Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Make Ahead Chicken Fingers

Prep: 15 min
Wait: 20 min
Bread and Cook: 30 min

Grade: A-

Make Again: Maybe

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book)

That link is to the actual recipe, because this is one of the featured recipes on the website.

These tasted very good but maybe just a little bit greasy. Also the process of making them, although easier than regular frying, still gets a little messy.

The recipe was supposed to make 16 fingers, but I only got about 11. They were long though.

The cooked from frozen fingers were still quite good, but the last couple I had were starting to get a tiny bit dry. I may never make these again, because it isn't something I think of eating, and I don't have kids. I'm sure my nieces and nephews would like these though. I did really like cutting them up and putting them in a salad. That countered the greasiness nicely, so it is possible I will do these again.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Carrot Layer Cake

Prep Time: 18 minutes
Bake Time: 18 minutes
Cool Time: 30 minutes
Frost Time: 20 minute

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Sources: 
America's Test Kitchen TV (Season 13)
Cook's Illustrated (May 2012)

I've been wanting to try this cake for the past year and finally decided to make it for Thanksgiving. It was quite good and the only difficult part was frosting it. But overall it was fairly simple.

It is not easy to make a layer cake out of carrot cake, because the cake is so soft and moist. They solve this problem by baking the cake in a half sheet pan, so it is very big but thin, and then cutting the cake into 4 quarters making each a layer. I have a 1/4 sheet pan, so made a half recipe, which worked out very nicely.

Instead of 4 layers, I cut the cake into thirds for 3 layers. I cut the frosting recipe in half but that was a problem, because I really didn't have enough. I really had to stretch it in some spots. I knew it would be tight, because I think there is more surface area on the outside when you cut a recipe in half. (I didn't do the math, but I am pretty sure about this.) I did make it work though and honestly the frosting is very rich, so I wouldn't really want it any thicker than it ended up.

You are supposed to cover sides with chopped pecans but I am not a pecan fan, so I skipped those. It would have been nice to cover up my mistakes though!

I should point out that you need buttermilk powder for the recipe. That is to add tang without moisture. It worked really well. I do think however, my frosting could have been a tiny bit moister without problems. It probably would have made spreading it easier.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Slow-Cooker Turkey Breast with Gravy

Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 5-6 hours
Rest Time: 20 min

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Country (December 2012)

As much as I love to cook, I have never made a Turkey before. I tried to help my mom one Thanksgiving when I was a young adult and it grossed me out so much, I became a vegetarian soon after. That lasted 7 years. I eat meat all the time now, but I still don't like dealing with things on the bone, let alone an entire bird.

I usually bring side dishes to family meals for Thanksgiving. When it is just the two of us I have done a boneless skinless turkey breast. But those never taste anything like Thanksgiving turkey to me. So this year when I saw this recipe on the America's Test Kitchen Feed, (recipe is behind the paywall now) I decided to at least try a real breast on the bone.

I wasn't sure what to expect – thinking the turkey would be steamed and I knew it wouldn't be as pretty as roasted turkey.

It was not pretty, that is true, but once carved, you only noticed that it didn't have skin. It was the most moist turkey I've ever had, and the gravy was delicious. I will definitely use this recipe again.

Part of what makes this recipe work is that you take off the skin and cook it in skillet first to render the fat and then you saute the vegetables in that fat to start your gravy. You sort of make the gravy in the beginning and cook the turkey on top of the gravy and vegetables and cooked skin. After you remove the turkey breast you strain the gravy and after some seasoning it tasted delicious.

If I had one complaint it is the gravy was a bit thin. It was pretty thick until I strained it and the thick stuff got stuck with the vegetables. I waited until the end to do that, so I didn't have time to thicken on the stove, but I will do that next time.

One breast ended up a little more cooked than the other side. I'm not sure why. It may have been leaning and touching the side of the slow cooker. It was still moist enough though and tasted good and will be used for some leftover recipes this weekend.

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. 

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: No

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.

Update: I liked this less when reheating the frozen leftovers, so I downgraded the grade to a B-. It was filling and fine, but I don't think all the steps and ingredients make it anything special. 

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. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Strawberry Mousse

Prep Time: 8 minutes
Wait Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Chill Time: 4 hours

Grade: A-

Make Again: Maybe 

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (May 2014)

This was a very nice and refreshing dessert that doesn't need perfect strawberries. I did have Farmer's Market berries to use, but they were actually not any better than grocery store berries this time. (Usually they are much better!)

The end result still had a very nice strawberry flavor, but I'm not sure I would make again, just because it was a little more work than I wanted for a nice but not amazing dessert.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Strawberry Shortcake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes
Cool Time: 20 minutes
Assemble: 5 minutes

Grade: A+

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Everyday Food (June 2003)

(I'm a bit behind, and strawberry season is pretty much over in the midwest, but this is great for next June!)

I recently did a run-off between Everyday Food and Cook's Illustrated blueberry cake recipes.  I can't really do that with Strawberry shortcake, because I don't have a recent recipe from CI or ATK. However, I don't feel like I need another recipe, because this recipe is a winner. It was even declared a "top recipe" from the picky eater in my life, so that is good.

This is a more rustic dessert with craggy biscuits. The biscuits are pretty big. I think you could make them smaller and still have a very filling dessert. It did help to have perfectly ripe June strawberries to make this with of course. I would not make this with grocery store strawberries (but maybe frozen would work.)

Friday, August 08, 2014

Potato Buns

Prep Time: 45 minutes
Rise Time: 30 minutes
Rest Time: 15 minutes
2nd Rise: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 18 minutes

Grade: A+

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (July 2012)
Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen (Season 13)

Note: the recipe is available on the ATK TV website and should be available to registered users for the rest of 2014 I think

I love this recipe. Don't be put off by the 45 prep time. That involves down-time while the potatoes are cooking, and the kneading time. The hardest part of this recipe is ricing the potatoes, but it only takes a few extra minutes. A ricer is quite helpful for that step, I'm not sure how well the recipe would work with just mashing the potatoes.

The dough is a dream to work with – seriously, it is the easiest shaping of dough I have ever experienced. The dough rolls into balls quite easily and after the rest is super easy to pat them into correct size. I have made these twice so far and I'm not sure I will buy store bought rolls again unless I am seriously strapped for time. These freeze well so can be made ahead.

My second time with the recipe I saved enough of the potato and potato cooking water to make a second batch the next day. That reduced the prep time to 15 minutes. So I ended up with 18 rolls total. I will be making this recipe again soon this way.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Blueberry Bundt Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 - 70 minutes
Cool Time: 60 minutes

Grade: B-

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: Everyday Food (September 2003)

As I mentioned in my last post, this was part of an experiment to try to similar recipes (one from Cook's Illustrated and one from Everyday Food) and pick the best one. I made these two cakes within one week of each other and was able to really compare.

This was a perfectly fine cake and easier to make. But the CI version of this recipe was truly much better and special. I even added a lemon glaze to the top to try to make sure the playing field was level, but it didn't make up for the difference in the cakes.

If I wanted a simpler blueberry cake recipe, I would go with this Coffee Cake instead which doesn't have lemon, but it very good.

But for a truly great Blueberry Lemon go with the ATK/Cook's Illustrated version. It is worth the extra 20 minutes of work.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Marbled Blueberry Bundt Cake

Prep Time: 38 minutes
Cook Time: 45 - 70 minutes
Cool Time: 3 hours

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

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

Note: The recipe will be available on TV website for free for the next year or so. The episode with the actual video hasn't aired yet, but probably will soon.

I did something I always want to do, but almost never do, and that was try two different recipes for the same thing. I have had in my list a blueberry lemon bundt cake from Everyday Food for years that I've never tried. Recently I found this recipe and I decided to try them both within a week of each other.

This cake was the definite winner. It is definitely more work because you need to make the a jam like filling, and you also need to buy some Sure-Jel. But it is really delicious and the better cake. The lemon flavor is more pronounced and the leftovers kept in the freezer have still been great.

It is also prettier with the marble filling instead of just regular blueberries floating inside.

I made a half recipe which is why I have a large range of cook times. A half bundt cake is usually plenty unless you are serving a huge crowd.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Caramel Cake

Prep Time: 13 minutes
Bake Time: 25 minutes
Cool Time: 60+ minutes
Frosting: 22 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Country (December 2009)

I am not a big cake fan, but this was very, very delicious. The cake was very moist, and the frosting was amazing. Very, very sweet, as frosting often is, but different because it a caramel frosting.

I actually only make a half cake. I did one circle, cut it in half but still make it a layer cake. I ended up frosting the cut half which was hard. And not a good idea, because eating the 2 pieces that were on the end which were frosted on top, middle AND the side was just too much frosting! (Delicious as it was.)

This cake was so rich, even with my half cake, I still gave 2 pieces to my neighbors so I didn't get sick of it. We had it two nights in a row though. I will make this again to serve to a larger group.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Lentil Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 60 minutes

Grade: A-

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (January 2004)

I made this months ago but forgot to put it in the blog. So this is not very timely. Who wants to make soup as summer is just getting started!

This is a pretty simple recipe for Cook's Illustrated standards. It tastes very nice and went over well with my picky eater. I have made this before and I will make it again.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Glazed Meatloaf

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Rest Time:  20 minutes

Grade: B+

Make Again: Maybe

Recipe Source: Cook's Country (February 2009)

This meatloaf is good, but I think I like this version of meatloaf better. They both take a similar amount of time to prep and cook, so I'd probably choose the All Beef version. I still always feel like a meatloaf should take very little time to prep, but it always takes at least some time. The beauty of a meatloaf though is that the cooking part is easy and the kitchen is always clean by the time you serve dinner (other than the pan the loaf is on.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Apple Pie Cake

Prep Time: 22 minutes
Bake Time: 70 minutes
Cool Time: 2 hours

Grade: B+

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Everyday Food (January 2003)

Note, my prep time is based on making a half recipe and only using 2 pounds of apples. Making a full recipe would take longer since there are more apples to peel and cut.

The half recipe should have used 2.5 lbs of apples, but 2 pounds was plenty. I could barely fit them in my tall 7" springform pan. And the end result still felt heavy on the apples.

This is one of the very first recipes I tried from the first issue of Everyday Food and it made me a fan. It is a fun recipe using the same mixture for the crust and topping and it was very tasty. The only complaint is the apple to crust ratio is a little high.

It is more pie like than a cake, even though it ends up looking like a cake. I will probably make again sometime in the Fall.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

Prep Time: 10
Cook Time: 2 hours on low

Grade: B+

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Slow Cooker Revolution

This recipe is super simple, and good. The one thing I don't love about the recipe is that it uses Condensed Cheese soup. But they claim it was very helpful in making a recipe that works in the slow cooker. And I can't deny that the end result was creamy and tasted, and overall worked.

Usually when I make a homemade macaroni and cheese, I double the pasta (or halve the sauce recipe) because I usually find the recipes too saucy for me. I didn't want to do that here, because the pasta cooking in the sauce, means it needs all the moisture it can get.

I did however, reduce the amount of cheese just a bit in this recipe. I used 5 oz of montery jack (instead of 8) and 6 oz of Cheddar (instead of 8). That worked perfectly find and things were still quite cheesy. I do think I could increase the pasta a few ounces and it would still work. I would get an extra serving out of it, and cut the heavyness of the recipe just a bit.

This is not quite as wonderful as Classic Macaroni and Cheese but it is still pretty good and easy to make. If you want to have a dish that is prepped earlier and finished 2 hours later, this is a good choice.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Slow Cooker Meatballs

Prep Time: 34 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes (microwave)
Slow Cooker: 5 hours on low

Grade: B+

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Slow Cooker Revolution book

These were not my favorite meatballs, but they were good. They take about the same amount of work as any meatball, unless I pan fry them (which I rarely do). Pan frying them takes longer. The sauce was delicious, it was the meatballs that didn't wow me. The Meatballs for a Crowd are better.

But it is nice to cook them in the slow cooker. I actually made them in the afternoon and let them cook while I was gone teaching a class all evening. Then we had them the next day for dinner, reheated.

It was a nice way to get dinner done ahead of time.

There is another Slow Cooker Meatball recipe from Cook's country, that is similar but not exactly the same. The main difference is instead of using a panade of bread and milk, they use cream and mozzarella cheese. I'll probably try that one eventually just to compare.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Skillet Chicken Fajitas

Prep Time: 50 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Rest Time: 5 minutes

Grade: A-

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (September 2012)
Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen TV (Season 13)

This was a little bit of work because you have to roast the peppers, but it wasn't too much or too hard.

I had the most trouble with the chicken. The chicken I buy sometimes has huge breasts that are very thick. I did pound them to 1/2" as instructed. But after marinating and putting in the pan, they were 1" at least! So the cooking method of sauteing till blackened on one side (4 minutes) and then finishing in a 200 degree oven didn't work well. I ended up cranking up my oven to 350.

The peppers and onions were good, but I would use less lime next time. Of course the reason I needed to use less lime was because I only used 1/2 the heavy cream that it called for. I didn't want to make the dish too heavy, since the rest of the meal is fairly light.

I did like these and will probably make again.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chicken and Slicks

Total Time: 80 minutes

Grade: B+

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: Cook's Country (February 2011)
Recipe Source: Cook's Country TV (Season 5)

I made this a while ago, and didn't keep good notes on the details of how much time this took. I just wrote down 80 minutes. I think that was total time, and was not work time. This is not an overly complicated recipe, actually. The time comes from cooking the chicken, freezing the noodles then cooking them. 

I did the recipe in two steps, made the chicken and noodle dough the night before, then shredded the chicken and cut and cooked noodle the 2nd night. It worked out well. 

The broth and chicken on this was super flavorful and delicious. The noodles were decent as well but a bit too thick for me. The only reason I wouldn't make this again is because if I am making a recipe like this I would probably go for Chicken and Dumplings instead which I like a little more. This is certainly good, but I missed the vegetables, and the noodles were more work than dumplings. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Weeknight Beef Chili (Slow Cooker)

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 3-5 hours on high 6-8 on low 

Grade: A-

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Slow Cooker Revolution

I got a new Crock Pot for Christmas. The one ATK recommends, so I can finally make more of the recipes from this book. The new one is larger, and making the older recipes always involved cutting recipes in half.

This chili is good, but for a Weeknight recipe it took more prep than I wanted. Of course, the prep isn't done at night anyway. For me, cooking all the beef took some time, more than they suggested it should. You also have to saute the onions and spices and make a panade with bread and milk to keep the beef tender with the long cook times.

The nice thing about the recipe is that it makes lots and chili freezes quite well.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Roasted Pepper Soup

Total Time: 50 minutes

Grade: B-

Make Again: No

Recipe Source: 6 Ingredient Solution

I thought this tasted very nice, but my picky eater didn't care for it. (At least he tried it, which was a shock.)

Although only 6 ingredients you do have to roast the peppers. That part was okay for me. The part where I got in trouble was dealing with the blender. I ended spilling soup everywhere and then I decided to strain it because I wasn't sure I got all the pieces processed enough. That made the soup just too thin for me.

This recipe used these Cheese Stick crackers (only 2), and suggested using the crackers as condiments also, which was good. It also called for a basil whipped cream which I liked. But you were supposed to make that in the blender, and that didn't work well for me. I ended up pulling out my mixer to make it. That part was delicious. You dollop a little on top of the soup.

Although I liked this, since I was the only one and it was a bit of work, and I made a mess of my kitchen, I probably won't make this again. It might be nice for a dinner party though if you have friends who are not such picky eaters and nice like flavors.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

Prep Time: 35-40 minutes
Cook Time: 45-50 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes
Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (January 2004)

I made this years ago and liked it, but never added it here. The first time I made it I used a half recipe in my small bundt pan. This time I went for the full recipe since it was for our family Christmas Eve dinner. My Kitchen Aid mixer ended up being almost filled to the brim by the time I was done.

While I was baking, I checked at 45 minutes and it seemed underdone, but I didn't try a skewer. The bottom just looked moist. So I did another 5 minutes. The bottom still looked too moist, but I did try a skewer and had not crumbs (I was supposed to a have a few.) So it was just slightly overcooked.

It was still good and the family seemed to enjoy it, however, I think it would have been better had been better about it checking it more carefully.

What saved it from seeming too dry was the tangy whipped cream topping which includes a little sour cream and brown sugar. That made the cake I think. Unfortunately I didn't get a picture of it cut with the cream, which looked nice. This is a good recipe, I just need to remember to check with a skewer sooner.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Sauteed Chicken Cutlets With Vermouth, Leek, And Tarragon Pan Sauce

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Cook's Illustrated (September 2007)

This was a nice simple recipe. I may have finally learned the lesson of the importance of prepping ingredients before I start cooking. I have a bad habit of assuming I can prep ingredients while initial parts of recipe are cooking. It rarely turns out well for me. I end up rushed, mess things up and usually make a disaster of my kitchen. It may take me longer as well.

I looked at recipe and realized the chicken breasts cook in just minutes, since they are cutlets. So I did the "mise en place" today and cooking was a breeze.

The sauce in this is fairly light, just 1T of butter, and 2 t. of oil in terms of fat, which is pretty good for Cook's Illustrated. So for once, I didn't cut the fat. :-)

I like the sauce a lot and it was nice serving this chicken with rice. My picky eater liked this, even though I couldn't give him any of the leeks. It wasn't hard to serve him some sauce and avoid the leeks.