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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Make Ahead Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping

Prep Time: 80 minutes
Cook Time: 80 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Make Ahead Cook (book)

This recipe is very similar, but not exactly the same as the recipe I reviewed previously from the magazine. The topping is the same, but there are some differences in the filling. I'm not sure why. Probably to allow for making two casseroles instead of one that serves 6?

There are actually two Chicken Pot pie recipes in the book. Both have the exact same filling. This one has a crumble topping and is from the Oven Ready Casserole chapter. The other one has a pie crust topping and is found in the Freezer chapter.

I decided to experiment and do both with this one. I made one casserole for cooking later that day and 3 others for freezing. (Since I'm only making this for two people, I used disposable loaf pans instead of 8x8 pans and made 4 instead of 2 casseroles.) I used the instructions from both recipes on preparing the casserole. The crumble topping worked fine in both ways as I expected. I kept the topping in a separate baggie when frozen.

This is a delicious recipe and having 3 more in the freezer to make later was great. As I've found with all of the other freezer recipes, these casseroles take a very long time to reheat, even with my smaller portions, so you do need to make sure you give it enough time.

I made the same adjustments to this recipe as I did the original from the magazine. I used less butter in the sauce, milk instead of cream and used chicken breasts instead of thighs. It still was rich and delicious. I left the crumble topping alone.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Pumpkin Cinnamon Bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25-35 minutes

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour

This recipe can be made with pumpkin butter or apple butter. I had to make pumpkin butter since I only had canned pumpkin on had. That is not included in the prep time, because next time I'll probably use apple or pumpkin butter already made to keep things simple.

These were absolutely delicious. They were very moist but dense, sort of like a brownie. The flavor was great. I made these 3 months ago so I don't remember why, but I know I didn't drizzle the frosting but instead spread it over the top. Maybe because there was a lot. It was a very thin layer though, so not too much.

I probably won't make these again until next Fall, but this is a great quick bar cookie recipe. On second thought if I saw some apple or pumpkin butter at the store I would probably make them soon because I am remember now how good they were.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Best Chicken Parmesan

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Salt Time: 20 min (can overlap with prep)
Breading/Cook Time: 20 min
Broil: 2-4 minutes

Grade: A-

Make Again: Yes

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

This tasted great, but was a little greasy and rich, so I probably won't make it a lot. I remember a lighter recipe from the Best Light Recipe (which I don't own anymore) but I think I probably prefer that recipe. It is not super quick, but they have streamlined the recipe some so it isn't too complicated.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Portuguese-Style Potato and Kale Soup

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4-6 hours on low

Grade: A

Make Again: Yes

Recipe Source: Slow Cooker Revolution Book

I am shocked I didn't report on this recipe last year, because I ended up making it at least 3 times last winter after I first tried it. It is one of the easier recipes from Slow Cooker Revolution and it tastes great. The onions, garlic and spices are only cooked in the microwave first making this a little bit simpler prep. Also since it uses kielbasa, that prep is easy as well. I make it with Turkey Kielbasa, since it is lighter. Of course, I use the full 13oz that comes in the package instead of the 8oz called for, so that may erase any efforts to keep this lighter.

This is a great soup though with a nice little heat to it. My picker eater doesn't like kale, so I usually spoon some out for him before I add the kale and then we re-heat his soup when ready to eat.