Monday, February 27, 2006

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Do you like Junior Mints? I do. And I'm sure you've seen recipes for "Junior Mint Brownies" made with Junior Mints. But I like to make everything from scratch so I was excited to find this recipe that seemingly mimicked the Junior Mint recipes without using Junior Mints.

This recipe was nothing but problems. To begin with, I didn't record where I found it and despite numberous internet searches, couldn't locate a source. Scroll down to the recipe and see if you can find another problem. Right you are! There is no oven temperature specified. I used 350F, the temperature used to bake my other favorite brownie recipes. Here's something else I noticed: no baking powder or baking soda. As you can see from the picture, the brownie part stayed flat. Another missing detail: the recipe didn't specify what kind of chocolate to use in the brownie. I opted for unsweetened because of the amount of sugar. I didn't bother with the green food coloring because I didn't have any on hand. The frosting was very stiff and difficult to spread and waaaaaay too minty. It overpowered the chocolate flavors of the brownie and the top chocolate coating. The recipe says to spread the chocolate covering over the frosting. I just poured it on top and then tilted the pan around until most of the frosting was covered. Crude, but it worked. All in all, this recipe was a big disappointment.

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Chocolate Mint Brownies
(Source: Unknown)
2 squares choclate
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup nuts

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 drops green food coloring

Chocolate covering:
1 square semi-sweet chocolate
1 square unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Cream 1/2 cup butter with 1 cup sugar. Add eggs and (melted, cooled) chocolate. Add flour and nuts. Mix well. Bake in a greased and floured 9 x 9-inch pan for 20 minutes. Mix frosting ingredients. Allow brownies to cool, frost and place in refrigerator. In double boiler, melt the ingredients for chocolate covering, cool slightly and spread over frosting. When set, cut into squares.

Recycle: peppermint extract bottle, green food coloring bottle

Compost: eggshells

Friday, February 24, 2006


I've wanted to make pizza for years but every recipe I've ever come across uses prepared pizza sauce. I want to make my own. I found a promising recipe on the website of Sunset Magazine. I wasn't thrilled with their recipe for the dough. The first sentence was: "Start the dough at least 1 day ahead." Yeah, right. Like that's going to happen. I have enough cookbooks that it should have been easy to find another pizza dough reciep. Surprisingly, it wasn't. I finally found one in a 1996 edition of Betty Crocker (I own several editions). It was quick and easy but I wasn't happy with the taste. Too bland.

The pizza sauce recipe was one of those that sounds delicious on paper, but in reality is just terrible. I'm not a big fan of tomatoes. Tomato sauce, tomato soup, tomato juice are all fine but not tomatoes themselves. The diced tomatoes and tomato paste used in this recipe produced a sauce that was way too "tomato-y" for me. One pound of cheese was also way too much as was the 4 ounces of meat. I ended up using half that much for two pizzas. I opted for pepperoni and mushroom.

Verdict: What were they thinking???

(Source: Betty Crocker and Sunset Magazine )

Pizza Dough

1 package regular or quick active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105F to 115F)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

Olive or vegetable oil


Quick Pizza Sauce

1 can (14 oz., or 1 3/4 cups) chopped or diced tomatoes, undrained

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves or 2 teaspoons dried basil

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic

salt to taste


4 cups shredded 100% whole-milk mozzarella cheese (1 lb.)

4 ounces meat such as thinly sliced salami or pepperoni

3 to 4 cups thinly sliced vegetables such as red onions, mushrooms, bell peppers or pitted ripe olives

2 to 4 tablespoons seasonings such as chopped fresh jalapeno chilies or minced garlic (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water in medium bowl. Stir in flour, 2 tablespoons oil and the salt. Beat vigorously 20 strokes. Cover and let rest 20 minutes.

Move oven rack to lowest position. Heat oven to 425F. Grease 2 cookie sheets or 12-inch pizza pans with oil. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Divide dough in half; pat each half into 11-inch cicle on cookie sheet with floured fingers. Prick dough thoroughly with fork. Bake about 10 minutes or until crust just begins to brown.

In a bowl, mix sauce ingredients. Spread 3/4 cup sauce over each crust to within 1 inch of edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with other ingredients. Bake at 425F about 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and pizzas are bubbly.

Recycle: diced tomato can, tomato paste can, olive oil bottle

Compost: garlic skins

Friday, February 17, 2006

Teriyaki Steak

Always in search of crockpot recipes/beef recipes, I was enticed by this one which fits both bills. Yes! Another Chinese/Japanese recipe. I happen to love teriyaki sauce and this is "make your own"! It seemed like one of those simple recipes that you could just throw into the crockpot without a lot of preparation. It was, but the end result was disappointing. It says to cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. I went with the shorter time because my crockpot tends to run a little hot. I don't know if that was the reason or if it was the recipe itself, but this came out tasting slightly burned. I was very disappointed.

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

Teriyaki Steak
(Source: RecipeSource )

2 pounds boneless round steak

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tabelspoon sugar

2 tablespoons oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 scallions, chopped

1 can Chinese vegetables (optional)

Cut the steak into 1/8 inch slices. Combine the sauce ingredients and scallions in a small bowl. Place the meat in the crockpot and pour sauce over it all. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. About 15 minutes before serving, add Chinese vegetables if desired. Serve with rice.

Recycle: oil bottle, soy sauce bottle, Chinese vegetables can

Compost: garlic skin

Monday, February 13, 2006

Best-Ever Chocolate Cake had a slide show on chocolate desserts. One of them was called "Best Ever Chocolate Cake". That sounds like a challenge to me! I looked at the ingredients and couldn't imagine how this recipe could be "Best Ever". First of all, it's made with cocoa. My experience has been that anything made with cocoa is not very "chocolatey". And I LIKE chocolatey. The frosting is made with sour cream! I couldn't even imagine what that must taste like. I accepted the challenge. Hey, it's Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day is all about chocolate!

My problems with this recipe started with the pans. The recipe calls for two 8x8x2-inch square or 9x 1 1/2-inch pans or one 13x9x2-inch pan. The accompanying illustration shows three round layers! Were they three 8-inch layers or three 9-inch layers? I took a look at the frosting recipe and found a clue. It supposedly frosts the tops and sides of two or three 8- or 9-inch cake layers or halve it to frost the top of a 13x9x2-inch cake. I opted for three 8-inch round pans. Turns out that was exactly right! They baked up beautifully.

The frosting was not as beautiful. An 8-ounce carton of sour cream is way too much. The frosting was too runny and much too plentiful for my three layers. I probably could have frosted two three layer cakes with it! It did nothing towards holding the layers together. When I cut the cake, it fell completely apart.

The taste was definitely not "best ever". As I expected, it wasn't chocolatey at all and even worse, it was dry, dry, dry. I like my chocolate cakes to be moist and chocolatey. I didn't care much for the frosting either. I just don't like my frosting to taste of chocolate chips!

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Best-Ever Chocolate Cake
(source: )

3/4 cup butter, softened

3 eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1-1/2 cups milk

Chocoalte-Sour Cream Frosting

1. Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, lightly grease bottoms of two 8x8x2-inch square or 9x1/2-inch round cake pans. Line bottom of pans with waxed paper. Grease and lightly flour waxed paper and sides of pans. Or grease one 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Set pans aside.

2. In a mixing bowl stir together the flour, cocoa posder, baking soda, baking pwoder; and salt; set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined (3 to 4 minutes). Scrape sides of bowl; continue beating on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition (about 1 minute total). Beat in vanilla.

4. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to beaten mixture, beating on low speed just until combined after each addition. Beat on medium to high speed for 20 seconds more. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan(s).

5. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 35 to 40 minutes for 8-inch pans and the 13x9x2-inch pan, 30 to 35 minutes for 9-inch pans, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool cake layers in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Peel off waxed paper. Cool thoroughly on wire racks. Or place 13x9x2-inch cake in pan on a wire rack; cool thoroughly. Frost with desired frosting. Makes 12 to 16 servings.

Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting: In a large saucepan melt 1 12-ounce package (2 cups) semisweet chocoate pieces and 1/2 cup butter over low heat, stirring frequently. Cool for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 8-ounce carton dairy sour cream. Gradually add 4-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar (about 1 pound), beating with an electric mixer until smooth. This frosts tops and sides of two or three 8- or 9-inch cake layers. (Halve the recipe to frost the top of a 13x9x2-inch cake.) Cover and store frosted cake in the refrigerator.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshells

Sunday, February 12, 2006

OldRoses' Chocolate-Dipped Valentine Heart Cookies

Your wish is my command. Susan requested my "regular" Valentine cookie recipe. It's a two parter. I saw the idea in that same "First Magazine" that I found so many recipes that became staples in my kitchen. This one was from the February 10, 1992 edition. I like to keep things simple, so I eliminated the white chocolate and assorted colored sugars, sprinkles tinted coconut, etc. that were suggested as toppings. I also doubled the amount of chocolate chips and shortening so there would be enough to cover all the cookies. Then I substituted my favorite sugar cookie recipe from my favorite cookbook, Betty Crocker, for the one used in the magazine. That one called for zest from 2 oranges. I wasn't thrilled with the thought of orange-flavored cookies. And I tinted the dough pink in honor of Valentine's Day. No pictures this time. You just have to imagine the Half-Hearted Valentine Cookies in pink!

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.
OldRoses' Chocolate-Dipped Valentine Heart Cookies
(Source: OldRoses)
1 recipe Deluxe Sugar Cookies
Red food coloring
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (12 ounces)
4 tablespoons shortening
Mix cookie dough as directed. Using red food coloring, tint dough pink. Cut out with heart shaped cookie cutters and bake as directed.
Melt chocolate chips and shortening in micro-wave in a deep bowl. Dip 1 side of each cookie into the chocolate and let excess drip off. Scrape bottom edge against bowl to remove last of the excess chocolate. Put on sheets of waxed paper to set.
Deluxe Sugar Cookies
(Source: Betty Crocker Cookbook)
1 cup butter or magarine, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
Mix thoroughly butter, confectioners' sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extract. Blend in flour, soda and cream of tartar. Cover, chill 2 to 3 hours or overnight.
Heat oven to 375F. Divide dough in half. Roll each half 3/16 inch thick on lightly floured pastry cloth. Cut into desired shapes. Place on lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until light brown on edge.
About 5 dozen 2 to 2 1/2 inch cookies
Recycle: vanilla extract bottle, almond extract bottle, food coloring bottle
Compost: eggshell

Friday, February 10, 2006

Sweet, Hot, and Sour Meatballs

I have to stop trying recipes that use prepared mustard. All I taste is the mustard. And there are just certain things that should never be eaten with mustard. Meatballs definitely fall into that category. I was intrigued by this recipe because of the unique combination of ingredients. Uniquely awful, as it turns out. What was I thinking? Mustard and apple juice and apple jelly? I have absolutely nothing good to say about this dish. The sooner I can get this posted and begin forgetting I ever made it or tasted it, the happier I will be.

Verdict: What were they thinking???

Sweet, Hot, and Sour Meatballs
(Source: )
1/2 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 pound bulk pork sausage
1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup apple jelly
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
1/3 cup whiskey or apple jiuce
1-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce
1. In a large bowl combine egg product, bread crumbs, onion, milk, salt, and pepper. Add sausage and beef; mix well. Shape into 48 meatballs. Place meatballs in a shallow baking pan. Bake, uncovered, in a 375 degree F oven about 30 minutes or until done (160 degree F). Remove from oven; drain.
2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan stir together jelly, mustard, whiskey, Worcestershire sauce, and bottled hot pepper sauce. Heat and stir until jelly melts and mixture bubbles. Add meatballs, stirring gently to coat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly and meatballs are coated.
Makes 24 servings (48 meatballs)
Recycle: jelly jar, mustard jar, whiskey or apple juice bottle, Worcestershire sauce bottle
Compost: onion skins

Monday, February 06, 2006

Half-Hearted Valentine Cookies

I have a recipe for Valentine cookies that I have used for years. It's just a sugar cookie recipe that I tint pink, cut out with a heart-shaped cookies cutter and dip in a chocolate glaze. But I'm always on the lookout for new recipes and this one seemed an interesting variation. I was a bit leery of the peppermint extract and the plain color didn't appear terribly appetizing. I forged ahead anyways.

The cookie part of the recipe went fine other than the strong smell of peppermint. I ran into trouble with the glaze. The glaze I normally make is chocolate chips and shortening. This one is chocolate chips and butter. Richer (which is good!) but also thicker, which as it turns out, was not good. I broke a few cookies trying to scrape off the excess off of the back of them. I also ran out of glaze before I was halfway through because it was so thick. The thinner glaze that I normally use goes much further. I made another batch of glaze and soldiered on.

These cookies have to be refrigerated for the chocolate to set correctly. To accomplish this feat you need three to four cookie sheets covered with waxed paper and a nearly empty refrigerator. I'm fortunate. I live alone so my refrigerator is pretty empty most of the time. I can't imagine how a normal family with a full refrigerator could possibly fit that many cookie sheets in without emptying it out.

In the end, I felt it wasn't worth the effort. I just didn't care for peppermint cookies although the glaze was pretty good. I was rushing to finish these because I wanted to bring them to a meeting. I forgot to take pictures before I left. No matter, I could take pictures there. But I forgot my camera. No problem, I could take pictures of the leftovers when I got home. But there were no leftovers. Some of the attendees liked the cookies so much, they eagerly took home all of the leftovers. One woman even requested the recipe! I found the picture below on the Lane O Lakes website. I also noticed that they have changed the recipe for the glaze from butter to shortening.

Verdict: I didn't care for them, but other people loved them.

Half-Hearted Valentine Cookies
(Source: Favorite Brand Name Cookie Collection)


3/4 cup sugar

1 cup Land O Lakes butter, softened

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

3 cups all-purpose flour


1 cup semi-sweet real chocolate chips

1/4 cup Land O Lakes butter

For Cookies, in large mixer bowl, combine sugar, butter, cream cheese, egg and peppermint extract. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until light and fluffy. Add flour; beat until mixed. Divide dough into halves. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out with floured heart-shaped cutters. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until edges are very lightly browned. Remove immediately; cool completely on wire racks.

For Glaze, in small saucepan, melt chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally, over low heat until melted, 4 to 6 minutes. Dip half of each heart into chocolate. Refrigerate on waxed paper-lined cookie sheet until chocolate is firm. Store, covered, in refrigerator.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

Recycle: peppermint extract bottle

Compost: eggshell

Friday, February 03, 2006

Kung Pao Chicken

I seem to be making a lot of Chinese recipes lately. Not only do I like the flavors, but also the veggies. I'm not a big cooked veggie eater. Another leftover from my mother who couldn't cook. Her idea of making vegetables was to open a can, pour it into a pan and then boil it to death. Imagine my surprise years later to discover that veggies aren't supposed to be mushy and tasteless. I like them best raw now. My second favorite is steamed or stir-fried. This recipe calls for broccoli, not one of my favorites but with a good sauce, even broccoli can be tasty.

Szechuan is spicy and I love spicy. Crushed red pepper . . . yum! I tried substituting grated ginger from my frozen stock, but that didn't work well so I resorted to the dried. And I left out the peanuts. But it was still fantastic! I can't wait for shrimp to go on special at my grocery store. I think this would be even better made with shrimp instead of chicken.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper.

Kung Pao Chicken
(Source: Cooking Light, December 2005)
1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
4 cups broccoli florets
1 tablespoon ground fresh ginger, divided
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/4-inch strips
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy suace
1 teaspoon cornstarch
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoons coarsely chopped salted peanuts
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and 2 teaspoons ginger to pan; saute 1 minute. Add water. Cover; cook 2 minutes or until broccoli is crisp-tender. Remove broccoli from pan; keep warm.
Heat remaining 2 teaspoons oil in pan; add remaining 1 teaspoon ginger, crushed red pepper, and chicken. Cook 4 minutes or until chicken is lightly browned, stirring frequently.
Combine broth and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, and stir with a whisk. Add broth mixture to pan; cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Return broccoli mixture to pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with peanuts.
Yield: 4 servings
Recycle: hoisin sauce bottle, rice wine vinegar bottle, soy sauce bottle
Compost: broccoli stem, garlic skins