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Welcome to my collection of recipes and cooking related ramblings. Please don't expect culinary perfection during your time here... for I am a frustrated foodie with very little patience and more than a tendency for often unnecessary creativity in the kitchen. I have a hard time following instructions (Never fear, I can read, I just don't like being told what to do), so cooking is a good exercise in discipline for me. Luckily I have a willing husband to taste test these creations, good and bad, so I don't have to suffer alone in my experimentations.  

If you dare - learn along with me as I try out recipes, tweak them to my liking, learn what NOT to do and share all the mundane details with you! Let's do this... 

Saturday
Apr072012

Vintage Cookbooks - all about the lamb!

I have a sizeable collection of vintage and oddball cookbooks. The anthropological artifacts littered upon their pages offer a glimpse into our collective culinary past, in all its' jellied glory. The Lamb Cookbook by Paula Owen from 1959., is the self-described "complete book on lamb, from the traditional roast through the popular shish kebab."  Assuming your a fan of the mutton, and you find yourself salivating over these recipe relics - then you can pick up your copy from Amazon here. It sits on my kitchen shelf but rarely, actually never, gets any real action. I confess I don't really eat lamb, so I find these recipes particularly sketchy. 

Anyway, here's a sampling from this book which boasts 192 pages of mouthwatering ways to prepare mutton. I'm skeptical, but you can try em if you dare. Go on... give it a whirl.

Summer Molded Lamb Salad

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 3-oz. Packages lemon-flavored gelatin
  • 3 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups fine-chopped cooked lamb
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3 Tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 canned pimiento, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped apple (1 medium apple)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup French dressing
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 1/4 tsp celery salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped pimiento stuffed green olives

INSTRUCTIONS:

Dissolve gelatin in water. Chill until slightly thickened. Fold in lamb, green pepper, onion, pimiento and apple. Turn into 1 1/2 quart mold. Chill until firm. Unmold. Combine remaining ingredients; mix well. Serve olive dressing with molded lamb salad. DARE-O-METER: Rating 8

 

Potato-Frosted Lamb Ring

INGREDIENTS: 6 servings

  • 2 lbs. Ground lamb
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 3 cups seasoned mashed potatoes

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine lamb, eggs, green pepper, crumbs, salt, pepper and garlic salt; mix well. Press into greased 8” ring mold. Bake at 350F for 1 hour. Unmold. Frost with potatoes.

“Frost with potatoes”!?!?! Did you ever think you would see this phrase in any sort of normal circumstances? I wonder if they sell that in a jar at the Piggly Wiggly. Potato Frosted Flakes anyone? I see a hole in the market people! Do you think I could use any more exclamation points and question marks in this paragraph?!?

If you're feeling extra creative, you can mold this dish into a lamb shape and make the potato frosting look like lamb's wool. You know you want to, you freak. DARE-O-METER Rating: 7


Lamb Pineapple Loaf

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 cup packaged bread stuffing
  • 1 9oz can pineapple tidbits
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 tsp. Salt
  • Pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

Combine all ingredients; mix well. Press into 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake in a slow oven (300F) about 75 minutes. Drain off drippings.

This one sounds Hawaiian to me – like some weird square of meat that they serve you at a luau. You don’t really want to know – it’s nice and chunky, but you can convince yourself that it’s just the fruit and manage to keep it down. Chunky meat products just don’t do it for me. DARE-0-METER Rating: 4


Upside-down Lamburger Pie

INGREDIENTS: 4-6 servings

  • 1 lb. Ground lamb
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 2/3 cup condensed tomato soup (1/2 of an 11oz. Can)
  • 1 tsp. Barbecue sauce
  • 1 small can of sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:

Brown lamb; drain off excess fat; add onion, celery and green pepper; cook until onion is golden. Stir in tomato soup, barbecue sauce, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Turn mixture into an 8” iron skillet (or 8” round pan at least 1-1/2” deep).

CORN BREAD TOPPING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pkg. Corn muffin mix
  • 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp. Celery seed 

INSTRUCTIONS:

Make corn muffin mix according to directions on package. Stir in parsley and celery seed. Place over meat mixture. Bake in hot oven 450 until corn bread is golden brown and tests done. If you use a heavy iron skillet you can let the mixture stand about 10 minutes after removing from oven and it will “firm up” and turn out upside down beautifully.

This recipe just sounds wrong on so many levels. Lamburger Pie doesn’t sound too good to start out with, then you feel the need to flip it upside down and leave the culinary experience topsy turvy? DARE-0-METER Rating: 5


Lamb Kidneys en Brochette

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 lamb kidneys per serving 
  • 1 slice bacon per serving
  • 3 mushrooms per serving
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Wash kidneys in cold water. Remove outer membrane. Split in half. Remove white veins and fat with sharp-pointed knife or pair of manicure scissors. Kidneys may be cooked in milk, cold water with a  little lemon juice added, or in French dressing. When tender, cut kidneys in quarters. Attach a slice of bacon to a skewer, then a piece of kidney, mushroom and the bacon again. Continue in this fashion, with the bacon running ribbon fashion on the skewer, until all ingredients are on individual skewers. Broil 3 inches from heat source about 7 minutes. Turn and broil 5-7 minutes more. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve very hot.

I hate to spoil anyone’s fun – but I don’t do recipes where I have to remove outer membranes unless it’s surgically removing the coated candy shell from the milk chocolate center of an M&M. That’s a challenge I would take! Meat membranes? No, thanks.

I love that there are 2 kidneys in each serving of this dish – that way you can arrange them on the plate in position with asparagus spears as ribs along a  spine of steamed whole carrots and have a sumptuous “learning” anatomy lesson. Maybe the crusty outer layer around the organ meats will disguise the fact that you are eating ORGAN MEATS!!!! Eww. DARE-O-METER Rating: 5


Creamed Lamb on Toast

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings

  • 3 Tbsp. Butter or margarine
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp lam herbs (rosemary, dry mint leaves, grated orange rind)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups diced coked lamb
  • 4 slices buttered toast

INSTRUCTIONS:

Melt butter or margarine; add onion and cook 5 minutes. Add flour and seasonings and blend. Gradually add milk and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add lamb and heat to serving temperature, stirring occasionally. Serve on toast.

This sounds like British prison food. It sounds like something you would eat when it’s cold and raining outside. It sounds like something where you use both milk and mutton in the same recipe. They should call it what it is… Milk Meat Toast. Would you eat Milk Meat Toast? DARE-O-METER Rating: 7.5

Saturday
Apr072012

Almost Homemade Apple Pie - it's a little taste of the American dream. 

What does America taste like, you ask? Corn chips & apple pie. That's my best guess. If you want to whip up a little edible Americana, this is the recipe for you!

I feel guilty saying this pie is completely homemade because I can't be bothered with reinventing that wheel known as premade pie crust. Therefore, this recipe is dubbed as "almost homemade" apple pie, but it's every bit as good as the one my grandma used to make. Maybe that's because my grandma couldn't be bothered with homemade pie crust either. She used the Pillsbury rolled up crusts in the box, just like me. Nanny knew a good thing when she saw it...

It takes a little bit of work to peel all the apples, but the fresh apples have so much more flavor and a firmer texture than the cans of goopy, oversweet pie filling alternative. Totally worth the extra effort in my opinion. This pie can be made a day ahead and kept covered in a cool dry place until ready to serve.

Almost Homemade Apple Pie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • generous 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 8 medium sized Granny Smith apples
  • 4 Tbsp. margarine
  • 2 refrigerated pie crusts, thawed (I use Pillsbury)
  • lemon juice (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat oven to 425F. Peel, core and slice the apples into slices no more than 1/4” thick. Try to keep the size of the apples as even as you can. TIP: Keep the sliced apples in a bowl of cold water and lemon juice to keep them from browning while you prepare the pie.

Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl. Stir in and coat apples completely. Line your pie plate with one of the pie crusts and pierce bottom with a fork. Pour in the apples and drizzle any remaining coating over the top. Place 4 pats of butter over the apples and top with remaining pie crust. Pinch all edges and cut several slits into the top.

Bake 40-50 minutes. For even cooking, cook pie for 25 minutes on top rack of oven. Cook an additional 15-20 minutes on the bottom rack and place a square of foil on the top rack to keep the pie from over-browning. Cool pie for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Pair this with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’ll swear your grandmother made it. Or if you prefer, and I usually do, melt a thin slice of cheddar cheese on top while the pie is still warm. That’s how we do it below the Mason-Dixon line, folks.

Saturday
Apr072012

Meat Pie, yeah, I said it.

Okay, it's really meat and cheese pie but I like the way meat pie sounds better. This vaguely Italian savory pie should be trotted out on Saturday for football with the boys, or brunch with the girls, served with some fresh fruit and some sort of a green salad. I know, I know, that menu doesn't sound very manly - but trust me, the boys will gobble up this rich and meaty dish. Meat pie sounds so much manlier than quiche. Rest assured, boys, this isn't a quiche, but a distant cousin, the ricotta pie.

It's one of those recipes that you can change up to use what you have on hand. The basic ricotta, egg and mozzarella cheese trio serves as a base for combinations only limited by the contents of your fridge. Ham, bacon, prosciutto, mushrooms, spinach, carrots, broccoli, pesto, sun dried tomatoes... I could go on and on. Really, just about anything works. No need for precise measurements... just shoot for around 4-6 servings of meat, 4-6 servings of veggies and whatever flavorings you like.

Because I try to cram several servings of vegetables into every dish I make - I decided to make this version with spinach, mushrooms, and onions. I figure that along with the meat, cheese and crust - its a perfect food! Perfect foods contain everything on the food pyramid all rolled into one. Meat, check. Dairy, check. Grains, check. Veggies, check! Have some fruit on the side... and you're FDA approved with this menu choice. (This recipe has not actually been FDA approved, duh.)

Sausage Spinach and Mushroom Pie

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 refrigerated pie crust (I use the boxed Pillsbury kind)
  • 15 oz. ricotta cheese (lowfat)
  • 10-12 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. feta cheese
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 lb. tube reduced fat Italian sausage
  • 1 bag fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. basil pesto

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350F. In a skillet, brown Italian sausage. Remove sausage from pan and use any drippings to saute the onions and mushrooms until soft, about 6-7 minutes. Stir in the fresh spinach with the onions and mushrooms and cook for about one minute. Remove from heat, return sausage to the veggie mixture, mix and set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, feta and parmesan cheeses. Stir in beaten eggs and pesto. Mix the meat and veggies into the cheeses and pour into a prepared pie shell. Bake pie for approximately 45 - 55 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The pie will get nice and goden brown on top and will bubble around the edges when done. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve. Serves 6-8.

 

Saturday
Apr072012

Pulled Pork Puff Pastry Pockets

Oh, baby baby. Two of my favorite things... pastry and pork.... all folded into one neat little package. Who on this big round rock can resist a hand pie. Hell, I can't resist saying "hand pie". It's such a good little turn of phrase... hand pie. Sigh. Anyway, you may know them better as "hot pockets" or turnovers. I'm going to call these Pulled Pork Puff Pastry Pockets - because I like alliteration. Sue me.

I like to cook dishes that double or triple up for multiple meals (less work for me)... which means finding ways to use the left overs. One of my favorite meals to make, because it's almost easier than boiling an egg, is crock pot pulled pork. With only three main ingredients, even a monkey could do it. It would have to be a monkey that doesn't mind eating a pig. Do monkeys eat meat? I'm sure I'm supposed to know this...I need to google it... we'll get back to this later.... must get back to the recipe for the pulled pork filling.

This pork is great on top of baked potatoes, sandwiches, made into nachos or just eaten on its own with potato salad or cole slaw. It's perfect for a weeknight meal - just start the crock pot in the morning... come home, stir in the sauce and... voila... an hour later dinner's ready! Anyways... Since there are only two of us in the house, I have to get creative to use up the leftovers on this one - it's usually good for 3 full meals. A bolt of inspiration hit me today when I was trying to decide how to use up last night's batch - I could make a pie, a pork pie! What kind of pork pie, you ask? A puffy pork pie! Yup, that's the ticket.

4-Ingredient Crock Pot Pulled Pork

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4-6 lb. pork shoulder or pork butt
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 can Ginger Ale, Dr. Pepper or Coke (any soda will do)
  • 1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce (or whichever brand is your favorite)
  • Seasoning to taste: salt and black pepper, garlic powder, cayenne pepper - whatever your preference

INSTRUCTIONS: 

Half onion and slice into half moon slivers. Place in the bottom of the crock pot. Next, season the pork shoulder with salt, pepper, garlic powder, or seasoning of your choice. Don't be shy with the seasoning, the pork is going to cook for a long time and it will absorb the seasoning nicely. Place the pork on top of the onions in the crock pot. Pour the can of soda over the pork and turn the crock pot to low. Allow pork to cook for 7-9 hours until meat is falling apart when poked with a fork.

Drain liquid through a strainer and return meat and onions to the crock pot. Remove and move any bones to the trash. Gently tear with two forks the pork until it is fully shredded. Pour in the bottle of barbecue sauce. You want the meat to be thoroughly moist but not dripping in sauce. Leave the crock pot on low for approximately one more hour to allow the BBQ sauce to fully flavor the meat. Serve on a sandwich or as a topping on potatoes. Delicious with melted cheddar cheese on top.

 

Pulled Pork Pastry Pockets

INGREDIENTS: 

  • about 2 cups Pulled Pork (see above)
  • 8 slices cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 small onion, minced
  • 1 pickle, chopped finely
  • barbecue sauce or mustard
  • 2 sheets Peppridge Farm puff pastry
  • 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water, mixed for egg wash

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425F. Thaw pastry and cut each sheet into 4 equal pieces, roughly square. Mix onion and pickles into pulled pork. Lay a slice of cheese on top of each pastry square. Spoon about 1/4 cup of pork mixture on top of cheese. Spread out evenly over half of the square leaving about 1/2 and inch around the edges. Salt and pepper the pork to your liking then spread barbecue sauce (about 1 Tbsp.) on top. Fold each square in half and crimp edges together with a fork. Brush egg wash over the top of each pie and place on non-stick cookie sheet.

Bake pies for approximately 5 minutes at 425F and then turn the oven down to 375F. Cook for another 15 minutes until golden brown and flaky. If you're lucky ,some cheese has made attempt at an escape and is oozing out one  corner or another. That little bit of burnt cheesiness is my favorite. Mmmmm. Makes 8 hand pies.

Saturday
Apr072012

Try these addictive little pretzel party treats, I dare you.

Need to bring a snack to a potluck or poker game? Have a birthday party coming up or a bar mitzvah? Need to stuff an army full of carbs & sugar for upcoming battle? Whatever the reason, or the season, these little candy pretzel snacks will fit the bill. 

No doubt you've seen this recipe all over the internet, and that's because it's so easy and makes you feel like a rock star for making it, therefore, everyone must blog about it... including me. Big bang for your buck on this recipe. You can make several hundred of these in less than an hour. Trust me, it takes longer to unwrap the Rolos and kisses than anything else in this recipe. 

Kids love these things and so do big adult kids. Get creative in your candy combinations - vary them for the different seasons and try different flavors, colors and varieties of kisses and M&Ms. The picture above uses the peanut butter M&Ms in Easter egg shapes. I've seen them made with the striped peppermint kisses for Christmas. Use your imagination... go nuts. Go peanut M&M nuts. 

If you're a caramel lover - then the more sophisticated variation of Rolo candies and pecans will suit your sweet tooth. The nutty treat is reminiscent of a turtle candy, but crunchier, and saltier. 

Pretzel Party Snax

INGREDIENTS:

  • M&Ms
  • Pretzels
  • Pecan halves
  • Rolo candies
  • Hershey's Kisses

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 225F. There are two different varieties you can make - the first variation uses Hershey's kisses and M&M candies and the second uses Rolo candies and pecan halves. You will need to unwrap either a Rolo or Hershey's kiss for each pretzel. (Note, this will take forever so bring a friend.)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread out one layer of pretzels. Place a Rolo or kiss on top of each pretzel. Put in the oven for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and let sit on the counter for about one minute - this will allow the chocolate to finish "melting" and will make it easy to "smoosh". Quickly place an M&M on top of each Hershey's Kiss and a pecan half on top of each Rolo candy - press down to flatten. The chocolate will fill into the holes in the pretzel to form a bond. 

Place the tray of candies into the refrigerator to chill for about half an hour. Keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve. These will keep for a few days in the fridge.