Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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Cool and Creamy Macaroni Salad

IMG_9603This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen.  With Independence Day quickly approaching, I wanted to try a new recipe for macaroni salad.  The ingredients caught my attention because of the addition of lemon juice.  I followed the recipe exactly – and what I liked was that the dressing was not overly thick.  The lemon added a nice fresh flavor to the salad.  What I did not like is that it seemed to be lacking something else.  I thought the parsley was overpowering.  I would change that to something like basil – and I bought a ham steak, diced it up and added about 1 cup to the salad.  It was now much better!  It still is not my most favorite recipe, but it is a nice change from the same old same old.  I also added about 1/2 tsp of Spike seasoning to the salad.  It is a seasoning I use in my Hawaiian Potato Mac salad and really like the flavors that it adds.

Cool and Creamy Macaroni Salad

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced basil (originally parsley)
  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp Spike (optional)
  • 1 cup diced ham steak

Instructions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and cook the elbow macaroni according to the package directions.  Do not overcook the pasta though, you want it to still have some texture once you add the dressing.  Drain the pasta.  Rinse the pasta in cold water and give it a quick drain (you want to keep a little of the moisture of the water in the pasta – it will keep the dressing from becoming overly thick.

Combine the chopped red onion, chopped celery, chopped basil (or parsley), lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, cayenne pepper in a small bowl and add these to the cooled macaroni salad.  Stir together and allow to sit for 2 or 3 minutes to allow the flavors to absorb.

Add the mayonnaise to the pasta and stir to combine.  Season with Spike if you think it needs more flavor.  Add the chopped ham to the pasta salad and stir. Chill until serving.

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Mediterranean Chopped Salad

IMG_8936Here is another lovely salad that I made.  I found this recipe in my America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook on page 74.  I love most of the recipes that I have tried from America’s Test Kitchen.  They are on TV on PBS as well.

Mediterranean Chopped Salad

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook pg 74

Serves 6  Calories: 180/serving

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 10 oz cherry tomatoes, cut in half (I love Cherub brand cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into pieces
  • 1 (15 oz) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup pitted  kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 head red leaf lettuce, washed, dried, and chopped into bite size pieces
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

Combine the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Pour over the salad and gently toss the salad.

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Baked Brown Rice

IMG_6978Cooking brown rice has been a struggle for me.  I overcook it and it is mushy, under cook it and is crunchy.  Rice cookers have not been the solution to this problem  either.  I found this recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, which bakes the brown rice in the oven in a covered casserole!  Success at last and this method yields a nice nutty, fully cooked rice that is pure perfection!.  I added dried parsley and dried garlic for additional flavor.  I found my covered  stoneware did a fantastic job of steaming the rice in the oven, but a Pyrex dish covered in foil will do the job according to ATK.

Baked Brown Rice

adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2009 page 78

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown Basmati rice
  • 2 1/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley flakes
  • 1 tsp dried minced garlic

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Place the Basmati rice in your stoneware (one that has a lid would be perfect).  Add 2 1/3 cups boiling water to the rice, add olive oil, salt, dried parsley and minced garlic and stir.  Cover with lid (or foil, doubled to ensure a good seal).

Bake at 375 °F for 60 minutes.  Remove from the oven, remove the lid.  Fluff the rice with a fork.  Cover the casserole with a clean kitchen towel and allow to steam for 5 minutes.  Remove the towel and allow to sit uncovered for 5 more minutes and then serve.

I will be baking my brown rice from now on! This is the way to cook it.  Thank you once again America’s Test Kitchen.

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Crab Cakes and Remoulade Sauce

IMG_5100Recently, my daughter requested crab cakes for dinner.  I was actually surprised that she wanted them, I was sure it was salmon cakes she liked, but to be honest I was happy to oblige.  I like Crab Cakes.  When I think of crab cakes, I think East Coast, but as I live on the West Coast – I also think Disneyland Blue Bayou crab cakes.  They are good!  I found a nice recipe in one of my many cookbooks:  America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (page 281) I doubled the recipe because the recipe served 4 and we are a family of 5.  I took leftovers to a neighbor, who said the crab cakes rivaled those served in a fancy restaurant.  It made me smile.  This truly is a good recipe!  They make very large crab cakes though, so I probably would have been okay keeping the recipe at 4 servings and making the crab cakes slightly smaller.  I added a kick of creole seasoning (Konriko brand is my favorite seasoning, that is available through the internet).

Crab Cakes

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Family Cookbook

Serves 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs canned refrigerated backfin crab meat (Pacific Cove is an excellent brand)
  • 6 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs
  • 8 scallions, thinly sliced (green part only)
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley (or cilantro, dill, or basil)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 tsp Creole Seasoning (optional, but if not using increase Old Bay to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2  eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup flour, or more as needed
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Instructions:

In a large bowl, using a fork gently combine the crab meat, dry breadcrumbs,  scallions, parsley (or other spices), Old Bay Seasoning, Creole seasoning.

Add the mayonnaise and gently fold it into the crab meat.  Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper if necessary.  (If you are adding creole seasoning it may not need any and if you are not using it then increase the Old Bay seasoning to 1 Tbsp.)  Gently fold in the beaten eggs.  Add more breadcrumbs if necessary.  I used less than called for.

Divide the crab meat into 8 equal portions.  Gently form them into balls and flatten them slightly. They are quite large almost fist sized.  Cover the crab cakes with plastic wrap and cool for 30 minutes or longer.

Heat 1/4″ canola oil in a non stick skillet, or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Remove the crab cakes from the refrigerator and lightly coat them in flour just before frying them in the oil.  Fry them until golden brown, about 5 minutes on each side and remove them to a platter and keep warm while you finish cooking the remaining crab cakes.  Serve with lemon wedges and Spicy Remoulade Sauce if you wish.

Remoulade Sauce

adapted from: http://southernfood.about.com/od/saucerecipes/r/r90627b.htm

Yields: about 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp finely chopped dill pickle
  • 1 tsp finely chopped rinsed capers
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • dash Frank’s hot sauce, or to taste (I used about 3 tsp)
  • salt, to taste

Preparation:

Combine the mayonnaise, chopped dill pickle, chopped capers, lemon juice, mustard, and parsley. Taste and add hot sauce and salt, until you like the taste of the sauce.

Cover and refrigerate until serving time.

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Crockpot Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Orange Sauce

IMG_2817I recently watched America’s Test Kitchen’s episode of crock-pot recipes.  Their slow cooked pork tenderloin really caught my eye.  I made it and it is quite delicious.  The classic tastes of pork and cranberry really work together.  It is an easy recipe too, sometimes the recipes that America’s Test Kitchen’s put out are a little fussy- this one is not! I doubled the recipe because I wanted to share some with a friend.

My pork tenderloin looked like it was one large piece, but it was two smaller pieces, I tied them together, but this is optional, I think it would be fine with a few smaller ones.  The meat falls apart in this preparation.  I will be making it again.

Crockpot Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry-Orange Sauce

Serves 10-12 Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages pork tenderloin (unseasoned)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 cans whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (Craisins)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 strips of orange peel (peeled with vegetable peeler avoiding the white pith)
  • 4 Tbsp cold water
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch

Preparation:

Pat the pork tenderloin and season with salt and pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the oil.  Brown the seasoned pork tenderloin on all sides for about 10-15 minutes total.

In the crock-pot, add the cranberry sauce, dried cranberries, orange juice, cinnamon and orange peel.  Stir to combine.  Add the browned pork to the crock-pot. Cover with a lid and cook on low for 4 hours.  Remove the pork tenderloin to a platter and cover with foil.  Pour the cranberry-orange sauce into a skillet and add a slurry of water and cornstarch to thicken the sauce.

Serve with rice and carrots or other vegetable to round out the meal.

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Swedish Meatballs

My husband LOVES Swedish Meatballs almost as much as he loves me!  I saw an appetizing looking recipe for them in Cook’s Country Best Potluck Recipes – I have used it in the past to make the Baked Ziti that was also quite delicious.  This recipe was made for the crock pot, but I did not have the 5 hours it required so I adapted it for the stove top cooking.  It will appear on our menu rotation again, I am sure!  The recipe is found on page 165 of Cook’s Country Best Potluck Recipes.  It is for appetizer meatballs, but I made them slightly larger, and served them with pasta and green beans.  I would have added Lingonberry Jam, but neither I or my husband could wrestle the lid from the container, and we were hungry!

Swedish Cocktail Meatballs

adapted from Cook’s Country Best Potluck Recipes p 165

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided use
  • 1 onion, finely minced (originally 2)
  • 3 1/2 cups beef broth, divided use
  • 1 cup sour cream, divided use
  • 4 slices caraway-rye bread, crusts removed, torn into bits
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef (or 1 lb beef, 1 lb pork)
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fresh dill, minced

Instructions:

Place the oven rack to the middle position in your oven and preheat the oven to 425F.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in it and saute the minced onions until softened, about 5 minutes.  Transfer the onions to a large bowl.  To the onions, add 1/4  cup of the beef broth, 1/4 cup of the sour cream, bread, egg yolks, allspice, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Mash the mixture with a fork until it is paste like in consistency.  Add in the meat, breaking it up into smaller pieces and combine the mixture until well mixed.  Use a medium sized ice cream scoop to form the meatballs.

Spray a baking rack with cooking spray and place over a cookie sheet of the same size.  Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes until lightly browned, rotating the baking sheet half way through baking.  Set the meatballs aside until ready to use.

Wipe out the large skillet with a paper towel, and add the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter, heating over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about 3 minutes, when the flour mixture begins to brown.  Slowly add the 3 1/4 cups beef broth, whisking as you add it and bring it to a boil.  Add the meatballs into the gravy, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer the meatballs,  stirring occasionally for 45 minutes to an hour.

In a small bowl, combine 3/4 cup sour cream, soy sauce, and dill.  Add in a few ladles of the gravy and stir to combine and then add the sour cream mixture to the large skillet.  Stir to combine and heat through.  Serve with cooked egg noodles, and a vegetable to round out the meal (or serve them as cocktail meatballs at a party).

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Baked Ziti

I think the last time we had Ziti, my husband cooked it!  At that time, I was in bed recovering from a very painful spill  down the stairs of my house – I do not care to repeat that – the falling down stairs on my back part – not the hubby cooking part – he did a fine job- he just prefers to program computers – and THAT is something I can’t do!  I love to cook! It has been 2 years since my fall and I am doing much better now, though I still have not learned to walk – that is.. I fell again this summer, but did not injure myself nearly as badly this time! I am a klutz!

I found this particular recipe in Cook’s Country: Best Potluck Recipes (pages 114-116) link

I adapted the recipe a little, because it was meatless, and my husband loves meat in his Ziti.  The other change I made was I used Ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese (it is a texture thing for me).  The recipe was easy to follow , though it had a lot of steps, but the results were very good.

Baked Ziti

adapted from Cook’s Country  Best Potluck Recipes (p 114-116)

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) container Ricotta cheese
  • 2 large eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided use
  • salt
  • 1 lb ziti, or other tube pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped, divided use
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 tsp cornstarch
  • 8 oz whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4 inch dice (not pre-shredded)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F and adjust the oven rack to about the center position.

In a medium bowl, stir together the Ricotta cheese, eggs, and 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions, until it is just underdone.  Drain and set aside (in the colander).

In a large skillet, heat the oil and cook the garlic for a minute or two until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.  Stir it the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes.  Add the oregano and simmer the sauce for 10 minutes over medium low.  Turn off the heat and add 1/2 cup basil and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In another skillet cook the ground beef seasoned with 1 tsp of salt.  Cook until done and drain off any fat.  Set aside.

With heat off, stir the cream and cornstarch in the stockpot you used to boil the pasta (so you don’t have to dirty any other dishes).  Turn the heat on to medium and stir constantly for 3-4 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened.  Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the heat source.  Add in the cheese mixture and 1 cup of the sauce, half of the mozzarella dices and drained ground beef.  Add the pasta to coat it thoroughly. Pour the Ziti into a 13×9″ baking dish. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the casserole.  Top with remaining mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Spray a piece of tinfoil with cooking spray (to prevent the cheese from sticking to the foil during baking), and cover the casserole tightly. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 for 30 minutes and then remove the foil, return to oven to bake another 30 minutes until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly.  Let sit for 10 minutes after baking.  Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp of chopped basil. Serve with fresh French Bread or garlic bread and salad.

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