Monday, November 14, 2011

Green Bean Un-Casserole

Most Americans are familiar with the 56-year-old Thanksgiving side dish that calls for cream of mushroom soup and french fried onions. This is a much lighter and healthier version, sized, of course, for two.
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1/4 C panko
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried minced onion flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 lb green beans, trimmed and cut
  • 1/3 lb mushrooms, thinly sliced
1. In a small pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add panko, onion flakes, and salt. Saute about 6 minutes or until crumbs are slightly toasted.
2. At the same time, steam green beans and mushrooms for 6 minutes.
3. Place green beans and mushrooms in serving dish, top with crumb topping.

Robyn's notes: as a refresher, to steam the vegetables with a steamer basket, place a pot on the stove and add about an inch of water. Place steamer basket into pot so that the veggies are not touching the water, but with the water almost reaching the bottom of the basket. With the lid on the pot, bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and steam for the required time.
This recipe is obviously not as rich as the original, but my taste-testers both enjoyed it.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Panko is a Japanese-style bread crumb, which is made from bread without crusts. Panko is coarser than the usual dried bread crumbs, airier, with larger flakes that tend to stay crispier longer. It also contains far less sodium, and doesn't generally absorb as much grease, so makes a good substitute for those trying to eat healthier.

Although several years ago it was difficult to find outside of Asian food stores, panko is now much more widely available and can usually be found near other packaged bread crumbs, or in some areas of the country in the Asian section of the store.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Chicken Alfredo Crepes

Another not-really-a-recipe one-serving dish, to give an example of things to do with crepes.
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In small bowl, combine first 3 ingredients. Spoon mixture down the center of crepes. Roll crepes up and place, seam side down, on baking sheet.
2. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until heated through.

Robyn's notes: I checked the crepes every 2 minutes, starting at 6 minutes, by touching the top of each crepe at the center. After 10 minutes, even though they were only warm to the touch at that spot, I took them out of the oven because the edges were getting pretty crispy and I didn't want them to burn. Turns out they were hot all the way through, even though I couldn't feel it from the outside.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Turkey Crepes Two Ways

This is not really a recipe, as there aren't any measurements. Still, I enjoyed how these came out and thought I'd share them as examples of ways to use crepes. This is a single serving.
  • 2 cooked crepes, cooled
  • deli-sliced oven-roasted turkey breast
  • thinly sliced cheddar cheese
  • cream cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place turkey breast in single layer over each crepe, covering as much of crepe as possible.
2. On one crepe, place slices of cheddar cheese in single layer over turkey breast. On the other, spread or drop dollops of cream cheese over turkey breast.
3. Roll up and place, seam side down, on baking sheet. Bake for 5-6 minutes, or until cheddar cheese in first crepe is melted.

Robyn's notes: I made one of each of these at the same time because I wasn't sure if either or both would come out well, and didn't want to have to re-heat the oven and start again if the first one I tried wasn't good. They both came out well and I ended up alternating bites, so that I'd have a cream cheese bite then a cheddar bite. This is good for a quick lunch, and was filling. Don't roll the crepes too tightly, or the centers will still be cold when the edges appear ready.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick Chicken and Broccoli Crepes

  • 5oz frozen chopped broccoli (fresh ok, too)
  • 1/2 of a 10.75oz can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 C cooked slivered chicken or turkey
  • 7-8 cooked crepes (see notes, below)
  • 3 Tbsp mayonnaise (see notes, below)
  • 1/2 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp additional grated Parmesan cheese
1. Cook broccoli according to package directions, drain thoroughly. Combine with soup, Worcestershire sauce, 3 Tbsp cheese, and chicken. Fill crepes with chicken mixture; roll up and place in shallow baking pan. Combine mayo with milk; spread over crepes. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp cheese. Broil until bubbly.

Yield: 7-8 crepes (see notes, below)

Robyn's notes: lots of changes and notes for this recipe. First, I can't eat broccoli, so the rest of the sauce was made separately while the broccoli was cooking, and then after filling my crepes, the broccoli was added to the remaining sauce and the other crepes were filled. Secondly, this in no way filled 7-8 crepes. The broccoli filled out the crepes a lot more than the sauce that didn't have broccoli, but in total we got about 4 crepes out of this recipe, two each. It was plenty for us with a side of fruit. Third, my stomach doesn't generally react well to mayonnaise, so while I cook with it sometimes, I don't when I'm already feeling somewhat unwell. So in place of the mayonnaise and milk, this is what I used for a sauce on top of the crepes:
approx 2 Tbsp of remaining condensed cream of chicken soup from can
approx 1 Tbsp sour cream
approx 1 Tbsp milk

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Sunday, October 9, 2011

All-Purpose Crepes

I don't usually share recipes that have large yields, or recipes for freezing. I'm not someone who enjoys leftovers or thawing Tuesday's frozen food for Friday's dinner. Crepes, however, are different. When I was a small child, around 6 years old, I fell in love with crepes, and I've been filling them both sweet and savory ever since. This recipe has a large yield, and the finished crepes take up very little space in the fridge or freezer.
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 C flour
  • 2 C milk
  • 1/2 C melted butter
1. Combine ingredients in blender, blend for about 1 minute. Scrape down sides with rubber spatula and blend for another 15 seconds or until smooth.
2. Refrigerate batter at least 1 hour.
3. Brush pan with butter and heat over medium-high heat. Pour 2 to 3 Tablespoons of batter into pan (using a ladle makes this easier), and tilt pan in all directions to swirl the batter so that it covers the bottom of the pan in a very thin layer. Cook crepe until bottom is lightly browned, 1-2 minutes. Turn carefully with spatula and brown the other side for a few seconds until set. Remove from pan with spatula; stack between layers of waxed paper.

Yield: 30 to 35 crepes

Robyn's notes: do not feel that your crepes need to be perfectly uniform in size or an exact circle. Basically you are making an exceptionally thin pancake. Whereas when making pancakes, you're watching for bubbles to form, when making crepes you're watching for the surface sheen to disappear. When the surface of the crepe batter appears dull, that's when it's time to turn the crepe over. Once the crepes have been made and stacked on the waxed paper, they can be stored in the fridge or freezer in a ziploc bag. Fridge for about a week, freezer for up to 4 months. This batter can be used for any manner of fillings, both sweet and savory. Be creative, or search "crepes" in the sidebar for my recipes using this base.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Gluten-Free Vanilla Cupcake Pair

This is an adaptation of this recipe by How Sweet It Is.
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 C brown rice flour mix
  • pinch xanthan gum
  • 1/4 heaping tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 2 liners.
2. In medium bowl, add egg white and sugar and beat until combined. Add vanilla and melted butter and stir until mixed. Add brown rice flour mix, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt and stir until smooth. Stir in milk. Divide batter equally between the 2 cupcake liners.
3. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool completely, then frost as desired.

Robyn's notes: This is not a fabulous version of the recipe. The cupcakes seemed very dense and slightly rubbery to me, and weren't good on their own, they must be frosted to taste good. However, with a good frosting and with the understanding that I found the original recipe to be more of a muffin than a cupcake, they're reasonable.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffin Pair

After I made my Chocolate Cupcake Duo, an adaptation of this recipe by How Sweet It Is, I realized that the cupcakes were very similar to the chocolate chocolate chip muffins that we used to get when we had a Costco membership. This recipe is almost exactly the same as my earlier one, just a couple minor changes.
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1/4 heaping tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 2 Tbsp chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 2 liners.
2. In medium bowl, add egg white and sugar and beat until combined. Add vanilla and melted butter and stir until mixed. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and stir until smooth. Stir in milk, then chocolate chips. Divide batter equally between the 2 cupcake liners.
3. Bake at 350 for 16-18, or until cake is set. Let cool completely.

Robyn's notes: I didn't even check the muffins until they'd baked for 18 minutes.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Peanut Butter Frosting

As soon as I decided to make the vanilla cupcakes mentioned here, I knew I wanted to make a chocolate version, but not with chocolate frosting. I'm a big fan of chocolate and peanut butter, so decided to create a small-batch peanut butter frosting.

2 tsp peanut butter
1/2 Tbsp shortening
1/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 Tbsp milk

In a small bowl, cream the peanut butter, shortening and powdered sugar until well combined. Gradually beat in enough milk to achieve spreading consistency.

Robyn's notes: the peanut butter flavour in this frosting is light, not overwhelming. I had exactly enough frosting for two of my chocolate cupcakes.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Chocolate Cupcake Duo

This is my adaptation of this recipe by How Sweet It Is.
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1/4 heaping tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Tbsp milk
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 2 liners.
2. In medium bowl, add egg white and sugar and beat until combined. Add vanilla and melted butter and stir until mixed. Add flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt and stir until smooth. Stir in milk. Divide batter equally between the 2 cupcake liners.
3. Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes, or until cake is set. Let cool completely, then frost as desired.

Robyn's notes: this version of the recipe still seems very much like muffins to me, but still yummy. I frosted these with my peanut butter frosting.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Chocolate Frosting for Cupcake Pairs

I wanted to try this recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes by How Sweet It Is, but I don't keep frosting in the house and I didn't want to have a bunch of frosting left over. So I looked at what was in the cupboard, and wrote this recipe for small-batch chocolate frosting. I have also included notes below on my experience with the cupcake recipe.
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1oz bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 Tbsp milk
1. Cream butter in an electric mixer until fluffy, add vanilla. Slowly add powdered sugar with the mixer on low speed. Pour in melted chocolate and beat until incorporated. Add milk 1 teaspoon at a time with mixer on low speed, until desired consistency is reached.

Robyn's notes on the frosting: I used 62% cacao bittersweet chocolate. Note, bittersweet chocolate and unsweetened chocolate are not the same. Be sure you have the right ingredient. I ended up not using the entire 1/2 Tbsp of milk, but you may want the frosting thinner, so use as much of the milk as you need. If it gets too thin by mistake, add additional powdered sugar. The recipe made a bit more than needed, probably enough to frost three cupcakes, but definitely better than having an entire canister of frosting in the fridge.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Robyn's notes on the cupcakes: I find these cupcakes more like muffins, they're denser than I usually consider cupcakes to be, and several people in the comments on the linked blog post complained that their cupcakes were very "eggy". After 12 minutes of baking, my cupcakes were still liquid inside, I had to cook them for 17 minutes, and many comments over there mentioned cooking for up to 20 minutes. Be sure to fill the empty muffin tin cups with water, to keep your tin from warping. GF: cupcakes are not gluten-free! My gluten-free version will be posted soon. The frosting recipe is gluten-free.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Quick Angelic Dessert

This recipe takes advantage of some pre-prepared items, and so can be thrown together very quickly.
  • 1 Angel Food cupcake (from 4-count package*)
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar 'n Spice Fruit Dip
  • approximately 15 raspberries
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar OR whipped cream (optional)
1. Cut cupcake in half horizontally:

2. Spread 1 Tbsp of dip on cut side of each half. Arrange raspberries on top of dip. If desired, dust with powdered sugar or top with spoonful of whipped cream.

Robyn's notes: *Angel Food cupcakes are available in the bakery section of my grocery store. Each cupcake is approximately 4 inches in diameter.
This is a nice way to have a sweet dessert without going overboard if you're counting calories. I can't do an exact nutritional analysis, because there were no nutrition facts on the angel food cake packaging, but each half of this should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 calories.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gluten-Free

  • 1/4 C vegetable shortening (not butter or margarine)
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp egg substitute OR 2 Tbsp of beaten egg
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C + 1 1/2 tsp Brown Rice Flour Mix
  • 3/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C chocolate chips (about 3oz)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Combine shortening and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fluffy.
3. Add flour, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt; mix until well blended. Mix in chocolate chips.
4. Drop heaping teaspoons of dough onto cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake in center of oven for 8-10 minutes until light golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Yield: 18 cookies

Robyn's notes: this recipe has been reduced heavily, the original recipe made 70 cookies. The original recipe said to grease the cookie sheet with cooking spray, which I did for the first batch that went into the oven. The cookies came out with a strange spreading:

and though they tasted ok, they were very greasy and the scallopy edge was sharp, crunchy, and not pleasant. I pulled out a fresh cookie sheet for the last few cookies, and did not spray it with cooking spray. The cookies came out without that spread (see photo at top of recipe), but they were very difficult to get off the pan and were still quite greasy (I had to wash my hands after picking one up). Next time I attempt this recipe, I'll try using parchment paper, see if that helps. This recipe does not keep you from ever baking any cookies because you've eaten the raw dough too fast, but the dough is ok. I ate a spoonful of it and it was similar to standard cookie dough, just a little less developed, likely due to the lack of butter. The cookies did not seem at all grainy to me, so in this instance, the use of Bob's Red Mill brand brown rice flour in the flour mix was acceptable.

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gluten-Free Brown Rice Flour Mix

In measurements:
  • 2 C brown rice flour (extra finely ground)
  • 2/3 C potato starch (not potato flour)
  • 1/3 C tapioca flour
For a larger batch:
  • 6 C brown rice flour (extra finely ground)
  • 2 C potato starch (not potato flour)
  • 1 C tapioca flour
1. Combine all ingredients, based on the measurements for the batch size you're making. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Robyn's notes: this recipe comes from a book by the Food Philosopher. She stresses that it's very important to use an extra finely ground brown rice flour (not just any grind), or the baked goods will be gritty, heavy, and/or crumbly. She recommends Authentic Foods brand, and mentions that they now make this entire recipe already prepared under the name of GF Classical Blend. It can be purchased online, and the price looks reasonable, but part of my focus here was to make and test the recipe based on what was available at my local chain grocery store (I didn't even go to the Trader Joe's in town or the nearest Whole Foods, because I know they're not available to everybody). So I'm using Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour, which I bought for just over $3 at Nob Hill (Raley's). It's true that I can feel a bit of grittiness between my fingers, but that may be partly because I was forewarned. Once I've cooked with it, I'll add my notes to this entry and give this flour a star rating.

Remember that when measuring flour, especially gluten-free flours, not to dip the measuring cup directly into the flour. Spoon the flour into the measuring cup, shake it gently, and use the flat part of a table knife to level it off.

Xanthan Gum

A white powdery flour, produced from the fermentation of corn sugar, which is used as a thickener or binding agent for dressings, gravies, and sauces. It's an ideal substitute for gluten in gluten-free baking.

Unlike other gums, it is stable under a wide range of temperatures. Most recipes call for very small amounts, which allows a small bag of xanthan gum to go a long way.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Tapioca Flour

Derived from the root of the cassava plant, this flour is very light, powdery, smooth, and tasteless. It can be used as a thickening agent, as well as combined with other gluten-free flours to make delicious baked goods. It thickens quickly and at a relatively low temperature, which makes it a good choice for correcting a sauce just before serving it.

Tapioca flour and tapioca starch are two names for the same product.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Potato Starch

A flour derived from cooked potatoes that are crushed and washed until just the starch remains. The starch is then dried to a powder.

Potato Starch is used as a thickener for sauces, soups, and stews. Potato starch tolerates higher temperatures than cornstarch when used as a thickener. It's a natural way to add moistness to many baked goods.

Unlike cornstarch or other grain-based foods, it is permitted for use during Passover.

Potato starch and potato flour are not interchangeable.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Rice Flour

Polished rice, with the hulls removed and the raw rice ground very finely, becomes rice flour. It can be made from either white rice or brown rice. Rice flour has a similar texture to cornflour and can be used as a thickening agent, mixed with a little water, milk, or stock according to the recipe, and added while the dish is still hot and still cooking. It is a particularly good substitute for people who are intolerant of wheat.

In Asia, it is widely used for making rice papers and the dough for dumplings. It is often used to make sticky Asian cakes and sweets. Rice flour can be combined with wheat flour to make bread, but this produces a crumbly loaf.

Glutinous rice flour is a separate product and is usually labelled rice powder. It is made from finely ground glutinous rice, or "sweet rice" and is principally starch, plus a small amount of protein. The starch is waxy and makes an excellent gel.

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Mini Cupcakes

The original recipe this was based on was Chloe's Vegan Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake Cupcakes, by Chloe Coscarelli. I had never heard of Coscarelli, or her experience winning Food Network's Cupcake Wars...or, for that matter, the show. I learned of both when I recently flipped through an issue of Sunset magazine that included Chloe's recipe. Or did it? The recipe on Coscarelli's site is not the same as the recipe in Sunset magazine. Both are credited as being "the first vegan recipe to win on Food Network!". Regardless, I'm not fussed about which version was actually the filmed recipe, as I've never watched the show. I reduced the Sunset version twice, changed the cupcake size, an ingredient, the cooking time, and the assembly process to come up with what I bring you today.

  • 1/4 cups + 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Frosting & finishing
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp nonhydrogenated vegetable shortening
  • 2/3 C sifted powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp nondairy milk, such as soy, almond, or rice
  • 1 to 2 dozen raspberries, rinsed and drained (See note, below)
  • 1 tsp additional sifted powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 12-cup mini muffin pan.
2. Make cupcakes: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour wet mixture into dry mixture and whisk until just combined.
3. Divide batter among cupcake cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean, 9 to 12 minutes. Let cupcakes cool completely in pan.
4. Make frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, 2/3 cups powdered sugar, and the vanilla together to mix. Beat in nondairy milk until frosting is smooth and fluffy.
5. Run knife edge gently around cupcakes to loosen and remove from pan. Smooth about 1 Tbsp frosting onto each cupcake and cover with one or two raspberries Put remaining 1 tsp powdered sugar in a fine-mesh strainer and dust cupcakes with sugar.

Yield: 12 mini cupcakes

Robyn's notes: The amount of raspberries is not exact because it depends on your preferences and the size of your raspberries. I put only one raspberry on some, and two on others, large raspberries meant only one would really fit, smaller ones meant I could fit two. I found the cupcake batter to be alarmingly thin, but it baked up well. The cupcakes did not rise practically at all during baking, so filling the pan nearly full is fine. Mini cupcakes bake quickly and can go from "almost ready" to "overcooked" alarmingly fast, so start checking them at 9 minutes and if they're not yet ready check them regularly until they are. Although it may seem a waste of time and cleaning energy to use an electric mixer for such a small amount of frosting, it's worth it because it gets the right amount of air into the frosting. I used regular Crisco shortening because it was what I had on hand, and I checked the local grocery to find that they had exactly two shortening options: Crisco, and Crisco butter-flavoured. Both are hydrogenated. It did not seem to make any difference in the recipe. I used Silk brand soymilk, plain flavour (not vanilla), because it's the type of soymilk I always have in the house. Do not be fooled into thinking that because this is a vegan recipe that makes it healthy. Going off of the nutritional facts provided in Sunset, a single one of my mini cupcakes will be somewhere around 100calories and one is not nearly enough! Assuming that you're not going to eat all 12 in a single sitting, I suggest only frosting the cupcakes you plan to eat, then refrigerating the remaining frosting and raspberries and storing the remaining cupcakes in a sealed container to be frosted and finished when you're ready to eat them.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cheddar Cheese Bread

  • 1oz Parmesan cheese, shredded on large holes of box grater (about 1/3 C; see note)
  • 3/4 C plus 2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • pinch pepper
  • 2oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (about 1/2 C)
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 3 Tbsp sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1 large egg
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 5-1/2 by 3 inch loaf pan, then sprinkle 2 Tbsp plus 1 tsp Parmesan cheese evenly over bottom of pan.
2. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne, and pepper together in medium bowl. Fold in cheddar, breaking up clumps, until it is coated with flour mixture. In separate bowl, whisk milk, sour cream, melted butter, and egg together until smooth. Gently fold milk mixture into flour mixture with rubber spatula until just combined (do not overmix). Batter will be heavy and thick.
3. Scrape batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle remaining 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese evenly over top of batter. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking.
4. Let bread cool in pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto wire rack and let cool for 1 hour before serving.

Robyn's notes: this is an America's Test Kitchen recipe, which means it's very specific and has several notes. These are theirs: Shredding the Parmesan on the large holes of a box grater and sprinkling it over the top of this bread adds a nice texture and helps prevent the cheese from burning; do not grate it fine or use pre-grated Parmesan. The texture of the bread improves as it cools, so resist the urge to slice the loaf while it is piping hot. The bread can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days. These notes are mine: I did grate the Parmesan myself, and I measured both cheeses by weight, not cup measurement. Cutting the cheddar into quarter-inch cubes probably took me about as long as the rest of the preparation. The first loaf I made was cooked through (clean toothpick) after 30 minutes, but the top wasn't at all golden. I took it out and let it cool anyway, so that the inside wouldn't get too dry. It was tasty and moist but a bit dense. I'm making two more mini-loaves as gifts, so I will likely let them cook a bit longer to see how they do. The Parmesan top and bottom was a great touch.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sugar 'n Spice Fruit Dip

  • 1/2 Tbsp packed brown sugar or honey
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 container (6 oz) Yoplait® Thick & Creamy vanilla yogurt
  • 1 C red raspberries
  • 1 1/4 C cubed honeydew melon, apple, or pear
1. In small bowl, mix brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in yogurt.
2. Spoon yogurt mixture into small serving bowl. Sprinkle with additional ground cinnamon. Serve with fruit.

Yield: 5 servings (2 tablespoons dip, 3 pieces cubed fruit and 5 raspberries each)

Robyn's notes: this is half of the original recipe, but still makes quite a bit of dip. It will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for a couple days if necessary.  Watch me demonstrate this recipe on youtube!

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Nutritional Information: 1 Serving (1 Serving) Calories 70 (Calories from Fat 5); Total Fat 1/2g (Saturated Fat 0g, Trans Fat 0g); Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 30mg; Total Carbohydrate 13g (Dietary Fiber 2g, Sugars 10g); Protein 2g

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Homestyle Mac n Cheese With a Kick

  • 1 C elbow macaroni (4 oz)
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 -1/2 C whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper
  • 1 -1/2 C grated sharp Cheddar, divided (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/2 C crushed Hot 'n Spicy Cheez-It crackers
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Cook macaroni according to package instructions, drain, set aside.
3. Spray 1-1/2 quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray, set aside.
4. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until well combined (up to 90 seconds). Do not allow the flour to brown. Using a whisk, add the milk slowly and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add salt, pepper, 1 C of the cheese, and stir well.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 C of cheese with the crushed Cheez-Its.
6. Add the macaroni to the pot with the milk and cheese. Stir to combine well, then pour the mixture into casserole dish. Top with the cheez-it mixture. Bake until golden brown and bubbly at the edges, about 20-25 minutes.
7. Remove the dish from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 3 servings

Tips: Once the flour and butter have been incorporated, spoon some of that mixture into the measuring cup full of milk. This will help the milk start to warm up to the temperature of the flour and butter, so that when the milk is poured into the pan it doesn't curdle. The less fat there is in the milk, the higher the likelihood of curdling, so using whole milk you're unlikely to have this problem, but this is a useful trick to have in your arsenal.
When I had finished whisking in the milk, the sauce seemed quite thin to me, but it thickened up a lot during baking, so don't worry too much if it appears thin to you.
If you have a food processor, you can crush the crackers with it, otherwise use the method I usually use (I don't enjoy cleaning my food processor, so I don't use it often): bag the crackers in a zip-loc bag (double bag if not using heavy-duty freezer bags), then crush with a rolling pin. 1 C of whole crackers will crush to a bit over 1/2 C.

Robyn's notes: I wrote this recipe after my friend Patience Ann mentioned that her mom had used Cheez-Its for her macaroni and cheese topping when cooking for a Scouting event recently. I immediately started thinking about the various Cheez-It varieties and how each of them could be used to make a different kind of mac n cheese. My taste-testers really enjoyed this (as did I), and I'm quite proud of it. I made this in individual casserole dishes, instead of the one large one I've written the recipe for. There was exactly enough for three servings.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hard-Boiled Eggs

also known as Hard-Cooked Eggs
  • 6 large eggs
  • Cold water
1. Place eggs in a single layer in a large saucepan (do not stack eggs). Add enough cold water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Bring to a rapid boil over high heat (water will have large rapidly breaking bubbles). Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes; drain.
2. Run cold water over the eggs or place them in ice water until cool enough to handle; drain.
3. To peel eggs, gently tap each egg on the countertop. Roll the egg between the palms of your hands. Peel off eggshell, starting at the large end.

Yield: 6 hard-boiled eggs

If you have extra-large eggs, let eggs stand in the boiled water for 18 minutes.

Robyn's notes: this is the method I use to hard-boil eggs. It seems basically every household has their own preferred method. My family's one addition to this is to poke a small hole in the base (rounded end) of each egg with a pin. It helps keep the eggs from cracking during cooking.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Nutrition Facts: Calories 78; Total Fat 5g; Saturated Fat 2g; Monounsaturated Fat 2g; Polyunsaturated Fat 1g; Cholesterol 212mg; Sodium 62mg; Carbohydrate 1g; Total Sugar 0g; Fiber 0g; Protein 6g; Vitamin A 0%DV; Vitamin C 0%DV; Calcium 3%DV; Iron 3%DV; Medium-fat Meat 1(d.e.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Oatmeal Scotchies

Check yield, this makes a lot of cookies
Update: I have written a small-batch version of this recipe, found here.
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange
  • 3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats
  • 1-2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Butterscotch Flavored Morsels
1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in oats and morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
3. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Yield: 48 cookies

Robyn's notes: I make these in a slightly different order in order to minimize the dishes to be washed. I start by creaming the butter, sugars, and vanilla extract. Then beat in the eggs. I drop the flour on top of the wet mixture, and carefully drop the soda, salt, and cinnamon on top of the flour, stirring the dry ingredients together without incorporating the wet. Once the dry ingredients are fairly well combined, then I stir the whole thing together. Add oats, stir, then morsels, stir. I prefer these chewy, so I cook for the shorter time range.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rigatoni and Ham Bake

  • 1 1/2 C Rigatoni or 3/4 C elbow macaroni
  • 1 C diced cooked ham
  • 3oz (3/4 C) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 1/4 C milk
  • 1/3 C crushed potato chips
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
2. In large bowl, combine cooked pasta, ham, and 1/2 Cup cheese.
3. In medium saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour, salt, and mustard. Add milk all at once. Cook until thickened, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Combine sauce with pasta mixture. Turn into individual 2-cup casserole dishes. Toss remaining 1/4 Cup cheddar cheese with potato chips; sprinkle over top. Bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Robyn's notes: We've been making this recipe in my family since 1981. It's one of those very typical late-70s/early-80s casseroles, but we love it all the same.  My family always uses more cheese than is called for in practically any recipe, so feel free to go a little overboard on cheese.

***** 5 Stars: Excellent. A favourite for both of us, I will make this repeatedly

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chicken and Citrus Couscous Salad

  • 1 C orange juice
  • 2 tsp olive oil or butter
  • 3/4 C plain couscous
  • 6oz cubed fully cooked chicken breast (approximately 3/4 C)
  • 1/4 C dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 C mandarin orange segments, drained (or one "fruit cup" size)
1. In medium saucepan, bring orange juice and olive oil just to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork, transfer to a covered dish, and refrigerate.
2. In 10-inch skillet, heat chicken and peanuts for 4-6 minutes, or until chicken is browned.
3. Add chicken and peanuts to cooled couscous, top with mandarin orange segments.

Robyn's notes: the couscous does not need to be cold, just cooled. This is meant to be a quick dish for a warm day, and if the couscous is hot it makes the orange segments seem kind of gummy. I served this on a bed of baby spinach.**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Sunday, May 22, 2011


  • 4 C fresh spinach, stemmed and lightly packed
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 C coarsely grated zucchini
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced green peppers
  • 1/2 C thinly sliced onions
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1. Wash the spinach in cold water to remove any sand and grit. Shake off the excess water but don't dry the spinach.
2. Place the spinach in a heavy 10" nonstick skillet with just the water left clinging to the leaves. Cook over medium heat until just wilted. Coarsely chop the spinach and set it aside.
3. Dry the skillet with a paper towel and place over medium heat for a minute or two. Add the oil, then stir in the zucchini, green peppers, and onions. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, or until the liquid released from the zucchini has evaporated and the vegetables have cooked down to about half their original volume. Stir in the spinach and remove the skillet from the heat.
4. In a small mixing bowl, beat the eggs, salt and pepper until foamy. Return the skillet to the heat and pour the eggs evenly over the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the eggs are set.
5. Run a knife around the edge of the frittata to loosen it; then carefully invert it onto a plate. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Cut into wedges and serve.

Robyn's notes: this is not something I can eat, but my sweetheart loves when I make frittatas. I like them as a way to use up leftover vegetables before they go bad. My general rule of thumb is about 1/2 cup cooked vegetables for every egg, and I briefly blanch raw veggies (except tomatoes and onions). One that I made that went over particularly well was mostly asparagus pieces, with extra Parmesan. Even though I can't eat them due to my dietary restrictions, I really like frittata nights because they're quick to make and I can make myself a fast omelet at the same time.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chocolate Cherry Bars

Check yield, this is a full-size dessert, not scaled down for two
  • 1 pkg Pillsbury Fudge Cake Mix
  • 21-oz can cherry fruit filling (pie filling)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 C sugar
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 C milk
  • 6-oz pkg (1 cup) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Using solid shortening or margarine (not oil), grease and flour 13x9inch pan.
2. In large bowl, combine first four ingredients. By hand, stir until well mixed. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
3. While bars cool, prepare frosting. In small saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and milk. Boil, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate pieces until smooth. Pour over partially cooled bars.

Yield: About 3 dozen bars.

Robyn's notes: this has been a family favourite for decades, because it's so easy but comes out so good every time. It's moist and the cherry isn't overpowering. This was a Pillsbury Bake-off recipe winner in 1974, and Pillsbury does sometimes change the name of their boxed mixes. I don't know if they currently use the words "fudge cake mix", but any basic chocolate cake mix works. Just be sure it's a cake mix, not brownies, and that there isn't anything additional (such as chunks of chocolate). When making this last night, we had a Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Cake Mix in the house, and that's what we used.

***** 5 Stars: Excellent. A favourite for both of us, I will make this repeatedly

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stir-Fried Chicken with Toasted Sesame Seeds

  • 2 Tbsp hot water
  • 3 Tbsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 C soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 Tbsp canola or peanut oil
  • 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • pepper to taste
1. Place sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium-high heat and cook briefly until nicely brown and fragrant. Place seeds in a small bowl.
2. Whisk the water, dry mustard, soy sauce, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds and garlic in a small bowl.
3. Heat oil in a 10-inch skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add chicken cubes and stir-fry 5-8 minutes until lightly brown and opaque. Sprinkle with pepper, lemon juice and remaining sesame seeds. Cook for 2-3 more minutes until heated through. Serve with mustard sauce as a dipping sauce.

Robyn's notes: this was seriously painful to eat. It has potential, but would need some changes. For me it was especially difficult because I'm not allowed to eat sesame seeds, but I felt that the toasted flavor they'd impart was probably necessary to make the recipe "go", so I didn't leave them out, which meant lots of scraping my food before I could eat it. For me, if I were to make it again, I'd strain part of the sauce and set it aside for my own use. In addition, I'd definitely reduce the amount of mustard and probably be more sparing with the lemon juice. Every time I put a piece of chicken in my mouth, my tongue seized up. I served this with white rice and glazed carrots.

** 2 Stars: Acceptable. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, if I make changes

I did not take the below picture, forgive the poor angle

Friday, May 6, 2011

Skillet Spaghetti with Hot Dogs

  • 1 1/4 C elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 lb hot dogs, sliced into coins
  • 2 Tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2oz (1/2 C) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 C water
  • 1/2 C condensed tomato soup (half of a 10.75oz can)
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain.
2. In large skillet, fry hot dogs with onion and butter over medium heat. Add cheese, water, and soup. Cook until cheese is melted, stirring constantly. Stir in cooked pasta and cook until heated through.

Robyn's notes: this is purely comfort food, I do not claim this as a healthy recipe. Ever since 1981, my family has used this as a go-to meal when everybody is tired or stressed and needs something quick and filling.  See "Using Up Ingredients" at the top of the page for suggestions for using the other half of the can of soup. Originally this recipe called for "sp-o-ghetti rings™" which I've never seen in stores (like the pasta in spaghetti-o's), we really just use whatever small pasta we have on hand. 

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lazy Meaty Lasagna

This is based on the recipe for Lazy Lasagna, which was vegetarian. I was cooking this for people who prefer to have meat with every meal, so I added the ground turkey. Follow the above link for the meatless version.
  • 1 1/2 C wide noodles
  • 1/2 lb lean ground turkey
  • 1 C spaghetti sauce
  • 1/2 C cottage cheese
  • 3/4 C shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, crumble turkey into a large skillet. Cook over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the spaghetti sauce, cottage cheese and mozzarella. Fold in the noodles. Pour into two greased 2-cup casserole dishes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
2. Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 20 minutes or until bubbly.

Robyn's notes: very simple recipe. I had shredded Parmesan in the house, so used that instead of the grated and I think it was better. As far as "greasing" the casserole dishes, I sprayed them with Pam cooking spray. I've made the meatless version in the past using lasagna noodles that I broke in half before cooking. Made this again, for my sister, June 14, 2011, using ground beef instead of turkey. Came out very well.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Processed Dinners For Two

Sometimes, I'm just too ill or too exhausted to cook a full meal. But we do need to eat, and I don't like leftovers or tv dinners, so when I can't cook for whatever reason, I try to stick with items marketed specifically for two servings. Some are pretty good, some are pretty awful, some are fine but a waste of money.

Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini 8oz package

I've walked past this on the shelf a few times and it never grabbed me, so I never grabbed it. But last time I went shopping it was on sale, so I decided to give it a try. The sale price was 2 for $6 (I bought only one) and regular price $3.49.

Pros: definitely enough pasta for two people, possibly even a bit more than we'd normally have. Very few of the tortellinis opened in cooking/draining, so very little filling spilled out. Easy prep. Tasted good. Shelf stable.

Cons: Apparent typo on package instructions. Package advertising not strictly accurate.

Details: the packaging attracted me because it's labelled as "Dinner for 2 in 10 Minutes". It is not, however, a 10 minute prep time. There was very little information on the packaging, and the instructions were nearly on the bottom (it's bag-shaped, so a curved base, which means it was somewhat back, somewhat bottom), but it says "Bring 3-4 quarts of water to a rolling boil". This annoyed me, frankly, because while I do own a pan large enough to boil 3-4 quarts of water, it's my stockpot, which is not often used, and it takes forever to bring that much water to a boil. Since the pasta had to cook for an additional 10-11 minutes after the water came to a boil, obviously it's not "dinner in 10 minutes". The product description on my grocery store's website says "Total Time 20 minutes" but that is not anywhere on the packaging. The same website includes the instructions for the product, which state "bring 2-3 quarts of water to a rolling boil". This sounds much more accurate for the amount of pasta being cooked, so I can only assume that there's an error at the package printing site, and that the instructions for the 12oz size were printed on what is definitely an 8oz bag.

I plated the pasta with two separate toppings, as I didn't have any pasta sauce in the house. I sprinkled a shredded cheese combination over the top on one plate, and it was acceptable. On the other, I tossed the pasta with butter and Parmesan cheese. Better than the other plate but still not exciting, though it's what the packaging suggested.

In the past I've several times served Buitoni refrigerated Three Cheese Tortellini in the 9oz package and liked it. Comparing the two it's basically a draw. The Buitoni fridge pasta tastes a bit better to me, but has to be eaten or frozen within a certain number of days, it's more pasta than we need for two people, and it's $1 more expensive at my grocery store. The Barilla wasn't quite as good, seemed a bit lower quality, but can sit on the shelf for months just like canned foods, and is the less expensive option. Both should be served with a pasta sauce for best results, whether fresh or in a jar, which drops both products down a notch for me because it doubles the price of the meal and means leftover sauce that has to be used or tossed (as pasta sauce is not generally available in sizes serving 2).

*** 3 Stars: Good. At least one of us liked this enough for me to make it again, but not often

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oven Ranch Chicken

  • 1/3 C bread crumbs
  • 1 (0.4 oz) package buttermilk ranch salad dressing mix
  • 1/3 C light sour cream
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In shallow dish or pie pan, combine bread crumbs and salad dressing mix; mix well. Place sour cream in another shallow dish or pie pan.
3. Dip chicken in sour cream, coating well. Roll coated chicken in bread crumb mixture. Place chicken on sprayed cookie sheet. If desired, spray chicken with nonstick cooking spray. Discard any remaining bread crumb mixture and sour cream.
4. Bake at 375°F for 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender and juices run clear.

Robyn's notes: I used Progresso bread crumbs. This recipe keeps the chicken nicely juicy, and it's very quick to make. Not visually exciting, but quite good.

**** 4 Stars: Very Good. Enjoyed by us both, I will make this frequently

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mediterranean Vegetable Medley

Mediterranean Chicken, Couscous, Veg

  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 eggplant
  • 1/2 zucchini
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1 C mushrooms
  • black pepper
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
1. Chop & salt eggplant, let stand 15 minutes.
2. Chop remaining vegetables.
3. Fry onion and garlic until soft.
4. Add yellow pepper and zucchini, fry for 5 minutes.
5. Rinse eggplant and squeeze to remove water and juice, add to frying pan with mushrooms and black pepper, fry for 10 minutes.
6. Add tomatoes to the pan with lemon juice and soy sauce, fry until tomatoes are soft.

Robyn's notes: this was meant to be placed on Foccacia or Ciabatta bread and topped with cheese, but I didn't have any bread in the house, so I simply served it as a side as shown below. Because this called for 1/2 each of several vegetables, I prepped two meals at once so as not to waste the other half.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mini Cottage Pies

Mini Cottage Pie

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/4 C chopped onion
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 C beef stock
  • 1/2 C frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 C leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp granulated onion powder
  • 1 C shredded Cheddar
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add ground turkey and brown.
3. Stir in the onions, salt, pepper and garlic and allow to cook together for a couple of minutes.
4. Mix flour into the meat mixture and stir until a paste consistency is reached. Add beef stock to pan and stir in vegetables and herbs, the last few minutes, until combined.
5. Reheat mashed potatoes in a microwave for 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in granulated garlic and onion powder.
6. Spoon equal amounts of turkey mixture into two ramekins. Top with equal amounts of warm potatoes. Finally top with equal amounts of cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until cheese is melted and browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving.

Robyn's notes: I was using four-cheese mashed potatoes, so didn't add the garlic powder or onion powder to them. Because I can't have onions, garlic, peas, or carrots, I made half this recipe twice. First the version I could eat, omitting those steps, then as written above for my sweetheart. The photo below isn't the best, but he was hungry so I had to take it quickly.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fudgy Peanut Butter Ice Cream Mini Pies

Ice Cream Pie

  • ½ C chocolate graham cracker crumbs1—abt 3 whole crackers
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp egg substitute (OR 2 tsp egg white)
  • 2 tsp butter, melted
  • 1 -1/3 C fat-free vanilla frozen yogurt, softened2
  • 8 miniature chocolate peanut butter cups, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ C hot fudge ice cream topping—at room temperature
1. In a small bowl, combine cracker crumbs and sugar, stir in egg white and butter.
2. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of two oven-safe custard cups or ramekins coated with cooking spray (crumb mix will not reach tops of custard cups).

Ice Cream Pie Crusts

3. Place custard cups or ramekins on a shallow baking pan or cookie sheet and bake at 325F for 6-8 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

4. Spread 1/3C of frozen yogurt into each crust. Sprinkle each with one-fourth of the peanut butter cup bits; drizzle with one-fourth of hot fudge.

Ice Cream Pie Midway

5. Repeat with remaining yogurt, peanut butter cups, and fudge3. Cover and freeze for 6 hours or overnight. Remove from the freezer 10 minutes before serving.

1Don't have a food processor to make your crumbs, or don't want to pull out all the pieces (and later have to clean them) just to crush a few graham crackers into crumbs? Put crackers into a ziploc bag (make sure to seal it!), and crush with a rolling pin. If you don't have a rolling pin, you can use a mallet, or your fingers. Even a double pointed knitting needle will suffice as a roller to crush the crackers down to bits. It is possible to purchase graham crackers that have already been smashed for you, but in my opinion the extra expense is simply not worth it. You'll only save 2 or 3 minutes when you're crushing such a small amount of crackers. While I usually get the name brand graham crackers if I'm using them whole, when I'm buying crackers specifically for crushing I always get the store brand. I cannot tell any taste difference, they crush just as easily, and there is no visible difference in the crumbs.

2Often, when a recipe says “softened”, you can get away without doing so. For this one, if the frozen yogurt hasn't softened for several minutes, it will be nearly impossible to get it to spread into the crust and all that will happen is you'll have a firm blob of frozen yogurt stuck to your spoon, with graham cracker crumb crust clinging to it all over. Just take the frozen yogurt container out of the freezer when you put the crust cups into the oven and it should be softened enough by the time they've baked and cooled.

3Alternate option: do not add fudge to the top. Freeze as directed. Just before serving, heat remaining hot fudge and drizzle over the top of each mini-pie.

Robyn's notes: Approximating how much fudge is being drizzled on is fine, really, it's not like that stuff comes out of the bottle easily. To make it easier on myself, when I chopped the mini peanut butter cups, I chopped two at a time into four separate piles. Then, when it came time to sprinkle one-fourth of the total onto the pie, one of those piles was exactly the amount I needed. This is obviously not a "healthy" recipe, but it is made somewhat better for you in terms of calories through the use of egg substitute and frozen yogurt.

Ice Cream Pie PB Cups

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sharpen Your Knives

This blog has been a long time neglected. First I was too sick to keep it updated. Then I was too sick to cook. Then I was too sick to cook or to bring it at least to the most current. Then it got to be too much of a pain to log in and out of my different gmail addresses all the time. So I've switched it over to this gmail address, where two of my other blogs are, and left my locked up blogs on the other gmail address, since I only post on them for me and therefore it matters less whether I get around to it regularly.

Now that it's here I've switched it from Blogger's Template format (to which I had done a lot of tweaking) to the Layout format. I think I've maintained all the basic and important personalizations, but there may still be some changes and/or additions as I discover I've forgotten something.

There are a handful of recipes from 2008 that still need to be added to the archives, but I did not keep track of my 2009 daily recipes as I did in the time previous, so there will be a huge jump between the old and the new. I am not healthy enough to cook on a regular basis anymore, so there will likely be fewer posts, but hopefully that will be made up for by the fact that I now have a camera (secondhand, but still! gift from my folks) and a pressure canner (gift from my sweetheart), so I intend to include more photos of the meals and to have preserved dishes as well as complete meals. My sweetheart has begun hunting again, which trips I enjoy accompanying him on, so at some point there should be recipes for game animals and birds, also. We'll see what truly happens in the end.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Deviled Tilapia

  • 2 (5oz each) tilapia fillets
  • 2 tsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp dry vermouth or lemon juice
  • paprika to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the broiler
2. Line a small baking pan with foil, then lay the tilapia on the foil, skin side down.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, mustard and vermouth or lemon juice. Spread the sauce evenly over the tilapia. Sprinkle with the paprika, salt and pepper.
4. Broil 6" from the heat for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tilapia is firm and the topping is well-browned.

Robyn's notes: the original recipe called for mackerel. This would go well with new potatoes or coleslaw.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mexican Lasagna

  • 1 green onion
  • 1 C canned diced tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 6 corn tortillas
  • 3/4 C rinsed and drained canned pinto or kidney beans
  • 1/2 C coarsely shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 C nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/4 C coarsely shredded Cheddar cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2. Thinly slice the green onions, including the tender green part. Place the green onions in a small bowl or glass measure. Add the tomatoes (with juice), cilantro (if using), chili powder, cumin and garlic.
3. Spread half the mixture evenly in an 8" pie pan. Top with half the tortillas and all the beans. Sprinkle with the mozzarella. Top with the remaining tortillas and tomato mixture. Whisk the yogurt briefly and spread it over the tomato mixture. Sprinkle the Cheddar over the top.
4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling hot throughout and the cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Robyn's notes: the recipe says that the casserole can also be microwaved on high for 2 minutes, but I can't speak to that. It's easily double-able if made in an 11"x7" baking pan instead of pie pan.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Braised Broccoli With Whole Wheat Spaghetti

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 C coarsely chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 C dry white wine or water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6oz whole wheat spaghetti
1. In a heavy, 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat, saute the garlic in the oil for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the garlic begins to colour. Stir in the broccoli, wine or water, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid quickly to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the broccoli is tender (if necessary to prevent sticking, add a little water from time to time).
2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti according to the directions on the package but without salt. Drain and toss with the broccoli. Serve hot.

Robyn's notes: easy, quick. Good way to measure spaghetti is to keep a string in the kitchen marked off like a ruler. Wrap the string around the bundle of spaghetti. Two ounces of dry spaghetti = 2.25 inches circumference.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Madras Chicken and Broccoli Salad

  • 8oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat
  • 1/3 C nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp prepared mango chutney
  • 1 tsp hot Madras curry powder
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 C finely chopped broccoli
  • 1/4 C finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 C chopped cashews
1. Place chicken in a small skillet or saucepan and add enough water to cover; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and cool to room temperature.
2. Meanwhile, whisk yogurt, chutney, curry and cilantro in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Add broccoli, onion, cashews and the cooked chicken; toss to coat.

Robyn's notes: I used regular curry powder. GFers: doublecheck the chutney when you buy it, most brands are GF. To use up leftover mango chutney, whisk with yogurt for a quick dressing, dip or marinade; serve alongside grilled meat, fish or chicken; blend with reduced-fat cream cheese for a spread. This was easy and quick to make.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Salmon Sizzler with Late Summer Veggies

  • 1 large tomato
  • 6-8 leaves fresh basil (optional)
  • 2 (5oz each) salmon fillets or steaks
  • 1 tsp olive or canola oil
  • 2 small yellow squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. Core the tomato and cut it in half crosswise; gently squeeze the seeds from each half and cube the halves.
3. Stack the basil leaves (if using), roll them into a cylinder and slice across to make thin strips.
4. Brush the salmon with the oil; arrange each fillet on a 12" square of heavy foil. Top with the squash or zucchini, tomatoes, green onions and basil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Fold the foil diagonally over the fish to form a triangle and seal it tightly by folding and crimping the edges.
5. Set a heavy, 10" cast-iron skillet in the oven to heat for 5 minutes.
6. Lay the foil packets in the skillet and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the salmon is opaque at the thickest part and the vegetables are crisp-tender. Transfer the packets to dinner plates and serve.

Robyn's notes: Not having an entirely oven-safe skillet, I used a glass (pyrex) dish.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Salad Bar Pasta Primavera

  • 6oz linguine or fettuccine
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 C broccoli or cauliflower florets
  • 1/2 C sliced zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 C sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 C thinly sliced carrots
  • 1/4 C thinly sliced red or yellow onions
  • 1/4 C sliced red or green peppers
  • 1/4 C sliced celery
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 C dry white wine or chicken broth
  • 3 C spinach leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/4 C frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1/4 C grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1. Cook the linguine or fettuccine according to the directions on the package but without salt.
2. While the pasta is cooking, place a heavy, 10" nonstick skillet over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the oil and stir in the broccoli or cauliflower, zucchini or squash, mushrooms, carrots, red or yellow onions, red or green peppers and celery.
3. Cook the vegetables, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, then add the wine or broth. Stir in the spinach and peas, cover the skillet and cook for 1 minute, or just until the spinach is wilted.
4. Drain the pasta well. Serve topped with the vegetables and sprinkled with the Parmesan or Romano.

Robyn's Notes: used chicken broth, not white wine. My version of "thawing" the frozen peas was to scoop them into the quarter measuring cup before doing anything else, and letting them sit on top of the stove near the burner I was using. To make it vegetarian, use vegetable broth or the white wine, not chicken broth.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Turkey Florentine

  • 8oz boneless turkey breast cutlets (1/4inch thick)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp butter or margarine
  • 4 tsp minced shallots or onions
  • 1/4 C dry white wine or apple juice
  • 8 C spinach, loosely packed
  • 1/8 tsp grated nutmeg (optional)
1. Dry the turkey pieces with a paper towel, then sprinkle them with the salt and pepper.
2. Place a heavy, 8" nonstick skillet over high heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the butter or margarine and add the turkey. Cook, turning as necessary, for 3 minutes, or until the turkey is browned and firm to the touch, with no trace of pink in the center. Transfer to a plate and keep warm.
3. To the skillet, add the shallots or onions, wine or apple juice and spinach. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 1 minute, or until the spinach is barely wilted. Sprinkle with the nutmeg (if using). Place the spinach on a serving plate, top with the turkey and serve.

Robyn's notes: used onion not shallot and apple juice not wine. This recipe went over very well taste-wise, but it was kind of a pain for me. It was difficult to find a store that had turkey breast cutlets in stock (several normally carried them but didn't have any when I was there, don't know why), and I always have minor issues with "transfer to a plate and keep warm". No matter where I put the item on the plate (inside microwave often, to keep it off the counter and out of my way) or how I cover it (often covered with a second plate upside down), the meat never stays as warm as I'd like it to.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vermicelli with Herbed Mushrooms

  • 6 oz vermicelli
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 C sliced mushrooms
  • 1/4 C minced shallots or onions
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/4 C chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • salt and pepper to taste
1. Cook the vermicelli according to the directions on the package but without salt.
2. While the pasta cooks, place the oil in a heavy, 10" nonstick skillet and warm it for 1 to 2 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and shallots or onions and cook the mixture, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes, or just until the mushrooms are piping hot throughout.
3. Squeeze the juice from the lemon and add the juice to the pan along with the parsley or cilantro, salt and pepper.
4. Drain the pasta and place it in a large bowl. Toss the pasta with the mushroom mixture. Serve immediately.

Robyn's notes: this was one of those recipes that I thought wasn't going to be filling enough for a whole meal, but he said it was perfect. It was very quick to make, and since I used a lemon from our tree it was satisfying, too!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Herbed Whole-Wheat Couscous

  • 3/4 C reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 sliced scallions
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 C whole-wheat couscous
1. Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in small saucepan. Add couscous, return to a simmer, cover and remove from heat. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving.

Robyn's notes: he liked this and it went very quickly.

Spiced Turkey with Avocado-Grapefruit Relish

Avocado-Grapefruit Relish:
  • 1 large seedless grapefruit
  • 1/2 small avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
Spiced Turkey
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp five-spice powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 turkey cutlets (8 ounces)
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
1. To prepare relish: Remove the peel and white pith from grapefruit with a sharp knife and discard. Cut the grapefruit segments from the surrounding membrane, letting them drop into a small bowl. Squeeze out remaining juice into the bowl and discard membrane. Add avocado, shallot, cilantro, vinegar and honey. Toss well to combine.
2. To prepare turkey: Combine chili powder, five-spice powder and salt on a plate. Dredge turkey in the spice mixture.
3. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink in the middle, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Serve the turkey with the avocado-grapefruit relish.

Robyn's notes: Served with Herbed Whole-Wheat Couscous and a side of salad greens. This was a slightly more complex meal than usual because it was his birthday, but it still wasn't too complicated and didn't take long, just about a half hour. Was quite good, and was nice to be able to use grapefruit from our own tree.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Spanish Pilaf

  • 1 1/2 tsp Olive oil
  • 1/3 C chopped onion
  • 1/3 C chopped sweet red or green peppers
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 C long-grain white rice
  • 1 C canned tomatoes (with juice)
  • 3/4 C chicken broth or water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
1. Place the oil in a heavy, 8" nonstick skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions and red or green peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
2. Stir in the garlic and rice; cook for 1 minute. Use a fork to break up the tomatoes right in the can; add to the skillet (with juice). Stir in the broth or water, salt, thyme, pepper flakes and bay leaf.
3. Bring the rice to a simmer, stir it well and reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed. During cooking, stir the rice once or twice and add a little extra liquid if necessary to prevent sticking. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Robyn's notes: I topped this with shredded Cheddar cheese to make it an entree. Another option is to cook some cleaned and de-veined shrimp into it or some roast chicken.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mini White Breads

Note: Total time approximately 2 3/4 hours
  • 1 package (1/4oz) active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/3 C warm water (110F to 115F)
  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 C all-purpose flour (divided)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 2 tsp butter or margarine, melted
  • additional melted butter or margarine
1. Combine yeast, sugar and water in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 C flour, salt, milk, and butter.
2. Mix for 3 minutes on medium speed. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.
3. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Punch dough down. Divide in half; shape into two loaves and place in greased 5 3/4inch x 3inch x 2inch pans.
4. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks. Brush tops with melted butter.

Robyn's notes: mini loaf pans can be found in the utensil aisle of the grocery store if needed. I have never actually checked the temperature of the warm water, just keeping it warm but not hot. I've made these mini loaves several times over the past 8 years and they're very simple to make. Using these loaves makes for cute mini sandwiches or mini toasts, which may seem less than useful but they're great for smaller households because having two mini sandwiches is similar to having one regular sized sandwich, and then the loaves don't last so long that they get stale.

Nutritional Analysis: One 1/2 inch slice (prepared with margarine) equals 75 calories, 156mg sodium, 0 cholesterol, 14gm carbohydrate, 2gm protein, 1gm fat.
Diabetic Exchange: 1 starch