“What to Have for Dinner” by Martha Stewart Living (1996)

The best of Martha Stewart Living’s “What to Have for Dinner — 32 easy menus for every night of the week” could’ve been instead titled “What to Have for Dinner — if you don’t have a long commute after work and then have to get a small child ready for bed”.  Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a beautiful book, as are most of Martha’s books.  It has gorgeous photographs and is organized by seasons of the year.  One of my favorite recipes in this book is “Shrimp Saute with Orzo”, but I’ve never made it on a work night especially since I’m frugal and buy the whole shrimp which requires cleaning and peeling.  This time I decided to try “Penne with Tomatoes and Pancetta” because I had some fresh sage to get rid of.  Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?  Too bad it was a little disappointing for the time it took to make it.  The ingredient list wasn’t bad; it was the time required — 10 minutes to cook the pancetta (I used bacon); 10 minutes to cook the onions; 10 minutes for the carrots; simmer for 5 minutes; fry sage leaves for several minutes.  I even cheated and used diced tomatoes instead of the canned plum tomatoes in which the recipe requires you to seed and dice.  It took me about an hour (including prep time) to make this seemingly simple pasta dish, and it didn’t even taste that spectacular.  Another thing — this recipe is supposed to serve 4, but do the following ingredients sound like they serve 4?   Two 28 oz. cans of plum tomatoes, 28 oz. cannellini beans, 1 pound of pasta.  Last time I checked, a pound of pasta is supposed to serve eight; combined with all the beans and tomatoes, this was a huge pot of pasta.   The greatest thing about it was that we had plenty of leftovers that went into the freezer.  Sure beats having fast food for lunch at work — and fast food this definitely was not.

When I have more time, I’d like to try other recipes in this book:  “Herbed Spaetzle and Spinach” (I’d have to buy myself a potato ricer for this), “Seared Tuna Steaks with Caper Butter”, “Peppered Steak Sandwiches”.  I wish I had more time tomorrow — I want to eat these!

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Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 9:49 pm  Comments (2)  

Betty Crocker’s “Dinner in a Dish” (1965)

I have been slowly collecting these spiral bound Betty Crocker cookbooks for several years.  I don’t want to pay more than a few dollars for them, so this one was a great find at the $1.00 used bookstore in Burbank, CA.  As the title says, it is full of recipes for 0ne-dish meals.  I didn’t expect much out of this archaic book which conjures up images of mustard-yellow casserole dishes in a kitchen with avocado-green appliances.  I was wrong because the recipe I chose was actually quite tasty.  “Party Tuna Bake” is located under the chapter  entitled “Company Best/Connoisseur Casseroles”.  Its main ingredients are canned tuna, noodles, sour cream, bread crumbs and parmesan.  It read a little bland to me, so I used a leftover herbed parmesan mix that comes with the frozen ravioli from Costco.  This added a lot of flavor.  I also cut back on the salt called for in the recipe and I’m glad I did because it was enough. 

There are other recipes in this cookbook that I’d consider making; however, I am deciding against the following:  “Alamo Tamale Supper” — requires a 1 lb. can of beef tamales in sauce (huh?) and “Cheese-Shrimp Fondue” — a waste of good shrimp in my opinion, especially since this recipe coats them with processed cheese.

Published in: on January 12, 2010 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Cinnamon Mornings and Chocolate Dreams” by Pamela Lanier (2003)

On New Year’s morning I wanted to make something different for breakfast.  I chose a recipe  from this book compiled by Pamela Lanier, who has a wonderful website that lists bed and breakfast inns around the world.  I love bed and breakfasts, so that’s why I bought this cookbook several years ago, especially since it was on sale. 

Not having preplanned what to cook, I had to find a recipe using ingredients I had on hand.   “Iron Skillet Baked Apple Pancake” (from Inn at the Crossroads in Charlottesville, Virginia) it was.  I don’t own a large cast iron skillet (or any large 450-degree ovenproof  skillet as the recipe calls for), so after I sauteed the apples in a skillet, I assembled everything in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and it turned out fine.  Too bad, because I was looking for an excuse to purchase a large cast iron skillet.   The cinnamon permeated throughout the house as the pancake baked in the oven; it truly was a “cinnamon morning”.  This dish was perfect for a leisurely New Year’s morning at home.

Published in: on January 6, 2010 at 10:51 pm  Leave a Comment