Stuff and Nonsense: taste of home

Showing posts with label taste of home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label taste of home. Show all posts


Making Taste of Home's Tacos in a Bowl

Taste of Home's "Tacos in a Bowl" feels like the ideal bitter January weekend, can't-be-arsed-to-do-proper cooking meal. Full of carbs and cheese, it is a delicious bowl of comfort. It took me about twenty minutes to make and the most labor-intensive part was chopping the onion.

I did make a few changes to the original recipe: Instead of using "¾ cup canned diced tomatoes, drained" and "1 cup water" I drained a 10 oz can of Huy Fong Sriracha Diced Tomatoes & Red Chilies, retaining the juice in a measuring cup and then adding water until I'd reached the 1 cup mark. To make use of what I already had on hand, I substituted Penzeys salt-free Arizona Dreaming seasoning blend for the regular, salty taco seasoning and Cabot Sharp Light for the regular whole-fat cheddar called for in the recipe.

This was a quick and easy lazy Saturday meal that tasted pretty great for what could have been an unsavory food fusion experience. Even The Husband, who complained it was "a bit spicy" (read: his mouth was on fire), liked it and said he would eat it again. But will I make it again?

Probably not. It was easy and tasty, yes, but not really ... necessary? I love ramen. I love tacos. I just don't feel I need to combine the two again. Also, and I don't know if this makes sense, but when I think about taco ramen bowls too hard, I get this unquiet feeling I've engaged in cultural appropriation and I don't like that feeling so ... no, I won't be making it again.


Slow Cooker Soups with my CSA Bounty

My fabulous friend, Kelly, has handed her CSA share over to me as between school, work, and raising a family, she does not have the time or wherewithal to cope with huuuge amounts of produce. So, hooray, extra fruit and vegetables for me! Except, I already have a CSA share of my own. Only a quarter share, mind you, but still a decent amount of produce. I don't want anything to go to waste, but I don't have a lot of time to cook or process everything I've been given.

So! I've made a lot of soup! "Creamy Roasted Cherry Tomato Soup" from this blog as well as Taste of Home's "Cheddar Corn Chowder," "Chicken Barley Soup," and "Curried Leek Soup."

The corn chowder and barley soup recipes were taken from the copy of Taste of Home's Soups: 380 Heartwarming Family Favorites I received in my winter Taste the Seasons box. I've made near a dozen recipes from this book now and only the barley soup came near disappointing. Still, I can see where that soup could be improved with additional seasonings and alliums and will revisit it soon.

The cheddar corn chowder recipe alone earns this cookbook a permanent place on my bookshelves. While I did tart mine up with leftover roasted CSA-share corn and Cabot cheddar the bones of the recipe are good ones. I don't doubt it will also be perfectly delicious when made as written with frozen or canned corn in the dark, cold heart of winter. It's a creamy, cheesy, rich, and filling soup that goes well with a bit of green salad and buttery toast.

The curried leek soup was also fabulous. It's a rich, fragrant, comforting soup that works well for breakfast or lunch and I very happily ate it three days running. However, I dare say it's the kind of soup that only a leek lover would enjoy as the flavor of the leeks, mellow as they are by being sautéed in butter, are still very leeky. Mind you, I may have simply used too many leeks. My leeks were medium sized compared to some of the monsters for sale at the farmer's market, but that doesn't mean they were a cookbook writer's medium. Regardless, it's a tasty soup for leek lover's and I recommend it.


Special Delivery From Taste of Home: Summer 2017

So. My quarterly subscription box from Taste of Home has arrived and it's been rebranded. No more "Taste the Seasons" -- now it's "Special Delivery From Taste of Home." And, beloveds, it is sooo much better. So. Much.

The white and red box I saw sitting on my front steps when I pulled in the driveway after work was so visually distinct that I immediately knew it could not be anything as humdrum as an Amazon delivery or medical supply order. It was even nicely shrink-wrapped so the box itself had stayed fresh and clean during shipping. I admit my heart did a pleasant little skip of anticipation when I picked up the box and felt how heavy it was. Unwrapping it and opening it felt like opening a really nice present to myself.

Which is exactly the experience I want when I open a subscription box. I want to feel excitement, happiness, and anticipation -- not the vague miasma of suspicion and disappointment that's carried me through recent Taste the Seasons boxes. And the stuff that was attractively arrange inside this summer box ... wow.

Looking over the contents of the summer Special Delivery box, it felt like Taste of Home had made a sincere effort to collect interesting and unique quality, seasonal items. This box feels curated. I could not be more pleased or excited. So glad I did not cancel my subscription, after all.

Anyway, what's in the box? So. Many. Things.

Taste of Home Backyard Barbecues: 405 Dishes for Sizzling Celebrations -- A 2014 publication. It is, like every other Taste of Home cookbook I own, now larded with sticky notes. I have made precisely two recipes from this cookbook -- "Cilantro Couscous Salad" and "Grilled Veggie Quesadillas" -- but they were both easy and delish.

50% off Simple & Delicious Binder Cookbook offer -- Simple & Delicious magazine is my favorite TOH pub and this is a really good deal on a 2016 publication, but I do not need to be buying more cookbooks. No.

Three Three Pigs Tavolo Pan Scrapers -- Have used one of these several times now to scrape clean my enameled cast iron French oven after burning a little food to the bottom (don't read and cook, kids). Took off most of the cooked-on bits and was fairly comfortable to hold. They do seem a bit thin so I was glad to get a set of three as I don't know how long they'll each last.

Tavolo Strawberry Huller -- Have you seen the food hack that involves hulling strawberries with a straw? The Tavolo strawberry huller is much, much better. It doesn't bend or break like a plastic straw, is more comfortable to hold, and the cut-out makes it much easier to clean. It reminds me of a very smaller, more attractive, version of my favorite OXO apple corer and works just as well. The huller is one of those things I would never have thought to buy for myself, but am glad to have.

Chef'n Twist'n Sprout -- I admit I haven't tried this product yet as summer simply isn't the time for Brussels sprouts. However, we're definitely headed toward roasting weather and I expect to start finding sprouts at the farmers market soon. As far as I can tell, I jab a sprout onto the little simply press Brussels sprouts onto the jabby-sticky-out-part and give it a twist to remove the sprout's stem and core. I presume it will also remove any loose leaves, too. Not sure how much my wrists will love it ...

Skoy Scrub 2 pack -- I was a little leery of this, as I'm a bit snobby about my scouring pads (I'm a Dobie girl), but the one I've used has worked surprisingly well and seems indestructible. I've used it to get baked on gunk off casseroles and dried cheese off serrated knives with no damage to the scouring pad at all. I just throw it in the dishwasher once a week (top rack) and it stays new-looking and fresh smelling.

My Spice Sage Garlic Pepper Rub -- My Spice Sage products make a regular appearance in Taste of Home boxes and I'm always pleased to see them as they're always good quality. This rub is a blend of garlic, black Pepper, salt, red bell pepper, and parsley. It's very peppery and garlicky, which I enjoy. So far, I've rubbed it into pork tenderloin and split bone-in chicken breasts with equally tasty results.

Amora Coffee Elegante Blend -- Smells fabulous, but we're not coffee drinkers (I enjoy the scent, but the taste ... nopenopenope) so I'll be passing this along to someone who can appreciate it. Or ... maybe I'll save it for winter baking!

Nawrap Handkerchief -- I was very "What the twee hell is this?" when I saw the sea life-themed handkerchief, but then I realized how handy it would be to have in my lunch box as either a placemat or napkin. It's also quite cute as a decorative liner for a muffin basket or whathaveyou. It's very sturdy and handles washing well (it's a cotton-rayon blend, so line dry). Again, nothing I would ever have bought myself, but definitely enjoy having.

Johnny's Selected Seeds Genovese Basil -- Much too late to start basil seeds for this year's garden! Hopefully, they will keep until next spring. (I haven't had a problem keeping extra seeds from one year to the next, but one never knows).

Envelope of recipe cards -- Six tempting recipe cards. I'd argue the Brussels sprouts recipe is not summery, but at least it's in there to give you an idea what to do with all the sprouts you cored using the Twist'n Sprout! To be fair, I am going to make that recipe ... just not now. Of the remaining cards, I have made the "Herbed Lemon Pork Chops" and the "Minty Watermelon-Cucumber Salad." The Spice Sage rub worked well in the pork chop recipe (I also used fresh garden herbs, instead of dried) and they were very tender and flavorful. The salad was extremely refreshing, although I had to halve the recipe as it was just me eating it.

Again, I am really impressed by the summer box and look forward to seeing what Special Delivery From Taste of Home will bring me in autumn. Read about my experiences with Special Delivery's precursor, Taste the Seasons.


Zucchini Season: Cheesy Zucchini & Ham Bake

A glut of farmer's market and CSA summer squash has had me looking for new easy ways to use it up. I've noodled around with zoodles, but casseroles have really been my go-to. The original version of this particular casserole, "Ham and Zucchini Italiano," can be found in Taste of Home's Simple, Easy, Fast Kitchen which I received in the spring Taste the Seasons subscription box. While I've bookmarked a fair dozen recipes, this is the only one I've managed to make so far and I didn't even follow the recipe very well, so I doubt it counts!

You say zucchini, I say zucchinis. Zucchini. Zucchinis. Courgette!

I threw this dish together at 10 o'clock one night this week when I realized that, while I had nothing left to take for work meals, the pile of zucchinis on the kitchen side clearly meant I had no excuse to live off bagel sandwiches, either. Because it was late and I was tired, I altered the recipe to avoid sautéing the zucchini and dirtying an extra pot. The texture of the ribboned zucchinis, when combined and baked with the rest of the ingredients, was quite pleasant and the whole thing reminded me of a strata ... although, lacking egg and bread, it clearly wasn't a strata.

Whatever it is, I ate it all and am now eyeballing the remaining of the zucchinis.

Cheesy Zucchini & Ham Bake

Yield: 4


  • 3 6-inch zucchini
  • 1 tsp salt-free Italian seasoning blend
  • 8 oz ultra-thin sliced smoked deli ham
  • 14 oz jar pizza sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese


  1. Using the wide ribbon blade on your spiralizer, spiralize the zucchini into broad ribbons. Place in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt, and let sit for 20 minutes or so.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°.
  3. Wrap zucchini ribbons in a clean tea towel and mercilessly squeeze until you've gotten out all the liquid or your hands are tired.
  4. Place half of the zucchini ribbons in a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with salt-free Italian seasoning blend. Layer with half of the ham, pizza sauce, and cheese. Repeat layers.
  5. Bake, uncovered, 15 minutes or cheese is all melty and golden.


Taste of Home: Taste The Seasons Goodie Box: Spring 2017

The spring Taste of Home Taste The Seasons subscription box arrived way long time ago now and I was so decidedly underwhelmed by it that I just packed it away until such a time came that I felt I could actually talk about it with some kind of enthusiasm. Which has not really happened, but the summer box arrived last week and, wow, I am a terrible blogger.

The spring Taste The Seasons box is just ... eh. Honestly, it feels like a collection of unrelated odds and ends -- as if someone was cleaning out the TOH junk drawer, dumped it in a box, and mailed it to me. I can see the TOH folks tried to tie the items together in the text of the insert -- "this honey is just what you need for the Asian Glazed Chicken Thighs" and "try it in place of Montreal Seasoning on the BBQ Chicken bites" -- but it's not enough. (Although, both recipes are easy and delish).

I'd probably be less annoyed if I hadn't completed, over the past year, multiple TOH surveys about the Taste the Seasons subscription box service. I feel I've been very clear about what I liked or didn't like and what I'd like to see more or less of. And then this arrives and I feel very nopenopeNOPE about the whole thing. I can only presume my feels are very different from those of everyone else who answered the surveys.

So. Some of the items are quite nice. I've already studded TOH's Simple, Easy, Fast Kitchen cookbook with sticky notes. Spice Sage seasoning blends are always a treat. And I'm not going to sneer at a wee jar of Dickinson's delicious golden honey.

But. More. Muffin huggin' metal cookie cutters. Just no, Taste of Home. You can't make me bake rolled cookies. Even if they would be shaped like a adorable bunnies and spring tulips.

As for the Brainstream beep-egg classic floating egg timer -- a plastic musical egg that sings when your eggs are done boiling -- it's kind-of a cute idea. It's very existence feels like a gentle German joke and I like that it sings different tunes for different boil levels but then I own a singing Japanese water boiler and rice cooker so, of course, I would find a singing egg timer cute. However, I am completely turned off by the thought of boiling a plastic-encapsulated battery.

Meh to the flimsy Taste the Season daily list magnetic pad. I've been using it as a regular shopping list/note pad and ignored all the hours printed on it because I already have an app, wall calendar, and daily planner book for organizing my life.

Also meh to the Tovolo silicone anchor breakfast shaper. I like the idea of breakfast shapers -- even own a set of Star Wars pancake molds. But. An anchor? For spring? Why not the bee and hive or ladybug and flower sandwich shapers? They are similarly priced and look much more seasonal.

Also a great big NOPE to the 11-piece measuring set. After having received OXO products in the three previous boxes, these molded plastic cups and spoons are a comedown. Also, I already own multiple (nicer) measuring sets, thus I have no need for these. (I've taken the measuring set and breakfast shaper to work where we'll find some use for them during crafternoons).

Overall, this box left me with mixed feelings. It wasn't seasonal enough and some of the items did not appeal to me at all. However, other items were exactly what I would have wished for. I don't know ... this box is best summed up with a shrug.

Read about my other (more pleasing) experiences with Taste the Seasons.


Taste of Home: Taste The Seasons Goodie Box: Winter 2017

The winter Taste of Home Taste The Seasons subscription box it arrived just before Christmas, but I didn't have time to deal with it so it went into the hall closet and there it stayed until ... mid-February, when I realized I'd better get a crack on before spring arrived!

Here's what I found in the winter box:
  1. Access code for three months of free online cooking classes at Salted
  2. Taste of Home Kitchen Companion special edition magazine (Fall 2016)
  3. Taste of Home Soups cookbook (2015)
  4. Several TOH "Most Requested" seasonal recipe cards
  5. Taste of Home Dot-to-Dot
  6. My Spice Sage Adobo seasoning
  7. OXO ladle
  8. OXO slotted spoon
  9. 2 metal seasonal cookie cutters
Overall, I am very pleased with the contents of the winter box. Aside from the ubiquitous metal cookie cutters, everything in this box is very appealing and interesting. I've needed a proper ladle for yonks (a gravy spoon is not an effective substitute), but have been too lazy/cheap to shop for one. The slotted spoon is also, unsurprisingly, a nice improvement over the silicone one I picked up for a dollar at Big Lots. Booth spoons have a nice heft and are quite sturdy, the "good grips" handle is actually a good size for my wee, girlish hands, and the bowls of the spoons are large enough to scoop up a proper portion. I was a little worried the holes in the slotted spoon would be too big for foods like peas and corn, but that has not been the case. (However, I do think the tiny "spring" peas will slip right through the holes and, obviously, you can't use the slotted spoon with orzo or rice).

The Taste of Home Kitchen Companion magazine and Soups cookbook are delightful. So many delicious and surprising recipes in each! Yes, there can be a preponderance of dairy, but we're talking about cold weather comfort food, after all. I was really taken with the recipe for "Rainbow Hash" -- coconut oil, sweet and purple potatoes, carrots, kale/spinach, and garlic -- and have made it twice now (once with kale and a purple potato and once with spinach and two sweet potatoes). The color is beautiful (even without the purple potato) and the hash is just bursting with flavor. Pair it with soft poached or runny fried eggs for a healthy, filling breakfast.

Interestingly, the Soups cookbook is not just soups, but includes many recipes for sandwiches and breads to pair with the soups. I love soup and eat it year-round so I expect this cookbook will see a lot of use. So far, I have made the "Rustic Italian Tortellini Soup" (paired with easy yeasty "Herb Focaccia Rolls" from Taste of Home Kitchen Companion) and the "Southwestern Bean Chowder" (so filling and nutritious).

Making the "Herb Focaccia Rolls" allowed me to use some of the yeast that came with the Autumn box! I generally avoid yeast breads and rolls, because yeast fills me with dread, but these rolls were dead easy to make and I am now inclined to try other yeasty recipes.

I do wish I'd opened this box a little sooner as many of the "Most Requested" recipe cards were suitable for winter holiday entertaining. In particular, I would love to have served the "Ensenada Shrimp Cocktail" and "Marinated Olive & Cheese Ring" at our Cards Against Humanity party. Oh well, we're just about due for another night of Secret Hitler ...

Taste the Seasons is a quarterly seasonal kitchen subscription box curated by Taste of Home featuring themed recipes, kitchen tools and gadgets, ingredients, special coupons/discounts, and free access online cooking classes (which are always awesome). You can buy an individual box for $34.95 or subscribe to the whole year for $29.95 each. Taste of Home values each box at over $80 so it sounds like a good deal either way. Subscription options automatically renew quarterly until cancelled and canceling requires a call to Customer Care. If you have food allergies, you'll want to talk to Customer Care, anyway, before you commit to a box or boxes.

Read about my other experiences with Taste the Seasons.


Taste of Home: Taste the Seasons Goodie Box: Fall 2016

The Taste of Home Taste the Seasons fall goodie box arrived early last month, but, what with one thing and another, I didn't get to it until recently. What can I say? These days I am sloooow and disorganized blogger. Anyway, despite the Christmas displays everywhere, it's still autumn for another six weeks.

Oops! Forgot to put the cookbook back in the box before I snapped the pic.

Taste the Seasons is a quarterly seasonal kitchen subscription box curated by Taste of Home featuring themed recipes, kitchen tools and gadgets, ingredients, special coupons/discounts, and access to TOH's online Cooking School (the classes are always awesome). You can buy an individual box for $34.95 or subscribe to the whole year for $29.95 each. Taste of Home values each box at $75 to $90 so it sounds like a good deal either way. Subscription options automatically renew quarterly until cancelled and canceling requires a call to Customer Care. If you have food allergies, you'll want to talk to Customer Care, anyway, before you commit to a box or boxes.

Here's what I found in the fall box:
  1. Access code for free online access to 2 Cooking School courses
  2. Discounted subscription offer to Taste of Home magazine (77% off)
  3. Taste of Home's Cookies, Bars, & More cookbook
  4. My Spice Sage Cinnamon Flavored Sugar
  5. OXO Cookie Scoop
  6. Several TOH "Most Requested" seasonal recipe cards
  7. Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast packets & brochure w/ coupon
  8. Metal dough scraper
  9. Maple leaf & candy corn-shaped metal cookie cutters

While I really wasn't thrilled by the metal cookie cutters as I just don't do that kind of cookie, I was pleased with everything else in the box and thought it was, overall, decent value (even if not quite the value TOH suggests). Alas, cookie cutters were in the summer box, too, so I expect to see them again in winter and spring ...

Maybe the universe (or, at least, TOH) is trying to tell me something? Is it time to embrace rolled cookies?

The cookbook, Cookies, Bars, & More is full of delicious-sounding cookie recipes and I've already liberally dotted the "Classics With a Twist" and "In the Pan" chapters with sticky notes. The OXO cookie scoop was very welcome, because while I own two other scoops, they are not that size (1½ Tbsp). Now I can take that item off my Amazon wish list and replace it with, say, America's Test Kitchen's Food Processor Perfection: 75 Amazing Ways to Use the Most Powerful Tool in Your Kitchen (IS THAT AN UNSUBTLE ENOUGH HINT VIS-A-VIS CHRISTMAS GIFT SHOPPING???).

Of the recipe cards, I have made the "Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars" and "Red Apple Butter Bars" with pleasing results -- my coworkers seemed quite taken by the apple bars, anyway, and there was nothing left by afternoon break. I actually made the pecan bars with hazelnuts so The Husband would eat them as I thought they were, in every other way, the perfect cookie for him. He must have liked them, because they're disappearing at a rapid pace. They were intensely chocolaty and reminded me a bit of my Mom's Toll House cookie bars ... but better. The apple bars were more like dense bars of apple crisp than cookie. Tasty, yes, but messy.

As for the yeast ... I've never done much baking with yeast as I am intimidated by it. I have made the basic loaf from Jeff Hertzberg's The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day several times with perfectly edible results, but have yet to get "fancy." However, one of the fall box recipes cards is for "Southwest Pretzels" and pretzel aren't that fancy. Surely, I can make pretzels! One of these days ...

While I do continue to think Taste of Home has somewhat over-valued the contents of the box, I'm still glad I subscribed for the year (at a discounted rate) and am looking forward to the winter box. Just, hopefully, no more cookie cutters! Maybe, a nice seasonal tea towel? Or more free magazines, like the summer box?

Read about my other experiences with Taste the Seasons.


Taste of Home: Taste the Seasons Goodie Box: Summer 2016

I swear it is not my intention to fill this blog with subscription box reviews! That said, I want to talk about the Taste of Home Taste the Seasons: Summer Goodie Box I received in July.

Taste the Seasons is a quarterly seasonal kitchen subscription box curated by Taste of Home featuring themed recipes, kitchen tools and gadgets, ingredients, special coupons/discounts, and access to TOH's online Cooking School. You can buy an individual box for $34.95 or subscribe to the whole year for $29.95 each. Taste of Home values each box at $75 to $90 so it sounds like a good deal either way. Subscription options automatically renew quarterly until cancelled and canceling requires a call to Customer Care. If you have food allergies, you'll want to talk to Customer Care, anyway, before you commit to a box or boxes.

Here's what I found in the Summer box:
  1. Access code for free online access to 2 Cooking School courses
  2. American flag cupcake/cake picks
  3. Betty Crocker-branded silicone basting brush
  4. Great Flavors' Steak, Chop, & Broil seasoning blend
  5. June/July issue of Country Woman
  6. June/July issue of Simple & Delicious
  7. OXO Good Grips 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer
  8. Several TOH "Most Requested" seasonal recipe cards
  9. Taste of Home Frosty Treats & More cookbook (2015)
  10. True Citrus sampler pack (7 sticks; 1 of each flavor) & coupons
  11. Watermelon slice & flip-flop cookie cutters

While I'm kind-of "meh" about the cookie cutters and flag picks -- I'm a drop cookie kind of gal and the flag picks just look cheap -- I was pleased with everything else in the box and thought it was, overall, good value (even if not quite the value TOH suggests). The cookbook, recipe cards, and magazines are full of delicious-sounding recipes and I've quite dog-eared my issue of Simple & Delicious.

Of the recipe cards, I have made the "Sweet Tea Barbecued Chicken" and the "Steak 'n' Potato Kabobs." Both recipes worked out well and the kabob recipe gave me an opportunity to try the Steak, Chop, & Broil seasoning blend -- a gluten-free blend of coarse salt, black pepper, dill seed, garlic, onion, red bell peppers, herbs and spices appropriate for steaks, burgers, pork, lamb and chicken -- and the silicone basting brush. (Yes, I already own a silicone brush, but it sees so much use that an extra was welcome).

Of everything in the box, however, the OXO 3-in-1 Avocado Slicer is my particular favorite. While it looks a bit like a prop from a low-budget science fiction show, it's surprisingly effective and I've murdered so many avocados since acquiring it. Definitely not something I would ever have bought myself (it's a definite clutter-up-your-drawers-unitasker), but I'm pleased to have it.

While I do think Taste of Home has over-valued the physical contents of the box -- my calculations brought it in at around $70 (not including the regular cost of Cooking School courses) -- it's still worth more than I paid and is full of things that pleased me. Overall, I enjoyed the Summer Taste the Seasons Goodie Box and look forward to seeing what the autumn brings!

Read about my other experiences with Taste the Seasons.


Easy Parmesan Tilapia & Zucchini Sauté

Made this yummy baked tilapia and zucchini medley last week for supper as part of my continuing quest to Eat. Moar. Fish. It's a mild, sweet, white fish so The Husband tolerates it well and I find it's pretty versatile, so I don't mind cooking it. But I'd really love some cod. Dear Heaven, cod.

Too fishy for The Husband, though! So I limit my "weird" fish (hello, trout!) eating to when we dine out and limit home cooked fish to "acceptable" fish like salmon, tuna, and tilapia.

And this is quite nice tilapia, I do admit. I followed Taste of Home's recipes for "Parmesan Fish Fillets" and "Zucchini 'n' Corn Sauté" with a few tweaks (white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, roasted garlic powder instead of garlic salt) but not enough to change the dishes in any significant way.

They're both easy recipes and pair together well both in flavoring and timing. I'd definitely make them both again -- especially in the summer, when the vegetables are fresh from the garden. Even with out-of-season vegetables, the dish tasted fresh and summery. The colors are fabulous, too. The fish is moist and flaky with the parmesan crust giving it a little bit of crunch.


Saying Thanks With Pie

My father did some work for us recently and I promised him payment in cash and pie. While he ultimately refused the cash, he was happy to receive a pie. Because this pie was meant for Dad and only Dad, I knew I wanted to make a banana cream pie as he loves bananas, but my mom is allergic and unable to bake him one. There are, frankly, too many recipes for banana cream pie loose in the world but I finally settled on Taste of Home's recipe for "Blueberry Banana Cream Pie." For me, blueberries and banana go well together as the tart brightness of the berries balances the sweet creaminess of the banana. Also, my dad loves blueberries!

The pie was quite easy to make, but I had to go and complicate it by opting to use a "real" pie crust (a Marie Callender frozen deep-dish crust) rather than the vanilla wafers called for as I thought wafers would make it too much like a deep-dish pudding and less like the pie I wanted it to be. Also, I chose to ignore the filling amounts called for in the recipe and use the amounts recommended by the commenters ... creating much more filling than would fit in my deep-dish crust!

Happily, Dad loved the pie and I will have to make it again. Next time, I will use a single 8-oz package of cream cheese instead of the 2 8-oz commenters recommended or the 2 6-oz called for in the recipe to see if that creates a slightly more stable filling (mine was mostly-firm-but-slightly-goopy) and maybe add a little lime zest. Or I might just try Taste of Home's "Creamy Banana-Berry Pie" with crushed pecans rolled into the crust!


Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

I promised one of my coworkers cookies as thanks for all the help he's given me this week, what with so many staff members struck down by winter ailments. I baked him ginger oatmeal cookies as, while he likes cookies, he prefers goodies he can pretend are good for him! Oatmeal is heart-healthy and ginger is known for its anti-inflammatory effects, so ...

Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

Ginger Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes about 24 cookies

½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup molasses
1½ cups white whole wheat flour [King Arthur Flour's 100% Organic White Whole Wheat]
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
¼ cup crystallized ginger chips [King Arthur Flour's Mini Diced Ginger]

Combine dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat together shortening and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix until well combined.

Roll into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes or just until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.
This cookies were good -- crispy on the outside with touch of chewiness at the center and very rich with spice. I was quite pleased by how well they turned out and my coworker was very happy.

I have shared this recipe at these delicious blog parties:
Swing by and link up your own dishes!


New Year's Day Luncheon

We had my parents up for New Year's Day luncheon and it turned out deliciously, even if I do say so myself. There was only a tiny smidge of leftovers and they served as an almost-as-delicious light supper for me that evening. (The Husband filled himself up with cookies and chocolate at nuncheon and could only groan when I offered him leftovers later ... yay for me).

New Year's Day Luncheon

with garlic croutons

with whole wheat rotini

~ Wine ~
Layer Cake malbec &
Gato Negro cabernet sauvignon

~ S'mores ~
The Pepp from S'more Bakery

While I loved the soup and baked chicken Parmesan, it was Taste of Home's "Mediterranean Romaine Salad" that really stole the show for me! It was simple to assemble, had great flavor -- very tangy and light -- and looked very elegant in the bowl. Really, this will be a regular item on my table from now on!

Mediterranean Romaine Salad

I roasted my own peppers for this recipe -- just halved and cored them, smooshed them kind-of flat on a jelly roll pan lined with foil, brushed them with a little olive oil and broiled them until they were all blistery and charred-looking. Then I folded the foil up around them and let them sit for about 15 minutes. I used a sharp knife to scrap the skin off, wrapped the "clean" peppers back up in the foil, and refrigerated them until I was ready to make the salad.

Taste of Home's recipe says to use cubed French bread for the croutons, but I used cubed roasted garlic ciabatta, because more garlic = better. I omitted the black olives, because The Husband detests olives and replaced them with a cup of halved cherry tomatoes. I also used Newman's Own light Italian dressing instead of balsamic, because I didn't think everyone would eat balsamic. And, anyway, Italian is Mediterranean, too!


Pheasant Pie ... Tastes A Lot Like Chicken

So, waylongtimeago, I bought a pair of pheasants. Why? Because I'd never cooked pheasant before, so why not? Of course, I panicked once they were actually in my kitchen and ended up stuffing them in the back of our chest freezer until I could figure out how to not wreck them.

Sunday, I did haphazarded kitchen purge and made Taste of Home's "Pheasant Potpie" with the thawed pheasants, whiskery carrots, limp celery, and pearl onions frozen last Thanksgiving.

I put the celery, onion, and garlic (4 whole cloves) at the bottom of the Dutch/French oven, then nestled the pheasants together on top. Rather than using just water, I replaced half the water with low-sodium chicken broth. I also chucked in a bay leaf for kicks.

Taste of Home's recipe was pretty simple to follow and made a really nice potpie! I did omit the pimientos and added a liberal shake of Bell's Seasoning so my potpie tasted a lot like Thanksgiving dinner. And that was okay with us, really!

(Lacking pheasant, I'm sure a Cornish game hen or small chicken would work just as well).


Too Much Cornbread? Make Salad!

The cornbread muffins I made early this week are quite tasty, but I only average one per day and with the recipe having made a dozen, I am suffering a surfeit of cornbread. What to do? What to do? Make salad?

Cornbread Salad

Apparently, yes, you can make salad out of cornbread. It's a Southern thing, I guess, and while I was sorely tempted by Paula Deen's version with corn, kidney beans, and cheddar cheese I decided to go with Taste of Home's recipe for "Corn Bread Salad for Two" mostly because it meant I wouldn't be stuck eating it all week if I didn't like it much. I mean, I knew I liked eating all of its ingredients individually, but I wasn't sure what I'd think of them when thrown together, all higgledy-piggledy.

Well, it was delicious! Unbelievably delicious. I should have made a bigger bowl.


Pantry Challenge: Clean Out The Cupboards With Soup

Trying to stay on track with the Pantry Challenge, I made a couple soups. There's nothing as comforting or forgiving as soup, after all, and it's always an excellent way to use up odds and ends.

First I made a batch of Pillsbury's "Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup." It was a really tasty, easy soup with lots of good curry flavor. I admit I used 1 tsp more curry than called for and I bloomed the spices with the sauteed onions before adding the remaining ingredients, because that's what I learned from Cook's Illustrated -- always bloom spice blends like curry powder to help develop their rich, complex flavors. I wanted a flavorful soup, so I bloomed.

Did it work? I think so. Certainly, I was so interested in eating it that I never stopped to take a picture of the finished soup! This is one of the best recipes ever! Simple and healthy and yet also so rich and flavorful.

Curried Pumpkin-Vegetable Soup, Ingredients

Ingredients: pumpkin, frozen mixed vegetables, broth, curry powder, paprika, onion, garlic, diced tomatoes, salt, black pepper.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can pumpkin, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can turkey broth.

Emboldened by my success, I went on to make a big pot of Taste of Home's "Vegetable Bean Soup" which not only allowed me to use pantry challenge ingredients, but also some limp celery and ancient frozen chopped spinach.  Unfortunately, this soup was not quite as tasty as the pumpkin soup. Rich and hearty, yes, with lots of vegetable goodness and I'm sure I'll make it again, but ... the pumpkin soup was just the bomb, you know?

Vegetable Bean Soup, Ingredients


Ingredients: black beans, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, no-salt powdered beef bouillon, quick-cooking barley.
Pantry challenge items used: 1 can black beans, 2 cans diced tomatoes, partial box of quick-cooking oats.