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.

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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!
Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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

Take Vanilla Wafer Mini-Tarts to Tailgating Parties & Potlucks

Soon there will be traditional tailgating parties and potlucks to contend with as the crisp air of autumn beckons neighbors and strangers to gather for one common cause — football.

If you are lucky enough to volunteer to bring a dessert, you can’t go wrong with these delicious but easy mini-tarts that get their quickness from ready-made vanilla wafers. I don’t know where the recipe originated, but here are two slightly different versions that are sure to please hungry game-goers, game-watchers, or other gathering crowds.

Mini-Tarts  – Version 1
These are the first mini-tarts I ever tasted, and I remember how remarkably quick and easy they always are to make.

1 package cupcake liners
2 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
Vanilla Wafers
Pie filling, jam or preserves

Mix first five ingredients for the mini-tarts together with fork, eggbeaters or an electric mixer until filling is light and fluffy. Put one vanilla wafer in each cupcake liner. Spoon cream cheese mixture over vanilla wafer until each liner is two-thirds full. Bake in 350 degree—¦ oven for 20-25 minutes until filling is just set.  Cool in pans. Top with your choice of pie filling, jam or preserves.  Makes about 20 mini-tarts.

Mini-Tarts – Version 2
I have successfully substituted almond or coconut flavoring in this recipe, which leaves out the lemon juice, and has a different temperature for baking. Both recipe versions are easy to make and taste great.

1 package foil cupcake liners
2 8 oz. bricks cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
12  Vanilla Wafers
Pie filling, jam or preserves

Use foil liners with a vanilla wafer placed on the bottom of each cupcake liner. Mix cream cheese, sugar and eggs until well blended. Add vanilla and mix well. Fill liners to approximately ¾ full on top of the vanilla wafer. Bake in a 325 degree—¦ oven for 25 minutes, or until filling is set firm. Cool. Top with pie filling, preserves, fruit, sugared pecans, toasted coconut, or shaved chocolate. Makes about 20.

I have had this recipe for a long time, and have added it to my family cookbook already. You may want to add this one to your family recipe cookbook, too. Just cut your favorite version and paste it into your own family cookbook template.

Happy cookbooking

Erin

Photo of Lemon Drink on yellow background overlaid with text: "2 Ways to Make a Thirst-Quenching Lemon Shake-Up"

Shake, Shake Shake…Shake, Shake, Shake…Lemon Shake-Ups, Lemon Shake-Ups!

Sweet…tart…sugary…lemony…can you think of a better thirst quencher than a Lemon Shake-Up?

Don’t they bring back happy memories of carnivals and festivals?

But from what I can see in my recipe box, there are two totally separate opinions on the best way to make these satisfying, thirst-quenching lemon drink drinks.  Should you use a sugar syrup or just sugar?

I pulled two recipes from my trusty recipe binder (which, by the way, features luscious lemons!) – one of each type. Try them both. Then let us know which is your favorite!

EASY Lemon Shake-Up

1. Pour 1/2 cup sugar into a 16 oz. cup.
2. Cut 2 lemons in half.
3. Hand squeeze lemons; drop juice and lemons into cup.
4. Add ice as desired, and fill cup with water.
5. Cover the cup and shake it vigorously until the sugar is dissolved.

Sugar Syrup Lemon Shake-Up

Ingredients

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (reserve rinds)

Preparation

1. Combine sugar and water.
2. Boil for 5 minutes; cool to room temperature.
3. Add lemon juice.
4. Strain and keep refrigerated.

To make Lemon Sugar Syrup Shake-Up

1. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of syrup to each glass of ice water.
2. Add the rind of one/half lemon that you squeezed to get the juice.
3. Cover glass and shake to blend.

So….what do you think? Easy or sugary – or both? Let us know! Or if you have a BETTER way to make lemon shake-ups in YOUR recipe box, please share!

tomato sauce ingredients on wooden planks with text "Tomato Sauce Base That Should Be in Every Recipe Box"

Tomato Sauce Base That Should Be in Every Recipe Box

Tomato sauce. It’s ubiquitous in Italian-style dishes. You use it so frequently that you probably never write it down. But why not take a few minutes and write it down for the rest of us? Once you’ve got your tomato sauce base in your recipe box, it’s going to be much easier to share with other family members and friends.

Here’s my tried and true recipe for a fabulous tomato sauce.

Basic Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

• 3/4 cup chopped onion

• 4-6 cloves minced garlic (minced)

• 1/4 cup olive oil

• 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes (yes, I know fresh is better. But sometimes…)

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 bay leaf

• 1(6 ounce) can tomato paste

• 3/4 teaspoon dried basil

• 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a pot over medium heat, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until onion is soft.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, salt, sugar and bay leaf.
  3. Cover, reduce to low, and simmer 70-100 minutes.
  4. Stir in tomato paste, basil, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and simmer 30 minutes more.
This tomato sauce recipe takes a while to cook, but the whole house smells like Italian steamy goodness!
Want to share your tomato sauce recipe? Add your suggestions on our Facebook here or leave a comment below.

A Jumble-lotta Creole and Cajun Cooking Brings the Taste of New Orleans & Mardi Gras to a Regional American Cookbook

With Mardi Gras festivities officially underway in New Orleans on Feb. 24, it seems only fitting that we let the good times roll with a better understanding of Creole and Cajun food. The spicy delights of both cuisines are finding their way into my current cookbook project, which is creating a family cookbook collection of regional American foods.

The last time I was in New Orleans (or Nawlins, Nola, N’orluns, if you prefer), I attended a wedding. It was some time ago, and I managed to sneak away from the pre-nuptial activities one morning to have breakfast at Brennan’s. It is still the most expensive single off-the-menu breakfast I have ever eaten, and it was glorious.

While dining in New Orleans, it never really bothered me that various dishes I ate while there mostly came from two very different French-speaking cultures: Creole and Cajun. While I’m not going to discuss the history of the region, suffice to say that Creoles are considered descendants of immigrant colonials from Spain and France, while Cajuns are descended from French Canadian exiles.

Their two very different origins make for some very interesting dishes, some that I’m including in my family cookbook collection. Here are some ways to tell the difference between Creole and Cajun food:

Characteristics of Creole Food
– Spanish/French colonial influence with African and Italian undertones
– From cosmopolitan city dwellers (The French Quarter)
– Rich glorious sauces made with herbs and mild spices
– Lots of butter, cream and high-end ingredients
– Jambalaya will be reddish and made with tomatoes
– Not usually hot in spice intensity
– Can be quite showy, colorful

Characteristics of Cajun Food
– French Canadian influence with French and Southern undertones
– From country swampland dwellers who fish, trap and hunt (The Bayou)
– Features local victuals, such as alligator, possum, turtle
– Ingenious rustic gravies made with inexpensive ingredients (port fat, spices, fresh garden patch pickings)
– Jambalaya will be brown, without tomatoes
– Usually hot in spice intensity, and may be blackened
– Generally modest one-pot food, plain and simple

As I’ve said, which cuisine I eat is of little matter to me as long as it tastes good. And I haven’t had a single thing in New Orleans that I didn’t like. I can’t wait to add several more Creole and Cajun recipes to my new family cookbook collection of regional American foods. I bet you might enjoy doing the same thing!

Happy cookbooking,

Erin

Secrets to Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let me in on some of my favorite tips for perfect chocolate chip cookies that will definitely be going in my own family cookbook:

  1. Resist temptation and let the dough sit for 36 hours in the fridge. This allows the liquids in the dough to penetrate the flour. Deeper penetration gives the chocolate chip cookies a richer flavor and a more consistent color and texture. Apparently all the great cookie bakeries in New York follow this advice.
  2. Six inches is the ideal size for chocolate chip cookies. It gives you three zones–the crunchier rim, the soft center, and that great in-between zone that has the most flavor. Any smaller and they lose those interior zones. Any bigger and I find them impossible to flip!
  3. Sprinkle some sea salt on top to give it added dimension right before baking.

Here are the ingredients listed in my personal recipe:

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8 1/2 ounces) cake flour

1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt

2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or feves, at least 60 percent cacao content

Sea salt. Bake at 350° F for 18-20 minutes.

My advice is to forgo the chocolate disks if you can’t get them and just use good ol’ fashioned Nestle semi sweet chocolate chips.

Erin