“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  

“Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes” (2009)

This book was given to me as a gift, at my request.  It’s beautifully photographed and really fun to flip through; the pages even smell good to me.  I’ve had this book for almost a year but never cooked out of it until now. 

I made “Gingerbread Cupcakes” in the hopes that they would be good enough for a holiday party.  They tasted great fresh out from the oven, but are extremely greasy.  The recipe called for 12 ounces (3 sticks) of butter and only 1 1/2 cups of flour!  These cupcakes are like little grease bombs — you don’t exactly feel great after eating one.  The other recipes in this book don’t contain as much butter, so I’m not sure if this was an error.  

I ran out of butter so I couldn’t even make buttercream frosting for these.  I had to make some royal icing for a cookie decorating party I was going to, so I just used some royal icing on these cupcakes instead.  That was a mistake because now not only were these cupcakes greasy, but they were also frosted with overly sweet icing.

I may try to make “Mrs. Kostyra’s Spice Cupcakes” — a recipe adapted from Martha’s late mother’s recipe.  It only uses 1 stick of butter for 4 cups of flour.  Other recipes I’d like to try from this book are “Blueberries and Cream Cupcakes”, “Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes”, and “S’mores Cupcakes”.

Published in: on December 20, 2009 at 9:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Waffles from Morning to Midnight” by Dorie Greenspan (2001)

I think I’ve only made one recipe out of this book in the past.  It was “Banana-Oatmeal Waffles” which were good if I remember correctly.  The cover photo on this cookbook made me crave traditional breakfast waffles with maple syrup for dinner; however, I went with a savory waffle recipe instead:  “Broccoli-Cottage Cheese Waffles”.  I happened to have fresh broccoli and cottage cheese in my fridge that I had no plans for, so this was the perfect recipe to use them up.  The only problem I had with this recipe was that it had me add so many ingredients into the food processor that the liquid overflowed.  I have a trusty Cuisinart food processor whose only fault is the relatively low maximum liquid level (I’d love to have the new Cuisinart Elite which has a rubber gasket in the lid).  I forgot about this, so it left a bit of a mess.  Next time I’ll use the blender. 

I did as the cookbook suggested and made open-faced grilled cheese sandwiches with these waffles.  Pretty good, but I like the waffles plain as a snack too.  Warmed and crisped-up in a toaster, they are reminiscent of a gourmet potato chip.  This cookbook does have recipes for waffle chips, so I’m not too far off.  “Basil-Parmesan Waffle Chips with Balsamic Tomatoes” and “Tuscan White Bean Waffle Chips with Garlicky Bean Puree” sound delicious!

Published in: on December 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Irma Rombauer’s “The Joy of Cooking” (1946)

 

This is the only copy of “The Joy of Cooking” in my collection.  I bought it from a used bookstore sometime ago.  The inscription inside reads, “To Grandma — Love from Susan & Jimmy 12/22/48.”  Either Grandma really loved this book or it was improperly stored, because the cover is falling off.  My friend Courtney recently commented on how the older versions of this book are so different from the modern edition.  She is very correct because I had great difficulty choosing a recipe out of this one.  I even tried to have my one and half year old daughter pick a recipe.  She flipped a few pages and pointed randomly to “Zucchini”, which is an easy enough recipe but zucchini is now out of season and don’t look very good at the grocery store.  I tried to have her choose something else, but she was no longer interested in helping me. 

I definitely had to pass on these:  “Broiled Calf Brains on Tomatoes”, “Cole Slaw in Tomato Aspic Ring”, “Jellied Pigs Feet”, “Chicken Mousse Jellied”, and “Steak and Kidney Pie”.  (Forgive me if I’ve offended anyone who likes these dishes; I just haven’t had a proper introduction to them.)  I wonder if any of these recipes still exist in the current edition?  This old edition has many baking recipes, but I hesitated to use them because the methods are so archaic.  For instance, all the recipes require that you sift the flour before you measure it; I know — not a big deal, but a little annoying since you usually don’t do this anymore.  Some of the recipes require strange ingredients like the “1 ounce carbonate of powdered ammonia dissolved in 1/2 cup water” needed when making “German Honey Cakes”. 

I did eventually settle on a baking recipe —  “Banana Bread” because I had some overripe bananas to get rid of.  I was able to skip the step of presifting the flour before measuring because I have a kitchen scale and was able to determine the weight of sifted flour.  This banana bread recipe is different from the recipe I usually use because it required bread flour instead of all-purpose flour and butter instead of oil.  It turned out very similar to pound cake (tight crumb and not very moist) and the crust was delightfully crunchy when it was fresh out of the oven.  The bread came out smaller than it was supposed to be because a standard loaf pan nowadays is 9×5, but an 8×4 pan was specified in the recipe.  I liked it and so did my daughter (but she loves all bread).  My husband prefers our usual recipe.

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 11:03 pm  Comments (2)  

The Colonial Williamsburg Tavern Cookbook (2001)

I  bought this book in 2004, after spending a couple fun-filled days (fun for me anyway because I love historical reenactments) in Colonial Williamsburg, VA.  We ate lunch at one of the taverns and I enjoyed being able to taste a little history.  I’d never cooked out of this book before, but only because I never really looked through it (which is the case with many of my cookbooks).  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy some of the recipes in this book appear to be.  

I decided to make “Gingered Pumpkin Soup with Molasses Cream” because the weather’s finally starting to get chilly here in L.A.  The soup looked so easy that I also decided to make “Creamed Spinach”.  The soup recipe gave me the option of using canned pumpkin, so that was a real timesaver.  It turned out to be pretty good and similar in taste to butternut squash soup.  My daughter even liked it enough to eat some this time. 

 The garnish of the “Molasses Cream” (heavy cream and molasses whipped together) gave the soup a pleasant sweetness.  I whipped the cream manually because I only used half a cup (too little to require the use of my Kitchenaid).  It’s fun to do that once in a while — it’s like magic.  When I was in culinary school, in the beginning our instructors required us to whip cream by hand; I thought they were just torturing us at the time, but later I understood that they were teaching us that we don’t always need to rely on machines.  (That being said, I must admit that I love my mixer so much that I just upgraded to a bigger one and plan on keeping both of them in my kitchen because there are times when I wish I had two.)  

The “Creamed Spinach” was good too, but was slightly too rich for my taste because I used whole milk (like I usually do when I bake). 

Recipes I will never make in this book are:  “Fried Oyster Sandwiches”, “Planked Shad with Shad Roe”, and “Oyster and Lobster Pies”.  However, I am willing to eat these if anyone else cares to make them.  The recipes just sound too intimidating to me.

Published in: on November 28, 2009 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

Betty Crocker’s Cookbook For Boys and Girls, 3rd Edition 1985

This is the first cookbook I remember buying.  I think I was eight years old.  I never really cooked much out of it, but I definitely enjoyed looking through it.  I remember making Purple Cow Shakes (frozen grape juice concentrate, milk, and vanilla ice cream)  which I thought were yummy when I was little.  I also remember attempting to make Peppermint Taffy without a candy thermometer or the understanding of how to make candy; at my young age, this recipe was a complete failure and I think I gave up cooking from this book after that.

Twenty-something years later, I chose to make the dish on the cover.  The recipe is called “No-Crust Wide-Eyed Pizzas” and they are basically just hamburger patties with tomato sauce and cheese and funny looking faces.  It was not very tasty.  My toddler didn’t even care for them.  I won’t be making these again.

Other recipes I will not make out of this cookbook are “Fish Stick Fondue” and “Polka Dot Pizzas” (cut-up hot dogs are the polka dots; not my idea of a good pizza, but maybe to a kid who loves hot dogs it is.)

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 11:01 pm  Comments (2)  

One Out of Every One

Some of My Cookbooks

I have been fascinated with cookbooks and cooking since I was about seven years old. I own several hundred cookbooks, but have yet to cook out of all of them. This blog will document my attempt to cook one recipe out of every single cookbook I own, including the antique reproductions dating back to the 1700’s. 

It will probably take me several years to do this because I can probably only manage to do such experimentation once a week.  My only rule is that it has to be a recipe I’ve never used before.

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 11:00 pm  Comments (2)