Favorites: Cheater’s Chiles Rellenos

My “real” recipe for chile rellenos calls for deep frying the rellenos. They are wonderful, but I rarely make them because of the fat calories the frying adds to the dish (not to mention the time-consuming and messy process of deep frying the egg-battered stuffed chiles).

Instead, I make this cheater’s version a lot. This recipe is from my own index card collection and probably entered my repertoire in the 1970s.

Cheater’s Chiles Rellenos
serves 4

  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 4-oz. can green chilies, diced
  • 1/2 lb. Jack cheese, sliced thin or grated
  • salsa or a spicy diced tomato sauce like rotel
  • optional: sour cream

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Beat egg yolks lightly, add flour and salt and mix until smooth. Fold in whites until well blended. Turn half the mixture into a greased 12x8x2-inch baking dish. Cover with chiles and cheese. Top with remaining egg mixture.

Bake at 325˚ about 25 minutes. Top with salsa and sour cream.

Half a recipe: I made a half recipe and baked it in a 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 1 1/2-inch small Le Creuset baking dish. I baked it at 350˚ about 25 minutes. It puffed up over the top of the baking dish and turned out pretty and perfect.

250 Cookbooks: Bon Appétit Best Entertaining Recipes

Cookbook #49: Bon Appétit Best Entertaining Recipes. Bon Appetit, The Condé Nast Publications, Inc., NY, NY, 2004.

Best Entertaining RecipesThis cookbook came my way because I subscribed to the Bon Appetit magazine for several years. It was probably a bonus book for renewing my subscription.

I’d like to throw this cookbook away. Why? Because the content is such a jumble of types of recipes. “Entertaining” encompasses everything from appetizers to desserts, and every cuisine imaginable. Here’s what the authors say in the introduction:

“This collection brings together some of Bon Appetit’s very best entertaining recipes, organized by course for easy mixing and matching to help you design one-of-a-kind menus and unforgettable parties.”

I’m not a big party or entertaining cook. Most frequently, I’m looking for a “dinner for two” menu. But this cookbook is still useful to me, because a lot of the recipes have a little flare to perk up a Saturday night meal. I still find ideas in this cookbook, so I’ll keep it.

Here is a list of recipes in this book that I might try. Pet Peeve Alert! These are many-word recipe titles, yes the descriptions are nice, but I think many-word-titles are pretentious.

  • Cherry Tomato Polenta Tartlets with Basil Mayonnaise
  • Roasted Beef Tenderloin Wrapped in Bacon
  • Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce
  • Proscuitto-Stuffed Pork Tenderloin with Mushroom Sauce
  • Julienne of Sesame Carrots and Celery Root
  • Summer Rice Salad with Feta, Citrus, and Mint
  • Spinach and Radicchio Salad with Mushrooms and Cashews

There are also a lot of desserts, but I’m pretty happy with my current dessert repertoire.

For this blog, I decide to try “Romaine Salad with Chipotle Dressing and Warm Queso Fresco”. I am looking for a tasty and color-contrasting side dish for a Mexican meal. My menu plan includes shredded-beef enchiladas (using my own homemade enchilada sauce) and cheater’s chile rellenos. This green salad with a Mexican flare fits the bill.

Here is the original recipe:

Romain SaladRomaine SaladI made a few changes in the original, and am shortening the name. Below is my version.

Romaine Salad with Warm Queso Fresco
serves 2, but easily multiplies

  • 2 ounces Mexican queso fresco cheese, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1/2 cup cornflakes, finely crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
  • olive oil for brushing the cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (for the salad dressing)
  • 1 teaspoon bottled hot sauce (I used Cholula)
  • 1-2 teaspoons lime or lemon juice
  • dash of salt and sugar
  • romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces, enough for 2 people
  • optional: tomato and avocado slices

Mix the cornflakes and oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste. Brush each cheese wedge on all sides with olive oil, then roll each in the cornflake mixture, coating completely. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake at 400˚ for about 5 minutes. The cheese wedges should be hot and softened but not melted.

Meanwhile, whisk together the oil, hot sauce, lime juice, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Toss with the romaine and plate. When the cheese wedges are ready, put them on the romaine salad, along with avocado and tomato slices (if desired).

Note: you can coat the cheese wedges and make the salad dressing ahead of time and pop the cheese in the oven just before serving. This is great if you are entertaining.

My photo of the salad is below. Yes, the plate is half-empty! My hot enchiladas and chile rellenos were still in the oven.

Romaine Salad with Warm Queso FrescoI’ll make this little salad again. I like queso fresco, and it’s easy to find in most any supermarket these days. It was easy, and added just the flare that I wanted to my Mexican meal.

250 Cookbooks: Country Cakes

Cookbook #48: Country Cakes, A Homestyle Treasury. Lisa Yockelson, Harper and Row, Publishers, New York, 1989.

Country CakesIt’s good to be back to my cooking blog! The townspeople of Lyons, and myself in the Lyons outskirts included, are beginning to recover physically and mentally from the September flood. Time to again take up my favorite pastimes.

And what a sweet way to do it: Country Cakes! This book was a present from my aunt and uncle to my mother for Christmas, 1989. My mother always wrote these remembrances on the inside cover of her cookbooks. It’s almost Christmas again, and I smile thinking of my mother.

I first picked this cookbook from the shelf looking for a recipe for a very rich cake to make on a small scale for one of our good meals during the holidays. You see, both our kids are off in other parts of the world this Christmas, and our own brothers and sisters are in California and Hawaii. So there’s just us two. But it’s still Christmas, and we can eat something very, very rich on Christmas, that’s the rule.

To my surprise, this cookbook does not have many over-the-top rich cake recipes. Instead, it has recipes for a lot of cakes that are right up my healthy alley. Apples, bananas, nectarines, blueberries, sweet potatoes, carrots, raisins, and nuts abound as ingredients in Lisa’s recipes. Sure, the cakes are still high in calories, but they pack some nutritional punch. On the downside, the recipes call for butter rather than a “healthy” oil, and are generous with it; they use regular flour instead of whole wheat. On the upside, these cakes will taste great.

Each day, you should eat at least a bite of something that makes you stop whatever you are doing and say “wow!” That’s my new year’s resolution.

Mother tried and liked “Chocolate Pan Cake with Chocolate Fudge Frosting”. This is one of the recipes in the book that is very rich. (But it’s not my choice for this blog.)

Chocolate Pan CakeChocolate Pan CakeThe book has a cute layout, with each recipe covering two pages, decorated with illustrations. Each recipe is introduced with a friendly note.

Almost each cake in this book is made with a basic procedure: “the fat, usually butter, is beaten for several minutes before a measure of sugar is added in stages and thoroughly combined; eggs and flavorings are then mixed into the batter completely; finally, a sifted or stirred  mixture, which contains leavening and salt and any spices being used, is added to the batter alternately with a liquid, such as milk, buttermilk or cream.” I learned this method in my mother’s kitchen, and every from-scratch cake baker to this day still uses it. Easy as cake!

The categories of cakes in this cookbook include: back porch cakes, coffee cakes, traveling cakes, upside-down, cakes, pound cakes, fresh fruit picnic cakes, little cakes, and cake and ice cream. I want to try the Marbled German Chocolate Cake, Coconut Layer Cake, Peach Upside-Down Cake, Blueberry Gingerbread, Raspberry Coffee Cake, Banana Coconut Coffee Cake – and more!

I had a sweet potato lurking in my potato bin that was asking to be cooked, so I decided to try the “Walnut-Sweet Potato Coffee Cake”. Instead of a rich dessert cake, this should be a sweet, moist and fragrant treat for these cold holiday mornings.

Walnut-Sweet Potato CakeWalnut-Sweet Potato CakeI would call this a “quick bread” rather than a cake. The distinction? In my mind, I think of quick breads as breads baked in a loaf pan and intended for breakfast or snacking. But I won’t quibble.

This recipe calls for a 10 x 3 1/4 x 3-inch loaf pan. I have tons of loaf pans, but none that size. I went to a local kitchenware store and couldn’t find one there either. A quick web search pulls up only 10 x 5-inch loaf pans. (Why did the author choose such an unusual pan?) So, I did a volume calculation and decided to use an 8 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, although I knew this size might be a touch too small.

 Walnut-Sweet Potato Coffee Cake

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you use salted butter, cut the added salt in half)
  • 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated orange rind
  • 1 cup cooked sweet potatoes, pureed (I probably used 1 1/4 cups)

For the topping:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cook the sweet potato and mash or puree it; measure 1 (generous) cup. Lightly grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Turn on the oven to 350˚.

Sift (or stir) together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.

Combine the topping ingredients, crumbling the mixture together with your fingers until the butter is broken own into small bits. Set aside.

Melt the 4 tablespoons butter and place it in a large bowl. Use a spoon or a hand mixer to beat in the sugar and the brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each. Add the milk, vanilla, orange rind, and sweet potatoes. Stir in the flour mixture and the 1/2 cup walnuts.

Turn the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the top, pressing it gently down into the batter.

Bake at 350˚ for about 45 minutes, or until it tests done with a toothpick or cake tester. Let cool in pan at least 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack (see my note on inverting the cake in my comments).

Walnut-Sweet Potato Cake


This coffee cake is delicious. I baked it in a smaller loaf pan, though, and the topping fell off when I inverted it onto the cooling rack. It did not look pretty! In my version of the recipe, above, I suggest using a larger loaf pan and pressing the topping into the batter before baking. And then, after cooking, carefully cover the cake with perhaps foil while inverting it to get it out of the pan.

I might try this in a square pan next time. That way, I could serve it right out of the pan and avoid the inverting step. A crumbly topping is always going to fall off when a cake is inverted! Another option is to skip the topping and cook it in a smaller loaf pan. Tough decision, because the cinnamon-walnut-sugar topping gives a burst of flavor, making me say “wow!”.