Monthly Archives: July 2014

Wee Wee Food

DSC_0204Catherine McCord’s Weelicious blog and its two associated cookbooks are ideal for certain types: people who do not know how to cook but have suddenly been placed in a position (voluntarily or not) of needing to cook for their children instead of relying on restaurants, takeout, convenience foods, or someone else’s cooking. Instead of ranting about people who do not have the kitchen skills necessary to feed their own children, let me applaud those without these skills but who decide to attain them. Catherine can help: in her books there are recipes such as “Butternut Squash Puree” (ingredients: 1 butternut squash); a recipe for grilled cheese sandwiches (ingredients: bread, butter, cheese); variations on peanut butter and jelly; and recipes for simple salads. There are somewhat more complicated recipes, but nothing overly challenging. Every recipe I tried was simple and mediocre, but simple and mediocre is a good place to start when feeding children. However, with no children in the house and as someone who knows how to cook, I found this to be a rather dreary week for Cookbook Cornucopia.

wee1The first thing I noticed about the book Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes was its ridiculous title. I was not familiar with the blog of the same name, and just could not get my mind around the fact that someone thought that “weelicious” was a marketable word. But obviously it is marketable, so I will refrain from further comments. On opening the book, what next struck me next were the many pictures of Catherine and her children; this made sense after reading the back flap of the book and learning Catherine is a former model and television hostess. Nevertheless, there seemed to be enough simple and appealing recipes for me to find a place on my shelf for this book. Catherine is interested in having her children eat healthy food, although I think she should consider cutting back on the meat. She does use a minimum of prepared and processed foods, which is good. The recipes are not exciting, but if her children eat everything in this book, I am very impressed. My children, even Alan, my “good” eater, have always had much more sensitive taste buds.

salmonxx“Miso Marinated Fish” consists of fish, black cod or salmon (I used salmon), which marinates in a mixture of miso, agave syrup, and mirin for several hours and is then broiled. The fish was fine but not memorable. I served it with some interesting black rice ramen that I had found only recently at Whole Foods Market. This ramen was a very nice slippery accompaniment to the salmon.

weewee“Brown Rice and Veggie Casserole” (page 162) looked healthy enough. For this casserole, cooked brown rice is combined with tomato sauce and cheese, then layered with some cooked vegetables, also combined with the tomato sauce and cheese. I happened to make this casserole along with some much better food, so the leftovers were rather neglected and ended up being thrown out.

zititiCatherine’s “Baked Ziti” (page 195) is a big nothing of a recipe. It is a combination of cooked ziti, a can of tomatoes cooked with onion, garlic, and bell pepper, and cheeses: mozzarella and Parmesan. It’s starchy and filling, and edible enough, especially with more Parmesan added. I suppose the inclusion of this recipe, along with the accolade from Weelicious follower Emily can be explained by the complete helplessness in the kitchen of the Weelicious audience.

spgnI like the idea of gnocchi, but most recipes seem to be more trouble than they are worth. The exception, so far, has been Clotilde Dusoulier’s recipe for Parisian gnocchi. The Weelicious “Spinach Gnocchi” (page 226) were, alas, no exception: they tasted good enough, but I could not help thinking that some sort of casserole with the exact same ingredients would have been just as good and no trouble to put together. The ingredients are frozen spinach, cheeses, and egg yolk, and a little bit of flour to hold everything together. You roll this mixture into little balls, then cook the balls in boiling water. The baked ziti was improved when I tossed some of these gnocchi onto my serving of the ziti.

carrotcupWith the Weelicious “Carrot-Pineapple Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing” (page 236)  I finally feel that Catherine and I might have something in common. Catherine does not put raisins, which I regard as an abomination, in her carrot cupcakes. She does add pineapple, a necessity. True, there are no nuts in these cupcakes, but then most children do not appreciate nuts in baked goods. Finally, the cream cheese icing, sweetened with agave syrup, is some of the best cream cheese icing ever. Catherine also uses agave syrup as the sweetener in the cupcakes, but I successfully cut the amount of sweetener by a third—apparently Catherine did not get the memo on healthy eating about cutting sugar consumption. Catherine makes 14 cupcakes from her recipe; I made 12 medium small cupcakes. The amount of icing is generous, even for 14 cupcakes, but that is okay since it is so good. [Go to the recipe.]

wee2Catherine’s second book, Weelicious Lunches: Think Outside the Lunch Box with More Than 160 Happier Meals is really just a continuation of the first book. The biggest difference is that Catherine now has an expanded cast of children appearing in her pictures; there’s even a little diversity. Perhaps because of the lunch theme, carbohydrates are over-represented, with, for example, a chapter on pizza and a chapter on sandwiches (“sammies” in wee-talk). This book has recipes both for lunch box food and hot lunch food served at home. As with the first book, the key words are “simple” and “mediocre”.

carbeetYears ago I learned how good grated carrots mixed with a simple vinaigrette could be. Catherine’s take on this sort of recipe is just as good: She combines grated carrots and grated beets (both uncooked); she adds a tiny bit of salt, a tiny bit of rice vinegar, and a tiny bit of honey. This salad was quite satisfactory by itself; I also liked adding it to my usual lettuce salad. [Go to the recipe.]

guacummusI like trying hummus variations; Nigella Lawson’s peanut butter hummus is inspired. Thus my eyes lit up when I saw the recipe for “Avocado Hummus” (page 208). I cannot decide which is the better name for this: guacummus or hummamole? There are real possibilities for this recipe, but not with Catherine’s method. I usually cook my own chickpeas for hummus, but I was feeling lazy and followed Catherine’s recipe and used canned chickpeas. What a mistake! Hummus made with canned chickpeas tastes like canned chickpeas no matter how much you rinse the canned chickpeas. As for tasters’ reactions: Danny liked this, Mindy S liked it a lot, and Susun B saw no great improvement over hummus and avocados just served together.

eggsalCatherine seems to think that she is being very creative with her idea of adding diced dill pickle to her egg salad, but the salad I made from her recipe for “Egg Pickle Salad Sandwich” (page 106) was a completely undistinguished egg salad. In addition to the pickle, she adds a little bit of mayonnaise and a little bit of mustard; I was more generous with both mayonnaise and mustard than Catherine was.

souppp“Minestrone Pasta Soup” (page 73) would have been much better without the pasta. Without the pasta, we have  a basic vegetable soup, with onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, and canned beans added to a soup base of broth and canned tomatoes. Add the pasta, and instead of a healthy and relatively filling vegetable soup, we have a soupy pasta dish, which uses up the starch quota for the meal, perhaps even for the day. I probably would have enjoyed this more had I just used regular macaroni for the pasta instead of breaking up whole wheat linguine to use. But I wanted to get rid of the linguine, since I do not particularly like whole wheat pasta.

datec“Cocodate Cookies” (page 280) did not taste that bad, and they are relatively healthy, the only ingredients being dates, a banana, coconut, and sesame seeds. But they did not taste that good either. I would much prefer an unadorned date to one of these cookies. The cookies are not quite raw: they are cooked in a slow oven until the outside gets a little crusty but the inside is still soft. Some children might like these, but I do not think that any of my children would have voluntarily eaten these during those many long years when they ate like children.

 

Carrot Cupcakes

Adapted from Catherine McCord, Weelicious: 140 Fast, Fresh, and Easy Recipes

Cupcakes:
1½ cups flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup agave syrup
½ cup walnut oil
2 eggs
1½ cups grated carrots
¼ cup drained crushed pineapple

Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, bat together the agave syrup, walnut oil, and eggs. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Stir in the carrots and pineapple. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups. Bake until the cupcakes start to brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes. Cool, out of the muffin pan and on a rack.

To make the frosting, beat the frosting ingredients together. When the cupcakes have cooled, spread the frosting on top.

 

Carrot Beet Salad

Adapted from Catherine McCord,  Weelicious Lunches

2-3 carrots, grated
1 medium red beet, grated
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon honey

You want about the same amount of carrot and beet, so choose how many carrots to use accordingly. To make the salad, just combine the ingredients.

Hog Butcher for the World

chicagoWe will not be butchering any hogs for this post, but we will be exploring food from the pages of the Chicago Tribune, or, more precisely, food from two Chicago Tribune cookbooks: The Chicago Tribune Good Eating Cookbook and Ethnic Chicago Cookbook, both edited by Carol Mighton Haddix, former food editor of the Chicago Tribune. I love these cookbooks! They have been sitting on my shelves for years, unexplored (with the exception of one recipe, “Fruity Lokshen Kugel”) . But when Cookbook Cornucopia starting cooking from these books, I found, despite the meatiness of Chicago, great recipe after good recipe after great recipe!

gecThe Chicago Tribune Good Eating Cookbook is one of the best possible examples of the standard newspaper or magazine cookbook. We have here a big thick cookbook with lots of recipes. As is usual with newspaper recipes, the recipes are reliable, having been thoroughly tested: newspapers, unlike authors of cookbooks, cannot get away with tossing out to their readers untried recipes. Almost all of the recipes are interesting, and many come from Chicago restaurants. Other recipes come from Chicago Tribune columnists, Chicago Tribune food contest winners, or from area food professionals. This cookbook has a wonderful collection of recipes and is surprisingly vegetarian friendly.

kohlI used kohlrabi for the first time ever when I made “Kohlrabi Slaw” (page 367). Kohlrabi is a very cool looking vegetables, with tentacles emerging from a green bulb. It’s a cabbage family vegetable, and so slaw is a natural vehicle for kohlrabi. For this particular slaw, kohlrabi and carrots are julienned and cooked for a few minutes. The vegetables, together with chopped up scallions, are dressed with an oil, vinegar, and yogurt dressing flavored with cumin. I do not think that I will ever seek out kohlrabi in order to make this salad again, but if I ever get a CFA share and end up with kohlrabi, then I will remember this recipe.

sescaulSince I had used up all my broccoli but still had half a head of cauliflower left, “Sesame, Broccoli, and Cauliflower Salad” (page 356) became sesame and cauliflower salad. This was just as well, since the broccoli and cauliflower are briefly boiled, which, I have found, might initially leave the broccoli bright green, but after a day it fades to the repulsive dull green of over-cooked broccoli (even if not over-cooked). The cauliflower, however, is just nicely softened by this treatment. For the salad, the barely cooked cauliflower is then dressed with a soy sauce sesame oil dressing. This salad is as good a use as any for a half head of cauliflower.

lentilsoup“Salpicón Lentil Soup” (page 96) is from a Mexican restaurant in Chicago of that name. The soup itself is very simple: lentils cooked with tomatoes. What is interesting are the garnishes: chilies, cheese, and grilled (or broiled) pineapple. I could not find any of the pasilla chilies called for, so I just spiced up the soup with Aleppo pepper. Instead of using the pineapple as a garnish, I mixed it into the soup. Finally, I did not use queso añejo, but feta. So what I ended up with might not have been much like the soup served at Salpicón, but it was still good. The pineapple was a particularly nice touch.

tunaxxxTo make “Tuna Fillets Creole” (page 176), you prepare a mustard horseradish cream sauce, broil some tuna, then serve together decorated with chopped avocado. The sauce was absolutely delicious. However, I think that it would have been just as delicious served with broiled tofu, which certainly would have been cheaper than the tuna. I can also imagine making this with a less expensive fish. But as long as I didn’t think about how much the tuna cost, I really enjoyed eating this.

lasagvvvI’m not sure that I would describe “Light and Easy Lasagna” (page 108) as either light or easy. The lightness, I suppose, comes from the meatlessness of this lasagna, the part-skim cheeses specified (which I ignored, being full-fat all the way), and the large amount of sauce for a small amount of noodles. But my pan of lasagna weighed a lot, and the sauce was thick and intense, so “light” was not the word that sprang to my mind for this lasagna. As for ease, most lasagna recipes are easy; maybe this one was a little easier than others in that all we have to chop are onions and garlic, but since the tomato sauce simmers for two hours this is certainly not a quick lasagna, and “quick” is a word we often want to pair with “easy”. Complaints about the name of this recipe aside, I liked this lasagna, and approve of the greater sauce to noodle ratio.

asianveg“Vegetarian Stir-Fry with Pan-Seared Tofu in Citrus-Soy Broth” (page 339) is a recipe with a lot of hyphens! Even with the hyphens, it’s a humdrum recipe, but no less good for that. The title says it all: stir fry a bunch of vegetables, then pour over the vegetables a sauce of lemon, mirin, sake, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sriracha. The citrus-soy broth was a very nice combination of flavors, and this dish was good both hot and at room temperature.

eggmush“Egg Crepes with Red Bell Peppers and Mushrooms” (page 61) is a very useful recipe: it is suitable for Pesach, low in carbs, relatively easy to make, and quite delicious. The egg crepes are really omelets: they are made up only of eggs and water. As such, they were a little tricky to cook, but I only messed up one of them. The mushroom filling could not be simpler: it consists of sautéed mushrooms with shallot. After the mushrooms are rolled up in the egg crepes, the crepes are topped with a sauce of roasted red peppers, cream, lemon juice, and tarragon. I used a jar of roasted red peppers instead of roasting my own. Our guest Ori W particularly liked these.

splatI made “Curried Sweet Potato Latkes” (page 329) with Japanese sweet potatoes, purple skinned and white fleshed. I probably would not have done this if I had read up more on Japanese potatoes, as they are sweeter than the usual Garnet or Jewel sweet potatoes. But even if sweeter, these Japanese sweet potatoes made very good latkes. The batter consists of grated sweet potatoes mixed with flour, eggs, and seasonings. I served these with a sauce of mayonnaise mixed with sriracha. [Go to the recipe.]

colcannon“Colcannon” (page 311) is, traditionally, just mashed potatoes and cabbage, but Carol packs a lot into that single word “just”. The mashed potatoes are red potatoes, mashed with their skins, which provide some nice texture. She also throws in some cream, scallions (or green onions) and horseradish. I used at least twice as much horseradish as in the ingredient list. These potatoes were very good, especially with the horseradish boost, and even better with the sauce from “Tuna Fillets Creole” (more horseradish).

pinescWhen I first started making scones, I tried all sorts of different recipes. Eventually I settled on my favorites, and now I only occasionally check out new scone recipes. “Pineapple-Macadamia Scones” (page 414) looked interesting because of the very low amount of added sugar: only two teaspoons, although the dried pineapple that I used (not candied pineapple, listed in the recipe) had lots of sugar. I was also attracted to the fourth cup of rum in the scones. These scones did indeed turn out well. Although I usually omit toppings for scones, I did top these with pearl sugar, and I think this little added sweetness enhanced the scones. These scones are good enough to enter the scone rotation.

eccEthnic Chicago Cookbook : Ethnic-Inspired Recipes from the Pages of The Chicago Tribune, also edited by Carol Mighton Haddix, is very similar to The Chicago Tribune Good Eating Cookbook, just a little smaller and with a focus on the “ethnic-inspired”. (Let us ignore the questionable use of the word “ethnic” in the title of this book; yes, we’re all ethnic, and yes, “international” might have been a more appropriate word.) I had lots of fun cooking food from all over, serving together the Greek salad, the Ukrainian soup, the Ethiopian stew, and the Turkish zucchini.

beetsaladxxxRed beets are one of those foods that I wish I liked more. It’s the sweetness of beets, together with that beety edge that I do not like, although occasionally I come across a beet recipe that harnesses the beetiness of beets and takes that beetiness somewhere great. Such is the case with “Beet and Walnut Salad” (page 74). I’m not sure where the magic in this recipe is, but it is undeniably there. This Russian-inspired salad is a combination of cooked beets, walnuts, garlic, prunes, and mayonnaise. This salad is not going to convert any beet haters, but it might make beet fence straddlers very happy.

easter“Greek Easter Salad” (page 65) is a salad made up of romaine, dill, parsley, and scallions with a lemony dressing. This is a very spring like salad, without summer salad ingredients such as tomatoes, but with the spring ingredients shining on their own, without being overpowered by strong tastes such as that of olives. I admit, though, that I liked this salad more when I added some feta cheese.

beetetcGiven my aforementioned issues with red beets, I do not usually like borscht. But both Danny and I agreed that “Ukrainian Meatless Borscht” (page 47) was actually pretty good. The secret to its goodness is, I believe, spicy V8 juice: the mild spiciness of the juice is just enough to counteract the cloying sweetness of the beets. This soup is very easy to make: after precooking the beets, you just combine all the ingredients (just the beets and standard soup vegetables) in a pot and cook. There is no preliminary step of sautéing the vegetables, and so no added fat to the soup. [Go to the recipe.]

ethiopianI like the vegetarian Ethiopian food that I have tried in Ethiopian restaurants, but I have had less success coming up with the same flavors when I follow recipes. “Ethiopian Vegetable Stew” (page 144) almost had the taste that I was seeking, and even though this stew was not quite what I hoped it would be, it was still good. The vegetables are potatoes, carrots, and cabbages; the seasonings are onion and garlic, ginger and tumeric. I used ghee to sauté my stew vegetables, instead of the oil called for in the recipe, and I think that my version was better for using the ghee. Leftovers of this stew were good topped with a fried egg and a squirt of sriracha.

zzzWhen I served “Turkish Stuffed Eggplant” (page 158) to Danny, he asked, “Why is this so good?” The stuffing consists of onion, garlic, cheese, eggs, and dill, as well as chopped up zucchini innards, and it is all sprinkled with paprika, which provides not only color but, at least if you use good paprika, a good taste. The egg from the stuffing leaked out when the zucchini were being cooked, but this wasn’t that much of a problem since I removed the stuffed zucchini from the baking dish. I don’t really know why this dish was so good, but everything came together perfectly.

I did not make “Fruity Lokshen Kugel” (page 202) during this cooking cycle, but it is a recipe that I frequently make and highly recommend. This is the quintessential sweet noodle kugel (and Carol wisely places the recipe in her dessert chapter). With pineapple, dried cranberries and raisins for the fruit; honey, cinnamon, and vanilla for flavorings; and farmer cheese and sour cream for dairy, what else does one need? Oh yes, good noodles: I only use al dente egg fettuccine. So if any of you, dear readers, either already have this cookbook or want to use my link and buy this cookbook, be sure to try this kugel.

 

Sweet Potato Latkes

Adpted from Carol Mighton Haddix (editor),  The Chicago Tribune Good Eating Cookbook

23 cup flour
2 teaspoons curry powder
2 teaspoons brown sugar
112 teaspoons sugar
114 teaspoons baking powder
34 teaspoon hot paprika
12 teaspoon sweet paprika
34 teaspoon cumin
2 eggs
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
Salt
Pepper
Oil

Combine the dry ingredients: flour, curry powder, sugars, baking powder, paprikas, and cumin. Beat in the eggs. Add the grated sweet potatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Mix together; it may take a minute or two for everything to combine adequately. Heat some oil in a large skillet over medium high to high heat. Form patties and fry on both sides until nicely browned. You will need to do this in two or batches. Drain on paper towels. If desired, serve with mayonnaise and sriracha sauce.

 

Vegetarian Borscht

Adapted from Carol Mighton Haddix (editor),  Ethnic Chicago Cookbook

4-5 small to medium beets
8 cups water
2 onions, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 cups spicy V-8 juice
1 tablespoon salt
Pepper
¼ cup minced dill

Cook the beets either by boiling them in water or by wrapping in foil and cooking them in the oven (at whatever temperature is convenient). Test for doneness by piercing the beets with a knife. It’s okay if they a a little underdone, as they will cook more. When the beers are cool enough to handle, peel and dice them.

Combine the water, onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and bay leaves in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the beets, V-8 juice, salt, and pepper, and simmer for another 20 minutes. Add the dill at the end of the cooking. Serve hot or cold.