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Chicken worth counting.

21 May

Sadly I’m approaching the end of my cookbooks. Hard to believe I’ve posted a recipe from a different cookbook every single day since January 1. I had no master plan for doing what I did. I was spurred on by my daughter-in-law who questioned why I had so many cookbooks – and if I really used them all. Not surprisingly I discovered several cookbooks (and their recipes) were not to my liking – and I donated them. But I also found at least a dozen recipes that were new and different – and I am excited to prepare and serve them again. And again.

Preparing and writing about a recipe daily also helped me to get through these last five months of Covid concern and worry. And for that I am grateful.

So it’s not good-bye just yet. I will finish out this month with daily recipes – and starting in June Connieiscooking will continue – probably not every day – but often – to share great recipes, cooking tips and of course, stories. I hope you will continue to follow my posts – and let me know if there are recipes you think I should be tackling!

And I’m not done yet with those cookbooks – 10 days and 10 more cookbooks to go!

Today’s recipe I found in The Best of Bon Appetit (1979). I continue to search for new and different ways to prepare boneless chicken breasts. This one is stuffed with cheese – and is a great fix-ahead. Next time I think I would lightly pound the raw chicken breasts to tenderize a bit before adding the cheese.

Cheese Cache Chicken

2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned and halved

4 pieces Monterey Jack Cheese, about ¼ inch thick and 1½ x 3-inches long

4 sprigs fresh sage or ½ teaspoon dried

2 eggs

1 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon minced parsley

Flour

¼ cup clarified butter or oil

Cut pocket in each chicken piece by holding knife parallel to breast and making about a 2-inch deep slit in side. Do not cut through. Place a strip of cheese and a sprig of sage (or 1/8 teaspoon dried) in each pocket. Chill.

In a large bowl, beat together eggs, Parmesan, salt, pepper and parsley. Roll breasts in flour; dip into egg mixture. Heat butter or oil in skillet. Sauté breasts just until crisp and golden, turn with spatula, not tongs. You may refrigerate breasts at this point, finishing them just before serving.

Transfer chicken to a baking dish and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven 8 to 10 minutes or until coating begins to brown (and internal temperature reaches at least 160).

The icing on the cake.

20 May

Yesterday’s post showed off the glossy chocolate icing I used on mocha cupcakes. I’m sharing that easy – and remarkably tasty – icing recipe right here. I found it in Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts (1965). It’s basically melt, stir, dip! This would be the perfect icing for cake pops, Rice Krispie bars and brownies as well. Decadently chocolatey and not overly sweet.

Chocolate Cupcake Icing

6 ounces (4 squares or 1 cup chips) semisweet chocolate

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Place all ingredients into a small, heavy saucepan over moderate heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is almost melted. Remove from heat. Continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until icing reaches room temperature.

Hold cupcakes upside down and dip the tops into the icing. Twirl slightly and then hold upside down for a few seconds for excess to drip off. Optional, after dipping them all, dip each one a second time for a thicker coating.

Cook’s note: I poured the remaining frosting into a small container and refrigerated it. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it but I hate to throw out anything – especially good chocolate. I popped it out of the container the next day and cut it into small squares – voilà chocolate fudge!

Happiness is homemade cupcakes.

19 May

I bravely tackled another baking recipe – this one for mocha cupcakes, a recipe I found in another one of those Better Homes and Gardens Encyclopedias of Cooking (1970), Broccoli to Caudle, Volume 3. Note, the recipe calls for shortening – feel free to substitute oil – hey, this cookbook is more than 50 years old! Loved the short list of ingredients and I was happy to have another use for the instant coffee powder I bought for another recipe. I recommend baking them a tad less – my first batch was a little dry. I used a simple dip and swirl icing from yet another cookbook which I will share in tomorrow’s post. Loved the texture and mocha accents!

Mocha Cupcakes

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/3 cups sifted all purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee powder

Cream shortening and sugar well. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt together; beat into creamed mixture alternately with milk. Dissolve coffee in 1/2 cup hot water; stir into batter. Fill paper bake cups in muffin pan 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool and frost, if desired.

Made 15 cupcakes.

Très bien!

18 May

I love Mexican cuisine – everything from tacos and enchiladas to fajitas and chimichangas! And cooking through my cookbooks has helped me tackle some dishes I love but have never prepared – like these flautas. I found this recipe in Adventures in Mexican Cooking by Angelo Villa and Vicki Berrios (1978). They are fabulous! Do not skip softening the tortillas! And fry just a couple at a time. Next time I am going to try to make mini flautas for appetizers (you’ll find mini corn tortillas in grocery stores everywhere).

 Flautas

12 or more 6-inch corn tortillas

Shredded chicken or beef*

Chipotle sauce (recipe follows) or your favorite salsa

Corn tortillas

Guacamole (optional)

Heat ½-inch oil in a frying pan. On a griddle or separate pan, heat tortillas to soften. Combine chicken or beef filling with just enough chipotle sauce to hold meat together. Fill softened tortillas with approximately 2 teaspoons of prepared meat. Roll tightly and secure at both ends with toothpicks. Light salt and fry in oil until golden, but not too crisp. Drain on paper toweling. Remove toothpicks.

Optional: top with guacamole and serve with additional chipotle sauce. May be made in advance and reheated in 350 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes. They also freeze well.

*Here again I use the soup chicken I stash in my freezer. You can also buy pulled seasoned chicken in most grocery stores. Sirloin or skirt steak are another option. I used about a pound and a half of cooked chicken to make a dozen flautas.

Chiptole sauce

3-4 chipotle chiles

6 to 8 fresh tomatillos (about ½ pound)

2 cloves garlic

2 green onions, finely minced (or 3 tablespoons finely minced onion)

¼ cup water

¼ cup cilantro leaves, slightly chopped

Preheat grill or frying pan over medium-high heat, reduce to medium-low and toast the chiles. Set aside to cool. Place the tomatillos (still in husks) and garlic (with skins on) onto the grill (or in a frying pan). Toast gently, turning often, until the husks are brown and flesh is soft, approximately 10 minutes. Remove stems from chiles (and seeds if you want to reduce the heat). Remove skin from garlic cloves and husks from tomatillos.  Place tomatillos, garlic and all remaining ingredients in blender and blend briefly. Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Will keep 1 week.

Cook’s note: sure you can substitute prepared green salsa (I recommend Trader Joe’s) but geez, this sauce is delicious and easy to prepare. Stir leftover sauce into scrambled eggs!

“Cheese Danish” WW Style

17 May

I remember visiting my Aunt Jo in Los Angeles when I was a teenager – and she would make me a faux cheese Danish for breakfast. She explained it was from the Weight Watchers program (now known as WW) that she was on – and all I remember was that it was delicious! I’ve tried to duplicate that treat over the years – without success – until my friend Esther, gifted me the original Weight Watchers Cook Book (1966) by Jean Nidetch, when I went to work for WW. At last I had the “official” recipe – and it’s just as good as I remember. I like more cinnamon sprinkled on top! You don’t need to be on on a diet to enjoy this sweet imposter.

Cottage Cheese Danish

1 slice crisp toast

2 ounces cottage cheese

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon vanilla

½ page granulated sugar substitute (or other sweetener e.g. Truvia)

Mix cottage cheese with cinnamon, vanilla and sugar substitute. Spread on toast and place under broiler until warmed through.

Ooey, gooey goodness.

16 May

Frozen bread dough was very popular in the 70s and 80s. I remember making both garlic bread and gooey sweet rolls using Rhodes Frozen Dough in a bundt pan. I was looking for a special treat to make for my grandchildren who are in town this weekend – and was delighted find Bake Breads from Frozen Dough (1980) by Sylvia Ogren tucked away on a shelf in my kitchen. The cover is missing – proof it was used a lot – so it was easy to miss! The Butterscotch Bubble Loaf was exactly what I was itching to try. I’ll include the recipe here – but I must be honest – and share that I found an almost identical recipe but one that was far easier to make and took far less preparation. Note, both work. The alternate recipe allowed me to sleep in this morning – and still have warm, gooey butterscotch rolls for the kids!

Butterscotch Bubble Loaf

6 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

1 loaf frozen white bread dough or 1 pound dinner rolls

1 package 3 to 3 1/2 ounce butterscotch pudding and pie filling mix (not instant)

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Generously butter 12-cup bundt pan. Cut partially thawed loaf into 25 pieces or use frozen rolls. Place pieces in pan. Sprinkle with pudding mix, brown sugar and cinnamon. Drizzle with remaining butter. Cover; let rise in warm place until light or doubled in size, 3 to 4 hours. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes. Let stand 30 to 60 seconds. Turn onto plate which has been lined with wax paper.

Alternate recipe:

20 frozen bread dinner rolls

1 3.5 ounce package regular butterscotch pudding (not instant)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

Grease a bundt pan. Place the 20 rolls around the pan. Sprinkle 1/2 package butterscotch pudding over rolls. Sprinkle the cinnamon on top. Melt the butter and mix with the brown sugar. Drizzle over rolls.

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise overnight. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes (my batch needed an extra 10 minutes!). Cook for about 10 minutes and then cover with aluminum foil. The top browns fast! The aluminum foil will help them to cook throughout and not brown the top quite as fast. But cook for the whole time or else the rolls on the bottom will be doughy!

Like a trip to Greece.

16 May

Salad season is in full bloom. Perfect time to take advantage of what will soon be a plethora of fresh vegetables to to add to your favorite salad. I found this recipe for a Greek salad in an older WW cookbook. It’s from Weight Watchers Favorite Recipes (1988). I’ll be honest. I surmised from the get-go that the dressing ingredients would not be sufficient to “dress” the salad. But I was so very wrong. Key is to assemble and chill the salad several hours before you plan to eat it. The cold lettuce coupled with just those few dressing ingredients = an authentic, tangy Greek salad – just like you might find in your favorite restaurant – or in Greece!

Greek Country Salad

2 cups torn lettuce leaves

4 ounces drained canned chick-peas (garbanzo beans)

1 medium tomato, cut into wedges

½ medium cucumber, thinly sliced

½ medium green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

12 pitted black olives, sliced

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons drained capers, rinsed

1 teaspoon each white wine vinegar and lemon juice

½ teaspoon chopped fresh dill

Dill sprig

In a medium salad bowl, combine lettuce, chickpeas, tomato, cucumber, green pepper and olives, top with feta cheese. Cover and refrigerate until chilled.

To serve, in a small bowl combine remaining ingredients except dill sprig, mixing well; pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Garnish with dill sprig.

Makes two servings.

6 points on Blue BUT the recipe is geared for two and there was ample salad for three!

Artichokes. A rite of Spring.

14 May

Buying, cooking and eating an artichoke is my rite of spring. Sure you might find artichokes in your grocery store throughout the year – but they are generally at their all-time freshest in the spring. Sadly I struggled to find any decent ones this spring.

Artichokes are the ultimate finger-food. I prefer them simply cooked and either dipped into melted butter, leave by leave, or into a mayo-based sauce. And yes, you need to use your teeth to catch every delicious bite of the cooked artichoke. Sure you can stuff them with breadcrumbs and anything else you like, but if you haven’t indulged in a freshly prepared artichoke previously, start with one au natural! I found this basic preparation in The All-New Fannie Farmer Boston Cooking School Cookbook by Wilma Lord Perkins (1972). This popular cookbook is still available in bookstores and on used book sites.

Artichokes

Allow 1 per person.

Wash thoroughly. Cut off the stem close to the leaves. Pull off the tough outer leaves. Cut off the prickly tops with scissors. Put in a deep saucepan with 1½ inches of boiling water (I have one of those collapsible metal steamer inserts that I use so the artichokes are not directly in the water). Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or vinegar. Cover the pan. Cook until you can easily pull on an outer leaf (25 to 45 minutes – my artichoke was on the small side so it was ready in not quite 25 minutes) Drain upside down. Set upright on a serving dish. Serve hot with individual dishes of melted butter or Hollandaise in which to dip each leaf as it is eaten. Or serve cold with a Vinaigrette sauce or mayonnaise seasoned with lemon juice and prepared mustard. I made a sauce with a ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon Trader Joe’s Garlic Aioli Mustard.

Stalking me.

14 May

Okay, so I’ve posted asparagus recipes before. Just like I’ve posted endless potato recipes. I crave variety. So I’m always going to embrace a new method of preparing some of my favorite foods! This recipe for asparagus is as easy as they come. Toss those stalks and simply bake in the oven while you’re preparing dinner. And voila! Tasty, fork-tender, gorgeously green asparagus!

I found this recipe in The Jewish Low-Cholesterol Cookbook by Roberta Leviton (1978) – a cookbook I remember reviewing in my Kansas City Star days! You can still find this book on used book sites.

Baked Herbed Asparagus

1 pound fresh asparagus

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons oil

½ teaspoon salt

Dash pepper

Dash garlic powder

Snap off and discard the lower tough portions of the stalks. Pour the oil into an 8-inch square baking dish and tilt the dish to cover the bottom with oil. Place the asparagus spears in the dish and roll them around to coat them with oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs. Bake covered at 375 for 20-25 minutes.

Egg Foo Yum, er Yung

12 May

I am a huge fan of egg foo yung. I’ve tried dozens of recipes over the years trying to duplicate the thick round patties served in Chinese restaurants. So when I saw yet another version, I knew I had to try it. Sadly, it produces flat as a pancake egg foo yung patties like all the others I’ve prepared – but hey, they are delicious with a molasses-sweetened sauce I’ve never tried before. I save soup chicken just for egg foo yung (and fried rice). Already seasoned and easy to chop up right from the freezer.

I found this recipe in The Complete Book of Oriental Cooking by Myra Waldo (1960), one in a series of ethnic cookbooks I have in my collection.

Egg Foo Yung

4 eggs

1½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

¾ cup chopped onions

1 cup cooked pork or chicken or shrimp, chopped

1 cup bean sprouts

4 tablespoons chopped scallions

2 tablespoons soy sauce

¾ cup oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 ½ cups chicken broth

2 teaspoons molasses or dark corn syrup

Lightly beat the eggs, salt and pepper. Stir in onions, meat or fish, scallions and 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Heat the oil in a skillet. use a ladle or ¼ cup of the mixture and drop into oil. Fry until browned on both sides. Drain.

Mix the cornstarch to a paste with a little broth. Combine in a saucepan with the broth, molasses and remaining soy sauce. Cook over low heat, stirring steadily until thickened. Pour over egg foo yung.