Cooking Notes – July 2010

I’m always curious what other people are making, what recipes they like, their dinner ideas, and advice on what does and doesn’t work. So, as of now I’m going to start a monthly meals tracker that I will go back and regularly update with what’s been cooked each week. I’m only including baking and main meals and/or new recipes, not routine breakfasts, snacks, or lunches. Main notes:

  • Most meals are cooked to allow for another meal or two of leftovers
  • Cooking from scratch is the first choice over pre-made or eating out, both for cost and health.
  • Lately I’m trying to make a couple of dinners a week without meat. Not because we’re vegetarian, but because it pushes me out of my standard “Meat and…” meal pattern into exploring.
  • I try to make at least one new item from Mastering the Art of French Cooking each week since it’s more of a cooking textbook than most.
  • Getting cookbooks out of the library and pulling the good recipes without having to pay is fun. Right now I have a Paula Deen cookbook out, plus a couple of others. It’s a good way to use cookbooks you wouldn’t otherwise buy.
  • New entries will go at the top of the list, by the heading.

BAKING/DESSERTS

  • Bread using basic boule recipe from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (love this book!). I mixed up two batches of regular bread, and gave some to the neighbor who loaned us her mower. The second batch was a good lessons learned item – we were carrying unpacked boxes out to the garage and the extra heat and humidity in the house from the propped-open door kept the bread from rising. Another loaf from this batch had the same issue – a tasty but rather squashed looking French Baguette.
  • Caramel Sticky Rolls from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (basic boule recipe, rolled with sugar/butter/seasonings like sweet rolls, baked in homemade caramel topping). Easy, delicious and got rave reviews from Carl. Who would have thought basic unsweetened bread dough would make such good sweet rolls? Next time, bake for 3-5 minutes less – outside edges became a little tough.
  • Peanut Butter Pie from Joy of Cooking. Carl found it too sweet, so I probably won’t make it again.
  • Butterscotch Brownies from this recipe (substituted chocolate chips for the butterscotch chips/walnuts), plus Ghirardelli double dark chocolate brownies from a mix for my husband to take in to a work meeting (thank you Aldi for mixes on sale). The butterscotch brownies recipe is a keeper, as is anything else on Ms. Anna’s site. Try her Crispy Asian Chicken – I’ve probably made it half a dozen times, and gotten several family members and friends hooked on it as well.
  • Apple Fritters from Paula Deen. Great recipe, although it’s for about twice as much batter as needed. These will probably become an Autumn classic in our home.
  • Blueberry muffins and pancakes. We have plentifully producing blueberry bushes and so do our neighbors.

MEALS AND SIDES

  • Peach Butter made by combining the recipe for Apple Butter in Not Your Mother’s Slow-Cooker Cookbook and this recipe. I have strong memories of being four or five watching my mother open the oven to check on a batch of apple butter, mouth-watering smells drifting out through the kitchen as she swirled a wooden spoon through the mixture. Fruit butter claimed a corner of my heart right then and never let go. This batch won’t be canned since it will last two months in the fridge or three in the freezer. If it turns out well, perhaps a hunt for some canning jars and bulk peaches at a good price would be in order.
  • Ouefs à la Fondue de Fromage (Poached Eggs on Canapés with Cheese Fondue Sauce) from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Winner! This dish is fast and easy if you’re used to the technique – about 15 minutes start to finish. And delicious. Very, very delicious. It operates on the same basic principle as Eggs Benedict – poached eggs on a toasted bread product, topped with a rich sauce and briefly broiled. I cheated and just put fresh bread in the toaster and buttered it afterwards rather than making canapés (white bread sautéed in clarified butter). The sauce is made from butter, shallots, garlic, white wine, bouillon (which come to think of it, I forgot), cream, Swiss cheese and seasonings. Like you could go wrong with that combination. If I were talking to someone just starting out with Julia Child’s book and feeling intimidated I’d send them to the eggs section. Famliar, simple, and very rewarding.
  • Chicken Dijonnaise from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Very good, very simple. Served with fresh yellow tomatoes from the neighbor’s  garden.
  • Artichokes, basic recipe from Julia Childs’ Mastering the Art of French Cooking, served with her lemon-butter sauce (good, but mouth-puckeringly powerful – next time halve the lemon amount) and mayonnaise as dipping sides. Also, fresh bread and yellow tomatoes. The artichokes were good both hot and cold. Suit of armor recommended for trimming – I ended up with an artichoke spear sliver buried in my thumb for the rest of the week.
  • Soupe au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup with Garlic, Basil and Herbs) from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Great flavorful soup recipe that will become a household standard. Made with fresh green beans from the neighbor’s garden, served with fresh bread. 
  • Fast meal: Poached eggs on buttered toast. These were a hated meal in childhood, but I figured out this year that as long as the eggs are well-drained and served warm they’re delicious. Maybe elementary-school me  just dawdled too long until they were cold on my plate.
  • Scrambled eggs from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. This was just whipped up for a hot lunch. Someone had mentioned French scrambled eggs are the best. They were so right. Can’t believe I’ve been cooking scrambled eggs American-style for all these years. Switching now. 
  • Fried Green Tomatoes, Paula Deen recipe. Got her cookbook out of the library. A lot of it is a-can-of-this, a-can-of-that style cooking which isn’t my favorite, but these were from scratch and gooood. Maybe I was born a southerner and my mother just forgot to tell me? Once more, food from the neighbor’s garden (I’d wish them away on vacation more often just for the food, but they’re such nice people to have here).
  • Boursin Cheese Potatoes, also from Paula Deen. Good (artery clogging) stuff. Used her homemade recipe for Boursin Cheese since the local grocery stores don’t carry it, and threw in a bit of shredded ham. Full meal in itself with some veggies.
  • Batch of apple sauce from Not Your Mother’s Slow-Cooker Cookbook. I’ve not been impressed by most of the recipes I’ve tried from this cookbook, but this is a good one I use all the time (their cranberry-peach-apple sauce is nice too). Peel, core, and quarter 8-10 apples, toss with a tablespoon of lemon juice, cook on high ~ 3 hours, puree with a hand-blender or mash for chunky sauce. Seriously, that’s all, and it is so very very good.
  • Saute of Beef for Two (or in this case, four) from Julia Child’s The Way to Cook. This is a favorite special occasions meal here. It requires expensive beef for tenderness but my is it worth the splurge.
  • Linguine with Tomatoes and Basil from The Silver Palate Cookbook. Another favorite in our home. I cut the pasta by a third, and the olive oil by a quarter cup, then grit my teeth and pay for a little extra prosciutto to dice and toss in. Delicious with ripe summer tomatoes. 
  • Homemade spaghetti sauce with frozen ravioli. Yes, we cheat sometimes. As frozen meals go, ravioli is one of the best deals, and it’s handy in the fridge for emergencies when you’re out of food. 
  • Broiled open-faced sandwiches. My mom always made these. They are tasty, and another fast but filling dinner. Heat oven to broil, move a rack to the top of the oven. Toast two slices of bread for each person. Spread mayonnaise on one-side of each piece. Lay on a baking sheet, mayo side up. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Top with thin-sliced sandwich meat like ham or turkey (optional). Place thin-sliced tomatoes on top of meat (one layer thick, just enough to cover of bread). Top with a slice of cheese such as cheddar, provolone, mozzarella, or American, again, one layer, just enough to cover the bread. Broil a couple of minutes with the oven door cracked until the cheese has melted and begins to brown. Serve warm.
  • Independence Day: Pork tenderloin, corn on the cob, tomato-mozzarella salad.
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