Sunday, November 23, 2014

Wedding Soup

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Sources:
Cook's Illustrated (March 2012)
America's Test Kitchen TV (Season 14)

I prepped the soup in the morning and then cooked it at night with the pasta. This worked out great. I don't mind an hour of prep if I can do it earlier in the day.

The soup tasted really good. The broth was unique and flavorful. It should be since it had a lot of ingredients (fennel, ground dried mushrooms, pork, beef, and more).

The only negative to the soup is that I didn't think it was very appealing looking with the meatballs appearing a little gray to me. But that isn't something that will keep me from making this soup.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

6 Ingredient Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Total Time: 30 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Six-Ingredient Solution (ATK Book)

I wasn't sure if I would try this because I like the Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce recipe from Cook's Illustrated and it is not too difficult to make that. But it looked good and I had the 6 ingredients (flank steak, a pepper, broccoli, oyster sauce, sesame oil and sweet chili sauce) on hand and I thought I would give it a whirl.

It turned out really good. I might even like it better than the real recipe because the sauce had a bit of sweetness to it which I really liked. The sweet chili sauce helps keep the number of ingredients down since it has sweetness, garlic and spice all in one.

It was very easy to pull together and could probably even be done quicker once I know the recipe. I had the kitchen cleaned up while making it which is a change from many stir-fry recipes where I end up feeling like I used a million dishes.

I will definitely make this again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mexican Lasagna

Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Cool Time: 30 minutes 
Assemble Time: 15 min 
Hold: up to 24 hours 
Cook Time: 45 min
Cool Time: 15 min 

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes 

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book) 

This is the first really new recipe that I've tried from this cookbook that I don't recognize from the magazines or tv shows. It might be featured in one of their other million cookbooks, of course. 

I don't mind that they are using old favorites, because I like what I've learned about making things ahead of time from working through this book. But, it is nice to try something completely new to me. 

This recipe was from the "Oven Ready Casseroles" chapter, which is casseroles to make the night before. I decided to do an experiment with this and make two smaller casseroles instead of one large one. I put the second one in the freezer (without the cheese on the very top). 

It was about 45 minutes total of work, and it was fairly easy work. Not much to chop and prep other than the scallions, garlic and cheese. 

It tasted very good. The inside corn tortillas did become quite mushy even though I did spray them with oil and microwave as directed. But it all tasted fine and the texture was not a problem. The ones on top got nice and crunchy. 

The frozen version was almost just as good. The top was not as pretty or crunchy, but overall it was still great and so nice to pull out of the freezer. It did take a while to cook from frozen. I cooked it like the lasagna and put in cold over, turned on to 400 and it took 70 minutes to heat through. Then I finished as directed without the foil and adding the cheese. 

This is almost a good gluten-free recipe, but it does use 3T of flour to thicken the filling. You could probably use corn starch or something else instead. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Make Ahead Baked Penne with Chicken and Broccoli

Prep Time: 50 min
Cool Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 40 min

Grade: B

Make Again: Probably not

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook book

I have made all sorts of versions of this recipe from America's Test Kitchen books in the past. I always have the same thoughts. It tastes good, but it is not amazing. And it always takes longer than I think I should.

It is not a complicated recipe, but there are lots of ingredients, so it just ends up taking some time to get it altogether. Getting the chicken, broccoli and pasta to all cook correctly is based on the timing. It all worked out well and things were cooked just like I would want. 

The leftovers don't last too long. The next day they were fine, but after that the pasta gets too mushy. I think when I want chicken and broccoli with a carb in one dish, I will stick with stir-fries which last longer as leftovers and are a little less work.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chicken Baked in Foil

Prep Time: 20 min
Hold Time: 1-24 hours
Cook Time: 18-23 minutes
Rest Time: 3 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook book

This recipe was from the Prep Ahead chapter, where you can prep most of the meal the day before and cook the next. I made these foil packets in the morning and cooked them at night. I loved just putting the packets on a sheet and having dinner 20 minutes later. I only made 2 packets, so if you are doing 4 if might take 30 minutes to prep.

The chicken doesn't necessarily look the most appetizing when you cook it this way, but it tasted pretty good. The vegetables were really good. Perfectly cooked and great flavor.

I wouldn't say it is my favorite boneless skinless chicken breast meal, but I give the entire meal an A because the prep was so easy and the final meal was complete, tasty and healthy. The original recipe called for 5T of olive oil, and when I cut it in half, I used 1.5 T instead of 2.5T. That was plenty. There was a little bit of flavorful broth form the packet that was soaked up with some bread I served also.

I will definitely be using this recipe a lot for a weeknight meal that I can prep the night ahead.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Brown Soda Bread

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 45 - 50 minutes
Cool Time: 1 hour

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Country (February 2013)
Recipe Source: Cook's Country TV (Season 6)

For such a simple recipe, this was surprisingly good. Often these quick breads are just okay, but I really loved this one. The crust was super flavorful and the interior moist and but not gummy.

I have made this twice. The second time it took longer than 50 minutes to reach 195 degrees, and the top was getting extra brown. I had to put some foil on top to keep it from drying out.

It toasts up nicely and is still good for a few days.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Slow Cooker Chickpea and Garden Vegetable Pasta sauce

Prep Time: 23 minutes
Cook Time: 9 hours + 30 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes
Recipe Source: Slow Cooker Revolution

(I found a copy of the recipe online here.)

I made this over the summer, and am finally posting about it. This was really good. The sauce was very tasty on pasta and would probably be good on its own as well. If you like chickpeas this is a good one to try.

It froze pretty well. The zucchini got a little soft, but was acceptable.

I used canned diced tomatoes which made it is a little easier to prepare.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Make Ahead Meat Lasagna

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Assemble: 15 min
Finish: 5
Cook Time: 45-80 min (fresh or frozen)

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book)

This was from the "Freezer" section of the book. I haven't really tried any America's Test Kitchen lasagna recipes (at least in a while) so I can't compare the recipe. I assume it is similar, but tweaked for putting in the freezer.

Instead of making 2 lasagnas in 8" square pans, I made 4 small lasagnas for 2 people in  4.5x8 pans. I used the foil pans and they were actually a little too small to fit the noodles in, so I softened 8 of them first in hot water so they would bend. The noodles fit in when I got higher up.

The lasagna was very good, although maybe could have used a little more salt. It was not as stable as I would like. That might be because of the pre-softened bottom noodles. Next time I will make sure to buy pans that are wide enough to handle the noodles. The pans I bought were weird loaf pans with scallops, so hopefully I can find something better that is a bit wider on the bottom.

But I probably won't make this again for a while since I have 3 frozen mini lasagnas in the freezer now. That is of course the best part of it all.

I haven't tried from frozen yet, but I have to assume it will be good. If not, I'll come back and update.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cream Cheese Brownies

Prep Time: 23 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cool Time: 2 hours

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (July 2014)

I actually made these months ago, but as usual am behind on adding them here.

This is the second time Cook's Illustrated did a Cream Cheese brownie, but the last time was 1999. I remember liking the last recipe, but I don't have it anymore, so I'm not sure what is different about this one.

This one was good, so I would just use this one again in the future.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Make Ahead Sesame Noodles and Shredded Chicken

Prep Time: 50 minutes
Finish Time: 5 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Sources:
I made this recipe from the Make Ahead Cook book. It was in the "From Fridge to Table" chapter. That means it is something you can make the night before and serve the next day. And these are recipes that are designed to taste good cold or at room temperature. 

It turns out that this recipe was already featured in Cooks Illustrated (Sept 2004) and I've reviewed the recipe already

I've compared the recipes and the ingredients are exactly the same. The instructions are mostly the same, but the way to "Make Ahead" is to store the dressing in a separate container from the rest of the ingredients. Then when you want to serve, you can add some hot water to the dressing to loosen it up and mix with the salad (noodles, chicken, vegetables). 

I don't mind that this recipe is one I've had before. I like that they are really examining the best way to prepare food ahead of time and testing how to store, etc. 

For this specific recipe, I never minded the leftovers, even though the sauce does get clumpy and it does get absorbed in to the noodles a bit. I actually ate some of this for dinner when I first made it, kept the sauce separate for making for dinner last night and had some leftovers for lunch today. The leftovers were still great. I do think I will keep this as a make the night before meal and keep the sauce separate, because it probably does help the texture some. 

Making things for the next day works out pretty well for me because I am usually quite hungry when I want to eat dinner after doing a workout after work. I never want to spend the time to prepare something then, but if I prepare the next nights meal after dinner, I am less rushed and it isn't as annoying. This is a strategy I've tried to use in the past with success, and I should employ it more often.