Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Tray Gourmet" & "The Wonder Bread Cookbook" - Pork a l'Orange and Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Casserole

Date I made these recipes: September 27, 2009

Tray Gourmet – Be Your Own Chef in the College Cafeteria by Larry Berger & Lynn Harris; Illustrated by Chris Kalb
Published by: Lake Isle Press, Inc.
ISBN: 0-9627403-2-2
Recipe: Pork a l’Orange – p. 109

The Wonder® Bread Cookbook – an inventive and unexpected recipe collection from Wonder®
Published by: Ten Speed Press
ISBN: 13:978-1-58008-807-7
Recipe: Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Casserole – p. 59

So yesterday morning I was laying in bed with my radio on, willing myself to get up to go to work when the song “I Wanna Be Sedated” by the Ramones started playing. Not exactly the inspiration I was looking for. And of course, the day turned out to be one where I should have been sedated because after I got out of bed, it was all downhill from there.

One should not, however, be sedated when driving and never more so than when driving through the University of Minnesota campus area when school is in session. I liken it to a banzai run where one girds the loins and prepares to take on the myriad of students converging on oncoming cars as if there was some special force field to protect them. Hint, "young students:" (I was going to say “hint, grasshopper” but that reference to the TV show, Kung Fu, will sail over heads) “You are not immortal.” Flinging oneself in front of my moving vehicle to catch the bus you see coming on the other side of the street is likely to result in injury as will a slow meander through cars lined up at a stop light. Because I can assure you, once the light turns green, my foot becomes a weapon, stomping on the gas pedal so as to propel myself home as quickly as possible.

My husband has had his own challenges in getting through what is known as Stadium Village but that’s because for a while there, he drove a university bus that connected the Minneapolis and the St. Paul campuses of the University. And yet he loved it, go figure. Me? I always consider myself lucky when I and the car arrive at home in one piece.

Now I mention all this stuff about “The U” as it is known here, because today’s menu was geared toward college students. Well, okay, maybe not the Wonder® Bread casserole but since Wonder® Bread was part of my youth (not that we ever had it, just that we coveted it as being something cool), it fits with the college culture. So let’s parse these recipes!

I loved the title of the college cookbook, Tray Gourmet, but sadly didn’t like the recipe. I can see where the authors were going as the ingredients were definitely items that one would find in a campus cafeteria but the orange sauce lacked punch and was pretty watery. If a student had, say, brown sugar, I think it would have helped to thicken the sauce. And it goes without saying that Grand Marnier (orange liqueur) would totally rock this recipe but since the drinking age is 21 in most states, that’s a no-no; forget I said it!

As to the chicken casserole, the only thing I didn’t like, and it was minor, was the water chestnuts. I know they were there to add the “crunch” listed in the title, but I’m thinking that sautéed celery would have been a better choice and would have been perfect with the cream of celery soup. Please note that you need to refrigerate this dish overnight.

Tonight my husband and I walked through the campus area (soooo much better than driving!) and cracked up laughing when a group of guys in front of us started asking each other if they wanted to go get some “za” tomorrow-—as in “pizza.” My husband said “I’m glad to hear them still referring to pizza as “za” all these years later" just like he did when he was going there. And here we thought we were old!

Well okay, we are old…old enough to see the reflexes slowing down just an itty bitty bit and so to all you students out there, that person that you see yelling at you from my car and shaking a fist is me so please, be alert! You have many more dorm meals ahead of you and I have enough gray hair already! (Not that you’d ever notice…) In the meantime, I wanna be sedated…..

Pork a l’Orange – serves 2
1 orange
2 pats butter
3 soupspoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
2 pork chops or pork slices

Cut the orange in half. Section one half of the orange in a bowl. To section the orange, insert your knife between the orange and the pulp and pull through until you have gone all the way around. Turn the orange inside out and pull out the orange sections. Set the other half of the orange aside.

Put butter, orange juice, vinegar, and honey in bowl with sectioned orange. Microwave until butter melts, stir, and microwave again until hot. Spoon onto pork and microwave again to warm it up if you like. Garnish with rings of orange cut from the unused orange half.

Note: the recipe doesn’t say how to cook your pork so do it the way you like it and then top it with the orange mixture.

Wonderfully Crunchy Chicken Casserole – serves 9 to 12 (refrigerate overnight)
6 to 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
8 slices Wonder Bread
2 to 3 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained (Note: if you want to use water chestnuts, I would chop them into smaller pieces. If you want to skip them but still want a crunch, then I recommend celery that you can sautee with the mushrooms.
8 slices sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 can cream of celery soup (10 ¾-ounce)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (10 ¾-ounce)
1 ½ cups milk
½ teaspoon salt

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender; set aside.

Butter both sides of the bread. Arrange in a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, cutting to fit as necessary. Cover the bread with the mushrooms, chicken, water chestnuts and cheese.

Mix together the mayonnaise, eggs, celery and mushroom soups, milk, and salt; pour the mixture over the casserole. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Bake for 1 ½ hours, or until set and golden brown.

Note: I didn’t know whether or not to leave the foil on and so baked it for about an hour with it on, then removed it and baked it the remaining ½ hour (or more, depending on your oven).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook" - Vegetable Soup

Date I made this recipe: September 20, 2009

The Molly Goldberg Jewish Cookbook by Gertrude Berg and Myra Waldo
Published by: Pyramid Books
© 1955; Fifth printing, November 1965
Recipe: Vegetable Soup - p. 20

I never should have doubted Molly Goldberg.

I made this soup from her cookbook in “honor” of Rosh Hashanah, a Jewish holy day usually referred to as the Jewish New Year. But since the weather was still warm I almost bagged the whole thing (soup on a hot day??) and that would have been A Bad Idea.

It would have been a bad idea because in looking at the ingredients, it pretty much called for fresh veggies and that is very summery…although I have to admit that I couldn’t get my hands on fresh lima beans and peas and so used frozen and warmed them up in the microwave for just a little bit.

Any who, this is a really good recipe although I almost ruined it by letting the Crisco get too hot in the pan. Perhaps I was channeling fried chicken instead of sautéed onions? Luckily, I caught the error of my ways (uh, the smoking oil was kind of a tip-off) and turned off the gas before I had myself an incident. After the pan cooled down, I tried again, this time with great results.

By the way, the author of this cookbook, Gertrude Berg, created and played the character of Molly Goldberg in a sitcom called The Goldbergs that ran on radio and TV from the 30’s to the mid-50’s. At the time that I purchased this cookbook (years ago) I had a vague recollection of the TV show since it ended a little bit before my time. But my dad often quoted what I gather was one of Molly’s famous lines - “Yoo-Hoo Mrs. Bloom” - when he was trying to get me or my mom to pay attention. I found all this out serving the internet - Google is a great thing!

Vegetable Soup (no serving size given)
4 tablespoons shortening
2 onions, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage
2 stalks celery
½ pound green peas, shelled (or use frozen)
¼ pound string beans, halved
¼ pound lima beans, shelled
7 cups water (I added 6 cups of water and 1 cup of chicken broth just for something different)
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sugar
2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
¼ pound fine noodles, cooked and drained
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Melt the shortening in a saucepan. Add the onions and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the carrots, cabbage, celery, green peas, string beans, and lima beans. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the water, salt, pepper, sugar, tomatoes, and potatoes. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Add noodles and parsley. Cook for 5 minutes additional. (Note: I went about 45 minutes total. The veggies were just perfect—not too crispy but not too soggy, either).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"365 Ways to Cook Hamburger" & "The Art of Salad Making" - Barbecued Hamburgers and Rice Salad

Date I made these recipes: September 14, 2009

365 Ways to Cook Hamburger by Doyne Nickerson
Published by: Doubleday& Company, Inc.
© 1958, 1960
Recipe: Barbecued Hamburgers – p. 19

The Art of Salad Making by Carol Truax
Published by: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
© 1968
Recipe: Rice Salad – p. 80

Not that I name my blog postings, but if I did, this one would be the “I’m not quite ready for summer to end” blog. Luckily, after a somewhat disappointing June, July and August, we are finally, midway through September, getting some warm weather and to that I say “Amen!” It won’t be long before it’ll be cold and possibly even snowy and I won’t be craving anything summery at all. It’ll be hot food and tons of it!

Last week’s recipe was called Sloppy Louie, a variation of a Sloppy Joe, and I mentioned how I much preferred a Sloppy Joe to the recipe I made (and let me just say again that I cannot figure out the purpose of the chicken gumbo soup ingredient). So not that I planned it, but you’ll see that the Barbecued Hamburger recipe resembles a Sloppy Joe and -- dare I say -- a Manwich? (With a little help from Google, I managed to find the correct wording to one of their commercials —“A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal.”)

To offset the heaviness of this barbecued hamburger (not a lot of heaviness, just a little), I paired it with a salad from this cookbook by Carol Truax. Carol is kind of the pinch-hitter of cooking, as I’ve seen her co-authoring a few cookbooks here and there, including one by her and Liberace, the famous piano showman from the 60’s and 70’s.

This salad was super easy and actually refreshing what with its fresh tomatoes, crisp peppers and light oil and vinegar dressing.

What I really liked about this dinner was that I made it on a Monday night (totally out of character for me who tends to be a Sunday cook) and I finished both recipes in less than 45 minutes. The second thing I liked it that it is still warm out today (Tuesday) and so my leftovers just extended my summertime fun. Let’s hope it just lasts and lasts…hahahahaha…..

Barbecued Hamburgers 3 (as opposed to the recipes for BBQ Burgers 1 and 2) – Serves 8
1 8 oz bottle catsup
½ bottle chili sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tbsp dry mustard
2 tbsp vinegar (I used white distilled vinegar)
1 tbsp salt
2 cups chopped onion
½ cup chopped green pepper (I used a mix of green and red)
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 ½ pounds hamburger

Saute the onion and chopped green peppers in two tbsp cooking fat. Add the hamburger, crumbling it into small pieces as it browns. (I suggest pouring off most of the grease)

Mix the catsup, chili sauce, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar and salt, stir into the browned hamburger and simmer for 1 minute. (I went about 10 minutes) Serve over toasted buns cut in half.

Rice Salad – 4-6 servings
2 cups cooked rice
3 tomatoes, peeled and sliced (I didn’t peel and I chopped instead of sliced)
2 green peppers cut into strips (I mixed red and green and diced them)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon vinegar (I used white distilled)
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Minced parsley (garnish)

Put the rice, tomatoes, and peppers in a bowl. Mix the salt and pepper with oil, vinegar, and mustard. Pour into the salad and stir gently. Sprinkle with a little parsley if you wish.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"Cooking on Wheels" - "Sloppy Louies"

Date I made this recipe: September 7, 2009

Cooking on Wheels by Arlene Strom; Foreword by Helen Bryam Schwamborn
Published by: The Bond Wheelwright Company
© 1970
Recipe: “Sloppy Louies” – p. 107

Well, after spending a few hours making my Polish Peach Cheesecake on Labor Day, I wanted something less labor intensive to make and this simple recipe did the trick.

I bought this book on because the cover art and the title cracked me up. I didn’t realize until I got the book that the back cover contains a photo of the author in her trailer kitchen. I must say, she looks pretty happy cooking in a teeny-tiny kitchen!

We were not trailer people in my family; to our chagrin, our father refused to buy a Winnebago at the height of their popularity in the 70’s (go figure, they only cost a fortune!) and so we stayed in motels. Believe me, this was fine with me and my mother as we were not enamored with the great outdoors and so the alternative – tent camping – was out of the question. Still, I’ve always wanted to take at least one trip in a motor home just for the experience – maybe some day.

So in honor of Labor Day and the thousands of people who actually did hit the open road for one last vehicular adventure before school started up again, I made this easy recipe. I’ve heard of Sloppy Louies but just didn’t quite know what to make of the main ingredient, chicken gumbo soup (and still don’t). They were okay but I prefer the much sloppier and more BBQ-Y Sloppy Joes. Call me picky.

Wheel or not, you just can’t beat a quick and easy recipe to wrap up the end of summer so run out, get the ingredients and just get cracking!

“Sloppy Louies” – yield: 4 servings
1 pound ground beef
1 can chicken gumbo soup
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 tablespoon ketchup
Onion salt to taste

Brown ground beef. Add remaining ingredients and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Serve in hamburger buns.

Monday, September 7, 2009

"The Foods of Chicago" - (Polish) Peach Cheesecake

Date I made this recipe: September 7, 2009

The Foods of Chicago – a Delicious History – As seen on the WTTW’s The Foods of Chicago Hosted by Geoffrey Baer, Produced by Dan Protess
Published by: G. Bradley Publishing, Inc.
ISBN: 978-0-9774512-5-8
Recipe: (Polish) Peach Cheesecake – p. 120 – recipe submitted by Dobra Bielinski

So my husband and I took another trip to Chicago last weekend where I purchased this book in Greek Town where the Greeks were out in full force for a festival. Yes, I know, this is not a Greek cookbook but when I saw this compilation, I couldn’t resist.

So Greek Town is just a few blocks away from our favorite breakfast spot – Lou Mitchell’s. While standing in line at Lou Mitchell’s, you get your fill of fresh doughnut holes. I don’t know why. And then when you actually get in the door, you get a small box of Milk Duds. I don’t know why. And then when you are seated, you each get a fresh orange slice and one stewed prune. I don’t know why. And then after you have stuffed yourself with their gigantic omelets or pancakes or whatever, you each get a small cup of soft-served ice cream. And again I don’t know why.

And folks, I don’t care! If you’re in Chicago, you’ve got to go there, period, end. ( It (and Greek Town) is not far from the train station so walking off those calories is suddenly much easier although we sort of cheated and parked the car in between the two places.

So the Greek Town festival was fun and the Greek Cookbooks were fun to look at but the Polish cheesecake recipe really nailed the sale of this book.

When I was growing up, my family home was surrounded by homes owned by various generations of the Kolbus family, a large, Polish-American family with many brothers and sisters, most of whom lived nearby. In fact, our house was built by a Kolbus who then went on to build another one closer to Lake Superior (we were up the hill from the lake so it’s not like we were deprived) leaving the way open for my folks to buy the place. When our next door neighbor “Aunt Mary” (Kolbus, naturally) went down to visit one of her sisters in Hamtramck, Michigan, she often brought us the most delectable cheesecake I’ve ever had. In fact, it took me a long time before I realized that most other cheesecakes aren’t made this way.

The reason I love Polish cheesecake is because the texture is more like a cake and yet there is no doubt you are eating a cheesecake of some sorts. Because I grew up eating it “plain” (i.e. no fruit), I skipped the peaches portion of this recipe. I also wanted to avoid the crust from getting all mushy and whatnot.

This recipe takes a bit of work on your part but just leave yourself enough time to make it. And if I were you, I’d make sure you invest in a scale so as to measure all the ingredients. Measuring ingredients is something bakers have been doing forever and ever and so you should jump on that bandwagon, toute suite because you’ll notice that the recipe calls for 5.5 ounces of egg yolks and 6.5 of egg whites and I just don’t know how to properly measure a half an egg! The scale I just bought from Cooks on Crocus Hill is Escali and it set me back only a mere $39.95 plus tax. The reason that I liked it is because it “stores like a book” and since I am crammed for space in my kitchen, storage is key. I also liked it because it is electronic; my husband favored the “manual” scale but I wanted precise measurements, especially with the 5.5 oz requirement.

One final word about Chicago: We should have known better than to try to get into Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill so soon after he won Top Chef Masters on Bravo TV. When I called a couple of weeks ago for reservations, I was told that the limited number of reservations was already gone and so it was first come, first serve (or “first fender in” as my dad likes to say).

So we got there about 7:30 on a Saturday night (we had been to a Cubs game that afternoon for no other reason than to say we were at Wrigley) and of course it was packed, very packed. As in “we’re looking at 11:30 p.m. as the earliest seating.” Experienced restaurant diners know that this roughly translates into “you won’t actually get to eat until 12:30 a.m. so good luck with that.”

I don’t know about you but authentic Mexican food and midnight dining do not go together. And so we’ll try another day but in the meantime will console ourselves (okay, console myself since my husband has never eaten this) with this delectable dessert from my childhood!

(Polish) Peach Cheesecake – Serves 12
1 4-oz stick butter, chilled
¾ cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 egg yolk

Batter8 oz. sugar
5.5 oz. egg yolks
2 oz. custard powder (or cornstarch)
2.2 lbs. farmer’s cheese (use Neufatchel)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange extract
1 tsp. lemon extract
6.5 oz egg whites
3.5 oz. sugar
1 16-oz. can sliced peaches
(Note: let the cheese warm up to room temperature before adding it to the batter)

Dough: In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Add baking powder and flour; mixing until it comes together. Remove dough from mixing bowl and knead slightly by hand. (Warning: dough will be sticky. Put some flour on your hands before kneading.) Roll out dough into a 13” x 9” x 2” pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes until dough is golden color.

Batter: Align drained peaches on the cooled dough, keeping them ¾ inch from the edges. (As mentioned above, I skipped this step). Spray the side with non-stick spray. In an electric mixer fitted with a paddle, mix egg yolks, custard powder, sugar and extracts for ten minutes starting out at low speed, increasing to high speed. Add the cheese and mix well. Empty contents into a large bowl, then thoroughly clean mixing bowl.

In an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, whip egg whites and, when volume has increased, add 3.5 ounces of sugar. Continue whisking until medium stiff peaks are reached. Gently fold egg whites into the cheese batter. Pour the batter into the cake pan, smoothing out the top. Bake for 60-90 minutes until a paring knife inserted comes out clean. When cooled, sift with powdered sugar and serve.