Quote from Intro:

"Anyone can cook, and most everyone should. It's a sorry sign that many people consider cooking 'from scratch' an unusual and even rare talent.
In fact, it is a simple and rewarding craft, one that anyone can learn and even succeed at from the get-go."
-Bittman, HTCE

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw

Recipe: Spicy No-Mayo Coleslaw
Page: HTCE p. 207
Rating: ****

We really liked this! The first time I made it a year ago, I wasn't crazy about it. But this time, it was delicious. Not sure what the difference was. I definitely recommend making it at least an hour before and tossing it periodically during that time--the cabbage softens a touch which adds to the finished product. It is yellow as the picture indicates (that's not just my photography!). It's heavy on the mustard which makes it very different from the usual idea of "slaw," but it also helped my husband really like it and he usually hates slaw! So, if you're not a typical slaw fan, this is a good one to try. I think the servings are spot on; we halved it and got 4 generous servings. If you're taking it to a potluck, you'd probably get 10 or more servings out of it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My First Brussels Sprouts

After being at my in-laws for a week during Thanksgiving I was re-inspired to get back into the kitchen and cook for my family.  Since having Asher cooking has seemed like drudgery but after seeing this recipe I had to try my hand at Brussels sprouts!

Now I don't have any pictures of this recipe because I ate it too quickly, and for never having a Brussels sprout before I thought these were awesome!  I was happy to find that Bittman has many recipes for sprouts in HTCE and one of them is very similar to Tyler's example above.  As a matter of fact Bittman left off the one thing we didn't really like about Tyler's recipe - the soggy breadcrumb topping.

I will say that if I make this recipe again I will combine Bittman's recipe and Tyler's by only cutting the sprouts in half (way quicker) and browning them in the pan with the bacon before adding the water (or if you have it, stock).  If my oven happens to be on, I will still add the Parmesan cheese though because it was nice and crunchy and added a nice texture contrast.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (variation)

Recipe: Sandwich Bread, 5 Ways: 50 Percent Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread variation
Page: HTCE p. 859ff
Rating: *****

This is my go to sandwich bread recipe these days: quick (via food processor magic), doubles well, nourishing, tasty, easy, reliable, cheap, .... We make it with one primary change: subbing water for the milk called for. I've found this gives a softer, chewier bread, which we like better. I always use honey and oil (not butter). It's a leisurely process as far as rising time, but super quick to pull the basic dough together. It's a great all-purpose bread and makes terrific raisin bread. It also freezes well.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Muffins, Infinite Ways

Recipe: Muffins, Infinite Ways
Page: HTCE p. 832
Rating: *****

If I've rated these before, then just know they merit AT LEAST 2 ***** ratings. I make these almost weekly. You can't go wrong. They're delicious and just the right size. I've made muffins regularly for 15 years now--I even have a cookbook that is just for muffins. But this is now my go to recipe. I usually use oil instead of butter because I'm lazy. Otherwise, I follow directions per.

Oh--I also usually use half white whole wheat flour.

Variations that our family loves: Banana Nut Muffins (using half whole wheat flour and skipping the nuts), Blueberry Muffins (a real fave around here; leave out the cinnamon, the lemon zest is wonderful but I don't always have time/lemons), Cranberry Muffins (another fave), Coffee Cake Muffins (yum yum yum!), and the Savory Muffins (good with cheese in them instead of the onion).


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chicken Scampi

We're fans of Olive Garden's chicken scampi around here and found a recipe that recreates it nicely. After I'd made our version a couple of times, I was making Mark's Sauteed Chicken Cutlets and noticed a definite similarity.

If you want to turn the Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Wine Sauce (p. 679) into Olive Garden-style Chicken Scampi, make the following additions:

Saute 3-6 cloves minced garlic, a sliced red bell pepper (and a green if you want) and a sliced red onion either first or sort of in the sauce near the end.

Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano with the chicken stock as part of the sauce.

That's it! Same directions otherwise. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Wine Sauce

Recipe: Sauteed Chicken Cutlets with Wine Sauce
Page: HTCE p. 679
Rating: ******************

I make this frequently and my family licks their plates, scoops more sauce onto potatoes (or green beans or whatever's left on the plate) and keeps eating. It's the same method as the 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking Simple Sauteed Chicken recipe, but the ingredients vary a touch. Both cookbooks have the same basic sauteed chicken cutlets recipe, but the wine sauce recipe is where Mark shines: SO SIMPLE.

As Bridgette does, Mark calls for you to pound the chicken slightly--I just do it a touch to even out the thickest part. He calls for 1 cup of flour; you really only need about1/4-1/2 a cup. And, don't oversalt your chicken; the sauce is reduced so much that it will be too salty; just salt the chicken a touch before cooking because you can always add more later.

Incidentally, we're not sure we can taste the wine a lot. I've done this with Scotch, Reisling, whatever's on hand that's white/light in color. I think it would be just as good with chicken broth plus an herb or two (if I'm using wine, I don't bother with the herbs much--usually too busy on a weeknight).

It makes a terrific entree for a nice dinner that still only takes 1/2 an hour to make. Serve it with some mashed or roasted potatoes (you'd have to start the potatoes first), some green beans, and some bread: classy meal on a weekday that's easy to make and inexpensive!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Whole Wheat Pasta with Roasted Potatoes

Recipe: Whole Wheat Farfalle with Roasted Potatoes
Page: HTCE p. 523
Rating: ****

This was a terrific, simple dish. We added some Parmesan and didn't use the red pepper flakes. I also sauteed the garlic in the olive oil before tossing it with the cooked pasta and potatoes. Yum yum yum! Inexpensive, simple, and tasty.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Real Beef Stroganoff (w/turkey)

Believe it or not I used this recipe with leftover turkey last year and it was great! Just substitute the beef tenderloin for four cups of cooked diced turkey.  Perfect for post-Thanksgiving leftover turkey burn out!

I did not use tomatoes (that sounded strange) and I served it to my family over egg noodles.

HTCE p.739

Grilled or Broiled Split Chicken

I'm so glad I tried this recipe!  I usually just use whole chickens to make crockpot rotisserie chicken, but back last December I forgot to put the chicken in the crock pot and after searching HTCE came up with this solution.  The results were delicious and done in less than an hour!

Not only is this chicken beautiful to look at, but using the directions on page 692 it was surprisingly easy to do.  I cooked my bird in the oven, but we'll probably try it on the grill this fall.  I used just the basic recipe and it was tasty. Tonight I had intend to try the honey-mustard version, but after reading this post I have a whole table of options to peruse (p.642-3)....I'll let you know what I try.

HTCE p.693

Monday, August 30, 2010

HTCE: The App!!


So we all know how much I love Bittman's big red cookbook, and for those of you who know me well, you also know how much I love my iPad.  Now the two have come together in the How To Cook Everything App for the iPhone.  I can't really say enough about this app.  It is everything the cookbook is and then some!  You can search for recipes by ingredient (i.e. fresh bread crumbs), use the built in timers, make grocery lists with the recipes you are planning to cook.  You can even save and name grocery list for future occasions.

One of the neat features in the grocery list department is that you can see what recipe each item is coming from.  That way if the grocery store is out of a particular item, you know what recipe will be short and you can make the necessary substitutions.

There are plenty of online reviews out there so I'll stop mine here.  One thing to note about all the online reviews that I read is that they all gave this app a 4.5 or 5 stars!  Also I just read, "...the kind people at Culinate tell me that there will be a future app just for the How to Cook Everything Vegetarian book. They also report they are working on an iPad specific version of the HTCE app."  I hope when the iPad version comes out they will discount it for those of us that are using the iPhone version on our iPads!

Oven-"Fried" Fish Fillets

I'm sad to say that I did not get a picture of this recipe, however it was delicious!  I think the extra touch that made this dish for me was at the end of step two when you pour the extra butter down over the fish.  I do think if I make this recipe again I will use a little bit more seasoning on the fish.  I did use Fresh Bread Crumbs that I made from all of the leftover hamburger and hot dog buns I had after a recent party.

I also can't wait to try the crushed cereal variation.

HTCE p.568
Similar Recipe

Simplest Omelet (Denver Variation)

I wish I could eat this all over again!  Unlike Mark's suggestion I just cooked the onions, bell peppers and ham in the same skillet I was going to cook the omelet in.  I also was doubling the recipe and added 3/4 cup ham for two omelets.  With the Denver Omelet fixins and a handful of cheddar it was plenty of filling!!  I also add all of my filling on one side and then flip the other half of the omelet over the filling.  Like so:

This recipe lists the servings number as 2, and maybe for breakfast with 5 eggs you could split just one omelet, but in our case I used 4 eggs per person and for dinner we both were able to eat the entire thing.

So good.....

HTCE p.802
HTCEV p.172
Full recipe

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Variety = The Spice of Life

Sometimes, I wonder if the grass is greener in another cookbook.... For instance, I often turn to my trusty 11th edition Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook for cookie recipes. But, time after time I come back to Bittman for regular ol' grub. Why?


I bought a large family-pack of pork chops a while back, stuck most of them in the freezer in smaller my-family-size portions, and have been slowly cooking them. I keep looking in other cookbooks for pork chop recipes, but always come back to Bittman. Why? Because he has a great skillet pork chop recipe with tons of variations--and, I nearly always have the ingredients for at least 3 of the variations on hand. Variety! The other cookbooks have variety at the expense of learning new methods, having non-normal ingredients on hand, and so forth. Tonight, we'll be be trying a third version of the Skillet Pork Chops--keeps our meals from being too old hat, but gives me the confidence of preparing something I'm already pretty familiar with.

Just had to share!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pork Chops with Onions and Peppers

Recipe: Pork Chops with Onions and Peppers (variation of Skillet Pork chops, 8 Ways)
Page: HTCE p. 721
Rating: ***-****

The peppers and onions were terrific and a nice topping for the pork chops. Our particular pork chops weren't that great, but we decided it was more a feature of the chops themselves than the recipe. That being said, this recipe would be a **** or perhaps a ***** if the chops were really high quality. Ordinary, mixed pork chops from your average grocery store? ***

Easy and some nice unattended time in which to get other meal elements ready.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Skillet Pork Chops, 8 Ways

Recipe: Skillet Pork Chops, 8 Ways
Page: HTCE p. 720
Rating: ****

These were a touch dry, hence the 4* rating. I think cooking pork chops this way makes it very easy to overcook them. Nonetheless, they were tasty, and the pan sauce was delicious. Easy, too. I added some Italian seasoning to the pork chops with the salt and pepper since my mom used to cook them that way. Can't wait to try some of the variations.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Blueberry Cobbler

Recipe: Blueberry Cobbler
Page: HTCE p. 883
Rating: ****

Easy! I used a pastry blender and then a fork to mix the crust instead of a food processor. I used 3 cups of blueberries and 1 cup of peaches. The crust/topping was great--kind of like a biscuit. The filling was quite runny since there was no cornstarch in it. We enjoyed it a lot; if you want a thicker filling base, you might need to add cornstarch to it.

Pasta with Bacon and Dried Tomatoes (variation)

Recipe: Pasta with Bacon and Dried Tomatoes (variation of Pasta with Pancetta and Pecorino)
Page: HTCE p. 506
Rating: *****

Since I've rated Pasta Carbonara highly, it should be no surprise that our family enjoyed this as well. This is easier and the dried tomatoes add a nice flavor dimension. Mmmmm

I used thick sliced bacon, didn't use any additional oil when I was cooking it, and just kept adding ingredients to the drained pasta as they were ready. I added a bit of reserved pasta cooking water at the end.

Friday, July 2, 2010

French Toast

Recipe: French Toast
Page: HTCE p. 794
HTCEV p.177
Full Recipe
Rating: *****

This was truly amazing.... I should confess that I used day old (homemade) French bread that I sliced and left sitting out all night. I also made sure I soaked it well in the egg/milk mixture. I didn't add the optional sugar, used whole milk, and cinnamon instead of vanilla. My daughter wasn't a huge fan (don't know what her problem was) but my boys ate it up. I personally loved it. We served it with syrup.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fish Baked in Foil (or a Casserole Dish)

Recipe: Fish Baked in Foil
Page: HTCE p. 571
Rating: *****

This is a terrific summer recipe to have on hand. Cooking time is minimal and the dish can be assembled ahead of time! I followed the suggestion to "toss it all together in a covered casserole" because I was feeling too lazy to wrap everything in little packets. It was delicious. My camera's memory card is full, or I would have snapped a pic of this recipe for sure; it's very pretty.

I used frozen cod fillets. I used fresh oregano instead of the parsley or basil--I think the parsley and/or basil would have been more flavorful and next time will go with those. I also put some thin lemon slices on top as suggested under the "Fish Baked in Foil with Vegetables" variation (I used almost one whole lemon for this). Definitely added a nice touch.

Oh--and my kids ate it up like crazy! Added bonus.

We ate it with salad, peas, and leftover pita bread with hummus. Next time, I'll serve some good bread with it instead of the pita (unless I have it leftover again!).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coffee Cake Muffins (Variation)

Recipe: Muffins, Infinite Ways--Coffee Cake Muffin variation
Page: HTCE, p. 833
Rating: *****

These were yummy--every bit as good as the quick coffee cake. I didn't mix the topping in the batter; I wish I had done that and left a bit less for the tops of the muffins because the topping crumpled some as I removed the muffins from the pan. I used half of the quick coffee cake topping since I had it left over. I also used half white whole wheat flour and added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter (since I knew I wasn't using the topping in the batter).

A definite Sunday morning option in our "coffee cake tradition" that we've begun.

Blueberry Muffins (Variation)

Recipe: Muffins, Infinite Ways--Blueberry Muffin variation
Page: HTCE p. 833
Rating: ****

I don't always use muffin cups anymore, but these muffins could have benefited! They're heavy on the blueberries, and trying to remove them from a warm pan was a challenge... one I failed (although the bits of muffin left in the pan were good to nibble on...).

I didn't use the cinnamon or the corn meal. I did use the lemon zest and used half white whole wheat flour. These were great! Perfect for everyday blueberry muffins. The lemon zest really adds a nice hint of flavor. These aren't Otis Spunkmeyer giant streusel topped blueberry muffins, but, frankly, I'd rather have the smaller, not-too-sweet muffins here. My kids didn't eat them up as much as the cranberry ones, but I really liked them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies
Page: HTCE p. 880
Rating: ****

We are big fans of chocolate chip cookies at my house, but we are also chocolate chip cookie recipe snobs. It takes a really great chocolate chip cookie to please us: a touch of salt in the dough, bittersweet chips, good texture--a cross between chewy and crispy....

These cookies make the grade: they are chewy in the middle and crispy on the outside. The crucial salt is present in the dough and Mark even recommends bittersweet chocolate. They're a touch sweet. I might use a bit less vanilla next time.

Our biggest problem was cookie spread: in the oven, the edges practically ran over the cookie sheet leaving a small clump of dough (and the chips) in the middle of each cookie. This made for pretty good texture overall, but I like my chips to be evenly dispersed. I tried them as little frozen dough balls, too, thinking the chilled butter would work better. It did help. Next time, I think I'll chill them in the fridge for a bit, then form them into balls and flatten them once they're on the cookie sheet (one might almost think I'd just seen the folks on America's Test Kitchen do this to one of their cookie recipes the other night...).

So, 4 stars as is. If they work better in the oven once I try my newest theory, I'll update this.

Oh--my batch yielded exactly 2 dozen, and my cookies are generous scoops of dough. It's hard to measure the final cookie size because I think they'd be smaller around and taller/puffier if I tried the flatten-before-baking trick mentioned above. I'm guessing they're about 5-inches in diameter! (but, Mom, I've only had two...)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Baked Beans

Recipe: Baked Beans
Page: HTCE p. 416
Rating: ***

I've made these twice, now, and both times the beans weren't quite as soft as I wanted them to be. I've read that homemade baked beans are frequently not as mushy, but I think mine could have been softer. The flavor was *** when prepared exactly as written. I made a few changes the second time around and definitely upped the flavor component to ****. I think there are some tricks, here, if you want to make homemade beans that taste like the canned/restaurant variety:

  1. cook your beans until almost as soft as you want them before baking them with the seasonings and/or plan to bake them a while. They will soften in the oven, but it could take hours.
  2. Plan to bake them several hours--the seasonings just get better and better that way.
  3. They'll reheat fine, so you may want to make these the day before serving and leave them a touch runnier than you need (they'll get drier as they sit). Then, you can be sure they're as tender as you want and you can just reheat the day you need them.
  4. You won't need 8-oz of bacon. I used about 1/3 of a pound or so and chopped it. I sauteed the onion with the bacon and poured the whole mess into the bean pot :).
  5. I also added 1/4 cup of brown sugar, reduced the mustard to one teaspoon (ground), and added 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (mentioned in the "Ideas for Baked Beans" part). I tasted them as they cooked and made sure there was enough salt once the bacon flavor had permeated (I didn't want to oversalt accidentally since bacon is pretty salty).
I recommend trying them. I'll try them again for sure. It's just one of those recipes that will take some practice/tweaking since everyone has different ideas of what the best baked beans taste like. They're much cheaper than canned and do taste better overall. They're also quite easy; they just take a bit of time to cook.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Yogurt or Buttermilk Biscuits

Recipe: Yogurt or Buttermilk Biscuits
Page: HTCE p. 845 (HTCEV p694)
Rating: *****

I've made these so often, I don't even need the recipe. We LOVE these. They remind me of Cracker Barrel biscuits. I usually use 4 tablespoons butter, half whole wheat flour and add a bit more yogurt (I always use yogurt) than he recommends (I'm sure that's because the whole wheat flour soaks up more moisture). I love that he tells you to pat these out instead of rolling them out. Somehow, that little extra step saved helps. I often cut these into squares to save even getting out a circle cutter (read: drinking glass).

I've made the Baking Powder Biscuit variation as well as the Drop Biscuit variation--both are good substitutes, especially for savory biscuits to go with dinner. For instance, tonight I added 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, some garlic powder, and 1 teaspoon or so Italian seasoning; I combined the Baking Powder and Drop variations and had biscuits to go with dinner so easily! (And they were YUMMY.) In the main recipe, I've also left out the baking soda with no ill effects.

I've got the recipe on my recipe blog for those interested: "Cracker Barrel Biscuits"

Strawberry Banana Muffins (variation)

Recipe: Banana Muffins (variation of Muffins, Infinite Ways)
Page: HTCE page 832-833
Rating: *****

I love Mark's style. I feel like I'm channeling the minimalist plus talented substitutionist vibes and creating all kinds of wonderful things on the fly. The latest? the need to use up some very ripe bananas, some fresh strawberries, and some fresh strawberry puree. The recipe of choice to start with? The banana muffin variation under the regular Muffins recipe. I followed the banana-nut variation (including using whole wheat flour for half of the flour amount), left out the nuts, and added in about 1/4 cup strawberry puree plus about 1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries. I used regular sugar instead of subbing in honey since the puree was already adding some extra liquid.

The verdict? I'm going to have to write this one down in the cookbook. My kids ate 3 regular sized muffins EACH for breakfast. That's terrific, especially when these muffins only have 1/4 cup of sugar or so per batch. I'm not sure the puree added that much. I might try these with fresh blueberries later in the summer when they're in season.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Fast French Bread or Rolls

Recipe: Fast French Bread or Rolls
Page: HTCE p. 856-7
Rating: *****

This is the perfect French bread recipe. I routinely add 1/2-1 c. whole wheat flour to it, use bread flour for the remaining flour, and follow Bittman's instructions to a "T." I don't do anything special, don't let it rise in cloth, don't spritz it with water when I remove it from the oven, etc. Just the basic recipe: you cannot go wrong. Especially if you have a food processor, you won't buy French bread again. People consistently ask me for my recipe. Well, folks, this is the one!

A note: this bread is best the first day and good for French toast the next. Because there's no oil or sugar or anything like that in it, it will go stale quickly. Your best bet for future use: slightly underbake it and freeze it. Then, thaw, warm up/finish baking just before dinner, and you're good to go.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Garlicky Lime-Cooked Fish

Recipe: Garlicky Lime-Cooked Fish
Page: HTCE p. 608
Rating: ***** (with some modifications)

I cooked this using mahi mahi that was about 3/4-1 inch thick. I had to flip the fish over about halfway through. But it was EXCELLENT with one caveat: the sauce was not as great. I think I'll just make the fish without the sauce and sprinkle the fish with a touch of garlic powder or garlic salt. That saves even more time. We served it with Mexican sides (refried beans, rice, etc.). It worked, but it would be fine with any other sides you might typically serve with fish.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Recipe: Brownies
Page: p. 881
Rating: *****

I think I'm the one making the most desserts around here (or at least, making the most from Bittman and rating them). Anyway, I don't know why anyone would make brownies from a box when they could make the nearly-as-simple-and-far-more-decadent version a la Mark. Super easy!

I didn't pour the melted chocolate/butter mixture into a different bowl--I just added everything into that one pot. They baked in the amount of time given but are SUPER soft when you pull them out. Letting them cool in the pan is a necessity, but they are awfully good when still pretty warm and gooey...not that I would be that eager to try them of course.... and I added the last of my Andes chocolate candy pieces.... (about 3/4 cup) and will have another brownie when fully cooled just to confirm the ***** rating....

I've had slightly better homemade brownies, but they were more difficult to prepare. For ease of preparation, fudgy nature, top chocolate flavor--these get a ***** rating. This will be my go to brownie recipe when we suddenly get that brownie craving!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chocolate Cookies (Variation)

Recipe: Chocolate Cookies (variation of Butter Cookies)
Page: p. 892
Rating: ****

These are nice little cookies to know about. They're more cake-y than chewy or crisp. They aren't terribly sweet hot out of the oven, but in my experience, chocolate cookies taste a little sweeter as they cool. I'm not sure why. I added Andes Mint Candy chips to mine (about 1/2 cup); if I hadn't, I think I might have used a sweeter chocolate mixture. Mark recommends a mixture of unsweetened chocolate and sweetened chocolate; for my sweetened chocolate, I used bittersweet chocolate. Semisweet might a better choice if you're not going over the top and adding MORE chocolate like I did in the candy pieces. (This begs the question: CAN you have too much chocolate?)

The recipe made right at 3 dozen cookies; mine are 2-3 inches across. They don't spread too much in the oven, and I used a regular teaspoon like I might use for eating out of. (not a soup spoon/tablespoon)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Braised Potatoes with Kielbasa (Variation)

Recipe: Braised Potatoes with Kielbasa (Variation of Braised Potatoes, Ten Ways)
Page: HCTE p. 343
Rating: *****

I liked this recipe so much that it made it onto full tummies! The leftovers (the broth and any remaining potatoes/sausage) make a great base for a potato soup the next night--just cook a few extra potatoes in the broth the next night. I haven't tried this with beer, but I bet it would be good!

Serving Suggestions: Pair with a salad and some hearty bread

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wine-Braised Potatoes with Bacon (Variation)

Recipe: Wine-Braised Potatoes with Bacon (Variation on Braised Potatoes, Ten Ways)
Page: HCTE p. 343
Rating: *****

I loved his Braised Potatoes with Sausage variation so much I put that recipe on full tummies. This one might make it there, too! It makes a terrific "main dish" for a light meal and is a terrific way to use up that last 1/2-1 cup of wine that's not terribly drinkable, but not turned into vinegar. These potatoes are fully in our rotation (or at least one of the variations). I omit the onion and follow his directions to a "T." If I only have 1/2 cup wine, then I just add water to fill in.

One note: Mark says this makes 4 servings, but in my experience, it makes more--particularly if you're planning to use this as a side dish. It's also best with thick-cut bacon (I use about 2 slices). Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spaghetti with Pesto

Recipe: Spaghetti with Pesto
Page: HCTE p. 507
Rating: *****

How can you go wrong with freshly cooked pasta and homemade pesto? Enough said.

Spaghetti with Butter and Parmesan

Recipe: Spaghetti with Butter and Parmesan
Page: HCTE p. 506
Rating: *****

Move over, Macaroni and Cheese! This is one of our go to recipes--quick and tasty. It's less fattening than mac-n-cheese, too, since it's not loaded with cream sauce on top of the cheese. It does have a significant amount of butter in it, but otherwise it wouldn't taste good or keep you full for any length of time. We add peas to it (an addition he recommends), but it's good plain and simple. It benefits from a sprinkling of good salt at the table.

Here's the recipe link.

Pasta Carbonara (Variation)

Recipe: Pasta Carbonara (variation of Pasta with Pancetta and Pecorino)
Page: HCTE p. 506
Rating: ****

I'm a big fan of Pasta Carbonara: it's quick, relatively healthy (the bacon and eggs provide your protein--they're not any more fattening than an entree that's meat based!), and inexpensive. It's also tasty. Mark's version is great; you do have to dirty up a few dishes in the process and have everything ready to go as soon as the pasta is done cooking. That being said, the process is easy to master. I heat a big pottery bowl with hot water (from the tap) and let it sit while I saute the bacon (I do not add all the drippings to the eggs/cheese later like he suggests). I also grate the cheese. Then I start a pot of water boiling for the pasta. I add the pasta to the boiling water when the bacon is nearly done. I have the eggs beaten and ready to go in another bowl. When the bacon is done and cooled slightly, the pasta is about 2 minutes away from being done, and the eggs and cheese are ready and waiting, the fun begins: dump out the hot water from the big bowl, add bacon, eggs, and cheese to the bowl. Drain the pasta and immediately toss it with the bacon and eggs. The eggs will cook enough to be safe, but should give you a creamy sauce. Mmmmmm

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Calzones Revisited

A while back I wrote this review of HTCE calzones:
"This recipe is so great that I'm surprised that I haven't made it once a week. We did not use the ricotta cheese in the filling because it is not my favorite and I rarely if ever have it on hand. Never fear though, cooking with Bittman allows you to substitute and delete ingredients with no anxiety! Also, instead of the sausage I used rendered pepperoni. This is a trick I learned from America's Test Kitchen that stops pepperoni from greasing up your calzone. Now when my husband wants to order pizza I balk at the cost compared to the pennies I spend on this recipe."

I forgot to mention a few things and I was making calzones again last night, so I thought I would revisit this recipe.  I think the key to these calzones cooking up correctly is that you don't add sauce to the filling.  Instead make your fast tomato sauce and serve it on the side.  This way your calzones cook all the way through and you don't end up with a slimy inner dough. 

In the past I've cooked these on a stone, but last night I chose to put olive oil on a pan and cook them that way.  The result was so delicious.  The bottom crust of the calzone was nice and crisp.  It even tasted a tad bit fried (YUMM!).  I should note that I tend to roll out my dough a little thinner then Mark suggests and I also do not try to roll it out in a circle, but instead a long oval.  I didn't really express this well in the first post, but we do replace all of the ricotta with mozzarella and the calzones are still really good.

Every time I make these I can't get over how crisp and non-slimy the calzones are.  We even had a guest over on this night and she commented on the fact that the pepperoni was not greasy which is a result of the aforementioned pre-rendering in the microwave (30 seconds on two layers of paper towels does the trick).

Next I want to try the cooked spinach variation or I want to try and copy Mellow Mushroom's jerk chicken calzones.  Both sound really good.

HTCE p. 183
HTCEV p.729

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Updated: What if I don't own a Bittman cook book....

but I want to try some of his recipes?

If that is a question you ask yourself as you read this blog please click the books found at the top right and you will see a whole list of sample recipes from each book. Some of them (like the Fried Chicken Made Easy) will even have some of the variations that the authors of this blog rave about.

**New: I've made a new label called "full recipes" where (when we can) we will link the recipe we review to the full recipe already posted online by Bittman. To see a full list of these posts just click on "Full Recipes" in the labels list over to the right.****

******New update:  I just found a preview of HTCEV on google books.  It doesn't have all the pages in the book (not even close), but it has helped me post some more "full recipes" for our friends out there who haven't yet bought this book. ******

Enjoy cooking!

Everyday Pancakes Revisited (Alton Brown's Variation)

So, as I mentioned before in my first review of this recipe my family didn't like this recipe at all, but we love Alton Brown's version.  Well this morning while I was making AB's tender, delicious pancakes I was struck by how similar the recipes were.  Here are the changes you can make to Mark's recipe to end up with Alton Brown's recipe:
  • Increase baking powder to 1 tsp.
  • Add 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • Increase sugar to 3 tbl.
  • Use 2 cups of yogurt or buttermilk instead of milk (I love to use yogurt here)
  • Increase melted butter to 4 tbl.
This is the second recipe where I have just noted the changes in my HTCE book so that I don't have to have two cookbooks out. The instructions are really similar with one important change (which you will want to note).  Mix the batter exactly as Bittman instructs, but then let the batter sit for 5 minutes. You'll see why this is important after 5 minutes.  This rest time allows the leavening to make a ton of little bubbles in your batter.  With yogurt this batter is thicker than normal pancake batter but I just spread it out with the back of whatever I'm pouring the batter with and it works out. One of the great things about the recipe is that it can easily be halved if you are just cooking for two people (or one adult and one toddler).

It's important to note that in the pancake variation table (HTCE p.813, HTCEV p.202) that buttermilk is the first one that Mark mentions.  That variation would be similar but not exactly like the one posted above.  If the batter is too thick for your personal preference you of course could add milk to the batter as Bittman suggests here.

I would have taken picture of these pancakes, but frankly they are all gone!!

HTCE p.811-812
HTCEV p.200
Full Recipe

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Corn Bread

I have long searched for the perfect corn bread recipe.  I have a very specific idea in my head of what cornbread should taste like.  To me it should be fluffy and moist and even though I would never dream of eating it without butter, it really shouldn't need it.

In this recipe Mark specifically says that you should use medium-grind cornmeal.  The cornmeal that I had in my pantry did not say what kind of grind it is, so I'm not sure if it was correct or not.  I do know it was white cornmeal that I used and that some recipes specify yellow, but Mark did not so I thought white would be fine.  The taste of this cornbread was okay, but this recipe isn't the "one" I have been searching for.  This one was a little more dense then I like and it was way too dry to become my go-to cornbread recipe.  It was good, don't get me wrong, just not the "one".  Philip complained that it did not have much flavor, but I attribute that to the type of cornmeal that I used, not necessarily the recipe.

The next time I make this recipe it will definitely be with "medium-grind" yellow cornmeal (and probably a cup of corn kernels for the "corny corn bread" variation).  On second thought maybe the "lighter, richer" variation is the version that will really give me the soft moist crumb that I have been searching for.  I'm sure I can still add corn and I'll just have "lighter, richer corny corn bread".

Even though this recipe is not the "one", I do have some additional comments on the method suggested here.  Mark asks you to use any 8-inch ovenproof skillet. I'm sure "any" skillet would be okay, but I used my 12" round cast iron skillet to make this recipe because frankly if you own a cast iron skillet, why would you make cornbread in any other vessel?  If you don't own a cast iron skillet, put it on your wish list now before you finish reading the rest of this post!  Since I am using a 12" and not an 8" my cooking time is a little bit faster and the bread was thinner then I like, but in the future I should just make a double batch if I want it to be thick (a 12" skillet has a little more than twice the volume of an 8" skillet).

In Step #2 Mark has you heat up your skillet on the stove top to melt your butter or warm your oil.  Are you kidding?  Your oven is already at 375° so please, don't follow his advice, and instead pre-heat your skillet in the oven.  If you are using just butter in this step you will have to watch the butter or else you can burn it.

Lastly, this recipe calls for buttermilk and if you are like me you don't keep buttermilk in your fridge.  Instead I use powdered buttermilk and according to Cook's Illustrated it works just fine in place of the real thing and lasts a whole lot longer.  Just add the powder in with the dry ingredients and add water instead of milk during the wet ingredients step.

HTCE p.831
HTCEV p.687

Since writing the post above I found this version posted by Mark.  It is the same one that is in HTCE except that is has another egg and way more sugar (1/4-1/2 cup instead of 1 T.).  If you don't have HTCE, our version is called the "Old-Fashioned Cornbread" variation at the bottom of the recipe. In this recipe he also just uses plain milk instead of buttermilk which I have never seen before in a cornbread recipe.  The instructions have also changed a bit in that they follow my advice and is preheating the cast-iron skillet in the oven.  Now I don't know which variation to try next!

************Update (12/2011): I have found THE ONE. **********

Monday, March 1, 2010

Crunchy Granola

I just finished reading Mark's book Food Matters and in it, he talks about the importance of eating enough grains. From there I decided to make my own granola to have as a breakfast staple and an easy snack throughout the day.

THIS IS SO GOOD! I'm eating it right now as I type! I usually think granola is too sweet and I am not the biggest fan of raisins so making my own, I got to decide how sweet to make it (using honey instead of sugar) and avoided raisins!

Here's what I put in mine (many variations are listed in the book, but I just bought what looked good): oats, shaved coconut, almonds, walnuts, cinnamon, honey, salt, craisins, and dried cherries.

I wish this picture came with smell:

HTCEV p. 573
HTCE p.821-22

Lentil Soup with Roasted Garlic (Variation of Lentil Soup)

This is the recipe I've been craving! I love the lentil soup at Athena's Restaurant in Lafayette and this really comes close. Easy and delicious. I used red lentils and followed the Roasted Garlic variation. Used 2 heads of garlic and also added 1/2 t. cumin.

HTCE p. 138-139
HTCEV p. 115-116 (Classic Lentil Soup)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Carmelized Onions

This recipe is a perfect example of how when I think I know how to cook something, really Mark does it a little bit better. When caramelizing onions I usually add the oil or butter at the beginning and then they take FOREVER to cook. Well, enter Bittman. He cooks his onions in a dry pan for 20 minutes before adding the oil just so that they don't stick to the bottom. I only did one onion tonight and I was ready to add the oil in just under 15 minutes. Result? They were delicious!! 15 minutes still might seem like a lot, but if you start them first by the time you get the rest of your dinner together (tonight it was hot dogs in the grill pan with frozen peas) they will be ready.

HTCE p.325
HTCEV p.329
Full Recipe 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Navigating Bittman

When I first saw this massive cookbook on Betsy's counter I thought, "How in the world can that be a quick and easy to use book? It is so massive!!"

Here are a few of the things that I have employed to make "Navigating Bittman" a slightly easier task:
  • Post it notes on the chapters. These are "permanent" post-its that mark all of the chapters that I access regularly. I don't have one for each chapter, but I might rethink that really soon since I've widened my horizons to include beans!!
  • Star post-its. These mark recipes I want to try or ones that I have "on deck" to be made in the coming week. I also recently added a new star color to distinguish recipes that I need to review here on this blog.
What have you done to your Bittman book to make it easier to use?

Monday, February 22, 2010


  • I'm 25 and live with two college students in a house with 11 people total - we're all friends and eat together frequently. I usually make an entire recipe and it's gone before we can have leftovers.
  • I have been with my boyfriend for 4.5 years. He's a vegetarian and enjoys eating whatever I make. :)
  • I stopped eating meat sometime in April after watching a disturbing documentary. Sometimes I'll have meat if there's no other option or if I'm really craving it, but for now I consider myself a less-meatarian (like Mark!) who eats fish and other seafood. I just like to eat more vegetables and grains to have a smaller impact on the planet.
  • Eating vegetarian has made me love so many foods that I always hated before including: broccoli, artichokes, spinach, peppers, and asparagus.
  • I occasionally bring lunch to work but I mostly snack throughout the workday (5-2pm) and cook for dinner.
  • I mostly shop at Whole Foods and the local market.
  • Bridgette got me this cook book for my birthday. Even though I didn't really cook meat before, it's made being vegetarian and cooking for myself so much easier!!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This was the first time I've ever made mac'n'cheese not out of a box, and like many other thing I've made in this cookbook, I don't see going back again! The recipe labels this as "make ahead" but I did step 4 (making the sauce) while the noodles were boiling, cutting the time by 15 minutes or so. I used shells - although any pasta will do - and whole milk. I also put this in a deep corning ware dish because I don't have a 9X13 right now and everything baked just fine. After it came out I just mixed it up so that the breadcrumbs were coating all of the parts.

The only critique I have of this was that it was VERY hard to pour the milk into the butter/flour mixture while whisking and control the amount that pours out. I would recommend putting the milk into a dish to pour it in to or having a companion help you out with that step.

HTCEV p. 460
HTCE p.508
Full Recipe 

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Everyday Pancakes

My family did not like these pancakes. We really, really didn't like them! My normal pancake recipe is Alton Brown's and in the future we will be sticking with it. His recipe is another example of something that is easy and much cheaper than buying a pre-made mix from the store. I haven't kept Bisquick stocked in my pantry since I found this recipe. We even included this recipe in the last "bulk cooking" day that Betsy and I had. Even though Alton doesn't mention this option I have substituted 1/2 of the flour in this recipe for whole wheat and even though they looked different the taste did not change.

HTCE p.811-812
HTCEV p.200  
Full Recipe 

Friday, February 19, 2010

Grilled Nut Butter and Banana Sandwich

Today I was looking for a mid-afternoon snack and I wondered if Bittman ever used Nutella in any of his recipes. I didn't find any Nutella recipes, but I did find this wonderful suggestion: Grilled Nut Butter and Banana Sandwich. This recipe is found in a table called "7 Other Grilled Sandwiches" and it follows the Grilled Cheese recipe. I used normal sandwich bread and Nutella as the nut butter. I also added marshmallows for some extra goodness. The result? Pure goodness. The marshmallows were melted and the bananas and Nutella were warm and delicious! The next time I don't have time to make crepes but I want a sweet snack, I will think of this sandwich.

I never would have thought of grilling my stand-by peanut butter banana sandwich, but after reading this suggestion I can't wait to try it. Adding chocolate chips and marshmallows to that sandwich sounds great too!

Even though I'm not typing out the recipe I'm going to label this as a "full recipe" because if you know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich then you can make this sandwich.

HTCE p.167
HTCEV p.734

Quick Tip: Measuring Flour

For most recipes that call for flour, getting the right amount is crucial. Following Alton Brown's lead I always weigh my flour instead of using a volumetric cup. Weighing your flour will give you more consistent results. Kitchen scales also come in handy for all sorts of things, but that post is for another day.

On page 836 of the HTCE (p.680 of HTCEV) book Bittman has a description of different types of flour. On this page I have written down the weights of the flours for one cup (non-sifted) and one cup sifted.

Here are the numbers for your reference:
  • AP: 140g/115g
  • Bread: 160g/130g
  • Cake: 130g/100g
  • Whole Wheat: 150g/130g

Quick Tip: Keeping Limes and Lemons Fresh

This one is straight out of Cook's Illustrated. I always buy lemons (or limes) for a recipe and then by the time I need them they have shriveled up. The solution? Keep them in a plastic baggie in the fridge! This will keep them fresh for weeks (instead of just 5-7 days at room temp.). They didn't mention limes in their article, but I am assuming it works for them as well.

Quick Tip: Letting Dough Rise

My pizza bianca rising in my small batter bowl. 
Started at 1 cup, so I know it needs to rise until 3 cups to be tripled in volume.
Most recipes (including Bittman's) call for you to let dough rise until it has doubled (or tripled) in size or let it rise for a set amount of time. Well, depending on your normal room temperature and where you place your dough while it rises can drastically change the amount of time it will take. I don't know about the rest of the cooks out there but I can never tell if the dough has truly doubled! I always think, "It kind of looks twice as big as it was...."

To help me determine when dough has reached that magical double (or triple) volume I have started to let all my doughs rise in my Pyrex measuring cups and other bowls with volumetric markings. This way I can literally watch the dough as it rises and I can tell when the dough has doubled or tripled without having to guess!

New Label: Quick Tip

I don't know if I stole this phrase from somewhere but this label will be used for posts that we think relate to cooking the "Bittman" way. Tips that will help you keep ingredients fresh, use the cook books more efficiently or other tips that have to do with "from scratch" cooking.


Thursday, February 18, 2010


I love Betsy's idea of sharing about who we are as cooks so here is my rundown:
  • I am also married to my best friend/love of my life and we will be married for 10 years this May!
  • we have one 2.5 year old boy who is an extremely picky eater
  • I do not work outside of our home, but I do have obligations outside of the home three days a week (preschool for two and bible study for one) that makes planning ahead or last minute recipes a must
  • my husband eats leftovers for lunch 5 days a week so this plays a major role in my meal planning
  • we also work on what I consider a fairly conservative budget for groceries
  • my husband has type I diabetes so as much as I love russet potatoes I try to cook low glycemic-index foods
  • I really agree with Betsy here: I really enjoy cooking, but don't want to spend all day, every day doing it
  • I am relatively new to the "unprocessed food" movement but I love it's repercussions that eliminate or at least lower the amount of crazy ingredients that we eat
  • I also love to shop and buy locally grown produce
  • I got my copy of HTCE for my birthday last year (August 2009) and I cook from it at least once a week and ususally much more than that
  • I have used it more than any other cookbook since it has graced my kitchen counter
  • really the only other cookbook that I go to regularly is "The Complete America's Test Kitchen" for fancy recipes like pizza bianca and New York style crumb cake
  • Betsy was the first person to tell me about this cookbook and since then I have bought two copies to give to friends
It was my idea to start this blog mainly because there are so many recipes in this cookbook and with several of my friends owning and using it I wanted a place for us to share our experiences. 

Everyday Buttermilk Waffles

These are amazing! I do have to say that I do not separate the eggs and these were still great (and a bit less complicated). I'm sure this has to do with the fact that there is a half a stick of butter in the recipe.

Also, Bittman doesn't label this recipe as make-ahead but you could certainly do so. When reheated in a toaster the outside will be much more crisp, but they are just as tasty the next day. If you have a ton left place them in a plastic bag and freeze them. Then reheat just like they are the name brand Eggos! To make them last as long as possible squeeze (or suck out with a straw) as much air out of the bag as you can. This will help prevent freezer burn.

HTCE p.815
HTCEV p.203
Full Recipe

Everyday Buttermilk Waffles: Whole Grain Waffles Variation

I have to say most of the time when you use whole grain flour in place of regular flour (esp. if you only substitute about 1/2 of the amount) the result will be very similar to the original recipe. For some reason this is not one of those recipes. I tried this variation and it was terrible. I would maybe try it again and only substitute 1/3 of the flour for whole wheat instead of 1/2. Whole wheat flour just absorbs a different amount of water then AP does so I think that was the issue that made the final product inedible.

HTCE p.815
HTCEV p.204 
Full Recipes

Chicken Parmigiana (Variation of Sauteed Chicken Cutlets)

This recipe is exactly why I love this cookbook. One night I had two chicken breasts defrosted in the fridge and not a clue what I was going to make for dinner. I wondered if I could "wing" Chicken Parmesan but I doubted it would be good without a few guidelines. Bittman to the rescue!

The meat: In this recipe Bittman asks you to pound the chicken and usually I do, but these breasts were from super chickens and I knew that pounding them out would just destroy the meat. I also had probably much less than 1 1/2 pounds of chicken since all I had was two breasts. Instead of pounding these, I took a page from America's Test Kitchen and I completely butterflied the breasts instead. This way I had four chicken breasts total to get fried crumb goodness on. What was really amazing is that even though it was only half of a breast my husband couldn't tell that he was really getting less meat per serving.

The crumbs: Several times on cooking shows I have heard chefs say that homemade bread crumbs are the only way to go. I use to scoff at what I thought was a snobby opinion of store bought bread crumbs. Then when I made this recipe I had a ton of extra bread laying around so I decided to try to make my own. What can I say? All those chefs had been right! Compared to homemade bread crumbs store bought ones taste like sawdust! I might still buy panko crumbs, but really I think you could make these too by just pulsing your bread for less time in your food processor.

The sauce: I am so use to making this sauce I was excited to see it used in this recipe. Read a whole post about it here.

The best thing about this recipe? Dinner is done in 30 minutes and you don't have to worry about the chicken cooking totally in the frying pan because it will finish cooking in the oven. This way you can cook the breasts until they are just browned and then take them out.

I served this wonderful dish over angel hair pasta and my husband and I loved it! The homemade bread crumbs added a nice crunch that would not have been possible without them.

HTCE p.678

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fresh Bread Crumbs

I know this recipe seems silly or a non-essential recipe but I know that I will never again buy normal bread crumbs from the store! I love that Mark is teaching me (again) how to buy less processed foods at the store and use more of what I have at home to cook for my family. I love that he mentions panko bread crumbs in his intro, because that is what these bread crumbs reminded me of.

Even though he calls for French or Italian bread I just used some white sandwich bread that I had already to make chicken parmigiana. It was great!  This recipe is also good with leftover hamburger or hot dog buns!!

HTCE p.876
HTCEV p.804 

Fast Tomato Sauce, with or without Pasta

I love this recipe!! I even wrote a whole post about it on my "Favorite Things" blog. The only change (as you can see in the post) that I make to this simple recipe is that I add garlic and red pepper flakes at the beginning and then Italian seasoning at the end (instead of the fresh herbs). I also usually add meatballs (as you can see from the picture) to satisfy my meat-eater husband. Once you eat this homemade sauce you will never buy Ragu again!

To make this a pot-luck worthy dish make the recipe with a pound of pasta as the recipe indicates. Toss the pasta and the sauce in a 13x9 dish and top with shredded mozzarella. Place the entire dish into a 350 degree oven until the cheese melts. This dish looks as good as it tastes!

I have yet to try any of the 20 variations that Mark lists because I love the basic recipe so much. Maybe one day I'll read how to make this great recipe better and try one of them out. Until then I'll enjoy this sauce on pizza, pasta, chicken parmigiana, etc.

HTCE p.502
HTCEV p.445 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quick Coffee Cake

Recipe: Quick Coffee Cake
Page: HTCE p. 844
Rating: ****

I might up this to *****, but the way the recipe was written left a bit of confusion for yours truly. It could have been the way I chose to mix the batter, but I don't think so. Any thoughts from the peanut gallery?

Before I describe the recipe, I should point out for coffee cake amateurs that "quick" refers to a non-yeasted coffee cake, not a super speedy recipe that's ready in 10 minutes. That being said, this didn't take long to whip up. I did most of it the night before in my food processor: topping ingredients in the small food processor bowl and the flour/butter mixture in a larger bowl. I transferred the mixtures to two smaller bowls and stuck them in the fridge. In the morning, I added the egg and milk to the batter mixture, mixing with a wooden spoon, and there's where the problem entered.

Mark says to "pour" half of the batter into a 9-inch square pan. There was no pouring here, folks. I dumped the very thick batter into an 8-inch square pan and sort of patted it (with a spoon) into the four corners of the bowl. Then I spread half of the topping mixture on it and baked it like that. I had used half whole wheat flour, but in the past, that's not changed the texture hugely. But that may have contributed. I don't think I could have spread half of the batter, added streusel, and then spread the rest of the batter without it all becoming a jumbled mess. Maybe I could swirl the missing streusel half through the batter next time?

Regardless, we enjoyed it like it was--warm and delicious! I don't know if I could have taken another half of the streusel mixture in the middle of the cake--sugar overload! Too much for breakfast, but it might be good mixed in if you were planning to serve this cake with an afternoon coffee time.

Overall, it was delicious and we'll make it again for sure!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Pasta with Red Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar (Variation)

Recipe: Pasta with Red Peppers and Balsamic Vinegar (variation of Pasta with Eggplant and Balsamic Vinegar)
Page: HTCE p. 519
Rating: **** (could be ***** keep reading!)

I must admit that I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate eggplant. However, with almost equal fervor, I thoroughly enjoy red peppers! So, I of course went for the variation with nary a second glance at the original.

It was terrific! We all (my mom, my hubby, my boys, and myself) had seconds; only my 4-year old daughter turned up her nose. I believe our buddy Mark has LARGE pasta servings in mind when he lists the number of servings; we served three kids and three adults amply with this recipe and only had a side salad with it.

I used frozen tri-colored peppers and frozen basil with farfalle. I also used Parmesan in place of feta (per Mark's suggestions). (Do we mind if I call him "Mark?" I'm feeling on a first name basis here these days.) Otherwise, I followed the recipe exactly (I did omit the red pepper flakes for the tender, under-5 crowd's sake). I think this will be a definite repeat and an easy list of ingredients to keep on hand since peppers, basil, and cheese all freeze wonderfully.

I'm giving this **** but I think it could become a ***** recipe in the summer with truly fresh basil and bell peppers, especially if they're from my own garden and super fresh!

By the way, it's good at room temperature; it's one of those pasta dishes that can be finished, the rest of dinner gotten together, the table set, and then the pasta dish served. This makes it a perfect solution for those of us with toddlers who ALWAYS have to go to the bathroom or something equally urgent right when dinner's ready.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Classic Roast Turkey, with Gravy and Stuffing

Recipe: Classic Roast Turkey, with Gravy and Stuffing
Page: HTCE p. 697
Rating: ****

This is a perfect time of year to try out holiday recipes for next year: the weather is cold and dreary, and everyone wants comfort food. Also, recent holiday memories are still fresh in your mind. I thawed out my turkey (bought on sale at Thanksgiving) and decided to give Mark's version a test drive when there wasn't as much at stake as the big turkey-day itself.

I'm giving this 4 stars because it turned out a perfectly respectable roast bird and gravy. I didn't stuff the turkey, but otherwise followed his directions to the letter. My bird didn't take quite as long and the breast meat was a tad dry. But, the flavor was pretty good and this was a pretty easy method.

I have to say that the best turkey I've ever roasted was the America's Test Kitchen version (maybe showcased in Cook's Illustrated?) where they began the bird upside down so the legs would cook/brown, and then they flipped the bird halfway through. Tasty indeed, but my, oh my, what a pain to do. So, Mark gets kudos for turning out a decent roast turkey with classic flavors and minimal fuss.

A side note: the bottom veggies/giblets turn pretty dark brown which yields a dark brown gravy. If that's not your style, you might do like my grandmother and cook the turkey at a lower temp., covered, until the end and then let the bird brown some. I like the darker flavors, but it's not everyone's style.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Pound Cake

Recipe: Pound Cake
Page: HTCE p. 906
Rating: ***-**** (depends on purpose; plain pound cake rates *** but a plain cake as a base for more flavorful glazes or cake soaks would be a ****).

Before I tell you my impressions of this cake, it's worth knowing the background from which I'm rating it. When I got married, I was instructed that my dear hubby liked ONE particular cake for his birthday; I refer to it as "The Pound Cake." Why? It's his grandmother's recipe and calls for mixing the batter for a full 20 minutes. I won't tell you how many cheap mixers I've burned up over the years on this admittedly delicious pound cake.

This year, since it's not for his actual birthday, I thought I'd clandestinely substitute my buddy Mark's version. Why? I figured that, in the spirit of his book, Mark would have me do something benignly simple and would tell me if mixing it for 20 minutes was really necessary. I scanned the ingredient list: looked fairly similar but with less sugar. Worth a try. I did NOT read all the directions until I was ready to make the cake.

(sigh) Mark... have you let me down? WHY are you having me mix the egg yolks in one at a time with the mixer, mix in the flour by hand, and then, with "freshly cleaned" beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then fold those egg whites into the VERY thick cake batter thoroughly and gently? The pro in this: I'm not going to burn up my mixer on egg whites.

The con? The cake is fairly dry. Good flavor and crust, but dry. It would definitely make a terrific base for the glazes mentioned (we're trying the orange one tomorrow), but I will continue making "The Pound Cake" in years to come for the birthday boy. Mark's version was a bit too labor intensive to justify the loss in texture I've come to love from "The Pound Cake."

I would like to point out, however, that my buddy Mark agrees with me in one key area: pound cake is great toasted with butter. To those that scoff in horror at eating cake for breakfast, let me merely point out that there is the same amount of sugar in this cake as there is in most "muffins" or "quick breads." There are more eggs and thus, more protein. What could be a better breakfast? Mark's version is nice and dry and will soak up lots of butter. Mmmmm.... I can hardly wait for breakfast!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicken Cutlets Roasted with Tomatoes

Since boneless/skinless chicken breasts are relatively good for you and they are on sale frequently, I am often looking for new and delicious things to do with them. This recipe fits that bill. I thought the flavors were great (tomato and cumin with EVOO) and my husband also agreed. We ate this over polenta and it was a really good backdrop to highlight all the flavors in the meat. Another plus is that since the oven temp is so high you can make it from start to finish in less than 30 minutes.

HTCE p.672


I had never had polenta when I first made this recipe so I don't know what to compare it to, but I do know this: my 2 year old son LOVED it!! I remember being shocked because he has texture issues, but I also remember him having two whole bowls of it.

I found this recipe when I was looking for a side to go with Bittman's "Chicken Cutlets Roasted with Tomatoes" and together they were fantastic! This is a very easy side to make, so if you are looking for something last minute and you have cornmeal, reach for this recipe.

At the end of this recipe is one of my favorite Bittman features: the list. In this case there is a list of "14 Dishes to Serve on Top of Polenta" (p.486 or p.544). I don't know that I would like to eat polenta all by it self, but if makes an excellent base dish that other proteins or vegetables can be served on top of.

HTCE p. 485-6
HTCEV p.544 

Here is a full recipe with Parmesan and Sausage

Vanilla Pudding (Variation: Butterscotch Pudding)

This is a really good pudding. I tried to make this pudding before and since I was scared to let the pudding come to a boil (as instructed in step 2) the pudding was more of a chocolate soup. Tasty, but not pudding.

So here is my advice for this recipe. When making the cornstarch original recipe you have to let the pudding come to a boil. Bittman suggests that this will take 5 minutes, but for me it took closer to 8 or 10. For cornstarch to thicken correctly it must be heated past 203°, so really boiling in this recipe is necessary.

My other thought is that while I thought the butterscotch flavor was outstanding at the beginning of this recipe (I was tasting through out), I chose to use my very best vanilla at the end and the flavor frankly out weighed the delicate butterscotch flavor that I had created in the beginning. Lesson learned here? Use vanilla like the recipe calls for, but don't reach for the "good" vanilla, instead use the cheap stuff.

HTCE p.950
HTCEV p.884
Full Recipe, just substitute brown sugar for white sugar


I thought it might be fun to share a teeny bit about the chefs who are creating these reviews (hoping that our fearless blog administrator, Bridgette, will be okay with this idea :) ).

I always like to know what kind of cook is recommending recipes: is he/she feeding a large family? a single person? coming in after a long day's work? generally picky? likes to try new things? Etc.

So, here's a wee bit about me (Betsy) and the kind of environment in which I'm testing these recipes and giving them a thumbs up or thumbs down:
  • married to her best friend/love of her life for 7.5 years
  • mommy to three exuberant and active children: almost-3-year-old twin boys; 4-year-old daughter
  • stay-at-home mom (kids are home all day, too)
  • hubby frequently gets in late from work and we have to reheat his dinner
  • working on a fairly conservative budget for groceries
  • hubby and I love ethnic food; our children do, too, and are particularly fond of Asian food
  • I really enjoy cooking, but don't want to spend all day, every day doing it--especially given my three children running around
  • I also place a high priority on feeding my family unprocessed/commercially prepared foods when possible; to that end, I bake a lot of bread, cook my own soup, make my own pizza, etc. when feasible--this means we eat more simply now, but it's still tasty!
  • before this blog began, I'd started compiling a list of the recipes I'd tried from HTCE and a quick rating. Here's that list. Someday I may rate them all in more detail here.
  • I've owned HTCE for exactly one year (bought it in January, 2009) and cooked from it more than any other cookbook this past year (of the 40+ that I own).
  • I "discovered" it at a friend's house while I was babysitting for her. It was the first edition. I borrowed it and tried out a few recipes (like the biscuits!!). Then, I spent some time perusing the 10th anniversary edition at Border's, trying to decide if I really needed another cookbook. What swayed me were the extensive section on beans (rare in most cookbooks), the many charts and tables, and the overall simplicity. I'm so glad I took the plunge and bought it!
One final note: Bridgette and I are in complete agreement on this. We use Bittman for our normal, everyday cooking. It's perfect for that. If I want a showstopper recipe, I'll use one I've already tried and liked, perhaps, but I'm more likely to turn to America's Test Kitchen or one of my Southern Living cookbooks. Those are more "company food." (They're also more complicated, more expensive, more fussy, and so forth.)


Recipe: pizza dough and various variations
Page: HTCE 178, HTCEV p.724
Rating: *****

I only use Bittman's pizza dough recipe now and make it often. It's easy to work with if you're not in a hurry. When he says "let it rest," then you should do just that. It will make two good-sized thin crust pizzas for me easily.

We top it with all kinds of things. We've left it bare and grilled it. We've gone the basil/fresh tomatoes/slivered garlic route and loved it. (Actually I served this an appetizer/accompaniment to his quiche for a ladies' lunch that Bridgette was at--she'll agree: you can't stop eating it!) We haven't had a variation or a pizza yet we DIDN'T like from this book. I'd like to try the Alsatian version that's loaded with bacon and onions. MMMM

A note: if making this by hand, it helps to warm up the water and add the oil and water together. I've made this by hand and with the food processor; it's easier with the food processor, but very doable by hand, too.

So, pizza dough: *****

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tomatoes Stuffed with Rice

One of the first things I made with this cookbook, these tomatoes are a great side dish to almost any meal!

For this I used half mozzarella and half monterey jack, a little extra garlic and I actually only had three tomatoes to spare. So I did the whole recipe, and then we ate the extra filling as a side dish the next day.

I would be eager to try any of the variations listed: Red Peppers, Zucchini and Acorn Squash stuffed with different grains and cheeses.

HTCEV p. 398
HTCE has a "Tomatoes Stuffed with Sausage and Rice" p. 369
Full Recipe (of the meat version)

Classic Pot Roast

This recipe is exactly what it claims to be: classic! Sure you could probably go in your kitchen and whip up a pot roast (if you've ever made one before), but if you want to get consistent results use this recipe. It is what we are having for dinner tonight!

I pretty much follow the exact recipe, except that I shorten the time that you soften the vegetables because I like my onions, etc. not to dissolve during the cooking. I usually just add water in the first liquid step (wine or water) and then beef bouillon in the second, although today I had chicken broth on hand.

I think the rosemary/tomato variation looks really good, but that is for another day!

HTCE p.742

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Simplest Dal

I wanted to replicate the lentil soup from our favorite Greek restaurant but this recipe needs a few adjustments, or maybe I should choose one of the other lentil soup recipes from this book. I will try this again but I'll make these adjustments:
  • double the garlic
  • reduce the cardamom pods to 1
  • omit the mustard seeds
HTCE p. 433
HTCEV p.600

Update: I just found this article written by Bittman about Dal.  Here is the recipe that goes along with the video in the post.

Simplest Whole Roast Chicken

I decided to try this recipe so we would have something for sandwiches instead of all the chemical and salt-laden meats we had been eating for lunch. Well, this was too good for sandwiches! It never made it on a slice of bread. I used the basic recipe adding a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Easy and ready in an hour.

HTCE p. 644
Full Recipe (with lots of variations)

Potato "Nik" Variation: Latkes (Potato Pancakes)

I love Latkes! They are so easy to make and a great way to eat potatoes! Not that there's anything wrong with all of the other ways to eat potatoes, this one is just a little different.

The recipe was good although I would suggest adding some carrots into the mix as a good way to add a vegetable to the meal. Chives or green onions would be another good addition. I served these the traditional way: with sour cream and applesauce (the top two garnishes Mark lists with the recipe).

HTCEV p. 349-350
HTCE p. 345 (This is not Potato "Nik", but Potato Rösti with a Latke variation)
Full Recipe

Baked Macaroni and Cheese (Personal Variation: Old Fashioned)

So Bittman has a baked macaroni recipe in this cookbook that is good, but it is no show stopper. Before I tried this recipe I had another baked macaroni recipe that I think is just to die for (literally and figuratively). I was pleased when I realized that my recipe was just a version of his, with slightly different ratios of ingredients, but the same exact method!

Here is my list of ingredients (I've written them in the left margin of my cookbook so that I don't have to keep that other version around anymore):
  • 1 1/3 cup cream or half and half
  • Salt
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (why would you want to use low fat here?)
  • omit bay leaves
  • 1 pound penne
  • 10 tablespoons (1 stick and 2 tbl) butter(I told you it was to die for!)
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 10 oz. grated cheese, I like White Cheddar
  • Can omit Parmesan (but when is less cheese a good thing?)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup or more bread crumbs, preferably fresh (p.876)
The only changes to the method are these:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 instead of 400.
  2. No changes.
  3. Melt only 1/2 of the butter. After you add the cheese add the cream.
  4. Top the bread crumbs with remaining butter cut into small pieces. Bake for 30 minutes and let stand for 5 before serving.
If you bring this dish to a pot luck I guarantee you will not bring any home and that for you might be a good or bad thing!

HTCEV p.460
HTCE p.508