Stuff I’ve Been Cooking, Reading, Watching, Etc.
Favorite Things , Recipes / July 1, 2020

Hi, just checking in. It’s been a pretty stressful and illumniating few weeks. I keep wondering what incredible event will totally upend our lives in the next month or so. I, like most people, have been thinking a lot about racism in this country and what I can do differently in my own life to not only believe that black lives matter, but to work towards that goal. I will continue to work for and donate to political candiates who are going to work for social justice. As far as this blog and my presence on social media, I want to share more recipes from blogs and cookbooks by people of color. If you have suggestions, please send them my way. Thanks! What I’ve Been Cooking: Rose Sangria with Nectarines and Strawberries: Sangria always seems like a lot of trouble, but this recipe, from the current issue of Martha Stewart Living, was quite simple. You just need to plan ahead a little so the fruit has time to soak in the vodka. Yum! Nutella Swirl Banana Bread: I finally got around to making banana bread, like everyone else who has been quarantine baking. This version with nutella is super rich,…

Sister Pie: Strawberry Pistachio Crumble Pie

I have had Sister Pie borrowed from the library for quite awhile (I checked it out right before my library closed because or COVID-19), and I kept avoiding it because I am not a pie baker. If I feel the need to make a pie for some reason, I usually just get a store-bought crust and call it a day. (My husband loves blackberry pie, and about the only baking he ever does is making homemade pie crusts.) But this book, which has a gorgeous cover, kept staring at me, and I finally decided to take on the challenge of making a homemade pie with crust from scratch. Sister Pie is written by Lisa Ludwinski who owns the Sister Pie bakery in Detroit. If you want a traditional pie cookbook, this is not for you. The basic pie crust recipe seemed pretty standard, but the pie recipes are full of non-traditional flavors like Concord Grape and Goat Cheese Pie or Rhubarb Rosemary Struesel Pie. As I read through the cookbook, I still found quite a few recipes that looked interesting, including some recipes that aren’t even for pies. There is a whole section about salads because Ludwinski said she makes…

Stuff I’ve Been Cooking, Reading, Watching, Etc.
Favorite Things , Recipes / May 28, 2020

Hey, I hope everyone is hanging in there. My family is still doing well. Everyone is healthy, and my husband and I are able to work from home. But I feel like the whole “opening up” of things is more stressful than just being forced to stay home. So many decisions about when to wear a mask, whether my kids can have friends over, and on and on. Anyway, I just thought I’d do another quick post about what I’ve been up to. What I’ve Been Cooking: Cheeseburger Quesadilla: I should just buy stock in Iowa Girl Eats. Maybe because she’s a Midwestern gal like me, but her recipes are always a big hit in my house. Quesadillas and cheeseburgers combined! Of course my sons were going to love this. Szechuan Chicken: Another blog that’s a new favorite is The Happier Homemaker. It’s chockfull of easy and budget-friendly recipes. What I’ve Been Reading: Such a Fun Age: This is a quick (but very well-written) novel about a young black woman who is stopped in a grocery store for suspicious behavior while she is babysitting a white toddler. The novel is about the aftermath of that event. While it’s quite entertaining…

Mad Hungry Family: Double-Decker Pork Tacos
Cookbook Overviews , Recipes / May 13, 2020

Previously I reviewed Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys. Now Quinn, who worked for Martha Stewart, has a line of Mad Hungry cookbooks. I picked up Mad Hungry Family from the library (before it closed). This book seems pretty similar to the other Mad Hungry cookbook. It’s full of dishes that are simple and filling, so you can feed your family homecooked meals. Quinn is a big proponent of the family meal and teaching your kids to cook for themselves. She describes great stories of sharing her love of food with her boys. I wouldn’t say these cookbooks are my favorite, but I did find quite a few dishes I would like to try out. I’m always looking for new ideas for Taco Tuesday, but this recipe might move to Sunday night. They were a little more work than my regular do-it-yourself taco setup, and a little heavy for a weeknight meal. But they were delicious, and my family loved them, so I know I will be making them again soon. Makes 1 taco 2 teaspoons vegetable oil 2 corn tortillas 1 slice mild, melting cheese, such as Monterey Jack, or Mexican melting cheese, such as queso…

Louisiana Real and Rustic: Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

So I already mentioned that i’m a big Emeril fan. The last cookbook of his I reviewed was all about comfort food. This cookbook is really the basics of Cajun cooking. I haven’t used it a lot, because my husband does most of the Cajun cooking in our house. The other day he make this gumbo recipe, but he always likes to tweak recipes, so I will provide info about that below. Six servings 2 pounds small okra 1/4 cup vegetable oil 2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes 1 cup chopped onions 1 cup chopped celery 1 3/4 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon cayenne 5 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 2 quarts water 1 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and deveined Wash the okra in cool water. Remove the caps and tips and cut into 1/4-inch rounds. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Fry the okra, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until most of the slime disappears. Add the tomatoes, onions, and celery and cook, stirring often, for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the okra and other vegetables are soft and the slime has completely disappeared. Add the salt, cayenne, bay leaves,…

The Happier Homemaker Blog: Easy Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies
Recipes / April 21, 2020

No flour. No problem! So I had a request from a friend of mine (Hey, Max!) who is trying to go gluten free to see if it clears up some health issues. Before I had a chance to search for some recipes in my cookbooks, this recipe popped up on Pinterest or Instagram or somewhere. (Sometimes mindlessly scrolling turns out to be useful!) This recipe is super easy, with just four ingredients, and they turned out super moist and delicious. These cookies are like peanut butter out of the jar, but kicked up a notch! Click on the image to get the recipe. I have also linked to some of the gluten-free recipes I have posted in the past. Enjoy! More gluten free recipes: Superhero Muffins Deep Dish Skillet Brownie Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons Parmesan and Herb-Crusted Cod Brown Rice Bowl with Edamame and Tamari Scallion Sauce

The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook: Lemon-Glazed Blueberry Muffins
Cookbook Overviews , Recipes / April 1, 2020

My husband bought this The America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook (2001) at a used bookstore quite awhile ago, and I hadn’t made anything from it yet. So I sat down and looked through it the other day, and it’s full of good stuff. As I’m sure most of you know, America’s Test Kitchen is a real kitchen in Boston where they test recipes that they publish in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine and demonstrate on their PBS show. Both the magazine and the show focus on “finding the best and most full-proof methods for preparing home-cooked food.” Each chapter of this cookbook, which includes headings such as “Simple Sandwiches,” “All-American Cookout,” and “Fajitas and Margaritas,” includes a few recipes with variations and reviews of the best equipment and ingredients for making the recipes. I took this recipe from the “Muffins & Scones” chapter. The Ekco Baker’s Secret muffin tin took top honors. They also discovered that you don’t need to use fancy butter for baking, just make sure it’s fresh and unsalted. I have to say this recipe, which is pretty detailed, does produce a really good blueberry muffin. I suggest you give it a try!   Makes 12 muffins 2 cups all-purpose…

Cook Something: Gnocchi
Recipes / March 25, 2020

OK, today I’m trying something new. I call it Anatomy of a Failed Recipe. I think it’s good to admit that not every recipe we try is going to work out great, even if we have been cooking for a long time. It might be the recipe isn’t great. It might be that you are trying a new technique. It might be that you substituted ingredients that did not work out. And it might be that you didn’t have much patience, so you tried skipping a step or simplifying the recipe. The reason that this recipe didn’t work out is probably a combination of all the above. So my youngest son Logan loves gnocchi. When I saw a recipe (that looked pretty simple) for homemade gnocchi in the Cook Something cookbook, I thought this would be a good project for Logan and I to work on together. It did turn out to be fun, and it was probably a good first step on the way to successfully making gnocchi. Unfortunately, the final dish wasn’t a huge success. My husband and I still ate it, but Logan didn’t (my older son is not a fan, although he was a sport and…

Cook Something: Pimiento Cheese

Ok, so since we are all cooking at home a lot, I thought I would go ahead and share some recipes. Canal House Cook Something: Recipes to Rely On by Christoper Hersheimer and Melissa Hamilton is one of those basic recipe cookbooks that are great gifts for anyone who is just starting to cook. A lot of the recipes are just variations on a simple recipe. The one I tried out, Pimiento Cheese, is about as basic as it gets. This is something my husband makes a lot, but he doesn’t really have a set recipe for it. So the other day when I was hosting my neighborhood book club (remember those days when you were allowed to have other people in your house :-)) and wanted to make something, I looked up the pimiento cheese recipe in Cook Something. My only complaint about this book was some of the recipes seemed a little old-fashioned and not really the kinds of things I’m usually cooking. My two favorite basic reference cookbooks are How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and the always reliable Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. In fact, I need to get updated copies of both of these! Anyway,…

Everyday Italian: Beef and Cheese Manicotti
Cookbook Overviews , Recipes / February 19, 2020

I guess I have Food Network nostalgia, because here’s another TV star cookbook. Everyday Italian: 123 Simple and Delicious Recipes by Giada De Laurentis is true to its name. These recipes are Italian-American dishes that are quick and easy. She’s not trying to be super authentic or artisnal in her cooking, but she is trying to create dishes that are inspired by her Italian heritage that are easy for home cooks. I think she has succeeded. Serves 6 1/2 pound ground beef or turkey 1/2 cup finely chopped onion 1 (15 ounce) container whole-milk ricotta cheese 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon black pepper 3 teaspoons olive oil 12 pieces of manicotti pasta 1 1/2 cups marinara sauce 1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces (optional) Heat a medium-size skillet on medium. Add the ground beef and onion. Saute until the meat browns and the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese, the parsley, garlic,…

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