250 Cookbooks: Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes

Cookbook #183: Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes, Lou Seibert Pappas, Bristol Publishing Enterprises, San Leandro, CA, 1975. A Nitty Gritty Cookbook.

Extra Special Crockery Pot Recipes cookbookI have 10 crock pot/slow cooker cookbooks! Crazy. I discussed the history of crock pots in a previous post: The Electric Slow Cooker Cookbook.

Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes is similar in design and layout to The Bread Machine Cookbook II, another “Nitty Gritty Cookbook”. These books are all about recipes – cleanly laid out and easy to follow.

I find lots of different ideas to try in Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes. The soups chapter includes the basics (French onion soup) and the slightly exotic (Caldo Xochitl). Next is salads. Salads in a slow cooker? At first I thought: cooked salads? But no, the recipes are for regular lettuce-type salads including leftover slow-cooked chicken or beef. I am often looking for “main dish salad” recipes in the hot summertime.

I’m not tempted by any of the recipes in the fish chapter – fish generally needs only a brief cooking. The poultry chapter includes the basics (poached chicken) and the unusual (Chicken and Cherries Jubilee). “Meats and Casseroles” has lots of ideas. It’s the longest chapter in the book, and I like a lot of the recipes: a wide range from the basic (Meat Balls Stroganoff) to the unusual (Choucroute Garni).

“Breads and Cakes”? Why bake bread in a slow cooker? “There are sometimes occasions when you may prefer not to heat the oven or perhaps you are at a location without an oven, when having a crockery pot makes baking possible.” I remember our relatively recent family reunion in California where the oven in the rental did not work, so we cooked a cake in the barbecue. But hey – we could have looked for a crock pot instead!
The fruits chapter gives recipes for cooked fresh fruit to be used in desserts or for breakfast. “Preserves” has a recipe for apple butter (already made it!) as well as orange marmalade and apricot pineapple jam and a couple chutneys. Beverages? Hot Spiced Cider, Swedish Glugg, and Hot Mulled Wine.

I decide to make Savory Swiss Steak for this blog. Wikipedia says “Swiss steak is meat, usually beef, prepared by means of rolling or pounding, and then braising in a cooking pot of stewed tomatoes, mushroom sauce, or some other sauce, either on a stove or in an oven.” That’s a pretty broad definition – and the recipe in Extra-Special Crockery Pot Recipes definitely falls within it. (I have made Swiss Steak for this blog before, but it was not a slow-cooked version.)

Savory Swiss Steak recipe

Round steak is a very lean meat (nice when you don’t want a fatty gravy) but it can be flavorless or tough. Hopefully this recipe makes it tender and tasty! I think I’ve tried this recipe before, since this page was marked when I pulled the book off the shelf.

Slow Cooker Swiss Steak
serves about 4

  • 1 1/2 pounds round steak
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or less)
  • 2 tablespoons oil (or less)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Worchestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • fresh parsley (optional)

Cut the round steak into about 6 pieces. Mix the flour, dry mustard, and salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan and add half of the butter and oil. Dredge the steak in the flour mixture, then fry in the hot butter/oil until browned. (You might need to do this in a couple batches, it depends on the size of your frying pan.)

Remove the meat from the fying pan and put it in the crock pot. Put the rest of the butter and oil in the hot (now empty) frying pan, then add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook until the vegetables are “glazed” or softened. Add the tomatoes, Worchestershire, and brown sugar; heat, scrapping up the fond. Transfer the entire mixture to the crock pot.

Cover and cook on low about 6 hours, or until the beef is tender. Serve over noodles, mashed potatoes, or rice, with some fresh parsley sprinkled on top (if you have it).

Swiss SteakThis was excellent! I will make it again. Very tasty and the meat was very tender. There was enough for two meals for the two of us (I froze half for later use).

250 Cookbooks: The Label Reader’s Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives

Cookbook #182: The Label Reader’s Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives, J. Michael Lapchick, 1993.

The Label reader's Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives

Such a long title for such a small booklet! It’s only 4 x 5.5 inches, and indeed could fit into a large pocket. Amazingly, you can still purchase this decades-old book online. From the reviews, it’s a popular little booklet.

I like to know what’s in the foods I eat. I cook from scratch as much as possible – homemade meals including from-scratch baked breads – partly because I can better control what we consume. I often read food labels. In this day and age it’s almost impossible to avoid food industry products (unless you live on a farm). The Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives is a great little reference for deciphering food labels, and the author thinks along the same lines that I do. Here, an excerpt from page 13:

“A certain trust is implied every time we pick a product off the shelf and put it in our grocery carts. We trust the label reads true. We also trust the ingredients are safe, sanitary, and desirable. But as we scan the list of ingredients and they become less and less familiar, we are asked to trust a little more. What about those ingredients we can’t even pronounce? Should we assume the products must be safe if they made it to the supermarket?”

Food additives (chemicals) are added for lots of reasons, for example, to make foods last longer on the shelf, have a better texture, have enhanced nutritive value, and have better flavor and color. Even hundreds of years ago, food additives such as salt were used to make foods last longer, but the list of available preserving chemicals was short. This all changed in the mid-twentieth century. According to the Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives, “in the 1900s, particularly after World War II, food manufacturers began to look for ways to market their fresh products nationwide. Products not only had to be fresh, but look and feel fresh, too. The manufacturers turned to chemical companies.”

Thus began the flow of chemicals, good and bad, into our food supply. Does the FDA protect us from dangerous food additive chemicals? I turn to page 20 of the Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives, wherein the author states “Today, a new additive first must pass tests required by the FDA. The tests are performed by the chemical manufacturer and evaluated by the FDA. If the results are accepted, the compound is granted a ‘regulated’ status and can be used in food. If the manufacturer wants to pursue a GRAS [Generally Recognized As Safe] rating, which may make it more enticing to food companies, it must publish the test results in certain journals and publications. Still, a GRAS status does not necessarily mean an additive is completely risk-free.” (This last statement is not explained further, but the author does state in earlier pages that several facets of his health improved when he eliminated food additives from his diet.)

An alphabetical list of food additives makes up the bulk of this book. Each entry includes a smiley-frowny face graphic:

PG to food aditives guide

Here is a typical food additive entry:

PG food additives sample page

I can’t cook a recipe from this book (there are none!). But here is an example of something this book would recommend eating, an organic apple! No additives at all.

apple

I will keep this booklet. I admit, though, that I am more likely to search the internet if I am curious about a chemical added to food. Or, I could download an appropriate phone app and have the information at the ready, in my pocket, at the grocery store.

Some thoughts on learning about food additives

My interests in chemistry, and in food, and in healthy eating, probably led me to buy this little book. But I might have purchased it as a reference for my work, when I was the coordinator for the organic chemistry teaching labs at CU Boulder. At the time, I wanted students to become familiar with chemicals they used in their everyday lives. So, I wrote an assignment for beginning organic chemistry lab students that involved reading food and household product labels and learning about the chemicals listed.

We hear so much about what is added to or gets into our foods and our water supplies. Sometimes it’s hard to separate unfounded cries of alarm from scientific fact. For this reason, I often like to go to scientific journal articles and read for myself, employing the research skills in biochemistry/chemistry learned in my long career. Reading a journal article as full text versions gives me an idea of how reliable and accurate the research is.

For instance, this week I came across a lay article entitled “Common Food Additive Promotes Colon Cancer In Mice“. The authors studied two food additives, polysorbate 80 (P80) and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC). Briefly, the researchers concluded that P80 and CMC can alter intestinal bacteria in a manner that promotes intestinal inflammation (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, IBD), which in turn increases the risk of colorectal cancer. According to the Pocket Dictionary of Food Additives, P80 is okay (happy face) and is used as an emulsifier and a stabilizer in salad dressings, baked items, frozen dessert toppings, and pickled items. CMC is not in the booklet; Wikipedia states that it is an emulsifier used in various products such as ice cream.

I read the full text of the journal article:

Dietary emulsifier-induced low-grade inflammation promotes colon carcinogenesis. Emilie Viennois, Didier Merlin, Andrew T. Gewirtz and Benoit Chassaing, Journal of Cancer Research, 7 November 2016.

I first looked to make sure the authors did not have a conflict of listed: “none” is stated. This is good. The details of the methods and analyses sound solid to me. The study was done in mice, using doses similar to amounts of the chemicals commonly used in food industry products. My thoughts are that a mouse study might or might not translate to humans. Another question: just because doses used in mice are similar to amounts used in the food industry does not mean that we are actually ingesting these amounts of emulsifiers. All in all, the article convinced me to read the labels of the foods that I cook with and check for P80 and CMC, as well as other emulsifiers. Sounds like eliminating these chemicals from our diet might decrease inflammation in our intestines.

250 Cookbooks: Original Schlemmertopf Recipes

Cookbook #181: Original Schlemmertopf Recipes, Scheurich-Keramik, publication date not given.

Original Schlemmertopf Recipes cookbookA “Schlemmertopf” is a covered clay baking pot. I received my first clay pot as a gift sometime in the 70s. I wrote a lot of background material in Römertopf Cooking is Fun, so I won’t repeat that information here.

Original Schlemmertopf Recipes is the instruction/recipe booklet that came with my first clay pot (the one that broke long ago). Even though there is no publication date given, this booklet is obviously decades old. (I have a newer instruction/recipe booklet that came with my second clay pot.)

Both Romertopf and Schlemmertopf brands of clay pots are currently available. Each is made in Germany. A search for “which clay pot is best” pulled up a few sites that discuss clay pots and where to buy them, like the Kitchn site, but no reviews. Romertopf has a website, but Schlemmertopf does not seem to have one.

Originally, I used a Schlemmertopf for making stews and braising meats, as I discussed in Römertopf Cooking is Fun. In the 2000s, I bought a Schlemmertopf to replace my broken one, but I bought it mainly for baking crusty no-knead bread. The yummy pot roast that I cooked for  Römertopf Cooking is Fun was the first time I had used my new one for something other than bread.

Clay pots are a bit different to use than other types of covered cooking pans or casseroles. Never, ever can you use a clay pot on the range top, like when you want to brown meat or saute vegetables, or to make a gravy after the baking process. Before you start, you soak the pot in cold water, then you put the pot (with your food inside) into a cold oven (clay pots don’t do well with quick thermal change). Once in the oven, you can turn the temperature way up, even to 475˚. After cooking, removing the hot, heavy, covered pot from the oven can be difficult (and these pots break easily). If you want to make a sauce or gravy, you have to pour out the pan juices into a stove-top pan. Cleaning the pot usually requires an overnight soak in soapy water (no dishwasher for clay pots!).

So why use a clay pot? Because the results are juicy, well-browned, tastily braised meats.You don’t have to brown the meat before starting. The recipes cook faster than a slow cooker or even a typical oven braising. If you don’t make a gravy, it is a one-step process, just put the food in the clay pot and bake.

Since the pot roast that I cooked for Römertopf Cooking is Fun was such a success, I am looking forward to cooking another braised meat recipe from Original Schlemmertopf Recipes! I choose “Chicken Shanghai”, because I have a whole chicken in the freezer.

Chicken Shanghai recipe

I often roast a whole chicken in an open roasting pan; it will be interesting to compare/contrast the different cooking methods.

Chicken Shanghai
serves 3-4

  • 1 whole chicken, 3-4 pounds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (more if you like the flavor a lot)
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper (or use a little hot chili oil)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice powder
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger (or use freshly grated ginger)
  • 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • cooked rice

Mix the marinade ingredients (everything except the chicken). Put the chicken in a bowl and add the marinade to it, rubbing some under the skin. Let stand at least 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

While the chicken marinades, soak the top and bottom of a clay pot in cold water.

(Leave your oven off!)

Pour the water out of the soaked clay pot and wipe it with a towel. Add the chicken and its marinade in the pot, cover, place in a COLD oven and turn the oven to 450˚. Bake for 90 minutes.

Carefully remove the clay pot from the oven and uncover. When cool enough to handle, remove the chicken to a plate and cover to keep warm. Pour the clay pot pan juices into a sauce pan and add 1-2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with a little water. Boil this sauce until it thickens.

Slice the chicken and serve over rice with the sauce.

Shanghai Chicken

Comments

This chicken was extra-nicely browned! And unlike my other roast chicken recipes, the clay pot cooking method caused no oven splatter, since it is roasted covered. The meat was very juicy and moist. And the flavor was great, of both the meat and the sauce. We both loved it. I did think the sauce a bit salty (and I even left the added salt out of the recipe) and fatty; next time I might use a gravy separator before thickening.

I definitely will roast more chickens using a clay pot. I have a few of my own recipes I can adapt, or can look for others online, like this one using lemony thyme, sage and oregano. I am glad I have re-discovered clay pot baking – it definitely adds variety to my repertoire.

250 Cookbooks: General Foods Cook Book

Cookbook #180: General Foods Cook Book, General Foods Corporation, NY, NY, 1932.

General Foods Cook Book

Mother would have celebrated her 100th birthday this week. She loved celebrations! In her honor, I choose her vintage General Foods Cook Book to cover for this blog.

General Foods Cook Book was one of Mother’s textbooks when she attended Woodbury’s Business College from 1934-36. She would have been 18-20 years old at the time. On the inside cover are several notes about due dates for assignments, oven temperature notes, and some calculations. I remember from family history that she had attended this business school, perhaps more of a “secretarial” school. Obviously, since she had this General Foods Cook Book as a text book, she took a course in “home economics”. The culture of the time and place encouraged young women to stay at home and run their household, as their vocation, sort of like a business. I tell you, my mother, a traditional stay-at-home mom, would have been an excellent business woman! Our household ran smoothly, and she was a fast typist and great at keeping books and records.

Woodbury’s Business College, founded in Los Angeles in 1884, was one of the first institutions of higher learning in Los Angeles, and also one of the first colleges in the West to admit women. At its beginning, Woodbury’s offered bookkeeping, commercial law, and telegraphy studies, it eventually expanded to fashion and inerior design and business administration, and by 1969 offered an MBA. In 1974, the school name changed to Woodbury University.

My mother would have attended Woodbury’s while it was located in downtown Los Angeles. She wasn’t married to my father yet, so that means she had to travel about 30 miles from Covina to attend classes. I have no idea how she made the trip, by car? train? bus? What was it like in the mid-1930s in the LA area? Wish I had a time machine.

By the time I was born, our young family was living in Burbank. In 1985, Woodbury’s re-located to Burbank, on the old Catholic school campus known as Villa Cabrini. So many times as a child or teen I passed the Villa Cabrini school – and now it is the home of the college my mother attended, so long ago.

As you can tell, this cookbook has a lot of meaning for me. I definitely will keep it, if just for the memories!

General Foods Cook Book teaches young women how to run their household like a business, promotes General Foods products, and has a lot of recipes. The best way to tell you about this cook book is to let you read a few pages.

page 1

page 2page 3

The first sixth of this cookbook is a cross-refernce called a “Subject Index”. This index is an ingenious way for an organized cook to plan the requisite “three meals a day” using what they have on hand and the situation or the meal they are planning. Here is a sample page from this section:

gfcbpage15

After the Subject Index is a chapter entitled “General Foods Corporation”:

“Most of you know General Foods Corporation. At least, you know its products; for many of them are old friends, kept regularly on the pantry shelf, and used nearly every day – Jell-O, Minute Tapioca, Swans Down Cake Flour, Maxwell House Coffee, Baker’s Chocolate, Baker’s Coconut, Calumet Baking Powder, Grape-Nuts, Postum, Certo, and many others.”

“These foods were not always in one family, of course. The building of this company, operating some forty-five plants, and distributing over seventy different products, is one of the romances of modern business.”

General Fooods was established by Charles Post in 1985 in Battle Creek, Michigan. His poor health led him to experiment with food products, and out of his research Postum Cereal was developed, then Grape Nuts and Posts Bran Flakes. (Wikipedia has more information on the history of General Foods.) At the time of General Foods Cook Book’s publication, 1932, the company’s products included: Maxwell House Coffee and Tea, Sanka, Postum Cereal, Baker’s Cocoa, Post Toasties, Grape-nuts, Swan’s Down Cake Flour, Calumet Baking Powder, Jell-O, Minute Tapioca, Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate, Baker’s Coconut, Certo (pectin), Log Cabin Syrup, and Diamond Crystal Shaker Salt. The energy value of each of these foods is discussed, as well as the proper way to store them. Later sections in this book discuss “how to provide an adequate diet” using General Foods products.

Page 89 caught my eye. I smile at Mother’s note to herself: “read”.

page 89

The rest of the book is recipes. I took a long time turning the pages and reading the old recipes, reading my mother’s notes. I spent two weeks on this cookbook – instead of the usual one week – for this blog. Some things cannot be rushed.

I decide to buy a box of Grape-Nuts and make two recipes for this blog. First, Grape-Nuts Orange Muffins. Note my mother’s writing on the left hand side: “every girl makes muffins”.

page 130I’ll also make “Grape-Nuts Brown Betty”:

page 242

Each recipe will require a few changes for successful baking in my own “modern” kitchen. But I am confident in my cooking skills and I know I will do the proper adjustments.  I learned both how to cook and to love cooking from my mother.

I am thankful to her every day of my life. Happy 100th, Mother. Wish you were here to enjoy these with us, your ever enlarging family.

Grape-Nuts Orange Muffins
makes 11 big or 12 smallish muffins

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (or, the juice from one orange plus enough milk to make 3/4 cup)
  • grated rind of one orange
  • 1 cup Grape-Nuts cereal

Stir together the flour and baking powder, set aside.

Use a mixer to beat the butter, then add the sugar and eggs and beat well. Mix in the orange juice and rind. Add the flour mixture and mix only until just combined.

Fill 12 (or 11, if you like them bigger) muffin cups and bake at 400˚ for 18-20 minutes, until they are lightly brown and test clean with a toothpick.

Grape-Nuts Orange MuffinsGrape-Nuts Brown Betty
serves 4-6

  • 4 largish apples (I used granny smiths)
  • 1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I used more because I love cinnamon)
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup Grape-Nuts

Peel and slice the apples. Place in an 8×8-inch baking pan. Mix the 1/4 cup white sugar with the cinnamon and pour over the apples. Mix in with your hands, then let stand about a half hour to macerate the apples.

Beat 4 tablespoons of the butter with a mixer, then add the brown sugar and cream well. Add the flour and the Grape-Nuts and mix well (the mixture will be crumbly).

Dot the macerated apples with the 1 tablespoon butter. Spread the Grape-Nut mixture over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake another 15 minutes.

Serve warm with ice cream.

Apple Brown BettyBoth recipes were delicious!

250 Cookbooks: Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes

Cookbook #179: Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes, Elena Zelayeta, Dettners Printing House, San Franscisco.

Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes cookbook

Driving out of Boulder last week, I noticed a new Mexican grocery store. I wanted to go in! I love discovering small stores with interesting ethnic products. I used to get the best corn tortillas from a store in almost the same location. Makes me hungry for Mexican food. Time to pull another Mexican cookbook off my shelf!

And I have only one that I have not yet covered: Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes. I covered another of her cookbooks, Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking, in one of my earliest posts. That book was published in 1958, and this one in 1944. Inside the back cover is the price it originally sold for: $1.50 from May Co. I think I bought it from a used book or junk store, way back when we lived in Boulder. But I am not sure. It could have been my mother-in-law’s – there is some writing in this book that might be hers.

The introduction to Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes is written by Elena’s friend Katherine Kerry, while the introduction to the (later) 1958 book is written by Helen Evans Brown. Her friends just loved her! If you read my other blog entry, you will learn that Elena lost her sight as an adult, but blindness didn’t stop her from cooking. That amazes me so much! Katherine Kerry writes of her friend’s book:

“This book of her own much-used recipes is just one expression of Elena’s love of people, her knowledge of how to make them happy. Each recipe is a shining star of courage, faith and hope, plus a full measure of gastronomic enjoyment for you who use them.”

“Elena is a bouncing ball of pep, gaiety, kindliness and heart – a heart so big it encompasses all she meets.”

Some of the recipes in Elena’s 1944 book were carried through to the later book – “because no book on Mexican cuisine could possibly be without them”.

The first chapter of Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes is “Sopas – Soups”. I learn that there are two types of soup in Mexico: wet and dry. Wet soups are liquid (plus meats and vegetables) and served at the beginning of the meal, dry soups are served next. Dry soups are rice or vermicelli cooked in soup stock, the stock being entirely absorbed in cooking, in effect making them more like our idea of seasoned cooked rice.

“Eggs, Glorified ways of serving them”, the next chapter, has at least one recipe I’d like to try: “Rice Nests with Egg”. In this recipe, bacon is wrapped around a small pile of cooked rice and secured with a toothpick, then topped with a raw egg and baked in the oven. I like this recipe for a couple reasons. One, it sounds good! And two, it illustrates Elena’s Mexican dishes. They are often simple home cooking, and barely our typical ideas of “Mexican” cooking.

Some of the salad recipes look very good, like an avocado salad with pineapple, oranges, fresh mint, lettuce and French dressing. Chiles Rellenos – green chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg batter, deep fried, and served in a spiced tomato sauce – are in the vegetable chapter. I have made them Elena’s way for years! She suggests frying them the day before serving, an idea that might me prepare these delights more often. (Much easier than frying while your guests are there.) Fish, poultry, meats and beans each has its own chapter. (Some of the meats, like tripe, kidneys, rabbit, and pigs feet, I guarantee I’ll never cook.)

“Tortillas, Tacos, Tostadas, Enchiladas and other things made with masa” is the title of another chapter. Elena talks about treating a pan with “hydrated lime” when one makes homemade tortillas. Hydrated lime is not made from limes, instead, it is calcium hydroxide, and is used to help the masa bind together. All of her recipes that include masa (a type of cornmeal) call for purchasing it fresh from a Mexican store. I’m not sure this type of masa is still available, and I ran into problems when I tried making a tamale casserole using the bagged masa that is currently sold in US supermarkets. But in general, her recipes call for store bought tortillas, so it’s not a huge problem. She also mentions an item I’d like to find called “raspadas”, thin tortillas specially made for tostadas.

And last but not least, desserts! Flan, rum and macaroon pudding, Mexican bread and rice puddings, banana pudding, cookies (Little Drunkards sound interesting!), and turnovers are among the sweet recipes in this chapter.

Elena’s Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes includes several pages of menus for Mexican meals. Below is a great example:

Mexican menus

I do like this cookbook and definitely will keep it. Lots of good recipes, information on historical Mexican cooking, and written by an interesting woman.

For this blog, I decide to make Carne Deshebrada, or Shredded Skirt Steak, Mexican Style:

Shredded Skirt Steak recipe

Usually when I make “shredded beef”, I braise a roast for a long time until it falls apart easily when shredded with a fork. In this recipe, the skirt steak is broiled just to medium rare – sounds like an interesting variation. I found it hard to “shred with a fork”, so I went back and forth using a fork and a sharp knife to shred/chop instead of following the directions. I couldn’t find a green bell pepper, so I used a red one. I like lots of fresh cilantro and garlic so I increased the amounts. And I added the green chiles as suggested. I preferred not to serve this “in soup plates and eaten with soup spoons”. Instead, I kept the meat a little drier by adding less water, and served the mixture in a corn tortilla with grated cheese and salsa.

Shredded Skirt Steak
serves 4

  • 1 skirt steak, about 1 1/2 pounds
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green (or red) bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder (optional)
  • fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped (or to taste)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles

Cut the steak into several pieces and broil in an oven just until medium rare. Cool, then shred with a fork and a sharp knife.

Fry the chopped onions in a little oil until tender. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, chile powder, cilantro, garlic, chiles, the shredded meat, and about 1/2 cup water. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer about a half hour, adding a bit more water if needed to keep the mixture moist. Serve wrapped in tortillas with cheese and salsa.

Below is a photo of the skirt steak after I cooked and “shredded” it.

shredded skirt steak ingredientsAnd here is the pan of shredded beef and vegetables, ready to be served.

Shredded Skirt Steak

And how did it turn out? Wonderful! The skirt steak was so, so flavorful! A different experience than my braised style shredded beef. I used “Tortillaland” corn tortillas, half-cooked tortillas that heat up on a dry grill into soft but sturdy tacos. These tortillas were strong enough to stay together, even packed with shredded beef and fixings.

I made another meal using the leftovers by mounding the mixture and some grated cheese in thin flour tortillas, rolling them up, then browning in a big fry pan in a little oil just until all sides were browned. Then, I cut into bite-sized pieces and served with salsa and sour cream. Yum again.

250 Cookbooks: Elam Biggs Favorites

Cookbook #178: Elam Biggs Favorites, Elam Biggs, Grass Valley, CA, 2009.

Elam Biggs Favorites cookbook

We stayed at the Elam Biggs Bed and Breakfast Inn while visiting family in Grass Valley in 2009. The breakfasts there were amazing! Fruit, juice, eggs, sausage or ham or bacon, and breakfast pastries, served at a fancy table setting. All homemade and wonderful. It was so pleasant to sit and chat with other guests as Elam showed us his card tricks. The rooms are ornately decorated with antiques. A great stay!

I couldn’t resist buying one of the little booklets of breakfast recipes that they offered. Seven years later, though, and I haven’t cooked a single recipe from this booklet. The reason is that they are a little more calorie-laden than we usually have for breakfast (when not on vacation). Elam Biggs Favorites has sat on my shelf as a souveneir of our visit, rather than as a “cookbook”.

There are only eight recipes in this booklet, so it won’t take long to decide which to make for this blog:

  • Dutch Babies (my chosen recipe, below)
  • Corn Flake Potatoes (hash browns, mushroom soup, sour cream, cheese topped with cornflakes and baked)
  • Breakfast Omelette (butter, eggs, flour, baking powder, green chiles, cottage cheese, Jack cheese, baked in the oven)
  • Stuffed French Toast (sourdough bread, cream cheese, raisins, milk, eggs – start the night before)
  • Brunch Enchiladas (flour tortillas rolled around ham, onions, green chiles, and cheese, topped with eggs and half-and-half and baked – start the night before)
  • Scalloped Corn (canned corn, butter, eggs, sour cream, corn muffin mix)
  • Overnite Strawberry French Toast (bread soaked in eggs and milk overnight, next morning put strawberries and bananas in a pan and cover with the soaked bread and bake)
  • Elam’s Eggs (cheese and eggs baked in a ramekin)

I decide to try “Dutch Babies”. These are Dutch pancakes, or pannenkoek. Many versions are available on the web – basically, they are a mixture of eggs, milk, and flour poured into a hot buttered pan and baked. They puff up and then fall, leaving the edges fluffy and the middle gooey and rich. You can serve them with powdered sugar or fruits or syrup. I found 4 clipped Dutch baby recipes in my old “clips” database – and noted that I made them once and loved them. They have always intrigued me, but they rarely fit into our eating pattern. Time to change that!

Below is my adaptation of Elam Bigg’s recipe for Dutch Babies.

Dutch Babies
serves 2

  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter

Put the eggs in a blender and blend about half a minute. Then, with the blender open, add the milk and then the flour and blend another half a minute. This batter can rest a while if your pan is not yet ready.

Choose a pan that holds 2 quarts and is at least 2 inches in depth. Add the butter and heat the pan in a 425˚ oven until the butter melts.

Remove the hot pan from the oven and pour in the batter. Put it right back into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until puffy and the edges are well browned.

Here is my Dutch baby right out of the oven:

Dutch Baby

As it cooled the middle fell (as expected). As soon as it was cool enough to eat, we cut chunks and smeared them with fresh peach jam and enjoyed. Very eggy and very buttery. I think you could use less butter (and save a few calories), but this Dutch baby tasted great as is!

Note

Elam Biggs’ directions for other sizes of Dutch babies:

  • 4 eggs, 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, 3 quart pan
  • 5 eggs, 1 1/4 cup milk, 1 1/4 cup flour, 4 quart pan
  • 6 eggs, 1 1/2 cup milk, 1 1/2 cup flour, 5 quart pan
  • ramekins or any size pan: fill one-quarter full with batter

250 Cookbooks: Cover and Bake

Cookbook #177: Cover and Bake, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, a Best Recipe Classic, America’s Test Kitchen, Brookline, MA, 2004.

Cover and Bake cookbook

I discovered my first Cook’s Illustrated magazine sometime in the early 2000s. This magazine has no ads – what a treat! I clipped and saved several recipes, then I subscribed to Cook’s Illustrated online. (It’s the only cooking magazine I subscribe to.) I ordered this book, Cover and Bake, and I use it a lot.

Christopher Kimball founded the enterprise that includes Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen, where they develop the recipes in their publications. This “Kitchen” is located in Brookline Massachusetts, and is where the TV show “America’s Test Kitchen” is filmed. Most of my friends who are into cooking love this show!

Cook’s Illustrated recipes always include a lengthy discussion. In their test kitchen, they try each recipe many different ways, and report on their findings. This appeals to my scientific side! Plus, when I follow the directions, the recipes always come out excellent. For instance, their recipe for pie crust taught me how to finally make a tender, easy-to-roll crust. I often browse the site for new ideas, or how to cook . . . anything! I also use their reviews of kitchen equipment to help decide on a new purchase.

The chapters in Cover and Bake are: Assemble and Bake (casseroles), Pot Pies and More, Oven Braises and Stews, Skillet Casseroles, Savory Side Dishes, Breakfast and Brunch, and Slow-Cooker Favorites. My favorite chapters are the pot pies and oven braises and the slow-cooker recipes. I have so many notes in this cookbook!

It will be easy to find a recipe to cook for this blog. I start flipping through the pages. What catches my eye is “Chili Mac”, from the first chapter, Assemble and Bake. I haven’t made many of the casseroles in this book, and it’s time to try one.

Chili Mac is an American comfort food, although I’ve never made it before. It even has its own Wikipedia entry. Briefly, it’s made with meat-bean chili, noodles, and topped with cheese. Sounds good to me!

Because of copyright issues, I am not scanning in this recipe. It’s a relatively recent publication, and the editors are still actively publishing. The original recipe is on pages 80-81 of the Cover and Bake. Page 80 is a two-column discussion of how they got this recipe “perfect”! Page 81 gives the recipe in 1 1/2 columns. This is the typical layout of Cook’s Illustrated recipes: not a fast food publication! I changed their recipe a bit (my adaptation is below).

Chili Mac: adapted from Cover and Bake, America’s Test Kitchen
makes a 9×13-inch casserole, enough to serve 8, depending on appetites

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 3/4 cup reserved macaroni-cooking-water
  • 1 1/2 pounds hamburger (I used 90% lean)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic (4-8 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons hot chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomaotes
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 8 ounces grated cheese, preferably “colby Jack” or a mixture of cheddar and Jack cheese

Cook the macaroni in salted boiling water until al dente. At my altitude of 5300 feet, this took about 10 minutes; it would take less time at sea level. (It’s important not to boil the macaroni too long, as it will continue to cook when the casserole is baked.) Before draining the pasta, reserve 3/4 cup of the pasta water; this will be used later when the casserole is assembled.

As the macaroni cools, cook the hamburger in a large pan or pot, salting to taste. (The original recipe recommends cooking the hamburger in a little oil; it’s up to you.) When the meat is cooked, drain it in a colander to remove (and discard) the fat. Set the meat aside.

Add a little oil to the now-empty pan and cook the onions, red bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin, stirring, until the vegetables soften and begin to turn brown (about 10 minutes). Add the diced tomaotes, tomato sauce, brown sugar, the 3/4 cup reserved pasta water, and the drained hamburger. Simmer 20 minutes.

Stir the cooked macaroni into the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into a 9×13-inch rectangular casserole and sprinkle with the grated cheese. Bake at 400˚ for 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

Chili MacOh yes, this was good! Yum!

I will definitely keep this cookbook. (And tucked inside is the little Rival Crock-Pot Cookbook that I mentioned in an earlier post.) With fall coming on, I am sure I’ll be back to Cover and Bake soon, looking for warm and hearty meal ideas.

250 Cookbooks: Cooking for Your Dragon

Cookbook #176: Cooking for Your Dragon, a cookbook for chocolate lovers, Randal Spangler, Fantastic Art (Books), Kansas City, 1996.

Cooking For Your Dragon cookbook

I’ve been a fan of Randal Spangler’s art for decades. On the wall above my computer I have two framed Spangler prints. One is a cat chasing a computer mouse that a “dragling” is using to lure her in. The other is a white-haired scientist pedaling a bike in a crazy contraption. Draglings are a Spangler creation, and cats and computers and cookies are among his favorite subjects. (Mine too!)

Cooking for your Dragon is full of Spangler’s artwork and every recipe has chocolate in it. Chocolate is a dragon’s favorite food! Legends of the mythical world of dragons are throughout the cookbook. It’s a delight to read.

The recipes are all very rich. I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a single one from this book! Mostly I enjoy the illustrations and whimsical stories. For this blog, I decide on “Brownie Cupcakes”.

Brownie Cupcakes recipe

Well. Here is how my cupcakes turned out:

Brownie CupcakesTotal failure! They look terrible. Rose up, fell down.

The recipe does not explicitly state: “Pour into 24 paper lined cupcake pans”, although it states “24 servings”. I cooked them in two batches. The first batch, I probably filled them too full. I cooked the second batch after I scraped the first batch out of the pan, and I made sure to fill each cupcake only half full of dough. Baked, and same result as above.

Why did they fail? Not sure. But there is no baking powder in the recipe. Compare this recipe with the one I have for “Fudgy Brownies” in Baker’s Book of Chocolate Riches. That recipe is almost exactly half of the above recipe, except it has baking powder in it and is baked in an eight-inch square pan.

The only other reason for failure (that I can think of) is that we live at high altitude and I didn’t make any of my usual altitude-dictated adjustments.

Win some, lose some! These did taste good, as “crumbles”. But I won’t try this recipe again – I’ll stick to Fudgy Brownies!

250 Cookbooks: Baker’s Book of Chocolate Riches

Cookbook #175: Baker’s Book of Chocolate Riches, General Foods Corporation, Golden Press, NY, 1983 (second printing, 1985).

Baker's Book of Chocolate Riches cookbook

I have three Baker’s cookbooks on my shelves. In blog post #118, I enjoyed looking through the 1932 one, Baker’s Best Chocolate Recipes, largely because it is so old. My other Baker’s cookbook is Baker’s Chocolate and Coconut Favorites, 1977.

I once tried the brownie recipe in this 1985 Baker’s Book of Chocolate Riches, and the recipe is exactly the same as the 1932 version! Good recipes hold up for years.

Fudgy Brownies recipe

This 1985 Baker’s Book of Chocolate Riches is definitely a cookbook I will keep. I know that each cookie, pie, cake or dessert recipe would cook up great. It’s one of my go-to books for when I need a good dollop of chocolate.

For this blog, I decide to make Crackle-Top Cookies. I’ll keep a few at home, but take most to a potluck meeting I have tonight. (Along with a bottle of wine, what is better than chocolate and wine!)

Crackle-Top Cookies recipeThis recipe is very similar to my recipe for Chocolate Chews. The differences are that this recipe has less flour, adds cinnamon, uses brown sugar instead of white, and has more nuts. Plus the baking time: these are cooked 20 minutes instead of 10 minutes.

Crackle Top Cookies
makes about 5 dozen

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup chopped nuts
  • powdered sugar

Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Beat the shortening with a mixer, then beat in the brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the chocolate and mix well.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beating after each addition until smooth. Stir in nuts.

Chill a few hours in the refrigerator. Shape into 1-inch balls, then roll each in powdered sugar. Bake at 350˚ for 10 minutes if you like chewy cookies, or 20 minutes if you like crisp cookies. (My recommendation is 10 minutes.)

Crackle Top CookiesThese are excellent! I cooked the first batches 20 minutes, and I thought they were too crisp. The last batch I cooked only 10 minutes, and they were soft and chewy. We like the soft and chewy ones a lot better!

250 Cookbooks: Encyclopedia of Cookery, Volume 8

Cookbook #174: Encyclopedia of Cookery, Vol. 8, Moi-Pec, Woman’s Day, Fawcett Publications, NY, 1966.

Encyclopedia of Cookery Volume 8

I have a set of twelve Encyclopedia of Cookery volumes and this is the eighth of that set – I covered the first seven in previous posts. I’ve enjoyed all of them so far! This volume covers curious and helpful information about foods from moi(sten) to pec(an).

I begin my recipe and curiousity search on the first page. “Molasses” is the entry following “moisten”. I learn that molasses made from sugar cane. When we were in Costa Rica, we saw a demonstration of how they press sugar cane to get out the juice:

volcano region moonshine

But in Costa Rica, that sugar cane juice became moonshine! To make molasses, the cane juice is boiled down to a thick mass of syrup and crystals of sugar. Next, the brew is strained to isolate solid sugar crystals and syrupy liquid. The syrup from this first boiling process is sold as “light molasses”. “Dark molasses” results from a second boiling/straining of the syrup and “blackstrap molasses” results from a third boiling/straining. Light molasses can be used as a syrup on pancakes; dark molasses is less sweet (and darker in color) and is used in baking and candy making. Blackstrap molasses is generally used as cattle food – or as a health food. Molasses was the most widely used sweetener in America until the Civil War.

I like molasses, but none of the recipes in this section intrigue me. So I go on to moussaka (mid-Eastern eggplant casserole) and muffins (surprisingly – no recipe there I liked) and a Mushroom Cook Book. Wow, I’d love to make “cream of mushroom soup”. It would be delightful in a casserole instead of the over-processed canned mushroom soup that we get in the stores. (Someday.)

The Near Eastern Cookery section brings back memories of our trip to Turkey. Nesselrode? I remember it from childhood, but I think it was an ice cream. Perhaps it was:  I learn that “nesselrode” refers to an iced pudding made from egg yolks, sugar, cream, chestnuts, orange peel, currants, and candied cherries.

The  article “New England: Character and Cookery” was written by Louise Dickinson Rich. I find a recipe in this section for muffins using molasses called “Anthelias’ Sour-milk Gingerbread Cupcakes”. Could make those. Still, I search on for a recipe to make for this blog.

“Noodle” derives from words meaning “food paste”. In “Norwegian Cookery”, I find recipes for marzipan (from almonds, sugar, and egg whites), Puss Pass (a lamb stew), and cold cherry soup, made from fresh cherries (including ground pits), sugar, water, and lots of sherry.

Nutmeg, nutrition (interesting to read a 1966 view of this topic), and oatmeal. Oleomargarine was first prepared in 1870 by a French Chemist, Mège-Mouriès from beef oil, milk, and water, with annatto for coloring. Oleo derives from “elo” (oil) and margaric acid (an animal fat). Annatto seeds are used today in anchiote paste, a deep red seasoning from Mexico.

Olive oil should be “golden or straw yellow”, and “greenish oils are inferior”. My staple, green extra virgin olive oil, is not even mentioned! Next, oranges and oregano. An essay on “Outdoor Cooking” by Craig Claiborne and one on “The Delectable Oyster” by James Beard. Pancakes are the oldest form of bread and are made around the world. Oriental versions of pancakes have been made for “untold Oriental ages”. Next, pasties (meat pies) and a Pastry Cook Book.

“Patty” is a “small, round, flat mass of food dough, cereal, potato, or other vegetable, ground meat fish, poultry, or nuts”. Hmmmm.

Peas, a Peach Cook Book, peacock (yes, people eat them), peanuts, peanut butter – Peanut Butter Muffins! Pears and pecans finish off this volume.

I want to make Peanut Butter Muffins. I haven’t made muffins with peanut butter in them for years!

Peanut-Butter Muffins recipe

I decide to leave the jam out of the muffins, add a bit more sugar, and combine the wet ingredients with a mixer, but otherwise will follow the recipe.

Peanut Butter Muffins
makes 10 muffins

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons wheat germ
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup (2 3/8 ounces) peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup milk

Stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and wheat germ. Set aside.

Using a mixer, beat the egg. Mix in the shortening, then the peanut butter, then the milk. Stir in the dry ingredients only until the mixture is moistened.

Fill 10 mufffin cups (each should be 2/3 full). Bake at 400˚ for 20-22 minutes.

Peanut Butter Muffins

These tasted very peanut buttery, but were a little dry. With a lot of jam on them, I really enjoyed them. But looking at the original recipe, these are more like scones: the shortening and the peanut butter probably should be “cut in” with a pastry blender. I was reluctant to do this because it would be so messy! But mixed as in the original recipe, these might have been sort of flaky, like pie crust or scones.

I found my old recipe for “Super Chunk Muffins” in my index card recipe file. I’ll make them soon and let you know if I like them better. This old recipe also calls for using a pastry blender to cut in the butter and peanut butter.

Super Chunk Muffins
makes 12 muffins

  • 1 cup oatmeal (quick)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 egga
  • 1/2 cup milk

Stir together the oatmeal, flour, sugar baking powder, and salt. Cut in the peanut butter and margarine with a pastry blender to fine crumbs.

Mix the eggs and milk, stir into flour mixture. Fill 12 muffin cups.

Optional: mix 1/2 cup oatmeal and 2 tablespoons butter and sprinkle over the batter.

Bake at 400˚  for 20-25 minutes.