Archive for the ‘Cookbooks’ Category

Toss the take-out menus and buy this cookbook

December 7th, 2014

For those who didn’t learn to cook growing up, my friend Becky Duffett wrote “How to Feed Yourself” and filled it with 100 of her favorite go-to recipes, no fancy ingredients or equipment required. This hip foodie worked on Williams Sonoma cookbooks for several years and knows what’s what when it comes to making a great cookbook—from beautiful photos to crystal-clear instructions. While she’s targeting recent college grads and twentysomethings, this fortysomething mom likes it too. My cooking is a bit rudimentary, and I’ve aspired to kick it up a notch for a while now. I can follow a recipe, and Jeff and Carter are psyched that I’ll be trying some of Becky’s weeknight dinner recipes—the bulk of the book. Of course, she had me at one-bowl brownies with hazelnuts and Nutella.

easy slow cooker chicken recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken

December 30th, 2010

In a shocking turn of events today, I managed to think about dinner far enough in advance to put chicken in the slow cooker (is anyone else still adjusting to not saying “Crock-Pot”?) before I left on a few errands. Each of which turned out to be problematic. So, so nice to come home and be ahead of the feeding game.

My Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken recipe, which Carter loves because it’s sweet, is the one and only recipe I’ve written that has appeared in print, in the Home Plates column in the San Jose Mercury News. I was sure I’d shared it on Baking with Carter, but it turns out I’ve been holding out on you.

LIke the Quick Chicken with Salsa and Cheese recipe that I did share, the Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken recipe is adapted from Beth Hensperger’s book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two, which I highly recommend. (To save time and cleanup, I skip the original recipe’s step of browning the chicken in olive oil with garlic first, but knock yourself out if you like the added flavor.)

When I used to work at the erstwhile Internet search engine Infoseek, “easy chicken recipe” was perennially a top search phrase. Now that I’m a working mom, the popularity makes even more sense. Add “kid-friendly,” and you really have a winner. So without further ado, here’s my favorite kid-friendly, easy chicken recipe:

Moroccan-Spiced Tomato Chicken with Almonds

4–6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (one package)
1 cup tomato salsa (good jarred variety)
2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup whole-wheat couscous

Spray the inside of a 1 1/2 to 3 quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Trim extra fat and put the chicken in the slow cooker. Combine the salsa, currants, honey, cumin, and cinnamon and pour over the chicken. Cover and cook on low for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the chicken is cooked (fork tender and juices run clear). Cook couscous according to package directions. Serve chicken over couscous.

Optionally: Toast 2 tablespoons slivered almonds in dry skillet on stovetop until brown and fragrant; serve chicken over couscous and top with toasted almonds.

This is one chicken recipe I can count on Carter, who has a sweet tooth, eating. He loves the currants/raisins, and I’m sure the honey helps too. Of course, he puts his own spin on the meal, eating the couscous separately with ketchup.

I searched “easy chicken recipe” at Food Blog Search, and here are some more ideas:

Tin Foil Chicken & Veggies from Kitchen Parade

Honey Mustard Chicken from Eclectic Recipes

Easy Cornflake Crumb Chicken from Chew on That

Grilled Island Chicken from Sarah’s Cucina Bella

Just a Little Mexican Chicken from Zesty Cook

phobia cure: chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies recipe

March 7th, 2010

Cookie recipes scare me. I remember too well as a kid struggling to hand-mix the stiff Tollhouse chocolate chip dough and then burning the cookies. My sister Margaret’s always came out just right, so I ceded that ground to her. Then there was that time I attempted to make my Great Aunt Frances’ famous ginger snaps. I can still picture the baking dough oozing across the cookie sheet, leaving a charred path in its wake.

My mom’s go-to cookie recipe was oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with wheat germ. I remember eating a lot of those—no childhood baking trauma attached. So the other day, I was in line at Trader Joe’s and saw packages of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, strategically placed for impulse purchases. Not only did I resist, but I also vowed to set aside my cookie baking phobia and make some myself.

Coincidentally, I’ve also had a copy of Sur La Table’s book Baking Kids Love by Cindy Mushet that I’ve been wanting to try out and report on. (Editorial note: I received a free review copy of this book from its publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.) One of its 30 recipes is Chewy Oatmeal Cookies. Perfect.

Cindy’s 11-year-old daughter, Bella, helped her create the book and offers a running commentary. Photos of Bella and other kids, a colorful design, and full-page photos of the end results will appeal to kids. In addition to baking these recipes with your child, I recommend this book for kids who are old enough to read it themselves.

Although I didn’t in my adaptation of the Chewy Oatmeal Cookies recipe below, each recipe in the book lists the required tools as well as an ingredient list. Cindy includes those extra steps, for instance, when to scrape the bowl, that more experienced bakers wouldn’t need. Other recipes I’d like to try: Gone Bananas Chocolate Chip Cake, Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake Muffins, and Crunchy-Top Vanilla Scones (along with its Scrumptious Strawberry Shortcake variation).

Cindy’s original Chewy Oatmeal Cookies recipe calls for cranberries, but I swapped in chocolate chips. I actually enjoyed making the cookies—enough so that I plan to make more cookies! Having the right gear, especially a stand mixer, helped.

Because baking with me is no longer novel and there are now so many different ways Carter can entertain himself, I never know exactly when or for how long he will join me. “Special time with Mommy” no longer is an automatic attraction. This time, he wanted to put the dough on the cookie sheets. The attraction: a mini ice cream scoop.

Gotta love the appeal of kitchen gadgets, and I highly recommend a 1 tablespoon scoop for doling out cookie dough. Carter needed some help squeezing the handles and didn’t make it through all 48 scoops, but had fun trying. The scoop was so much quicker than the two-spoon method I used to use. Carter is going to kindergarten in August, and I pictured myself up late scooping out cookie dough, so he would have cookies to take to school in the morning.

As far as taste and texture, these cookies passed the test: they were all gone fast. In fact, my neighbor Nandini, who sampled them, came over to get the recipe. She needed to make cookies that night for her son’s class. I lent her my mini scoop.

Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (see note)

Position an oven rack in the top third of the oven and another in the bottom third. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl on low speed for one minute and then medium speed for another minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In three parts, add the dry ingredient to the butter mixture and beat on low speed just until a few patches of flour remain. Add the oats in three parts and then the chocolate chips. Mix until the ingredients are evenly blended. Scrape down the bowl and fold the dough a few times to make sure all the flour is incorporated and the chips are evenly distributed.

With a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, shape the dough into cookies. Evenly space 12 cookies on each baking sheet. Place one sheet on each oven rack. Bake for 7 minutes, then switch the pans’ positions and rotate each a half turn. Bake another 7 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown around the edges.

Place the baking sheets on cooling racks and cool the cookies completely. Once the pans are cool, remove the cookies and line the pans with new parchment paper. Bake the rest of the cookies. Yield: approximately 48 cookies.

Note: The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of dried cranberries or other dried fruit, such as raisins, currants, dried cherries, or chopped dried apricots, with the optional addition of 1/3 cup of chopped nuts or chocolate chips.

Adapted from Baking Kids Love

magical popover debut

January 5th, 2010

popoversAs far as I’m concerned, a perfect present is something I really want and wouldn’t buy for myself—like a popover pan (thanks, Dawn!). I’ve never met a Nordic Ware pan I didn’t like (I’ll cop to collecting Bundt pans), and the English popover pan is no exception. I’d never actually made popovers. It sounded like fun, and it is.

The basic batter is super simple—milk, eggs, flour, salt, butter—and should be easy to put together with kids. Sadly, I didn’t get to try because Carter has been recovering from pneumonia and was napping when I mixed up the first batch.

Better yet, though, is watching popovers balloon up like new skyscrapers in the oven. Popover pan cups are 4 inches high, and the batter goes from filling the cups halfway up to towering over the top—demonstrating yet again the magical chemistry behind baking. Carter missed the transformation because he was in the bath, but he was impressed with the result when I carried the pan in to show him.

You can make popovers in a muffin pan, too, so don’t be scared off by my choice of specialty bakeware. I read a bunch of popover recipes and the key to the “pouf” is high heat. You heat the oven with your baking pan of choice in it with a silver baking sheet or a baking stone under it. Once the batter has rested (another key) and everything is hot, fill the pan quickly, and don’t open the oven door once the popovers are baking.

Jeff appreciated my effort. Carter ate half of one with strawberry jelly and was underwhelmed. He, like me, has an expressive face that doesn’t hide much. I hope he’ll be a little more excited when he feels better and we make them together. I also want to experiment with flavors. I have my eye on Mary Cech’s orange nutmeg popover recipe in Savory Baking. I’ll report back.

Popovers

1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon oil (for greasing a popover pan; plus 2 teaspoons if using a muffin tin)

In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk and eggs. In another bowl, whisk the flour and salt; add to the egg mixture. Stir with a spatula just until combined; the mixture will be lumpy. Add the melted butter. Whisk until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 30 seconds. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour, then put it in a container with a spout, if your mixing bowl doesn’t have one.

Meanwhile, put 1/2 teaspoon oil in the bottom of each of the 6 cups of a popover pan (or in each of 10 cups of a muffin tin)—no need to spread around. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven; place the popover pan (or muffin tin) on a silver (not dark) baking sheet or a baking stone on the rack. Heat the oven to 450˚F.

After the batter has rested, remove the pan from the oven and distribute the batter evenly among the cups in the pan—work quickly and keep the oven door closed. Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven door! Lower the heat to 350˚F and bake until popovers are golden brown all over, about 15 minutes more. Remove the popovers from the pan and cool them on a wire rack for a few minutes. Best served immediately.

Adapted from Baking Illustrated

even if you don’t have kids, read hungry monkey, a funny book from a foodie dad

November 9th, 2009

I read Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater after my friend Amy raved about it in person. On her blog, Cooking with Amy, she calls Hungry Monkey “the funniest book I’ve read all year….I literally couldn’t put it down.” And she doesn’t even have kids. She does know cooking, though, and she likes the recipes: “I’ve recommended [Hungry Monkey] to just about everyone I know who has little ones,” she says. “I don’t dare lend anyone my copy because there are too many recipes I have bookmarked to try.”

Reading the acknowledgments (what can I say—I’m a book editor) further affirmed that it’s a small world. My friends Anita and Cameron are friends with the author, Matthew Amster-Burton, and tested some of the recipes. Check out what they have to say on their blog Married with Dinner. Amster-Burton writes a blog called Roots and Grubs.

The stories about the author and his daughter are funny and touching. Most of the book’s recipes, though, are beyond my cooking (vs. baking) skill level. Some of the simpler recipes that I’d like to try are Crunchy Cheese Wafers (I can handle baking cheese, nuts, and herbs for 5 minutes at 400˚F) and Mini Fritattas made in nonstick muffin pans. The author’s favorite veggie is Brussels sprouts, so I’m tempted to follow his surprising recommendations to brown and braise frozen (!) ones.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll enjoy Amster-Burton’s insider view of the world of food. If you’re a new parent, Hungry Monkey will give you a realistic view of what to expect, including your lack of control over what your child chooses to eat. I also recommend this book to anyone, though, who just wants a laugh. And who couldn’t use that these days?

Quick chicken recipe (really)

August 5th, 2009

Before we had Carter, I’m hard pressed to think of a time my husband and I actually planned a meal together. Post-child, that changed, and family dinner is an important part of our evening routine. I’m generally the one who gets the food on the table, and it’s hard after 10 hours of commuting and working. Jeff kindly calls me the “master chef,” mostly because I know more about cooking than he does. Truth be told, though, I’m not much of a cook. That’s why I’m thrilled to find a true quick-and-easy dish. (Are you, too, dismayed at what’s billed as “quick and easy” that’s neither?)

Tonight’s success is ironically inspired by a recipe in Beth Hensperger’s book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. Here’s my take on her Salsa Chicken with Cheese, which will take longer for me to write than it did to make!

Quick Chicken with Salsa and Cheese

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
1/2 cup premade salsa (such as Newman’s Own Chunky Mild Salsa)
1/2 lime
2 slices Provolone cheese

Preheat overproof skillet over medium heat. Trim access fat from the chicken with a kitchen shears and place between two pieces of wax paper. Pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until the chicken is a consistent height, around 1/4 inch. Brush both sides with olive oil. Place chicken in skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes; turn and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Spoon salsa evenly over the top of the chicken. Squeeze lime juice onto salsa. Top each breast with a slice of cheese. Move skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Serve, pouring any juices from the pan over the top.

Kids’ cooking: Carter helped pound out the chicken—holding the meat tenderizer in both hands to prevent any errant blows on little fingers.

Side note: I showed Carter (and Jeff) how to snap off the end of an asparagus spear, so the woody part naturally breaks off, which is fun to do. (It didn’t inspire either of them to like asparagus—nor did the grated lemon zest and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Oh well, they both liked the chicken!)

Banana bread

July 25th, 2009

red whiskFinally dealing with the black bananas in the fridge. Carter wasn’t interested until I got out the red whisk. (Red is his absolute favorite color in the whole wide world.) Then he really got into it.

This recipe is a healthy take on a childhood classic from Real Food for Healthy Kids. It’s rare that I find a cookbook from which I make more than one recipe, a true hallmark of success in the cookbook world (we cookbook readers aspire more than we execute). Written by two working moms, Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, Real Food for Healthy Kids is one of those books. 

Ba-Ba Banana Bread

From Real Food for Healthy Kids

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 very ripe medium bananas, coarsely mashed with a fork
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (in lieu of 2/3 cup chopped walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-by5-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and reserve.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix at low speed until blended.

Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips or nuts and the scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tested inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn out and let cool before cutting.