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: The Crockery Cook

Cookbook #173: The Crockery Cook, Mable Hoffman, Fisher Books, Tucson, AZ, 1998.

The Crockery Cook cookbookA crock pot has been a staple in my kitchen for a very long time. I have 10 crockpot cookbooks! I even have another cookbook written by Mable Hoffman, Crockery Cookery. (See my first crockpot blog entry for a little on the history of crockpots.)

I picked this book off the shelf because a long-cooking meal fit into my schedule one day. Lately I just use the crockpot to cook pots of pork green chile and shredded beef. Time to shake up our meal times with a new recipe.

The Crockery Cook is nicely formatted and illustrated, with a large variety of recipes. I think I could always find something to cook from this cookbook, so I decide to keep it. And for this blog? I decide to make “New-Style Pozole”.
New-Style Posole recipe

I like hominy, and the bacon should add a nice twist. I have some hot peppers (my daughter grew them!) in my refrigerator, and we like things hot, so I’ll add them to the pot.

It’s best to prepare this recipe the day before to allow time for cooling the pozole so that you can skim off the fat.

Crockpot Pozole
prepare the day before

    • 1 pound boneless pork, cubed
    • 1 pound chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless)
    • 2 slices bacon, chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped
    • 1 clove garlic, chopped
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1 teaspoon chili powder
    • 2 16-ounce cans hominy, drained
    • dried pepper flakes (1/4 teaspoon or to taste)
    • fresh hot chili peppers to taste, chopped (optional)
    • garnishes such as: cilantro, avocado, sliced radishes, chopped red bell peppers, chopped red onions, chopped tomatoes, paprika

Mix all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low 6-7 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Add water as necessary to keep it soupy. Check seasonings and add salt and peppers to your own taste.

Let the pozole cool, then remove the chicken thighs. Bone them (if necessary) and chop into small pieces.

Put the pozole in the refrigerator overnight, then skim any fat from the top. Re-heat and serve with garnishes of your choice.

Crock Pot Posole

This was good, but not perfect. I thought the hominy was overcooked, too mushy. I couldn’t decide if it was a soup or a stew, but that doesn’t really matter! We like our Mexican food spicy, so if I make it again, I’ll add more peppers.

I served it with grilled quesadillas and it was a satisfying meal.

250 Cookbooks: Southwestern Grill

Cookbook #171: Southwestern Grill, Michael McLaughlin, the Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA, 2000.

The Southwestern Grill cookbookI bought this cookbook for myself and have always enjoyed it. Such refreshing ideas! Grilling with spices and fresh ingredients. A pleasure after some of my aged cookbooks.

I grew up in the Southwest (southern California), and tacos and enchiladas were part of our everyday meals, especially from the time I was a teen. How did this author develop his own interest in southwestern-style foods? On Wikipedia, I learn that Michael McLaughlin was born the same year I was, in Wray, Colorado. He moved to New York and became a chef. There he met Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, and helped them publish The Silver Palate Cookbook in 1983. This cookbook encourages homecooking with fresh ingredients, and has sold in excess of 2 million copies. (Why have I never heard of it? Sounds right up my alley.)

McLaughlin moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he owned a restaurant for a time. His interest and expertise in fresh foods and grilling expanded to include bright, spicy Southwestern flavors. He became a food writer for Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine magazines. McLaughlin authored (or co-authored) over 20 cookbooks. I was sad to learn he passed away in 2002.

McLaughlin writes about two “very good things” that happened in the 1980s-2000. First, grilling, “formerly a casual backyard art form, evolved into an accepted and respected cooking method.” And “second, the food of the Southwest escaped from its regional confines and swept like a mesquite brushfire across the country.” The two combined and now both chefs and home cooks grill southwestern dishes, full of heat, spice and savory smoke. “Grilling has grown up . . . liberally seasoned with a dose of the special magic that is the unique culinary contribution of the American Southwest.”

Here is a sampling of recipe titles, to give you an idea of the variety in this cookbook: Steak and Grilled Green Onion Quesadilla, Cafe Pasqual’s Grilled Salmon Burritos with Cucumber Salsa, Grilled Chicken Totopo Salad, Warmed Grilled Chile-Lime Beef Salad, Arracheras with Crunchy Vegetable Garnish, Heirloom Bean Salad, and Grilled Tequila-Cured Salmon with Mango Pico de Gallo.

Some recipes are a bit “out-there” for my own cooking, partly because I’m not sure I could get some members of my family to eat them, for instance: grilled cactus, grilled eggplant dip, and portobello mushroom burgers.

I like the Salsas, Sauces, and Condiments chapter a lot. For one, many of the recipes in this cookbook refer to this chapter for sauce/salsa/rubs recipes (for example, see the scan of the Grilled Fish Tacos recipe). And too, it allows the cook (me!) to be creative, adding a fresh salsa to “same old” tacos, for instance.

I am going to share a couple recipes that I love from this cookbook. I know, I usually try something new from a cookbook, but the rules are mine, and I can bend them! I have made the “Grilled Fish Tacos with Citrus Slaw” many times.

Grilled Fish Tacos recipeCitrus Slaw is a separate entry.

Citrus Slaw RecipeAnd so is the Lime Cream.

Lime Cream recipeI made these exactly according to the above recipes. And they were good, as always!

Fish TacosThank you Michael McLaughlin for this wonderful recipe! If you want to make them for yourself, pick up a copy of his book, or use my scans, above.

250 Cookbooks: Weber’s Real Grilling

Cookbook #169: Weber’s Real Grilling, Jamie Purviance, Sunset and Weber books, Weber-Stephen Products Co., 2005.

Weber's Real Grilling cookbook

Ages ago we had a covered Weber charcoal grill, then changed to a gas grill at some point in time. Today I consider a gas grill an essential component of my cooking equipment, summer, fall, winter, and spring!

I got Weber’s Real Grilling about six years ago, when we purchased our current Weber gas grill. I use this book a lot! It sort of flops open to “Basic Baby Back Ribs”, where I have several post-its pressed into place.

I highly recommend this cookbook. It taught me how to cook over direct and indirect heat on a gas grill, and how to set the temperature of the grill. If I want to know about rubs, or BBQ sauces, I go to this book first. If I want to know how long to cook a cut of meat, poultry, or fish, I go to this book first. The recipe chapters are: red meat, pork, poultry, fish, veggies and sides, and desserts. Each recipe has an accompanying photo that makes this amateur photographer envious!

The recipes offer a variety of seasonings: Rib-Eye Steaks with Tomato Harissa, Flatiron Steaks with Little Italy Relish, Sweet Chili-Mustard Chicken Salad with Toasted Almonds, Smoked Pulled Pork in Hot Chile Sauce, and Soft Tacos with Halibut, Guacamole, and South American Slaw are some examples. A fun range of ingredients and lots of fresh herbs and vegetables – I can always find a recipe to try in this book!

In September 2013 we were “stranded” at our home northwest of Lyons by a 500-year flood. Rushing water covered our only drivable way to civilization. Our power was out for a week in our all-electric home. We had no landline service. No cell phone reception. I am a packrat, so we had plenty of food, but how to cook? The Weber grill! That’s when I pulled out Weber’s Real Grilling and learned how to grill pizzas. They were wonderful!

For this blog I choose to make “Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches”.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches recipe

I like the seasoning mix for the marinade, and I like using chicken thighs sometimes instead of chicken breasts. Ever since our trip to Turkey, I’ve especially enjoyed Mediterranean-style food. Plus: pitas! It’s been ages since I’ve bought (or made) pita bread. For the “creamy cucumber or blue cheese dressing”, I will substitute a cucumber dressing that I have in my own cooking documents.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Cucumber Dressing for Two

  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (or use fresh garlic)
  • a few shakes each: dry mustard, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper (to your own tastes)
  • 8-10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 pita breads
  • lettuce and tomatoes
  • cucumber dressing: 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a couple leaves fresh mint (if you have it), and about a third of a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Whisk together the marinade ingredients (lemon though the spices). Place the chicken thighs in a plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Close the bag and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Combine the cucumber dressing ingredients and set aside.

Remove the thighs from the bag and discard the marinade. Grill over direct high heat until the meat is firm, 8-10 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from the grill, and when cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into small pieces. Combine with enough of the dressing to coat the chicken and mix well.

Cut the pita breads in half. Open each half and fill with the chicken mixture, lettuce, and tomatoes and serve.


My cucumber dressing, pita pockets, marinated chicken, and the veggies:

Pita Sandwich ingredients

Here is an assembled sandwich

pita sandwiches

We both enjoyed these! The chicken in nicely seasoned and well complimented by the cucumber dressing. We had them for dinner on a hot summer day, but they’d be good for lunch too.

I’ve made chicken salad for sandwiches before, zillions of times. Usually I use boiled chicken. Marinating and grilling the chicken – for chicken salad? A great idea. Putting the salad in pita bread? Another great idea. Next time, I’ll probably cook the chicken ahead of time, since they are served at room temperature.

250 Cookbooks: M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker

Cookbook #163: M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker, Sunbeam Appliance Company, 1976.

M'sieur Crepe Crepemaker cookbook

This cookbook came from my mother’s collection. Someone must have given her a M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker back in the late 1970s. I was already on my own and living in Colorado by that time, and I don’t remember her ever talking about making crepes. She didn’t mark any of the recipes, but she stuffed a lot of crepe recipe clippings into this little instruction/recipe cookbook!

The M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker was a “dip and cook” type of crepemaker. It came with a hot plate, a pan that fit over it, and a large flat dish to hold the batter. To use this set up, first, you pre-heat the pan – inverted – on the hot plate. Then, take it off the hot plane dip the bottom (the outside) of the pan into the batter and hold it there for a few seconds. Finally, put the pan, again inverted, on the hot plate. In about a minute, the crepe bakes on the top of the underside of the pan. (Details at about.com.)

Below is a photo of the M’sieur Crepemaker that I pulled from the web. Unfortunately, I don’t have my mother’s crepemaker in my possession. It would be fun to try!

MSieur Crepemaker

You can no longer buy this Sunbeam M’sieur Crêpemaker, although I saw a few vintage ones for sale on a couple sites accessed June 2016. The Day, a New London, Connecticut paper, includes this crepemaker in a July 28 1976 article entitled “Versatile French crepes are latest food fad everywhere“. It cost $29.95. Dip-and-Cook crepemakers are available new: for instance, the CucinaPro cordless crepemaker for $35.99.

I am a big fan of crepes and have already posted several crepe-dish recipes on this blog. Last fall, we travelled to Paris and thoroughly enjoyed street crepes.

Crepe batters are made from eggs, flour, and milk or water, and often a little butter or oil. Some batters include sour cream, baking powder, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, sugar, and even chocolate. The exact ratios of these ingredients vary; French crepes are thin, some of the American ones I make are thick. I have a little 7-inch crepe pan that I use for everyday crepes. I have also made French-style crepes (a recipe from Cooks Illustrated) In a 12-inch skillet.

For this blog, I decide to try one of the recipes that my mother tucked into this booklet: Ham and Sour Cream Crepes.

Ham and Cheese CrepesHam and Cheese CrepesHam and Cheese Crepes

Ham and Sour Cream Crepes
serves 2

  • crepes (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 12 ounces chopped ham
  • 1/3 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted

Mix the sour cream, green onions, and mustard. Sprinkle the cheese on the crepes. Top with ham, then spread a heaping tablespoon of the sour cream mixture on top of the ham. Roll the crepes and place in a baking dish.

Mix the bread crumbs and the melted butter and sprinkle this mixture on the crepes. Bake at 350˚ about 12 minutes, until golden brown.

makes 6-8

  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix in a blender and let stand an hour or so. Use about 3 tablespoons batter to cook each crepe on a hot skillet or crepe pan. (More crepe-cooking instructions are here.)

These were indeed “very good”! I will definitely make them again. A good way to use leftover ham.

Ham and Sour Cream CrepesNote: Later in the week, I made chocolate crepes following a recipe in M’sieur Crêpe Electric Crepemaker. Filled with fresh strawberries and whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce, they too were delicious!

250 Cookbooks: Cooking of Japan

Cookbook #161: Cooking of Japan, Rafael Steinberg and the editors of Time-Life Books, Time-LIfe Books, NY, 1969. Foods of the World series; sixth printing, revised 1976.

The Cooking of Japan cookbook

Once again, I look forward to discovering another interesting author as I open this Foods of the World cookbook, just as I discovered M. F. K. Fisher in the Cooking of Provinvial France, Emily Hahn in the Cooking of China, and Joseph Wechsberg in Cooking of Vienna’s Empire. So, who is Rafael Steinberg?

The information page of Cooking of Japan tells us that Rafael Steinberg first went to the Orient as a correspondent during the Korean War. “Later he was a Time correspondent in Tokyo and London, and he spent several years as Newsweek’s Tokyo bureau chief. He is the author of Postscript from Hiroshima, a book about survivors of the nuclear bombing.” In the first chapter, he writes of his first trip to Japan: “as soon as I set foot on the good ship Hikawa-maru in Seattle – oh yes, airplanes were invnvented but they weren’t flying the Pacific – I was confronted with what the passengers called ‘The Choice.’ You could either have a full Western meal or a full Japanese one. I asked for Japanese food, got it three thimes a day and stuck to it for all 21 days of the voyage to Yokohama.”

The above brief excerpt illustrates Steinberg’s writing style (readable! engaging!). His writings are so important that Columbia University Libraries/Information Services’ Rare Book & Manuscript Library acquired the papers of “Rafael Steinberg, a distinguished author and foreign correspondent whose dispatches from Korea, Japan, and elsewhere, provide a unique eyewitness perspective on U.S. foreign relations during the height of the Cold War.” The Columbia University site goes on to say “Described by the New York Times in 1966, as ‘one of the most knowledgable American journalists in Japan,’ he reported on life, death, culture, and politics in key hotspots around the world during some of the most tumultuous events of the 1950s and 1960s. . . . his intuition and quick grasp of events showed brilliantly in reporting on subjects that ranged from diplomacy and disarmament talks to a world heavy-weight boxing championship bout and the cuisines of Asia.”

I feel lucky to have one of the works of this author in my hands to read and enjoy. History and food and the culture of another country. Perfect combinations.

I love the photos in the Cooking of Japan. It’s enjoyable to leaf through the pages and gaze at the artful food presentations, and learn about the culture of Japan. To actually cook many of the recipes in my own kitchen presents a few obstacles. For one, many include raw fish. Here in Colorado fresh sushi fish is very expensive. Plus I have some reservations about buying and consuming raw fish. Other ingredients beyond fish are also hard to find. For instance, to make a dipping sauce for noodles, you need mirin (sweet sake), katsuobushi (dried bonita), and  kombu (dried kelp). Almost each recipe presents a shopping challenge.

Finally, I am not a patient and artful cook. I try! I don’t mind spending hours in the kitchen, but when it comes to meticulously arranging foods, I am inept. And arrangement is a big thing in Japanese food.

I choose three recipes to try for this blog: Red Caviar with “Sleet” Dressing, Cold Noodles with Shrimp and Mushrooms (and a dipping sauce), and Duck Simmered in Sake-Seasoned Sauce.

Red Caviar with Sleet DressingDipping Sauce and Noodles recipeDuck Simmered in Seasoned Sauce

I set off to my favorite Asian Seafood Market with a long list of ingredients. I so enjoy searching the loaded shelves of this market! The lady shopkeeper chides me for not visiting her store in such a long time. I smile and say I’ve been busy with grandkids. I find many of the ingredients on my list, but decide to buy a pre-made Japanese dipping sauce for the noodles and forgo the bonita flakes and kelp. I put Japanese soy sauce, mirin, and soba noodles in my basket. And daikon (radish), ginger, and some big long green beans (not in my recipes, but they look so cool). Much to the pleasure of the shopkeeper, I picked up a package of shrimp wrapped in noodles with a little sauce from the tray at the check-out counter. “Very good!” she exclaims.

That was fun! But I’m still missing a few items, so I have to shop some more. I find sake at the Liquor Mart, and duck breasts and red caviar (salmon roe) at Whole Foods. I was surprised to find dried bonita flakes at Whole Foods – didn’t buy them but did pick up some packaged Japanese snacks. I also bought fresh shitake mushrooms and watercress.

ingredients for a Japanese meal

Japanese snacksI had fun cooking my Japanese dishes and worked as best as I could to artfully arrange them on our plates:

Japanese meal

The meal was great. I thought the duck a little chewy – probably should have thinly sliced breast from a whole duck. Everything else was bright and tasty.

I’m not writing my own versions of these recipes into this blog. I made so many changes as I cooked each recipe that it’s hard to renumerate. And, although the meal was delicious and I learned a lot and got a lot of new ideas, I don’t plan to cook these recipes again.

250 Cookbooks: McCall’s Cook Book

Cookbook #160: McCall’s Cook Book, by the Food Editors of McCall’s, McCall Corporation and Random House Inc., 13th printing, NY, 1963.

McCall's Cook Book

My McCall’s Cook Book falls apart in my hands as I open it. The binding is held together with green tape. The pages are almost water-logged and have quite a few stains. I had this book in California before we moved to Colorado in 1973, so I probably bought it (or was it a gift?) when I was attending UCI or at my first job. After all these years, it still resides in the cabinet next to my stove. And I still use it!

McCall’s Cook Book was my first very own thick, comprehensive cookbook. It precedes the other aged cooking tome I keep in the kitchen: Joy of Cooking. McCall’s is the kind of cooking I grew up with, and to this day, I am very comfortable with this book. The Joy of Cooking has a lot of character and bossiness, but McCall’s makes me feel at home. Both books belong in my kitchen!

McCall’s used to be a women’s magazine. On Wikipedia, I learn that that McCall’s was one of the Seven Sisters, “a group of magazines which have traditionally been aimed at married women who are homemakers with husbands and children, rather than single and working women.” I remember all of these magazines so well (and I don’t let myself buy them anymore, too many recipes in my files!):

  • Better Homes and Gardens
  • Good Housekeeping
  • Family Circle
  • Redbook
  • Woman’s Day
  • Ladie’s Home Journal
  • McCall’s

McCall’s magazine ceased publication in 2002, and today McCall’s is best know as a brand of sewing pattern.

I’ve always used this cookbook as a reference for cooking methods and times, and for researching how to cook something new. The yeast bread section is well used! A couple of the recipes I marked: Ginger-Sugar Cookies and McCall’s Best Cheesecake (I notes to use deli cream cheese if possible). The Sweet-and-Sour Pork recipe is one of my favorites. In this recipe, the pork is battered and deep fried. It is delicious that way, but I usually cook pork chunks unbattered in a little oil (to save calories). But the recipe for the sweet-and-sour sauce is right on in its balance of vinegar and sugar. I’ve referred to it tons of times.

Lasagna! I associate lasagne with this cookbook. I first cooked McCall’s lasagne while still living in California. Though I was a fledgling cook, it came out absolutely wonderful. I remember it as my first dish that I could always count on to “wow” my diners. Let’s see, where is that recipe? I check the index for “lasagne”. No, it’s not in the “L”. Now I remember, this cookbook has a quirky index. I put on my thinking cap and recall that the lasagna recipe is in the “International Cookery” section. Sure enough, when I look under “Italian” in the index, I find “baked Lasagna”.

This recipe for lasagna (below) is what I call a “full-on lasagna recipe”. It uses none of the shortcuts I often employ these days, like no-bake noodles, sauted ground meat, and a quick can of tomato sauce and herbs. In this recipe, you boil regular packaged noodles, a time consuming process, but I think it makes a better lasagna than the no-bake noodles. And this lasagna recipe has wonderful meatballs, sauted briefly and then simmered a long time with canned tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic and herbs to make the sauce. Finally, the requisite mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmesan cheeses.

Baked Lasagne recipe

Yes! This is what I want to make for this blog. The recipe says it serves six, so I’ll make it in two pans and have some to share with my son and his wife and their new baby!

Baked Lasagna
serves 6


  • 1 pound hamburger
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or use 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg

tomato sauce

  • olive oil to saute meatballs (a couple tablespoons)
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or use 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste, or use 2 12-ounce cans tomato sauce and skp the 1/2 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or, salt the sauce “to taste”)
  • black pepper to taste

the rest of the ingredients

  • 1/2 of a 1-pound package of lasagne noodles
  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese, chopped into dice or grated
  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine all meatball ingredients and toss lightly to mix well, then make about 30 3/4-inch meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Brown the meatballs on all sides, then remove them from the pan and reserve.

Pour some of the grease out of the pan, if you like. Then, add the onion, garlic, and parsley and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and stir together. Then, add the meatballs. Simmer, uncovered, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce simmers, boil the lasagna noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with a little water. Handle carefully, as sometimes they like to fall apart.

Set out a 9×13-inch baking dish. (I used one 8×8-inch dish and one a bit smaller; there was plenty of sauce and noodles and cheeses to fill both dishes.) I like to put a smear of tomato sauce down first onto the baking dish, under the first layer of noodles. Alternatively, you can lightly grease the bottom of the baking dish.

Layer half the ingredients, in this order: lasagna noodles, mozzarella, ricotta, tomato sauce with meatballs, and Parmesan cheese; then repeat.

Bake 30-35 minutes at 350˚, or until cheese is melted and lasagna is heated through. (The directions do not say to cover the lasagna, but I usually do cover it with foil, until the last 10 minutes or so of baking.)

Baked LasagnaThis lasagna was “a cut above” and “amazing”, comments from my millenium-age son and his wife. I give it a big “yum”!

250 Cookbooks: Best in the West Barbecue Recipes

Cookbook #159: Best in the West Barbecue Recipes, Western Family, Inc., August 1958.

Best in the West Barbecue Recipes cookbook

What or who is or was “Western Family”, the publisher of this book? I found that it was a 1950s magazine about life in the western US. A few vintage issues are available through eBay and Amazon and other sources. If you google “Western Family Magazine 1958” you will be rewarded with the cover art of several issues – I’d copy some in here but don’t feel comfortable because of copyright issues.

Best in the West Barbecue Recipes is a small stapled-together booklet that must have been associated with the August 1958 magazine issue. And I think it was my grandmother’s, because there is a smidgeon of writing in it that looks like hers:

note in the Best in the West BBQ cookbook

I like the introduction page:

introductionI am surprised how much I like the recipes in this dated booklet! Many of them sound pretty good; albeit the instructions are often quite brief: “Pour the marinade over the ribs and marinate for at least one hour. Grill ribs over charcoal for 45-60 minutes, or until done, turning frequently and brushing with sauce.” Each recipe includes the name of the contributor, usually a “Mrs.” from a western state.

Note the barbecue grill in the photo of the cover of this cookbook (top of this page). That’s the kind of barbecue I grew up with. It was fairly flat and you spread the charcoal in a single layer and cooked on the grill right above the charcoal. I’m not even sure it had a cover. Simple but functional.

This all certainly brings back the sunny times in California in the 1950s: sitting on the wooden table and benches in the tree-shaded patio right off our kitchen, charcoal fire started, family friends gathering for a meal together, adults laughing with their cocktails, us kids being kids. It was a great place to grow up.

I decide to make Just-Right Barbecued Chicken:

Just Right Barbecue ChickenJust Right Barbecue Chicken I haven’t cooked bone-in chicken pieces on a grill in ages. Below are the instructions given in this booklet for an old-style charcoal grill.

grilling instructions

What I like about the recipe for Just Right Barbecue Chicken is the included barbecue sauce. I made a few minor changes in the sauce recipe (more spices, less salt, chile sauce for “chili pepper catsup”) and to adapt the grilling instructions for my covered gas grill, I consulted my Weber Real Grilling cookbook. All changes are incorporated below.

Just-Right Barbecued Chicken
serves 2 – with leftovers!

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (I used white vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup chile sauce
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (or use 6-ounce can tomato paste and increase water to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • cut up frying chicken (I used 2 breasts, 4 legs, 3 thighs)
  • vegetable or olive oil for brushing chicken

Combine the sauce ingredients (1/2 cup brown sugar through the 1/3 cup vegetable oil) and simmer about 30 minutes. This makes enough for two chickens; I used less chicken so I had leftover sauce. Note: this sauce is not as thick as most modern barbecue sauces, but it works great.

Heat a gas grill on high until it’s good and hot, then turn off all but one burner. You want the temperature to be “medium” – I aim for 325-350˚ on the gas grill gauge.

Brush the chicken pieces with oil – I actually just put the chicken in a bowl and poured olive oil over them and rubbed it in. Put the pieces on the grill over indirect heat (and close the lid). Grill about 5 minutes and then turn and grill another 5 minutes until they have nice grill marks. Next, brush with the sauce. For the next 30 minutes or so, keep brushing with sauce and turning every 5-10 minutes, monitoring the grill temperature to keep it at medium. To test for doneness, I used an instant read thermometer, and when the chicken pieces read 150-160˚ I took them off the grill. (Some were done sooner than others.)

Just Right Barbecued ChickenThis chicken was really good! I will definitely grill chicken this way again. The sauce was perfect, and the chicken was juicy. It was just as good cold the next day!

To go with the chicken, I made “Western Potato Strip-Teasers”.

Western Potato Strip Teasers recipe

These potatoes are baked in foil the oven, and kept hot on the edge of the grill as the main dish is cooked. I made the potatoes pretty much as they said, except I used milk instead of cream and cheddar cheese instead of process American cheese.

Western Potato Strip-Teasers
serves 2

  • 2 good-sized potatoes (or several small, you need enough for 2 people)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, cut in small chunkl
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup milk

Take a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and shape it to form a baking dish.

Peel the potatoes and cut lengthwise strips as for French fries. Place in the aluminum foil baking dish. Dot the potatoes with butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cheese and 1 tablespoon of the parsley. Pour the milk over the mixture. Bring the edges of the foil up to cover the potatoes; seal alll edges to make a closed package (but do not flatten). Place it on a cookie sheet to make it easier to slip in and out of the oven.

Bake at 425˚ for 40-50 minutes, until the potatoes are done. Sprinkle with remaining parsley. If you like, you can take the foil package outside to your grill and keep the potatoes warm until dinner is ready.

Potato Strip Teasers

We both really liked these. I wanted “more!” I even ate some of the leftovers cold from the refrigerator the next day. And clean-up was really easy!

And what am I going to do with this little cookbook? I’m going to put it with my “old cookbooks” for the nostalgia. And maybe to cook another good old recipe sometime!

250 Cookbooks: El Molino Best Recipes

Cookbook #157: El Molino Best Recipes, El Molino Mills, Alhambra, CA, 1953.

El Molino Best Recipes cookbook

El Molino Mills was a “specialty miller of whole grain flours and cereals”. Established in 1926 in California, it was owned by the Vandercook family. The company no longer exists, as far as I can tell. The trademark was last owned by Archol Pure Products Corporation.

I probably bought my copy of El Molino Best Recipes while we were still in California, in the early 1970s. An online search revealed several different editions and book cover images for the same title. Mine was probably one of the later printings.

I haven’t looked at this cookbook in decades! The first recipe is “Whole Wheat Bread”, and it looks like I used this recipe because the page is a little food stained. I probably studied this recipe and the next several pages on breadmaking way back when we were first living together in an old house in Huntington Beach. I was determined to make my own whole wheat yeast bread, even then. The hippie movement was heavily into “back to the earth” cooking, and El Molino Best Recipes abounds with ingredients such as whole grains and soy beans and carob and sprouts.

This cookbook might be where I learned about the importance of gluten in yeast breads. Most of its bread recipes include a bit of gluten flour. But I don’t remember “wet gluten base”. You mix water and flour to make a ball of dough, then put it in a bowl of water and let stand a couple hours. Next you wash out the starch by kneading under water, continually pouring off the starchy water and kneading the dough. In the end, you have a lump of raw gluten, high in protein. What do you do with it? You cook it and make meat-free burgers and the like. Sounds pretty yucky to me.

I’m not inclined to keep this cookbook, but I might, just for the memories. We were brought up on soft, white store bread – breads and cereals made from chewy grains were a whole new discovery.

I decide to make “Soy Chili Con Carne” for this blog. I’ve been meaning to make soy bean chili ever since I bought soy beans when I covered The Soybean Cookbook. Soy bean chili is about the only way I liked cooked soy beans. But I haven’t made it in years!

Soy Chili Con Carne recipe

I have an electric pressure cooker, so I’ll use it to cook the soy beans. I found some salt pork from Whole Foods in my freezer, but it could be left out.

Soy Bean Chili
serves 2

  • 1 cup uncooked soybeans
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons diced salt pork (optional)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/4 pound ground meat
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • additional chili powder (optional)
  • cayenne powder to taste

Combine the soybeans, tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon chili powder, salt, and enough water to cover the beans in an electric pressure cooker. Cook on high for 15 minutes; quick release the pressure. Alternatively, cook on the stove top several hours, until the soybeans are soft.

Fry the salt pork until crisp (if you are using it). Add the onions and cook until soft, then add the ground meat and cook until it is brown. Add the cooked soybeans*, tomatoes, and more chile powder (optional). Simmer on the stove top about an hour to mingle the flavors. Add more chili powder, cayenne powder, and salt to taste.

*I cooked the soybeans in too much liquid, so I drained the cooked beans and saved the cooking liquid, and only added back a portion of the cooking liquid so the chili would not be too soupy.

Soybean Chili

I made this soybean chili on a snowy April morning. I didn’t think it would be very good, I was kind of making it just as an “experiment”, but both of us tasted it and loved it and we scarfed up the entire batch for lunch! Cheese on it is very good, and onions too. The soybeans are a bit crunchier than pintos or kidney beans, and all in all, it was simply excellent.

250 Cookbooks: Italian Light Cooking

Cookbook #154: Italian Light Cooking, Elisa Celli, Prentice Hall Press, Ny, Ny, 1987.

Italian Light Cooking cookbook

I haven’t opened this book in years! I bought it for myself, probably at The Peppercorn. One more venture into finding low-calorie recipes to cook, a common pastime until last year when I read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz. (Which may have been a mistake!)

I like this book. Elisa Celli’s ideas for lighter cooking are pretty much like the Mediterranean diet of today: lots of fresh vegetables and fish, less red meats and cheeses, lots of “green olive oil”. (Green olive oil is extra virgin olive oil.) Celli also advocates for durum wheat pasta, which she claims is lower in calories than white flour pasta. She wrote several cookbooks in the late 1980s, and has a current presence on Facebook and YouTube.

Betsy Balsley wrote a review article of this cookbook in the November 1987 LA Times. It’s a good article, and says what I’d like to say – better! Here it is: Remembrance of Things Pasta: Cookbook Writer Elisa Celli Knows What Makes Good–and Bad–Italian Food.

What Celli calls “light” is not necessarily “low-calorie”. Celli feels that Americans add too much butter, cream, and cheese to pasta. In Italy, where she grew up, only small amounts of these heavy ingredients are added to the meals – her Italian food is “light” with lots of vegetables and herbs and fish and small amounts of lean meat. For the dieter, calorie values are clearly listed with each recipe.

(Some recipes do excede the allowance on a low-calorie diet.)

I chose three recipes to try: fettucini, a fish dish, and a dessert. The fettucini recipe comes from the introductory pages of this book and illustrates the Italian light way of cooking:

Celli's fettuccine

The fish is Pesce Positano, or Grilled or Baked Fish with Wine, Herb, and Garlic Sauce:

Grilled Fish Italian recipe

The dessert is Chocolate Raspberry Crema Alla Lynn. I chose this because I like chocolate had some leftover ricotta cheese in the refrigerator!

Chocolate Raspberry Crema recipe


The fettucini was delicious. It’s a simple recipe: cook the noodles and toss with a small amount of butter, half and half (you could use cream), Parmesan cheese, and parsley. However, I was not able to find a “durum semolina” pasta that had only 210 calories in 5 ounces. I stood in Whole Foods for a long time reading labels. I found several that were “100% durum”, but the lowest calorie value I could find was 500 calories in in 5 ounces. My fettucini dish was good, but not as low calorie as specified in Italian Light Cooking. (Online research reveals: both semolina and durum flours are made from durum wheat; semolina is the milled inner kernel of the wheat – endosperm – and it is a coarse-grind flour; durum is the milled grain, I think it’s everything except the endosperm but I’m not positive.)

*Note: A few weeks after I wrote this post, I found Paccheri at Whole Foods, made from “durum wheat semolina”. The calorie value is 150 calories per 56 grams, so about 375 calories in 5 ounces. Lower, but not as low as Italian Light Cooking specified.

Durum Pasta

The chocolate dessert tasted “almost good” – we both said that! This is probably due to my mis-interpretation of the measurement of chocolate. The recipe calls for “4 squares of unsweetened chocolate”. What’s in a “square”? My package of Baker’s unsweetened chocolate claims that 2 of the squares in their package (1 ounce) equals 1 square of past-packaging. I do not know what type of packaging Celli’s book meant, so I assumed it was “past-packaging” and I used 4 ounces, or 8 squares, of Baker’s chocolate. It was waaaayy too much chocolate. The dessert hardened quickly into a mass like a pile of hard and cold cookie. It tasted good but a little too bitter, and the mouth-feel was not good. (If I made this again, I would use 2 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.)

The fish was very good and the recipe as I prepared it is below. The drawback to this recipe is that we live in Colorado. Miles from any ocean. I only like fish purchased very fresh and that means very expensive. Wild caught fresh halibut was $27.99 per pound at Whole Foods. I do buy fish this expensive on occasion, since we rarely eat out (and usually save money by eating at home). But it’s really a ridiculous price.

Grilled Fish with Wine-Garlic Sauce
serves 2

  • 3/4 pound fish fillets (flounder, halibut, swordfish, bass, sole)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry Italian seasoning (I added a little fresh basil too)
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

To make the sauce, whisk together all of the ingredients except the fish.

Put the fish on a piece of foil. Since you will be pouring the sauce over it, you need to make the foil boat-like. Pour most of the sauce on the fish and wrap the foil around it tightly. Save the rest of the sauce to pass at the table or to pour over the cooked fish before you serve it.

Prepare a hot grill (I use a gas grill). Put the foil-wrapped fish on the grill and cook on high direct meat for 3-4 minutes. Peek at the fish to see if it looks nearly cooked through; if it isn’t, cook a few minutes longer. Keep the fish very slightly underdone.

Serve immediately.

Italian Grilled Fish

I put my fish on top of the fettucini. It was very good! Well seasoned, and the halibut I used was yummy. My dining partner said it was almost “too healthy” tasting. I scarfed it up because I was starving. This is a nice way to cook fish on the grill, since you don’t have to worry about it burning, nor was there any mess to clean up.