Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Gooey Cinnamon Squares

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I don't post recipes from cookbooks here, for various reasons, but you can find this recipe on-line at David Lebovitz's blog.

After not liking the first recipe I tried from the cookbook, it has redeemed itself. This recipe is Deb's take on Snickerdoodles + Gooey Butter Cake. It was listed in the cookie section of the cookbook, but for me it seemed more like a cake.

I had a very tough cooking day on Sunday, making two things I had made before and messing both of them up (one in a small way, and the other in a huge way, rendering it unfit to eat!)

Dinner, which I was hoping would be great, was a bust. I felt the need to try something fairly simple with a high probability of success. My picky eater likes cinnamon, and this sounded good. As long as I didn't forget any ingredients, I thought it would be good.

It probably would take less than 30 minutes to prepare, but I had two things going against me: 1) I was re-reading the directions multiple times to make sure I didn't miss anything and 2) the picky eater was supervising, also making sure I didn't mess up. It probably could be put together in 20-25 minutes for sure.

Anyway, this recipe was a total success. I have never made a gooey butter cake, and it seemed weird putting it together. The bottom layer looked very similar to the gooey layer, and I wondered how it would work. But it worked great. The top of the cake was gooey, but not too gooey. The cinnamon sugar on top was awesome.  This one definitely gets a thumbs up from me and the picky eater!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Classic Gingerbread Cake

Prep Time: 18 minutes
Cook Time: 35-45 minutes

Grade: A-

Make Again: Maybe

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (May 2011)
Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen (Season 12)

Note: Video and recipe available at 2nd link without subscription, probably for the rest of the year.

I have always been disappointed with gingerbread cakes. They are always too moist and gummy and the flavor isn't what I was looking for. This one was the best I have ever tried. It does have quite a kick though, and my picky eater didn't care for it. I liked the texture however. If I do make again it will be with a tiny bit less ginger. I'm not sure I will make again though, since I was the only what that liked it.

Speaking of the ginger, I came very close to forgetting the dried ginger. (There is also some fresh in the recipe.) I had my 2T measured out, but never mixed it in with the dry ingredients. Instead, after I put the cake in the oven, and started cleaning up, I noticed the ginger on the counter! Thankfully it was in time, and I tried to sprinkle it somewhat evenly over the cake, and then I whisked it in the pan. Because the batter was so thin, I was able to do this and avoid a disaster.

Unfortunately, this forgetting of ingredients is becoming a habit of mine. One I need to break. I made some cupcakes a few months ago with no sugar. Today I made rolls and forgot both the sugar and the salt. They were horrible. I also forgot the salt when I made gnochhi. (Notice none of these recipes have been reviewed yet, because I made such bad mistakes.)

I need to work on better prep, so I don't forget things anymore. It is such a bummer when you put all this effort into something and then realize you messed up too late!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Popcorn Cookies (from Smitten Kitchen)

Prep Time: 24 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes

Grade: C

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

I only read one blog, and that is Smitten Kitchen. I enjoy her writing and the food looks good. But I have never really tried a lot of her recipes before. So I decided to get the book from the library before I buy.

The first recipe I wanted to try was popcorn cookies. Such a clever idea and part of the reason I enjoy reading her blog. She is a creative cook, but not overly fussy.

These take a bit longer because you need to make the popcorn first. But it is otherwise a simple recipe.

The first cookie I ate (still quite warm) was good. Not amazing or anything, but good. The soft dough with the popcorn was good, and slightly reminded me of caramel corn. But the cooled cookies were not as good. I ended up not liking the texture of the popcorn with the cookie. I tried some again today, and my feelings are still lukewarm on them. No need to eat a cookie if doesn't taste great I think.

I am not ruling out the cookbook based on one recipe. I will definitely be trying some more before I fully judge. Regardless, it is an enjoyable easy read. (If you like reading cookbooks!)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Twice Baked Potatoes with Cheddar and Scallions

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes
Cool Time: 10 minutes
Prep Time: 10 minutes (while shells bake)
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
Cool Time: 10 minutes

Grade: B-

Make Again: Maybe, with more seasoning

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (January 1999)

These are not hard to make, but take a lot of time. I did shortcut the cooking time a bit by using the microwave to kick-start the potatoes.

The mixture tasted very delicious before I baked the potatoes the second time. But the final product tasted a bit bland for some reason, like it was under-seasoned. I was a little disappointed after the work. They weren't bad at all, but I'm not sure the effort is worth it. I might just prefer adding all the good stuff to a regular baked potato.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Glazed All-Beef Meatloaf

Prep Time: 34 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Glaze Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 20 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (January 2006)

Any previous meatloaf recipe from CI called for Meatloaf mix (pork, veal and beef). I never used it, and always just used beef. This recipe was specifically created to only using beef. I would say it is better than their regular version (if you only use beef, that is.) However, it does call for two types of beef - a pound of ground sirloin and a pound of ground chuck.

It also calls for quite a lot of other ingredients: gelatin (to replace missing quality from veal), crushed saltines, paprika, celery, onion, soy sauce, tomato juice and more. Then there is a tasty glaze on top.

It was really a little bit more work than I want to do for a meatloaf, however, the flavor and texture was very good. Since it wasn't a terrible amount of work, I probably will make this version again.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Cauliflower and Cream

Total Time: 33 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Maybe

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (January 2004)

This was pretty good, but has a lot of fat for a quick weekday dinner. I made a significant change to the recipe which calls for 2 cups heavy cream and replace 1.5 cups of it with chicken stock. It worked well. I'm sure it would be even better with all the cream, but I just have no desire to eat something that heavy, because I will only need a tiny serving to fill me up.

The sauce also include sun-dried tomatoes, thyme (I used dried), dry wine (I used vermouth) and a splash of balsamic vinegar. It was a good sauce with a touch a creaminess from 1/2 c. cream. 

I did my usual mistake of prepping during cooking, instead of prepping before, which made some of the work a little stressful, trying to get things ready in time. I really should prep more before I start.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Cook's Illustrated Favorites - January

I started this blog to help me keep track of recipes and to organize my cooking. It has helped with that, but it could be better. Last year I did some "Favorites" posts for Everyday Food magazine which reminded me about some really good recipes. I want to keep that up and include Cook's Illustrated now because I truly forget to re-use some really great recipes.

I am hoping to ultimately have Favorites lists for every month so I can always find a tried and true favorite any time of the year. 

My Cook's Illustrated January/February Favorites 
(Note: the links are to my blog posts, not the recipes. The posts have links to the recipes (but sometimes behind a ATK paywall)
I also really liked but haven't blogged on 
  • Twice-Baked Potatoes - January 1999
  • Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Cauliflower and Thyme-Infused Cream - January 2004 
  • Hearty Lentil Soup - January 2004 
  • Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake - January 2004 
I was thinking about adding all the January magazine recipes from Cook's Illustrated that I still want to try, but that list is about 30 recipes long, so I will not add them here until they are tried and become favorites. I wish I could try them all this winter, but it probably won't happen. That list includes: 
  • French Toast
  • Chicago Style Deep Dish Pizza
  • Apple Turnovers
  • All Beef Meatloaf 
  • Gingerbread
  • Crossaints (someday!!) 
  • and lots more 

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Everyday Food (September 2008)

I am not a fan of raisins, but I had some dried blueberries that are about to get too old, so I tried those and that was a delicious combination. I am now interested in the idea of substituting these blueberries in anything that calls for raisins.

I should have used parchment paper, the bottoms were getting too dark, before they were cooked through. (When will I learn.)

They ended up a little flat, even though I did not forget the baking soda. They were still delicious and very chewy. Overall, these are just as good as the other Oatmeal cookie recipes that I love. The King Arthur Flour recipe and the recipe from the Best Light Recipe.