Sunday, February 27, 2011

Warm the heart, soul and fingers
with Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup

This past week in Saskatchewan, it was below -30 C (-22 F) nearly every day.
   Unfortunately, that’s typical of the weather around here in the winter, and it’s why I like to have an arsenal of good soup recipes at the ready.
   There’s nothing like a hearty bowl of soup to warm the heart, soul and appendages.
   My husband and I made a great new soup for the first time this week that I can add to the arsenal: Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup (click for the recipe) from Eating Well magazine.
   It’s a yummy bowl of goodness with mushrooms, dill, milk, potatoes and sour cream. With Eating Well’s crackdown on the ingredients, it was lower in calories and fat than the typical soups of this type.
   It was just the kind of soup my Baba (Ukrainian for grandmother) would make. Eating it made me think of her fabulous borscht.
   The recipe says that Hungarian is the preferred type of paprika for the recipe. We bought paprika labelled “Hungarian” at a specialty foods store a while ago and so were able to use it, but regular paprika at the supermarket will work fine.
   The recipe also calls for low-fat milk; we used one per cent.
   The soup takes a while to come to a simmer, so patience is a virtue when preparing it.
   Creamy Hungarian Mushroom Soup was very easy to make, and the leftovers warm up beautifully in the microwave.
   Sliced mushrooms and diced onion are cooked in oil in a skillet, then flour, paprika, beef broth, low-fat milk and diced russet potatoes are added and the soup is brought to a simmer.
   After simmering for five minutes, the soup is removed from the heat, and low-fat sour cream is stirred in.
   Serve and warm yourself up!

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Welcome the weekend with Chicken Sandwiches with White Onions and Peppers

My husband and I made Chicken Sandwiches with White Onions and Peppers (click for the recipe) from Everyday Food magazine for the first time on a Friday night.
   It was a great way to start the weekend, with a delicious, satisfying sandwich.
   The sandwiches were quick to make, too, so end-of-work-week exhaustion didn’t interfere with their production. (Beer sipping also didn’t interfere with production, another indication of their ease.)
   The sandwiches are not at all spicy, and so are quite family-friendly and perhaps even picky-eater friendly. I’m guessing kids ages 12 and up will eat these sandwiches.
   The recipe calls for a baguette. Most baguettes I’ve come across are far too thin for my liking for a sandwich, so we used small sub buns instead.
   The recipe serves two, so be sure to increase the ingredients if you want to make more sandwiches.
   White onion, bell pepper, mushrooms and fresh oregano are cooked in a skillet, then transferred to a bowl and combined with red wine vinegar.
   Chicken cutlets (chicken breasts pounded with a kitchen mallet will work too) are seasoned with salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper and are cooked in a skillet.
   To serve, mayonnaise is spread on a cut bun, then vegetables and chicken are put on and topped with lettuce.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pork + red cabbage = amazing burgers!

A juicy burger, lightly seasoned, with a crunchy homemade topping: That’s the dream that’s realized when Pork & Apple Burgers with Pickled Red Cabbage (click for the recipe) from BBC GoodFood magazine is made.
   My husband and I were impressed with how moist the burgers were. The fresh sage that’s in them was perfect with the ground pork, although we did use a bit more than recommended in the recipe – about 1 ½ tablespoons instead of one.
   The pickling of the red cabbage softened it just enough so it wasn’t like eating cardboard, but also left it pleasantly crunchy. The resulting topping is not at all overwhelming in taste; it was like eating something as mild as a bread-and-butter pickle.
   You won’t need to haul out any condiments or other toppings for this burger – it stands up brilliantly on its own.
   The recipe calls for eight good-quality pork sausages, and instructs to squeeze the meat out of them. We used ground pork instead, and it worked well.
   We skipped the called-for red onion in the cabbage topping, as my husband and I aren’t a fan of raw red onions.
   The recipe calls for bread rolls, and we used whole wheat hamburger buns.
   The burgers are incredibly easy to make.
   Ground pork is combined with a grated apple (we used Macintosh) and fresh sage, shaped into patties and cooked on a baking sheet in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
   While the burgers are baking, finely-sliced red cabbage (and a red onion, if desired) is combined with red wine vinegar, sugar and wholegrain mustard (also called “grainy mustard” at the supermarket).
   To serve, place a burger on each bun (we toasted our buns) and top with some pickled cabbage.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Black beans bring plenty of protein
and fiber to easy-to-make burgers

I love black beans and I cannot lie.
   They have a pleasing starchy texture and mild flavor that is highlighted perfectly by spices such as cumin.
   I’m glad I like them, because black beans are high in protein, fiber, magnesium, folate and manganese.
   And they are absolutely brilliant in Black Bean Burgers (click for the recipe), a hearty, filling and quick-to-make supper.
   Slathered with some mayo, topped with lettuce and sandwiched in a toasted bun, these burgers are sure to please.
   The recipe I use for Black Bean Burgers is from America’s Test Kitchen, and can be found in the cookbook The Best Simple Recipes.
   The recipe I linked to above on a blog is nearly the same as the one I use, with two minor exceptions.
   A quarter-cup of cilantro is not listed in the ingredients of the blog recipe, but it is mentioned in the directions.
   However, my husband and I skip the cilantro in the burgers anyway, so it is just as well that is neglected in the blog recipe’s list of ingredients.
   The blog recipe also calls for two 15-oz. cans of black beans, while the America’s Test Kitchen recipe I use calls for two 16-oz. cans.
   The first few steps of the recipe are for making breadcrumbs to put in the burgers.
   We skip this step and simply use some panko instead of making breadcrumbs to speed things up. Panko are ready-made Japanese-style breadcrumbs that can be found in the bakery or Asian foods sections of most supermarkets.
   Some of the black beans are mashed with a potato masher until mostly smooth. Bread crumbs, eggs, olive oil, cumin, salt, cayenne, minced shallot and the remaining beans are added to the mashed beans and the ingredients are combined.
   The mixture is divided into six equal portions and made into patties, which are cooked in olive oil in a skillet.
   Serve and enjoy a tasty burger with many health benefits!

Best Simple Recipes on

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chocolate Toffee Cookies are
crunchy, chewy and delicious

Chocolate Toffee Cookies (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine are some of the most fantastic cookies I’ve ever made.
   They’re both crunchy, thanks to almonds and toffee bits, and chewy, as they crisp after coming out of the oven.
   You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like them. Leave them in the kitchen or take them to the office, and they will disappear.
   These cookies are a bit fancy, too. You could get away with serving them with some tea after a casual dinner party.
   For the most part, these cookies are very easy to make. Taking them out of the pan is the one part that can prove to be tricky and frustrating.
   The cookies are very soft when they come out of the oven. I used a plastic lifter to get them off the pan, but despite my best efforts, the individual cookies did squish a bit, going from round to oblong.
   However, even though they may squish up when being lifted out of the pan, they will look fine once they have crisped, so don’t sweat it too much.
   To cool, the cookies need to be placed on a wire rack with bars that are close together, or they will simply sink through widely-spaced bars into pieces on the counter.
   The recipe says it yields three dozen cookies, but I was able to comfortably make two dozen.
   The recipe calls for crushed chocolate-covered English toffee such as Heath or Skor bars. For this ingredient, I used Skor toffee bits, which are available in the baking aisle with the chocolate chips in Canadian supermarkets.
   Instead of chopped almonds, I used silvered almonds.
   Butter, sugar, egg, dark rum and vanilla extract are beaten together. Flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt are sifted together and stirred into the butter mixture, and toffee and almonds are mixed in.
   The cookies are baked, left to cool on the baking sheet for one minute, and are then transferred to wire racks to cool completely.

This recipe can also be found in the cookbook Bon Appetit Desserts: The Cookbook for All Things Sweet and Wonderful
Bon Appetit Desserts at

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pecan-Sour Cream Coffee Cake:
Serve with a hot drink

Seconds after sampling a piece of Pecan-Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Orange Glaze (click for the recipe), my husband got up and made himself a cup of tea to drink with the rest of his serving.
   His actions demonstrated the serve-me-with-a-hot-liquid appeal of this absolutely scrumptious dessert, which doesn’t actually contain any coffee. (Of course, eating this cake with a cold drink is perfectly acceptable, too.)
   The cake is moist due to sour cream and maple syrup, is perfectly spiced thanks to a cinnamon streusel, and the orange glaze tops everything off perfectly.
   It’s the type of cake you’d serve on an afternoon when you take a break from life and put your feet up. It would also be absolutely wonderful as a brunch dessert.
   With this cake, the streusel isn’t a topping as is often the case. The streusel is sprinkled on most of the batter, then topped with a last bit of batter before baking, producing a lovely line of spice near the bottom of the cake.
   To produce the finely-ground pecans needed in the recipe, I used a small electric kitchen chopper.
   The cake keeps well for about three days at room temperature.
   The recipe, which was originally published in Cook’s Country magazine, appears in its entirety at the link above.
   The cake is easy to make.
   For the streusel, finely-group pecans, dark brown sugar, flour and cinnamon are combined.
   For the cake, eggs, sour cream, maple syrup and vanilla are whisked together in one bowl. In another bowl, flour, more pecans, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt are combined.
   Butter and the egg mixture are added to the flour mixture and combined with a hand-held mixer.
   Five cups of the batter are poured into a greased 12-cup Bundt pan. The streusel is sprinkled over, and the remaining batter spread over the streusel (this is a bit tricky and may require the use of a bread knife.)
   After the cake is cooled and taken out of the pan, a glaze of confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar), orange juice and grated orange zest (orange peel) are whisked together and drizzled over the top and sides of the cake.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Get some shrimp in your stew!

The first time my husband and I made Shrimp Stew with Coconut Milk, Tomatoes & Cilantro from Fine Cooking magazine was a couple of years ago, when I still worked an evening shift.
   When I arrived home I opened the door, and from the bottom of the stairs where I couldn’t see him, I asked him how he was. Silence.
   Then I asked him how the stew was. “It’s awesome,” came a quiet, contented voice as he ate.
   And he was absolutely right – this stew is terrific. The meaty shrimp is just perfect in the tomato and coconut milk sauce.
   It would be a nice dish for company, as it can serve a lot if required without a lot of extra effort. In fact, it’s extremely simple to make to begin with.
   Serve it with some crusty bread to dip into the tomato sauce.
   The recipe serves six to eight, so cut back if you don’t need that much (but the leftovers microwave beautifully.)
   If you can’t find the required jumbo shrimp, large shrimp will be fine. We use frozen shrimp and defrost it according to package directions before cooking. Also, diced tomatoes will work well if you can’t find petite-diced tomatoes.
   We didn't use cilantro.
   To make the stew, peeled and deveined shrimp is tossed with kosher salt.
   In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, red bell pepper, the whites of scallions (green onions), finely-chopped garlic cloves, and red pepper flakes are cooked.
   A can of drained petite-diced tomatoes and coconut milk are added and the mixture brought to a simmer. The shrimp is put in and the stew simmered some more. To finish, fresh lime juice is added and the stew is sprinkled with scallion greens.
   Serve in some nice big bowls!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quick Chicken Vindaloo:
A much milder version of a traditional dish

Because I’m a fan of the BBC sci-fi show Red Dwarf, I wanted to make Quick Chicken Vindaloo (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine the moment I saw it.
   On the show, Dave Lister, the lone surviving member of the human race, loves chicken vindaloo, an Indian curry dish. Lister is a passenger on a spaceship called Red Dwarf.
   Lister would probably like the Fine Cooking version, although, in terms of spiciness, it’s a far, far cry from what I’m guessing is normally a mindbendingly hot dish.
   My version was even milder than the recipe intended, as I used regular paprika instead of hot. The recipe doesn’t specify what type of curry powder to use, so I went with mild (my husband and I hate overly-spicy dishes).
   If you use regular paprika and mild curry powder as I did, and skip the cilantro, you’ll be able to serve this to the whole family. With the milder spice options, it’s a good, basic chicken dish that people will eat without complaint, perhaps even the picky eaters in the house.
   We served it over jasmine rice, and didn’t use cilantro.
   Quick Chicken Vindaloo is very easy to make.
   Curry powder, paprika, and black pepper are mixed together. Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are tossed with one tablespoon of the curry mixture, garlic, red wine vinegar and salt.
   A thinly-sliced yellow onion is cooked in a skillet, and fresh ginger, garlic, and the remaining curry powder mixture is added.
   A can of diced tomatoes, the chicken, red wine vinegar and water are added to the skillet, and the mixture brought to a boil, then left to simmer at medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
   The chicken is served over rice or with naan bread.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nutella Fudge Brownies:
Four ingredients, pure pleasure!

Once in a while, a recipe will come along that uses so few ingredients you wonder if it’s even possible for it to produce something worthwhile.
   Nutella Fudge Brownies (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine has just four ingredients: Nutella chocolate-hazelnut spread, egg, flour and hazelnuts (also called filberts).
   Yet it produces a thing of absolutely scrumptious beauty – cute little chocolate bites that are absolutely addictive.
   Since they’re a snap to make, they’re a perfect little treat to whip up last minute for Valentine’s Day.
   I breezed through reading this recipe when I was making sure I had all the ingredients before a grocery shopping trip, so it wasn’t until I was actually preparing it that I realized it requires a mini muffin pan.
   Thank goodness I have one that size on hand, but I didn’t have mini muffin pan liners, so I sprayed cooking spray in the cups and it worked just fine.
   These babies are so easy to make: Nutella, an egg and flour are whisked together and spooned into the mini-muffin tins, and the batter sprinkled with chopped hazelnuts. The brownies are baked for 11 to 12 minutes, then set on a rack to cool completely.

This recipe can also be found in Abby Dodge's cookbook, Desserts 4 Today: Flavorful Desserts with Just Four Ingredients.
Desserts 4 Today at

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! The best recipes I've made using that amazing ingredient

February is the month that many think of chocolate, thanks to Valentine's Day on Feb. 14.
   If you're thinking of making a dessert that celebrates chocolate, I've got some great suggestions for you.
   These are the entries for the recipes I've reviewed on this blog that make terrific use of chocolate.

Tunnel of Fudge Cake (one of my husband's all-time favorite desserts)

One-Bowl Chocolate Cake (or Cupcakes)

Caramelized Banana Splits with Hot Chocolate Sauce

15-Minute Chocolate-Walnut Fudge

No-Machine Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream  (also one of my husband's favorites)

Chocolate Chewies

Sunken Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

Chocolate Dulce de Leche Bars

Mississippi Mud Brownies

Chocolate Mint Cream Pie

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mascarpone cheese produces a lovely, light sauce for Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

Cream sauces for pasta can sometimes be a little tricky. You’ve got to make sure the milk or cream doesn’t burn or that the sauce doesn’t get lumpy.
   I’ve happened across a recipe that produces a light, lovely sauce for linguine in a simple, foolproof way.
   The secret ingredient in Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp (click for the recipe) from Fine Cooking magazine is mascarpone cheese, a soft Italian cream cheese.
   Adding mascarpone to cooked linguine produces a soft, slightly sweet creaminess that doesn’t overwhelm. It’s a stroke-of-genius tactic created by Melissa Gaman, the recipe’s developer.
   Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp is an outstanding dish – incredibly delicious and very easy to make.
   When my husband and I tried it for the first time recently, we both ranted and raved about how good it was. It immediately became a top addition to my collection of make-again recipes.
   Make this for your sweetie on Valentine’s Day, and he or she will be impressed with your culinary skills and very appreciative of the lovely, satisfying meal you made.
   Linguine is boiled until it is al dente.
   Meanwhile, peeled and deveined shrimp is tossed with lemon zest, salt and pepper.
   Thinly-sliced garlic and red pepper flakes are cooked in butter in a skillet, and the shrimp is added and cooked until just opaque. Dry white wine and lemon juice are added and the mixture boiled until reduced, about one minute.
   The drained pasta, mascarpone, and ½ cup of the water the pasta was boiled in are added to the skillet and tossed until the pasta and shrimp is coated with the cheese. More lemon zest and fresh chives are stirred in.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coca-Cola and chipotle powder
find a delicious home in chocolate cake

Lauren Chattman’s cookbook, Cake Keeper Cakes, had me adding a couple of unusual ingredients to chocolate cakes lately: Coca-Cola, and then chipotle powder.
   I was surprised and excited to see the cake using Coca-Cola, as I’d never heard of it before.
   But Chattman called it a southern specialty, and when I looked online, I saw the cake has been around since the 1960s.
   After making it, I found out why it has been around for 50 years. It was absolutely outstanding -- scrumptious and moist. Dusted with confectioner’s sugar (powdered or icing sugar), it looked like it had been made in a fancy bakery, but I didn’t even need to pull out an electric mixer.
   It could be served at any type of gathering, from a dinner party to a family get-together.
   Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Chattman’s version of Coca-Cola Chocolate Cake online anywhere, or even one that was reasonably close. Chattman uses sour cream, while most other recipes I found use buttermilk. Most of the other cakes had mini-marshmallows in them, too, while Chattman’s does not.
   For Chattman’s version, flour, sugar, light brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, sour cream, oil, Coca-Cola and vanilla are whisked together, then baked in a nine-inch round springform pan.
   Chattman’s Chipotle-Chocolate Cake (click for the recipe) was also a snap to make and very delicious. I was able to find this recipe online in a preview of Cake Keeper Cakes.
   This one isn’t for young children, though, as the chipotle chili powder does add a bit of a kick. It’s not an unpleasant kick, mind you – just a mild one that gives the cake a unique appeal.
   To smooth out the kick a bit, I made a batch of Chattman’s suggested cool cheesecake-like topping of sour cream, dark brown sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and spread it on top like icing, then stored the cut-up cake in the fridge.
   Making the cake itself is a simple matter of mixing together flour, cocoa powder, light brown sugar, baking soda, chipotle chili powder, cinnamon, salt, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla, then baking the cake in an eight-inch square baking pan.

Cake Keeper Cakes at

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Soft Tacos with Sausage and Feta:
A filling supper in record time!

Soft Tacos with Sausage and Feta (click for the recipe) from Bon Appetit magazine, a neat twist on tacos, easily takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, and it will leave your tummy feeling full and satisfied. 
   The Italian sausage and feta cheese are a wonderful combination.
   Since my husband and I first tried the recipe, we have turned to it several times, particularly on weeknights.
   There is one aspect in which we diverge quite a bit from the recipe, and that’s on the amount and heat of the Italian sausage.
   The recipe calls for two hot Italian sausages, about 6.5 ounces (185 g) total.
   That’s likely just enough to feed one hungry person, but definitely not four as the recipe states.
   We use one pound of Italian sausage, and buy it in bulk, not in casings, in order to skip the step of taking off the casings and crumbling up the meat while browning. We still use the same amount of cumin as called for in the recipe, one teaspoon, even though the amount of sausage has been increased.
   We also use mild or sweet sausage, not hot – you’ll want to do this to if you don’t like spicy dishes or want to serve the tacos to a family (I’m guessing children ages 10 and up will go for them.)
   There’s another thing to do you want kids to eat them (and adults, too!): Skip the cilantro and use parsley like we do.
   Corn tortillas are called for in the recipe, and there are directions on how to char and heat them.
   It’s hard to find corn tortillas in my neck of the woods in Canada, and so we use flour tortillas instead, warming them in the microwave.
   The tacos are so easy to make.
   Italian sausage is browned in a skillet, and one thinly-sliced red onion and cumin are added and cooked.
   To assemble a taco, a tortilla is filled with sausage mixture, feta cheese, parsley, lettuce and salsa.