Sunday, January 21, 2018

Snickerdoodles and

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12-16 minutes (cookies), 15-20 minutes (cake)

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: BraveTart Cookbook

I have actually never had Snickerdoodles before but I love cinnamon things, so I was sure I would like these. I did.

I decided to try to make the cookie version and the cake version (Snip Doodles) at the same time by using half the recipe for cookies and half for the cake. I have gotten myself in trouble before by doing this kind of thing, but I went ahead anyway.

I made the full cookie batter, weighing my mixer bowl before I started. I weighed it again with the cookie batter, and then used half of it for cookies. Then I added the milk for the cake. For the cake you are supposed to alternate adding the milk and flour to the rest of the batter, and that was impossible since the flour was already incorporated. Mixing all the milk in at the end was a little tricky because the cookie batter was already thick and I didn't want to beat it too hard. I mixed carefully until it wasn't too lumpy and hoped for the best.

It worked fine. I cooked the snip doodles in a 1/4 sheet pan. I cooked that first at 350, since the cookies needed 400° to start. I rolled the cookies in the cinnamon sugar while the cake was cooking and baked those when the cake was done.

Overall I liked the cookies better because of the more crispy edges, but the cake was nice also. I think I undercooked the cake a bit and overcooked the cookies. My cookies ended up quite crispy once they cooled and I lost the chewy center.

I would definitely make the cookies again, but will probably not do the cake. I ended up using the cake to make some cinnamon croutons which was a very good idea! I cubed the cake and cooked in some butter on the stovetop and then sprinkled with more cinnamon sugar. It is a fun topping for ice cream.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rice and Lentils with Crispy Onions (Mujaddara)

Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Grade: A+

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen TV (Season 15) 
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (September 2014)

I recently tried a recipe from Food52 that everyone rated very highly for Mujaddara and I was unimpressed. I love lentils, rice and caramelized onions, but the flavor was lacking. All the spices went into the yogurt sauce, which made it gritty to me.

So I decided to finally try ATK's version which had been on my Try list for a while. It did not disappoint. This was really delicious. Yes, it is a lot more work that the Food52 recipe, but probably worth the trouble.

You have to make the crispy onions first, which involves salting and pre-cooking the onions in the microwave, rinsing to remove the salt, then drying them, before frying in a lot of oil. I almost substituted normal caramelized onions instead, but decided to try the original recipe at least once.

The crispy onions are definitely delicious, but I still might go with caramelized onions next time, which I also find delicious. I'd probably use 2 T of fat for the 2 pounds of onions and let them slowly caramelize, but finish up with some high heat to crisp them a bit in parts. It will still take a long time, but will be simpler. Also, I found the onions to be too heavy and filling for me. I actually still felt full from the fat the next morning, which is not a feeling i enjoy.

The yogurt sauce is simpler with just lemon, garlic and salt, and it was perfect. The rice and lentils were much more flavorful as the spices were added when they were cooked together (after par-cooking separately.)

Overall, this is a great recipe. I hope that I can streamline it a bit and make a little faster now that I know what I'm doing. It is very delicious.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Roasted Zucchini and Eggplant Lasagna

Prep Time: ?? 
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Rest Time: 10 minutes

Grade: A-

Make Again: Yes

This is a pretty light lasagna. The recipe only use 8 oz of mozzarella and 3 oz of Parmesan cheese. There is no ricotta, which is kind of funny, because I planned on making it specifically to use up some ricotta I had in the refrigerator. Next time I'll look at the recipe.

Anyway, it is not too complicated. The prep involves chopping the onion and garlic, dicing the zucchini and eggplant and assembling everything. It takes time because you need to cool things before assembling. I did it while making some other food for the week, so it worked out fine.

This recipe is from the Oven Ready Casseroles where you
can make the dish the day before. I actually made a small lasagna in a loaf pan with 1 row of noodles, and a larger one in an 8x8 pan with 2 rows of noodles. I froze the larger one, which is not what the recipe calls for, but I'll try it.

I cooked the smaller lasagna the next day. You are supposed to add sauce before baking and cheese the last 10 minutes, but I did it all when I assembled it. It worked fine.

It was very good. It has a lot of vegetables if you include the tomato sauce, and a modest amount of cheese, so this really felt like decent fuel food to me. I may make it again. It is nice fall meal when I can still get good zucchini at the Farmer's Market.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Corn Chowder

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Assemble Time: 35 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (July 2011)

I've been wanting to make this for a long time. I finally remembered to do it this weekend, towards the end of corn season.

This recipe is for a "lighter" corn chowder but it still includes 1 cup of half and half, which does not seem that light to me. I decide to make it without that and just add some milk if it was needed. I ended up adding a splash of milk to thin the soup out a bit, and it worked great.

I used a little less butter and cut off some of the fat from the bacon also. So overall, my version was lightened even more. The taste was rich and delicious without the added dairy and just the fat from the bit of butter and bacon.

I did not squeeze my pulp in a towel and just used a fine mesh strainer. That worked fine and it was easy to clean.

I probably won't make this again real soon, since the corn will be gone in a few weeks, but it is a great recipe for September when the corn is good but the nights are getting cooler.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Pasta Frittata

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Rest Time: 5 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (July 2014)
Recipe Source: Amercia's Test Kitchen Season 15

This recipe is a little more work than your average, dump some left over pasta and eggs together. But the result is very good. 

In this recipe you cook angel hair pasta in the saute pan with water and olive oil. The water eventually is absorbed and evaporated, and the pasta starts to fry a bit in the oil. Then you add the other ingredients and that take a bit of effort as well to get it quite right. The end result is a very tall frittata with a lot of flavor. 

I skipped the hot peppers and used a little more cheese. I used a little less oil than the recipe called for (half in the eggs) and 1 teaspoon less in the pasta water.  You don't want to eliminate the oil from the pasta water, but I might try skipping the oil in the eggs next time altogether and see if I notice a difference. The add-ins to the recipe like the sausage and cheese are probably endless, once you get the technique down. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Make Ahead Spicy Beef Taco Bake

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Cool Time: 10 minutes

Grade: B

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book)

This was fine, and it was certainly easy. But I don't think I will make again, because making regular tacos is even easier and I think we like those better. I'm trying to be more selective in the recipes that I continue to make because I already have a lot of favorites.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Turkey Breast en Cocotte with Pan Gravy

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Gravy Time: 25 min

Grade: B+

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book)

This was good, but did not turn out as nicely as the one I made in the Slow Cooker.

The turkey was quite salty. I actually think that was the actual turkey breast and not the recipe. The gravy was delicious like last time, but the turkey tasted just a bit like deli turkey or processed turkey to me. I used a Jennie-O breast both times, and I am pretty sure they have salt water injected into them, so this one might have had too much.

If this was because of the recipe, it is because the skin is handled differently. In the slow cooker version you cut off the skin and brown it then throw it in bottom of crockpot. I suppose it is possible that having the skin on in this version caused a difference. Regardless, the skin is unappealing in this version also, even though you brown the breast first and keep the skin on. It still ends up a bit rubbery, since it is cooked in a closed pot and so doesn't get crispy.

This recipe is from the Sunday Cook recipe where you make a roast of some sort and then use the leftovers for another meal. I am freezing the leftover meat and will try one of the leftover recipes later.

There is a similar recipe in The 6 ingredient solution. The main difference is that you use Bell's Poultry seasoning and you don't use carrot and onions. I am not going to try that recipe and will just stick with the Slow Cooker version in the future.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Make Ahead Macaroni and Cheese

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cool/Assemble Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 70 minutes (from frozen)

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book)

This recipe is from the Freezer chapter, so the cook time is from frozen. The prep time could be faster if you used two pans instead of one. If you do use one, start boiling the water before anything else. You will have time to brown the bread crumbs and do other prep while waiting.

I adjusted the quantities a bit with this recipe. Having made various Test Kitchen macaroni and cheese recipes before (here and here) I am well aware that they like casseroles to be more saucy than I do. I have had good luck cutting the sauce recipe in half and using the full amount of noodles. I was afraid to go that far this time because they say that the sauce is supposed to be very loose so it can stand up to being held in the freezer. So I did half a recipe of the sauce to 75% of the noodles. I really could have used the full 100% pasta to 50% sauce I think. Next time I will do that.

To make things more complicated, I did a 100% of the topping, even though I knew that I would have less servings. That was a good idea. I actually could have increased the bread crumb topping amount, because I would not have minded a little more coverage.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Prep Time: 17 min
Chill Time: 1 hour
Roll Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 27-30 minutes per sheet

Grade: B

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen TV (Season 13)
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (November 2011)

These are a good crispy gingersnap cookie, but they have a lot of bite, so are not for everyone. I liked the flavor, but the picky eater did not. I won't make them again because I prefer chewy ginger or molasses cookies and I have good recipes for those already.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Oatmeal Muffins

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rest Time: 20+ minutes
Cook Time: 18-22 minutes
Cool Time: 10 minutes

Grade: B+

Make Again: Maybe

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

I have made this recipe two times and I have not had the perfect expected results either time.

The batter is very loose and you need to let it rest so the oatmeal gets hydrated. The first time I made it I found that the topping ended up falling into the batter, so I didn't get the nice crisp topping I wanted.

This second time I watched the video again (it is still there as of today) and I noticed that Dan said the reason the batter is so runny is because the oatmeal flour (that you make yourself with a food processor) is not as fine as regular flour. So you need to rest the batter to make it thicker. That prompted me to process the oats for a longer time to make sure they were as fine as could be. I think that really helped. Even before resting, the batter was much thicker than last time.

After the 20 minute rest, the batter was even thicker. However, when I was filling the cups, by the end, the bottom of the batter seemed runnier. I think I should have given it a good stir before filling the cups. Also, I think I should have let it rest another 10 minutes or so. I still had some sinking crumb topping.

This time was not as bad as the first time, however, the tops ended up running into each other. They also started to burn a bit before he insides of the muffins were fully cooked.

The end result is quite delicious, but the process was a bit frustrating. Also, I like to make muffins for a quick breakfast/snack, but these really are little cakes with quite a bit of sugar and fat. Of course, that is why they taste so good.

Last time the frozen muffins were not as great as right out of the oven. They got just a bit gummy. I'm not sure if that will be the case this time or not.

So in the end, I'm a bit conflicted about these muffins. They are not a simple quick bread recipe, so not sure it is worth the trouble to make these when I can't get them to turn out like they should. They would be great for a brunch to share with others, but since they end up a bit ugly, it might not be my first choice.