Saturday, November 25, 2006

Catchin' Up - Three Breakfasts

I can't believe how busy I've been while I've been on Thanksgiving Break! You'd think that there'd be lots of time to get lots of posting done. Well, not this year. On Sunday, we bought a brand new travel trailer! We've been camping for the past 10 years or so in a tent trailer, which, while it was definitely better than tent camping, didn't offer the amenities I'm looking forward to now. I've decided to start a separate blog about the trailer and our camping experiences; I'll do the first entry soon. We plan to take it out next weekend for a two-night "shakedown," then on a longer trip over the winter break.

I HAVE done some cooking, though. With my DS son here, I've made some decent breakfasts. In addition to my wonderful bisuits and gravy, I used the Jimmy Dean sausage in a bread-based casserole. It was easy to throw together, and I didn't keep it in the refrigerator overnight like most recipes call for. (However, I think if I did, it would be a bit softer and probably even better!)

Easy Breakfast Casserole

½ lb. Jimmy Dean sausage
1 tablespoon mustard
6 slices bread , torn into bite-size pieces
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
6 eggs or equivalent in Eggbeaters, beaten
1 4-ounce can evaporated milk or 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350?. In a skillet, crumble and brown the sausage. Stir in the mustard. Combine bread, cheese, and sausage, and put in a 9" baking pan. Mix eggs and mik, and pour evenly over bread-meat mixture, and bake about 30 minutes until puffed, golden, and set. Serves 2-3.

Have you ever eaten at Mimi's Cafe? They make a dish for breakfast they call Pain Perdu - which is basically French toast with cream cheese and marmalade inside. I've taken that concept and added almonds - and it was soooooo good.

Orange-Almond Pain Perdu

6 slices white or whole wheat sandwich bread
3 Tbsp. softened cream cheese, divided
6 teaspoons orange marmalade
2 eggs or equivalent in Eggbeaters
2-3 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. sliced almonds, toasted
nonstick cooking spray

Spread 3 slices of bread with 1 tablespoon each cream cheese and 2 teaspoons each orange marmalade. Form three sandwiches with the other three slices. Combine eggs/Eggbeaters and milk in a shallow dish. Heat a griddle sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle space where you're going to place a sandwich with 1 tablespoon of the almonds. Dip both sides of sandwich in egg mixture and place on top of almonds. Grill until brown on bottom side, flip and grill until both sides are browned. Serve with maple syrup. Makes 3.

This morning's breafast made use of some refrigerated biscuits, and is one of DS's favorites. I'm sure I could change this a bit to make it lower carb, but he doesn't need fewer carbs so I made it this way.

Apple Breakfast Stacks

1/3 c packed brown sugar
2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 10-oz can refrigerated biscuits
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1 large apple, cored and cut into rings
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine, melted

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl; set aside. Separate biscuits, and press each into a 3-inch circle. Place on lightly greased baking sheets; sprinkle with cheese, and top each with an apple ring. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture, and drizzle with melted butter. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until crust is golden. Serve immediately. Makes 10.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cooler Nights Mean it's Cobbler Time

Tonight between football games (Ohio St./Michigan and USC/Cal), I was able to talk DH into cooking some Italian sausages on the grill. I warmed up some hoagie rolls (also called submarine sandwich rolls), and sautéed some bell peppers and onions with a bit of garlic to top the sausages.

By the way, what do YOU call these long sandwiches? Hoagies? Subs? something else? I’ve called them both hoagies and subs, but I know there are some other names for them.

For a side dish, I made my mother’s pasta salad. Her ingredients for pasta salad are identical (except for the pasta, of course) to her potato salad: boiled macaroni, chopped sweet pickle, chopped onion, hard boiled eggs, pimentos, and Miracle Whip.

It’s our dessert that I’m highlighting tonight. I’ve decided that in order to defrost the freezer, I need to start using up all the food that’s in it! I’ve had a bag of berry blend (blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries) from Costco in there the longest, so I decided to create a mixed berry cobbler. I lightened it by substituting Splenda for about two-thirds of the sugar, then I switched out some all-purpose flour for some white whole wheat, and added flaxseed to the batter. I also cut about a quarter of the butter out of the batter. This is sooooo good!

Mixed Berry Cobbler

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
1 cup Splenda granular, divided
3/4 cup sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick cold butter, cut in small pieces
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup cold water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
6 cups mixed berries, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 400˚. Line a large cookie sheet with foil.
In a large bowl, mix the flours, flaxseed, 1/2 cup Splenda granular, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in almond extract and 1/2 cup boiling water just until mixture is evenly moist. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water. Mix in remaining 1/2 cup Splenda, 1/2 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries. Transfer to a cast iron skillet, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Drop dough into the skillet by spoonfuls. Place skillet on the foil lined baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until dough is golden brown. Serves 8.

Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted this week by Nandita of Saffron Trail. I just realized that my berries "count", since we've been celebrating herbs, fruits, vegetables, and plants in general. After Monday, go to Saffron Trail to check out the roundup.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Study of Mole

Many years ago I had a dish at a faculty party called Chicken Mole (pronounced mo-lay). It was a chicken dish, with pieces of chicken in a dark red sauce. All these years I’ve been under the mistaken impression that red mole was the only kind of mole. After seeing a post on Is it EDible?, I learned that there’s a green mole. I had to give it a try, and at the same time, decided to learn more about moles. First, I followed Ed’s directions and bought a jar of Mole Verde at the Mexican grocery store in Yucaipa. (The bigger stores carried only the red). I was intrigued by the list of ingredients in Mole Verde: pumpkin seeds, soybean oil, crackers, sesame seeds, peanuts, salt, chile peppers and “natural flavors.” When you open the jar to use some of it for a recipe, you need a very strong spoon, because the mixture is a paste that’s so thick it’s almost solid. In addition, if the recipe says to use only a quarter of a cup, then use only a quarter of a cup. I thought, “a quarter cup doesn’t look like a whole lot, maybe I should throw in a little more.” Wrong! It softens and dissolves into the broth, and if you use too much you end up with a thick muddy-looking sludge. So don’t use too much!

Once I made dinner, I got on the internet and tried to learn more about mole. The best resource is a site called The Mole Page. In addition to lots of recipes, I found information about types of moles and the history of mole. Bob, the owner of the site, says this:

"The word "Mole" comes from the Aztec word "Molli," meaning "concoction," "stew" or "sauce." To the unenlightened, Mole is a Mexican chocolate sauce. In Mexico, Mole is a hundred dishes in a hundred homes. It varies from town to town and family to family. The most famous Mole, "Mole Poblano de Guajolote" (made with Wild Turkey--the bird, not the booze) is a special complex dish carefully woven together using dried chiles, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices and chocolate (preferably ground, toasted cacao beans, but Mexican chocolate, such as Ibarra brand, is acceptable).

Some refer to Mole Poblano as the National dish of Mexico. But there are many, many Moles, including Green Mole with Tomatillos, Green Mole with Pumpkinseeds, Orange-Red Mole, Red Mole, Yellow Mole and the famous peasant Soup, Mole de Olla. To some, Mole is a sauce poured on enchiladas and heated up in a microwave. To others, Mole is a Turkey (or Chicken) stew. To me, Mole is my expression of passion for cooking, especially cooking with chiles. It is a tribute to 17th century tradition while it allows me to create a new dish every time I make it.

Today, there are two focal points for Mexican Mole: 1) Puebla and 2) Oaxaca, though Veracruz is famous for "Mole Verde" (with Tomatillos and NO nuts or seeds), Guerrero features "Mole Verde" (with ground pumpkinseeds), Mexico City and Guadalajara play host to "Manchamanteles de Cerdo y Pollo" (simple Red Mole with Meat, Fowl and Fruit).”

This means that the mole I made for dinner probably originated in Guerrero. I have a jar of red mole that I bought at Trader Joe’s, and I bet it’s like the mole I had all those years ago.

I don’t know if the Guerrero version has mushrooms in it, but Ed put them in his, and it really “made” the dish. I didn’t have DH and K really ate it up, and declared it a success. Thanks, Ed!

Chicken Mole Verde
from Ed of Is it EDible?

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used breasts this time)
8 ounces mushrooms, halved
4 ounces Dona Maria Mole Verde sauce
2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1/2 cup queso fresco (a Mexican white cheese with a crumbly texture)

In a large saucepan with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in shallots and garlic. Sauté for a minute. Add chicken. Saute until lightly brown on all sides. Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring to blend once the mole paste melts. Sauce will thicken on its own. Just before serving, sprinkle the queso fresco on top. Serve over rice.

I have a jar of red mole sauce that I bought at Trader Joe’s. Red mole usually has unsweetened chocolate in it, which is common in some Mexican sauces. The red comes from the chocolate and the red chiles used for spice. It’s prepared in the same way, and tastes just as good–just different.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A snack for the road trip (plus some for me!)

DH and K have to go to Salt Lake City tomorrow to retrieve K's inoperable car from storage. It's been there the whole time he was in Korea, and now they want to bring it here so he doesn't have to pay for the storage any more, and so that we can look into trying to get it running again. Something about a $2000 estimate has kept K from getting it fixed.

They're leaving at "O Dark Thirty," meaning whenever DH gets up and makes K get up. That'll probably be around 3 am. But I know that they'll need a good snack on the road, so I made some homemade granola bars. I'm keeping a few for myself to grab for breakfast a couple of days.

Coconut Cranberry Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
¾ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup wheat or oat bran
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup dried cranberries
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup honey
1 egg, beaten
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Generously grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or line it with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat bran, coconut, nuts, flour, cranberries and salt. Make a well in the center, and pour in the honey, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix well using your hands. Pat the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bars begin to turn golden at the edges. Cool for 5 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm. Do not allow the bars to cool completely before cutting, or they will be too hard to cut.

Soup for Lunch

There’s a great barbecue restaturant in Redlands called Slim Pig’n’s, which I’ve written about here. I’ve been on the lookout for a recipe for tortilla soup that’s similar to theirs.

Earlier this week, Randi of Culinary Adventures posted about some tortilla soup with chiptotle shrimp that she’d made; she got the recipe from Cuisine at Home Soups and Splendid Sides magazine. Without posting the recipe, she described the basic steps she took to making the soup, and I decided I had to try to come up with a recipe that was similar to what she made, since it seemed a lot like the one at Slim Pig’n’s. Mine doesn’t have any meat in it, though you could add chicken or shrimp if you want.

Here it is!

Creamy Tortilla Soup

1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/2 tsp regular chili powder
1 15.25-ounce can corn, drained
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained (next time I’ll use black beans, but I didn’t have any in the cupboard)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies
2 6-inch corn tortillas, torn in small pieces
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Sauté onion, cumin, coriander, and garlic in oil until onion softens. Add chicken broth, cilantro, chili powders, corn, beans, tomatoes, green chilies, and torn tortilla pieces. Bring to a boil, and cook over medium heat 10-20 minutes. Stir flour into sour cream; add sour cream to soup. Stir with a whisk until all lumps are gone and heat another 5 minutes without boiling. Serve topped with grated cheese and crispy tortilla strips (or do what I did, which was to use broken-up tortilla chips). Makes 6 servings.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Makeover Pumpkin Bundt Cake

Last week, Patti of Adventures in Food and Wine made a great-looking Pumpkin Bundt Cake, from a recipe she got on I told her I was going to make it this weekend, but I decided to change it and make it hearty and healthier: lower fat, and lower sugar, and higher fiber. This is what I came up with:

Hearty Pumpkin Bundt Cake
adapted from a recipe from Patti of Adventures in Food and Wine

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweeteened applesauce
3 eggs
1 can (15 ounce) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups Splenda granular
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup 9-grain cereal (you can also use oat bran or wheat bran)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees˚. Spray one10-inch bundt or tube pan with Baker's Joy or Pam for baking. Cream oil, beaten eggs, pumpkin, flaxseed and vanilla together. Sift the Splenda, sugar, flours, baking soda, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground cloves and salt together. Stir in 9-grain cereal. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in walnuts. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto a plate and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Family Update - With Photos!

Today was a great day. My son came home from Korea to spend a month with us before he goes to Japan for two years. His sister, the one who had surgery, was very anxious for him to get here, and they had a happy reunion at the airport. Don't they both look great?!

After we got home, K unpacked his bags and produced gifts! For his soccer-playing sister, he brought a Landon Donovan United States team jersey, for his Miami Dolphin-fan father, a Dan Marino jersey, and for his Atlanta Braves fanatic mother, a Chipper Jones jersey and hat.

Breakfast or Dessert?

I love Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, and when I was looking at some recipes on the Food Network website, I came across a recipe by Paula Deen for Pineapple Upside-Down Biscuits. I think she made them for dessert, but I thought they'd make a great breakfast. This morning I went to make them, and discovered I had no pineapple, but I did have a can of peaches. "Hmmmm," I thought, "why not try it with peaches?" DH and I have decided that not only are they good with pineapple and peaches, but might also be good with some diced apples and a bit of cinnamon, or maybe some other fruits. This is quick and easy, and tastes wonderful. I lightened it up some by using "lite" peaches and Splenda Brown Sugar Blend.

Peach Upside-Down Biscuits
adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen

1 can (14 ounce) peaches (I used "lite" peaches)
½ cup packed light brown sugar OR 1/4 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 package (12-ounce) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (10 count)
Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Grease 10 cups of a muffin tin. Strain the can of peaches, reserving the syrup, and dice the peaches. Combine the peaches, sugar, and butter, and mix well. Divide the peach mixture among the muffin cups. Place 1 biscuit in each cup on top of sugar and peach mixture. Spoon 1 teaspoon reserved peach syrup over each biscuit. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool for 2 minutes. Run a knife around each biscuit and invert the pan onto a plate to release the biscuits. Serve warm. Serves 2.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Cooking Again

Now that my daughter is back home in her apartment (she's doing so well she'll return to work next Friday), I can get back to cooking things that require recipes. For several weeks we've been keeping it pretty simple and I haven't cooked much, or I've cooked things that I've already posted about.

Tonight I adapted a Rachel Ray recipe and came up with a wonderfully spicy-sweet dish. The original recipe, Apricot Chicken, was basically a sweet dish, but I wanted to spice mine up a bit. I also used pork instead of chicken, and thickened the sauce with cornstarch and water.

Every couple of months the Vons supermarket in Yucaipa puts pork sirloins on sale, and I stock up. This meat is like beef sirloin in that it's very tender, and cooks up better than boneless pork chops (which I also use a lot of). Pork sirloins are wonderful for grilling, and I use them for Schwenkbraten and my own Lemon-Garlic Schwenks. Instead of getting tough during grilling, like the boneless chops, this meat gets tender. You should try it sometime with your choice of marinade. Tonight I used it in this recipe:

Spicy Apricot Pork

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 pork sirloins (about 12 oz.), cut in bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper
1 small onion, chopped
1 T cider or white vinegar
4 dried apricots, diced (it doesn't look like enough, but they expand while cooking)
1 c chicken stock
1/2 c apricot all-fruit spread
1-2 teaspoons sambal oelek (ground fresh red chile paste) (I used 2, and it was really spicy-so if you want it milder, just use 1)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp. cold water

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add meat and season with salt and pepper. Brown on both sides; add onion. Cook 5 minutes. Add vinegar to the skillet, and when it evaporates, add the apricots and chicken stock. When the liquid comes to a boil, add the apricot fruit spread and the sambal oelek; stir to combine. Cover pan, reduce heat, and simmer 10-12 minutes. Raise heat to medium-high, add cornstarch-water mixture, and stir until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Serve over hot rice. Makes 3 servings (or 1 normal serving for you and 1 large serving for your hungry spouse!)

PRODUCT REVIEW-Uncle Ben's Ready Rice - Brown Rice

I saw this at the store last time I bought groceries, and since I absolutely CANNOT cook brown rice without burning it, I decided to give it a try. This bag has 2 servings of brown rice in it, and the directions call for you to microwave it on high for 90 seconds. I was pleasantly surprised to see that that's all it took. Perfectly-cooked brown rice. Since I normally cook for two, I plan to stock up on these. 90 seconds to perfect brown rice is worth the extra cost to me.

Celebrating a BLUE Day

Today was a great occasion to share with you one of my favorite martinis. I first had this one at the Mission Inn in Riverside. I really can't afford to eat there often, so I got the "recipe" from the bartender. Now I make up a batch and keep it in the refrigerator, ready to pour into a glass whenever I want a sweet taste.

Butterscotch Martini

1 6-oz. can pineapple juice
6 oz. vanilla vodka
6 oz. butterscotch schnapps

Combine all ingredients; serve cold. Makes about 5-6 martinis.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Take a stand. Make sure you have a reason to complain if you don't like the results.

I'm really looking forward to the change that's coming.