Friday, January 30, 2009

Chicken Strata

This chicken strata is not a photogenic food. It's one of those casseroles that just look funny. Add the fact that it's evening and all the natural light is gone so I had to take my pictures under the yellow light of the energy-efficient bulbs in the kitchen. But it tastes wonderful, and it was fun to make.

This recipe came from the More-with-Less Cookbook, which is rapidly becoming my go-to book for inexpensive and tasty recipes.

Chicken Strata
8 slices day-old bread
2 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey (good use of leftovers)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green pepper (optional)
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I omitted this; I didn't want the extra calories. It turned out wonderful without it)
3/4 tsp. salt
Dash pepper
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (can use powdered)
1 can cream of mushroom soup or cream of chicken soup (or substitute one batch of white sauce made with chicken broth)

Lots of ingredients, but it's not as scary as it looks.

Set aside two slices of bread (homemade is best - I used the bread machine). Cut the remaining six slices into 1-inch cubes. Place half in the bottom of an 8x8-inch baking dish.

In a bowl, combine the chicken, onion, green pepper, celery, mayonnaise (or don't add the mayo, I think it's better without it), salt and pepper. Spoon over bread cubes. Sprinkle remaining bread cubes over chicken mixture.

In a small bowl, combine eggs and milk. Pour over bread cubes and chicken mixture in pan. Cover and chill 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325. Spoon cream soup on top of casserole. Spread butter on remaining two slices of bread and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Sprinkle buttered cubes on top of soup. Bake at 325 for 50 minutes or until set.

This came out tasting similar to stuffing. The topping was crispy like croutons, and the bottom had the texture of bread pudding or a breakfast casserole - just like you'd expect from a casserole made of bread cubes soaked in egg and milk, go figure. Anyway, it was easy to put together and it tasted great.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cheaper Breakfasts (and Granola Recipe)

Jeff and I have decided that we are trying in earnest to save money for a down payment. We're tired of living in apartments and want to try to buy a house in the somewhat near future. That means really buckling down on our budget, and pinching pennies as hard as we can. One of the first things to be drastically reduced was meat - it's expensive so we just don't buy it or use it as much. I'm working on incorporating alternate sources of protein into our diet in place of meats - beans, whole grains, eggs and dairy, etc. (though we will buy meat when it's dirt cheap - yesterday Jeff saw that turkeys were 25 cents per pound, so we have a 20-pound turkey thawing in the fridge waiting to be roasted and frozen in meal-sized portions). Besides meat, another obvious-to-me food item to be cut from the budget is cold cereal. To me, it just can't be considered a good buy. I've been discovering all sorts of other ways to feed myself and my children a good breakfast without simply pouring a pile of flakes into a bowl and topping it with milk.

This morning, for instance, I made "square cereal with rice." At least, that's what I told Zaylee it was - she likes foods with fun names. I took some leftover Malt-O-Meal from yesterday and cut it into bite-sized cubes (hence the name "square cereal"). I fried the cubes in a small amount of oil with some leftover rice from yesterday's egg curry. Then I scooped that into our bowls, topped it with brown sugar and milk, and we ate a wholesome and delicious breakfast made entirely out of leftovers. We all loved it!

I plan to make a lot more hot cereals for breakfasts. Not just oatmeal and Malt-O-Meal, but also corn meal mush, cracked wheat, millet, barley, and I'll probably experiment with other grains as well. All of these can be cooked up and served with milk and sugar, jam, or fruit for a delicious and healthy breakfast that not only costs less than cold cereal, but leaves you feeling fuller and more satisfied as well. Another yummy breakfast I'll be revisiting from childhood is bread and milk - tearing pieces of homemade bread into a bowl and eating with milk and sugar. This also works well with corn bread.

Of course, some mornings I really do enjoy the convenience of cold cereal, because it requires no planning ahead or effort of any kind! So I will compromise by making my own cold cereal - granola. I have loved granola ever since I was a child, so I'm excited to start making my own. Here's a simple recipe from the More-with-Less Cookbook. It was easy to make and tastes great, and it will satisfy the desire for the convenience of cold cereal without having to use expensive, store-bought cereal.

Simple Granola
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups rolled oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup wheat germ (I substituted wheat bran)
1/2 cup water
1 cup oil
1 cup honey or corn syrup (I substituted 3/4 cup brown sugar and a little extra water)
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, coconut, and wheat germ. In another bowl, blend together remaining ingredients. Add blended liquids to dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Spread out onto 2 greased cookie sheets and bake 1 hour, or until dry and golden. I like mine a bit more crispy, so after the hour of baking I stirred it around and toasted it an additional 30 minutes. Store in covered containers.

This is a very basic recipe, which lends itself to adding things like nuts, seeds, raisins or other dried fruits. One to two cups of nuts and seeds can be added with the dry ingredients, but make sure to add any dried fruits after baking.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tomato and Egg Curry

Make a thick tomato sauce seasoned with curry. Add halved hard-cooked eggs, heat through and serve on rice.

That's the exact wording for this dish in the More-with-Less Cookbook. Above the actual recipes, there are little meal ideas and tips scattered throughout the cookbook. This was one of them. It sounded tasty, simple, and inexpensive, so I gave it a go for lunch today. Here's my take on this simple meal idea.

Tomato and Egg Curry
4 eggs
1 cup rice
1 tbsp. margarine
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
1-2 tsp. cornstarch
Curry powder, turmeric (gives it that fun yellow color!), and cinnamon to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cover eggs with water in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.

After the eggs are done, drain and remove from pan. Set aside to cool slightly. In saucepan, melt butter and add onions. Saute until transparent. Stir in tomatoes and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until thickened. Season to taste with curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

When eggs are cool enough to handle, peel and cut in half or quarters. Gently add to tomato sauce. Heat through, and serve over rice.

We all thoroughly enjoyed this unique curry, even my toddlers Zaylee and Thomas.

4 servings
290 calories per serving, including rice

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Kitchen My World - Azerbaijan

I was a bit flummoxed when I saw that this week's My Kitchen My World country would be Azerbaijan. I had no idea what I was going to make - I didn't even know where Azerbaijan was, let alone what kind of food they ate there! But I got right to work looking for ideas when I came across this wonderful blog - Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook. I fell in love with the first recipe I saw, it looked simple to make and very delicious. From there I found a bread to go with it and a dessert as well. I cooked this all up on Tuesday, and spent the rest of the week impatiently anticipating when I could post it!

So I present our Azeri menu for this week: Toyug Chighirtmasi (Chicken with Eggs), Tendir Choreyi (Tandir or Tandoori Bread), and Tenbel Pakhlava (Easy Baklava).

Toyug Chighirtmasi (Chicken with Eggs)
3 spoons vegetable oil
2 spoons butter (or margarine)
1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds boneless or bone-in chicken parts, cut into about 10 serving pieces (I used boneless skinless chicken breast - we rarely buy this, but do on occasion for a special treat)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon, or more, to taste, ground black pepper
4 medium ripe tomatoes, finely chopped, with their juices
3 eggs, lightly beaten ( the bread and dessert each use an egg yolk for brushing, so I used the two egg whites in place of one of the eggs here)
chopped cilantro (coriander) or parsley, to garnish (I forgot to garnish mine...)

In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until it is light brown. Transfer the onion to a bowl and put aside.

Add the remaining oil and the butter to the same frying pan and heat over medium heat (Note: butter alone tends to brown when you melt it. Adding some fluid oil to the pan along with butter will prevent that). Add the chicken pieces and fry for about 20 minutes, or until they are brown, turning them once to cook on both sides.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the cooked onions and chopped tomatoes with juices to the pan. Cover and turning only occasionally, simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Pour the beaten eggs over the chicken, slightly tilting the pan to distribute the eggs evenly. Cover the pan and let cook for about 5-7 minutes (do not stir!) or until the eggs are set. Serve immediatley, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro or parsley. Chicken with Eggs is delicious with bread or rice.

And speaking of bread, here's the bread that I made to go with the Chicken and Eggs.

Tendir Choreyi (Tandir or Tandoori Bread)
1 package dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 egg yolk, for brushing
1 teaspoon poppy or sesame seeds

In a small bowl, mix yeast with water until the yeast is dissolved.

Sift flour into a large bowl. Add salt and mix well. Gradually add the yeast-water mixture and stir in using your hand until a rough ball forms (This is such a fun step!).

Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press any loose dough pieces into the ball and knead the dough, punching it down with your fists, folding it over and turning. Knead for about 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic.

Shape the dough into a ball and put it back into the large bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or a plastic wrap. Leave the dough to rise in a warm spot for about 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in bulk. The dough should look puffy and be soft when poked with a finger (This is one of the only doughs I've made that really did rise well. I'm not very good at kneading so my dough doesn't always rise very prettily - but this one did!).

Punch down the dough, then transfer it onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a ball, and with your hands flatten slightly and stretch it lengthwise. Using a rolling pin, start rolling the dough beginning at one end until you obtain a long flat bread about 1/2 inch thick, 14 inches long and 8 inches wide.

Carefully transfer the bread onto a non-stick baking sheet, fixing the shape as necessary. Leave the dough to rest on the sheet for another 15 minutes before baking.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using a knife, make shallow crosshatching slashes on the bread, 4 from right to left and 4 the opposite way, each at a slight angle. Brush the bread evenly with the egg yolk and sprinkle with seeds.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, or until it is golden on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom (At this point, I realized that maybe my bread was rising too well; it turned out much fluffier as a finished product than Farida's, but it was still delicious).

While the main dish and the bread were delicious, the star of the meal was the dessert - Baklava!

Tenbel Pakhlava (Easy Baklava)
3 cups flour
8 oz (2 sticks) butter or margarine, cut into small pieces
1 cup sour cream mixed with 1 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg yolks
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
2 1/2 cups (10 oz) walnuts, finely chopped (they should be somewhat crunchy in the pie, so do not grind finely - I chopped mine by hand, I was so proud of myself!)
To Brush:
1 egg yolk

Prepare the dough. In a large bowl, combine flour and butter. Using a fork, or a knife (or pastry blender, if available), cut in the butter until the mixture forms large crumbs the size of large peas.

Add sour cream/baking soda mixture and egg yolks and continue tossing until the dough comes together in a mass. It should be gentle to touch.

Divide the dough into 3 equal parts, forming each one into disks. Wrap each disk in a plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

In the meantime, prepare the filling. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar and egg whites. Using a balloon whisk or electric mixer, whip vigorously until well blended. Add chopped walnuts and mix well with a spoon.

Lightly grease the baking pan with oil or butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Lightly dust your work surface with flour. Using a rolling pin, press firmly to roll the dough from the center in all directions until you obtain a rectangular (or round, if you are going to use a round baking pan) about 8 inches in diameter and about 1/8 inch thick, or just the size to fit your pan (Farida mentions that this dough is very easy to work with and rolled out quickly - I have to agree, it was very nice).

Carefully transfer the round into the pan, pressing it against the bottom and the sides. Baklava releases juices when baking, so slightly stretching the dough to the sides and sealing them tightly will keep the juices inside. If there is any tear in the dough, repair by pressing a small piece of dough over it. Spread half the filling over the layer.

Roll the second disk in the same way and place it in the pan on top of the walnut filling. Spread the remaining filling over the second layer.

Roll the third dough disk and place it on top of the walnut filling. Brush this layer with egg yolk. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, carefully cut the baklava in cross-hatching diagonals to make diamond shapes, cutting through the filling all the way to the bottom. Place a whole or half a walnut in the middle of each baklava piece.

Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or until golden on top. Times may vary, so take extra care not to overbake - baklavas will harden and will not be that juicy if baked for too long. Remove the pan from the oven. When cool enough to handle, remove the baklava diamonds from the pan and serve. Store in a covered container - the baklava gets even more moist and delectable when it has been stored for a while.

The baklava before storing overnight - delicious!

Traditional baklava is made with many layers of very thin dough, phyllo dough. This baklava is much easier, and is literally translated to mean "Lazy Baklava." It isn't quite as flaky as traditional baklava, but it was so delicious nonetheless! Again, store covered at least overnight to get it really moist and syrupy - and heavenly!

The baklava after storing overnight - absolutely incredible! See how much more moist it is? Sticky, syrupy ... perfect.

Farida gives step by step photos for these recipes on her blog - they were very helpful in making sure I did things properly. I'm so glad I found her blog. This was my first experience with Azerbaijani cuisine, but I'm sure it won't be the last! Nush Olsun!

To see what the other MKMW-ers made this week, check out our blogroll.

Friday, January 23, 2009

National Pie Day!

This is one of my favorite National food holidays - National Pie Day! I love pies - everything from apple pie and peach pie, to lemon meringue and key lime, to banana cream pie and coconut cream pie and chocolate cream pie. I love pumpkin pie and pecan pie at Thanksgiving, simple pudding and cool whip pies, even shoofly pie. I haven't yet learned to appreciate the flavor and texture of mincemeat (did you know that it has real meat in it? Weird!) but besides that, I pretty much haven't met a type of pie that I didn't like. And the last time I tried mincemeat was years ago before my palate had expanded to enjoy things like beets, Brussels sprouts (yes, I like them), and Hawaiian pizza. So maybe I should give mincemeat another try sometime before I say I don't care for it...

I digress. Today being National Pie Day, I of course decided to make a pie. I tried to find one that didn't include a double pastry crust because of the high calorie content in that kind of crust (yes, this pie day is a special occasion and definitely calls for a splurge but I don't want to go too far). I found this recipe on and decided to give it a try. It's an apple pie that forms its own crust while baking. The recipe had mixed reviews, most of the complaints being that the filling was kind of dry and bland. So I just increased the cinnamon and didn't go into it expecting a wet, syrupy pie. I don't like my pies to be dripping with juice anyway, so I was okay with that.

Fireman's Apple Pie
1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (increased to 1 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 apples - peeled, cored and sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Beat in the egg. Mix in the cinnamon, salt and flour; stir until smooth (it will be firm/dry - similar to cookie dough). Fold in the apples, then pour mixture into a 9 inch pie dish (It didn't say whether the pan was to be greased, so I didn't).

Bake in the preheated oven for one hour.

Servings: 8
Calories per serving: 254

Easy peasy pie! There was no pastry to roll out, no crackers to crush, it was a very simple and straightforward recipe. And the smell coming out of my oven while it was baking was so fabulous!

How did the pie turn out? Kind of like a pie-shaped cake. The top and bottom crust were rather cake-like. But it did have the wonderful flavor of apple pie; it was delicious! It would have been even better with some ice cream or whipped topping, but even by itself it was fantastic. I still prefer a regular double-crust apple pie when there's time and motivation to do the crust, but in a jiffy, this is definitely a pie I'll make again.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Soup - Good for the Budget, Good for the Diet

I have really learned to love making soup. It's so easy and delicious, and you really don't have to follow a recipe. Soup is especially great for a couple of reasons particularly pertinent to me at this time. First, you can make it by just throwing in whatever you have on hand and therefore it can be extremely inexpensive. And second, when you make it full of vegetables and avoid high-calorie additions like cream, it can be very low calorie and super healthy!

Last night I made the perfect example of this type of soup (I like to call it "anything" soup because you can put anything in it). I chopped up a couple potatoes, some baby carrots (purchased on sale), and some onion. As these were boiling, I got to work adding all the fun stuff. Some leftover lentils from the fridge and a couple handfuls of texturized vegetable protein (TVP, a meat substitute) upped the protein, while chicken bouillon and a couple teaspoons of cider vinegar enhanced the flavor without adding calories. Last of all, when the potatoes and carrots were almost ready, I added some pasta. When it was tender, the soup was ready. It was delicious and filling, inexpensive and healthy.

To make your own "anything" soup, start with whatever fresh vegetables you have, put in a pot and start boiling. Carrots, potatoes, celery, onion, greens, etc. all make great soup - try to add as many colors of vegetable as you can! Add any leftovers you think might go well in soup (leftover meats and vegetables are good in soups, but don't discount stuff like casseroles or other random things - you'd be surprised what you can put in soup!). A small amount of vinegar (about a teaspoon or two per quart) really enhances flavor. You can add noodles or rice for a starch, or even make dumplings. If you do the dumpling route, make sure there's plenty of liquid in the soup because dumplings absorb lots.

I can't wait until Saturday, the day we post about My Kitchen My World. I cooked our MKMW meal on Tuesday night and it was so delicious, especially dessert! So keep an eye out for that. And in the meantime, go make some soup! :-)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Depression Cooking

I recently found the neatest series of YouTube videos. They are called Depression Cooking with Clara, and it's a woman in her 90s sharing recipes that her family ate during the Depression. She is so cute! And her recipes are just my style - they're simple, no frills, just good and inexpensive. I'm excited to try her Pasta with Peas, Egg Drop Soup, Cooked Bread, and Poorman's Meal. Click here to see the Depression Cooking videos.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Simple Cheesecake and Bonus Lentil Burgers

I wanted to have something sweet and not low-calorie for dessert tonight - when you're dieting it's good to splurge every now and then or you'll feel deprived. I had some cream cheese in the refrigerator, and decided on a cheesecake. This recipe is from a Mennonite cookbook I have, called the More-With-Less Cookbook - it's very simple, nothing fancy, but it satisfied my sweet tooth wonderfully!

2 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup dry milk solids (powdered milk)
2 tsp. vanilla
1-2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 8" graham cracker crust (I used a 9" crust, and my cheesecake came out rather thin, so I suggest using the 8" crust)

Preheat oven to 375, and prepare your graham cracker crust.

Combine eggs, cream cheese, sugar, dry milk, vanilla, and lemon juice. Mix well with electric mixer, scraping bowl with rubber spatula often. Pour into crust and bake 30 minutes. Cool for 1 hour. Add topping, if desired, and chill.

I left mine topping-less, but here are the topping options given:
-Combine 1 cup yogurt or sour cream, 2 tbsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg.
-Add drained strawberries, pineapple, peaches, cherries, blueberries, or nuts to yogurt or sour cream topping.
-Thicken any of above fruits with cornstarch and use as a topping.

As a bonus, here's the recipe we used for dinner tonight, from the same cookbook. This one is healthy and low-calorie.

Lentil Burgers
2 cups cooked, cooled lentils, drained
1 egg
1/2 cup cracker crumbs
1 small onion, minced
Tomato juice (I didn't have tomato juice, so I smushed up some canned diced tomatoes instead)
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together using just enough tomato juice to hold mixture in shape when pattied. Fry like hamburgers in small amount hot oil, shortening, or bacon fat.

That's the exact wording in the book. Mine never really would hold its shape if I tried to form it into patties with my hands, so I just spooned it into pattie shapes onto the skillet. They held their shapes if I turned them very carefully, but they were fairly crumbly. That said, they had a very good taste, and I wouldn't be opposed to making them again. Still, I think I prefered the pumpkin chickpea burgers I made a while back. While I love real hamburgers, I also like making meatless burgers - there are so many varieties that you can make! There's a recipe for black bean burgers that I've got my eye on, it actually looks almost like real ground beef.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


I love borsht. I absolutely love it. In college, I clustered in Russian (cluster is sort of a mini minor). I took three Russian language classes and one Russian literature class, and I was involved in the Russian Club. During our monthly Russian Club meetings, we usually had some sort of refreshment, and it usually took the form of Russian cuisine - we had borsht and pirozhki and blini and pelmeni and all manner of delectable Russian foods. Borsht was always one of my favorites.

So I got online and looked up a recipe for borsht and tried it out. And it really didn't taste very good at all. But it was all I had, so I kept making it for several years. And every time, I would cringe a little because I knew that I really didn't enjoy that particular recipe.

Yesterday when we went grocery shopping, Jeff really wanted to buy a bunch of beets so we could have borsht for dinner. I balked a bit, but finally gave in on the condition that we finally find a different recipe! So I got online and googled "delicious borsht," figuring that ought to come up with some good recipes. And sure enough, it did.

This was the simplest recipe that I found, and didn't call for things like meat (which we're eating less of now) or cabbage (which we forgot to buy) or peppers (which we almost never buy). It also called for roasting the beets instead of boiling them, to preserve the amazing color and flavor. When I made it, Jeff and I agreed that this is definitely a much better borsht recipe and will now be our preferred method of making borsht. Enjoy!

1 bunch of beets with greens (bunch is usually 3 or 4 beets)
2 potatoes, chopped
Small onion, chopped
Lemon juice
Dill weed (fresh or dried; psst, dried is cheaper)
Optional garnish of hardboiled egg, cucumber slices, and/or sour cream (okay, the eggs and cucumber might be optional, but the sour cream really isn't. It just isn't borsht without it!)

Remove the greens from the beetroots and set aside. Scrub the roots (don't peel them) to remove any dirt. Coat beets lightly with oil, wrap in foil, and roast at 400 degrees for about an hour, until you can pierce them. When you check them for doneness, be sure to use a sharp knife so that when it comes back bright red you can pretend that you cut yourself and freak your husband out. Lotsa fun! Anyway, set the beets aside to cool while you prepare the greens.

Rinse greens thoroughly, and chop - include both the stems and the leafy part. Place in large pot with potato and onion. Simmer in water to cover until very tender, about half an hour. Season to taste with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, dill weed, and sugar. Dice the cooled beets and add to the borsht; it is not necessary to remove the skins. Chill or serve warm with the garnishes mentioned.

Great bonus - along with being absolutely delicious, the entire pot of borsht ended up being only 500 calories. So each serving is only, like, 50 calories. How awesome is that?!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Healthy Refreshing Tuna Salad

Here's another healthy recipe, full of protein, fiber, and flavor. I'm trying to take my fitness and weight loss goals seriously - I have about ten pounds to lose and I'm watching my calories. However, don't think that just because I'm trying to eat healthy and post healthy recipes, I'm going to stop posting deliciously decadent foods. I promise that I will splurge every now and then. That being said, this recipe for tuna salad that I just threw together for lunch today tastes great, especially for something so good-for-you. I call it refreshing because it has a wonderfully crisp flavor and texture from the chopped apple.

Refreshing Tuna Salad
1 can tuna, drained
3/4 to 1 small granny smith apple, chopped
1/4 cup cooked wheat berries
1 tbsp. dry minced onion
3 tbsp. chopped pickle, or relish
3 tbsp. mayonnaise or dressing

Combine all ingredients and serve on bread or rolls.

3 servings
Calories per serving (without bread): 194

Friday, January 16, 2009

Low-Fat Oatmeal Cookies

Like many others, I'm working on losing some weight this year by eating healthy. Gosh, I feel so unoriginal! So here's my jump-on-the-bandwagon offering, in the form of low-fat cookies. These oatmeal cookies have a good flavor, but the texture is pretty much what you'd expect from a cookie with no butter, margarine, or eggs - a little on the rubbery side. The bonus is that since there aren't eggs in the recipe, you can snack on the dough as much as you want. Also, at about 60 calories per cookie, they're practically guilt-free. But I'm trying to decide whether it's better to fill up on several rubbery cookies to satisfy my sweet tooth, or slowly eat just one really good high-calorie cookie and enjoy every sinful bite... I'll get back to you on that...

Low-Fat Oatmeal Cookies
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup applesauce (I didn't have any, and substituted mashed banana and canned pears)
1 cup flour (I used half white and half whole wheat)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins (we're out of raisins, so I omitted them)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional, I didn't add them)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( 175 degrees C ). Grease a cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, stir together the brown sugar, white sugar, and applesauce. Sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; stir into the applesauce mixture. Add the rolled oats, raisins and chopped nuts (if desired); stir until combined.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared cookie sheet (the dough won't spread while baking, so flatten slightly with a spoon). Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool slightly before removing from the baking sheet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Spice Bread from Biscuit Mix

I'm lovin' my biscuit mix! Last night I made some quick bread with the homemade mix, and I am pleased to report that it worked wonderfully. I never would have thought that you could use biscuit mix to make a quick bread! But you can, and it works!

Spice Bread
3 cups biscuit mix
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 cup milk or water

Preheat oven to 350 and generously grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine biscuit mix, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and nuts until blended. Combine egg and milk or water in a small bowl. Add all at once to dry ingredients. Blend. Pour batter into prepared pan. Level top of batter with a spoon. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. My loaf wasn't done in 45 minutes, so I kept checking every five minutes, and it ended up taking about 60-65 minutes. So if the toothpick doesn't come out clean the first time, keep checking every few minutes until it does.

Let stand 5-10 minutes in pan. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

I didn't get pictures of the bread sliced, as it was for a church function and I brought it whole. So I just have a couple bad-lighting-because-it-was-dark-outside pictures of the whole loaf (p.s. It looks burnt on the corner but that's just the lighting - it wasn't overly done at all). But it did slice nicely, and from what I heard, it was enjoyed by everyone who tried some. I had a piece and really liked it. Jeff liked it so much he had four pieces.

So there you have it, yet another fun recipe for using homemade biscuit mix.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fluffy Pumpkin Mousse

It started as a craving for something sweet. It turned into a refrigerator raid. From there it became an idea. Then it became...
Fluffy Pumpkin Mousse!!!

And it's amazing.

Fluffy Pumpkin Mousse
1/4 cup pumpkin butter*
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

Mix together gently, and serve.

So easy, and so divine!

*The pumpkin butter I used was some that I made a week or two ago. No real measurements, I just threw stuff in. I combined some canned pumpkin, applesauce, cinnamon, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice, and heated it for a few minutes on the stove. All the ingredients are just to taste - put in a bit until it looks and tastes right. This is good on biscuits or bread.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Biscuit Mix Cookies

A little before Christmas I posted a recipe for biscuit mix that could be used for holiday gift giving. However, I only gave one packet of mix left, and was left with lots of biscuit mix for my family's use. I love the biscuits that this mix makes - they're light and fluffy, with a perfect biscuit flavor. But the book where I got the recipe also gives a whole lot of other recipes to use this mix, and I thought it would be fun to give some of them a try.

This is a recipe for basic sugar cookies. The book gives lots of variations, which I'll also give. I chose to do a chocolate chip variation. The kids and I have been snacking on these as fast as they came out of the oven. Jeff's lucky he got home when he did, much longer and there wouldn't have been any left!

Basic Biscuit Mix Cookies
3 cups biscuit mix*
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk or water
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla, lemon, or almond extract

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly grease baking sheets. Combine biscuit mix and sugar in a medium bowl. Blend well. In a small bowl, combine milk or water, egg, and extract. Add to dry ingredients. Blend well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Makes 30 to 36 cookies. I got 36 exactly.

Flavor Drop Cookies: Add 1 cup nuts, raisins, small gumdrops, chocolate chips (pictured), butterscotch chips, or dates. For coconut cookies, add 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut. For peanut butter cookies, add 1/2 cup peanut butter. For orange cookies, omit extract and add 1 tablespoon orange peel and 1/2 cup raisins. For molasses cookies, substitute 3 tablespoons molasses for milk or water and add 1/8 tsp. mace (or nutmeg).
Shaped Cookies: Decrease milk or water to 3 tablespoons. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
Rolled Cookies: Decrease milk or water to 3 tablespoons. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Sprinkle with sugar and cut into shapes. Place each about 1 inch apart on prepared baking sheets.

*Biscuit Mix Recipe (can be doubled if you know you'll use lots - we use lots)
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup instant nonfat milk powder
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. shortening

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, cream of tartar, baking soda, and milk powder. Stir with a wire whisk to blend. Using a pastry blender to blend in shortening until evenly distributed. Store in airtight container.

*I don't know if this would work with commercial biscuit mixes like Bisquick, but I assume it would since this biscuit mix is supposed to be interchangeable with any recipe calling for biscuit mix.

Taste & Create - Canberra's Baked Beans

I haven't participated in Taste & Create for what seems to me like a long time. But I'm back in the saddle, paired up with Cath, The Canberra Cook. She already posted in December about her experience with my pumpkin pie from homemade puree, here. She had some trouble with her oven, so the pie suffered a bit, but the mini pies she made turned out great!

Meanwhile, having looked through Cath's extensive list of recipes, I chose one that fit wonderfully with my budget and my family's tastes. Here is her recipe for baked beans. These aren't the Boston-style baked beans, they include tomatoes and are less sweet. But they were delicious. The whole family enjoyed these hearty beans.

Baked Beans
1 cup haricot or navy beans (I didn't have either of these, so I used pinto beans)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 onion (I substituted dry minced onion)
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
100g lean ham (I just used about half a can of DAK ham)
brown sugar, salt, pepper to taste

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Drain, and dump beans into slow cooker. Chop the onion finely, and the ham into small cubes. Mix in with beans, add canned tomatoes, molasses, vinegar and mustard. Add about another tomato can of water to make sure beans are well covered. Do NOT add salt.

Cook on slow setting for 6-8 hours (here I had some problems - I think there was something wrong with my beans because after 13 hours, they were still kind of hard. Maybe I should have soaked them longer). Stir occasionally if you're around, and add a little water if it seems to be drying out. When beans are soft enough for your taste, add salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste.

I doubled the recipe, because I figure why cook half a pound of beans when you can do the whole pound. Hmm, maybe that's part of why mine took so long - my poor old slow cooker had twice as many beans to cook. Hmmm... Besides the cooking time, this recipe doubles very easily. Anyway, this made a whole big pot full of beans, and I plan on freezing the leftovers to enjoy later. The flavor was good, especially after adding the salt and brown sugar. I think this is a recipe I would be glad to make again.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy National Shortbread Day!

By late this morning, I still had no idea what recipe I would post next. This doesn't usually happen to me, we cook so often and food is a very big part of our life. I've just been in a slump. But then I remembered that I list upcoming National Food Holidays on my sidebar (here is where I find them), in case of just such a slump. Sometimes that is no help at all, like when I see that it is National Roast Suckling Pig Day (Dec. 18) or National Escargot Day (May 24), or something equally out of my comfort level. But today I had a winner - it's National Shortbread Day!

So here's the simplest, easiest recipe for shortbread that I could find on Only three ingredients, and it turned out fantastic!

Scottish Shortbread
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter (People will tell you not to substitute margarine, that you have to use real butter or it doesn't work. Don't believe a word of it! I used margarine and it worked just fine!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (many reviewers said 300, so I did that instead).

Blend all ingredients well. Dough will be stiff. It's funner if you use your hands and knead it really well.

Press into a buttered 9x9-inch pan (I used a shortening-ed 8x8-inch pan). Prick top with fork.

Bake until pale golden brown on the edges. 30 minutes at 300 seems to be a good baking time according to the reviews, though since I used a smaller pan I had to leave it in a little longer. Just keep a close eye on it, and take it out when it's lightly golden on the edges.

Cool completely before cutting into squares. Several reviewers said you can sprinkle it with sugar while cooling, so I did that; it makes it even prettier. It's very important to let it cool completely before you cut it into squares, or it will be too crumbly.

This is the first time I've made shortbread. I really love a good shortbread, with its light buttery flavor and unique texture, and this recipe didn't disappoint.

Sigh. It's nice to be out of the slump. Thank you, American National Food Holidays! :-)

Monday, January 5, 2009


Usually, if I haven't posted for a while, I can look back over pictures I've taken of foods we've had lately, and come up with some recipe to post. But I've got nothin'. We have really been lax with our food lately. Well, mostly we've been lax about doing the dishes. And when the dishes are all dirty, we don't find much motivation to cook or bake or anything. So we've been eating foods that don't even deserve to be posted about. In fact, they don't even deserve to be remembered,because I don't remember most of what we've been eating. Sad.

So I hereby promise to get off my duff and make something yummy to post about.

As soon as I get those dishes clean...

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Woodford Pudding - an Experiment

My first kitchen escapade of the new year was to attempt the Woodford Pudding that I posted about a little while ago, from the Economy Cookbook. I was so excited - this is the first sponge-style pudding I've ever made, or even eaten.

One big reason I've been so excited about this cookbook and these recipes is that Jeff gave me the complete set of Anne of Green Gables for Christmas - these are some of my favorite books of all time! I have been working my way through since Christmas morning, and am now at Book 4, Anne of Windy Poplars. The first Anne book was written in 1908, which means that these recipes and those books are contemporaries - these are recipes for foods that Anne Shirley would have eaten! Oh the joy! I was so excited to try some recipes that would bring me closer somehow to that esteemed character.

So I set out to try and make Woodford Pudding, because it looked simple and yummy. The biggest challenge of this pudding was, for me, interpreting the 1910 directions to my 2008/9 kitchen and mindset. For instance, when I bake the pudding do I cover it? What temperature should it be set at? Does the jam have to be blackberry or can I substitute something else? Would I get better results using a spoon or an electric mixer?

So here is the recipe in its original form, and my interpretations thereof.

Woodford Pudding

Take 3 beaten eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 2 teaspoons sour milk, 1 cup blackberry jam, cinnamon and nutmeg to taste, 3/4 cup flour. Bake 1/2 hour.

Okay, the first part is self-explanatory. Break three eggs into a big bowl and beat them. Check. At this point I planned ahead a little bit. I don't usually have sour milk on hand, of course. So I just mix a bit of lemon juice into some regular milk and set it aside to curdle for a few minutes. I did that at this point. Since it was only 2 tsp. of milk, I just added a few drops of lemon juice. I also measured out a cup of jam. Not having blackberry jam, I scraped out the last bits of peach jam and crabapple jelly that I had in the fridge, and filled out the rest of the cup with plum jam.

Then back to the recipe. I used a whisk and added the sugar and (softened) butter. Then I dissolved the teaspoon of baking soda into the soured milk and stirred that in. Then I added the jam. At this point, the soda really started doing its job and the batter started puffing up really big! It was exciting to watch it grow.

For the nutmeg and cinnamon, I added about a half teaspoon of each, then measured in the flour.

The recipe merely indicated that the pudding is to be baked 1/2 hour. Not being sure of what temperature to use, I went with a nice medium 375. I greased a 2 1/2 qt. glass casserole dish really well, and poured in the batter. I also covered the dish, but I'm not sure that the size of the dish or the use of the lid were the correct decision. The pudding continued to grow long after I put it in the oven...

After half an hour I checked on the pudding, and the top was pressed up into the lid and nicely browned. The sides were spilling out onto the oven floor. When I took the lid off, I found that only the top was cooked; the rest of the pudding was still wet batter. So the lid came off, the pudding went back into the oven, and a baking sheet was placed on the lower rack to contain further spills. And there were definitely further spills.

Long story short, I think this recipe needs a lot more space than 2 1/2 quarts. Which is slightly unfortunate because now I'm not sure what pan I have that would be big enough. I think I should try to find a similar recipe online, one that's already translated into modern instructions, and see how they say to do it. Maybe a flatter dish (like a 9x13) would let it cook more evenly. I think that a deep dish like this would work for a steamed pudding, because of the longer cooking time and even heating of the water, but for a baked pudding a flat dish with more area will result in a better pudding.

In the meantime, I checked on the pudding again after a while only to find that it had turned very brown indeed, and had shrunk to about 2 inches tall. Oh despair! I pulled it out of the oven and bemoaned its fate.

But when I tasted a bite of the spongy pudding from the drip pan, I was relieved to find that apparently it's supposed to be that color, because it still tasted good. So I forged on with the sauce.

Sauce - 1 cup brown sugar, 1 large tablespoon butter, 1 dessertspoon cornstarch. Water to make proper consistency; flavor.

The problems of interpreting this one are obvious, at least to me. How big is a dessertspoon? What is the proper consistency? What do I flavor it with? And am I supposed to cook it?

I decided that, with cornstarch as one of the ingredients, it should be cooked after all. So out comes the saucepan. Since approximately half of the pudding had been rendered nearly inedible by being smeared all over the oven, I only made a half recipe of the sauce.

I combined half a cup of packed brown sugar, a half tablespoon of butter, about a teaspoon of cornstarch (guessing as to the meaning of the word "dessertspoon") and about a quarter cup of water. I boiled it on the stove for a few minutes, stirring constantly, before removing it from the heat and flavoring it with a half teaspoon of almond extract. We thought the almond would go well with the cinnamon and nutmeg of the pudding.

Then came the difficult task of photographing the whole mess. Here's a shot of the pudding by itself. Not very pretty, but in this light the brown is nicely golden, at least.

And here's the pudding with the sauce.

After these pictures, I finally got impatient and dug in. The result? Despite all the trouble this pudding gave me while I was trying to make it, I was pleased to find that the flavor is actually quite delicious! Expect to see this recipe again sometime, only using a flat baking pan instead of the big, deep casserole dish. I'm sure it will be beautiful.

And I can take some small bit of comfort in knowing that, had I made this pudding for Anne Shirley, she would have sympathized with me nicely, having gotten herself into many scrapes with her own cooking, and eaten it with great enjoyment. She is a kindred spirit.