purchased at:  BPCA (Bloomington Crime Prevention Association) Annual Sale
Recipe:  Piglet's No-Haycorn Pizzas ('Haycorn' is Piglet's word for acorns)

"I'm planting a haycorn, Pooh, so that it can grow....up into an oak tree, and have lots of haycorns just outside the front door instead of having to walk miles and miles, do you see Pooh?"

I love Winnie the Pooh and his friends and his stories and his adventures.  I always have, always will. 

These characters, brought to life by A. A. Milne, informed my childhood as I read and re-read many a Pooh story.  I remember being particularly confused and scared about the "heffalumps" until I got old enough to realize that is what Pooh called "elephants."  Ah.  Makes a difference, it does!

The main character (besides Pooh), and the subject of an upcoming movie, "Goodbye Christopher Robin," was Christopher Robin, Winnie the Pooh's young owner. Christopher Robin was the real-life son of A.A. Milne, Pooh's creator and the movie preview looks great.

In fiction and in real life, Christopher Robin and his bear, Winnie the Pooh had many adventures and were the very best of friends.  When I was a kid, there was a song about Christopher Robin called "They're Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace," that played on Captain Kangaroo.  The main refrain is "They're changing guards at Buckingham Palace, Chris-to-pher Robin went down with Alice..." and even though I heard it as a young child, that song always stuck with me. I loved the Captain, loved the show, loved the song – loved

So speaking of "love," just before Andy and I got married, we bought a greeting card for someone with a quote from Pooh and Christopher Robin.  We loved it so much that we tracked down a second card, found the full quote, and decided to have it be one of our wedding readings. I asked my Aunt Mary to do the honors and  I believe I've written in a pervious blog that she got up in front of everyone, said very solemnly "This is a reading from Winnie the Pooh," and then cracked up laughing.  We did too!

Twenty six years later, my aunt is still with us and in fact, just turned 96 which is a major accomplishment.  We were always close (my birthday is the day before hers) and ever since the wedding, we have grown even closer over our love of Pooh.  Thanks to Hallmark, I am able to find a Winnie the Pooh (original illustration) for about every occasion including this year's birthday card.

The Winnie the Pooh characters in this cookbook/booklet are the more contemporary ones from Disney Enterprises. I have vague recollections of a Winnie the Pooh TV show from my earlier years and these more contemporary renderings were the one in that show.  I must confess though, that I have a fondness for the "original" characters are drawn by E. H. Shepard, and I hope I'm not the only one who found it amusing that both the author and the illustrator went by initials instead of full names.

Unlike the mega-paged The Playboy Gourmet cookbook that I used last week, this booklet contains 10 and only 10 recipes, all of which are intended to be made by kids with adult supervision. Each recipe has the name of a Pooh character and of course, all of Pooh's recipes contained honey, or "hunny" as he liked to spell it.

Since there are only 10 recipes, here's the list:

  • Pooh's Honey Cookies on a Stick
  • Eeyore's Rainy Day Cinnamon Crisps
  • Christopher Robin's Gingerbread Friends
  • Pooh's Best Lunch-Wiches
  • Piglet's No-Haycorn Pizzas
  • Rabbit's Double-Double Chocolate Cookies
  • Tigger's Bouncing Rainbow Animals
  • Pooh's Holiday Ornament Cookies
  • Kanga's Animal Biscuit Surprises
  • Roo's Painted Cookie Friends

As good as all these recipes sounded, I tend to favor savory over sweet and so made "Piglet's No-Haycorn Pizzas." Piglet calls acorns "haycorns," and I wish I could elaborate further on why it's important that this is a no "haycorn" recipe but I can't so I won't!

The pizza recipe is simple and delicious although I did not do two things called for in the recipe:  I did not use "grown-up" help to turn on my oven, and I did not cut out little pizzas with cookie cutters.  I also added an ingredient that wasn't called for in the recipe – Cipollini Onion that were marinated in balsamic vinegar – yum!  They were in the same olive bar from which I got my "ripe olive slices" and figured why not?  I cut them up in small pieces and they were a tasty addition.

Okay, true confession #4:  I did not roll out the dough as directed.  I tried it and it kept sticking to my non-stick rolling pin (How did that happen?) and still got stuck when I tried flouring first the rolling pin and then the dough.  I finally gave up and just pulled the dough into the rectangle desired and then added my toppings.  I'm just going to say again that I do not enjoy rolling out pie or pizza dough but my husband does which is why he is known as the "Pie Guy" and I am not!

I have always wished that my aunt lived closer as we have so much fun when we are together ("You're the best Pooh reader, ever, Auntie Mare!") but I'm pretty sure she would have enjoyed her Piglet Pizza as well as this charming Winnie the Pooh children's cookbook.

Piglet's No-Haycorn Pizzas – makes 12 to 14 mini pizzas or 1 large cookie sheet
1 8-ounce can refrigerated crescent roll dough
A few tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup pizza sauce
12 top 14 pepperoni slices, cut in half
12 to 14 ripe olive slices
½ cup pre-shredded cheddar or mozzarella cheese

With grown-up help, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 

Sprinkle flour on the countertop or a large cutting board.  Remove the dough carefully from the can in two sections.  Unroll one section of the dough on the board; unroll the second section of dough next to it to make a square.  With your fingers press the edges together to make one large piece of dough.  Ann's Note:  The tricky part will be pressing the edges of each crescent roll triangle and then keeping them pressed together.

Put some flour on the rolling pin.  Roll the dough carefully to make an 11x10-inch rectangle.  Dip your cookie cutters in some flour, then cut out shapes from dough.  Ann's Note:  I skipped this part but for those of you who want to use cookie cutters, follow the next steps below.

With a metal spatula, put your pizza cut-outs on the cookie sheet.  Shape the dough scraps into a ball.  Roll it out and cut more pizzas.  Put them on the cookie sheet.

With a small spoon spread some pizza sauce on each pizza.  Put two half-slices of pepperoni on top.  Put one slice of olive on each pizza.  Sprinkle each pizza with some cheese.  Try not to get any cheese on the cookie sheet.


With grown-up help, bake your pizzas for 12 to 14 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and the cheese is melted.  With help, take them out of the oven.  Cool them for 2 minutes.  With the metal spatula, take the pizzas off the cookie sheet to serve to your friends.