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

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!