Tuesday, April 24, 2007
The recipes really are comfort food. I grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio and there was a small diner on Sixth Street called the Elite Diner. They had the best french fries and gravy. That is probably why I picked up this book. It was published in 2005 and I'm sure that you will enjoy some of the recipes. They are quick, easy and good.
Diners have always been especially famous for their breakfasts. I'm going to include some really great recipes.
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 large eggs
1. In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of the butter and set it aside to cool.
2. In a large bow, mix the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a separate bowl combine the milk and buttermilk. Whisk in the eggs. Slowly add the 1/4 cup melted butter to the eggs. (Be sure that the butter has cooled. If the butter is too warm, it will cook the eggs.) Whisk to combine.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until just mixed.
5. On a griddle or in a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the batter onto the surface and cook for about 1 minute, until small air holes appear on the pancake's surface. Flip the pancake and cook for 1 minute more, until cooked through. Repeat to make the remaining pancakes, adding more butter to the pan as needed.
I know that pancake mix is quick and easy, but these are really good, and worth the work.
For a really light pancake, almost a crepe, try these. They are really good with fresh raspberries on top.
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
4 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1. In a small saucepan, melt 1/4 cup of the butter. Allow it to cool.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, then add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice.
Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly. Slowly add the melted butter and continue to mix. Add all of the flour and mix thoroughly.
3. On a griddle or in a nonstick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Scoop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the batter onto the surface amd cook for about 1 minute, or until small air holes appear on the pancake's surface. Flip the pancake and cook for 1 minute more, until cooked through. Repeat to cook the remaining pancakes, adding more butter to the pan as needed.
4. Serve with confectioner's sugar sprinkled on top.
Tyler, these are for you.
Big Bread French Toast
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 loaf brioche bread, unsliced
maple syrup, to serve
1. In a large bowl, combine the cinnamon with the eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla, whicking thoroughly after each addition so that the cinnamon is fully moistened. This will prevent it from floating on the top of the batter.
2. Preheat a griddle or saute' pan to medium-high heat and melt 1 tablespoon of the butter.
3. Slice the bread into four 3 inch wide slices. Halve each piece of bread on the diagonal, as you would a sandwich. Dip the triangles of bread into the batter and place immediately on the hot griddle or pan.
4. Cook each side for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip the bread so the sliced middle portion is on the heat and cook for about 1 minute. Repeat to cook the remaining slices, adding more butter to the pan as needed. Serve hot with maple syrup.
4 cups shredded Idaho potatoes (2-3 potatoes)
2 cups shredded Spanish onions (2 medium onions)
2 1/2 thinly sliced, stemed shiitake mushrooms (or other variety: 12-14 mushrooms)
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Thick-N-Chunky applesauce, to serve
1. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, onions, and mushrooms.
2. In a small bowl, beat the eggs, then add them to the vegetables. Mix in the flour to combine. Season with the salt and pepper.
3. In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat or a griddle at 300 degrees, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Scoop up 1/4 cup of the potato batter and wring out the excess liquid with your hands. (Do this over the sink or an empty bowl). Flatten it into a 3 inch round pancake. Place the pancake in the skillet and saute' for 6-7 minutes on each side, until golden brown. You can saute' several pancakes at the same time, but allow at least 1 inch of space between them. Repeat until there is no batter remaining, adding additional butter to the skillet as needed. Serve with Thick-n-Chunkly applesauce. You'll have to get the book to find out how to make Thick-n-Chunky applesauce.
These are just a few of the wonderful recipes that you will find in the "Comfort Diner Cookbook". Lunch and dinner recipes are also featured.
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Next weekend, we going to plant a small vegetable garden. I have visions of beautiful tomatoes, peppers, radishes and whatever else looks good at the nursery. I wanted to plant onions, but I thought about the fact that we have 3 dogs. Onions are very bad for dogs and two of our dogs are diggers. We also want to plant a lot of herbs: sage, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, lemongrass, basil, chives and oregano. I'll let you know how it goes. If you are planning a garden, let us know what you are planting.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Vegetable shopping: Vegetables should be firm and have a nice appearance. The color should be rich. Vegetables are like men, if they’re wilted and flabby, leave them in the store. Go for the young and firm. (This could be the reason that I’m back sitting on the shelf.)
Use asparagus within a day or two after purchasing for best flavor. Store in the refrigerator with the ends wrapped in a damp paper towel, and be sure to place the asparagus in the back of the refrigerator away from any light. Wash under cold water and cut off the base before cooking.
IDEA - Toss freshly cooked pasta with asparagus, olive oil and thyme, tarragon and rosemary.
IDEA – Toss pasta with olive oil, pine nuts and broccoli florets. Add salt and pepper to taste.
They look like little bright green cabbages. Keep unwashed and untrimmed Brussels sprouts in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. Stored in a plastic bag, they can be kept for 10 days.
The trick to preserving the freshness of carrot roots is to minimize the amount of moisture they lose. To do this, make sure to store them in the coolest part of the refrigerator in a plastic bag or wrapped in a paper towel, which will reduce the amount of condensation that is able to form. They should be able to keep fresh for about two weeks. Carrots should also be stored away from apples, pears, potatoes and other fruits and vegetables that produce ethylene gas since it will cause them to become bitter.
Corn should be refrigerated immediately after being picked. Corn will retain fairly good quality for a number of days, if it has been kept cold and moist since harvesting. Therefore, it should be refrigerated as soon as possible and kept moist until used. Look for fresh green husks. The silk-ends should not be dried out.
Thinner cucumbers will generally have less seeds than those that are thicker.
Cucumbers should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for several days. If you do not use the entire cucumber during one meal, wrap the remainder tightly in plastic or place it in a sealed container so that it does not become dried out. For maximum quality, cucumber should be used within one or two days. Cucumbers should not be left out at room temperature for too long as this will cause them to wilt and become limp.
Depending upon its age and variety, whole garlic bulbs will keep fresh from two weeks to two months. Inspect the bulb frequently and remove any cloves that appear to be dried out or moldy. Once you break the head of garlic, it greatly reduces its shelf life to just a few days.
The first step to using garlic (unless you are roasting the entire bulb) is to separate the individual cloves. An easy way to do this is to place the bulb on a cutting board or hard surface and gently, but firmly, apply pressure with the palm of your hand at an angle. This will cause the layers of skin that hold the bulb together to separate.
To separate the skin from the individual cloves, place a clove with the smooth side down on a cutting board and gently tap it with the flat side of a wide knife. You can then remove the skin either with your fingers or with a small knife. If there is a green sprout in the clove's center, gently remove it since it is difficult to digest.
IDEA - Sauté steamed spinach, garlic, and fresh lemon juice.
Store unwashed fresh bean pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
Butter-head lettuce (Big Boston and Bibb varieties) have a smaller head than iceberg lettuce. The leaves are softer and light green in color.
Romaine lettuce has crisp, dark-green leaves in a loosely folded head.
Leaf lettuce do not come in the form of a compact head. Leaves are broad, tender, smooth, and they vary in color according to variety.
Romaine and leaf lettuce should be washed and dried before storing in the refrigerator to remove their excess moisture, while Boston lettuce need not be washed before storing. A salad spinner can be very helpful in the drying of lettuce (and other salad ingredients as well). These lettuces should be either stored in a plastic bag or wrapped in a damp cloth and stored in the refrigerator crisper.
To store arugula, watercress and other types of salad greens that are sold with their roots attached, wrap the roots in a damp paper towel and place the entire greens in a plastic bag.
Romaine lettuce will keep for five to seven days, Boston and leaf lettuce for two to three days, while fragile greens such as arugula and watercress ideally should be prepared the day of purchase. All types of lettuce should be stored away from ethylene-producing fruits, such as apples, bananas and pears, since they will cause the lettuce leaves to brown.
Look for young mushrooms that are small to medium in size. Caps should be either closed around the stem or moderately open with pink or light-tan gills. The surface of the cap should be white or creamy, or uniform light brown if of a brown type. Avoid mushrooms with wide open caps and dark gills underneath.
The yellow onion is full flavored and can be used for cooking almost anything. When they are cooked they turn a rich dark brown color. If you are making French Onion soup, this is the onion to use. Choose onions that are clean, well shaped, have no opening at the neck and feature crisp, dry outer skins. Avoid those that are sprouting or have signs of mold.
Green Onions – Look for bunches with crisp green tops. These are regular onions that are harvested very young.
Summer - When purchasing summer squash, look for ones that are heavy for their size and have shiny, unblemished rinds. Summer squash is very fragile and should be handled with care as small punctures will lead to decay. It should be stored unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator, where it will keep for about seven days.
IDEA - Add zucchini or other summer squash to your favorite muffin or bread recipe; decrease the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-third to compensate for the moisture present in the squash.
Winter - Winter squash is easily prone to decay, so it is important to carefully inspect it before purchase. Choose ones that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy, rinds. Winter squash has a much longer storage life than summer squash. Depending upon the variety, it can be kept for between one week to six months.
Sweet Potatoes and Yam
Look for firm smooth sweet potatoes with uniformly colored skins. Yams are moist, sweet and have orange-colored flesh. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are dry and have pale-colored flesh. Sweet potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator. Sweet potatoes should be stored in a cool, dark and well-ventilated place, where they will keep fresh for up to ten days. They should be stored loose and not kept in a plastic bag. Keep them away from exposure to sunlight.
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Sunday, April 15, 2007
You have probably heard it time and again, but seriously; don’t shop if you are hungry. Everything looks good, but your wallet. You will spend a lot more than you planned.
Here in Columbus, we have a lot of great food stores. I like Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Giant Eagle. If you are really into produce, Whole Foods is paradise. Their selection is great.
Stay away from fruit that have blemishes, punctures or brown spots.
Apples should be firm and can be stored up to a month in the refrigerator.
Apricots - Look for fruits with a rich orange color while avoiding those that are pale and yellow. Fruits should be slightly soft. If they are too firm they have not been tree-ripened, and tree-ripened fruits always taste best.
Avocado - gently squeeze the fruit in the palm of your hand. Ripe, ready-to-eat fruit will be firm yet will yield to gentle pressure.
Bananas should not have brown or soft spots. Bananas can be stored for one week in a cool place. They should not be refrigerated.
Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes etc.) should be brightly colored. The heavier they are, the juicer they are.
How to find a ripe melon. If you tap the melon with the palm of your hand and hear a hollow sound, the melon has passed the first test. Choose a melon that seems heavy for its size, and one that does not have bruises or overly soft spots. You should be able to smell the fruit's sweetness (be careful that it doesn’t smell really strong, then it would be overripe.
Leaving a firm cantaloupe at room temperature for several days will allow the texture of its flesh to become softer and juicier. Once the cantaloupe has reached its peak ripeness, place it in the refrigerator to store. Melon that has been cut should be wrapped and stored in the refrigerator.
IDEA - Slice melons in half horizontally, scoop out seeds and use each half as a basket in which to serve fruit salad.
Grapes - Choose grapes that are plump and free from wrinkles. They should be firmly attached to a healthy looking stem. One way to evaluate the sweetness of grapes is by their color. Green grapes should have a slight yellowish hue, red grapes should be mostly red, while purple and blue-black grapes should be deep and rich in color.
They should always be stored in the refrigerator. Loosely wrap unwashed grapes in a paper towel and place them in a plastic bag. They should stay fresh for several days.
IDEA - Freeze grapes: wash and pat them dry, then arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. Once frozen, transfer grapes to a heavy plastic bag and return them to the freezer. They're like frozen grape jelly beans!
Melons should be heavy and have a sweet aroma, with no cracks or soft spots.
Pears should be left out at room temperature until they ripen. Gently press the area near the stem; if it gives a little bit, it’s ripe. Then store in the refrigerator.
Pineapples should be heavy and have a sweet aroma. The leaves will pull easily away from the stem.
Plums - If you want to purchase plums that are ripe and ready to eat, look for ones that yield to gentle pressure and that are slightly soft at their tip. Good quality plums will feature a rich color and may still have a slight whitish "bloom," reflecting that they have not been over-handled. They should also be free of punctures, bruises or any signs of decay.
Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps on. Visually check each package, making sure there are no signs of mold growth. If one berry is molded, mold spores will have traveled throughout the entire package. When purchasing strawberries by the pound, one-and-a-half pounds equal one quart. This will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.
Use strawberries as soon after purchasing as possible. Berries should not be left at room temperature for more than a few hours.
Store unwashed berries loosely covered with plastic wrap in the coldest part of your refrigerator for two to three days at most. Do not wash berries until ready to use.
To wash, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Do not allow berries to set in water as they will lose color and flavor.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007
8 ounces elbow macaroni
8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
12 ounce container small curd cottage cheese
8 ounce container sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook until done; drain.
3. In 9x13 inch baking dish, stir together the macaroni, Cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs and melted butter. Sprinkle topping over macaroni mixture.
5. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden. If you are preparing this ahead and refrigerating the casserole, increase your cooking time to 45 minutes.
Welcome to my first blog entry.
Not long ago, I put up a website, http://www.Secret-Onion-Cooking-School.com the main idea that I kept reading about was something called a niche. In the beginning, you want to be all things to everyone. In the end, you have a little bit about everything, but not a lot about anything in particular. So here is my niche -learning how to cook. If you surf for cooking schools on the net, you will find some really great sites. But, you will also discover their prices are a little high. This is my attempt to teach beginning cooking and to make it fun. In the beginning, a long, long time ago, I started to cook. There were some really good meals and there were disasters. Dinners were meat, potatoes and vegetables. Sometimes, I added a salad to spice things up. Talk about a rut. Casseroles were never served. What a shame! I have since found out that there are some very good casseroles out there. Plus, they can usually be made ahead of time and then put in the oven when you come home from work. This makes life a lot easier. Basically, this blog is about comfort foods.I always thought that the macaroni and cheese that my grandmother made was really good. But I found a recipe that is much, much better. Just as a side note, everyone in my family always puts catsup on mac and cheese. I never realized that this was considered weird until my brother, Rick's, girlfriend came to dinner. She couldn't get over the fact that we used the catsup bottle pretty liberally. Of course, her favorite was an olive sandwich with mustard.
On to how to make macaroni and cheese.