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. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Make Ahead Beef and Bean Burritos

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cool Time: 20 minutes
Assemble/Wrap: 20 minutes
Finish Time: 6 minutes

Grade: A

Recipe Source: Cooks Country April 2013,
Make Ahead Cook (book)

I actually had tried the recipe from Cook's Country last year but never added it here. We liked it, but I forgot about it.

The recipe in the Make Ahead Cook is almost exactly the same except the ingredients were increased in a mostly proportional way (although not exactly) to make 8 burritos instead of 6. This larger version is more logical since it uses a pound of beef and 8 tortillas instead of 12 oz and 6, which leaves you with some waste.

These freeze nicely and the recommended way to serve is to microwave for 5 minutes and then bake in over for 5 minutes with some cheese sprinkled on top. That works really well.

This recipe may become a staple since these are so easy to pull out of the freezer and prepare quickly. They taste great too, and I'm sure the individual ingredients could be substituted easily for different variations. (The beans, meat, etc.)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Make Ahead Spinach Manicotti

Prep Time: 35 minutes
Freezer Time: 1 hour before wrapping
Finish Time: 50 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book) 

This was pretty good. I love the technique in this one, using lasagna noodles and rolling them up. It might make the meal more "carb-heavy" than some people want. I wonder if it would be possible to cut noodles in half and roll them up that way. Hmmm, I might try that sometime.

Honestly, you could change this recipe in many ways. There is a lot of cheese in here, and I'm sure you could use less and add other ingredients to increase the volume. (Vegetables, beans, meat, etc.) I will probably experiment with this one some more because it worked out really well.

The biggest pain of the recipe is freezing them individually and then wrapping up into meal size packets. But that really wasn't too hard. It is worth it to get the 2-4 meals for two people from about 40 minutes total work. The individual wrapping is great since you take out how many you want to make for dinner, and I really love that flexibility.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Make Ahead Vegetarian Chili

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Oven Time: 2-2.5 hours
Grade: B+

Make Again: Maybe

Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen (Season 13) 
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (November 2012)
Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book) 

This chili is a good vegetarian chili. But I'm not sure I want to make it again since it was a bit of work and I like Turkey or Beef chili more, and since I'm not a vegetarian, I might as well make the mean chili which is a little simpler to make and has slightly better flavor. If I was still a vegetarian though I would probably make this again.

It had good flavor and texture. It needed a little more salt, but otherwise the flavors were perfect.

It does make 8 large servings and was part of the freezer chapter, so this will feed me multiple time the next month or so once a week.

The version in the book is slightly different from the magazine version, but basically the same. It was just simplified a tiny bit in the book. They call for chili powder instead of toasting and chopping your own, and it also skips using the spice grinder for dried mushrooms. The didn't chop enough in the food processor so I got out the spice grinder anyway.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Garlic-Lime Grilled Pork Tenderloin for Two

Prep Time: 13 minutes
Rest Time: 45 minutes
Grill Time: 15 minutes
Rest Time: 5 minutes

Grade: A-

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (June 2014)

This was a unique way of preparing pork tenderloin. Instead of leaving it in it's original shape you cut in half and pound the two pieces into 3/4" steaks. This allowed for a lot of good surface area and it tasted great. I didn't love the marinade because it was a little tart. Next time I will try substituting orange zest and juice for the lime and adding ginger instead for the other version of this recipe.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Prep Time: 20 minutes
BakeTime: 24 minutes
Cool Time: 45 min

Grade: C

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (January 2003)

Prep: 20 minutes

Grade: C

I don't know what happened, and why these didn't taste great. I really think I followed the recipe ok, but they tasted off to me. I don't love cake, so I'm not the best judge, but the group didn't care for them either. The 5 year old who these were for seemed to like it well enough, but I think I can do better. I'll try a different recipe next time.

The frosting was good, and they turned out so pretty.

I had leftover frosting and turned it into some hot fudge by adding a large squirt of corn syrup and bringing to a boil. That turned out great.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Zucchini Bread

Prep Time: 18 minutes
Bake Time: 65 minutes
Cool Time: 90 minutes

Grade: B+

Make Again: Maybe

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (July 2014)

The recipe is not behind the pay wall right now, but it probably will be soon.

This was pretty good, but I think I like other quick breads more still, like banana bread or a pumpkin bread. I may still make again just when I need to use up some zucchini. This recipe does use more than most recipes.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts with Spicy Hoisin Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Brine Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen (Season 14)
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (Sept 2013)

You can get the recipe at the TV show website (if you register and read this within a year or two), but the Hoisin Sauce recipes is not there unless you are a paying subscriber.

So here are the ingredients:

2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 – 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder

Basically you just whisk them together (it helps to do the cornstarch into the vinegar first) and then boil it for a minute or two to thicken. 

This recipe is very simple and it was delicious. The chicken turned out perfect. I used 1T of the Sriracha sauce and my picky eater complained it was too spicy. He said he might have liked it with less spice. I will try again with 1/2 T because it was so good. 

And of course a very simple meal if you plan for the brining time before hand.  

Also, I didn't have five-spice powder or all the parts to make a substitute. I used a pinch of cinnamon and a pinch of cloves.