Monday, August 30, 2010

Sauteed Chicken in White Wine Sauce

Here's a recipe I've tweaked and played with over the years enough to call  my own.  It's economical, easy to prepare, and delicious.


3 or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon butter
7 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar (approximately)
1 cup chicken broth
3 cups cooked rice, wild rice, or noodles

Wash chicken breasts thoroughly, pat dry with paper towel.  Melt butter in skillet, saute pan or electric skillet and add olive oil.  While oil is heating roll chicken breasts in flour until lightly coated.  Place in hot oil and cook each side until it is a light, golden brown.  Pour approximately 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar over each chicken breast and add chicken broth.  Heat until sauce mixture begins to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

While chicken is simmering prepare rice, wild rice, or noodles.  Place rice or noodles on plate, top with chicken, pour sauce on the top, and serve.

Variation:  Use veal instead of chicken, and balsamic vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cooking "Competition" uck!!

I read your post with much interest, I don’t watch broadcast TV other then the news about twice a week. So I don’t come with preconceived notions. But-- First off, why do you need a competition to “destroy” a classic? In that vein are they next going to compete by cutting up classic cars and make Yugo’s out of them?

I think you can see where I’m coming from. I really don’t think the classics need mustard or mayonnaise drizzled around the plate to “modernize” it. I’ve seen some of the contemporary “presentations” - One scallop sitting on three half spears of asparagus, lightly dusted in god knows what, followed by a skip drip of some French named sauce to cover the 90 % vacant plate. No thank you. I write a blog on Gourmet cooking and would be ashamed to attend, much less compete!

Gourmet food preparation is an art! Done with heart and soul. Competition only degrades the art, but to what end? As an example - The ABSOLUTE worst thing you can do to a piece of Fillet Mignon is to destroy it with a sauce, an accouterment or any other DUMB nightmare thought up to destroy the flavor of the finest cut of meat available. IF you (The diner) don’t like the flavor of Fillet Mignon, don’t order it. And chef go mess with flank steak instead.


Classic Recipes and Modern Cuisine

I notice some of the food competition shows on television like to include segments of contestants being tested by having them create modern twists on classic recipes, like tuna noodle casserole.  There's nothing wrong with that.  I've always subscribed to the notion that what separates a good cook from a mediocre cook is their willingness to tweak and play with recipes to put their own stamp on them.  However I do get annoyed when some of the arrogant celebrity chefs on these shows belittle the old classics and try to insult contestants by telling them their recipes are "old fashioned," or make crass remarks about this being the 21st century and it's not 1950s anymore.  What a bunch of conceited, arrogant jerks!

The reason why these recipes are "classic," and why they've been around for such a long time, is simple -- they taste great!

I still remember my grandmother's cooking, and my sister-in-law bragging about how she managed to write down all of Grandma's recipes before she passed away.  Food, like the china it's served on, can be family heirloom.  Nothing comes as close to making us feel like Grandma is still with us than to enjoy her tapioca pudding or her chicken and dumplings.  Same thing when I prepare my dad's famous pinto beans.  So whether your family is rich, poor, or somewhere in the middle, a family recipe collection can be a priceless legacy, and since recipes can be copied and shared, they're probably about the only thing that you don't have to worry about your heirs fighting over.

My cooking tip for the day.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Is There a Looming Food Shortage?

I've been pondering this question for sometime now.  

In recent months I've noticed a surge of radio and Internet advertising from long-term food storage companies, such as Food Insurance and Daily Bread.  Some of these companies, such as Food Insurance, also offer emergency backpacks, which makes a whole lot of sense if you live in an area prone to natural disasters, such as wildfires or flooding, and where you may have to evacuate your home on short notice.  Just grab the backpacks, toss in the car and go.  But for the most part I think this marketing campaign is a result of the uncertain times we live in, and while I'm not discouraging anyone from buying these products, keep in mind they can be expensive, and I honestly think that in the event of a bona fide food emergency the government will probably go back to rationing, as was done during WWII.

Then there are the recent headlines about the Russian government's decision to not export wheat this year, due to a heat wave, fires, and severe draught.  This to me is more cause for concern than advertisements for emergency food storage.   Wheat is, after all, a staple food, and much of Europe gets its grain from Russia.  This could create potential food shortages in Europe, as well as an increase in the price of wheat products, such as bread and pasta, world wide. So with this in mind it probably wouldn't hurt to pick up an extra bag of flour or package of pasta or cake mix on your next shopping trip, and here's a tip to keep that flour fresh over the long term -- toss it in the freezer.

I learned most of what I know about food storage from my mother, who grew up during our last Great Depression, and she's been storing food in this way her entire life--during good economic times and bad.  Her tips are simple, and probably much more affordable than those expensive emergency food storage packages.

• Stock up whenever canned foods, pasta, and staples, such as flour and sugar, go on sale.  Even if you don't need those items that day stock up anyway.  This helps you keep a full pantry for the least amount of dollars.

• Once you've stocked up keep your pantry full.  Don't let it get too empty.

And here are a few other tips...

• Seeds are cheap, and a back yard vegetable garden can be a fun project for the entire family.  Check with your local nursery to find out grows best in your area, and if you have the space plant a fruit tree or two.  Not only will it help feed your family, it can provide some shade.  If you live in a condo try putting a small planter box on your deck for a mini garden. 

• Try home canning fresh fruits, either from your own trees or gardens, or when fresh fruits go on sale, as they do every season.  Home canning was popular during WWII and it helped families weather the food shortages of the time.  Don't know how to can?  Don't worry.  There are plenty of books on home canning out there, as well as videos on YouTube.  Your local community college may also offer courses on home canning for a reasonably low price.

And finally, don't panic.  It's been my experience in life that the worst case scenarios rarely, if ever, happen, but it never hurts to be prepared, just in case.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bundt Cake

I've been growing zucchini in my garden this summer, and it's given me a chance to experiment with various zucchini bread recipes and adding my own twists.  I like this one the best.  It uses a boxed cake mix which helps save prep time, however that batter gets very thick and heavy, so I highly recommend using a KitchenAid mixer.


1/2 cup butter, softened (4 ounces or 1 stick)
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 package of cake mix--white, classic yellow or devil's food, with pudding in the mix*
1 medium zucchini--grated
1cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/8 cup powdered sugar, optional

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees, (350 degrees for a light colored pan).

Place softened butter in KitchenAid mixing bowl and beat the butter until light.  Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract and mix.  Beat in the sour cream, add the cinnamon and mix until all ingredients are well blended.  Slowly add in cake mix, a little bit at a time, and mix thoroughly.  (Batter will thicken considerably as cake mix is added.)  Fold in the zucchini, chocolate chips and nuts.

Spoon the mixture into the bundt pan and gently blend mixture around the pan until it's level.  Firmly tap the bundt pan on the counter top several times so that air bubbles can work their way to the top.  Bake 45 to 50 minutes.  Cake will be done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Place on cooling rack for 10 minutes, then place cake plate on top of bundt pan and invert.  Allow cake to finish cooling. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top, if desired.  

Variations:  Use peanut butter or white chocolate flavored chips with a chocolate or devil's food cake mix.

* Most of the popular name brand cake mixes, such as Pillsbury, Duncan Hines and Betty Crocker have pudding in the mix.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Historic Recipe -- Stuffed Hamburger on Onion Slices

Another blast from the past, courtesy of Anna's Kitchen.

During the second world war beef was in very short supply, so any recipe that helped make scarce beef go further was helpful and appreciated.

Today beef is plentiful, but in these hard economic times many families are also looking for ways to help their stretch their food dollars.  The recipe below can stretch a pound of ground beef and help you save money. 


1 pound hamburger
1 tablespoon melted margarine*
1 tablespoon ketchup
4 slices bread
1 egg beaten
1 tablespoon milk
1 medium onion, sliced**
1/2 cup water
salt & pepper

Divide hamburger into six equal servings.  Roll or pat out as thin as possible.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Make dressing by combining bread, milk, ketchup with 1 tablespoon melted margarine.  Place a spoonful on each square.  Bring edges of meat up over the dressing, pat into shape, being sure all dressing is covered.  Fry in hot margarine in skillet.  When brown on both sides, add 1/2 cup water, cover and cook over low heat 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve on raw onion slices.

*Butter was also scarce during WWII.  Margarine, a new product at the time, was more plentiful and required fewer ration points to purchase.  Today's cooks however may prefer to use real butter.

**To make a more modern version of this dish try caramelizing the onion slices in a separate pan.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Food Safety Addendum

Just to amplify Gayle’s posting on food safety, it’s important year round. Here are some additional areas that can be lost in the harried preparation:

1. I know pre-bagged salad and salad greens are convenient, BUT wash them first! Bacteria and other pathogens can be lurking in the bag along with your salad.

2. When handling any raw meat, wash your hands and any container or cutting surface it has come in contact with.

3. Marinades that have had raw meat in them should NEVER be applied to cooked food. Reserve some fresh for basting.

4. Whenever cooking pre-ground meat, cook it thru to a minimum of 160 deg. Especially if you buy the “tube” of frozen ground meat.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zucchini Pasta Primavera

I love Italian food, but Pasta Primavera has never been one of my favorites.  Here is a way to make it more interesting and flavorful.  It's also economical and hearty--a perfect dish for vegetarians or for someone who likes Italian cooking but has a milk allergy or lactose intolerance.


1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squach
1 medium onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 or 3 cloves fresh garlic (or 1 tablespoon minced garlic or garlic powder)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 jar spaghetti sauce (your favorite flavor)
1 package penne or farfelli (bow tie) pasta
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Fill a large pan with water and heat to boil while prepping.  Add pasta to boiling water and cook according to the package directions, (usually about 8 to 10 minutes).  Drain.

Remove ends from zucchini and yellow squash.  Slice evenly.  Chop onion.  Heat olive oil in saute pan and add vegetable mixture.  As vegetables are cooking add Italian seasoning, press garlic and add to mixture.  Continue sauteing until vegetables are tender.  Add spaghetti sauce and heat until it begins to boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Plate pasta, top with vegetable sauce mixture.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, (optional), or top with parsley.  Serve and enjoy.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Historic Recipe -- Corn Chowder with Bacon

Here is a fabulous historic soup recipe from Anna's Kitchen.  It's easy to prepare, easy on your wallet, and best of all, it's delicious.  Enjoy.


4 strips bacon
4 potatoes
2 cups cream style corn
2 cups evaporated milk, undiluted
1 onion, chopped
Seasoning of salt and pepper

Cut the potatoes in cubes and cook in 2 cups of boiling salted water until tender.  Add the corn and milk.  Cut the bacon in small pieces and fry until crisp with the onion.  Add to the chowder, season to taste, and serve with crackers.  4 servings.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Food Safety at the Backyard Grill

It's summertime and many of us are spending more time grilling out of doors.  But outdoor cooking means we have to be more careful about handling our food safely, since it's probably going to be warmer outdoors than indoors, and we're farther away from the refrigerator and the kitchen sink.

As soon as you put your meat on the grill immediately take the plate you carried it outside on back to the kitchen.  Never, ever cross-contaminate cooked meat by putting it on a surface that held raw meat.  If using the same plate wash it thoroughly in hot dishwater before using it again, or just get a clean plate.

Make sure those burgers are cooked all the way through, and the best way to determine if they are done is by using a thermometer.  If the inside temperature of the patty is 160 degrees or higher it's done.  And make sure your thermometer is properly calibrated.  The easiest way to do that is to fill a tall glass with ice and add cold water.  Insert the thermometer into the glass and set it to 32 degrees.  And here's a tip to help your bar-b-que chicken cook thoroughly as well--par boil it for 20 minutes before putting it on the grill.

And finally, be sure to refrigerate those leftovers as soon as the meal is finished.  Higher outdoor temperatures means bacteria can multiply faster, increasing the risk of a food-borne illness if they are not handled properly.

Outdoor grilling should be fun, and with a little extra care it can be safe as well.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy Accident -- Sauteed Lima Beans

Sometimes things don't go as planned in the kitchen, and part of being a good cook is being creative and being able to think on your feet.

I had planned to saute sliced mushrooms as a side dish until I was thrown a curve ball.  I had already put my tablespoon of butter in the saute pan when I discovered the mushrooms I planned to cook had gone bad.  What to do next.  I had perfectly good butter melting in my pan that I didn't want to waste.  So I reached into the freezer and grabbed the first package of frozen vegetables I could find.  What I grabbed was lima beans.  And not just any lima beans.  Lima beans that had been in my freezer for a long time.  By this point I don't want my butter to burn, and the rest of the meal needs to be plated and served.  So I dumped some of the lima beans in the pan, started cooking, and hoped for the best as I added just a touch of season salt.  Much to my surprise the lima beans came out good.  No, not good, great.  The flavor of the butter really infused into the beans, making them plump, moist and tasty. 

Sometimes some really great things can come out of the kitchen by accident.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cleaning Stainless Steel

Cleaning Stainless Steel and other cooking utensils is generally pretty easy, but as time goes on, they can get spotted and show signs of food residue. Well the best thing to come to the kitchen found its start in the Bar. That’s right Bar Keepers Friend. A powder that’s easy to use removes the “residue” and removes dishwasher spotting with relative ease and brings your Stainless Steel back to like new. Funny it’s been around since 1882

Historic Recipe -- Soft Molasses Cookies

Here's a blast from the past, courtesy of Anna's Kitchen -- a cookie recipe using molasses.

While not as common today as in the past, molasses is a natural sweetener that Grandma used to use.  During WWII this recipe would have helped housewives stretch their sugar, a commodity that, at the time, was rationed and in very short supply.


3 cups sifted cake flour*
1 1/2 teaspoons soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten

1 cup sugar
1 egg, unbeaten
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup sour milk** or buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Sift flour once, measure, add soda, salt, and spices, and sift together three times.  Cream shortening, add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy.  Add egg and beat well; then add molasses.  Add flour, alternately with milk, mixing well after each addition.  Add vanilla. Chill 1 to 2 hours, or until firm enough to hold shape.  Drop from teaspoon on lightly greased baking sheet, placing about 2 inches apart. Bake in hot oven (400ยบ F.) 13 to 15 minutes, or until done.  Makes 6 dozen cookies.


*No flour sifter?  Not a problem.  Simply measure the flour and pour into a large strainer and stir with a wooden spoon.

** To make sour milk add one tablespoon lemon juice of white vinegar to one cup 2% or whole milk, (fat-free milk will not work).  Let sit for 15 minutes until milk begins to curdle.  Add to recipe.
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