Monday, November 28, 2005

Holiday Spritz Cookies

I don't normally make Christmas cookies. Holiday baking was never a tradition in the house I grew up in. Yet, somehow I acquired a cookie press. It has been in the back of one of my cupboards for the longest time. I can't remember how it got there. It must have been a gift from someone. I do remember using it once. I tried out a pressed cookie recipe from my old reliable, Betty Crocker. The cookies tasted like, well, pressed cookies, nothing to get excited about and certainly not good enough to become part of the holiday traditions in my own home.

Also lost in the mists of time is the origin of a pressed cookie recipe that has been in my "Recipes to Try" folder for the longest time. Today I finally decided to give it a whirl. Big mistake! While the dough and the resulting cookies taste great, the dough is much too stiff to use in the cookie press. The one I have even has a trigger, making it easier to use and easier to control the amount of dough for each cookie. It is also easy on my arthritic hands. Nonetheless, none of the tips I tried resulted in an actual shaped cookie and some of them were impossible to squeeze any dough through. I finally hit on the idea of using the bar shape and made ribbon cookies. At last I was able to actually squeeze out the dough fairly easily and into a recognizable shape. This is another one of those recipes that leaves me scratching my head and wondering if anyone actually tried it out before publishing it?

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Holiday Spritz Cookies
(Source: Unknown)

2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
dash of salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Sift together flour and baking powder. Cream butter, sugar and salt; add egg and vanilla. Beat flour into butter mixture. Add food coloring if desired. Press through cookie press with a star tip and place on a cold, ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Makes 45 cookies.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshell

Friday, November 25, 2005

Old-fashioned Chicken Pies

Many years ago, a woman I worked with used to buy First magazine. She was generous enough to allow me to photocopy any recipes I saw that appealed to me. Some them turned out to be quite good and I am still cooking them. One such recipe is for chicken pot pies. I have loved them since I was a child. Swanson Chicken Pot Pies were my idea of heaven.

The problem with most pot pie recipes is that they make one large pie and involve frozen vegetables. This recipe appealed to me because it makes six individual pies and uses only fresh ingredients. The day after Thanksgiving, I use leftover turkey to make them instead of chicken. As you can see from the date of the magazine, these pot pies have been a holiday tradition in my house for over a decade.

Chicken stock is not something I ordinarily have hanging around the house. Canned broth is fine, but I prefer using ingredients I already have in the house. I substitute chicken bouillon for the stock/broth using a ratio of one cube per cup of water. In this case, I use 2 cubes in 1 3/4 cups water. Ditto for the light cream called for. Since I have Half & Half for my coffee, I use that instead.

I don't ordinarily like recipes that involve a lot of steps and use a lot of bowls and pans. And I will be the first to admit that rolling out pastry for six pies is a royal pain but I just love the buttery crust. They can be made ahead of time, refrigerated and then reheated in the microwave or even frozen and then thawed and reheated. This recipe takes a lot of time and effort but it is one of the very few that I feel is worth the trouble.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Old-fashioned Chicken Pies
(Source: First magazine, 2/10/92)

1 lb. boneless chicken breasts
1 3/4 cups chicken stock or canned broth
2 3/4 cups flour
salt & pepper
6 oz. butter, chilled
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
3 carrots
1/2 lb. mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup light cream
2 scallions
1 tablepoons chopped fresh parsley
1 egg

Put the chicken breasts in a frying pan with 1/2 cup stock. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat and continue simmering, turning once, until chicken is just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken, let cool and tear into pieces. Strain broth and reserve.

Combine 2 1/2 cups of the flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cut in 1/4 lb. of the butter and the shortening until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Toss in 7 to 8 tablesppons cold water, a tablespoon at a time. When the ingredients begin to clump together, press into a ball, wrap and refrigerate.

Cut carrots in half lengthwise and then into approximately 1/4" slices. Bring to a boil in a large pot of salted water and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Slice mushrooms. In a large saucepan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Stir in remaining 1/4 cup flour and cook 1 minute. Gradually stir in reserved chicken-cooking liquid, remaining 1 1/4 cups stock and the cream. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute, stirring all the while. Remove from heat, pour off 1 1/2 cups sauce and reserve. Chop scallions, stir chicken, carrots, scallions and parsley into the remaining sauce.

Heat oven to 425F. Beat the egg with 1 tablespoon water. Divide the dough into 12 pieces. On a lightly-floured work surface, roll 6 of them and fit into 5" pie pans. Fill with the chicken mixture. Roll remaining dough, top pies and flute edges. Cut vents in the top crusts.

Brush tops lightly with egg mixture. Put pies on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Brush tops of pies again with egg mixture after 15 minutes.

Recycle: chicken broth can

Compost: carrot parings, unused portions of scallions and eggshell

Monday, November 21, 2005

OldRoses' Melt In Your Mouth Brownies

There was a big IT conference at my company this weekend. They brought in the IT staff from all of our offices in Europe and North America for two days of meetings. For some of these people, it was their first time in the US. One of them was a gentleman from the Hamburg office of our parent company. He had also been given the task of bringing back chocolate for his (female) co-workers. Specifically, they asked if he could please buy brownies. Apparently brownies are not available in Germany. He had never had them and was curious to taste the ones served at the lunch that was brought in during the meetings.

I'm sure you've tasted these so-called brownies. They are gooey and flat with a horrible chemical aftertaste. I told him these were not "real" brownies. Since he wasn't leaving immediately after the conference, I had time to bake authentic brownies for him to take back to his office.

The recipe I use is extremely simple. It was a Betty Crocker recipe. I merely substituted butter or margarine for the vegetable shortening called for in the original recipe. The resulting brownies are extremely rich and do literally melt in your mouth. I added a cup of chopped nuts (also included in the original recipe) to the brownies that are currently on their way to Hamburg to give the recipients the "authentic" brownies experience but I don't use nuts when I make them for myself. I am not a big fan of nuts in my cakes and cookies. This is a one-bowl recipe, always popular with me, and I have found that a whisk is the best thing to stir the ingredients with. The batter will be stiff. Stirring it will give you a good workout!

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

OldRoses' Melt In Your Mouth Brownies
(Source: OldRoses )

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2/3 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 35oF. Grease baking pan, 13x9x2 inches. Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave for 2 minutes. Stir until completely melted. Mix in sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Spread in pan.

Bake 30 minutes or until brownies start to pull away from sides of pan. Do not over bake. Cool slightly before cutting.

Recycle: vanilla bottle

Compost: eggshells

Friday, November 18, 2005

OldRoses' Better Than The Blue Box Macaroni & Cheese

The weather has finally turned cold. The kind of cold that gets into your bones and makes you long for comfort food. The ultimate comfort food for me is macaroni and cheese. When my daughter was young, she loved Kraft macaroni and cheese. I was delighted, both because she was a very picky eater and because she could prepare it herself. One day I checked the ingredients on the box. I was appalled. This wasn't food. This was a chemistry experiment. I instituted a new rule: "If you can't pronounce it, you shouldn't be eating it". I also started looking for a recipe for macaroni and cheese.

We ate a lot of really bad macaroni and cheese for months as I tried recipe after recipe. Finally I threw in the towel and decided to invent my own recipe. I started by combining the best parts of two recipes. It turned out so well, my daughter pronounced it "better than the Blue Box". I quit while I was ahead.

A few things you should bear in mind when making this recipe. First, it calls for Rotelle, but you can use the traditional elbow pasta or your favorite pasta. We tried a few different kinds of pasta and decided that we liked the Rotelle best. Secondly, be sure to get the sharp process American cheese. If you get the regular American cheese, it will be bland. Unless you prefer it that way! And last, but not least, you must, must, must grease the casserole dish. This recipe doesn't just stick to the casserole, it fuses to it. It becomes one with the casserole dish.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

OldRoses' Better Than The Blue Box
Macaroni & Cheese
(Source: OldRoses )

16 ounces Rotelle
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cups milk
16 ounces sharp process American cheese

Heat oven to 375F. Cook Rotelle in boiling salted water for 15 minutes. While the pasta is cooking, melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in milk. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly Boil and stir until thickened. Add cheese and stir until completely melted. Grease 2-quart casserole. Combine macaroni and cheese mixture in casserole. Cover; bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer.

6 to 8 servings

Monday, November 14, 2005

Toll House Crumbcake

Somehow when I signed up up Nestle's site, I gave them my snail mail address because they are sending me recipes and coupons at home. Which is not such a bad thing. I now have a very nice leaflet with lots of new baking recipes. I decided to use the coupon for chocolate chips and try the crumbcake recipe. I have always loved crumbcake and coffee. What could be better than crumbcake, chocolate and coffee?

Unlike the last recipe I tried, this one very clearly says to grease the pan. The cake part of the recipe combined beautifully. The topping, however, came up short. Very short. There just wasn't enough of it to cover the entire pan. And it is added before baking which means that it bakes into the cake. In my opinion, a crumbcake topping should be added after the cake is baked so that it is "crumbs", not part of the cake. Chocoholic that I am, I thought I would never find myself saying that there are just too much chocolate chips. I would prefer more cake and fewer chips. The cake itself is nothing special so it is completely overpowered by the chocolate. This recipe was very disappointing.

Verdict: Not bad, but I don't think I will be making this one again.

Toll House Crumbcake
(Source: Nestle VeryBestBaking Holiday 2005 leaflet)

Ingredients Topping

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup chopped nuts

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Morsels, divided


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 large eggs

1 cup sour cream


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 13 x 9-inch baking pan.

Combine brown sugar, flour and butter in small bowl with pastry blender or two knives until crumbly. Stir in nuts and 1/2 cup morsels.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat granulated sugar, butter and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in remaining morsels. Spread into prepared baking pan; sprinkle with topping.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle, plastic sour cream container

Compost: eggshells

Friday, November 11, 2005

Poppy Seed Bread

Are you as sick of lemon poppy seed as I am? So when I saw a recipe without the word "lemon" in it, I gave it a second look. Hmmm...almond extract. Now that sounds good! Baked in a bundt or tube pan. Wait a sec. Is this a cake or a bread? I had to make it and find out.

I had a couple of problems with this recipe right off the bat. It says to pour the batter into the pan with no mention of the usual grease and/or flour. I know there is a cup of butter in it, but I wasn't comfortable just pouring the batter into an ungreased pan. I gave the bundt pan I was using a light coating of cooking spray. I did have trouble coaxing the final product out of the pan. But when it did finally decide to come out, it came out in one piece. The other issue I had was with the butter. The recipe calls for 1 cup of butter or margarine. It doesn't say soften or melt it before adding it to the batter. I couldn't see how it could be combined with the other ingredients and then whipped into a light and fluffy concoction unless it was at least softened first which is what I did.

The final product looked gorgeous. It's definitely sweet, more like a cake than a tea bread. The almond flavoring is overwhelming though. 1 1/2 teaspoons of almond extract is much too much. I would want to at least cut it in half. I think just a hint of almond flavoring is more palatable.

Verdict: Not bad, but I probably won't be making this again.

Poppy Seed Bread
(Source: )

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter or margarine

3 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 tablespoon poppy seeds

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat 350 degree oven. Combine sugar, butter, eggs, and extracts. Mix on medium speed, scrape bowl often until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Beat 1-2 minutes more until mixed. Pour into bundt or tube pan. Bake 50-65 minutes until done. Cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Slice into medium thin pieces and place on serving plate for guests.

Recycle: almond extract and vanilla extract bottles

Compost: eggshells

Monday, November 07, 2005

Crockpot Chicken Stew

I've noticed that I seem to be trying only poultry recipes. That's because I haven't found any recipes featuring beef or pork that attract me. Maybe I should post a few of my own recipes just for variety sake.

As you can see, I am still trying to find a good crockpot recipe. This one sounded good as well as easy. I work nights so I usually arrive home exhausted and just wanting to sleep in the mornings. There's not a lot of preparation involved with this recipe so I was able to just slice the onion, cube the potatoes, mix the seasonings and throw everything into the crockpot before heading off to bed. What a treat to get up to a wonderful aroma and a freshly cooked meal.

Unfortunately, it didn't live up to its billing. There is not enough liquid in this recipe. When I think of stew, I think of gravy. There is none here. I don't know which is worse, the dry chicken or the dry veggies. The chicken was well seasoned because the instructions are to sprinkle the spices over the chicken but none of it made it to the veggies or what little liquid there was so both were pretty tasteless. I'm adding this one to the ever growing pile of failed crockpot recipes.

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Crockpot Chicken Stew

1 whole, cut-up chicken, fat removed
1 pound baby carrots
3 large potatoes, cubed
1 large sweet onion, very thinly sliced
ground pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. basil
1/4 tsp. oregano
1 can lowfat cream of chicken soup
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (optional)

Place half of the vegetables in the crockpot, then add the chicken pieces. Mix the spices and sprinkle evenly over the chicken. Add the remainder of the vegetables and top with the soup. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until chicken is tender and the vegetables are done. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and remove from bones. Replace the chicken back and stir, then serve.

Notes: You can also substitute boneless chicken, about 3 pounds. Then just cut it up for shred at the end. Thighs or breasts will work also.

Donate: Campbell soup labels to your local school

Recycle: soup can

Compost: onion skins

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Art" Lee the Real Estate Gourmet Chef's Ground Turkey and Tofu Stir Fry

I know that I have mentioned before that gardeners love to share recipes. I'm currently attending a class to become certified as a Master Gardener and one of my classmates has been sharing his recipes with his fellow students. According to his website he is a gardener, an artist a linguist, and an entrepreneur. Truly a Renaissance man. I can vouch for the fact that he is a darned good cook also!

His latest recipe intrigued me because of its flexibility. You can tailor it to your family's tastes by varying the ingredients and amounts of seasonings. And it only uses one pan, a very important consideration for cooks like me with no dishwasher. I was able to prepare it and cook it in the time that it took to cook the rice. Don't you just love it when everything finishes cooking at once? I loved it made with ground turkey and kale. I'll definitely be trying his suggested variations also.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

"Art" Lee the Real Estate Gourmet Chef's
Ground Turkey and Tofu Stir Fry

1 12 to 16 oz container tofu, drained (reserve liquid)

1 lb ground turkey (may substitute beef, lamb, chicken or pork or omit if vegetarian)

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 medium onion - diced

1 teaspoon miso paste (omit if you can't get it or don't like it)

Handful of kale (or greens of your choice such as mustard, spinach, green onions, etc.) rough chopped

Garlic (fresh or powdered), soy, ground black pepper, ginger to taste (as strong as you want)

1/8 cup white wine (optional)

1. Slice tofu into 1 inch thick slices. Pan fry in cooking oil until brown on both sides. Remove from pan.

2. In same pan that you cooked tofu, cook diced oniion for 3 minutes.

3. Add ground turkey to onions, stir, and cook until brown over medium heat.

4. Mix in bowl miso, garlic, soy, black pepper, ginger, wine and reserved tofu liquid (optional). Pour over turkey and onions.

5. Add kale.

6. Add browned tofu slices.

7. continue cooking for 5 - 7 minutes.

8. Serve over rice (may substitute mashed potatoes or pasta).

Recycle: cooking oil bottle, wine bottle

Cmpost: onion skin, kale stems, garlic skins