Sunday, January 31, 2010

Toll House Cookies

Toll House cookies have been on my To-Do list for a couple of weeks. After the Allure of Chocolate talk and refreshments, I needed a palate cleanser. Toll House cookies were the perfect answer. Just for fun, I tried the Pan Cookie variation. Oh, who am I kidding? I was in a hurry and didn’t want to spend an hour baking cookies a dozen at a time.

Toll House cookies have been a part of my life seemingly forever. My mother did almost no baking but one of the very few recipes she made regularly was Toll House cookies. When I was setting up housekeeping in college, one of the first things I bought for my kitchen was cookie sheets so that I could continue baking them. When my daughter was young, I kept her busy on Christmas Eve baking Toll House cookies for Santa Claus. Now I bake them when I need a chocolate injection. They freeze perfectly, so five dozen is not too much for one person.

The Pan Cookie variation was easy. The batter spread easily in the jelly-roll pan. After 20 minutes, it was golden brown and ready to come out of the oven. I forced myself to wait until it had cooled down a bit before using a pizza cutter to make smooth, even bars.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Tollhouse Cookies
(source: back of the Nestle semi-sweet morsels package)

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies

Pan Cookie Variation: Grease 15x10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 t0 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Makes 4 dozen bars.

Recycle: vanilla extract bottle

Compost: eggshells

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Thanksgiving Epilogue - Turkey Tetrazzini

There are recipes out there that call for already cooked poultry as a starting ingredient. I don’t usually make such recipes because I don’t like to take the time to cook the chicken (or whatever) first. It’s true, though, that when you’re making something that starts with raw chicken, you have to cook it as part of the process anyway, so maybe the total preparation time is about the same in the end…so maybe my objections are psychological more than anything else. But at any rate, I don’t usually make recipes that start with precooked poultry.

However, I had a goodly amount of leftover turkey as a result of the Nutty Thanksgiving. I’d been looking through a stack of recipes a few days before and came across one I’d printed out nearly five years ago, for Chicken Tetrazzini. It mentioned that leftover turkey also works. At that point I had, I guesstimated, about a pound of leftover turkey meat, so I cut the recipe in half. I also omitted the truffle butter, and used small pasta shells instead of spaghetti.

I think I’ve made this recipe before, but I don’t remember anything about how it turned out. Maybe that should have told me something.

The recipe calls for you to make an enriched and concentrated stock. It sounds tasty, but I didn’t want to take the time. Besides, I didn’t have any bones. So I just used 1 cup canned chicken broth. Maybe that was the problem. The sauce was thin, and on the whole, I thought this dish needed more flavor. Also I felt there was too much meat in it, but then I may have misjudged how much meat I had. And if you do make this dish, I would suggest cutting the meat up small; 1-inch chunks are too big, in my opinion.

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

Chicken (or Turkey) Tetrazzini
(source:, originally from Gourmet, Nov. 2003)

  • 1 to 1 1/2 pound chicken bones (from 2 cooked chickens), broken into 2- to 3-inch pieces
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons medium-dry Sherry
  • 2 tablespoons truffle butter* (optional)
  • 1/2 lb spaghetti
  • 2 pounds chicken meat (from 2 cooked chickens), torn into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 ounce freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Bring chicken bones, broth, carrot, onion, celery, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf, and cloves to a boil in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, then simmer, partially covered, skimming froth, 30 minutes.

Pour stock through a large sieve into a bowl, discarding solids, and return to saucepan. Measure stock: If more than 2 cups, boil until reduced. Keep warm, covered.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a shallow 3-quart glass or ceramic baking dish.

Heat 3 tablespoons butter in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté mushrooms with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, stirring, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms begin to turn golden, about 8 minutes.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then add flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add warm stock in a fast stream, whisking constantly, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. Add cream, Sherry, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper and simmer over low heat, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes. Stir in truffle butter (if using).

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of >boiling salted water until al dente, then drain well.

Toss together spaghetti, mushrooms, and half of sauce in a large bowl, then transfer to baking dish. Stir together chicken meat and remaining sauce in same large bowl. Make a depression in spaghetti, then spoon chicken into it and sprinkle dish with cheese.

Bake until sauce is bubbling and top is lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

*Available at some specialty foods shops and D'Artagnan (800-327-8246).

Recycle: broth cans, spice jars, sherry bottle

Compost: vegetable peelings/trimmings

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie seemed like the obvious choice for dessert for the Nutty Thanksgiving. Only, I’d never made it before and was a bit uncertain about it. I wasn’t sure what all went into one, and for some reason was expecting it to be somewhat complicated.

After a bit of online research, I discovered that some recipes call for molasses. I liked this because I had had to purchase some to make gingerbread, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the rest, so I was glad to find a way to use some of it up.

This particular recipe caught my attention not only because it uses molasses but also because the writer claimed that it was not overly sweet. I like pecan pie, but it can be too sweet, and I wanted to avoid that.

And the writer was correct. This pie is tasty and not obnoxiously sweet. We both agreed on that. It’s also ridiculously easy. Especially if you use a purchased pie crust (which I didn’t , as is probably obvious from the photo). Literally, a child could make this. You just mix everything and pour it over the pecans, and they magically rise to the top. Why have I never tried this before?

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Pecan Pie
(source: Simply Recipes,

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

1 9-inch pie shell, chilled for an hour if freshly made, defrosted for 10 minutes if frozen.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread pecans along the bottom of the pie shell. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over pecans. The pecans will rise to the surface of the pie.

Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes until the filling has set. About 20 minutes into the cooking you may want to use a pie crust protector, or tent the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent the pie crust edges from burning.

Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Serves 8.

Recycle: corn syrup bottle, molasses jar, vanilla bottle

Compost: eggshells

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mediterranean Herb-Roasted Chicken

I’ve decided that an important reason why Americans are so fat these days is that every dish served in casual dining establishments as well as every recipe featured on cooking shows and recipe sites is smothered in a cream sauce or melted cheese, or fried. Sometimes it’s all three. I’ve become very conscience of my weight since joining a gym (spandex is NOT your friend) so I’ve been seeking out recipes that are not smothered in cream or cheese, or fried. They are tough to come by.

This recipe caught my eye because it fits my criteria and is my favorite kind of recipe, the one dish meal. It’s similar to the Rosemary Chicken and Vegetables recipe that I’ve made for years but with different seasonings and roasted in the oven rather than prepared on top of the stove.

Anything cooked uncovered in an oven is going to be dry so basting it or marinating it is critical. This recipe offers an “herb mixture” to spoon over the ingredients. I thought that it would be sufficient until I actually made it. It’s more “herb” than “mixture”. And two tablespoons is not nearly enough for the initial roasting time.

I chose not to use whole chicken legs simply because I don’t care for them. I used my usual boneless breasts. They have little or no fat on them. I assume that legs are fattier because there was virtually no “accumulated juices” to baste with. The chicken and vegetables came out of the oven dry, dry, dry. I also have to quibble with the size of the vegetables. Cutting the potatoes into 8 wedges was too large. They didn’t cook through. Likewise, cutting the zucchini into 2” pieces. Too big. I cut mine into ½” pieces and it cooked perfectly.

Now for the good news. The aroma while this was cooking was mouthwatering. And it looked fantastic when it came out of the oven, probably the most colorful dish that I have ever made. Topping it all off, it tasted every bit as good as it smelled.

I want to make this again. The first time, I would try baking rather than roasting. I am curious if merely covering this would seal in the juices, creating a moister dish. If that doesn’t work, I would add chicken broth to the herb mixture similar to the Rosemary Chicken recipe, adding much more than two tablespoons for the initial roasting time.

Verdict: Needs work

Mediterranean Herb-Roasted Chicken
(source: Cooking Club of America)

5 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 teaspoons chopped garlic
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried savory or oregano
¼ teaspoon pepper
3 medium red potatoes, cut into 8 wedges each
2 medium onions, cut into 1-inch wedges
4 whole chicken legs
1 (4-oz.) pkg. multi-colored mini sweet bell peppers, halved, or 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch wedges
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, cut into 2-inch pieces

Heat oven to 375°F. Finely chop rosemary, garlic and salt together; place in small bowl. Stir in lemon juice, oil, thyme, savory and pepper.

Spray bottom of wide shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Scatter potatoes and onions in pan; add chicken. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the herb mixture over chicken and vegetables in pan; toss to coat. Place chicken on top of potatoes and onion.

Bake 45 minutes. Remove from oven; baste with accumulated juices. Scatter peppers and zucchini around chicken; spoon remaining herb mixture over chicken and all vegetables. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until chicken is browned and no longer pink in center.

4 servings

Recycle: lemon juice bottle, olive oil bottle

Compost: rosemary stems, garlic skins, onion skins

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Chestnut Stuffing

Okay, I admit that one of the reasons I suggested nuts as the theme for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner (or, rather, last year’s at this point…) is because I wanted to make this stuffing again. I’ve made it a couple times before and enjoyed it. If you’ve never tasted chestnuts, the flavor is milder than most nuts, and the texture is softer and more crumbly.

I admit, however, that preparing the chestnuts is a pain. You can buy peeled chestnuts in jars, which would be much easier, but they’re also considerably more expensive. So I started with the raw, unpeeled nuts.

The directions say to drain the nuts after simmering. However, from experience, I have learned that it’s better to leave them in the water until you peel them. In other words, remove them from the pan one at a time, make two gashes at right angles in the pointed end, extend these cuts around, and pull back the peel. Just inside the peel is this fibrous stuff that may or may not stick to the nutmeat. I eventually decided that it’s not worth it to go to a lot of trouble trying to get that all off if it doesn’t come off easily. And yes, this all is hard on the fingers…because of all that, and for reasons of balance (i.e. I feel the nut level in this dish is a little high), you might want to reduce the amount of nuts a little.

This was the first time I’ve tried making dried bread cubes, and it turned out to be easy. I bought a loaf of cheap sandwich bread, cut 7 slices into cubes, spread them on a cookie sheet, and set it in my oven (it’s a gas oven with a pilot light, so it’s always warm even when turned off). Within a day they had dried out.

The recipe as written calls for celery, but I don’t care for the stuff so I left it out.

If you’re looking for this in your BH&G cookbook, it’s listed as a variant of Bread Stuffing; I’ve rewritten the recipe slightly to make it easier to follow. The cookbook says that the basic recipe without the nuts makes about 3 cups, or enough to stuff a 4-5 lb chicken, and that you should double the recipe for a 10 lb turkey. But the nuts add quite a bit of volume (as would the celery if you used it). We didn’t actually stuff the turkey with this, so I can’t say whether a single recipe of this is enough for a turkey.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Chestnut Stuffing
(source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book)

3 cups (1 pound) fresh chestnuts in shells

3 tbsp chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

6 tablespoons butter

4 cups dry bread cubes (about 7 slices cut in ½-inch cubes)

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

½ tsp poultry seasoning

½ tsp ground sage

¼ cup turkey or chicken broth

Put the chestnuts in a pan and cover chestnuts with water; simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Make gash in shells with sharp knife; peel off while warm. Chop nuts.

Cook onion and celery in butter. Combine with bread, seasonings, and chopped nuts. Toss with broth.

Recycle: broth cans, if any; spice jars

Compost: chestnut shells, vegetable trimmings

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Baked Acorn Squash

OldRoses did a great job of posting holiday recipes in a timely fashion. 'A' has gotten behind over the holidays and is trying to get caught up...

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, I purchased an acorn squash at a farmer’s market. Before preparing it, I consulted my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. One suggestion was to bake it with brown sugar and applesauce. I tried this, and it turned out to be so wonderfully good that I decided to make this for the Nutty Thanksgiving. Hey, an acorn is a nut, right? Close enough.

I agree with OldRoses's previous comment that squash (winter squash, specifically - summer squash is pretty soft) is difficult to cut and peel. Butchering a butternut squash usually gives me sore fingers and maybe a blister. But - that's only true for RAW squash. COOKED squash is much easier to deal with. The beauty of this recipe is that your interaction with the raw squash is minimal. All you have to do is cut the thing in half and scoop out the seeds. Removing the cooked squash from its shell is relatively easy on the hands.

Although we’re dealing with squash, this dish is sweet, not savory, even though I didn’t add very much brown sugar, maybe a tablespoon per half. The flavor has a fruity quality to it. (Hey, squash actually is a fruit, technically...) You could almost serve this dish as a dessert. And it’s so easy! It's ideal to make at the same time as a casserole or meatloaf, when the oven is turned on anyway.

Verdict: Yum! This one's a keeper!

Baked Acorn Squash
(source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book)

1 acorn squash

1 cup applesauce


Brown sugar

Halve the squash and remove seeds. Bake cut side down in a shallow pan at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes. Turn cut side up. Brush each half with butter and sprinkle with brown sugar. Fill with ½ cup applesauce. Bake about 20 minutes longer.

Recycle: applesauce jar

Compost: squash shell

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Meat Filled Jumbo Shells

This is another oldie but goodie whose origins are lost in the mists of time. I may have forgotten where I found the recipe, but I haven’t forgotten why I tried it. In my forties, I became an exception to the rule that people of Northern European descent are able to consume dairy products throughout their lives.

I love cheese-stuffed shells, but after I developed lactose intolerance, they didn’t love me. Meat stuffed shells sounded like just the ticket. I eventually found a solution to my digestive difficulties in Activia yogurt. It’s not a complete cure, but I can now eat dairy with minimal gastric distress.

I love this recipe because it’s easy and each shell tastes like it has its own little meatball inside. Stuffing the shells can be a little time consuming. A soup spoon holds just the right amount of meat to fit into each shell. It’s very rhythmical: scoop, stuff, place in pan, scoop, stuff, place in pan. With the aluminum foil covering the pan, there are no worries about spaghetti sauce splattering all over your oven.

Verdict: Yum!! This one’s a keeper!!

Meat Filled Jumbo Shells
(source: unknown)

1 box (12 oz.) Jumbo Shells, uncooked
1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup flavored bread crumbs
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Mozzarella cheese (optional)
¾ cup finely chopped onion
¾ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups (28 oz. jar) spaghetti sauce
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook Jumbo Shells in boiling salted water for 15 minutes. Replace boiling water with cold water to stop cooking until you are ready to use. Brown beef, pork and onion in skillet; drain. Combine meat, onion, eggs, bread crumbs, Mozzarella cheese (if desired), oregano, salt and pepper. Fill each shell with about 2 tablespoons meat filling. Spread a thin layer of sauce on bottom of 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Place the shells in the pan; cover with remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired. Cover with aluminum foil; bake at 350°F about 45 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

10 to 12 servings.

Recycle: spaghetti sauce bottle

Compost: onion skins, egg shells

Friday, January 01, 2010

Crazy for Cocktails: Margarita

I welcomed in the New Year with my favorite cocktail, Margarita. I began my hunt for a recipe at the Jose′ Cuervo site where I was directed to use a Margarita mix. I think I’ve been very clear how I feel about pre-made anything. So I hopped over to my new favorite site, Cocktails and wasn’t disappointed. Colleen has recipes for all kinds of mixers for cocktails.

She also offers the alternative of sugar, instead of the usual salt, to rim the glass. I don’t eat a lot of salt, so I have always ordered my margaritas with it, but I have to admit that I am intrigued by the idea of using sugar.

Now a word about tools. Other than the alcohol, I haven’t wanted to invest a lot of money in my little cocktail experiments. Instead of running out and buying a lot of fancy gizmos that I may or may not ever use again, I’ve just been using whatever I have on hand. For a stirrer, I’ve used a chopstick. Instead of a shot glass, I’ve used my measuring cup. For the margarita, I needed a cocktail shaker which I don’t have, so I substituted a Ziplock container. Glassware has also been a problem. I’ve substituted plain old drinking glasses for rocks glasses and in the case of the margarita, I used an old-fashioned wide champagne glass:

How Not To Make A Margarita

My first margarita tasted a little “off”. I decided that it must be too much triple sec. My measuring cup starts accurate measurements at 2 ounces. Anything less than that such as the ½ ounce of triple sec has to be guesstimated. I guessed that I guesstimated a little on the heavy side. The second one tasted better with less triple sec. I still have lots of mixer left so I’ll probably be trying margaritas again some time. Maybe with sugar on the rim.

(source: Cocktails)

1 ½ oz tequila
½ oz triple sec
Dash of lemon or lime juice
3 oz sour mix
Lime wedge for garnish
Salt or sugar to rim the glass (optional)

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.

Shake well.

If desired, salt the rim of a chilled margarita glass.

Pour contents, with ice, into the glass.

Garnish with the lime wedge.

Recycle: tequila bottle, triple sec bottle

Compost: lime