Weight watching chicken

7 May

I found several WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers) cookbooks on my shelves. I remember that one in particular – WeightWatchers All-Time Favorites (2008) – was one of my favorites. The recipes are outstanding. You don’t have to be on a diet to enjoy these flavorful, healthy recipes!

I opted to try a skillet chicken recipe – and discovered the points (for those familiar with WW, you already know “points” are assigned to foods) are actually lower under the current WW plan. This recipe is 2 points per chicken breast on the Blue plan.

Love the fresh lemony flavor offset by the briny capers. Easy to make in just minutes. Good enough to serve company!

Skillet Chicken with Lemon and Capers

4 ¼-pound chicken cutlets (or two 8-ounce boneless chicken breasts, sliced lengthwise in half)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

½ lemon, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon drained capers

1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Sprinkle the cutlets with ½ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Melt 2 tablespoon butter in a large nonstick skillet* set over medium-high heat. Add the cutlets and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes on each side. Add the broth, lemon juice and slices, capers and parsley; bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, turning the chicken once to coat with the sauce, until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and swirl in the remaining 1 teaspoon butter; add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Transfer the chicken and sauce to a platter.

*Contrary to what you’ve heard, you do not need a non-stick pan to cook chicken without sticking. It will release itself once it’s started to brown. I use either a stainless steel or ceramic skillet.

Egg-ceptional.

5 May

I am the proud owner of an original Betty Crocker’s Picture Cook Book (1950). It bears no resemblance to the Betty Crocker cookbook I received at a wedding shower nearly a quarter of a century later! This special edition belonged to my beloved Great Aunt Nellie Langer, my grandmother’s baby sister. The pictures are amazingly detailed and step by step directions are included on how to make each recipe. (See page from the book below!)

I’m a big omelet fan and while I’ve made my share of omelets over the years, I’ve never tackled the type of omelet I found in the book. This puffy omelet is a sight to behold and despite it’s brown exterior, was amazing delicately flavored inside! And no, you don’t need a special pan to make it. I made my omelet with two eggs. Feel free to go for more – following the directions below – and of course, using a bigger skillet!

Puffy Omelet

Beat egg whites until stiff. Beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored, beat in 1 tablespoon milk or cream per egg, and salt and pepper to taste. Fold into beaten egg whites. Pour into sizzling butter (1/2 tablespoon per egg) in heavy skillet. Turn heat to low. Cook slowly until light brown underneath (about 10 minutes*). Bubbles will still appear through uncooked puffy top and mixture will look moist.

Place skillet in moderate oven – 350 degrees. Bake until light brown on top and until, when touched lightly with finger, no imprint remains (about 10 to 15 minutes**). Make a 1/2-inch deep crease across omelet – half way between handle and opposite side. (Optional: add desired filling here, e.g. shredded cheese, veggies, etc.) Slip spatula under, tip skillet to loosen omelet, and fold in half without breaking. Roll omelet top-side down onto hot platter. Serve at once.

*Reduce cooking time if you don’t want omelet as brown as mine (personally I love that browned exterior!)

**Similarly reduce baking time – using finger imprint test to check for doneness.

Dill-icious veggies.

4 May

With summer fast approaching and the opportunity to once again have friends over for food and fun – I’m back on the look-out for new and different recipes to add to my culinary repertoire. I found this recipe for essentially pickled beans and carrots in Appetizers by Mable Hoffman (1980). “These will add color to your cocktail buffet table or antipasto tray,” the cookbook author writes. That was enough to convince me to try it! Delish! This simple mixture of flavors and tastes is outstanding. A distinctive sweet and sour vibe with crunch and color! I ended up eating a bowl of it for lunch today!

Dilled Beans & Carrots

4 medium carrots (about 3/4 pound)

10 – 16 ounces fresh or frozen green beans (I used fresh)

2 cups white vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon dried dillweed or 1 tablespoon fresh dill

1 teaspoon pickling spices

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

Peel carrots; cut into sticks. If using fresh beans, break in half. Thaw frozen beans. In a large saucepan, combine vinegar, honey, dill weed, picking spices, garlic, water and salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Carefully lower carrot sticks and beans into boiling mixture. Cover and simmer 10 minutes over low heat. Set aside to cool 10 minutes. Refrigerate 3 to 4 hours. Spoon into a large serving dish.

Cook’s note: I drained the liquid before refrigerating; keep in it the juices if want to continue to add more pickle flavor to the dish.

C’mon baby light my cheese

4 May

One of my favorite Junior League cookbooks is Beyond Parsley (1984) from the Junior League of Kansas City, Missouri. It’s an oversized 250 page cookbook with a wonderful array of recipes plus beautiful pictures. This is a coffee table book suitable for display!

While I’ve used many of the recipes over the years, I’ve never tried the one for flaming Greek cheese. I remember the Saganaki at first Nicklow’s, later Santorini, both Greek restaurants run by the Nicklow family in Minneapolis. The cheese was flamed right at the table, along with cries of Opa – which is a Mediterranean expression of emotion. Now that I know how easy it is to make, I plan on making it again to surprise guests!

Saganaki

flaming Greek cheese

1 pound Kasseri* cheese or any firm white goat cheese, room temperature

3 tablespoons butter, melted

3 tablespoons brandy

Juice of half a lemon

Cut cheese into 3 pieces and place in a 12-inch oven-proof serving dish. Pour butter over cheese and broil 6-8 inches from the heat until cheese is golden. Pour brandy over cheese and flame. Extinguish flame by squeezing lemon juice over the top. Serve at once on toasted pita bread.

*It’s a type of Greek cheese, usually found with the imported and fancier cheeses.

Note: I cut the recipe in thirds for this first attempt and honestly, it made enough for 4 as an appetizer.

Toffee for your coffee.

3 May

Much to my surprise, I found yet another school cookbook tucked away on my bookshelf. This one is from North Junior High School (Hopkins school district in Minnetonka, Minnesota). Sadly I do not remember anything about Cooking Around the World (2003). It’s noted that this is the first ethnic cookbook for the school, and at the time of its printing, the student population represented 17 different countries! While I recognized some of the teacher’s and student’s names, not a one of my children contributed to this interesting cookbook. I decided to try the toffee bars because a. they sound delicious, and b. I had a bag of walnuts I wanted to use up.

They didn’t disappoint. I recommend lining the cookie sheet with parchment paper for easy removal and clean-up. Do let them set awhile before slicing; if you’re in a hurry, throw them in the refrigerator to chill.

Toffee Bars

1 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 12-ounce bag of milk chocolate chips

1 cup (more or less) chopped walnuts

Mix together butter, sugar, egg, vanilla, flour and salt. Press into jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

When removed from oven, sprinkle with ½ pound chopped milk chocolate (or a bag of milk chocolate chips). Spread to melt and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

This recipe was contributed by Molly Ostroot

Yes, another potato recipe!

1 May

The Minneapolis Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite warmer weather haunts. And one of my favorite vendors is – hands down – Dehn’s Garden (#325) where you’re guaranteed to find the best selection and freshest herbs. Bonnie Dehn and Jan Benskin published a cookbook – Herbs In a Minnesota Kitchen – in 1992. It is 121 pages of recipes utilizing herbs – from Argula to Watercress and everything in between – in breads, soups, salads, entrees, even desserts.

Always on the look-out for more and different potato recipes, I was excited to find a recipe that is easy to assemble and can cook in aluminum foil right on top of the grill while grilling steaks, chicken or whatever. End result? Smoky, delicately flavored, tender potatoes – a big hit with my dinner guests last night! And no pans to wash! Betting you can alter the spices to your heart’s desire.

Hobo Potatoes

8 small potatoes (I used an even dozen red potatoes)

2 tablespoons butter

2-3 springs of mint

2 tablespoons chopped chives

1 teaspoon water

Place potatoes and butter on a sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle chives on top of potatoes. Lay mint sprigs across the top and sprinkle with water. (Optional: sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste). Cover tightly with foil. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes. To barbecue, place on grill for 20-30 minutes.

Another Brownie Bust.

30 Apr

I couldn’t resist trying yet another brownie recipe. If you’ve been reading my cookbook blogs, you already know the first attempt was a dud. Dry, tasteless brownies – despite the fact they looked good! I found this recipe in Adath Caters to You, a cookbook compiled by the Sisterhood of the Adath Jeshurun Synagogue (1983) in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The promise of “double fudge” really hooked me. But on reflection the recipe merely calls for a package of chocolate chips! Still I was undeterred. Appearance. Check. Ease in cutting. Check. Chocolatey Aroma. Check. Okay, while the recipe turned out a respectable pan of brownies (visually) – I detected bits of batter not thoroughly incorporated – see note below. Once again, try at your own risk. Next time I crave brownies, I think I will head to the grocery store for a mix.

Double Fudge Brownies

1½ cups sugar

⅔ cup butter

¼ cup water

1 12-ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons vanilla

4 eggs

1½ cups flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine sugar, butter and water. Bring just to a boil, remove from heat. Add chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir just until chocolate melts. In a separate bowl*, mix together eggs, flour, baking soda and salt. Add chocolate mixture; blend in 1 cup chopped walnuts. Bake 50 minutes in greased 9 X13-inch pan in 325 degree oven.

*I highly recommend using an electric stand or hand mixer to ensure batter is thoroughly combined.

Simmering sauce.

29 Apr

Ever have a night when cooking feels like a chore – but you don’t want to go out to eat or pick up something? I try to keep certain items in my freezer for just those occasions. Among my ready-to-go options: portion-sized salmon steaks ready to throw on the grill or in the oven (they defrost in minutes), pre-cooked shredded chicken ready to add to a salad or to use for enchiladas or tacos, and finally, meatballs. I never make less than 50 at a time and freeze them on a cookie sheet after I’ve baked and cooled them. Then I throw a meal’s worth into freezer bags; they will defrost and warm up when added to a simmering sauce. Or pile them on a roll for an Italian meatball sub.

Generally I always keep both pint and quart containers of spaghetti/pizza sauce on hand, too. So I was surprised when I couldn’t find any today!! Luckily I found this quick tomato sauce in The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (2006). It lives up to its name. Easy to throw together and honestly – it tastes like it simmered for hours. Try it, you’ll like it! I’m a big fan of America’s Test Kitchen. You don’t have to worry that their recipes won’t turn out! You can still find this hefty 800+ cookbook in stores and online.

Quick Tomato Sauce

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons minced fresh basil

¼ teaspoon sugar

Salt

Cook the oil and garlic in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.

Stir in the basil and sugar. Season with salt to taste. When tossing the sauce with pasta, add some of the pasta cooking water as need to loosen the consistency of the sauce.

Parlez vous francais? Crêpes today!

28 Apr

I remember making crepes years ago – in fact I still own a crepe pan but it’s been relegated to making eggs in recent years. But when I ran across the cookbook Crepes (1969) by Irena Kirshman, (another one of those Potpourri Press paperback cookbooks), I was compelled to try making those ever-so-thin pancakes once again. Word to the wise, like pancakes, the first couple won’t be perfect but it’s easy to get the hang of making them as you make more. You will need a crepe pan, basically a flat rounded skillet with low sides, or something similar.

You can roll just about anything in a crepe. The side which cooks first is the outside because it looks more attractive. Add a spoonful of leftover veggies, chopped meats, Nutella, cinnamon and sugar, scrambled eggs, pudding, ice cream – really anything that will hold its shape. Line filling up across the bottom third of the crepe and then roll up from one side to the next, tucking in the filling. I used leftover salmon spread as a filling (cream cheese and salmon) and served them as a brunch side dish.

Basic Crêpe Batter

¾ cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

1¼ cup milk

1 egg yolk

1 egg

1 tablespoon melted butter or light oil

1 tablespoon oil

Combine the floor, pinch of salt, egg yolk, whole egg and half the milk in a mixing bowl. Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Add the remainder of the milk and the melted butter or oil.

All of the ingredients may be put in the blender for 10 seconds. If the batter is made in the blender, it may be used immediately. If it is prepared by hand, allow it to rest for 1 hour so that the milk and flour will be well combined. The batter my be prepared for later use and will keep in the refrigerator all day. If it is left until the next day it may need to be thinned with 2 more tablespoons milk.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil until it is hot. Tip out the extra oil. A little will remain clinging to the surface – just enough to cook the crêpes. You do not need to add more oil. Return the pan to a moderately high heat. Select a spoon which holds enough batter to film the bottom of the pan. Put a spoonful of the batter in the pan and roll it around quickly until the base is completely covered. Tip out any excess batter. The crêpe should be thin as possible. As soon as the batter appears dull and edges have begun to brown, use a spatula and flip onto the other side. The second side will cook quicker. Remove the crêpe from the pan and throw it away. The first crepe just absorbs the oil from the pan and doesn’t taste good.

Fill as directed above. Makes 12 crêpes.

As easy as (corn) pie

28 Apr

Sometimes it’s fun to have an added attraction on the table – aside from the customary potato, veggie or other side dishes. This recipe for corn pie from From Noodles to Strudels (1972), a project of the Beverly Hills Chapter of Hadassah, is THAT DISH. Savory with just the right amount of spice, this pie could just as easily be served as an appetizer or as a side dish for meat, fish or fowl! Feel free to use chopped chili peppers if you can’t find whole ones. Certainly you can use fresh peppers, but the beauty of this pie is that it is made with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Note, this is not a pie you cut in slivers! Serve it with a big serving spoon to dish out – or provide a basket of corn chips to scoop with. You can still find used copies of this fun book on Amazon.

 Corn Pie

3 ounce can whole chili peppers

1 16-ounce can creamed corn

½ cup cornmeal

2 tablespoons sugar

½ cup milk

3 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Cut chili in strips, removing heavy vein and seeds. Add corn, corn meal, sugar, milk, half of cheese, and butter. Pour into well-greased 9-inch glass pie plate. Will be thin and runny. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.