Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Cooky Book: Dream Bars

The Recipe: Dream Bars from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: nada

The Recipe: Fail! This is my first out and out Cooky Book fail. Like, straight from the pan into the garbage kind of fail. It was hard as a rock and flat as a pancake -- obviously overcooked. But the recipe didn't give any kind of warning about overbaking and even said you might need to leave it in for a bit longer than the suggested time. No dice. And it was sad, because they look so nutty and delicious. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

The Recipe: Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies from Martha Stewart's Cookies

The Substitutions: I omitted the walnuts.

The Verdict: I will admit that these are an old favourite of mine and I've made them before. But I've never covered them here and they really are worth talking about. This is essentially the banana bread version of cookies. They're dense, chocolatey, satisfying, and because they contain whole-wheat flour, have the impression of being healthy.

I don't like sending cookies to school with my kids too often, but if you skip the walnuts, these are kind of the ideal lunch box cookie. And if you keep the salt in (I know some people don't like salt in their cookies), they have the perfect sweet/salty balance. Stellar.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Cooky Book: Teen-Time Chocolate Nut Bars

The Recipe: Teen-Time Chocolate Nut Bars from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: I omitted the nuts to make them school-friendly.

The Verdict: First off, how wacky is the name on this one? Teen-Time? Unfortunately, the Betty Crocker people didn't offer any sort of charming explanation at the beginning of the recipe, making the name a mystery for the ages. I don't know if these would be particularly loved by teens or not, but I will tell you that they were a hit with the under-six set.

These are mixed up in a saucepan, so the chocolate chips get pretty melty before you poor it in the cake pan. I'm not sure if this is intentional or not, but you end up with a swirly, marbly, chocolate butterscotch cake concoction. And cakey it is. They look kind of like brownies, but they're very cakey and delicate. Which makes them kind of messy and I wouldn't advise sticking them in a cookie jar, but they are pretty tasty treats.

Fruit Jellies

The Recipe: Fruit Jellies from the December 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: I used pom/cranberry juice and raspberry jam.

The Verdict: Not a Christmas miracle by any stretch of the imagination. I was a little obsessed with candy making when it came to my holiday planning this year, and this one was my big failure. They look so cute and yummy in the magazine. In reality they were sticky, gooey and way too tart (but that was probably due to a bad juice choice). I'm sitting here looking at the magazine, feeling the urge to make them again, because I am such a sucker for good food photography. Let this one pass. It'll save you money (since the recipe calls for an entire jar of jam) and a lot of heartache.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Cooky Book: Merry Christmas Cookies

The Recipe: Merry Christmas Cookies from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book.

The Substitutions: I used the rind and a squirt of juice from one lemon rather than "lemon flavoring." I also put some peppermint extract into the Easy Creamy Icing.

The Verdict: Okay. I kind of hate these kind of Christmas cookies. My mom used to make white cut-out Christmas cookies that we iced every year and I couldn't stand them. I liked decorating them and all, but I hated eating them. They were just so... lacking. These guys aren't all that different. The lemon adds a little bit of interest, but overall they're just not that exciting.

But they're kind of a necessary Christmas cookie to have in one's repertoire, no? It's like being able to make a good tuna casserole -- you don't love to eat it, but you should be able to make it. Again, I don't love these cookies, but I feel satisfied that I made them. How's that for a mixed review?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Salted Caramel Sauce

The Recipe: Caramel Sauce from Simply Recipes.

The Substitutions: Added a couple of pinches of fleur de sel to make it Salted Caramel Sauce.

The Verdict: Thumbs up. This is easy peasey. For some reason, this year I've become a little obsessed with homemade candy. I've always been afraid of all that stove-top sugar boiling, but now that my kids are old enough to stay out of the kitchen if I give them a stern warning, I'm a little more confident that I'm not going to fatally burn anyone with molten sugar. This sauce takes about five minutes to make and is pretty delicious. Next time I would have added more salt. That's all I have to say on the matter.

The Cooky Book: Scotch Shortbread

The Recipe: Scotch Shortbread from The Cooky Book by Betty Crocker

The Substitutions: none

The Verdict: I needed to make some shortbread, so I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone by doing the Cooky Book version. Meh. The dough was incredibly hard to work with, thus incredibly hard to roll, and incredibly hard to cut. The result is a very small yield of crumbly, time-consuming shortbread. Sure, it's buttery and all that, but disappointing. The plan was to serve these guys up with some salted caramel sauce and lemon curd, but I think I'm going to have to (wait for it...) go and buy some pre-made shortbread from the grocery store. Because I only ended up with about two dozen of these guys and I don't want to go through the pain of having to make another batch. Sad.

The Cooky Book: Candy Cane Cookies

The Recipe: Candy Cane Cookies from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: I skipped the crushed candy topping (because I'm freezing them and it all would have fallen off anyway) and I used butter instead of shortening.

The Verdict: Surprisingly great. I'm officially going rogue on the Cooky Book for the holidays -- that is, I'm doing some of the recipes out of order so that I wouldn't have to make Candy Cane Cookies in July. I'm practical that way. I wasn't too excited about these cookies because cute novelty cookies are usually pretty short on flavor, especially in the Betty Crocker universe. Imagine my surprise to learn that these aren't only cute, but kind of delicious.

The dough in these cookies is basically a almond-flavored plain cookie dough and the almond really saves a day. Maybe it's just because I'm a sucker for marzipan, but these are really yummy. I realize my execution in twisting the candy canes is far from perfect, but I had the help of a very excited five-year-old, so I can blame the lack of perfection on her. Either way, these will be a pleasant addition to my Christmas buffet, which seems like a very Betty Crocker kind of thing to say.

Waldorf Salad

The Recipe: Waldorf Salad from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's America

The Substitutions: I didn't have an apple on hand, so I skipped it.

The Verdict: Pretty darn good. I love a Waldorf salad, if only for the sheer volume of goodies. Sure, I could always eat a handful of grapes or walnuts, but they just seem so much more decadent when they're hiding in a green salad. Sad, I know.

As far as Waldorfs go, this one probably won't pass muster with full-on purists, but it fit my purposes quite nicely. Here's the thing: I'm a weird freak who can not stomach mayonnaise. I'm sure I happily eat things with mayo in them all the time, but if I make it myself and I know that there's mayo in there, I get squeamish. This salad does not contain mayo. Instead, Jamie throws in some yogurt, which is another substance I can't handle on it's own, but I'm less grossed out by it when it's mixed with other things. Like I said, I'm a weirdo.

So, as a result, this salad isn't nearly as creamy as a real Waldorf salad. The dressing ends up like more of a vinaigrette than a creamy dressing, which is fine by my books. It was easy, tasty, a little more low-cal than the real thing. In other words: delicious.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fennel and Apple Meatloaf

The Recipe: Fennel and Apple Meatloaf from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: None, though I will note that I made it with a combo or turkey and bulk sausage.

The Verdict: This is one of those change-em-up recipes, where they offer two or three meatloaf variations, each more delicious looking than the next. I'm a sucker for fennel, so this one called my name. And man, is it ever delicious. Like, super delicious. Adding sausage keeps the turkey from getting too dry, but I think all the veg in there help out too. I'm definitely going to try the other variations, but this one is so fresh and tasty it might become a dinner standard in our house.

Oven Roasted Potatoes

The Recipe: Oven Roasted Potatoes from AllRecipes. Recipe found here.

The Substitutions: None.

The Verdict: Pretty darn good. This is simple, simple, simple, but simple with spice, if that makes sense. You need to have a fairly well-stocked spice rack to pull this one off, but if you're missing a spice or two you probably can just skip it. My crew find regular roasted potatoes too bland (I know, they're crazy), so these were very well received.

Coconut Key-Lime Pie

The Recipe: Coconut Key-Lime Pie from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food. Recipe online here.

Substitutions: None.

The Verdict: I'm kind of speechless over this one. First off, you should not know what goes into key lime pie. It's essentially an egg yolk omelet rounded off by loads of condensed milk and topped with whipped cream. Hello, heart attack. But if you can ignore that, this pie is unbelievable. Creamy, coconuty and even better the next day (especially if you eat it directly out of the fridge by the spoonful). My husband actually said it's the best thing I've ever made. I'm not sure I disagree.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Peanut Brittle

The Recipe: Peanut Brittle from the December 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: nada

The Verdict: Easy peasy. It's peanut brittle -- there's not much to say. Hard, stuck in your teeth, crunchy, peanut brittle. My only word of caution: you cook the sugar for 20 minutes -- when you're getting close to the end of that 20 minutes, WATCH THE STOVE. I burned the first batch and not only did it stink up the house, but I suddenly had all of this molten blackened sugar and didn't know what to do with it. I was afraid of pouring it into a bowl because I knew once it hardened, I'd never be able to get it out. I also knew that pouring it down the sink could result in a hefty plumbing bill. I ended up pouring it into a paper plate after it had cooled slightly and then threw the plate out when it was hard as a rock. On the upside, it all washed out of the pot in the dishwasher, which was a pleasant surprise.

Oh, and it tastes delicious. Not the burnt stuff, batch #2.

The Cooky Book: Lemon Squares

The Recipe: Lemon Squares from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book

The Substitutions: none.

The Verdict: Severe disappointment. There are a million recipes for lemon squares. Everyone has their favourite specifications: the right crust, the right amount of filling, and the right balance between sweet and sour. When I was making this recipe I said to myself "there is not enough lemon juice in here. I should up the lemon juice." But did I do it? Not really.

Last year's lemon bars (and I can't remember what recipe I used for the life of me) were too tart, so I was a bit gun-shy about going off-recipe and adding a bunch of extra lemon. The recipe only calls for two tablespoons. I juiced a small lemon and it yielded about three tablespoons and I put all of it in. Still, not nearly tart enough. Not even close. The lemon flavor is faint, at best. I also think that there is generally not enough filling or, alternately, the crust is too thick. I also baked this for the minimum time (and with my oven I usually have to bake for the max), and it was too brown in the middle in too chewy around the edges.

So is this a flawed recipe? Perhaps. Or perhaps those of you who don't like anything that's too tart would love it. But why would you make lemon squares if you don't like things that are tart? Anyway, it'll be back to the drawing board next Christmas, but for now these are happily hanging out in the freezer, ready to hit my holiday cookie plate. Because while they're not perfect, they're still lemon squares, which is worth something.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The recipe: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo from the Canadian Living Slow Cooker cookbook. Recipe online here

Substitutions: None. I took the chorizo option and opted out of adding white wine.

Verdict: Not bad. This was another slow cooker recipe that required a lot of prep, which is kind of a pain. The taste was yummy, but I'm doubting very authentic. I went with chorizo rather than sweet Italian sausages and while it was a little spicy for the kids, I'm glad because otherwise the sauce/broth (depending on whether you consider gumbo a soup or not) would have been a little bland. Still, a nice warmer-upper on a freezing cold winter night.

The Cooky Book: Jam Bars

The Recipe: Jam Bars from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: Per usual, I used butter for shortening. I also used the jam version rather than the original Date Bars, which was just not going to fly around here.

The Verdict: I really like this oatmeal/fruit kind of treats for the kids school/babysitting snacks. But I will say, I have had better versions. More hippie versions, should I say? This one is pretty yummy, as far as your classic fruit sandwiched between layers of oatmeal squares go, but man, is it ever sweet. Like pow! Henry, of course, can't get enough of these things. But I couldn't even finish one off because it was like spooning brown sugar directly into my mouth. So yes, this one is a hit, but I'm unable to congratulate myself for making the kids a wholesome snack. And is there any other reason to bake with oatmeal?

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Cooky Book: Butterscotch Brownies

The Recipe: Butterscotch Brownies from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book.

The Substitutions: Omitted nuts and made the coconut version.

The Verdict: After months of bland drop cookies, these were a real treat to make. They were so easy -- I mixed them with a spoon and then just poured them into the pan. So easy. And they're actually pretty good. Everyone in the family agreed that chocolate brownies would have been preferable (what is with Betty Crocker's aversion to chocolate?), but the children have been eating them up with glee. And the best part about bars (or as they call them in these parts, squares) is that the batch is small, so I can move onto something else sooner rather than later.

Stuffed Shells

The Recipe: Stuffed Shells from the November 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

The Substitutions: I used red cabbage rather than radicchio.

The Verdict: This was in the "Confident Cook" section of MSL, and it's really fussy, so I'm sort of shocked I made it at all. But I'm glad I did. These shells are stuffed with cabbage and prosciutto, plus the obligatory cheeses. Simple, but kind of time-consuming. Still, I found it kind of meditative to stuff those pasta shells by hand.

Thankfully, they were appreciated by all. These would be really easy to make vegetarian, but I must say, the prosciutto gives them a great flavour and is probably my favourite part of the whole thing. Either way, I was glad to have taken on a classic and not had it end in disaster.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cocoa Croissant Pudding

The Recipe: Croissant Pudding from the Martha Stewart website.

The Substitutions: I dumped in a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to give it a chocolate taste. I also used whole wheat croissants.

The Verdict: I had some stale croissants staring me in the face, so I went online to find a croissant pudding recipe that called for ingredients I had in my kitchen (i.e. no heavy cream). This one is simple, easy, and really delicious. If I hadn't added cocoa I might have thrown in some cinnamon, because it could have run kind of bland. But this was just perfect, especially when served with some Moose Tracks ice cream.

The Cooky Book: Jubilee Jumbles

The Recipe: Jubilee Jumbles from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: I subbed butter for shortening and skipped the nuts. To prevent the cookies from being fatally boring, I added coconut and leftover Halloween Smarties.

The Verdict: Big time fail. According to the Cooky Book, these cookies were developed by General Mills in 1955 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Gold Medal Flour. Someone at General Mills must have secretly resented Gold Medal Flour, because these are not worthy of a celebration. They're a very basic cookie, but are really... off. I think it might be the inclusion of a full cup of sour cream -- they're just too soft and gooey and mushy. My kids like them because of the inclusion of Smarties, but generally these are a total dud.

Roast Beef With winter Vegetables

The Recipe: Roast Beef with Cabbage, Squash, and Carrots from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: I used acorn squash instead of butternut.

The Verdict: Doesn't this roast look beautiful? Like seriously gorgeous. Oh, how looks can deceive. I have a confession to make: I can't roast meat to save my life. I don't think there's anything wrong with my oven, because my baked goods turn out fine, but I am really bad at judging the size of a cut of meat and adjusting cooking times. Maybe it's because I was a vegetarian until I was 25 and never learned how to cook meat from my mother. Maybe it's because I can never find the exact cut of meat in the grocery store that's called for in a recipe. Maybe I'm just dumb. I don't know.

Anyway, I cooked this sucker (which was only slightly heavier than the cut called for in the recipe, but admittedly thicker and rounder) for about a half hour longer than called for and it was still a bloodbath. Like, really rare. I realize this is not the fault of the recipe, but I do find Martha Stewart recipes often have ridiculously short cooking times. Anyway, it made for a bit of a dinner disaster.

What we were able to eat (at a late hour) was not bad, though. These vegetables were quite tasty, though it was a little heavy on the cabbage. Not a bad recipe. If you know how to cook a roast, that is.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Charmoula Chicken

The Recipe: Charmoula Chicken from the Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection. Similar (non-crock pot) recipe here.

The Substitutions: nada

The Verdict: Yum! I will admit, this is actually the second time I've made this in the last two weeks. It is really good -- flavourful, without being super spicy or zingy or zesty or whatever makes over flavoured dishes so overwhelming. I served mind with a nice crusty bread, lots of butter and some green beans, but it would also be nice over rice. It is one of those annoying slow cooker recipes that involves browning everything and cooking the onions beforehand (I prefer the dump and plug in variety) and there's no veg in it, so it's not the kind of thing where you can walk in the door at 6 pm and be eating five minutes later. But it's so tasty, none of that matters. Did I say yum?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Cooky Book: Molasses Jumbles

The Recipe: Molasses Jumbles from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

Substitutions: butter for shortening, per usual. I also went for the suggested lemon version.

The Verdict: I was not particularly looking forward to this recipe. It's one of those weird wartime ration recipes that requires very little butter and no eggs. It also requires a lot of molasses. A lot. As a result, it has that weird flavor that only someone who grew up with wartime rations could love. Or so I thought. While I took one bite and spit the rest of the cookie into the sink, my kids can't get enough of these. Despite there being no spice in it (which makes me think that the alternate version using spices might be much better), my daughter says they taste like Christmas gingerbread, which in turns reminds her of Santa, which makes her feel a sense of delight. My two-year-old son eats them with gay abandon. Maybe I'm raising old souls. Or maybe kids love molasses. Or maybe my kids are weird. Either way, there's no way I'm ever making these horrid little cookies again, but they do get two tiny thumbs up.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pecan Pie

The Recipe: Lorraine Bracco's Pecan Pie from Martha (online recipe here.

The Substitutions: None really except (gasp!) I bought pre-made pie dough. Sorry, Martha.

The Verdict: I've actually made this pie before, and while I find the amount of corn syrup to be unholy, I'm afraid to try another because it's so good. Not too sweet, enough filling that it doesn't get dry or hard, and really yummy, especially if you add bourbon (which is optional). I really love pecan pie. There's a recipe for one with chocolate chips in the new Everyday Food and I might try that, but there's really no reason to deviate from this one because it's that good. Oh, and apologies for the crap photo, but I didn't remember to take a photo before my extended family dove in and decimated this delicious pie.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pizza Cupcakes

The Recipe: Mini Deep-Dish Pizzas from the September 2010 Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: I used bottled pizza sauce instead of tomato. I also used Pilsbury pizza dough. Hooray for processed food! (Kidding, kidding)

The Verdict: This is an instant lazy mom's lunchtime favourite. The kids call them Pizza Cupcakes and they love them. Obviously, you can make it way healthier by using homemade pizza dough and non-processed toppings. But when you just feel like squirting some pre-made sauce into a cupcake and topping it with cheese and pepperoni, this is genius.

The Cooky Book: Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

The Recipe: Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: Per usual, I subbed butter in for shortening. I also skipped the raisins (hated in this household), skipped the nuts (not allowed at school) and added in some chocolate chips (so people would actually eat them). Since the recipe required simmering the raisins and then adding the cooking water to the mix, I mixed a little bit of maple syrup into some water and put that it. All of this worked out just fine.

The Verdict: This is the first recipe I've tried from The Cooky Book that seems just like a family favourite. The yield was huge (five dozen, maybe?) so I froze half of them and the fam are still happily eating them up. The spiciness of the cookie actually works pretty well with the chocolate and the dough makes for a nice firm oatmeal cookie -- not too dry and not too moist. These are a classic. If I ever make it all the way through the book, I may just make them again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Cooky Book: Pineapple Cookies

The Recipe: Pineapple Cookies, from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book

Substitutions: Butter in place of shortening. Also added coconut (as recommended in one of the variations).

The Verdict: I can not complain. These certainly fell into the "crazy" category of Cooky Book cookies. I mean, pineapple? In cookies? The results though were neither as terrible nor as amazing as they could have been. The cookies have a nice tender, cakey quality, which I like. The pineapple flavour is not nearly as intense as I would have chosen (I was expecting full-on Pina Colada madness), but does add some interest to an otherwise plain drop cookie.

The sad part is, my kids hate them. And, after a few days, they're getting pretty gooey at the bottom of my cookie jar (though, not as bad as the applesauce cookies, which quickly turned into a mold colony). The good news is, my husband's co-workers can't seem to get enough of them, so I sent the bulk of the five dozen cookies that this recipe yields to his office, where they quickly disappeared.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jack Daniels Cake

The Recipe: Whiskey Cake from Orangette

The substitutions: none

The verdict: I will confess, this is not the first time I've made this cake. I'll also confess: it's not one I make often. Not because it isn't fudgey and delicious. Not because it isn't loved by all that taste it. Because it is both of those things. Very very much so. But this sucker is boozy to the max and I can't torture my children by making a chocolate cake that they can't eat.

But this cake really is a super dessert for those of you who don't have kids or for any adults-only party (get your mind out of the gutter -- I'm talking wine-tastings or 40th birthday parties). It is very very dense and fudgey (as previously mentioned), but the whiskey really is the most prominent taste. If the thought of drinking a glass of bourbon makes you feel sick, this one shouldn't be ruled out -- it has the warmth and flavour of the booze, but not the harshness. Either way, Molly over there at Orangette is a genius and this is one of her best.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Cooky Book: Brown Sugar Drops

The Recipe: Brown Sugar Drops from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The substitutions: Butter in place of shortening and I also added one cup of coconut and one cup of chocolate chips.

The Verdict: After receiving some complaints that my Cooky Book cookies were getting boring (I'm still in the intro to drop cookies section, so this is a legitimate complaint), I knew that if I made the basic brown sugar drop cookie recipe my long-suffering family would not be pleased. But with a few extras (as suggested by the book), these very basic cookies are actually pretty great. With the chips these are just pretty standard chocolate chip cookies, but much fluffier than a lot of the varieties you see out there. Not quite cakey, just fluffy. The coconut is a nice addition too -- I might always put coconut in my choc chip cookies now. These would be boring as dirt without the goodies, but as is they make for a pretty tasty lunchbox cookie.

Rhubarb Loaf

The Recipe: Rhubarb Loaf. I used a recipe from Canadian Living

The Substitutions: Not a one.

The Verdict: Fab. I was going to use a recipe that my aunt donated when I put together the family cookbook for my sister-in-law, but it was for a cake pan, not a loaf, and I was really hankering some loaf (that way you can pretend it's bread and eat it for breakfast). And I do love me any kind of cake that is best eaten with coffee. This Canadian Living recipe is almost identical, except that it calls for veg. oil instead of margarine, which was great, since I didn't have the patience to watch butter soften (and I avoid margarine at all costs). It makes two loaves, which is handy because one can go straight in the freezer. The loaf itself is perfect -- not too mushy when you get the rhubarb, but moist and delicious with the perfect amount of tang.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Cooky Book: Chocolate Drop Cookies

The Recipe: Chocolate Drop Cookies from Betty Crocker's The Cooky Book

The Substitutions: Didn't frost them. Used butter instead of shortening. Added chocolate chips (as per one of the alternate variations).

The Verdict: Not bad. At first I thought these ones were a huge failure because I had a heck of a time getting the baking time correct. The butter I used may have been a bit too soft because these suckers spread like crazy and were not cooked in the middle even when I used the max. suggested cooking time. The second batch, I overcooked (of course), but they weren't bad if you like your cookies crunchy.

My long-suffering family appreciated the fact that they're chocolate in flavour and didn't care about the degree of under or over cookedness. I will say this: modern recipes are a lot more generous when it comes to chocolatey goodness. If this were a Martha Stewart recipe, there would have been at least twice as much chocolate added in. As it stands, the chocolate taste is barely detectable in this recipe, which is why adding chocolate chips was a wise move. And my cookie jar is almost already empty, so I'm chalking this one up as a success.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bulgar and Mushroom Burgers

The recipe: Bulgar and Mushroom Burgers from Canadian Living Barbecue (available online here).

The substitutions: none

The verdict: Yum! We invited a vegetarian over for a BBQ, so I was really excited to try making my own veggie burgers. As a former veg myself, I've had plenty of pre-made veggie burgers in my life. These are so much better. The magic comes from sauteing the mushrooms before forming the patties, which makes the burgers juicy and delicious. I used my food processor to get the mushrooms chopped up really fine, which I think also made a difference. I think I'll make these many times again, even if we don't have any vegetarians coming to dinner.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Cooky Book: Orange Drop Cookies

The Recipe: Orange Drop Cookies from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

The Substitutions: I did not do the frosting.

The Verdict: Success! These were much better received than the Apple Sauce Cookies that made for my first attempt from this reprinted vintage book. As promised, the Orange Drop Cookies were incredibly cakey -- so much in fact that I was tempted to whip up a batch of thick orange flavoured icing and make them into whoopie pies. They would have been perfect. But, even I would feel guilty sending whoopie pies in the kids' snack boxes so they remained very orange-y, not-too-sweet, cake-y cookies. And they're very good. If I wasn't planning to bake my way through the book, I'd actually consider making them again. Well done, Mrs. Paul Lindemeyer of Mason City, Iowa, to whom this recipe is credited. Well done, indeed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Stuffed Cheddar Burgers

The Recipe: Stuffed Cheddar Burgers from Canadian Living's The Barbecue Collection. Recipe online here

The Substitutions: I added about a quarter cup of barbecue sauce to the mix because that's the way I like it.

The Verdict: Not bad. I've actually tried quite a few recipes from this book (sorry, it's summertime and the bloggin' is lazy) and in general, it's an awesome book. This is not my favourite burger recipe from this book (that would be the Meat Loaf Burgers), but it's not bad. It's a pretty basic burger recipe -- with an egg and bread crumbs included, which is a must for me when it comes to homeburgers. A must. I do like the cheese inside the burger, though the method they use makes it pretty concentrated right in the middle of the burger. And my resident griller (I realized the other day that I don't even know how to turn the barbecue on) was annoyed when the cheese oozed out and caught the burgers on fire. But a good burger is a good burger and these are... well, good burgers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Cooky Book: Apple Sauce Cookies

The Recipe: Applesauce Cookies from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book

The Substitutions: I omitted the nuts to make them day care/playschool/summer camp friendly.

The Verdict: The good news is, I finally got my mixer back from being repaired! During the months of being mixer-less, I leafed through my copy of the reprinted Betty Crocker Cooky Book, dreaming of baking my way through it, Julie Powell style. I can't say I'll actually do that, but informally, I'm giving it a go. Applesauce Cookies are the very first recipe in the book, so I figured I'd go for it. Plus, I was intrigued by the inclusion of coffee in this recipe.

As it turns out, you can't actually taste the coffee. After I pulled these out of the oven I tried one with my husband and we both decided that these were "senior citizen cookies." This is not meant as a slight to seniors -- they just have a very old fashioned taste (not surprising seeing as they're from a reprinted vintage cook book that spells the word cookie as "cooky.") There's a lot of spice in them and the apple sauce gives them a very moist texture. Too moist for me. But, lo and behold, when I broke them out for the kids the next day, they LOVED them. Can't get enough of them. And while they're not as healthy a snack as, say, fruit and veg (they are still cookies after all, with sugar and white flour in them), they're a pretty wholesome snack. I don't think I'll be making them again -- especially since the recipe yields 6 doz and the kids are bound to get sick of them by the end of this batch -- but they are a pretty kid-positive cookie.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Project Bolognese: Canadian Living

The Recipe: Bolognese Sauce from Canadian Living online. Recipe available here.

The Substitutions: I added some mushrooms because I had them in the fridge.

The Verdict: I think I may continue on with Project Bolognese because I'm fickle, but as far as the rest of my family is concerned, we already have a winner. I had high hopes for this recipe because it has extra veg in it (carrots and celery), red wine, bacon, milk, and fennel seeds, which I suspected would boost the flavour to the point of being just right. I suspected correctly! This sauce was great -- rich in flavour, nutritious, tomato-y, and much thicker than the Jamie Oliver bolognese. My one complaint is that it may have been a little too thick -- I don't like it when my pasta sauce starts to slip into ketchup-y territory. There was enough in this recipe for two meals and when I reheated the frozen portion I added some water to make it just about perfect. I may have found my meat sauce. Hooray!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jerk Chicken Casserole

The Recipe: Jerk Chicken Casserole from Betty Crocker's Casserole Recipe Cards Feb/Mar 2009. Recipe online here.

The Substitutions: I used a mix of cinnamon and cloves in place of a pre-bought pumpkin pie spice.

The Verdict: I am a total sucker when it comes to buying those pony sized recipe magazines at the grocery check-out. And I am usually sorry once I get them home. The more mainstream-y American publishers (you know, the Betty Crockers, Better Home and Gardens, and Ladies Home Journals of the world) tend to have so many recipes that consist of processed ingredients that I usually don't end up making any of them. This Betty Crocker Casserole Recipe Cards book is no exception -- a huge portion of the recipes are bulked up by cans of cream soup and huge quantities of mayo. Ick. But I did manage to find this little gem of a casserole.

My husband loves jerk chicken. This is not the most authentic jerk recipe I've seen, but it may be the easiest. Baked with sweet potatoes and black beans, it's also low-cal and healthy. And, may I add, incredibly delicious. Tasty, but not too spicy for the kids, our whole family devoured it. Then I made it a second time and it was also a hit. Betty Crocker, I need to give you some more credit. Just stop putting so much cream of mushroom soup in your recipes and we could actually be friends.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Project Bolognese: Jamie Oliver

The Recipe: Bolognese Sauce from Jamie's Food Revolution

The Substitutions: nada

The Verdict: Okay, here's the deal: I really like a good bolognese sauce. Rich, delicious, perfect over long pasta. But have I managed to find the perfect recipe? Not a chance. I think every couple of weeks or so (and this may stall over the summer), I will try a different bolognese until bolognese nirvana has been found. Sound good? Maybe not for the waistline, but otherwise I'm up for it.

I started with Jamie Oliver because in my current life, he and Martha Stewart seem to be my go tos (note: this will change, I am, after all, fickle). Everything in Food Revolution is designed to be easy and this recipe is no exception. Easy peasy. And I liked that it was full of veg other than just tomatoes. My kids didn't even really notice the carrots and celery, and it's always a bonus if I can shove a little extra nutrition into their white-bread and sweets loving bodies. So those are the pluses. The drawback? Not the most delicious sauce I've ever encountered.

It was okay, although a little watery. Since this is an experiment, I followed the recipe to the letter, but I really wanted to add some balsamic to liven it up a little bit. Is that crazy? Anyway, this is a good one in a pinch, but I must explore further. Bring on the spaghetti!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spring-Vegetable Couscous With Chicken

The Recipe: Spring-Vegetable Couscous with Chicken from the May 2010 Everyday Food (not yet online).

The Substitutions: I used the whole chicken rather than just the dark parts.

The Verdict: You know when you're craving something nice and light and spring-like but can't bring yourself to just eat a salad for dinner? Or is that just me? Either way, this little dinner fits the bill. Plus it's super fast and easy, provided you don't mind cheating with the chicken prep.

I'm always surprised when the Martha Stewart people -- employees of a woman who would rather starve to death than eat a pre-made pie crust -- are so hot on using roasted deli chickens in their recipes. I'm usually not much of a deli chicken person -- they kind of freak me out, all roasty and tasty-smelling, sitting in their plastic boxes in the grocery store. But I also like the idea of eating a meal that contains roast chicken without actually having to, you know, roast a chicken. So, if you are into buying a deli chicken, hot in the box, this meal can be whipped up in no time flat.

And it is rather yummy. The couscous has an amazingly lemon-y flavour, which makes for that springtime feel. You cook the asparagus in the couscous, which means that it's not overcooked at all and is very crisp to the bite. It wasn't substantial enough or bombastic enough in flavour to satisfy my hungry-man husband, but I'll definitely try it another time when he's not around. Or for lunch. It would make a great lunch.

Lemon-Raspberry Whoopie Pies

The Recipe: Lemon-Raspberry Whoopie Pies from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food.

The Substitutions: zilch

The Verdict: Well -- where to start? This was my first foray into whoopie pies. Since anyone will tell you that whoopie pies are "the new cupcake," I knew I had to get in on the action. The first thing I will say about this recipe is that this is not the greatest introduction to whoopie pies. They were okay, but no one was wowed. I blame this on the filling.

The recipe was easy enough -- first I made the cookies, which were not-too-sweet lemon biscuits. I think next time around I would have added the juice of the lemon as well as the zest, because they weren't lemon-y enough for my taste. But they were good. My problems came with the filling. First problem: my KitchenAid stand mixer broke and I've yet to get it fixed. So I borrowed my mom's flimsy little mixer and it was not whipping the cream as whippy as I needed it. So it wasn't as fluffy and delicious as I imagined. Also, I think I'd be better off with a more substantial filling -- this one is just whipped cream with raspberries folded in, which really squirts out the sides of the pies when assembled. Not great news. Finally, it's a little early for raspberry season in these parts and mine were not ripe and delicious. Slightly bitter even. Again, not great news.

But I am still intrigued by the concept of the whoopie pie. Since my husband's motto is "if it's not chocolate, it's a waste of dessert," I'm sure you can all see where this is going next...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spinach and Meatball Calzones

The Recipe:Spinach and Meatball Calzones from the May 2010 issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: None, really. I used Pilsbury pizza dough.

The Verdict: Yum, but I need to give it another crack. Here's the thing: I rarely make anything that requires rolling out dough. I am the world's worst roller. It is just not one of my talents. So, I did have a bit of trouble rolling out the calzones and shaping them and then getting enough filling in them and folding them over and sealing them. It was sad. So I ended up with some messy calzones and some overly doughy calzones. I realize this is a problem with me, not with the recipe and I promise to try again.

That aside, these were pretty tasty. The "meatballs" are actually bits of sausage, and I do get a weird thrill out of these kinds of cheater recipes. Plus I always want to order a meatball sub when I go to Subway, but then cave and get a healthier option (not that I go to Subway very often), and this kind of satisfies that craving. I've made Everyday Food calzone recipes before and, obviously, you could pretty much put anything you want in them. This one was definitely a hit with my gang and felt like a good alternative to take-out pizza.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Salsa Turkey Meat Loaf

The Recipe: Salsa Turkey Meatloaf from Canadian

The Substitutions: Quite a few. I whizzed all the ingredients except the turkey and the cheese in a food processor along with a carrot and a celery stalk to up the nutrition value.

The Verdict: Pretty good. I combined the turkey salsa part with a "healthy" beef loaf recipe I use all the time (I think it was originally from Everyday Food). It's a pretty common trick to sneak veg into meat loaf to get kids to eat them, I think. I was a little afraid that this loaf would be dry -- replacing turkey with beef has been pretty trendy amongst food editors in the last decade or so, and I've never been one to go for the turkey burgers or turkey meatballs because they just aren't as juicy and delicious as beef. The addition of the salsa (and cheese) to this recipe helps a lot. It was yummy, satisfying and everyone ate it. Hooray!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp

The Recipe: New Orleans-Style Barbecued Shrimp from the April 2010 issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: I used peeled shrimp instead of in-the-shell so it would be easier for the kids. I think I also used regular sized shrimp rather than jumbo because that's what I had in the freezer.

The Verdict: The Everyday Food people promised that this would turn "a weekday meal into a party!" and while this certainly wasn't a party, it was okay. It had some spice, but wasn't too hot for my shrimp-loving kids (these kids will eat shrimp in any form though -- it's by far their favourite food). It was incredibly easy to make, but for some reason I was expecting something unbelievably delicious, and this was kind of mediocre. Still, the combo of the Creole salt with lemon and a boat-load of Worcestershire (which is one of my favourite condiments -- lord, I love an anchovy) was interesting and shook up our usual curry/soy sauce/tomato triad of flavours that are served over rice. Probably won't be making this one again, but it was a nice diversion from our regular mid-week repertoire.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

The Recipe: Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese from the April 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living.

The Substitutions: none

The Verdict: This was another party food (I served it as a side with grilled steak, some cauliflower, and a green salad) and it was gone before I had time to do a photo. It was good, but not necessarily make-again-often good. The store was out of the regular goat cheese I get, so I ended up with a very creamy, non-crumbly chevre, and while it worked fine, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. But the combo of warm, almost mushy potatoes (I cooked them longer than I should have) with a mustard-vinegar dressing was interesting and actually pretty nice. The creamy cheese just melted into the potatoes, and it tasted pretty darn good. So, not an out-of-the-park winner, but a nice side to go with a nice meat.

Artichoke Dip with Fontina

The Recipe: Artichoke Dip with Fontina from the March 2010 issue of Everyday Food

The Substitutions: none

The Verdict: Delish! You may notice that this is just a picture from the recipe in the magazine. The reason? The dip disappeared before I could photograph it. I served this at my two-year-old's birthday party (it was a family party, not a little kids' party) and the fam scooped it up on homemade pita chips in no-time flat. I like this because it serves my love of creamy artichoke dip while respecting my disgust with all things mayonnaise. The creaminess comes from pure cheese, baby! There are a lot of artichokes here, which may not be to everyone's taste, but you could always put in two cans instead of three. A great dip for when you're throwing a party and can convince yourself that calories don't count when you're having fun.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Parmesan Chicken Breasts with Crispy Posh Ham

The Recipe: Parmesan Chicken Breasts With Crispy Posh Ham from Jamie Oliver's Jamie's Food Revolution

The Substitutions: not a one

The Verdict: This was okay. The combo of the chicken with the prosciutto is a good one and as with everything in this book, it is pretty easy to cook. Will I make it again? Doubtful -- and I'll tell you why. If I'm going to add the salt and fat that comes with prosciutto to my diet on a regular basis, it better be damn delicious. Like, over-the-moon delicious. This was not. As I said, it was okay. Salty and yummy, but not even as tasty as a slice of un-fried prosciutto on it's own. And for that, I will have to take a pass in the future. Sorry.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Recipes: Irish Beef and Stout Stew and Irish Soda Bread, both from Martha (stumbled upon them from her weekly email update).

The Substitutions: nil

The Verdict: Obviously, these were made on Wednesday, for St. Patrick's Day. I really love the idea of theme cooking, and St. Paddy's Day is always a fun one, since Irish Recipes tend to be simple, yet unmistakably in their Irish-ness. I've gotta say, these two might become my festive standards. It was all easy peasy to make, and pretty yummy, as far as Irish recipes go (with my family's penchant for curry, anything without full-on zing is often frowned upon).

First up, the stew. It is a fairly average, but foolproof Irish stew. It's done in the oven, which is nice, because you can tuck it in there and basically forget about it. I think I would consider adding additional veg next time because it was a little low on nutritional value with just potatoes and peas. The stout (I used Guiness, natch) was a good flavour booster, making the gravy taste almost like it had been spiked with red wine. Rich and delicious. It's also pretty good served over rice the next day.

The bread was also a winner, but I think I liked it more than just about anyone else in the family. Believe it or not, this is the first time I've made bread that actually requires kneading, and I looooved making it! I think Aaron considered it kind of amateurish because it didn't come out of the oven in a perfect bakery-style loaf, but I loved its rustic quality. I usually am not very big on caraway and I considered skipping the caraway seeds, but the flavour is actually pretty muted. Hooray for soda bread! This meal was a real success. Luck of the Irish, I suppose.