Family picnic with text: Easy Meat-free Salad Recipe for Labor Day Picnic

Healthy Labor Day Picnic

Why not gather your family together for a healthy Labor Day picnic with this fabulous meat-free salad?

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High Altitude Cooking Tips

I am so grateful for all the nice comments we receive here at The Cookbook People.com in reference to my easy-to-use Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software. I recently received a wonderful email from Randi Levin of The Muffin Lady Inc. in Colorado who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in the special art of high altitude cooking.

Randi was kind enough to send us some suggestions for improving our high altitude cooking tips. By popular demand, she has written a cookbook about high altitude cooking so that others may find palatable success high above the ocean.

Meanwhile, here are some excerpts from her email:

Dear Erin and All at Cookbook People:

Please allow me to communicate a few differences between your high altitude cooking tips and mine. I mean absolutely no disrespect at all. MY goal is to help others find palatable success at high altitudes. Most of your tips are worthy and based on scientific information, but MINE are based on decades of experience high above the ocean.

I have been baking and adjusting recipes in the mountains of Colorado for 32 years to date in elevations between 5,000 and 8,000 feet. Many of my cookbook recipes originated from family members at sea level, and were adjusted for higher elevations accordingly. Several are actually more than 100 years old, and “to DIE FOR.” (Bless Great Grandmothers!).

I hope these adjustments help your readers.
Enjoy,

Randi L. Levin
The Muffin Lady
Author, Publisher & High Altitude Food Specialist

Dear Randi: I am delighted that you gave us permission to include your additional thoughts and comments here on our website! The table below shows our high altitude tips placed side-by-side with Randi’s suggested comments, which we will be including in our upcoming software update.

From Matilda’s Fantastic Cookbook Software:

Randi’s High Altitude Tips/Comments:

Water boils at a lower temperature (each 500-ft increase in altitude causes a drop of about 1° in the boiling point). For example, at 7,500 feet the boiling point will be 198°. Since it will not be as hot as it is at lower altitudes, you will have to boil it longer to achieve the same effect.

P

Baked goods that include yeast or baking powder will rise faster which may sound good, but it’s not. They will dry out.

P

Boil things longer if you are at an elevation of 5,000 feet or more.

Boil things longer if you are at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more.

Oven temperatures are affected by altitude, so it is sometimes necessary to adjust the suggested oven temperature. For batters and dough, you should increase the temperature by 25° Fahrenheit if you are at an elevation of 3,500 feet or more.

I have lived at 5,000 feet, 6,900 feet and currently at 8,000 feet above the ocean and have never raised the temperature. Actually, for some items, (roasts, biscuits, etc.), I suggest lowering the temperature by 5-25°F. For example, if biscuits call for baking at 425°F to 450°F, I lower the temperature 25 degrees: 400°F to 425°F.

Why: When raising the temperature in dry environments such as the Rockies, Sierras or Alps, all you are doing is increasing the dry heat. Sure the product will work, but it will also dry out much more rapidly. Additionally, the only reason to increase the liquid by 1/4 cup (4T) is so that the excess dry heat may absorb and then evaporate it. The product will still dry out faster when the temperature is raised!

Adjust ingredients that cause your baked goods to rise. Smaller pans work better at high altitudes.

P

Use more liquids (including that used in rice, soups and vegetables) slightly to allow for longer cooking times.

KUDOS, as this is an absolute.

Reduce baking powder

For each teaspoon, decrease by:

3,000 feet 1/8 teaspoon

5,000 feet 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon

7,000 feet 1/4 teaspoon

Reduce baking powder (and baking soda) a smidgen. It is easier and more effective to simply decrease these leavening agents by slightly indenting your finger into the powder when leveling the measuring spoon. You will want to decrease each by 1/4 teaspoon at 9,500-10,000 feet and above!

Reduce sugar

For each cup, decrease:

3,000 feet 0 – 1 tablespoon

5,000 feet 0 – 2 tablespoon

7,000 feet 1 – 3 tablespoon

3,000 feet has minimal adjustments, if any, according to folks I have spoken to. Elevations of 3,500 feet seem to be where the adjustments actually begin. I am at 8,000+ feet, so why would I want to decrease one of my moisturizing agents so drastically? Whenever I measure sugar, I simply measure it to just below the cup line, not by 3 or more Tablespoons. or else I would have a drier product than desired.

Increase liquid

For each cup, add:

3,000 feet 1 – 2 tablespoon

5,000 feet 2 – 4 tablespoon

7,000 feet 3 – 4 tablespoon

Adding 1-2 Tablespoons more liquid per elevation is sufficient. You will not want to add any more until above 10,000 feet.

Additionally there is NO mention about increasing FLOUR by 1-2 Tablespoons per cup. This is one of the most important adjustments, especially when trying to avoid sunken cakes and flat cookies.

Erin

bowl of chili with bread on narrow board placed on warm rug with text: Super Vegetarian Chili Recipe for Couch Potatoes

Super Vegetarian Chili Recipe for Couch Potatoes

This may not be a revelation to some readers, but soybeans taste good. And, if I say so myself, my new soy-soy vegetarian chili recipe is divine! It certainly went down well with my bunch of coach potatoes.

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Top 3 Cool Soups for Summer

Summer’s bounty of fresh vegetables is always inspiring. Some of my favorite light dinners on hot summer nights are cold vegetable soups made early in the day so the flavors mingle and meld together. I love spending time outside in the patio sipping a cup of cool soup and munching some crusty French bread (slathered with brie cheese, if I get the chance). Hey, I never said these cool summer soups were non-fat dishes!

I have several recipes for cool summer soups, but here are my Top 3 favorites: Gazpacho, Vichyssoise, and Creamy Zucchini. These cool soup recipes have several things in common: They are easy to make; They are delicious; They share some common ingredients so you can shop for all three recipes at the same time.

Try these Top 3 cool soups for summer and see if you want to include one in your own family recipe cookbook:

# 1. COOL SOUP FOR SUMMER

Gotcha Gazpacho
Even people who think they don’t like this Spanish-style cool soup like this one!
1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (your favorite brand)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium cucumber, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped (or fresh parsley)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce to taste
Garnishes: Sour cream, chopped red onions, tortilla chips

Puree in blender the chicken broth with half the can of diced tomatoes and half of everything else except garnishes. When blended, fold in the other half of the ingredients so there is some texture and crunch. Chill well and serve topped with sour cream and chopped red onion. Serve with tortilla chips. Serves 4 (or 2 little piggies).

# 2. COOL SOUP FOR SUMMER

Velvety Vichyssoise
A classic smooth and perfect-for-sipping flavorful cool soup!
1 14.5 oz. can chicken broth (your favorite brand)
1 2.5 oz. packet leek soup mix (onion soup mix will do in a pinch)
2 cups water
6 medium Russet potatoes
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stalk leek, finely chopped
1 cup whole milk
Salt & pepper to taste
Garnish: Chopped green onions and sour cream

Combine chicken broth, leek soup mix, water, onion and leek in a stockpot. Wash and peel potatoes, then slice down into cubes and boil in chicken/onion broth mixture until potatoes fall apart. Mash any remaining lumps with a potato masher. Cool 15 minutes, then slowly blend soup in batches with a little milk until smooth. Add more milk if needed, along with salt & pepper to taste. Chill for several hours. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and green onions. Serves 4.

# 3. COOL SOUP FOR SUMMER

Creamy Dreamy Zucchini Zoop
A tasty way to get your veggies in a cool summer soup!
2 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth (your favorite brand)
8 medium zucchini, cubed (can also add cauliflower, carrots, spinach, if desired)
1 8 oz. container chive & onion cream cheese spread
1 cup milk
Chopped green onions

Cook zucchini in chicken broth until tender. Remove cooked zucchini from broth, and 2 cups broth, and set both aside to cool 15 minutes. While the zucchini is cooling, dice up the flavored cream cheese and add it to the remaining still hot broth, stirring occasionally. While it melts, puree the cooked zucchini with some cooled broth in small batches until smooth. As you work, pour the pureed zucchini back into the broth with melted cheese. Add milk. Stir thoroughly with a whisk. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled. Garnish with a sprinkling of chopped green onions. Serves 4.

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Pizza Baked on the Barbie

bbq pizza photo

A few years back I was remodeling my kitchen and I wanted to install a pizza oven. I thought it would be fun to make homemade pizzas for family and for parties.

At the time, there were very few options that didn’t cost a ton of money. All the so-called “designer” pizza ovens were not only thousands of dollars, but the cost to install them was also a bit outrageous. We are talking about pizza, not truffles and caviar (although those might be interesting toppings).

So, I resigned myself to the fact that I would not enjoy crafting my own pizza recipes after all. Sigh.¦

Suddenly, I realized I already had a pizza oven. It was called a barbecue grill! Mine happens to be gas-powered with a thermometer on the outside of the heavy lid. (It is very important that the barbecue grill unit be heavy duty because these pizzas bake at around 650ºF-700ºF, much hotter than your regular kitchen range oven.)

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Guy grilling on BBQ with text: "Father’s Day Grillin’ & Chillin’ Menu Favorites + Muhammarah Recipe"

Father’s Day Grillin’ & Chillin’ Menu Favorites + Muhammarah Recipe

Time to dust off the grill and pull the patio cushions from storage so that Dad can have his special moments enjoying some Father’s Day grillin’ & chillin’ favorites.

I thumbed through my family cookbook to devise the menu below. Most of the tastes are strong and guy-oriented, so they are sure to please most anyone who likes bold flavors.

As a special bonus, I’ve included our particular family favorite: a recipe from a Lebanese friend for a delicious, tangy walnut & red pepper spread called Muhammarah.Continue reading

salad ingredients on white background superimposed with green image of hindu goddess and title: Green Goddess Salad Dressing Recipe

Green Goddess Salad Dressing Recipe

Before there was Caesar, before there was Ranch, before there was Balsamic Vinaigrette, there was Green Goddess salad dressing.

Green Goddess salad dressing was one of the most popular salad dressings in the United States at one time. The story goes that Green Goddess salad dressing originated at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923.Continue reading

gherkins with text: Easy, Crisp, Crunchy, Summer-Fresh Freezer Pickles

Easy, Crisp, Crunchy, Summer-Fresh Freezer Pickles

You wouldn’t think a medium-sized Tupperware container of pickles made in the freezer could cause a stir. But it did.

The Tupperware in question was the one that my friend Kim brought a to a social potluck at the local church many years ago.

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Garlic bread ingredients on black ground with text: Garlic Toast - Twice Broiled for Extra Flavor

Garlic Toast – Twice Broiled for Extra Flavor

Garlic toast – twice broiled? It might sound complicated, but this simple, standby recipe is sure to tickle the tastebuds!

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Perplexed cook surrounding by vegetables with text: Vegan? Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Surprisingly easy menus!

Surprisingly Easy Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free Menus

Since Chelsea Clinton’s wedding reception featured vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, this kind of food is now well on the way to becoming a staple of mainstream American cooking.

But if you thumb through your family cookbook, you’ll probably find more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes than you might have imagined.Continue reading

Bowl of salad surrounded by small bowls of other healthy ingredients with text: Top 10 Superfoods in One Nutrition-Packed Meal

Top 10 Superfoods in One Nutrition-Packed Meal

“Why don’t you make a meal out of just the top 10 superfoods?” asked my good friend, Ruth. I had just told her about the article I’d read about the top 10 superfoods and all the nutritional benefits they contain.

Ruth’s idea sounded appealing! I’d already copied down the top 10 superfoods in order to make sure I incorporated them into my shopping list.

All I needed to do was check my list and figure out what I could make!
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Mint ice cream in cone with lime pieces and mint leaves with text Quick Jalapeño Mint Ice Cream Recipe

Quick Jalapeño Mint Ice Cream Recipe

Jalapeño mint ice cream. It sounds kind of odd, doesn’t it? Both hot and cool! But as odd as it sounds, jalapeño mint ice cream is surprisingly good.

Try this quick recipe for jalapeño mint ice cream to startle your dinner guests or have fun at parties!

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Blueberry muffins with mint sprig and text: Low-Calorie Applesauce Muffins Recipe

Low-Calorie Applesauce Muffins Recipe

Some years ago I came up with this low-calorie Applesauce Muffins recipe to replace the very tempting, calorie-laden cupcakes that are available seemingly everywhere.

All it took was reading the label on one giant muffin to convince me that making my own low-calorie Applesauce Muffins would help me practice better portion control.Continue reading

Photo of spinach and garbanzos on dark plate with title: Spinach and Garbanzos - the Perfect Combo! Who Knew?

Spinach and Garbanzos – the Perfect Combo! Who Knew?

I was in the mood for vegetarian one day last week, so I peeked into the fridge and found a big bag of fresh spinach. Then I checked my canned goods pantry and found a big can of garbanzo beans in the back. (Probably intended to make hummus with them, but, well, that never happened.)

So, on to the fresh spinach and garbanzos dish I was about to create. What would make that taste good, I thought. How about adding some garlic, onion and tomatoes for some extra flavor, and a little lemon juice for sparkle? This spinach and garbanzos dish was beginning to remind me of some Mediterranean-style foods I’ve enjoyed.Continue reading

open grilled cheese sandwich on red checkered cloth and wooden table with text: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Remain Triumphant

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches Remain Triumphant

Have you noticed that grilled cheese sandwiches just never go out of fashion?

Whether it’s a basic version sold at a fast food restaurant or a bistro menu item marketed as a trendy retro dish, or a kiddy comfort food, this food is still as popular as ever.

Grilled cheese sandwiches are so popular in America that April has been designated Grilled Cheese Month. Continue reading

7 Fall Favorite One Dish Dinners from Around the World

It seems we migrated into Fall without hardly noticing.

Maybe we’ve been a bit distracted from watching our own personal worth drop with every foot of the ticker tape¦or watching our nation’s delicate financial markets holding the world’s economy at bay¦or watching Presidential debates and waiting for the candidates to give us a real, detailed “change management” agenda.

Nevertheless, Fall is here and some glorious autumn colors are bound to show their reds and golds very soon, perhaps in your part of the world.  Aside from everyone’s woes and jitters, people still gotta eat, and easy is the name of the game for some of our favorite fall one dish dinners with an international flavor.

Following are Easy, Cheap, and Good (ECG) one dish dinners that you can find recipes for on many different websites. The links below to these one dish dinners are generally close to recipes I have made, although some of these websites offer several recipe choices:

USA
Macaroni & Cheese
In this selection of one dish dinner recipes from Delish.com, you are bound to find at least one that suits your fancy for bubbling cheese and macaroni casserole baked fresh in the oven. One of my favorite dishes is mac & cheese with a side of steamed broccoli.

ITALY
Chicken Cacciatore

Wonderful and authentic rustic recipes for this typical stew-like one dish dinner comes to us from Martha Stewart.com. This Chicken Cacciatore is a true cool-weather comfort dish from the Italian countryside, and is great served with pasta.

HUNGARY
Potato & Sausage Soup
A friend from the old country of Hungary used to make a similar hearty soup from scratch, but this very easy one dish dinner soup recipe from Taste of Home.com gives some shortcuts. Some crusty French bread would round out the meal.

INDIA
Chicken Curry
To me, a curry one dish dinner is great any time of year, but it is especially good in the Fall, as this Chicken Curry recipe from Cooks.com shows. Serve over rice or with cooked lentils, and perhaps with some heat-absorbing sides like cucumbers, plain yogurt, or mild chutneys.

MEXICO
Enchiladas
The homemade goodness of these enchiladas are almost legendary, and come from the folks at AllRecipes.com.  It originated as a family one dish dinner recipe, but you can scroll down the page to check out the other enchilada options, and be sure to have sour cream, cilantro and salsa available

CHINA
Seafood Hot Pot

After the Summer Olympics in China this year, I remembered making a similar Chinese Hot Pot one dish dinner years ago when communal dining was all the rage. This one is from Emeril Lagasse of  FoodNetwork.com fame, and it uses wonderfully fresh ingredients and a savory broth.

There you have it. A week’s worth of fall favorite one dish dinner ideas and some recipes to inspire. Some are even worthy of adding to your recipe software generated family cookbook.

Happy Cookbooking!

Erin

Tea party table with text: "3 Salad Recipes for the Tea Party Hostess with the Mostest"

3 Salad Recipes for the Tea Party Hostess with the Mostest

I was in a tizzy over what to make for the ladies. It was my turn to host the monthly tea gathering and I wanted to make something different to see if I could be the tea party hostess with the mostest.Continue reading

Why Brand Names Should be in Your Family Cookbook

I like to use the brand names for ingredients in my cookbook recipes. Not because they are necessarily any better than the generic brands, but because they often produce a better recipe result, and therefore, make family recipes more consistent.  Twenty years from now, if someone makes one of the recipes from your family cookbook, will they really get the same taste from a “cherry flavored gelatin” as they do from cherry Jell-O?

For example, if I want to make Tres Leches Cake, I will always use a certain brand name product (Eagle Brand) because I like the taste better. Believe me, I have experimented with assorted sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk and whipped cream for the Tres Leches Cake ingredients, and there is a certain combination that is unbeatable together (and guess what, they all are the brand name products).

So, when I add the brand names to the recipes in my family cookbook, like A.1 Steak Sauce, or Bisquick, or Corn Flakes, I respect the product and always pay attention to making sure I’ve properly identified it with capital letters and ® where appropriate.  (The Symbol Builder in my cookbook software makes this really easy.)

Also, the brand name is a kind of shorthand that says it all.  It conveys an expected result. Like going to a certain fast food hamburger place (McDonalds) when you are out of the country for two weeks and need a fry fix.  Or using Shredded Wheat instead of “large or mini shredded whole wheat cereal biscuits.”  (How insane is that?)  But I have indeed seen this generic format use in many family cookbooks.  Most often it is used in media, like newspaper food sections and TV food shows (because they are supposed to be neutral, you think? Hogwash! It’s because they don’t want to endorse a specific product without getting paid for advertising it).

But your family cookbook can (and should) be specific with brand names so you can preserve the taste of family recipes and pass them on to be made the way they were intended.

Okay, soapbox is over.  Going to eat my nutlike cereal nuggets (Grape Nuts), and have a cup of coffee (Nescafe©) with a little powdered non-dairy coffee creamer (Coffee-Mate) and non-nutritive sweetener (NutraSweet).

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

5 Ways To Make Some Tasty Waves with Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are the ultimate comfort food.  They can be lumpy, smooth, thick, or thin, and they will still be delicious.  Mashed potatoes have a certain quality that makes fans know “everything will be okay.”

Mashed potatoes are versatile, and can be cooked in a variety of ways. Whether steamed, boiled, or broiled, mashed potatoes can be among the easiest of foods to prepare. Although not based on scientific evidence, it seems the texture of mashed potatoes also has something to do with its popularity as a comfort food.

5 Ways to Make a Splash with Mashed Potatoes

1. Sauté 1 cup chopped onions and 1 cup sauerkraut together and stir into your favorite basic mashed potatoes. Top with crumbled bacon or bacon bits and you have a great Oktoberfest-style dish to serve alongside bratwurst.

2. Add 1 cup finely diced ham and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese to leftover mashed potatoes for a hearty all-in-one approach to dinner.

3. Snip 1 teaspoon of fresh young rosemary and add to cold or room temperature mashed potatoes. Heat in microwave for a few minutes until warm, then add ½ stick butter and 1 teaspoon powdered oregano. Stir well, and then continue heating in microwave until bubbly.

4. Mix 2 ounces of cream cheese and 2 ounces of sour cream into hot mashed potatoes. Plop in some strong horseradish (to taste) and salt, and serve alongside hot sliced beef.

5. Stir ¼ cup of fresh Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves crushed garlic, and 1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley into mashed potatoes.

Mashed potatoes as a comfort food has long been recognized in the culinary world and academia. With winter coming upon us in mere weeks, it makes sense to get our mashed potato recipe repertoire all figured out, (and go buy the items needed to have a full-blown mashed potato experience!)

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin

Two horseshoes on wooden background with title: Lucky Home-Made Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Lucky Home-Made Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

In most every family cookbook there is a special recipe for corned beef and cabbage. It’s a true American invention to celebrate the Irish roots of many immigrants who fled to the United States after hard times.

Corned beef and cabbage: perfect for St Patrick’s Day

Few Irish actually could afford to eat corned beef, and if they did, it was a rare occasion.

Whether a real or make-believe tradition, having a nice slice of corned beef with a little cabbage and some boiled potatoes surely is not a bad thing. After all, the corned beef and cabbage meal ranks right up there with the turkey and stuffing tradition at Thanksgiving.

I like to make my corned beef and cabbage in a slow cooker. It is juicy and tender, and has a wonderful flavor. Plus, it is very easy!

I call my dish Lucky Corned Beef and Cabbage.

Lucky Corned Beef and Cabbage Recipe

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds corned beef brisket with spice packet
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into chunks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 head cabbage, cut into wedges

Directions

In a large hot skillet, sear the corned beef brisket a few minutes until brown on both sides. This helps seal in the juices and adds flavor to the meat.

De-glaze the pan with the water and add it to the slow cooker’s crock.  Place browned corned beef brisket into the water and top with contents of the spice packet (press the spices into the meat if you can).

Add the onion, potato, and carrot chunks. Add garlic, bay leaf, sugar, vinegar, pepper (use more or less as you prefer). Arrange cabbage wedges on top of everything.

Cover and slow cook for 8 hours, or until the meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove bay leaf before serving with whole grain mustard or creamed horseradish.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Add a nip of Irish Whiskey and whipped cream to some coffee for your dessert, and you’ve really got something almost Irish. After all, everyone in America is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy Cookbooking,

Erin